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In Brussels, Obama Seeks Broader Support For Ukraine

NPR News - Wed, 2014-03-26 12:00

President Obama is visiting the European Union and NATO headquarters in Brussels for talks that will likely be dominated by Russia and Afghanistan.

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Egypt's Defense Minister Says He Will Run For President

NPR News - Wed, 2014-03-26 11:48

Field Marshal Abdel-Fattah el-Sissi says that he's resigned his military post and will run for president in July elections.

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Labor Board Rules Northwestern University Players Are Employees

NPR News - Wed, 2014-03-26 11:40

The decision means the players can vote to unionize and has the potential to revolutionize the way college athletics work.

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Candidates Vie for Two School Board Seats

Alaska and Yukon Headlines - Wed, 2014-03-26 11:37

2014 Anchorage School Board Candidates. Photo by Alaska Public Media.

Two School Board Seats are up for grabs during the April 1 Municipal election. Three candidates are running for Seat C and two are running for Seat D.

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The Anchorage School District is under pressure. Rising energy and healthcare costs for employees, along with no increase in per student funding from the legislature over the past four consecutive years, are taking their toll and forcing school board members to make tough decisions.

Last year the board cut $25 million from the district’s approximately $800 million budget. This year they cut $23 million more.

Pat Higgins. Photo by Alaska Public Media.

Whoever is elected to the board will inevitably face a battle for state funding and more tough budget decisions in the years ahead.

Running for Seat D is the incumbent, Pat Higgins who has held the seat for six years. He says he’s improved lots of things since he’s been on the board.

“We’ve made a lot of changes that I’ve been very successful in,” Higgins said. “A lot of directives that included changes in the way we do budgeting, expansion of career technology, measuring academic outcomes in the school, changing everyday math was popular one – all came from directives that I did.”

Higgins says since he was elected graduation rates have gone up and the dropout rate has gone down, but he says keeping those numbers going in the right direction will be hard to accomplish unless the base student allocation, or BSA – the per student funding the district gets from the state – goes up.

Higgins has a background in management, works or an insurance company and has lived in Alaska for about 30 years. His opponent is criticizing him for taking a job outside of Alaska – he worked in the Marshall Islands in 2012.

Liz Ross. Photo by Alaska Public Media.

Higgins defends the decision and says he attended School Board meetings telephonically and fulfilled his responsibilities.

Liz Ross is challenging Higgins. She works part time for the Air National Guard as an emergency manager. She’s lived in Eagle River for eight years. Ross says her budgeting experience could help the board.

“I have a lot of years doing budgeting and planning and I think I could bring a great deal of experience to it,” Ross said. “I want make sure that the classroom sizes don’t continually increase and we get rid of teachers. I think that students and teachers need to be the number one priority when it comes to the School Board.”

Dean Williams. Photo by Alaska Public Media.

Ross says the most pressing issues for the School Board are funding and budgeting. She agrees with Higgins that the BSA needs to be increased significantly.

Dean Williams is also running for Seat D. Williams says his work with youth for the state of Alaska for more than 30 years has prepared him for the job of School Board member.

“My entire juvenile justice and department of law career have sort of prepared me for a school board seat,” Williams said. “I think the school board needs somebody with strong fiscal sensibilities.”

“I led a large organization like McLaughlin Youth Center. I made strategic cuts in that organization. I maximized every dollar.”

Kameron Perez-Verdia. Photo by Alaska Public Media.

In addition to managing McLaughlin, Williams also spearheaded a program called “Step Up,” that gives troubled kids one more opportunity to graduate and move into successful employment. He says a modest increase in the base student allocation is needed. However, he believes the board can find more efficiencies.

Running for Seat C is incumbent Kameron Perez-Verdia. He was appointed to the School Board last year to replace Gretchen Guess who resigned. Perez-Verdia has worked as CEO of a consulting company that helped rural school districts improve education. Now, he is the Senior Director of Education for United Way where he is working on their 90 percent by 2020 campaign to improve graduation rates. He says the board, the state and the community need to address money.

“There are a variety of key things that we need to be talking about, whether it’s how much we’re spending on capital, how we’re investing in our schools,” Perez-Verdia said. “So that conversation is very important, but the other conversation is to make sure that we’re investing an adequate and sustainable amount of resources in our schools.”

