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SitNews - Stories In The News - Ketchikan, Alaska
March 30, 2007

Front Page Photo by Terri Jirschele

The Bee
The Bee is a 106 year old wooden tug, owned by John Stewart. She is powered with one of the few functioning 120hp Atlas Imperial Direct Drive Engines.
Front Page Photo by Terri Jirschele

Top Stories
U.S. News
U.S. Politics


Ketchikan - Metlakatla: Road-building season soon to begin on Annette Island - Road construction will soon begin on Annette Island as the Department of Defense begins the tenth season of Operation Alaskan Road. Approximately 900 military men and women - comprising the joint force of reserve and active-duty component troops - Army, Navy, Air Force, Marine Corps - will help build a 14.5-mile road that will link Metlakatla with a new ferry boat dock on the north end of the island.

September 2005 view along the Walden Point Road project site, Annette Island.
Photo by Maj. Richard C. Sater, U.S. Air Force Reserve

Approximately 13.5 miles of road are under construction in various phases, with military teams clearing the land and then drilling, blasting, filling, compacting, and installing culverts. The military is scheduled to wrap up its portion of the road after the end of this construction season. It will then turn the project over to the Federal Highway Administration for final surfacing.

Construction units, including participants from Missouri and Oregon, will begin rotating in every two weeks in mid May. Construction season is slated to run through late August.

The U.S. military participates in the project under the Innovative Readiness Training Program administered by the Assistant Secretary of Defense for Reserve Affairs. IRT is designed to promote civil-military cooperation through projects that contribute to, and enhance, military unit training and readiness and fill a need that is not otherwise being met. - More...
Friday AM - March 30, 2007

Ketchikan: Taquan Air Moves and Grows - Ketchikan's longest operating airline is relocating and expanding. After 21 years at its 1007 Water Street base, Taquan Air is moving to a more spacious site at 4049 Tongass Avenue, property originally owned by now defunct Southcoast Construction. The move is effective April 1st. Taquan Air has operated continuously since it was organized in 1977.

The company has a new passenger terminal, freight facility, maintenance hanger and offices under construction at the new waterfront location. Alternate facilities will be occupied until the new construction is completed in May said Taquan Air president and CEO Brien Salazar. A survey of Taquan Air's year-round passenger base was the key factor in making the decision to select the new three acre site. According to Salazar, the passengers indicated that a location with easy access to the airport, ferry terminals and shopping was preferred. "We will have the most spacious and state of the art floatplane facilities in the state in operation this summer," said Salazar. - More...
Friday AM - March 30, 2007


National: Thousands of vets get payments for hemorrhoids, other minor claims By LISA HOFFMAN - As it braces for a flood of war-disabled veterans, the nation's disability compensation system for former troops has become a $26 billion behemoth bloated and backlogged in part by overgenerous benefits for minor maladies barely tied to military service, if at all.

Case in point: More than 120,000 vets from earlier eras are collecting lifetime benefits for hemorrhoids, which they are not required to show resulted from their military duty.

Thousands of more veterans are receiving monthly compensation for bumps on their faces from shaving or for scars so small they are hard to see - and will for the rest of their lives.

In fact, hemorrhoids are the 11th most common disability for which U.S. vets are compensated, after such conditions as defective hearing, arthritis, diabetes and hypertension. A conservative calculation of the cost of the benefits to veterans for hemorrhoids alone could be $14 million a year or more.

With the first wave of what could be as many as 700,000 veterans of the wars in Iraq and Afghanistan already applying for benefits, worries grow that they could soon suffer from delays or a funding crunch because the system has expanded far beyond its initial intent of compensating veterans for loss of earning power due to service-related illnesses or injuries.

As a result, some critics estimate that perhaps 775,000 of the 2.6 million veterans on the rolls in 2005 are getting monthly checks for ailments that don't hurt their ability to work, often are treatable, are common in the civilian world, and frequently are the result of the ordinary aging process.

Darryl Kehrer, former staff director for the House Veterans Affairs subcommittee on benefits, says the combat veterans of the "war on terror" will be ill-served by a system that some studies have shown spends $1 billion a year on such claims, which also contribute to the current 600,000-claim backlog. The average wait now for benefits is six months, a lag that could balloon to twice that, or more, once Iraq and Afghanistan vets fully enter the pipeline.

