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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: 4 min 24 sec ago

Groups Push To Mobilize Alaska Native Voters

Mon, 2014-10-13 17:45

Over the last few months, the non-partisan ‘Get Out the Native Vote’ has made a big push to mobilize native voters across the Alaska. Roughly one in five potential voters in the state is Alaska Native. A number of native organizations have signed on to help with the movement.

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Categories: Alaska News

Protesters Block Access To BC Mine As It Nears Completion

Mon, 2014-10-13 17:44

A nearly-completed British Columbia mine in the Stikine River watershed is expected to begin full production at the end of this month. Meanwhile, protesters blocking access to the controversial Red Chris mine may be forced out Tuesday.

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Imperial Metals owns the Mount Polley Mine in eastern British Columbia, where an August tailings dam break spilled an estimated 2 billion gallons of silty water into the Fraser River watershed.

Now, Imperial’s Red Chris Mine, near the Southeast Alaska border, is raising concerns with groups on both sides of the border.

The Klabona Keepers, a group of Tahltan First Nation members living near that mine, are blockading its access road.

Red Chris’ owners were recently granted a temporary injunction against the blockade.

But Klabona Keepers spokesperson Rhoda Quock said that order is still a victory.

“For one, the companies usually walk into the courtroom, they get their court injunction, and they get their enforcement order. What they didn’t count on is that we had people in Vancouver to go into the courtroom and challenge it. And they didn’t get their enforcement order that day,” Quock said.

The Red Chris copper and gold mine is in the Stikine River watershed, upriver from Wrangell and Petersburg. Groups on both sides of the border are worried its tailings dam might be too similar to the one that spilled contaminated water and sediment into the Fraser River system.

For now, Klabona Keepers protesters continue blockading at the mine. When the enforcement order goes into effect, the police can act on the injunction and force them to leave.

An earlier blockade of the mine ended with an agreement between the Klabona Keepers, Imperial Metals and the Tahltan Central Council.

Protesters left the mine in August when Imperial Metals agreed to pay for an independent review of the Red Chris tailings dam. The Tahltan Central Council chose the reviewer. British Columbia will not issue final permits for the tailings dam until the review is complete.

The review is still pending, but protesters returned two weeks ago.

Quock said the blockade went back up after the group learned more about the impact of the Mount Polley dam breach.

“Red Chris is only 18 kilometers from our community. And not only that, once the dam breaks, it’s going to go into [the] Klappan. [The] Klappan goes into [the] Stikine. And that will affect our salmon,” Quock said. “It will also affect everyone downstream; it will affect their salmon.”

Vancouver-based Imperial Metals did not respond to requests for an interview.

In its injunction application, the company stated, “Red Chris has been forced to severely limit its construction activities at the project site, and if the blockade continues, will be forced to halt them altogether.”

Categories: Alaska News

Gubernatorial Candidates Square Off Over Medicaid Expansion

Mon, 2014-10-13 17:43

When Alaskans vote for governor on Nov. 4, they’ll also be deciding the fate of Medicaid expansion in the state. Incumbent Governor Sean Parnell has said he won’t expand the federal health insurance program under the Affordable Care Act. But his opponent, Independent candidate Bill Walker says if elected, he will immediately accept the federal money.

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Categories: Alaska News

Sen. Murkowski, Julie Fate Sullivan Bring Senate Campaign To Bethel

Mon, 2014-10-13 17:42

Just weeks before the November election, the Sullivan campaign has come to Bethel.

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As former Attorney General and Natural Resources Commissoiner Dan Sullivan works to unseat incumbent Senator Mark Begich, he’s yet to visit the Y-K Delta, in his year-long campaign, but plans to soon. In the meantime, his wife, Julie Fate Sullivan, was here on his behalf last week to introduce her husband to Southwest Alaskan voters. Despite a career spent in urban Alaska and Washington D.C., Fate Sullivan says her husband first connected with the state at her family’s Yukon fish camp.

“24 years ago, that’s the first place I ever brought him. To get up there and work with all of us, that’s the first part of Alaska Dan came to know and love, long before Anchorage or Fairbanks…we’d go into Fairbanks to pick up supplies. So he’s got a deep respect and understanding of rural Alaska, more than most people know,” said Fate Sullivan.

Fate Sullivan is Koyukon Athabascan, and has deep connections in the state. She’s worked as a journalist and as a staffer for the late Senator Ted Stevens. Her mother was the first female co-chair of the Alaska Federation of Natives. And Sullivan also had the support of a powerful surrogate in Bethel: Senator Lisa Murkowski, who’s filmed one commercial for him.

“I need a partner who will work to advance Alaska’s interests, not the Obama agenda,” said Murkowksi in the campaign ad.

