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Southeast Alaska News
ANCHORAGE — Tom Kizzia knew the saga of Papa Pilgrim inside and out.
As the former statewide reporter for the Anchorage Daily News, Kizzia covered the story of Robert Hale, aka Papa Pilgrim. He knew about Hale’s long battle with federal officials over access to his home in a national park and Hale’s frontier, “Little House on the Prairie” lifestyle with his wife and 15 children, living off the land and teaching the Bible.
KODIAK — The Discovery Channel’s three-episode “Alaskan Steel Men” premiered Friday and highlights the welding work of Kodiak-based Quality Marine of Alaska. The show was produced by Lizard Trading Company, a non-fiction TV production company based in California.
FAIRBANKS — A Fairbanks woman has received her brother’s Purple Heart 70 years after his disappearance.
Gladys Terry recalls clearly the day she stood at the train depot in Tacoma, Wash., and said goodbye to her brother, Pfc. James Chester Mohn, the Fairbanks News-Miner reported Sunday.
He was shipping off to Southeast Asia to serve as an Air Force radioman in World War II.
She couldn’t help but feel she would never see him again, and she was right.
KENAI — Nearly five years ago, Margaret Stroup’s brain changed.
The change mirrored the physical damage to her body as she lay under her desk at Central Peninsula Hospital, wounded by two bullets a former hospital employee fired into her at point blank range.
JOINT BASE ELMENDORF-RICHARDSON — A war broke out in the sky above Alaska last week.
Fortunately, everyone was on the same side.
On Friday, Aug. 23, forces from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson and Eielson Air Force Base concluded a two-week international training exercise with Japan, Australia and the Republic of Korea with a mock battle.
About 20 aircraft participated in the final day of Red Flag Alaska, which is conducted each year so crewmembers can gain combat experience.
An initiative to increase Alaska’s minimum wage yearly to keep up with inflation has at least 12,000 signatures, petition sponsor Ed Flanagan said. Flanagan, a former state labor commissioner, is sponsoring the initiative along with Tom Cashen and Jim Sampson. Cashen and Sampson both are also former state labor commissioners.
“In that position you get a lot of windows into workers’ lives,” Flanagan said. “You get a real feel for how folks are doing down at the lower end of the wage spectrum.”
Last updated: 10:50 a.m., 9/3/13
There were no injuries after a fight inside Sitka’s Pioneer Bar over the weekend ended with a gunshot.
The incident happened shortly after 4 p.m. on Sunday. Sitka police Lt. Barry Allen confirms a gun was fired inside the bar.
Witnesses say two men were arguing. They reported hearing what sounded like a gunshot, and then seeing a third man run out the door.
Donald Combs was with friends at the P-Bar when it happened.
“We went and walked outside the back door,” Combs said. “And as soon as we were outside the back door, we were standing there, and we heard a ‘crack!’ The door swung open, pretty close to us, and a red-headed guy ran straight down to the dock, down that ramp there. He had the gun, trying to stuff it in his pants or something, but the gun was in plain sight.”
KCAW News saw police take two men into custody. Their names were not immediately available over the holiday weekend.
Keith Widmyer, age 35, identified himself as the victim in the incident. He told KCAW he had been arguing with one of the men arrested. He said he was using the restroom when one of the other men walked in.
“I didn’t look over my shoulder. I’m going to now, forever,” Widmyer said. “He came through the door and tried to punch me. I just happened to catch it out of the corner of my eye. Caught his arm, threw him on the floor.”
Widmyer says he was cornered in the bathroom and the man pulled out a gun.
“When he pulled out the gun, I didn’t waste too much time,” Widmyer said. “I jumped over his head like a rabbit and was scrambling out the door. I made it right out here to the parking lot, and then I heard the gun go off.”
Widmyer says the man handed off the gun to someone else who removed it from the bar. Widmyer appeared uninjured, except for some cuts and scrapes on his face.
Crime is down in Ketchikan. Or, at least, criminal cases are down, according to Ketchikan Superior Court Judge Trevor Stephens, who was the main speaker at this week’s Greater Ketchikan Chamber of Commerce lunch.
Judge Stephens started off with a description of the Alaska court system, and then a rundown on Southeast Alaska’s courts. For the region, there are judges only in Juneau, Ketchikan and Sitka. Smaller communities have magistrates for day-to-day operations, and then judges from the “Big Three” travel to those towns to take care of big issues.
Of those smaller communities, “Craig is by far the busiest court outside of the big three,” he said. “I think it handles more cases than Wrangell and Petersburg put together, or a comparable number. It’s an extremely busy court and it’s one of the locations that has a full-time magistrate judge.”
Stephens also noted some interesting statistics. He said that criminal cases in Ketchikan spiked in 2002, with 2,019 cases filed. As of last year, that number dropped about 50 percent.
For this year, “at this point, looking at what number we’re at now, and it’s almost the end of the eighth month, I don’t think we’re going to make 1,000 cases this year,” he said. “That’s good news for the community that there’s been a substation reduction – I can’t say in crime… but it’s indicative of a reduction in crime.”
Civil cases, though, are up about 30 percent, Stephens guessed that increase is related primarily to more domestic relations cases.
He also noted that mental health commitment cases are increasing. Stephens says it’s fortunate that the Ketchikan Medical Center offers mental health evaluations, and Gateway Center for Human Services under Akeela has on-call clinicians who respond when needed.
“I’m hopeful that the next step that we’ll take in this community is to develop, build a treatment facility so that when somebody is subject to a 30-day order, they’re not sent on a plane to Juneau, to Bartlett, which is the nearest such facility, or to API (in Anchorage) if Bartlett’s not available,” he said.
