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Alaska and Yukon Headlines

Doubts raised about lead poisioning on 1845 northern expedition

Sat, 2014-01-11 13:21
Doubts raised about lead poisioning on 1845 northern expedition Lead from canned food -- an innovation at the time -- had been blamed for the demise of all 129 Franklin expedition crew members, but new analysis suggests that many of the men already had accumulated the deadly metal in their bodies from living in Britain's lead-polluted environment. January 11, 2014

Let's pass toxic chemical reforms -- but let's do it right

Sat, 2014-01-11 13:21
Let's pass toxic chemical reforms -- but let's do it right OPINION: Communities in Alaska that suffer disproportionately from toxic chemicals need protection -- more than the changes in the proposed Chemical Safety Improvement Act give.January 11, 2014

AK Beat: High school athletes headed home after bus crash

Sat, 2014-01-11 11:34
AK Beat: High school athletes headed home after bus crash A coach for one of the high school ski teams on board a charter bus that crashed said the teams "feel very fortunate about how everything turned out."January 11, 2014

Video: She found him dead, clutching spice pipe

Fri, 2014-01-10 21:25
Video: She found him dead, clutching spice pipe

The state has ruled 18-year-old Kurtis Hildreth’s cause of death as “undetermined.” But his family believes he was killed by the synthetic drug called "Spice" -- and they plan to fight for answers.

January 10, 2014

In the wake of a teen's unexplained death, answers about Spice are hard to come by

Fri, 2014-01-10 21:24
In the wake of a teen's unexplained death, answers about Spice are hard to come by The state has ruled 18-year-old Kurtis Hildreth’s cause of death as “undetermined.” But his family believes he was killed by the synthetic drug Spice -- and they plan to fight for answers.January 10, 2014

Anchorage woman accused of fondling 12-year-old pleads guilty to coercion

Fri, 2014-01-10 20:45
Anchorage woman accused of fondling 12-year-old pleads guilty to coercion A 49-year-old woman pleaded guilty in Anchorage Friday to a single count of coercion stemming from allegations that she inappropriately touched a 12-year-old boy when she was drunk.January 10, 2014

Alaska legislators introduce some 50 bills next session, few of them spendy

Fri, 2014-01-10 20:44
Alaska legislators introduce some 50 bills next session, few of them spendy Recognizing Alaska's new fiscal reality, there weren't many big-ticket items among the 50-plus bills that were introduced for the legislative session that begins later this month in Juneau.January 10, 2014

Alaska court tosses appeal by prisoner who claims bungled back operation

Fri, 2014-01-10 20:28
Alaska court tosses appeal by prisoner who claims bungled back operation The Alaska Supreme Court has rejected an appeal by a prisoner who claims that a doctor left a sponge in his back during an operation in Arizona.January 10, 2014

VIDEO: Epic Alaska

Fri, 2014-01-10 20:24
VIDEO: Epic Alaska

Shot specifically for high definition, wide aspect ratio screens, this video captures breathtaking images of wintry Southcentral Alaska.

January 10, 2014

Threats to US mining exemplified in Rosemont Copper delays

Fri, 2014-01-10 20:23
Threats to US mining exemplified in Rosemont Copper delays OPINION: The yearslong wait for mining permits in the U.S. is the slowest in the world.January 10, 2014

Labor news: Finnish miners lose jobs, while Swedish berry pickers win back pay

Fri, 2014-01-10 20:01
Labor news: Finnish miners lose jobs, while Swedish berry pickers win back pay Nearly half of the workers at the beleaguered Talvivaara mine will be laid off in the company's reorganization. Thai workers picking berries in Sweden, however, win after staging a protest over pay.January 10, 2014

Finland: Keep Swedish compulsory, say teachers

Fri, 2014-01-10 20:01
Finland: Keep Swedish compulsory, say teachers Mandatory Swedish instruction is losing favor, but teacher fear an end to it will erode Finns' language skills.January 10, 2014

VPA’s Dixie Swim Club

Fri, 2014-01-10 19:30

The cast of VPA’s The Dixie Swim Club

It’s reunion time and these five women from North Carolina make the best of it every five years. Now it’s time for you to join them this week on Stage Talk as Marcia Beck and Lori Harris from VPA’s production of the playwright team of Jones, Hope and Wooten’s The Dixie Swim Club tell us all about the show opening January 10th and running through the 26th.

