first_imgHealth | State GovernmentWalker hopes to reframe president’s perspectiveAugust 25, 2015 by Liz Ruskin, APRN Share:Gov. Bill Walker on April 18. 2015. (Photo by Jeremy Hsieh/KTOO)President Obama’s visit to Alaska is now less than a week away, and he’s not the only one with an agenda for his stay in the 49th state.“It’s an exciting time for Alaska. We don’t have a lot of presidents who stop here unless they’re low of fuel,” Gov. Bill Walker said Tuesday at a news conference outlining his goals for the presidential visit.For the White House, climate change is the theme of the visit. The president plans to spotlight Alaska’s melting and erosion as signs that climate change is real, and to bolster support for his carbon-reducing energy policies.Walker hopes to draw the president’s eye to a few other matters.“We have an opportunity with this trip to tell our own story,” Walker said.The governor wants Obama to see Alaska’s need for more oil development — to refill the pipeline and fund state government. Walker says Obama’s decision to let Shell drill in the Chukchi Sea suggests the president does not intend to use evidence of Alaska’s warming as a reason to block future oil development.“I don’t think so. If I he had taken a different position on offshore I’d be more concerned about that,” Walker said. “The fact that he’s said yes to offshore — so I’m not as concerned he’s going to say that.”When Obama tours Alaska towns struggling with climate change, Walker says he hopes the president sees how expensive it is for the state to mitigate the damage.“I’ll be talking to him about, you know, we can’t be limited from access to our resources, from the financial standpoint, and be expected to relocate villages at the same time,” Walker said. “So that’ll be the discussion we have.”Walker says the White House has assured him the president doesn’t plan any surprise announcements during the trip, and he intends to ask about that again this week. Share this story:last_img read more

And I, Byron Nicholai, will always love…..Posted by I Sing. You Dance. on Wednesday, May 13, 2015 Alaska Native Arts & Culture | Arts & Culture | SouthwestToksook Bay singing and drumming phenom releases first albumNovember 1, 2015 by Charles Enoch, KYUK Share:Byron Nicholai’s Yup’ik songs have been popular in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta ever since he started uploading his performances to his Facebook page. Now they’re available on a variety of common online music sites.Toksook Bay’s Byron Nicolai recently released his first album “I Sing, You Dance.”Nicholai, who’s from Toksook Bay, recently recorded a 12 track album now available on Play, Spotify, Amazon and most recently iTunes under the album name “I Sing, You Dance.”Nicholai says he first got the idea to record and sell his songs from the comments on his ‘I Sing. You Dance” Facebook page.“People wanting to buy CD’s, ‘Where can I buy a CD?’ ‘Where do you sell your CD’s?’ and I told them that I don’t have a CD yet, and then they were saying, ‘Well, you need to make one because I want to buy one,” said Nicholai.Nicholai says the opportunity to professionally record his music arose after he was introduced to Frozen Whitefish band member Mike McIntyre who is also the owner of a new business, Yuk Media.McIntyre founded the company in June with the mission of bringing Yup’ik culture into the mainstream media as a means of preserving the culture for future generations. Nicholai became the first client. McIntyre says their project started under a pressing deadline; the Alaska Federation of Natives convention in mid-October.McIntyre says they discussed business over pizza and were able to record the songs in about five hours. Nicholai recorded some traditional songs passed down from family, friends and teachers; like the song called ‘Tarvautnauramken,’ or “Let me bless you.” It’s a song about performing a blessing to drive away evil spirits or sickness. Another song fans will notice is his signature song called ‘I Am Yup’ik.’They say the album also features three new songs Nicholai came up with during the recording.“One of my favorites is Ellu’urtaataunga,” said McIntyre. “We were sitting there and he starts singing something and I’m like, ‘what was that?’”“Yeah I just made that up,” said Nicolai.  “Mike’s like we need to put that in the album you should record it and sing it again.”After that Nicholai freestyled a couple more songs. Some of his sillier performances still can be found on Facebook. While the album is available online they haven’t produced CD’s yet but McIntyre says they hope to order a thousand to sell by Christmas.Nicholai performed for Secretary of State John Kerry and other dignitaries at the White House in Washington D.C. over the summer. But he says now he’s focusing on his schooling. He’s turned down a few requests for performances. He is in his senior year in high school and wants to finish school on time so he can get back to traveling and performing. He plans on going to college at the University of Alaska Anchorage. He says the location will make it easier to travel for performances. He plans to major in education and minor in Alaska Native studies.Share this story: read more

