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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: 58 min 25 sec ago

As Field Season End, Gasline Becomes Focal Point In Gubernatorial Race

Mon, 2014-10-20 18:00

Just about every major gubernatorial candidate since Jay Hammond has made advancing a gasline part of their platform. This election is no different. With early field work being done on a project, Republican Gov. Sean Parnell and unaffiliated candidate Bill Walker are sparring over who can negotiate the best deal and who can close it. APRN’s Alexandra Gutierrez reports.

How much money do you have to spend to get a handful of dirt? About half a billion, if you’re talking about samples from the proposed site for a natural gas liquification plant in Nikiski.

“Dirt’s what you sweep under the rug!” interjects Dick Raines, as a drill rig seizes up about a cupful of soil.

Raines is a geotechnical engineer for ExxonMobil, and he’s collecting samples to make sure the land is stable enough for a massive construction project. A member of his team shows off the gravel to a handful of reporters, who have been flown down to see people actually working in the field. The deal to get this point in a gasline project was inked this past year by the State of Alaska, Exxon, BP, Conoco, and TransCanada, and plenty of effort has already gone into permitting and export licensing. But the early engineering work that started this summer was really the first to involve boots on the ground.

The scene itself isn’t very impressive: a small mobile drill rig to extract the soil, about a half dozen men in safety gear. But all the Alaska LNG employees accompanying reporters to the site are quick to emphasize that the project itself is unprecedented in its scope.

“Nobody has ever permitted a project like this before. There has never been a project this large done in the U.S,” says project manager Steve Butt, during his presentation at the Alaska LNG site.

Butt says even the numbers for the preliminary work match the ambition of a project that involves one gas treatment plant, one liquefaction plant, and 800 miles of pipeline.

“You’re investing $2+ billion to see if it makes sense to invest another $45 to $65 billion,” says Butt.

Now, there’s the question of whether the project will get to that point. Just as summer fieldwork is winding down, the gasline is coming up as a political issue. With oil production a fraction of what it was during the boom years, construction of a gasline is seen as the state’s best hope of offsetting a decline in oil revenue.

RADIO AD: Bill Walker wants to renegotiate the deal, which will add years of delays. Let’s stick with a gasline project that’s working, and the governor that’s making it happen.

Republican incumbent Sean Parnell has started airing ads promoting his own work on the project and criticizing his unaffiliated opponent. Parnell campaign manager Tom Wright notes Walker has litigated against the industry in the past, seeking to block the state’s settlement with Exxon over the development of Point Thomson’s gas reserves (Walker sought to have the state seize ownership of the Point Thomson leases because of the company’s delay in developing the prospect, and then offering them to other parties). Wright says Walker has also made statements about the gasline that suggest he would try to change the project.

“At one point, he called the gasline ‘fatally flawed.’ And now he’s saying, ‘Well, we might continue to work at what the governor’s doing,” says Wright. “We just don’t know where he’s coming from.”

Walker has campaigned heavily on the issue of a gasline in the past, and he’s been an advocate for a project in which Alaska has a greater stake. Right now, Exxon, BP, and Conoco control 75 percent of the project, and Alaska splits its share with TransCanada with the option of buying it back down the road. Walker now says he’s willing to operate within the framework established by lawmakers this past year. But that doesn’t necessarily mean he won’t try to affect the terms of the deal going forward, depending on what those confidential terms are.

“I will finish the project. I will not start over,” says Walker. “But I do have an issue with the ultimate decision-making being made by somebody other than Alaska.”

In a recent interview with the Alaska Journal of Commerce, Walker also expressed some reservations about some of the parties involved in the deal. He says he’s still talking with the companies, though.

“I don’t know that they have a particular issue with me being governor,” says Walker. “They certainly seem to continue to invite me to come meet with them.”

While the gasline has been a flashpoint for the two candidates — with Walker even suggesting they hold an hour-long debate just on that issue – gasline experts say that companies tend to be more comfortable with an incumbent even if the two candidates share the same views on a project. Larry Persily, the federal coordinator for an Alaska natural gas project, says that’s simply because they know what to expect from a person with whom they’ve already negotiated.

“The oil and gas industry, any industry, and business, especially one that’s looking at spending tens of billions of dollars gets a little nervous when there’s political change,” says Persily.

For their part, the oil companies are being politic about the governor’s race. Back in Nikiski, Walker and Parnell signs both dot the roadside leaving the worksite. Project manager Steve Butt says he’s been asked pretty often about how much the governor’s race will affect the natural gas project.

“It’s a fair question. I understand it,” says Butt. “But the project is measured in decades, and there’s going to be lots of political transitions. As long as all the owners can continue to work in that spirit, you know, we can find a way to work.”

So far, none of the companies involved in the project have put money behind either candidate.

