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AK Beat: Out North fires all its employees

Courtesy of the Anchorage Folk Festival's Facebook page.

Out North, out of cash? Something's amiss at Alaska's only interdisciplinary art center, Out North Contemporary Art House. According to the Anchorage Press, all of the employees of the East Anchorage landmark were fired Monday morning, although there's hope that volunteers can assist in producing the events that already are planned for this season. Despite a tumultuous history, Out North has consistently delivered thought-provoking and at times celebrated performances, including a crowd-pleasing adaptation of Hedwig and the Angry Inch back in 2011 and this year's Aggravated Organizms, an exhibit that explores the relationship between Alaskans, Alaska Natives and the 10 most prevalent diseases in the state. 

Oil tax cut repeal initiative certified for 2014 ballot: Backers of an effort to repeal the state’s new oil-and-gas tax regime have gathered enough signatures to get their measure put on the August 2014 primary election ballot. The Alaska Division of Elections says the group got at least 1,500 more than the 31,000 signatures it needed, after spending weeks going through them to certify they were from registered Alaska voters.  The ballot initiative asks voters to repeal SB21, which significantly lowered the tax burden on oil companies operating in Alaska. Critics claim it is a multi-billion dollar giveaway.

Biodiesel fuel coming to Alaska Airlines: Alaska Airlines and Hawai’i BioEnergy have announced an agreement for the airline to purchase biofuel for its aircraft fleet. The fuel is “anticipated to be woody biomass-based,” says Biodiesiel Magazine. Alaska Airlines will begin purchasing the fuel as soon as 2018.

Alaska Airlines cancels Hawaii flights in face of tropical storm: Despite weakening over the weekend, a tropical storm expected to pack a punch is due to hit Hawaii by early Tuesday – forcing Alaska Airlines to cancel all flights to Hawaii on Monday. The airlines said people with travel plans to Hawaii can reschedule booking for July 29 or 30 without paying a fee.  Forecasters say Tropical Storm Flossie could bring 60 mph winds and waves as high as 18 feet -- causing the most damage on the islands of Kona and Maui. The state of Hawaii has declared an emergency, preparing for possible tornadoes, mudslides, and waterspouts.

New king of the "Castle:" Looks like Fairbanks has a new buyer for the long-empty Castle restaurant, a 1970s-inspired, shingled, castle-like building located next to the busy Fred Meyer West in Alaska's second largest city. The current owner won't say who bought the restaurant -- or what plans the new owners have for the building. The restaurant, a popular spot known as The Switzerland in the 1970s and '80s, went through a handful of owners before becoming The Castle in 1993. It closed 8 years ago.

Conservatives make case for Medicaid expansion: Alaska was the only state not to accept funding for a healthcare exchange and as a result will rely on a federal template when the online healthcare shop-and-compare exchanges go live Oct. 1. Alaskan taxpayer dollars will be used to fund the Medicaid expansion for other U.S. states since Gov. Sean Parnell has for the time being decided to reject funds that would expand Medicaid to some 32,000 uninsured Alaskans. The Rand Corp., a conservative nonpartisan think tank that's studied the Affordable Care Act (a.k.a. Obamacare), has published a peer-reviewed study that finds Alaska and other recalcitrants will lose a cumulative $8.4 billion in federal Medicaid funding -- and will pay an estimated $1 billion more in uninsured healthcare-related costs by 2016 -- if they stay the course. It's been about a year since Parnell's Medicaid equivocation and here's what's at stake: instead of the government paying 90 cents on the dollar for their healthcare needs, those 32,000 uninsured Alaskans will have to pay 100 percent of the cost for insurance coverage, premiums and co-pays or else expect to pay roughly $800 per year in fines. That would be levied by the IRS or taken from their eligible tax refund.

Alaskan abroad: Anchorage resident Licia Davidson, 47, was arrested in Palm Beach, Fla., after refusing to leave the home of one Russell Balasco. Balasco reportedly met Davidson online, but when “things didn’t work out,” Davidson refused to leave Balasco’s home until he paid for her trip back to Alaska. She was arrested for trespassing and resisting an officer.

Alaska’s failing grade for financial literacy: Champlain College’s Center for Financial Literacy has ranked Alaska and 10 other states as “failing," in their attempts to teach students financial literacy. The center, which promotes basic financial skills for students of all ages, handed out the failing grade to states that have “done very little to ensure that personal finance topics are taught in their schools."