Alaska News

Juneau Library to Launch Alaska Native Stories Project

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2015-03-16 17:50

Freda Westman, right, at a school board meeting in November 2014. (Photo By Lisa Phu, KTOO-Juneau))

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The Juneau Public Library system embarks on an oral history project this spring collecting Alaska Native stories on educational experiences. The capital city’s library is one of ten picked from more than 300 national applicants to bring StoryCorps to the community.

Freda Westman is a product of Juneau’s public school system, a 1974 graduate of Juneau-Douglas High School. Westman is Grand President of the Alaska Native Sisterhood.

One of her strongest childhood memories is from when she was in middle school.

“I asked a teacher at the end of the year why my grade was a C and could we go and look at the grade book, and we did and averaged it out and my grade was really a B, and so it was changed. That took a lot of courage for me to do that,” Westman says.

Freda Westman, right, at a school board meeting in November 2014. (Photo by Lisa Phu/KTOO)
At the time, she learned that teachers, who she greatly respected, could make mistakes and those mistakes could be fixed. She learned the value of standing up for herself.

Now, Westman looks back on that situation and realizes those types of errors were likely made on a regular basis.

“Expectations for Alaska Native students were low, so maybe that was the motivation,” she says.

Westman’s mother stopped going to school in the 8th grade to care for sick family members.

“She was not allowed to speak Tlingit in school and was not only not allowed to do that but was punished for doing that. She told us that that is why she didn’t want to teach us Tlingit. She didn’t want us to experience that,” Westman says.

These are just a couple of memories that exist in Juneau’s Alaska Native community, stories that the public library hopes to capture through StoryCorps interviews.

The Juneau Public Library will hold a community orientation on the StoryCorps project on March 31, 5:30 p.m. at the downtown library. Anyone interested in volunteering or helping with the project should attend.
StoryCorps is a national oral history project based in Brooklyn, New York. You’ve likely heard snippets of StoryCorps interviews on National Public Radio.

Juneau librarian Andrea Hirsh says the interviews aren’t formal. It’s a conversation between two people.

“A lot of people pick a family member, a grandparent, a child, a sibling, a neighbor and they tell their story,” Hirsh says.

The theme of Alaska Native educational experiences sprang from an issue that took place last year concerning the Juneau School District’s elementary language arts curriculum.

Community members raised concerns about school texts depicting Alaska Native and Native American tragedies, including the boarding school experience in Alaska. From the late 1800s to the mid-1900s, the federal government split families and forced Native children into boarding schools to assimilate. The texts were called distorted, inaccurate and insensitive.

The district eventually decided to remove the controversial texts and replace them with locally developed materials. The superintendent invited Alaska Native community members into the classroom to tell their stories.

Juneau Public Libraries librarian Andrea Hirsh and program coordinator Beth Weigel. (Photo by Lisa Phu/KTOO)
Library program coordinator Beth Weigel hopes the StoryCorps project can help fulfill this need and others.

“Oral history is a big part of the Alaska Native tradition so if we have it available then those are available to teachers if they want to use those as part of the resource materials in their classroom,” Weigel says. “And they’ll stories by Alaska Natives, their stories that they tell in their own words.”

Before applying for the project grant, Weigel and Hirsh sought advice and support from members of the Alaska Native community in Juneau, like Sorrel Goodwin.

Goodwin is a librarian at the Alaska State Library. He says the project is an opportunity to get Alaska Native perspectives on the American educational system. In the mid-1990s, Goodwin interviewed Alaska Natives on that topic for a teaching course at the University of Alaska Southeast.

“Most of their perspectives were largely negative, dealing with such issues as racism and assimilation, and the degradation of Alaska Native cultures, languages, histories, going right on into flat out physical, mental and sexual abuse in many of the boarding school contexts,” Goodwin says.
He hopes the library’s project will include interviews of the younger generation, Alaska Natives who are currently going through the educational system.

“A lot of our parents’ and grandparents’ negative experiences in the American education system have been carried forward. It created a sort of intergenerational post-traumatic stress in the ways that many of our people are either able to engage or not engage with the dominant society’s system of educating people,” Goodwin says.

Sorrel says the more stories that are told, the more understanding will take place. He thinks the StoryCorps project can help the community work through issues that still remain.

One of the library’s goals is to capture a range of voices.

“We would love to talk to people who are still in school and this could be grade school, middle school, high school, college, technical school. It could be young adults, it could be older adults. We want to hear everyone’s story,” Hirsh says.
With permission of the participants, all of the StoryCorps interviews will be archived at the American Folklife Center at the Library of Congress and locally at the Juneau Public Library and Sealaska Heritage Institute.

Categories: Alaska News

State Asks Court for More Time on Adoption Case

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2015-03-16 16:49

The state on Monday asked the Alaska Supreme Court for more time in a case involving the adoption of a Yup’ik child, a case that tribes say will determine how the Indian Child Welfare Act, or ICWA, will be implemented in Alaska, and show whether Governor Bill Walker is serious about campaign pledges he made to work cooperatively with tribes.

