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Updated: 1 hour 2 min ago

Justice Department opens civil rights probe into whether Alaska ‘unnecessarily institutionalizes’ children

1 hour 32 min ago

The U.S. Department of Justice has opened an investigation into whether the state of Alaska “unnecessarily institutionalizes” children with behavioral problems.

In 2020, the Alaska Disability Law Center lodged a complaint about the rising number of Alaska children and teenagers being sent to Outside psychiatric treatment facilities as well as locked hospitals in-state because of a dearth of less-restrictive treatment options here, said the center’s attorney, Leslie Jaehning.

On Jan. 21, the Justice Department’s Civil Rights Division notified the organization that it has launched an investigation.

“DOJ is opening an investigation to determine whether the State of Alaska unnecessarily institutionalizes children with behavioral health conditions, in violation of Title II of the Americans with Disabilities Act..., and the U.S. Supreme Court’s decision in Olmstead v. L.C...,” states the letter from attorney Patrick Holkins with the Civil Rights Division.

The Olmstead case is a landmark U.S. Supreme Court decision that holds that the “unjustified segregation” of people with disabilities is unlawful discrimination.

The Disability Law Center’s complaint focused on the number of Alaska children who are sent to often for-profit, locked psychiatric treatment facilities in distant states, separating them from their families, Jaehning said. Instead, the state could invest in offering help that would allow kids to stay in their homes and communities, according to Jaehning.

“We’re sending kids Outside and putting them in Northstar (Hospital) when really, community-based services are what they need,” Jaehning said.

The Alaska Department of Health and Social Services did not immediately respond to an email seeking comment.

As of March 2020, when the Disability Law Center was researching the complaint, about 120 Alaskan kids and teens were in Outside facilities. A state effort to “Bring the Kids Home” from Outside hospitals has faltered in recent years.

Exactly what course the investigation will take isn’t clear, but it will likely take at least a year and involve Justice Department lawyers, paralegals and investigators, Jaehning said.

A similar Justice Department investigation into child mental health treatment found that West Virginia was violating the Americans with Disabilities Act and led to a 2019 agreement in which the state promised to expand mobile crisis services, case management, therapeutic foster care, in-home therapy and other ways of keeping kids with behavioral problems children out of institutions.

California man arrested with explosives may have been targeting governor, authorities say

1 hour 32 min ago

A suspected far-right extremist and radicalized supporter of former President Trump facing federal explosives charges may have been targeting California Gov. Gavin Newsom and the San Francisco Bay Area headquarters of social media giants Twitter and Facebook, according to the FBI.

Federal prosecutors charged Ian Benjamin Rogers, 43, of Napa County, for possessing five homemade pipe bombs that investigators found when they searched his home and auto repair business on Jan. 15. They also confiscated additional bomb-making material along with 49 firearms and thousands of rounds of ammunition.

According to an FBI affidavit, Rogers made multiple threats in text messages to attack Democratic targets and ensure that Trump stayed in office.

In the texts, Rogers stated, “Let’s see what happens then we act” and later added, “I’m thinking sac office first target” and “Then maybe bird and face offices.”

In this photo released Jan. 16, 2021, by the Napa County, Calif., Sheriff's Office, shows Ian Rogers. (Napa County Sheriff's Office via AP)

FBI Special Agent Stephanie Minor, who is part of the agency’s domestic terrorism squad in San Francisco, said the texts were indications of his targets.

“I believe that when Rogers said, “sac office first target,” he meant that their first target should be the offices of California Governor Gavin Newsom in Sacramento. I further believe that when Rogers said that the ‘bird and face’ offices would be next, he meant the offices of Twitter (‘bird’) and Facebook (‘face’), because both social media platforms had locked Trump’s accounts to prevent him from sending messages on those platforms,” according to the affidavit, which was released by the office of David L. Anderson, the U.S. Attorney in the Northern District of California.

Rogers also stated in a text that he was “not going down without a fight,” according to the federal criminal complaint.

His arrest came less than two weeks after a deadly riot at the U.S. Capitol on Jan. 6 led by far-right extremists and Trump supporters holding the belief that the November election had been stolen from the former president through fraud, a falsehood promoted by Trump for months.

[Unusual public US terrorism alert warns of politically motivated violence]

Authorities in Sacramento have increased security at the Capitol and key locations, including the governor’s home, for weeks due to the threat of attack following the contentious presidential election and violence in Washington. Thousands of National Guard troops were stationed in Sacramento, and access to the Capitol was limited by barricades.

For weeks since the election, pro-Trump supporters have rallied in Sacramento. Associated with those events have been more than a half-dozen fights between anti-fascist counter-protesters and far-right groups including the Proud Boys.

A spokeswoman for Newsom confirmed that the governor was made aware of the allegations and is cooperating with the investigation.

“The information contained in the federal criminal complaint regarding Ian Rogers is an all too real reminder of the frightening consequences dangerous political rhetoric can have especially in emboldening violent extremism,” Sahar Robertson said in a statement released Wednesday. “Our democracy depends on the ability of all lawmakers regardless of party affiliation to be able to legislate and execute their duties without fear of violence.”

The pipe bombs and weapons were found during searches of Rogers’ home and auto shop, British Auto Repair of the Napa Valley, by the Napa County Sheriff’s Office, Napa Special Investigations Bureau and FBI.

Henry Wofford, public information officer for the sheriff’s office, said his agency began investigating Rogers after a person close to him reported that he had weapons and “was potentially dangerous to the community.” Wofford said sheriff’s deputies served search warrants at both Rogers’ home and business, finding weapons at both locations.

Inside a safe at Rogers’ auto shop, five pipe bombs were also found, Wofford said. In all, authorities seized 49 guns and 15,000 rounds of ammunition. Wofford said many of those guns are likely illegal in California, including a “very high power machine gun.”

The federal charges against Rogers were filed on Tuesday.

“We draw a bright line between lawlessness and our constitutional freedoms. We will prosecute illegal weapons stockpiles regardless of the motivation of the offender,” Anderson said in a statement released Wednesday.

Napa County Dist. Atty. Allison Haley said that Rogers is also facing 28 felony charges in state court for possession of the explosives and weapons, including possession of an illegal silencer and multiple unregistered assault weapons.

Haley said the pipe bombs were made out of galvanized steel, had both end caps and fuses, could kill a person in a 5-foot range and injure those in a 25-foot range. After his arrest, Rogers told investigators that he had built the pipe bombs, but said that they were for entertainment purposes only, according to the affidavit.

In addition to the weapons, investigators also found what Haley described as a “go-bag,” which contained weapons, ammunition, body armor, face masks and a grappling hook. Rogers is scheduled for an arraignment on the state charges on Jan. 29. If convicted, he faces 30 years in prison.

Both Hailey and the FBI said that Rogers had a sticker on the bumper of his car with an insignia associated with the Three Percenters. Brian Levin, director of the Center for the Study of Hate and Extremism at Cal State San Bernardino, described the group as a national organization of “2nd amendment insurrectionists” whose members “maintain when the government acts tyrannical, they have a subjective right to armed rebellion.”

Three Percenters have also been linked to a violent plot to kidnap Michigan Gov. Gretchen Whitmer. Six men have been charged in that plot, and one pleaded guilty on Wednesday.

Much of the anger of right-wing anti-government militias has been aimed at governors because of pandemic shutdown orders that they claim are infringements on their rights and represent an illegal overstepping of power, beliefs that have spread in online forums. At protests against pandemic-related closures across California, some demonstrators have described Newsom as a fascist for implementing those restrictions, and have regularly displayed an image of the governor as Adolf Hitler, with a tagline that reads, “end his tyranny.”

Murkowski leads on energy for Alaska

2 hours 15 min ago

Sen. Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, questions witnesses during a Senate Senate Health, Education, Labor, and Pensions Committee Hearing on the federal government response to COVID-19 on Capitol Hill Wednesday, Sept. 23, 2020, in Washington. (Alex Edelman/Pool via AP) (ALEX EDELMAN/)

It’s hard to notice or hear much else beyond the changing administrations’ loud noise, divisive political speech and the global pandemic in America today. Still, when you actually pause to examine the policy moving through Congress, it’s plain to see that Alaska’s senior senator is taking the lead when it comes to energy diversification and innovation. Many might not realize that Sen. Lisa Murkowski has been working to move the first comprehensive energy package in 13 years passed by Congress. She championed the effort and was successful at the end of 2020. The Energy Act of 2020 — passed as part of the recent omnibus spending bill — is a sign of hope for bipartisan action on clean energy.

The bill — which dedicates investments to a variety of clean energy and energy innovation initiatives — would not have passed without the hard work and support of Alaska’s very own Sen. Murkowski. She worked across the aisle with Democrat Sen. Joe Manchin of West Virginia to develop and advance this bipartisan package alongside colleagues in the House.

The Energy Act of 2020 includes critical investments in renewable energy development, efficiency, carbon capture, grid modernization and much more. These key infrastructure investments will help the U.S. transition to cleaner energy while creating well-paying jobs, stimulating economic growth and development. Especially for a resource-rich state like Alaska, where energy research and development are already such major economic drivers, these efforts will go a long way to help strengthen our workforce while making energy more reliable, affordable, and sustainable for generations to come.

