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From Our Listeners

Alaska and Yukon Headlines

Fairbanks could use a clear discussion on air pollution

Thu, 2014-01-09 20:18
Fairbanks could use a clear discussion on air pollution OPINION: The proposed air quality regulations offered by the state are reasonable steps in the right direction. January 9, 2014

Lawmakers propose adding Alaska Native languages to list of official tongues

Thu, 2014-01-09 20:07
Lawmakers propose adding Alaska Native languages to list of official tongues Right now, English is Alaska's only official language, but a bipartisan group of lawmakers proposes to add the state's 20 Native languages to the list.January 9, 2014

The missing rink: No skating this year in Anchorage's Town Square

Thu, 2014-01-09 20:05
The missing rink: No skating this year in Anchorage's Town Square The ice rink that has for years graced Town Square Park in the heart of downtown Anchorage exists only in memory this year. The reason? Depends on who you ask.January 9, 2014

Scientist witnessed wreckage in Alaska after 1964 earthquake

Thu, 2014-01-09 20:03
Scientist witnessed wreckage in Alaska after 1964 earthquake One of the most searing scenes that geologist George Plafker witnessed was Chenega Bay, where 25 of the 76 residents died. “There was not one single livable house there,” he said.  January 9, 2014

Potential new evidence pops up in Rumrunners trial

Thu, 2014-01-09 20:02
Potential new evidence pops up in Rumrunners trial The trial of Rumrunners Old Towne Bar and Grill -- a downtown Anchorage establishment that closed a year ago after multiple allegations of assault and more liquor law violations than any other bar in Alaska -- and a former bouncer was set to begin Thursday, but potential new evidence postponed the proceedings.January 9, 2014

State Goes On Charm Offensive Against Wal-Mart Over Salmon Dispute

Thu, 2014-01-09 18:21

Wal-Mart executives tour DIPAC on January 8, 2014. (Alexandra Gutierrez/APRN)

For months, Wal-Mart and state officials have gone back and forth on whether Alaska salmon should be sold in their stores. The dispute is over a tiny blue sustainability label from the Marine Stewardship Council, which Wal-Mart requires for their seafood. APRN’s Alexandra Gutierrez reports that a trip by Wal-Mart executives to Juneau has left state officials optimistic for a resolution.

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As executive director of DIPAC, Eric Prestegard is used to giving tours. Every year, tens of thousands of people visit the hatchery in Juneau to see how they raise salmon.

PRESTEGARD: This is the kind of thing you’re only going to see in Alaska. This is very unique to Alaska, what you’re seeing in here. These are incubators.

On Wednesday, his tour group is a little unusual. It’s made up of half a dozen Wal-Mart executives, fresh in from Arkansas to learn about Alaska seafood. Prestegard takes them to a dark room that looks like a server farm. Instead of computer equipment, the towers are full of tiny, young salmon with fresh water flowing through them.

PRESTEGARD: So you can see the fry swimming in there … See ‘em?

GROUP: Oh, yeah!

PRESTEGARD: And you see the little pink belly? So they still have their yolk sac. They’re not ready yet. See the pink belly?

DIPAC was just one of the stops for the Wal-Mart crew. They visited Alaska Glacier Seafoods; they talked with state biologists; and they ate a catered meal of — what else? — Alaska salmon.

This was all part of the state’s charm offensive to make sure Alaska salmon stays in Wal-Mart and Sam’s Club freezers. Since June, Alaska politicians have been at loggerheads with the company because of a policy to only carry seafood that has a Marine Stewardship Council logo on it. While nearly all of the state’s salmon fisheries have been certified by the MSC more than once, some Alaska seafood processors no longer want to pay the extra fee for their label. They think going through the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute’s certification process should be enough to prove they operate sustainably, since those measures are based on United Nations guidelines. On top of that, the MSC has been slow to re-certify hatchery salmon in Prince William Sound, which has ruffled some in the industry.

While Wal-Mart’s executives weren’t available for reporter questions during the tour, Prestegard says the whole situation’s left Wal-Mart in a pickle, having to choose between the industry standard for sustainability and Alaska fish.

Oddly enough, I feel a little bit bad for Wal-Mart, because I kind of like they’re in [between] a rock and a hard spot,” says Prestegard. “They have one side — these NGOs and whatnot — that are kind of hitting on them, saying, “You said you were going to do X, Y, and Z, sustainability, blah, blah, blah” And then they have the fact that they’re a huge U.S. retailer, and they can’t buy from the U.S. And I think that does go to their core.”

