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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: 28 min 49 sec ago

Binders, Pencils, Erasers: Charity Readies Kids For School

Mon, 2014-08-25 17:35

On Monday the Homer food pantry inside the United Methodist Church was filled with families lining up for their chance to pick up fish fillets, beans, rice, and other necessities. But before they reach the food a few split off to get into another line leading into a separate room where the Omicron Chapter of Delta Kappa Gamma is set up handing out backpacks full of the goodies every child needs for school.

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“Do you like your backpack?” “Yeah a lot. It has a peace sign on it. It’s kind of multi-color.” “Is that your favorite thing that you’ve gotten so far.” “Yeah.”

Eight year old Lana Prescott is going to the third grade this year. She’s standing in line with her eleven year old sister Makayla who is moving into the sixth grade.

“We’re just getting some of our school supplies. Mama saved some of our school supplies from last year like pencil boxes and glue sticks and stuff like that.”

The girls’ mother Crystal is on the other side of the room keeping a close eye. She says the past two years she’s gotten as many supplies as possible from the pantry.

“Even with one child the list that they give you at school is so long that even at the food pantry they can’t possibly provide you with all of the supplies but it’s still a great deal of help.”

Helping the parents is what most members of Delta Kappa Gamma say motivates them.

“Parents and the students themselves are thrilled to get a backpack and have most of their supplies in it.”

Milly Martin is a member of Delta Kappa Gamma. She says her children are grown and in their forties now but she remembers what it was like to get them ready for that first day.

“Whoa boy what do we need to have? What do we have to get? We did have to do that.”

But, she also remembers the lists back then were different.

It was not quite as complex as it appears to be today. It surprises me many times the things that the teachers do ask for that I know some people simply can’t afford.”

After a quick Google search I found the supply lists for West Homer Elementary, Homer Middle School and Homer High school. The supplies of course varied by grade, but there were similarities in each list. Of course kids need notebook paper, binders, pencils, and erasers. Plus kids need their arts and craft supplies and gym shoes, and then there are calculators and protractors for older kids…

“I’ve come here a couple of years in a row and they’ve always been a saving grace.”

When I spoke with West Homer Principal Ray Marshall about Delta Kappa Gamma’s work to help. He had nothing but high praise.

We have a large school supply list and sometimes it’s hard to put together and they do a great job removing barriers for children.

“Every teacher in our school will spend hundreds or thousands of dollars a year on snacks on school supplies and on bolstering their professional education. This is a great helping hand for teachers”

The principal added the current supply list hasn’t changed since he started at West Homer and he doesn’t think it’s much different from others he’s seen throughout his career even while serving in other states.

Delta Kappa Gamma’s members say they help about 100 students in the Kachemak Bay Area get supplies every school year and there is always a need as the school year moves forward.

“If they didn’t give it out I wouldn’t be able to make it.”

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: August 25, 2014

Mon, 2014-08-25 17:31

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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Scientists Check Up On Nuclear Site Rattled By Summer Quake

Lauren Rosenthal, KUCB – Unalaska

A team of scientists is descending on a former nuclear test site in the Aleutians TODAY [Monday] to search for damage from a massive earthquake.

Experimental Rocket Explodes After Launch In Kodiak

Jay Barrett, KMXT – Kodiak

The Narrow Cape area beyond the Kodiak Launch Complex will remain closed to the public until further notice after this morning’s rocket explosion, according to an announcement from the Alaska Aerospace Corporation.

Female Inmate Found Dead In Cell

Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage

A female inmate died this morning at the Mat Su Pre-Trial Facility in Palmer;  37-year-old Tischa Rochdi was found unresponsive in her cell around 6:30 this morning.

4 Injured in Brooks Range Plane Crash

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

A pilot and passengers were were hurt in a plane crash in the Brooks Range on Sunday. National Transportation Safety Board Alaska Region chief Clint Johnson says the single engine Navion, operated by Kirst Aviation of Fairbanks went down in Atigun Pass, near mile 244 of the Dalton Highway.

Dems’ Gubernatorial Nominee Makes A Campaign Stop in Juneau

Jeremy Hsieh, KTOO – Juneau

About 60 people attended a rainy campaign rally on the steps of the Capitol building for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Byron Mallott on Sunday.

Nees To Run As A Write-In Candidate For State House

Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN – Anchorage

In June, the Division of Elections rejected David Nees’ candidacy because his filing papers weren’t notarized. Now, the Anchorage Republican plans to run for State House anyway, even if it means a write-in campaign that could pit him against another member of his party.

Emergency Housing Ministry Looks to Grow In Unalaska

Annie Ropiek, KUCB – Unalaska

Unalaska attracts thousands of transient workers every year, lured by the promise of a steady paycheck. But marine industry jobs can fall through — leaving people stuck with no shelter and no money to fly home.

Muskox Killed in Wales While Attacking Dog

Matthew Smith, KNOM – Nome

Nome has been experiencing a summer of “urban muskox,” where the uniquely shaggy arctic mammals have made their home close to town, threatening dogs—and, occasionally, people. Now the same thing has happened more than 100 miles west of Nome, in the community of Wales.

New Cookbook Highlights Traditional Foods In the Aleutians/Pribilofs

Lauren Rosenthal, KUCB – Unalaska

Food has been a crucial part of the Unangan [oo-NUN-ghin] culture for centuries. But in the Aleutian and Pribilof islands, people are relying less on the land and sea and more on their local store.

Binders, Pencils, Erasers: Homer Charity Readies Kids For School

Quinton Chandler, KBBI – Homer

Many students across the state started school last week, including kids on the Kenai Peninsula. Before the big day, some kids in Homer still needed to check items off their supply lists and a group in town was there to help.


Categories: Alaska News

Experimental Rocket Explodes After Launch in Kodiak

Mon, 2014-08-25 08:40

[updated 12:05 p.m.]