Having worked closely with Sen. Murkowski since 2008, I have personally witnessed her passion for energy, whether it be cold data storage, hydropower or responsible development on the North Slope. She knows how important clean, reliable, affordable energy is to Alaskans, the country, and the world. This is the nation’s first energy innovation legislative package to move across the finish line in more than a decade, and we have her to thank. Political stripes and infighting aside, Lisa knows how to work across the aisle to get things done for Alaska. We can all be grateful for her leadership.

Rachel Kallander is an Alaska business owner based in Anchorage with roots in Cordova. She is managing partner of Kallander & Associates LLC, a consulting firm serving political, policy and business sectors statewide. She is also founder and executive director of the Arctic Encounter, the largest annual Arctic policy conference in the U.S., with policy convenings and partnerships worldwide.

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

The ANWR fight continues across generations

2 hours 51 min ago

The coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, June 2004. (Photo by U.S. Fish & Wildlife Service) (Unknown/)

If celebrity means getting in the news and staying in the news, as wags have cracked, the Alaska National Wildlife Refuge has achieved celebrity. ANWR has been in the news since the 1950s, when Alaska and stateside environmentalists began lobbying for a wildlife reserve extending from the Brooks Range north to arctic salt water.

The environmentalists’ lobbying was successful with the creation of the Arctic National Wildlife Range in early 1960, the waning days of the Eisenhower administration. The range was about half the size of the 18-million-acre refuge the range became part of in 1980 during the Carter administration. In Dwight D. Eisenhower’s day, there actually were Republican environmentalists, some moneyed eastern sportsmen who, If 60 years old or more in 1960, might have met Teddy Roosevelt, the president who brought environmental stewardship to the Republican Party during two terms in the White House.

But, if ANWR has been in the news since I was a boy, much of the news has been about a custody dispute. ANWR belongs to whom? And who decides what happens there?

Formally, in law, ANWR is U.S. government property. Presidents have said so. Congress too. The U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service is ANWR’s primary custodian and caregiver, although other agencies do become involved. In the 1950s, there was talk within the Eisenhower administration of placing the original range under the National Park Service. Leading environmentalists, Olaus and Margaret Murie for instance, resisted this. They believed talking about the park service would provoke unnecessary hostility to any protected reserve.

Hostility toward creating the range spread anyway, especially in Alaska. When Congress held hearings in Alaska in June 1959, Sen. Ernest Gruening railed and mocked. Before our current junior Sen. Dan Sullivan said his first words as an Ohio toddler (“federal overreach”), our junior senator of yesteryear had mastered a lesson fundamental to Alaska political life: No elected official ever went broke attacking Washington. Feeling his oratorical oats, Gruening went on to say, “I don’t believe we should conserve moose for the sake of future moose. We preserve them so future generations ... can see moose and photograph moose, and hunt moose if they wish to.”

Gruening wasn’t the only one on a rhetorical roll. Wenzel Raith, a young man from Duluth, Minnesota, who testified in Fairbanks, invoked Daniel Boone, Kit Carson and Davy Crockett before telling lawmakers, “It is the mollycoddles, the frothing sentimentalists who seem most to favor this proposal.” Raith believed “those who usually hide behind their mama’s skirts have teamed up with the horse-trading politicians to swaddle us in red tape and put us in the care of some pantywaist professor who probably has to have his wife check to see if his pants are zipped.” (I met Raith decades later at the Fairbanks Pioneer Home. He was quiet and subdued, a lovely fellow.)

Sen. Bob Bartlett, our senior senator, was restrained. He made his disapproval of the range clear without raising his voice. In Fairbanks, my dad, Fabian, testified before the lawmakers and received Bartlett’s blessing for his concern about distant bureaucrats taking over Alaska. Bartlett noted Fabian was a good speaker, good writer, and the senator liked that in a man. I am sure Fabian appreciated the flattery. (My dad was especially good with metaphors that amused an audience, as when he said, “There’s more ax grinding in Washington than in the tool room of a lumber camp.”)

Olaus Murie, long affiliated with the Wilderness Society, expected this kind of resistance from politicians and probably would have cut Raith and my dad some slack because he knew that they, like himself, were Minnesota boys who grew up loving outdoor life. But that didn’t mean Olaus had any illusions about his struggle. He knew what he was up against, telling Gruening by letter that Alaska was “the happy hunting ground of greedy special interests, whether it be for gold, salmon, or oil.” And in a letter to Assistant Secretary of the Interior Ross Loeffler, he said, “If you have followed the fortunes of Alaska since it became a state, you cannot help but realize we are in the grip of a group whose motto might be ‘always ask for more and give nothing in return.’”

And so it goes. The records since the 1950s, published and unpublished, are in good measure Alaska elected officials — and business leaders — exchanging prose salvos with environmentalists, bureaucrats, and members of Congress. This makes the question of who has the right to ANWR easily answered: my side — that is, the side of whoever is opining at the time.

Congressional Republicans unsuccessfully voted to open ANWR to oil drilling at least 50 times before succeeding in December 2017. Not long ago, the Trump administration held a lease sale, putting up land for drilling in the coastal plain, the so-called 1002 Area. The state of Alaska was an active bidder and now holds several federal leases. This is a bizarre twist, given the Dunleavy administration’s near-religious commitment to private enterprise.

The Biden administration is expected to intervene. Olaus Murie’s successors have court options.

The ANWR debate has been part of Alaska since before statehood, and will continue after Alaskans my age have disappeared like the snow in spring.

Michael Carey is an occasional columnist and the former editorial page editor of the Anchorage Daily News.

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

Time to double mask or upgrade masks as coronavirus variants emerge, experts say

3 hours 50 min ago

Danny Ryan, 27, is pictured wearing two masks on Wednesday near his home in Washington, D.C. Double masks are becoming a real possibility as a new virus variant makes its way from England, South Africa, and Brazil into the U.S. (Washington Post photo by Sarah L. Voisin) (Sarah L. Voisin/)

Wear your mask is becoming wear your masks.

The discovery of highly contagious coronavirus variants in the United States has public health experts urging Americans to upgrade the simple cloth masks that have become a staple shield during the pandemic.

The change can be as simple as slapping a second mask over the one you already wear, or better yet, donning a fabric mask on top of a surgical mask. Some experts say it’s time to buy the highest-quality KN95 or N95 masks that officials have long discouraged Americans from purchasing to reserve supply for health care workers.

As with other parts of the pandemic response, the U.S. lags behind other parts of the world when it comes to masks. Several Asian countries, including Singapore and South Korea, have mass-produced high quality masks to send directly to residents. In recent weeks, European countries have begun mandating medical grade masks in public settings as the B.1.1.7 strain first identified in the United Kingdom threatens to ravage communities; British scientists estimate it could be as much as 70% more transmissible.

“The existence of more transmissible viruses emphasizes the important of us upping our game and doing not more of the same, but better of the same,” said Tom Frieden, the former director of the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Frieden has called for people to wear higher quality masks. “Yes, that is confusing to people, but the key is to share what we know when we know it and be frank about what we don’t know.”

Anthony Fauci, the nation’s top infectious-disease expert, touted double masking during a Monday appearance on the “Today” show, saying two layers “just makes common sense that it likely would be more effective.”

[COVID-19 variant first detected in U.K. has been found in Alaska]

While individual public health officials are calling for new mask habits, the federal government has not.

The CDC has not revised its mask guidance encouraging Americans to choose well-fitting masks with “two or more layers of washable, breathable fabric” and to avoid surgical masks and other face coverings meant for health care workers.

President Joe Biden has embraced masks as a core strategy for ending the pandemic, mandating face coverings on planes, airports and all federal buildings. But he has not called for a medical-grade mask mandate or mass production of high-quality masks.

The CDC and White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment.

Some public health experts said the federal government should have prioritized certifying or manufacturing better masks earlier so Americans don’t have to fend for themselves to avoid counterfeits or upgrade their own.

The Trump administration last March coordinated with underwear makers to send five masks to every household, officials told The Washington Post, but the plans fell apart because of logistical and other concerns, including complaints the mask looked like underwear and jockstraps.

Abraar Karan, a physician at Brigham and Women’s Hospital and Harvard Medical School has, since last spring, called on government and industrial leaders to mass produce comfortable, effective masks. He said the country could have avoided its current situation, where Americans are learning how to better protect themselves largely alone.

“This seems just like the rest of our covid tragedy: We just don’t have answers, we just put out fires constantly and we are asking people to do things on their own,” Karan said. “You’ve always needed better masks. We needed better masks from the start.”

Linsey Marr, a Virginia Tech engineering professor who has researched mask effectiveness, said the public has better tools to reduce viral loads getting into the air and into bodies.

Without a medical-grade face covering, Marr said people can get the best, simplest protection by wearing a cloth mask tightly on top of a surgical mask. They can also make a three-layer mask by cutting a high-efficiency filter, such as a vacuum bag, to place between two tightly-woven fabric masks.

The difference is like getting two recommended doses of coronavirus vaccines instead of one - the additional mask offers more fulsome protection against the virus.

“Those standard cloth masks might be around 50% effective in terms of protecting yourself,” Marr said. “Maybe that was good enough before when combined with distancing and trying to avoid being in crowded indoor spaces.”

Masks are among the simplest tools in the fight against covid-19, the disease caused by coronavirus, but also among the most politically fraught. Some have turned masks into a symbol of government overreach.

