Hawaii lava boat tours continue after explosion, injuries
By AUDREY McAVOY and CALEB JONES
Wednesday, July 18
HONOLULU (AP) — Hawaii tour boat operators plan to continue taking visitors to see lava, but will follow the Coast Guard’s revised policy and stay farther away after an explosion caused molten rock to barrel through the roof of a vessel, injuring 23 people.
The Coast Guard prohibits vessels from getting closer than 984 feet (300 meters) from where Kilauea volcano’s lava oozes into the sea. The agency had been allowing experienced boat operators to apply for a special license to get closer up to 164 feet (50 meters), but it stopped allowing those exceptions Monday morning.
A woman in her 20s was transported to Honolulu in serious condition with a broken thigh bone. The other 22 people injured were treated for minor burns and scrapes, including 12 who were treated at a hospital in Hilo.
Moku Nui Lava Tours Captain Kanoa Jones, whose boat was not involved in Monday’s incident at Kilauea volcano, said not running the tours would only withhold income from local restaurants and other businesses dependent on tourism, he said.
“If we stop operating, it not only hurts us, it hurts the community,” Jones said.
The Coast Guard, state and local officials were investigating what happened.
Coast Guard spokesman Petty Officer 3rd Class Matthew West said the agency can’t say whether it will change its safety zone rules until it finishes its investigation.
The county strictly limits access to the lava on land for safety reasons, making boat and helicopter tours the only options people have to witness volcanic spectacle in person. The ocean and aerial tours each cost about $250.
The restrictions have deterred many travelers from visiting the Big Island in general, and Puna near the volcano in particular.
Shane Turpin, the owner and captain of the vessel that was hit, said he never saw the explosion.
He and his tour group had been in the area for about 20 minutes making passes of the ocean entry about 500 yards — which is the length of five football fields — offshore, Turpin said.
He didn’t observe “any major explosions,” so he navigated his vessel closer, to about 250 yards (228 meters) away from the lava.
“As we were exiting the zone, all of a sudden everything around us exploded,” he said. “It was everywhere.”
The U.S. Geological Survey says explosions of varying sizes occur whenever 2,000-degree (1,093-degree Celsius) lava enters much colder seawater.
Monday’s large blast may have been amplified by the relatively shallow water at the point where the lava entered the sea. That’s because explosions occur much closer to the surface in such spots.
In contrast, lava that entered the ocean in 2016 hit a steep slope and quickly fell to deeper parts of the sea, said Janet Babb, a geologist with the U.S. Geological Survey.
The volcano has also been pumping more lava into the water now compared to past years, Babb said. Kilauea is sending to the sea as much as 26 times the amount of lava per second than it did during the 2016-17 eruption.
Officials have warned of the danger of getting close to lava entering the ocean, saying the interaction can create clouds of acid and fine glass. Despite the hazards, several companies operate such tours. The Coast Guard said tour vessels have operated in the area going back at least 20 years.
The molten rock is coming from the Kilauea volcano, which has been erupting continuously for the past 35 years. In May, its eruption entered a new phase when it began spurting lava through newly formed fissures in a residential neighborhood. It has destroyed more than 700 homes since then. But the only serious injury over the past two months was to a man who was hit by flying lava that broke his leg.
Captain Jones said an evening boat tour left for the ocean-entry site and it was business as usual.
“It is Mother Nature,” Jones said. “You never know.”
4 injured in explosion in vehicle shop at Army depot
By MARK SCOLFORO
Thursday, July 19
CHAMBERSBURG, Pa. (AP) — A small explosion Thursday in a vehicle shop at an Army depot injured four workers, leaving at least three with burns, officials said.
The blast occurred at Letterkenny Army Depot about 7:15 a.m. Army Depot officials quickly posted on social media that the blast was contained, that operations elsewhere on the base would not be affected and that there was no suspicion of terrorist activity.
Col. Stephen Ledbetter, the depot commander, said three victims were flown to Baltimore area hospitals and the fourth left in an ambulance.
