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Maui County Primary Election Guide

Your one-stop guide for primary election races in the County of Maui, with associated research and media links.

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Hawaii County Primary Election Guide

Your one-stop guide for primary election races in the County of Hawaiʻi, with associated research and media links.

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Koch-funded study admits Medicare for All would save trillions

The study was intended to make Bernie Sanders' Medicare for All proposal look unattainable, but even cursory analysis shows that the study's estimated cost for the proposal is still at least $1.4 trillion cheaper than what our current system will cost over the next 10 years.

A study released this morning by George Mason University’s Mercatus Center claims that a Bernie Sanders-style Medicare for All plan would cost approximately $32.6 trillion over 10 years. The Mercatus Center has received millions of dollars in funding from right-wing billionaires Charles and David Koch. The study is clearly aimed at throwing doubt over whether or not we can afford the cost of such a proposal, but the problem is, even by the most conservative estimates—including the ones in this study—our current health insurance and health care system will still cost more money.

In 2016, the United States spent $3.4 trillion on healthcare; projected over ten years—and assuming costs don’t rise, as they’re expected to—that’s $34 trillion. What’s more, by 2025, the current for-profit healthcare system is expected to cost a staggering $5.5 trillion per year. This means that, even if the Koch-funded study is accurate in its $32.6 trillion estimate for Medicare for All (which Sen. Sanders has already said is inflated), we would still end up saving $1.4 trillion at a minimum while insuring tens of millions more Americans and providing better health outcomes overall.

These soaring costs are a major reason most Americans—both Democrats and Republicans—now support a Medicare for All-type system.

In response to the study, Sen. Sanders said in an AP article, “This grossly misleading and biased report is the Koch brothers’ response to the growing support in our country for a ‘Medicare for All’ program.”

“Even if you take the report’s headline figures at face value, the picture it paints is that of an enormous bargain,” said Matt Bruenig of the People’s Policy Project. “We get to insure every single person in the country…and save everyone from the hell of constantly changing health insurance all while saving money. You would have to be a fool to pass that offer up.”

“If every major country on Earth can guarantee healthcare to all, and achieve better health outcomes, while spending substantially less per capita than we do, it is absurd for anyone to suggest that the United States cannot do the same,” Sen. Sanders concluded. It appears that, once the numbers are crunched, even a conservative policy center like Mercatus can’t argue with that.

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Will Caron
Does Doug Chin believe in civil rights for everyone?

Actions taken by the Department of the Attorney General, which Chin headed from 2015 until the beginning of 2018, lead one voter to question whether the candidate for Congressional District 1 is truly the civil rights champion he claims to be.

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Justin Salisbury
NOAA drops illegal “take” charges against Hawaiian cultural practitioners

The Federal agency may have thought it was doing its duty in enforcing tenets of the Marine Mammal Protection Act, but the agency's lack of knowledge and understanding of Hawaiian culture and the protected rights of practitioners resulted in a violation of civil liberties that could have been prevented with better communication.

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Will Caron
Department of the Interior proposal would gut the Endangered Species Act

Under newly proposed guidelines from the Trump Administration’s Department of the Interior, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service and National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) would be forced to take “economic impacts” into consideration when deciding whether to protect species. While this has a veneer of fiscal responsibility laid over it, the policy would potentially allow large corporations to move ahead with projects that would otherwise be prohibited under the Endangered Species Act (ESA).

The department proposal also includes provisions to stop extending similar levels of protection to animals and plants listed as either “endangered” or “threatened,” and would remove language preventing illegal “takes”—the harming or killing of species—for animals that have been newly added to the “threatened” list.

The ESA has the approval of some 90 percent of Americans.

“These proposals would slam a wrecking ball into the most crucial protections for our most endangered wildlife,” Brett Hartl, government affairs director at the Center for Biological Diversity, said in a statement. “If these regulations had been in place in the 1970s, the bald eagle and the gray whale would be extinct today. If they’re finalized now, [Secretary] Zinke will go down in history as the extinction secretary.”

The ESA was enacted in 1973 and has become “one of the most successful environmental laws in U.S. history,” according to the Center for Biological Diversity—currently protecting more than 1,600 species from extinction. Fewer than one percent of species have gone extinct once listed as protected under the Act. The regulations have kept fossil fuel companies, loggers and developers from interfering with their habitats as well as protecting many species from hunting.

