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Get Alaska statewide news from the stations of the Alaska Public Radio Network (APRN). With a central news room in Anchorage and contributing reporters spread across the state, we capture news in the Voices of Alaska and share it with the world. Tune in to your local APRN station in Alaska, visit us online at APRN.ORG or subscribe to the Alaska News podcast right here. These are individual news stories, most of which appear in Alaska News Nightly (available as a separate podcast).
Updated: 34 min 32 sec ago

AEA: Fisheries Service Criticism of Susitna Dam Studies ‘Untenable, Bordering On The Absurd’

Thu, 2014-10-09 17:41

The Alaska Energy Authority has responded to letters from the National Marine Fisheries Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that questioned research being done on the Susitna-Watana Hydroelectric Project.

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Of the two federal agencies, the National Marine Fisheries Service took a stronger position regarding A-E-A’s ability to produce accurate models of salmon activity in the Susitna River.  The NMFS letter cited fourteen areas of concern, including sampling methods and possible misidentification of juvenile fish.  The agency says that the problems are significant enough that no further studies should be done until they are resolved.

On Wednesday, AEA labeled the criticism as inaccurate.  In a news release, Susitna-Watana Project Manager Wayne Dyok says the NMFS letter, “relies on mischaracterizations and generalizations.”  The actual response letter by AEA, which is signed by Dyok, goes even further, saying that assertions made by the Fisheries Service are “untenable, bordering on the absurd.”

AEA’s response letter to the National Marine Fisheries Service totals nearly fifty pages.  Most of that is a line-by-line refutation of the concerns listed by NMFS.  Many of AEA’s specific responses assert that NMFS is either ignoring the data or misunderstands the methodologies being used.  The Alaska Energy Authority maintains that it is following the study plan approved by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

FERC will have the opportunity to hear out both sides, soon.  Meetings are scheduled to start next week to discuss the Susitna-Watana field work.  Part of the objective of those meetings is for FERC to decide what, if any, changes need to be made in future field studies.

Categories: Alaska News

Violence in Foster Care System Very Rare, Safety Nets in Place

Thu, 2014-10-09 17:40

KSKA DJ Marvell Johnson was killed this week by his foster son. But state officials with the foster care system stress that events like this are extremely rare and they have systems in place to keep foster parents and children safe.

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Director of Juvenile Justice Karen Forrest says they work with both families and young people before placing a child in a home.

The foster parents “get an opportunity to review the entire file of the youth. And they also spend time with the youth and interview that young person. So there’s lots of discussion to determine whether or not it’s a good match.”

Then the Department of Juvenile Justice follows up with weekly contact and provides training on trauma care and parenting explosive children.

Director of the Office of Children Services Christy Lawton says foster parents are trained to work with young people who have experienced trauma and may act out. She says OCS cannot always do pre-interviews with families because of their case load, but they do tell foster families and schools if the child could pose any risks to them or their pets. They also provide a support network, including court appointed advocates. Lawton says the benefits of being a foster parent far out weigh the risks.

“You’re taking in often very vulnerable children and youth who’ve been through indescribable pain and trauma in many cases. So to be able to be a good shepherd to them and to mentor and to provide the kind of structure and nurture that they may never have experienced before — I can’t think of anything more rewarding than to be able to fill that role.”

Marvell Johnson was a foster parent for over 15 years and helped hundreds of youth. Lawton says they are reaching out to the foster care community to help them through this loss. The agencies say only two other incidences of violence against foster parents have been reported in the last two decades. Currently there are about 2,200 kids in foster care in Alaska.

Categories: Alaska News

As Part Of Investigation, Feds Will Hear From UAS Students About Sexual Assault

Thu, 2014-10-09 17:39

University of Alaska Southeast (Photo by Heather Bryant/KTOO)

Students at the University of Alaska Southeast will get a chance to talk to federal auditors about sexual assault on campus.

The Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights will be at the UAS Juneau campus Friday as part of an examination of the university’s handling of complaints and reports of sexual harassment and violence.

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University of Alaska Southeast Chancellor John Pugh emailed letters to faculty, staff andstudents at the end of September informing them of the Office of Civil Rights visit and inviting them to participate. Posters have been placed around campus encouraging students to “Speak Out For Campus Safety.”

Lori Klein is the student conduct administrator at UAS. She’s been helpingOCR organize the meetings and says members of the Juneau community and campus are invited to two open office sessions.

“People can just drop in and talk to them about campus safety in general or specific circumstances that they’ve been involved in that they’d like to share with OCR,” Klein says.

In May, the University of Alaska system wasadded to a list of colleges around the country being investigated by the Department of Education for mishandling sexual assault complaints or as part of a compliance review.

A team from OCR in Seattle will meet with UAS staff in the morning. Two focus groups will be held in the afternoon – one for female students and another for male students. Klein says student involvement is voluntary. OCR wants to hear from Alaska Native students, campus activists, international students and survivors of sexual assault.

“We did not send a specific invite to students who had disclosed that they were survivors and that was per OCR’s guidance. So, instead what we did is specifically targeted lots of other groups of students that may include survivors, but all students are invited,” Klein says.

Since the investigation began in May, the University of Alaska has submitted more than 10,000 pages of documentation, including details of each sexual assault complaint since 2011.

Klein says after the initial trepidation of being investigated, she’s come to value the involvement of OCR.

“Oftentimes when you get someone from an outside organization coming in and asking really great and targeted questions, you get information from your student population that you might not get otherwise. And I think that what our students think about how we’re doing, how we could do better, will only be to our benefit,” Klein says.

After the campus visits, Klein says the Office of Civil Rights will prepare a findings report listing recommendations or requirements for change.

OCR has already visited University of Alaska Fairbanks and is in the middle of its visit to University of Alaska Anchorage. The auditors are also visiting UAF’s Kuskokwim Campus in Bethel.

