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KNBA News - Gov. Bill Walker says Alaska would benefit from having more farmers

Sep 11, 2016

9/12/16

Gov. Bill Walker visited the Tanana Farmer's Market in August.
Credit Office of the Governor of Alaska

By the Associated Press

Alaska imports 96 percent of its food, and the governor said that should change. The Juneau Empire reports Gov. Bill Walker spoke during a conference for the National Association of Farmer's Market Nutrition Programs.

He said population growth since statehood helped reduce the percentage of locally-grown food that residents consumed from half to 4 percent. He said he would like to see significant growth in the percentage of Alaska-grown food. Walker noted there are now 42 farmers markets statewide compared to 11 in 2004.

Walker said the state spends $2 billion annually on food.

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Con man steals $2.7 million from Alaskans, many near retirement age

By Anne Hillman, Urban Affairs Reporter, Alaska Public Media

A Washington man has been indicted for fraudulently taking about $2.7 million dollars from Alaskans. The U.S. Attorney's office in Alaska is charging 55-year-old Floyd Jay Mann, Jr. with 11 counts of wire fraud and eight counts of money laundering.

Mann allegedly told his victims that he was going to receive millions of dollars from a class action lawsuit with a pharmaceutical company. He promised the victims that if they helped pay his medical expenses and his legal fees, he would give them a substantial portion of the settlement.

Instead Mann gambled with the money at a casino and won over $1 million dollars.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Aunnie Steward said concerned family and friends alerted law enforcement to the scheme. The investigation involved the IRS, the FBI, and the Social Security administration. She said this type of scheme is fairly common, this one was just more successful than most.

Steward said more than a dozen victims gave money to Mann, and many of them were close to retirement age.

"I've seen this in a lot of different fraud cases, where elderly folks will be targeted and be bilked of a lot of money because they're not asking the same kinds of questions and researching in the same way that someone more familiar with computers in this day and age would do."

Mann's wife, Cheryl Mann, was also charged with one count of social security fraud. She continued to receive need-based benefits even though she and her husband earned hundreds of thousands of dollars at the casino.

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Changing Arctic:  FCC puts $1 billion into improving broadband availability in rural and remote Alaska

By Tim Ellis, KUAC – Fairbanks

The Federal Communications Commission last week announced it’ll give Alaska’s smaller telecoms up to a billion dollars total to encourage them to bring fast, reliable internet access over the next 10 years to places in the state where it’s lacking – and badly needed.

“We are targeting the funding to the remote areas, or the rural areas, of Alaska,” said Christine O’Connor, executive director of the industry trade group Alaska Telephone Association.

She said in exchange for the funding, the FCC would require the telecoms to provide broadband-level speeds of at least 10 megabits per second for downloads and 1 mbps for uploads. The commission seeks to provide that level of service to 90 percent of rural Alaskans, an increase of about 50 percent.

O’Connor said the plan also calls for improved wireless service.

“A lot of the Bush communities … they’ll have 4G LTE in most locations. I mean, we’re bumping it up to 85 percent of the population of rural Alaska,” said O’Commor.

Jens Laipenieks is operations director for Arctic Slope Telephone Association Cooperative, which provides telecommunications to about a thousand customers scattered around 90,000 square miles on the North Slope and western coast of Alaska.

 “Any broadband improvement is really life-changing for our market, said Laipenieks.

Laipenieks said bringing broadband to the Bush would help close the so-called “digital divide” that awards economic opportunity mainly to those who have access to a fast internet connection.

“It bridges this gap, this divide that was growing between what some of the urban markets have and what the rural markets have,” said Laipenieks.

Mike Garrett is CEO of Alaska Telephone Company, which provides service to communities around the Interior and Southeast Alaska. He said the company will expand its fiber-optic cable network.

“We would be looking to put in fiber in various communities,” Garrett said.

O’Connor said the FCC’s so-called Alaska Plan allows the telecoms to come up with their own plans and schedules for projects.