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Fewer homes are changing hands, data show

Alaska and Yukon Headlines - Wed, 2014-01-08 15:26
As the territory’s house prices continue to rise, fewer are being sold.

Local pharmacists look to administer vaccines

Alaska and Yukon Headlines - Wed, 2014-01-08 15:23
Imagine dropping by the drug store to pick up a prescription, a few items for the house and getting a flu shot while you’re there.

Speaker to address hydraulic fracturing

Alaska and Yukon Headlines - Wed, 2014-01-08 15:22
The co-ordinator of the British Columbia Tap Water Alliance will be in the territory next week to share his concerns about hydraulic fracturing with Yukoners.

News Or Ad? Online Advertisers Hope You'll Click To Find Out

NPR News - Wed, 2014-01-08 15:07

The New York Times' new Web redesign includes "native advertising": articles written by people working for the paper's advertisers. BuzzFeed and other outlets have already embraced the ads, but critics say the lines between paid and original content are sometimes just too blurry.

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Assembly to discuss boro policies in 2-day meeting

Southeast Alaska News - Wed, 2014-01-08 14:57

The Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly has scheduled a marathon policy meeting, starting at noon on Friday and lasting through Saturday.

The members will recess the meeting at around 4 on Friday, though, and then reconvene Saturday morning at 9 a.m., to finish out the agenda.

The purpose of the meeting is to discuss policy issues, and provide direction for borough management. The items up for discussion include the borough budget, library funding and the school district budget ; sales tax collection; the process for determining the community’s capital project priority list; Parks and Rec fees; and the process for filling vacancies on the Assembly.

During a presentation Wednesday to the Greater Ketchikan Chamber of Commerce, Borough Mayor Dave Kiffer added that economic development is another topic that could be discussed, and he invited the public to come to the meeting and give advice.

“We are always looking for more ideas,” he said. “If you’ve got specific ideas or things you think we should be looking at, let us know. To be honest, over the last 15-20 years, the borough hasn’t always done the very good version of economic development. We’ve made some good choices. Certainly supporting things like the shipyard have benefited the community. But we don’t always make the right choice. Sometimes we end up with bowl factories.”

While the policy session is expected to recess at 4 on Friday, the Assembly will have some more work to finish that night. Some items from Monday’s regular meeting had to be postponed due to a snafu over the legal notice, which wasn’t published in time. As a result, the Assembly recessed Monday’s meeting and will reconvene at 5 p.m. on Friday to take care of those postponed items.

The policy session and the reconvened meeting both will take place in Borough Assembly chambers at the White Cliff building.

Alaska marijuana legalization initiative turns in 45,000 signatures

Alaska and Yukon Headlines - Wed, 2014-01-08 14:57
Alaska marijuana legalization initiative turns in 45,000 signatures The Alaska Campaign to Regulate Marijuana handed in roughly 15,000 more signatures than needed to potentially qualify its initiative seeking to legalize, tax and regulate marijuana sales in Alaska. If certified, it will land on the August primary election ballot. January 8, 2014

As Temps Drop, Gas Prices Rise, Along With Demand For Fuel

NPR News - Wed, 2014-01-08 14:45

The country is producing more natural gas than it can burn, but frigid weather has made it harder for companies to deliver that gas to those who need it, especially in densely populated areas in the Northeast. As a result, prices have skyrocketed.

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Nishikawa siblings begin Olympic pursuit

Alaska and Yukon Headlines - Wed, 2014-01-08 14:33
The Yukon’s top two international athletes began the most important race period of their careers today in Canmore, Alta.

Henry skates to fifth at Olympic trial event

Alaska and Yukon Headlines - Wed, 2014-01-08 14:32
Mary Lake-born speedskater Troy Henry earned himself a new season-best in the 10,000-metres on the country’s biggest stage last week.

White House Defends War Policy Against Memoir's Harsh Critique

NPR News - Wed, 2014-01-08 14:11

Press secretary Jay Carney responds to a new book by former Defense Secretary Robert Gates, saying disagreement is a welcome part of a "robust" policymaking process.

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As Rebels Fight Rebels, Grim Reports From A Syrian City

NPR News - Wed, 2014-01-08 14:11

Syria's civil war keeps getting more complicated. In the latest twist, fractious rebel groups have united to fight extremists linked to al-Qaida. Both sides oppose the Syrian government, but for now they are pointing their guns at each other and a nasty battle is taking place in the northern city of Raqqa.

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Coal-Mining Area Grapples With How To Keep 'Bright Young Minds'

NPR News - Wed, 2014-01-08 14:11

Residents of Martin County, Ky., where President Johnson traveled to promote his War on Poverty in 1964, say they need jobs more than government aid. Coal mines are shutting down, and many local college grads say they have to leave the county if they want to make a living.

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Gallup: Record Number Of Americans Identify As Independents

NPR News - Wed, 2014-01-08 13:47

The uptick reflects a trend in recent years toward eschewing party labels. It's a shift that's hurt the GOP more than the Democratic Party.

