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Alaska Beat

AK Beat: Legendary Alaska Democrat Niilo Koponen dies at 85

  • Author: Craig Medred
  • Updated: September 28, 2016
  • Published December 4, 2013

Fairbanks legend passes away: Niilo Koponen, a respected Interior homesteader, educator, wit and social activist, a Democrat who served 5 terms in the Alaska Legislature from 1983 to 1992, has died. The Koponen Family blog reports that Koponen passed away Tuesday at the Fairbanks Pioneer Home. He led a varied life full of learning and concern for others. After moving to Alaska to homestead an area near Fairbanks in 1952, Koponen was an active community volunteer and grassroots political activist. He was known for his mental acuity, erudition, and ability to read at a rapid pace with great clarity. He earned a PhD in Education from Harvard University in 1966, was a long-time educator and administrator at several Fairbanks elementary schools, and helped start the city's Head Start Program. Koponen was 85. A memorial gathering is planned for 2:00 pm on Jan. 5 at the Pioneer Park Civic Center.

Child severely beaten in Bethel: Police in Bethel, a hub community of more than 6,000 residents in Southwest Alaska, say a father severely beat his 2-year-old son, causing multiple bruises on the toddler's face and a fractured collarbone. Thirty-year-old Maurice Andrews Sr. has been charged with a single count of third-degree assault. On Nov. 25, officers responded to a welfare check and possible disturbance. The infant's mother told police she came home and found her son lying on the kitchen floor. He was crying and his face was swollen, bruised and bloody, police say. She said her 5-year-old son said their father, Andrews, threw the younger boy on the floor and began kicking him multiple times. The 5-year-old later showed facial bruising which police said was also caused by the father. Officers charged Andrews the next day for assault following an investigation, which is ongoing.

Bashir resigns over Palin comments: MSNBC host Martin Bashir resigned his position Wednesday in the midst of what he called "ill-judged comments" against former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin. Last month, Bashir left for what he called a "vacation" after he was criticized for graphic comments he made against Palin when she compared the national debt to slavery. Bashir, arguably best known for his controversial 2003 interview of Michael Jackson, had been hosting his self-titled show on MSNBC since Feb. 2011.

Report: Alaska judicial disclosure better than most, still inadequate: Ordinarily ranking 10th among the 50 states would be a good thing. But when 43 states (plus the District of Columbia) receive failing marks, 10th might not be good enough. That's the conclusion of a new report from the Center for Public Integrity, which examined disclosure rules for judges in each state's top courts. Alaska wins points for requiring disclosures regarding family members and for tough penalties for failing to comply, but gets dinged for not requiring much information about judges' financial liabilities and for allowing income reporting in "broad ranges rather than in exact dollar amounts."

Delta adding Fairbanks route: As part of an effort to boost its presence in Seattle, Delta Air Lines is adding service to Fairbanks, reports the Seattle Post-Intelligencer. The site notes that the company is both a partner and competitor with Alaska Airlines: While Delta benefits from the Seattle-based airline's broad network of connections from the hub, it's "also increasingly competing with Alaska on North American routes in and out of Sea-Tac." The flights to Fairbanks aren't the first new Alaska flights from Delta; earlier this year, the company added itineraries from Seattle to Anchorage.

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