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Fouls silence Daishen Nix once again, but his Trinity team survives to face Dimond in Classic title game

Fri, 2020-01-24 21:11

For the second straight night, foul trouble kept McDonald’s All-American point guard Daishen Nix on the bench for nearly half the game, but Trinity International nonetheless advanced to the championship game of Alaska Airlines Classic.

The Las Vegas team outlasted the Dillard Panthers of Florida 47-46 in Friday’s first semifinal game at West High. In the late semifinal, Dimond hammered West 66-40 behind 23 points from senior guard Isaiah Moses.

Moses knocked down three 3-pointers and added four assists and three steals for the Lynx, who limited West to 24.5% shooting for the game and 14 points in the first half. Isaiah Grant added 13 points and nine rebounds and Zach Jenkins pulled down 10 rebounds.

The Lynx shot 45.8% for the game and was never in trouble, leading 16-5 after the first quarter and 38-14 at the half.

Dimond and Trinity will square off at 7 p.m. Saturday at West High in a game that will feature opposing stars — Nix and Moses — who used to be teammates back in their middle school days.

Nix, who lived in Anchorage through the eighth grade, played 17 of the game’s 32 minutes Friday. Though he was limited to six points, four rebounds and one assist, the Thunder got 13 points apiece from Quentin Lowery and Jan Njock to survive.

The game was so physical it had as many fouls as field goals — 37 of both. Three of Trinity’s seven players finished with four fouls apiece and one of Dillard’s starters fouled out.

Ten of the fouls were player-control fouls, and it was an offensive foul that helped decide the game at the end.

Dillard’s Jalen Haynes, who racked up 34 points in Thursday’s 68-54 win over East, was called for a charge while powering to the hoop with less than one second to go.

That gave the ball to Trinity, which in-bounded it with 0.1 left on the clock to secure the win.

Trinity was scoreless for more than two minutes at the end of the game. Njock hit a jumper with 2:32 to go for a 47-40 lead, but the Thunder didn’t score again.

Dillard ended with a 6-0 run that included four points from Ivan Reynolds, including a two-handed dunk.

Earlier on Friday, the East T-birds and Barrow Whalers bounced back from first-round losses to win consolation games.

Damarion Delaney scored a 3-pointer with four seconds remaining to lift the T-birds to a 50-47 victory over defending champion Colony, and Barrow used 19 points and six assists from Brendan Matthews to edge Juneau 69-64.

In the East win, Hasaan Herrington led his team with 16 points, and he and Levi Carlino combined to score all of their team’s 16 third-quarter points. Herrington was coming off a huge 35-point night in the loss to Dillard. Brayden Maldonado added 10 points.

Three players hit double figures for Colony — Colton Spencer (16), Patrick McMahon (15) and Jeremiah Hersrud (10).

In Barrow’s win, Matthews was joined in double figures by Anthony Fruan, who had a 13-point, 11-rebound game, and Blaine Texiera, who hit three triples on his way to 13 points.

Juneau got a big boost from Cooper Kriegmont, who led the Crimson Bears for the second straight day. He had 27 points Friday and 25 Saturday.

Alaska Airlines Classic

Friday’s scores

Dimond 66, West 40 (semifinal)

Trinity 47, Dillard 46 (semifinal)

East 50, Colony 47 (consolation)

Barrow 69, Juneau 64 (consolation)

Saturday’s games

2:30 p.m. — Juneau vs. Colony (7th place)

4 p.m. — Barrow vs. East (4th place)

5:30 p.m. — Dillard vs. West (3rd place)

7 p.m. — Trinity vs. Dimond (championship)

Dog piles, dances and graveyard dashes: Take a look at Dimond High’s Spirit Olympics

Fri, 2020-01-24 20:00

From top, Hailey Hand, Lauren Madden, Mauri Butzke and Mallory Thoma compete in the Dog Pile. (Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News) (Marc Lester/)

he annual Spirit Olympics filled the Dimond High gym with 70 minutes of hysteria and hilarity Friday afternoon as students and faculty members competed in an assortment of oddball events. They were divided into five teams and everyone in attendance — pretty much the entire student body — wore team colors that matched the colors of the Olympic rings: red for seniors, yellow for juniors, blue for sophomores, green for freshmen and black for faculty.

There were traditional games like tug-of-war — an easy victory for senior-class football players — and there were non-traditional games, like the graveyard relay (a shuttle relay that uses humans instead of hurdles) and a hula hoop/rock-paper-scissors challenge (a row of several hula hoops with two people on opposite ends who hop from hoop to hoop with both feet, sort of like a slalom skier, until they meet somewhere in the middle, where there’s a rock-paper-scissors game to decide who stays alive).

Lem Wheeles, a social studies teacher and student government adviser, organizes the games, which date back to 2014.

“We were at a low point in school spirit," he said, "and our senior class said, ‘Our class is lame; we’ve gotta do something to get them going.’ It was a Winter Olympics year, so we did the Spirit Olympics.’’

The senior class captured the gold medal this year with nearly twice as many points as the silver-medal junior class and bronze-medal sophomore class. But the faculty had the best T-shirts. They were black with the words “Dimond Spirit Olympics” above five Lynx logos arranged in the same pattern as the Olympic rings.

— Beth Bragg

The junior class celebrates scoring points. (Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News) (Marc Lester/)
Senior Aimee Chico draws a picture blindfolded in the Blind Drawing event. (Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News) (Marc Lester/)
Ian Cruikshank, left, holds the legs of fellow junior Noah Rygh during the junior class dance performance. (Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News) (Marc Lester/)
From left, Rolan Peau and Iese Sala help lead their tug-o-war team to victory. (Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News) (Marc Lester/)
Junior Will Fagerstrom gathers rubber balls in the Hungry Hippo game with help from a teammate. (Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News) (Marc Lester/)
Dimond teacher Katheleen Navarre helps lead the staff team in a dance. (Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News) (Marc Lester/)
Mikaela Lawrence celebrates a win in the Hula Hoop/Rock-Paper-Scissors event. (Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News) (Marc Lester/)
Senior Isaiah Moses dashes over his teammates in the graveyard relay event. (Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News) (Marc Lester/)
Noah Hoeffer is wrapped in tape for a game that involves rolling on the floor to see how many playing cards he can get to stick to him in the Sticky Pickup event. (Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News) (Marc Lester/)
The senior class cheer after claiming victory in the Dimond High Spirit Olympics. (Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News) (Marc Lester/)

When a rainy day turns into a wondrous, wintry night, everything is right with the world

Fri, 2020-01-24 19:40

New Year’s Eve in the Butte. (Photo by Heather Wilson)

I felt rattled and grouchy the whole day leading up to New Year’s Eve. It was windy and warm in the Valley. I had a friend visiting from out of town, and I wanted to show her a real Alaska winter, but it wasn’t happening, at least not in Palmer.

The wind pushed clouds dramatically across the sky and scraped the ground. We went on a little road trip to Wasilla to pick up a pile of pallets for a bonfire at my place later that night, knowing all the while that if the wind didn’t die down we wouldn’t be burning anything, and that rain was in the forecast. Supposedly the rain would be chased by snow, but my mood predicted otherwise.

I’d planned on taking my friend for a hike up Lazy Mountain, which is notorious for having a name that does not describe at all what it’s like to hike the mountain. But with the wind scouring Palmer even after our errand, I decided that perhaps a quick jaunt up 800-foot Bodenburg Butte would be better.

