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News Week Round Up February 3, 2017

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Legislature eyes limit on state government spending

KTOO by Andrew Kitchenman

Some state legislators want to write into law a new limit on how much the state can spend each year. But policy experts say it’s a difficult strategy to put into effect. And Alaska already has a limit – one that critics say hasn’t worked.

In 1982, Alaska voters amended the constitution to say that the state would never spend more than two and a half billion dollars – adjusted for inflation and population growth.

But a drop in oil revenue in the following years, combined with inflation and population growth, made sure that the state rarely got close to the limit.

Lawmakers in the Republican-led Senate majority – as well as the House minority – want a new limit. They say they’d like it in state law as soon as this year – as well as a new constitutional limit in two to three years.

At least 30 states have some form of spending limit. And many of them have faced practical problems, like Alaska.

Benjamin Zycher of the American Enterprise Institute said state spending limits aren’t effective.

“The same sort of political pressures and interest group demands and all the rest that lead to fiscal irresponsibility – however that’s defined in the first place – tend to reassert themselves,” Zycher said.

House Majority Leader Chris Tuck, an Anchorage Democrat, opposes a change. He said the Legislature can impose its own informal limit on spending by being fiscally responsible. [Source]


Bannon at the wheel, heaven help us

Alaska Dispatch News by Kathleen Parker
WASHINGTON — Donald Trump seems to think he's still on his reality TV show shouting, "You're fired!" while President Stephen Bannon is busy drafting executive orders with his favorite black crayon.

Such is the surreal universe in which we find ourselves. Those who thought they were electing Trump to the presidency likely have never heard of Jerzy Kosinski — author of the novel and movie, "Being There," in which protagonist Chance the gardener, a simpleton who worked for a wealthy benefactor, is mistaken for an aristocrat named Chauncey Gardiner through a grand misunderstanding born of magical thinking.

When Gardiner's employer dies and the gardener is forced to enter the larger world, his body of knowledge consists only of what he has seen on television. When he speaks about flowers and plants, others interpret his simple words as insightful and profound observations on economics and foreign policy.

Similarly, candidate Trump shouted nonsense to cheering crowds who decided he was brilliant and insightful. He's no simple mind, as far as we know (though one wonders why so much family is constantly in attendance), and the titular president of the United States is currently Mr. Trump. But it's Bannon who seems to be pulling the levers — running the show — unelected, inaccessible and unaccountable.

The rumpled, former naval officer and filmmaker must be given credit where due. He obviously has a Soviet's grasp of the power of propaganda and an admitted mission to restore economic nationalism and a high tolerance for the intolerant. His Breitbart news franchise was a welcoming haven for white supremacists and Nazis.

If Karl Rove was George W. Bush's brain, Bannon is Trump's conscience. [Read the rest here]

Paperwork to approve settlement between Alaska gas producer and federal agency has been lost

Alaska Dispatch News by Alex DeMarban

An approval packet for a long-awaited settlement between a Cook Inlet gas company and the U.S. Department of Homeland Security over a $15 million fine has apparently been lost, the red-faced Justice Department says.

The missing paperwork is contributing to "embarrassing delays" and a new effort to finish the deal despite the "turmoil" in the department, according to an attorney in the Justice Department.

Natural gas producer Furie Operating Alaska has challenged the fine that stemmed from its decision to haul the Spartan 151 jack-up rig to Alaska in 2011 to conduct exploration drilling in Cook Inlet.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection, an agency with Homeland Security, charged the company with violating the Jones Act, a post-World War I law that requires U.S.-flagged ships be used when cargo is hauled between American ports. Furie had used a foreign ship to carry the jack-up rig on part of the journey between Texas and Cook Inlet.

A preliminary settlement in the Jones Act case was reached last year, but the details have never been publicly released. The settlement has been awaiting final approval from the Justice Department for months. [The Full Article]

Berkeley Blowback: Milo Book Sales Soar 12,740% Overnight

Following the violent anti-free-speech protests in Berkeley, California last night - sparked by cal's special snowflakes hurt feelings at the potential words that would come out of Milo Yiannopoulos' mouth during a sold-out event - it appears America's curiousity has been piqued.

Sales of Milo's book have increased 12,740% overnight sending it rocketing from 642nd to 5th ranked best-seller on Amazon. Pretty impressive considering the book is not even released until March 14th 2017. [Source]


For Context Milo Interviewed about the Protest:




How Groundhog Day Got Started

Today I Found Out by Daven Hiskey

Like so many holiday traditions, the origins and progression of Groundhog Day to what we think of it today as are a bit murky. However, we’ll try to shed some light on the subject, starting with the day of the year. Groundhog Day is celebrated on February 2nd because it is approximately halfway between the winter solstice (Northern hemisphere), when the Sun is at its southernmost point in the sky, and the March/vernal equinox, when the Sun is in the same plane as the Earth’s equator, making day and night approximately equal length.

Much like that there was a Celtic “end of autumn” celebration called Samuin (also called Samhain), that is the root of Halloween, there was around this halfway point (approximately on February 1st), a Celtic festival called Imbolc (also called Imbolg) which was simply a celebration of the start of spring. Whether this festival was the direct root of Groundhog Day isn’t completely clear, but certain elements of it do come into play.

During Imbolc, the celebrants would feast, have bonfires, purify themselves, and practice divination. Among the things they’d try to divine was the weather, including using badgers and serpents to help them try to predict said weather, watching to see if badgers and serpents were about, or still in their dens.

Similar to how during Imbolc we know they looked for signs of certain animals like snakes and badgers (and possibly others) emerging from their winter homes as a means of predicting weather, other peoples throughout Europe also looked for signs of animals that hibernate as a way to predict the weather. This is why in some regions the day of Candlemas is also called “The Day of the Bear” or “The Day of the Badger”.

This all gave rise to the first known Groundhog Day in the U.S. celebrated in Pennsylvania in 1841. The first documented reference to this also includes the groundhog / shadow tradition, as stated in a February 4th, 1841 diary entry by a Berks County storekeeper, James Morris:

Last Tuesday, the 2nd, was Candlemas day, the day on which, according to the Germans, the Groundhog peeps out of his winter quarters and if he sees his shadow he pops back for another six weeks nap, but if the day be cloudy he remains out, as the weather is to be moderate. [Full Story]


Logan Movie Trailer:




 Have a great weekend!

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