Alaska News

Law Firm Gifts $3.5M to Tribal Health

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2015-05-11 17:40

A national law firm that specializes in Indian law is donating $3.5 million to improve medical care for tribal members. The decision comes after the firm, which has offices in Anchorage, helped win a case before the U.S. Supreme Court involving hundreds of millions of dollars for tribal health organizations.

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The law firm Sonosky, Chambers, Sachse, Miller and Munson last year was one of the law firms that successfully fought for back payments to tribes from the Indian Health Service and Bureau of Indian Affairs. Attorney Lloyd Miller, a partner in the firm, says the firm wanted to give back to Indian Country, and recognizes the firm’s 40-year anniversary:

“We wanted to give back to Indian Country,” said Miller. “And since so much of our work involves health care issues, we wanted to focus our charitable contribution program on improving health care facilities, either entire clinics or acquisition of critical equipment such as cat scans, MRI machines and the like.”

Four-hundred-fifty thousand dollars each is going to the statewide Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium for patient housing, and to the Anchorage-based Southcentral Foundation for construction of a behavioral health clinic. Last year, ANTHC was paid $153 million for contract support costs, or overhead, that had been in litigation since 1990. Southcentral was awarded $96 million. Miller says $200,000 each is going to the Choctaw, Cherokee, and Chickasaw nations:

“For the most part we’re working with tribes we know very well,” said Miller. “Tribes we’ve had a relationship with since the firm’s founding, in the case of some of the tribes we’ve worked with for 40 years.”

Miller says he hopes their donation will inspire other companies that work with tribes on self governance in health:

“We encourage them to come up with matching funds so that the tribes can do more for their people.”

Miller says in the coming year, the firm will be working on grants to other tribes in Oklahoma, and in North Dakota, South Dakota, and Montana.

Categories: Alaska News

Galena Elder Turns 100

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2015-05-11 17:38

Galena elder Sidney Huntington turned 100 years old on Sunday. Hundreds of family members, friends, and community members gathered in Galena to celebrate the occasion on Saturday.

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As any reader of his biography “Shadows on the Koyukuk” can attest, Sidney Huntington’s life has been full of near-death experiences in the wilderness of the middle Yukon and Koyukuk River valleys.

At his centennial birthday celebration, Sidney recounted one of those experiences, in which he got lost in extreme cold temperatures while chasing down a marten. With only an ax, a gun, and the clothes on his back, he was forced to make camp.  Exhausted and near death, he remembered a story told by the late elder Edwin Simon, advising him to make two fires instead of one.

With that experience in mind, Sidney came to realize that not only must young people listen to elders, but elders also have the responsibility to tell the truth.

“Edwin Simon told me, if you use a story, tell a true story. A false story can cause someone to lose his life.  Never use a story to make yourself good. That’s an example of listening to your elders.  I always give credit to Edwin Simon for teaching me to save my life.”

 Sidney saved himself in other ways, as his daughter Agnes Sweetsir remembered:

“When you realized that your drinking was affecting us negatively, you had your last. When you were told that to continue to smoke would cost you your life, you had your last. Maybe it was your stubbornness that helped some, but I think it was your love of life and believing that your life was more than just about you and your good times and self-satisfaction, it was about all of us. And we thank you.”

Besides quitting drinking and smoking, Sidney also attributed his longevity to eating small, light meals – something he said he learned from the Japanese.

Also at the centennial, family members read a selection of birthday greetings that Sidney has been receiving from the likes of President Obama, Senator Murkowski, Governor Walker and Lt. Governor Mallott, and the co-author of Shadows on the Koyukuk, Jim Reardon.

Sidney lives at the Yukon-Koyukuk Elder Assisted Living Facility in Galena, along with his wife of 70 years, Angela.  The K thru 12 school in Galena, where the party took place, is named after him.  He remains a strong advocate for public education, and high school basketball.  Until recent health challenges, he attended every Galena Hawks practice and game.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: Monday, May 11, 2015

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2015-05-11 17:35

Stories are posted on the APRN news page. You can subscribe to APRN’s newsfeeds via emailpodcast and RSS. Follow us on Facebook at alaskapublic.org and on Twitter @aprn.

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Shell Gets Conditional Approval For Arctic Drilling

Annie Ropeik, KUCB – Unalaska

Shell Oil has gotten another green light for its exploration season in the Chukchi Sea this summer. But as KUCB’s Annie Ropeik reports, the company still has some hurdles to get through before it can drill.

