Alaska's King

This site is for the exploration and discussion of a Constitutional Monarchy, as well as important Alaska news and information. Feel free to post your comments.

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Tuesday, January 17, 2006

ACLU Sues to Stop Illegal Spying on Americans, Saying President Is Not Above the Law

Prominent Journalists, Nonprofit Groups, Terrorism Experts and Community Advocates Join First Lawsuit to Challenge New NSA Spying Program

NEW YORK – Saying that the Bush administration’s illegal spying on Americans must end, the American Civil Liberties Union today filed a first-of-its-kind lawsuit against the National Security Agency seeking to stop a secret electronic surveillance program that has been in place since shortly after September 11, 2001.

“President Bush may believe he can authorize spying on Americans without judicial or Congressional approval, but this program is illegal and we intend to put a stop to it,” said ACLU Executive Director Anthony D. Romero. “The current surveillance of Americans is a chilling assertion of presidential power that has not been seen since the days of Richard Nixon.”

The lawsuit was filed on behalf of a group of prominent journalists, scholars, attorneys, and national nonprofit organizations (including the ACLU) who frequently communicate by phone and e-mail with people in the Middle East. Because of the nature of their calls and e-mails, they believe their communications are being intercepted by the NSA under the spying program. The program is disrupting their ability to talk with sources, locate witnesses, conduct scholarship, and engage in advocacy. The program, which was first disclosed by The New York Times on December 16, has sparked national and international furor and has been condemned by lawmakers across the political spectrum.

In addition to the ACLU, the plaintiffs in today’s case are:

Authors and journalists James Bamford, Christopher Hitchens and Tara McKelvey

Afghanistan scholar Barnett Rubin of New York University’s Center on International Cooperation and democracy scholar Larry Diamond, a fellow at the Hoover Institution

Nonprofit advocacy groups NACDL, Greenpeace, and Council on American Islamic Relations, who joined the lawsuit on behalf of their staff and membership

"The prohibition against government eavesdropping on American citizens is well-established and crystal clear,” said ACLU Associate Legal Director Ann Beeson, who is lead counsel in ACLU v. NSA. “President Bush's claim that he is not bound by the law is simply astounding. Our democratic system depends on the rule of law, and not even the president can issue illegal orders that violate Constitutional principles.”

According to news reports, President Bush signed an order in 2002 allowing the NSA to monitor the telephone and e-mail communications of "hundreds, perhaps thousands, of people inside the United States" with persons abroad, without a court order as the law requires. Under the program, the NSA is also engaging in wholesale datamining by sifting through millions of calls and e-mails of ordinary Americans.

Journalist James Bamford, a plaintiff and one of the world’s leading experts on U.S. intelligence and the National Security Agency, said that “the spying program removes a necessary firewall that would prevent the kind of government abuse seen during the Watergate scandal.” Bamford was threatened with prosecution in the 1970s as he prepared to disclose unclassified details about illegal NSA spying on Americans in his book, The Puzzle Palace.

In the legal complaint filed, the ACLU said the spying program violates Americans’ rights to free speech and privacy under the First and Fourth Amendments of the Constitution.

The ACLU also charged that the program violates the Constitution because President Bush exceeded his authority under separation of powers principles. Congress has enacted two statutes, the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act and Title III of the federal criminal code, which are “the exclusive means by which electronic surveillance. . . and the interception of domestic wire, oral, and electronic communications may be conducted.”

The lawsuit, filed in U.S. District Court in the Eastern District of Michigan, seeks a court order declaring that the NSA spying is illegal and ordering its immediate and permanent halt. Attorneys in the case are Beeson, Jameel Jaffer, and Melissa Goodman of the national ACLU Foundation, and Michael Steinberg of the ACLU of Michigan.The lawsuit names as defendants the NSA and Lieutenant General Keith B. Alexander, the current the Director of the NSA.

For more information on the lawsuit, including the legal complaint, fact sheets on the case law and on the NSA spying program, and links to statements from the plaintiffs in the lawsuit, please go to www.aclu.org/nsaspying

Tuesday, January 03, 2006

Exploring the Limits of Presidential Power after 9/11

(This was submitted by a reader) Exploring the Limits of Presidential Power after 9/11: Lessons from Abraham Lincoln's Use of Executive Power during the Civil War

Washington, DC--The use of discretionary executive power by presidents grows in times of national crisis. Constitutions can limit that expansion, but only if the extraordinary use of executive power is exercised openly and temporarily. So concludes research by political scientist Benjamin A. Kleinerman (Virginia Military Institute) that draws lessons from the use of executive power by President Abraham Lincoln during the Civil War.

Kleinerman's article is entitled "Lincoln's Example: Executive Power and the Survival of Constitutionalism" and appears in the December issue of Perspectives on Politics, a journal of the American Political Science Association. It is available online at /imgtest/PerspectivesDec05Kleinerman.pdf.

