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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: 1 min 21 sec ago

Sullivan Wins GOP Senate Bid

Wed, 2014-08-20 05:45

Former Natural Resources Commissioner Dan Sullivan won the Republican primary for U.S. Senate.

He will run against incumbent Democrat Mark Begich who easily won renomination Tuesday.

Sullivan took 40 percent of the vote, 8 points ahead of Fairbanks Attorney Joe Miller.

Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell, who finished third with about 25 percent of the vote, came to election central with a parade of somber supporters around 11:30 p.m. He spoke standing with his arms around his three children, his daughter, Natalie, the only one in tears.

” Tonight I don’t feel like Alaska’s abandoned me because I know I haven’t abandoned Alaska,” Treadwell said.

In an extreme case of message discipline, Dan Sullivan never spoke to reporters on election night and didn’t do the customary victory march into Election Central in downtown Anchorage.

Despite holding on to a comfortable lead all night, Sullivan’s campaign manager, Ben Sparks, said they were waiting for Miller to concede, or for a media declaration.

“Out of respect for Joe, We’ll be holding on any statement until the race is called by a credible news organization,” Sparks said.

Sullivan held a private party with supporters at a restaurant across the street from the Egan Convention Center, so TV crews filmed Sullivan through the plate-glass windows as he stood on a table to make what appeared to be a victory speech.

After the media left and Miller’s campaign issued a statement congratulating Sullivan, Sullivan finally conceded victory in a
press release just before 2 a.m.

Current vote counts are being pulled from the Alaska Division of Elections webpage.

In other statewide races:


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    Forrest Dunbar won the Democratic nomination to take on incumbent Republican Don Young in the US House race. Dunbar handily defeated Jim McDermott and Frank Vondersaar, winning almost 63 percent of the vote. Young topped John Cox, David Dohner and David Seaward. He won more than 74 percent of the vote.

  • In the race for governor, incumbent Republican Sean Parnell easily won renomination beating three other candidates, Gerald Heikes, Russ Millette, and Brad Snowden. Parnell won more than 75 percent of the vote.
  • Parnell will face Democrat Byron Mallott who also coasted to victory Tuesday beating Phil Stoddard. Mallott won with almost 67 percent of the vote. Parnell and Mallott will face Bill Walker, who is running as an independent, in November.
  • Anchorage mayor Dan Sullivan won the GOP nomination for lieutenant governor. He beat Kelly Wolf with 70 percent of the vote. State Senator Hollis French defeated Robert Williams to take the Democratic nomination. French won almost 62 percent of the vote. Walker’s running mate is Craig Fleener.

 

 

Categories: Alaska News

Feige Losing, Stoltze Wins Mat-Su Legislative Races

Wed, 2014-08-20 04:30

Unofficial results of Tuesday’s primary election are in, and it looks like there may be one upset in the Valley.

Mat-Su Borough Assemblyman Jim Colver could upset incumbent Eric Feige for the Republican nomination for the House District 9 race. With only one precinct still to be counted in the district after midnight this morning, Colver had a little over 36 percent of the vote in the three-way race.

“I guess we are in a wait and see position here,” Colver said. “We don’t know what precincts out yet. And we have a lot of absentees. I’m glad we’re up, but it’s a long way from being over.”

George Rauscher was close, with 34 percent of the vote, but incumbent Feige lagged behind both challengers with 29.5 percent.  Absentee ballots have yet to be counted.

It came as no surprise that former state representative Bill Stoltze has won the Republican nod for the Senate District F candidacy in November. Stoltze took the lead early in the evening, and finished the night with almost 71 percent of the vote, while challenger DeLena Johnson gained only a little more than 29 percent after all the precincts were in. Stoltze said at Election Central in Anchorage that he’s looking forward to the general election.

 ”A lot of it is not new, because I have been representing the whole Valley, trying to look beyond boundaries. And I’ve routinely done a good job representing Palmer even thought it wasn’t in the district. And other areas, so I think that those kinds of things paid off, that I didn’t pay attention to the boundaries, arbitrary poliltical lines. We tried to take care of the Valley as a whole. You do one thing for one part of the Valley and it benefits the whole Valley.”

Stoltze will face Democrat Pat Chesbro in November for the new Senate F seat, which links Anchorage suburbs of Chugiak and Peters Creek, with the greater Palmer area in the Matanuska Valley.

The Republican race between two first-time candidates for the House District 12 candidacy went to Cathy Tilton. Tilton, a former legislative staffer, finished the night with more than 64 percent of the vote.

“I think the key to the support in all the precincts was just really the boots on the ground, going door to door and talking to the people, listening,” Tilton said. “Not even just talking to them but listening to them, and that’s probably more important than talking to them.”

Mat-Su Borough Assemblyman Ron Arvin took 35.6 percent of the vote.

In other contested legislative races on Tuesday:

House District 1.
Republicans. Gregory Bringhurst defeated Jomo Stewart..

House District 2.
Democrats. Larry Murakami defeated Uriah Nalikak.

House District 3.
Republicans. Tammie Wilson was ahead of Doug Isaacson.

House District 6.
Republicans. David Talerico defeated Thomas Dunning.

House District 16.
Republicans. Don Hadley defeated Kevin Kastner.

House District 21.
Republicans. Anand Dubey defeated Matt Fagnani.

House District 22.
Republicans. Liz Vazquez was ahead of Sherri Jackson.

House District 32.
Republicans. Louise Stutes defeated Carol Austerman and Rich Walker.

House District 36.
Republicans. Chere Klein was ahead of Patti Mackey and Agnes Moran.

House District 40.
Democrats. Benjamin Nageak was ahead of Dean Westlake.

