Alaska News

Governor Signs Bill in Bethel to Ease Autopsy Burden

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-07-18 17:10

Governor Parnell signs HB 301, which eases the burdens on families for required autopsies. L to R: Alaska Medical Examiner Dr. Gary Zientek, Rep. Bob Herron, Governor Sean Parnell, YKHC President and CEO Dan Winkelman, and Senator Lyman Hoffman. (Photo by Dean Swope, KYUK – Bethel)

Governor Sean Parnell was in Bethel Thursday to sign a bill intended to help rural families navigate the process of having an autopsy done hundreds of miles away in Anchorage.

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When someone in western Alaska dies in suspicious or unusual circumstances, the state is required to conduct an autopsy or exam in Anchorage. Sometimes in that time of stress, family members are making decisions without good information. In a packed room of regional leaders at the Yukon Kuskokwim Health Corporation Thursday, Governor Parnell signed a bill into law intended to make that stressful time easier.

“This is about dignity and respect for our lost loved ones, as well as the dignity and respect of the families that are involved,” said Parnell.

The bill makes explicit that families can choose to have the body returned directly to them, instead of a funeral home. Bethel Representative Bob Herron sponsored the bill.

“It’s hard on the family because they want closure, they want it done right. And in the past, it’s to no fault of anybody, but the state appeared to be promoting the funeral home business,” said Herron.

Part of that was the documentation for families, which has been changed. Supporters cite stories of people getting stuck with large funeral home bills they couldn’t pay. That’s led to some funeral homes holding the body hostage until they get paid.

Nicholas Hoover is the Social Services Director for Association of Village Council Presidents and works with families in need. He says good communication hasn’t always happened in the past and points to a recent 7-thousand dollar funeral home bill.

“If a family isn’t prepared, they can tack on services like embalming, it’s toxic, and it’s not traditional custom to have a body embalmed. Cosmetics is another…traditionally the family is the one who dresses the body and prepares it for a funeral,” said Hoover.

The law also allows for the possibility of some exams to be done outside of urban areas in a hub like Bethel with video equipment. That could cut down on the approximately 900 cases the medical examiners see annually.

Dr. Gary Zientek is Alaska’s Chief Medical Examiner. He says there are no plans yet to establish a rural examination program and the requirements for a facility and training are steep.

“…Photographs and fingerprints, we have to do a lot of documentation it would be a lot of training. It would probably be possible, but it requires a lot of work before we do that,” said Zientek.

The law would pay for embalming if required by an air carrier and could return the body to places besides the exact location of the death. The Governor also signed resolutions in support of Alaska’s role in national arctic policy and of Recover Alaska’s efforts to reduce excessive alcohol consumption. He spoke at the Bethel Chamber of Commerce.

Categories: Alaska News

Fort Yukon Plans New Landfill to Improve Safety, Facilitate More Recycling

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-07-18 17:09

The City of Ft. Yukon plans to build a new landfill. The project is aimed at improving safety and recycling some of the community’s waste stream.

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Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: July 18, 2014

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-07-18 16:52

Individual news 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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EPA Rolls Out Proposed Restrictions on the Pebble Mine

Mike Mason, KDLG – Dillingham

The EPA has released the details of how they plan to use the Clean Water Act to put in place protections in Bristol Bay from the possible negative impacts of the proposed Pebble Mine.

Alaska Supreme Court Affirms Tribal Court Jurisdiction

Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage

The Alaska Supreme Court issued a decision today in a long running tribal court jurisdiction case. The case stems from a Minto tribal court decision that terminated parental rights.

State Confirms Rabies in Bat in Southeast Alaska

The Associated Press

State officials have confirmed rabies in a bat in southeast Alaska.

Diomede Helicopter Service Resumes

Matthew Smith, KNOM – Nome

The helicopter to Diomede is flying today. The first flight to the island took off around 11 o’clock Friday morning after a new contract was formally signed by Erickson Aviation, Kawerak and Federal Department of Transportation officials Thursday.

Governor Signs Bill in Bethel to Ease Autopsy Burden

Ben Matheson, KYUK – Bethel

Governor Sean Parnell was in Bethel Thursday to sign a bill intended to help rural families navigate the process of having an autopsy done hundreds of miles away in Anchorage.

Fort Yukon Plans New Landfill to Improve Safety, Facilitate More Recycling

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

The City of Ft. Yukon plans to build a new landfill. The project is aimed at improving safety and recycling some of the community’s waste stream.

AK: Weaving

Annie Bartholomew, KTOO – Juneau

It has long been forbidden for men to weave in the Chilkat tradition, but Tlingit artist Ricky Tagaban is an exception. Using techniques practiced for thousands of years, Tagaban creates his trademark iPhone bags, hair clips, and head bands, putting a modern spin on an ancient tradition.

