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SitNews - Stories In The News - Ketchikan, Alaska
October 06, 2017

Front Page Feature Photo By TERRI JIRSCHELE

Out of the Fog, Into the Light
Front Page Feature Photo By TERRI JIRSCHELE ©2017

Ketchikan: Man charged with murder & tampering with evidence after calling police - Friday morning at approximately 11:21 AM, Officers of the Ketchikan Police Department responded to a report for a welfare check on a male who appeared to be passed out.

Officers discovered the male was deceased and the circumstances appeared to be suspicious. The victim was identified as Richard Branda, age 55. Branda's next of kin were notified. Officers processed the scene and began contacting possible witnesses.

Friday afternoon, at approximately 4:59 PM, Ketchikan Central Dispatch received a call from a male saying he had killed Branda. Officers contacted the caller in the 100 block of Austin Street. He was identified as Joshua K. Bliss, age 42. - More...
Friday PM - October 06, 2017


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Ketchikan: Redford movie was based on former Ketchikan resident; Tom Murton was first probation officer and Ketchikan jail manager By DAVE KIFFER - In 1980. Robert Redford starred in a movie called "Brubaker" about a crusading prison warden in Arkansas who tried to eliminate prison corruption and improve conditions for prisoners.

Redford movie was based on former Ketchikan resident; Tom Murton was first probation officer and Ketchikan jail manager

Thomas Orhelius Murton
Photo courtesy Encyclopedia of Arkansas

"Brubaker" was loosely based on the story of Tom Murton, a corrections official who indeed attempted to reform the Arkansas prison system before creating a big enough political stir that he was fired. He then wrote a book called the "The Arkansas Prison Scandal." 

But what is generally not known is that Murton had an Alaskan connection. For several years in the early 1960s, he was the probation officer and the state jail supervisor in Ketchikan.

Murton was born in Los Angeles in 1928, but his family had Oklahoma roots and they soon returned to the Sooner State where Murton was raised. After serving in the military, he graduated from Oklahoma State University In 1950 with a degree in animal husbandry. By then, his father had moved north to the territory of Alaska and Murton - who had spent some time in the military in Alaska - joined him there, graduating with a degree in mathematics from the University of Alaska-Fairbanks.

When Alaska became a state in 1959, many of the governmental functions of the federal government transferred to state control and the new government was scrambling to find people fill positions in the newly created departments.

In 1960, Murton joined the newly created Alaska Department of Health and Welfare. Corrections was a subset of that department within the Division of Institutions. Within that division was the Youth and Adult Authority which had nine separate locations in Juneau, Anchorage, Fairbanks, Ketchikan and Nome. Ketchikan had two facilities, the Ketchikan State Jail which took over the federal jail space in the Federal Building on Stedman Street and the Ketchikan Detention Home - a youth facility that occupied a building next to Norman Walker Ballfield near City Park.

Murton began his time in Ketchikan as the first state probation officer. He proved to be a prolific memo writer and, from his memos, we can follow his time in Ketchikan. In January of 2016, State Archivist Dean Dawson poured through the several boxes of records dealing with Murton and created "Tom Murton - His Alaska Connections State and Federal Records Correspondence." The records detailed not only Murton's time in Alaska, but a period nearly two decades later where he was negotiating returning several boxes of the records to the state that Murton may or may not have taken illegally.

"Intelligent and conscientious with a dry sense of humor, Murton could also prove abrasive and uncompromising with others, especially his superiors," Dawson wrote into the intro to his collection of Murton memos. "Murton made his reputation by helping establish the Alaskan correctional system...he was eventually fired for giving controversial testimony before the Legislature concerning prison conditions."

It would not be the last time that Murton would be fired from a corrections job.

"Murton was famous for his exhaustive, multi-page, single spaced memoranda that often contained very few paragraphs, sometimes one paragraph per page." Dawson added. "His 'Murtonian' language was well know within the Department of Health and Welfare."

Many of the memos deal with the challenges of staffing and stocking the institutions, according to Dawson.

"Murton states that he 'inherited an unique filing system' his way of saying that it was quite inefficient," Dawson wrote. "Murton was involved in the procurement of everything from tooth brushes, cigarette tobacco, shave lotion, shirts, trousers, clamp lamps, plumbing supplies, paper clips, stamps, security razors, uniforms and fingerprint ink rollers. Washing machines were a really big deal."

