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'Vote Yes' proponents claim signs are being stolen


Anchorage Ordinance 37 was originally passed a year-and-a-half ago. Proponents say it will level the playing field for collective bargaining agreements between the city and its unions. Foes say it will decrease the numbers of public safety officers on the streets.

The debate took a new twist Friday when a supporter of AO 37 discovered several "Vote Yes on One" signs were stolen from the intersection of 100 Avenue and Victor Street.

"Last night there were four signs, right here in a line between these two Walker and Mallot signs, as you can see they took our signs and left the Walker-Mallott signs in place," said "Vote Yes on One" supporter Bruce Schulte.

The thieves were captured by a surveillance camera set up by Schulte.

The video shows a person stealing two "Vote Yes on One " signs at the intersection. Another shows someone driving up to a business along Minnesota Drive and taking a sign from there.

Schulte is with the "Vote Yes on One" group that wants to keep the city's labor law on the books.

He filed a police report that claims more than 100 "Vote Yes on One" signs have been stolen over the past few weeks.

"This is outside the bounds of normal civil discourse," he said. But "Vote Yes on One" isn't the only group that has been victimized.

"We've had a number of incidents, in damage to both the large signs and the small signs, missing and being damaged, we just understand that sort of thing happens. It's a tough issue, and some people might take it out in the wrong ways," said Gerard Asselin, who heads up the "Vote No on One" campaign.

The group has seen widespread support among unions and says it won't let vandals cloud its message.

"The way we look at it is, these things happen every election cycle, signs get damaged. It's really not a surprise when those kinds of things happen, but it is really unfortunate," said Asselin.

As of Friday afternoon, Anchorage Police spokesperson Dani Myren said she had not heard of any widespread reports of theft or damage to campaign signs

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Providence Hospital reverse trick-or-treat


At Providence Children's Hospital, kids didn't even have to leave their rooms to be part of trick-or-treating.

In this story:

- Providence Children's Hospital staff dressed up in costume and went door to door bringing gifts instead of candy.

- The Providence Imaging Center brought hand knitted and crocheted monster beanies for kids to wear in addition to their hospital gowns.  

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Spotlight on Youth: South High School Production


Trading in their books for cameras and microphones. South High School's video production room is not your average class.

In this story:

- Inside the confines of South High School's media headquarters is a collection of motivated students who want to take their school news to another level.

-Teacher and adviser Lee Butterfield said "the learning curve is as real as it gets." The group is in charge of everything from writing to editing to even making commercials for local businesses like The Bears Tooth.

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New 24/7 Pretrial program helps keep offenders productive


A new program called 24/7, offers drug and alcohol offenders a different way to be accountable for their actions.

In this story:

- The program is modeled after ones in Montana and South Dakota. It took the non-profit group Alaska Pretrial services, about a year-and-a-half to get  24/7 started in our state.  

- It's offered to offenders of crimes related to or involving drugs and alcohol.

For more information, visit  alaskapretrialservices.org

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NTSB to discuss cause of 2013 Helo-1 crash


Federal officials will meet next week about the Helo-1 crash that killed three people in March, 2013.

In this Story:

- The National Transportation Safety Board will determine the probable cause of the deadly crash. - On March 30, 2013 Alaska State Trooper Tage Toll, Alaska Department of Public Safety Helicopter Pilot Mel Nading and Talkeetna resident Carl Ober were all killed when Helo-1 crashed

- The flight was a mission to pick up Ober, who was injured while snowmachining. Investigators will present their information into the crash's cause at the Washington D.C. meeting next Wednesday .

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Anchorage man charged with helping his wife run Alaska-wide prostitution ring


An Anchorage man has been charged with helping his wife run a statewide, $300-per-hour prostitution ring by collecting money from johns, among other duties. 

A grand jury indicted Quinn Batts, 33, on a felony sex-trafficking charge Oct. 23. Troopers arrested Batts the following day.

Batts is the husband of Amber Batts, 40, who was charged in July with managing a prostitution business that advertised sex for sale online and served clients in Anchorage, Fairbanks, Juneau and Kenai.