 

 

 

Categories: Alaska News

Dubey, Hadley, Vazquez Win GOP House Bids

Wed, 2014-08-20 03:30

Tuesday’s Republican primary pushed three Anchorage candidates a little closer to Juneau.

Anand Dubey had a clear lead over challenger Mark Fagnani for the Republican candidacy for House District 21.

Dubey led the race early on, finishing with more than 60 percent of the vote. But the candidate was cautious in his comments Tuesday night.

“I feel exactly the way I felt,” Dubey said. “I ‘m just going to wait and see. So I’m just grateful to have this opportunity to run and to give people a choice. That’s the sense of our system here in America, that gives us liberty. So that’s what brings me joy. So it doesn’t matter if I win or lose.”

Dubey is self-employed as an IT consultant and says his understanding of emerging technologies will help him pare down the budget and consolidate government services.

Don Hadley bested challenger Kevin Kastner for the Republican nomination in House District 16. Hadley, who focused his campaign on educational issues, took 55 percent of the vote to Kastner’s almost 45 percent.

Liz Vazquez won the Republican nod for House District 22 with more than 52 percent of the vote. Challenger Sherri Jackson finished with 47 percent.

In other contested legislative races on Tuesday:

Senate District F.
Republicans. Bill Stoltze defeated DeLena Johnson.

House District 1.
Republicans. Gregory Bringhurst defeated Jomo Stewart..

House District 2.
Democrats. Larry Murakami defeated Uriah Nalikak.

House District 3.
Republicans. Tammie Wilson was ahead of Doug Isaacson.

House District 6.
Republicans. David Talerico defeated Thomas Dunning.

House District 9.
Republicans. Jim Colver defeated Eric Feige and George Rauscher.

House District 12.
Republicans. Cathy Tilton defeated Ron Arvin.

House District 32.
Republicans. Louise Stutes defeated Carol Austerman and Rich Walker.

House District 36.
Republicans. Chere Klein was ahead of Patti Mackey and Agnes Moran.

House District 40.
Democrats. Benjamin Nageak was ahead of Dean Westlake.

Categories: Alaska News

Mallott, Parnell Easily Win Nominations

Wed, 2014-08-20 02:30

Incumbent Republican Sean Parnell easily won renomination for governor beating three other candidates, Gerald Heikes, Russ Millette, and Brad Snowden. Parnell won more than 75 percent of the vote.

Parnell will face Democrat Byron Mallott who also coasted to victory Tuesday beating Phil Stoddard. Mallott won with almost 67 percent of the vote.

Parnell and Mallott will face Bill Walker, who is running as an independent, in November.

Anchorage mayor Dan Sullivan won the GOP nomination for lieutenant governor. He beat Kelly Wolf with 70 percent of the vote. State Senator Hollis French defeated Robert Williams to take the Democratic nomination. French won almost 62 percent of the vote.

Walker’s running mate is Craig Fleener.

 

Categories: Alaska News

Steady Voter Turnout Reported In Primary

Tue, 2014-08-19 17:38

Elections workers are reporting a steady turnout for today’s primary. Nearly 10,000 voters cast their ballots early, compared to 5,000 voters in the 2010 primary. Drawing people to the polls are two major races – a referendum that would repeal a tax break on oil production and a three-way contest for the Republican Party’s U.S. Senate nomination. Polls are open until 8p.m., and returns will be coming in shortly after.

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Categories: Alaska News

Modeling Indicates Fairbanks LNG Project is a Go

Tue, 2014-08-19 16:40

The state is a step closer to proving its North Slope to Fairbanks natural gas trucking project can work. The Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority lead Interior Energy Project is aimed at providing gas at about half the cost of heating oil, and officials say they’re honing in on the target.

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Categories: Alaska News

Federal Requirements Burden Small Medical Practices In Alaska

Tue, 2014-08-19 16:39

Dr. Oliver Korshin in his office in east Anchorage. Photo by Annie Feidt.

EHR,  ICD-10 and PQRS may sound like alphabet soup to you. But most doctors around the country know exactly what those acronyms stand for. They are programs championed by the federal government to improve quality and bring medicine into the electronic age. But in Alaska, where small medical practices are the norm, the new requirements can be a heavy burden.

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Dr. Oliver Korshin doesn’t want to use electronic records in his office. Starting next year, the federal government will penalize him for that choice- withholding 1 percent of his Medicare payments.  So in February, the 71 year old ophthalmologist mailed in a form, requesting an exemption. He had to indicate which exemption category fit his situation:

“The only one that possibly applied to me was disaster. So I picked disaster and I described my disaster as old age and I submitted as my supporting document a copy of my passport.”

Korshin practices three days a week in the same small office in east Anchorage he’s had for three decades. Many of his patients have aged into their Medicare years right along with him, like the 86 year old woman visiting on a recent afternoon for a regular check up.

Korshin has just one employee, a part time nurse. And his lease runs out in four years, when he will be 75 and expects to retire.  He says for his tiny practice, electronic medical records just don’t make sense. It would cost too much to make the switch and maintain a new system.

“No possible business model would endorse that kind of implementation in a practice situated like mine, it’s crazy.”

Dr. Koshin talks with a patient at his office. Many of his patients have aged into Medicare along with him. Photo by Annie Feidt.

Korshin will lose another 1.5% of his Medicare payments next year for failing to enroll in PQRS, a federal program that requires doctors to report quality data.  And then there is ICD-10, a new coding system- also set to take effect the fall of 2015. Korshin says small practices can’t keep up with all of the federal requirements:

“This flurry of things one has to comply with means that unless you work for a large organization like a hospital that can devote staff and time to dealing with these issues, there’s no economy of scale, I can’t share these expenses with anybody.”

