APRN Alaska News

Subscribe to APRN Alaska News feed APRN Alaska News
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: 31 min 48 sec ago

Sculptors Bring Cubism, Chainsaws to Chunks of Ice in Anchorage

Mon, 2015-01-12 17:25
WordPress Slider


Artists wielding sanders and drills spent three days this weekend carving blocks of ice into salmon and sea-dragons in downtown Anchorage, showcasing all you can create out of a one-and-a-half ton block of frozen water.

Download Audio

The Crystal Gallery of Ice is comprised of a series of sparkling ice sculptures spread over the winding walkway of Town Square on Anchorage’s 6th Avenue, beside the Performing Arts Center.

Families and smartphone-photographers alike swarmed around two figures inspired by Pablo Picasso’s cubist paintings as the whirl of power-tools rose and fell.

“The piece is called ‘Symphony in Ice,’ says Carol Lewando, an art teacher with the Anchorage Public Schools, and one half of the sculpting team. “We wanted to make musicians, so one is a tall bass player, and the other one is a guitar–or you could say a mandolin, depending on the size.”

Lewando and her husband have carved a piece in the annual event for the last 15 years.  They were one of eight teams competing. And in between greeting students and acquaintances, Lewando is put the finishing touches on the glassy surfaces of the stocky guitarist while the sun set.

“Once we get pretty much finished then we start playing around with texture,” Lewando explained. “It’s amazing how all our pieces have all transformed from a 3,000 pound block of ice that was six feet tall by four feet by two feet–it’s just fascinating,” she added with a laugh.

The particular type of ice used in the Crystal Gallery is called “Arctic Diamond,” and was hauled down from Fairbanks by rail and road through corporate donations. The three day event is sponsored by the Anchorage Downtown Partnership, drawing teams from all over Alaska, and from as far away as Harbin, China.

Lewando loves how easily ice can be molded into new shapes with chainsaws and chizzles, and the way sunlight, temperature, and wind all change the works from minute to minute.

“Really the reward is starting and finishing and not getting injured,” she throws in jovially, “and creating something beautiful.”

A sculpture of a mythological dragon titled “Kirin” by William Hartgrove and John Trescott took first place. But “Symphony in Ice” made off with the Carver’s Choice Award

Lewando hopes people will come look at the works now through February, as the weather reclaims each statue. Although with ice carving, that is par for the course.

Categories: Alaska News

State Transportation Commissioner Steps Down

Mon, 2015-01-12 16:59

The head of the state Department of Transportation and Public Facilities, Commissioner Pat Kemp, stepped down today.

Download Audio

Walker’s spokesperson Grace Jang says Walker accepted Kemp’s resignation because their philosophies and objectives were not aligned.

On December 24th, Walker sent out an administrative order directing agencies to halt discretionary spending on six projects, and to submit funding status reports on the projects.

Jang says Kemp’s position on the Knik Arm bridge and the Juneau Access Road were at odds with the Governor’s position:

“Commissioner Kemp stated in his memo that he essentially is taking a different stance than the governor,” Jang said. “And, like I said, all commissioners serve at the pleasure of the governor.

For his part, Kemp says he didn’t resign, he retired. He says he had already emptied his desk when the new administration asked him to stay on as acting Commissioner. He says he thought the memo was a status report, not a position paper.

“I sent the memo to the governor and OMB director and just gave the facts on the two projects on federal payback and things like that,” Kemp said. “I had no idea i was not in line with the governor’s ideas.”

In his memo, Kemp said halting or delaying the projects likely will result in penalties from federal funding agencies. He said they’d been authorized by repeated Legislative appropriations, and are cost-effective opportunities to improve transportation.

Categories: Alaska News

Allen Moore Wins Copper Basin 300

Mon, 2015-01-12 16:23

Two Rivers musher Allen Moore has won the Copper Basin 300 for the third year in a row.

This is Moore’s sixth overall win in the mid-distance sled dog race. In the past, Moore has called the race the “mini-Yukon Quest,” for of it’s notoriously challenging trail and often extreme weather conditions.

This year’s race saw temperatures of 20 degrees above zero and warmer, with some snow falling Sunday along the 300-mile loop trail that starts and finishes in Glenallen.

Teams did not face any major weather, but warm conditions made for open water on the trail. In all 49 teams started the race Saturday. Three have scratched.

Behind Moore was Ray Reddington, Junior, placing second. Teams will continue to cross the finish line through the night and into tomorrow.

Categories: Alaska News

Young, Credited With Effectiveness, Says Personality is Part of his M.O.

Mon, 2015-01-12 16:07

Alaska Congressman Don Young was sworn in today for his 22nd term. He’s starting the term a week later than his peers, having missed the main swearing-in last week due to the death of his brother.  But he’s ready to drop a passel of bills

“We will be introducing a whole bunch ‘em …. ANWR of course,” He said today, looking over his list. “Niblack and Bokan mountain area, Kiln drying bill, Alexander Creek recognition bill — we’re going to move that finally —  Alaska Native migratory bill, (and the)  Alaska national archives bill, Alaska Native Corporations conservation easement bill.”

If the past is any guide, he stands a better than average change of getting his bills to move through Congress.  In a new book by two political science professors, the Alaska Congressman is held up as one of the most able Republicans in House of Representatives.

