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SitNews - Stories In The News - Ketchikan, Alaska
Thursday PM
January 31, 2019

Front Page Feature Photo By CAROL DOMME

Tongass Narrows on a January Day
Front Page Feature Photo By CAROL DOMME ©2019

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Southeast Alaska: Search for Overdue Life Flight Near Kake Suspended By MARY KAUFFMAN - The Coast Guard has suspended the search for an overdue aircraft with three people aboard near Kake, Alaska, at 5:30 p.m. today. The Coast Guard conducted maritime and aerial searches for more than 63 hours concentrated in an area of 240 square nautical miles.

Search Continues for Overdue Life Flight Near Kake

Photo of a Guardian Flight King Air 200
Flicker Photo

“Suspending a search for any reason is one of the most difficult decisions we have to make,” said Capt. Stephen White, Sector Juneau commander. “This was an extensive search effort in some very challenging conditions. We are thankful for the assistance from the search and rescue teams, Alaska State Troopers, Army Air National Guard and good Samaritans.”

The Coast Guard suspended the search for the overdue aircraft with three people aboard near Kake, Alaska, at 5:30 p.m. today. The Coast Guard conducted maritime and aerial searches for more than 63 hours concentrated in an area of 240 square nautical miles.

The Coast Guard searched for an overdue Guardian Flight King Air 200 medical life flight that was expected to land in Kake at 6:19 p.m. Tuesday, however, the aircraft never landed. There were three people aboard and the search was concentrated about 20 miles west of Kake, Alaska.

“Suspending a search for any reason is one of the most difficult decisions we have to make,” said Capt. Stephen White, Sector Juneau commander. “This was an extensive search effort in some very challenging conditions. We are thankful for the assistance from the search and rescue teams, Alaska State Troopers, Army Air National Guard and good Samaritans.”

This evening Randy Lyman, Guardian Flight said in a news release, "While the formal search and rescue effort has been discontinued and we recognize the gravity of the situation, we will continue efforts to recover our friends in order to hopefully reunite them with their beloved families."

Lyman said, "Our hearts are heavy, and we respectfully offer our deepest thoughts and prayers to our lost employees and their families. We will miss Pilot Patrick Coyle, Flight Nurse Stacie Rae Morse, and Flight Paramedic Margaret Langston. This tragedy is dreadful for everyone as they were our friends and neighbors."

The Coast Guard searched for an overdue Guardian Flight King Air 200 medical life flight that was expected to land in Kake at 6:19 p.m. Tuesday, however, the aircraft never landed. There were three people aboard and the search was concentrated about 20 miles west of Kake, Alaska.

Earlier today, Randy Lyman, Senior Vice President of Operations, Guardian Flight stated in a news release, "While the Coast Guard and others continue the search for the missing Guardian Flight aircraft off the coast of Alaska, the debris found by searchers unfortunately gives us a very strong indication that it was our airplane. While search and rescue efforts are continuing in an attempt to find survivors, we are resigned to accept that the aircraft was ours."

Lyman said, "On board were Pilot Patrick Coyle, 63, Flight Nurse Stacie Rae Morse, 30, and Flight Paramedic Margaret Langston, 43, all based in Juneau. (Margaret was earlier identified as Margaret Langston Allen, but we have been informed by her family that she was recently married, and her last name is now Langston.) We continue to ask for everyone’s prayers and support as we focus on families, crew members and the entire Guardian Flight team and extended family of all those involved."

Although there is an Associated Press article out which stated that debris from the missing aircraft has been found. "That has not been confirmed at this point, said Lyman. "We are meeting constantly with the Coast Guard and others on the search and rescue efforts to include the search pattern on known last position or trajectory.  As soon as we have confirmed any information from authorities we will share it immediately. This is a very sad and painful time for families, friends and Guardian Flight."

Wednesday, Capt. Stephen White, Coast Guard Sector Juneau commander said, “We have received reports of debris in the water and are concentrating search efforts near that area." Capt. White said, "Through our coordinated efforts with all involved we continue to actively search, we are thankful for the assistance rendered.”

Regarding the debris reported located in the water approximately 22 miles west of Kake, near the south tip of Admiralty Island in the Chatham Strait, the Coast Guard said in a news release Wednesday evening it cannot confirm the debris is from the overdue aircraft.