300 Villages: Dry Creek

This week we’re heading to the tiny Interior village of Dry Creek. Tom Nerbonne runs a saw mill in Dry Creek.

Categories: Alaska News

300 Villages: Dry Creek

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-07-18 15:05

This week we’re heading to the tiny Interior village of Dry Creek. Tom Nerbonne runs a saw mill in Dry Creek.

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Categories: Alaska News

AK: Weaving

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-07-18 15:03

Ricky Tagaban holds a Chilkat headband he made. (Photo by Annie Bartholomew, KTOO – Juneau)

It has long been forbidden for men to weave in the Chilkat tradition, but Tlingit artist Ricky Tagaban is an exception. Using techniques practiced for thousands of years, Tagaban creates his trademark iPhone bags, hair clips, and head bands, putting a modern spin on an ancient tradition.

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In his living room overlooking the Gastineau Channel in Juneau, Ricky Tagaban is spinning wool and wet cedar bark together on moose hide.

Ricky Tagaban models one of his headbands in his living room. (Photo by Annie Bartholomew, KTOO – Juneau)

The process joins the fibers together creating something called warp which will give Tagaban’s bags their structure. With the big Celebration cultural event just a few days away, Tagaban still has several commissions left to fulfil. Though his finished pieces vary in size and intricacy, they all begin the same way – as cedar bark softening in a crockpot.

“Cooking it is kind of the longest and then I soak the bark in hot water and spin it with the wool and I have to wash it and groom it – and that part’s called grooming your balls and you have to go along and cut all the fluff,” Tagaban said. “And that’s all before weaving.”

Ricky Tagaban spins wool and cedar bark on a moose hide pad to make warp for his pieces. (Photo by Annie Bartholomew, KTOO – Juneau)

Tagaban is weaving in the Chilkat tradition. The textile technique is passed down through Tlingit, Haida, and Tsimshian families and there are strict rules guiding its practice. Created on an upright loom, Chilkat use abstract shapes and patterns inspired by nature.

Much of what’s known about Chilkat came from the late master weaver Jennie Thlunaut

Juneau weaver Lily Hudson Hope has been practicing both Ravenstail and later Chilkat weaving since she was a teenager.

“I feel that the traditions and the rules and taboos are set there, and they’re there to protect us,” Hope said.

One of the taboos in Chilkat is to never place a human hand in designs. Another is to always cover up your work after you’re finished. But the one that applies to Tagaban is that men can’t weave.

But Hope says there is one exception.

Ricky Tagaban pours out a crock pot that’s been cooking cedar bark for a week. (Photo by Annie Bartholomew, KTOO – Juneau)

“We don’t know why it started or where it started, but when Jennie was teaching my mother and other weavers in 1986, she would scream – ‘we don’t teach men, I don’t teach men, we don’t teach men,’” Hope said. “And then she made the exception that if they’re funny, and she said, ‘If they’re funny, I teach them.’ They’re funny in the way that they’re two spirited.”

By two spirited, Hope means gay. In the summer of 2010 Tagaban was invited to learn from Thlunaut’s apprentice and Hope’s mother, Clarissa Rizal because he fit the tradition, and was identified as someone who could carry it forward.

“I was asked to learn this style of weaving because of my sexual orientation and because it’s a Native art form so learning this and practicing it and really identifying as a weaver had really reconciled my Nativeness and my gayness,” Tagaban said.

A single unfinished Chilkat legging Ricky Tagaban is finishing up for Celebration. (Photo by Annie Bartholomew, KTOO – Juneau)

Since learning Chilkat, Tagaban’s works have become more elaborate and experimental, incorporating more modern materials like shot gun shells. This spring Tagaban was awarded his second Rasmuson grant and one of his iPhone bags appeared on the Red Carpet in Los Angeles at the GLAAD Media awards.

Hope thinks it’s exciting to see the way Tagaban has brought Chilkat to new audiences.

“He’s taken an ancient art form and put it in the hands of the masses in a way that’s revolutionary,” Hope said. “We don’t have to wait for Celebration or cultural gatherings to share our art form with other people.”

Juneau Empire reporter Melissa Griffiths models the Chilkat bag she wore on the Red Carpet at the GLAAD Media Awards in Los Angelos. (Photo by Annie Bartholomew, KTOO – Juneau)

“It’s not just for Tlingit people or just for Haidas or Tsimshian. If you like this and you want to wear this, come have some. Come get it.”

Back at Tagaban’s home studio, he lets me try on a pair of leggings decorated by deer hooves. They’re a work in progress, an old world object with a twist. Embedded in the traditional Chilkat pattern is a small patch of geometric Ravenstail weaving, a hybrid design that’s beginning to gain acceptance in Chilkat weaving.

