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PAXSON -- Have you ever made a run to the outhouse at minus 40? That’s when one really appreciates the Styrofoam seat. It was 40 below here last week. The low temperatures arrived on the heels of the best snow of the winter, reminding us that this is Alaska. Much of the state was wondering where the winter went until a few days ago. Then it began to snow. Twenty inches fell near the eastern Alaska Range. Glennallen received 14 inches. Paxson got a foot and a half. Even the normally dry Interior received fair snow. The temperatures have dropped, keeping most folks inside by the wood stove, but it looks to be a short-lived ice age...

During the fall, a large number of candidates campaigned on the theme of putting in place a sustainable budget. For example, on his campaign website Gov. Bill Walker said this, “I will make the hard choices necessary for a sounder fiscal future, including putting in place a sustainable budget.”

When asked during the campaign what they meant by "sustainable" budgets, most candidates, including Walker, referred to work on the subject by Dr. Scott Goldsmith of the University of Alaska Anchorage’s Institute of Social and Economic Research. According to Goldsmith, a sustainable budget is a spending level which, if implemented today, can be maintained indefinitely into the future, adjusted for inflation and population growth...

Brad Keithley

JUNEAU -- In a step that could reshape the Fairbanks energy picture, a state agency has signed a letter of intent to purchase the small natural gas utility system there for $52.5 million, fueled by natural gas supplies that would be trucked or shipped by rail to the Interior city.

The Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority announced the proposed deal Wednesday and said it would start due diligence on the plan to purchase the privately held company that owns Fairbanks Natural Gas.

Gov. Bill Walker briefed Fairbanks legislators in the state Capitol at 5 p.m. Fairbanks Rep. Steve Thompson, co-chairman of the House Finance Committee, said their reaction was uniformly positive...

Dermot Cole

SEATTLE -- A plan to allow Royal Dutch Shell PLC to use Seattle's waterfront as a homeport for its Arctic drilling fleet is drawing opposition from environmental groups that say it's not consistent with the region's environmental goals.

Several state and national groups, and local city leaders on Wednesday urged the Port of Seattle to halt lease negotiations that would allow Shell to use 50 acres of port property across from downtown Seattle.

Shell could house about two dozen vessels, including exploration drill rigs, ice breakers, tugs and barges at the site in the winter when they're not exploring for oil off Alaska's coast...

Phuong Le

Alaska elected officials have been trying to open the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for generations. Yet while control of Congress has swung back and forth between the parties, ANWR has remained closed.

Fortunately for Alaskans, ANWR is just one of several massive oil plays on or near the North Slope. The National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska, Chukchi Sea, and Beaufort Sea are also thought to have hundreds of millions of barrels of oil. Between 2009 and 2014, something remarkable happened: The federal government opened up exploration to these areas in response to pressure from former Sen. Mark Begich, and these areas could dwarf Prudhoe Bay in oil production...

Rocky Plotnick
Theater

Algernon on stage

Synesthesia Artist Collective will present “Flowers For Algernon,” a stage version of the science-fiction classic (which seems a little less like fiction now). Scientists come up with a way to increase intelligence in mice and men, but with tragic results. Teresa Pond directs a big cast and experienced production team in the drama at 7 p.m. Thursday-Saturday and 3 p.m. Sunday, Jan. 30-Feb. 15 at Alaska Pacific University’s Grant Hall. Last year’s SynArts presentation of “The House of Yes” was a stunner and we expect this show to match it. See the promo at vimeo.com/116521159 .

Music

Lithuanian legacies...

Mike Dunham

When I was a member of the Alaska Legislature, I chaired the House State Affairs Committee that worked with its Senate counterpart drafting the original investment strategy for the Alaska Permanent Fund.

We had hopes that the Permanent Fund would grow until its earning capacity exceeded oil revenues, at which time we hoped voters would pass an additional constitutional amendment committing all future oil revenues to the fund. An amendment authorizing the Legislature to draw out a fixed percent each year thereby creating an endowment to guarantee a stable economy with dividends included...

Ray Metcalfe

DENVER — Tourists who fly to Colorado, home of legal pot, can forget about buying souvenir boxer shorts, socks or sandals with a marijuana leaf on them when passing through the Denver airport.

The airport has banned pot-themed souvenirs, fearing the kitsch could taint the state’s image.

Marijuana possession and any pot-related advertising were already forbidden. Airport executives extended the ban this month after a retailer sought a free-standing kiosk to sell the boxer shorts and similar items that played off

Colorado’s place as the first state to allow recreational marijuana sales.

Airport officials feared the souvenirs would send the wrong message...

Kristen Wyatt

An Arctic-wide boycott of all North West Co. owned grocery stores is planned for Saturday. North West Co. is the Canadian corporation that owns 33 Alaska Commercial Co. stores in rural Alaska, including stores in Kotzebue, Barrow, Nome and Bethel. North West Co. also owns 122 “Northern” stores in Canada, which is the only grocery store option available for many Inuit families...

Timothy Aqukkasuk Argetsinger

The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services announced Wednesday that a second test administered on a 1-year-old girl suspected to have measles came back negative.

A first nasal swab, taken on Jan. 19, indicated that the Anchorage girl tested positive for measles. She and her family had recently traveled to Southern California, where a measles outbreak was ongoing. On Jan. 13, a day after they returned, the girl received a measles vaccination. Within the next few days, she developed a rash and fever...

Tegan Hanlon

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