We arrived at the trailhead to find no other cars.

I put on my game face, which is basically forcing a smile and hunkering my head down for an uphill walk while getting buffeted by horrible Valley winds.

You know how this story goes, though — the dread is often worse than the event itself. Once we started hiking and I could see how much my friend was appreciating the view of the panoramic valley floor as we worked our way higher, I started to enjoy myself despite the wind.

Actually, the wind added a new element to an otherwise routine hike. Old snow drifts were completely flattened. The air felt charged. Clouds skidded between mountain peaks, revealing and concealing the sun and bright streaks of blue sky behind them.

It was a whole show. We stopped multiple times along the way to the top so she could take pictures. My mood started to shift. I realized I wouldn’t be out on that hike were it not for my friend. Maybe there was something to this thing for me, in the new year — something trite but true about pushing out of my comfort zone. There’s a difference between real danger and not quite being sure if I’m up for something. At this point in my life, I can afford to be less comfortable in order to get perspective on the world and grow.

At the top we stretched our arms out and let the wind pummel us as we leaned toward it. There was a family who had hiked up from the other side. They all huddled underneath the tippity-top boulder. The kids bravely took turns summiting to get a quick snapshot and then ran back down to the windbreak.

On the hike down, I started feeling ready for New Year’s. I felt optimistic. Rain be damned. Hopefully, I thought, the rain would come and then the wind would clear out. Friends would bring their raincoats, we’d build a bonfire hot enough to evaporate the rain right off us and together we’d ring in 2020. I stopped dreading.

When we got home we peeled off our muddy outer layers, got into dry clothes and made cocktails. We set up generous piles of assorted foods onto a platter that could be called a charcuterie board and made a batch of gluhwein to mull on the stove. Eventually it was 7 o’clock and we were chatting and picking at the cheese board. Then it was 7:45, 15 minutes before our scheduled bonfire.

It was starting to rain, but the wind was gone.

We went outside and stacked the pallets around a pile of cardboard from our recycling. My friend lit the match.

In minutes, the blaze was matching the pace of the rain. Meaning, it had started pouring. The fire in its pit was big and hot as we stood watching it, the front of me hot but wet, my sides and back drenched. Somehow I still felt optimistic.

I saw the first headlights roll in and could see how heavily the rain was coming down. I stood by the fire as friends went in the house, figuring I could get them come outside despite the rain if I didn’t go inside.

After five minutes I caved. I wanted to see my friends. I was still intent on coming back to the fire, where my out-of-town friend (who is originally from the Pacific Northwest, where this kind of rain is normal) monitored the bonfire.

More people arrived, and I saw the shift in weather. Was that white stuff? I swapped my raincoat for another (dry) jacket and went back out, hollering back at my friends to get their hot wine and join us.

There’s something about that switch from rain to snow. I felt a profound sense of relief. Alaska on New Year’s Eve should be dumping snow, and it did. If it could pour snow, it poured just as hard as it had rained. The yard and the trees around the fire slowly turned to white. And the blaze got bigger as people gathered around it and added more wood. It was absolutely beautiful.

There is something in this to be learned about changing perspectives when I can’t change the world, and sticking with my course. Of course, it helps when it snows. I’m glad I got to ring in the new year with a sense of joy as fleeting and magical as snow and a big fire.

Alli Harvey lives in Palmer and plays in Southcentral Alaska.

Seawolves squander a 2-goal lead and give up a last-minute goal in a critical loss to Lake Superior State

Fri, 2020-01-24 19:00

Lake Superior State scored the game-winning goal with 63 seconds remaining Friday to rally past the UAA hockey team and deprive the Seawolves of some costly points in the race for a Western Collegiate Hockey Association playoff spot.

The 3-2 loss in Sault Ste. Marie, Michigan, was a painful one for the Seawolves, who squandered a 2-0 lead to leave points on the table.

The WCHA’s top eight teams at the end of the regular season make the playoffs, and right now UAA is in eighth place in the 10-team league with 18 points. Lake Superior State is one spot ahead of the Seawolves with 22 points and Ferris State is one spot behind them with 14. Last-place Alabama Huntsville has 8 points.

There’s nine games left in the regular season — including Saturday’s rematch — and a win in regulation or the first overtime is worth three points. A win in the second OT period or a shootout is worth two points, with one point going to the loser.

UAA (4-15-4 overall, 4-12-3 WCHA) took a 2-0 lead on first-period goals by Rylee St. Onge and Trey deGraaf, who scored while the Seawolves were short-handed. Zach Court assisted on both goals, and deGraaf earned an assist on the St. Onge goal.

The Lakers (8-19-2 overall, 6-11-2) made it a one-goal lead with a second-period power-play goal and tied it with a third-period power-play goal. They won it on Pete Viellette’s even-strength goal with time running out.

Kris Carlson made 25 saves for the Seawolves, who were outshot 28-16.

North Pole Rep. Tammie Wilson to resign from Alaska Legislature

Fri, 2020-01-24 17:10

Rep. Tammie Wilson, a Republican from North Pole, is shown speaking before a vote to override Gov. Mike Dunleavy's budget vetoes at the state Capitol in Juneau on July 10, 2019. (Michael Penn/Juneau Empire via AP) (Michael Penn/)

JUNEAU — State Rep. Tammie Wilson, R-North Pole, will resign from the Alaska Legislature at the end of the day Saturday.

Wilson announced her decision Friday evening on the floor of the Alaska House of Representatives.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Alaska Stalker - the best and worst of this week’s political social media and gossip

Fri, 2020-01-24 16:33

Welcome to this week’s edition of the Alaska Stalker, a lighthearted round up of the best and worst of Alaska’s social media landscape.


It’s here, it’s here! The second session of the 31st Legislature has officially begun! This is the high-level content we have all been waiting for. In the days leading up to session, each legislator had a different way of marking the occasion. Sen. Tom Begich posted a photo of his office (lucky number 11) with an official count down to open office hours.


Rep. Andi Story chose a family movie date to see “Star Wars: The Rise of Skywalker.” I agree with Andi, there’s nothing better than a feel-good action movie with a positive message. But I would add: Always beware of senators.


Before the “Mr. Speakers” and NEastmans began in earnest, Rep. David Eastman elected to have one-on-one time with his daughter and a side of fries. Good call.


Sen. Shelley Hughes did what Sen. Shelley Hughes does — posted a Facebook Live marking the occasion. I tuned into this one because a very special guest made her debut at the 14-minute mark.

Anchorage’s criminal justice system is clogged and leaking

Fri, 2020-01-24 15:44

Anchorage Police Department APD patch Dec. 20, 2019. (Anne Raup / ADN)

We are experiencing the “perfect storm” of trying to deal with a nasty crime wave and the opioid epidemic, with woefully inadequate resources. Since 2015, thousands of arrested suspects have been dropped out of the justice system every year and are back out on the streets. Many of them are cheerfully back to their criminal activities and reckless behavior.

The enforcement piece of our crises starts with an excellent, but woefully undermanned, police force. We have far fewer sworn officers than we need for a city of our size. When Anchorage Police Department officers are called, it is sometimes hours before they can respond because they are responding to assaults, car wrecks and shootings. They often do not have the time to do investigations of lower-priority property crimes. Many of the criminal cases that are a component of our “homeless issues” get minimal attention. The APD administrative staff are so overwhelmed that we often cannot pay tickets online, accident reports regularly take months and stolen property is not promptly entered into the tracking system. Residents and businesses have grown weary of the process and often no longer report thefts.

