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SitNews - Stories In The News - Ketchikan, Alaska
March 24, 2018

Front Page Feature Photo By CARL THOMPSON

South Tongass Sunset
3 miles south of Ketchikan
Front Page Feature Photo By CARL THOMPSON ©2018

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Alaska: Alaska Senate Passes State Spending Limit; Senate Democrats Criticize As Phony Budget Cap  By MARY KAUFFMAN - The Alaska Senate passed a bill Friday to limit the growth of state spending by a vote of 13 to zero after Senate Democrats opposed the bill during the floor debate and chose to not participate in the vote. SB 196, sponsored by the Senate Finance Committee, caps unrestricted general fund (UGF) spending at $4.1 billion.   

“Alaska must control its spending in order to refill our savings accounts and sustain constitutionally required programs Alaskans rely on in their everyday lives,” said Senate Majority Leader Peter Micciche (R-Soldotna). “Senate Bill 196 will help constrain the growth of government, so in the future we don’t find ourselves in the same difficult fiscal situation we face today.” 

The spending limit is a key priority for the Senate Majority. The Senate passed a spending limit in 2017 paired with a bill that placed guard rails around draws from the Permanent Fund earnings reserve, but the spending limit provision was rejected by the Alaska House Majority Coalition. This year, the Alaska Senate passed the spending limit as a standalone bill to simplify negotiations with the House on a solution to the state’s budget deficit.    

“Had we had an effective spending cap in place during the fiscal years of 2006 through 2014, we would have about $15 billion in our Constitutional Budget Reserve right now,” said Sen. Natasha von Imhof (R-Anchorage). “A spending cap could give the Legislature the discipline it needs to keep state spending at a reasonable level from one year to the next.” 

To promote transparency with the public, the bill requires the governor to submit a report, along with the budget, comparing the governor’s spending proposal with the spending limit. In addition, the spending limit adjusts over time to reflect changes in inflation.  

“SB 196 plants a seed for a future tree of fiscal sustainability for Alaskans,” said Sen. Micciche. “Had the Legislature passed this bill 15 years ago, we would have billions more in savings, new taxes would not be a primary objective for the current House Majority, and it’s unlikely the governor would have cut Permanent Fund dividends.” 

The limit does not apply to appropriations to the Alaska Permanent Fund, payments for Permanent Fund dividends, required spending for state debt obligations, capital projects, or to meet a state of disaster declared by the governor as prescribed by law. The bill also has a three year “look back” provision to evaluate how the limit is working. 

Senator Berta Gardner (D-Anchorage), Senator Bill Wielechowski (D-Anchorage) and Senator Tom Begich (D-Anchorage) offered numerous amendments Friday to fix what they say is the unenforceable statutory appropriation limit in SB 196. The Senate Democrats say the Senate Majority members opposed every amendment. The amendments were offered by the Senate Democrats in their efforts to tighten up the "massive loopholes contained in the so-called appropriation limit", to protect public safety, education, and senior programs.

The Alaska Senate Democrates said in a news release the amendments were voted down, leaving future funding levels of these critical state services in jeopardy. Another four amendments were offered that would use budget surpluses to repay Alaskans for the cuts to their 2016 and 2017 Permanent Fund Dividends and shield PFDs from potential elimination. The Senate President Pete Kelly (R-Fairbanks) claimed these four amendments were "not germane" and ruled them out of order. - More...
Saturday AM - March 24, 2018

Fish Factor: Commercial catches for Alaska halibut will be down 17.5 million pounds By LAINE WELCH -  Pacific halibut catches for 2018 won’t decline as severely as initially feared, but the fishery faces headwinds from several directions.

Federal fishery managers announced just a few days before the March 24 start of the halibut opener that commercial catches for Alaska will be down 10 percent for a total of 17.5 million pounds.  

The industry was on tenterhooks awaiting the catch information, which typically is announced by the International Pacific Halibut Commission in late January. However, representatives from the U.S. and Canada could not agree on how to apportion the halibut catches in fishing regions that stretch from the west coast and British Columbia to the Bering Sea. 

