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Updated: 30 min 10 sec ago

APD: Victim in killing near downtown Anchorage was resting when he was shot

39 min 17 sec ago

Devan McDonald was in a bedroom in an apartment on East Ninth Avenue on Sunday when another man came in, shot him in the upper body and left, Anchorage police said Monday.

McDonald, 22, died there, police said.

The suspect, 20-year-old Kuach Chuol Kuach, was arrested early Monday after an hours-long standoff with officers at his family's apartment on the 1600 block of Juneau Drive, police said.

A tip came in around 11:15 p.m. Sunday that Kuach was there, police spokesman MJ Thim said. A SWAT team convinced him to come out without incident around 5:45 a.m. Monday.

It's not clear how many of Kuach's family members were in the apartment, Thim said. Kuach didn't threaten them at any time.

There were "multiple people" inside the Ninth Avenue apartment on Sunday when the shooting occurred, Thim said. "The victim was in a bedroom resting. The suspect walked in and shot him once in the upper body and fled."

On Monday afternoon, police were still trying to establish the relationship between McDonald and Kuach. They were also trying to ascertain the motive.

The shooting death is this year's 34th homicide, matching last year's tally, a record-high number.

Kuach's family has lived in Anchorage since 2010 and lived in Nebraska before that, according to Kuach's father, reached in Washington state. He did not want to comment on the shooting. The family is originally from Sudan.

At the time of the shooting, Kuach was on probation for a felony weapons conviction connected to a fatal car crash near Merrill Field last year, according to sentencing documents in that case.

[Police seek passenger, 3rd vehicle in fatal Merrill Field car crash]

The car's driver was ejected and killed in the wreck, which apparently happened during an exchange of gunfire, court documents show.

Kuach, whose neck was broken in the crash, also had a gunshot wound in his arm, according to a bail memorandum filed by his attorney. He told investigators he was drunk and on Xanax and didn't remember what happened.

Kuach's original charges included manslaughter. He pleaded guilty to third-degree misconduct involving weapons and was sentenced to two years' probation and 12 months to serve, all of it suspended time.

His attorney told a judge during sentencing that Kuach "has plans for the future" that involve possibly leaving Alaska, according to a change of plea transcript.

During the April hearing, Anchorage Superior Court Judge Jack Smith told Kuach his lack of memory about the crash may not help the victim's mother. But Smith said he hoped the two-year probation would allow him to get his life on track, according to the transcript.

Kuach served five days in jail in September for a probation violation linked to shoplifting, according to an affidavit filed with the probation revocation request.

McDonald, Sunday's shooting victim, had a young son, friends say.

He grew up in Ketchikan and moved to Anchorage several years ago, according to Davante Guthrie, a longtime friend who still lives in Ketchikan.

Guthrie and another friend were stunned by the news of McDonald's death and expressed surprise that he would be the victim of any serious criminal activity. Guthrie said Kuach's name wasn't familiar to him.

Amanda Iverson said McDonald cycled in and out of a residential youth facility where she worked. But that was for being rebellious and not wanting to listen to his mother, and not major behavioral problems, Iverson said.

McDonald made an immediate and positive impression on her when they met at the facility in 2010, she said. He had dinner with her family sometimes. She'd give him rides around town.

Iverson, who waits tables at the Landing Hotel's restaurant, saw McDonald's mother there Friday but was too busy to go over and find out how he was doing.

"The last time I checked on him, he loved being a father," she said. "He was straightening out his life."

High winds, record-breaking warmth in Anchorage bring slick streets and power outages

48 min 53 sec ago

Anchorage sidewalks were slick with ice and the roads were full of slush, ice and puddles Monday because of unseasonably high temperatures. Some areas were without power after high winds swept through the area.

By mid-morning, the temperature at the National Weather Service office in Anchorage had reached 46 degrees. The record high temperature for Dec. 11 in the Anchorage area is 47 degrees, set in 1985.

Sunday's high temperature, also 46 degrees, broke the previous record for that date in the Anchorage area, said NWS meteorologist Rebecca Anderson.

A high-pressure ridge is "bringing higher temperatures in from the California coast," she said. The highest temperature on record for the month of December in the Anchorage area is 48 degrees, she said.

[Ready the rain gear, Anchorage. We're headed into a warm week.]

Winds whipped through the area through the morning. Around 9 a.m., a wind speed of 37 mph was recorded at the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport, Anderson said. There was also an observation of wind at 68 mph around Upper O'Malley Road, she said.

About 140 Chugach Electric Association customers were without power around noon on Monday, said spokeswoman Julie Hasquet. A tree fell into a power line.

"We assume that's from the wind," Hasquet said.

About 1,900 Matanuska Electric Association customers were without power in the Eagle River area, according to a post on MEA's Facebook page Monday morning.

"There is one large outage and a couple smaller outages," the post said. "The biggest one is impacting from northern downtown to Fire Lake area."

By about 1 p.m., MEA said on Facebook that it was down to 99 members without power in the Eagle River and Birchwood/Chugiak areas.

"All of them have been wind-related, trees and lines," said MEA spokeswoman Julie Estey. "We're keeping on top of things."

Municipal Light & Power spokeswoman Julie Harris said there was a wind-related outage that started at 1 p.m. in Mountain View, affecting 24 customers. Crews expect to restore power shortly, she said.

Temperatures are expected to stay in the 30s and 40s through Wednesday, Anderson said.

Trump starts process of sending Americans back to moon

1 hour 26 min ago

WASHINGTON – At a time when China is working on an ambitious lunar program, President Donald Trump vowed on Monday that the United States will remain the leader in space exploration as he began a process to return Americans to the moon.

"We are the leader and we're going to stay the leader, and we're going to increase it many fold," Trump said in signing "Space Policy Directive 1" that establishes a foundation for a mission to the moon and eventually, to Mars.

Back in June, China's space official said the country was making "preliminary" preparations to send a man to the moon, the latest goal in China's ambitious lunar exploration program.

Trump's signing ceremony for the directive included former lunar astronauts Buzz Aldrin and Jack Schmitt and current astronaut Peggy Whitson, whose 665 days in orbit is more time in space than any other American and any other woman worldwide.

Trump said he was taking a giant step toward "reclaiming America's proud destiny in space."

"And space has so much to do with so many other applications, including a military application," he said without elaboration

Flight attendants made passenger put out her cigarette. She threatened to kill everyone on the plane.

2 hours 41 min ago

Southwest Airlines says it all started with a cigarette.

A passenger was smoking in the bathroom somewhere between Portland and Sacramento on Saturday, according to the airline, and had gone so far as to tamper with the smoke detector.

So a flight attendant barged in on the woman, according to KOIN 6. This at least got her out of the bathroom, but did little else to improve the situation on Flight 2943.

The woman ripped an oxygen mask out of the ceiling as crew forced her back to her seat, the station reported. And indeed, a mask appears to dangle in the plane aisle as seen in video of the ensuing tirade.

"I have a destination for myself!" the woman yells as a passenger behind her looks up from his tablet and stares. She is wearing a hat, sunglasses and overcoat, and collecting her belongings as if to disembark the mid-air flight.

"I swear, if you don't . . . land," the woman says, as a flight attendant blocks her from the aisle, "I will kill everybody on this f-ing plane!"

"You will not," the attendant says. "You will not."

"I will!"

A scuffle in the aisle ends the video. The man who took it told CBS 13 that the woman had to be restrained by passengers and crew for the next half hour.

Meanwhile, the airline said, pilots called in an emergency and landed in Sacramento, somehow more or less on schedule.

Sheriff's deputies were waiting at the airport. They arrested Valerie Curbelo, 24, on a felony charge of making a death threat and jailed her on $75,000 bail.

CBS 13 sent a reporter to the jail to get her side of the story. It didn't clarify matters much.

"Why did you decide to smoke in the bathroom?" the reporter asked Curbelo. "That's what they say you were doing."

"The anxiety," Curbelo said. "Yeah, the anxiety."

"You were saying some pretty threatening things," the reporter continued. "Like, you were going to kill everybody on the plane."

She nodded.

He asked why.

"I don't know," Curbelo said. "It was not me. It was not me."

Curbelo, who lives in Oregon, was still jailed Monday afternoon. It's unclear whether she has a lawyer.

‘The Shape of Water’ and ‘Big Little Lies’ top Golden Globe nominations

3 hours 10 min ago

Golden Globes voters nominated a wide mix of movies on Monday, pulling smaller dramas like "Three Billboards Outside Ebbing, Missouri" deeper into the Oscar race, throwing support to Ridley Scott's last-minute effort to erase Kevin Spacey from "All the Money in the World" and embracing diversity among the nominees.

But there were also prominent snubs. "The Big Sick," which was expected to get Globes love in the best comedy and screenplay categories, among others, was completely ignored. And among television shows, "Veep" and "Transparent" were unexpectedly not invited.

The largest number of movie nominations — seven — went to Guillermo del Toro's fantasy "The Shape of Water," including ones for best drama, director, actress (Sally Hawkins), supporting actress (Octavia Spencer) and supporting actor (Richard Jenkins.) Close behind with six apiece were "The Post," a Watergate-era drama about the struggles of Katharine Graham to lead The Washington Post, and "Three Billboards," about a mother (Frances McDormand, a nominee for best actress) who pushes local authorities to investigate her daughter's murder.

All of those films come from 20th Century Fox, which led film companies with 27 nominations, including 15 from its Fox Searchlight specialty label.

"All three come from filmmakers with something important to say — uncompromised, singular, strong, auteur voices," said Stacey Snider, Fox's movie chief. "I'm proud that we have differentiated ourselves as a place for that kind of filmmaking."

The other nominees for best drama were "Dunkirk," Christopher Nolan's World War II epic, and the gay romance "Call Me by Your Name." Voters also gave Nolan a directing nod but unexpectedly disregarded the "Call Me by Your Name" filmmaker Luca Guadagnino.