Categories: Alaska News

Governor’s Race Brings Walker To Unalaska

Thu, 2014-10-09 17:38

With less than a month until Election Day, the race to become Alaska’s next governor is heating up. Independent candidate Bill Walker and his Democrat running mate are canvassing the state for votes – all the way out to the Aleutians.

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It might be a big port community, but it’s not unusual for political campaigns to skip Unalaska. The town is hard to get to and there aren’t a lot of voters on the other side.

(Photo by Lauren Rosenthal/KUCB)

But most candidates don’t have a retired Unalaska city servant running their campaign.

Nancy Peterson: “Thank you, Bill, for coming to my town. This is just so awesome.”

Unalaska’s old director of public works, Nancy Peterson, brought Walker to the Norwegian Rat Saloon on Friday night. About 40 residents munched on hot dogs and homemade chips and fired off questions at the candidate.

Walker came prepared to talk about his vision for a bipartisan administration. But some voters, like Nolie Magpantay, were still curious:

Magpantay: ”Are you a Republican or a Democrat?”
Walker: “I’m an Alaskan. I run as an Independent.
Magpantay: ”Independent? Okay, okay.”

Walker explained that he jumped parties to run for governor after years as a Republican. Unalaskans usually lean Democrat, but Magpantay said that’s not written in stone.

Magpantay: “Well, we support[ed] Lisa last time when she was write-in.”

That’s Lisa Murkowski. And that write-in was her 2010 campaign for U.S. Senate, as a Republican.

Magpantay: “You know, I was a Democrat, but whatever we need as Alaska. So we got together here and that’s what we did — and she won.”

That’s what Walker and Mallott are banking on. Their campaign promises to put Alaska first, on projects like a natural gas pipeline.

At the bar — and in an interview this weekend — Walker said he wants to tweak the current structure so the state owns the biggest share. He believes that would get gas flowing faster to rural communities.

“Any place that’s connected with a road, a river, an ocean in Alaska should be able to have access to our natural resources,” Walker said. “There’s various sources of renewable energy that would be very effective. We’re not one-commodity-fits-all. But boy, any time we can get liquefied natural gas to you at a very low cost, I’m all about that.”

High energy costs are a persistent problem in the Aleutians. But the region’s also wrapped up in thorny policy issues — like whether to build a road through the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge.

“If there’s a genuine issue to have a road for medical, medevacs, for health and safety reasons, I’ll work aggressively to make sure there’s a road built,” Walker said.

Governor Sean Parnell’s administration recently turned to the courts to get that done. But Walker’s not sure if he would continue with the two lawsuits they have in process.

Walker: “The slowest way to do something is through litigation. I own a law firm. The wheels of justice move pretty darn slowly. And when you’re taking on the largest law firm in the nation, which is the federal government, that doesn’t always expedite the process. No, there are other ways of addressing that–”

–like talking to stakeholders and negotiating directly with the federal government.

Walker says he’d take a similar approach to dealing with poor salmon runs on the Yukon and Kuskokwim rivers.

Some tribes and subsistence fishermen are trying get regulators to crack down on bycatch in the commercial pollock harvest. That fishery is a huge source of revenue for the state, and for Unalaska.

Walker says he doesn’t know enough about the issue yet to take a position.

“I’ve learned the hard way over the years,” Walker said. “If I don’t know the answer to something, I don’t try to guess at something. I know there’s a problem. And I’ll certainly be a part of finding the root cause of the problem.”

Walker’s sure to hear more about salmon on his next campaign stop in Bethel. After that, he’ll continue touring the state — asking far-flung voters for their support on November 4.

Categories: Alaska News

KSM Mine Project Wins Key Permits

Thu, 2014-10-09 17:37

A glacier reflects in a naturally occurring pool of rusty, acidic water at the site of one of the KSM Prospect’s planned open-pit mines. The British Columbia project, northeast of Ketchikan, was just granted permits for roads and camps. (Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska News)

A controversial British Columbia mine northeast of Ketchikan has gained some key permits needed for construction.

But the KSM project still needs other government approvals – and large investments – before mining can begin. Also, a company with nearby claims says it must also grant approval.

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Spokesman Brent Murphy says the new permits allow construction of two roads from a central B.C. highway to the mine complex, about 20 miles from the Alaska border.

“Right now, we’re relying on helicopters, which are a very expensive way to access a project. So these are significant for us because it will allow us to start building an alternative means of accessing the project,” he says.

Road construction is expected to cost more than $200 million.

Murphy says work could begin in about a year, if remaining permits are approved.
But first, mine owner Seabridge Gold must find investors for the $5.3-billion project.

“That construction could start, should we have a partner in hand. And we remain hopeful that we will have a joint venture agreement in the very near future,” he says.

The permits, granted in late September, cover air and water discharges from the project’s construction camps.

Seabridge says they also cover rights of way needed to build a pair of 15-mile tunnels connecting the ore body and the processing facility.

But Teuton Resources Corporation, which has mineral claims in the tunnel area, disagrees.

In a press release, it says full construction permits require an agreement covering ore of value found during drilling. Teuton says no such agreement has been reached.

KSM has already won key environmental approval from the British Columbia government. It’s awaiting similar action from Canada’s federal government.

Some Alaska tribal, fisheries and conservation groups want the KSM to undergo more environmental scrutiny. They say the mine could damage salmon runs on B.C. rivers that flow through Alaska or enter the ocean nearby.

Critics also say the mine is of no value to Alaska, since all the work will be done in British Columbia.

They’ve been lobbying for what’s called a panel review, which would involve further examination of mine plans.

KSM’s Murphy says that would push back construction, which would increase costs.

“It would add a significant amount of delay into the process, obviously, for our final environmental approval. And the time delay on this could be anywhere from 18 to 24 months,” he says.

Murphy was in Juneau Oct. 3 to meet with government regulators and business leaders. He was interviewed after a presentation to the Juneau chapter of the Alaska Miners Association.