How Murton dealt with all this showed his character as well, according to Dawson.

"It...clearly depicts how Murton's style assured his unemployment after a relatively short time with the State of Alaska," Dawson concluded.

Murton was working at Clark Junior High School in  Anchorage in 1960 when he applied for the position of superintendent in the new Youth Conservation Camp. Charles Pfeffier - the director of the Division of Institutions - decided that Murton wasn't quite qualified to be in charge of an entire facility, but offered him a position as a probation officer. Pfieffer would grow to regret his decision to hire Murton.

On August 1, 1960, Murton began his case work in Ketchikan. Murton later wrote - in an unpublished dissertation that is also part of the state archives - that he was also unofficially put in charge of the jail and given the responsibility for hiring officers and developing standards for operations and training. Many of the standards that he developed were then used at other facilities in the state, according the dissertation.

Within a week, though, Murton was already developing a reputation as a bit of a "fuss budget."

On August 8, he sent a memo to Pfeiffer complaining that every time he switched jobs in Alaska he was required to pay the $10 School Tax again.

"No less than four times has this happened to my wife or myself," He fumed, adding that he was willing to take the case to Governor Egan, if necessary.

A week later, Murton was still concerned about finances telling Pfeiffer in another memo that he was so low on cash that his family was "down to beans and sow belly now and could use the per diem check very well."

Another week later, Pfeiffer was already cautioning Murton to be a little more flexible in his position. - More...
Friday PM - October 06, 2017

Pacific cod stock in Gulf of Alaska at all time low, scientists say By LAINE WELCH - Fishing outlooks for some of Alaska’s largest catches are running the gamut from celebratory (salmon) to relief (Bering Sea crab) to catastrophic (cod). 

First the bad news.

Stakeholders were stunned to learn that surveys yielded the lowest numbers ever for Pacific cod in the federally managed waters of the Gulf of Alaska, meaning from three to 200 miles offshore. was the first to report the bad news as the North Pacific Fishery Management Council meeting got underway last week in Anchorage.         

Fisheries biologist Steve Barbeaux of the Alaska Fisheries Science Center in Seattle said the summer survey, done every other year, revealed that the cod year classes for 2012 and 2013 appeared to be “wiped out,” and the data suggest recruitment failures through 2016.  

Overall, the surveys reflected a 71 percent decline in Gulf cod abundance since 2015, and an 83 percent decline since 2013. The cod crash coincides with the record warm Gulf water temperatures in 2015, Barbeaux said.

Preliminary estimates indicate cod catches in the Gulf of Alaska next year could drop by 60-85 percent, although the data must undergo further analysis and could change when final decisions are made in December. 

The 2017 Gulf cod harvest from federal waters was 150,000 metric tons (330 million pounds), which was down 20 percent from the previous year. 

The cod crash will be felt in waters closer to shore as well. 

“The state cod fishery harvest guidelines are based on the federal harvest level. So as that declines, the state harvests will decline as well,” said Forrest Bowers, deputy director of the commercial fisheries division for the Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game (ADF&G). 

The state waters allowable cod harvest for 2017 is approximately 45 million pounds. 

Pacific cod accounted for 12 percent of Alaska’s fish harvests by volume in 2016, and 11 percent of the value. Alaska fishermen produce roughly 16 percent of the global cod catch.

The 2018 cod catches in the Bering Sea/Aleutian Islands fishery are expected to remain the same at nearly 527 million pounds.   - More...
Friday PM - October 06, 2017


Ketchikan: NEW HORIZONS RECEIVES QUALITY AWARD - New Horizons Long-term Care unit at PeaceHealth Ketchikan Medical Center recently received a Quality Achievement Award from Mountain-Pacific Quality Health, the Medicare quality-innovation network, quality-improvement organization for Alaska. 


Vice President for Patient Care Shannon Updike, RN, and Chief Administrative Officer Ed Freysinger receive quality award for New Horizons Long-term Care facility.
Photo courtesy PeaceHealth Ketchikan Medical Center

New Horizons was one of seven long-term care facilities in Alaska to be recognized for quality performance at the annual meeting of the Alaska State Hospital and Nursing Home Association Health in late September. PeaceHealth Ketchikan's Chief Administrative Officer Ed Freysinger and Shannon Updike, RN, Vice President of Patient Care, were on hand to accept the award. 

