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APD: City Panhandling Laws Tough to Enforce

Walter Egelak, a self-described "chronic alcoholic," has "worked" every intersection in town.

For seven years, he said he has used the same sign: "Why lie? I like beer." On the other side of the sign is written "Enjoy the sunny day."

Egelak said people respond positively to his honesty. He said he's gotten money, food and clothes from drivers at Anchorage intersections.

"I seen so many homeless people saying they're homeless and hungry and I know they got food stamps and money," Egelak said. "Right after, they go right to the liquor store. So this is why I came up with my sign. Why lie? I like beer."

It's not illegal for Egelak to hold his sign on the sidewalk, police said, but when he steps off of it and into the road, he could find himself on the other side of the law.

"What we're focused on here at the department is a very specific action of what is deemed to be illegal panhandling," said Jennifer Castro, Anchorage Police Department's communications director. "That's when we see an exchange happening, where a person steps out into a public roadway and receives money or gratuity from a driver."

The driver who gives money or food is also breaking city laws.

As of June, the fine is $300.

Last year, police issued 22 panhandling citations. This year, so far, they have only handed out one.

Typically, they don't cite drivers; officers try to educate them about panhandling laws, Castro said.

"It's difficult to enforce this specific law," she said. "Any time an officer shows up, everyone starts to behave and stops doing whatever illegal thing it is they're doing."

If an officer does catch a panhandler, another officer needs to be on hand to track down the offending driver.

Police plan their enforcement with undercover vehicles, Castro said.

"We usually try to do that right before snowfall because that's when we really know it's going to be dangerous," she said. "When the ice hits the streets and people are trying to slow down to give money, that's when it's really going to create an unsafe situation."

Egelak said he will continue to "work" the streets. He said he collects about $30 a day from drivers.

Egelak said he ended up on the streets more than seven years ago.

About a year ago, he said his wife left him after an argument for another man. Heartbroken, he drank so much, Egelak said, he ended up in sleep-off centers more than four times.

"I still love her," he said. "If you love a woman, man, what are you going to do?"

Egelak makes no excuses about being a "chronic alcoholic."

A blue vehicle pulled up to the red light at 36th and C where Egelak was standing.

"So you want money for beer?" the passenger asked Egelak.

"Yeah," Egelak said.

"Not to better your situation?" asked the man in the car.

"It happens," Egelak said. "Life is life."

The light turned red and the men drove away.

"Life is good," Egelak said. "I've had a hard life but life is good."

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Troopers Seek Information on North Star Escapee

Alaska State Troopers are asking for the public's help in locating a detainee from North Star Detention Center who escaped while being processed.

Troopers are looking for 24-year-old Vincent Blue-Matheny, who escaped on foot from the NSDC lobby at 10:33 a.m. while his transfer to a halfway house was being processed.

He was last seen wearing a black t-shirt under a black hoodie under a black hockey jersey, gray sweat pants, and black shoes. He is described as a white male, 5'6" tall and weighing roughly 165 pounds. He has a birth mark on his left cheek.

Blue-Matheny was in custody for violating conditions of his release for the original charges of driving under the influence, failure to stop at the direction of a police officer, endangering the welfare of a minor child, driving with a revoked license and fourth-degree domestic violence assault.

Anyone with information on his whereabouts is asked to call 9-1-1 or 451-5100.

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Aniak Man Arrested for Sexually Abusing Minor Relative

An Aniak man has been arrested after Alaska State Troopers received a call from a young female relative that she had been sexually abused by him on numerous occasions.

Troopers responded to the residence of the victim, and after interviewing her, placed 69-year-old Golga Kelila under arrest Tuesday for ten counts involving sexual abuse of a minor.

According to troopers, Kelila admitted to several of the alleged abuses in an interview with Trooper David Russell, but attempted to downplay the events and claim he was inebriated during each situation. The victim told troopers that he was not inebriated for at least some of them.

