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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: 10 min 37 sec ago

Nine Months In, Orthodox Bishop Takes Stock

Mon, 2014-12-08 17:16

Bishop David of Alaska visited Sitka for St. Michael’s Feast Day in November, 2014. (KCAW photo/Rachel Waldholz)

When David Mahaffey was installed as the Orthodox Bishop of Alaska in a a ceremony in Sitka this past February, he became the 16th leader of America’s oldest Orthodox diocese.

Bishop David has now been on the job for nine months. He returned to Sitka this fall.

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Under the Julian calendar, St. Michael’s Feast falls in late November. It was a natural time to return to Sitka, and to St. Michael’s Cathedral, where David Mahaffey became Bishop David of Alaska last spring.

But traveling is nothing unusual for this bishop. He leaves his Anchorage home almost every weekend to visit his far-flung flock.

“We go back to the words spoken by, many many years ago in the early church by St. Ignatius of Antioch,” he said. “‘Where the bishop is, there is the Church.’”

In Alaska, that can be uniquely difficult.

“There’s three challenges in Alaska: distance, distance and distance,” he said. “And did I mention, distance is a challenge.”

Bishop David served as administrator of the diocese for about year before being installed in his new role. He says that for the most part, his job is simply continuing what the church has always done.

“By and large, for me, anyway, the Diocese of Alaska is very much a very traditional, well-oiled Orthodox machine,” he said. “The bishop just has to take his hand on the tiller and keep it in the right direction.”

But he would like to see the Orthodox Church play a larger role in dealing with some of the big issues facing Alaska, including the state’s high rates of suicide, alcoholism and domestic violence.

“We have to be here for the needs of the people,” he said. “I can’t be saved without you, and you can’t be saved without me…that is an underlying principle of everything we do as Orthodox Christians. We understand that  we need to bring our neighbor along with us if we are going to enter the Kingdom of Heaven. We can’t do it alone.”

The bishop said he thinks the Orthodox perspective has something to add to traditional clinical approaches when it comes to issues like addiction or depression.

“In Orthodoxy, we don’t look at people, we never like to use the word ‘individual,’” he said. “It isolates you, it makes you nobody but yourself.”

That sense of community is one piece of it. Another is a sense of purpose.

“The role of the Church is to show the person, God made you for a reason, and you might have to spend your whole life figuring out what that is,” he said. “Do you think that I, 20, 30 years ago, if someone would have said to me, you know someday you’re going to be the bishop in Alaska, I would have laughed at you. Because I’m from Pennsylvania, and I liked Pennsylvania just fine, but this is what I felt called to do…”

“And so my goal is always to find that person, and help direct them, to say to them, you have a purpose in life, and  your job, if you will,  is to find out what that is.”

As for Bishop David himself, he says that though his calling was unexpected, so far it suits him. As an east coaster transplanted to the last frontier, he’s surprised by how much time he spends on planes, and how little in cars; he’s learned never to schedule distant events back to back in case the weather intervenes. And he’s learning to recognize the different tunes used for hymns in Alaska’s distinct regions.

But, he says, at the end of the day, orthodoxy, is, well, orthodox, no matter where you go.

“Same liturgy,” he said. “Done in Russia, done in the Middle East…and of course, here in Alaska.”

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: December 8, 2014

Mon, 2014-12-08 17:15

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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Noble Drilling Fined $12.2 Million For 2012 Incidents

Josh Edge, APRN – Anchorage

The Alaska U.S. District Attorney’s Office announced Monday that a plea deal has been reached between the federal government and Noble Drilling for incidents involving the drill ship Noble Discoverer and drill barge Kulluk while under contract with Shell Oil during the 2012 Arctic drilling season.

Review Focuses On Socioeconomic Aspects Of Proposed Knik Arm Crossing

Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage

A draft socioeconomic review and traffic forecast for the proposed Knik Arm Crossing project was released Monday by a trio of independent consulting firms.

Alaskans March In Anchorage To Support Justice For All

Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage

The shooting and choking deaths of unarmed black men that ended with no charges for the officers involved has ignited anger across the country over justice and fair treatment for all people. And in Anchorage on Saturday, a large group of residents took part in a march sponsored by the NAACP youth council that had a decidedly peaceful and hopeful tone.

Skier Dies In Alaska Range Avalanche

Tim Ellis, KUAC – Fairbanks

A local skier was killed in an avalanche in the Alaska Range over the weekend. The incident happened Saturday evening near Isabel Pass.

Fishermen Debate Merits of Possible Southeast Mine

Margaret Friedenauer, KHNS – Haines

A Canadian company is exploring copper and zinc deposits at the Palmer Project site north of Haines. It’s not even a proposed project yet – but it’s is already dividing the community of Haines. One group having a hard time forming consensus on the issue is the commercial fishing fleet in the Northern Lynn Canal.

