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PHOTOS: Alaskans capture solar eclipse on camera

Maybe your mother told you it's not polite to stare.

It wasn't safe either, NASA said, for those who looked at Thursday's partial solar eclipse.

"Even at maximum eclipse, a sliver of sun peeking out from behind the Moon can still cause pain and eye damage. Direct viewing should only be attempted with the aid of a safe solar filter," NASA said.

The show in the sky reached its height at 1:45 p.m. Alaska time, NASA said, meaning the eastern half of the country should have gotten a view before the backdrop of golden twilight hues.

The moon clipped the sun and should have made it look like a fingernail as it set in the west for most of the country and Alaska.

People living in the Central Time Zone had the best view, NASA said. New England and Hawaii will miss out on this one.

The next solar eclipse over North America will occur in about three years -- and it will be a more dramatic and rare total eclipse.

Did you watch the eclipse in Alaska? If you captured photos of the event, be sure to share them by emailing Thanks to everyone who has already sent their amazing pics.

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One Same-sex couple coser to adoption after gay marriage ban ends

It's touched off a legal battle in Alaska, and a debate across the country.

Same-sex marriage is now opening doors to things many gay couples feared would always be difficult or even impossible.

For one Anchorage couple, the difference between adopting as a "second parent" and as a "step parent" means the difference of paying thousands of dollars to less than $100,000 to complete their family on paper.

"Prior to two Sundays ago, I was just a stranger adopting a child like someone getting someone from an orphanage," Jennifer Theulen said.

Theulen filed her adoption paperwork at Nesbett courthouse Thursday morning.

"Originally, we were doing a second parent adoption, which requires a home study and a number of other intrusive things and a lawyer and such and a social worker, but since Alaska is recognizing Nicole and I as a married couple I was able to apply," Theulen said. "I am now able to apply for a step parent adoption."

It's a process that is now easier on her wallet.

"It's $75 compared to four to $5,000," Theulen said.

Applying as a step parent also means Theulen won't have to go through another round of intrusive questions from a social worker as she had to do when she was applying as a second parent.

"What that entailed was a case manager coming over to our house and asking me about every detail of my life form my past relationships to how much money was in my bank account," Theulen said. "It kind of left us feeling powerless because we weren't sure what the summary would look like at the end."

Jennifer and Nicole Carrier-Theulen got married in Seattle last year and decided to start a family soon after.

Nicole carried Maxwell to term and gave birth four months ago, but a birth certificate became a complicated process.

"They said the state doesn't recognize your marriage so to us you're not actually married, so I had to resubmit an application saying that I wasn't married," Carrier-Theulen said.

While Jennifer said there's no question she's one of Max's mothers, she's committed to making sure everyone knows that on paper, especially because she's in the National Guard.

"I've been deployed twice. If I deploy again for the third time, he gets no benefits if anything happens to me," Theulen said. "He's not counted as my dependent, Social Security, and survivor benefits that don't count."

While all she can do for now is wait and continue her daily routine, it's a process Jennifer said is well worth it so that she no longer feels like a stranger to her son.

The state of Alaska is currently asking for a hearing of its same sex marriage appeal by the full Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals.

For now, the adoption process for same sex couples has become much easier.

The Theulen family said it's now a matter of waiting for a hearing to be held where a judge will ultimately decide what happens next.

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AFN Convention returns to Anchorage

The Alaska Federation of Natives Convention has returned bringing thousands to the Dena’ina center in downtown Anchorage. The three-day convention began early Thursday morning under the theme “Rise as One.”

AFN President Julie Kitka welcomed tribal leaders and delegates and outlined accomplishments over the past year and challenges moving forward for the native community.

“Our task is to find the common goals and values that unite our people behind those priorities that are most pressing and essential for the future we are working to build,” said Kitka.

She said this year’s theme, Rise as One, is both a challenge and celebration, saying small everyday victories lay the foundation for a better future for future generations.

The AFN Convention goes through Saturday.