Long seen as the most unserious stop on Hollywood's awards circuit, the Golden Globes are handed out by the Hollywood Foreign Press Association, a group of mostly freelance journalists, only 89 of whom vote. Studios see members as easy to manipulate, a reputation the group contends is long outdated. (A lawsuit in 2011 alleged payola and kickbacks. The organization settled out of court.)

And top prizes are split into dramatic and comedic categories, often in confounding ways. This time around, the satirical horror film "Get Out" was nominated in the best musical or comedy category. (Its backers at Universal submitted it there, hoping to improve its chances, creating an internet brush fire last month.) "Get Out" will compete against the P.T. Barnum musical "The Greatest Showman"; the figure-skating dark comedy "I, Tonya"; the movie-about-a-movie "The Disaster Artist"; and Greta Gerwig's coming-of-age comedic drama "Lady Bird," which drew four nominations.

But timing is everything in show business, and Academy Award voters (some 8,400) cannot help but pay attention to the Globes. The 75th Globes ceremony will be hosted by Seth Meyers and broadcast live on NBC on Jan. 7. The Academy of Motion Picture Arts and Sciences will announce Oscar nominations Jan. 23.

The Oscar race, the first in nearly 30 years without Harvey Weinstein pulling strings — has so far been a free-for-all, with "The Post," "Dunkirk," "Call Me by Your Name," "Lady Bird" and others jockeying for position.

Among television categories, HBO's "Big Little Lies" was the one to beat, taking six nominations, including for best limited series and all four of its actresses — Reese Witherspoon and Nicole Kidman in the lead category and Laura Dern and Shailene Woodley in supporting. "Big Little Lies" helped push HBO to 12 total nominations, the most of any television network.

Netflix was second with nine, including best drama nods for "The Crown" and "Stranger Things." Other best drama candidates were the usual suspects: "Game of Thrones," "The Handmaid's Tale" and "This Is Us." Best comedy nominations went to "Will & Grace," "black-ish," "Master of None" — all expected — and two new series: "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" on Amazon (the latest from the "Gilmore Girls" creator Amy Sherman-Palladino) and "SMILF," a Showtime series that stars Frankie Shaw as a working-class single mother in Boston.

The nominations were announced by Alfre Woodard, Garrett Hedlund, Kristen Bell and Sharon Stone in a pre-dawn presentation at the Beverly Hilton Hotel timed for the East Coast-based morning news shows. The press association handed out Champagne before 5 a.m. Pacific Time to toast the 75th anniversary of the awards.

— 'The Post' Makes Headlines

This movie, which looks at Graham's role in publishing the Pentagon Papers, has been trying to hang back: It won't arrive in wide release until Jan. 12. But early buzz has been strong — the National Board of Review named it the best film of the year — and Globes voters could turn it white hot with nominations in the big four categories: best drama, director (Steven Spielberg), actress (Meryl Streep) and actor (Tom Hanks).

"The Post" also picked up nominations for its screenplay, written by Liz Hannah and Josh Singer, and the score by John Williams.

— Recognition for 'All the Money in the World'

Because the press association gives a prize for best drama and best comedy, Hollywood often looks to directing nominees for clues about what film truly rose to the top at the Globes. Joining Spielberg, Nolan and del Toro were Martin McDonagh, who wrote and directed "Three Billboards," and Scott, who abruptly reshot portions of his kidnapping thriller "All the Money in the World" after one of its original stars, Spacey, became embroiled in a sexual misconduct scandal.

Spacey's replacement, Christopher Plummer, received a nomination for his supporting role. In a surprise, Michelle Williams, who stars in "All the Money in the World" as the desperate mother of J. Paul Getty III, who was kidnapped in 1973, was nominated alongside Streep, McDormand and Hawkins as best dramatic actress. Jessica Chastain ("Molly's Game") filled out that category.

— A Diverse List of Nominees

If you trust the handicappers at Gold Derby, an entertainment honors site, this year's Academy Award nominations could be #OscarsSoWhite all over again. The prognosticators indicate there's a possibility that only the supporting actress category would feature an actor of color: Mary J. Blige, for her sagacious matriarch in "Mudbound," a Netflix drama about racial tension in rural Mississippi in the 1940s.

She received two nominations Monday — the second for contributing lyrics to a "Mudbound" song — and was joined in the best supporting actress category by Hong Chau, a scene stealer in the social satire "Downsizing," and Octavia Spencer, a former Oscar winner who plays a brash janitor in "The Shape of Water."

Daniel Kaluuya, who helped propel "Get Out" to box office heights, was nominated for best actor in a musical or comedy. Denzel Washington got a best drama actor nod for his offbeat lawyer in "Roman J. Israel, Esq."

The press association has worked hard in recent years to jettison its reputation for oddball nominations that were interpreted more as efforts to populate its televised banquet with stars than honor the year's best performances. The list Monday contained no outright embarrassments. But there were some nods that assured pretty young faces: Ansel Elgort, an acting nominee for "Baby Driver," for instance.

Foreign film nominees were Angelina Jolie's "First They Killed My Father" (Cambodia), "A Fantastic Woman" (Chile), "In the Fade" (Germany and France") "Loveless" (Russia) and "The Square" (Sweden, Germany and France).

— Old and New Recognized in TV

Globes voters like to make agenda-setting choices with their television awards. They paid early attention to "Transparent," "Mr. Robot" and "The Crown," helping to catapult those series into the cultural firmament. But Emmys voters may have beaten them to the punch this year.

At the most recent Emmy Awards, multiple trophies went to rookie shows like "The Handmaid's Tale" and "Big Little Lies," both of which are also received numerous Globes nominations.

But Globes voters also bestowed multiple nominations on "The Marvelous Mrs. Maisel" and "SMILF." They even found ways to throw attention toward the new ABC hit "The Good Doctor," which has received middling reviews, honoring its star, Freddie Highmore, in the best actor category. Joining him is Jason Bateman — nominated for his work in the new Netflix crime series "Ozark" — Sterling K. Brown ("This is Us"), Bob Odenkirk ("Better Call Saul") and Liev Schreiber ("Ray Donovan").

Alabama Senate campaign, an unlikely nail biter watched by the nation, races to finish line

4 hours 4 min ago

BIRMINGHAM, Ala. — In a blur of television ads, conflicting polls and presidential tweets, Doug Jones and Roy Moore raced Monday to make their final pleas in Alabama's special election for the Senate, with both candidates focused on turning out their party's most loyal voters.

The trajectory of the campaign has grown cloudier, rather than clearer, with the approach of Election Day. Moore, a Republican former judge, and Jones, a former prosecutor who is the Democratic nominee, have seesawed in the polls. Strategists on both sides acknowledge that it is exceptionally difficult to predict who will show up in an unusual December vote.

With turnout a giant question mark, Jones has put his focus in the homestretch overwhelmingly on energizing African-American voters. After rallying with prominent black Democrats over the weekend, including Sen. Cory Booker of New Jersey and former Gov. Deval Patrick of Massachusetts, Jones was scheduled to appear Monday in the state's two biggest cities, Birmingham and Montgomery, which both have black majorities.

Campaigning Monday morning at a Birmingham diner, where reporters and photographers vastly outnumbered patrons, Jones tried to balance his get-out-the-vote appeals to Democrats with outreach to Republicans. He held up Sen. Richard C. Shelby's eyebrow-raising interview on CNN over the weekend, in which Shelby, dean of the state's congressional delegation, denounced Moore and said Alabama "deserves better."

"The people of the state, they have elected Richard Shelby for four decades," Jones said. "They're going to listen to Richard Shelby."

Shelby, who has said he would write in an unnamed Republican rather than vote for Moore, is one of the few elected Republican officials in the state to openly abandon their party's embattled Senate nominee.

Jones was less voluble when it came to another last-minute turnout tactic: an automated phone call that former President Barack Obama recorded for his campaign. Jones' advisers were deciding Monday whether to deploy the message to help mobilize Democrats. Jones appeared unenthusiastic about highlighting the involvement of an out-of-state figure who is locally polarizing.

"I know that there have been a lot of robocalls that have been recorded — I don't know what's being used," Jones insisted.

The tight race is all the more extraordinary by the standards of Alabama, where no Democrat has won an election for Senate or governor in almost 20 years. A Fox News poll published Monday found Jones with a 10-point lead over Moore, but other recent polling has found Moore ahead, and private Democratic polling shows a closer race.

Still, Republicans and Democrats agree on the basic dynamics of the campaign: If Jones can turn out young people and African-Americans, and peel away a chunk of Republican-leaning whites — particularly women — who recoil from Moore, then he has a chance to win. Otherwise, the state's conservative DNA is likely to kick in and rescue Moore from tribulations of his own making.

The Republican candidate has not held a campaign event in a week, and has only infrequently appeared in public since a series of women came forward to allege that he had pursued them sexually while they were young teenagers.

Moore was scheduled to emerge from his relative seclusion Monday evening, with a rally in Midland City, a town of a few thousand people in the state's rural southeastern corner. If Jones manages to run up a significant lead in the state's urban and suburban areas, Moore will be counting on stronger turnout from his largely evangelical base in smaller communities.

Moore's rally appears aimed at driving those voters to the polls. He is scheduled to appear alongside Stephen Bannon, the former aide to President Donald Trump, and Rep. Louie Gohmert of Texas. Both are well known to activists, largely through their prominence in conservative media, though neither has close ties to Alabama.

Should Moore prevail Tuesday, it will probably be the backing of a different out-of-state supporter — Trump himself — that was most influential in the last days of the race. While Trump has not visited Alabama, he has repeatedly taken to Twitter in support of Moore and recorded an automated phone message that was going out to Republican voters.

Trump provided Moore with a crucial seal of approval among conservatives at a moment of crisis for his campaign, effectively offering reassurance to Republicans who were uneasy about Moore's scandals that it was acceptable to vote for him. At a rally Friday just over the border in Florida, Trump hailed Moore as critical to enacting a "'Make America Great Again' agenda" in the Senate.

