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AK Beat: Giffords brings gun debate to Alaska

Craig MedredAlaska Dispatch

Gabby Giffords brings gun debate to Alaska: Gabby Giffords, the Arizona congresswoman shot in the head in 2011 while campaigning in Tucson, will bring the gun debate to Anchorage Tuesday, in hopes of convincing one (or both) Alaska senators that voters here support background checks on all firearms purchases. Sen. Mark Begich was one of four Democrats instrumental in blocking a previous effort to strengthen gun regulations, a vote that's riled up the left. Before Giffords was shot, Sarah Palin's political action committee, SarahPAC, infamously included Giffords' district in gun-sight crosshairs as a competitive House seat for Republicans.

Lance Mackey loses beloved dog: Four-time Iditarod winner Lance Mackey posted on Facebook Sunday night that his prized dog "Zorro" has passed away. Zorro was among the patriarchs of Mackey's kennel, siring a number of other dogs used on Mackey's Iditarod and Yukon Quest teams, and helping Mackey to victory in both the 2007 Iditarod and Yukon Quest. "Zorro was an amazing sled dog, a champion and even more so, a dear friend," Mackey wrote on Facebook. "His spirit lives on in so many of his children and grandchildren." (Theresa Daily photo)

Got ash? Report it: Alaska volcanologists are have created a new on-line eruption and ash reporting website. The site, dubbed "Is Ash Falling?" will allow people to report when and where they encounter volcanic ash falls or eruptions, and will help volcano scientists track the movements of ash clouds dangerous to aviation. Two Alaska volcanoes have erupted recently: Pavlof Volcano, 590 miles southwest of Anchorage, began spewing ash in May, continuing sporadically for weeks. Mount Veniaminof, about 100 miles from Pavlof, began erupting in the middle of June.

Bug spray woes: A collective groan could barely be heard above the din of flapping insect wings across rural Alaska as the company that makes Buhach -- arguably one of the most popular bug remedies in the Bush -- has gone out of business. Buhach is a powder, made of crushed chrysanthemum flowers, and is usually burned to ward off mosquitoes and biting flies, but can also be spread on the floor to keep insects away. Good luck finding a replacement. This year’s mosquito bounty has cleared shelves across Alaska of other repellents.

State employees' work space gets squeezed: State of Alaska employees will see their work space reduced with new universal space standards starting in July, Juneau's KTOO reports. The guidelines will allow for more employees to fit into a smaller area, allowing other government agencies to move into a building and pay less in rent. The new standards are expected to save the state $125 million over the next two decades, but some employees are already fed up with the plans.

Man unearths 1960s military bomb: A man working on a bulldozer near Copper River Center stumbled upon a 30-pound military explosive while digging on private property, Alaska State Troopers report. The bomb is believed to be a “tracer bomb” used in the 1960s as a training bomb for military aircraft, spokesperson Beth Ipsen said Sunday. Whether the bomb had been detonated previously was unclear; it was destroyed with other explosives by a Fort Richardson Army Explosive Ordinance Disposal team on Friday afternoon.

Just say no to GMO? The Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly officially supports labeling genetically engineered food. A resolution passed Thursday asks the state and federal government to enforce labeling genetically engineered foods, following the “March Against Monsanto” an international day of protest that both Fairbanks and Anchorage residents participated in on May 25. “I believe that genetically modified food is bad for people and bad for the planet,” resolution sponsor John Davies said. “That’s what a lot of people also believe in, as evidenced by the people who signed up for the march and the 500 people who signed a petition that was presented to the Assembly.”