“The reason we wrote him up in the book and list him among our top 20 representatives over the last 40 years, is that he keeps coming up in the top 10 in his party,” says Craig Volden, of the University of Virginia. He and co-Author Alan Wiseman wrote “Legislative Effectiveness in the United States Congress.” They analyzed all of the House bills introduced from 1973 through 2012 to gauge the legislative effectiveness of each member.

“So we traced what did they sponsor, how far did it move through the process, how was it reported on, what did they say about why they were pursuing the legislative strategies that they were, and so on,” Volden said.

He says Young scored highly year after year. He was 11th in his freshman term, out of nearly 200 Republicans. Eight times, according to their formula, Young was the No. 1 most effective Republican. When he chaired the House Natural Resources Committee Young was really at the top of his game, Prof. Volden says, even when compared to other chairmen.

“We traced all of the chairs of that committee and he was right on there with Mo Udall who famously ran that committee for more than a decade,” he said. “Committee chairs, we find, are effective for a variety of reasons. Some are effective because they draw attention to new issues or they reach across party lines and it seemed that in that position Rep. Young used both of those sets of skills.”

And yet, these aren’t the qualities that typically earn Young national headlines. He’s better known for his feistiness and for making brash remarks he sometimes has to apologize for. Even the animal heads in his office have drawn more attention than his legislative effectiveness. Professor Volden says these qualities weren’t part of the research. He credits Young’s specialization. In the book, Volden describes Young’s legislative strategy as “All Alaska, all the time.”

Zack Fields, spokesman for the Alaska Democratic Party, says it’s not so impressive that Young specializes in Alaska.

“You’d certainly hope that he would since he’s the only Alaska member” Fields said.

Fields knocks the study’s methodology because it only looks at bills a member sponsors, so it doesn’t take into account other ways members exhibit their effectiveness, such as by convincing their colleagues to tuck a bill into must-pass legislation. Very few stand-alone bills pass these days, so Fields says it’s not a good measure of effectiveness.

Young says he’s not surprised by his high rankings, because he’s been keeping track, too. And he says if that’s not what he’s known for — well, that’s all part of his M.O.

“It is something I’ve used all my life, that I try not to appear — and it’s not hard to do — very bright. It throws people a little bit off,” he said.

Young says to achieve what he’s elected to do, he uses every wily tactic he can.

Categories: Alaska News

Lonnie Dupre Becomes First Ever January Denali Soloist

Mon, 2015-01-12 15:42

(Photo credit: John Walter Whittier)

History has been made on North America’s highest peak. On Sunday, Lonnie Dupre became the first solo climber to summit Denali in the month of January.

The news of Lonnie Dupre’s summit came early on Sunday afternoon. His support team received a message from Dupre’s GPS locator that he had made it to the top of North America’s highest peak.

This attempt to be the first successful January soloist on Denali is Dupre’s fourth. His previous tries were thwarted by bad weather high on the mountain. Last Thursday, Lonnie Dupre shared via satellite phone his thoughts on being held back by poor conditions.

“There’s nothing worse than having to stay put, especially when you have eighteen hours of darkness every evening. It makes for very long nights. And, of course, just always having the weather pull the rug out from under you when you were psyched up to go somewhere or do some climbing,” Dupre said.

The weather did eventually break, and allowed Lonnie Dupre to make a summit attempt on Sunday morning. According to his GPS tracker, he reached the summit just after 2:00 pm.

(Photo credit: John Walter Whittier)

After receiving the GPS notification, Talkeetna Air Taxi pilot Paul Roderick says he took a plane up in an attempt to spot Lonnie Dupre on the descent, which can be just as dangerous as the climb in the winter.

“We were concerned, because the winds were picking up, up high,” Roderick said. “It was gusting to thirty knots, and it didn’t look like a place you wanted to be.”

“From the report I just got, when he summited it wasn’t at windy, but he could feel it picking up, and he just raced off the top.”

Paul Roderick says he began looking in the area of the summit, fearing that Lonnie Dupre had been pinned down by the increasing wind. Then, with daylight fading, he started to look lower on Denali.

“We made it down lower, to about [17,000 feet], and we were getting knocked around pretty good…but luckily he had his headlamp,” Roderick said. “As I was looking at the [17,200 foot] camp, just maybe ten minutes out, we could see this light beaming up at us…It was a good thing to see.”

With weather potentially building to the south, Lonnie Dupre is not wasting any time in his descent.  Paul Roderick says Dupre left his camp at 17,200 feet before 4:00 a.m. Monday and could reach base camp at 7,200 feet by Tuesday afternoon, where he will await his flight back to Talkeetna.

Categories: Alaska News

Anchorage Legislators consider ways to cut capital costs

Sat, 2015-01-10 18:45

Before heading to Juneau, Anchorage Legislators are listening to community input on ways to cut state spending. They hosted a listening session on Saturday at the Loussac Library. Some community members urged the legislature to cut local capital projects, like the U-Med District Northern Access Road.

Legislators take comments in the Assembly Chambers at the Loussac Library.

Anchorage Resident Kalen Saxton told legislators that money should be redirected from the road project to the school district because the road would not help current traffic problems on Bragaw near East High or near the Alaska Native Charter School.

