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SitNews - Stories In The News - Ketchikan, Alaska
December 05, 2016

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Vendor for English, Math, and Science Student Assessments Selected - The Alaska Department of Education and Early Development has selected Data Recognition Corp. (DRC) as its vendor for statewide student assessments in English language arts, math, and science.

The assessments from Data Recognition Corp. will first be administered in spring 2017. Students will take the English language arts and math assessments in grades 3 to 10, and the science assessments in grades 4, 8, and 10. School districts can choose to give the assessments on paper or by computer.

The U.S. Department of Education had waived, after the fact, the federal requirement for Alaska to administer English language arts, mathematics, and science assessments in the 2015-2016 school year. Also waived was the federal requirement to publicly report data from 2015-2016 assessments.

The U.S. Department of Education granted the waiver on the condition that Alaska administer assessments in 2016-2017. The state was not able to complete the assessments last school year because of significant technical problems with administering the computer-based tests.

These end-of-year assessments inform policy makers and the public, including parents, about how well students are meeting Alaska’s academic standards; provide data to improve schools and to close achievement gaps; and ensure equity in educational opportunity for all students. School districts will continue to use classroom assessments throughout the school year to monitor student progress and inform instruction.

“The statewide assessments are just one piece of a balanced accountability system,” Commissioner Dr. Michael Johnson said. “They give parents, educators, policy makers and citizens information on how well the public education system is working. Additionally, an effective statewide assessment system is an essential part of student learning. Our new assessments will maximize the purpose of a statewide assessment and minimize the amount of time needed to take the test.”

The department and Data Recognition Corp. are negotiating a contract for the current school year, with options for annual renewals through the 2020-2021 school year. The federal government contributes approximately $3.5 million a year toward the cost of Alaska’s statewide assessments. The state pays the remainder of costs. The department chose DRC, which is headquartered in Maple Grove, Minn., from among six applicants. The five other vendors were Measured Progress, Measurement Inc., PARCC, Pearson, and Questar.

“This assessment is one piece of the accountability system that will offer a high-level picture of how schools are doing,” said Sean Dusek, Superintendent of the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District and president of the Alaska Superintendents Association. “There will be growing pains in any transition, but we trust the Commissioner and state department on their selection and believe the appropriate support will be provided to implement this assessment. We also believe that minimal instructional time will be necessary to implement this assessment so that we can maintain our focus on meeting individual student needs while still being accountable to state and federal oversight.” - More...
Monday PM - December 05, 2016

Alaska: Alaska Employment Down 1.6 Percent in First Half of 2016 - Detailed data released Friday by the Alaska Department of Labor for the first half of 2016 show that job loss in Alaska has spread to most sectors of the economy. Average monthly employment in the first six months of 2016 was down 5,530 jobs, or 1.6 percent, compared to the first half of 2015. Employment losses accelerated from a 1.2 percent decline in January to a 2.5 percent decline in June.

According to the data, employers paid $8.6 billion in wages during the first six months of 2016, down from $9.1 billion during the first half of 2015, a 4.5 percent decline when adjusted for inflation.

Private sector employment was down 4,867 jobs, or 1.9 percent, driven largely by losses in oil and construction. Oil and gas industry employment was down 2,384 jobs, which was an average monthly loss of 16.4 percent. Oil industry cutbacks escalated through the first half of the year, from 11.9 percent fewer jobs in January to 22.1 percent fewer in June.


Construction employment was down an average of 8.3 percent in the first half of the year, with steady losses each month. Specialty trade contractors and heavy and civil engineering construction were hit hardest, impacted by minimal capital budgets and cutbacks in oil-related construction projects.

Losses in the professional and business services sector, 1,536 jobs, were closely tied to oil and construction declines. Nearly half the losses were in architectural, engineering and technical consulting services. Managing offices and temporary help services also lost jobs.

