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SitNews - Stories In The News - Ketchikan, Alaska
February 20, 2019

Front Page Feature Photo By CINDY BALZER

Thomas Basin: Trumpeter Swan
Front Page Feature Photo By CINDY BALZER ©2019

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Southeast Alaska: Guardian Flight Continues 24/7 Search for Missing Crew & Plane By MARY KAUFFMAN - Guardian Flight’s underwater search for their lost crew and missing aircraft continues in the waters of Frederick Sound.

Guardian Flight Alaska began its independent water search for the company’s missing crew and aircraft near Kake, in Southeast Alaska on February 11th, following cessation of search and rescue operations by the Coast Guard earlier. Guardian Flight had already conducted comprehensive coastal rotor wing surveys in the area.

The U.S. Coast Guard suspended the search for the overdue aircraft with three people aboard on January 31st. The Coast Guard conducted maritime and aerial serarches for more than 63 hours concentrated in an area of 240 square nautical miles before suspending the search. The Guardian Flight King Air 200 medical life flight was expected to land in Kake and the search began when the flight failed to arrive on January 29th.

On board the doomed flight were pilot Patrick Coyle, 63; flight nurse Stacie Rae Morse, 30; and flight paramedic Margaret Langston, 43; all based in Juneau.

On February 11, Guardian Flight announced it was utilizing a chartered boat, two captains and two crews for 24/7 operations. The search began over a six square mile area where the aircraft is believed to have entered the water. Depth of the water in the area is reportedly 300 to 1,000 feet.

The chartered search vessel deployed on the 11th by Guardian Flight towed a ping detector to help locate the cockpit voice recorder’s underwater beacon. Once the beacon is located, the search plan called for the vessel to launch a Remotely Operated Underwater Vehicle (ROV) for potential confirmation of the location of the aircraft crew and aircraft. Quoting a news release, "Hopefully divers will then be able to find and retrieve the crew and aircraft."

The next day, Randy Lyman, Senior Vice President of Guardian Flight Operations, announced, "We are confirming that the search efforts for Guardian Flight’s missing crew and aircraft has taken a step forward. The underwater beacon ping from the cockpit voice recorder “black box” has been detected. There will now be efforts to narrow down its location through triangulation and to determine depth. We are hopeful that the Remotely Operated Underwater Vehicle (ROV) will assist in visually spotting the aircraft and be followed by successful recovery efforts. Again, our thoughts, prayers and heartfelt feelings are extended to the families, friends and colleagues of our fellow crew members."

The National Transportation Safety Board (NTSB), a Federal Government organization, is the lead investigative agency and has provided technical expertise to aid in determining a fix on the aircraft’s last location. However, it is not a search organization, so consequently Guardian Flight employed their own independent resources to continue the search efforts. Following location of the underwater beacon’s ping Guardian Flight planned to employ a remotely operated underwater vehicle and divers for recovery. According to Lyman, the lead investigator from the NTSB will be aboard the search vessel to support Guardian Flight’s search efforts. 

On February 14th, Lyman announced their chartered boat was equipped with the remotely operated underwater vehicle.

Lyman said, "Our chartered boat is ready with the remotely operated underwater vehicle aboard to further the search effort for the cockpit voice recorder, aircraft and our crew. The team has narrowed the search to an area with a 100-meter radius, however, the swells are too high to successfully operate the sub. Swells must be below 3 feet and as soon as that occurs, we will begin the underwater search activity."

Yesterday, Lyman again updated search progress in a news release stating, "Over the past few days, we have been able to deploy the Remotely Operated Vehicle (ROV) during periods of “slack water” or “slack tides,” when visibility is greater and as water currents are more stable." - More...
Wednesday AM - February 20, 2019

Alaska: Arrest Made in Fairbanks' Cold Case; Sophie Sergie case solved utilizing Genetic Genealogy and years of investigation - After nearly 26 years, the Alaska State Troopers is finally able to help an Alaskan family get one step closer to justice. On February 15, 2019, Steven H. Downs, 44 of Auburn, Maine was arrested and charged for the sexual assault and murder of Sophie Sergie.

