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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: 32 min 57 sec ago

Dunleavy Faces Independent Challenger in Senate E Race

Mon, 2014-10-20 16:05

Tiny Chickaloon, population 272, lies just within the newly redrawn boundaries of Senate E, the lengthy district that threads the Richardson Highway from Valdez to Delta Junction. Independent candidate for Senate E, Warren Keogh, has called Chickaloon home for three decades.

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“I am a lifelong independent. I have been approached by folks in both parties, to become a Republican or become a Democrat, but I have decided to stay on the course that I have always been on and not become a partisan person.”

Keogh has a varied background – military service in Vietnam, firefighter and paramedic, paralegal and water resources specialist. He has served as Chickaloon Community Council president, and spent one term on the Matanuska Susitna Borough Assembly, representing the communities North of Palmer. He says he’s got the name recognition to take on the incumbent.

“A Mr. Dunleavy has been in office only two years, so he does have the advantage of incumbency, however, in this new district, he is only incumbent in half the area, and I reside in the other, the easternmost district E, so we both have considerable name recognition.”

Keogh says Dunleavy has failed on two fronts : education….

“Mr. Dunleavy, the very first bill he introduced as a freshman legislator, was an attempt to begin the process to allow public funds that are articulated and mandated in the state constitution to be spent for public education and nothing else, to allow those public monies to be spent on something other than state education.”

 …and the state’s budget.

 ”In the Senate, he’s been on the Senate finance committee, and the last two years we have had the two largest state budget deficits in the history of Alaska. We have not been able to balance the checkbook, not even close to it, so I have a problem with that. “

Incumbent Republican Senator Mike Dunleavy says he believes that public education should include all students.

“I don’t think that has happened in the extent that it could”

Dunleavy says his legislaton, SJR9, is a two- fold attempt to allow the state more tools to engage more students.

“For example, the governor’s scholarship program allows Alaskans to take state money and go to private and or religious colleges. So by passing SJR9 those current practices would have been constituionalized, and we could have been able to expand our public education reach to include public-private partnerships, more so than we are now. “

 He says he’s not out to privatize education, and that his children attend public schools.

Dunleavy a former school superintendent, is an educator by career, and lives with his family in Wasilla, one of the fast growing, sprawling communities in the Mat Su Borough. He won his Senate seat in the 2012 primary, defeating Republican incumbent Linda Menard, and went unopposed to Juneau the following January.

 ”There were some of us that thought the bi-partisan coalition that Senator Menard was part of, was not necessarily dealing with some of the long-standing issues such as the gas pipeline and declining oil production. “

He says during his first session in the Senate, he helped reduce the capital budget -  and he  points to work on the liability gap in the state retirement system, and funding for unfinished University of Alaska buildings.

“We did lop off close to a billion dollars out of the capital budget from before I got into the Senate, and we began to work on the process on the operating budget, and that’s what we are going to be focused on in the future. And we are going to have to be looking at how we spend money, looking at formulas embedded in some of these formula programs- such as in HSS”

The newly redrawn Senate E includes the waterfront town of Whittier, Valdez with its oil pipeline terminal, Delta farmlands and the Greely national defense site. Dunleavy says what the communities have in common is a need for affordable energy. He says the state needs to come up with a comprehensive energy plan for all of Alaska.

“Because not everyone could be connected with a pipeline, because not everone could be connected with interties, electrical interties. And so, we may have many communities that may have rely on local sources of energy. How do we go about identifying those sources of energy, how do we go about providing the funding for the infrastructure to access that energy. “

Senate E also holds the Matanuska Valley communities of Sutton and Chickaloon, which were fueled by coal mining a century ago, and are now home to increasing numbers of suburban families seeking a quiet spot in the country. It’s this changing demographic that has caused friction among residents either supporting or opposing coal mining.

 Keogh,  says what he’s hearing more about going door to door is public concern about education, and the state’s long – term economy. And he says, he’s got something some voters may like -

” And I think, I could be the key to an all-Alaska Senate coaltion.”]

He says voters are tired of partisan squabbling.

Categories: Alaska News

Supreme Court denies stay; same-sex marriages can continue in Alaska

Fri, 2014-10-17 16:44

United States Supreme Court building in Washington D.C. (© Jarek Tuszynski / Wikimedia Commons)

Same-sex marriages are legal again in Alaska. The U.S. Supreme Court denied the state a stay, which would have stopped the issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples until the 9th Circuit Court heard the state’s appeal early next year.

