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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).
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Is the Mine Tailings Dam Failure in B.C. a Warning for Alaska?

Tue, 2014-08-05 17:42

Muddy water from the breached Mount Polley Mine tailings dam floods a downstream creek and road Monday. Fishing and environmental groups say the same could happen at new B.C. mines near the Southeast border. (Photo courtesy Cariboo Regional District Emergency Operations Centre)

Monday’s tailings-dam break at a British Columbia copper and gold mine could threaten Southeast Alaska salmon fisheries. That’s according to critics, who say similar dams closer to the border could suffer the same fate, polluting Alaska waters.

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Monday morning’s dam break took place at the Mount Polley Mine, about 400 miles southeast of Ketchikan.

Scroll down or click here for a video showing the damage.

Observers estimate enough water, mud and rock to fill 2,000 Olympic-sized swimming pools escaped. Emergency officials warned downstream residents against drinking from affected waterways.

This aerial image from a British Columbia emergency office video shows the Mount Polley dam break and some of the damage downstream.

That includes salmon-rich tributaries of the Fraser River, which empties into the Pacific Ocean at Vancouver, B.C.

Brian Lynch of the Petersburg Vessel Owners Association says some of those fish swim north.

“The United States has a harvest-sharing arrangement for Fraser sockeye and pink salmon through provisions of the Pacific Salmon Treaty. So any problem associated with salmon production on the Fraser will affect U.S. fishermen,” he says.

Imperial Metals, the Mount Polley Mine’s owners, did not respond to a request for comment. That’s been the case with requests on other issues too. The corporate website says the mine is not operating and they don’t know how long repairs will take.

A half-dozen or so similar mines are planned for northwest British Columbia, closer to the Alaska border.

Guy Archibald of the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council says they all plan to store tailings, which contain acidic rock and toxic metals, behind dams similar to the one that broke.

“They’re all basically the same systems. They have to comply with the same regulations and design criteria,” he says.

Archibald and Lynch are especially concerned about the Kerr-Sulphurets-Mitchell project, under development about 20 miles from the Alaska border.

KSM will store tailings behind dams upstream from the Nass River, which ends just south of Alaska’s border with British Columbia.

Environmental Affairs Vice President Brent Murphy says it’s not the same as the Mount Polley dam.

“The design of the tailings management facility is such that water will not be standing up against the crest of the dam. Any ponds will be at least kilometers away from the crest of the dams,” he says.

The Mount Polley break may have been caused by heavy rainfall and increased production added pressure to the dam.

The KSM also plans a water treatment storage dam upstream from the Unuk River, which enters the ocean northeast of Ketchikan. It would be part of a system treating acidic water from mine pits and tunnels.

Murphy says it’s designed to spill extra water rather than hold it beyond capacity.

“That contact water would have characteristics very similar to the water that is currently flowing naturally within the Suphurets-Unuk river system,” he says.

KSM’s dam plans have been OK’d by Canadian provincial and federal officials. Murphy says they also passed muster with independent engineers.

Lynch of the Petersburg Vessel Owners Association says the Mount Polley dam had the same approval.

“This was not only obviously a tailings dam failure but it appears to be a regulatory oversight failure as well. And that’s what we want to prevent on any mines going into the transboundary systems,” he says.

The Mount Polley mine owners, Vancouver-based Imperial Metals, plans to open the Red Chris Mine, in the Stikine River watershed this fall. Like Mount Polley and KSM, it’s an open-pit copper and gold mine.

Categories: Alaska News

Tanana River Bridge Eases Training Area Access For Military

Tue, 2014-08-05 17:41

The Alaska Railroad Corporation hosted a ribbon cutting Tuesday at the Tanana River Crossing bridge and levee. It’s the first phase of the Railroad’s Northern Rail Extension project.

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Categories: Alaska News

APD arrests alleged serial rapist

Tue, 2014-08-05 17:40

Clifford Lee, 35, is charged with 10 counts of sexual assault. Photo – APD.

Anchorage police have arrested an alleged serial rapist and charged him with 10 counts of sexual assault. Thirty-five year old Clifford Lee of Anchorage was apprehended on Thursday evening.

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The five known victims were all women who were intoxicated and walking alone in the downtown or midtown areas. Lee allegedly offered them rides then took them to secluded areas in south Anchorage and assaulted them. Some times he used a stun gun.

Lt. Anthony Henry with the special victims unit says the victims provided a general description of an Asian male in a dark colored SUV, but it took investigators over a month to link the cases.

“What you have is a fact set that never clearly identifies itself early. So what you do is you have these crimes that are reported and there are similarities in some of the cases but they are rarely exact. So it usually takes time before that pattern is actually recognized. And in this case, there were a lot of descriptions that were vague.”

This series of reported assaults began in late June. Police think there may be other victims, and Henry urges the women to come forward. He says it will both help the women find resolution and help the case against Lee.

The police believe that Lee acted alone. Henry says serial rapists who target strangers are rare. Most rapists know their victims.