For Tagaban, harmonizing both aspects, the modern and traditional is important.

“It’s cool to have a really specialized skill but it’s also a lot of pressure,” Tagaban said. “It’s not like we’re saving it, it’s just that we’re holding onto it while we’re here.”

The leggings are almost finished.  Tagaban just has to sew sea otter fur to the tops before he can see them on a dancer at Celebration.

Categories: Alaska News

The Newly-Named ‘Alaska Dispatch News’

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-07-18 12:00

Not very many years ago it was pretty easy to know how the publisher of a newspaper felt about things. All you had to do was look at the editorial
page. But when the Anchorage Daily News was acquired by the Alaska Dispatch, it stopped running its own editorials.  Now it is changing its name, and the managers of the Alaska Dispatch News will be taking questions from Alaskans across the state.

HOST: Steve Heimel, Alaska Public Radio Network

GUESTS:

  • Alice Rogoff, Majority Owner
  • Tony Hopfinger, President and Executive Editor
  • Callers Statewide

PARTICIPATE:

  • Post your comment before, during or after the live broadcast (comments may be read on air).
  • Send e-mail to talk [at] alaskapublic [dot] org (comments may be read on air)
  • Call 550-8422 in Anchorage or 1-800-478-8255 if you’re outside Anchorage during the live broadcast

LIVE Broadcast: Tuesday, July 22, 2014 at 10:00 a.m. on APRN stations statewide.

SUBSCRIBE: Get Talk of Alaska updates automatically by e-mailRSS or podcast.

TALK OF ALASKA ARCHIVE

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska Edition: Friday, July 18, 2014

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2014-07-18 07:20

Inmate deaths lead to hearing before lawmakers. The woes of Buccaneer Energy. The fight over who is responsible for the North Pole suloflane spill continues. The evolution of Alaska oil taxes. The North Slope haul road is in trouble from “a moving mass of frozen debris.” An update on the US Senate race. A successful missile test over the Pacific increases the likelihood the Defense Department will send more missiles to Fort Greely. Headline; “Ex-Guard Chief Moves to Arctic Frontline.” Who is he?

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HOST: Michael Carey

GUESTS:

  • Dermot Cole, Alaska Dispatch/ADN.
  • Paul Jenkins, Anchorage Daily Planet
  • Tim Bradner, Alaska Journal of Commerce

KSKA (FM 91.1) BROADCAST: Friday July 18 at 2:00 p.m. and Saturday, July 19 at 6:00 p.m.

Alaska Public Television BROADCAST: Friday, July 18 at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday July 19  at 4:30 PM.

Categories: Alaska News

NASA Testing Arctic Sea Ice Monitoring Technology With High-Flying Ex-Spy Plane

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2014-07-17 17:20

NASA is flying two Airborne Science ER-2 aircraft out of Fairbanks to test equipment to be used to monitor Arctic sea ice. (Credit NASA)

NASA is piloting a mission out of Fairbanks with a specialized plane that can fly high enough to test technology destined for satellite applications.

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Categories: Alaska News

Report Investigates Coal Dust Hazards In Seward

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2014-07-17 17:19

Alaska Community Action on Toxics has issued a new report on the hazards of coal dust in Seward. The organization is recommending further monitoring, but city officials deny that local air quality is poor.

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Categories: Alaska News

Musk Ox Killed After Attacking Sled Dog

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2014-07-17 17:18

(Photo by Zachariah Hughes, KNOM – Nome)

Living with wildlife isn’t always easy, as a recent incident with a musk ox attack in Kotzebue makes clear.

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Categories: Alaska News

In Transition: When a Family of Five Calls One Room Home

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2014-07-17 17:17

Corey MacDonald and his wife (not pictured) have three children – Miles, 7; Leland, 5; and Chloe, 4. (Photo by Lisa Phu/KTOO)

Juneau charity organization St. Vincent de Paul has a record high number of people staying in its transitional housing shelter. Usually, around 55 people live in the 26 units. At the moment, there are 66 occupants, almost half are children.

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Twelve-year-old Carrie McVey has been living in and out of transitional housing at St. Vincent de Paul for as long as she can remember.

“I’m used to calling St. Vincent’s home because I’ve been here most of the time,” Carries says.

She lives in unit 16 with her 16-year-old sister, 11-year-old brother and their parents.

“We’re all just living in one room. I’ve basically made my bed my own room, ‘cause I have to sleep on the bottom bunk. My brother sleeps in the top bunk and I can just tuck blankets in under my brother’s mattress.”

St. Vincent de Paul’s transitional shelter has 26 rooms. (Photo by Lisa Phu/KTOO)

It’s like a little fort, she says.