"This does a disservice to veterans who are truly disabled, (and) to the men and women coming back from combat," who now must get in the back of the line, Kehrer said.

For the first time in 50 years, these issues and others weighted with similar emotion are being examined by a blue-ribbon commission charged by Congress with finding fixes for a system that all agree is overloaded and under fire.

While veterans service organizations such as the American Legion and the Disabled American Veterans find plenty to fault in the current system, they vehemently object to any effort to limit the kinds of disabilities for which veterans can be compensated, or to require more stringent proof that a condition is directly connected to time in uniform.- More...
Friday AM - March 30, 2007

News of Alaska animals...

News of Alaska animals-large and small
A female brown bear on the upper Karluk
River of Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge.
Photo by Mara Weisenberger,
U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Alaska: News of Alaska animals-large and small By NED ROZELL - Scientists have found that Kodiak brown bears have been isolated from brown bears on the Alaska mainland since the end of the last ice age, about 10,000-12,000 years ago. Bill Leacock and other scientists with the Kodiak National Wildlife Refuge teamed with the Alaska Science Center Conservation Genetics Laboratory and the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to check out DNA samples from almost 300 Kodiak brown bears.

Sandy Talbot and Kevin Sage from the genetics lab showed that Kodiak brown bears are less genetically diverse than other brown bears in North America. They also confirmed biologists' observations that male bears seem to wander over the island while females stick to what they know.

"It's as if the refuge is divided into female neighborhoods of daughters, aunts, mothers and sisters," Leacock said.

The scientists also found that brown bears on Kodiak and nearby Afognak islands are distinct populations, meaning that few bears are swimming between the islands, which are about four miles apart at the closest point. - More...
Friday AM - March 30, 2007

Front Page Photo by Cecelia Johnson

Young Volunteers
The monthly elder's dinner at Ketchikan Pioneer's Home was held on March 27th. The young volunteers are: Lewis Petersen, Tyanne Loptien, Tamara Nunley, and William Jackson. The sponsor this month was ANB-ANS Camp #14 who cooked and served corned beef and cabbage.
Photograph by Cecelia Johnson

National: Where have all the bees gone? By MICHAEL DOYLE - Gene Brandi is losing his six-legged livestock, and lawmakers want to know why.

A Los Banos, Calif.-based commercial beekeeper, Brandi normally manages about 2,000 colonies. On Thursday, Brandi told a House panel that about 40 percent of his colonies died out over the winter - by far, his worst loss in three decades of business.

"Even though my loss is substantial, other beekeepers throughout the country have suffered much greater losses," Brandi testified.

Beekeepers nationwide have likewise been reporting unexplained losses of between 30 percent and 90 percent, a top Agriculture Department official advised the House subcommittee on horticulture and organic agriculture. It's being called colony collapse disorder, and the causes are murky.

The abrupt collapse of bee colonies typically leave only a queen and a few attendants remaining alive. Pathogens, pesticides and mites have all been blamed.

Scientists more generally say "stress" - physical, not emotional - can compromise bees' immune systems. Beyond that, numerous research questions beckon. Publicly, it's heating up too; the subcommittee hearing Thursday morning attracted multiple camera crews. - More...
Friday AM - March 30, 2007


