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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: 45 min 6 sec ago

LGBTQ support group meets in Ketchikan

Tue, 2014-11-04 16:44

Gay, lesbian, bisexual, transgender and queer people are gaining more rights and acceptance throughout the country. Same-sex marriage is now legal in a majority of states, including Alaska.

While support may be rising nationwide, there aren’t any official LGBTQ non-profits or advocacy groups in Ketchikan. But there are unofficial support systems. One such group is called “Transgendered Ketchikan.”

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Transgendered Ketchikan is an informal support group for queer people in Ketchikan. Six of them met at The Point Café on a recent afternoon.

Jacob Trumble, Holly Nore, Tyler Varner, “Izm,” and Austin Kalkins meet up in a casual support group for LGBTQ people in Ketchikan.

“I think there should be more safe places for people who are questioning their identity, just gender identity, sexuality, etcetera,” said Izm, who used to identify as transgender, but now doesn’t identify as any gender.

Izm is one of the people who started this support group about a year ago. Izm says there is a Gay-Straight Alliance at UAS Ketchikan, but they didn’t seem to be accepting of transgender people. And with the challenges queer people face in Ketchikan, a support system was needed.

“Like most traditional, old-fashioned towns, it’s kind of a hush-hush situation if you don’t follow the norm,” said Holly Nore, who identifies as pansexual, or attracted to people based on personality rather than gender.

Nore moved to Ketchikan from Wrangell, with the hope that it would be a more accepting environment. And it is, but there’s still occasional abuse.

“You know, when I was kissing my girlfriend, a man started talking about how we’re gonna burn in hell,” Nore said. “Things like that.”

For Tyler Varner, outright discrimination isn’t the biggest struggle. He’s gay, and says his family accepts him. But it’s taken him a while to accept himself.

“I feel like I have to put on this show so I can go out to dinner,” Varner said. “And I think I just want to strap on some damn fairy wings and go to the club and pump it up. I need to let go, it’s stressful.”

Austin Kalkins, who identifies as gender fluid, says the people in this group often have to explain themselves to others.

“There’s always people looking, people asking, people…all this stuff, inquiring just because you don’t fit into the norm type of deal,” Kalkins said.

The only transgender person at this meet-up is Scott Davis, or Sheen, who identifies as transfeminine. She has lived in Ketchikan for more than 30 years, but didn’t feel comfortable coming out until a couple years ago.

“[You] just get to a point in your life when you go, “It doesn’t really matter, and I’m gonna be happy.”” Davis said.

Davis says at this point, she feels about 75 percent comfortable with being “out” in Ketchikan.

“Because of occasional physical or verbal abuse,” she said. “This morning, at a local place downtown, one worker referred to me as a freak. It hurts a lot less than it used to.”

Davis says this group has given her the strength to ignore harassment like that. The group has helped other members in different ways.

“It took me a long time to accept that I didn’t see myself as being of any gender,” said Jacob Trumble.

Trumble was only able to accept it and come out after this group was formed.

“I probably wouldn’t have said anything for even longer had this group not been formed,” Trumble said.

The people here have found friends who accept and support them in Ketchikan. But there are still times when they feel like outsiders.

“We’re not a circus, we’re not an act for somebody to watch, we’re people,” said Holly Nore.

For now, there are only unofficial support systems in Ketchikan for LGBTQ people, like this group. But that might change in the coming months. Davis says she and others are working to form an official LGBTQ advocacy group with non-profit status.

“If you have an actual formed LGBTQ group in a community, I think businesses, public government is a lot less likely to violate somebody’s rights as a human being based on gender preference or appearance,” Davis said.

James Hoagland is a board member with the Juneau non-profit Southeast Alaska Gay and Lesbian Alliance. He says he doesn’t know of any other similar organizations in Southeast. Without those support systems, Hoagland says LGBTQ people may feel isolated.

“I think it would be really hard to connect to other people who have that shared identity,” Hoagland said. “I think people would feel alone.”

Back in Ketchikan, Davis says the non-profit she and more than 10 others are forming is private right now, because some of the members aren’t out. She hopes by next year, the group will be public and Ketchikan will be home to a more prominent organization that can advocate for people like those gathered here.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: November 4, 2014

Tue, 2014-11-04 16:30

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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Anchorage Voters Motivated by Different Causes

Anne Hillman, KSKA – Anchorage

Alaskans across the state are casting ballots today. There is a lot at stake. Voters are deciding two of Alaska’s three seats in Congress, along with the governor and state house and senate seats. There are also three statewide ballot measures- on marijuana legalization, the minimum wage and Bristol Bay.

A steady stream of voters filed into Airport Heights Elementary this morning to vote.

New federal regulations to favor subsistence users, rural residents

Jennifer Canfield, KTOO – Juneau

The Federal Subsistence Board’s rural determination process will change, according to an announcement made at the Alaska Federation of Natives Convention last month.

Fairbanks City Council Dumps Police Contract

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

The Fairbanks City Council has unanimously voted down a labor contract with public safety employees. The council took the action at a regular meeting last night.

Domestic Violence Survivor Sheds Light On Difficult Road Toward Recovery

Ashley Snyder, APRN – Anchorage

Less than a year ago, Catherine Walczak was mentally and physically abused by someone she loved and trusted. She is slowly getting her life back on track. The 23-year-old wants to tell her story to bring awareness to the issue of domestic violence and hope to those who experience it.