Categories: Alaska News

Parnell Meets With Guard Members

Mon, 2014-10-20 17:44

Gov. Sean Parnell met with Alaska National Guard members Sunday amid ongoing criticism about the administration’s response to allegations of sexual assault and other misconduct within the Guard.

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Parnell spokeswoman Sharon Leighow says this was a drill weekend and hundreds of Guard members attended the town hall at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson on Sunday.

Leighow said by email that Parnell was addressing changes that are being implemented within the Guard and taking members’ questions. She says Guard leadership was not in attendance.

A report from the National Guard Bureau’s Office of Complex Investigations found that victims did not trust the system because of a lack of confidence in the command. In response, Parnell asked the leader of the Guard to resign.

Parnell vowed to implement the report’s recommendations to help restore confidence.

Categories: Alaska News

Elders and Youth Conference Kicks Off In Anchorage

Mon, 2014-10-20 17:43

The 30th annual Elders and Youth conference began Monday in Anchorage. The conference is held each year at the beginning of the same week as the Alaska Federation of Natives convention. The gathering is an opportunity for youth to discuss an array of issues relevant to Alaska Natives with support from their elders.

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The conference got off to another impressive start this year. 17-year-old Devlin Anderstrom was chosen to give the youth keynote address. Not only did he introduce himself in his Tlingit language, he gave his entire speech in it. For nine minutes Anderstrom spoke Tlingit to the audience, never once slipping into English until he gave the speech a second time.

After the first few minutes, people in the audience turned to each other with wowed faces, they nodded and smiled. Anderstrom’s keynote speech was no small feat.

There are only a few hundred Tlingit speakers left and most of them are over the age of 60. Anderstrom, who is a senior at Yakutat High School, learned some of the language when he was young. He moved out of Alaska as a young boy and returned when he was 12.

“I’ve lived in downtown Denver, the suburbs in northern California, even a small rural community in Nebraska,” Anderstrom said. “When I left home I knew the entire time that home was where I belonged and it was my place to be.”

Growing up, Anderstrom says he spent a lot of time around elders who spoke the language fluently. He began his study of Tlingit in earnest after he moved back home to Yakutat. Just this year – he started taking Lance Twitchell’s Tlingit language class through the University of Alaska Southeast.

Anderstrom says one of the reasons he has been so dedicated to learning Tlingit is because some cultural values and ideas can only be truly expressed in their original language.

“One of them would be haashagoon,” Anderstrom said. “So, haashagoon, it’s our ancestors and at the same time it’s the future generations, like, everything that we were and everything that we will be. It’s just kind of a hard concept to explain.”

And it’s not just the Tlingit language that Anderstrom feels compelled to learn. He’s also Iñupiaq, Ahtna and Tanacross Athabaskan. He’s trying to learn all of those languages.

“Right now Tlingit is the language I know best,” Anderstrom said. “It’s the only language I could have made a speech like that in. But I’ve also started to learn other languages as well, Eyak, Ahtna and Inupiaq. My goal is to learn as much as I can. I want to try to help preserve everybody’s language because I think everybody in the state deserves that, everybody that’s Alaska Native.”

True to the spirit of his role as a youth at the conference, 17-year-old Anderstrom brings optimism to the conversation. He’s doesn’t think that Alaska Native languages can ever be truly lost.

“I think language is a big part of culture, for me, and it’s really a hard hit for any culture to take to lose their language,” Anderstrom said. “But I don’t think it’s necessarily the necessarily the end game, I don’t think it’s game over when a language is lost because like Eyak, a lot of language can be brought back at least partially through all the documented resources that we have. We just have to pull together and I think we can avoid language death all together.”

Anderstrom gave the youth keynote address after elder Fred John Jr. this (Monday) morning. The conference room at the Dena’ina center had 1,300 chairs set up and nearly all of them were full within a hour of starting the conference.

Categories: Alaska News

Malaspina Crew Helps In Canada Rescue Effort

Mon, 2014-10-20 17:42

The crew of the Alaska Marine Highway System ferry Malaspina participated in a weekend rescue effort in Canadian waters.

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Alaska Department of Transportation Spokesman Jeremy Woodrow said the distress call came in at around 1:30 a.m. Saturday off Campbell River, British Columbia. The Atlantic Harvester 1 was reportedly taking on water at the time of the call.

“When the ferry arrived on scene, no vessel could be located,” he said. “The ferry deployed its fast rescue boat and was able to rescue one crew member from the water. They did search for other crew members, with no success. Shortly after that time, the Canadian Coast Guard arrived on scene.”

Woodrow says the Canadian Coast Guard took charge of the rescued crew member, and took over rescue efforts at that time.

Lt. Greg Menzies, a public affairs officer in the Royal Canadian Navy in Victoria, BC, said Monday afternoon that the other two crewmembers remain missing. He says it’s unclear at this point what happened to the Atlantic Harvester, a 67-foot landing-craft vessel. Menzies says it sank in about four minutes.

