Michelle Theriault Boots

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Courtesy Dmitri von Klein/lonniedupre.com

January on Mt. McKinley is something a little like the dark side of the moon, with winds of 100 mph, temperatures that plunge to -50 degrees Fahrenheit and a scarce six hours of daylight.

Lonnie Dupre, a Minnesota-based polar and explorer, is making his second attempt at a new first: successfully scaling the 20,320-foot mountain in January.

“It hasn’t been climbed solo in January before,” Dupre said. “Probably because it’s cold, dark and windy. I feel OK in cold, dark and windy, actually.”

Talkeetna Air Taxi pilot Danial Doty dropped him off at base camp Thursday afternoon, according to expedition manager Stevie Plummer.

Until a window of good weather allowed Dupre’s flight to get through he, Plummer and photographer Dmitri Von Klein had been holed up at a Talkeetna vacation rental for nearly a week, double-checking supplies, fattening Dupre up on pasta, cheese and the occasional beer and waiting.

On Wednesday, a small mountain of gear sat pushed into a corner of the Talkeetna Air Taxi offices. The supplies will sustain Dupre for over a month. Each item could mean the difference between life and death.

The gear included a daily food supply precisely measured into Ziploc bags, with freeze-dried bacon mixed with dried cranberries; crunchy rye crackers; protein power drink mixes; Dairy Milk Fruit & Nut candy bars; a customized ladder to safely cross crevasses; an anorak with wolverine ruff and polar bibs warm enough to withstand the temperatures he’s likely to encounter on the upper reaches of the mountain in January; a compact assortment of satellite phones; ice axes; and 250 bamboo poles to mark his route in the snow.

Dupre has been there before.

Read the rest of the article here.

It happens every day of the week in courtrooms all over Alaska.

Today, in Judge Michael Spaan’s Anchorage courtroom, the applicant is a woman with curly black hair, a mother.  The judge is hearing bail applications and arraignments.

She’s ushered from the spectator benches to a podium, where she swears to tell the truth.  She looks at her son, accused of assault and weapons charges in a robbery-gone-wrong. He wears an yellow jumpsuit, handcuffed to another detainee in the jury box.

She is his ticket to bail, which would mean getting out of jail until his trial.

Part I: A quirk of Alaska law with big consequences

Attorneys ask her questions: are there any guns in her home? Drugs? Alcohol? Will she promise to watch her son 24 hours a day, 7 days a week? Would she hesitate to turn him back in to the police if he did something he wasn’t supposed to?

No guns. No drugs. No alcohol. Yes, she will. No, she wouldn’t hesitate.

Judge Spaan takes a long look at her and at the son, who cradles his arm in a sling.

“I’ll appoint you as your son’s third party custodian,” he says.

With that, the mother with the curly black hair and her son the defendant enter the strange world of third-party custody – a quirk of Alaska law that has become a widespread, little-examined practice with far-reaching implications.

Read the rest of the article here.

Third Party Custodian Video Part I

Part II: An Electronic Alternative, But At A Price

A recovering alcoholic and drug addict, Thaddeus Lewis has spent nearly two decades in and out of jails in Alaska.

The courts have tried to supervise him in almost every way imaginable, including third party custodian – the system used in Alaska courts that puts friends and family in charge of watching defendants awaiting trial 24 hours a day, 7 days a week.

To him, human third party custodians are just that: human.

“If (the defendant) were going to go out and do something wrong, how hard is it to tell on that person?” he says.

But these days, Lewis – who is awaiting a hearing on an accused violation of his probation – is using a different kind of monitor.

This one is made of titanium, outfitted with GPS and impervious to cajoling.

Read the rest of the article here.

Photo Courtesy of Elmer Bekolak

The massive Bering Sea storm that has been pummeling Western Alaska for the past two days bears an additional ominous possibility for some villages.

The storm’s force could spur major coastal erosion in villages like Shaktoolik, Kivalina and Shishmaref that, due to geography and climate change, have already been worn down by storms, with less sea ice to buffet the waves in recent years.

But people in Shaktoolik and Kivalina said Wednesday that, so far at least, humble slush has helped to quiet the destructive force of this storm.

(Read the rest of the article here.)

 

If you didn’t know her well, Rachael Tapey says, you’d probably never realize she has Fetal Alcohol Syndrome.

