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Parnell speaks with Alaska National Guardsmen in closed JBER meeting

Gov. Sean Parnell met with Alaska National Guard members in a town-hall meeting on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson Sunday, in the wake of sexual assault allegations that have rocked the force’s leadership in recent weeks. A spokeswoman for Parnell, Sharon Leighow, confirmed the meeting in a brief email to Channel 2 Sunday afternoon, saying about 250 Guardsmen were at the event to hear Parnell "addressing the reforms that are being implemented and taking questions from Guard members." She said the meeting, from 2 p.m. to 3 p.m. at the JBER armory, had been planned for about a week -- with no restrictions placed on audience members' questions for Parnell. “The governor is taking part in a town hall meeting with Guard members,” Leighow wrote. “The event is closed to the press and there are no members of Guard leadership in attendance.” Parnell dismissed the Alaska National Guard’s leader, Adjutant Gen. Thomas Katkus, in response to a September report from the National Guard’s Office of Complex Investigations questioning the Guard’s handling of reported sexual assault allegations. Since that report was released, additional details have been leaked about specific incidents of abuse and harassment within the state force’s Recruitment and Retention Battalion.

Alaska National Guard spokesperson Sgt. Balinda O'Neal said Sunday afternoon that a statement on Parnell's meeting was forthcoming, but won't be released until Monday. This is a developing story. Please check and the Channel 2 newscasts for updates.

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State lays claim to land along refuge boundary

The state is seeking conveyance of nearly 20,000 acres on the western boundary of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The state says the lands were requested under the Alaska Statehood Act and Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act. But Gov. Sean Parnell says the federal government has been improperly drawing the boundary. In a release, Parnell says his administration began a review of the boundary after the Department of Natural Resources received bids for oil and gas tracts in the area in 2011. He says conveyance will bring the acreage under state control for oil and gas exploration. Maureen Clark, a spokeswoman for the U.S. Bureau of Land Management, told APRN the agency received the state's request and was checking if the issue was the subject of prior litigation.

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Meet the other candidates running for U.S. Senate

Most Alaskans know that Sen. Mark Begich is running for re-election and his Republican challenger is Dan Sullivan.

But Mark Fish and Ted Gianoutsos are also vying for the seat.

Gianoutsos is “running only to open ANWR, and fill our pipeline,” he said. “But most importantly to do it in the best and the most beneficial way for America, Alaska and wildlife.”

In the past decade, Gianoutsos has run for public office five times—three times for the U.S. Senate, once for the House of Representatives and once for governor.

Each time, he said, it was to push for opening the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil and gas drilling.

Gianoutsos voted in his first election in 1960.

“I cast my first vote in November for John F. Kennedy for president,” Gianoutsos said. “He said in his inaugural speech: ‘Ask not what your country can do for you, but what you can do for your country.’ That inspired me for everything I've done for the rest of my life.”

He said he would bow out of the race if Sullivan or Begich publicly committed to opening ANWR.

“If Dan stands up and he says that, I will withdraw, and I will do all I can to elect Dan,” Gianoutsos said. “If Mark says that, it’s still open for Mark. This question of ANWR, which is worth two trillion dollars, dwarfs anything they possibly could do for Alaska.”

Fish is running as a Libertarian and says he will not vote for either Begich or Sullivan.

“I don’t see the ideas that (Dan Sullivan) is pushing are any more relevant to individual Alaskans than what Mark Begich has, and that’s why I’m doing this,” Fish said. “What the Libertarian Party wants to do, and what I want to do is just to be there as an alternative, so people have a place to go to, and they're not left in a total state of anarchy. I do feel one day this two-party system is going to collapse.”

Fish wants marijuana completely legalized in Alaska, but opposes the measure to raise the minimum wage.

“Minimum wage hurts the youngest and poorest workers,” he said. “It's simple free market economics. When you have a group of people that are artificially paid a higher wage than what the market bears, there are going to be less of them hired.”

