Archive for the ‘Alaska’ Category

In Conservative Alaska, Banks Aren’t Full of “Toxic Assets”

March 16, 2009

Most major banks and credit unions in Alaska seem to be in good health, despite the worsening news about the economy and the recent bailout of troubled national banks.

By Elizabeth Bluemink
Anchorage Daily News

One positive sign is that many of the state’s largest banks and credit unions grew in local profits, revenue, loan activity or deposits last year.

What will happen this year is a different question. Last year, many local financial institutions benefited from high oil prices and fatter-than-normal Permanent Fund dividends. This year, oil and mineral prices are down, tourism is expected to suffer and some of the state’s largest employers are laying off workers.

But because most banks in Alaska avoided risky loans, and because economists aren’t predicting severe job losses in Alaska this year, Anchorage financial executives don’t expect the sort of meltdown and loss of shareholder confidence that has pummeled their colleagues in the Lower 48.

“There’s a dislocation between what people are seeing on the national news and what’s happening here,” said Jason Roth, chief financial officer at First National Bank Alaska.

According to regulatory filings at the end of last year, all of the state’s major banks exceeded federal regulators’ threshold for maintaining enough financial backing to cover the risk of failed loans. And that includes the three banks — Wells Fargo, Key Bank and Alaska Pacific Bancshares — that accepted money from the U.S. Treasury as part of its Troubled Asset Relief Program, otherwise known as the national bank bailout or TARP.

Credit unions also seem to be doing OK, though they say they are affected by the financial woes of their customers.

“Most credit unions in Alaska are well capitalized but these are tough times,” said James Wileman, president of the Alaska Credit Union League.

Members of his Sitka credit union, for example, are hurting due to troubles in the community’s tourism- and fishing-dependent economy, he said.

Like Alaska’s banks, the credit unions recently had to begin paying a higher premium into a national fund that protects customer deposits if financial institutions fail.

“All the credit unions (and banks) in the country had to pay in,” Wileman said, noting that because it was a one-time event, his company does not plan to pass along that cost to its customers.

 

HEAVEY LOSSES

Several banks in Alaska have benefitted from the national bailout.

Juneau-based Alaska Pacific received $4.8 million from TARP this year — the only Alaska-based bank to do so. The Juneau bank suffered financial losses last year due to delinquent loans. Over half those loans were in the Lower 48 and involved troubled real estate projects. As a result, the bank suspended its dividends to investors in the final part of 2008.

Key Bank suffered a $1.5 billion national loss in 2008, in part because it needed to reserve a large part of its income for delinquent loans, according to its most recent financial statement. In November, Key Bank accepted a $2.5 billion loan from the Treasury’s TARP fund.

But Key Bank says its business grew in Alaska last year: lending increased 16 percent last year.

In October, Wells Fargo Bank accepted a $25 billion loan from the TARP that it says it didn’t want or need, and only took at the insistence of federal officials.

The bank reported a $2.6 billion profit last year and its business in Alaska was the best it’s ever been, said the bank’s regional president Richard Strutz.

In Alaska, Wells Fargo’s revenue and deposits grew more than 9 percent last year, and its loan activity increased more than 4 percent.

Strutz said he doesn’t expect this year to go as well. “We haven’t escaped the issues in the Lower 48,” he said, noting lower commodity prices and the predicted downturn in tourism.

 

PROSPERING BANKS

How did Alaska’s prospering banks avoid the troubles of others that have generated cringe-inducing headlines in recent months?

Last year’s strong economy and high oil prices certainly played a role. But local banks also claim they were more conservative than some of their larger colleagues.

“You don’t see community banks putting people in loans that aren’t appropriate and you don’t see them with toxic assets,” said Roth, of First National.

His bank and Anchorage-based Northrim BanCorp both decided not to participate in the TARP program. Both banks were profitable last year.

First National’s annual profit last year increased about 13 percent to $42.9 million and the value of its assets was about $2.4 billion.

Northrim reported a $6.1 million profit last year and assets of $1 billion.

Volcano erupts near Tokyo; Alaska Next?

February 2, 2009

A snowcapped volcano northwest of Tokyo erupted early Monday, sending up a huge plume of smoke and gas and raining fine, powdery ash on parts of Japan’s capital.

There were no reports of injuries or damage from the eruption of Mount Asama, which is about 90 miles (145 kilometers) northwest of Tokyo.

The volcano erupted at 1:51 a.m. (0451 GMT, 11:51 p.m. EST) Monday, belching out a plume that rose about a mile (1.6 kilometers) high, according to Japan’s Meteorological Agency. The plume was still roiling over the volcano’s crater late Monday.

Chunks of rock from the explosion were found about 3,300 feet (1,000 meters) away from the volcano. Ash was detected over a wide area, including central Tokyo. In the town of Karuizawa, southeast of the volcano, the ash was thick enough to obscure road markings in some areas, town official Noboru Yanagishi said.