HOSTS:

GUESTS: 

ORIGINAL BROADCAST: Friday January 10th, 2014 at 2:45 p.m.

SUBSCRIBE: Get Stage Talk updates automatically — via:

STAGE TALK ARCHIVE

Audio will be posted following radio broadcast.

Treadwell slams Begich for the company he keeps; Dems call it hypocricy

Fri, 2014-01-10 18:31

The Senate campaign of Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell has issued a series of press releases attacking incumbent Mark Begich for allegedly receiving support from Outside politicians working to lock up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and enact gun control, which both candidates oppose. But the Treadwell campaign was apparently unaware that a listed host for a Treadwell fundraiser in Chicago is one of the Senate’s biggest advocates for those same two issues.

The Treadwell campaign, in a November press release, noted that Sen. Maria Cantwell, a Democrat from Washington state, helped Begich fundraise last summer. And, she sponsored a bill that would bar oil development in the Arctic Refuge. The press release connects the dots this way:  “Senator Begich either has no pull within the Democratic Party or he supports Senator Cantwell’s move to lock up ANWR from future oil exploration.”

What the press release doesn’t say is that Cantwell’s co-sponsor on the ANWR anti-development bill, Sen. Mark Kirk of Illinois, is the lead host named on an invitation to a Treadwell fundraiser in Chicago in July. (One of the other hosts, a Harvard Business School friend of Treadwell’s, posted the invitation on the social network LinkedIn.)  Sen. Kirk is also a big supporter of gun control. He was recently the only Republican senator to get an F on the National Rifle Association’s political scorecard. As it happens, the Treadwell campaign issued a press release this week accusing Begich of being in league, indirectly, with people who want to undermine gun rights.

Zack Fields, communications director for the Alaska Democratic Party, says the Treadwell campaign is off base on two fronts.

“It’s hypocritical of Treadwell to wage these attacks when he’s taking money from Mark Kirk, an Illinois senator who has voted for gun control and is an original co-sponsor of legislation to lock up ANWR from oil and gas development forever,” Fields says

And Fields says it’s childish to argue that Alaska senators should only work with colleagues who agree with them on every issue.

Treadwell campaign spokesman Rick Gorka wasn’t with the campaign when the Chicago fundraiser occurred, but he looked into it and says Sen. Kirk did not attend.

“As a courtesy, Sen. Kirk lent his name to be used at an event, and that was the extent of his involvement in this reception,” Gorka says.

Sen. Kirk hasn’t donated to the Treadwell campaign, either directly or through his leadership PAC, according to Gorka. He stands by the accusations the campaign has made against Begich.

The link the campaign has drawn between Begich and gun control is a little fuzzy. It goes like this: Wealthy ex-New York Mayor and gun control fan Michael Bloomberg gave $2.5 million to a political fund called Senate Majority PAC, and the Treadwell campaign maintains that group has aired ads for Begich. “Anti-Second Amendment Billionaire Supporting Mark Begich’s Re-Election Bid” says the Treadwell press release headline. Gorka says his proof is an article in Politico, which reported early this week that the Democratic group has already aired TV spots for a raft of senators, including Begich. But no one seems to know what these pro-Begich ads said or when they ran. Spokesmen for the Begich campaign and the Democratic Party of Alaska say they watch for Begich-related ads and don’t recall seeing any sponsored by Senate Majority PAC.  There’s no sign of the ads on the PAC’s website, either.

Gorka says Politico wasn’t the only news outlet to report that the ads exist.

Treadwell’s press release suggests Bloomberg wants to support Begich. “It’s no secret that Michael Bloomberg wants to undermine the Second Amendment and clearly he sees (Senate Majority Leader Harry Reid) and Mark Begich as allies in his crusade,” the press release says.

Bloomberg, though, has pledged to spend heavily against Begich, according to a May article in the New Republic, because Begich voted against background checks for firearms last year.

The Treadwell press release calls on Begich to reject any further help from Senate Majority PAC, which is dedicated to keeping the Senate under Democratic control and was founded by Reid’s former chief of staff.

“Mark Begich should make it clear to Harry Reid that he does not want the support of a PAC that accepts funding from Mayor Bloomberg,” Gorka said in an email to APRN. “He should do that publicly. “

But that may not be legal. Senate Majority PAC is organized as an “independent expenditure” group. Federal elections rules say candidates are not allowed to coordinate media plans or strategies with such PACs.