Fish has run for Anchorage Assembly and a state House seat. He runs mostly out of principle, he said.

“I'm kind of reminded of that old adage from Marlon Brando's quote in The Wild Bunches, when he's asked what he's rebelling against and he says, ‘What you got?’”

It’s a long shot that either Fish or Gianoutsos would win the Senate race, so we asked: do you really think you could win?

“To win, literally, would take a miracle,” Gianoutsos said. “It’s not impossible, because as you know, with the internet, all of a sudden, my campaign could become viral in the next two or three weeks. I could easily go from 2 percent (in the polls) to 10 or 15 or 20 percent.”

Fish admitted the chances are slim.

“I don't think there's a probability I'll win, but there's always a possibility,” Fish said.

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Runaway Palmer teen found by troopers after week-long search

A missing Palmer teenager has been found by Alaska State Troopers, days after a heartfelt plea from his mother for public help in finding him after he ran away from home. Rebecca McGuire, 15-year-old Austin Sult’s mother, said she was informed by Alaska State Troopers Sunday that they had taken him into custody at a friend’s home and had him in custody at the Palmer Youth Facility. “It sounds like he did a little running, but they finally caught him,” McGuire said. McGuire had asked for aid in finding Sult Thursday after he was last seen at Wasilla High School Oct. 10, saying at the time that he sometimes used marijuana. She said Sunday that despite the circumstances and Sult's previous disappearance in January, she had spoken with him at the facility and was glad he was off the streets. “He’s safe now,” McGuire said. Alaska State Troopers spokesperson Beth Ipsen confirmed Sunday afternoon that Sult had been found, but couldn’t elaborate on the circumstances.

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Report outlines allegations of rape, unchecked misconduct in National Guard recruiting office

