News Briefs


August 30, 2017

Valdez Star photo

Emergency responders were on the scene last Wednesday when smoke was reported in one of the wings of the Best Western Hotel on Harbor Dr.

Hotel fire

Emergency responders were fast on the scene last Wednesday when smoke was reported at the Best Western Hotel on N. Harbor Dr.

The fire alarm originated in the northwest wing of the hotel, but the city's public information office reports that the entire facility was evacuated for safety purposes, including the lobbies, bar and restaurant.

No injuries were reported during the incident.

More rain

Valdez received 1.4 inches of rain in the week of Aug 21- 27 according to Eric Cooper, who measures area precipitation for the Valdez Avalanche Center and the National Weather Service.

Valdez has received 31.42 inches of rain since Jan. 1 according to Cooper.

Another shaker

(AP) A magnitude 4.1 earthquake hit the Andreanof Islands region of Alaska.

The earthquake struck about 4:10 p.m., a week ago Tuesday, about 57 miles (92 kilometers) southeast of the island of Amchitka. The earthquake had a depth of about 9 miles (14 kilometers.)

There are no reports of damage or of anyone feeling the earthquake.

Health care

(AP) Director of the Alaska Division of Insurance Lori Wing-Heier will be one of the presenters before a Senate committee on health care.

The U.S. Senate Committee on Health, Education, Labor and Pensions will begin hearings next week on health care, hearing testimony from directors and commissioners from several states.

The other four presenters are from Tennessee, Washington, Pennsylvania and Oklahoma, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported.

Chairman Lamar Alexander of Tennessee and Ranking Member Patty Murray, a Washington Democrat, announced earlier this month that the committee would hold a series of hearings in September on stabilizing premiums in the individual insurance markets.

The first hearing "Stabilizing Premiums and Helping Individuals in the Individual Insurance Market for 2018: Insurance Commissioners," will be held Sept. 6.

Alaska Republican Sen. Lisa Murkowski says Alaska has one of the highest costs for health care. She says lowering these costs is an important goal of hers.

"In the past two years, insurance premiums in the individual market have increased almost 80 percent," Wing-Heier wrote in an article last year. Wing-Heier was appointed director of the Alaska Division of Insurance in 2014.

Abortion suit

(AP) A state court judge has agreed to dismiss a lawsuit that prompted the state medical board to adopt new regulations for abortions after the first trimester in Alaska.

Attorneys for Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands and for the state had jointly sought dismissal of the case brought by Planned Parenthood. They said the lawsuit was rendered moot by the medical board's actions.

The lawsuit, filed last year, had been on hold pending final actions by the medical board. The new regulations took effect in July.

The medical board cast the changes, in part, as an effort to modernize the rules.

On Thursday, Superior Court Judge Eric Aarseth signed an order dismissing the case. Each side is to be responsible for its own fees and costs.

No more Shoothouts

(AP) The University of Alaska Anchorage says the 40th Great Alaska Shootout will be the last edition of the long-running college basketball tournament.

Chancellor Sam Gingerich said Thursday that the university can no longer sustain funding for the annual Thanksgiving week tournament.

The shootout began in 1978 and is the longest-running regular-season college basketball tournament.

The event brought the highest level of basketball competition to Alaska, with appearances in the men's bracket by Duke, Kansas, North Carolina, UCLA and other perennial national contenders.

In recent years, as early season tournaments multiplied, top teams chose warmer venues.

The 2017 GCI Great Alaska Shootout begins Nov. 21 with the four-team women's tournament. The field includes Binghamton, Tulsa, Maryland Eastern Shore and host Alaska-Anchorage.

The men's tournament begins Nov. 22 with Cal Poly, Central Michigan, College of Charleston, CSU Bakersfield, Idaho, Sam Houston State, Santa Clara and host Alaska-Anchorage.

Rape kits

(AP) Alaska authorities are working with advocacy groups to draft guidelines for testing the state's sexual assault kits, some of which have been shelved for years due to lack of funding.

Earlier this month, Alaska sexual assault experts met to hash out the best way to handle the state's untested kits, the Juneau Empire reported. Alaska State Troopers have more than 1,000 untested kits containing DNA evidence from sexual assaults, while in 2016, the Juneau Police Department had about 350 untested kits and the Anchorage Police Department had another 1,400.

The state received $1.1 million last fall to test the kits, but that hasn't happened yet. A statewide group, known as the Sexual Assault Kit Initiative working group, is developing a testing priority to make sure the money is used as efficiently as possible.

"Obviously we've got a pretty good chunk of change. But it's not going to cover everything," said Maj. Jeff Laughlin, deputy director of the Alaska State Troopers.

Brad Myrstol, acting director of the University of Alaska Justice Center, said patience is needed when dealing with sexual assault kits, even though it's a topic that people don't want to be patient about.

While the initiative group works on the best way to use the $1.1 million, the state is soliciting proposals from private labs that will test the kits.

"I think it's going to be a good thing for victims, and certainly for Alaska in the long run," Laughlin said.

Tony Gorman photo

Youngsters getting off the bus last week on the first day of school. Valdez police are asking motorists " drive extra cautious now that school has started. With the rainy weather and daylight decreasing, visibility is getting worse."


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