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Alaska and Yukon Headlines

“Cat” comes to town

Fri, 2014-04-11 07:29

L-R Elizabeth M. Kelly, Enrique Bravo

Tennessee Williams’ story of family, greed and sexuality, Cat on a Hot Tin Roof is coming to town as Perseverance Theatre of Juneau brings the play to the Sydney Laurence Theatre. Join Enrique Bravo (Brick) and Kevin T. Bennett (Dr. Baugh) as they visit Stage Talk to tell us all about this classic offering of American theatre opening April 11th and running through the 27th.

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ORIGINAL BROADCAST: Friday April 11th, 2014 at 2:45 p.m.

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The Armory Show: Art Fair Meets Avant-garde

Fri, 2014-04-11 07:00

Trendy, Avant-garde, the Armory Show has it all.

After my romp through the 2014 Whitney Biennial this past March, I took a crosstown bus from Fifth Avenue to the Armory Show on display on the remodeled Hudson River Piers 92 & 94 that protrude into the Hudson.

With two hundred and five exhibitors, the Armory Show is the largest art fair in New York and really Disneyland for art lovers. You don’t have to be quiet or pretend to be knowledgeable; you can eat, drink and even nap in a corner surrounded by, for instance, a rug that can’t decide whether it’s a wall piece or something to walk over. To say this exhibition is sensory overload is an understatement!

Fairs are a great way to gallery hop and not be intimidated about walking into London’s Whitechapel Gallery or Chicago’s Monique Meloche with your jeans and mittens. The food is delicious; there are bathrooms and places to sit as you contemplate shapes and colors.

The Armory Show takes its name from the famed 1913 International Exhibition of Modern Art in the 69th Regiment Armory on Lexington and 25th St.—supposedly the first Modern Art show held in America. Back then this extravaganza displayed 1,300 paintings and sculpture with Marcel Duchamp’s Nude Descending a Staircase leading the way into the history books as scandalous. Our Nude now resides in a small gallery at Philadelphia’s Museum of Art, an easy hour ride on Amtrak from Midtown Manhattan, and tame in comparison to the sex scenes in The Wolf of Wall Street.

In 2001, the present day Armory Show moved to the remade piers. Back story: over one hundred working piers once lined up around Lower Manhattan. Timber and livestock came down the Hudson River from upstate New York to be unloaded or processed for shipments to other locales. Ocean liners escorted the rich and famous across the pond.

In the movie Sabrina, Humphrey Bogart catches a tugboat to chase after Audrey Hepburn who’s already shipboard and heading out of New York Harbor, of course with her poodle and beret. Then there’s On the Waterfront with Marlon Brando showing the seedier, grittier side of dock life. Today, some of the piers have rotted away and only the stumps appear to bob in the waves as landing platforms for birds. But others have been revitalized as in the movie Manhattan, where Woody Allen plays tennis with Diane Keaton inside an inflatable building that occupies an entire pier.

Paper towel dispenser (as art).

I hopped on a crosstown bus near ‘30 Rock’ which takes you within blocks of the show, housed in a massive building that straddles both 92 & 94 piers. It was about 10 am and a long line was forming with uniformed guards mouthing into walkie-talkies, all yelling in unison and seemingly accomplishing nothing. My downloaded press pass allowed me to bypass the line but the poor directions from the goofy crowd controllers sent me up and down the street uselessly. After twenty minutes of enduring March winds off the Hudson, I finally entered into a nirvana of white walls, bright lights and art everywhere.

Food vendors abounded so I eagerly purchased my overdue breakfast coffee and danish– overpriced for their size but tasty. I passed up a faux pushcart of Belgian chocolates as I headed for a lecture about magazine publishing—very boring as the presenters exchanged quips and ignored the audience, but a good chance to snooze and reduce some of my jet lag. I began walking what would be hours through miles of abstraction. I came upon a large canvas that had become storage for handbags; why didn’t I think about this ‘pick-up’ plan when my daughters were in high school and clothes strewn their rooms?

Chinese art is very popular; the Armory Show catalog said curator Xu Zhen was from Shanghai as was an art piece about two large wrist watches. I wondered why this artist hadn’t sculpted two large wrists to show off these time pieces. A Chinese sign said, “Don’t copy anyone” [and] “Do something no one’s ever done before.” Good advice, but I wondered if this sign didn’t contain some hidden message couching subversive political agendas, as the Chinese government isn’t always receptive to ‘art for art’s sake.’ It was difficult to tell which country represented what artists as everyone has gone global—maybe that’s a good thing.

