Alaska News

Little Green Apple Ends Haines Junction’s Long Grocery Commute

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2015-02-09 15:59

(Courtesty Little Green Apple Facebook)

For three years, the 500-person town of Haines Junction had no grocery store. Residents had to drive two hours to Whitehorse to shop for food. But in December, two locals broke the grocery drought.

They opened a store called The Little Green Apple Dec. 16, and the crowd that showed up is an indication of how much Haines Junction wanted a local grocery store.

“It was a zoo,” Paula Pawlovich said. She and her partner Bill Karman are the store’s owners. Pawlovich says an empty building next to the gas station, which they also own, was “begging” to be a grocery store.

She and Karman had no prior experience running a food store, they had to teach themselves and build the shop from scratch.  They took out a loan, Pawlovich looked at products and distributors, as well as the logistics of bringing in food from Vancouver, Edmonton and Whitehorse.

“I probably have about ten different suppliers,” Pawlovich said. “It’s a very complex business.”

An added complexity comes from the kind of niche store Pawlovich wanted to create. The Little Green Apple has some mainstream products, but Pawlovich says the food skews toward organic, all-natural products.

“The store is very different than a typical grocery store. And I think people were anticipating another little highway stop, shack style, junk food, processed [food] type of store and it’s just not that. It’s a great little place where you can buy good snacks and stop and get a coffee and grab a fresh sandwich.”

(Courtesty Little Green Apple Facebook)

Pawlovich says the set-up and feel of the store was inspired in part by Mountain Market, a natural foods store and café in Haines.

Employee Katherine MacKellar was working the cash register on a Thursday afternoon. She says she likes the atmosphere of the store and the unique foods.

“There’s a product that’s called Oogie’s and it’s gourmet popcorn, and it’s all natural, but there’s like spicy chipotle and lime and cracked pepper and asiago and all these other cool flavors so it’s pretty nice and they’re really tasty.” she said.

MacKellar says people are grateful to have a local place where they can buy their milk, bread and gourmet popcorn.

“Everyone comes in and they’re like, ‘Oh this is beautiful. Thank you, thank you, thank you.’ Especially the elders and the older people because it’s harder for them to drive into town especially in winter when it’s like minus 40 [degrees celsius.]”

Pawlovich sells locally-made baked goods and locally-grown potatoes and carrots. She hopes to sell more produce grown on Yukon farms in the summer.

One challenge they face is pricing. Pawlovich says some people complain, but there’s no way she can compete with big stores like Walmart.

Overall, Pawlovich and MacKellar say people have been happy with the store. And it’s become more than just a place to buy your lunch.

“People are coming to the grocery store and they’re visiting, which is really neat to see,” she said. “They shop and they exchange stories about what they found in the store. This one gentleman said ‘I’ve been really thinking your store and what you’ve done for the town, you’ve created a cultural revolution here!’”

Pawlovich thinks with the gas station and grocery store combined, they’re probably one of the biggest employers in Haines Junction right now. And she hopes to hire more people in the summer months.

The Little Green Apple is open Monday through Saturday from 10-6 and Sunday from noon to 5.

Categories: Alaska News

Middle school teachers think planning time cuts are hurting students

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2015-02-09 15:52

Math teacher Piper Jones listens to her students before distributing a quiz.

Middle School teachers in Anchorage fall into two groups — elective teachers and core class teachers. Before this year all of the teachers were given extra time to work together and try to ease the transition of students from being kids in elementary schools to young adults in high school. But this year it’s different — elective teachers don’t get time to collaborate. And some say it’s students who are losing out.

http://www.alaskapublic.org/wp-content/uploads/2015/02/09-Middle-School-Inequities.mp3

About 120 students crowd into the Wendler Middle School gym practicing skills for the Native Youth Olympics. Some grasp short sticks while others attempts yoga-like handstands. PE Teacher Nadine Price and two others jump from group to group giving directions on the stick pull and the high kick. It’s precisely controlled chaos.

“As long as their moving and active and not getting hurt — safety — like see these guys are doing it backward,” Price says looking at two seventh grade boys. Before she can react, “They figured it out. A lot of times if you give them a minute they will figure it out, and you let them try it. It’s trial and error and then keep them moving.”

Soon the period ends and Price books it down the hallway to get to her health classroom where students are already waiting. She enters and heads to her desk.

“This is my stack of papers I’ve been trying to grade for a week because I just haven’t had time. And I tried to grade it Friday after school but that didn’t work…”

She trails off as she starts chatting with students then launches into a class on bullying. Soon, the class is over and her planning period starts. But instead of working on grading, more students file in to eat lunch in Price’s classroom.

“Why are you guys eating lunch in here instead of the lunch room?” I ask a couple of 8th graders.

“Cause it’s peaceful in here,” says Mohasen Sharife.

