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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: 28 min 12 sec ago

Era Alaska Changes Name To Ravn Alaska

Tue, 2014-01-07 18:28

The umbrella brand Era Alaska brought together Hageland Aviation, Era Aviation, and Frontier Flying Service five years ago. That’s history now.

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Era Alaska is no more. It’s now Ravn Alaska. That is, R-A-V-N. CEO Bob Hajdukovich says the name fits what the company is setting out to do.

“The bird raven really covers the whole state of Alaska, it’s prolific, it’s smart, it’s strong, it’s efficient, all the things we want to be. In that regard it was like the perfect mascot, for lack of a better word,” said Hajdukovich.

The name change has been in the works for several months. When Era came together in 2009, there was and one for helicopters and one was for the airlines. Last January, the independent Era helicopters went public and began to advertise nationally.

“So the confusion between the two names came to a discussion point where it just made sense to try to change our name because we had become more than what Era was originally and the history of Era,” said Hajdukovich.

The state department of transportation must approve the registration and then Era can do business as Ravn Alaska. There will be a logo of a raven in flight. Passengers will see those on the aircraft tails over the next 12 months.

Ravn is the name to remember, but the companies that make up the Ravn family retain some identity, at least on paper. Era Aviation’s corporate name is now Corvus airlines. That’s actually latin for Raven. And Frontier Flying Service and Hageland Aviation are now flying as Ravn Connect. That reflects the nature of smaller commuter aircraft trips.

The change comes as many are still struggling with the aftermath of the fatal crash of a Cessna 208 outside St. Mary’s. Hajdukovich says the name change is unrelated.

“That hit us close to home it was a personal even for a lot of our company. We don’t want to diminish the trauma and anxiety. From that timing standpoint, it’s just awkward. But we’ve been planning this for the last eight months certainly,” said Hajdukovich.

People can contact the airline at its usual phone numbers, and atflyravn.com.

Categories: Alaska News

Why The Capital City Isn’t As Likeable As It Should Be

Tue, 2014-01-07 18:27

Photo by Jason A. Howie/Flickr Creative Commons.

The City and Borough of Juneau has yet to join the more than one billion users on Facebook, though other governments use social media regularly. While city employees may be personal users, most don’t use it in a professional capacity to push information or interact with the public. But the city of Juneau is beginning to develop a social media policy.

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“We’re kind of in this, like, social media limbo right now,” says Laurie Sica, clerk for the City and Borough of Juneau. She’s helping to develop a social media policy, and admits she has a lot to learn:

“I’m learning how to use Facebook, Twitter, LinkedIn – what else – Instagram, Pinterest. There’s just tons of them. I’ve just been trying to get up to speed so that I can speak intelligently about it and how it’s used. These things change so fast, it’s like, ‘Ah.’”

Until the City and Borough of Juneau has a social media policy, city departments are not to open accounts on sites like Facebook and Twitter. Those that already use social media, like Juneau Public Libraries and Eaglecrest ski area, can continue to do so.

Sica says there’s a lot to consider when developing a social media policy for government use, like how much staff time should be allocated to using it, “What happens if staff update the city’s twitter account from home? ‘Oh my gosh, they’re working, we’ll have to pay them.’ That kind of stuff, you know.”

Juneau Public Libraries Director Robert Barr doesn’t consider social media much of a time suck for his staff.

“It’s not a whole lot of effort on behalf of staff. We just kind of lump it in to our typical promotional efforts. This is just one more check box on the list. Just do a quick post on Facebook,” he says.

The public libraries system has had an internal social media policy since June 2011. It has a Facebook page, a Twitter account, and a blog.

City manager Kim Kiefer knows it’s time for Juneau to establish a policy that allows other departments to be active online.

“We’re behind the curve for sure with social media. In government we need to try and reach out to everybody in the community and I think we’re probably missing a group of the population because they don’t go to juneau.org to get information. They want it yesterday and I don’t know that we’re providing it in a way that they can get it.”

The City of Fairbanks has had a social media presence since March 2010, and an internal city policy for six months. Public information officer Amber Courtney says the social media policy makes sure all information is shared in a positive and honest manner, “It’s just ensuring that we have a level of trust with the people who are sharing the information, to make sure that our tone is always professional and respectful, that we’re cognizant of the things we’re sharing and how they’re going to impact the public. For example, we definitely don’t want people sharing photos of accident scenes where somebody might have been injured.”

In Fairbanks, the city, police department,emergency communication center, and mass transit are all on Facebook. Other departments that want to set up an account must get approval from the mayor.

