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SitNews - Stories In The News - Ketchikan, Alaska
January 06, 2016

Front Page Feature Photo By BARBARA MORGAN

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Front Page Feature Photo By BARBARA MORGAN

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Alaska: President Takes Executive Actions to Reduce Gun Violence; Alaska's Congressional Delegation Responds By MARY KAUFFMAN - The 44th President of the United States Barack Obama speaking to the nation Tuesday announced he is taking executive action to reduce gun violence in the United States. When making the announcement, Obama said, he was not speaking to debate the last mass shooting, but to do something to try to prevent the next one.

President Takes Executive Actions to Reduce Gun Violence; Alaska's Congressional Delegation Responds

“We know that we can’t stop every act of violence. But what if we tried to stop even one?” President Obama, 01/05/16
Photo grab from White House video

Obama asked during his speech, "How did we get here? How did we get to the place where people think requiring a comprehensive background check means taking away people’s guns?"

President Obama said, "Now, I want to be absolutely clear at the start -- and I’ve said this over and over again, this also becomes routine, there is a ritual about this whole thing that I have to do -- I believe in the Second Amendment. It’s there written on the paper. It guarantees a right to bear arms. No matter how many times people try to twist my words around -- I taught constitutional law, I know a little about this -- I get it. But I also believe that we can find ways to reduce gun violence consistent with the Second Amendment."

In his speech Obama said, We all believe in the First Amendment, the guarantee of free speech, but we accept that you can’t yell “fire” in a theater. We understand there are some constraints on our freedom in order to protect innocent people. We cherish our right to privacy, but we accept that you have to go through metal detectors before being allowed to board a plane. It’s not because people like doing that, but we understand that that’s part of the price of living in a civilized society."

During Tuesday's comments, Obama said, "Every single year, more than 30,000 Americans have their lives cut short by guns -- 30,000. Suicides. Domestic violence. Gang shootouts. Accidents. Hundreds of thousands of Americans have lost brothers and sisters, or buried their own children. Many have had to learn to live with a disability, or learned to live without the love of their life."

According to the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, in 2013, there were 33,636 gun deaths. Suicides made up 63% (21,190). Homicides made up 33% (11,208). The remaining 4% (1,345) of the gun deaths included unintentional discharges, legal intervention/war and undetermined.

The President said the United States of America is not the only country on Earth with violent or dangerous people. "We are not inherently more prone to violence. But we are the only advanced country on Earth that sees this kind of mass violence erupt with this kind of frequency. It doesn't happen in other advanced countries. It’s not even close. And as I’ve said before, somehow we’ve become numb to it and we start thinking that this is normal."

Obama said instead of thinking about how to solve the problem, this has become one of our most polarized, partisan debates -- despite the fact that there’s a general consensus in America about what needs to be done. That’s part of the reason the President is going to hold a town hall meeting this Thursday in Virginia on gun violence. "Because my goal here is to bring good people on both sides of this issue together for an open discussion."

New Executive Actions to Reduce Gun Violence and Make Communities Safer include keeping guns out of the wrong hands through background checks; increasing mental health treatment and reporting to the background check system; & shaping the future of gun safety technology. (Click here to read the detailed Fact Sheet)

"How did this become such a partisan issue? Republican President George W. Bush once said, “I believe in background checks at gun shows or anywhere to make sure that guns don’t get into the hands of people that shouldn’t have them.” Senator John McCain introduced a bipartisan measure to address the gun show loophole, saying, “We need this amendment because criminals and terrorists have exploited and are exploiting this very obvious loophole in our gun safety laws.” Even the NRA used to support expanded background checks. And by the way, most of its members still do. Most Republican voters still do," said Obama.

Obama said what’s often ignored in this debate is that a majority of gun owners actually agree. Obama said, "A majority of gun owners agree that we can respect the Second Amendment while keeping an irresponsible, law-breaking feud from inflicting harm on a massive scale."

Alaska's Congressional Delegation responded Tuesday to President Obama's announcement of his decision to take executive action to reduce gun violence.

