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AK Beat: Sorry, Justin Bieber, Alaska's just not that into you

Alaska and Yukon Headlines - Mon, 2014-04-07 09:05
AK Beat: Sorry, Justin Bieber, Alaska's just not that into you A new survey has discovered that Alaska has largely been immune to "Bieber fever."April 7, 2014

Supreme Court Rejects Gay Wedding Photography Case

NPR News - Mon, 2014-04-07 08:52

An appeal by a company that refused to photograph a gay wedding was turned down. The justices also refused to review a ruling that corporations cannot contribute directly to political candidates.

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Death Toll At 33 In Washington State Mudslide

NPR News - Mon, 2014-04-07 08:03

Ten people are still listed as missing, officials say. According to the medical examiner's office, all of the victims recovered thus far have died of blunt force trauma.

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Rio Tinto Gives Pebble Mine Stake to Nonprofits

Alaska and Yukon Headlines - Mon, 2014-04-07 07:43

The mining conglomerate Rio Tinto announced this morning it is divesting its stake in Northern Dynasty, the owner of the proposed Pebble Mine. Rio said in December it might sell, but in a surprise move, the company says it is donating its 19 percent share to two charities, the Alaska Community Foundation and the Bristol Bay Native Corporation Education Foundation.

Rio CEO Jean-Sebastien Jacques said in a statement the donation would ensure Alaskans will have a say in Pebble’s development.

The foundations didn’t immediately announce what they will do with their minority shares in the project. The director of the Bristol Bay  education fund said in a statement the gift will help the foundation fulfill it’s mission. In the same written statement, BBNC chief executive  Jason Metrokin said the corporation’s opposition to the mine hasn’t changed.

The copper and gold mine has drawn widespread opposition, and an EPA study recently found it would pose “Irreversible harm” to the region’s rich salmon runs. Bristol Bay Native Corp has been one of the leading groups opposing the mine.

Rio’s stake was worth nearly $25 million late last year but Northern Dynasty’s share price plunged last month when the EPA announced its assessment of Pebble, which is the company’s only major asset, and the price fell again today.

New Airline Survey Gives Virgin America Top Rating

NPR News - Mon, 2014-04-07 07:21

It's the carrier's second consecutive year at the top of the annual Air Quality Rating report, with JetBlue coming in second. Overall consumer complaints dropped 15 percent last year from 2012.

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‘Trends’ report shows economic upswing in Sitka

Southeast Alaska News - Mon, 2014-04-07 07:00

SEDA director Garry White is most concerned about “leakage”: the money that leaves Sitka through internet sales or industrial activity that could occur locally. (KCAW photo/Robert Woolsey)

Sitka’s economy is continuing to tick upwards, based on statistical data.

The latest issue of Sitka Trends shows a rebound in retail sales, unemployment, and personal income, paired with a decrease in the price of housing rentals.

Listen to iFriendly audio.

Garry White is the director of the the Sitka Economic Development Association, which publishes the Trends newsletter.

Gross retail sales in Sitka jumped $10-million between 2011 and 2012. White is careful about trying to read too much into that statistic.

“I’d attribute it to a couple of different things: The Blue Lake project was just kicking off then, and you’ve got contractors in buying lots of local stuff. And we have other construction projects happening around town. And inflation’s a part of it too. We’ve got increased gas prices, and groceries have gone up some.”

The increase in retail sales has meant an increase in sales taxes collected by local government — $400,000 more went into city coffers in 2013 than in 2011.

Unemployment has also decreased — a full percentage point since 2011. It stands now at 5.1-percent. That’s over two points below the national average.

But the statistic alone doesn’t tell the full story: The Department of Labor reports Sitka’s workforce has also decreased over the past two years — by over thirty employees.

That, plus small bumps in prices, says White, means that things may not be all that great for Sitka’s wage earners, regardless of the overall numbers.

“You look at little jumps and you don’t realize what a percentage that is. For instance, the Sentinel went from $.50 to $.75 — that quarter doesn’t seem like a big deal, but it’s a 50-percent increase. If you used to buy something for $1 and now it’s a $1.25 at the grocery store, that’s a 25-percent increase. Over a volume, those percentages add up.

Happily, per-capita income is up in Sitka, by over $1,000 from last year. And a bright spot — at least for consumers — is the cost of housing. The market for rentals is down over 8-percent. An efficiency apartment in Sitka now goes for $790, down from $860 last year. And there are corresponding decreases for larger units.

Buying a home in Sitka, remains an expensive proposition, though the average list price for single-family has come down by almost $150,000 over the last two years.

Despite the closure of a couple of key retail locations, Sitkans appear to be spending more disposable income on entertainment venues. (KCAW photo/Robert Woolsey)

Again, White is reluctant to perform too much analysis on a limited set of data. But, like the rest of us, he can observe things happening in the community that aren’t quantified by government. He talks about a conversation he had recently with city finance director Jay Sweeney.

“What’s the barometer of how the economy is doing in Sitka? Is that the downtown retail stores are flourishing? The fish plants are jam-packed? Is it all the different construction jobs? It’s hard to manage. And one thing that he had brought up was that you can look at these events: Last weekend we had the Chamber of Commerce Annual Banquet — sold out. The Roller Derby bout — sold out. A number of different entertainment venues: the Wearable Art show a couple of weeks ago — sold out. So people are going out and spending money with disposable income. Yet we’ve got empty downtown retail shops.”