The 21-year-old sits in an East Anchorage sandwich shop with her mother.  Dressed in a stylish striped sweater and jeans, she thumbs a metallic green cell phone. She loves Celine Dion and “hardcore screamer music” alike, macaroni-and-cheese out of the box and scary movies.

Polite, self-aware and soft-spoken, Rachael Tapey is like any young woman poking her toe into the waters of adulthood with a cool part-time job and a few classes at an online university.

Only barely perceptible in her face are signs of FAS, a legacy of her birth whose impacts are both subtle and pervasive.

(Read the rest of the article here.)

Thirty Alaska Native elders from every region of the state disembark a bus and stand in a parking lot in Portage hugged by mountains. Small blue plastic pails are handed out.

Soon, before the trip leader has stopped talking, they are off and into the woods, bending to inspect perfect clusters of ripe nangoonberries or pop high-bush cranberries off branches.

Culturally — and nutritionally – harvesting wild food is at the heart of the Alaska Native way of life, and has been for millennia. Most of the elders in this group grew up harvesting traditional foods in villages all over Alaska. They talk about family members gathering murre eggs from the cliffs of Little Diomede Island, of mothers teaching the perfect way to store salmonberries plucked from the tundra, about seal oil and salves made of beach greens like pushki.

Wild foods are culture and medicine, says Dr. Gary Ferguson, a naturopathic doctor and the director of wellness and prevention programs for the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium along for the trip. Studies show that traditional foods, like antioxidant packed berries and wild greens, can ward off chronic disease and promote health. Ferguson himself grew up in Sand Point in the Eastern Aleutian Islands, harvesting beach greens and eating seal oil.

(Read the rest of the article here.)

(This story was published in the August 8, 2011 issue of the High Country News)

Richard Pak pilots an old green Land Rover along the gravel roads of Barrow, Alaska, as he does most every day. It’s June, but the air is raw and the sky is the color of impending snow, like ash poured into milk. He indicates a spot where a polar bear recently wandered up from the sea ice to loiter in front of a restaurant, a not-unusual occurrence here, 320 miles north of the Arctic Circle. He points out another perilous spot: The town bank’s two ATM machines. They recently ran out of cash, which must be resupplied by plane.

An avuncular man with a broad, friendly face and a fading ball cap, Pak, a taxi driver,  chuckles and shakes his head.

“What do you do then?” he says. “It just ran out.”

Barrow is a very cold town. The sun sets in November and does not reappear until January. Temperatures can plunge to  minus 60 degrees Fahrenheit — and the wind chill down to minus 90 F. The school bus goes door to door to pick up kids. Exposed skin can freeze instantly, and taking a breath can shock the lungs. Unsurprisingly, the town’s 4,500 or so residents tend to take taxis a lot.

The cold isn’t the only thing that sets Barrow apart. No permanent roads connect it to other towns or villages. Getting here usually requires an expensive airline ticket. In the grocery store, a bag of carrots costs $14.50. At the lone gas station, a gallon of unleaded can run upwards of $4.50. There are no trees, mountains or hills, only open tundra, hummocky and blond in early summer. The Chukchi Sea is covered in a fractured blanket of ice.

Life here is different. So is Pak: Unlike the majority of locals, he is not an Inupiaq Eskimo. He’s from Korea.

Barrow, it turns out, is an emerging magnet for immigrants. Asians are one of the largest minority groups, now constituting nearly 10 percent of the population. When opportunities in the Lower 48 don’t pan out, they come North, Pak says, because this place is a boomtown in disguise. Government salaries are high. Native corporation dividends to the Inupiaq population amount to thousands of dollars per person per year. The median annual family income tops $60,000. Vast oil and natural gas reserves lie to the east. People, says Pak, have cash in their pockets.

And with climate change driving a decline in sea ice, businesses and corporations see new opportunities for ecotourism, pleasure cruising, shipping and offshore drilling. There’s more traffic, and a greater Coast Guard presence.

Signs of change are everywhere. Koreans own all the restaurants in town, except for Pepe’s North of the Border, which claims to be the world’s northernmost Mexican restaurant and belongs to an ebullient 83-year-old peroxide blonde named Fran Tate. At the Browers Café, built by a Yankee whaler over a century ago, spicy bulgogi is on the menu alongside reindeer sausage. In the grocery store parking lot, a Thai cabdriver complains that he misses his hometown’s spicy green papaya dishes. Inside, a Samoan airline worker points out taro root on the shelves.

