Alaska lost 9,000 jobs last summer, according to the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development. The period of loss was between July and September, some loss is normal during this time, due to seasonal industries, but low oil prices have vastly increased it. Worst off is the oil and gas sector, which now employs 26 percent less than it did in the third quarter of 2015. Job loss statewide has increased every month since late 2015. Alaska has the nation’s worst unemployment rate.
Puerto Rico’s governor has initiated a referendum to determine whether the U.S. island territory will join the union or leave it for good. The non-binding referendum will be held on June 11 and gives voters the choice to choose between statehood and independence/free association. If the voters choose the latter, a second resolution will be held to choose between the two. Free association means that Puerto Rico would become a sovereign country while maintaining its economic ties to the United States, with the option to dissolve those ties at any time. “Colonialism is not an option for Puerto Rico,” Gov. Ricardo Rossello said. “It’s a civil rights issue … The time will come in which the United States has to respond to the demands of 3.5 million citizens seeking an absolute democracy.” Those who back statehood say that the nearly $10 billion in additional annual federal funding would help solve the island’s $70 billion public debt. In addition, statehood would help make Puerto Rico more equal. While its inhabitants are U.S. citizens, they are not allowed to vote in presidential elections, and their representative in congress are not allowed to vote in most matters. Puerto Ricans have voted on this question as recently as 2012, but no previous referendum has returned a clear majority capable of motivating the U.S. Congress, which has final say on any changes in the island’s political status, into voting on the matter.
As recently as last week, Francois Fillon was the frontrunner in France’s presidential election. Now, a scandal means anyone could win. Late last month, judicial investigators decide to investigate the former prime minister on the potential misuse of public funds after a newspaper revealed he had employed his own family for decades at a cost of hundreds of thousands of euros. This is not illegal; in fact, the practice of employing family members is common among French officials, but it does not appear that his family members did any work. The scandal has taken the name of his wife, a central figure in the allegations: “Penelopegate.” Fillon’s party, the center-right Republicans, are now left without a solid candidate.