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Get Alaska statewide news from the stations of the Alaska Public Radio Network (APRN). With a central news room in Anchorage and contributing reporters spread across the state, we capture news in the Voices of Alaska and share it with the world. Tune in to your local APRN station in Alaska, visit us online at APRN.ORG or subscribe to the Alaska News podcast right here. These are individual news stories, most of which appear in Alaska News Nightly (available as a separate podcast).
Updated: 38 min 5 sec ago

Troopers Puzzle Over Plane Found On Knik Mudflats Sans Pilot, Passengers

Fri, 2015-08-07 16:35

A small airplane was found Friday morning on Knik Arm mudflats near a small Anchorage airport but state and federal authorities say they don’t know who was on board.

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Alaska State Troopers in Palmer took a call just after midnight reporting a downed airplane west of Birchwood Airport. The airport is near Anchorage’s north border.

The Alaska Rescue Coordination Center launched airplanes to search and the small airplane was found at 6:10 a.m. about two miles northeast of the Birchwood Airport.

No pilot or passengers were with the downed airplane.

Troopers say the downed airplane may have left from the McGrath area. No flights have been reported as overdue. Troopers say a search is continuing.

Categories: Alaska News

Special Olympics Athlete Returns Home in Kodiak to Fanfare

Fri, 2015-08-07 16:33

Brittany Tregarthen and Dan Canavan. Kayla Desroches/KMXT

Twenty-seven-year-old Kodiak resident Brittany Tregarthen represented the United States in powerlifting at this year’s Special Olympics World Games in Los Angeles. She went from winning gold on the state level to earning recognition on the world level. And with so many competitors from around the world and even more people in the audience, she says this went through her mind before the competition.

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“I felt very nervous in the first place,” she says. “But I actually remembered something what my best friend named Jason Gaysheen, from Omaha, Nebraska, he told me on the phone once that ‘You can do this’ and I actually did it.”

She won a silver for benchpressing 110 pounds, fourth-place for deadlifting 160, and she also brought back a bronze in squats and a second bronze in the combination of lifts overall.

And she says she got a surprise after flying back into Kodiak Monday night.

“When I got home, everyone in Kodiak was at the airport, and they were hearing – waiting for me to come in – they were hearing clank, clank, clank of my metals,” says Tregarthen. “And I got a special gift, and it was amazing. I can’t believe it.”

That was another surprise from Dan Canavan, the Special Olympics volunteer community director in Kodiak.

“I got this picture frame from Dan,” says Tregarthen. “And it has my photos on it and red roses, flowers, stuff, and I didn’t realize the whole crew was there.”

Canavan says the Special Olympics mirror the source of its name closely. The competition is fierce, and the athletes bring impressive talent from their various countries.

“I think what it did was raised that awareness that through sports, that we are serious athletes, competing at a very high level and really vital members of the community,” says Canavan. “I think Kodiak gets that and they support us in a big way.”

He says the local Special Olympics athletes will work towards qualifying for the next World Games.

Categories: Alaska News

Unified voice needed for federal response to BC mines

Fri, 2015-08-07 16:32

Guy Archibald of the Southeast Alaska Conservation Council, left, discusses issues with Sitka Mayor Mim McConnell, right, during Thursday’s transboundary mine meeting in Juneau. (Photo by Ed Schoenfeld/CoastAlaska News)

Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott says Alaskans need a unified voice to push the federal government to question mines across the border in British Columbia.

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Addressing a Thursday meeting of tribal, business and conservation leaders, he said the state will share its knowledge and ask for input on mines near rivers that flow into Alaska.

He said it’s time for more than words:

“You can scream, all you want. You can go to the governor. … But that’s not the way we should do it. We’ve had too much of that,” Mallott says.

Critics accuse state officials of keeping them in the dark about B.C. mining projects, which they say will threaten Southeast fisheries.

They’ve also asked the state to push the federal government to bring the issue before the International Joint Commission, which addressed U.S.-Canada water disputes.

Commission expert David La Roche said that’s unlikely, because Canada has shown no interest. But he said a U.S. State Department request for a panel examination would catch their attention.

“Not because you’re going to get one. But because it would finally and officially serve notice that the U.S. federal government is really taking this issue seriously, which has yet to occur.”

Mallott met this summer with U.S. and Canadian officials and said they viewed the transboundary mine issue as local, not international.

But he told those at the meeting that the state will keep trying, as well as push for more access to British Columbia’s permitting process.

“We will be fully engaged. But this administration wants to be in constant touch with the voice of Alaska’s people. And in this instance, with those [in] leadership, individuals, institutions that are in this room.”

He didn’t define how that would work. But he said he looked forward to finding way to combine efforts.

At a meeting with Southeast tribal leaders the previous day, he offered direct involvement with the state’s transboundary mine task force.

We’ll have continuing coverage of the issues raised at the meetings in future reports.

Categories: Alaska News

Budget Cuts Tighten Local Law Departments in Southeast

Fri, 2015-08-07 15:25

Fewer crimes in Petersburg could be prosecuted in the near future. At least that’s what the Petersburg Borough fears might happen with budget cuts to the regional D.A.’s office.