I passed a paper towel dispenser that was really art and a large metal wall piece that looked like a broach. It was after one pm; I was getting hungry. I bypassed champagne at a tapas bar and elevated to the second level for a mini hamburger and a Coke that I ate overlooking the white-capped Hudson River.

The “giant broach” spotted at The Armory Show.

Upstairs the art was less trendy; more of established artists like Tom Wesselmann and Josef Albers. There didn’t seem to be a lot of price tags but if you wanted to invest, say, $5,000 on a small print or drawing, it seemed doable. There was a section devoted to women artists where viewers could see an Anni Albers; like her husband she was a refugee from Hitler’s Europe. And there was Joan Brown, a San Francisco Bay Area painter known for her color and dog portraits.

I passed several areas of large white sofas where viewers could people watch or read the Armory Show catalog. Like the Whitney 2014 Biennial catalogue, the art in this book didn’t match what was displayed on walls—be aware. I elevated back to floor one, past two metallic cartoon-like figures seemingly madly in love. There was a sculpture of running shoes and a super-sized pearl earring, now a wall hanging. Art Forum magazine, my favorite as they provide me with an extra copy monthly, had a long table where the fatigued could pull up a stool and browse through past issues. I passed totemic sculptures of picture-less frames, and a painting that looked like ketchup and mustard had been used instead of paint. On a desk was a doggie vase with tulips that might have been a Jeff Koons?

The “Ketchup and Mustard” painting.

It was nearly five pm and my feet hurt. My head pounded; I empathized with the large wooden figure plastered with nails. A couple were pushing buttons on their iPhones while sitting on a bench shingled like a house. It looked uncomfortable but after hours of walking across two piers of art, I would have sat on a house, too. Heading out, I passed a ring of stones looking somewhat prehistoric. Attempting to exit, I came upon a door that said, “Emergency Exit Only”. A women’s bathroom sign was stationed as the only preventative apparatus for not accidently sending off the alarm system. I laughed; one of the walkie-talkie folks had a sense of humor.

I boarded the crosstown bus back to Midtown and then hopped on the number six subway to Maryann’s Mexican Restaurant near the Astor Place stop where I joined daughter Maddy and boyfriend Joel for a huge Margarita and very fresh veggies on burritos and tacos. Art fairs are a great way to experience contemporary art without feeling uncomfortably out of place.

On the North Slope, a research station comes to life for the summer

Fri, 2014-04-11 06:16
On the North Slope, a research station comes to life for the summer The temperatures at a field research station near Toolik Lake, north of Alaska's Brooks Range, are still frigid, but activity in preparation for the busy summer season is already under way.April 11, 2014

Parnell administration floats $300 million refinery subsidy plan to Legislature

Fri, 2014-04-11 05:49
Parnell administration floats $300 million refinery subsidy plan to Legislature A plan for the state to subsidize Alaska refineries by up to $300 million in direct aid and tax credits over the next five years is needed to stabilize their operations, according to the Parnell administration. But some legislators are skeptical.April 11, 2014

'Amazing America' episode 2: Too little Sarah Palin, but plenty amazing

Fri, 2014-04-11 05:32
'Amazing America' episode 2: Too little Sarah Palin, but plenty amazing This week, there was a devastating lack of Sarah Palin in "Amazing America with Sarah Palin," and everything felt a bit less amazing.April 11, 2014

Study: Shippers and seabirds clash over Arctic territory

Thu, 2014-04-10 23:23
Study: Shippers and seabirds clash over Arctic territory The areas coveted as sea routes for commercial shippers seeking to exploit increasingly ice-free Arctic waters are the same areas that are vital to millions of seabirds that flock north each summer to feast under the midnight sun, says a newly published study.April 10, 2014

SB 108: A simple, sensible, fair solution for restricting access to criminal records

Thu, 2014-04-10 23:04
SB 108: A simple, sensible, fair solution for restricting access to criminal records OPINION: The court system does not have an ongoing obligation to continually make available online the existence of a nonconviction record and allow unrestricted public access to the record long after it is closed.April 10, 2014

After lying low for several months, Joe Miller emerges

Thu, 2014-04-10 22:08
After lying low for several months, Joe Miller emerges Talking with reporters and speaking in one of his first appearances after keeping himself "under the covers" for several months, Miller said he will announce his candidacy for U.S. Senate at the Wasilla Lake Resort on April 21.April 10, 2014

Final Vote On Abortion Bill Delayed After Divisive Amendment Process

Thu, 2014-04-10 21:15

The Alaska State House opened debate on a bill putting limits on state Medicaid payments for abortions on Thursday, only to shelve it and delay a final vote to Sunday.