When criminal cases are referred to prosecutors, the attorneys are under staggering case loads of 250-300 files. This is twice the nationally recommended standard. This logjam is compounded with the state prosecutors, who are similarly overloaded, being reluctant to accept the prosecution of felonies, and the state crime lab is taking months to process blood samples from accused suspects. The unhappy result is we have examples of thieves and impaired drivers getting their third arrest before they have been arraigned for the first arrest. The result is not only more crime and public danger, but also a growing contempt for the legal system.

Many if not most of our property crimes, as well as some of the assaults, are perpetrated by individuals with significant mental health and/or drug-related issues, and our state is woefully short of treatment capacity. The result is tragic. Judges impose treatment when there is no treatment available for months. The result is very needy and impaired people are either out on the street or being warehoused in local jails. Mentally incompetent people cannot be tried criminally. That is reasonable, but the capacity to evaluate these people at API is mostly unavailable.

This sad tale goes on. Our state, under financial stress, fired an extraordinarily capable Commissioner of Corrections, stopped some of the most effective treatment programs and closed the Palmer prison. The unhappy result is recidivism is back up, our prisons are overloaded, and the state chose to once again look at sending our prisoners Outside.

Public safety is the highest responsibility of government. I believe that there is no credible reason to hope that our state’s financial crises will be resolved in the foreseeable future. We must face this issue forthrightly and support the costly resources needed to “take a bite out of crime.” If we are not willing to “put on our big boy pants” or just be responsible adults, then we are, by default, saying we are approving the deplorable status quo concerning crime.

Our Assembly is wrestling with these issues now. The most comprehensive proposal before it is a seasonal sales tax, 2% in summer and 1% in winter, that would be in place for six years with the proceeds going equally to support public safety and to significant property tax relief. If voters want, they can extend or modify this program at any time. This proposal is structured to exempt basic life expenses to minimize the impact on disadvantaged people. This ordinance mandates that funds not spent on public safety will default to additional property tax relief. A rigorous audit by a third-party firm will supervise the spending. We expect the property tax relief will be a significant help to homeowners and small businesses. Hopefully potential investors will see our town as an even more attractive market.

We are all predisposed to avoid taxes, but we now have an unavoidable choice. Do we want to drift on with intolerable crime, or are we willing to pay a small sales tax, assisted by our million visitors, to help make Anchorage safe again?

Fred Dyson is a member of the Anchorage Assembly and former state legislator.

The views expressed here are the writer’s and are not necessarily endorsed by the Anchorage Daily News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary(at) Send submissions shorter than 200 words to or click here to submit via any web browser. Read our full guidelines for letters and commentaries here.

As gray whale migration reaches its peak, scientists fear another unexplained die-off

Fri, 2020-01-24 15:40

Barbie Halaska, center, necropsy manager with The Marine Mammal Center, talks to beachgoers about a dead juvenile gray whale on Limantour Beach at Point Reyes National Seashore on May 25, 2019 in Point Reyes Station, California. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images/TNS) (Justin Sullivan/)

CARMEL, Calif. — As California gray whales wind their way south along North America’s Pacific coast — from their feeding grounds in the Arctic to their spring destination in the secluded lagoons of Mexico’s Baja Peninsula — researchers from Alaska to Mexico are watching, worried about another year of unexplained die-offs.

So far, at least three whales have died on the southbound journey, according to a spokesman at the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. And there are unconfirmed reports of strandings in Mexico.

Necropsies suggest two of the confirmed whales were “thin,” while a third, a juvenile, seemed to be of average body condition, said NOAA’s Michael Milstein.

Last spring and summer, 215 whales inexplicably washed up along North America’s West Coast, suggesting thousands more had also perished but had sunk at sea. Concerned, NOAA called for an investigation in May, bringing together researchers from the Arctic to Mexico to explore the strandings in a uniform, systematic manner.

Protocols for nutritional observations during necropsies were established — providing a numeric scale upon which to assess blubber dryness, body condition and the best angles with which to photograph a beached whale. Regular phone calls and check-ins among geographically scattered scientists were also instituted.

Yet, according to Milstein and scientists involved with the investigation, it’s still unclear what caused the 2019 die-off and whether the whales will fare better this year.

[Spike in gray whale deaths, including several in Alaska, triggers federal investigation into ‘unusual mortality event’]

A similar “unexplained mortality event” occurred in 2000. No cause was ever determined.

“We really won’t know anything until about February or March,” said John Calambokidis, a whale researcher at Cascadia Research, a nonprofit in Olympia, Wash. That’s when observers in the Baja lagoons will be able to examine the whales’ physical condition.

California gray whales migrate 5,000 miles every year from their summer feeding grounds in the Arctic to their calving grounds in the lagoons of Mexico’s Baja Peninsula, where they typically stay until the end of March and early April, before heading back north.

Their journey is the longest mammalian migration, and full of perils such as ships, orcas and plastic debris. The journey north is particularly perilous because gray whales only eat while in the Arctic; therefore, they are running on empty as they make their return trip from Baja.

“We’ll get a really good idea how they are doing in May or June as they pass by California, Oregon, Washington and B.C.,” said Calambokidis.

Data and observations collected this past summer by researchers based at NOAA’s Alaska Fisheries Science Center — where researchers each year conduct aerial surveys of whales, seals and other marine animals in the U.S. Arctic — have raised more questions than answers.

For instance, 15 gray whales were spotted in one day in the eastern Beaufort Sea — a rare sighting for a species usually seen getting fat at what the team up here likes to call “the Chukchi Sea buffet.” But with the sea ice forming later in winter and breaking up earlier in the summer, scientists wonder whether gray whales will continue to move farther east to new feeding areas.

When in their feeding grounds, a gray whale typically eats about 1.3 tons of food — mouth-fulls of crustaceans, worms, shrimp and small, schooling fish — per day, according to researchers.

In addition to changes in food availability, as sea ice decreases, whales are running into more and more ship traffic in these remote waters, said Amy Willoughby, a NOAA Fisheries marine mammal biologist at the Alaska center. Vessel strikes and entanglement in fishing gear are common causes of whale injury and death.

A dead gray whale sits on the beach at Limantour Beach on May 23, 2019 in Point Reyes Station, California. (Photo by Justin Sullivan/Getty Images/TNS) (Justin Sullivan/)

In an October post that Willoughby wrote after the latest aerial survey, she shared photos of a gray whale spotted in the northeastern Chukchi Sea with long, noticeable scars from the propeller of a small recreational vessel. Aerial photos — which allow scientists to see both left and right sides of the body and sometimes even the body below the surface — provide important health assessments and critical monitoring in this rapidly-changing polar environment, she said.

Maggie Mooney-Seus, spokeswoman for the Alaska Fisheries Science Center, said the team is busy this month figuring out how to best study what’s happening to the whales — and all the other changes — in the Arctic. “We are working with partners,” she said, “to determine future whale research initiatives that may help shed light on this and other relevant questions.”

Scientists are also looking at broader ocean conditions along the West Coast, such as an alarming rise in acidity and recent heat waves.

Further down the coast, at Granite Point, just south of Carmel, researchers with NOAA’s Southwest Fisheries Science Center are using drones to count the whales as they move south.