A fire company said three had burns. Their conditions were not immediately available.
Ledbetter said the explosion occurred in the painting area of a vehicle shop.
Both the Army and the Occupational Safety and Health Administration will investigate, he said.
The depot, located 160 miles (257 kilometers) west of Philadelphia, or about 55 miles (88 kilometers) southwest of Harrisburg, employs about 3,600 people. The depot’s website says work there focuses on air defense tactical missile ground support equipment, mobile electric power generation equipment, Patriot missile recertification and route guidance vehicles.
Our Missing $10 Trillion
Tax cuts from the Bush, Obama, and Trump years have left a massive gap in the public coffers. This hurts everyone.
By Josh Hoxie | Jul 18, 2018
A trillion dollars, a figure with twelve zeros after a one, is by any measure a ton of money. It’s near impossible to comprehend how much a trillion is.
So, it’s admittedly hard to comprehend a new report that tallies the combined tax cuts of the Bush, Obama, and Trump administrations from the year 2000 to the time they’re fully implemented in 2025 at over $10 trillion. Of that $10 trillion, the Institute on Taxation and Economic Policy found, a whopping $2 trillion will have gone exclusively to the top 1 percent.
Sounds like big numbers, huh?
The Endowment for Human Development offers some tidy tips for visualizing a trillion. They point out that if you took a trillion one-dollar bills and laid them end-to-end, it would measure longer than the distance from the earth to the sun.
Spending a trillion dollars, at a rapid-fire clip of $20 per second, would take more than 1,500 years before you ran out of money.
So yes, when we’re talking about trillions, we’re talking about a lot, a lot, a lot of money. And what this new report really shows is a metric-crap-ton of cash going to the already exceptionally wealthy. That’s a problem.
The past four decades have seen a dramatic increase in income and wealth inequality as the rich have continued to get richer while the rest of the economy has stagnated. The lopsided tilt of the tax code plays no small part.
As this new report points out, it’s not just the Trump tax cuts. Bush cut taxes too, especially for the rich, and Obama extended many of the Bush tax cuts.
And at last the results have arrived. Put very simply, the top 1 percent of households will pay $111 billion less this year alone in federal taxes combined than they would have if the laws had remained unchanged since 2000.
The Trump tax cuts have rightfully generated a tremendous amount of press coverage. A lot of that press coverage has accurately pointed out that the tax cuts overwhelmingly benefit the rich. Trump’s claims that his tax package would usher in wage and job growth have been proven utterly false. Instead, the wealthiest households and most profitable corporations have gotten big tax breaks while everyone else remains relatively stagnant.
Why should you care about the tax status of the ultra-wealthy?
Consider what gets lost when funds are diverted from the public good to private fortunes.
Since the Trump cuts were passed last December, Congress has debated a budget that includes major cuts to Medicaid, Medicare, and Social Security. They’ve considered cuts to programs families depend on to live — like Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program (SNAP) and the Women, Infants, and Children (WIC) program, which provides nutrition assistance to half the babies born in the United States.
It’s not an exaggeration to say that choosing to cut taxes on the rich while cutting vital programs is taking food out of babies’ mouths.
Meanwhile, our nation’s transportation infrastructure is in shambles. The American Society of Civil Engineers gives the country’s infrastructure a D+ and calls for $2 trillion in increased investment over ten years to get back up to a passing grade. That number sounds familiar doesn’t it?
So, ask yourself, would you rather have the wealthiest 1 percent be $2 trillion wealthier, or would you rather have safe and sound roads and bridges?
Hindsight is helpful, but only if we put its lessons into practice. Will we repeat our mistakes of the past 20 years and head further towards extreme inequality? Or will we invest in our public good and ask those at the top pay their fair share?
Josh Hoxie directs the Taxation and Opportunity Project at the Institute for Policy Studies. He’s the coauthor of the new IPS report Restoring Opportunity: Taxing Wealth to Fund Higher Education in California. Distributed by OtherWords.org.