The United States House passed a restrictive abortion measure last night that has no chance in the Senate.
As APRN’s Peter Granitz reports, it fell along party lines.
Representative Don Young joined nearly all of his Republican colleagues in voting to ban abortion after 20 weeks.
Six Democrats voted for the measure, and exactly six Republicans voted against it.
It’s the most stringent restriction on abortion to pass the House in years. Many House conservatives who pushed the bill contend that a fetus can feel pain at 20 weeks.
The House passed the bill despite a White House veto threat. The president said the bill is a direct challenge to Roe v. Wade – the 1973 Supreme Court case easing access to the procedure.
But the White House threat means little, because the bill will not get any action in the Senate.
The equipment from Adak’s fish processing plant was auctioned off in one piece Tuesday morning. The City of Adak and the Adak Community Development Corporation jointly submitted the winning bid of $1.8 million.
Rhode Island-based Independence Bank was selling the equipment in the wake of Icicle Seafoods’ departure from Adak earlier this year. They offered it up wholesale first, and the Adak partnership outbid two other potential buyers — one unidentified, and Anchorage-based Rotating Services, LLC.
The $1.8 million bid bought all of the equipment inside the plant – from the cod processing lines to the forklifts. It didn’t, however, come with a lease on the facility, which is owned by Aleut Enterprise. President Rudy Tsukada says while there’s no agreement in place right now, he’s “look[ing] forward to working with the city of Adak to solidify fisheries [sic] role in the economy of Adak.”
The city says it’s not planning to operate the plant, but will be looking for someone who can. Neither the city nor ACDC would comment further on the arrangement until the details are sorted out.
The Coast Guard is searching the waters near Hoonah for a crewman who went overboard from the fishing vessel “Swift” late Monday night. The 34-foot boat is reportedly based in Juneau, but state records show it registered to a Sitka captain.
The Coast Guard received a call for help shortly after midnight Tuesday morning. The 57-foot Pacific Horizon discovered the Swift in Icy Strait. Crew members found no one aboard, and notified Coast Guard Sector Juneau. The Coast Guard reported the Swift’s position at about 40 miles west of Juneau.
KTOO in Juneau reports that the vessel’s deckhand went overboard and the skipper pursued him in a dinghy.
A helicopter crew from Coast Guard Air Station Sitka found the boat’s captain suffering from mild hypothermia on a beach near his overturned skiff. The vessel is registered to Tim Lane, of Sitka, who was listed in stable condition Tuesday at Bartlett Regional Hospital.
The deckhand remains missing.
A Sitka Coast Guard helicopter, as well as a response boat from Juneau and the Coast Guard Cutter Liberty, are aiding in the search. The Civil Air Patrol joined search and rescue efforts Tuesday morning. The search is concentrated one mile south of Porpoise Island, which is near the mouth of Excursion Inlet.
The missing crewman, whose name was not released, was reportedly wearing a gray hooded sweatshirt and black rain pants.
National Weather Service meteorologist Geri Swanson says at the time the Coast Guard received the call for help, Icy Strait was experiencing 15-to-20-knot winds under cloudy skies. But earlier in the evening, the region experienced a series of moderate thunderstorms, including winds up to 37 knots. The National Weather Service issued storm warnings to mariners throughout the evening, urging them to find safe harbor.
Lieutenant Governor Mead Treadwell announced early this morning he’s running for Senate. He said he’s entering the race, instead of running for reelection, because he knows he can win.
His announcement named neither Begich nor the GOP primary. If he wants to face Begich, he’ll need to survive what’s expected to be a rough nominating contest.
Treadwell took a swipe at fellow Republican candidate Joe Miller without naming him.
“I think Republicans know we need a credible conservative candidate to take on Mark Begich,” he said in an early phone interview. “We know we need unity to win.”
That unity was lacking in the 2010 race. Miller, then a political neophyte, stormed onto the scene and upset incumbent Senator Lisa Murkowski in the primary. She went on to win the general election in a write-in campaign.
Murkowski urged Treadwell to run but out of principle will remain neutral during the primary.
