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Alaska Native Corporations to Invest in Shell Chukchi Sea Drilling


The Arctic Slope Regional Corp. and six communities’ Alaska Native corporations will become partners in Shell Oil’s planned exploratory Chukchi Sea drilling, the companies announced Thursday. According to a statement from ASRC spokesperson Ty Hardt, its interests and those of the communities represented by the corporations -- Barrow, Point Hope, Wainwright, Kaktovik, Atqasuk and Anaktuvuk Pass -- will be represented by a new limited liability corporation called Arctic Iñupiat Offshore. “AIO and Shell Gulf of Mexico Inc. (Shell) have entered into a binding agreement that will allow AIO the option to acquire an interest in Shell’s acreage and activities on its Chukchi Sea leases,” Hardt wrote. “This interest will be managed by AIO.” ASRC’s president and CEO, Rex A. Rock Sr., will also become AIO’s president. While he confirms that the corporations have made an investment with Shell, he declined to state its size. “Our region has always been a leader in strategic partnerships that provide meaningful benefits to our shareholders, to our people.” Rock said in the statement. “I am humbled to acknowledge that this arrangement balances the risk of (outer continental shelf) development borne by our coastal communities, with the benefits intended to support our communities and our people.” According to Rock, the corporations and communities which AIO represents are deeply affected by the outcome of drilling like Shell’s, so they felt the need to be a part of it. “It will benefit village economies,” Rock said. Shell Alaska’s vice president, Pete Slaiby, calls Thursday’s news “an important day for our Alaska venture.” “A regional alliance with so many respected Alaska Native corporations provides Shell the opportunity to collaborate with savvy and experienced North Slope business partners going forward,” Slaiby said in the statement. “It also underscores our commitment to provide opportunities for North Slope communities to directly benefit from Shell’s activities offshore (of) Alaska.” Slaiby told reporters Thursday that the company has not made a decision on whether to go ahead with any future plans for exploratory drilling in the Chukchi. “It’s about what it takes to move us forward,” Slaiby said. Joe Balash, commissioner of the state Department of Natural Resources, calls the agreement a historic win-win because it directly links Native corporations to the benefits of oil exploration. While the state doesn’t have an immediate stake in its outcome, he says drilling ventures like AIO help prop up both the Permanent Fund Dividend and businesses operating in the state. Shell has suspended any Chukchi Sea drilling this year, after a series of setbacks involving both of its 2012 exploration platforms. The grounding of the drilling rig Kulluk near Kodiak and Coast Guard safety citations against the drillship Noble Discoverer culminated in a $1.1 million fine from the Environmental Protection Agency last year for Clean Air Act violations. ASRC has also been in the news as one of six Alaska Native corporations taking a high-profile stand against Ballot Measure 1, announcing their formation of the group No One on One to prevent the measure’s proposed repeal of Gov. Sean Parnell’s oil tax reforms under 2013’s Senate Bill 21. In addition to Shell and ASRC, the corporations involved in the venture include: Ukpea?vik Iñupiat Corporation (Barrow) Tikigaq Corporation (Point Hope) Olgoonik Corporation (Wainwright) Kaktovik Iñupiat Corporation (Kaktovik) Atqasuk Corporation (Atqasuk) Nunamiut Corporation (Anaktuvuk Pass) Corey Allen-Young contributed information to this story. This is a developing story. Please check KTUU.com and the Channel 2 newscasts for updates.

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Man Injured in Russian Jack Stabbing


Anchorage police are responding to a stabbing in the Russian Jack area which left a man injured Thursday. According to APD spokesperson Dani Myren, police received a call at 11:30 a.m. reporting an assault with a weapon at the 500 block of South Pine Street. “Initial reports indicate a male adult who indicated he had been stabbed,” Myren said.

While Myren says the incident has been confirmed as a stabbing, she doesn't yet have word on whether the man -- who was struck in his torso or chest -- was taken to a hospital.

"At some point he was reported conscious and breathing and walking around," Myren said.

