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Southeast Alaska News
ANCHORAGE — The U.S. Supreme Court has rejected the appeal of a former Alaska state representative convicted of corruption.
The high court in a one-line statement Monday said it would not review the case of Wasilla Republican Vic Kohring, the Anchorage Daily News reported.
The court’s response was filed Thursday in Anchorage.
The appeal was Kohring’s last hope for clearing his name through the court system.
JUNEAU — The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced it is taking the first steps toward restricting or even prohibiting development of a massive gold-and-copper prospect near the headwaters of a premier sockeye salmon fishery in southwest Alaska — though no final decision has been made.
While the rarely used EPA process is underway, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers cannot approve a permit for the proposed Pebble Mine project.
ANCHORAGE — A federal study of Prince William Sound sea otters affected by crude oil spilled from the Exxon Valdez has concluded that the marine mammals have returned to pre-spill numbers a quarter century after the disaster.
Sea otters feed on clams. Crude oil from the spill remained in sediment years after the spill and likely contributed to a delay in sea otter recovery, said lead author and research biologist Brenda Ballachey.
Officials on Government Hill agree that the state’s per-student funding needs to rise.
What they don’t agree on is the amount and how to deliver the increase.
Members of the Senate Education Committee heard testimony on pair of bills Friday — one backed by Republican Gov. Sean Parnell and the other, a Democratic proposal — about how much to increase Alaska’s Base Student Allocation (BSA), the amount the state pays school districts for each student.
ANCHORAGE — The Alaska Zoo plans to upgrade and expand its polar bear exhibit, with work scheduled to begin this summer on the $8 million project.
The expansion will triple the current space, KTUU reported.
The two-phase project includes plans for a transition center for orphaned or injured cubs, a maternity den and new public viewing area.
The first phase will include a cub transition center and the maternity den, according to zoo executive director Pat Lampi.
The Alaska Permanent Fund is bigger than ever, topping $50 billion, the Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation announced Friday.
The gain is largely attributed to a strong 2013 for stock markets. Approximately half the fund is invested in those markets, according to the corporation’s press release.
Vegetarian, vegan, gluten-free, paleo, flexitarian – the range of specialty diets in the United States becomes broader every year. And with the summer tourist season approaching, some restaurant owners took advantage of a presentation at the Ketchikan Visitors Bureau about what these diets are, and ways to cater to customers who follow them.
Kate Cessnun is a registered dietitian at PeaceHealth Ketchikan Medical Center, so she knows more than the average person about all the different diets people follow. She focused her presentation on three of the most common diets, vegetarian, vegan and gluten-free.
She started with the vegetarian diet, which she says includes many variations.
“Different people will call themselves vegetarian, but the diet will vary from person to person,” she said. “Some people will eat fish, but it is a mostly plant-based diet. That’s the key thing to remember – it’s a diet where the focus is on eating less meat and more plants.”
Cessnun said there are many health advantages in following a primarily plant-based diet, because most Americans eat too much protein, anyway, and not enough plants. A term some people use if they are mostly vegetarian but sometimes eat meat is “flexitarian.”
Vegans, though, don’t eat meat, and avoid most if not all animal products, including dairy, eggs and honey. But, like vegetarianism, individual vegan diets can vary.
Cessnun said there are some common processed foods that are vegan.
“Oreos are actually vegan,” she said. “Not that it’s healthy.”
Gluten-free is a more complicated diet to accommodate. Gluten comes from wheat, barley and rye, but it’s found in many processed foods, including standard soy sauce. Some of the people who follow that diet have a proven medical need – celiac disease — and for them, even a trace of gluten could trigger an immune-system response.
“So let’s say you have salad, you put croutons on it and then you took the croutons off, that salad would no longer be gluten-free, because it touched something with gluten in it,” Cessnun explained. “So at the hospital, we have a specific cutting board, a specific knife and a specific toaster for patients that come through who have celiac disease, or gluten-free diets.”
Others who follow the diet, though, don’t have a medical reason, and like vegetarians and vegans, vary in how strictly they follow it.
Cessnun said that because of the variety within each diet, the best practice is to ask for specifics from each customer.
“There’s no way you’re going to be able to accommodate everything,” she said. “I think having a background in it can help with the accommodation process, and figuring out, ‘We might not be able to do all of that, but we can make little adjustments here and there.’”
Some of the adjustments discussed include offering corn tortillas instead of flour for fish tacos, offering a vegetarian taco with beans instead of fish or meat; and serving a crustless cheesecake for a gluten-free dessert.
Cessnun also offered some healthier alternatives for desserts, such as chia-seed pudding made with almond milk; chocolate pudding made with avocado and dates; or just substituting applesauce for some of the refined sugar.
“That could be a marketing tool,” she said. “I don’t know how many tourists are coming up (who want healthy food). Most people are seeing this as vacation, from what they normally eat at home, but for those who are looking for that…”
Joan Walker and Brandie Barry of the Crab Cracker restaurant were among the small group of business owners attending Cessnun’s presentation. Barry said there has been an increase in special diet requests over the years, which is why she wanted to come to the talk.
“I’ve noticed each summer, there are more and more requests for gluten-free, vegetarian and vegan,” she said, adding that she got some good ideas from the presentation.
For recipe ideas, Cessnun recommends searching the Internet, especially vegan food blogs, which often offer gluten-free recipes, as well.
An ordinance creating a Herring Cove Tourism Management Program is on Monday’s Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly meeting agenda.
The program would be paid for through cruise passenger head-tax funds, and would issue permits for tour businesses that take visitors to Herring Cove for fish and bear viewing.