Carrie’s father has a job at Goldbelt Security Services and her mother doesn’t work. During the school year, Carrie goes to Juneau Community Charter School. She’s open with her classmates about sometimes living in a shelter.

“‘Cause, like, some of my friends would ask if they could stay the night and I’d have to tell them no,” Carrie says.

There are more kids at the shelter than usual, she says, which means she actually has someone her age to hang out with. During the summer, Carrie visits the playground and wanders around the shelter.

“I like going in and hanging out with some of the other families ‘cause, you know, I know how they feel. Most of us just feel alone, like we have nowhere to go,” Carrie says.

She wants her family’s stay at St. Vincent’s to be what it’s supposed to be – transitional.

“I hope that we can get our own house that we can stay, for once. ‘Cause it seems like, you know, every year we move from one house and then back in here, and I’m getting tired of it,” Carrie says.

Carrie is one of 30 kids currently living at the shelter.

St. Vincent de Paul housing manager Tamee Martini says the high number of shelter occupants is driven by the number of kids. She says families at the shelter usually have one or two kids. At the moment, several families, like the McVeys, have three. A couple families have more.

“It’s sad to see a large family with children that are homeless for whatever reason. I mean, being homeless is sad for everybody, but those children deserve to be in a place of their own and not in a room. I just believe that they need more room to wander around and be kids and be outside poking at bugs or whatever, just being kids,” Martini says.

Individuals and families can stay in transitional housing for a maximum of two years, though most stay for a year. In order to get in, there’s an application and an average wait time of six months.

Rent is $525 a month. That gets a person or family a 400-square-foot room, which includes a bathroom with a toilet and sink; shared kitchen, laundry and shower facilities; as well as a kids’ play room and a computer area for job searching. The shelter stays clean through assigned chores.

Martini says residents are required to be actively looking for permanent housing and for work if they don’t have it.

“We do keep on top of that and have frequent conversations with the families about what are you’re doing to move on to a better situation. So even though it is probably the cheapest rent in town, especially for a family, it’s not something we want anybody to consider the last stop,” Martini says.

Cory MacDonald and his wife live at the shelter with their three kids.

“Miles is the oldest. He’s 7. Leland is 5 and little Chloe is 4,” says MacDonald.

This is the family’s second stint. They spent about six months in the shelter two years ago. This time, it’s been about three months. In between, they’ve lived with family in town. They haven’t lived as a whole family in their own place for three years.

Both parents have jobs, but MacDonald is away from the family for large chunks of time.

“I’ve been in and out of trouble, so I’m actually out on an ankle monitor here right now,” he explains.

For a tight space, the MacDonalds have made the room as homey as possible. The parents have a large bed in one corner. In another corner, Miles and Chloe share a homemade bunk bed, with Leland’s bed at the foot of it.

“Then we got our fridge and our entertainment system and we brought this freezer in here so we could store extra food and stuff. This is our little dining area set up,” MacDonald says.

The children look at home sitting on the beds, eating crackers and watching TV. But MacDonald doesn’t want this to be home. At least, not forever.

The plan is to stay at the shelter for up to a year while MacDonald and his wife save up enough money buy a home of their own.

Categories: Alaska News

FERC Nominee Approved Despite Murkowski’s Objection

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2014-07-17 17:16

On Tuesday, the U.S. Senate voted to confirm two members of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission. One of those nominations was approved over the outspoken objection of Alaska Republican Lisa Murkowski.

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The Federal Energy Regulatory Commission, or FERC, had two members confirmed on Tuesday.  Cheryl LaFleur, acting chair of the Commission, was approved in a 90-7 vote.  The vote for the second nominee, Norman Bay, had a much closer vote of 52-45.  The vote on Bay’s nomination fell along mostly partisan lines, though two Democrats did break ranks to vote with the Republican minority.  Senator Lisa Murkowski of Alaska was one of the more vocal opponent’s of Norman Bay’s nomination.  Murkowski, the ranking Republican on the Senate Energy committee, says that part of her reason for opposing the nomination has to do with President Barack Obama’s intent to make Bay, a first time Commission member, the chairman of FERC.

Upper Valley residents may be familiar with FERC.  It is the agency that, among other things, licenses hydroelectric projects like the proposed Susitna dam.  That’s far from all there is, however. Senator Murkowski explained in a floor speech on Tuesday what else FERC does.

“In the energy world, FERC regulates ‘midstream everything.’ The Chairman is its CEO.  Under his or her leadership, FERC regulates: Interstate natural gas and oil pipelines; LNG import and export facilities; The sale of electricity at wholesale (and therefore the large and wholesale power markets that increasingly affect the affordability of all electric service, including at the retail level); The transmission of electricity in interstate commerce – basically the nation’s bulk power system, practically speaking, its high voltage transmission networks; The reliability of that bulk power system; The licensing of hydroelectric facilities and the safety of dams; And the list goes on and on. ”

Senator Murkowski contends that Norman Bay is not ready for the leadership role.  Bay has worked as an employee of FERC for five years.  Under a proposed compromise agreement, he would serve on the Commission for nine months before taking over as chair.  In the meantime, acting chair Cheryl LaFleur would head the agency.   Senator Murkowski says there isn’t certainty at this time as to what exactly would actually take place, however.