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Need Tlingit-brand boots? How about a mammoth tusk? You'll find it at AFN

No matter what you're looking for, chances are you may be able to find it at the Alaska Native Customary Art Fair.  More than a 170 vendors from Alaska, and some from the Lower 48 are set up on the first floor of the Dena'ina Center for the largest annual gathering of Alaska Natives in the state.

Annie Fritze of Dillingham has been selling hats, mittens and other furs at the Alaska Federation of Natives event for 7 years.

"My husband traps a majority of the fur that sits here on this table. The beaver, the fox, the lynx," said Fritze.

Nearby, Shaa Kwaan of Juneau weaved bags at her display using yarn spun from mountain goat wool and bark.

"You have to wait at least a year for it to cure, and then boil it down from there," she explained.

Another vendor advertised a Woolly Mammoth tusk that he says he found in the village of Newtok.  The asking price? $5,400.

The art show continues Friday from 8 a.m. to 6 p.m. and Saturday from 8 a.m. to 3 p.m.

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Revenue investigator: Tip from outside Alaska led to reality star fraud charges

UPDATE: The tip that launched an investigation into an Alaska reality TV family came from outside the state, Department of Revenue officials said Thursday.

Scott Stair, chief investigator for the department's criminal investigation unit, would not discuss in detail accusations that six members of the Brown family lied on Permanent Fund dividend applications.

Asked what application requirements the stars of "Alaskan Bush People" violated, Stair replied in an email. "They (the Browns) didn't meet the physical requirements for the PFD application between October 2009 and August 2012. That lead to false statements on the application."


A family who stars in the Discovery Channel series “Alaskan Bush People” has been charged in state court on dozens of counts of Permanent Fund dividend fraud and felony theft.

A Juneau grand jury on Oct. 3 indicted Billy Brown and five members of his family, court records show. Discovery began featuring the Browns in one of its many Alaska-based realities shows in May, portraying the family as a quintessentially Alaskan clan living off the grid.

Brown and family members are accused of “falsely” submitting applications for Permanent Fund dividends, the annual checks awarded to most year-round Alaska residents. Billy Brown alone faces 24 felony counts and is accused of illegally obtaining $13,080 in dividend cash for himself and others.

The charges do not describe why investigators believe the Brown family was not eligible for the dividends that some members received between 2010 and 2013.

A spokesman for the Office of Special Prosecutions could not be reached to ask if and how the family did not meet dividend requirements, including Alaska residency.

“Deep in the Alaskan wilderness lives a newly discovered family who was born and raised wild,” Discovery announced ahead of the May 6 series premiere.

“No comment,” Discovery communications director Sean Martin wrote in an email, when asked for his reaction to the indictment.

Also charged, according to a copy of the indictment, are:

Amora Brown, four counts of unsworn falsification and four counts second-degree theft. Joshua Brown, four counts of unsworn falsification and four counts second-degree theft. Solomon Brown, four counts of unsworn falsification and four counts second-degree theft. Gabriel Brown, four counts of unsworn falsification and four counts of second-degree theft.Noah Brown, three counts of unsworn falsification and four counts of second-degree theft.

Contact reporter Kyle Hopkins at Twitter:  @kylehopkinsak.

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Police ask for public?s help in case of pit bull found hanging from tree

The Anchorage Police Department is asking for the public’s help in an animal cruelty case discovered earlier this month in East Anchorage.

On Oct. 10, a man walking in the woods near East 20th Avenue and Rosemary Street spotted a pit bull hanging from a tree. The animal was already dead, its throat slashed, police said.

Using a microchip implanted in the animal’s ear to find the owner of the dog, police contacted a man who said the pit bull had run away -- the owner thought -- about a week earlier. The dog was like a member of the family, the owner said. It's name was Snoop.

The dog had lived with a family in the Penland Mobile Home Park, roughly a mile from where he was found, police said.