On April 24, 1993, Sophie Sergie, 20 years of age of Pitkas Point, flew to Fairbanks for an appointment and to visit friends. Even though she wasn’t currently enrolled as a student, she was staying with a friend at Bartlett Hall on the University of Alaska Fairbanks (UAF) campus. Sophie was scheduled to fly home to Pitkas Point following her appointment on April 26. She never made it to her appointment or home. Sophie was last seen alive shortly after midnight when she left the dorm to smoke a cigarette. She was found dead in a bathtub at Bartlett hall at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks (UAF) that afternoon when a janitor showed up to clean. Initial investigation was determined that Sophie had been sexually assaulted and murdered.

Alaska Governor Michael J. Dunleavy said in a prepared statement, “I commend the Department of Public Safety and the Department of Law for their exemplary work in cracking open a cold case that has haunted the family of Sophie Sergie and the UAF community for decades,” said Governor Dunleavy. “While today’s arrest may bring a measure of relief to Sophie’s family and friends, First Lady Rose and I know nothing can completely heal their pain and sense of loss. We hope and pray for Sophie’s family as the case unfolds in the judicial system in the months ahead.”

Despite the arduous and meticulous effort done by a variety of investigators over the years, a suspect had not been identified. However, in April of 2018, the Golden State Serial Killer was arrested following identification through Genetic Genealogy. Encouraged by the new investigative method, the Cold Case Unit (CCU) submitted the unknown DNA profile from Sophie’s case in July of 2018 to Parabon Nanolabs, a Virginia-based company which utilizes extracted DNA to perform the genetic genealogy testing. 

Finally, after a little over a quarter of a century, CCU had a likely suspect, identified through the same method that lead to the Golden State Killer, that was alive and living on the opposite end of the country.  Armed with the new information, the CCU was able to conduct follow up investigation to determine that Downs (18 at the time of the killing) had been a student at UAF at the time Sophie was killed. Furthermore, Downs lived in Bartlett Hall at UAF. From there, CCU worked with Maine authorities to bring the case to fruition. Steven H. Downs was taken into custody at a local business in Maine. He will be extradited to Alaska to face charges in connection to the murder and sexual assault of Sophie Sergie.  - More...
Wednesday AM - February 20, 2019

Ketchikan: Cultural Deaf Artist Master, Mattise Binauli Promoted by Local Business - Winning an international art competition as tough and challenging as the one sponsored by The Church History Museum may seem like a major turning point in a person's life, but for Mattise Binauli he knows that the day his life took a turn for the best was the day he reached out his hand to two missionaries as they passed his roadside art market.

Binauli, who titles himself the Cultural Deaf Artist Master, became deaf at age nine. Suddenly his world was silent. His friends afraid of him, his community cut off through ignorance and prejudice against a condition believed to be contagious. In his isolation he began to draw and then to paint as a way of interacting with a hearing community and society that did not want him.

Over the years, Binauli struggled with the faith he was born into, a faith that didn’t align with his heart or with the teachings of the King James Bible in which he felt strongly was correct scriptures. He had prayed “if there is true religion, please lead me to find it”, but as is often true, prayers get answered only after time and trials.

Binauli’s answer came one day while he was setting up on the side of the road to sell art to tourists. Two missionaires were passing by and Binauli reached his hand out to them. - More...
Wednesday AM - February 20, 2019

jpg Newly discovered marsupial lived among Arctic dinosaurs

This portrait of northern Alaska’s landscape and animals about 70 million years ago features a small mammal. The creature, though not necessarily Unnuakomys hutchisoni, illustrates scientists’ conclusion that mammals lived among the dinosaurs.
Image by James Havens

Museum of the North: Newly discovered marsupial lived among Arctic dinosaurs By JEFF RICHARDSON - A research team has discovered a previously unknown species of marsupial that lived in Alaska’s Arctic during the era of dinosaurs, adding a vivid new detail to a complex ancient landscape.

The thumb-sized animal, named Unnuakomys hutchisoni, lived in the Arctic about 69 million years ago during the late Cretaceous Period. Its discovery, led by scientists from the University of Colorado and University of Alaska Fairbanks, is outlined in an article published this week in the Journal of Systematic Palaeontology.

