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Reaching out to kids to curb future violence

Boys and Girls Club Manager, David Barney sends each kid off the bus with the club handshake. Slap, slap, fist bump, snap. More than a dozen kids get off the minibus in Mountain View. Barney will repeat the short commute to pick up some more elementary kids. If they didn't come to the Boys and Girls Club, many of the kids would be home alone on week nights.

The Boys and Girls Club provides a safe place for kids before and after school.

For Barney, it's important that he helps children think about what they want out of their future.

"Hey if you're bored and and you need something to do, let's find something constructive to do," Barney said.

He said it's important for kids to have role models, people they relate to. That's why he's asked Trooper Luis Nieves to speak to the kids tonight.

Nieves is a recruiter for the Alaska State Troopers. He also has a passion for sharing his story. Nieves said he grew up with a single mom in a rough neighborhood in the Queens borough of New York. The thing that made the difference for him was having mentors who demonstrated a different way of life.

"If I didn't have those examples in my life that showed me, hey there's different lifestyles than gangs or drugs or something else, I wouldn't be here today," Nieves said.

Nieves plans to make working with the Boys and Girls club a regular thing. He also thinks it's important that kids see police in a different capacity than just enforcing the law.

"Outside the uniform, I'm a human being. I have a strong interest of when kids see we're humans like them," Nieves said.

Nieves said he was motivated to help out by the recent string of shootings in Anchorage. One suspect in a murder is 14. Anchorage police say he killed an 18-year-old over a drug deal. Nieves said he wants to return the favor to people who gave him hope.

"There wasn't a light at the end of the tunnel. I had to be pointed in the right direction," he said.

Nieves said he plans to meet with the Boys and Girls Club on a regular basis.

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State asks Fairbanks-area residents to avoid open burning

People living in a section of the Fairbanks North Star Borough are being asked to refrain from open burning until April 1. The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports new state rules beginning Saturday involve open burning and smokestack emissions. Open burning is prohibited through March 31. Borough residents in a 200-square-mile area also are asked to monitor their smokestacks and heed air-quality announcements by the borough or state. During air-quality advisories, residents are asked to make sure the smoke emitting from chimneys does not have more than 50 percent opacity - the level of light blocked by a plume of smoke. The new state rules aim to decrease air pollution in Fairbanks and North Pole. Those rules are separate from other pollution measures the borough Assembly is considering.

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State asks Fairbanks-area residents to avoid open burning

People living in a section of the Fairbanks North Star Borough are being asked to refrain from open burning until April 1.

Read more here...



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Old military explosive device found in Sitka

Sitka authorities say what appears to be an old military explosive device has been turned into fire officials. The Daily Sitka Sentinel reports the unexploded ordnance was turned in Wednesday. Sitka Fire Chief Dave Miller says the 2-foot long object was found during a property cleanup at Sunshine Trailer Court. Miller says he doesn't know if the device presents any hazards. Experts with the 716 Explosive Ordnance Disposal company at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in Anchorage have been notified. Miller says firefighters placed the device in a safe container.

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Statewide resources for Alaska children under age 6 limited, experts say

A task force is busy trying to figure out the future for Tanaina Child Development Center, a day care program that's being forced to leave UAA campus by May 8 due to the university's tight budget.

Thread Alaska, a group that helps families find child care in Alaska said in the municipality of Anchorage there are more than 25,000 children under the age of 6, but there are only enough spaces in day care programs for just over 10,000 children.

On Tuesday, the task force weighed its options for what happens next with Tanaina.

Megan Olson, vice chancellor university advancement at UAA said it's not ruling anything out at this point.

"One crux of the issue is can Tanaina move off campus in the short term and in the long term or what could that Tanaina dream look like if it were to expand," Olson said.

Melinda Myers, chief operations officer and program manager at Thread Alaska said statistics show that finding quality day care in Alaska is challenging.

"We know that statewide we have about 37,000 children under the age of 6 and we know there are only slots in regulated child care for about 22,000 of those kids, so we already know that there's a shortfall," Myers said.

Thread Alaska said parents face many hurdles, especially the cost.

"Statewide we know that in several communities it is really challenging to find child care because there aren't either a lot of programs that there are too expensive to afford or the quality is not where the parents want it to be," Myers said.

As the board and task force for Tanaina try to figure out what comes next, the university said it's determined to help the day care center any way it can.

"Parents have been understandably concerned where Tanaina's going to land is a very personal matter for all parents and I can certainly relate to that," Olson said.

Tanaina originally had a move out date of May 1, but that deadline was extended to May 8 because of final exams.