The investigation is on-going. Lee is being held on a $750,000 bail.

Categories: Alaska News

Conservationists Line Up For Izembek Lawsuit

Tue, 2014-08-05 17:39

When the Interior Department axed a proposal last winter to build a gravel road through the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge, conservation groups cheered.

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Now, eight of them are stepping up to defend the government’s decision in court.

The Sierra Club, the Audubon Society and Wilderness Watch are among those joining Interior Secretary Sally Jewell in a federal lawsuit. According to a recent filing, the groups will focus their arguments on “protecting the exceptional wilderness and wildlife values of Izembek.”

The lawsuit was originally brought forward by local governments, tribes and residents of King Cove and Belkofski.

They’ve been fighting to construct a road through the refuge for decades. When the Interior Secretary turned it down, they argue that she violated her trust responsibility to Alaska Natives — and federal law.

The court has agreed to let the State of Alaska join the lawsuit and help King Cove make its case for road access.

Categories: Alaska News

VA Stand Down Brings Benefits To Kuskokwim Veterans

Tue, 2014-08-05 17:38

Veterans and family members pick out their gear from a wide selection. (Photo courtesy Samuel Hudson)

This weekend, several hundred veterans turned out for the first ever ‘VA Stand Down’ in Bethel. The event, put on by the Veteran’s Administration, helps connect veterans with services and benefits.

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The most visible benefit to veterans was the several container vans full of military surplus gear. But Rick Epperson, Rural Health Program Manager for the Alaska Department of Military and Veterans Affairs, says the gear was intended to connect veterans with bigger benefits they’ve earned.

“Our main purpose is to talk with veterans about many of the benefits that they, many of them don’t even know that they qualify for. Many of em are eligible for compensation for things that happened to them while they were on active duty,” says Epperson.

Francis Utteryuk was an Acting 1st Sargent for the 143rd airborne, serving in Kuwait and Iraq in 2006 and 2007. He says signing up for benefits is important.

“They taught me since I came back I have more visits, privileges and benefits from being disabled,” says Utteryuk.

Some of those benefits are geared towards health care for veterans, which they can now get closer to home. Susan Yeager is the director for the Alaska VA Healthcare System.

“In May 2012, we were able to sign 26 contracts sharing agreements with 26 different native organizations across Alaska. YKHC was the first organization to sign that agreement, and so what that agreement says, ‘any eligible veteran, native veteran or non-native veteran that’s seen at YKHC, is eligible, then we the VA will reimburse for that care,’” says Yeager

Yeager says over a hundred veterans from the Y-K Delta signed up for the VA healthcare plan during their visit last week.

Mike Frueh, Director of the VA Home Loan Program in Washington DC, was also in Bethel for the Stand Down. In addition, he traveled to Y-K Delta villages to work on memorandums of understanding that will help Alaska Native Veterans get direct home loans from the VA.

“I hope it helps a lot of veterans. I know that the home loan program we’ve had for 70 years, we’ve helped 21 million veterans and their families purchase homes, and raise their children and live a life, and own a part of the American Dream,” says Frueh.

The MOU’s will make low-interest home loans available to Alaska Native veterans. The loans will have better rates than the standard VA home loans and can be used for remodeling. Last week the first MOU was signed for Metlakatla in southeast Alaska, the states only official reservation. Frueh says ten Y-K Delta villages have already signed their intent to sign an MOU.

And for veterans in surrounding villages who did not make it into Bethel, more military surplus gear is currently being shipped by a local airline cargo company, Ryanair.

Categories: Alaska News

Saxman Files Lawsuit Over Non-Rural Status

Tue, 2014-08-05 17:37

The Organized Village of Saxman filed a lawsuit on July 25th in federal court over the Federal Subsistence Board’s 2007 decision to designate the Native village as non-rural.

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Calling the decision, and the criteria used to reach it, “arbitrary and capricious,” the complaint asks the court to reverse that 2007 Subsistence Board decision, declare it invalid and award court costs to the Village of Saxman.

According to the complaint, residents of Saxman have continually engaged in traditional subsistence gathering since the community first was settled in the late 1800s.

And until 2007, the U.S. government considered the village rural, at least for subsistence purposes. In 1990, the Federal Subsistence Board ruled that Saxman was a rural community, even though the village and its residents have close ties to non-rural Ketchikan.

The board initiated a review of rural designations in 2000, and six years later published a proposed rule that kept Saxman rural. Here is Matthew Newman, an attorney with the Anchorage Native American Rights Fund, which is representing Saxman.

“They had a public comment period on that rule. They received overwhelming public testimony in support of that rule. In fact, their own staff at the office of Federal Subsistence Management supported maintaining Saxman as a rural community,” he said. “Then, somewhat unannounced and immediately, the board decided to vote and go in the opposite direction.”

That decision became final on June 6, 2007. Newman said the board didn’t offer an explanation for voting against the proposed rule.

Within a month of that decision, Saxman officials asked for reconsideration.

