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News Day Round Up [May 31, 2017]

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With Legislature gridlocked, Alaska state employees warned of potential shutdown -- again

Alaska Dispatch News by Nathaniel Herz

Alaska Gov. Bill Walker's administration emailed nearly 20,000 state workers Tuesday warning they could be temporarily laid off if the Legislature fails to pass a budget before July 1, the start of the next fiscal year.

"On behalf of Gov. Walker, Lt. Gov. (Byron) Mallott and our administration, I assure you this possible shutdown is not a reflection on your service," wrote Sheldon Fisher, the state administration commissioner, whose department oversees human resources and personnel. "If we have to take action in July, it is solely due to the status of the fiscal year 2018 budget."

The layoff warnings — to be followed with contractually required paper mailings Thursday — are the latest milestone in the Legislature's march toward the June 30 deadline.

State lawmakers, divided over how to fix Alaska's $2.5 billion deficit, have already missed two other deadlines: the flexible 90-day limit on the regular session imposed by voters, which came and went in mid-April, and the 121-day limit set by the state constitution.

Tuesday was Day 13 of a special session called by Walker, with the next deadline — the one-month constitutional cap on the length of a special session — not coming until mid-June. The special session itself appears to have stalled, at least publicly, with just one committee hearing scheduled for this week. [Full Article]

AT&T Invests More Than $150 Million Over 3-Year Period to Enhance Local Networks in Alaska


ANCHORAGE, Alaska, May 30 2017 — At AT&T, we’ve invested more than $150 million in our Alaska wireless and wired networks during 2014-2016. These investments drive a wide range of upgrades to reliability, coverage, speed and overall performance for residents and businesses. They also improve critical services that support public safety and first responders.

In 2016, AT&T made 276 wireless network upgrades in Alaska. These upgrades include the addition of new cell sites, as well as adding capacity to existing cell sites. Additionally, AT&T added about 450 miles of new fiber from Fairbanks to Prudhoe Bay, as well as a new fiber route to Pedro Dome.

“We’re now speeding our wireless buildout plans in Alaska with tens of millions of dollars dedicated to improving its mobile network,” said Bob Bass, president of AT&T Alaska. “This investment enhances residents’ ability to connect and will help pave the path to 5G mobile services in the years ahead.”

The First Responder Network Authority (FirstNet) recently chose AT&T to build a nationwide public safety broadband network. The network will be dedicated to America’s police, firefighters and EMS personnel. Should Alaska opt-in to the FirstNet network, we will build upon our current and planned investments with a dedicated focus on the state’s first responders.

And we would expect to make a significant investment to upgrade and maintain Alaska’s FirstNet network over the next 25 years, bringing your first responders the coverage, value and experience they expect. [Source]


Pissed-off artist adds statue of urinating dog next to ‘Fearless Girl’

By Nick Fugallo and Max Jaeger

Gee whiz, artists are so sensitive!

City sculptor Alex Gardega — seething over the “Fearless Girl” statue being placed across from Wall Street’s “Charging Bull” — has decided to retaliate with a work of his own.

Gardega created a statue of a small dog, titled “Pissing Pug,” and his sloppily crafted pooch takes direct aim at “Fearless Girl” — or, at least, at her left leg.

“This is corporate nonsense,” Gardega told The Post of “Fearless Girl,” saying it was put opposite artist Arturo Di Modica’s famed bull as a publicity stunt by a Boston-based financial firm.

“It has nothing to do with feminism, and it is disrespect to the artist that made the bull,” he said. “That bull had integrity.”

The Upper West Side artist sniffed that he even made his dog particularly poorly just to stick it to “Fearless Girl” even more.

“I decided to build this dog and make it crappy to downgrade the statue, exactly how the girl is a downgrade on the bull,” said Gardega, who has never met the other statues’ creators.

Bull sculptor Di Modica is no fan of “Fearless Girl,” either, having said that placing the statue of the child opposite his bull unfairly implicates his creation.

But he refused to comment on Gardega’s “Pissing Pug.” [Read the full article]

Ontario becomes 2nd province to go ahead with $15 an hour minimum wage


Ontario Premier Kathleen Wynne has announced a plan to increase the provincial minimum wage to $15 an hour by Jan. 1, 2019.
The increase would be phased in over the next 18 months, rising to $14 an hour on Jan. 1, 2018, and then to $15 the following January.
After that, it will rise annually with inflation.

A question I have always wondered, if the income rises with inflation does that mean that it will then fall during deflation? Granted deflation hasn't happened in the US for a very long time, none the less, it is still a possibility.
Wynne announced several other proposed changes to workforce rules:

  • Equal pay would be mandated for part-time workers doing the same job as a full-time workers.
  • After five years with the same employer, the minimum vacation entitlement for workers would rise to three weeks per year.
  • Employers would be required to pay a worker three hours of wages if the employer cancels a shift with less than 48 hours notice.
  • All workers would be given 10 personal emergency leave days a year, and a minimum of two of those days must be paid. (Currently only employees of large companies are entitled to this.)

Wynne also announced a plan to modernize the rules for creating a union, including the extension of card-based certification to temporary workers, building services workers and community care workers.

Currently, Ontario's minimum wage is $11.40 an hour. It had been set to rise to $11.60 in October. [Source]

Philippines says Islamists keep up week-long fight with prisoners, looted guns


A week-long assault by Islamist rebels in a southern Philippine city is being fuelled with stolen weapons and ammunition and fighters broken out of jails, the military said on Wednesday, as troops battled militants resisting ground and air attacks.

The pro-Islamic State Maute group has proven to be a fierce enemy, clinging on to the heart of Marawi City through days of air strikes on what the military called known rebel targets, defying expectations of a swift end to their occupation.

The military on Wednesday deployed for the first time SF-260 close air support planes to back attack helicopters and ground troops looking to box rebels into a downtown area. The rebels hold about a tenth of the city, the army said.

The Philippine government has been alarmed by the strength of the Maute and intelligence reports suggesting it has teamed up with other extremist groups and has recruited foreign fighters.

President Rodrigo Duterte has declared martial law on Mindanao island where Marawi is located, in a move to crush a movement he is now calling an Islamic State invasion.

The military believe the Maute and its associates staged the Marawi takeover to try to win Islamic State's endorsement as its affiliate in Southeast Asia.

Eighty-nine militants, 21 security forces and 19 civilians were killed in the unrest, which security experts say is a sign extremists in the southern Philippines are now better organised and funded, pointing to the Maute's rapid rise from obscurity.

"ISIS is not a small problem, it is a very big problem." [Story]


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