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SitNews - Stories In The News - Ketchikan, Alaska
December 24, 2022

SitNews Front Page Photo By CINDY BALZER

Christmas Time in Ketchikan
SitNews Front Page Photo By CINDY BALZER©2022
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Holidays: The Christmas tree is a tradition older than Christmas By TROY BICKHAM - Why, every Christmas, do so many people endure the mess of dried pine needles, the risk of a fire hazard and impossibly tangled strings of lights?

Strapping a fir tree to the hood of my car and worrying about the strength of the twine, I sometimes wonder if I should just buy an artificial tree and do away with all the hassle. Then my inner historian scolds me – I have to remind myself that I’m taking part in one of the world’s oldest religious traditions. To give up the tree would be to give up a ritual that predates Christmas itself.

A symbol of life in a time of darkness

Almost all agrarian societies independently venerated the Sun in their pantheon of gods at one time or another – there was the Sol of the Norse, the Aztec Huitzilopochtli, the Greek Helios.

The solstices, when the Sun is at its highest and lowest points in the sky, were major events. The winter solstice, when the sky is its darkest, has been a notable day of celebration in agrarian societies throughout human history. The Persian Shab-e Yalda, Dongzhi in China and the North American Hopi Soyal all independently mark the occasion.

The favored décor for ancient winter solstices? Evergreen plants. - More...
Saturday - December 24, 2022

Whether as palm branches gathered in Egypt in the celebration of Ra or wreaths for the Roman feast of Saturnalia, evergreens have long served as symbols of the perseverance of life during the bleakness of winter, and the promise of the Sun’s return. - More...
Saturday - December 24, 2022

Holidays: Who is at the manger? Nativity sets around the world show each culture’s take on the Christmas storyBy KAYLA HARRIS & NEOMI DE ANDA - For many Christians around the world, celebrating the Nativity, or the birth of Jesus Christ, is the most important part of the Christmas season.

Among the most common Christmas traditions are small sets of figures depicting Joseph, Mary and Jesus that are displayed in individual homes, and live reenactments of the manger scene in communities and churches. While Nativity sets focus on the holy family, they can also include an angel, the three wise men bringing gifts, shepherds or some barnyard animals.

Around the world, it is common to see particular cultural and religious traditions incorporated through the materials used, the types of gifts presented to Jesus, or the people and animals present at the manger.

The Marian Library at the University of Dayton has over 3,600 Nativity sets, also known as “crèches,” the French word for cribs. These Nativities are used to promote the study of culture and religion. Since one of us is a curator for this collection and the other is a religious studies scholar, we often notice how Nativities can be used to both depict the birth of Jesus and convey unique cultural beliefs.

Troublemakers in Scandinavia

In Nordic folklore, “the tomte,” or “nisse,” is a small creature that looks rather like a garden gnome figurine. These long-bearded, red-capped little lads are associated with Yule, the celebration of the winter solstice in pre-Christian northern Europe.

While these folklore figures were often believed to be quite helpful around a farm, even doing chores in secret at night, they also have a mischievous or sometimes even scary side. For example, in one legend a young farm girl decides to put butter at the bottom of the porridge bowl left out for the nisse, instead of on top. The nisse was so angry he immediately went and killed the farm’s best cow. Once he discovered the butter at the bottom, he felt remorse, and to remedy the situation he stole a cow from the neighboring farm. - More...
Saturday - December 24, 2022


Holidays: Why winter solstice matters around the world By Molly Jackson, Rosalyn R. LaPier, Rubén G. Mendoza, & William Teets - If you’ve already spend hours shoveling snow this year, you may be dismayed to realize that technically, it’s not yet winter. According to the astronomical definition, the season will officially begin in the Northern Hemisphere on Dec. 21, 2022: the shortest day of the year, known as the winter solstice.

The weeks leading up to the winter solstice can feel long as days grow shorter and temperatures drop. But it’s also traditionally been a time of renewal and celebration – little wonder that so many cultures mark major holidays just around this time.

The Conversation, has rounded up four of their favorite stories on the solstice: from what it really is to how it’s been commemorated around the world.

1. Journey of the Sun

First things first: What is the winter solstice?

For starters, it’s not the day with the latest sunrise or the earliest sunset. Rather, it’s when “the Sun appears the lowest in the Northern Hemisphere sky and is at its farthest southern point over Earth,” wrote William Teets, an astronomer at Vanderbilt University. “After that, the Sun will start to creep back north again.”