“Yeah, it’s peaceful,” concurs John Quinones between mouthfuls of cheese balls.

“And Ms. Price is in here and we love her,” Mohasen interjects.

“And there’s a lot of drama going on in the lunchroom all the time,” says John.

“Like what kind of drama?” I ask, not quite remembering what it was like to be in middle school.

“Rumor spreading and lies and stuff,” Mohasen explains.

They say the drama makes middle school tough. And then you add in the homework.

“I mean, this is just middle school, and it’s already a bit complicated for me,” says Mohasen. “So imagine high school where it’s like, you have to be responsible for yourself and all that. It’s a scary thing.”

So they seek out the support of their teachers, which is why core teachers have an extra team planning period to make sure their students are thriving. But now elective teachers don’t get that period, so teachers like Price often give up their personal planning time.

PE teacher Christine Sager says the lack of team time is hurting her relationship with her students.

“I don’t know what’s happening with anything else in this building. I have no idea what any other teacher is doing. Which means I can’t relate to the kids,” she says. “You know, I don’t know my kids. I don’t know them the same way at all [as I did in other years]. Which means I can’t help them, which is what the middle school model was.”

Middle school elective teachers started teaching six periods per day instead of five this year because of budget cuts. Math, Science, Language Arts, and Social Studies teachers still only teach five per day. Elective teachers think it’s unfair. Most core teachers at Wendler, like Piper Jones, agree.

Jones says team planning time is invaluable for discussing how to coordinate classes and how to help kids.

“If we want to pull in a student and have a one on one time with them without the pressures of having the other classmates nearby, or all of us pull them in together and say ‘Hey, we noticed you’re kind of on the downhill slide. What’s up?’ And usually if you do that, they break down and they tell you what’s up.”

Team planning periods are also used to develop interdisciplinary units, analyze testing data, and plan motivational events like ice cream socials to reward attendance.

Jones says it’s harder to communicate with elective teachers now, and she feels sympathetic for their extra class load. She understands why there is tension because elective teachers are being treated differently.

But it’s important to note that not all core teachers feel the same. Andy Holleman with the teachers union says some don’t think elective teachers need the extra time. Holleman says the middle school model is implemented differently in each school and elective teachers play different roles.

“The principal is in a position to make sure that teachers are delivering on the expectations. And there have been times that hasn’t happened. So to some degree some core teachers are looking at it and going ‘I see some people who just have additional planning time.’”

But Holleman says the situation is fracturing the schools and needs a long-term solution. But that could depend on the budget, which is yet to be determined.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska Lawmaker Introduces Right-To-Die Legislation

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2015-02-09 15:45

An Anchorage lawmaker has introduced legislation that would allow terminally ill patients the right to decide to end their lives with the help of a physician.

Democratic Rep. Harriet Drummond said in a release that this is not suicide but rather is an option for people who are already dying.

HB 99 was introduced in the Alaska House on Monday.

It would allow adults suffering from a terminal illness and deemed capable of making a decision to die to do so. It would allow for the person’s doctor to dispense or write a prescription for medication that would end the person’s life. The bill defines a terminal disease as one that has been medically confirmed, is incurable and will, “within reasonable medical judgment” result in death within six months.

Categories: Alaska News

North Pacific Halibut Bycatch Limit Could See 50 Percent Cut

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2015-02-09 11:39

Halibut harvests have been on the decline in the Bering Sea for years, but the amount that trawlers and catcher-processors are allowed to take has stayed the same. Now, federal regulators have agreed to consider stiffer limits on halibut bycatch.

This weekend, the North Pacific Fishery Management Council voted to study the impact of cutting the 10 million-pound bycatch limit by as much as 50 percent.

“Unless we act — and act fairly decisively — as soon as possible, we may continue to face what could be an emergency in a subsequent year,” Council member Duncan Fields, who introduced the measure, said.

(Photo by the National Marine Fisheries Service)

Halibut fishermen narrowly avoided a major cut to their catch limit in the Bering Sea this winter.

The International Pacific Halibut Commission, which sets those limits, decided not to go through with the reductions as long as their counterparts on the North Pacific council agreed to take a second look at bycatch restrictions.

They’re written into federal policy. The council has the power to make changes and they have requested voluntary reductions across the fleet.

But as Karen Pletnikoff pointed out in public testimony, the cap hasn’t officially changed in over a decade.

“In that time, how many fish, jobs, and dollars would the Bering Strait, the Gulf of Alaska, Southeast and beyond have had and could have if that bycatch survived to recruitment?” she said.

Pletnikoff is a manager for the Aleutian Pribilof Islands Association. She pointed to shore plants in Atka and St. Paul that rely on deliveries of halibut to keep business going — and stand to benefit if there’s less bycatch and bigger harvests.

But representatives from the trawl fleet warned that tighter limits could create an economic burden on their side, as well.