The bill requires abortion providers to sign a statement that a procedure is “medically necessary,” and it defines that term to include only physical conditions – not mental ones. Advocates of the bill believe the state is paying for elective abortions under the current law, while critics argue that the bill restricts abortion access for poor women.

The version that the Senate passed last year also included a provision establishing a women’s health program, which made the bill more palatable to moderate Republicans. That program would have allowed low-income single women to access birth control and family planning services, with those services largely paid for by the federal government.
A House committee stripped that language in March with support from an influential conservative advocacy group, but the issue of family planning became a major focus of debate during the amendment process.

Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux, the Anchorage Republican carrying the bill, signed on to an amendment signaling the Legislature’s intent “to continue” funding women’s health services in the state. The amendment, which passed 35-5, does not commit the Legislature to expanding services in any way. A handful of Democrats opposed the measure because they did not believe it to be substantive, and they instead tried to reintroduce the original family planning language that would have compelled the state to establish a new program immediately.

LeDoux spoke against the Democrats’ amendment, arguing that the state already provides women’s health services through public health clinics.

“Other than putting contraceptives in the drinking water, I mean we’ve done just about everything we can do as far as family planning services.” LeDoux said on the floor.

The Democrats’ amendment failed on a 22-18 vote, with four Republicans – Lindsey Holmes of Anchorage, Cathy Muñoz of Juneau, Alan Austerman of Kodiak, and Paul Seaton of Homer — breaking ranks with their party.

Sen. Berta Gardner, an Anchorage Democrat who offered the original family planning language last year, thinks the amendment to simply continue funding women’s health services is not a compromise measure, but a fig leaf.

“It means nothing,” said Gardner in an interview. “It’s just like a little ‘P.S.’ but without the force of law.”

While the family planning amendments prompted the most discussion on the floor, the amendments that showed the greatest strife on the bill dealt with the lack of mental health exception.

One amendment added that exception back in, which would have allowed women receiving medication for psychiatric disorders to qualify for abortion coverage because of the pregnancy risk that creates. That failed 21-19, with Mike Hawker of Anchorage joining the bloc of Republicans seeking to alter the bill. The other amendment would have allowed for a mental health exception only in cases where suicide is likely. That failed 20-20, picking up support from Republicans Charisse Millett of Anchorage and Eric Feige of Chickaloon.

Once the amendment process wrapped up, the bill pulled from consideration and tabled until Sunday. House Speaker Mike Chenault acknowledged that the outcome would be close.

“You can see it’s kind of a divided issue,” said Chenault after the floor session. “It always is, it always has been.”

Chenault added that final consideration was not being delayed because of any uncertainty over the bill’s ability to pass. The bill was moved so that legislators with scheduled absences could be present for a vote.

Last year, the Department of Health and Social Services introduced regulations that are nearly identical to the bill language, but include the mental health exception. Those regulations are now the subject of a lawsuit, and a judge has put a stay on them until the courts determine if they comply with the equal protection clause of the Alaska Constitution.

If the bill passes, it will be sent to the governor’s desk for his signature, and then, most likely, to the courts.

A virtual life; a too-real death

Thu, 2014-04-10 20:00
A virtual life; a too-real death I never knew Corey Akerelrea, except in the virtual world, and only then after his death. I wish I could bring him back and get to know him better.April 10, 2014

Church overflows with emotion during service for slain 15-year-old Precious Alex

Thu, 2014-04-10 19:58
Church overflows with emotion during service for slain 15-year-old Precious Alex Family and friends crowded the New Hope Baptist Church in Anchorage's Mountain View neighborhood Thursday afternoon for 15-year-old Precious Alex's funeral service. Speakers painted a picture of an affectionate, intelligent girl who was deeply loved.April 10, 2014

Photos: A joyful and somber funeral for 15-year-old Precious Alex

Thu, 2014-04-10 19:58
Photos: A joyful and somber funeral for 15-year-old Precious Alex

Emotions were raw at the funeral of Precious Alex, an Anchorage teenager who was shot to death as she slept.