In the Southern Hemisphere, meanwhile, Dec. 21, 2022 marks the summer solstice. Its winter solstice will arrive June 21, 2023, the same day the Northern Hemisphere celebrates its summer solstice.

“Believe it or not,” Teets added, “we are closest to the Sun in January”: a reminder that seasons come from the Earth’s axial tilt at any given time, not from its distance from our solar system’s star. - More...
Saturday - December 24, 2022

SitNews Front Page Photo By KATHY FLORA ©2022
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Alaska: Dunleavy Administration Releases FY24 Budget - Governor Mike Dunleavy’s Fiscal Year 2024 (FY24) budget kicks off his second term in office by charting a new course for Alaska on resource development, energy production, public health and economic growth. It fully funds public education, the Alaska Marine Highway System, and Power Cost Equalization while still retiring millions of dollars in debt. The budget also continues to invest in public safety and leverages incoming federal infrastructure funds to the maximum extent possible. Funding is also included for a bold new initiative to market Alaska as more than just a tourist destination – a destination for American and international businesses seeking out new opportunities to grow their bottom line and diversify the state economy.

The Governor’s commitment to a statutory PFD is represented in this budget. His FY24 budget calls for a full statutory PFD payment in 2023 to every eligible Alaskan.

As a result of Governor Dunleavy’s commitment to not raise state spending substantially, the FY24 budget has a 4% reduction in the operating budget UGF compared to the FY 2019 operating budget.

“This budget is a starting point for discussions into what Alaska will look like over the next four years and the next 50 years,” said Governor Dunleavy. “The budget we are forwarding to the incoming legislature builds on the progress we made together in my first term with practical investments that make Alaska safer, increase our self-reliance with sustainable energy production, food security and much more. Alaska’s future is bright, if we continue working together on policies that will make the most positive impact in our lives and create new opportunities for the next generation of Alaskans.”

Following a private meeting with Governor Dunleavy and the Governor’s subsequent press conference, members of the Senate Republican Minority for the 33rd Alaska State Legislature met to discuss the Governor’s budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2024. Overall, the Republican Senators agreed with the Governor’s  efforts to continue to put downward pressure on the state’s operating budget, maintain a reasonable capital budget, and provide for a statutory dividend in the midst of a sluggish economy which is teetering on a recession while Alaskans are being hit with record high inflation.

Senator Shelley Hughes had the following in reaction to Governor Dunleavy’s proposal. “As I have stated before and will continue to do, our efforts must continue to be focused on finding ways to decrease our operating budget to a sustainable level while providing for essential services and meeting our obligations including the dividend. Unless the law is changed - which it has not been - we should adhere to the formula prescribed by law. The carbon monetization is a positive opportunity as are efforts to bolster student learning through evidence-based reading instruction, the drone industry for national security purposes as well as for economic diversification in our state, food security as an important life/safety matter, legal pushback from federal overreach regarding resource development and other state rights, and an increase in troopers in the field instead of at desks.  I will be advocating for additional operating budget efficiencies and a bit more robust capital budget in the upcoming session, but Governor Dunleavy and his team have done a good job and the overall proposal is an excellent starting point. I look forward to working with the governor and my colleagues in the coming months.”  Senator Robb Myers of North Pole added, "It's good to see the governor's proposal includes the statutory PFD and increased personnel for Troopers. A drop in debt characterized as an operating budget decrease isn't the type of agency reduction I'd hoped to see, but I believe Governor Dunleavy's proposed budget is a good starting point, and I look forward to working with him this session."

Senator Mike Shower of Wasilla concluded, “I am pleased to see the Governor's initial budget proposal takes the path of fiscal restraint.  It prioritizes funding state programs with no implementation of new taxes on people or business. Public safety, education, PCE, to name but a few, are included as well as a capital budget taking full advantage of federal money to continue investment in Alaska infrastructure.  Interestingly, it still fully funds a PFD helping average Alaskans in our struggling economy, while providing a needed boost to our private sector. It includes a unique proposal of carbon offsets to eliminate budget deficits, again, with no new taxes.  It’s a very good start for Governor Dunleavy's first budget of his second term. Along with my conservative minority Republican members, I look forward to working with him and our House Republican colleagues on producing a better future for all Alaskans with a reasonable, balanced, and sustainable budget.

