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SitNews - Stories In The News - Ketchikan, Alaska
February 10, 2019

Front Page Feature Photo By RACHELLE SPEIGHTS

Bugge's Beach
Also known as Rotary Beach, located about 3 miles south of Ketchikan.
MARTIN BUGGE'S BEACH: Part of the 1915 Gold Nugget Claims 
Front Page Feature Photo By RACHELLE SPEIGHTS ©2019

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Ketchikan: Home destroyed in early morning fire By MARIE DUDZAK, KRBD - An early morning fire Friday destroyed a home and sent one person to the hospital for evaluation.  Power was out in some areas due to the blaze. - Read or listen to this KRBD story...


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Fish Factor: FCC Warns Big Fines for Noncompliant Fishing Net Buoys By LAINE WELCH - Small electronic beacons that are being widely used by increasing numbers of fishermen could net them big fines. 

Automatic Identification Systems (AIS) are easily attached to nets, longlines and pots and signal the locations of the gear via a vessel’s navigation system, laptops, even cell phones.  

The inexpensive buoys, which range from $47 to $199 from most online retailers, are regarded as a God send by fishermen in the way they help locate gear as well as being a potential money saver.

“If you’re not sitting on your gear with your vessel either on radar or on AIS, somebody can come along that doesn’t think there’s any gear in the water in the absence of an AIS marker and set over the top of you. Or a trawler could potentially come and nail your gear and it could result in substantial financial loses,” explained Buck Laukitis, a Homer-based fisherman and a member of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council. 

AIS is required for boats over 65 feet and in certain shipping lanes, said Jerry Dzugan, director of the Alaska Marine Safety Education Association . But warning bulletins are advising that other users and sellers are subject to fines of more than $19,000 to $147,000 per day for those who continue to use them.

 A Federal Communications Commission bulletin  says “anyone advertising or selling these noncompliant fishing net buoys or other noncompliant AIS devices should stop immediately, and anyone owning such devices should not use them. Sellers, advertisers, and operators of noncompliant AIS equipment may be subject to substantial monetary penalties.”

The reason for the severe warning?  

The systems being used on fishing gear are not authorized by the Federal Communications Commission nor the U.S. Coast Guard. The small AIS buoys transmit a strong signal without essential navigational safety information and can interrupt or obscure the situational transmissions of other boat operators.  

“In crowded areas, the signals create a lot of clutter for vessels to navigate around - is it a vessel they are seeing on their plotter or just a buoy?” said Dzugan. “It’s especially problematic for large vessels or tugs with a tow that can’t maneuver quickly.” 

He added that the cheaper, small units coming from China also do not have proper standards for signals which cause more identification problems.

The FCC seems very committed to getting AIS fishing gear buoys out of the water and off the market, said Michael Crowley of National Fishermen.

“Even if you have a certified AIS device, it shouldn’t be used for a fishing buoy because its purpose is vessel safety or personal rescue,” he wrote. “Equipment for tracking nets is authorized only when it operates in the 1,900 to 2,000 KHz band, not AIS frequencies, and they cannot be advertised as AIS approved.”

Alaska’s Congressional Delegation sent a letter last month to the FCC requesting reconsideration for AIS use by fishermen, Laukitis told radio station KMXT in Kodiak. Meanwhile, he advises fishermen to forego the beacons.   

“I don’t think the word’s really gotten out, but we’re kind of in a pickle for this summer,” he said. “Fishermen are definitely not going to want to use these AIS beacons given the FCC’s warning. That means we’re probably going to have a lot more conflicts on the fishing grounds.” - More...
Sunday PM - February 10, 2019

Alaska: State Privatizing Alaska's Only Psychiatric Hospital; Some lawmakers concerned with decision - Friday Commissioner of the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services, Adam Crum, announced that he is taking over the day to day management of Alaska Psychiatric Institute (API) in Anchorage, which is Alaska’s only psychiatric hospital. Commissioner Crum has contracted with a private for-profit health care company to provide administrative support and leadership for the hospital. Details of the apparent sole source, non-competitive contract with Wellpath Recovery Solutions have not been disclosed.

Crum invoked his authority under state law to immediately assume management of the Anchorage-based Alaska Psychiatric Institute (API). Alaska state law (AS 47.32.140) allows for the commissioner to assume either temporary or permanent management of a licensed health care entity when there is reasonable cause to believe there is a danger to the health, safety or welfare of individuals receiving care from that entity.