But Moore, for his part, has plainly struggled to deliver such a pointed closing message, and the most visible public remarks from Moore and his campaign have been focused in the main on denying allegations of sexual misconduct.

The charges against Moore broke into the headlines again Monday morning, when one of the women whom he is said to have dated as a teenager, Debbie Wesson Gibson, rebuked him in an interview with NBC News. "He is unfit for public service, at the Senate level, in this nation," Wesson Gibson said of Moore, describing him as a "creeper."

Moore has continued to maintain that he did not date teenagers when he was in his 30s, and has denied sexually abusing a 14-year-old girl.

On Monday morning, Jones ridiculed Moore for effectively going underground at the most intense moment in the race. He mockingly alluded to reports that Moore attended the Army-Navy football game in Philadelphia.

"Here I am once again, surrounded by this gaggle, which I've come to love and enjoy, while Roy Moore was not even in the state of Alabama over this weekend," Jones said, adding: "When is the last time you've heard of a candidate for statewide office leave the state?"

Transgender people can enlist in military starting Jan. 1, judge rules

4 hours 23 min ago

WASHINGTON – A federal judge on Monday denied the Trump administration's request to delay an order requiring the military to begin accepting transgender recruits starting Jan. 1 saying the argument for more time seemed based on "vague claims."

"The Court is not persuaded that Defendants will be irreparably injured by" meeting the New Year's Day deadline, U.S. District Judge Colleen Kollar-Kotelly wrote.

The ruling from Kollar-Kotelly of the District of Columbia follows her earlier opinion blocking the president's ban on military recruitment of transgender men and women that possibly would have forced the dismissal of current service members starting in March.

"With only a brief hiatus, Defendants have had the opportunity to prepare for the accession of transgender individuals into the military for nearly one and a half years," when the policy was initially issued in June 2016, she wrote. "Especially in light of the record evidence showing, with specifics, that considerable work has already been done, the Court is not convinced by the vague claims in [the government's] declaration that a stay is needed.

A second federal judge in Baltimore also issued a preliminary injunction in November that goes further in preventing the administration from denying funding for sex-reassignment surgeries after the order takes effect.

Justice Department spokeswoman Lauren Ehrsam said, "We disagree with the Courts ruling and are currently evaluating the next steps. Plaintiffs' lawsuit challenging military service requirements is premature for many reasons, including that the Defense Department is actively reviewing such service requirements, as the President ordered, and because none of the Plaintiffs have established that they will be impacted by current policies on military service."

In July, President Donald Trump surprised military leaders and members of Congress when he announced the proposal in a series of tweets. Trump's order reversed an Obama-era policy allowing transgender men and women to serve openly and to receive funding for sex-reassignment surgery.

In October, Kollar-Kotelly found challengers likely to prevail in asserting that the president's order violates equal-protection guarantees in the Constitution. The administration has appealed the ruling, and in the meantime asked the judge to temporarily postpone the recruitment requirement until the case is resolved.

Forcing the military to accept transgender applicants and implement such a significant change in policy may "negatively impact military readiness," government lawyers said in asking for the delay.

Attorneys for the plaintiffs said in court filings that the military had already been preparing to accept transgender recruits. Before the change in administration, the Defense Department was gearing up to accept transgender applicants starting in July 2017 and had started training and other preparations.

"The government cannot credibly claim that it will be irreparably harmed by implementing a policy that it was on track to implement almost six months ago," according to the filing from the plaintiffs.

Convicted Dillingham scammer asks for leniency, blaming gambling and drug addictions

4 hours 47 min ago

Floyd Jay Mann, a 56-year-old from Puyallup, Washington, has asked to be sentenced to no more than five years in jail for scamming approximately $3 million away from 15 or more people, mostly from Dillingham.

That sentence is "sufficient, but not more than necessary, to address the seriousness of the offense" and promote rehabilitation, wrote federal public defender Jamie McGrady, Mann's appointed attorney.

U.S. District Court Judge Timothy Burgess is expected to hand down the sentence after hearings Monday and Tuesday in Anchorage. It's unclear if Burgess will grant continued requests by the defense to delay the sentencing, which the prosecutor argues will add additional hardships on the rural victims involved.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Aunnie Steward, who is prosecuting the case, is recommending Mann spend a little more than eight years in prison.

Both Steward and McGrady suggest a term of three years of supervised probation is appropriate, and both believe Mann should pay restitution, though they differ on the amounts. Steward is seeking $2.7 million, and McGrady is asking the court to decide.

[Washington man accused of defrauding Alaskans out of $2.7 million]

In July, Mann pleaded guilty to all 19 counts against him. A grand jury indicted Mann on the wire fraud and money laundering charges the year prior, following a lengthy multi-agency investigation. Mann chose not to dispute any of the facts of the case alleged by the government, but the defense and prosecution now offer very different views of his motives.

"Floyd Jay Mann has suffered from gambling and opioid pain pill addiction for at least the past decade," wrote McGrady, Mann's attorney, and these "compulsions" drove him to his actions. She points out that Mann has "accepted total responsibility, despite his addiction-caused lack of memory as to many of these events."

Additionally, McGrady argues, a "deeply sorry" Mann will be no good to his victims behind bars; rather, the sooner he can return to society, the sooner he can dedicate "the remainder of his working life to make restitution to them."

McGrady calls the judge's attention to Mann's use of the $2.7 million he siphoned away from his unwitting victims over four years. He didn't buy luxury cars, travel abroad, buy a house, or pad an offshore account. The money, she said, went almost entirely to slots and pills.

"That Mr. Mann could spend such an astronomical amount of money on drugs and gambling speaks to his deep-seated and unrelenting addictions," she said.

Mann, McGrady wrote, spent years in a perpetually "manic state," sending hundreds of text messages per day with the "latest absurd story" to "get his fix." Night after night, he fed the one-armed bandit at Puyallup-area casinos, including the Emerald Queen in Fife, Washington. (Federal investigators found he racked up more than $1 million in winnings during his multi-year slot spree.) This bad habit was "able to blossom" due to another, said McGrady: Mann "was perpetually impaired due to this severe oxycodone abuse."

The addictions took a toll on Mann's physical and mental health, and his marriage. (His wife, Cheryl D. Mann, pleaded guilty to defrauding the Social Security Administration out of more than $80,000 for collecting needs-based benefits while raking in the winnings. A federal judge in Washington sentenced her to three years of probation.) McGrady plans to call an expert witness to testify about the impact Mann's addictions had on his life and decisions, and is recommending he be ordered to complete treatment programs.

Steward isn't buying Mann's arguments and has little sympathy for the huckster. He has, she wrote, been able to live off his lies – and even support his drug habit – since at least 1999. But it wasn't until six years ago that he "literally and figuratively" hit the jackpot. That's when the Manns moved into a house on 148 Street Court East, just a few doors down John and Clara Wren, siblings originally from Dillingham. The elderly, churchgoing Wrens bought Mann's made-up story.

"Mann's skill for getting people to believe his lies, honed over a decade of experience, paid off for him in 2011-2016, earning him almost $3 million from [the Wrens] and their friends and relatives in Dillingham, Alaska," Steward wrote in her sentencing recommendation to the court. "Mann used this money to pay for his narcotic and gambling habits, and to send his family on vacation while his victims lost their homes, businesses, retirement funds and had to turn off their heat and other utilities to keep giving money to Mann to help, as they believed, save" his life.

Mann cooked up an impressively clever scheme involving a big pharmaceutical company responsible for his fictitious cancer, seasoning the story with crooked judges and federal agents, plots against his life and a massive lawsuit soon to dole out hundreds of millions of dollars. If his "investors" would just hang on a bit longer, and if he survived all of the costly treatments they were funding, all of them would reap a windfall beyond their wildest dreams.

The growing list of victims pooled money together each and every time Mann asked, and he treated them like an ATM. He eventually had to avoid his bank, because the deposits, at more than $100,000 month, were raising eyebrows. Then, the small group of true believers arranged delivery of bags of cash, wherever and whenever Mann – or one of the characters he played – directed.

Cheryl Mann was brutally honest about her husband's conduct during a spat in December 2015, toward the end of the scheme's run.

"I don't make you lie, or take drugs, and whatever the hell else you're doing all hours of the night," she texted him, as quoted by Steward in her memo. "You don't work for a living, you con people for a living and because I don't fall for your bull****, you tell me I'm crazy..?…Acting like a big shot while you beg for money over the phone with [victim P.D.]!"

The other victims have had a difficult time coming to grips with the reality of the fraud perpetrated against them for close to five years. Dillingham police, tipped off in 2014 to the suspicious amounts of money leaving town, contacted several of the victims to ask about the situation. Chief Dan Pasquariello also advised them to get out of what he said he could tell was a scam. He was rebuffed, on a few occasions less than politely. Other friends, family and fellow congregants – most of the victims attend the same Seventh-day Adventist Church in Dillingham – had similar success trying to steer them away. Homes were lost, businesses closed, one person was fired from a prominent job and reputations were harmed.

"The victims did not believe that the scheme was fraudulent when legitimate FBI agents showed up to conduct interviews and served search warrants, because they had been told so many stories of corrupt agents and judges," wrote Steward. "Not until after the agents showed up, when Mann stopped calling and asking for money, did the victims accept that the stories he had been telling them for six years were fraudulent."

He sent thousands of text messages, mainly to one Dillingham victim, who rallied the others. One Sunday in 2014, just hours before his beloved Seattle Seahawks were to take on the Denver Broncos in the 48th Super Bowl, Mann tugged at his "bud's" heartstrings as he was supposedly to head in for another costly surgery.

"Sorry. Getting me. Ready. For surgery. I have. No Choice. Are. Part is. Thirty. One. Hundred. And. Nineteen. Dollars. They. Have to pay. Then. Thousand. Why. Does. This always. Happen to me. Watch. Game. For. Me. Bud. No. Surgery. Ill. Be. Dead. No choice. Bye. Bud. Love ya. Man. No. Homo. Surgerys. Four. Hours. Alisha. Has. Phone. Now. Money due rt. Away. So it wont. Hold it. Up. Go. Hawks."