While the victim could not remember specifics of each abuse, she was able to recall 18 separate incidents with Kelila, during all but one of which she was alone with him. On one occasion, her six-year-old sister was also in the room, sleeping.

Kelila was remanded to the Bethel Yukon Kuskokwim Correctional Center on two charges of Sexual Abuse of a Minor in the first degree, one charge of Attempted Sexual Abuse of a Minor in the first, and seven charges of Sexual Abuse of a Minor in the second.

According to a signed affidavit from Russell, “Golga repeatedly told [the victim] that he was sorry for what he did and it wouldn’t happen again.”

Kelila had several prior convictions involving assault before this case.

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Lower Food Prices, Fred Meyer Changing Strategy To Compete For Customers

Trying to combat the high cost of groceries, one of Alaska's biggest retailers Fred Meyer is trying to woo customers with cheaper items, a strategy that could ease the pain on your wallet.

There's not much you can get past Debbie Robbins. In her more than 43 years of navigating Alaska's grocery store aisles, it's safe to say she's shopper saavy.

"Good prices, good product, I don't want to buy something I'm not familiar with," Robbins said. "I do buy a lot of the store products because they are cheaper than the national brands and a lot of times they are just as good."

Prices are a big deal to Debbie, She's aware of how much food has gone up over the past ten years.

"I rarely buy steak. I might steak on sale, but steak is just out of our budget," Robbins said.

"That's kind of the way things go costs typically increase from year to year," said State of Alaska economist, Alyssa Rodrigues.

It's a reason why Fred Meyer is going full throttle with a new pricing strategy campaign. By declaring war against its competitors, the idea is to attract customers by lowering the prices of thousands of items by working with suppliers to take costs out when shipping to Alaska.

"It has to go on the water, so how do we reduce certain cost pieces, whether its additional wrap supply, additional cardboard, certain things we can take out of the system," said Ann Reed, who is the vice president of merchandising for Fred Meyer.

Carrs Safeway declined to comment on prices beyond saying that "prices are proprietary information."

Walmart said "We're committed to providing our customers with the lowest prices. We are working with our partners to check competitors prices on thousands of items every week so we know how we stack up, market by market, category by category, product by product."

So how do prices match up amongst the three stores right now? Based on the Alaska Department of Labor list of common food items, KTUU discovered that a half gallon of milk is cheaper at Fred Meyer. A dozen of eggs, a medium cheese pizza, and one basic frozen meal is cheaper at Walmart. When your talking about beef, a pound of it is the cheapest at Fred Meyer, with bananas costing the least at Walmart.

Pricing that all three retailers say is subject to change, but a shopping experience that Alaskans like Debbie hope will mean more dollars coming her way.

Fred Meyer says the new lower prices rollout will happen starting September 21. Walmart says its already put out a new program that will compare local grocery ads and give customers the difference if a competitor price is lower than what they paid at Walmart.

Corey Allen-Young KTUU Channel 2 Reporter 744-2642 cell

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Woman's Body Found near Chevak Clinic Identified, Death Ruled Homicide

Alaska State Troopers are investigating the death of a woman whose body was found near the local clinic in Chevak Wednesday morning. In a statement late Wednesday, troopers say they were notified of the discovery by a Chevak village public safety officer just after 11 a.m. “The scene was secured by the VPSO while troopers responded from Bethel,” troopers wrote. “(Alaska Bureau of Investigation) investigators are also responding to assist.”

Troopers were able to positively identify the woman as 19-year-old Roxanne Smart of Chevak. Her death has been ruled a homicide, and is being investigated by troopers and the Alaska Bureau of Investigation.