In a news release, the Deptartment of Health & Social Services wrote the decision was made in response to the considerable problems that continue to put patients and staff in jeopardy at API and in light of recent and ongoing investigations from the Centers for Medicare and Medicaid Services (CMS) and other state and federal regulatory agencies.

As part of assuming authority over API, Commissioner Crum made the choice to contract with Wellpath Recovery Solutions, a nationally recognized health care company with a proven record of success, to provide administrative leadership of the facility with continued oversight from the state, quoting the news release.

“During the course of recent investigations at API, we determined immediate steps were needed to protect patients and staff and ensure complete compliance with federal regulations, which also allows the facility to continue to receive federal funds,” said Commissioner Crum. 


Serious efforts have been made towards addressing the deficiencies identified by federal and state authorities, but progress is not being made quickly enough, according to the Alaska Department of Health & Social Services. While additional security measures have recently been implemented at API to better ensure patient and staff safety, contracting with Wellpath was deemed necessary to further address safety and patient rights issues and bring the facility rapidly into complete compliance with federal and state standards.

The DHSS news release states, "The contract with Wellpath provides for administrative oversight with the intent of correcting problems of patient and staff safety and patient rights, bringing the hospital into rapid compliance with its regulatory bodies, improving the therapeutic environment, and preparing the hospital to return to its full capacity by June 30, 2019. 

During the initial phase of the contract, DHSS news release wrote that Wellpath will bring in a team of experts to fill key leadership positions at API to support the successful completion of their mission. All API staff will remain in their positions as State of Alaska employees. Gavin Carmichael will continue as API’s acting chief executive officer. If Wellpath is successful in the first phase, the company will assume full responsibility of API after July 1, 2019.

“I recognize this decision may take Alaskans by surprise, but it was not made lightly. Changes have been needed at API for a very long time,” said Commissioner Crum. “This decision will help us solve these long-standing problems at API, and then allow us to more effectively broaden our focus to address the entire continuum of behavioral health care across Alaska.” 

According to Commissioner Crum's announcement, Wellpath, which is a recent merger of Correct Care Solutions and Correctional Medical Group Companies, has had success bringing facilities similar to API back into compliance with CMS and Joint Commission standards. In Massachusetts, Wellpath substantially improved conditions at the Bridgewater State Hospital after assuming operations in 2017. All hospitals managed by Wellpath are fully accredited by the Joint Commission. 

Representatives from the Alaska Mental Health Trust, the Alaska Behavioral Health Association, North Star Behavioral Health, Alaska Regional Hospital and Fairbanks Memorial Hospital joined the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services for the decision announcement Friday. According to DHSS, they are in support of this course of action.

“By taking this step with the support of the health care community, the State of Alaska and our health care partners can begin to seriously address API’s longstanding problems and Alaska’s behavioral health crisis,” said Commissioner Crum. 

However, details of the apparent sole source, non-competitive contract have not been disclosed, which leaves many unanswered questions by lawmakers. According to a news release, Senator Bill Wielechowski (D-Anchorage) discovered Friday that Wellpath Recovery Solutions was formerly known as Correct Care, which is affiliated with GEO Group, a company that focuses on privatizing prisons and mental health services.

Prior to the announcement, House Democrats sent a letter to Governor Dunleavy to disclose the Office of Management and Budget (OMB) Director Donna Arduin's financial connections to the GEO Group or its affiliated groups. Senate Democrats have not received a response from Governor Dunleavy. 

"There is no doubt that significant improvements need to happen at API. For years they have been understaffed and underfunded," said Sen. Wielechowski. "But just last week the Department of Health and Social Services acknowledged they were 'already seeing a turnaround' at API. This makes the decision to issue an apparent sole source, non-competitive contract to Wellpath all the more questionable."

Quoting Wielechowski's news release, preliminary research shows that Correct Care and the GEO group have been sued hundreds of times in recent years, violated first amendment rights, and provided poor medical care that led to multiple deaths during their operations in other states. According to the Anchorage Daily News, the GEO group operates most halfway houses in Alaska and noted critics have said, "management has allowed drugs and contraband to infiltrate the halfway houses and the number of inmates escaping to rise dramatically."

"Privatizing mental health care raises a whole host of issues where for-profit companies have an incentive to make a profit off those who desperately need psychiatric services. This company's past is troubling and deserves a hard look. The legislature needs to carefully vet this transaction," said Sen. Wielechowski.

Senator David Wilson (R-Wasilla), chairman of the Senate Health and Social Services Committee, released a statement in response to the Dunleavy administration’s decision to address safety issues with the Alaska Psychiatric Institute (API). 

