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Police opened an arson investigation into a fire that destroyed a van that a homeless person lived in, and damaged the outside of a Mapunapuna warehouse early Tuesday morning.
The fire was reported around 5 a.m. a.m. on Ahua street and caused an estimated $10,000 damage to the warehouse, which housed an auto repair business, and $500 damage to the van.
A Pearl-Harbor-based U.S. warship that came to the aide of a Royal Canadian Navy ship after a massive fire has returned home.
USS Michael Murphy arrived back at Pearl Harbor Tuesday morning carrying 19 Canadian civilians after a fire broke out in the engine room of the HMCS Protecteur last Friday, about 450 miles northeast of Honolulu. Officials say the engine room was so large, it took several hours to put the fire out.
“When the fire happened, the crew responded magnificently,” said Vancouver resident Sandy Cumming. “There were people running around and putting on fire gear and getting the fire under control as best they could.”
“I was scared,” said Eric Rawlins, a 16-year-old passenger. “I didn’t know what was going to happen and whether we were going to abandon ship at all.”
The ship was stranded until the USS Michael Murphy, which was already at sea, came to the rescue to help transport 17 family members and two civilian contractors to Honolulu.
“We were sitting out in the middle of nowhere with absolutely no power, no lights, no washroom, nothing,” Cumming said. “We were sitting and all of a sudden this magnificent ship shows up on the horizon and everyone’s moral just went (through the roof).”
More than 270 Canadian Navy crew members remain on the Protecteur, which is being towed by the U.S. Navy to Pearl Harbor. They are expected to arrive on Thursday.
According to the Royal Canadian Navy, the ship has limited electrical power and onboard systems are being reactivated in a controlled manner. Once it arrives in Honolulu, crews will conduct an extensive and detailed damage assessment of the ship, investigate the cause of the fire, and prepare the ship for return to Esquimalt, British Columbia.
The HMCS Protecteur was on a Tiger Cruise when the fire broke out, a term used when family and friends join the ship for the last leg home at the end of a deployment.
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Michelle Kay knew early on in life that she wanted to be a teacher. She hoped she could play a positive role in the lives of children.
“As a kid, we all have our problems that we go through, and I felt as though sometimes I was seeking attention and nobody saw me, nobody saw me trying to reach out for help,” the Kalakaua Middle School science teacher said. “I decided at a young age that I wanted to be there to help others that didn’t know how to ask for help.”
Kay says she “lives, breathes and eats” at the Kalihi school, putting in long hours to help her 150 eighth-grade students with everything from science fair projects to preparing for robotics competitions.
She’s credited with piquing students’ interest in science programs since joining the school in 2011, and going out of her way to establish relationships with families at Kalakaua Middle, which has a high immigrant student population and where 7 out of 10 students come from low-income families.
“Her commitment to touching the hearts of students and supporting them in their learning is infectious,” said Principal Lorelei Aiwohi. “Michelle has brought immense promise to the students who have the opportunity to be in her world.”
Kay, 36, was surprised Monday during a schoolwide assembly when she was named a recipient of the Milken Educator Award, a national prize that recognizes excellence in education and comes with $25,000 in cash.
Before Kay was announced as the winner, Jane Foley, a senior vice president with the Milken Family Foundation, built up excitement among the more than 1,000 students packed into the school’s cafeteria.
“One of the best teachers in the entire country is here, in your school,” Foley told the crowd. “You can’t apply. We don’t accept nominations. You don’t find us. We find you.”
Amid vociferous cheers, Gov. Neil Abercrombie revealed an unsuspecting Kay as the award recipient. The students’ screams were so loud, Kay said afterward that she didn’t hear her name called out.
“I heard an ‘M,’ and then everything kind of went blank after that,” she recalled.
She credited her students for making her work fulfilling.
“I feel completely honored. It’s a profession that I’ve been doing because of my love, and it’s nice to be recognized but … I can’t be a good teacher without my awesome students,” she said. “I definitely try to go well above and beyond my duty as a teacher to be there for my students in any shape, form or fashion.”
Asked how she plans to spend her prize money, which comes with no strings attached, Kay said an upcoming robotics competition in California comes to mind.
She’ll be taking five of her students to the VEX Robotics World Championships in Anaheim, Calif., next month to represent Hawaii against their top-ranked peers in the U.S. and from countries including Brazil, Canada, China, India, Japan, Mexico, New Zealand, Singapore and the United Kingdom.