The push for Fairbanks to get on social media stemmed from attending FEMA workshops. Courtney learned that the public relied on Facebook and Twitter to get information from the government about disasters and emergencies.

“And so I thought, ‘Well, we definitely need to kick that into gear and start building our audience so that should something untoward happen, we have access to as many people as possible and I know that that information goes exponentially. There’s 44,000 people within a 10-mile radius of where I sit that have a Facebook account so if I can get to ten percent of them, that’s amazing, because it just goes from there,” Courtney says.

The City of Fairbanks has more than 340 likes on its Facebook page, which Courtney hopes will grow to at least ten times that. She says posting information about snow removal doubled thecity’s Twitter followers, now at more than 800. Courtney will soon have more time to grow the audience on both sites. Her job duties have recently shifted to make social media a primary responsibility.

A sampling of social media sites geared for Juneau residents:

Categories: Alaska News

Election Law Revision Before Assembly

Tue, 2014-01-07 17:46

A new version of Anchorage Election law, or Title 28, will be before the Assembly at their next meeting. Officials began reviewing the law after problems with an election in 2012.
The rewrite comes after polling places ran out of ballots in 2012, even though the turnout was expected to be high and extra ballots had been printed, but not quickly distributed to polling sites. The result was long delays or citizens being turned away. Deputy Clerk Amanda Moser says the clerk’s office worked closely with the election commission along with the department of law for about a year to streamline the voting process.

“So for example, if a voter is unexpectedly out of state we’ve increased the amount of time to request a ballot by fax. And we’ve also increased opportunities should there be an emergency situation to allow the clerk to make quick decisions to allow for more voting opportunities.”

Moser says a new section in the law empowers the clerk to extend voting through a judge instead of going to the Assembly if something extraordinary happens on election day. In 2012, other problems arose when some people voted on photocopied ballots which were not counted as official ballots. The rewrite allows photocopied ballots to be counted if they’re used in the future. Moser met with the Assembly and the Election Commission Monday to review the change. Assembly members’ were focused on a small section of the code that bans poll watchers from using electronic devices in polling locations. Moser says the clerks office is concerned about the possibility of poll watchers recording confidential information at polling places.

“It’s not saying that poll watchers can’t have electronic devices. It’s just preventing the use actually in the physical polling location. And the concern from the clerk’s office and from the election commission is just the confidential information.”

Information like social security numbers and signatures – which are required to file question and absentee ballots. Citizen observers of the recount process, Moser says, will still be allowed to take photos and video. In addition, many changes were made for clarity, to modernize language, to making the code gender neutral and more accessible to citizens. The Assembly meeting on Tuesday, January 14th is the last chance for the public to weigh in on changes to Anchorage election law.

Categories: Alaska News

Plane Lands On Anchorage Street Median

Tue, 2014-01-07 15:10

Anchorage police say a plane with three people on board made an apparent emergency landing on the median of a major street.

Police spokeswoman Anita Shell says there were no injuries in the incident reported at 1:09 p.m. Tuesday. But she says the lanes closest to the median were blocked where the landing occurred at Boniface Parkway south of DeBarr Road.

Shell says she does not know what kind of plane is involved in the incident.

Categories: Alaska News

Wash. Arsenic Tests Show Geoducks Safe To Eat

Tue, 2014-01-07 11:46

Washington state health officials say its own arsenic testing has confirmed that geoducks harvested from a Puget Sound bay are safe to eat and don’t pose a health concern.

Officials say they’re hoping the test results will help persuade China to lift a ban it imposed last month on the import of clams, oysters, mussels and scallops harvested from Washington, Oregon, Alaska and Northern California.

The ban was based in part on a geoduck shipment traced to Poverty Bay, near Federal Way, that tested above China’s standard for inorganic arsenic.

Washington Secretary of Health John Wiesman said Tuesday that they’ve forwarded the results to state and federal partners, who are working with the Chinese government to reopen the shellfish trade.

State officials say test results on the edible parts of geoducks harvested from Poverty Bay show the arsenic levels were below China’s standard.

Categories: Alaska News

Scholarships Offered To Sealaska Shareholders

Tue, 2014-01-07 11:41

The Sealaska Heritage Institute is once again offering scholarships to students attending college, graduate school or vocational-technical programs.

Only Sealaska shareholders and their lineal descendents are eligible.

Rosita Worl is president of the Sealaska Heritage Institute, which offers scholarships to shareholder descendants. Photo courtesy CoastAlaska.

Institute President Rosita Worl says up to 400 scholarships are awarded each year.

“A major consideration is the hopes that our educated young people will come back home and help us in developing strong, healthy communities,” Worl says.

