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Alaska and Yukon Headlines

Female inmate found dead in her room at Hiland Mountain Correctional Center

Mon, 2014-04-14 15:30
Female inmate found dead in her room at Hiland Mountain Correctional Center Amanda Kernak, 24, died in her room at the Hiland Correctional Center early Thursday morning, Alaska State Troopers reported Monday.April 14, 2014

Sima report released as chairlift closes for the season

Mon, 2014-04-14 14:03
A report on grant funds used for the Mount Sima recreational facility over a two-year period detected weaknesses in accounting practices, but there was no wrongdoing in how the funds were used.

‘This is a sad and difficult time’

Mon, 2014-04-14 14:02
An employee of Home Hardware died Friday after suffering a workplace injury Thursday morning.

Stacked apartment-style units set for site

Mon, 2014-04-14 13:58
The gavel is down on the future of a disputed Falcon Ridge condominium property.

Two of Canada’s northern airlines plan merger

Mon, 2014-04-14 13:32
Two of Canada’s northern airlines plan merger The Inuit corporations that own Canadian North and First Air say a merger would improve the airlines' service to far-north communities..April 14, 2014

NTSB Advances Investigation Into Fatal Training Flight Crash

Mon, 2014-04-14 13:11

Wreckage of the Cessna 208. (Photo courtesy Alaska State Troopers)

The National Transportation Safety Board has finished its on-scene investigation into the crash that killed two Hageland Aviation pilots Tuesday.

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Derrick Cedars, of Bethe,l and Greggory McGee, from Anchorage, died in Tuesday’s crash.

The Cessna 208 went down in a willow patch near Three Step Mountain, 30 miles southeast of Bethel. A post-crash fire destroyed the airplane and burned nearby bushes.

Investigators are releasing few details beyond that.

“The wreckage unfortunately was what we would refer to as very fragmented, and obviously there was a post crash fire, so a lot of the components coming out there will be in smaller pieces,” Clint Johnson, the Chief of the Alaska Regional Office of the National Transportation Safety Board, said. ”So they’re going to be slingloading the parts and pieces in its entirety back to Bethel.”

The wreckage will then be flown to Anchorage within the next week.

“They will do a wreckage lay out and be able to go though each one of those components with a fine tooth comb,” Johnson said. “We’ll be able to document each and every piece of the wreckage that comes back.”

The investigator in charge, Chris Shaver, documented the aircraft and what troopers call a “large debris field.” Back in Bethel, he conducted interviews with Hageland as well as family and friends of the pilots. A Cessna investigator also visited the crash scene, and State Troopers Thursday brought back the pilots’ remains. A team from Pratt & Whitney, the engine manufacturer, will inspect the engine once it’s transported to Anchorage.

There was also what’s known as a Transportation Disaster Assistance Investigator in town Friday to help the families and co-workers of the pilots who were killed. The crash occurred just before 4 p.m. in clear and calm weather as the two pilots conducted a training flight. NTSB officials say they don’t know who was flying at the time.

“There were obviously two qualified pilots at the controls, each one of the of them had controls, that’s going to be a little bit tough to determine for absolutely sure,” Johnson said. “Again, with details like that, once Chris gets back and we start taking a look at the wreckage, we might be able to determine that, but right now, that’s pretty much an unknown.”

The report from the NTSB is expected soon.

‘Erin’s Law’ Passes Alaska Senate

Mon, 2014-04-14 13:07

Photo courtesy Erin Merryn.

The Alaska Senate unanimously passed Erin’s Law this morning.  The law  provides age-appropriate sexual abuse education to children in public schools.

Erin’s Law would educate children in public schools to speak up if something inappropriate happens. It also trains teachers and trusted adults to recognize signs that a child is being abused.

RELATED: Legislature Weighs ‘Erin’s Law’

Republican Senator Lesil McGuire brought forth a Senate bill identical to the House version first sponsored by Democratic Representative Garan Tarr. McGuire testified that Erin’s Law was the first step toward eliminating sexual abuse of children in Alaska.

“We lead the nation. This is one of those places where I hope a decade from now that we’ll be not leading the nation that we will completely flip the statistics. And I think this is gonna be a big part of it, Mr. President, is asking that our schools put age appropriate education about good touch, bad touch, good secrets, bad secrets,” McGuire said.

Sponsors expect that training would reach more than 90 percent of Alaska’s youth who attend public schools and the adults who spend a lot of time with them.

Erin’s Law, named after 29-year-old Erin Merryn  from Illinois, who was sexually abused as a child and has made it her goal to pass the law in all 50 states.

