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Be careful out there. It's getting darker. The dark is coming earlier in the afternoon and lasting until later in the morning.

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News that Ucore Rare Metals is proceeding to the next step in its process toward developing a mine at its Bokan Mountain/Dotson Ridge property on the southeast coast of Prince of Wales Island should be viewed positively — despite coming at a difficult time for the rare earth element mining sector.

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Letty Eileen Cole, 93, died on Oct. 15, 2014, in Ketchikan.
Susan Marie Mallott Patrick, 58, died Oct. 11, 2014, in Ketchikan.
Daniel Edward Hines, 47, died Oct. 11, 2014, in Juneau after a nine-month battle with brain cancer.
6/17/2014
Free pregnancy tests

This idea might save lives.

At the very least, it could improve the quality of living for any number of Alaskans.

A University of Alaska study will result in installing pregnancy tests in 20 bars and restaurants by the end of the year.

The tests will be free, paid for by a $400,000 two-year state grant.

Researchers hope the information they gather will help to decrease the frequency of fetal alcohol syndrome in Alaska, which is reported to be the highest in the nation among women of child-bearing age.

The tests will be provided in dispensers placed alongside posters that warn women against drinking while pregnant. One of the study's objectives is to see whether the tests being placed next to posters prompt women to test for pregnancy and avoid alcohol when pregnant.

Often times women don't realize they're pregnant in the first month, when alcohol can begin to cause damage to a fetus. If women test before beginning to drink, then they might prevent putting their babies at risk.

Sen. Pete Kelly, R-Fairbanks, proposed the grant as part of a multi-million dollar effort to prevent birth defects. David Driscoll, director of the university's Anchorage Institute of Circumpolar Health Studies, proposed the study.

The cost to the state will be about $1.50 per test, according to Driscoll. Researchers expect to distribute 5,000 tests a year, but they expect a small percentage of women to use the test kit dispenser. They will compare its use accompanied with posters in some bars to simply posters in other bars, and women will be encouraged to participate in a survey about the project. They will be enticed by such prizes as iTunes cards. Participating bar and restaurant staff and customers also will be asked questions during the survey.

Fetal Alcohol Syndrome is costly — to its victims and to the government. This study might lead to determining behavior that can reduce the likelihood of FAS, saving lives and dollars. For the price of the survey, it's a wise investment in the health of future Alaskans.