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Alaska and Yukon Headlines

AK Beat: Ketchikan man in custody allegedly sought sex with minor

Thu, 2014-04-10 07:49
AK Beat: Ketchikan man in custody allegedly sought sex with minor A Ketchikan man has been charged with a host of crimes, including sending videos to a minor of himself masturbating.April 10, 2014

Microphones Cut During Senate Hearing On Oil Production

Wed, 2014-04-09 22:45

After rejecting a request that oil industry experts be required to testify under oath, the Senate Resources Chair cut off microphones when the Minority Leader attempted to explain why he thought the request was appropriate.

Sen. Cathy Giessel, an Anchorage Republican, said it was “inappropriate” and “unprofessional” of Sen. Hollis French to “spring an under-oath requirement on invited citizens” during a Wednesday hearing of the Resources Committee. Representatives from Exxon, BP, ConocoPhillips, and Repsol were there to give updates on how their work was proceeding under a new oil tax regime.

When French – an Anchorage Democrat — asked for a chance to respond, he was again denied.

GIESSEL: As the chair it is my decision, and I’ve gotten a legal consultation on that.
FRENCH: I guess I’ll just — As a point of person privilege I will say that …
GIESSEL: Sen. French, you are out of order.
FRENCH: The only …
GIESSEL: Brief at ease.
FRENCH: I’m going to keep talking …

What followed was a half-minute of silence on the Legislature’s official recordings of the proceedings, even though French continued to address the committee and its audience in the room.

French and Giessel later sparred on the Senate floor, through a pair of seething speeches.

In his address, French said his request complied with statute, even if that statute was rarely used. He also argued that the state has historically been too trusting of the oil industry.

“What does it say about us when we think it is unprofessional to use these statutes in the furtherance of our duties, of our obligations as Alaska state legislators?” French asked the body.

Giessel responded by pointing out that the last time the statute to compel testifiers to speak under oath was last used in 1997.

“I think that if we distrust the citizens who are coming, than we need to execute a different process. But simply asking for informational reports to a committee does not justify placing them under oath,” said Giessel.

Giessel also noted that it was “unfortunate” that the tension between the two senators had come to a verbal “duel” on the floor.

Keep all of Alaska's criminal records public

Wed, 2014-04-09 20:55
Keep all of Alaska's criminal records public Community policing is an important public safety tool. Because the government cannot protect its citizens day-to-day, the public should be empowered with access to information for its protection.April 9, 2014

$2.1 billion capital budget includes $245 million for new UAF power plant

Wed, 2014-04-09 20:34
$2.1 billion capital budget includes $245 million for new UAF power plant The Senate Finance Committee added the University of Alaska Fairbanks power plant to the capital budget Wednesday, a $245 million addition that pushes the total plan to $2.1 billion.April 9, 2014

State Senators Prefer To Leave Minimum Wage Question On Ballot

Wed, 2014-04-09 19:48

While a minimum wage bill that could pre-empt a ballot initiative is on the fast track in the Alaska State House, Senate leadership says the idea is unlikely to get traction in their body.

Sen. Lesil McGuire, an Anchorage Republican who is in charge of scheduling bills, says some members of her caucus feel the question of raising the minimum wage is best left to voters.

“The public is fundamentally suspicious of the Legislature interceding on a minimum wage bill, because we did this in the past and we changed it,” says the Rules Chair.

Majority Leader John Coghill, a North Pole Republican, also expressed doubt that the bill would advance in the Senate at a press availability on Tuesday.

The last time a minimum wage initiative was certified to appear on the ballot, the Legislature kept it off by passing their own version. A year later, they gutted the legislation by removing a provision that pegged the minimum wage to inflation.

The House held its first and only hearing on the bill on Wednesday, and initiative supporters were blunt in their testimony that they did not trust the Legislature with this issue. The House could hold a vote on their bill as early as Thursday.

