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Office News December 2015
It was a lively December as always to end a very successful year at ALO. One significant case settled, involving the death of a pregnant mother awaiting delivery of her child in Bethel. ALO alleged that the hospital failed to properly diagnose her serious medical issue, resulting in her death, as well as the death of her unborn baby. A case mentioned in last month's news also settled, after a judge ruled that a barge and tug were mainly responsible for a ruined fish net in Bristol Bay near Dillingham. That case was one of two cases resolved in December for which no fee was charged. The second was a real estate dispute in Anchorage involving Angstman family friends who had already paid a lawyer a bunch of money trying to get a house sold. The owners were a young couple who bought the house when living together, but later split up. ALO helped get an agreement to sell the house and when the deal closed, the happy clients sent some wine as a thank you. ALO's 2016 marketing motto thus becomes "Will Work For Wine".
In addition to working for no fee on a bunch of cases every year, ALO also sponsors local events, such as a recent pair of free swimming days for kids at the local pool. The theory behind that effort is the fact that there is nothing worse than a stingy lawyer. On second thought, there might be something worse than a stingy lawyer. How about an ultra-rich televangelist, with a fake TV smile who lives in this mansion in Texas? Please don't send him money. Find a good organization like the Salvation Army that pays its top employee about $200,000 a year and actually uses most of its donations to help needy folks.
ALO is involved in a case which made big news not only in Alaska but nationally. Here are a few stories about ALO client Wade Renfro and his famous customer. One from the Huffington Post and a video from Good Morning America. It even made the Minneapolis paper. Did anyone notice the tattoo?? This ALO case from Kodiak is also making a lot of headlines around the state and world. Someone sent a link to articles in Ireland and the United Kingdom. The City of Kodiak has attempted to spin this story in a favorable fashion, but this story shows they need to check their facts a little closer. ALO represents the autistic man in the story. It is a classic case of shoot first, ask questions later, which is a bad idea most of the time. Here is a follow up story to the tasing incident in Sitka which made the news last month, featuring a picture of a lawyer who doesn't often dress for the occasion.
Speaking of shooting, guns in America continue to make headlines on a regular basis. Some folks loudly cite the second amendment for the proposition that no one better mess with their right to bear arms. Some of them couldn't tell you what the amendment says, but that's ok. Here is what conservative Supreme Court Justice Warren Burger, a Minnesotan, had to say about the Second Amendment a while back. In Bethel, a four year old state trooper's son recently killed himself while playing with his father's handgun at home, a couple of blocks from ALO. Since 1968, more Americans have been killed by gunshots within our borders than have been killed by enemy fire in all of our wars dating back to the Revolutionary war. Our gun laws are not working all that well.
Warm weather has been rampant in Alaska. A north wind recently blew hard around Nome, bringing with it 35 degree temps. Long time musher Joe Garnie said in his entire life he had never seen a winter wind from the north bring warm temps. Here is an article from the Christian Science Monitor that explains why. Remember, the Monitor is a very conservative publication. Its not just Alaska. Check this story about Lake Superior. If a big lake like that is warming up, it makes sense that small lakes are too. When that causes fish fatalities in Minnesota lakes, many of the deniers will change their tune in a hurry. Of course, ocean temps are also up, along with ocean acid. Here is a short summary of the problem. Almost seems like a trend.
Not all the news was bad in December. This mandatory moose photo shows a unique scene at a morning flag raising on a military base near Anchorage. Bethel graduate Natalie Hanson continues to make news. ALO represented Kotzebue author Seth Kantner on a minor fish ticket case recently. He is one of Alaska's best writers, and he wrote this short piece for the Anchorage paper. He also wrote a new book which will be reviewed here soon. Here is the latest night time sky photo from Bethel's JoeJoe Prince, who must never sleep.
Even if you haven't checked any of the previous links for this month, be sure to check this one. It is only a few seconds, and if you don't laugh at the end, you are not allowed to read any more editions of the ALO News because you have no sense of humor.
Office News November 2015
With the fall visit to the Elk Farm complete, actual winter awaited in Bethel. That prospect was short lived though as rain fell across the state at the end of November turning the white to brown in time for the Angstman arrival at Thanksgiving. The rain eventually turned to snow and winter activities are now underway. The Dog Farm racing team is training two hours across the tundra, and Victoria Hardwick has entered the team in the Kuskokwim 300. The pressing issue now is mushing gear. The current cold weather outfit is about 10 years old, and fairly ragged. The previous one also lasted about 10 years. Can a 68 year old justify the expense of a new set of gear? Actually the current gear looks to be in better shape than the guy wearing it. Maybe a couple more patches are in order.
One civil case was settled in November, a serious car accident in Kotzebue. A drunk driver backed over ALO's client on the beach in front of Kotzebue during a party as she sat by a bonfire. The insurance company agreed to pay policy limits for the injuries suffered, and later paid a second policy limit after being persuaded that there were actually two incidents, because after the driver backed over the victim, he actually pulled forward and ran over her a second time.
ALO clients are scattered all over the state of Alaska, but this photo shows one of the most remote. Mark Schwantes has a claim against a barge company for running over his net while he was fishing in Nushagak Bay near Dillingham. Mark is winter caretaker for a lodge in the wilderness near the Angstman cabin, about 75 miles north of Dillingham. He testified for an hour at his trial by satellite phone from the lodge. He had to stand outside to get reception, and it was snowing. He lives there alone and sometimes travels by snow machine to the Angstman cabin for an outing.
This video made the news in Alaska during November. It shows a new ALO client being tasered in the Sitka jail. The video has inspired a lot of comment around the state and beyond. Noteworthy is the fact that the young man under arrest for underage drinking was already in a cell, and all the officers had to do was walk out and lock the cell if they felt threatened. ALO is pursuing a civil claim against the officers for their conduct. Videotaped police conduct has become commonplace in recent years, and it acts as both a defensive tool for police to reveal that they did the correct thing, or an embarrassment to the police when they do the wrong thing. One thing is for sure, all officers should expect to be on video tape at all times, because even if their camera is not on, someone else's probably is.
The Princeton High School class of 1965 reunion held recently inspired memories of a major legal event from that era. Classmate Jensine Peterson Turner was kind enough to provide her recollections from the great Santiago bank robbery. Santiago at the time was a small farming community west of Princeton with a few stores and a bank, where Jensine worked. The Tolmie brothers, including Jerry, who was also a classmate, decided to rob the bank. They came in with stockings over their faces and stole a few thousand dollars. During the robbery, Jensine hid under her desk. No one recognized the robbers, but the bank employees saw them escape in a pink and black Plymouth, headed toward Princeton which is 15 miles away. The robbers pulled into Princeton where lawmen awaited, including long time Chief of Police Tex McDonald. Legend has it that Tex flagged down the getaway car at the main corner in Princeton, but a news account that ran with this photo suggests one of the other officers did the honors, and Tex grabbed the money from the back of the car. The legend also was that Jensine recognized the robbers from school but she says that didn't happen. After the heist, Jensine posed under her desk for a news photo. She reports that Jerry has turned his life around after a stint in jail, but he didn't make it to the reunion. This Minnesota Supreme Court opinion regarding the case is worth reading if you want the straight story. The named defendant in the article was the third member of the unsuccessful crew.