So far, according to Trevor Joyce, a researcher with the southwest science center, the method seems effective — and much safer than sending observers out in low-flying planes. With help from a team of binocular-holding observers and three infrared sensors attached to the roof of a government shed on the Granite Canyon bluff, the counts are becoming more accurate.

Images captured last weekend by the drone shows the whales are at peak migration. More than 60 swam by the point, just south of Point Lobos, on Saturday — including a mother and her newborn calf.

The whales generally give birth as they move south, said Wayne Perryman, a retired NOAA biologist, who noted it’s also the time at which females ovulate, if they are not pregnant.

On a recent trip out of Ventura Harbor, a Times reporter spotted a pair of gray whales courting just north of Santa Cruz Island. A pod of more than a thousand common dolphins churned the waters nearby, and a family of eight orcas cruised for unsuspecting sea lions, seals and baby whales.

“These whales are the jeeps of the cetacean group,” said Perryman, noting not only the multitude of hazards they face — from annual 10,000 mile journeys, to ship strikes, changes in sea ice and predators — but also the whales’ adaptability.

“So if they start showing problems,” he said, it’s a potential flag for the ocean system as a whole.

GOP shows little desire for witnesses ahead of critical impeachment trial vote

Fri, 2020-01-24 15:26

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell walks back to the Senate floor after a break during the Senate Impeachment trial of President Donald Trump on Capitol Hill in Washington on Wednesday January 22, 2020. (Washington Post photo by Melina Mara)

WASHINGTON — Republicans in the Senate appear unmoved by the Democratic push for witnesses in President Donald Trump’s impeachment trial despite persistent appeals from Rep. Adam Schiff and the other House prosecutors.

Over three days of arguments, Democrats warned that the senators will live to regret not delving deeper into Trump's dealings with Ukraine. One of the managers, House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, even told them it was "treacherous" to vote against gathering more evidence.

Yet there's no indication the Democrats are moving closer to persuading four Republicans to break with their party in a critical vote expected next week - the minimum needed to reach a majority for subpoenas and extend a trial that seems on track for Trump's acquittal.

"As someone who has enjoyed really fairly strong working relationships with a lot of my colleagues, I've been struck by how little outreach and conversation there has been" about calling witnesses, said Delaware Sen. Chris Coons, a Democrat who has often been at the center of bipartisan negotiations.

"I understand that we are in a very partisan and divided environment, but I'm hoping that some conversations will begin. But so far there have been strikingly few."

Most Republicans have solidified around the argument that the House should have sued for the witnesses who refused to testify in the House on Trump's orders, rather than looked to the Senate to compel their testimony. Others have suggested that the case hasn't been convincing enough.

The central witness that Democrats are seeking is former national security adviser John Bolton, who was present for many of the episodes examined in the House's impeachment inquiry. Bolton, who often clashed with Trump, refused to talk to House investigators but has said he would testify in a Senate trial.

In this Sept. 30, 2019, file photo, former national security adviser John Bolton gestures while speakings at the Center for Strategic and International Studies in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File) (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/)

Republicans have little interest.

"We have heard plenty," said Wyoming Sen. John Barrasso, the Senate's No. 3 Republican. "They shouldn't need any more information to make the final decision."

A GOP senator who is in a tough re-election this year, Colorado Sen. Cory Gardner, also appeared to dismiss the idea Friday as he stood behind the closing doors of an elevator.

"We've heard from a lot of impeachment witnesses," Gardner said, referring to those who testified in the House.

Republicans say privately that beyond the potential for damaging information to come out about Trump, they don't believe it would benefit themselves politically to hear witnesses. One top GOP aide said there's no political gain in working with Democrats - and no reward inside the Senate for tackling the idea.

A senior Senate Republican said that the virtual certainty of a Trump acquittal, and that witnesses are unlikely to move public opinion, cements their views. Democrats only need a simple majority of the Senate to call witnesses, but two-thirds of the chamber must vote to convict. Both Republicans requested anonymity to discuss internal party deliberations.

Those dynamics could certainly change in a fast-moving trial where evidence has continued to come out. Democrats are hoping for a dramatic moment similar to when the late Sen. John McCain unexpectedly voted in 2017 against legislation that would have led to repeal of President Barack Obama's health care law, killing the bill.

And Schiff and the impeachment managers are working to convince Republicans, one by one.

"This is not a trial over a speeding ticket or shoplifting," Schiff told senators during arguments Friday. "This is an impeachment trial involving the president of the United States. These witnesses have important first-hand testimony to offer. The House wishes to call them in the name of the American people, and the American people overwhelmingly want to hear what they have to say."

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., is surrounded by reporters as he speaks about the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, in Washington, Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) (J. Scott Applewhite/)

According to a new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research, about 7 in 10 respondents - including majorities of Republicans and Democrats - said Trump should allow top aides to appear as witnesses. The poll showed the public slightly more likely to say the Senate should convict and remove Trump from office than to say it should not, 45% to 40%. But a sizable percentage, 14%, said they didn't know enough to have an opinion.

The battle for witnesses has been largely focused on four Republicans: Maine Sen. Susan Collins, a moderate up for re-election who has said she is "likely" to want to hear from them; Utah Sen. Mitt Romney, who has said he wants to hear from Bolton; Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski, who worked with Collins to ensure there would be a vote on witnesses; and Tennessee Sen. Lamar Alexander, who has so far remained quiet on how he will vote.

Alexander is thought to be the the least certain of the four. “I think the question is, do we need more evidence? Do we need to hear witnesses? Do we need more documents?” Alexander said Friday. He said “that question can only be answered” after both the prosecution and the president’s defense finish their arguments, likely the middle of the next week.

As Democrats see it, they are only one or two votes away from a trial that could bring heaps of new evidence against Trump. There are 53 Republicans and 47 Democrats in the Senate, and a tie vote would mean the failure of a motion to call witnesses.

The Republican resistance to hearing more evidence has been infuriating to Democrats who say the GOP is trying to cover up Trump's wrongdoing. The two articles of impeachment charge him with abuse of power and obstruction of Congress after he pushed Ukraine to announce investigations of Democrats. At the time, Trump was withholding military aid to the country.

Sen. Sherrod Brown, D-Ohio, says he doesn't see any kind of bipartisan group forming to negotiate the witness question, and charged that his Republican colleagues won't stand up to Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell. The GOP leader has strongly supported Trump and signaled that he doesn't want to prolong the trial with new documents and testimony.

“This place is replete with head fakes that 'we’re going to stand up to McConnell,” said Brown, referring to Republicans. “And in the end it looks like 52 sheep and McConnell.”

New revenue? Yes. Rushed revenue? No.

Fri, 2020-01-24 14:04

From left, Anchorage Assembly members Felix Rivera, Crystal Kennedy, John Weddleton and Meg Zaletel listen to testimony during a municipal town hall meeting at the Steve Primis Auditorium at Chugiak High School on Wednesday, Jan. 8, 2020. More than 100 people showed up to the meeting, which was also attended by assembly members Suzanne LaFrance and Fred Dyson, as well as Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz. (Matt Tunseth / Chugiak-Eagle River Star)

Next Tuesday, the Anchorage Assembly will consider three new revenue proposals — one sales tax and two different versions of an alcohol tax.

Every member of the Assembly is aligned in our goal to make Anchorage an economically vibrant community where people want to live, raise a family, work or run a business. While we might not always agree on how we get to that goal, we all understand that, in light of decreases in state financial support and increases in public safety and health issues, more revenue is needed to take immediate action.