The aircraft departed from Anchorage on Tuesday. Watchstanders directed the launch of the Coast Guard Cutter Anacapa crew to conduct the search near the last known position of the aircraft. Good Samaritan vessels are also searching the area.

Coast Guard Sector Juneau watchstanders received notification Tuesday from Sitka Flight Services that a Guardian King Air 200 medical life flight overdue. Lt j.g. Colin McClelland, Coast Guard Sector Juneau command duty officer said Wednesday, “Coast Guard crews are diligently searching for the missing aircraft and individuals. “We appreciate the assistance of the good Samaritan vessels and we hope we locate the aircraft and people soon.” - More...
Thursday PM - January 31, 2019

Ketchikan: Vaccinations are key in fight against the flu - Flu Season is now official in Ketchikan.

Pamela Standley RN, Infection Preventionist for Ketchikan Medical Center along with PeaceHealth epidemiologists have confirmed there is sufficient data to declare that influenza has taken hold in the Ketchikan community. Patients have been admitted to to the medical center with confirmed cases of flu.

Flu brings serious health risks for young children, pregnant women and older adults. PeaceHealth clinicians recommend taking steps early to prevent the spread of the virus.

“First and foremost, getting the influenza vaccination is the best way to avoid or decrease symptoms of influenza, said Pamela RN, “Social distancing is also important; if you are sick, stay home. Lastly, if you must be around others, consider wearing a mask, always cover your cough and practice good handwashing.”

PeaceHealth joins with the U.S. Centers for Disease Control, recommending that everyone ages 6 months and older get a yearly vaccination against the highly contagious influenza virus.

“When a large group of individuals develops immunity after being vaccinated, others who cannot receive those same vaccinations due to illness, age or previous severe reactions will be better protected,” explained Pamela. “As with any medication, get all the facts about a vaccine and make informed decisions.” - More...
Thursday PM - January 31, 2019


Dunleavy Administration Releases FY19 Supplemental Appropriation Bills; Education Funding Cut $20 Million; Senate Democrats Dissatisfied By MARY KAUFFMAN - The Dunleavy administration transmitted two supplemental bills to the Legislature on Monday to address shortfalls in the State’s operating and capital budgets for Fiscal Year 2019 (FY19) and a separate disaster bill responsive to fire suppression needs, the Southcentral Earthquake Disaster, and subsequent recovery efforts.

Governor Michael J. Dunleavy said, “I took office with a promise to reduce State spending, put public safety first, and renew trust in government. To that end, I am presenting a supplemental bill for the Legislature’s consideration that returns money to the general fund.”

Quoting a news release from the Governor's office, the increases in the FY19 supplemental are offset by savings from efficiencies and reductions to appropriations that the State cannot afford. 

Alaska Office of Management & Budget Director Donna Arduin said Monday regarding the Governor's supplemental bills, “Working collaboratively with Departments, we have prioritized FY19 spending to align expenditures and revenues while meeting the State’s statutory obligations.” 

Arduin said, “We took on the responsibility of balancing the budget without additional supplemental requests.” The Office of Management and Budget, Departments, and public corporations worked to identify unspent funds that are redeployed in this proposal to meet the State’s immediate needs.

According to Senate Democratic Leader Tom Begich (D-Anchorage), Governor Dunleavy's FY 19 Supplemental Budget introduced Monday would cut the $20 million from education that passed with overwhelming bipartisan support during the 2018 session. According to a news release from Senate Democratic Leader Tom Begich (D-Anchorage), the nonpartisan Legislative Finance Division noted public school funding was roughly $25 million less in 2018 than in 2015. If the effects of inflation were considered, the loss to public education was more than $90 million.

Senate Begich issued the following response to the Governor's bills,  "Last year, the Senate and House put aside partisanship and crafted an education budget that responded to public demand for increased education resources. Local schools and communities have been hit hard with the high cost of energy and the lack of inflation-proofing of our funding formula. The actions of the Governor send our education system backward, something our schools can't afford.