Air Force predicts summer shutdown for powerful HAARP transmitter in Alaska

Wed, 2014-04-09 19:32
Air Force predicts summer shutdown for powerful HAARP transmitter in Alaska The end could be near for the High Frequency Active Auroral Research Program near Glennallen unless the Air Force finds an organization to run the facility. The Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska Fairbanks hopes to put together a plan to take on the task.April 9, 2014

Anchorage man faces 7 counts of possession, distribution of child pornography

Wed, 2014-04-09 19:30
Anchorage man faces 7 counts of possession, distribution of child pornography Investigators said they found multiple videos and images of child pornography on the computer and iPod of Anchorage man Andres Barbosa, who has been living in Alaska for about a year.April 9, 2014

Experiment finds wicking fabric battles 'frost boils' on Dalton Highway

Wed, 2014-04-09 19:29
Experiment finds wicking fabric battles 'frost boils' on Dalton Highway A few miles from the Arctic Circle on the United States' only Arctic highway, there’s a sloped area notorious for a series of dips and buckles  caused by seasonal thaw and subsurface meltwater. The "frost boils" of Beaver Slide may have met their match.April 9, 2014

Personal questions about victims' families slow Kodiak murder trial

Wed, 2014-04-09 19:18
Personal questions about victims' families slow Kodiak murder trial Since the beginning of the federal murder trial against James Michael Wells, defense attorneys have argued the possibility of another culprit. The defense has probed witnesses about the allegedly turbulent marriage of James Hopkins, one of the victims.April 9, 2014

Troopers Name Two Pilots Killed In Crash Near Bethel

Wed, 2014-04-09 17:32

Two pilots are dead after a fiery plane crash Tuesday night just outside Bethel.

Alaska State Troopers have identified the pilots who were onboard the Hageland Cessna 208 Caravan as Derrick Cedars, 42, of Bethel and Greggory McGee, 46, of Anchorage.

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Ravn Alaska spokesperson Steve Smith confirms the downed plane was a Hageland training flight.

 “We are sending an investigator from the Anchorage office of the NTSB. His name is Chris Shaver. We also have two other individuals who are going to be joining the investigative team, one investigator from the Federal Aviation Administration, the FAA as well as an additional investigator from a technical side from Cessna aircraft,” Clint Johnson, Chief of the Alaska Regional Office of the National Transportation Safety Board, said. ”Hopefully they’ll be on site there later this afternoon and possibly make it to the accident site tonight to at least start their on scene potion of the investigation.”

 Troopers say the crash happened just after 6 p.m. Within the hour a pilot reported burned wreckage near Three Step Mountain close to a fishing weir. The Alaska Army Guard in Bethel dispatched a Blackhawk helicopter with local fire personnel and Alaska State Troopers on board in an attempt to locate survivors.

Troopers arrived on scene and observed a large debris field and the willows around the crash site were burned and charred.  Troopers were able to locate remains in the wreckage. They’ll return to the crash site Wednesday to further investigate as well as continue recovery efforts.

Next of kin for the pilots have been notified.

Hageland Aviation flies under the banner of Ravn Connect, a company operated by Ravn Alaska, formerly known as Era Alaska.

Four people died in November when an Era Cessna 208 Caravan passenger flight crashed outside St. Mary’s. The exact cause of that crash has not been determined.

Murkowski Signs Onto ‘Regulatory Fairness Act’

Wed, 2014-04-09 17:30

Leaders in the Bristol Bay area say they’re upset U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski has co-sponsored a bill that would undo their biggest regulatory success in fighting the Pebble Mine project.

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State Suspends Funding For New Anchorage Tennis Complex

Wed, 2014-04-09 17:30

The State is looking into the legality of using money earmarked for building repairs to construct a new tennis complex in Anchorage. APRN’s Alexandra Gutierrez reports that the multi-million-dollar grant was suspended after Mayor Dan Sullivan’s opponent in the lieutenant governor’s race called the decision into question.

From here on out, Alaskans might consider substituting the phrase “political football” with “political tennis.”

Debate has raged for months over whether lawmakers knew they were funding the construction of a new sports facility in Anchorage when they voted to give the city $37 million for “deferred and critical maintenance” to aging public buildings. Now, the state Division of Community and Regional Affairs is referring the grant to the Department of Law for review, and freezing the money until they get confirmation that it’s being used correctly.

The decision comes after Sen. Lesil McGuire, an Anchorage Republican, raised the issue with the governor on Monday after getting an opinion from the Legislature’s legal division that the grant was suspect.

“If we set a precedent that says ‘critical and deferred maintenance,’ and allow local communities to then use it for whatever they want, including building new facilities, which we know are going to require more money both in the building and the maintenance and other things, then we are not doing our jobs,” says McGuire.

According to the grant agreement, the state authorized funding for the Anchorage Museum, the Egan Center, the Sullivan Arena, and the Anchorage Center for the Performing Arts. The grant also funds upgrades to the Dempsey Anderson Complex, including the addition of a tennis facility. Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan has argued that language should allow the city to put $4.4 million of that grant toward the construction of a new standalone sports complex.

McGuire thinks it does not. She says the suspension should encourage more transparency in funding requests.