Nine Months In, Orthodox Bishop Takes Stock

Rachel Waldholz, KCAW – Sitka

When David Mahaffey was installed as the Orthodox Bishop of Alaska in a ceremony in Sitka this past February, he became the 16th leader of America’s oldest Orthodox diocese.

Bishop David has now been on the job for nine months. He returned to Sitka this fall.

Operation Santa Claus Draws Attention To Rural Alaska’s Environmental Challenges

Zachariah Hughes, KSKA – Anchorage

For the last 58 years, the National Guard has brought presents and holiday cheer to remote communities across Alaska as part of Operation Santa Claus. But, the festivities over the weekend also draw attention to the serious environmental challenges rural communities are coping with.

 

Categories: Alaska News

FAA Proposes Nome Beacon Decommissioning

Mon, 2014-12-08 11:45

The Federal Aviation Administration is conducting a study on a navigational beacon at the Nome Airport, with the intention of decommissioning the technology.

The beacon – dubbed the “Gold” non-directional beacon, in a nod to Nome’s gold rush past – is a radio transmitter that provides a bearing for pilots flying into Nome.

According to the FAA, the major reason behind the study – and the proposed decommissioning – is that the technology is outdated.

Dale Richards with the FAA’s Western Service Center says newer GPS technology provides a more accurate picture for pilots than older radio beacons. He also explains that decommissioning the “Gold” beacon in Nome will have little to no impact on airport operations – as there are already several newer navigation tools in place.

However, the FAA is still seeking public comment on the proposal. Comments must be submitted before December 31.

Categories: Alaska News

Nome Schools Superintendent Steve Gast Resigns

Mon, 2014-12-08 11:44

ast will depart Nome at the end of this semester—December 31. (Photo by Jenn Ruckel, KNOM – Nome)

Hopes of calmly winding down the fall semester have now been dashed, as the Nome Board of Education is about to get busy searching for a new superintendent.

Steve Gast’s letter of resignation was officially submitted—and accepted—by the Nome School Board at last night’s regular meeting. With what he called “mixed emotions,” Gast thanked the board and the community of Nome.

“It is a very bittersweet time. But some things happen, as we know, that you can’t change and when it centers around family, you just have to make some hard decisions, and that’s what I had to do,” said Gast. “I want to publicly thank not just the board, but this [community]. This is a wonderful, wonderful community. There are a lot of sweet and wonderful people and some awesome kids, and I’ve been blessed to have at least four and a half years of being involved with them, and I thank you very, very much for that.”

Returning from a half-hour executive session amid the public board meeting, members unanimously voted to approve Gast’s resignation, effective December 31—each member expressing appreciation for his work and disappointment seeing him leave the district.

But with only about two weeks before semester’s end, President Betsy Brennan said they’ll have to act fast to appoint an interim superintendent before eventually conducting a full search.

“I think we find an interim, somebody to steer the ship for a shorter period of time, and then decide: do we want to do a full-out search? Do we have candidates internally? And then go from there,” said Brennan.

December 15 will be the tentative deadline for internal district staff to express interest in the position. Pulling from within is preferable but demanding, since staff are already stretched thin. Alternatively, the Association of Alaska School Boards can step in to conduct a statewide search.

Brennan said they’ll just have to buckle down to make the switch as smooth as possible. “This will be a transition time but I am confident that our staff can handle this and as a board, we’ll get working!”

In more routine matters at last night’s meeting, the board recognized the Bering Sea Lions Club for their donation toward Nome Schools’ child nutrition program. And celebration of this monetary stimulus was juxtaposed with what could become future financial hurdles: an increasingly bleak outlook on state finances—discussed at last week’s City Council meeting—could spell trouble for educational funding. That, paired with the Superior Court ruling in Ketchikan that Alaskan cities (like Nome) are no longer required to help pay for public education.

There’s no immediate concern for Nome Public Schools, but Gast said those rumblings should “put a shudder through everybody” while deciding how to spend responsibly for the future. Meanwhile, Nome Schools’ state funding budget for this year is based on a population of 700 students. And with enrollment dropping just slightly further than planned, Business Manager Paula Coffman says money might get a little tighter.

And not just for the sake of budgeting, the board wants to explore that enrollment decline. One way was suggested by Barb Amarok.

“I would like to see the school some time connect with the families who sent their children to Mt. Edgecombe High School. I think at one point this year there were 26 Nome children who had left our district and I think we need to address the reasons why,” said Amarok.

Another board meeting will likely be scheduled in December to discuss filling the interim superintendent position.

Categories: Alaska News

Troopers Say Skier Dead in Alaska Avalanche

Mon, 2014-12-08 10:06

Alaska State Troopers say a man died after being caught in an avalanche while skiing.