Greg Lincoln continues to astound folks with his nighttime photos around Bethel. Here is a drone video from Victor Bee that captures Bethel at its best. Here is a link to a Facebook posting about the school fire that happened recently in Bethel. Kilbuck school played a major role in the Bethel community for a long time. Nightly walks past the remnants of the school are haunting.
This month's mandatory moose was posted by Summit Lake Lodge. No word on whether the moose or the wolf won this contest.
Political pundits are out in full force a year before the Presidential election. They sound like they are well versed, and speak with a certainty that almost suggests they should be believed. But just in case you are tempted to believe them, check these quotes from pundits in the past, both conservative and liberal. And remember many of those folks are paid millions for their brilliant comments.
November 2, 2015 marks exactly ten years since ALO went through immense turmoil with the departure of three employees, (two lawyers, one paralegal) without notice, who took with them a substantial number of cases. The lawyers who left ended up paying a large sum of money for their departure, and ALO reorganized its operation with a new business plan. 10 years seems like a good time to evaluate the situation created by the split. In retrospect, it was the best thing that ever happened to ALO.
After years of taking in way too many cases to keep everyone in the office busy, ALO trimmed its operation to carefully selected cases with an eye toward efficiency. For years the better cases at ALO were used to finance less productive cases, and to pay enormous salaries for lawyers who were spending a lot of time without producing a lot of revenue. Now those same good cases are used to pay a much smaller staff, and a few talented contract helpers outside the office, and the difference has been dramatic. It has been, without a doubt, the best 10 years of ALO's long history.
The departure resulted in one big change that had immediate results. No longer were most of the court appearances farmed out to less experienced counsel. Clients immediately responded to having their cases handled by the old timer himself, and that generated more trial work. ALO has conducted many more major trials in the past ten years that in previous years, and most have been wins. Out of town firms have noticed that and have associated with ALO more frequently to do trials in the rural areas of Alaska. Some of the most satisfying wins were against the very lawyers who left 10 years ago. That firm has suffered a fair number of major trial losses during that time, and most of them were against ALO.
One of the biggest improvements has been in the area of case preparation. In the past that task was most often assigned to younger lawyers on the ALO staff, as is common with law firms everywhere. Unfortunately, ALO was not able to attract and keep talented lawyers in Bethel. Often case preparation was mediocre. Now, with contract lawyers doing the case preparation, it is possible to have very talented lawyers doing the work, and the results are significantly better. With internet connections, smart lawyers can work out of their home or anywhere else, and their work is sent to ALO as quickly as if they were in the next room. ALO doesn't have to worry about sick leave, vacation time, or office politics. Most important, ALO doesn't have to worry about employees plotting a late night takeover of ALO.
The change has energized the practice, and despite reaching possible retirement age, no such plan is in the works. In fact retirement is less of an option now than it was at the time of the office break-up, when it was seriously being considered. The last ten years were good, why not plan on 10 more?
ALO recently resolved a case in Ketchikan, Alaska, involving an injury to a long time auto mechanic who fell from an airplane pontoon at the Ketchikan airport. He was returning from a fishing lodge where he had earned a free trip from his employer for excellent job performance. The fall, from several feet above the tarmac, resulted in a broken wrist and prevented him from working. ALO worked with former Bethel lawyer John Cashion on this case. John is now practicing in Anchorage, and has combined with ALO on a number of cases.
Bethel guy Mike Hoffman made his first trip to Long Pond in October. It was a short visit and spent mostly outside, chasing birds and looking for deer. A few birds were harvested but many more got away. As many as 400 giant Canada geese have been hanging out on the farm, but they are smarter than they look. In addition to ducks and geese, Mike got his first ever pheasant. That good looking guy in the pheasant photo is Tanner. Mike was amused that instead of an airplane, to reach the hunting spots at the farm he rode a golf cart.
Perhaps the highlight of Mike's visit was the lutefisk dinner he attended in a nearby community. Every fall area churches put on dinners to raise money. It is hard to imagine raising money by feeding people lutefisk, but people actually drive miles to eat it. Mike tried a wad of it, and actually finished what was on his plate, describing it as "not bad".
Don Trump makes the ALO news for claiming to be a self-made rich guy. Here is a dose of reality on that subject. His stated desire to have Sarah Palin as part of his administration has late night comedians frothing at the prospect. Perhaps he will pick her to be his VP candidate. She has experience, after all.
Most who follow this page know of the passion for University of Minnesota sports at ALO. The recent loss to Michigan ranks among the toughest games ever for the long suffering Gophers and their fans. This time the refs actually signaled the winning touchdown only to reverse the call, leaving 19 seconds to score from ½ yard, which didn' t happen. Here is a cartoon that puts it in proper perspective. This picture is not from the elk farm, but took some time to line up apparently. Uriah Clarkson took this dandy moose picture, which makes the cut as this month's mandatory moose. It was taken on Powerline pass, in the Anchorage area.
A rainy September in Western Alaska caused all kinds of problems for flying and hunting for the ALO crowd, but a successful 2 ½ week trial made it seem a little more pleasant. No moose were harvested, the fish got off pretty easy, but All State Insurance took quite a hit.
The case involved a serious car wreck 13 years ago in Bethel. There were several chapters to the saga, including a Federal court trial in Anchorage that was appealed to the Ninth Circuit. It all came to a head in front of a Bethel jury, with three lawyers on one side and four on the other. Four of the witnesses were lawyers who had previously worked on the case. The main question was whether All State had an early opportunity to settle the case for policy limits of $100,000, and missed a deadline set by the injured party. The plaintiff was a 15 year old girl at the time of the crash, and she suffered a fractured skull, punctured lung, and moderate brain damage. The jury decided All State was negligent and reckless in the way it handled the claim, and awarded $1.9 million in compensatory damages along with $15 million in punitive damages. Here is the verdict form and the punative damages verdict form, for those who have never seen one before, and here is an account of the case from the Anchorage newspaper.
The trial was hotly contested throughout. One highlight was during closing argument, when one of the defense lawyers stated emphatically that Mr. Angstman was not to be trusted. That likely seemed to be good strategy at the time, but perhaps the timing was bad. Moments after that attack, it was time for the final word, this time from the guy who can't be trusted. Now folks from Bethel say lots of things about the old lawyer who hangs out at ALO, and not all of those things are kind. In fact, some are not even printable. But rarely is the question of trust raised, and certainly not in the context of legal happenings. 41 years of practice in a small community has that effect.
Up until then Al Clayton, the lawyer who made the comment, had been a minor participant in the trial. Suddenly he was elevated to a starring role, and the first few minutes of the response were devoted to making sure his ears burned. It is suspected that All State, once it reads the transcipt, will not be amused. There is no doubt his comment contributed to the final result. Insurance companies do not take kindly to verdicts like this one. It represents the largest verdict ever in rural Alaska according to people who have been keeping track, surpassing the previous record which was also held by ALO. It also figures among the largest such awards in Alaska history.
