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Kyle Hopkins,Marc Lester

Alcohol & Me: Wellness Court

Nick Zywot’s mom stopped talking to him because of his drinking. After a decade of sobriety, police arrested him a few days after Christmas for DUI No. 6.Jesse Powell notched his fourth DUI in September. Tia Smart went to court 10 times for underage drinking before her latest assault charge.That was last year. Today, these Alaskans share two things in common: All chose to battle their way through a special court program designed to help them stay sober. And all face jail time if they screw up.Welcome to Wellness Court, an alternative to regular courtrooms that the Alaska Judicial Council and economics researchers say holds promise for cracking the cycle of Alaska inmates who can’t stay out of jail. Created in 1999 with a single Anchorage court, the program has expanded to 11 courts across the state with more venues under consideration, said program coordinator Michelle Bartley.Some courts are designed to help veterans or people who struggle with mental health problems. Others, like the Anchorage Wellness Court, focus on misdemeanor alcohol offenders who often have multiple DUIs on their rap sheet and face serious prison time if busted again.Those who agree to the program -- which can include mandatory use of anti-addiction medication, 12-step groups and intensive treatment -- face up to a year in prison. Their lives are in pieces. “You’ve lost your kids. You’ve lost friends. You’ve lost your husband. You’ve lost lots of personal relationships,” said District Court Judge David Wallace, who oversees the misdemeanor wellness court in Anchorage. “This is your last opportunity.”Another wellness court focuses on people accused of felonies. Over the past year, 521 people have participated in the “problem-solving” or therapeutic programs. A 2012 state study published by the Alaska Judicial Council and the Institute of Social and Economic Research found that those who do graduate are at least 30 percent less likely to re-offend.While specialty courts are relatively new to Alaska, the idea reaches back to the 1980s when drug cases began to overwhelm many U.S. courtrooms. By the end of the decade, frustrated judges suspected that prison time alone did little to stop addicts from committing new crimes upon release.Drug treatment courts emerged in an effort to slow recidivism.In the late 1990s, the same approach was being applied to people who kept getting in trouble with the law because they won’t or can’t stop drinking.It’s been hard to break the cycle of relapse, said Powell, who is 41. But things could be much worse.“I don’t deal well with guilt of any kind. Knowing that I caused somebody harm or death, (I) probably couldn’t live with that,” he said.In an effort to report on potential solutions to Alaska’s soaring rates of alcohol-related crime, the Anchorage Daily News recently spent two months visiting the Anchorage Wellness Court and talking with people working their way through the program. Contact Kyle Hopkins at khopkins@adn.com or on Twitter.
Tara Young
A group of good friends, lifelong Alaskans, got together to experience the magic of the longest day of the year in the heart of Alaska's Interior. Their drone helped beautifully capture the moment.
Alaska Public Media

I Am A Distiller | INDIE ALASKA

Indie Alaska is an original video series produced by Alaska Public Media in partnership with PBS Digital Studios. The weekly series captures the diverse and colorful lifestyles of everyday Alaskans at work and at play. Together, these videos present a fresh and authentic look at living in Alaska.In this episode, Sean Copeland and Heather Shade find a creative solution to making their way in small town Alaska. Their created Port Chilkoot Distillery in Haines, Alaska.
Kim Sunée,Tara Young
When it comes to travel, I've always paid as much attention to the journey as to the food accompanying the destination. In my early 20s, I was fresh out of university in the south of France with no real goal other than to find a place to belong (and where the markets were as lush as those in Nice). Where else, I wondered, would a Korean adoptee from New Orleans go next but to Sweden? I had never been before and it was relatively easy, back in the early '90s, to obtain a work visa, so I headed north to the land of tall, lean blonds, exotic midnight sun and salmon and dilled potatoes at every table.RELATED RECIPE: For dessert, Kim Sunée​'s rhubarb parfaitIt took me many years and countries to come back almost full circle, this time to Alaska, another land of wild upstream swimmers and even more midnight sun. What I love most about both Sweden and Alaska is the majestic beauty of the waters and surrounding land, everything Mother Nature decided to touch and bless with astounding grace. And I also appreciate how each culture anticipates warmer days, like sunflowers turning their full heads to the sun, open-faced, like the sandwiches in Swedish delis, with both joy and gratitude.Salmon runs, solstice parties, berry picking and days that have no end -- these are the moments of celebration this time of year. And as much as both Swedes and Alaskans might sometimes tire of their local fare, I am still in awe of the richness of the waters and the bounty of the local seafood, especially here in Alaska, including spot prawns, black cod, halibut and oysters, cold, briny and delicious. And I had never had such incredible salmon, wild and flavorful.My new cookbook, "A Mouthful of Stars" (Andrews McMeel) is an ode to the foods I've loved and tasted along my journey, including this recipe for pan-seared salmon, with the added color, texture and heat of chopped jalapeno and pistachio.Quick and easy pan-seared salmon with pistachio and herbsRecipe adapted from Kim Sunée's "A Mouthful of Stars," published by Andrews McMeel, May 2014Serves four1 cup combination chopped fresh herbs, such as fresh cilantro, mint and flat-leaf parsley3 tablespoons extra-virgin olive oil, dividedzest and juice of 1 lemon or lime¾ cup thinly sliced spring onion or sweet onion, such as Vidalia or Walla Walla (cut onion in half and then in ⅛-inch slices like half moons)1 small jalapeno, stem and seeds removed, thinly sliced1 tablespoon unsalted butter4 (6-ounce) filets fresh salmon, preferably skin-on and pin bones removedsea salt and fresh ground black pepper, to taste½ cup toasted, chopped pistachios (or walnuts)DirectionsCombine herbs, 2 ½ tablespoons olive oil, lemon zest and juice, onion and jalapeno together in a medium bowl; reserve.Pat salmon filets dry with a paper towel, score skin, using a sharp knife in a criss-cross pattern; season both sides with salt and pepper. Melt butter and remaining 1/2 tablespoon olive oil together in a large heavy skillet over medium-high heat until butter is frothy. Place salmon skin-side down and cook, without moving, 5 minutes. Reduce the heat if it's too hot. Check the skin (the skin should be crispy), turn gently to other side and let cook another minute for medium-rare or until cooked to desired doneness.Top with herb mixture and chopped pistachios; serve with extra lemon wedges.Kim Sunée has been the food editor for Southern Living magazine and Cottage Living magazine and her writing has appeared in Food and Wine, The Oxford American and Asian American Poetry and Writing. She is currently based in Anchorage. Her latest cookbook is "A Mouthful of Stars." Learn more at kimsunee.com.Contact videographer Tara Young at tara@alaskadispatch.com.
Alaska Dispatch News
Chris Franzen calls himself a fly fishing junkie from the foothills of North Carolina, “pretty much a fish bum”. On his days off, Franzen climbs mountains looking for the perfect “blue line." Blue lining means to take an atlas and look for the blue lines and find one with a nice gradient, hiking in no matter how difficult, fishing that blue line and striking it off the list or revisiting it for another round of fly fishing.
Alaska Public Media

