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News Round-Up Week of March 17, 2017

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Happy St. Patrick's Day!



Sea-to-table movement takes root with Alaska’s growing kelp industry

By Elizabeth Jenkins, Alaska's Energy Desk - Juneau
In February of last year, Governor Walker signed an administrative order to help jumpstart mariculture, or sea farming, in the state. One Juneau couple is whipping up a recipe to make local kelp an enticing business and snack. They’re part of a growing number of startups that see Alaska seaweed as a marketable food.

There’s an aquatic plant that’s become a big part of Matt Kern and Lia Heifetz’s relationship.

“It’s basically all we talk about it,” Heifetz said with a laugh. “Every day of the week. Every night of the week. Every weekend.”

Kern and Heifetz are dedicating so much of their time to seaweed because they’ve been laying the groundwork for a new business.

“Kelp Salsa,” Kern said. “It’s made from predominantly from bull kelp that we harvest from around Juneau.”

“They were really interested in doing domestic production,” Tamsen Peeples said. She’s employed by Blue Evolution and works on the science of seaweed farming at the University of Alaska Southeast, as a marine biologist.

“Alaska has bountiful amounts of coastline obviously, clean water,” Peeples said. “As an Alaskan, I think it’s a great opportunity for individuals who otherwise in the winter are laying low between commercial fishing and tourism.”

But one thing Alaska doesn’t have is easy access to kelp seed. The department of fish and game says you can only farm with plants native to the region, and that’s where Peeples’ research comes in. She’s been working on propagating seed from local kelp spores.

“In order for this industry to grow, we’re going to have to get a number of other hatcheries to come online,” Peeples said. [Source]

Alaska gets millions of dollars from Volkswagen settlement

Alaska Public Media by Elizabeth Jenkins, Alaska's Energy Desk
The state of Alaska is receiving over $8 million in settlement money after a top car company cheated on its federal emissions tests. Volkswagen sold more than 500,000 diesel-powered cars nationwide between 2009 and 2016. And those cars were equipped with so-called “defeat devices,” or software that masked actual emissions when tested.

The governor’s office has appointed the Alaska Energy Authority (AEA) to help administer the state’s share of the settlement.

“This is just another way to leverage some of that improvement that’s needed in rural Alaska,” Sean Skaling, an energy policy director at AEA, said.

Skaling said the types of projects that can be funded are defined in the settlement, including improving emissions for transit buses, ferries and boats. That could mean replacing diesel engines with fully electric or hybrid ones.

Additionally, the money can also be used to upgrade energy infrastructure in remote villages.

The agency is taking public comments to help prioritize the most effective projects. The final plan is expected to be completed in the fall.

Skaling said this $8 million is different from the Volkswagen buyback program and settlement money that’s being doled out nationwide.

Outside of what the state is receiving, the settlement includes nearly $54 million for federally recognized tribes. [Read the rest]

Facial recognition Facebook app hoax terrifies the internet

A fake facial recognition app that claimed to be able to identify strangers from a photograph has turned out to be a publicity stunt.

Facezam claimed it could identify people by matching a photo of them with their Facebook profile. It was claimed that all users had to do is take a picture of someone on the street and run it through the app, which will tell them who it thinks the person in the photo is.

After the hoax was revealed to be the work of a viral marketing agency, Facebook said such an app violated its privacy policies.
"People trust us to protect their privacy and keep their information safe. This activity would violate our terms," Facebook said.

Facezam falsely claimed it could scan billions of Facebook profile images a second, through a database for developers, until it found a match. It claimed to be able to link most photos with a profile on the social network within 10 seconds.

"Facezam could be the end of our anonymous societies," said Jack Kenyon, who claimed to have founded Facezam. "Users will be able to identify anyone within a matter of seconds, which means privacy will no longer exist in public society."

[Source]
[Of course, let's be honest. This technology already exists within the federal government. It's only a matter of time before this technology is leaked to the public.]

Iceland's recovery shows benefits of letting over-reaching banks go bust

MATTHEW LYNN

It looks set to be a week packed with big financial milestones. In the US, the Federal Reserve will raise interest rates, putting the country on a path towards getting back to a normal price for money. In the Netherlands, a tense election may deal the fragile eurozone another blow. In this country, Theresa May could finally trigger Article 50, starting the process of taking the UK out of the European Union.

The most significant event, however, as is so often the case, may well be something that hardly anyone is paying attention to. On Sunday, Iceland ended capital controls, finally returning its economy to normal after a catastrophic banking collapse back in 2008 and 2009.

Why does that matter? Because Iceland was the one country that defied the global consensus and did not bail out its bankers. True, there was shock to the system. But it was relatively short, and once the pain was dealt with, the country has bounced back stronger than ever.