The exact impacts aren’t clear yet. A draft study provided to the council showed that a 35-percent cut could cost one group of catcher-processors up to $368 million — mostly from fishing less to avoid halibut.

On that front, Captain John Nelson said he’s not sure how much more he could do. His vessel, the Rebecca Irene, has already changed its fishing schedule and added excluder nets to let halibut out.

“And we’ve been working with these tools a long time,” Nelson said. “The excluder really has been dialed in to be about as efficient as it can be, right up to this year. Beyond this point, I do not see, in my experience, a lot of gain. Any increments of gain — which we will continue to try to make — are going to be very small.”

Nelson said he did see promise in new tools like deck sorting. Instead of going inside the vessel to be weighed and tallied, halibut bycatch is checked right on deck and thrown back if it’s viable.

A few boats got permission to test that method under an experimental permit over the next year.

Until then, the North Pacific council has pledged to work with the international halibut board — and figure out better tools for estimating stocks and bycatch between the two of them.

The reductions will come back for review during the North Pacific council’s June meeting in Sitka. They’re scheduled to take final action at that time.

Categories: Alaska News

Police Investigate Dillingham Woman’s Death

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2015-02-09 11:16

Police taped off the Cessna Drive residence Ella George, 55, was found dead in Saturday night, waiting on a warrant to enter the home and begin an investigation. DPD canvassed the neighborhood and conducted preliminary investigation until past 2:00 a.m. Sunday. State investigators arrived on an early Sunday morning flight and were at the scene mid-Sunday morning. (Photo by Dave Bendinger,KDLG – Dillingham)

As of noon Sunday, Dillingham Police had not labeled the death of Ella S. George, 55, a homicide. She was found deceased by a family friend around 5 p.m. Saturday evening at her daughter April Olson’s home on Cessna Drive, across from the Dillingham Bible Fellowship church.

Police say the family friend had been asked to check on George, as she was staying at the house alone and had not been reached since around 9 p.m. the night before. That man stopped by, found George unconscious, and reported it to police.

After confirming George was deceased, Dillingham police taped off the scene Saturday evening and waited for a warrant to reenter the home and begin an investigation. Officers canvassed the neighborhood and worked the scene until around 2 a.m. Sunday morning.

Investigators with the Alaska Bureau of Investigation and the state Crime Lab arrived on a flight from Anchorage early Sunday, and were on the scene by mid morning.

Rumors of the cause and circumstances of the death quickly swirled around town Saturday evening, in part due to an open page on the EMT channel relaying an unconfirmed, alleged cause of death. Dillingham Police Chief Dan Pasquariello was quick to bat the rumors away for now.

“We will wait on an autopsy and results from our investigation,” he said Sunday morning, while admitting that the circumstances are “suspicious.”

Categories: Alaska News

Yukon Quest Trail Puts Dog Sled Designs To The Test

APRN Alaska News - Mon, 2015-02-09 10:25

On the Yukon Quest Trail, there are a few things mushers have to be especially picky about including a sturdy sled. Jumble ice near McCabe Creek, half way to Pelly Crossing is testing sled engineering this year.

When he’s not running dogs, musher Cody Strathe builds dog sleds for a living.

“I built the same sled I built for about 10 people this year, but it’s a nice sled and it was originally my design for myself,” Strathe said.

Strathe built a smaller version of the same sled for Brent Sass, who says he changed out the runners and made a few tweaks in time for the race.

Denali Park musher Jeff King competes in the 2015 Yukon Quest. (Photo by Emily Schwing, KUAC – Fairbanks)

“I put some new foot pads on that are a little softer and I did extend my brake pad a little bit so I have a little bit more stopping power,” Sass said.

The smallest sled on the trail may be Jeff King’s. That design has a slightly shorter bed and rides high. King also tows a trailer behind him. Some mushers think it’s too hard to manage two sleds instead of one, but King scoffs at their skepticism.

“I shouldn’t be any more worried if I have built it well as somebody with long runners who is trying to carry the same amount of weight as I am only I am spreading it out into two sleds,” King said.

King’s sled was among many tested in rough jumble ice on the Yukon River half way to Pelly Crossing. The ever-reserved Joar Ulsom said simply “it was bad.”

“Some of it was really taller than the sled and you would punch you feet off the runners and the dogs would fall down into cracks and some necklines broke because the dogs fell and got dragged and one dog crashed into a big sheet of ice and the sled is just all over the place,” Ulsom said.

Ulsom had his sled shipped from Norway, but it almost didn’t arrive on time. He had to send a handler to Tok to pick it up the night before the race. He says he was up late that night putting it together.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: February 6, 2015

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2015-02-06 17:43

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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Health Department Says Medicaid Expansion Can Save State Money

Annie Feidt, APRN – Anchorage

Health Commissioner Valerie Davidson unveiled two new reports Friday at a press conference in Anchorage she hopes will help make the case for Medicaid expansion. They show Alaska can actually save money by expanding the program, even as the federal match drops below 100 percent. But whether Republican state lawmakers skeptical of expansion will agree with the analysis is an open question.

