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Alaska and Yukon Headlines
The Chugach and Tongass National Forests have released two new posters in their series, More Than a Place to Visit—It’s Where We Live. The new 16×32 inch posters are available for free at your local Forest Service office.
The posters depict the link between bears, salmon, forests and streams, visually exploring the cycle of life that bear and salmon represent, and underscoring the importance of forests to animal and human communities.
Alaska’s first forest reserve, the Afognak Forest and Fish Culture Reserve, was established in 1892 expressly for the conservation of salmon. Today, five species of salmon thrive in the rivers of Alaska’s national forests: the king, coho, sockeye, pink, and chum.
More than 100 million salmon are caught each year on the Chugach and Tongass National Forests. As salmon become plentiful, bears become more active. Respecting and living alongside bears is a fact of life for Alaskans.
The posters blend photography, art, and words to evoke the spirit and the beauty of these wonderful public lands. Rich in symbolism and representation, the powerful design of these posters encourages viewers to explore and respect the wild lands and inhabitants of Alaska’s national forests.
The Chugach and Tongass are the two largest national forests in the nation. Together, they encompass more than 22 million acres and provide a backyard experience for nearly two-thirds of Alaskans. From Anchorage to Juneau, Ketchikan to Cordova, Prince of Wales to Prince William Sound, Alaskans in 43 different communities recreate, make a living, and meet the subsistence needs of their families in and around Alaska’s national forests.
The Anchorage Police Department has released exclusive photographs of a public memorial service for the teenaged victims of a suspected drunk driver.August 20, 2013
The Tetlin Junction Ridge Fire has become an Internet sensation after Division of Forestry aerial fire spotters captured rare video of a massive fire tornado vaulting skyward.August 20, 2013
The state of Alaska wants oil prices high.
“Every dollar change in price is close to 100 -150 million dollars in state revenue,” said acting Revenue Commissioner Angela Rodell. “Short term volatility like you’ve been seeing in the past few weeks, given things going on around the world, create a lot of distractions.”
The recent coup in Egypt gets all the headlines is not the reason for the jump, said Frank Verrastro. Verrastro, a senior vice president at the Center for Strategic and International Studies, said fears over control of the Suez Canal are legitimate.
Other conflicts, he said, are having more tangible effects.
“The Iraq Ceyhan Pipeline has been down, and that’s reduced exports out of Iraq. There’s been problems down in Basra,” he said by phone Monday from Washington. ”Syria, Yemen, Nigeria, and the fact that Libyan production is down 600,000 – 700,000 barrels a day.”
All this means that Alaska has little control over a global commodity. High oil prices translate to higher fuel costs, especially in hard to reach rural Alaska.
Throughout western Alaska, villagers are ordering and stockpiling hundreds of gallons of heating oil for the winter.
Bob Cox, vice president with Crowley Maritime Corporation – the company that barges refined oil products to western Alaska, said there are about three weeks left for the final barge of the season to make the journey.
The company stores the fuel in tanks throughout the state. Both Crowley and other companies sell the fuel to villagers.
Cox said the company monitors global oil prices to get the best price, and this year, it tried something new: Buying 300 thousand barrels of heating oil from China.
“That arrived off the west coast of Alaska in July. We offloaded that and brought that into our tank farms because that was a better value at that time, then U.S. prices,” he said.
The company still needs to finalize its price for the final barge.
Crowley uses the price per barrel the day the barge is loaded in its calculation for final prices. Cox says about one-third of Crowley’s cost is overhead, distribution, profit and transportation – the rest is the product.
“So we’re somewhat hostage to whatever is going on in the oil markets at the time we’re loading the barges,” Cox said.
Oil prices have been higher before: They hit $120 a barrel when the Arab Spring erupted.
This spring, state legislators considered a controversial bill that would define what counts as a “medically necessary” abortion for the purpose of Medicaid reimbursement. Now, the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services is considering regulations tackling the same issue. APRN’s Alexandra Gutierrez reports that proposed rule would require doctors to get specific on why they think the state state should cover the procedure.
Abortion policy in Alaska is a war of inches. Because of a privacy clause in the state constitution, most of the fights don’t involve prohibitions of the procedure. They play out at the margins. And the question of whether the state should cover abortions for low-income women for medical reasons is one of the most contentious fights.
The latest battle comes in the form of physician paperwork. The Department of Health and Social Services wants doctors to fill out a sheet checking off why an abortion should be reimbursed. Commissioner Bill Streur says the point is to make doctors reflect on whether an abortion is medically necessary or elective. He wants the state reduce the number of payments for abortions he thinks are in the second category.