Police and Animal Control officers are asking anyone with information about the case to call Crime Stoppers at 561-STOP or submit a tip online.

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Troopers seek driver who bashed patrol car in Wasilla

WASILLA — Alaska State Troopers are looking for a driver who fled from a traffic stop, bashed a patrol car and fled down an all-terrain vehicle trail.

Troopers say the man in a sport utility vehicle just before 1 a.m. Thursday was stopped by a trooper for traffic violations on west Clairborne Drive.

The officer contacted and identified the driver, who took off at high speed.

Troopers say that during a 10-minute chase, the driver rammed a patrol vehicle twice, causing extensive damage and minor injury to the officer.

The driver managed to flee down an all-terrain vehicle trail.

Troopers say they are seeking warrants for the man's arrest. They did not immediately release his name.

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Feds announce $5 million effort to bring indoor plumbing to Alaska village

A remote Alaska village where only half the homes have indoor plumbing is among rural communities nationwide that will receive upgrades to rural water and wastewater systems.

Agriculture Secretary Tom Vilsack is scheduled to announce $352 million in grants and loans Thursday at a convention of Alaska Natives in Anchorage.

The western Alaska village of Akiachak is receiving a $5 million grant in this round. It will go toward construction of sewer mains and other parts of a core system that can be hooked up later to 100 houses in the community still without indoor plumbing.

Another 100 homes in the Yup'ik Eskimo community of 675 received the plumbing in an earlier project.

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Survey reveals unmet demand for after-school programs in Alaska

A 2014 survey reveals high, unmet demand for after-school programs in Alaska. Today, a non-profit is drawing attention to new efforts to provide kids a safe, educational place to go after the school bell rings.

In this story:

-- Currently, 39,000 Alaska students use after-school learning programs, according to the Alaska After School Network. The survey found an additional 45,000 wanted the opportunity but were not receiving it.

-- After school programs help parents maintain their jobs because they're able to feel comfortable as their child is in a safe environment, the survey found.

-- "It's not just kids that need after school programs," said Alaska After School Network director Thomas Azzarella. "It's families and it's our community. After School programs help build resilient kids that are able to be critical thinkers, problems solvers."

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Take a break from politics with these 8 great Alaska weather photos

Tired of the election cycle noise? Let's celebrate a different kind of season ... the shift from fall to winter across Alaska. Here are a few recent weather photos sent to us by KTUU viewers all around the state. Be sure to share your best pic too!

Upload photos here or email your pictures to

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Oil Spill training 15 years after major train derailment

Multiple agencies joined together for an oil spill drill taking place in Ship Creek. The exercise was headed up by the Alaska Railroad Corporation about 15 years since an actual spill threatened the Susitna River.

Tim Sullivan, Alaska Railroad Corporate Affairs Spokesperson, says the Gold Creek derailment was the last time the company had a reported spill and while that is a long time ago it wants to stay prepared if another incident should occur.

The scenario Wednesday required crews to respond to a locomotive derailment leaking diesel fuel into a culvert that drains into Ship Creek. No actual chemicals were involved in the drill.

Crews practiced using a skimmer on top if the water, plus booms to prevent further spread.

Sullivan says it's important to practice drills involving waterways since much of the Alaska Railway passes over or near waterways.

"The first preparation that we do is making sure accidents don't occur," says Sullivan. "But when they do occur we want to be ready to take care of them."

The yearly drill is required by the state of Alaska. The department of conservation and the environmental protection agency were on scene to watch and offer advice.

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Inmate-on-inmate attack suspected in Kenai prison assault

An apparent inmate-on-inmate assault at a Kenai prison is under investigation, according to Alaska State Troopers. Troopers say in a Wednesday dispatch that they first learned of the incident just after 6 p.m. Monday, when they were told that a male inmate from the Wildwood Correctional Center “was being transported to Central Peninsula Hospital in Soldotna for non-life-threatening injuries after being assaulted.” AST spokesperson Beth Ipsen said Soldotna-based investigators with the Alaska Bureau of Investigation are still learning what happened. “Another inmate is a suspect, but we’re investigating,” Ipsen said. “Nobody has been charged with anything.” A call to the Alaska Department of Corrections requesting comment on the incident wasn’t immediately returned Wednesday afternoon.