State House Minority Leader Chris Tuck from southeast Anchorage says funding for some local capital projects should be redirected.

“We’re not going to be able to fund every project, especially the controversial ones. So I think this is an area where we may have to hold back for a while and take care of the necessary needs that the public expects from us.”

Tuck says that includes the money for the $20 million U-Med Access Road and the $2 million South Anchorage High School Stadium. The controversial stadium was approved by the municipality’s planning and zoning commission last week. Tuck says state funds can be reallocated, though projects with federal funding are more complicated.

Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux from northeast Anchorage, who co-chaired the session, says she won’t comment on which Anchorage projects should or should not be funded.

“You know I’m just going to wait until we get down to Juneau and hear all about these projects. I’m not going to speculate right now about what I want to get rid of and what I want to make sure happens.”

LeDoux says she will also be looking closely at how the Anchorage School District is spending its money. Community members spoke both in favor and against increasing education funding during the listening session.

The state’s legislative session begins on January 20. Governor Bill Walker has already put funding on hold for six megaprojects including the Susitna-Watana Hydro Project, the Knik Arm Crossing, and the roads to Juneau and to Ambler.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: January 9, 2015

Fri, 2015-01-09 17:34

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.

Download Audio

Lawmakers Begin Releasing Prefiled Bills

Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN – Juneau

In eleven days, the 29th Legislature will gavel in. In preparation, lawmakers have released the first batch of bills they plan to consider. APRN’s Alexandra Gutierrez joins us to talk about what’s been offered.

Halcro Files Letter Of Intent In Anchorage Mayor’s Race

The Associated Press

Former Alaska legislator Andrew Halcro has filed a letter of intent to run for mayor of Anchorage.

Juneau Resident In Paris During Attack On Charlie Hebdo Magazine

Lisa Phu, KTOO – Juneau

Juneau resident Henry DeCherney arrived in Paris on Monday as part of an extended holiday traveling in Europe. He was there for Wednesday’s attack on Charlie Hebdo magazine that left 12 dead and today’s dual hostage situation, which killed four. The two main suspects in Wednesday’s attack and an associate were killed as well.

Mat-Su Borough Seeks Railroad Funds

Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage

Hopes for state help for Matanuska Susitna Borough capital projects are plunging along with the price of oil, which is at about fifty dollars a barrel.  But, there is at least one piece of encouragement in the bleak outlook.

Blue Crest Plans New Onshore Wells, LNG Shipments

Shaylon Cochran, KDLL – Kenai

The oil and gas boom continues in Cook Inlet. At the annual Kenai Peninsula Industry Outlook Forum this week in Kenai, new oil and gas player Blue Crest, based in Fort Worth, made some of the biggest announcements.

Alaska Skiers Placing Well In National Championships

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

Alaska skiers continue to post top results at the U.S. cross country ski championships in Michigan. Yesterday, Alaska Pacific University skier Rosie Brenan won her second straight title in chilly Houghton, Michigan, taking the women’s 20 kilometer classic event.  She was joined by thre APU teammates in the top 10.

APU skiers also fared well in the men’s 30 K race, with Lex Treinen in second, and 4 others in the top 10.

AK: The Art of Medicine

Annie Feidt, APRN – Anchorage

Physicians spend a lot of time thinking about how to fix the human body. A group of young doctors in Anchorage recently had the chance to draw it instead. They are all overworked, over tired interns-midway through their first year of residency. But they spent a morning in an intro to drawing class in an effort to get them to think more creatively about their careers.

Essay: The Experience Of An Art Model

Valerie Waldrop

We’re heading deep into the AK archives for an essay on what’s its like to be an art model – bare naked in front of a room of artists. Local writer Valerie Waldrop was an art model in college to pay the bills.

Categories: Alaska News

In First Batch Of Early Bills, No Big Ticket Items

Fri, 2015-01-09 17:14

In a little over a week, the 29th Legislature will gavel in. In preparation, lawmakers have released the first batch of bills they plan to consider. APRN’s Alexandra Gutierrez joined us to talk about what’s been offered.

Download Audio

How is the Legislature’s workload shaping up?

The number of pre-filed bills is actually pretty standard. 59 bills and 4 proposed constitutional amendments were released today, which is comparable to the number of early bills filed in the past few sessions. A lot of are bills from the last Legislature that, for whatever reason, just didn’t make it across the finish line — like a bill that would regulate smoking in restaurants, bars, taxis, really any public or semi-public indoor space.

The thing that stands out to me, though, is that unlike the last Legislature, we’re not seeing any ambitious infrastructure bills in this early release. Last cycle, we had early bills to let the state build a small-diameter gasline on its own, or let the state move forward on the development of a bridge over the Knik Arm. Many of the bills offered this go round don’t even look like they’ll need a fiscal note to determine how much they could cost the state.

That’s almost certainly by design. With the state looking at a multi-billion dollar shortfall, any bill that isn’t going to be zero cost will face an extra level of scrutiny.

So, are most of these bills small-bore then?

