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October 24, 2016

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    Battle for Survival Doesn’t Stop at Home for Veterans

    Some weeks are spent spinning wheels, reading documents and APOC reports, listening to terrible talk radio recordings, trying to make sense of candidates who just don’t add up. I’ve spent a lot of time trying to figure out the hinky nature of a South Anchorage Senate candidate, Natasha von Imhof. Why is the governor’s office being so super secret about the tax settlement with her business and why was it announced the day after the primary? Why does her story keep changing? I have a table full of flowcharts, and none of it makes a lick of sense. I first…

  • Short-billed Dowitcher, Yakutat Forelands

    Bird of the Week – Short-billed Dowitcher

    WC overlooked the Short-billed Dowitcher when posting its close cousin, the Long-billed Dowitcher, back in August 2015. It can be pretty tough to tell a Long-billed from a Short-billed. Location helps: if you are on the coast, it’s more likely a Short-billed; if you are further from the ocean, it’s more likely a Long-billed. Bill length and coloration vary a lot. The calls are different, but both Dowitchers spend most of their time in a frenzied feeding, their bills probed full length in the mud, like a busy sewing machine. Dowtichers are not well-studied. Even their name is a puzzle….

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    LIVE BLOG: The FINAL (Ever?) Presidential Debate

    So here we go. The final debate of this insane election year. All times are Eastern. 9:03: Apologies, we’re watching on Fox, as that’s who’s moderating. 9:05  – Chris Wallace is live in Las Vegas… because what better city to decide our democracy. Hillary’s rocking a white pantsuit and Trump is shockingly wearing a suit. 9:06 – Question is on supreme court and the constitution. This should be fun. Hillary: SCOTUS needs to stand up for the people, women and against Citizen’s United. Not reverse marriage equality… Supreme court should represent all of us. She asks the Senate to confirm…

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    Trump Made SNL Relevant Again

    I’ve actually started watching Saturday Night Live again. That’s a statement I didn’t think I’d say ever again. Thanks to the very timely death of the Jon Stewart’s Daily Show and Steven Colbert being bought out to move to his desperately unfunny standard late night show and several lame imitations (Samantha Bee, namely) there is a huge gap for politically orientated comedy shows. Now of course we have John Oliver’s Last Week Tonight which is a blessing – but honestly it’s already come to be a news program that is funny – not a comedy show that talks about politics….

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    John Brown’s Body

    This week in 1859, John Brown and his small band of abolitionists took the arsenal in Harpers Ferry, West Virginia. Howard Zinn explained his importance: “John Brown, more than any other white American, devoted his life, and finally sacrificed it, on behalf of freedom for the slave. His plan, impossible and courageous, was to seize the arsenal at Harpers Ferry, Virginia with a band of black and white abolitionists and set off a revolt of slaves throughout the South. The plan failed. Some of his men, including two of his own sons, were killed. John Brown was wounded, captured, sentenced…


Red Knots, Egg Islands, Cordova, Alaska

Bird of the Week – Red Knot

Oct 1, 2016

One of the parts of this weekly column that WC likes is that sometimes WC is lucky enough to photograph new Alaska birds. Milo Burcham, a terrific nature photographer based in Cordova, Alaska, allowed WC to tag along on  boat trip out to the mudflats west of the mouth of the Copper River in May 2016. The target was Red Knots, a handsome, but very spooky, shorebird. We found them. Handsome birds. And maybe even more spooky than advertised. There are big numbers to begin with, and if you get closer than 200 meters, they are gone. This photo was…

Pacific Golden Plover, Gambell, St. Lawrence Island

Bird of the Week – Pacific Golden Plover

Sep 24, 2016

Until 1993, American and Pacific Golden Plovers were thought to be one species. In that year, the Bird Gods – the American Ornithological Union – split them. In breeding plumage, it’s pretty easy to tell them apart: the Pacific’s white stripe extends all the way down the side, where the American Golden Plover’s ends at the shoulder. If you’ve been to Hawai’i, you’ve seen these birds on the lawns and golf courses. They are distinctly more approachable there than breeding territory. Pacific Golden Plovers are awesome migrants. They fly directly from Hawai’i to Alaska, for example; nonstop. The next time…