Under the terms of ICWA, Alaska Native children must be placed for adoption with their relatives or tribal members unless it’s clearly in the child’s interests to do otherwise. But an Alaska Supreme Court ruling last September allowed a non-Native couple to adopt a Native child after the Governor Sean Parnell administration successfully argued the child’s Native grandmother failed to file a petition to adopt, a requirement the state contends was set by a 2013 U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

But attorneys for the grandmother and the village of Tununak maintain the grandmother’s request to the state’s Office of Children’s Services, and her court testimony stating she wanted to adopt her grand-daughter, meet the higher court’s standards. They say requiring a petition to adopt would create a costly barrier between Native children and Native families. They submitted a petition for a rehearing of the case, and the U.S. Department of Justice joined them with anadvisory, or amicus, brief.

Jacqueline Schaffer is an assistant attorney general in the Alaska Department of Law. “The state has requested an additional 30-day extension because the administration needs additional time to determine its response to the issues raised in the petition and the amicus brief,” she said.

Lloyd Miller, of Sonosky, Chambers, Sachse, Miller and Munson, who is representing the grandmother, says he’s encouraged the state has asked for more time. “I think it’s to the attorney general’s credit that he is now open to the possibility of taking a different position, and sorting through whether or not to do so. I think that’s very important and it does takes time.

Miller says the Walker administration is right to take the time to look at the larger implications of Tununak v. Alaska.

“This case is a potentially explosive case and could well define the administration’s position in Alaska Native affairs and in particular the relationship the administration is going to have with tribes in Alaska,” Miller said. “So the more time the state takes to carefully decide what it’s going to do, the better. It’s now up to the Alaska Supreme Court to decide whether to grant the state a time extension.

Schaffer says the state is working to make it easier for relatives and tribal members to adopt Native children:

“Regardless of whether the state changes its position in this appeal” Schaffer said.  The state has already started down the path of finding ways to work with tribes to ease the adoption requirements and to improve OCS services to Alaska Native communities.”

The state’s request for an extension comes after the Alaska Federation of Natives and organizations like the Association of Village Council Presidents, Tanana Chiefs Conference and the Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska last week asked the state to change its position.

Categories: Alaska News

Anchorage Homicides, Shootings A Spike, Not Trend Say Officials

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2015-03-16 16:06

Since the start of the year, Anchorage has seen eight homicides and a spate of shootings. Today, officials say the incidents in Alaska’s largest city is a spike, but not an overall rise in violent crime. The press conference at City Hall was, just hours after a stabbing victim was pronounced dead following an early morning dispute. The pronouncement is at odds with a widespread concerns over public safety.

While the Anchorage Police Department can’t point to any one cause, Deputy Chief Myron Fanning says in his 23 years on the force he’s seen waves of violent crime like this before.

“Occasionally you’ll have a spike, and sometimes we’re able to identify the reasons, and sometimes not,” Fanning said.

A task force assembled in February made up of federal, state, and local agencies has made 26 arrests, and solved all but one of the recent homicide cases, Fanning said. In the process they’ve seized hard drugs like heroin and methamphetamine, 40 illegal guns, and $35,000 in cash. But Fanning says while there are similarities in the homicide cases, they aren’t connected by any pattern.

“I mean, like I said, they’re all high-risk type lifestyles that they’re involved in–they all are either associated with drugs or alcohol,” Fanning said. “But I don’t know why last January we had two, and this January we had four, I don’t know, it just happens sometimes like that.”

Fanning said the task force continues investigating January’s double homicide in East Anchorage.

Mayor Dan Sullivan echoed the high profile crimes being a blip rather than an upward trend. Looking at the data, Sullivan said, it’s important to not miss the forest for the trees, as Anchorage’s five-year average for major crimes continues to fall.

“There’s fewer crimes reported now than there were 30 years ago when we were 120,000 people fewer in this city,” he said. “2014, for example, we saw the lowest number of murders in 20 years in Anchorage. And we always caution folks when they see a spike in one activity or another that it doesn’t really mean Anchorage has somehow become more dangerous. We look at trends, and the trends are very good.”

That is a hard sell when concerns over public safety are emerging as the biggest political issue in this year’s mayor’s race. Sullivan’s approach to staffing levels at APD has been controversial. Two years-worth of academies canceled during his tenure to curb spending have meant a smaller force. During a recent forum on public safety all eight candidates in attendance agreed on the need for more police officers, though details on paying for them remain hazy.

What you do with those officers is a trickier question. Sullivan said it is inaccurate to assume more police necessarily leads to less crime.

In fact, he said the numbers prove you can have an effective force by just apportioning man-hours differently. According to Fanning, a combination of flex time and using local partnerships helped the police department quickly make arrests without racking up overtime hours. What’s less clear in the numbers is whether the resources are there to proactively have police out in Anchorage’s neighborhoods before violence occurs.

Categories: Alaska News

Anchorage Police Investigate Homicide In Spenard

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2015-03-16 08:23

Anchorage police are investigating a homicide in the city’s Spenard neighborhood.

Police responded to a trailer residence located on the 2400 block of McRae Road after 2 a.m. Monday morning. They identified a male victim who was transported to a local hospital with a life-threatening injury.

The male was pronounced deceased at the hospital just after 4 a.m. A suspect has been taken into custody.

Police are not releasing the nature of the assault at this time.

Categories: Alaska News

High Winds, Blowing Snow Expected Along Bering Sea Coast

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2015-03-16 08:12

Iditarod teams that reach the coast at Unalakleet will run into a fierce windstorm and blowing snow.

Michelle Phillips says she’s not surprised but she also isn’t too worried about her dog team.

Michelle Phillips during the 2015 Iditarod ceremonial start. (Photo by Josh Edge, APRN – Anchorage)

“It’s the coast,” she said. “It just throws everything it can at you and that’s why maybe a dog team that’s had a little more rest may be better at this point in the game.”