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80th anniversary of Fur Rondy underway in Anchorage



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State House subcommittee nixes Medicaid expansion funds

Republicans in the state House are moving to strip funding for Medicaid expansion -- one of Gov. Bill Walker’s key Alaska health-care initiatives -- from the state budget. Rep. Dan Saddler (R-Eagle River), chair of the House Subcommittee on Health and Social Services, announced the removal of Medicaid expansion funding from the Department of Health and Social Services budget for fiscal year 2016, at a Friday meeting of the subcommittee.

"There are a lot of different options for Medicaid reform, we could have requirements for Co-Pays, we could have provisions to impose managed  care, tools to reduce the super utilization by people who go to the emergency room 3 times a month,' said Saddler.

Earlier Friday, the Associated Press reported that Rep. Cathy Munoz (R-Juneau) said the issue needed to be looked at separately, similar to how the proposed transfer of money from savings to address the state's pension obligation was pulled from the budget and put into a separate bill last year.

A subsequent amendment to restore the funding, introduced by minority Democrats on the Republican-led committee, failed Friday morning on a party-line 8-3 vote.

Governor Walker called the vote "disappointing."  He learned of the news while conducting a cabinet retreat at the governor's mansion.  "Medicaid expansion is a very important part of our goals for this session," he told reporters Friday.

Reps. Tammie Wilson (R-Fairbanks) and Mark Neuman (R-Big Lake) both called for the governor to introduce a bill on Medicaid expansion, rather than incorporating it into the budget.

Walker says there's already legislation in place to expand Medicaid, House Bill 18.  The bill's sponsor, Rep. Andy Josephson (D-Anchorage) says that bill has yet to have a hearing.

When the DHSS budget is finalized, it will go to the full House Finance Committee, where it can be added back in. Walker’s predecessor, Republican Gov. Sean Parnell, had controversially rejected expanding Medicaid in Alaska to cover currently uninsured Alaskans. While most of the funding would be federal, he called the program a “hot mess” in December 2013 and questioned whether it was sustainable under Democratic President Barack Obama. By contrast, Walker made the acceptance of Medicaid expansion a core element of his campaign against Parnell last year, which emerged victorious even as Republicans made gains in the Legislature. Earlier this month, Walker said the state would pay only 9 percent of the expansion costs by 2021; budget amendments submitted last week by Walker call for a $20 million reduction in state spending on expansion in fiscal year 2016. DHSS Commissioner Valerie Davidson was at the hearing but unable to immediately provide comment on the announcement. Walker retains the option to veto any final budget which omits the Medicaid expansion funding. 

"I can't pre-determine what I will or will not veto I have to look at what comes to my desk and decide what I would do," said Walker.

It takes 30 House votes and 15 Senate votes to override a budget veto. Channel 2’s Adam Pinsker contributed information to this story.



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Police ask for help finding East Anchorage stabbing suspect

Officers are seeking a 41-year-old man suspected of stabbing another man in East Anchorage.

Police responded to the reported stabbing of a man in a trailer home on the 1000 block of the Boniface Parkway shortly after 3 p.m. Friday.

Medics transported the victim to a hospital with injuries that are not believed to be life-threatening.

Investigators are asking for help finding 41-year-old Kevin Campbell, who is charged with first-degree assault for allegedly stabbing the man.

Campbell is described by police as a black male, with brown hair and brown eyes, and 6-foot-5.

Anyone who knows where Campbell may be is asked to contact police dispatch at 907-786-8900.

Anchorage Police Department photo



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Bush Caucus hears need for water, sewer work in rural Alaska

Throughout rural Alaska, there's about $900 million in needed water and sewer work. The House's Bush Caucus heard an update Thursday on rural sanitation. It included current projects intended to cut costs and improve life in rural Alaska and the work that remains to be completed- or funded. Lawmakers were told the $900 million figure includes new water and sewer projects, as well as needed upgrades and maintenance for existing systems. The Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium's David Beveridge said funding for such projects has leveled off at just above $60 million per year. That money comes from a mix of state and federal sources. The consortium works with the state program on such projects.



