Favorite Link Friday Week of May 20, 2016 - P.O.W. Report

Friday, May 20, 2016

Favorite Link Friday Week of May 20, 2016

State Government Shutdown Only Six Weeks Away

[Full Source]

JUNEAU — With a state government shutdown six weeks away, Alaska lawmakers will now have a special session for their second try at passing a budget and deficit-reduction legislation after the four-month regular session ended in disarray and defeat Wednesday night.
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On Monday morning, Walker will ask lawmakers to start all over again, though this time, the Alaska Constitution empowers him to set the agenda and limit debate to bills in his proclamation. His call for a special session lists as its subjects a budget bill, Permanent Fund legislation, and nearly all the same tax measures, minus a cruise ship passenger tax increase he's abandoned.
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The special session will also include four other bills that failed to pass during the regular session. One tries to fix the state's individual health insurance market, which has seen sharp rate increases over the past few years. Two others aim to improve the way the state handles foster care and adoptions. And a fourth would guarantee health coverage for spouses and children of police and firefighters killed in the line of duty — legislation that became a flashpoint last month in the Legislature's fight over a criminal justice reform bill.
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"The politics of reaching an agreement on some combination of fiscal reforms that would stabilize the state's budget outlook is proving every bit as difficult as we anticipated," S&P's analysts wrote Thursday. The state's credit rating will be at risk of falling farther, they added, if lawmakers can't agree on financial reforms in the special session.
Any bets on how this will go? My money is that there will be a major compromise, they will mostly fund the budget by dipping into the Savings but they may go to the ballot box and ask voters on a long-term budget solution which may include a constitutional amendment that dips into the PFD. 


ESPN: Basketball and Essential Part of Life in Metlakatla, Alaska

[Full Source]

For a century, life in Metlakatla has followed a pattern -- one that each generation embraces and eagerly continues. Fishermen and women tie their nets in the same musty wood storeroom and haul salmon from the same salty blue waters. They sing and dance the same Tsimshian songs.

And they play basketball.

Metlakatla's basketball obsession is partly geographic. It is located in a southern extremity of Alaska, the only town on Annette Island, and the only Native American reservation in Alaska. The indoor sport is a reprieve from the soggy darkness of winter, a unifying event for isolated people.

In Metlakatla, basketball is the only show in town. People begin their Saturdays at 8 a.m. at the old town hall for little league games before shifting to the high school gymnasium to watch the Chiefs battle until 9 p.m. Many of those sitting in the packed bleachers played for the Chiefs or Miss Chiefs themselves, and young children dream of when it will be their turn to represent their home. The legacy of the Chiefs matters little outside Annette Island, but inside, it is a key to life.


Bright flash of light marks incredible moment life begins when sperm meets egg

[Full Source]

Human life begins in bright flash of light as a sperm meets an egg, scientists have shown for the first time, after capturing the astonishing ‘fireworks’ on film.                                        
An explosion of tiny sparks erupts from the egg at the exact moment of conception.

Scientists had seen the phenomenon occur in other animals but it is the first time is has been also shown to happen in humans.

Researchers from Northwestern University, in Chicago, noticed that some of the eggs burn brighter than others, showing that they are more likely to produce a healthy baby.

The discovery could help fertility doctors pick the best fertilised eggs to transfer during in vitro fertilisation (IVF).

“It was remarkable,” said Professor Teresa Woodruff, one of the study’s two senior authors and an expert in ovarian biology at Northwestern.


There's a 5.5-million-year-old alien world hiding under Romania

[Full Source]

To create your own alien world on Earth, follow the following recipe closely:

1. Carve a series of narrow subterranean tunnels and small pools out of limestone.

2. Connect your cave to a spongy limestone reservoir of water that's been untouched for tens of thousands of years.

3. Throw in a veritable Noah's Ark of creepy crawlies, including scorpions, spiders, leeches and earthworms. For extra kick, add more spiders.

4. Seal the entire ecosystem in a thick layer of clay to render it impermeable to above-ground elements.

5. Bake at 77 degrees F for 5.5 million years.

Easy, right? Now imagine you're the first person to accidentally find such a creation. Back in 1986, during surveys for the location of a power plant near the Black Sea in Romania, construction workers digging more than 60 feet underground broke into this bizarre, previously untouched ecosystem.

Called the Movile Cave, this subterranean wonder has been sealed for an estimated 5.5 million years.

Because no organic matter from the surface makes its way into Movile, scientists were at first puzzled as to how an entire world could possibly flourish under such harsh conditions. The answer lies in vast "mats" on the surface of the cave's waters and walls. These mats contain millions upon millions of tiny bacteria called autotrophs. Instead of photosynthesis, these autotrophs use a process called chemosynthesis, which obtains chemical energy from the oxidation of sulfur compounds and ammonia in the cave waters, explains the Murrell Lab, part of the University of East Anglia's School of Environmental Sciences. The resulting milky film of microorganisms serves as the foundation for the rest Movile's ecosystem.


Busy people have improved cognitive function in old age, study says


[Full Source]

Busy people may have better-functioning brains in old age than those who are less busy, scientists have suggested.

A healthily busy lifestyle is associated with improved cognitive function, the Dallas Lifespan Brain Study found, particularly when it comes to working memory, reasoning and vocabulary.

However, the scientists were not able to say if the heightened brain function is caused by being busy, or vice versa.

Denise Park, the director of the Dallas Lifespan Brain Study, said she was surprised at how little research had been carried out on the subject, given that being too busy "seems to be a fact of modern life for so many".

And while the research was not affected by an individual’s level of education and age, Ms Park said that a link had been discovered between busy lifestyles and superior processing speed of the brain, working memory, reasoning and vocabulary.

However, the results also raised further questions – such as whether being busy improves cognitive function or if people with heightened neurological characteristics simply tend to be busier people.

 Meanwhile in Alaska 



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