Sealaska Earnings Up, But Losses Continue

Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska – Juneau

The regional Native corporation for Southeast Alaska upped its income by $50 million in 2014. Officials at Juneau-headquartered Sealaska say it’s the start of a multi-year recovery. But critics point to figures showing it’s still losing money.

Army Drawdown Felt in Alaska

Zach Hughes, KSKA – Anchorage

The United States Army is in the midst of a nationwide draw-down that could remove thousands of troops from bases in Alaska in the months ahead. But some units have already started to dissolve. The recent deactivation of an engineering unit at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson is one small piece of larger changes for the Army in Alaska.

Minority Democrats To Hold Own Hearings

Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN – Juneau

Members of the House and Senate minorities are planning hearings of their own, citing frustration with the lack of progress during the special session.

Can Free Pregnancy Tests In Bars Prevent Fetal Alcohol Syndrome?

Casey Kelly, KTOO – Juneau

Bars in Alaska are now offering pregnancy tests. The pilot program is meant to reduce the number of babies born with fetal alcohol syndrome in the state. Alaska has one of the highest rates in the country. Supporters hope the tests will reach women early in pregnancy – a crucial time when they might not know they’re expecting.

Dillingham Fires Up New Incinerator at Landfill

Matt Martin, KDLG – Dillingham

The new incinerator at the Dillingham landfill has fired up. A ban on open burning and limited space led city officials last year to purchase the incinerator.

Law Firm Gifts $3.5M to Tribal Health

Joaqlin Estus, KNBA – Anchorage

A national law firm that specializes in Indian law is donating $3.5 million to improve medical care for tribal members. The decision comes after the firm, which has offices in Anchorage, helped win a case before the U.S. Supreme Court involving hundreds of millions of dollars for tribal health organizations.

Ninilchik Community Library Hires New Director

Shady Grove Oliver, KBBI – Homer

This spring, the Ninilchik community library brought its number of paid staff up to… one. It hired a new director at 15 hours per week. Like many small libraries around the state is has a minuscule budget and relies primarily on volunteers to keep it running.

Galena Elder Turns 100

Tim Bodony, KIYU – Galena

Galena elder Sidney Huntington turned 100 years old on Sunday.  Hundreds of family members, friends, and community members gathered in Galena to celebrate the occasion on Saturday.

Categories: Alaska News

Mine-Sweeping, Playground-Building, Parachuting Sapper Brigade Leaves JBER

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2015-05-11 17:31

The 23rd Engineer Company is one part of the 2d Engineer Brigade in the process of dissolving. The 2nd Engineer Brigade started during WWII with amphibious landings, and the insignia is a sea-horse, “The work-horses of the sea.” Photo: Courtesy of Cpt. Richard Packer, USARAK)

The United States Army is in the midst of a nationwide draw-down that could remove more than 11,000 troops from bases in Alaska during the months ahead. But some units have already started to dissolve as a result of downsizing and sequestration. The deactivation of an engineering unit at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson earlier in the month is a small piece amid larger changes for the Army in Alaska.

In a two-story lodge overlooking scenic Otter Lake at Fort Richardson is Captain A. Edward Major (“Soon to be Major Major,” jokes another captain), who shows me a plaque with a castle on it, the emblem for the Engineer Corp.

“We are engineers–we build things,” Major explains. Things like fortifications for combat, represented symbolically by the castle, “They are proud, and they are imposing structures.”

It’s a sad day for Major. His company, the 23rd Engineer Battalion (engineers who jump out of planes when they have to), deactivated. It is part of the US Army’s strategic shrinking of the overall force. We visit places on base showing the unit’s legacy. One of them is the lodge we’re in, which the 23rd built back in 1974.

“Unfortunately in burned down in 1982,” Major said, “and my company again came back and rebuilt it.”

Engineers fill a peculiar role in the Army, handling what can seem like wildly incompatible responsibilities. Decades ago the unit designed an Alaska-shaped playground on base. But they also returned from a combat deployment in Afghanistan just six months ago, where they would look for roadside bombs, as Major explained, “To make sure some of our less well-protected brethren were not being blown up by the insurgents.”

Since transitioning back to Alaska, Major has worked on dissolving his unit. He shows me a big, empty industrial building that smells like diesel where he and others tied up loose ends, handled all the paperwork of assigning troops to new units, and got commendations in order.