That depends on your definition. A lot of them do seem to be pretty narrow in scope, like a bill to create a Great Alaska Earthquake Remembrance Day and legislation to exempt Alaska from daylight savings time. There’s one bill that caught my eye that would prohibit the manufacture or sale of cosmetics containing plastic beads — like those exfoliating body washes. (Apparently they’re mearly impossible to deal with when they end up in the water supply.)

But there are some pre-filed bills that tackle important issues even if they don’t cost money . Legislation known as Erin’s Law deals with the problem of child sexual abuse, and has a good shot of passing this Legislature. It nearly made it through last year, but was held up in what looked like a legislative game of chicken between the House and Senate, where the respective bodies wouldn’t advance legislation until the other side did what it wanted. It also didn’t help that it was originally introduced by a member of House’s Democratic minority, as minority bills often have a hard time of moving through the Legislature.

Now, two separate versions of the Erin’s Law bill have been introduced, one by the Democrat, Rep. Geran Tarr, who pushed for it last time, and one by House Majority Leader Charisse Millett. Because who introduces it matters, having a Republican in leadership push for it increases its odds of getting through.

Can you tell us about the constitutional amendments that are being introduced?

Well, an amendment to change the structure of the judicial council has been introduced again, by Fairbanks Republican Pete Kelly. That amendment would have added more public members to the board and weakened the influence of the attorney representatives. It made it all the way through the committee process and was even scheduled for the floor, but it was ultimately pulled after it didn’t have enough votes from senators who were concerned it could politicize the way justices are selected.

There’s also an amendment that would strike the definition of marriage as being between a man and a woman from the Alaska Constitution. Gay couples are already allowed to be married because of a circuit court decision last year, but this would clean the language up from the Constitution.

What we’re not seeing is any amendments to create dedicated funds for, say, transportation. There’s also no revival of an amendment to let public funds go to private schools. Of course, just because these things haven’t been filed yet, doesn’t mean they can’t come later.

Another batch of early bills will be released next week. Is there anything in particular you’re watching out for?

Well we know that the Legislature plans to deal with marijuana. Rep. Bob Lynn has said he wants to introduce legislation to keep marijuana retail sales far from school, and Sen. Lesil McGuire has said she’s thinking of legislation to create a marijuana control board. But the only bill released today that has anything to do with marijuana is one dealing with industrial hemp.

Because there’s a strict implementation timeline for the marijuana regulation initiative that passed this year, the nascent marijuana industry in this state will be keeping an eye on how quickly the Legislature decides to take up the issue.

Categories: Alaska News

Juneau Resident In Paris During Attack On Charlie Hebdo Magazine

Fri, 2015-01-09 16:47

Juneau resident Henry DeCherney arrived in Paris on Monday as part of an extended holiday traveling in Europe. He was there for Wednesday’s attack on Charlie Hebdo magazine that left 12 dead and today’s dual hostage situation, which killed four. The two main suspects in Wednesday’s attack and an associate were killed as well.

Download Audio

Categories: Alaska News

Borough Seeks Railroad Funds

Fri, 2015-01-09 16:45

The price of oil briefly dipped below fifty dollars a barrel early this week, highlighting state budget concerns.  Governor Bill Walker has issued a statement putting six major state – funded projects on hold.. among them, the Knik Arm Crossing and the Susitna- Watana Dam. Both those projects were slated for the Mat-Su. Missing from the governor’s hit list, however, is a state appropriation for the final phases of the Port MacKenzie rail spur linking the Port with Alaska Railroad’s main line in Houston.

 John Moosey, Mat Su Borough manager, told a joint session of the Anchorage Assembly and the Borough Assembly on November 14 that it will take 120 million dollars to finish constructing the Port MacKenzie rail spur. Moosey told the panel that several investors are waiting, like California based WesPac, which is ready to build an LNG facility at the port, but the plan is contingent on rail link access.

“We need to have some funding to keep this in step.  Because if the WesPac project goes, they will need rail service in two years. And we are also working with REI, which has a Japanese market.  So, our problem with how the state has been dribbling out the money is that we can really not tell our customers when the rail will be complete.  It has always been our top priority every year for the past seven years. The legislature has been good at getting us the funds.”


 The legislative appropriation for the rail spur is at the top of the Borough’s wish list, approved by the Borough Assembly in the fall. The rail link between Houston and the port is necessary to make Port MacKenzie a viable economic engine for the Borough and the rest of the state, according to Moosey.

 But the Borough’s priority list,  and Moosey’s November comments, were made before oil prices went into freefall in December.

The total cost of the rail link is estimated to be 272 million dollars. Part of the spur has been completed, but the Borough needs the state to ante up more money to complete the job.

Within a month of his election, Governor Walker released a trimmed down version of the state budget that cuts spending by some 600 million dollars, with capital projects taking the brunt of the cuts.  

But  Moosey is not losing optimism concerning the rail spur appropriation, for several reasons.

“With this latest drop in oil prices.. we are very heavily dependent, as everybody knows, on state oil. By finishing up this rail project, it helps us to bring additional resources to the market to really give us a piece to help diversify the Alaska economy.So, with that, we think we have a great opportunity here.”

Moosey says the rail spur is 2/3rds  complete, and he is meeting today [Friday ] with LNG producer WesPac. WesPac wants to build an LNG plant at Port MacKenzie to ship LNG to Fairbanks, possibly competing with a state plan to truck LNG from the North Slope. Moosey says the WesPac project would be funded entirely by private money, cutting state costs in the process.

