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Business Briefs

Japan back in recession

TOKYO >> Japan’s economy shrank in the first quarter, veering back into recession as factory production and consumer spending wilted in the aftermath of the March 11 earthquake and tsunami. Real gross domestic product — a measure of the value of all goods and services produced domestically — shrank at an annualized rate of 3.7 percent in the January-March period, the Cabinet Office said yesterday.

Pasha declines to increase fuel fee

Pasha Hawaii Transport Lines will not follow its larger competitors in increasing its fuel surcharge for shipping cargo between the mainland and Hawaii.

 Pasha said yesterday it will leave its surcharge at 43.5 percent. The decision follows moves by Matson Navigation Co. and Horizon Lines Inc. to raise their surcharges to 47.5 percent, an all-time high, effective June 12.

The previous increase by all three ocean transportation firms was 8.5 percentage points and took effect May 1.

APEC seeking curriculum developer

The APEC 2011 Hawaii Host Committee is looking to hire a company to develop a curriculum that can be used to train volunteers for the APEC Leaders Meeting scheduled for November in Honolulu.

"Educating and training the people who will be interfacing with the APEC delegates and attendees will no doubt heighten our level of hospitality and demonstrate that Hawaii is prepared to host meetings of this magnitude and is a world-class destination," said Peter Ho, Hawaii Host Committee chairman.

To get a copy of the request for proposals, email the host committee at rfp@apec2011hawaii.com. The deadline for submissions is June 2 at 4 p.m.

Fixed mortgage rates lowest in 2011

NEW YORK » Fixed mortgage rates fell this week to the lowest point of the year, offering incentive for homeowners to save money by refinancing their loans.

Freddie Mac said yesterday that the average rate on the 30-year loan fell to 4.61 percent. That’s down from 4.63 percent and the lowest level since mid-December.

The average rate on the 15-year fixed mortgage, a popular refinance option, slipped to 3.80 percent from 3.82 percent. That marked the lowest point since late November.

CEO defends Ronald McDonald

McDonald’s Corp. CEO Jim Skinner came out swinging yesterday when asked about Ronald McDonald and whether the burger chain hooks children with junk food.

Skinner, speaking at the company’s annual shareholder meeting at McDonald’s headquarters outside Chicago, said that newspaper ads Wednesday calling for Ronald’s retirement had prompted an outpouring of support to his office, with parents and customers asking Skinner "to defend their right to choose."

A group called Corporate Accountability International paid for the ads, which said Ronald is encouraging unhealthy eating habits and contributing to childhood obesity and related diseases such as diabetes.

At the meeting, shareholders defeated a proposal the group had helped craft asking McDonald’s to issue a report on its responses to childhood obesity. The proposal received 6 percent support, according to preliminary results released by the company.

Nick Guroff, a spokesman for Corporate Accountability International, called it "an extreme success for a first introduction" and said the results will force McDonald’s executives "to take these concerns — as much as they diminished them at their shareholder meeting and otherwise — very seriously."

Skinner got applause when he called Ronald, the burger chain’s smiling spokesclown, "an ambassador for good" and noted that he is the face of Ronald McDonald House Charities.

"He does not advertise unhealthy food to children," Skinner said. "We provide many choices that fit with the balanced, active lifestyle. It is up to them to choose and their parents to choose, and it is their responsibility to do so."

When another shareholder said he was disappointed that Ronald wasn’t at the meeting, Skinner replied, "Ronald hasn’t been here because he’s out in the field busy doing work and fighting through the protesters."

On the Move

Aloha Air Cargo has promoted Johnny Hobayan to vice president of sales and marketing from senior director of sales and business development. Prior to Aloha Air Cargo, Hobayan was employed by DHL Express-Hawaii working in various positions as the government contracts administrator for the Department of Defense-Hawaii as well as AP Gateway, where he was a national account manager and manager of international sales.


AARP Hawaii has announced George Massengale as associate state director for advocacy. He was previously at American Cancer Society where he served as director of government relations and coordinated the legislative campaign to establish Hawaii’s Smoke Free Workplace Law.


The Office of Ha­waiian Affairs has awarded $25,000 to support the Women in Need “Bridge to Success” program, which targets single native Hawaiian women with children who are minors and in crisis. Women in Need will offer support and provide intensive case management to each participant, which is tailor-made to the individual’s specific needs.


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