The application deadline is March 1st. Students submitting paperwork by February 1st get an extra $50 tacked onto their scholarships, if they qualify.

Applications are available at the institute’s website.

Worl says the program has broadened its focus since it began.

“At first we thought we’d just concentrate just on education required to work in Sealaska. But then we found out that we need everything from an anthropologist to accountants to foresters. So we dropped that, just because we found we needed educated people in all areas,” she says.

Scholarships have totaled around $400,000 a year. Most of the funding comes from the Sealaska regional Native corporation.

Sealaska has more than 21,000 Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian shareholders. About half live outside Alaska.

Categories: Alaska News

Begich Calls for Restraint in Ivory Trade Policy

Mon, 2014-01-06 19:43

Alaska Senator Mark Begich has written Interior Secretary Sally Jewell asking her to exercise restraint in upcoming policy recommendations on the ivory trade.

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Categories: Alaska News

Treadwell Rejects Setnetting Initiative

Mon, 2014-01-06 18:14

Lt. Governor Mead Treadwell rejected a proposed ballot initiative aimed at banning commercial setnetting throughout most of the state on Monday. The language in the initiative didn’t agree with a previous Alaska court ruling.

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Categories: Alaska News

Coast Guard Icebreaker Heads for Antarctica to Free Two Ships

Mon, 2014-01-06 18:11

The U.S. Coast Guard icebreaker Polar Star, seen here in 1999, has been sent to help free Russian ship Akademik Shokalskiy and Chinese icebreaker Xue Long, which are gripped by Antarctic ice. U.S. Coast Guard Handout Photo/Reuters /Landov

A newly refurbished Coast Guard icebreaker is en route to Antarctica to free two vessels stuck in ice.

The stuck ships are a Russian research vessel and a Chinese icebreaker, according to Allyson Conroy, the Coast Guard’s chief warrant officer for the Pacific Area. The Russian ship has been stranded since before Christmas. The Chinese vessel got stuck when it tried to help.

The Coast Guard Cutter Polar Star is being sent to the scene, he said. The heavy-duty icebreaker just finished undergoing a three-year, $90 million dollar overhaul.

The Polar Star set out from Sydney on Saturday.

Conroy said the Chinese ship’s helicopter has evacuated the passengers from the Russian ship, but the vessels’ crews are still on board.

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Categories: Alaska News

Ahtna Traditional First Chief Ben Neeley Dies

Mon, 2014-01-06 18:10

Ahtna Traditional First Chief Ben Neeley passed away Saturday at his home in Gulkana. He was 99.

Ben Neeley was born in 1914 to Tom Neeley and Fanny Ewan at a time when the Ahtna people still practiced a primarily nomadic lifestyle, traveling throughout the Ahtna region following traditional food sources. As a child, Neeley did not attend school. Instead, he learned the traditional Ahtna way of life from people like his father . It wasn’t until much later in life that “Ben” was adopted as his English name.

In 1950, Neeley married Hazel Ewan, with whom he had 8 children. He worked on the Glenn Highway, the Tok cutoff, and the road from Ft. Richardson to Valdez. He was heavy equipment operator for the Alaska Department of Transportation before retiring in 1977.

In 2006, Ahtna Elders selected him as the new Ahtna Traditional Chief after the death of Chief Harry Johns, Sr.

As Chief, he represented the Ahtna way of life. His words are remembered for their honesty and wisdom. A humble and generous man, Neeley had a simple yet powerful message for his people: love one another, try your best to get along, and work together.

Neeley is survived by 16 grandchildren and 10 great grandchildren.

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Categories: Alaska News

Environmental Leader Rick Leo Killed in Accident

Mon, 2014-01-06 18:08

A December 23rd traffic accident claimed the life of Rick Leo of Trapper Creek. Leo was a well-known writer and advocate for environmental stewardship in the upper Mat-Su Valley.

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Categories: Alaska News

Sitka Teacher Wins White House Award

Mon, 2014-01-06 18:04

Rebecca Himschoot. (AFSUSA photo)

A Sitka educator has won a Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science.

Rebecca Himschoot teaches Science at Keet Gooshi Heen Elementary. She’s one of two Alaskan teachers honored by the White House this year, and one of only 102 teachers nationwide who receive the recognition, which includes a $10,000 cash prize from the National Science Foundation.

Himschoot’s colleague from Alaska, sharing this year’s honor, is Amy Laufer, a math teacher at Kasuun Elementary in Anchorage.

Rebecca Himschoot is the Science teacher for 2nd through 5th grade. She says that she really doesn’t do anything extraordinary for her students, beyond what any good teacher tries to do.