Fate Sullivan accompanied Murkowski to the Association of Village Council President’s Convention in Bethel Tuesday. Murkowki addressed the Convention during her visit but also fit in some campaigning for Sullivan. Senator Begich also addressed the AVCP convention and campaigned in Bethel last week.

The national implications of the race are not lost on the outside donors pouring millions into the race. If Republicans take six seats from Democrats in November, they will control the senate. Murkowski, as the ranking member of the Senate’s Energy and Interior Appropriations committee, would become Chair, and that becomes part of her campaign pitch.

“We stand to gain a great deal from the seniority position and chairmanship position that I would hold. That’ something that Alaskans should consider when they look at this race,” said Murkowski.

The rural vote was essential to Murkowski’s successful 2010 write-in campaign. But to connect with rural voters, Murkowski says, candidates have to be here in person.

“There’s no substitute for being on the ground, with the people, and being part of the people,” said Murkowski.

Although Sullivan was not part of the people at the region’s largest gathering of tribal leaders last week, sending his wife as his proxy, was a first step.

“It’s a better understanding of who he is. We’re a family obviously. When people realize that not only am I born and raised in Alaska, but I’m Alaska Native, there’s a better understanding. Like I said, there’s a lot of misinformation out there,” said Fate Sullivan.

Dan Sullivan is set to be on the ground in Bethel on Friday, October 17th where he’s scheduled to speak at the Chamber of Commerce luncheon, among other campaign activities.

Categories: Alaska News

Judge Sides With Anchorage In Ride-Sharing Lawsuit

Mon, 2014-10-13 17:41

A state court judge says ride-sharing company Uber cannot offer transportation for hire in Alaska’s largest city unless it complies with a local ordinance.

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Superior Court Judge Michael Corey issued an order Monday barring the company from charging people for rides in Anchorage unless it uses regulated vehicles and otherwise complies with municipal law regarding for-hire vehicles.

Corey ruled in a case brought by the municipality of Anchorage.

Uber provides a smartphone app that allows people to order rides in privately driven cars instead of taxis.

Corey, in his order, said Uber had not been charging riders for transportation it arranged but had the capability to charge at any time before his ruling.

A phone listing for an Uber attorney rang unanswered Monday afternoon.

Categories: Alaska News

Leaders Gather In Bethel To Discuss Rural, State, Federal Issues

Mon, 2014-10-13 17:40

Leaders from around the state gathered in Bethel last week for the 50th Annual Association of Village Council Presidents Convention.

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Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: October 13, 2014

Mon, 2014-10-13 17:30

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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Same-Sex Couples Apply For Marriage Licenses, State Asks For A Stay

Anne Hillman, KSKA – Anchorage

After a federal judge decided Sunday that Alaska’s same-sex marriage ban was unconstitutional. The State of Alaska started accepting applications for gay marriages this morning, but the state’s Attorney General is asking for a stay on that legal decision, which would put a hold on actually issuing any licenses.

Gubernatorial Candidates Spar Over Same-Sex Marriage Decision

Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN – Juneau

Following a federal court decision overturning Alaska’s ban on same-sex marriage, the major candidates for governor are sparring over the appropriate response.

Bureau of Vital Statistics Prepares New Marriage License Documents

Lisa Phu, KTOO – Juneau

With same-sex couples applying for marriage licenses across the state, the office that processes those documents made sure new applications were ready to go Monday morning.

Report Details Rural Health Care Challenges

The Associated Press

A new report details the challenges involved in providing health care to rural communities in Alaska.

Groups Push To Mobilize Alaska Native Voters

Emily Schwing, KUAC – Fairbanks

Over the last few months, the non-partisan ‘Get Out the Native Vote’ has made a big push to mobilize native voters across the Alaska.  Roughly one in five potential voters in the state is Alaska Native. A number of native organizations have signed on to help with the movement.

Protesters Block Access To BC Mine As It Nears Completion

Katarina Sostaric, KSTK – Wrangell

A nearly-completed British Columbia mine in the Stikine River watershed is expected to begin full production at the end of this month. Meanwhile, protesters blocking access to the controversial Red Chris mine may be forced out Tuesday.

Gubernatorial Candidates Square Off Over Medicaid Expansion

Annie Feidt, APRN – Anchorage

When Alaskans vote for governor on Nov. 4, they’ll also be deciding the fate of Medicaid expansion in the state. Incumbent Governor Sean Parnell has said he won’t expand the federal health insurance program under the Affordable Care Act. But his opponent, Independent candidate Bill Walker says if elected, he will immediately accept the federal money.

Sen. Murkowski, Julie Fate Sullivan Bring Senate Campaign To Bethel
Ben Matheson, KYUK – Bethel

Just weeks before the November election, the Sullivan campaign has come to Bethel.