Campbell River Royal Canadian Mounted Police Spokeswoman Poppy Hallam says all three Atlantic Harvester crew members are Campbell River residents. She says the sunken vessel has been located, and a dive team search is planned for Tuesday.

Woodrow says the Alaska Marine Highway System helps boaters in distress about twice a year on average. He says this is the first he’s heard of a ferry responding to a vessel in distress in Canadian waters.

Woodrow says ferry crews are trained for rescue response.

“That’s one reason we have these fast rescue boats on board is to provide rescue operations to other vessels and to the ship itself,” he said.

The Malaspina had been on its way from Bellingham, Wash., to Ketchikan. The rescue effort delayed its arrival by a few hours, but the ship has since made up the time and is back on schedule.

Categories: Alaska News

Small Southeast Community Becomes New Alaska City

Mon, 2014-10-20 17:41

A small community in southeast Alaska is the state’s newest city. A state commissioner signed incorporation documents last week for Edna Bay, which has a population of 49.

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A state commissioner signed incorporation documents last week for Edna Bay, which has a population of 49.

The community is located on Kosciusko Island 90 miles northwest of Ketchikan. State officials say Edna Bay is the first community to incorporate since 2004.

Elections officials earlier this month certified results of an election involving locals in Edna Bay on whether to incorporate. State officials say residents voted 33 to 6 to incorporate.

The Alaska Division of Community and Regional Affairs participated in an organizational meeting with Edna Bay.

Officials say the state is helping in establishing a new city council, and plans to work with it in coming months.

Categories: Alaska News

Deadline Approaches For Fairbanks Air Plan

Mon, 2014-10-20 17:39

The clock is ticking toward the deadline for a plan for getting Fairbanks into compliance with federal air quality standards. The state hasn’t given up on getting the fine particulate pollution plan in by a Dec. 31 Environmental Protection Agency deadline.

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Categories: Alaska News

Attack Ads…With A Twist

Mon, 2014-10-20 17:38

(Image by Sarah Glaser, Alaska Public Media)

It seems to be fairly universal that everyone is growing weary of the constant barrage of attack ads. To help us lighten the mood a bit as we race to the November 4th finish line, KSKA’s Dave Waldron found a way to bring levity to the attack.

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Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: October 20, 2014

Mon, 2014-10-20 17:29

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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Parnell Meets With Guard Members

The Associated Press

Gov. Sean Parnell met with Alaska National Guard members Sunday amid ongoing criticism about the administration’s response to allegations of sexual assault and other misconduct within the Guard.

Gubernatorial Candidates Spar Over Gasline

Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN – Juneau

Just about every major gubernatorial candidate since Jay Hammond has made advancing a gasline part of their platform. This election is no different. With early field work being done on a project, Republican Gov. Sean Parnell and unaffiliated candidate Bill Walker are sparring over who can negotiate the best deal and who can close it.

Elders and Youth Conference Kicks Off In Anchorage

Jennifer Canfield, KTOO – Juneau

The 30th annual Elders and Youth conference began Monday in Anchorage. The conference is held each year at the beginning of the same week as the Alaska Federation of Natives convention. The gathering is an opportunity for youth to discuss an array of issues relevant to Alaska Natives with support from their elders.

Malaspina Crew Helps In Canada Rescue Effort

Leila Kheiry, KRBD – Ketchikan

The crew of the Alaska Marine Highway System ferry Malaspina participated in a weekend rescue effort in Canadian waters.

Small Southeast Community Becomes New Alaska City

The Associated Press

A small community in southeast Alaska is the state’s newest city. A state commissioner signed incorporation documents last week for Edna Bay, which has a population of 49.

Deadline Approaches For Fairbanks Air Plan

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

The clock is ticking toward the deadline for a plan for getting Fairbanks into compliance with federal air quality standards.  The state hasn’t given up on getting the fine particulate pollution plan in by a Dec. 31 Environmental Protection Agency deadline.

Many Voters Irked At Deluge Of Negative Campaign Ads

Liz Ruskin, APRN

The election is just two weeks from tomorrow, and many Alaskans can’t wait for the campaigns to end.

Alaska is among a handful of states that will decide which party controls the U.S. Senate. Money is flooding in to pay for ads, mailers and door-to-door legwork in support of Sen. Mark Begich and Republican challenger Dan Sullivan. And the results aren’t always pretty.

Attack Ads…With A Twist

Dave Waldron, KSKA – Anchorage

It seems to be fairly universal that everyone is growing weary of the constant barrage of attack ads. To help us lighten the mood a bit as we race to the November 4th finish line, KSKA’s Dave Waldron found a way to bring levity to the attack.

 

Categories: Alaska News

Dunleavy Faces Independent Challenger in Senate E Race

Mon, 2014-10-20 16:05

Tiny Chickaloon, population 272, lies just within the newly redrawn boundaries of Senate E, the lengthy district that threads the Richardson Highway from Valdez to Delta Junction. Independent candidate for Senate E, Warren Keogh, has called Chickaloon home for three decades.