“It sends a signal statewide that when you ask for money that it’s going to be a rigorous process – that it’s got to be for what is clearly allocated,” says McGuire.

Members of the Democratic Minority believe suspending the grant is long overdue. Earlier this week, they tried repealing the tennis money by offering an amendment to the operating budget, but McGuire was the only member of the Majority to support the idea.

Sen. Bill Wielechowski, of Anchorage, also points out that Democrats asked for legal review of the appropriation back in December.

“When we put the legal opinion out, why wasn’t there any sort of action then? Why did it take four months for a Republican to put the legal opinion out and get some action?”

For his part, Sullivan stands by the use of the money for the new sports complex, and is disappointed that the suspension could stall work on all of the buildings included in the grant. He also believes that the group who originally lobbied for the grant did so in an appropriate way.

“The Alaska Tennis Association did everything they were supposed to do. They got community council support. They got support from organizations that would be users of the facility. They got a legislator to champion the grant,” says Sullivan. “So, they’re the ones that are being hurt by this, and that’s unfortunate.”

The tennis issue has also been a key divide between Sullivan and McGuire in their separate efforts to secure the Republican nomination for lieutenant governor. Sullivan won’t say if he personally thinks this has anything to do with the campaign.

“Some people have said it’s pretty transparent, but I can’t read the hearts and minds of other folks,” says Sullivan. “So we’ll let others speculate about that.”

McGuire says she’s sensitive to how her status as a candidate and her status as a senator relate to the tennis question, but making sure state money is used appropriately is part of her responsibility.

“When you’re running against somebody, and they have a different position than you, that’s going to be something that people bring up,” says McGuire. “I’ve tried really hard this session to keep my Senate hat on and to keep the work of the Senate at the forefront, and this is the work of the Senate.”

The state is hoping to complete the legal review and resolve any questions surrounding the grant before the end of the legislative session this month.

UAF Med Students Inject Wrong Substance

Wed, 2014-04-09 17:29

Some University of Alaska Fairbanks students received doses of a substance not approved for humans or animals. The medical course students were practicing giving injections.

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Statewide Smoking Ban Gains Traction In Senate

Wed, 2014-04-09 17:28

A proposal that would ban smoking in most public places in Alaska is making headway in the state Senate. Senate Bill 209 passed out of the Senate State Affairs Committee last week.

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The bill would ban smoking in office buildings, sports arenas, taxicabs, bars and restaurants, among other public places.

Many places in Alaska, including Anchorage, Juneau and Bethel, already have similar bans. As a result of those bans, nearly half of Alaska’s population is already affected by a workplace smoking ban.

Soldotna Senator Peter Micciche is the bill’s sponsor. He told the Senate State Affairs Committee Thursday that normally, he a “small government kind of guy.” In this case, however, he feels it’s appropriate for the government to get involved to protect the health of workers.

“Just as it’s appropriate for government to set safety standards in automobiles, electrical codes for wiring (and) requirements for infant and child carrier seats,” he said.

Micciche says the state takes on much of the economic costs associated with second-hand smoke, which he said kills more Alaskans each year than automobile accidents. He also made the point that second-class cities and unorganized boroughs in Alaska do not have the legal authority to enact their own smoking bans.

But most importantly, Micciche said the issue is for him, a very personal one. He spoke about his father, who passed away from a smoking-related illness.

“My father made his personal choices,” said Micciche. “But my siblings and I didn’t. I’m the lucky one of the three. They all had respiratory issues from living through second-hand smoke effects.”

Micciche said more than 400 businesses and organizations have signed on in support of his bill. Committee Chairman Fred Dyson said most of the comments his office has received about the bill have also been supportive of the state doing something.

Larry Hackenmiller testified from Fairbanks on behalf of the Interior Cabaret, Hotel, Restaurant and Retailer’s Association. He said Fairbanks rejected a similar law. He also took issue with some of the numbers put forward about hazards related to second-hand smoke.

“There is no hazard to second-hand smoke in a workplace … period,” said Hackenmiller.

Gary Superman owns the Hunger Hut bar in Nikiski. He called the smoking ban an infringement on his rights as a business owner. Superman described his bar as a “blue-collar tavern” that would be “irreparably harmed economically” by the ban.

Kenai businessman John Parker spoke in favor of the proposed ban, saying it would “level the playing field” for business owners on the Kenai Peninsula who may be afraid that banning smoking would give a leg up to their competition. More importantly, Parker said that customers and employees have a fundamental right to smoke-free air.