Of the 133 soldiers under his command, around 50 are being absorbed by 4th Brigade of the 25th Infantry Division, and about half are scattering across the globe. It’s a small loss within the larger deactivation of the full 2nd Engineer Brigade, which has shed more than 700 positions from JBER in the last two years, many of them from the more experienced ranks.

“That’s what the Army restructuring was all about,” Major said, “it was a nation-wide effort to figure out where we could accept some risk, and where we needed to reinforce.” Amid that calculus the Army decided Alaska had enough engineering capacity, and opted to shore up units stationed elsewhere.

But that process of making and unmaking is part of the Army, which is constantly adapting to new circumstances, and it’s fundamental to the  identity of combat engineers in particular, who refer to themselves as “sappers.”

“It actually goes back to the French word sapeur, and specifically engineers tunneling under enemy fortifications,” Major said. “They would dig under castle walls and buttress them up with wood, then set fire to the wood. So that would literally sap the strength from the wall, and when the wall fell down you could just run in and take the castle.”

Confused, I ask if the insignia for the engineers isn’t at odds with their nickname, “It just sounds like you build castles, but also destroy castles.”

“It is true,” he replied, “we are meant to do both.”

Major is part of the 23rd leaving Alaska. His next posting is at his alma matter, West Point, managing construction projects for the Corp of Engineers.

Categories: Alaska News

IMinority Democrats To Hold Own Hearings

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2015-05-11 17:15

As the special session grinds on, Democrats in the minority plan to call their own hearings outside of the standard committee process.

With the 30-day special session at the halfway mark, seven meetings have been held on the budget, one on Medicaid expansion, and zero on a sexual abuse prevention bill known as Erin’s Law. Democrats will hold a hearing on all three of these special-session agenda items at the Anchorage Legislative Information Office on Thursday evening.

As part of the Legislature’s majority party, Republican committee chairs have the authority to schedule official hearings. At a press availability on Monday, members of the minority explained they were dissatisfied with the progress of the special session, and decided to hold meetings of their own. They say they will take public comment, which has not occurred in the meetings that have been held.

The Legislature has been in a state of gridlock since the final days of the regular session, when lawmakers failed to reach a deal on a budget. Because of a multi-billion-dollar deficit, some Democratic support is needed to tap the state’s hard-to-access rainy day fund, but the minority has said it will not support a budget that does not include Medicaid expansion or more funds for education.

If a deal to fund state government cannot be reached, a shutdown is possible as early as July, according to the Legislature’s financial analyst.

Categories: Alaska News

Dillingham Fires Up New Incinerator at landfill

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2015-05-11 16:34

This week, Dillingham landfill employees began burning municipal trash.

The new incinerator at the Dillingham landfill.
Credit Matt Martin/KDLG

Poncho Garcia is the Public Works Director for the City of Dillingham. He says the incinerator heats up to about 1,300 to 1,400 degrees Fahrenheit.

“We’re going through about 5,000 pounds of trash a day. And once we get the other addition help we’re probably going to pump that up to 10,000 pounds or more a day,” said Garcia.

The city purchased and installed the incinerator after the Department of Environmental Conservation did not renew a permit for open burning.

City Manager Rose Loera says the new incinerator will help to save the city costs and clean up the landfill.

“You won’t see bears trying to get into the cells. The bird activity would diminish tremendously,” said Loera.

The incinerator does not handle glass, and the City is continuing to ask residents to sort glass from their trash and take them to drop-off locations around town.

Categories: Alaska News

Shell Gets Conditional Approval For Arctic Drilling

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2015-05-11 16:16

Shell has gotten another green light for its oil exploration season in the Chukchi Sea this summer.

The Bureau of Ocean Energy Management gave conditional approval for Shell’s exploration plan Monday morning.

The Noble Discoverer in Unalaska in 2012. (KUCB-Unalaska file photo)

Agency sokesman John Callahan says the conditions include getting permits from other federal agencies to actually drill for oil, work around marine mammals and discharge wastewater.

“So while our agency has conditionally approved this plan, there are some things Shell still has to do before it can go out,” Callahan says.

Shell has described a more concentrated campaign of activity than it had last time it attempted to drill in the Arctic. It plans to use two drill rigs and up to 40 round-trip helicopter trips a week — more than triple the number from its previous plan.