A secret investigator’s report recently made public reveals a series of alcohol-fueled sexual assaults, extramarital affairs and predatory behavior within the Recruiting and Retention Battalion of the Alaska National Guard. The revelations follow the September findings of the Office of Complex Investigations, which broadly described favoritism, improper sexual relationships and a refusal by Guard officials to follow-up on complaints of abuse and fraud. What happened, exactly? The findings of the AR 15-6 investigations provided recently to KTUU and other news media, however, offer a detailed glimpse at the alleged misdeeds. The documents provided to media contain only investigative findings, not responses from people implicated or a mention of disciplinary actions taken. Lt. Col. Jane Wawersik investigated allegations of misconduct against a handful of soldiers, including Sgt. 1st Class Shannon Tallant, while Tallant was with the recruiting battalion. Below are the accusations against just one of the Guard employees, Tallant, according to Wawersik's findings: 1. A high school girl said Tallant spoke to a JROTC class and then started "hanging out" outside of the school. From the time the girl was a freshman until she was a junior, the married sergeant "repeatedly tried to take her on dates and eventually tried to get (her) to come to his house." Tallant was in his mid-30s, and the girl was 17 when he convinced her to get in his car and to go home with him. But the girl changed her mind during the ride and asked to get out, saying her mother would be looking for her. Tallant "countered that it would only take about five minutes." The girl jumped from the car at a stop sign and ran away. She used a stranger's cellphone to call her father for help. 2. Tallant carried on an extramarital affair with a woman, according to many people who worked closely with him. The woman was a married soldier, and the marital problems were "heartbreaking" to her husband.  During an event at Fur Rendezvous, the husband of the woman cheating with Tallant was seen by another soldier "crying outside (Guard) campers (saying) that he was losing his wife to Tallant." 3. A technician tasked with backing up the sergeant's computer found a photo of the woman the sergeant was cheating with holding a baby. The sergeant had labeled the photo "my baby." 4. The husband who feared he was losing his wife reported the affair to Command Sgt. Maj. Clinton Brown, Tallant's supervisor. Brown and Tallant were also friends, and the complaint was not taken seriously, according to a soldier with an office nearby Brown. What should have been a reprimand seemed like a "leisurely conversation" between friends, the soldier told Wawersik. 5. Tallant and the woman he was cheating with allegedly had sexual contact with a woman who was highly intoxicated and asleep. The woman was not old enough to legally drink alcohol, yet "she became so intoxicated that evening that she was throwing up and eventually passed out," Wawersik wrote. "She remembered waking up at one point and she was sexually engaged with both" Tallant and the woman. 6.  A soldier said Tallant “took advantage” of the wife of a sled dog musher at an Iditarod-related recruiting event. The woman appeared to the soldier to be "drugged, not responsive, lost, incoherent and clumsy." Tallant is accused of sexually assaulting her while she was asleep. 7. An active duty soldier confronted Tallant about his men being out of uniform and drinking during the popular Arctic Man snowmachine event. Tallant told him he authorized his soldiers to have three drinks and to abandon their uniform requirement because they had been working hard. "To say the least I was embarrassed to wear the same uniform as these guys," the active duty soldier said. The soldier went on to report the incident to an active duty leader in Anchorage, who pushed the Tallant’s commander to punish him. Emails reviewed by the investigator show that Command Sgt. Maj. Brown pleaded to keep it between just the two of them. 8. "There are numerous instances in which (Tallant's) inappropriate behavior was presented to (Brown) for action," Wawersik wrote. "Not only was no action taken, Brown and Tallant touted their personal friendship. Their fraternization resulted in the destruction of unit morale and served as the catalyst in which Tallant was allowed to continue to use his rank and position to abuse junior Soldiers as well as prey on young women." 9. A soldier remembers being awoken during an Iditarod event when the wife of a musher and Tallant entered a Guard RV where R&R members were sleeping. The two went to a bedroom along with an unknown female to have sex. The sergeant told the soldier he was "there to share" and that he could join the sexual encounter. That soldier declined, but another joined in. The soldier who declined to join in described Tallant as "a horrible and bad person who should (have) never been in charge of young Soldiers, or in a position where his personal interests could be satisfied at the expense of others." 10. Tallant would instruct his soldiers to give women at Thursday Fight Nights, Iditarod and other recruiting events so much alcohol they would become incapacitated, a soldier told Wawersik. Once, Tallant told a subordinate to take away a woman's keys and hide them so she would not be able to get away and go home. The soldier refused, so the sergeant let the air out of her tires. 11. While involved in a recruiting effort at a local high school aimed at teaching kids to make positive choices, Tallant turned the presentation into what another soldier called a "bullshit" session, where he bragged about a DUI and other prohibited behavior. 12. During the Khaan Quest mission in 2012, at a VIP dinner, Command Sgt. Maj. Brown encouraged his soldiers to drink excessively, which they did, and one soldier observed the leader drank "no fewer than 15 shots." 13. A married female soldier reported Tallant attempted to have sex with her during a recruiting trip to Pennsylvania, even though he was married and knew she was married. The woman said the sergeant was a "guy very used to getting what he wanted," the investigator wrote. 14. Tallant would tell his soldiers that if they didn't do something, including cover up extramarital affairs or facilitate sexual assaults, they wouldn't have jobs by the end of the week. Tallant's "leadership was so corrosive that these Soldiers entrusted to his care chose to leave Anchorage and take jobs in the remote installation of Fort Greely." 15. "What happens in recruiting stays in recruiting" was a favorite saying of Tallant. GUARD RESPONDS Lt. Col. Candis Olmstead, a Guard spokesperson, said the documents should not have been released to media at this point: "Personnel documents and investigation documents are provided to a board for personnel determinations. We do not want any actions to take place that may harm or impact the process. Additionally, personnel and investigation documents contain protected information, and release of these documents is in direct violation of the Privacy Act and DoD policies." (NOTE: KTUU was provided the documents by a politically motivated source who requested anonymity). Olmstead added that Lt. Col. Charles Knowles was assigned in June 2012 to rebuild the recruiting office. "He has rebuilt the recruiting team and has brought assigned strength up to 100%. He reassigned six recruiters to other duties outside of the recruiting office. A seventh recruiter left the local unit, another was terminated from his position, and another was assigned a temporary duty pending administrative actions."