“The best thing to do is steer clear of it,” she said Tuesday afternoon at the Capitol. “I learned that from my father, who didn’t endorse me for my very first race for the Alaska state legislature because I was in a contested primary. It was good advice.”
She called Treadwell the front runner.
Miller said he welcomes Treadwell’s announcement; that competition is good for the party. He said he sees himself as the anti-establishment candidate, and Alaskans will have a clear distinction in the primary.
He would not highlight those differences, but said they’ll be apparent as the race develops.
“I would consider all of the candidates that are at least contemplating getting into this race as establishment type candidates,” he said.
Many observers in Washington see Treadwell as the establishment candidate, too. He’ll be here next week meeting with party leaders – including the National Republican Senatorial Committee. That group – officially tasked with regaining control of the Senate – refuses to discuss Miller’s candidacy.
It would like to avoid another nasty primary, which doesn’t take place until August 2014. The group has said Begich’s seat is crucial to winning control of the upper chamber.
“If you can put the Republicans back in the leadership you’d make Lisa Murkowski the head of the Senate Energy Committee. That’s going to help with ANWR. That’s going to help us with access to our lands. That’s the defining issue,” Treadwell said.
It’s hard to see a difference between Begich and Treadwell on the major issue in the state: Both support expanded oil and gas drilling.
Treadwell promised to campaign on three causes: Fighting for liberty, fighting for fiscal sanity, and fighting for Alaska.
He invokes a sacred name when he talks of his campaign: former Senator Ted Stevens. He said he’ll follow in the Stevens tradition of bringing power back to Alaska – letting Alaskans make decisions about the state, not the federal government.
“That part of his legacy, of trying to bring the decision making home is the legacy I want to work on,” he said. “We have a federal system now of spending too much, borrowing too much, taxing too much. Asking the federal government for earmarks is probably not the right way to go.”
Of course, Stevens is most remembered as the chair of the Appropriations Committee who doled out government money and projects all over Alaska.
Jennifer Duffy, senior editor with the Cook Political Report,said even though it’s early, this does not look like it will be as monumental a primary as 2010.
“You don’t see the Tea Party groups rallying around Miller like they did in 2010. The other thing is: I have not heard any of these groups having a real problem with Treadwell,” Duffy said.
Those groups don’t have any issues with Governor Sean Parnell either, and Duffy said that helps Treadwell.
And this far off, other candidates have plenty of time to enter the race.
Supporters of various initiatives are out in full force collecting signatures with the purpose of getting on next year’s ballot. Those signatures become part of the public record, and anyone can access these lists. A Republican senator from Fairbanks wants that to change, but some activists are worried his proposal could have unintended consequences. APRN’s Alexandra Gutierrez reports.
The legislative session is months away. But already, Sen. Pete Kelly’s office is drafting a bill that would make the signatures collected during the initiative process confidential. He sees it as a matter of urgency.
“We’re just kind of living in an odd environment right now where I believe people are pretty nervous about what happens to their names or how they get on lists. I don’t think the state should be able to sell those names, and those lists should be fairly private.”
Right now, there are a lot of petitions floating about. There’s one to legalize marijuana, and another to recall Anchorage Republican Lindsey Holmes from the legislature for switching parties. There are also propositions that would repeal a tax cut for oil companies, and make it harder to develop Pebble Mine, both issues where Kelly has taken a pro-development stance.
His office is now warning Alaskans that they should be “very concerned about giving their names to strangers with clip boards.” Kelly thinks his announcement is timely because of the number of petitions currently circulating and because discussion about data-sharing is now happening at a national level. The motivation came:
“Mostly just from conversations about the NSA thing, and then somebody mentioned to me that the initiative [signers'] names are sold. And those two events just kind of crossed in my mind, and I thought, ‘Well, that isn’t a very good idea.’”
But some are wondering if there might be other reasons for bringing up this proposal now, so far ahead of the legislative session. Pat Lavin is one of the organizers of the referendum to repeal the oil tax cut. He describes the announcement as a sort of “black helicopter” message that could make it harder to gather the 30,000-signatures needed to get on the ballot.