first_imgArts & Culture | Juneau | KRNN | KXLLRed Carpet Concert: Kim BeggsMay 18, 2016 by Scott Burton, KTOO Share:Over the last week and a half we’ve been presenting videos that we recorded during this year’s Alaska Folk Festival. Today, we present Red Carpet Concert number five of 10 with Kim Beggs of Whitehorse, Yukon. Here’s her tune, “Heart in a Bucket.”The Red Carpet Concert Folk Fest Session videos are a collaboration between KTOO, Juneau filmmaker Ryan Cortes and audio engineer Justin Smith of Gustavus.Watch the rest of the Red Carpet Concert Folk Fest Sessions with musicians like Caleb Klauder, Liz Snyder and Harrison B. Stay tuned for Friday’s video with the Seattle-based “Improbabillies” with Forest Gibson, Scott Meyer, and Grant Dermody.Share this story:last_img read more

first_imgCommunity | Government | Juneau | Local GovernmentCity begins taking public comment on fireworks ordinance tonightOctober 19, 2016 by Lakeidra Chavis, KTOO Share:Tonight Juneau residents will be able to voice their opinions regarding a proposed ordinance to restrict the use of fireworks.The City and Borough of Juneau is hosting two public meetings within the next week.The ordinance would restrict the use and purchase of fireworks to certain times of the year, like New Year’s and the Fourth of July.The current draft would limit the use of fireworks to Dec. 31 to Jan. 2, and July 3 to July 5, between 10 a.m. and 1 a.m.Penalties could be as a high as a $300 fine.City Clerk Lauri Sica said the city has received emails for almost a year about the issue.Juneau residents will be able to voice their opinions on the most recent draft tonight at the Assembly Chambers starting at 6 p.m.There will be another public meeting regarding the issue 6 p.m. next Monday, Oct. 24, at the Mendenhall Valley Library.Share this story:last_img read more

first_imgFederal Government | PoliticsLindbeck digs at Young in House debate; Miller and Stock criticize Murkowski in Senate debateNovember 4, 2016 by Zachariah Hughes, Alaska Public Media Share:The U.S. Capitol in Washington on Oct. 18, 2016. (Public domain photo courtesy Architect of the Capitol)During Thursday’s Debate for the State hosted by Alaska Public Media, races for U.S. House and Senate took on very different tones.In the House race, Republican incumbent Don Young held up his years of experience and familiarity with the federal government as some of his strongest assets. But those were exactly what Democrat Steve Lindebeck, a former general manager for Alaska Public Media, went after.During the chance to ask a question, Lindebeck dug in on Young’s record.“You’ve been investigated by the FBI, you were reprimanded only two years ago by the House Ethics Committee, you’ve broken federal ethics disclosure rules for a long time now. If you’re re-elected, how could Alaskans possibly believe that the next two years will be any different?” Lindbeck asked.In his response, Young batted away the question. It was a rare spark in an otherwise cordial debate. Young, Lindebeck, as well as the two other candidates, Libertarian Jim McDermott and independent Bernie Souphanavong, were amiable, even though there were huge differences in their approaches to the Arctic, the economy and immigration.Even on the divisive topic of transgender bathroom access, a political flashpoints both locally and nationally, Young and the others were largely on the same page.“I’m not sure the federal government has a role in this, but they’re gonna pursue it, the Supreme Court’ll make that decision,” Young said. “But there’s a lot of other serious problems occurring in this country right today, and remember, everybody uses the same bathroom in your home.”Just after the House debate, the four candidates running for U.S. Senate had their chance to make a case to Alaskans ahead of election day. And things were much less diplomatic, with candidates talking over one another and frequently going out of their way to take digs at opponents. Incumbent Republican Lisa Murkowski caught criticisms from both sides, on the right by Libertarian Joe Miller, and from the left by independent Margaret Stock.For example, both challenged Murkowski over her response to the nomination of Merrick Garland to the Supreme Court.“But he has suggested that somehow or another I have supported Merrick Garland,” Murkowski said, referring to comments from Miller. “We haven’t had an opportunity to weigh in on Merrick Garland. So I just wanna make sure that people understand that what I supported was a process that allows –”“I’m not sure you can have it both ways,” Miller interjected.“You can absolutely have it both ways,” Murkowski shot back as moderators steered the conversation back on course.Candidates’ answers ran the ideological gamut, from extremely conservative, to populist progressive platforms, like Democrat Ray Metcalf’s call for a public option in healthcare. The focus throughout was much more national in its scope than the preceding House debate.State and federal elections are Tuesday, Nov. 8.Share this story:last_img read more