Manufacturing employment, which is dominated by seafood processing in Alaska, was lower than 2015 levels by a small amount in early 2016 but May and June showed large over-the-year losses from weak salmon returns.

Wholesale and retail trade began recording losses in the first half of 2016, with a combined average monthly employment loss of 178 jobs. Losses accelerated from January, when both sectors were adding jobs, to June, where combined employment was down by 906 jobs. Trade establishments associated with construction and heavy machinery were generally down and so was sporting goods store employment, a result of store closures. - More...
Monday PM - December 05, 2016

Fish Factor: Gulf of AK groundfish catches to decline 20%; Halibut falls flat; Mariculture momentum By LAINE WELCH - Bering Sea fish stocks are booming but it’s a mixed bag for groundfish in the Gulf of Alaska.

Fishery managers will set 2017catches this week for pollock, cod and other fisheries that comprise Alaska’s largest fish hauls that are taken from three to 200 miles from shore. More than 80 percent of Alaska’s seafood poundage come from those federally-managed waters, and by all accounts the Bering Sea fish stocks are in great shape.

“For the Bering Sea, just about every catch is up,” said Diana Stram, Bering Sea groundfish plan coordinator for the North Pacific Fishery Management Council.

There are 22 different species under the Council’s purview, along with non-targeted species like sharks, octopus and squid. For the nation’s largest food fishery - Bering Sea pollock - the stock is so robust, catches could safely double to nearly three million metric tons, or more than six billion pounds! But the catch will remain nearer to this year’s harvest of half that, Stram said, due to a strict cap applied to all fish removals across the board.

“That means the sum of all the catches in the Bering Sea cannot exceed two million metric tons,” she explained.

With all stocks so healthy, catch setting becomes a tradeoff among the varying species, Stram said. The Council also sets bycatch levels for the fisheries, which makes catch setting even more constraining.

“For the Bering Sea, it is really going to be a tradeoff between halibut bycatch in the flatfish fisheries with the increases in pollock and other species,” Stram said.

The halibut bycatch limit for Bering Sea groundfish fisheries for 2016 and 2017 is nearly 7.75 million pounds.

Looking ahead, Stram said fish scientists are concerned about impacts from warming ocean conditions for the third straight year, with both Bering Sea surface and bottom temperatures registering the highest temperatures in 35 years. - More...
Monday PM - December 05, 2016

Alaska: Alaska Minimum Wage to Increase to $9.80 - The Alaska minimum wage will increase from $9.75 to $9.80 in 2017. Alaska voters approved a ballot initiative in 2014 that increased the minimum wage from $8.75 to $9.75 in 2016 and requires the Alaska minimum wage to be adjusted annually for inflation.

“Alaskan workers deserve a fair process to ensure Alaska’s minimum wage keeps up with inflation, and this is the first year the new law requires it to be adjusted,” said Labor Commissioner Heidi Drygas. “This modest increase will protect low wage workers and their families against inflation over time.”

The Alaska minimum wage applies to all hours worked in a pay period regardless of how the employee is paid: whether by time, piece, commission, or otherwise. All actual hours worked in a pay period multiplied by the Alaska minimum wage is the very least an employee can be compensated by an employer. Tips do not count toward the minimum wage. - More...
Monday PM - December 05, 2016


Alaska Science:
In Yakutat, the extreme forces shaping Alaska converge By NED ROZELL - The forces shaping Alaska never sleep, especially near Yakutat.

In Yakutat, the extreme forces shaping Alaska converge

Hubbard Glacier calves into Disenchantment Bay north of Yakutat.
Photograph by Ned Rozell

I once visited the fishing town of about 800 people and many dogs. My assignment was to write about scientists studying Hubbard Glacier, which slammed the door on Russell Fiord in summer 2002, creating the largest glacier-dammed lake in the world for a few weeks, until the dam broke.

The relentless advance of Hubbard takes center stage in Yakutat, but the area surrounding the town is one of the world's great examples of geology in action.