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Exxon Valdez spill restoration plan taking longer than expected

Government attorneys say a restoration plan for addressing lingering effects of the Exxon Valdez oil spill is taking longer than expected to complete. The six-step plan includes testing of possible bioremediation technologies. The attorneys, in a recent court filing, said it will be necessary to apply what was learned from the testing to all known or predicted oiled sites before moving ahead. They proposed another update to the court by June 30. Lawsuits brought against Exxon Mobil Corp. by the state and federal governments after the 1989 spill led to a $900 million settlement and a consent decree that included a clause that would allow the governments to seek additional funds for restoration projects. In 2006, the governments demanded $92 million but haven't asked a judge to enforce the provision.

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First Alaska male couple married in Anchorage

Alaska history was made Saturday night as the first male couple exchanged “I do’s” in Anchorage. Big Lake residents Gene Zola, 62, and Bob Deloach, 75, legally married at the Raven bar in Downtown Anchorage. The two men have been together for more than 40 years. “We have a relationship and we're a family,” Deloach said.  "It's just that we would like to solidify it and make it legal so we can get the same benefits as everybody else in Alaska." Last Sunday a federal judge ruled Alaska's ban on same-sex marriage unconstitutional.  That ruling was challenged by the state who requested an emergency stay order to halt gay marriages, but that request was denied by the U.S Supreme Court on Friday. Same-sex couples who filed for marriage licenses at the Bureau of Vital Statistics in Anchorage will be able to pick up their licenses on Monday.

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Ketchikan officials to consider prayer at meetings

The Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly is set to consider whether to begin its meetings with a prayer. A public hearing and vote are scheduled for Monday. The Ketchikan Daily News reports that there was disagreement at an earlier meeting about whether non-religious speakers would be allowed to deliver invocations and how much time would be set aside for prayer. One proposal would set time limits of 30 seconds to 90 seconds for prayers or meditative observances "with a positive and cooperative focus." Another would allow representatives of all faiths and denominations to deliver invocations, including moments of silence.

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Woman dies hours after Midtown crash

A woman died hours after being involved in a Friday evening crash in Midtown, but police are still trying to figure out if injuries from the crash caused her death.

Police report that around 7:30 p.m. 35-year-old Bjarne Rasmussen was driving a white sports utility vehicle when he illegally rolled through a stop sign and into the intersection of 40th Avenue and Denali Street.

The SUV collided with a Yellow Cab sedan that carried a driver, two adult women and a 2-year-old.

Occupants of the cab were taken to the hospital for assessment, and when an officer arrived, all their injuries were reportedly not life-threatening.

But around 3 a.m., APD learned that one of the adult women died.

An autopsy is being conducted to determine if injuries sustained in the crash caused the woman's death or something else happened.

Officers on scene said that Rasmussen's lack of familiarity with driving in Anchorage may have contributed to the crash.

The driver was also taken to a hospital with injuries that are not considered life-threatening and was cited for failure to stop.

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Missing 6-year-old Anchorage boy located, safe

Update:  The boy was located and is safe.

Original Story:ANCHORAGE -- The Anchorage Police Department is asking for help finding a missing 6-year-old boy.

Gage Macgregor was last seen leaving his residence on foot just after 3 p.m. near E. 84th Avenue and Elmore Road.

He was wearing a black and gray jacket, black pants, a red Dr. Suess T-shirt and tennis shoes.

The boy is 4-foot-5, 55 pounds and has blonde hair and blue eyes. Police describe him as autistic.

Anyone with information on his whereabouts is asked to call police immediately at 907-786-8900.

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Investigators Collect Evidence Surrounding Irma Williams' Death

Neighbors in Mountain View say they are saddened and shocked after the body of Irma Williams was found on Wednesday.