“You have to ask the question: What are its terms? Will Acting Chair LaFleur have the opportunity to serve fully and completely as chair? Will it be clear that Mr. Bay is not a ‘shadow chairman’ or ‘chairman-in-waiting’ during this crucial period? At a minimum, before we make a choice about who should lead FERC, the president owes senators a clear timeline of who will be in charge, and what powers will be given to her or him.”

Senator Murkowski also questioned the reason that Cheryl LaFleur, the Commission’s only female member, would be “demoted” in favor of someone who has never served.  She says that Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid indicated it has to do with changes to policies put in place by former FERC chair Jon Wellinghoff.

““One hint came from our Majority Leader, Sen. Reid. He recently told the Wall Street Journal that Ms. LaFleur ‘has done some stuff to do away with some of Wellinghoff’s stuff’ – without, of course, defining what ‘stuff’ that was, and without acknowledging that much of Mr. Wellinghoff’s ‘stuff’ was either controversial or incapable of withstanding legal challenge.”

Senator Murkowski also says that Norman Bay’s tenure as the head of FERC’s enforcement division has also raised questions.  In the past, she has said that she would not necessarily oppose Bay’s nomination were it not for President Obama’s plan to promote him to chair.  On Tuesday, however, she mentioned questions about Norman Bay’s handling of enforcement for FERC.  In the end, Bay’s nomination was confirmed, albeit not by a large margin.

While Senator Murkowski says she does not always agree with Acting FERC Chair Cheryl LaFleur, she does support her nomination to continue on the Commission.  Robert Dillon, a spokesman for Senator Murkowski, refers to LaFleur as a “liberal Democrat,”  but says that the Senator has been impressed by her ability to lead.

Who ultimately ends up as chair of FERC will be up to President Obama.

Categories: Alaska News

Earthquake Rattles Yakutat; Felt in Whitehorse; No Damage Reported

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2014-07-17 17:15

A strong earthquake near the Canadian border rattled portions of Southern Alaska and the Yukon Territory just before 4 this morning.

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The Alaska Earthquake Information Center says the earthquake occurred at 3:49 a.m. Thursday in an area about 62 miles northwest of Yakutat.
(Credit U.S. Geological Survey)

Natasha Ruppert is a seismologists with the UAF Geophysical Institute’s Earthquake Information Center. She says the magnitude-6.0 quake was centered in a rugged area about 62 miles northwest of Yakutat.

“This earthquake was in a very remote mountainous region – glaciated region, Ruppert said.”

Ruppert says that’s a very seismically active area, with a very complex intersection of tectonic structures. She says the Earthquake Information Center routinely monitors hundreds of small quakes in the area every month.

“Most of the earthquakes are very small and not felt by anybody,” she said. “But once in a while, you have a significant earthquake that’s large enough to be felt by people in that area.”

The Associated Press says Yakutat-area residents reported feeling the temblor, and that reports also were received from as far east as Whitehorse, about 200 miles east of the epicenter.

Ruppert says the Earthquake Information Center didn’t get any reports from residents of the Interior.

Categories: Alaska News

Skiing on Eagle Glacier Connects Alaska to the World

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2014-07-17 17:14

It’s a warm July day in Girdwood, but after a 10-minute helicopter ride into the Chugach Mountains to Eagle Glacier, it starts to look and feel a bit like winter. The temperature drops, and snow blankets the ground. About two dozen women—most from Alaska Pacific University’s cross country ski team—take advantage of the summertime snow during a week-long training camp.

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The athletes workout five hours a day, and spend their down time in a rustic building precariously perched beside a 5,000 foot cliff.  Olympian Kikkan Randall has been coming to the trainings for 14 years, and says they’ve helped her become one of the world’s top speed skiers.

“I’ve always been really proud of Eagle Glacier and the opportunities we have here,” she says. “We can ski twice a day, and we can do so at a moderate altitude where we don’t have to modify our training intensities, so it’s pretty unique.”

While snow is a constant, relatively warm summer temperatures create less-than-ideal skiing conditions on the glacier. As the athletes trudge up a steep hill on the 10 kilometer track, they struggle to push through the slushy snow.  But Erik Flora says the tough environment has its perks.