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Shell Submits Revised 2015 Arctic Offshore Drilling Plan

Shell Oil has submitted a revised 2015 exploration plan for Arctic offshore drilling to federal authorities Thursday, amid questions about how quickly its latest proposal can be evaluated by the Interior Department. In an emailed statement to Channel 2, Shell Alaska spokesperson Megan Baldino confirmed the submission, which comes amid a business climate apparently warming to further drilling. “Today, we submitted revisions to our previously approved Chukchi Sea Exploration Plan to the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management; this step is necessary to keep our 2015 exploration options viable,” Baldino wrote. Shell suspended its 2014 offshore drilling plans in January after high-profile 2012 safety issues with the drillship Noble Discoverer and the New Year’s Eve grounding of the drilling rig Kulluk on Sitkalidak Island. More recently, however, six Alaska Native corporations invested in Shell’s Chukchi Sea drilling, and Alaskans rejected Ballot Measure 1 and its proposed repeal of Senate Bill 21’s reduced oil taxes.

According to Baldino, both the Noble Discoverer and a new drilling platform, Transocean's Polar Pioneer, would be used in the revised 2015 plan if it's executed. Both are currently undergoing upgrades in Singapore. While previous versions of the plan had involved keeping the Discoverer in reserve at Dutch Harbor, the latest ones involve simultaneous deployment of the drilling assets.

"If we move forward, it would be a two-rig program in the Chukchi at the same time," Baldino said. Bureau of Ocean Energy Management spokesperson John Callahan says the Anchorage office has the revised plan, and has been “expecting this for a while.” According to Callahan, leases for the exploration area were sold to Shell in 2008 as part of Lease Sale 193, but an environmental impact statement for the sale was later challenged in court. As a result, the bureau can’t formally move ahead with evaluating the revised documents until Interior Secretary Sally Jewell reaffirms the original sale. “We’ve received Shell’s exploration plan, but we can’t formally process it until the reaffirmation is complete,” Callahan said. “Shell knows it’ll be a while before we can process this.” In the meantime, BOEM officials are informally evaluating the exploration plan, even as they hope to finalize a supplemental environmental impact statement for the challenged lease sale by February and release a reaffirmed record of Jewell's decision by March. “The version that we have now, we do not consider it to be the final version,” Callahan said.

Ocean conservation group Oceana released a statement through its Juneau office on Shell's drilling plans Thursday, questioning the company's safety record to date. "Shell is no more prepared to conduct offshore oil and gas exploration activity in Alaska’s remote Arctic Ocean than it was in 2012," the group's Pacific vice president, Susan Murray, said in a statement. "The government should take this time to fully evaluate Shell’s exploration plan and uphold the highest standards for offshore oil and gas exploration in the Arctic. The Arctic Ocean’s oil is not going anywhere, and rushing to extract it is a mistake."

Baldino emphasizes that the company isn't working under a specific timeline, and has not officially committed to 2015 drilling.

"We have not made a formal decision," Baldino said. "It's all about getting it right and safe." Channel 2's Corey Allen-Young contributed information to this story.

This is a developing story. Please check and the Channel 2 newscasts for updates.

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Thieves Target ATMs at Fairbanks-Area Bars

Law enforcement officials in the Fairbanks area say thieves have targeted automated teller machines in two bars. Fairbanks police on Saturday said a cash machine was severely damaged at Gold Rush Saloon. Thieves also stole a cash register and severely damaged two others. The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports two thieves early Monday morning stole an ATM from a North Pole bar. Alaska State Troopers say the thieves broke into the bar at about 5 a.m., damaged two doors and hauled off the ATM.

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APD Turns Down Offer Of Free Military Armored Vehicles

As police departments all across the country beef up their forces with military equipment, Anchorage police say they have chosen to turn down the offer of free armored vehicles.

Anchorage Police Chief Mark Mew said the department submitted the paperwork to begin the process to acquire two vehicles, but later decided against it.

Earlier this year, Anchorage police asked for two mine-resistant ambush protected vehicles as part of the U.S. military’s 1033 program, in which surplus military gear is given to local police.

Several months later, they decided not to accept the MRAPs.

