Aloha Airlines announced yesterday that today is the last day it will provide passenger service . The news came as a surprise to more than 1900 employees here in Hawaii who found out that their vacation, healthcare, and other benefits would cease with the company. Apparently their 401 K and retirement accounts are intact. 1900 people suddenly without jobs or health insurance is a disaster to Hawaii. Expect to see the population of the tent cities on the Waianae Coast increase since many of the employees who just lost their jobs were supporting large extended families. While the media is expressing it’s regret over the company having to cease operations, these people are going to be finding their lives increasingly difficult, plus 1900 new job seekers means that the job market here just got tighter for everyone. This could have catastrophic consequences that when added to the loss of jobs at the Ilikai and other resorts recently is a graphic reminder that this recession is quickly becoming worse. To be honest, I’m not sad to see Aloha Airlines go. The several times I flew with them they were late, inefficient, uncomfortable, and dirty. I’m sad for those employees that just got screwed by a company that wasn’t able to take care of itself, but I’m pretty sure those at the top of Aloha’s management hierarchy (those who are responsible for the mess to begin with) aren’t going to be visiting the food bank anytime soon and probably still have their health insurance.
If you’re holding reservations on Aloha, you’re obviously a little screwed, but there are ways to get your money back.
1. Visit the United Airlines website, or call them at 1-800-UNITED1. United has a marketing agreement with Aloha, and will attempt to accommodate passengers.
2. Call your travel agent or credit card company and ask for a refund.
3. See if Hawaiian or Go! Airlines can do anything for you. They’re offering free standby for Aloha passengers through Thursday. They have more info at their website.
Just when more people are needing a little help because of the economic situation in the United States, the nations food banks are receiving less support than ever before. Part of this is due to a downturn in the amount of donations from individuals who are paying more for less but the bulk of the problem comes from the lack of assistance from the federal government. Assistance from the government dropped from $240 million in 2003 to $58 million in 2007. I grew up eating government cheese and drinking government powdered milk thanks to a worthless and abusive stepfather named Scott Rose. Foodbanks kept us from being hungry, pretty pathetic that the U.S. government is willing to spend so much to fight wars that it doesn’t have enough left over to take care of impoverished families.
The weak dollar combined with record-high gas prices and a mortgage meltdown are all adding up to an economic crisis for many families.
And the trickle-down effect is even hitting America’s food banks.
The place struggling Americans should be able to turn to is now struggling itself. Lynn Brantley is the CEO of the Capital Area Food Bank in Washington D.C. and said donations are down significantly and the demand is up and rising.
The Capital Area Food Bank of Texas serves 21 Central Texas counties.
They’re seeing anywhere from 20 percent to 70 percent increases in the number of people that are going to their sites for food.
And to add to the strain, the government contributions and surplus foods are also down.
“They went from more than $240 million worth in 2003 to just $58 million last year,” George Braley, with America’s Second Harvest said.
“It’s 75 percent of the surplus food we used to get that we no longer get,” he said.
The Department of Agriculture said it provides $190 million in cash each year to food banks, but acknowledges there’s not as much surplus food available to donate.
So many food banks have turned to other donors for help. In December, Wal-Mart delivered a tractor-trailer load of food in every state. Major grocery stores, like Giant Foods and H-E-B, also donate.
There are money troubles at the nation’s food banks. In the struggling economy — the pantries are running low.
But food banks are still feeling the pinch while keeping a close eye on an overhaul of the farm bill being debated in congress. It could include major funding increases that could reach struggling food banks.
A Cambodian-born US journalist whose enslavement and escape from the Khmer Rouge became the subject of the famous film, The Killing Fields, has died.
Dith Pran died at a hospital in New Jersey from pancreatic cancer at the age of 65, according to his former New York Times colleague, Sydney Schanberg.
The white grandmother of Barack Obama blazed a trail for women in Honolulu’s banking circles in the 1960s and 1970s as her grandson grew up surrounded by racial insensitivity.
While Obama’s views on race relations in America were being shaped, his maternal grandmother — Madelyn Dunham, now 85 — received a series of promotions at Hawai’i’s top bank. And in December 1970, she was named one of the first two female vice presidents at Bank of Hawaii.
Sam Slom was a Bank of Hawaii economist at the time and was married to a Korean-Chinese woman. Slom remembers looking at housing ads that openly expressed racial preferences.
The landlords’ ads read, “‘No haoles,’ or ‘AJAs (Americans of Japanese ancestry) Only,’ or ‘No Japanese,'” Slom said.