Myren says it's also not immediately clear what if any relationship existed between the victim and the unidentified suspect, or whether the case is linked to the Thursday morning stabbing of a man in the back near Bean's Cafe at the intersection of 3rd Avenue and Karluk Street.

Channel 2's Rick Schleyer contributed information to this story. This is a developing story. Please check KTUU.com and the Channel 2 newscasts for updates.

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Man Stabbed in Back near Bean's Cafe


Anchorage police are investigating a fight near Bean’s Cafe early Thursday, during which one of the men involved was stabbed in the back and suffered non-life-threatening injuries. According to an APD statement on the case, police were called at 12:20 a.m. to the vicinity of 3rd Avenue’s intersection with Karluk Street by reports of a disturbance involving several people. “It was reported to police that a man and woman were engaged in a physical altercation when another man intervened and stabbed the male victim in the lower back with a knife,” police wrote. APD spokesperson Dani Myren says police believe the incident, which ultimately saw the victim taken to a local hospital, began as a simple argument. “It was a dispute over money,” Myren said. “It wasn’t a large amount.” Another APD spokesperson, Anita Shell, says the suspect wasn’t the only attacker in the incident. “The (stabbed) man was punching the woman in the face,” Shell said. Police haven’t yet located the suspect. Shell and Myren say no description of the man is available Thursday. This is a developing story. Please check KTUU.com and the Channel 2 newscasts for updates.

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Anchorage Taxis See First Meter Increases in 9 Years


Stepping into an Anchorage taxicab is now a bit more expensive, after the Anchorage Assembly’s recent approval of an increase in taxi meters’ “drop rates.” The initial charge when a cab driver turns the meter on is up from $2 to $2.75, but the per-mile rate remains at $2.50. The city's 188 taxis must make a stop by the Anchorage Police Department so officers can approve and “seal” the meter rate. If you're hoping to catch a ride with the old meter price in the meantime, municipal transportation investigator Kennith Foley says you’re out of luck. “You’ll  still be paying the full price because as part of the schedule, the cabs have to be changed at their company,” Foley said. “And they have what we call an unsealed meter document, that they will carry in their cab until they actually get their meter verified and sealed.” APD expects to finish the approval process by Friday. Anchorage’s last taxi meter increase occurred in 2005.

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Fairbanks Police Name Man Who Shot Himself After Chase


Fairbanks police have identified a man sought in a domestic-violence incident Thursday morning, who instead led them on a chase then fatally shot himself on Airport Way.

In a Fairbanks Police Department statement Thursday, officials say the incident in which 31-year-old Takory Stern died began with a call just after 1:30 a.m. reporting a domestic-violence assault.

"The victim had been assaulted, but had managed to get away from the assailant," police wrote. "The assailant located her again and (FPD) was called. When police arrived at the location the suspect had fled in a Ford Taurus."

When officers followed the Taurus, it wouldn't stop and led them on a chase, eventually stopping near Airport Way's intersection with Lathrop Street.

"When officers approached the vehicle, (Stern) was found deceased from a self-inflicted gunshot wound," police wrote. FPD Detective Scott Adams says no further information on the initial assault in the case was immediately available Thursday morning, pending further investigation. Twitter messages from the City of Fairbanks reported that Airport Way had been closed between Lathrop and Wilbur streets at about 4:45 a.m., reopening at about 6:45 a.m. Adams says the chase likely posed a threat to public safety. "It was a good pursuit," Adams said. "Yeah, at some point it probably did." This is a developing story. Please check KTUU.com and the Channel 2 newscasts for updates.

