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  • Video of rats cavorting in a Chinatown market stall called into doubt the state's food safety inspections.

Weaker Tropical Storm Celia forecast

Tropical Storm Celia is expected to weaken to a tropical depression today in the eastern Pacific, the National Weather Service said.

The storm, which had been a category 5 hurricane, was downgraded to a tropical storm yesterday as it moved over cooler waters.

With maximum sustained winds of 65 mph, Celia was moving west at 7 mph, the Weather Service said. The storm was about 2,160 miles east of the Big Island yesterday and is predicted to weaken even further tomorrow.

Celia was the first hurricane in the Pacific this season.

Bird incident delays Hawaiian flight

PAGO PAGO, American Samoa » A bird was sucked into the engine of a Hawaiian Airlines plane as it landed at the airport in American Samoa.

The incident Thursday night delayed the flight’s departure out of Pago Pago until Friday.

The flight from Honolulu arrived at about 10:30 p.m. Thursday. Passengers were told that as the aircraft was going in for a landing at Pago Pago International Airport, a bird was sucked into one of the plane’s engines.

An agent with Hawaiian in Pago Pago confirmed to Samoa News that a bird flew into an engine.

The aircraft landed safely.

The flight departed for Honolulu at about 6 p.m. Friday.

Hawaiian operates three weekly round-trip flights to Pago Pago during the summer. The airline provides the only air link from the territory to the United States.

New law boosts state food inspections

A new law signed by Gov. Linda Lingle will help the state’s beleaguered food safety inspection program.

House Bill 2688 allows money in a state environmental health education fund to be used for sanitation programs and activities, including monitoring Hawaii’s restaurants and food establishments.

The reliability of the state’s food safety inspections came under scrutiny last year after an online video showed rats crawling out from under tarps and over produce at a Chinatown market.

At the time, the state employed just nine health inspectors on Oahu to handle nearly 6,000 markets and restaurants.

Tax plan to buy land fails

A proposal to require 2 percent of Big Island property tax receipts be set aside for purchases of land for open space has died.

The proposed charter amendment by Kohala Councilman Pete Hoffmann drew five of eight votes, but it needed a two-thirds majority to be placed before voters.

Instead, voters will face a proposed charter amendment from the county’s Charter Commission to allocate at least 1 percent of tax collections to land purchases.

In 2006, voters approved an ordinance to set aside 2 percent of tax receipts for open space.

But last year, the council approved Mayor Billy Kenoi’s request to suspend the ordinance for two years to help the county deal with budget woes.

Grant will aid farm workers

The U.S. Department of Labor has awarded a grant of about $331,000 to Maui Economic Opportunity Inc. to provide job training, education and housing assistance, and child care to low-income farm workers on that island.

The grant was announced by U.S. Rep. Mazie Hirono, whose district includes Maui.

The money will be funneled through the Labor Department’s National Farmworker Jobs Program. The program provides job training and employment assistance to migrant and seasonal farm workers who want to acquire new job skills in occupations that offer higher wages and more stable employment.

In Hawaii, it has assisted macadamia nut pickers, coffee growers, pineapple harvesters and flower nursery workers, along with their families.


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