“The first idea I thought of was, ‘Oh, maybe I can pay for the airfare,’” Kay said. “The money that I do have, I always seem to give it to my students in one way or the other, so for sure it’s going to be going back to our community here in Kalihi and back to our students.”
Originally from Illinois, Kay moved to Hawaii 14 years ago, drawn to the islands by her love for the ocean and marine biology. She previously taught at Dole Middle and Jefferson Elementary schools.
“I knew that I was born to be a teacher,” she said, “because I understood the struggles that happen as kids. I’ve been there. I’ve been through it, and I wanted to be a teacher that I never had.”
In all, 40 secondary educators will be awarded for the 2013-14 school year, but Kay is the only Hawaii recipient this year. Seventy-one Hawaii educators have received Milken Educator Awards totaling $1.77 million since 1990.
The Joint POW/MIA Accounting Command plans to move into a new $82 million headquarters and lab being built at Joint Base Pearl Harbor-Hickam — as the Pentagon and Congress look at restructuring the command and the possibility of moving it to the mainland.
The future uncertainty — even with the taxpayer expenditure of millions of dollars — follows scathing criticism of agencies in Hawaii and on the mainland that recover missing service members over interagency disagreements, overspending and underperforming results.
“I am here to give a loud wake-up call to everyone involved that it is time to put your squabbles aside for the good of the mission and the good of our nation,” U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill, a Missouri Democrat, said at a hearing in August titled “Mismanagement of POW/MIA Accounting.”
The Defense Department estimated some 83,000 Americans are missing from past wars, McCaskill said.
Planning for the new JPAC facility — which was championed by the late U.S. Sen. Daniel Inouye and will be named for him — has been difficult with the changing political and budgetary landscape, meanwhile.
Congress required the Pentagon, in the 2014 National Defense Authorization Act, to evaluate reorganizing the nationwide accounting community under one command, merging JPAC with other efforts and/or relocating POW/MIA accounting activities to the mainland.
On Feb. 20 the Pentagon announced it was giving an acting undersecretary of defense 30 days to come up with a plan to consolidate those accounting efforts and increase the average of 77 identifications of missing war dead made annually.
Congress required in 2010 that JPAC — whose job is to search for, recover and identify those service members — increase its identifications to 200 by 2015.
But JPAC commander Maj. Gen. Kelly McKeague testified at the August hearing that that wasn’t a realistic goal.
JPAC’s budget was $89 million in 2013, McKeague said. The plan was to add money and resources over five years so the agency could increase its annual identifications.
JPAC was to receive 253 additional personnel — but U.S. Pacific Command budget cuts are reducing those extra staffers to 133, an official said.
“I think a realistic goal for us, which would be attainable, would be a 10 percent per year increase (in identifications),” McKeague said at the hearing. “If we were to do that, we could be at 125 identifications within five years.”
At the time, McKeague said JPAC had 239 military members, 265 civilians, 41 Oak Ridge Institute for Science and Education fellows, and four contractors.
The new three-story headquarters building, with 140,000 square feet of space, is expected to help increase efficiencies by consolidating JPAC sections spread across 13 buildings at Hickam, three at Pearl Harbor and two warehouses near Pearl City Peninsula, the command said.
The new building, near Hickam’s Kuntz Gate, is about 70 percent complete, with a target completion of July 31, said Nathan Loo, with JPAC’s engineering and facilities management office.
Lab space at Hickam, Building 220 at Pearl Harbor and at a satellite facility at Offutt Air Force Base in Nebraska stands at 47,500 square feet now, JPAC said.
With the new facility and use of some of the other labs, that space will increase to 76,500 square feet, the command said. The current JPAC Central Identification Laboratory footprint in Hawaii is 27,000 square feet.
“The new facility will provide approximately 45,000 square feet of laboratory space that has been designed to be a state-of-the-art facility,” said JPAC spokesman Lee Tucker.
The new laboratory “will allow for a far greater number of remains to be analyzed and stored than is currently possible,” Tucker said.
But not the 200 identifications mandated annually by Congress.
JPAC explained that in a written answer provided to McCaskill.
“In order to increase capacity and capability to achieve a minimum of 200 annual identifications, JPAC’s Central Identification Laboratory would need to more than double both its scientific and lab-support staff as well as its physical laboratory space,” the command said.