Phillips gave her teams extra rest in Kaltag before they jumped on a portage trail and followed a river out to the coastal community of Unalakleet.

Rookie Thomas Waerner agrees that rest at this point in the race is crucial to maintaining speed in a dog team

“I think a lot of people have been pushing pretty hard all the way from Galena,” Waerner said. “So, if you have a team that is a little more rested – not much more, but a little more, than maybe it will be an advantage.”

The temperature is also forecast to rise to slightly above zero. Peter Kaiser says warmer weather comes as a welcome change, since mushers haven’t seen a day above zero in a week.

“I think the dogs will do better in the heat,” Kaiser said. “It will help loosen up…. more glide because the 50 below at night stuff has been kind of like trying push your sled through beach sand.”

Either way, Kaiser says there is not much he can do aside from drive his dog team to Nome.

“We’ll just take it as it comes,” he said. “We can’t go backwards, we can only go towards Nome, I guess we’ll go right through the middle of it.”

Snow accumulation along the coast of up to two inches could slow teams. A fierce, biting wind is likely to cause heavy drifting along the trail, or scour the ice free of snow in others as teams tackle the final 250 miles of trail.

Categories: Alaska News

Burmeister Takes Iditarod Lead Out Of Shaktoolik

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2015-03-16 07:48

Aaron Burmeister in Kaltag. (Photo by Emily Schwing)

Reigning Iditarod champion Dallas Seavey was the first into Shaktoolik early Monday morning, but Aaron Burmeister was the first out of the checkpoint.

Both are running with 12 dogs as they enter the last 170 miles of the race. leading the charge to Koyuk.

Burmeister has found himself in the lead for much of this year’s race so far – winning awards for bring the first to Huslia, Kaltag, and Unalakleet.

Burmeister and Seavey are trailed by Mitch Seavey and Aliy Zirkle.

Categories: Alaska News

Iditarod Mushers Consider All Their Options As They Head Up The Coast

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2015-03-16 07:43

Iditarod teams began the final push up the Bering Sea Coast Sunday night. Everything from the condition of the dogs, to the weather can change dramatically and quickly on the sea ice, and that has mushers scrutinizing their own decisions and those made by their fellow competitors.

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Dallas Seavey was the first musher to head out onto the sea ice along the Bering Sea Coast. Despite a howling wind, he wasted no time blowing through Unalakleet, despite a howling wind.

Temperatures of more than 30 below didn’t stop Dallas Seavey from mixing up a concoction of fat, meat and kibble for his team after they reached Kaltag. (Photo by Emily Schwing)

Seavey planned to bed down and rest in Shaktoolik, 40 miles up north. He says it’s a plan he followed last year. But, Seavey always has more than one plan in mind.

“I write about a dozen different schedules, actually more like 40 different schedules every year,” he said. “More than anything the reason I do that is to know all the different options at all the different locations.”

He isn’t the kind of musher that leaves anything to chance. In fact, few mushers do. But this year, Aaron Burmeister says the combination of deep cold and a rerouted trail still has mushers wondering how to tackle the miles ahead.

“You can’t run a schedule on a new trail with the conditions we’ve had with 50 below, two to three feet of fresh snow, you’ve gotta run your dog team,” Burmeister said.

But after 15 Iditarod finishes, Burmeister knows better than to underestimate how well his competition knows their dogs.

“The mushers that you see running at the front of this race are all mushers that are very good at reading their dogs, understand what they are capable of and savvy dog drivers and that’s what you’re going to find being competitive in this race,” Burmeister said.

Jeff Kings team ate “like pigs” in Kaltag on Saturday night. (Photo by Emily Schwing)


“I will try to win, but my dog team is going to look good doing it,” Jeff King said. When he left Kaltag, Kings says his team “looked awesome.” “I swear to god, I was laughing going I think this time I am going to start picking out the color of my truck right now.”

He means the color of the brand new pick up truck that’s awarded to the first place finisher in Nome. Somewhere on the trail to Unalakleet, King’s visions of a new Dodge Ram turned into sightings of something much less appealing.

“They just started profusely pooping and looking like they didn’t feel good,” King said.

So King has altered his race plan. Something similar happened to Wade Marrs, he says his dogs are losing speed, but he’s still aiming for a top-10 finish.

“I didn’t mess up, but we definitely aren’t going to try to win anymore,” Marrs said. “We’re just going to take it easy and have fun and make it to Nome.”

That’s a difficult change of plans for a musher that’s extremely competitive. It’s a lesson Aliy Zirkle says she learned long ago.

Aily Zirkle blew through Kaltag. (Photo by Emily Schwing)

“You can only race as hard as your dog team can go and then you can’t race any harder, so that is a pill that everyone has to swallow and swallow with a smile on your face,” she said.

Zirkle is known for diligently sticking to a race plan.

Emily: “Do you think that you’re ever a flexible musher?”
Aliy: “I‘d like to say yes, so I’m trying to do a little something different right now, we’ll see how it goes. I’ll get back to you.”

Zirkle says no musher ever really knows for sure whether its’ worth gambling until further up the trail.

Categories: Alaska News

Dallas Seavey Leading The Way To Shaktoolik

APRN Alaska News - Sun, 2015-03-15 21:37

After a quick 5 minute stop in Unalakleet, reigning Iditarod champion Dallas Seavey took the lead and is on the way to Shaktoolik.

