Home News Roundup News Roundup: February 28, 2014

News Roundup: February 28, 2014


Local News

Volcano monitoring equipment in Alaska is failing due to a lack of federal funding for critical maintenance. Only about half of the monitors are working on any given day, and five volcanoes have no working seismic monitoring. The USGS and the Alaska Volcano Observatory are doing what they can with other data sources, but without seismic monitors, eruptions can only be detected after they have already started. [ADN]

Workers at the Delta Western fuel dock in Unalaska went on strike this week, alleging “illegal harassment and retaliation” in response to employees’  attempts to unionize. [Alaska Dispatch]

The Alaska House is considering a measure that would prohibit judges from considering a defendant’s immigration status when determining sentencing. Introduced as an amendment to a bill about assault on correctional employees, the measure has already passed through the Judiciary Committee and is now before the Rules Committee. [ADN]

And if Senator Pete Kelly has his way, those judges may look a lot more partisan in the future: the Senate is considering a constitutional amendment that would give the governor and legislature greater power over who gets appointed to Alaska’s courts. [Alaska Commons]


The Other 49

A venture capitalist in Silicon Valley has a proposal to split California into six new states, and just got approval to start collecting signatures seeking to place the question on the ballot. Even if voters approve the proposal, though, Congress would have to agree – and the chances of California getting ten more Senate seats are pretty slim. [AP/Bakersfield Now]

Attempts to repeal a California law guaranteeing the rights of transgender students to access appropriate school programs and services failed this week, after the Secretary of State’s office found that the law’s opponents had failed to secure enough valid signatures to call a referendum on the measure. [SFist]

Three insurance companies in Louisiana are the subject of a lawsuit after announcing that they would no longer accept federal subsidies that help people living with HIV afford health insurance. The insurers claim the move is based on anti-fraud regulations related to the Affordable Care Act, but healthcare advocates allege the insurers are discriminating to keep expensive patients off of their plans. [Lambda Legal]

On the other end of the spectrum, the District of Columbia announced the nation’s most significant healthcare reforms for transgender people, which will require comprehensive coverage in virtually all insurance plans sold in the District. [Think Progress]

A federal judge in Texas ruled that state’s ban on same-sex marriage to be unconstitutional. [Lone Star Q]

The new trend of “religious freedom” bills, which many say would create legal grounds for discrimination against same-sex couples and LGBTQ people generally, seems to be faltering: Arizona’s bill was vetoed by Republican governor Jan Brewer, and similar legislation was taken off the table in Mississippi, Ohio, Indiana, and Georgia. [Think Progress]

The Feds

Attorney General Eric Holder issued guidance to his state-level counterparts advising them that they are not obligated to defend bans on same-sex marriage if they believe them to be unconstitutional. [The New Civil Rights Movement]

Next month, President Obama will present the Medal of Honor to 24 veterans who should have received the honor between 1941 and 2001. 19 of the 24 received a lower honor because they were Latino or Jewish; the other 5 were overlooked for other reasons. The ceremony will mark the end of a 12-year review that began under the Bush administration in 2002. [LA Times]

A study released by the U.S. Census Bureau has found a dramatic increase in the number of children being raised in single-parrot households. The study also found nearly 2 million children being raised by two same-sex parrots. [The Onion].

Up in the Air

The CEO of Ryanair, perhaps Europe’s most notorious low cost, no-frills airline, has said he intends to offer flights between Ireland and the US with fares starting at just $10 as soon as he can secure enough planes capable of transatlantic flights. [Irish Central]

Delta Air Lines announced major changes to its SkyMiles program yesterday. Starting in 2015, passengers will earn miles based on the price of their tickets rather than distance flown. [LA Times]

Everything Else

The recently announced, secretive deal between Netflix and Comcast to improve streaming speeds for their shared customers has serious implications for the future of net neutrality. [Alaska Commons]

Sriracha-flavored Pringles are now available, exclusively at Wal-Mart. [Consumerist]

A team of weaponry specialists came together and created a real-world version of the ultimate Batsuit. [io9]

Staff at Finland’s Reindeer Herders’ Association are testing the use of reflective glitter spray to help make reindeer more visible to motorists while crossing roads. [Alaska Dispatch]