"We're very proud to receive this quality award," said Freysinger. "It recognizes our caregivers' diligence to provide our long-term care residents with the highest-quality, safe care. It's just another example of the great care our community members can expect at our local medical center."  - More...
Friday PM - October 06, 2017

Alaska: Statewide gonorrhea outbreak in Alaska - The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services is warning residents of a statewide outbreak of sexually transmitted gonococcal (GC) infection – commonly called gonorrhea. Reported cases of gonorrhea climbed from 1,115 in 2015 to 1,454 in 2016, a 31percent increase. Cases are continuing to increase in 2017.  

During the first 6 months of 2017, there were 1,035 cases reported. More than half of those cases (56 percent) occurred in Anchorage, and 58 percent were in individuals aged 29 or younger. 

Alaska’s outbreak is part of a national trend of increasing sexually transmitted disease rates. The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention (CDC) 2016 STD Surveillance Report indicates that there was an 18.5 percent increase in gonorrhea rates nationally from 2015 to 2016.  In 2016, Alaska ranked 4th in the nation for gonorrhea case rates. 

Any sexually active person can get gonorrhea through unprotected vaginal, anal, or oral sex with an infected partner. In pregnant women with untreated gonorrhea, the infection may spread to the eyes of their babies during childbirth. Symptoms in men include a burning sensation when urinating; a white, yellow, or green discharge from the penis; and painful or swollen testicles. Symptoms in women include vaginal discharge, burning on urination, and abdominal cramping. Rectal infection in both men and women can cause discharge, itching, and pain. Gonorrhea in the throat may cause a sore throat. Some men and most women with gonorrhea do not have any symptoms. - More...
Friday PM - October 06, 2017


Columns - Commentary



BLAIR BOSS: The United States of Anxiety - What happened last weekend in Las Vegas is not, in the strictest sense, a Second Amendment issue. It is symptomatic of something deeper. There is little doubt that if more restrictive laws were in place to limit the sale of certain types of weapons, as well as devices that increase their lethality, the terror unleashed may have been less devastating. 

Gun regulations or restrictions, even those as benign as background checks and waiting periods, arouse divisiveness and hostility among many Americans. Emotions and fears run high, preventing both sides of the issue from honestly and intelligently sitting down and arriving at a place where gun aficionados and Second Amendment stalwarts can maintain their Constitutional rights while, at the same time, effecting concessions that protect the interests of the public at large.

This is a debate that will continue to rage, increasingly so with each mass shooting and act of terror. Politicization of the horrors experienced in Las Vegas, Newtown, Orlando, San Bernardino, and Columbine is par for the course for both sides of the issue. The time for rational consensus on how best to confront unwarranted violence is now. 

Unless you are one of the family members or friends of someone directly or indirectly involved with the tragedy in Las Vegas, this frightening moment in time will soon become one in a series of blurred memories; one more nightmare held in our collective conscious. What will remain, however, is an anxiety more existential in nature. One that affects all of us. - More...
Friday PM - October 06, 2017


RICK JENSEN: Facebook is the New Big Brother - You're putting your life at risk, one like at a time.

Facebook's fairly recent slog into transparency reveals some rather nasty big-brother surveillance of their users.

It's always been a given that a service provider who does not directly charge customers can only pay the bills and employees if they're being subsidized, either by the government, advertising or leasing access to their clients' information.

The more information the service provider has, the more they can charge their own clients for access to that information.

There's really nothing new to this. Grocery stores, insurance companies and retailers of all sorts have been collecting such information for ages.

What's new is having two billion active monthly users willingly or unwittingly handing over their most personal data and that of their children to one site that then sells the information to thousands of businesses.

Facebook even tracks you across third-party websites, which a California judge decided is legal because you should know they do this and you should do more to keep your browsing histories private. - More...
Friday PM - October 06, 2017

jpg Editorial Cartoon: Gun Battle

Editorial Cartoon: Gun Battle
By Nate Beeler ©2017, The Columbus Dispatch
Distributed to subscribers for publication by Cagle Cartoons, Inc.