“The board took the request under advisement. They reviewed it for a full year,” he said. “But then their final denial of the request for reconsideration also didn’t contain any reason or any plausible argument as to why they took the action they did.”

The lawsuit argues that the criteria used to group Saxman with the larger community of Ketchikan denies Saxman residents the ability to continue customary and traditional harvests, and fails to account for the economic, social and communal independence of Saxman.

Newman said that Saxman waited until now to file the lawsuit in hopes of an administrative solution. And the subsistence board just a couple of months ago indicated it could reverse that ruling for Saxman.

However, Newman said, this year marks the deadline for the community to legally challenge that 2007 ruling. If the Subsistence Board does reverse it, the lawsuit could be dropped. But, “given Saxman’s experiences with the administrative process so far, the board will have to take some very affirmative steps.”

David Jenkins, policy coordinator with the Federal Subsistence Management Service, also noted that the Federal Subsistence Board is in the process of recommending changes. It would then be up to the federal government whether to accept those recommendations.

The case has been assigned to U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Gleason. The defendants named are Federal Subsistence Board chairman Tim Towarak, Secretary of the Interior Sally Jewell and Secretary of Agriculture Tom Vilsack.

The defendants have 60 days to file a response.

Categories: Alaska News

Fishermen Receive Fine, Probation For Fishing Violations

Tue, 2014-08-05 17:36

Two fishermen recently learned that commercial trolling out of season – even by a single day – can be expensive.

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The captain and crewman of the fishing vessel Chief Joseph pleaded guilty in a Sitka courtroom last week to charges of fishing during closed season and unlawful possession of fish. Judge Leonard Devaney sent the vessel owner – 49-year-old Jeffrey Angelo of Samoa, California – to jail for five days and ordered him to pay over $6,000 in fines. The crewman, Alec Hurst, received a suspended jail sentence and a $1,500 fine. Alaska Trooper Sgt. Aaron Frenzel said that cases of pre-season fishing such as this are relatively rare.

On June 30, Alaska Wildlife Troopers came upon Angelo and Hurst at anchor in Still Harbor, on the southwest corner of Baranof Island, with evidence of recent fishing on deck. According to the Troopers’ report, Angelo and Hurst knowingly fished 12 king salmon in Whale Bay the day before the king season opened on July 1.

Wildlife troopers escorted the Chief Joseph back to Sitka and ordered Angelo to deliver the caught salmon to a processor, forfeiting $691 in proceeds to the state. Both men were then allowed to fish in the opening.

Angelo was also cited for failing to display his commercial numbers on the boat and sentenced to three years’ probation. 29-year-old Hurst – a resident of Fort Bragg, CA – was placed on probation for two years.

The same day he sentenced the Chief Joseph crew, Judge Devaney ordered 23-year-old Douglas McNamee to pay $1,500 in fines by August 8th for tampering with someone else’s shellfish pots and furnishing sport-caught shellfish to a client.

Categories: Alaska News

Begich Calls For Park Service To Honor Aleut Internment

Tue, 2014-08-05 17:35

Sen. Mark Begich wants the National Park Service to include sites where Alaska Native peoples were forcibly relocated during World War II.

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Begich introduced a bill Thursday, asking the Department of the Interior to study the cost and feasibility of adding Aleut internment-related sites as one or more units of the parks system.

Kashega Village on Unalaska Island was deserted after residents were forcibly relocated during WWII. (Courtesy: UAA Archives)

The bill is called the Aleut Confinement and Relocation Sites Study Act. In a press release, Begich says it’s aimed at remembering a part of American history that has long been “swept under the rug.”

Begich is asking for a three-year study about incorporating sites in Southeast where hundreds of Unangan peoples were interned: Funter Bay, Burnett Inlet, Killisnoo, Ward Lake and the Wrangell Institute.

The relocated people spent two years at those sites, amid poor conditions and sickness. About 75 of them died.

The bill also covers the former Aleutian villages from which the people were taken: Makushin, Biorka and Kashega, all on Unalaska island, as well as the village of Attu.

The bill says those villages “were so depopulated and so significantly damaged by miliary [sic] activity and weather that the villages effectively could not be resettled after World War II.”

Begich’s office says the bill could lead to authorizing the Park Service to buy associated lands from current owners. The bill has the support of the Aleutian Pribilof Islands Association. It’s been referred to the Committee on Energy and Natural Resources.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska Territorial Guard ‘Wall of Honor’ Dedicated in Bethel

Tue, 2014-08-05 17:34

The Alaska Territorial Guard Memorial Park Wall of Honor was dedicated August 1, 2014. (Photo by Ben Matheson / KYUK)

Volunteers working at Bethel’s Alaska Territorial Guard Memorial Park are one step closer to completion. On Friday afternoon, local organizers and state military leadership dedicated the recently completed ‘Wall of Honor.’

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The wall lists the names of 1-thousand, 435 members of the Territorial Guard who served from 31 Yukon Kuskokwim Delta villages. Buck Bukowski is a member of the ATG Park Committee and says the recognition is overdue.