"She would come by and be like "oh I love your flowers or what are you doing and how are you," Pamela Hill, a neighbor said. "She was just a very friendly person, really friendly."

Hill has lived in Mountain View since 2010 and said it was shocking to find out her neighbor, Irma Williams had been discovered dead on Wednesday.

"I found out last night on the computer and I looked at my husband and went "oh my God," Hill said. "You know, it just broke my heart because she was a wonderful person, she really was."

The last time Williams was seen by family members was September 15th, and she was reported missing 15 days later.

Investigators were tight lipped Friday evening about their latest efforts to find clues, but they did say the investigation is ongoing and moving forward.

APD's crime scene van was staged outside an apartment on the 400 block of North Lane Friday evening.

APD Spokesperson Dani Myren said investigators were collecting evidence for the death investigation of Williams.

As police collect clues, neighbors who knew Williams say there is only one thing they can do for now while they wait for answers.

"Her family are definitely in my thoughts and my prayers and I really feel for them," Hill said.

Anyone with information about Williams' disappearance is asked to call APD at 786-8900.

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Alaska village residents say they waited 14 hours for help after double homicide

When a double murder was reported Oct. 9 in the Western Alaska village of Shageluk, residents waited 14 hours before Alaska State Troopers arrived. During that time, the village placed itself on lockdown, holding a resident captive in a city building until help arrived.

Villagers' complaints that troopers were slow to appear come on the heels of a report in late 2013 by the Indian Law and Order Commission that labeled safety problems in tribal communities like Shageluk as “systemically worst” in the United States.

In this story:

Troopers say flight restrictions delayed a response. Had the alleged killings occurred in an Alaska city like Fairbanks, authorities would have immediately launched a manhunt, said Shageluk tribe and community spokeswoman Sonta Roach.Seventy five or more Alaska communities lack any form of local police or law enforcement, according to the Indian Law and Order Commission findings.

Shageluk is a village of fewer than 100 people on the Innoko River, a tributary of the lower Yukon River.

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Jury acquits man in pipeline false statement case

FAIRBANKS — A federal jury has acquitted a Fairbanks man of lying to the FBI as it investigated the 1978 bombing of the trans-Alaska oil pipeline.

The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports the jury returned a not guilty verdict Thursday on three counts in the trial of 62-year-old Phillip Martin Olson.

Prosecutors said Olson told investigators he had participated in setting off an explosion on the pipeline and that another man, identified as C.D. in charging documents, had also participated.

The other man denied any role in the explosion.

The statute of limitations had passed for prosecution of the bombing, which caused a crude oil leak of 12,000 to 14,000 barrels east of Fairbanks.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Joe Bottini says by email the verdict surprised him because evidence was strong.

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Senator plans to investigate Guard situation

State Sen. Lesil McGuire says the Legislature will hold hearings into the troubled Alaska National Guard, but she's getting push back from the Senate president.

The Alaska Dispatch News reports McGuire also will call for a special investigator into allegations of sexual assault and other misconduct within the Guard.

However, Senate President Charlie Huggins says he doesn't know if the Legislature will do anything but muddy the water.

After allegations of sexual assault within the agency, a federal report released Sept. 4 found evidence of fraud and ethical misconduct. Critics said Gov. Sean Parnell, who is seeking re-election next month, didn't act quickly enough.

Huggins says it doesn't make sense to hold hearings with the election next month. But he's not convicted hearing are the best approach later, either.

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Container ship adrift off British Columbia coast

HAIDA GWAII, British Columbia — A container ship on its way from Washington to Russia lost power overnight and is drifting Friday off the north coast of British Columbia.

The Canadian Forces' joint rescue co-ordination center in Victoria says the Simushir is about 10 miles off Haida Gwaii.

Acting Sub. Lt. Ron MacDougall says there are concerns the vessel could run aground in heavy winds. The Canadian and U.S. Coast Guards are responding.

The ship carries 440 tons of bunker oil and 55 tons of diesel.