April 10, 2014

Consultants offer clashing views on Alaska taking payment in natural gas, not dollars

Thu, 2014-04-10 19:57
Consultants offer clashing views on Alaska taking payment in natural gas, not dollars If the state opts to go into the natural gas business and collects its royalty and tax payments in the form of fuel, it will either lower or raise the economic risk. The House Finance Committee heard two different views from consultants Thursday.April 10, 2014

Wasilla man leads officers on high-speed chase after colliding with troopers

Thu, 2014-04-10 19:56
Wasilla man leads officers on high-speed chase after colliding with troopers Two Alaska State Troopers were hit by a Wasilla man trying to evade officers. Michael Joseph Ingersol was arrested Thursday morning after leading troopers on a high-speed chase through the Mat-Su. April 10, 2014

Prosecutor in Kodiak murder trial focuses on nail that flattened defendant's tire

Thu, 2014-04-10 19:55
Prosecutor in Kodiak murder trial focuses on nail that flattened defendant's tire Two neighbors of James Michael Wells testified Thursday that they thought it was a strange time of day to see the defendant driving toward his home. Their sightings were about 20 minutes before two bodies were found.April 10, 2014

Geraghty Testifies On Tribal Law And Order Commission Report Findings

Thu, 2014-04-10 17:33

State Attorney General Michael Geraghty testified before a legislative committee this week to respond to a national report that singles out Alaska for its high rates of violence against Alaska Natives, especially Native women. The Indian Law and Order Commission report was deeply critical of Alaska’s law enforcement and judicial system. But the state’s Geraghty says the Indian Law and Order Commission is trying to impose lower 48 solutions that won’t work in Alaska.

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Army Sets New Protocols During Fire Season

Thu, 2014-04-10 17:32

The Army has a new protocol for live ordnance training during times of high wildfire danger. Army artillery practice sparked the Stewart Creek 2 wildfire that burned east of Fairbanks though much of last summer. The 87,000 acre blaze forced evacuations and cost more than $20 million to fight.

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Exit Exam Bill Could Bring Diplomas To More Students

Thu, 2014-04-10 17:31

Graduation time is just around the corner and for most seniors that means walking a stage and accepting a diploma. But a few students a year in Petersburg do not receive a diploma because they don’t pass a test. A bill making its way through the state Legislature would change that. House Bill 220 would repeal the High School Graduation Qualifying Exam.

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The high school is especially quiet. Red signs are posted on the outside of the library doors and several classrooms.

High School Principal, Rick Dormer, says large groups of 10th graders are getting tested in the classrooms and smaller groups are in the library. The signs help others know to stay out because a quiet environment is important.

“You can see we have big red signs, ‘Testing, Do not Disturb’,” Dormer says, “We’re in the middle of it here today and kids are in a room and it’s three hours and it’s make it or break it. And we’ve had kids really crying before the test, crying after the test. It’s high stress, it’s high-stakes.”

There’s a lot riding on this test and students feel the pressure. If they don’t pass it, they don’t graduate with a diploma.

“And they must pass in three areas, reading, writing and mathematics. And they must pass it with a certain score that’s set by the state to earn their diploma,” Dormer says. “So despite anything that a student may or may not do, if they complete all graduation requirements, which has happened here in Petersburg, and do not pass this particular exam in the State of Alaska, we cannot give them a diploma in Petersburg High School. Rather, they get what we call a certificate of completion that is not equivalent.”

The certificate does not hold the same weight as a diploma. Students who want to further their education after high school can’t qualify for financial aid.

Sonya Stein is the Director of the Student Financial Assistance Office at the University of Alaska Anchorage.

“The federal department of education requires that a student has a high school diploma or its equivalent in order to be federal financial aid eligible,” says Stein.

An equivalent would be the GED or the General Education Development, which would require students to pass another test.

The exit exam has been required in Alaska for a decade. It was established through state law before the No Child Left Behind Law prompted other standardized tests.

There’s no middle ground with the exit exam.  . .either you pass it or you don’t.

Principal Rick Dormer says it can be heart breaking.

“I can tell you we’ve had two students who have not passed the test by one point, one section by one point,” Dormer says.