Categories: Alaska News

Subsistence Panel Looks Toward Future of Salmon Management

Thu, 2014-10-09 17:36

Tribal co-management and Chinook bycatch took center stage Tuesday at a subsistence panel at the Association of Village Council Presidents conference.

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Reflecting on a tense and important 2014 season, Cora Campbell, the Commissioner of the Alaska Department of Fish and Game thanked the packed room of Y-K Delta fishermen for their sacrifices.

Fish and Game Commissioner Cora Campbell. (Photo by Ben Matheson / KYUK)

“I want to start by complimenting you on the leadership and conservation ethics that people showed this season in understanding that the salmon needed to pass to the spawning grounds. Thank you for conserving chinook salmon,” said Campbell.

Federal managers controlled the Chinook fishery early in the summer. And if tribal leaders build on momentum to create Tribal Fish Commissions, there could soon be new management players. Sky Starkey is a longtime attorney for the AVCP and presented an aggressive timeline for bringing in voices.

“The overriding hope is that the tribes and the commission would meet together in the early spring and develop among themselves their ideas on how they want the rivers managed next year. Those tribal management plans for Chinook salmon will go to the Department and the Fish and Wildlife Service and be part of what happens for fishing next year,” said Starkey.

There are still many unresolved questions related to legal issues and funding the commissions. Starkey says one idea is to institute heavy fines on Pollock boats that catch Chinook salmon in their nets and use those funds for the commissions.

AVCP Attorney Sky Starkey. (Photo by Ben Matheson / KYUK)

Bycatch was never far from panelist remarks. Commissioner Campbell touted the state’s efforts to push the North Pacific Fishery Management Council’s current study of possible steep reductions to Chinook bycatch limits.

“What we have heard is we want the burden of conservation to be shared amongst all users, what we’ve heard is that when we have restrictions in river, that we want other users to be contributing to the future of king salmon as well,” said Campbell.

Victor Joseph, CEO of the Tanana Chiefs Conference reminded the convention that the health of the fishery depends on the support of all users.

“We need to know what’s happening from a holistic viewpoint with this fish and our fisheries. When I’m looking at it whether it’s the federal government state, tribes at the table, all other concerned parties at the table, we need to find balance,” said Joseph.

Gene Peltola Junior from the Federal Office of Subsistence Management also spoke in the session.

Categories: Alaska News

Environmental Activists Forming Fairbanks Chapter of Climate Change Organization

Thu, 2014-10-09 17:35

Fairbanks-area environmental activists say they’re building on the momentum they generated two weeks ago during the local observance of the global People’s Climate March. They’re forming a local chapter of the national organization to help reduce the impact of climate change.

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Andrew McDonnell says there’s a reason that he and about 75 others turned out for the Sept. 21 People’s Climate Marchhere in Fairbanks, along with hundreds of thousands of others worldwide. That is, Alaska is among the places that will be most affected by climate change.

Participants gather in Griffin Park downtown at the start of the Sept. 21 march. (Credit Kristin Timm)

“It’s very important to have one here in Alaska” he said, “because we’re very exposed to the problem of climate change and the dangers that it is imposing on us.”

Another marcher, Kristin Timm, says despite the fact that Alaska’s economy is based on extraction of oil, the state’s future economic health depends on diversifying away from dependence on such climate-changing fossil fuels.

“As an Alaskan and somebody who wants to stay in Alaska, I really want to see Alaska prosper,” Timm said. “I want to see our economy be vibrant. I want to see our livelihood be protected from the changes that climate change will give us here in Alaska.”

Timm says even though Fairbanks is far away from the huge marches that were held around the world, she linked-up with others by live-tweeting the local observance.

“I can only hope that people from other marches around the world were seeing what we were doing in Fairbanks and realizing that even our relatively small community has something to say and contribute about this bigger discussion,” she said.

McDonnell says he and Timm and other local organizers are determined to keep that discussion going – and then to follow those words with action.

“Being out there and waving our signs – it’s good, but it doesn’t really solve the problem,” he said. “So that’s why we’re looking into other solutions and really making a sustained effort to address the climate change problem.”

McDonnell says that sustained effort will take many forms, but it’ll be based on grassroots organizing and action. And it’ll begin with formation of local chapter of the Citizens Climate Lobby, which will be the third in the state and among more than 150 worldwide.

Timm says the chapters will lobby lawmakers in their states to enact legislation to establish a revenue-neutral carbon tax, one that won’t end up costing consumers more but that will help move the United States away from dependence on fossil fuels.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: October 9, 2014

Thu, 2014-10-09 17:06

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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Shageluk Man Arraigned On Murder Charges In Bethel

Daysha Eaton, KYUK – Bethel

Everett Semone of Shageluk was arraigned on murder charges at the Bethel court this afternoon. He is accused of killing his parents with an axe in the village of Shageluk earlier this week.

Alaska National Guard Officer Recommended For ‘Other Than Honorable’ Discharge

Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage

A Lieutenant Colonel in the Alaska National Guard was recommended for an “other than honorable” discharge earlier this year, according to a story in this week’s Anchorage Press. Joseph Lawendowski is the guard’s Deputy Chief of Staff for Operations and Training.

Reporter David Holthouse says he started looking into Lawendowski after reading the National Guard Bureau’s Office of Complex Investigations report that came out last month.

AEA: Fisheries Service Criticism of Susitna Dam Studies ‘Untenable, Bordering On The Absurd’

Phillip Manning, KTNA – Talkeetna

The Alaska Energy Authority has responded to letters from the National Marine Fisheries Service and U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service that questioned research being done on the Susitna-Watana Hydroelectric Project.

Officials Say Violence Against Foster Parents Extremely Rare

Anne Hillman, KSKA – Anchorage

KSKA DJ Marvell Johnson was killed this week by his foster son. But state officials with the foster care system stress that events like this are extremely rare and they have systems in place to keep foster parents and children safe.