Aaron Burmeister departed Unalakleet just after 8:30 p.m. Sunday – about an hour and 20 minutes behind Seavey.

As of 9:30 p.m. Sunday, Aliy Zirkle and Jeff King remain in Unalakleet.

Categories: Alaska News

Lease Sale 193 decision expected late March

APRN Alaska News - Sun, 2015-03-15 16:00

Secretary of Interior will issue a Record of Decision on Chukchi Lease Sale 193 by the end of March. It will determine if Shell can proceed with its drilling plans for the region this summer. Their leases have been suspended since 2014 pending the release of the new Supplemental Environmental Impact Statement that came out in February.

Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement director Brian Salerno says he thinks the SEIS will be accepted, and Shell will be able to submit an exploration plan.

Categories: Alaska News

Proposed Arctic drilling regs take holistic look at safety

APRN Alaska News - Sun, 2015-03-15 15:53

The heads of the two federal agencies in charge of off-shore oil and gas drilling visited Alaska last week to discuss proposed safety regulations for drilling in the Arctic. They spoke with stakeholders in Anchorage and around the North Slope, including hosting a town hall meeting in Barrow.

Brian Salerno, director of the Interior Department’s Bureau of Safety and Environmental Enforcement, says the rules set transparent, universal safety standards for drilling in the Arctic’s outer continental shelf, and they emphasize prevention. Currently, safety plans are company- and project-specific.

“What this rule does is set a standard of care whereby you bring what you need with you into the region. So specific items, like a same-season relief rig, is included in there. That’s not required elsewhere because rigs are readily available in the Gulf [of Mexico], for example.” The rules also require containment domes and other equipment.

Salerno says the proposal allows for some flexibility and for the use of new, improved technologies. If more companies start working in the region they can pool their equipment. He says it’s unclear how much implementing the regulations will cost industry groups because there’s so little data about working in the region.

Bureau of Ocean Energy Management director Abigail Hopper says the rules include safety requirements for mobilization, demobilization, and transit of equipment as well. They also require an integrated operations plan that involves state and federal agencies.

“I think it’s in everyone’s best interest, including industry, to have a clear path forward and clear rules and have the public have confidence that the regulators understand the unique characteristics.”

Salerno and Hopper say the feedback they’ve received so far has been positive, though many stakeholders haven’t had time to review the proposal in full. They’re collecting comments until April 27. The new rules, if adopted, would apply to both the Beaufort and Chukchi Seas.

Categories: Alaska News

As They Leave Kaltag, Mushers Say The Real Racing Is Yet To Come

APRN Alaska News - Sun, 2015-03-15 15:33

Iditarod teams are making their way for the Bering Sea Coast, after days of travel along the frozen Yukon River and through the Interior’s boreal forest.

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Up until this point, mushers have been trying to set their teams up for the most competitive part of the race.

When Aaron Burmeister arrived in Kaltag, he said he was surprised to be there first, but he was looking forward to the more competitive part of the race.

Temperatures of more than 30 below didn’t stop Dallas Seavey from mixing up a concoction of fat, meat and kibble for his team after they reached Kaltag. (Photo by Emily Schwing)

“There’s some big names,” he said. “I haven’t been racing them to this point, but from here on, we’re going to see whose schedule shakes out and who’s up there.”

Once teams lave Kaltag and the Yukon River behind, they head through the Unalakleet River Valley and out to the Bering Sea coast.  Jeff King says this is the point in the race most teams have been building up to.

“Up to here, it’s to a large extent preparation of your team for getting here, how are they when they get here?” King said.

Dallas Seavey also believes the real racing is yet to come.

“It definitely starts to come to a head now we’re all frost bitten, tired and beat up and now is when you can see the end goal,” Seavey said. “The end is in sight and we gotta just dig in and power through for the last couple of days here.”

Teams are still struggling with deep cold – temperatures of 30 below and colder overnight, but the weather is supposed to warm up.  With it may come strong winds and heavy blowing snow. The National Weather Service is calling for two inches of snow and winds up to 30 miles per hour.

Categories: Alaska News

Iditarod Mushers Continue to Gamble with Rest, Long Runs and Extreme Cold

APRN Alaska News - Sat, 2015-03-14 16:57

According to the Iditarod race rules, teams have to rest for 24 hours somewhere along the trail. They also have to take an eight-hour mandatory rest before they leave the Yukon River and again near the end of the race.

Most teams have already taken most of their required rest. For those that haven’t, it’s a gamble: they could either be low on downtime or they could benefit from saving their rest after a few long runs and extremely cold weather.

Musher Aliy Zirkle says there was a 50-50 chance she would stop for 24 hours in either Galena or Huslia. She opted for Galena.

“I stopped early just because I wanted to check in with my team because I wanted to make sure they looked as good as I thought they did as opposed to on down the trail and they do look as good as I thought they did, so that’s exciting,” she said.

The Galena dog yard started to fill up in the late afternoon Thursday as teams parked for their 24 hour layover. (Photo by Emily Schwing)

Zirkle is one of only three mushers currently running in the top-10 that has not yet taken a mandatory eight-hour rest along the Yukon River. It’s a gamble that may pay off. Added rest could help dogs recover from a series of long runs and extreme cold in the first half of the race.

In Galena, Jason Campeau says it’s part of his race plan to save his eight-hour layover for later.