Driving To Alaska’s Political Madness

Sep 17, 2016

My parents first came to Alaska in the ’60s, driving a red and white Volkswagen bus. They came from Virginia and like so many Alaskans, they came for one year – that was almost 50 years ago and they never left. I’m happy to report I’m making the trip they did, though by a more northerly route. It’s a bit of a shock to my Alaskan mind to drive through four states in a day without going through a foreign country. There is so much to take in on open road and border crossings. You can drive for days on…


OWS – 5 Years Ago Something Big Started

Sep 17, 2016

Five years on and what has changed? Some might say nothing. We still have candidates of the 1% – this time one of them proudly running as the king of the Billionaires, the other just your standard SuperPAC funded politico. Transparency in government and in the business world sure as hell hasn’t gotten any better. Wells Fargo defrauds thousands and no one gets in trouble, Clinton runs a private e-mail server to avoid FOIA laws and transparency and she just gets a scolding. But what did we expect? Did we ever dream that OWS would have changed all that? A…

Brandt's Cormorant, Small St. Lazaria National Wildlife Refuge, Alaska

Bird of the Week – Brandt’s Cormorant

Sep 17, 2016

We’ll finish up cormorants with the Brandt’s Cormorant. Unlike the other three, this species breeds only in North America, and reaches the northerly limit of its range at Kodiak Island. This species’ life history and populations are tied to the rich upwelling associated with deep upwelling currents like the California Current. Long-term monitoring of the population at Farallon Islands, California, the single largest colony of the species, has helped establish the relationship between breeding success and the El Niño–Southern Oscillation (ENSO), which determines the timing and degree of nutrient-rich upwelling, and hence food availability. It’s pretty easy to tell this species form the other…


Open Thread: The Shrimp Whisperer

Sep 16, 2016

Indie Alaska, a project of Alaska Public Media has released this amazing short doc on Al Laudert and his shrimp art pieces. It’s just too fun not too watch.


Poll: A Write in For Mark Begich?

Sep 14, 2016

In a classic Alaska election flashback to 2010 we could see another write in candidacy for the US Senate. This time people might have a easier time writing in this candidate, at least when it comes to spelling than they did in 2010. In a statement to The Midnight Sun and in an interview with KTVA former Senator Mark Begich won’t rule out a write-in campaign. Midnight Sun: “I’m getting a lot of calls from people who say they are not satisfied with their choices and they are not interested in seeing another Miller Murkowski fight, I will keep listening to…


Step One: Show Up in November

Sep 11, 2016

In the recent Alaska primary election, there was a 15 percent turnout — a record low. Alaskans feel their voices aren’t heard. Many have lost hope. It’s easy to see why. We have a Senate President who works for ConocoPhillips and who, along with his other oil company buddies in the Legislature is refusing to fix our oil tax structure that has us paying out $700 million more in oil-tax credits than we get in production taxes. Efforts to fix our fiscal situation were violently opposed by every special interest group out there. Big mines in Alaska pay a measly…

Double-crested Cormorant, Old Chevak, Alaska

Bird of the Week – Double-crested Cormorant

Sep 10, 2016

WC hasn’t seen very many Double-crested Cormorants in Alaska. This one was on a tide-blown snag on the otherwise treeless Yukon Delta National Wildlife Refuge, near Old Chevak. The Double-crested Cormorant is the most numerous and most widely distributed species of the six North American cormorants, but probably the least numerous in Alaska. In the U.S. and Canada, it is the only cormorant to occur in large numbers in the interior as well as on the coasts. A few Double-crested Cormorants winter in the Snake River Canyon here in Idaho. Probably more than any other bird species, the Double-crested Cormorant is…