“They were unpaid, all they got a rifle they had to turn back in when they were done, and no recognition until just a few years ago when most of them were already dead,” said Bukowski.

The Alaska Territorial Guard was formed in 1942 in response to the attack in Hawaii and occupation of some Aleutian islands. Members supplied all of their own gear and food, with no pay. Over 6,000 largely Alaska Natives members served the country until the ATG disbanded in 1947.

Major General Thomas Katkus is Commissioner of Alaska Department of Military and Veterans Affairs and the Adjutant General in charge of the Guard in Alaska. He says today’s military stands on the shoulders of those who came before.

“Those guys were here in a threatened environment, you look at the technology in those days before cell phones, before internet before the ability to communicate as quickly and rapidly as we do today. They stood there with an unknown threat coming and banded together, and basically were prepared to defend their communities,” said Katkus.

Organizers say there is work to be done on a 2-thousand foot walking trail on the tundra, plus more landscaping and potentially a gazebo to cover a picnic area. A tall bronze statue of a guard remember in a parka watches over the wall and veterans cemetery. The park includes large garden boxes and flags for each community.

Committee Co-chair Dave Trantham says the group is trying to get an old artillery gun for the site. He told a story about how the guard tricked Japanese spy planes.

“They cut driftwood and stuck it in the mud to represent an artillery pieces. I want to ask one question if may. Did the Japanese invade this part of the county? Uh uh,” said Trantham.

The state Department of Military and Veterans Affairs contributed 140-thosuand dollars for the project, while local companies and organizations donated many thousands more in materials and work. General Katkus says Bethel’s park stands out in the state.

“They capitalize with the good ideas, they get the community behind a very small amount of resourcing and together come up with a project that that is greater as a whole than the sum of the resources sent out here. It’s just incredible what they’ve been able to do with it,” said Katkus.

The Alaska Territorial Guard Park is located on Tower Road near the airport. Organizers say it’s scheduled to be done in time for Pearl Harbor Day.

Categories: Alaska News

Former Haines Exchange Student Now Living In War Zone

Tue, 2014-08-05 17:33

From his bedroom window, Haytham Mohanna took this photo of Israeli flares about a week ago. (Photo by Haytham Mohanna)

Just days after exchange student Haytham Mohanna made the long journey from Southeast Alaska to his home in the Gaza Strip, the conflict between Israel and Hamas escalated into war.

Haytham lived and studied in Haines through a U.S. Department of State program that brings students from Muslim countries to America.

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Two months ago, 17-year-old Haytham Mohanna was kayaking in Sunshine Cove and hiking to the Mendenhall Glacier ice caves in Juneau.

Now, Haytham is home in Gaza City spending his summer break in a war zone.

“Every minute we are expecting a bomb. When we hear a near bomb, we are saying that our house is going to be the next one,” Haytham says.

His family has an emergency bag packed with their identification and other important documents. If they get a call that their house will be bombed, they’re ready to evacuate.

Haytham Mohanna attended Haines High School during last school year. (Photo by Lisa Phu/KTOO)

“My family is lucky ‘til now that nobody died and they didn’t see anyone dying,” Haytham says.

At the moment, he is living with 14 people – his parents, grandmother, three siblings and his aunt’s family.

“Her house kind of is near the tanks and the bombs, so she’s scared and ran away from there and she came to our house,” Haytham says.

His parents and siblings sleep on the floor, while his aunt’s family shares the six beds in the house. It’s crowded, but up to 50 people have stayed in the house during other wars. This is Haytham’s third.

Haytham says they haven’t had electricity for more than a week. His family has their own gas-run generator, which they turn on to charge flashlights, laptops and phones. They also use it to pump water to the house.

Without a refrigerator, Haytham’s father takes the risk of going to the market a few times a week.

“In the U.S. we had fulltime electricity, we have water all the time, we have freedom to go anywhere. But here, I can be scared to go out to get the trash out of the house and I’ll be scared if I’m going to go to our neighbors’ to drink some tea or something. It’s really hard to get out, even from the house,” Haytham says.

The last time Haytham went outside was more than 10 days ago during a ceasefire. It lasted six hours.

“I went to hang out with my friends. We tried to go and get a haircut but the places were very crowded so we didn’t have a haircut,” he says.

Everyone was in the streets.

“People were happy, you know, just going out from their houses. Not really happy, just relief, you know,” he says.

Haytham says days pass inside the house doing nothing and he loses track of the date. He only sleeps between 5 and 10 a.m. when bombs are less frequent. He says there are more bombs at night.

Inside, Haytham says his family still occasionally laughs.

“But it’s not the laugh that comes from the heart. We just laugh to let my 6-year-old brother to laugh and feel that he’s safe and we’re not in danger,” he says.

Haytham has mixed feelings toward the U.S. due to its relationship with Israel. The U.S. provides Israel with $3 billion in foreign military financing annually, according to the Department of State.

Haytham misses living in Haines, but he says, “I can’t really wish to be there right now. My country now needs me. If everyone wishes to be outside, nobody is going to be in Gaza. There should be people staying in Gaza so they can protect it and after the war, they can build it.”

