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News Round Up [June 21, 2017]

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NEWS: Credit Rating Agency Highlights Need for a Comprehensive Fiscal Plan in Alaska


Juneau – Speaker of the House Rep. Bryce Edgmon (D-Dillingham) has released the following statement in response to news that S&P Global Ratings has placed the State of Alaska on its CreditWatch and has indicated that Alaska’s credit rating would likely be lowered without the passage of significant fiscal reforms this year.

“Today’s action by a respected credit rating agency shows the need for lawmakers to move beyond short-term fixes and embrace long-term fiscal solutions, which is exactly what the members of the Alaska House Majority Coalition have been fighting for since the start of the legislative session,” said Speaker Edgmon.

In a report issued today, S&P Global Ratings noted that because of the limited scope of the call for the Second Special Session, which so far is restricted to the Fiscal Year 2018 Operating Budget, it will be unlikely that significant fiscal reforms can be put in place. This could result in another year of structural deficits and the continued overreliance on Alaska’s savings and reserves.

“We must do more than just pass the FY18 budget this year. We need new and more diversified revenues for Alaska,” continued Speaker Edgmon. “If we continue to kick the can down the road, not only will our credit ratings and borrowing costs suffer, so will our broader economy and Alaska jobs. The time to act is now.” [Source]

Supreme Court of Alaska hears arguments over legality of Walker’s PFD veto

Alaska Public Media by Wesley Early

The court heard oral arguments today in Anchorage in a case that seeks to overturn Governor Bill Walkers veto last year of $666 million from the dividend. Anchorage Democratic Senator Bill Wielechowski and two former republican state lawmakers sued last November to get the money back.

“It’s critical to Alaskans and I think we should share a little bit of our oil wealth with the people,” Wielechowski said.

Lower courts ruled last year the Governor had the power to use his line item veto to take the money from dividend checks.

“Both parties agree that the Permanent Fund Dividend is a statutory entitlement. It is not in the constitutional amendment, and that enables the governor to, when faced with funding for that in an appropriations bill, to strike or reduce,” Vogel said.

But Senator Wielechowski, a lawyer himself, disagreed, saying the original intent of the law that created the Permanent Fund Dividend program was that the money is dedicated funding and not an appropriation therefore, not subject to veto. He said the legislature has that authority and not the governor.

Before the hearing 35 people lined up outside the courthouse to protest the governor’s veto of the PFD money, and to let lawmakers know they don’t want to see their dividend checks reduced to pay for state government. Juanita Casellius, a coordinator for the group Permanent Fund Defenders, said the decision will likely have long lasting effects on the Permanent Fund Dividend. [Story]

‘Digital burnout’ drives sales of vintage typewriters

By RUSSELL CONTRERAS, Associated Press

A documentary on typewriters featuring Tom Hanks and musician John Mayer is set for release this summer.

In the age of smartphones, social media and hacking fears, vintage typewriters that once gathered dust in attics and basements are attracting a new generation of fans across the United States.

From public “type-ins” at bars to street poets selling personalized, typewritten poems on the spot, typewriters have emerged as popular items with aficionados hunting for them in thrift stores, online auction sites and antique shops.

Some buy antique Underwoods to add to a growing collection.

Others search for a midcentury Royal Quiet De Luxe — like a model author Ernest Hemingway used — to work on that simmering novel.

Almost all of the original manufacturers are out of business or have been bought out and become different companies. Moonachie, New Jersey-based Swintec appears to be one of the last typewriter makers, selling translucent electronic machines largely to jails and prisons.

But operators of thrift stores and estate sales say typewriters are some of the quickest items to go.

Doug Nichol, director of the upcoming documentary California Typewriter, said the interest stems from “digital burnout” and people wanting a connection to the past.

That interest seems to transcend age, he said.

“Kids who grew up knowing only mobile phones and the computer are excited to see a letter typed with your own hand,” Nichol said. “It’s a one-on-one interaction that doesn’t get interrupted by Twitter alerts.” [Story]

Man loses fortune, lives alone on desert island for 20 years


A real-life Robinson Crusoe who has spent 20 years living on a desert island says he’s glad he doesn’t have to worry about terrorist attacks.

Former millionaire David Glasheen, 73, moved to the idyllic Restoration Island, located off North East Australia, in May 1997 after losing his fortune in the stock exchange crash of 1987.

The ex-gold mining tycoon and property magnate, who at his most successful was worth an estimated $27 million, now lives in a wooden beach shack with only his loyal dog Polly for company.

But despite having limited electricity, fresh water and facing regular battles against deadly wildlife, the bearded exile insists he feels safe on the island.

Born to a wealthy family originally from County Cork, Ireland, David was educated at a private boarding school and began a career as a businessman after university.

He developed a gold mining company in Papua New Guinea but lost an estimated $6 million in the 12 months after the October 1987 global financial crash.

Soon after David’s wife left him and when he met a new girlfriend who told him she wanted to run away to a desert island he began searching for such a place.

Over the years the bearded castaway has entertained backpackers, tourists and even Russell Crowe to his isolated oasis – but now visitors have dwindled to just a trickle of 12 a year. [Read the Rest]

80% Of Cord Cutters Leave Because Of High Cable TV Prices, But The Industry Still Refuses To Compete On Price


A new study from Tivo (pdf) notes that nearly half of current pay TV subscribers are considering cutting the cord this year. That's not particularly surprising given the fact that the first quarter set cord cutting records, and the second quarter is expected to be significantly worse. Similarly unsurprising is the fact that of these defecting customers, roughly 80% of those departing say they're doing so because traditional cable TV service is simply too expensive:

37.1% of respondents spent at least $101 per month on cable TV, with some spending upwards of $150 per month, with trends only aiming higher. While cable providers often pay ample lip service to "providing value," the entire cable and broadcast sector continues to believe that it can simply refuse to compete on price with a growing roster of streaming competitors now arriving at the gates of their beloved cash cow.

When the increase in monthly bills is coupled with the fact that 81.4% of unsatisfied respondents selected “Too expensive/increase fees for cable/satellite service,” it becomes evident that something must be done about this group. With more options than ever for TV in 2017, consumers continue to get smarter about their TV options, and many have discovered ways to access TV for far less than $100 a month. Skinny buddle offerings have increased, too, and options include Dish Networks’ SlingTV, DIRECTV NOW and Sony’s PlayStation Vue.

Instead of competing on price and package flexibility, most large cable companies (like Comcast) have responded to cord cutting by not only raising TV rates, but ramping up deployment of arbitrary and unnecessary broadband usage caps and "overage fees", allowing them to counter any lost TV revenues with broadband price hikes, and punish folks looking to wander away from Comcast's own TV walled garden. But Charter is prohibited from using caps for another six years as a condition of its recent megamerger, conditions the FCC has started to slowly but surely nibble away at. [Source]


The Men Who Died in the USS Fitzgerald Collision in the Pacific




Read More: News Round Up [June 20, 2017]

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