Report: Mat-Su Behavioral Health Services Inadequate

Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage

A new report released by the Mat-Su Health Foundation indicates that behavioral health services in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough are woefully inadequate. The report, the first of three, suggests residents are not accessing care until they are in crisis.

Supreme Court Denies Rachelle Waterman Appeal

Leila Kheiry, KRBD – Ketchikan

More than a decade after the original crime took place, the Alaska Supreme Court denied Rachelle Waterman’s appeal of her conviction in the death of her mother.

State Seeks Delay In Indian Country Expansion

The Associated Press

Governor Bill Walker’s administration is seeking more time to assess the potential impact of expanding Indian Country in Alaska.

Kuskokwim Fishermen Set Sights on Co-Management

Ben Matheson, KYUK – Bethel

Efforts to establish tribal co-management of Kuskokwim salmon are slowly progressing. A steering committee is in Bethel to sketch out the future of who regulates the river. Kuskokwim fishermen are eager to be managers, instead of simply advisors.

Cook Inlet LNG Will Require Lead Time

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

The state has proposed purchase of Fairbanks Natural Gas as part of a plan to increase the volume of Cook Inlet gas available in the interior. The governor has indicated that could begin as early as next year, but the timeline may stretch out longer.

High Winds, Low Temperatures Cut Through Southeast Alaska

Margaret Friedenauer, KHNS – Haines

A strong and freezing cold wind cut through Haines and Skagway on Thursday and Friday. Gusts reached up to more than 100 miles per hour. And with temperatures in the single digits, the wind chill was at least 20 below.

AK: Climate Change and the Quest

Emily Schwing, KUAC – Fairbanks

The Yukon Quest International Sled Dog race starts tomorrow. For more than 30 years, the race course has followed an old Gold Rush era trail that took advantage of the Yukon River. But in recent years some parts of the river haven’t frozen up.  Warm temperatures are starting to impact everything from race logistics to the sled dogs themselves.

300 Villages: Levelock

This week, we’re heading to Levelock on the Kvichak River near Bristol Bay. Chadalin Washington is an administrative assistant in Levelock.

Categories: Alaska News

Supreme Court Denies Rachelle Waterman Appeal

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2015-02-06 17:09

More than a decade after the original crime took place, the Alaska Supreme Court denied Rachelle Waterman’s appeal of her conviction in the death of her mother.

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Waterman was found guilty in a 2011 retrial of criminally negligent homicide for telling two men she had been dating- that she wanted her mother dead, and then failing to warn her mother or alert authorities when she found out that the two men were, indeed, planning to kill Lauri Waterman.

The two former boyfriends, Jason Arrant of Klawock and Brian Radel of Thorne Bay, confessed to the 2004 murder, which took place outside of Craig on Prince of Wales Island.
For her role in the crime, Waterman was sentenced in July of 2011 to three years in prison.

The basis of Waterman’s appeal is that as a 16 year old she should not have been judged based on the standard for an adult.

Waterman’s attorneys argued that juveniles’ brains are not yet fully developed, which affects their judgment.

Alaska’s high court said state law stipulates that for the most serious crimes, including homicide, defendants as young as 16 years old are treated the same as adults.

Categories: Alaska News

State Seeks Delay In Indian Country Expansion

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2015-02-06 17:07

Governor Bill Walker’s administration is seeking more time to assess the potential impact of expanding Indian Country in Alaska.

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The Alaska Dispatch News reports state Attorney General Craig Richards is asking for a six-month delay in a case before a federal appeals court in a long-running battle affecting tribal sovereignty.

In 2013, the District of Columbia appellate court ruled in favor of four Alaska Native tribal governments and one individual who sued the U.S. Interior Department.

The appellate court ruling led to an Interior Department rule to accept land into trust for Alaska tribes and individuals with Native allotments.

Interior is not appealing, but the state is.

Plaintiffs’ attorney Heather Kendall-Miller says the Interior Department’s ability to put land into trust for Alaska Natives is thus on hold.

Categories: Alaska News

Kuskokwim Fishermen Set Sights on Co-Management

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2015-02-06 17:06

Kuskokwim River Inter Tribal Fisheries Commission steering committee members hear from AVCP attorney Sky Starkey. (Photo by Ben Matheson / KYUK)

Efforts to establish tribal co-management of Kuskokwim salmon are slowly progressing. A steering committee is in Bethel to sketch out the future of who regulates the river. Kuskokwim fishermen are eager to be managers, instead of simply advisers.

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10 members of a steering committee met for the first time in Bethel Thursday. Fisherman from Nikolai at the headwaters down to the mouth began to define what they want to see in tribal co-management. Committee member Bob Aloysius from Kalskag emphasized tribes need to be more than simply advisers.