"This week, the Senate Majority released their annual survey of Alaskans, and it underscores the need for increased education funding. Over 51 percent of Alaskans identified education funding as too low, and only 14 percent thought it was too high. Governor Dunleavy campaigned as the education Governor, among other things. This tells me he doesn't take his own words seriously. This is not how you build public trust," said Begich.

Begich said, "Alaska's education system is ranked second to worst in the nation when we should be second to none. The Senate Democrats, working with our Senate Majority colleagues and the House, will continue to push for a strong education system from Pre-K through UA; one that will create opportunities for every student and stability for our parents, teachers, and staff."

Tuesday, the Senate Finance Committee received a presentation from Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director, Donna Arduin, on Governor Michael Dunleavy's FY 19 supplemental budget. Major cuts to the bipartisan budget passed in the 2018 legislative session include $20 million in education, $3 million to Village Public Safety Officers (VPSOs), $2 million in school bond debt reimbursement, and $1.2 million in broadband grants. 

"Schools across this state have a desperate need for these resources. These funds were promised through our budgeting process in 2018 and I intend to honor them," said Senator Scott Kawasaki (D-Fairbanks). "Governor Dunleavy campaigned on being the education Governor and this is an unacceptable attack on our public education system. He is clearly not fulfilling his campaign promises to Alaskans." 

During questioning of the $20 million cut to education in Senate Finance this morning, the OMB Director noted that the money had not been disbursed by the state and said, "It is my contention that school districts and other entities seeking money or expecting money from the state should not be anticipating spending money that has not been allocated to them." Contrary to her belief, the Legislature agreed and appropriated these education dollars in May of 2018. 

"School districts throughout the state plan their budget in the spring and finalize those budgets after we conclude our budget process, and this is a direct threat to Alaskans' trust in government," said Sen. Kawasaki. "For the Director of OMB to conclude 'if they haven't spent it, it's fair game to take it' only halfway through the school year is short-sighted. Today she displayed her lack of knowledge with Alaska and how we conduct business and honor our word."

In addition to the appropriations to VPSOs in the FY 19 budget, lawmakers included legislative intent to disburse funding for recruitment and retention of VPSOs. 

"VPSOs are the first line of defense for tens of thousands of rural Alaskans. That money was appropriated last year to help recruit and retain highly qualified public safety officials, and I haven't seen anything from this administration that has encouraged that desire," said Senator Donny Olson (D-Golovin). "Pulling the rug out from underneath safe communities in rural Alaska is unacceptable. My constituents depend on these officers. I anticipate this is just the start of the broken promises of the Dunleavy Administration."

Other unspent funds identified that are redeployed in this supplemental bills proposal to meet the State’s immediate needs include: - More...
Thursday PM - January 31, 2019

Front Page Feature Photo By CARLOS RAMON

Carlanna Lake Trail
A cold day along the trail, around the second dock.
Front Page Feature Photo By CARLOS RAMON ©2019


Alaska: Alaska Attorney General alleges fraudulent distribution by opioid manufacturer Mallinckrodt - As part of the State’s ongoing efforts in battling Alaska’s opioid crisis, Attorney General Kevin G. Clarkson filed a lawsuit this week against opioid manufacturer Mallinckrodt PLC, Mallinckrodt LLC and SpecGX LLC, a Mallinckrodt subsidiary.

The lawsuit filed Tuesday alleges that for more than a decade, Mallinckrodt engaged in a deceptive marketing campaign that minimized the risks of opioids, especially the serious risks of addiction, and sought to convince doctors that there was a significant upside to their use for chronic pain by exaggerating their purported benefits. The State alleges these claims are unsupported by the scientific evidence and were, and remain, too often fatally false. The State claims that Mallinckrodt relayed, and continues to relay, its deceptive messages to prescribers, which it has spread through marketing materials, websites, and in-person sales calls. The suit also describes how the company relied upon and sponsored speakers’ programs, professional associations, and third-party groups (Front Groups) that disseminated its misleading messages while appearing independent and therefore credible.