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Crime Data from Anchorage Parks Shows Several Trends


Just how safe is your neighborhood park? Anchorage police have been keeping track of how often they're called to certain parks -- and what the calls are about. With its wide open fields. newly installed playground and paved walkways, Cuddy Family Midtown Park is one of the most popular among Anchorage families. “I think we have a really good park system,” said park visitor Even Evanson. “We feel safe here.” But according to data from APD, some of the city's most family-friendly parks are also the ones they respond to most. APD analyzed the number of calls it received over the one-year period that ended June 30. The data shows police were sent to Cuddy Park 152 times. A third of those calls were about suspicious or drunk people, and in the same year police also got four calls about indecent exposure and one report of a rape. Police received even more calls to Kincaid Park. Data shows that between last June and this June, officers were dispatched to the South Anchorage park 165 times. Nearly half of the calls were from people who needed help getting out of the park, or wanted to report open doors and windows on buildings -- but there were also 26 reports of theft, which APD Lt. Garry Gilliam says may be a product of the park’s seclusion. “People that are going to commit crimes look for targets of opportunity,” Gilliam said. “They're driving through and don't see anybody that may report them.” The No. 1 problem park for Anchorage police, however, has been Town Square Park, which saw six reports of assaults and 42 calls related to drugs or alcohol. Most of the 355 calls to APD from the park were welfare checks, requests to make sure someone was OK. “We can't really address issues if we don't know about them,” Gilliam said. “Probably what you're seeing is this is the result of the (Community Action Policing) team's effort in dealing with either illegal campers in the parks or people that are committing crimes in the parks, such as drinking alcohol, fighting and some other obscene behavior in some of the parks.” Police and park advocates say the data shouldn’t drive you away from parks -- in fact, they say more families could mean less crime. “Parks that are being used for fun and happy, healthy, attractive recreation activities tend to deter illegal or negative uses,” said the Anchorage Park Foundation’s executive director, Beth Nordlund.       Channel 2 called Anchorage Parks and Recreation several times for its view on crimes in local parks, but the calls were not returned.

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More Homeless Tents: Illegal Camps Popping Up in Public Areas


In recent weeks, there has been an increase of homeless tents popping up near downtown, and even though Anchorage police still actively enforce the illegal camps, the campers say they plan on coming back.

You may have noticed the crowded space on East Third Avenue next to Bean's Café and the Brother Francis Shelter. The increase of homeless tents popping up inside the bushes and weeds and in some cases directly on the sidewalks. Tents that Amanda Williams and her friends say until Wednesday morning, have been up on this pathway for the past two weeks.

"We went through 4 or 5 tents over here," said Williams, who has been homeless for more than a year. "Police told us that having our tents up just kind of blocks it for the public, they just asked us to take it down during the day and at night if we need to, put it up."

But the row of tents are considered illegal camps based on municipal code.

"When they go into these camps, the first thing they are asking is what their health needs, are they willing to cooperate with social services, and why are you where you are at," said Lt. Garry Gilliam, who is the commander for APD's CAP Team, who is in charge of the enforcement and referral process.

The idea is to try to get people living on the streets the right resources to get them back on their feet.

"We want to encourage the clients to take advantage of the shelters, this is where they are going to be safe, they are not going to be taken advantage of," said Lisa Sauder, who is the executive director of Bean's Café.

But when you ask some people who call the outdoors their home, despite real life dangers, they don't stay in the shelter because of rules that include the 30 day-out policy.

"I don't like Brother Francis, they wake you up in 5 in the morning, let you out at 7, cold or not," said Natalia Apokedak.

But according to APD, crime is happening with the illegal campers who are trying to stay close enough to still receive certain services.

"That's why you see a lot of people standing around the outside of the perimeter waiting for their next meal there," Gilliam said.

But Williams, who has been homeless for more than a year, says its about people grouping up to be safe.

"We are like the third highest state for sex crimes against women, so a lot of times a lot of these girls who get drunk are not in the right state of mind to protect their selves," Williams said.

"We are not heartless, we want people to be able to have services but at some point," Gilliam said. "But if the community is trying to help these individuals they need to step up to the plate and say, 'Okay, I'm not going to commit crimes, I'm not going to create these problems especially for people who are trying to help me'."

A clamping down of the law that looks like it will still be challenged in the future.

"They kicked us out for now, but we will probably be back," Williams said.

Based on municipal code, illegal camps on public property will get a 15 day posting to remove them or face trespassing charges. If an illegal camp is on a sidewalk they will be asked to remove them immediately. Brother Francis Shelter says if an individual is working with a case worker on treatment or on getting off the streets, that 30 day out rule can be extended.

