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Saturday, March 7, 2009  4TH  EDITION  12-45 PM


Man brutally assaulted in Valley bar parking lot
Police are looking for suspects in a brutal assault at a parking lot of a Mendenhall Valley bar early Saturday morning.

Just after 3 a.m. Juneau police received a report of an assault in progress.

When officers arrived they found a 35 year-old Juneau man lying on the ground bleeding heavily from his injuries.

The suspect or suspects fled before police arrived.

According to the police investigation, the man was likely struck on the face and head with a 5 foot long, 3 inch diameter tree branch.

The victim was treated at the scene by Capital City Fire/Rescue personnel and then transported to Bartlett Regional Hospital.

At the hospital it was determined the victim had numerous lacerations, facial bone fractures, and internal bleeding in his head.

He was flown to Anchorage for advanced treatment of his injuries.

Police ask if you have information on this case please call the Juneau Police Department at 586-0600.

Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race begins in Anchorage
By MARY PEMBERTON -Associated Press Writer
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race is under way in Alaska's largest city where 67 teams set their sights for Nome.

The ceremonial start, where mushers take a short run through Anchorage, is mostly for the enjoyment of the fans. It gives them an opportunity to get up close to their favorite mushers, some of whom have rock star status in Alaska.

This year's field is smaller - down from a record 96 last year - but most of the big names are in it, including two-time defending champion Lance Mackey. He says he's approaching the 1,100-mile race the same as always - expect the worst and hope for the best.  

Lance Mackey sees no limit
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - Lance Mackey says he sees no limit to what he and his sled dogs can do.

The two-time defending champion of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race says every year he learns something more about his dogs and how to get the best performance out of his team.

Mackey will try for a third straight championship.

Mackey has already redefined what's possible in long-distance sled dog racing as the only musher to win the Iditarod and the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race in the same year.

He's done it twice.

The 38-year-old Mackey took a breather from the Quest this year to help train Harry Alexie, an Alaska Native from Bethel who is in the National Guard, to run the Iditarod.

Mackey says he felt honored when Alexie asked for his help.

Helping to catch a crook can earn you cash, Juneau Crime Line targets armed robber
The armed robbery at Fred Meyer Sunday night is the focus of Juneau Crime Line this week.

A store employee was robbed a gunpoint as she was walking into the store at the garden end of the building.

Police now say the bandit got away with a small amount of money from a bank bag and purse she was carrying.

The suspect is described as a light skinned male about five foot six, 130 pounds. He's in his late teens and was last seen wearing a ski mask, gloves, and a dark coat.

Callers to Crime Line may remain anonymous and still be eligible for a cash reward.

The Crime Line number is 586-4243.  

Candy snatchers get prison time in state court
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - Two young women convicted of robbing trick-or-treaters in Talkeetna at gunpoint have been sentenced to stiff prison terms.

Palmer Superior Court Judge Beverly Cutler on Friday sentenced 18-year-old Kendra Butts to three years in prison.

The woman who wielded the gun and fired a round into the air, 20-year-old Amber Martin, was sentenced to nine and a half years in prison.

Prosecutors say the women put on masks on Halloween night 2007, got out of a vehicle, shot into the air and held-up seven children. They took candy and a cell phone.

Butts last year was sentenced in federal court to six months in prison for agreeing to cover up evidence in a truck that investigators said she and others used in the robbery.

Information from: KTUU-TV

Time to lose one hour
Daylight Savings Time begins Sunday.

Most people set their clocks back one hour before they go to bed Saturday night.

Kerttula waiting for Governor's decision on Senate vacancy
It's now a waiting game for Juneau Representative Beth Kerttula with the decision on who replaces Kim Elton in the State Senate now in the hands of Governor Palin.

Local Democrats sent the Governor a letter Thursday with Kerttula as the lone name on their list.

Kerttula tells us she's "humbled" by the support she has received.

She also tell us that she's very respectful of the fact that this is the Governor's decision.
During last Fall's national campaign, Kerttula said Palin wasn't qualified to be Vice President.

When asked if that statement may come back to haunt her, Kerttula didn't think so and added that the Governor will make a "reasoned decision."

She expects Palin to make that decision on a timely basis since Juneau is without representation in the State Senate until that time.