As Part Of Investigation, Feds Will Hear From UAS Students About Sexual Assault

Lisa Phu, KTOO – Juneau

Students at the University of Alaska Southeast will get a chance to talk to federal auditors about sexual assault on campus.

The Department of Education’s Office of Civil Rights will be at the UAS Juneau campus Friday as part of an examination of the university’s handling of complaints and reports of sexual harassment and violence.

Governor’s Race Brings Walker To Unalaska

Lauren Rosenthal, KUCB – Unalaska

With less than a month until Election Day, the race to become Alaska’s next governor is heating up. Independent candidate Bill Walker and his Democrat running mate are canvassing the state for votes – all the way out to the Aleutians.

KSM Mine Project Wins Key Permits

Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska – Juneau

A controversial British Columbia mine northeast of Ketchikan has gained some key permits needed for construction.

But the KSM project still needs other government approvals – and large investments – before mining can begin. Also, a company with nearby claims says it must also grant approval.

Subsistence Panel Looks Toward Future of Salmon Management

Ben Matheson, KYUK – Bethel

Tribal co-management and Chinook bycatch took center stage Tuesday at a subsistence panel at the Association of Village Council Presidents conference.

Environments Activists Forming Fairbanks Chapter of Climate Change Organization

Tim Ellis, KUAC – Fairbanks

Fairbanks-area environmental activists say they’re building on the momentum they generated two weeks ago during the local observance of the global People’s Climate March. They’re forming a local chapter of the national organization  to help reduce the impact of climate change.

 

Categories: Alaska News

AK Public Media, ADN sue Parnell over records requests

Wed, 2014-10-08 17:46

Alaska Public Media and Alaska Dispatch News are suing Governor Sean Parnell over access to documents related to the National Guard Scandal. APRN’s Alexandra Gutierrez submitted her request in May. Both organizations were denied the records by Parnell’s office in late September.

The complaint says that Parnell’s office is not complying with the Public Records Act. The office also failed to provide a log of records related to the scandal and the reasons why they weren’t provided.

Attorney John McKay filed the suit on Wednesday on behalf of both organizations. He said they’re asking the court to expedite the process because it’s important for voters to have access to the facts about Parnell’s actions before the gubernatorial election next month.

The governor’s office “offered explanations for what he did or didn’t do. Voters may find that reasonable or they may not. But we need to have facts so people can decide if he acted appropriately or is being criticized unfairly,” McKay said.

It’s up to the court to decide when to respond to the complaint.

A federal government investigation of the scandal has revealed incidents of sexual assault, sexual harassment, misuse of government funds, and ethical misconduct.

Categories: Alaska News

Retired Colonel Implicated In Guard Scandal

Wed, 2014-10-08 17:45

A recent federal investigation documented a whole host of abuses in the Alaska National Guard, ranging from mishandling of sexual assault to embezzlement. While the report largely focused on structural problems and took a broad look at the crisis of confidence in Guard leadership, it made a few references to some particularly egregious examples. Now, some of the alleged perpetrators of those abuses are being called out.

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TOWNSEND: Since the National Guard Bureau report came out, Parnell has asked for the resignations of his Adjutant General Thomas Katkus and Deputy Commissioner McHugh Pierre. But the abuses weren’t limited to those two men. Can you tell us a bit about the new players in the Guard crisis?

GUTIERREZ: The federal investigation really raised more questions than it answered, and one of the most attention-grabbing sections refers to a senior officer who retired with high military honors. The report says this officer, who was awarded the Legion of Merit, improperly interrogated a sexual assault victim. The report also says that he took helicopters out for personal reasons and that the Department of the Army Inspector General was able to substantiate this. While the National Guard Bureau wasn’t able to confirm that this section of the report refers to Col. Timothy DeHaas, the details are identifying enough that they single him out, and whistleblowers have corroborated that he’s the man in question.

TOWNSEND: What allegations have these whistleblowers made about DeHaas?

GUTIERREZ: It’s some pretty shocking stuff. I spoke with Sgt. Melissa Jones, who is now serving in Illinois but who says she was raped while in the National Guard, about Dehaas and she had harsh words for him. While Jones is now publicly identifying herself as a sexual assault survivor, she says she was trying to keep the matter private when it happened to her and that DeHaas violated her confidentiality.

She also says that DeHaas wanted victims to come to him instead of going to law enforcement first.

A flight chief I spoke to, who doesn’t want to be named for fear of reprisal, said that he inappropriately used aircraft on more than one occasion and gave an account of DeHaas taking a Black Hawk helicopter out on a bear hunt.

Ken Blaylock, who was a lieutenant colonel with the National Guard and one of the original whistleblowers who went to Sean Parnell, also suggested that DeHaas may have been involved in the illegal smuggling of AK47s from Iraq, and that he tipped off soldiers when investigators were going to catch them.

It the sort of stuff that would sound completely crazy if the Office of Complex Investigations Report didn’t suggest there was merit to these claims.

TOWNSEND: Today, there was a press conference that was specifically focused on DeHaas. Who was involved and what are they asking for?

GUTIERREZ: The press conference was called by three people with Guard experience, but none of them had actually interacted with DeHaas. Bruce Dougherty retired from the Guard four years ago, but he said he only learned of the abuses after his retirement because he was in the medical section and not really involved with what happened at headquarters. Kevin McGee, who also heads up the NAACP served in the Guard for eight years, but retired long before any of the current leadership came into power. And the third person, Shaina Kilcoyne, was with the National Guard in Wisconsin. Because none of them really had any personal connections with the stuff documented in the OCI report and because this issue has become so politically charged, there were a lot of questions about their motives, and if they had any connections to the Democratic Party or the Bill Walker campaign. They said they didn’t but that they do want to take the Governor to task for his response to this. They basically want him to acknowledge he was wrong to award the Legion of Merit to DeHaas. For its part, the Governor’s office is saying that’s it’s pretty routine for that award to be giving to someone of DeHaas’ rank at retirement.