“That’s the way it was,” said Slom, who is now a Republican state senator representing Kahala and Hawai’i Kai. “Did people talk about race? We had local jokes … like that ‘pake’ (Chinese) guy or the ‘yobo’ (Korean) who did this or that. I certainly got my share of haole jokes. But I never heard Madelyn say anything disparaging about people of African ancestry or Asian ancestry or anybody’s ancestry.”
Dunham’s views on race were highlighted in a March 18 speech that the Democratic presidential contender gave in Philadelphia designed to both denounce and defend his former, controversial pastor, the Rev. Jeremiah Wright.
In his speech, Obama linked Wright and Dunham when he said, “I can no more disown him than I can disown the black community. I can no more disown him than I can my white grandmother — a woman who helped raise me, a woman who sacrificed again and again for me, a woman who loves me as much as she loves anything in this world, but a woman who once confessed her fear of black men who passed her by on the street, and who on more than one occasion has uttered racial or ethnic stereotypes that made me cringe.”
I left the ride early to have some beers with friends…the cops were definitely more aggressive this time throughout the day. I’m glad i missed this mess.
On March 28th we set out for a nice evening bike ride known as Critical Mass. I guess its been going on for years here but only in recent months has it grown into a comfortable experience,
…”Taking the same route as the last time but omitting the ‘trial run’ through Chinatown (because we agreed that it sucked last time) our solid little Mass of 50 or so (really hard to get a count, and we picked up several riders along the way) made slower progress than last time in an effort to stay together, and generally we succeeded. With a festive carnival atmosphere, we proceeded down to Waikiki, picking up a couple of young teenagers on their bikes as well as a young woman with dreads and several local folk on bikes and skateboards that got caught up in the energy of the mass. It was at around this point that the police started issuing tickets.
Being generally ineffectual using their usual tactics (as usual), it appeared to me that they decided to target specific bicyclists who they saw committing what they considered to be especially egregious acts, such as going the wrong way or intentionally blocking cars. Starting at the bridge into Waikiki, they made several attempts to make contact with individuals, some successful and resulting in tickets, and some unsuccessful and resulting in escapes and red-faced officers. Their method was to stop a squad car ahead of the Mass, get out, and try and grab someone on a bike, and each time a SPECIFIC someone that they had already decided to issue a specific ticket to. When stopping bikes they ran into bicycle traffic and just tried to snatch at the rider as he passed.
As we rounded and left Waikiki, their frustration began to become apparent as I saw them issue a ticket on the way out, and then soon thereafter I saw them handcuff and stuff into a squad car one of the teenagers that had joined up. I am guessing that the kid was 14 or 15 years old, and I would be willing to bet that he was not aware of anything called Critical Mass.
It was only a few minutes later that the incident occurred. Basically an HPD officer who was not using good judgment caused a serious accident by his reckless and negligent acts.
The squad car stopped directly in front of the main Honolulu Police Department headquarters, just one long block away from the Capitol and the end of the Mass (see specific location info below). Officer Araki (Badge #2410) got out of the car and faced the oncoming Mass, targeting a specific individual on a bicycle. With single minded purpose, Officer Arakai ran towards the Mass from the side, trying to execute a full body tackle against a bicyclist that he never took his eyes off of, apparently never considering the obvious inevitability of an accident if he ran into a stream of heavy bicycle traffic. He certainly should have stopped and considered the possibility that his violent, reckless and negligent attempt to body-check a bike to give a $90 traffic ticket could cause a serious injury to an innocent third party…
The female bicyclist was riding in a legal position, in fairly heavy bicycle traffic. Throughout the ride as far as I saw she had maintained a legal position and appeared to be a fairly timid and inexperienced rider. When the incident occurred there were people all around and there was not much room to maneuver. Officer Araki (Badge #2410) ran from the side and attempted to tackle the male on a bicycle, and when he missed he slammed into her and knocked her down. She never saw him coming; he came at her from the side and slammed her before she knew what was happening. He went down at the same time as she did and another girl ran over him on her bike and went down also, but not nearly so hard as the subject bicyclist did. Her head made a loud hard sound on the asphalt, and she was rendered unconscious. In the opinion of myself, and all the other witnesses I talked to, the officer was trying to get that one kid, and he was not paying attention to anything else, and what he did was extremely dangerous and was recklessly negligent, and it was obvious that his actions had the potential to injure innocent people. He basically caused an accident because he did not care who got hurt, he did not care about anything else but trying to nail that one kid. An ambulance was called by a bystander because the police were just standing around not doing anything (911 and dispatch records may show that the call was made before the cops made the call) The cops made her sit around, and she was obviously disoriented. She sent the ambulance away because she was worried about the expense and at no time did the HPD there take responsibility for what they did and help her. Finally after much delay HPD started to get worried about their liability, and drove her to the hospital themselves.