Gorka declined to call anything his campaign did a mistake but says Begich committed a bigger one.

“I think there’s a difference between (using Kirk’s name and) Sen. Cantwell coming to Alaska and actively campaigning for Sen.  Begich,” he said.

The Begich campaign says Cantwell, chair of the Senate Indian Affairs Committee, came primarily to visit the disaster site at Galena and Native medical facilities. She also headlined two fundraisers for Begich, in Anchorage and Fairbanks.

 

 

Parnell Announces New Pipeline Plan, Changes AGIA Agreement

Fri, 2014-01-10 18:21

Governor Sean Parnell announced Friday the state is taking a new approach to a large-scale natural gas line in Alaska.

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“We have agreed to amicably terminate our involvement with TransCanada under AGIA, but sign up with TransCanada in a more traditional arrangement along with the producers and AGDC [Alaska Gasline Development Corporation],” he said at a presentation before the Alaska Support Industry Alliance in Anchorage.

Parnell did not release the terms of the agreement, but did announce “Transcanada agreed to a debt-equity structure that guarantees Alaska’s interests are protected.”

Parnell explained the Alaska Gasline Inducement Act, which was negotiated under Governor Sarah Palin in 2007, was designed with the idea of one developer moving natural gas. Now the project is more complicated and involves gas treatment and liquification.

The new agreement with TransCanada, Exxon, BP, and ConocoPhillips, which Parnell said will be signed very soon, gives the state ownership. “Ownership ensures we either pay ourselves for project services or at the very least understand, negotiate, and ensure the lowest possible costs.”

Parnell said the state would also receive a share of the profits over the entirety of the project.

Supreme Court Okay’s Referendum Repealing Controversial Labor Law

Fri, 2014-01-10 18:20

The Supreme Court of Alaska has ruled that a referendum launched by union supporters to repeal a controversial Anchorage labor ordinance can go ahead.

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Assembly members and Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan heard criticism of the Mayor’s proposed labor union ordinance at a work session held Wednesday at City Hall. Photo by Daysha Eaton, KSKA – Anchorage.

The Justices made their decision in just two days. The referendum allows voters to decide whether the labor ordinance, named the Responsible Labor Act or better known as A0-37 should be repealed. Andy Holleman, with the Anchorage Education Association, says the ruling was no surprise.

“Certainly we didn’t expect it to come back this quick, but I think that speaks to the legal simplicity of the case,” Holleman said. ”This really isn’t something that never should have gone to court. The city had to contrive a case here. The right of people to bring a referendum is pretty clear cut.”

Despite protests, the Assembly passed the labor law last March. The ordinance takes away municipal workers right to strike and restricts collective bargaining rights. It affects more than 2,000 city employees. The administration of Mayor Dan Sullivan has already negotiated a handful of union contracts under the law. Gerard Asselin is with the Anchorage Police Employees Union. He says the Justice’s decision allows labor supporters to begin focusing on the upcoming election.

“It’s pretty exciting that we can move on with what we’re trying to accomplish,” Asselin said. ”At this point we’re preparing to have this on the April ballot, getting kinda things in place to educate those who are going to show up in April to vote on this issue.”

Whether the issue will be on the April Ballot is still up for consideration. Municipal Attorney Dennis Wheeler says he’s disappointed, but not surprised, by the ruling.

Since the introduction of the ordinance, signs expressing support for unions have popped up in Anchorage

“While I always understood that this was a difficult argument to prevail on I thought it was a worthwhile one and we needed that resolved so that next year and the year after when we get more of these referendum on labor issues we have some guidance on how to handle them,” Wheeler said.

Wheeler says the court case cost the municipality around $70000 and labor supporters estimate they’ve spend at least that much. At their next regular meeting on Tuesday, Assembly members will be weighing whether to move the April Election to November, which could delay a vote on the referendum. An opinion from the Supreme Court Justices on the case is forthcoming.

Another court case will decide whether Mayor Sullivan has the power to veto an ordinance that sets an election date for the Referendum. In November he vetoed a decision by the Anchorage Assembly to place the referendum on the April Municipal election ballot.

“I appreciate that this decision was a difficult one to make for the Supreme Court. Their ruling will help provide some certainty in an otherwise murky area of law, and will allow voters to decide on whether fiscal and policy guidance on labor relations should be in the hands of the Municipal Assembly or directed by special interests.” Mayor Sullivan on January 10, 2014 Supreme Court Ruling

Ravn Investigating Cause Of St. Mary’s Crash

Fri, 2014-01-10 18:18

Photo courtesy Alaska State Troopers.