first_imgAlaska’s Energy Desk | Aleutians | Climate Change | Environment | Oceans | WildlifePuffin die-off on St. Paul Island may point to larger ecosystem problemsDecember 8, 2016 by Laura Kraegel, Alaska’s Energy Desk Share:St. Paul residents have seen 300 puffin carcasses wash ashore since mid-October. Scientists say seabirds are good indicators of overall ecosystem health, which means the die-off could be a sign of trouble for all sorts of species. (Photo by COASST Island Sentinels)In the past two months, 300 dead puffins have washed up on St. Paul Island, alarming residents who had only seen six carcasses over the last decade.The die-off appears to be slowing down now, but scientists say it could be the sign of a much larger ecosystem problem.Audio Player Up/Down Arrow keys to increase or decrease volume.Lauren Divine didn’t panic when St. Paul residents found a few dead puffins on the beach in mid-October.“The first day was a tufted puffin. The next day was a horned puffin. I didn’t think too much about it,” said Divine, co-director of St. Paul’s Ecosystem Conservation Office.Within the week, she said it became clear something was wrong, as islanders found more and more carcasses.They posted photos on Facebook and called ECO concerned. Divine took the first dead birds to Anchorage for research while her co-director hopped on a four-wheeler and hit the beaches to the gauge the extent of the problem.“She called me up and said: ‘I’ve followed up on these citizen reports of puffins, and they’re everywhere. There are dead puffins everywhere.’”The carcasses came ashore in waves.Dozens at a time.They washed up so fast most were still intact days later — a sign there were so many, scavenging foxes couldn’t keep up.Divine said the extent of the die-off was frightening.St. Paul residents began patrolling the beaches daily, and the ECO office had 10 dead puffins necropsied.“After we opened up the first five, it was very apparent that all of them were emaciated,” she said. “Their muscles were completely atrophied. They had empty stomachs. They had gastrointestinal bleeding, which indicates severe long-term starvation. They were in very, very poor shape.”The theory is that the puffins left the island and headed south to winter in the Bering Sea as usual. But when they couldn’t find food, they grew weak, starved, and were carried back to St. Paul by ocean currents.“So we started digging into this more,” said Divine. “What is happening? Where is their food?”To answer those questions, ECO enlisted help from the Coastal Observation and Seabird Survey Team, or COASST, based at the University of Washington. It’s a citizen science program that has 800 volunteers collecting data on seabirds from northern California to Kotzebue and Cape Lisburne.Julia Parrish, executive director of the program, said all that local data helps piece together the big picture unfolding across the north Pacific Ocean, as well as the Bering and Chukchi Seas.Right now, Parrish said the major force at work is a big patch of warm water called the Blob, and it’s affecting the entire marine ecosystem.“Suddenly, it’s like the grocery store is full of new things — and less good things — to eat,” said Parrish.The changes begin at the bottom of the food chain, with plankton and forage fish — the kind of fish that make up a puffin’s diet. Those small fish try to adjust to the warmth by swimming to different areas or diving deeper in search of cool water.For the puffins on St. Paul, that’s meant widespread starvation.In fact, Parrish said the 300 birds found dead may represent just 10 percent of the total die-off, when you account for carcasses that are probably blowing past the small island.“That would mean those 300 birds scale up to 3,000 birds,” she said. “That’s half of the breeding population of the Pribilof Islands.”The people of St. Paul don’t harvest puffins for subsistence, but Parrish said seabirds are good indicators of overall ecosystem health.This die-off could be a sign of trouble for all sorts of species that residents rely on to fill their freezers.“Can these populations sustain this kind of long-term change pressure? Boy, that’s a great question,” she said. “I wish I knew the answer. I can tell you I think it’s going to be stressful for them for a while.”Back in St. Paul, Divine said it looks like the puffin die-off is slowing down, but the ECO office also is seeing signs of stress in other species.She said the island’s seabirds laid barely any eggs this season, hunters had a hard time finding sea lions, and crab quotas were cut sharply after a survey showed low numbers.“It’s all interrelated — from the smallest harmful algal blooms and phytoplankton issues to whale die-offs and loss of sea ice,” she said. “It’s absolutely all connected, and I think we’re so far past the point of needing some kind of conservation and management action — before it’s too late to give the ecosystem a fighting chance.”But even for scientists, it’s hard to know what to do. As Parrish says, you can’t legislate water temperature.So for now, that leaves the people of St. Paul to pick up dead birds from their beaches and monitor the changing ocean that surrounds them.Share this story:last_img read more