The discovery adds to the picture of an environment that scientists say was surprisingly diverse. The tiny animal, which is the northernmost marsupial ever discovered, lived among a unique variety of dinosaurs, plants and other animals.

Alaska’s North Slope, which was at about 80 degrees north latitude when U. hutchisoni lived there, was once thought to be a barren environment during the late Cretaceous. That perception has gradually changed since dinosaurs were discovered along the Colville River in the 1980s, with new evidence showing the region was home to a diverse collection of unique species that didn’t exist anywhere else.

Finding a new marsupial species in the far north adds a new layer to that evolving view, said Patrick Druckenmiller, the director of the University of Alaska Museum of the North.

“Northern Alaska was not only inhabited by a wide variety of dinosaurs, but in fact we’re finding there were also new species of mammals that helped to fill out the ecology,” said Druckenmiller, who has studied dinosaurs in the region for more than a decade. “With every new species, we paint a new picture of this ancient polar landscape.”

Marsupials are a type of mammal that carries underdeveloped offspring in a pouch. Kangaroos and koalas are the best-known modern marsupials. Ancient relatives were much smaller during the late Cretaceous, Druckenmiller said. Unnuakomys hutchisoni was probably more like a tiny opossum, feeding on insects and plants while surviving in darkness for as many as four months each winter. - More...
Wednesday AM - February 20, 2019

Front Page Feature Photo By CINDY BALZER

Thomas Basin: Trumpeter Swan
Front Page Feature Photo By CINDY BALZER ©2019


: Indict or shut up: The public may never see a report from Mueller's investigation By STANLEY M. BRAND - Almost from the day of Robert Mueller’s appointment as special counsel, the media and the public have expected that his investigation will end with a report to either the Congress or the public or both.

I’m a law school professor who teaches a course on the independent counsel, the predecessor of the special counsel.

For eight years, I was the general counsel for the U.S. House of Representatives, the chief legal officer responsible for representing the House, its members, officers and employees in connection with legal procedures and challenges to the conduct of their official activities.

I believe that the public’s expectation that they will see a report from the Mueller investigation is unrealistic. That expectation appears to be based on a misunderstanding of the legal principles involved in making any such report available to anyone outside of the Department of Justice.

Regulation reflects history

The previous law creating special counsels – which has now lapsed – directed the special counsel to report to the House of Representatives “substantial and credible information” of impeachable conduct.

The current regulation, adopted during the Clinton administration, provides no such direction.

It says only that “[a]t the conclusion of the Special Counsel’s work, he or she shall provide the Attorney General with a confidential report” explaining the decision to either prosecute or not.

The goal of those drafting the regulation was to restore more control to the department over the special counsel after what was seen as the excesses of previous independent counsels in the Iran Contra and Clinton cases.

Those excesses included overly broad and lengthy investigations such as the HUD Independent Counsel, which took eight years to complete; expensive investigations, including US$52 million estimated in one case; and oppressive prosecutorial tactics, like subpoenaing Monica Lewinsky’s mother to the grand jury.

Former Department of Justice official Neal Katyal, who drafted the regulations, has explained that returning a degree of control over the process to the Department of Justice would result in a restoration of the separation of powers balance between the executive branch and Congress in these cases.

“The special counsel regulations were drafted at a unique historical moment,” wrote Katyal in the Washington Post.

“Presidents of both parties had suffered through scandals and prosecutions under the Independent Counsel Act…There was a chance to rethink things without either party fearing that it would give its political adversaries an advantage.” - More...
Wednesday AM - February 20, 2019

ANALYSIS: Can Congress or the courts reverse Trump's national emergency? By CHRIS EDELSON- Sixteen states are challenging President Donald Trump’s national emergency declaration in court.

The lawsuit was filed by California’s Attorney General, Xavier Bacerra. The states argue that Trump’s attempt to use billions of dollars to pay for the construction of a wall along the U.S.-Mexico border is unconstitutional.

Democratic Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi warned Trump against declaring a national emergency, saying that it set a precedent for future Democratic presidents to use that power. A number of liberal organizations are also planning to file challenges in court on the grounds that Trump’s move is an abuse of power.