Corey Allen-Young KTUU Channel 2 Reporter cyoung@ktuu.com 744-2642 cell

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Backers, Opponents of Higher Alaska Minimum Wage Square Off


People for and against Ballot Measure 3, which will increase Alaska’s minimum wage if passed, went head-to-head in a forum at Anchorage’s Loussac Library Wednesday night. As Alaskans prepare to take their opinions to the polls during the Nov. 4 general election, a group gathered inside the Loussac’s Wilda Marston Theatre to hear about the initiative, which would increase the state's current minimum wage of $7.75 an hour by a dollar in each of the next two years, bringing it up to $9.75 an hour in 2016. A group for Ballot Measure 3 says increasing the minimum wage will help low-income residents and reduce dependency on subsidized programs. “For over 30 years after statehood, Alaska had the highest minimum wage in the country,” said Ed Flanagan, chair of Alaskans for a Fair Minimum Wage. “Right now, as of Sept. 1, we'll be 19th -- we're behind states like Florida and Arizona, where it's a heck of a lot cheaper to live, where wages are generally a lot lower.” But some economists say raising the minimum wage will hurt job creation and lead to higher unemployment numbers. “We had this idea that if we raised the minimum wage, that the stockholders or owners of these companies are going to have to dig deeper into their pockets to find this money, but that's often not the case,” said Kyle Hampton, director of the University of Alaska Anchorage’s Center for Economic Education. “They move those positions or eliminate positions, or they replace those positions with different technologies and drive workers out of the market.” Hampton says the state should add more subsidized programs. “Subsidies are the answer -- whether it's the earned income tax credit or direct subsidies, these things increase employment,” Hampton said. Flanagan, however, says taxpayers would bear the brunt of those costs. “To do anything for these people remotely close to a two-dollar raise to minimum wage, you'd have to double that -- where's that $54 billion gonna come from?” Flanagan said. “Where's another $54 billion gonna come from, on top of all the subsidies we already provide to these employers?” The minimum wage debate was the latest public event hosted by Alaska Common Ground, following a closely watched debate on Ballot Measure 1’s proposed repeal of oil tax reform measure Senate Bill 21. Two more events will be held at the Loussac on Wednesdays at 7 p.m., with an Aug. 6 debate on Ballot Measure 2 to legalize marijuana and an Aug. 13 forum on the “Bristol Bay Forever” initiative which would limit mining in the region.

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California Man Sentenced on Alaska Drug Charges


A 35-year-old Stockton, California, man will spend 16 years in a federal prison after being convicted of conspiring to distributing methamphetamine and heroin in Alaska. The U.S. attorney's office says Ernie Benny Juarez Jr. was sentenced Wednesday in U.S. District Court in Anchorage. Prosecutors say he flew from Stockton to Anchorage in October, and then picked up drugs that co-conspirators had shipped to him. Authorities say the amount of drugs included 385 grams of heroin and more than 500 grams of meth. The sentence was enhanced because of his previous felony convictions, including on drug charges in California.

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DHSS Offers Free Vaccines During Immunization Awareness Month


The state is offering the chance for students to get caught up on their vaccines before the school year starts.

Vaccines are being offered at public health centers across the state, and the usual administrative fee of about $28 is being waived during National Immunization Awareness Month in August. The Municipality of Anchorage's public health immunization clinic and the Maniilaq Association's nursing services program in the Northwest Arctic Borough are also taking part in the August waiver.

People of all ages can use the waivers to get up to date with their vaccines. The waiver applies to eligible Alaskans, including children under age 3 and individuals without health insurance.

“When families come in, we really encourage parents to check that their immunizations up to date,” said Linda Worman, acting head of the Public Health Nursing Section at the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services. “That also helps our community to keep a healthy community.”