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Leonard Nimoy leaves behind family with Alaska ties

Leonard Nimoy received a star on Hollywood’s Walk of Fame on Jan. 16, 1985 in Los Angeles. From left to right are Greg Schwartz, Nimoy's daughter Julie Nimoy Schwartz, Nimoy, wife Sandi Nimoy, his son Adam and Nancy Plutkin, Adam Nimoy’s fiancee. (AP Photo/Wally Fong) Leonard Nimoy, the late actor whose career was defined by his star turn as Spock, spent nearly 50 years traveling the final frontier on “Star Trek” -- but his off-screen life had a major link to the Last Frontier. Nimoy, 83, who died Friday at his Los Angeles home from chronic obstructive pulmonary disease, leaves behind two children, Julie and Adam Nimoy. Both were born during Nimoy’s marriage to his first wife, Sandra Zober, who hailed from the Alaska fishing town of Cordova. In a 1977 New York Post profile archived by a German Leonard Nimoy fan website, Nimoy told a reporter that he met Zober in 1953, when he was appearing at California’s Pasadena Playhouse in a production entitled “It’s Hard to Be a Jew.” When the production needed a new actress to fill a female part, Zober interviewed for it; while she didn’t appear on-stage, she and Nimoy married less than a year later. “We got married right after I completed my Army basic training,” Nimoy, who was discharged as a staff sergeant, told the Post. “She was born in Cordova, Alaska. Really! They were the only Jewish family in town. She’s beautiful, charming, intelligent, loving. With fantastic eyes.” A Cordova business, The Reluctant Fisherman Inn, said in a 2011 Facebook post on Nimoy’s 80th birthday recalling his Cordova time that he had returned in 1972 as a Democratic campaigner for anti-Vietnam War presidential candidate George McGovern, in his challenge of incumbent Richard Nixon. Nimoy, an accomplished photographer, snapped shots which were used in his first poetry book, “You and I.” Copies of the 1973 release have received sporadic but positive reviews on bookseller Amazon. “He was in Cordova in 1972 campaigning for McGovern and took the pictures that showed up in his book of poetry,” inn staff wrote. Zober, who took the name Sandi Nimoy during her marriage to the actor, became separated from Nimoy in 1988 after he had directed “Star Trek IV: The Voyage Home.” She spoke with the Orlando Sentinel in 1988, in the wake of their rocky breakup. ''He left me after 33 years of marriage,” Zober told the Sentinel. “I spent the first 15 years being the only one who believed in him and struggling with him. I believe I had a lot to do with where he is now.” Nimoy married the woman he had left Zober for, Susan Bay, in 1989. Bay remained his wife until he died, with Zober dying in 2011. In 2013, Nimoy was entranced by Alaska yet again on a cruise to Southeast Alaska ports, calling the state “absolutely beautiful.” In a Twitter message, he told Alaskans to “LLAP” -- shorthand for Spock’s personal catchphrase, “live long and prosper.”



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Arctic research vessel Sikuliaq prepares for final trials

A new National Science Foundation research vessel is visiting its home port before departing next month for trials in Bering Sea ice. The 261-foot Sikuliaq arrived Monday in Seward and is scheduled for tours March 6-8. The $200 million vessel will be operated by the University of Alaska Fairbanks. The ship has a hull designed to penetrate up to 3 feet of ice. It's powered by two thrusters and scalloped propeller blades that can be rotated 360 degrees to either pull or push the vessel. The reinforced propellers can grind ice. The Sikuliaq features a variety of cranes and booms that can deploy and retrieve scientific instruments The vessel is named for the Inupiat Eskimo word for young sea ice.



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Bill would allow for new license plates for veterans

Veterans who have received certain medals could have additional license plates to choose from. The House Military and Veterans' Affair Committee on Thursday advanced a bill that would allow the state Division of Motor Vehicles to produce new license plate for veterans. The new plates would be for those veterans who received a Bronze or Silver star, or other meritorious awards related to valor in battle. The bill was sponsored by Anchorage Reps. Les Gara, Liz Vazquez, Bob Lynn, Gabrielle LeDoux and Max Gruenberg.



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Budget proposal could ground some Alaska DPS aircraft

A budget proposal could wind up grounding two Alaska Department of Public Safety search-and-rescue helicopters, and a plane capable of prisoner and personnel transports. A House subcommittee Thursday denied a $2.4 million DPS budget request related to the department's aviation unit. The subcommittee decided that given the state's budget situation, adding in the eight new workers the department wants doesn't make sense. Public Safety Commissioner Gary Folger said if the money isn't added, the National Guard and private companies would have to pick up the slack. He did leave open the possibility smaller Public Safety helicopters could be used. The subcommittee's recommendation will be considered as the House Finance Committee crafts its version of the operating budget. Whatever passes the House will have to be considered by the Senate.