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Despite the ruling, the governor’s office issued a statement saying they will continue with the appeals process because Governor Sean Parnell has sworn to uphold the state’s constitution. In 1998, voters approved a constitutional amendment in Alaska to define marriage as between one man and one woman.

Joshua Decker, executive director of Alaska’s ACLU, says the governor’s continued appeal is a waste of taxpayer’s money.

“Governor Parnell took an oath to support the Alaska constitution, but he also took an oath to support the US constitution. And we have now had all three levels of the federal court weigh in on this issue.”

The week has been a legal ping-pong match. The Alaska District Court overturned the state’s same-sex marriage ban on Sunday. Couples began applying for licenses on Monday, and three couples were allowed to wed immediately. As others sat out the mandatory three-day waiting period, the state was granted a temporary stay by the 9th Circuit Court on Wednesday in order to give the Supreme Court a chance to make a decision. That stay was lifted this morning at 11 am when the Supreme Court denied the request. The 9th Circuit says they will not issue another stay.

Same-sex couples can receive marriage licenses when state courts and offices re-open on Monday. Friday is a state holiday.

The 9th Circuit will hear the state’s appeal early next year. The state must file their brief by late January 2015.

Arizona’s same-sex marriage ban was also overturned Friday. The state’s attorney general will not appeal the decision because the 9th Circuit, which also governs that state, has already overturned bans in both Idaho and Nevada.

Categories: Alaska News

State Disputes ANWR Boundaries

Fri, 2014-10-17 16:43

The state of Alaska has launched the opening salvo in a border dispute with the federal government over the western edge of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. At stake is a 20 thousand acre wedge of land that the federal government counts as part of ANWR. But in a letter to the BLM today, the state asserts the government has mapped ANWR incorrectly. The state says the wedge of land between the Canning and the Staines River is actually outside the refuge, according to a 1960 legal description of the refuge border.

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Categories: Alaska News

Air Quality Settlement Requires Review Of Particulate Pollution Plans

Fri, 2014-10-17 16:42

A legal settlement between an environmental organization and the federal government requires review of plans for dealing with new sources of fine particulate pollution in Los Angeles California and Fairbanks.

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Categories: Alaska News

Container Ship Adrift Off British Columbia Coast

Fri, 2014-10-17 16:41

A container ship on its way from Washington to Russia lost power overnight and is drifting Friday off the north coast of British Columbia.

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The Canadian Forces’ joint rescue co-ordination center in Victoria says the Simushir is about 10 miles off Haida Gwaii.

Acting Sub. Lt. Ron MacDougall says there are concerns the vessel could run aground in heavy winds. The Canadian and U.S. Coast Guards are responding.

The ship carries 440 tons of bunker oil and 55 tons of diesel.

MacDougall says there are 11 people on board. A helicopter was dispatched to remove the captain who is injured.

Categories: Alaska News

Les Mis brings local touch to global production

Fri, 2014-10-17 16:40

Les Miserables opens in Anchorage Friday. The Broadway musical has been produced around the world since 1985, but this production has local twists.

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Director Andy Ferrara guides the cast through one of their last rehearsals before opening night as they dance about the stage singing At the Wedding. The 23 players have been working on the two-hour long show for only about four weeks. The main cast and crew are from LA, but once they hit town they were joined by four local girls. They’ll take turns playing Little Cosette and Little Eponine.

When asked if they’re having fun, they chorused “Yes!” in unison.

The Les Mis cast practices one of the final scenes.

Eleven-year-old Parker Kinley says she loves the once-in-a-lifetime experience and has learned from the professional cast.

“I’ve learned that to trust all of your teammates because they’re going to help you through this and even if you mess up their going to guide you through this. And yeah, it’s awesome.”

And the wigs have shown the young brunette some other things.

“It’s so fun to see yourself as a blonde!” Kinley says.

But 10-year-old Megan Nelson says the acting is a challenge.

“It’s hard cause I like to smile a lot and trying to not to smile and act said because her mother couldn’t afford to keep her and so she had to drop her off with people who are actually mean to her, so you have to act sad.”

And let’s face it, Les Mis isn’t exactly a happy play.

“Here we go. Who dies first?” Ferrara asks the cast and a woman responds.

“Stand up. Raise your hand,” he commands. “Chad, this is the first one who dies.”