Incoming Senate President Gary Stevens (R-Kodiak) issued the following statement: “This initial budget proposal is a good starting point for the upcoming legislature to begin their work. We look forward to working closely with Governor Dunleavy and our colleagues to have a successful legislative session. 

“With any proposal, we won’t agree on every principle. I do have some concerns with the proposed PFD amount, no additional resources for education funding, a skeleton version of a capital budget, and the possibility we may need a supplemental budget for FY 2023 because of the decline in oil revenues. As we go through the process, we will continue to focus on revitalizing Alaska’s economy, improving education, and addressing the state’s high energy costs to provide paths for Alaskans to succeed.”

The Republican Senate Minority remains committed to being an effective representation of the 65% of Alaska voters who voted for a right-of-center, fiscally conservative senate majority.

Governor Dunleavy’s FY24 budget plan includes: - More...
Saturday - December 24, 2022

Seabird deaths part of Arctic Report Card

Seabird deaths part of Arctic Report Card
Parakeet auklets sit on a hillside of Buldir Island in the Aleutians.
Photo by R. Dugan, U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service, public domain.


Alaska: Seabird deaths part of Arctic Report Card By NED ROZELL - The Arctic Report Card, a compilation of northern science by researchers from all over the planet — most of them doing work in Alaska - came out in mid-December at the fall meeting of the American Geophysical Union in Chicago.

In summary, what smart people predicted in 2006, during the first report card press conference, is still trending the same way: We are living in a much-warmer far north.

Some of the changes are subtle and hard for us to notice. For example, daily temperatures being a few degrees higher than that day in the past. Others are more striking, like Alaska beachcombers finding seabird carcasses washed up in twos and threes where in years before they saw none.

Robb Kaler of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service in Anchorage was lead author of an essay about dead seabirds on the coasts of the Bering and Chukchi seas. His story appears in a booklet released by National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration officials, sponsors of the Arctic Report Card.

Birds like puffins and murres have for a long time thrived on high-calorie cold-water fish from Alaska saltwater. Since 2017, people in communities on the western Alaska coast have found more and more dead birds.

In summer and fall 2022, people from Izembek Lagoon to Point Hope reported about 450 carcasses of murres, puffins, auklets, shearwaters, fulmars and kittiwakes. 

That continues a streak of more seabird deaths noticed in recent years. Kaler and other authors reported that people have found about 1 million dead seabirds on Alaska’s western coast and the Gulf of Alaska in the last decade. That compares to the 1 million dead birds found on beaches in the 40 years preceding that. 

Of 117 seabird carcasses scientists examined from 2017 to 2021, 92 were emaciated.

What changed in the Bering and Chukchi seas, the former known as one of the richest fishing grounds on Earth? 

Less ice floating on the top of northern oceans (a trend the Arctic Report Card scientists have quietly shouted about since its inception) allows water to absorb more heat from the sun. - More...
Saturday - December 24, 2022

Alaska: North Pacific Fishery Management Council again fails to act on bycatch at December council meeting - Despite hearing hours of heartfelt, powerful testimony from Indigenous Alaskans, fishermen, and other concerned citizens and after receiving recommendations from Governor Mike Dunleavy’s Alaska Bycatch Review Task Force, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council failed to take meaningful action to reduce the pollock trawl fleet’s prolific catching, killing and wasting of highly valued king salmon, chum salmon, snow crab and Bristol Bay red king crab. One bright spot from the week-long meeting, however, was a report from the National Marine Fisheries Service (NMFS), which indicated it may review guidelines governing bycatch.

“While the council’s failure to rein in the pollock trawl fleet’s prolific bycatch and unpermitted dragging of the seafloor is frustrating, it is not surprising. The North Pacific Fishery Management Council process is not designed to allow for the nimble and responsive action needed at this time of profound environmental change,” said SalmonState executive director Tim Bristol. “One of the glimmers of hope that came out of this meeting, however, is the National Marine Fisheries Service’s announcement that it may update the guidance for national standards governing bycatch to better reflect priorities like equity and climate resilience. We applaud that announcement and are looking forward to working in a more productive way to change this unfair, inequitable allocation of resources.”