“The feeling of many of the people who are now in decision-making positions were, well, it might not actually be worth all the expense and hassle of the maintenance,” Mew said. “We knew we were going to have to paint them. They were camouflage or something like that, and we were going to have to paint them white or something to make it more appropriate for civilian use. The problem with the MRAPs is you get them and you maybe use them once or twice a year but you have to still maintain them all the time to keep them running. So you have to balance the cost and benefit there.”

In January, police said the MRAPs would have helped with high-pressure standoffs, in which officers only had one armored vehicle.

"We've put some officers on the front of the house with that armored car for protection but the guys in the back of the house don't have anything besides police cars to hunker down behind, so having one of these in that type of instance would give us the option to have one of these in the back of the house also to protect the officers,” APD SWAT Sgt. Shaun Henry told Channel 2 News in January.

The Aug. 9 police killing of an unarmed Missouri teenager has sparked nationwide protests and discussions of the military equipment police use.

“I don't think that what you see with regard to Ferguson,  I would like to believe, I do believe, you're not going to see something like that in Anchorage,” Mew said, adding that police militarization discussions are not new.

Police chiefs nationwide have been discussing the issue for more than three years, Mew said.

Anchorage police say the closest the city has come to a violent riot was more than 10 years ago at the 2003 Fur Ball teen dance, when someone fired a gun in the Egan Center and officers used pepper spray to control the crowd.  

The tactics used during violent riots are modeled after those used by the Los Angeles Police Department, said Sgt. Jack Carson, who heads up APD’s SWAT unit.

Carson said APD is not a militarized police force.  

“The weapons system we have any citizen can buy,” he said. “We do things a lot different. We're not into the no-knock warrants and rushing into places.”

Mew said the department has not ruled out getting another armored vehicle in the future, but will do so with careful thought.

“We’re very cognizant of the whole image thing, the whole militarization of the police controversy,” he said.

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Alaska Libertarian Candidate Withdraws from Senate Race

The Alaska Libertarian Party nominee in the U.S. Senate race has informally dropped from the running, but party officials say they've been unable to reach him about sending a signed withdrawal letter to the state elections division. The party has until Tuesday to swap out candidates for the November election, but can't do so unless its outgoing nominee Thom Walker follows the required procedure. A message purporting to be from Walker announced he was declining the nomination in a posting Wednesday on the party's Facebook page. Party chairman Michael Chambers says Walker has not returned numerous messages to reach him in past weeks. As a result, the party's executive board voted Tuesday to recognize former party chair Mark Fish as the nominee if Walker should step down.

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Begich, Sullivan Face Off in 1st Post-Primary Debate

In a heated battle about issues facing Alaska, Democratic incumbent Sen. Mark Begich and his Republican challenger Dan Sullivan met for their first general-election debate Wednesday evening. The two candidates went head-to-head at the University of Alaska Anchorage’s Wendy Williamson Auditorium. The group United for Liberty hosted the event. A few hundred people gathered to watch as the candidates faced questions ranging from international issues to problems here at home. The debate marked the first time Begich and Sullivan, the state’s former attorney general, have faced each other since the primary election. Their first question: how to best handle declines in fish and game populations, including king salmon.

“We need to make sure we're not limiting our opportunities -- and the federal government has done that with abuse of the Endangered Species Act,” Sullivan said. “And then making sure we have a partner in the federal government.”

“Bycatch is still a problem, but there’s several things you can do,” Begich said. “For example, my committee deals with fisheries and Coast Guard; we are now looking at electronic monitoring, more observers that need to be funded properly. We need to ensure that new technology and innovation is available to go after bycatch.” The two candidates disagreed on health care and the Affordable Care Act, and whether it's helping or hurting Alaskans. “Prior to this bill passing, 34 percent were denied health care,” Begich said. “Maybe you don't see those people -- I do.” “There were many things within the bill,” Sullivan said. “If you understood it, you would understand the promises about keeping your health care plan, reducing premiums -- that couldn't be kept.” Begich and Sullivan will face each other in the general election on Nov. 4. Dan Sullivan will be Steve Mac Donald's guest on “Alaska's Political Pipeline” Sunday morning at 8 a.m.