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FBI raids Anchorage health care firm in Medicaid fraud investigation

An Anchorage personal-care provider was raided by federal agents Tuesday night, as part of a joint investigation with state prosecutors into alleged Medicaid fraud at the facility. Kevin Donovan, assistant special agent in charge of the FBI’s Anchorage field office, confirmed that agents had seized documents and other materials from a medical care provider -- identified by state authorities as C Care Services. A Channel 2 photographer saw several FBI agents at C Care’s office at 500 E. Tudor Rd Tuesday, loading boxes from the office into an evidence van. Earlier Tuesday, the state Department of Health and Social Services announced that it had suspended Medicaid payments to C Care, pending an investigation of the business as well as owner Cecelia De Leon. “The suspension is temporary, but will remain in effect until the departments of Law or Health and Social Services determines there is insufficient evidence to support a claim of fraud or the legal proceedings related to the alleged fraud are completed,” DHSS officials wrote. “The suspension will become permanent if the individual owner or company is convicted of Medicaid fraud.” Duane Mayes, head of the DHSS’s Division of Seniors and Disabilities Services, listed a wide array of agencies involved in the case Wednesday. “The credible allegation is the result of a joint investigation being conducted by the Alaska Department of Law, Medicaid Fraud Control Unit, the Department of Health and Social Services, the Department of Health and Human Services Office of Inspector General, the FBI and Homeland Security Investigations,” Mayes said in a statement. A call to C Care’s office Thursday wasn’t answered Wednesday afternoon. State officials ask anyone who knows about patients adversely affected by Tuesday’s actions against C Care to contact Adult Protective Services at 1-800-478-9996 or 1-907-269-3666. Channel 2’s Clinton Bennett, David Brooks and Amberia Hill contributed information to this story.

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Pebble Partnership sues EPA over contacts with environmentalists

The Pebble Partnership is suing the Environmental Protection Agency in federal court, seeking more details on what it calls “secretive meetings” by the agency with environmental groups and anti-Pebble activists. An Oct. 14 filing in U.S. District Court alleges that the EPA collaborated with anti-Pebble organizations as it prepared to evaluate the proposed gold and copper mine in the Bristol Bay region. Pebble also claims the agency didn’t begin to draft a highly critical assessment of large-scale Bristol Bay mining, initially released in April 2013 and finalized in January, until after it already decided to veto the project. “Moreover, EPA has engaged to date in a series of non-public and secretive meetings with those dedicated to stopping the project before a permitting project could even start,” Pebble attorneys wrote. “Those persons include several environmental non-governmental organizations adamantly opposed to the project.” Pebble claims it filed a Jan. 22 Freedom of Information Act request with the EPA for any communications concerning the project between senior EPA officials, including Administrator Lisa Jackson, and a group of 16 people and organizations. The National Resources Defense Council, Trout Unlimited, the Bristol Bay Native Corp., and Sen. Mark Begich, as well as some of their employees, were listed specifically. So were anti-Pebble activists Alan Boraas and Rick Halford. The EPA ultimately provided some 559 heavily redacted documents by Aug. 11, according to the lawsuit. Pebble filed an appeal Sept. 2 arguing that its request was inadequately filled. Sept. 30 the EPA promised a ruling on that appeal by mid-October, prompting Pebble to determine that it had “exhausted any and all of its administrative remedies.” Mike Heatwole, Pebble Partnership spokesman, said Wednesday that the federal filing is Pebble’s third in an attempt to halt EPA actions likely to block the proposed mine. Other cases include a challenge of the EPA’s authority to regulate Pebble under the Section 404(c) of the Clean Water Act, as well the EPA’s large-scale Bristol Bay mining assessment. According to Heatwole, the lawsuit attempts to peel back a veil of mystery over what the group considers an organized attempt to stop the mine at the federal level before it can enter the state permitting process. “The basis is that we learned many years ago of the EPA’s attempt to shut us down, and we’ve sought internal documents to understand why,” Heatwole said. “As a result of the limited documents we’ve taken a look at, it’s clear that the work started at least as far back as the summer of 2008.” One of the items included in the FOIA request but not released is a January 2010 slide presentation to Jackson by EPA's Region 10 staff. Heatwole said Pebble has copies of the presentation itself, which calls for a preemptive EPA shutdown of the Pebble project in its final slide, but never received any of Jackson's emails in its FOIA complaint from the time leading up to the presentation or immediately afterward.

