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Alaska Dispatch News

Alaska U.S. Senate candidates Begich, Sullivan debate at UAA

Incumbent Democratic U.S. Sen. Mark Begich faced his Republican challenger, Dan Sullivan, for the first time Wednesday evening in a debate in Anchorage, with the two candidates drawing sharp distinctions between their visions of the state’s future and its path over the nearly six years since Begich was elected.The contrast was stark, with Begich seeking voters’ support for another term in Washington, D.C., where he said he’d worked with other lawmakers to push forward pragmatic solutions to challenges like health care costs, the nation’s immigration crisis, and its slow economic recovery from the 2008 recession.Begich’s attitude was perhaps best summarized by remarks in his closing statement.“I want to talk about what’s possible,” he said. “At the end of the day, I’m going to sit down with people, listen to folks, try to find that common thread that binds us.”Sullivan, meanwhile, laid out a more pessimistic view, saying people in Alaska were losing hope and that Begich had failed to reverse what Sullivan described as an unsustainable path for nation. Voters should choose him, Sullivan added, because “we’re running out of time.”Read more: Sharp debate between Sullivan, Begich kicks off general election campaign
Tara Young
From livestock to live music, giant veggies to jousting, everyone finds something to enjoy at the Alaska State Fair -- as long as they're willing to brave the wet weather.Read more: Dinosaurs? Pork chops? Volunteers help fairgoers find the wayFrom giant cabbage to cheap tickets: tips for navigating the Alaska State FairPhotos: The 2014 Alaska State FairWatch 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)
Tara Young

Berry-picking season is upon us, in all parts of Alaska. From Arctic Valley to Nome, from the Kenai Peninsula to the mossy tundra of the Denali Highway, wild blueberries are in full fruit. These berries are easy to pick and incredibly good for you. Antioxidants, substances that help prevent the damaging effects of oxidation on cells throughout your body, are plentiful in Alaskan wild blueberries. So eat many and eat often! 
Tara Young

Camp Fire Alaska’s Rural Program has been giving kids in rural parts of the state a daycamp-like experience for more than 40 years. This summer the program is serving youth in more than 27 villages, providing education about healthy life choices, including cold-water safety and swim lessons.Camp Fire is a nonprofit organization that started its rural program to address the needs of remote parts of Alaska, including a rate of drowning 10 times higher than the national average. “Positive messaging for healthy lifestyle choices in rural communities is extremely important," said Nicole Lebo, Camp Fire’s Director of Program Services. "Unfortunately in this state we’re number one in the worst kinds of things, so youth have a hard road ahead of them. We just want to increase the amount of positive adult relationships that they have, and increase the opportunities they have for different types of programming, that they don’t get to see throughout the rest of the year.”The small rural villages of Iliamna and Newhalen are connected by a six-mile road and share a school, but are still fairly isolated. “A lot of the rural villages we’re in … because they’re off the road system, are pretty remote, so they only have the people in that community there on a regular basis,” Lebo said. “They are sometimes disconnected from other communities, disconnected from resources. Typical things like food, or the availability to go to day camp. And so ... having us bring a food program, bring our staff, bring the energy, contributes a lot to the community in the summer,” she said.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)
Tara Young,Megan Edge

