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AK Beat: Petition to raise Alaska's minimum wage to $9.75 certified

Alaska Dispatch
Aaron Jansen illustration

Aiming to boost Alaska’s minimum wage to $9.75: Alaska Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell on Monday certified a petition to raise Alaska’s minimum wage from $7.75 to $9.75 per hour by January 2016. The group sponsoring the initiative, Alaskans for a Fair Minimum Wage, has until Jan. 9 to gather roughly 30,000 signatures that would allow the referendum to appear before voters. The proposal would include an annual cost-of-living adjustment, too. Washington state, at $9.19 per hour, currently has the highest minimum wage in the nation. 

Kodiak embezzer headed to jail: A 33-year old Kodiak woman was sentenced to 46 months in prison on Monday and ordered to repay $493,060 she embezzled from Trident Seafoods.  Assistant U.S. Attorney Aunnie Steward said Isairis Wolfe used her check-writing authority at Trident to draft some 52 checks to personal associates Anne Wilson, Jeremy Smith, Valerie Olivares and Jamie Fathke.  Steward said Wolfe used the money to purchase diamond jewelry, a new truck, an addition to her home and to support her methamphetamine habit. 

Begich/Murkowski amendment nicknamed: A package of immigration reforms is currently making its way through Congress, and National Journal reports that an Alaska-focused amendment, which is being included to secure the support of Alaska senators Lisa Murkowski and Mark Begich, has been given a couple of clever, but derisive nicknames as part of a group of "earmark-like" requests. The amendment seeks to preserve visas for low-cost, unskilled seasonal foreign workers employed by Alaska's seafood industry. Sen. Bob Corker says the "crabpicker kickback" or the "Alaska Purchase" is just one of many amendments that he still holds hope for.

Tragedy on the mudflats: Two men attempting to walk about 3 miles from Anchorage to Fire Island Sunday ran into trouble as a fast-moving tide made it difficult for the pair to maneuver through the mud and the frigid water rushing in. One of the men became trapped, disappearing out of view, according to witnesses, while the other reached shore in poor condition. The body of the man who disappeared was recovered early Monday morning. The names of the men have not been made public.

Mystery of the Penny-farthing solved: An antique penny-farthing -- an old-school bicycle with a large front wheel, a high seat and a teeny-tiny back wheel -- has been returned after a man mistakenly snatched it from an antique store in Juneau. The penny-farthing's owner reported the anachronistic contraption missing Wednesday after it had disappeared the previous week. The person found in possession of the missing item reportedly confused the referent of a cardboard "free" sign, taking the bike instead of a magazine.

Gwich'in Warriors win Yukon 1,000 boat raceThe Gwich'in Warriors won the extended Yukon 800, a boat race from Fairbanks to Kaltag and back, on Sunday. The Yukon 800 became the Yukon 1,000 due to river flooding that destroyed the race's original turnaround point of Galena. The race began Saturday afternoon, with teams returning to Fairbanks throughout the day Sunday. The Gwich'in Warrior team members, all from Fort Yukon, won the $15,000 purse by finishing under 16 hours. The crew's first-day time was 7 hours, 26 minutes, 53 seconds, and Sunday's run took 7:58:30.

An unlikely ally? Former half-term Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin came to the defense of Edward Snowden -- the 30-year-old tech contractor who revealed a vast network of data farming on U.S. citizens by the National Security Agency -- during a Saturday appearance on Fox News. Calling the U.S. Government under President Barack Obama "Orwellian," and saying that "Snowden is not the problem -- the problem is government violating our Fourth Amendment rights," Palin indicated that to accuse Snowden of spying is "backwards" on the part of a government that has apparently made a habit of tracking its citizens' behavior. The Obama administration announced its intent to pursue espionage charges against Snowden on Friday. Here's the full video:

Unfashionable Coal: While wrangling continues over restarting Alaska’s Healy Unit 2 coal plant, coal projects are being shelved in the Lower 48 as the U.S. shale-fueled natural gas glut continues. As Houston’s FuelFix reported Friday, two Texas-based coal plants recently became the latest in a string of proposals to be abandoned as coal becomes less competitive in the face of cheap and plentiful natural gas.