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Fairbanks Child Dies of Swine Flu

06fludeath   9/6/09    donaldson

A Fairbanks elementary student died of the H1N1 flu over the weekend.  His is the second death attributed to the Swine Flu in Alaska.

The ten-year-old attended school Thursday morning but was released to his parents during the day.  He was hospitalized in Fairbanks just after midnight and later evacuated to Anchorage’s Providence Hospital where he died Friday night.

State Epidemiologist Dr. Beth Funk told reporters yesterday (Sunday) that the child was previously healthy before showing the symptoms.  She said what followed in the next day and a half was a very rapid and unusual deterioration.

#06fludeath1                      :23           We are not aware of any other situation in Alaska that has been this severe and this rapid. However, we’ve been in touch with the Centers for Disease Control – the influenza branch – and they’ve informed us that this seems a very rapid course,  but they are aware of other situations similar to this around the country.

She says a second elementary school-age child, also from Fairbanks, was sent to Providence Friday with flu symptoms,  but is now doing well. There was no known connection between the two.   Additionally, an eleven-month old infant had the H1N1 flu in July and was readmitted to the hospital sometime later where he died.  Funk says there is not a direct connection between that death and the flu but tests are continuing.

A report by the Division of Public Health last week shows the state has confirmed four hundred sixty cases of the flu in Alaska with eighteen people being hospitalized – which Dr. Funk says is very small. The outbreak is also wideapread — meaning it is being found in all areas of the state.

She says a comparison with the annual seasonal influenza is that this strain is starting much earlier in the year.

# 06fludeath2                     :16           To have this circulating in Alaska, all regions, through the summer – it’s unique.  However the severity with illness is probably on par with regular seasonal flu.

The department expects about thirty five thousand doses of vaccine to protect against the H1N1 flu to arrive in the first half of October.   Priorities for that will be given for those twenty four and younger and to pregnant women.


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McAllister Cleared of Ethics Charge

04mcallister      9/04/09       donaldson

Former-Governor Sarah Palin’s Communications Director Bill McAllister has been cleared of charges that he used his office and position to help Palin’s political activities.

An investigation into the complaint by Anchorage’s Andree McLeod found the allegations  – quote –  “if true and the evidence reviewed to date do not demonstrate conduct that violate the Ethics Act.”

McAllister says he always looked at his job performance as ethical and within the scope of his job description.

#04mcallister1                   :28           There was no predisposition on my part to look for ways to campaign for the governor.  I was trying to facilitate her job as governor – including setting up interviews for her at the Republican National Convention prior to the time she was picked by Senator McCain when she would have had ample opportunity to the national media about issues such as ANWR. And so I had lined up interviews with Newsweek, USAToday and so on.

During and after the national campaign,  McAllister says he focused on Alaska issues and on speaking for Palin in defense of her job performance.


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Parnell: Open OCS

03OCS   9/3/09  donaldson

Governor Parnell is beginning what he calls a full-court press to support a five-year oil and gas leasing program on Alaska’s Outer Continental Shelf – or O-C-S.  The decision to proceed with the program will come from the U-S Interior Department, which is accepting public comments until the twenty first of this month.

Parnell submitted a five-page letter today (Thursday) supporting it.   He says oil and gas development can be done responsibly and safely – and with respect for the culture of Alaskans.  With that in place,  he says there is a good economic reason for  development – even if the federal government gets the direct revenue from any development.

# 03OCS1                             :18           If we have more oil going into TAPS, that lowers the tariff for TAPS, which means that more fields in Alaska get explored that can then access that pipeline.  What it means is more jobs more revenue for Alaskans, and that’s what I’m focused on.

He also says the O-C-S has an estimated hundred thirty Trillion Cubic feet of gas offshore from the North Slope, which will have a huge effect on the life of a gas line to Canada and the lower-forty eight.  He says development of the Outer Continental Shelf offers the greatest opportunity for the state’s future.

# 03OCS2                             :18           We’ve got so much in terms of resources up there,  We have so much opportunity for jobs and revenue up there.  It hasn’t really gotten the spotlight for what is needed from  the administration and from the public.  I’ve really wanted to just spike it.

The September twenty first deadline is for public comment – from both sides of the decision surrounding O-C-S development.   The environmental  group Oceana has a major interest in the Outer Continental shelf — and its comment to the Secretary of the Interior is on its way.    Pacific Senior Counsel Mike Levine (luh-VYNE) says the federal government has the opportunity to put in place precautionary science-based management for the oceans. And he says “science” includes local and traditional knowledge from people who will be effected by the decisions on development.

#03OCS3                              :20           We want to make sure that science is driving the decisions that are made with regard to our public resources and our oceans. It’s widely recognized that there’s not a lot known about he Arctic and that we need a complete scientific assessment to determine if these activities should happen and if so, when where and how.

He favors the approach the federal government already has in place with its Arctic Fishery Management Plan which received support from scientists and industry and requires scientific involvement before fishing occurs.  However, he is concerned that the government is ignoring that plan in considering whether to allow oil and gas development without such science-based management.