Everyone knows the story by now. Very low oil prices caused state budgets cuts in all branches of government.

What that means for prosecuting crime in Southeast was conveyed in a recent e-mail from Juneau’s District Attorney, James Scott, to local police departments. He said the state attorneys will still look at each crime on a case by case basis but minor mistakes in reports will likely put the case to the bottom of the pile.

James Scott is a District Attorney in Juneau. Photo/Lisa Phu, KTOO

“So what I find myself and what other lawyers find ourselves doing is taking that file that has the minor mistake in it that in the past we would have rectified in an afternoon and putting that file aside and turning our attention to another file that doesn’t have that mistake and that needs to be processed in a timely manner,” Scott said.

Scott said he’s not being critical of local law enforcement offices—he knows everyone is busy—but he wants officers to know how they can help prevent hang ups.

Petersburg Borough Manager, Steve Giesbrecht, conveyed the message to the borough assembly at their last meeting.

“They don’t have the staff and will make decisions based on—even if it’s a good case—if it takes a lot of work and is not significantly important, they will dismiss it,” Giesbrecht said.

The Department of Law cuts include three full-time positions in Southeast: an assistant D.A. in Juneau, a law office assistant in Juneau and an assistant in Sitka. That leaves just three lawyers in Juneau to prosecute cases in Southeast.

Petersburg Assemblyman, John Havrilek, pressed the borough manager for what it might mean locally.

“Is it like there are arrests that the police aren’t going to make for certain things,” Havrilek asked, “or what’s that picture look like?”

Giesbrecht said that Petersburg has a great relationship with Scott but with his office being so short-staffed he’s going to find it difficult to maintain his presence here.

“He’s very clearly said, ‘Look, I’m not going to make as many trips to Petersburg. In fact, there may be long periods of time where I’m not available to come’,” Geisbrecht said.

Kelly Swihart, Petersburg’s Police Chief, said the reality is that Scott lost a third of his attorney staff and 50 percent of his support staff.

“So, cuts are going to have to be made somewhere,” Swihart said. “We’re kind of waiting to see how it shakes out.”

Swihart said, so far, no Petersburg cases have been declined but he would like to follow Scott’s suggestions and do more preparation locally before submitting cases to Juneau. He said they recently consulted with a retired prosecutor on a complicated case to make sure they were on track.

“So if we can get all those boxes checked before we send a case to the D.A.’s office hopefully there will be less questions later and that dismissal rate won’t go up,” said Swihart.

And essentially it’s up to the local PD as to what gets sent to Juneau. Not everything constitutes a crime.

“There are cases where we can write a simple ticket, they go pay their fine at the office and they’re done with it rather than go through that criminal process,” Swihart said.

In the Juneau D.A.’s office, Scott is trying to continue to do his work as usual even though his caseload went up one-third overnight.

“We have more balls in the air than we’re used to,” Scott said. “I’ve been with the Department for about 17 years and I’ve just never seen a situation where we have as much work as we have and as little staff as we have to handle it but so far we’re getting by.”

Department of Law budget cuts haven’t just hit Southeast Alaska. The D.A. office in Barrow was closed down and cases from that region are now being prosecuted in Fairbanks.

Another safety measure that Petersburg is looking into in light of budget cuts is a Neighborhood Watch-Crime Stoppers program. That would allow local residents to voluntarily watch for crime in their neighborhoods. Assemblyman John Havrilek is spearheading the effort. He would like to get training for residents who are interested in participating.

Categories: Alaska News

Gov. Walker visits Haines to discuss lands into trust issues with Chilkoot Tribe

Fri, 2015-08-07 13:25

Alaska Governor Bill Walker visited Haines Thursday to talk with the Chilkoot Indian Association about lands into trust issues.

Gov. Walker traveled to all corners of the state this week, visiting Akiachak, Tuluksak, Chalkyitsik, Barrow and Haines. Those towns are home to the four tribes and one individual who are plaintiffs in a decade-old lawsuit over the right of Alaska tribes to put lands into trust.

In 2006, the Akiachak Native Community, Chalkyitsik Village, Chilkoot Indian Association, Tuluksak Native Community, and Alice Kavairlook sued the Department of Interior over regulations that prohibited Alaska tribes from applying to put their lands into federal trust – something tribes in the Lower 48 can do.

In 2013, a U.S. District court agreed with the plaintiffs, saying the practice discriminates against Alaskan Tribes. The Department of Interior agreed with that decision in 2014. But the state of Alaska, under the Parnell administration, did not. The state filed an appeal to the decision.

Gov. Bill Walker in Haines Thursday. (Emily Files-KHNS)

Walker is facing a deadline in a few weeks to decide on whether to continue with or drop that appeal.

“I inherited that litigation so I’m trying to decide what’s the most appropriate path forward,” Walker said.

In his tenure so far, Walker has put off deciding whether to continue the appeal. If he were to drop it, Alaska tribes would soon be able to apply for lands trust status. Walker asked for a six-month delay in the case, and then a 30-day extension. Walker says he doesn’t think he’s likely to get more time.