As demonstrated by the current NSA eavesdropping controversy, after 9/11 the Bush administration has robustly employed executive power to meet the threat posed by terrorism. These and other actions have raised questions about the proper sphere for executive power in a constitutional system during a crisis. Kleinerman's research speaks directly to this current debate as Lincoln's actions are cited by both advocates and opponents of expanded executive power. The author draws three lessons from Lincoln:

First, "justifications...should pass the 'necessity test' within which the preservation of the constitutional order itself is at stake." Accordingly, "a concern for the public good is insufficient grounds for the executive to exercise discretionary power." This, Kleinerman notes, is because "only political necessity and not popular or congressional approval can legitimate any discretionary action taken by a president."

Second, "discretionary action should only take place in extraordinary circumstances and should be understood as extraordinary." Lincoln himself articulated clear boundaries on his use of discretionary power and repeatedly emphasized that powers assumed in times of crisis must be given up when the crisis subsides. This is important, the author observes, because as in the case of Nixon "Lincoln's precedent can empower presidents to take actions they might not otherwise take, serving as their... justification for taking any action deemed necessary for the public good." Lincoln also expended significant effort to foster public attachment to the Constitution to compel presidents to justify their behavior in terms of their constitutional responsibility. To do so today would require a restoration of "the notion of executive prerogative to the sphere of public discourse."

Third, "a line must separate the executive's personal feeling and his official duty. He should take only those actions that fulfill his official duty, the preservation of the Constitution, even...if the people want him to go further." Legislation such as the Patriot Act points toward the institutionalization of expanded executive power--but once such power is entrenched, it is no longer prerogative or discretionary. "Because [Lincoln's] overriding concern was the survival of a constitutional Union," states Kleinerman, "any departure from the bounds of the Constitution must also point back to its restoration."

The question of the proper role of executive power today touches on core questions of constitutional order and American politics, including checks and balances, popular will, executive prerogatives, civil liberties, and national security. The author affirms that "we must beware of simply asserting that current presidents must "be like Lincoln'" and concludes by asking "are we...a constitutional people attached enough to the rule of law so as to prevent the overextension of executive power? In other words, are we capable of insisting upon our Constitution even when presidents do not?"

Monday, December 26, 2005

Happy Holidays Everyone!

Hello, Everyone,

I have been away on a short vacation, but now I'm back. I'll be back to work after the first of the New Year.

There have been a few small changes to this site, chiefly is the addition of "Word Verification" which I hope will reduce the amount of comment spam.

Have a Safe and Happy Holidays!

Monday, October 24, 2005

Alaska Bureaucrats Display Intregrity, Principles, rather than sell out to Multinational Oil Companies

Submitted via email Tom Irwin, commissioner of the Alaska Department of Natural Resources, said in a memorandum to the state's attorney general that he and other officials may quit rather than take part in a deal that would give too much away to ConocoPhillips, BP Plc., and Exxon Mobil Corp.

Putting department members "in a work environment where they seriously question the legality of administrative actions they are asked to participate in is so troubling that it could result in the resignation of exceedingly valuable members of our gas pipeline team," Irwin said in his memo sent last week.

Contract terms, as currently developed, could be cheating Alaska out of revenue from state-owned mineral rights and may expose the state to unnecessary financial risks, Irwin said.

The terms could also undercut terms of current oil-field leases and force unwarranted changes in the state's oil-tax structure, he said.

Irwin was not available for comment. But his concerns echoed those of some of the Republican governor's critics.

"The thrust of his argument is that Alaska is going to give up too much to get a deal that the marketplace should deliver," said House Minority Leader Ethan Berkowitz, an Anchorage Democrat and candidate for governor.

Murkowski released Irwin's memo late on Friday just as he was announcing an agreement with ConocoPhillips on fiscal terms for the pipeline.

The natural gas project, with a cost estimated at $20 billion, would ship 4 billion cubic feet a day down a pipeline system expected to run more than 3,000 miles through Canada to the U.S. Midwest. It would provide a transportation system for the 35 trillion cubic feet of natural gas known to be held in North Slope oil fields.

Sunday, October 09, 2005

Three Alaska Volcanoes Erupt

Anchorage residents could see a cloud of steam from a volcano 75 miles (120 km) away -- one of three Alaska volcanoes showing signs of unrest.

The three volcanoes, including two located on remote Aleutian islands distant from any population centers, are setting off frequent tremors and minor bursts of ash or steam, seismologists said on Tuesday.

Cleveland Volcano, 900 miles (1,500 km) southwest of Anchorage, had a small eruption on Friday, said the Alaska Volcano Observatory, which monitors Alaska's more than 40 active volcanoes.

Its ash plume rose to a height of nearly 15,000 feet (4.6 km) above sea level, observatory scientists said.

A cloud of steam from the 11,070-foot (3,400-metre) Mount Spurr was visible from Anchorage over the weekend.

Cleveland Volcano has had periodic but minor ash emissions and some debris flow caused by melted snow, said Dave Schneider, a U.S. Geological Survey volcanologist and acting scientist-in-charge at the Alaska Volcano Observatory.

Ash emissions from Cleveland Volcano "are a lot easier to see now than they were in the summer because you have fresh snow," Schneider said.

Cleveland Volcano, which comprises the western half of uninhabited Chuginadak Island, last erupted in 2001. The closest community, 45 miles (70 km) to the east, is Nikolski, an Aleut village of 36 people.