Wilson said, “I appreciate the Dunleavy administration and Commissioner Crum taking swift action to combat these important issues. DHSS quickly identified the limitations to the facility’s current capabilities and accessed the necessary tools and resources to keep patients, workers, and Alaskans safe.”

“Clearly, something had to be done at API because staff and patients are in jeopardy. I am cautiously optimistic that the leadership transformation announced today will be successful in turning things around at API,” said Representative Ivy Spohnholz (D-Anchorage), who is the most recent Chair of the Health and Social Services Committee in the Alaska House of Representatives. “Further, I look forward to continuing to work with other legislators to provide diligent oversight of API. I hope the Dunleavy administration will accept the necessity of additional funding for behavioral health treatment in Anchorage and throughout Alaska to address our growing safety crisis both at API and in communities across the state.”  - More...
Sunday PM - February 10, 2019


Legislation Addressing Employee Recruitment and Retention Introduced - Senator Jesse Kiehl (D-Juneau) introduced legislation Friday that provides teachers,troopers, firefighters and other public employees the chance to earn a pension.

"Alaska teachers and public employees don't earn the private sector's defined benefit of Social Security. A lot of folks even lose Social Security benefits they earned in past jobs, making public service less attractive in Alaska," said Sen. Kiehl. "We need to recruit and retain the highest quality Troopers, firefighters, teachers, and other public employees. This bill will make Alaska competitive, and it's fiscally prudent, especially in a time where we're looking for government efficiencies."

According to Kiehl, the proposal, Senate Bill 46, will save schools, cities, and the State of Alaska money because the bill shares the risk of rising health costs between workers and employers. The new pensions won't cost employers more than the defined contribution system, and analyses of past versions of the bill show it saves the state roughly $70 million in the first ten years.  - More...
Sunday PM - February 10, 2019

Alaska: Kuskokwim Tribes Fight Donlin Mine Permits; Leaders Assert Major Mine Permits are Illegal, Rushed, and Ignore Local Concerns - Thursday a consortium of  tribal governments from the Kuskokwim region led by Orutsararmiut Native Council (ONC) has filed an appeal of two permits recently issued by the State of Alaska to Donlin Gold, a mining project owned by Canadian based mining giants NovaGold and Barrick Gold.  The Tribes are represented by Earthjustice in the appeals.

Located in Western Alaska, in the Yukon Kuskokwim region, Donlin Gold is said to be one of the largest known, undeveloped gold deposits in the world, with probable reserves estimated at 33.8 million ounces of gold, according to Donlin Gold's website. The Donlin Gold project will be an environmentally sound, open-pit gold mine. Located about 10 miles from Crooked Creek Village, the project would process approximately 59,000 short tons of ore per day.

If it is constructed, the proposed Donlin Gold mine will be one of the world's largest open-pit mines. The project will dramatically change the Yukon Kuskokwim region, threatening the health and well-being of residents, communities, and wildlife for generations.  Construction of the mine may permanently damage water, fish and game resources, and the subsistence lifestyle of the Yukon Kuskokwim River Delta. Donlin’s proposed reclamation and closure plan is of great concern to tribal leaders who demand a plan that protects future generations who will have to live with the consequences of the Donlin project for all time.

“Our concerns and request for dialogue on waste management, reclamation, fish habitat and many other permits have been ignored repeatedly by the State.” said Peter Evon, ONC Executive Director.  “Given our voices and rights as tribal governments have seemingly fallen on deaf ears our only recourse here is to challenge these permits that would allow Donlin Gold to operate outside of state water quality standards and leave a toxic pit in the Kuskokwim drainage that will require water treatment forever.”   

“We are not at all satisfied with what Donlin has proposed in terms of full reclamation and water treatment obligations.  We believe that the State of Alaska must address the inadequacy of their current plan, including an inadequate bond amount before the people of the Kuskokwim can even begin to feel comfortable with accepting this kind of a risk.“ said Evon. 

Since taking office last December the Dunleavy administration has issued two final permits and dozens of new draft permits for the project without any consultation with Tribal Governments according to a news release from the Orutsararmiut Native Council. - More...
Sunday PM - February 10, 2019



PHIL KERPEN: Trump's FCC Could Make WiFi Great Again - Transportation Secretary Elaine Chao did the right thing when she put the brakes on the Obama administration's regulatory mandate that would have forced an expensive technology called dedicated short-range communication (DSRC) in all new cars and trucks sold in America. The Obama rule would have imposed total costs of $108 billion and raised the price of every new car about $300 - for a technology that is already obsolete.

