Alaska News Nightly: July 27, 2011

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Young Would Vote ‘Yes’ On Boehner’s Plan

Libby Casey, APRN – Washington DC

There are just six days until the U.S. risks defaulting on its debt and Congress is still locked in a stalemate over whether to raise the debt ceiling and cut spending.

APRN’s Libby Casey checked in with Alaska’s representative in the U.S. House to gauge whether he thinks there will be a deal.

Congressman Don Young isn’t in love with House Speaker John Boehner’s plan to cut spending and avoid default, but he still intends to vote for it.

“No I’m not particularly happy with it, but like I say, it’s sort of like taking your girlfriend out and not getting a kiss but only a hug. It’s better than nothing. And we’re liable to get nothing.”

“Getting nothing” would lead to default. That’s a scenario financial experts – and Alaska’s Senators – have warned could be catastrophic. Now, Speaker Boehner is still tweaking his plan – it turns out it wouldn’t cut as much from the budget as he initially claimed. And even though Young will vote for it, Tea Party members are bucking it, and the leader of Senate Democrats Harry Reid says it will not pass in the Senate. Young says fine – let the let the Senate take the blame.

Young: So around and around we go.  So the only plan we’ve got is what’s before us now.  And if we get the 218 votes we’ll vote on it.

Casey: But it looks dead on arrival in the Senate.

Young: Not necessarily.  What if we do it and then adjourn.

Casey: Then the country could default on its debt.

Young: If the Senate doesn’t act. And if the President doesn’t sign the bill then it’s up to the President.

Casey: But if they’ve already told you they’re not going to do it…

Young: That’s fine, we’ve done what we said we were going to do, we have acted responsibly.  And then let the Senate doesn’t want to pass, they’ll take responsibility for it.

Casey: With all due respect, and I think a lot of Americans feel this way, if you guys act, and then say it’s the Senate’s responsibility, Senate’s fault, it kind of kicks it into somebody else’s court, it assigns blame, but if doesn’t come up with a solution.”

Young: If they don’t pass it, but they will pass it. Believe me, we’ve done this before and they will pass it. Otherwise, fine, we’ll go into default.

Don Young has skipped some of the Republican meetings about the debt ceiling legislation, and last week was in Alaska for a long-planned charity fishing trip instead of hunkered down in the pressure cooker of Washington. He hopes the nation doesn’t default on the debt, but he also says no one in the Republican conference is really listening to his ideas of how to avoid it.

Young: I don’t want it, I’ve always said that. But I’m not in the conference. If I was in it we’d have settled this a long time ago.

Casey: Why haven’t you been involved in it, then?

Young: Nobody’s been involved in it. Nobody’s involved in it, that’s one of the frustrations the freshmen have and a lot of members of the Conference because there are only four negotiators.

Even though Young says the Boehner plan in the only game in town, Senator Reid, leader of the Democrats, has crafted his own bill. Young is dismissive of it.

It’s possible the Republican Boehner plan and the Reid Democratic plan could merge in the coming day, but there’s no guarantee. And if everyone says it’s “my way or the highway,” the stalemate will continue, and the nation will run out of money to pay its bills.

Federal Employee Union Concerned About Deficit Battles

Tim Ellis, KUAC – Fairbanks

Leaders of the union that represents most federal employees here in Alaska say the workers are worrying about how the political battle being fought in Washington, D.C., will affect their jobs.

Last Minute Offers May Keep Alaska Newspapers Alive

Alexandra Gutierrez, KUCB – Unalaska

Some rural Alaskan communities might not lose their newspapers after all.

Last week, the Calista Corporation put out a statement that they were liquidating Alaska Newspapers, Incorporated, a publisher of a handful of weeklies across the state. But since making that announcement, the Native corporation has started to receive offers for ANI assets.

Margaret Nelson, ANI’s president and publisher, is tight-lipped on the number of offers the company has received, and which assets have attracted the most interest. It’s also unclear whether the company will find a buyer for any of the newspapers before they shut down their printing press. ANI decided yesterday that their final publications as a company will come out in mid-August, but that they will continue to employ staff through the end of the month.

That’s a tight timeline, but Nelson hopes negotiations will be speedy.

She adds that the Calista Corporation did look for buyers before deciding to close up ANI, but that nothing viable came together. She says that the company also made a few last-minute management decisions in an effort to save the papers — like deciding to use on-site reporters – but it was difficult to come up with an effective strategy for a rural newspaper chain in the current media environment.

ANI’s papers include the Dutch Harbor Fisherman, the Arctic Sounder, the Tundra Drums, Bristol Bay Times, Cordova Times, and the Seward Phoenix LOG.

