Mike and Alex Sou at their Kapolei-base Aloun Farm
Mike and Alec Sou at their Kapolei-based vegetable farm Aloun

Human Trafficking Trial Moves Forward in Hawaii’s U.S. District Court

U.S. District Judge Susan Oki Mollway will oversee jury selection in the alleged human trafficking case against Aloun Farm owners Michael Mankone Sou and Alec Souphone Sou today. Jury selection may take up to two days with opening arguments starting this week Thursday or Friday.

While Aloun’s defense counsel tried on Monday to get charges against their clients thrown out, they were unsuccessful. Mike and Alec Sou are charged with 12 counts related to forced labor, document servitude and visa fraud related to their 2004 recruitment of 44 men from Thailand. If convicted, they could spend up to 20 years in prison.

The federal judge also denied the defense’s request to keep from the trial any information related to Global Horizons Manpower Inc., the company that originally brought workers to Aloun in 2003.

Eight people tied to Global Horizons and its recruitment have been charged in a separate alleged human trafficking case, deemed by the FBI as the “largest human trafficking ring in U.S. history,” that is set to go to trial next year. Three Global Horizons employees have already pled guilty to reduced charges in exchange for their testimony.

The public can attend the Aloun trial at the U.S. District Court on Punchbowl Street.  See more about the case here.

Hawaii Solar Power: Is it worth the cost?

Panos Prevedouros PHD, professor of engineering at the University of Hawaii, has a report today in Hawaii Reporter that follows the money with solar power.

He reports: “A five megawatt facility with solar thermal collectors is planned on Department of Hawaiian Homes Lands (DHHL) lands.  The provider and contractor is a local firm that has a smaller deployment on the Big Island. The Big Island facility has used millions of taxpayer money in the form of technology credits to provide basically a tiny amount of usable energy, if any. … It appears that this locally developed technology of micro solar collectors (sun tracking troughs) can physically produce a small amount of electric power, but it does so at an exorbitant cost, especially when compared to other environmentally benign renewables such as PV.”

Based on his research, he asks several important questions about the understanding by Hawaii’s political leaders of energy issues and concludes with this: “Hawaii’s energy arena needs clear metrics and performance based contracting, not fake promises and preferential treatment. Hawaii needs fact-based energy leadership, not rhetoric and commercials.”

See the full report here.

Reapportionment Commission to Release Draft Plan in August

Hawaii’s Reapportionment Commission will likely release a draft plan for Hawaii’s new congressional district lines as early as August 4.

The 9-member commission is charged with redrawing Hawaii’s congressional, state Senate and state House district lines based on the population growth recorded in the most recent U.S. Census.

The public can participate and use the software that the commission is using by logging onto http://hawaii.gov/elections/reapportionment/

Legalized Gambling Advocacy Group to Launch New Television Show

Citizens for a Better Way, a group that is pushing to legalize gambling in Hawaii, will launch a new television show on Olelo Television to educate citizens on its plan to build a standing casino in Waikiki.

The group, headed by Liz Watanabe, also launched a web site that highlights its plan.

Hawaii is one of only two states without any form of legalized gaming. Legislation to change that has been introduced over the last 12 years but always has failed. Legislation from last session is still alive and could be addressed again as early as January 2012.

Citizens for a Better Way is pushing for gambling as a new form of revenue for the state government. The plan includes a $1 million bidding fee for every casino company interested in winning the contract, a $150 million licensing fee and a 15 percent general excise tax on all transactions inside the casino.

The legislature, although looking for additional revenue sources, has been reluctant to legalize gaming, largely because of vocal public opposition.

 

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