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“I am a lifelong independent. I have been approached by folks in both parties, to become a Republican or become a Democrat, but I have decided to stay on the course that I have always been on and not become a partisan person.”

Keogh has a varied background – military service in Vietnam, firefighter and paramedic, paralegal and water resources specialist. He has served as Chickaloon Community Council president, and spent one term on the Matanuska Susitna Borough Assembly, representing the communities North of Palmer. He says he’s got the name recognition to take on the incumbent.

“A Mr. Dunleavy has been in office only two years, so he does have the advantage of incumbency, however, in this new district, he is only incumbent in half the area, and I reside in the other, the easternmost district E, so we both have considerable name recognition.”

Keogh says Dunleavy has failed on two fronts : education….

“Mr. Dunleavy, the very first bill he introduced as a freshman legislator, was an attempt to begin the process to allow public funds that are articulated and mandated in the state constitution to be spent for public education and nothing else, to allow those public monies to be spent on something other than state education.”

 …and the state’s budget.

 ”In the Senate, he’s been on the Senate finance committee, and the last two years we have had the two largest state budget deficits in the history of Alaska. We have not been able to balance the checkbook, not even close to it, so I have a problem with that. “

Incumbent Republican Senator Mike Dunleavy says he believes that public education should include all students.

“I don’t think that has happened in the extent that it could”

Dunleavy says his legislaton, SJR9, is a two- fold attempt to allow the state more tools to engage more students.

“For example, the governor’s scholarship program allows Alaskans to take state money and go to private and or religious colleges. So by passing SJR9 those current practices would have been constituionalized, and we could have been able to expand our public education reach to include public-private partnerships, more so than we are now. “

 He says he’s not out to privatize education, and that his children attend public schools.

Dunleavy a former school superintendent, is an educator by career, and lives with his family in Wasilla, one of the fast growing, sprawling communities in the Mat Su Borough. He won his Senate seat in the 2012 primary, defeating Republican incumbent Linda Menard, and went unopposed to Juneau the following January.

 ”There were some of us that thought the bi-partisan coalition that Senator Menard was part of, was not necessarily dealing with some of the long-standing issues such as the gas pipeline and declining oil production. “

He says during his first session in the Senate, he helped reduce the capital budget -  and he  points to work on the liability gap in the state retirement system, and funding for unfinished University of Alaska buildings.

“We did lop off close to a billion dollars out of the capital budget from before I got into the Senate, and we began to work on the process on the operating budget, and that’s what we are going to be focused on in the future. And we are going to have to be looking at how we spend money, looking at formulas embedded in some of these formula programs- such as in HSS”

The newly redrawn Senate E includes the waterfront town of Whittier, Valdez with its oil pipeline terminal, Delta farmlands and the Greely national defense site. Dunleavy says what the communities have in common is a need for affordable energy. He says the state needs to come up with a comprehensive energy plan for all of Alaska.

“Because not everyone could be connected with a pipeline, because not everone could be connected with interties, electrical interties. And so, we may have many communities that may have rely on local sources of energy. How do we go about identifying those sources of energy, how do we go about providing the funding for the infrastructure to access that energy. “

Senate E also holds the Matanuska Valley communities of Sutton and Chickaloon, which were fueled by coal mining a century ago, and are now home to increasing numbers of suburban families seeking a quiet spot in the country. It’s this changing demographic that has caused friction among residents either supporting or opposing coal mining.

 Keogh,  says what he’s hearing more about going door to door is public concern about education, and the state’s long – term economy. And he says, he’s got something some voters may like -

” And I think, I could be the key to an all-Alaska Senate coaltion.”]

He says voters are tired of partisan squabbling.

Categories: Alaska News

Supreme Court denies stay; same-sex marriages can continue in Alaska

Fri, 2014-10-17 16:44

United States Supreme Court building in Washington D.C. (© Jarek Tuszynski / Wikimedia Commons)

Same-sex marriages are legal again in Alaska. The U.S. Supreme Court denied the state a stay, which would have stopped the issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples until the 9th Circuit Court heard the state’s appeal early next year.

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Despite the ruling, the governor’s office issued a statement saying they will continue with the appeals process because Governor Sean Parnell has sworn to uphold the state’s constitution. In 1998, voters approved a constitutional amendment in Alaska to define marriage as between one man and one woman.

Joshua Decker, executive director of Alaska’s ACLU, says the governor’s continued appeal is a waste of taxpayer’s money.

“Governor Parnell took an oath to support the Alaska constitution, but he also took an oath to support the US constitution. And we have now had all three levels of the federal court weigh in on this issue.”

