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Gun battle sends bullets into East Anchorage apartments

Alaska Dispatch News - Tue, 06/27/2017 - 12:37

A barrage of shots fired from two vehicles at an apartment complex in East Anchorage early Tuesday punctured buildings and vehicles with bullet holes but injured no residents, police said.

Residents at apartments in the 7800 block of Creekside Center Drive in Muldoon called 911 to report shots fired at 4:20 a.m., according to a police spokeswoman. Officers arriving on scene recovered shell casings and bullet fragments around the buildings and surrounding area.

Witnesses saw two vehicles pull into a parking lot next to an open area and community center at Grass Creek Village, an 80-unit townhouse complex, said Jeff Judd, Cook Inlet Housing's executive vice president for real estate.

Judd said he’s working with police and called the incident an “act of random violence” like others around Anchorage.

“People who don’t actually reside there happening to be on site at 4:15 a.m. just causing violence,” he said.

Bullets penetrated three housing units and interior walls, as well as a steel mailbox and a number of vehicles, Judd said. The community center had numerous bullet holes that penetrated thick columns to the interior.

"Thankfully nobody was injured or hurt," he said.

Police weren't releasing suspect or vehicle information.

Andy Petersen, 37, said he and his girlfriend were in bed when they heard about 20 shots fired and the sound of motors revving and vehicles taking off.

"I looked through the window and our neighbors were running outside, screaming," Petersen said.

The shooting lasted for about five minutes, he said.

Police are asking anyone with information to call dispatch at 907-786-8900 (press "0" to reach an operator) or Crime Stoppers at 907-561-STOP.

Murkowski must keep her word on Planned Parenthood

Alaska News - Tue, 06/27/2017 - 12:30
U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski delivers her annual speech to the Alaska Legislature on Feb. 22. Murkowski, speaking in the chambers of the state House, ...

Nordic SuperTour will include January races in Anchorage

Alaska Dispatch News - Tue, 06/27/2017 - 12:06

The U.S. Ski and Snowboard Cross Country SuperTour, the top domestic circuit for American nordic skiing, will include races in Anchorage next season, the organization announced Tuesday.

Anchorage will be one of eight stops on the SuperTour, which last season featured overall points titles for Anchorage's Scott Patterson and Girdwood's Chelsea Holmes. Also, Caitlin Patterson of Anchorage finished second among women's in points.

The races in Anchorage are scheduled for Jan. 3-8, 2018, with four races for each gender. The men will ski a 15-kilometer freestyle, freestyle sprint, 30K classical race and a classical sprint. The women will contest at 10K freestyle, freestyle sprint, 20K classical race and classical freestyle.

The SuperTour also will include stops in Montana, British Columbia, Vermont, Quebec, Michigan and Wisconsin. The SuperTour Finals will be March 23-28 in Craftsbury, Vermont.

Murkowski must keep her word on Planned Parenthood

Alaska Dispatch News - Tue, 06/27/2017 - 12:01

Sen. Lisa Murkowski made a promise when we sent her to Washington, D.C.

She made a promise when she won a historic write-in campaign in 2010, sending her back to the nation's capital to represent the people of Alaska. "We made history!" she declared and went on to say she follows the late Senator Ted Stevens' motto: "To hell with politics. Let's just do what's right for Alaska."

Those words couldn't be more relevant right now.

At this moment, Sen. Murkowski's colleagues from the lower 48 are putting the finishing touches on the most harmful piece of legislation in a generation. Under the guise of 'fixing' the health care system, the Better Care Reconciliation Act would implement a massive redistribution of wealth, cutting care for low-income people in order to cut taxes for the wealthy.

It also defunds Planned Parenthood.

Which is why, in an address to the state Legislature on February 22, the words, "…I will not vote to deny Alaskans access to the health services that Planned Parenthood provides" are so meaningful. Sen. Murkowski came out in support of Planned Parenthood.

It was a critical moment for Planned Parenthood, for our patients and for communities across the state. Those words solidified her willingness to be an ally in this long fight under a new administration hellbent on attacking women and families.