Restitution is not expected anytime soon. One couple has documented losses of $900,000, and another $750,000. Those dollars, and all the rest Mann made off with — including his more than $1 million in slot winnings — are gone, gambled away, as best as federal investigators can tell.

Mario Batali on leave from TV show and restaurant empire after 4 women allege sexual harassment

6 hours 40 min ago

In the wake of the Harvey Weinstein story, chef and television personality Mario Batali offered up his views on how to combat sexual harassment in the workplace for an Oct. 30 video for Fast Company.

"You need a workplace free of fear, that harbors an excellent feeling of the potential for collaboration and creativity," he said. "And if you want to keep really talented people around, you need to create an environment for them that harbors excellence."

Weeks later, Batali has taken leave from his restaurants and co-hosting duties on ABC's "The Chew" after the website Eater reported Monday that four women, all unnamed, have accused Batali of sexual harassment. In the wake of the allegations, the Food Network announced it is putting plans to relaunch his seminal show, "Molto Mario," next year on hold.

One woman described two instances where Batali made inappropriate and unwelcome physical contact with her, while the others alleged that Batali groped their breasts and buttocks at industry parties. Three of them worked for him, while the fourth has not but works in the industry. Batali has stepped away from operations of his empire of 26 restaurants worldwide, which he co-owns with restaurateur Joe Bastianich, though he remains an owner. He apologized in a statement to Eater, saying:

"I apologize to the people I have mistreated and hurt. Although the identities of most of the individuals mentioned in these stories have not been revealed to me, much of the behavior described does, in fact, match up with ways I have acted. That behavior was wrong and there are no excuses. I take full responsibility and am deeply sorry for any pain, humiliation or discomfort I have caused to my peers, employees, customers, friends and family."

Batali is one of the most famous chefs in America, known for his red hair and affection for Orange Crocs. His first restaurant, Po, earned him a show, "Molto Mario," on the then-burgeoning Food Network. He went on to host other shows, including "Mario Eats Italy" and "Ciao America," and has appeared on numerous others, including "Iron Chef America." He has published 11 cookbooks, and has a charitable foundation in his own name. The James Beard Foundation named Batali as the nation's Outstanding Chef in 2005.

Batali's reaction to the allegations – a public apology, along with stepping away from public duties while he attempts to "regain trust" – is perhaps an indication that the TV personality and famed chef hopes he can weather the scandal.

But it's unclear if there will be more fallout for Batali. An ABC spokesperson issued a statement indicating the network would look into potential violations of its standards of conduct. "We have asked Mario Batali to step away from The Chew while we review the allegations that have just recently come to our attention," the statement read. "ABC takes matters like this very seriously as we are committed to a safe work environment. While we are unaware of any type of inappropriate behavior involving him and anyone affiliated with the show, we will swiftly address any alleged violations of our standards of conduct."

[Rape in the storage room. Groping at the bar. Why is the restaurant industry so terrible for women?]

The Food Network issued this statement: "Food Network takes matters like this very seriously and we are putting relaunch plans for 'Molto Mario' on hold."

It's not the first time that Batali's name has come up in conjunction with sexual harassment. News reports over the years show that his restaurants, like much of the rest of the industry, were a place where sexual comments and behavior went unpunished.

Employees at Babbo, Batali's Italian restaurant in New York, have been the source of several complaints.

In May, Babbo pastry chef Isaac Franco Nava filed suit , alleging that he was harassed because of his sexual orientation. The suit names the restaurant as well as Batali individually. Nava, who is gay, alleges that colleagues called him a "f****t" and "girly," and that Batali should have done more to stop the abuse. Nava was eventually fired, he alleges, when he was accused of stealing a single pork chop that another employee had told him he could cook for himself.

In a 2011 suit, Babbo server Eugene Gibbons alleged that employees (other than Batali) would regularly hit him on the buttocks and grab his genitals, while Batali and co-owner Joe Bastianich did nothing. Gibbons declined to comment to The Post, citing his settlement from the lawsuit.

Another server, Stephanie Capsolas, who led a $5.25 million wage lawsuit against Batali, filed a separate suit alleging that she was sexually harassed at Babbo. Her suit accused executive chef Frank Langello – not Batali – of making crude comments and lewd gestures "several times a week," the New York Post reported .

In Bill Buford's 2006 book "Heat," a behind-the-scenes look at Babbo, chef Elisa Sarno complained that a prep chef was harassing her, and spoke crudely in the kitchen, calling broccoli rabe, or rapini, "rape," and talking about visits with prostitutes.

"But Mario told her there was nothing he could do. 'Really, Elisa. This is New York. Get used to it,'" wrote Buford.

Gossip columns have also hinted at Batali's behavior far before our current #metoo moment. One 2007 New York Post story said that female servers at Babbo were "fed up with getting pinched as they pass through the kitchen," and one server was "furious that chef Mario Batali called her a piece of 'hot ass,'" the paper reported.

Batali has an unusual way of praising his female employees, too. In an Oct. 26 Page Six item lauding Batali for having an all-female kitchen at Babbo, the chef said: " It's not because they have a vagina. It's because they're the smartest people for the job."

Trump accusers: ‘Heartbreaking’ to see him elected despite sexual misconduct

6 hours 59 min ago

As the country grapples with a national reckoning over sexual misconduct allegations against powerful men from Hollywood to Capitol Hill, three women who accused the most high-profile man in the country again questioned Monday why their claims did nothing to stop him from winning the presidency.

It was "heartbreaking" for women to go public with their claims against President Donald Trump last year, only to see him ascend to the Oval Office, said Samantha Holvey, a former Miss USA contestant who in October 2016 said Trump inappropriately inspected pageant participants.

"I put myself out there for the entire, world and nobody cared," Holvey said on NBC's "Megyn Kelly Today" show, appearing for an hour alongside Jessica Leeds, a New York woman who said Trump groped her on a plane, and Rachel Crooks, who said Trump kissed her on the lips after she introduced herself to him at Trump Tower.

WATCH: “Everybody has a story…It doesn’t matter when it happened, whether they were 8 years old or whether they were 35 or older.” Trump accuser Jessica Leeds on @MegynTODAY

— TODAY (@TODAYshow) December 11, 2017

Trump has denied all of the allegations against him, which were made public after The Washington Post published an "Access Hollywood" recording of Trump boasting about grabbing women by the genitals in October 2016. The White House's position is that Trump's accusers are lying and that the issue was settled when he was elected president after the stories emerged.

"These false claims, totally disputed in most cases by eyewitness accounts, were addressed at length during last year's campaign, and the American people voiced their judgment by delivering a decisive victory," the White House said in a statement Monday. "The timing and absurdity of these false claims speaks volumes, and the publicity tour that has begun only further confirms the political motives behind them."

Speaking to Megyn Kelly on Monday in their first joint interview, the women recounted their allegations against Trump, describing how they felt threatened and disgusted by their encounters with him.

"I was shocked," Crooks told Kelly after describing Trump kissing her at Trump Tower. "Devastated. It happened so fast … I wish I would've been courageous enough to say, 'What's going on and you need to stop this.'"

Crooks said she felt at the time that she had no way to respond to the situation out of fear that if she reported it to her bosses – who did business with Trump's organization – she might lose her job. "I wish I had been stronger," she said. Crooks said she came forward after reading an account from another woman accusing Trump of misconduct, saying that this made her feel a sense of relief knowing that "it wasn't just me."

The three women spoke on "Today" before holding a news conference in Manhattan amid a wave of allegations of sexual assault and harassment by men that have swept across the country in recent weeks that has stretched into fields including politics, entertainment, the media, the courts and the finance industry.

Numerous high-profile men have been fired or suspended from their jobs, including Hollywood mogul Harvey Weinstein and broadcaster Charlie Rose, while others have announced plans to step down, including Sen. Al Franken, D-Minn., and Rep. John Conyers, D-Mich., both of whom said last week that they would leave Congress over the mounting allegations.

Holvey suggested it made sense for Trump's accusers to speak to the public again given the way the country's atmosphere – and response to alleged sexual misconduct – has shifted over the last year.

"Let's try round two," she said. "The environment's different, let's try again."

A day before the women spoke, Nikki Haley, the U.S. ambassador to the United Nations, said that women who have accused Trump "should be heard." Haley's comments were a sharp break from the White House's position, and they were particularly notable coming from one of the most high-profile women serving in Trump's administration.

"They should be heard, and they should be dealt with," Haley said when asked on CBS's "Face the Nation" about the allegations other women have made against Trump. "And I think we heard from them before the election. And I think any woman who has felt violated or felt mistreated in any way, they have every right to speak up."

The #MeToo movement has drawn renewed attention to the accusations against Trump, which emerged in the final weeks of the presidential campaign last year. When asked in October whether the White House's position was that all of the women are lying, Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Trump's press secretary, told reporters: "Yeah, we've been clear on that from the beginning, and the president has spoken on it."

For women who accused Trump of sexual misconduct last year, watching other men felled by allegations has left them wondering why their claims did not have the same impact during the presidential campaign.

Trump has denied the allegations against him, vowing to sue his accusers and produce "substantial evidence" he said would disprove their claims. So far, he has not followed through on either promise.

One lawsuit has emerged from the allegations made against Trump: One of his accusers, Summer Zervos, sued him in New York for defamation over Trump's repeated comments that all of the women were liars.

Zervos, a former contestant on "The Apprentice," said Trump kissed and groped her during a 2007 encounter at the Beverly Hills Hotel. In response, Trump said: "False stories. All made up. Lies. Lies. No witnesses. No nothing. All big lies."

Trump's attorneys have decried Zervos's lawsuit, calling it "politically motivated" and based on allegations of something "that never occurred." They have sought to have the suit dismissed, arguing that he was expressing a political opinion and saying a sitting U.S. president cannot be sued in state court.

