The Conversation: Monday, February 27th, 2017

Feb 27, 2017

Can Hawaii Afford its Public Pensions? Exoplanet Discovery; Mosquito Birth Control

An artist's impression a planet in the TRAPPIST-1 solar system.
Credit Wikipedia

UH Chancellor Search Concludes, Inconclusively: President David Lassner

The University of Hawaii concluded its search for a Chancellor of the Manoa campus without selecting a candidate. This has some asking whether or not the position should exist at all.
Credit Wikimedia Commons

The search for a new Chancellor for UH Manoa recently came up dry.  For the foreseeable future, system president David Lassner will continue to do both jobs. That has Representative Kaniela Ing wondering why UH needs two separate positions and why it would be better to save over $400,000 in salary expense by permanently consolidating them. 

Intro Music: Feeling OK by Best Coast

Outro Music: Irreplaceable by Beyoncé

Mosquito Birth Control Project: Cynthia King

DLNR entomologist Cynthia King in the field.
Credit Cynthia King

There are very few native birds left in Hawaii; their populations have fallen prey to any number of threats to their survival. Today, about two dozen species of Hawai‘i’s remaining native birds are threatened or on the brink of extinction. One of the worst threats comes from mosquitoes, as carriers of avian malaria and avian pox.  Mosquitoes are notoriously hard to eradicate, and pesticide-based methods can cause as many problems as they solve. Cynthia King is an entomologist with the Department of Land and Natural Resources Department of Forestry and Wildlife who’s at work on a much safer approach, the “Incompatible Insect Technique,” and she’s in our studio to tell us about it.

Intro Music: Morse by Nightmares on Wax

Outro Music: Windward by Barefoot Truth

Civil Beat Reality Check: Governor Ige in Washington

Governor Ige at the National Association of Governors Meeting in Washington, D.C.
Credit Courtesy of Governor Ige's Office/Civil Beat

Washington has rarely been an easy town.  Now with Republican control, a visit by a Democrat to make the case for a faraway island state got tougher. For Hawaii Governor Ige, making the trip to the winter meeting of the National Association of Governors was a matter of practicality. Civil Beat reporter Kirstin Downey is on the line from Washington with a reality check.

Intro Music: Lost The Summer by The Jayhawks

Outro Music: Ladies Don't Play Guitar by Tennis

Hawaii’s Unsustainable Public Employee System: Steven Greenhut

Hawaii is one of many states with a public employee pension system that has become unaffordable for the state.
Credit Flickr - 401(K)

Recently revised expectations of returns on investments in the state’s pension fund substantially widened the gap to fully fund the liabilities. In short, the Employee Retirement System is now short at least some 3 billion dollars. Hawaii is not the only state set up for an unsustainable future according to Steven Greenhut. He is the author of “Plunder! How Public Employee Unions Are Raiding Treasuries, Controlling Our Lives and Bankrupting the Nation.”

Outro Music: Privacy (Instrumental) by Quasimoto

Groundbreaking Astronomy Discovery: Christoph Baranac

The TRAPPIST-1 System is located approximately 40 lightyears from Earth and contains 7 potentially habitable planets.
Credit NASA JPL/Caltech

We will never stop dreaming of life on other planets, but we have been discouraged by what science has been telling us for years: that the conditions that allow for life on Earth are rarely, if ever, found anywhere in the universe. But last week NASA announced that seven extra-solar planets, or exoplanets, theoretically capable of supporting life have been discovered a mere 40 light-years away. This is the first time multiple Earth-sized planets have been found orbiting the same star. Christoph Baranec is a faculty member with the University of Hawaii's Institute for Astronomy with a focus on exoplanets.

Intro Music: WingTai Drums by Yussef Kamaal

Outro Music: Honor and Harmony by G. Love and Special Sauce