“There has been a push and quite a bit of investment on energy and planning on bringing North Slope LNG down to Fairbanks. And that investment was going to be at least 300 million $ from the state. The WesPac project which will bring to the city gate cheaper product, does not have a single dollar investment from the state of Alaska.  So that is one good point. ”

In December, Governor Walker announced a state agreement with Japan- based REI to construct an LNG export facility at Port Mac. The gas would come from Cook Inlet. Teddy Pease, a staffer at REI’s Anchorage office, says the shipments do not depend on rail access to the Port MacKenzie dock.

Construction of the rail spur has come under criticism by some conservation groups, notably Cook Inletkeeper, because of concerns about costs and about possible impact on salmon habitat.

 In August of last year, Joe Perkins, the Borough’s executive for the rail extension project, told the Borough Assembly that the rail project is over budget and behind schedule. Work on the rail link started in 2008, but Perkins said that the way it had been funded, through yearly legislative appropriations, had not worked to keep costs down.

“We had intended to have the train running by now, had we received sufficient funding to do that. So, we have had some impacts from delays in funding. Our construction management people are having to stay a considerable number of years past what we have anticipated, same thing with our engineering people. So, again, the way this thing has been funded with eight different appropriations and some more to come, has certainly increased our costs.”

 The rail spur construction was divided into six segments. Three are complete, and another near completion. Perkins said that a major cause of cost over-runs were delays spurred by litigation against the project filed by the Sierra Club and Cook Inletkeeper.  The lawsuits caused stop work orders which lasted months. The Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals has since given the go ahead for the project.

Categories: Alaska News

Blue Crest Plans New Onshore Wells, LNG Shipments

Fri, 2015-01-09 16:44

The resurgent boom continues in Cook Inlet. At the annual Kenai Peninsula Industry Outlook Forum this week in Kenai, new oil and gas player Blue Crest, based in Forth Worth, made some of the biggest announcements.

Download Audio

CEO Benjamin Johnson says they’ve partnered with a California company called Wespac to build a new LNG facility that would make natural gas available across the state.

“Put it in small containers that can fit on barges, on rail cars, on trucks, and basically provide a cheap alternative to diesel fuel that most of the communities in the state are using.”

Johnson offered few details about what communities might provide a market for the gas, when it could be available or for how much. He says bringing in someone else to produce the gas will get it to market faster.

“They (Wespac) will drill these gas wells and they’ll deepen some into the oil zones. They’ll also put the platforms and pipelines in place. And then at some point after they’ve reached a minimum return, or are able to get their money back, then Blue Crest will come back in and begin owning the assets and eventually end up the majority owner.”

Wespac will own the gas producing portions of the fields, located near Anchor Point, while Blue Crest will operate them and several onshore oil wells it plans to drill in 2015 and 2016.

Categories: Alaska News

AK: The Art Of Medicine

Fri, 2015-01-09 16:42

(Photo by Annie Feidt, APRN – Anchorage)

Physicians spend a lot of time thinking about how to fix the human body. A group of young doctors in Anchorage recently had the chance to draw it instead. They are all overworked, over tired interns- halfway through their first year of residency. They spent a morning in an intro to drawing class in an effort to get them to think more creatively about their careers.

Download Audio

At first, Doctor David Silbergeld wasn’t sure what to make of the drawing class that popped up on his schedule.

“I think my first thought was, ‘uh oh,’” he said.

Silbergeld’s dad teaches art history, so he’s had lots of exposure to art. But the last time he remembers producing any of it was a long, long time ago.

“When I was 4 or 5 years old I used to do art my dad said was amazing, and I have not done anything since then,” he said.

Silbergeld is in his first year of the Alaska Family Practice Residency in Anchorage. Since July, he has been whizzing through a series of challenging rotations, working 80 hours a week and getting very little sleep. But for a month in the depth of the winter, all of the residency’s interns have a break of sorts called ‘trans-cultural medicine.’ It’s like an extracurricular holiday- a feast of lessons in things like cultural diversity, wilderness survival and nutrition.

And for three hours one recent morning – drawing.

University of Alaska Anchorage art professor Garry Mealor is teaching the class in figure drawing. He explains the students will have 90 seconds to draw each pose the model takes. He offers a few quick pointers – like how to get the proportions right (a human figure is about eight heads tall).

Then the model takes off her robe and more than a dozen doctors start to draw. Silbergeld is clearly enjoying himself, but it isn’t easy. He develops a coping strategy early on.

“I simply can’t recreate the human head or the human face in any beautiful or realistic way, so I’ve sort of given up on that and I’ve focused more on the torso or to some extent the legs, and I’m more pleased now that I’m doing that,” Silbergeld said.

(Photo by Annie Feidt, APRN – Anchorage)

This is the fourth group of interns to take the drawing class. Dr. Susan Beesley, an Anchorage pediatrician, came up with the idea. Beesley thinks medicine is both a science and an art. She helped start an arts program at her medical school in Colorado. And she wanted to offer a small piece of that experience to the Alaska residents. Beesley likes that it pushes them out of their comfort zone.