Individual vaccine costs, ranging from $15 to $200, are being covered by federal and state grants; Worman says a conservative estimate of costs to the state from the waiver comes in at under $6,000, but DHSS doesn't mind paying more to immunize more Alaskans. The only thing residents will pay for if they come in is the office visit, and that's on a sliding scale based on ability to pay, with nobody turned away for inability to pay.

Vaccines available for younger children include diphtheria, tetanus, polio, hepatitis A and B, measles/mumps/rubella and chicken pox. Adults can receive a composite vaccine called Tdap for tetanus, diphtheria and pertussis/whooping cough, pneumococcal vaccine which targets bacteria associated with pneumonia, and the shingles vaccine.

Worman says appointments can be scheduled by calling local state public health centers, a list of which is available on the DHSS website. She encourages residents of rural Alaska to call their nearest center, since vaccinations are also available from traveling nurses or by appointment on future visits to towns with health centers.

KTUU's Chris Klint and Reba Lean contributed information to this story

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Police Seek Public's Help on Locating Anchorage Man


A local man may be missing or worse, according to his family, and Anchorage police are asking for the public's help in locating him.

Michael Cantrell, 56, was last heard from on July 16, when he called his family to tell them he had found a new place of residence in the Fairview area. None of his family and friends know the location of his new home, and have not seen or heard from him since.

His family says they are concerned for his well-being because his absence and failure to contact them is unusual, and preexisting medical conditions may need attention.

Cantrell is described as a Native male, 5 feet 10 inches tall and weighing roughly 170 pounds. He has graying hair and brown eyes.

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

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Social Experiment in Downtown Park May Change Crime Patterns


The Anchorage Police Department and UAA’s Justice Center is teaming together to come up with a new tool to turn around a local park’s increasingly negative reputation: fun activities.

For the past three weeks, students with the Justice Center have been conducting a social experiment in Town Square Park. The purpose of the study is to identify new methods in pushing out illegal activity by bringing in wholesome activities to the area.

“We’ve been putting lots of officers in there, using enforcement as a tool,” said APD Chief Mark Mew. “But there may be a better way of doing that.”

For a full week, local businesses and the Downtown Partnership hosted fun events during the day, events like Zumba classes and live music performances. During that time, UAA students took notes on everyone passing through the park between 11 a.m. and 3 p.m., watching the constant flow of activity in the park from the windows of the Performing Arts Center. Dense tree coverage required some of the work to be done on the ground.

“We’re looking for obvious signs of drug use,” Mew said. “We’re looking for obvious signs of alcohol drinking. We’ve definitely seen some drug use in the park, but mostly marijuana.”

The study started the week before the planned activities, allowing a week on either side for observation of normal park activity. As the study winds up, they are looking to see if there’s been any sort of change.

“Just from looking and counting the number of people in the park, there’s definitely more people in the park last week compared to this week,” said Assistant Professor Troy Payne with the UAA Justice Center.

Depending on the results of the study, law enforcement could have a new tactic for fighting crime in the park.

“Maybe we can change the landscape down there, and not have the cops babysitting it,” Mew said. “Which is an expensive way of doing it. Not trying to arrest our way out of the problem, but see if we can still turn the corner using a different approach.”

An approach that could curb crime and helpt take back on the Anchorage’s beautiful downtown parks.

The Justice Center says this is a very simple experiment, and doesn’t factor in things like crime at different times of the day or year.

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AEDC: 'Vote No on Ballot Measure 1'


The Anchorage Economic Development Corporation wants you to vote no on Ballot Measure 1.

That announcement was met with applause at the AEDC luncheon today.

The proposal would change the state's oil tax structure and repeal the current law, known as SB-21.

Vic Fischer, a well-known supporter of Ballot Measure and the effort to repeal SB-21 one says he disagrees completely with AEDC's endorsement.

"The state is facing a horrendous fiscal disaster in the years to come as oil prices go up," Fischer said. "The state does not benefit."

AEDC doesn't normally make endorsements on ballot initiatives. President and CEO Bill Popp says that it's the first time in his seven years with the corporation that the board has taken a stand on a measure.

