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Walker names Natural Resources, Revenue commissioners

Gov.-elect Bill Walker has picked Mark Myers to be his Natural Resources commissioner.

Walker also announced Randall Hoffbeck as his choice for Revenue commissioner.

Myers is a former director of the state Division of Oil and Gas who most recently has served as vice chancellor of research at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Hoffbeck formerly served as a petroleum property assessor for the state and as a North Slope Borough finance director.

Walker takes office Dec. 1.

Myers would replace Joe Balash, a key figure in efforts to advance a major liquefied natural gas project. Hoffbeck would replace Angela Rodell.

Outgoing Gov. Sean Parnell said he will not request the resignations of the current commissioners. He said it will be up to Walker, if Walker wants to do that.

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Troopers: Man drives car into ditch, offers passersby 'cold beer'

A man who Alaska State Troopers accuse of driving his car into a ditch on Hatcher Pass Road was offering cold beer to passersby shortly before being arrested.

25-year-old Troy Hepola was drunk at the time, just after midnight Friday, according to troopers.

A beige 2005 Honda Accord was in a ditch near mile 14 of the road.

Hepola was arrested there without incident and remanded to Mat-Su Pretrial Facility where he was held in lieu of $500 bail.

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Old drug causing a new epidemic.

Substance abuse is a problem in many communities across the state and now an old drug is causing a new epidemic.

In this story:

- Heroin is a destructive and addictive drug. According to experts, it's making its way into rural communities like Nome by air and by water.

- Nome Mayor Denise Michels knows how destructive the drug can be after watching her nephew, Derek, struggle with addiction.

- There are no drug treatment center in Nome and the waiting lists for other facilities across the state are long.

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A country divided: How Alaskans view Obama's immigration reform

President Obama's speech on immigration Thursday night sparked cheers and criticism across the country as well as an immediate response from immigrants living illegally in Alaska.

- Within minutes of the president's speech, the Alaska Immigration Justice Project received dozens of calls from immigrants around the state seeking advice. - Alaska immigration officials say that "it's critical to understand this is not amnesty, this is not a pathway to citizenship. This is a temporary reprieve from deportation for three years." - Former Anchorage Assemblyman says the executive order could create a second class of citizen and open the door for more benefits for illegal immigrants.

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Special Olympics three-day statewide bowling tournament


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Spotlight on Youth: East High School water project

A group of East High School students are turning what some may consider a simple task into a worldwide life changing project.

In this story:

- Students are building their own two-inch soy wax filled Water Pasteurization Indicator to learn about water purification and sanitation, while also helping those in need.

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Second time is (hopefully) the charm for Anchorage Port upgrade

Mayor Dan Sullivan and executive members of the Anchorage Port Modernization Project introduced their top choice for a concept design of the Anchorage Port.

The port was originally to be upgraded when construction started in 2006. Cost overruns and design flaws interrupted the project. The update was suspended in 2011 and in 2012, the municipality took over project management. The municipality went back to the drawing board and on Friday the Anchorage Port Modernization Project presented its favored concept plan.

"This is a project too important to fail," Sullivan said after the presentation to Anchorage assembly members. More than 90 percent of consumer goods used in Anchorage pass through the port. Goods that pass through this point are also used by 87 percent of the state's population, according to information provided by the Port of Anchorage.

Anchorage assembly members say they're pleased with the concept. "Concept D" was the least expensive and had the fastest completion date. Anchorage Assembly member Jennifer Johnston said this time around, planners learned lessons from the last port upgrade project. One concern is how the project will be funded. Johnston noted the city may have to take out loans.

Sullivan said he visited Washington D.C. to look at different funding options. He also said he expects a large portion of the bill to come in from the State of Alaska. "Quite frankly, it's probably going to be our friends at the state of Alaska who will be the primary funders," he said.

Anchorage assembly member Tim Steele said that following a previously failed project is a little nerve wracking, but he thinks city management will change things. "We got a second shot," Steele said, "and this one will work."

Click here to see the plan for the port here

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Kodiak, Juneau among 5 most expensive cities in U.S. to buy a turkey

HONOLULU — Residents of Hawaii pay the highest prices in the nation for their tasty birds and fixings on Thanksgiving, and Alaska feasts are almost as expensive.

That's according to an analysis by the personal finance website NerdWallet.

Most food has to be flown or shipped into both states.

The Honolulu Star-Advertiser reports that Hilo and Honolulu were the top two most expensive markets out of 264 in the study.

Kodiak, Alaska took third place and Juneau, Alaska took fifth place behind Truckee, California.

The findings are based on a study by the American Farm Bureau that includes a shopping list of turkey, bread stuffing, sweet potatoes, rolls with butter, peas, cranberries, a tray of carrots and celery. It also includes a pumpkin pie with whipped cream, coffee and milk.

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Bartlett High sees surge in number of AP students

More students at Bartlett High School are taking Advanced Placement (AP) courses and successfully passing the AP exams. In the past five years, Bartlett has seen a 91 percent increase in the number of students with AP test scores of a 3 or higher (graded on a scale of 1 to 5).