Navy to Sink Two Ships Per Year in Gulf Exercises

Jay Barrett, KMXT – Kodiak

Brianna Gibbs, KMXT – Kodiak

The United States Navy has decided to go ahead with the sinking of two derelict ships per year as part of its annual summer exercises in the Gulf of Alaska. Environmental groups such as the Sierra Club and Basel Action Network are concerned the ships will leak cancerous chemicals such as polychlorinated biphenyls, or PCBs.

Mark Matsunaga, a U.S. Pacific Fleet spokesman in Hawaii, says the vessels are cleaned “very rigorously” before any sinking exercises.

But chemical contaminants aren’t the only concern. Kelly Harrell, the executive director for the Alaska Marine Conservation Council, said intentionally sinking ships has raised many red flags in the gulf.

Harrell said the effects could be slightly mitigated, but the Navy has refused to take the measures to do so.

Harrell said the Environmental Protection Agency has granted permits to the Navy, but many environmental groups are asking the EPA to withdraw the decision. Matsunaga told the Anchorage Daily News that the Navy currently has no sinking exercises scheduled. The Navy concluded a study on the sinking exercise in May, and decided on the option that allowed them to send two ships to the bottom per year. The exercise is designed to allow aircraft, surface ships and submarines to fire live ammunition at life-size targets in real-world conditions.

Halibut Management Plan Up for Public Review

Marcia Lynn, KBBI – Homer

A new plan to manage halibut in Southeast Alaska and the Central Gulf has just been put out for public review and comment by NOAA Fisheries. The plan addresses the problem of charter operators exceeding their harvest limits. It also allows for the transfer of shares from commercial quota holders to charter operators.

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Halibut, NOAA Fisheries, Fishing Charter

[26       Repatriate-Schoenfeld/CoastAlaska/wrap]

Tribal Organizations Receive Grant to Reclaim Ceremonial Objects

Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska – Juneau

Southeast’s largest tribal organization is attempting to recover ceremonial objects from two museums in California.

The Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska has been awarded a grant to research and prepare claims.

The grant will focus on the Oakland Art Museum, in the San Francisco Bay area, and the Southwest Museum Autry Center, in Los Angeles.

Desiree Duncan is the central council’s Native lands and resources manager.

Claims will be made under terms of the Native American Graves Protection and Repatriation Act, called “NAGPRA” . The 1990 legislation set up a process for museums and agencies to return human remains, sacred objects and other items to tribal groups.

The council’s $90,000 consultation and documentation grant comes from the National Park Service.

Duncan says her office will assemble a team to find out more about what’s in the California museum collections.

The Autry Center’s online catalog lists 50 Tlingit, 45 Haida and 10 Tsimshian objects, including blankets, bracelets and fish hooks. Some items overlap tribal identification or are from Canada.

The Oakland Museum’s online listings do not appear to include items from Alaska.

The council’s grant will also allow it to continue claims for more than 200 objects in other museums.

Anchorage Assembly Postpones Mayor’s Sidewalk Sitting Proposal

Associated Press

The Anchorage Assembly has shelved a proposal by Mayor Dan Sullivan to restrict sitting on sidewalks and panhandling downtown. The assembly voted nine to one Tuesday night to postpone the proposed ordinance indefinitely. At the same meeting, about a dozen people spoke against the proposal.

The proposal would have to be reintroduced to bring it before the assembly again.

Sullivan has said the proposal arose in response to a homeless man who has been sitting or lying on sidewalks near City Hall to protest the city’s policies on homelessness.

Weather Prevents Recovery of Bodies from Plane Crash

Rosemarie Alexander, KTOO – Juneau

Poor weather continues to prevent efforts to recover the bodies from a single-engine plane that crashed Sunday on Douglas Island in Juneau.

A Temsco helicopter with State Troopers on board tried again Wednesday to access the steep site at about the 31-hundred foot level of Mount Ben Stewart, near Eaglecrest Ski Area.

It was the fourth attempt in three days.  Troopers say the cloud ceiling was still about 500 feet lower than they need to recover the bodies.

They will try again Thursday, if the weather improves.

Seventy-seven-year-old Charles Luck and his wife, 51-year-old Liping Tang-Luck, were flying from Hoonah to Juneau early Sunday morning when their single-engine plane crashed.  Their bodies were found Monday in the wrecked fuselage.

Lows clouds, fog and rain enveloped the treacherous terrain, making it difficult for the team of mountaineers and investigators to reach the site.

