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Five Kamchatka volcanos spewing: NASA’s Earth Observatory has posted photos from five volcanoes on Russia’s Kamchatka Peninsula that were erupting at once, at least as of Monday, April 14. Images of the five volcanoes were captured by the Operational Land Imager on NASA’s Landsat 8 Earth observation satellite, which passed over Kamchatka on Monday. The Kamchatka volcanoes are Shiveluch, Klyuchevskaya, Bezymianny, Kizimen and Karymsky, NASA said. Of the five, 15,580-foot Kluychevskaya is the tallest, while 5,039-foot Karymsky, which has erupted regularly since 1996, is the most active. Thanks to the forces of plate tectonics, Kamchatka is one of Earth’s most active volcanic regions, according to NASA. Of the world’s approximately 1,550 volcanoes that have erupted in the recent geologic past, 113 of them -- about 7.3 percent – are located in Kamchatka, NASA says.

FBI seeks Anchorage bank robber: The FBI is looking for an unidentified man who robbed an Alaska USA Federal Credit Union at 10:47 a.m. on Monday. According to a press release sent out Tuesday afternoon, the man went to the bank located in the Carrs grocery store off of West Northern Lights Boulevard in Midtown Anchorage, took his gloves off and demanded money. After receiving an undisclosed amount of cash, he put it in a white grocery bag and fled through the exit of an attached tobacco shop. The FBI said the man appears to be in his 40s, about 5 feet 8 inches tall with a medium build, with brown and grey hair and little to no facial hair. At the time of the robbery he was wearing dark-toned shoes, khaki pants, black gloves and a fluffy black winter coat, as well as a black baseball hat and sunglasses. Anyone with information is asked to call the FBI at 907-276-4441 or the Anchorage Police Department at 907-786-8500. 

Jury duty scam makes the rounds in Anchorage: The Anchorage Police Department is warning residents of a possible jury duty scam that appears to be resurfacing. In August 2013, the department received more than 50 reports of a scam in which callers pretending to be police officers told citizens an arrest warrant had been issued for them failing to appear for jury duty. Scammers instructed callers to go to a Walmart of Walgreens and provide a "green dot" money card to pay a fine for their alleged crime. In a press release, Anchorage police said it is not protocol for the department to make a phone call for an arrest warrant for a citizen missing jury duty. Anyone who receives a suspicious call should verify the identity of the caller by asking for the officer's full name and badge number and checking with APD Dispatch at 786-8900. 

'Not your garden-variety mosquitoes': Are mosquitoes in the Brooks Range worse than mosquitoes elsewhere? Michael Engelhard says they are. The Nome-based guide recounts a plague of biblical proportions on a recent trip there in an essay for High Country News. “Make no mistake: These are not your garden-variety mosquitoes” he writes. “They rank among the fiercest of the 176 species of mosquitoes found in the U.S. They drive breeding birds from their nests and then clump onto their naked feet until the birds look like they're wearing fur slippers.” His observations square with those of insect scientists inside Alaska and out. Those at the Toolik Field Station witnessed two hungry bloodsuckers attached to a horse fly. Engelhard notes the other travails of traveling by foot through the Arctic tundra -- the terrain of unstable tussocks over standing water that makes for ultra-slow going and “make(s) backpacking here a contact sport.” But he returns, again and again to his theme, the miniscule monsters that drive a would-be Buddhist like him to gleeful violence: “The single-strike kill record on this trip stands at 34 mosquitoes. I've compromised my Buddhist leanings enough now to cheer at the sound of one hand slapping,” Engelhard writes. “This is nothing but good-old-fashioned eye-for-an-eye revenge, an atavistic vendetta with the divine: ‘He sent among them swarms of flies, which devoured them’ (Psalm 78:45).”

Garbage-related bear mauling in Florida a warning for Alaskans: In a rare case of a garbage-conditioned bear attacking, a 44-year-old Florida woman has been mauled. The Orlando Sentinel reports Terri Frana was attacked Saturday in her suburban garage, but got away with 30 staples and 10 stitches to close her wounds. "We've always been concerned about it and we're cautious; usually we don't leave the garage door open," her husband told the newspaper. "When that happens, three times out of 10 a bear will come inside and pull the trash out. But as soon as they hear us, they usually run away. This time they didn't." Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologists have been warning of the danger of garbage-attracted bears for years in Anchorage, but to date the state's largest city has escaped a mauling linked directly to garbage. The danger is there, however, and with the bears now emerging from hibernation, biologists are warning it is time to keep the garbage, dog food, bird seed and other bear attractants locked up. And it probably wouldn't hurt to make sure the garage door is closed if there is smelly waste or a big bag of dog food in there. Dog food and bird food, as much as garbage, is a prime draw for bears. Alaska bear man Charlie Vandergaw used it to lure bears into his remote camp west of the city, where he then worked at training the animals until the state put an end to that, noting the inherent danger.

A cautionary tale for legal pot advocates: As Alaska voters prepare to decide what’s next in the state’s long, tangled history with marijuana, and consider following the lead of Colorado and Washington in legalizing recreational marijuana, it’s easy to think that marijuana’s moment has arrived. But a piece in The Atlantic asks whether legalization’s proponents are “too optimistic.” The piece goes back to the 1970s, when attitudes toward the drug seemed to be changing and legalization looked possible. “In 1972, a presidential commission recommended decriminalization; more than 30 states reduced penalties for possession; and the editors of both The New York Times and National Review called for decriminalization,” The Atlantic notes. And “in August 1977, Jimmy Carter himself told Congress he supported ending all federal penalties for marijuana possession up to one ounce.” Obviously, that didn’t happen, and The Atlantic piece traces the history that derailed the legalization movement then. There are some important differences between those times and these, the piece acknowledges, but the episode “teaches a lesson in how fragile political movements are, (and) how quickly momentum can shift.”

Arctic oil exploration could lose out to Africa, Brazil: In the short term at least, Africa and Brazil are better bets for oil exploration than the Arctic. That’s what one industry expert tells the wire service Reuters. Henrik Madsen, president and CEO of Norway’s DNV GL, which Reuters describes as “one of the world's largest certification, inspection, testing and advisory companies for the maritime, oil and gas and renewable power industries,” said that while Arctic reserves are present, the higher costs of operating there translates into a longer time before companies will see returns on their substantial capital investments -- something that comes even as new technology and changing politics make other regions more promising.

Alaska Dispatch

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