Sen. Murkowski, we are grateful for the support and ask you to stay strong.  You have thousands of people relying on you to keep to your word and protect access to health care in Alaska.

According to the Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, Alaska would be the "single most harmed state" in the entire country if this bill becomes law.  This bill was negotiated by men behind closed doors. No public hearings, no time for questions and no input from the very people whose lives it will change.  It is not right for Alaska, and it is not right for the United States.

This bill will disproportionately affect women, requiring them to pay higher rates based on the mere fact of their gender.  It will cut Essential Health Benefits protections, including maternity coverage and prescription drugs. It guts the Medicaid program, which approximately 1 in 5 women of reproductive age rely on to access no-cost, critical reproductive health care such as birth control, lifesaving cancer screenings, and maternity care.  It will stifle small business owners who are working to ensure their employees have health care coverage. It will transfer wealth from middle-class and poor families to those richest Americans who need it least.

Alaska has benefited substantially from Medicaid expansion implemented last year. Nearly 34,000 people now have health coverage at no cost to the state of Alaska. Something to celebrate in the middle of tense budget negotiations in the Legislature.

But without fail, and without imagination, Congressional Republican leadership have again included language to "defund" Planned Parenthood by blocking people with Medicaid coverage from accessing preventive care at Planned Parenthood health centers — including birth control, cancer screenings, and STI testing and treatment.  If Planned Parenthood is defunded, thousands in Alaska would be left with nowhere else to go.

The health care system needs improvement, but the "Better Care Reconciliation Act" is not the answer. This bill is nothing more than legislation for men in office to benefit men in office. There is no regard for the women and families across this country. If Planned Parenthood is defunded, thousands in Alaska would be left with nowhere else to go.

Sen. Murkowski, you made a promise to do the right thing for Alaska. You shouldn't break that promise by voting for this bill. You should stay strong once more and channel the independent spirit of Alaska. We are depending on you to protect our care.

Jessica Cler is Alaska public affairs manager for Planned Parenthood Votes  Northwest and Hawaii.

The views expressed here are the writer's and are not necessarily endorsed by Alaska Dispatch News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary@alaskadispatch.com. Send submissions shorter than 200 words to letters@alaskadispatch.com. 

Murkowski and Sullivan face health care choice that leaves Alaska ailing

Alaska Dispatch News - Tue, 06/27/2017 - 11:55

By promising, "I will not vote for a bill that will make things worse for Alaskans," Sen. Dan Sullivan has set the bar for health care legislation at a record low level.

Better for Sullivan to declare that he will not vote for a bill unless it makes things better for Alaskans.

It won't be as easy as a campaign pledge, such as Sullivan's 2014 call for "freedom-based" health care solutions.

The Congressional Budget Office said Monday that about 22 million people would lose coverage under the Republican health plan.

The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that Alaska could fare worse than any other state under the Senate plan because of the reduction in tax credits, Medicaid cutbacks, the low population and the high cost of care.

It will be hard for Sullivan or anyone else to argue that a plan that cuts Medicaid by hundreds of billions of dollars, while granting hundreds of billions in tax cuts for the richest of the rich, is a big plus for Alaskans.

The $33 billion in tax cuts for the 400 wealthiest families in the United States would be about as much as the federal government would otherwise spend on Medicaid expansion in Alaska, Arkansas, West Virginia and Nevada during the next decade.

The Senate bill would end the Medicaid expansion program, which Sen. Lisa Murkowski told legislators in February she would not support. "I will not vote to repeal it," she said.

Murkowski told CNN Monday she has not seen enough to say she supports the Senate bill, but didn't say she opposes the measure.  "I don't have enough data in terms of the impact to my state to be able to vote in the affirmative," she said.

There has been misleading national press coverage on a provision slipped into the Senate bill that some reporters have dubbed the "Klondike Kickback" —claiming this language is aimed at winning Murkowski's vote—which is wrong for a couple of reasons.

First and foremost, the Klondike is not in Alaska. It's in Canada.

Second, the provision would not be a great boon to the Medicaid program in Alaska or any other rural state. Not applying an additional penalty for Alaska and four other Western states with small populations is hardly "engineering a special deal for Alaska," as a New York Times reporter put it.

