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SitNews - Stories In The News - Ketchikan, Alaska
August 09, 2015

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Fish Factor: Upcoming hearings could change Alaska’s salmon fisheries forever By LAINE WELCH - Two hearings this month could change the face of Alaska’s salmon fisheries forever.

On August 21, the Department of Natural Resources will hear both sides on competing claims to water rights for salmon streams at Upper Cook Inlet’s Chuitna River or to a proposed coal mine. If DNR opts for the mine, the decision would set a state precedent.

“It would be the first time in Alaska’s state history that we would allow an Outside corporation to mine completely through a salmon stream,” said Bob Shavelson, a director at Cook Inlet Keeper. “And the sole purpose is to ship coal to China. It is really a very dangerous precedent, because if they can do it here in Cook Inlet they will be able to do it anywhere in the state.”

Cook Inlet Keeper, along with the Chuitna Citizens Coalition and Alaska Center for the Environment, requested the hearing. They want to protect spawning tributaries of the salmon-rich Chuitna; PacRim Coal of Delaware and Texas wants to dewater the streams and dig Alaska’s largest coal mine.

DNR Water Resources Chief Dave Schade agreed that the decision is precedent setting, and it comes down to “saying yes to one applicant, and no to the other.”

The hearing is scheduled for August 21 at the US Federal Building Annex in Anchorage. Testimony is limited to participants in the case and no public comments are scheduled to be taken. A decision by DNR is expected on or before October 9.
Following the water rights hearing will be oral arguments before the Alaska Supreme Court on August 26 on the setnet ban proposed for Cook Inlet and five other “urban, non-subsistence” Alaska regions.

At issue is whether removing setnetters is a resource allocation measure which is prohibited under the state constitution. The court decision will determine if the question can be put before Alaska voters in the primary election next August.
The ban is being pushed and bankrolled by the Kenai-based sports fishing group Alaska Fisheries Conservation Alliance (AFCA), which claims the issue is not allocative and targets a single gear group. AFCA insists salmon setnets indiscriminately kill other species that come in contact with the gear.

“I believe now more than ever that Alaskans want to end the devastating and outdated mode of commercial fishing called setnetting,” AFCA president Joe Connors said at a June press conference. “It is time for setnets in urban Alaska to go away. It’s time for fish to come first.

The state of Alaska disagrees, and the data don’t back up AFCA’s claims that setnets destroy other species.

“Looking over the last 10 years, the setnet harvest is comprised of 99.996% salmon. It’s a very, very low number of other species caught. It’s almost not measurable,” said Jeff Regnart, Director of the state’s Commercial Fisheries Division. Regnart called bringing fish allocation issues to the ballot box “bad public policy.”

There are over 2,200 setnet operations in Alaska; 735 are located in Cook Inlet.
Last week the state Division of Elections certified enough voter signatures collected via an AFCA petition to proceed with a ballot initiative. Pending the Court ruling, the setnet ban could be put before voters next August. - More...
Sunday PM - August 09, 2015


Science: Humans Have Burned Up Half the World’s Biomass By JAMES HATAWAY - Unless humans slow the destruction of Earth's declining supply of plant life, civilization like it is now may become completely unsustainable, according to a paper published recently by University of Georgia researchers in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The Blue Marble is a famous photograph of the Earth, taken on December 7, 1972, by the crew of the Apollo 17 spacecraft, at a distance of about 45,000 kilometers.
Courtesy wikimedia commons.

"You can think of the Earth like a battery that has been charged very slowly over billions of years," said the study's lead author, John Schramski, an associate professor in UGA's College of Engineering. "The sun's energy is stored in plants and fossil fuels, but humans are draining energy much faster than it can be replenished."

Earth was once a barren landscape devoid of life, he explained, and it was only after billions of years that simple organisms evolved the ability to transform the sun's light into energy. This eventually led to an explosion of plant and animal life that bathed the planet with lush forests and extraordinarily diverse ecosystems.

The study's calculations are grounded in the fundamental principles of thermodynamics, a branch of physics concerned with the relationship between heat and mechanical energy. Chemical energy is stored in plants, or biomass, which is used for food and fuel, but which is also destroyed to make room for agriculture and expanding cities.

Scientists estimate that the Earth contained approximately 1,000 billion tons of carbon in living biomass 2,000 years ago. Since that time, humans have reduced that amount by almost half. It is estimated that just over 10 percent of that biomass was destroyed in just the last century.

"If we don't reverse this trend, we'll eventually reach a point where the biomass battery discharges to a level at which Earth can no longer sustain us," Schramski said. - More...
Sunday PM - August 09, 2015


Jet contrails affect surface temperatures By A'NDREA ELYSE MESSER - High in the sky where the cirrus ice crystal clouds form, jet contrails draw their crisscross patterns. Now researchers have found that these elevated ice cloud trails can influence temperatures on the ground and affect local climate, according to a team of Penn State geographers.