Judge Sides With Anchorage In Ride-Sharing Lawsuit

The Associated PRess

A state court judge says ride-sharing company Uber cannot offer transportation for hire in Alaska’s largest city unless it complies with a local ordinance.

Leaders Gather In Bethel To Discuss Rural, State, Federal Issues

Daysha Eaton, KYUK – Bethel

Leaders from around the state gathered in Bethel last week for the 50th Annual Association of Village Council Presidents Convention.

Categories: Alaska News

Same-Sex Marriage is Legal in Alaska

Sun, 2014-10-12 21:01

A federal judge legalized same-sex marriage in Alaska on Sunday. Governor Sean Parnell said in a press release he will appeal the ruling in order to “defend and uphold the law and the Alaska Constitution.”

Judge Timothy Burgess found that the same-sex marriage ban was a violation of both due process and equal protection under the 14th amendment. He ordered the state to immediately start issuing marriage licenses to same-sex couples and to recognize legal marriages from other states.

Same-sex marriage bans in Nevada and Idaho were overturned last week by the Ninth Circuit Court, which oversees Alaska. The Supreme Court declined to hear appeals for other rulings legalizing same-sex marriage.

The Division of Public Health says they will not waive the three-day waiting people for getting a marriage license, however they will start accepting applications from same-sex couples immediately.

Same-sex marriage is now legal in a majority of the country.

 

 

 

 

Categories: Alaska News

Judge to rule on same-sex marriage in Alaska “soon”

Fri, 2014-10-10 16:59

Same-sex marriage supporters stand in the rain outside of the federal courthouse after the hearing. Hillman/KSKA

Same-sex marriage is not legal in Alaska — yet. The US District Court judge chose not to make a decision today after hearing oral arguments from both the state and a group of couples who are fighting the marriage ban.

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The arguments were complicated by the recent 9th District Court decision in the case Latta v. Otter that overturned the same-sex marriage ban in Idaho. Alaska is within the 9th Circuit, so that decision holds here as well.

The Idaho decision says that same-sex marriage bans violate the Equal Protection Clause of the 14th Amendment because straight couples have the right to marry but same-sex couples do not. The plaintiffs argue that same-sex couples don’t have the same rights when buying property, visiting each other in the hospital, or even seeking a divorce.

The state tried to argue that Idaho decision could be overruled by a higher court especially since marriages there were put on hold because of a stay. That stay was overturned by the U.S. Supreme Court as today’s oral arguments were concluding in Alaska.

The judge and the attorneys all referenced and joked about the complex, fast changing legal landscape surround same-sex marriage.

Alison Mendel argued the case on behalf of the couples. She says she’s been working on this issue for 25 years, and she sees this as a done deal.

“It was very enjoyable. You know we came into this pretty confident we were gonna win. When the Latta decision was decided, we knew we were gonna win. So this was just an argument about the details, but it’s still very satisfying anyway.”

The State declined to make comments on the case beyond what they argued in front of the judge, which could not be recorded.

Many of the people who packed the courtroom and spilled into an overflow room gathered in front of the courthouse after the hearing.

Josh Hemsath is with the Pride Foundation in Alaska. He said he’s hopeful.

“As an Alaskan, I think it’s really exciting that we’re not being left behind. we’re not the last state to get heard, with the momentum on our side and being on the right side of history.”

Judge Timothy Burgess said he would issue a decision soon.

Categories: Alaska News

Elections Chief: Parties Say What They Want in Voter Pamphlet

Fri, 2014-10-10 16:58

The Division of Elections voter pamphlet is arriving in mailboxes across the state. Way in the back is a page that caught some voters by surprise. It’s a negative ad against Sen. Mark Begich. The ad itself is standard fare in this election. But Mary Toutonghi  a retired speech pathologist from Soldotna, says it has no place the voter pamphlet, which she thinks of as a source of non-partisan information.

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“The idea of actually attacking somebody — Doing an attack ad in neutral pamphlet is just absolutely egregious,” she says.

The Republican Party of Alaska paid for the ad.  Alaska Elections Director Gail Fenumiai says state law lays out the rules for ads in the pamphlet.

“The parties are allowed to purchase two pages and there’s nothing in law that limits what they can include in their materials,” she says.

State law even sets the price:  Political parties pay $600 per page. She says she doesn’t know whether the pamphlet has ever carried negative ads before.

Most parties run a one-page ad staking out their platform. The Republican Party does that, but in recent years has also bought a second page, showing children running a lemonade stand or holding puppies. This year, it decided to devote the second page to the Senate race. State party chair Peter Goldberg says it went negative because it had to prepare the ad before the Primary election, before they knew Dan Sullivan would be the Republican nominee.