Far more than this or the end of the Medicaid expansion, the most far-reaching consequence of the Senate plan would be a structural change to shift more and more of the Medicaid burden to the state.

Alaska and other states with high costs and small populations are the most at risk under this approach.

It could mean billions of dollars in added costs for the state over time, requiring new state taxes or reductions in services to one-quarter of the Alaska population, from kids to residents of the Pioneer Homes.

Medicaid is structured so that the federal government pays a percentage of the costs. This means that when expensive new drugs and treatments become available, when epidemics occur or when the economy declines,  the federal government picks up a greater share of the expense.

The GOP Senate plan would cap federal Medicaid payments and allow them to rise only with the general rate of inflation over the long term, which is lower than health care inflation. More and more of the burden would be shifted to the state.

Murkowski and Sullivan have a chance to explain whether they would rather that the state raise taxes by hundreds of millions of dollars per year or reduce Medicaid benefits to tens of thousands of Alaskans.

Columnist Dermot Cole can be reached at dermot@alaskadispatch.com. 

The views expressed here are the writer's and are not necessarily endorsed by Alaska Dispatch News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary@alaskadispatch.com. Send submissions shorter than 200 words to letters@alaskadispatch.com or click here to submit via any web browser.

Murkowski and Sullivan face health care choice that leaves <b>Alaska</b> ailing

Alaska News - Tue, 06/27/2017 - 11:52
The Center on Budget and Policy Priorities estimates that Alaska could fare worse than any other state under the Senate plan because of the reduction ...

<b>Alaska</b> Airlines Is Giving Away Two Seats on Its Solar Eclipse Flight

Alaska News - Tue, 06/27/2017 - 11:18
To help people get an even better view of the unique event, Alaska Airlines will offer a special charter flight over the Pacific Ocean just as the sun and ...

Bearpocalypse Strikes <b>Alaska</b> As Bear Maulings On The Rise

Alaska News - Tue, 06/27/2017 - 11:18
Bears mauled two more people in Alaska Saturday, bringing the total of bear attacks to four in less than a week, with two people dead. Wildlife officials ...

<b>Alaska&#39;s</b> Nushagak River Producing BIG TIME!

Alaska News - Tue, 06/27/2017 - 11:07
Former Texas Ranger baseball pitcher and owner of The Emu Outfitting Company Jim Kern sent us some exciting news about Alaska's Nushagak ...

Internet allows us to live in bubbles with blinders on

Alaska Dispatch News - Tue, 06/27/2017 - 11:00

I grew up in a very insular place. For the first ten years of my life, I thought the pope ruled the world and the president ruled America for him. I went to Catholic school from pre-kindergarten through college. I took four years of Latin figuring that would make me bilingual – which it would have if I lived in the Vatican.

When I was in the 8th grade, I won a Voice of Democracy award from the state's VFW for an essay I wrote. The award ceremony was held at a Protestant church. I got hysterical. I refused to walk into that church until my mom brought me to the rectory and the priest told me that going into a Protestant church would not automatically condemn me to hell.

When I was in 4th grade, my best friend developed appendicitis while we were at school. She could barely make it down the stairs when the recess bell rang. I helped her home and her parents called the doctor who told them she needed to go to the hospital for an operation. This was a huge deal back then. No one had health insurance. Your parents paid in full. However, in Grace's case there was no question about the urgency of the situation.

[We Google our way to a well-informed ignorance]

But my friend was not going to any hospital until her mom got the parish priest to come over and bless her so that if she died, her fourth grade soul would not be condemned to hell for something she didn't even know she'd done.

My neighborhood, called Ducktown, was our whole world. My mother's social life revolved around the Mary Help of Christians Sodality, my dad's around the Knights of Columbus. We were in church almost more than we were in school. We made mass every morning of Lent and evening services every day in May. The rest of the world was a distant echo that I would vaguely glimpse through the newspaper as I turned the pages to get to the comics. But that world I saw in the paper didn't feel real to me. What felt real was Italian accents; names with more vowels than consonants; nuns who played baseball with us in the schoolyard; and Msg. Vincent sticking his head out his bedroom window and threatening to dump water on us as we played in the alley because we were disturbing his nap.