In both cases, the school paid some extra money to appeal the results to the state’s education department but it didn’t work.

“We don’t believe that’s the best assessment of a kid’s knowledge of what they know,” Dormer says. “Really any testing is there just as a measure to see what they know and then you build on it and so we don’t agree that high stakes testing is the best measure of what a kids knowledge is and whether or not they deserve a diploma. I think it’s a much more complicated than a one shot test.”

House Bill 220 would work retroactively, so past students who received a certificate instead of a diploma because they didn’t pass the test would be able to get a diploma. They’d just have to request it.

So far the bill hasn’t seen much opposition. It passed the House with a vote of 32 to 5. The Parnell administration and the Education Department support getting rid of the test as well.

The bill is sponsored by Representative Pete Higgins, a Republican from Fairbanks.

Sitka Assembly Passes Anti-Smoking Law

Thu, 2014-04-10 17:29

The Sitka Assembly passed a controversial amendment Tuesday night, tightening the city’s anti-smoking laws. The question before the assembly was whether children should be prohibited from entering any business that allows smoking — even for a non-smoking event. The decision came down to different interpretations of what voters intended nearly a decade ago.

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It was the fourth time the Assembly had discussed the amendment, which pitted anti-smoking advocates against those who felt, in the words of one member of the public, “You’re going a little too far…You’re micromanaging things that a parent should do. So let’s do city things, and let parents do parent things.”

In 2005, Sitka voters passed a law that barred children from entering businesses that allow smoking. This past December, the American Legion, a private club that allows smoking, hosted a Christmas party for kids – but didn’t allow smoking at the event. The Legion asked the city attorney whether the party was legal. She said it was.

In response, Mayor Mim McConnell and Assembly Member Phyllis Hackett sponsored an amendment to clarify the intent of the 2005 law. The new language makes it clear that if a business allows smoking, then kids can’t enter, even for a smoke-free event.

That prompted protests from the Legion, and the Assembly sent the issue to the Health Needs and Human Services Commission. The commission voted unanimously in favor of the amendment. They cited, in particular, the possible health hazards of third-hand smoke, or the chemicals that can remain in walls and furniture after a room has been used for smoking.

But both McConnell and Hackett argued that all of these issues – third-hand smoke, public health, assembly overreach and even Christmas parties – were beside the point. Voters already settled these issues when they passed the law in 2005, Hackett said. The assembly’s job was simply to honor the voters’ original intent.

“The issue here, which I know some people are having a hard time understanding or choosing to believe, but the issue here is about intent, and it’s about the intent of the ordinance that was passed,” Hackett said. “And it was passed overwhelmingly by the voters.”

Assembly Members Mike Reif and Matt Hunter, however, insisted it wasn’t so easy to tell what voters intended nearly a decade ago. Reif pointed out that third-hand smoke, for instance, wasn’t even part of the debate in 2005.

“I personally really don’t know the intent of the voters in Sitka back in 2005,” Reif said. “It’s very cloudy trying to speculate what the intent was of all those voters.”

All the same, Reif said he felt he had a clearer sense of the voters’ will now.

“I do think that if we put this to the vote of Sitkan voters today, that they would pass this, they would want to see this banned,” Reif said. “I’ll support it because that’s what I think the majority of Sitkans want.”

Hunter, meanwhile, spoke at length about how his thinking on the issue had changed.

“I’ve publicly gone back and forth on this issue and I’m still conflicted on it,” Hunter said, adding that he had consulted the original 2005 ballot. “The language as it’s written, the whole reason for doing this amendment to change the language, is because the language is unclear. And to me it means that, what people voted on, it’s very easy for people to interpret it in many ways.”

He said he thought the issue should be put to a vote once again.

“I am going to not support this ordinance because I feel that this is an issue that really needs to go to the people to decide,” he said. “And while I have no intention of exposing myself or those I love to first-, second- or third-hand smoke, I also am very sensitive to the personal responsibility issue.”

In the end, Hunter was the only vote against the amendment. Assembly Member Pete Esquiro had agreed with Hunter during earlier meetings, but he voted yes, without offering any other comment.

Fairbanks Will Help Fund New Mental Health Drop In Center

Thu, 2014-04-10 17:28

The City of Fairbanks will help fund a new mental health drop in center. Earlier this week, the city council approved $58,000 for the Northern Door Clubhouse.

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