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March 29, 2021

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Fishing at Ward Lake.  
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Ketchikan Historical: Coast Guard Award Honors Man Who Died On Gravina In 1964; Five died when Albatross crashed after searching for sinking boat By DAVE KIFFER - Twice each year at United States Coast Guard air wings across the country, there is a chance for special recognition for service men and women with the awarding of the Lt. Robert A. Perchard Memorial Trophy.

Coast Guard Award Honors Man Who Died On Gravina In 1964

An Albatross flying over Ketchikan in the late 1960s.
Photo courtesy of the Coast Guard Aviation Association

The trophy has been given out hundreds of times over the last half century. Through the award, each aviation unit recognizes enlisted crew members for "demonstrating exemplary performance and superior technical, aviation, professional and leadership abilities," according to the Coast Guard.

The award has its genesis one horrible night on Gravina Island's Dall Head.

Earlier in the day, July 3, 1964, the Coast Guard had received a report that the 29-foot fishing boat "Jean" had run aground on Nunez Rocks and was sinking. Nunez Rocks is located about three miles offshore of Cape Chacon on Prince of Wales Island. It is one of the "points of contention" in the ongoing dispute between the Alaska and British Columbia regarding the international border in Dixon Entrance. It is also a popular fishing site because the shallow waters around the ocean pinnacles attract both fish and fishermen.

Lt. Perchard, from Westwood, Massachusetts, was one of five crewmembers on a USCG Albatross that scrambled that day to search for the Jean.  The other crewmembers were AD1 Harry Olson of Cheyenne, Wyoming, AM2 Donald Malena of Monongahela, Pennsylvania and AT3 Edward Krajniak of Parma Heights, Ohio. The pilot of the plane was Lt. Commander Joseph Andrassy of Port Angeles, Washington.

After searching for several hours in the vicinity of the Rocks and finding nothing, the Albatross returned to Annette. In addition to the late evening darkness, the return was also hampered by thick rain squalls and overcast skies.

According to Coast Guard records, the plane attempted to land at Annette around 10 pm and was unable to make out the runway. Andrassy radioed the tower at Annette to make sure the landing lights were on and advised he was going around for another attempt to land from the north.

That was the last the tower heard from the flight. Search planes were sent out, ranging from Dixon Entrance to Sumner Strait, looking for the missing Grumman Albatross, a larger version of the Grumman Goose, which was specifically designed for search and rescue missions.

The search even extended into the Haida Gwaii (Queen Charlotte Islands) when someone reported seeing an Albatross flying low overhead around 11 pm Friday night near Graham Island.

The Associated Press quoted Ketchikan USCG base commander Capt. Henry Keene as saying it was possible the plane had been flying south to find better weather. - More...
Monday PM - March 29, 2021

Alaska: Alaska Department of Revenue releases Spring 2021 Forecast - Alaska Department of Revenue (DOR) Commissioner Lucinda Mahoney released the Spring 2021 Revenue Forecast recently.  The Forecast includes the Department’s spring forecast of oil price, oil production, and state revenue.

Unrestricted General Fund (UGF) revenue, before accounting for the transfer from the Permanent Fund Earnings Reserve, totaled $1.6 billion in FY 2020 and is forecast to be $1.7 billion in both FY 2021 and FY 2022.

The Permanent Fund is expected to transfer $3.1 billion to the General Fund in both FY 2021 and FY 2022.  These amounts include funds for general government spending.  Between continued growth of the fund and continued low oil prices, the Permanent Fund transfer is now the state’s largest source of UGF revenue, contributing 65% of UGF in FY 2020 and projected to contribute at least 58% for each of the next ten years.

For FY 2020, Alaska North Slope (ANS) oil prices averaged $52.12 per barrel.  The revenue forecast incorporates the most current indications from financial markets and is based on an annual average ANS oil price of $53.05 per barrel for FY 2021 and $61.00 per barrel for FY 2022. - More...
Monday PM - March 29, 2021

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Fish Factor: Covid pandemic pushed record sales of canned salmon; Herring ho-hum By LAINE WELCH - It’s “back to the future” for Alaska canned salmon as more Americans choose it for its health benefits and as an easy-to-use ingredient for sandwiches, salads and more.

