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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: 35 min 31 sec ago

Lance Mackey on 2014 Iditarod “This Is It For Me”

Wed, 2015-03-11 18:03

Lance Mackey says this is  his last Iditarod. (Photo By Patrick Yack – Alaska Public Media)

 

The Mackey family has long been known as a mushing dynasty within the Iditarod community. Patriarch Dick Mackey won the race in 1978.  Years later, Lance Mackey claimed four championships in a row. Little brother Jason just might take on the most meaningful race of his life.

When Jason Mackey arrived in Tanana, he was not feeling good about his dog team.

“I mean you can start seeing things unravel in front of you.  We’re 200 miles into the race, we’re going into the unknown part of this race and everybody’s still way under rested.” 00:13

Mackey says he may have pushed his dogs a little too hard, so he decided to stop for his mandatory eight-hour rest. But he didn’t expect to see his older brother’s dog team still parked at the checkpoint.

“It’s really hard for me to see Lance in the situation that he is. There was that one time I thought I was going to have to bury him.  I’m glad that never happened.”

Lance Mackey is a cancer survivor, but the disease and radiation treatment took a toll on the champion musher’s physical health.  He says he accidentally let his fingers get too cold along the trail out of Nenana.

“I can’t feel my fingers at the moment literally.  I feel like my fingernails are being pushed off.”

Mackey holds up two swollen hands.  The skin is red, purple and puffy. His fingernails bulge.  They are black around the edges.

“This is it for me.”

Mackey chocked back tears.  He says this will be his last season of long distance sled dog racing.

But he is still determined to drive his team under the burled arch in Nome one last time. So, he decided to take his mandatory 24-hour layover in Tanana to rest his body and let his hands heal. After reevaluating his own dog team, Jason Mackey opted to do the same.

“I told lance, I’m 24-ing with you.  If I can help you in anyway, booting dogs, whatever the case may be, I’m going to use your knowledge to get us back to the front…I’m going to tell him I don’t want him to mess up his race.”

But little brother Jason is unlikely to change his mind.

“We used to be inseparable at one time and of course everybody changes over time.  These last couple of years we’ve gotten back close again and I think it would be real good for our relationship.”

The Mackey brothers have battled drug and alcohol addiction together.  They’ve seen each other get married, watched as some of those relationships have crumbled and they’ve both travelled the Iditarod trail multiple times, but never side by side.

Jason Mackey says there’s still plenty he has to learn from his older brother.

“There’s not a tougher headed guy out here. I might be a little biased.  Maybe, maybe not, but the guy is insanely tough. But it’s time to pass the torch, let go of the reigns whatever the saying might be but you know lance and I have talked about it in the past year. I will win the race.”

Lance Mackey agrees.

He’s the only boy in the family that hasn’t won this thing. Yeah, it’s time.  I’m going to do everything in my power to make sure my brother wins this thing.”

Both brothers know a winning this year could be a stretch.  But according to Jason, the two have discussed long-term plans for training dogs together in the future to secure a potential sixth Iditarod championship ion the Mackey family.

Categories: Alaska News

Fish and Game Transporting Wood Bison to Interior

Wed, 2015-03-11 18:01

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The Alaska Department of Fish and Game is planning to transport Wood Bison to the village of Shageluk later this month. Wood Bison have been extinct in Alaska for over a century, but animals transplanted here from Canada’s Yukon could re-populate interior Alaska with the species, and offer an alternative subsistence food source.

Categories: Alaska News

Native Nonprofits Want State to Change on Adoption Case

Wed, 2015-03-11 16:17

All the regional Native nonprofits in the state, which represent most of the tribes in Alaska, have issued a joint statement asking Governor Bill Walker to change his position in the court case Tununuk II vs. the state of Alaska. They say Walker’s position will make it very difficult for tribal members to adopt Native children. The state says it’s only arguing for compliance with a U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

The case involves a Native child called Baby Dawn; her Alaska Native grandmother Elise of the village of Tununuk; and Baby Dawn’s non-Native former foster and now adoptive parents the Smiths of Anchorage. An Alaska Supreme Court ruling in December allowed the Smith’s petition to adopt Baby Dawn  to override Elise’s stated wish to adopt her granddaughter.

Lloyd Miller, a partner with Sonosky, Chambers, Sachse, Miller and Munson, represents Elise in the case. Under the Indian Child Welfare Act, or ICWA, Alaska Native children must be placed for adoption with their relatives or tribal members unless good cause is shown it’s in the child’s interests to do otherwise. Miller says it used to be relatively easy for Native relatives or tribal members to adopt:

“For 30 years, it has been the practice that all an individual had to do, a grandmother, an aunt, was to raise their hand, and tell the Office of Children’s Services, ‘I would like to take care of my niece, I would like to take care of my grand-daughter, my grandson, “” he said. “And that was enough to trigger all the Indian Child Welfare Act’s requirements, which include home studies, determining whether the home will be safe and a good placement for the child.”