TOWNSEND: And you talked to DeHaas today. What is he doing now and what is his response to these allegations?

GUTIERREZ: He’s still working for the federal government. He’s with the Forest Service in Idaho, and working with the smokejumpers program. He denies all of the allegations.

TOWNSEND: Do we know if any further investigations of him are being done?

GUTIERREZ: I didn’t get an answer from the Guard on that, and usually when investigations are happening, they won’t confirm they’re happening even if they are. And that’s actually one of the big challenges with all of this. There are so many questions that are in the public interest to answer, but it’s also important that justice be served deliberately and responsibly. Because it’s taken so long for it to happen, people are angry and making these claims public.

Categories: Alaska News

Troopers Investigate 2 Deaths in Shageluk

Wed, 2014-10-08 17:43

The Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation in Bethel has deployed health care workers to the village of Shageluk where Alaska State Troopers are investigating two deaths. Dan Winkelman is the President and CEO of YKHC and a Shageluk tribal member.

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“What we did is we put together a crisis response team that is en route to Shageluk right now. And, we have two masters level behavioral health technicians that are on their way there. And we will maintain behavioral health staff there for a number of weeks as well, after the incident.”

KTUU cites a report from the principal of the Shageluk School saying that a young man killed his parents yesterday and that residents in the village had to tie the suspect to a chair at a city building until troopers arrived late this morning.

Winkelman, who is a Shageluk tribal member, says he spent a lot of today speaking with tribal leaders who were shaken up after the incident and outraged about the slow response of law enforcement.

Categories: Alaska News

Parnell, Walker Spar At Soldotna Gubernatorial Debate

Wed, 2014-10-08 17:42

Four gubernatorial candidates took questions at a Chamber of Commerce forum Wednesday in Soldotna. It quickly turned into a debate between the two bigger names on the ballot, Gov. Sean Parnell and Bill Walker.

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Wednesday’s forum at the Soldotna Sports Center was mostly an opportunity to lay out broad visions for the state. Especially from the race’s lesser known candidates, like J.R. Meyers, running with the Alaska Constitution party.

Meyers: “We’re hoping to gain more than 3% of the vote in this election, which will then give us political party status going into the future. We think the political marketplace in Alaska could benefit from freer exchange of diverse ideas.”

Libertarian party candidate Carolyn Clift was the other quote unquote fringe candidate.

Clift: “At this time when we are facing fiscal crises for the next few years, you need someone who is libertarian. That’s going to go in there and minimize government, look for the efficiencies and we are going to go in there and lean this government down.”

Most of the answers came in the form of similar platitudes, based on each candidate’s agenda. For Walker and Parnell, Wednesday’s agenda was mostly filled with responses to each other’s thinly veiled attacks.

Parnell: “I’m not sure it’s being under attack when I point out that Bill Walker plan for cutting the budget is about cutting 16% in one year and then asking him for the plan on how that gets allocated. I call it a fiscal plan; spending less and taxing less, which is the direction we’ve headed and we’ll continue to head.”

Walker said his plan to reduce the state’s budget would be put in place over the course of years, if at all. He hopes to improve revenues so those cuts won’t be necessary in the first place.

Walker: “Governor Parnell’s administration created the largest deficits we’ve ever had. Every year is deficit spending for the next ten years. That’s his plan. If that’s a plan that works for you at 7 million dollars a day, this is your guy right here.”

Budgets and natural gas lines got the lion’s share of attention from the two leading candidates. But less thoroughly examined was the state’s record on domestic abuse and charges of misconduct and abuse within the upper ranks of the Alaska National Guard. After the forum, Parnell said he trusted the National Guard Bureau in its findings that misconduct reporting since 2012 has greatly improved, and he sees more changes in Guard leadership in the future.

Parnell: “Certainly those (sexual assault issues) still exist, but we have to restore trust and confidence so people are willing to report. We’re interviewing people for the new adjutant general position, and that person will use their leadership role to bring about full scale change in the guard in conjunction with the National Guard Bureau.”

Parnell has been criticized for delaying action after reports of sexual assault were made known to his office and allowing top Guard officers to be re-hired in the wake of misconduct investigations.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: October 8, 2014

Wed, 2014-10-08 17:39

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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Retired Colonel Implicated In Guard Scandal

Lori Townsend and Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN – Anchorage

A recent federal investigation documented a whole host of abuses in the Alaska National Guard, ranging from mishandling of sexual assault to embezzlement. While the report largely focused on structural problems and took a broad look at the crisis of confidence in Guard leadership, it made a few references to some particularly egregious examples. Now, some of the alleged perpetrators of those abuses are being called out.

Troopers Investigate 2 Deaths in Shageluk

Daysha Eaton, KYUK – Bethel

The Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Corporation in Bethel has deployed health care workers to the village of Shageluk where Alaska State Troopers are investigating two deaths.

KSKA DJ Shot, Killed In Home; 16-Year-Old Foster Son Charged With Murder

Anne Hillman, KSKA – Anchorage

Longtime KSKA DJ Marvell Johnson was shot and killed on Tuesday. His foster son has admitted to the crime and is being charged with murder.

Parnell, Walker Spar At Soldotna Gubernatorial Debate

Shaylon Cochran, KDLL – Dillingham

Four gubernatorial candidates took questions at a Chamber of Commerce forum Wednesday in Soldotna. It quickly turned into a debate between the two bigger names on the ballot, Governor Sean Parnell and Bill Walker.

It’s Cold Out, But Bethel Shelter Won’t Open Until December

Charles Enoch, KYUK – Bethel

The Bethel Winter House, a non-profit homeless shelter, won’t open its doors again until December. But winter’s come early this year and that leaves the community’s homeless population, out in the cold.