The executive director of the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission asked the government last month to consider the effect of noise from Shell’s proposed operations. Arnold Brower Jr., on behalf of the commission, says they could create a “fence of sound” and displace the whales.

Shell spokeswoman Megan Baldino says they’re hoping the environmental permits they wind up with will be ”practical” and “usable,” and will come through in time for a full summer season.

“We achieved these permits in 2012 and we’re looking forward to their delivery for 2015,” she says.

2012 was marked by a range of mishaps, including grounded drill rigs. And Susan Murray, a vice president for conservation group Oceana, says Shell’s not ready for another try.

“If Shell hasn’t shown us yet they can take bad decisions out of the equation, and their contractors can’t take bad decisions out of the equation, they don’t belong in the offshore Arctic yet,” she says. “The risk is simply too high.”

Shell’s rigs are still set to heard north in the next few weeks, though. Along with their permits, they’re waiting on a final plan from the Coast Guard for buffer zones around their rigs when they’re staged in Unalaska and Kotzebue.

Categories: Alaska News

Can Free Pregnancy Tests In Bars Prevent Fetal Alcohol Syndrome?

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2015-05-11 16:09

Bars in Alaska are now offering pregnancy tests. The pilot program is meant to reduce the number of babies born with fetal alcohol syndrome in the state. Alaska has one of the highest rates in the country. Supporters hope the tests will reach women early in pregnancy – a crucial time when they might not know they’re expecting.

Inside the ladies room at the Peanut Farm bar in Anchorage, a dispenser advertising free pregnancy tests hangs on the wall.

Press the button to get one of the self-administered urine tests, and on this day they’re all out.

The front of the machine features a poster showing a silhouette of a pregnant woman drinking from a bottle. The text at the top says: “Remember the last time you had sex?”

Aimee Rathbone says she didn’t notice the dispenser at first.

“So, I don’t know if it would catch my eye to make me take a test before I drank,” she says.

Rathbone wonders, who’s the target audience? She believes most women will quit drinking when they find out they’re pregnant.

“I think anybody that might suspect it wouldn’t drink except if they were addicted. You know, if they had a drinking problem then maybe it wouldn’t really change things.”

State health officials estimate more than 120 children born in Alaska each year have fetal alcohol symptoms, ranging from mental and physical disabilities to impaired growth to organ damage. Alaska also has a high rate of women who binge drink, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The University of Alaska is conducting the two-year study. Researcher David Driscoll says it will look at whether pregnancy test dispensers in bar bathrooms can be more effective at preventing fetal alcohol syndrome than posters by themselves.

“Most of the strategies that we’ve used in the past have been relatively effective,” Driscoll says. “But we’re always looking for ways to try and improve our ability to provide information.”

So far, the tests are in just four bars statewide, but Driscoll plans to add more soon. He says women are already filling out an online survey they’re asked to take when they use the dispensers.

Between health care, education and social service costs, the state can spend millions of dollars on a person with fetal alcohol syndrome over the course of his or her lifetime. So, advocates say the $400,000 pilot project could have huge benefits.

“A lot of women now understand that they shouldn’t drink,” Deb Evenson says. Evenson is an Alaska-based educator, whose fetal alcohol prevention work spans more than 30 years.

“But a lot of people are still drinking in early pregnancy, and before they know they’re pregnant, and that can cause a lot of damage.”

Evenson applauds the pregnancy tests as something new, even if people have known about fetal alcohol syndrome for decades.

“This isn’t new information and somehow it’s missing big segments of our society. And so I think all the way that we can share the information in every direction is really a good idea.”

Back at the Peanut Farm bar, basketball and hockey play on several giant screens.

General Manager Travis Block says he was wary about putting the pregnancy test dispenser in the ladies room at first. But after learning about the prevalence of fetal alcohol syndrome in Alaska, and the potential savings from preventing the disorder, he’s a supporter.

“People are going to drink, and that’s what we’re here to do is, you know, provide entertainment. But each person has to make up their own decision on what they want to do with their body.”

He says maybe the tests will make some women think twice about how much they drink and what the consequences might be.

Categories: Alaska News

Sealaska earnings up, but losses continue

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2015-05-11 11:48

The regional Native corporation for Southeast Alaska upped its income by $50 million in 2014. Officials at Juneau-headquarteredSealaska say it’s the start of a multi-year recovery.

But critics point to figures showing it’s still losing money.

