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The Honolulu Advertiser
Posted on: Sunday, May 28, 2006

Letters to the Editor

CIGARETTE TAX

GOV. LINGLE: INVEST

IN HAWAI'I'S HEALTH

As a practicing cancer specialist, I constantly witness suffering and untimely deaths due to this disease. A substantial proportion of this burden could be prevented by decreasing tobacco use and reducing the fragmented nature of cancer care in our state.

Gov. Lingle now has an unprecedented opportunity to impact this burden by signing Bill 2961 into law and creating a healthier Hawai'i through two distinct ways. The bill proposes an additional tax on the sale of cigarettes, some of which would be used to help build and maintain a new Cancer Research Center of Hawai'i facility. Increasing the cost of cigarettes is by itself a proven way to reduce tobacco use, which is considered to cause about one-third of all cancers. This is especially important in preventing tobacco addiction by Hawai'i's youth.

Furthermore, additional revenues from the cigarette sales tax provided to the Cancer Research Center of Hawai'i, so that it can become a National Cancer Institute-designated comprehensive cancer center, will result in the delivery of better and more cohesive cancer care.

Please do not let a political concern about the appearance of a short-term increase in tobacco use tax undermine an opportunity to make a real difference in reducing the burden of cancer in Hawai'i and preventing the need for far greater tax increases in the future.

Brian F. Issell, M.D.
Medical oncologist, Queens Medical Center, professor, Cancer Research Center of Hawai'i

EDUCATION

NOTHING TO BRAG ABOUT WITH THE LATEST SCORES

The headline "Schools gain in science test" (Advertiser, May 25) could have just as easily have said "Hawai'i remains way below average."

The article reports on the science portion of the National Assessment of Education Progress. Hawai'i's fourth-graders showed an improvement from 51 percent who were "at or above a basic understanding" in 2000 to 57 percent in 2005. However, by the eighth grade, that improvement not only disappeared, it was reversed, as only 44 percent of eighth-graders were "at or above a basic understanding" in 2005.

Incorrigible optimists might point out that the eighth-grade score, while low, improved from 40 percent in 2000. However, they should be reminded that the score was 42 percent in 1996. In other words, scores went down before going up, and the net improvement after nine years was only 2 percent.

It is not surprising that when test scores among the various states are compared, Hawai'i's ranking is consistently low. Languishing test scores reflect the absence of quality education in Hawai'i's public schools. That in turn reflects the absence of competent leadership in the school system.

Meanwhile, the rest of the world zooms forward technologically. Since our children are not acquiring the knowledge and skills that are being demanded increasingly in the emerging global high-tech economy, they are being condemned to a future of low-wage jobs.

Is that the legacy we want to leave to our children?

John Kawamoto
Honolulu

1959 VOTE

REVISIONIST HISTORY MARKED AKAKA LETTERS

May 25 must have been the day for publication of letters containing misinformation and downright falsehoods about the Akaka bill. Messrs. Arakaki and Aghjayan repeat the myth that the 1959 vote on statehood should be interpreted as an implied relinquishment of Native Hawaiian claims to the lands stolen in 1893, or an endorsement of all things American, including unrestricted immigration from the Mainland.

The voters who opted for statehood rather than the status quo (there were no other choices, such as revocation of the illegal annexation in 1898) were simply rejecting continued status as a "territory/colony."

That vote did not come from the kindness of the U.S. Congress, but rather was necessary after the United Nations included Hawai'i in the long list of other colonies around the world that were entitled to self-determination.

Surely the voters in 1959 had no idea the U.S. federal courts would uphold assaults on the Kamehameha Schools, the Office of Hawaiian Affairs or the Department of Hawaiian Home Lands.

Following the influx of population since 1959, it would be highly unfair to allow the voters in general to decide the fate of ceded lands and other entitlements stolen from the kingdom of Hawai'i and its citizens. Thirty thousand Hawaiians signed petitions objecting to annexation, but their rights and desires were ignored and denied by the minority.

This is a stain on the fabric of society in the Aloha State, which the Akaka bill could only begin to cleanse and redress.

Bee Lee
Honolulu

HOMELESS

RESTROOM FACILITIES SHOULD BE PROVIDED

I recently began working downtown, where it is glaringly evident that there is a lack of public restroom facilities. Though I haven't witnessed this, it can be surmised that water features are being used as toilets.

I am aware that a law was passed banning public urination. It is ridiculous in the extreme to think legislation will cause bodily function to cease. A portion of Honolulu residents is homeless. It is dehumanizing to force these citizens to eliminate waste publicly.

It is unlikely that anyone struggling with basics like shelter and food will write or call or e-mail. They probably won't vote.

This isn't nuclear physics. This problem can be solved.

Valerie Wickert
Honolulu

MEMORIAL DAY REMINDS US OF PROMISES TO VETERANS

Tomorrow, our nation observes a sacred holiday Memorial Day.

As a veteran of World War II, Memorial Day holds special meaning for me. Like veterans of all wars, I have vivid memories of those who served but did not come back.

In America, we pay a heavy price for freedom, something the people of Hawai'i were reminded of again last week.

Three more of our brave Kane'ohe Bay Marines died in Iraq. The 3rd battalion, 3rd Marine Regiment has now lost 11 Marines since it deployed in March. My prayers go out to their families, as well as to all those who have lost loved ones fighting in Iraq and Afghanistan.

But this Memorial Day, we remember the cost of America's freedom is not only measured in the lives we have lost. It is also measured in how we take care of those who've served and are serving today.

I was shocked to learn the Department of Veterans Affairs not only allowed the names, Social Security numbers and addresses of 26 million veterans to fall into criminal hands but then waited weeks to report the theft.

Such recklessness must not be tolerated. The administration needs to get a handle on this situation immediately, assist victims in obtaining free credit reports and monitoring, and make sure they are protected from financial or other harm.

Earlier this month, I was proud my amendment to increase funding for the Department of Veterans Affairs by $430 million was adopted in the Senate. Healthcare for America's heroes is not the place to cut corners. I have always been against imposing burdensome enrollment fees and increasing the co-pays for those in the VA system.

In good times and bad, our nation's commitment to those who wear the uniform must never waver. From the day recruits join the miliary to the day they leave this Earth, America has promises to keep:

  • To give them the best equipment, body armor, training and support they need.

  • To never send them into battle without a strategy to succeed.

  • To give them the care they require when they come home.

  • And to take care of the survivors of those who die in service or from conditions attributed to their service

    These are promises the United States government kept with my generation after World War II, and they are promises Democrats are fighting to ensure are kept today.

    Sen. Daniel Akaka
    D-Hawai'i

    (These comments are based on a Democratic radio address Akaka was scheduled to deliver yesterday.)