6-year-old made $11 million in one year reviewing toys on You Tube

7 hours 40 min ago

When most people think back on the child celebrities of their time, they likely think of child movie actors, the well-trained stars of showbiz. For some, these were stars like Mary Kate and Ashley Olson, or Macaulay Carson Culkin from Home Alone. For others, they were Judy Garland or Shirley Temple.

For kids these days, however, some of the biggest stars are not actors at all but YouTube stars.

And one of the biggest of them all is a six-year-old named Ryan who plays with toys – mesmerizing millions of children across the globe.

Since he was three years old, Ryan's parents have been capturing videos of him opening toys, playing with them and "reviewing" them for videos posted on their YouTube channel, "Ryan ToysReview."

Ryan's last name, and his place of residence are a closely guarded secret, and not without reason.

Ryan has become a multi-millionaire, according to Forbes magazine's just-out list of highest paid YouTube entrepreneurs. He was ranked number eight, having brought in $11 million in revenue between June 1, 2016, and June 1, 2017, before management fees and taxes, of course. He tied with the comedy channel Smosh, created by Anthony Padilla and Ian Hecox.

Children everywhere have become hooked, watching his videos for hours a day, even mimicking him and starting their own YouTube channels. For some of his youngest fans, Ryan is not just some stranger on the internet. He is their friend.

Combined, the world's 10 highest-paid YouTube stars earned $127 million, up 80% from last year. According to Forbes, this boost came thanks to ad dollars from a surge in views – including a healthy sum from "Ryan ToysReview." During the 12 months considered by Forbes, "Ryan ToysReview" counted over 8 billion views.

What has grown into a viral phenomenon began with a simple, unremarkable 15-minute video about a Lego Duplo train set. When his family started recording and posting the videos in March 2015, the 3-year-old barely had any views let alone reviews, according to a profile of Ryan in Verge. In his first video, he simply opened a Lego box, set up the blocks, and played with them.

"Ryan was watching a lot of toy review channels – some of his favorites are EvanTubeHD and Hulyan Maya – because they used to make a lot of videos about Thomas The Tank Engine, and Ryan was super into Thomas," his mother, who declined to be named, told TubeFilter last year.

"One day, he asked me, 'How come I'm not on YouTube when all the other kids are?' So we just decided – yeah, we can do that. Then, we took him to the store to get his very first toy – I think it was a lego train set – and it all started from there."

Soon the boy started playing with not just one toy at a time, but two, and then dozens. About four months in, his channel saw an explosion of traffic, driven primarily by a viral video of Ryan reviewing a hundred toys at once. It is titled "100+ cars toys GIANT EGG SURPRISE OPENING Disney Pixar Lightning McQueen kids video Ryan ToysReview"

"Ryan ToysReview" took off. Views started doubling every month. In January of 2016, he hit 1 million subscribers. A year later, he had more than 5 million. Now, he's at more than 10 million subscribers and over 16 million views.

In June, TubeFilter ranked "Ryan ToysReview" as the most viewed YouTube channel in the U.S. for the 40th week in a row. In September, NBA player Kevin Durant was featured in one of Ryan's videos performing a children's science experiment.

Ryan's popularity makes perfect sense. He's got every small kid's dream job, opening toys and playing with them, day after day. He's smiley, too, totally non-threatening to parents and children alike. No bad words. No preachy banter. He's a miniature Mister Rogers but without the sweater and slippers.

In his most popular video, published April 13, 2016, Ryan's mother films him as he crawls through an inflatable water slide, searching for giant Easter eggs. He cracks open each one to find various toys inside.

"It's lighting McQueen!" he says excitedly as he opens one to find a toy car from the Disney movie "Cars." And wow, in another there's a character from "Paw Patrol," in another, there's Spiderman.

"I bet there's a bad guy in there," he says, gesturing at one of the uncracked eggs. "Who do you think it is, kids?"

He spends much of the rest of the video tossing the toys down the water slide, playing with them in an inflatable pool.

Ryan's got great timing too. He specializes in the slow reveal, like the opening of those eggs, and in surprise.

Of his 30 most popular videos, more than half include the word "SURPRISE" in all caps in the titles: "GIANT EGG SURPRISE," "HUGE EGGS SURPRISE TOYS CHALLENGE," "BALLOON POP SURPRISE," "SURPRISE TOYS Giant Ball Pit Challenge."

There's no overthinking, no "why is this toy better than another," no analysis, something adults describing "Ryan ToysReview" just can't resist.

The channel was described by Verge as "a mash-up of personal vlog and "unboxing" video, a blend of innocent childhood antics and relentless, often overwhelming consumerism."

"Unboxing" refers to one of today's oddest and most lucrative genres on YouTube. The videos are exactly what they sound like: footage of people opening packages of newly purchased items, the latest Apple devices, Chanel, Louis Vuitton.

Each time someone clicks on one of Ryan's videos, his family makes money. There are ads and links to ads all over the place.

Ryan has real impact.

"If a product gets ten million, twenty millions views, and you see that Ryan loves it, or other kids love it, it has a huge impact at retail," Jim Silver, CEO of the review site Toys, Tots, Pets, and More, told the Verge when Ryan was still 5 years old. "He's really the youngest success that we've seen. Most of the time the kids were in the six-plus range, just because of the vocabulary and the maturity to do a review."

His parents told TubeFilter in September of last year that 99 percent of the channel's videos aren't branded. At the time, the parents said they paid for all of the toys that Ryan reviewed. It's unclear how many toys he currently reviews are sent to him by sponsors, but his video descriptions often include dozens of links to name-brand items. According to his channel's "about" page, the family donates most of the toys to charity after Ryan reviews them.

Many videos include Ryan doing things other than playing with toys. They show him going to get a haircut, playing hide and seek in a hotel, and attending his twin siblings' birthday party.

"We post a new video every day, and we typically film two to three videos at a time two to three times per week," his mom told TubeFilter. "We try not to interfere with Ryan's pre-pre-school schedule, so a majority of the filming takes place during the weekend, and then we'll edit while he's in school."

But even with just a few daily snippets of Ryan's routine, his viewers can virtually insert themselves in his life. And for some young kids, the line is blurred between what's real and what's simply a part of Ryan's videos.

"My 5-year-old EATS THIS STUFF UP!" one mother, Lindsay Weiss, wrote in a blog post titled "Ryan's Toy Review may be the death of me."

"It is literally the only thing he watches on YouTube and the other day I caught him talking back to Ryan telling him he had missed an important feature in the new game 'Don't Wake Daddy.'"

"Honey, you know Ryan can't hear you, right?" Weiss said she told her son.

"He doesn't need to hear me, Mama," her son responded, Weiss wrote. "He just KNOWS."

"I also have Ryan to thank for the THIRTEEN games my kiddo got for his birthday last week," Weiss added. "That's right. My kid got THIRTEEN games for his birthday. All courtesy of seeing Ryan play the games and squeal with delight."

Other parents have left scores of messages on Ryan's YouTube channel, thanking him and his parents, saying their kids sometimes watch his videos for hours a day.

"My son is autistic," one parent wrote. "Your videos are helping him to speak, use his imagination, and properly use toys! He enjoys these videos several times a day and i would just love to say thank you!"

"hey Ryan ToysReview hi there," another parent wrote. "my 3yr old kid Ashaz loves watching your videos.He wants to say hi n says you are his small brother lol. . .we are from India and best wishes from all of us."

"Ryan, my boy loves your toys reviews, every day he watches your videos," one mother posted. "Today he asked me 'mom, when we gonna visit Ryan?', I told him that is not possible because we live in different countries, maybe when you will grow :)"

The greatest testament comes from the children themselves though.

"hello ryan," one of them wrote recently. ". . . i am 5 years old i am in my dad's account how old are you also i love your videos."

Explosion in major New York transit hub injures 4 including suspect

8 hours 13 min ago

NEW YORK — A peaceful beginning to the workweek was shattered Monday after an explosion rattled through one of the busiest transit hubs in New York City, causing the authorities to evacuate hundreds of commuters and throwing the morning into chaos.

Police said one person was in custody after the blast echoed through the passageway connecting the Times Square and Port Authority subway stations shortly before 7:30 a.m.

The suspect, identified by police as Akayed Ullah, 27, from Brooklyn, was in serious condition at Bellevue Hospital Center. The NYC Fire Department said four injuries had been reported.

A senior city official who declined to be identified because of the continuing investigation said that Ullah had been wearing an explosive device and after the blast police had to strip him to remove it.

The subway stations were evacuated, and Port Authority Bus Terminal was also shut down.

Ullah was alone, police said, and the device was reported to have gone off prematurely. The explosion was recorded on surveillance video, the city official said.

In a news conference, Mayor Bill de Blasio called the blast an attempted terrorist attack and said no other devices had been found.

"Our lives revolve around the subway," he said. "The choice of New York is always for a reason, because we are beacons of the world. And we show that a society of many backgrounds and many faiths can work."

"The terrorists want to undermine that," he added. "They yearn to attack New York City."

Soon after the explosion was reported, the commutes of New Yorkers miles away from the blast became chaotic. The Metropolitan Transportation Authority reported that trains were skipping 42nd Street stops.

Commuters underground near 40th Street and 8th Avenue began to flee after the loud, muffled sound was heard in the Port Authority subway station. Police officers, firefighters and Port Authority counterterrorism officials tried to clear people from the bus station and the west side of 8th Avenue as sirens blared.

Andre Rodriguez, 62, a caseworker at one of the city's shelters, said he heard the explosion around 7:30.

"I was going through the turnstile," he said. "It sounded like an explosion, and everybody started running."

Alicja Wlodkowski, 51, said that she had been in a restaurant inside the Port Authority when she suddenly saw a crowd of people running.

"A woman fell, and nobody even stopped to help her because it was so crazy," she said. Then it all slowed down. I was standing and watching and scared."

Sarah Maslin Nir contributed reporting.

