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Alaska and Yukon Headlines

Alaska Supreme Court Weighs Labor Law Referendum

Thu, 2014-01-09 18:09

The Supreme Court is now weighing whether to allow a voter referendum that would repeal Anchorage’s controversial labor law.

Attorneys on both sides of the issue made their cases before the justices on Wednesday.

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Union supporters rally in protest of AO37 outside an Assembly meeting in February. Photo by Daysha Eaton, KSKA – Anchorage.

About two dozen people sat in the audience while attorneys for the Municipality of Anchorage and Labor supporters argued before five Supreme Court Justices.

Attorney Michael Gatti argued for the city that the referendum should not go ahead. He said the labor law is inherently administrative in character not legislative, something the municipality has argued from the beginning, and therefore should not go before voters.

“We believe that this is not a matter that is subject to direct democracy an not subject to the referenda,” Gatti said.

The referendum allows voters to decide whether the labor ordinance, also known as AO-37, should be reversed. The Assembly passed the law last March despite protests. The ordinance takes away municipal workers right to strike and restricts collective bargaining rights. It would affect more than 2,000 city employees.

Related: Anchorage Labor Law Headed For Alaska Supreme Court

Attorney Susan Orlansky who represented labor supporters argued the referendum should proceed.

“What’s really going on here is that this ordinance in it’s entirely makes new law that fundamentally shifts the balance of power between labor and management in Anchorage,” Orlansky said. “And that’s what we’re asking the public to vote on.”

The overarching question, Orlansky says, is: does Anchorage want management to have more power and labor less?

Andy Holleman who is President of the Anchorage Education Association and one of the people who brought the case to court says it’s a simple decision that voters are equipped to make.

Municipal Attorney Dennis Wheeler and Anchorage Assembly Attorney Julie Tucker discuss the Mayor’s veto power with Assembly Chair Ernie Hall as Assembly member Dick Traini rushes back to his seat in Assembly Chambers at Loussac Library Tuesday.

“What we’re doing is reversing the Assembly’s action on a given night,” Hollemans aid. “This puts it back like it was and the city can come forward again with different aspects that they think matter.”

“And hopefully they can do it in the right way with real input from everybody in advance this time.”

Anchorage Municipal Attorney Dennis Wheeler disagrees and says if the Supreme Court allows the Referendum to go ahead and it passes it could undermine the power of the city’s legislative body and spur more litigation and referenda around labor issues.

“You know we already have a lot of give an take in our labor negotiations. We have arbitrations over what the contracts mean. We have grievances over what the contracts mean. We have nine different unions to deal with. We have budgetary issues every year,” Wheeler said. “So yeah, I was always worried that this would open a flood gate.”

A flood gate that would be hard to close, he says.

The Deputy Clerk for the Municipality requested the judges have a decision by late February so that she would have time to prepare ballots for elections slated for April.

AO37 Stories:

Copper Basin 300 Field Shapes Up

Thu, 2014-01-09 18:08

The Copper Basin 300 appears to have another loaded race field with big name veterans and a lot of rookies starting Saturday. This year, forty-five mushers from Alaska and five different countries will compete in the qualifier for the Yukon Quest and the Iditarod.

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Joining Antarctica’s Exclusive 300 Club

Thu, 2014-01-09 18:07

It’s no secret that Alaskan winters are cold. This year, the “polar vortex” has brought frigid temperatures into the Lower 48 as well.

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There’s one group of people who can freely scoff at everyone who bundles up for a mere 30-below, however. One of them lives in Talkeetna.

Alaskans are no strangers to testing themselves against the cold.  From frigid runs in bunny boots from a sauna to large events like the Polar Plunge, residents of the 49th state often test their bodies against major temperature swings.

As it turns out, there is an elite group that takes the prize when it comes to enduring massive changes in temperature, however, Antarctica’s 300 Club. Talkeetna resident Kris Perry explains how it works.

“Basically, every time it would get below -100, we would fire up the sauna,” Perry said. “You had to get the sauna up to 200 degrees, then sit in the sauna and get good and hot – which isn’t hard in a 200 degree sauna – and then you would go out and go to the geographic Pole and come back.”

There’s one other catch, too.

“You’re typically doing it naked, too,” Perry said. “Shoes are OK, because you don’t want to frostbite your feet.”

Kris Perry recently told The Atlantic about the 300 Club, and says that he did not know the full history of the exclusive group until he read the article himself. He says that the tradition started as early as the 1950s, when those staying in Antarctica were largely members of the military. They supposedly built a hot box in order to warm up as much as possible before making the trek to the ceremonial South Pole. As research stations with saunas were built, it allowed members of the unofficial club to reach higher and higher temperatures before trekking out into the 100-below chill.