The national standards, which are determined by Congress, are “principles that must be followed in any fishery management plan to ensure sustainable and responsible fishery management.” Each standard has guidelines from NMFS as to how it is to be implemented, and every fishery must follow those guidelines. - More...
Saturday - December 25, 2022

HAARP to bounce signal off asteroid in NASA experiment

HAARP to bounce signal off asteroid in NASA experiment

With temperatures falling to 40 degrees below zero, a frosty landscape surrounds antennas at the High-frequency Active Auroral Research Program site in Gakona, Alaska, on Dec. 20, 2022. HAARP conducted a run-through on that date to prepare for the Dec. 27th asteroid bounce experiment.
UAF/GI photo by JR Ancheta.


Alaska: HAARP to bounce signal off asteroid in NASA experiment By ROD BOYCE - An experiment to bounce a radio signal off an asteroid on Dec. 27, 2022, will serve as a test for probing a larger asteroid that in 2029 will pass closer to Earth than the many geostationary satellites that orbit our planet.

The High-frequency Active Auroral Research Program research site in Gakona will transmit radio signals to asteroid 2010 XC15, which could be about 500 feet across. The University of New Mexico Long Wavelength Array near Socorro, New Mexico, and the Owens Valley Radio Observatory Long Wavelength Array near Bishop, California, will receive the signal.

This will be the first use of HAARP to probe an asteroid.

“What’s new and what we are trying to do is probe asteroid interiors with long wavelength radars and radio telescopes from the ground,” said Mark Haynes, lead investigator on the project and a radar systems engineer at NASA’s Jet Propulsion Laboratory in Southern California. “Longer wavelengths can penetrate the interior of an object much better than the radio wavelengths used for communication.”

Knowing more about an asteroid’s interior, especially of an asteroid large enough to cause major damage on Earth, is important for determining how to defend against it.

“If you know the distribution of mass, you can make an impactor more effective, because you’ll know where to hit the asteroid a little better,” Haynes said.

Many programs exist to quickly detect asteroids, determine their orbit and shape and image their surface, either with optical telescopes or the planetary radar of the Deep Space Network, NASA’s network of large and highly sensitive radio antennas in California, Spain and Australia.

Those radar-imaging programs use signals of short wavelengths, which bounce off the surface and provide high-quality external images but don’t penetrate an object.

HAARP will transmit a continually chirping signal to asteroid 2010 XC15 at slightly above and below 9.6 megahertz (9.6 million times per second). The chirp will repeat at two-second intervals. Distance will be a challenge, Haynes said, because the asteroid will be twice as far from Earth as the moon is. - More...
Saturday - December 24, 2022





Columns - Commentary



DAVE KIFFER: They deliver, for you! - Delivery notification. - Shipping Confirmation. Failure to deliver. Contact us!!!

It's that time of the year when my SPAM box is full of shipping scams.

Either that or I woke up one night at 3 am and ordered every possible item that was on sale in the Lower 48 at that very moment.

I have no memory of that.

But then, I have no memory of anything I was doing twenty minutes ago.

Go figure.

This morning alone, my SPAM box had about a two dozen different messages regarding packages that were waiting to be sent, were on their way, or had already arrived (and hadn't been successfully delivered). It was as if I went out to our mail box and found it stuffed with "undelivered" notices from the USPS. - More...
Saturday - December 24, 2022


DANNY TYREE: WILL THIS BE YOUR BEST CHRISTMAS EVER? - When writing advertising copy, I sometimes find myself desperately searching for a zinger of a tag line – and settling for trite admonitions such as “Make this the best hunting season ever” or “Make this the best summer vacation ever.”

I despise such capitulations to deadlines, because listeners with terminal illnesses, maxed-out credit cards or fruitless marriage counseling sessions may perceive the sentiments as glib or clueless.

Never is the situation more danger-fraught than at Christmas. A melancholy Judy Garland yuletide favorite notwithstanding, an ill-timed “Have the merriest Christmas ever” can hit people the wrong way.

Assuming you don’t relish being hit the wrong way, take the reindeer by the horns (er, antlers) and accept responsibility for your own Merry Christmas. Clement C. Moore wrote about a visit from Saint Nicholas; he never promised that LIFE was going to climb down your chimney with goodies galore. So like Ms. Garland, you may have to brainstorm ways to “muddle through somehow.” - More...
Saturday - December 24, 2022


TOM PURCELL: THE GIFT OF CHRISTMAS CHEER - I’m not feeling it this year. I’m just not feeling the Christmas spirit of any kind, and I know, for the benefit of others, I need to get out of my slump.

