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The Honolulu Advertiser

Posted on: Friday, March 1, 2002

Letters to the Editor

Cutting philosophy program a mistake

I am writing today because of the recent proposed budget cuts that have included cutting the philosophy classes in the schools program here in Hawai'i. 

First of all, any action that jeopardizes our schools' ability to meet state standards is questionable. Two key components of those standards are the development of critical-thinking skills and the building of a responsible sense of community. Children must be able to understand connections between different kinds of information, to draw conclusions from the facts given to them and to perform calculations while paying attention to possible results and implications.

Also, we live in a society whose citizens are given the right to vote, are given a voice in the decisions made by our public officials. With this privilege comes a responsibility to make informed, thoughtful decisions and to be a positive, active member of a community.

There are few programs specifically designed to help children learn these important skills. "Philosophy for Children (P for C)" is tailored directly at helping children think critically about facts, situations, even their own opinions. They are encouraged to understand the perspectives of their peers and to examine the situations they are presented with, rather than jump to conclusions backed by stereotypes and peer pressure. They learn to unpack issues at hand, to examine the "whys" and "hows" of the world around them.

Children who do "P for C" learn to respect the opinions of others and the incredible value of a supportive community: Each of us has a voice, and we can learn how to use it well.     

Macavan Baird

Plan now for traffic around medical center

As a UH medical student, I take great interest in the current discussion about the much-anticipated UH medical center in Kaka'ako. I applaud the efforts of President Evan Dobelle and other leaders for helping to make the facility a reality. It will help boost our economy, benefit our higher education system and elevate our medical community.

However, in anticipation of this new endeavor, I urge our university and government officials to plan for public transportation to serve the new medical center.

It will be a nightmare if downtown traffic makes it impossible for students, professors and researchers to get into and out of the area.

Now is the time to start planning these practical details for the future of the medical center.

Kyle A. Mitsunaga

Biotech agriculture would be a mistake

Your Feb. 23 editorial on biotech foods echoes the industry contention that genetically engineered crops are merely an extension of the hybridization that has been going on for millennia.

In fact, the insertion of foreign genes into plants is a radically different process with unpredictable and potentially damaging consequences to the environment, farmers' livelihoods and ultimately the food supply, through the introduction of unexpected allergens, toxins and protein combinations.

It is not surprising that the National Academy of Sciences report that you cite (you must be referring to the Feb. 21 report of the National Research Council) urges that "The U.S. Department of Agriculture (USDA) should more rigorously review the potential environmental effects of new genetically engineered, or transgenic, plants before approving them for commercial use ... "

The academy made similar comments in April 2000, when Reuters reported that the panel urged the EPA "to reconsider its plans to grant categorical exemptions" for transgenic plants. In some cases, the manipulation of genes could potentially increase human and environmental exposure to high levels of toxins, the report said. The plants could also "crossbreed with weedy relatives, creating super-weeds difficult to manage ... "

Biotech agriculture is about patents and profits. It is not about feeding the world. Biotech crops have not resulted in higher yields than conventional ones; more often they are lower, besides requiring more pesticides.

William Bailey

Senators can 'recall' bill out of committee

In reference to your Feb. 26 editorial on death with dignity and the political cartoon on the same day: I do not agree with the suggested remedy that the editorial writer proposed for the Senate committee chairman to step aside.

There is a more direct method: After 20 days of introduction, and with one-third of the Senate in written request, a bill can be "recalled" from the committee.

I estimate that presently there are between nine and 20 state senators who may be willing to recall the death-with-dignity bills. But out of respect and hesitation on the part of some, this has not occurred.

Time is of the essence if the proponents are bent on getting these bills heard in a Senate committee.

I opposed these two bills as a matter of principle, but fair play is fair play. I do not believe it is just, tolerant or understanding to stifle debate on this important matter that many in the Islands are concerned about.

Arvid Youngquist
Mestizo Association founder

Needle-exchange program does its job

Who is Roland Foster and what is his purpose in writing from Washington to criticize our local needle-exchange program? Has he ever been on Kukui Street?

Well, I am there, all the time. As a public health outreach worker, I know firsthand the compassionate and effective service the Community Health Outreach Worker program (CHOW) provides to the suffering local people on our streets.

Mr. Washington D.C. calls the recent positive analysis of the program into question because of the increase in needles exchanged. Well, needle exchange is all about halting the spread of disease, not primarily about getting people off drugs. If we are serious about drug treatment, well then, let's fund it. 

Meanwhile, CHOW saves lives and protects public health here in Hawai'i. 

Incidentally, in my real-life experience, it is the trusted CHOW workers (not critics from the Mainland) who lead users to treatment when they are ready for it. Why punish our 'ohana by taking away this cost-effective, compassionate lifeline?