But in Tununuk 2 vs. Alaska, the state successfully argued that a 2013 ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court requires the formal filing of a petition to adopt to trigger ICWA preferences. A petition to adopt requires legal assistance from attorneys, which tribes say creates a costly obstacle for people in remote communities. The grandmother had not filed a petition to adopt. The Smiths did.

Attorney Kenneth Kirk represents the Smiths. “Our position is the court’s made its decision. The decision is consistent with the Adoptive Couple v. Baby Girl case from the U.S. Supreme Court, which, they really have to follow it. There’s not much the Alaska Supreme Court can do about that whether they like it or not.”

That’s not so according to tribal attorney Miller:

“The Adoptive Couple v Baby Girl decision from the United States Supreme Court never said that before these placement preferences apply, a grandmother, or an aunt, has to file a formal adoption petition,” Miller said. “It doesn’t say that. The state is making it up.”

Rather, Miller says, the Adoptive Couple decision from the Supreme Court requires would-be adoptive parents to take formal steps to adopt, which the grandmother did by stating she wanted to adopt in court.

The Alaska Supreme Court does have the authority to reverse its earlier ruling, according to Tanana Chiefs Conference General Counsel Natasha Singh. She says not only do the attorneys on the side of Elise and the Village of Tununuk agree on that count, so does the U.S. Department of Justice, which has joined the suit on their side:

“It is absolutely unheard of that the Department of Justice would file amicus. We met with the Department of Justice two weeks ago and they feel so strongly that the state of Alaska and Alaska Supreme Court got this wrong that they filed amicus.”

Still,  Kirk says Baby Dawn now is almost seven-years old and has been with the Smith’s since she was a year and a half. He says the tribes should find another test case:

“As you can imagine, if you had a case hanging over your head where there was some possibility your child would be taken away from you, it kind of wears you down” Kirk said. “I mean that’s tough on people, it’s tough on any parent. I really wish we could end it and find some other way to resolve this.”

Singh says the case, at this point, is more about the issues than the individual adoption of Baby Dawn. She says if the Alaska Supreme Court decides to reverse its decision, the Baby Dawn case would go back to a lower trial court. There, Singh says, the trial court would decide whether there is just cause to remove Baby Dawn from the Smith family:

“All we’re asking is for the policy that the Alaska Supreme Court came out with in Tununuk Two to be reversed. That does not necessarily mean that the child will be removed from its placement.”

The village of Tununuk requested a rehearing in the case. Briefs to the Alaska Supreme Court on that request are due Monday.

 

Categories: Alaska News

Supreme Court Grants Stay in Education Funding Case

Wed, 2015-03-11 15:39

The Alaska Supreme Court has granted the state’s motion for a stay pending appeal in the Ketchikan Gateway Borough’s lawsuit regarding education funding.

In a brief one-page ruling, the order simply stated: “The motion is granted. The superior court’s judgment is stayed pending appeal.”

In late February, Superior Court Judge William Carey denied a similar motion for a stay of his January ruling in the borough’s favor. That ruling invalidated the State of Alaska’s longheld practice of requiring municipal governments to contribute a specific amount toward public education.

In his ruling, Carey agreed with the borough’s argument that the required local contribution is a dedicated tax, and therefore violates the Alaska Constitution.

The state argued that a stay of that ruling is needed so that the Legislature and school districts across the state can know what this year’s funding will look like. The borough opposed the stay, arguing that it would be harmed by a delay because the required local contribution cannot be recovered once it’s spent.

Ketchikan’s required local contribution this year is about $4.5 million.

Borough attorneys also argued that the state would try to delay the appeals process once it got a stay.

In its Wednesday order, the Supreme Court also told both parties to work with the clerk of court to arrange an expedited briefing schedule for the appeal.

Borough Manager Dan Bockhorst was in a meeting Wednesday afternoon, an unavailable to comment for this story.

Categories: Alaska News

Skier Injured in Avalanche Near Haines

Wed, 2015-03-11 13:30

A skier who was testing slopes near Haines for an international ski competition this weekend was injured in an avalanche Wednesday morning, according to state troopers.

The person is alive but did not have any information about their identity or condition, according to Trooper spokesperson Megan Peters. The victim was partially buried by the avalanche and was able to be found quickly, she said.  The skier was being treated at the Haines clinic.

The victim was skiing in an area called Tele Bowl near the Kicking Horse Valley north of Haines, Peters said. A 911 call was made at 11:35 a.m.

The Freeride World Tour is one of the largest big mountain ski and snowboard competitions in the world. The competition was scheduled to start in Haines this weekend with 36 international athletes. It would be the first time the competition took place in Alaska.