To the west of Yakutat, Mount St. Elias rises like a white pyramid to an elevation of 18,008 feet in one of the world's most dramatic transitions from sea to summit. The Yakutat block, a chunk of Earth's crust larger in area than Pennsylvania, is responsible for forming Mount St. Elias and the other mountains of the St. Elias and Chugach ranges.

The Yakutat block formed somewhere off the West Coast of the U.S. or Canada and, in a trip that took a few million years, rode the top of the Pacific plate to its present location along Alaska's coastal Southeast. The Yakutat block rams into the North American plate at a speed of about 2 inches each year, twice as fast as India is shoving into Asia to form the Himalayas, according to GPS measurements by researchers with the Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Near West Nunatak Glacier, about 30 miles northwest of Yakutat, scientists including Chris Larsen used GPS receivers to find a hillside rising toward the sky at 1 1/3 inches each year. The rise is due the ground rebounding from the weight of melting glaciers, and to a lesser extent earthquake activity.

Along with the Glacier Bay area to the south, the land around Yakutat is rising faster than any other place measured, except for scattered volcanoes inflated by molten rock. - More...
Monday PM - December 05, 2016


Columns - Commentary

jpg Danny Tyree
DANNY TYREE: Demolishing The 25 Greatest Inventions of 2016 - "The Best 25 Inventions of 2016" blares the cover of the November 16 issue of "Time."

I don't have the space to do injustice to all of them, but some of them just beg for comment.

Of course you may wonder why "Time" feels compelled to release its list with more than a month left to go in the year. Isn't it possible that someone could unveil some brilliant labor-saving device or cultural milestone during the twelfth month?

Okay, truthfully, Kickstarter startups do tend to get pushed aside by all the holiday hubbub and year-end inventory reduction zaniness. The only thing that MIGHT be brainstormed in December is a 3D copier for use at the office Christmas party. ("My butt may be out on the sidewalk tomorrow morning, but at least I can sit in THIS butt!")

The editors of "Time" shine a spotlight on Medtronic's MiniMed 670G, an iPod-sized device that the magazine dubs "the artificial pancreas." It's a genuine boon for Type 1 diabetes patients, since it can help them regulate their sugar level. But look for money-grubbing copycat entrepreneurs to lobby for the use of "the artificial appendix" and "the artificial irregularly shaped mole." - More...
Monday PM - December 05, 2016

jpg Will Durst

WILL DURST: The Top 10 Comedic News Stories of 2016 - It's the first week of December, and all over the nation children dance while grandparents twitch with anticipation. Which, admittedly, isn't that out of the ordinary. During this festive season rife with traditions, none is more hallowed than that magical moment when the Top Ten Comedic News Stories of the year are unveiled. Truly this is the most wonderful time of the year.

Please be advised that the Top Ten Comedic News Stories of 2016 are not in any way, shape or form to be confused with the Top Ten Legitimate News Stories of 2016. No. No. No. They are as different as cute kitten videos and stainless steel collar stays. Petroleum jelly and the cobblestones outside 10 Downing Street. Corn chowder and Michelangelo's David. Trope and tripe.

Sure, the year was littered with serious misadventures involving terrorism, deadly viruses, the Kardashians and all sorts of other natural disasters, including, but not limited to: Zika infested Oregon Militia Occupiers in driverless cars being forced to platform dive into Flint, Michigan tap water while Ryan Lochte threw Brazilian gas station bathroom keys at them. But here at Durstco we try to concentrate more on the lighter side of the vast dark spooky chasms of reality.

So here they are, the stories from the first eleven- twelfths of 2016 that most lent themselves to the humorous, amusing and comedic. - More...
Monday PM - December 05, 2016

jgp Editorial Cartoon: Oil Pipeline, Permit Denied

Editorial Cartoon: Oil Pipeline, Permit Denied
By Bob Englehart ©2016,
Distributed to subscribers for publication by Cagle Cartoons, Inc.