“All week we’ve been around the state visiting with tribes that are involved in that issue,” Walker said. “And we’re doing that largely, almost predominantly, for one reason – to listen and to hear and have a consultation, have a discussion and hear why is that important to them.”

“It’s so important. I can’t even describe how important it is,” said Chilkoot Indian Association Tribal Administrator Harriet Brouilette.

“It weighs really heavy,” Brouilette said. “It weighs heavy on my heart. This is the land of my people. And we’re struggling to retain it. We’re struggling to hold on to a very small part of what was once ours — the places we went to subsistence hunt, and gather and fish.”

Brouilette says for the Chilkoot Tribe, the ability to put lands into trust is about protecting the land they have left. She says that encompasses the land where their tribal office is located and the Chilkoot Estates subdivision. The tribe is not necessarily going to put that land into trust, but Brouilette says they want the option because it’s their right. She says much land has been taken from the tribe over the years.

Harriet Brouilette is tribal administrator for Chilkoot Indian Association. (Emily Files-KHNS)

“At one time this entire valley, down to Excursion Inlet and further, belonged to the Chilkoot people. And as European explorers began to discover this area, they began to take possession of the land.”

Walker wouldn’t say if he is leaning one way or the other on whether he might drop the state’s appeal. But he says conversations with people like Brouilette will factor into his choice.

“For me it’s a matter of gathering information and most importantly it’s listening to what people have to say,” Walker said. “And we’ve heard some very heartfelt statements about their past, their generation, where they want to go, their concern about their children, their grandchildren. You can’t replace that with any amount of reading of legal briefs.”

Walker says one concern he has about allowing Native tribes to put lands into trust is giving more power to the federal government.

“I like decisions made as close to home as possible,” he said. “Decisions made in Washington D.C. about land use in Alaska, I’m concerned about that, quite honestly.”

For Brouilette, it’s about giving power to Native tribes. She doesn’t want things like this to continue happening:

“My father, his family is from Yandeist-aki, which is at 4 mile, where the airport is now,” she said. “He used to fish at 4 mile and was pushed out by newcomers. Then he started fishing at 7 mile and was pushed out there. And then he was pushed out at 8 mile. That’s just an example, one person. You think of all the Native families in this community that are trying to live a traditional lifestyle, live our lifestyle – it’s nearly impossible now.”

Brouilette says she couldn’t tell what choice Walker would end up making, but the fact that he sat down and talked with the Council impressed her. She says it shows that Walker is trying to understand what the issue means to the tribes who have fought for the right to put lands into trust for decades.

Categories: Alaska News

Wild food and its role in Alaska culture

Fri, 2015-08-07 12:00

Berry picking, salmon fishing and preparations for fall hunting are in full swing and Alaskans are putting up food for winter. Whether canned, dried, fermented or smoked – wild foods go hand in hand with the culture and traditions of the north.

HOST: Lori Townsend


  • Suanne Unger, author
  • Leslie Shallcross, UAF Cooperative Extension


  • Post your comment before, during or after the live broadcast (comments may be read on air).
  • Send email to talk [at] alaskapublic [dot] org (comments may be read on air)
  • Call 550-8422 in Anchorage or 1-800-478-8255 if you’re outside Anchorage during the live broadcast

LIVE Broadcast: Tuesday, August 11, 2015 at 10:00 a.m. on APRN stations statewide.

SUBSCRIBE: Get Talk of Alaska updates automatically by e-mailRSS or podcast.


Categories: Alaska News

49 Voices: Brandon Hall from Resolution Brewing Company in Anchorage

Fri, 2015-08-07 11:02

This week we’re talking with Brandon Hall, the head brewer at Resolution Brewing Company, which opened a few months ago in Anchorage’s Mountain View neighborhood, who first came to Alaska with the Air Force after college.

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Categories: Alaska News

Nome man arrested after police, troopers find $22k stash of heroin, meth

Fri, 2015-08-07 10:42

An Alaska State Trooper cruiser parked on Nome’s Front Street in January 2015. Photo: Matthew F. Smith, KNOM file.

More than $20,000 in heroin and methamphetamine have been taken off the streets after the arrest of a Nome man in a significant drug bust by Alaska State Troopers and the Nome Police Department.

Galen Milligrock, 38, was arrested Wednesday, Aug. 5, on multiple felony drug charges.

Court documents reveal an investigation going back to mid June, when police and troopers first contacted Milligrock through what Nome Police Chief John Papasodora called “undercover purchases” of drugs, including heroin. Arresting documents state Milligrock “handed [police] a vial” containing a small amount of meth, leading investigators to follow up with a search warrant for his East 5th Avenue home.

In the search, police and Troopers say they found five vials of heroin and “a small bag” of crystal meth. Court records, however, show Milligrock wasn’t arrested after the June search of his home—but that wasn’t the end of the investigation, which eventually led to what police and troopers say was Milligrock’s “drug stash” found “off of an ATV trail within the city limits of Nome.”

