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Pacific News Briefs

Congresswoman Aumua Amata. [courtesy photo]
compiled by Samoa News staff


Washington, D.C. – Congresswoman Aumua Amata, who serves on the Veterans Affairs Committee and its Health Subcommittee, on Thursday welcomed an invite to the White House announcement of action to make healthcare more readily available to the veterans of American Samoa.

“Veterans in American Samoa need efficient access to their doctors, and this announcement is a good step forward,” said Amata. “American Samoan veterans face travel costs and delays for medical attention, but technology can help them see their doctor much more quickly and affordably. I greatly appreciate the continuing work of Chairman Phil Roe and all the Members of the Committee on these ongoing issues, as well as today’s action by Secretary of Veterans Affairs David Shulkin.”

The White House and the V.A. today announced a program called VA Video Connect that allows VA healthcare providers to use mobile devices to connect with veterans on their personal mobile devices, including smart phones or tablets, or their home computers. They also announced a new technology called the Veterans Appointment Request <>. This allows a veteran to schedule or manage their appointments directly with VA providers. 

Telehealth is a growing concept that should eventually allow veterans to access their doctor remotely using the internet without being restricted by state lines. This upgrade in service is particularly important to American Samoan veterans who otherwise would need to travel to see a physician, and often need to speak to doctors in Honolulu or elsewhere.

“This is a great example of working to remove an outdated obstacle for people,” Amata continued. “In my service on the Health Subcommittee, we’ve discussed the need for the best possible health care to veterans everywhere, and I’m pleased to see important progress made. I will continue to work on legislative solutions for full telehealth access to doctors.”

(Source: Aumua Amata’s Washington D.C. office)


Human rights experts from the United Nations will carry out a fact-finding visit to Samoa next week.

They plan to assess the progress made towards eliminating discrimination against women and the protection and promotion of women's rights in the country.

The delegation plans to visit Apia and villages in Upolu and Savai'i to gather first-hand information.

It will be the first visit by independent experts from the UN Human Rights Council.

During its ten-day visit, the experts will meet with government officials, representatives of state institutions, and civil society organizations, academics, as well as individual women.

Violence against women and girls is among issues to be investigated.

The delegation will be in Samoa from August 8 to 18.

(Source: RNZI)


Thai Union Group, parent company of Chicken of the Sea, claims putting in place some of the measures from its agreement with Greenpeace will cause higher costs and, as a result, higher tuna prices, Undercurrent News reported this week.

Analysts covering the company also see the agreement as a possible driver of tuna prices, although two sector veterans told Undercurrent News the Thai Union and Greenpeace's announcement is really only following what is already happening anyway, where fishing firms and regulators are focused on cutting catches and improving sustainability. Both analysts and industry sources welcomed the move, however.

As part of the agreement with Greenpeace, Thai Union has committed to cutting its global sourcing of tuna caught on fish aggregation devices (FADs) by an average of 50% by 2020. Also, Thai Union has agreed to double the amount of verifiable FAD-free fish available in markets globally in the same period.

(Source: Undercurrent News)


Bumble Bee Foods entered a guilty plea on Wednesday for its role in a price fixing cartel, agreeing to pay a fine of $25 million, according to Undercurrent News

According to a report from Law360, Bumble Bee pled guilty to violating the Sherman Act in a California federal court Wednesday, in line with what the company announced in May. 

Bumble Bee admitted to its role in a conspiracy to fix the price of canned tuna and agreeing to pay a reduced fine of $25M.

Jill Irvin, Bumble Bee's general counsel and senior vice president, entered the guilty plea in court on Aug. 2.

According to Law360, she told judge Edward Chen that it was true the company had colluded with other seafood producers.

Undercurrent News was unable to obtain a copy of the plea agreement, which has been filed under seal. 

The firm will have five years to pay the $25M under a proposed sentencing agreement filed with the court.

(Source: Undercurrent News)


President Donald Trump’s announcement of a ban on transgender military service took the United States of America’s New Ambassador to Samoa by surprise, the Samoa Observer reported tis week.

 “Actually it came as a surprise to me,” Scott Brown said when his opinion was sought during his first media interview in Samoa.

Brown visited last week to present his letter of credentials to the Head of State.

The Ambassador who served 35 years in the military said he believes a person’s preference in terms of gender would not affect their mission.

“I was actually instrumental in reversing the ‘don’t ask don’t tell' policy to allow gays in the military,” he said. 

(Source: Samoa Observer)


A short feature Pacific film has won the People's Choice Award at the recent international Public Broadcasting Service Online Film Festival.

The film, Maria, is about the matriarch of a large Polynesian family who lies bedridden and silent, unable or unwilling to speak after a long illness.

But when a family crisis strikes, Maria gets some unexpected help as she struggles to reunite her fractured family.

The film was written by Samoan Tokelauan Taofia Pelesasa, and directed by Samoan Jeremiah Tauamiti.

Maria is played by Leiataua Si'ulepa who at 80 years-old is fast making a name for herself in acting roles in New Zealand.

Cook Islander Karin Williams produced the film which centers around the immense loss and strain faced by the family after the passing of a young child.

She said the film was based on a true event in the family of the writer and the passing of his niece to whom the film is dedicated.

Taofia Pelesasa wrote the script as a tribute to the women of his aiga [family] and their resilience, according to Williams.

She also told PBS in an interview that the writer wanted to show the quiet strength of mothers who shoulder the burden of responsibility for elderly parents and young children, often in silence.

(Source: RNZI)