“And we’ve been experiencing flat funding for several years now and that’s making it very difficult for us to deliver the kind of quality education that I think our kids deserve.”

Don Smith. Photo by Alaska Public Media.

Perez-Verdia says the BSA must be increased.

Don Smith is challenging Perez-Verdia for Seat C. He says he’s running for school board again because he wants to make sure schools stay strong in Anchorage. He’s running on his experience and, he says, his reputation as a fiscal conservative.

“I bring an experience factor to the public arena that is different from most people in politics. I have no agenda,” Smith said. “This is a big business and it needs some people to step up and ask as some questions and demand some things to happen and I’ve done that.”

Smith says the BSA should be raised modestly. Smith served on the School Board from 2010 to 2013. He’s also been a member of State Legislature and the Anchorage Assembly.

Herring fishing possible today; no opening called yet

Southeast Alaska News - Wed, 2014-03-26 11:20

There might be fishing today (Wed 3-26-14) in the Sitka Sound sac roe herring fishery, but no opening has been called yet.

The Alaska Department of Fish & Game said in their 11 a.m. update that a significant volume of herring has moved into the closure area, a stretch of water near town that is out of bounds to the commercial fishery to protect subsistence use. Fish & Game biologist Dave Gordon said he wasn’t discounting the possibility of a fishery south of town, where large schools of fish were found yesterday, but he wanted to give it more time “to find a body of fish that might provide a better fishery for everybody.”

Fish & Game had hoped to target the final 6,000 tons left in this year’s harvest limit; so far, 10,300 tons of herring have been caught in two openings, on Sunday and last Thursday.

Gordon said that an aerial survey this morning found a few hundred yards of herring spawn on Middle Island; no other spawn was seen. In the sac roe fishery, the eggs are taken intact from the females. It’s critical to the success of the commercial harvest to land the fish prior to spawning.

Gordon said he would issue another update over the radio at 12 p.m.. Updates can he heard on VHF Channel 10.

Captain ignored co-pilot’s warnings before plane crash in Canadian Arctic

Alaska and Yukon Headlines - Wed, 2014-03-26 11:19
Captain ignored co-pilot’s warnings before plane crash in Canadian Arctic The first officer made five statements about the flight path, but his objections were not heeded. The plane crashed into a hill in Nunavut. March 26, 2014

New lease program allows charters to get more halibut

Southeast Alaska News - Wed, 2014-03-26 11:10

Charter halibut caught near Petersburg. Photo/Petersburg Fishing Adventures

Tourists coming to Southeast Alaska and going charter fishing this year could get more than the usual one halibut a day. But it will take charter businesses and commercial quota shareholders working together in a new program.

South East charter anglers used to be able to keep two halibut per day of any size. But in recent years, there have been increasing restrictions with more bag limits and size limits. The restrictions have been developed because the charter sector has continued to over fish their harvest level.

But Pete Troy, who owns Petersburg Fishing Adventures, says he’s lost business because of it.

“Incredible amounts of business I lose because of that,” Troy says. “I have lots of interested people and when I tell them what they’re going to be able to keep for fish they say, ‘No, we’ll pass’.”

This year, a new program could give charter businesses like Troy’s a little more leeway. It’s called GAF and stands for Guided Angler Fish. It’s a voluntary provision of the new halibut catch sharing plan and allows Halibut charters to lease commercial quota for more harvest opportunity. There is no size limit on the GAF fish.

Julie Scheurer is a Fishery Management Specialist with the National Marine Fisheries Service in Juneau. NMFS is overseeing the GAF program.

“Using GAF, charter anglers could potentially keep up to two fish of any size per day,” Scheurer says. “Under this new catch sharing plan what the guided angler fish provision allows is for quota share holders is to lease a limited amount of their IFQ to a charter halibut permit holder to be harvested in the charter fishery.”

Charters guides can use GAF in different ways. They could use their charter limit of one fish which has size restrictions and then use one GAF for a fish of any size. Another option would be to use two GAFs for two fish of any size.

The idea for the transfer program came from the Charter Halibut Stakeholder Committee. The North Pacific Fishery Management Council approved the program.