“During the execution of the search warrants, investigators found 32 ‘independent contractor’ agreements between Batts and the women she trafficked,” wrote Assistant Attorney General Adam Alexander in a complaint charging Amber Batts with eight counts of sex trafficking.

“Batts indicated to investigators that (investigators) would find evidence related to approximately 800 clients that had been serviced through her enterprise,” the charges say.

Amber Batts provided travel expenses and rooms up-front for prostitutes in the four cities the couple served, according to charges. 

“Batts stated that her take was $100 out of the $300 charged for an hour of service,” Alexander wrote. “For two sex workers she took $200 out of the $650 charged.”

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Quinn Batts' role in the business was to find a residence for the prostitution to take place, communicate with potential Johns, collect customers’ money and “otherwise facilitating the ongoing enterprise,” according to an Alaska State Troopers dispatch posted online.

Quinn Batts’ criminal record includes convictions for malicious destruction of property, fourth-degree assault and criminal mischief, according to a bail memo filed in state court. He was being held on $1,000 bail at the Anchorage jail Thursday, court records show.

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One dead in three-vehicle accident on Seward Highway


At least one person died and one was critically wounded in a crash Friday that closed both lanes of the Seward Highway, just west of Girdwood. 

First reported at about 10:55 a.m., the three-vehicle collision occurred near Mile 96 of the highway.  

As of 2:55 p.m., the highway had at least partially reopened. Troopers are allowing vehicles through the area "intermittently," trooper spokeswoman Megan Peters said.

"Drivers should expect delays on their travel," she said. 

The accident involved a blue, four-door sedan and two pickups, said Terry Kadel of the Girdwood Fire Department. The driver of the small sedan was found dead at the scene, he said.

A passenger in the car has been transported to a hospital for treatment. Poor weather prevented a medical flight from reaching the scene, Kadel said.

A total of three people were in the two pickups, Kadel said. One person had to be extricated and is being treated at an area hospital.

Authorities have not publicly identified anyone involved in the crash. 

The Seward Highway between Anchorage and Girdwood is among the most dangerous in the nation. The location of Friday's accident is especially treacherous, Kadel said, because it comes in a downhill area where the road curves and the highway acts as a bridge because the railroad passes beneath it. 

In addition to the crash, troopers are hearing reports of vehicles in distress along the snowy roadway, Peters wrote. 

The closure extended about two miles, according a state Department of Transportation map of road alerts.  Road conditions in the area are very slick, with reduced visibility. 

This is a developing story. Check back for updates. 

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Alaska, show us your Halloween costumes!


It's trick or treat time, Alaska! Be sure to share pictures of your costumes today -- little goblins and grown-ups alike. You might see yourself or your family on KTUU-Channel 2. 

Email photos to web@ktuu.com. 

(P.S.: Prefer your costumes on canines? Check out our pet Halloween gallery here.)

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Who to thank for all those ads: Political Action Committee cash floods gov race


The contest between incumbent Governor Sean Parnell and his Independent challenger Bill Walker has seen a flood of $1.7 million from Political Action Committees.

In this story:

- The Alaskans Opposing Parnell Political Action Committee is focused on getting Parnell out of office. That PAC is mostly funded by union-related groups that have raised half a million dollars this month.

- On the other side, the group called "Citizens Against Walker" has pulled in about $1.3 million, with nearly all the cash coming from the Republican Governors Association. 

Read more on the Political Pipeline blog.

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Meet Alaska's husband-and-wife 'Ghost Hunters'


John and Cheri Francis have always enjoyed ghost hunting.  To the extent of staying in haunted hotels when traveling.

In this story:

- They started their group Alaska Ghost Hunting three years ago to help people understand the things that are going on in their homes with the use of audio and video recordings.

- AKGH will be at the Anchorage Historic Hotel for the Halloween Ball starting at 7 pm, to investigate the rooms of the hotel.

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After the fire, Bethel residents left with questions, look to rebuild


Just a few days after a fire demolished this 16,000 square foot building, residents are now left to figure out what comes next

In this story:

- While the building was covered by insurance, it's not yet known when the rebuilding process will begin.

- All that's left of what was supposed to be an alcohol treatment center, is a pile of charred wood and metal. The structure burned down Monday night and investigators are trying to understand what caused it. Local firefighters say they aren't ruling out any possible causes.