What is Congress’s role in this situation?

As I explain in my book “Emergency Presidential Power,” presidents generally claim emergency power two ways: through inherent or implied authority under the U.S. Constitution or under statutory authority granted by Congress.

Relying on the Constitution as a basis for emergency power is controversial, and less likely to stand up to meaningful congressional or judicial review. The U.S. Constitution says nothing specific about presidential emergency power: Presidents can only claim such authority is implied or inherent.

The emergency powers the Constitution does describe are actually assigned to Congress. Congress has delegated some emergency powers to the president through statutes, including the National Emergencies Act. But Congress retains the power to reject a president’s declaration of a national emergency.

Now the question is: Will Congress use the power available to it, or will it play the role of passive spectator? - More...
Wednesday AM - February 20, 2019



MICHAEL REAGAN: Damning the Do-Nothings of Congress - Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez is the looniest lefty I've seen elected to Congress in my lifetime.

But Ilhan Omar, her fellow rookie House member from Minnesota, is so radical she scares the pants off me. 

After watching Omar in action, it's pretty clear to me that the Muslim Democrat hates America almost as much as she hates Israel.

Before she got to Washington she had already raised eyebrows for her support of the socialist dictator who's wrecked Venezuela, Nicolas Maduro, and her call to abolish ICE, the Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency.

She's also a big fan of sanctuary cities and opposes President Trump's border wall because it's "racist and sinful."

But this week, Omar got in big trouble for a tweet insinuating that the prime reason U.S. politicians so faithfully support Israel is because they get lots of money from AIPAC, the largest pro-Israel lobbying group in the country.

She apologized profusely, but only after Republicans and the grown-up members of her own party loudly condemned her statements as anti-Semitic and "deeply offensive." - More...
Wednesday AM - February 20, 2019

CHRISTINE FLOWERS: Class Warfare Driving Ocasio-Cortez and the Rest - The accountant prepared my taxes last week. Usually, I get a refund, something I can use to buy myself a few extra lattes and my monthly SEPTA pass. This year, thanks to changes in the tax code, I will now end up owing the government. In fact, I'm thinking that President Donald Trump will be able to use my contribution to build one steel slat at the southern border (you're welcome, Donald).

After the initial explosion of anger, I'm fine. But I've heard a lot of other people complaining about how the rich get richer and the poor get poorer. That very well may be true, and I feel compassion for the folks who normally would have gotten a refund to pay their property-tax bill or cover their kids' tuition for summer camp, and who will now have to figure out where to cut and scrimp and make do.

But I'm also annoyed at the over-the-top rhetoric about billionaires and paupers. That language is regularly used by some of the newest members of Congress, including the Democratic socialist Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez - Sandy, as her friends called her before she became famous enough to have three names - wants a 70 percent tax on those making more than $10 million, wants Medicaid for all, and wants to get rid of cows and airplanes. - More...
Wednesday AM - February 20, 2019


JOHN L MICEK: The Front Line in the Abortion Fight is Closer Than You Think - So here's another reason why it's important to pay attention in what happens in your state capital.

Last week, two Pennsylvania state lawmakers - both Republicans - fired the opening rounds of the 2019 culture war, announcing plans to reintroduce legislation that would ban abortion based on a diagnosis of Down syndrome.

Plan for the same volley of press conferences and overheated rhetoric, with more than likely the same result: a vote, possible approval by Pennsylvania's majority-GOP state House, followed by likely inaction by the Republican-controlled Senate in the face of an all-but-guaranteed veto from Democratic Gov. Tom Wolf.

Even so, the bill is a reminder that the real arena in the fight over abortion rights continues to be state capitals across the land.

Pennsylvania House Speaker Mike Turzai and his allies made a splash last year when they introduced the bill for the first time. They filled the main staircase in the Capitol rotunda with parents and children who are living with Down syndrome.