“It’s a razzle dazzle deal they came up with,” Troy says. He says it was very hard to understand at first but now he says he gets it.“It means that when I get a customer on a boat that catches a fish, he’s able to pay an extra hundred and fifty dollars approximately and keep that fish, allowing him to keep two fish a day instead of just one little ping pong paddle,” Troy says.

Troy would like to give GAF a try but he hasn’t found a commercial fishermen who would sell their quota share for a reasonable price. And it will be up to the fishermen like Troy to make the transfer deals. Scheurer says NMFS won’t get involved in pricing what quota shares are worth. She says it could go through brokers like other IFQ sales or fishermen could do it on their own.

“Information is available from NMFS about who holds IFQ and so an interested charter halibut permit holder could get that list from us if they wanted to contact some of these people,” Scheurer says. “I don’t know, I imagine maybe they’ll advertise in the local newspaper or Craigslist or something like that as well.”

Perhaps the easiest scenario is fishermen who have both–charter permits and quota shares. There are 19 of those fishermen in Southeast’s Area 2C.

“They can just transfer some of their own quota to themselves if they’re operating in both fisheries,” Scheurer says.

Interest in the new program is still unknown but Heath Hilyard bets it’s not going to be very popular. He is the Executive Director of South East Alaska Guides Organization or SEAGO.

“I still only heard of about…I don’t know….less than 20 percent of South East operators who have any plan or intention or desire to lease in the guided angler lease provision,” Hilyard says.

While Hilyard understands the need for restrictions he doesn’t think this is the answer.

“We’ve said the whole time that while we appreciate the council’s intent to provide a reallocation compensation mechanism, we don’t think this is really the best approach,” Hilyard says.

He says some fishermen might use GAF this year but not next year when the program will change the conversion formula—or what the amount is for the Individual Fishing Quota to one GAF fish. Currently, it uses about 26 pounds for one fish. But next year, they’ll use an average from GAF fish caught just this season. And Hilyard says that will raise the cost to fishermen.

“So, rather than just assuming 25 pounds or less, it’s going to be, ‘Well, we know the average fish size for the guided angler fish from 2014 was 40 pounds’ and so all of a sudden the respective costs is going to go up dramatically in 2015,” Hilyard says.

GAF catches will count towards the commercial catch limit and not the charters’. The charter limit this year is about 761,000 pounds down about 17,000 from last year.

There are additional reporting requirements for charter guides using GAF. They’ll have to submit an electronic report to NMFS through their website.

And while the new transfer system is voluntary, it’s also permanent in nature. GAF will remain in federal regulations until it is changed through the regulatory process.

New Dwarf Planet Found At The Solar System's Outer Limits

NPR News - Wed, 2014-03-26 11:01

The tiny world is a pink-hued ball of ice in an area of space once thought to be relatively empty. But the new findings hint of other small objects — and perhaps an unseen planet bigger than Earth.

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The Sometimes Tricky Relations Between Popes And Presidents

NPR News - Wed, 2014-03-26 10:35

For decades, U.S. presidents have sought an audience with the pope, and President Obama will have one Thursday. But this wasn't always the case, and often there have been political differences.

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A 'Silent Killer' Returns: Live Chat With Filmmaker On Fighting TB

NPR News - Wed, 2014-03-26 10:32

PBS traveled to the epicenter of a terrifying epidemic. We're chatting with the film's maker to learn how the world can stop drug-resistant tuberculosis.

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Map Warns Of Patches Susceptible To Landslides

NPR News - Wed, 2014-03-26 10:30

The deadly mudslide in Washington occurred in an area that was seen as vulnerable. The U.S. Geological Survey maintains data on areas at risk of landslides.

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James A. Cole pens maritime history

Southeast Alaska News - Wed, 2014-03-26 10:29

Author Jim Cole will be in Ketchikan April 2nd to present his book, “Drawing on our History: Fishing Vessels of the Pacific Northwest and Alaska.”  Cole provides a narrative history and penned most of the drawings.

7 Bond Proposition Before Voters April 1st

Alaska and Yukon Headlines - Wed, 2014-03-26 10:28

Photo by Daysha Eaton, KSKA – Anchorage

There are seven bond propositions on the April 1 Municipal ballot in Anchorage.

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Proposition # 1

  • The largest bond on the ballot – $57 million for maintenance, renovations and upgrades to buildings in the Anchorage School District. Most of the money would go toward renovations and an addition at Airport Heights Elementary School which was built in the 50s.