U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) said in a prepared statement, "Our Second Amendment rights are non-negotiable. Many Alaskans depend on the Second Amendment to safeguard their way of life, whether it’s for personal protection, subsistence, or sports and recreation. I have worked hard to ensure that these rights are not infringed upon and I will continue to do so.

Murkowksi said, “The President is no friend of practical bipartisan solutions to the gun violence problem, and he is no friend of the Second Amendment. He refuses to work with Congress on initiatives that will actually fix gun violence issues such as the bipartisan Grassley-Cruz proposal that I co-sponsored in 2013 or the bipartisan Cassidy-Murphy mental health legislation in the current Congress which I also co-sponsored. Instead, President Obama is yet again sidestepping Congress to act with the stroke of a pen on an issue concerning our Constitutional rights." - More...
Wednesday PM - January 06, 2016

Southeast Alaska: Endangered Species Protection Denied to Alaska’s 'Alexander Archipelago Wolf' By MARY KAUFFMAN - The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service (FWS) announced Tuesday it would not list the Alexander Archipelago wolf as a threatened or endangered species under the Endangered Species Act.

Endangered Species Protection Denied to Alaska’s 'Alexander Archipelago Wolf

Alexander Archipelago wolf
Image: J. Cannon, B. Armstrong, Courtesy Audubon Alaska Oct. 2015 Report

The decision responded to a petition from the Center for Biological Diversity and Greenpeace requesting Endangered Species Act protection for Alaska's Alexander Archipelago wolf. Tuesday's announcement by FWS stated that although the Alexander Archipelago wolf faces several stressors throughout its range related to wolf harvest, timber harvest, road development, and climate-related events in Southeast Alaska and coastal British Columbia, the best available information indicates that populations of the wolf in most of its range are likely stable.

Although the FWS decision said they didn’t consider the Prince of Wales Island wolves to be separate from the broader Alexander Archipelago wolf population throughout Southeast Alaska and British Columbia, the agency acknowledged “…that the taxonomic status of wolves in southeastern Alaska and coastal British Columbia is unresolved and that our knowledge of wolf taxonomy in general is evolving as more sophisticated and powerful tools become available…”, leaving the door open if new research warrants reconsideration.

“We are deeply disappointed by this U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service decision, which will allow the Tongass National Forest timber program to continue to liquidate the magnificent old-growth forests of southeast Alaska, needed by the wolf and its prey,” said Larry Edwards, Greenpeace forest campaigner and longtime resident of the region. “There’s no question that the continued existence of Alexander Archipelago wolf populations in southeast Alaska is threatened.”

“This decision won’t help the wolves on Prince of Wales Island, but having the agency name logging as the major stressor of the wolf population calls on the Forest Service and Alaska Department of Fish and Game to step up and make management decisions that will prevent the wolves’ continued decline in the Tongass. Ultimately, the Forest Service needs to end old-growth clearcut logging on the Tongass,” says Melanie Smith, Audubon Alaska’s Director of Conservation Science.

U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski (R-AK) welcomed the FWS’ decision that no listing was warranted and that wolves on Prince of Wales and nearby islands do not qualify as a distinct population segment for listing under the ESA. Murkowski, in comments to the Service in the Summer of 2015, argued that the listing was not needed given changes in hunting and trapping quotas by the Alaska Board of Game and because of policies of the Service. Murkowski also expressed concern that a listing could have affected timber harvesting and other activities on both public and private lands on Prince of Wales Island, and perhaps in other parts of Southeast.

Murkowski said in a prepared statement, “Alaska has the largest population of gray wolves in America. There is agreement that the gray wolf population in Southeast Alaska is healthy and stable in most places and growing in others,” Murkowski said. “At a time when timber harvesting on Prince of Wales Island is barely a tenth of its levels of two decades ago, the attempt by some environmental groups to list the wolf seemed to be an effort solely to end the last of the remaining timber industry in Southeast Alaska. Fortunately, it did not work.”

U.S. Senator Dan Sullivan (R-AK) said in a prepared statement, “I commend the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service for following sound science, instead of the political whims of Outside interest groups, to determine that the wolves in Southeast Alaska do not warrant protection as an endangered or threatened species under the Endangered Species Act. I’m also pleased that the agency determined that wolves on Prince of Wales and nearby islands do not qualify as a distinct population segment for listing consideration under the ESA.