Troopers say the victim of the avalanche that was reported Saturday evening is tentatively identified as 35-year-old Eric Peterson of Delta Junction.

Troopers say 63-year-old Michael Hopper was skiing with Peterson when they were caught in the avalanche in the Rainbow Mountains near the Richardson Highway.

Hopper told authorities it took him 2-to-3 hours to dig himself out and once he was free, he found Peterson’s glove. He then dug into the snow and found Peterson dead.

According to troopers, Hopper flagged down a passing motorist on the highway and contacted troopers.

Troopers were among responders to the scene, where conditions are unstable with heavy snow.

Conditions will be evaluated before a body recovery is attempted.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaskans March In Anchorage To Support Justice For All

Sat, 2014-12-06 19:44

Supporters of justice for all march through downtown Anchorage

Carrying signs and chanting “Hands up, don’t shoot” and “Black lives matter” a crowd of more than 150 Alaskans marched peacefully through downtown Anchorage Saturday afternoon to draw attention to issues of racial inequality and justice, after the shooting of an unarmed black man in Missouri and the choking death of another black man in New York ended with no charges for the officers involved.

Alaskans march for justice in downtown Anchorage

The group of racially diverse Alaskans left from the parking lot of the NAACP offices around 2:15 Saturday afternoon. The crowd, filling the sidewalk and spread out for more than a block chanted in time to a drum carried by Anchorage resident Cal Williams and waved to drivers who honked, waved and occasionally cheered out their vehicle windows. The group ended up back at the NACCP office parking lot, where hot chocolate was offered to ward off the afternoon chill.

Supporters of justice for all people gather in the NAACP parking lot after a march through downtown Anchorage

Alaskans march peacefully through downtown Anchorage on Saturday afternoon to support equal justice for all.

Categories: Alaska News

Anchorage DJ Held on $25,000 Bail for Child Pornography Charges

Fri, 2014-12-05 18:20

The state’s request for a $25,000 bail is high, and comes with additional conditions. Photo: Zachariah Hughes, KSKA.

An Anchorage DJ is charged with five felony counts related to child pornography. The case highlights Alaska law enforcement’s push to keep up with cyber crimes in a rapidly evolving digital environment.

At a pre-trial arraignment Friday in Anchorage, James Laplante, who goes by “Jimmy O’Brien” on his KASH 107.5 FM morning show, a judge reviewed charges connected with possession and distribution of sexually explicit images, as well as enticement of a minor.

According to charging documents filed by the State Department of Law, officers with the Anchorage Police Department’s Cyber Crimes division received two tips from the National Center for Missing and Exploited Children about possible activity in the Anchorage area. Following the reports, APD eventually requested warrants to search online services Instagram, Gmail, and KIK–a messenger app–connected to Laplante, as well as IP addresses registered with both his home and work. The state District Attorney’s Office claims more than 1,000 explicit images were also found on an external hard-drive, and that during an interview with law enforcement after his DJ shift, Laplante admitted to storing images on his iPhone 6 Plus and work computer.

In the last 15 years the department’s cyber crimes division has had to become more proactive, said Glen Klinkhart, a retired Anchorage detective who now runs a digital consulting firm.

“APD started leading the forefront here in Alaska to go out there and do these cases,” Klinkhart explained, “whether it’s file sharing of child pornography, or online enticement .”

Finding evidence in online trafficking cases is time consuming. Encryption and constantly changing distribution practices make child pornography a moving target for officials to combat. And given the number of crimes against minors in Alaska, agencies have had to be strategic in picking where and  how to intervene.

“We have a terrible amount of child abuse in the state,” said Klinkhard. “You mix that with technology, and it’s not uncommon that we have so many of these particular cases that come up. It’s a mile wide and a mile deep, and we can only work so much. It’s a target-rich environment, is what we say.”

Bail was set at $25,000 for Laplante, along with conditions that he have no contact with any jueveniles, or use any device that can connect to the internet. His next court appearance is on Tuesday in Anchorage.

 

Categories: Alaska News

Fire Destroys Kivalina’s Only Store

Fri, 2014-12-05 17:06

A fire destroyed Kivalina’s only store early Friday morning, leaving the Northwest Alaska village of 400 without all the food and supplies that were stored there.

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Colleen Swan with Kivalina’s volunteer fire department says she got the call around 1 o’clock this morning, but when firefighters arrived, the blaze had already engulfed the roof. Nothing could be done to save the store, so responders focused on preventing the fire from spreading to nearby buildings. Troopers are traveling to Kivalina to investigate the cause.

One volunteer firefighter was medevaced after being sprayed with flame retardant, but has since returned home uninjured.