“They’ve not released one email from the administrator relevant to Pebble,” Heatwole said. “For an open and transparent process, they’ve been very reluctant to put them in the public space.” While the court filing lists several other specific documents sent to EPA and requested but not released, Heatwole said the partnership doesn’t have specific information on what Pebble correspondence between Begich and the EPA might exist. “That’s what we’d like to know,” Heatwole said. “Certainly it would be of interest, since the senator had said for a long time that the EPA should not preemptively stop this project, and since he’s not taken a position against the EPA’s actions.” Begich’s press secretary, Heather Handyside, issued a statement Wednesday sharply questioning Pebble’s lawsuit. She said a recent tailings dam breach at Canada’s Mount Polley mine has shown that “the risk is just too great” for a similar open-pit project and tailings pool at Pebble. “The Pebble Partnership has ignored the voices of Alaska Natives and Bristol Bay fishermen and now it is ignoring the results of its own FOIA request,” Handyside wrote. “Sen. Begich is a big supporter of natural resource development in Alaska but the science has shown that Pebble is the wrong mine in the wrong place.” In addition to attorney’s fees and any further relief approved by the court, Pebble seeks EPA release of “any and all documents wrongfully withheld or redacted that are responsive to the FOIA request.” “What we’re trying to do is get all the pieces of the puzzle,” Heatwole said. EPA spokeswoman Hanady Kader declined to comment on the Pebble Partnership lawsuit Wednesday since it is “a litigation-related matter.” Kader referred questions to the U.S. Department of Justice. Editor's note: An earlier version of this story incorrectly described the exact date and context of a 2010 slide presentation reportedly given to EPA Administrator Lisa Jackson.

Channel 2’s Kyle Hopkins contributed information to this story.

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APD says 2 missing girls, 11, found safe

Anchorage police are looking for a pair of 11-year-old girls last seen in the Mountain View area Tuesday morning, with few leads available on their possible location.

APD spokesperson Jennifer Castro said Katelynn Shelhamer and Makayla Savage were reported located to APD dispatchers as of about 4:45 p.m. Wednesday.

"They were found and they are safe, so all is well," Castro said.

Shelhamer and Savage were reported missing early Wednesday after being last seen at Clark Middle School at about 10:30 a.m. Tuesday. The girls didn’t come home overnight Tuesday, and were reported missing early Wednesday by a family member.

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Assemblyman proposes 'Bill of Rights' for victims of predatory tow truck companies

Assemblyman Dick Traini says the Ombudsman's office has been flooded with complaints about unfair towing practices. And he's taking action.

In this story:

-- Anchorage drivers complain that some tow truck operators practice"predatory towing," impounding cars and charging outlandish fees before people can reclaim their vehicle.

-- Midtown Assemblyman Dick Traini has proposed changes to city law that would He calls it a "towing bill of rights" aimed at capping impound fees at $250 and allow drivers to retrieve their belongings out of vehicles that have been impounded.

-- Tow truck operators say only a few companies have operated poorly, and that Traini's proposal could add unnecessary new regulations for many.