The other volcano showing unrest is 5,925-foot (1,800-m) Tanaga Volcano.

A series of eruptions in 1992 showered Anchorage and the surrounding region with ash, forcing a brief closure of Anchorage International Airport.

Thursday, October 06, 2005

Discussion Topic: An Independent Alaska

From time to time, we will be discussing the pros, cons, and whatever else of an Independent Alaska. Please post your comments, and you will note you can post anon. Spam will be deleted, so don't bother.

Wednesday, October 05, 2005

WAGNER RENOUNCES CLAIMS TO CHILE’S BURIED TREASURE

Government Expected Contentious Debate Over Rights To Loot

(Oct. 5, 2005) A new twist in the story of buried treasure on Robinson Crusoe Island, which has kept Chile and the world in suspense for the last three weeks, surfaced Monday after Wagner Technologies renounced all claims to the treasure supposedly worth US$10 billion.

Wagner Technologies, the company that claims it discovered the treasure, met late Monday with government officials in Valparaíso in what was expected to be a contentious debate over the rights to the treasure.

But according to Fernando Uribe-Etxeverría, lawyer for Wagner Technologies, the company does not believe it is capable of excavating the treasure; all it wanted was the free press.

This abrupt turn of events surprised government officials, who were prepared to discuss excavation permits and decide how to divide the treasure with the company. Wagner instead agreed to turn over the coordinates to the government on the condition that if the treasure is excavated, a portion would be given to a number of Chilean charities, as well as the island’s residents.

Uribe-Etxeverría’s announcement also surprised journalists because of the commotion the company generated with threats to withhold the location of the treasure unless the government agreed to give them a cut of the loot (ST, Oct. 3).

Wagner still maintains that “Arturito,” a mobile robot designed by one of their engineers, detected the presence of 800 metric tons of gold and jewels on the west side of Robinson Crusoe Island in southern Chile. However, the company claims that the treasure is located in a very difficult-to-reach spot that requires divers to enter through sub-marine caves on the island’s coast.

Wagner representatives said the company is withdrawing from the controversy that surrounded their claims because of the difficulty involved in removing the treasure.

“There is no company in the country capable of excavating this treasure,” said Uribe-Etxeverría. “For this, you will need something bigger: the state.” He also added that for Wagner, the treasure did not represent a business opportunity. Instead, the company’s exploration was meant to publicize the extraordinary capabilities of their robot.

The robot in question, Arturito, operates like a robotic bloodhound. He can be programmed to search for a particular substance, such as water, gold, or even DNA. Using a variety of tools from geo-radar to a “gamma-camera,” capable of differentiating between atomic molecules, he searches a specified area for the presence the programmed substance. According to Manuel Salinas, designer of the robot, with the right sample, Arturito could help police find missing persons, wanted criminals, and water in the desert.

Debates have also surfaced in Chile over the history of the newly discovered treasure: what treasure is actually buried on the island and how it got there. Robinson Crusoe Island is located along the Spanish colonial navigation route that connected Spain’s Latin American colonies with Europe. At the time, Spain was mining vast amounts of silver and gold from Peru and Bolivia for transport to Europe. These ships were a favorite of pirates operating in the South Pacific and Atlantic Oceans.

Some treasure-seekers believe a popular legend which holds that the Spanish navigator Juan Esteban Ubilla y Echeverría, in charge of transporting the treasure back to Spain, landed on the island in 1715 and interred it instead. Sometime later, an English pirate named Cornelius Webb unearthed the treasure and reburied it elsewhere.

Others believe another legend claiming that the treasure was stolen from the Aztec Empire in Mexico by Spanish conquistadors. A third theory holds that it was the bounty taken off the Spanish galleon “Nuestra Señora del Monte Carmelo” in 1741 by the English lord George Anson.

The island first became famous for hosting the real-life character of Daniel Defoe’s “Robinson Crusoe,” Alexander Selkirk, a Scottish sailing master marooned on the island between 1704 and 1709. Selkirk was pirating the Spanish off the coast of South America in the early 1700s when his ship was badly damaged by a series of fights with the Spanish armada.

Fearing that the ship would soon sink, he asked the captain to set him ashore at the next port and ended up stranded off the coast of Chile on an uninhabited island in the Juan Fernandez archipelago. Selkirk was later picked up by English privateers and continued pirating Spanish fleets until 1712, when he finally made his triumphant return to Scotland as a very rich man.

SOURCE: PUBLIMETRO, LA NACIÓN
By Nathan Gill (editor@santiagotimes.cl)

Weyhrauch Supports State of Alaska's Intervention in Kensington Mine Lawsuit

(Juneau) - Rep. Bruce Weyhrauch (R – Juneau) announced today he strongly favors the State of Alaska's intervention in a lawsuit filed by environmental groups challenging permits issued to the Kensington Gold Mine in Juneau. Rep. Weyhrauch endorses the Kensington and feels it will be a substantial boost to the Northern Southeast region.

