The Valdez Star - Serving Prince William Sound and Copper River Basin

News briefs


Valdez Star photo

The community Christmas tree outside the Valdez Museum has a star that shines bright during the season's early nightfall.

Minimum wage

(AP) Alaska's minimum wage will rise by a nickel, to $9.80 an hour, beginning Jan. 1.

Voters in 2014 approved increasing the minimum wage from $7.75 an hour. Under the measure, the minimum wage rose to $8.75 an hour in 2015 and to $9.75 an hour at the start of 2016. Going forward, the wage is to be adjusted annually for inflation.

In a release, state labor commissioner Heidi Drygas called the bump to $9.80 an hour a modest increase that will protect low-wage workers and their families against inflation.

Heather Beaty, executive director of the Alaska Workforce Investment Board, says an estimated 18,000 workers earn minimum wage or less in Alaska. She notes that some jobs are exempt from the minimum wage.

Fugitive nabbed

(AP) An alleged child predator described as one of the San Francisco Bay Area's most wanted fugitives has been arrested in Alaska after four years on the run.

Kevin Trask was listed as one of Homeland Security's most wanted fugitives.

The U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement, or ICE, says in a statement Friday that Trask was arrested in Fairbanks. He was initially pulled over by officers for faulty equipment on his vehicle and gave a false identity.

The 40-year-old later admitted his real name and that he was wanted on child pornography charges.

Trask was indicted in Northern California in 2012 for possession and distribution of child pornography. An investigation found he was involved in sharing over 700 images and 10 videos of child exploitation, some of which involved sadomasochism and sex acts with toddlers.

Regulator resigns

(AP) Cynthia Franklin, who helped guide Alaska's work in setting up the state's legal marijuana industry, is resigning as director of the Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office.

In a release Thursday, state commerce commissioner Chris Hladick (LAD'-ick) says Franklin's leadership leaves the Alcoholic Beverage and Marijuana Control boards and their staffs well positioned to continue high-quality work.

Franklin was named director of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board in 2014, two months before voters legalized recreational use of marijuana, and later also became director of the Marijuana Control Board, created in 2015.

The Alcoholic Beverage and Marijuana Control boards share staff.

Franklin, who is taking a job with the Department of Law, didn't immediately respond to messages from The Associated Press.

Hladick expects a new director to be appointed in early January.

Pot and seniors

(AP) Surveys show a small but growing number of older adults are using marijuana - a trend that worries researchers who say not enough information exists about how pot affects older users.

People over 50 are still far less likely to use marijuana than younger people.

While abundant research has been done on how the drug affects developing brains, little is known about the potential health consequences on older users.

Researchers at New York University say pot could pose distinctive health challenges to older users - from memory loss to risk of falling.

Borrowing up

(AP) Consumers increased their borrowing in October at the slowest pace in four months as growth in credit card debt and the category that covers auto loans and student loans slowed.

Total borrowing rose $16 billion after a $21.8 billion increase in September, the Federal Reserve reported Wednesday. The October increase was the smallest since a gain of $14.5 billion in June.

Revolving credit, which covers credit cards, increased $2.3 billion in October. That was after a $4.1 billion increase in September and was the smallest gain since February. The non-revolving category, which covers auto loans and student loans, rose $13.7 billion in October after a $17.7 billion rise in September.

Economists watch borrowing trends to gauge how consumer spending, which accounts for 70 percent of economic activity, will fare.

The October borrowing increase was a gain of 5.2 percent at an annual rate, well below the pace of the past two years. Borrowing rose 7.2 percent in 2014 and 7 percent in 2015.

Even with the slowdown, total borrowing rose to a fresh record of $3.73 trillion.

The Fed's monthly consumer credit report does not cover home mortgages or other loans secured by real estate.

Coast protection

(AP) President Obama used his executive powers Friday to add protections to waters off Alaska's west coast.

The White House announced creation of a Northern Bering Sea Climate Resilience Area that will focus "locally tailored" protections on marine resources.

The area covers 112,300 square miles and supports the annual marine mammal migration of bowhead and beluga whales, Pacific walrus, ice seals and migratory birds.

Residents of 39 coastal villages dependent on marine resources have urged that that their views be heard as the Arctic is affected by climate warming, expanding ship traffic and offshore petroleum drilling.

The White House executive order establishes a task force with village representation that will consult on federal management activities in the area and work to protect cultural and subsistence activities.


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