A rocket carrying an experimental Army strike weapon exploded seconds after take off from the Kodiak Launch Complex at about 12:25 a.m. Monday morning. Witnesses report the rocket lifted off, but soon nosed down and either self-destructed or hit the ground and exploded.

An Army rocket exploded at the Kodiak Launch Complex at about 12:25 a.m. Monday morning. Photo by Scott Wight.

The Narrow Cape area beyond the Kodiak Launch Complex will remain closed to the public until further notice after this morning’s rocket explosion, according to an announcement from the Alaska Aerospace Corporation.

Pentagon spokeswoman Maureen Schumann said the U.S. Army rocket self-destructed just four seconds into its flight, at about 12:25 a.m. Monday morning.

“Shortly after 4 a.m. EDT, the U.S. Army Space and Missile Defense Command/Army Forces Strategic Command, as part of the Defense Department’s Conventional Prompt Global Strike technology development program, conducted a flight test of the Advanced Hypersonic Weapon from the Kodiak Launch Complex in Alaska,” Schumann says.

“Due to an anomaly, the test was terminated near the launch pad shortly after lift-off to ensure public safety. There were no injuries to any personnel. Program officials are conducting an extensive investigation to determine the cause of the flight anomaly.”

It was the first launch at the KLC in three years.

Alaska Aerospace CEO Craig Campbell said he couldn’t verify where debris from the rocket came down, but Schumann said it was her understanding that the debris is limited to KLC property and did not fall into the water.

The three-stage solid-fuel rocket is based on refurbished Polaris intercontinental ballistic missiles.

Campbell said it did not appear, from a preliminary estimate, that there was any extensive damage to the Kodiak Launch Complex, but said AAC and Department of Defense personnel will be doing damage assessments all day.

Kodiak resident Stacy Studebaker, who owns a home in nearby Pasagshak, has long been a critic of the Kodiak Launch Complex. She said in an e-mail to KMXT that she wanted to know what kind of hazards any un-burnt rocket fuel posed and who will be conducting the clean up. Two popular recreation areas are adjacent to the KLC, Fossil Beach, which remains off-limits, and Surfer Beach.

In the nose-cone of the rocket was the Army’s Advanced Hypersonic Weapon, which is a rocket-launched glider capable of flying at over 3,500 mph, or Mach 5. According to the Army’s description, the small craft is designed to be lofted nearly into space before separation and then glide through the atmosphere to its target at hypersonic speeds. If developed, it is expected to be able to hit any target on earth within an hour or less with conventional, non-nuclear explosives.

This was to be the second test of the glider. Its target was the Kwajalein Atoll in the South Pacific. The first was successfully launched from Hawaii.
Scott Wight, a Kodiak photographer, was watching the launch from Cape Greville in Chiniak, about a dozen miles from the launch site. He said even at that distance the explosion was very loud. Another photographer at Cape Greville said the launch looked out of control and that she wasn’t surprised to find out it self-destructed. She said the resulting fire burned brightly for a short while.

The Kodiak Launch Complex is about 25-miles from the city of Kodiak.
This is a developing story, and we’ll have more information as it becomes available.

This is a developing story, and we’ll have more information as it becomes available.

Categories: Alaska News

Dems’ Gubernatorial Nominee Makes Juneau Campaign Stop

Mon, 2014-08-25 08:01

About 60 people attended a rainy campaign rally on the steps of the Capitol building for Democratic gubernatorial candidate Byron Mallott on Sunday.

Democratic gubernatorial candidate Byron Mallott leads a rally on the Capitol Steps. His running mate Hollis French is in the khakis to the left, and Tlingit elder Marie Olson is to the right. Photo by Jeremy Hsieh/KTOO.

Mallott’s stump speech was about 9 minutes long. He hit on themes of respect for organized labor and public employees, and serving Alaskans in all communities of all cultures.

Mallot pledged to “reach out, listen, consider, (and) heed the voice of every single Alaskan.”

His voice was hoarse from campaigning. He was sipping tea from a thermos after his address.

The nod to labor comes after trying to court the Alaska AFL-CIO’s endorsement at a convention in Fairbanks last week. The Alaska Dispatch News reported that the labor union opposes Republican Gov. Sean Parnell, but would not endorse a challenger–unless Mallott and independent Bill Walker merge their campaigns.

Polls indicate the three-way race favors Parnell, while a two-way race would be much closer.

On Sunday, Mallott maintained his commitment to run as a Democrat.

“Well, you know, polls in Alaska can be, can be unreliable….There hasn’t been a lot of polling. The general election is just beginning. We have a long way to go.”

Running mate Hollis French lumped Walker and Parnell together.

“This race is going to offer Alaskans a very simple, very simple test for who they want to be the next governor,” French said.

“You can have an oil company lobbyist, an oil and gas attorney, or the man who ran the Permanent Fund.”

Parnell used to lobby for ConocoPhillips. Walker is an Anchorage lawyer with an emphasis in oil and gas. Mallott was executive director of the Alaska Permanent Fund Corp. from 1995 to 2000.

“And I think once the state realizes that’s their choices, everything is going to be fine,” French said.

The general election is Nov. 4.


Categories: Alaska News

Alaska Seafood Industry Asks For Retaliatory Ban on Russian Imports

Fri, 2014-08-22 16:40

After much debate within the industry, crabbers and processing companies are stepping up to get Russian seafood imports banned in the U.S. But fish is a global business, and some companies are refusing to support a ban until the European Union gets on board.

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It’s been two weeks since Russia banned imports of American food products into its country. Now, Alaska’s seafood industry is asking the U.S. government to strike back.