Pak was living in San Diego when an Alaskan friend told him that he could triple or quadruple his taxi earnings in Barrow. He suffered through the first winters but adjusted with the help of an extremely warm coat and boots; he even took up hockey. He politely accepts gifts of muktuk (whale blubber) from his Inupiaq neighbors while stocking the freezer in his garage with Korean specialties ordered in bulk from Anchorage. He doesn’t plan to live here forever. So far,  though it’s been home for seven years.

In the summertime, Pak chauffeurs visiting scientists, bird-watching tourists and camera crews (everyone from PBS to National Geographic has been up to film this year) but most of his customers are locals. The bingo and pull-tab hall and the hospital are popular destinations.

The dust-coated Land Rover threads its way among homes hovering over the tundra on stilts, their yards filled with stretched seal hides, whaling boats and freshly caught eider ducks strung up by the neck. There are scattered gas canisters and ATVs, snowmachines and trucks in varying states of decay. As Pak drives past a jumble of whale bones outside the elementary school, a John Denver song comes on the stereo.

Country roads, take me home
To the place I belong

For now, this appears to be it.

(This essay was published in the summer 2011 issue of the literary journal Etude)

You can tour almost anything.

There are slum tours in Mumbai, culinary tours of Italy, tours of the Great Wall of China, tours of pristine glacier-fed bays in Alaska. You can pay to swim with dolphins, trek to remote villages in Thailand or sample the finest marijuana in Amsterdam. If there is an experience on earth that is sublime, chances are someone has turned it into a tour.

And yet, tours are almost universally disappointing.

Tour groups crowd special places, are humiliatingly obvious (ever tried walking through Paris with a group of people wearing matching name tags?) and have a way of making even the most miraculous place feel somehow tawdry and a little bit sad.

There are few sights as poignant as that of a tour bus full of Texan retirees in Alaska, hands and faces pressed against the unopenable windows of a 60-seat coach bus with a soft upholstered interior, roof-mounted air-conditioning and a four-stroke turbocharged engine, craning their necks to catch a glimpse of a roadside moose stumbling through the willow trees.

So what is it that passes for a real, authentic experience these days?

And how do you know if you’re having one?

If you can find him, I’d suggest asking a man from Seoul, South Korea named Dong-Sun.

I met him on a three-day organized safari of the Sossusvlei Dunes of Namibia, a sparsely populated former German colony in Southwestern Africa.  The brochure described the tour using Meaningful Capitalization. Our tour company would drive us in a Specially Equipped Safari Vehicle to the Namib Desert, a harsh and lonely landscape of dry riverbeds and red dunes that can rise to 1,000 feet high. The Stunning Landscapes of the Sossusvlei Dunes would Overwhelm us with their Timeless Beauty and Grandeur. We each paid $325 and dutifully packed warm clothes for camping in the desert, sturdy shoes for hiking and a water bottle.

There were nine of us in the tour group: Some severe Dutch couples in matching wire-rimmed glasses, a chain-smoking German woman, a couple of affable, hung-over Australians, plus Dong-Sun and I.

We were ready to have Incredible Experiences.

There’s a line of thinking among sociologists that goes like this: Going on a tour is the modern remake of the original pilgrimage, a quest for a pure, pristine experience that is uncluttered with the hubris and debris of everyday life.

If you’re a tourist, you’re attempting to experience something that can’t be found in normal space of life.

That’s why the brochure for the Three-Day Sossusvlei Explorer Adventure described every experience – camping under the desert stars, hiking the dunes – as “Magical.”

And a lot of it was, technically.

We watched the sun rise from a perfectly sculpted apricot dune, in the company of 70-80 others. We clucked our tongues at a rowdy young group of Irish students on a package tour, who somebody said were “horsing around” at the top of the dune during the most photogenic moment of luminous golden dawn.  (Bastards!) This was the very dune, it was explained, where a pregnant Angelina Jolie and her partner Brad Pitt had posed for a Vanity Fair photo shoot.

Soon, we had devolved into our national stereotypes.

The Dutch couple dutifully recorded each awe-inspiring sight with an expensive arsenal of camera equipment. The Australians punctuated sentences with the phrase “could go for a beer right now.” The German girl chain-smoked, applied eyeliner and summed up most experiences with a curt “I did not like it.”

Dong-Sun was quiet. For most of our tour, he was so glum that he posed for pictures making the face of a sad blowfish: cheeks puffed out, eyebrows furrowed, as if punctuating his disappointment. He had come all the way from Korea because, as he said in halting English, there was something he “really wanted,” in Namibia. He didn’t say what that was, but it was clear that he hadn’t found it.