National Transportation Safety Board investigator Clint Johnson says the Cessna 182 is in a dangerous spot. He says recovery will be very challenging.

After troopers recover the bodies, NTSB crew will haul the debris off the mountain and begin reconstructing the plane in a Juneau aircraft hangar for the investigation.  Johnson says they strive to get 100 percent of the airplane off the mountain.

He says investigators are listening to Air Traffic Control tapes and conducting interviews.  Luck had contacted the Juneau airport tower about ten miles out, and was not heard from again.

Johnson says small aircraft like Luck’s Cessna do not have a flight data recorder.

Charles Luck was a physician’s assistant in Hoonah.

He just started working in June at the Hoonah Health Clinic, run by the Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium.

Medicine was a second career for Luck, who previously had been an electrical engineer.  He had 11-years’ experience in rural Alaska health care, having worked in Barrow, Adak and Kotzebue, as well as the Alaska Native Medical Center in Anchorage before joining SEARHC.

Clinic physician assistant Jeff Chelmo said in an email it was obvious Luck and Hoonah were a good fit, though he had been at the clinic less than two months.

According to SEARHC, Luck had a commercial pilot’s license and an instrument rating.

‘Open Projector Night’ Draws Filmmakers and Fans

Heather Aronno, APRN – Anchorage

Open Mic Nights are a common enough occurrence at cafes and campuses. But something different has been building buzz around Anchorage. It’s called an Open Projector Night, and it’s an open door into Alaska’s burgeoning film industry.

An audience of over 200 sits in the darkened theatre of the Snow Goose Restaurant. They’re watching the first trailer for Frost Bite, a zombie-flick filmed earlier this year in Talkeetna. Or rather, they’re trying to watch it.

What part of the appeal of your event is a “no pre-screening required” policy, you have to allow for hiccups like a scratched DVD. The organizers soon have a digital copy uploaded and playing, and the evening’s fun continues.

David Turnbull is one of the founders of the Alaska Film Forum, a non-profit organization that aims to promote a sense of community among filmmakers and film enthusiasts in Alaska. Still in its fledgling stages, the organization has partnered with Out North Theatre to produce and exhibit the work of local filmmakers. Turnbull says his job as an organizer is to provide the venue, audience, and opportunity for people to show their work.

“It’s not always easy to get a crowd together to watch your stuff. So we do that part, we do the legwork. It’s a good time!”

Another plus, as far as the organizers see it, is that these events are not competitive. Beth Varner, another founder of AFF, says that’s unusual since most of the opportunities to show films are in competitions. Participants have to get to Open Projector Night early to get their films in the mix, because the evening’s line-up is on a first come, first serve basis. Varner says that makes it more accessible.

“There’s no pre-screening process, there’s not approval process, there’s no ‘are you in or are you out’. It’s show up with a movie and if we have time, we’ll play it.”

The buzz from the first OPN in January worked, because Varner says over one hundred people showed up for the second OPN in April. That success lead AFF’s organizers to where they are now, paying out of their own pockets to rent the Snow Goose theater in order to accommodate a larger crowd. Varner hopes people will enjoy themselves enough to contribute and keep the organization going.

And it looks like a bigger venue was the right idea. This is the largest crowd that an Open Projector Night has pulled in-yet.

The audience whoops as a time traveler kisses the woman he accidentally left behind. She’s aged thirty years while he hasn’t aged at all, but their love has not diminished. And they’re kissing very enthusiastically.

After two hours of films ranging in genre from music videos to sci-fi action to non-traditional romantic comedies, the organizers are starting to wrap up. David Turnbull is already making plans for the next event.

“We’re starting thinking about the next one. The next OPN will be in October. Probably going to have to find a bigger venue again, which is awesome. So if anyone out there is making movies or wants to make movies, we’ll have a screen and we’ll have an audience for you in October.”

The Alaska Film Forum is also planning on branching out into education. But exactly what that would mean for this creative group is unclear. They’re keeping the details to themselves, for now.

Vimeo – Open Projector Night Videos –

‘Frozen Ground’ to be Filmed in Anchorage

Associated Press

The story of the police investigation of infamous Alaska serial killer Robert Hansen will be filmed in Anchorage this fall. Nicolas Cage will star in “Frozen Ground.” Filming is scheduled to start October 10th. Cage will portray the Alaska State Trooper who investigated the murders that gripped Anchorage in the 1970s and 1980s.

Hansen was an Anchorage baker at a time when vice ruled the streets in the heady days during construction of the trans-Alaska pipeline.

In 1984, Hansen confessed to killing 17 women and raping another 30 over the previous 12 years. He received a 461-year sentence.