Four Western Alaska communities to receive large halibut donation after dismal walrus harvest

first_imgCommunity | Environment | Fisheries | Subsistence | WesternFour Western Alaska communities to receive large halibut donation after dismal walrus harvestJuly 31, 2015 by Laura Kraegel, KNOM Share:Four communities affected by this spring’s poor walrus harvest will soon receive 10,000 pounds of halibut from a nonprofit that supplies seafood to hunger-relief efforts.Nearly 200 boxes of the fish were delivered to Nome July 29, according to Kawerak senior planner Donna James. She said the delivery is being sorted and will soon be distributed to Diomede, Gambell, Savoonga and Wales.The halibut comes as a donation from SeaShare, a nonprofit based in Washington state. All four communities declared states of economic disaster after a spring harvest that Vera Metcalf called significantly worse than usual.Metcalf is director of the Eskimo Walrus Commission and has worked with the communities through the food shortage. She said the commission reached out to the State of Alaska and the governor’s office for help through Rep. Neal Foster and Sen. Donny Olson“Their staff (was) really good about following up with our concerns, making sure the communities were aware that the State of Alaska and Walker’s administration were aware of the situation,” Metcalf said.The U.S. Coast Guard brought the frozen halibut to Nome free of charge, and James said Kawerak is working with Bering Air, Erickson Helicopters and Ravn Alaska to organize free freight delivery to the four communities.Although the donation is good news, Metcalf said it’s only a temporary solution as climate change makes hunting more difficult.“In the event that another disaster is declared, what do we do? And how do we move forward? We need to come up with a long-term plan,” she said.For now, Metcalf said the donation will be a big help, even if it doesn’t completely solve the food shortages.“I know it won’t fill the nutritional value that a walrus or other marine mammals provide, but it’s there and it’ll be put to good use,” she said.The halibut will ship out as soon Kawerak can coordinate delivery with the different airlines. Kawerak will then distribute the fish equally to households in each community.Share this story:last_img read more

New Medicaid reform committee strives for savings

first_imgHealth | State GovernmentNew Medicaid reform committee strives for savingsJanuary 27, 2016 by Andrew Kitchenman, KTOO and Alaska Public Media Share:As lawmakers look to trim the state’s budget shortfall, their attention is focused on one of the biggest areas of the budget: Medicaid.Eagle River Republican Sen. Anna MacKinnon announced Wednesday that a new Medicaid reform subcommittee will focus on the issue over the next month.The subcommittee will look at two separate bills: one proposed by Gov. Bill Walker’s administration and another from Fairbanks Republican Sen. Pete Kelly to change how healthcare is delivered to low-income Alaskans.Both bills encourage the use of case management.In the state’s version, a contractor assigns a primary care provider to each patient.The provider would help coordinate the health care that the patient receives, with an eye toward preventing problems that cause unnecessary hospital stays and emergency room visits.Valerie Davidson, commissioner designee of Alaska’s Department of Health and Social Services listens to the State of the State Address, Jan. 21, 2015. (Photo by Skip Gray/360 North)State Health Commissioner Valerie Davidson says patients benefit from closer attention.“What we found is they love it, because, you know, maybe for the first time in their life, somebody is contacting them and saying, ‘Hey, it looks like you’re having some health issues,’” Davidson said. “Based upon what you have been seen for, you might benefit from seeing a primary care provider, who can work with a … cardiologist or some other specialist. And based upon what we know about the services that you’ve received, we can set up an appointment for you.”Both bills also seek to reduce pharmacy spending by pointing patients toward generic prescription drugs rather than name brands.Senator Kelly is also interested in exploring privatizing some state healthcare services.Kelly says he’s looking forward to quick and bold action:“We haven’t done it well enough over many, many years,” Kelly said. “There’s no finger being pointed at the Health and Social Services Committee or this commissioner. This has been a cumulative problem that I think we are just so forced  into dealing with it now because of the other budget considerations that face us, that we’re actually going to do it this time.”The new subcommittee will meet three times a week.Republican Senators Kelly and MacKinnon, along with Peter Micciche and Cathy Giessel will serve on the subcommittee, along with Democrat Donny Olson.MacKinnon says she’s interested in possibly taking pieces from both the administration’s bill and Kelly’s bill and making a recommendation to the full Senate Finance Committee by the end of February.Share this story:last_img read more