That’s Ferrara again. He’s blocking the scene at the barricade where — spoiler alert — most of the cast dies. They drape their bodies over a rotating set that looks like stacked rubble – broken chairs, wooden boxes. Ferrara says the set is smaller and less complicated than one might see on Broadway because this is a regional production.

“We don’t have $10 million to spend on a production. We have far less. So it really makes you be more creative with what you’re going to do.”

He says they do things like use candles and fog to create different scenes instead of relying on a massive turntable.

Unlike other regional productions, the Anchorage Concert Association has been involved with this show for more than two years. They helped find the set and audition cast members. Even the local crew has more of a say than they would for other productions.

“Here, they’re involved. It’s like, ‘Why don’t we change over here?’ Or, ‘Why don’t we do this?’ Every element from the lights to the costumes to the sound department is involved in some way in putting on the project instead of just being told what to do.”

Ferrara says that’s why they got to choose four girls instead of just one to sing Little Cosette’s iconic song:

“Crying at all is not allowed. Not in my castle on a cloud.”

Les Miserables is playing at the Performing Arts Center through October 26.

 

 

 

Categories: Alaska News

Historic Weapons Ousted From Sitka Airport

Fri, 2014-10-17 16:39

Greeters preparing to welcome a fresh batch of arrivals to Sitka (KCAW photo/Emily Kwong)

Saturday is the anniversary of the Purchase of Alaska. And in Sitka, the site of the historic sale, locals make it known from the moment visitors step off the plane. This usually goes over well, but sometimes creates confusion.

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Sitka’s military past brushed elbows with present day security last Friday (10-10-14). At 11am, a TSA official called the police to report there was a man with a gun in the airport, but it wasn’t just any type of gun.

“It was a replica Civil war era pistol in a closed leather holster,” said Betty Conklin.

It turns out the owner, who wishes to remain anonymous, is part of a group of greeters for Alaska Day.

Greeter 1: Hello!

Greeter 2: You’re getting off a plane.

Greeter 1:  Program of events for Alaska Day. Tonight’s the magic show. Centennial Hall.

Stationed at the arrivals gate, the group greets visitors coming off the morning and evening flights into Sitka. All are dressed in 1867 era clothing. Betty Conklin organizes the group and said one gentleman in the group wore a replica of a Civil War officer’s uniform.

“If they wore space suits in 1867, then we’d be wearing space suits,” said Conklin, with a laugh. “If you’re going to be period accurate be period accurate and that’s what the gentleman was attempting to do.”

Complete with wool trousers, white kid gloves, and that replica pistol. This alarmed a passenger, who tipped off TSA, who called the police. By the time the officer arrived, the greeters were gone.

Conklin said the costumed officer was ultimately told to remove the pistol. She wished the situation had been dealt with more directly.

“‘In Alaska, we would have expected someone to come up up and say, “Hey this bothers me. Hey, someone made a complaint. Put something in the car,’” said Conklin. “But that did not occur. We got treated like big city. It went through the commands before we even got notified of it happening.”

Though the identity of the passenger is unknown, Rebecca Britton remembers being on that very same flight Friday morning.

“I was the first one off the plane,” said Britton. “So when I got off I saw everybody in their reenactment costumes and I was just flabbergasted.”

Britton said she didn’t notice a gun, amid all the bonnets and the hoop skirts. She came in from out of town to be a part of the celebrations in Sitka.

“I think it’s important to everybody and they really give it their all to keep it going.”

Conklin, who is a jail officer at the Sitka Police Department, was sympathetic to passengers afraid of guns in the airport, replica or otherwise. But, she defended the history of the state and implored future visitors to respect it too.

“65 years is a long time to be doing a celebration,” said Conklin. “So it must mean something to Alaskans to have an Alaska day. So let’s make it a good one.”

And a loud one, when military reenactors get to actually fire those guns, touching off black powder, during Sitka’s Alaska Day Parade on Saturday.

The Alaska Day greeters will be at the airport to greet the 10:40am flight and the 5:40pm now through Saturday morning.

Categories: Alaska News

UA Hopes Survey Will Reveal True Scope Of Sexual Assault Problem On Campus

Fri, 2014-10-17 16:38

If you’re a student, faculty or staff member of the University of Alaska, you may receive a survey in your email this month asking questions about sexual assault on campus.