The scale of American seafood exports to Russia can vary from year to year. But in 2013, the market was valued at $83 million. Most of that is from sales of Alaskan salmon roe, followed by pollock. In Dutch Harbor, F/V Auriga prepares for the start of B season. (Lauren Rosenthal, KUCB – Unalaska)

Terry Shaff is the president of UniSea — one of 10 major processing companies that’s lobbying to get Russian seafood kicked out of the U.S.

“Well, what we would really like is to have Russia lift their embargo of all U.S. seafood products going into Russia. And it seems like we just can’t go and ask them to please do that. So one of the best ways to do it is to call for a ban – an embargo – on all Russian seafood product coming into the U.S.,” Shaff says.

They’re hoping Alaska’s congressional delegation and federal trade officials can make that happen.

Russell Smith oversees international fisheries for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. He couldn’t say whether a ban is something they’d support:

“NOAA has focused more on trying to provide our fishermen, our processors with information about what is happening, and trying to help them find other outlets for their product,” Smith says.

But getting clear information has been difficult, ever since Russia stopped accepting food shipments from western nations at the beginning of the month.

The move was supposed to protest economic sanctions from the west, which have been piling up ever since Russian troops seized control of Crimea, in Ukraine.

Even though Alaska’s shore-based processing companies — and even the Bering Sea crab fleet — would support an embargo, the industry isn’t totally united.

Glenn Reid is the president of the Pacific Seafood Processors Association.

“There’s a concern — and a desire to have support of interests in the E.U. and other places beyond our region. And absent that support, some people were less comfortable signing on. That’s a general consistency – whether it’s a group or an individual company,” Reid says.

Unless Russia changes course, the ban on western food imports will last until next August.

The scale of American seafood exports to Russia can vary from year to year. But in 2013, the market was valued at $83 million. Most of that is from sales of Alaskan salmon roe, followed by pollock.

Categories: Alaska News

Commerce Sec. Pritzker Visits Alaska – Talks Salmon, Infrastructure

Fri, 2014-08-22 16:39

Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker has spent the week in Alaska talking with staffers in the various federal agencies she’s in charge of, including the Census and the Bureau of Standards, the Economic Development Administration and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

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Heiress to a hotel fortune that runs into the billons, Penny Pritzker has been a close friend to President Obama and his family since his law school days, and a major campaign supporter and fundraiser.  When Obama’s second term came around, the commerce position open, and economic recovery a priority, it’s no surprise he turned to his Stanford MBA friend with a 27-year record as a business startup specialist:

“He said to me there are a couple things I would like you to do – build a bridge with the business community, and then make sure the voice of the business community is heard in my administration and be part of my economic team,” Pritzker says. “And then finally be the chief commercial advocate for American business both domestically and around the world.

“And I have to tell you, you know, I feel like we’re making a lot of progress on all those fronts.”

Thursday morning found the Commerce Secretary in a closed-door huddle with business leaders at a downtown Anchorage Native corporation office. Asked what they talked about, she said there were the usual pleas for more infrastructure investment, and concerns about federal fishery policies, but she was also briefed on Alaska’s status as an international air cargo hub, and the importance of the visitor industry. And Transportation Security and Customs checks are areas where she might be able to apply some influence on another cabinet members.

“You’ve got about two million visitors a year now coming to Alaska. They’d like to see more more travelers, and more foreign travelers, And so they’re quite interested in how do we improve the experience of someone who’s arriving from a foreign country into the United States. And I expressed that the Secretary of Homeland Security and I are working very closely to try and improve that experience,” Pritzker says. “I think we can do national security and hospitality at the same time. And the Secretary of Homeland Security agrees, and the President has asked us to focus on that.”

Pritzker talked about Arctic trade, and wants to see the proposed Arctic deepwater port site outside of Nome. With the head of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration undersecretary Kathy Sullivan at her side, she met with staff at the National Weather Service and vowed to make sure the U.S. keeps up its weather satellite coverage.  She said she’s been impressed with their work.

“Satellites, we have algorithms, we have all kinds of technical information that we’re gathering as the National Weather Service, but we’re also working with our customers to make sure we’re filling in the gaps. And that, to me, is what we’re trying to do to be a weather-ready nation all over the country. But obviously in Alaska it really hits home. I mean I am very much struck by that,” Pritzker says.

Pritzker also vowed to put a priority on funding research into the cause of the decline of Chinook Salmon runs in many Alaska river systems, which Sullivan was quick to explain would be done in consultation with the North Pacific Fishery Management Council.

“We’re working very hard, both in setting our research priorities and working hard with the Secretary’s support to go forward and get the funding that we need to try to step up our efforts and do the work that we require here. It’s not a simple solution. I think looking all across the causal chain to the best degree we can is what we’re trying very hard to do and around the Council table try to target those questions that are most pertinent to the decisions we need to make and provide the best possible information there, as a kind of triage mechanism.”

If that sounds like the NOAA scientist defending her boss, it’s no coincidence. Loyalty to Penny Pritzker is evident, and it’s consistent with her past as a Stanford MBA in an over-achieving family who has run businesses for 27 years and talks about workforce development and employee involvement as her passions. That’s something that deeply resonates with Sullivan, herself an over-achiever, the first woman to do a space walk.


Categories: Alaska News

Borough To Ask Ferry Debt Forgiveness

Fri, 2014-08-22 16:38

 The Matanuska Susitna Borough is appealing to top US officials to resolve the Borough’s 12 million dollar ferry debt.

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According to Borough manager John Moosey, the Borough Assembly on Thursday directed him to enter into negotiations with federal officials over the resolution of the debt the Borough owes the Federal Transit Administration. Moosey says that US Secretary of Transportation, Anthony Foxx, was in Wasilla about a week ago, and met privately with Borough officials.  Moosey said Friday that “he opened the door for us to have that meeting in discussion with his staff in seeking a resolution to this matter”.