 “The Canadians felt there was justification in the survey and commercial fishery data that, in concert with a long-held position that the IPHC’s apportionment scheme was not accurate, supported a higher catch limit. They were also opposed to the slow pace the U.S. has taken in reducing its bycatch of halibut in the Bering Sea,” said Peggy Parker of

The impasse put the decision in the laps of federal managers at NOAA Fisheries in Washington, D.C. who were pushed to the wire to get the halibut catch limits and regulations on the rule books in time for the fishery start. 

Adding to the halibut drama are reports of hefty holdovers of fish in freezers, and competition again from Atlantic halibut from eastern Canada.  

Prices for Alaska halibut are typically very high for the season’s first deliveries and then decrease after a few weeks. Last year they started out topping $7 per pound to fishermen at major ports. Prices remained in the $5-$6 range for the duration of the eight-month fishery, prompting a push back from buyers who complained of “price fatigue” and switched their sourcing to less expensive Atlantic fish. 

How that scenario plays out this year remains to be seen, but the combination of fish inventories and availability from elsewhere will likely provide a downward push on Alaska halibut prices.  

Here is a breakdown of Alaska commercial halibut catches in millions of pounds by region:  - More...
Saturday AM - March 24, 2018


Alaska Science: Streaking, manmade lights in the sky By NED ROZELL - I slept outside a few nights ago. Lying on a platform of packed snow, my face looking upward from the sleeping bag, I squinted at the Big Dipper.

Within a few minutes, what appeared to be a moving star slanted across the dipper. Then another. And another. About 10 of them streaked through the Alaska flag in an hour.

Those unblinking, moving lights were manmade satellites, or perhaps the empty rocket parts that sent them into Earth’s orbit, a few hundred miles overhead.

Twenty years ago, I was surprised to see one satellite during a night of star-gazing. Even then, a space physicist named Dirk Lummerzheim said the sky was “crowded” with satellites.

If it was crowded then, our planet now resembles your head bobbing down the trail during mosquito season. We are looped by thousands of intelligent devices and the defunct parts that got them up there.

How many? Workers with a NASA group and the U.S. Strategic Command keep track of working satellites and space junk. They monitor more than 24,000 of these things, some the size of a baseball, others like floating UPS trucks.

A bunch of these objects are military secrets. The other 19,000 now orbiting us in tight circles or long ellipses are not. You can see them on a site called Space Track.

Right now, there are 1,578 working U.S. satellites, 694 U.S. rocket bodies and 3,990 pieces of U.S. space trash. The trackers are also following one satellite launched from Bermuda in 2016, and 6,500 working and non-functional objects blasted into orbit by Russians.

The Russians started it all in 1957 when they launched Sputnik, which looked like a 200-pound beach ball with three spikey antennae.

For years, scientists at the Geophysical Institute at UAF claimed they were the first Americans to see Sputnik. But space physicist and inventor of this column Neil Davis later corrected this claim. He revealed that his neighbor Dexter Stegemeyer had seen Sputnik’s rocket booster streaking through the sky while on his way to his outhouse on that October morning in 1957. Davis later installed a plaque on the outhouse for its significance at the beginning of the space age. - More...
Saturday AM - March 24, 2018

Pacific: GREAT PACIFIC GARBAGE PATCH GROWING RAPIDLY, STUDY SHOWS - 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic weighing 80,000 metric tons are currently afloat in an area known as the Great Pacific Garbage Patch - and it is rapidly getting worse. These are the main conclusions of a three year mapping effort conducted by an international team of scientists affiliated with The Ocean Cleanup Foundation, six universities and an aerial sensor company. Their findings were published Thursday in the journal Scientific Reports

The Great Pacific Garbage Patch (GPGP), located halfway between Hawaii and California, is the largest accumulation zone for ocean plastics on Earth. Conventionally, researchers have used single, fine-meshed nets, typically less than a meter in size, in an attempt to quantify the problem. However, this method yields high uncertainty because of the small surface area that is covered. Additionally, these methods could not measure the magnitude of the problem to its fullest extent, because all sampling nets - small and large - were unable to capture objects greater than the size of the net.

