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Latest Alaska news, sports, business and entertainment at 1:20 a.m. AKDT

ALASKA NATIONAL PARKS VISITS

Record number of people visit national parks in Alaska

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — A record number of people visited Alaska’s national parks in 2018, the Anchorage Daily News reports.

The National Parks Service says visits to its parks in Alaska topped 2.9 million, the highest number of visits recorded for the state, and up from about 2.7 million in 2014.

The Daily News reports that the Klondike Gold Rush National Historical Park in Skagway had the most visits in the state last year, and it was the only national park site in Alaska to top 1 million visits. Aniakchak National Monument and Preserve, a remote volcano crater park site on the Alaska Peninsula, had the fewest, with 100 visits, the newspaper reports.

The Daily News says a booming cruise industry bringing more passengers to the state in recent years is a major reason for more visits to the parks.

ARMY BASE-TRAINING EXERCISES

Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson begins training exercise

ANCHORAGE, Alaska (AP) — Airmen at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson are starting two weeks of training on Monday.

Officials say the twice-yearly Polar Force exercise aims to test JBER’s mission readiness in various situations.

Officials say planned training scenarios include receiving additional forces from other places and simulating personnel deployments.

The exercise wraps up April 5.

Officials say locals may notice increased activity including sirens, loudspeaker announcements and air traffic.

JUNEAU-PERMANENT FUND DIVIDEND

Some Alaska residents willing to give up PFD to help state

(Information from: Juneau (Alaska) Empire, http://www.juneauempire.com )

JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — Some Alaska residents say they would be willing to take a smaller Permanent Fund Dividend or pay a state income tax to help the state raise revenues so it wouldn’t have to slash spending as much as Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy has proposed.

The Juneau Empire reports several Juneau and Douglas residents spoke Friday night to the House Finance Committee in what was the first in a series of community meetings the committee is holding around the state.

The committee is looking to gather Alaska residents’ thoughts on Dunleavy’s proposed budget.

Dunleavy has proposed broad cuts to health care, education and many other state services in order to pay a larger Permanent Fund Dividend without new taxes, as the state battles a $1.6 billion deficit.

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FORT WAINWRIGHT-SUICIDE STUDY

Medical officials to study suicide at Alaska Army post

(Information from: Fairbanks (Alaska) Daily News-Miner, http://www.newsminer.com )

FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) — Medical experts will go to the Fort Wainwright Army post in Fairbanks to study suicide.

The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported on Friday that the team is coming at the request of Republican Rep. Don Young and U.S. Army Alaska Maj. Gen. Mark O’Neil.

The study is in response to a perception that there has been a recent spike in suicides at Fort Wainwright.

The exact number of recent suicides at Fort Wainwright is fluid because several deaths remain under investigation.

U.S. Army Alaska didn’t immediately have statistics available Friday related to past rates of suicide at Fort Wainwright.

U.S. Army Alaska spokesman Lt. Col. Martyn Crighton says he believes this is the first time this type of study is being conducted in Alaska. He says the timing of the study has not yet been announced.

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FAIRBANKS LANDFILL FIRE

Fairbanks fire crews put out fire at borough landfill

(Information from: Fairbanks (Alaska) Daily News-Miner, http://www.newsminer.com )

FAIRBANKS, Alaska (AP) — Fire officials say it took two hours and 10,000 gallons of water to quell a fire that broke out at the Fairbanks North Star Borough landfill.

The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports the blaze south of Fairbanks burned a large area by the time fire crews arrived.

Fairbanks city fire officials say the fire reported early Thursday morning was burning in an area where people dump their household trash.

Battalion Chief Scott Raygor says landfill fires are relatively common and can be ignited a variety of ways.

He says fire culprits include wood stove ashes, hot embers and even computer batteries.

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INSANITY Defence-KANSAS

Kansas death penalty case has implications for mentally ill

WICHITA, Kan. (AP) — The U.S. Supreme Court has agreed to consider a Kansas death penalty case that could have implications for mentally ill defendants across the nation.

The case involves James Kahler. He was convicted and sentenced to death for the 2009 fatal shootings of his estranged wife, her grandmother and his two teenage daughters. His attorneys argue that he was suffering from depression so severe that he experienced extreme emotional disturbance, dissociating him from reality.

In Kansas, defendants can cite “mental disease or defect” as a partial defence but must prove that they didn’t intend to commit the crime. Other states with similar laws are Alaska, Idaho, Montana and Utah.

Under a traditional insanity defence in the U.S., people must understand the difference between right and wrong to be found guilty.

The Associated Press