We are a Pop-Up Restaurant | INDIE ALASKA

Indie Alaska is an original video series produced by Alaska Public Media in partnership with PBS Digital Studios. The weekly series captures the diverse and colorful lifestyles of everyday Alaskans at work and at play. Together, these videos present a fresh and authentic look at living in Alaska.Nathan Dolphin-Chavie left Anchorage to work in the Los Angeles fine dining scene, eventually becoming executive chef at a well regarded eatery. Looking for a new challenge, Dolphin-Chavie, along with LA-native Joshua Plesh, has returned to his hometown to bring a new culinary experience in the form of a temporary and intimate restaurant, Harvest Pop-Up.
Alaska Public Media

I am an Alaska Native Dancer | INDIE ALASKA

Indie Alaska is an original video series produced by Alaska Public Media in partnership with PBS Digital Studios. The weekly series captures the diverse and colorful lifestyles of everyday Alaskans at work and at play. Together, these videos present a fresh and authentic look at living in Alaska.In this episode, master Alaska Native dancer Haliehana Stepetin, born in Akutan, Alaska, has made it her life's goal to promote and teach the many styles of dance found throughout the diverse Alaska Native cultures. Special thanks to the Alaska Native Heritage Center.
Tara Young
Volunteers have netted and tagged up to 20 king salmon released at the mouth of Anchorage's Ship Creek in anticipation of Friday's start of the Slam'n Salm'n Derby. One tagged fish will net the lucky angler $1,000, according to derby officials. The rest will be worth $100 each.The derby is a fundraiser for the Downtown Soup Kitchen, and although tickets are free, donations from anglers brought in more than $50,000 for the soup kitchen last year. And 2013 was not a good year for Ship Creek kings or the anglers who fish the urban waterway -- last year's winner weighed 29 pounds, the smallest in derby history.With more healthy smolt being produced by the William Jack Hernandez Sport Fish Hatchery, derby officials and fishermen hope this year will see more and bigger kings caught. Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologists have called Ship Creek king salmon fishing the best it has been in years.The Downtown Soup Kitchen's Slam'n Salm'n Derby starts 6 a.m. Friday and ends at noon Sunday, June 22. The biggest fish will be worth a new 16-foot Cataraft and trailer.Watch this video on Vimeo or YouTube, and be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel for more great videos. Contact Tara Young at tara(at)alaskadispatch.com.
Tara Young