“Yeah, I think the next couple runs are tough runs, so if you don’t have any longer rest before that until White Mountain, it might be hurting and the dogs might be real slow, so I think having a big rest after these big runs will be a big key,” Campeau said.

But Richie Diehl, says he regrets not taking his eight-hour rest early.

“Maybe in Tanana or Ruby, somewhere back there,” Diehl said. “It would have probably helped these guys a little bit more, especially the ones that I had to drop, they might have benefitted, but I didn’t do it so I’ve got to deal with the consequences now.”

Ray Redington Jr. believes early rest is better for his team.

“I always take my eight hours as soon as I can and it seems like it puts it back into the dogs and keeps them together a little bit better,” he said.

Kelly Maixner agrees.

“I don’t think resting early is as hard of a decision to make as resting later,” he said.

Maixner says he can always rest his team beyond what’s required by the race rules.

“Hopefully, it will work out,” Maixner said. “I don’t get another mandatory long rest for the rest of the race until White Mountain, but you can always rest if you want to.”

But resting beyond the mandatory number of hours is a gamble. Extra rest always benefits the dogs, but it comes at the expense of the team’s overall race time.

Categories: Alaska News

Board of Game Says No to Denali Buffer Zone

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2015-03-13 18:12

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The Alaska Board of Game has turned down an emergency petition to re-establish a buffer zone to protect Denali National Park area wolves. Meeting on Friday in Anchorage, the board voted unanimously to reject the petition from the Alaska Wildlife Alliance, the National Parks Conservation Association, Denali Citizens Council and several individuals, to create a no kill zone on state lands along the northeastern edge of the Park near Healy.

Categories: Alaska News

Worker Killed at Port of Anchorage

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2015-03-13 18:10

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A worker was killed at the Port of Anchorage earlier today while handling military equipment.

Lindsey Whitt is the head of the External Affairs for the Port, and says this morning’s incident involved cargo shipping to the 1st Stryker Brigade in Fairbanks.

“A longshoreman was working on the port, and he was loading military equipment onto the rail, and he was pinned between two pieces of military equipment,” Whitt said.

The name of the man is being withheld until next of kin have been notified.

Members of the Longshoreman’s union work under a company named Sea Star– unloading freight from the military’s contractor in Alaska, TOTE. Whitt says the Occupational Safety and Health Administration–or OSHA is investigating whether safety protocols broke down.

But because the incident involves a private company, federal property, and a municipal facility, the specifics of the investigation aren’t yet clear.

Categories: Alaska News

“One Hot Mess” Gets National Attention

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2015-03-13 18:02

Libby Bakalar, aka “One Hot Mess,” striking her rap pose. (Photo courtesy Libby Bakalar)

There are a bazillion blogs these days but what does it take to write one people will actually read? Juneau writer Libby Bakalar has figured out the formula with her blog “One Hot Mess.” Bakalar mixes it up when she writes- using humor, self-deprecation, social media and even a Stephen Colbert-like character to connect with her audience. Her most-read post, titled “Alaska Airlines-to-English Dictionary,” received more than 8,000 hits, and the blog is getting national attention too. Boston’s Women in Comedy Festival has asked Bakalar to submit to their blog.

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Bakalar is the mother of a 4- and 7-year-old who are often the subjects of her entries which range from rap, to essays, to comics, to flow and pie charts, haikus and more.

Bakalar explores many forms on her blog, “My Relationship with Pilots: A Comic” is one example. (Image courtesy Libby Bakalar)

Bakalar recited her rap “Who Da Boss?” for us here.

“The funnest part for me about the blog is having a shared experience with the audience about experiences they can all relate to, like getting your kid geared up for the rain and snow,” says Bakalar.

Or not knowing certain etiquette as in “If I Actually Said What I Was Thinking at a Wine Tasting…” she also read for us.

Bakalar says she tries to be revelatory and analytical.

“I try to get to the root of pretentions and phoniness and all kinds of insecurities and things like that that people appreciate honesty about. This whole wine-tasting routine has all of those elements. It’s this first world, kind of pretentious thing that deserves to be made fun of a little bit. And I am going to make fun of myself and it at the same time,” says Bakalar.

But she’s not always rapping, humorous or irreverent. About once a month she writes an earnest piece, too, like in a November post about how cathartic crying can be.

“One of the things I hear a lot about the blog is, ‘You’re always saying what I’m thinking,’ or, ‘You’re always saying what I’m afraid to say,’ and that is the highest compliment I can get because it means I’m writing something that’s resonating with people on a real level,” she says.

Libby Bakalar in KTOO’s Studio K. Bakalar composes entries on her phone–possibly during this interview. (Photo by Scott Burton/KTOO)

Sometimes Bakalar posts as many five entries a day—most composed on her smartphone. She says she’s inspired by her husband and comic writer Geoff Kirsch, David Sedaris, Louis C.K., Margaret Cho and Stephen Colbert.

“There’s a little bit of a fourth wall, sort of Stephen Colbert-esque character developing. I’m not trying to compare myself to someone as awesome as Stephen Colbert mind you, I’m just saying he’s another person I really admire in terms of his ability to straddle that meta-line between reality and fiction. You know it’s sort of in that middle gray area between a character and a biographical representation of me.”

That version of herself recently wrote a flirtatious open letter to a guy who works at Kindred Post. As usual, Bakalar linked to her entry on Facebook and, in a Juneau-way, it’s gone viral. She likes the interactivity.