 The U.S. Navy built the 80 million dollar ferry as a prototype, and the Borough was given the ship free of charge, but with federal grant money restrictions attached. The Borough failed to initiate ferry passenger service across Knik Arm from Port MacKenzie to Anchorage, and now the FTA wants it’s money back.

Borough Assemblyman Jim Sykes says about four million dollars out of the 12 million in ferry grants was used to build a ferry terminal building at Port MacKenzie. He says the Borough may have to foot that bill.  Sykes says  it’s his hope that the FTA will see that the Borough has done everything it could to resolve the ferry problem.

“We made a good faith effort to make this project work, and it is simply beyond our authority to force other governments or other entities to do stuff that’s not under our authority. We can’t force Anchorage to build a place to land the craft. It is a project that involves several jurisdictions, and we really can do what we can do, but that’s not going to result in a completed project. So, I am hoping that the federal government will see that we have made a good faith effort. “

The Borough’s plan to use the ice breaking ferry for transportation across Knik Arm hit a snag when the city of Anchorage and the Borough could not agree on a site for an Anchorage dock for the ship.


Categories: Alaska News

ENSTAR Strike Finishes Second Week, No End In Sight

Fri, 2014-08-22 16:36

The ENSTAR strike has lasted two weeks, and there’s no end in sight. Local workers are picketing in front of ENSTAR offices around Anchorage and around the Kenai Peninsula. They’re having a dispute with the management over retirement benefits for both present and future workers. 

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Strikers picket in front of the ENSTAR operations center in midtown Anchorage. (Hillman/KSKA)

A couple dozen workers stand in front of the ENSTAR Operations Center in Anchorage holding signs and waving to passing cars. Some of trucks and cabs honk in support.

The strikers aren’t allowed to talk to the media and refer all questions to Local 367 Business Manager Greg Walker.

Walker says the 120 operating members are striking to protect their pensions. He explains that the company only wants to provide 401(k)s for new hires and current employees are worried that they’ll cut their pension plans next.

“The pension plan is well-funded. They’ve gotten great returns on the pension plan investments, so it’s not costing the company any money. Our position is that defined benefit plan provides a well-rounded future for anyone who retires with ENSTAR.”

The union and the company had come to a tentative agreement on the issue earlier this month, but the operating workers voted it down and decided to strike. The clerical workers did not.

Walker says the union has also filed charges against the natural gas company with the National Labor Relations Board. They allege the company hasn’t provided accurate information about the pension plan and they are discriminating against employees who filed actions against them under the National Labor Relations Act.

ENSTAR representatives declined to talk about the strike or the negotiations. The only comment on how the company is being affected comes from their automatic answering service.

“Our ENSTAR offices are temporarily closed to walk in customers,” the recorded voice says when you dial their main number.

That means you have to pay your bill online, by mail,  or over the phone.

Walker says the workers are in it the for the long-haul and haven’t given up hope that the strike will be effective.

“Members are strong as ever. The community support is incredible. And we’re going to continue to fight.”

But he says they would all rather be back at work. Temporary hires from Michigan are currently filling their slots. Walker says the union members have agreed to return to work in the case of an emergency. Two left the picket line to help contain a gas leak last week.

Categories: Alaska News

Fairbanks City Hall Renamed for Pat Cole

Fri, 2014-08-22 16:35

Fairbanks City Hall now bears the name of a former employee who died after four decades of local government service.

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Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: August 22, 2014

Fri, 2014-08-22 16:35

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 Seafood Industry Asks for Retaliatory Ban on Russian Imports

Lauren Rosenthal, KUCB – Unalaska

It’s been two weeks since Russia banned imports of American food products into its country. Now, Alaska’s seafood industry is asking the U.S. government to strike back.

Commerce Sec. Pritzker Visits Alaska – Talks Salmon, Infrastructure

Steve Heimel, APRN – Anchorage

Commerce Secretary Penny Pritzker has spent the week in Alaska talking with staffers in the various federal agencies she’s in charge of, for instance the Census and the Bureau of Standards, and some more significant ones, like the Economic Development Administration and the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. But Pritzker’s influence in the Obaama cabinet goes beyond those agencies.

Mat-Su Borough To Ask Feds For Ferry Debt Forgiveness

Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage

The Matanuska Susitna Borough is appealing to top U.S. officials to resolve the Borough’s $12 million ferry debt.

Walker Wins Primary… For Libertarian Senate Nomination

Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN – Anchorage

Walker had been a registered Republican until this spring. He hasn’t campaigned or raised any money. He hasn’t even joined the Alaska Libertarian Party Facebook page. So, when Walker got 2,600 votes – more than Fish and Kohlhaas combined – it was not expected.

ENSTAR Strike Finishes Second Week, No End in Sight

Anne Hilleman, KSKA – Anchorage

The ENSTAR strike has lasted two weeks, and there’s no end in sight. Local workers are picketing in front of ENSTAR offices around Anchorage and in Homer. They’re having a dispute with the management over retirement benefits for both present and future workers.

Fairbanks City Hall Renamed for Pat Cole

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

Fairbanks City Hall now bears the name of a former employee who died after four decades of local government service.

300 Villages: Chitna

This week we’re heading to Chitna, a town of about 125 people on the Copper River. Judy Block is the administrator of the Chitna Traditional Indian Village Council.

AK: Juneau Entrepreneurs Bring Basil To The Masses

Lisa Phu, KTOO – Juneau

Its prime time for gardens in Alaska and there are plenty of plants and veggies that thrive this far north. Basil, though, is not one of them – it needs more heat and sun – two things that are especially hard to find in the Southeast rainforest of Juneau. But two local guys have figured out a unique way to bring basil to the masses.