2013 was a dark year for the 22,000-shareholder corporation.

Sealaska CEO Anthony Mallott, right, discusses the regional Native corporation’s earnings and losses during a Friday press conference as Chief Financial Officer Doug Morris looks on. (Photo by Ed Schoenfeld/CoastAlaska News)

Its construction company badly underestimated two federal projects,losing more than $25 million. Problems with other businesses more than doubled that amount.

The corporation’s 2014 annual report, which was just released, paints a much brighter picture. It says profits totaled almost $15 million, with growth coming from its service sector.

Sealaska CEO Anthony Mallott says it’s the start of a significant recovery.

“We believe 2014 was a great turnaround that created a stable platform to lead to the progress that we need for the corporation,” he says.

But right now, it’s not looking that bright.

Sealaska still lost money last year. The profit only comes when funds for a shared pool of regional Native corporationsnatural resource earnings is included.

Without that money, from a northwest Alaska mine and North Slope oil development, Sealaska is $9.5 million in the red. Official numbers are lower, because some corporate expenses aren’t counted as losses.

The result is the smallest amount of business and investment income going to shareholder dividends in about a dozen years.

CEO Mallott says that will change.

“Stable, increasing dividends is what we want to build toward. 2013 will be a drag for a few more years, for sure,” he says.

Sealaska expects growth in its timber subsidiary, which had almost closed down.

Congress last year passed a controversial lands bill turning over 70,000 acres of the Tongass National Forest. Sealaska Timber Corp. is logging its first parcels from that package now, on the Cleveland Peninsula and Prince of Wales Island.

Chief Financial Officer Doug Morris says the timber subsidiary is cleaning up and closing some older logging sites.

“There’s a lot of infrastructure they’re going to put in place, new roads and buying more gear, getting ready for this new life, that they’re going to have going forward, It’ll be profitable but not at the levels we want to see as we go forward,” he says.

Sealaska is in looking to make some significant new investments. It sold off its profitable plastics partnership and a smaller company to help fund new acquisitions closer to home.

Mallott says it’s reviewed at least 100 businesses so far. One area is natural foods.

“We’re looking very closely at the seafood industry. And, of course, the seafood industry can have connections to Alaska and Southeast for sure,” he says.

Officials are also looking at data analytics.

He says the corporation also made internal cuts. It reduced its workforce of 400 by more than a third. And it paid no management bonuses.

Morris says the board of directors also made cuts, including a costly health-care credit.

“They eliminated that as well as put a cap on what their fees can be for the year. So now, they can only make up to their cap, which is below what some of the fees had been over prior years,” he says.

Critics says executives – especially those who retired – were overpaid, an undeserving reward for what they call poor management.

Mallott took over as CEO last June, replacing Chris McNeil Jr., who stepped down. The board reorganized about the same time with a new chairman, Joe Nelson of Juneau.

Five incumbent board members are up for re-election this year. They’re being challenged by an equal number of independents.

Categories: Alaska News

Woman held on suspicion of assault after Anchorage stabbing

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2015-05-11 11:45

A 45-year-old Anchorage woman was arrested on suspicion of felony assault following a stabbing early Sunday.

Anchorage police say they have arrested Elizabeth Chiskok.

Police just after 5:30 a.m. were called to 17th Avenue and C Street in response to a call of a stabbing at a homeless person’s tent.

Police found a man critically injured with stab wounds. He was taken to a hospital.

Chiskok was arrested at the scene.

Police say she knew the stabbed man and had once been in a relationship with him.

Police say Chiskok and the man got into an argument before the stabbing.

Chiskok remained at the scene and cooperated with police.

Categories: Alaska News

Tuluksak Man Shoots Three, No Major Injuries

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2015-05-11 11:42

A Tuluksak man shot three people, including a tribal police officer Wednesday evening.

Megan Peters, a spokesperson for the Alaska State Troopers says 20-year-old Gerald Lamont shot a family member in the face with a 20-gauge shotgun containing birdshot. He then walked through the village with the shotgun.

“He did shoot a tribal police officer in the back and shot a third person in the head area. Multiple community members were shot at, but were not hit by the birdshot,” said Peters.

None of the victims had major injuries. Troopers flew to Tuluksak to find Lamont still armed.

“Immediately when he saw troopers he dropped the shotgun and fled. Troopers were able to locate him an hour later and take him into custody without incident. Fortunately there were no serious injuries reported, all the victims declined to have medical attention,” said Peters.