The survey follows campus visits by federal investigators looking into how the college handles sexual assault complaints and violations.

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This is the first time the University of Alaska is conducting a campus climate survey.

“We want to have an understanding and ground truth how people feel sexual assault’s being dealt with on our campuses, and it’s a way to determine if there are areas of concern that we’re unaware of,” says Michael O’Brien, university attorney.

This is also the first year the White House has recommended that schools around the country conduct campus climate surveys.

The university’s Statewide Institutional Research and Budget department is conducting the survey with help from the University of Alaska Anchorage’s Justice Center. The roughly 50 multiple choice questions are modeled after sample ones provided by the federal government.

O’Brien warns the language of the survey is explicit.

“Because we don’t all share the same definitions of sexual assault, it has to go through a lot of explaining. Like you wouldn’t want someone to say, ‘No, I’ve never been sexually assaulted. I mean, every once in a while, I’ll drink too much and my boyfriend will have sex with me when I’m passed out. But I’ve never been sexually assaulted.’ That is also sexual assault,” says O’Brien.

Students, faculty and staff at University of Alaska have already been notified of the survey. O’Brien says around 18,000 will be randomly selected to participate and all of them will get resources for counseling and reporting sexual assault.

“We anticipate that when people are confronted with this sort of information, it often triggers a response. That’s not the goal of it. We’re not trying to trigger responses or draw out victims, but we realize that that could happen,” O’Brien says.

The survey is confidential and voluntary. O’Brien says results are anticipated before the end of the year. He doesn’t know if they’ll be made public.

Lori Klein, student conduct administrator at the University of Alaska Southeast, says the university is also looking at how to reach and engage students who aren’t on a campus.

“A big portion of our population are distance students and they don’t necessarily have a campus climate to speak to, but they could be anywhere. They could be accessing buildings across our state that are in partnership with the university to provide students with space to access our classes. We care about those climates,” says Klein.

As part of an ongoing examination, federal investigators visited four campuses of the University of Alaska last week hoping to hear from students. At the UAS Juneau campus, only two attended the women’s focus group, but an investigator says other campus sessions drew up to 25 students.

O’Brien says the federal investigation continues and won’t likely be resolved for another several months. After that, he says the university can expect years of monitoring.

Categories: Alaska News

State Senator Plans To Investigate Guard Situation

Fri, 2014-10-17 16:37

State Senator Lesil McGuire says the Legislature will hold hearings into the troubled Alaska National Guard, but she’s getting push back from the Senate president.

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McGuire also will call for a special investigator into allegations of sexual assault and other misconduct within the Guard.

However, Senate President Charlie Huggins says he doesn’t know if the Legislature will do anything but muddy the water.

After allegations of sexual assault within the agency, a federal report released September 4th found evidence of fraud and ethical misconduct. Critics said Governor Sean Parnell, who is seeking re-election next month, didn’t act quickly enough.

Huggins says it doesn’t make sense to hold hearings with the election next month. But he’s not convinced hearing are the best approach later, either.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: October 17, 2014

Fri, 2014-10-17 16:19

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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Supreme Court Denies Stay; Same-Sex Marriages Can Continue In Alaska

Anne Hillman, KSKA – Anchorage

Same-sex marriages are legal again in Alaska. The U.S. Supreme Court denied the state a stay, which would have stopped the issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples until the 9th Circuit Court heard the state’s appeal early next year.

State Disputes ANWR Boundaries

Liz Ruskin, APRN & Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage

The state of Alaska has launched the opening salvo in a border dispute with the federal government over the western edge of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. At stake is a 20 thousand acre wedge of land that the federal government counts as part of ANWR. But in a letter to the BLM today, the state asserts the government has mapped ANWR incorrectly. The state says the wedge of land between the Canning and the Staines River is actually outside the refuge, according to a 1960 legal description of the refuge border.

Air Quality Settlement Requires Review Of Particulate Pollution Plans

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

A legal settlement between an environmental organization and the federal government requires review of plans for dealing with new sources of fine particulate pollution in Los Angeles California and Fairbanks.

Container Ship Adrift Off British Columbia Coast

The Associated Press

A container ship on its way from Washington to Russia lost power overnight and is drifting Friday off the north coast of British Columbia.

Les Mis Brings Local Touch To Global Production

Anne Hillman, KSKA – Anchorage

Les Miserables opens in Anchorage on Friday. The Broadway musical has been produced around the world since 1985, but this production has local twists.