Julie Riley began working with refugees at a quaint Mountain View garden at McPhee Park, officially named Fresh International Gardens, in 2007. This year she has been working with a group of Nepali-speaking Bhutanese, who fled their home country of Bhutan after years of poverty, repression and civil war."Some of the people I have talked to, who are a part of this program, have said 'men came with guns. They burned my house. I had to flee with two babies on my back,'" said Riley.According to Riley, the program provides opportunity for "Anchorage's newest residents" to make change, practice their English and become part of the local community.On one July day this summer, Anita Gurung and her family were among the gardeners. With smiles on their faces, they pulled root vegetables out of the ground to sell at a local farmers marketWhen the gardeners harvest the plants, they listen carefully to Riley. She is a horticulturalist with the University of Alaska Fairbanks Cooperative Extension Service, and she suggests how much to put in each bundle of their product and suggests prices at which to sell them. The program is administered by the CES and Catholic Social Services Refugee Assistance and Immigration Services. Gurung said she's not sad about leaving Bhutan, but her parents are. She said they left their homes, their land -- "everything.""My son was just born in 1990," said Bhai Subba. "The Bhutan government, they say that after two months you guys have to leave. They say if we don't maybe they gonna kill. And then we just leave."The gardeners sell the fresh vegetables and herbs in the parking lot of the Northway Mall in East Anchorage from 10 a.m. until 4 p.m. Wednesdays, and at the Spenard Farmer's Market from 9 a.m. to 2 p.m. Saturdays.
Tara Young,Suzanna Caldwell

NEWHALEN -- George Hornberger is a man on a mission: Get his tiny community totally off of diesel fuel power generation.Hornberger’s background isn’t in electricity. For years he was a bush pilot for Iliamna Air Taxi, flying people between remote communities in the Bristol Bay region. It’s probably fairer to say his background is in efficiency.After retiring from flying, he admitted he was frustrated after learning that the electric cooperative wasn’t running effectively. So he went to his longtime friend, INN Electric Cooperative board president Tinny Hedlund, and told him if he couldn’t get anyone to run the hydro plant, he’d do it himself.Hedlund said to go for it, and now the small village electrical co-op he runs in Southwest Alaska is showing big savings.Hornberger runs INN -- Iliamna Newhalen Nondalton -- Electric, a tiny village electric cooperative on the north shores of Iliamna Lake. Between the three communities, it serves approximately 600 people, using primarily a hydropower project tucked into the mountains about 12 miles north of the lake’s edge.Read more: After almost 20 years, Iliamna hydro project finally hits its strideWatch 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)
Loren Holmes

For 33 years, Janet Carr-Campbell has been teaching Alaska kids singing and dancing through her nonprofit summer program, The Music Machine.Backstage at the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts last weekend, Janet was busy coordinating lighting, set design, and props, as well as making sure the kids all arrived for their first rehearsal in the theater.“What really makes this special for me is that kids who were in Music Machine now have grown up and have kids of their own, and some of those kids are in Music Machine now,” said Janet.Excited kids eagerly found their spots on stage amidst colorful blocks and an Americana-themed backdrop. Janet patiently guided them through one of their songs, encouraging them to sing out and find their spots on stage.“We become like a family for this six-week workshop. We have older kids watching over little kids. There are great friendships that develop,” she said.“As they grow up, some of these kids go on to perform with the Anchorage Concert Chorus and the Anchorage Opera. They’re not only on stage but they’re also the audience members.”Anchorage audiences will have a chance to see the kids of The Music Machine perform on stage at the Discovery Theater through Saturday, August 2, 2014. For tickets visit Center Tix.Watch this video on Vimeo or YouTube, and be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel for more great videos. Contact Loren Holmes at loren(at)
Tara Young
Every two years, Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson opens its gates to the public for two days of free aerial demonstrations, military equipment displays and aircraft tours. “It’s the largest single event in all of Alaska,” said Dave Peters, treasurer for the Alaska Air Show Association, a nonprofit that assists in organizing the open house.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)
Craig Medred,Tara Young
Alaska big-game guide Joe Hendricks lived the life of legends. For four decades, he roamed the wilds of the 49th state like some sort of northern, real-life version of Robert Wilson, the professional hunter in one of Ernest Hemingway's most famous short stories -- "The Short Happy Life of Francis Macomber."Hendricks' game was big bears and Dall sheep, not the lions and buffalo of Wilson, but his life was much the same. Over the years, he estimates his clients killed more than 100 grizzly bears, often known in Alaska simply as brown bears, and more than 300 sheep."We risked our lives," Hendricks told Alaska Dispatch News videographer Tara Young ( in an interview earlier this year. "I risked my life, not just for the clients, on several occasions. I risked my life in order to recover the game."By the time the interview was conducted, Hendricks was discredited and dying of cancer, though with his shock of long white hair and salt-and-pepper beard, he still looks debonair and significantly younger than his 78 years. Hendricks spent hours meeting with Young to talk about his fall from grace in one of the darker hours of Alaska big-game hunting.Shortly before Christmas 2011, Hendricks found himself caught up in a federal sting and charged with 34 felonies related to illegal hunting in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.Then one of Alaska's oldest and most respected big-game guides, Hendricks was a victim, in large part, of letting other guides use his exclusive hunting area in the Brooks Range, but as he admits in the video, he wasn't totally innocent either.READ MORE: Legendary Alaska guide's fall from graceWatch 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)
Laurel Andrews