Kris Perry says that he first joined the 300 Club in the Antarctic winter of 2002.  He says his motivation for wanting to subject his body to a 300 degree temperature difference was fairly simple.

“There’s the history.  You hear about it when you’re wintering,” Perry said. “Not every winter-over wants to do it, but there’s definitely enough of us who are like, “Oh yeah, you’ve gotta do the 300 Club,” because how many people on this planet can say they’ve ever done that?”

That first night, Kris Perry was not content to make the trek just once, however. Since he worked in the weather station, he knew exactly what the outside temperature was, and it simply got too warm on his first two attempts. Finally, on the third attempt, Kris thinks the temperature took a dive all the way down to 101-below.

“So I went out, got back, ran in the office, and everything was all good.  Every time when I was coming in I was looking, and every body hair was just totally frosted over. Think how the hoarfrost looks on the trees.  Every hair on my body was like that, and I’m like, “Man, that is so cool.  I’ve got to get someone to take a picture of this!”

So, he rounded up someone from the bar and made the walk for a fourth time, then posed next to a snowman. That was still not Kris Perry’s last 300 Club walk of the night, however.

“Then it got to be about five in the morning, when the earlier risers were getting up,” Perry said. “Some couple wanted to go out, and the temperature was good again.  I’m just one of those crazy people like, ‘I’ll go do it with you!’”

One-hundred degrees below zero is seriously cold.  It doesn’t take exposed skin long to succumb to frostbite, and the cold can literally freeze your lungs after awhile.  The walk totals a few hundred yards, and is done at 9,300 feet elevation.  The time it takes to make the frosty trek varies, but is generally just a few minutes. Even so, Kris Perry says proper technique is important to avoid injury to…sensitive areas.

“Some people were always in a hurry.  They were trying to run the thing, which is crazy, because you would start sucking in that air.  You’d hear them for the next day or two coughing, then they’d get over it,” Perry said. “I just always walked fast.  I didn’t run.  I walked, where I didn’t have to breathe heavy.  I’d keep one hand over my mouth and one hand over ‘the boys,’ and I’d be fine.”

Kris Perry says that his spot in the 300 Club is special to him.  Not everyone who stays the winter at the bottom of the world is willing to undertake the challenge, and some years it simply does not get cold enough for those who do want to make the attempt.

While he freely admits that its, “a little crazy,” he also says it’s an important rite of passage for the complete Antarctic experience.

Alaska News Nightly: January 9, 2014

Thu, 2014-01-09 18:05

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 and on Twitter @aprn.

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Wal-Mart, State Officials Discuss Alaska Salmon

Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN – Juneau

For months, Wal-Mart and state officials have gone back and forth on whether Alaska salmon should be sold in their stores. The dispute is over a tiny blue sustainability label from the Marine Stewardship Council, which Wal-Mart requires for their seafood. A trip by Wal-Mart executives to Juneau has left state officials optimistic for a resolution.

Army Corp Of Engineers Finalizes Deep-Water Port Recommendations

Zachariah Hughes, KNOM – Nome

As the U.S. Army Corp of Engineers finalizes details of its deep-water port recommendations the agency is anticipating continued heavy development in Northern and Western Alaska. The plan expects not only increased vessel traffic in the Bering Straits region, but offshore drilling in the Chukchi Sea and graphite production at a fledgling mining claim on the Seward Peninsula.

Senate Debates Emergency Unemployment Policy Extension

Liz Ruskin, APRN – Washington DC

The U.S. Senate has been debating all week whether to extend emergency unemployment compensation for the long-term unemployed. Some 6,500 Alaskans were receiving the extended benefits before Congress let the program expire Dec. 28.

Parnell Names Folger Public Safety Commissioner

The Associated Press

Governor Sean Parnell has appointed a new Public Safety commissioner.

Meeting On Wood Stove, Boiler Pollution Draws Big Crowd

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

There continues to be concern in Fairbanks about proposed state regulations aimed at reducing fine particulate pollution from wood stoves and boilers. The latest in a series of public meetings on the proposals, a hearing and open house this week, drew big turn outs.

Alaska Supreme Court Weighs Labor Law Referendum

Daysha Eaton, KSKA – Juneau

The Supreme Court is now weighing whether to allow a voter referendum that would repeal Anchorage’s controversial labor law. Attorneys on both sides of the issue made their cases before the justices yesterday.