“We hope so. We don’t know, because I thought the last one would have helped, but it didn’t help. In fact, our numbers seem to be up this year from previous years.”
When Streur says the “last one,” he’s referring to a form that doctors have been filling out for a year now. That form puts abortions in two categories: ones the federal government pays for because the pregnancy could kill the woman or because it’s the result of rape or incest, and ones that the state pays for because they could have a dangerous effect on a woman’s physical or mental health.
The new form gets even more detailed. It would make doctors check off a specific medical condition — like epilepsy or heart disease — as a reason for getting a reimbursement. While opponents of the new regulations have privacy concerns, Streur says he doesn’t see an issue with patient confidentiality.
“For instance, if a recipient has diabetes or if a recipient has a heart condition, if they have other issues — a cancer– if they’re on special medications that preclude or make it dangerous to continue with a pregnancy, we already have that information because we’ve been paying for their care.”
Planned Parenthood has already come out against the regulations, saying that if the goal is to limit state payment for abortion the Department is putting a de facto restriction on access for low income women. They also say the proposed rule could violate the equal protection clause by placing different requirements on women who get abortions instead of taking their pregnancies to term.
Other providers describe the regulations as a form of bullying, meant to discourage doctors from getting Medicaid reimbursement by making them feel like the state is scrutinizing them more intently. One physician, who didn’t want his name used, says he personally thinks the regulations are intimidating.
“This actually happened to me about 15 years ago. But if someone from the enforcement branch basically said, ‘I don’t think you’re exercising due clinical oversight, and you’re essentially billing the state for things they shouldn’t be paying for, and you’re breaking the law.’ So from that practical point, that’s chilling to me.”
This provider added that he sees the regulations as intruding on the doctor-patient relationship.
For his part, Commissioner Streur says he doesn’t think the new form would be much more burdensome than the previous one, and that it would give the state a better dataset to work with when trying to curb the number of abortion payments.
But Streur says the proposed regulations have stirred up some controversy. Since the rules were first introduced on Friday, he’s gotten a mixed response. The e-mails have broken down along political lines, with opponents of abortion being especially supportive.
“[They've been] very nice, very complimentary because of the direction that we’re going in terms of right to life … and not very nice from those I’m denying care,” says Streur. “I’m not denying care. I’m denying reimbursement for the services performed that are not medically necessary. That’s the only thing we’re doing. We are not denying care. We can’t deny care.”
The Department is taking public comment on the proposed regulations until September 27.
The Anchorage Police Department says it arrested 34 people for driving under the influence during the first weekend of an expanded effort to crack down on drunken drivers. There have been five drunk driving deaths in the city in the last two months. The new effort includes five additional patrol units made possible by a state grant. By comparison, that’s 13 more arrests than the previous weekend. The department will continue the expanded patrols through the Labor Day weekend.
A state Superior Court judge has sided with Municipality of Anchorage employee’s unions in a dispute over a city labor law. Judge Eric Aarseth heard arguments from union and city attorneys yesterday, and made his decision from the bench only minutes after their conclusion. Aarseth’s decision allows a referendum asking voters to weigh in on the law to go forward, and it essentially suspends the city ordinance for now. Anchorage municipal attorney Dennis Wheeler says the city will contest the suspension order, because under city code, a suspension can only take place if the required number of petition signatures is in.
Artist / Composer
Gone, Gonna Rise Again
Dick Gaughan / Si Kahn
Fred Morrison / Fred Morrison
She Moved Through the Fair
Myriad / Traditional
Song of the Isles
Let it be Me
Dick Gaughan / Becaud, Delanoe, Curtis
Tarbolton Lodge (instrumental)
Abby Newton / Traditional
Crossing to Scotland
Mary in the Morning
Mick Moloney and Eugene O’Donnell / Tommy Sands
Reels: Mother’s Delight / Lad O’Bierne’s / Eileen Curran (instrumentals)
Laurence Nugent / Traditional
Two for Two
Citi na gCumann
Amhran / Traditional
Colm Murphy, An Bodhran
What You Do With What You’ve Got
Dick Gaughan / Si Kahn
Outlaws and Dreamers
Leaving Uist (instrumental)
Fred Morrison / Fred Morrison
Though I Go To Bed, Little Does Sleep Come To Me / Mountain Field
Neuantics / Traditional, Pete Sutherland
Staten Island / Trip to Pakistan (instrumentals)
Hamish Moore, Dick Lee / Traditional, N. Kenny
The Bees Knees
Outlaws and Dreamers
Dick Gaughan / Dick Gaughan
Outlaws and Dreamers
Tribal leaders from around the state will be gathering in Anchorage this week to address the suicide epidemic. It’s sponsored by the Alaska Tribal Leaders and is their 13th annual summit meeting. All 229 tribes in Alaska are invited.