Ordinance to Add Prayer In Ketchikan Schools Passes First Vote

Leila Kheiry, KRBD – Ketchikan

An ordinance that would add a prayer to the regular Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly meeting agenda passed in first reading Monday night. The vote was split 4-3, with some on the Assembly expressing concern about inadvertently excluding some people with different beliefs.

UAF Exhibit to Feature Work from Autistic Artist

The Associated Press

University of Alaska Fairbanks officials say a new art exhibit opening next week will feature the work of an artist with autism.

New Exhibit Puts An Alaska Twist on A Familiar Building Block

Zach Hughes, KSKA – Anchorage

Legos—the small, colorful plastic blocks—have grown into the most common place toy in the world, with more than 5.2 million manufactured every hour. And they are not purely for toy-stores and playroom carpets anymore. A new exhibit at the Anchorage Museum focuses on Lego fine arts, and how the building blocks fit in with Alaska’s own artistic traditions.

Categories: Alaska News

Ordinance to Add Prayer In Ketchikan Schools Passes First Vote

Wed, 2014-10-08 17:39

An ordinance that would add a prayer to the regular Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly meeting agenda passed in first reading Monday night. The vote was split 4-3, with some on the Assembly expressing concern about inadvertently excluding some people with different beliefs.

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Six people testified during the Borough Assembly’s public comment period about the proposed prayer ordinance. Five of them favor the proposal. Of those five, three are local pastors.

Gary Souza is with the Ketchikan Church of Christ and is president of the Ketchikan Ministerial Association. That organization is, understandably, happy to endorse the proposal. Souza adds that legislative prayer is not a new thing.

“As our forefathers were strong believers in the Judeo-Christian ethic and belief. The current Congress and Senate both have chaplains in D.C. and these invocations are something that’s been carried on in Juneau for many years. We strongly support this and encourage you to embrace this and make this law.”

Dave Spokely says the country was founded by people who believed in religion. He says the Constitution makes church free of state, but doesn’t make the state free of church, and that prayer sets a moral foundation for a community.

Pastor Bill White of the Lighthouse Church of God says he’s been praying for local government for many years already.

“But it would sure be a notch in our faith if we saw that you were receiving and asking for this,” White says.

Pastor Fred Adams also spoke in favor of the ordinance. He says he has served overseas as a missionary, and that people elsewhere are observing a moral breakdown in the United States. Adams says prayer would honor what God has done for this country.

Eric Muench provided the only public comment against the proposal. He says the Assembly meetings shouldn’t be turned into quasi-religious gatherings.

“Private prayer and reflection might be useful and helpful for some, but subjecting the entire public to a unified prayer performance is coercive and objectionable to many, including me,” Muench says.

During Assembly discussion of the proposal, which was submitted by members Glen Thompson and Agnes Moran, one Assembly member tried to expand the definition of who could offer invocations.

Bill Rotecki says he’s not opposed to the concept, but he doesn’t want anyone to feel left out.

“Many people came here, not just the Founding Fathers, for religious freedom. And to institute anything as the prior religion or invocation is I think contrary to the principles on which this country was founded and has continued to be governed.”

Rotecki suggested adding atheists to the list, which already provides for any religious group that wants to offer a prayer.

Thompson objected to that.

“Atheism means not god, and that completely guts the whole intention of this ordinance and I think it’s inappropriate,” Thomspon says. “I don’t have a problem with having an inclusive denominations, be they Hindu, Islam, Bahai faith, Christian, what have you. I will draw the line on Satanists or atheists.”

The day after the Assembly meeting, Thompson recanted that comment. He now says he would be willing to hear a prayer from anyone interested in presenting one.

Rotecki’s amendment failed with only Rotecki voting in favor.

When it came to the main motion, Assembly Members Todd Phillips and Alan Bailey spoke against establishing prayer at Assembly meetings. Phillips notes that religion is personal. Bailey says he’s worried about excluding people.

Assembly Member Mike Painter, while voting in favor of introducing the ordinance, didn’t seem convinced that it’s been fully thought out. He notes that it’s not clear who will administer the invocation list, and that there’s no time limit for prayers.

Borough Clerk Kacie Paxton says it was suggested that requests to give invocations go through the clerk’s office, and Mayor Dave Kiffer says 30 to 40 seconds should be adequate for prayers.

Borough Attorney Scott Brandt-Erichsen weighed in on the legality of the language. He says the ordinance is worded well, but the borough will have to be careful about it’s administered.

“The ordinance itself simply puts a location on the agenda for an invocation, but if, in the administration of that the clerk or the mayor or whoever is charged with scheduling those is not being even-handed, then that action could create a problem.”

The ordinance passed in first reading 4-3, with Rotecki, Bailey and Phillips voting no. A public hearing and second reading of the measure are scheduled for the Assembly’s Oct. 20 regular meeting.

Categories: Alaska News

UAF Exhibit to Feature Artist With Autism

Wed, 2014-10-08 17:37

University of Alaska Fairbanks officials say a new art exhibit opening next week will feature the work of an artist with autism.

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The exhibit, called “From Thomas The Tank Engine To The White Pass,” is scheduled to open Monday at the UAF art department gallery in the Fine Arts Building.

The exhibit will run through Oct. 25.

Officials say the opening will include a reception and premiere screening of “Basically Me,” a 10 minute film about artist and UAF employee Ryan Matthews.

Officials say both Matthews and the maker of the film, Leonard Kamerling, are scheduled to attend the opening and will be available for discussion after the film premiere.

Categories: Alaska News

It’s Cold Out, But Bethel Shelter Won’t Open Until Dec.

Wed, 2014-10-08 16:13

Bethel Winter House logo. Courtesy of Bethel Winter House.

The Bethel Winter House, a nonprofit homeless shelter, won’t open its doors again until December. But winter’s come early this year and that leaves the community’s homeless population, out in the cold.

