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May 21, 2012


Today's Eventstodaysevents 


The Senate is expected to consider prescription drug user fees.  The House is not is session.




capitalThe Week at a Glance: May 21-25. The Senate will focus on considering legislation regarding prescription drug user fees. The Senate Armed Services Committee's subcommittee will hold closed markups on the FY 2013 defense appropriations bill. The House is in recess. Congressional Quarterly



How Reliable are the Social Sciences? [Opinion] Public policy debates often involve appeals to results of work in social sciences like economics and sociology.  For example, in his State of the Union address this year, President Obama cited a recent high-profile study to support his emphasis on evaluating teachers by their students' test scores.  The study purportedly shows that students with teachers who raise their standardized test scores are "more likely to attend college, earn higher salaries, live in better neighborhoods and save more for retirement." How much authority should we give to such work in our policy decisions?  The question is important because media reports often seem to assume that any result presented as "scientific" has a claim to our serious attention. But this is hardly a reasonable view.  There is considerable distance between, say, the confidence we should place in astronomers' calculations of eclipses and a small marketing study suggesting that consumers prefer laundry soap in blue boxes. New York Times


Toxic Mercury, Accumulating in the Arctic, Springs From Hidden Source. Environmental scientists at Harvard discovered that the Arctic accumulation of mercury, a toxic element, is caused by both atmospheric forces and the flow of circumpolar rivers that carry the element north into the Arctic Ocean. While the atmospheric source was previously recognized, it now appears that twice as much mercury actually comes from the rivers. The revelation implies that concentrations of the toxin may further increase as climate change continues to modify the region's hydrological cycle and release mercury from warming Arctic soils. Science Codex


canadian flagCanada's Ice-Capable Arctic Patrol Ships Delayed 3 More Years. The Royal Canadian Navy's plans to acquire six to eight ice-capable Arctic/Offshore Patrol Ships (AOPS) are facing yet another obstacle. On Tuesday in the Canadian House of Commons, the 2012-12 Reports on Plans and Priorities were tabled. The reports sum up the expected revenue, expenditures, and projects of each government agency and department in Canada. National Defense's plans and priorities show that the AOPS will be delayed another three years, with delivery now scheduled for 2018. The first ship will not be operational until 2019, and that full operational capability of all of the ships will not be reached until 2023. The Treasury Board gave preliminary approval to the project in May 2007, so by the time the project is finally completed over fifteen years will have elapsed. Alaska Dispatch


Oil Whale ExxonExxon Valdez-like Oil Disaster in Arctic Feared: Expert says sending fuel to China via pipeline terminals almost guarantees a major disaster. One of Canada's top experts on Arctic issues is warning of the "near-inevitability" of an Exxon Valdez-scale oil spill at a fragile choke point in Alaskan waters if Canada ends up shipping oil-sands fuel to China via pipeline terminals on the British Columbia coast. Michael Byers, a University of British Columbia professor and Canada Research Chair in Global Politics and International Law, argues that Canada's "disregard for the environmental impacts of developing and selling its oilsands to China" could eventually expose the narrow, already-congested Unimak Pass in the Aleutian Islands - a key maritime gateway between Asia and North America - to an ecological disaster. Vancouver Sun 


Legislative Actionfutureevents  


No Arctic legislation was formally considered Friday.

Future Events               


Outer Continental Shelf Scientific Committee, May 22-24, 2012. The Outer Continental Shelf (OCS) Scientific Committee (SC) is a chartered entity through the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management to consider feasibility, appropriateness, and scientific value of BOEM's OCS Environmental Studies Program. The next meeting will occur in Santa Barbara, CA. Issues to be covered at the meeting include:

  • An Integrated Scientific Approach to Arctic Sustainability: An International Partnership on Arctic Science Engineering and Education for Sustainability (ArcSEES)
  • Modeling of the Ecosystem Dynamics in the Alaskan Arctic Ocean
  • Chukchi Acoustic, Oceanography and Zooplankton Study: Hanna Shoal (Extension of CHAOZ)
  • Walrus Seasonal Distribution and Habitat Use in the Eastern Chukchi Sea
  • Subsistence Mapping of Wainwright, Point Lay, and Point Hope
  • Cook Inlet Circulation Model Calculations
  • Arctic Air Quality Impact Assessment Modeling
  • Enhanced Verification and Interpretation of Arctic Ice Formation, Distribution, and Density
  • Physical and Chemical Analyses of Crude and Refined Oils: Laboratory and Mesoscale Oil Weathering
  • A Cultural Resource Survey of the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas

A link to the complete agenda is available here.


NOAA's Hydrographic Services Review Panel meeting, May 22-24, 2012 in Anchorage, Alaska. This federal advisory committee will discuss improvements of navigation services that NOAA provides for Alaska and the Arctic. Topics include new nautical charts and navigation safety, emerging commercial shipping needs, accuracy of land elevation data for coastal management, and natural hazard warning and response for the Alaska/Arctic region. The public is invited, and can provide comments during the May 23 and 24 afternoon sessions. For more information, click here.


The Tenth International Conference on Permafrost, June 2012. The conference will be held in Tyumen, Russia, and is organized and hosted by Russia. The last conference was held in Fairbanks, Alaska, in 2008. Click here.  


The Institute of the North hosts Arctic-related events. For details, go here. Three upcoming events, all in Anchorage, AK are: (a) Commercial Applications of Northern Airships, July 31-Aug 2, Federal Research: Priorities and Processes, August 13, and Northern Energy Technology and Science Fair, August 15.


15th International Congress on Circumpolar Health, August 5-10, 2012. This event is sponsored by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, the American Society for Circumpolar Health, and the International Union for Circumpolar Health.  The forum will consider community participatory research and healthmeetinglogoindigenous research; women's health, family health, and well-being; food security and nutrition; social determinants of health; environmental and occupational health; infectious and chronic diseases; climate change health impacts; health service delivery and infrastructure; and behavioral health. Click here.


98th meeting of the US Arctic Research Commission. Aug. 9-10. Fairbanks, AK. More info coming soon. 


The Arctic Imperative Summit, August 24-28, 2012. The summit will be hosted by Alaska Dispatch and will bring together leading voices in this conversation, including residents from the small villages that comprise Alaska's coastal communities, state, national and international leaders, the heads of shipping and industry, as well as international policymakers and the news media. The goal of the summit is to sharpen the focus on the policy and investment needs of Alaska's Arctic through a series of high level meetings, presentations, investor roundtables and original research. Click here


Arctic/Inuit/Connections: Learning from the Top of the World , October 24-28, 2012.  The 18th Inuit Studies Conference, hosted by the Smithsonian Institution, will be held in Washington, DC. The conference will consider heritage inuitconferencelogomuseums and the North; globalization: an Arctic story; power, governance and politics in the North; the '"new" Arctic: social, cultural and climate change; and Inuit education, health, language, and literature.   


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