To obtain a permit, tour operators would have to sign off on a list of rules. They include not dropping passengers off, picking them up or directing them to the highway. Any direction, or lack of direction that leads to customers standing on the Herring Cove Bridge would be a violation of the permit.
Permits also would prohibit parking in the public right-of-way, and driving too slowly in the area. That last provision is meant to discourage slow drive-bys for wildlife viewing, which would impede traffic flow.
Herring Cove is a popular tourist destination, but there’s little if any infrastructure there. Visitors often congregate on the busy, narrow bridge, which is part of the highway, in order to get a better view of wildlife in the creek below. The borough has started plans for a pedestrian bridge, but that will take some time.
If approved, the Herring Cove ordinance will need to come back to the Assembly for a public hearing and a second vote.
Monday’s meeting starts at 5:30 p.m. in Borough Assembly chambers at the White Cliff building. Public comment will be heard at the start of the meeting.
Legislation allowing a popular air-ambulance service’s membership program to continue serving Alaskans passed the state Senate today.
Seattle-based Airlift Northwest has offered its AirCare program since 2008. It covers the difference between what medevac flights cost and the amount insurance covers. Those flights can run $100,000 or more, so deductibles or co-pays can be large.
Alaska officials last year decided the program did not meet state standards. It allowed existing AirCare subscribers to keep their memberships until they ran out. But new memberships and renewals were prohibited.
Sitka Republican Senator Bert Stedman sponsored the bill that passed unopposed today.
Senate Bill 159 does not name AirCare, but allows it and similar membership programs to operate in Alaska.
The measure now goes to the state House, where Juneau Republican Representative Cathy Munoz has authored a similar measure. House Bill 300 has had one hearing in its only committee of referral.
The AirCare program has about 3,200 members in Alaska. Most live in Southeast.
Youth Advocates of Sitka are looking for more families to volunteer for their therapeutic foster care program. Executive Director Annette Becker and Program Coordinator Jessica Clarke discuss the details.
A 31-year-old Ketchikan woman faces several misdemeanor charges after allegedly driving off the highway on Wednesday while texting.
Alaska State Troopers report that Jasmine Pattison was southbound on North Tongass Highway, and allegedly used her smartphone to text while she was driving. Troopers say her 2006 Infinity drifted into the oncoming lane and went off the road.
Pattison received some minor injuries. Her 3-year-old daughter, who was a passenger in the vehicle, was not hurt in the accident.
Pattison was cited for negligent driving, failure to wear a safety belt and failure to properly secure her child in a child safety device.
Representative Sam Kito III, replacing Beth Kertulla, was sworn in Wednesday. A vessel sank during an oil spill response drill. A Ketchikan automotive teacher is retiring. There’s a new infusion suite for chemotherapy patients in Ketchickan.
Carmel Anderson’s “Unheard Voices – Unheard Wisdom” sculptural art exhibit will open at the Main Street Gallery on March 7. Anderson and WISH’s Diane Gubatayao talk about the message behind the art.
ANCHORAGE — A grand jury has indicted a man suspected of sexually assaulting a 6-year-old girl at a church in northeast Anchorage.
Prosecutors say the grand jury indicted 29-year-old David Chiklak on one count of felony sexual abuse of a minor.
Chiklak was arrested Jan. 27.
A woman told police she was in a bathroom with a girl at the church and heard someone call the child out. The woman a short time later heard the girl crying in the men’s bathroom.
JUNEAU — A Fairbanks lawmaker has introduced legislation aimed at preventing wrongful convictions and compensating those who are sent to prison but later exonerated.
Democratic Rep. Scott Kawasaki says he wants the guilty to be imprisoned and for innocent people to be protected. He says in cases where people are wrongly imprisoned, they deserve some sort of compensation.
The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports one of the bills would require police departments to follow certain procedures in setting up lineups.
ANCHORAGE — An Alaska Air National Guard helicopter crew has rescued three snowmobilers who got stranded in the Talkeetna Mountains.
KTUU-TV reports that Alaska State Troopers were unable to rescue the trio Tuesday night due to darkness.
Guard spokesman Sgt. Edward Eagerton says a Pave Hawk helicopter hoisted the three and flew them to Talkeetna, where they were released to troopers. They declined any medical treatment.
JUNEAU — Funding that would allow the state to move toward taking over certain environmental permitting from the federal government was cut by a House subcommittee on Thursday.
The Legislature last year approved allowing the state to evaluate the benefits, costs and consequences of taking the lead role from the Army Corps of Engineers in the dredge-and-fill permitting program. Those permits seek to regulate the discharge of materials dredged from waters or materials placed in waters.
The Alaska House finance committee narrowly advanced an abortion-funding bill Thursday, setting up a battle on the House floor.
If a majority of Representatives approve the measure, it would bar the state from spending public dollars on any abortion that is not medically necessary or the result of rape or incest.
“Previously Medicaid has been paying for abortions that are not medically necessary, and that’s not appropriate,” said Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux, R-Anchorage.
Does Alaska want its taxes and fees paid in cash or natural gas — that is one of the questions facing lawmakers as they mull the intricate details of the proposed Alaska LNG project.
In a volatile energy market, if the state takes gas while holding an ownership stake, the financial risk goes down in the long run, analysts told lawmakers Thursday.
“In-kind participation actually protects the state in price risk better than in value,” Janak Mayer, a partner at consulting firm enalytica, said at a Senate Finance committee meeting.
ANCHORAGE — The state of Alaska has filed a petition to remove some North Pacific humpback whales from protections granted under the federal Endangered Species Act, saying the whales are thriving and no longer need them.
The petition filed Wednesday with the National Marine Fisheries Service aims to delist humpbacks that feed in Alaska in the summer and breed in Hawaii in winter, the Anchorage Daily News reported.