The law includes two-year delay for implementation. Governor Sean Parnell supports Erin’s Law.

The House version sits in the Finance Committee. The law has been passed in 12 states and is pending in 25 others.

POW, Metlakatla Schools Awarded Tech Grants

Mon, 2014-04-14 13:03

Hydaburg and Annette Island school districts were among three Alaska Native groups that received advanced telecommunications technology grants through the U.S. Department of Agriculture-Rural Development office.

Hydaburg School District was awarded $500,000 to purchase video conference equipment for distance learning and training, in cooperation with the University of Alaska Southeast. According to USDA, the equipment will serve schools in the Hydaburg, Southeast Island and Craig districts.

The equipment also will be used for staff professional development, virtual field trips, education for all community members and to connect Alaska Native students with other Native American students in the U.S.

Annette Island School District was awarded about $400,000 for video conferencing to connect Metlakatla students with other rural Native students.

The third recipient was the Council of Athabascan Tribal Governments, which received about $260,000 for video conferencing equipment to rural clinics. The equipment will allow face-to-face medical consultation.

Sitka Tribe Names New General Manager

Mon, 2014-04-14 12:46

The Sitka Tribe of Alaska has hired a new general manager. Lawrence SpottedBird, currently of Washington State, will start work on Monday.

STA’s previous manager, Ted Wright, resigned in October, after about two years on the job. Tribal Attorney Allen Bell has been serving as the interim manager since then.

Speaking with KCAW on Thursday, SpottedBird, a member of the Kiowa Tribe of Oklahoma, said he has spent the last 34 years working with tribes and Native American entrepreneurs on business and economic development. He currently runs a consulting firm, SpottedBird Development.

Lawrence SpottedBird will take over as general manager of STA on Monday, April 14. (Photo by the Sitka Tribe of Alaska)

“I consult with primarily tribes and Native American individuals in business development, with a focus on federal contracting development, looking for opportunities in contracting with the U.S. federal government,” SpottedBird said. “A lot of tribal governments and Native American entrepreneurs are taking advantage of the many incentive programs in the federal government and developing contracting enterprises to do so.”

SpottedBird has also spent time in Southeast Alaska: from 1999 to 2000 he served as general manager of Shaan Seet, the village Native corporation in Craig, on Prince of Wales Island.

Tribal Council Chairman Michael Baines said SpottedBird’s background in economic development is exactly what the Sitka Tribe needs. One key priority for STA in coming years will be finding new sources of revenue, Baines said.

SpottedBird agreed.

“Getting a solid footing financially and budgetarily is very important,” he said. “So I will be focusing on looking at ways to address the budget and financial situation that any tribe – or any government really – faces around the country.”

Baines said the Council received about sixteen applications for the position, and flew in three finalists for interviews. All of the finalists came from outside of Sitka.

SpottedBird will be formally introduced to the Tribal Council and public at 6 p.m. next Wednesday, April 16, at the Sheet’ka Kwaan Na Kahidi, immediately before the council’s regular meeting.

Grey Cup fever sweeps Yukon capital

Mon, 2014-04-14 12:43
Saskatchewan Roughriders linebacker Mike McCullough gained a new appreciation for the Yukon during his whirlwind tour through Whitehorse with the Grey Cup this weekend.

Legislature Votes To Create Dr. Walter Soboleff Day In Alaska

Mon, 2014-04-14 12:43

Walter Soboleff passed away in 2011 at the age of 102. (Sealaska Photo)

The Alaska Legislature has finalized work on a bill that would name November 14th as Walter Soboleff Day in Alaska. He was a revered Tligit elder and religious leader.

Senator Fred Dyson from Eagle River carried House Bill 217 on the floor of the Senate and spoke eloquently about his friendship with Soboleff.

“Here’s a man who lived with dignity. He had a tremendous impact on individuals wherever he went. He was a magnificent example for all of us.”

Walter Soboleff was a well-known Tligik language translator and scholar and he was the first Native Alaskan to be ordained as a Presbyterian minister. The members of the Alaska Senate voted unanimously Saturday afternoon in favor of House Bill 217, which passed the House in late March. The bill now goes to the desk of Governor Sean Parnell for his signature.