In order to analyze the full extent of the GPGP, the team conducted the most comprehensive sampling effort of the GPGP to date by crossing the debris field with 30 vessels simultaneously, supplemented by two aircraft surveys. Although most vessels were equipped with standard surface sampling nets, the fleet's mothership RV Ocean Starr also trawled two six-meter-wide devices, which allowed the team to sample medium to large-sized objects.

To increase the surface area surveyed, and quantify the largest pieces of plastic - objects that include discarded fishing nets several meters in size - a C-130 Hercules aircraft was fitted with advanced sensors to collect multispectral imagery and 3D scans of the ocean garbage. The fleet collected a total of 1.2 million plastic samples, while the aerial sensors scanned more than 300 km2 of ocean surface.

The results, published Thursday in Scientific Reports, reveal that the Great Pacific Garbage Patch, defined as the area with more than 10 kg of plastic per km2, measures 1.6 million square kilometers, three times the size of continental France. Accumulated in this area are 1.8 trillion pieces of plastic, weighing 80.000 metric tons, the equivalent of 500 Jumbo Jets. These figures are four to sixteen times higher than previous estimates. 92% of the mass is represented by larger objects; while only 8% of the mass is contained in microplastics, defined as pieces smaller than 5 mm in size. - More....
Saturday AM - March 24, 2018


2017 Eagle Scout Honorees By AMIE ERICKSEN - “Since Arthur Eldred became the first Eagle Scout in 1912, the rank has represented a milestone of accomplishment - perhaps without equal—that is recognized across the country and even the world. ... “Eagle Scout” is not just an award; it is a state of being. Those who earned it as boys continue to earn it every day as men. That is why an Eagle Scout IS an Eagle Scout - not was.”

The above description, taken from the Boy Scouts of America Guide to Advancement, applies to thirteen young men who have worked over the course of years to abide by and develop those attributes ascribed to by the Boy Scouts of America in their Oath and Promise. Some of these attributes include duties to God, country and the Scout Law; helping other people at all times; and keeping strong physically, mentally and morally. Now, more than one hundred years later, the following thirteen young men have proven themselves equal to the distinction of Eagle Scout to join with hundreds others in a class of men willing to Be Prepared to offer a Good Turn Daily for neighbors worldwide. These in particular are recognized here because they each belong to the Totem District of the Great Alaska Council, which includes the communities of: Prince of Wales Island; Ketchikan; Metlakatla; Petersburg; and Wrangell.

Carson Andersen, of Ketchikan, became an Eagle Scout in January of 2017. His Eagle Scout Service Project involved improvement to the Fawn Mountain Elementary School's landscape, not only conserving its biology and grounds but also making it safer for the school's children to enjoy their outdoor playground. Andersen saw a need for this improvement as he spent the preceding summer in the school's employ and knew that he could provide this lasting service to the children but also that it would show appreciation to the hardworking staff.

Matthew Warner, from POW of Craig, also became an Eagle Scout in January of 2017. The Eagle Scout Service Project he chose to complete was to remove the old and install the new barbecue stands along Lagoon Beach Park. Working closely with city employees, Warner and his crew installed 5 brand new barbecue grills for the enjoyment and use of all. Warner saw a need for this change when he noticed that the grills had become rusty, degraded and some unusable. The improvement to Lagoon Beach Park has made the area more hospitable and invites increased outdoor activity.

Brent Taylor, of Ketchikan, became an Eagle Scout in April 2017. His Eagle Scout Service Project was to serve the organization called Women in Safe Homes (W.I.S.H) by organizing an effort to create hygiene kits which can be given to women and children in times of crises and uncertainty. Ultimately, Taylor was able to donate to W.I.S.H one hundred hygiene kits for women, to include items such as shampoo and toothbrushes, and twenty five hygiene kits for infants, to include items such as diapers and washcloths, at a value of approximately $2,000.00.