Based on prescriptions, Mallinckrodt is the largest manufacturer of opioids in the United States, and in 2015 estimated that it accounted for 25 percent of the Drug Enforcement Administration’s (DEA) entire annual quota for controlled substances that it manufacturers. - More...
Thursday PM - January 31, 2019

National: OxyContin Maker Explored Expansion Into “Attractive” Anti-Addiction Market By DAVID ARMSTRONG, ProPublica (Creative Commons) - Not content with billions of dollars in profits from the potent painkiller OxyContin, its maker explored expanding into an “attractive market” fueled by the drug’s popularity — treatment of opioid addiction, according to previously secret passages in a court document filed by the state of Massachusetts.

In internal correspondence beginning in 2014, Purdue Pharma executives discussed how the sale of opioids and the treatment of opioid addiction are “naturally linked” and that the company should expand across “the pain and addiction spectrum,” according to redacted sections of the lawsuit by the Massachusetts attorney general. A member of the billionaire Sackler family, which founded and controls the privately held company, joined in those discussions and urged staff in an email to give “immediate attention” to this business opportunity, the complaint alleges.

ProPublica reviewed the scores of redacted paragraphs in Massachusetts’ 274-page civil complaint against Purdue, eight Sackler family members, company directors and current and former executives, which alleges that they created the opioid epidemic through illegal deceit. These passages remain blacked out at the company’s request after the rest of the complaint was made public on Jan. 15. A Massachusetts Superior Court judge on Monday ordered that the entire document be released, but the judge gave Purdue until Friday to seek a further stay of the ruling.

The sections of the complaint already made public contend that the Sacklers pushed for higher doses of OxyContin, guided efforts to mislead doctors and the public about the drug’s addictive capacity, and blamed misuse on patients.

Citing extensive emails and internal company documents, the redacted sections allege that Purdue and the Sackler family went to extreme lengths to boost OxyContin sales and burnish the drug’s reputation in the face of increased regulation and growing public awareness of its addictive nature. Concerns about doctors improperly prescribing the drug, and patients becoming addicted, were swept aside in an aggressive effort to drive OxyContin sales ever higher, the complaint alleges.

Among the allegations: Purdue paid two executives convicted of fraudulently marketing OxyContin millions of dollars to assure their loyalty, concealed information about doctors suspected of inappropriately prescribing the opioid, and was advised by global consulting firm McKinsey & Co. on strategies to boost the drug’s sales and burnish its image, including how to “counter the emotional messages” of mothers whose children overdosed. Since 2007, the Sackler family has received more than $4 billion in payouts from Purdue, according to a redacted paragraph in the complaint.

“The payments were the motivation for the Sacklers’ misconduct,” the complaint says. “And the payments were deliberate decisions to benefit from deception in Massachusetts, at great cost to patients and families.” - More...
Thursday PM - January 31, 2019


Analysis: The Fed changed its strategy on interest rates – here's what it means By THOMAS GILBERT - The Federal Reserve just took the monetary policy equivalent of a sharp 90-degree turn.

On Jan. 30, the U.S. central bank signaled that it was done raising benchmark interest rates after two years of aggressive rate hikes. As such, the Fed held its target rate steady at a range of 2.25 percent to 2.5 percent.

This stands in sharp contrast to six weeks ago, when the Fed was forecasting two hikes in 2019 and at least one more in 2020.

The abrupt change was maybe not a complete surprise given the market jitters in December following its last decision to raise interest rates. Back then, investors reacted negatively to the prospect of further rate increases slowing the U.S. economy, which has been performing well. Today, there are growing concerns about slowing growth abroad, which increases the risk of a domestic slowdown.

In my view as a scholar who studies how financial news affects markets, the Fed’s decision to keep rates where they are is a way for it to signal its awareness of significant and increasing risks on the horizon. By declaring that it “will be patient,” the central bank is giving itself plenty of room to maneuver if things get worse. - More...
Thursday PM - January 31, 2019

Analysis: Rap music and threats of violence: A case for the Supreme Court to decide By CLAY CALVERT - Kendrick Lamar won a Pulitzer Prize last year and Eminem set a record in 2019 for streams on Spotify. But the acceptance and embrace of rap music in mainstream culture isn’t shared by everyone – and that sometimes includes the police.

Controversy between the police and rappers has gone on at least since N.W.A. released “F–k tha Police” in 1988. In fact, scholars Charis E. Kubrin and Erik Nielson contend that “to this day, rap is largely defined by its hostility toward law enforcement.”