Federal officials, including Fauci, were criticized when they urged people to cover their face after initially advising against masks in the early weeks of the pandemic. Many experts said the changing guidance made sense as the shortage of protective equipment for health care workers eased and scientists better understood the spread of the virus - including that it is spread by asymptomatic people. But the initial confusion has been used to cast doubt on the proven efficacy of masking and the broader government response to the pandemic.

“So in other words Fauci and everybody else really has no idea what to do or what is safe,” former Major League Baseball player Jordan Schafer tweeted in response to a news article about the scientist recommending two masks. “Fauci has told us not to wear a mask, to wear one mask, and now to wear two masks. Can we just get transparency please and accurate info.”

Cady Fusté of Seattle started wearing a cloth mask over a surgical mask this month. She made the shift at the advice of her mother’s doctor because of a double lung transplant that makes her mother at higher risk to succumbing to the virus.

“Science evolves. It makes total sense to me,” said Fusté, 35, who works in photo production. “If you think about it, if you can still smell someone’s perfume, it’s probably not that effective to something that’s airborne. A thin layer of cotton is probably not as ideal as a surgical mask.”

[CDC finds scant spread of coronavirus in schools that take full precautions]

Behavioral psychologists say public health authorities must be mindful of backlash as they start to shift mask guidance. When people living through a crisis are confused, they often stick to their habits.

“When you look at leaders and you see mixed messages like the ones you’ve seen in the past, you tend to latch on to the ones that make you feel comfortable,” said David Abrams, a social and behavioral health professor at New York University and former National Institutes of Health official.

Abrams said it is essential to acknowledge that the guidance is changing and to be patient if people do not change their behavior immediately.

“Let’s face it: This is changing very quickly and science is making progress and sometimes we even make mistakes and correct them,” Abrams said. “There’s nothing wrong with that or learning how to do something better. The double masking is a good example of that.”

Linda Aldoory, a public health communications researcher at the University of Maryland College Park, said there may be no swaying people who already lost faith in the government to change their mask behavior, which is why other messengers should be enlisted.

“If we could get every famous influencer and celebrity to wear new masks and wear double masks . . . that might actually be a great way to start a new social norm to getting the kind of masks they want worn,” Aldoory said.

Danny Ryan, a 27-year-old who works in communications in Washington, D.C., said he was swayed to switch to two cloth masks in part after he saw President Joe Biden and Vice President Kamala Harris doubling up in recent weeks. He also reconsidered the protection of a single mask after seeing his breath while waiting outside for a coronavirus test, although experts say that’s not a sign of a malfunctioning mask.

“It just stuck in my head they are wearing two masks, protecting them underneath and maybe more above,” said Ryan, who now keeps extra masks by his door handle. “To be perfectly honest, I just feel safer doing it with updates in the news about the new variants.”

Oscar and Emmy-winning actor Cloris Leachman dies at age 94

4 hours 16 min ago

Cloris Leachman attends the premiere of "The Comedian" during the 2016 AFI Fest on Nov. 11, 2016, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Richard Shotwell/Invision/AP, File) (Richard Shotwell/)

LOS ANGELES — Cloris Leachman, an Oscar winner for her portrayal of a lonely housewife in “The Last Picture Show” and a comedic delight as the fearsome Frau Blücher in “Young Frankenstein” and self-absorbed neighbor Phyllis on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show,” has died. She was 94.

Leachman died in her sleep of natural causes at her home in Encinitas, California, publicist Monique Moss said Wednesday. Her daughter Dinah Englund was at her side, Moss said.

A character actor of extraordinary range, Leachman defied typecasting. In her early television career, she appeared as Timmy’s mother on the “Lassie” series. She played a frontier prostitute in “Butch Cassidy and the Sundance Kid,” a crime spree family member in “Crazy Mama,” and Blücher in Mel Brooks’ “Young Frankenstein,” in which the very mention of her name drew equine commentary.

“Every time I hear a horse whinny I will forever think of Cloris’ unforgettable Frau Blücher,” Brooks tweeted, calling Leachman “insanely talented” and irreplaceable.

Salutes from other admiring colleagues poured in on social media. Steve Martin said Leachman “brought comedy’s mysteries to the big and small screen”; “Nothing I could say would top the enormity of my love for you,” posted Ed Asner of “The Mary Tyler Moore Show”; “Applause on every entrance and exit,” said Rosie O’Donnell.

“There was no one like Cloris. With a single look she had the ability to break your heart or make you laugh ‘till the tears ran down your face,” Juliet Green, her longtime manager, said in a statement.

In 1989 she toured in “Grandma Moses,” a play in which she aged from 45 to 101. For three years in the 1990s she appeared in major cities as the captain’s wife in the revival of “Show Boat.” In the 1993 movie version of “The Beverly Hillbillies,” she assumed the Irene Ryan role as Granny Clampett.

She also had an occasional role as Ida on “Malcolm in the Middle,” winning Emmys in 2002 and 2006 for that show. Her Emmy haul over the years totaled eight in all, including a trophy for Moore’s sitcom.

In 2008, she joined the ranks of contestants in “Dancing With the Stars,” not lasting long in the competition but pleasing the crowds with her sparkly dance costumes, sitting in judges’ laps and cussing during the live broadcast.

FILE - Cloris Leachman poses for a photo on June 18, 1974. Leachman, a character actor whose depth of talent brought her an Oscar for the "The Last Picture Show" and Emmys for her comedic work in "The Mary Tyler Moore Show" and other TV series, has died. She was 94. (AP Photo/George Brich, File) (George Brich/)

Although she started out as Miss Chicago in the Miss America Pageant, Leachman willingly accepted unglamorous screen roles.

“Basically I don’t care how I look, ugly or beautiful,” she told an interviewer in 1973. “I don’t think that’s what beauty is. On a single day, any of us is ugly or beautiful. I’m heartbroken I can’t be the witch in ‘The Wizard of Oz.’ But I’d also like to be the good witch. Phyllis combines them both.

“I’m kind of like that in life. I’m magic, and I believe in magic. There’s supposed to be a point in life when you aren’t supposed to stay believing that. I haven’t reached it yet.”

During the 1950s, Leachman became busy in live TV drama, demonstrating her versatility, including in roles that represented casting standards of that era.

FILE - Cloris Leachman is shown in her dressing room at the Majestic Theater with floral arrangements she received for assuming the lead in Broadway's "South Pacific" in New York City on Oct. 13, 1952. (AP Photo, File)

“One week I’d be on as a Chinese girl, the next as a blond cockney and weeks later as a dark-haired someone else,” she recalled. In 1955, she made her film debut in a hard-boiled Mickey Spillane saga, “Kiss Me Deadly” — “I was the naked blonde that Mike Hammer picked up on that dark highway.”

She followed with Rod Serling’s court-martial drama, “The Rack” and a season on “Lassie.” She continued in supporting roles on Broadway and in movies, then achieved her triumph with Peter Bogdanovich’s “The Last Picture Show,” based on the Larry McMurtry novel.

When Leachman received the Oscar as best supporting actress of 1971, she delivered a rambling speech in which she thanked her piano and dancing teachers and concluded: “This is for Buck Leachman, who paid the bills.” Her father ran a lumber mill.

Despite her photogenic looks, she continued to be cast in character parts. Her most indelible role was Phyllis Lindstrom on “The Mary Tyler Moore Show.”

Phyllis often visited Mary’s apartment, bringing laments about her husband Lars and caustic remarks about Mary and especially about her adversary, another tenant, Rhoda Morgenstern (Valerie Harper). Phyllis was so unexpectedly engaging that Leachman starred in a spinoff series of her own, “Phyllis,” which ran on CBS from 1975 to 1977.

FILE - Cloris Leachman poses with her Emmy award for outstanding single performance by an actress in "A Brand New Life" at the primetime television Emmy Awards presentation in Los Angeles on May 21, 1975. (AP Photo, File)

With “Young Frankenstein,” Leachman became a member of “the Mel Brooks stock company,” also appearing in “High Anxiety” and “History of the World, Part I.” Her other films included Bogdanovich’s “Daisy Miller,” and “Texasville,” repeating her role in “The Last Picture Show.” In 2009, she released her autobiography, “Cloris,” which made tabloid headlines for her recounting of a “wild” one-night stand with Gene Hackman.

Cloris Leachman grew up on the outskirts of Des Moines, Iowa, where she was born in 1926. The large family lived in an isolated wooden house with no running water, but the mother had ambitious ideas for her children. Cloris took piano lessons at the age of 5; since the family could not afford a piano, she practiced on a cardboard drawing of the keys.

“I’m going to be a concert pianist,” the girl announced, and her mother encouraged her with bookings at churches and civic clubs. Her mother arranged for Cloris to ride on a coal truck to Des Moines for an audition for a Drake University student play. She was given the role and appeared in other plays at a local theater. After high school, she won a scholarship to study drama at Northwestern University.

Admittedly a poor student, Leachman lasted only a year. As a lark while in the Chicago area, she tried out for a Miss Chicago beauty contest and was chosen. She competed in the 1946 Miss America pageant in Atlantic City, qualifying as a finalist. Her consolation prize: a $1,000 talent scholarship.

With new ambition, she went directly to New York, where she worked as an extra in a movie and understudied Nina Foch in the hit play “John Loves Mary.”

More understudy jobs followed, and she enrolled at the Actors Studio to hone her craft. “I finally quit because of the smoking,” she said later. “I couldn’t stand that blue haze.”