Something he really wanted?

The tour meandered on. We walked, en masse, through a landscape that could have stood in for Mars:, with dunes that coiled like snakes or curved like a woman’s body. The air was prickly and the sun seemed to throb like a beating heart.

Mostly we complained – the sand in our shoes! The heat! Did our guide know where we were going? And what about lunch? Scorpions?

Sometime in mid-afternoon, we walked up a dune so high that there was nothing but sky and shifting sand.

I could go for a beer, said one of the Australians.

At the top, we looked out to see an ocean of sand and a flat, cracked white salt plain – the remnants of an old river that had long since changed its course. It was studded with the blackened skeletons of 500-year-old Acadia trees, dead but preserved in this dry place. The scene looked like an abstract expressionist painting: bleached-bone earth, walls of fire-colored sand, blue sky and slashes of black.

Dong-Sun went soft-eyed and looked stunned. He paused a moment.

“This is it!” he yelled. His eyes went wide. “This is what I really wanted!”

He tore down the dune, sinking into the flour-like sand.

For the next half-hour the rest of us wandered around doing what tourists do: posing for pictures, exclaiming and complaining.

I watched as Dong-Sun wandered around alone, sometimes laughing, pressing his face to the ground to smell it.

This is what I really wanted, he kept saying to himself, to the bleached-bone earth, the walls of fire-colored sand, the ancient fossilized trees, the blue sky, Namibia.

Dong-Sun was no tourist. He was a pilgrim.

This is what I really wanted.

In rural Alaska, a post office is more than a place to pick up mail.

It can be the lifeline of a place, as well as its social core, says Cynthia Erickson, who runs the Tanana Community Store and grew up in Ruby.

“The post office is the heart and soul of a village,” she said.

The U.S. Postal Service announced Tuesday that it is studying whether to close 36 mostly rural Alaska post offices, part of a national downsizing effort.

The list, which includes places like Circle, Koyukuk, White Mountain and Bettles, immediately drew fire from Alaska’s congressional delegation and rural residents.

“In many off-the-road-system communities, the Post Office is the only place where prescriptions are delivered, businesses can receive and send inventory and banking is conducted,” said Sen. Lisa Murkowski said in a statement.

“This is necessity, not convenience, in terms of Alaska’s way of life.”

(Read the rest of the article here.)

Courtesy of Facebook

Soteria House was supposed to be a safe place.

The sprawling green multiplex on Doris Street was designed to be a respite from psychiatric wards and institutions; a chance for young people diagnosed with serious mental illnesses like schizophrenia to live in a place that was like a home, not a hospital, making choices for themselves.

“The message always is ‘we are here to keep you safe,’” wrote Susan Musante, the site manager, in a fact sheet about Soteria House’s philosophy.

But for Mozelle Nalan, it wasn’t.

The 19-year-old, originally from Skagway, had lived at the house for 11 months, only recently graduating to her own apartment. On the evening of June 30, Nalan had returned to the house to see friends and fill out an application to become a volunteer. Police say she was standing in the backyard when another former resident named Michael McEvoy shot her at least four times in the head.

In the back of a cop car after police arrested him, McEvoy made bizarre statements:

“Did I do something good for the community?” he asked.

“My mission here is over,” he said.

Nalan spent two weeks in the critical care unit of an Anchorage hospital before she died on Sunday night.

Now, in the wake of the shooting, the founders of Alaska’s Soteria House are defending their controversial approach to treating mental illness – while some are asking whether a tragedy was inevitable.

A NEW APPROACH TO MENTAL ILLNESS

Jim Gottstein, a local lawyer and mental health advocate who was involved with establishing the house, told reporters back in 2009 that the world would be watching Soteria House- Alaska.

“Everyone is going to be looking at Soteria – Alaska,” he said.

Founders wanted the home to be a model for others around the world — part of a quiet revolution in the way mental illness is treated.

The Soteria model was developed by Loren Mosher, a California-born, Harvard-bred psychiatrist. After seeing that schizophrenic people did not get better from treatment at large mental institutions, but actually got worse, he began developing an alternative: an “innovative, non-drug, non-hospital, home-like residential treatment facility for acutely psychotic people,” according to his official biography.