“Recommendations to go a point, and nothing happens. We need to have authority to implement, maintain, monitor, and enforce whatever we come up with,” said Aloysius.

The steering committee for the Kuskokwim River Intertribal Fisheries Commission is being facilitated by the Association of Village Council Presidents and Tanana Chiefs Conference, building off of tribal resolutions passed last year. Kuskokwim king salmon runs have been in decline for several years and unprecedented restrictions have hit subsistence fishermen hard. That’s led to conflicts among communities along different parts of the river. Jacob Black from Napakiak said for tribal management to succeed, everyone has to be on board.

“Our elders used to say, there may be a lot of people on the Kuskokwim or Alaska, but if you’re not united, you’re never going to accomplish nothing, that’s 100 percent true, to me. Right now we are not united,” said Black.

The full commission someday would include representatives from all Kuskokwim tribes choosing to take part. The smaller steering committee is trying to determine next steps and outline the mission and goal. They elected Bob Aloysius and Mike Williams as interim co-chairs while more members are expected to join. The long-term vision in some capacity includes equal footing among tribes, state and federal managers.

In the meantime, a federal demonstration project for co-management could build capacity for the change. Gene Peltola Junior, the assistant regional director for the Federal Office of Subsistence Management described a possible new committee under the federal subsistence board. He says if it’s structured properly it could have more input.

“But if they were to give it weighted opinion, or whatever you call it, I truly feel the local individual would have a lot more say in management than they have had in the past,” said Peltola Junior.

Sky Starkey, an attorney who works for AVCP presented a vision of how the committee could push the boundary of the law in order to maximize co-management potential.

To give it teeth, Starkey says tribes should seek broad application of a section of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, or ANILCA, that governs subsistence on federal lands. That would force the federal board to defer to their committee’s plan, unless the proposal fails to meet strict criteria.

“Trying to use that and trying to strengthen it so the recommendations carry a lot of weight,” said Starkey.

One idea is to create a new regional advisory council that replaces the fish responsibilities of two current regional committees. In the very preliminary conception, tribes would make comprehensive management plans and take responsibility for researching and monitoring fish, while giving traditional knowledge equal footing.

The meeting continues Friday at the cultural center in Bethel. A meeting for Yukon tribes is scheduled for next week in Fairbanks.

Categories: Alaska News

Cook Inlet LNG Will Require Lead Time

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2015-02-06 17:05

The state has proposed purchase of Fairbanks Natural Gas as part of a plan to increase the volume of Cook Inlet gas available in the Interior. The governor has indicated that could begin as early as next year, but the timeline may stretch out longer.

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Categories: Alaska News

High Winds, Low Temperatures Cut Through Southeast Alaska

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2015-02-06 17:04

A strong and freezing cold wind cut through Haines and Skagway on Thursday and Friday. Gusts reached up to 100 miles per hour. And with temperatures in the single digits, the wind chill was at least 20 below.

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Categories: Alaska News

300 Villages: Levelock

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2015-02-06 17:02

This week, we’re heading to Levelock on the Kvichak River near Bristol Bay. Chadalin Washington is an administrative assistant in Levelock.

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Categories: Alaska News

Health Department Says Medicaid Expansion Can Save State Money

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2015-02-06 15:35

Health Commissioner Valerie Davidson and Alaska Governor Bill Walker announce the state’s plan for Medicaid expansion and reform. (Photo by Annie Feidt, APRN – Anchorage)

Health Commissioner Valerie Davidson unveiled two new reports Friday at a press conference in Anchorage she hopes will help make the case for Medicaid expansion.

They show Alaska can actually save money by expanding the program, even as the federal match drops below 100 percent. But whether Republican state lawmakers skeptical of expansion will agree with the analysis is an open question.

Health Commissioner Valerie Davidson never misses a chance to make the case for Medicaid expansion. Even when that chance comes in the form of a cell phone ringer that someone in the press conference crowd forgot to silence:

“Maybe it’s somebody calling saying they’re ready to sign up! Which would be great. We’ll be ready this summer,” she said.

A lot has to happen between now and this summer – July specifically – when Davidson hopes to role out expansion. The health department is devoting extra resources to fix big problems with the systems that enroll new Medicaid members and pay providers for services. The biggest obstacle, though, will be Republican state lawmakers, who have to approve the receipt of federal Medicaid expansion funds in their budget. Many say the state can’t afford to expand the Medicaid program, which is already one of the biggest drivers of the state budget. But Davidson says a new analysis shows Medicaid expansion won’t cost the state, even when the federal match drops to 90 percent in 2020.

“We’ve… identified some pretty significant savings and Alaska actually saves general fund dollars by covering this new population,” Davidson said.