"I strongly support the Governor's and the State's intervention in this case on behalf of the project," said Rep. Weyhrauch. "The Southeast Conference supports this mine and the State's intervention. This last session, none of the Senators or Representatives from Southeast Alaska opposed House Concurrent Resolution 10, which supported development of the Kensington Mine. This project has demonstrated that it can proceed in an environmentally responsible manner and gained the support of the United Southeast Alaska Gillnetters and the Southeast Alaska Fishermen's Alliance. This is not a tradeoff between good jobs and or negative environmental impacts. This mine can be developed in an environmentally responsible manner and at the same time greatly contribute to our communities."

Rep. Weyhrauch noted the success of the Greens Creek Mine on nearby Admiralty Island. The Kensington Mine received all the necessary permits to begin construction in 2005 and more than 180 people are now working on the project. Southeast Alaska environmental groups filed the lawsuit in September. The Mine will employ 300 workers during construction and provide an estimated payroll of $16 million. Once underway it will provide 225 employees to our local economies including corporate income taxes in addition to generating local tax revenue.

For more information, contact Terry Harvey (907) 465-3744

Thursday, September 29, 2005

Spiders migrating to Alaska

Anchorage, Alaska - They make your skin crawl when you see them and Anchorage is seeing a lot more of them these days. With an increase in spiders come more reports of spider bites. Just within the last week Providence Alaska Medical Center says more and more people are coming in to be treated after being bitten. Exterminators say business is booming.

If you're in the pest control business you're doing pretty well for yourself. Exterminators are dealing with an ever-increasing bug problem.

Russell Perry is on a hunt. Searching in the darkest, wettest corners for a culprit so tiny you almost don't see it. For $300 Perry will get rid of these guys. He's been exterminating a lot of spiders lately.

“It's been extremely heavy this year compared to previous years,” said Ken Perry of Paratex Pied Piper Pest Control.

Almost two jobs a day. Ken Perry, Russell’s boss, says spiders have become big business this year. He suspects it's because of milder winters.

“We had a gorgeous beginning of summer, very dry and warm at the beginning of the summer and the insect population has exploded and the spiders follow that population explosion,” said Ken Perry.

An explosion that could affect your wallet and your health. Just ask Connie Suchan.

“I went to the doctors’ July 24 for what I thought was just a scrape that for some reason wouldn't heal,” said Suchan.

It didn't turn out to be a scrape. Suchan says it was a spider bite from a Brown Recluse, an insect not native to Alaska.

It’s one of the most dangerous spider bites you can get, but according to Ken Perry, it's not the only one. He's also seen Hobo and Black Widow spiders in Alaska.

Providence says if it is a spider bite it will become red and swollen. Some of these bites don’t go away for several months. It might be several days before you realize that you’ve been bitten. You may get sores or start itching.

Sunday, September 25, 2005

For Sale: 15 National parks

U.S. Rep. Richard Pombo, chairman of the House Resources committee, has proposed to raise money by selling off 15 national parks, including seven in Alaska, according to a draft bill circulating Friday.

Park supporters declared themselves outraged.

"Can you believe this Pombo guy?" said Jim Stratton, Alaska director for the National Parks Conservation Association.

But Pombo's spokesman, Brian Kennedy, said the 285-page draft is not to be taken seriously. Its purpose, Kennedy said, was to come up with proposals that would raise as much money for the federal government as oil drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, which Pombo ardently supports.

Drilling opponents should see that if Congress doesn't open ANWR "it would be outrageous and absurd alternatives, like selling national park units," Kennedy said. "So you see the joke."

The National Parks Conservation Association obtained a leaked copy and rang the media alarm. By Friday afternoon, the story was all over the place.

The 19 million Alaska acres on Pombo's list:

• Aniakchak National Monument and Preserve

• Bering Land Bridge National Preserve

• Cape Krusenstern National Monument

• Kobuk Valley National Park

• Lake Clark National Park and Preserve

• Noatak National Preserve

• Yukon-Charley Rivers National Preserve

Pombo, R-Calif., included the park sell-off in a draft of the budget reconciliation bill, a tool Congress sometimes uses to reach budget goals. As chairman of the resources committee, he was charged with proposing changes to public land laws to raise or save $2.4 billion. As expected, his draft also includes a plan to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to oil drilling, which is projected to meet Pombo's revenue requirement on its own.

Kristin Pugh, a spokeswoman for Sen. Lisa Murkowski, said she likes the ANWR part. As for the Pombo's park proposal, "I can definitely tell you that Sen. Murkowski won't be going along with that," Pugh said.

Pete Schaeffer, chairman of the Cape Krusenstern subsistence resources commission in Kotzebue, doesn't think it is a joke. He sees the draft as a threat to the rural Alaskans who depend on hunting in those parks for their food.

The government needs money, and the deficit is ballooning, he said. The rest of the country might think selling Alaska parks is a good idea, he said.

"With our 'bridges to nowhere,' there's probably little sympathy for us," Schaeffer said, referring to the $450 million Alaska got this summer for two mega-spans.

Pombo is a rancher who represents the San Joaquin Valley and believes the government intrudes too much on private property owners. His congressional Web site features photos of him in a cowboy hat as well as recipes for his "BBQ marinade" and guacamole.

Saturday, September 24, 2005

If a mountain fell in the Alaska wilderness . . .



