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June 18, 2019 / This week from The Signal

Why is the governor sending lawmakers back to middle school?
What's the matter with the ocean?
And is "the sweep" Alaska's newest dance craze, or is it just some wonky thing some nerdy journalist can explain to me?
If you want to incorporate quality time with animals and yoga, you have a lot of options — puppy yoga, cat yoga and (perhaps the most famous) goat yoga. Now, in Fairbanks, there’s a new offering: reindeer yoga. (Photo and story by Ravenna Koenig/Alaska's Energy Desk)

But first… I told you there would be #bearnews

As KTOO's Senior Bear Correspondent — a title I gave to myself without anyone's permission — I feel strongly obligated to open this newsletter with a story about bear traffic jams. The National Park Service estimates that there are more brown bears than people on the Alaska Peninsula. To alleviate all that bear congestion (and to prevent bear-human interactions), the Park Service has installed a new overpass for human pedestrians in the Katmai National Park and Preserve. According to the story, a ribbon-cutting ceremony is planned for June 29. Presumably, brown bears are not invited.

Taking the show on the road system

Gov. Mike Dunleavy wants a "change in venue" for Alaska's Legislature. What now?
  • Summer school: The first special session wrapped up last week, and legislators did get a few things accomplished — a crime bill and an operating budget were the highlights. But there are still some big budget issues to work out, along with that little kerfuffle over how much the PFD ought to be. PFDs will be the sole focus for the next special session, which Dunleavy wants to host at a middle school in Wasilla. Alaska Public Media's Wesley Early attended the governor's press conference in the Mat-Su Borough last week.
  • The sweep: Amid the drama and disarray at the Capitol last week, you might have heard a lot of chatter about something called "the sweep." What the heck is that? And why is it so important? I could totally tell you right here and now, but instead I'll let Rashah McChesney of Alaska's Energy Desk do what she does best: Explain.
  • Jobs, jobs, jobs: Juneau has lost 650 state government jobs in the past seven years. That's according to this recent story from KTOO's Adelyn Baxter, who talked to local leaders and experts about Juneau's economic anxiety, caused in part by budget uncertainty in this year's legislative discussions.

News about mysterious marine animal deaths

Yeah, so mysterious marine animal deaths gets its own section this week.
  • Whales fail: No definitive conclusions have been reached, but there's something fishy about recent die-offs of gray whales. Nat Herz of Alaska's Energy Desk tells us some scientists are worried that declining sea ice could be causing big disruptions in the ocean's food chain.
  • Seals reel: First it was whales, now ice seals are suffering their own die-offs. Ravenna Koenig of Alaska's Energy Desk reports that at least 60 dead seals have washed ashore on Alaska's coasts, which is unusually high. The cause is unknown, but the environmental director for the southwestern village of Kotlik's tribal council called the spate of deaths "pretty unbelievable."
  • Ocean's potion: Ocean acidification occurs when the ocean absorbs too much carbon dioxide, which can have an adverse effect on ocean wildlife. Liz Ruskin of Alaska Public Media reports that Congress wants to know more about that.

Video of the week

The eight-person choral ensemble QUEENS stopped by KTOO to perform a new composition, titled "Know-So," by Juneau songwriter Marian Call as part of KTOO’s Red Carpet Concert series. If you've got a real good set of ears on ya, you might recognize the voices of KTOO's Zoe Grueskin and Rashah McChesney of Alaska's Energy Desk.

Just one more thing…

As Alaska's law enforcement agencies work to address uniquely complicated issues around the state, the Anchorage Police Department is trying something a little different called "community policing," where officers are assigned specific neighborhoods rather than an entire city.

Alaska Public Media's Zachariah Hughes went for a ride-along with an APD officer to get a better sense of what community policing looks like in practice. The story is a great glimpse into a day's work for an urban police officer.

More news around Alaska

The Signal is written by KTOO Digital Media Editor Ryan Cunningham
and edited by KTOO Managing Editor Jennifer Pemberton.

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What are you waiting for? For an entertaining inside take on the biggest news in Alaska, try The Signal – just enter your email to get the latest edition delivered every week - it's free, we keep your email safe, and you can easily unsubscribe any time.