The idea was a small, home-like environment where people – especially new to their mental illness, who presumably had not been so damaged by overmedication and institutionalization – would live, together with a close staff-to-resident ratio. Importantly, they would not be forcibly drugged with powerful anti-psychotic medication. If they wanted to take the medication, they could. Instead, there would be an emphasis on community living, therapy, and “being with” people in the midst of psychotic episodes or distress.

The message that schizophrenia is something that can be recovered from, rather than a lifelong debilitating condition, is at the core of the approach, says Musante.

The Soteria approach works where America’s standard mental health system fails, said Dr. Aron Wolf, a longtime Anchorage psychiatrist who worked for years to establish the house. And, he said, research proves it.

A 10 year study of another Soteria House showed high rates of recovery with less reliance on medications, which can cause chronic health problems like weight gain and diabetes.  And a similar approach in Finland called the “Open Dialogue” model resulted in an 80 percent success rate – with only 19 percent of people taking medication.

According to Musante, the Alaska Soteria House also chalked up some impressive successes in the lives of its residents during its first two years: three people became employed, two worked for their GEDs, five graduated from homelessness or assisted living to independent living. And the total population saw an 88 percent decrease in hospitalizations.

NEIGHBORHOOD CONCERNS

But neighbors say that all was not well at Soteria House long before the shooting.

When public meetings were held in Spenard before the house opened in 2009, nearly 100 people turned out, says neighbor Teresa Eckel, who has lived directly across the street since 1987.

Many in the neighborhood were disturbed by the idea that the house would specifically be for acutely mentally ill people who would not be required to take medication, said Eckel.

“There was outrage,” she said. “I was a little concerned, but some of the people were outraged.”

At the meeting, the founders answered questions and the process went forward. Soteria House opened in the fall of 2009 with a permit for five residents.

“I think they had a goal to open the place and were hell-bent on doing it,” Eckel said.

Over the years, Eckel says, she’s heard blood-curdling screaming coming from the house and other disturbing scenes, especially in the backyard. She started calling the police when things seemed to be out-of-hand.

Records show that APD officers responded to the house 12 times in the past six months. That’s a lot, said Lt. Dave Parker, a police spokesperson. But it isn’t necessarily unusual considering the nature of the house, he said.

For Eckel and other neighbors, it was too much.

On the evening of June 30, she was in the kitchen at her house – which directly faces the backyard of Soteria House – when she heard what she thought were firecrackers. They seemed much too loud. Through the fence, she could see a man’s arm moving. At the same time she realized it was shooting instead of fireworks, her husband Frank Bonfield was riding his bicycle down the hill, right in front of the fence. She screamed to him to run inside. Then she saw Mozelle Nalan lying on the deck, blood pooling around her. Her legs were moving.

Eckel is ready to move out of the neighborhood. She’d been bracing for something, but she didn’t realize it could be this bad.

“I’m ready to go,” she said.

The screaming she’d heard before at Soteria House chills her now.

“Sometimes you don’t know if someone is having a breakdown or being murdered,” she said. “And with the shooting, someone was being murdered.”

COULD IT HAVE BEEN PREVENTED?

Little is known about Michael McEvoy, the alleged shooter. A slim 21-year-old with close-cropped hair, he had lived for a stint at Soteria House before moving into his own Spenard apartment.

Musante and Wolf say it’s important to remember that statistically, mentally ill people are no more likely to commit violent acts than the general public.

Soteria House always has staff on hand – sometimes at a one-to-one staff-to-resident ratio – and regularly reviews all safety procedures. Safety, they say, is priority. Soteria House screens for past history of violence or criminal activity, and don’t take people who have been committed by the court system.

Both declined to speak specifically about McEvoy, except to say that he’d never shown any propensity toward violence in the time he lived at Soteria House. He had no criminal record. The biggest predictor of violence is prior violence, Wolf said.

“There were no indications,” said Wolf. “When you look at the indications, there were none of them.”

They worry that the shooting will turn already-fragile public opinion firmly against them.  The worst thing that could happen is for Soteria House to be shut down, they say. Anchorage needs more options for people with mental health problems, not less.

“People should not panic and do away with what supports there are in our community,” Wolf said.

Musante and Wolf say Soteria House today is a community deeply grieving. But life is going on: people are going to work or school, gardening, preparing meals as a group and learning how to live with mental illness.

They don’t plan to make any major changes to the way Soteria House is run.

Wolf can’t help but wonder what would have happened if McEvoy had never moved out of Soteria House.