If this isn’t a hoax then it is totally cool. Welcome to the idea of a garden world!
PetroSun has announced it will begin operation of its commercial algae-to-biofuels facility on April 1st, 2008.
The facility, located in Rio Hondo Texas, will produce an estimated 4.4 million gallons of algal oil and 110 million lbs. of biomass per year off a series of saltwater ponds spanning 1,100 acres. Twenty of those acres will be reserved for the experimental production of a renewable JP8 jet-fuel.
Gordon LeBlanc, Jr., CEO of PetroSun had this to say:
“Our business model has been focused on proving the commercial feasibility of the firms’ algae-to-biofuels technology during the past eighteen months. Whether we have arrived at this point in time by a superior technological approach, sheer luck or a redneck can-do attitude, the fact remains that microalgae can outperform the current feedstocks utilized for conversion to biodiesel and ethanol, yet do not impact the consumable food markets or fresh water resources.”
Microalgae have garnered considerable attention, since acre-by-acre microalgae can produce 30-100 times the oil yield of soybeans on marginal land and in brackish water. The biomass left-over from oil-pressing can either be fed to cattle as a protein supplement, or fermented into ethanol.
The big problem has been figuring out how to collect and press the algae, and in the case of open ponds, to prevent contamination by invasive species. PetroSun seems to have figured it out, and this may be the first algae biofuel plant to get off the ground.
PetroSun won’t be making fuel immediately, but plans on either building or acquiring ethanol and biodiesel production plants. They’ve conveniently located themselves in an area accessible by barge, which should make fuel distribution a snap.
Takuo Toda, head of Japan Origami Airplane Association, folds a space shuttle-shaped paper plane at the Japan Airlines’ facilities in Tokyo, Sunday, Feb. 3, 2008. Toda had nursed the idea of flying a shuttle-shaped paper plane since NASA launched its first spacecraft Enterprise in 1977.
LIHUE, Kaua’i — Enough with all this horsing around at the hospital.
Somebody brought the wrong steed to visit a patient at Wilcox Memorial Hospital on Kaua’i.
A drunken man brought the horse to visit an ailing relative earlier this month, thinking it would cheer up the patient to see his stallion, said Lani Yukimura, a spokeswoman at the hospital on Kauai.
The man and the horse rode an elevator up to the third floor, where they were met and stopped by security personnel, Yukimura said.
“That’s not my horse,” the patient said when he was brought out to see the horse.
Security then managed to get the man and the horse out of the hospital, with “just a few scuff marks,” Yukimura said.
The hospital has a pet visitation policy, but it’s only for dogs and cats.
“On Kaua’i, we have a very warm inviting atmosphere at Wilcox,” Yukimura said. “We just hope people understand this is not a place for a horse.”
Ray Kurzweil, the famous inventor, is trim, balding, and not very tall. With his perfect posture and narrow black glasses, he would look at home in an old documentary about Cape Canaveral, but his mission is bolder than any mere voyage into space. He is attempting to travel across a frontier in time, to pass through the border between our era and a future so different as to be unrecognizable. He calls this border the singularity. Kurzweil is 60, but he intends to be no more than 40 when the singularity arrives.
Kurzweil’s notion of a singularity is taken from cosmology, in which it signifies a border in spacetime beyond which normal rules of measurement do not apply (the edge of a black hole, for example). The word was first used to describe a crucial moment in the evolution of humanity by the great mathematician John von Neumann. One day in the 1950s, while talking with his colleague Stanislaw Ulam, von Neumann began discussing the ever-accelerating pace of technological change, which, he said, “gives the appearance of approaching some essential singularity in the history of the race beyond which human affairs as we know them could not continue.”
Many years later, this idea was picked up by another mathematician, the professor and science fiction writer Vernor Vinge, who added an additional twist. Vinge linked the singularity directly with improvements in computer hardware. This put the future on a schedule. He could look at how quickly computers were improving and make an educated guess about when the singularity would arrive. “Within 30 years, we will have the technological means to create superhuman intelligence,” Vinge wrote at the beginning of his 1993 essay The Coming Technological Singularity: How to Survive in the Post-Human Era. “Shortly after, the human era will be ended.” According to Vinge, superintelligent machines will take charge of their own evolution, creating ever smarter successors. Humans will become bystanders in history, too dull in comparison with their devices to make any decisions that matter.