Swan says the village’s entire stock of food and supplies was destroyed, though hardware and non-food items stored separately in a warehouse were not damaged.

Categories: Alaska News

Juneau Schools To Replace Controversial Texts With Local History

Fri, 2014-12-05 17:03

Juneau Schools Superintendent Mark Miller reads his decision in the company of three guests – Marcelo Quinto, Charlotte McConnell and Katherine Hope – who attended Native boarding schools as children. (Photo by Lisa Phu/KTOO)

Juneau Schools Superintendent Mark Miller says the district will remove four controversial readers from the elementary school language arts curriculum. He announced his decision at a press conference Thursday at the Zach Gordon Youth Center.

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Back in August, community members raised concerns about texts depicting Alaska Native and Native American tragedies. The readers were called distorted, inaccurate and insensitive. A district committee reviewed the curriculum materials and voted 7-2 to remove them from classrooms.

Superintendent Mark Miller didn’t announce his decision alone – he brought along three Native elders who had all attended Native boarding schools.

Charlotte McConnell was 7 when her mother died and her father sent her and her siblings to boarding school.

She was told by her aunt, “‘You can’t speak no Tlingit, you got to speak English, you’re going to school.’ And so that’s where I got understanding English only.”

McConnell attended schools in Juneau, Seward, Wrangell and Sitka.

The loss of cultural identity at Native boarding schools is one of the experiences depicted in the McGraw-Hill Reading Wonders curriculum. Others were the Trail of Tears and the excavation of Native burial grounds.

Miller says the readers don’t meet the needs of Juneau students, but he thinks it’s positive the curriculum includes instructional time for understanding Native experiences.

“I am calling on the community to come together with the school district to document and tell your truth. Come into our classrooms. Help us teach our children about our local history,” Miller says.

Most copies of the readers will be returned to the publisher, he says, and replaced with materials developed by the district in collaboration with Goldbelt Heritage Foundation and Sealaska Heritage Institute. A few copies will be kept at the district office for students who wish to read them.

He says understanding culture and race is an important part of any student’s education.

“Whether in Ferguson, Mo., Juneau, Alaska, or anywhere in between, difficult conversations and debates need to occur. We are all products of both our own personal experiences as well as those of our ancestors. Academic institutes, by their very nature, are an important forum in which to have these conversations and debates,” Miller says.

Paul Berg is a curriculum developer and cultural specialist at Goldbelt Heritage Foundation. His report on the readers was the formal complaint that led to their removal. He said the texts misrepresented the historical reality and marginalized the experiences of the victims. Berg is pleased with Miller’s decision.

“It’s an opportunity to confront some uncomfortable historical facts and historical realities and it’s an opportunity to bring about healing, healing within the Native community but also within the non-Native community,” Berg says.

Freda Westman is Grand President of theAlaska Native Sisterhood. For her, the decision was the only one Miller could’ve made.

“This was not a Native issue; it was an issue for all children. All Alaskans want their children to be educated correctly and be given the information no matter what, but it depicts it truthfully. That’s what history is about,” Westman says.

She’s grateful for all the community members – Native and non-Native – who came together to make sure the materials were removed.

“We have been fighting these battles for a long time. Over 40 years, I’ve been doing this,” Westman says.

She hopes the district and the Alaska Native community will work together more closely from now on.

Editor’s note: An earlier version of this story said Juneau School District will be working with Sealaska to develop replacement materials. The district will be working with Sealaska Heritage Institute. 

Categories: Alaska News

Land Conservation Project Preserves Over 1,000 Acres Of Eklutna Land

Fri, 2014-12-05 17:02

Eklutna, Inc. and the Greatland Trust have partnered on a land conservation project that will preserve over 1,000 acres of Eklunta, Inc. owned land for subsistence use.

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The land is a prime area for hunting, berry picking and fishing and contains high quality salmon and migratory bird habitat.

Eklutna CEO Curtis McQueen says the deal helps balance growth and development in the Valley with land conservation and cultural values. He says the land is “conserved for future generations of Eklutna people.”

The lands will remain under Eklutna Inc. ownership for use by shareholders, but public recreation access through permits will continue. Phil Shepherd is executive director of the Greatland Trust.

“We’ve been working with Eklutna four years now on a number of projects throughout their holdings, and they are voluntary agreements that place their lands in conservation status,” Shepherd said.

Shepherd says the conservation agreement, although voluntary, is a legal agreement between a landowner and the land trust that permanently restricts future development and subdivision on the lands.

“The funding comes from a variety of sources, grant funding, and we also get funding from wetland mitigation,” Shepherd said. “We pool all those funds together and use the funds to purchase the conservation easement and then put together a land management fund.”

Shepherd says the land management fund is accessible to both Eklutna and the Trust.