Kalibo, Philippines Is Juneau’s New Sister City

Kayla Desroches, KTOO – Juneau

Juneau gained its fifth sister city this weekend. Representatives from Kalibo in the Aklan Province of the Philippines signed documents Saturday afternoon to formalize the agreement. Juneau and Kalibo are both vibrant tourism centers and regional capital cities.

New Bethel Pool Closes Temporarily Due To Safety Issue

Ben Matheson, KYUK – Bethel

Just as soon as the doors opened at Bethel’s new pool, they closed. Bethel city officials say there’s safety issue.

New Bethel Pool Opens With High Hopes

Ben Matheson, KYUK – Bethel

The pool was welcomed by the community on Saturday with ceremonial cannonballs and trips down the slide.

LGBTQ Support Group Meets In Ketchikan

Emily Files, KRBD – Ketchikan

Same-sex marriage is now legal in a majority of states, including Alaska. While support may be rising nationwide, there aren’t any official LGBTQ organizations in Ketchikan. But there are unofficial support systems.

Categories: Alaska News

Top Parnell Aide Outlines National Guard Response Timeline

Mon, 2014-11-03 17:26

In September, a federal report on misconduct in the Alaska National Guard was released. And since then, it’s been an open question as to why long-running allegations of cronyism, fraud and the mishandling of sexual assault reporting didn’t result in reform sooner. News outlets, including Alaska Public Media, have sued the Parnell administration for access to records that could provide insight into their response. APRN’s Lori Townsend spoke with capitol correspondent Alexandra Gutierrez about where things stand today.

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The Attorney General released over a thousand pages of e-mails concerning the Alaska National Guard this weekend. Was there anything illuminating in there?

For the most part, no. Hundreds of pages were totally redacted, and a good chunk wasn’t germane to the request at all. Some complaints about the National Guard’s leadership are included, and those are interesting. Some are signed, some are anonymous. Some are reasoned, some are totally vitriolic. And they came in waves and spurts from 2010 to present day.

What have we learned about how the Parnell administration responded to them?

The documents don’t give us a lot of specifics in this regard, especially because they’re so heavily redacted. But they do show the Office of the Governor discussing allegations on a regular basis and communicating frequently with whistleblowers.

A lot of the emails are to or from Mike Nizich, Gov. Parnell’s chief of staff. He rarely gives interviews, but I sat down with him for 45 minutes to talk about when the administration started hearing about trouble in the Guard, and what it did about it. He outlined the chronology of the administration’s response and supplied copies of some of the investigation reports that they tracked through the years.

The first contact with an investigating agency was October 2010, which was before any National Guard chaplains had made serious contact with the Office of the Governor. Nizich says he visited the Federal Bureau of Investigations, after two whistleblowers reached out to him with serious allegations about drug smuggling and gun running. He stressed that it’s pretty serious and unusual for the governor’s chief of staff to report a commissioner to the FBI. Obviously, that would have serious implications if the person were found to be in the wrong. But a few weeks later, he was told that there nothing to it.

In 2012, there was a National Guard Bureau inquiry into sexual assault response that was called by Sen. Mark Begich. That came up dry. That same year, another aide to Parnell, Nancy Dahlstrom, says she went to the FBI, too. Again, nothing. In 2013, the U.S. Army Inspector General Agency looked into a complaint that then-Adjutant General Thomas Katkus’ covered up sexual assaults, and they cleared him. There was also a review by the Secretary of the Army, another Army Inspector General review, and a Department of Defense inquiry called by Sen. Lisa Murkowski. None of them found any problems. Nizich said it was like chasing ghosts.

Did the fact that there were consistent complaints raise any questions about keeping Katkus in a position of leadership even if the investigations were coming up dry?

I asked that, because it seems like at minimum, the sheer volume and persistence of complaints would indicate that Katkus was a divisive figure and that there was a low level of morale at least among some members of the Guard. Nizich said the administration understood that Katkus was making some changes that not everybody necessarily liked, but that because Katkus kept on getting a clean bill of health, so to speak, they trusted him. He also stressed that feedback they received wasn’t exclusively negative, and that Katkus did have his fans in the Guard.

Did Nizich have an explanation for why the administration hasn’t been more forthcoming with documents?

One of the interesting things about this whole crisis in confidence in the National Guard’s leadership and the governor’s response is it seems like there’s two components to this. There’s Parnell’s private response and his public response, which are actually pretty distinct things.

As far as his private response goes, we’re still learning about that. On the most skeptical end of the spectrum, one could say the administration is controlling the release of documents, there’s a lot redacted, and there’s still a lot that isn’t yet public. And on the more trusting side of things, you look at the investigation record and the documents that have been released, and take the administration at its word with the rest. Without all the information and with so many different perspectives on how this was handled, it’s hard to be certain where things fall on that continuum.

The public response is a different matter. One of the frustrating parts of the Office of Complex Investigations report that was released in September is that it describes all of this upsetting and unconscionable activity without naming perpetrators or quantifying the number of victims or the extent of fraud. With all of these open questions about just how bad it was, it shouldn’t be surprising that the public and the press have wanted answers. And when the administration didn’t appear to be forthcoming with information about how they handled things, that prompts the question of “Why?”

Nizich’s explanation for the delayed response to – and subsequent denial of – records requests into the National Guard is part logistical and part legal. He says there were large records requests, like one for all of former naturak resources commissioner and current Senate candidate Dan Sullivan’s state e-mails, made prior to the National Guard investigation which slowed the response. And he says there were enough legal privileges governing the documents to justify not releasing them – privileges that we’re definitely seeing exercised even with the documents that are now coming out on a judge’s order.

