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Alaska veterans getting help they need


The event connects veterans with the services they need, such as the Alaska Housing Finance Corporation and other agencies so they can begin the process of moving into permanent housing.

"We'd love to say that we don't have to do this because there's not a need," said Stand Down organizer Shawn Duthie. "That's our ultimate goal, but until that time around, our plans are to be here."

This is the 22nd year of the Alaska event.

Organizers said that while the event is only one day, they hope vets can make contacts and get paperwork started that will help them in the future.

Army vet Larry Cariker said he came to Alaska from Oklahoma looking for work. He said he has a job but still is not in permanent housing, and that's why he came to the event.

"I'm finding out more things I need to know toward getting my housing done," said Cariker. "It kind of drives you a little crazy when you don't have your own place to live for a little while. Then you finally start accomplishing things and it starts to make you feel better."

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Vandals target East Anchorage mailboxes


Residents of the Cheney Lake neighborhood awoke Friday to find several mailboxes had been destroyed. 

In this story: 

-- Residents say vandals have targeted the northeast Anchorage neighborhood for the past year. 

-- A truck was seen or heard speeding through the area just before 3 a.m. 

-- "This is about the third our fourth time this has happened," said resident Dave Nowak.

Police did not return calls asking for information about the vandalism. 

GALLERY

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One same-sex couple closer to adoption after gay marriage ban ends


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

For one Anchorage couple, adopting as a legal spouse under Alaska law could save tens of thousands of dollars in legal fees and other costs. 

"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 attempted to appeal a decision by Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals that allowed legal, same-sex marriage in the state.

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Alcohol advertising near AFN prompts complaints


Fostering healthy communities has been a regular theme of the Alaska Federation of Natives annual convention. Health associations set up booths with literature on substance abuse, and all official AFN events are sober. If anyone shows up under the influence, that person is escorted out.

So a banner advertising drink specials alongside the AFN logo attracted attention on Thursday, when it was up at McGinley’s Pub in sight of the convention entrance.

“It’s literally across the street where everyone is going in and out of the door to come in here and conduct the business at hand,” say Liz Medicine Crow, who is attending the convention, and she takes issue with the sign beyond the unauthorized use of the AFN logo. The banner read “A Jack in the hand is worth two in the Busch” to advertise whiskey and the Busch brand of beer, while punning on the term “Bush Alaska.”

Medicine Crow says the advertising is in conflict with the spirit of the Alaska Federation of Natives convention.

“People are really disgusted,” says Medicine Crow. “I’ve heard that people are hurt. I’ve heard that people think that it’s 100 percent inappropriate. I also hear that people are not surprised, because the welcome from this place of Anchorage is just not as warm as it could be considering how much money comes into this town and how many people are utilizing the services here.”

The banner took on added significance because of McGinley’s affiliation with Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan. Sullivan includes his status as a founding partner of the bar in his official biography, and a 2012 financial disclosure — his most recent completed filing available on the Alaska Public Offices Commission website — lists income from the establishment. Sullivan delivered welcome remarks to AFN on Thursday morning, and is running as the Republican candidate for lieutenant governor. He did not return a message left on his cell phone asking about the banner.

But employees of McGinley’s Pub explained that the sign was actually the work of their beverage suppliers. Bar manager Denise Bostedt said that the sign was produced and installed by K&L Distributors, and that no one from McGinley’s was involved in its design.

“I can promise from the bottom of my heart that we never meant to insult anybody,” said Bostedt. “We love when AFN comes to town.”

A spokesperson for AFN confirmed that use of their logo was unauthorized, and that they received “many” complaints about the banner through the day. After representatives from AFN contacted McGinley’s about the sign, the pub covered up the logo with three sheets of white paper but left the sign up, with the rest visible. When approached by a reporter with questions about the sign on Thursday night, they took it down entirely.

This story originally appeared on alaskapublic.org. 

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Paper lantern launch causes disruption


Officials at an Anchorage air field had to briefly reroute traffic follow the release of paper lanterns during an interfaith event in the area.

The lantern release, during an event in support of victims of domestic violence, came as a surprise to Anchorage police, who said lanterns appeared in the path of airplane traffic at Merrill Field on Thursday night.

Sgt. Shaun Henry told the Alaska Dispatch News police received calls about rerouted planes and a lantern landing on a vehicle. No injuries or accidents were reported.

A police spokeswoman said no citations were issued.

Jenny Michaelson, with the Archdiocese of Anchorage, said the launch was meant as part of a positive community event. She said no harm was meant.

On Friday, the Anchorage Fire Department warned the lanterns pose a serious wildlife risk and asked people to report illegal use of the devices. 