The case will likely be appealed, and such appeals normally take a couple years. Meanwhile, the case has produced no revenue for ALO, but wins of this sort provide rewards that can't be measured in dollars. All State gave this case its best shot, and came up short.
One interesting side story involves the choice of attire for counsel in this big case. Bethel lawyers never have been known as fashionable, and for many years most male lawyers kept a jacket and tie hanging on a rack at the old court house, to comply with the somewhat flexible dress code in place for all lawyers. When the old courthouse closed, that rack of jackets had grown to about 20, as many lawyers came and went over the years and forgot to take their finery with them. It so happened that ALO handled the last trial at that courthouse (as well as the first) and on the next to last day before the move to the new courthouse, a court clerk warned the lawyers to retrieve their jackets or they would be given to charity. Finding a charity to take them might have posed a challenge, but it seemed worthwhile to check the rack anyway. Closing argument in that case was set for the next morning, and it was a long trial where the jury might have tired of the same couple of jackets day after day. A quick glance at the rack revealed one jacket that was far superior to anything worn up to that time during the trial, so it was selected for the final argument. It worked wonders, and the jury awarded several million dollars in damages. Thereafter, that lucky jacket has been involved in every final argument with near perfect results. That includes the most recent win against All State.
A recent trip to Nome for court allowed enough time for a short ride to the edge of town where these critters have taken up residence. Some locals are unhappy with the musk ox, but Nome is one of the few communities in the world with a resident herd of these ancient animals. Polar bears make the news this time of the year when they gather on the northern coast of Alaska waiting for sea ice to form. Fellow musher Sebastian Schnuelle took this video.
Northern lights have been a common sight for late night folks in Bethel in recent years. One of the most stunning photos was taken by Greg Lincoln for the Delta Discovery newspaper. The plane on the left should be familiar to folks who follow the ALO news. Actually, the stars are just as impressive as the northern lights.
Princeton High School's class of 1965 holds its 50th reunion soon, and the organizers believe an Alaska lawyer might be able to help with emcee duties. That sounds like a mistake. Perhaps they have forgotten about the time in second grade when a little farm kid, fresh from country school, was forced to stand for 15 minutes with his nose firmly placed inside a chalk circle on the blackboard as punishment for cussing on the playground. And that was second grade. Clearly things have gotten progressively worse since that time. Should be an interesting night.
August news comes late because of a long trial being conducted in Bethel court. That case will likely make it to the jury soon and results will be posted. Meanwhile, September has been very rainy so far, making the splendid August weather a distant memory.
ALO settled two cases in August. One case in Nome involved the unfortunate arrest of an innocent person because of mistaken identity. A Nome police officer saw a woman arrive on the jet and believed her to be a person with an outstanding arrest warrant. Without checking her ID or even asking her name, the officer took her to the police station, under arrest, where he discovered his mistake. The woman had protested her arrest but wisely decided not to resist the arrest, instead calling her family for bail money. While there was some dispute whether this situation created a legal claim for damages, the city did the right thing and offered a modest settlement for the error.
The other settlement was a major settlement against the State of Alaska over the death of an infant in Anchorage foster care. The child had been placed in foster care in Anchorage after medical issues required that the child be transported from Bethel to Anchorage and the state wanted the child to stay in Anchorage for follow up care. The State is held responsible, by law, for the negligence of foster parents it chooses in such situations. This article explains the case more fully. ALO gets taken to task from time to time in the comment section of online publications. This case featured a number of comments, but this one has a plan for future employment for the lawyer handling claims such as the one reported. Perhaps the most memorable online comment concerned an article about Jeff King's moose hunting violation which was a highly publicized case handled by ALO in Fairbanks federal court. One concerned citizen wondered how King could possibly win the case because he had the worst lawyer in the state.
More important legal news concerns the arrival of former ALO intern and dog handler Jane Imholte back to Bethel. Jane was always a favorite at ALO, and spent the past few years honing her skills as a public defender in Minneapolis. Now she has been admitted to the Alaska Bar, and will be a PD in Bethel. Jane will bring energy and passion to the court room now that she is back in Alaska where she clearly belongs. Jane is probably the only legal intern in history who was hired after an interview conducted entirely on an ATV while touring the Elk Farm in Minnesota.
President Obama's visit to Alaska caused quite a reaction in rural Alaska. ALO got a chance to see a bit of the fuss in Dillingham when stopping there a couple of days before the big event. During a trip to the grocery store, three secret service agents were spotted, as they tried to blend in with the rural crowd. Despite wearing civilian clothes, they were obvious as they wandered around the store. There were also a number of large windowless vans spotted around town, and locals said they were delivered by a large cargo plane parked at the small airport.
The Angstman party was at the family cabin the day Obama was scheduled to be in Dillingham and then fly to Kotzebue. It took only a little checking on Google Earth to learn that the flight path between those two places would carry the president right over Chauekuktuli Lake, a mile or two from the cabin. Such an event has never happened before and not likely to happen again, and expectations were running high, until clouds rolled in that morning and ruined the plan.
Friends of ALO did get involved. Dog racer John Baker invited Obama to stop at his dog yard in Kotzebue, and the two of them showed up in many photos with the President holding a sled dog pup. ALO does a blog for Baker's webpage, but was somehow left off the invitation list. Obama clearly had a good time in rural Alaska, eating dried salmon, doing Native dances with kids, and checking out a subsistence fishing operation. Other than a few idiots who made online comments on news articles, he was well received. He even stopped for pastries at one of ALO's favorite breakfast stops in Anchorage, the Snow City cafe.
Prior to his visit, the President approved the renaming of Mt. McKinley to its original name Denali. The state of Ohio was not happy about that change, so Don Lehmann named a peak near the Angstman cabin Mt. McKinley as sort of a consolation prize. Don, a regular visitor to the cabin, is probably the only person ever who has climbed both the former Mt. McKinley and the new one.
This month's mandatory moose comes once again from Jeremiah Frye who lives in the Matsu Valley. He must live in a real moose hotspot, cause he gets great photos. This one is a dandy.
Its not often ALO gets mentioned in home work assignments. This young lady from Nome watched her parent's recent legal case and it made an impression.
Meanwhile politics rages on. The discussion continues to be dominated by Donald Trump, which makes it more theater than anything. But there are real issues as stake. Here is a chart of where some candidates stand on important issues. Of course, the most recent debate hardly mentioned these topics but instead focused on vacinations, Planned Parenthood and marijuana. Unfortunately many of the GOP candidates have no positions on the pressing issues of the nation, so they prefer to talk about less weighty topics that play well with the media and their base.
One last topic for discussion is the Kentucky court clerk who has been compared to Rosa Parks for her stand against gay marriage. She is actually more like the bus driver who demanded that Rosa Parks move further back in the bus. She wants to discriminate, illegally, and she should be fired.
