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Alex DeMarban

U.S. Sen. Mark Begich has jumped on the blow-up bandwagon.

He wants the "pirate fishing vessel" Bangun Perkasa towed out into the Bering Sea and blasted to smithereens while being used for target practice.

That's what the Anchorage Democrat told U.S. Coast Guard Commandant Adm. Robert J. Papp, according to a press release from Begich's office...

Alex DeMarban

Dinner for 500?

No problem if you're Rob Kinneen, a charismatic Tlingit chef and the brains behind a natural-food campaign designed to raise awareness about local Alaska choices from seal to yarrow.

Asked to serve dinner for hundreds attending the National Indian Health Board’s annual meeting in Anchorage, Kinneen called up buddies in culinary schools and spearheaded a feast at the Alaska Native Heritage Center last week.

Food stations dotted the winding path behind the center that takes visitors through birch stands and Alaska Native history, with animal skin kayaks along the water and display dwellings modeled after ancient homes...

Alex DeMarban

Rep. Ed Markey, a Democrat from Massachusetts, says he's calling for a Congressional hearing on the "kickback scandal" involving the U.S. Army Corps and an Alaska Native corporation.

The U.S. Attorney's Office in Washington, D.C. released information yesterday about the alleged scheme, noting that four people had attempted to defraud the federal government of $20 million. Criminal charges were brought against two Army Corps contracting officers and Harold Babb, an executive from EyakTek . The company is a subsidiary of an Alaska Native village corporation representing Cordova...

Alex DeMarban

Election results of two key issues are on hold in Barrow because of problems with vote-counting machines.

The North Slope Borough mayor's race seems to have drawn many people to the polls. It resulted in hundreds of write-in votes, said borough clerk Jeannie Brower. That might be good news for Fenton Rexford of Kaktovik, who's a write-in and one of five candidates.

Rexford is a write-in candidate because he missed the deadline to get his name on the ballot by a day, Brower said. His mailed application was post-marked in time. But the borough doesn't count the post-marked date, and it was late by the time it reached Barrow. Rexford, an assembly member, is working to change the borough law so postmarked dates are used in the future...

Alex DeMarban

In a statement sent to media, an Alaska Native corporation CEO said the company immediately fired an executive after learning he had been implicated with others in an alleged scheme that defrauded the federal government of millions of dollars...

Alex DeMarban

Who you gonna call when rats threaten to invade Unalaska?

The Aleutian Solution.

That's the nickname for Dan Magone, the marine salvage expert who for years has lived on the storm-socked island 800 miles southwest of Anchorage. When wayward ships plow into beaches, Magone's your man.

But salvage means more than repairing and dismantling vessels. Magone’s an exterminator, too, using weaponry ranging from poison to firearms to attack when rat-infested vessels show up. State law prohibits vessels with known rat populations from entering state waters and Magone is state-certified to use pesticides and other means to kill them.

“We're the SWAT team to make sure the rats don't get off the ship -- and if they do, they don't get off beach,” he said...

Alex DeMarban

The Obama administration on Monday affirmed a controversial offshore oil lease sale, a key step in the process to allow drilling in the Arctic waters off Alaska.

Lease Sale 193, which was held in 2008, covered 2.8 million acres in the Chukchi Sea. But it's been been held up in court after environmental and Alaska Native groups sued to stop it. Companies paid $2.6 billion in bids, with Royal Dutch Shell and ConocoPhillips leading the way. The decision by U.S. Interior Secretary Ken Salazar is not permission to being exploratory operations in the Chukchi Sea. Lots of permits designed to reduce risks will be required before drilling can occur in the lease sale areas, noted a statement from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management announcing the decision Monday...

Alex DeMarban

The latest issue of Alaska Economic Trends suggests that much of rural Alaska is a good place to be a female if you're interested in decent paying jobs.

The report found that women since 1988 have shrunk the gender earnings gap in Alaska, if ever so slowly.

The report cover features turn-of-the-century photos, from 1903, of a traditional Eskimo man and woman. Things have surely improved since then, though the report doesn't go back that far. It does say that women working in Alaska last year earned 67 cents for every dollar earned by a man. That's a nickel better than it was in 1988, when the earnings gap was first measured. But the gap was half a cent smaller in 2004...

Alex DeMarban

Alaska Native and American Indian communities suffer significant obstacles in their attempts to access mental health care, though they suffer disproportionately high rates of suicide, a federal report found.

"One in five hospitals and clinics in Indian Country provide no mental health services. Only half provide drug therapy treatments, and treatment often is handled by non-licensed staff at dozens of facilities," says an Associated Press report .

The report was released today by U.S. Sen. Max Baucus and comes from the Inspector General of the Department of Health and Human Services...

Alex DeMarban

A series of reports on how Alaska's exploration incentives and oil tax credits stack up against those in other oil provinces is ready for viewing by the public.

Sort of.

State Rep. Mike Hawker, chair of the Legislative Budget and Audit Committee, said he doesn't want to start a “land rush” to his Anchorage office. But if someone really wants to slog through the 300-page volumes stuffed with technical data, he'll find them a computer and let them do some reading...

Alex DeMarban