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Mountain Village Woman, Toddler Hit by 4-Wheeler After Argument

An argument between two Mountain Village women led to one hitting the other -- and a toddler’s baby carriage -- with a four-wheeler and driving away Wednesday, according to Alaska State Troopers. In a Thursday AST dispatch, troopers say 22-year-old Georgianne Hanson faces charges of first-degree and second-degree assault, as well as failure to render aid. The struck woman -- 34-year-old Jeanette Myre -- and the child were taken to a Bethel hospital for treatment. According to an investigation of the incident, reported to troopers shortly after 2:30 p.m. Wednesday, Hanson had a passenger on her four-wheeler when she encountered Myre pushing a stroller. “The two began arguing and Hanson allegedly told Myre that she was going to hit her with the four-wheeler,” troopers wrote. “Hanson then drove a little distance away, turned around, drove back at Myre and struck Myre and the stroller with the four-wheeler.” After being taken to the local clinic by a good Samaritan, Myre and the child were medevaced for further treatment of their apparently non-life-threatening injuries. AST spokesperson Megan Peters says Hanson’s passenger was a “family member of the person driving.” She declined to say whether the passenger tried to intervene in any way during the incident. “That person is not charged with a crime,” Peters said. Peters referred further questions to charging documents in the case, with court clerks in St. Mary’s not immediately available by phone Thursday morning. Hanson was arrested after a St. Mary’s trooper visited to investigate the incident. She will be taken to the Yukon-Kuskokwim Correctional Center.

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Seven Students Disciplined for Juneau Hazing

Seven high school seniors in Juneau will be disciplined for hazing incoming freshman last May. Superintendent Mark Miller at a press conference Wednesday announced results of a school district investigation. The Juneau Empire reports the upperclassmen used a paddle to beat six freshmen. Miller says the school district will not release names of the seniors or their punishments. He says the school district has a legal obligation to keep student names and discipline consequences confidential. Miller says punishments fall under consequences for bullying and can include a penalty as severe as expulsion. Students from all three Juneau high schools were involved in the incident. Four of the seniors are on sports teams. Juneau police ended an investigation into the paddling incident when victims would not testify.

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ENSTAR Workers End Strike Without New Contract

They walked off the job two weeks ago, but ENSTAR union employees are going back to work without a new contract.

ENSTAR business development director John Sims said Wednesday night that the utility accepted an unconditional offer from the union for striking employees to return to work.

Sims said "ENSTAR expects all operating employees will be returning tomorrow (Thursday) for their normal work shifts".

Members of Plumbers and Steamfitters Local 367 said during the strike they were fighting to keep retirement plan conditions the same for future employees.      

ENSTAR and the union tried to negotiate back in January, but the union had a split vote on the latest contract offer meaning no agreement could be reached.       

Contract talks are expected to continue.

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Assembly Forms New Committee to Curb Substance Abuse, Homelessness

It’s a problem that keeps on growing in the Anchorage community; chronic homelessness and alcohol and drug abuse.     

Although there are dozens of groups in the municipality fighting to put an end to the problem, many feel that nothing is getting solved.

“It does seem to be getting worse instead of better,” said Assembly member, Bill Evans.

By working together, the Anchorage Assembly wants to win the fight on homelessness and alcohol and drug abuse.

Evans is at the forefront of that mission. He’s chair of a new panel called Ad Hoc Committee on Alcohol and Drug Abuse’. It’s made up of four Assembly members, Amy Demboski, Elvi Gray-Jackson, Pete Petersen and Evans. Their job is to tackle an issue that’s been troubling our community for decades.