Christmas cheer is a real thing.

A variety of studies have found that we actually do become more cheerful — at least most of us do — during the most giving time of the year.

Insider cites a study in Denmark in which brain scans were conducted of people looking at images of colorful Christmas decorations.

“The front of the brain lit up for those who celebrated Christmas as the holiday images flashed before their eyes, showing that there is a ‘holiday spirit network’ in the brain,” reports Insider.

I certainly have long had a strong holiday spirit network inside my brain thanks to my mother. - More...
Saturday - December 24, 2022


jpg Political Cartoon: Christmas Star

Political Cartoon: Christmas Star
by Gary McCoy©2022, Shiloh, IL
Distributed to subscribers for publication by CagleCartoons.com

jpg Political Cartoon: Peace and Perspective

Political Cartoon: Peace and Perspective
by Pat Byrnes©2022, PoliticalCartoons.com
Distributed to subscribers for publication by CagleCartoons.com

Political Cartoon: Remember
by Christopher Weyant©2022, The Boston Globe, and the New Yorker.
Distributed to subscribers for publication by CagleCartoons.com


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It’s an honor to now lead Alaska’s largest renewable resource By Deven Mitchell, Executive Director, Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation - This October, I was provided the opportunity to serve as the Executive Director of the Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation. As a lifelong Alaskan, leading APFC is my childhood dream come true. From meeting with Governor Hammond with my third-grade class in 1976, to receiving the benefits of the Fund’s existence throughout my life, to now having the experience to manage the Corporation is truly special.
To tell a little about myself, I was born in Cordova and raised in Yakutat and Juneau, where my wife Erin and I reside and raised our two sons. For several decades, I served as Alaska’s Debt Manager and Executive Director of the Alaska Municipal Bond Bank Authority.

In my career, I often explained and highlighted the strengths of the Permanent Fund and the talented staff of the Corporation. I am pleased to report that during my first month on the job, my long-standing belief in an organization comprised of top-notch talent and a culture of outperformance has been validated.

As we count down to 2023, I encourage you to pause and reflect on what a remarkable decision Alaskans made in 1976 when they voted to set aside money that they could have spent then to ensure future generations of Alaskans would also benefit from the state’s resource wealth. Think about that, every year since the Fund was established, the people of Alaska have made do with less to ensure the Permanent Fund would be able to benefit future generations. That intergenerational foresight for saving and investing a portion of the state’s revenue has helped Alaskans in the past, is supporting us today, and is being managed to continue providing in the future. - More...
Sunday - December 04, 2022

jpg Analysis

Jobs are up! Wages are up! So why am I as an economist so gloomy? By EDOUARD WEMY - In any other time, the jobs news that came down on Dec. 2, 2022, would be reason for cheer.

The U.S. added 263,000 nonfarm jobs in November, leaving the unemployment rate at a low 3.7%. Moreover, wages are up – with average hourly pay jumping 5.1% compared with a year earlier.

So why am I not celebrating? Oh, yes: inflation.

The rosy employment figures come despite repeated efforts by the Federal Reserve to tame the job market and the wider economy in general in its fight against the worst inflation in decades. The Fed has now increased the base interest rate six times in 2022, going from a historic low of about zero to a range of 3.75% to 4% today. Another hike is expected on Dec. 13. Yet inflation remains stubbornly high, and currently sits at an annual rate of 7.7%.

The economic rationale behind hiking rates is that it increases the cost of doing business for companies. This in turn acts as brake on the economy, which should cool inflation.

But that doesn’t appear to be happening. A closer dive into November’s jobs report reveals why.

It shows that the labor force participation rate – how many working-age Americans have a job or are seeking one – is stuck at just over 62.1%. As the report notes, that figure is “little changed” in November and has shown “little net change since early this year.” In fact, it is down 1.3 percentage points from pre-COVID-19 pandemic levels.

This suggests that the heating up of the labor market is being driven by supply-side issues. That is, there aren’t enough people to fill the jobs being advertised.

Companies still want to hire – as the above-expected job gains indicate. But with fewer people actively looking for work in the U.S., companies are having to go the extra yard to be attractive to job seekers. And that means offering higher wages. And higher wages – they were up 5.1% in November from a year earlier – contribute to spiraling inflation. - More....
Sunday - December 04, 2022

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