An affidavit from a Nome police officer states the stash held more than 21 grams of heroin, with each gram “packaged for sale.” The stash also held a clear glass vial filled with 1.2 grams of meth, or roughly five doses on the street.

Chief Papasodora in an email wrote in a Thursday email the 21 grams of heroin could be sold on the street as more more than 200 individual doses of the drug.

“It’s a lot, and especially a lot for a community the size of Nome,” said Captain Jeff Laughlin, the commander of the Trooper’s Statewide Drug Enforcement unit.

“If you associate a gram, you know kind of the size of a sugar packet, right? So, the last pricing I got that’s pretty accurate for western Alaska is, generally a gram [of heroin] is going for about $1,000. So, approximately $22,000 worth for [approximately] 22 grams.”

Investigators interviewing Milligrock wrote in papers submitted to the court that he admitted the drugs belonged to him, and allege Milligrock confessed to officers that “he sells heroin in Nome.”

In all he faces seven felony counts for misuse of a controlled substance, including two second-degree charges.

In his first court appearance Thursday, to formally hear the charges against him, Milligrock requested a court-appointed attorney and pleaded not guilty to all charges. Bail was set at $15,000 dollars. Milligrock remains in custody at Nome’s Anvil Mountain Correctional Center.

The Nome Police K9 unit with K9 “Icon” was cited by Chief Papasodora as “an instrumental part in the seizure.” Nome’s only K9 officer died unexpectedly last month while undergoing emergency surgery. Chief Papasodora didn’t provide specifics of the K9 unit’s involvement in Milligrock’s but wrote simply that “we will really miss Icon.”

Milligrock’s criminal history includes three separate felony convictions in 1996 on felony burglary, theft, and criminal mischief charges in Nome, and one felony conviction for escape in Anchorage.

His arrest is the latest in an ongoing collaboration between Troopers and Nome police that’s resulted in the heroin-related arrest of two Nome residents in December, a second couple arrested in January for allegedly selling meth, the indictment ofa fifth person in February on 11 drug charges related to heroin and meth, and most recently, a trio of arrests in March that saw three men arrested on a combined 22 felony drug charges related to selling heroin, prescription pills, marijuana and other narcotics.

Categories: Alaska News

Sleetmute man arrested for alleged ax assault

Fri, 2015-08-07 10:16

A Sleetmute man was arrested Wednesday. (Photo from Bing Maps)

State Troopers arrested a Sleetmute man Wednesday who reportedly attacked a man with an ax the night before. Aniak troopers arrested 25-year-old Kristopher Gregory.

According to a trooper dispatch, Gregory in the early morning hours struck a 56-year-old man with his fists.

The victim says Gregory then grabbed an ax. In a struggle, the victim was able to soften the blow to his head, but was still injured.

Troopers say alcohol was involved. Gregory faces a felony assault charge and was arraigned this morning. He will be in court August 14th.

Categories: Alaska News

Subsistence harvest of the Emperor goose to open in 2016

Fri, 2015-08-07 10:11

Emperor Goose. (U.S. Fish & Wildlife photo)

Next year Alaska will likely see a subsistence hunt of the Emperor Goose for the first time in 30 years.

According to a report by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, the Emperor goose population had dropped to 42,000 due to harvest and predation by the time the species was closed to hunting in 1987.

Patty Schwalenberg is the Executive Director of the Alaska Migratory Bird Co-Management Council. She says Alaska Native groups have been asking for the goose harvest since 2012.

“The areas that have requested the harvest are the ones where the Emperor goose occurs,” said Schwalenberg. “So it’s the Kawerak Region in Northern Alaska, Association of Village Council Presidents in Western Alaska, the Bristol Bay region in Southwest Alaska, and Kodiak and the Aleutian Chain.”

Schwalenberg says the latest count by Fish & Wildlife exceeded 80,000 birds, the threshold for considering an open hunt season.

It’s yet uncertain just what that season will look like, but Schwalenberg says an overall limit has been set.

“Unfortunately, contrary to what the traditional methods are, there will be a harvest limit of 3500 birds,” she says.

The native caucus of the AMBCC will meet in Anchorage August 13 and 14 to discuss how to allocate and regulate the harvest.

Schwalenberg says the proposed subsistence hunt will go to public comment period this fall.

Categories: Alaska News

Ketchikan borough considers body cameras for animal control

Fri, 2015-08-07 10:03

The Ketchikan Gateway Borough’s Department of Animal Protection is considering equipping field officers with body cameras.

The Ketchikan Daily News reports that the department is involved with a committee review of both the Pat Wise Animal Shelter and the department’s policies.

Animal protection officers issue fines, respond to complaints and investigate allegations of abuse. Some officials say those interactions with the public can leave pet owners growling.

Assistant Borough Manager Deanna Garrison called some citations “explosive.”

Still, other committee members worry body cameras would lead to a hostile work environment because of the constant surveillance.

Garrison said after a committee meeting Wednesday that a proposal to use body cameras would go before the Borough Assembly for a public process and vote maybe before the end of the year.