While this whole conflict has played out, Wal-Mart has continued to stock Alaska salmon. And now that the Wal-Mart executives who handle seafood and sustainability issues have visited the state, Commerce Commissioner Susan Bell is hopeful that they’ll keep on stocking it, even if it doesn’t carry an MSC label.

“They’re committed to Alaska seafood,” says Bell. “It’s important to their customers, and they’re not bound by to a single certifier.”

Keeping Wal-Mart as a customer isn’t just an important financial move for the state. While the company does buy millions of pounds of Alaska salmon, the reputational impact that would come from losing them might be as — or even more — vital than the dollars directly attached to their decision.

“We want to be sure that any cloud that comes over Alaska and the sustainability of our fisheries, that we address that immediately,” says Bell.

The flip-side of that is keeping Wal-Mart committed to MSC products is also important to the London-based sustainability organization. While MSC declined an interview for this story, they’ve traded volleys with the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute over the past year over whose certification program is more rigorous.

For its part, Wal-Mart seems optimistic that they can carry Alaska salmon without going back on their sustainability pledge. In a statement, Vice President of Meat and Seafood David Baskin wrote that “Walmart has proudly sourced seafood from the state of Alaska for many years, and we continue to do so.”

Army Corp Of Engineers Finalizes Deep-Water Port Recommendations

Thu, 2014-01-09 18:13

As the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers finalizes details of its deep-water port recommendations the agency is anticipating continued heavy development in Northern and Western Alaska. The plan expects not only increased vessel traffic in the Bering Straits region, but offshore drilling in the Chukchi Sea and graphite production at a fledgling mining claim on the Seward Peninsula.

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Senate Debates Emergency Unemployment Policy Extension

Thu, 2014-01-09 18:12

The U.S. Senate has been debating all week whether to extend emergency unemployment compensation for the long-term unemployed. Some 6,500 Alaskans were receiving the extended benefits before Congress let the program expire Dec. 28.

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Parnell Names Folger Public Safety Commissioner

Thu, 2014-01-09 18:11

Gov. Sean Parnell has appointed a new Public Safety commissioner.

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Gary Folger, who retired from the department as a colonel last May, has been chosen to replace Joe Masters. Masters resigned in October after five years in the post.

The appointment is subject to legislative approval.

Col. Keith Mallard had been acting as interim commissioner.

According to biographical information provided by the governor’s office, the 55-year-old Folger began his law enforcement career in 1979 with the Division of Fish and Wildlife Protection in Cantwell.

Folger graduated from the Public Safety Academy in 1981, joined the Alaska State Troopers and rose in the ranks, being promoted to colonel in 2007 and overseeing the Division of Alaska Wildlife Troopers. While with the department, he also was a pilot and boat operator.

Meeting On Wood Stove, Boiler Pollution Draws Big Crowd

Thu, 2014-01-09 18:10

There continues to be concern in Fairbanks about proposed state regulations aimed at reducing fine particulate pollution from wood stoves and boilers. The latest in a series of public meetings on the proposals, a hearing and open house this week, drew big turn outs.

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Alaska Supreme Court Weighs Labor Law Referendum

Thu, 2014-01-09 18:09

The Supreme Court is now weighing whether to allow a voter referendum that would repeal Anchorage’s controversial labor law.

Attorneys on both sides of the issue made their cases before the justices on Wednesday.

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Union supporters rally in protest of AO37 outside an Assembly meeting in February. Photo by Daysha Eaton, KSKA – Anchorage.

About two dozen people sat in the audience while attorneys for the Municipality of Anchorage and Labor supporters argued before five Supreme Court Justices.

Attorney Michael Gatti argued for the city that the referendum should not go ahead. He said the labor law is inherently administrative in character not legislative, something the municipality has argued from the beginning, and therefore should not go before voters.

“We believe that this is not a matter that is subject to direct democracy an not subject to the referenda,” Gatti said.

The referendum allows voters to decide whether the labor ordinance, also known as AO-37, should be reversed. The Assembly passed the law last March despite protests. The ordinance takes away municipal workers right to strike and restricts collective bargaining rights. It would affect more than 2,000 city employees.

Related: Anchorage Labor Law Headed For Alaska Supreme Court

Attorney Susan Orlansky who represented labor supporters argued the referendum should proceed.

“What’s really going on here is that this ordinance in it’s entirely makes new law that fundamentally shifts the balance of power between labor and management in Anchorage,” Orlansky said. “And that’s what we’re asking the public to vote on.”

The overarching question, Orlansky says, is: does Anchorage want management to have more power and labor less?

Andy Holleman who is President of the Anchorage Education Association and one of the people who brought the case to court says it’s a simple decision that voters are equipped to make.