first_imgAlcohol & Substance Abuse | Health | Juneau | Public Safety | State Government | SyndicatedHealth officials distribute new technology for Alaska’s war on opioidsFebruary 25, 2017 by Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska News Share:Homeless youth advocate Michelle Overstreet, left, talks about drug abuse during an Alaska Municipal League forum Feb. 22, 2017, in Juneau. Dr. Anne Zink and Dr. Jay Butler also were on the panel. (Photo by Ed Schoenfeld/CoastAlaska News)Alaska has another tool in the fight against opioids.Public health officials are distributing thousands of disposal bags that chemically react to and leave no trace of the drugs.The bags are sealable pouches containing active carbon. You add drugs and water, seal and shake it, and wait for 30 seconds. The carbon neutralizes the drugs, so they have no effect. The biodegradable bags can be thrown out with the trash.Michelle Overstreet is executive director of My House, a Wasilla-based organization that helps homeless teenagers. She told those at an Alaska Municipal League meeting in Juneau that it’s important to dispose of drugs safely at any time, not just official drop-off days.“We’ve had parents coming in to get those, we’ve had grandparents coming in to get those,” she said. “People are excited about having a way to get rid of those that isn’t throwing them in the garbage or down their septic system, which then can leach into their well.”A drug-disposal pouch from a painkiller company that’s providing 25,000 such bags to Alaska. (Photo courtesy Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals)Mallinckrodt Pharmaceuticals, which makes opioid pain-killers, is contributing 25,000 disposal bags to the state.Alaska Chief Medical Officer Dr. Jay Butler said his agency is sending 1,000 bags to its clinics.“I recognize that some of our public health centers don’t have full-time staffing anymore. But that is one of the ways we want to get these into the communities. Or if we can provide some directly to you, we’d be happy to do that also,” he told municipal leaders at the forum.Public health official Andy Jones said distribution began a few weeks ago.They’re going to hospitals, recovery centers, homeless shelters, tribal governments and others who can get them to all parts of Alaska.“There’s a lot of communities that don’t have public health centers,” Jones said. “So we’ll also be looking at the clinics and community health aides.”“We do have a lot of itinerant nurses within public health nursing that travel go out to the communities quite often,” he said. “So they’re going to be equipped with these pouches and they can hand these out as they travel across the state.”Jones said the bags are an easy way to dispose of unused prescription painkillers, which are frequently stolen or sold to addicts.“The targeted audience may not be the individual who’s using, especially,” he said. “More or less, (it’s) the individual who’s coming into recovery.“When you go into those recovery centers or those homes, they can’t be carrying pills or prescriptions,” Jones said. “These bags give them that way to dispose of those medications in the right manner.”Gov. Bill Walker recently declared the opioid epidemic a state emergency. Other efforts include distributing 5,000 naloxone kits, which can stop opioid overdoses.Share this story:last_img read more

first_imgEconomy | Energy & Mining | Juneau | Politics | Southcentral | State GovernmentFar apart politically and geographically, lawmakers talk oil and gas taxesJuly 12, 2017 by Andrew Kitchenman, KTOO and Alaska Public Media Share:Rep. David Talerico, R-Anchorage, Sen. Cathy Giessel, R-Anchorage, and Sen. Bert Stedman, R-Sitka, listen to Democratic lawmakers in Anchorage. The two sides don’t agree on reducing the ability of oil companies to use losses to lower their taxes. (Photo by Andrew Kitchenman/KTOO)The first substantial day of legislative meetings in 20 days occurred Wednesday, but the two majorities in the Legislature were far apart — and not just politically.Most senators met in Juneau for a floor session for the first time since the Legislature passed the budget June 22. But most House majority members were out of town.Both bodies agree that the state should stop paying cash for oil tax credits. But the House also wants to reduce companies’ ability to use losses to lower their future taxes. The Senate wants to allow this to continue.Anchorage Democratic Rep. Geran Tarr said tax reductions should be stopped along with cash credits.“The reason our cash credit system is not working right now is because we can’t afford it,” Tarr said. “We think it’s an unreasonable move to put in place a system that we also cannot afford going forward.”While both sides offered up what they described as compromises on House Bill 111, the oil and gas tax legislation, neither appeared ready to move on the issue of allowing companies to use losses to reduce taxes.Anchorage Republican Sen. Cathy Giessel said the two sides should move forward with what they agree on: eliminating cash credits. She said using losses to offset taxes is important to attract new oil and gas companies to the state.“We’re certainly willing to look at simplifying” the tax system, she said. “It would help our Tax Division. It would help citizens. It would help legislators, if it were a simpler system. But that’s not something that happens at 3 o’clock on a Wednesday afternoon four days before a special session ends.”Senators said they returned to Juneau to follow legislative rules that allow them to consider the oil tax bill. But House members said they didn’t want to waste money on travel if the two sides can’t reach an agreement.The special session must end by Saturday. Share this story:last_img read more