July was one of the nicest months for weather that can be imagined in rural Alaska. Enough rain fell to help battle the many fires still burning, but numerous days with temps in the 65-75 range made for enjoyable outdoor activities, and for most of the month even the bugs were tolerable. There were numerous visits to the cabin. from sisters Carol and Harriet, and also from Bev Hoffman and John McDonald. The best quote from the time spent at the cabin came from Sunset, who wanted to know why Grandpa's sisters are so crazy when he is so serious. That is a question to ponder a bit.
One of the highlights from July was this fish landed by Andy. After much conjecture, it was decided the lake trout weighed a bit more than 20 pounds. It was also determined that it probably wasn't the biggest fish in the 24 mile long lake, so how big do they get? This one was released to grow bigger.
A Bethel case was one of two cases resolved in July. A city of Bethel employee drove his city truck straight through a three way stop at Watson's corner, leaving the road and striking ALO's client, a pregnant woman walking a fair distance from the road. No explanation for the bad driving was ever obtained, but one can always guess that a cell phone had something to do with it. Watson's corner is the main intersection in Bethel, and is set up in such a way that it is difficult to imagine how a driver could fail to stop before entering. The city settled the claim without a lawsuit being filed.
The other settlement was the second passenger in a plane crash that happened on the Yukon River near Galena when an airplane apparently ran out of gas. There were three passengers, and all are clients of ALO. The first passenger has already settled, and the third is awaiting a court date.
Long time readers of this page know of the close connection between the Angstman and Fairbanks families, which go back about 40 years in the Bethel area. Recently both families gathered with a crowd of about 83 people at the Fairbanks homestead on the Holitna River for the wedding of Ashley Fairbanks and Sean Glasheen. What an event. The homestead is located 288 river miles from Bethel and can only be reached by boat or float plane in the summer. All supplies for the wedding had to be transported in, and the crowd all camped in the woods around the house. The ceremony was held in a small clearing in the woods, and most said it was among the best weddings ever. It is a fact that a true frontier wedding such as this can't be duplicated in the city, no matter how authentic the rustic location might be.
A few days later the celebration was to continue with a reception in Anchorage for the many folks who could not attend the wedding. Tragedy struck before that reception when Seth Fairbanks crashed his Super Cub into Cook Inlet, just off shore near an airstrip north of Anchorage. It appears that he and his passenger attempted to swim to shore and neither has been found at this writing. Many pictures from the wedding show a happy Seth. Here is one with his five siblings, and the other with his kids and two of their cousins, four of the five flower girls in the wedding. , one of Seth's last posts on his facebook page, captures Seth as most will remember him. The post that accompanied this video read, "Rope swing at my sisters wedding on the Holitna river at our family homestead. So much fun!!!" Never has Seth been happier than he was at the wedding. His great relationship with his kids was obvious, and came as a bit of a surprise to those who saw Seth as a youngster. He had a serious dose of rascal as a kid, a trait that seemed to run in the family, inherited equally from his two parents one suspects. He was a free range kid, before the term was invented. His final stop, Cook Inlet, is one of the most treacherous bodies of water in all of America, and it has claimed the lives of many. This one is painful.
Politics require comment from time to time on these pages. This month it demands attention. Donald Trump is a political story for the ages. He reveals a sometimes hidden element in American society that has suddenly found a spokesman. He is proving to be a major embarrassment to the Republican party because his outrageous statements are attracting quite a following in the campaign. He earned the scorn of the Angstman family by demeaning Mexicans in one of his rants. Two members of the extended Angstman family have close Mexican heritage, and both of those people are better Americans than Trump. At least they have never owned companies that went bankrupt. Trump's four bankruptcies were situations where he apparently came out on the winning end of situations where his companies were able to avoid paying many creditors, many of which were put out of business, while Trump proceeded on to his next money making deal with nary a thought. What a great candidate to lead this country.
Meanwhile, the other political situation that needs comment is Bernie Sanders. For years his work as a Senator has earned him accolades in the ALO monthly news. He is the one guy in all of the Senate who makes the most sense and has a plan to attack the nation's biggest problems. Now his message is attracting crowds never before seen in primary campaigns. His money is coming from small donors, and his poll numbers are rising. It could be that Americans are finally figuring out that huge donors and huge media have dominated politics long enough. Go Bernie. Two of his favorite targets are the Koch brothers. They like to champion themselves as crusaders against the welfare state. But this report shows that they took $88 million taxpayer dollars while demanding that governments stop wasting taxpayer dollars.
The trip to the Holitna River by airplane involved an opportunity to view the extensive gold mining being done at Nyac, about 60 miles northeast of Bethel. The mine has grown significantly over the years, and roads now run up several valleys, many miles from the main camp. Tailings line the creeks in many of those valleys. One has to wonder about the run off from that mining operation. One of the largest hazards often found in abandoned gold mining tailings is acid mine drainage. Due to inefficiencies in the extraction process, large volumes of sulfides often end up going into the tailings. Over time, the sulfides start to oxidize as they're exposed to wind, snow and temperature changes, creating sulfuric acid. The sulfuric acid mixes with rainwater and eventually works its way out of the tailings and into waterways, where it can change the pH of the water and precipitate harmful heavy metals. Let's hope that the folks at Nyac are keeping an eye on this problem. Here is what happened recently at another mine.
Here is a bear that has been . This month's mandatory moose is responding to a heat wave. Finally this shot was taken at the top of the rock which sits next to the Angstman cabin in the mountains. It is a high grade photo by Ken Maul, and be sure to notice the dog.
Office News June 2015
June was one of the busiest months for civil settlements in ALO history. There is no explanation for why, but these things run in cycles. This rush of settlements is good news for ALO and its clients, but bad news for the fish swimming in the lake in front of the Angstman cabin.
The largest settlement was a claim against a foster parent selected by the State of Alaska. ALO alleged that the foster parent negligently caused the death of an infant placed in her care by the state. Under Alaska law, the state can be held responsible for such claims. This was a strong claim, and the state chose to settle early rather than risk a jury trial in Bethel.
The state also settled a claim against a trooper and two city officers in Dillingham. The officers responded aggressively when ALO's client started videotaping an incident at the Dillingham airport when a family member was being detained on suspicion of drug possession, a claim which proved to be false. The trooper grabbed the camera, and a struggle ensued. The client was arrested for the struggle, but that claim was also dismissed. Much of the event was on video, which revealed that the officer was clearly the aggressor in the struggle. When are officers going to learn that many of their arrests made in public are going to be recorded by witnesses? This is one of the biggest changes in police work in recent years, and it appears to be a positive change, revealing that a few cops act like bullies.
ALO also settled one part of an airplane crash case which happened near Galena last year. Three passengers of the plane hired ALO after their plane ran out of gas and went down in the water. One client settled before the law suit got started, but two more are pursuing their claim.