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Rep. Don Young apologizes after suicide comment

U.S. Rep. Don Young has apologized after telling students at a high school where a child recently committed suicide that people kill themselves when there's a lack of support from family and friends. Wasilla High School Principal Amy Spargo says students and adults at the assembly took offense because it was as if they were being blamed. She says after that, the event became more confrontational. Spargo says she went for the microphone when a response by Young to gay marriage, which he opposes, seemed to rile students further. Young, the longest serving Republican in the House, has a history of colorful - sometimes offensive - quips, and has made headlines recently more for gaffes than policy. His office told the Alaska Dispatch News that the congressman should have been more sensitive.

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Suspected impaired driver charged with assault in Wasilla crash

A Wasilla man suspected of driving while impaired with two people in his car has been charged with felony assault after they were hurt in a crash. Alaska State Troopers say 44-year-old John Murtha was arrested Monday night. He remains in custody at Mat-Su Pretrial Facility. Troopers took a call just before 10 p.m. Monday that a car had crashed into a utility pole on Forest Lake Drive outside Wasilla. Troopers say the car crossed the opposite lane and hit the pole. The two passengers were taken to Mat-Su Regional Medical Center. Murtha was charged Tuesday with the felony assault counts and a misdemeanor driving under the influence count. His bail was set at $15,000. Online court documents did not indicate that he was represented by an attorney.

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Palins describe Anchorage brawl in police recordings

Bristol Palin describes being dragged through the grass and called a series of obscenities during a massive brawl last month in recordings of Anchorage police interviews obtained by KTUU and CNN through records requests.

Audio Clip One

"A guy comes out of nowhere and pushes me on the ground, takes me by my feet in my dress -- in my thong dress in front of everybody -- [and says] 'Come on you c***, get the f*** out of here. Come on you s***, get the f*** out of here," she said.

No charges were filed as a result of the September brawl.

(Editor's Note: The following audio clips contain language that some may find offensive.)

Other people interviewed by police described the Palins as instigators in a brawl that also reportedly included Track Palin and his father, Todd, fighting several men.

They said Bristol Palin punched Klingenmeyer several times before he restrained her.

Klingenmeyer said he'd approached Todd Palin to say that "your daughter's out of line" and that he should get the situation under control. That didn't happen.

Audio Clip Two

"I told 'em all to get the hell out of here and go home," he said.

He said the altercation with Bristol Palin started after she insisted she was going to beat another woman up.

"I said 'this is my house, we're not having this,'" Klingenmeyer said. "She freakin' goes, 'I'll kick your a**.'"

He said Bristol Palin punched him several times, and then he grabbed her fist, made a motion that isn't described verbally, and then she "fell down."

Audio Clip Three

Sarah Palin can apparently be heard in the background during some of the interviews. At one point, she complained that her children were being "made to feel like the bad guys."

She also criticizes Klingenmeyer, saying: "What would he be doin' pushin' girls around, though?"

Matthew McKenna, whose birthday was the reason for the party, told police that people had gotten "drunk and stupid" -- and that he had video of the altercation, but wouldn't share it.

"I know everyone here, and it's just an unfortunate deal," he said.

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To protect leaping moose, Anchorage Assembly bans spiked 'palisade' fences

The Anchorage Assembly limited the city’s building code Tuesday night in a move meant to prevent rare but grisly moose deaths, narrowly approving a ban on spiked palisade fences. A 6-5 vote approved the measure, proposed in July by Assembly member Jennifer Johnston. At the time, Anchorage biologist Jessy Coltrane with the state Department of Fish and Game estimated that one or two moose were killed by the fences annually, with locations such as the Atwood Manor and Estate and Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson seeing multiple moose deaths. Prior to Tuesday’s vote Coltrane testified that palisade fences still kill local moose, when they try to step over the fences’ edges and become impaled on the upward-facing spikes. Those opposed to the ban told the Assembly that it constituted too much government interference, noting that many more moose are killed each year by cars on local roads -- a point Johnston agreed with in July. The new ordinance only affects new construction, and existing fences would be allowed to stand.



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