Author: APRN News

Credit rating agency sees a ‘clear path,’ as Alaska tries to balance its budget

An Alaska Permanent Fund Corp. sign in the office in Juneau. (Photo by Skip Gray/360 North)Up until 2016, Alaska had the highest credit rating Moody’s Investment Service had to offer. But, global oil prices crashed, and Alaska’s budget followed suit. In less than a year and a half, Alaska went from one of Moody’s highest rated states, to one of its lowest. Credit rating agencies, like Moodys, look at the $2.5 billion hole in the state’s budget, the energy-dependent economy, and how heavily the government leaned on savings to balance the budget — which all looks bad. But, recently, Moody’s changed their outlook. Listen now A few months ago,  Alaska’s professional number-crunchers went out on a mission. “We met with all of the credit rating agencies and tried to help them kind of understand what’s happening in Alaska the assets that are available,” Department of Revenue Commissioner Sheldon Fisher said. A few weeks later, Moody’s updated Alaska’s credit rating. In late November, Moodys changed its outlook on Alaska from negative, to stable. For the state, and some cities in it — that’s good news. “It means that we actually spend less,” Fisher said. “If they were to have downgraded us it would have cost us more to have borrowed money in the future.” But, what happened? Why did Moody’s analysts change their opinions? Oil prices are still pretty low. The state is still...

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High temperatures in Utqiaġvik confuse NOAA algorithm

“North Slope climate change just outran one of our tools to measure it.” That was the message from the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) earlier this month, when an algorithm they use for quality control balked at the data coming out of Utqiaġvik. NOAA manages thousands of weather stations across the United States that measure temperature and other variables. That data helps weather forecasters, but it’s also closely monitored by climate trackers. Listen now “What’s been happening in Utqiaġvik is that temperatures are warming so fast that quality control algorithms finally had enough and said ‘Oh, the station must have moved because temperatures can’t be warming this fast naturally!’ Rick Thoman, NOAA’s Weather Service climatologist for Alaska, said. The algorithm is designed to flag data that looks wrong. And when scientists see a flag like that, they investigate. Sometimes they find that the weather station has moved, say, closer to or further from the coast, which would explain why it’s recording such different temperatures. But that’s not what happened in Utqiaġvik. Temperatures there really are just that much warmer. This November was the hottest on record, averaging 17.2°F. Bryan Thomas works in the NOAA Observatory in Utqiaġvik, and said he can see obvious signs of warming. “When we look out on the ocean right now we see a few icebergs,” Thomas said. “Normally we would see white to the...

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King Cove closer to goal of 100 percent renewable energy

Two hydro facilities cover most of King Cove’s 4.5 megawatt power demands. (Photo by Berett Wilber/KUCB)A small eastern Aleutian community is now getting nearly all of its energy from renewable sources. With a second hydro facility that began producing power late this spring, the city of King Cove has dramatically reduced its dependence on diesel. Gary Hennigh has been focused on renewable energy ever since his first city council meeting as King Cove City Administrator in 1989. “The council said, ‘hey, you’re the new guy and we’re starting to learn something about this hydroelectric potential that we have in the Delta Creek Valley. Can you help us figure out is it something real? Is it good for the community?’” Hennigh said. Diesel was relatively cheap back then, but Hennigh says the community got fired up when they found out hydro looked like a promising power source for King Cove. In 1994, Delta Creek came online and pretty soon the community was getting half of its power from renewable energy. But the project was risky. Hennigh says Delta Creek cost $5.7 million. Grants covered a lot of the cost, but the city still had to borrow a couple million dollars to pay for it. He says back in the early 90s that was a big deal for a community the size of King Cove and it paid off. “Within a couple of...

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Alaska investigators nab 3 in botnet attacks, ‘click fraud’ scam

Three young men have pleaded guilty in Alaska to writing malicious computer software that infected and took control of hundreds of thousands of internet-connected devices, including common household routers. That created a botnet the men named Mirai that federal authorities say was used in what are called distributed denial of service, or “DDOS, attacks. Once the men learned the FBI was onto them, they released the code to other criminals on the internet, and components of it have been seen in subsequent security breaches. In some cases, the Mirai Botnet attacks shut down websites and either slowed or temporarily shut down the upstream internet service providers, Assistant U.S. Attorney Adam Alexander said. “Those were some of the biggest botnet-based, DDOS attacks that the internet had seen to date, and resulted in pretty serious disruption and damage both here in the United States and abroad,” Alexander said. In a separate case, two of the conspirators committed “click fraud,” a scam that makes it appear as if thousands of people are clicking on specific online ads. Since the cost of online advertising is often tied to the number of times people click on the ads, the scheme caused advertisers to pay more than they should have to website owners. Charged in the case were New Jersey resident Paras Jha, 21, Pennsylvania resident Josiah White, 20, and Louisiana resident Dalton Norman, 21, all...

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Four Alaska firefighters dispatched to battle California blazes

Homes and palm trees burn in the Creek Fire outside of Los Angeles, California on December 5, 2017. (Los Angeles Fire Department)Four Alaska wild fire professionals are working on blazes in southern California. Alaska Division of Forestry spokesman Tim Mowry says the Alaskans deployed south have special skills. “One is an emergency firefighter who went down as a near-operations branch director,’ Mowry said. “Two of them went down as prevention technicians and one of them went down as a status check-in recorder.” Mowry says most Alaska wild firefighters take the winter off, and the four in California this month, notified agencies they were available to work. ”Alaska’s not received an order for any crews or modules yet,” Mowry said. “They did express a little bit of interest, and we’re in the process right now of trying to see who’s available and how many people we have that are available that we could send down there if they did put an order in. But so far, it’s been a pretty limited specialty positions that they’ve requested.” Mowry says it’s the latest that Alaska fire fighters have gone south to work, noting that fire seasons have been extending longer in recent years. ”Like last year’s burst of fires they had in Southeast U.S. where we sent over a hundred people down, but that was mid-November,” Mowry said. “So at this time...

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