Haytham is supposed to start his senior year of high school at the end of the month. But, he says, schools have delayed opening. Even if the war ends soon, it’ll still take time to repair.

Related content:
Differences between U.S. & Gaza Strip? Weather and freedom
Origami peace peacock finds a home in the state capitol
Forum@360: Middle East to Southeast
Haytham Mohanna on Photography

Categories: Alaska News

Russian Adventure, Games and a Walrus Skin Boat Become Lifelong Memories for Alaska Native Family

Mon, 2014-08-04 17:23

Andy Piscoya (right) faced Russian musher, Michael Telpin (left) during the innaugural Beringia Arctic Games. (Photo by Emily Schwing, KUAC – Fairbanks)

An Alaska Native family recently traveled to Russia’s Far East to take part in a gathering of indigenous people from seven nations throughout the circumpolar north. The three participated in Native games, music and the celebration of traditional culture in a tiny coastal village along the Bering Sea.

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On a recent summer Saturday, Alaska Native Elder Kooper Piscoya joined a wild, cheering crowd to watch teams of men and women row giant, handmade walrus skin boats across the flat water of a protected bay off the Bering Sea coast. He says he once got to ride in a boat just like one of these when he was a kid, growing up in Nome.

“A guy named Dominic would bring the tours down to the Snake River and take them on boats rides in the skin boat all the time,” he remembers. “That was pretty neat to see.  A lot of tourists would come down and hop in the skin boat and go for a skin boat ride.”

Piscoya was in the tiny village of Novoye Chaplino in Russia’s Chukotka Region to see his children, 22-year-old Megan and 19-year-old Andy compete in the skin boat races as well as other events at the inaugural Beringia Arctic Games.  He says skin boat races haven’t happened near Nome since his grandfather’s time.

“Watching these two Megan and Andy skin boat race it was like a great feeling to see them do something like my grandpa did.” He smiles, boradly. “It was awesome. I was so happy!”

This was the second time Megan and Andy have visited Chukotka.  In 2011, they went to a small town called Lavrentiya, more than 100 miles north of Novoye Chaplino. That’s where they met their Russian relatives.

“When we went there, it was two days after we came and Lavrentiya and Megan was going upstairs and they stopped her,” explains Andy. “They had a translator and said ‘we’re relatives,’ and all of that. We have a cousin. He’s probably 20 years old.”

“We went over to his place and had dinner a couple of times,” Megan remembers. “and his mom, our Auntie, made us dinner and had us just lounge around the house and it was rally nice and she really loved it even though we couldn’t speak to each other,” she says.

Very little English is spoken in Chukotka, but that doesn’t seem to phase either of the Piscoya kids. Andy says this year, he reconnected with some of the friends he first made three years ago.

“I recognized our old captain of our row boat,” he smiles. “I looked towards him and he looked at me and he got a bog smile on his face and walked over and shook his hand and I hung out with him and drank some tea.”

Andy had a successful run in a wrestling match during this year’s games. He came to within two points of beating a well-known Russian musher from the region. His sister Megan was also successful in competition. She finished second overall in the one arm reach, a game of agility and precision.

“I actually haven’t done that event since high school,” she laughs. “I was really surprised I was able to do it too.” Dad, Kooper cuts in.  “I was so happy to watch her compete and Andy in his wrestling.  I was overjoyed.”

Kooper Piscoya wasn’t able to take part in the games for health reasons, but he says he used to play them all the time. “I did it a long time ago in high school. I did the seal hop, kneel jumps, one foot high kick, stick pull…,” he said, listing off his favorites.

It’s not often that families like the Piscoyas’ are able to travel to places as remote as Chukotka.  A visa can cost up to roughly $400 dollars. Visitors – even Russian citizens – need a formal invitation from the government and that’s on top of the cost to charter a flight from Nome to Chukotka’s capital, Anadyr. Kooper Piscoya almost didn’t make the trip this summer, but daughter Megan says she was relentless.

“I asked him so many times.  ’How come you don’t want go? How come you don’t want to go?’ He was in the kitchen and I was in the living room and I texted him after I had asked him in person and he was like ‘No, I don’t need to go. ‘What’s in Russia?’ I guess he finally found out what’s in Russia,” she said, smiling.

This year’s Beringia Arctic Games were so popular among the visitors and locals who took part, that they are likely to happen again next year. Organizers have announced that the Governor of the Chukotka Region has agreed to allow the games to take place in the village of Lorino in 2015.

Categories: Alaska News

Voting Season Begins For Alaska Primary Election

Mon, 2014-08-04 17:22

The August 19th primary is 15 days away, but voting opens Monday for early absentee, special needs and electronic transmission voting State Elections director Gail Fenumiai says the state has set up polling places across Alaska for registered voters.

