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Alaska and Yukon Headlines

Alaska Native artist Joel Isaak uses fish skins to communicate emotion, culture

Mon, 2014-04-14 20:47
Alaska Native artist Joel Isaak uses fish skins to communicate emotion, culture Joel Isaak's love for working with live materials comes from a desire to pursue the historical materials and processes used by his Athabascan ancestors. But Isaak credits the European part of his heritage for the realization of art’s power to express emotion and to communicate.April 14, 2014

Photos: Skin deep -- art from fish skin

Mon, 2014-04-14 20:43
Photos: Skin deep -- art from fish skin

Artist Joel Isaak finds inspiration for his fish skin designs in his Alaska Native and European heritage.

April 14, 2014

Legislature approves abortion measure, while critics say it's headed for court

Mon, 2014-04-14 20:30
Legislature approves abortion measure, while critics say it's headed for court A bill to define "medically necessary" abortions funded through Medicaid is on its way to the governor's desk. Critics said it is also on its way to a constitutional court challenge.April 14, 2014

House panel trims proposed in-state refinery subsidies to $150 million

Mon, 2014-04-14 20:18
House panel trims proposed in-state refinery subsidies to $150 million A scaled-down plan to assist three in-state refineries in North Pole, Valdez and Kenai faces a vote in the state House this week. It could cost the state $150 million over the next five years, but it might not be enough, some legislators warned. April 14, 2014

Lawmakers should end Alaska courts' experiment in public shaming

Mon, 2014-04-14 20:14
Lawmakers should end Alaska courts' experiment in public shaming OPINION: The rationalization for keeping dismissed criminal charges public is the very reason they need to be kept confidential: Too many people are not willing to believe that someone charged with a crime can be innocent. But hundreds of people are acquitted or have their cases dismissed each year.April 14, 2014

Wells' acquaintance says gun kept in safe was stolen, never found

Mon, 2014-04-14 20:02
Wells' acquaintance says gun kept in safe was stolen, never found Testimony Monday in the trial of James Wells -- accused of double murder on a Kodiak Coast Guard base in April 2012 -- centered on Wells' possible movements on the day of the murder and a gun that went missing from a safe years before.April 14, 2014

Finland: Turku utilities to trade coal for biofuel

Mon, 2014-04-14 18:49
Finland: Turku utilities to trade coal for biofuel Wood chips gathered within a 90-mile radius of a wood-chip power plant will provide most of the fuel for the produced heat and electricity, the utility says.. April 14, 2014

Inmate Found Dead At Eagle River Women’s Jail

Mon, 2014-04-14 18:36

A 24-year-old inmate at a women’s prison has been found dead in her cell.

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The Alaska Bureau of Investigations Major Crimes Unit announced today that the inmate was found dead last Thursday in her cell at Hiland Mountain Correctional Center in Eagle River.

Correctional officers found Amanda Kernak unresponsive during a routine security check at 1:35 a.m.

Authorities say no foul play is suspected, and the State Medical Examiner’s Office took custody of the body.

A Department of Corrections spokeswoman says Alaska State Troopers are investigating Kernak’s death.

John Luther Adams Wins Pulitzer For ‘Become Ocean’

Mon, 2014-04-14 18:36

Former Fairbanks resident John Luther Adams has won a Pulitzer Prize for his composition “Become Ocean.”

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Adams’ work has long been inspired by the natural world he’s experienced, and the Pulitzer committee was attracted to the real-world feel of “Become Ocean,” which was informed by the waters off the coast of Alaska and the Pacific Northwest.

The committee said the composition is a “haunting orchestral work that suggests a relentless tidal surge, evoking thoughts of melting polar ice and rising sea levels.” The piece was commissioned by the Seattle Symphony, which debuted the work in June.

The 7.5 Million Obamacare Number Only Part Of The Story

Mon, 2014-04-14 18:36

Want to know how many people have signed up for private insurance under Obamacare? Like the law itself, the answer is exceedingly complicated. The administration is tracking the number of plans purchased on healthcare.gov and on the state exchanges. But the federal government isn’t counting the number of people buying plans directly from insurance carriers.