MacDougall says there are 11 people on board. A helicopter was dispatched to remove the captain who is injured.

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Gay marriages will resume Monday in Alaska

Gay marriages will resume Monday in Alaska.

Alaska Gov. Sean Parnell's spokeswoman says the state will comply with a federal court judge's order to allow gay marriages to continue.

However, Sharon Leighow says in an email to The Associated Press that the state will continue to seek a review of the matter by the full Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals in San Francisco.

The U.S. Supreme Court on Friday denied the state's request to halt gay marriages while the state appeals.

A federal judge last Sunday struck down Alaska's law as unconstitutional. Another judge in Arizona issued the same ruling there Friday, and that state's conservative attorney general decided not to contest it any further.

Joshua Decker with the American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska called on Parnell to follow suit.

However, Leighow says Parnell swore an oath to uphold the state constitution and will continue with the appeal to the federal appeals court.

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Why is North America's largest caribou herd shrinking? 3 theories

As the long hours of summer sunlight disappear and the days grow shorter on the Kobuk River valley, a thundering rumble begins below the Brooks Range. 

The caribou are here. The return of the largest caribou herd in North America and a true Alaskan marvel in these lower valleys below Jade Mountain, the animals have fed families in the region for thousands of years. Recently, however, something has changed.

The caribou are arriving at river crossings later and later each year, and the size of the herd is growing smaller and smaller, declining by almost half since 2003. Watch our three-part special report in the videos below and read on to learn why. 

3 theories on the decline


For the last ten thousand years, Onion Portage has served as a main intersection for the caribou in their migration pattern as the animals travel each year cross the Kobuk River.

National Park Service biologist Jim Lawler says the caribou’s total migration is about the size of Wyoming.

“There’s few places in the world where there’s large natural landscapes like this, that allow migrations to go uninterrupted,” Lawler said.

The migration happens twice a year in the Spring and Fall. During the summer the caribou are on the North Slope above the Brooks Range. As the temperatures drop they start to migrate south through passes in the range. The routes vary each year by year but one thing remains certain: The Kobuk must be crossed.

When the caribou arrive at the the river they are more than halfway home to winter breeding grounds in the Koyuk drainage. Once in the water, the caribou waste no time. They move fast to the southern shore using their perfectly elongated and wide hooves as a makeshift paddle to move swiftly across.

State and federal researchers have been watching and documenting this migration for decades. From 2010 to 2012, they found, the caribou have been crossing the Kobuk River later and later in the year and fewer have been going across.

Year Noatak River Kobuk River Selawik River Crossing Date (SD); % Crossed; N Crossing Date (SD); % Crossed; N Crossing Date (SD); % Crossed; N 2010 Sept 24 (16.4); 96.7%; 30 Oct 12 (17.4); 76.7%; 30 Oct 24 (11.7); 62.1%; 29 2011 Sept 27 (37.2); 74.4%; 39 Oct 13 (27.0); 71.8%; 39 Oct 19 (27.4); 71.8%; 39 2012 Oct 8 (20.8); 84.8%; 33 Oct 11 (17.7); 78.8%; 33 Oct 14 (18.1); 70.0%; 33

Steven Machida is the state’s regional supervisor for the Division of Wildlife in the Northern and Western part of Alaska. His crew tags caribou twice a year to document the migration and is seeing changes.

“The last big population decline was in the 1970s," Machida said. “At that time the herd declined to approximately about 75,000. Since then it has grown steadily probably averaging about 15 percent per year until it reached it's peak in the mid 2000s at about a half a million caribou.”

Since the mid-2000s the population has plummeted. In 2013 the herd is at just over 230,000 caribou.

Year Number of Caribou 2003 490,000 2007 377,000 2009 348,000 2011 325,000 2013 235,000

There are three main theories as to why the population is declining. First, it’s been well documented by the state and the Inupiaq natives that there is an abundance of predators and wolves within the migration pattern. Second, Lawler points to the lack of nutrition the Western Arctic caribou is getting during migration. A third issue is also at play, researchers said: Climate change.