Salmon canning in Alaska started in the 1870s and by the early 20th century, it was the state’s largest industry, generating 80% of the territorial tax revenues. Its position then in the state economy is one that oil enjoys today.

The covid pandemic has pushed record sales for the pantry shelf product and canned salmon sales soared by 30.3% in 2020 to $286 million.

“Suddenly, there was double the demand for an item that's normally very predictable,” said John Daly, manager of domestic canned sales for OBI Seafoods, Alaska’s largest producer of canned pink and sockeye salmon at nine plants across the state. “It's not like the seafood counter at grocery stores. The canned fish business is the grocery business. It's a center store aisle item. The best ability is availability, and that was really important because consumers were willing to buy anything and everything that was shelf stable and canned.”

Daly said canned salmon “ticks all the boxes” that people want during the Covid pandemic.

“The conscious consumer is looking for things that are healthy, that are sustainable, that aren't loaded up with questionable ingredients, they know where the fish comes from,” he explained. “Canned fish is one of the cleanest items in a grocery store. There's two ingredients on the label, salt and fish.”

Demand was so high it was a challenge last year to keep the retail shelves stocked.

“We only fish for salmon three months out of the year and in March 2020, we were working off the last bit of the 2019 inventory and there's not mounds of canned salmon lying around at the time of the year,” he said. “So it was an interesting time for salmon producers to react quickly to make sure they could keep their product in front of people but also not run out.”

Sales have slowed to more normal levels, Daly said, adding that “normal isn't pre-pandemic levels anymore. It's about a 10% increase from that. That obviously means that canned salmon has gotten in front of more people and they've made repeat purchases. We want to capitalize on that.”

Canned fish today accounts for only about 5% of Alaska’s salmon products. Of that, about 20% is canned sockeye which goes mostly to Canada, Europe and Australia. The bulk is pink salmon which for over 100 years has predominantly been sold regionally across the U.S.  Most of the sales have been driven by older Americans; Daly said a goal is to broaden appeal to younger buyers.

“A longer term goal is to produce an item that's more in line with what a younger consumer’s looking for. Maybe it's a pouched grab and go snack, maybe it's flavor added,” he said.

Daly is convinced that Alaska’s oldest salmon product has the staying power to remain as one of the state’s most well-known tastes of history.

“There was an article two years ago that said millennials don't even own a can opener, so how is that going to go for canned fish?” he quipped. “Ever since I've been in the industry, I've heard that canned salmon is dying. And here we are with record numbers.”

AK salmon gets swamped - Alaska wild salmon accounts for only about 13 percent of the global salmon supply and competition will ramp up this year from other producers, notably Russia.

Alaska is expected to produce a total harvest this year topping 190 million salmon, adding up to 880 million pounds. Global seafood supplier Tradex reports that a harvest of 300 million salmon is projected from Russia, topping one billion pounds. Much of that Russian salmon will compete with Alaskan fish in supermarkets across America and with international customers.

Last year the U.S. imported nearly 38 million pounds of Russian-caught salmon products valued at over $14 million. Of that, 2.3 million pounds was sockeye salmon, valued at nearly $9 million. Yet Russia has not purchased one pound of any U.S. seafood since 2014.

Meanwhile, Tradex president, Rob Reierson, said even more wild salmon will be added to the pack from other nations.

“Globally, a veteran wild Pacific salmon expert projected an estimated 930,000 metric tons (over 2 billion pounds) of Pacific salmon to be harvested from all countries including Canada, Japan, and Korea in 2021.”

But the numbers for wild caught salmon pale in comparison to farmed fish, which now captures nearly 74% of the world’s overall salmon production.

Salmon farmers, led by Norway and Chile, are expected to produce nearly 6 billion pounds this year. And global reports say farmed and wild-caught combined are not expected to come near to satisfying the world’s demand for salmon. - More...
Monday PM - March 29, 2021

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Alaska - National: Alaska Senate Joint Resolution 12 Urges the U.S. Congress to Eliminate Public Employee Disincentives in the Social Security Act; Security Fairness Act (SSFA) Re-introduced in Congress; Time to put an end to these shameful policies Edited By MARY KAUFFMAN - Today, Senator Bill Wielechowski (D-Anchorage) introduced Senate Joint Resolution 12, joining others in urging the United States Congress to remove the Windfall Elimination Provision and Government Pension Offset clauses from the United States Social Security Act.