Lamont was taken to the jail in Bethel and held without bail. He faces charges of attempted murder, assault, and weapons misconduct. Troopers don’t believe alcohol was involved.

Separately, in Tununak Wednesday afternoon, a tribal police officer reported to troopers that a man in the village was firing a handgun in the air. Peters says 27-year-old Greg Angaiak reportedly walked throughout the community while firing the gun.

“During that incident he went into a local store and stole a couple boxes of ammunition. He reloaded his firearm and continued to fire off the weapon while he was walking throughout the community,” said Peters.

Troopers flew out and arrested Angaiak without incident. School was still in session. Leaders locked the doors and kept students in their classrooms for a couple hours until the threat was cleared. Troopers don’t believe alcohol was involved in that case.

Categories: Alaska News

Teacher Charged with Felony Sex Abuse

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2015-05-11 11:39

A teacher in Kwigillingok has been arrested for allegedly having sex with a 15-year-old student.

31-year-old Michael Wier was arrested Thursday and is being held at the Bethel jail on $50,000 bail. Another teacher had reported that he was concerned for the student after she had been “lingering” around Wier for a couple months.

According to court documents, in mid-March the concerned teacher unlocked Weir’s classroom and saw the man stand up shirtless and out of breath while pulling up his pants from behind his desk. The teacher left quickly and apparently did not see the student. According to documents, the student in April said that she and Wier had consensual sex in the classroom and that she saw the other teacher walk in that evening.

Court documents list Wier’s driver license from Buffalo, New York. Weir is charged with an unclassified felony of sexual abuse of a minor.

Categories: Alaska News

Senate plans technical session in Juneau Tuesday

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2015-05-11 11:37

The full Senate will not be required to attend the first floor session since lawmakers voted for a recess.

Senate President Kevin Meyer’s office says Tuesday’s floor session in Juneau will be a technical session, for which a quorum isn’t called for. Barring a budget deal, there’s no legislation to vote on.

The House Finance Committee plans to hold hearings on Medicaid, another issue on the special session call, next week in Anchorage.

Lawmakers last week voted for a recess in floor sessions until Tuesday, though House and Senate Finance committees have held budget hearings and behind-the-scenes talks have occurred.

Senate Majority Leader John Coghill, in an interview, cited concerns with the cost of bringing everyone back to Juneau to gavel in if there was no specific business to take up.

Categories: Alaska News

Man Shot by Bethel Police Sentenced for Assault

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2015-05-11 11:37

A man who was shot by Bethel police after chasing and striking an officer with a baseball bat was sentenced to three years in prison with two suspended. Aaron Moses was sentenced Friday in Bethel Superior Court. Because he’s been in custody since last summer, he will have time served credited to his sentence.

Aaron Moses was sentenced in Bethel court on May 8, 2015. Video still from witness video.

In a sentencing hearing focusing on Moses’ well-being, his brother, Byron Moses, spoke briefly about the mental health struggles of his sibling.

“Despite all of this I still love my brother. I just pray and hope he gets the help he needs. I’m not here to testify against him. I’m here telling him he needs help,” said Moses.

The court says that Moses had not been taking his medication last summer when he began fighting with his brother after asking for a gun because he was suicidal. He then went outside with a baseball bat and broke the windows on his brother’s truck.

He swung the bat at Bethel police as they unsuccessfully tried to subdue him. After officer Sammie Hendrix was knocked to the ground and struck, he shot Moses. A witness captured the incident on video.

Judge Dwayne McConnell also sentenced Moses to three years of probation with several conditions.

“One the conditions is that you have to take your medication, in my view that’s the most important one. If you don’t, like I told you, you’ll be back here in court. And I don’t want to see you in court, I just want to see you at the AC or the Sea Lion or someplace.”

Moses originally faced two assault charges and one for felony criminal mischief. With his guilty plea, it was reduced to one felony assault charge for causing injury with a weapon.

Categories: Alaska News

Troopers say body of missing Wisconsin man found in Alaska

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2015-05-11 11:30

The body of a 73-year-old Wisconsin man who was missing in Alaska for nine months has been found in a river.

Alaska State Troopers say an autopsy positively identified the body found May 2 as that of Roger Yaeger of Eagle River, Wisconsin.

Troopers say evidence suggests Yaeger shot and killed himself. They say there was no sign of foul play.