In 1953, Leachman married George Englund, later a film director and producer, and they had five children: Adam, Bryan, George, Morgan and Dinah. The couple divorced in 1979. Son Bryan Englund was founded dead in 1986 at age 30.

Actress Cloris Leachman gestures to honoree Mel Brooks in the audience during the American Film Institute's 41st Lifetime Achievement Award Gala on June 6, 2013, in Los Angeles. (Photo by Chris Pizello/Invision/AP, FILE) (Chris Pizzello/)


AP writers Beth Harris in Los Angeles and Hillel Italie in New York contributed to this report.


The late AP Entertainment Writer Bob Thomas contributed biographical material to this story.

Kennel cough is ripping through Anchorage dog parks, and veterinarians recommend social distancing for pets

4 hours 38 min ago

Dogs play at University Lake Dog Park on January 25, 2021. (Marc Lester / ADN) (Marc Lester/)

A highly contagious respiratory infection is spreading rapidly among dogs in Anchorage, according to veterinarians, and many cases are linked to dog parks and other group settings.

Clinics in early January started seeing a significant jump in dogs with kennel cough, or canine infectious tracheobronchitis, said Dr. Sara Lavery of Pet Emergency Treatment. Lavery and her colleagues normally see about one case of kennel cough per shift, but during the last two weeks that number has jumped to six to 10 cases, she said.

“We just need people to know that it’s running rampant,” she said. “I’ve never seen so many kennel cough cases in my career. It’s ridiculous.”

Kennel cough can be caused by a variety of viruses and bacteria, said Dr. Jon Basler of the College Village Animal Clinic. He said the illness could be comparable to the common cold in humans, which can be caused by a number of organisms.

Kennel cough is treatable, and cases vary widely in severity. Some dogs will recover without treatment, while others may require antibiotics or a cough suppressant. The illness hits puppies, older dogs and those with health problems the hardest. In severe cases, it can also lead to pneumonia or death.

The most obvious symptom is a strong cough that can sound like a honk. Dogs may also develop a fever, lethargy, a running nose or sneezing, or a loss of appetite.

Basler said owners should isolate dogs with symptoms and watch to make sure the illness is not getting worse. He said it’s time to see a vet if the dog is markedly depressed or lethargic, has difficulty breathing or is continuously coughing.

The illness is spread in a variety of ways, including through the air, by direct contact with an infected dog, or if a dog makes contact with a contaminated surface. Because it is highly contagious, Lavery advised that owners keep their dogs away from dog parks, day care centers and other group settings for the time being.

A dog is most contagious while it is actively infected and for the week after its last cough, Lavery said. Dogs that have been infected should stay away from others for two to three weeks, she said.

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A vaccine known as Bordetella can prevent kennel cough, but Lavery said dogs that are vaccinated can still carry the virus.

“If you have one dog that stays at home and another dog that goes to day care, that dog who goes to day care may be current on the vaccine, but your dog at home may not be,” she said. “We’re seeing that happen where the dog at home is getting it and the dog going to day care isn’t getting it.”

Bordetella is not among the core group of dog vaccines required by Alaska law, although Lavery said it is often required for any dog staying at a day care or boarding center. The vaccine is good for a year, however Lavery said it can be renewed as early as six months.

[Homebound during a pandemic? More Alaskans decide now’s a good time to adopt a pet.]

Lavery said the coronavirus pandemic has caused many clinics to see fewer patients and schedule appointments further out. At Pet Emergency Treatment, one of only two 24-hour emergency animal hospitals in Anchorage, wait times have jumped significantly, Lavery said.

Dr. Sarah Lavery is a veterinarian at Pet Emergency Treatment in Anchorage. (Marc Lester / ADN) (Marc Lester/)

“Veterinarians just have to take cases one at a time, whereas before we could multitask a little bit better,” she said.

Basler said College Village Animal Clinic has significantly modified its procedures too, working mainly on triaging the sickest of animals.

Because of extended wait times or difficulties scheduling an appointment, Lavery said, many dog owners may have forgone routine vaccinations during the pandemic.

Lavery said she fears people will confuse kennel cough with COVID-19 and become alarmed. Although both conditions affect the respiratory system, Lavery said, the illness currently spreading in dogs throughout Anchorage is simply kennel cough.

“None of these dogs are indicative of COVID,” she said. “Everything seems to be treated with the same treatments we would use for kennel cough.”

The coronavirus has been found in a small number of animals, although it has rarely been identified in pets, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. The risk of pets spreading the virus to humans is low, the CDC said.

[Overfed and underexercised, some dogs are putting on pandemic pounds]

As with COVID-19, Lavery said, the best way to keep your dog safe is simply to stay home.

“You could still take your dog on hikes, but don’t take them to the dog park,” she said. “Especially if they’re mouthing at each other if they’re playing really hard, or playing with sticks and sharing sticks, because it’s spread the same way that the common cold is spread with people.”

Bernie Sanders mittens and memes help raise $1.8 million for charity

5 hours 30 min ago

Attendees including Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., listen during the 59th Presidential Inauguration at the U.S. Capitol in Washington, Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021. (Caroline Brehman/Pool via AP) (Caroline Brehman/)

About those wooly mittens that U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders wore to the presidential inauguration, sparking endless quirky memes across social media? They’ve helped to raise $1.8 million in the last five days for charitable organizations in Sanders’ home state of Vermont, the independent senator announced Wednesday.

The sum comes from the sale of merchandise with the Jan. 20 image of him sitting with his arms and legs crossed, clad in his brown parka and recycled wool mittens.

Sanders put the first of the so-called “Chairman Sanders” merchandise, including T-shirts, sweatshirts and stickers, on his campaign website Thursday night and the first run sold out in less than 30 minutes, he said. More merchandise was added over the weekend and sold out by Monday morning, he said.

“Jane and I were amazed by all the creativity shown by so many people over the last week, and we’re glad we can use my internet fame to help Vermonters in need,” Sanders said in a written statement. “But even this amount of money is no substitute for action by Congress, and I will be doing everything I can in Washington to make sure working people in Vermont and across the country get the relief they need in the middle of the worst crisis we’ve faced since the Great Depression.”

[Bernie and his mittens travel Alaska, in meme form]

Sanders’ mittens were made by Jen Ellis, a Vermont elementary school teacher who has a side business making mittens out of recycled wool. His inauguration look, also featuring the winter jacket made by Burton Snowboards, sparked countless memes from the photo taken by Agence France-Presse: The former presidential candidate could be found on social media timelines taking a seat on the subway, the moon and the couch with the cast of “Friends,” among other creative locales.

Ellis said on social media over the weekend that Sanders called to tell her that “the mitten frenzy” had raised an enormous amount of money for Vermont charities although she was not authorized to disclose the amount, yet.

“But it’s BIG and it’s amazing! Thank you!! Generosity brings joy,” she tweeted.

She also said she made three more pairs of mittens and donated them for fundraising to Passion 4 Paws Vermont, Outright Vermont, and would be auctioning off a pair on eBay for her daughter’s college fund.

The groups that will benefit from the proceeds of the “Chairman Sanders” items include Area Agencies on Aging to fund Meals on Wheels throughout Vermont, Vermont community action agencies, Feeding Chittenden, Chill Foundation, senior centers in Vermont and Bi-State Primary Care for dental care improvements in the state, Sanders’ office said.

Sander’ attire has also sparked other charitable endeavors. A crocheted doll of Sanders in his garb was auctioned off online and Burton Snowboards donated 50 jackets to the Burlington Department for Children and Families in Sanders’ name, his office said.

Getty Images confirmed that it will donate its proceeds as part of the licensing agreement to put the photo on the merchandise to Meals on Wheels of America.

Controlling COVID-19 a bigger concern to Anchorage businesses than city regulations, survey finds

5 hours 46 min ago

Scottie's Sub Shop owner Yong Hwang walks into his restaurant on W. Fifth Avenue in downtown Anchorage on Tuesday, Dec. 29, 2020. (Emily Mesner / ADN) (Emily Mesner/)

Anchorage businesses say getting COVID-19 under control is a top priority as the city struggles to recover from the pandemic, and they list Anchorage’s oft-criticized regulations as a lesser impediment to business growth, according to a survey released Wednesday by the Anchorage Economic Development Corp.

The report found 86% percent of businesses surveyed said the spread of COVID-19 was a barrier to growth. That’s compared with 49% percent of businesses surveyed that cited Municipality of Anchorage regulations as hampering growth.

However, those businesses citing the municipality’s regulations as a “significant” barrier to growth did increase in 2020 from 2019, from 12% to 22%.

The city’s restrictions on businesses intended to slow the spread of the virus have become a source of political tension since the pandemic began, with protests at Anchorage Assembly meetings and a handful of businesses refusing to close under previous emergency orders.

The online survey of 210 businesses and organizations was conducted for AEDC between Nov. 19 and Dec. 23.

The report was prepared for the development corporation by the McKinley Research Group, formerly the McDowell Group.

The survey also notes the pandemic “had widely divergent impacts to different businesses, ranging from increases in sales and profits to sharp decline.”

Some businesses “foresee little or no recovery from the difficult year just passed,” it states.

[Alaska employment numbers remained down in December as pandemic continued]

However, despite the negative outlook, few businesses surveyed predicted they would close for good.

“The majority of Anchorage businesses (90%) said they were unlikely or very unlikely to close. Only 7% of respondents said they were likely (either “likely” or “very likely”) to close permanently,” the report states.

