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Southeast Alaska News
PeaceHealth Medical Center in Ketchikan is about to lose its CEO. Patrick Branco has resigned the position he’s held for about 10 years, and is headed south.
According to a news release from PeaceHealth, Branco will stay in Ketchikan through mid-August. After that, he’ll be the CEO of community hospitals for Essentia Health System in Duluth, Minnesota.
In the news release, he says it will be difficult to leave the local hospital, and he cherishes the relationships he’s made through his work.
Branco arrived in Ketchikan in 2002. In addition to his work at the local hospital, he has held state positions, including a seat on the Alaska Health Care Commission.
Branco was not available for comment by deadline Tuesday.
Petersburg’s police department welcomed its newest officer to the force this week. Jim Kerr hails from Kingman, Arizona, a city of over 28-thousand people in the northwestern part of that state. He has nine years of experience in law enforcement with the Mohave County sheriff’s office and the Kingman police department. Joe Viechnicki spoke with Kerr and police captain John Hamilton about his background and first week on the job.
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WASHINGTON — The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention says an outbreak of hepatitis A linked to a frozen berry mix sold at Costco has grown to 87 people with illnesses in eight states.
The frozen berry mix was sold at the Juneau store, up until last week.
The CDC said Tuesday that illnesses have been reported in Arizona, California Colorado, Hawaii, Nevada, New Mexico, Utah and Washington.
BETHEL — A brown bear cub that was recently found near the western Alaska village of Platinum was euthanized because no permanent home was available, a state biologist said.
The young male cub weighed nine pounds when it was found by Jay Bitney, who was in the area for work crushing gravel, according to KYUK (http://is.gd/Xk0zCD).
The cub reportedly was being chased by dogs, so Bitney picked him up to keep him safe. The whereabouts of the cub’s mother are unknown.
KETCHIKAN — A Ketchikan jury has convicted a 30-year-old Metlakatla man of first-degree murder in the death of his 67-year-old aunt.
Prosecutors say William Buxton after an argument stabbed Leona Meely six times and slashed her throat.
The Ketchikan Daily News (http://bit.ly/12jwqZG) reports Buxton did not react Monday when the verdict was read.
A weeklong trial preceded deliberations. Buxton’s mother testified that her son and her sister argued over cigarettes, and then hours later, over a flashlight.
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Race organizers Murray Lawson and Carolyn Heuer discuss plans for this Saturday’s (6-15-13) Medvejie Solstice Run. Due to construction, the half-marathon, 10K, and 5K will all start at Herring Cove. The route will follow Green Lake Road. Preregistration is 4-8 PM Fri Jun 14 at Sitka High, or at 8:15 AM on race day.
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SEDA to ask Assembly to spend $72K on mining survey in Silver Bay. Rep. Young takes smaller Sealaska bill off table to focus on larger selection. Polar explorers prep in Petersburg for Arctic voyage.
ANCHORAGE — A floatplane crashed and flipped on Willow Lake in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough but the pilot was not injured.
Alaska State Troopers say the crash occurred just after 3:17 p.m. Monday on the lake near Mile 70 Parks Highway. Spokeswoman Megan Peters says troopers are not sure whether the crash occurred upon takeoff or landing.
JUNEAU — The Gulf of Alaska trawl fleet faces new restrictions, as fisheries managers seek to limit the number of chinook salmon it unintentionally takes.
The North Pacific Fishery Management Council passed a policy over the weekend that lowers its cap on bycatch of the fish. It’s expected to take a year and a half before the federal government formally adopts the policy, APRN reported.
The trawl fleet comprises about 50 vessels, fishing for things like cod and rockfish, and bringing their catch to seafood processing plants in communities like Kodiak.
Library Director Linda Lyshol gives an update on fun activities and events planned for June at the Ketchikan Public Library. Library061113
The opinions expressed in commentaries on Raven Radio are those of the author, and are not necessarily shared by the station’s board, staff, or volunteers.