“I think it’s important to think creatively when your subjects are humans,” Beesley said. ”Humans don’t really follow textbooks all the time and I think if you can integrate a little bit of creative thought into your healing practice that it will benefit both the doctors and the patients.”

Beesley also hopes the class offers the doctors a different perspective after six months of looking at disease and illness in the human body.

“Now we’re asking them to just look at it as a piece of art and think about it as just beautiful and miraculous and something that they can enjoy,” Beesley said.

The morning’s last challenge is to use different erasers to create an image of the model on paper blackened with charcoal, which Mealor assures is “going to be messy, but fun.”

(Photo by Annie Feidt, APRN – Anchorage)

Silbergeld spends the rest of class immersed in his final piece of artwork.

“It took an hour to get me okay with it but I’m okay with it.”

Silbergeld isn’t exactly sure how this class may affect his decisions as a doctor three months, or even three years, from now. But he appreciates the chance to spend a morning thinking a little differently than his typical doctor routine allows.

“I think classes like this are a good reminder that sometimes when you do that physical exam you do need to step back and get that broader image of the human body when you’re seeing patients,” he said.

As he packs up, Silbergeld decides to take several of his drawings home. He says he’s not exactly ready to frame them, but he doesn’t want to give them up either.

Categories: Alaska News

AK Essay: Barenaked

Fri, 2015-01-09 16:41

Nude is what is it is called. Nude is artsy and sophisticated. But when I crumpled onto the small wooden platform, I was just plain old naked. And then when I crawled the several feet between me and my robe, I was even more naked.

Download Audio

Apparently, I am told by everyone I have ever told this story to that if one stands with locked knees for too long with locked knees, one faints. Apparently, everyone knows this. I wish I could say collapsing onto a wooden platform, while naked, was the hardest thing that happened as an art model.

It wasn’t.

Walking into the classroom for the first time, naked under my robe, was harder than pretty much anything else I’ve done. Wedding day – easy. Childbirth – pudding. Climbing mountains – yawn city.

The classroom door had a small glass window that I could peer through. I saw them all in there, waiting. I had applied for the job. I had agreed to work. I did want the best paying college job on campus, but I could not open the door. Staying behind the door meant I could still run away. I told myself it would be good for me. I tried to think of other things that would be good for me, but scary, tweezing nose hairs, eating eggs without toast. I still couldn’t open the door.

I told myself the artists didn’t know me. After all, I was one of many models. I would act aloof. I would pretend experience. I would feign boredom, ‘Oh, naked in front of strangers again.’

I opened the door. I walked in. I stepped up on the stage.

“Here’s the model,” the instructor said, “Let’s make her feel welcome, it’s her first time.”

I had been naked before. I was naked before. In fact, I had been naked in front of other people, a few. Sure, it was more like slinking naked in front of one person, or dodging naked in front of another. I had never stood face on in front of 20. And certainly not face on in the bright light that streamed through the windows and surrounded by hot floodlights.

“Model, model – we’re ready,” the instructor said. My sweaty hand pulled the robe tie. My shoulder shrugged the robe off and tossed it off to the side. And then I stood there and didn’t breath. And I’m sure I didn’t breath for at least a couple of minutes.

I did note that that not breathing could cause fainting, so despite the thundering heartbeat in my ears, the cold sweat on my neck and an intense need to urinate, I eventually took a breath.

And then I modeled.

Although the first time was quite traumatic, when I’m asked what the hardest part of the job was, it wasn’t being barenaked, it was not moving. Unless one is getting paid to sit, or stand, or lie down motionless, I don’t think one would ever try this. One pose could last for 45 minutes. Let’s say it’s a reclining pose, one arm down on my back, the other arm bent and resting across my forehead. The pose feels fine, for a minute.

Three minutes into it, my arm, resting on my forehead, becomes heavy. Five minutes into it, my arm becomes The Arm. Eight minutes, I begin to worry about nerve damage to the arm. Then I worry about nerve damage to the forehead.  At 12 minutes, I’m certain the brain is at risk.  17 minutes, breathing, trying to stay calm. 21 minutes trying to pretend I am somewhere else, somewhere without a log pressing on my forehead.

26 minutes and  I’m walking on a white sandy beach.  Breath in, Breath out. 35 minutes and I’m sure I will quit, no job is worth brain damage. 42 minutes and I think about tweezing my nose hair. 45 minutes and the instructor says, “That will be all, model.”

And then using the arm that is still my arm to pry the arm that is a log off the forehead and then placing the log next to the body and then trying to get up, trying to pretend that it is easy to get up.

Stepping off the stage numb, aloof and barenaked.

Categories: Alaska News

Halcro Files Letter Of Intent In Anchorage Mayor’s Race

Fri, 2015-01-09 15:46

Former Alaska legislator Andrew Halcro has filed a letter of intent to run for mayor of Anchorage.

Halcro filed the letter, signaling his interest in seeking the post, with the Alaska Public Offices Commission on Friday.

Halcro is a former state representative who unsuccessfully ran for governor as an independent against Republican Sarah Palin in 2006. He currently serves as president of the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce.

