“In a win for wild lands and wildlife, President Joe Biden recently moved to protect more than 10 million acres of Alaska’s North Slope from oil development. The action permanently bans drilling across large swaths of this region.”
“it wasn’t Russian sailors themselves who were clubbing or shooting each of these animals. The Aleutian Islands, and much of the southern rim of Alaska that Russian shipmen explored, already housed tens of thousands of locals. Aleuts and Tlingits, Inuit and Yupik, nation after nation of Alaska Natives already claimed a home in the region, largely untouched by European explorers.
And then the Russians came. And just as they had among Indigenous peoples in Siberia — and just as British, French, Spanish, and Portuguese explorers had done in the warmer climes of the Americas — Russian troops saw Indigenous peoples as little more than a subhuman hindrance, but also as a potential means to an end.
It didn’t take long after the Russian landing for the familiar pattern of colonial crimes to play out, sending Indigenous populations reeling. Almost immediately, Russian colonizers began implementing the same playbook they’d perfected across Siberia. The first step was known as iasak, in which Russian representatives demanded tribute — furs, typically — from Indigenous populations. In order to assure compliance, Russian traders implemented the playbook’s second element: amanaty, in which Russians would seize hostages from Indigenous populations, held until the iasak requirements were completed. Often, Russian representatives would kidnap the children of local leaders — all the better to ensure compliance. In some cases, as historian Anne Hyde has written, the Russians would abduct the children of up to half of the male populations of a given community.
Nor did they stop there. As the U.S.’s National Institute for Health notes, such an arrangement allowed the Russians to effectively “enslave” local populations. Demanding “furs in exchange for [the] lives” of women and children, Russians would “sexually exploit the hostages” — and even “execute the hostages” should the fur intake fall short. All of it, just “to set an example” for other recalcitrant Indigenous populations.”
“Billions of snow crabs have disappeared from the ocean around Alaska in recent years, and scientists now say they know why: Warmer ocean temperatures likely caused them to starve to death.
The finding comes just days after the Alaska Department of Fish and Game announced the snow crab harvest season was canceled for the second year in a row, citing the overwhelming number of crabs missing from the typically frigid, treacherous waters of the Bering Sea.”
“Snow crabs are cold-water species and found overwhelmingly in areas where water temperatures are below 2 degrees Celsius, though they can function in waters up to 12 degrees Celsius, according to the study. Warmer ocean water likely wreaked havoc on the crabs’ metabolism and increased their caloric needs.
The amount of energy crabs needed from food in 2018 — the first year of a two-year marine heat wave in the region — may have been as much as quadrupled compared to the previous year, researchers found. But with the heat disrupting much of the Bering Sea’s food web, snow crabs had a hard time foraging for food and weren’t able to keep up with the caloric demand.”
“In January, when an undersea telecommunications cable connecting this far-flung Arctic archipelago to mainland Norway and the rest of Europe was damaged, Norwegian officials called to port the only fishing vessel for miles, a Russian trawler. Police in the northern city of Tromsø interviewed the crew and carried out an investigation into the incident, which was seen as a major threat to the security of Norway and other nations, including the United States. Had there not been a back-up cable, the damage would have severed internet to the world’s largest satellite relay, one that connects the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA), NASA and other government agencies from around the world to real-time space surveillance.
The investigation’s findings were inconclusive, if worrisome. Something “man-made” had damaged the cable, but Norwegian police could not prove the Russian fishing vessel was responsible, authorities told me. The police allowed the fishing boat crew to return to their ship and set back out to sea.”
“today, this Arctic desert is rapidly becoming the center of a new conflict. The vast sea ice that covers the Arctic Ocean is melting rapidly due to climate change, losing 13 percent per decade — a rate that experts say could make the Arctic ice-free in the summer as soon as 2035. Already, the thaw has created new shipping lanes, opened existing seasonal lanes for more of the year and provided more opportunities for natural resource extraction. Nations are now vying for military and commercial control over this newly accessible territory — competition that has only gotten more intense since Russia’s invasion of Ukraine.”
“For the past two decades, Russia has been dominating this fight for the Arctic, building up its fleet of nuclear-capable icebreakers, ships and submarines, developing more mining and oil well operations along its 15,000 miles of Arctic coastline, racing to capture control of the new “Northern Sea Route” or “Transpolar Sea Route” which could begin to open up by 2035, and courting non-Arctic nations to help fund those endeavors.
At the same time, America is playing catch-up in a climate where it has little experience and capabilities. The U.S. government and military seems to be awakening to the threats of climate change and Russian dominance of the Arctic — recently issuing a National Strategy for the Arctic Region and a report on how climate change impacts American military bases, opening a consulate in Nuuk, Greenland, and appointing this year an ambassador-at-large for the Arctic region within the State Department and a deputy assistant secretary of defense for Arctic and Global Resilience. America’s European allies, too, have been rethinking homeland security, increasing national defense budgets and security around critical energy infrastructure in the Arctic as they aim to boost their defense capabilities and rely less on American assistance.
But 17 Arctic watchers — including Norwegian diplomats, State Department analysts and national security experts focusing on the Arctic — said they fear that the U.S. and Europe won’t be able to maintain a grip on the region’s energy resources and diplomacy as Russia places more civilian and military infrastructure across the Arctic, threatening the economic development and national security of the seven other nations whose sovereign land sits within the Arctic Circle.”
