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reporters@samoanews.com

MORE TAX REFUNDS RELEASED

The ASG Treasury Department released 450 tax refund checks totaling $501,850 yesterday, with $201,568 from the local government and $300,282 for the Additional Child Tax Credit (ACTC), which is funded by the US Internal Revenue Service.

Tax Office manager Melvin Joseph says the latest refund checks for batch number 9 are for those individuals who filed up to Mar. 19. He hopes the refund checks will be helpful to families shopping for Mother’s Day tomorrow.

Overall, tax refunds released since late January this year total just over $7.55 million—with $2.73 million for local and $4.81 million for ACTC, said Joseph.

FEDERAL DRUG DEFENDANT TRIAL SET FOR AUGUST

The federal court in Honolulu has confirmed Aug. 7 this year as the jury trial date for drug defendant, Peter Seali’itu Sagapolutele, who is charged for receiving a package containing more than 100 grams of “white crystalline substance” through Federal Express from a drug source in California.

Sagapolutele, charged under a two-count indictment last month, recently entered a not guilty plea and his trial was originally set for Jun. 14. However, court filings this week show the trial has been continued “to allow the defense additional time... to adequately investigate and prepare for trial.”

Both parties, who agreed to the continuance, have been informed that July 9 is the final pre trial conference. The court also set dates for certain motions by both parties to be filed. Sagapolutele is out on a $25,000 unsecured bond.

The case first came to light when the Federal Express facility next to the Honolulu airport located a suspicious  parcel from an address in Sacramento, Calif., addressed to the defendant’s home in Honolulu, according a federal complaint filed Apr.  6.The large envelope was alleged to contain about 110 grams of an illegal substance and a federal agent stated “this large quantity of methamphetamine is not consistent with personal use, but rather is more consistent with distribution”, the complaint states.

AMERICAN SAMOA IN ASIAN PACIFIC AMERICAN HERITAGE MONTH

Congressman Faleomavaega Eni, with fellow members of the Congressional Asian Pacific American Caucus (CAPAC) and House Democratic Leadership, celebrated Asian Pacific American (APA) Heritage Month and offered remarks to an audience of over 500 APA community leaders during a CAPAC ceremony in the US Capitol on May 8.

The ceremony featured remarks by over a dozen CAPAC members with the keynote speech offered by US Sen. Daniel K. Akaka (HI), who has served in Congress since 1977 and will retire later this year.  Senator Akaka was also Secretary of the Executive Board when CAPAC was founded in 1994.

 In his remarks at the event, Faleomavaega told the gathering he is honored to represent American Samoa and especially the Pacific Islander community in the States as well as the US Territories when it comes to these historic discussions regarding the Asia-Pacific American community, “including the progress we have made as well as the issues we must still address.”

Following the CAPAC ceremony, Faleomavaega hosted a group of 25 Pacific Islander leaders who were visiting Washington to address Native Hawaiian and Pacific Islander issues at various meetings with federal government leaders.

“No other community in the US represents the diversity of our great nation more than the 18.5 million Americans who make up the Asian-Pacific American community.  An inherently diverse population, Asian-Pacific Americans comprise over 45 distinct ethnicities and over 100 languages and dialects,” he said.  (Full context of the CAPAC ceremony from Faleomavaega is available on www.house.gov/faleomavaega)

FONO STAFFERS START TRAINING ON PAPERLESS SYTEM

Employees of the Legislature underwent a two hour training session yesterday at the House chamber with their new information management system, or paperless project, funded by stimulus money.

Texas-based and Samoan-owned, Petaia Media installed on Monday the new management system, called ‘Fonomatai’, designed specifically for the Fono by Petaia Media, who announced earlier this week that it’s the first of its kind in the South Pacific.

Among the Fono employees who underwent training are staffers from the Legislative Reference Bureau; personnel who draft legislation for lawmakers and those who work with Fono committees during hearings.

Yesterday’s training included the use of  iPads.

According to Petaia Media, this Fono initiative will generate substantial savings annually with the implementation of the wireless and paperless system. A digital archiving program that is in compliance with the American Disabilities Act (ADA) digital design standards is also part of the initiative.

USDOL-OSHA CONFIRMS IT WILL ASSIST IN DEAD FISHERMAN INVESTIGATION

The US Department of Labor (USDOL) confirmed yesterday that its Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) will be involved in the investigation into the death of a crew member on board the fishing vessel MV Carol Linda, which is expected to arrive back in Pago Pago sometime today.

The investigation is led by the US Coast Guard, as Lt. Steven Caskey told Samoa News on Thursday that the accident at sea occurred earlier this week when the vessel was about 700 miles north of Tutuila.

Responding to Samoa News inquiries, USDOL spokesperson for Region IX-Deanne Amaden said the Coast Guard has asked OSHA to assist them with their inspection.

“Coast Guard has the lead, but OSHA will be joining them to look into possible safety issues under federal OSHA jurisdiction,” she said via e-mail yesterday from the San Francisco office. She added that, “we don't provide comments on open cases, so there won't be much more information we'll be able to provide for some time”.Caskey told Samoa News the initial report received by the Coast Guard said that the main mast of the vessel that holds up the boom broke in half and fell on crew members, killing one crew member and injuring another.



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