Staff say the school has focused on encouraging all students to participate in AP courses and take the exam afterward. A score of at least 3 amounts to college credit. According to Curriculum Principal Sean Prince, the class itself is a benefit, even before students take the exam.

"Even if you don't score a 3 or higher, you have a higher probability of graduating from college if you've taken at least one to two AP classes in your high school career," said Prince. "We're looking at getting every kind of kid walking the halls at Bartlett into an AP class."

Bartlett High is also one of two local high schools to receive a National Math and Science Institute Grant. This is the second year of the threeyear grant that allows for special training for AP teachers, prep classes for students, and another incentive -- $100 awarded to students for each exam they pass in English, math or science.

"That's a more immediate gratification that the kids can see in their hands and see that their hard work is actually paying off for them," said Janel Walton, an instructor for AP Literature and Composition.

Bartlett offers 13 Advanced Placement Courses. AP Physics teacher Mark Youngblood says his physics class has tripled the number of students this year than he had last year. The classes are also becoming more diverse, a reflection of Bartlett's student population -- one of the most diverse in the United States.

Typically, AP classes are taken by socioeconomic groups that are more likely to be college-bound, said Walton. She adds that her AP Literature class has many students from various ethnic backgrounds. "They speak multiple languages sometimes which is a challenge when you're taking an English AP course. But they're an amazing group of kids that are absolutely intent on preparing themselves for college."

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Fairbanks man accused of soliciting someone to kill federal officers

A man in custody at the Fairbanks Correctional Center is accused of soliciting someone to murder federal officers.

Guy Christopher Mannino, 56, has been held in the Fairbanks facility since October 2013 and is currently awaiting sentencing on various weapons and tax charges.

"Mannino plead guilty in March 2014, to three felony firearms charges for unlawfully possessing and transferring a machine gun equipped with a silencer, as well as an additional felony count of concealing assets from the federal bankruptcy court," the U.S. Attorney Alaska office wrote in a release.

He has been in custody awaiting sentencing on those charges, with sentencing scheduled for Dec. 1, but on Friday a new charge was leveled.

A single-count indictment accuses Mannino of soliciting someone to kill unnamed federal officers.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Joseph Bottini told the grand jury the law provides for a sentence of up to 20 years, a fine of $250,000 and up to five years of supervised release, according to the release.

The Federal Bureau of Investigation, U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives and Alaska State Troopers conducted the investigation leading to the indictment in this case.

Bottini and U.S. Attorney Karen Loeffler said the office could not provide comment or additional documentation until the case proceeds.

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The Covenant House Alaska raises awareness and surpasses fundraising goal

Thirty business executives participated in the sleep-out, spending 12 hours outside in tents and cardboard boxes the way homeless youth had to when figuring out how to stay warm.

- Organizers of the event say this year was warmer than in years past for the vigil, and out of the 19 participating Covenant Houses across the country, only Florida was warmer than Alaska.

- Of the participating Covenant Houses, Anchorage's facility was the first one to meet its goal of raising $150,000 and also surpass it by the highest percentage, organizers said.

- The Covenant House raised more than $200,000. The money will go toward operating the programs to help homeless youth.

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Higher education on low budgets

Known for leading the world in Arctic studies, the University of Alaska Fairbanks is trying to up its profile in the higher learning community.

"You're reputation ultimately is what brings in your students." President Pat Gamble told a group of Rotarians in Palmer Thursday.

Gamble says the University of Alaska's system faced a third straight year of operating budget cuts.  Courses at UAF could be on the chopping block to save money, but Gamble wouldn't speculate on which ones.

“It concerned me a little bit, I hadn’t heard a lot about it, so it kind of shed a lot of light on that, I had no idea about it, but maybe it pushed me a little more to go out of state," said Colony High School Senior Mari Marvel.

Marvel says she's leaning toward attending Wyoming or Idaho, because she can't find the kind of program she wants to study in Alaska.

Gamble says the administration's main focus over the next few years will be retention and recruitment.  He also wants University of Alaska to work closer with all of the state's school districts to ensure a smooth transition for students leaving high school and entering college.

Gamble says University of Alaska's board of regents approved this year's budget.  He says it is the third highest expenditure in the state of Alaska.

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New regulations for Arctic shipping near adoption

The International Maritime Safety Committee is set to vote on the first phase of the Polar Code in London on Friday. It’s a document years in the making that includes safety provisions for ships navigating arctic waters.

The International Maritime Organization has recognized that the uniquely sensitive and harsh environments of the arctic demand specific regulations for safe shipping.

While the first phase of the document contains specific rules governing ship safety, many environmental safeguards are not included, “That would come in the second step.

Those issues are a little more contentious, particularly the issues of black carbon, heavy fuel oil and air pollution from ships,” said Inuit Circumpolar Council-Alaska President, Jim Stotts.

Pacific Environment’s Kevin Harun is attending the meeting and says in an email, “While there are provisions to require navigators to limit entry into ice, we remain concerned that ships that are not ice-strengthened or specially designed to withstand ice will still be to operate in ice.”

Phase one of the Polar Code will be implemented in 2015. Phase two of the Polar Code is at least one year from adoption.