The week has been a legal ping-pong match. The Alaska District Court overturned the state’s same-sex marriage ban on Sunday. Couples began applying for licenses on Monday, and three couples were allowed to wed immediately. As others sat out the mandatory three-day waiting period, the state was granted a temporary stay by the 9th Circuit Court on Wednesday in order to give the Supreme Court a chance to make a decision. That stay was lifted this morning at 11 am when the Supreme Court denied the request. The 9th Circuit says they will not issue another stay.

Same-sex couples can receive marriage licenses when state courts and offices re-open on Monday. Friday is a state holiday.

The 9th Circuit will hear the state’s appeal early next year. The state must file their brief by late January 2015.

Arizona’s same-sex marriage ban was also overturned Friday. The state’s attorney general will not appeal the decision because the 9th Circuit, which also governs that state, has already overturned bans in both Idaho and Nevada.

Categories: Alaska News

State Disputes ANWR Boundaries

Fri, 2014-10-17 16:43

The state of Alaska has launched the opening salvo in a border dispute with the federal government over the western edge of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. At stake is a 20 thousand acre wedge of land that the federal government counts as part of ANWR. But in a letter to the BLM today, the state asserts the government has mapped ANWR incorrectly. The state says the wedge of land between the Canning and the Staines River is actually outside the refuge, according to a 1960 legal description of the refuge border.

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Categories: Alaska News

Air Quality Settlement Requires Review Of Particulate Pollution Plans

Fri, 2014-10-17 16:42

A legal settlement between an environmental organization and the federal government requires review of plans for dealing with new sources of fine particulate pollution in Los Angeles California and Fairbanks.

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Categories: Alaska News

Container Ship Adrift Off British Columbia Coast

Fri, 2014-10-17 16:41

A container ship on its way from Washington to Russia lost power overnight and is drifting Friday off the north coast of British Columbia.

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The Canadian Forces’ joint rescue co-ordination center in Victoria says the Simushir is about 10 miles off Haida Gwaii.

Acting Sub. Lt. Ron MacDougall says there are concerns the vessel could run aground in heavy winds. The Canadian and U.S. Coast Guards are responding.

The ship carries 440 tons of bunker oil and 55 tons of diesel.

MacDougall says there are 11 people on board. A helicopter was dispatched to remove the captain who is injured.

Categories: Alaska News

Les Mis brings local touch to global production

Fri, 2014-10-17 16:40

Les Miserables opens in Anchorage Friday. The Broadway musical has been produced around the world since 1985, but this production has local twists.

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Director Andy Ferrara guides the cast through one of their last rehearsals before opening night as they dance about the stage singing At the Wedding. The 23 players have been working on the two-hour long show for only about four weeks. The main cast and crew are from LA, but once they hit town they were joined by four local girls. They’ll take turns playing Little Cosette and Little Eponine.

When asked if they’re having fun, they chorused “Yes!” in unison.

The Les Mis cast practices one of the final scenes.

Eleven-year-old Parker Kinley says she loves the once-in-a-lifetime experience and has learned from the professional cast.

“I’ve learned that to trust all of your teammates because they’re going to help you through this and even if you mess up their going to guide you through this. And yeah, it’s awesome.”

And the wigs have shown the young brunette some other things.

“It’s so fun to see yourself as a blonde!” Kinley says.

But 10-year-old Megan Nelson says the acting is a challenge.

“It’s hard cause I like to smile a lot and trying to not to smile and act said because her mother couldn’t afford to keep her and so she had to drop her off with people who are actually mean to her, so you have to act sad.”

And let’s face it, Les Mis isn’t exactly a happy play.

“Here we go. Who dies first?” Ferrara asks the cast and a woman responds.

“Stand up. Raise your hand,” he commands. “Chad, this is the first one who dies.”

That’s Ferrara again. He’s blocking the scene at the barricade where — spoiler alert — most of the cast dies. They drape their bodies over a rotating set that looks like stacked rubble – broken chairs, wooden boxes. Ferrara says the set is smaller and less complicated than one might see on Broadway because this is a regional production.

“We don’t have $10 million to spend on a production. We have far less. So it really makes you be more creative with what you’re going to do.”

He says they do things like use candles and fog to create different scenes instead of relying on a massive turntable.

Unlike other regional productions, the Anchorage Concert Association has been involved with this show for more than two years. They helped find the set and audition cast members. Even the local crew has more of a say than they would for other productions.

“Here, they’re involved. It’s like, ‘Why don’t we change over here?’ Or, ‘Why don’t we do this?’ Every element from the lights to the costumes to the sound department is involved in some way in putting on the project instead of just being told what to do.”

Ferrara says that’s why they got to choose four girls instead of just one to sing Little Cosette’s iconic song:

“Crying at all is not allowed. Not in my castle on a cloud.”

Les Miserables is playing at the Performing Arts Center through October 26.