“I hear a message designed to make people think twice about signing a petition.”
Kelly’s office says that’s not their intent. According to his staff, they’re not trying to discourage anyone from signing any petition — they just want people to know that their names are available upon request.
Meanwhile, government transparency advocates have some reservations about the actual substance of the proposal.
“We think this legislation is not a great idea,” says Joshua Decker with the ACLU of Alaska.
Decker gets why people might bristle at the idea of political operatives or even telemarketers buying their names and addresses. But he says the consequences of making these signatures confidential would be even more serious: If there isn’t open access to these lists, there’s no way for the public to verify if a petition got the necessary signatures to appear on the ballot. Decker also says that the concern that some people aren’t having their voice heard because they’re worried about privacy is overblown.
“We as an organization are not aware of anyone who has said, ‘But for the fact that my signature would be confidential, I am not going to sign on this particular ballot initiative.’”
Kelly’s staff say they’re open to hearing about any concerns about transparency or how their legislation would affect signature gatherers as they’re drafting the bill. They have six months until they introduce it formally in January.
Alaska Senator Lisa Murkowski’s version of the Sealaska lands bill has passed out of its only committee of referral.
That’s a major step toward a Senate floor vote.
But there’s no guarantee it will move any further in Congress. Its best chance is as part of a package of lands legislation. Read details of the bill.
Murkowski told the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee today that it’s the result of years of negotiations.
“And I recognize it has created tensions within our communities. But we have worked aggressively and tirelessly with all of the stakeholders, not just Sealaska and their shareholders,” she says.
The bill is co-sponsored by Alaska Senator Mark Begich. A similar measure by Alaska Representative Don Young passed out of the House Natural Resources Committee earlier this month.
The Southeast Alaska Conservation Council has endorsed the legislation as a reasonable compromise.
But other critics – including environmental, sportsmen’s and small-community groups – continue to oppose the bill. They say Sealaska wants to trade marginal acreage it can already claim for the most valuable timberlands in the Tongass National Forest.
Andi Burgess is rainforest program director for the Alaska Wilderness League. Her group is particularly concerned about an area on the south end of Prince of Wales Island.
“One of the most productive salmon streams in the Tongass is in Keete Inlet. It’s an area identified by Audubon and Trout Unlimited scientists as being one of the most high-value watersheds,” Burgess says.
The bill would allow the regional Native corporation to choose about 68,000 acres of timberlands from within the Tongass.
Around another 1,600 acres would be transferred for renewable energy and ecotourism development or preservation as cemetery and historic sites.
The total, a little more than 70,000 acres, is less than the 85,000 Sealaska has said it’s entitled to.
Murkowski points to acreage that would gain new protections under the bill.
“It will help the Sealaska region’s timber industry grow, while at the same time we’re working to protect more than 150,000 acres of habitat for fisheries and wildlife,” she says.
Juneau-based Sealaska has about 22,000 shareholders. More than half live outside Southeast, but have family ties to the area.
A wildfire east of Fairbanks is drawing a massive air and ground response. The Kanuti fire started in a neighborhood off Chena Hot Springs Road, near Mile 17.
State Division of Forestry spokeswoman Maggie Rogers says things are going well.
“We continue to have no evacuations,” Rogers said. “We continue to have no structures lost, and the fire is an estimated 120 acres.”
“It’s not contained, but they’re gonna be working on that today.”
Chena Hot Springs Road is open, but Rodgers warns there could be traffic delays depending on fire and suppression activities, which are occurring on both sides of the road. Rodgers says the Kanuti fire is human caused but could not provide details, as an investigation is underway.
She says numerous wild fires are being responded to as hot dry windy conditions persist. Red Flag warnings for extreme fire danger are in effect for much of the state south of the Brooks Range and Rogers encourages Alaskans to be ready.
“Creating defensive space around their home, it’s important that rehearse evacuation plans with family members,” Rogers said. “People with dog teams and horses and other things like that, it’s always good to not only plan for your family, but plan for your pets as well.”