A car crash in Bethel settled, after a rear end collision caused the driver of the stopped vehicle to suffer a broken hand. A very serious car crash in Dillingham also resulted in a settlement. ALO's client was initially charged with a felony assault for a head on crash which eventually was shown to have happened in her lane of traffic. An engineer was able to establish that the other driver was in the wrong lane, and the ALO client was compensated for serious injuries which included several leg fractures. The same engineer's report resulted in the felony charges being dropped. The driver had been drinking, but in both the criminal and civil cases, it was determined that her drinking was not a substantial factor in the accident. The final settlement was for a fall at a store in Nome. This same store was the site of a previous claim which went to trial last year. That time, ice was the cause of the fall. This time, a hand railing which was too big to grab (and thus a code violation) was the cause of the accident. ALO's elderly client was videotaped during her fall leaving little doubt that she had her hand on the rail and was being careful on the stairs. When she fell, she grabbed for the railing but her small hand couldn't grip the flat 2x4 serving as a railing.
Enough law news for this month. Current events took some unusual turns during June as well. ALO favorite Sarah Palin was dropped by Fox news. One would hope she was dropped because of the sometimes absurd comments she makes, but then several others on that network make such remarks regularly and still have a job. Fear not though as she still has enough public presence to make more goofy comments.
She has yet to comment on her daughter's latest pregnancy. Proving once again that abstinence is a poor strategy for birth control, Bristol Palin said she doesn't want to be lectured about her current situation. That seems fair, but it should also apply in the future to Bristol who has a habit of lecturing folks who have different views on social issues than she does. She and her Mama need to shut up.
Speaking of social issues, Long Pond Elk Farm is claiming a spot in the record book. The ink is not yet dry on the Supreme Court's gay marriage decision, yet the Elk Farm has already provided a quantity of elk meat as the main course for a gay wedding dinner in Montana. Make that a gay, vegan wedding. From a legal standpoint, ALO has a question about the court clerks who refuse to provide marriage permits to gay folks. What will their position be on gay divorce paperwork?
Enough about people, on to Mother Nature. This month's mandatory moose was submitted by Nils Hahn of Nome, who has publically stated his appreciation of ALO monthly news. Cousin Scott Angstman sent this picture of a critter who has apparently figured out the selfie craze. Neighbor Collette Ackerson in Minnesota thought this raccoon was getting a little huffy. Julia Redington sent me this wonderful baby loon shot from Knik Lake.
Here is a series of shots which might explain why a trip to the Angstman cabin is always a highlight. The clean environment of the Alaska wilderness is an exception however. When a bunch of people gather in one place, the results are often different. Take a look at these shots from around the world, and think about the fools who say humans aren't harming our planet. No wonder the Pope is worried about the future of the human race. One of the Pope's concerns is global warming. In Alaska, the warming is having a significant impact. Lightning has started countless fires, and many are burning without attention because there are more important fires in other areas near villages and towns. 40 years ago lightning was very rare in Alaska, but now it is common place. Here is a recent shot of a heavy bolt over Bethel taken by Danielle Kannenburg. Of course lightning comes from hot weather, and in southwest Alaska it has been hotter than Dutch Love for much of June. Mother Angstman was the source of the Dutch Love saying, and she never explained its source. It is suggested, however, that the Angstman family has a Dutch component. Occasionally old fashioned sayings like that show up in the ALO news, which possibly reveals the age of the author. Here is an interesting discussion of where some of those sayings came from.
Finally, a mention of guns. The recent shooting in a South Carolina church prompted more discussion about guns, a discussion that is going nowhere because of the incredibly strong resistance to any meaningful change to our current gun laws. Take a few minutes to listen to this Australian talk about American guns. Remember Australia had a major gun disaster, and they took dramatic steps to address the problem and have had no more major incidents. Oh, and be warned that the tape has a few choice adult words mixed in. Remember too that comedians are often the best at pinpointing human failures.
Office News May 2015
The May news comes to you from Alaska, where an early spring welcomed the Angstmans back to fully leafed trees. Old timers remember when the trees were rarely green until June, but that is seldom the case anymore. May 2015 was the warmest on record for Alaska, going back through 91 years of record keeping. The temps were about 7 degrees above average, and not surprisingly, the old record was just 10 years ago. For reasons unknown, the US Senate decided to take up the issue of climate change, and voted overwhelmingly (98-1) that is it real (who knew??). That included votes from numerous right wingers who have consistently denied the fact of global warming, in spite of indisputable scientific evidence to the contrary. Shortly thereafter, their true colors were revealed when they voted down an amendment that would have declared that humans contribute to global warming. That vote was 50-49. No wonder those folks can't accomplish anything meaningful in Congress.
Apparently that problem is contagious, because Alaska's legislature can't pass a budget. The current one expires at the end of June, and without a budget, the state technically can't operate, but will attempt to go forward with a greatly reduced work force. The lawmakers have been called into special session but they rarely meet, and they are taking a beating in the PR department. Never having been a fan of the crew running our state, none of this is a surprise go ALO. It will likely resolve itself in some way before July 1 but Alaska is on a collision course with reality within a year or two, and it won't be pretty. The boom or bust cycle of the Alaska economy is historic, but the bust this time will be like nothing seen before here, because the recent boom has lasted so long and produced such extravagance, especially in capital spending. Supposed fiscal conservatives running the state loved to invest millions in big projects, mainly because their political support came in large part from the industries who benefit from big construction projects. (post script:budget passed but crisis merely delayed a year or two)
ALO had a busy May. The Nome dog case, reported here last month, officially concluded with a dismissal of the case, which was a big win for ALO clients Nils Hahn and Diana Haecker. Much of the credit for the win must go to them for their incredible diligence in preparing their case. They are both dedicated to their dog mushing lifestyle, and were ready to defend themselves at every step. A news article after the dismissal accurately described the case, but the most interesting part was the comment section after the article. Plaintiff Kevin Bopp frequently comments on various news sites, and he didn't miss a chance to make his case in these articles. He portrayed himself as a victim, and suggested he lost because he was a working man and his opponents were trust funders from Germany. Actually Hahn and Haecker both work full time jobs, and are left with a substantial legal bill from this hard fought case, even after some of the bill was forgiven. If they have a trust fund, it is not apparent in their modest lifestyle. And if Bopp is a working man, he certainly didn't display it during the course of this case. He told Hahn he likes to get up at 10 am, and therefore the morning feeding of the dogs disturbed his sleep. He also was available most of the day to film activities in the dog yard. Hahn's security camera, installed because of this case, revealed Bopp's comings and goings from his home, where his truck was parked most of the time for the past two years. If Bopp is a construction worker as he claims, he must do most of it from home.