The crash of 2008 hit every country in the world. And yet none was quite so completely destroyed as Iceland. A tiny country, home to just 323,000 people, with cod fishing and tourism as its two major industries, it deregulated its finance sector and went on a wild lending spree. Its banks started bulking up in a way that might have made Royal Bank of Scotland’s Fred Goodwin start to wonder if his foot wasn’t pressed too hard on the accelerator. When confidence collapsed, those banks were done for.

It was about as bad as the mainstream economic consensus predicted it would be. The banks went down, and the economy went down with them. But there has been a twist in the tail. As it turned out, Iceland recovered relatively quickly.

Last year, its economy expanded by an impressive 7.2pc. Unemployment has dropped all the way down to 3pc, a level which means virtually everyone who wants a job has one. The krona was up by 18pc in the past year against a basket of rival currencies as global investors started to buy into its rapid recovery. Interest rates have been steadily reduced from emergency levels to 5pc, a sustainable long-term rate that rewards savers and yet makes it affordable to borrow and invest. Its debt to GDP ratio by 2015 was down to 68pc: significantly less than ours. [Read the full story]

Europe headed for 'religion wars' despite Wilders' stumble, Turkish minister says

Anti-Islam politician Geert Wilders may have fallen short in this week's election in the Netherlands, but his views were shared by all the Dutch parties and are pushing Europe towards "wars of religion", Turkey's foreign minister said on Thursday.

Centre-right Prime Minister Mark Rutte fended off the Wilders challenge in a victory hailed across Europe by governments facing a rising wave of nationalism.

The reaction in Ankara was less sanguine. Turkey has been locked in a deepening row with the Netherlands after the Dutch barred Turkish ministers from holding rallies among overseas Turks.

"Many parties have received a similar share of votes. Seventeen percent, 20 percent, there are lots of parties like this, but they are all the same," Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said at a rally in the southern city of Antalya.

"There is no difference between the mindsets of Geert Wilders and social democrats in the Netherlands. They all have the same mindset ... That mindset is taking Europe to the cliff. Soon wars of religion may and will start in Europe."

"Shame on the EU," Erdogan said. "Down with your European principles, values and justice ... They started a clash between the cross and the crescent, there is no other explanation."

Although a majority Muslim country, Turkey is officially secular and headscarves were banned for decades in the civil service and universities. Erdogan and the Islamist-rooted AK Party he founded fought to overturn those bans, which they see as discriminatory, and to bring religion into public life. [The full story]
[A quick history lesson on the last 'religion wars':]


Trump Budget Proposes Killing All Funding for PBS, NPR and National Endowment for the Arts


President Donald Trump made good on a long-time conservative goal in his first proposed budget Thursday morning, targeting the Corporation for Public Broadcasting and the National Endowments for the Arts and Humanities for complete elimination.

Trump’s budget would zero out the $445 million budget for the Corporation for Public Broadcasting, a relatively small source of funding for programming and broadcast operations on public TV stations and NPR radio stations nationwide, per the Washington Post.

The budget would also eliminate the budgets for both national endowments, which stood at $148 million each in 2016, as well as $230 million for the Institute of Museum and Library Services, which supports libraries and museums. Additional cuts would affect two tourist mainstays in Washington, D.C., the Smithsonian Institution and the National Gallery of Art.

Defunding the Corporation for Public Broadcasting is unlikely to cripple either PBS or NPR. NPR received less than 1 percent of its revenue from the CPB, and PBS less than 7 percent, according to data from 2014 reported in the Washington Post.
[Read the rest of the article]


Netflix changing user reviews, dumps star ratings

JAMES HIBBERD@JAMESHIBBERD

After years of allowing customers to rank movies on a scale of 1-to-5 stars, the streaming service announced plans to replace that system with a binary “thumbs up vs. thumbs down” rating. Soon one-star ratings will cease to be a thing on Netflix — or five-star ratings, for that matter.

The new Siskel & Ebert-ian system was revealed by Netflix executive Tod Yellin at a press briefing at the company’s headquarters in Los Gatos, California on Thursday, Variety reported and EW confirmed.

Yellin also noted that the review system has been less important over the years as the company has found users will often rank respected documentaries with five stars and more frivolous titles with one star despite being far more likely to actually watch the latter. (It’s true; many popular guilty-pleasure favorites like Armageddon are saddled with one-star averages despite having plenty of fans).

Still, it’s hard not to feel like the new method gives users less information — a four-star average feels rather different than five-star average even though both would receive the same thumbs up.

“Unlike other services, though, this feature is about helping members better personalize their unique experience, not sharing an opinion on the quality of a story.”

The shakeup — which will take effect in April — comes on the heels of comedian Amy Schumer accusing “alt-right trolls” of conspiring to flood her latest Netflix special with one-star reviews. [Source]

Video of the Week:



Read More: [PLAN PRICE UPDATE] Satellite Internet on POW and in Alaska Has Just Upgraded! HughesNet to have Gen 5 Speed and Service

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