Now comes the related policy question of what to do with the big chunk of prime spectrum that would have been used for the Obama plan - will it be opened up for unlicensed use, enabling gigabit WiFi to make the Internet work better on all of our devices?,Or will it continue to sit fallow on the prospects of potential future automotive use?

The Department of Transportation (DOT) has zealously guarded the 5.9GHz band since it was set aside by the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) in 1999. Twenty years later, DOT's longtime preferred DSRC technology remains nearly undeployed - the technology is in just 18,000 of the estimated 270 million passenger vehicles in the country. And the Obama, DOT's own testing found, that "every DSRC device deployed had to be recalled at least once... to identify and correct issues" and "there were more false alerts generated by the systems than anticipated."

Meanwhile, radar, lidar, camera-based, and cellular 4G technologies have been developed and enable a wide-array of driver-assist features. As 5G is deployed it will bring even greater capabilities. - More...
Sunday PM - February 10, 2019


TOM PURCELL: Time to Embrace Cursive Handwriting Again - While organizing my home office a few weeks ago, I came across a le tter my grandfather wrote back in 1924.

He wrote that eloquent letter to his best friend's wife, consoling her on the loss of her mother. His cursive handwriting was artful - perfect penmanship.

He wrote the letter when he was 21. Since he died at 34, when my father was only 3, it is among the most cherished items I have from a grandfather I never got to meet.

Such is the power of the handwritten letter, an art that has died along with the art of cursive handwriting.

You see, many American schools have phased out lessons in cursive. There is a waning need for it in the modern era, some argue, and the classes take too much time.

Cursive originated centuries ago. It's the result of technological innovations such as inkwells and quill pens made from goose feathers.

Because ink dripped when the quill was lifted from the paper, it made sense to connect letters in words together in one flowing line - and the art of cursive writing began. - More...
Sunday PM - February 10, 2019

jpg Political Cartoon: Howard Schultz and Democrats

Political Cartoon: Howard Schultz and Democrats
By Daryl Cagle ©2019, Cagle Cartoons
Distributed to paid subscribers for publication by Cagle Cartoons, Inc.


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jpg Opinion

DEGREES OF DISHONESTY, CPAs INTENTIONALLY VIOLATING THE LAW By David G Hanger, EA, MBA - There are only three classifications of individuals who are licensed to practice before the Internal Revenue Service and/or the Tax Courts of the United States. These are enrolled agents, attorneys, and certified public accountants (CPAs). All licensed practitioners have client privilege (which is to say what you say to them is between you and them only), rights of representation on behalf of their clients before the Service, and the ability to negotiate directly with the Service on an independent basis on behalf of one’s client. Those who call themselves ‘tax preparers’ or the even more euphemistic ‘tax professionals’ have no such rights or privileges, and in fact can and will be compelled to testify against you in a court of law. All three licensed categories require the passage of barrier exams that on average less than 20% pass annually. In the case of enrolled agents a two-year Federal background check is also required because such individuals are licensed to practice in all 50 states, as opposed to state licensing for the other two categories (reciprocity is granted by many states, but not all). Licensed practitioners are licensed under oath to only and to at all times operate within the limits of the law. That is the whole idea of the licensing, to guarantee to the public that these individuals are honest people whose advice and counsel can be trusted to NOT VIOLATE THE LAW.




There is no rocket science here; it is a very simple scam, and because it is simple it is also very simple to police (we will get into that more later). Many of the court cases dealing with this scam (there are lots of them) that are frequently cited originated with CPAs or Public Accountants who were gaming the system for themselves. (A further reason, by the way, why what is most egregious about this is that it is a conscious and intentional design on the part of so many who are specifically licensed not to do this kind of crap.) - More...
Sunday PM - February 10, 2019 - More...
Sunday PM - February 10, 2019

jpg Opinion

Right to Life By Robert Holston - Stacey Abrams, former Georgia gubernatorial candidate and potential Senate candidate, delivered the Democrats' response to President Trump's State of the Union address.  One particular statement near the end caught my attention.  “America achieved a measure of reproductive justice in Roe v. Wade, but we must never forget: It is immoral to allow politicians to harm women and families to advance a political agenda.”   Speaking of harm....- More...
Wednesday PM - February 06, 2019

jpg Opinion

Trump Is A National Security Threat By Donald Moskowitz - As a former Navy enlisted man and an officer I am concerned with the threat to national security posed by President Trump. His attacks on our intelligence agencies and cozy relationship with Vladimir Putin are un-American. - More...
Monday PM - February 04, 2019

jpg Opinion

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. - 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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