Had he still been living there, his behavior would have been closely watched by staff members. Signs of paranoia or delusions – like his former landlord’s assertion that he’d scared neighbors by obsessing over guns and “marching around like a soldier” at another Spenard apartment complex – would have been assessed.

Things might have been different.

COMING OUT OF A DARK TIME

Mozelle Nalan seemed to be coming out of a rough patch when she was shot and killed. Nalan, a freckled girl with a gentle smile and a constantly evolving shaved, punk-style haircut, grew up at least partly in Skagway. Like many teenagers, she often took to her Facebook page to express her feelings about the world, both dark and joyful.

Posts from a few years ago talk about misery and doctors appointments and wanting to die. She also took quizzes, like which Princess Bride character she was or how many children she would have. She took one that purported to predict the date of the quiz taker’s death. Feb 12, 2020, was the date it spit back.

“cool, ive always wanted to die of a freak accident i just hope that there is a good reason for someone to want to kill me or that it was totally random and noones fault that would be so cool2020 that gives me what 11 years ok sounds good enough i never figured id make it to 30 anyways” she posted.

But she wrote in July of 2010 that she was working on a “recovery and wellness plan.” In recent months, her posts were upbeat – photos of a laughing girl holding a balloon and department store Christmas portraits with her boyfriend.

And though perhaps in her darker moments Nalan didn’t think she’d live to be 30, there were still many things she wanted to do: Her mother wrote that she hoped to hike the Pacific Crest Trail. She wanted to work at a haunted house.  And there was the trip the two of them had planned: from Portland, Maine to Portland, Oregon, starting with a picture of sunrise on the beach at the Atlantic and ending at the Pacific.

After the shooting, with Nalan in a coma at the hospital, her mother recorded her thoughts on a blog.

She wrote:

Mozelle I want to see you in your wedding dress, and hold your babies. Not make decisions about life support and organ transplants. Please come back to us.

The frontal lobes, she wrote, of Mozelle’s brain and the right hemisphere had been destroyed in the shooting. Doctors struggled to keep her temperature down and removed portions of her skull to let out pressure.

Meanwhile, friends and family posted photographs of Mozelle as a child: with her beloved Burmese Mountain dog Shelly, riding horses, visiting the grandfather she called “Ponka” in Washington State. Mozelle, her grandfather Glen Clark later said, had called the week before the shooting with a story. She was, he said, a wonderful writer and storyteller.

On July 17, after doctors told them that her brain was so severely damaged that she’d never wake up, the family disconnected her from life support.  Friends came to say goodbye and painted her nails and toenails bright colors she loved. She died at 11:35 pm, listening to a CD of nature songs, with her mother next to her.

She was 19.

At Soteria House, the part of the deck where Mozelle Nalan was shot has been replaced. A candle has been placed there. Prosecutors say they’re likely to charge Michael McEvoy with first degree murder soon.

But for now, he’s likely going to stay in the place the founders of Soteria most wanted to spare people from: The psych unit at the Anchorage jail.

(Article published here.)

A controversial glass of milk sits on the countertop of Galen Yoder’s kitchen at the Byers Farm in Point MacKenzie — sweet, creamy, frothy and snow-white. The milk is raw and unpasteurized, and it comes directly from the cows browsing grass in fields beyond the dining-room window.

To advocates, this is “real milk” — fresh, natural and unadulterated, the way milk is supposed to be.

To health officials, it’s a perfect breeding ground for dangerous bacteria, and the culprit behind a recent outbreak of illness.

In Alaska and more than 20 other states the commercial sale of unpasteurized milk is illegal, but a loophole lets hundreds of consumers here get the milk anyway. A cow-share program allows people to purchase a “share” of a cow at the farm, which entitles them to a few gallons of milk per week.

The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services says milk from the Byers Farm has sickened at least four people, and possibly many more with a dangerous strain of bacteria. Raw milk, they say, is inherently dangerous.

“People should consume pasteurized milk,” said state epidemiologist Joe McLaughlin. “If they choose to consume raw milk, they need to be aware of the risks.”

Meanwhile, as news of the outbreak spreads, hundreds of Alaska raw milk consumers are mobilizing in email groups and even consulting with lawyers in response to what they see as a threat to their raw milk, and their dietary choices. All of this has thrust this farm at the center of a controversy that pits Alaska public health officials against passionate consumers who see raw milk as an issue of personal freedom.

(Read the rest of the article here.)

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