Yukon claims fifth at broomball nationals

Mon, 2014-04-14 12:40
After struggling to score goals throughout the Canadian Senior Broomball Championship,

Fewer students in Kenai school district, but they're doing well

Mon, 2014-04-14 12:29
Fewer students in Kenai school district, but they're doing well Kenai students are performing well on state tests, and Kenai Peninsula Borough School District Superintendent Steve Atwater said reading proficiency scores are about 10 percent above those of students elsewhere in Alaska -- with science scores about 15 percent higher.April 14, 2014

Pair makes 2-week human-powered trek from Aniak to Dillingham

Mon, 2014-04-14 12:25
Pair makes 2-week human-powered trek from Aniak to Dillingham Anchorage's Luc Mehl and Derek Collins, of Jackson Hole, Wyo., made the 250-mile trek on skates, skis and foot, experiencing extremes ranging from no snow to a full-blown March storm.April 14, 2014

In My Family: How are you?

Mon, 2014-04-14 11:39

Dewey Hoffman teaches Raven how to say, HOW ARE YOU? in the Denakk’e – Koyukon Athabascan language.

A Trip to the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center

Mon, 2014-04-14 10:10

Photo by Doug Lindstrand.

Click for the full audio story:

Today we’re visiting the Alaska Wildlife Conservation Center. When driving along Turnagain Arm, you might miss the modest sign for the AWCC near Portage Creek. But if you do manage to find your way into the wildlife center, you’ll find some interesting animals with equally fascinating stories.

“Everybody comes in with a special or unique reason. The end goal with as many of them as possible is reintroducing them back to the wild. It’s one of the big areas we differ from the zoo,” Scott Michaelis says.

Michaelis is the Director of Marketing and Sales for the AWCC. He says most of the animals will find their way back to the wild at some point. But not all of them.

“With some of them due to the conditions they’ve come into captivity to us, reintroduction will never be a possibility. Like brown bears for instance, they gain such a high comfort level in captivity with humans that it’s actually been made illegal to reintroduce bears,” Michaelis says.

A lynx, hanging out near the edge of the enclosure.

And that’s fine by the AWCC. After all, two of their brown bears are national celebrities. Their mother was killed in a defense of property shooting.

“The Department of Fish and Game went in and didn’t know that the mother had cubs. And shortly after they found two cubs up in a neighbor’s tree,” Michaelis says.

So one Fish and Game investigator, who happened to be a former gymnast, scaled the tree and carried the bears down to safety. The story went national, and ended up getting the cubs a pair of sponsors.

“They said whatever we have to do to sponsor these bears and bring them into captivity and not put them down we’ll do. And our two adult brown bears, Joe Boxer and Patrón are named after their respective sponsors,” Michaelis says.

The AWCC operates a tour bus that offers a short drive, but some vast viewing.

“It surprises people; a lot of them think we’re just that roadside ranch. But once you actually make the turn in you get into the landscape, and it’s very expansive,” Michaelis says.

This eagle only has one wing.

The center spans more than 200 acres, and is home to some interesting creatures. There’s an eagle with an amputated wing, several black-tailed deer, and more than 200 wood bison.

“We’re currently the only facility in the United States that has any wood bison. The wood bison are the only animal to be taken off the extinction list, so it’s a very unique undertaking,” Michaelis says.

The center also owns some one-of-a-kind real estate.

“This is where the Kenai Peninsula meets the mainland of Alaska; it’s where Turnagain Arm comes inland. We technically own the last five feet of Turnagain Arm property. And we’ll see everything from hooligan and salmon runs to wild beluga whales down here during high tide,” Michaelis says.

And Michaelis touts that as one of the center’s biggest selling points. He says on a daily basis, you can see the captive wildlife interacting with the actual wildlife. Eagles perch the trees, fish swim under the boardwalk and bears will occasionally roam on to the grounds to check out Patrón and Joe Boxer. Michaelis says if that’s not enough to draw you in, the final stop on the tour just might do it. The last enclosure holds a pair of lynx, and they are the fan favorite; probably because they behave more like house cats than wild animals.

“They absolutely love that window in the top of their enclosure. They’ll sun bathe up there in the early morning because it gets good sunlight. Some of the wild birds that are in the area, they’ll keep very close tabs on. Very much like a house cat, they’re very interested in the birds,” Michaelis says.