“There’s an amazingly long list (of institutions) that are really critical to this issue like government entities, private and nonprofits, police department, fire department, community patrols,” Evans said. “We’re going to try and get everybody in the room; we may need to get a bigger room. I think it’s critical to get those entities involved together and that really is our goal.”

There used to be a city position, called Homeless Coordinator, that was filled through an appointment by the mayor. Current Municipality Ombudsman, Darrel Hess, was that person but Mayor Dan Sullivan got rid of that job title in 2012.

Hess thinks this new committee will probably be more successful. He said his formal job was part of the executive branch, now it’s in the hands of the people who make policy.

“I wasn’t necessarily a policymaker, I was an executive staff person. They are policymakers, they can look at policy, they can make determinations regarding policy and funding to implement new policies or changing our municipality codes,” said Hess.  

The executive director of Beans Café, Lisa Sauder, applauds the Assembly for getting involved in an issue that affects the entire community.

“Hopefully collectively between the Assembly, the muni, the different nonprofit organizations and the community council that we can all work together to find some solutions that will help people in our community,” said Sauder

Evans said the committee also plans on looking to other cities and communities that have successfully addressed the issues relating to substance abuse and homelessness.

The committee plans on meeting once a month. Anyone interested in getting involved can contact the Municipal Clerk's Office.

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FCC Chairman Hears Challenges for Bringing Broadband to Rural Alaska

Bringing broadband internet to even the most remote parts of Alaska by the year 2020, that's a goal shared by the Federal Communications Commission and the state.

But there are logistical and financial challenges to making it happen.

The state's Broadband Task Force laid out for FCC Chairman Tom Wheeler the unique challenges for meeting the goal in Alaska compared to the Lower 48.

The 22-member panel has been meeting over the past three and a half years to develop a plan. The goal is to get 100-megabit Internet to all Alaskans.

The task force admits it's a big challenge but an important one, saying it will contribute to local economies and benefit education and medicine, among other things.

Currently Alaska has the smallest percentage of households with access to such high-speed Internet, according to the state.

Both terrain and distance are factors in establishing the infrastructure.

The task force estimates meeting the goal will cost $1.2 billion.

"If the private sector would have been able to do this on their own, it would have already have been done. This is going to be something we have to invest in, just as we invest in roads, bridges, ports and other key infrastructure," said Alaska Broadband Task Force Chairman Bill Popp.

The FCC chairman will be visiting both Kotzebue and Kiana with Sen. Mark Begich for a first-hand look at the demands for high-speed Internet in rural areas.

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Inactivation of 793rd Marks End of an Era

After nearly 72 years of consecutive service, the 793rd Military Police Battalion will be inactivated on Thursday.

Thursday's ceremony is part of a continued trend throughout the Army, which earlier this year announced the decline and reorganization of its active component force structure to 490,000, an overall reduction of 80,000 soldiers.

Since 1942, the 793rd has conducted security operations on the famous Red Ball Express during World War II, evacuated thousands of refugees from Iraq to Saudi Arabia during Operation Desert Storm, and deployed to Iraq and Afghanistan in support of Operation Enduring Freedom and Operation Iraqi Freedom.

According to a Tuesday press release from U.S. Army Alaska spokesperson John Pennell, Of the battalion's sub-units, Headquarters Detachment, 793rd MP Battalion; the 164th Military Police Company and the 472rd Military Police Company will officially inactivate Sept. 15.

This is the third unit from the 793rd to be inactivated this year. In July, 545th MP and the 28th MP Detachment were transferred.

"In the Army, if we ever need them we can reach out and pull those units back," Pennell said. "The soldiers themselves will either transfer to other positions where the Army needs them around the military, some of them will stay here in Alaska and just move to different units, and some of the soldiers will end their service with the military."

Two ceremonies will be held Thursday. The first will be a memorial ceremony starting at 9 a.m. to honor seven 793rd soldiers who gave their lives during the Global War on Terrorism.  The second ceremony, an inactivation ceremony, will take place at 1 p.m.