Eventually, the outside world made its way into my solar system and the innocence and simplicity of those days were shed. I learned about other people and other places, other religions and other customs

Back then, there were limited channels for communicating or expanding your worldview. Many of us thought that once the Internet became so ubiquitous with its millions of sites offering different religions, ideas, ethics and customs, the world would become more united because we would get to know each other. But sadly, just the opposite has happened.

The Internet has just become a series of isolated communities where people of like minds gather to shake their heads in wonder at the "others." Instead of using this resource to expand our horizons, we've used it to narrow them down so far that there is little to no room for movement. We go only to those websites that reinforce what we already believe. We have no truck with those who don't believe as we do and make no attempt to understand their point of view. Instead of creating a world where we all can gain some understanding of how others think and believe, we've shrunk our world to an incredibly small group of like-minded individuals.

I am as guilty of this as the next person. I realize the websites I visit all reinforce my already held beliefs, whether that's about the intelligence of dogs or the meanness of the Tea Party.  And that's wrong. Take a look at the names of the people who have created what made America great. They are names that come from multiple nationalities and races. They are names that come from different ethnicities, religious beliefs and ethical systems. The only thing they all have in common is that they are Americans.

We all need to start making a concerted effort to learn what others believe, and why, if we are ever to overcome the suspicion and distrust that separates us. If we don't, we just become another version of the insular world in which I was raised, one that exists on the Internet but is no less confining for its expanse. It's just the Ducktown of my youth played out online.

Elise Patkotak is the author of two memoirs about her life in Alaska, both available at AlaskaBooksandCalendars.com and at local bookstores.

The views expressed here are the writer's and are not necessarily endorsed by Alaska Dispatch News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary@alaskadispatch.com. Send submissions shorter than 200 words to letters@alaskadispatch.com. 

Gun battle sends bullets into East Anchorage apartments

Alaska News - Tue, 06/27/2017 - 10:49
A window struck by a bullet at the Grass Creek Village townhouse complex in Muldoon on Tuesday morning, June 27, 2017. (Erik Hill / Alaska ...

<b>Alaska</b> Airlines Offers Chance to View the “Great American Eclipse”

Alaska News - Tue, 06/27/2017 - 10:22
On Aug. 21, 2017, Alaska Airlines will be hosting a special charter flight to view the “Great American Eclipse” from 35,000 feet in the air. The flight is ...

<b>Alaska</b> Police: Bear Sighting Calls Up

Alaska News - Tue, 06/27/2017 - 10:11
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Police in Alaska's largest city are urging people to stop calling emergency lines to report non-emergency bear sightings.

Rare spate of bear attacks leaves two dead in <b>Alaska</b>

Alaska News - Tue, 06/27/2017 - 09:48
A warning sign in Anchorage, Alaska, after a 16-year-old runner was recently killed by a black bear. There have only been six fatal bear attacks in the ...

Ancient Fish Trap Discovered in <b>Alaska</b>

Alaska News - Tue, 06/27/2017 - 09:37
KODIAK ISLAND, ALASKA—A prehistoric stone fish trap has been found on northern Kodiak Island, reports Alaska Native News. Alutiiq Museum ...

<b>Alaska</b> Air Offers Charter Flight For Solar Eclipse Viewing

Alaska News - Tue, 06/27/2017 - 09:26
(AP) — Alaska Airlines said Monday it will charter a flight over the Pacific Ocean this Aug. 21 so select passengers can view the astronomical event ...

The Pentagon promised citizenship to immigrants who served. Now it might help deport them.

Alaska Dispatch News - Tue, 06/27/2017 - 09:20

The Pentagon is considering a plan to cancel enlistment contracts for 1,000 foreign-born recruits without legal immigration status, knowingly exposing them to deportation, a Defense Department memo shows.

The undated action memo, prepared for Defense Secretary Jim Mattis by personnel and intelligence officials at the Pentagon and obtained by The Washington Post, describes potential security threats of immigrants recruited in a program designed to award fast-tracked citizenship in exchange for urgently needed medical and language skills.