Alaska elections officials block GOP attempt to bar defectors from primary ballot

8 hours 59 min ago

Alaska elections officials have rejected a request by the state Republican Party to block three incumbent GOP lawmakers from appearing on the party's primary ballot next year.

Josie Bahnke, the state Division of Elections director, wrote to GOP Chair Tuckerman Babcock that the Republicans' request missed a deadline, clashed with a law allowing any registered Republican to run in the Republican primary and was premature since none of the three lawmakers has filed for re-election.

"So, any action by the division would be premature at this time," Bahnke wrote late last week.

The party wrote Bahnke last week to ask her to exclude Republican state Reps. Paul Seaton of Homer, Louise Stutes of Kodiak and Gabrielle LeDoux of Anchorage from the party's primary. That was after party leaders voted to change their rules to allow them to block certain candidates from the GOP primary ballot.

Republican leaders have targeted Seaton, Stutes and LeDoux for defeat after they joined a largely Democratic coalition to take control of the state House last year.

Babcock said in a phone interview that Republicans will likely wait to see if their case is aided by the resolution of a lawsuit filed by the Alaska Democratic Party that seeks to open the Democratic primary to independent candidates.

Republicans haven't authorized a lawsuit to attempt to force state elections officials to bar Seaton, Stutes and LeDoux from the primary ballot, Babcock said.

Officials see weapons threat as North Korea gains biotech expertise

Sun, 2017-12-10 21:48

Five months before North Korea's first nuclear test in 2006, U.S. intelligence officials sent a report to Congress warning that secret work also was underway on a biological weapon. The communist regime, which had long ago acquired the pathogens that cause smallpox and anthrax, had assembled teams of scientists but seemed to be lacking in certain technical skills, the report said.

"Pyongyang's resources presently include a rudimentary biotechnology infrastructure," the report by the director of national intelligence explained.

A decade later, the technical hurdles appear to be falling away. North Korea is moving steadily to acquire the essential machinery that could potentially be used for an advanced bioweapons program, from factories that can produce microbes by the ton, to laboratories specializing in genetic modification, according to U.S. and Asian intelligence officials and weapons experts. Meanwhile, leader Kim Jong Un's government also is dispatching its scientists abroad to seek advanced degrees in microbiology, while offering to sell biotechnology services to the developing world.

The gains have alarmed U.S. analysts, who say North Korea – which has doggedly pursued weapons of mass destruction of every other variety – could quickly surge into industrial-scale production of biological pathogens if it chooses to do so. Such a move could give the regime yet another fearsome weapon with which to threaten neighbors or U.S. troops in a future conflict, officials and analysts say.

Current and former U.S. officials with access to classified files say they have seen no hard evidence so far that Kim has ordered production of actual weapons, beyond samples and prototypes. And they can only speculate about the reasons.

"That the North Koreans have [biological] agents is known, by various means," said one knowledgeable U.S. official who, like several others interviewed, spoke on the condition of anonymity regarding sensitive military assessments. "The lingering question is, why have they acquired the materials and developed the science, but not yet produced weapons?"

But the official, like others interviewed, also acknowledged that spy agencies might not detect a change in North Korea's program, since the new capabilities are imbedded within civilian factories ostensibly engaged in making agricultural and pharmaceutical products.

"If it started tomorrow we might not know it," the official said, "unless we're lucky enough to have an informant who happens to be in just the right place."

In a country that is famously secretive, it is perhaps the most carefully guarded secret of all. North Korea consistently denies having a biological warfare program of any kind, and it has worked diligently to keep all evidence of weapons research hidden from sight.

Yet, in 2015, the country's leader took it upon himself to partially roll back the curtain. On June 6 of that year, Kim commandeered a crew of North Korean cameramen for a visit to the newly named Pyongyang Biotechnical Institute, a sprawling, two-story facility on the grounds of what used to a vitamin factory.

State-run news media described the institute as a factory for making biological pesticides – mainly, live bacteria that can kill the worms and caterpillars that threaten North Korea's cabbage crop. But to U.S. analysts studying the video, the images provided an unexpected jolt: On display inside the military-run facility were rooms jammed with expensive equipment, including industrial-scale fermenters used for growing bulk quantities of live microbes, and large dryers designed to turn billions of bacterial spores into a fine powder for easy dispersal.

Many of the machines were banned from sale to North Korea under international sanctions because of their possible use in a bioweapons program. But Kim, wearing a white lab coat and trailed by a phalanx of scientists and military officers, appeared almost gleeful in showing them off, striking the same rapt pose as when he visits the country's installations for nuclear weapons and long-range missiles.

It was the first public confirmation of the existence of such machines in North Korea, and some U.S. and Asian experts saw their presence as deeply ominous.

"It is hard to avoid the conclusion that the institute is intended to produce military-size batches of anthrax," Melissa Hanham, a North Korea specialist at the James Martin Center for Nonproliferation Studies in Monterey, California, wrote in a blog posting after the video was shown. "Regardless of whether the equipment is being used to produce anthrax today, it could be in the near future."

U.S. analysts now believe the timing of the visit was deliberate: The previous week, on May 28, the Pentagon had publicly acknowledged that live samples of U.S.-made anthrax bacteria had been accidentally shipped to a South Korean military base because of a lab mix-up. North Korea lodged a formal complaint with the United Nations on June 4, calling the incident proof of American "biological warfare schemes" against its citizens.

Kim's trip to the biotechnology institute came just two days later, and was clearly intended to send a message, Hanham said in an interview.

"Responding by showing their own capability could be taken as a threat," she said.

Some weapons experts were skeptical, noting the absence of biohazard suits and protective gear typically found in laboratories that work with deadly pathogens. But since the release of the images, subsequent examinations have poked holes in the official story about the factory's purpose. For one thing, some of the machines shown in the video were not visibly connected to any pipes, vents or ductwork. Experts also have questioned why North Korea would buy expensive industrial equipment at black-market rates, just to make a pesticide that can be purchased legally, at vastly cheaper rates, from China.

"The real takeaway is that [North Korea] had the dual-use equipment necessary for bioweapons production," said Andrew Weber, a former assistant secretary of defense for nuclear, chemical and biological defense programs. "What the photos show is a modern bio-production capability."

That North Korea possesses the basic components for biological weapons is all but settled doctrine within U.S. and Asian military and intelligence establishments, and has been for years.

Although overshadowed by Pyongyang's nuclear and chemical weapons, the threat of biological attack from the North is regarded as sufficiently serious that the Pentagon routinely vaccinates all Korea-bound troops for exposure to anthrax and smallpox.

"It's a presumption that they have it and will use it," said a retired military officer who oversaw troops on the peninsula. "We've had to spend a lot of time figuring out how to deal with some of the WMD."

But determining North Korea's precise capabilities – and the regime's intentions for using such weapons – have been among the toughest intelligence challenges for U.S. analysts. Official assessments by U.S. and South Korean intelligence agencies have generally concluded that Pyongyang has experimented with a handful of bacterial strains, including the microbes that cause anthrax, cholera and plague. U.S. analysts also have believed since at least the mid-1990s that North Korea possesses the smallpox virus, a conclusion based in part on the discovery of antibodies in the bloodstreams of North Korean soldiers who escaped to the South in the 1980s and 1990s.

That assessment, while controversial, is buttressed by senior North Korean government and military defectors as well as foreign governments with special insight into the regime's military secrets. In 1993, the head of the Russian intelligence agency's foreign branch revealed in a report that North Korea was performing "applied military-biological research" on four pathogens, including microbes that cause anthrax and smallpox.

But more recently, questions about North Korea's capability have taken on a new urgency, as military planners prepare for the possibility that tensions with Pyongyang could lead to war. While U.S. and South Korean aircraft would seek to knock out suspected chemical and biological facilities from the air, the newest plans include a presumption that infantry divisions would have to face an array of chemical and biological hazards on the battlefield – hazards that may be invisible to fast-moving ground troops, current and former U.S. officials say.

But germs as military weapons also have distinct disadvantages, as they are difficult to control and can take hours or days to kill or disable. A consensus view among military planners is that Kim is choosing to hold his bioweapons card in reserve for now, while his scientists build up a capacity to manufacture large quantities of pathogens quickly. Now that the North is equipped with state-of-the-art factories and teams of trained specialists, that shift could conceivably happen in weeks or even days, said the senior official familiar with military preparations for a biological attack.

"The capabilities – the science and technology – all of that now exists," the official said. "Kim has chosen not to deploy at this time. But ultimately it comes down to a political decision."

In the waning years of the Cold War, Soviet weapons scientists labored in secret to build new super-germs more dangerous than those found in nature. With mixed success, using techniques still novel in the 1980s, they spliced together bits of DNA to increase virulence – so that microbes would kill more quickly – or to introduce stealthy features that would make them harder to detect.

There is no known evidence that Pyongyang is working to engineer designer bugs, U.S. analysts say. But there are signs that North Korea is attempting to catapult itself into the 21st-century worlds of genetic research and biomedical science.

In 2015, as North Korea's new microbe-producing factory was coming online, North Korean scientists were teaming up with Chinese counterparts on a research project to identify previously unknown bacterial species discovered in the glacial ice in Svalbard, the Norway-owned island chain far north of the Arctic Circle. In a rare instance in which North Koreans took the lead on a peer-reviewed scientific paper, the scientists described using DNA sequencing techniques to isolate the novel strains.

The project was the most dramatic example of what private researchers describe as a surge of interest by North Koreans in genetic engineering and other biotech disciplines. Earlier this year, the Welsh artificial intelligence firm Amplyfi conducted a search of the "deep Web" – the parts of the Internet invisible to the public – for evidence of North Korean interest in biodefense topics. The company's DataVoyant search tool produced hundreds of thousands of hits and showed a spike in interest in such terms as "gene expression" and "nucleic acid sequence," beginning two years ago.