Both provisions affect the calculation of the Social Security benefits for individuals who also receive a state pension or one from a political subdivision. The Windfall Elimination Provision applies to direct public employees while the Government Pension Offset reduces benefits of spouses and survivors who are public employees – both of which cut benefits up to hundreds of dollars per month. 

“The current plan is unfair to Alaska public employees. Alaskans who choose to enter public service should not be punished for that dedication when they choose to retire,” said Sen. Wielechowski. “Teachers, firefighters, public safety officers, and everyone who has signed up for public service in Alaska deserve the full benefits of retirement they have earned.”

The Government Pension Offset (GPO) affects the spousal benefits of people who work as federal, state, or local government employees—including educators, police officers, and firefighters—if the job is not covered by Social Security. GPO reduces by two-thirds the benefit received by surviving spouses who also collect a government pension. Nine out of 10 public employees affected by the GPO lose their entire spousal benefit, even though their spouse paid Social Security taxes for many years.

The Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) reduces the earned Social Security benefits of an individual who also receives a public pension from a job not covered by Social Security. For example, educators who do not earn Social Security in the public schools but who work part-time or during the summer in jobs covered by Social Security have reduced benefits even though they pay into the system just like others. The WEP also affects people who move from a job in which they earn Social Security to a job, such as teaching, in which they do not.

The WEP substantially reduces benefits workers included and counted on when planning their retirement and it substantially penalizes lower paid public employees. These provisions also discourage qualified, talented individuals from entering into public service professions, hindering efforts to attract new math and science teachers from the private sector unwilling to sacrifice earned Social Security from prior careers. The WEP and GPO provisions do not eliminate a windfall for workers, they penalize public service employees by taking away benefits they earned throughout their careers.

For those who receive a government pension, their Social Security spousal or survivor benefits will be reduced by two-thirds of the amount of the qualifying pension under the Government Pension Offset. Congress created the GPO in 1977 to help ensure that spousal and widow(er) benefits of those with covered or non-covered lifetime earnings would be roughly equal. The offset originally was dollar-for-dollar for non-covered pensions, but Congress reduced it to two-thirds in 1983. 

In 2006, the State of Alaska implemented a defined contribution plan for state employees entering the public workforce. The defined contribution plan is one of few public employee retirement plans in the nation that does not provide social security or a defined benefit to its public employees. For example, Alaskans who have become eligible for social security benefits when they retire decide to enter public service and build towards a defined contribution retirement plan. In that case, the Windfall Elimination Provision and/or Government Pension Offset reduces rightfully earned social security benefits.

In 2018, the Congressional Research Service indicated that nearly 13,000 Alaskans had reduced social security benefits due to these archaic provisions in the Social Security Act. 

Senate Joint Resolution 12 is referred to the Senate State Affairs Committee and the Senate Finance Committee. 

In May 2013, then U.S. Senator Mark Begich introduced the Social Security Fairness Act which amoung other things would remove penalties that are now placed on retirees who worked more than one job, paid into Social Security, but then retired under a different retirement system. Under current law, they are denied their Social Security benefits. Many government workers and some teachers in Alaska fall into this category. The act was re-introduced over the years and recently re-introduced again.

In January, U.S. Rep. Rodney Davis (R-Ill.) re-introduced H.R. 82, the bipartisan Social Security Fairness Act (SSFA), which eliminates the Windfall Elimination Provision (WEP) and the Government Pension Offset (GPO), two titles of the Social Security Act that unfairly reduce or eliminate Social Security benefits for millions of Americans who have devoted much of their careers to public service. Co-leading the legislation with Rep. Davis is Rep. Abigail Spanberger (D-VA). The legislation currently has 21 bipartisan co-sponsors. In the last session of Congress, Davis organized a bipartisan group of 264 co-sponsors of the legislation. - More...
Monday PM - March 29, 2021

Secrets of the Alaska sled dog

Secrets of the Alaska sled dog
Sled dogs, such as these two from the team of Cassidy Meyer, seem to only need snow trails and food to keep moving.
Photo by Ned Rozell


Alaska: Secrets of the Alaska sled dog By NED ROZELL - Mike Davis lives in Oklahoma, but he has traveled to Alaska many times to work with our greatest athletes.