White says empty stores are a symptom of his biggest economic concern: “leakage.” He says shopping local — and developing local industry — are both critical to keeping more money in Sitka.

On Stand, A Weeping Pistorius Apologizes To Girlfriend's Family

NPR News - Mon, 2014-04-07 06:56

An emotional Oscar Pistorius broke down soon after taking the witness stand at his murder trial Monday, saying he has nightmares about the death of his girlfriend, Reeva Steenkamp.

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How One App Might Be A Step Toward Internet Everywhere

NPR News - Mon, 2014-04-07 06:41

FireChat connects users without a cellular network or the Internet. It uses technology, known as mesh networking, that could be scaled up to provide Internet access to disaster zones and remote areas.

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Following Anglo American's lead, Rio Tinto leaves Pebble project

Alaska and Yukon Headlines - Mon, 2014-04-07 06:24
Following Anglo American's lead, Rio Tinto leaves Pebble project The British-Australian mining company said it will give its 19.1 percent stake in Northern Dynasty Minerals to the Alaska Community Foundation and Bristol Bay Native Corporation Education Foundation.April 7, 2014

Signal 'Just Like' Emergency Beacon Detected In Search For Flight 370

NPR News - Mon, 2014-04-07 05:28

Calling it the "most promising lead" so far, the leader of the search for a missing Malaysia Airlines jetliner says ships have again detected a signal used by "black box" beacons.

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India Begins World's Largest Election

NPR News - Mon, 2014-04-07 00:09

The country's 814 million electorate will vote in stages over the next five weeks to choose representatives to its 543-seat lower house of parliament. Results are expected on May 16.

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Possible Signals From Lost Jet's Black Boxes Heard

NPR News - Mon, 2014-04-07 00:05

Sounds detected by a ship searching the southern Indian Ocean for the missing Malaysia Airlines jet are consistent with the pings from aircraft black boxes, an Australian official said Monday.

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Money for The Road? Alaskans weigh in

Southeast Alaska News - Mon, 2014-04-07 00:03

The final funding allocation for a proposed road out of Juneau that would effectively connect the capital city to the rest of the state should be known this week.

The revised capital budget bill, SB119, which initially included $35 million for the Juneau Access Project — $5 million in state funds, and $30 million in federal dollars — will likely be revealed early this week.

With less than two weeks left in the regular session and the updated budget not yet public, Alaskans chimed in on the governor’s proposals Thursday and Saturday.

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House Resources version of gas-line bill takes shape

Southeast Alaska News - Mon, 2014-04-07 00:03

JUNEAU — The House Resources Committee version of a bill to advance a major liquefied natural gas project was starting to take shape Saturday, as members dug into a thick stack of proposed changes.

The committee, with a reputation for finely parsing language, was making slow but steady progress in an amendment process that began Friday. The panel planned to resume work Sunday, after making a slight dent in the stack after hours of meeting Saturday.

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Soldotna tobacco shop goes viral in smoking ban debate

Southeast Alaska News - Mon, 2014-04-07 00:02

With a smoking ban bill in both the Alaska Senate and House of Representatives, Lucky Raven Tobacco owner Patricia Patterson took a different approach to express her disagreement to lawmakers.

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Ketchikan students get a taste of Japan

Southeast Alaska News - Mon, 2014-04-07 00:02

KETCHIKAN — The 27-year relationship between Ketchikan and Gero-Kanayama, Japan, continues to hold strong.

Students from Gero and Kanayama middle schools visited Ketchikan during 10 days in March to take part in the annual education exchange. Former Ketchikan resident Tony Hatano-Worrell served as chaperone for the eight students, making this his seventh year serving as chaperone in the program.

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Involuntary Shaking Can Be Caused By Essential Tremors

NPR News - Sun, 2014-04-06 23:33

It's easy to think that a shaking hand could be a sign of Parkinson's disease. But it's more likely essential tremor, an ailment that's not life-threatening but can become debilitating.

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We Are The Ionians

Alaska and Yukon Headlines - Sun, 2014-04-06 23:31

Ionia is a remote, and sometimes misunderstood intentional community located outside Kasilof, Alaska. The community was originally formed nearly 30 years ago by four families, each seeking a simpler, quieter life.

The group, now numbering around 30 full-time residents, continues to pursue their goals in the relative solitude of their 160 acre communal property.

Story & Video:
Slavik Boyechko & Travis Gilmour

Starship Amazing

Welcome To Voting Rights Boot Camp

NPR News - Sun, 2014-04-06 23:24

In the aftermath of a Supreme Court ruling last year, advocates worry that jurisdictions are quietly making changes to disenfranchise minorities. A training program is designed to counter that.

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Chemo Can Make Food Taste Like Metal. Here's Help

NPR News - Sun, 2014-04-06 23:22

Patients undergoing chemotherapy need to eat to stay strong. But the drugs can cause nausea and damage taste buds. New flavors and spices can help a lot, a chef says.

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