Categories: Alaska News

Santa Steers Blackhawk Sleigh to Newtok

Fri, 2014-12-05 17:01

Operation Santa Claus traveled to Newtok, AK on December 4, 2014. (Photo by Ben Matheson / KYUK)

Christmas is still three weeks out, but Santa Claus made an early visit to Newtok Thursday with the help of the Alaska Army and Air National Guard.

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The explanations for why Santa is on a different schedule range from needing reindeer rest to a new global delivery scheme, but in any case he’s with the Alaska Army National Guard as they launch a Blackhawk helicopter loaded with presents to Newtok. 45 minutes later, the payload for Operation Santa Claus is here.

The community of nearly 400 located west of Bethel and is eroding into the Ningaluk River, but for the students lined up in the school gym there was only one thing that matters. The kids chanted “Santa! Santa!”
A long line of kids waited to meet Santa and Mrs. Claus and get a present. Grant Kashatok, the Newtok Principal, explains the excitement’s been building for weeks, but not without some pause.

“We have a lot of skeptics out there. A lot of them are going to say ‘Are you for real?’ That kind of thing,” said Kashatok

Indeed, six year old Nevaeh George and her classmates had a few questions.

“We’re thinking it’s fake,” said George.

That fact may not be confirmed until closer to Christmas. Dina Banez, co-chair of the Operation Santa Claus Board, says the event is only possible with the support of a long list of businesses and non-profits, presumably run by elves.

“Every child from kindergarten to high school, will get a backpack. Inside are school supplies; papers, pens, highlighters, a water bottle, some trinkets along the way,” said Banez.

Plus the presents, and new books. To top it off, Rich Owens, the self-described Chief Ice Cream Tester for Tastee Freez in Anchorage is dishing out ice cream Sundays.

“It’s been intense, it’s been great. We’ve whipped out about 240 in 40 minutes,” said Owens.

The partnership between the Guard and Santa has been going for 58 years. In 1956, St. Marys was the first community to receive a boost from the Alaska Air National Guard. Brigadier General Tim O’Brien is the Commander of the Alaska Air National Guard.

“We have armories in almost all of the outlaying communities across the state. And we’re always looking for more goods folks. But there are your neighbors, these are your friends and neighbors,” said O’Brien.

Monica Kasayuli sat in the bleachers and enjoyed the afternoon with her kids.

“This is the happiest of their lives,” said Kasayuli.

The ice cream and presents are no doubt real. But is Santa in three weeks early? After most of the town had already sat down with Santa this reporter approached Mrs. Claus and her husband on behalf of the curious students.

“Just take your hand right here, shake his hand. What’s that feel like? Is that real?”, she asked. “And his heart’s as big as they come,” said Claus.

Shishmaref was also slated for a visit from Operation Santa Claus this weekend.

Categories: Alaska News

AK: Drumline

Fri, 2014-12-05 17:00

(Photo by Anne Hillman, KSKA – Anchorage)

Imagine you’re in middle school. You don’t love math or history or any other subject. But there’s this thing you look forward to everyday after school. It’s called drumline. And a teacher at Clark Middle School thinks it can help kids learn about music and teach them some other skills too.

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After the bells rings one fall afternoon, kids flood out of Clark Middle School. But about 30 of them stay behind in the multipurpose room, preparing to practice.

They set down their backpacks, chat with their friends and strap on their drum sets. Some heft mighty bass drums while others grab sets of shiny brass cymbals. The band director walks in and within seconds the students are transformed from talkative kids to attentive musicians.

“Up then down then up again after the next paragraph and before “leading the quad..,” the director says.

(Photo by Anne Hillman, KSKA – Anchorage)

Clark Middle School has the only drumline in Anchorage, though other schools are thinking of starting them. A drumline is the percussion section of a marching band, but at Clark they play alone. The program began last year, and students can’t wait to sign up.

During practice kids sit at tables until it’s their turn to play. The school doesn’t have enough of the four different types of percussion instruments for everyone. Even in the cavernous room, the sound is overwhelming.

Leading the quad drum section is a slight, soft spoken boy named Zaci Charles. He says he’s not really into any school subjects.

“Uh… I don’t like none. I don’t really like…none,” he said.

But Zaci loves drumline, “It’s just fun. You don’t have to – there’s really no rules, just make it sound good.”

He plays the quads, a set of four drums that, unlike the other drums, have various tones and pitches.

“It’s like more complex than the other drums and stuff like that. And I like it,” he said.

Zaci also likes teaching his fellow students how to play and keeping them in line. He may not like school, but he says he wants to go to college at North Carolina A&T because of their nationally known drumline.

His friend, 8th grader Vincent Miller, plans to join him. He’s not very excited about school either, but drumming is his passion. He’s the lead snare drummer.