Given the politically fraught timing of this happening during campaign season, voters probably could have had a clearer understanding of what happened had more information been provided and documents released sooner.

Categories: Alaska News

Begich, Sullivan Rally Voters, Each His Own Way

Mon, 2014-11-03 17:25

In the final days before the U.S. Senate election, candidates Mark Begich and Dan Sullivan making their final pitches, aiming to rally their supporters to the polls. Sullivan got help from two national figures representing polar opposites of the GOP: Mitt Romney, an establishment Republican, and Sen. Ted Cruz, a Tea Party hero.

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Cruz travelled with Sullivan around the railbelt. At a rally in the Mat-Su Valley Sunday, Cruz spoke for about half an hour, and included calls to abolish the IRS and end federal regulation of fracking. Cruz, frequently adopting the cadence of an evangelical preacher, told a few hundred cheering fans the race would be won or lost right there.

“The men and women in this room, if everyone of you goes out and gets nine other people, you will win this race. You will elect Dan Sullivan and you, personally, will retire Harry Reid,” he said.

An Anchorage airplane hangar was the scene of a Republican rally with Romney today. Sullivan said he was happy to have the former presidential candidate there.

“It feels amazing! Shoulder to shoulder next to him,” Sullivan said from the stage.

By contrast, Begich’s final campaign days were more in the trenches. He gathered with supporters in Palmer and Wasilla, then met with a few dozen public employees in Anchorage on Saturday. With his wife dispatched to Bethel and his mom in Barrow, Begich handed out hot chocolate to UAF students today before flying back to Anchorage.

“Wherever there’s an undecided voter, I will show up,” he joked.

Polls show Begich is cutting into Sullivan’s lead. Or maybe not, depending on which poll you believe. PPP, a firm that polls for Democrats, called voters over the weekend and says Sullivan is just one percentage point ahead of Begich. But a poll last week, by New Jersey-based Rasmussen Reports, says Sullivan has pulled to his largest lead yet in a Rasmussen poll — 5 points.

The Division of Elections says as of yesterday, more than 47,000 Alaskans have already cast ballots, through early and absentee voting. That’s 18 percent of all ballots cast in Alaska’s last mid-term election, in 2010. Spending in the Senate race is now at $57 million, which comes to more than $200 per likely Alaska voter.

Categories: Alaska News

Mallott brings principles, finance experience to Lt. Gov. race

Mon, 2014-11-03 17:24

Byron Mallott has held many positions in his 71 years. He was the CEO of the Permanent Fund, the CEO of Sealaska, the president of AFN, and even briefly held the mayor’s seat in both Yakutat and Juneau. He also once held the title of Democratic candidate for governor. That position didn’t last long.  A few weeks after the winning the primary, Mallott dropped his campaign and joined the Alaska First Unity Ticket as the candidate for lieutenant governor.

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Mallott’s decision to drop his candidacy for governor and join Republican-turned-Independent Bill Walker was met with both support and criticism. When announcing the merger, Walker said he and Mallott would make decisions together. Mallott says some people told him to get that in writing.

Candidate Byron Mallott and KYUK reporter Ben Matheson on the set of Alaska Public Media’s Debate for the State program. (Photo by Patrick Yack, Alaska Public Media)

“And I said that is just crazy. You have to trust. You have to work together. The offices are constitutionally mandated and their responsibilities are very clear.”

Mallott says he’s ready to fill his role as a senior policy adviser to the governor and as a member of the cabinet, like he did when working as the executive director of the Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation under Tony Knowles. That’s where he first worked with Bruce Botelho, the then-Attorney General for the state.

“Byron is an incredibly thoughtful person. Very analytical, very principled. And he applies those principles to his problem solving,” Botelho said when asked to describe the candidate he’s worked with for nearly two decades.

Botelho says Mallott values family, community, and a sense of place, and that he knows how to compromise. But Botelho does admit that when Mallott was younger he was known for passionate, explosive feelings.

But “that is not an issue any more,” he said. “And that’s not to say that Byron will not express himself forcefully when he needs to, but it’s not a situation that causes me any pause for concern.”

Bothelo touts Mallott’s leadership skills and experience with finance management as evidence of Mallott’s readiness for the role of lieutenant governor. Mallott himself says he would look at the state’s budget with a critical eye, though it’s the governor’s job to set the budget.

“Every bit of spending the state does should be on the table for careful analysis, for discussion,” he said during Alaska Public Media’s Debate for the State.

He says that’s true of projects that only impact rural Alaska as well.

“It’s important that, at least for me, that if the village of Kwethluk has a bridge project that’s hugely important to that village, that it get the same scrutiny, the same analysis as the bridge across the [Cook] Inlet.”

But Mallott says that doesn’t mean he would increase taxes to raise money for such projects.

“The notion, again, that we can tax our way either to balancing budgets or to prosperity has been shown never to work.”

Mallott’s main role as lieutenant governor, if he wins, will be supervising the Division of Elections. He says he would follow all laws when certifying ballot initiatives, even if he disagrees with them.

“It is there in order to give voters a voice when they believe their voice is not being heard. So, it is a very precious tool in our constitution, but I think it should be very carefully and not often used.”