"It is an unusual event, and it definitely demonstrates the concern that the business community has with the potential passage of Ballot Measure 1," Popp said. "They don't think it's a good policy decision. They think there are other ways to address the concerns of those who are supporting Ballot Measure 1."

Board member and Key Bank Alaska Market President Brian Nerland says the vote was unanimous.

"The business community came out very strongly in encouraging everyone to vote no," Nerland said. "Getting over that, and moving forward, is going to be a big step for the state."

But supporters of the proposal say the endorsement really doesn't mean much.

"My view is the exact opposite," Fischer said. "The affect would be less funding for schools and likely reductions in PFDs with the elimination of revenue sharing."

The proposal is set to be voted on during the August primary.

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PFD Amount Could Double, AEDC Says


Some market watchers are predicting this year's dividend to double from last year, and they're saying it may go even higher than that.

The Anchorage Economic Development Corporation's president and CEO Bill Popp made that announcement today, as he was unveiling their 3-year economic outlook at the AEDC luncheon.

"We've got several folks, they aren't willing to say this in public so I'll say it for them anonymously, who are predicting permanent funds in the coming years that could peak $2500, $3000."

That's good news for Anchorage's retail industry, which is already proving to be an economic powerhouse in recent years. The sector gained almost 1000 jobs in 2013, and has seen modest increases this year, after almost a decade of flat growth.

"We all remember when we had the 2100 dollar permanent fund, and the 1200 dollar energy rebate at the same time, and the mile long traffic jam in all directions at Dimond and Old Seward in front of Best Buy," Popp said at Wednesday's meeting.

The PFD is calculated based on earnings from investments over a 5-year period. The fund took a hit in 2009 with the recession, and that year has been dropping dividend amounts ever since. But now, it's no longer part of the equation.

"Phenomenal portfolio performance has been the key driver in that, and 2009 is just a bad memory now."

The final amount of the 2014 PFD will be announced in September.

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AEDC Presents Economic Outlook for Anchorage


The Anchorage Economic Development Corporation presented its report today along with predictions for Anchorage’s economy. From the doubling of the Permanent Fund Dividend to jobs gained and lost, locals got a hopeful look into the next three years.

Economists are expecting this year’s PFD to double, and to possibly increase up to $3,000 in coming years. Market watchers say that since the losses of 2009 are no longer part of the equation for deciding the amount of the dividend, they’re expecting a lot more money to go back in to Alaskan’s pockets.

That’s good news for Anchorage’s retail sector, which saw major growth in 2013 and modest growth so far this year after a decade of staying flat.

But the report highlighted some troubling trends as well: the pool of qualified applicants for jobs in Anchorage is shrinking.

AEDC says that unemployment could down to 4.4 percent by the fall. In fact, almost every sector in the local economy gained jobs this year, except the public sector.

“We’re seeing good, steady growth in the private sector,” said Bill Popp, President and CEO of AEDC. “But when you look at the government side of the equation, we’re seeing some significant losses.”

About half of those jobs are federal, and around one third of Anchorage’s economy is based on federal spending.

“It’s kind of across the board,” Popp said. “It’s all agencies are being asked to cut, and they are doing it through not replacing positions. It’s not a full scale layoff, it’s just been a slow, steady decline in federal employment.”

The other half of those losses are related to state budget constraints, and are almost entirely from eliminated teaching positions within the Anchorage School District. Government jobs declined by 900 in 2013, and so far this year, 600 jobs have been lost.

But AEDC says that despite the areas of concern, Anchorage’s economy is on track for steady gains.

“We've been blessed here in Alaska, and in Anchorage in particular, with just moderate growth,” Popp said. “We've not seen the big boom and bust that we saw back in the 80s.”

AEDC also noted that consumer confidence is at an all time high.

“They’re buying stuff, right? Which is a good thing,” Popp said. “They’re borrowing money, and they feel like they’re going to be able to repay it.”

The tourism industry is also having a record year, and Anchorage’s personal income is expected to continue to increase.

AEDC says that 2014 could be a turning point in Anchorage’s economy, and that the military and tourism, along with the city’s role as a service and supply center, will continue to be important economic drivers.

