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Favorite Link (News) Friday Week of December 30, 2016

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Taxing questions

BY CRAIGMEDRED
Never mind the need, though, the Permanent Fund Dividend has become a cherished part of being a true “Alaskan.” Newcomers have to spend a full year in the cold, dark north to collect, and a lot of Alaskans are of the opinion that once they get their fingers around that first PFD no one should be allowed to touch their cash until the undertaker comes along to pry it out of their cold, dead fingers.

With the state last year facing a budget shortfall of more than $3 billion, some thought it was prying time. But the Alaska Legislature refused to act, and Gov. Bill Walker has been in political trouble ever since he unilaterally cut the dividend to just over $1,000 and stashed $666 million in the bank.

He can’t legally spend it. The authority to appropriate money rests with the Legislature, but Walker can sit on it while the state Supreme Court determines just what his authority over the money.

And so he sits while the political pressure builds.

The state is in a deepening recession and facing a nightmarish budgetary crisis. Plenty of people want to reduce the size of government to solve the latter problem, but no economist in his right mind would suggest further reducing spending of any sort during a recession if that can be avoided.

The PFD is derived from the annual earnings on the $53 million [sic] Permanent Fund, a state savings account started with oil money. The earnings are far from a paltry sum. Last year the fund earned about $1.6 billion, enough to put a serious dent in the deficit.

A considerable number of Alaskan, but probably not most, favor the idea of tapping the earnings, a concept which invariably comes under attack on two fronts – one largely ideological and the other socio-political. [Read the rest here]


Class-Action Grievance filed in Response to DOT Privatization

Jim Duncan | AFSCME
ASEA/AFSCME Local 52 filed a class-action grievance Tuesday against Governor Walker and his Administration on behalf of Alaska Department of Transportation & Public Facilities construction design employees, whose duties will be privatized under Gov. Walker’s proposed FY2018 Operating Budget.

In addition to cutting hundreds of positions to bridge Alaska’s fiscal gap, Governor Walker’s budget includes plans to privatize construction design work in the Department of Transportation & Public Facilities without performing a feasibility study or providing an opportunity for the Union to submit alternate proposals to retain State employees, as is required under the Collective Bargaining Agreement negotiated by the State of Alaska and ASEA.

“That is a clear violation of the ASEA contract, and we don’t intend to stand by and let that go unchallenged,” said Jim Duncan, Executive Director of the Alaska State Employees Association.

As the FY2018 operating budget’s own narrative explains, “There are 11 Department of Transportation components with design staff. Among the 11 components there are 76 design position eliminations in this budget.” The Governor’s proposed budget overview reveals that job losses will continue with “up to 300 more to follow in future budgets.” [Full Story]


Russian children send 45 tons of New Year’s presents to Syrian kids

The Russian military has delivered some 45 tons of presents collected by thousands of the country’s kids for children of the same ages in war-torn Syria. The gifts included Russian folk art handmade crafts and personal greetings.

The supplies were handed over to the Russian Defense Ministry as part of the all-Russian humanitarian initiative “Children of Russia – to Children of Syria,” TASS reports, citing the Russian military. The initiative, proposed by the children themselves, saw thousands of pupils from over 10 Russian regions taking part.

The Russian Center for Reconciliation in Syria is engaged in a months-long humanitarian mission in Syria and in particular the recently liberated city of Aleppo.

On Monday, another two tons of humanitarian aid were handed over to residents who left eastern Aleppo and have been living in a temporary accommodation facility in the Benezid area of the city. Hot meals and other necessities are also being provided by Russian officers. [Source]


U.S. evicts Russians for spying, imposes sanctions after election hacks

President Barack Obama ordered the expulsion of 35 Russian suspected spies and imposed sanctions on two Russian intelligence agencies over their involvement in hacking U.S. political groups in the 2016 presidential election.

The measures, taken during the last days of Obama's presidency, mark a new post-Cold War low in U.S.-Russian ties which have deteriorated over Ukraine and Syria.

Allegations by U.S. intelligence agencies that Russian President Vladimir Putin personally directed efforts to intervene in the U.S. election process by hacking mostly Democrats have made relations even worse.

The Kremlin, which denounced the sanctions as unlawful and promised "adequate" retaliation, questioned whether Trump approved of the new sanctions. Moscow denies the hacking allegations. [Full Story]

The Democrats and Obama are trying to star a World War with Russia. It is absolutely mind-blowing to watch. This whole "Russia hacked the election" is the epitome of "Fake News" as there is absolutely ZERO proof for any Russian involvement...so that begs the question why is the outgoing President trying to start a war with Russia?


The Voyager Golden Record Experience

By Alan Bellows
In 1977, in response to a fortuitous alignment of the outer planets of our solar system, NASA launched space probes Voyager 1 and 2 to tour the outer planets and transmit photographs back to Earth. In that capacity the Voyagers were spectacularly successful, sending tens of thousands of images of planets and moons back to Earth via radio. Both probes passed beyond the orbit of Pluto in the late 1980s, and they continue on toward interstellar space traveling at approximately 37,000 mph (almost 60,000 kph). They continue to transmit data back to Earth, and are expected to do so until around 2025, when their radioisotope thermoelectric generators will be exhausted, and unable to power any instruments.

In 40,000 years or so, Voyager 1 will pass within 1.6 light-years of the star Gliese 445, and at around the same time Voyager 2 will be within 1.7 light-years of the star Ross 248. If either of these systems happen to be home to an advanced alien civilization, there’s a chance they will detect and retrieve one of our plucky nuclear space robots.

In anticipation of the possibility of such proxy contact, NASA mission designers affixed a message from humanity to the side of each probe in the form of a phonograph record. These gold-plated copper records each contain an identical compilation of sounds and music from all over the Earth, as well as analog-encoded images. In the event that one of the probes is ever discovered by an intelligent alien species, the included instructions will hopefully allow them to decode the sounds and sights of our civilization. [Read the Full Story]


Creator of the Red Solo Cup Died

You might not know his name, but you know his creation and a party isn't a party without it.

Robert Leo Hulseman is the man credited with creating the iconic red Solo cup, WCMH reported.

Hulseman died last week. He was 84. [Source]
In Remembrance of Robert Hulseman here is a tribute:


History in Pictures:

[Must look through, here is my favorite:]


The now lost "From Hell" letter, posted in 1888, along with half a human kidney, by a person claiming to be Jack the Ripper. It reads:

From hell
Mr Lusk
Sor
I send you half the
Kidne I took from one women
prasarved it for you tother piece
I fried and ate it was very nise. I
may send you the bloody knif that
took it out if you only wate a whil
longer.
signed
Catch me when
you Can
Mishter Lusk.


Historical Anecdote: Never steal another city's bucket

"The War of the Bucket or the War of the Oaken Bucket was fought in 1325, between the rival city-states of Bologna and Modena. It took place in the Emilia district of northern Italy. It was provoked when Modenese soldiers stole the bucket from a city well.

Bologna mustered an army of 32,000 men and marched against Modena in November. 7,000 Modenese under Bonacolsi met them at Zappolino, in Bolognese territory. The Bolognese were routed, fleeing into the walls of their city. About 2,000 men were killed on both sides. Some accounts state that the Modenese took a bucket from a well just outside a city gate as a trophy."

Read More: Favorite Link (News) Friday Week of December 23, 2016 


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