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AK Beat: Begich lukewarm on odds of a Palin challenge

Sarah Palin Stephen Nowers photo

Begich pegs likelihood of a Palin Senate run at 30 percent: Sen. Mark Begich isn't sweating about a possible Senate run by former Alaska governor and onetime Republican vice presidential nominee Sarah Palin. In an interview with Politico, Begich gave Palin a "30 percent chance" of entering the Republican primary set for August. Begich suggests in the interview that Palin would only run for Senate in order to stay relevant on the national scale. The Alaska Democrat also a took a dig at Palin's residency, noting she did not apply for a Permanent Fund dividend in 2013. Palin has yet to endorse a candidate in the Alaska Republican primary. The registration deadline for the race is June 2.

Hike beside Harding Icefield among best in U.S.: Alaska has one of the most beautiful hikes in the U.S., according to a top-10 list published by Foders Travel. The day hike begins in Kenai Fjords National Park near Seward on the Kenai Peninsula. The uphill is steep at times, taking visitors through the forest, above the tree line and above the Harding Icefield, which, in case you miss winter already, is a glacier of ice and snow.  The 8.2-mile roundtrip includes 1,000 feet of elevation gain every mile, according to the National Park Service. For those anxious to get outdoors, the trail isn't clear of snow and ice yet. Ice cleats and trekking poles are recommended. And don't forget, its bear country. 

Anchorage's REDDI program nabs 200 drunk drivers: The Anchorage Police Department is touting the effectiveness of its Report Every Dangerous Driver Immediately, or REDDI, program after 200 calls to Anchorage Police Department since July of last year resulted in arrests of drunk drivers. “Even more importantly, each impaired driver removed from the street has the potential of saving untold lives,” the police said in a press release. As a token of thanks for helping nab impaired drivers, Capt. Dave Kock is now sending each REDDI caller whose call results in an arrest a handwritten note and key tag with the words “I Made The Call, I Made a Difference.”  

Joyride ends in minor injuries for Nikiski teen: An 18-year-old Nikiski resident went cruisin’ on a Kenai Peninsula back road with a carload of pals, lost control of the car and ended up tumbling off the roadway, according to Alaska State Troopers. The crash reportedly happened near milepost 2 of Miller Loop Road in Nikiski, a small community that’s grown along with the oil companies that line the highway extending north from Kenai. After getting a call shortly before noon on Wednesday, troopers, firefighters and medics responded to the crash scene. Luckily, speed demon Destany Feik-Trent only broke an arm and suffered other minor injuries, and three passengers walked away from the wreck despite two of them not wearing seatbelts. An investigation found the teen was driving north on Miller Loop toward Holt-Lamplight Road “at a high rate of speed in a 2002 Buick Rendezvous. Feik-Trent lost control of the vehicle causing it to leave the roadway and roll multiple times.” Feik-Trent was taken to Central Peninsula Hospital in Soldotna and will likely pay more than medical bills; troopers cited the driver for not having a valid driver’s license and negligent driving. Alcohol was not a factor in the crash, troopers say.

Ain't nobody got time for a GVEA meeting, apparently: Citing a "culture change" to make its annual member meeting leaner and more efficient, Golden Valley Electric Association failed to have a quorum at its annual meeting Wednesday night, meaning no new business could be voted on. Only about 400 people showed up to the co-op utility's meeting, well short of the 650 needed, according to the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner. Gone was the "carnival-like atmosphere" of bucket truck rides and bingo games that have characterized past meetings. Also gone were the utility bill credits of $25 and $15 that brought out 2,000 in 2012 and 1,200 in 2013. Official new business is now on hold until 2015.

A history of exploding whales: The small town of Trout River in Newfoundland, Canada is contemplating what to do and bracing for the worst as a dead blue whale has washed up on its beach and begun to expand. The worst, of course, is a whale of an explosion (sorry). That might sound implausible at first, but there’s a well-documented history of whales blowing up -- or being preemptively exploded -- a history charted in this Atlantic piece, complete with photos and a few videos you’ll want to watch well away from your lunch hour. And thanks to a webcam hosted at hasthewhaleexplodedyet.com, you can also keep tabs on the fate of the Newfoundland whale carcass.

USGS photographic tour of 1964 Alaska earthquake: The United State Geological Survey released an infographic map and a new report Tuesday featuring photographs of the 1964 Alaska earthquake as part of a commemoration of the quake’s 50th anniversary. The 9.2 magnitude earthquake was the largest in recorded history in the U.S., killing more than 100 people, causing massive destruction across Alaska’s largest city and triggering local tsunamis that caused significant damage in the Southcentral communities of Whittier, Valdez and Seward. The earthquake reshaped theories of plate tectonics, and in its aftermath, Alaska got serious about building structures with seismic hazards in mind. Check out the USGS’s new report and infographic map online.

Alaska Airlines weathering Delta onslaught: Despite increasing competition with the much larger Delta Air Lines, Alaska Airlines continues to do well financially, the company says. In a report in CAPA Centre for Aviation, which analyzes the aviation market, notes the growing overlap between the former partners who’ve increasingly become competitive as Delta adds a Seattle hub, may lead to oversupply (something Alaskans likely already know, and have reason to be grateful for). Still, the Seattle-based Alaska Airlines, which dominates air travel in the 49th state, posted strong numbers in the first quarter of 2014, the piece reported. As Alaska’s partnership with Delta erodes, the Centre for Aviation piece suggested Alaska might look to strengthen ties with American Airlines. One thing that can’t hurt Alaska’s financial picture is its fuel use; a report released Wednesday showed that Alaska was the most fuel-efficient airline in the U.S. in 2011 and 2012.

Alaska part of East Coast environmental lawsuit: Why is Alaska involved in a lawsuit over the cleanup of Chesapeake Bay? That’s the question environmental news site Grist asks, as it sums up the case. The suit comes from the American Farm Bureau Federation and other agricultural interests over a plan to clean up the bay, which has suffered from generations of runoff. The plan targets animal waste and fertilizer, but some of the states joining the suit fear it could set precedent with regard to the EPA’s ability to regulate waste under the Clean Water Act. Many of the 21 states who’ve joined the suit opposing the plan are in the Mississippi River Basin, and fear similar clean-up plans there that might affect agricultural activities. Alaska has little agricultural activity, but the EPA recently made headlines in the 49th state announcing it would use provisions of the Clean Water Act to preemptively review the proposed Pebble Mine in the Bristol Bay watershed. 

Bears can climb rocks, too: We already knew bears could climb trees and even urban Alaska fire escapes. Now we know they can rock climb, too. In a video shot in March of this year in Santa Elena Canyon, and posted at Women's Adventure Magazine, a Mexican black bear momma and her less enthusiastic cub tackle a short but tricky section of canyon wall with some surprisingly technical moves. Mexican black bears, found only along the U.S./Mexico border, are an endangered local subspecies of the American black bear (Ursus americanus) common throughout Alaska and large swaths of North America.