Categories: Alaska News

Coexisting with Wildlife

Fri, 2014-08-22 12:00

Wildlife managers always give the same advice – let wildlife stay wild. They say do not feed the animals, do not let your pets go after them, and do not allow them to become habituated to humans. But what if the wildlife comes to you? And your pets?

HOST: Steve Heimel, Alaska Public Radio Network


  • Nick Jans, author, “A Wolf Called Romeo”
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LIVE Broadcast: Tuesday, August 26, 2014 at 10:00 a.m. on APRN stations statewide.

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Categories: Alaska News

New Book Casts Spotlight on Traditional Foods In Aleutians/Pribilofs

Fri, 2014-08-22 09:52

Food has been a crucial part of the Unangan culture for centuries. But in the Aleutian and Pribilof islands, people are relying less on the land and sea and more on their local store. A new cookbook captures the legacy of subsistence foods in the region.

“Qaqamiiĝux̂: Traditional Foods and Recipes from the Aleutian and Pribilof Islands” is a new cookbook documenting traditional Alaskan subsistence foods.

From sweet Russian tea to fermented fur seal flipper, the traditional diet in the Aleutians and Pribilofs has always been pretty varied.

But a decade ago, Suanne Unger realized it might be starting to fade. She was in the villages of St. Paul and Atka, to interview people about their eating habits.

“There were comments like, ‘My grandmother passed away and she used to be the one that cooked traditional foods with us.’ Or ‘I don’t know how to prepare traditional foods. We were getting all sorts of feedback that indicated that some loss of traditional food production knowledge was taking place,” Unger says.

That raised a red flag with Unger. She’s a researcher for the Aleutian Pribilof Islands Association, and she says traditional foods cut the risk of diabetes. Plus gathering them is good exercise.

So Unger applied for a grant from the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention – and used the money to make a recipe book for the Aleutian and Pribilof islands.

“That is the easiest way to describe [it], because it has recipes, and I’m at fault for even sometimes calling it that,” Unger says. But really, it is a lot more than a cookbook.”

It’s called “Qaqamiiĝux̂.” That’s the Aleut word for subsistence, and it covers a lot more ground than just cooking.

Unger wove in dozens of interviews with elders about their best practices for hunting, their safety tips — and even detailed nutritional facts.

“Like the iron, for example that’s found in Steller sea lion meat or, you know, the protein found in reindeer.”

That way, readers can make comparisons to the store-bought products they’ve come to rely on. But Unger says those are probably here to stay.

Whether it’s commercial fishing or construction, a lot of residents in the region are part of the cash economy now. And they don’t have time for subsistence.

Julia Dushkin has seen that change firsthand in Unalaska.

“Well, it’s hard nowadays to go out hunting and everything. Like, sea lion for instance? That’s hard to get. And I love sea lion meat, versus seal and that other stuff,” Dushkin says.

Dushkin is standing in the middle of Unalaska’s annual culture camp. For one week, elders stop their daily routines and teach traditional skills.

“Don’t cut the skin, eh?” Larry Dirks jokes.

Larry Dirks is showing a 10-year-old how to fillet her first salmon. Olivia Betzen glides her knife through the meat — until it slips out of her slimy hands.

“Oops. Better use this one.”

Olivia reaches for a blade with a bumpy handle. And she makes the last few cuts:

Dirks: ”Yep, that should do it?”
Olivia: ”Got it.”
Dirks: ”Yep! We’re all done, eh?”

As Olivia carries her salmon up the beach, Larry Dirks starts washing his knives. He works for Unalaska’s Department of Public Safety now, but he learned how to fish and hunt back home in Atka.

“Filleting fish and all that takes years. Took me years to get good at it. But it’s a start, anyways, for these kids,” Dirks says.

It’s the kids that Suanne Unger wants to target next. Eventually, she hopes her subsistence book will make its way into the classroom.

“You know, my dream would be to take this and create some curriculum out of it and have it for teachers to pick up throughout our region. I don’t know if we’ll be able to manage to get something going soon. But that would be the direction I’d like to see this take,” Unger says.

Along with hands-on learning, it could help create a new generation of hungry students.

To learn more about traditional foods — or to purchase a copy of “Qaqamiiĝux̂” for $25 — you can visit the Aleutian Pribilof Islands Association website.

Here’s one recipe the book author graciously shared:

Categories: Alaska News

A Partnership of Language and Love: Reflecting on The Life of Dick Dauenhauer

Fri, 2014-08-22 09:43

Russian Orthodox funeral services are pending for former Alaska poet laureate Richard Dauenhauer who died on Tuesday.

Dauenhauer was known for many things, including poetry, translation and teaching. He was also the husband of Tlingit scholar and Alaska writer laureate Nora Marks Dauenhauer. For more than 40 years, they had a partnership of marriage and scholarship.

Dick and Nora Dauenhauer at St. Nicholas Russian Orthodox Church on April 24, 2011. (Photo by Brian Wallace)

Dick Dauenhauer was teaching folklore at Alaska Methodist University in the early 1970s when he met student Nora Marks.

Her friend Rosita Worl, now president of Sealaska Heritage Institute, was also a student.

“Her and Dick just hit it off. I think they had the same kind of sense of humor as I recall. And that was when their work started,” Worl says.

Dauenhauer and Marks married on November 28, 1973. She was 15 years older.

“They became quite a team. He had the technical knowledge of languages and stories and he was an educator, and she had all the traditional knowledge of Tlingit and it was a great combination,” Worl says.

Born in Syracuse, New York in 1942, Dick Dauenhauer had been a linguist for most of his life. He earned degrees in Slavic Languages and German. He translated poetry from Russian, Classical Greek, Swedish and Finnish. In 1969, he moved to Alaska to teach at Alaska Methodist University, now known as Alaska Pacific University.