 

Categories: Alaska News

Re-entry Program Gives Inmates Hope to Succeed Inside and Out

Wed, 2015-03-11 13:22

This is the eighth year Success Inside and Out has been held at Lemon Creek Correctional Center. The day’s events took place inside the prison gym. (Photo By Lisa Phu, KTOO-Juneau

On Saturday, 43 people rotated through tutorials in a basketball gym on topics like finding employment, how to open a bank account and reconnecting with family.

All the participants were wearing yellow jumpsuits. It’s Lemon Creek Correctional Center’s eighth annual Success Inside and Out event, which offers resources to soon-to-be-released inmates.

James Luckart has been in jail for more than eight years. According to court records, Luckart was convicted for three counts of assault, one for attempted sexual assault. He’s due to get out ofLemon Creek Correctional Center next February.

“I feel ready and I think I am ready, but it’s just I’m scared. It’s going to be a big test,” Luckart says.

James Luckart says Success Inside and Out makes him believe he has a chance to make it once he’s released. (Photo by Lisa Phu/KTOO)
This is his first time at Success Inside and Out. He’s just come from a session on addiction and mental health. He’s gotten information about counseling once he’s out and a number to call even while he’s still in jail. Luckart thinks it’s cool.

“There’s people out there that actually care. I mean people in this environment are like, ‘Nobody cares about us. They just want to let us rot.’ But there are people that actually care, so it feels pretty good,” Luckart says.

His favorite part of the day has been hearing from former inmates who have succeeded on the outside – people who are sober, have jobs or go to school and are part of healthy relationships. These stories give him hope.

“We all have a chance to make it out there. Yeah, we’ve made some mistakes in our life but there’s a chance that we can make it out there in the community,” Luckart says.
Marcos Galindo is one of those people who made it. Most of his life was shrouded in violence, he says. He was part of a gang in California and was in and out of jail. He came to Juneau in December 2011 to visit his mother. That next April, he assaulted someone and ended up at Lemon Creek Correctional Center. While there, he took a class taught by Sol Neely, assistant professor of English at University of Alaska Southeast.

Now, Galindo is a senior at UAS and radiates positivity.

“My whole day when I wake up in the morning is about being positive, about how can I better my life and how can I better the person next to me’s life. And I learned a lot of that through Sol’s classes,” Galindo says.

So far, he’s helped four former male inmates get into UAS.

“Three of them are success stories. One of them started using again and went back. So we lost one and I took it a little personal but what can you do, right?” Galindo says. “But the three superstars we got now, they don’t need any help at anything. They’re knocking out essays on their own. They got higher GPAs than me.”

Juneau District Court Judge Keith Levy has been organizing Success Inside and Out for the past few years. The program was founded in 2006 by Alaska Supreme Court Chief Justice Dana Fabe for incarcerated women at Hiland Correctional Center near Anchorage. The program still takes place there.

Levy says the court system has a great interest in seeing inmates thrive when they’re released.

“People think of judges as punishing people and our role is not punishment. Judges, especially in Southeast Alaska, what we want to have happen is to recognize what gets people into jail and to deal with those things and help them not come back,” he says.

Levy isn’t sure how successful Success Inside and Out has been over the last eight years, but he says if it helps even a handful of people, it’s worth it.

Categories: Alaska News

Dallas Seavey, Aaron Burmeister Battle For Iditarod Lead

Wed, 2015-03-11 12:53

Dallas and Mitch Seavey talk before the ceremonial start of the 2015 Iditarod. (Photo by Josh Edge, APRN – Anchorage)

Dallas Seavey and Aaron Burmeister are running neck-and-neck down the Yukon River, leading the Iditarod field between Tanana and Ruby.

Mitch Seavey and Martin Buser are running in third and fourth place, respectively, trailing the Iditarod leaders by less than two miles.

The leg between Tanana and Ruby is the longest of the race, spanning 119 miles.

Categories: Alaska News

Many Iditarod Mushers Stock Up On Music, Movies And Audio Books For The Trail

Wed, 2015-03-11 09:18

Brent Sass takes a moment with his dogs. The Eureka musher was disqualified from the 2015 Iditarod Tuesday night. (Photo by Emily Schwing)

Travelling a thousand miles by dog team can be exciting, but many of those miles can also be repetitive, so many mushers carry iPods stocked with music, audio books, and even movies.

When he pulled into Manley, Brent Sass joked about what was on his iPod this year.

“A friend gave me their entire music collection, so I have no idea,” Sass said. “That’s the beauty of it: all brand new music.”

Sass likes to listen to movies on his iPod as he travels down the trail.

“I have Karate Kid, I’m pretty stoked about that and what else do I have on there?” he said. “The Big Lebowski is always a favorite and what else do I have on there?  I have Dumb and Dumber Too, just because. I got some high quality stuff!”