“It was all very true. Everything I said in there about how I thought this guy was cute and I feel like an old lady every time I go in the store and blah, blah, blah, he’s listening to this great music, et cetera, et cetera. But I wanted him to know all that, and I was good with that. And at the same time I was curious, is all of this going to get back to him and his friends? And sure enough it did and it was very funny and he was hilarious about it and his responses were awesome.”

One Hot Mess posted “Open Letter to Cute Dude at The Post Office Store” on Monday afternoon. Someone responded with his name within an hour and he got the link soon thereafter. It took a little investigating, but he figured out who she was.

“Should I Go Into This Adorable Shoe Store/Handbag/Accessory Boutique?: A Flowchart.” (Image courtesy Libby Bakalar)

Conor Lendrum says,“I was like, ‘Oh! It’s that fox who I made eyes at, like, that day!”

Lendrum, who has adopted the alias C-DAT-POS, says it’s all surreal—an interesting intersection of the virtual and the real. He’s looking forward to talking to her in person.

“How much of this internet personality is her true personality? How much of it is a construction for this art that she works on? She’s a very good writer. She has a wonderful self-deprecating style and very casual but precise and I really enjoy it,” says Lendrum.

C-DAT-POS will get to ask Bakalar about her and the character. After a bunch of Facebook correspondence, he’s committed to making dinner for Bakalar and her family soon.

The producers behind the Women in Comedy Festival like Bakalar’s work, too. They’re posting a “One Hot Mess” entry on their blog. Other than that, she has no agenda.

“I never want to advertise on it. I never want to commodify it in any way. I just want to have fun with it and continue to entertain my friends and family with it.”

“How much of this internet personality is her true personality? How much of it is a construction for this art that she works on? She’s a very good writer. She has a wonderful self-deprecating style and very casual but precise and I really enjoy it.”

After a bunch of Facebook correspondence, C-DAT-POS made Bakalar and her family dinner. Bakalar told the story of the dinner in 14 pictures on her blog. She declared the meal of marinated pork tenderloin with handmade garlic pesto “Top Chef material, peeps,” and gave the meal a 12 on a scale of 1-10.

Categories: Alaska News

49 Voices: Tom James Greg Tomaganuk of Scammon Bay

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2015-03-13 18:00

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Now it’s time for 49 voices. This week we will hear from a high school student from the western Alaska village of Scammon Bay. Tom James Greg Tomaganuk is from Scammon Bay. He was in Anchorage recently for the Academic Decathalon.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: March 13, 2015

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2015-03-13 17:53

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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Medicaid Reform Bill Introduced In Alaska Senate

Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN -Juneau
A Medicaid reform bill has been filed in the Alaska Senate. Many Republican legislators have said reform of the state’s low-income health care program must happen before they accept federal dollars to expand it.

House Passes Leaner Operating Budget

Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN-Juneau
The Alaska House of Representatives has passed a $4.1 billion operating budget, reducing agency operations by 10 percent over last year. The vote happened shortly after midnight. House Finance Co-Chair Mark Neuman said a $230 million cut in unrestricted general fund spending set a record.

Board of Game Says No to Denali Buffer Zone

Dan Bross, KUAC-Fairbanks
The Alaska Board of Game has turned down an emergency petition to re-establish a buffer zone to protect Denali National Park area wolves. Meeting on Friday in Anchorage, the board voted unanimously to reject the petition from the Alaska Wildlife Alliance, the National Parks Conservation Association, Denali Citizens Council and several individuals, to create a no kill zone on state lands along the northeastern edge of the Park near Healy.

Worker Killed at Port of Anchorage

Zachariah Hughes, KSKA-Anchorage
A worker was killed at the Port of Anchorage earlier today handling military equipment. Lindsey Whitt is the head of the External Affairs for the Port, and says this morning’s incident involved cargo shipping to the 1st Stryker Brigade in Fairbanks.

Three Advance in Pilot Project to Arm VPSO’s

Ben Matheson, KYUK-Bethel
Daysha Eaton, KYUK-Bethel

Three Village Public Safety Officers have been selected to advance in the VPSO Arming Pilot Project with training this month in Sitka. Twenty one VPSOs initially showed interest in taking part. There were seven earlier this year still in the process.

Gray Named Bethel DA

Ben Matheson, KYUK-Bethel
Alaska’s attorney general has named the Fairbanks district attorney as Bethel’s new district attorney. J. Michael Gray will begin in Bethel April 1 and will replace June Stein, who was fired last month.

New Route Makes Some Mushers Feel Like Rookies

Emily Schwing, APRN Contributor
This year’s race reroute has left even the most seasoned of Iditarod mushers feeling like rookies. Race leaders won’t start to appear until after teams complete their mandatory layovers and make up their start time differentials. But as Emily Schwing reports, many mushers are still surprised at where they’re finding themselves in the standings.

Women’s Hall of Fame Inducts New Members

Lori Townsend, APRN-Anchorage
The annual Alaskan spring ritual of honoring women who have helped shaped Alaska, took place last weekend in Anchorage. The Alaska Women’s Hall of Fame holds their induction ceremony in the Wilda Marston theater at the Loussac Library. Every year, women, some well known and others not, are honored for their contributions to the state.