However, I am asking my colleagues to slow down and ask some critical questions of the taxes before us. Are these the right revenue vehicles? Have we considered and fully vetted all the options? What effect will these options have on the issues we wish to address? What effect will these options have on our residents and business owners? What do the proposed dedications in each of the tax proposals mean — what will be funded and what flexibility exists to appropriate within the dedication language? What happens if the public believes funds have been appropriated outside of the dedication language? Understanding that neither of the proposed alcohol taxes have an end date, what happens if we make significant progress and the tax dollars are no longer needed? Why are the proposed alcohol taxes above the tax cap and the marijuana tax below the tax cap? Should we be discussing a permanent tax, like a sales tax, that could be used for current municipal spending and to address the issues identified in the current proposals? Is the goal to diversify our revenue sources or just to bring in new revenue? Do we want or need a revenue option that captures online sales?

In order for these issues to go to a public vote on the ballot in April, the Assembly must vote on the proposals on Jan. 28. Unfortunately, this timeline is not long enough. It is not long enough for me, and it is not long enough for the prospective taxpayers, our constituents. I’m urging my colleagues to wait, continue the conversation, and to fully vet the questions above and others that may arise during these conversations. We need to dig deeper into our revenue options. Will a six- to nine-month delay make a considerable difference? No. If we determine these proposals are the way forward, an alcohol tax could still be implemented in the first half of 2021 and a sales tax will still take two years to bring on line. A delay until the fall would also allow us to see if the state takes any action during the current legislative session that could alter the Municipality’s fiscal situation, for better or worse.

When considering new revenue, we aren’t just looking to bring new funds to municipal services; we are making a statement about our priorities and values. While I appreciate the opportunities we’ve had to hear from the public, we’ve only just begun this conversation. Let’s not sell ourselves short with a rushed answer, but instead take the time to find the right answer.

Meg Zaletel is a member of the Anchorage Assembly representing Midtown.

The views expressed here are the writer’s and are not necessarily endorsed by the Anchorage Daily News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary(at) Send submissions shorter than 200 words to or click here to submit via any web browser. Read our full guidelines for letters and commentaries here.

Alaska Legislature fails to override Dunleavy vetoes

Fri, 2020-01-24 14:00

Sen. Mike Shower, R-Wasilla (at right) talks to Sen. Lora Reinbold, R-Eagle River (center) and Sen. Shelley Hughes, R-Palmer (left) after Reinbold was ruled out of order by Senate President Cathy Giessel during a joint session of the Alaska Legislature on Friday, Jan. 24, 2020 in Juneau. (James Brooks | ADN)

JUNEAU — A joint session of the Alaska Legislature failed Friday to muster the 45 votes needed to override a $74 million cut from Alaska’s state budget last year by Gov. Mike Dunleavy.

The money would have gone to the Alaska Marine Highway System and K-12 schools across the state, but 20 representatives and senators voted against the move, which failed 37-20. The vetoes under consideration represented less than half of the $205 million ultimately sliced from the budget by the governor.

Legislators attempted to override a bigger chunk of the governor’s vetoes last year, but 22 of the Legislature’s 60 members did not participate in that override vote. On Friday, only three lawmakers were absent: Rep. Ben Carpenter, R-Nikiski, Sen. David Wilson, R-Wasilla, and Rep. Mel Gillis, R-Anchorage. (Gillis and Wilson were excused.)

“This is sort of unfinished business, and we’re finally coming full circle,” said Rep. Jonathan Kreiss-Tomkins, D-Sitka.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

At least 14 dead, hundreds hurt as 6.8 quake hits eastern Turkey

Fri, 2020-01-24 13:46

People look at a collapsed building after a 6.8 earthquake struck Elazig city centre in the eastern Turkey, Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. An earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.8 rocked eastern Turkey on Friday, causing some buildings to collapse and killing at least four people, Turkish officials said. (IHA via AP)

ANKARA, Turkey — An earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.8 rocked eastern Turkey on Friday, killing at least 14 people, injuring more than 300 and leaving several trapped in the wreckage of toppled buildings, Turkish officials said.

Rescue teams from neighboring provinces were dispatched to the affected areas, working in the dark with floodlights, and Defense Minister Hulusi Akar said troops were on standby to help.

TV footage showed rescuers pull out one injured person from the rubble of a collapsed building in the eastern Elazig province. At least three people were believed to be trapped in a building in the area, where officials said 4 or 5 structures were toppled, including one at least 4 stories high.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said on Twitter that all measures were being taken to "ensure that the earthquake that occurred in Elazig and was felt in many provinces is overcome with the least amount of loss."

He said the ministers for the interior, health and the environment were sent to the afflicted region.

The quake struck at 1755 GMT, 8:55 p.m. local time, at a depth of 6.7 kilometers near the town of Sivrice in Elazig, the Disaster and Emergency Management Presidency, or AFAD, said. It was followed by several aftershocks, the strongest with magnitudes 5.4 and 5.1.

Elazig is some 465 miles east of the capital, Ankara.

Rescue workers search on a collapsed building after a 6.8 earthquake struck Sivrice town in Elazig in eastern Turkey, Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. An earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.8 rocked eastern Turkey on Friday, causing some buildings to collapse and killing at least 14 people, Turkish officials said.(IHA via AP)

AFAD said 8 people were killed in Elazig and another 6 in nearby Malatya province. At least 315 people were injured in the two provinces, regional officials said.

People in Elazig whose homes were damaged or were too afraid to go indoors were being moved to student dormitories or sports center amid freezing conditions.

Elazig Governor Cetin Oktay Kaldirim told NTV television that a fire broke out in a building in Sivrice, near the epicenter, but was quickly brought under control.

Interior Minister Suleyman Soylu was at a meeting on earthquake preparedness when the quake struck.

The Kandilli seismology center in Istanbul said the quake measured 6.5., while the U.S. Geological Survey gave the preliminary magnitude as 6.7, and said the quake affected not only Turkey but also Syria, Georgia and Armenia.

Different earthquake monitoring centers frequently give differing estimates.

NTV said the earthquake was felt in several Turkish provinces and sent people running outdoors in panic.

Turkey sits on top of two major fault-lines and earthquakes are frequent. Two strong earthquakes struck northwest Turkey in 1999, killing around 18,000 people.

A magnitude 6 earthquake killed 51 people in Elazig in 2010.

House impeachment managers turn attention to Trump’s alleged obstruction of Congress

Fri, 2020-01-24 13:42

WASHINGTON — House Democrats warned as they closed their arguments Friday in Donald Trump’s impeachment trial that the president will persist in abusing his power and endanger American democracy unless Congress intervenes to remove him before the 2020 election.

“He is who he is," declared Rep. Adam Schiff, the chairman of the House Intelligence Committee. He told the senators listening as jurors that Trump putting the U.S-Ukraine relationship on the line in a way that benefited Russia just so he could take a political“cheap shot” at Democratic foe Joe Biden.

“You cannot leave a man like that in office," Schiff said. “You know it's not going to stop. It's not going to stop unless the Congress does something about it.”

Trump is is being tried in the Senate after the House impeached him last month, accusing him of abusing his office by asking Ukraine for politically motivated probes of Biden and other matters while withholding military aid from a U.S. ally that was at war with bordering Russia. The second article of impeachment accuses him of obstructing Congress by refusing to turn over documents or allow officials to testify in the House probe.