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Congressional candidates debate for the final time


Three men vying for Alaska’s lone seat in congress debated Thursday night live on Alaska Public Media. Libertarian Jim McDermott and Democrat Forrest Dunbar are trying to unseat Republican incumbent Don Young. The moderator asked the candidates if they would support the Employment Non-Discrimination Act of 2013, which is pending in congress. The law would bar employment discrimination based on perceived or actual sexual orientation. "I see no problem with, regardless of two people that love each other, across the board, we discuss in our circles is why is government so involved,” said McDermott, a UAF Professor. "I support adding sexual orientation as a protected category, as we have with race, and religion,” added Dunbar, a former Capitol Hill staffer. “We have a group that has been historically discriminated against." Young said he would probably support the bill. "I have hired people of a different orientation, I have never looked upon a person as long as they can do a job, be whatever gender, but I think everyone at this table is on the same wavelength." Young says he still believes marriages is between a man and a woman. McDermott is a relative newcomer on the campaign trail who leans socially liberal. "You know what I'm going to do? For every law that we think of putting in place, we should take two off the books." Dunbar says long term cuts to programs will have to be made in order to rein in federal spending. Young touted his record in congress, claiming more than 4 percent of his bills were signed into law by the president.

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Investigators return to Kenai-area woods in search of vanished Alaska family


Authorities scoured Kenai-area woods this week searching once again for an Alaskan family of four who vanished -- seemingly in the middle of breakfast -- in May. 

In this story:

-- The discovery last week of an article of clothing, described only as "outerwear," has re-ignited search efforts in the mysterious disappearance. The missing family members are: Rebecca Adams, 5-year-old Michelle, 3-year-old Jaracca Hundley and Adams' boyfriend, Brandon Jividen, 37.

-- "We're looking for evidence that they are alive ... or evidence that they are not," said Lt. Dave Ross of the Kenai Police Department. 

-- With snowfall forecast for the weekend, this is expected to be the final search of the season. The effort Thursday focused on a wooded area behind the family's home. 

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Guard members sue federal government for privacy breach


Four Alaska National Guard members have sued the U.S. Army, saying their privacy was violated when classified military documents were leaked. They are now on the hunt for the sources of the leaks.

Those documents were leaked to media organizations, including Channel 2 News, but KTUU did not report the names.

However, those men have now publicly identified themselves through the news release of their lawsuit.

Suing the federal government are Shannon Tallant, John Nieves, Jarrett Carson and Joseph Lawendowski.

According to leaked documents, the men violated a range of military codes. Among the offenses are having inappropriate relationships, making fraudulent charges on government credit card and, in one case, sexually assaulting a woman.

“Our clients are not accused of any crimes whatsoever, so whatever reports you read that they were accused of crimes, that is completely and totally false,” said Mathew Tully of Tully Rinckey, a Washington, D.C.-based law firm. “That's the basis of this lawsuit. There are a lot of documents going around and there's a lot of accusations, and there's use of words such as crimes and accusations of serious crimes and sexual assaults and there's just no basis in that.” Tully said the plaintiffs are suing the U.S. Army because their records were disclosed to the media. "Those records are supposed to be confidential," Tully said. "Those records included personal information such as Social Security number, dates of birth, private information that is not releasable under federal law." Tully called for a deeper, outside investigation into allegations of Guard misconduct. “What I’ve seen here in Alaska is very disturbing,” he said. “I don’t think that it can be solved by people in Alaska looking at the situation. This requires the Department of Defense inspector general, the FBI, outsiders to come in and dissect every aspect of these allegations.”

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Prisoner who fatally punched girlfriend dies of illness, Corrections says


A 59-year-old man who was convicted of fatally punching his girlfriend at a Fairbanks homeless camp died of natural causes Wednesday while in custody, according to the Department of Corrections.

Rick Allen died at 10:34 p.m. in what the Department described as an expected death following a lengthy illness. He is the 10th person to die in custody this year, the Department said in a news release.