Another important Nome case also resolved. ALO's client was a young lady driving home from a party while impaired from drinking. Three inebriated men were along the street, and one leaped in front of the car facing the driver with his hands in the air. The driver braked and left skid marks for 40 feet, but was unable to stop in time and the pedestrian was struck and killed. It was established from the skid marks that the driver was traveling at or below the 30 mph speed limit. Two experts reviewed the facts, one for each side, and declared the cause of the accident was the leap in front of the moving vehicle. It should be noted that the deceased had a blood alcohol level of .448. The driver was charged with manslaughter, but recently she entered a plea to attempted leaving the scene of an accident, drunk driving, and reckless endangerment and the manslaughter case was dismissed. In fact the driver did leave the scene for a few minutes immediately after the accident, on foot, but returned voluntarily. There was evidence that the other two men from alongside the road, also highly intoxicated, aggressively approached the driver after seeing their relative harmed, causing her to flee. Sentencing is set for September. Here is the local report on that case.
Not everyone in Nome was happy about the results of those two cases apparently. An alert reader of Facebook sent this posting from a page called Nome Rant, suggesting the court and others in Nome didn't put up a good fight in these cases. Ironically, when ALO attempted to join this group yesterday, the post was deleted.
Speaking of sentencing, Alaska's legislature has spent the last 20 years increasing the penalties for crimes, sometimes dramatically so, in an effort to show their constituents that they are tough on criminals. Many of the longer sentences are mandatory, because the same lawmakers don't want judges having any say on how long these bad guys need to be locked up. But with declining oil revenue, the tough guys in the legislature, who also happen to be fiscal conservatives, have discovered that prisoners cost money, lots of money, and there is now a movement to find a better way of dealing with law breakers. In the mean time, Alaska has on its hands a major problem with scores of prisoners serving long sentences for which there is apparently no way out.
Enough serious news, how about some more wildlife. This month's mandatory moose includes a new born, of course, from Alaska. The rest of the photos are from the Elk Farm or nearby. This fawn showed up in Dave Price's yard, but barely. This shot of an adult and baby sandhill crane is unique. Facebookers have already seen this tough squirrel take on a turkey at the feeder. Lots of folks despise coyotes, but give them credit, they have adapted to humans and have spread their population by being resourceful. This handsome specimen is from the west end of the Elk Farm.
Bethel's wildlife is also showing up more. Sarah spotted a moose one morning right near her house on the Kuskokwim River. Moose tracks were spotted in the yard at ALO, and Dolly saw a bunch of tracks near her fish camp 7 miles north of Bethel. Musk ox numbers are increasing in the Bethel area, and this bison was seen on the Kuskowkim River near Kalskag, about 75 miles northeast of Bethel.
The mild winter created an early break up at the Angstman cabin in the mountains east of Bethel, so the official cabin opening has already taken place. Last year's first visit revealed vandalism, so serious security measures were employed to prevent a repeat. Window and door covers were installed, and were screwed on in a manner to make them hard to remove. They required a screw gun, and thus on the first trip in a screw gun was required to undo the system. Upon arrival it was discovered that no one had tampered with the cabin, although there was some snow damage. While the pilot remembered to bring batteries for the gun and the special screw driver head for the screw gun, the actual gun did not make the trip, so a second trip was needed to enter the cabin. Incidentally, of the three vandals from last year, one is in jail, one died, and the third has not yet been identified, but he might be nervous.
Finally, this article deserves a moment of your time. The Iraq war has caused a lot of discussion, especially now that things seem to be getting worse there. There are lots of opinions about that situation, but who better to talk about it than an articulate veteran who was on the ground when the war started.
Office News April 2015
The April news comes to you from ALO's Elk Farm branch, where as usual wildlife figures prominently in the daily office routine. Two to three walks every day produce countless sightings of the various critters on the farm, and with the three hour time difference, legal calls rarely start much before noon, leaving plenty of time for farm activities. At this time, the trees are leafed out, and the first baby geese have shown up in the ponds.
ALO scored a big win in Nome court recently when a Superior Court judge ruled in favor of clients from Nome who were sued because of their dog team kept several miles outside of Nome at their several acre home site. The law suit asked a court to order them to move the team, and a contentious hearing was held in January to provide the judge with evidence from which he could make his ruling. That thoughtful and well written decision is linked here and is must reading for the many dog musher readers of this site. It carefully evaluates the evidence of noise and odor, and applies the rather stringent rules in place to guide courts in making these important decisions. At stake of course was not only the interests of the mushers involved in this suit, but also other mushers in similar situations around Alaska. This dog team was kept about 400 feet from the complaining neighbor, and there are countless teams in Alaska kept much closer to a neighbor, including the team in the front yard at ALO where the neighbors are less than 100 feet from the winter dog yard. Saints that they are, none of ALO's neighbors have ever complained, including Pat Hensch who lived there for many years. Some have even said they enjoyed watching the comings and goings of the dogs, but maybe they were just being neighborly.
The court's decision didn't end the lawsuit, but it appears the suit will now be voluntarily dropped by the plaintiff, because the chance of success going forward is not great. The next stage would be a trial, with a Nome jury deciding if the kennel owners should pay damages to the neighbor, a very difficult case to win in that venue. Nome, after all, is the end point of the Iditarod trail, and many folks in Nome are fond of dog racing. Here is the Nome radio report of the decision, which also aired on statewide APRN radio.
Break-up on the Kuskowkim River happened with barely a wimper it appears, which has become a normal event it seems. Andy helped organize the Break-up Bash, a riverbank party to celebrate the movement of the tripod that ends the break-up contest with a $10,000 purse. Gone are the days, it seems, when break-up was a dramatic event on the river, with huge chunks of crashing ice creating ice jams and flooding. Old time Bethel resident Betty Barton, now living in Denver, recalls the time when she lived in a quonset hut behind Kilbuck school during a flood in the mid 1970's. It seems the flood was in her living room and a certain neighbor showed up with a little boat and motor early in the morning to check on her. She and her roommates, one of which was Jay Livey, were sitting on the couch in water about a foot deep, wearing hip boots and sipping scotch (at about 9 am). They were offered a boat ride to escape their flooded house, and they accepted. But first, the neighbor thought it would be a good idea to return home for a movie camera, in order to film the rescue. According to Betty, the delay in the rescue allowed the water to rise another 6 inches. The film is in the archives at ALO in Bethel, but rest assured, it will make the monthly news soon.
In the world of politics a couple of items are worthy of the news. First Rush Limbaugh. Poor Rush is seeing stations drop his show regularly, and many who keep him are tied into long term contracts which they would love to break but can't. Rush made his deals when he was flying high, but he no longer appeals to a wide audience or to many advertisers. He himself noted the problem in a recent post on Facebook. It isn't just the youngsters that have tuned him out. Older folks don't like his attacks on women and minorities, which have become more hateful of late. Rush is an entertainer who no longer entertains.
The other notable news in politics is Bernie Sanders' entry into the presidential race. He has almost no chance to win, but he is one of the few political figures that is able to address the problem of money in politics, and he does so with passion. Here is his message and it could not be more accurate. All the BS promoted by politicians who are beholden to corporate interests has polluted our government, and there appears to be little chance of change. At least for a while the country will have a chance to hear some straight talk on what ails the government, and maybe a few will see the light.