In the later months, the warmer weather has developed rain on snow which creates ice. This prevents the caribou from accessing their feed.

Both the state and federal government admit the caribou population trend has always been cyclical. Sometimes the herd grows, sometimes it shrinks. But the dramatic change in the arctic sets raises questions about the future of the herd, and of the Kobuk River valley were families depend on the caribou for food. 

A hunter shares his caribou


The Western Arctic caribou herd floods the lower valleys of the Brooks Range every Fall, ushering in another population surge. The Inupiaq who have lived off this land for more than 11,000 years traditionally hunt the animals. Villages along the Kobuk like Ambler and Kiana have easier access than others that live much further, but for years families across the region have made the trip.

Dave Kelsey and his fiance’ Pauline Morris traveled 140 miles down river to get to Onion Portage to harvest the caribou they say no longer comes through their village of Noorvik. 

“Born to hunt, forced to work,” is one of Kelsey’s mottos. A testament to how important subsistence is to the Inupiaq and one that Inupiaq elder Walter Sampson says mirrors the feelings his people has about caribou.

“Just imagine in the environment they grew up in and what they try to do to provide food for their family,” Sampson said. “If they couldn't catch any caribou that's part of the starvation.”

Policymakers call this "subsistence" -- hunting and fishing to live. 

“'Subsistence' is really a term that someone from the western society came out with that term,” Sampson said. “To an Inupiaq, subsistence is a way of life.”

In that life there are certain traditions that must be followed. An important part of the caribou hunt for the Inupiaq is providing for those who can’t hunt so no one starves in the village. Another tradition, still practiced today, is that a hunter does not eat his or her first caribou kill.

“That's part of the tradition, no family starves in this region,” Sampson said. “If I should go out hunting I share my catch with whom I think doesn't have the resources to go out."

History lessons


Thousands of years ago, there no permanent villages along the Kobuk River. People in this region led a nomadic life.

“These were family groups that lived with the seasons,” said Sampson, the Inupiaq elder. “By that I mean a family would move from camp to camp to camp.”

Onion Portage was a popular destination for those camps. Caribou have long migrated to this one spot and the people have followed.

“These small family groups over time started to gather,” Sampson said. “Every year they would get bigger and bigger. Over time they started to create a small tribal community.”

Those were ancient beginnings that started villages like Ambler and Kobuk. It was the culture archaeologists like J. Louis Giddings began unearthing 11,000 years later. Michael Holt, who is the National Park Service archeologist, is an expert on the archaeological dig found by Giddings back in the 1940s. That effort discovered evidence that humans had been using the area for 10,000 years, leaving behind changing technology such as spears and, later, bows and arrows. 

“There's a deep culture connectedness to this place in Onion Portage and to the people who live around it and hunt nearby,” Holt said.

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Alaska ramping up Ebola safety with new testing materials

State officials continue to reinforce that Alaska is at a low risk for seeing an Ebola case yet steps are being taken to ramp up safety.

Next week, chemical reagents that allow for rapid testing of Ebola will arrive in Alaska at the Anchorage state health lab. Until then, any testing would need to be sent out of state to confirm if Ebola is present or not.

Regardless of the testing equipment, state officials say Alaska health care providers are prepared to care for a patient they think may have the deadly disease.

"Every community in the state has the basics in place," says state epidemiologist Dr. Michael Cooper. "What we're doing through our education and outreach is ensuring that their practicing these things and that their up to speed."

Dr. Cooper says through teleconferences it has reached out to a number of remote communities including Unalaska. He says health providers there would be prepared to isolate a person if a patient was identified as high risk.

Chief of Epidemiology for the State of Alaska, Dr. Joe McLaughlin, says every day the country learns more about safety surrounding Ebola.

"This is a rapidly evolving situation and we are much better prepared today as a nation that we were last week," says Dr. McLaughlin. "We're learning from the mistakes and these are are nobody's fault per say."

