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A firearm found Tuesday in a Valdez school forced every school in the Valdez City School District on lock down. The Valdez Police Department is investigating as to how the weapon ended up in the school.
Students from Gilson Middle School boarded buses after they spent part of their Tuesday afternoon on lockdown. Around 2 p.m., a loaded handgun was found in the school forcing the Valdez City School District to take immediate action.
“Valdez High School and Herman Hutchins Elementary also initiated lockdown protocol right away. The Valdez Police Department was notified immediately. Students were safe at all times. All students were dismissed by classroom and safely accompanied outside of the building,” Gilson Middle School Principal Rod Morrison said.
Morrison said the students were dismissed at their normal times, but the buses were delayed for about 15 minutes.
Valdez Police Chief Bill Comer said the District followed the right protocol in handling the situation.
“We sent officers to all the schools just to make sure that everything was safe until we could understand what was going on and the nature and the scope of how the firearm got there. We’re working on that, we don’t have any answers right now and we’ll let you know when we can,” Comer said.
Officers spent the rest of the afternoon and most of the night searching for more weapons. For now, the police aren’t releasing the description of the firearm or where it was found. So far, there is no indication as to why a weapon was brought to the school. Comer said despite the incident, no one is at risk.
We’ll likely have an officer around, but the teachers and the school administration is the best read for us on what’s going on, and there’s really been no sign of any kind of aggressive behavior or any kind of threats to the school. So there’s really – outside of just finding this firearm in the school – there’s nothing to indicate that the school would be unsafe,” Comer said.
Students are scheduled to resume classes at normal times.
The salmon fleet is getting ready to go fishing on Thursday morning on the Copper River Delta.
According to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, this year’s harvest projection for Copper River sockeyes is 1.3 million. Fish and Game Gillnet Area Management Biologist Jeremy Botz says the numbers are about the same as last year
“I think last year was about 1.2 [million], so it’s right in there,” Botz said. “The previous year it was a little lower, but then it came in over forecast.”
Two million sockeyes were tallied from last year’s run. While sockeyes appear to be strong this year, kings are expected to be low for the second straight year.
Fish and Game is projecting a harvest of 14,000. The total harvest for 2012 was 12,000, well short of the 20,000 harvest projection.
Last year, low king runs force emergency closures across the state. Botz says despite the low run, the escapement goal for kings was still achieved.
“We’ve been making that goal for the last few years, but it seems, generally speaking, other King Salmon runs are down around the state and they have been for the last few years and it seems like the Copper River salmon runs have also been quite a bit smaller than they have been historically,” Botz said.
The Copper River commercial salmon season is slated to begin at 7 a.m. Thursday for a 12-hour period.
Scientists at the Alaska Volcano Observatory were able to get clear views of two restless volcanoes today. The images show that both Cleveland Volcano in the Aleutian Islands and Pavlof Volcano on the Alaska Peninsula are oozing lava.
Cleveland started erupting earlier this month, with six separate explosions sending up multiple ash clouds. The volcano has been quiet since early last week, but the new satellite imagery shows a lava flow coming out of the southeastern side of the crater. The flow is about 100 yards wide, and a mile long.
Scientists at the Observatory first detected activity at Mount Pavlof Monday morning, but weren’t able to visually confirm an eruption. Monday night, a passing PenAir pilot took a photo that shows a fresh, quarter-mile-long lava flow on the volcano’s northern flank, and steam emanating from the summit.
While the aviation alert level for both volcanoes remains at orange, neither has interfered with air traffic. Only Pavlof has a real-time monitoring network, while Cleveland is monitored remotely, using infrasound sensors and satellites.
Crunch. Crunch. Gravel shifts below each booted footfall. Crunch. Crunch. Warm morning sunlight cuts through the tree line throwing shadows. Crunch. Crunch.
Movement in the brush. Crunch. Stop. Reach for optics, raise to eyes, rack focus for clarity. Scan. Shadows obscure view. Found. Bird in silhouette. Perching-like song bird. It begins to jump from branch to branch. Track. Dark gray head & chest.
Works around tree trunk disappearing from view. Wait. Scan. Patience. Reappears with momentary pause. White belly. Cock of the head, flap of feathers it vanishes into the woods. White outer tail feathers.
Sometimes that is all you get. A few field marks, a couple pieces of a puzzle. Enjoying the world of birds doesn’t have to be expensive. It can be a fun hobby for the entire family without spending a dollar. However, if you would like to invest in birding tools, here are a few that will help putting those puzzles together.
From song birds to shore birds one commonality will be your desire to get a closer. Binoculars provide quick and easy image magnification.
Three types of Binoculars:
+ Better performance in low-light conditions
+ Wider field of view
+ Steadier image
+ Average overall performance in low-light conditions
+ Balance of size and image quality
+ Good performance during daytime activities
+ Easy to transport
- Less comfortable during extended periods of use
Size won’t be the only decision you need to make. Binocular image quality is quantified by two numbers. The first is magnification power, the second is the diameter of the front lenses. For example, you are out binocular shopping and come a cross Nikon Action 10×50 Binocular. This model would have a magnification power power of 10, and 50mm lens diameter allowing them to perform better in low-light. Each number has a range, and the higher the number the better the performance.