Municipal Attorney Dennis Wheeler and Anchorage Assembly Attorney Julie Tucker discuss the Mayor’s veto power with Assembly Chair Ernie Hall as Assembly member Dick Traini rushes back to his seat in Assembly Chambers at Loussac Library Tuesday.

“What we’re doing is reversing the Assembly’s action on a given night,” Hollemans aid. “This puts it back like it was and the city can come forward again with different aspects that they think matter.”

“And hopefully they can do it in the right way with real input from everybody in advance this time.”

Anchorage Municipal Attorney Dennis Wheeler disagrees and says if the Supreme Court allows the Referendum to go ahead and it passes it could undermine the power of the city’s legislative body and spur more litigation and referenda around labor issues.

“You know we already have a lot of give an take in our labor negotiations. We have arbitrations over what the contracts mean. We have grievances over what the contracts mean. We have nine different unions to deal with. We have budgetary issues every year,” Wheeler said. “So yeah, I was always worried that this would open a flood gate.”

A flood gate that would be hard to close, he says.

The Deputy Clerk for the Municipality requested the judges have a decision by late February so that she would have time to prepare ballots for elections slated for April.

AO37 Stories:

Copper Basin 300 Field Shapes Up

Thu, 2014-01-09 18:08

The Copper Basin 300 appears to have another loaded race field with big name veterans and a lot of rookies starting Saturday. This year, forty-five mushers from Alaska and five different countries will compete in the qualifier for the Yukon Quest and the Iditarod.

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Joining Antarctica’s Exclusive 300 Club

Thu, 2014-01-09 18:07

It’s no secret that Alaskan winters are cold. This year, the “polar vortex” has brought frigid temperatures into the Lower 48 as well.

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There’s one group of people who can freely scoff at everyone who bundles up for a mere 30-below, however. One of them lives in Talkeetna.

Alaskans are no strangers to testing themselves against the cold.  From frigid runs in bunny boots from a sauna to large events like the Polar Plunge, residents of the 49th state often test their bodies against major temperature swings.

As it turns out, there is an elite group that takes the prize when it comes to enduring massive changes in temperature, however, Antarctica’s 300 Club. Talkeetna resident Kris Perry explains how it works.

“Basically, every time it would get below -100, we would fire up the sauna,” Perry said. “You had to get the sauna up to 200 degrees, then sit in the sauna and get good and hot – which isn’t hard in a 200 degree sauna – and then you would go out and go to the geographic Pole and come back.”

There’s one other catch, too.

“You’re typically doing it naked, too,” Perry said. “Shoes are OK, because you don’t want to frostbite your feet.”

Kris Perry recently told The Atlantic about the 300 Club, and says that he did not know the full history of the exclusive group until he read the article himself. He says that the tradition started as early as the 1950s, when those staying in Antarctica were largely members of the military. They supposedly built a hot box in order to warm up as much as possible before making the trek to the ceremonial South Pole. As research stations with saunas were built, it allowed members of the unofficial club to reach higher and higher temperatures before trekking out into the 100-below chill.

Kris Perry says that he first joined the 300 Club in the Antarctic winter of 2002.  He says his motivation for wanting to subject his body to a 300 degree temperature difference was fairly simple.

“There’s the history.  You hear about it when you’re wintering,” Perry said. “Not every winter-over wants to do it, but there’s definitely enough of us who are like, “Oh yeah, you’ve gotta do the 300 Club,” because how many people on this planet can say they’ve ever done that?”

That first night, Kris Perry was not content to make the trek just once, however. Since he worked in the weather station, he knew exactly what the outside temperature was, and it simply got too warm on his first two attempts. Finally, on the third attempt, Kris thinks the temperature took a dive all the way down to 101-below.

“So I went out, got back, ran in the office, and everything was all good.  Every time when I was coming in I was looking, and every body hair was just totally frosted over. Think how the hoarfrost looks on the trees.  Every hair on my body was like that, and I’m like, “Man, that is so cool.  I’ve got to get someone to take a picture of this!”

So, he rounded up someone from the bar and made the walk for a fourth time, then posed next to a snowman. That was still not Kris Perry’s last 300 Club walk of the night, however.

“Then it got to be about five in the morning, when the earlier risers were getting up,” Perry said. “Some couple wanted to go out, and the temperature was good again.  I’m just one of those crazy people like, ‘I’ll go do it with you!’”

One-hundred degrees below zero is seriously cold.  It doesn’t take exposed skin long to succumb to frostbite, and the cold can literally freeze your lungs after awhile.  The walk totals a few hundred yards, and is done at 9,300 feet elevation.  The time it takes to make the frosty trek varies, but is generally just a few minutes. Even so, Kris Perry says proper technique is important to avoid injury to…sensitive areas.

