Portal:Alaska

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Alaska (/əˈlæskə/; Russian: Аляска "Alyaska") is an exclave and a state of the United States of America located west of Canada in the extreme northwest portion of North America. A state of superlatives, it has the largest area, the highest mountain and greatest difference in elevation, the most extensive wilderness, and the most lakes, shoreline, and wetlands of any state. Conversely, it has the lowest population density.

The Secretary of the Interior purchased from the Czar of Russia its interest in the area that became Alaska on October 18, 1867, for $7,200,000 in gold bullion. The land went through several administrative changes before becoming an organized territory in 1912. Alaska became the 49th state of the United States on January 3, 1959.

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First page of Alaska Mental Health Enabling Act.

The Alaska Mental Health Enabling Act of 1956 (Public Law 84-830) was an Act of Congress passed to improve mental health care in the United States territory of Alaska. It became the focus of a major political controversy after opponents nicknamed it the "Siberia Bill" and denounced it as being part of a communist plot to hospitalize and brainwash Americans. Campaigners asserted that it was part of an international Jewish, Roman Catholic or psychiatric conspiracy intended to establish United Nations-run concentration camps in the United States.

The legislation in its original form was sponsored by the Democratic Party, but after it ran into opposition, it was rescued by the conservative Republican Senator Barry Goldwater. Under Goldwater's sponsorship, a version of the legislation without the commitment provisions that were the target of intense opposition from a variety of far-right, anti-Communist and fringe religious groups was passed by the United States Senate. The controversy still plays a prominent role in the Church of Scientology's account of its campaign against psychiatry.

The Act succeeded in its initial aim of establishing a mental health care system for Alaska, funded by income from lands allocated to a mental health trust. However, during the 1970s and early 1980s, Alaskan politicians systematically stripped the trust of its lands, transferring the most valuable land to private individuals and state agencies. The resulting drop in funding led to a severe effect on the provision of mental health care in Alaska. The asset-stripping was eventually ruled to be illegal following several years of litigation, and a reconstituted mental health trust was established in the mid-1980s.

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Near Little Port Walter in Southeast Alaska.
Photo credit: Commander John Bortniak
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State facts

  • Total area: 663,268 mi2
    • Land: 571,936 mi2
    • Water: 91,332 mi2
  • Highest elevation: 20,310 ft (Denali)
  • Population 741,894 (2016 est)
  • Admission to the Union: January 3, 1959 (49th)

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