According to the Statewide Suicide Prevention Council, Alaska had 1,369 suicides between 2000 and 2009, an average of 136 per year. That gives Alaska the highest rate of suicide per capita in the country.
Mike Williams Sr. of Akiak is one of the organizers. He says suicide is devastating Alaska, particularly the Native villages.
“And my hope is that we are going to be identifying the underlying causes that is affecting the devastation in our communities, especially in these last 20 years,” Williams says.
Alaska Native men between the ages of 15 and 24 have the highest rate.
Bill Martin of Juneau is co-chairing the event with Williams. Martin is the former President of the Central Council of the Tlingit Haida Indians of Alaska. In a written statement he said, “tribal governments can no longer ignore this issue. . .it is only we, their elders, their tribes and their families, who can end it.”
Williams says they hope to walk away with two resolutions. One would include an action plan for rural Alaska to deal with suicide. Another would help in “restoring the people.” He says some state and federal policies have come to the villages that have had adverse affects on them, such as the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. In 1971, ANSCA extinguished aboriginal hunting and fishing rights.
Williams lives in a remote community of about 300 residents.
“Living in a small community like Akiak I feel like I’m being left out and our voices are not heard,” Williams says.
He says the resolutions coming out of the summit meeting will be sent to Alaska’s 229 tribes, and to the state and federal government offices.
Williams says they will likely encompass a variety of solutions to address different needs around the state.
“I think each community has different ways of dealing with this issue and one size does not fit all,” says Williams.
The conference starts Thursday at 8 a.m. at the Hilton Hotel.
Scheduled speakers include Native American fishing rights activist Ed Johnstone of the Quinault Nation and Brian Cladoosby, Chairman of Swimonish Tribe, both from Washington.
Speaking from Alaska will be Doug Modig, a Tshimsian from Metlakatla, and Allen Levy of Anchorage.
Williams says they are all looking for positive solutions in addressing the suicide crisis.
“I have all the faith and confidence that we can do it and if we come out and saving one person out of this conference, that’s a huge message and that is a success,” Williams says.
Tribal leaders from the Lower Yukon village of Alakanuk will be presenting on how they have successfully dealt with suicide. The village hasn’t seen suicide in recent years after elders got together and faced it head on the local level.
Geophysical Institute is forecasting strong auroras at the end of the week. Some of that activity could be in response to changes in the suns magnetic field. Over the next few months, the sun will undergo a magnetic flip. Is an event that happens every eleven years, but scientists have only been able to monitor what happens at the solar poles since the 1970’s.
Much like the Earth, the sun has a magnetic field with a north pole and a south pole. But in just a few months, the sun’s negatively charged north pole will have a positive charge. Its south pole will switch from a positive charge to a negative charge. “It’s part of the normal process,” says Roger Smith. “The sun has cycles of activity,” Smith is the Emeritus Director of the Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska, Fairbanks. “If you have your cup of coffee in the morning, and you have cream on the top, and you spin it up with a spoon, you see some circulation,” he explains. “What’s happening on the sun, it’s the same as having the spinning on the top of your cup reverse and go the other way.”
Because the sun is so hot, charged particles in its magnetic field move in a constant fury. Those particles interact with others throughout the solar system, causing auroras among other things. Smith says this “flip” stirs up those particles and gases that stream off the sun. “The sun actually in a larger scale behaves like a comet,” says Smith. “All the gases that stream off, stream off into a tail, and it takes a long time for anything that’s got into that tail to propagate down, so there will be a ripple effect which will go on for possibly years,” he explains.
This year, the sun’s magnetic reversal is asymmetric, meaning the north pole is changing faster than it’s south pole. But Smith says that might be normal. Because of limitations in technology, this is only the fourth time scientists have been able to record an event like this. “To be able to detect the polarity of the magnetic field on the sun, you need optical techniques that are relatively advanced compared to 100 years ago,” says Smith.
A magnetic reversal could affect some radio transmissions and satellite communications. Here in Alaska, Smith says it’s more likely we’ll see the effects in the form of medium level auroras.
With climbing season over, mountaineering rangers in Denali National Park have turned some of their attention to conservation. A team just returned from the Muldrow Glacier after spending two days picking up decades-old trash from climbers that has begun melting out of the ice.