AK: Blogger Libby Bakalar

Scott Burton, KTOO-Juneau
There are a bazillion blogs these days but what does it take to write one people will actually read? Juneau writer Libby Bakalar has figured out the formula with her blog “One Hot Mess.” Bakalar mixes it up when she writes- using humor, self-deprecation, social media and even a Stephen Colbert-like character to connect with her audience. Her most-read post, titled “Alaska Airlines-to-English Dictionary,” received more than 8,000 hits, and the blog is getting national attention too.

49 Voices

Now it’s time for 49 voices. This week we will hear from a high school student from the western Alaska village of Scammon Bay. Tom James Greg Tomaganuk is from Scammon Bay. He was in Anchorage recently for the Academic Decathalon. 49 voices is AK’s attempt to put every Alaskan on the radio.

Categories: Alaska News

Women’s Hall of Fame Inducts New Members

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2015-03-13 17:02

The annual spring ritual of honoring women who have helped shaped Alaska, took place last weekend in Anchorage. The Alaska Women’s Hall of Fame holds their induction ceremony in the Wilda Marston theater at the Loussac Library.

Every year, women, some well known and others not, are honored for their contributions to the state. This year’s 13 inductees ranged from one of the first female USGS geologists, who at one point worked on a top secret federal program– to women who had achievements in musical artistry and activism and others who championed conservation and science education.

One of this year’s inductees was Marie Meade, honored for her work in preserving and teaching Yup’ik language and culture. Marie was raised in the Bethel region and now works as a language scholar at UAA. Known for her humble nature, she said she didn’t feel as if she’d accomplished anything, just saw the work and did it- starting in the 1960s with Native students in Anchorage.

“I was teaching boarding home students in East High and I would get on the bus with students and go to Dimond/Mears and work with students there and I would work with junior high students at Romig Junior High, so that was the beginning” she said.

Another well-known Alaska name, even though she passed on many years ago, is Ann Stevens, honored posthumously for her work assisting her husband, the late Senator Ted Stevens and serving on the board of the Red Cross, the Salvation Army, league of women voters and other organizations.

Her oldest son Walter accepted the award for the family. He said his mother had a great sense of humor, but also taught him important lessons about respect. Particularly in the 70s when Richard Nixon was President and the Stevens family had been invited to the White House for Sunday services.

“I just kind of put my foot down and said “No, I’m not going to see ole tricky Dick.” And well, my mother came down the hallway, extremely agitated and said, “You will go. You might not like the person, but you will respect the office, so get get your suit on and go.’ And so I did, there wasn’t much choice and that was a great lesson in respecting the higher institutions in this country which I think we all should regardless of who we might disagree with at the time who might be occupying those positions.”

Ann Stevens was honored for community and statewide activism, volunteering and as a role model.

Inductee Arlene ‘Buddy’ Clay came to Alaska in 1944, long before statehood. She and her husband worked for the civil aeronautics administration. She says their first station was Nome, and then they were transferred to Aniak. There, she became a magistrate. The Clay’s built a cabin near the village and lived a subsistence life together, traveling around the country with their dog team for a decade. When her husband died she stayed on.

“I had a 30-ft round bottom river boat with a 40-horse Johnson and I commuted to Aniak with in the summer,” she said. “In the winter I used my dog team and I became magistrate in 1960 for the Alaska Court System and I had 12 villages under my jurisdiction, Kuskokwim, Yukon and Iditarod Rivers.

Clay was inducted for her work in rural justice. She now lives in an assisted living home in Wasilla and at 102, she still operates her ham radio every Thursday evening, something she started in 1948. In all, thirteen women were honored. It is the seventh year of inductions.

Categories: Alaska News

Medicaid Reform Bill Introduced In Alaska Senate

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2015-03-13 16:58

A Medicaid reform bill has been filed in the Alaska Senate. Many Republican legislators have said reform of the state’s low-income health care program must happen before they accept federal dollars to expand it.

APRN’s Alexandra Gutierrez joins us to talk about what’s in the bill and what it means for the program’s future.

Talk of a Medicaid reform bill coming out of the Senate picked up earlier this month. Today, Sen. Pete Kelly, a Fairbanks Republican, finally introduced it. What are his goals with the bill?

An a meeting with reporters this afternoon, Kelly said his objective was to rein in waste that exists with the state’s Medicaid program. He sees unnecessary spending happening in four areas:

KELLY: Travel, ER, prescription drugs, self-referral to more expensive specialists.

The bill he introduced Friday addresses those areas generally. There’s a section on emergency services, setting up a program tracking frequent ER visits. There’s language that setting up a prescription monitoring program and requires guidelines for prescribing narcotics to Medicaid patients. There’s also a section directing the Department of Health and Social Services to look into the pros and cons of privatizing services at the Alaska Psychiatric Institute and the state’s pioneer homes for senior citizens.

But it is not Kelly’s goal to expand Medicaid. He’s been firm about that, saying he does not want to add more people to a “broken system.” There is no language accepting $145 million in federal money to bring people near the poverty line into the program, and he’s not in favor of such language being added.

Right now, the state’s Medicaid program mostly covers low-income children and pregnant women. With expansion, adults who make up to 138 percent of the poverty level could get government health care — that’s about $20,000 a year for a single person. What does this bill do for people who don’t receive Medicaid now, but would through expansion?

This bill really does not apply to them. There’s a section that sets up a managed care pilot program of sorts, and it only applies to those already enrolled in the state’s Medicaid program. There’s also a section establishing a health savings account by taking 10 percent of a recipient’s Permanent Fund dividend that’s voluntary, but again, that only applies to people who are eligible for state Medicaid now.