State prisoners, for example, would be eligible for Medicaid expansion, saving the state $4-7 million a year, according to the report. The health department would also be able to redirect millions of dollars in grant money that is currently used to help the population who would be eligible for expansion. Davidson also wants expansion to spur the process of reducing the cost of the entire Medicaid program. She thinks the cost savings combined with reform will convince lawmakers to approve it:

“Quite frankly I think there are some legislators who aren’t necessarily so hot on expansion but they’re interested in reform and if the two go hand in hand and we can show that there are savings to the state at a time when we are looking for those savings opportunities in our general fund, then I believe they’ll come on board,” Davidson said.

Republican legislators declined to comment until they had more time to review the reports.

In the coming weeks, they will be hearing from a long list of organizations that support expansion, including the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority. The organization is pledging $1.6 million for the first year of expansion to cover the state’s share of administrative costs. Jeff Jesse is chief executive office with the trust, which serves Alaskans with substance abuse problems, mental illness and cognitive disabilities. He says it makes sense for the trust to help out because expansion will benefit Alaskans the group serves.

“The Trustees certainly had to think about the cost issue, but the purpose of the Mental Health Trust is to be a catalyst for change and assist in enhancing our service system for our beneficiaries, so this is a very appropriate project for the trust,” Jesse said.

The Trust is also giving $300,000 to the health department to pay national experts to study successful Medicaid cost reform efforts in other states.

About 40,000, mostly childless adults, would be eligible for Medicaid expansion. But in the first full year of implementation, according to the new report, only half of those who are eligible would sign up.

Categories: Alaska News

Is An Ambitious Arctic Agenda Economically Viable?

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2015-02-06 12:00

(USGS photo)

An ambitious set of priorities has been put together for the American chairmanship of the Arctic Council that begins this year, but neither the federal government nor the state has much money to pay for implementing those priorities. Climate change is amplified in the Arctic, and the Arctic nations want to work together to respond.

HOST: Steve Heimel, Alaska Public Radio Network

GUESTS:

  • David Kennedy, Deputy Undersecretary for Operations, NOAA
  • Callers statewide

PARTICIPATE:

  • Post your comment before, during or after the live broadcast (comments may be read on air).
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LIVE Broadcast: Tuesday, February 10, 2015 at 10:00 a.m. on APRN stations statewide.

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Categories: Alaska News

Combating Anchorage’s Violent Crime Spike

APRN Alaska News - Fri, 2015-02-06 08:00

Anchorage Assembly member Paul Honeman (left) and Anchorage Police Department Chief Mark Mew (right) talk with Zachariah Hughes (center) on Alaska Edition. (Photo by Josh Edge, APRN, Anchorage)

A recent uptick in deadly shooting incidents and assaults in Anchorage have police and public safety advocates sprinting to organize a response to curb the violent trend. The Anchorage Police Department is organizing a task-force to tackle the problem, but what can communities do to help remedy the problem?

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HOST: Zachariah Hughes

GUESTS:

  • Mark Mew, chief, Anchorage Police Department
  • Paul Honeman, member, Anchorage Assembly

KSKA (FM 91.1) BROADCAST: Friday, February 6 at 2:00 p.m. and Saturday, February 7 at 6:00 p.m.

Alaska Public Television BROADCAST: Friday, February 6 at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, February 7 at 4:30 p.m.

Categories: Alaska News

Looming Discharge Regulations Exasperate Commercial Boat Owners

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2015-02-05 17:14

Alaska fishermen have three years before the EPA is supposed to begin regulating deck wash, bilge water and other liquids discharged from small vessels.

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski this week introduced a bill to permanently block the regulation for commercial vessels under 79 feet. Senate co-sponsors include Alaska’s Dan Sullivan, and California Democrat Barbara Boxer. 

The threat of the looming discharge regulation frustrates owners of commercial boats from Alaska to Florida. Robert Zales, president of the National Association of Charter Boat Operators, let his exasperation show in testimony at a recent U.S. Senate hearing.

“How, how do I – I can’t even give you an answer to that question on how much rain runs off my deck on a particular day,” Zales said. ”It’s rainwater that would’ve hit the water if it hadn’t hit my boat, so what is the purpose?”

Murkowski and Boxer nearly won a permanent exemption for small boats last year. But owners of bigger vessels objected, saying the exemption should cover their ballast water discharge, too. Boxer says ballast water poses more danger because it can carry invasive species from port to port.

 

Categories: Alaska News

Yukon Quest Rookies Tout Knowledge, Experience Of Champions

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2015-02-05 17:11

Of the 26 mushers signed up to race dog teams in this year’s Yukon Quest International Sled Dog race, 10 are rookies. They might be new to the race, but a few trained dog teams with a handful of well-known and champion long-distance mushers.

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When Yukon Quest veterinarians gave Kristin Knight-Pace’s dog team the green light following their pre-race check-up, the rookie musher breathed a sigh of relief.