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2 The Rescue (July 30)


This week, Becki Lewis with Kitty and K9 Connection introduces Kokoa, a Corgsky cross between a Corgi and a husky rescued from Nome. She's a playful dog with comical features, a record of doing well with other dogs and a need for lasting companionship.

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Miller Outlines Plan on Illegal Immigration


Republican U.S. Senate hopeful Joe Miller says the U.S. should bill the governments of people who enter this country illegally for policing, housing, food and transportation.

Miller's campaign Wednesday released a seven-point plan for addressing illegal immigration.

The proposal also calls for immediate completion of a fence along the southern border of the U.S. and stopping benefits, like health care, for people who are in this country illegally.

Miller called it a commonsense approach to addressing the issue.

Miller is among the candidates seeking the GOP nomination for the Senate seat held by Democrat Mark Begich, who is seeking re-election. Also running are Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell and former Natural Resources commissioner Dan Sullivan.

A fourth GOP candidate, John Jaramillo, is also running but has reported no fundraising activity.

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DOTPF Pays Federal Fine for 2009 Soldotna Paint Disposal


The Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities has agreed to pay nearly $118,000 and comply with federal laws, over illegal handling of highway paint slated for disposal in Soldotna five years ago. In a Wednesday statement, the Environmental Protection Agency says DOTPF workers' actions, which violated the federal Resource Conservation and Recovery Act, involved highway paint which may release toxic fumes. At one point, the paint was improperly stored in an unmarked oil tank and 55-gallon drums. "In 2009, (DOTPF) employees failed to identify that a 250-gallon batch of unusable yellow highway paint was a hazardous waste," EPA officials wrote. "The employees placed the paint in a shallow pit lined with plastic where it remained for over a year to let it solidify in the open air. The paint solids were later disposed in a landfill."   According to EPA spokesperson Hanady Kader, the paint left in the pit contained solvents that are ignitable hazardous waste, as well as chromium and lead.   "We do not believe that this was a malicious action," Kader wrote in an email to Channel 2. "The use of the pit appeared to be a one-time event.  Placing waste paint in pits did not appear to be a regular practice at the facility and was used, in this case, to deal with the unique occasion of the receipt of an unusable batch of paint that was large in volume." While Kader notes the care DOTPF workers took to line the disposal pit with a double layer of plastic sheeting, so they could let the solvents evaporate, she says that step alone wasn't enough to protect residents and the land from possible harm. "The lining of the pit and the management of the waste while in the pit did not meet the protectiveness standards of RCRA," Kader wrote. "The waste paint was left in the pit through the winter (approximately 13 months)." DOTPF officials with knowledge of the case weren't immediately available for comment Wednesday afternoon.

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Yukon Quest Purse in 2015 Up from 2014


The winnings in the 2015 Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race will be increased by more than $12,000 from the purse in this year's race. The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports next year's race will have a purse of at least $127,110. This year's total purse was $115,000, but $12,110 was not claimed because fewer than 15 teams completed the 1,000-mile race. The unclaimed money is being added to next year's purse. The record high purse was $150,000 in 2012. That's before sponsorship and donation problems contributed to the recent dip. The race alternates starts yearly between Fairbanks and Whitehorse, Yukon Territory. Next year's race starts Feb. 7 in Whitehorse.

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Judge Tosses Alaska's Lawsuit over Refuge Closures


A federal judge has dismissed the state's lawsuit over the closure of national wildlife refuges during the partial federal government shutdown last year. U.S. District Court Judge Sharon Gleason called the case moot. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service restricted access to refuges nationwide during the 16-day shutdown last October. The state sued as Congress was poised to pass legislation to end the shutdown. The lawsuit was later amended to add the Alaska Professional Hunters Association as plaintiffs. The lawsuit claimed the closure violated provisions of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act, and asked Gleason to block future closures that don't comply with the law. Gleason said the feds' response to a future shutdown may be different. A Department of Law spokeswoman said the state was evaluating a possible appeal.

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