“(It) had to be kind of a generic ‘let’s attack Begich but we don’t know who to support,’” Goldberg says

The pamphlet cost the state about $200,000 to print. This year, the state paid an extra $45,000 for a supplemental because the original publication left out gubernatorial candidate Bill Walker. The Elections Division says, due to administrative oversight,  it failed to send him a follow-up letter with details about how to submit his statement.

 

 

 

Categories: Alaska News

Begich Campaign Believes Race Comes Down To Rural Alaska

Fri, 2014-10-10 16:57

Just weeks before voters decide the future make up of the U.S. Senate, Bethel residents heard what might be the start of the final push by the incumbent Senator.

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Begich is trailing Republican challenger Dan Sullivan in several polls and is gambling on gaining an edge off the beaten path.

“So I make it very clear that rural Alaska and more specifically Alaska Native people will determine the outcome of this election, no question about it,” said Begich.

Begich’s campaign repeats that statement over and over, including in a friendly reception at the annual Association of Village Council Presidents Convention in Bethel Thursday. He hopes delegates and volunteers there will bring his pitch to 56 villages, but he’s also banking on a small paid staff. Begich stopped at his Bethel field office, one of 16, which are responsible for delivering votes in the Y-K Delta and the Aleutian chain.

A couple dozen supporters eat chili and sign up volunteers for door knocking calling at a table full of berry buckets with his logo on them. Bethel resident Betsy Taguchi signed on to help.

“I think the race might be close, we could be the tipping point we’ve been a little, sit back about things over the years, and haven’t gotten out the vote the way we could have, and I think this year needs to be different,” said Taguchi.

Republican challenger Dan Sullivan is slated to make his first campaign stop in the Delta in the next couple weeks. His wife, Julie Fate Sullivan attended the AVCP convention and campaigned locally.

As Begich leaves his campaign office to catch the jet back to Anchorage, he contrasts his ground presence with his opponent’s and lists his visits over the years

“I was out here when I was [Anchorage] mayor, I was out here as an assembly member almost 25 years, ago, it’s a great community. I’ve been in the great parade on the 4th of July parade that starts on one end and it ends in the same place,” said Begich.

Begich did well on the Kuskowkwim in his 2008 election, winning over Senator Ted Stevens by a two-to-one margin in the region. He stands to gain from more turnout and is pushing hard for early voting, which starts October 20th. He says his ground game for election day is high tech and low tech.

“Our people who work for us and volunteers will be working the vote and the people every single day as soon as early voting starts. It’s not as simple as dial up and call people, that will be part of it, some will physically go to their doors and remind them, especially in small communities.”

Election day is November 4th.

Categories: Alaska News

Former Juneau Resident Sets New Pre-Teen Book Series In Alaska

Fri, 2014-10-10 16:56

“Carly Keene, Literary Detective: Braving the Brontes” is the first book of writer Katherine Rue. Rue now lives in North Carolina but often visits Juneau, where her parents, Sally and Frank Rue, still live. (Photo courtesy of Katherine Rue)

Born and raised in Juneau, writer Katherine Rue used her childhood as fodder for a recently published book for middle school readers.

“Braving the Brontes” is the first in a series that introduces “Carly Keene, Literary Detective” – a Juneau girl whose adventurous spirit allows her to brave time travel, ghosts and Victorian England.

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Any Southeast Alaskan who picks up “Braving the Brontes” will notice what footwear the protagonist is wearing on the cover – XTRATUFs.

Katherine Rue made sure the book’s New York illustrator had an idea of where 12-year-old Carly Keene is from.

“I sent him a picture of my XTRATUFs. Then I sent him a picture of a tent set up in the marsh in Alaska. ‘Here’s the kind of mountains I’m talking about. Here’s what the water and the mountains and islands look like together. And just so you know, people from Juneau don’t use umbrellas. We all make fun of them. She needs a raincoat on the front’ – that kind of thing,” Rue says lightheartedly.

Published by New York-based In This Together Media, the book begins and ends in present day Juneau. It takes an interesting turn when Carly is walking downtown with her best friend Francesca.

“They go into a bookshop they’ve never seen down a little alleyway they’ve never seen when they’re walking home from getting hot cocoa downtown. And she’s reading a first edition of ‘Jane Eyre’ and falls asleep, and wakes up in 1846,” Rue says.

Carly finds herself in the home of the Bronte sisters in England as Charlotte Bronte is trying to write the classic “Jane Eyre.” Carly is stuck there until she can solve a mystery involving the literary family.

Rue mirrored the fictional Carly after herself as a young girl – someone who read a lot of books, spent a lot of time outdoors and romanticized the past. She says it was important to have Carly be an adventurous, independent Alaskan girl.