Brendon Divelbiss, of Ketchikan, also became an Eagle Scout in April 2017. His Eagle Scout Service Project benefitted the Ketchikan Rod & Gun Club and their patrons by building and installing a new shooting bench and new target stands as well as a clean up of the gun range. The efforts of Divelbiss and his crew resulted in the removal of three truck loads of debris and trash from the range and a much safer and hospitable environment for visitors. Divelbiss saw the need for renewal when he realized that some of the shooting benches were nearly 45 years old and showing their age. His contribution will be enjoyed by range enthusiasts for years to come. - More...
Saturday AM - March 24, 2018

Alaska: New partnership will combat wage theft and other crimes - The Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development and the Alaska Institute for Justice are launching a new community outreach partnership to defend workers’ rights. The partnership aims to reduce wage theft and other crimes that undermine Alaska families’ economic security. The Alaska Community Foundation’s Social Justice Fund has awarded funding to support the partnership’s work. 

“Alaska workers should receive ever single dollar they have earned with a hard day’s work,” said Alaska Labor Commissioner Heidi Drygas. “This partnership will reduce wage theft and improve the economic security of Alaska’s working families.” 

“We are excited to expand our efforts to defend Alaskans’ labor rights and develop innovative strategies and partnerships to address human trafficking in Alaska,” said Robin Bronen, executive director of the Alaska Institute for Justice. 

Sometimes called “co-enforcement,” state government and nonprofit partnerships have a proven record of preventing wage theft and other crimes against workers. Until this new partnership formed, Alaska lacked a structure for the state and nonprofits to work cooperatively and comprehensively in defense of workers’ rights. The funding support from the Alaska Community Foundation will enable the Alaska Institute for Justice to conduct outreach to leaders of community organizations to train them in recognizing and reporting labor rights violations.  - More...
Saturday AM - March 24, 2018




JOE GUZZARDI: Nervous Tech Giants Ramp Up Lobbying - Since Congress created the H-1B in 1990, IT services companies have had things go mostly their way. U.S. Citizenship and Immigration Services statistics show that the federal government has issued about 1.8 million visas through 2017 to overseas workers that displace or block employment opportunities to experienced, skilled Americans. H-1B visas are valid for three years, are routinely renewed for an additional three years, and routinely lead to citizenship.

But in the Trump White House, the president has ordered tighter H-1B qualifying standards which have put a big league scare into tech giants Tata Consultancy Services, Infosys and Wipro. In February, USCIS announced that it will require "detailed statements of work or work orders" about the job that would be performed by an H-1B visa holder when employed at a third-party site. Employers will need to file more details, known as requests for evidence (RFE), to confirm why a foreign-born applicant should be given preference over American applicants. Previously, adjudicating immigration officers didn't have to review third-party contracts, dates or location of precisely where the H-1B visa holder would be employed.

In anticipation of the April 2 H-1B filing date for fiscal 2019, immigration lawyers have criticized USCIS for overly stringent demands, and India's largest IT service companies have increased their lobbying budgets. A Center for Responsive Politics review showed that Tata increased its lobbying expenses 37 percent to $110,000; Infosys, up by a multiple of four to $200,000; and Wipro, up by five-and-one-half times to $130,000. Indian workers receive 70 percent of the total H-1B visas issued every year - 65,000 go to overseas applicants, and 20,000 are reserved for foreign nationals studying in the U.S. who earn an advanced degree.

The agency defends its more rigorous standards. USCIS noted that it has found "significant employer violations" among H-1B employers which include paying less than the required wage, not paying workers the required wage while they wait for project assignments, and having employees perform non-specialty occupation jobs. In short, IT specialists hire many, but pay little. - More...
Saturday AM - March 24, 2018

jpg Political Cartoon: Bloodsuckers

Political Cartoon: Bloodsuckers
By Pat Bagley ©2018, The Salt Lake Tribune, UT
Distributed to paid subscribers for publication by Cagle Cartoons, Inc.