The new headquarters was designed prior to the 2010 legislation “and will not accommodate the required demand,” JPAC said.
Loo said the new building was supposed to be completed in late 2013, but that date slid to July with the need to make “major reconfigurations” to accommodate what was expected to be 253 more people — a number that’s now fallen as a result of budget cuts.
The new three-story headquarters is impressive compared with the smaller, existing lab and collection of trailers that serve as extra office space.
Stylized Hawaiian plants are cut into the exterior’s concrete panels. An open-air central courtyard is partly covered by a room for families to be with a recovered loved one’s remains which juts out over the open space on the third floor.
Photovoltaic panels are expected to result in savings of $280,000 on average a year, Loo said.
The old lab and analytical space will be used by the teams that deploy around the world to investigate and recover remains, and the trailers will be removed, Loo said.
The U.S. Government Accountability Office reported in 2013 that the Pentagon’s ability to accomplish the accounting mission was “being undermined by longstanding leadership weaknesses and a fragmented organizational structure.”
The GAO said it found overlapping responsibility and interagency disputes.
The agencies cited included JPAC, the Defense Prisoner of War/Missing Personnel Office, the Armed Forces DNA Identification Laboratory and the Air Force Life Sciences Equipment Laboratory.
The GAO findings followed an internal JPAC report that harshly criticized “military tourism” trips to Europe by JPAC staffers with luxury hotels and fine dining.
JPAC officials said the problems have been fixed with a series of reforms, but the Pentagon inspector general’s office said it planned this fiscal year to investigate whether JPAC travel was “properly authorized and executed.”
Tucker, the JPAC spokesman, said JPAC should stay in Hawaii.
“For us operationally it just makes sense,” he said. “Roughly 75 percent of our missions are in the Pacific theater. That’s a big reason why we were consolidated to Hawaii in the first place.”
Honolulu police are investigating a van fire that happened Tuesday morning in Mapunapuna.
Fire crews were called to Ahua Street at J&J Autoworks.
Witnesses say the fire actually spread to the building and raced all the way up to the roof. They say there is no damage inside the building — mainly the van outside.
The man who lived in the van said he left for 15 minutes and he came back and it was already burned. He said there was no electricity in the van.
But, some in the area say he used candles. Fire officials are investigating the cause of the fire.
The U.S. Postal Service will commemorate the USS Arizona Memorial by issuing a new Priority Mail Express stamp on March 13.
The stamp features an illustration of the USS Arizona Memorial created by artist Dan Cosgrove and designed by art director Phil Jordan. The white concrete memorial rises above the sunken Arizona in the shape of a bridge. The stamp art depicts the memorial under a sunny sky and bright clouds with an American flag fluttering overhead and a reflection of the memorial on the water below.
The decision was made by the Citizens Stamp Advisory Committee, located in Washington D.C. ”The CSAC receives 50,000 stamp subject suggestions each year,” said Duke Gonzales of the U.S. Postal Service. “An Arizona Memorial stamp has been championed by USS Arizona Memorial supporters for many years.”
The stamp will be unveiled and officially dedicated at a free First Day of Issue ceremony on March 13, 10:30-11 a.m., at the USS Arizona Memorial visitor center. Among the special guests at the event will be some USS Arizona survivors.
Those in attendance will be able to purchase USS Arizona Memorial Priority Mail Express stamps and have them hand cancelled for free with a special commemorative First Day of Issue postmark by postal personnel at the event site from 8 a.m. to 1 p.m.
The stamps themselves will be available for purchase at post offices nationwide, online at USPS.comand by phone at 800-782-6724.
There is a chance to visit the Battleship Missouri Memorial at a discounted rate.
Hawaii residents and military members can buy two general admission tickets for $20 and a child’s ticket for $5.
It’s a 50 percent discount to celebrate the USS Missouri Memorial Association’s 20th anniversary.
The discount will be good from Saturday, March 15 to Monday, March 31.
Honolulu Fire Department is investigating a building fire in Mapunapuna.
The incident was reported at about 5 a.m. Tuesday on Ahua Street.
Fire officials say a van was on fire near a building when crews arrived on the scene.
Authorities say damage was limited to the outside of the J&J Autoworks building.
Firefighters put out a fire within an hour.
Authorities say damage was limited to the outside of the building..
Police have closed Ahua Street while they investigated. All roads reopened at 7 a.m.