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When insurance broker Joshua Weinstein wanted to sign someone up for health insurance this year, he asked one key question – would they qualify for a federal subsidy? If the client didn’t, he steered them away from healthcare.gov:

“If you can avoid that whole level of bureaucracy and get a good plan, not necessarily at a good price, but at the same price and they’re not subsidy eligible, we’re going off the marketplace,” Weinstein said.

One of those clients is Oliver Korshin, a doctor who lives in Anchorage. Weinstein and Korshin worked together to enroll Korshin’s wife Rachel in a new health plan. They didn’t qualify for a subsidy so they went directly to Premera Alaska, says Korshin.

“The actual enrolling wasn’t difficult at all,” Korshin said.

Weinstein, their broker, estimates about 15 percent of his clients are signing up for insurance outside the exchanges. He says enrolling directly is easier because insurers don’t have to deal with the financial information required on healthcare.gov.

“It’s basically gathering demographic information, name, address, phone number, social security number, which plan do you want, sign up for how you want to pay your bill, monthly via statement or auto-draft and sign and off you go,” Weinstein said.

Weinstein does counsel people who are close to qualifying for a subsidy, to sign up on healthcare.gov, in case their income fluctuates during the year.

Alaska’s two main insurers report 1/5th of their customers bought plans directly from them. But these customers aren’t being counted by the Obama administration.

“That’s the big mystery,” Larry Levitt, an insurance expert with the Kaiser Family Foundation, said.

Levitt says there’s a lot of focus on the 7.5 million people who signed up through the 14 state exchanges or healthcare.gov. But he says the off-exchange number is just as essential to gauge how well the law is working:

“Oh I think it’s quite important,” Levitt said. “I think it’s probably the case that there are more people insured in the individual market off the exchange than on the exchange right now.”

In fact, a new survey from the RAND Corporation estimates 7.8 million people nationwide bought health insurance this year directly from a carrier.

Museum Experts Sift Through The Arctic’s Second Largest Butterfly Collection

Mon, 2014-04-14 18:36

This collection of Lepidoptera will be catalogued at the Museum of the North before most of it gets transferred to the Smithsonian. (Photo by Emily Schwing, KUAC – Fairbanks)

It will be a few months before butterflies flit through the air in Interior Alaska, but the Museum of the North at the University of Alaska Fairbanks was recently filled with them.

The museum is working to catalogue the second-largest collection of Arctic butterflies and moths in the world. It’s the largest private collection of its kind. Eventually most of the specimens will be passed on to the Smithsonian.

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Derek Sikes shows off parts of one of the world’s largets butterfly collections. (Photo by Emily Schwing, KUAC – Fairbanks)

The faint scent of moth balls hangs in the air in a back hallway at the Museum of the North.  In fact the smell was so strong a few weeks ago, some employees left work early. Halfway down the hall, there’s a small, locked lab.

“So, we’re in a small room packed, every surface and most of the floor space is covered with the drawers of Kenelm Philip’s butterfly collection,” Derek Sikes, the Curator of Insects at the Museum, said.

He usually works on arthropods – hard bodied bugs like beetles and spiders, but lately he’s found himself literally surrounded by stacks of wooden boxes filled with more delicate and graceful Lepidoptera, better known as moths and butterflies.

The specimens came from Kenelm Philip, one of the first scientists to start collecting butterflies and moths in the Far North back in the 1960’s.

“Almost nothing was known about butterflies in Alaska,” Sikes said.  “Butterflies are a very high profile group.  They’re like the birds of the insect world. So, imagine coming to Alaska and nobody knowing anything about the birds.”

Butterflies from all over the world are part of Kenelm Philip’s collection. (Photo by Emily Schwing, KUAC – Fairbanks)

But Kenelm Philip didn’t just catch butterflies. Sikes calls him a ‘scientific Renaissance Man.’