Vincent says he picked it because it’s like hitting a table. Vincent and Zaci have written songs together and taught them to the rest of the drumline. Vincent also offers words of wisdom.

“Like say you’re doing a stick flip, the more you worry about it, the more chance you’re gonna drop it,” he said. “If you just breathe and do it without thinking about it, you have less of a chance of dropping it.”

Band Director Adrian Carroll says the drumline kids are motivated student leaders; he’s just there to give some guidance.

“There’s no students that work harder than the students involved in drumline and some of them – they just have such a passion and fire for music,” Carroll said.

Carroll says drumline teaches the students life skills, like decision making and confidence. He’s used drumming and marching bands to inspire students in Montana, Texas, and even Costa Rica. He says for students who don’t know much about music, he has them drum to the rhythm of words.

“If it’s a five, use hippopotamus or you use hamburger if they’re doing 16th notes. So you use little words like that,” Carroll said. “Things they can relate to, that they know. and they’re like ‘oh let me just beat the drum to this beat, this word’ and it tricks them into playing music without them realizing it.”

Drumline has inspired some students to join Carroll’s band class. He says that can lead to a little chaos. Drumline is about playing as loud as possible to be heard across a football field, though in Anchorage they’re more likely to be seen at ribbon cuttings and community events. Carroll often has to remind students that band class is comparatively sedate.

“They’re breaking out the drumline dynamics and playing forte, and I’m like “alright! We’re back into a concert setting so we need to bring the volume level, let’s bring that down to a one. My amp goes one to ten. Let’s turn it to an eleven after school,” Carroll said.

In the multipurpose room, he lets the kids make some noise, then teaches them to turn it into music.

Categories: Alaska News

300 Villages: Noorvik

Fri, 2014-12-05 16:59

This week, we’re heading to Noorvik, a town of about 650 people, located near Kotzebue in Northwest Alaska. Bobby Wells is a lifelong resident and acting administrator of Noorvik.

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Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: December 5, 2014

Fri, 2014-12-05 16:58

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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Gov to Release Parnell Budget Without Endorsements

The Associated Press

Gov. Bill Walker has released his predecessor’s budget without changes and without endorsement.

Walker Administration Preparing Energy Disaster Declaration

Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN – Juneau

When Bill Walker was running for governor, addressing the cost of consumer energy was a major part of his platform.

Anchorage DJ Arraigned On Child Porn Charges

Zachariah Hughes, KSKA – Anchorage

An Anchorage DJ has been charged with five felony counts related to possessing and distributing child pornography. The case highlights Alaska law enforcement’s push to keep up with cyber crimes in a rapidly evolving digital environment.

Fire Destroys Kivalina’s Only Store

Jenn Ruckel, KNOM – Nome

A fire destroyed Kivalina’s only store early Friday morning, leaving the northwest Alaska village of 400 without all the food and supplies that were stored there.

Anchorage NAACP Hosting Peaceful Rally

Anne Hillman, KSKA – Anchorage

The Anchorage NAACP is hosting a peaceful rally on Saturday in memory of two unarmed African-American men who were killed by police in the Lower 48 over the summer.

Juneau Schools To Replace Controversial Texts With Local History

Lisa Phu, KTOO – Juneau

Juneau Schools Superintendent Mark Miller says the district will remove four controversial readers from the elementary school language arts curriculum.

Back in August, community members raised concerns about texts depicting Alaska Native and Native American tragedies. The readers were called distorted, inaccurate and insensitive.

Land Conservation Project Preserves Over 1,000 Acres Of Eklutna Land

Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage

An Alaska Native Corporation and the Great Land Trust Have Sealed a Conservation Partnership.

Santa Steers Blackhawk Sleigh to Newtok

Ben Matheson, KYUK – Bethel

Christmas is still three weeks out, but Santa Claus made an early visit to Newtok yesterday with the help of the Alaska Army and Air National Guard.

AK: Drumline

Anne Hillman, KSKA – Anchorage

Imagine you’re in middle school. You don’t love math or history or any other subject. But there’s this thing you look forward to everyday after school.  It’s called drumline. And a teacher at Clark Middle School thinks it can help kids learn about music and teach them some other skills too.

300 Villages: Noorvik

This week, we’re heading to Noorvik, a town of about 650 people, located near Kotzebue in Northwest Alaska. Bobby Wells is a lifelong resident and acting administrator of Noorvik.

Categories: Alaska News

NAACP to host peaceful rally remembering Mike Brown, Eric Garner

Fri, 2014-12-05 16:36

The Anchorage NAACP is hosting a peaceful rally on Saturday in memory of two unarmed African-American men who were killed by police in the lower 48 over the summer. NAACP President Wanda Laws says Alaskans need to be part of the national dialogue about race relations and police actions.