“I’m just ready to hit the trail, “ she said. “The preparation has been exhausting and comprehensive and taken over our whole life and it seems like all we’ve been doing is preparing and preparing and I just want to be on the runners.”

Knight-Pace, of Healy, both worked and trained with former Yukon Quest and Iditarod Champion Jeff King.  She said she sought plenty of advice from King over the last year.

“I’m pretty sure I was filling my quota of calls to Jeff,” laughed Knight-Pace.

She said the 1000 mile race will be the longest distance she’s ever travelled with a dog team in one shot, so even though she’d like to be competitive, it’s likely she’ll hold her team back.

“I’m mostly realistic,” she said. “I think part of being competitive is wanting to succeed and in order to succeed, you have to cross the finish line and in order to cross the finish line, especially for a rookie, you have to be pretty conservative.”

Knight-Pace’s plan is similar to the one Two-Rivers musher Ryne Olson is working on for her rookie Quest run.

“Yeah, there are a lot of unknowns there.  It’s kind of an exciting feeling,” said Olson. “I get to do something I’ve never done before.  I’ve never planned for a 1000 mile race before by myself, so yeah this will be fun.”

But Olson has helped plan other 1000-mile sled dog races.  She used to work for defending champion Allen Moore and three-time second place Iditarod finisher Aliy Zirkle.  As part of that job, Olson drove a young team to Nome in 2012.  She’s also showed off a competitive edge in her mid-distance qualifying races, including last month’s Copper Basin 300 where she placed third.

“It’s going to be really hard for me to take it easy on the dogs, especially when I get in the race setting I want to see what they can do. I want to see what I can do,” said Olson.

Despite her resume, Olson said she’ll also try to race conservatively, in part because many of her dogs are only two years old.

“I’m hoping we’ll be square in the middle,” she said. “Definitely in the future I want to try and be up there with the front runners and just because they are so young, and while the Copper Basin was great and I am so proud of them, it’s just a totally different race and I want this to be a learning experience and a real positive experience.”

A learning experience is what Damon Tedford is looking to gain from his race.

“I’m like an official rookie,” Tedford laughed. “It’s funny you should ask because when I was filling out my form for the Quest it’s like ‘how long have you been mushing?’ And I just put less then a year and I had somebody on the Facebook actually say ‘less than a year? What are you doing attempting this?’”

Tedford is an emergency room doctor from Vancouver, British Columbia.  He’s running a team owned by Iditarod Champion Mitch Seavey.

“‘Just mush!’ is kind of Mitch’s line,” he said. “We kind of joke around the kennel about that, but trying not to sweat the small stuff,” he said. “If the dogs are running and eating and you’re focused on looking after your dogs and not making mountains out of molehills and focused on having a good time, that’s the best advice anybody can give you.”

Another rookie musher who’s received decades’ worth of mushing advice is Ray Redington Junior. He comes from mushing royalty. His grandfather is Iditarod founder, Joe Redington Senior. He’s confident his team can hold up against competitors he has faced in other races.

“I think I can probably do ok I guess,” he said.  “I look at the field. I race against them all the time. They ain’t any better. They just know where we’re going.”

26 dog teams will go west from Whitehorse. Over the next two weeks, they’ll travel 1000 miles along an old Gold-Rush Era trail to cross the finish line in Alaska’s Golden Heart City.

Categories: Alaska News

Why Some Alaskans Are Learning The Tlingit Language

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2015-02-05 17:09

Participants of the Tlingit Language Learners Group point to the ceiling during an exercise called Total Physical Response. (Photo by Lisa Phu/KTOO)

A group of people in Juneau spend an hour every Monday practicing Tlingit. They bring dictionaries and flashcards, look at handouts and do language exercises. But this isn’t a class.

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An informal group that meets at the Downtown Public Library was started by Tlingit language students who understand that learning the language also means teaching it to as many people as possible.

Seventeen people sit around a table practicing sounds of the Tlingit language. They’re watching a YouTube video made by X̱’unei, or Lance Twitchell. He teaches Tlingit at University of Alaska Southeast and is a vocal proponent of language revitalization.

But Twitchell’s voice over the speakers is the only trace of a Tlingit language teacher in the room.

The group was formed last spring, a result of a brainstorming session on how to bring Tlingit language and culture to the community in an accessible way. One of its founders Richard Radford has been studying Tlingit for two and a half years.

“We’re all learners and so it is kind of like a class of students getting to sort of call the shots,” Radford says.

Which means the group can go in many different directions.

“Anybody can share pretty much anything. We learned how to introduce ourselves in Persian a little while ago from someone coming in. We’re really open to that. Multiculturalism is a really a big part of this,” he says.

Radford says the group relies heavily on books, dictionaries, YouTube videos and handouts made by more experienced Tlingit speakers.