Proposition # 2

  • A $1.79 million bond that would pay for area wide safety and public transportation improvements. It will pay for things like new ambulances, bus stop improvements and technology upgrades.

Proposition # 3

  • A $5.55 million bond, about half of which would fund improvements to the Loussac Library. The remainder would fund improvements to other important community buildings.

Proposition # 4

  • A $2.55 million bond that would pay for improvements to parks trails and recreational facilities. It will pay for construction of an enclosed dog park at Valley of the Moon Park, resurfacing of greenbelt trails and safety upgrades at recreational centers, among other things.

Proposition # 5

  • The second largest bond package on the ballot – it’s a $20.2 million bond that would pay for roads, storm drainage and related capital improvements. It will fund nearly 20 separate projects across the city, including reconstruction of Arctic Boulevard between 36th and Tudor, which has had drainage problems. A big chunk of the money will be put into an uncommitted drainage fund so that the city can respond quickly to flooding events. The money will also be used for pavement rehabilitation – fixing potholes and installing new culverts, among other things.

Proposition #6

  • A $1.95 million bond that would pay for fire fighting equipment. Specifically, it will pay for a new ladder truck, a new water tender and related capital improvements.

Proposition # 7

  • At $650,000, it’s the smallest bond proposition on the ballot – The money would fund public safety facilities. The money would replace a heating and air conditioning system at the Anchorage Police Department Headquarters, as well as some renovations to the building.

Besides the seven bond propositions, two charter amendments will appear the April 1 Municipal Ballot. One would allow Community Service Officers to continue issuing parking tickets and the other would make language in the charter, basically the Constitution of Anchorage.

 

Therapists' Apps Aim To Help With Mental Health Issues

NPR News - Wed, 2014-03-26 10:20

There are lots of apps out there that claim to improve your mental health, but precious few have actually been tested to see if they work. Psychologists are starting to give that a try.

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School Renovations Depend on Prop 1

Alaska and Yukon Headlines - Wed, 2014-03-26 10:17

Image from Google Street View.


Proposition 1 is an education bond that would give the Anchorage School District more than 57 million dollars for building maintenance and improvements.

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The Anchorage School District is requesting more than $57 million in bonds make improvements to it’s buildings.

The largest project, nearly $23 million, will renovate Airport Heights Elementary School and build an edition onto the school. Airport Heights was built in 1954 and has not had a major renovation, according to District officials. They say it needs more space for special ed and intensive needs students. The school lacks a multipurpose room. It also does not have dedicated art, health and music rooms. Those subjects are currently taught in relocatables outside the main school building.

Officials say there is not enough room to pickup and drop off kids and the parking is inadequate. Those problems will be resolved by the renovations and the addition, officials say.

The remainder of the bond money would go toward improvements at schools throughout the district.

Besides Airport Heights Elementary School, major building system upgrades are planned for Eagle River Elementary, Huffman Elementary and Bayshore Elementary Schools, among others.

Photo: Pothole Tries To Eat Pothole Repair Truck

NPR News - Wed, 2014-03-26 08:50

Winter weather that doesn't seem to want to end has done its damage to roads across much of the nation. In Michigan, one road-repair crew saw its truck sink into one tough pothole.

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MEHS Lady Braves runners-up at state

Southeast Alaska News - Wed, 2014-03-26 08:30


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Mt. Edgecumbe girls’ Basketball coach Dane Vincent, and players Joallyn Johnson (Jr-Kotlik) and Renatta Olson (Jr-Golovin) share their thoughts following their loss to ACS in the finals of the state 3A tournament last weekend.

Lady Braves fall just short state basketball title

Southeast Alaska News - Wed, 2014-03-26 08:29

Renatta Olson, Joallyn Johnson, and Mt. Edgecumbe girls basketball coach Dane Vincent. (KCAW photo/Robert Woolsey)


The Mt. Edgecumbe Lady Braves came within striking distance of the state 3A basketball championship last weekend, but did not quite get there.

The Lady Braves lost in the finals to the ACS Lady Lions by four points, 45 – 49.

Mt. Edgecumbe coach Dane Vincent and two of his players dropped by our studios and talked about the tournament with KCAW’s Robert Woolsey.