Ryan Wallace is a medical student at the University of Washington who spent six weeks working in Sitka this spring. He urges listeners to check with the Centers for Disease Control for guidelines on the HPV vaccine, which is now recommended for both girls and boys at around 11-12 years of age.
The Human Papillomavirus Vaccine
Hi, my name is Ryan Wallace. I’m a medical student from the University of Washington and I’ve been in Sitka for the past six weeks at SEARHC studying family practice medicine. I’d like to take a few minutes to discuss an issue that has been a recurring theme in the medical community over the past seven years: HPV vaccination. As a future physician I believe that vaccinating all children against HPV, boys and girls, will improve the overall health of our society, reduce the prevalence of cancer, and consequently reduce healthcare costs.
The Human Papillomavirus, or HPV, is a very common virus. It is readily spread through sexual contact and is the most common sexually transmitted infection in the United States. Twenty-seven percent of sexually active men and women have the virus at any given time, though many don’t know it. There are many forms of the virus, over 40 of which can lead to genital infections. HPV is commonly known to cause genital warts but it is also associated with numerous cancers. Each year as a result of HPV infection, there are over 18,000 cases of cancer diagnosed in women, most commonly cervical cancer, and over 8,000 cases of cancer diagnosed in men, most commonly penile and oropharyngeal cancers.
Fortunately, in 2006, a vaccine named Gardasil was recommended for use in girls by the Centers for Disease Control (CDC) to protect against the most common and high-risk forms of HPV. More recently, the CDC expanded their recommendations to include boys as well. The hope was that with widespread vaccination, the prevalence of HPV and consequently the morbidity, mortality and costs associated with HPV infection and its sequelae would be reduced.
Unfortunately, there has been strong resistance to this vaccine and only approximately 35% of girls and less than 1% of boys between 13-17 years of age have been vaccinated. Generally speaking, there are two reasons why people oppose HPV vaccination. First, many Americans are untrusting of vaccinations in general. Much of this distrust originated in a study that alleged an association between a single vaccination (the MMR vaccine) and autism. While the link between autism and vaccination has since been discredited and the study retracted, the general distrust for all vaccinations arising from that flawed study has been perpetuated by numerous celebrities. Most notably Jenny McCarthy, Hugh Hefner, Britney Spears, and Charlie Sheen have all come forward to support the anti-vaccination movement.
Furthermore, political figures, most notably Michelle Bachmann, have brought the safety of vaccinations into question on a national level.
Consequently, there is a real trend in this country to not vaccinate our children, putting our children at increased risk for preventable diseases, as evidenced by the recent Pertussis (whooping cough) outbreak.
The second major reason people oppose HPV vaccination is because it concerns sex in adolescence. Some people say that by vaccinating a child it implies that parents are okay with their children being sexually active. Of course, HPV is a sexually transmitted infection and to protect against it is to acknowledge or admit our children are having sex. This is something that is not easy to do. Not only is it difficult for parents, it may be difficult for healthcare providers to discuss this subject. Similarly, as the incidence of HPV is higher among men who have sex with men, there are some that oppose the vaccine due to attitudes or beliefs regarding homosexuality.
Vaccinating our children against HPV isn’t about condoning sex in teenagers or approving a particular sexual orientation – vaccination is about utilizing an easy tool to decrease cancer and save lives and money. The CDC currently recommends vaccinating all boys and girls against HPV, ideally at 11 or 12 years of age.
I would encourage parents to think about vaccinating their children against HPV if they haven’t done so already. Over 26,000 cases of cancer are potentially preventable. It should be a priority for parents, healthcare professionals, and society as a whole not to miss this opportunity. If you have questions about the HPV vaccine or vaccines in general you can ask your healthcare provider or check out the CDC website.
The opinions expressed in commentaries on Raven Radio are those of the author, and are not necessarily shared by the station’s board, staff, or volunteers.
The North Pacific Fishery Management Council moved forward Monday with what it called a “progressive step” in the issue of preserving the Bering Sea Canyons.