Korshin may seem like an outlier, being so close to retirement with such a small practice. But according to the Alaska State Medical Association, he is not alone. The association’s Mike Haugen says half of the doctors in Alaska are over the age of 50 and very few are employed by large organizations:

“Most practices in Alaska are small practices. They’re 1, 2 and 3 doctor practices. The number of really large practices- and that’s relative in Alaska- you can probably count them on one hand.”

Haugen says he hears a lot of complaints from doctors who are feeling overwhelmed by the federal requirements for practicing medicine. And he worries the burden is forcing many- especially older doctors, to consider retiring early:

“There won’t be some flashing neon sign we ever see that says x number of doctors have left. It’s a very quiet process and that for me is the scary part, because you take a look at the medical association membership a year or two from now, and it may be smaller and access to care in this state is a real issue.”

But Rebecca Madison thinks a lot of doctors would decide to stay in practice if they had help with the transition to electronic health records. That’s Madison’s job as executive director of Alaska eHealth Network. She wants to make it as easy as possible for providers to make the switch to electronic records. And she encounters a lot of resistance.

“We hear everything from it will never work for them, it’s too costly for them- especially for some of the older providers in this state who are coming to the end of the time in their practice. It’s a huge investment.”

Madison tries to sell doctors on the benefits. She reminds them electronic records can make their offices more efficient and give them better data on the care they’re providing. And it will make it easier when it comes time to sell their practices. Madison also sees the issue from the patients’ perspective:

“My whole goal and the reason I got into this… process is to give the data to the patient. They deserve to have it- it’s their data- they should be able to access it.”

But Madison says she understands electronic records won’t work for every doctor and she thinks that’s okay. Remember Oliver Korshin and his letter asking the federal government for an exemption from the electronic records requirement due to old age? He got a response- through Senator Murkowski- in May.

It was denied.

Korshin says he will continue practicing anyway- the old fashioned way.

This story is part of a reporting partnership between APRN, NPR and Kaiser Health News. 

 

 

 

 

 

 

 

Categories: Alaska News

Troopers Arrest, Charge Teen With Arson For Delta-Area Fires

Tue, 2014-08-19 16:37

The 16-year-old that Troopers arrested and charged Monday with setting a fire at a Delta Junction house on Sunday also is charged with torching the Clearwater Lodge, shown here on the morning of May 15th.
Credit KUAC file photo

Alaska State Troopers have arrested a 16-year-old male and charged him with arson for setting a house in Delta Junction on fire last weekend and for the May 15th fire that destroyed the Clearwater Lodge.

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Troopers investigating the May 15th fire that destroyed the Clearwater Lodge got a big break in the case Monday when they were questioning the juvenile about another fire on Sunday that heavily damaged a Delta-area home.

Troopers says they found evidence that showed the house had been broken-into and that items were stolen before it was set on fire.

According to a Trooper report issued this morning, investigators were able to identify the suspect and the vehicle he allegedly was using. The report says the 16-year-old admitted to the theft and arson.

During the investigation, Troopers also learned the juvenile was responsible for the Clearwater Lodge fire. The report is unclear as to how, but the implication is that he admitted to that crime as well.

The juvenile’s identity hasn’t been released. Troopers don’t identify juveniles involved in criminal cases.

Monday’s arrest was good news to Kevin Ewing, who along with his wife, Patsy, own the Lodge. Ewing says he hopes that others who he suspects also were involved also will be rounded up.

“We’re very happy that this group (is) off the street and not doing this kind of stuff anymore,” he said.

Ewing estimates the arsonists that destroyed his lodge will cost him about a million dollars. He says his insurance policy didn’t cover the half-million-dollar appraised value of the structure. And the Ewings plan to build a new lodge on the site of the old one on the banks of the Clearwater River east of Delta.

The juvenile charged with arson was taken to Fairbanks Youth Facility Monday on multiple charges of arson, theft, and other offenses in connection with the two fires.

Investigators can’t yet say whether others were involved in one or both fires. An investigation in both cases continues.

Categories: Alaska News

Air Force Cleans Up Cold War-Era Radio Site In Southeast

Tue, 2014-08-19 16:36

Duncan Canal (KFSK file photo)

A large soil clean-up project at a former Cold War mountaintop radio site near Petersburg is underway this summer. A contractor for the U.S. Air Force is removing soil contaminated by fuel and building debris left at the site after it’s decommissioning almost three decades ago.

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The site was a manned Air Force communications station, one of 18 built in Alaska during the 1950s. It was part of a Cold War-era early warning system called White Alice used to relay radio communications from Clear Air Force base in Alaska to Colorado Springs fifty years ago. It’s on Kupreanof Island, just south of Ohmer Slough on Duncan Canal, about eight miles west of Petersburg. The Duncan Canal station began relaying radio signals in 1960. It was deactivated in 1976 and the buildings were removed in 1986.

The Air Force already removed over 100 dumped fuel barrels from that area in 2000. Other fuel drums, demolished buildings, trash and chemical contaminants remain. A contractor working for the Air Force documented PCBs, fuel, chemicals and heavy metals in the soil and groundwater.
Lori Roy is project manager with the US. Air Force and said the contaminated soil was more than expected. “We went out and characterized what we thought was pretty good. But of course we usually see that it’s more than anticipated. So we want to ensure that we are cleaning up and getting everything so we are doing all kinds of excavation and confirmation sampling to make sure that we come away clean and we’ve done our good job out there.”