They also featured Karen Gaffney, an accomplished swimmer and public speaker, who's the first person with Down syndrome to ever receive an honorary doctorate from a college or university. - More...
Wednesday AM - February 20, 2019

jpg Political Cartoon: But First, the Hurdles

Political Cartoon: But First, the Hurdles
By Jeff Koterba ©2019, Omaha World Herald, NE
Distributed to paid subscribers for publication by Cagle Cartoons, Inc.


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jpg Opinion

Dunleavy's cuts By Rep. Dan Ortiz - Last week, Governor Dunleavy unveiled his amended budget proposal for Fiscal Year 2020. As expected, there were substantial cuts to government agencies, all of which will affect Southern Southeast. Some of the cuts that will be most noticeable here in District 36 are the Marine Highway, services to our seniors, education, Fish & Game, public safety, and access to information.

Governor Dunleavy proposed a 68.3% cut to our ferry system, including an 80% decrease in funding for fuel. The intent of such a steep cut is to eliminate the ferry system as it currently operates by October 2019 and instead rely on a private entity, if any, taking over operation of ferry service. - More...
Wednesday PM - February 20, 2019

jpg Opinion

Proposed budget cuts to education By Bob Claus - As a long term resident of Prince of Wales island and a former school board member in Craig, I was dismayed and disappointed by the Governor’s proposed budget, especially the proposed cuts to education funding.

A reduction in funding to this essential and constitutionally required service of the size contemplated would not only cause an increase in class size and commensurate decreased educational outcomes as common across all districts, but would cause whole programs to be lost in smaller districts. 

A loss of funding in the range contemplated in the radical budget proposal would mean that a vocational education teacher or a science teacher would not be funded. Already, thanks to years of stagnant teacher pay and benefits determined not by legitimate negotiation but by dictate from the legislature, recruitment of qualified staff to replace retiring respected teachers has been impaired. - More...
Wednesday PM - February 20, 2019

jpg Opinion

THE GREAT ALASKA DEPRESSION COMETH, YOU VOTED FOR IT By David G Hanger - The main problem with a parrot is it does not understand that it is repeating words, let alone comprehending what they might mean. So whether you are a liar, a crook, or a murderer does not really matter, the parrot prattles your drivel not realizing even that it is a parrot. There is considerable parallel with the human parrot who prattles his or her drivel with the intent in mind of deceiving you.

So rather than thinking your way through a series of bad choices you voted for this obsessed ideologue Mike “Days of Misery” Dunleavy on the premise that he was promising to preserve the Permanent Fund Dividend. I am not going to hesitate to call this fool a liar and a fraud right now because he is owned by big oil, will not tax the oil, and has no cash reserves left with which to pay state government salaries. All that is left is the Permanent Fund, and “Days of Misery” will butcher it. - More...
Wednesday PM - February 20, 2019

jpg Opinion

State Budget By Chris J. Herby - I, just like everyone else in our area, was quite set back and rather mad when I read the details of our new governor's proposed budget. Then I realized that this can't really be a serious budget proposal and instead is merely his way of getting our attention and telling us that we do in fact have a serious financial problem facing our state. I think most of us have been aware of that for quite some time now.

We certainly cannot stand for his proposed cuts to education and the marine highway system. I think the reason that our elected officials in Juneau have not been able to deal with this serious budget problem for the past several years is because there are so many different opinions as to the best way to deal with it. Unfortunately, ignoring it will not make the problem go away. - More...
Wednesday PM - February 20, 2019

jpg Opinion

Gov. Dunleavy's proposed budget, a picture of doom & gloom. By Carol Dooley - Gov. Dunleavy's proposed budget is a picture of doom & gloom. His proposed budget outlines the demise of the Alaska Marine Highway system, which would be followed by the demise of the Ketchikan shipyard. He proposes to rob our senior citizens of services, to rob the poor of medical coverage, to rob our children of a decent education and ruin our State University, and to add insult to injury he proposes to take all of the commercial fish tax money and slash the Department of Fish & Game budget. All for the sake of a full payout of the permanent fund dividend.