 

 

 

Categories: Alaska News

Historic Weapons Ousted From Sitka Airport

Fri, 2014-10-17 16:39

Greeters preparing to welcome a fresh batch of arrivals to Sitka (KCAW photo/Emily Kwong)

Saturday is the anniversary of the Purchase of Alaska. And in Sitka, the site of the historic sale, locals make it known from the moment visitors step off the plane. This usually goes over well, but sometimes creates confusion.

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Sitka’s military past brushed elbows with present day security last Friday (10-10-14). At 11am, a TSA official called the police to report there was a man with a gun in the airport, but it wasn’t just any type of gun.

“It was a replica Civil war era pistol in a closed leather holster,” said Betty Conklin.

It turns out the owner, who wishes to remain anonymous, is part of a group of greeters for Alaska Day.

Greeter 1: Hello!

Greeter 2: You’re getting off a plane.

Greeter 1:  Program of events for Alaska Day. Tonight’s the magic show. Centennial Hall.

Stationed at the arrivals gate, the group greets visitors coming off the morning and evening flights into Sitka. All are dressed in 1867 era clothing. Betty Conklin organizes the group and said one gentleman in the group wore a replica of a Civil War officer’s uniform.

“If they wore space suits in 1867, then we’d be wearing space suits,” said Conklin, with a laugh. “If you’re going to be period accurate be period accurate and that’s what the gentleman was attempting to do.”

Complete with wool trousers, white kid gloves, and that replica pistol. This alarmed a passenger, who tipped off TSA, who called the police. By the time the officer arrived, the greeters were gone.

Conklin said the costumed officer was ultimately told to remove the pistol. She wished the situation had been dealt with more directly.

“‘In Alaska, we would have expected someone to come up up and say, “Hey this bothers me. Hey, someone made a complaint. Put something in the car,’” said Conklin. “But that did not occur. We got treated like big city. It went through the commands before we even got notified of it happening.”

Though the identity of the passenger is unknown, Rebecca Britton remembers being on that very same flight Friday morning.

“I was the first one off the plane,” said Britton. “So when I got off I saw everybody in their reenactment costumes and I was just flabbergasted.”

Britton said she didn’t notice a gun, amid all the bonnets and the hoop skirts. She came in from out of town to be a part of the celebrations in Sitka.

“I think it’s important to everybody and they really give it their all to keep it going.”

Conklin, who is a jail officer at the Sitka Police Department, was sympathetic to passengers afraid of guns in the airport, replica or otherwise. But, she defended the history of the state and implored future visitors to respect it too.

“65 years is a long time to be doing a celebration,” said Conklin. “So it must mean something to Alaskans to have an Alaska day. So let’s make it a good one.”

And a loud one, when military reenactors get to actually fire those guns, touching off black powder, during Sitka’s Alaska Day Parade on Saturday.

The Alaska Day greeters will be at the airport to greet the 10:40am flight and the 5:40pm now through Saturday morning.

Categories: Alaska News

UA Hopes Survey Will Reveal True Scope Of Sexual Assault Problem On Campus

Fri, 2014-10-17 16:38

If you’re a student, faculty or staff member of the University of Alaska, you may receive a survey in your email this month asking questions about sexual assault on campus.

The survey follows campus visits by federal investigators looking into how the college handles sexual assault complaints and violations.

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This is the first time the University of Alaska is conducting a campus climate survey.

“We want to have an understanding and ground truth how people feel sexual assault’s being dealt with on our campuses, and it’s a way to determine if there are areas of concern that we’re unaware of,” says Michael O’Brien, university attorney.

This is also the first year the White House has recommended that schools around the country conduct campus climate surveys.

The university’s Statewide Institutional Research and Budget department is conducting the survey with help from the University of Alaska Anchorage’s Justice Center. The roughly 50 multiple choice questions are modeled after sample ones provided by the federal government.

O’Brien warns the language of the survey is explicit.

“Because we don’t all share the same definitions of sexual assault, it has to go through a lot of explaining. Like you wouldn’t want someone to say, ‘No, I’ve never been sexually assaulted. I mean, every once in a while, I’ll drink too much and my boyfriend will have sex with me when I’m passed out. But I’ve never been sexually assaulted.’ That is also sexual assault,” says O’Brien.

Students, faculty and staff at University of Alaska have already been notified of the survey. O’Brien says around 18,000 will be randomly selected to participate and all of them will get resources for counseling and reporting sexual assault.

“We anticipate that when people are confronted with this sort of information, it often triggers a response. That’s not the goal of it. We’re not trying to trigger responses or draw out victims, but we realize that that could happen,” O’Brien says.

The survey is confidential and voluntary. O’Brien says results are anticipated before the end of the year. He doesn’t know if they’ll be made public.

Lori Klein, student conduct administrator at the University of Alaska Southeast, says the university is also looking at how to reach and engage students who aren’t on a campus.

“A big portion of our population are distance students and they don’t necessarily have a campus climate to speak to, but they could be anywhere. They could be accessing buildings across our state that are in partnership with the university to provide students with space to access our classes. We care about those climates,” says Klein.