“These regulations are the heart of how the Endangered Species Act is implemented,” said Jamie Rappaport Clark, a former director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service who is now president of Defenders of Wildlife. “Imperiled species depend on them for their very lives. The signal being sent by the Trump administration is clear: Protecting America’s wildlife and wild lands is simply not on their agenda.”

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Israel passes nation-state law enshrining “apartheid” policy

In a 62–55 vote (with two abstentions), the Knesset—Israel’s legislature—passed a controversial “nation-state” law on July 19, 2018, that critics immediately condemned as “an apartheid bill.” The law declares that “the state of Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people” and “the actualization of the right of national self-determination in the state of Israel is unique to the Jewish people.”

The law establishes Israel’s national symbols, designates Hebrew as the state’s official language—downgrading Arabic, which had been an official language for more than 70 years, to “special status”—and claims the “unified and complete” city of Jerusalem as the capital of Israel. The city is home to some of the holiest sites in both Judaism and Islam, and most countries do not recognize it as Israel’s capital. This included the United States up until earlier this year when the Trump Administration made the controversial decision to move the American embassy in Israel to the holy city.

The law also asserts that Israel “views the development of Jewish settlement as a national value and will act to encourage and promote its establishment,” though that line is a scaled-back version of the original language. As Reuters explained, “clauses that were dropped in last-minute political wrangling—and after objections by Israel’s president and attorney-general—would have enshrined in law the establishment of Jewish-only communities, and instructed courts to rule according to Jewish ritual law when there were no relevant legal precedents.”

[Related from the Washington Post: “Is Israel an ‘apartheid’ state? This U.N. report says yes.”]

The development of Jewish settlements outside of Israel proper has been ongoing for years and has resulted in the continued demolition of Arab villages, the displacement of Palestinian families, the partitioning and bisecting of Palestinian land and the fracturing of Palestinian communities. These settlements are illegal under the terms of the 4th Geneva Convention which prohibits an occupying force from transplanting populations into an occupied territory (i.e. colonizing the area).

“Israel is now openly and unblushingly a racist, apartheid state,” said human rights activist and former British diplomat Craig Murray after the vote.

Arab lawmakers ripped up paper copies of the legislation in protest, then were forced to leave the Knesset hall. Ayman Odeh, chairman of the “Joint List,” a coalition of Israel’s four Arab-dominated political parties, said in a statement that Israel has “declared it does not want us here,” and that it “passed a law of Jewish supremacy and told us that we will always be second-class citizens.”

Rebecca Vilkomerson, executive director of the U.S.-based Jewish Voices for Peace, tweeted: “Congrats Israel, you played yourself. Enshrining apartheid into law for all the world to see.”

“I announce with shock and sorrow the death of democracy,” Ahmed Tibi, an Arab lawmaker, told journalists. Tibi and fellow Arab legislator Ayeda Touma-Souliman confronted Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu after the vote, according to Haaretz, saying, “You passed an apartheid law, a racist law.”

“Israel is the nation-state of the Jewish people, and respects the rights of all of its citizens,” Netanyahu responded. “This is our country, the Jewish state. In recent years there have been those who have tried to undermine that and question the principles of our existence. Today we made it into law: This is the country, the language, the anthem, and flag.”

About 1.8 million Arabs live in Israel today. The majority are the descendants of Palestinians who stayed on their land during and after the creation of Israel—which displaced some 750,000 Palestinians during a traumatic, forced eviction movement Palestinians call “Al Nakba,” or “The Catastrophe.” Arabs make up about 20 percent of the population of Israel proper.

“Those who remained have full equal rights under the law but say they face constant discrimination, citing inferior services and unfair allocations for education, health and housing,” Reuters noted. Critics warn that “the new law will deepen a sense of alienation within the Arab minority.”

Millions of Palestinians also live under military occupation and military law within the Occupied Palestinian Territories (OPT) of the West Bank and the Gaza Strip. The military law that governs Palestinians in the OPT has resulted in brutal conditions for Palestinians. Gaza has been under blockade for more than a decade now, and human rights groups have likened the situation there to the largest open-air prison camp in the world.

In a sardonic summation, Palestinian-American journalist Ali Abunimah tweeted: “I welcome passage of Israel’s new ‘nation-state law’ which serves to clarify, for any who were confused, the apartheid and racist nature of the occupying entity since it usurped the land of Palestine 70 years, 2 months and 5 days ago.”

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Will Caron
European Union hits Google with another record-setting multi-billion dollar antitrust fine

The European Union (EU), on July 17, hit tech giant Google with a record-breaking €4.34 billion ($5.06 billion) antitrust fine and ordered the tech giant to make changes that will scale back its dominance of the mobile phone market.