A preliminary analysis suggested a pattern of behavior that U.S. and Asian officials have independently confirmed: a broad North Korean effort to obtain outside expertise from private companies, academic institutions and even nonprofits, company officials said. North Korea is believed to have used technical designs from a British agricultural nonprofit in building its microbe-producing Pyongyang Biotechnology Center, and it has sought to enroll promising microbiology students in top research universities across Europe and Asia. In recent years, the North Koreans also have sought to sell medical services to the developing world, in one instance building and staffing an entire hospital in Zambia.

"Every continent is represented," Amplyfi co-founder Chris Ganje said in a phone interview from the company's headquarters in Cardiff, Wales. He said the search turned up "worrying indicators of unintended support," adding: "It is obvious that the international community and larger institutions need to be cautious in providing seemingly benign academic scientific education and training to North Korea."

A harder challenge is separating legitimate efforts to improve North Korea's medical infrastructure with more sinister attempts to a create new varieties of killing machines, officials and experts acknowledge. Joseph DeTrani, a retired CIA veteran who oversaw intelligence collection for North Korea in the 2000s, noted that ambiguity has been a built-in feature of North Korean weapons programs for decades.

"They talk openly about their 'nuclear deterrent,' but with chemical and biological weapons, it's different," DeTrani said. "They've always played it close to the vest. For them, it's a real option. But they want to preserve the possibility of deniability."

Readers write: Letters to the editor, December 11, 2017

Sun, 2017-12-10 20:59

Listen to small businesses

It seems as though every week there is a new political divide on some issue in this country, and frankly it gets tiring, and that's coming from someone who has been involved in politics for a long time! When a legislative issue does come along that has bipartisan support, it seems logical that our members of Congress can put aside their differences and pass something, right?

Well, now is one of those times when the call of unity is upon us and there are real consequences to inaction. The Health Insurance Tax is going to go into effect January 2018, Sen. Murkowski and Sen. Sullivan must support a one-year delay of this tax for the sake of Alaska small businesses and their employees.

This tax will result in higher premiums, more expenses for businesses, and it will limit the economic growth across the whole state and country. Our senators have supported small businesses in the past, and they both need to demonstrate their support now. Delay the HIT from emptying businesses pocketbooks and putting employees' health at risk.

— Steve Colligan, former vice-chair of Alaska GOP, small business owner, Wasilla

Clarification on 2 avalanche centers

The Alaska Avalanche Information Center, a state and federally recognized Not-For-Profit 501(c)(3), whose mission is to support and promote avalanche forecasts, education, research, professional development and networking of practitioners in the pursuit of healthy lifestyles and the reduction of unintentional injury and death, hereby provides written notice that this organization is in no way affiliated or providing support to the Anchorage Avalanche Center, operated independently by Mathew Brunton. This separation was formally announced by the AAIC Executive Board of Directors on July 15, 2015.

Mr. Brunton has been contacted and directed to remove all reference and affiliation to the AAIC from his operations. There is no public record of a state or city business license or nonprofit status issued to the Anchorage Avalanche Center or Mathew Brunton for fundraising purposes.

Any questions or further clarification can be directed to

Our goal at the AAIC is to remain transparent in all of our operations and to assure the general public that all funds raised for the AAIC go directly to fund and support approved forecasting and education services to benefit the general public.

— Debra McGhan, Valdez

Don't open wildlife refuge

I am an Alaskan and I don't want to see the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge opened for development.

I have spent the past 20 years hiking, paddling, hunting, camping, and guiding in the Arctic refuge. I've fallen asleep with my tent surrounded by caribou, had snowball fights in July with my son on the tundra, and watched visitors from afar tear-up when it was time for them to leave the refuge, deeply touched by the timeless landscape. I plan on spending the rest of my life exploring and sharing the Arctic refuge.

Now is not the time to eliminate protected areas anywhere in our nation. An overwhelming majority of Americans oppose oil development in the refuge and a great many Alaskans concur. Particularly here in the north, we need intact and vibrant ecosystems with ample space for wildlife and people to adapt to a rapidly changing climate.

Drilling in the refuge will not balance the budget. Some estimate that oil leases will bring in less than 10 percent of budget projections, leaving our nation deeper in debt. Drilling in the Arctic refuge will eliminate recreational and subsistence opportunities for many Alaskans, and will destroy a small but vibrant part of Alaska's tourism industry.

I need wild places. Alaskans need wild places. The nation needs wild places. To quote the late Mardy Murie, "I hope the United States of America is not so rich that she can afford to let these wildernesses pass by, or so poor she cannot afford to keep them."

I am an Alaskan and I urge you to protect the Arctic refuge.

— Michael Wald, Fairbanks

GOP has gone downhill

I voted a straight Republican ballot when Wally Hickel first ran for governor in Alaska but have since become an independent. I never thought I would see the day that the RNC would endorse and raise campaign money for an alleged child molester. (Mitch McConnell has said that he believes the women.)

Neither did I think that a U.S. president would ever endorse and hold a backdoor campaign rally for such a person. It appears to me that, for them, morality is not even relative. It is simply absent. The rationale seems to be anything goes.

Expressed in words, the tenet must be this: Do evil to do "good." The ends justify the means.

— John Jensen, Anchorage

The views expressed here are the writers' own and are not necessarily endorsed by the Anchorage Daily News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a letter under 200 words for consideration, email, or click here to submit via any web browser. Submitting a letter to the editor constitutes granting permission for it to be edited for clarity, accuracy and brevity. Send longer works of opinion to

Photos: Alyeska Resort opens for the season

Sun, 2017-12-10 19:54

Skiers and riders enjoyed good conditions for skiing on the top half of the mountain at Alyeska Resort over the weekend. The ski resort in Girdwood opened for the season, from top to bottom, on Saturday and is operating seven days a week. The resort posts updates on skiing conditions on their website.

Mendeltna Creek Lodge destroyed in fire

Sun, 2017-12-10 19:35

Mendeltna Creek Lodge, a roadhouse west of Glennallen that is more than 80 years old, was totally destroyed in a fire on Sunday, according to its owner, Mabel Wimmer.

Her two English mastiffs, named Farquar and Rionock, and her hairless cat Elsie perished in the blaze, she said.

"My house is historic and it's beautiful… It's just a huge part of Alaska," she said. "But my animals being gone is just devastating. They were my friends. They were my best friends."

Wimmer was in Palmer singing with a community chorus when she got the news from a neighbor at the scene near Mile 153 of the Glenn Highway, she said.

"He said, 'Mabel, I'm so sorry, the house is on fire,' " she said. "It took not any time at all for the house to burn down."

Kelly Allain, a neighbor, said she got a call about the blaze at about 9 a.m.

"My husband and I jumped out of bed and we got on the scene around 9:15," she said. "It was going. It was blazing."

Volunteer firefighters extinguished the blaze, Wimmer said. The rental cabins around the lodge were undamaged. She didn't know the cause of the fire.

A food truck in Seattle is praising the virtues of Alaska pollock

Sun, 2017-12-10 19:09

Alaska pollock is the nation's largest food fishery, usually producing more than 3 billion pounds each year. The flaky whitefish dominates in fish sticks, fast food sandwiches and surimi "seafood salad" blends — but most Americans don't even know what a pollock is.

Trident Seafoods is intent on changing that by bringing the fish directly to the people.

"It is the most abundant, certified sustainable species in the world. It's our mission to show how this delicious cousin to the cod fish can be enjoyed one serving at a time," said Lo Reichert, Trident's mobile marketing manager of The Fork & Fin, a retrofitted FedEx truck turned into a flashy mobile kitchen. The truck debuted a few weeks ago at Seattle Seahawks games outside of CenturyLink Field in Seattle.

"We wanted a mechanism to go from sea to street and let us talk with people about the blessings of wild Alaskan seafood, and particularly, Alaska pollock," he said.

The small menu, priced at $9 to $10 per entree, includes fish and chips with Alaskan Amber beer batter, pollock burgers, crispy fish tacos, grilled Alaska pollock salad and one offbeat offering: peanut butter and jelly fish sticks.

"It has fish sticks laid atop crispy fries, drizzled with a raspberry chipotle sauce and topped with crushed peanuts and a peanut sauce," Reichert said.

The ultimate goal, he added, is to show people that they can easily whip up pollock meals at home. In addition, The Fork & Fin food truck helps educate people about an overlooked fish that is high in protein, low in fat and packed with heart-healthy omega-3s.

The response, Reichert said, has been consistently positive.

For now, The Fork & Fin also is stopping at business parks and schools along Washington's Interstate 5 corridor, and at charity events and fundraisers.

See the food truck's schedule of stops at

Fish forum highlights wide-ranging viewpoints

A forum next week in Kenai will highlight diverse perspectives on the push to modernize Alaska's fish habitat protection and permitting laws, which have not been updated since statehood 60 years ago. Many believe changes are necessary to reflect challenges posed by large resource development projects; others believe the laws are adequate as they are.

While there is common ground among many Alaskans that salmon are a critical resource and their habitat should be protected, the devil is in the details as to what that protection looks like, said Lindsey Bloom, director of United Fishermen of Alaska's Salmon Habitat Information Project, a forum co-sponsor with the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

"Our objective is to provide a venue for the public to get educated about the habitat protections, how they are now and how they might be changed," Bloom said. "We want people to discuss problems that exist and some of the changes being proposed, including state legislation and the ballot initiative."

The forum will include viewpoints from Alaska Natives, conservationists, oil and gas, mining and fishing sectors, legislators and more.

"The purpose is to have a good conversation," Bloom said. "It's not about getting people to agree with each other, or come to conclusions about a specific policy. It is a real opportunity for Alaskans to participate in their natural resource management and to have a voice in the process.

"The goal of SHIP is to ensure that commercial fishermen around the state have access to information and knowledge about what is happening, and also that they are at the forefront of weighing in on the legislative process," Bloom said. "We want to ensure that we get to an end result that is in the best interest of all Alaskans, including commercial fishermen who are concerned about protecting their jobs and livelihoods."

The Kenai Salmon Habitat Forum is set Thursday, Dec. 14, starting at 5 p.m. at the Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association Building. It will be live-streamed at UFA's SHIP Facebook page.