As Democrats finished their third day before skeptical Republican senators, Trump's legal team prepared to start his defense, expected on Saturday. Trump, eyes on the audience beyond the Senate chamber, bemoaned the schedule in a tweet, saying “looks like my lawyers will be forced to start on Saturday, which is called Death Valley in T.V.”

Said Trump attorney Jay Sekulow: “We're going to rebut and refute, and we're going to put on an affirmative case tomorrow.”

Republicans are defending Trump’s actions as appropriate and are casting the impeachment trial as a politically motivated effort to weaken him in his reelection campaign. Republicans hold a 53-47 majority in the Senate, and eventual acquittal is considered likely.

Before that, senators will make a critical decision next week on Democratic demands to hear more testimony from top Trump aides, including acting chief of staff Mick Mulvaney and former national security adviser John Bolton who refused to appear before the House. It would take four Republican senators to join the Democratic minority to seek witnesses, and so far the numbers appear lacking.

“This needs to end,” said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a Trump confidant.

[Democrats focus Day 2 of impeachment trial on alleged abuse of power by Trump]

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., is surrounded by reporters as he speaks about the impeachment trial of President Donald Trump on charges of abuse of power and obstruction of Congress, in Washington, Friday, Jan. 24, 2020. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) (J. Scott Applewhite/)

With Chief Justice John Roberts presiding, Friday's session opened with a sweeping and impassioned argument from Democrats that Trump's actions with Ukraine were not unique but part of a pattern of "destructive behavior" now threatening the core foundations of American democracy.

Schiff told the senators that Trump has shown repeatedly that he is willing to put his personal political interests above those of the country he is sworn to protect.

The evidence shows, he said, that Trump bucked the advice of his own national security apparatus to chase “kooky” theories about Ukraine pushed by lawyer Rudy Giuliani, resulting in "one hell of a Russian intelligence coup” that benefited Vladimir Putin at U.S. expense.

This is not simply a foreign policy dispute, Schiff argued, but a breech of long-held American values to leverage an ally — in this case Ukraine, a struggling democracy facing down Russian troops at its border — for the investigation of Biden that Trump wanted ahead of 2020.

Drawing on historical figures, from the founding fathers to the late GOP Sen. John McCain and the fictional Atticus Finch, Schiff made his arguments emphatically personal.

“The next time, it just may be you," he said, pointing at one senator after another. "Do you think for a moment that if he felt it was in his interest, he wouldn't ask you to be investigated?”

The senators though, appear as deeply divided as the nation, with Democrats ready to vote to convict the president and Republicans poised to acquit.

A new poll from The Associated Press-NORC Center for Public Affairs Research showed the public slightly more likely to say the Senate should convict and remove Trump from office than to say it should not, 45% to 40%. But a sizable percentage, 14%, said they didn't know enough to have an opinion.

One issue with wide agreement: Trump should allow top aides to appear as witnesses at the trial. About 7 in 10 respondents said so, including majorities of Republicans and Democrats, according to the poll.

Evidence presented in the House probe has shown that Trump, with Giuliani, pursued investigations of Biden and his son, Hunter, who served on a Ukrainian gas company’s board, and sought a probe of a debunked theory that Ukraine interfered in the 2016 U.S. election.

It's a story line many in the president's camp are still pushing. Giuliani, in an appearance Friday on “Fox & Friends,” insisted he would present evidence on his new podcast of “collusion going on in Ukraine to fix the 2016 election in favor of Hillary" Clinton.

The impeachment trial is set against the backdrop of the 2020 election. Four senators who are Democratic presidential candidates are off the campaign trail, seated as jurors.


Associated Press writers Mary Clare Jalonick, Alan Fram, Andrew Taylor, Laurie Kellman, Matthew Daly and Padmananda Rama contributed to this report.

Letter: Keep impeachment fair

Fri, 2020-01-24 13:13

Every Election Day, as an independent voter, I have gone out and voted, including for Republicans. But it’s frustrating to see so many politicians down in Washington, D.C., cling to the party line, particularly regarding the impeachment situation. We expect our representatives to put the best interests of the American people before their political party, and I frankly haven’t seen that out of many Republicans.

The House impeachment proceedings left me with the feeling that the gravity of the situation has been overlooked. Lawmakers from both sides seemed more interested in advancing their narratives rather than fulfilling their legal duties. They would do well to remember the oath they took — and the voters back home who expect them to hold power to account.

The truth of the Ukraine matter will only emerge if the proper procedures are followed. As the articles of impeachment are sent to the Senate this week, I hope they will look beyond partisanship. Sen. Lisa Murkowski, in particular, should realize that there are true conservatives in Alaska who are watching to see if she will put the Constitution before political pressures from the likes of Mitch McConnell and the White House.

— Sarah Reichert


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Letter: Don’t raise corporate taxes

Fri, 2020-01-24 13:08

Please, Alaskans, wake up. Corporations do not pay the taxes they are charged. The taxes are passed on to the consumer. All corporations must get a return on their investment to stay in business and pay wages, dividends, retirement, health insurance and replacing company hardware, etc.

When taxes are increased, their board of directors must still produce a profit so they simply increase the cost of their product and the consumer foots the bill. When this nonsense drives the product high enough they can no longer compete and they are forced to move out of the country and jobs are lost. It simple, unless you are a confused socialist.

— Tom Gummer


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Letter: Harsher charges needed

Fri, 2020-01-24 12:53

Responding to the recent ADN article by Alex DeMarban, “Fairbanks man snared moose to use as wolf bait, troopers say”: Why is snaring more than a dozen moose not a federal crime?

I was appalled as I read the Sunday morning paper article regarding 24-year-old Joseph Johnson from Fairbanks illegally snaring more than a dozen moose to use as wolf bait. Who in their right mind, I thought, would do such heinous torture of animals? One of the moose was found to have been “snared around its snout.” Johnson was not only killing these animals to lure other animals to kill, he was also trapping when the season for such activity was closed.

Full disclosure: I am not a fan of trapping. I am also against trapping for profit. However, I was pleased to read a letter to the editor from Randy Zarnke, president of the Alaska Trapper’s Association, condemning this man’s unlawful and disgusting crime, even supporting a more severe punishment than the stated charges.

My question is, why is this crime and behavior not considered a federal crime, requiring a stronger punishment? In November of last year, the U.S. Senate passed and the president signed into law the Preventing Animal Cruelty and Torture Act, or PACT. Under the PACT Act, “a person can be prosecuted for crushing, burning, drowning, suffocating or impaling animals or sexually exploiting them. Those convicted would face federal felony charges, fines and up to seven years in prison.” From my understanding, this includes all animals, including wild, not just domestic and farm animals. The only exceptions are “for normal veterinary care, hunting and conduct necessary to protect life or property from a serious threat caused by an animal.” Johnson’s criminal behaviors are well outside these parameters.

A misdemeanor for this crime does not do justice for these majestic animals, the law-abiding individuals that follow the legal guidelines for trapping, or for the citizens of our state. Johnson must be punished to the full extent of the law, both at the state and federal levels.