“Challenges that Carly faces are things that she feels better prepared to deal with because she is Alaskan, like how they approach situations, like a chamber pot,” Rue says.

Braving the Brontes is geared for kids ages 9 to 14. Rue warns there is some challenging vocabulary that parents may need to decipher. The book also references many other great works of literature besides those written by the Bronte sisters. But Rue doesn’t expect her readers to have read “Jane Eyre” or to know who the Bronte sisters are.

“The goal with this was to sort of say, ‘Hey, you’ve probably read ‘Anne of Green Gables’ or the Narnia books, ‘Harry Potter’ and you’re looking for something else to read. Here’s what’s coming up and it’s really fun.’ Sort of introduce readers to the possibilities that they’re going to get to in a few years,” Rue says.

In the next book of the series, Carly and best friend Francesca find themselves in 1862 during the Civil War Battle of Fredericksburg where Louisa May Alcott is a nurse.

Writing the series allows Rue to explore a childhood fantasy. She was always waiting for her turn to walk through the wardrobe into Narnia. She says she’s still waiting.

Categories: Alaska News

Upper Valley Residents Remember Barbara Washburn

Fri, 2014-10-10 16:55

Recently, Barbara Washburn passed away at the age of 99. She was the first woman to set foot on the summit of Denali, but her legacy in the Talkeetna area has as much to do with who she was as what she did.

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Barbara and Brad Washburn’s adventure together began in New England.  Ken Pauley, who worked with the Washburns at the Museum of Science in Boston, explains how they met.

Barbara Washburn/ (Photo: Museum of Science, Boston)

“She was his secretary.  Needless to say, over time, there was a relationship developed.  They spent a lot of time together, and became husband and wife…”

After Brad and Barbara were married in 1940, Ken Pauley says it was not common to see them apart.

“They were inseparable. Whither he or she went, they went together.”

That led to shared adventures around the world, from the Grand Canyon to Mt. Everest.  One such adventure occurred in 1947, when the Washburns were part of an expedition on Denali.  RKO films documented the expedition in the short, “Operation: White Tower.”

Not only had no women summited North America’s highest peak as of 1947, but Mountaineering Ranger Roger Robinson says that Barbara Washburn may have been the first to even try.

“Essentially, she was the only woman along, and one of the first women, probably ever, to venture into the Alaska Range on a climbing trip.”

The expedition was a success, and Barbara Washburn was the first woman to set foot on Denali’s summit.  Mountain guide Brian Okonek says that her fortitude went even further, however.

“She must have been tough as nails on the trail, because she not only did Denali…but she did both summits, and did the first summit of Mt. Hayes…”

Being the first woman to summit Denali cemented Barbara Washburn’s place in mountaineering history.    The fame that earns someone in a place like Talkeetna is self-evident, but Diane Calamar-Okonek says that didn’t translate back on the East Coast.

“They enjoyed their notoriety here, which Barbara said they didn’t have at all at home.  They were just regular people, and her friends didn’t particularly know that she had been a climber or done all of these amazing things in Alaska.  They had no clue.”

A big part of the reason that Barbara Washburn’s fame was somewhat subdued outside of the mountaineering community is that she didn’t talk about it much, as former Denali National Park Ranger Daryl Miller explains.

“She was so understudied.  She was always so gracious, and accomplished so much, but never really said much about anything she did as a climber.  If she did, or was asked about it, she would always downplay it.”

More important than fame to Barbara Washburn were individual relationships. Diane Calamar-Okonek says that people were a big part of what drew Barbara to climbing.

“One thing she really enjoyed was the camaraderie of climbing.  When we had a woman here who soloed Denali, her first reaction was, ‘Oh, what’s wrong?  Doesn’t she have any friends?’”

That sense of friendship and camaraderie extended well after Barbara Washburn’s relatively brief climbing career. Roger Robinson says that the Washburns made a priority of befriending many people in the Talkeetna area.

“The people that lived here were like family to her.  When she would come, they were always keen on looking up a lot of people and making connections.”

That sense of family holds especially true for Taras Genet.  Taras is the son of Ray Genet, an accomplished climber who died while descending Mt. Everest in 1979. Taras says his relationship with the Washburns was very close.

“My dad had passed away when I was only a year-and-a-half old, and they were kind of surrogate grandparents in some sort of way, because they gave my mom a lot of support, and they always connected with us when they did come up…”

In addition to helping his family after the loss of Ray, Taras Genet says the Washburns served as an inspiration.

“They were just so full of energy.  The things they were doing, most people just don’t have that kind of energy, especially in their older age.  They just never slowed down.”

Taras would go on to summit Denali at the age of twelve, making him, at that point, the youngest person to do so.

Brian Okonek also says that the Washburns’ sense of adventure never seemed to fade, and that, during conversations, they were, “always watching over their shoulder at the weather, because they never, ever skipped an opportunity to go on yet another flight around the mountain.”

