Homeless in Honolulu
The local chamber of commerce in Hawaii wants visitors to think of Honolulu as a place where one can—at least temporarily—relax and forget about life’s problems. But this tropical paradise is not immune to serious economic hardship. Homelessness in Honolulu has risen 32 percent over the last five years, a troubling—and increasingly visible—trend.
Although government officials and representatives of the tourism authority have expressed a desire to find long-term, compassionate solutions, thus far the bulk of the city’s efforts to combat homelessness have taken the form of a police crackdown on homeless people—confiscating their belongings, waking them from sleep and issuing multiple tickets and fines for low-level offenses.
These efforts have succeeded in displacing the homeless, shifting them from tourist-filled areas to other parts of the city. The strategy addresses what Mayor Kirk Caldwell of Honolulu described to The New York Times as “the visual impact of homelessness.” Cities like Portland, Tucson and Los Angeles have proposed similarly tough legislation.
In a city heavily reliant on income from tourism, concern for aesthetics is understandable, but a pristine view must not come at the cost of compassionate treatment of city residents. Officials in such cities should push for more legislation that addresses systemic causes of homelessness, and local and state governments should offer greater funding to local nonprofits working to address the issue. We are called to recognize the dignity of all people and to build a culture in which homeless people are treated as individuals, not eyesores.
An Unending Cycle
The death of young people is always a tragic event, but the kidnapping and murder of three teenagers in Israel has taken on a special resonance. Thousands of Israelis turned out to mourn their deaths. The government’s responded with swift military action, even though the perpetrators of the crimes have not yet been identified with certainty. Israeli leaders suspect members of Hamas, but they have provided no definitive proof of the group’s involvement.
In most circumstances, the mysterious deaths of three individuals would be investigated by the proper authorities before any form of punishment was meted out. In Israel, however, any killing that seems to implicate Hamas is met with almost immediate retribution. In this case, the homes of the two leading suspects have been razed to the ground, though the suspects remain at large. The sadness of the Israeli people is understandable, but the fierce reaction of their leaders is disproportionate to the crimes. What in most countries would be a criminal case has been turned into an act of war. In a sad but not unexpected turn of events, a Palestinian youth was kidnapped and murdered in the heated atmosphere following the original killings.
If the Middle East peace process is to have any chance of success, both sides must learn to take a step back before resorting to violence. The death of innocents naturally stirs feelings of rage and injustice, but if the cycle of violence in the Middle East is to end, then these human emotions must not be allowed to drive events on the ground. For the peace and safety of all inhabitants of the Middle East, restraint must be the watchword of the day.
To Care for Her
The scandal within the U.S. Department of Veterans Affairs has already led to multiple investigations and resignations. Now an investigation by the Associated Press has added to the scrutiny. The news organization found that the V.A. is especially lacking in its treatment of female veterans, even though it has invested more than $1.3 billion into the effort since 2008. The review found that one in four V.A. hospitals has no full-time gynecologist; about 15 percent of clinics in rural areas do not have a designated women’s health provider; a greater proportion of female veterans are on the notorious V.A. electronic wait list; and the wait time for mammogram results is overextended.
And veterans’ care is not the only concern. In a recent examination of military hospitals that serve 1.6 million active duty soldiers and their families, The New York Times (6/28) found “persistent lapses” in the care of patients and a system in which “scrutiny is sporadic and avoidable errors are chronic” and “mandated safety investigations often go undone.” In some cases, the consequences are fatal. Jessica Zeppa, the pregnant wife of an active-duty soldier, complained of pain, weakness and fever on four visits to Reynolds Army Community Hospital in Fort Sill, Okla., but was given an appointment only to have her wisdom teeth extracted. Not long after, she died of severe sepsis.
President Obama has nominated Robert A. McDonald, former head of Procter & Gamble, to help fix the mismanagement within the V.A., but much more needs to be done. Along with better leadership, the government has a responsibility to provide whatever funding is necessary to shorten the waiting lists and properly inspect health care facilities. The military health care system should not be contributing to U.S. military casualties.