Mallott is a Tlingit originally from Yakutat. He’s an independent director of Alaska Air Group.

 

Categories: Alaska News

A Look At Proposition Two

Mon, 2014-11-03 17:24

The pre-election barrage of advertising regarding the vote for or against Proposition 2 — which would allow the use, purchase and sale of recreational marijuana in Alaska for those aged 21 or older — has been aimed at  adult users of the drug.  But teenage use of marijuana is not a rarity in our state, and kids know where to purchase it whether Prop 2 passes or not.

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It’s not hard to find mothers who oppose the passage of Proposition 2.  At a recent Vote No on 2, Big Marijuana, Big Mistake ralley,  Karen Compton, mother of two teens, said

“I don’t want my kids to be guinea pigs.”

But middle school and high school kids are already experimenting with marijuana.

At a local coffee shop, I spoke with fourteen year old Bridger – last name not used at request of his mother – who says it’s not hard to find weed.  He says, kids younger than he get it easily.

“Absolutely, it’s very openly spoken of and lots of kids, they’ll even wear hats with weed on them. “

“Where do they get it? Do you think older kids buy it for them or give it to them?” I asked.

“Well, the marijuana is, but not the like, clothes, they’ll buy it themselves. “

” How young do you think kids start doing marijuana.?”

“Lots of them will say as early as eleven, their parents gave them a blunt, or marijuana…”

Bridger explains that a blunt is a badly rolled marijuana cigarette.   He says he won’t use the drug, but many people his age do.

“They’ll say it helps them, but it really does not help them. Anybody who doesn’t smoke weed will realize that it doesn’t help them. Like it deteriorates them. It’s visual, you can just see it. It deteriorates them.”

I ask how many kids would smoke marijuana, in any given group of ten or so.

“About two would be like the open stoners, getting everyone to smoke. And then about five of them would occasionally smoke marijuana, and then about, you know, six of them would  have smoked maijuana, would have done it at least once.”

Prop 2 prohibits those under the age of 21 from using false identification to purchase marijuana. And it allows the retail sale of marijuana and marijuana edibles. If it passes, Karen Compton says its only a matter of time before the Cannabus rolls down her street.

” I live in Spenard, and you know, where are these retail outlets going to be? They’re going to be in Spenard! You know, my kid is going to have to walk down the street past them.”

 Spenard is the Anchorage neighborhood once notorious for booze, brothels and life on the edge, although gentrification has come slowly.  Now a yoga studio and an organic restaurant stand where a bar and dance hall were thirty years ago.A young man in a black hoodie lounges against a storefront. He’s got the stub of a cigarette still smoking in his fingers. He’s the first teen I spot.. so I stop and ask him

 ”What do you think of this marijuana initiative?”

He didn’t want to give his name, but he answered readily enough.

“Honestly, I’m not quite sure about it. The fact that, yeah, a lot of people up here do smoke marijuana. But, um, it’s honestly, it’s up to everybody else,  I have pretty much no say about it right now, due to the fact I’m not old enough to vote. But if I did, I’d have to say yes on it, because there’s so many medicinal uses for it. But, people who just go out to use it recreationally, I don’t think it should be legal like that, so..”

“Have you ever used it recreationally?” “No, ma’am” “Do you know people who do?” ” Yes, ma’am.” “Is it easy to get?” ” It is.”

I tell him, “It’s not like this dark alley thing, I’ve been told a lot of people, you know their family gives it to them.”

” Yeah, pretty much. It’s that easy up in Anchorage. It’s one of those things that shouldn’t be that easy, but..”]

If Prop 2 passes, how would it  shape the future world of Bridger and the unnamed teen in Spenard?

Prop 2 support group Yes on 2, Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, has released a statement claiming that the state could raise 72.5 million dollars in taxes in the first five years after Prop 2 goes into effect. The tax would be $50 on an ounce of marijuana sold.

On a Sunday evening, two volunteers man the phones at the Yes, Yes, Yes campaign office in Anchorage.  Reggae music flows out of the speakers, and a table full of snack food stands ready to fight a snack attack.  Campaign manager Nick Moe says his group targets the 18 – 24 demographic and is working to get out the Yes on 2 vote.

“I think that it’s easier for a sixteen year old to get a joint than it is to get a six pack right now. If we bring it out of the shadows, into the regulatory phase, like alcohol is, I think it will be a lot more difficult for children to get access to marijuana, if they have to show their id’s. And you have to be at least 21 years old. “

 Moe says if Prop 2 passes, regulatoin of the sale of marijuana will actually keep it out of the hands of teenagers.

“In Colorado, those rates have actually declined because there are actually more robust programs to address marijuana usage in schools. “

And, if estimates of millions in tax dollars flooding the state are accurate, Moe says there will be plenty of money around for school programs.

Not long ago, the New York Times ran an editorial urging the passage of Alaska’s Proposition Two.  And last week, the NYT reported that former Wall street equity fund managers are starting their own private equity groups targeting investment in cannabis industries across the nation. Because, one source said “…people have been buying marijuana for years.. there is an existing demand” .

Closer to home, Josh Fryfogle, editor of Wasilla’s The People’s Paper, ran his own editorial, saying that, until now, not one Alaskan cared about marijuana’s legalization.  He says it’s all about the money.