As part of an ongoing examination, federal investigators visited four campuses of the University of Alaska last week hoping to hear from students. At the UAS Juneau campus, only two attended the women’s focus group, but an investigator says other campus sessions drew up to 25 students.

O’Brien says the federal investigation continues and won’t likely be resolved for another several months. After that, he says the university can expect years of monitoring.

Categories: Alaska News

State Senator Plans To Investigate Guard Situation

Fri, 2014-10-17 16:37

State Senator Lesil McGuire says the Legislature will hold hearings into the troubled Alaska National Guard, but she’s getting push back from the Senate president.

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McGuire also will call for a special investigator into allegations of sexual assault and other misconduct within the Guard.

However, Senate President Charlie Huggins says he doesn’t know if the Legislature will do anything but muddy the water.

After allegations of sexual assault within the agency, a federal report released September 4th found evidence of fraud and ethical misconduct. Critics said Governor Sean Parnell, who is seeking re-election next month, didn’t act quickly enough.

Huggins says it doesn’t make sense to hold hearings with the election next month. But he’s not convinced hearing are the best approach later, either.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: October 17, 2014

Fri, 2014-10-17 16:19

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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Supreme Court Denies Stay; Same-Sex Marriages Can Continue In Alaska

Anne Hillman, KSKA – Anchorage

Same-sex marriages are legal again in Alaska. The U.S. Supreme Court denied the state a stay, which would have stopped the issuance of marriage licenses to same-sex couples until the 9th Circuit Court heard the state’s appeal early next year.

State Disputes ANWR Boundaries

Liz Ruskin, APRN & Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage

The state of Alaska has launched the opening salvo in a border dispute with the federal government over the western edge of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. At stake is a 20 thousand acre wedge of land that the federal government counts as part of ANWR. But in a letter to the BLM today, the state asserts the government has mapped ANWR incorrectly. The state says the wedge of land between the Canning and the Staines River is actually outside the refuge, according to a 1960 legal description of the refuge border.

Air Quality Settlement Requires Review Of Particulate Pollution Plans

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

A legal settlement between an environmental organization and the federal government requires review of plans for dealing with new sources of fine particulate pollution in Los Angeles California and Fairbanks.

Container Ship Adrift Off British Columbia Coast

The Associated Press

A container ship on its way from Washington to Russia lost power overnight and is drifting Friday off the north coast of British Columbia.

Les Mis Brings Local Touch To Global Production

Anne Hillman, KSKA – Anchorage

Les Miserables opens in Anchorage on Friday. The Broadway musical has been produced around the world since 1985, but this production has local twists.

Historic Weapons Ousted From Sitka Airport

Emily Kwong, KCAW – Sitka

Saturday is the anniversary of the Purchase of Alaska. And in Sitka, the site of the historic sale, locals make it known from the moment visitors step off the plane. This usually goes over well, but sometimes creates confusion.

UA Hopes Survey Will Reveal True Scope Of Sexual Assault Problem On Campus

Lisa Phu, KTOO – Juneau

If you’re a student, faculty or staff member of the University of Alaska, you may receive a survey in your email this month asking questions about sexual assault on campus.

The survey follows campus visits by federal investigators looking into how the college handles sexual assault complaints and violations.

State Senator Plans To Investigate Guard Situation

The Associated Press

State Senator Lesil McGuire says the Legislature will hold hearings into the troubled Alaska National Guard, but she’s getting push back from the Senate president.

AK: Looking Inside

Robert Woolsey, KCAW – Sitka

On AK we often travel to wild and strange places and meet the people who live there. Today’s journey is no different, except the place is inside each of us. Earlier this year Sitka had a tarot card reader in residence. The Tarot, it turns out, is mystical — but not magic. Like professional therapy, it’s really about looking into a mirror, as tarot skeptic Robert Woolsey discovers.

300 Villages: Metlakatla

This week we’re heading to Metlakatla, in Southeast Alaska, on Annette Island. Audrey Hudson is the mayor of Metlakatla.

Categories: Alaska News

AK: Looking Inside

Fri, 2014-10-17 16:05

On AK we often travel to wild and strange places and meet the people who live there. Today’s journey is no different, except the place is inside each of us. Earlier this year Sitka had a tarot card reader in residence. The Tarot, it turns out, is mystical — but not magic. Like professional therapy, it’s really about looking into a mirror, as tarot skeptic Robert Woolsey discovers.

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My first problem with having a tarot reading is telling you about it. The Tarot is incredibly personal.

(Via Wikipedia)

“Everything you’ve said is kind of uncanny. I don’t think I can use this in a news story!” I said.

I assumed that a tarot reading would involve a certain amount of mumbo-jumbo — “you will meet a tall, dark stranger” kind of stuff. Richard Aufrichtig, who’s doing my reading, says people often have that misconception, and sometimes are a little disappointed at first to learn that a tall, dark stranger is not in the cards.