A couple of amendments have been proposed to the bill. One would include the use of e-cigarettes in the ban. The other would set up an appeal process for businesses who would like to “opt out.”

The bill also provides an “opt out” clause for local municipalities, which would be granted only if a local election is held and a majority of voters choose to exempt themselves from the smoking ban.

After nearly an hour of testimony, SB 209 passed out of the Senate State Affairs Committee. It heads now to the Health and Social Services Committee. A companion bill is also working its way through the Alaska House.

Howard Weaver Speaks On Anchorage Daily News Sale

Wed, 2014-04-09 17:27

There are still a lot of unknowns about how the sale of the Anchorage Daily News to Alaska Dispatch will play out. But former Anchorage Daily News writer and managing editor Howard Weaver is thinking a lot about that question. Weaver wrote the book “Write Hard, Die Free” about the Anchorage newspaper wars in the 1970′s and 80′s.

Weaver says he was saddened to learn about the sale of the Daily News.

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Where No Shop Class Has Gone Before

Wed, 2014-04-09 17:26

Metlakatla Science teacher Jason Pipkin watches as the printer creates metric screws for a quadcopter his students are building. (KCAW photo/Robert Woolsey)

This is not your grandfather’s shop class.

Late last month a group of high school and college shop teachers and a few of their students gathered for a three-day workshop in Sitka’s state-of-the-art Design and Fabrication Lab.

The use of 3D printers and other computer-controlled equipment has revolutionized shop, and turned one of the most remote classrooms in the building into the coolest place in school.

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KCAW – Tell me your name, where you’re from, and what you’re doing here.
Neibergall – John Neibergall, Sherwood High School. I’m helping some teachers and students get into digital design and fabrication.

Sherwood High is outside of Portland, Oregon.

Neibergall – You got an idea, you want to make a model or an output of something in three dimensions — whether you build it in wood, metal, plastic, 3D print it. You have to visualize it, and then you get to print it. You have an output of a product in your hand. And that’s what get kids excited.

Read a story about a recent project created by shop students in the Sitka Design and Fabrication Lab.

Yes, digital fabrication gets kids excited. But in this workshop the teachers can barely contain their enthusiasm.

My name is Pat Kraft. I’m one of the instructors at Portland Community College, in Portland. I grew up in an era where Star Trek was, you know — Star Trek was young, I was young, and the thought of having a replicator, where you could put something in there and create something just like it.

And now they have the tools to create just about any kind of machine part. Even parts that are not for machines.

Winship — I’m Kent Winship with Bristol Bay/Dillingham campus, UAF
KCAW — What are you working on right now?
Winship — This is a scan. We’ve got a fetal orca whale that swam up the Freshwater River. Two parents, and one of them was pregnant. So we’ve got the fetus. It’s mostly cartilage. And we’re going to try to scan it, and then print it out in plastic before we lose those cartilage parts.
KCAW – Scan it how?
Winship – A laser scanner than can measure a surface at 20,000 points per square inch. It will record it and put it into a CAD — computer aided drafting program — and we can actually print it out in plastic. And were even talking about trying to mill it out of a CNC mill out of bone or something.

CNC stands for computer numerical control. Besides a pair of 3D printers, this lab has a CNC vinyl cutter, and a laser engraver. What’s got these guys most excited is not necessarily the ability to make a whale fetus, it’s about trying to make that fetus, and failing.

Neibergall and Kraft are pioneering the integration of technology into shop class. They say repetition is education.

Neibergall — Kids are afraid to fail, and this forces them to fail — or fail forward, if you will. If it doesn’t work, you can tweak it…
Kraft — Failure’s okay. Because that’s part of the improvement process.
Neibergall — Because that’s what industry wants: People who aren’t afraid to fail forward. Reinvent. Remodify. And make it right. And it might take four or five iterations. But we can do it quickly.

“I failed…”

Randy Hughey is the recently-retired wood shop teacher at Sitka High. He wrote the grants for Sitka’s Fab Lab and helped a local grant writer, Lily Herwald, develop the proposal for this workshop.

Hughey has microwaved some chocolate chips, with unfortunate results.

“Well, I was just trying to melt chocolate to put into this mold that John has made.”

Digitally fabricated custom candy bar molds. This technology gives kids the ability to aim for the stars, but a prom date is not a bad start.

Neibergall — What my kids did is made prom invitations for the young ladies, wrapped it up in chocolate, and it said Prom? on it.
KCAW — Wow!

For a moment, it sounds like the shop class I remember. But it’s not. John Neibergall assures me that I’m looking at a different sort of future for technical education.