Just because Kerttula was the only name submitted by local Democrats, the Governor is not mandated to select her for the seat. She is required to pick a registered Democrat since that's who filled the seat. 

Crimson Bears men headed to state, Lady Crimson Bears lose to Lady Kings
The women's team at Juneau Douglas High School went down to defeat at the hands of the Ketchikan Kings Friday afternoon by a score of 49 to 36.

The Ketchikan Lady Kings will now represent Region V at the state tournament.

Thursday night the Crimson Bears men's team a claimed the regional crown with a 75 to 69 win night over the Ketchikan Kings, sweeping the three game series in two straight contests.

The Crimson Bears men will represent Region V at the state tournament March 19th through the 21st. 

Meanwhile, the Crimson Bears men will play Sitka in the Crossover Tournament in Ketchikan Saturday.

The game will be broadcast on KINY starting at 8-15 p.m.

VECO sentencing held up again
Sentencing has again been postponed for two key figures in the VECO bribery scandal.

Former company CEO Bill Allen and Vice President Rick Smith have been awaiting sentencing since they pleaded guilty in May, 2007.

Prosecutors have requested delays citing the "exceedingly complex" nature of the investigation.

Testimony from Allen and Smith led to the convictions of former U.S. Senator Ted Stevens and two state legislators.

The status report filed with U.S. District Judge John Sedwick this week was the fifth delay sought by prosecutors.

The last was seven months ago.

The judge wants to know by the end of June if the Justice Department is ready to sentence the two VECO witnesses.
(Anchorage Daily News)

Former House aide hit with corruption charges
WASHINGTON (AP) - A grand jury has indicted a former congressional staffer on corruption charges for taking a free trip to the 2003 World Series.

Prosecutors have charged Fraser Verrusio, who worked under Republican Rep. Don Young when the congressman chaired the House Transportation and Infrastructure Committee.

Officials say Verrusio and another Capitol Hill staffer accepted an illegal gratuity when lobbyists gave them an all-expense paid trip to New York, including the World Series game and a visit to a strip club.

The indictment charges Verrusio helped the lobbyists get favorable language for an equipment rental company into a Federal Highway Bill.

The indictment is the latest in the investigation surrounding ex-lobbyist Jack Abramoff. 

Seattle man to serve ten years in federal prison on Alaska drug charge
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - A 21-year-old Seattle man will serve ten years in prison following his drug conviction in federal court in Anchorage.

U-S District Court Judge Timothy Burgess also ordered Calvin T. Dunbar to forfeit more than $185,000, the amount of drug proceeds on him when he was arrested.

Assistant U-S Attorney Kimberly Sayers-Fay says Dunbar conspired with others to distribute nearly ten kilograms of cocaine and crack last summer.

She says they had the drug shipped to Anchorage from the Lower 48.

Palin submits Railbelt utilities plan
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - The early comments are mixed for Governor Palin's proposed Railbelt utilities plan.

Palin Friday unveiled a bill that would have the six power utilities that serve Alaskans from Homer to Fairbanks buy wholesale power through a new state corporation.

She says a centralized power authority is needed to plan, finance and build future power plants to take advantage of economies of scale.

The six utilities affected are Golden Valley Electric Association in Fairbanks, Matanuska Electric Association, Chugach Electric Association, Anchorage Municipal Light & Power, the City of Seward and Homer Electric Association.

Nearly half of their generating facilities are nearing the end of their useful lives.

However, energy experts say single utilities do not have the resources to build large projects that could give consumers the best rates.

Chugach Electric spokesman Phil Steyer says his cooperative supports the concept of the regional corporation and Palin's bill itself.

But Brian Newton, head of Golden Valley Electric Association, says he's disappointed that the bill carries more stick than carrot as incentive for utilities to join.

The utilities historically have enjoyed state grants to help pay for new power plants or interties but state officials have said that support is less likely in the future unless the utilities work together.

Strike Team summoned to St. George Island to oversee unloading of fuel from grounded boat
The Coast Guard has called in the Pacific Strike Team of the National Strike Force to unload the fuel from a fishing vessel that went aground early Thursday morning on the north shore of St. George Island.

Petty Officer Sara Francis explains they decided to call in the strike team due to the sensitive nature of the environment on and around St. George Island.