Sass was disqualified from this year’s race because his iPod is equipped with two-way communication capabilities. Race Marshall Mark Nordman says he knows there are other mushers on the trail with similar devices, but the race does not plan to search sled bags.

It’s unclear what kind of iPod Kelly Maixner is carrying, but he says he filled it with audio books for his trip down the Iditarod trail.

Maixner: “I just was working on American Sniper.”

Emily: “Did you see the movie?”

Maixner: “I haven’t seen it, from the book though, I think that movie would be rather exciting. What else? I have Game of Thrones series.”

Emily: “Do you watch that TV show?”

Maixner: “I do watch the TV show.”

Emily: “So how does it compare?”

Maixner: “I haven’t started that yet…. And Ender’s Game and Gone Girl, but I haven’t seen that movie yet either.”

But Hugh Neff is one musher who doesn’t like to listen to anything when he’s moving down the trail. But with so many miles to travel down the Yukon River this year, Neff said he was worried about getting bored.

“To tell you the truth, I am a little bit worried about that,” Neff said. “It’s going to be interesting. it’s going to be a fast race, but it’s going to be a monotonous. In some respects and the river here is so different compared to the Quest, too.  The Quest is just more jumbly and more scenic in some respects too.”

Martin Buser says he knows the trail will have its moments, but he stops short of calling it ‘boring.’

“Well, boring is only for boring people,” he said. We don’t let people use that word.  We raised our kids and they were never allowed to say the b-word, and the b-word was boring.”

Even so, Buser says he has an iPod filled with music from his genre of choice: classic rock.

Categories: Alaska News

Aliy Zirkle Leads Iditarod Mushers Out Of Tanana

Wed, 2015-03-11 07:55

Aily Zirkle’s team en route to Tanana on Tuesday. (Photo by Emily Schwing)

Brent Sass has been disqualified from the 2015 Iditarod for using a Wi-Fi capable iPod touch.

“I didn’t use it and I had zero intent of using it for a wifi connection in checkpoints, but I was just completely clueless. I mean I gave my dad my cell phone because I knew you couldn’t have cell phones on this race specifically and I was just ignorant.”

Brent Sass takes a moment with his dogs. The Eureka musher was disqualified from the 2015 Iditarod Tuesday night. (Photo by Emily Schwing)

Many mushers use iPods along the race trail, but because the iPod touch is capable of two-way communication, it is prohibited on the Iditarod trail.

Sass was running in 5th place when he was disqualified.

Aliy Zirkle’s team was the first out of Tanana Tuesday night, leading the field down the Yukon River toward Ruby on the race’s longest leg.

Mushers are required to take a mandatory eight-hour rest at a checkpoint along the river. Sub-zero temperatures helped some mushers decide to take the rest early.

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When Michelle Phillips arrived in Tanana, her team still wanted to run, but Phillips decided to take a rest. She says she feels like she’s been out on the trail for much longer than two days.

“It’s just a whole different thing going through checkpoints you don’t know and the trail,” she said. “Yeah, it seems like the race has been going on for a while.”

Phillips bedded down her dogs and wrapped them in thick, warm jackets, but she wasn’t sure if she would stay a full eight hours.

“I just don’t really know what to do,” Phillips said. “I know it’s going to be cold tonight, so if I took my eight, it’s what like 6:30? (Schwing: “It’s 7.”) So, I’d be out on the river at 3, when it’s still pretty friggin’ cold.”

Rumors of night-time temperatures of 40 below zero circled the Tanana dog yard. The forecast actually called for temperatures closer to 20 below along the Yukon River – still cold enough to convince Norwegian rookie Thomas Waerner to stop for his mandatory rest.

“I don’t want to spend the night on the river and I can rest on the day time – go six or seven hours and then rest and then go again,” Waerner said.

Martin Buser tended to his team just before sunrise Tuesday in Manley. (Photo by Emily Schwing)

The next run to Ruby is the longest of this year’s route at 119 miles. Mushers may opt to split it into two or three runs. Martin Buser wouldn’t say for sure what he planned to do.

“I have no idea what you’re talking about,” Buser said. “I have no idea what that means, splitting something up.”

Buser’s team was parked right next to Aliy Zirkle’s. She also wouldn’t say how she planned to split up the run.

“By golly I have figured that out,” Zirkle said. “Nope, I’m just going to see how it goes first. I probably wouldn’t tell you anyway.”

Regardless of the long rest, Buser wasn’t looking forward to the night ahead.

“Not at all; it’s the cold,” Buser said. “It’s as Robert Service would say ‘it’s the curse of cold I hold and it chills me down to the bone.”

“Martin’s not from the Interior,” jokes Aliy Zirkle. The two rivals traded jibes in the dog yard as Buser fed his dogs and Zirkle packed her sled to leave.

Buser: “No I’m not used to the horrible cold. I’m from the banana belt.”