Salmon ballot garners signatures

Meanwhile, a statewide petition is gathering up to 45,000 signatures to put the salmon habitat protection issue before the voters next November.

"We have volunteers collecting signatures from Nome to Sitka," said Ryan Schryzer, director of Stand for Salmon, a grass-roots group that is the primary backer of the initiative.

Schryzer said getting signatures from Alaskans is an easy sell.

"When our volunteers talk about this initiative helping to put the standards in place that will encourage responsible resource development and protect salmon for future generations, people are all in and sign very quickly," he said.

The deadline to submit the petitions to the Division of Elections is Jan. 15 at the start of the legislative session.

Lawsuit alleges false salmon labeling

A California man has filed a class-action lawsuit in San Diego against Bumble Bee Foods claiming its canned smoked red salmon is falsely labeled as wild-caught from Alaska and not smoked at all.

Undercurrent News reports that the suit says the fish is actually farm-raised coho from Chile with red color added, along with smoke flavoring. It alleges that Bumble Bee is violating state marketing laws on false advertising and consumer protections.

Bumble Bee recently pleaded guilty to criminal price-fixing charges after a U.S. Department of Justice investigation.

High levels of algae-produced biotoxin found in dead walrus

Sun, 2017-12-10 18:56

In the Bering Straits region, 39 dead walrus washed ashore and were documented in various communities between mid-August and the end of September. What caused these walruses to die is still unknown, though scientists recently found they carried an algae-produced biotoxin.

Months ago, community members from Diomede and Shishmaref were asked to take samples from four walrus' intestines. Gay Sheffield, a marine biologist with Alaska Sea Grant based in Nome, helped coordinate all the involved agencies to find out more about this marine mammal stranding event.

"Only one of the walruses was harvested and was fresh; the others, they were decomposing, and the samples we needed to get were intestinal contents and or stomach contents — that's where you can actually pick up these biotoxins," Sheffield said.

According to Sheffield, three of the walruses had low to moderate levels of saxitoxin, while the fourth one had high levels. Saxitoxin is a biotoxin produced by algae and is potentially a poisonous substance.

"The harvested animal from Diomede: (its) intestinal content was over 800 nanograms (of saxitoxin) per gram. Not that anyone would be eating the intestinal contents of a walrus; however, presumably that came from the stomach," she said.

Based on a U.S. Food and Drug Administration seafood safety regulation, consuming shellfish with more than 800 nanograms of saxitoxin per gram can harm humans and potentially cause paralytic shellfish poisoning, or PSP.

Louisa Castrodale, an epidemiologist with the Alaska Department of Health Social Services (DHSS), explains that when people eat shellfish that isn't commercially sold, there is a risk of PSP.

"I mean, there's always a potential, just because we can see saxitoxin in shellfish throughout the year. There's always a concern for paralytic shellfish poisoning (PSP) and the impact of those toxins with consumption of recreationally harvested shellfish, so that hasn't changed based on this," she said.

However, as Castrodale points out, even though this walrus tested positive for saxitoxin levels above the federal regulatory limit, it doesn't necessarily mean there's a human health issue.

"Saxitoxin doesn't tend to go to those types of tissues, blubber, meat and muscle. So then, if you do find it in those intestines, what do we know about walrus and what do we know about those tissues, that we would think 'does the case still hold that you wouldn't find it in those tissues, or is there something different?' We don't know that, but we just have the published literature that says: 'that doesn't happen,'" she said.

Sheffield says finding saxitoxins in walrus is not new for subsistence hunters in Western Alaska.

"We had tested for it for the very first time in 2012 and 2013, and we found it. And it's not that it was novel to walruses or new to our region; it's that it was new to science, in that it was the first time it had been looked for and we found it," Sheffield said.

What is new for Sheffield and other marine mammal experts is finding algae blooms in Alaska waters and an increased presence of algal biotoxins in walrus and other animals.

Earlier this summer, between June and September, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service collected reports of nearly 1,600 beached seabird carcasses from the Bering and Chukchi Sea regions. Algae could have played a role in the deaths of those seabirds, but that is still unclear.

Jonathon Snyder is a wildlife biologist for the Fish and Wildlife Service's  Marine Mammal Management Office. According to Snyder, the agency has no idea how algal toxins might affect walrus or seabirds. Snyder says his office will continue its monitoring of subsistence animals, like walrus, on St. Lawrence Island until more is known about algal toxins in marine mammals.

For now, the one harvested walrus from Diomede is still being tested at a lab in Seattle, as it had levels of saxitoxin that maxed out the machine used to test it. So exactly how much saxitoxin was in the walrus is not yet known, but Sheffield believes when that number is known, it will offer some more insight into this marine mammal mystery.

This article was first published by KNOM Radio Mission and is republished here by permission.

Alaska’s fishing fleet is graying, and that’s not a good thing. A new report suggests answers.

Sun, 2017-12-10 17:26

This summer, working as a deckhand on her father's fishing boat in Cook Inlet, Georgeanna Heaverley realized she was right where she wanted to be.

Heaverley, 29, a Soldotna resident and recent University of Alaska Fairbanks graduate in physics, was coming into her own as a deckhand on the fishing vessel Benjana, named for her brother, Benjamin, and herself.

"Being in the middle of Cook Inlet is an incredible experience and something I do not take for granted. It's like nothing else," she said last week. Sometimes, the work seems almost primal.

"The other piece of it is you are feeding the world."

Young fishermen and women like her are an increasingly rare commodity, despite the general health of Alaska's commercial fisheries, according to a series of fishing reports.

For four years, a research team has been examining the graying of Alaska's fleet and what to do about it.

The most recent report, out last week, is called "Turning the Tide." It recommends five steps to reverse what it calls troubling trends of an aging fleet, and a loss of access for rural residents to fish as a career. That goal also underpinned a conference that brought Heaverley to Anchorage, the Young Fishermen's Summit.

Three organizations are leading the studies: UAF's College of Fisheries and Ocean Sciences, Alaska Sea Grant – a partnership between UAF and the federal government to help coastal resources and economies – and the Alaska Marine Conservation Council, a nonprofit that supports fishing communities and works to preserve marine ecosystems.

The average age of a state commercial fishing permit holder now tops 50, up by 10 years from a generation ago, according to state data cited in the new report. Back in 1975, half of rural permit holders who fished locally were 40 or under. Now it's about a quarter.

It's very expensive to get into commercial fishing and to acquire the permit, boat, nets and other essential gear, said Paula Cullenberg, executive director of Alaska Sea Grant and the lead author of "Turning the Tide."

Young people at the summit talked about the near impossibility of becoming a fishing captain. How can a 25-year-old get a $100,000 loan for something as risky as fishing? some asked.

At the same time, the number of permits held by rural residents who fish waters near their communities has dropped by 30 percent, researchers found. In Bristol Bay, it's worse, with half of the permits gone.

"When permits leave the community, then young people don't have as much exposure to fishing," Cullenberg said.  "They don't have role models. They don't have family members who are fishing that they can go work for on the boat. They don't have opportunities for crew member jobs."

Since the state began limiting entry to commercial fisheries in 1975, the number of permits held by local people in rural fishing communities has dropped by almost 2,500, the report said.

Many permits now are held by former Alaskans who have moved out of state, taking their fishing rights with them to Seattle or elsewhere, according to the report.

It's a misconception that most permits lost to Alaska were sold to people out of state, the researchers said.

The new study looked at Maine, Cape Cod, Iceland, Norway, Canada and New Zealand and other places for ideas to help Alaska fishing communities. The researchers suggest these strategies:

— Allow low-cost, low risk ways for people to get into commercial fishing. Commercial fishing in Iceland, for instance, is through quotas consolidated among few owners – corporate fishing that has squeezed out many individual fishermen, the report said. In response, the country now allows individual fishermen to apply for free shares, or quota, of a particular fishery. Iceland also allows local fishermen to catch a certain amount 14 hours a day, four days a week, without having any quota. (That came after the United Nations Human Rights Committee found that the quota system violated the human right to work, the report says.)

—  Establish mentorships or youth permits – starting as young as middle school. Recruit crew members from high schools and place them with "high quality captains."

— Create districts in which fishing rights or permits must stay, something that Norway and Canada have tried.

— Support on-shore seafood processing and fishing infrastructure such as cold storage units and industrial parks for welders, mechanics and boat builders. Some communities offer seasonal jobs in boat repair, but with the right structure, that could work year-round, the report said.

— Establish a statewide task force to work on the issues.

Meanwhile, some young fishermen are trying to hold on to what they have.

Allysa Apalayak, 29, of Manokotak near Dillingham, said she and her sister inherited a Bristol Bay drift fishing permit from their father. But they don't have a boat – or the needed experience – and haven't used the permit in three years. They were able to let someone else fish under it the first year, through a temporary, emergency transfer.

"We are in fear of losing it," she said. She came to the fishermen's summit, put on by Sea Grant, for help. There were sessions on the business of fishing and the mechanics of it, on fisheries management and marketing. She said she has a sense of what to do next and may try to get financing for a vessel.

Dillingham's Kristina Andrew is 30 and a Bristol Bay commercial driftnet permit holder since 2012. She said she bought it for under $100,000 and had financial help from a loan program run by Bristol Bay Economic Development Corp. She doesn't have a boat, but can use her permit on someone else's vessel, either as the sole permit or as a secondary one that allows a bigger catch.

"There's something very peaceful and very primitive about being out there, and just being able to disconnect from all of it," Andrew says. And at the end of the day, if the catch is good, she's helped to produce something she can see and touch, another rarity in the modern world.

Heaverley graduated with her physics degree in May and figured on getting a tech job, maybe in the Lower 48.

But on the water this year for her third season, she felt she finally had a handle on the skills for fishing a drift gillnet. She was doing work that mattered to her family. Now she wants to keep fishing in Alaska.

"I feel an obligation in the best way to step up and take over, or this industry suffers," she said.