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Junior Iditarod set to start, end near Cantwell

Following its larger sister race, the Junior Iditarod Sled Dog Race has also shifted north, with the round-trip race starting and ending near Cantwell after a Tuesday decision to move it for the second time. The race for mushers 14 to 17 years of age, also called the Jr. Iditarod, usually begins at Knik Lake. It had previously been shifted to the Willow area, but race organizers Barb and Raymie Redington said this year’s March 1 start had to be moved again. “Due to extremely icy conditions in the Willow area, the decision to move the race was made (Tuesday),” the Redingtons wrote in an email late Wednesday. Mushers will depart on the new route at noon on March 1. “The dog teams will leave from the parking lot area on the Denali Highway and mush in to the halfway checkpoint which will be at the Alpine Creek Lodge,” race officials wrote. “The Jr.'s will complete their 10-hour mandatory layover there and mush back to the finish on Monday, March 2.” The Cantwell School will host a mushers’ banquet March 2. More information on the Junior Iditarod can be found at its website.

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Public policy group suggests state re-negotiate's state workers' contracts

A public policy group said Alaska should take a second look at its contract with state workers.

In a report released by Commonwealth North, the group made a recommendation that the state re-negotiate with union workers in the state. The recommendation comes as one of 26 recommendations made by the group in it's report, "The State's Operating Budget: Critical Crossroads, Choices and Opportunities."

Commonwealth North co-chair of the fiscal policy study group, Cheryl Frasca said the state is in a position where everyone has to accept changes.

"We have a very dramatic problem," Frasca said, "dramatic in terms of the revenue shortfall and it's likely to not get a lot better."

The Executive director of the Alaska State Employees Association disagrees with this view. ASEA represents about 9,000 state employees. ASEA's Jim Duncan said the costs were overstated by Frasca. He also said previous negotiations may bean employees gave up other things in order to have health care insurance. He said he wasn't surprised at the recommendation about state workers. 

"I think we're an easy target." Duncan said, "I think we're always an easy target.

Duncan pointed out that the last contract doesn't expire until the summer of 2016. He said a negotiation before the contract is up would require a decision from the union's board.

The governor's office said it hasn't made any plans in response to the report. It is still under review.



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'Death with Dignity' bill sparks tough conversation

Inspired by the story of a 29 year-old woman who chose to end her life under Oregon's "Right to Die" law, an Alaska lawmaker has introduced similar legislation.

"I was very touched by the story of a young woman named Brittany Maynard," said Rep. Harriet Drummond who introduced HB99.

Maynard garnered national attention last fall when she went public with her plans to end her life at home, on November 1. She was battling terminal brain cancer. Maynard and her husband had to move from their home in Califronia, to Oregon, to take advantage of that state's Death with Dignity Act.

"It occurred to me that Alaskans would have to disrupt their lives and travel a long way to take advantage of Oregon's law," said Rep. Drummond. "I think Alaska is ready for a law like this, or at least to have the conversation."

HB99 would allow a terminally ill patient, given a diagnosis of no more than six months to live, the chance to formally request life-ending medication. The patient would need a diagnosis from two different physicians and would need to request the medication on two separate occassions, two weeks apart.

"There's a process to ensure there's no coersion. The person has to be in full control of their faculties so they can make this decision on their own, with the assistance of experts," said Rep. Drummond.

Jim Minnery, president of Alaska Family Action, said he has many concerns about physician-assisted suicide becoming legal in Alaska.

"We understand the motivation by the other side to have a compassionate tone in what they want to do but we're very much in agreement with the American Medical Association in that, this is really, fundamentally incompatible with the physician's role to heal," said Minnery.

He said there are also concerns about potential opportunities for abuse of the law.

"The right to die quickly becomes sort of the duty to die," said Minnery.

According to Drummond, 70 percent of the patients who are given the prescriptions in Oregon never use them.

"Simply having the prescriptions give them the peace of mind," she said.

She added it's hard to tell if the bill will be heard on the floor this legislative session.



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Medicaid abortion court case wraps up but likely to be back in court

Attorneys representing the State of Alaska and Planned Parenthood made closing arguments regarding medicaid funded abortions, Wednesday. The judge tasked with deciding which side prevails said more than likely his decision will be reversed.

"As we all know I'm a speed bump on the way to the supreme court," said Judge John Suddock. " I don't think there's any superior court judge that makes a decision in this area that doesn't get reversed." 

In this case Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest is arguing to have a statute that limits when medicaid will cover abortions thrown out. It says women on Medicaid already struggle to make ends meet and denying them a free abortion would be unfair.

"A $600 medical procedure, or more depending on the gestation of her pregnancy can present a substantial or even insurmountable obstacle," said Autmn Katz with the Center for Reproductive Rights. 

At the end of 2014 Alaska lawmakers changed a statute regarding medicaid to say an abortions will only be covered when one is "medically necessary" to prevent a woman from undergoing bodily harm or death.