Sullivan said, “As I wrote to Fish and Wildlife Director Dan Ashe last month, the ‘listing of wolves in Southeast Alaska will have serious consequences, particularly in regards to land management on the Tongass National Forest and on the few private, state, and Alaska Native owned lands in the region.’ I sent Director Ashe the most recent studies on the wolves and urged him not to make a decision lightly. I’m pleased that he and his agency listened to Alaskans on this matter. And I hope that the agency will continue to make its determinations based on science rather than politics.”

Alaska Congressman Don Young (R-AK) also welcomed the news from the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service. In a prepared statement Young said, “I appreciate the decision by the Fish and Wildlife Service and hope they follow suit with this sound approach on other potential listings in Southeast, Alaska, including the Yellow Cedar,” said Congressman Don Young. “While this decision is welcomed and comes at a time when the State needs some good news, I have no doubt that outside organizations will attempt to revisit this issue in the future. Their imaginations know no end when attempting to manipulate the system to support their extreme agendas and goals.”

The Center for Biological Diversity and Greenpeace support listing the Alexander Archipelago wolves as endangered. They say the wolves den in the root systems of very large trees and hunt mostly Sitka black-tailed deer, which are also dependent on high-quality old forests, especially for winter survival. A long history of clearcut logging on the Tongass National Forest, private and state-owned lands has devastated much of the wolf’s habitat on the islands of southeast Alaska. In particular, the Tongass is currently logging 6,000 acres of old-growth forest in the Big Thorne timber sale, the biggest old-growth sale in more than 20 years. - More...
Wednesday PM - January 06, 2016


Alaska - National: Republican Led Congress Sends Obamacare Repeal to President’s Desk for the First Time - For the first time the Republican-led Congress has sent a measure to gut the Affordable Care Act to President Barack Obama's desk.

“This important vote by the House finally puts a bill on President Obama’s desk that guts Obamacare and also defunds Planned Parenthood,” House Majority Whip Steve Scalise (R-Louisiana) said in a prepared statement. “We have been working hard to get a bill on the President’s desk that forces him to confront the many failures of his healthcare law, while also denying taxpayer funds to groups who perform abortions. If the President vetoes this important legislation, it will further underscore the importance of electing a President this November who shares our American values and who will sign this critical bill into law.”

With the passage by the House today, the bill will now be sent to President Obama. It is expected that the President will veto the bill repealing the Affordable Care Act law, also known as Obamacare. Scalise, who helped devise a plan to use an unusual procedure known as "budget reconciliation" to pass the bill, acknowledged it was a symbolic gesture.

Congressman Don Young (R-AK) agreed. "Today the House, with the Senate, voted to repeal Obamacare. We know that the President will probably veto it."

H.R. 3762, the Restoring Americans’ Healthcare Freedom Reconciliation Act of 2015, passed by the Senate and House today, dismantles major provisions of the Affordable Care Act, including the elimination of the individual mandate and employer mandate penalties, stopping any taxpayer bailout of insurance companies, and repealing a myriad of burdensome taxes – the Cadillac tax, the medical device tax, the small business, and others.

Further, the legislation blocks federal funding for Planned Parenthood while redirecting funds to community health centers for women’s health. According to the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office, H.R. 3762 will save the American tax payer $516 billion over the next 10 years.

The U.S. House of Representatives with a vote of 240-181, approved H.R. 3762, a bill to repeal what has been called by Republicans as the most egregious provisions and taxes at the heart of the President’s healthcare law, including penalties for the individual and employee mandate.