Rogers also recommends clearly marking your home’s address, identifying any alternative routes out of your neighborhood and having non-local phone contact who can relay fire information if the power goes out.
Fairbanks Natural Gas has released details of a North Slope to Fairbanks gas trucking project proposal. The documents lay out costs and components of a system to treat and liquefy gas, including propane, and load it onto tanker trucks for shipment south.
The long time tug of war over the name of North America’s highest peak was back in front of the U.S. Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee on Tuesday.
Ranking committee member Lisa Murkowski recorded a win after Senate Bill 155, a one page piece of legislation, passed out of committee in favor of changing the name to Denali. Senator Murkowski says she’s defending the true Alaskan name for the majestic peak.
“It deserves to be called the name that the Athabascans from the Interior have called it for decades and decades and decades. I think it’s important that we honor and tribute Alaska’s First peoples by officially recognizing ‘The Big One’ as Denali,” Murkowski said.
True to the script of this long running saga, Ohio Republican Senator Rob Portman voted against the change, saying he is defending Ohio where President William McKinley was born and served as a Governor in the 1800s. Portman also says, the name of the National Park has already been changed to Denali.
“I know Athabascan’s do call it Denali, there are a couple other Native peoples who call it other things, there are two other names at least the Aleuts use and another Native group, but the point is, we’d like to keep our Mount McKinley within the Denali National Park,” Portman said.
The committee approved the bill by a voice vote. That clears it for consideration by the full Senate although it’s not certain that it will make it to the floor.
The village of Chignik Lagoon on the Alaska Peninsula, with a year round population of around 70, hopes to break ground this season on a small, long-awaited hydroelectric project. For a price tag of about 2.5 million dollars, the simple system may produce as much power as the village typically needs. This is one of several alternative energy projects the Lake and Peninsula Borough has undertaken in an effort to lower costs and ease off of fossil fuels in its villages.
More than 20 kids graduated from Bethel’s Alaska Youth Academy’s summer camp last Friday. The idea is to encourage kids in the area to consider law enforcement careers.
The Russian River sanctuary will open to sockeye salmon sport fishing Wednesday at 8:00 a.m. and is expected to remain open until Sunday, July 14 at 11:59 p.m., according to an emergency order issued by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.
The daily bag and possession limits will remain at three sockeye salmon.
“The Department has projected that the early-run sockeye salmon spawning escapement goal of 22,000 – 42,000 sockeye salmon will be achieved,” Fish and Game said in a press release.
The department also reminds anglers to remove fish carcasses from the Russian River clear water and to be sure personal belongings and stringers of fish are closely attended.
On April 17th, the Senate rejected an amendment expanding background checks to gun shows and online sales. A majority, 54 Senators, voted for the expanded law, but Senate rules require 60 votes. Both Begich and Senator Lisa Murkowski voted against the measure.
A recent Gallup Poll shows 83% of Americans support expanded background checks; a slight tick down from 91% just a few months ago.
Connecticut Senator Richard Blumenthal, a Democrat, said six months after the shooting the families of victims remain undeterred.
“The momentum is undiminished. The passion is stronger, if anything,” he said flanked by families from Newtown. “We lost the first vote, but we’re going to win the last vote. And the one who wins the last vote is the one who wins. ”
He compared the two days – the shooting and the vote.
“December 14th was a day of searing sadness, but April 17th was a day of shame,” he said.
Reid said he’ll bring up the measure again. He promises he will not accept a “watered down bill.” He has not explained what that means.
It remains unclear whether the Senate will vote on other measures like an amendment Begich promotes outlawing the seriously mentally ill from owning guns. Reid said it’s not if the Senate passes the background check bill, it’s when the Senate passes the background check bill.
“The writing is on the wall,” Reid said. “The Republicans who voted against this: The writing is on the wall. And the Democrats who voted against this; the handful of Democrats who voted against this.”
That handful includes Begich, Max Baucus, who is retiring, Mark Pryor and Heidi Heitkamp. Pryor, like Begich, is up for reelection in 2014 in a Republican state.
