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12/29/14 - Gov. Bill Walker orders no new contracts on six mega-projects

No new contracts for the Knik Arm Crossing, Susitna-Watana Dam, Alaska Stand-along Pipeline, Ambler Road, Juneau Access Road, and Kodiak Launch Complex 

Friday Governor Bill Walker called a halt to six mega-projects pending further review. In a prepared statement, he said he’s told all state agencies to stop non-obligated spending on the Susitna-Watana Dam, Knik Arm Crossing, Alaska Stand Alone Pipeline Project, Ambler Road, Juneau Access Road, and the Kodiak Launch Complex.

Walker said the state’s budget deficit grows as oil prices go lower, so he’s asked agencies not to enter into any new contracts on the projects, all of which he says require “significantly  more state investment to complete.”

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The Governor’s administrative order came two days after Legislative leaders called on him to take immediate steps to address budget concerns, such as a hiring freeze, and limits on travel. Legislative leaders said the immediate concerns of a possible $3 billion deficit and protection of the state's credit rating will take center stage when lawmakers convene in January. Walker replied thanking the legislators he said had already sent him suggested budget cuts, and said he and Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott are considering those and other proposals to set priorities, eliminate inefficiencies, and cut government waste.

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Researchers say "successful aging" movement reflects bias against age

In the 1960s, scientists began examining how some people stay healthy, independent, and productive into old age. Their findings led to a widespread belief that by making the right choices, people can stave off disease, disability, and even death.  But some experts say the idea of successful aging reflects American abhorrence of old age and denial of death.

Speaking at a gerontological conference in Washington, D.C. Last month [November], Brandeis University anthropology professor Sarah Lamb said successful aging articles and books tell readers how to “direct” their own aging, and paint disability as “bleak,” and dependence on others as “demeaning.” Lamb says the problem is that much of the aging process is beyond our control, and old age does lead to physical decline and death, issues she says Americans are loathe to acknowledge.

“Age-ism can mean different things,” said Lamb. “One, it can mean discrimination against older people, not giving them a job. But more profoundly, it's like thinking that old age is very bad and embarrassing. And that's really pervasive in our culture. I think that's why the successful aging movement is so successful, is that it is a way of denying that we have to be old. And that's very negative, very bad.”

Dr. Anna Corwin, of Stanford University, says that’s due in part to the promotion of products that promise eternal youth. She says the concept of successful aging got its start among researchers who study aging, but the opportunity to market everything from special diets, supplements and rejuvenating face creams, took it mainstream.

“It's something that has totally spilled over and been taken up,” said Corwin. “And there's a lot of like market value in it, there's a lot of people making a lot of money with it. And so I think it just sort of hinges, it sort of connects well with a lot of other paradigms in the U.S.”

Lamb says putting too much faith in successful aging, can lead to feelings of failure when disabilities develop. Also, she says assuming Baby Boomers will remain independent and responsible for their own needs until they die, will leave society unprepared to handle increasing needs such as health care, assisted living, and financial support.

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 The text for this story has been corrected to attribute comments by Dr. Anna Corwin to her. 

Joaqlin Estus produced this story through a Fellowship from New America Media and the Gerontological Society of America, supported by AARP.