Davis, an Oklahoma State University veterinarian and exercise physiologist has many times traveled to Alaska for the start of the Iditarod. There, he has cheered on Aliy Zirkle, Martin Buser and other mushers who have over the years entrusted Davis to take blood and muscle samples from their dogs.

Davis’ goal is to discover the magic within a sled dog that allows it to keep going and going. While we humans tend to fade after exercising just a few hours, sled dogs are somehow able to avoid that crash.

“Dogs will go from using their reserves to not (using reserves) in 48 hours,” Davis said. “They gain fitness that fast. Their response is to change their metabolism so they don’t use up their reserves anymore.”

Finding the trigger to that change is Davis’s big question. He is funded in part by the U.S. Army Research Office Division of Life Sciences, which is interested in improved performance of human beings.

One factor Davis has studied is the performance of dogs that ran two 1,000-mile races in quick succession. For example, most dogs that pulled Aliy Zirkle of Two Rivers from Willow to Nome in the 2012 Iditarod had raced her husband Allen Moore to second place in the Yukon Quest less than three weeks earlier.

“They don’t just continue to perform, they perform a lot better,” Davis said of dogs that run both races. “There’s a good argument that nothing prepares a dog better for a 1,000-mile race than a 1,000-mile race. They can do it indefinitely, as long as you have trail and they’ve got food. They get tired, but they don’t fatigue in the biochemical sense.”

The key to a sled dog’s endurance is its ability to get energy it can use immediately. Davis and others have found that dogs are much quicker than us at moving energy into their muscles. - More...
Monday PM - March 29, 2021

Alaska: Dangerous seas may diminish average size of returning Chinooks By ALICE BAILEY- Older Chinook salmon may die in the ocean more often than previously thought, according to a life cycle simulation created by Alaska researchers. 

Newly released results help explain why Chinook salmon returning to Alaska’s rivers have become smaller and younger in recent years.

In a study published in the journal PLOS ONE, researchers at the University of Alaska Fairbanks found that a higher-than-expected death rate of older Chinook salmon while at sea would explain the patterns observed in recent years.

If older salmon are in fact dying at unexpected rates, the phenomenon may reflect sharks and other predators targeting bigger salmon, they said.

Scientists generally have assumed young ocean salmon face the greatest risk because they are vulnerable to nearshore predators. 

“We are not saying that is wrong,” said lead author Kaitlyn Manishin, a biologist with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. “But we want to add that there still can be significant forces acting on the population, especially on age structure, during the third ocean year.”

Manishin, a UAF College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences alumna, co-authored the study with CFOS faculty members Andy Seitz, Curry Cunningham and Peter Westley. 

“The evidence is that, in more recent times, it has gotten riskier for fish that spend more time in the ocean. This work is showing that a real critical bottleneck period seems to be at ocean-age three,” said Westley. 

Chinook salmon spend the first year of their life in freshwater, then migrate to the ocean for two to five years. - More...
Monday PM - March 20, 2021

SitNews Front Page Photo by JON BOLLING

Craig: Sunnahae Mountain Trail
Photograph taken along the trail up Sunnahae Mountain in Craig. 
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Why can't the IRS just send Americans a refund – or a bill? By BEVERLY MORAN - The Internal Revenue Service has postponed the April 15 tax filing deadline to May 17. If taxpayers need even more time to file federal returns, the agency added, they can request an extension until Oct. 15.

“This continues to be a tough time for many people, and the IRS wants to continue to do everything possible to help taxpayers navigate the unusual circumstances related to the pandemic, while also working on important tax administration responsibilities,” said IRS Commissioner Chuck Rettig.