Employment predicted to stay well below pre-pandemic levels

On the brighter side, the Anchorage economy will experience its fastest job growth in two decades this year after bottoming out during the pandemic, according to a 2021 forecast also released Wednesday by the economic development group.

But employment will stay well below pre-pandemic levels this year and businesses remain gloomy, the report found.

The group releases the reports each year. At the start of 2020, it foresaw the first growth in jobs in the city in five years. But the pandemic “laid waste” to that modest hope, and the slide continued, the forecast says. Problems that include uncertainty over the state budget and the declining Anchorage population add to the challenges created by the pandemic.

“Looking beyond recovery from COVID-19, we see the same persistent economic development challenges we’ve faced for several years,” the forecast says. “Most notable is the thus-far illusive balanced, sustainable state budget. Until policy makers can chart a revenue and expenditure course that instills some measure of confidence, investment in Alaska will remain constrained.”

[Alaska Air Group reports $1.3 billion loss in 2020 but forecasts strong recovery this year]

Ninety-three percent of the respondents called the condition of the state’s economy a barrier to growth, above the 86% percent that selected the spread of COVID-19 as a barrier to growth.

In 2021, the city is expected to add 4,000 jobs, boosting the total to 141,600, the forecast says. That’s the largest year-over-year increase since 2001.

But that represents only a fraction of the nearly 12,000 jobs the city lost last year.

It found some of the largest growth in jobs would occur in the leisure and hospitality sector, which was particularly hard hit by efforts to spread the growth of the pandemic, regaining 1,700 of 4,300 lost jobs.

The transportation and health care sectors will each add back 400 jobs, but the high-paying oil industry would only recover 100 of the 400 jobs lost last year.

Tracking COVID-19 in Alaska: 180 new infections and 1 death reported Wednesday

6 hours 7 min ago

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Alaska on Wednesday reported 180 new COVID-19 infections and one coronavirus-related death in the Bethel Census Area, according to the state Department of Health and Social Services.

Wednesday’s case count continues a trend of declining infection numbers after a peak in November and early December that caused officials to worry about hospital capacity. For two days this week, the daily case count fell into the double digits for the first time since September.

Still, despite the decreasing case numbers, Alaska remains in the highest alert category based on its current per capita rate of infection.

Hospitalizations have also continued to fall, and are now less than a third of where they were during the state’s peak in November and December. By Wednesday, there were 49 people with COVID-19 in hospitals throughout the state, and no other patients suspected of having the virus. Five COVID-positive patients were on ventilators.

One death was reported Wednesday. In total, 259 Alaskans and two nonresidents with COVID-19 have died since the pandemic reached the state in March. Alaska’s death rate per capita is still among the lowest in the country, but the state’s size and vulnerable health care system complicate national comparisons.

The vaccine reached Alaska in mid-December and by Wednesday, 84,746 people — just under 12% of Alaska’s population — had been vaccinated, according to the state’s vaccine monitoring dashboard. At least 21,100 people had received both doses of the vaccination. Alaska has currently vaccinated more residents per capita than any other state, according to a national tracker.

Health care workers and nursing home staff and residents were the first people to receive the vaccination. In early January, the state said adults older than 65 were now eligible, although appointment slots are limited and have filled quickly.

New vaccine appointments for the month of February will go live on the state’s vaccination website ( beginning on Thursday at noon.

[Beginning Thursday, thousands more Alaska seniors will be able to schedule COVID-19 vaccine appointments]

For more information about vaccination appointments, visit or call 907-646-3322 to receive assistance making an appointment.

[CDC finds scant spread of coronavirus in schools that take full precautions]

Of the 170 cases reported in Alaska residents on Wednesday, there were 53 in Anchorage plus two in Chugiak and 13 in Eagle River; four in Seward; one in Kodiak; one in Valdez; two in Fairbanks; two in North Pole; one in Delta Junction; one in Tok; one in Big Lake; 11 in Palmer; 22 in Wasilla; one in Nome; two in Utqiagvik; two in Juneau; two in Ketchikan; six in Unalaska; and 19 in Bethel.

Among communities with populations under 1,000 people not named to protect privacy, there was one in the Valdez-Cordova Census Area; one in the Southeast Fairbanks Census Area; two in the North Slope Borough; two in the Aleutians East Borough; 11 in the Bethel Census Area; one in the Dillingham Census Area; and six in the Kusilvak Census Area.

Ten nonresidents also tested positive: three in Anchorage, five in Unalaska, and two in an unidentified region of the state.

While people might get tested more than once, each case reported by the state health department represents only one person.

The state’s data doesn’t specify whether people testing positive for COVID-19 have symptoms. More than half of the nation’s infections are transmitted from asymptomatic people, according to CDC estimates.

Over the past week, 2.87% of all tests completed statewide came back positive.

—Annie Berman

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Letter: Good weather

6 hours 14 min ago

It is January in Alaska, and minus-45 never felt so good!

John A. Farleigh


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

Unusual public US terrorism alert warns of politically motivated violence

7 hours 27 min ago

Trump supporters try to break through a police barrier at the Capitol in Washington on Jan. 6. (AP Photo/Julio Cortez) (Julio Cortez/)

WASHINGTON — The Department of Homeland Security issued a national terrorism bulletin Wednesday warning of the potential for lingering violence from people motivated by anti-government sentiment after President Joe Biden’s election, suggesting the Jan. 6 riot at the Capitol may embolden extremists and set the stage for additional attacks.

The department did not cite a specific threat, but pointed to “a heightened threat environment across the United States” that it believes “will persist” for weeks after Biden’s Jan. 20 inauguration.

It is not uncommon for the federal government to warn local law enforcement through bulletins about the prospect for violence tied to a particular date or event, such as July 4.

But this particular bulletin, issued through the the department’s National Terrorism Advisory System, is notable because it effectively places the Biden administration into the politically charged debate over how to describe or characterize acts motivated by political ideology and suggests that it sees violence aimed at overturning the election as akin to terrorism.

The wording of the document suggests that national security officials see a connective thread between recent violence over the last year motivated by anti-government grievances, whether over COVID-19 restrictions, the 2020 election results and police use of force. It also singles out racially motivated acts of violence such as the 2019 rampage targeting Hispanics in Texas, as well as the threat posed by extremists motivated by foreign terrorist organizations.

“Information suggests that some ideologically-motivated violent extremists with objections to the exercise of governmental authority and the presidential transition, as well as other perceived grievances fueled by false narratives, could continue to mobilize to incite or commit violence,” the bulletin said.

It did not mention any ideological or political affiliation. A DHS statement noted the potential for violence from “a broad range of ideologically-motivated actors.”

The alert comes at a tense time after the riot at the Capitol by supporters of then-President Donald Trump who were seeking to overturn the presidential election. DHS also noted violent riots in “recent days,” an apparent reference to events in Portland, Oregon, linked to anarchist groups.

“The domestic terrorism attack on our Capitol earlier this month shined a light on a threat that has been right in front of our faces for years,” said Rep. Bennie Thompson, a Mississippi Democrat who is chairman of the House Homeland Security Committee. “I am glad to see that DHS fully recognizes the threat posed by violent, right-wing extremists and is taking efforts to communicate that threat to the American people.”

The alert was issued by acting Homeland Security Secretary David Pekoske. Biden’s nominee for the Cabinet post, Alejandro Mayorkas, has not been confirmed by the Senate.

Two former homeland security secretaries, Michael Chertoff and Janet Napolitano, called on the Senate to confirm Mayorkas so he can start working with the FBI and other agencies and deal with the threat posed by domestic extremists, among other issues.

Chertoff, who served under President George W. Bush, said in a conference call with reporters that attacks by far-right, domestic extremists are not new but that deaths attributed to them in recent years in the U.S. have exceeded those linked to jihadists such as al-Qaida. “We have to be candid and face what the real risk is,” he said.

Federal authorities have charged more than 150 people in the Capitol siege, including some with links to right-wing extremist groups such as the Three Percenters and the Oath Keepers.

The Justice Department announced charges Wednesday against 43-year Ian Rogers, a California man found with five pipe bombs during a search of his business this month who had a sticker associated with the Three Percenters on his vehicle. His lawyer told his hometown newspaper, The Napa Valley Register, that he is a “very well-respected small business owner, father, and family man” who does not belong to any violent organizations.

‘Sinkhole’ in Southwest Alaska village linked to thawing permafrost forces family to evacuate their home

7 hours 41 min ago

Buildings in Chefornak, Alaska, in early summer 2012. (Pete Law photo) (Peter Law/)

This story was originally published on KYUK and is re-published here with permission.

The COVID-19 pandemic has not put a pause on the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta’s environmental threats.

In Chefornak, a family was forced to evacuate their home because a “sinkhole” caused by thawing permafrost formed underneath it. That family had to move into a building intended to be a quarantine facility.

Delores “Dolly” Abraham’s original fear was not a sinkhole, but the river. By last spring, she said, erosion on the riverbank in Chefornak had almost reached the edge of her home.

“Probably like 6 or less feet,” Abraham said.

With help from her village, Abraham planned to move her home to a safer location. But when contractors came to begin the process of moving her house, they found a bigger problem than the river: There was a 4- to 6-foot-deep sinkhole underneath her home.

“I got scared. I didn’t want to live in there anymore,” Abraham said. “And the house, when we went in the house it shook a little.”