Basic Rules

letter Local government By Alaire Stanton - Sunday
letter Parents Should Know By Diana Chaudhary - Sunday
letter Superintendant's Firing By Dan Williamson - Sunday
letter Time to recall By Alisha Greenup - Sunday
letter Ketchikan's school board By Walt Bolling - Sunday
letter Bridge to nowhere By Ken Leland - Sunday
letter Correction By Dave Kiffer - Sunday
letter Superintendent Martin By Al Johnson - Sunday
letter Levy-Lewis . . . The Battle of the Rock! By Tony Gwynn - Sunday
letter Walter Reed Army Hospital is no Ketchikan General By Mark Neckameyer - Sunday
letter Dogs, kids... and volunteering By Scott Kline - Sunday
RE: Puppy Mills and Breeders By Margaret Cloud - Sunday
letter Breeding dogs By Erin Bellon - Sunday
letter Annette Island By Jeff White - Sunday
letterSuperintendent Martin By Amy T. Thompson - Friday AM
letter Tongass Forest Plan By Hannah Wilson - Friday AM
letter I'm voting 'no' April 3rd By Senator Kim Elton - Friday AM
letter"Yes" on April 3rd By Rep. John Coghill - Friday AM
letterStand up and take a bow By Judith Green - Friday AM
letter OPEN LETTER TO SITNEWS' READERS By Robert D. Warner - Thursday
letterSchool Board Recall, Where Do I Sign? By Karen Owings - Thursday
letter Thanks Ketchikan for your support By Sara Sivertsen - Thursday
letter Re: Dog Breeders By Margaret Cloud - Thursday
letter VA Hospitals, Health Care, Hillary... By Rebecca Clark - Thursday
letter Dog Breeding Letters By Kerry Watson - Thursday AM
letter Dogs & Breeders By Kevin Mackey - Thursday
letter Puppymills and Breeders By Maggie Garmle - Thursday
letterKetchikan School Superintendent By Bill Thomas Sr. - Wednesday
letter Ketchikan school board's lack of focus By Chas Edwardson - Wednesday
letter Open Letter to the Ketchikan School Board By Debra Azure - Wednesday
letter Family Night at Ketchikan Public Library, Children's Library By Christy Moss - Wednesday
letter Pet Food By Charlotte Glover - Wednesday
letter Sealaska: Voting No By Don Hoff, Jr. - Tuesday PM
letter Talk about propaganda! By Anita Hales- Tuesday PM
letter Finding animals... By CJ Hoggard- Tuesday PM
letter Military Hospitals, War and ... By Amber Leslie Williams Baldwin- Tuesday PM
letterDog Breeders By Kara Jeanne Blazier- Tuesday PM
letter The best dog... By Dain Ellis- Tuesday PM
letterAMHS Southern Gateway Shuttle Ferry Needs to be Operating in 2008 By Mike Round - Sunday AM
letterDog Breeders By Margaret Cloud - Sunday AM
letter Neckameyer is right on with his Islamofacisist remarks By Bob Harmon - Sunday AM
letter Roads on Gravina By Mike Salee- Saturday PM
letter School Superintendent By KJ Harris- Saturday PM
letter New airport in lieu of bridge By Edward Brown- Saturday PM
letter School Board Controversy By Diana Chaudhary - Saturday PM
letter KPU Dividend? By Mike McColley- Saturday PM
letter Daylight Savings Time By Ken Levy- Saturday PM
letter How Ketchikan "used to be" By Jeanine Miller- Saturday PM
letter Some explaining to do... By Jon Hurley- Saturday PM
letter Dog Breeders By Kara Jeanne Blazier- Saturday PM
letter Re: IT errors at PFD By Glen Thompson - Saturday PM
letter Tourism money and city projects By Christy Smith - Saturday PM
letterMore Viewpoints/ Letters
letter Publish A Letter


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Columns - Commentary

Dave Kiffer: I Grocery Shop Therefore I Am - You can date a local by how they refer to Ketchikan grocery stores.

For example, I tend to immediately think the name "Wingren's" when I think of local grocery stores.

My mother, on the other hand, still occasionally refers to something Downtown as "near the Piggly-Wiggly."

If my great-grandfather were still around, I'm sure he'd patiently explain that some place was "a couple of doors down from 'Clark and Martin.' " So it goes.

I have a friend who calls the store next to the mall "SeaMart." Another friend calls it "Carrs." Only a real cheechako would call it its current name "Safeway."

It's probably no surprise, then, that I tend to mark life changes by grocery stores.

Growing up in the West End of Ketchikan, I have fond memories of the two West End stores, :"Wingren's" and "Log Cabin," as they were called in the 1960s. They were both located on the bottom floors of the two 10 story, concrete bunker apartment buildings that towered over our daily lives (they were the "Wingren" and the "Austin" buildings then). - More...
Wednesday - March 28, 2007

Preston McDougall: Chemical Eye on Capitol Flora and Fauna - Readers who join us here each week, know that I was on Capitol Hill recently, listening to the Iraq debate in the U.S. House of Representatives. I also paid a visit next door. I wasn't prepared for what I saw - it was a jungle in there!