The main contractor on the job is a company called Bhate. They’re working on land that’s part of the Tongass National Forest, managed by the U.S. Forest Service. The mountaintop site is currently used by AT&T Alascom for a commercial communication facility. It’s a relatively remote area just off the Tonka road system and there are a few recreational cabins nearby.

Roy said the contractor is not using the Tonka log transfer facility to transport the contaminated soil because of an ongoing logging operation in the area. Instead the contractor is landing a barge closer to the site in Duncan Canal. “We brought all our stuff in though Tonka and now we’re using the alternate area to take the super sacks of soil out. So if people are boating along the shoreline they’ll see tons of supersacks over there in the Duncan Canal area and we are coming in and out of that side of the island.”

Those super sacks are large polypropylene bags for the contaminated dirt. Roy estimated they’ll be filling around one thousand super sacks with 785 cubic yards of soil. It will be shipped to a landfill in Arlington, Oregon.

The cleanup involves three separate areas, a dump site, a fuel storage area and a site with debris from demolition of the buildings. Roy said after the excavation the sites will be refilled with clean soil. “It will not have the current vegetation on it but there will be no gaping holes.All the excavations will be filled and tilled. So it will all be smooth.”

Roy said the contractor had not anticipated the daily record rainfall that’s hit the area several days this summer and that’s created some problems for excavating the soil. She did not have a dollar amount for the project – the final costs won’t be known until the work is complete. However an environemental decision document on the work estimated the overall price tag could be three and a half million dollars, once the three sites are cleaned up, filled with new soil and tested.

The cleanup is about halfway done and Roy hoped the project would be finished by the end of September. Soil sampling at the site will continue for a few years after.

Categories: Alaska News

King Salmon Trolling Ends On Slow Note

Tue, 2014-08-19 16:35

Poor weather extended a planned three-day king opener into five days. (KCAW photo/Rachel Waldholz)

After an unprecedented two extensions, the summer king salmon season for trollers in Southeast is over.

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The Alaska Department of Fish & Game closed the fishery at 11:59 PM Monday, August 18 — two days later than planned.

Pattie Skannes is troll management biologist for the region.

“Yeah. We don’t usually work on Saturday and Sunday. But this was one of those openings that required a little bit of attention every day. We set it for three days thinking, This is going to be easy. But it turned out to be anything but easy.”

The target for the three-day opener was 36,000 kings. But on day one, it looked like trollers were bringing in about 12 fish per day. During the first opener of the season — the first week of July — trollers were landing about 50 kings per day. An August storm blew in and kept many of the region’s 700 trollers off the ocean. So the department extended the opening 24 hours to Sunday night. And then another 24 hours until Monday night.

As the weather improved, Skannes says, so did the fishing.

“There were some boats that came in with 0-10 kings, and some that came in with a few hundred. So it’s a wide range, but the average is still fairly low — 19-20 per boat per day. So I think that we’re going to come out just about right.”

Skannes relies on fishermen to keep her informed of their success during the fishery. During a three-day opener, the Department can’t collect fish tickets from processors quickly enough to make timely decisions about how things are going. So a number of boat call in their catch rates directly to Skannes, and she estimates the total harvest based largely on this voluntary survey.

It’s a strategy to avoid undershooting the harvest, and having a third opener later in the summer.

“There have been years in the past where there was a third opener to kind of mop up what’s left. We don’t let you do that anymore. It’s very unpopular. So I expect this will be our last opening for the year.”

In the first summer opener in July, trollers landed almost 200,000 kings. They were paid an average of $3.14 per pound. Since then, the catch rate for coho salmon has skyrocketed, with trollers sometimes bringing in hundreds of coho with their kings. The average price for coho has been around $1.49 per pound.

Although this wraps up the summer season for kings, trollers will still be on the ocean fishing for coho and chum salmon for the next few weeks. And come October, trollers will once again be able to target kings when the winter fishery gets underway.

Categories: Alaska News

Observations of Kachemak Cranes Paints Detailed Picture

Tue, 2014-08-19 16:34

Volunteers with the Kachemak Crane Watch have kept an eye out for Sand Hill Crane adults and colts all summer. The season isn’t over yet, but the information collected so far has given the group a decent picture of the cranes’ progress.

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Categories: Alaska News

Bluegrass Camp For Kids Goes Busking

Tue, 2014-08-19 16:33

Kids hit the streets of Petersburg recently to showcase their music skills and raise money for Bluegrass Camp. It’s a program that runs throughout the United States, taught by a group of traveling folk musicians.

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It’s an hour before the kids will pack up their instruments and perform in an outdoor venue: the sidewalks of downtown Petersburg. They’re going busking later.

“Busking is kinda like when you get in a group and practice things and go sing for people,” says eight-year-old, Allie Thomassen. She’s brushing up on her guitar playing skills. The instrument is about half the size of her tiny body, but that doesn’t stop her from strumming to “Oh, Susanna.”

The camp brings in established bluegrass musicians from around the country, like Tyson James Alteri. “I’ve been living in Nashville. For the past three summers, I’ve been playing around Alaska in Tyson James and the Hot Strings.” Alteri went to the University of Alaska in Anchorage in the 90s. Since then, he’s been working the country music circuit between Los Angeles and Nashville. “But the nature and the beauty of Alaska draws you back.” Teaching gives him the opportunity to travel. He’s even taught bluegrass in Hawaii, but he says there’s something special about mentoring the kids in Southeast. “This camp in particular has some unique kids involved. They pick up things really fast. It seems like music is going to stick to these kids.”

The class is busking later for the thrill of performing in public, but they’re also doing it for something else. Eight-year-old Breiland Willis just isn’t entirely sure what that is.
“I think it’s where you go around playing music around town singing?” Alteri reminds him that they’ll also be making money for the camp.