UAF makes effort to combat failures in sexual assault cases

first_imgEducation | Interior | Public Safety | Sexual Abuse & Domestic Violence | University of AlaskaUAF makes effort to combat failures in sexual assault casesFebruary 25, 2016 by Robert Hannon, KUAC Share:UAF is one of a few Land, Sea and Space Grant universities in the U.S. (Creative Commons photo by Jimmy Emerson)It’s been more than four months since the University of Alaska Fairbanks announced it failed to follow its own procedures in disciplining students accused of sexual assault. At the time, an independent review of the UA system was ordered.UAF said it now has transparent procedures and software in place to prevent similar lapses, but the review is delayed.Last week UAF student and sexual assault survivor Amy Cross testified before University Board of Regents. She applauded UAF’s efforts to be more responsive to assault victims and raise awareness about campus sexual assaults. But she said more could be done, even in times of financial hardships.“As you consider the budget, I ask that you remember that Title IX is not just a trending topic,” Cross said. “Sexual harassment, assault and stalking are serious problems that will not be resolved unless we can change our rape-supportive culture.”UAF Vice Chancellor Mike Sfraga said the school has new tracking software installed that flags any reports of Title IX violations. And all procedures have been reviewed and toughened.“The bottom line is we have this triangle of checks and balances,” said Sfraga. “It ensures that practices and policies and procedures are being followed the way the Board of Regents mandates us to, the way the law mandates us to. It’s just completely tracked.”Sfraga says based on the review, administrators decided to reverse an earlier decision to hire a temporary outside professional for the critical Dean of Students position and have hired internally.Laura McCollough, former Director of Residence Life has been tapped for the post.Meanwhile, an independent review of UAF’s lapses has seen delays. Roberta Graham, a representative for the University Statewide System said she hopes an executive summary will now be available at the end of March.Share this story:last_img read more

University of Alaska consolidates to single College of Education, UAS takes lead

first_imgInterior | Juneau | Southcentral | Southeast | University of AlaskaUniversity of Alaska consolidates to single College of Education, UAS takes leadDecember 14, 2016 by Quinton Chandler, KTOO Share:University of Alaska Southeast’s Juneau campus on Tuesday, Nov. 15, 2016. (Photo by Quinton Chandler/KTOO)The University of Alaska is bringing its three colleges of education under one roof at the University of Alaska Southeast.The University of Alaska’s Board of Regents voted unanimously Wednesday morning for UAS to lead the College of Education — though originally the regents planned to vote whether to give University of Alaska Fairbanks authority over the college.City and Borough of Juneau Assembly member Jesse Kiehl said UAS is the obvious, best choice.“Roughly as many teachers use University of Alaska Southeast programs as the other two universities put together and in some categories, even more than that,” Kiehl said.City and Borough of Juneau Assembly member Jesse Kiehl in May, 2013. (Photo by Casey Kelly/KTOO)Kiehl, the Assembly’s liaison to a UAS campus advisory council, said UAS has already been leading the University of Alaska in innovative education programs and not being chosen would’ve have been devastating.“That College of Education is nine-tenths of the graduate degrees that the University of Alaska Southeast offers. … Without a leadership role in one of the major missions of the university system statewide, UAS was in terrible danger,” Kiehl said.The regents’ decision means the College of Education’s administrative services will be based at UAS but all three branches in Anchorage, Fairbanks and Southeast will still offer academic programs on their campuses and online.UAS Chancellor Rick Caulfield said after a board meeting in September that the decision is part of a larger cost savings strategy called Strategic Pathways.“Our hope is that in the end, we’re going to be a leaner university, we’re going to reduce costs, we have to, we know that,” he said. “But at the same time that we can continue to focus on quality in our academic programs.”For months the University of Alaska has been considering what its branches in Anchorage, Fairbanks and Southeast should specialize in.Caulfield said UAS was uniquely qualified to lead the College of Education.“UAS has long had a really robust array of teacher education training programs,” Caulfield said.University of Alaska Southeast Chancellor Rick Caulfield listens to a presentation by President Jim Johnsen in the Egan Lecture Hall on Tuesday, Sept. 13, 2016. (Photo by Quinton Chandler/KTOO)Kiehl said UAS is a key economic and cultural driver for Southeast Alaska.Recently the City and Borough of Juneau and the Juneau Community Foundation decided to give the school’s College of Education a $1 million endowment.The next academic programs Strategic Pathways teams are scheduled to evaluate for consolidation are social sciences, arts and humanities, physical sciences and mine training.Caulfield said he is “grateful” to many Southeast residents and elected officials who voiced support for UAS to take this new leadership role.He believes that support was largely why President Jim Johnsen eventually recommended the regents give the College of Education to UAS.Share this story:last_img read more