Allen was arrested in July 2012 and pleaded guilty to manslaughter later that year, according to the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. Allen, who had a history of minor alcohol offenses, had struck his girlfriend at a homeless camp at the Johansen Expressway, the newspaper reported.

He was serving an 11-year sentence. Allen had most recently been held at the Anchorage jail and spent a significant portion of his time in custody at the Palmer Correctional Center.

He was pronounced dead at Alaska Regional Hospital, a corrections spokeswoman said. 

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64-year-old woman died in Eagle River Road crash


Anchorage police say the woman killed Wednesday in an afternoon crash on Eagle River Road was an Eagle River resident.

Police say 64-year-old Alane Louise Allen died in the crash just before 12:30 p.m.

Allen was driving a small sedan north on Wren Lane and entered the intersection with Eagle River Road. The sedan collided with another small car and a sport utility vehicle driving in opposite directions on Eagle River Road.

Allen died at the scene.

Drivers in the other vehicles sustained what police called minor injuries.

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Mayor vetoes ban on spiked fences; effort was designed to save city moose


Editor's note: This story contains a graphic image of a moose impaled on a palisade fence.

Mayor Dan Sullivan has vetoed an ordinance approved by the Anchorage Assembly last week that would ban new palisade fences in town, in an effort to prevent moose from being impaled on their spikes. Sullivan confirmed his veto of Jennifer Johnston’s ordinance, first reported by Assembly member Dick Traini, in a Wednesday statement.

"The incidence of moose being wounded or killed by palisade fencing is very, very low," Sullivan wrote. "Contrast this with the cost of cutting off the spikes or pales or completely replacing fencing within the next five years and it is easy to see that the total financial impact far outweighs the benefit of saving a few moose."

The measure narrowly passed on a 6-5 vote at the Assembly’s Oct. 21 meeting. Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologist Jessy Coltrane testified before the Assembly that spiked fences occasionally kill moose when they try to step over them and become stuck. Others, however, said drivers hit and kill many more moose each year on local roads.

Johnston said Wednesday afternoon that Sullivan stopped the measure due to confusion over language requiring homeowners to modify fences under 7 feet in height within the next five years. She said she thought the clause had been removed from the ordinance, allowing older fences to remain in place without modification, but it was still in place when the Assembly passed the measure into law. Coltrane declined to speak on camera Wednesday but Rick Sinnott, Coltrane’s predecessor as Fish and Game’s Anchorage-area biologist, said Fish and Game typically responds to two or three moose impaled on fences in the Anchorage area per year. It's a toll Sinnott, who spent much of his career protecting people from wildlife and vice versa in a city that bleeds into the wilderness, said steadily rose during his tenure.

In addition to moose, other animals sometimes wounded themselves on the spikes but were able to struggle free, he said.  “At first (there were) not that many -- we actually had more moose caught in chain-link fences,” Sinnott said. “It’s because there’s more fences, not because there’s more moose.” While many of the ungulates are dead by the time biologists arrive, Sinnott said in other cases biologists sometimes find the animals wounded. Some were shot, while others were freed from the fences to face an uncertain future due to their injuries. “Some of the time they’d live, but in most cases they would die of infection,” Sinnott said. “Most of the time they’d be eviscerated because it would be in the heart or the lungs.”

According to Sullivan, one of the arguments against the palisade-fence ban is its limited scope relative to other means of protecting moose.

“We could save a lot more moose by practicing safer driving habits on our roadways, at no cost to taxpayers and property owners,” Sullivan wrote. “Or, by not planting trees that are an attractive nuisance to moose -- trees that draw moose into roadways or actually make moose sick.”

In Sinnott's view, moose killed on roads are a much larger problem -- but addressing it is also much more costly than Johnston's ordinance. He said most of Anchorage's palisade fences are smaller installations, concentrated in residential neighborhoods like West Anchorage and the Hillside.

"It seems like it’s a simple fix; most people don’t have these fences yet," Sinnott said. "Moose killed on roads is a much more complicated thing -- you can build fences along the Glenn Highway to keep them out of certain areas, but those cost millions of dollars."