Jackie Caplan-Auerbach was checking earthquake activity at Alaska volcanoes from her Anchorage office on September 14th, a routine she performs every day at the Alaska Volcano Observatory, when she noticed a strange seismic signal on Mount Spurr.


jpg Alaska Mt. Steller


A view of an enormous
rock delta from the avalanche of Mt. Steller that registered
on seismometers all over Alaska. The amount of rock and ice that
fell was equal to a pile one mile long, one-third mile wide,
and 50 yards high.

Ruedi Homberger photo, courtesy of Ultima Thule Lodge.

  



A large shock to the earth-not as abrupt as an earthquake-had happened somewhere in Alaska. When Caplan-Auerbach saw the odd signal was even stronger on Mount Wrangell, she suspected there was a great avalanche somewhere in the restless corner of Alaska where the panhandle of Southeast meets the rest of the state.

There was. A good chunk of Mount Steller, a razorback 10,000-foot peak about 80 miles east of Cordova, had collapsed onto Bering Glacier. Rocks and ice from the mountain tumbled 8,000 vertical feet, spilling out in a chunky black delta that reached six miles from the mountain. Christian Huggel, a Swiss avalanche specialist who happened to be visiting the Alaska Volcano Observatory in Anchorage, estimated that the amount of rock and ice that shook loose was equal to a pile one mile long, one-third mile wide, and 50 yards high.

Caplan-Auerbach studies avalanches on Iliamna Volcano, but the largest recorded avalanches there are about one-fifth of the size of the recent event at Mt. Steller.

"We've seen big ones, but we've never seen them generate seismic signals like this," she said. "It's a monster."

Scientists at the Alaska Tsunami Warning Center in Palmer also noticed the avalanche when it happened. They called the Alaska Earthquake Information Center at the University of Alaska Fairbanks to confirm.

"It showed on all our instruments on mainland Alaska," Natalia Ruppert of the earthquake information center said, adding that the amplitude of the event was about equal to a magnitude 3.8 earthquake, and more than 200 seismometers all over the state picked up its vibrations.

Scientists who monitor infrasound waves-signals with frequencies too low for humans to hear, generated by blasts from underground nuclear bombs and winter storms in the Gulf of Alaska, among other sources-also detected the avalanche from Fairbanks, 330 miles away from Mount Steller.

"It was a nice big signal here," said Daniel Osborne of UAF's Geophysical Institute.

Sometimes large earthquakes trigger massive avalanches, as happened in 2002 when the Denali Fault earthquake shook acres of rocks over Black Rapids and other glaciers, but Mount Steller broke for reasons unknown.

"It's one of those big puzzles," Caplan-Auerbach said. "A lot of these (steep mountains) probably sit right on the verge of failure."

In her studies of Iliamna Volcano, Caplan-Auerbach has found that avalanches like the one on Mount Steller sometimes rumble one-half hour to two hours before they collapse, possibly due to the fracturing of ice at the base of the avalanche material. She just submitted a paper on the curious tendency of some avalanches to move before they collapse.

"I don't think anyone's ever seen avalanches that give warnings," she said.

One of the unique features about the giant avalanche of September 14, 2005 on Mount Steller was that perhaps no one saw it or felt it. The nearest settlements, tens of miles away, were too far for people there to feel the rumbling.

"It shows how wonderful Alaska is," Caplan-Auerbach said. "Places like Iliamna could break in half and nobody would be killed."

This column is provided
as a public service by the Geophysical
Institute,

University of Alaska Fairbanks
, in cooperation with the UAF
research community.

Ned Rozell [nrozell@gi.alaska.edu]
is a science writer at the institute.

Friday, September 23, 2005

Major Storm batters Western Alaska coast

A major storm sweeping through the Bering Sea is causing widespread flooding in coastal villages throughout western Alaska. Some of the hardest-hit areas are communities in Norton Sound, including Nome. But the affected areas stretch for hundreds of miles.



High winds from the south, coupled with a large storm surged, brought the crashing surf into Nome, spreading water onto Front Street.

Source: http://www.ktuu.com/cms/templates/master.asp?articleid=47&zoneid=1

U.S. Senate bill has millions for Alaska

Finally, some small relief for Rural Alaska Villages:

"The U.S. Senate approved an agriculture spending bill Thursday maintaining several multimillion dollar programs in Alaska that Sen. Ted Stevens developed during his chairmanship of the Senate Appropriations Committee.

The Senate bill would put $26 million into grants and loans for rural water and sewer systems during the coming federal fiscal year. That's the same amount as was provided in the current year's spending bill.

Another $28 million would go to energy projects in areas with extremely high energy costs, mostly in Alaska. Again, the figure is the same as this year's.

The third program, to build community facilities, would route $20 million to areas of extreme unemployment, again mostly in Alaska. The total would be down $1 million from the current year.

The Senate bill must still be merged with a House version and signed by the president, but Stevens has in past years succeeded in protecting such earmarks during that process.

Other Alaska earmarks in the Senate's spending plan for the Agriculture Department include:

* $3.47 million for education grants to institutions that serve Alaska and Hawaii Natives.

* $1 million for berry research at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

* No change in funding to UAF for virus-free potato research, and nuisance insect management and seafood waste studies.

