Alaskan Author Don Rearden will be visiting the Haines Public Library on Friday March 14th to...
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Join actors Cena Moody and Gigi Lynch from Cyrano’s Theatre Company as they take us on a journey across time and space when they visit Stage Talk this week to let us in on a backstage view of the stage adaptation of Madeline L’Engle’s A Wrinkle in Time running November 29th though December 22.
ORIGINAL BROADCAST: Friday November 22nd, 2013 at 2:45 p.m.
SUBSCRIBE: Get Stage Talk updates automatically — via:
Audio will be posted following radio broadcast.
The days of mystery meat are far from over in the nation's school cafeterias. That's judging by an online project assembling thousands of photos of school lunches submitted by students from across the nation. But it's not all bad news: The images also show that in some cafeterias, change has already arrived.
This week we travel to southwest Alaska where Chris Carr and his wife, Leona, are the entire year-round population of Portage Creek, a speck on the map about 30 air miles southeast of Dillingham. The Carrs run a general store and a bush guiding service.
“My name is Chris Carr, I live in Portage Creek, Alaska with my wife. We run the Portage Creek General Store and Lodge and I’m a registered big game guide. Yeah, currently it’s just my wife and I that live here.
The main significance of Portage Creek in this day and age is the king salmon fish. We have the number one running king salmon run going up the Nushagak [River] right in front of the house.
The moose season, that’s kind of a rat race. We get hundreds and hundreds of people during the moose season. I tend to forget about that.
If the caribou come through we’ll see people from Dillingham come through. The price of living out here is way up there. Everything we make goes in to surviving the winter – basically fuel and food. I think gas in the town of Dillingham there is like $6.30 or so. People don’t travel as much as they used to. We’re pretty isolated, but we like it. We have lots of wildlife that roam through the yard, got a couple of cows, calves in the yard right now.
You know, we were kind of a vibrant village, oh, 10 years ago. We had a school, one classroom school – and it was pretty nice. The kids got a great education. But the kids grew up, and the village council moved to Anchorage and so…we got stranded.”
You know it’s peaceful, it’s quiet, lots of wildlife. We like it that way, you know, like I say, we’re not really into the rat race.”
When an Afghan toddler in Albuquerque was tested for lead at preschool, the child's blood levels were off the charts. A baby's brother's was, too. Why? It turns out that kajal, a traditional eyeliner used by the family, was 54 percent lead. It's a reminder of the health hazards posed by traditional cosmetics.
Sens. Lisa Murkowski (R-Alaska) and Ron Wyden (D-Ore.) participating in the Alaska Resource Development Council's 34th Annual Conference via video conference. Murkowski and Wyden are the top Republican and Democrat on the Senate Energy and Natural Resources Committee.
Governor Sean Parnell objects to Medicaid expansion. Fairbanks suffers a power outage like no other in recent memory. The Anchorage Assembly passes a budget, but remains wrapped up in the debate over ice rinks and tennis courts. Lawmakers are talking about the possibility of state investment in the gas line. Reapportionment of the Legislature appears to be over; the opponents of the plan are giving up. Sen.Mark Begich is targeted for his vote on health care. Sen. Lisa Murkowski has become prominently involved in the debate over sexual misconduct in the military.
HOST: Michael Carey
KSKA (FM 91.1) BROADCAST: Friday, November 22,2013 at 2:00 p.m. and Saturday, November 23, 2013 at 6:00 p.m.
Alaska Public Television BROADCAST: Friday, November 22,2013 at 7:30 p.m. and Saturday, November 23 2013 at 4:30 PM.
In the back of most Sitkans’ mind is this question: When the big wave comes, will my house be under water? Researchers at the Alaska Earthquake Information Center have an answer, of sorts. This month, they released a new map outlining which parts of Sitka would be affected by a major tsunami.
On January 4, 2013, just before midnight, Sitkans woke up to feel the ground shaking beneath them. Then came the tsunami siren, warning everyone to get to high ground.
Fire Chief Dave Miller is responsible for setting off the tsunami siren.
“The thing that got people excited about it was that we actually felt the quake, and we heard the siren,” Miller said. “And we hadn’t heard the siren in probably 20 years.”
In the end, there was no wave. But for many people, it was a wake-up call – what would happen if a big wave did come?
This month, researchers released a new map that tries to answer that question. It shows the state’s best estimate for how far inland the water would reach, and how deep it would be, in a worst-case-scenario tsunami.
“Lincoln Street seems to be the dividing line through town,” he said. “Everything on the water side would have, eh, 3-6 feet of water.”