The council heard public testimony that ended with a motion to further research steps to conserve the Bering Sea and its canyons, a motion most advocates for preservation called “kicking the can” forward.
JUNEAU — More than 200 scientists have signed onto a letter asking Congress to enact legislation protecting 1.9 million acres of salmon habitat in this country’s largest national forest.
KODIAK — A new commander is in charge of the Coast Guard cutter Alex Haley.
Cmdr. Stephen White took over during a change-of-command ceremony Friday, the Kodiak Daily Mirror reported.
White previously served as the chief of international planning at the Coast Guard’s Atlantic Area Commend in Portsmouth, Va.
He replaces Cmdr. Kevin Riddle, who is headed to the Joint Advanced Warfighting School at the Joint Forces Staff College in Norfolk, Va., for additional training. He plans to study multinational planning and warfighting.
ANCHORAGE — An aggressive cow moose was fatally shot last week at Denali National Park and Preserve in Alaska, prompting concerns that two calves seen in the area since then could attract bears to the park’s busy entrance, a park biologist said Monday.
A park visitor shot the moose that he said charged at his group, which included two young children. A ranger then fatally shot the wounded animal about 200 yards from the park visitor center. Someone who salvaged the moose said the animal was lactating, National Park Service officials said.
Note: This story has been corrected. Samples taken during possible exploration of Sitka’s mining potential would be tested at an independent lab, not at Avalon’s Fairbanks offices.
The Sitka Economic Development Association, or SEDA, wants to find out if Sitka is a good place to mine for gold.
SEDA is expected to ask the Assembly on Tuesday for more than $72,000 from the Southeast Economic Development Fund. It would use the money to pay for a geologic survey of along eight miles of road from Sawmill Cove to Green Lake.
Avalon Development, based in Fairbanks, would send geologists to Sitka for about a week. They would collect samples for lab analysis. What Avalon learns from those samples would become public after the work is completed.
“We think there might be gold mining or mining available here. We’re not positive. This will take us down that step for us to determine that,” said Garry White, SEDA’s executive director. “At the same time, it’s going to be a barometer to see where people lie to determine if having this type of industry and the benefits that come with it is acceptable to the community or not.”
At SEDA’s economic forum back in April, attendees voted on mining as one of the top ways to improve Sitka’s economy. White says if the development comes to pass, there are potential benefits for the community.
“The two mines in Juneau pay $2.7 million in property tax to that community,” White said. “That helps our schools, that helps us as a community overall — a lot of really high paying jobs. That’s kind of the mission of SEDA, to bring family wage jobs and investment to town, and we’re kind of investigating it.”
Not everyone is so sure it’s a good idea.
“I don’t know if this is the best use of the city’s economic development fund,” said Andrew Thoms, executive director of the Sitka Conservation Society. “There’s a long history of mining claims in Silver Bay that have been dubious in the past. Historically, they’re known as being scams.”
Gold mining had its heyday in Sitka starting in about the 1870s. But as the 20th century approached, the industry faltered. In one case, a mine manager sent out prospectors to find new mines to feed the Sitka mill. One of those prospectors was named Joseph Juneau and, as his last name might suggest, instead of bringing business back to Sitka, he put a different Alaska city on the map.
Meanwhile, back in Sitka, developers were claiming high-value veins of gold, but they were basing those claims on samples purposely loaded with valuable ore. A report drawn up by Avalon in April 2012 documents the historical infamy — and malfeasance — of Sitka’s early prospectors. But it also says while there’s no guarantee Sitka will hold significant deposits, there’s nothing ruling it out either, and that it’s worth a look.
Thoms says the Sitka Conservation Society has concerns about the environmental impact of mining, but mostly, he’s skeptical the city needs to be involved at all.
“If anyone was really interested in mineral potential at Silver Bay, that company would pay for the exploration themselves,” he said. “Why should the city be paying for mineral exploration? The free market will find that with the high prices for gold and ore. They’d figure that out pretty quickly.”