“Some people said they heard a strange noise in the morning when the eruption occurred,” he said.

The eruption was not big enough to disrupt daily life near the volcano, though many people awoke to find their cars covered in a fine layer of powder. National broadcaster NHK showed people in Tokyo lining up to get carwashes, or wiping the ash from their windows.

Smoke billows from a crater of Mt.Asama, central Japan early ... 
Smoke billows from a crater of Mt.Asama, central Japan early Monday, Feb. 2, 2009. The mountain spewed volcanic smoke earlier this morning. The country’s Meteorological Agency warned Sunday that the volcano was in danger in erupting after detecting an increase in seismic activity.(AP Photo/Kyodo News, Shigeyuki Inakuma)

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With 108 active volcanos, Japan is among the most seismically busy countries in the world. The country lies in the “Ring of Fire” — a series of volcanoes and fault lines that outline the Pacific Ocean.

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/ap/20090202
/ap_on_re_as/as_japan_volcano

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Alaska’s Mount Redoubt continued to rumble and emit steam Sunday but showed no dramatic burst of energy from the previous day, geologists monitoring the volcano said.

Geologist Tina Neal at the Alaska Volcano Observatory said scientists still believe an eruption is highly likely.

“It could erupt later today or in two weeks – or not at all,” Neal said. “It looks like a volcano that wants to erupt and our general impression is that it’s more likely to erupt than not. But there’s still a possibility that this one could just go back to sleep. There’s a lot of uncertainty.”

As a precaution, Elmendorf Air Force Base near Anchorage – 100 miles northeast of Redoubt – was moving some of its aircraft to McChord Air Force Base in Washington. Officials said the base was starting with five C-17 cargo planes and could relocate other aircraft if deemed necessary.

“We’re just trying to be proactive and protect our assets,” said 1st Lt. Erin Slaughter. “Our aircraft support other missions, such as delivering supplies to Iraq and Afghanistan, and this relocation will allow them to still do all those missions even if the volcano does erupt.”

From AP

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http://seattletimes.nwsource.com/html/localnews/
2008696369_apalaskavolcano1stldwritethru.html?
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“Caroline Kennedy Got Breaks We Didn’t,” You Know?

January 8, 2009

Growing up in the White House the daughter of a respected President of the United States just might have its up side…

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By Andy Barr, Politico

Gov. Sarah Palin (R-Alaska) believes Caroline Kennedy is getting softer press treatment in her pursuit of the New York Senate seat than Palin did as the GOP vice presidential nominee because of Kennedy’s social class.

“I’ve been interested to see how Caroline Kennedy will be handled and if she will be handled with kid gloves or if she will be under such a microscope,” Palin told conservative filmmaker John Ziegler during an interview Monday for his upcoming documentary film, “How Obama Got Elected.” Excerpts from the interview were posted on YouTube Wednesday evening.

“It’s going to be interesting to see how that plays out and I think that as we watch that we will perhaps be able to prove that there is a class issue here also that was such a factor in the scrutiny of my candidacy versus, say, the scrutiny of what her candidacy may be.”

Palin said she remains subject to unfair press coverage of her and her family.

Carolineandfather.jpg
Caroline with her Dad, JFK

“Is it political? Is it sexism?” she asked. “What is it that drives someone to believe the worst and perpetuate the worst in terms of gossip and lies?”

She observed that Katie Couric and Tina Fey have been “capitalizing on” and “exploiting” her.

“I did see that Tina Fey was named entertainer of the year and Katie Couric’s ratings have risen,” she said. “And I know that a lot of people are capitalizing on, oh I don’t know, perhaps some exploiting that was done via me, my family, my administration. That’s a little bit perplexing, but it also says a great deal about our society.”

Sarah Palin

Read the rest:
http://news.yahoo.com/s/politico/20090
108/pl_politico/17217

Related:
Caroline Kennedy Has “Nothing to Say” (And Says It Badly)

America: You Are Disintegrating, Russian Claims (California Joins China….)

January 3, 2009

For seriously predicting that the United States will break into six parts in June or July of 2010, Igor Panarin has suddenly become a Russian state-media celebrity. Hardly a day goes by without another interview or two for the KGB-trained, Kremlin-backed senior analyst. The clamor in Russia for his ideas is growing, he says. 

By Joel Garreau
Washington Post Staff Writer
Saturday, January 3, 2009; Page C01

Panarin’s disintegration divination comes complete with a map. In it, Alaska goes to Russia. Hawaii goes to Japan or China. “The California Republic” — the West from Utah and Arizona to the Pacific — goes to China. “The Texas Republic” — the South from New Mexico to Florida — goes to Mexico. “Atlantic America” — the Northeast from Tennessee and South Carolina up to Maine — joins the European Union. And “The Central North-American Republic” — the Plains from Ohio to Montana — goes to Canada.