At a Capitol Hill press conference last week marking the anniversary, Matt Soto read the names and ages of the victims who were murdered in Newtown. He paused to compose himself when he got to his older sister, a teacher at Sandy Hook elementary.
The families of the victims have returned to Capitol Hill to lobby for the background checks. Begich met with them last week, and again told them he would vote no.
If the families can’t win over hesitant senators, one person hopes to punish them at the polls: New York Mayor Michael Bloomberg.
Bloomberg, the billionaire who’s been a Democrat, Republican and now independent, sent a letter to wealthy New York donors urging them to withhold donations to Begich and the other no votes.
One of those New Yorkers is Peter J. Solomon. The investment banker gave $2500 to Begich in the first quarter of 2013. He’s donated nearly $5000 since 2008. He refused to comment for this story, but his aide gave a statement on his behalf.
It said he respects both Mayor Bloomberg and Senator Begich, that he disagrees with Begich on gun control, but will continue to donate to him because he prefers a Senate in the Democrats’ control.
Begich said many of his donors don’t agree with his vote on background checks.
“At their request they’d call, or I’d call because I know they have concerns. But I’m not afraid to talk to people about my position and my votes,” he said from New York Monday morning.
It’s unclear when the debate will begin again on the Senate floor. Reid said this time, he will not bring it up for a vote until he knows he has the votes to pass it.
The historic Coast Guard Cutter Storis, which spent most of its post-World War II career sailing Alaska waters, is on the auction block. Alaska’s Congressional delegation had managed to stave off disposal since its 2007 decommissioning, but the federal government has decided it is time to move on.
Heather Handyside is a press secretary for Senator Mark Begich.
“Well I think we had been hoping to be able preserve the Storis, and find it a place specifically in the museum in Juneau,” she said. “However, as you probably know, it does take a little bit of money to maintain these older, historical vessels, and so, unfortunately we weren’t able to keep it and it’s being auctioned off.”
The Storis was listed last week on the auction site of the General Services Administration. The opening bid, which did not meet the reserve price, was $60,000.
Joe Geldhof, the secretary for the Storis Museum in Juneau, said it appeared the GSA was not willing to wait any longer for Congress to give the ship away:
“Well, a number of us around the country and throughout Alaska were surprised with the General Services Administration’s acts in putting it up for auction,” he said. “We were on a track for the Congress to dispose of the Storis by giving it to the museum. And we were frustrated, as many people are, in dealing with Congress by various maneuvering and stuff. But this caught a lot of people by surprise, the GSA play.”
Geldhof said the Storis Museum group was hoping to bring the ship back to Juneau, where it was stationed in the 1940s and ‘50s, and use it for training young mariners as well as a museum.
“What we had hoped when we heard about this not too long ago is that we’d be able to obtain the vessel for training purposes through the Sea Cadets program run by the Navy League of the United States. And the GSA wasn’t willing to work with us and they just wanted to put it out to bid. You know, there’s conflicting views apparently in the GSA, whether it’s in California or Atlanta, where this seems to be run from,” he said. “But if I sound confused it’s because all of us are, a little bit.”
Geldhof says the next move will hopefully save the Storis from the scrap-yard, but it might mean the ship won’t be retired to Alaska.
“Our plan at this point is to work with some folks in Ohio and out in the Midwest, to acquire the Storis. That means it may wind up in Toledo where the ship was built, but we are still trying to save the Storis and preserve a ship that spent most of its career in Alaska, but started out in Ohio. Frankly, we are scrambling at this point to preserve a ship that was enormously important to Alaska’s maritime history and to the maritime history of the United States.”
The Storis spent about 10 years stationed in Juneau and another 50 in Kodiak. It spent much of its time patrolling the North Pacific and Bering Sea.
Governor Sean Parnell has requested a federal disaster declaration for Galena and other communities damaged by spring flooding. And most of the State of Alaska Emergency Management Team that’s been in Galena to assist with flood relief is scheduled to leave this week. The team has been in the city since shortly after the May 27 incident to assist in coordinating rebuilding efforts.
New record-high temperatures are being recorded in many places around the state Monday, with Talkeetna topping the charts at 94 degrees. It’s their second-straight day of record-high heat.