* $200,000 to teach gardening techniques in villages.

* $100,000 to the state to "address nuisance animals."

* Language encouraging the purchase of domestic salmon for federal food programs.

* Similar support for grants to Alaska groups to market wild salmon.

* Support for grants to the Alaska Grown program.

* Language encouraging grants to tribes to buy land within Alaska Indian communities.

* $300,000 for commercialization of Alaska's native plants.

* $500,000 to the Natural Resource Conservation Service for an inventory of resources on non-federal land.

* $1.5 million for a "cooperative agreement" involving the Alaska Soil and Water Conservation District.

* $1.3 to finish the Alaska Plant Materials Center.

* $300,000 to collect and study northern plants.

* Language directing that money for food safety be used to contract with the state of Alaska to conduct seafood inspection.

* $500,000 to Alaska Village Initiatives for wildlife management on private lands.

The Senate on Thursday also passed a military construction spending bill for the coming year, but Alaska details were not immediately available.

Coming To The Arctic Near You: The Longer, Hotter Summer

difference in snow and vegitationFAIRBANKS,
AK--In a paper that shows dramatic summer warming in arctic Alaska,
scientists synthesized a decade of field data from Alaska showing
summer warming is occurring primarily on land, where a longer snow-free
season has contributed more strongly to atmospheric heating than have
changes in vegetation.

Arctic climate change is usually viewed as caused by the
retreat of sea ice, which reduces high-latitude albedo- a measure of
the amount of sunlight reflected off a surface - a change most
pronounced in winter.

"Summer warming is more pronounced over land than over sea ice,
and atmosphere and sea-ice observations can’t explain this," said Terry
Chapin, professor of ecology at the University of Alaska Fairbanks’
Institute of Arctic Biology and lead author of the paper which appears
in the September 22, 2005 advance online publication Science Express,

Using surface temperature records, satellite-based estimates of
cloud cover and energy exchange, ground-based measurements of albedo
and field observations of changes in snow cover and vegetation, Chapin
and co-authors argue that recent changes in the length of the snow-free
season have triggered a set of interlinked feedbacks that will amplify
future rates of summer warming.

"It’s the changes in season length rather than increases in
vegetation that explains this observation," Chapin said. Summer warming
correlates with a lengthening of the snow-free season that has
increased atmospheric heating locally by an amount similar in magnitude
to the regional heating expected over multiple decades from a doubling
of atmospheric carbon dioxide, say the authors.

"Snowmelt is 2.5 days earlier for each decade we studied, Chapin said.
eddy covariance towerTwo
mechanisms explain the pronounced warming over land during the summer.
First, the early snow melt increases the length of time the land
surface can absorb heat energy. Second, the increase in snow-free
ground permits increases in vegetation such shrubs and advances of
treelines.

"Continuation of current trends in shrub and tree expansion
could further amplify this atmospheric heating 2-7 times," Chapin said.

"This mechanism should be incorporated into climate models,"
Chapin said. Improved understanding of the controls over rates of shrub
expansion would reduce the likelihood of surprises in the magnitude of
high-latitude amplification of summer warming.

Researchers were funded by the National Science Foundation,
Office of Polar Programs, ARCtic System Science program--the goal ARCSS
is to answer the question: What do changes in the arctic system imply
for the future?

###



High-resolution photographs are available for download at www.uaf.edu/news/download/releasephotos/05/chapin/.

Contact:
F. Stuart (Terry) Chapin III, Professor of Ecology, Institute of Arctic Biology, University of Alaska Fairbanks. 907-474-7922, terry.chapin@uaf.edu.


Dr. Matthew Sturm, Research Physical Scientist, U.S. Army, Cold
Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory Alaska. 907-353-5183, Matthew.Sturm@erdc.usace.army.mil.

Marie Gilbert, Publications and Information Coordinator,
Institute of Arctic Biology, University of Alaska Fairbanks.
907-474-7412, marie.gilbert@uaf.edu.

Friday, September 09, 2005

25 Mind-Numbingly Stupid Quotes About Hurricane Katrina And Its Aftermath

If there was not enough evidence to support a Constitutional Monarchy (for all the right reasons) before, or if you need more evidence of the need for Alaska to have independence-then read the above link.

Arctic Shrubs Contribute to Global Warming

Warming in the Arctic is stimulating the growth of vegetation and could affect the delicate energy balance there, causing an additional climate warming of several degrees over the next few decades. A new study indicates that as the number of dark-colored shrubs in the otherwise stark Arctic tundra rises, the amount of solar energy absorbed could increase winter heating by up to 70 percent. The research will be published 7 September in the first issue of the Journal of Geophysical Research-Biogeosciences, published by the American Geophysical Union.

The study in western Alaska during the winters in 2000-2002 shows how the increasing abundance of high-latitude vegetation, particularly shrubs, interacts with the snow and affects Earth's albedo, or the reflection of the Sun's rays from the surface. The paper, which also analyzes the ramifications of continued plant growth in the tundra regions, written by researchers at the U.S. Army Cold Regions Research and Engineering Laboratory and at Colorado State University. It presents the first evidence that shrub growth could alter the winter energy balance of the Arctic and subarctic tundra in a substantial way.