Categories: Alaska News

Barge brings tsunami, other marine debris to Seattle

Fri, 2015-08-07 10:03

A barge carrying hundreds of tons of marine debris collected on shorelines in Alaska and British Columbia has arrived in Seattle for sorting and recycling.

Volunteers are being organized to help sort, a process that could take weeks. Whatever can’t be recycled will be taken by train for disposal in Oregon.

Despite the mass of debris collected, the president of the cleanup organization coordinating the project says it represents a small percentage of the cleanup work that remains.

Some of the debris collected likely was swept to sea by the 2011 tsunami in Japan.

But marine debris in general, including rubbish like plastics and fishing nets, is an ongoing environmental problem.

Categories: Alaska News

Juneau first stop on gay cruise’s trip around Alaska

Fri, 2015-08-07 10:00

On Monday afternoon, nearly 2,000 people arrived in Juneau for their first stop on the 30th anniversary RSVP Vacations cruise. The cruise line caters exclusively to gay and lesbian people.

The Southeast Alaska LGBTQ+ Alliance, also known as SEAGLA, hosted an event for cruise patrons at the Imperial Saloon downtown. Nearly 200 patrons mingled, drank and played billiards during the two-hour event.

RSVP patrons enjoy the drag performances during Monday night’s event. (Photo by Lakeidra Chavis/KTOO)

“It’s just important to remember that we are in the community, that we’re neighbors, but also to welcome people who are traveling, who might be looking for community,” says Lauren Tibbitts-Travis, SEAGLA outreach coordinator.

She helped organize the event.

“It’s one thing to go somewhere that you’ve never been and see the sights, but if you’re going there [and you] immediately identify with [the place], that makes it a much better experience. That’s what we’re trying to do at these events,” Tibbitts-Travis says.

SEAGLA decordated the outside of the Imperial with various gradient flags from the LGBT community, including the pride, bisexual, transgender, leather, bear flags. Photo: Lakeidra Chavis/KTOO

This week’s cruise will take tourists to Glacier Bay, Sitka, Ketchikan and Victoria, British Columbia. Although the passengers are predominantly male, the cruise caters both to gay and lesbian people.

Ticket prices ranged from $900 to almost $3,000. Joe Fallon and his husband David Rodes says the cruise was worth it.

“We’d never been to Alaska and we’d always wanted to do an Alaska cruise, but a straight cruise never seemed like that much because we figured we’d be with a lot of old people,” Fallon says.

Fallon and Rodes, who are both in their late 50s, decided to take the cruise to celebrate paying off their mortgage.

“We met working in the same shopping center when we were like 17 and 18 years old.” Fallon says.

They’ve been together for 39 years, says Rodes.

Both men says they’re most excited to see Glacier Bay.

For 47-year old Sam Wilson, he decided to go on the cruise because it’s something his best friend has always wanted to do.

“He actually wanted to go for a very long time, and we finally found time to go. We travel a lot, this is like my fourth cruise. I did a couple in the Caribbean and a Mediterranean one, so this was like on the bucket list — definitely one to come and see,” Wilson says.

Wilson and his friend have traveled everywhere from Egypt to Greece. He says the cruise is like a party every night and there’s always a chance to meet new people.

Halfway through the event, four local drag performers took the dance floor to entertain the crowd. Performer Vanessa LaVoce-Kellie — who preferred to be identified by her stage name — was one of them.

For her the event symbolized a larger effort to create a more inclusive community.

“I performed tonight because there’s not very many opportunities to do drag here in Juneau; it’s been getting a lot better. We’ve been having more exposure, but any chance that I get to step out in face and give somebody a show, I’ll take it,” La-Voce-Kellie says.

For LaVoce-Kellie, the bigger the drag queen presence in Juneau, the better.

“These events give people that safe place, and help us to build the conversation for more acceptance and tolerance. The more you can do for love the better,” LaVoce-Kellie says.

The cruise left late Monday night to travel to its next destination, Sitka, before making a stop in Glacier Bay.

Categories: Alaska News

The changing roll of the military in Alaska

Fri, 2015-08-07 08:00

Today we’ll be discussing the changing role of the military in Alaska. The state has unique training grounds and conditions, and that’s no small part of why it hosts the kind of large-scale exercises we’ve seen this summer. But recently announced reductions in Army personnel at Joint-Base Elmendorf-Richardson in the years ahead, as well as a growing focus on the Pacific theater are complicating Alaska’s place in the military.

HOST: Zachariah Hughes


  • Colonel Michael Forsyth, Chief of Staff, Alaskan Command
  • Bill Popp, President and CEO, Anchorage Economic Development Corporation


  • If you want to see the full Mayor’s Roundtable event hosted by the Cook Inlet Historical Society, watch here

KSKA (FM 91.1) BROADCAST: Friday, August 7, at 2:00 p.m. and Saturday, August 8 at 6:00 p.m.

Alaska Public Television BROADCAST: Friday, August 7, at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, August 8 at 6:00 p.m.


Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: Thursday, August 6, 2015

Thu, 2015-08-06 17:38

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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32 Hospitalized After Smoking Spice In Anchorage

Anne Hillman, KSKA – Anchorage

Thirty-two people have been hospitalized in the past week because of Spice, a street drug that’s a mixture of dried herbs sprayed with chemicals. Many of the victims were smoking the drug near Bean’s Cafe in downtown Anchorage on Wednesday.

Choice Improvement Act Helps Close VA Funding Gap

Zachariah Hughes, KSKA – Anchorage

The Obama Administration has freed up money in Alaska to close a funding gap in healthcare for veterans.

Coast Guard Boss: Ahoy! Icebreakers on Budget Horizon

Liz Ruskin, APRN – Washington, D.C.

The head of the U.S. Coast Guard says lawmakers and the national security staff are waking up to the need for more icebreakers as the Arctic opens to increased ship traffic.

No More Kicking the Can Down the Road: Talkeetna Starts Recycling

Phillip Manning, KTNA – Talkeetna

Talkeetna’s Mat-Su Borough Transfer Site, often referred to by locals as “the dump,” is not the sort of place you would normally expect to find a celebration, but that’s exactly what happened on Monday when the community’s first recycling container was brought online.

In Price William Sound, AEA Hears Input On Regional Energy Plans

Marcia Lynn, KCHU – Valdez

With funding from the Alaska Energy Authority a series of regional energy plans are in the works to help individuals and communities become more energy efficient.

Open Call for Gas Supply Proposals Closes

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

The deadline for proposals to supply the State lead Interior Energy Project with natural gas was Monday. The Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority is managing the project, and AIDEA spokesman Karsten Rodvik says the state corporation is considering a range of possibilities for getting affordable gas to the Interior.

Harnessing the Fizz of A Ferment: Homer Gets A Lesson From A Pro

Shady Grove Oliver, KBBI – Homer

A fermentation specialist stopped in Homer this week. He’s making his way up Alaska, teaching about the crossover among food preservation, microbiology, and community.

Ishmael Hope Recrafts A Family Tale in ‘Never Alone’ Follow-Up

Lisa Phu, KTOO – Juneau

With “Never Alone,” Cook Inlet Tribal Council and game developers combined indigenous storytelling with video gaming in a way that appealed to mass markets. Its success has led to the follow up “Foxtales,” released July 28.

Categories: Alaska News

Hospitalizations from Spice on the rise, many cases near Bean’s Cafe

Thu, 2015-08-06 17:37

Spice is commercially sold in different packaging, typically as a loose packet of herbs treated with chemicals. (Courtesy photo – US Marine Corps)

Thirty-two people have been hospitalized in the past week because of Spice, a street drug that’s a mixture of dried herbs sprayed with chemicals. Many of the victims were smoking the drug near Bean’s Cafe in downtown Anchorage on Wednesday. It’s unclear if Spice is linked to the seven deaths in the homeless community in the past month.

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The executive director of Bean’s Cafe Lisa Sauder describes the scene near the soup kitchen on Wednesday as a “war zone.” Bean’s Cafe staff walked the campus, checking on anyone who was lying down. Some were just lounging in the sun, but others were unconscious.

“And what would typically happen is that there’d be maybe two, three, four people would be smoking it together, and they would all succumb to symptoms at the same time. So you would have three or four people and you would say, everything’s okay, everything seems stable, then you’d have three or four people down again.”

Police and paramedics responded. Sauder said one of her staff members pried a rolled up cigarette made with the synthetic drug out of the hand of one of the clients as she was being loaded into the ambulance. She says her staff is seeing an increase in the number of people transported for seizures and cardiac arrests — both side effects of the illegal drug. According to an APD press release, it’s possible other chemicals and “hemlock-like” plants are being added to the drug locally. The Anchorage Police Department is looking for the source of the drug. Selling and possessing Spice in Anchorage is illegal.

The health problems from Spice usage are not definitively linked to the seven members of the homeless community who have died in the past three weeks. The Anchorage Police Department says toxicology results usually take about eight weeks. Bean’s Cafe has hosted two different memorial events to help the grieving community.

During the first of the events, Mark Roy Ahvakana listened to his brother drum while others sang. He said the deaths were a wake up call.

“And reading it in the newspaper, it opened up my eyes, too. It kind of scared me. Makes me want to stop trying to drink so much and doing drugs, you know,” he said. Try to sober up, try to find work, and get a place to live in.”

Connecting clients with the limited number of resources isn’t always easy. “The problem is now, if someone walks into our client services office and says ‘That’s it, I’m done with drugs. I want to go into detox. I want to go into rehab.’ We go, ‘Great, maybe we can get you into a bed in October,'” said Sauder. “We’ve got to be utilizing the few scant resources we have while we try to bring more online.”

One temporary solution is a simple real-time updated document shared by local service providers showing all available detox, rehab, and housing possibilities. Sauder said it will help make sure all resources are put into use as quickly as possible, but ensuring that everyone is safe will require the whole community.