KCAW — Shop used to be the dark space at the end of the hall.
Neibergall — Dumping grounds? That’s the term we tend to say. But now the creative piece that is driving the economic recovery is manufacturing. And if we can get young people excited about that and see the career potential, that’s what’s going to help us get out of our slump, if you will.
KCAW — It comes back to Star Trek, eventually.
Neibergall and Kraft — Right!

Alaska News Nightly: April 9, 2014

Wed, 2014-04-09 17:19

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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Troopers Name Two Pilots Killed In Crash Near Bethel

Ben Matheson, KYUK – Bethel

Two pilots are dead after a fiery plane crash Tuesday just outside Bethel.

Murkowski Signs Onto ‘Regulatory Fairness Act’

Liz Ruskin, APRN – Washington DC

Leaders in the Bristol Bay area say they’re upset U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski has co-sponsored a bill that would undo their biggest regulatory success in fighting the Pebble Mine project.

Legislature Suspends Anchorage’s Tennis Court Grant

Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN – Juneau

The State is looking into the legality of using money earmarked for building repairs to construct a new tennis complex in Anchorage. The multi-million-dollar grant was suspended after Mayor Dan Sullivan’s opponent in the lieutenant governor’s race called the decision into question.

UAF Med Students Inject Wrong Substance

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

Some University of Alaska Fairbanks students received doses of a substance not approved for humans or animals. The medical course students were practicing giving injections.

Statewide Smoking Ban Gains Traction In Senate

Aaron Selbig, KBBI – Homer

A proposal that would ban smoking in most public places in Alaska is making headway in the state Senate. Senate Bill 209 passed out of the Senate State Affairs Committee last week.

Howard Weaver Speaks On Anchorage Daily News Sale

Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage

There are still a lot of unknowns about how the sale of the Anchorage Daily News to Alaska Dispatch will play out. But former Anchorage Daily News writer and managing editor Howard Weaver is thinking a lot about that question. Weaver wrote the book “Write Hard, Die Free” about the Anchorage newspaper wars in the 1970′s and 80′s.

Weaver says he was saddened to learn about the sale of the Daily News:

Where No Shop Class Has Gone Before

Robert Woolsey, KCAW – Sitka

This is not your grandfather’s shop class.

Late last month a group of high school and college shop teachers and a few of their students gathered for a three-day workshop in Sitka’s state-of-the-art Design and Fabrication Lab.

The use of 3D printers and other computer-controlled equipment has revolutionized shop, and turned one of the most remote classrooms in the building into the coolest place in school.

Sponsor Of Judicial Council Amendment Set On Getting Floor Debate

Wed, 2014-04-09 16:24

(Skip Gray/Gavel Alaska)

The sponsor of a constitutional amendment to reconfigure the Judicial Council says he wants a vote on the bill, even if the outcome is not guaranteed to be favorable.

Sen. Pete Kelly, a Fairbanks Republican, has been trying to shore up support for Senate Joint Resolution 21 since Monday, when the measure was initially scheduled to appear on the Senate floor. A vote on a the amendment has since been delayed three times, because Kelly is shy the two-thirds approval needed for passage.

“If the rules are you can’t debate if you don’t have the 14, then not only is the issue struck down by one person, but the discussion about it,” says Kelly.

SJR 21 would make two major changes to the commission tasked with vetting and nominating judges. It would increase the number of political appointees on the Council, so that they would outnumber the attorney members two-to-one. It would also require the attorney members to be subject to confirmation by the Legislature. Kelly believes this will lead to more public oversight of the judiciary, while critics say it would politicize it.

It is extremely rare for the Legislature’s political leaders to let a measure come to a vote without knowing that its passage is guaranteed. Earlier this session, a constitutional amendment to allow the use of public funds at private schools was scheduled for a vote, but then pulled from consideration because of insufficient support.

Canada’s Humane Society says it doesn’t oppose Inuit seal hunt

Wed, 2014-04-09 16:07
Canada’s Humane Society says it doesn’t oppose Inuit seal hunt A spokeswoman for the Canadian arm of the Humane Society International is clarifying the group’s position on the Inuit seal hunt, as a protest in the North against TV star Ellen DeGeneres gains support.April 9, 2014

Canada’s Fair Elections Act could discourage voting in the North

Wed, 2014-04-09 15:55
Canada’s Fair Elections Act could discourage voting in the North A proposed national voting law would require government-issued IDs and prohibit "vouching," the in-person verification commonly used in small communities in the far north.April 9, 2014

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