A recent study linked obesity in children to domestic violence. Now, evidence indicates that childhood trauma can spur physical disease later on, when an abused child reaches adulthood. In Alaska, the state is working to reduce adverse childhood experiences to lessen the latent impacts of trauma, and to help reduce the burden on social services programs.Download Audio:In late Februray of this year, the conference room at a downtown Anchorage convention hall buzzed with chatter, in anticipation of keynote speaker, Linda Chamberlain. And Chamberlain has a strong message.“Our early emotional experiences do become part of the architecture, the foundation of our brains. Our brains are incredibly plastic, during childhood, but don’t forget as I talk about this.. until the day you die, your brain is plastic,” she told the audience.The event was a symposium hosted by the state Advisory Board on Alcoholism and Drug Abuse. Dr. Chamberlain told the audience that adverse childhood experiences, such as witnessing drug use and domestic violence, can stunt a child’s neurological development.“The younger the child, the more vulnerable the brain is. The thing is, that you will go into a shelter, a domestic violence shelter, and I will see babies with PTSD. I know it right away. They’re avoiding eye contact, they are frozen, inhibited.”The good news, she says, is that, with effort, negative brain wiring can be changed. Chamberlain bases her comments on the Adverse Childhood Experiences Study, or ACEs, which was conducted through the Centers For Disease Control and Kaiser Permanente during the late 1990s. Researchers found strong links between childhood traumas and long – term health and economic outcomes. Patrick Scidmore is a planner with the Alaska Mental Health Board.“This is true of people who have ever been diagnosed with depression, people who have asthma, obesity. The negative outcomes are just more likely in the group with high ACES scores.”Scidmore, is and a member of the state Advisory Board on Alcohol and Drug Abuse. His expertise is reading the data, and translating that to more tangible information.“For example, for current smoking, we estimate from our Alaska data, 32 percent of the people who are current smokers would not be smokers if we could eliminate all adverse childhood experiences. And that translates into about $185 million dollars of savings to the state. Not necessarily state government, but across the public and private sector.”]Scidmore says data gathered by the Alaska Division of Public Health during 2013 shows how childhood trauma contributes to chronic disease: for example, thirty percent of asthma sufferers in the state have links to ACES, and almost half of COPD patients have high ACES scores.Since it is more cost effective in human terms to prevent childhood trauma, than to pay for the damage later on, social service providers are seeking ways in which to do that. Communities in several locations in Alaska are working on becoming “Trauma Informed”. Elizabeth Ripley is CEO of the Matanuska Susitna Health Foundation.“Since the ACEs study was released, the brain science has caught up to the science behind the ACEs study, to show that literally, trauma changes the very physiology of the brain. But the good news that Linda Chamberlain shares is that we can heal the brain, but we have to be intentional about it.”Ripley says Mat Su has eight personnel trained in how to inform the public – in schools, law enforcement, and in businesses — on efforts to reframe how we deal with childhood trauma. Especially in school, where children who act out are often misunderstood.“We’ve tended to ask ‘what ‘s wrong with you?’ And this changes the framework to ‘what happened to you?”Ripley says a cohort of Alaskans have worked with the original authors of the ACEs study to train 25 people from around the state to help by providing information about the prevalence and impacts of child trauma“The information about the fact that people can heal, and that we can build resilience and help people heal from the trauma and have brighter futures, is really incredibly revelatory to most people.”She says creating resilience is the key, and that just informing the public and private sectors that touch children is a huge part of the effort. Mat Su joins Homer, and a half dozen Alaska communities now working to become “trauma informed.”
Sen. Lisa Murkowski today released a national energy policy bill. It’s been one of her highest priorities as chairman of the Senate Energy Committee, and she produced the bill jointly with the top Democrat on the committee, Maria Cantwell of Washington. Murkowski says it required compromise; the bill doesn’t include some of the big items on Murkowski’s energy agenda.Download AudioThis bill is heavy on energy efficiency and weatherization, modernizing the electric grid and new technologies. Murkowski says she wants a bill that can actually pass.“This has been an effort through months and months to find common ground on energy issues that not only impact Alaskans, but impact people around the country.”It’s a pragmatist’s bill designed for a polarized Congress. It does not include controversies like the Keystone XL Pipeline and offshore revenue-sharing for states, let alone anything that would open the Arctic Refuge to oil drilling. It also does not include one of Murkowski’s biggest national priorities – ending the ban on exporting crude oil. The senator says she’ll work on that separately.“What you will see is a base bill that is bipartisan in nature, that does not have everything that I would like, but it doesn’t have everything the other side would like. That’s the nature of legislation.”The bill doesn’t direct federal resources to Alaska, or create Alaska-only programs. That would trigger the congressional ban on earmarking. But Murkowski and her staff say the bill has provisions Alaska is well positioned to benefit from. It authorizes federal research on geothermal energy, for instance, and promotes the development of hybrid micro-grid systems, like the wind-and-diesel combos that now power some Alaska villages. It supports state energy programs with loan guarantees, and includes training to produce workers who can build and maintain modern power systems. It doesn’t have financing for the big Alaska natural gas pipeline, but it does speed up the processing of LNG export permits.The Senate Energy Committee will take the bill up next week, and after that it will go to the Senate floor, where, Murkowski, senators will be allowed to offer amendments.“I’ve said before this is not a messaging bill, this is a time to update energy policy, and we’re doing it in the regular course of business.”Murkowski says the bill would reclassify hydropower as a renewable energy.She’s especially proud that the bill would repeal lots of old and redundant energy laws. That, she says, will cut down on the scores of reports Congress requires the Energy Department to produce that no one reads.