first_imgCrime & Courts | Federal Government | JuneauSpaulding pleads not guilty to federal drug conspiracy chargeAugust 23, 2017 by Tripp J Crouse, KTOO Share:Juneau police searched this house on Fourth Street earlier this month. (Photo by Quinton Chandler/KTOO)One of two residents of a downtown Juneau house raided this month pleaded not guilty to a drug conspiracy charge.Tiffany Jo Spaulding, 34, appeared in federal court today and pleaded not guilty to the drug-related charge.Appearing via teleconference from Anchorage, U.S. Chief Magistrate Judge Deborah M. Smith set a deadline for discovery filings for Oct. 6Spaulding and another resident were arrested after federal officials tracked a drug package to their residence in the 400 block of Fourth Street.According to the Juneau Empire, a postal inspector had flagged the suspicious package from California. It contained a large canister filled with coffee, 50 oxycodone pills and 221 grams of suspected methamphetamine. Federal officials used an electronic alerting and tracking device in the package.The other resident, Christian John Peters, is scheduled to appear in federal court 1:30 p.m. Thursday for an arraignment hearing in Juneau. An online court schedule listed D. Scott Dattan as Peters’ lawyer.Federal Public Defender Jamie McGrady represented Spaulding in court.Spaulding and Peters face a charge of drug conspiracy. The charge alleges that the two conspired with others to possess and distribute 50 grams or more of a substance containing detectable amounts of methamphetamine.Share this story:last_img read more

first_imgCrime & Courts | Southcentral | State Government | WesternAlaska Senate passes crime bill, adjourns from special sessionNovember 10, 2017 by Andrew Kitchenman, KTOO and Alaska Public Media Share:John Skidmore, director of the Criminal Division in the Department of Law, presents testimony relating to SB 54 before the Senate Judiciary Committee in March. The Senate sent the bill to Gov. Bill Walker on Friday. (Photo by Skip Gray/360 North)The state Senate adjourned from the special session today, passing one bill on the session agenda while declining to act on the other.Senators did act on a wide-ranging bill to scale back last year’s reductions to criminal sentences.The Senate voted Friday to agree to the changes the House made to Senate Bill 54. It now is headed to Gov. Bill Walker’s desk.The Senate didn’t act on a proposal by Walker to tax income from employment, intended to help close the gap between state spending and revenue.The Senate passed the criminal justice bill 11-8, despite a series of concerns raised about the measure.Representatives of the court system, prosecutors, public defenders and law enforcement questioned whether changes made by the House would withstand court challenges.Several experts said one provision may violate offenders’ constitutional rights.Department of Law’s Criminal Division director John Skidmore questioned the provision. It applies the same sentences to people who commit class C felonies for the first time as those who commit more serious class B felonies.He said it would certainly face a legal challenge.“For the C and B felonies, having them have the same sentencing range, I’m telling you, that is a problem,” he said. “That’s not just somebody saying, ‘I’m going to file a lawsuit,’ and it may or may not be frivolous. I’m telling you there’s also a legal issue there that the courts will have to resolve.”The Senate passed a version of the bill for the first time in April.The House made 28 amendments in committees and on the floor during the special session.It was those amendments that troubled legal experts Friday.Senators could have rejected the House amendments, which would have led to a conference committee to settle their differences. But the Senate decided against the move.Eagle River Republican Sen. Anna MacKinnon said residents have called for stricter penalties. She said the law allows judges discretion to decide sentences individually.“From a public perception, at least if you have been aggrieved, if you have had someone die close to you, if you have had someone’s, your car taken, that when it goes through a court process, the B or the C does not determine in the end the final consequence. It’s the judge,” she said.Bethel majority-caucus Democratic Sen. Lyman Hoffman opposed the House version.“If we see something that is wrong in the bill, that’s constitutionally challenging, we should not go forward in my opinion to make that law, and then have it fixed later,” Hoffman said. “If we see that it is wrong, we as legislators should fess up and fix it.”Quinlan Steiner leads the state Public Defender Agency. He said that the potential flaw with class C felony sentencing could lead the courts to throw it out, leading back to Senate Bill 91.That means first-time class C felons would face suspended sentences instead of immediate jail time.“That’s what the litigation is going to be about,” Steiner said. “It’s not speculative. It will be filed. It will be an issue in every single C felony case, until it’s resolved.”Senators who spoke in favor of today’s bill described it as tough on crime and said a vote against it would be a step backward.The House must adjourn by Monday or the Senate will be called back.Share this story:last_img read more