Jet contrails affect surface temperatures

According to Woods Hole Oceanographic, there are approximately 30,000 commercial flights per day in the U.S. If the total round–trip flying time changed by an average of one minute, the amount of time commercial jets would spend in the air would change by approximately 300,000 hours per year. This translates to approximately 1 billion gallons of jet fuel, which is approximately $3 billion in fuel cost, and 10 billion kilograms of CO2 emitted, per year.
(Courtesy of Harvepino/

"Research done regarding September 2001, during the three days (following 9-11) when no commercial jets were in the sky, suggested that contrails had an effect," said Andrew M. Carleton, professor of geography. "But that was only three days. We needed to look longer, while jets were in the air, to determine the real impact of contrails on temperature and in terms of climate."

"Certain regions of the U.S. have more favorable atmospheric conditions for contrails than others, " said Jase Bernhardt, graduate student in geography.

For contrails to form, the atmosphere at the level the jet is flying must be cold enough that the moisture from the jet exhaust freezes into ice crystals. There also must be enough moisture in the air that the clouds that form remain in the sky for at least a few hours as persisting contrails.

Bernhardt and Carleton looked at temperature observations made at weather station sites in two areas of the U.S., one in the South in January and the other in the Midwest in April. They paired daily temperature data at each contrail site with a non-contrail site that broadly matched in land use-land cover, soil moisture and air mass conditions. The contrail data, derived from satellite imagery, were of persisting contrail outbreaks. The researchers reported their results in a recent issue of the International Journal of Climatology. - More...
Sunday PM - August 09, 2015


Health: The uneasy, unbreakable link of money, medicine - Even after centuries of earnest oaths and laws, the debate about whether money compromises medicine remains unresolved, observes Dr. Eli Adashi in a new paper in the AMA Journal of Ethics. The problem might not be truly intractable, he said, but recent reforms will likely make little progress or difference.

jpg The uneasy, unbreakable link of money, medicine

“More than likely, money and medicine will remain indivisible and irreconcilable for some time to come. Few expect otherwise.”
Photo courtesy Brown University

First there was barter. A well-cooked meal for a lanced boil. Cords of wood for a home visit. A chimney sweep for a gash treated. And then there was commodity money such as tobacco, not to mention wampum wrote Adashi.

However, with specie and paper money on the rise in the New World colonies, barter for medical care was increasingly being relegated to a historic footnote. The outright innocence of it all notwithstanding, the ethics of barter and medicine in days of yore was most likely just as challenging as ethics is at present with contemporary monetary counterparts. The constancy of the fundamentals of human nature would have seen to that. Still, medicine was simply not all that present in most people’s lives. Few users. Few providers.

Interestingly wrote Adashi, this steady state of “cash for care” had held sway through centuries during which physicians occupied a lofty perch. The twentieth century changed all that. Ironically, it was the advent of the employer-sponsored health insurance paradigm and its “fee-for-service” payment system that ushered in the contemporary business of medicine and the ethical challenges thereof. Under this system, patients were kept in the dark about the going rates for health care services. - More...
Sunday PM - August 09, 2015

Social: Most of America's poor have jobs, study finds; 'Science' magazine asserts new study’s importance in presidential election - The majority of the United States' poor aren't sitting on street corners. They're employed at low-paying jobs, struggling to support themselves and a family.

In the past, differing definitions of employment and poverty prevented researchers from agreeing on who and how many constitute the "working poor."

But a new study by sociologists at BYU, Cornell and LSU provides a rigorous new estimate. Their work suggests about 10 percent of working households are poor. Additionally, households led by women, minorities or individuals with low education are more likely to be poor, but employed.

Science magazine says the data from this study is relevant to the upcoming presidential election, as candidates discuss ways to help the working poor move out of poverty. Understanding the size and characteristics of the group makes this goal more realistic.

BYU professor Scott Sanders says the findings dispel the notion that most impoverished Americans don't work so they can rely on government handouts.

"The toxic idea is if we clump all those people together and treat them as the same people, then we don't solve the real problem that the majority of people in poverty are working, trying to improve their lives, and we treat them all as deadbeats," Sanders. - More...
Sunday PM - August 09, 2015

jpg Political Cartoon: Untaxed Corporate Profits

Political Cartoon: Untaxed Corporate Profits
By Monte Wolverton ©2015, Cagle Cartoons
Distributed to subscribers for publication by Cagle Cartoons, Inc.