Municipal leaders from across the state came to a preliminary agreement with partners in the Alaska LNG Project on local payouts last week.Download AudioThe proposed pipeline route for the Alaska LNG Project, a consortium of oil companies (Image courtesy of the Alaska LNG Project).The project will make $800 million available to communities facing impacts from the 800-mile long LNG pipeline, with billions more slated for future tax payments. But how much each community will be entitled to is still up in the air.For more than a year, a group called the Municipal Advisory Gas Project Review Board has been working to get to these numbers; $800 million on the front end of the AK LNG Project to pay for things like road expansions and other expensive upgrades, and 16.5 billion dollars for taxes over the life of the project. Kenai Peninsula Borough Mayor Mike Navarre is one of many city and borough mayors on the Review Board.“I think they’re fair numbers,” Navarre said. “A lot of it still depends on how it will be allocated among the different communities and the state.”We could use up this space simply entertaining all the options the legislature has for allocating that money, but that still wouldn’t get us very far. Governor Bill Walker has proposed the state take a 25 percent share of the project, buying out TransCanada. So who pays for what under that scenario?“If the state is a part owner of the project, is that portion of it exempted from taxation and if so, does that reduce those numbers by 25 percent? And if so, does that come out of the state’s share, the municipalities’ share or both?”“And when there’s a lot of money on the table and no one else has much money because of declining oil prices, there will be lively debate over who gets how much of that pot of money,” said Larry Persily, special assistant to the mayor on oil and gas.He used to work for the federal government keeping tabs on big oil and gas projects in the state and now he’s doing the same thing for the Kenai Peninsula Borough. He says all of these discussions, taking place years before a decision will even be made about whether or not to build an in-state gasline, all stem from arguments of the past.“This is intended to avoid the fights that have gone all the way to the state Supreme Court, multiple times, over what is the value of the Trans-Alaska Pipeline and everything attached to it,” Persily said.And that’s why we’ve seen an opening bid, so to speak, of $16.5 billion for property taxes. Actually, that’s a payment in lieu of taxes, or a PILT. If you took all of the pipe and the buildings and the equipment and the land needed to build and maintain an 800 mile natural gas pipeline and taxed it like regular property, the project would simply be too expensive. So $16.5 billion is what the negotiating parties have agreed to as an alternative.“So there will be a formula, based on production, that will be paid and distributed between the municipalities, such as the Kenai Peninsula Borough where the (LNG) plant is going to be located and the North Slope Borough, Fairbanks, Mat-Su Borough, Denali Borough and the state and that will continue for the life of the project,” Persily said. “What hasn’t been decided is…how it is going to be shared between the state and the boroughs.”There is clearly a lot more negotiation that will take place before we really know how much money communities can expect out of the project, and all of this is before the project sponsors have finished their report on the socio-economic costs. That means schools, hospitals, police and other services that might be needed during construction. That could also mean even more money in local coffers. If the project gets the greenlight. That decision isn’t expected until sometime in 2018.
A homeless man fashioned a long knife to a groomed tree branch and speared a hungry black bear cub that was sniffing for food Friday morning at an illegal camp site in Anchorage.State wildlife biologist Dave Battle says a sow and yearling have been stealing food from the homeless camp for days. The cub was near a tent Friday morning, and a man in the camp was afraid it would attack.Alaska State Troopers spokeswoman Beth Ipsen says in an email the man earlier fashioned a long knife to a “nicely groomed branch.” Battle says the man threw the spear, hitting the bear in the side. The bear ran less than 20 yards before collapsing and dying.Ipsen says David Tandler was given a $310 citation for negligent feeding of wildlife.
On Sunday evening, the issue of Alaska coastal erosion will be featured on the Al Jazeera America program “Fault Lines.” The correspondent for the story is former APRN reporter Libby Casey. She says they highlighted Newtok and Kivilina on the northwest Arctic coast.Newtok is farther along in the very slow process of relocation, but Kivilina is having trouble getting disaster funds in part because of their strong efforts at protecting the community from storm damage.Download AudioLibby Casey is a reporter for Al Jezzera America. The Fault Lines program “When the Water Took the Land” will air Sunday evening at 9 p.m. EST.