“The only reason this is on the ballot is because two PR firms were hired , and are being paid, to make it an issue. “

The Vote No on 2 campaign has raised just under 150 thousand dollars, for their campaign, all from Alaska donors. The Yes on 2 campaign has been funded primarily by the Washington, DC based Marijuana Policy Project and by the NY based Drug Policy Alliance. The two lobbying groups have donated close to 900 thousand dollars to the Yes on 2 campaign.

Categories: Alaska News

USCG Responds To Grounded Barge Near Kodiak Over The Weekend

Mon, 2014-11-03 17:23

Over the weekend the Coast Guard responded to a grounded fuel barge near Kodiak.

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Coast Guard personal at Sector Anchorage sent a C-130 Hercules Airplane and the cutter Spar to respond to the incident early Saturday morning. Though the nearly-400 foot fuel barge had managed to refloat itself shortly after getting stuck, responders mounted boom and towed the vessel into Kodiak for a damage inspection.

As of today, a Coast Guard official says dive inspections haven’t revealed any damage to the hull or signs of leaked contaminants, and the Marine Safety Detachment is investigating the cause of the grounding.

The barge was carrying 2.2 million gallons of aircraft fuel to the Coast Guard’s Air Station on Kodiak.

Categories: Alaska News

As US Outlines Arctic Council Goals, Native Groups and State Lawmakers Left Wanting

Mon, 2014-11-03 17:22

U.S. Coast Guard Adm. Robert Papp (Ret.) addresses the 2014 Arctic Circle meeting in Reykjavík, Iceland. (Photo: ArcticCircle.org)

The state department has outlined the nation’s top priorities as the U.S. prepares to chair the international Arctic Council in April, but some Alaska Native groups and state officials argue the national goals are lacking.

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In Yellowknife, Canada in late October representatives of the U.S. Department of State gave a presentation closed to media—but directed at the other five nations on the Arctic Council, as well as several observer nations—outlining the U.S. government’s three key “thematic areas” for the country prepares for its three-year term as Arctic Council chair.

Robert Papp, who retired as U.S. Coast Guard Admiral in May and was appointed by Secretary of State John Kerry as the nation’s special representative for the Arctic in July, discussed those themes at the Article Circle 2014 meeting in Iceland last week. Papp said on of the three “themes” the U.S. would focus on includes climate change.

“Reducing black carbon emissions and methane emissions are worthy goals that we need to work on with the international community to achieve,” Papp told the multinational crowd assembled in Iceland’s capital city of Reykjavík. “I see this as a particular area in which our Arctic Council observer nations can become involved, and assist in some of those forward leaning and actionable outcomes.”

Papp also stressed that stewardship of the Arctic Ocean, including a focus on ocean acidification, would be part of the U.S. emphasis. He stressed better preparation for a maritime disaster or oil spill, especially as a former mariner with the Coast Guard, is an especially high priority.

“We need to be working together, just not coming to agreements on search and rescue and oil [spill] prevention,” Papp continued, “but implementing actionable items, and practicing together, and learning from each other so that we can assist each other when those emergencies inevitably occur.”

Beyond climate change and Arctic Ocean issues, the U.S. chair is also focusing on improving the “economic and living conditions” of Arctic residents, including renewable energy, sanitation and public health, suicide prevention, and telecommunications.

But for groups like the Inuit Circumpolar Council, an international body representing more than 150-thousand Inuit peoples across the world, the priorities lack focus on the rights of the North’s first peoples.

“I think it’s been very clear for quite some time that when it comes to indigenous rights, both the US and the State of Alaska have been very hesitant to open up that discussion,” said Jim Stotts, the president of ICC Alaska.

Stotts said the three broads themes the U.S. is advocating aren’t a surprise, and he stressed ICC agrees they are important, but Stotts said issues like self-determination for native peoples, along with hunting and fishing rights, that are absent.

“ICC has been promoting for some time to have a project at the Arctic Council that would look at food security form the perspective of the Arctic’s indigenous peoples,” Sotts said. “In particular, the safety of the food, the access to the food, and the health of the environment … As of yet, it hasn’t really been addressed, [and] the food security is one that we wished would have been addressed.”

Stotts said those conversations will continue on the local and national level, if not at the international Arctic Council.

The state’s own Arctic Policy Commission also criticized the national priorities. Last month Anchorage Senator Lesil McGuire and Bethel Representative Bob Herron wrote an open letter to Papp, saying the national priorities must do more the emphasize job creation in rural Arctic communities. That’s an imperative the state’s two top Arctic commissioners say is lost with the fed’s more general economic focus.

“We are very concerned that our number one priority, jobs and economic opportunity for Arctic residents, is being ignored,” McGuire and Herron wrote. “We believe that jobs and economic development for the people that actually live in the Arctic is a high priority and not an afterthought for Alaskans.”

The two state lawmakers are urging the State Department to create an advisory committee from Alaska, made up of local government and Alaska Native representatives, to ensure the three years the U.S. will spend as as chair of the Arctic Council reflects the priorities of America’s only Arctic state.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: November 3, 2014

Mon, 2014-11-03 17:22

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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Questions Remain As National Guard Documents Are Released

Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN – Juneau

In September, a federal report on misconduct in the Alaska National Guard was released. And since then, it’s been an open question as to why long-running allegations of cronyism, fraud and the mishandling of sexual assault reporting didn’t result in reform sooner. News outlets, including Alaska Public Media, have sued the Parnell administration for access to records that could provide insight into their response.