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jpg Letter / Opinion

Are Democrats bracing for all-out ‘internecine warfare?’ By John Grimaldi - Do you get the feeling that the Democratic Party appears to be moving further and further to the left, adopting what some would call “extreme” socialist policies and even turning against the moderates in the party? Well, it is. Just look at what happened to one of the most popular Democrats in Congress, Dianne Feinstein. She has served her California constituency for some 26 years, winning election after election since 1992. But, she was unable to win an endorsement at the recent California Democratic Party convention, losing to a relatively unknown progressive contender - More...
Saturday AM - March 24, 2018

jpg Letter / Opinion

No New Epidemic of Drugs By Angelo Martin - I am astonished at the articles in the Ketchikan Daily News about drugs in the community as if they're surprised or it is something new. When I arrived in K-town drugs were everywhere and continued to be there all the years I lived there, 21 years. You would be surprised who was using them. Cocaine thrived as other stuff. - More...
Saturday AM - March 24, 2018

jpg Letter / Opinion

Trump The Terrible By Donald Moskowitz - President Trump's character flaws are overwhelming his administration and placing our country in jeopardy. Former CIA Director John Brennan  referred to Trump as " unstable, inept, inexperienced, and also unethical ". I add divisive, chaotic, and terrible judgement. - More...
Saturday AM - March 24, 2018

jpg Letter / Opinion

By the People, for the People By Terri Robbins - We have a system of government characterized by the principles of “By the People, For the People.” These were revolutionary ideas in the 1700s. Citizens, for the first time, had the freedom to affect the big decisions that directly impacted their lives. Our founders realized that with that freedom must necessarily come responsibility-the responsibility to vote, to serve, and to contribute to the well-being of our nation. Ours was to be a “government by the people.”- More...
Sunday PM - March 18, 2018

jpg Letter / Opinion

FOR MOST OF YOU THE LIMITED LIABILITY COMPANY (LLC) IS AN ABSOLUTE PIECE OF WORTHLESS JUNK By David G Hanger, EA, MBA - It may be that a limited liability company might have some benefit for a business that has 50 or 500 investors, but under ordinary circumstances such a business entity would adopt the corporate form of business organization. For a closely-held business, one owned by one or a handful of members, the limited liability company (LLC) is an absolute piece of worthless junk. I do not care who tells you otherwise. The intent of a limited liability company is to eliminate personal liability for what the business does, to keep you from being sued or held liable for business obligations. There is no possibility, none, zero, that an LLC will protect you in this way. All that paperwork will be instantaneously shredded, and you will be held liable for all business obligations. That is a statement of fact in the state of Alaska, and generally overall in the United States. - More...
Sunday PM - March 18, 2018

jpg Letter / Opinion

Boooo HOOO Tillerson By Mary L. Stephenson  - Rex Tillerson leaves with a oil deal the US Government made with Russia in the Artic Circle and Exxon Company will reap big rewards. - More...
Wednesday PM - March 14, 2018

jpg Letter / Opinion

Teachers and guns By A. M. Johnson - Not to belabor the issue of teachers and guns in schools, it requires intense study of options. The excerpts from the following article establishe current application of existing armed teachers and staff. It should be noted that the NRA, an organization with the true purpose of the 2nd amendment as its heart and soul, offers courses in firearm training as an option in protection of children's districts who elect to take advantage of the training. - More...
Sunday PM - March 11, 2018

jpg Letter / Opinion

There are no easy answers By Amanda Mitchell - I do get the concerns about guns, but I don’t believe guns are the only thing that can cause harm to others in society. If I remember my history correctly, governments have posed a significant risk to life as well. Does this mean all governments are bad or that we should get rid of all governments? Of course not!  - More...
Thursday PM - March 08, 2018

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