The full AFD statement:

Yesterday, an Anchorage based organization launched dozens of “sky lanterns” over the Anchorage area in a well-intentioned effort to bring attention to their cause. Sky lanterns are paper balloons that have a heat source under the balloon that provides lift, essentially a “lightweight” hot air balloon. Sky lanterns may land when the flame is still active, making them a significant fire hazard. If the balloon is tilted by the wind or by hitting some object upon descent, such as a spruce tree or a building, it may catch fire, providing an ignition source to a structure or forested lands.

These devices are unlawful in Alaska by both state statute and local ordinance in Anchorage. Additionally, after the balloon lands, the leftover thin wire frame will rust away very slowly, remaining a hazard to wildlife or pets that may ingest it or become entangled by the wire.  

We are asking the public for assistance in reporting the unlawful use of these devices. Anyone with information about individuals using these devices is asked to contact the AFD fire investigator by calling 267-4900 or by calling the Arson Hotline at 267-5060.  If you wish to remain anonymous, please contact crime stoppers hotline at 561-S-T-O-P (561-7867).

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At AFN, Don Young apologizes for controversial remarks on suicide


U.S. Rep. Don Young apologized Friday to delegates at the largest annual gathering of Alaska Natives for a controversial statements he made about suicide to Wasilla High School students.

The suicide rate in Alaska is twice the national average. On Tuesday, Young told students at a school reeling from the recent suicide of a classmate that sometimes friends and family are at fault when a person kills themselves. Young stood by the statement the following day at a campaign event.

The remarks drew a sharp rebuke from other members of Alaska's congressional delegation Thursday night. Sen. Lisa Murkowski called on Young to apologize. Sen. Mark Begich, labeled the statement "uninformed and inappropriate."

Speaking at an already scheduled appearance at the Alaska Federation of Natives convention in downtown Anchorage, Young apologized for the remarks.

"My heart and soul are in rural Alaska," Young said.

"The last four days have been tough for me," he told the crowd.

Young's opponent in the Nov. 4 election, Forrest Dunbar, told KTUU that Young's speech appeared heartfelt.

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Alaska Bites: How to make a PB&J, by a 6-year-old


Feel like keeping it simple this weekend? In this addition of Alaska Bites, we asked 6-year-old Maggie Metcalfe for advice on making peanut butter and jelly sandwiches.

In this story:

-- Maggie eats at least 10 PB&Js a week.

-- The key is putting the jelly on first.

-- The best type of jelly is raspberry. Cherry rhubarb jam and raspberry jam do NOT taste good together. 

Send suggestions for chefs, dishes and Alaska culinary trends to Rebecca Palsha at rpalsha@ktuu.com.

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Closures of Sears stores nationwide will not include Alaska, company says


The Sears department store that has long been the flagship tenant of the Mall at Sears in Midtown Anchorage will remain open despite widespread Sears closures planned across the country, mall officials say.

The 600 E. Northern Lights Boulevard Sears will lease 40,000 square feet however, to make room for Alaska's first Nordstrom Rack in fall 2015.

Sears Holdings Corp. plans to shutter more than 100 Kmarts, Sears and Sears Auto Center locations before the end of January, according to the financial news tracker Seeking Alpha.

The closure did not include any Alaska locations and a Sears official tells Channel 2 no Alaska stores will be impacted.

Sears has since disputed the precise number and location of closures. The news raised questions about the future of the Sears location in Anchorage including the Midtown store where the surrounding mall has been busy in recent years welcoming new tenants like SteamDot coffee and changing its look. 

“No Sears or Kmart stores in Alaska are impacted. They will remain open to the public,” said Howard Riefs, director of corporate communications at Sears Holdings, in an email to Channel 2 Friday.

That includes stores in Wasilla, Fairbanks and Juneau.  

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US, Canada monitor barge adrift off Arctic Slope


JUNEAU -- U.S. and Canadian authorities are monitoring a barge carrying nearly 1,000 gallons of diesel fuel that's drifting in the Beaufort Sea.

The U.S. Coast Guard said Thursday the 134-foot barge broke free from its tow in Canadian waters during a severe storm earlier this week.

Canadian aircraft located the barge drifting west in U.S. waters. The U.S. Coast Guard says it will deploy aircraft to the Arctic Slope from Air Station Kodiak to continue tracking the ship.

The fuel tanks on board appear to be intact and don't show signs of discharge.

The U.S. Coast Guard says the area is experiencing 40 mph winds and 12-foot seas.

Canadian and U.S. Coast Guard personnel are developing a response plan with the barge's owner, Northern Transportation Corp.

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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 web@ktuu.com. Thanks to everyone who has already sent their amazing pics.

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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."

ORIGINAL STORY:

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 khopkins@ktuu.com. 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 web@ktuu.com.

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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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