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For Tuesday, July 26, 2011

By Star-Advertiser staff and Associated Press

LAST UPDATED: 12:12 p.m. HST, Jul 27, 2011

DOT worker admits child sex charges

A state judge sentenced a 41-year-old state Department of Transportation employee to 10 years in prison Monday for first-degree electronic enticement of a child.

In February, Russell H.L. Loo admitted in court that he used the Internet to arrange a meeting to have sex with someone whom he believed was a 15-year-old girl but turned out to be an undercover police officer. Loo’s admission was part of a plea agreement.

Loo also pleaded guilty to five counts of indecent electronic display to a child. Each count for that offense brought a one-year sentence, which Circuit Judge Richard Pollack said would be served at the same time as Loo’s 10-year sentence.

Police arrested Loo on Oct. 3 when he showed up to meet the “girl” at Waiau District Park.

Free hepatitis tests Thursday

Hawaii health officials are offering free hepatitis B and C screenings in an effort to raise awareness and prevention.

The state Department of Health says the screenings are to be held Thursday to coincide with World Hepatitis Day.

According to state estimates, 1 percent to 3 percent of people in Hawaii have hepatitis B, and about 23,000 are living with hepatitis C. Officials says hepatitis B and C are the most common known causes of liver cancer in Hawaii, and the state has the highest rate of liver cancer in the nation.

Hepatitis B and C are spread through contact with blood and body fluids.

For a list of test sites, go to

Akaka to address wage loss issue

A proposal to reduce wage loss compensation for disabled federal employees when they reach retirement age is being discussed at a hearing held by U.S. Sen. Daniel Akaka.

The meeting is planned for today in Washington to discuss changes to the federal workers’ compensation program.

Akaka says he’s considering proposals intended to modernize the program, improve return-to-work incentives and reduce the overall cost to the federal government.

Speakers at the hearing include representatives from the U.S. Office of Personnel Management, Office of Workers’ Compensation Programs, Government Accountability Office, National Active and Retired Federal Employees Association, National Association of Letter Carriers and International Association of Industrial Accident Boards and Commissions.

$2.6M to assist Pacific Rim farmers

The federal government is helping Pacific Rim farmers and ranchers offset costs of shipping their products.

U.S. Sens. Daniel Inouye and Daniel Akaka said in a joint news release Thursday that farmers and ranchers in Hawaii and the Pacific Rim are to receive $2.6 million in payments from the U.S. Department of Agriculture to help compensate for the high costs of getting their product to the mainland and beyond.

The Reimbursement Transportation Cost Payment Program for Geographically Disadvantaged Farmers and Ranchers was created by Inouye and authorized by the 2008 Farm Bill.

The program helps farmers and ranchers in Alaska, Hawaii and other insular areas including Puerto Rico, Guam and American Samoa.

Akaka says the program helps sustain agriculture, which provides jobs and a greener environment.

UH researcher says gravel a cancer risk

The director of the University of Hawaii Cancer Center says gravel roads in North Dakota are exposing people to high levels of a cancer-causing mineral.

Dr. Michele Carbone is leading a new study announced Monday focusing on Dunn County, N.D., where rocks containing the mineral, erionite, have been used to produce gravel for the past 30 years. The center says the study is the first to look at the potential hazards of exposure to the mineral in the United States.

Previously, Carbone has linked exposure to the mineral to a region of Turkey with a high rate of mesothelioma, a type of cancer of the membranes around the lungs. Rocks containing the mineral were used to build homes there.

Arts center opens to military for free

The Honolulu Academy of Arts is offering free admission this summer to active-duty military and their immediate family members as part of a nationwide Blue Star Museum program.

Active-duty service members in the Army, Navy, Air Force, Marines, Coast Guard and National Guard may enter the museum free through Labor Day.

Academy Director Stephan Jost says the museum is gratefully opening its arms to servicemen and women and their families.

The museum today will host an event highlighting civilian institutions that are supporting the military community.

Hawaii Gov. Neil Abercrombie is due to speak at the Blue Star Museums Joining Forces event, along with Col. Matthew Kelley of the 25th Infantry Division.


Flags to lower for former mayor

Gov. Neil Abercrombie has ordered that U.S. and Hawaii state flags be flown at half-staff at state buildings on Aug. 15 in honor of Hawaii County Mayor Herbert Matayoshi.

Matayoshi, Hawaii island’s longest-serving mayor, from 1974 to 1984, died July 12 at age 82.

A proclamation issued by Abercrombie said Matayoshi was an advocate for infrastructure improvements and a supporter of small businesses in the downtown Hilo area. Matayoshi was also instrumental in the creation of social service programs such as the county’s Elderly Activities Division.

UH-Hilo students will pay more

It is going to cost more to attend the University of Hawaii at Hilo this year.

The Hawaii Tribune-Herald reported Monday that resident undergraduate tuition is to rise 10.3 percent to $2,820 per semester. Nonresident undergraduate tuition is to go up 9.7 percent to $8,556 per semester.

Resident graduate students are to pay $4,176 per semester, an increase of 8.8 percent. Nonresident graduates are to pay $9,600, an 8.7 percent increase.

The newspaper reports resident undergraduate tuition at UH-Hilo has gone up 88 percent in the past five years.

The first day of classes is Aug. 21.

No more D grades at Kealakehe High

Kealakehe High students will no longer earn D grades under a new policy, West Hawaii Today reports.

Poor-performing students will receive a warning I grade at midquarter and then either a C or F as a final grade.

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