Because of the unstable foundation, contractors told Abraham that her home could not be moved and had to be condemned.

This is not the first sinkhole to appear in Chefornak in recent years. Mayor Anna Abraham said that a few years ago, a man fell into a mud-filled sinkhole while walking with his 2-year-old daughter.

“He fell above his waist area, and he wasn’t able to feel anything underneath,” said the mayor.

The man put his daughter on his shoulders, yelled for help, and was assisted out of the hole by neighbors.

Permafrost is thawing in communities across northern Alaska, but Chefornak’s situation is a little unique. Torsten Mayrberger, who has a doctorate in geotechnical engineering, said that you can trace the sinkholes back to a volcano 4 miles south of Chefornak that was active long ago.

“If you go into Chefornak itself, there’s boulders everywhere,” Mayrberger said. “And those boulders are from the volcanic eruption.”

Mayrberger works for PND Engineers, which is partnering with the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium to help Chefornak with its environmental threats. He said that these volcanic boulders make up a lot of the permafrost in Chefornak. In between the boulders is silt or mud. When the icy silt between the boulders melts, it can create pockets of unstable ground that people call sinkholes -- though Mayrberger said that’s not very accurate description.

“It’s not a hole at all. It’s just soft soil that’s not draining. It’s just mud. It’s like, you know, the quicksand that you see in the old movies,” Mayrberger said.

Climate change is a large reason why the permafrost is melting. 2020 was the second warmest year on record, according to the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. But climate change is not the only reason for the permafrost thaw, according to Don Antrobus, the Climate Change Adaptation Program Manager at ANTHC.

“What we’re seeing right now is some dramatic change in the permafrost in communities that is exceeding the rates that are estimated by our climate science,” Antrobus said. “So I don’t think that means that climate science is wrong. I think that means there are other drivers.”

Antrobus said that those other drivers of melting permafrost could be foot traffic, the heat that comes out of buildings, or even how the water drains in those communities.

“I think it’s important to really evaluate that and determine what the drivers are. If we assume it’s simply climate change, and we move to a new location and we repeat our same building practices, then we’re likely to see the same results,” Antrobus said.

Mayrberger, the geotechnical engineer, agrees with Antrobus. He’s helping Chefornak plan a new subdivision to replace some of the buildings threatened by permafrost degradation, erosion and flooding. One of Mayrberger’s ideas to avoid these problems in the future is to build 10-unit townhouses so that there are fewer structures emitting heat into the permafrost.

“The smaller footprint of your urbanized area, if you will, the better,” Mayrberger said.

While these longer-term plans are in progress, there are emergencies already at hand. When the sinkhole under Abraham’s home was discovered, her family became homeless. They bounced around with other family members until moving in with Abraham’s son.

Six months after the family’s evacuation, the city finished remodeling its community center building with CARES Act funding, intended as a quarantine center. Mayor Anna Abraham said that offering the residence to Dolly Abraham’s family still served the purpose of CARES Act funds.

“Due to the overcrowding of one residential home, trying to limit the exposure of COVID to spread in our community, we had decided to put her in there,” said the mayor.

Abraham said that she’s thankful for her temporary residence, but she’s hoping to be back in a home that’s hers. She’s applied for a federal grant that could build her a new house by 2023.

Millions of dollars for health emergencies was used to pay for unrelated projects before pandemic, inspector general says

10 hours 2 min ago

The U.S. Department of Health and Human Services in Washington, D.C. (Alex Brandon/AP)

WASHINGTON - Federal officials repeatedly raided a fund earmarked for biomedical research in the years leading up to the coronavirus pandemic, spending millions of dollars to pay for unrelated salaries, administrative expenses and even the cost of removing office furniture, according to the findings from an investigation into a whistleblower complaint shared with The Washington Post.

The investigation, conducted by the Health and Human Services Department’s inspector general and overseen by the Office of Special Counsel, focused on hundreds of millions of dollars intended for the development of vaccines, drugs and therapies by the Biomedical Advanced Research and Development Authority, or BARDA, an arm of the federal health department.

The unidentified whistleblower alleged that officials in the Office of the Assistant Secretary for Preparedness and Response at HHS, which oversaw the biomedical agency, wrongly dipped into the money set aside by Congress for development of lifesaving medicines, beginning in fiscal year 2010 and continuing through at least fiscal year 2019, spanning the Obama and Trump administrations.

The inspector general substantiated some of the whistleblower’s claims, finding that staffers referred to the agency as the “bank of BARDA” and told investigators that research and development funds were regularly used for unrelated projects, sometimes at “exorbitant” rates.

“I am deeply concerned about [the] apparent misuse of millions of dollars in funding meant for public health emergencies like the one our country is currently facing with the covid-19 pandemic,” special counsel Henry Kerner wrote in a letter to President Joe Biden on Wednesday. “Equally concerning is how widespread and well-known this practice appeared to be for nearly a decade.”

The inspector general concluded that the agency violated the Purpose Statute, a cornerstone of federal law designed to ensure that funds appropriated by Congress are used for their intended purpose.

Meanwhile, HHS is reviewing whether the spending irregularities violated the Antideficiency Act, another law governing the use of federal funds authorized by Congress. The health department also has engaged an accounting firm to conduct an audit, Kerner told Biden.

BARDA received national attention in May 2020 after then-director Rick Bright was abruptly removed from the office, supposedly because he resisted the Trump administration’s pressure to expedite unproven anti-malaria drugs as a treatment for covid-19, the illness that can be caused by the novel coronavirus. Colleagues said that Bright’s ouster was more complicated and that Trump administration officials had sought to remove him before the pandemic. The inspector general’s investigation, which began in 2018 after a whistleblower tip, mostly focuses on BARDA before Bright’s leadership and on funding decisions made during the Obama administration. The special counsel’s office is involved because it receives complaints from whistleblowers and protects them from reprisal as it investigates their disclosures of misconduct.

The report does not specify a total amount of funding that was misappropriated, though a spokesperson for the special counsel’s office said investigators are “confident” that the assistant secretary’s office wrongly repurposed millions of dollars in funds intended for biomedical research and development.

For instance, the inspector general flagged the assistant secretary’s office for not providing adequate details to Congress on how BARDA spent $517 million in “management and administrative” costs over a decade.

“Because there were no specific details outlining what the M&A costs supported, we cannot determine whether the expenditures supported the BARDA mission,” the report said.

Investigators also signaled their skepticism that all of the management and administrative funds went to their intended purpose, writing that the assistant secretary’s office “would likely fail” to adequately justify how the money was used.

The inspector general further found that between fiscal years 2013 and 2017, BARDA paid $897,491 for the salaries of staffers who did not work for the agency. Investigators also said the biomedical arm wrongly covered millions of dollars in other administrative costs, like having furniture removed from other parts of the building where its office was housed.

“That should not have been done using [research and development] funds as BARDA did not have their furniture removed,” one health department staffer acknowledged to an investigator, according to notes in the inspector general report, which does not specify a dollar amount for the furniture removal.

Plane, pilot missing in Washington state waters after flight from Southeast Alaska

10 hours 28 min ago

A search is ongoing in waters near Port Angeles, Washington, for a pilot and plane that went missing Tuesday afternoon during a flight from Ketchikan.

One man was believed to be on the Cessna 170 believed to have gone down just northeast of Port Angeles just before 5 p.m. Tuesday, according to a tweet from the U.S. Coast Guard Pacific Northwest Region.

#UPDATE #USCG and #Canadian rescue crews continue to search the waters northeast of Port Angeles for a downed #Cessna 170 (similar to the one pictured). One male was reported to be aboard the aircraft. The flight originated from Ketchikan, AK.

— USCGPacificNorthwest (@USCGPacificNW) January 27, 2021

It was not immediately clear when the plane left Ketchikan, but Petty Officer Steve Strohmaier said the pilot had planned to utilize daylight hours and anticipated landing at an airport in Port Angeles before sunset.

The pilot sent out a mayday call around 4:40 p.m. that was picked up by a local control tower and nearby ships, Strohmaier said.

“They asked him to give a location and the location that he gave was basically land formations and a ship that he saw,” Strohmaier said. “So that’s why we had to go back and track where the ship was that he might have seen and utilize that geographic positioning.”

It was not immediately clear early Wednesday if the man was from Ketchikan or why the plane may have crashed.

Canadian rescue crews joined the Coast Guard in a search by boat, helicopter and plane that continued through the night. By Wednesday morning, crews were searching the Strait of Juan de Fuca for the man, the Coast Guard wrote.

Strohmaier said the crews plan to utilize the daylight on Wednesday to continue searching and noted that weather conditions were improving as rain began to let up, which could help the search efforts.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Boeing suffers massive $11.9 billion loss in 2020, largest in its history

12 hours 42 min ago

Boeing employees work on a wing section of a 777X outside the factory in Everett, Washington, in April. (Mike Siegel/The Seattle Times/TNS) (Mike Siegel/)

SEATTLE — Hit both by the grounding of the 737 MAX and the global pandemic that paralyzed its airline customers, Boeing suffered a massive net loss last year of $11.9 billion, the largest in its history.

In a message to employees Wednesday morning, chief executive Dave Calhoun called 2020 “a year of profound societal and global disruption, which significantly impacted our industry.”

The loss was amplified by a $6.5 billion write-off on the 777X program.