Literally. Since I didn't have a pass to the Senate chamber, I crossed First Street and toured the U.S. Botanic Garden Conservatory. It was my maiden voyage through this myriad of flora from all corners of the planet, and quite a few interesting niches as well. My flight was the last one to Nashville, so I had time for a three-hour tour, a three-hour tour.

Although there is a fascinating World Deserts exhibit - featuring numerous cactus species with more barbs than the House debate - this is no uncharted desert isle. I grabbed a map at the front desk, and made notes on it as I explored this haven from the politically rough weather across the street.

In the West Gallery, it is your sense of smell that does most of the exploring. Seeds of all kinds are grouped in displays that tell the story of spices, such as Asian curry with its blend of turmeric, coriander, cumin, fenugreek, cloves and fennel seeds. I have often wondered how roots and seeds of less-than-tantalizing plants (except for fennel - I love fennel) ended up as key ingredients to delicious entrées. If not for the courage of the fearless crew (in some ancient kitchen) tandoori ovens probably wouldn't be so popular in London. - More...
Wednesday - March 28, 2007

Bob Ciminel: One Thing About Trains . . - I received an email recently from one of my two loyal readers asking when I was going to write another article about the Blue Ridge Scenic Railway, which used to be my home away from home before my company put me on the road. Case in point, I just came back from three wonderful days in Minnesota where I had the opportunity to experience a blizzard. You know, I'm almost positive that when I hired on with my company I distinctly told them that I did not want to go north Interstate 40 in any month with an "R" in it. They must have forgotten.

But, getting back to the Blue Ridge Scenic, this is the start of the railroad's 10th season, as well as my 10th year as a conductor. However, I work as a brakeman most of the time. I find that stubborn locomotives or cranky engineers are easier to deal with than 400 impatient passengers. Besides, a conductor is really just a brakeman who can read and write. In fact, the definition of a conductor is "a brakeman displaying pencils."

Many of my fellow volunteers enjoy dressing up in their conductor uniforms and hob knobbing with the passengers, whereas I, on the other hand, get infinitely more enjoyment emptying the sanitary tanks. That is a job requiring skill and coordination, as well as a stomach made of iron. I think I'm beyond iron though because as I look in the mirror these days I see lead. - More...
Wednesday - March 28, 2007

Rob Holston: Pets, Kids & a 50-pound Rock - I recently took my daughter's pet bird to the veterinarian's. As I waited in the vet's office for Tika's appointment, I picked up a Science Diet book and thumbed through. It was then I discovered the stark similarity between they way Americans take care of their pets and the way they take care of their children and themselves. I was also struck by an obvious (to me) contrast. Science Diet is committed to formulating the absolute best possible food for your pet cat or dog throughout the various stages of life that the spectrum of a dog or cat's longevity requires. Human "food" manufacturing companies are primarily interested in profit and offering a huge amount of choices, some of which are healthy and many of which are not. Wisdom is the ability to discern proper choices and make them and this pet food book seemed to display wisdom that should be applied to human lives as well.

The section of the Science Diet book that caught my attention was "Obesity Facts". I thought, 'Here's a health concern Americans share with their pets.' The book stated that 50% of dogs & cats are overweight or obese. I thought, 'A recent study shows that in just 4 years, overweight & obese American children will increase from the present level of 25% to 50%.' It is scary for me to see this feeder system generation face such obesity risks, not just for them as children, but also for the adults, which they will become. If the present epidemic levels of diabetes, heart disease and stroke are alarming now, the next generation will be far more disposed to premature death and disability than the present generation of adults. That is VERY alarming!

The Science Diet Book next stated that obese pets are more likely to suffer joint problems from the stress that excess weight puts on the bones and joints. In long term, it stated, obesity means reduced quality of life & perhaps a shorter life for your pet. I think most overweight and obese humans can relate to these issues. An extra 50 pounds puts a lot of undue stress on the spine, the hips, the knees and feet. How much stress? I did a little experiment one day by taking my backpack to the beach and finding a rock to carry home. It was nearly 50 pounds. I walk this same return route several times a week with my dog and suffer no aches or pains and no need to stop along the way, about _ mile, all up hill. With the extra weight, every joint cried for relief and I stopped several times just to catch my breath. I lived with those extra 50 pounds for only 15 minutes but I have empathy for those who live with it 24/7. - More...
Wednesday - March 28, 2007

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