Few Americans paid any attention to his novel views until this week, when the Wall Street Journal trumpeted them on Page 1. Within hours, the U.S. media began the counterattack.

This is preposterous, Time magazine said in a blog.

“The man knows nothing at all about American regional differences,” wrote Justin Fox, Time’s business and economics columnist. South Carolina is like Massachusetts? Tennessee will join with France? Idaho will find something to love about California? Wyoming will snuggle up to Ottawa? Alabama will happily report to Mexico City? “Yeah, right!” Fox wrote. “Has this man ever been to the United States? Has he never even heard of ‘The Nine Nations of North America’? . . . Igor, do your homework!”

Related:
Russian Professor Predicts Fall of U.S. in 2010

Read the rest:
http://www.washingtonpost.com/wp-dyn/conte
nt/article/2009/01/02/AR2009010202401.html

[Igor Panarin]

Write

Sarah Palin’s Church Set Ablaze: Arson

December 14, 2008

Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s home church was badly damaged by arson, leading the governor to apologize Saturday if the fire was connected to “undeserved negative attention” from her campaign as the Republican vice presidential nominee.

Damage to the Wasilla Bible Church was estimated at $1 million, authorities said. No one was injured in the fire, which was set Friday night while a handful of people, including two children, were inside, according to James Steele, the Central Mat-Su fire chief.

A snow covered tree sits outside of the fire damaged Wasilla ... 
A snow covered tree sits outside of the fire damaged Wasilla Bible Church in Wasilla, Alaska Saturday Dec. 13, 2008. Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin’s home church was badly damaged in an arson fire. No one was injured in the fire, which was intentionally set while people, including two children, were inside.(AP Photo/Al Grillo)

He said the blaze was being investigated as an arson. Steele said he didn’t know of any recent threats to the church, and authorities did not know whether Palin’s connection to the church was relevant to the fire.

“It’s hard to say at this point. Everything is just speculation,” he said.

Pastor Larry Kroon declined to say whether the church had received any recent threats.

Palin was not at the church at the time of the fire. She stopped by Saturday, and her spokesman Bill McAllister said in a statement that the governor told an assistant pastor she was sorry if the fire was connected to the “undeserved negative attention” the church has received since she became the vice presidential candidate Aug. 29.

Alaska Governor Sarah Palin answers questions from the media ... 

“Whatever the motives of the arsonist, the governor has faith in the scriptural passage that what was intended for evil will in some way be used for good,” McAllister said.

The 1,000-member evangelical church was the subject of intense scrutiny after Palin was named Sen. John McCain ‘s running mate. Early in Palin’s campaign, the church was criticized for promoting in a Sunday bulletin a Love Won Out conference in Anchorage sponsored by Focus on the Family.  The conference promised to “help men and women dissatisfied with living homosexually understand that same-sex attractions can be overcome.”

The fire was set at the entrance of the church and moved inward as a small group of women worked on crafts, Steele said. The group was alerted to the blaze by a fire alarm.

Missile Defense Success; Urgent Need

December 9, 2008

The spectacular intercept of a long-range ballistic missile over the Pacific on Dec. 5 shows once again that the technology works. The ground-based national missile defense now has destroyed its target in eight intercept attempts. It is simply inaccurate for critics to keep saying it does not work. This defense now should be placed in Europe.

Today, 22 of these ground-based midcourse interceptors are operational in Alaska and California, protecting against North Korea and other Asian threats, and 22 more are being fielded. That technology also should be used to protect the Eastern United States and Europe against Iran and other Middle Eastern threats, by installing the interceptors planned for Poland.

By James Hackett
The Washington Times

A missile said to be a Shahab-3 being tested in 2006
The Shahab-3 is Iran’s most advanced and longest-range missile

Iran is continuing to test new solid-fuel and longer-range missiles, and experts of the International Atomic Energy Agency say Tehran already has enough fissionable material to build a nuclear warhead. But the Middle Eastern threat is wider than Iran and could include international terrorists or rogue elements in Pakistan, which already has both nuclear weapons and ballistic missiles.

The test last week was the most challenging to date. The target missile was launched from Kodiak Island, Alaska, toward the ocean off California, where it was struck and destroyed by an interceptor launched from Vandenberg Air Force Base, Calif. The target was tracked by four radars on land and sea. The fire control system then combined the radar data and fed it to the interceptor, enabling the shoot-down of a complex target.

Missile defense opponents keep calling for more flight tests and oppose funding for the base in Europe until the “new” interceptors to be used there have been thoroughly tested.
Eight of the United States' 13 missile defense tests have been deemed a success.

Eight of the United States’ 13 missile defense tests have been deemed a success.

Read the rest:
http://www.washingtontimes.com/news/2008
/dec/09/missile-defense-success/