From the earnings, the camp will purchase more instruments, strings, and picks. “We like to provide the instruments so people have a chance to play new instruments they’ve never had the chance to play before,” says Angela Oudean. She performs with the band Todd Grebe and Cold Country, and teaches at the camp. She says for beginning musicians, instruments like the banjo can be hard to come by. “It’s going to be their first time playing that instrument. They’re not going to have one at home.”

The kids busk on the sidewalk, between a local boutique and hardware store. The spot is a prime location for the hustling musicians. After performing, Oudean counts a stack of dollar bills dropped in a fiddle case. “$32 bucks. That’s half an instrument right there.”

In total, the kids earned about $200 busking. It’s money they’ll put back into next year’s Bluegrass Camp.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: August 19, 2014

Tue, 2014-08-19 16:27

Individual news 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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Modeling Indicates Fairbanks LNG Project is a Go

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

The state is a step closer to proving its North Slope to Fairbanks natural gas trucking project can work. The Alaska Industrial Development and Export Authority lead Interior Energy Project is aimed at providing gas at about half the cost of heating oil, and officials say they’re honing in on the target.

Federal Requirements Burden Small Medical Practices In Alaska

Annie Feidt, APRN – Anchorage

EHR, ICD-10 and PQRS may sound like alphabet soup to you. But most doctors around the country know exactly what those acronyms stand for. They are programs championed by the federal government to improve quality and bring medicine into the electronic age. But in Alaska, where small medical practices are the norm, the new requirements can be a heavy burden.

Steady Voter Turnout Reported In Primary

Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN – Anchorage

Elections workers are reporting a steady turnout for today’s primary. Nearly 10,000 voters cast their ballots early, compared to 5,000 voters in the 2010 primary. Drawing people to the polls are two major races – a referendum that would repeal a tax break on oil production and a three-way contest for the Republican Party’s U.S. Senate nomination. Polls are open until 8p.m., and returns will be coming in shortly after.

Troopers Arrest, Charge Teen With Arson For Delta-Area Fires

Tim Ellis, KUAC – Fairbanks

Alaska State Troopers have arrested a 16-year-old male and charged him with arson for setting a house in Delta Junction on fire last weekend and for the May 15th  fire that destroyed the Clearwater Lodge.

Air Force Cleans Up Cold War-Era Radio Site In Southeast

Joe Viechnicki, KFSK – Petersburg

A large soil clean-up project at a former Cold War mountaintop radio site near Petersburg is underway this summer. A contractor for the U.S. Air Force is removing soil contaminated by fuel and building debris left at the site after it’s decommissioning almost three decades ago.

King Salmon Trolling Ends On Slow Note

Robert Woolsey, KCAW – Sitka

After an unprecedented two extensions, the summer king salmon season for trollers in Southeast is over.

Observations of Kachemak Cranes Paints Detailed Picture

Quinton Chandler, KBBI – Homer

Volunteers with the Kachemak Crane Watch  have kept an eye out for Sand Hill Crane adults and colts all summer. The season isn’t over yet, but the information collected so far has given the group a decent picture of the cranes’ progress.

Bluegrass Camp For Kids Goes Busking

Elizabeth Jenkins, KFSK – Petersburg

Kids hit the streets of Petersburg recently to showcase their music skills and raise money for Bluegrass Camp. It’s a program that runs throughout the United States, taught by a group of traveling folk musicians.

Categories: Alaska News

Health Industry Honors Two

Tue, 2014-08-19 10:20

Benjamin  Olmedo a physicians’ assistant and MSHF board member, has been selected as 2014 REAL Award winner.

http://www.alaskapublic.org/wp-content/uploads/2014/08/18mat-su-awards.mp3

Olmedo is one of 26 awardees in 13 countries for the REAL award, which was created by Save the Children and the Frontline Health Workers Coalition. The REAL award recognizes the contributions of healthcare workers who save lives every day. Olmedo works with the Chickaloon Village Health Clinic and with Southcentral Foundations’s Valley Native Primary Care Center in Wasilla. Olmedo was nominated by the Chickaloon Traditional Village Council.

 ”It’s a great honor to be basically be nominated by the community to recognize the efforts we try to do to keep everybody healthy.”

Olmedo says the award is based on his work with the clinics in Wasilla and Chickaloon. He says that he sees a range of illnesses during his work, but his primary focus is to prevent disease.

“More, it’s the prevention of illnesses, being able to improve vaccination rates, to prevent diseases, and kids from getting sick. And I think that one of the great opportunities that I have, being in a smaller community, is being able to integrate myself in the community, really getting to know people. Not just in the clinic, where maybe they’ll come in from crisis to crisis, but outside the clinic and be able to see them when they are well, and keeping them well. And, I think honestly, the award is more of a recognition of that, is being able to prevent people from un-necessisarliy having to go to the hospital, or having to go into town, you know, keeping them healthy in their communities. “

 He says part of his role is public outreach.

 ”And here we not only work with tribal members, we work with non-tribal members. We see everybody in the community, regardless of ability to pay. If people don’t have insurance and can’t pay, we have a sliding fee scale. So really, we serve a safety net role as well.”

Olmedo has served in Iraq and Afghanistan. He says his military service helped to point him toward his current career.

 ”We were on patrol and our medic actually got stung by a scorpion. And we were all kind of obviously concerned and we picked up our tactical communications on satellite, and the person I talked to on the other end, was a PA, our battalion PA. And that right there that night solidified it for me. For me, that’s definitely want I want to do.”