So Centennial Hall, in downtown Sitka, is under water. Crescent Harbor is swamped.
But the good news is that most of Sitka is above the high water line.
“[At] the Fire Department – we’d be fine,” Miller said. “We’d be sitting high and dry and wouldn’t have our fishing poles out yet.”
And it’s not just the Fire Hall. Some places that seem very low – like the airport, and SeaMart supermarket– are above the inundation line. Most of Sitka’s main roadways – like Sawmill Creek Road and Halibut Point Road – are also above the high water mark, protected by steep bedrock along the coast.
Elena Suleimani is a tsunami modeler at the Alaska Earthquake Information Center, and it’s her model that the new map is based on.
“I’ve been studying tsunamis all my life,” she said.
According to Suleimani, the worst-case-scenario for Sitka – the scenario on which the map is based – would be a big earthquake on the subduction fault that stretches from Kodiak to Prince William Sound. That fault produced the Great Alaska Earthquake of 1964, the second largest quake ever recorded anywhere.
Closer to home, the Queen Charlotte Fault – which got Sitkans out of bed in January – is a strike-slip fault: the plates are sliding past each other, instead of colliding head-on, and during earthquakes, they don’t produce the kind of vertical motion that makes for big waves.
They can, however, cause landslides, both on land and on the continental shelf, under water. These landslides can cause their own waves – and it’s almost impossible to model them. That’s, in part, because they occur along smaller faults that haven’t been studied.
Rich Koehler works with Suleimani.
“We haven’t looked at these,” he said. “Nobody has. Partially because they’re covered in – it’s rugged terrain, covered in forest, it’s hard to get to. Anyway. There’s nothing known about these faults, how often earthquakes happen, how big they could be, nothing.”
Still, Suleimani and Koehler said that the largest wave caused by a landslide would still be smaller than the worst-case-scenario plotted on the map.
So, at the end of the day, what’s the takeaway? According to Suleimani, no matter what the map says, if you feel the ground shake, go uphill:
“If you are in a coastal area and you feel the ground shaking, just get uphill immediately,” she said.”Don’t wait for any official announcement, don’t wait for sirens. Just go uphill. And stay there for 24 hours.”
Sitka Fire Chief Miller says the key point is to know ahead of time where you’re going, and be ready to head there on a moment’s notice – something many Sitkan’s weren’t prepared for in January.
“You get 9,000 people trying to move all at one time, it’s a zoo at best.” Miller said. “There’s a lot of cars, there were cars going hither and yon at any given time on the street in front of the fire hall.”
Miller thinks people should take a close look at the map. He also thinks they should take it with a grain of salt.
“The thing that you’ve got to remember is, this is a computer generated map,” Miller said “In Japan they had the same thing, they did the same studies, had the same results…and then they had the earthquake and Mother Nature said, get ready. I’m coming!”
New court documents were filed in Alaska’s Appeals Court arguing why the convictions against Yup’ik subsistence fishermen should be overturned. The case goes back to June of 2012 when the Kuskokwim River was closed to King salmon fishing for 12 days, longer than ever before. The Alaska Department of Fish and Game called the closure to get more Kings to the spawning grounds because the runs had diminished in recent years.
Fishermen and their families were anxious to get fish hung up and smoked while the dry weather lasted. Some villages organized a kind of fishing protest where dozens of fishermen threw their nets in the river anyway.
State and federal managers responded by citing about three dozen people in one day. The fishermen were found guilty and fined in the Bethel District Court and now about a dozen of them are taking the case through the appeals process.
James Davis Jr. is their lawyer.
“Subsistence is so essential to Yup’ik people and the way they see themselves in the world and their sense of how the universe operates, that needs to be protected just as if it were a more orthodox religion such as Catholicism or Judaism,” Davis said.
The trial court found that the fishermen had a spiritual connection to King salmon and fishing for them was a religious practice but that the State’s obligation to protect the run supersedes that.
Three groups have filed friends of the court briefs supporting the fishermen in the appeals court: The Alaska Civil Liberties Union, the Association of Village Council Presidents and the Alaska Federation of Natives.
Sky Starkey is an attorney representing AFN and AVCP. He said their brief has two points. The first supports the lower court ruling that subsistence fishing is a religious practice.
“The second part of the Amicus brief focuses in on the actions that the state could have taken that would have allowed some fishing that could accommodate this spiritual, religious aspect of fishing while also preserving the Chinook runs on the Kuskokwim,” Starkey said.