Barbara Washburn passed away on September 25th in Lexington, Massachusetts.  November 10th would have marked her 100th birthday.  Here, in the shadow of Denali, she won’t be soon forgotten.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: October 10, 2014

Fri, 2014-10-10 16:48

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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Judge Hears Oral Arguments In Lawsuit Challenging Same-Sex Marriage Ban

Anne Hillman, KSKA – Anchorage

Same-sex marriage is not legal in Alaska – yet. The U.S. District Court judge chose not to make a decision Friday after hearing oral arguments from both the State and a group of couples who are fighting the marriage ban.

Elections Chief: Parties Say What They Want in Voter Pamphlet

Liz Ruskin, APRN – Washington DC

The Division of Elections voter pamphlet is arriving in mailboxes across the state. Way in the back is a page that caught some voters by surprise. It’s a negative ad against Sen. Mark Begich. The ad itself is standard fare in this election.

Begich Campaign Believes Race Comes Down To Rural Alaska

Ben Matheson, KYUK – Bethel

Just weeks before voters decide the future make up of the U.S. Senate, Bethel residents heard what might be the start of the final push by the incumbent Senator.

Legislation Planned To Strengthen Alaska’s Public Records Act

Mike Mason, KDLG – Dillingham

A vocal critic of the current administration of Alaska Governor Sean Parnell plans to introduce legislation next year to strengthen the Alaska Public Records Act.

Upper Valley Residents Remember Barbara Washburn

Phillip Manning, KTNA – Talkeetna

Recently, Barbara Washburn passed away at the age of 99.  She was the first woman to set foot on the summit of Denali, but her legacy in the Talkeetna area has as much to do with who she was as what she did.

AK: Bodybuilding

Anne Hillman, KSKA – Anchorage

The sport is usually associated with steroids, spray tans, and bizarrely bulging muscles. But for some competitors in Alaska, drug-free body building isn’t about vanity, it’s about therapy. After 24 years as an army ranger and a grueling tour in Afghanistan, Frank Loomis retired, joined the police, and started having a mid-life crisis. His solution? Start training with Mr. Alaska.

300 Villages: Igiugig

This week, we’re heading to Igiugig, a community of just 69 people on Lake Iliamna. Alexanna Salmon is President of Igiugig Village Council in Igiugig.

Categories: Alaska News

300 Villages: Igiugig

Fri, 2014-10-10 16:36

This week, we’re heading to Igiugig, a community of just 69 people on Lake Iliamna. Alexanna Salmon is President of Igiugig Village Council in Igiugig.

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Categories: Alaska News

AK: Bodybuilding

Fri, 2014-10-10 16:35

The sport is usually associated with steroids, spray tans and bizarrely bulging muscles, but for some competitors in Alaska, drug-free bodybuilding isn’t about vanity, it’s about therapy.

After 24 years as an Army Ranger and a grueling tour in Afghanistan, Frank Loomis retired, joined the police and started having a mid-life crisis. His solution? Start training with Mr. Alaska. KSKA’s Anne Hillman followed Loomis from training to his first masters level competition.

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Personal trainer Al Wilson calls out instructions to 54-year-old Frank Loomis at one of the gyms on JBER.

“Ok, gentlemen, prepare for a front, double bicep. Roll open. Roll open in a wide circular motion. Pull those elbows back,” Wilson said.

Loomis is preparing to enter his first masters competition and he has just two more days to perfect his look.  He tries to smile as he stands in awkward poses that accentuate different muscle groups. His goal is to look like a human anatomy model, and even subtle things help.

“Squeeze them butt cheeks, squeeze them butt cheeks, flex, flex. There you go! Hold it. Breathe. Head up,” Wilson said.

Frank Loomis (left) poses against competitors at the Anchorage Pro-Am Bodybuilding competition. (Photo by Anne Hillman, KSKA – Anchorage)

Even dressed in a sweatshirt and a track suit, Loomis looks well-groomed. His clean-cut, stark white hair and black rimmed spectacles show his age more than his thick-set body. Clothed, you can tell he’s fit, but you would never know he’s a body builder until he flashes a calf with more definition than a Michelangelo sculpture.

Loomis says Wilson inspired him to push his body to a new limit.

“I love this man,” Loomis said. “He showed me…basically my stomach was way out to here.”

“He basically looked pregnant,” Wilson said.

But since they started training together, stocky Loomis has lost more than 40 pounds. He says he wasn’t always overweight, especially when he was an Army Ranger.

“I was skinny, had no hair, cocky, and fearless,” Loomis said.