University president faces no-confidence vote

first_imgInterior | Juneau | Recent NewsUniversity president faces no-confidence voteFebruary 4, 2017 by Associated Press Share:University of Alaska president Jim Johnsen, August, 2016. (Jeremy Hsieh/KTOO)University of Alaska’s president is facing a no-confidence vote related to a decision to headquarter the school of education at the Juneau campus instead of Fairbanks.The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports the Fairbanks Faculty Senate is expected to take up the issue Monday.Proposed resolutions find no confidence in President Jim Johnsen and put forward ways to keep faculty more involved in decision-making.Initial plans were to consolidate the education program in Fairbanks.Plans changed to the University of Alaska Southeast after Juneau lawmakers lobbied and the city committed to a $1 million donation.The Board of Regents approved the move in December.Faculty Senate President Orion Lawlor said the goal is to send a message and encourage the president and board to include faculty in making decisions.Editor’s Note: The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported the UAF Faculty Senate drafted two resolutions. The first resolution voices disapproval over the decision to house the school of education at UAS. The second raises broad concerns with President Johnsen’s leadership and his decisions on a University of Alaska cost-savings initiative called Strategic Pathways. Share this story:last_img read more

Representing himself, Strawn’s questions to jury panel veer off topic

first_imgCrime & Courts | JuneauRepresenting himself, Strawn’s questions to jury panel veer off topicOctober 4, 2017 by Matt Miller, KTOO Share:Jury selection is going slowly in the current homicide trial in Juneau Superior Court.Christopher Strawn is being retried for the 2015 death of Brandon Cook at the Kodzoff Acres Trailer Park.Strawn, who is not a professional attorney, is representing himself and it has had a noticeable effect.Some of his questions posed to individual members of the first jury panel have veered off topic. Strawn has a professional attorney as stand-by counsel, but he still needs basic trial procedures explained to him.The prosecutor in the case on Tuesday morning asked prospective jurors about whether they knew the difference between circumstantial and direct evidence, whether they could use corroborating evidence to determine the existence of missing items — such as a firearm, and whether they could still find someone guilty of a crime if a motive is unknown.Both Strawn and the prosecutor can excuse or dismiss prospective jurors for perceived bias or a relationship with one of the witnesses.They can also dismiss prospective jurors later at their own discretion.A second panel of prospective jurors is scheduled to be questioned Wednesday.Strawn’s previous jury trial ended in a mistrial last February.Share this story:last_img read more