Historic Weapons Ousted From Sitka Airport

Emily Kwong, KCAW – Sitka

Saturday is the anniversary of the Purchase of Alaska. And in Sitka, the site of the historic sale, locals make it known from the moment visitors step off the plane. This usually goes over well, but sometimes creates confusion.

UA Hopes Survey Will Reveal True Scope Of Sexual Assault Problem On Campus

Lisa Phu, KTOO – Juneau

If you’re a student, faculty or staff member of the University of Alaska, you may receive a survey in your email this month asking questions about sexual assault on campus.

The survey follows campus visits by federal investigators looking into how the college handles sexual assault complaints and violations.

State Senator Plans To Investigate Guard Situation

The Associated Press

State Senator Lesil McGuire says the Legislature will hold hearings into the troubled Alaska National Guard, but she’s getting push back from the Senate president.

AK: Looking Inside

Robert Woolsey, KCAW – Sitka

On AK we often travel to wild and strange places and meet the people who live there. Today’s journey is no different, except the place is inside each of us. Earlier this year Sitka had a tarot card reader in residence. The Tarot, it turns out, is mystical — but not magic. Like professional therapy, it’s really about looking into a mirror, as tarot skeptic Robert Woolsey discovers.

300 Villages: Metlakatla

This week we’re heading to Metlakatla, in Southeast Alaska, on Annette Island. Audrey Hudson is the mayor of Metlakatla.

Categories: Alaska News

AK: Looking Inside

Fri, 2014-10-17 16:05

On AK we often travel to wild and strange places and meet the people who live there. Today’s journey is no different, except the place is inside each of us. Earlier this year Sitka had a tarot card reader in residence. The Tarot, it turns out, is mystical — but not magic. Like professional therapy, it’s really about looking into a mirror, as tarot skeptic Robert Woolsey discovers.

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My first problem with having a tarot reading is telling you about it. The Tarot is incredibly personal.

(Via Wikipedia)

“Everything you’ve said is kind of uncanny. I don’t think I can use this in a news story!” I said.

I assumed that a tarot reading would involve a certain amount of mumbo-jumbo — “you will meet a tall, dark stranger” kind of stuff. Richard Aufrichtig, who’s doing my reading, says people often have that misconception, and sometimes are a little disappointed at first to learn that a tall, dark stranger is not in the cards.

It’s something else entirely.

“I think that the world we live in is very much in need of healing and transformation, and the tarot is a very approachable tool to move people into a conscious space where they’re thinking in that way,” Aufrichtig said.

Aufrichtig is from Brooklyn. He’s been studying the Tarot for about three years. He was in Sitka for a residency in music and poetry, and offered tarot readings on the side for fun. It really caught on: Over the course of the summer in Sitka, he did readings for around 70 people in this downtown coffee shop. A skilled reader sizes up his client, and lays out some compelling options. I’m a single parent with college-age children; Aufrichtig doesn’t know this. All he sees is a guy with a microphone, and turns over three cards: The High Priestess, the Hermit, and the Emperor.

“I would say right now what I’m seeing in your life is that you’re in this space, this phase, where you’re trying to follow the light of your wisdom, and you’re being grounded by this aspect deep within yourself that’s like, ‘Let me be receptive to this, to what my wisdom is right now’… And you’re really being guided by the idea of taking the reins of your own kingdom,” Aufrichtig said.

(Via Wikipedia)

Who doesn’t want to hear this? What I most look forward to is taking the reins of my bank account, when my kids graduate. But I’m definitely feeling buoyed that the cards suggest I’m emerging from a challenging period.

Yet really the cards don’t suggest anything. I’m hearing what I want to hear, and there is enormous power in that.

“So many people in my life go to regular counseling, and it does wonders for them. And I think tarot works the same way: It’s an ongoing treatment plan for people,” Sophie Nethercut said.

Nethercut recently moved to Sitka. She fell into the study of the Tarot by accident, after being stranded in New Orleans. She has researched the Tarot extensively in Brazil, South Africa, and Vietnam. She didn’t study the cards, though. She studied the readers.

“I think every single reader I talked to acknowledged that they are a caregiver in some way,” Nethercut said. “One reader I talked a lot with in Vietnam described himself as a mental doctor.”

My tarot reading was 15 minutes, and used only three cards. Some last for over an hour, and clients ask pointed questions about important decisions in their lives.