Alaska Congressman Don Young (R) shared his thoughts following the passage of H.R. 3762. Young said in a prepared statement, “For years, the Alaskan and American people have endured the detrimental impacts of the President’s sweeping healthcare takeover. You can keep your doctor, you can keep your healthcare plans, they said. Your premiums will be lower and your deductibles will go down. Well, not a single one of these promises came true. Alaskans opposed the law long before the Obama Administration mischievously shoved it down our throats and they continue to ask Congress for relief from this overbearing and unworkable law." - More...
Wednesday PM - January 06, 2016

Alaska: Travel and Hiring Restrictions Announced by Governor - Yesterday, Governor Bill Walker announced restrictions on executive branch travel and hiring as part of the administration’s ongoing efforts to reduce state spending. The Governor's action formalizes what many state departments and agencies have already informally begun to do. Travel and hiring considered essential to protect the life, health and safety of Alaskans will be among the only exceptions.

“As we work toward plugging the $3.5 billion hole in our budget, it is critical that state employees continue to take every step possible to ensure we are being good stewards of our resources,” Governor Walker said.

Walker said, “As we worked on our fiscal plan, the comment my team and I heard most from Alaskans is that we must continue to rein in spending. Much thought and discussion have gone into each cut we have made and will make. Many agencies and departments have already implemented these cost-cutting measures. The announcement I’m making today establishes a consistent standard and process across the administration. These restrictions on hiring and travel alone won’t fix the deficit, but it’s an important step.”- More...
Wednesday PM - January 06, 2016


jpg Michael Reagan

MICHAEL REAGAN: Joking About Gun Control - When I was a kid my father gave me three rifles and a shotgun.

First he gave me a single-shot .22 rifle. I was about eight.

Then in 1958, when "The Rifleman" came on, my father gave me a rapid-fire lever-action .22 Winchester rifle like the one Chuck Connors had. I was about 12.

Later, when I was a teenager my father gave me a .243 hunting rifle to hunt deer in Arizona and a 12-gauge shotgun to hunt birds.

He bought all the guns legally. But he gave them to me without first doing a background check to see if I was a criminal.

He didn't even check with my mother to see if I was doing my homework.

That was a joke.

But President Obama's use of executive action to make it tougher for law-abiding citizens to privately buy, sell or trade guns is no joke.

At his teary appearance with the survivors and victims of gun violence on Tuesday he said it was time for the country to show "a sense of urgency" to end gun violence. - More...
Wednesday PM - January 06, 2016

jpg Dick Polman

DICK POLMAN: Obama Gun Reforms vs Republican Gun Servants - Why do Republicans nauseatingly refuse to address America's gun murder epidemic? Why are they so determined to sustain our well-earned reputation as the most violent nation in the civilized western world? Why are they jerking their knees in reflexive opposition to President Obama's modest attempts to defend our right to remain alive?

Of course we know why. It's Obama hatred and gun lobby love.

You would think, judging by their tiresomely predictable reactions, that Obama is poised to dispatch an army of flying monkeys to swoop into American homes and spirit away the 270,000,000 guns that we apparently hold dear.

But this fever swamp rhetoric is flatly contradicted by reality. Obama is basically tweaking existing gun laws to make them work better. Which is exactly what Republicans have been urging all along.

For instance, the federal background check system is notoriously understaffed and under-financed. Under federal law, if the FBI can't complete a check within three days, the buyer gets his gun without the check having been completed. That's what happened last year in Charleston, South Carolina. Remember the white racist terrorist who killed nine people at the historic black church? He got his gun because the understaffed feds didn't obtain his criminal record within the mandated three days.

So Obama is beefing up the background-check system - directing more money and manpower to weed out the criminals and mentally ill. Plus, he's earmarking an extra $500 million to mental-health services, to better help those who have woes between their ears.

Yet the Republicans don't like any of that. - More...
Wednesday PM - January 06, 2016

jpg Editorial Cartoon: Bladder control

Editorial Cartoon: Bladder control
By David Fitzsimmons ©2016, The Arizona Star
Distributed to subscribers for publication by Cagle Cartoons, Inc.