GoPro cameras beware: Come to Alaska and you might end up as a wild animal’s lunch.An encounter with a red fox on a remote Alaska island in mid-July left a GoPro camera mangled and in need of major repairs -- but made for some interesting footage, director Jonathan VanBallenberghe said Monday.Shot on July 12, the video shows a red fox taking off with the camera and gnawing at it with sharp white teeth as VanBallenberghe yells in the distance.VanBallenberghe was shooting footage on Round Island, one of seven small islands that comprise the Walrus Islands State Game Sanctuary in northern Bristol Bay, for a film he plans to make with University of Alaska Anchorage professor Travis Rector."We went to Round Island to acquire footage in order to make a fulldome planetarium show about this special place," VanBallenberghe writes in the YouTube description. The island is home to walruses, sea lions and hundreds of thousands of nesting birds, he said.About 30 foxes live on Round Island, VanBallenberghe said from Arizona Monday, and have never had any human predators.“They learned basically that humans are entertaining,” he said.He already had great footage of the foxes, and was hoping to get a low-angle close-up, he said. VanBallenberghe put the camera on the ground as a fox approached.The fox quickly grabbed the camera and ran off. “I ran after it, thinking there was a slight chance I would get it back,” VanBallenberghe said.On Round Island, foxes have ample access to food, VanBallenberghe said. Dead voles are scattered throughout the island that he said foxes have killed for fun. The foxes are “so used to going after little things just for entertainment,” he said, that his GoPro was likely no different.He searched for the GoPro for about eight minutes, he said, before finding it mangled among the grass.The damaged camera turns on and records, but the outer lens and cover were gnawed off, VanBallenberghe said. He will be sending it in for repairs.“I don’t care really,” he said. “I’m excited to have something interesting.”His video now joins the YouTube genre of animals eating GoPros, he said, including a viral video from earlier this summer of an Alaskan grizzly gnawing on a camera.Contact Laurel Andrews at
Bob Hallinen,Lisa Demer

ALONG KUSKOKUAK SLOUGH -- On a sunny summer day, the quiet peace of a remote fish camp on a slow-moving branch of the Kuskokwim River became a crazy-busy place of heading and gutting, cutting and hanging.The salmon were running, and Bethel elders Roy and Ida Alexie, along with daughters, grandkids and extended family, were catching them.“I’ll take the heart!” 6-year-old Alyssa “Frankie” Wassillie called out as her mom -- one of Ida’s many nieces -- guided an ulu through the crunch of salmon bone and flesh.Life at this Yup’ik camp blends deep traditions with modern twists, bursts of intense work with stretches of easy play and relaxation.Read more: At Kuskokwim River fish camp, smokehouses fill with fish and tradition Watch this video on YouTube or Vimeo, and be sure to subscribe to our YouTube channel for more great videos.
Alaska Dispatch

The Arctic in the Anthropocene: Emerging Research Questions

A National Academy of Sciences program investigates the rapidly changing landscape in the Arctic and how the changes affect regions that rely on frozen water. This “new normal” of reduced ice and snow has repercussions across the Arctic, from ecosystems and people to climate, according to researchers.This video focuses on the National Research Council report that has determined emerging questions to help us understand how these changes will affect society and the environment globally.