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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Thursday, January 26, 2006

Letters to the Editor

LEGISLATORS

USE SURPLUS WISELY, NOT ON UNION WAGES

It's great we have a state tax surplus, and legislators are eager to spend "our" money on projects for the common good of all Hawai'i residents. Taxpayers appreciate seeing an equitable return on their "investments."

What concerns me is the percentage of tax revenue that goes toward paying all the various union employees. Not all taxpayers are union employees, and many are on fixed incomes.

I appreciate the fact that everyone deserves a fair and honest wage, but in these higher-taxed times, I hope we can count on our elected officials to spend the surplus wisely on much-needed programs or tax relief and not use it solely to fund increased union wages.

Tim Baier
'Aiea

MORALITY

EVOLUTION IS TAUGHT FOR SCIENTIFIC VALUE

James Roller would have us believe that the teaching of evolution in our schools is responsible for the moral decadence of our society. Crime, abortion, man's inhumanity to man! It's all evolution's fault! Give me a break!

As is usual with obscurantists like Roller, when they can't make their case on scientific grounds, they posit some red herring like this.

The reason evolution is taught in our science classes and not creationism or intelligent design (ID) is quite simple: Evolution is a testable scientific theory that has been verified over and over through observation, experimentation and analysis of the fossil record, and is the bedrock of modern biology. It is not an act of faith defended against all challengers by some threatened scientific priesthood. It is the best explanation we have for the growth, differentiation and adaptation of life to this our world.

In contrast, ID is a wolf in sheep's clothing. It masquerades as science, but it's really a backdoor attempt to insert fundamentalist Christian beliefs into the scientific curriculum. It is not a testable scientific theory.

How do you test for God, who by definition is immeasurable, indefinable and infinite? You can't. Does this mean evolution is atheistic? Not in the least. Evolution is non-theistic. It has nothing to say about God one way or the other. It deals only with those natural processes, genetic variation and natural selection that have unintentionally directed the development and diversification of species on this planet.

Religion has a place in this world. It's the source for many of the moral and ethical principles that inform our lives. However, its place is not in a science classroom. If you're looking for God, go to church or temple or search for him in your fellow man.

Michael D. Clark
Honolulu

U.S. SECURITY

AL-QAIDA MESSAGES MUST BE MONITORED

The Advertiser's and Al Gore's position that attempting to monitor al-Qaida conversations into and out of the U.S. creates some form of constitutional crisis takes the cake. It is no wonder that U.S. citizens seriously mistrust the Democratic Party's ability to best protect the security of this country.

We have an actual war going on, and Osama bin Laden's previous and latest threats of attacks must be taken at full face value.

You both seem to have forgotten that poor intelligence brought us 9/11. It would be a gross breach of administration responsibility to not use this methodology.

Claude Phillips
Kailua

HANNEMANN

TOURING LAS VEGAS MONORAIL WON'T HELP

So, on his way home from Washington, D.C., Mayor Hannemann is going to stop in Las Vegas to "tour" the city's monorail system? What a joke!

The Las Vegas monorail is not a mass transit system. It serves tourists almost entirely and only runs a couple miles up and down the Strip, that is, when it's working.

Furthermore, the Las Vegas monorail was privately funded by the casinos.

The mayor's time and taxpayers' money would be much better spent taking a look at a real mass transit system such as Washington, D.C.'s "Metro," one of the country's best in the very city the mayor will be attending his conference. But, why do that when you can squeeze a trip to Vegas out of it?

Nice try, Mayor.

M. Inciong
Kailua

SILENCE KILLS

TESTICULAR CANCER STORY A STEP FORWARD

Thanks for the Jan. 3 article on testicular cancer. Wes Nakama did a great job writing this article in a way that appeals to guys.

Guys who only want the facts can check out the article's bullet points. For guys interested in the human aspect, Nakama couldn't have picked anyone better than Jonathan Spiker. Spiker, a local sports champion any teen could admire, is now admired by a larger group of guys for his courage to share in a very private part of his being.

Women frequently talk openly about their issues, leading to modern advancements in early breast cancer detection, while detection for testicular and prostate cancer remains questionable. It wasn't socially acceptable for men to expose themselves to be weak or vulnerable, so men suffered in silence, and this silence has killed men and boys in the millions.

Hopefully Spiker is in a new generation of young men possessing the courage to voice their personal experiences to benefit others. Spiker brings reality close to home. He's more than an athletic role model. He's a local boy. He's one of us. If it happened to him, it could happen to us.

This knowledge could help ease apprehensions in guys long enough for them to brave the discomfort and embarrassment of testicular and prostate exams.

Gerald Nakata, R.N.
Kapolei

DOWNTOWN

POLICE SHOULD TARGET THE ILLEGALLY PARKED

I work in downtown Honolulu and I support stiffer penalties for both pedestrians and motorists who do not obey the law. However, to be fair, the police should also be consistent regarding non-moving violations.

Every day, delivery trucks and regular motorists are double parked or illegally parked in front of driveways, crosswalks, fire hydrants and street corners. All of these things make driving and walking in downtown extremely hazardous.