He received his physician’s assistant credentials, which allows him to provide primary care in collaboration with a physician. He says his aim has always been to work with underserved populations.

 ”You either love, or you don’t necessarily love rural medicine. And, I absolutely love and kind of thrive on it. That’s one of the great things, that you never know kind of what your day’s going to bring. Some days we come in and there’s not a whole lot going on, maybe not a lot of people on the schedule. But you never know who’s going to walk through the door, what people are going to need. “

 And, former Mat Su Regional Medical Center and Mat Su Health Foundation Board member Craig Thorn has been honored with the Bert Hall Award for Commitment to the Health of the Community.  Craig Thorn says

 ”The award also brings recognition to those who serve in the health industry in a volunteer capacity. We all know people who work at the hospital, or in the doctor’s office, or nurses, and they are all very important. But I think there’s a lot of people behind the scenes who work in the industry and do it in a back room, quiet yet important sort of way and the Bert Hall Award recognizes those folks for the hard work that they put in. “

 The award is presented annually by the MSHF to someone who exemplifies commitment to improving the health of people in the Mat Su Borough. Thorn has been a president of the Palmer Chamber of Commerce and the Palmer Rotary Club and a board member of United Way of Mat Su. He has a simple philosophy of community service

 ”I think that we are called, as we are put in positions of influence, that we are called to help other people. And so, I think that we have a responsibility to give back to our community. And I think, especially in the Mat Su that it is particularly hard for a lot of people to be really involved, because almost half of our population commutes one way or another either in Anchorage or to the North Slope, or elsewhere, and when you are doing that, sometimes that interferes with being involved in the community. “

Thorn has since stepped down from both board positions to pursue personal interests.

“I had been pretty active and involved in the hospital and the foundation one way or another for the last eight or nine or ten years, and it’s time in my life for me to pursue other things do other things, particularly for my church, and the time came and it was a good run, and I was pleased to be of service.”

 Thorn is a life long Alaskan, born in Seward. He lives in Palmer and works for First National Bank.

Categories: Alaska News

In Wake Of “Education Session,” Democrats Run Teacher Candidates

Mon, 2014-08-18 17:58

On top of the Republican Senate primary and the oil tax referendum, there’s one more competitive race on tomorrow’s ballot – the contest for the Democrats’ lieutenant governor nominee.

In the aftermath of what Gov. Sean Parnell dubbed the “education session,” half a dozen of the new candidates being fielded by the Democratic Party are educators. The most high profile of these is Bob Williams, who was once named the Alaska Teacher of the Year and is now a candidate for lieutenant governor.

Bob Williams teaches math at Palmer’s Colony High, not government. But over the past year, he’s gotten a pretty serious crash course in civics.

“Going through this process of running for lieutenant governor, I thought like maybe you could watch a debate before and kind of say, ‘Oh, maybe I’d do this.’ I thought you could maybe vicariously go through things,” Williams says. “And one of the things I’ve learned is you really can’t learn any better than by doing.”

Williams is a first time candidate, and he’s running against State Sen. Hollis French for the Democratic nomination. Before running for lieutenant governor, the closest Williams had ever gotten to elected politics was participating in Boys State, a mock legislature conference for high schoolers. He presents himself as a Mr.-Smith-Goes-To-Juneau type figure, and speaks with the same level of enthusiasm he might use to get kids excited about algebra.

Because he’s starting big and running for a statewide seat, Williams says he’s encountered some skepticism toward his campaign.

“People would tell me, ‘You don’t have a lot of money. You’re not wealthy. You can’t do it,’” says Williams. “That means it’s going to be hard, but that doesn’t mean it’s going to be impossible. And so you talk to a lot of people, and a lot of people have said, ‘Well, you’re just a teacher. And I’d say, “What are you looking for in your next lieutenant governor? Teachers deal with conflict in a civil way, they build trust, they have integrity.”

On the issues, Williams, like French, mostly seems to line up with the Democratic party platform. But as a teacher, he says education issues really helped motivate him to file for office. When Williams declared his candidacy last year, it was shortly after a legislative session where lawmakers considered allowing public dollars to go to private schools.

“The reform efforts that were being pushed forward in the last couple of years haven’t made sense. And so, that’s one of the things where you push and say, ‘We need something different.’”

Williams is far from the only teacher running this cycle. Democrats are fielding five new legislative candidates who are active or retired teachers, and four of those are running in the Republican stronghold of Mat-Su. In Ketchikan, teacher Dan Ortiz is running as an independent candidate.

Williams says the crew of teacher-candidates will sometimes chat about their campaigns with the purpose of “giving advice and a lot of moral support – and some help on policy on education.”

Zack Fields is a spokesperson for the Alaska Democratic Party, and he says a heated fight over education funding, where a grassroots coalition of parents fought for an increase in classroom dollars “definitely catalyzed a lot of public anger,” and it resulted in an “unusually large number” of teachers being involved in this election cycle.

In the State Legislature, fewer than a handful of candidates have teaching experience at the K-12 level, and most of those lawmakers are Republicans.

If Williams were to pull off two upsets – one on Tuesday against Hollis French, and another in November as part of a gubernatorial ticket with Byron Mallott against incumbent Gov. Sean Parnell – the office of lieutenant governor wouldn’t afford him too much opportunity to get hands on with education policy. The office has few powers, but it would elevate his public profile. He says he’d approach the job like his current one.

“I’ve been building trust in the classroom and in the community for 20 years,” says Williams. “My classroom just got a lot bigger. I’ll be doing that across the state of Alaska.”

And if elected politics don’t pan out, at least the experience will have been an educational one.