Juneau police end policy of flagging flying weed

first_imgEconomy | Juneau | MarijuanaJuneau police end policy of flagging flying weedMarch 6, 2018 by Jacob Resneck, KTOO Share:Marijuana grown at a Juneau warehouse leased by THC Alaska on March 6, 2018. Up to half of the yield is earmarked for export to other parts of Alaska. (Photo by Jacob Resneck/KTOO)A change in policy by Juneau police means licensed marijuana producers should now be able to fly their product out of Juneau on commercial airlines.Until recently commercial cannabis was allowed to fly into Juneau International Airport, but not out.Audio Player Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.In an industrial area of the Mendenhall Valley a red nondescript metal building houses THC Alaska.Marijuana and its concentrates are produced here for Juneau’s retailers.But they also have customers in other parts of Alaska, and Juneau’s geography means flying or crossing water to get it there, which involves federal legal jurisdiction.Transportation Security Officer Renier Cava preps passengers’ carry-on belongings for X-ray screening at Juneau International Airport on Wednesday, Oct. 11, 2017. (Photo by Lorie Dankers/TSA)Juneau’s pot producers have been turned away from boarding commercial flights.It’s not clear exactly what the hang up was. There were different explanations, most coming back to the tension between state and federal marijuana laws.But that’s all supposed to change. All four of Juneau’s licensed cultivators got a letter in the mail on Valentine’s Day on Juneau Police Department letterhead.“To whom it may concern,” the letter signed by Juneau Police Chief Ed Mercer begins, “this letter is to advise of a procedural change the Juneau Police Department (JPD) will be making when dealing with legally licensed marijuana being transported via the Juneau International Airport.”The letter CC’s the U.S. Attorney’s Office and the Transportation Security Administration.Juneau authorities said it’s an evolving industry.“We’re trying to do the best that we can from a due diligence point of view to make sure that we comply with what we’re supposed to comply with and make sure that people have the proper documentation,” Juneau Police Deputy Chief David Campbell said Tuesday. “But at the same time not hinder businesses, either. We’re just trying to find that balance.”THC Alaska co-owner Ben Wilcox is taking the police at their word. He’s packed a carry-on – plus a personal item – for a Wednesday morning flight.“These two bags I can easily get 15 pounds of trim or about 900 units of concentrates,” he said.Since commercial pot was legalized in 2015, product has flown into Juneau’s airport.Those in the industry report that product is routinely flown out of other airports in Alaska.THC Alaska facilities manager Lacy Wilcox also sits on the board of the Alaska Marijuana Industry Association and said the “Juneau exception” was puzzling for everyone in the industry.“It was hard for us to understand why Juneau was so different and all airports were freely coming and going and Juneau wasn’t,” she said. “We knew that it was a city-run airport vs. a state-run airport. But beyond that we really couldn’t understand why the requirements would be different from one to the other when we’re talking about in-state commerce.”There has been a lot going on behind the scenes.Meetings between the marijuana industry and Juneau police and city officials have been ongoing and sometimes, according to Lacy Wilcox, a little awkward.“It’s always uncomfortable to go into the police department and say, ‘I’m a legal drug-seller and you’ve always looked at me one way and I’m hoping that you’ll look at me a different way starting today and how can we help you do that?’” she recalled. “It took a lot of people some guts to go and have that conversation.”Ben Wilcox has his round-trip ticket in hand and an alarm set for an early wake-up.“We’re going to give it a shot and turn hopefully three or four day trips into one-day trips,” he said with a laugh.That’s assuming the weather cooperates.Share this story:last_img read more

Lemon Creek inmates study Latin etymology and epic poems behind bars

first_imgCommunity | Education | JuneauLemon Creek inmates study Latin etymology and epic poems behind barsJuly 9, 2018 by Adelyn Baxter, KTOO Share:Jim Hale and Lowell Ford sit in the library at Lemon Creek Correctional Center after Latin class. (Photo courtesy Paul McCarthy/Alaska Department of Corrections)Audio Player Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.Taking GED or vocational classes in prison is not unusual. But at Juneau’s Lemon Creek Correctional Center, a small group is studying Latin, a language that’s been dead for centuries.Visitors to Lemon Creek Correctional Center pass through three locked gates. You surrender your phone, keys — pretty much everything but your ID.Once you pass through the final door, you’re locked in with 200 inmates.“I call them my captive audience,” said Jim Hale, a former college professor who teaches writing at the prison.He began teaching at Lemon Creek about four years ago. Over time, he grew closer with some of his more dedicated students. A few months ago one of them approached him with an unusual request: Would he consider teaching Latin?Hale learned Latin years ago as a graduate student studying Renaissance literature, but he hesitated.His Latin was rusty, and why would anyone want to learn a dead language, let alone in prison?“The one thing about Latin is, you’ll see anybody who’s been to jail or has to deal with legal process, you see a lot of Latin words a lot of people are not understanding,” said Lemon Creek inmate Lowell Ford.He’s had enough experience with legal proceedings to recognize a number of Latin phrases, but that’s not why he asked Hale to teach the class.Since joining Hale’s writing class four years ago, Ford has worked hard to improve his style. But he’s a perfectionist — constantly editing and revising his work, never quite feeling satisfied with it.He likes to write as concisely as possible, which makes choosing his words carefully very important.“With no grasp of Latin then the grasp of English seems to be kind of fleeting and you lose where the word came from or what the word truly is supposed to mean,” Ford said.In his writing classroom, Hale peppers his lectures with discussions of Latin etymology.He always told his students that understanding the original meaning of the words you want to use is the only way to really get across what you want to say in writing.Knowing that, he said yes. The former professor and freelance writing instructor even bought the Latin textbooks out of pocket.“It was a way of honoring our friendship,” Hale said. “And then, he found other guys who wanted to do it!”The class meets weekly for an hour in the prison library.During a recent lesson, they examined a poem about Dido, queen of Carthage.Four men in faded yellow jumpsuits took turns translating lines of text into English. Sometimes they paused on a tricky word until Hale offered up a gentle hint to get them going again. Ford says the vocabulary is particularly tricky for new learners. So much of English evolved from Latin, as did the meanings of many words.“When you’re memorizing Latin original words, sometimes the English words try to superimpose themselves over the Latin,” Ford explained.“For instance, our words ‘fact’ and ‘fiction’ come from two Latin words meaning the same thing,” Hale added.Ford said he spends more than an hour each night in his cell going over vocabulary and conjugation. He’s been reading the Aeneid in his spare time.“It’s like learning how to spell for a spelling bee; you take a list of words and you repeat them numerous times and then you write them and you write them and you write them,” he said.They don’t spend much time on pronunciation — Latin hasn’t been spoken as a native language for more than a thousand years, after all. The goal is simply to understand the texts they study.Hale said teaching the class forced him to revisit a subject he thought he’d never study again.“It’s an old axiom that you never really learn a subject until you have to teach it,” Hale said. “I feel like I’m learning Latin again with the guys.”Ford has been at Lemon Creek for about six years. He’s not due for release until 2020.He’s 39 now, and he knows learning new languages and subjects will only get harder. But he said he’s grateful for the opportunity.“It makes a section of time that would normally not have much value for me, turn into something that can be positive,” he said.The class may go on hiatus later this summer while Hale is out of town, but Ford said he plans to continue practicing alone and with his classmates.Share this story:last_img read more