“Every time the Olympics come up people pray for nice weather, but the trail always turns to a mess,” he says. “You have rain, sleet, soft snow and that’s the magic of Eagle Glacier because as you can see in the course here it’s not easy…. We have a term for it: championship weather.”

APU skiers aren’t the only ones benefiting from the weeklong training. Each year at least one international athlete travels to Eagle glacier. Two years ago Aino-Kaisa Saarinen came from Finland and quickly befriended APU skier and Olympian Holly Brooks.  The two reunited at the Sochi Olympics last winter where Saarinen took home two silver medals.

“We ran into Aino Kaisa and she stopped us and she started crying and said I want to thank you girls, because I think spending time in Alaska and spending time with you really helped me and my team earn this medal,” Brooks recalls. “Of course we wished that the U.S. had been able to bring home that medal, but that was really a priceless moment for us.”

This summer Norway’s Celine Brun-Lie traveled 4,000 miles to train on Eagle Glacier. Since thereare no places to ski in the summer in Norway, Brun-Lie says she’s having a blast in Alaska. And while she recognizes that many of the women she’s skiing with will be fierce competitors on the World Cup circuit come winter, right now she’s just trying to learn as much as she can.

“I can teach Kikkan [Randall] something, she can teach me something, and then in the winter maybe I beat her because of what she taught me, or she beats me because I told her something,” Brun-Lie says. “But I think that’s the way it should work, and that’s the fun thing about sports.”

The women’s training session ends Sunday, and APU’s men’s team will be on the glacier at the end of July.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: July 17, 2014

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2014-07-17 17:01

Individual news 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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NASA Testing Arctic Sea Ice Monitoring Technology With High-Flying Ex-Spy Plane

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

NASA is piloting a mission out of Fairbanks with a specialized plane that can fly high enough to test technology destined for satellite applications.

Report Investigates Coal Dust Hazards In Seward

Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage

Alaska Community Action on Toxics has issued a new report on the hazards of coal dust in Seward.  The organization is recommending further monitoring, but city officials deny that local air quality is poor.

Musk Ox Killed After Attacking Sled Dog

Zachariah Hughes, KNOM – Nome

Living with wildlife isn’t always easy, as a recent incident with a musk ox attack in Kotzebue makes clear.

In Transition: When a Family of Five Calls One Room Home

Lisa Phu, KTOO – Juneau

Juneau charity organization St. Vincent de Paul has a record high number of people staying in its transitional housing shelter. Usually, around 55 people live in the 26 units. At the moment, there are 66 occupants, almost half are children.

FERC Nominee Approved Despite Murkowski’s Objection

Phillip Manning, KTNA – Talkeetna

On Tuesday, the U.S. Senate voted to confirm two members of the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.  One of those nominations was approved over the outspoken objection of Alaska Republican Lisa Murkowski.

Earthquake Rattles Yakutat; Felt in Whitehorse; No Damage Reported

Tim Ellis, KUAC – Fairbanks

A strong earthquake near the Canadian border rattled portions of Southern Alaska and the Yukon Territory just before 4 this morning.

Skiing on Eagle Glacier Connects Alaska to the World

Joaquin Palomino, KSKA – Anchorage

In most places, summer isn’t the best time to ski. But atop a mile-high glacier in Girdwood, elite skiers have converged from across the country and the world, to train.

People Mover Teams Up With Google To Make Bus Route Planning Easier

Anne Hillman, KSKA – Anchorage

Anchorage’s People Mover bus system is trying to become more people, and tech, friendly. You can now use Google Maps to figure out your bus route.

Categories: Alaska News

People Mover teams up with Google Maps to make bus route planning easier

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2014-07-17 16:55

Anchorage’s People Mover bus system is trying to become more people — and tech — friendly. You can now use Google Maps to figure out your bus route.

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As I unlock my bike from in front of the Downtown Transit Center, I type the name of my next destination into my phone. Instead of showing me bike trails and roads, it tells me which bus to hop on to get back to work – the number 45, scheduled to leave in two minutes.

The Google Maps app displaying bus route information for Anchorage. Hillman/KSKA

It took me about 15 seconds to plan my bus route. On other days I’ve poured over paper schedules or stared at timetables on bus stop walls. With the new system, I used Google Maps on my smart phone just like if I was looking for driving or biking directions. Mary Burt was waiting for the same bus.

“I think it’s a great idea. Just wish I had a smart phone. ‘Cause I get on the bus and I’m hurrying up looking, what’s the connection I can make at the next stop? How can I coordinate? If I could just download instructions, it could be wonderful.”

Public Transport Director Lance Wilber says that was the idea — to make the bus system more accessible, especially for visitors.

“It’s really like Expedia for buses. Or Orbitz. You make travel arrangements. You find out where you want to come, where you want to go, and the time you want to do it and it just brings it right up on the screen.”

