NEW SENATE CANDIDATE!
He’s been out of office since the first weeks of 2007, but former U.S. Congressman Ed Case has returned to fight again. During the early evening hours of Friday, Aug. 26, Democrat Case held his first official meet-and-greet for supporters and well-wishers on Maui as part of his campaign to succeed U.S. Senator Daniel Akaka, who has decided not to run for reelection next year. There, in a small parking lot on Main Street in Wailuku, Case held court (and handed out copies of his new and improved Case Family Home Cooking cookbook) with a few dozen pols and students while volunteers served up an impressive spread of local grinds (rice, noodles, spring and summer rolls, meat sticks, as well as plenty of fresh cut veggies and fruits). Representative Gil Keith-Agaran, D-9th District, stopped by, as did county mayoral aide Mike Molina and former state senator (and county Liquor Control Adjudication Board member) Joe Tanaka.
Case, who represented Hawaii’s 2nd District in the U.S. House from 2002 to 2007, was an odd duck. A fiscal conservative who supported President George W. Bush’s War on Terror (as well as the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq), Case also stood among the House’s most pro-environment members. A moderate floating in a sea of partisans, Case wanted the budget balanced and climate change brought under control.
His 2006 decision to challenge Akaka—who then had no intention of giving up his Senate seat—angered party loyalists and forced Case to give up what had been a safe House seat. With the partisan rancor even hotter and nastier these days, it’s not easy to say what good a moderate like Case could do in the open senate race, but it will be fascinating to watch him try.
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NEW BIRD SPECIES!
It apparently doesn’t happen every year (or every century, for that matter), but biologists announced last week that they’ve discovered an entirely new species of bird—right here in the Northwestern Hawaiian Islands. Seriously: the last new bird discovered by science was the Po`ouli, found in our own Maui forests back in 1974.
Called Bryan’s shearwater (Puffinus bryani for those with working knowledge of Latin), the “new” seabird is black and white with a black or blue-gray bill and blue legs. Now I put the word “new” in quotation marks because this is not a case where some ornithologist in cargo shorts and a Pith helmet spied the bird with binoculars while trekking across Midway on an expedition. No, biologists first cataloged the Byran’s shearwater back in 1963, only back then they thought it was another species entirely—the little shearwater (P. assimilis).
Instead, what happened here is that ornithologist Peter Pyle (who may or may not have been wearing said cargo shorts, Pith helmet and carrying binoculars) recently reexamined the bird. It was then that he realized the bird’s small size and characteristics represented an entirely new species, according to an Aug. 26 Smithsonian National Zoological Park press release. Subsequent genetic testing confirmed his new species theory.
“It’s very unusual to discover a new species of bird these days and especially gratifying when DNA can confirm our original hypothesis that the animal is unique,” said Rob Fleischer, head of the Smithsonian Conservation Biology Institute’s Center for Conservation and Evolutionary Genetics, in the press release. “This bird is unique, both genetically and in appearance, and represents a novel, albeit very rare, species.”
So rare, in fact, that it may already be extinct. Apparently, biologists know virtually nothing about this bird, including where it breeds. “If we can find where this species breeds, we may have a chance to protect it and keep it from going extinct,” said Smithsonian predoctoral fellow Andreanna Welch, who worked on the Bryan’s shearwater genetic analysis, in the press release.
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NEW DISNEY RESORT!
On Monday, Aug. 29, the omniscent, omnipresent galactic empire otherwise known as the Walt Disney Co. opened a new resort on Oahu’s west side. Called Aulani (“messenger of a chief”), the resort holds 840 units, cost a reported $800 million and is, apparently, more Hawaiian than Disney, according to an Aug. 27 Associated Press story.
This means, according to the AP, that designers did more than simply put surfing Mickey Mouse lamps in every room (though they certainly did that). No, they also “incorporated historical and contemporary island scenes, artwork, values, designs, textures, colors, language and traditions in nearly every aspect of the place, from taro fields and native foliage in the landscaping, to the Olelo Room lounge, where everything is labeled in the Hawaiian language, including the chairs (noho) and the floor (papahele).” The Olelo Room is apparently quite unique, with staff speaking only Hawaiian amongst themselves.
“We made a choice early on to really, really focus on Hawaiian culture as a defining element of Aulani,” Joe Rohde, Aulani’s head of creative development, told the AP. “Here you are in Hawaii. You will meet people who are Hawaiian. You will meet people who speak Hawaiian. I think that’s cool.”
Rohde’s use of the word “cool” in his quote is telling. That visitors would find someone speaking Hawaiian novel when visiting Hawaii shows much of both the disintegration of native culture and the conversion of its remnants into tools for marketing and public relations.
Of course, Disney is far from the first corporation to see Hawaiian culture as another marketable commodity (Hawaiian Punch anyone?) And since Aulani is creating 1,200 jobs in a part of Oahu especially hit by poverty, I’m guessing the state only says Mahalo to Disney.