“There are elders and linguists and artists and culture bearers and professors and other language learners and all sorts of people from all over the place who provide us with so much. We’re just standing on the shoulders of giants,” Radford says.

The group is made up of regulars and others who drop in because they’re curious.

At age 56, Nancy Keen has made it a goal to learn Tlingit. Her grandfather was fluent, but her mother never spoke a word. Keen’s been drumming and singing clan songs with Southeast dance groups for five years and that’s spurred her interest.

“You have to want to know what you’re singing about. And you have to want to know that you should pronounce this stuff correctly because the language is just so subtle in nature that it’s really easy to say something wrong when you don’t mean to,” Keen says.

Richard Radford (right) is one of the founding members of the Tlingit Language Learners Group. (Photo by Lisa Phu/KTOO)

Tlingit is a tonal language. Similar sounding words that mean drastically different things are distinguished by an inflection of the voice. The group practices these similar sounding words:

“Eech” means reef while “éechʼ” describes something compact and heavy.

Keen says she can’t put full sentences together yet so she’s working hard on memorizing sounds and pronunciations.

She appreciates the group’s passion for making the Tlingit language so available.

“There was a lot of talk about building language nests and now it’s starting to actually come to light, and so that’s how we’re going to make sure we can continue and nurture this language,” Keen says.

The end of the hour comes quickly. A group participant suggests another activity.

“So if anybody wants to stick around and do some extra stuff for another 5 minutes or so, there’s some stuff that we can do that’s kind of more interactive,” says David Sheakley. He’s running an exercise called Total Physical Response, or TPR.

“Instead of just listening to the words and saying them back, you actually have to act them out with your body. It makes connections between your muscles and muscle memory with what you hear and also with what you say,” Sheakley explains.

Nancy Keen holds out Tlingit flash cards. (Photo by Lisa Phu/KTOO)

Sheakley’s family on his father’s side is all Tlingit. Many of them spoke the language and helped spread it. Now, Sheakley sees it as his responsibility.

Like Keen and Sheakley, some in the group are Alaska Native. Radford is not one of them

“I’m definitely European descended. There’s a term dleit káa that gets used sometimes,” he says.

But, as someone living in Alaska, he feels a responsibility to learn the local language.

“We live in a very multicultural state and sometimes people lose sight of that, myself included. I mean we live in Lingít Aaní and I think that we should be learning the language of this place,” Radford says.

Outside of the learners group and class, Radford says he speaks Tlingit “mostly to my cats. I talk to them a lot. I’ve branched out to humans, too.”

Most of the time, he speaks to other learners.

“When we see each other in public it’s pretty much required. We do things online, there are a lot of things on social media. Not as many public events, like we’d like to do this, ideally, every night of the week in town, have this keep going. This is just a Monday,” Radford says.

After the TPR exercise, the group session ends, but the conversation carries on.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: February 5, 2015

APRN Alaska News - Thu, 2015-02-05 17:08

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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Governor’s New Budget Cuts 300 State Employees

Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN – Juneau

The latest iteration of the governor’s budget cuts $136 million from the previous version

Training Nears For First Wave Of Armed Alaska VPSOs

Ben Matheson, KYUK – Bethel

Village Public Safety Officers in Western Alaska will be participating in a pilot program that could make them the first VPSOs in the state to carry weapons in their job. They’re in the middle of psychological testing right now and seven experienced officers have advanced towards training.

U.S. Senators Try Again to Kill Vessel Discharge Regs

Liz Ruskin, APRN – Washington DC

Alaska fishermen have three years before the EPA is supposed to begin regulating deck wash, bilge water and other liquids discharged from small vessels.

Glory Hole Homeless Shelter Reopens After Repairs

Kevin Reagan, KTOO – Juneau

The Glory Hole Shelter and Soup Kitchen reopened its doors Wednesday morning after plumbing repairs closed down its headquarters for the last two months.

Yukon Quest Rookies Tout Knowledge, Experience Of Champions

Emily Schwing, KUAC – Fairbanks

Of the 26 mushers signed up to race dog teams in this year’s Yukon Quest International Sled Dog race, 10 are rookies. Many of them might be new to the race, but a few have trained dog teams and worked for a handful of well-known and champion long-distance mushers.

SeaLife Center Blind Seal Warms Trainers’ Hearts

Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage

A disabled harbor seal pup at Alaska Sea Life Center in Seward has learned a new trick.  Bryce, the blind baby seal, responds to sound and voice commands, and as KSKA’s Ellen Lockyer reports, trainers are teaching him  the behavior’s that may help him  find a permanent home.

Why Some Alaskans Are Learning The Tlingit Language

Lisa Phu, KTOO – Juneau

A group of people in Juneau spend an hour every Monday practicing Tlingit. They bring dictionaries and flashcards, look at handouts and do language exercises. But this isn’t a class.

Categories: Alaska News

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