Algo Nuevo: April 13, 2014

Mon, 2014-04-14 09:51

Here’s the Sunday, April 13, 2014 edition of Algo Nuevo con Dave Luera — Something New with Dave Luera. If you have questions, comments or music requests for host Dave Luera, send email to algonuevo [at] alaskapublic [dot] org or post your comment at the bottom of this post. All tracks played are listed below in the following format:

  • Song Title
  • Artist Name
  • Album Title
  • CD Label
  • Duration



Shape Shifter







EMI Latin



Aguita De Melon

Abel Lucero

Los 15 Grandes 2013

El Baile Grande



You’re Still a Young Man

Jay Perez

All the Way, Live

Tejas Records



No Puedo Estar Sin Ti/All You Ever Do is Bring Me Down

Lorenzo Antonio

Los 15 Grandes 2013

El Baile Grande



Manana Que Me Vaya

Latin Breed


Tejas Records



Mi Inspiracion

Patsy Torres

Mi Inspiracion

World Class Records


La Mucura

The Pete Dominguez Orchestra






Los Lonely Boys

Los Lonely Boys

Or Music



Mar Y Arena

Ana Gabriel

Canciones De Amor

Sony Music



El Chupa cabra Cumbia

Jake Y Grupo Firme

Sabor De Las Vegas Nuevo Mexico

The Music Album




Mariachi Paisano Del Valle

Las Chispas

Sena Music



Mil Amores


Tejano Old School Vol. 1




Diferencieas Sociales

Johnniel Y La Raza

Tejano Old School Vol. 1




Cerca De Mi

Samuel D

Cowboy Cumbia

Samuel D Productions



Sexy Cumbia

Texas Latino

Un Nuevo Camino

New Village Records



Steve Jordan Tribute

Tejano Sound Band

Cierra Los Ojos

Cuni 52 Music



Al Pie De Un Crucifico

Preston Garza

Yo Soy Chicano




Dime Que Me Quieres

Gary Hobbs

Dime Que Me Quieres










Si Tu Te Vas






Reyes Ruiz

Daniel Lee Gallegos

Sabor De Las Vegas, Nuevo Mexico

The Music Album



El Viejon

Los Tucnaes De Tijuana

Lo Mejor





Tanya Griego





El Chlifado

Texas Latino


EMI Latin



La Guadalupana

Miguel Timoteo

Los 15 Grandes 2013

El Baile Grande



Fui Sonador

Grupo Quemoso

El Regreso

Q Zone



Senorita Tequila



Steve Chavez Studios



En El Amor

Ram Herrera

En El Amor




Don Luis El Tejano

Latin Breed

Juan Manuel Barco – Mis Canciones




Flor De Entrana

Al Muniz

Llego El Buen Amigo

AM Latin




Laura Canales

Juan Manuel Barco – Mis Canciones




Ando Brindando

Jerry Lopez

Mis Raices

CR Records



Un Dia A La Vez

Bryan Olivas




AK Beat: Anchorage municipal election proposition fails by 14 votes

Mon, 2014-04-14 07:32
AK Beat: Anchorage municipal election proposition fails by 14 votes After counting the final 30 ballots from the April 1 Anchorage municipal election, the final tally shows proposition 3 -- which included money to renovate the aging Z.J. Loussac Public Library -- failing by a narrow margin.April 14, 2014

House Passes Minimum Wage Bill, As Initiative Sponsors Cry Foul

Sun, 2014-04-13 23:55

House Speaker Mike Chenault stepped down from the dais Sunday, April 13, 2014, to speak out against minimum wage ballot organizer Ed Flanagan’s holding of a dollar symbol sign in committee, and the perception of corruption it could have implied. (Photo by Skip Gray/Gavel Alaska)

As initiative supporters cried dirty tricks, the House narrowly passed a minimum wage bill that has the potential to knock their proposition off the ballot. The night only got more tense when the Speaker of the House fired back on the floor. APRN’s Alexandra Gutierrez reports.

The fight over the minimum wage bill got so ugly on Sunday night, legislators joked that they preferred debating abortion.

For about three hours, Democrats who have long advocated for increasing the minimum wage spoke against the bill, while free market Republicans said they had seen the light and believed the minimum wage should be increased as quickly as possible.

More than policy, the conversation focused on motive and trust. Fairbanks Democrat Scott Kawasaki acknowledged he was in an unusual position of voting against a measure he liked, because he believed the intention was to manipulate the upcoming elections. He’s worried that Republicans’ end goal is to keep minimum wage supporters from coming out to vote in August, when a referendum to repeal the new oil tax law is also on the ballot.

“It’s a strange vote, and it’s going to be difficult to justify to my voters,” said Kawasaki. “I simply think this is a disingenuous piece of legislation. I think it was brought into session in the last week of session in order for this to pass, so this issue can be taken off the ballot.”

The minimum wage bill was introduced a little over a week ago, and it was modeled after the initiative. It bumps up the rate over the course of two years, then pegs the wage to inflation.