Maybe instead of standing at street corners ticketing pedestrians and motorists, the police could make our streets safer by ticketing those who park illegally.

Mark Shibata
Waipahu

SAKADAS

FIRST 15 FILIPINO CONTRACT WORKERS CAME VIA MANILA

An Associated Press report in the Jan. 3 Advertiser relating to Gov. Lingle's trip to the Philippines in connection with the Filipino centennial celebration stated that a marker will be unveiled "at Port Salumague in Ilocos Sur, where the first 15 contract plantation workers boarded a ship for Hawai'i 100 years ago."

The first 15 Filipino contract plantation workers, accompanied by Albert F. Judd, the HSPA representative, departed from Manila, not Port Salomague in Ilocos Sur, on board the SS Doric on Nov. 18, 1906. After stops in Hong Kong, Shanghai, Nagasaki and Yokohama, they reached Ho-nolulu on Dec. 20, 1906.

While all of the first sakadas were Ilocanos (most of whom apparently came from Candon, Ilocos Sur), they were recruited in the Manila area. Apparently, they were working or looking for work in the city.

The Judd mission was to recruit 300 Filipino families to come to Hawai'i to work in the plantations. Judd's recruiting effort was met with considerable opposition.

Interestingly, there were 10 other men from Ilocos who had been recruited by an associate, George Wagner, to join the first group to Hawai'i, according to historian Ruben Alcantara, who used to be with the UH Department of American Studies and is probably the foremost authority on sakadas. However, the 10 others failed to arrive in Manila before the scheduled departure of the Doric because a typhoon lashed northern Luzon and washed away the railroad line that connected the Ilocos and Manila.

The sakadas who departed from Port Salumague, Cabugao, Ilocos Sur, were those who came to Hawai'i in 1946, when the Philippines was still reeling from the devastation of World War II. They were the last sakadas. There were 6,000 of them, and they came to Hawai'i in four batches. They were joined not much later by 1,500 spouses and family members.

The last sakadas departed from Port Salomague not so much because most of them were from the Ilocos region but because the port facilities and other infrastructure in Manila were destroyed or heavily damaged during World War II. (A Filipino grievance shortly after the war was that the Americans paid more immediate attention to the reconstruction of Japan than the Philippines.)

Antonio V. Ramil
Wailuku, Maui

SUGAR-CANE TESTS

BIOTECHNOLOGY IN ISLANDS IS SAFE

I would like to address the secrecy issue raised by Mr. Hector Valenzuela regarding agricultural biotechnology research tests, the permit system and the amount of monitoring involved by the regulating agency from our organization's actual experience (Commentary, Jan. 22). The staff of the Hawai'i Agriculture Research Center (HARC) is evaluating the potential for sugarcane to be a biorefinery, a facility that makes products other than food from a crop.

Energy production is now receiving significant attention. The sugar-cane industry has a long history of providing energy as a co-product and is evaluating the promising technologies that would allow it to be competitive in this area and increase its role in this area.

It is currently looking at the feasibility of producing therapeutic proteins in sugarcane. Why sugar cane? We are experts in production, and the infrastructure is in place; it is a high biomass producer; it normally produces a low level of proteins, potentially making the purification process easier; its flowering is well understood and can be easily prevented therefore no pollen production, a point of controversy; making sugar for food destroys protein in the process, so there is no potential food contamination issue, another point of controversy; the quantity of product would be small, therefore shipping costs are a non-issue and volume production (which Hawai'i cannot do) is not an advantage for competitors.

Unfortunately, there are extremists in the overall environmental movement who believe they are above the law and have committed violent acts with respect to agricultural biotechnology research sites even here in Hawai'i. I am not willing to expose staff nor facilities to the potential criminal acts of activists.

HARC fully complies with statutory and permit requirements. Our exact sites are known to the federal and state agencies involved, and the general location is available on the Web sites designed for this information. Our century-old organization has been involved with regulatory agencies since their inception as they pertain to agricultural tools as they are developed. This is the most highly scrutinized and regulated tool we have ever attempted to use. That is fact.

In the one activity where our organization was involved with a sugar-cane biotech research field plot with a pharmaceutical, that plot was inspected seven times over the 10-month period that the test was conducted. That is in addition to the many communications on exactly how we would do each step of our experiment. Conditions were required by our permit to absolutely prevent any pollen movement and to totally destroy the plants at the completion of the test. That was adhered to and verified by the inspectors.

This test was initiated in the summer of 2002 and shows that the agency was already handling pharmacrops differently from other engineered crops. This is another fact lost in the rhetoric of the extremists. Their strategy is if you say anything often enough and loud enough, pretty soon everyone will believe it.

Bottom line for the public: Is it safe? According to all the national and international scientific and governmental organizations that have set up experts to examine the information available for engineered products in the marketplace, they are as safe as the conventionally produced foods in the marketplace.

Stephanie A. Whalen
President and director, Hawai'i Agriculture Research Center