She says Information from the Department of Interior and the State of Alaska indicates a beach on the north end of the island is home to fur seal and sea lion rookeries and haul outs and many species of marine birds.

The beach is also adjacent to an archeological site of an historic Russian Aleutian settlement.

Six members of the team left Thursday from California.

They'll start unloading Saturday.

With help from additional District 17 personnel, the team will work to safely remove the 15,000 gallons of diesel fuel and 668 gallons of lube oil reported on board.

The five crewmembers of the Mar Gun were hoisted from the 112 foot stern trawler and taken to St. Paul Island.

No injuries were reported.

The cause of the grounding will be investigated.

Saint George Island is 760 miles southwest of Anchorage.

Alaska's unemployment rate is rising
By ANNE SUTTON - Associated Press Writer
JUNEAU, Alaska (AP and KINY) - State economists are sounding a mixed message on employment in Alaska.

January's 7.9 percent unemployment rate is up 1.5 percent over January of last year. However, the number of payroll jobs in January is well above last year's count - by 5,200 jobs, according to Alaska labor department statistics released Thursday.

State economist Dan Robinson speculates that the economy in the Lower 48 is so bad that some workers may have stayed in Alaska once their seasonal jobs were up, while others may be moving up in search of jobs.

Robinson says job growth in the state is expected to dry up somewhat this year, especially in the area of tourism.


Juneau's unemployment rate in January was at seven percent. That was up a full percentage point from December and nearly two percent from last year.

Anchorage was at 6 point 8 percent; Mat Su Borough at 10 point 8, and Fairbanks at 8 point 8 percent in January, all up a bit from the previous year.

The rate for Haines was 16 point 9 percent.

The Skagway, Hoonah and Angoon census area was at 28 point 3 percent which was the high in the state.

The low was the North Slope Borough at four percent.

15-year-old Anchorage boy killed in shooting
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - Anchorage police say a 15-year-old boy is dead after an accidental shooting.

Police Lieutenant Dave Parker identifies the victim at Brenton Buckmaster.

He says the boy and other juveniles were in a house Thursday afternoon when a gun being handled by a 16-year-old boy fired.

Buckmaster was taken to a local hospital, where he was pronounced dead.

Parker says a parent also was at the south Anchorage home at the time of the shooting.

Police are continuing to investigate.
(KTUU-TV - Anchorage)

Redfern owner files for bankruptcy
The company that owns Redfern, the developer of the Tulsequah Chief mine, has been granted bankruptcy protection by Canada's Supreme Court

Redcorp Ventures Ltd. is based in Vancouver British Colombia.

Redfern suspended construction at the Tulsequah Chief mine in December.

The mine is located in Canada, about 45 miles northeast of Juneau.

Legislature grinds to a halt at midway point
By ANNE SUTTON -Associated Press Writer
JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - Work has ground to a halt this week in the state Capitol, but lawmakers insist they are still moving at a good clip toward the 90-day deadline.

Thursday was the halfway mark in the session.

Twenty-six of 60 legislators are in Washington, D.C., for an energy conference, and many others have gone home for a long weekend. So far only one bill - a measure to extend the Joint Armed Services Committee - has passed both the House and Senate.

Lawmakers say they are only constitutionally mandated to pass a state budget and that process is on track.

Still, continued uncertainty over Alaska's portion of the federal stimulus bill and complex energy related legislation from Gov. Palin could be a stumbling blocks to staving off the need for a special session. The regular session ends April 19.  

Two State Senators meet with top Obama official in White House
Members of the Senate Majority back in D. C. for the energy conference conducted a teleconference press availability with Alaska reporters today.

Anchorage Senator Hollis French told of a meeting he and fellow Anchorage Senator Bill Wielechowski had with Pete Rouse, the senior advisor to President Obama, at the White House.

The topic of discussion was the proposed natural gas pipeline from the North Slope.

French says it was extremely encouraging to be able to speak to someone about the project at such a top level in the government.

Senate President Gary Stevens spoke of former Juneau Senator Kim Elton who begins work as the Interior Department's director of Alaska Affairs.

He called it a key spot and "sort of the Alaska mole in the administration."

Stevens says Elton will play an extremely important role and they're glad he'll be there.

Elton starts that job on March 16th.