Because of a sour history regarding the last minimum wage initiative, bill supporters added a number of provisions to make it more appealing to skeptics. In 2002, the Legislature preempted a minimum wage initiative, only to gut it a year later. So this time, bill supporters added a letter of intent saying they wouldn’t touch the policy for two years. They also adopted one amendment to outdo the initiative’s increase, hiking the current minimum wage of $7.75 to $9 in the first year, and then $10 the year after. They adopted another to make the wage go into effect earlier.

Rep. Craig Johnson, an Anchorage Republican, said the package was better than the one voters would see on the ballot.

“We are guaranteeing that the minimum wage will be increased,” said Johnson. “Whether you believe or not we’re going to change it, you’ve got to make that decision on your own. But we can guarantee that the minimum will be higher than the ballot initiative, enacted quicker than the ballot initiative.”

The minimum wage bill ultimately passed 21-19, with nine members of the majority caucus breaking ranks and siding with the minority. Some of those opponents from the majority said they did not like the politics surrounding the bill, while a couple had concerns that increasing the minimum wage could hurt businesses.

The bill has been a priority for House Speaker Mike Chenault. While the Nikiski Republican was one of the legislators who gutted the minimum wage law after passing it, he says he’s “matured” in the decade since and would oppose any effort to weaken the bill that’s currently before the Legislature.

Shortly after the vote, Chenault stepped down from the dais so he could freely comment on one of the initiative sponsors. He suggested that organized labor, which has contributed to the minimum wage initiative, was leaning on legislators inappropriately.

“We will not be coerced, threatened, or strong-armed into any other decision,” says Chenault.

Chenault also pointed legislators to a photograph of Ed Flanagan — a former labor commissioner and lead organizer of the initiative — taken at the bill’s only hearing. In the photograph, Flanagan is holding up a notepad, with a dollar sign scribbled on it.

Chenault said he did not know what Flanagan was trying to communicate, but that flashing a symbol like that at lawmakers was wrong given the Legislature’s history with bribery convictions.

But Flanagan says Chenault is taking things out of context. He says he was trying to get the attention of a legislators to ask why the bill had not gotten a fiscal note. That would have slowed the process down by requiring the bill to get another hearing, instead of just the one that was scheduled.

Flanagan says Chenault approached him after the hearing — something this reporter witnessed at the time — and explained what he was trying to communicate with the notepad. Now, Flanagan thinks Chenault is using the incident to distract from the vote itself.

“I think it’s a smokescreen,” says Flanagan. “He got a 21-19 vote. That’s pretty embarrassing for the Speaker in his majority, and it’s because of the hypocrisy that this vote represents.”

The bill now gets sent to the Senate, where members of leadership have said they are reluctant to take the bill up.

Legislature Passes Bill Limiting Medicaid Payments For Abortion

Sun, 2014-04-13 23:11

The Legislature has narrowly passed a bill that putting limits on state Medicaid payments for abortion.

The bill defines the term “medically necessary,” so it only covers physical harm – not psychological harm. Doctors would need to choose from a list of conditions like epilepsy and sickle cell anemia before the state covers the cost of the procedure.

Advocates for the bill, like Anchorage Republican Gabrielle LeDoux, said the point was to keep the state from paying for elective abortions.

“We’ve got the right to travel, but it doesn’t mean the government buys us a ticket to Paris,” said LeDoux. “We’ve got the right to bear arms, but the government doesn’t buy us a Sturm Ruger.”

Critics of the bill believe it will make it harder for low-income women to have access to abortion. Rep. Geran Tarr, an Anchorage Democrat, also suggested that the bill will not save money, because the law will inevitably end up in court.

“Litigation will cost hundreds of thousands of dollars, just as it has in the past,” said Tarr.

The Department of Health and Social Services introduced similar abortion regulations last year, but a judge put a stay on them after a lawsuit was filed on the grounds that the regulations violate the Equal Protection Clause.

The bill ultimately passed 23-17, splitting mostly on party lines. Republicans Lindsey Holmes of Anchorage, Paul Seaton of Homer, and Alan Austerman of Kodiak broke with their party and voted no.

The bill passed the Senate last year, with a provision establishing a women’s health program. Because the House stripped that program, the bill was sent to Senate for concurrence on Monday morning. The Senate passed the bill 13-7, nearly on the same margins as before. ***Sen. Lyman Hoffman, a Bethel Democrat, changed his vote to no after the family planning language was taken out. Sitka Republican Bert Stedman and Juneau Democrat Dennis Egan also joined a bloc of Anchorage Democrats in voting no.

The bill will now be sent to the governor for his signature.

This story has been updated to reflect the Senate’s concurrence vote.

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