Dauenhauer and Marks spent a few years at the Alaska Native Language Center at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. In 1983, they moved to Juneau. Throughout the 1980s and 1990s, they worked at Sealaska Heritage Foundation in Juneau, now known as Sealaska Heritage Institute.

They co-authored Tlingit language books and developed teaching materials. With the publication of Beginning Tlingit, Worl credits the couple for popularizing the language’s written form.

Nora and Dick Dauenhauer in Sitka in May. (Photo by Emily Forman/KCAW)

“What he and Nora did was bring the orthography to everyday use. They made that available to the students of the language,” Worl says.

They collected hundreds of recordings documenting Tlingit history, culture and language. They co-edited the four-volume series, “Classics of Tlingit Oral Literature“, and received American Book Awards for two volumes.

Juneau playwright and screenwriter Dave Hunsaker based his play “Battles of Fire and Water” on the tri-lingual volume, “The Battles of Sitka, 1802 and 1804.”

“But really the book of ‘Tlingit Oratory’ was, to me, stunning. And by that time I had been adopted by the Tlingit. I had lived here in Juneau for 30 years and I felt like I knew a lot about the culture and when that book came out, I realized I didn’t know anything about the culture,” Hunsaker says.

Hunsaker says through translated speeches of Tlingit elders, the Dauenhauers revealed the complex and poetic oral tradition of the Tlingit culture.

“They recognized that these are not charming campfire Indian lore stories; these were world literature. And they treated them as world literature. And the way they rendered them and the way that they’ve been published so we can all now read them forever, they, by God, are world literature,” Hunsaker says.

Between their joint books and separate volumes of creative writing, Dick and Nora Dauenhauer have produced an abundant body of work. But their partnership held much more.

“It’s one of the great love affairs of any life that I know anything about. They never got past the hand holding stage,” Hunsaker says.

Hunsaker has been friends with the Dauenhauers for about 40 years. Throughout that time, he says they always acted like newlyweds.

“In spite of age difference, in spite of their incredibly different backgrounds, I just saw them be always fascinated with each other,” Hunsaker says.

At home a day after Dick Dauenhauer died, Juneau playwright Dave Hunsaker flips through his copy of “Anóoshi Lingít Aaní Ká/Russians in Tlingit America: The Battles of Sitka, 1802 and 1804.” (Photo by Lisa Phu/KTOO)

In 2005, Dick Dauenhauer was appointed President’s Professor of Alaska Native Languages and Culture at the University of Alaska Southeast. Chancellor John Pugh says the couple spearheaded the creation of the program.

“They just were really the heart and soul of the Alaska Native Language program,” Pugh says.

Pugh says up to that time, other UA faculty members had studied the language, but the Dauenhauers wanted to make sure it was spoken.

“That was the real change in terms of not being an academic language but trying to actually think about how we might have the speakers that we presently have and have them really be able to transfer the language to younger people who would carry the language forward and it could be a living language, continue as a living language,” Pugh says,

Assistant Professor Lance Twitchell now heads the Alaska Native Languages degree program at UAS. He says it’s been an honor to know and work with Dick and Nora, “and see how they operate just as poets and artists and linguists and anthropologists and just wonderful human beings. And I had the chance to tell both, ‘If I’m one-tenth of what you are, I’m pretty happy with the way my life went.’”

When Dick Dauenhauer passed away August 19 at the age of 72, he and Nora were nearing the end of a multi-decade project – a collection of Tlingit Raven stories.

Categories: Alaska News

Walker Wins Primary … For Libertarian Senate Nomination

Thu, 2014-08-21 20:41

Bill Walker was the first candidate to make an appearance at Anchorage’s Election Central on Tuesday night. He strolled in with an entourage ready to cheer his bid as an independent gubernatorial challenger. And when the votes were tallied, the Walker name did come out on top – only, it was for the Libertarian nomination for the U.S. Senate race. APRN’s Alexandra Gutierrez reports the victory of an unknown by the name of Thom Walker has puzzled the Libertarian party.

The Libertarian Senate primary was supposed to be a race between two former party chairs: conservative Mark Fish and the more liberal-leaning Scott Kohlhaas. And then there was candidate Thom Walker.

Walker had been a registered Republican until this spring. He hasn’t campaigned or raised any money. He hasn’t even joined the Alaska Libertarian Party Facebook page. So, when Walker got 2,600 votes – more than Fish and Kohlhaas combined – it was not expected.

Thom Walker, left, will be appearing on the same ballot as Bill Walker in November. (UAF/Bill Walker for Governor campaign)

“When I walked into the convention center and saw that, I thought, ‘Wow, this is just crazy,” says Michael Chambers, the chair of the Alaska Libertarian Party.

Chambers was pretty confused, until he realized that Thom Walker shared a last name with another candidate for statewide office – that is, Bill Walker, an independent candidate for governor who has spent more than $100,000 on signs, internet advertising, and traditional media buys.

Chambers thinks all that promotion of the Walker name may have something to do with the outcome of the Libertarian race. The Libertarians hold an open primary with the Democratic and Alaska Independence Parties, so anyone can vote in their race – including people who aren’t familiar with Libertarian Party workings.

“I appreciate voters, but they’re not all necessarily versed on who’s who,” says Chambers.

Because Bill Walker is running for governor without a party affiliation, he won’t appear on the ballot until the November general election. But campaign manager Nancy Peterson says she’s aware of voters who wanted to fill his name in this go-round.

“We’ve actually had several calls from some of our supporters who said, ‘Hey, I forgot the Bill wasn’t on the primary, and when I got to the voting booth, his name wasn’t there. So, I voted for the only Walker that was on the ballot,’” says Peterson.

Since Bill Walker’s advertising might have had something to do with Thom Walker’s win, the former plans on looking at the latter’s district results to see if it tells them anything about their advertising.

