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March 1, 2015

Bird of the Week – Black-billed Magpie

Black-billed Magpie, southwest of Delta Junction

WC is staying with corvids – birds of the crow family – a little longer, this time we’ll have a look at the Black-billed Magpie. A bird of myth and legend, like the Common Raven, the species is expanding its range, breeding in the Fairbanks area in recent years. The species readily habituates to people, in fact, when Lewis and Clark first encountered magpies in 1804 in South Dakota, these birds were bold, entering tents to steal meat and taking food from the hand. Magpies sometimes seem to WC to model themselves, showing off their flashy feathers for a photographer. How…

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The Weekend Off – News You Missed

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Alaska ADN – Alaska cannabis prohibition ends Tuesday; if you’re celebrating, do so responsibly Ballot Measure 2 will become effective on Tuesday, and many Alaskans are wondering what will change on that date. The simple answer is: Everything, and not much at all. Fairbanks News Miner – Alaska State Troopers working out details for marijuana enforcement Marijuana becomes legal in two days, but where it will be allowed to be used remains a bit hazy. Public consumption of pot remains prohibited, but local leaders continue to debate the definition of public place. The Atlantic – Cold, Dark, and Happy: Alaska Is the New Leader…

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The Economic Freedom to be Poor

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New kids at my high school were rare. Most of us had been together since what felt like the beginning of time — and that wasn’t always a good thing. Remember the time Eric barfed in the lunch room? Yeah. Remember when the elastic in Kim’s sweatpants surrendered during fourth-grade dodgeball? She froze like a statue. New kids were suspect curiosities. It took a while to figure out if they were going to be one of “us.” I remember one in particular. He complained constantly about how lame Homer was. He was in town to live with his relatives for…

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Bird of the Week – Common Raven

Common Raven, Fairbanks, Alaska

You knew it would happen eventually. The Common Raven, Corvus corax, is found essentially everywhere in Alaska, all year around. A lot of folks, WC included, think that the Common Raven should be the state bird. Smart, tough, adaptable and clever. The subject of myth and legend. This is the quintessential Alaska bird. Camera geek stuff: f5.7, 1/250, ISO 125 For more bird photos, please visit Frozen Feather Images.  

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The Weekend Off – News You Missed

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Alaska NewsMiner.com – Legendary Alaska sprint musher George Attla dies George Attla Jr., unmatched sprint racing champion and one of Alaska’s most decorated mushers, died Sunday at the Alaska Native Medical Center in Anchorage at the age of 81. Washington Post – In EPA’s expected ‘veto’ of Pebble Mine in Alaska, foes see a vein of overreach Just north of Iliamna Lake in southwestern Alaska is an empty expanse of marsh and shrub that conceals one of the world’s great buried fortunes: A mile-thick layer of virgin ore said to contain at least 6.7 million pounds — or $120 billion worth —…

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Bird of the Week – Gray Jay

Gray Jay, Chena Hot Springs Road, Alaska

This is likely the North American bird with the most nicknames: Camp Robber, Whiskey Jack, Canada Jay, lumberjack, meat-bird, venison-hawk, moose-bird and gorby. A signature bird of the Boreal Forest, the Gray Jay is also one of the species that most easily habituates to people. It has a huge repertoire of vocalizations, including the soft “cheo” and “chef chef chef” that are mostly commonly heard in the woods. A master of caching food, it’s a species that succeeds and prospers through the long subarctic winter. Camera geek stuff: f5.7, 1/1600, ISO 200 For more bird photos, please visit Frozen Feather Images.  

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Speedo Sinks Alaska Gov’s Appointee

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Amid a firestorm of gasps, giggles, and moral outrage, Alaska’s Governor Bill Walker (I) has withdrawn from consideration an appointee to the Alaska Commission on Judicial Conduct. Jeff Landfield’s own conduct came under scrutiny after several Facebook photos came to light, which the governor’s spokesperson Grace Jang said were “disrespectful” and “misogynistic,” a characterization Landfield disputes. No specific images were cited, but Landfield’s personal Facebook page is a cornucopia of party pics, poolside Las Vegas romps, and boozy musings. The position Landfield hoped to take for the Walker administration handles complaints filed against state judges – an unpaid appointment which…

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Send in the GOP Clowns

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It’s politics as usual in Juneau. As Alaska burns, Alaska Republicans bloviate. We’re staring down the barrel of multibillion-dollar state budget deficits as far into the future as we can see. Are the Republicans majorities in the Legislature acknowledging that their misguided spending and tax policies got us into this fix? Are they prepared to set a new course? Not bloody likely. Rather than rolling up their sleeves, trying to come up with constructive solutions, they’re trotting out the usual gimmicks to divert public attention from their failures. So, by the lights of legislative leaders, what’s the big problem in…

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The Weekend Off – News You Missed

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Alaska ADN – Tundra Green — an illustrated history of cannabis in Alaska On Feb. 24, the initiative to legalize, tax and regulate marijuana passed by Alaska voters takes effect, adding another wrinkle to the unique history Alaska has with the plant. Here is an illustrated history of marijuana in Alaska. ADN – Alaska government spent nearly $28 million on database project scrapped before it was ever implemented The Alaska Department of Public Safety took 11 years and spent at least $27.9 million trying to replace the state’s aging criminal information database before the project was abandoned, derailed by problems with funding…

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Bird of the Week – Steller’s Jay

Steller's Jay, Seward, Alaska

The story may be apocryphal. Georg Wilhelm Steller was a German who served as naturalist on Vitus Bering’s ill-fated expedition to Alaska 1740-41. Among his references for the trip was a plate of a Blue Jay sent to him by one Benjamin Franklin, an amateur naturalist in the British colonies. The similarities between the Blue Jay in Franklin’s plate and the bird later named the Steller’s Jay provided Georg Steller with biological evidence that Vitus Bering had found westernmost North America. This particular bird can’t believe his luck: it has found a fallen seed cake in a downtown Seward park….

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