Seward also hit its all time high temperature today, with thermometers reaching 88 degrees.
And the Prince William Sound communities of Valdez and Cordova set new record highs, both reaching 90 degrees.
In Southeast Alaska, Yakutat reached a new high of 74 degrees, toppling a record set back in 1967.
Temperatures haven’t quite reached their peak for the day in the Interior and Northern portions of the state, but, according to Christopher Cox, with the National Weather Service in Fairbanks, it’s going to be hot.
“Record to near-record temperatures are being experienced across most of Northern Alaska. We’re expecting high temperatures today in the mid- to upper-80s, even pushing low 90s much of the Central Interior,” he said.
Temperatures across the state are expected to cool off slightly around the state later this week, but will remain higher than normally forecast this time of year.
Quick action by fire fighters is credited with keeping a wildfire away from homes and cabins near Harding Lake south of Fairbanks. The fire is one of few getting attention as hot dry weather amps up wildfire season in the Interior.
It’s been a rocky 12 years since Adak was incorporated as a city. The community has survived power crises, crushing debt, and twice, the closure of its biggest business – the fish processing plant. But now, Adak is facing a new, larger setback. Tuesday, the processing plant’s equipment is being auctioned off, and if it leaves the island, Adak will be left without its economic engine.
The Obama administration’s top officials dealing with Arctic issues were in Anchorage Friday looking for comments from Alaskans about their new Arctic Policy. They got plenty of them, from a standing room-only crowd.
The state and U.S. government are partnering together to investigate building a deep port at Nome or Port Clarence. They’re in the early stages of the study. Officials from the Alaska Department of Transportation and U.S. Army Corps of Engineer visited Nome, Brevig Mission and Teller last week to collect public input about marine infrastructure and to hear about local concerns over natural resource impacts.
The Corp took comments for an Environmental Impact Statement on the Arctic Deep Draft Ports Navigation Improvements Feasibility study. The meetings mark the beginning of a long process until proposals for port projects are fleshed out. In Teller, residents asked about impacts to the fragile Arctic environment and the hunting and fishing that so many in the area depend on.
Lifelong resident Josie Garnie says she’s worried about increased vessel traffic and who will regulate and be responsible for cleanup of spills and other pollution.
“It’s just the most beautiful place in the world and it’s really sensitive,” Garnie said. “It’s vulnerable, the environment, if one thing gets impacted it will impact everything else, it’s going to impact the people and we live off the land here.”
Her father Joe Garnie, known for his long career as an Iditarod musher, says he’s worried about vessel impacts to seal pups.
“At this time of the year, literally thousands of seals come in to this bay for calving. They give birth on the ice. They’re here for a few days and then they’re gone. They need that short period when the ice is really thin. If the ice is broken up, I don’t know what that will do to them if there’s a lot of boats in here,” he said.
Teller and Brevig Mission are located near a natural deep water bay and ships have always sought shelter from bad weather or ice at Port Clarence. Garnie says the vessels are coming whether locals want them or not. And he says economic development is needed because there are very few employment opportunities for locals.
“The only thing here is a little grocery store, employees a few, at minimum wage pretty much and the school. The school employs a few and the clinic. That’s it, there’s no real economic base here,” Garnie said.
Lorraine Cordova is an economist with the Army Corps of Engineers and the deep port project manager. She says she learned a lot from the dozens of people who came to the three community meetings.
“Vessels who are selling oil in this region are parking very large vessels here in Port Clarence and then lightering onto smaller vessels. They can avoid taxes and they can also ship lots of oil in very big ships that cannot be accommodated by other ports here. There is a lot of interest in jobs and how this is going to, how a project could benefit the communities and I think we heard that pretty loud and clear from all of the communities that, not only do they want protection of the environment that they live in, but they also want some economic opportunities,” Cordova said.
Deep draft port construction could start in 2017. State and federal government officials say with increased vessel traffic there is a need for ramping up the Coast Guard’s presence for safety and national sovereignty. The Corp will hold more public meetings in December.