The NTSB is investigating the Era commuter plane that crashed and killed four people and injured six outside St. Mary’s.

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The government’s full report is many months away, but in the meantime, Era, now known as Ravn and others are digging into the cause of the crash.

Witnesses at the airport in St. Mary’s saw the Cessna 208 approaching at a dangerously low altitude and then flying past the runway before it crashed into a tundra ridge.  While the cause is still unknown, weather at the time included rain and fog, conditions that make flying challenging.

The NTSB is not saying what role the weather played or if the wings took on ice, but Ravn CEO Bob Hajdukovich believes the plane was flying within its envelop of safe operation.

“I can with a pretty high level of confidence say that icing was present the day of the accident, but certainly didn’t bring the airplane down,” Hajdukovich said. “We’re not treating this as a Cessna 208 tail stall or icing event.”

The 208 forms a big part of Ravn’s fleet, about a quarter of their aircraft. It’s a workhorse that Hajdukovich believes in. But the aircraft has some history with icing. The NTSB in 2006 released recommendations stating the 208 should not be flown in anything beyond light icing. That’s a recommendation, not a rule.

The manufacturer has made some changes. Cessna has swapped the deicing system on new aircraft, from the inflatable boots – that blow up and knock off ice, to an anti icing system, the TKS weeping wing.  This puts out small amounts of anti-ice fluid on the wing’s leading edge. This should prevent ice from ever forming. Hageland has not retrofitted any of its caravans.

And after the crash, that’s attracted the attention of lawyers, like Ladd Sanger, an attorney with Slack and Davis, a Dallas based firm that works in aviation law. He’s a pilot and has litigated several cases involving the 208.

“The caravan has a very bad track record in ice,” Sanger said. “There was a solution that was possible that would have likely prevented this crash, but unfortunately Cessna and Hageland chose not to employ it on this airplane or other that are operating in areas where icing is not only foreseeable but likely.”

Sanger has been in contact with attorneys working with crash victims.

Hajdukovich says that Cessna’s new anti-ice system is not a silver bullet. Ravn has done research into the TKS system. He says it’s expensive and somewhat problematic here.  He points to causes some corrosion to the wing, plus you have to have the liquid running constantly, which would require refills at small airfields.

“The caravan is very well suited for Bethel and can fly in ice, but you need tight controls in place to make sure you don’t get into heavy ice in the wrong condition with the wrong pilot experience, and you don’t want anything wrong with plane so you don’t want anything deferred,” Hajdukovich said. “There’s a lot of things you can do as a company to help tighten that envelop.”

Going forward, Ravn is sticking with the caravan. And Hajdukovich says the group is taking a hard look at safety.  He says there are some unrelated safety initiatives in play.  The company is looking at putting additional controls in place to elevate discussion of weather in the decision to fly or not.

“We hurt our friends, we hurt our customers, and we hurt ourselves and we want to gain that public trust back,” Hajdukovich said. “While we’re investigating what went wrong, if we’ll ever find out. it was a very traumatic event and we certainly don’t want to minimize the tragedy itself.”

“In terms of moving forward, we always use accidents like this as opportunities to try to find ways to minimize that risk in the future.”

And six weeks after the accident, Ravn’s 208s are moving people, groceries, and necessary supplies all over the delta.  The caravan flies to nearly 40 communities Ravn serves in the region.

No one knows with certainty what happened on Nov. 29. The NTSB says it could be a year before their final report is ready.

Alaska News Nightly: January 10, 2014

Fri, 2014-01-10 18:18

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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Parnell Announces New Pipeline Plan, Changes AGIA Agreement

Anne Hillman, APRN – Anchorage

Governor Sean Parnell announced Friday the state is taking a new approach to a large-scale natural gas line in Alaska.

Supreme Court Okay’s Referendum Repealing Controversial Labor Law

Daysha Eaton, KSKA – Anchorage

The Supreme Court of Alaska has ruled that a referendum launched by union supporters to repeal a controversial Anchorage labor ordinance can go ahead. The Justices made their decision in just two days.