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Categories: Alaska News

GOP Candidates for U.S. Senate Debate Abortion, Social Issues

Mon, 2014-08-04 17:22

Republican Senate candidates debate social issues

The three Republicans vying to run against U.S. Sen. Mark Begich met today in an Eagle River church to debate social issues in a forum sponsored by Alaska Family Action. All three took anti-abortion, conservative positions but, judging by the applause, this was Joe Miller’s crowd.

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Miller doesn’t believe in exceptions to an abortion ban, even when a woman becomes pregnant as a result  rape or incest.

“This is the barometer of ‘We the people,’” he said. “Are we going to protect the most defenseless, or are we going to give platitudes?”

The audience at Community Covenant Church cheered and applauded.

Mead Treadwell says the issue is personal with him.

“My mom got pregnant in college. Abortion was available then, but I stand in front of you today because mom and dad chose life, and I thank god every day that she did,” Treadwell said.

Treadwell says abortion should only be allowed if both the mother and baby would otherwise die. Dan Sullivan says he would allow a rape and incest exception.

“That does not mean I’m supportive of abortions in those situations, but because they’re such horrendous situations and support for the victim in those kind of situations of rape and incest is also very important, from my perspective that’s something that the family should be making the decision on,” Sullivan said.

Miller had the other two on the defensive for blocking an anti-abortion initiative in state government. Lt. Gov. Treadwell and Sullivan, a former state attorney general, say the measure they ruled against conflicted with existing law.

“Was that a hard decision to make? Yeah,” Sullivan said. “Did I feel I had fidelity to the law? What I was supposed to do as attorney general? Yes. Sometimes these are difficult choices.”

Treadwell challenged Miller to draft a better initiative than the one he had to turn down.

“If it passes muster, that initiative could move forward, but Joe, you just can’t criticize people for following the law,” Treadwell said.”We followed the law!”

Miller had a ready response: “You know, we’ve heard that argument before, ‘I was just following orders.’”

The candidates all says they are against amnesty for illegal immigrants, against allowing gay marriage and against legislation that would roll back the Supreme Court’s decision in the Hobby Lobby case. Miller is running far behind the other two in the polls, and in campaign contributions. In his closing statement, though, he suggested those present give to the family of Rick Shields, a Palmer conservative activist who died a few days ago. Miller, who says he’s the only non-millionaire in the race, managed to turn the plea into a subtle dig at his rivals.

“Of course, Dan doesn’t need your money, and Mead’s spending his own, and you know that my campaign functions on sweat equity. But please don’t give to our campaigns today. If you came here with a checkbook to write out to one of these candidates give it to the Shields,” Miller said.

During Treadwell’s closing statement, Miller supporters passed out a two-year-old press release from the ACLU highlighting that Treadwell allowed transgender Alaskans to change the gender category on their drivers’ licenses.

This was a pre-Primary debate, so Democrat Mark Begich wasn’t represented. His campaign issued a written statement afterward characterizing the forum as contest “over who would be most effective at denying women access to birth control or cutting funding for women’s reproductive health services.”

Categories: Alaska News

Troopers Looking for Missing Missouri Man on Willow Creek

Mon, 2014-08-04 17:20

The Alaska State Troopers are looking for a missing fisherman in the Willow Creek area.

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Jerry Warner. (Photo courtesy Matanuska-Susitna Borough)

According to the troopers, 71 year old Jerry Warner of Missouri left the Willow Creek Resort at about 11:00 am on Sunday to go fishing by himself.  He planned to be away for a few hours. When he did not return by 7:30 pm, the troopers were contacted and a search began. On Sunday night, teams on foot as well as a Mat-Su Borough boat searched the creek until midnight, but found no sign of Jerry Warner.

On Monday morning the search resumed with the addition of an Alaska State Trooper helicopter and four search and rescue dog teams. As of late Monday morning, no sign of Warner has been discovered.

According to the troopers, Warner was carrying only a fishing pole, and has no survival gear with him.

Categories: Alaska News

21 Mushers Add Their Names To 2015 Yukon Quest Roster

Mon, 2014-08-04 17:19

The headquarters of the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race in both Alaska and Canada were buzzing Saturday with talk of snow and mushing.

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Two-time champion Allen Moore plans to return.

“We’re gonna do the same that we’ve done every year,” he says. “Hopefully we’ll have a good chance at the end. There’s lots of people that will have a good chance to win, but everything has to line up, as you know.”

But Moore can’t run the exact same race he has the last four years. This year, mushers and dogs will see a mandatory 36 hour layover at the race’s midway point in Dawson City reduced by 12 hours. Two hours have been added to another mandatory stop at the checkpoint in Eagle, and teams will take two additional six hour layovers at a checkpoint of their choosing in the first and last third of the race. Moore says the new rules shake up his tried-and-true race strategy.

“I’ll probably have to add rest at other places, probably,” he says. “We did set a record pace a couple years ago when we were coming this direction.”

But in 2013, race official diverted the trail around American Summit near Eagle. Evenso, Moore says a pace that fast will require rest somewhere, regardless of whether its mandatory or not.

So far, 21 mushers have add their names to the roster.