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Same-Sex Marriages No Longer Recognized, Utah Tells Agencies

NPR News - Wed, 2014-01-08 13:35

The move by the governor's office clouds the legal status of hundreds of same-sex couples who were granted marriage licenses after Utah's ban was overturned on Dec. 20.

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Germany's Merkel To Visit U.S. Amid Anger Over NSA Spying

NPR News - Wed, 2014-01-08 13:28

The trip would mark a thawing of relations between the allies that were strained by reports the National Security Agency spied on the German chancellor. A German government spokesman said Wednesday Angela Merkel would visit Washington in the coming months.

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So Are 2 Drinks A Day Really Too Many?

NPR News - Wed, 2014-01-08 13:27

Scientists aren't entirely sure if moderate alcohol consumption is good for your heart. But they're very clear on the risks of drinking. And it turns out that moderate alcohol use is a lot stingier than most of us think, public health officials say.

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This GMO Apple Won't Brown. Will That Sour The Fruit's Image?

NPR News - Wed, 2014-01-08 13:15

A small Canadian company has created a genetically engineered apple that doesn't go brown when you slice it. It's waiting for approval from the U.S. Department of Agriculture. But some apple producers are worried that this new product will taint the apple's wholesome, all-natural image.

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TV Makers Look To Pack More Pixels Into Your Home TV With 4K

NPR News - Wed, 2014-01-08 13:07

TV makers, studios and streaming companies are all getting behind 4K TVs, which offer higher resolutions than even high-definition TVs. Some say it could worry Hollywood and lead to even less risk-taking in movies, but the technology still has significant hurdles to overcome.

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BLOG: Canada, Russia And The North Pole

Alaska and Yukon Headlines - Wed, 2014-01-08 13:01

Foreign Affairs Minister John Baird walks past a map of the Arctic at a news conference on Canada’s Arctic claim in Ottawa, on Dec 9 2013. Photo by Sean Kilpatrick, The Canadian Press.

“We do not give up the North Pole. Canada’s claims to the North Pole are no more than ambition.”

So declared Russian polar explorer and scientist Artur Chilingarov on December 11, whom President Vladimir Putin named a “Hero of Russia” after he famously planted his country’s flag on the seabed underneath the North Pole in 2007.

Chilingarov was reacting to Canada’s announcement earlier this month of its partial submission of claims to the United Nations Commission on the Limits of the Continental Shelf (UNCLCS) and intention to eventually expand its claims to include the North Pole. John Baird, Canada’s Minister of Foreign Affairs, announced to reporters, “We have asked our officials and scientists to do additional and necessary work to ensure that a submission for the full extent of the continental shelf in the Arctic includes Canada’s claim to the North Pole…What we want to do is claim the biggest geographic area possible for Canada.”

For years now, Russian scientists and officials have been trying to do the same thing. In 2007, before descending in the submersible to the Arctic sea floor, Chilingarov remarked, “The Arctic is Russian. We must prove the North Pole is an extension of the Russian coastal shelf.” Thus it appears somewhere between his statements in 2007 and 2013, the North Pole became a part of Russia, since he is now saying that the country won’t “give [it] up.” Whether or not there is a scientific basis for the North Pole to form part of the Russian continental shelf, it has long been a part of the imagined territory of Russia, and indeed the USSR, which claimed the area extending from Russia’s northern coast all the way up to the North Pole [1].

What’s at stake?

So why are Canada and Russia seeking to claim the North Pole?

As Michael Byers, political science professor of the University of British Columbia, succinctly put it to The Guardian, “It’s not about economic stakes, it’s about domestic politics.” Phil Steinberg, geography professor and director of the International Boundaries Research Unit at Durham University, made a similar statement, expressing, “It’s more a symbol of national pride.”

Some op-eds state that Canada is claiming the North Pole out of an interest in oil. As the title of Richard Janda’s piece in The Globe and Mail states, “Our North Pole claim is all about oil, not saving the environment.” He goes on to express, “If our claims to the North Pole were accompanied by a solemn pledge to leave it untouched, the land grab might seem more benign. But we did not spend $200-million on mapping the seabed in order to protect it for future generations. That money was venture capital.”

But that $200 million was not really spent to secure future oil and gas resources. First of all, as The Verge’s Katie Drummond notes, it will take the UNCLCS decades to get to Canada’s claims, since it reviews an average of four a year and has a backlog of 40 claims. By the time the commission takes a look at Canada’s claims, and by the time Canada gets around to arbitrating the limits of the continental shelf with fellow claimants Russia and Denmark, the Arctic could very well be a drastically different place. By mid-century, for instance, the Arctic Ocean is anticipated to be completely ice-free during the summer, with trans-Arctic shipping routes crossing over the North Pole. (Note: the continental shelf claims do not affect jurisdiction over the waters above, which will remain open to international shipping.) Not only that: by mid-century, it’s possible that the global energy mix in 2050 could be substantially different, too, although oil and gas will likely still be in high demand. The World Energy Council predicts in a report published this year that in 2050, fossil fuels will constitute between 59% and 77% of the world energy mix, depending on whether governments focus on affordability or sustainability in energy usage. In either case, whether the technology and price per barrel will make drilling in the remote and inaccessible Central Arctic Ocean economically feasible is still far from certain.