— Thomas R. Schmidt


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Letter: Something wicked this way comes

Fri, 2020-01-24 12:23

President Donald Trump’s latest skulduggery would bring a tear of nostalgia to old Al Capone’s eye if he were alive today. The ambush of Iranian General Qasem Soleimani and the Iraqi militia commander Abu Mahdi al-Muhandis, along with their entourage, rivals the St. Valentine’s massacre of gangland Chicago. Trump had been briefed about Soleimani’s arrival by the Iraqi Prime Minister and had signaled his approval for a diplomatic detente between Iran and Iraq. Upon their arrival at the Baghdad airport, the president ordered the procession to be annihilated by a drone missile strike. Who is next on the Trump/Pompeo hit list of people to eliminate? Nicolas Maduro? Recep Erdogan or Rudy Giuliani?

This is what makes America great again: invasion, occupation, theft of natural resources, regime change, endless civilian casualties, separating undocumented children from their parents and penning them up like stray dogs, lies, sanctions, embargoes, torture, sucking up to the terrorist royal Saudi family, trillion-dollar deficits, trade wars, assassination and tax breaks for the wealthy.

Apparently a sense of morality, personal integrity and character are not necessary requirements for elected officials. The Trump presidency is the last gasp of a corrupt, ruthless and delusional superpower. His most ardent supporters are the very people who will be adversely affected by his impulsive reckless policymaking.

However, as P.T. Barnum famously observed, there is a sucker born every minute. This is certainly true of 21st-century America.

— Douglas Hope


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Letter: Not worth the risk

Fri, 2020-01-24 12:00

I thank Shehla Anjum for introducing me to the word “solastalgia.” Now I have a name for the overwhelming despair that haunts my vision of the world my grandchildren will inherit.

The oil industry has done great things for Alaska but, as Shawn Lyons pointed out in his clear assessment and warning, it’s past time to find a new economic engine. Emissions since the industrial revolution have assured that thawing permafrost, rising acidic oceans, loss of critical species and habitat will be our legacy. The extent of that harm, though, is directly related to how much more carbon we put in the atmosphere before we change our ways. Environmental organizations are the least of concerns regarding the future of subsistence hunting and gathering. See NASA’s climate website and the Alaska Native Tribal Health Center’s local environmental observer network website for a plethora of painful facts, not “environmentalist propaganda.”

To those who support expansion of oil development in Alaska, I beg you: Look at your sleeping child/grandchild and consider the gamble you take with their future. Is the oil money now worth the risk?

I propose there is money to be made in the business of sustainability. Let’s do this.

— Connie Fredenberg


Have something on your mind? Send to or click here to submit via any web browser. Letters under 200 words have the best chance of being published. Writers should disclose any personal or professional connections with the subjects of their letters. Letters are edited for accuracy, clarity and length.

Trump headlines annual anti-abortion rally in Washington, bringing crowds and extra security

Fri, 2020-01-24 11:46

WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump on Friday became the first president to speak in person to antiabortion demonstrators at the March for Life rally, an annual gathering to mark the Supreme Court’s Roe v. Wade decision.

Trump has endeared himself to the antiabortion movement, particularly through appointing Supreme Court justices who abortion opponents hope will further their cause. He spoke before attendees began their annual march from the Mall to the Supreme Court.

Many gathered in the crowd wore Make American Great Again hats and carried pro-Trump signs that included slogans such as "I vote Pro-Life First" and "Make Unborn Babies Great Again." Trump waved to the crowd as Lee Greenwood's "Proud to be an American" played. Some chanted "four more years!"

"All of us here today understand an eternal truth - every child is a precious and sacred gift from God," Trump said. "Together, we must protect, cherish and defend the dignity and the sanctity of every human life."

He cited his administration's antiabortion initiatives, including reinstating the Mexico City Policy in 2017 - barring U.S. funding to nongovernmental organizations that offer abortion counseling in foreign countries - and issuing a rule that prohibits organizations that receive Title X funding from providing abortion services in most cases.

He linked the centennial of women's suffrage to antiabortion voting and praised activists' charity work.

"You just make it your life's mission to help spread God's grace," he said.

Trump also tied the issue of abortion to religious liberty, noting how the U.S. Health and Human Services put rules in place that officials say will protect medical workers from violating their conscience. He also cited Little Sisters of the Poor, a group of nuns that had been in a legal battle with the Obama administration over a mandate to provide contraception.

Trump also weighed in on a year-old furor in Virginia that escalated into national headlines.

In January 2019, Republicans circulated a video of Virginia Del. Kathy Tran, a Democrat, acknowledging that her bill to reduce restrictions on late-term abortions, like current law, would allow abortions up to the point of delivery in cases when the mother's life or health was at serious risk. Conservatives across the country attacked Gov. Ralph Northam and other state Democrats after they defended the bill.

"We love the commonwealth of Virginia, but what is going on in Virginia? What is going on, Virginia?" Trump said Friday. "The governor stated that he would execute a baby after birth."

Trump's comments reference a response from Northam, a pediatric neurologist, who was later asked about the issue in a radio interview. He gave an answer that was used by Republicans to suggest he favored killing live babies. A Northam spokeswoman said at the time his words were being taken out of context by Republicans, and called the notion that he would approve of killing infants "disgusting." The spokeswoman declined to comment Friday on Trump's latest remarks.

The bill did not pass last year and has not been reintroduced this year, though other legislation that advanced out of a Virginia House committee would roll back some abortion restrictions.

On Friday, Vice President Mike Pence and his wife Karen Pence addressed the crowd via video from his trip to Rome where he had just visited Pope Francis. "The pro-life movement has a champion in Donald Trump," Pence said.

"Thanks to your support, and thanks to the leadership of Donald Trump, life is winning in America again," he said.

Louisiana state Sen. Katrina Jackson, a Democrat, also will address the crowd, saying that while she disagrees with Trump on policies and is discouraged by his insults of people, she is "ecstatic" that a president will attend the march.

"We finally have a sitting president at the March for Life," she said. "It doesn't make him the face of it. It sets a precedent for future presidents to speak. It's my prayer the president's attendance doesn't make it look partisan."

Trump's participation meant extra security for thousands of attendees, who typically meander onto the Mall from all sides in the hours before the rally. The Secret Service set up metal detectors to screen attendees and search bags. Banned items include backpacks, food or drink coolers, glass or thermal containers, selfie sticks, balloons, banners more than 20 feet long and 3 feet high, and signs that require supports.

Abortion opponents began to gather in downtown Washington early Friday, some with buttons and signs saying, "I am the pro life generation" and "Religious liberty." Among them were people at the Renaissance Hotel, where a march expo was underway.

Melody Wootten, a 49-year-old musician from Sterling Heights, Michigan, said she came for the first time because she heard it would be Trump's first attendance. She felt a sense of history, along with the Senate impeachment trial underway, and wanted to be present. The abortion issue and the impeachment, she said, constitute "an attack on Christianity."

"This rally is bringing everything I believe to life," said, Wootten, who is an evangelical. "In Israel, you can go and see where Jesus was born, and it brings things to life. I've seen the Grand Canyon in pictures, but it's different when you see it. Coming here makes everything come more to life. It's going to be a springboard to being more active."

Outside the hotel, where many young marchers were streaming in, was a huge electronic billboard on a truck bed reading, "Abortion is freedom."

Volunteers handed out signs paid for by the Trump campaign at the entrance to the March for Life, an attempt to brand the annual antiabortion march as something like a campaign rally.

Terry Schilling, who runs the conservative American Principles Project, said hawking the signs was the first campaign volunteering he had done. Schilling praised Trump for speaking at Friday's March, saying that past marches might have included a short recording from President George W. Bush.