Which is the next question: If there is gold to be mined here, why hasn’t someone done so already? The Avalon study from 2012 blames a number of factors, including regulatory, environmental and political fights in the 1980s and 1990s that turned the industry off to Southeast Alaska.
The report also says SEDA should measure local support or opposition toward gold mining before proceeding with exploration. White says there’s plenty of time to take the region’s temperature.
“The average time before someone starts to where we’re starting today, to operating a mine, is well over 15 years,” he said. “We have to take a step somewhere. This is the first step.”
Avalon and SEDA present the plan to the Sitka Assembly at a 5 p.m. work session on Tuesday night. That’s followed at 6 p.m. by the regular meeting, where its request for funding will be heard. Raven Radio will provide live coverage of the meeting, beginning at 6 p.m.
A group of scientists is calling on Congress to increase protection for 77 streams on Southeast Alaska’s Tongass National Forest. The effort is called “Tongass 77” and recommends more restrictive land-use designations on nearly two million acres of productive watersheds. A panel representing the scientists held a teleconference on Monday
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The coalition of scientists is seeking what’s called a land use designation two, or LUD-II, the most restrictive category on the Tongass besides a wilderness designation, for the 77 fish streams.
“Our interest in the land use designation two, which was established in 1990 under the Tongass Timber Reform Act, is to allow a variety of uses but particularly to protect these very important salmon producing watersheds from roads and clear-cut logging that have potentially very long-term impacts on salmon,” explained John Schoen , science advisor emeritus with Audubon Alaska, explained. “So we envision this protection not as a very strict wilderness designation but a broader designation that really focuses on the conservation of fish and wildlife.”
Audobon Alaska, Trout Unlimited, and 230 individual scientists sent a letter to Congress seeking the change in land use. Jack Williams, senior scientist with Trout Unlimited, said the streams needed more than the 100-foot buffer strips allowed under existing federal management rules. “With the existing rainfall, steep slopes that a lot of these drainages have and experience, the hundred feet just isn’t adequate to really protect these streams, especially if we have timber harvest, road building, those kinds of things, Williams said. “So it’s really this watershed scale to protect these best remaining areas, it just does make the most sense.”
The coalition of scientists identified 77 streams as the most valuable unprotected watersheds on the forest. They argued that salmon should be the top priority for managing Tongass lands.
Heather Hardcastle, a gillnetter who works for Trout Unlimited, said Southeast Alaska and the Tongass had been the most lucrative salmon region in the state for the past two years. She said the health of salmon streams was an important part of that success. “We still have the opportunity in this region to safeguard those breadbaskets, if you will, or those nurseries for our salmon,” Hardcastle said. “And its been a real honor in the last three years to reach out to commercial fishermen like my family and begin to recognize that there really is a concern out there among all of us that we need to shore up this habitat.”
The group said the watersheds face threats from logging, road building, mining, climate change, hydro electric development and proposed land exchanges and they hope the proposal will be picked up and supported by members of Congress.
Wayne Owen, the director of wildlife, fisheries and watersheds for the Forest Service in Alaska, said the Tongass National Forest is currently reviewing its land management plan. He said the agency welcomes the interest and will take the Tongass 77 proposal into consideration. “The watersheds are in excellent condition,” Owen said. “We feel as though there are adequate protections for salmon in all those streams. That said, the land use designations for the various watersheds that are the Tongass 77 vary from essentially wilderness now to LUDS (land use designations) that are in active timber management.”
Loss of timber management areas is not a popular idea with timber industry. Owen Graham, executive director of the Alaska Forest Association, calledthe proposal unnecessary and said many of the watersheds listed have no development planned. “There’s buffer strips required on all streams and the Forest Service manages even larger buffer strips than the law requires on many of the streams,” Graham said. “Salmon populations have more than doubled since we started logging here 50-60 years ago so it’s totally unnecessary. What we really need to focus on is restoring a timber supply and timber jobs.”