People Mover has been working on the project for two years. They had to convert their bus schedules and routes into a data format that Google could use with their mapping program. Soon the transportation department will make the information available to anyone who wants to use it to design different transport apps. Wilber says they want to link the bus route planner with maps of the trail system as well.

When it’s time to board the bus, I glance at my phone but check my route the old fashioned way, too.

“Morning!” I say to the bus driver as I deposit my coins. “Where do I get off to go to the University?”

He patiently explains.

Settling in, I chat with other riders, like Roy Mcdole, who has used the buses for years. His dad used to be a driver.

“This is the route he drive. My dad was the singing bus driver, back a few years back,” he says proudly.

A People Mover bus. Hillman/KSKA

Mcdole doesn’t have a smart phone. But like many other frequent riders, he doesn’t really need a trip planning map.

“Most of the time, people just know where they’re going.”

Turns out, thanks to Mcdole, the driver, and the map tool, now I do, too.

I pull the yellow cord. Ding! “Stop requested,” announces the automated female voice. Then the bus driver tells me I should wait until the next stop. He can get me even closer.

You can check out the trip planner online here as well.

Categories: Alaska News

Tuck Fined $14,000 For Campaign Finance Violations

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2014-07-16 17:36

Rep. Chris Tuck addresses a joint session of the Alaska Legislature during debate about confirmations of the governor’s appointees, April 17, 2014. (Photo by Skip Gray/Gavel Alaska)

The minority leader of the State House has agreed to pay a major fine for mismanaging campaign funds.

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Rep. Chris Tuck, an Anchorage Democrat, acknowledged that he mixed up his campaign contributions with his personal savings and failed to make accurate and timely disclosures.

The consent agreement signed by Tuck and the Alaska Public Offices Commission describes a rat’s nest of accounting problems. It starts with a 2012 fundraiser at the Firetap restaurant that Tuck didn’t report as a contribution. That kicked off a process where APOC found that Tuck managed his campaign money as a section of his personal banking account. Over the past two election cycles, more than $16,000 “flowed” through his personal account, and more than $11,000 in campaign money had been used for personal expenditures.

According to the report, there were “so many errors that it is beyond the expertise of APOC staff” to “untangle” them.

Paralegal Delight Mells told the commission as much at their Wednesday meeting.

“Given the complexity of the issues compounded by the banking errors that resulted in the use of at least three different bank accounts, and the extensive time that has already been dedicated, the parties believe that this consent agreement is the most efficient means to resolving the violations and moving forward,” said Mells.

While the maximum penalty for the violations exceeded $700,000, the Commission agreed to a fine of $14,000 in an effort to match the proportionate harm to the public. Tuck is also required to forfeit $6,000 of leftover campaign funds and to correct his old financial disclosure reports. The Commission also acknowledged that Tuck took “great efforts” to deal with the reporting problems once they were brought to light.

Tuck says the errors were unintentional – that they were the result of sloppy accounting and not anything deliberate. For example, he says campaign funds went toward personal expenditures because he mixed up his debit cards, and that he tried to repay that money immediately.

Tuck wishes he’d been more careful.

“There was some mistakes there that, yes, they did happen,” says Tuck. “And I regret that they happened. I understand what I did. I’m sorry for making those mistakes.”

But Tuck also thinks that a $14,000 fine is too high. He says he alerted APOC to some of the errors mentioned in the consent agreement, and that the public wouldn’t be aware of them if he hadn’t been cooperative. He’s concerned that a fine of this size might prevent candidates from self-reporting if they bungle their records, and that it could potentially discourage people from running for public office.

Tuck says he would have taken the case to court, if he had the time and money.

“This is one of the toughest things I have ever gone through,” says Tuck. “I’ve gone through divorce and a custody battle, and this is right up there with that.”

Tuck is running for a fourth term in the State Legislature, and his race is uncontested. He says from here on out, he’ll have an accountant manage his books.

Categories: Alaska News

Kerry Names Ex-Coast Guard Boss Special Rep to Arctic

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2014-07-16 17:35

Secretary of State John Kerry today named former Coast Guard commandant Robert J. Papp Jr. as special representative to the Arctic. Kerry created the new position to elevate Arctic issues in America’s foreign policy and national security strategy as the U.S. prepares to assume the chair of the Arctic Council.

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Papp was head of the Coast Guard from 2010 until he retired in May. Both Alaska senators praised the appointment and said Papp has substantial experience in the region.  Papp says he’s seen the changing Arctic first-hand. When he was new to the service, in July 1976, he was sent in a helicopter to look for a way to get a Coast Guard cutter from Nome to the North Slope.

“I was amazed that, first of all, we didn’t find any leads in the ice going through the Bering Strait,” he said in a 2012 address. “And as we landed in Kotzebue, as I looked out across the water, all I could see was ice. Ice as far as I could see.”