Zirkle: “I’d train my dogs a lot more if I lived where Martin lives.”

But cold weather isn’t the only thing on Buser’s mind. He says he learned enough from racing out in front the last two years to know he doesn’t want to lead the field this year.

Tanana is the third checkpoint on this year’s reroute Iditarod trail.
(Photo by Emily Schwing)

“It’s very much like the peloton in the Tour de France, even though those teams are racing for themselves, when somebody has left them behind, they all work together in unison and become one incredibly strong unit and beating that unit is almost impossible,” he said.

Buser has found himself in something of a strategic quandary. He left the start line wearing bib number four, which automatically put his team up front.

“That’s the unluck or luck of the draw,” Buser said. “The bib number that I ended up with, I can’t change it, so here I am , but what I am thinking is if I take my eight, Aliy Zirkle might be leaving in front of me, then that smells up the trail a little bit and I’ll be the second in command or something.”

Teams continued in and out of the checkpoint all night. With a long stretch of river miles ahead, they will undoubtedly continue to jockey for position on what is reportedly a smooth, yet frigid trail.

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska Teens Lobby Governor On Climate Change

Tue, 2015-03-10 22:34

A group of teenagers are calling on Gov. Bill Walker to create a climate change task force.

Alaska Youth for Environmental Action delivered a petition with more than a thousand signatures to the governor’s office on Tuesday. Roan Rediske, a high school freshman from Homer, was one of the 22 delegates who attended the meeting.

“It hurts to think that my kids, and their kids, and so on and so on, wouldn’t be able to experience even what I’ve experienced in only 14 years of being here,” says Rediske.

Former Gov. Sarah Palin created a climate change task force during a tenure, but it went dormant in 2009. Barae Hirsch, a high school junior from Anchorage, says Walker was receptive to their ideas.

“One of our suggestions and our hopes is that we can have a youth seat on this
climate change task force,” says Hirsch.

As part of their spring break trip to Juneau, the teens are also lobbying legislators on bills dealing with Arctic policy and energy efficiency.

Categories: Alaska News

At National Guard Confirmation Hearing, The Political Becomes Personal

Tue, 2015-03-10 22:27

One of Sean Parnell’s final acts as governor was to remove the adjutant general of the Alaska National Guard. The cause was a federal investigation documenting problems with fraud and the handling of sexual assault. Now, a new adjutant general is tasked with restoring trust in the force. At a pair of confirmation hearings on Tuesday, Laurie Hummel was asked about her plans for reforming the Guard, and went through a personal line of questioning along the way. APRN’s Alexandra Gutierrez reports.

During her first confirmation hearings before the Legislature, Adjutant General Designee Laurie Hummel was asked a lot of the standards, like what leadership is (“People believe in your abilities, they believe in your principles, and they want to follow you”) and what’s the timeline for National Guard reform (“I don’t believe it will be completed this session”).

She was asked about terrorism and drones, her tenure at West Point and her academic background in geography. She walked the committees through her 12-page C.V., which lists four graduate degrees and 17 military medals and awards — including a Legion of Merit. She talked about her service in Afghanistan and work with NATO.

But in addition to her resume and her policy positions, Hummel was also questioned on her personal life. Hummel’s military background comes from her 30-year career in the Army. But her husband, Col. Chad Parker, commanded a brigade in the Alaska National Guard until recently.

In the House State Affairs Committee, Chair Bob Lynn wanted to know if her spouse would continue to serve in the Alaska National Guard alongside her. Hummel responded that her husband was taking a job with the National Guard Bureau in Washington, D.C.

HUMMEL: He is not within the employment of the DMVA, and of course, that is necessitated in order to comply with our nepotism statutes.
LYNN: So he will still be in the National Guard, but not in the chain of command here, so he is not retiring from the National Guard.
HUMMEL: That is correct, sir.

During his time in the National Guard, Parker handled some of investigations into wrongdoing. Lynn, an Anchorage Republican, also wanted to know if Parker had ever talked to Hummel about difficulties the National Guard had in addressing sexual assault.

LYNN: Your husband didn’t tell you about it?
HUMMEL: No, actually, my husband — it wasn’t really discussed at home.

Hummel said she learned about the problems by reading the news.

At a separate hearing before the House Military and Veterans Affairs Committee, questioning took a different tack. Hummel was prodded on whether the state should adopt a Uniform Code of Military Justice to create more accountability in the Guard, and she was repeatedly asked if such a code should penalize extramarital affairs.

Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux made the first inquiry. The Anchorage Republican has a history with Hummel, having beat off an election challenge from Hummel last year.

“If someone were having an extramarital affair, or something of that nature, that would be adjudicated under the military, as opposed to our civil laws?” asked LeDoux.

Rep. Shelley Hughes, a Palmer Republican, then continued down that line of questioning on extramarital affairs.