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Plans to Import Gas to Alaska

02lngimport         9/2/09

Enstar Natural Gas is working on plans to import Liquefied Natural Gas to fill Anchorage’s anticipated fuel needs as fuel supplies in Cook Inlet become scarce.   Dave Donaldson reports.

Cook Inlet natural gas is getting harder and more expensive to find – causing concerns that an unusually cold winter or an equipment failure could lead to service disruptions to its users.   That’s a threat South Central utilities and governments are taking seriously.

Presenting short and long-term plans to avoid shortages in the Cook Inlet areas it services,  Enstar’s manager of gas supply Mark Slaughter told the House Energy Committee that contracts are in place to carry the municipality through the next two years.  That’s barring any unexpected weather events or equipment malfunction.  And he says the company is negotiating with Cook Inlet suppliers and building storage facilities that will provide sufficient gas for South Central’s needs through 2012.

However,  responding to questions from Fairbanks Republican Jay Ramras,  Slaughter gave Enstar’s longer range plans.

# 02lngimport1                   :29           Ramras: At what quarter, in which year, will you begin working on the contingency plan for the importation of foreign LNG into Alaska?    Slaughter:  We’re working on that currently.  Because it’s going to take a significant amount of time to negotiate that, to come up to speed on that, to educate the state, to educate R-C-A, to educate the entire community as to what that involves.

Slaughter said the outside sources it is looking at are in Canada, Russia, Australia and Indonesia.   He told the panel that his company is also looking at a mix of other options such as new contracts, curtailing delivery to some of its commercial customers and encouraging conservation by residential customers.

Slaughter said that with easy-to-find, less-expensive gas in short supply he doesn’t see many options – such as new instate exploration in Nenana or Goobik, near the Brooks range – and opportunities to link Alaska to national supplies are now off the table.  He told Ramras that the company is still following the Parnell administration’s work on developing a North Slope supply but has backed off from its previous role.

#02lngimport3                    :25           Slaughter — Quite frankly, I don’t care where the gas comes from.  I just want to make sure I have it contracted for and that producer’s going to produce the gas when I need it.   Ramras – Mme. Chair,  quite frankly I do care where the gas comes from. I have a hundred thousand people that I and some of my colleagues represent – and that we all represent as members of the state of Alaska.  And so it’s a big darn deal to me.

Ramras said the lack of natural gas is hurting the Interior’s economy,  it’s put Fairbanks under Environmental limitations,  the city has lost its principal natural gas contract and just recently lost an electrical utility supplying seventeen percent of its needs.

The idea of importing gas is totally unacceptable to supporters of an all-Alaska Natural Gas pipeline   They point out that voters in 2002 approved an in-state gasline from the North Slope to Valdez, where it would be available for  use within Alaska  and also converted to L-N-G for export.  Former Governor Wally Hickel led that issue.

#02lngimport4                    :17           It’s our gas.  If we bring it to Valdez we can ship it to the world, we can ship it to Hawaii, we can ship it to Japan we can ship it to Korea.  We ship it to the world markets…. It is criminal to bring it in from Australia or someplace.

He heatedly blames North Slope leaseholders for not making gas available years ago – and  state officials for not standing up to them.


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Back to Basics

Walter Cronkite died today.

It has hit me pretty hard, because Walter Cronkite was the reason I began a career in journalism.  On television every evening, I saw someone who had earned the respect of my family and the world, not for an isolated accomplishment, but for being someone who tried to make me a better person so I and my fellow-viewers could make a better world.  Every evening, he gave me the information that I needed to become a better citizen and a better human.

My strong attraction to Walter Cronkite did not begin with CBS News, but with his children’s program “You are There.”  I was of the elementary school age he was talking to … the original series in the 1950’s.   It was history,  and he brought it all to life as my teacher.   “July Fourth, 1776 —  a day like all days,  filled with those events that alter and illuminate our time.  And  you are there.”   It made me feel important to see something important,  and it made me feel that television was important because it was where history was being made.

It was also Walter Cronkite who brought me back into journalism many years later.  Seeing him reporting on the Vietnam war and Watergate renewed those childhood dreams of wanting to watch history … and then to tell other people what I had seen.

That’s what journalism is:  explaining, giving facts, details, talking to people.  Letting people know what is important in your world and what should be important in their world.  Only part of the excitement of journalism is in watching and asking questions.  The rest of the excitement is in the telling of the story and hoping that you give people the information they need to share your interest.

It is difficult now to be proud of the profession,  but today Walter Cronkite taught me the final lesson that I only hope will save it.

Back to Basics.

Don’t chase or celebrate the personality of someone. Don’t try to advance your own agenda by tearing down something.   However,  don’t take the other extreme of boring the audience with minute details of some useless piece of trivia.

That’s the lesson.  The basic story, presented to an audience that knows you are interested in it,  can be riveting.  It can move them in one way or another.  And the journalist doesn’t care what direction they take.  He doesn’t sell a philosophy.  He just needs to know that they have the facts before they jump.

Over many years, I have often thought of Walter Cronkite,  This time,  I am thinking about how I need to get back to what I first learned from him:   you can make a better world by making better people.  One story at a time.


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