And the company reported $1.8 billion in additional accounting charges, including write-offs for the 737 MAX, the KC-46 Air Force tanker and the recent settlement of fraud charges with the Department of Justice, financial filings released Wednesday show.

A big setback for 777X

The giant 777X jet flew for the first time almost exactly a year ago and is being flight tested. Its entry into service is delayed two years into 2023, and its market has evaporated for the immediate future as the global pandemic left long-haul international passenger traffic nearly gone.

The large international carriers that ordered it are all in trouble and no longer want to take delivery for some years.

In addition, the botched certification of the 737 MAX ensures that regulators worldwide will take a prolonged and painstaking look at the 777X before they approve it to fly.

Boeing’s financial filing Wednesday notes that an updated assessment that the 777X will take longer to certify is “based on ongoing communication with civil aviation authorities” around the world.

Still, while some analysts had anticipated a possible write-off on the 787 Dreamliner program as it struggles with quality defects in production — the fourth quarter showed no such charge — the huge write-off on 777X came as a surprise to the market.

Calhoun told employees the 777X charge reflects “an updated assessment of global certification requirements, our latest assessment of COVID-19 impacts on market demand, and discussions with customers with respect to aircraft delivery timing.”

“We remain confident in the 777X,” he added.

Boeing also took a $744 million charge on the deferred prosecution agreement reached with the Department of Justice to allow it to escape a conviction on criminal fraud during certification of the 737 MAX.

This settlement consisted of a $244 million penalty for the criminal conduct plus $500 million to be set aside as additional compensation to the families of the 346 people who died in two MAX crashes.

In the final quarter of the year, Boeing also added a charge of $468 million for abnormal production costs on the 737 MAX stemming from the jet’s grounding. This is part of Boeing’s previous estimates of the cost of the MAX grounding, not in addition.

And the troubled KC-46 tanker program added a write-off of $275 million “primarily due to production inefficiencies including impacts of COVID-19 disruption,” Boeing said.

Finally, Boeing’s aftermarket service division — which for example provides spare parts and flight-operations support to airline customers — recorded a charge of $290 million driven by the impact to its markets of COVID-19.

Boeing confirmed in its filing that it will cut 787 production to just five jets per month and consolidate in South Carolina in March, closing its assembly line in Everett.

And management laid out the plan to ramp up the 737 MAX. It won’t be quick.

“The 737 program is currently producing at a low rate and expects to gradually increase production to 31 per month in early 2022,” Boeing said.

Last week, rival planemaker Airbus announced plans to increase production of the A320neo jet family that competes with the MAX — currently rolling out at a rate of 40 aircraft per month — to 43 jets per month in the third quarter and 45 jets per month by year end.

In the fourth quarter, with a total of $8.3 billion in write-offs, Boeing had a net loss of $8.4 billion, or $14.65 per share, on revenue of $15.3 billion.

For the full year in 2020, the company showed a net loss of $11.94 billion, or $20.88 per share, on revenue of $58.2 billion.

During the quarter, Boeing’s cash on hand fell by $1.5 billion to $25.6 billion. And its debt swelled by $2.6 billion to $63.6 billion.

In consequence, Boeing’s net debt — its total debt minus its cash on hand — grew by $5 billion in the quarter to $38 billion.

A key metric that investors watch is Free Cash Flow (FCF), which is the cash generated by the business minus expenditure on plant and equipment. Boeing reported FCF at negative $4.3 billion for the fourth quarter and negative $20 billion for the full year.

In trading before the markets opened Wednesday, Boeing shares lost more than $6 on the news.

The MAX is cleared to fly in Europe

On a day of historically bad financial news, Boeing got one solitary lift: as telegraphed earlier this week, the European Union Aviation Safety Agency (EASA) approved the return to service of the upgraded Boeing 737 MAX.

“Following extensive analysis by EASA, we have determined that the 737 MAX can safely return to service,” said EASA executive director Patrick Ky in a statement. He added that this assessment was carried out in full independence from Boeing and the Federal Aviation Administration ( FAA).

EASA has demanded that Boeing make some additional design modifications within the next few years to address certain weaknesses in the MAX’s inherited avionics systems — including adding a third measure of the plane’s Angle of Attack, which the FAA did not require.

“At our insistence, Boeing has also committed to work to enhance the aircraft still further in the medium term, in order to reach an even higher level of safety,” Ky said.

The FAA and the aviation regulators of Canada and Brazil had earlier cleared the MAX to fly passengers again.

These four are the major aviation safety authorities from the countries that manufacture commercial jet planes in the West. Boeing must still await approval from other countries, particularly China, the world’s largest aviation market.

Alaska Air Group reports $1.3 billion loss in 2020 but forecasts strong recovery this year

12 hours 47 min ago

Alaska Airlines jets parked at gates at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport in Seattle. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren, File) (Ted S. Warren/)

SEATTLE -- As summer turned to fall last year, Alaska Air Group’s struggle to cope with the COVID-19 air travel downturn seemed to have turned a corner — until November’s wave of new coronavirus infections and business restrictions hit.

Before that, both the numbers of passengers carried and Alaska’s forward ticket bookings “were at peaks for the pandemic period, and each month was improving from the last,” said Ben Minicucci, Alaska’s president.

Then, as state and local closures and travel warnings came into effect, “that trend stalled in the fourth quarter,” said Minicucci, who will become CEO on March 1.

Yet even as Minicucci discussed the faltering fourth quarter on a teleconference call after the company announced a $1.3 billion annual loss for 2020, he offered an optimistic case for a steadier recovery this year.

“While we had hoped the fourth-quarter results would be better, we are cautiously optimistic there will be a step change in demand once the vaccine has been broadly distributed,” he said. “We do expect health patterns to improve in the next two months and that restrictions will begin to relax.”

“We believe our customers are gearing up for travel in the spring and summer,” Minicucci said.

He said daily bookings this month are up 20% compared to December.

He said Alaska plans to increase the number of flights and reach approximately 80% of its 2019 aircraft capacity levels by this summer, with an initial focus on building up routes from the Pacific Northwest and Alaska.

For now, he said, passenger traffic remains stuck at just over one-third of normal levels, with transcontinental flights the worst performers and demand for more lucrative business travel at 15% of normal.

Financial results released Tuesday by Alaska Air, parent company of Alaska Airlines and Horizon Air, show total revenue down 64% and a loss of $430 million in the final quarter.

Excluding the impact of government stimulus funds to support airlines, during the quarter Alaska spent $342 million more than it took in. That’s burning through cash at an average rate of $3.7 million per day, down from $4.3 million per day in the previous quarter.

Alaska ended the year with $5.2 billion in liquidity, consisting of $3.3 billion in cash and the rest in available loans.

The fourth quarter results were worse than analyst forecasts, and Alaska shares closed down $1.07, or 2%, at $51.83.

Government grants help out

Brad Tilden, speaking on his final quarterly teleconference call before he steps down as Alaska Air CEO, praised the airline’s resilience in face of the “deep and prolonged disruption.”

He pointed out that even though revenue in 2020 was down $5.2 billion from the previous year, Alaska ended the year with adjusted net debt essentially unchanged from a year earlier at $1.7 billion.

That was achieved through aggressive cost-cutting. More than 10,600 employees took temporary leave in 2020, of whom 3,300 remained on leave last quarter.

And Alaska Airlines cut its fleet of 237 jets by taking 40 Airbus A320s permanently out of service.

Additional help came from the government’s Coronavirus Aid, Relief, and Economic Security (CARES) Act, which provided Alaska a $753 million grant in 2020. The airline will get a further $400 million grant in the first three months of this year.

The CARES Act grant is part of an extension of payroll support that with additional loans totals $533 million. Alaska received $266 million of that amount on Jan. 15.


As a condition of the extension, the airline cannot lay off any more employees or cut pay or benefits through the end of March.

Alaska’s chief financial officer, Shane Tackett, said the airline must take back “a few folks, mostly on the management side,” who were let go in October.

Most of the furloughed frontline employees who work at airports and onboard planes are in the process of being recalled because of the planned capacity increase ahead.

Tilden said the company’s strong cash position will allow the airline to survive the pandemic, and because the airline has a mostly domestic, low-fare business, it will recover faster than larger competitors with more exposure to international markets that are likely to take longer to come back.

The $1.3 billion loss in 2020, or $10.59 per share, compares with a profit of $769 million, or $6.19 per share, the previous year.

The $430 million loss in the final quarter, or $3.47 per share, compares with a profit of $181 million, or $1.46 per share, in the final three months of 2019 — the last quarter unaffected by the pandemic.

For comparison, Alaska’s much larger rival, Delta Air Lines, announced earlier this month that last year it lost $12.4 billion, including $755 million in the fourth quarter.

Still planning for growth

As part of Alaska’s recovery plan, Tilden has committed to renewing Alaska’s fleet with the newly ungrounded Boeing 737 MAX, getting rid of its less efficient Airbus A320s.

Alaska has 68 MAXs on order and took delivery of the first one on Sunday. That airplane is due to begin passenger service March 1, and the airline will have 13 MAXs in its fleet by year end.

The total market value of those airplanes after standard industry discounts is about $630 million, according to market pricing data from aircraft valuation firm Avitas. However, CFO Tackett said on the teleconference call that the airline will have to lay out only $150 million to $250 million to take them because it had already paid Boeing advance delivery payments for those and other MAXs that will cover the difference.

That low level of capital spending in the year ahead “was one of the important features of the revised deal with Boeing,” he said.