Thom Walker lives in Fairbanks and he handles operations for a University of Alaska research station in the foothills of the Brooks Range, but there’s no surge in the Interior that suggests voters were specifically casting ballots for him. Instead, the 35-year-old candidate’s biggest support comes from the Kenai Peninsula, Kotzebue, and parts of Anchorage.

Pollster Marc Hellenthal says the surprise Walker win could have some bearing on the general election. He agrees that Bill Walker’s name recognition probably rubbed off on Thom.

“The ordinary general voting public aren’t prepared to take a quiz on the people that they’re going to vote for, and they can easily be confused,” says Hellenthal.

Hellenthal points to another case of namesakes on this year’s ballot: the two Dan Sullivans. He says when former Natural Resources Commissioner Daniel Scott Sullivan first announced his bid for U.S. Senate just a few months after Anchorage Mayor Daniel Albert Sullivan filed for the lieutenant governor’s race, he saw evidence in his polling that the two Republicans were getting mixed up.

And on the subject of Senate candidate Dan Sullivan, Hellenthal thinks Thom Walker’s nomination could be welcome news to the campaign. Walker’s victory lays to rest any speculation that the Libertarian Party could swap out their candidate for Tea Party favorite Joe Miller, who had been previously been supported by one of the Libertarian candidates and who came in second in Tuesday’s Republican primary. And because Bill Walker is running as an independent and has courted voters outside of the Republican Party, Hellenthal says the other Walker could end up pulling votes in the Senate race from incumbent Democrat Mark Begich.

“[Thom]‘ll end up garnering some votes — from just his name Walker — which may be more moderate or Democratic,” says Hellenthal.

Libertarian Party chair Michael Chambers believes the benefits of Thom Walker’s candidacy to Republicans make the situation look like dirty tricks. Chambers suggests it’s possible that Thom Walker is a plant, and he doesn’t intend to support Walker at this time. Chambers adds that he’s reached out to Walker multiple times over the past three months, and none of his calls have been returned.

“If he can’t even answer simple inquiries like, ‘Where is he?’ ‘Is he a real person?’ then how can I support a candidate who is a Manchurian candidate?” asks Chambers.

Thom Walker also didn’t return messages left by APRN. A source close to Walker explained that he had left for an extended float trip through the Endicott Mountains on Wednesday, and will be off the grid for the duration. He adds that Walker was the first Libertarian candidate to file paperwork, and decided to run because no one else had put their name in at that point. His friend describes Walker as an avid outdoorsman who regularly handles logistics for remote trips, which may account for the absenteeism. Walker is reportedly aware that he won the nomination, and he too was surprised by the result.

Officials with the Alaska Republican Party not only deny involvement – they say they’re ignorant of the situation entirely. Former chair Randy Ruedrich says he’s “flattered” that Libertarians believe he could engineer their primary outcome, but that he cannot take credit for this case. He adds that if one were to plant a Walker in the race, it might be smarter to draft a “William” or “Billy Ray” from the 200 registered Republicans with the last name.

Current chair Peter Goldberg also says he’s never heard of Thom Walker.

“At this point, I haven’t paid squat attention to the Libertarians,” says Goldberg.

The runner-up candidates are trying to take the shake-up in stride. Mark Fish says the loss to Walker was unexpected and disappointing. Fish adds he would still be interested in the party’s nomination, if Thom Walker returns from his float trip and agrees to step down before the September 2 candidate substitution deadline.

“It’s up to the Libertarian board to choose its replacement, and if they wanted to choose me, I think it’s a natural choice as the next guy in the vote count,” says Fish. “I would be happy to carry the message forward.”

Scott Kohlhaas has a different strategy.

“I’m thinking of changing my name to ‘Sullivan.’”

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska Serial Killer Robert Hansen Dies at 75

Thu, 2014-08-21 17:43

Convicted Alaska serial killer Robert Hansen, who hunted down women in the Alaska wilderness in the 1970s as Anchorage boomed with construction of the trans-Alaska oil pipeline, died Thursday. He was 75.

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Alaska Department of Corrections spokeswoman Sherrie Daigle said Hansen died at Alaska Regional Hospital after being in declining health for the past year.

Hansen was convicted in 1984 after confessing to killing 17 women, mostly dancers and prostitutes, during a 12-year span. He was convicted of four of the murders in a deal that spared him having to go to trial 17 times.

The Anchorage baker also confessed to raping another 30 women in that time.

Hansen was the subject of a 2013 film titled, “The Frozen Ground,” which starred Nicolas Cage as an Alaska State Trooper investigating the slayings. Actor John Cusack portrayed Hansen.

Hansen was serving a 461-year sentence in Alaska.

Categories: Alaska News

Anchorage Attorney Hired in Cases Against Bethel Police

Thu, 2014-08-21 17:42

The city of Bethel has hired an Anchorage law firm to represent them in recent cases involving the Bethel Police Department.

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Interim City Manager, Greg Moyer, confirms that the city has hired the law firm of Ingaldson, Maassen & Fitzgerald to represent the city in cases involving allegations of police brutality and an officer-involved shooting.

A woman from Arizona made allegations that she had witnessed an officer using excessive force with an Alaska Native man on July 12th.
And on August 15th a Bethel Police Officer shot a man wielding a bat during a confrontation in a neighborhood. The man who was shot, Aaron Moses, is reportedly recovering at Alaska Native Medical Center in Anchorage.

Bill Ingaldson is the attorney with the firm who is representing the city. He says the city has received notice that a family has retained an attorney.
Bethel police are investigating both cases. State Troopers are also investigating the shooting.