“In Norway’s High North, a term used to describe the Norwegian Arctic territories, no fewer than seven Russian citizens have been detained over the last few months for flying drones, prohibited under the same bans for Russian airlines in European airspace. The drones were discovered flying near areas of critical infrastructure. One of those arrested in October was Andrey Yakunin, 47, the son of Vladimir Yakunin, the former president of Russian Railways and an ally of Russian President Vladimir Putin who was sanctioned by the State Department after Russia’s annexation of Crimea in 2014.”
“ranked choice voting actually encourages voters to look beyond partisan markers and choose (or block) candidates based on their merits.
Under Alaska’s new election system, all candidates compete in a single primary contest—rather than in party-specific contests—with the top four vote-getters advancing to the general election. That meant that the general election ballot for Alaska’s congressional seat contained four names on Election Day, with Republican Nick Begich and Libertarian Chris Bye qualifying alongside Palin and Peltola.
In the general election, ranked choice voting is used to determine the winner. That means that every voter ranks their choices from one through four. As the votes are counted, there is an “instant runoff” in which votes cast for losing candidates are reallocated to reflect the ranks assigned by individual voters.
To see how this works in practice, let’s look at Chris Bye, who finished last in the first round of vote counting. He received 4,560 first-place votes. After being eliminated, those ballots were re-distributed to the other candidates. Begich was the second choice of 1,988 Bye voters, so he received those ballots for the second round. Palin was the second choice of 1,064 Bye voters, and Peltola was the second choice for 1,038 of them.
At that point, no candidate had more than 50 percent of the total, so an additional elimination was necessary. Despite getting a plurality of Bye’s votes, Begich was still in third place, so he was eliminated and his votes were reallocated to Palin and Peltola. Voters who had picked Begich as their first choice had their ballots distributed to their second-place choice (unless the second-place choice was Bye), while Bye voters who’d picked Begich second had their votes redistributed to whomever they’d picked as their third choice.
As you might expect since both were Republicans, a majority of Begich’s ballots ended up in Palin’s pile. But not all of them, and the Begich-to-Peltola pipeline was enough to push the Democratic incumbent over the 50 percent threshold.”
“she lost because not enough Alaskan voters picked her to represent them in Congress. It’s really as simple as that. Ranked choice voting rewards candidates who are viewed as being acceptable even if not ideal by the majority of voters. Palin, for the second time in a handful of months, failed that test.”
“After the first ballot, Palin trailed Peltola 40–31, with Nick Begich III in third with 29 percent. After Begich was eliminated and his ballots were re-tallied, Peltola prevailed over Palin 51–49.
In the days after Palin’s loss, prominent conservatives and Republicans criticized the new system for contributing to her defeat. After the results were announced, Sen. Tom Cotton (R–Ark.) tweeted, “Ranked-choice voting is a scam to rig elections.” (Previously, he has referred to it as a “radical scheme.”) Palin herself called the system an “experiment” that’s “crazy, convoluted,” and “confusing.” In National Review, Jim Geraghty termed it “a legitimate electoral system…that doesn’t make sense.”
But it’s not ranked choice voting’s fault; Palin was simply a bad candidate.
Geraghty complained that ranked choice voting was “more complicated” than “the familiar ‘first past the post’ system,” that “the Democrats came out the big winner, even though their candidate finished fourth in the first round of voting.” This is true, though the third-place finalist, Al Gross, withdrew from the race after the June primary and encouraged his voters to support Peltola.
Cotton complained that even though “60% of Alaska voters voted for a Republican…a Democrat ‘won.'” This is also true, though notably they did not all vote for the same Republican. Begich and Palin collectively accounted for 59.8 percent of the first-round vote, but only about half of Begich’s voters chose Palin as their second choice; nearly 30 percent picked Peltola, while 21 percent did not choose a second or third choice.”
“Far from being some radically convoluted “scheme,” the most direct effect of ranked choice voting is to serve as an “instant runoff” by letting voters indicate which candidates they would prefer if their first or second choice didn’t win.”
“85 percent of Alaskan voters polled by Alaskans for Better Elections found the new system either “somewhat simple” or “very simple.””
“Tariffs on seafood have hit Alaska in particular, Alaska’s fishing industry generates over $5 billion dollars in economic activity and creates nearly 70,000 jobs in the state, making it a vital lifeline for the state. Over 40 percent of U.S.-caught Alaskan salmon and one-third of all seafood from Alaska is exported to China each year. Much of it is processed in China and then re-imported to the United States for sale in grocery stores.
As the National Fisheries Institute points out, this split processing stream has contributed to rising seafood costs for U.S. consumers, as China’s retaliatory tariffs hit seafood when imported for processing and the original U.S. tariffs hit products upon their return to American shores.”
“For consumers, meanwhile, these costs are discouraging consumption of fish, according to a February study published by data analytics firms IRI and 210 Analytics. That month alone, sales of frozen seafood products decreased by 9.4 percent, while fresh seafood sales decreased by 12 percent.”
“the primary is plenty interesting on its own. First of all, it will winnow a field of 48 candidates(!) down to four. Why four and not two? Because following the passage of an election-reform ballot measure in 2020, Alaska now uses a unique top-four primary system whereby all candidates (regardless of party) run on the same ballot and the top four finishers advance to the general election. (In a further twist, the general election will also use ranked-choice voting.) “