Editor's note: An initial reference to the 80,000 soldiers in the Army force reduction as "Alaskan-based" has been corrected.

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AK Air Guardsmen Rescue 2 from Coal Creek Plane Crash

Two men were rescued early Wednesday morning after their plane crashed near Coal Creek Tuesday night.

The two men were not injured during the crash, and were able to call family members via satellite phone. One of those family members called the Alaska Rescue Coordination Center just before 10 p.m., and an Air National Guard crew responded.

Initial attempts to reach the site with an HH-60 Pave Hawk helicopter from the 210th Rescue Squadron were unsuccessful due to hazardous weather conditions.

“Our crews always carry the goggles for instances just like this,” said Sr. Master Sgt. Robert Carte, RCC Superintendent. “Weather delays can push a rescue into evening darkness, and the NVGs are necessary for a safe rescue operation.”

The team of Guardian Angel pararescuemen from the 212th Rescue Squadron aboard the Pave Hawk departed Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson at 1 a.m., and were able to finally reach the two men.

Both men were transported back to JBER and released to security personnel to go home.

According to Carte, the two men were not properly equipped for a long-term stay in the wilderness, but having the satellite phone may have helped their chances considerably.

“All pilots traveling in Alaska should have an emergency locator beacon on their aircraft, they should be packed for long-term survival, and a satellite phone is highly recommended as well,” said Carte. “Weather sometimes prevents rescue crews from reaching survivors for days."

Carte recommended pilots to program the ARCC's number into their phones for similar situations. The state-wide toll free number is 800-420-7230, or 907-551-7230.

Maj. Candis Olmstead with the ARCC said no cause for the crash was immediately available Wednesday.

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Feds: Men Carried Alaska-Bound Cocaine Past TSA

Three Las Vegas men who allegedly smuggled kilograms of cocaine to Alaska have been indicted on federal charges, after prosecutors say one used his position as an airport employee to bypass Transportation Security Administration lines. According to a Wednesday statement from U.S. Attorney Karen Loeffler's office, the defendants -- 47-year-old Daren D. Cole, 37-year-old Dewane E. Blue and 36-year-old Bryan M. Bledsoe -- are all charged with one count each of drug conspiracy and attempted possession of cocaine with intent to distribute. The drugs were passed through McCarran International Airport in Las Vegas. "The indictment alleges that since 2012, Blue would obtain cocaine for distribution in Alaska and other states, and then give the cocaine to Bledsoe, an airport employee, who would bring the drugs into (McCarran) without passing through security," prosecutors wrote. "Inside the terminal, Bledsoe would then meet with Blue or others after they had gone through security screening, and provide them with the drugs. The drugs would be placed in the traveler's carry-on baggage for distribution to Alaska and other states." The nine-page indictment says a dozen packages containing drug proceeds, beginning with one weighing 23 pounds, were sent by Cole and other conspirators since March 2012 from Anchorage to Las Vegas. The document calls for the forfeiture of some $414,230 seized from four of those shipments on Oct. 24, Nov. 15, Dec. 10 and April 18, as well as three vehicles with Nevada license plates -- a 2006 BMW, a 2007 Cadillac Escalade, and a 2010 Mercedes-Benz. According to prosecutors the scheme unraveled on June 1, when Cole gave Blue money to buy more drugs and headed to McCarran to pick them up. "Blue met with Bledsoe for the purpose of providing him with approximately ten kilograms of cocaine for Bledsoe to carry into the airport," prosecutors wrote. "Bledsoe, carrying (the cocaine) in a bag, used his airport credentials to enter secure areas of McCarran terminals. Bledsoe then met with Blue in a bathroom and provided the cocaine to Blue." After Blue allegedly gave the drugs to Cole in another bathroom swap at the airport, officers arrested him before he could board a flight to Anchorage. "Cole was subsequently indicted in Alaska for attempting to distribute the cocaine in Alaska, and is currently in custody in Anchorage," prosecutors wrote. "Bledsoe and Blue were arrested between last night and this morning. They will be brought to federal court in Las Vegas for initial appearances on the Alaska charges." Assistant U.S. Attorney Frank Russo, in Las Vegas Wednesday for hearings on the case, says security employees at McCarran have been "incredibly helpful" in investigating the case. "There could be bad employees in every profession, and sometimes bad employees break the law," Russo said. Prosecutors say numerous federal, Nevada and Alaska law enforcement agencies participated in the case, including the U.S. Postal Inspection Service, the Drug Enforcement Administration and the Las Vegas and Anchorage police departments. Loeffler's office is prosecuting the case, with support from the Nevada U.S. attorney's office. If convicted on the drug conspiracy charge, the defendants face from 10 years to life in prison, a maximum fine of $10 million and at least five years of supervised release.