Schilling was skeptical of Trump in 2016 and voted for him only because he thought Democrat Hillary Clinton was a worse choice because of the president's ability to choose Supreme Court justices.

But he has been delighted by Trump's record in office, including his tax law, the state of the economy, his understanding of religious freedom - and above all, his stance on abortion.

"I could never have been more happy to be wrong," Schilling said.

Peter Wehner, who was a speechwriter for President George W. Bush, said in an email that it became impossible for a president to attend the rally after 9/11. Bush gave a video address and invited the march organizers and a select group of marchers to an event at the White House after the march each year, but officials believed that if he were to attend, it would create security nightmares that would be a huge burden for the marchers.

Trump's decision to attend the rally comes as he seeks to consolidate support from evangelicals in his reelection campaign amid signs that a portion of his conservative base has been troubled by his conduct.

In December, the evangelical magazine Christianity Today published an editorial calling for Trump's removal over his efforts to pressure Ukraine's leader to open an investigation into former vice president Joe Biden, a leading Democratic presidential contender.

The editorial stunned the White House, and Trump has responded by rallying evangelical support through several efforts. This month he held a campaign event at a Latino evangelical church in Miami that included an appearance by Cissie Graham Lynch, granddaughter of Billy Graham, who founded Christianity Today. Last week, the administration announced new federal guidelines to strengthen protections for students who want to pray or worship in public schools.

Early Friday, Eric and Julie Feltes, both 53, came from Greenville, South Carolina, with three of their children and the kids' youth group. They were waiting to head to the Mall early because of increased security and waits. They were thrilled Trump was attending because they thought it would increase turnout. Trump, Eric Feltes said, is the first president to "really vocalize our social issues. "

"Trump is a true conservative president on social issues," he said. "It feels more Reaganesque."

For them, abortion is a top issue.

"It all begins with life. If you don't have that - it all flows from there," Julie Feltes said.

In past years, Trump has addressed March for Life attendees through a video message. Pence became the first vice president to speak at the rally in 2017. Leaders in the antiabortion movement say they have more access to the administration, particularly through Pence's office, and many post pictures of themselves on social media at the White House.

Daniel Williams, a historian at the University of West Georgia who has written a book on the antiabortion movement, noted that the March for Life founder, the late Nellie Gray, was a pro-labor Democrat who worked in the Johnson administration. In the decades that followed, the abortion issue has become more partisan, he said.

"What we're seeing is an exacerbation of partisan divides on both sides," Williams said. "The activists of the 1970s would not have foreseen the pro-life movement be so aligned with one party."

In the 1980s, Williams said, about one-third of Republican senators favored abortion rights, and surveys showed that a majority of Republican voters favored abortion rights. Today, nearly every Republican member of Congress is opposed to abortion rights. A Kaiser Family Foundation survey this week found 84% of Democrats identified as "pro-choice," while 68% of Republicans identified as "pro-life."

Williams said the strategy from antiabortion groups has focused more recently on nominating Supreme Court justices - one reason presidential elections have become so important to activist groups.

"Once they focused on changing the Supreme Court, it made it difficult to work with Democratic presidential administrations," he said.

Trump once had a troubled relationship with the antiabortion movement because of his past support for abortion rights, and he would sometimes flub conservative talking points on abortion. But his ability to deliver justices to the Supreme Court that activists hope will reverse Roe vs. Wade are central to his reelection, according to Mary Ziegler, a professor at Florida State University College of Law.

"He has had to do more to prove himself to what is a key constituency than most previous Republicans did after Roe," said Ziegler, who will have a book coming out in March on abortion and the law in America.

In the Kaiser survey, reproductive health issues such as birth control and abortion ranked lower in importance than many other issues for candidates to discuss. Health care was the top issue, at 21%, while 6%nt said reproductive health issues were most important.

A common theme among many as they gathered to await Trump's appearance: They keep calling themselves "pleasantly surprised" by his support for their antiabortion cause.

Billy Naquin of Thibodaux, Louisiana, attending his first March for Life while on a trip to Washington, said when he voted in 2016, national security and the economy were his top issues. On abortion, he didn't think Trump "would be willing to get into something so controversial." Trump has outperformed his expectations. He deemed his presidency "awesome. "

- - -

The Washington Post’s Anne Gearan and Emily Guskin contributed to this report.

With People Mover ridership increasing, Anchorage proposes a new route

Fri, 2020-01-24 10:56

A People Mover bus travels down Fifth Avenue in downtown Anchorage, November 17, 2016. (Bob Hallinen / ADN) (Bob Hallinen/)

On Nov. 5, Shirley Smith was one of a handful of people who testified before the Anchorage Assembly about the city’s upcoming budget.

Unlike anyone else, Smith started her testimony by getting down on her knees to beg.

Smith, an Anchorage resident without a car, makes her way through the city by bus or by walking. To get to Loussac Library in Midtown, she has to take multiple buses and walk. It’s exhausting, she said, nearly breaking down in tears.

“By the time I get there, I have no more strength to go to the ear doctor, the optometrist or any other of the places on 36th (Avenue), because there is no bus route," Smith said.

Smith is one of hundreds of Anchorage residents who advocated for a new bus route to the library in recent months. She pleaded with the Assembly to fund more public transportation, and she even suggested starting a crowdfunding effort to help.

“I will put the first dollar in it,” Smith said.

The Assembly responded two weeks later, carving out $250,000 in the budget for a proposed new route from South Anchorage down Old Seward Highway to the library. That’s being matched by federal dollars to fund a route that will cost $1.5 million a year. It’s the first new route since a redesign of the public transit system in 2017.

The move comes as Anchorage sees historic participation in its public transit system. On Thursday, the transit department announced 2019 ridership was up 5.7% over the previous year. Average weekday ridership was up every month when compared to the same month in 2018, and Sunday ridership increased by a record-breaking 9.7%.

Bart Rudolph, a spokesman for the public transportation department, said the increased ridership made for a better pitch for adding a route. The Assembly would be less likely to increase funding for a failing system, he said.

“Showing that we were able to make this change in a positive way helped,” Rudolph said.

There used to be a route to the library, but it was removed during the 2017 redesign, which focused on more frequent service for routes along Anchorage’s main roads rather than in neighborhoods. It meant some riders had to walk farther to the bus stop but would wait less time for the bus on average.

[From 2017: New map for Anchorage buses has few neighborhood stops but frequent service on major roads]

The library route was one of the least-utilized at the time, Rudolph said, and was removed. However, when the department asked the public where a new route should go, the answer was clear. The department held two series of public outreach events, getting nearly 900 comments.

“The number one thing that people wanted was service to the Loussac Library, and the second thing they wanted was service along the Old Seward Highway,” Rudolph said.

The proposed route would start at the transit center at the Dimond Center mall, go along the Old Seward Highway, stop at the library and then move west along 36th Avenue to Turnagain, eventually ending downtown. It would run hourly, and start in the fall.

The route isn’t finalized. A public comment period on the route ends Jan. 31.

The hope is for the new route to help continue the surge in ridership, while making it easier for people like Shirley Smith to make their way through the city.

To drive that point home, Smith ended her Nov. 5 testimony by pulling out a short chunk of rebar, which she said she uses to protect herself from cars as she crosses the street.

“This is not meant as a weapon towards anyone here, unless you don’t let me cross the street when you’re in a car," she said. "Then, you can expect to see a broken taillight.”