Copper Basin 300 Field Shapes Up

Tony Gorman, KCHU – Valdez

The Copper Basin 300 appears to have another loaded race field with big name veterans and a lot of rookies starting Saturday.  This year, forty-five mushers from Alaska and five different countries will compete in the qualifier for the Yukon Quest and the Iditarod.

Joining Antarctica’s Exclusive 300 Club

Phillip Manning, KTNA – Talkeetna

It’s no secret that Alaskan winters are cold.  This year, the “polar vortex” has brought frigid temperatures into the Lower 48 as well.  There’s one group of people who can freely scoff at everyone who bundles up for a mere thirty-below, however. One of them lives in Talkeetna.

Former head wildlife trooper named Alaska's top cop

Thu, 2014-01-09 17:22
Former head wildlife trooper named Alaska's top cop Gary Folger, a longtime Alaska State Trooper, has been chosen out of retirement to head up the Department of Public Safety.January 9, 2014

Snowy owls flocking farther south

Thu, 2014-01-09 15:54
Snowy owls flocking farther south The white birds have been flying far beyond their normal wintering range, turning up as far south as Florida.January 9, 2014

Hundreds celebrate memory of Native leader Bernice Joseph

Thu, 2014-01-09 15:37
Hundreds celebrate memory of Native leader Bernice Joseph Hundreds gathered in Fairbanks Thursday morning to honor the memory of Bernice Joseph, a leader in Alaska education who died this week at 49.January 9, 2014

Snow’s woes: ‘We are working really hard on that’

Thu, 2014-01-09 14:47
Snow, snow, snow.

City looking for committee members

Thu, 2014-01-09 14:46
The city is seeking applications from Whitehorse-area residents who would like to serve on two important advisory committees.

Exhibition magnificent in its colour, symbolism

Thu, 2014-01-09 14:45
The 65-panel mural that hangs at Yukon College’s main reception area bears resemblance to the territory itself:

Akutan Volcano's energy potential higher than previously thought

Thu, 2014-01-09 14:32
Akutan Volcano's energy potential higher than previously thought A new study finds that the Southwest Alaska volcano generates about 10 times as much energy than experts thought, sparking new hope for geothermal plans in a nearby village.January 9, 2014

Koltun rink receives warm welcome at airport

Thu, 2014-01-09 14:26
Tears flowed freely as the Yukon’s first Scotties-bound curling rink in 13 years strolled into the Whitehorse airport yesterday afternoon.

Emily Nishikawa wins first distance race at Olympic trials

Thu, 2014-01-09 14:24
Emily Nishikawa didn’t just win the first distance race at Canada’s Olympic cross-country ski trials – she blew away the field.

Yukon Quest unveils sleek new website

Thu, 2014-01-09 14:23
The Yukon Quest 1,000 Mile International Sled Dog Race launched a brand-new website Tuesday.

As AK Beer Week kicks off, locals share favorite brews

Thu, 2014-01-09 14:07
As AK Beer Week kicks off, locals share favorite brews Alaska has a rapidly growing beer culture, with 22 breweries and many who consider themselves beer aficionados. AK Beer Week, which kicks off Friday, celebrates the cold ones that quench our thirsts and the breweries that create them.January 9, 2014

Canada’s PM hails start of Arctic highway

Thu, 2014-01-09 13:49
Canada’s PM hails start of Arctic highway A new 85-mile, two-lane gravel route will extend the Dempster Highway to Tuktoyaktuk, making it Canada's first highway to the Arctic Ocean. January 9, 2014

Aspiring Arctic actors, policymakers should learn from traditional conflict avoidance

Thu, 2014-01-09 13:24
Aspiring Arctic actors, policymakers should learn from traditional conflict avoidance OPINION: Alaska's Iñupiat people have a fundamental cultural element that all Arctic policymakers and prospective regional actors should start taking into account: Paaqlaktautaiññiq.January 9, 2014

High PSP Levels Close Southeast Alaska Geoduck Clam Fishery

Thu, 2014-01-09 12:59

Southeast Alaska’s geoduck clam dive fishery did not open this week because high levels of Paralytic Shellfish Poisoning were found.

Geoduck Clam siphon showing on the sea floor. Photo by Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

Clams from eight fishing areas were sampled, and Fish and Game assistant Management Biologist Justin Brease says they all turned up positive.

“Looks like they tested eight areas for a potential opening, and all of those areas failed the PSP test, so therefore we didn’t have any areas left that we could open, so we didn’t have any openings for geoducks this week,” Brease said.

Brease says PSP testing frequently finds positive test results in the Southeast clams.  Often several areas will test positive. This time, all of them did.