That could have included restricting the Pollock fleet or other non-Yup’ik fishermen on the river.
The State still has to file its appeals brief responding to the fishermen’s. A request for an extension was filed meaning it won’t be turned in until January 4th.
Assistant Attorney General Laura Fox said the state will argue that the court of appeals should uphold the convictions. She said the Fish and Game Department tries its best to manage and protect the salmon runs which is not an easy task.
“Sometimes the Department of Fish and Game has to restrict fishing to make sure enough King salmon can make it up the river to spawn and it’s important that the state be able to enforce its fishing restrictions to protect the sustainability of the King salmon run for future generations,” Fox said.
The whole appeals process will likely take months including more briefs being filed, oral arguments, and then eventually the court’s decision.
Family of man shot by Anchorage police sues
ANCHORAGE — The family of man fatally shot by Anchorage police is suing the police department, officers and the city, claiming reckless, excessive force was used.
Anchorage attorney Philip Weidner is representing the family of Shane Tasi, who was fatally shot June 2012.
Missing out on good quality sleep has emerged as a real medical issue. Now Harvard researchers say men who had trouble falling asleep were more likely to die prematurely than men who said they could doze off easily. There's no proof sleeplessness caused an increase in mortality, but the association was strong.
Story by Travis Gilmour & Slavik Boyechko
It takes a different kind of person to live in Whittier, Alaska. The town is accessible only by water or by tunnel, the weather is extreme, and the only housing option is an ugly apartment building. But the community has managed to win over grade school teacher Erika Thompson.
Alaska Public Media video producer Travis Gilmour spent a day with Thompson and found out life in this one-building town is unique, even by Alaska’s standards.
I turn the camera on as soon as I enter the two and a half mile long tunnel that leads to the town of Whittier. I assume we’re setting out to capture footage for a story about isolation. Then I meet Erika Thompson.
“You know, Whittier is different than, say, working in the traditional bush community. In that we are on the road, and we’re fairly, we’re a tourist town in the summer. But it’s…yes we all live in the same building,” Thompson says.
Thompson has lived in Whittier for four years. She teaches 2nd, 3rd, and 4th grade at the Whittier school, which happens to be across the street from the building that houses most of Whittier’s residents. She takes an elevator to the basement floor, then walks to the school through an underground tunnel.
“I think in a larger community you GO TO school, you travel there, and not in Whittier, you just gotta walk over. And it takes 5 minutes, depending on the elevator,” Thompson says.
Erika lives in high up in the Begich Towers, a large pastel building that like it would be more at home in New Jersey than small town Alaska. It has 196 apartment units, most of which are inhabited by Whittier’s year-round residents.
And, when you live down the hall from your students, some the usual boundaries can get blurry.
“It’s like a family. I don’t have discipline issues, classroom management issues, cause they know me. It’s like coming to school with mom, they call me mom half the time anyway,” Thompson says.
Begich Towers is often called the city under one roof. Tucked in its 14 floors are some amenities you might not expect to find.
“We have everything we need really, there’s a post office downstairs, a grocery store, there’s a little video store you can call her and she’ll come over, there’s the city offices, so you don’t have to leave if you don’t need to.”
For some residents, not having to leave the building can end up being more of a burden than a convenience.
“It’s hard to stay healthy in a town like this. …Our weather is really challenging, we don’t have a fitness center or gym, other than the school. Between extreme winds, rain, snow, that challenges people. It just becomes normal to not move, and to not be healthy. The weather is always a great excuse,” Thompson says.
And that’s what Erika is trying to counteract, with her students, as well as with her adult neighbors. After school is out for the day, Erika runs home to change, take her dog for a quick walk, and then she hits the gym…the school gym, that is.
“.. I had a lot of community members asking me to teach classes. Last year, I was convinced by just enough people asking, that I decided to try it. …it’s great group of people, we challenge each other. we hold each other accountable. “Make sure you get outside and walk,” Thompson says.
And that neighborly spirit is also what makes life in Whittier a little less isolated than it may seem.
“It would be silly to say that you live a lonely life living in the building. Because, I have friends and neighbors, and students and coworkers, that are right down the hall. If you’re having a bad day, if you’re having a day when you think, “Gosh I haven’t talked to another human being for a while,” you can just walk down the hall, or get in the elevator,” Thompson says.
This year, Thompson is treating herself to a trip that’s a little farther than an elevator ride to a neighbor’s apartment. After four straight years in Whittier, she’s finally taking a vacation out of state.