The authors measured five adjacent sites in subarctic Alaska. They included areas covered by continuous forest canopy, others dotted with shrubs, and some of barren tundra. They found that mid-winter albedo was greatly reduced where shrubs were exposed and that melting began several weeks earlier in the spring at these locations, as compared to snow-covered terrain. The researchers note, however, that the shrubs' branches produced shade that slowed the rate of melting, so that the snowmelt finished at approximately the same time for all the sites they examined.

Matthew Sturm, lead author of the study, notes that warming in the region seems to have stimulated shrub growth, which further warms the area and creates a feedback effect that can promote higher temperatures and even more growth. This feedback could, in turn, accelerate increases in the shrubs' range and size over the four million square kilometer [1.5 million square mile] tundra and effect significant changes over the region.

"Basically, if tundra is converted to shrubland, more solar energy will be absorbed in the winter than before," Sturm says. And while previous research has shown that warmer temperatures during the Arctic summer enhance shrub growth, "our study is important because it suggests that the winter processes could also contribute to and amplify the rate of the [growth]."

Sturm cites satellite and photographic evidence showing increasing plant growth across the Alaskan, Canadian, and Euro-Asian Arctic and notes that continued warming will likely produce thicker stands of brush that protrude above the snow. The new, brushy landscape would replace the smooth, white environment that currently dominates the Arctic during its 8-10 month winter.

In addition, the increasing shrub cover would impact more than just the energy balance in the Arctic. With nearly 40 percent of the world's soil carbon is stored in Arctic soils, any change in vegetation and energy is likely to trigger a response in the Arctic carbon budget. Scientists are still trying to understand the nature of this response, but Sturm and his coauthors conclude that the feedback effects they describe would undoubtedly accelerate its rate. They conclude that combined effects of increasing shrubs on both energy and carbon could change the Arctic in a way that affects the rest of the world.

Thursday, September 08, 2005

Alaskan fish processors use fish oil for fuel

OIL cooked out of fish heads, entrails and skeletons is generating heat and electricity for fish processors on the Aleutian Island of Unalaska, napanews.com has reported.

Alaska companies are among the first in the world to use fish oil on a large scale as a cheaper, and more environmentally friendly substitute for diesel fuel.

At Unisea Inc., in Dutch Harbor, thousands of gallons of pollock fish oil are mixed each day with diesel and used to power the seaside plant's electrical generators and boilers. Replacing diesel with fish oil cuts costs, as well as harmful emissions such as sulfur and particulates, according to Unisea officials. In addition, the seafood company also saves on the expensive shipping rates it would otherwise have to pay to send the fish waste to buyers outside Alaska, such as aquaculture companies who use the oil as fish feed. The research and development manager for Unisea said that the orangish hue of pollock oil comes from the tiny krill the fish feast on in the Bering Sea. Blending the oil with diesel yields a pale yellowish liquid that leaves no fishy odours. The Unisea company and several fish processors in Alaska have used fish oil to run their boilers for years, but in 2001 Unisea, with the help of state funding, became the first to power its electrical generators with the renewable fuel.

Sunday, September 04, 2005

If you've lost a snake in Alaska, it might be dead

There are not supposed to be snakes in Alaska, but evidence to the contrary may have been found in Haines.

An 8-inch serpent was found crushed on the side of a road, leaving residents wondering if it was wild or an escaped pet.

The snake was found on Small Tracts Road and is not an ideal specimen. Crushed by a car and found on the shoulder of the road, it's dry, discolored and missing most of its skull.

"It could be the first vouchered specimen of a snake in Alaska," he told the Chilkat Valley News. Then again, it could be an escaped pet.

The carcass was in marginal shape.

"Real mashed," Shields said. "It had been there quite some time."

He's still gathering information, however, and urged residents to contact him at the Takshanuk Watershed Council.

"I'd be very curious to hear from anyone who lost a snake," he said.

Submitted by a reader.

Friday, September 02, 2005

Survival Expert Q & A

Tomorrow we will be starting a thread featuring a survival expert. This man is a U.S. Army Instructor, and has put to the test the tips he will be providing in jungle, Arctic, desert, mountain, and other environments, both urban and wilderness. Post your questions here, and he will answer them, as well as provide tips.

Thank you SGM.

‘Computer Geeks' Get Bomb Training

Submitted by a soldier: YONGSAN GARRISON, South Korea — The 201st Signal Company's self-described “computer geeks” ventured outdoors Friday for familiarization training on improvised explosive devices.

Company commander Capt. Allan Goode said the global war on terror and “everything going on in Iraq” led Army leaders to direct that additional combat-skills training be given. His company belongs to the 41st Signal Battalion, 1st Signal Brigade.

That his soldiers, “computer geeks, if you will,” spend most of their time in Korea on desk jobs means the training is even more important, Goode said.

He praised Staff Sgt. James Gilbert, a former infantryman, for researching and conducting the class as preparation for a convoy live-fire exercise in November.