Planned Parenthood says that definition isn't broad enough. It takes a big issue with mental health not being listed as one of the 21 conditions that would qualify for a medically necessary abortion.

It says the distress of going through with an unwanted pregnancy should be reason enough to terminate. In court, an alternative definition was offered up, one adapted from a current statute regarding autism spectrum disorder.

"A medically necessary abortion would mean any care treatment, intervention, service or item prescribed by a licensed physician in accordance with accepted standards of practice that will or is reasonably expected to prevent the onset of an illness, condition or injury or reduce or ameliorate the physical or mental effects of an illness, condition or injury<" said Katz.

Attorneys for the state argue that the way lawmakers have worded the statute for abortions is not only fitting but also in accordance with how Medicaid works when deciding what procedures to cover or not.

Assistant Attorney General Margaret Paton Walsh says, "there's nothing unusual about the way abortion is being treated here and in fact many procedures and medications are subject to much more stringent layers of review."

Judge Suddock expects to make a decision regarding the statute soon.  



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Cargo ship held in environmental crimes investigation cleared to leave Alaska

A cargo ship that has been detained in an Alaska harbor amid an environmental crimes investigation has been cleared to leave port.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Kevin Feldis tells The Associated Press that the German operator and owner of the 600-foot Lindavia entered into a security agreement and posted a bond Thursday.

As part of the security agreement, a portion of the crew of about 20 will remain in Alaska until the investigation is complete.

When the ship entered port Feb. 12, the crew notified the Coast Guard that it suffered damage to some navigation lights and radar systems in storms while en route to Alaska from China. Coast Guard officials noticed the possible environmental crimes when they boarded the ship to check damage.

Feldis declined to provide details of the alleged crimes while the case is being investigated.



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Third suspect arrested in Emmonak crowbar assault

One person has been medevaced to Bethel from the western Alaska village of Emmonak, after Alaska State Troopers say three suspects assaulted him overnight Wednesday with a crowbar and a pistol. Troopers say in an AST dispatch that they were informed at about 12:15 a.m. Thursday of the assault, allegedly committed by a trio of Emmonak residents: Doran Jennings, 23, Jereith Jimmy, 21, and Karl Kelly, 21. Kelly was initially at large Thursday morning. “Investigation revealed that (the suspects) were consuming homebrew alcohol and then left their residence and went to a residence next door and assaulted the male occupant using a metal crowbar,” troopers wrote. “Doran Jennings then pulled out a .40-caliber handgun and held it to the head of the male he just assaulted, and made statements to him that he would kill him.” Another family member in the home was also assaulted during the encounter, according to troopers. “Doran Jennings then walked over to the female adult, who is his sister, and physically assaulted her,” troopers wrote. “Jennings then held the handgun up to his sister's head and made statements that he would kill her and her two children if she called the cops. Jennings then fired four rounds from his handgun striking the wall near where his sister was standing, and then all three suspects fled the residence.” An arriving trooper was able to apprehend Jennings at the scene, as well as Jimmy at a nearby home, after brief struggles with each suspect. After a brief search, Kelly was taken into custody without incident at about 11:30 a.m. The male victim in the assault was medevaced with serious internal injuries, with both the trooper and Jennings suffering minor injuries during Jennings’ arrest. AST spokesman Tim Despain said all three suspects in the assault will be taken to Bethel. Numerous charges have been filed in the incident, including one count of fourth-degree criminal mischief, two counts each of first-degree assault and second-degree misconduct involving weapons, three counts of first-degree burglary, and four counts of third-degree assault.



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AST: Man Tased, arrested after throwing drugs into Anchorage Jail

An Anchorage man on felony probation who allegedly threw a packet of drugs into the Anchorage Jail was chased down and Tased by Alaska State Troopers Wednesday afternoon. Troopers say in a Thursday AST dispatch that Kevin Sathre, 28, was observed throwing "what is suspected to be drugs" over a fence on the jail's south side, at about noon Wednesday, by investigators with the Statewide Drug Enforcement Unit. Troopers’ attempt to speak with Sathre turned into a foot chase along 5th Avenue. “Investigators pursued Sathre on foot as Sathre disrupted traffic on 5th Avenue,” troopers wrote. “During the foot pursuit, Sathre was Tased and taken into custody without further incident. Sathre was not injured and did not require medical assistance.” AST spokesman Tim DeSpain said Thursday afternoon that the drugs thrown into the jail had subsequently been identified as marijuana and tobacco. Sathre was arrested on first-degree and second-degree counts of promoting contraband, as well as fifth-degree misconduct involving controlled substances and resisting arrest. He was remanded to the Anchorage Jail.



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