Categories: Alaska News

Yukon River Kings In Jeopardy Despite Meeting Escapement Goal

Thu, 2014-08-21 17:41

Yukon River king salmon continue to show symptoms indicative of low production. Unprecedented fishing restrictions in Alaska this summer allowed over 64,ooo kings to cross the border into Canada. That was enough to surpass an escapement goal, but it doesn’t tell the whole story.

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Categories: Alaska News

AFP Targets Begich Absenteeism in $1M Ad Buy

Thu, 2014-08-21 17:40

Americans for Prosperity announced today it has paid more than $1 million to run a TV ad attacking incumbent Mark Begich for missing votes in the U.S. Senate. The ad features Steve Perrins, a reality TV personality and owner of Rainy Pass Lodge.

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“Last year, Mark Begich missed more votes than 80 percent of all of the U.S. Senators. 80 percent of them!” says Perrins in the ad. “Why can’t Mark Begich show up, when it’s time to vote?”

The central fact cited in the ad is accurate. Last year, according to the GovTrack website, Begich failed to vote 12 times, putting him in the bottom 20 percent of the Senate for attendance.  That, though, was the best attendance record of the Alaska delegation to Congress. Begich missed 4 percent of the Senate votes last year. Sen. Lisa Murkowski missed 6 percent, and Congressman Don Young missed 13 percent of House votes.

So far this year, however, Begich has missed 34 votes. Murkowski has missed 16 and Young just nine.

Americans for Prosperity, a conservative group founded by one of the billionaire Koch brothers, says the ad is set to run statewide for several weeks. AFP is also the group responsible for one of the earliest anti-Begich ads of the campaign, featuring a Maryland actress in a kitchen.

Senate rankings for missed votes

Categories: Alaska News

Mat Su Borough Assembly Wrestles With Ferry Issue

Thu, 2014-08-21 17:39

 The Matanuska Susitna Borough has until September 5 to repay more than 12 million dollars in federal grants related to the ferryboat “Sustina.”

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 The white elephant of a ferry that the Borough has been trying to sell or give away remains tied to a Ketchikan dock, while the Borough Assembly wrestles with what to do about the money owed to the Federal Transportation Administration.

 Matanuska Susitna Borough Assemblymembers met Thursday afternoon to reconvene an executive session regarding legal action on the ferry.  No word on the outcome of that meeting yet, but deputy Borough Mayor Ron Arvin said in a recent interview:

“And it is a travesty that those individuals that concocted this scheme back in the day, did it with blinders on,” Arvin says. “They had no fundamental comprehension that a ferry system would run at a cost. They were living under a dream, or an delusion, that a ferry system could run and support itself. And there is not one in the world that does that, they are all subsidized.”

Two weeks ago, the Borough received a letter from the Federal Transportation Administration, demanding repayment of the federal grant money that the Borough received to prepare the ferry for passenger service across Knik Arm from Port MacKenzie to Anchorage. That plan never materialized.

Categories: Alaska News

Anchorage Youth Court celebrates 25th anniversary

Thu, 2014-08-21 17:38

The Anchorage Youth Court is getting old.  It’s celebrating it’s 25th birthday this week. The organization has shrunk over the years. The court now hears about 1/3 of the cases it did a decade ago. But it’s goal is the same — to give young people a second chance. 

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Fourteen-year-old Robert King doesn’t want to be a judge or a lawyer. But in 8th grade he had to take a law studies class.

“I didn’t even really like the law before that. But I got stuck with that class. And then the first day of school I thought, hey this class is cool,” he recalled.

Through the class King learned about the Anchorage Youth Court. If a juvenile is arrested for committing a crime, they can choose to go to a regular court or to be tried by other teenagers. Young people aged 12 to 18 serve as the attorneys and judges. They are trained to weigh different factors when hearing a case and choose a suitable sentence.

King passed the Youth Court Bar Exam, and now he serves as an attorney. He says his role at the court impacts the defendant’s future.

“We’re not like a place that we just send people and they get off lightly and just do some community work service hours. And then not have to have any record. This is serious. We’re giving you your one free chance of not having a conviction record.”

The Youth Court only hears misdemeanor cases of people who have pled no contest. Most cases involve shoplifting or possession of marijuana.

Retired youth court judge Sijo Smith, who is starting college this fall, says the clean record is important when applying for jobs and universities.

“You know that little box that asks if you’ve ever been convicted of a crime? If they complete the sentence, they can check that no. Which is really helpful for them. Because most of the defendants we get, it’s like a one time mistake and they know that it’s wrong and they know that they won’t do it again. So it’s really nice that they get a second chance. Which they get by coming through Youth Court.”

Smith explains that a panel of three judges hears the police report and arguments from both the prosecution and defense. They learn about the crime and about the defendant’s interests and history. She says all of that helps determine the sentence. They also factor in logistics, like if the person can drive. Then the judges explain their decision to the defendant and how the crime has affected the community.

“People who are your own age telling you something often have a lot more impact than adults telling you something,” she said. “For me, especially, you know.”

Youth Court Executive Director Rebecca Koford said the program has shrunk over the years. In the early 2000s they heard about 350 cases per year. Now, it’s down to 120, because juvenile crime rates have dropped by about half in Alaska. Koford said that’s partly because some big stores are no longer prosecuting juveniles. A 2012 Kids Count Alaska report said programs like the Youth Court can also take some credit.

Koford said the program is effective because it emphasizes restorative justice and making the community whole.

“You can’t undo a crime or a bad thing that’s happened, but you can take steps to try to make it right again,” she said. “So it’s about getting the defendant back on track. It’s about getting them to not get into trouble again, to be a contributing member of society, and to feel positively about their future community engagement.”

But the defendants are not the only ones who benefit. Robert King said he’s gained confidence, public speaking skills, and motivation.

“I’ve learned to become a better advocate in my community, about helping, and being a good person in the community.”

Since the court opened, 3,000 young people have volunteered.

Categories: Alaska News