(Via Wikipedia)

“I remember one reader in South Africa — and I’ll remember this interview for the rest of my life – she said, ‘Look, people come to me, they ask should I have a baby? Should I get divorced? Will my mom who’s had cancer for 10 years ever recover?’” Nethercut said. “And people come with incredibly challenging and deep personal questions, and for many this reader is the answer.”

Nethercut says tarot readers always work the same way, pointing toward possibilities, but not calling the shots. Asking clients to look inward, helping them understand things they might already know.

“If you ask, ‘Will my mom recover from cancer?’” Nethercut said. “There’s only one answer you want to hear.”

Back in the cafe in Sitka, Aufrichtig discloses what the skeptic in me has known all along: We all experience dark times; the benefit of tarot is as an exercise in positive thinking.

“I think I continue to study tarot because it’s the University of Yes…,” Aufrichtig said.

Aufrichtig also believes it’s important to act on the information you discover in a tarot reading, or the whole thing is reduced a feel-good parlor trick. But it’s one thing to hold up a mirror, and another to act on what you see there.

Rob – This is a lot better than You will meet a tall, dark stranger.
Richard – I tend to think so.

I will give it a shot, though, since the answer is in the cards.

Categories: Alaska News

300 Villages: Metlakatla

Fri, 2014-10-17 15:54

This week we’re heading to Metlakatla, in Southeast Alaska, on Annette Island. Audrey Hudson is the mayor of Metlakatla.

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Categories: Alaska News

Gubernatorial Candidate Sean Parnell

Fri, 2014-10-17 12:01

Gubernatorial candidate Gov. Sean Parnell. (Photo by Josh Edge, APRN – Anchorage)

Sean Parnell is in a close race to keep his position as Alaska’s top executive. The state is facing tough issues. Revenue shortfalls mean hard budget questions in the future, and reform is needed in the troubled National Guard. But gasline development may also be on the horizon.

HOST: Lori Townsend, Alaska Public Radio Network

GUESTS:

  • Gov. Sean Parnell, Republican gubernatorial candidate
  • Callers Statewide

PARTICIPATE:

  • 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, October 21, 2014 at 10:00 a.m. on APRN stations statewide.

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

TALK OF ALASKA ARCHIVE

Categories: Alaska News

Gubernatorial Candidate Bill Walker

Fri, 2014-10-17 12:00

Gubernatorial candidate Bill Walker. (Rosemarie Alexander/KTOO)

Bill Walker wants to be the next Governor of Alaska. Whoever wins will take the job in a tough fiscal environment. Walker is running in a tight race without a party after running as a Republican in the past.

HOST: Lori Townsend, Alaska Public Radio Network

GUESTS:

  • Bill Walker, gubernatorial candidate
  • Callers Statewide

PARTICIPATE:

  • 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: Wednesday, October 22, 2014 at 10:00 a.m. on APRN stations statewide.

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

TALK OF ALASKA ARCHIVE

Categories: Alaska News

Teacher’s Pet: A Four-Legged Educator Retires

Fri, 2014-10-17 10:31

After three decades, the Anchorage School District says goodbye to an educator. (Photo by Zachariah Hughes, KSKA)

The Anchorage School District recently said goodbye to one of its longest-serving and most unusual educators. What’s more, the departure leaves the district with a gap not likely to be soon filled.

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Last Friday, in the carpeted basement of the chalet at Russian Jack park, a group of kids and their parents gathered between plastic tables, a commemorative cake, and a square blue tarp to bid farewell to a beloved classroom instructor.

“People just call him tortoise,” explained one young attendee, candidly.

“His real name is Tort,” added an associate, tapping a palm on the guest of honor’s shell.

Tort, so-called by those closest to him, is a Sonoran Desert Tortoise.

Sonoran Desert Tortoises can live as long as a hundred years. (Photo by Zachariah Hughes, KSKA)

“Our classroom tortoise has been in the Anchorage school district at three different schools,” explained Kerry Reardon, who inherited Tort from his original handler, Betty McCormick, and has been his keeper at the King Career Center’s early education program for the nearly three decades since.

“It’s a very unique program because we have the high school students and the pre-school population and their families,” Reardon said. “So it’s kind of a multi-generational educational experience.”

“And,” she added, “some of our students come back as parents.”