Categories: Alaska News

Endorsements Fly in GOP Senate Race

Mon, 2014-08-18 17:16

The Primary Election is tomorrow, and the Republican candidates for U.S. Senate are scrambling for high-profile endorsements. Mead Treadwell announced today he has astronaut Buzz Aldrin, in addition to Iditarod legend Martin Buser. Joe Miller boasts Fox TV host Mike Huckabee, so-called “World’s Toughest Sheriff” Joe Arpaio, and – just today — Focus on the Family Founder James Dobson. Dan Sullivan landed board members of Arctic Slope Regional Corporation, Club for Growth and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

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Last week, after Miller announced he had Sarah Palin’s endorsement, Treadwell countered that he already landed her father-in-law, Jim Palin. Meanwhile, in the House race, Democrat Forrest Dunbar says he has the endorsement of Santa Claus. That is, a guy in North Pole who legally changed his name from Tom O’Connor to Santa Claus.

Anchorage Pollster Marc Hellenthal says there’s a reason for all this activity. He says endorsements have an impact on voters, but he warns it’s not always positive.

“The cost is that the endorsement ad – say, by Palin — goes to somebody who doesn’t like Palin,” Hellenthal says, “and they were voting for you before they got the Palin endorsement, and they say, ‘the heck with it, I’m not voting for that person anymore.’”

In a two-way race, the cost of controversial endorsements is higher, he says, because an offended voter runs from your camp to your direct opponent. In a three-way race like this one, the offended voter will still drop you, but may vote for a candidate running too far behind to matter. Hellenthal says the sure-fire way to win at the endorsement game, is to get the blessing of a beloved Alaskan leader, someone who rates very highly with most voters.

“That would be Lisa Murkowski,” he says, “and to my knowledge, she has not endorsed anybody.”

In this Republican Senate race, though, a Murkowski endorsement may not be the golden ticket. Joe Miller is accusing anyone associating with her of being insufficiently conservative.

Categories: Alaska News

Sec. Moniz: We Won’t Be Obstacle to Alaska Gas Exports

Mon, 2014-08-18 17:14

Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz is in Alaska this week. He says the Obama Administration wants to spur a project to export North Slope natural gas, and he says the No. 1 way his department can help is by staying out of the way.

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Understanding that ultimately these are going to be some major private sector economic decision to be made, but we are determined not to be an obstacle in any way in that pathway. Getting Alaskan gas monetized is good for the Alaska (economy), good for the country and good for our international security obligations.

Alaska’s oil producers applied to the Department of Energy last month for permits to export liquefied natural gas. The project will require an 800-mile pipeline, a liquefaction plant at Nikiski and other infrastructure. The companies haven’t committed to building the $50 billion system.

Proposals to export gas from the Lower 48 are controversial because of concern they will boost the domestic price of fuel. Moniz says the Administration has already decided the Alaska project will be exempt from requirements to show the price impact on domestic markets.

Moniz is one of four Obama Cabinet members visiting Alaska this summer.  The secretaries of Labor, Transportation and Commerce attended campaign fundraisers for Sen. Mark Begich. Moniz says he isn’t attending any fund-raising events on this trip.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: August 18, 2014

Mon, 2014-08-18 17:13

Individual news stories are posted under APRN News. You can subscribe to APRN’s news feeds via email, podcast and RSS.

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Endorsements Fly In GOP Senate Race

Liz Ruskin, APRN – Anchorage

The Primary Election is tomorrow, and the Republican candidates for U.S. Senate are scrambling for high profile endorsements. Mead Treadwell announced today he has astronaut Buzz Aldrin, in addition to Iditarod legend Martin Buser. Joe Miller boasts Fox TV host Mike Huckabee and – just today – Focus on the Family Founder James Dobson. Dan Sullivan landed board members of Arctic Slope Regional Corporation, Club for Growth and former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice.

Bob Williams Seeking Democratic Lieutenant Governor Nomination

Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN – Anchorage

On top of the Republican Senate primary and the oil tax referendum, there’s one more competitive statewide race on tomorrow’s ballot – the contest for the Democrats’ lieutenant governor nominee.

In the wake of what Gov. Sean Parnell dubbed the “education session,” half a dozen of the new candidates being fielded by the Democratic Party are educators. The most high profile of these is Bob Williams, who was once named the Alaska Teacher of the Year and is now a candidate for lieutenant governor.

Sec. Moniz: We Won’t Be Obstacle to Alaska Gas Exports

Liz Ruskin, APRN – Anchorage

Secretary of Energy Ernest Moniz is in Alaska this week. He says the Obama Administration wants to spur a project to export North Slope natural gas. And Moniz says the No. 1 way his department can help is by staying out of the way.

Bethel Man Recovering From Gunshot Wound After Altercation With Police

Ben Matheson, KYUK – Bethel

A 31-year-old Bethel man is recovering after being shot by a police officer during an altercation Friday. The man, Aaron Moses, was stabilized in Bethel and medevaced to Anchorage. One officer was also treated for minor injuries.

Vandals Drive Over Gravesites, Badly Damage Gazebo During Cemetery Joyride

Tim Ellis, KUAC – Fairbanks

Alaska State Troopers are investigating vandalism at the Delta Junction cemetery over the weekend. The vandals drove through the fence both on the way in and out of the cemetery and then ran over several gravesites on their way to the gazebo, which they nearly destroyed.

Juneau Youth Services Offers Housing For At-Risk Teens, Young Adults

Casey Kelly, KTOO – Juneau

Homeless youth in Juneau don’t have a lot of options when it comes to housing, especially if they’re on their own. The lucky ones stay with family or friends. Many of them couch surf or go camping when the weather’s nice.

