Expand Medicaid, says Chamber of Commerce: The Alaska State Chamber of Commerce has endorsed a Medicaid expansion for the 49th state, the Anchorage Daily News reports. The decision goes against Gov. Sean Parnell, who has so far refused optional expansion of the program. An expansion would create new health care coverage for tens of thousands of Alaskans. And if Alaska chooses not to expand Medicaid, thousands of needy Alaskans would be left underinsured due to a loophole in the law. Parnell says that he is leaving the option open to reconsider an expansion, pending a recommendation by the Department of Health and Social Services and the findings of a secret report that the state refuses to release.
Icy slopes lead to trooper search-and-rescues: Winter has come to the higher elevations of the Kenai and Chugach mountains of Alaska, but it would appear some hikers haven't figured that out. Alaska State Troopers report being called to the Mount Marathon Trail in Seward on Wednesday to rescue a Minnesota couple who hiked up the mountain only to discover "icy and steep conditions'' made it difficult to descend. A trooper and two members of the Seward Volunteer Fire Department managed to get the Lees -- Edwin, 35, and Sarah, 28 -- safely off the mountain. That rescue came in the wake of troopers being summoned to the Falls Creek Trail in Chugach State Park just south of Anchorage to rescue Dael Davenport, 39, from Fairbanks and Rebeccas Shaffer, 39, from Anchorage. Davenport waved down a car on the Seward Highway in order to find someone with a cellphone after falling down "Suicide Peak when it became very icy,'' according to troopers. Davenport called troopers to report leaving Shaffer stranded on the mountain. Two troopers eventually helped Shaffer get down safely.
Anchorage firefighters seek arsonist: The Anchorage Fire Department is seeking help in identifying an arsonist. Firefighters responded to a blaze shortly after 1 a.m. Monday at what's being described as a mall in the neighborhood of Mountain View. They arrived and found the roof of Cash Alaska, a pawn show, ablaze. Responders extinguished the fire. Damage to the roof was minimal, the fire department reported. But upon investigation, it was determined the fire's cause was arson. A male subject seen leaving the scene has been identified as the suspect while a female witness was also spotted on surveillance footage. Investigators say they would like to speak to the woman about the fire. People with information can call the arson hotline at 267-5060 or remain confidential by calling Crime Stoppers at 561-STOP.
Eastern Steller sea lions no longer threatened: With its population up by 52,000 animals in three decades, the eastern population of Steller sea lions has been pulled off the threatened species list by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. Those animals range from the Alaska Panhandle in Southeast to California. Federal biologist now estimate there are 70,000 of the large marine mammals. The last species delisted by NOAA was the eastern North Pacific gray whale in 1994.
Sex assault suspect may have sought job on fishing vessel: The Anchorage Police Department is asking for the public's assistance in locating a sexual assault suspect, 56-year-old James Kim. An arrest warrant has been issued for one count of attempted sexual assault and one count of second-degree sexual assault, which stem from a report by a female that Kim sexually assaulted her in late August 2013. When officers tried to make an initial arrest, Kim was no longer at the residence where he had been staying, and investigators believed he fled to Korea. New information indicates Kim is still in Anchorage, police reported Wednesday, and that he may be staying with people unaware of his alleged crimes. A description of Kim, from APD:
Anyone with information about Kim's location should contact police at 786-8900 or call Crimestoppers to provide an anonymous tip at 561-STOP.
Plane's landing gear fails, but no injuries: An Era Alaska plane, with 16 people aboard, wrecked when its landing gear failed as it arrived in Homer on Wednesday. The National Transportation Safety Board is investigating what caused the Beechcraft 1900's mechanical error. No one was injured. Era flies to more than 100 Alaska communities across the state.