Now the Supreme Court, including one justice nicknamed “the Notorious RBG” – a reference to the rapper called “Notorious B.I.G.” – has been asked to address that hostility and what it means via the case of Knox v. Commonwealth of Pennsylvania.

As director of the Marion B. Brechner First Amendment Project at the University of Florida, I’ve often written about the complex relationship between rap music, free speech and threats of violence.

The Supreme Court has discretion not to take the case. It could decide whether to do so within the next few weeks. If it does choose to hear the case, it could have profound implications for freedom of speech in the United States. That’s because it concerns when people can go to prison for making statements that some considering threatening.

Protected or not?

Last August, the Pennsylvania Supreme Court upheld Jamal Knox’s conviction on the charge of making terroristic threats against two Pittsburgh police officers in a rap song he posted on YouTube.

Taking a page out of N.W.A.‘s playbook, he had also called his song “F–k the Police” and directed it at the officers, who had earlier arrested him and another rapper on drug charges.

So what did Knox say in his rap that was interpreted as a threat and landed him in trouble with the law? Here’s a snippet in which he names the two officers: - More...
Thursday PM - January 31, 2019


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Why Drug Prices Keep Going Up - and Why They Need to Come Down By Alex M. Azar II - Two years ago this month, President Trump promised the American people  that he would stop drug companies from “getting away with murder” with their annual ritual of price increases. Since then, his historic actions on drug pricing have produced historic results. One official measure of drug price inflation was actually negative in 2018, for the first time in almost 50 years.

But many problems remain. This January, drug companies once again announced large price increases — by one analysis averaging around 6 percent  per drug. This annual practice of large price hikes must stop, and prices must come down.

Drug companies defend themselves by pointing out that these annual increases are on the “list price” of drugs. List prices are typically reduced by additional payments to middlemen such as pharmacy benefit managers and health insurers. These payments, known in the industry as rebates, are now a standard practice in drug purchase contracts. Accounting for these payments, overall drug spending by insurers and patients does not rise as much as the list price increases might suggest, so drug companies claim that the annual list price hikes do not really matter.

But Americans know better, because increases in list prices hit their pocketbooks. Each January, many Americans see their insurance deductibles reset, and they have to start over again paying out of pocket — based on list prices — for the drugs they need. This can mean thousands of dollars in drug costs for the 47 percent of Americans in high-deductible health plans. Meanwhile, for especially expensive drugs in Medicare Part D, patients must pay coinsurance, which is calculated as a share of list price.

Drug companies make these annual price increases because the pharmaceutical market is almost the opposite of a real market. Pharmacy benefit managers, hired by insurers and employers, choose which drugs are covered, and a drug with a higher list price is often a more attractive choice to cover than a cheaper competitor. - More...
Thursday PM - January 31, 2019

jpg Opinion

Big or small, radiation can affect your health By Art Nash and Jennifer Athey - Certain words can create anxiety depending on your life experiences. One of those words is radiation. This is especially true for those of us who grew up during the Cold War and had under-the-desk drills, saw yellow rectangle “Fallout Shelter” signs at school and came to know geography framed by Hiroshima, Nagasaki, Three-Mile Island and Chernobyl.- More...
Saturday PM - January 26, 2019

jpg Opinion

Re: Edwards' Mess By Gigi Pilcher - I agree 100% with John Herrington's Letter regarding prosecution of each and every adult employed by the KGDSB who knew (first hand) about the sexual assault/sexual abuse allegation. - More...
Friday PM - January 18, 2019

jpg Opinion

Vote for Donna Frank By Kathleen Yarr - I have known Donna Frank since 1987. I hired her to work on the KIC Welfare Reform program in 1994 when I was the Director of Social Services.
- More...
Friday PM - January 18, 2019

jpg Opinion

The Edwards' Mess By John Harrington - The Ketchikan School Board investigation into the Edwards' mess has been completed. The Executive Summary is available. The School Board is busy preparing for alterations in their policies. Great. - More...
Monday PM - January 14, 2019

jpg Opinion

RE: Abolish Salmon Hatcheries? By Teri Dawe - I read the letter with interest. This has been a complex ongoing largely unrecognized problem for an extremely long time. - More...
Monday PM - January 14, 2019

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