Yaeger traveled to Alaska last summer. Family members last heard from him in early August when he visited a relative in Wasilla. His travel was then traced to Fairbanks, where he returned his rental car a few days later.

According to troopers, family members suggested Yaeger was suicidal. He also was believed to have a gun.

Categories: Alaska News

Fishing vessel runs aground in Katmai National Park

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2015-05-11 11:29

The National Park Service says a fishing vessel abandoned after a fire last month has run aground at Katmai National Park.

The park service said Saturday the Northern Pride was found between Cape Chiniak and Kaguyak Point along the Shelikof Strait. The vessel has released an oil-like sheen. The park service says the sheen is unrecoverable.

The 82-foot wooden vessel’s crew abandoned ship on April 21. The Coast Guard rescued the three-member crew. The vessel capsized shortly after and was believed to have sunk.

The park service says marine mammals, migratory birds and cultural resources are at risk from the shipwreck. It says rapidly salvaging the boat and assessing the spill are high priorities.

The salvage team and park staff hope to visit the grounding this weekend if weather permits.

Categories: Alaska News

With Foster Care Cases Up, Lawmakers Consider Funding Triage

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2015-05-08 16:45

The Walker administration is pushing for more funding for the Office of Children’s Services, in response to the growing number of foster children in the system.

Listen now:

A line added to the governor’s new budget would accept $1 million in one-time federal funding that could be used to add more front-line social workers. OCS Director Christy Lawton described it as a life-or-death situation when questioned by Anchorage Democrat Les Gara at a House Finance committee hearing on Thursday.

GARA: Christy, did you say ‘die,’ or did I misunderstand that?

LAWTON: I did say, ‘die.’ Kids die from fatalities related to child abuse and neglect.

Since Gov. Bill Walker first introduced his budget, the number of foster children in Alaska has grown from 2,400 to 2,500. Meanwhile, the Office of Children’s Services is operating with 25 percent of its front-line positions vacant, and with each worker’s caseload at double the recommended average.

Finance Co-Chair Mark Neuman, a Republican from Big Lake, expressed concern about the staffing problems at OCS. But he also had reservations that the state was growing the department with funding that might disappear.

“So, we’re adding 10 positions here, because we’re getting temporary funding for a year,” said Neuman. “Well, we don’t know if we’re going to get those bonus funds in future years.”

Budget Director Pat Pitney said the governor’s office was willing to fund the new positions with savings found elsewhere in the department.

“This is a million dollars of that $92 million savings that has already been extracted from this department in this one single year to do something for a small population of very in-need people,” said Pitney.

In addition to holding committee hearings, the Republican legislative leadership is continuing its negotiations with the Democratic minority and with Walker over the new budget.

While the Legislature is scheduled to reconvene its special session in Juneau on Tuesday, they plan to immediately gavel in and out without taking action because a budget deal has not been finalized.

Categories: Alaska News

Lawmakers Seek Audit Of State Crime Lab

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2015-05-08 16:44

Lawmakers have approved an audit of the state crime lab to see if it is properly managing evidence.

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Sen. Berta Gardner made the request of the Legislative Budget and Audit committee on Thursday. The Anchorage Democrat filed a bill to audit the processing of rape kits in the state earlier this year, after a report by the Legislature’s research department was unable to get information on the number of untested kits.

“All of the answers were, ‘Unknown. Unknown. Unknown,’” said Gardner.

The bill is still in committee, but Gardner said she started getting calls from current and former crime lab employees, alleging mismanagement. That pushed her to request an audit on the lab itself.

“There were claims, for example, that one whistleblower — that she’d worked as a lab technician for almost ten years but left her job because she was afraid of losing her national accreditation because of management’s failure to maintain a proper chain of custody with evidence and failure to adhere to standards for storage of evidence,” said Gardner.

The $90 million crime lab has been in operation since 2012.

At the same meeting, the committee also approved an audit of the cruise ship head tax and the way the revenue was being used, and an audit of the Department of Fish and Game’s advisory committee process.

Categories: Alaska News

Prenatal Pot Use on the Rise in Alaska

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2015-05-08 16:43

About 1 in 14 Alaska women are using marijuana while pregnant and that ratio appears to be going up. That’s based on the state’s pregnancy risk monitoring survey which is a randomized mail and phone questionnaire hundreds of new moms complete a year.