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Fort Wainwright Soldiers Confined After Loss of Army Handgun

A missing handgun led to a lockdown last week for about 400 soldiers at Fort Wainwright. The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports soldiers were confined to the post for two days and a night because of the missing Army-issue 9mm Beretta pistol. A smaller group was confined for five days. Army Alaska spokesman Lt. Col. Alan Brown says 34 soldiers on Aug. 20 trained at a small arms complex and the gun went missing afterward. He says there's an immediate concern for all soldiers when a weapon is missing and as a way of mitigating risk, the unit is isolated. The 34 soldiers spent five days on lockdown through Sunday The handgun remains missing. The soldiers are part of the 2nd Battalion, 8th Field Artillery Regiment.

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Anchorage Garden Supply Store Sells Cannabis Products

With the primary election over, efforts on both sides of the marijuana debate are ramping up for the November general election.

Alaska’s laws are not black-and-white when it comes to pot, and one Anchorage business owner hopes to cash in on the legal gray area.

Robert Martin owns Southside Garden Supply, which has three stores in Spenard, South Anchorage and Muldoon.

Martin said two months ago, he started carrying cannnabidiol-infused products from HempMed.

CBD comes from cannabis, but it’s different from tetrahydrocannabinol, the compound that gets marijuana users high.

“I hadn't seen where they were available anywhere in Anchorage, and because they're legal in all 50 states, I thought someone should represent one of the CBD manufacturers,” said Martin. “We found out from our travels abroad that, yeah, they could be sold.”

That’s not exactly true, said Jodie Underwood, a federal Drug Enforcement Agency spokesperson.

Underwood said because CBD comes from marijuana, the sale of it is illegal.

But Andrew Hard, a HempMed spokesperson, pointed to a Ninth Circuit Court of Appeals ruling that said DEA cannot regulate “non-psychoactive hemp products.”

Some medical marijuana patients say CBD helps with seizures and spasms. But to get medical-grade CBD, you need a doctor to sign off -- which users say is a challenge in Alaska, because the laws are not clear-cut.

They hope Ballot Measure 2 will change that.

“We certainly have compassion for folks that find comfort in medical marijuana, whatever the product may be, but that's not what Ballot Measure 2 is about,” said Kristina Woolston, a spokesperson for the group Big Marijuana, Big Mistake, Vote No on 2. “This is an extreme measure funded by an Outside organization that seeks to commercialize and industrialize and bring retail marijuana industry to Alaska.”

Backers of the ballot measure say passing it would help medical marijuana users.

“I think any other sort of reaction to this by the ‘Vote No’ group just shows the lengths they're willing to go to scare and confuse Alaska voters,” said Taylor Bickford, a spokesperson for the Campaign to Regulate Marijuana in Alaska. “I think any effort in Alaska to increase access to medical marijuana is a very good thing. The Journal of the American Medical Association just came out this week with a study that shows that any increased access to medicinal marijuana can lead to a decrease in overdose deaths from prescription drugs for example.”

As both sides lobby for votes, Martin hopes to fill a niche demand.



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