Begich, Sullivan Rally Voters, Each His Own Way

Liz Ruskin, APRN

In the final days before the U.S. Senate election, candidates Mark Begich and Dan Sullivan are making their final pitches, aiming to rally their supporters to the polls. Sullivan got help from two national figures representing polar opposites of the GOP: Mitt Romney, an establishment Republican, and Sen. Ted Cruz, a Tea Party hero.

Mallott Brings Principles, Finance Experience To Lt. Governor Race

Anne Hillman, KSKA – Anchorage

Byron Mallott has held many positions in his 71 years. He was the CEO of the Permanent Fund, the CEO of Sealaska, the president of AFN, and even briefly held the mayor’s seat in both Yakutat and Juneau. He also once held the title of Democratic candidate for governor. That position didn’t last long. A few weeks after the winning the primary, Mallott dropped his campaign and joined Bill Walker’s unaffiliated ticket as the Lt. Governor candidate.

A Look At Proposition Two

Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage

Ballot Initiative Two – which would allow the use, purchase and sale of recreational marijuana in Alaska for those aged 21 or older – has Alaskans at odds over the legalization of a federally prohibited drug. Teen use of marijuana is not a rarity in our state, and kids know where to purchase it whether Prop 2 passes or not.

USCG Responds To Grounded Barge Near Kodiak Over The Weekend

Zachariah  Hughes, KSKA – Anchorage

Over the weekend the Coast Guard responded to a grounded fuel barge near Kodiak.

Coast Guard personal at Sector Anchorage sent a C-130 Hercules Airplane and the cutter Spar to respond to the incident early Saturday morning. The nearly-400 foot fuel barge had managed to refloat itself shortly after getting stuck.

A Coast Guard official says dive inspections haven’t revealed any damage to the hull or signs of leaked contaminants.

The barge was carrying 2.2 million gallons of aircraft fuel to the Coast Guard’s Air Station on Kodiak.

As US Outlines Arctic Council Goals, Native Groups and State Lawmakers Left Wanting

Matthew Smith, KNOM – Nome

The State Department has outlined the nation’s top priorities as the U.S. prepares to chair the international Arctic Council in April. Retired Coast Guard Admiral Robert Papp expanded on the three major themes at the recent Arctic Circle meeting in Iceland—covering climate change and Arctic Ocean issues.

But, some Alaska Native groups—and state lawmakers—say the goals are lacking.

Scientists Note Temperature Spike In Gulf of Alaska

Quinton Chandler, KBBI – Homer

Scientists say temperatures in the Gulf of Alaska recently spiked over a very short time span. The warmer temperatures are a byproduct of mild winter weather and could have serious consequences for marine life. The latest temperatures come from a monitoring program that has collected data from the Gulf Waters for the past 17 years.

 

Categories: Alaska News

Scientists Note Temperature Spike In Gulf of Alaska

Mon, 2014-11-03 17:21

Scientists say temperatures in the Gulf of Alaska recently spiked over a very short time span. The warmer temperatures are a byproduct of mild winter weather and could have serious consequences for marine life. The latest temperatures come from a monitoring program that has collected data from the Gulf Waters for the past 17 years.

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Categories: Alaska News

House District 21 candidates blur some party lines but not others

Mon, 2014-11-03 13:05

Two candidates are running for Democrat-turned-Republican Lindsey Holmes former seat in West Anchorage’s House District 21. And like their predecessor, some of their views blur typical party lines. 

http://www.alaskapublic.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/11/31-house-21-EDIT.mp3

Matt Claman is a Democrat. And like many Democrats, he supports same-sex marriage.

“Well, I have been a long supporter of equal rights, and some people say that I actually took a lot of heat when I was acting mayor for supporting equal rights in our community,” he said during Alaska Public Media’s Running.

His opponent, Republican Anand Dubey, also supports marriage equality, despite it being against his party’s platform.

Matt Claman (D) is a candidate for House District 21. (Photo by Josh Edge, APRN – Anchorage)

“Let me just put it this way, I’m against discrimination in all forms,” he said in a phone interview when asked to clarify his positions.

Dubey also strays from his party line on the issue of abortion–sometimes. Dubey has made many different statements about abortion. In response to two different conservative group surveys, he and his campaign identify him as pro-life. After making confusing statements on the issue during Running, he was quick to agree with Claman’s position.

“I will continue to support a woman’s privacy, and health care privacy, and want to do everything I can to keep politicians out of the private relationship between a woman and her doctors,” Claman said on the program.

“And so would I,” jumped in Dubey.

When asked to clarify his position, Dubey said he opposes all types of non-natural death because he was raised with Hindu values. However, he said he does not think the state should be regulating abortion.

The two opponents also agree on the importance of involving their constituents in the legislative process and making decisions based on their opinions.

The differences between the two men start to show when discussing budget matters. One major issue is funding the public schools. Claman promises to try to inflation-proof the Base Student Allocation, a position supported by groups like Great Alaska Schools. Claman said the legislature needs to take a local approach by supporting local school boards.

“The school boards around the state are some of the organizations that we elect that are best able to know the best needs of that district,” he said.

But Dubey said focusing on the BSA oversimplifies the issue. He said he wants to revamp the way school budgets are made.

Anand Dubey (R) is a candidate for House District 21. (Photo by Josh Edge, APRN – Anchorage)

“I don’t need anybody’s help, I just need time. I need to be given data and if I get elected, I’ll sit down single-handedly and then show you how to do it. Much like any chartered account and or any business expert would do. And we’ll go through it and we’ll figure out, ‘ok, where do we need money?’” he said.