Categories: Alaska News

New Boat Lift Expected To Boost Wrangell’s Growing Marine Industry

Mon, 2014-08-04 17:18

Wrangell’s new boat lift is the second biggest in Alaska and is expected to boost the former logging town’s growing marine industry. Last week, the 300-ton lift tested its upper limit.

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Categories: Alaska News

New Eagle and Raven Totem Poles to Rise This Month

Mon, 2014-08-04 17:17

Haida carver T.J. Young carves fine details into an Eagle totem pole in progress. (Photo by Jeremy Hsieh/KTOO)

Haida carving brothers Joe and T.J. Young are back in Juneau to finish a pair of Eagle and Raven totem poles.

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About this time last year, the Hydaburg men and their apprentices were using axes and chainsaws to shape the red cedar logs. Friday, they were working with small hand tools.

“As you work your way, as you start roughing it out, you’ll start getting — the tools’ll get smaller and smaller and smaller,” says T.J. Young. “And you’ll do a lot more sharpening throughout the process.”

Sealaska Heritage Institute commissioned the new poles to replace the deteriorating, 36-year-old ones in front of the Gajaa Hít building off Willoughby Avenue.

Young says they’re working 12-hour days, but are on schedule. The new totem poles are supposed to be raised at the end of the month.

Categories: Alaska News

Wounded Warriors Go Fishing With Bethel Guide Company

Mon, 2014-08-04 17:16

National Guard members, Along with PBA’a Karl Powers deliver pizzas to the Wounded Warriors during their trip. (Photo courtesy of Papa Bear Adventures.)

Papa Bear Adventures in the Kuskokwim hub community of Bethel recently took six veterans on a rafting trip. The guiding company brought them down the Kanektok River near Quinhagak, a village about seventy miles southwest of Bethel, as part of the Wounded Warriors program. The group found relief from injuries on one of the premier fishing rivers in the world.

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Steve Powers runs Papa Bear Adventures. He says this trip is his company’s way of supporting service men and women.

“We try to do a trip with the Wounded Warriors each year, and take some wounded soldiers out to float down one of the rivers, to get the chance to go fishing to enjoy Alaska. My brother originally thought about it and we talked about it and we just felt like this was the right thing to do,” say’s Powers.

The Wounded Warrior Project is a national program with the sole purpose of honoring and empowering veterans of the United States Armed Forces who are hurt or injured in battle. Papa Bear guiding company has been taking Wounded Warriors on trips for five years.

One of those being honored is Alaskan Mike Buzinski. He served in the Air Force as a crew member on board a Boeing E-3. During his service he was stationed in Iraq. He says he was disabled after being diagnosed with tinnitus, a condition that causes constant ringing in the ears. He says though this is an annoying condition, he is more fortunate than others.

“My disability is very minor compared to some of the other guys that were in the army and the marines that went to Afghanistan, and had injuries from shrapnel and different disabilities created by the conditions on the ground,” say’s Buzinski.

Buzinski lives in Anchorage, but had never been to the Bethel area. He and a few other veterans anxiously wait at Papa Bears lodge on weather hold, because of fog. He’s eager to fish Pegati Lake at the headwaters of the Kanektok.

“I’ve never been out there, a couple of us have made it out there already and the rest of us are sitting here waiting for the fog to break so we can get out there and join em.”

Eventually the fog lifts. Buzinski and 5 other veterans are enjoy some lake fishing and then a seven day float trip down the Kanektok. When they return to Bethel they’re treated to a welcome back gathering and dinner at the local Veterans of Foreign Wars building.

There, they exchange many humorous stories such as some members falling off the raft. But perhaps the most interesting story of the trip involved a once in a lifetime delivery as recounted by veterans Patrick Upchurch and Thomas O’Brien.

“Karl from Papa Bear Lodge, and the National Guard came out and visited us on I think day 3, and brought us some pizza from Bethel, awesome pizza, so that was a pretty welcome surprise I mean,” says Upchurch. “Floating down the river and an Army Black Hawk comes soaring by, everyone’s looking around all confused, and then it lands and there’s Karl waiting for us to float right up to him,” says O’Brien.

Papa Bear’s Steve Powers hopes to continue giving warriors a chance to experience some of the best of what Alaska has to offer.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: August 4, 2014

Mon, 2014-08-04 17:10

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

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Alaska Native Family Takes Part In Circumpolar North Gathering

Emily Schwing, KUAC – Fairbanks

An Alaska Native family recently travelled to Russia’s Far East to take part in a gathering of indigenous people from seven nations throughout the circumpolar north.  The three participated in Native games, music and the celebration of traditional culture in a tiny coastal village along the Bering Sea.

Voting Season Begins For Alaska Primary Election

Joaqlin Estus, KNBA – Anchorage

The August 19th primary is 15 days away, but voting opens Monday for early absentee, special needs and electronic transmission voting State Elections director Gail Fenumiai says the state has set up polling places across Alaska for registered voters.