“We’re not immune to that. We hope that it never happens here, but we need to recognize that there needs to be a national conversation. There are people who are frightened and also we need to raise awareness that there needs to be more communication, more understanding, and actually more community involvement.”

Laws says she thinks communication between the local police force and minorities is good in Anchorage. But she says continued open communication is necessary to maintain trust within the community and prevent tragedies.

The rally will start at 2 pm on Saturday in downtown Anchorage on 3rd and Cordova. The group is memorializing two men. Eric Garner was put in a chokehold by a police officer in New York City in July and died. Mike Brown was shot by a police officer in Ferguson, Missouri. Neither officer was indicted by grand juries. People nationwide are protesting the actions and the lack of indictments.

Categories: Alaska News

Walker Releases Parnell Budget As Placeholder

Fri, 2014-12-05 16:10

Gov. Bill Walker has released his predecessor’s budget without changes and without endorsement.

Former Gov. Sean Parnell gave his budget to the Walker administration on Monday, and the Office of Management and Budget posted it on Friday.

Parnell’s budget would allocate $5.3 billion in state funding to operating expenditures, a cut of 4 percent over last year’s budget. The proposed amount for capital spending was also cut down to $200 million. Last year, Parnell first offered a budget with $400 million in capital spending, which then grew to $600 million after the Legislature added projects and Parnell signed the bill.

In a statement, Walker described Parnell’s proposal as a “starting point” to meet a budget deadline that comes two weeks after inauguration.

Pat Pitney, who was recently appointed Walker’s budget director, also said in a statement that the new governor plans to remove some of the capital projects included in Parnell’s budget. Walker has until February 18 to offer an amended budget.

With oil prices now below $70 per barrel, the state is expected to face a major revenue shortfall. If oil prices average $85 per barrel this year, the deficit is projected to exceed $3 billion.

Categories: Alaska News

Police and Deadly Force

Fri, 2014-12-05 12:00

Unrest in Ferguson, MO in August 2014.(Photo via Loavesofbread/Wikimedia Creative Commons)

If you live in a high-crime neighborhood, even if you’re just visiting, you’re under increased risk of encountering a scared police officer if your skin is dark. Does urban Alaska have a chance to avoid the problems other cities are having that involve police and deadly force?

HOST: Steve Heimel, Alaska Public Radio Network

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Categories: Alaska News

Walker Administration Preparing Energy Disaster Declaration

Fri, 2014-12-05 00:01

When Bill Walker was running for governor, addressing the cost of consumer energy was a major part of his platform. APRN’s Alexandra Gutierrez looks at his plan for the short term.

At an October debate in Fairbanks, Bill Walker made this commitment:

“The first thing I’ll do as governor, I will issue a declaration of disaster on the cost of energy in Interior Alaska.”

Walker was sworn in as governor on Monday. While he addressed the cost of energy in his inauguration speech, an economic disaster declaration for the Interior and for rural Alaska is still outstanding.

Grace Jang, a spokesperson for the governor, says his staff is currently working on the declaration, but it won’t be released this week.

“The reason it hasn’t been done right away is that he wants to have attached to the emergency declaration a clear pathway to an energy solution, and we’re in the process of looking into that,” says Jang. “He is very much aware of the promises he made during the campaign, and he will stick to those promises. The declaration is taking longer than planned because he’s working on finding a solution as well.”

Meanwhile, winter is setting in, and temperatures are starting to drop across the state. In the Fairbanks North Star Borough, the perennially high cost of heating oil is being blamed for a rise in home foreclosures, and the state is considering stricter rules on the use of wood stoves to reduce air pollution.

Borough Mayor Luke Hopkins participated in Walker’s consumer energy transition committee. He says that given the economic and health impacts of the high energy costs, a disaster declaration would be symbolically important to his community.

“We aren’t going to get the help from this FEMA group or that federal group because we’re saying our energy prices are high,” says Hopkins. “But what it does is it puts a marker, well planted, that everybody should be paying attention to.”

An economic disaster declaration would also enable — but not necessarily guarantee — state assistance for energy relief. Hopkins says one thing the state could do would be to create financial incentives for people to use heating oil — which is more expensive — over wood, if they have dual heating systems.

“The governor’s not going to come in necessarily with a wheelbarrow of, ‘here’s all your money,’ but there’s processes I think could be put in place,” says Hopkins.

Hopkins says he would like to see a sustained effort to bring natural gas to Fairbanks. If that happens, it would be the financial equivalent of paying $2 a gallon on heating fuel.

Jack Hébert, who runs the Cold Climate Housing Research Center and led Walker’s consumer energy transition committee, also believes the state is at a crisis point with its energy costs.