Gov. Sean Parnell has directed the Department of Health and Social Services Commissioner to create a multi-agency Ebola task force.

The governor says the state is well prepared to handle an Ebola case in the unlikely event that one arises.

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Drop, cover, and hold on: Alaskans prepare for the next big earthquake

Preparing for a disaster of a different kind, 79,000 Alaskans participated in The Great Alaska Shakeout at 10:16 a.m. Thursday morning.

With seismologists recording tens of thousands of earthquakes in Alaska every year, being ready is key.

Which is why they say shakeout drills, community preparation, and even the possibility of an early earthquake warning system, should all be options on the table.

Joining 25 million people from all over the globe, as part of a mock earthquake drill, sophomore Sean Southern and his University of Alaska Anchorage oral communications did their best to drop, cover, and hold on.

And even though the lifelong Alaskan has seen his share of shakers, he says the drills are always needed.

"I think it does make you think about the escape paths, exit paths in the common areas," said Southern. "We all know about 1964 was a massive earthquake, one of the biggest in the world, if that can happen here, I think its worth it to be prepared for something like that."

Alaskans got a good reminder of something like that just last month when a 6.2-magnitude earthquake shook the Southcentral region.

And with the state sitting in one of the most active seismic regions in the world, officials want people to practice for the worst.

"Earthquakes are no notice events, when they strike, there's a moment of panic, people come to the realization that's an earthquake and then they have to decide what to do," said Jeremy Zidek, who is a public information officer with the Division of Homeland Security and Emergency Management.

"We talk about all these little earthquakes, the 100 little magnitude two's that happen every day, they don't hurt anybody but by studying and understanding where those occur what we are really doing is mapping out and understanding where to anticipate the next magnitude 7," said Michael West, who is a state seismologist with the Alaska Earthquake Center.

West says part of the preparation could include tools like an early earthquake warning system that's being used in Mexico, Israel, Japan, and being tested in California, Washington and Oregon.

End even though the warning would only be a handful of seconds, he says it could help in places where the earthquake didn't directly hit.

"It's not enough time to get out of a building for example, but we live in an increasingly automated world, where things can be shut down automatically, traffic can be stopped, pipelines can be halted," said West.

"If I had ten seconds, I would probably spend those ten seconds trying to remember what to do," said Southern.

A memory that earthquake experts hope includes a knowledge of protecting yourself and your family.

Both the Alaska Earthquake Center and the State of Alaska agree that when an earthquake hits, we all should drop to the ground, find some cover to protect yourself, and hold on until the shaking stops.

And if your outside, you want to go to a clear open area away from falling objects. Also they stress the need to have enough food and water supplies for seven days

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Alaska family doctor charged with possessing, distributing child porn

A doctor who treated families in the Southeast city of Wrangell has been charged with possessing and distributing child pornography, according to charges filed Thursday in federal court.

Dr. Greg Salard distributed or made available online more than 100 files containing pictures and video of suspected child rape and abuse beginning Feb. 1, the FBI says. Salard, 53, is a former Air Force security police officer who practices family medicine for Alaska Island Community Service, according to a profile that has since been removed from the AICS website.

As of Aug. 1, Salard was treating adults and children at Wrangell Medical Center, according to FBI affidavits filed in the case.

An undercover FBI agent was investigating online child pornography traffic from Juneau when he discovered illegal images were being made available for others to download from Salard's Alienware laptop, the FBI says.

Authorities tracked the computer using the doctor's IP address and asked for a search warrant.

Agents visited Salard’s home on Wednesday. “(Salard) was cooperative but appeared nervous and was sweating profusely,” investigators wrote.

Illegal images were found on the laptop labeled with the doctor's name and on a hard drive at the home, investigators wrote.

The complaint filed in federal court charges Salard with owning and providing others with child pornography. He is not accused in the complaint of creating illegal images himself.

Salard is being held at a Juneau jail.



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