Now, as it goes through the committee process, there are changes that could be made that could affect them. The legislation is just seven pages, and it’s written in pretty broad strokes. Health care policy is complicated and wonky, and by comparison, the Affordable Care Act was more than 1,000 pages.

You mentioned the creation of a Health Savings Account through people’s PFD. Tell us more about that.

The idea is that if you’re eligible for Medicaid because you’re a child or a pregnant woman near the poverty line, a chunk of your PFD could be diverted for medical expenses. Traditionally, the big benefit of health savings accounts is that money can go into them tax-free. However, most people who are eligible for Medicaid don’t really have a big tax bill anyway.

Kelly stressed that enrollment in the health savings account is voluntary — nobody in this category is going to see their PFD automatically used for their medical bills. But he also said he’s not yet sure how the health savings account is going to work.

KELLY: I can’t tell you why people would choose it. We’ll figure that out. But we’re going to get it started.

At any rate, he said there are other parts of the bill — like the push to a managed care system — that were more important for reform.

KELLY: It’s very possible that this portion of this bill will not have a lot of teeth in it, will not have a lot of impact in the short term.

There’s one other interesting — if kind of inside baseball — thing to note about the PFD section. Because of it, the beginning of the bill title is “An act relating to Permanent Fund Dividends.” Bill titles basically dictate what changes and additions you can make to a bill. So, a bill with phrasing that vague leaves an opening for other policies dealing with the Permanent Fund to be added in. Because that could be such a Pandora’s box, Kelly’s office says they’re planning to tighten that up.

What’s the financial impact of this bill?

It’s unclear. Kelly says there could be savings in the long term, but there would also be start-up costs to some of the programs established by this bill. The Legislature will have a better sense of the price tag after a fiscal note is drafted.

So, what does this bill mean for Medicaid expansion, if anything?

It’s hard to say. Kelly says he has been working with Gov. Bill Walker and his administration on Medicaid reform, and that things have been nothing but cordial between them. But Medicaid expansion has been such a priority for the Walker administration, that this bill isn’t guaranteed to get the governor’s support.

While the bill does not currently expand Medicaid, legislators could add expansion language in, if they so choose, as the bill goes through the committee process. For passage, the bill will have to go through the Senate, and then go over to the House for review. It is expected to be referred to the House Health and Social Services Committee, which is chaired by Rep. Paul Seaton, a Homer Republican who has been open to the idea of Medicaid expansion. It would also likely go to the House Finance Committee, where there are also a few friendly members.

But even if expansion language does get added to this bill, the legislation would still have to go back to the Senate for approval and potentially for a conference committee. Kelly is not optimistic about that going over well in his body.

KELLY: If I were to look into a crystal ball, I would say that would die in the Senate.

For their part, officials at the Department of Health and Social Services, who have been pushing for expansion, say they have not had time to review the bill.

It’s Day 53 at the Capitol. We’re more than halfway done with the 90-day session. Can all this happen in time for adjournment?

If it does, it would have to be on a tight schedule. It’s a pretty complicated subject to jump into so late in the game. But then again, and some people might throttle me for saying this: There’s always the option of a special session.

Categories: Alaska News

New Route Makes Some Mushers Feel Like Rookies

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2015-03-13 15:53

This year’s race reroute has left even the most seasoned of Iditarod mushers feeling like rookies. Race leaders won’t start to appear until after teams complete their mandatory layovers and make up their start time differentials. Many mushers are still surprised at where they’re finding themselves in the standings.

When he arrived in Ruby, Aaron Burmeister had no idea he was near the front of the pack.

“At no checkpoints we’ve been in have we had any idea where we are.. there have been no data, no information available for where we are. I was just taking care of my dogs and tending to things and came in here in third place and was like ‘wow, what in the world?’ I figured I’d be in 20th.”

Burmeister isn’t the only musher who has been surprised about where his team is in the standings.

“I am very surprised at where I am definitely.”

That’s Wade Marrs.  The 24 year old has finished three Iditarods.

“I thought I’d have a lot more catching up to do if I wanted to get in the top ten. Well, right now we just have to keep doing what we’re doing and keep things together and we should be able to pull it off.”

For Paige Drobny, it came as a surprise that she arrived in Galena in 24th place. She says she’s had more rest this year, in comparison to her previous two races.

“The last two years, I felt like I had been pretty on top of things, like running and resting quickly and I was in like 40th place.  I couldn’t believe there were doing it faster than what I was doing.”

This year, no one is running a traditional race plan, because they aren’t travelling a traditional trail. So even for seasoned veterans like 14-time finisher Ken Anderson, it’s not entirely clear even for veterans like Ken Anderson exactly how their teams are performing.

“I’ve run Iditarod so many times you’re like ‘ok the dogs are going to look like this at this checkpoint,’ and you’re just ready for it.”

A third of the way into the race, Anderson wanted his dogs too look the way he’d expect them to look in Takotna, had he been running the normal southern route.

“Come to think of it, they look better, yeah I just realized that!”

Standings will remain something of a mystery until mushers complete both their mandatory eight and 24-hour layovers and make up their time differential from the start. A trail report from race officials warns mushers of a “long, cold slog” along the rerouted trail to Huslia and beyond to Koyukuk.  Perhaps, mushers may find bliss running in subzero temperatures, if they remain somewhat ignorant about the new trail and where they’re running amid the pack.

 

Categories: Alaska News

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