Siberian Yupik fashion designer Christina Alowa of Savoonga learned to sew skins from watching both of her grandmothers and her mother, Annie Alowa, while growing up on St. Lawrence Island in the middle of the Bering Sea."When my grandma taught me skin sewing, she cut out seal skin socks for one of my brothers, and she showed me how to do the running stitches. I tried that and she undid it. I tried again and she undid my stitches. The seventh time she took my stitches out I said, 'I'm done. I'm not going to do any more sewing.' But then she made me start with whip stitch and undid that again. She said 'Never use bad stitches. Try to make smaller stitches so the wind doesn't go through them.' I'm always thankful that she taught me the skin sewing, because that's my income," says Alowa.Six months of the year, Alowa and her siblings and parents would leave their village of Savoonga to set up camp for hunting and gathering. That's where her mother would gather animal skins for sewing."We lived subsistence. Subsistence means hunting for your skins and meat to eat," says Alowa.  Alowa uses beaver, seal, red and Arctic fox, land otter and cow hide for her creations."I can sew anything out of sealskin," Alowa said. She makes custom garments as well as beaver skin mittens, sealskin-covered boots and bearded seal plush toys. She's even made several sealskin power suits.Watch this video on Vimeo or YouTube, and be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel for more great videos. Contact Tara Young at tara(at)alaskadispatch.com.
Marc Lester

Alcohol & Me: Barry Hetlet

From the driver’s seat of his Anchorage Police cruiser, Officer Barry Hetlet passes many people out wandering the streets of Fairview and downtown Anchorage in the middle of the night. At all hours, people stand on the street corners of Ingra and linger downtown. During rare quiet moments, between the mayhem of 911 calls, he wonders how the people he sees landed in that place in life.“I’ve always been a real people-watcher, if you will,” Hetlet explained during a Saturday-to-Sunday shift in May. “For instance, there’s a guy standing right there on the corner and it’s 4:20 in the morning. It just makes me wonder, what’s his deal, you know? What kind of decisions did he make in life that kind of led him down this path? What kind of upbringing? What kind of unfortunate set of events that happened in his life to get him to where he is now?”From Hetlet’s perspective, not a lot of good things happen out on the streets of the district police call Area 11 at those hours. On one all-night ride-along in fall 2013 and another this spring, Hetlet and his colleagues rushed nonstop from problem to problem. Routine calls include checking on the welfare of people face-down drunk in the streets, intervening in home violence, stopping drivers they suspect are intoxicated and trying to keep a cork on potential trouble when bars close and patrons spill out into the street.Despite the unpredictable and varied nature of police work, Hetlet has noticed one constant on his nights and weekends shifts for more than six years: nearly all of his calls are alcohol related, he says. If there were no alcohol, people might find some other vice to indulge in. Then again, maybe Anchorage would need fewer police, he says.As it is now, on a typical weekend evening, a dozen or more calls often hold as police handle the most dangerous situations first. The aftermath of a bar fight might have to wait until a report of a gun violence is handled. A domestic violence response comes before a report of strangers sleeping in a residential yard.In this Alcohol & Me video, Hetlet describes life what the city looks like while most of Anchorage is sleeping. Photographs show he and his mid-shift patrol colleagues at work.“There’s a lot of people, they live in a bubble. They don’t really see all the stuff that goes on, and they don’t see what people do to each other,” he said. “It’s my job to help maintain that bubble. I’ll go out and deal with it so they don’t have to.”Hear many more voices in the Alcohol & Me video series.
Tara Young
The Ketchikan Visitors Bureau and filmmaker Deby Santos came together to create The Ketchikan Story Project, a series of short videos about the people and culture of the Southeast Alaska community of  Ketchikan. The stories range from mini-documentaries about the fishing community and Alaska Native history to profiles of bush pilots and artists. The intention was to give transient travelers a richer understanding of life in the region.With the film Ketchikan: Our Native Legacy, Santos wanted to shed light on the complex history of Tlingit, Haida and Tsimshian communities in Ketchikan.“I think even among the locals there is a misconception about the Native culture in town. It was an ever evolving story throughout the entire process, revealing complexities, passions, that at various times moved us to tears,” Santos said."Ketchikan: Our Native Legacy" received two Emmy awards in 2013 and the project received 7 Telly Awards. On Saturday, the latest segments of The Ketchikan Story Project won two regional Emmys, one for post-production on "The Bush Pilots," and a historical/cultural Emmy for "The Timber Years.""Ketchikan: The Bush Pilots" chronicles the history of aviation in Southeast Alaska, from the pioneer bush pilots integral to developing the area to today's bush pilots who keep commerce humming and communities connected. Through all the industry booms --mining, fishing, logging, tourism -- Ketchikan's bush pilots have been a lifeline, serving as scouts, air taxi drivers, medevacs and Pony Express all rolled into one. Without them, Ketchikan would remain even more distant from the rest of the world.“My first years in Alaska were spent flying a Twin Otter filled at times with tourists, fish boxes, mail, supplies and such,” said Santos. “I hold a healthy respect and admiration for the pilots who are faced with challenges unlike any other in the lower 48.  Needless to say, this was a very fun film to produce, coordinating with former colleagues, rescheduling for weather and the good nature of the cinematographer, Richard Cooper, to get in a harness and film from the back of a helicopter (old school/no drones) as we flew around old stomping grounds.”
Tara Young
"The ecology of the Arctic is changing at a fast rate," says Katie Christie a Ph.D. candidate at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Those changes are already having a dramatic effect on the landscapes and herbivores.Because of the decrease in their alpine habitat, ptarmigan may serve as an ecosystem "indicator" species of how the future of the Arctic might look.Contact Tara Young at tara@alaskadispatch.com.

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