Another trend Stephens noted is a change in the type of drug cases seen in the courts. A few years ago, it was marijuana, Oxycontin and cocaine. Now, he said, it’s marijuana and heroin.
Looking toward the future, Stephens said that very soon, the court system will use electronic filing for all cases.
“Southeast Alaska, has taken a first step in this direction,” he said. “In 2011, the Alaska Supreme Court gave the option to … presiding judges issuing an order that allows for e-filing. We’re the only district that’s done it. We’ve been doing it since November of last year.”
Stephens also spent some time talking about jury duty.
“The first thing I want to say is, the local folks have no control over who gets called in for jury service,” he said, as the audience laughed.
Jury duty is a topic of interest to most Alaskans, because with the state’s small population, citizens are called often to serve. On top of that, the smaller a community’s population, the longer the term of service. In Ketchikan, trial jurors serve for one month. But on Prince of Wales Island, they serve a three-month stint.
Stephens said he’s part of a statewide committee to look at improving jury service. One topic will be the best way to notify jurors if there is a trial. Now, jurors must call a telephone number and listen to a message. He said that could change to notification by email or through a website.
Stephens is the presiding judge for the First Judicial District. Before he was appointed to the bench, he worked as a private lawyer and was Ketchikan’s district attorney.
Nicholas Galanin is a musician, carver, film maker, sculpter, impressario, record label founder, cordwainer and much more. He chose ten songs he would like to have on a deserted island if stranded, perhaps forever. We talked with Nicholas, aka Silver Jackson, about his art, his life and the music he selected. Here is the program, his list of songs and the recipe for his favorite dessert. We’ve also included images of a couple of his works.
Nicholas’s Ten Songs (click to listen on Spotify if you have an account.)
Link to Nicholos’s Favorite Dessert:
JUNEAU — Gov. Sean Parnell has declared an economic disaster for residents living on St. Lawrence Island in the Bering Sea.
Parnell said he made the declaration because of a historically low walrus harvest, which is causing a significant economic challenge to the residents of Gambell and Savoonga.
Parnell said only 340 walrus were taken during the spring harvest, or 36 percent of the average for the last 10 years.
FAIRBANKS — The Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly is still looking for ways to improve door-to-door bus service for disabled riders.
The service known as Van Tran started in 1985 and subsidizes door-to-door rides for eligible disabled passengers. The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports that it also runs at a higher cost than similar services offered by comparable municipalities in and out of Alaska.
KETCHIKAN — Every day a small gathering waits for the doors to the Ketchikan Recreation Center to open at 5 a.m. These early risers will complete their morning workout while the blue of the sky lightens and the town sleeps on.
JUNEAU — Scientists reported increased activity at one of Alaska’s largest volcanoes on Friday, but geologist Chris Waythomas said it was unrelated to the earthquake that shook the Aleutian Islands that morning.
Waythomas said the increased seismicity at the Veniaminof Volcano, on the Alaska Peninsula, started before the magnitude 7.0 earthquake struck, and the two are too far apart.
ANCHORAGE — Dozens of noticeable aftershocks above magnitude 4.0 are expected in the remote Aleutian Island region off Alaska in the days and weeks following a major 7.0 earthquake, the Alaska state seismologist said Saturday.
A dozen measurable aftershocks have already hit the region since Friday’s quake, including one reaching 6.1 in strength, said seismologist Michael West. There have been more than 30 aftershocks measuring at least magnitude 2.5.
HONOLULU — The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration has launched a review of whether it should take North Pacific humpback whales off the endangered species list.
NOAA Fisheries is responding to a petition filed by a group of Hawaii fishermen saying the whale should no longer be classified as endangered because its population has steadily grown since the international community banned commercial whaling nearly 50 years ago.
There are more than 21,000 humpback whales in the North Pacific, compared with about 1,400 in the mid-1960s.
Some of Juneau’s finest produce, jams and baked goods lured more than 800 people to the annual Juneau Local Food Festival Saturday. The festival is held each year on the last Saturday in August at the Juneau Arts and Culture Center. JACC Executive Direct Nancy DeCherney said the event was a success.
“The vendors seemed pretty happy,” DeCherney said. “One guy said he’d done about twice as much business as he’d done in previous years and one vendor I know sold out.”
Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell has filed an appeal to the director of the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service over that agency’s rejection of a state application to do winter seismic exploration in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, a state spokeswoman said Aug. 22.
The government has 30 days to respond to Parnell’s request for reconsideration, said Elizabeth Bluemink, spokesperson for the state Department of Natural Resources, the agency that would conduct the state-sponsored seismic work.
If Alaska legalizes marijuana, the Department of Justice now has a few rules the state will need to follow and enforce. In a Thursday memo, Deputy Attorney General James Cole outlined eight enforcement priorities that aim to keep pot from being grown on federal property, sold on the black market or used by kids.
President Obama said Saturday that he’ll seek Congressional approval before authorizing a strike in Syria, and urged Congressional leaders to support action against the regime of President Bashar al-Assad. How, when, and even whether the United States would respond to an alleged chemical attack against civilians has been a question in the last several days.
What’s happening over there? View NPR’s Syria coverage.
NPR also maintains a blog called The Two-Way, where it posts breaking news. Whenever we have special coverage from NPR on air, you can count on The Two-Way to be rolling with it as well. Even when we’re not live with NPR, the Two-Way updates regularly throughout each day with the latest news, and links back to relevant NPR (and other) coverage.
BBC News also assembled a special report. The British Parliament last week rejected the notion of UK military intervention in Syria.
And here’s Syria coverage from PRI’s “The World,” which airs on Raven Radio weekdays at noon.