“[I] was curious as to your thoughts as far whether any of that might be unreasonable, and whether under your leadership you would think that wouldn’t it be better for it not to be in the code because you wouldn’t see enforcing it,” said Hughes during the hearing.

Hummel responded that she believes the Uniform Code of Military Justice is a “sound document.”

After the hearing, Hughes said there was no specific motivation behind her questions. But she also said she wondered if Hummel’s personal experiences would prompt her to “change some of the standards.” Hughes said she knew that Hummel had previously been married to Eric Feige, a former state legislator, before getting remarried.

“Whether through someone went through that would enforce it, yes, there is a curiosity about that,” said Hughes, referring to enforcement of provisions in the military code.

Hughes said she learned of Hummel’s marital history during campaign season, but would not elaborate on what exactly she meant when talking of the adjutant general designee’s “personal experiences.”

“I was out in Palmer. I wasn’t hanging out in Anchorage, so I never went into any of the activities or debates or anything like that,” said Hughes. “So, I was busy.”

Hughes said she was satisfied by Hummel’s answers to her questions. Both she and LeDoux plan to support Hummel’s confirmation.

Hummel said she did not have time for questions after the hearing.

Categories: Alaska News

Yukon Quest Champ Brent Sass Disqualified From Iditarod

Tue, 2015-03-10 20:37

Photo by Patrick Yack, APRN – Anchorage: Brent Sass

Brent Sass has been disqualified from the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.  The musher was informed by race Marshall Mark Nordman after he arrived in Tanana that he will not be able to continue the race because the Eureka-based musher violated a rule about using a wireless communication device on the trail.

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“I didn’t use it and I had zero intent of using it for a wifi connection in checkpoints, but I was just completely clueless.  I mean I gave my dad my cell phone because I knew you couldn’t have cell phones on this race specifically and I was just ignorant.”

Many mushers use iPods along the race trail, but because the iPod touch is capable of two-way communication, it is prohibited on the Iditarod trail.

A tearful Sass says he’s in shock.

“The biggest thing is I want my fans to know I was not cheating in any way or form.  I was just stupid and completely ignorant to the fact that the iPod touch has a wifi connection.  I even knew that, but we can use them in the Quest and the rules here are different.”

Sass is currently resting in the Tanana checkpoint.  He says the Iditarod race organization understood his situation, but also had to enforce the rules.

Sass was running in 5th place when he was disqualified.

Categories: Alaska News

AFN Asks Walker to Change Position on Adoptions

Tue, 2015-03-10 18:26

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The Alaska Federation of Natives, the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium and a dozen regional Native non-profits are asking Governor Bill Walker to change his position in a case involving the adoption of Alaska Native children. They say the state’s position in the case Tununuk v. the state of Alaska erects barriers between tribal children and tribal homes.

The state has said it’s only arguing for compliance with a U.S. Supreme Court ruling.

Under the terms of the Indian Child Welfare Act, or ICWA, Alaska Native children must be placed for adoption with their relatives or tribal members unless it’s clearly in the child’s interests to do otherwise.

An Alaska Supreme Court ruling last December allowed the non-Native Smith family to adopt “Baby Dawn” even though her Native grandmother wanted to adopt her.

The state successfully argued the grandmother failed to file a required petition to adopt.

Lloyd Miller is a partner in the law firm Sonosky, Chambers, Sachse, Miller and Munson, which is representing the village of Tununuk. He says the state is misinterpreting the U.S. Supreme Court’s ruling.

Miller said that ruling requires formal action, a standard he says the grandmother met when she told the state’s Office of Children Services and testified in court that she wanted to adopt her grandchild.

The village of Tununuk requested a rehearing in the cast. Briefs to the Alaska Supreme Court on that request are due Monday.

Categories: Alaska News

Buser Retakes Iditarod Lead, First to Tanana; Neff, Zirkle Not Far Behind

Tue, 2015-03-10 18:23

Martin Buser signs copies of his book prior to the ceremonial start in Anchorage on Saturday. (Photo By Patrick Yack – Alaska Public Media)

 

 

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Martin Buser regained the early lead in this year’s Iditarod. He was the first to Tanana Tuesday afternoon. He was followed by Hugh Neff and Aliy Zirkle, both had made it to Tanana by early evening. Aaron Burmeister was closing in on Tanana behind the leaders.

Iditarod dog teams had been filing in and out of Manley since the middle of Monday night.  Mushers were starting to search for the perfect balance between racing and resting as they made their way down the Iditarod trail.

Categories: Alaska News

House Finance Reduces Cuts to Pub Broadcasting, University System

Tue, 2015-03-10 18:22

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The House Finance Committee has approved restoring much of a proposed $1.7 million cut to public broadcasting and reducing by about $10 million a cut to the University of Alaska system. The committee is considering amendments to the operating budget, with a goal of getting a bill to the House floor this week. Whatever passes the House would go to the Senate.