Nevada prosecutors drop domestic violence charges against former Alaska political consultant

first_imgCrime & Courts | PoliticsNevada prosecutors drop domestic violence charges against former Alaska political consultantJanuary 21, 2020 by Nat Herz, Alaska Public Media Share:Prosecutors in Nevada have dismissed all charges against a former Alaska political consultant who was accused of assaulting his former fiancee.Ben Sparks was campaign manager for U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan when Sullivan was elected in 2014. As a veteran Republican political consultant, Sparks’ case made national news two years ago when he was charged with kidnapping and domestic battery, and his ex-fiancee released a signed five-page sex contract that described her as Sparks’ “slave and property.”Sullivan, at the time, called the allegations and reports “shocking and extremely disturbing.”Prosecutors dismissed five of the felony charges against Sparks in October, but they said at the time that they wanted to pursue a misdemeanor battery charge against him.Last week, prosecutors dropped that charge, too, saying Sparks’ ex-fiancee had become ill and wouldn’t be able to testify at trial for a long time, the Las Vegas Review-Journal reported.Sparks’ attorney told the newspaper that the allegations against him were fabricated.Share this story:last_img read more

UAF research vessel will be the first to leave port since the National Science Foundation halted sailings

first_imgCoronavirus | Environment | University of AlaskaUAF research vessel will be the first to leave port since the National Science Foundation halted sailingsMay 2, 2020 by Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks Share:(Photo courtesy Mark Teckenbrock/University of Alaska)The University of Alaska operated research vessel Sikuliaq is headed out on a cruise on May 4 to collect water and plankton samples in the northern Gulf of Alaska, as part of a long running ecological survey.According to the university, it’s the first time a National Science Foundation academic research ship is being allowed to leave port since the NSF halted sailings due to the coronavirus pandemic.  UAF College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences Dean Brad Moran said the Sikuliaq cruise has been granted an exception for several reasons, including the sampling project’s longevity.“It’s a point-to-point cruise out of Seward, Alaska, where Sikuliaq is home-ported. So it’s not going to go from Point A to Point B. And the cruise length was shortened to seven days, and it’ll never be more than one day’s steam back to land, should there be health concerns,” he said.Moran says UAF also developed a detailed plan to minimize chances of COVID-19 cases among Sikuliaq crew and research team members.“All of the scientific staff members, three of them, are home-quarantined here in Fairbanks,” he said. “There’s nobody from out-of-state going on this cruise. So we feel like we have a pretty robust plan.”Moran said other NSF funded research cruises planned for this summer, hinge in part on the success of next week’s trip.“We are certainly hopeful that we are able to host more science. And this plan has been shared with all the ship operators in the nation, so all eyes are on this cruise,” Moran said.Moran said that the pandemic has thrown NSF-funded research projects into a state of flux, and that cancelled sailings have made the already complicated business of vessel scheduling even more challenging.Share this story:last_img read more