Additionally, the Arctic Ocean isn’t getting any smaller, so drilling in and around the North Pole would still be taking places hundreds of miles away from the nearest facilities on land. Furthermore, as the USGS has found, most of the offshore oil and gas in the Arctic Ocean likely lies within a couple hundred miles from shore, thereby falling within the extended economic shelves – and not in the middle of the Central Arctic Ocean (though other resources, such as minerals like scandium, could well be there). The area that Canada intends to claim also has a low probability of having oil, as the USGS map below shows.

With Stephen Harper and Vladimir Putin more likely making moves in the Arctic with a view to the next election rather than the price of oil in 2050, the consideration that North Pole claims are primarily for national pride and international one-upmanship must be assessed.

“Geo-body”

Professor of Southeast Asian history Thongchai Winichakul coined the neologism “geo-body” in his book Siam Mapped to describe the “effect of modern geographical discourse whose prime technology is a map” (1994, p. 17). Governments use cartographic technologies in “thinking, imagining, and projecting the desired realm” (Winichakul, 1994, p. 130). Nowhere is this clearer than in the allegation by the Globe and Mail that Canadian Prime Minister Stephen Harper “ordered government bureaucrats back to the drawing board” after learning that the proposed claim to the continental shelf did not include the North Pole. If this is true, then Harper is basically demanding that the science be made to fit the desired boundaries of the nation. To paraphrase French philosopher Henri Lefebvre, the map has come to precede the geographic territory. It is fitting, too, that Leona Aglukkaq, Minister of the Environment and Chair of the Arctic Council during Canada’s 2013-2015 chairmanship, stood aside Baird as he announced the country’s claims. Aglukkaq is of Inuit descent, and the Canadian government effectively once used the Inuit as “human flagpoles” in the Arctic [2]. Neither Aglukkaq nor the Inuit play such objectified roles anymore. Yet at the same time, indigenous presence and usage of the Canadian Arctic remain central to the country’s claims.

Just as Canada – the “True North Strong and Free” – perceives the North Pole to be rightfully Canadian, Russia views the North Pole as part of its own legitimate territory. The recent journey of the Olympic torch to the North Pole on board the Russian icebreaker 50 Let Pobedy clearly inscribed the top of the world into the Russian geo-body, particularly since the rest of the relay is taking place within Russia’s national boundaries. The North Pole (and equally outer space) were therefore not so much international stops along the relay as domestic stops. Denmark has a dog in the fight for the North Pole, too, but since the country would be claiming the Lomonosov Ridge through Greenland, which is becoming more independent every year, and since Denmark is already so small, the Danish territorial imperative to ensuring that the North Pole ends up with a red and white crossed flag on top is actually weaker.

Military in the North

The day after Canada made public its claims to its continental shelf in the Arctic, Putin announced in televised remarks at a meeting of the Defense Ministry Board, “I would like you to devote special attention to deploying infrastructure and military units in the Arctic.” He also discussed the government’s plans to rebuild runways on the Novosibirsk Archipelago (New Siberian Islands), abutting the Northern Sea Route between the Laptev and East Siberian Seas. Putin argued that these islands “have key meaning for the control of the situation in the entire Arctic region.” These plans were initially released in September 2013, and the meeting, too, had been scheduled long before John Baird’s announcement. Yet the gathering of the Defense Ministry Board provided an opportune moment for Putin, who has even more of a penchant for showboating in the Arctic than Stephen Harper, to respond publicly to Canada’s statements about the North Pole. He would not miss a chance to let anyone forget that Russia is continuing to beef up its presence up north – even as the countries work together in the Arctic Council.

Putin is correct in saying that the New Siberian Islands are important. They, along with other bottlenecks in the Arctic such as the Bering Strait and the GIUK (Greenland-Iceland-UK) Gap, are in fact more strategic for controlling the region than the remote North Pole in the middle of the ocean. We should therefore pay attention to state actions in and around these bottlenecks rather than to political posturing for more arbitrary points on the map.

Still, Russia and Canada will continue to wage a war of words over the North Pole, which holds an immense amount of symbolism for the never-ending project of constructing the national geo-body in both countries. The pursuit of the North Pole is therefore not about oil or minerals. It’s about territory and identity.

Sources:

  • [1] Blinnikov, M. (2011). A Geography of Russia and Its Neighbors. New York: The Guilford Press. p. 11.
  • [2] Tester, F. and Kulchyski, P. (1994). Tammarniit (Mistakes): Inuit Relocation in the Eastern Arctic, 1939-1963. Vancouver: UBC Press. p. 114.

Climate and language among top concerns for Finns: survey

Alaska and Yukon Headlines - Wed, 2014-01-08 12:50
Climate and language among top concerns for Finns: survey A healthy majority of survey respondents said it is important to reduce energy consumption to combat climate change, views on same-sex marriage showed a deep generational split and there were mixed opinions on whether to continue mandatory Swedish-language instruction. January 8, 2014

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