Categories: Alaska News

Allen Permanently Takes Lead at Sitka Hospital

Tue, 2015-03-10 18:21

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After six weeks on the job, Rob Allen – the interim CEO of Sitka Community Hospital – has agreed to take on the position permanently. He announced his decision during the hospital board’s last meeting in February and expects to negotiate for a contract soon.

Categories: Alaska News

Fast Ferry Engine Damage Could Affect Service

Tue, 2015-03-10 18:20

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One of the Alaska Marine Highway’s new ferry engines is down. That could affect service in Southeast and Prince William Sound.

Department of Transportation spokesman Jeremy Woodrow says a gear tooth broke Saturday on one of four engines powering the fast ferry Fairweather. Sunday’s sailing was cancelled.

The ship, which is temporarily based in Cordova, sails to Whittier and Valdez, though not always on the same day.

Woodrow says officials hope to resume operations by Thursday, the next scheduled departure.

“We are requesting approval from the Coast Guard to operate the Fairweather on three engines, which we’ve done in the past,” he says. “If this is approved, the Fairweather will continue to service Prince William Sound until it’s scheduled to leave. At that time, either the Aurora or the Chenega or both ferries will move into Prince William Sound and continue ferry service for those communities.”

He says the engine is under warranty and the state will not have to pay for repairs.

A plaque onboard the Fairweather commemorates its construction. (Ed Schoenfeld/CoastAlaska News)
The Fairweather started having engine trouble within a few years of its 2004 launch. The state sued and was eventually given four new engines for each of its two fast ferries, plus two spares, also called “swing” engines.

The Fairweather’s power plant was replacedabout a year ago at a Washington state shipyard. It’s been filling in this winter for the fast ferry Chenega, which is getting its own.

“Fixing this engine will be as simple as picking up one of our swing engines in Ketchikan on our way to Seattle and then replacing the engine and leaving the old engine or the damaged engine to be repaired,” Woodrow says.

The Fairweather will return to its Juneau base in May and resume sailing to Sitka and Angoon.

But the travel and engine-replacement time could delay the start of service, unless another vessel can fill in and give it an early start south.

Meanwhile, the ferry Aurora had to end a Juneau-to-Gustavus sailing Monday because of bad weather. No replacement sailing is planned.

Categories: Alaska News

YK Health Corp Launches New Health Campaign

Tue, 2015-03-10 18:19

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Calricaraq is an ancient Yup’ik holistic way to live a long, healthy, and balanced life. The Yukon Kuskokwim Health Corporation’s Preventative Services Department in Bethel is bringing the system back, that’s meant to guide the “real people” from conception to adulthood. They hope it will help curb alarming suicide rates and tough social issues facing Yup’ik people today.

Categories: Alaska News

Transgender Support Group Forms in Juneau

Tue, 2015-03-10 18:17

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The transgender community is finding a foothold in the capital city. A support and social group for transgender and gender questioning people had its first meeting in February with about 12 participants. It follows a trend happening elsewhere in the state.

Zeif Parish, 30, was born a female, but for as long as he can remember, he’s identified as masculine. He says he grew up in Juneau viewed as an unusually masculine girl.

“Half the people I met for my entire life until the last couple years would meet me and be like, ‘What’s her problem?’ and ‘What’s up with her? She’s weird.’ And it wasn’t my choice and I doubtless experienced more social rejection and stigma and negativity just based on that,” Parish says.

He started identifying as transgender when he was 20 and physically transitioned two years ago when he began taking testosterone. Parish says he’s had a supportive family, a strong Bahá’í faith and found happiness in his life, but he never had a community of gender variant friends.

Parish hopes a monthly support and social group in Juneau may change that. He’s one of the group’s organizers.

“I want to reach people who feel alone in their differentness whether it’s like totally a secret thing in their heart or if they express it, but still don’t like feeling alone,” Parish says.

Drew Phoenix, who’s also transgender, says having a support group is incredibly important. He’s the executive director of Identity Inc, a statewide lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender organization based in Anchorage. Phoenix says transgender people or people questioning their gender are an at-risk population.

“Many people in Alaska know of someone who is gay or lesbian or bisexual. They’re not as familiar with people who are gender nonconforming or transgender. So transgender people are in a much higher risk of physical violence and discrimination than the broader LGBT population,” Phoenix says.

In Anchorage, the Veterans Affairs center runs a weekly transgender group. Identity organizes three – two for adults and one for teenagers. The first one started January of last year. Phoenix says Identity will offer additional groups in April.

“More and more I’m getting calls from parents of children, like first graders, third graders, fourth graders, who the children need a play group to be part of with other gender questioning kids. And then the parents need the support of other parents,” Phoenix says.

