Liz Ruskin, APRN
lruskin (at) alaskapublic (dot) org | About Liz
A new Veterans Affairs program aimed at reducing long wait times for health care has had the opposite effect for scores of Alaska vets. At a congressional hearing today, Sen. Dan Sullivan said the Choice program is undermining older systems that helped Alaskans use their VA benefits to get treatment outside the VA.
Rep. Don Young took some flack for holding a fundraiser in Puerto Rico last week, just days before chairing a subcommittee hearing on statehood for the U.S. territory. But at the hearing back in Washington this afternoon, Young made it clear he’s no Johnny-come-lately to the question.
Environmental groups say they’ve found a fundamental flaw in Shell’s plan to drill in the Chukchi Sea this summer. They say Shell’s plan to use two drill rigs at once violates a 2013 Fish and Wildlife regulation aimed at protecting walruses.
Of the throng of Republicans known to be running for president, the state party says Marco Rubio is the first to announce an Alaska team. Anchorage political consultants Art and April Hackney have signed on to lead the Alaska campaign.
When the scandal erupted last year over long wait lists at the Phoenix VA, Alaska was found to have quite short wait times. The Alaska VA has for years been buying care for veterans outside the VA, from the private sector and the Native health care system. That’s the model Congress chose when it passed the Veterans Choice Act last year, aimed at solving the VA backlog in the Lower 48. But as the new Choice program spreads to Alaska, vets and providers say it’s undoing parts of the Alaska-grown system that have worked well.
Update: Thursday, June 18th. 11:30 am.
On Thursday, the official estimate of the size of the Sockeye Fire was reduced to 7,066 acres, a reduction of almost 500 acres. According to the Incident Command Post, the new number is due to more accurate mapping, particularly in the area of Willow Creek.
The Matanuska-Susitna Borough government plans to meet individually with residents this afternoon to tell them if their homes are still standing. Sessions begin at 1 p.m. at the Houston Middle School.
An appropriations bill authored by Sen. Lisa Murkowski would undo two of the Obama administration’s highest profile environmental efforts, and compel a land exchange to build a road in the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge, to connect King Cove and Cold Bay.
The safety of drilling in Arctic seas was debated at a congressional hearing this morning. Advocates of development say requiring a relief rig isn’t necessary for blowout response.
The fire grew modestly on Monday, to 7,555 acres. (A previous estimate of 8,500 acres was revised downward.) Today’s forecast calls for warm, dry weather with possible dry thunderstorms. The Type 1 Alaska Interagency Incident Management Team takes command of the firefighting effort at 7 a.m.
New York dancer and choreographer Jody Sperling had a rare opportunity last year. She was an artist-in-residence aboard the Coast Guard Cutter Healy while it was on a research mission in the Arctic. Alone on vast ice floes, she danced while no one watched.
Congressman Don Young’s subcommittee on Native affairs took testimony today on a bill to re-open land allotment selections for Alaska Natives who served in the military during the Vietnam War.
The House this week passed a transportation and housing bill. Rep. Don Young says it includes programs important to Alaska aviation, while the White House says it shortchanges homeless programs and transit.
A U.S. Senate committee today heard pleas for better treatment of crime victims in Native communities. Gerad Godfrey, chairman of an Alaska victims’ compensation panel, recommends sexual assault rapid response teams for Alaska villages.
Alaska Congressman Don Young tied the knot today, on his 82nd birthday. Young married 76-year-old Anne Garland Walton, a flight nurse from Fairbanks. She says his birthday cakes will never be the same.
Sen. Dan Sullivan is out of the basement. His staff announced today that they’ve moved to their new office location in the nation’s capital, on the 7th floor of the Hart Building.
The Federal Election Commission slapped Sen. Dan Sullivan’s campaign with a fine of nearly $3,000 for failing to disclose donations. The total amount of the donations in question comes to just over $25,000. Most — if not all – of them appear to be from out of state.
The U.S. Army has decided to base nine Gray Eagle drones at Fort Wainwright. The delegation says 128 military personnel, plus family members, will begin moving to the area next month.
The U.S. Senate today voted to curtail the National Security Administration’s collection of bulk phone data. Sen. Lisa Murkowski was an early sponsor of the reform. Sen. Dan Sullivan says he became convinced the bill was a good revision to the controversial parts of the 2001 Patriot Act.
A bill to reauthorize the Magnuson-Stevens Act passed the U.S. House this evening, largely on party lines. Alaska Congressman Don Young says the bill makes practical revisions to continue a law that has restored the health of America’s fisheries. Opponents says it weakens environmental law.