“If you see someone on the sidewalk, passed out, you don’t need to approach them but call. Call 9-1-1 and have somebody check on them. One of the clients that was found had been on the street for probably 10 to 12 hours. That’s unacceptable. It’s unacceptable that we’ve become so accustomed to people being passed out on the sidewalk that for 10 hours, no one called.”

Categories: Alaska News

In Price William Sound, AEA Hears Input On Regional Energy Plans

Thu, 2015-08-06 17:33

With funding from the Alaska Energy Authority a series of regional energy plans are in the works to help individuals and communities become more energy efficient.

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The Chugach Regional Energy Plan is being developed for the Prince William Sound region, and on Tuesday the project team held a Community Outreach Meeting in Valdez.

Attendance at Tuesday’s meeting was slim, but the City of Valdez and other key organizations were well represented. Project Specialist Jackie Schaeffer says that’s important.

“As long as we get a broad range of community leaders in the room that can look at the broad perspective of energy which includes all those components — housing, landfill, power production, renewables, transportation — then we get a clearer picture of the needs of the community from that perspective,” Schaeffer says.

The Prince William Sound Economic District is the project contractor, and the idea is to get accurate and up to date information from towns within each region says Jed Drolet from the Alaska Energy Authority.

At the meeting the plan outline was discussed, folks pointed out several inaccuracies and offered contact information on how to get them corrected. The presenters say they learned a lot, adding that there are many similarities among places they’ve visited.

Drolet says people in the smaller Prince William Sound communities showed up in force:

The two will hold a Community Outreach Meeting in Cordova on Wednesday.

Categories: Alaska News

Open Call for Gas Supply Proposals Closes

Thu, 2015-08-06 17:32

The deadline for proposals to supply the state lead Interior Energy Project with natural gas was Monday. The Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority is managing the project, and  AIDEA spokesman Karsten Rodvik says the state corporation is considering a range of possibilities for getting affordable gas to the Interior.

“And these options that we are looking at include both Cook Inlet and North Slope LNG, and in state propane or imported propane, and small-diameter pipeline as well, so everything is on the table,” Rodvik says.

AIDEA issued an addendum to the gas RFP Monday. It says a public summary of the proposals will come out within five days, but will withhold the names of the proposers, as well as technical and commercial information. The addendum says all non-confidential information will be made available after an IEP project partner is recommended to the AIDEA board.

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Categories: Alaska News

Harnessing the Fizz of A Ferment: Homer Gets A Lesson From A Pro

Thu, 2015-08-06 17:31

Sandor Katz. Photo by sandiegofermentationfestival.com. Shared via kbbi.org.

A fermentation specialist stopped in Homer this week. He’s making his way up Alaska, teaching about the crossover among food preservation, microbiology, and community. He taught an intensive fermentation workshop on a local farm.

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It’s a sunny day over the Caribou Hills. A group of more than 50 people are milling around a large, green farm, lunch plates piled high with pungent food that saturates the summer breeze.

Sandor Katz is sitting on a log near some chickens, wearing a white shirt with a pattern of bright red radishes. He’s the King of Fermentation.

“I ended up being given the nickname Sandorkraut because I was always showing up with sauerkraut and evangelizing about the healing powers of sauerkraut,” says Katz.

Yes, sauerkraut.

“You can make it in dazzlingly bright colors, or contrasting colors, or different sizes and shapes of cutting up your vegetables. It’s actually an incredibly versatile food,” says Katz.

Despite the teasing for always being that guy, the one who brings fermented food to a dinner party, he truly has a deep passion for this process. Through his eyes, the complex world of microorganisms and bacteria at work take on new and beautiful life.

“Before I see anything, like I smell this delicious sourness,” says Katz. “I taste this sourness that speaks to me in this very deep way. What I see is last season’s garden that’s still feeding us and nourishing us. It’s actually never occurred to me that sauerkraut could be ugly.”

And his art is gaining popularity. In the push back against processed and packaged foods, do it yourself preservation methods are picking up steam.

“You know, after a couple of generations of being thrilled to outsource that and enjoying the convenience of one-stop shopping, a lot of people are waking up to the fact that a lot has been lost by severing our connection with producing food and so they’re interested in figuring out how they can play a role in producing their own food,” says Katz.

Charles Meredith, who goes by Chaz, is an active part of the local farmers’ market and independent growing community. He says he’s seen a resurgence of traditional food ways, like canning, pickling, dehydrating, and now, fermenting.

“Well I feel like in rural places in general, the older traditions stick around more and are more appreciated by people in those areas,” says Meredith. “So, I think it’s partially holding onto the past where you can obviously see it slipping away. And also, in a place like Homer, fermentation and things like that are more practical, like he was saying, using it as a means of preservation, in a place where you can only grow vegetables for a third of the year, it’s nice to have a way to have them stick around.”

Like many other people here he’s comfortable with lots of types of food preparation, and of course has tasted pickles and sauerkraut, but still there’s something strangely unfamiliar about fermentation.

Over by the picnic tables, Marcee Gray is scooping up sticky sourdough starter with a spoon.