The Wall Street Journal characterized the fine as “the EU’s sharpest rebuke yet to the power of a handful of tech giants”:

[T]he bloc’s antitrust regulator found Wednesday that Google had abused the dominance of its Android operating system, which runs more than 80 percent of the world’s smartphones, to promote and entrench its own mobile apps and services, particularly the company’s search engine.

Android phones come preloaded with Google apps and services, including Search. Competitors have long complained that Android’s dominance gives Google an unfair advantage in attracting users to those apps—and then using data from them to devise and target advertising. The preloaded apps stifle competing apps, the EU said.

With the decision, the EU argues that Google behaved illegally by leveraging its market power to encourage handset makers to pre-install those apps and services on their devices. At issue are several types of agreements that Google imposes on phone makers and telecommunications companies if they want to sell Android-based devices to their users—conditions that applied to handset makers even though Google provides the operating system to manufacturers free of charge.

“These practices have denied rivals the chance to innovate and compete on the merits. They have denied European consumers the benefits of effective competition in the important mobile sphere,” declared EU competition commissioner Margrethe Vestager. “This is illegal under EU antitrust rules.”

The commission concluded that Google has “imposed illegal restrictions on Android device manufacturers and mobile network operators” since 2011,
and warned that “Google must now bring the conduct effectively to an end within 90 days or face penalty payments of up to five percent of the average daily worldwide turnover of Alphabet, Google’s parent company.”

News of the fine, which “accounts for around 40 percent of Google’s 2017 net profit of $12.62 billion,” has already had an impact—the Journal reported that following the announcement, “Shares in Alphabet, the company’s parent, fell as much as 1.1 percent in premarket trading.” Google says it will appeal the decision.

According to The Verge, the penalty “dwarfs Google’s previous €2.4 billion ($2.7 billion) record-breaking fine from the EU last year over manipulated search results.” Facebook was also fined last year, to the tune of €110 million ($128 million).

Some tech experts, like Open Markets Institute fellow Matt Stoller, have suggested that the company should be broken up. Executive director of the European Publishers Council, Angela Mills Wade, meanwhile, urged EU regulators to go after Google for its dominance in digital advertising, tweeting: “Google’s bundling of search, chrome and Play and pre-installations are illegal, harmful and must now stop. Next @vestager has to stop it’s end to end dominance of the buy and sell side of digital advertising built on its #data dominance.”

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Congressional Democrats to form Medicare For All Caucus

Some 60 House Democrats have announced the formation of an official Medicare for All Caucus to examine specific policy components of a single-payer healthcare system and to discus its implementation in the United States.

“This is another sign that we are winning the fight for Medicare for All,” tweeted Bonnie Castillo of National Nurses United. “And it wouldn’t be possible without the hard work of grassroots activists that door-knock, phone-bank, and table in their communities every day. This fight, like many others, will be won in our own neighborhoods.”

“This is a sea change from just four or five years ago and people are more likely to see healthcare as a right,” Rep. Pramila Jayapal (D-Wash.) told Vice News, which broke the story on Wednesday, July 18.

Jayapal is one of the Democrats who will join Rep. Keith Ellison (D-Minn.), National Nurses United and other progressive groups to officially launch the caucus with an announcement on the morning of July 19.

“Every day more Americans are rallying behind the need for fundamental reform of our flawed and fragmented healthcare system that denies care to millions of our neighbors and family members,” NNU co-president Deborah Burger added in a statement. “With polls showing increasing support for Medicare for all, and new signs every day of a system that is out of control, the formation of this congressional caucus could not be more timely.”

A Washington Post-Kaiser Family Foundation survey found that 51 percent of Americans—and 74 percent of Democrats—support a single-payer healthcare plan over the current for-profit system, which has left around 30 million Americans without any health insurance.

Sen. Bernie Sanders’ (I-Vt.) proposed “Medicare for All Act” currently has 15 Democratic co-sponsors, while the House “Medicare for All” bill—introduced by Ellison—has the support of nearly two-thirds of the Democratic caucus.

“The impetus for this caucus is to have a real discussion and work with our offices to see how a system would really work as we think about implementing it,” Jayapal said. “It’s about a growing movement to bring a Medicare for All system into being.”

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Ending RIMPAC, feeling peace

Reflections on trans-Pacific peace efforts in the midst of the largest military war-games exercise in Oceania.

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Sam Ikehara