“Some people were always in a hurry.  They were trying to run the thing, which is crazy, because you would start sucking in that air.  You’d hear them for the next day or two coughing, then they’d get over it,” Perry said. “I just always walked fast.  I didn’t run.  I walked, where I didn’t have to breathe heavy.  I’d keep one hand over my mouth and one hand over ‘the boys,’ and I’d be fine.”

Kris Perry says that his spot in the 300 Club is special to him.  Not everyone who stays the winter at the bottom of the world is willing to undertake the challenge, and some years it simply does not get cold enough for those who do want to make the attempt.

While he freely admits that its, “a little crazy,” he also says it’s an important rite of passage for the complete Antarctic experience.

Alaska News Nightly: January 9, 2014

Thu, 2014-01-09 18:05

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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Wal-Mart, State Officials Discuss Alaska Salmon

Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN – Juneau

For months, Wal-Mart and state officials have gone back and forth on whether Alaska salmon should be sold in their stores. The dispute is over a tiny blue sustainability label from the Marine Stewardship Council, which Wal-Mart requires for their seafood. A trip by Wal-Mart executives to Juneau has left state officials optimistic for a resolution.

Army Corp Of Engineers Finalizes Deep-Water Port Recommendations

Zachariah Hughes, KNOM – Nome

As the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers finalizes details of its deep-water port recommendations the agency is anticipating continued heavy development in Northern and Western Alaska. The plan expects not only increased vessel traffic in the Bering Straits region, but offshore drilling in the Chukchi Sea and graphite production at a fledgling mining claim on the Seward Peninsula.

Senate Debates Emergency Unemployment Policy Extension

Liz Ruskin, APRN – Washington DC

The U.S. Senate has been debating all week whether to extend emergency unemployment compensation for the long-term unemployed. Some 6,500 Alaskans were receiving the extended benefits before Congress let the program expire Dec. 28.

Parnell Names Folger Public Safety Commissioner

The Associated Press

Governor Sean Parnell has appointed a new Public Safety commissioner.

Meeting On Wood Stove, Boiler Pollution Draws Big Crowd

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

There continues to be concern in Fairbanks about proposed state regulations aimed at reducing fine particulate pollution from wood stoves and boilers. The latest in a series of public meetings on the proposals, a hearing and open house this week, drew big turn outs.

Alaska Supreme Court Weighs Labor Law Referendum

Daysha Eaton, KSKA – Juneau

The Supreme Court is now weighing whether to allow a voter referendum that would repeal Anchorage’s controversial labor law. Attorneys on both sides of the issue made their cases before the justices yesterday.

Copper Basin 300 Field Shapes Up

Tony Gorman, KCHU – Valdez

The Copper Basin 300 appears to have another loaded race field with big name veterans and a lot of rookies starting Saturday.  This year, forty-five mushers from Alaska and five different countries will compete in the qualifier for the Yukon Quest and the Iditarod.

Joining Antarctica’s Exclusive 300 Club

Phillip Manning, KTNA – Talkeetna

It’s no secret that Alaskan winters are cold.  This year, the “polar vortex” has brought frigid temperatures into the Lower 48 as well.  There’s one group of people who can freely scoff at everyone who bundles up for a mere thirty-below, however. One of them lives in Talkeetna.

Former head wildlife trooper named Alaska's top cop

Thu, 2014-01-09 17:22
Former head wildlife trooper named Alaska's top cop Gary Folger, a longtime Alaska State Trooper, has been chosen out of retirement to head up the Department of Public Safety.January 9, 2014

Snowy owls flocking farther south

Thu, 2014-01-09 15:54
Snowy owls flocking farther south The white birds have been flying far beyond their normal wintering range, turning up as far south as Florida.January 9, 2014

Hundreds celebrate memory of Native leader Bernice Joseph

Thu, 2014-01-09 15:37
Hundreds celebrate memory of Native leader Bernice Joseph Hundreds gathered in Fairbanks Thursday morning to honor the memory of Bernice Joseph, a leader in Alaska education who died this week at 49.January 9, 2014

Snow’s woes: ‘We are working really hard on that’

Thu, 2014-01-09 14:47
Snow, snow, snow.

City looking for committee members

Thu, 2014-01-09 14:46
The city is seeking applications from Whitehorse-area residents who would like to serve on two important advisory committees.

Exhibition magnificent in its colour, symbolism

Thu, 2014-01-09 14:45
The 65-panel mural that hangs at Yukon College’s main reception area bears resemblance to the territory itself:

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