One such parent at the retirement party was Crystal Bukala, who had brought her daughter Mia, a recent daycare attendee under Tort’s tutelage, and was saying goodbye.

“It’s a happy but sad day,” Bukala explained. “I know he’s old and needs to go some place warmer. But I remember him being there when I was in high school 15 years ago.”

Bukala’s family had also volunteered to take Tort during school breaks and summer vacations, the educational and cognitive-social benefits of which Mia reflected on concisely: “It was good. It was super fun.”

Those feeding, weekend check-ins, and host of extra chores that are part and parcel to pet ownership are one of the main reasons why there are less and less classrooms have pets today. Reardon says that is a shame, since they happen to be such good teaching tools: an ever-present, hands-on biology lesson, as well as a crash-course in the basics of care-taking—which is part of why Tort stuck around the early ed program for three decades.

But as Reardon explained, the benefits of pet pedagogy go even deeper, “Especially [in the] early childhood classroom, where children are just beginning to develop empathetic skills and being able to look at things from another perspective or point of view. So pets provide that opportunity–especially for young children when they’re so excited about everything–you saw them when they were with the tortoise, they were looking at his eyes, and his nails,” Reardon continued, gesticulating wildly, her voice picking up.

In keeping with broader demographic trends, Tort will be leaving the life he made from himself in the cold North to retire in Arizona. Specifically, to the Tortoise Adoption Program at the Arizona-Sonora Desert Museum, something like a free-range interactive zoo combined with a reptilian retirement village (motto: “We’ll turn your idea of a museum inside out!”).

It’s a bit of a full circle, since Betty McCormick, the original early ed teacher at King Career, came from the same area. “She was the one responsible for bringing the tortoises to Alaska,” Reardon said. “She grew up in the Sonoran desert.”

Tort has been watched over and hand-fed since he hatched, and no one is sure if he’ll take to unfettered life out in the expanses of desert with other middle-aged turtles instead of human toddlers. But Reardon says if he’s having trouble adjusting the museum’s lead herpetologist will help adopt him into a nice family in nearby Tuscon, since he could live as long as another half-century.

Tort leaves the far north for the desert from whence he originally came. (Photo by Zachariah Hughes, KSKA)

That’s the plan Reardon and McCormick came up with together. However Reardon will have to carry it out by herself. McCormick, her mentor, passed away unexpectedly this summer.

“That is why it meant so much to me to do this part of it. And to Betty too, she was so excited about this and really worked with me on what we thought would be the best ending for him. And I was looking forward to her doing it with me,” said Reardon after the party had wound down.  “But I know she’ll be there in spirit.”

After a full career spanning five presidential administrations, Tort is finally saying goodbye to Alaska. He’s even doing it in style: Reardon was able to talk the airlines into letting her take him as a carry-on, stuffed under a 1st class seat, inside what looks like a regular black pet-carrier. But weighs 17 pounds.

Categories: Alaska News

How Does Climate Change Affect Public Health?

Fri, 2014-10-17 08:00

Michael Brubaker (left), discusses climate change’s effects on public health with Lori Townsend (middle) and Zachariah Hughes (right). (Photo by Josh Edge, APRN – Anchorage)

A series of reports that seek to define the potential changes to public health in rural Alaska communities based on the impacts of Alaska’s rapidly changing climate. But, why are the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium and the North Slope Borough looking at the issue through the lens of climate change?

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HOST: Lori Townsend

GUESTS:

KSKA (FM 91.1) BROADCAST: Friday, October 17 at 2:00 p.m. and Saturday, October 18 at 6:00 p.m.

Alaska Public Television BROADCAST: Friday, October 17 at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, October 18 at 4:30 PM.

Categories: Alaska News

Ebola risk low in Alaska, plan in place to stop spread

Thu, 2014-10-16 17:44

The State’s Department of Health says there is not much risk of Ebola reaching Alaska, but they do have a prevention plan in place.

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State epidemiology chief Joe McLaughlin says few people are entering the state who have been in the West African nations where the outbreak is occurring, which reduces the risk. He says certain measures are already in place to stop the spread of the disease, like a quarantine area in the Anchorage airport. He says people traveling from West Africa are screened as they leave the affected countries.

Deputy Chief Epidemiologist and infectious disease doctor Michael Cooper says health facilities, even in rural areas, already have measures in place to contain infectious diseases like Tuberculosis and measles. He says hospitals are setting up quarantine areas and the state will have rapid testing abilities for Ebola by next week.