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letter Governor Walker: Boot the Boogie Man! By Richard Peterson - As a child I lived in terror of the BOOGIE MAN. The Boogie Man was a monster in my imagination who victimized children by frightening them into good behavior. If we misbehaved, we feared the Boogie Man would “get us”. Over time I learned this monster does not exist; he was just a fear based on misplaced and uninformed fiction. - More...
Sunday PM - August 09, 2015

letter Disappointed By Chloe Joy Lewis - Ketchikan is boring, there is nothing to do! How many times do we hear that from teenagers in every city? Well, it might hold some water in Ketchikan. - More...
Sunday PM - August 09, 2015

letter RE: Youth Win Big with a Tobacco Excise Tax By Chris Snyder - Regarding Terrence Robbins' letter: First of all thanks for identifying yourself as an advocate. It makes the discussion more honest. It does seem, however, that your advocacy is prompting you to play a little fast and loose with statistics. You say that "not coincidentally" cancer rates are higher in Ketchikan than Anchorage and Juneau because of youth smoking. Given that your risk of cancer and strokes plummets if you quit smoking, isn't the adult smoking rate more relevant than the youth rate? And if the adult smoking rates are similar in our different communities, then there are probably environmental reasons for the cancer disparity...pulp mill, shipyard, water supply, diet...right? That would make the youth smoking rate very coincidental. - More...
Sunday PM - August 09, 2015

letter Sin Tax By Ken Lewis - Here is an idea? Rather than patting each other on the back for imposing a 75 percent tax on a legal product, let tobacco users form a committee to decide where this 1.2 million dollars a year will go. - More...
Thursday PM - August 06, 2015

letter RE: Disappointing airline experience By Michael Nelson - I am a bit confused about the Delta woes letter. For the record, I am not an employee of Delta, just a frequent flier (mostly United and Lufthansa). - More...
Thursday PM - August 06, 2015

letter Youth Win Big with a Tobacco Excise Tax By Terrence Robbins - Ketchikan's leaders on the Borough Assembly and City Council have done a courageous and commendable job of addressing our youth tobacco use crisis with a proposed tobacco excise tax. The Municipalities of Anchorage (1991), Fairbanks (1993), Juneau (2003), and Sitka (2006) have collected similar excise taxes on nicotine products for years and the effectiveness is evidenced through much lower youth tobacco usage rates than Ketchikan's. Not coincidentally, each of these cities also reported malignant cancer mortality rates 29-104% lower than Ketchikan's exceptionally high rate. (AK Bureau of Vital Statistics Report 2012). Our representatives recognize that nicotine is an addictive and dangerous drug, especially to developing brains. They know that 90% of all adult smokers became addicted to nicotine before age 18, and 99% became addicted before they turned 26 (2014 Surgeon General s Report). They understand that youth are price-sensitive, meaning that youth have less disposable income to spend on tobacco than a typical adult has, and so, when retail prices increase, fewer kids start to use, or continue to use, addictive nicotine products. - More...
Sunday PM - August 02, 2015

letter Against tobacco tax By Rudy McGillvray - Lest someone accuse me of taking 'the easier path', I as a former user of tobacco and other nicotenic products am against this proposed tobacco tax. For a couple of reasons, one, if you end up with your cigarettes and associated products costing what they do in the lower 48 you will have set up a mechanism for the importation of black market tobacco. And, who will enforce the tax? It will cost you more to enforce the tax than you will gain in revenue. Think before you act, Ketchikan councils. - More...
Sunday PM - August 02, 2015

letter Open Letter to Insurance Company By Amanda Mitchell - Today we received a letter in the mail concerning our daughter’s broken arm and the treatment on which medical benefits were paid out. - More...
Sunday PM - August 02, 2015

letter Disappointing airline experience By Derek Meister & Jessica Lutton - Initially, many including myself were enthusiastic about Delta arriving in Alaska. I had been so far satisfied enough with Alaska Airlines, but I was optimistic that another airline would bring some healthy market competition and help lower fares. This most recent episode involving a trip I was making with my fiancé to Minnesota for a wedding was without a doubt the most disappointing, baffling, and infuriating airline experience we've ever had to endure. We fly out of Alaska regularly, and will be soon planning at least 4 more flights from Ketchikan, AK this year alone. We have been attempting to remain hopeful that Delta would do everything in their power to do what is announced on their aircrafts every trip; which is to "exceed our expectations" and to truly make us feel like we're part of "the Delta family." - More...
Sunday PM - August 02, 2015

letter 50th Anniversary of Medicare and Medicaid By Susan Johnson and John T. Hammarlund - On July 30, 1965, President Lyndon B. Johnson signed Medicare and Medicaid into law as an amendment to the Social Security Act. Most people who will become eligible for Medicare this year were in high school when this legislation was authorized. Today’s seniors were young adults busy with their lives and families. - More...
Sunday PM - August 02, 2015

letter Golfing at Fawn Mountain By Joe Ashcraft - We were minding our own business hitting wedges off the 30 yard line at Fawn Mountain on a lovely evening last week. Some guy comes up and asks what we are thinking of. He was pretty obnoxious telling us we would damage the artificial turf. We told him we always changed positions to make sure no one part would wear out too soon; and anyway people kick balls and use cleats all over it. - More...
Sunday PM - August 02, 2015

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