The field of candidates for mayor already includes former Anchorage Assembly Chairman Dan Coffey, current Assembly member Amy Demboski and former Assembly member Paul Bauer.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska Skiers Placing Well In National Championships

Fri, 2015-01-09 15:44

Alaska skiers continue to post top results at the U.S. cross country ski championships in Michigan.

Thursday, Alaska Pacific University program skier Rosie Brenan won her second straight title in chilly Houghton,Michigan, taking the women’s 20 kilometer classic event. She was joined by three APU teammates in the top 10, including Becca Rorabaugh, formerly of Fairbanks, who finished 5th.

APU skiers also fared well in the men’s 30 K race, with Lex Treinen in second, and four others in the top 10, including former Fairbanks residents David Norris and Reese Hanneman in 5th and 6th.

In the junior men’s race Fairbanks skier Max Donaldson put up another top result, placing 8th in the junior men’s 10k event. Donaldson was the top skier in the under 18 age group and secured a spot on a U.S. team that will travel to races in Sweden.

The National Champions conclude Saturday with a skate technique sprint.

Categories: Alaska News

Food To Schools From Farms

Fri, 2015-01-09 12:00

Click for more information about growing your area’s Farm to School program.

A national effort to bring fresh food from farms to schools has resulted in $385 million in purchases for school lunches and other meals across the country.  More than half the school districts in Alaska are participating in the Farm to School program, feeding more than a hundred thousand kids in the state.

HOST: Steve Heimel, Alaska Public Radio Network


  • Deborah Kane, Director, Farm to School Program, U.S. Department of Agriculture Food and Nutrition Service
  • Johanna Herron, Farm to School coordinator, Alaska Division of Agriculture
  • Callers statewide


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

LIVE Broadcast: Tuesday, January 13, 2015 at 10:00 a.m. on APRN stations statewide.

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


Categories: Alaska News

The Future Of Alaska’s LNG Pipeline Project

Fri, 2015-01-09 09:00

As the Federal Coordinator’s office for an Alaska North Slope LNG pipeline prepares to close its doors, we take a look at the history of the office, the current state of proposed Alaska LNG pipelines and the outlook on the future of the project.

HOST: Lori Townsend


  • Larry Persily, federal coordinator, Office of the Federal Coordinator for Alaska’s Gas Line

KSKA (FM 91.1) BROADCAST: Friday, January 9 at 2:00 p.m. and Saturday, January 10 at 6:00 p.m.

Alaska Public Television BROADCAST: Friday, January 9 at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, January 10 at 4:30 p.m.

Categories: Alaska News

Walker: With State In Red, Tax Credit Payouts “Unsustainable”

Thu, 2015-01-08 18:59

Since the Murkowski administration, every Alaska governor has offered his or her own version of oil tax reform. Now, Gov. Bill Walker is taking issue with aspects of the current tax regime, without committing to any immediate legislative changes.

On Thursday, Walker took to the pages of the Alaska Dispatch News to raise concerns over how the existing oil production tax works at low prices. With the value of oil now in free fall, Walker explained the state is now collecting less money than it is paying out. The Department of Revenue expects to collect $524 million in revenue this fiscal year, after North Slope producers deduct $750 million available to them in liability credits. Those liability credits can be used to buy their tax burden down, but do not require the state to pay out money. The major producers — Exxon, BP, and ConocoPhillips — are the top beneficiaries of these credits.

But on top of those deductions, the current tax law also grants smaller producers refundable credits meant to encourage more competition on the North Slope and stimulate production in Cook Inlet. These independent companies are eligible to receive $625 million in subsidies that can be cashed out if they end up exceeding their tax bill.

Once both kinds of credits are applied, the state expects to lose $100 million on its oil production tax.

Walker called this situation “irresponsible and unsustainable,” and said the revenue problem must be addressed “from all angles.” But that doesn’t mean legislators should prepare for an oil tax fight this session. In an interview with APRN, Walker said he does not plan to introduce a tax bill.

“No, no, no. I think we have to maybe look across the board and give it some thought. Nothing maybe this year — I’m not looking at going in and making any significant changes,” said Walker. “But I just feel it’s part of my job that Alaskans know what I know, and this is unusual.”

Walker also has no plans to make regulatory changes to the oil tax system that would affect the credits.

While campaigning, Walker came out against the current tax regime. He was in favor of a ballot referendum to repeal Gov. Sean Parnell’s 2013 oil tax law, known as Senate Bill 21. When the referendum narrowly failed in August, Walker said that he respected the outcome and that he would give the law more time on the books if he became governor.

Since Walker was elected on November 4, oil prices have fallen from $80 to $50 per barrel. Walker said that drop is responsible for the state going into the red with its production. His office has done an analysis of how Parnell’s Senate Bill 21 compares at current oil prices to the system that preceded it — ACES — and found the outcomes were not “significantly different.”

“Whether it’s ACES or Senate Bill 21, we’d be in this situation either way, quite honestly,” said Walker. “So, it’s not being judgmental on one versus the other. But’s a new place for us. We’ve never been here before, that we’re paying out more than we’re receiving in production tax.”

Historically, oil tax receipts have made up the bulk of the state’s revenue. Last year, the state generated nearly $5 billion in oil revenue, with more than half of that coming from production taxes.

The state still expects to collect $2 billion this year from other forms of oil revenue, including royalties, corporate income taxes, and property taxes from production.