Frank Loomis practices posing with his trainer, Al Wilson. (Photo by Anne Hillman, KSKA – Anchorage)

He enlisted straight out of high school in 1980. Over the decades, he was stationed in Grenada, Panama, Thailand and Korea. Then in 2002 he was sent to Afghanistan.

“Unfortunately we got sloppy one time and we got engaged and were in a fire fight,” Loomis said. “It’s just one of those things I don’t like talking about. It’s why I still don’t go hunting these days.”

Loomis says he was diagnosed with PTSD and took a desk job training other soldiers. When the Army asked him to go back to Afghanistan in 2004, he decided to retire instead. He joined the police force at JBER and he still worked out some to manage his anger, but he was depressed and just let his body go. Then he hit his 50s and his midlife crisis.

“It was either a new sports car and a new girlfriend, or go to the gym and competing,” Loomis said. “So I’m competing.”

Loomis says he met the world’s strongest man, and then Wilson, a former bodybuilding champion, and he felt inspired. He wants to achieve some of what they have, though it takes discipline. Every morning he lifts weights and every afternoon he does two to three hours of cardio exercise. Loomis hasn’t eaten dairy or unhealthy carbs for about four months.

“I’m dreaming of pizzas chasing me,” he said.

By the end of the practice, Loomis says he feels confident, like he’s a good role model for all the young kids he works with on the police force.

On Saturday morning he shows up for the competition, ready to impress the judges with his new body.

Loomis quickly befriends 63-year-old Grand Master Ken Babich. They stand around in their tiny, shiny bikini shorts.

“You know it’s good thing I didn’t wear my blue shorts,” Babich said, laughing. “That would have been awkward.”

Frank Loomis (second from left) competes in the Anchorage Pro-Am Natural Bodybuilding competition. (Photo by Anne Hillman, KSKA – Anchorage)

Babich shows Loomis how to properly apply oil to his newly bronzed skin and gives him tips on his presentation. For the older folks, the competition is less fierce.

“So if you hear me talking to you, I’m not trying to make you laugh. I’m just saying like “lean back,” Babich said.

“No, perfect,” Loomis said.

“They’re not going to say anything,” Babich said. “We’re senior citizens here.”

“I know I told them I had to check in my cane when I came in,” Loomis laughed.

And finally it’s time.

“So let’s bring out the Master’s Class in the Anchorage Pro-Am,” a competition official said as the audience applauded.

They stand in front of the panel of judges, turning on all sides, flexing their abs, lats, and triceps. The judges are looking for muscle definition and symmetry. The whole thing takes about five minutes.

“I hope I did ok out there,” Loomi said.

“How do you feel?” I asked.

“I don’t know for sure, because it was so quick,” Loomis said. “And you couldn’t see your competitors.”

“But I had fun; it was great.”

Frank Loomis posing backstage. (Photo by Anne Hillman, KSKA – Anchorage)

Loomis waits all day to hear the results at the evening show. He takes third place out of three. But if last place bothers him, Loomis doesn’t show it.

“I’m good. I’m happy,” Loomis said. “I came from a broke man when I retired to a healthy man now. Healthier…and wiser.”

Loomis puts on some clothes and heads out to get a pizza. He has a few weeks off before he starts gearing up to compete for Mr. Alaska in April.

Categories: Alaska News

U.S. Senate Race: Mark Begich

Fri, 2014-10-10 12:00

Sen. Mark Begich addresses the Alaska State Legislature on Monday, March 3, 2014. (Skip Gray/ Gavel Alaska)

Six years ago, Mark Begich narrowly won his position as a U.S. Senator for Alaska. Now Senator Begich is in a fight to keep that seat with a strong challenge from former Attorney General and DNR Commissioner Dan Sullivan.

APRN offered Republican U.S. Senate candidate Dan Sullivan an hour-long Talk of Alaska on Wednesday, Oct. 15, but his campaign staff declined the invitation, saying their schedule wouldn’t allow the time.

HOST: Lori Townsend, Alaska Public Radio Network

GUESTS:

  • Sen. Mark Begich, Democratic U.S. Senate 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 14, 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

Woman Who Survived Plane Crash Dies in ATV Crash

Fri, 2014-10-10 10:37

Photo courtesy Alaska State Troopers.

St. Mary’s Troopers responded to a fatal ATV crash in Marshall Wednesday. The woman killed is the survivor of a plan crash in 2013.

An investigation found that 26-year-old Melanie Coffee, of Marshall died after hitting a tree on the Old Airport Road just outside town.

Megan Peters is a spokesperson for the Alaska State Troopers.

“The wreck was not witnessed. It is believed that it was at a high rate of speed and she went airborne and then hit a tree. She was found the next day by villagers who then called troopers and then we responded out there to do the on scene investigation.”