Treadwell Campaign Attacks Begich On ANWR

Liz Ruskin, APRN – Washington DC

The Senate campaign of Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell has issued a series of press releases attacking incumbent Mark Begich for allegedly receiving support from Outside politicians working to lock up the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and enact gun control, which both candidates oppose. But the Treadwell campaign was apparently unaware that a listed host for a Treadwell fundraiser in Chicago is one of the Senate’s biggest advocates for those same two issues.

Ravn Investigating Cause Of St. Mary’s Crash

Ben Matheson, KYUK – Bethel

The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating the Era commuter plane that crashed and killed four people and injured six near St. Mary’s in November.  The government’s full report is many months away, but in the meantime, Era, now known as Ravn, and others are digging into the cause of the crash.

Lawmakers File Dozens Of Bills In Advance Of Session

Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN – Juneau

State lawmakers have pre-filed more than 50 bills in advance of the legislative session.

Air Quality Regulations Worry Fairbanks, State Officials

Tim Ellis, KUAC – Fairbanks

The controversial air-quality regulations that state officials have proposed for Fairbanks-area residents are aimed at reducing pollution from wood-burning heating systems. They do not apply to coal-fired systems, which are increasingly popular because coal is cheaper than wood.

Winter Grizzly Sightings Raise Concerns Near Denali Park

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

Midwinter grizzly and track sightings have raised concern in the Denali Park area. Local resident, four time Iditarod Champion Jeff King spotted blood and bear tracks on a trail while training dogs Wednesday.

AK: Shipwreck

Annie Ropeik, KUCB – Unalaska

The grounded crab boat Arctic Hunter has been stuck on the rocks outside Unalaska for more than two months now. Dan Magone of Resolve-Magone Marine Services has been working on a plan to remove the wreck. Right now, the Hunter is at the mercy of the elements. So what happens to a shipwreck while it’s waiting to be saved?

300 Villages: Chickaloon

This week, we’re heading to Chickaloon, a small community located along the Glenn Highway, surrounded by mountains and glaciers. Patricia Wade is a member of the Chickaloon tribe.

Air Quality Regulations Worry Fairbanks, State Officials

Fri, 2014-01-10 18:17

The controversial air-quality regulations that state officials have proposed for Fairbanks-area residents are aimed at reducing pollution from wood-burning heating systems. They do not apply to coal-fired systems, which are increasingly popular because coal is cheaper than wood.

Download Audio

Lawmakers File Dozens Of Bills In Advance Of Session

Fri, 2014-01-10 18:17

State lawmakers have pre-filed more than 50 bills in advance of the legislative session.

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A number of bills deal with civil liberties issues. One would put limits on when and how drones could be used in police investigations. A different item would seal off court records in cases that resulted in a dismissal or not-guilty verdict. There’s also a bill to regulate the practice of students being restrained or put in seclusion over the course of disciplinary action, and another to formalize grievance procedures for people undergoing mental health treatment. One piece of legislation would also bring “Erin’s Law” to Alaska, by requiring schools to run awareness programs to curb sexual abuse and assault.

Lawmakers also introduced a few education bills. The chair of the Senate Education Committee filed legislation that would create a new elementary school reading program. Bills introduced in the House and Senate would repeal the state’s secondary school exit exam. Legislation from the chair of the House Finance subcommittee on education would get rid of the requirement that city and borough governments contribute funding to their school districts.

A trio of Democratic women in the House have introduced a suite of legislation concerning women’s issues. One of their bills would reestablish the Commission on the Status of Women, another would require employers to give their workers break time for breastfeeding, and a third would require employers to offer sick leave and allow that leave to be used in situations involving domestic violence or sexual assault. They’ve also proposed upping the eligibility level for the DenaliKidcare medical assistance program to 200 percent of the poverty line. The Legislature approved an increase to the program, which serves children and pregnant women, in 2010, but Gov. Sean Parnell vetoed the legislation because a fraction of those funds go to abortion-related services.

One constitutional amendment was filed. It would make the office of attorney general an electable position instead of an appointed one.

Only one piece of bipartisan legislation was offered. A mix of four lawmakers from the House majority and minority caucuses has filed legislation that would make the Native languages like Yup’ik and Tlingit official languages for the state. A group of House Democrats and a group of House Republicans separately filed two nearly identical bills that would reject pay raises for the governor and his cabinet.

A couple of quirky items were also introduced. One would allow cocktails to be served on golf courses, in addition to beer and wine, and another would make it so the Department of Revenue doesn’t have to register cattle brands.

The Legislature will gavel in on January 21.

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