The announcement may come as welcome news for many Americans, but it also raises an important question: Why should taxpayers have to navigate the tedious, costly tax filing system at all?

The case for a ‘simple return’

In 1985, President Ronald Reagan promised a “return-free” tax system in which half of all Americans would never fill out a tax return again. Under the framework, taxpayers with simple returns would automatically receive a refund or a letter detailing any tax owed. Taxpayers with more complicated returns would use the system in place today.

In 2006, President Barack Obama’s chief economist, Austan Goolsbee, premiered the “simple return,” where taxpayers would receive already completed tax forms for their review or correction. Goolsbee estimated his system would save taxpayers more than US$2 billion a year in tax preparation fees.

Though never implemented, the two proposals illustrate what we all know: No one enjoys filling out tax forms.

So why do we have to?

A costly and time-consuming system

Return-free filing is not difficult.

At least 30 countries permit return-free filing, including Denmark, Sweden, Spain and the United Kingdom.

Furthermore, 95% of American taxpayers receive more than 30 types of information returns that let the government know their exact income. These information returns give the government everything it needs in order to fill out most taxpayers’ returns.

The U.S. system is 10 times more expensive than tax systems in 36 other countries with robust economies. But those costs vanish in a return-free system, as would the 2.6 billion hours Americans spend on tax preparation each year.

Maybe you’re wondering whether Congress is just behind the times, unaware that it can release us from tax preparation? Not true.

As an expert on the U.S. tax system, I see America’s costly and time-consuming tax reporting system as a consequence of its relationship with the commercial tax preparation industry, which lobbies Congress to maintain the status quo. - More...
Monday PM - March 29, 2021

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King of the Gravel Mountain
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MONEY MATTERS: UNDERSTANDING INFLATION AND RISING PRICES By MARY LYNNE DAHL, Certified Financial Planner ™ - If you shop for food, buy gas for your vehicle, pay utility bills, medical bills and educational expenses for your child or yourself, you have no doubt noticed that the prices for these expenses have gone up. A lot, in many cases. This is due to inflation, the ongoing and silent thief that steals your hard-earned money continuously. If you are working and get raises periodically, you may not worry about this too much. But if you are retired, or out of work due to the pandemic, you probably are at least aware of inflation, since you do not have a rising wage to help offset the increase in prices of ordinary goods and services that you require. In addition, if inflation is rising faster than your income for any reason, the money that you do have just does not buy as much as it used to. So why is this?

This is because inflation is a general increase in prices that causes a decline in the purchasing power of money. How does this work? Let’s use an example: if 10 years ago a loaf of bread cost $2.00 and now that same loaf of bread costs $3.25, your cost for bread has increased by 5% per year. That is inflation. The result is that you need more money to buy the same things now that you bought in the past for less. Inflation is experienced by rising prices and loss of purchasing power. So, what are the causes of inflation and is it bad or is it good? - More...
Monday PM - March 29, 2021


FINANCIAL FOCUS: Business Owners’ Issues Go Beyond ‘Mom and Pop’ Label Provided By BEN EDWARDS, AAMS® - If you own a small business, you typically don’t get a lot of recognition – so you may be pleased to learn that March 29 is National Mom and Pop Business Owners Day. You might not necessarily think of your business as a “Mom and Pop” operation, but it certainly contributes to the well-being of your family now, and possibly to that of future generations, too – if you make the right moves.

Depending on the nature of your business, you may have spent the past several months more concerned about today than tomorrow, given the serious economic repercussions of the COVID-19 pandemic, which is still placing stress on a great many business owners across the country.

If your business has been adversely affected by the pandemic, you might be eligible for a Paycheck Protection Program (PPP) loan. As you may know, recent legislation provided $285 billion more for this program. To learn more, and to start the application process, visit the Small Business Administration website at www.sba.gov. You have until March 31 to apply for a PPP loan. Other relief also may be available. - More...
Monday PM - March 29, 2021

CARL GOLDEN: SO MUCH FOR A BIPARTISAN INVESTIGATION INTO THE U.S. CAPITOL ATTACK - Whatever faint flicker of hope remained for the creation of a commission to investigate the Jan. 6 storming of the U. S. Capitol has been extinguished, another casualty of the polarization gripping Congress.