While it may seem like you would want the highest magnification possible, remember that the higher the power, the harder it is to steady the image as your hand movements will also be amplified. Don’t be afraid to try out a few pairs in-store. They should be comfortable to your eyes and provide desired magnification.
If you were exhausted shopping for binoculars, you may want to tackle field guides another day. Overwhelmed by variety? Prepare yourself! Illustrations or photos? Quick reference or comprehensive? Physical or digital? This list of questions goes on.
I recommend you start with Peterson, Sibley, or iBirds Pro (iOS). Peterson and Sibley are the gold standard field guides. Make sure your guide is specific to your region of North America. This will limit your search and help you get better results. iBirds Pro expands on it’s physical rivals with the addition bird songs on-demand.
Keeping a journal is a great way to track your expedition into the world of birds. You can list birds by location and date, allowing you to see who are permeant residents or just are migrating through, or maybe you want to start a life list and watch it grow as you add newly identified species. Either way, it can be a fun way and useful to chronicle your adventures.
Flip. Flip. Flip. Each page turn brings you closer to identification. Searching for Perching-like song birds. Skip waterfowl. Skip predatory. Arriving at song birds you narrow the search. Flip. Dark gray head & chest. Flip. White belly. Flip. White outer tail feathers.
Anchorage Audubon leads free early morning bird walks every Thursday in May. It is an great opportunity to meet up with some long time birders who are more then willing to share their experience and expertise (and spotting scope). Meet at the Campbell Creek Science Center at 6:30am.
Check out their website for more information: anchorageaudubon.org
When thunderclouds begin to gather over Botswana’s Kalahari each year, 20,000 zebras get itchy feet. As the first fat raindrops hit the dust, southern Africa’s biggest animal migration gets underway. In a never-ending quest for grass and water, the striped herds undertake an annual epic trek across the vast lunar landscape of the Kalahari’s Makgadikgadi Pans. See the story of this spectacular annual migration through the eyes of a single zebra family: a stallion, his three mares and their offspring. Documenting their journey across this otherworldly landscape, the film reveals their trials and triumphs as well as the fascinating social bonds that hold zebra families together.
- TV: Wednesday, 5/22 at 9:00 p.m.
Doctors deal with death all the time. But they still struggle to tell a patient they’re dying or help them live with a terminal disease. A specialty called Palliative Care is trying to change that. It’s been around since the 1990s. But a lot of people, even in the medical profession, still don’t know it exists.
Dr. Linda Smith walks into a room at Providence hospital ready with a stethoscope and a huge grin. She teases that Dawn Dillard’s spiky hair recently resembled a faux hawk.
Dillard found out she had uterine cancer a year ago, on her birthday. By the time she got the diagnosis, the cancer had spread to her liver and lymph nodes. Her oncologist gave her a year to live. The 57 year old beat those odds. But now her kidneys are failing. After the laughs are over, Smith sits down on the edge of Dillard’s bed, leans in, and starts talking about a procedure Dillard will have.
Smith is a palliative care doctor, a specialty that is growing rapidly in the U.S. The idea is to help patients cope with a terminal or life altering illness. And unlike hospice care, it is not offered only in the final months of life. Smith works on pain management, coordinating care and even does some counseling. Her goal is to improve her patients’ quality of life. She calls it “whole person care.” Dillard thinks that’s accurate:
“I can’t even say how much she’s helped me. Just little things. You know, showing me things like breathing techniques. Sort of like mediation, just ways to focus on things that are positive and happy rather than focusing on your sickness and how crappy you feel.”
Two years ago, Linda Smith was a very different kind of doctor. She worked in the Emergency Room, where the goal was to quickly stabilize a patient and move on. But two decades into her career, she started to question how she was caring for patients at the very end of their lives. She remembers putting patients on breathing tubes, and hearing family members say things like, ‘I know dad didn’t want this, but we’re just not ready to let him go.’
“I started to have a lot of regret about doing things to people that were painful and uncomfortable and were prolonging their suffering. And if I only had the time to sit down with the family, I probably wouldn’t be doing these things.”
Reporter: And did you know about palliative care?
Smith: “I’m laughing. The answer is no. I didn’t know. And in fact when I started looking into palliative care, I got online… and low and behold I saw that we had a palliative program here at the hospital I was working at.”
In the summer of 2011, Smith enrolled in a one year palliative care fellowship at Providence. It wasn’t easy at first. She wanted to roll up her sleeves and start helping right away. Her mentor, Dr. Steven Rust wanted her to wait. He remembers it this way:
“When she started, she would literally say to me, and she’s the only person that calls me this, she’d say, Boss? Put me in the game. And gently I hope, I just said, ‘let’s wait a little bit longer.’”