The weather is getting chillier by the day and the brown-green tundra has turned brown-yellow. A few snowflakes even fell over the weekend. Although the mercury is dropping, the Bethel Winter House, is not scheduled to open until December 1st.

Rick Robb worked with the original founders of the homeless shelter. He says there aren’t many opportunities for the homeless here, to stay warm.

“There’s very few to know, resources in Bethel for folks that are homeless. Whether it’s a temporary homeless or a chronic homeless. I mean we get a lot of people that come through here without a place to live. People tend to float from house to house sleeping on floors and couches. A lot of people stay in abandoned buildings, and that’s proved a problem with some crime and we’ve even had some deaths in the past,” said Robb

Bethel Winter House, relies completely on donations and is run by volunteers. The group formed a Lions Club and started the homeless shelter last December, after six outdoor deaths in the winter before. A January 2013 point-in-time survey of the homeless population said there were approximately 100 homeless people that were sleeping either in a shelter, such as TWC, or on someone’s couch, out in the woods or in an unheated home. Thirty-six of them were kids.

Ross Boring is the secretary for the Winter House Board. He says organizers are overwhelmed by the work involved in running the shelter and it’s been hard to find volunteers to work overnight, especially on weekdays.

“Last year we were very worn out at the end of the three months and all of this depends on us. You know if we don’ have volunteers one night we’ll have to turn guests away and won’t be able to run the shelter,” said Boring.

Boring says that is something they hope they won’t ever have to do. Organizers have applied for grants, including one with the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority, that would allow them to hire someone to run the shelter, but they have not yet received a response. Last winter the shelter moved from church to church throughout the cold season. Organizers say, along with hiring a manager, they would eventually like to find a more permanent location for the shelter … but for now…

“What people have to realize is that this is a Lions Club, everyone there is volunteers. There’s nobody that’s paid for anything that we’re doing. This is strictly a volunteer organization, it is very difficult for us at times to get volunteers to do the Sunday night up to Friday morning because everyone is working,” said Boring.

This week, overnight temperatures are expected to drop down into the 20’s and 30’s. The Bethel Winter House has spoken to a few entities around the community about the possibility of hosting the winter house, but at the time this story was filed, they haven’t gotten any responses.

Categories: Alaska News

50th Annual AVCP Convention Kicks Off in Bethel

Wed, 2014-10-08 16:09

Leaders from around the state gathered in Bethel Tuesday for the 50th Annual Association of Village Council Presidents Convention. Dignitaries and political leaders form across the state attended.

Leaders from around the state gathered in Bethel Tuesday for the 50th Annual Association of Village Council Presidents Convention. Photo by Dean Swope.

The Association of Village Council Presidents Convention opened at the cultural center in Bethel Tuesday. Julie Kitka, President of the Alaska Federation of Natives was the keynote speaker. She reported on two major wins in the courts for Alaska Natives this year, highlighting a federal judge’s order that the State of Alaska translate voting materials into Gwich’in and Yup’ik for Alaska Natives with limited English.

“When we talk about that we have major fights that are going on with the State of Alaska and that we are trying to protect our peoples’ rights on that, it’s very real. It’s sad that we have to do that but we’re very proud of these Native Individuals that testified as witnesses and that the judge listened and saw the truth of what they were saying,” said Kitka.

 Kitka also noted a U.S. Supreme Court decision to end the Katie John Subsistence Case after 19 years of litigation as another victory.

Lisa Murkowski addressed the 50th Annual AVCP Convention in Bethel Tuesday. Photo by Dean Swope

AVCP is a non-profit organization representing the 56 federally recognized tribes of the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta. During the Convention tribal representatives meet in Bethel to work on critical issues.

 Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski and Republican Representative Don Young also addressed the Convention. Senator Murkowski said the federal and state governments need to respect Native rights.

“There’s so much tension as we talk about things like jurisdiction as we talk about our ability, your ability to govern yourselves. And I think the tension comes because we’re missing that respect, that respect from the federal government and the state government respecting you and your tribal institutions and you as a people,” said Murkowski.

Don Young addressed the 50th Annual AVCP Convention in Bethel Tuesday. Photo by Dean Swope.

Representative Don Young also encouraged Native communities to take initiative to improve their own communities, especially when it comes to drugs. He said improving economic opportunities for young people is one important part of fighting the regions drug problems, but he also said it will take confronting people they know who are selling drugs.

“If someone’s screwing up in your village, he should be asked to leave. You don’t want to do that. It can’t just be enforcement from the outside cause very frankly, that’s a foreigner. It has to come from here. And you know who the drug dealer is in that town. You all know who it is. You say I can’t do it. Bull Shavy you can’t do something, it’s darn cold without a cabin. I’m saying there has to be a little bit of control in those villages, especially with this black tar heroin – it’s destroying our young people,” said Young.

The AVCP Convention runs through Thursday afternoon.

Categories: Alaska News

New Exhibit Puts An Alaska Twist On A Familiar Building Block

Wed, 2014-10-08 15:51

Legos—the small, colorful plastic blocks—have grown into the most common place toy in the world, with more than 5.2 million manufactured every hour.

And they are not purely for toy-stores and playroom carpets anymore.

A new exhibit at the Anchorage Museum focuses on Lego fine arts, and how the building blocks fit in with Alaska’s own artistic traditions.

A new exhibit at the Anchorage Museum captures the art of Alaska using Legos. Photo by Zach Hughes/KSKA.

“The impetus for the exhibition came from seeing that architects were using Legos to create scale models of buildings,” explains Julie Decker, director of the museum and curator for the Brick-by-Brick exhibit, which was in the works for more than two years.

“The impetus for the exhibition came from seeing that architects were using Legos to create scale models of buildings,” explains Julie Decker, director of the museum and curator for the Brick-by-Brick exhibit, which was in the works for more than two years. Photo by Zach Hughes/KSKA.

The multiroom show on the building’s third floor features installations by globe-trotting Lego impresario Nathan Sawaya, one of the very few “Lego master builders” recognized by the brand’s governing body.