“In addition to loving classical music, he had his PhD from Yale in radio astronomy,” Sikes said. “He also published on fractals, he published on microscopes, so he was into the mechanics of microscopy and he also wrote a computer program, a mapping program.”

Philip passed away in March, leaving behind one of the largest collections of Arctic Lepidoptera in the world. He kept his specimens in a fire-proof lab he built next to a house filled with microscopes, old computers and piles of field notes, not to mention an endless supply of moth balls – an adventure for someone like Derek Sikes, who was charged with transporting the entire collection to the Museum.

“We were just sifting through piles and piles of papers and we would come across weird surprises, like underneath a pile of papers, there’s a jar of cyanide or a bullet, so it’s an interesting problem to work on,” he said.

There are at least 83,000 butterfly and moth specimens, but Sikes says they haven’t been counted since the 1980’s. “We don’t really know how many he added to the collection since then.  So, there’s more than 83,000.”

Arctic blues are perfectly lined out in one of the drawers Kenelm Philip put together. (Photo by Emily Schwing, KUAC – Fairbanks)

The diverse array of Arctic butterflies and moths are joined by more exotic specimens from faraway places like Ethiopia and the Philippines. There are some specimens that haven’t been lined up and pinned under glass.  But those that are, are nearly perfect. “You can see here, the arrangement of these drawers is artistic.” Sikes pulls out a drawer filled with rows of small, iridescent blue butterflies.

“These are blues, a delicate group of the smallest bodied butterflies,” he said, describing the insects inside. “Of course the blues have this very metallic and gorgeous color.”

Their heads and antennae are aligned perfectly.  Their wings are spread wide.  Underneath a glass cover, they float permanently over little squares of paper, covered in fine handwriting.  Each tag notes where and when the butterfly was collected. Some come from Murphy Dome north of Fairbanks. Others come from Philip’s favorite spot on Eagle Summit, 120 miles away. There’s also a row from Inuvik in Canada’s Northwest Territory.

“He would align species by their color patterns and geographically so that if there was a change from a northern, to southern part of the range, you’d be able to detect it in the specimens.”

This collection holds answers about differences in geography and sex.  A collection that spans as many years may also answer questions about the effects of climate change over time.  Sikes says there is plenty that may come from the collection.

“I’m sure there’s treasures we have yet to uncover,” Sikes said.

Before he passed away, Kenelm Philip negotiated to transfer 90 percent of his collection to the Smithsonian Institution.  The Museum of the North will house the rest.  Sikes and colleagues will work through the summer to catalogue and photograph everything with funding assistance from the National Park Service and the National Science Foundation.

HB23 Would Allow Public Financing Of KABATA

Mon, 2014-04-14 18:36

With a 16-4 vote on Saturday, the state Senate approved House Bill 23, allowing public financing of the Knik Arm Crossing. The approval moves the $892 million project forward by updating the project’s financial model. The bill allows funding for the bridge to come from three public entities: one third from bonds, one third from National Highway System funds, and the final third from federal loans.

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YK Delta Residents Speak On Possible King Salmon Fishery Closure

Mon, 2014-04-14 18:36

Facing the possibility of a total closure of the King salmon fishery this summer and new dip-net openings, people from the Yukon Kuskokwim Delta are speaking up on all sides of the issue.

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Jeff King Wins Kobuk 440

Mon, 2014-04-14 18:36

Jeff King is the winner in this year’s Kobuk 440. King crossed the finish line at 12:12 am Sunday morning, followed by Tony Browning and Hugh Neff.

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Jeff King arrives at the finish line of the Kobuk 400. (Kobuk 440 Photo)

Seventeen mushers left Kotzebue on Thursday at 12:30 in the afternoon, taking a trail to Norvik, Selawik, Ambler, Shungnak and then turning around at Kobuk to head back.

K440 board President Liz Moore says the trail conditions were generally good, although there was low or no snow in some areas and icy conditions caused some sleds to tip over when the wind picked up. She says there were 8 rookie teams this year.