Smith had a lot to learn. She was a bad listener. And she was busy. As an ER doctor, sometimes she didn’t even sit down to deliver devastating news:
“I can remember saying to families things like, ‘I’m sorry there’s nothing more I can do.’ And I realize now that sounds like abandonment to many people when you say you can’t do anything more. And the reality is I may not be able to do anything more to the patient that will make them survive, but there’s a lot more that I can do. I always can do more.”
A lot of what Smith does is talk to people. She doesn’t advocate for or against treatment, but she wants patients and their families to understand their decisions. If a doctor puts in a breathing tube, for example, that may extend a patient’s life, but they won’t be able to eat or talk. If they die with a tube in, the family will miss hearing their last words. So now Smith sits down for hard conversations and looks patients and their family members right in the eye. Earlier this year, she was called in to consult with the wife of a patient who was dying:
“When I entered the room, the wife said to me, ‘I know who you are.’ And I said, ‘oh. ok’And she said, ‘I don’t want to talk with you and I don’t want to like you because you’re here to talk about death and dying aren’t you?’”
Smith had a short conversation with the woman, and left her a book on difficult end of life choices. She went back to visit her the next day:
“And she said, ‘you know, I so tried not to like you. And what you had to say. And I really realize that we need to have this discussion now, don’t we?’ And I said, ‘when you’re ready, we’re ready to have that discussion.’ and she said, ‘I’m ready now.’”
Smith was planning to return to the Emergency Room. But interactions like that one persuaded her to stay in palliative care. Now she works more and makes less money. Some days, she wonders if she’s crazy. But then she gets to visit a patient like Dawn Dillard. Back in her hospital room, Dillard asks Smith if she really needs to have yet another procedure.
Smith gives Dillard a hug and plants herself at an empty desk at the nurses’ station outside her room. She calls Dillard’s other doctors and realizes the second procedure isn’t really necessary after all. So instead of staying another night in the hospital, Dillard and her husband are back home by the end of the day.
This story is part of a reporting partnership that includes APRN, NPR and Kaiser Health News.
The U.S. Senate is expected to a pass a sweeping bill authorizing dozens of water projects on Wednesday.
A provision is included that Alaska’s senators say could ease the way to an Arctic port.
When voters head to the polls next year, they could be faced with questions on oil taxes, the minimum wage, and the use of recreational marijuana. But one thing that won’t be on the ballot is a referendum on a controversial bill concerning cruise ship waste. APRN’s Alexandra Gutierrez explains why.
Now that it’s summer, cruise ships carrying thousands of passengers loom over Juneau’s waterfront. Just a few months before, the showers, the sinks, and yes, the toilets aboard these massive vessels were a top concern for lawmakers. They passed a bill rolling back parts of a citizen’s initiative governing wastewater standards.
But not everyone was happy with that legislation.
“We were surprised, shocked, disappointed, and we felt betrayed by the whole thing.”
That’s Chip Thoma. He’s the president of Responsible Cruising for Alaska, and he was one of the lead organizers of the cruise ship initiative that passed in 2006.
On top of implementing a head tax, the citizens’ initiative also required cruise ships to meet wastewater standards at the point of discharge. Basically, any water they released had to be fully treated. That portion was struck down by the legislature in February, with the cruise industry arguing that those standards were impossible to meet.
Thoma thinks that change ignored the will of voters. Even so, he doesn’t plan on taking the issue back to the ballot box. He says his group ultimately chose not to go ahead with a referendum repealing the wastewater discharge bill.
“We decided it’d be extremely expensive, extremely hard to gather the signatures in 90 days for our initiative.”
By his estimate, a campaign would have cost his group at least half a million dollars. Thoma says they would have needed to launch a huge voter education effort, especially since there are so many other issues that could also be on the ballot.
“It’s a lot simpler if people know that it’s a ‘giveaway’ of oil and there should be recreational use of marijuana — things like that. Those are clear-cut issues. This one on rolling back the water standards or making them comply with the copper standards, it’s just a little too complex for most people to address.”
Thoma says that his group is now focusing its attention on a lawsuit concerning the enforcement of an emissions control area off Alaska, which would require vessels to use more expensive low-sulfur fuel. The State of Alaska filed the lawsuit against the federal government last year, on the grounds that “there is no environmental justification” for the area and that such policy requires congressional approval.
As far as how the wastewater discharge bill has been implemented, not much has changed so far.
“This season, the cruise ships are operating under exactly the same permit they’ve been operating under since 2010,” says Michelle Bonnet Hale, who directs the water division at the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation. “So, the only difference this season is that we were able to extend that permit.”
If the wastewater discharge bill hadn’t passed, cruise ships would have needed to renew their permit if they wanted to release waste in Alaska waters. The permit would have essentially been issued under the same legal framework, but there would have been a public comment period, and there’s the possibility that cruise ships would have seen the permit tweaked.
Hale says that the major effects of the legislation will be seen over the next couple of years, as her division considers authorizing “mixing zones,” where waste from cruise ships would be diluted. DEC is currently examining the impact such mixing zones would have on water quality and fish habitat.