Iolani Palace
Photo: Emily Metcalf
Iolani Palace
Photo: Emily Metcalf

Governor’s Decision to Open Iolani Palace for APEC Dignitary Tours Came Too Late

People around the state were angered when Gov. Neil Abercrombie ordered the closure of ‘Iolani Palace during Asia Pacific Economic Cooperation without consulting palace management.

The attorney general said the move was necessary for the protection of the royal palace during the APEC conference – this after 22 Hawaiian sovereignty activists peacefully protesting on palace grounds were arrested just as the week long conference began.

Palace’s executive director, Kippen de Alba Chu, said the closure kept away an estimated 400 visitors a day, including several world leaders and their delegations, and would cost the palace some $42,000.

After several lawmakers and the palace management asked Gov. Abercrombie to reconsider his decision, he did quietly agree to allow the palace to open for one day only for special tours with APEC dignitaries.

Unfortunately, the decision came too late. Delegations from China, Indonesia, Mexico, Peru, Taiwan and the U.S. Department of Commerce that had originally planned to visit the palace during APEC were unable to reschedule their tours.

The Peruvian Minister of Foreign Commerce & Tourism visited the Palace on Tuesday, November 15th, but that was the same day the Palace had already reopened for tours.

Backpage.com Under Fire for Sex Trafficking Ads that Promoted Child Prostitution

Across the country, parents and community activists are protesting Backpage.com, a web site run by Village Voice Media, for publishing classified advertisements that they say are promoting sex trafficking and child pornography.

Hawaii’s attorney general and 45 other state attorneys general across the nation already asked Village Voice Media owners to prove they are not allowing illegal acts to be advertised on their site, and lawyers have since exchanged letters without result.

But the movement to shut down the adult services section of the classified site took on new life this week as investigators in Brooklyn, New York, announced four indictments related to the trafficking of two young girls who had been forced into prostitution with the traffickers using Backpage.com to exploit them.

The indictment said: “In September 2011, Kendale “Ace” Judge, 21, met a 13-year-old runaway.  His indictment charges that he gained her trust by promising to love and take care of her, but instead beat her and forced her into prostitution, and advertised her services with photographs posted on the website, Backpage.com.  When she tried to escape, he tracked her down and beat her and threw her down a flight of stairs, according to the indictment. The indictment charges that an accomplice, Shanique Davis, 19, aided Judge, by photographing the girl and helping to keep her captive. Charges against Judge and Davis include Sex Trafficking, Kidnapping in the First Degree, Compelling Prostitution, Rape in the Second Degree, and Endangering the Welfare of a Child. They face up to 25 years in prison if convicted.” 

       

Dr. Rev. Katharine Henderson, President of Auburn Seminary, called for Village Voice Media to be held accountable: “When will it stop?  The recent arrests of pimps in Brooklyn who were selling 12 and 13 year old girls breaks my heart. The pimps now face charges for their crimes, yet a website that advertised one of these girls — Village Voice’s Backpage.com — remains open for business, making more than $23 million in revenue in the last year. Profiting in any way from these tragedies is simply wrong and immoral. Village Voice needs to get out of the business of providing a venue for sex traffickers to advertise immediately by shutting down the adult section of its website, just like Craigslist did more than a year ago.”

New Home Found for Hawaii’s Superferry Vessels?

Hawaii Superferry: Photo by Mel Ah Ching Productions

The Virginia Pilot reports that the U.S. Navy may soon own Hawaii’s Superferry vessels, which are at Lamberts Point in Norfolk, Virginia, under the care of The Maritime Administration.

Navy spokeswoman Lt. Cmdr. Alana Garas told the newspaper on Friday that the Navy “is working with the U.S. Maritime Administration to permit the transfer of the two high-speed vessels, formerly Hawaii superferries, into the naval service of the United States.”

But whether the Navy will be allowed to acquire the vessels is still in question, according to Kim Riddle, an administration spokeswoman, who told the Pilot: “We continue to work with interested parties, including the U.S. Navy, in evaluating all options, with a goal of maximizing the government’s return from these vessels. We anticipate announcing a winning bidder soon.”

The shutdown of the Hawaii Superferry’s inter-island ferry operation, before it had a true chance to get off the ground, is an extremely controversial story that continues to make the national news.

Hawaii Superferry Inc. had commissioned the Huakai and Alakai, both 300-foot-long ferries, to carry more than 800 passengers between Oahu and three neighbor islands as fast as 35 knots.

Environmentalists, who campaigned against the ferry’s very existence, argued it would bring death and destruction to Hawaii’s sea life.  Many neighbor islanders, who protested the Superferry, made it clear they didn’t want those city folks from Honolulu to bring their cars over and add to the traffic and trash.

Superferry supporters were just as passionate in support, saying the ferries could unite the islands, allow families and businesses a more affordable way to travel and give people a choice for traveling inter-island.

But the environmentalists won that battle in court in 2009 when the Hawaii Supreme Court ordered that an environmental impact study be done to determine the ships’ impact on the state.

The company gave up the fight and closed its doors two months later. The company also filed for bankruptcy, leaving two Maritime Administration loans with $136.8 million in outstanding debt, and two other loans with the ships’ manufacturers for $22.9 million. The Maritime Administration eventually purchased the boats with the debt owed by the Superferry.

The two ships, built for an estimated $190 million in 2004, are being auctioned off by the U.S. Maritime Administration.

In a July 6 commentary, High Speed Misery: for Both Superferries & U.S. Taxpayers Alike, Joseph Keefelead commentator of MaritimeProfessional.com , takes a look at the impact of the closure of the Hawaii Superferry on taxpayers and that industry.

He reports, “Bottom line: it looks like the ferries could be sold to foreign interests and also reflagged. Or, maybe a U.S. flag operator will come to the rescue. If and when either scenario plays out, as much as $85 million in U.S.-based private equity capital, a guaranteed $136 million Title XI federal loan and tens of millions from the state of Hawaii to jumpstart the ill-fated Hawaii Superferry project will probably be paid back at 50 cents on the dollar. … Someone, somewhere, is going to get quite a bargain. And, you are going to pay for it.”

J.F. Lehman & Co., a company established by former Navy Secretary John F. Lehman, did not get off without a major loss either. He’s out an $85 million investment.

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