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For illegal immigrants in Alaska, a life of constant fear

Hundreds of illegal immigrants in Alaska live in fear of deportation. 

In this story: - An illegal immigrant living in rural Alaska for years explains what it's like to live a life in legal limbo. - She also explains why she understands and agrees with the anger towards illegal immigrants around the country. - Immigration officials say immigrants are often contributing members of the community, but live each day in fear of deportation.


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Jealousy, drug dealers blamed in alternate theories on 2012 murder

Prosecutors said a 24-year-old Anchorage man accused of shooting his ex-girfriend and leaving her naked in a ditch in 2012 was consumed by jealously. A defense attorney countered that the pair were in love and the woman might have been killed by drug dealers.

The remarks came in opening statements for the murder trial of Bukurim Miftari, who is accused of killing 30-year-old Kristen Reid.

Reid was gravely injured with a gun shot wound to her head, when police found her. She later died from the injury. The state is charging Miftari with first and second degree murder, kidnapping and evidence tampering.  Prosecutor Laura Dulic described the murder as a crime of "infatuation." Defense attorney George Dozier said Miftari and Reid were in a loving relationship but she had chosen a "dangerous lifestyle as a drug dealer," later adding that the crime scene was "almost staged."

Police found Miftari's Tahoe abandoned on Fairbanks Street and his gun thrown in a nearby dumpster. Prosecutors said cell phone records that will be presented as evidence during the trial, place Miftari in the same area as the crime.

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Kenai Peninsula lynx hunting, trapping on hold

KENAI — Hunting and trapping of lynx is on hold in the Kenai Peninsula until about 2020.

The Peninsula Clarion says the Alaska Department of Fish and Game sent a reminder to hunters and trappers earlier this month about the closure.

The closure of two game units on the Peninsula deviated this year deviates from the way the lynx season has been restricted in previous years.

Lynx are roughly on a six-year abundance cycle in the region, with populations tied to snowshoe hare numbers.

Fish and Game biologist Jeff Selinger says lynx hunting was allowed in past years even though trapping season was closed because most of the animals were taken by trapping and snaring.

But now there is a higher percentage of lynx being shot rather than trapped or snared.

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Body found near Anchorage park ruled a homicide

 The state medical examiner says a woman found dead near a northeast Anchorage park was the victim of a homicide.

The body of 54-year-old Irma Williams was found on Oct. 15 by a passer-by near Lions Park in the Mountain View neighborhood.

Anchorage police say they took a call Sept. 30 from Williams' family saying she had not been seen for a few weeks. She previously had been in regular contact.

Police are not releasing details on how she died but are asking people for information on her whereabouts before Sept. 30.

Police previously said Williams was a frequent visitor to Mizelle, Lions and Davis parks and often rode a blue bicycle that may have been equipped with a white basket. 

She was not considered a vulnerable adult.

Police ask that if you have any information about where she was prior to September 30th to call 786-8900 or Crime Stoppers at 561-STOP 

(Copyright 2014 The Associated Press. All rights reserved. This material may not be published, broadcast, rewritten or redistributed.)

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Parnell: 'I'm leaving the office a much better place than I found it'

Alaska's Gov. Sean Parnell has held the state's top job for more than five years. On Dec. 1, he will hand over the reigns to newly-elected Bill Walker. Gov. Parnell sat down with Channel 2 to reflect on his term. He explains what he will do next and if he plans to run for office again.

In this story:

- Gov. Parnell says the priorities he set in office, such as economic growth and fighting domestic violence and sexual assault, will leave a legacy of opportunities for Alaskans.

- Gov. Parnell says he is looking forward to joining the private sector and spending more time with family once his term ends.

- What are some of his regrets? And will he run for office again? Gov. Parnell explains.

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Coast Guardsmen accept plea in game waste case

JUNEAU — Two Coast Guard petty officers suspected of leaving a dead deer and ducks along a Juneau road have pleaded guilty to state hunting violations.

The Juneau Empire reports 26-year-old James Robert Schmidt and 27-year-old Christopher Caleb Hyde were originally charged with misdemeanor counts of failure to salvage all edible meat.

Schmidt under a plea agreement Nov. 6 was fined $500 fine and Hyde was fined $300.

A tip led Alaska Wildlife Troopers on Oct. 1 to a deer and four ducks left along Montana Creek Road. Antlers had been removed from the deer.

Assistant District Attorney Angie Kemp says the plea deal for violations rather than a misdemeanor conviction was appropriate. She says the men didn't have a criminal history and took responsibility for their actions.

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Report highlights prevalence, effects of violence on Alaska Native Youth

The Senate Committee on Indian Affairs discussed on Wednesday a new report that seeks to protect children from violence.

In this story:

- The U.S Department of Justice advisory committee released its report on Children exposed to violence on Tuesday. Among its findings is the fact the Alaska Natives are disproportionally affect by violent crimes and therefore their children are exposed to that violence.

- It also finds that exposure to violence has significant short and long term impacts that can be debilitating and costly.

- The report outlines several recommendations, including the creation of new Native American Affairs Office.



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