Kurzweil transformed the singularity from an interesting speculation into a social movement. His best-selling books The Age of Spiritual Machines and The Singularity Is Near cover everything from unsolved problems in neuroscience to the question of whether intelligent machines should have legal rights. But the crucial thing that Kurzweil did was to make the end of the human era seem actionable: He argues that while artificial intelligence will render biological humans obsolete, it will not make human consciousness irrelevant. The first AIs will be created, he says, as add-ons to human intelligence, modeled on our actual brains and used to extend our human reach. AIs will help us see and hear better. They will give us better memories and help us fight disease. Eventually, AIs will allow us to conquer death itself. The singularity won’t destroy us, Kurzweil says. Instead, it will immortalize us.
There are singularity conferences now, and singularity journals. There has been a congressional report about confronting the challenges of the singularity, and late last year there was a meeting at the NASA Ames Research Center to explore the establishment of a singularity university. The meeting was called by Peter Diamandis, who established the X Prize. Attendees included senior government researchers from NASA, a noted Silicon Valley venture capitalist, a pioneer of private space exploration, and two computer scientists from Google.
At this meeting, there was some discussion about whether this university should avoid the provocative term singularity, with its cosmic connotations, and use a more ordinary phrase, like accelerating change. Kurzweil argued strongly against backing off. He is confident that the word will take hold as more and more of his astounding predictions come true.
Kurzweil does not believe in half measures. He takes 180 to 210 vitamin and mineral supplements a day, so many that he doesn’t have time to organize them all himself. So he’s hired a pill wrangler, who takes them out of their bottles and sorts them into daily doses, which he carries everywhere in plastic bags. Kurzweil also spends one day a week at a medical clinic, receiving intravenous longevity treatments. The reason for his focus on optimal health should be obvious: If the singularity is going to render humans immortal by the middle of this century, it would be a shame to die in the interim. To perish of a heart attack just before the singularity occurred would not only be sad for all the ordinary reasons, it would also be tragically bad luck, like being the last soldier shot down on the Western Front moments before the armistice was proclaimed. Read the rest at Wired.
He’s not selling liquor, he’s selling dreams! Is that so bad?
SANTO, Texas – A rattlesnake rancher who calls himself Bayou Bob found a new way to make money: Stick a rattler inside a bottle of vodka and market the concoction as an “ancient Asian elixir.” But Bayou Bob Popplewell’s bright idea appears to have landed him on the wrong side of the law, because he has no liquor license.
Popplewell, who has raised rattlesnakes and turtles at Bayou Bob’s Brazos River Rattlesnake Ranch for more than two decades, surrendered to authorities Monday. He spent about 10 minutes in jail after the Texas Alcoholic Beverage Commission obtained arrest warrants on misdemeanor charges of selling alcohol without a license and possessing alcohol with intent to sell.
If convicted, he faces up to a year in jail and $1,000 in fines.
Popplewell said he will fight the charges. His intent, he said, is not to sell an alcoholic beverage but a healing tonic. He said he has customers of Asian descent who believe the concoction has medicinal properties.
“It’s almost a spiritual thing,” said Popplewell, 63.
But alcohol commission agent Scott Jones pointed out that investigators confiscated 429 bottles of snake vodka and one bottle of snake tequila. At $23 a bottle, that’s almost $10,000 worth of reptilian booze.
Even if Popplewell intended his drink be used as a healing tonic — an assertion the alcohol commission disputes — his use of vodka requires a state permit, authorities said.
“It’s sold for beverage purposes, and he knows what he’s doing,” commission Sgt. Charlie Cloud said.
Popplewell said he uses the cheapest vodka he can find as a preservative for the snakes. The end result is a super sweet mixed drink that Popplewell compared to cough syrup.
“I’ve honestly never seen a person drink it,” he said.
An Asian studies lecturer at the University of Texas said there is some merit to Popplewell’s claim that snake vodka could be seen as a tonic.
There’s a street nicknamed “Snake Alley” in Taipei, Taiwan, where street vendors put the gall bladder of a freshly killed snake into a glass of strong liquor. The drink, sold to the highest bidder, is supposed to improve eyesight and sexual performance, said lecturer Camilla Hsieh.
“It’s like the ancient version of Viagra,” Hsieh said.
Santo is located 60 miles west of Fort Worth.