It’s mainly about keeping kids engaged. The skies over Sitka are gray and rainy much of the time. Learning about planets and astronomy can be a tough sell. But Himschoot, through a grant from the local charitable trust, brings in a Starlab every year, and inflates it — sort of like a giant bouncy castle — inside the gym.

“If my teacher in elementary school had brought in a planetarium to the classroom, it probably would have caught my attention, and maybe even changed the direction I went with my education.”

Himschoot also takes advantage of opportunities for professional development that other teachers may not. In 2007 she traveled aboard a research vessel for the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, as one of NOAA’s Teachers at Sea. It was a three-week cruise in the Bering Sea studying the pollock fishery.

But she also finds opportunities closer to home.

“I try to use local resources as much as I can to connect kids to science, so I bring in lots of Forest Service scientists. The Sitka Sound Science Center has brought some scientists to town who came into the classroom and helped kids connect more to science. So I think it’s those little extras that might catch attention.”

It was Forest Service biologist Rob Miller who nominated Himschoot for the award, which goes to only two teachers from each state. Himschoot entered the paperwork back in 2012, and had pretty much forgotten about it until she was notified this past December, just before school went out on winter break.

The national recognition — along with a lot of rest over vacation — has helped energize her getting back into the classroom.

“Though I had an excellent education, I was not turned on to Science. I feel I have an obligation — if I have the great gift to teach Science all day every day, that comes with the responsibility of helping kids connect more to Science and making it more real to them.”

Besides winning $10,000, which she can spend any way she likes, Himschoot will get an all-expense trip to Washington DC, and a chance to meet President Obama. The president’s schedule could upset that plan. More of a sure thing, though, is a behind-the-scenes tour of the Smithsonian Institution.

That’s cool, she’s pretty sure.

“Possibly geeky for other people, but for a teacher very, very exciting.”

Two other Sitka teachers are previous winners of the Presidential Award for Mathematics and Science: Cheryl Hedden and Barbara Renoux.

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KCAW’s Melissa Marconi-Wentzel contributed to this story.

Categories: Alaska News

Medevac System Undergoing Changes

Mon, 2014-01-06 18:02

If you get sick – really sick – there’s a good chance you’ll end up on a flight out of town. Medical evacuations, called “medevacs,” are taking more and more Alaskans to in-state and Lower 48 critical-care facilities. But the medevac system is undergoing changes, with new aircraft, more competition and a shift in patients’ needs.

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Categories: Alaska News

Justice Department Files Charges Against Heli-ski Company

Mon, 2014-01-06 18:01

The Department of Justice last week filed criminal charges against a Haines heli-skiing company for repeatedly operating tours on federal land without a permit. The violations came to light because of a fatal accident within the off-limits area in March of last year.

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Categories: Alaska News

Arctic Port Feasibility Study Expected In March

Fri, 2014-01-03 18:11

The U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is expected to release a feasibility study on an Arctic port in early March, according to Corps spokeswoman Lorraine Cordova.

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Categories: Alaska News

Election Year Ramps Up

Fri, 2014-01-03 18:09

With 2014 underway, we now entered an election year. Alaskans will be choosing a governor, a lieutenant governor and as always, deciding whether to re-elect Alaska Congressman Don Young. But national attention, and money, is already focused on the U.S. Senate race.

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Categories: Alaska News

Slow to Moderate Job Growth Forecasted This Year In Alaska

Fri, 2014-01-03 18:07

The Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development predicts that the state’s economy will grow only a little this year, with just 1,500 jobs added.

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Categories: Alaska News

State Urges Residents To Get Flu Vaccine

Fri, 2014-01-03 18:05

In the last two months, the Center for Disease Control has seen a rising trend in reports of acute respiratory illness in young and middle-age patients across the country. In Alaska, hundreds of cases of flu have been reported and the state is urging residents to get the flu vaccine, continuing their fee waiver to entice more participation.

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Categories: Alaska News

Nome Completes Annual Bird Count

Fri, 2014-01-03 18:03

This weekend wraps up the 114th Christmas Bird Count. Around 50 communities in Alaska participated in the annual event, adding to decades of data collection. Nome completed its count at sundown on New Year’s Eve.

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Categories: Alaska News

Mild Weather Helps Unalaska’s Christmas Bird Count Expand

Fri, 2014-01-03 18:01

The bird count in the Aleutians was also aided by mild weather.

Winter is running late in Unalaska this year – and that was good news for those helping with the annual count last Saturday. Such mild weather meant the counters were able to tally the island’s birds in places they usually can’t get to.

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Categories: Alaska News

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