She finishes packing it into a mason jar, picks up some lunch at the buffet, and settles down in the shade with friends.

“In our culture of course, we do have a little bit of a fear of things like mold and bacteria. And probabl y the nature of it is that it isn’t static, that it does change, that we can’t pin it down and put it in one place and know what it is and where it is,” says Gray.

Marcee’s friend, Mary Lou Kelsey, says she likes the mystery of it.

“I was somebody who asked him, so how do you know what organisms are in there? And if you were really worried about trying to identify all the organisms, it would be difficult because he sort of describes it as a community of organisms. And so, you kind of have to go on that it tastes good and it’s a great mystery,” says Kelsey.

“So, when we’re thinking about fermentation in a practical way, we’re thinking about communities because that’s how microorganisms exist- not singularly but in communities,” says Katz.

That’s kind of like the people who are once again taking an interest in these complex processes.

“You know, if you think of like the baker and the cheesemaker and the sauerkraut maker as some archetypal fermenters- and we can’t forget the beer makers- then these are all products that give rise to exchange and informal barter and economies of community. I think the revival of local food systems is all about building and strengthening community ties,” says Katz.

It can be seen in his own work. He brings people with common interests together, eating communal meals, trading containers of their homemade concoctions, all through his teaching of the art of fermentation…one jar of sauerkraut at a time.

Categories: Alaska News

Ishmael Hope recrafts a family tale in “Never Alone” follow-up

Thu, 2015-08-06 16:19

With “Never Alone,” Cook Inlet Tribal Council and game developers combined indigenous storytelling with video gaming in a way that appealed to mass markets.

Its success has led to the follow up “Never Alone: Foxtales,” released on July 28. Juneau writer Ishmael Hope relied on his uncles, Alaska Native elders from Kotzebue, to write the game’s narrative.

Willie Goodwin Jr. narrates the videogame Foxtales. In Iñupiaq, he tells the story of two friends who emerge from their sod homes after a long winter.

“At springtime,” Goodwin says, “everything comes alive.”

Goodwin is an elder from Kotzebue. He’s also the uncle of Ishmael Hope, the game’s writer.

Hope says the two friends, Nuna and Fox, start chasing a little mouse.

Ishmael Hope wrote “Never Alone: Foxtales.” (Photo by Lisa Phu/KTOO)

“And then suddenly, in the middle of their chase, they’re stranded out in the ocean. They find themselves in an old umiak, a boat. They’re just out, and then they have to navigate their way all the way through,” Hope says.

In Nuna and Fox’s journey, “They get a little too exuberant, like young people will,” Hope says. “They’ll make little mistakes, but then they have to learn a lesson about how to respect all things, the values of being Inuit, Iñupiaq. It’s something that they had to learn.”

Foxtales is based on a story told by Hope’s late grandfather, Willie Panik Goodwin. It’s a story about fighting a giant mouse. Goodwin told the story “The Two Coastal Brothers” during an archaeological trip with a team of scholars, including Wanni Anderson who transcribed it in a short story collection, “Dall Sheep Dinner Guest.”

Hope used a lot of his grandfather’s direct words when writing the game’s script. He also collaborated extensively with his uncles who live in Kotzebue, where Foxtales begins.

The game, like its predecessor “Never Alone,” is narrated in Iñupiaq with English subtitles.

“Even if people are absorbed in the game, there’s something really special about the elder’s voice, them speaking in the language. So even if you’re not following everything, you’re getting a sense of that world and that spirit,” Hope says.

In “Never Alone: Foxtales,” Nuna and Fox navigate on an umiak. They start in the Kotzebue area and eventually find themselves on the Noatak River. (Image courtesy Upper One Games)

Hope says it’s that spirit that gives identity. Hope is Iñupiaq and Tlingit. He says his uncles Elmer Goodwin, Willie Goodwin Jr. and John Goodwin taught him a lot about Iñupiaq culture. Hope says working with them was key to making Foxtales.

“They know how to hunt, they know how to fish, they know how to be in the land. They have so many stories of survival, of reading the landscape, observing the landscape, sensing the spirits and the life of everything around us. They have that knowledge and they were able to impart that a little bit with us,” Hope says.

Foxtales is a celebration of Iñupiaq culture, something Hope thinks young people playing the game need.

“It’s one instance where they get a positive image of themselves reflected back on them. And when you’re in pop culture and you have almost no images or it’s all horrible stereotype, it’s really nice to kind of break through just a little bit,” Hope says.

Videogames have been seen as separating the young generation from the old, but Hope wants Foxtales to do the opposite.

“For young people everywhere, it allows them to create the bridge to their mom and their dad and their uncles, their aunties and their grandparents who may tell them, ‘Oh you know I know a story just like that, so let’s sit down and let me tell it to you,’” Hope says.

Hope doesn’t know if Nuna and Fox will go on any more adventures, but he says with the title Foxtales, there’s a possibility for more.

“Never Alone: Foxtales” is available for the Xbox One, PS4 and PC and Mac. It requires the original “Never Alone” to play.

Categories: Alaska News