The idea of a commission similar to that established following the terrorist attacks of Sept. 11, 2001 gained momentum in the immediate aftermath of the assault on the Capitol, but floundered when House Speaker Nancy Pelosi and Senate Republican Leader Mitch McConnell disagreed over the makeup of the commission and its scope of responsibility.

Pelosi sought an 11-member panel of seven Democratic appointees and four Republicans, while McConnell suggested the commission expand its inquiry to the violent protests that erupted in several American cities last summer.

Despite their initial expressions of support for a commission, the suspicion lingers that neither was seriously committed to it.

Both have been in Congress long enough (Pelosi for 34 years and McConnell for 36) and are intimately familiar with its traditions, customs and maneuverings to understand the most effective way to bury an idea is to create a stalemate based on seemingly reasonable grounds. - More...
Monday PM - March 29, 2021

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SAVE THE KETCHIKAN BUREAUCRATS, KILL THE TOWN By David G Hanger - Let’s start with a dose of historical reality. A year ago your then “Dear Leader” assured everyone this pandemic was no big deal and would all be over in a few weeks, despite the historical reality that the Spanish Flu (apparently in fact the Fort Reilly, Kansas, Flu)lasted two-and-a-half years and more before it cleared out. By late spring, early summer 2020, at the latest, it should have been obvious to anyone that not only 2020 but also 2021 were completely wiped out. The real question is 2022 and beyond, about which there remains considerable uncertainty.

But there really is no uncertainty about 2021, has been no uncertainty about 2021 since last summer. So Ketchikan City Manager Karl Amylon’s dropping this 68-page number on everyone at the 13th hour is just the first level of outright and complete BS. All of this should have been laid out and done last July.

This “memo,” of course, is not really 68 pages; it’s about a dozen pages with a ton of filler; i.e. the second level of BS. Please tell me they really did not discover there was not going to be a cruise season until they read an article in Forbes magazine? It also strikes me as extremely manipulative, as in much of our Ketchikan City Council is comprised of grade schoolers, some of whom have gotten pretty sharp as the years have gone by, but none who have the sophistication and the level of articulation of the City Manager Karl Amylon. Which is not to say in his case that that is particularly high.

What really we have here is the defense of Karl Amylon’s self-created empire at the possible expense of a substantial population contraction for the community. Basically, it is let’s finance all these overpaid bureaucrats despite the fact we don’t have any money to do anything. So while they ensconce themselves in their offices and make $100,000 to $150,000 plus a year, nothing is going to get done; hence, they have nothing to do.

So we cut an EMT guy and trash the meter maid, keep all the stimulus money for government workers only, and otherwise blame the private sector for all of our problems. Is that not more or less it? Sixty-eight pages to tell us this. Baffle them with, what is that word again?

Heaven help us.

Notice how even in the course of this report favoritism is demonstrated (as well as a very bad attitude) in how the information is reported and as it is consequentially perceived. For we have $83,000+ in KPU arrearages from (a) major user(s) (????) reported completely offline and annotated as “Oh, this is not really an arrearage because these folks are good for it,” but all the other arrearages reported monthly for the past four months are a bunch of deadbeats, many of whom will never pay. (I would say most of them are as good for it as Amylon’s buddies who owe $83,000 reported intentionally offline.)

This is classic Amylon. Abuse the little guy; abuse the ordinary guy; kiss the big guy’s rear.

Amylon’s plan is very simple. As the town folds around them, let the bureaucrats party.

Once upon a time there existed on this continent a world where bureaucrats were called “feather merchants,” semi-politely derogatory for a jobber content with a lifetime security blanket and a much lower salary than was available in the private sector. That really is how it should work. For the bureaucrat produces nothing, except possibly bad attitude on occasion. The private sector has to continually produce merely to continue existing, and the risks of business are such that even before the pandemic 50% of Alaska businesses fail in the first year and 98% fail by the fifth year. And the bureaucrat just keeps chugging along making two to four times on average what his or her peer in the private sector is earning. - More...
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