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letter Alaska Marine Toll Ferry By Patrick Jirschele - We have to pay to take the Alaska Marine Highway. We pay a toll. The toll for two people and a nineteen foot car from Bellingham to Ketchikan is $1204 or about $1.80 a mile. Ketchikan to Wrangell is $101 or a toll of $2.06 a mile. Wrangell to Petersburg, $3.40 a mile. Petersburg to Juneau about $3.00 per mile. - More...
Monday PM - January 04, 2016

letter Supreme Court Reinforces Science-based Salmon Management, Value of Setnet Fishery By Andy Hall - The Alaskan families who comprise Cook Inlet’s century-old East Side Setnet fishery are both elated and relieved that Alaska’s Supreme Court has ruled the anti-setnet initiative unconstitutional. As a result of this decision, hundreds of Alaskan families will go into the new year without the threat of losing our businesses, our incomes, our investments and our way of life hanging over our heads. More important Cook Inlet’s salmon runs will continue to be managed by the principles of conservation and science rather than politics and misinformation. - More...
Monday PM - January 04, 2016

letter Four Oblivious Apocalyptic Horsemen By Donald Moskowitz - President Obama, Secretary of State Kerry, former Secretary of State Clinton, and Senator Bernie sanders are oblivious to the danger posed by ISIS. - More...
Monday PM - January 04, 2016

letter Ketchikan Board of Education By A. M. Johnson - School Board President Ms. Michele O Brien's letter in retort to Ms. Moran makes one's eyes cross. This writer read Ms. Moran's offerings complete with backup documentation, in addressing Ms. Moran's view of the current school board's activities. Is there some item or part addressed that is incorrect or false? I find in reading the newspaper articles following school board meetings the meeting's news reporting content is woefully lacking in academic content. - More...
Tuesday PM - December 29, 2015

letter U.S. Capitol Christmas Tree By U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski - Alaskans came together in a year-long effort to provide the first tree from Alaska to stand tall as the “People’s Tree”. The U.S. Capitol Christmas tree currently gracing the West Lawn of our nation’s Capitol traveled over 4,400 miles from the Chugach National Forest by land and sea by the generosity of Alaskans who provided everything from ornaments to cranes to trucks, and many months of their time and care. You can see the labor of love Alaskans shared in the thousands of ornaments on the tree that were made out of recyclable materials and creative flair from people across the state. - More...
Tuesday AM - December 22, 2015

letter RE: Smoke and Mirrors By Michelle O'Brien - In response to the recent letter by Agnes Moran, my question would be: If you are so keenly interested in education, as you seem to have been in the last five years, why have you not run for the Board of Education? - More...
Tuesday AM - December 22, 2015

letter Fear and loathing in the USA By Norbert Chaudhary - When I last dared to turn on my TV, talking heads were shouting in apocalyptic language that our leaders were destroying our country by wasting time and money on climate change rather than doing everything possible to make us "safe from the terrorists." - More...
Tuesday AM - December 22, 2015

letter Scorched earth logging By Joseph Sebastian - Last November in Petersburg, Alaska's newest environmental group, "The Greater Southeast Alaska Conservation Community " [] gave a slide show on the latest industrial clearcut logging now taking place on Sealaska land, state forest land and other land grant interests. The show consisted of images from a recent overflight and Google-Earth satellite overviews of Sealaska lands on the Cleveland Peninsula and P.O.W.'s Election Creek, and other examples .Needless to say, the push by Senator Lisa Murkowski to privatize land from the Tongass National Forest in order to rapidly clearcut and export round logs as fast as possible, was shocking, upsetting and holds dire consequences into the future. - More...
Tuesday AM - December 22, 2015

letter DOI IG to audit possible use of federal funds by State for predator control By Rick Steiner = The U.S, Department of the Interior’s (DOI) Inspector General (IG) announced Monday (attached) that in its upcoming 5-year audit of annual funding provided by DOI to the Alaska Department of Fish & Game (ADFG), it will address issues raised in a complaint filed last year that Alaska is using federal funds to support its controversial predator control program, in direct violation of federal policy. - More...
Tuesday AM - December 22, 2015

letter Get a Healthy Start to the New Year By Susan Johnson - Every year, millions of Americans make New Year’s Resolutions. Do a Google search, and you’ll find health related resolutions are among the most common: lose weight, exercise more, eat healthier, stop smoking, drink less, watch less TV, reduce stress. - More...
Tuesday AM - December 22, 2015

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