Republican Senate Candidates Debate Social Issues

Liz Ruskin, APRN – Anchorage

The three Republicans vying to run against U.S. Sen. Mark Begich met Monday in an Eagle River church to debate social issues in a forum sponsored by the Alaska Family Council. All three took anti-abortion, conservative positions, but this was Joe Miller’s crowd.

Anti-Marijuana Group Asks Muni To Pull Pro-Initiative Advertising

Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN – Juneau

The group Big Marijuana Big Mistake is taking issue with pro-marijuana initiative bus ads, and they’re asking the Municipality of Anchorage to intervene.

Troopers Looking for Missing Missouri Man on Willow Creek

Phillip Manning, KTNA – Talkeetna

The Alaska State Troopers are looking for a missing fisherman in the Willow Creek area.  According to the troopers, 71-year-old Jerry Warner of Missouri walked upstream from the Willow Creek Resort at about 11:00 a.m. on Sunday for a solo fishing trip.  He planned to be away for a few hours.  When he did not return by 7:30 pm, the troopers were contacted and a search began.

21 Mushers Add Their Names To 2015 Yukon Quest Roster

Emily Schwing, KUAC – Fairbanks

The headquarters of the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race in both Alaska and Canada were buzzing Saturday with talk of snow and mushing.

New Boat Lift Expected To Boost Wrangell’s Growing Marine Industry

Katarina Sostaric, KSTK – Wrangell

Wrangell’s new boat lift is the second biggest in Alaska and is expected to boost the former logging town’s growing marine industry.  Last week, the 300-ton lift tested its upper limit.

New Eagle and Raven Totem Poles to Rise This Month

Jeremy Hsieh, KTOO – Juneau

Haida carving brothers Joe and T.J. Young are back in Juneau to finish a pair of Eagle and Raven totem poles.

Wounded Warriors Go Fishing With Bethel Guide Company

Charles Enoch, KYUK – Bethel

Papa Bear Adventures in the Kuskokwim hub community of Bethel recently took six veterans on a rafting trip. The guiding company brought them down the Kanektok River near Quinhagak, a village about seventy miles southwest of Bethel, as part of the Wounded Warriors program. The group found relief from injuries on one of the premier fishing rivers in the world.

Categories: Alaska News

Anti-Marijuana Group Asks Muni To Pull Pro-Initiative Advertising

Fri, 2014-08-01 19:54

(Photo provided by Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol)

The group Big Marijuana Big Mistake is taking issue with pro-marijuana initiative bus ads, and they’re asking the Municipality of Anchorage to intervene.

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On Monday, the first pro-marijuana ads of the campaign season started rolling around on city buses. They show a pint glass of beer, a tumbler of hard liquor, and then a cannabis leaf with the word “safer” written over it.

Then, on Wednesday, a bright red sticker was added, reading “Our opponents AGREE!” Those stickers were inspired by a comment Big Marijuana Big Mistake spokesperson Tom Tougas made at a recent debate in Soldotna.

TOUGAS: When you think of this initiative, and you say, ‘marijuana is safer than alcohol,’ and I don’t disagree with that …

That audio was released on Friday by the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol, a group that’s sponsoring a ballot initiative to do exactly that. They saw it as a major concession to one of their key arguments, and thought it would fit well into their bus campaign.

Big Marijuana Big Mistake doesn’t agree. The marijuana opponents sent a letter to the People Mover Administration on later that afternoon asking that the red stickers be removed, calling them a “gross misrepresentation” of the anti-marijuana position.

Deborah Williams, the deputy treasurer of Big Marijuana Big Mistake, says that Tougas’ comments were taken out of context, and that he’s subsequently refuted them. (In a press release issued by the campaign on Thursday, Tougas stated “I believe that marijuana is a dangerous drug and am disappointed at this effort to misrepresent what I said.”) Williams adds that to suggest her group believes marijuana is safer than alcohol is “simply untrue.”

“They did not check with the coordinating committee of Big Marijuana Big Mistake,” says Williams. “If they had, they would know that the opposition does not agree with that, period, end of story. The signs need to come down because they represent a clear misstatement of fact.”

Big Marijuana Big Mistake did not check with their rivals about voluntarily removing their stickers before going to the municipality. But even if they had, the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol thinks it’s on more than solid ground with the stickers. Taylor Bickford is a spokesperson for the initiative, and he says it’s inappropriate for Big Marijuana Big Mistake to “engage in an effort to censor” their campaign.

(Photo provided by Campaign to Regulate Marijuana Like Alcohol)

“We wouldn’t be in this position if they hadn’t made the statements they made in a public setting,” says Bickford. “That’s ultimately what all this is based on. They actually accused us of lying and fabricating the statement. And that’s why we decided to release the audio, so that the public understands that this is a statement that was made by one of their spokespeople. It was not a lie. It was not fabricated. It happened.”

As the letter was sent Friday afternoon, the People Mover Administration did not respond to Big Marijuana Big Mistake before the close of the business day. The marijuana initiative will appear on the ballot November 4.

Categories: Alaska News
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