Michael Cooper speaks at a press conference about Ebola risks. Hillman/KSKA

Cooper says health care workers are also receiving weekly trainings on how to deal with Ebola.

“So there have been beefed up efforts on the part of CDC and others to put out clear, updated and better guidance to hospitals, to nurses, and infection control preventionists about how to put on, how to take off equipment, what other things are recommended. Making sure everyone’s on the same page with the latest information and then offering more trainings.”

Cooper says the problem with Ebola is it has many vague symptoms, like a fever, body aches, and an upset stomach. The key to stopping the spread is for people who have traveled to West Africa or who might have been exposed to conduct self-monitoring and to be honest with their doctors. Alaska law already mandates that infections of this type must be reported to the Department of Health immediately. They will then work with the CDC to contact anyone who might have been exposed to the patient.

Categories: Alaska News

Settlement in Mt. Marathon Race Suit

Thu, 2014-10-16 17:43

 The Seward Chamber of Commerce has been freed from any responsibility in the death of Mt. Marathon runner Michael LeMaitre.  The Seward Chamber announced an out- of -court settlement on Wednesday, which exonerated the Chamber from any negligence in a wrongful death action filed by the widow of a man who went missing more than two years ago.

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 Michael LeMaitre disappeared while running the rugged Mt. Marathon race in 2012. His body was never found. The Seward Chamber organizes that race.   In July of last year, his widow, Peggy LeMaitre, sued the Chamber for five million dollars, claiming race officials were negligent, and claiming emotional damage to herself and to her family. The suit was scheduled to head to trial later this month, and the Chamber had filed a motion for summary judgement. The settlement avoids a jury trial.

 Cindy Clock is president of the Seward Chamber.

“Well, I’m obviously happy that this is over. We have changed a couple of things in the race. For instance, we have instigated race previews, so, what that is is practice on the trail. So that people can come down, if they are first time runners, and go with people who have experience up the race trail.”

 The Chamber’s legal counsel countered plaintiff’s allegations, saying that Michael LeMaitre had vision difficulties, making it likely that he could not see the rock that marks the midpoint of the race. Chamber attorney Laura Eakes  challenged Peggy LeMaitre’s accusations, because evidence showed that in 2009, Michael LeMaitre was involved in a dispute with his employer, and stated that his vision had so deteriorated that he could only recognize only part of a person’s face close up.  Cindy Clock says that Michael LeMaitre was not prepared for the difficult race.

“He never should have been on the mountain, he shouldn’t have been even driving. You know, and it came out that he had filed a suit for discrimination against his employer, because they wouldn’t accommodate his disability, which was extremely bad vision. Yeah,so he never should have been on the mountain, but maybe that was one reason he didn’t practice on the trail. “

She says findings that would have been presented at a trial indicated that Michael LeMaitre had never done a pre- race climb of Mt. Marathon. Race officials warn racers about pre race preparation at safety meetings.

And the court has ruled that Peggy’s LeMaitre’s claim of emotional damage has no standing in the suit.

The two sides have settled for twenty thousand dollars, after Peggy LeMaitre reduced her initial demand to forty-five thousand dollars.   Seward’s Chamber of Commerce will pay twenty thousand dollars, based on the Chamber’s  insurance company’s estimate of potential court costs. The Chamber has been exonerated of any negligence in the matter.

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Alaska News

Jury Deliberates Pipeline False Statement Case

Thu, 2014-10-16 17:42

A Fairbanks jury has begun deliberations for a man charged with making false statements about the 1978 bombing of the trans-Alaska pipeline.

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If convicted, Phillip Martin Olson could face up to five years in prison.

The FBI says an agent interviewed Olson in November and January and that Olson acknowledged responsibility for the pipeline explosion on February 15th, 1978, east of Fairbanks.

The resulting small hole allowed 12,000 to 14,000 barrels of crude oil to spill before it could be sealed.

The statute of limitations had run out for charges in the bombing.

Federal prosecutors say Olson lied and said another man had assisted him in setting off the explosion, costing the FBI time and resources investigating.

Categories: Alaska News

BBEDC Releases 2013 Annual Report

Thu, 2014-10-16 17:41

Mailboxes across the Bristol Bay region have been filling up in recent days with the 36-page annual report from the community development quota organization that represents the region.

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Categories: Alaska News
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