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letter How to Put Building Permits on a Fast Track By U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan - President-elect Donald Trump has made investing in U.S. infrastructure a priority. This country urgently needs to build and repair roads, bridges, airports, pipelines and rail lines. But a huge roadblock is the federal permitting system. Even with a more business-friendly administration, a trillion-dollar infrastructure plan won’t accomplish much unless Congress reforms the way public-works projects are approved. - More...
Tuesday AM - December 06, 2016

letter Giving Thanks By Nina Kemppel - As we approach the season for giving thanks and the time when we reflect on how grateful we are for the blessings in our daily lives, I want to acknowledge all of the individuals, community members, organizations, and visionaries whose generosity and service has made Alaska a place we are proud to call home. Despite the challenges our state has undergone this year, I find that we at The Alaska Community Foundation (ACF) are in a fortunate vantage point to see how Alaskans have come together to weather the storm and have supported their communities now more than ever. At ACF, we witness your generosity every single day. - More...
Tuesday AM - December 06, 2016

letter KCCB in the Plaza Mall By Judith Green - QUESTION: What is a great way to utilize the open space in the Plaza Mall during the month of December? YES, filled with Chrismas music from the Ketchikan Community Concert Band. Many of us were thrilled to hear the sounds of music coming from that space Saturday. The KCCB gave us heart warming sounds as we went about visiting the local artisans and their creative, hand made items. - More...
Tuesday AM - December 06, 2016

letter Public Lands By Joe Ashcraft - It is interesting that the letter from Fielder is in a Ketchikan on line forum, soliciting for state control of federally administered lands in a different state. Maybe it had to do with corporations in Alaska wanting to trade for lands with uncut timber; lands now belonging to others. - More...
Tuesday AM - December 06, 2016

letter KCC's Historic Christmas program By Judith Green - Ketchikan Community Chorus has put together a program that is fun, interesting, informative, and professional. There is the musical director and conductor and the chorus, of course: all local people who gather together to practice together because (?) they enjoy music. Once again we are not disappointed in the wonderful program they present for the community to enjoy. - More...
Tuesday AM - December 06, 2016

letter RE: President Elect must Divest By Laura Plenert - Just wondering - does this include Presidents that come into office with literally nothing and walk away millionaires??? - More
Tuesday AM - December 06, 2016

letter The President-Elect Must Divest By Ghert Abbott - For the last 40 years it has been the norm for the president to divest himself of his business holdings and transfer the capital to a neutral third party who would then invest said capital in a blind trust. In this way administrations have avoided massive conflicts of interest, in which political or regulatory decisions could be made for the benefit of the president’s business holdings or purchased through doing business with the president. Such corrupt bargains are the norm in many third world countries, where presidents preside over shadowy business empires that are protected and enriched by the government. - More...
Tuesday AM - November 29, 2016

letter Women's March January 21st By Mary L. Stephenson - With the popular vote, the Democratic party was left stunned to learn Hillary Clinton would not be President and the moral fiber of the nation is left in limo. A movement underway is the Million Women (Men and Children) March on January 21st in Washington DC. The many days after the elections, we took to the streets in a peaceful way, to unite as a populous and introduce ourselves to newly elected President Trump. We can lose our foothold on (individual and family) health, education, out-of-poverty, community safety, local economy needs and environment issues. - More...
Tuesday AM - November 29, 2016

letter RE: Protests By Hallie Engel - In response to Rob Holston's letter, dated November 15, the reason there were no large-scale protests after the election of President Obama might have something to do with the fact that he wasn't endorsed by the KKK, he never bragged about sexually assaulting women, and he never called Mexican people rapists, amongst other things. - More...
Tuesday AM - November 29, 2016

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“Hundreds of Alaskans have reached out to my administration saying health care costs are increasingly unaffordable,” Governor Walker said. “This law will provide relief from large premium hikes for

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