Fast-forward three decades. As commandant, he decided to go back to Kotzebue.

“As we were landing, I looked out as far as I could see, and I saw no ice,” Papp said. “Same time of the year, 34 years later, no ice.”

Kerry also announced the appointment of former Alaska Lt. Governor Fran Ulmer as Special Advisor on Arctic Science and Policy. Ulmer says it will be in addition to her current post, as chair of the U.S. Arctic Research Commission.

“But this role is a slight expansion of that in that it will focus on some of the broader Arctic Policy issues that are specific to the 2015-2017 Arctic Council chair rotation,” Ulmer says.

Ulmer says it’s important for Alaskans to have an opportunity to engage with the Arctic Council.

“If you look at what has been done recently (on the Council) in terms of search and rescue, and oil spill response and research in ocean acidification and the health of marine mammals, these things are important regionally, nationally, locally, globally,” she says.

Secretary Kerry says Papp plans to visit Alaska soon to consult with policymakers there.

Categories: Alaska News

Murkowski Joins Democrats on Vote for Birth Control Coverage

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2014-07-16 17:34

A U.S. Senate bill requiring companies to cover birth control in employee healthcare plans failed a procedural vote today . Both Alaska senators voted for the bill, aimed at undoing the Supreme Court’s decision in the Hobby Lobby case. Sen. Lisa Murkowski was one of only three Republicans to vote for the measure, dubbed the “Not My Boss’s Business Act.” It fell four votes short of the 60 needed to proceed.

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The legislation would’ve restored a provision of the Affordable Care Act that requires companies to provide workers with coverage for all legal forms of contraception. In the Hobby Lobby decision, the court allowed closely held companies to refuse birth control coverage on religious grounds.

The case is seen as pitting a woman’s access to contraception against her bosses’ religious freedom. Murkowski chose the other side of the issue in 2012, when she voted for an amendment to allow any employer with moral objections to opt out of the requirement to cover birth control. A few days later, Murkowski told Anchorage Daily News columnist Julia O’Malley she regretted that vote and felt she’d let down people who’d believed in her.

Murkowski issued a written statement today saying her vote is consistent with her long-held belief that women should have access to affordable birth control. She says she’s still seeking to repeal the Affordable Care Act but doesn’t think access to healthcare services should be restricted in the meantime.

The bill never stood much chance of passing, but Democrats hope the issue will help rally their base to the polls in November.

Categories: Alaska News

Authorities Investigate Explosion in Petersburg

APRN Alaska News - Wed, 2014-07-16 17:33

Details are emerging about an explosion that injured a Petersburg person over the weekend and has brought federal explosives agents there to investigate.

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Petersburg police issued a press release outlining the incident and some of the resulting investigation. Since no criminal charges have been filed, police are declining to identify the person injured in the explosion Sunday other than to say it was a 59-year-old Petersburg resident.

In their press release, police say the department received a 911 call reporting a person laying outside of the hospital emergency room at one o’clock Sunday afternoon. The caller requested assistance getting the person into the hospital and reported the injury could have been caused by dynamite.

Emergency medical volunteers and firefighters along with local police officers helped hospital staff get the injured person into the emergency room. Police say the person confirmed the injuries were the result of an explosion. Police cordoned off the area shutting down the street and access to the emergency room. Officers found what appeared to be approximately 20 pounds of a gelatinized substance in a vehicle the injured person drove to the hospital. Officers notified hospital staff and moved a large dump truck directly behind the vehicle. Police say residents in the area were notified and some evacuated. Local police say they consulted with a local construction company, state Department of Transportation staff and personnel from Fort Richardson before public works employees moved the explosives away from the hospital.

Agents with the Federal Bureau of Investigation and the bureau of Alcohol Tobacco and Firearms are in town and have brought an explosive detecting dog. An investigator with the state fire marshal’s office is also here. A Coast Guard C-130 aircraft flew in five of the responders on Monday, along with a response vehicle and equipment. Police say three sites, including the unnamed location of the explosion, were secured by local police along with U.S. Forest Service officers.

Local officers along with federal agents served search warrants Monday at a home on North Nordic Drive along with the vehicle left near Petersburg Medical Center. Officers and agents processed the scene of the explosion and the vehicle left near the hospital. Residue from the explosion site and the vehicle were tentatively identified as a commercially available explosive.

A police car was stationed outside a North Nordic Drive home belonging to Mark and Pat Weaver Monday and police tape cordoned off the yard of that home from the street. Mark Weaver turned 59 on Saturday. Other property near Cornelius Road south of town belonging to Weaver was also cordoned off by police this week.

The police investigation continues and authorities say more information will be available later.

Categories: Alaska News
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