I agree with a full payout of the permanent fund dividend. It is a fantastic generator for our state economy. I believe the best solution to our state's financial problems would be to institute an income tax. I will be more than happy to pay income tax to preserve the economy and our communities in Southeast Alaska. An income tax would be fairer to low income people, and those on fixed incomes and place a larger burden upon those who can better afford to pay taxes. I am more than happy to give up a bit of money in order to preserve our economy and necessary services for the citizens of our state. - More...
Wednesday PM - February 20, 2019

jpg Opinion

Dunleavy, You Need To Try Harder By Charles Edwardson - Cutting education in any way shape or form in my opinion should be a last resort not your first option as a governor! I see one term wonder as the first sentence on your next resume.

As for the rest of you lawmakers in Juneau especially the ones still there from the early days of the brainchild called " oil tax credits" you owe all of Alaska not only an apology but a much better effort as well, you can try to make amends for your short sighted decisions back then by stopping this short sighted decision now, in its tracks, and remove all cuts to education from any proposed budget from anyone. Buckle up and do your jobs with the amount of oil we have and will soon have, with natural gas as well, there is no excuse for our current financial situation here in Alaska, just plain old bad governance. - More...
Wednesday AM - February 20, 2019

jpg Opinion

Gabrielle LeDoux: The untold story By John Nelson - Gabrielle LeDoux: The untold story and how Governor Dunleavy can defeat this impasse while also obtaining a majority in the House at the same time...

How we got here should already be known. There exists immediate issues that every Alaskan deserves the right to know that are trustworthy and credible. My writing here is based on the hope that the general public may more properly understand a realistic explanation of what presently has occurred absent the media bias on whichever side one falls on. I have previously supported Gabrielle LeDoux in no less than two election cycles.

I recognize that what I must write requires restraint, as I am presenting a viewpoint of subject material that neither side never made any real attempt to ferret out the details to begin with. Likewise, the readership ideally should attempt to be impartial as well. It’s time to think through what is really going on, and place into the proper context of the concerns that presently are manifesting themselves. I will hazard an explanation here: - More...
Wednesday AM - February 20, 2019

jpg Opinion

RE: Anti-vaxxers are a threat to all of us By Amanda Mitchell - If you are up-to-date on your immunizations, what ‘vaccine-preventable’ disease would you need to fear acquiring from an ‘anti-vaxxer?’ Rich Manieri says that if you don’t vaccinate you risk infecting other people and if you vaccinate you won’t contract the disease vaccinated for. (Manieri 2019) So the very reason Rich Manieri suggests that all vaccine exemptions should be removed is the exact same reason no one should feel threatened by the unvaccinated. Most importantly, you have to have the disease to spread it in the first place and to assume all unvaccinated people carry a disease is highly discriminatory and dangerous. 

Vaccinated populations can acquire diseases, even ‘vaccine-preventable’ diseases, and spread it. By believing otherwise, puts the risk of spreading disease higher. The CDC, for example, disclosed a case from the USS Ardent in which they concluded, “… influenza outbreaks can occur in highly vaccinated populations, especially in confined settings.”(2014) The CDC also has another study on their website about pertussis in a fully vaccinated population were recently vaccinated individuals were spreading the disease. (Srugo et al. 2000) Their exact words were, “We also observed that DPT vaccine does not fully protect children against the level of clinical disease defined by WHO.” Another recent study on the CDC website had a measles outbreak in a vaccinated population with patient zero having three doses of a measles-containing vaccine. (Avarmovich et al. 2018) Avarmovich and co-authors concluded, “This outbreak highlights the importance of a thorough epidemiologic and laboratory investigation of suspected cases of measles, regardless of vaccination status…”  - More...
Wednesday AM - February 20, 2019

jpg Opinion

Israel: A Strategic Ally By Donald Moskowitz - People who claim to be anti-Israel and who support boycotting Israeli products, divestments from Israeli companies, and sanctions are actually Jew Haters who cloak their true hatred in anti-Israel rhetoric.

In the Middle East the Muslim countries want to destroy Israel because it is a democratic country in a sea of totalitarian Muslim countries. The Muslim countries hate Israel because it is a Jewish country, and it is all about religion in the Middle East. There is jealousy of the high standard of living in Israel and all of the Israeli accomplishments in science, engineering, medical technology, education, agriculture, business and military prowess.  - More...
Wednesday AM - February 20, 2019

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