Phoenix says the climate around being transgender is slowly shifting, encouraging people to come out. TIME Magazine featured transgender actress Laverne Cox from “Orange is the New Black” on its cover last June. Identity recently received a $10,000 grant from the Alaska Mental Health Trust Authority to allow Alaskans in remote areas to videoconference in to transgender support groups. Phoenix says many organizations and businesses in Anchorage have reached out for LGBT cultural competency training.

Transgender or gender questioning individuals can also meet up prior to SEAGLA’s weekly Friday social at The Imperial Bar at 5:15.

But he says society still has a long way to go.

“I’m so aware of the discrimination that still occurs both in places of employment, public accommodations, like use of locker rooms and restrooms. I’m concerned about policies not being in place in local schools for young people who are transitioning,” Phoenix says.

Lauren Tibbitts is a board member and outreach coordinator of SEAGLA, the Southeast LGBTQ alliance group based in Juneau. She’s been helping Juneau’s transgender group get off the ground. Tibbitts is also part of it and identifies as gender non-binary, which means she doesn’t consider herself woman or man. You don’t have to be transgender to be part of the group, she says.

“It is welcoming anyone who considers themselves outside of gender norms, whether you consider yourself or identify as gender nonconforming, non-binary, or transgender or agender – anyone who doesn’t strictly identify with heteronormativity when it comes to gender,” Tibbitts says.
The group also welcomes allies of the transgender community and people who want more information.

Editor’s Note: The story has been updated to correct the number of participants at the first meeting – there were about 12, not 20. 

Categories: Alaska News

Alaska News Nightly: March 10, 2015

Tue, 2015-03-10 18:15

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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Sen. Sullivan: Letter To Tehran To ‘Enlighten Iranian Leadership’

Liz Ruskin, APRN – Washington
U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan is among 47 Republican senators who signed a letter to Iran’s leadership Monday. The letter concerns President Obama’s negotiations for a deal to halt Iran’s nuclear program without involving Congress. The senators warn Iran that the next president could reverse any executive deal between leaders “with the stroke of a pen.”

AFN Asks Walker to Change Position on Adoptions

Joaqlin Estus, KNBA – Anchorage
The Alaska Federation of Natives, the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, and a dozen regional Native non-profits are asking Governor Bill Walker to change his position in a case involving the adoption of Alaska Native children. They say the state’s position in the case Tununuk v. the state of Alaska erects barriers between tribal children and tribal homes.

House Finance Reduces Cuts to Pub Broadcasting, University System

The Associated Press
The House Finance Committee has approved restoring much of a proposed $1.7 million cut to public broadcasting and reducing by about $10 million a cut to the University of Alaska system. The committee is considering amendments to the operating budget, with a goal of getting a bill to the House floor this week. Whatever passes the House would go to the Senate.

Fairbanks Looking for Cheaper Fuel Options

Dan Bross, KUAC-Fairbanks
Lower oil prices have eased the high cost of energy in Fairbanks. But concern they won’t last, has the local electric utility looking at other fuel options.

Buser Retakes Iditarod Lead, First to Tanana

Emily Schwing, APRN Contributor
Martin Buser maintained the early lead in this year’s Iditarod. He was the first to Tanana Tuesday afternoon. He was followed by Hugh Neff and Aaron Burmeister. Aliy Zirkle led the field of women and was behind Burmeister.

Iditarod dog teams had been filing in and out of Manley since the middle of Monday night.  Mushers were starting to search for the perfect balance between racing and resting as they made their way down the Iditarod trail.

Allen Permanently Takes Sitka Hospital CEO Job

Emily Kwong, KCAW-Sitka
After six weeks on the job, Rob Allen – the interim CEO of Sitka Community Hospital – has agreed to take on the position permanently. He announced his decision during the hospital board’s last meeting in February and expects to negotiate for a contract soon.

Fast Ferry Engine Damage Could Affect Service

Ed Schoenfeld, Coast Alaska – Juneau
One of the Alaska Marine Highway’s new ferry engines is down. That could affect service in Southeast and Prince William Sound. Spokesman Jeremy Woodrow says a gear tooth broke Saturday on one of four engines powering the fast ferry Fairweather. Sunday’s sailing was canceled.

YK Health Corp Launches New Health Campaign

Sophie Evan, KYUK – Bethel
Calricaraq is an ancient Yup’ik holistic way to live a long, healthy, and balanced life. The Yukon Kuskokwim Health Corporation’s Preventative Services Department in Bethel is bringing the system back, that’s meant to guide the “real people” from conception to adulthood. They hope it will help curb alarming suicide rates and tough social issues facing Yup’ik people today.

Transgender Group Forms in Juneau

Lisa Phu, KTOO-Juneau
The transgender community is finding a foothold in the capital city. A support and social group for transgender and gender-questioning people had its first meeting last month with about 20 participants. It follows a trend happening elsewhere in the state.

 

Categories: Alaska News

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