One member of Alaska’s Congressional delegation has little interest in the Tongass 77 proposal. Congressmen Don Young called it a fundraising tool and said it is “hardly legitimate public policy with any chance of seeing the light of day in Congress while I’m here.”
Meanwhile, Alaska Senator Mark Begich said he’s looking at the proposal and how it fits with another bill to convey some Tongass lands to the Sealaska Regional Native Corporation. “You know this one their point is a good point is you wanna preserve some of these areas, these watersheds for long-term benefit to our fisheries and to the habitat that’s in that region,” Begich said. “So we’re looking at it, we haven’t made any decisions on it but we’re now looking at it as we now know Sealaska is moving forward. They’ve done a lot of work. We’re talking to them about, is it 77, is it 25, is it 92? I don’t know exactly how they got to that number. I know they thought those were the watersheds they thought were most at risk and should be protected. So we’re now talking about how does this fit in with the Sealaska and what does that do to your numbers?”
The 77 watersheds are scattered around Southeast, from Yakutat to the southern end of Prince of Wales Island.
(Rosemarie Alexander at KTOO in Juneau contributed to this report)
The year-long building process for Petersburg’s new library is finally coming to a close, and the building looks to be ready to open on September 3rd. Robbie Feinberg stopped by the site to get an update on the project from onsite construction administrator Dan LaForce.
LaForce says construction of the building is on time and should be completed within the next few months. Currently, the exterior is finished. Windows have been installed. Bathroom tiles and many of the electrical wires have been added, and the crew has almost finished painting many of the walls. LaForce says says the $3.9 million construction project is actually under budget, with only a few change orders required.
As of now, LaForce says that there’s still a substantial amount of work left on the project. He estimates that about 90 percent of the painting inside the library is finished, but work is still left. And he syas the contracting crew still needs to install much of the electrical wiring for the building, and many of the lights and ceiling tiles need to be added, as well. In addition, the crew will also be adding the floor coverings, shelves and cabinets in the near future. But even with that work ahead, LaForce is confident that construction will be finished in time for the library’s September 3rd opening.
A Ketchikan jury found 30-year-old William Buxton guilty of first-degree murder Monday morning, less than two hours after resuming deliberations following a break over the weekend.
The jury had spent about five hours deliberating on Friday following closing statements from the prosecution and defense. They didn’t reach a unanimous decision by close of day Friday, so the judge sent them home for the weekend, with orders to not talk about the trial with anyone.
They gathered back in the jury room at about 9 a.m. Monday, and within about 90 minutes, were able to reach a verdict.
After it was announced that the jury was done deliberating, it took a little while for the judge, attorneys and defendant to gather in court. Once they all were there, the jury was brought in, and the foreperson handed over the verdict form.
Superior Court Judge Trevor Stephens then read the verdict aloud: “In the case captioned State of Alaska versus William Buxton, we the jury find the defendant William Buxton guilty of the offense of murder in the first degree as charged in the indictment, dated today and signed by the foreperson.”
Buxton was charged with first-degree murder for the death his aunt, Leona Meely, who was killed when an early morning argument over cigarettes escalated into a brutal killing. District Attorney Steve West said that Buxton stabbed Meely multiple times in the torso, slit her throat and finally stabbed her in the neck.
The defense didn’t argue with any of those claims. Instead, attorney Sam McQuerry asked the jury to consider Buxton’s state of mind, and whether he could have intended to kill his aunt.
Several witnesses testified that immediately after the killing, Buxton talked about shadows only he could see, said he was one of the four horsemen, and that he was concerned about a “globe” in the hallway.
The defense was not claiming insanity, however, which was made clear to the jury in its written instructions.
After the jury was excused from duty, Stephens ordered a presentence investigation and report, which is standard practice for felony convictions. He set a sentencing hearing for 9 a.m. Sept. 6th in Ketchikan Superior Court.
Stephens also lifted an order prohibiting Buxton from contacting his mother, who had been a key witness in the trial.
KRBD’s news intern, Marco Torres, contributed to this report.