A military training exercise called Jade Helm in the southwest has caused some to conjecture that it is an attempt by the US government to take over Texas, or at least force all Texans to turn over their guns. These three are worried about this covert operation, and it proves there is no reason ever to go to a Chuck Norris movie, visit Texas, or shop at a Walmart. Meanwhile the Texas governor is sending the National Guard to keep an eye on the US military.
This month's mandatory moose found some treats in the parking lot at Fred Meyers in Anchorage. Sue took this photo in a British museum. The carefully prepared exhibit was reportedly purchased by someone for about 2.5 million pounds. There are many artists in this particular field who have yet to cash in on their skill. One might practice law at ALO.
Finally this trail cam video captured an odd couple sharing their chow.
Office News March 2015
The March news, slightly delayed, comes from the elk farm where spring is fully in progress. A dry winter did not add much water to the farm, but last year's abundant water has the ponds high and waterfowl are abundant. A significant thunderstorm yesterday settled the dust, and already the grass has greened up.
Some of the delay in this month's news resulted from a medical stop at Virginia Mason hospital in Seattle, which included one successful day in the hospital, where the skill and industry of the staff was exceptional. Mason draws its staff from all over the world, and a stay there would be an eye opener for some of America's hard core anti-immigration folks. The hospital became a temporary branch of ALO for a day, with a few business emails exchanged and calls received. Readers will be spared medical details, with one important exception. ALO rarely offers medical advice as part of its service, but for unsuspecting male readers, this word of caution. If some medical person asks for permission to install a catheter, the correct answer from the patient should always be no.
On the legal front, ALO had some good results. A case involving a boating accident death near the village of Aleknagik was resolved for the policy limits of defendant's insurance. The deceased was crossing the lake in his boat and was struck in the back of the head by a large jet boat, and died quickly, leaving a wife and young family. The jet boat was driven by the owner of a commercial fishing lodge which operated on a nearby lake.
ALO was involved in another major case that resolved recently. This case involved a dog mushing accident near Aspen ski area in Colorado. A lady was seriously injured as a tourist on a dog sled ride at a commercial dog operation. The sled she was riding with her husband tipped over on an icy portion of downhill trail and she impacted a tree with her face. ALO was hired as an expert in the area of dog sledding, and was asked to comment on many facets of the case. ALO prepared a written report that was critical of the defendant's preparations for icy trails. Among the concerns was the lack of a drag brake which has become standard equipment on most modern sleds. Without such a device, controlling speed downhill is a serious challenge especially on ice. ALO was selected because of long term involvement in legal cases and dog mushing activity, including a lot of mushing activity on icy trails. The case settled a few weeks before trial.
ALO lost a long time friend and helper in March when James Nicholas passed away at age 83. James helped with the dog program and many other outside chores, but it was his inside visits that endeared him to a long line of ALO helpers. ALO prepared some thoughts to be read at James' services in his hometown of Grayling, with a few passages that were added later. Lest anyone suggest that ALO is leaving out facts in its recollections of James, it is best to acknowledge that James had a significant criminal record. His personality changed dramatically when drinking, and he tended to stay away from the Dog Farm when that happened. Not surprisingly, those times diminished as James grew older, and the sober James was a treasure to have around. The folks at Grayling gave him a grand send off, combining some traditional Native customs with religious rites learned from the missionaries. One of the traditional customs is to outfit the deceased in a new fur hat, gloves and mitts. Also the artwork in and out of the handmade casket is superb. Several meals are shared in the days leading up to the burial, including the traditional potlatch. At each meal a small portion of each dish is set aside for the deceased and at the burial that food is burned by the grave so that it can travel with the deceased. James was buried on the bank of the Yukon River, a main artery of life for a person from Grayling. According to Marvin Deacon, who handled many of the details for James service, he will have a good view of the river. Here are a bunch of photos from Marvin.
James loved to hunt moose. This month's mandatory moose seems like easy pickings. Jeremiah Frye has several shots of this one looking in his window, eyeing up breakfast. James also liked to see northern lights when he camped under the stars. Here is a shot of the Bethel Tundra by Greg Lincoln, showing some of the vivid northern lights of March. He also took this shot near town..
Of course March is mushing madness in Alaska. ALO was interviewed on a national radio show discussing the Iditarod. One of ALO's more interesting cases is mentioned in this Outside article about dog mushing conflicts in Alaska, which was published recently.
Finally this gem from Nome. Every year the Nome social scene erupts when the Iditarod finish comes to town, and one of the events is the women's arm wrestling. This video shows Bethel's Ashley Fairbanks on the right taking on Iditarod racer Aily Zirkle, soon after Zirkle finished the race. Of note is the fact that in her previous contest, minutes before this video was taken, Zirkle broke the arm of her opponent.
Office News February 2015
February was a strange month in Alaska, (some would say aren't they all?) and the ALO news will try to touch on a number of the highlights. Starting with legal stuff, Bethel District Attorney June Stein was fired by the new governor, an event unprecedented in ALO's 40 year history. DAs have rarely lasted a long time here, but not because of political maneuvering. This time politics appears to be involved. These two stories, one from ADN and other from KYUK tell part of it, but most likely the full story will never surface. The comment section of the Anchorage paper was filled after the DA story broke. One of the best comments was by Bethel guy Christoph Bach. Finding a quality replacement might pose a challenge because many experienced prosecutors know Bethel is a tough spot to succeed. June was a capable DA with a young and inexperienced staff. Her best quality was a good sense of humor, which is needed on her job, especially when dealing with ALO.
An example of the challenges facing DAs in Bethel was ALO's most recent drunk driving case, involving a breathalyzer reading of .192. The driver was charged with two counts, one driving while under the influence and the other driving with a breath test reading over .08. It was a lively trial, with evidence showing that the defendant was highly drunk 12 hours earlier, but obviously much improved when arrested. At the end of the case, ALO asked for a jury instruction about the lack of evidence about the calibration of the breath machine. The court granted that, and the DA moved to reopen his case because he had not presented the routine evidence of calibration. The judge denied that request and the DA dismissed both counts, in a huff.
ALO also settled the remaining claims arising from a boat accident and oil spill near Dillingham in 2013. This was an unusual case where a large number of fishermen hired ALO to bring the claim, but the company involved with the spill settled directly with many of them causing them to withdraw from the suit.
The last couple weeks have been very lively at ALO, with several major personal injury cases coming in the door. One involved an awful accident in Nome where a crane tipped over and landed on a truck, rendering the driver quadriplegic. Another involved a missed diagnosis (for several years) of a brain tumor.
February was also a busy month for dog racing in Alaska. The biggest event was the Yukon Quest won by K300 racer Brent Sass, originally from the Twin Cities area of Minnesota. The Quest this year featured a cold start and very warm finish. Here is a video taken by Sass along the early part of the trail. Temps like that used to be common on the Quest but are less frequent now. For folks who don't venture out in temps like that, imagine not only being out, but doing dog chores which involve either bare or lightly covered hands. When you look at the video, remember Sass is miles from anyone, in wild country in the middle of the night. It's a strange feeling to be sure, but one that reminds a person to be careful, and self sufficient.