Coffee was one of six survivors of a plane crash near St. Mary’s in November 2013 that killed four other people. The Association of Village Council Presidents honored Coffee posthumously at their convention in Bethel Thursday where Vivian Korthuis with AVCP presented members of her tribe with a special award for her bravery.

“Melanie Coffee, despite being injured herself walked through the snow and tangles of brush to reach the road and direct the first responders to crash victims during the crash of a Cessna 208 in November 2013.”

AVCP Convention attendees also took a moment of silence to remember Coffee. Next of kin has been notified. Troopers say foul play is not suspected and alcohol was involved. Coffee’s body has been sent to the State Medical Examiner’s Office in Anchorage for an autopsy.

Categories: Alaska News

Kusko 300 Officials Waive Entry Fee

Fri, 2014-10-10 10:26

A musher leaves the starting line of the 2011 K300 sled dog race. (Photo from the K300 Facebook page)

Race officials for the Kuskokwim 300 are waiving the entry fee to any musher looking to run the organization’s three races this January.

Race Manager Zach Fansler says the $400 entry fee for the 300-mile mid-distance sled dog race — and similar entry fees for the Bogus Creek 150 and the Akiak Dash — are being dropped for 2015.

Fansler hopes, by dropping the entry fee, more mushers will be able to race.

“For our local mushers sometimes it’s hard to put that money out upfront, so we’ve looked into ways to reduce those costs,” Fansler said. “For mushers traveling in outside the Delta, obviously the cost of travel there is pretty high.”

“So we thought this was something we could personally control and try to see if it was something that would encourage more mushers to come to our race.”

Entry fees will be waived for any musher who registers before December 15.

Mushers must also be members of the K300 race committee and mileage sponsors — a $100 caveat Fansler says has been in place for years and shouldn’t be anything new for mushers.

“That was already a preexisting requirement to race in the K300, that you would be a member of our race committee, and that is for state purposes and things like that, to maintain our corporate status,” Fansler said.

Dropping the entry fee for the K300 comes less than a month after the race announced an increase in payouts. The K300 race will see its purse grow by $10,000 to $120,000. The Bogus Creek and Akiak Dash will pay out $30,000 and $12,500, respectively.

It’s the second purse increase in three years. Fansler says the races volunteers make it possible.

“We have a very small pay roll for our employees,” Fansler said. “We’re a very small operation, our board doesn’t get compensated.”

“Things other organizations have to pay for, or pay a lot more for, we are either able to get donated or volunteers to do for us, and that’s where we have a significant savings over a lot of these other races.”

The 2015 Kuskoskim 300 starts Saturday, Jan. 16 in Bethel.

Categories: Alaska News

Shageluk Man Arraigned On Murder Charges In Bethel

Thu, 2014-10-09 17:43

Judge Nathaniel Peters read murder charges to Everett Semone via video teleconference in a Bethel court Thursday, October 9th. (Photo by Daysha Eaton, KYUK – Bethel)

Everett Semone of Shageluk was arraigned on murder charges at the Bethel court this afternoon. He is accused of killing his parents with an ax in the village of Shageluk earlier this week.

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Appearing via video teleconference from the Yukon Kuskokwim Correctional Center, Everett Semone stared through the TV monitor into the small Bethel courtroom, uttering little more than yes and no to questions asked by the judge.

Everett Semone was arraigned on murder charges via video teleconference in a Bethel courtroom Thursday, October 9th. (Photo by Daysha Eaton, KYUK – Bethel)

Judge Nathaniel Peters read the charges to the 21-year-old who said he understood them. Then he set bail.

“The court will follow the state’s recommendation plus 500-thousand cash plus third party custodian. If you have a bail hearing the court can set further conditions of your release Mr. Semone. Any questions? Any? ,” said Judge Peters. “No Judge,” said Semone.

Semone was arrested Wednesday at approximately 4pm and brought to the Bethel jail after two people were killed in Shageluk Tuesday. Earlier today, Alaska State Troopers identified them as residents Flossie Semone, 46, and John Arrow, 57. A Trooper spokesperson says people in Shageluk have said the two are the suspect’s parents.

The remains of both are being transported to the State Medical Examiner’s office in Anchorage for autopsies.

Residents reportedly caught the suspect themselves and held him until troopers arrived the next day. Troopers were requested Tuesday evening but did not arrive in Shageluk until mid-morning Wednesday.

Shageluk is a village of 83 people located on the Innoko River, 20 miles east of Anvik and 150 miles northeast of Bethel. The village has no police or medical personnel presence. The Yukon Kuskokwim Health Corporation has sent a crisis response team to Shageluk to help residents with counseling.

Semone is charged with two counts of Murder 1. His next court appearance is a preliminary hearing October 20th in Aniak.

Categories: Alaska News
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