Dubey argued that all of the state’s budgets can be reduced by eliminating redundant services. He said the state’s medical costs would be lower if there was more competition in the marketplace.

“So the bottom line is this: as a legislator I don’t believe in creating additional laws to circumvent a problem. I believe in maybe deregulating it to see if more competition in the market could solve the problem. So that would be my idea.”

Claman said health care costs are rising around the nation, not just in Alaska. He said solving the problem locally requires more efficient systems and for the state to accept federal Medicaid money.

Neither candidate has served in the state’s legislature before. Claman works as an attorney and is a former Anchorage assembly member. Dubey runs his own IT company and has degrees in engineering and business.

 

Categories: Alaska News

Live Video: The Annual Polar Bear Migration In Churchill, Manitoba

Mon, 2014-11-03 12:14


Courtesy of explore.org, Polar Bears International, Frontiers North Adventures

Catch a glimpse of the annual polar bear migration in Churchill, Manitoba, brought to you by Explore.org, the philanthropic media organization and division of the Annenberg Foundation.

Categories: Alaska News

More National Guard Documents Released, Most Unresponsive

Sat, 2014-11-01 19:54

The Alaska Attorney General’s office released a fourth and fifth set of documents concerning the Alaska National Guard on Saturday. One 171-page packet contained mostly press releases and official photographs. Another 151-page set is made up of duplicate records from previous drops.

While much of the material is unresponsive, the fourth packet contains a 2009 letter from then-Rep. Nancy Dahlstrom takes great exception to a letter sent to her from Debra Blaylock, wife of whistleblower Kenneth Blaylock. Debra Blaylock, a retired lieutenant colonel with the Alaska Army National Guard, wrote to Dahlstrom before Thomas Katkus was appointed adjutant general.

Blaylock asked Dahlstrom to “seriously look into Tom Katkus’ background if his name comes up for nomination.” She went on to write that Katkus was under investigation for “numerous allegations.” Blaylock acknowledged her husband had filed one of the complaints against Katkus and stated she had retired from service, “rather than suffer any more of his abuse.”

In her response, Dahlstrom chastised Blaylock, writing that Katkus had served for more than two decades as a captain and division commander with the Anchorage Police Department without complaint or discipline. Dahlstrom wrote that “because of your credentials as a military officer” Blaylock should be “sensitive to the extreme damage that results from reckless and baseless allegations.” Dahlstrom also expressed “great offense” to Blaylock’s “statement that [the Guard] is a ‘good old boy’ network with corrupt leadership.”

Dahlstrom concluded by voicing confidence in the governor and legislature’s vetting process for selecting and confirming a replacement adjutant general. Katkus was ultimately appointed by Gov. Parnell to replace Craig Campbell.

Dahlstrom later went to work for the Parnell administration, first briefly in 2010 and then again in 2012 to 2013. In her second stint as a military affairs aide, Dahlstrom received numerous complaints about the Guard, which she then forwarded on to Parnell chief of staff Mike Nizich.

The fifth packet also contains correspondence from a former Parnell aide with a record in the legislator. Pete Kelly, a Fairbanks Republican who currently serves in the State Senate, sent an e-mail with the subject “Investigation” to Adjutant General Thomas Katkus and Department of Military and Veterans Affairs Deputy Commissioner McHugh Pierre on April 26, 2011. He also forward a copy to Nizich and to Parnell policy director Randy Ruaro. The substance of the e-mail is entirely redacted, for reasons of deliberative and executive privilege.

Only 30 of the 171 pages in the fourth packet appeared responsive to the request by Alaska Public Media and the Alaska Dispatch News.

With only two days remaining before the state’s election, the attorney representing the media organizations sent a strongly worded letter Saturday afternoon demanding that documents be released rapidly, with less redaction and in a process that avoids “further obstructing or delaying or denying access to the requested public records.”

This story has been updated to include information about a fifth packet of documents.

[Fourth Document Packet (25mb)]
[Fifth Document Packet]
[Attorney Letter]

Categories: Alaska News

Governor’s Office Releases Hundreds Of National Guard Documents

Fri, 2014-10-31 17:15

The State of Alaska has released letters, emails, and other documents related to the Alaska National Guard scandal (175 MB). A “privilege log” listing why some details in the documents were redacted was also released.

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Copies of all notes, correspondence, memos and emails related to sexual assault in the Alaska National Guard were requested in May by Alaska Public Media. It took until Sept. 26 for Gov. Sean Parnell’s policy director, Randy Ruaro, to deny the request.

Alaska Public Media and Alaska Dispatch News sued the state Oct. 8. Two weeks after filing the lawsuit it appeared that the state was willing to release the documents without litigation. A week later the state had only released few of requested documents.

The media organizations advanced their lawsuit Wednesday to force the release of the documents before the Nov. 4 election. Alaska Superior Court judge Gregory Miller ruled on Thursday that the state was to comply with the records requests by Friday at noon. Reporters received an 596-page document around 1 p.m. today.

This is not the first time reporters have had difficulty requesting documents from the Parnell administration. Last year reporters requested copies of an $80,000 study commissioned by the state to look at the effects of Medicaid expansion under the Affordable Care Act. The Parnell administration maintained that the report was not a public record because it was protected under the “deliberative process privilege.” Seven months later Parnell released the report after he’d made the decision that Alaska would not expand its Medicaid program.