“It isn’t necessarily all that unusual that they have positive results at all. In fact it’s not uncommon for there to be high results everywhere,” Brease said. “We’re kind of at the northern end of the range for geoduck clams and we typically have higher PSP levels than, say, down in Washington.”

The Southeast Alaska Region Dive Fisheries Association will go out and take more samples this weekend for a potential opening on Jan. 16.

The geoduck clam market is depressed right now because its biggest customer is China, which barred imports of West Coast geoducks last month claiming bad PSP and arsenic results that both Alaska and Washington State authorities said they had found no sign of.

Still, Washington closed a fishery area just in case and this week Alaska is unable to open any areas.

Dena’Ina Way of Living, at the Anchorage Museum

Thu, 2014-01-09 12:20

Hurry, you can still make it to Dena’Ina Way of Living with its preserved artifacts and dioramic recreations. Not to worry, the exhibition catalog will be available after the show closes; it’s a good read in cold dark January. Fact: more art aficionados read the book than see live work. Catalogs usually contain more information than what is chosen for museum walls.

Dena’inaq’ Huch’ulyeshi, the Dena’Ina Way of Living illustrates how a population lived thousands of years ago without electricity, running water and modern medicine; be humbled by those who came before. Ethnically Athabascan, the Dena’Ina, have been in the Cook Inlet region and its tributaries for millennia. The cultural focus of this show and catalog begins when Euro-American explorers arrived in the mid-to late eighteenth century and continues to the present.

While I was writing this essay, my daughter Jenn texted me from the Brooklyn Museum. She and her family went back East visiting siblings for New Year’s. Granddaughter Averyl is a fifth generation visitor. My mother was a Brooklyn artist; her father Irving practiced medicine from their Carlton Avenue home. Looking at the same paintings that relatives from a bygone era also contemplated is one way to experience a family’s culture. Today it is very common not to live where your ancestors did. Relocating means appreciating new cultures as my husband Dave and I did when moving to Alaska over forty years ago.

Going to my K Street office, I drive past Nordstrom, absorbed in whether I need more ink for the copier. I am oblivious to the Dena’Ina who once walked right under my tire treads as I think about dinner– is last night’s rice and chicken enough leftovers for two?

In the museum’s exhibition a Native male/mannequin harpoons a Beluga whale from an inverted tree trunk ingeniously stuck into mud flats. The message is clear, creativity is not a modern concept. Sure, the name Dena’Ina is on the new convention center and conferences often have Native dancers beating drums while waving fans—show over, everyone goes home.

What does it mean to look at glass-enclosed artifacts that were once someone’s utility item, most likely for survival? How does an artifact become an art piece? New York’s MoMA devotes an entire wing to twentieth century chairs and toasters. I am always amused when I see a piece of Pyrex or an early computer becoming the focal point for a lecturing docent.

Dena’Inaq’ Huch’ulyeshi begins with a diorama of a present day fish camp. Two adult women are wading in shallow water as they cut salmon on a makeshift table. One of the ladies wears a Helly Hansen parka. The other is wearing wraparound sunglasses. Nearby a small boy watches a catch basin of recently caught fish. He is wearing an ‘Alaska Grown’ sweatshirt. Even if museum goers have never experienced life in a fish camp, they can relate to these mannequins who are wearing clothing that can be purchased locally. Identifying with an art piece is one way to empathize with the message about preserving subsistence.

Europeans brought smallpox which reduced the Dena’Ina population, thus fewer Natives to sew clothing. When America bought Alaska in 1867, traders arrived with fabric bolts and readymade clothing. Missionaries encouraged western dress. Native lifestyles were affected by intruders, as was clothing. Tunics now sported collars or were abandoned for Western shirts and vests.

In the exhibition, a looping video of traditional Native dishes projects onto a dining table. Visitors pause to look down onto contemporary place settings as if becoming part of this virtual meal. Aboriginal fare of beaver, moose and berries are passed around by virtual contemporary Natives (only their hands are visible). This DVD and the fish camp diorama demonstrate how ancient customs are kept alive.

How do you relate to nineteenth century mittens or arrows in glass cases, no longer used as once intended? Boring, you say, as you give objects a cursory glance, thinking about that nice cup of tea you intend to sip after you breeze by the whittled wooden spoons and caribou hide tunics with the matching knee-high footwear. You are not alone; many visitors typically don’t feel connected. That’s because they don’t possess a narrative about the viewed artifacts. Hey, if museum goers can find a story in Lautrec’s café scenes or in Monet’s water lilies, they can construct one from Dena’Ina artifacts.