April Weiss

Long-term-care plan a sensible approach

The proposed CarePlus program being considered by the Legislature as HB 2638 and SB 2416, relating to the Hawai'i Long Term Care Financing Act, provides a dedicated revenue source for long-term care, which would reduce the growing burden on Medicaid.

It is a sensible approach, allowing an affordable premium by spreading participation over the entire population, from ages 25 to 99. At the same time, the private insurance industry should be able to market affordable supplementary plans for individuals to purchase from their own pocket. Many families will be able to avoid dependency on the welfare system and Medicaid.

Experience in Japan and Germany shows that such a social insurance approach is fiscally viable. This bill promotes individual responsibility for contributing to long-term costs as opposed to dependency on welfare. Presently, there is an entire industry of lawyers and financial planners who guide middle-class individuals to reassign their assets so they can rely on the Medicaid system. Is this a responsible system?

Eldon Wegner

Hurricane Relief Fund must not be diverted

I believe your recent editorial in favor of transferring trust fund resources from the Hawai'i Hurricane Relief Fund to the general fund is wrong.

1982, Hurricane Iwa; 1992, Hurricane Iniki; 1994, Hurricane John. Hurricane John? How soon we forget.

In 1994, Hurricane John passed only 300 miles south of the Big island, but gave a glancing blow to Johnston Island. In the vast east Pacific, 300 miles, the same distance as Hilo to Lihu'e, is a stone's throw. At the time, Hurricane John was the strongest and longest-lasting hurricane ever recorded in the eastern Pacific. Imagine if it hit O'ahu.

1982 and 1992 were El Niņo years, and now 2002 is expected to be one, too. Yet the state government wants to seize our trust fund — money that was provided by homeowners, in good faith, for the express purpose of preventing the insurance fiascos that occurred on Kaua'i.

The homeowners on O'ahu remember those debacles, but our lawmakers and your editors seem to have forgotten.

Thomas Thompson

Speed regulations needed for safety

Regarding the Feb. 20 letter "Hold hearings when citizens can attend," by Robert S. Moynihan: In reality, many drivers do not pay their tickets even if they get them in the mail. It seems that the traffic camera system doesn't work well.

Why do we have speed limits? To protect drivers and pedestrians. The reason the Department of Transportation created speed limits is that many drivers cause a lot of accidents. If there weren't any accidents or danger, the DOT would not need traffic-speed regulations.

Kayoko Suzuki

More police officers would have been better

If the Legislature were really concerned about safety, and not merely looking for an additional source of revenue, it would have more wisely used the $14 million to hire additional police officers.

Not only would our highways be safer, but our communities, too. It's still not too late to do the right thing.

Stephen T. Molnar

People have spoken

Enough of the debate on safety or finances. It doesn't matter. This is a government that operates with the consent of the governed. Of, for and by the people. The people have spoken. The speed cams must go.

Greg Knudsen
Hawai'i Kai

College scholarship available to seniors

The Lima Kokua J. Shelley Scholarship is available for Hawai'i high school seniors entering college in the fall. The scholarship will be given to a senior who has shown a commitment to community service, is planning to attend a college or university in Hawai'i and is planning to major in a health-related field.

Those students interested in applying for the scholarship should check with their high school guidance counselor and ask for state Bulletin 15, which lists available scholarships, to find details of the scholarship's requirements and how to apply.

Lima Kokua Inc., a Hawai'i charitable organization, has a long history of helping children and youth. There is one scholarship of $750 offered each year. Applications are due by April 30.

David H. Frost
Secretary, Lima Kokua Inc.

Mark was murdered, and we need your help

My brother, Mark Mehr, was murdered on the night of Feb. 11 on California Avenue in Wahiawa. According to the reports I have read, he was involved in a confrontation with one person when two others joined in and beat my brother to death.

I have been told there were a number of witnesses, but they are perhaps scared to make statements. I would like to help them by telling them a little about my brother, and perhaps after hearing what my brother did, they will feel compelled to come forward and help put the people who did this behind bars before they hurt another family.

Mark leaves behind a wonderful, hard-working wife named Evelyn and four children. On the Mainland, there is my father, Cyrus, and two sisters, Jennifer and Christina.

While Mark was on life support at the hospital, my sisters told me, there was a tremendous number of people who came in and told stories of how Mark helped turn their lives around by showing them how love and education can help a person no matter what situation they are in.

Mark was a command sergeant major in the Army Reserve. My sister said that one of his fellow soldiers came to the bedside with his son. The son told how Mark had a talk with him about listening to his father when he was trying to teach him things in life. The boy said Mark made a big difference and helped him immensely with his relationship with his dad.

Then there were numerous family members and friends who told stories of how Mark helped them when they struggled with various problems in life.

I ask anyone who witnessed this horrible tragedy to come forward and talk with Detective Ted Coons at the Honolulu Police Department. His number is 529-3053. Please do the right thing if you have any information. Let us rest.

Craig Mehr
Athens, Ohio