The 26-year-old Gilbert served as a Bradley Fighting Vehicle gunner in Kosovo in 2000 where, he said, he experienced the threat of homemade bombs firsthand. Gilbert said that experience, plus a lot of research, helped him prepare. He said Friday's class was the first phase of a three-part crawl, walk and run learning process.

Gilbert, who now works with the company as a senior information systems analyst, said passing the knowledge on to his coworkers is important.

The homemade bombs are killing and injuring soldiers “every single day” in Iraq, he said.

His noncommissioned officer in charge, Sgt. 1st Class Kanelos, agreed on how important the training was to the troops.

He said Korea is the first duty station for many of the soldiers in the class, but when they rotate they'll find themselves in “units of action,” meaning deployments to the war on terror.

“This is good,” he said before the class.

The soldiers sat at picnic tables as Gilbert showed the mock-ups of homemade bombs.

The goal, he told the class, was to teach them to identify and react to “anything that goes boom.”

These are “all things they've seen in Iraq,” he said, pointing to the table. He told the soldiers that 87 percent of the injuries and deaths in Iraq are attributed to the bombs.

Soldiers were schooled in the best methods to search for the explosives and how they should react — including detailed instructions on cordons, entry into suspect areas and filing reports — in a real-world situation.

“Stay alert, stay alive,” Gilbert said.

Wednesday, August 17, 2005

U.S. Sausage Company to Make Canned Walrus Meat in Russia

A sausage-maker from Anchorage, Alaska, will travel to Russia this week to help Native walrus hunters set up a cannery to preserve meat, Associated Press reported on Monday, Aug 15. Doug Drum, the owner of Indian Valley Meats, hopes to install a canning facility in Lorino, a coastal village in Chukotka, a northern region of the Russian Far East.

Lorino, which lies across the Bering Sea from Nome, Alaska, has an abundance of walrus but lacks refrigeration. Meat is stored in an ice cave dug into a hillside under the permafrost. Much of it ends up rotting, Drum said. The ice cave works during colder months but cannot keep the meat sufficiently frozen. “It kind of gets rancid,” he said.

The canning effort is sponsored in part by the Alaska-Chukotka Development Program at the University of Alaska Anchorage with a grant from U.S. Agency for International Development.

The canning line will enable the Native walrus hunters to process, preserve and distribute their catch around the region, said Andrew Crow, project director with the Alaska-Chukotka program at UAA’s Institute of Social and Economic Research.

The product will have a shelf life of about 10 years and is more practical than sausage, Drum said. Drum moved from Michigan to Alaska in the 1960s and has experience with Russian business ventures.

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Thursday, August 11, 2005

Alaska Sheep Hunters Asked to Leave Goats at Home

The Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation and the Department of Fish and Game are asking several hunting guides who are planning on using pack goats for Dall sheep hunts this year to reconsider.

Using goats or llamas as pack animals in Dall sheep habitat could expose Dall sheep to serious or fatal diseases or parasites.

"Most populations of Dall sheep, mountain goat, and musk ox in Alaska have never been exposed to the infectious diseases and parasites of domestic animals," said Wildlife Veterinarian Dr. Kimberlee Beckmen. "They will likely have little resistance if exposed to domestic animal diseases."

"Domestic animals are not intended to interact with wildlife species. They are fenced and intensively managed for food and fiber production," said State Veterinarian Dr. Bob Gerlach. "Domestic animals, especially sheep and goats, are adapted to several diseases and usually appear healthy even when they are carrying infections that can be deadly to wildlife."

Diseases can be passed though feces, urine, saliva, respiratory aerosol or exudates like crusts from skin or pus. These tissues, fluids or excrement can contaminate the environment and still remain infective for years.

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Wednesday, August 10, 2005

Much Wailing and Gnashing of Teeth over Highway Bill

Although Alaska gets less than 1% of the money in the $286 billion highway spending bill, (a mere $940 million), Alaska has been singled out for derision.

Never mind that Alaskans have been paying more than their fair share to the Federal Government for more than 50 years. While few can expect any reasonable accuracy in the mainstream media, it is interesting to note that $2.3 million is slated for landscaping of a California freeway named after former President Ronald Reagan, an opponent of big government spending, just one of 6,371 projects included in the bill.

Mule deer, mountain lion sightings reported in Alaska

Interior residents are reporting varieties of wildlife that are new to the region, including mule deer, mountain lions and whitetail deer.

Here in South central, we have been hearing the call of Bobwhite Quail.

And biologists have heard about several mountain lion sightings in Tok and Delta Junction, though none have been confirmed.

According to the reports, mountain lions have been spotted on top of Donnelly Dome, on Clearwater Road, and in the Delta agriculture project, and one was glimpsed near Dot Lake between Delta and Tok.

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Troopers find body as they look for missing miner near creek

Alaska State Troopers found a severely decomposed human body Saturday in a remote area about 10 miles north of Talkeetna.

Troopers were searching from a helicopter for a missing miner in the area near Clear Creek, a tributary of the Talkeetna River, when they found the body shortly after 6 p.m.

The area is "rugged wilderness" full of mining claims, Sgt. James Helgoe said. He did not know whether the body was that of the missing miner.

The identity of the person is unknown, as is the period of time the person had been dead, according to troopers. The body will be examined by the state medical examiner.

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