Summer Gloves with Strap, Tyonek (1883.)

Fire Bag for Powder and Lead (1883).

For example: here’s a pair of summer gloves, 1883, made from caribou. They are decorated with glass beads and dentalium shells, often a mark of wealth and indication of a trading culture. The gloves are attached to an embroidered string, similar to mittens sold today for infants. Unless our museum goers bought gloves to wear to a gala, chances are they bought winter gloves at, say, LL Bean. They can also afford to lose them too, they aren’t precious.

And visitors probably don’t care if the gloves are decorated. In fact, modern day machine washing would destroy beads and shells. Now look carefully at the care that went into making and maintaining the Dena’Ina gloves, their detail and design quality. Ancient cultures couldn’t run to a store or shop online for replacements. Without handmade outerwear, the Dena’Ina would have perished, which is why they highly valued and coveted their gear.

Here is a matching beaded fire bag with a velvet strap, 1883. Imagine the ego this hunter displayed wearing such flash, perhaps along with the gloves. Velvet for making the bag’s shoulder strap was acquired through trade. Recreational and subsistence hunters today might snicker at what would now be considered a feminine satchel, back then it was status—culture evolves.

Stone Lamp found at Fish Creek near Knik.

Here’s a stone lamp found around Fish Creek near Knik. The carving is delicate; there appears to be a figure, maybe a god, in the center. Did everyone have lamps? Probably not. As Heidegger commented, the meaning goes when the artwork leaves the temple, relocating to a museum. The spirituality of this piece may be lost to present day viewers but that doesn’t mean the onlooker can’t imagine, appreciating the lamp as both an artifact and a present day art form.

When approaching Anchorage International by air at night, lights from Girdwood to Wasilla appear on the horizon. Imagine the darkness these Dena’Ina endured thousands of years ago and how much appreciation came from a stone lamp.

Arrows for Sea Otter. Fort Kenai (1883).

Arrows, 1883, reside in an exhibition case like pencils in a desk drawer. While some tools are made from stone or bone, these have metal points. Were these projectiles made locally or was the metal traded? Someone had foresight to see that adding serrations to the blade anchored the material into the wooden shaft. Feathers had been attached to the other end of the arrows with sinew. Did these Dena’Ina know that feathers were needed for aerodynamics? How many animals suffered at the expense of misfires? Did hunters succumb to friendly fire? Was the shaman the only medical aid or psychological comfort?

Shaman Doll (1850-1900)

Here is a shaman doll, 1850-1900, many were destroyed by Russian Orthodox clergy who sensed a competitive spirituality. Can viewers differentiate between a religious icon and a child’s toy?

Ground Squirrel Parka Susitna River (1898-1899).

It took many ground squirrels to make this parka, 1898-1899. This garment is not unlike Western clothing styles made after the 1920s. Except for the tailored sleeves, the piece hangs without any cinching to the waistline. Was it itchy to the skin? Was it washable? What if the person gained weight? Was there a thrift shop, of sorts, for unwanted clothing? In the late eighteen hundreds, Dena’Ina seamstresses began selling their work to tourists and seamen as art works, thus bypassing original functionality.

When does an art piece become an artifact or vice-versa? Is it the monetary value that settles the score or is it established institutions that make the call after they’ve scarfed up the loot? For centuries art philosophers have tried to separate form from content. In the late twentieth century content, not necessarily the intent of the original work, got superimposed on unsuspecting forms by self-declared critics. In the end artifacts need a narrative to enliven form which loses sensuality when stuffed in a box away from its origin and intent. One has only to observe animal abstractions found on utility items from past civilizations to realize narration has been a human necessity.

If a story isn’t offered, make one up and share it over afternoon tea and a crumpet with a friend. If you miss Dena’Ina, Way of Living, the catalog is filled with Chris Arend’s photography along with a cultural narration about efforts to preserve the past in the present. Oh, note: readers will learn that a major collection arranged for this show was abruptly pulled and remains in St. Petersburg because of a 2012 Russian government ruling that prevents loans to American institutions.

Dena’Inaq’ Huch’ulyeshi, available on Amazon.

Masterpiece Mystery! Sherlock Series III – The Empty Hearse

Thu, 2014-01-09 11:20

Two years after Sherlock’s “death”, Dr. John Watson has got on with his life. But, with London under threat of a devastating terrorist attack, Sherlock is about to stage his outrageous resurrection. But if he thinks everything will be just as he left it, he’s in for a very big surprise…

  • TV: Sunday, 1/19 at 9:00 PM

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