Categories: Alaska News

Early Study Shows Surprising Optimism Among Homeless Alaska Natives

Thu, 2015-01-08 17:38

A University of Washington researcher says a strong desire to pass down traditional knowledge may be related to high levels of optimism that he’s found among homeless Alaska Native elders. (Photo by Heather Bryant/KTOO)

A University of Washington professor has found high levels of optimism among homeless Alaska Native elders living in Seattle, and he’s connected the finding to a strong desire to pass on knowledge and experiences to future generations.

Download Audio

As an Aleut who grew up in Naknek, Jordan Lewis knows a little something about Alaska Native culture. Whenever he’s back home, Lewis says he likes to talk to elders and soak up traditional knowledge.

“They tell stories about how Naknek used to be when they were kids, because it’s changing so much now,” he says. “And I think just the fact that they talk to you and share their experiences, and pass on recipes, or how they used to make things, or where they used to pick berries, is this idea that they are hopeful that you’ll take that knowledge and use it to benefit your own life, but then pass it on again.”

Lewis is an assistant professor at the University of Washington’s School of Social Work. His research focuses on Alaska Native communities and generativity, a concept developed by psychologist Erik Erikson. It says that as we grow older, humans tend to want to pass on their experiences and knowledge to future generations.

“The first generative act most people have in their lives is having kids,” Lewis says. “That’s going to secure your future. But as you grow older there’s this need to pass on your legacy, write your memoirs, storytelling for elders, and passing down stories you heard to your grand kids.”

Lewis has studied how generativity helps Alaska Natives age well and become role models, as well as overcome addictions.

He says he became interested in the homeless because it’s an underserved and often overlooked population. Years ago, he says, his family had a relative involved with the Chief Seattle Club, a nonprofit that provides meals, housing assistance and other services to low-income and homeless Alaska Natives and American Indians. That’s where he and a student interviewed 14 Alaska Native elders last year. He says the results surprised even him.

“All of the elders talked about the importance of giving back and teaching others,” he says. “Whether it’s through sharing a sandwich, giving extra change if they had extra change to someone who wasn’t doing as well as they were. Volunteering at the Chief Seattle Club was almost everybody’s response. That’s what made them happy, that’s what got them up every day. And they all said that they did that because it’s going to come back to them in a positive way.”

He says other themes of the interviews included the importance of laughter and religion.

In addition, each of the elders – ages 45 to 70 – filled out surveys to measure generativity and optimism. Lewis says 12 of the 14 individuals scored very high in both.

“That kind of complimented the qualitative interviews. So I could say, you know, 85 percent of the people I interviewed are very optimistic and like to give back and teach the young people, and then here we have specific examples of what they do to do that,” Lewis says.

While he’s excited about the early results, Lewis admits more research is needed to confirm his findings. He’d like to do more than 100 interviews, and has considered expanding to include American Indians.

He’s planning to present his research at the Chief Seattle Club, and ask officials there for ideas on how to do a broader study of Native homelessness.

“How could we either help the people who are homeless, or how do we prevent homelessness, or how do we make their lives more enjoyable from these experiences of what these elders are doing for themselves,” he says.

Lewis also hopes to publish his findings in a peer-reviewed journal. The initial study was part of an online Stanford University program on successful aging that he participated in last year.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: January 8, 2015

Thu, 2015-01-08 17:38

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.

Download Audio

Is SB21 Working?

Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage & Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN – Juneau

Since the Frank Murkowski administration, every Alaska governor has offered his or her own version of oil tax reform. Now, Governor Bill Walker is expressing concern with aspects of the current tax regime.

Chugiak Lawmaker Proposes Legislature Move

Jeremy Hsieh & Jennifer Canfield, KTOO – Juneau

Sen.-elect Bill Stoltze plans to introduce a bill to move the Alaska Legislature to Anchorage.

On Murkowski’s First Day Chairing Energy Committee, Panel Passes Keystone Bill

Liz Ruskin, APRN – Washington DC

Senator Lisa Murkowski held her first hearing today as chairwoman of the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee. The committee promptly passed the first priority of the Republican leadership: a bill approving the Keystone XL pipeline from Alberta, Canada through Nebraska. Murkowski also outlined what she wants the committee to accomplish.

UAF To Field Wildfire Crew

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

The University of Alaska Fairbanks will field a wildfire fighting crew. The tram will be staffed by students in a wild land fire science program.

Petersburg’s New Superintendent Resigns

Angela Denning, KFSK – Petersburg

Petersburg’s School board will be searching for a new superintendent again this year. The superintendent of the school district has resigned after six months on the job.

An LGBTQ Renaissance In Juneau

Lisa Phu, KTOO – Juneau

Juneau’s alliance group for lesbian, gay, bisexual, transgender and queer people has been going through a renaissance with new board members and energy. Now, with recent grant funding, SEAGLA hopes to increase visibility and awareness in the capital city and beyond.

Early Study Shows Surprising Optimism Among Homeless Alaska Natives

Casey Kelly, KTOO – Juneau

A University of Washington professor has found high levels of optimism among homeless Alaska Native elders living in Seattle, and he’s connected the finding to a strong desire to pass on knowledge and experiences to future generations.

Categories: Alaska News