While commercial fishermen were on the water anxiously awaiting the next herring opening in Sitka, some residents gathered on land for a traditional Tlingit ceremony. The Blessing of Herring Rock happens every year to get the fish to come back to the Sound to spawn.Download AudioJohn Duncan looks on as Roby Littlefield pours salt water over Herring Rock. (Photo by Brielle Schaeffer, KCAW – Sitka)For centuries, the Kiks.adi clan has honored the beginning of herring season in the spring by blessing Herring Rock, which originally stood on the waterfront of the Indian Village. It was at this rock where herring traditionally began their spawn. Nels Lawson is a Tlingit elder.“This time of year was very significant to our people because with the arrival of the herring on our shores, meant the arrival of new food, new food for our homes,” Lawson said.In that respect, little has changed. The small group of residents and tribal citizens are waiting for the fish to spawn to collect their tasty eggs.But spawning patterns have changed and the large Herring Rock has been relocated on shore. It now sits outside the Sheet’ka Kwan Nakahidi.Rachel Moreno, Sitka Tribe of Alaska Tribal Council member, says poor returns in recent years and fewer spawning areas make the blessing especially meaningful.“We bless it so we won’t have such a hard time getting them to come back,” said Moreno. “This is one of the last places herring spawn so it’s a very important anchor for that species and for our traditions for our people to enjoy the harvest of the herring eggs.”She says likes to enjoy her roe with seal oil and soy sauce, something she’s looking forward to after the herring spawn and the subsistence roe-on-hemlock harvest.Roby Littlefield did the honors of the blessing this year. She poured salt water from the channel over the rock in memory of her husband John Littlefield, a subsistence activist. She says she’s fueling up her boat in preparation for the harvest.“It’s not time to put branches in the water yet,” Littlefield said. “But it’s time to start looking because you never know for sure where they’re going to spawn especially with commercial harvesters pounding on them they’re running away and sometimes they scatter for a week at a time.”Competition over the herring resource has created tension between the commercial and subsistence interests. Littlefield, along with other traditional harvesters, feels that commercial fishing has a greater impact on herring than the Alaska Department of Fish & Game’s data suggests. She’s concerned about the future of the ecosystem.“They’re at the base of the pyramid,” said Littlefield. “Everything depends on herring and so when you cut off the bottom of the pyramid you’ve got a problem.”Patty Dick teaches sixth-grade science at Blatchley Middle School. She sees the blessing of the Herring Rock as an important tradition, one she always teaches her students about.“There are a lot of changes that are occurring right now in our ocean,” Dick said. and we are in the process of living through these changes and so every year that these herring return is really special.”And that’s a blessing in itself.
The state House and Senate are trying to work out their differences over a bill that would draw money from the Power Cost Equalization Endowment Fund.Download AudioSenator Lyman Hoffman. Hoffman drafted the bill that would limit the ways that money from the PCE is drawn from.(Photo by Skip Gray/Gavel Alaska)The $900 million fund subsidizes the high cost of electricity in rural areas. Because the state government has a $4 billion deficit, some lawmakers have suggested drawing money from the fund to pay for other state costs.Bethel Democratic Senator Lyman Hoffman crafted a bill that would limit the draw from the PCE fund to years when the fund earnings are more than what’s needed for the power cost equalization program. This program costs about 40 million per year.The Senate unanimously passed the measure, Senate Bill 196.But the House made changes to the bill. These changes made it less likely that excess fund earnings would be redirected back into the fund.Those changes concern Hoffman. When it was time for the Senate to decide Wednesday whether it would agree with the House’s changes, Hoffman spoke up.“They changed the formula on how the excessive earnings will be distributed and I believe that that formula will potentially put the fund in jeopardy and want to go back and revisit the differences between what the Senate has done, which is a more sound approach to the fund,” Hoffman said.As a result, there will be a conference committee to rewrite the bill so that both houses can agree to it.Hoffman will be the Senate chairman of the committee, which will also have Eagle River Republican Senator Anna MacKinnon and Fairbanks Republican Senator Click Bishop. The House members will be chairman Dillingham Democrat Bryce Edgmon, Eagle River Republican Dan Saddler and Fairbanks Democrat Scott Kawasaki.The Legislature formed the conference committee on what was an otherwise quiet day in the Capitol.