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Listen to an extended interview with Mt. Edgecumbe coach Dane Vincent and his players on the Morning Interview. (Available after 8:30 AM Wed Mar 26.)

For juniors Joallyn Johnson and Renatta Olson, going to the state tournament in Anchorage is not just about basketball. It’s about having a chance to reconnect with family members whom you’ve been apart from since the holidays.

Many of Johnson’s family traveled from Kotlik, on the Yukon River, to see her play. Olson’s mother traveled from her hometown of Golovin, just outside of Nome.

Seeing familiar faces in the stands of the Sullivan Arena was a big deal for these girls.

“Being here at Edgecumbe it’s hard not having family — like everyone else — to support you during the season. And it meant a lot, for those who had supporters, to go and watch us play.

The Lady Braves were consistent and strong throughout the regular season. With Sitka hampered by injuries, Mt. Edgecumbe was the favorite at the regional tournament.

At state, it was a different matter. The first problem was Nikiski. A big team, and the number 2-ranked school in the Southcentral region.

Olson says Nikiski tried to neutralize the Lady Braves’ low post, Taryn White. But it backfired.

“Nikiski’s team is all really tall compared to our team. Right off the bat they were double-teaming her (Taryn White), and it was hard for us to get it into her. So we started doing a high screen up top, and that opened it up a lot. And we attacked the basket and drew fouls, and that’s what worked for us.”

Joallyn Johnson scored 7 points in that game, as the Lady Braves beat Nikiski 49 – 39 from the outside.

“I was kind of nervous, but I was ready to play them. We had to get through them to get to the semi-finals.”

After Nikiski, the Lady Braves took on Barrow, the top-seeded team from the Western Region. Mt. Edgecumbe had beaten the Lady Whalers by a large margin early in the season. Both teams improved, but the Lady Braves kept Barrow off the basket and won 42-29, drawing only three personal fouls the entire game.

That put the Lady Braves in the finals, against the Anchorage Christian School, the number-1 seed in Southcentral.

ACS had earned their way into the championship with the press — applying full-court pressure to teams for most of a game, forcing turnovers, and then running in easy baskets.

Against the Lady Braves, however, coach Dane Vincent says ACS abandoned the press almost entirely.

“I take it as a compliment that a strong team, who has banked on it all year long, backed out of it and went to a half-court.”

By keeping the Lady Braves off the basket, ACS was able to open up a large lead at times, but they could not shut down Mt. Edgecumbe’s Taryn White, who would go on to score 23 points. With just a few minutes to play, the Lady Braves executed a key three-point play, forced a turnover, and Renatta Olson put in a layup to bring the Lady Braves within two.

Even though they didn’t make it, coach Dane Vincent smiles as he recalls the game. He’s been coaching ten years — but this is his first season at Mt. Edgecumbe.

“Any new coach can tell you going into a program: If the students and the athletes don’t buy into what you have to sell, it won’t fly. But these guys have bought into my offense, bought into this new defense that we’ve put in. And I got a lot of support from them. Renatta’s done an excellent job being a court general. You can tell her what to do, and even if she thinks it’s wrong she’s going to do it. And if it doesn’t maintain, we don’t have to stick to anything. They’ve done a really good job of buying into things, and I appreciate that as a coach.”

The Lady Braves will lose only one senior off this year’s team, Brittany Akaran. Both Joallyn Johnson and Renatta Olson will be back, and looking forward to doing even better next year.

“We went from last year being the runner-up at regions to being the runner-up at state. So I think that it should make us work that much harder. It’s going to be a lot of fun. I’m already excited.”

Dozens of vehicles vandalized in Anchorage overnight, three arrested

Alaska and Yukon Headlines - Wed, 2014-03-26 08:12
Dozens of vehicles vandalized in Anchorage overnight, three arrested The Anchorage Police Department has identified five areas of town where vehicles were vandalized. Three suspects have been arrested, but police believe more suspects may be involved.March 26, 2014

Fewer People Are Getting Infections In Hospitals, But Many Still Die

NPR News - Wed, 2014-03-26 08:01

More than 70,000 deaths a year are caused by hospital-acquired infections, a CDC survey of U.S. hospitals finds. The numbers are improving, doctors say, but not fast enough.

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