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The survey offers a glimpse into the lives of Alaska women who consume pot while pregnant. For instance, we know that these women tend to be younger, under 24. Kathy Perham-Hester coordinates the survey.

“It would tend to be an Alaska Native woman versus women of other races. There’s a higher proportion of women who have had at least part of their prenatal care paid for by Medicaid. So they might be lower income.”

She says that data also points to where these women live.

“Proportionally more in the northern region of the state and the southeast region of the state.”

PRAMS, or the pregnancy risk assessment monitoring system, has been surveying women in Alaska since the 1990s. Forty other states also have similar programs. It’s funded by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The latest data is from 2002 to 2011. Over that span, the percentage of women who consumed pot during pregnancy more than doubled. But one question it didn’t include was “why?”

“You know, we did not ask any question like that. So no, I’d have to say I’m not aware of that.”

A young Juneau mother teases her baby: “You want to be interviewed?” she jokes.

We’re withholding her name because she fears she could lose her job this summer working in the tourism industry. She’s 26, married and the mother of a baby boy.

“Everybody comments on his alertness and how he just smiles and laughs. He’s only two months old but he’s very smart. I mean sure, everybody says that about their baby,” she laughs.

During her pregnancy, Juneau mom smoked pot about two times a week. She says she didn’t experience any nausea while she was expecting. But she did have painful cramps.

“So I would smoke to get rid of those cause you can’t really take any other medication for it, which worked for me because my cramps would diminish enough, I could go swimming or I could go on walk.”

She says she didn’t really start smoking pot until she was in college. And now smoking it recreationally is more conducive to her lifestyle.

“I enjoy marijuana a lot more than alcohol. Like don’t get me wrong, a cold beer on a great sunny day like today is amazing. Especially if you can be on top of a mountain. Nothing beats that. But I’m kind of done binge drinking and partying hard on the weekends.”

Instead, Juneau mom likes to do yoga…high. She’s interested in living a “healthy lifestyle” and doesn’t smoke tobacco. She pays for private health insurance and enjoys spending time outdoors. She says before getting pregnant, she used cannabis medically to soothe her fibromyalgia.

“Smoking marijuana like, really helped me get over that hump because I didn’t have to be on Xanax and Cymbalta all those crazy mind-altering drugs. So that’s kind of when I really started.”

But smoking pot prenatally, wasn’t a decision she says she came to lightly. She did her own online research. The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services recently issued a fact sheet on marijuana use during pregnancy and breastfeeding, outlining some of the risks.

Dr. Jay Butler is the chief medical officer for the department.

“Well, there’s a lot that we don’t know about marijuana in terms of harms or possible benefits. But right now I think the data points to harms.”

He says THC, the active ingredient in marijuana can enter the bloodstream of a developing fetus or nursing infant.

“There are a number of epidemiological studies that suggest that exposure to marijuana early in life, particularly heavy use may affect brain development and intellect. Is it proof of causation? Not necessarily. But I think the data are strong enough that there’s reason to be concerned.”

But our young mother wasn’t convinced.

“So to me the data wasn’t really solid,” she said. “It didn’t provide enough evidence to really go with that.”

Juneau mom says before she made the decision to smoke pot while pregnant, she needed advice from one more person.

“I asked my mom. And she actually admitted that she did while she was pregnant with me and my siblings. So that kind of made it a little bit more OK after my own research I had done. I could talk to her about it and she told me her experience. And I was like, ‘well I came out normal,’ at least I think. So it can’t be terrible.”

If a medical expert feels like a child has been born drug-affected, an investigation could be launched by the Office of Children’s Services. Juneau mom thinks that’s why more women don’t talk about it…because they’re afraid.

“You hid when you smoked or you kept it private. So why would you ever want to speak about it to someone who might blow the whistle on you?”

Since she started breastfeeding, she says she’s stopped smoking pot regularly for now. The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services says, with changing attitudes toward marijuana, there are concerns the number of women smoking pot while pregnant could continue to go up.

Categories: Alaska News

Two New Wolf Kills Add to Denali Population Decline

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2015-05-08 16:42

The recent killing of two Denali National Park wolves, has increased calls for protection of the animals on state land adjacent to the park, where hunting and trapping are legal. The animals were shot in the Stampede area near Healy, the same region where other park wolves have been trapped and killed. The annual harvest is fairly low, but is garnering concern as the Park wolf population continues to decline.

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Categories: Alaska News

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