Photo: Committee homepageU.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski had a chance to flex some legislative muscle today. As chair of an Appropriations subcommittee, Murkowski writes the legislation that sends money to the Department of the Interior, the EPA and the Forest Service and tells them how to spend it. Her subcommittee passed that bill today. Murkowski also added several of her favorite environmental policy changes, which Senate Democrats are calling “poison pills.”Download AudioMurkowski says she’ll never stop trying to get a road for King Cove, to link the community to an all-weather airport. The senator says her bill authorizes a land trade to allow for a road through a portion of the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge.“I recognize the need to protect the environment, but recognize it should not come at the expense of jeopardizing the lives of those I represent,” she said when her subcommittee met this morning.The land trade is an example of a rider – a policy change a lawmaker slips into another bill, sometimes completely unrelated. Another of Murkowski’s Alaska riders would stop the feds from imposing stricter predator-hunting rules in the state’s national wildlife refuges.Her $32-billion bill has several big national riders, like one that would block an EPA rule defining which waters are subject to the Clean Water Act. Another halts a stream-buffer protection rule that mine advocates say would kill coal mining in Alaska and around the country.Murkowski says her bill pinches EPA’s regulatory budget, in areas where she says the agency has overstepped its bounds.“Several program areas that have issued controversial rules that are currently blocked in court are reduced,” she said, reading from a prepared statement, “because I believe it is more important to provide resources to programs that yield tangible results in improving the environment instead of funding more lawyers and bureaucrats to draft rules of questionable legality and dubious environmental benefit.”The top Democrat on her subcommittee, Sen. Tom Udall of New Mexico, says he likes that the bill increases money for drinking water infrastructure and the Indian Health Service. Still, Udall says he can’t support it.“We’re not prepared to gut environmental rules as the price of getting spending bills passed,” he said.Among the riders Udall counts as a poison pill are changes to environmental rules in the Tongass National Forest, in Southeast Alaska. Exactly what the bill says on that is unknown. Murkowski did not make the document public, but she and Udall issued summaries. The bill itself is scheduled for release on Thursday, when it goes before the full Senate Appropriations committee. Udall says that’s when he’ll try to remove the parts he doesn’t like.
Stories are posted on the APRN news page. You can subscribe to APRN’s newsfeeds via email, podcast and RSS. Follow us on Facebook at alaskapublic.org and on Twitter @aprnListen nowAlaska senators veer apart on family separationsLiz Ruskin, Alaska Public Media – Washington D.C.A gulf has opened between Sens. Murkowski and Sullivan on how to end family separations at the border. She signed a letter asking the attorney general to stop it immediately. Sullivan says it’ll take a new law.Accused of 2016 murders, Palmer man faces possible death sentenceCasey Grove, Alaska Public Media – AnchorageThe U.S. Attorney’s Office in Anchorage says it’s only the third time in the past 25 to 30 years that a formal intent to pursue the death penalty has been filed in an Alaska case.Walker asks Trump administration to protect those with pre-existing conditionsAndrew Kitchenman, KTOO – JuneauAmericans with pre-existing medical conditions are protected under the current federal law in buying individual health insurance. But President Donald Trump’s administration says the protection included in the Affordable Care Act is unconstitutional. Alaska Governor Bill Walker joined a bipartisan group of eight other governors in support of continuing the protection.ASMI says Chinese tariff increase will not apply to secondary processingDaysha Eaton, KMXT – KodiakSince last week, processors have been waiting to find out whether secondary processing of Alaska fish will be subject to a new 25 percent tariff,New Alaska regs requires oil and gas wells anchor below permafrostRashah McChesney, Alaska’s Energy Desk – JuneauCompanies drilling oil and gas wells in Alaska will now have to dig deep enough to avoid problems stemming from thawing permafrost.AEL&P to share the wealth from corporate tax cutJacob Resneck, KTOO – JuneauRatepayers in Juneau can expect a rebate on their power bills.Palin’s son moves to court program after assaulting fatherAssociated PressTrack Palin has formally entered into a diversion court program after assaulting his father so severely that it left him bleeding from the head.Bolger picked to be new Alaska Supreme Court chief justiceAssociated PressThe Alaska Supreme Court will have a new chief justice, starting July 1.Kalskag negotiating new subsistence fishing regulations with Kuskokwim fishery managersAnna Rose MacArthur, KYUK – BethelHow you fish on the Kuskokwim River depends on where you are. And—according to local fishermen— how you fish near Upper and Lower Kalskag is unlike anywhere else on the river.Campbell Creek Science Center offers reward for information on stolen mammoth tuskErin McKinstry, Alaska Public Media – AnchorageSomeone stole a 10,000-year-old mammoth tusk from the Campbell Creek Science Center in March. They’re now offering a $500 reward for information.Tour guides, bear hunters seek solutions after tourists witness a hunt in the TongassElizabeth Jenkins, Alaska’s Energy Desk – JuneauIn January, the two groups got together — in meetings moderated by the forest service — to hatch a plan to keep the hunting guides and small cruise ships from overlapping.