Sullivan's statement on his veto also echoed opponents of the palisade-fence ban who criticized its expansion of government power. Despite calling on city designers to avoid including palisade fencing in future public buildings, Sullivan said "the cost/benefit analysis does not warrant this level of government intrusion." Sinnott dismissed the government-overreach argument Wednesday, saying state authorities estimated the value of every living moose at more than $1,000 apiece. He also pointed out that city law bars the installation of barbed-wire fences between properties -- because they might harm humans who try to cross them. “I don’t think this is a huge overreach of government, where moose are essentially being tortured to death on these things,” Sinnott said. “You can have a different kind of fence or even the same kind of fence, a palisade fence, and it’s be just as attractive.” An eight-vote supermajority among the Assembly’s 11 members would be needed to override Sullivan’s veto. According to Johnston, it’s unlikely that the Assembly has the votes for an override.

The body has had difficulty amassing that number, failing in August to defeat Sullivan's veto of a measure replacing labor law AO37. That 7-4 vote put a suspended recall effort for AO37 back into play, and local voters will see a question asking whether the law should remain in effect on their state ballots in Tuesday’s general election.

In the meantime, Sinnott said Sullivan’s veto doesn’t account for moose behavior, which instinctively conditions them to jump over low obstacles. “They’re used to jumping over branches and maybe chain-link fences, which they can flop over, and when they jump over these they get impaled the first time and they die,” Sinnott said. “It’s something I’m afraid we’re going to see happening more often.”

Channel 2's Adam Pinsker contributed information to this story.

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Parents and providers testify against proposed changes to Medicaid


Dozens of parents and health care providers packed a public meeting Wednesday to testify before the Medicaid Reform Advisory Group.

Health Commissioner William Streur attributed the large turnout to a proposal in the group's draft recommendations that would cap pediatric therapy to six hours per year. Many people at the meeting spoke out against the potential changes. "It has made a huge difference in our lives. If we don't have therapy, if we don't have medication, my son would have to be institutionalized," said Colleen Peterson, whose son has autism. She said her son takes 15 prescription medications a year. She testified against a proposed change to limit prescription medications covered by Medicaid to eight to 10 annually. "There will be other families out there who will have to make a choice between food and medicine for the children," said Peterson. After hearing from many parents, Streur said the advisory group would evaluate the proposed cap to pediatric therapy. He said part of the process includes putting out recommendations and then hearing feedback from the public. "Part of the reason we put something out is to see if there is stretch, is there room, is there an ability for providers to tighten down a little bit or a lot on what they do," said Streur. He stressed to the crowd that the group is advisory only and will submit its recommendation to Gov. Sean Parnell by Nov. 15. "My role in this position is to sustain Medicaid and to sustain those services," said Streur. "Where we can achieve efficiencies, I'm going to promote those and I know it's a very unpopular position to take." Other proposals within the draft recommendation include a cap on mental health services, payment reform and increasing or adding co-pays.

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Driver ejected in Sterling Highway crash, expected to survive


A semi-truck towing a trailer collided with a Ford Focus near milepost 114 of the Sterling Highway Wednesday around noon, according to the Alaska State Troopers.

Troopers believe Chad Keith, 34 of Kenai, was driving a 2009 Kenworth semi-truck and Byron McBee, 31 of Kasilof, was driving the Focus.

An investigation suggests McBee fell asleep, and his Focus crossed the centerline and collided with the semi's rear trailer tires.

McBee was ejected, and the car came to a rest in the southbound lane. He was taken to Central Peninsula Hospital in Soldotna for treatment and is expected to recover.

Keith reported no injuries.

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Homer man badly hurt after woodstove explosion, fire total home


An elderly Homer man was severely injured in an explosion and fire that destroyed his home Wednesday morning, Alaska State Troopers say. In a Wednesday afternoon AST dispatch, troopers say responded alongside crews from the Anchor Point, Homer and Kachemak Emergency Service Area fire departments to the Diamond Ridge blaze at about 9:15 a.m. “Investigation revealed the 88-year-old male owner of the residence attempted to start a fire in a wood stove using gasoline,” troopers wrote. “There was an explosion and the home was subsequently consumed by fire.” Troopers say the man was taken to Central Peninsula Hospital with life-threatening injuries. The $160,000 residence was a total loss in the blaze.

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