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Opinion - Letter

It’s Past Time to Achieve Parity Regarding State Education Funding: An Open Letter to Representative Ortiz By Dan Bockhorst - On October 23, the Alaska Legislature will convene its 12th session during your 3 years in office (3 regular sessions plus 9 special sessions) – far more sessions than during any other three-year period in the State’s history.

The agenda for the upcoming special session is narrow — a clean-up bill to correct problems with the omnibus criminal justice reform bill (SB 91) enacted last year, and a proposed tax on wages and net earnings from self-employment.

Regarding the tax proposal, Governor Walker claimed incorrectly last month that Alaska is the “only state in the nation that doesn’t have a broad-based tax.” Regrettably, Governor Walker overlooked the State’s Required Local Contribution for schools (RLC) which generates more than one-quarter of a billion dollars for the State annually. - More...
Saturday AM - October 07, 2017

Opinion - Letter

AMHS Needs Forward Funding By Rep. Dan Ortiz - The Alaska Marine Highway System needs forward funding. I don’t think I need to say it twice. If money is allocated to the AMHS for its future expenses, the AMHS can properly plan sailings which would: capture revenue from tourists (including those considering traveling with their RV’s or vehicles), allow businesses to send employees to neighboring islands, and provide more advance planning options for Alaskans.

Of course, the ferry system would also benefit from being more insulated from political influence. Currently, support for the marine highway, its projects, and solutions to long term problems change every 4-8 years depending on changes within the governor’s administration and the legislature. I am working diligently within the legislature to protect AMHS funding and services. - More...
Saturday AM - October 07, 2017

Opinion - Letter

SB54: Essential step in addressing public safety By Jahna Lindemuth & Walt Monegan - Crime is on the rise. We’ve been hearing a lot from Alaskans about their cabins, cars, shops, and homes being broken into. People feel scared and that fear is warranted.  The crime statistics confirm what we have been hearing in all of our Alaska communities.   As Alaska’s Attorney General and Commissioner of Public Safety, public safety is our highest concern. We agree action is needed to protect Alaskans. Passing SB54 during the special session is an important first step in this direction.

A number of factors contribute to our public safety problem. The foremost issues are the opioid epidemic and the fiscal crisis. Demands on our public safety resources have gone up while budgets to fight these problems have gone down. We need to solve our fiscal crisis to ensure that the State has the resources available to address public safety.   Ignoring our fiscal crisis will leave us with an inability to keep Alaskans safe. - More...
Saturday AM - October 07, 2017

Opinion - Letter

NO WORRIES THE SECOND AMENDMENT WILL JUST GET YOU TO HEAVEN THAT MUCH SOONER By David G Hanger - Some five hundred eighty-six casualties, 58 dead by gunshot, hundreds upon hundreds wounded by one man’s gunfire, and, wow, did those first responders do one hell of a job. (It took how long to even figure out where the shots were coming from?) You may have to go clear back to World War I to find a single tactical engagement that cost 586 US casualties. And you definitely have to go back to the first day of the First Battle of the Somme to find so many casualties inflicted in so short a time; the Newfoundland regiment, and that was accomplished by trained soldiers with multiple weapons and weapons systems at their disposal. Time to change USA to FFZ, as in free-fire zone.

Nor should this event in any way be politicized; guns are not in any sense political. They are for killing animals, killing people, and intimidating hell out of your neighbors whether in your neighborhood or out demonstrating for some cause you don’t like. You are just wearing that “gun outside your clothes for all the honest world to feel,” right? And feelings ain’t got nothin’ to do with politics. - More...
Saturday AM - October 07, 2017

Opinion - Letter

Open Letter to the NFL players By A. M. Johnson - Following is an anonymous letter, author unknown which should be printed in every newspaper across this great Nation. It will not be but it should.

An Open Letter to the NFL Players.. You graduated high school in 2011. Your teenage years were a struggle. You grew up on the wrong side of the tracks. Your mother was the leader of the family and worked tirelessly to keep a roof over your head and food on your plate. - More...
Saturday AM - October 07, 2017

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“Hundreds of Alaskans have reached out to my administration saying health care costs are increasingly unaffordable,” Governor Walker said. “This law will provide relief from large premium hikes for

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