“Anyone living outside an area in this state that is not served by natural gas or hydropower is suffering,” says Hébert.

A drop in oil prices on the global market is expected to offer some relief to Alaska consumers. In Fairbanks, the price of heating fuel is hovering above $3.50 a gallon. Heating fuel prices have fallen below $3 per gallon in the Lower 48.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: December 4, 2014

Thu, 2014-12-04 17:47

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

Alaska Communications Sells Wireless Customer Base To GCI

Josh Edge, APRN – Anchorage

General Communications, Inc. – or GCI – will purchase Alaska Communications’ cell phone customer base. The $300 million purchase should be finalized by the end of March 2015.

Community Showing Support For Vandalized Anchorage Church

Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage

An historic Anchorage landmark has been vandalized, and police are saying little about the incident.

DEC Gets Feedback on Fairbanks Air Quality Plan

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

State Department of Environmental Conservation officials have been in Fairbanks this week sharing information and taking public feedback on a plan for getting the area into compliance with federal air quality standards.

UAF Student Found Dead

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

A University of Alaska Fairbanks student is dead, the apparent victim of an accident.

State’s New Attorney General To Review Gay Marriage Case, Guard Issues

The Associated Press

Alaska’s new attorney general says he will view litigation over same-sex marriage in the state strictly along constitutional lines.

Alaska’s Top Military Commander Checks In After A Year On The Job

Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage

Alaska’s top military commander, Lieutenant General Russell Handy has been on the job here for more than a year. He’s overseeing ALCOM at a time when the U.S relationship with Russia has been frosty. In September, Russian military flights that were within 50 miles of the Alaskan and Canadian coast lines caused enough concern JBER sent F22s to intercept them. Lt General Handy says the Russian flights did not cross into the 12 mile international boundary zone and were not considered hostile.

Hoonah Sound’s Herring Spawn-on-Kelp Fishery Will Remain Closed in 2015

Robert Woolsey, KCAW – Sitka

The herring spawn-on-kelp fishery in Hoonah Sound will remain closed in the 2015 season – for the second year in a row. The Alaska Department of Fish & Game announced the closure this week.

Alexandria House Project Hits Permitting Snags

Annie Ropeik, KUCB – Unalaska

Plans to turn an old bar into a way to raise money for emergency housing in Unalaska are slowing down. That’s after the city discovered that the nonprofit Alexandria House had worked on the project all year without a building permit.

Bryan Bearss Named as Substitute for Injured Musher Karin Hendrickson

Phillip Manning, KTNA – Talkeetna

Iditarod musher Karin Hendrickson is on the road to recovery. She will miss the 2015 race, but her dogs will not.

Categories: Alaska News

Anchorage Police Investigate Church Vandalism

Thu, 2014-12-04 17:26

An historic Anchorage landmark has been vandalized, and police are saying little about the incident. Late Tuesday afternoon, Anchorage police were contacted by a staffer at the Holy Family Cathedral regarding a burglary and vandalism that had taken place at the church that day.

Police say the vandals overturned pews, and the pulpit, and other furniture, broke statues and ripped out part of the churches audio system. It does not appear that there was forced entry into the church. Church staff believe the incident happened between 2:30 and 4:30 Tuesday afternoon.

APD spokeswoman Jennifer Castro says police are seeking more information on the case.

Father Steven Moore, with the Archdiocese of Anchorage, says that the vandalism appeared to be random.

“The police are still investigating, but it appears to be more an act of just kind of random, violent vandalism. It does not seem to be motivated by any anti-religious sentiment that we can discern, at least at this point. “

Father Moore  says he is not aware that anything was stolen.

The vandalism highlights a concern by church officials regarding the policy of leaving church doors unlocked.  He  says  that the church remains unlocked and open to the public during the day. Father  Moore says it is a challenge balancing the open door policy with risk to church property.  He says that any decision to change that policy is up to the staff at the cathedral.

“I think everybody would say, that the last option that we would pursue, the last thing that we would want to do is to not have the cathedral open or to restrict the opening of the cathedral. It is a discussion that we are having.”

Father Moore says, however, he is getting positive feedback from the community

“There’s been a real kind of outpouring of concern and an outpouring of people who appreciate the presence of the cathedral and the presence of the Dominicans and downtown and what they are doing, and really are concerned about it. And it’s coming from people from all kinds of faiths and no particular faith and they are concerned and upset. And that’s been really, a real encouraging thing.”"

The church’s location downtown is close to the city’s bus station and local businesses.

Holy Family Cathedral is the first church built in Anchorage, and will mark it’s one hundredth anniversary next year. The church was built in 1915, at the request of railroad workers. The landmark building once hosted Pope John Paul II during his historic visit to Alaska in 1981.

Categories: Alaska News

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