“This year a lot of the rookies that came out are trying to get mileage to qualify for the Iditarod race,” Moore said. “A lot of those qualifying races earlier in the season were canceled due to lack of snow.”

The Kobuk440 is the final Iditarod qualifying race of the season.

The race course is completely off the road system.

Alaska News Nightly: April 14, 2014

Mon, 2014-04-14 18:01

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 alaskapublic.org and on Twitter @aprn.

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Inmate Found Dead At Eagle River Women’s Jail

The Associated Press

A 24-year-old inmate at a women’s prison has been found dead in her cell.

The Alaska Bureau of Investigations Major Crimes Unit announced today that the inmate was found dead last Thursday in her cell at Hiland Mountain Correctional Center in Eagle River.

Correctional officers found Amanda Kernak unresponsive during a routine security check at 1:35 a.m.

Authorities say no foul play is suspected, and the State Medical Examiner’s Office took custody of the body.

A Department of Corrections spokeswoman says Alaska State Troopers are investigating Kernak’s death.

Legislature Passes Bill Limiting Medicaid Payments For Abortion

Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN – Juneau

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

House Passes Minimum Wage Bill, As Initiative Sponsors Cry Foul

Alexandra Gutierrez, APRN – Juneau

As initiative sponsors 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.

NTSB Advances Investigation Into Fatal Training Flight Crash

Ben Matheson, KYUK – Bethel

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

John Luther Adams Wins Pulitzer For ‘Become Ocean’

The Associated PRess

Former Fairbanks resident John Luther Adams has won a Pulitzer Prize for his composition “Become Ocean”

Adams’ work has long been inspired by the natural world he’s experienced, and the Pulitzer committee was attracted to the real-world feel of “Become Ocean,” which was informed by the waters off the coast of Alaska and the Pacific Northwest.

The committee said the composition is a “haunting orchestral work that suggests a relentless tidal surge, evoking thoughts of melting polar ice and rising sea levels.” The piece was commissioned by the Seattle Symphony, which debuted the work in June.

How Many People Have Signed Up Insurance Under Obamacare?

Annie Feidt, APRN – Anchorage

Want to know how many people have signed up for private insurance under Obamacare? Like the law itself, the answer is exceedingly complicated. The administration is tracking the number of plans purchased on healthcare.gov and on the state exchanges. But the federal government isn’t counting the number of people buying plans directly from insurance carriers.

Museum Experts Sift Through The Arctic’s Largest Butterfly Collection

Emily Schwing, KUAC – Fairbanks

It will be a few months before butterflies flit through the air in Interior Alaska, but the Museum of the North at the University of Alaska Fairbanks was recently filled with them. The museum is working to catalogue the second-largest collection of Arctic butterflies and moths in the world. It’s the largest private collection of its kind.  Eventually most of the specimens will be passed on to the Smithsonian.

HB23 Would Allow Public Financing Of KABATA

Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage

With a 16-4 vote on Saturday, the state Senate approved House Bill 23, allowing public financing of the Knik Arm Crossing. The approval moves the $892 million project forward by updating the project’s financial model. The bill allows funding for the bridge to come from three public entities:  one third from bonds, one third from National Highway System funds, and the final third from federal loans.

YK Delta Residents Speak On Possible King Salmon Fishery Closure

Charles Enoch, KYUK – Bethel

Facing the possibility of a total closure of the King salmon fishery this summer and new dip-net openings, people from the Yukon Kuskokwim Delta are speaking up on all sides of the issue.

Jeff King Wins Kobuk 440

Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage

Jeff King is the winner in this year’s Kobuk 440.  King crossed the finish line at 12:12 am Sunday morning, followed by Tony Browning and Hugh Neff.

Former West High star blazes fast 800-meter race in Spokane

Mon, 2014-04-14 17:07
Former West High star blazes fast 800-meter race in Spokane The junior sat back in the pack for the first lap before unleashing a killer kick that saw him post a personal-best time of 1:51.17.April 14, 2014

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.