But there’s another option many probably aren’t aware of: Juneau Youth Services’ Transitional Living Program.

Brown Bear Hunting In Kenai Wildlife Refuge Could Be Closed For Year

Shaylon Cochran, KDLL – Kenai

Brown bear hunting in the Kenai Wildlife Refuge could be closed entirely this year. The Refuge’s proposal comes just days after a call for a full and permanent ban on brown bear hunting.

Gov. Parnell Endorses Alaska as “Right to Mush” State

Anna MacArthur, KNOM – Nome

Sled dog racing is Alaska’s state sport and last week Governor Sean Parnell signed a resolution “recognizing, honoring, supporting, and encouraging support for dog mushing and dog mushers” in Alaska.

Categories: Alaska News

Bethel Man Recovering From Gunshot Wound After Altercation With Police

Mon, 2014-08-18 17:13

A 31-year-old Bethel man is recovering after being shot by a police officer during an altercation Friday. The man, Aaron Moses, was stabilized in Bethel and medevaced to Anchorage. One officer was also treated for minor injuries.

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Interim City Manager Greg Moyer could not share any additional details Friday evening.

“It’s an ongoing investigation, we’re diligently looking into it right now as we speak,” Moyer said.

According to the Alaska State Troopers officers with the Bethel Police Department responded to a disturbance at about 10:35 a.m. on Friday morning. Upon arrival they came into contact with a man holding a baseball bat. Officers engaged in efforts to control the man, including the use of a taser, according to Trooper spokesperson Megan Peters.

“It resulted in a struggle in which one of the officers was struck by the baseball bat,” Peters said. “One of the officers was able to draw his firearm.”

A video of the incident provided to KYUK indicates a shot fired while one officer was set back, another officer was on the ground, and Moses was standing close with the baseball bat raised.  Troopers say he was shot in the abdomen.  Moyer says the two officers were placed on administrative leave as per policy.

A witness, Ryan White, says he saw Moses walking outside Friday morning with a baseball bat. He says Moses ran toward the police with the bat at one point, and then stepped back for a moment.

“I’m not really sure if he was trying to run past them or not, and they tried tasing him, twice, both cops used their tasers on them,” White said.

After that, White says one of the police officers shot him. They then ran to handcuff him.

Alaska State Troopers are investigating after they were contacted by the Bethel Police Department.
Members of the Alaska Bureau of Investigation arrived Friday and secured the scene. Bethel Police have not commented on the incident. When reached by KYUK, State Troopers declined to share any more information.

A family member confirms that Moses is stable and being treated in the Intensive Care Unit at the Alaska Native Medical Center Monday.

Categories: Alaska News

Vandals Drive Over Gravesites, Badly Damage Gazebo During Cemetery Joyride

Mon, 2014-08-18 17:12

Delta Mayor Pro Tem Mary Leith examines the badly damaged gazebo in the Rest Haven Cemetery Sunday morning. (Photo by Tim Ellis, KUAC – Fairbanks)

Alaska State Troopers are investigating vandalism at the Delta Junction cemetery over the weekend. The vandals drove through the fence both on the way in and out of the cemetery and then ran over several gravesites on their way to the gazebo, which they nearly destroyed.

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Delta city officials say the damage at Rest Haven Cemetery was reported around 9 a.m. Sunday by a city worker who’d gone there to help with a burial scheduled for later that morning.

A chunk of broken fencing lies on the ground where the vandals apparently exited the cemetery. (Photo by Tim Ellis, KUAC – Fairbanks)

As he surveyed the damage, city administrator Mike Tvenge struggled to find words to describe the shock and outrage that he and many other area residents were feeling as word of the vandalism spread. Tvenge says city staff will contact family members of those whose graves were damaged during the vandals’ destructive joy ride.

“Certainly we would call families and alert them to what happened,” he said. “It’s absolute disrespect of those here and those families of loved ones.  It’s sad. To me it’s sad.”

But it appears the gravesites weren’t the main goal of the vandals. Those just happened to be in the path that they took to get to the gazebo in the center of the cemetery. That’s how it looked to Tvenge as he walked along the tire tracks that run from where the vehicle apparently smashed through the fence to get in and a few feet away where it smashed its way out.

“Got damage to the fence in two different places, so far. Yep,” he muttered.

The support posts on all four corners were broken, causing the roof to collapse onto the deck. Tvenge says it appears the vandals may have lashed a strap onto one or more of the posts to facilitate the destruction.

“Well, they hooked a strap up to it, it looks like, and tore the building down.

The gazebo was built in 2008 by a Delta youth for his Eagle Scout project. A plaque on the structure states that Eagle Scout Matt Joslin dedicated the structure to his baby brother, who died soon after birth.

Most of the headstones in the path of the vandals were flat, so damage was limited to crushed flowers and broken mementos, like flag-holders provided by the American Legion. (Photo by Tim Ellis, KUAC – Fairbanks)

Tvenge and Delta Mayor Pro Tem Mary Leith, who also was there to check the damage, both say it’s hard to assign a cost estimate to repair the gazebo, because it like the rest of the cemetery was built with volunteer labor and donated or discounted materials.

Which, in a way, makes the vandalism all the more aggravating.

“This has all been done with volunteer labor. And then these idiots come along – I just don’t get it. I don’t get the mindset,” she said. “It’s just a bunch of people putting their heart into the place and then some idiot comes along…”

Troopers weren’t saying much about the incident Sunday. Spokeswoman Megan Peters would only confirm that an investigation is under way.

Editor’s note: The reporter is married to Mayor Pro Tem Mary Leith.

Categories: Alaska News
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