Sawaya uses the rectangular blocks to make towering monochromatic humanoids and mesmerizing faux-fabric dresses the same way a sculptor manipulates marble or bronze.

There are also works by Mike Stimpson, a U.K. artist who recreates iconic photographs like the moon landing and V-J Day kiss from the cover of Newsweek–but using little yellow Lego figurines.

“These photographs have important stories to tell,” Decker says. “So while they seem playful I think they’re actually quite rich in content.”

The exhibit does away with distinctions between an artist and an amateur, though. A few feet from Sawaya’s self-portrait (rendered, of course, in Lego) is a hall designated for community submissions, which rotate every two weeks. These pieces run the gamut—from plans to show off works only by those age five-and-under, to a detailed replica of the museum itself by a ConcoPhillips contractor—and avid Lego collector—on display now.

And the commitment to breaking down barriers goes a step further: just one door away is a large, loud playroom filled with containers of building blocks, and half-a-dozen highly engaged patrons. Most of them supervised or in strollers.

“Museums are typically hands off, but we thought it was important with this one to be hands on,” Decker said, struggling to speak above crescendos of cries and crashes.

The playroom is hardly a gimicky diversion. Brick-by-Brick wants to erase lines between play and work, kid and grown-up, high art and utilitarian tool. Lego’s first premiered in Denmark in 1949, and fit politely under the umbrella of Scandanavian design trends, melding form and function all the way from eco-friendly urban planning to resplendent can-openers. Decker tied the exhibit to the museum’s ongoing efforts to shift its focus back to Alaska and communities of the far North.

“I think it’s safe to say we’re rethinking all of our gallery space,” she said standing near an abstract Lego rendering of birch-trees. “We know that no longer are there these distinct boundaries between disciplines—between art, science, and history. We know that our job is really to just talk about Alaska as part of the North, to talk about place and the environment. And I don’t think you can do that in boxes.”

The tendency to mix art with utility, Decker insists, has always been part of the Northern tradition. Whether it’s intricate ivory tools, baskets woven with grass and baleen, or perhaps someday a Lego-based dogsled.

Mixing art with utility is a northern tradition, museum curator Julie Decker says. Photo by Zach Hughes/KSKA.

Categories: Alaska News

Unofficial Mat-Su Borough Election Results

Tue, 2014-10-07 22:39

 

Matanuska -  Susitna  Borough voters elected two Borough Assembly representatives on Tuesday.  The unofficial results of the Valley elections show that only  11 percent of the  Borough’s registered voters turned out at the polls on election day. They passed both ballot propositions by an overwhelming margin. Prop. One approved a reapportionment of Borough districts, while Prop. Two increased the amount to tax exemption offered to Borough seniors and disabled veterans.

 Borough District Five’s Assembly seat was won by Big Lake’s Dan Mayfield. Reached by phone Tuesday evening, Mayfield thanked his supporters. 

“I want to thank the crew that supported me. I had an absolutely fantastic campaign committee. And all the people in the district who really took the time to talk to me and let me know what was important to them. That was an awesome experience and I really want to thank them all. “

Mayfield ran against Knik/ Goose Bay’s Bill Kendig.   Steve Colligan, running unopposed, kept the District 4 Assembly seat.

Two Borough school board seats were won by Tiffany Scott and Ole Larson, both running unopposed.

Mat Su Borough officials still need to count close to 1500 absentee ballots, and more than 300 questioned ballots.  The election results remain unofficial until certified on October 21.

Two Valley cities also held elections on Tuesday. In Wasilla, Bert Cottle took almost 75 percent of the vote to win the mayor’s race over Loren Means.

Wasilla’s Colleen Sullivan – Leonard and Stuart Graham won city council seats.

In Palmer, Linda Combs and Brad Hanson won Palmer city council seats. Wasilla and Palmer election results are unofficial until certified.

 

 

 

Categories: Alaska News

Long-time KSKA DJ Marvell Johnson murdered

Tue, 2014-10-07 21:27

Long-time KSKA DJ Marvell Johnson was shot and killed on Tuesday. His foster son, Peter John Henry,  is being charged with murder. 

http://www.alaskapublic.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/10/07-Marvell.mp3

According to a police department release, a student reported the shooting to a school police officer early Tuesday morning. When officers arrived at Johnson’s house, they found him dead in his bedroom from several gunshot wounds.

Henry, Johnson’s 16-year-old foster child, was asleep in another room. When questioning Henry, the police learned the boy was angry with Johnson for grounding him because he used the drug Spice and because Johnson took his vapor cigarette charger. Henry allegedly tried to make the shooting look like a robbery. He emptied Johnson’s wallet and left it in front of the house and stole other items. Henry also allegedly threatened to kill another boy if he didn’t help him destroy evidence.

Marvell Johnson

Henry has been charged as an adult and is being held without bail.

64-year-old Johnson hosted Soul to Soul on KSKA for 35 years. On the show, Johnson seemlessly flowed between new and old soul music. Between sets he helped connect inmates in Alaska’s prisons with their loved ones by sharing dedications and requests.

“You know, back in the day, people couldn’t wait until Saturday night to call Marvell Johnson to make a request or a dedication,” recalled Reggie Ward, Johnson’s long-time friend and fellow DJ. ”It was so special for a lot of people. And it’s helped so many people, in terms of people maybe having relationship problems or just the fact that they get to hear their names mentioned on the radio. It was a huge deal.”

Ward said Soul to Soul helped start urban radio in Alaska. Johnson trained and mentored many of the DJs at KSKA, KNBA, and around Anchorage.

“He set the tone. He set the example, not so much in his words but in his actions. He was so professional and he loved what he did. We all basically just took his lead.”

When Johnson wasn’t mixing music, he was out fishing, working at UAA in the facilities department, or caring for his foster children.

Categories: Alaska News

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