Two cold races come to mind when thinking about the Quest. In 1989 the Kuskowkim 300 featured temps that dipped near -60 at Aniak. At Kalskag, there was even a stiff breeze. The other cold race was the 1986 Coldfoot Classic in the Brooks Range, put on by Dick Mackey. It was held in early April, and day time temps were in the 20s, but during the short night time the bottom dropped out. During the first day of the race, Joe Redington lost his team near the OFDF team, and he was offered a ride to try to catch them. Just before dark the team was spotted in some willows on the edge of the Koyukuk River. A hasty camp was set up in the willows, and the dog chores was done in steadily dropping temps. Joe, then 69 years old, crawled in his sleeping bag and zipped himself in his sled bag, asking for a wakeup call at daybreak in about 5 hours. Comfort was hard to find as the temp kept dropping during the night. Finally a bit of light showed in the east, and the wakeup call was made. From inside his sled Joe asked how cold it was. "Pretty damn cold" was the answer. He suggested a check of the thermometer attached to his sled bag. "It reads 56 below." Joe groaned a bit and said he thought he might sleep another hour or two. By then it was too late and too cold to try sleeping again. Heading back on the river, overflow was encountered, fortunately only a few inches deep, and shortly the sun emerged to push the temp back above zero by mid morning.
The next big event in February was the Iron Dog snow machine race, from Anchorage to Nome and back to Fairbanks. The main feature of that race was lack of snow and warm temps. This photo shows the kind of trail racers encountered across much of the state. Bethel has had it even worse, with much rain, and temps above freezing. So far none of the local races have been canceled, because a little freezing and snow came along at just the right time, but outdoor folks have been unhappy most of the winter. Not all is grim, as this picture taken from Bethel by JoeJoe Prince reveals. And statewide, apparently folks seem satisfied by their home, as this article claims.
Pete Kaiser has twice retreated to the interior to find snow for training this year. He sent visual proof that he found snow, and at the same time proved that the temps around Eureka were well above freezing. This is the second time a topless mushing photo has appeared on the ALO news. Curious readers should check the archives for the first, in February of 2013.
Tim Meyers of Bethel is a farmer at heart. He raises stuff, mainly vegetables, near the airport and gets lots of coverage. Tim is a hard worker, and he's not sure he's making any money when he figures the amount of time he spends growing stuff. But he is one of a kind, and his part time store is a must stop for folks who like to eat healthy.
This month's mandatory moose is actually a pileated woodpecker, one of the most interesting birds found on the Elk Farm in Minnesota. The best pileated story involves a new car bought at the farm a few years ago. It was only a few weeks old when an elderly driver was taking it around the looped driveway in the yard. A pileated flew by closely just then and attracted the attention of the driver, at least until the car angled off the curve and scraped a large oak tree near the driveway. Chalk that one up to Mother Nature.
Dolly claims this is her best picture of Tanner, taken near the Allen River which runs near the Angstman cabin in the mountains. It would be hard to take a bad picture of that dog.
Finally, more discussion of mining in rural Alaska. Here is a story and photo of a mine near Platinum, Alaska, detailing their recent legal problems. Of note is the fact that most of the folks involved with this mess are out of the country and the company is out of business. Good luck finding someone to clean up the mess. In the meantime, rivers were polluted and the land was scarred, so that people from far away could make a bunch of money.
Office News January 2015
Dogs were the primary focus of January at ALO, both in the court room and on the trail. The court room portion was a hearing in Nome court which featured a neighbor dispute over a 30 dog kennel. ALO naturally represented the kennel owners, who were on the receiving end of a suit attempting to force them to move their kennel which was apparently disturbing their neighbors approximately 400 feet away in a subdivision a few miles outside of Nome. This suit has attracted considerable attention because of its potential impact on other kennels throughout the state, including the one located just outside the front door of ALO. Here is the Nome Nugget newspaper account of the trial. A decision on this portion of the suit is expected soon.
The trail portion of the news mainly focused on the Kuskokwim 300 held in mid January in Bethel. The big news from that race was a win by local racer Pete Kaiser. That was the first time a Bethel person has won the race since 1986. Hardly anyone remembers the last local winner. It was also the first time anyone could claim the honor of winning all of the big three Bethel races (K300, Bogus Creek 150 and Akiak Dash). The celebration of that win was tarnished a bit by controversy in the last stages of the race when two racers left the marked trail route and took a shortcut to the finish line. Those incidents resulted in monetary and time penalties to the racers, and many folks (including other racers) complained that the penalties were too light. This picture shows the area where the racers left the trail. The race trail is straight ahead and marked with reflective stakes, and the truck trail through Church Slough is visible to the left. One of the racers was notified of his violation in Church Slough, and opted to continue forward. The second racer was warned of the problem about 5 miles before the turn off when passing through the previous checkpoint and still left the trail. Incidents such as these severely test the volunteers who put on the race. Decisions have to be made without the benefit of complete information and with limited time. It is indeed unfortunate that experienced racers would make such errors. Here is one of the pre-race stories from the Anchorage paper and also a post race video featuring Pete Kaiser that has received a lot of attention. Pre-race concerns about the icy trail were overcome by excellent trail prep and by an inch of snow that fell during the race.
The Dog Farm put a team in the Bogus Creek race, driven by rookie Victoria Hardwick. She ended up fifth, and finished with a 13 year old leader in front of the team. Here is a shot of that leader at the last checkpoint. She had another 13 year old that led for half the race, a sister of the one in the video. This is truly an amazing story. 13 year old dogs simply don't take part in competitive events very often, and when they do, they are not expected to be vocal leaders at the end of the race. These two, Trot and Radar, have raced every race around, including the Iditarod and the K300. They are honored residents of OFDF.
Bethel gets its share of bad publicity, primarily from visiting journalists who are shocked by the harsh environment and lifestyle. Here is a blog written by a former resident who has a different take on Bethel. Speaking of journalists, Bethel has had its ups and downs in the local news coverage field over the years. Right now, things are looking up. Alaska Dispatch has assigned a person to live in Bethel and coverage of YK Delta news has mushroomed in that paper. The other bright spot is KYUK , the local radio news outlet. Years ago the radio (and TV at the time) had a very strong news department, but that faded badly in recent years when stale stories would run for several days at a time and stories from Anchorage and beyond would serve as filler. Two recent additions to the news staff have pumped up local news coverage however, and fresh stories appear most every day. Now if only the local newspapers could approach the historical level of the Tundra Drums, which at one time was one of the best papers in the state.
This month's mandatory moose comes from the back yard of Jeremiah Frye in Wasilla, where he lives with his wife Kenzie, formerly of Bethel.
Many readers of the ALO news know of the extensive use made of the electric golf cart at the Elk Farm in Minnesota. This headline is troubling. Finally, a screen shot of the weather page from Dawson City, Yukon Territory, as the Yukon Quest racers approach that checkpoint. Wear a coat.
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