Alaska National Guard emails – 175 MB pdf

Privilege Log – 58 KB pdf

Categories: Alaska News

Economists Say It’s Too Early To Determine Effects Of Current Low Oil Prices

Fri, 2014-10-31 17:14

Crude oil prices are hovering in the $80 range, and in Alaska that brings with it worries over the budget. But economists from either side of the political spectrum have roughly the same take on what’s playing out: it’s too early to tell.

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Categories: Alaska News

Leroy B. Dick Jr. Murder Trial Next Week in Dillingham

Fri, 2014-10-31 17:13

Leroy Blair Dick, Jr., now 44, is expected to be tried on a first degree murder charge before a jury of peers at the Dillingham courthouse next week. Pending further delay, jury selection will begin Monday, November 3.

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Dick is accused of killing of Village Public Safety Officer Thomas Madole in Manokotak in March 2013.

Leroy Dick Jr., at his arraignment on a first degree murder charge on March 20, 2013.

“To be honest, I could say I’m guilty of the crime,” Dick told Magistrate Judge Monte Brice at his arraignment the day after the murder.

Officer Madole, a retired minister, was described as a “friend” and “role model” to the Manokotak community, and was highly respected in the VPSO community. Madole had spent six years pastoring a church in Bethel in the early 2000s, and moved to Manokotak in 2011 as a VPSO. Governor Sean Parnell called the murder a “senseless and cruel act” and ordered all state flags lowered two days later in honor of Madole, who was the first VPSO killed in the line of duty since Ronald Zimin was shot in South Naknek in 1986. Tom Madole is survived by his wife Luan and two adult children.

Madole’s death led to the passing of a bill in Alaska to allow VPSO’s to carry firearms. House Bill 199, sponsored by Rep. Bryce Edgmon of Dillingham, passed the Alaska House and Senate unanimously. Governor Sean Parnell signed the bill into law last July in Naknek.

VPSO Tom Madole was killed in the line of duty in Manokotak on March 19, 2013.
(Credit Alaska State Troopers)

Madole, unarmed, was killed on Tuesday, March 19, 2013 in Manokotak, after being shot several times with an assault rifle. Madole had gone to Leroy Dick’s house at about 4 p.m. after taking a report of a “possible suicidal person,” according to the trooper affidavit. Troopers said Madole realized he was in danger, and had tried to flee the scene after he heard Dick making threatening remarks and chambering a round into a rifle. When the investigating state troopers arrived from Dillingham shortly after the report of gunfire, they found Madole’s body about 20 paces from Dick’s doorstep.

Dick was arrested that day and transported to the Dillingham jail. He was arraigned the following morning at the Dillingham courthouse, and initially refused legal counsel. A grand jury indicted Dick on the charge a week later.

Attorney Jonathon Torres of the Public Defenders Agency is representing Dick. Judge Gregory Miller denied Torres’ December 2013 motion to change the venue out of the Dillingham court. A psychiatric report was filed in this past September.

Gregg Olson of the Office of Special Prosecutions and Appeals is prosecuting the case. The state filed its intent to seek a mandatory sentence of 99 years in prison if Dick is convicted.

Judge Miller will preside over the trial in Dillingham, which is scheduled to get underway Monday November 3. Two weeks have been calendared for the trial.

Categories: Alaska News

Fire Investigators Wrap Up Work in Bethel

Fri, 2014-10-31 17:12

The aftermath of the fire. (Photo by Dean Swope / KYUK)

Two investigators from the state Fire Marshal’s office completed their work at the site of the fire that destroyed the new Bethel alcohol treatment center.

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“The on scene has been completed, however, more followups with interviews may be possible,” Lloyd Nakano, an assistant state fire marshall, said.

Photo by Dean Swope

Four days after the enormous fire that leveled the $12.5 million facility, which was being enclosed for the winter, Nakano says he doesn’t know the cause of the fire.

“We have to eliminate causes such as natural, accidental, incendiary, before we can do any, that’s what we have to do,” said Nakano.

Nakano would not say what sort of tools, heaters or equipment was present that might have caused the fire. They have not ruled out the possibility of arson, but also will not say whether they believe it was an intentionally set fire.

Nakano says there are no reports of fatalities or injuries after a thorough search. Nakano has no timeline for when the investigation will be complete. The Bethel Fire Department and an insurance investigator for the Yukon Kuskokwim Health Corporation have also been involved.

Categories: Alaska News

State Senator Lyman Hoffman Explains Endorsement Of U.S. Senate Candidate Dan Sullivan

Fri, 2014-10-31 17:11

Y-K Delta State Senator Lyman Hoffman surprised some people when he endorsed Republican Dan Sullivan for US Senate. In an interview with KYUK today, Hoffman explained why he took a stance in the high profile race in which Sullivan is seeking Senator Mark Begich’s job.

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Categories: Alaska News

Unalaska Youth Take Part In National Community Planning Month

Fri, 2014-10-31 17:10

Laying out neighborhoods isn’t the world’s most glamorous job. But every October, urban planners make an extra effort to get people interested in that work for National Community Planning Month.

In Unalaska, that meant helping some of the town’s youngest residents design a world all their own.

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Categories: Alaska News

300 Villages: Twin Hills

Fri, 2014-10-31 17:08

This week, we’re heading to Twin Hills, near Bristol Bay. William Ilutsik is a grant writer for the village of Twin Hills.

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Categories: Alaska News

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