Kelly drafting bill allowing restricted firearms
FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) - State Rep. Mike Kelly says he's drafting a bill that would allow firearms restricted under federal law to be built and used in Alaska.

The Fairbanks Republican says the Alaska Firearms Freedom Act is inspired by a similar bill that passed the Montana House of Representatives. It allows someone to own firearms or components restricted by the federal government, as long as they are built and kept entirely in the state.

Kelly made the announcement while addressing about 400 members of the Second Amendment Task Force, a gun rights group that has urged gun owners to openly display their weapons.

Kelly told the group he resents infringements on gun rights, such as having to go through a metal detector at a courthouse.
(Fairbanks Daily News-Miner)

Begich tells AG to back off on assault weapon ban
WASHINGTON (AP) - Alaska Sen. Mark Begich has told the Obama administration he will oppose any gun restrictions officials may be considering.

In a letter to Attorney General Eric Holder, Begich, a Democrat, said the Justice Department should enforce existing laws rather than propose additional laws they said could infringe on Second Amendment rights.

Begich said the ability to legally own firearms and use them for hunting and other activities is part of the fabric of life in Alaska.

Begich's letter follows a similar message from two other Western Democratic senators: Max Baucus and Jon Tester of Montana.

The letters were prompted by Holder's recent comment that reinstating a ban on the sale of assault weapons could help reduce bloodshed in Mexico, where 6,000 people were killed last year in drug-related violence.

Crude settles higher
NEW YORK (AP) - Crude oil futures prices ended higher on the New York Mercantile Exchange.

The near-month contract for the benchmark grade rose $1.91 -- closing at $45.52 a barrel.

State inmates file lawsuit
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - Two inmates have filed a lawsuit claiming they were physically and sexually assaulted while in the Bethel jail.

The lawsuit filed against the state Department of Corrections claims one assault took place in October 2007 and the other in August 2008.

Both men say they were attacked in the living area of the Yukon Kuskokwim Correctional Center.

Attorney Sean Brown says both men were in jail on misdemeanor charges when they were attacked, possibly over several days.

The state had no immediate comment on the lawsuit.
(Anchorage Daily News) 

Health summit planned in Juneau next month, award nominations now open
What is billed as the first annual Juneau Health Summit is scheduled for April 23 and 24.

Among the sponsors is the Cooperative Extension Service at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

Dr. Sonja Koukel is with that organization's Health, Home, and Family Development Program. She says it's being modeled after a very successful summit started in Sitka.

Instead of ideas coming from the top down, she explains they want to hear from community members about planning for health and wellness in Juneau and what they think would work for them.

She says they also plan to present various awards during a dinner on April 23.

They include advocate or collaboration for health, general Wellness, youth, physical activity, nutrition, and behavioral health which the doctor says could include mental health or substance abuse prevention.

Nominations are due March 17.

For additional information and a nomination form, contact Larry West at 586-4648.


Other sponsors include SEARHC, Bartlett Regional Hospital, the State Division of Public Health, Southeast Public Health Nursing, the United Way of Southeast Alaska, Premera Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alaska, National Alliance of Mental Illness, and Alaska Native Sisterhood Camp 2.

Alaska inmate trained service dog to be given to injured Iraqi veteran
An Army soldier wounded in Iraq has a new best friend: a dog trained as a service animal by inmates at Hiland Mountain Correctional Center.

Sergeant William Ondell met the lab mix, Wyatt, only recently.

He  formally took ownership at a ceremony at the prison Friday.

The Department of Corrections says Wyatt is the first graduate of a new program at the women's prison in Eagle River.

Inmates have trained nearly 200 dogs from the Mat-Su Animal Shelter to prepare them for adoption.

The program expanded last year to include specialized training for service animals to assist disabled veterans.

Ondell was wounded by a suicide bomber during his second tour in Iraq.
(KENI- Anchorage)

June 2 picked as date for special election in Mat Su to choose new mayor
ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) - A special election will be scheduled for a new mayor of the Matanuska-Susitna Borough.

Mayor Curt Menard died this week after a battle with cancer.

Borough official Patty Sullivan says an ordinance calling for a June Second election will be introduced next week.

Deputy Mayor Lynne Woods is the acting mayor. 

                                                (Copyright 2009 Alaska Juneau Communications - KINY Radio)