Additionally, 4,100 troops – most of whom are naturalized citizens – may face "enhanced screening," though the Pentagon voiced concern on how to navigate "significant legal constraints" of "continuous monitoring" of citizens without cause, according to the memo.

Officials have assigned threat level tiers to the nearly 10,000 Military Accessions Vital to National Interest (MAVNI) program recruits, both in the service and waiting to serve, based on characteristics like proximity to classified information or how thoroughly they have been vetted.

The Defense Department launched the program in 2009. Since the program's start, more than 10,400 troops, most of them with service in the Army, have filled medical billets and language specialties – like Russian, Mandarin Chinese and Pashto – languages identified by the Pentagon as vital to the success of military operations, but in short supply among U.S.-born troops.

Last year, officials heightened security screenings specifically for MAVNI recruits, diverting "already constrained Army fiscal and manpower resources," the memo said.

The overtasked vetting process and heightened security risk led officials to recommend canceling enlistment contracts for all 1,800 awaiting orders for basic training, and halting the program altogether, according to the memo.

Those recruits are in what the military calls the delayed-entry program, a holding pool of recruits assigned training dates in the future. About 1,000 of them have seen their visas expire while waiting for travel orders, which would put them at risk of deportation if their contracts are canceled.

Defense Department spokesman Johnny Michael said Monday that the agency is reviewing program requirements, declining to confirm the existence of the memo or ongoing internal discussions. The copy obtained by The Post was signed off by Pentagon personnel official Tony Kurta on May 19. It is unclear when the memo was issued and its current status.

Margaret Stock, a retired Army officer central in implementing the program in 2009, reviewed the document and called the decision a breach of contract made in bad faith.

"It's terrible. You trusted the Army, who delayed the process, and now they're going to cancel your contract and have you deported," Stock said.

Stock, now an attorney who practices immigration law in Alaska, said the Department of Homeland Security would possibly welcome the move as the Trump administration seeks to ramp up deportations.

The recruits are on government rolls detailing their addresses, phone numbers and legal statuses, making them prime targets for removal. It remains unclear if military officials would hand over that information to the U.S. Customs and Immigration Services.

The Pentagon is also considering ending the careers of 2,400 part-time troops in the program who have yet to attend basic training.

Stock, the retired officer, waved off concerns of heightened risk of the MAVNI recruits cited in the memo, which says 30 percent subject to "enhanced screening" have "unmitigable derogatory information" that could bar them from service.

That term is typically used to describe applicants with characteristics that cannot be helped, Stock says, like a family member who worked for a foreign government or simply having foreign relatives.

There does not appear to have been a policy designed to grant exceptions to what would be a common occurrence among the population, she said.

"It's okay to investigate someone with a legitimate security threat," Stock said. "But e a characteristic they don't like, which is they're foreigners. They're going to be treated as second-class citizens for their entire career."

Stock pointed to a recent Army blunder – an enlistment of a U.S.-born soldier who fought alongside Russian-back separatists in Ukraine – as an example of extreme vetting that occurs for program recruits but not native-born troops.

It's against Pentagon equal opportunity policies, Stock said.

"You can't treat people with a certain characteristic differently," she said. "You don't do surveillance on everyone who is Irish-American because Mike Flynn broke the law when talking to the Russians."

<b>Alaska</b>, prodded by suit, enacting new abortion regulations

Alaska News - Tue, 06/27/2017 - 09:15
JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — The state of Alaska is enacting new regulations for abortions following a lawsuit by abortion-rights advocates. Planned ...

<b>Alaska</b>, Prodded by Suit, Enacting New Abortion Regulations

Alaska News - Tue, 06/27/2017 - 09:15
The state of Alaska is enacting new regulations for abortions following a lawsuit by abortion-rights advocates. June 27, 2017, at 1:23 p.m.. MORE.

<b>Alaska</b> volcano erupts; ash cloud above Aleutian Islands prompts airliner warning

Alaska News - Tue, 06/27/2017 - 08:18
Bogoslof Volcano, on Bogoslof Island, erupted at 3:17 a.m. Tuesday, the Alaska Volcano Observatory said. The ash it spewed has triggered an ...