It’s something else entirely.

“I think that the world we live in is very much in need of healing and transformation, and the tarot is a very approachable tool to move people into a conscious space where they’re thinking in that way,” Aufrichtig said.

Aufrichtig is from Brooklyn. He’s been studying the Tarot for about three years. He was in Sitka for a residency in music and poetry, and offered tarot readings on the side for fun. It really caught on: Over the course of the summer in Sitka, he did readings for around 70 people in this downtown coffee shop. A skilled reader sizes up his client, and lays out some compelling options. I’m a single parent with college-age children; Aufrichtig doesn’t know this. All he sees is a guy with a microphone, and turns over three cards: The High Priestess, the Hermit, and the Emperor.

“I would say right now what I’m seeing in your life is that you’re in this space, this phase, where you’re trying to follow the light of your wisdom, and you’re being grounded by this aspect deep within yourself that’s like, ‘Let me be receptive to this, to what my wisdom is right now’… And you’re really being guided by the idea of taking the reins of your own kingdom,” Aufrichtig said.

(Via Wikipedia)

Who doesn’t want to hear this? What I most look forward to is taking the reins of my bank account, when my kids graduate. But I’m definitely feeling buoyed that the cards suggest I’m emerging from a challenging period.

Yet really the cards don’t suggest anything. I’m hearing what I want to hear, and there is enormous power in that.

“So many people in my life go to regular counseling, and it does wonders for them. And I think tarot works the same way: It’s an ongoing treatment plan for people,” Sophie Nethercut said.

Nethercut recently moved to Sitka. She fell into the study of the Tarot by accident, after being stranded in New Orleans. She has researched the Tarot extensively in Brazil, South Africa, and Vietnam. She didn’t study the cards, though. She studied the readers.

“I think every single reader I talked to acknowledged that they are a caregiver in some way,” Nethercut said. “One reader I talked a lot with in Vietnam described himself as a mental doctor.”

My tarot reading was 15 minutes, and used only three cards. Some last for over an hour, and clients ask pointed questions about important decisions in their lives.

(Via Wikipedia)

“I remember one reader in South Africa — and I’ll remember this interview for the rest of my life – she said, ‘Look, people come to me, they ask should I have a baby? Should I get divorced? Will my mom who’s had cancer for 10 years ever recover?’” Nethercut said. “And people come with incredibly challenging and deep personal questions, and for many this reader is the answer.”

Nethercut says tarot readers always work the same way, pointing toward possibilities, but not calling the shots. Asking clients to look inward, helping them understand things they might already know.

“If you ask, ‘Will my mom recover from cancer?’” Nethercut said. “There’s only one answer you want to hear.”

Back in the cafe in Sitka, Aufrichtig discloses what the skeptic in me has known all along: We all experience dark times; the benefit of tarot is as an exercise in positive thinking.

“I think I continue to study tarot because it’s the University of Yes…,” Aufrichtig said.

Aufrichtig also believes it’s important to act on the information you discover in a tarot reading, or the whole thing is reduced a feel-good parlor trick. But it’s one thing to hold up a mirror, and another to act on what you see there.

Rob – This is a lot better than You will meet a tall, dark stranger.
Richard – I tend to think so.

I will give it a shot, though, since the answer is in the cards.

Categories: Alaska News

Ebola risk low in Alaska, plan in place to stop spread

Thu, 2014-10-16 17:44

The State’s Department of Health says there is not much risk of Ebola reaching Alaska, but they do have a prevention plan in place.

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State epidemiology chief Joe McLaughlin says few people are entering the state who have been in the West African nations where the outbreak is occurring, which reduces the risk. He says certain measures are already in place to stop the spread of the disease, like a quarantine area in the Anchorage airport. He says people traveling from West Africa are screened as they leave the affected countries.

Deputy Chief Epidemiologist and infectious disease doctor Michael Cooper says health facilities, even in rural areas, already have measures in place to contain infectious diseases like Tuberculosis and measles. He says hospitals are setting up quarantine areas and the state will have rapid testing abilities for Ebola by next week.

Michael Cooper speaks at a press conference about Ebola risks. Hillman/KSKA

Cooper says health care workers are also receiving weekly trainings on how to deal with Ebola.

“So there have been beefed up efforts on the part of CDC and others to put out clear, updated and better guidance to hospitals, to nurses, and infection control preventionists about how to put on, how to take off equipment, what other things are recommended. Making sure everyone’s on the same page with the latest information and then offering more trainings.”

Cooper says the problem with Ebola is it has many vague symptoms, like a fever, body aches, and an upset stomach. The key to stopping the spread is for people who have traveled to West Africa or who might have been exposed to conduct self-monitoring and to be honest with their doctors. Alaska law already mandates that infections of this type must be reported to the Department of Health immediately. They will then work with the CDC to contact anyone who might have been exposed to the patient.

Categories: Alaska News

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