On the same call, Nat Pieper, senior vice president of fleet, said Alaska is scheduled to take 30 more MAXs next year, 13 in 2023 and 12 in 2024, though with flexibility in the contracts to defer deliveries if the recovery takes longer than anticipated.

And if the recovery arrives as hoped, so that air travel is back to 2019 levels by 2023, he said Alaska has options to purchase a further 52 MAXs through 2026.

Far-right politics and suspected steroid use lead to baseball Hall of Fame shutout

13 hours 11 min ago

Boston Red Sox's Curt Schilling pitches against the Colorado Rockies in Game 2 of the 2007 World Series at Fenway Park in Boston. (AP Photo/Kathy Willens, File) (Kathy Willens/)

NEW YORK — The baseball Hall of Fame won’t have any new players in the class of 2021 after voters decided no one had the merits — on the field or off — for enshrinement in Cooperstown.

Curt Schilling, Barry Bonds and Roger Clemens were the closest in voting by members of the Baseball Writers’ Association of America released Tuesday, and the trio will have one more chance at election next year. It’s the first time the BBWAA didn’t choose anyone since 2013.

Schilling, a right-handed ace who won three World Series titles, finished 16 votes short of the 75% threshold necessary for enshrinement. He got 71.1% percent this time after coming up 20 votes shy at 70% last year.

Schilling’s on-field accomplishments face little dispute, but he has ostracized himself in retirement by directing hateful remarks toward Muslims, transgender people, journalists and others.

“It’s all right, the game doesn’t owe me anything,” Schilling said during a live video stream on his Twitter account.

He later wrote on Facebook that he has asked the Hall of Fame to remove his name from next year’s ballot. Hall of Fame Board Chairman Jane Forbes Clark said in a statement that the board “will consider the request at our next meeting.”

Bonds (61.8%) and Clemens (61.6%) made minimal gains and joined Schilling in falling short on their ninth tries. Both face suspicions of performance-enhancing drug use — Clemens has denied using PEDs and Bonds has denied knowingly using PEDs.

Bonds also has been accused of domestic violence and Clemens of maintaining a decade-long relationship with a singer who was 15 when they met.

FILE - In this May 28, 1996, file photo, Boston Red Sox's Roger Clemens releases a pitch against the Oakland Athletics during a baseball game in Oakland, Calif., Coliseum. The Hall of Fame won’t have any new players in the class of 2021 after voters decided no one had the merits — on-the-field or off — for enshrinement in Cooperstown on this year's ballot. Curt Schilling, Barry Bonds and Clemens were the closest in voting by members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America released Tuesday, and the trio will have one more chance at election next year. It's the first time the BBWAA didn't choose anyone since 2013. (AP Photo/Ben Margot, File) (BEN MARGOT/)
FILE - In this Oct. 7, 2001, file photo, San Francisco Giants' Barry Bonds smiles as he begins to round the bases after he hit his 73rd home run of the season, against the Los Angeles Dodgers in a baseball game in San Francisco. The baseball Hall of Fame won’t have any new players in the class of 2021 after voters decided no one had the merits — on-the-field or off — for enshrinement in Cooperstown on this year's ballot. Curt Schilling, Bonds and Roger Clemens were the closest in voting by members of the Baseball Writers' Association of America released Tuesday, and the trio will have one more chance at election next year. It's the first time the BBWAA didn't choose anyone since 2013. (AP Photo/Eric Risberg, File) (Eric Risberg/)

Schilling, Clemens and Bonds will be joined on next year’s ballot by sluggers Alex Rodriguez and David Ortiz. Rodriguez was suspended for the 2014 season for violating MLB’s PED policy and collective bargaining agreement, and Ortiz’s name allegedly appeared on a list of players who tested positive in 2003.

Omar Vizquel, an 11-time Gold Glove winner, dropped from 52.6% last year to 49.1% after his wife accused him of repeated domestic abuses in December. Braves star Andruw Jones, arrested in 2012 on a domestic violence charge, got 33.9% in his fourth year. Rockies slugger Todd Helton, who pleaded guilty to driving under the influence and was sentenced to two days in jail last year, got 44.9% in his third time on the ballot.

Some players missed out over old-fashioned baseball disagreements, too. Slick-fielding third baseman Scott Rolen moved from 35.3% to 52.9% and hard-throwing closer Billy Wagner from 31.7% to 46.4%.

It’s the ninth time the BBWAA didn’t elect anyone and just the third time since 1971. With the Hall of Fame’s Era Committees postponing their scheduled elections until next offseason because of the pandemic, there won’t be a new Hall class for the first time since 1960.

Cooperstown won’t be without celebration next summer, though. After the 2020 ceremony in the upstate New York village was canceled due to the pandemic, Yankees great Derek Jeter and five-tool star Larry Walker will take center stage on July 25, a year later than planned. They’ll be honored alongside catcher Ted Simmons and late players’ association chief Marvin Miller.

BBWAA members are instructed to elect Hall members “based upon the player’s record, playing ability, integrity, sportsmanship, character, and contributions to the team(s) on which the player played.”

At a time when social justice movements are pushing for a broader reckoning on sexual misconduct and racial inequality, character evaluation took on an outsized role in this election cycle. While the Hall’s inductees already include racists, cheaters, philanderers and criminals, the current voting bloc has — narrowly, in many cases — taken a stand against candidates they think have insufficient integrity.

With 401 ballots returned, candidates needed 301 votes to gain election. A record 14 voters submitted blank ballots, topping the 12 sent in 2006.

Schilling — a six-time All-Star over 20 seasons with Baltimore, Houston, Philadelphia, Arizona and Boston — has been embroiled in controversy throughout his retirement.

He launched a video game company, 38 Studios, that went bankrupt shortly after receiving a $75 million loan guarantee from Rhode Island, then was fired as an ESPN analyst after he sent a tweet comparing Muslim extremists to Nazi-era Germans and posted a derogatory Facebook comment about transgender people.

Months later, Schilling was again criticized after using social media to applaud a T-shirt calling for journalists to be lynched.

On Jan. 6, the day of the attack on the U.S. Capitol, he said the following in a message on his Twitter account:

“You cowards sat on your hands, did nothing while liberal trash looted rioted and burned for air Jordan’s and big screens, sit back .... and watch folks start a confrontation for (expletive) that matters like rights, democracy and the end of govt corruption.”

That tweet was sent a few days after Hall of Fame ballots were due.

Schilling wrote on Facebook that he would like the veterans committee to review his Hall case. That panel — comprised of former players, managers and others in the game, along with some writers — is tasked with evaluating players who don’t get election via the BBWAA vote.

“I’ll defer to the veterans committee and men whose opinions actually matter and who are in a position to actually judge a player,” Schilling wrote. “I don’t think I’m a hall of famer as I’ve often stated but if former players think I am then I’ll accept that with honor.

“In my heart I am at peace,” he also wrote. “Nothing, zero, none of the claims being made by any of the writers hold merit.”

Bonds’ ex-wife testified in 1995 during divorce proceedings that he beat and kicked her. Bonds said he never physically abused her but once kicked her after she kicked him.

In 2008, the New York Daily News reported that Clemens had a decade-long relationship with country singer Mindy McCready that began when she was 15 and he was a star for the Boston Red Sox. Clemens apologized for unspecified mistakes in his personal life and denied having an affair with a 15-year-old. McCready later told “Inside Edition” she met Clemens when she was 16 and that the relationship didn’t turn sexual until several years later.

The BBWAA recently voted overwhelmingly to remove the name and imprint of former Commissioner Kenesaw Mountain Landis from MVP plaques. Landis became commissioner in 1920, and there were no Black players in the majors during his more than two decades in charge.

Further down the ballot, outfielder Gary Sheffield jumped from 30.5% to 40.6% on his seventh time on the ballot and Jeff Kent improved from 27.5% to 32.4% in his eighth year.

The 2022 ballot also will include Phillies stars Jimmy Rollins and Ryan Howard, switch-hitting slugger Mark Teixeira and two-time Cy Young Award winner Tim Lincecum.

Anchorage voters will decide on tax levy that would outfit police with body cameras and other tech

13 hours 31 min ago

An Anchorage police cruiser (Emily Mesner / ADN) (Emily Mesner/)

Anchorage voters in April will decide on a proposed property tax levy that would fund a host of technology upgrades for the police department, including body-worn and in-car cameras.

The Assembly on Tuesday approved in a 7-3 vote an ordinance placing the levy on the April 6 ballot.

The Assembly also unanimously passed a resolution dedicating $250,000 in municipal funds from the 2021 budget to begin implementing the technology upgrades.

The money will help update a computer-aided dispatch and record management system that is “at end of life and at risk of catastrophic failure,” according to the resolution. Those upgrades are needed before cameras can be implemented.

“It’s just the start of really building a legacy piece of infrastructure for APD that will be to the benefit of our community,” said Assembly member Meg Zaletel.

The tax levy is capped at $1.84 million and would complete the funding for the technology overhaul. It’s a property tax increase of about $5.32 per every $100,000 in assessed value.

For years, groups in the community, including the Alaska Black Caucus, have called for more transparency and accountability from Anchorage police. Calls from the community and Assembly for the department to implement body-worn cameras increased over the last year as a nationwide movement for police reform unfolded after the killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

[ Anchorage police don’t wear body cameras, but officials say that could change amid national calls for reform ]

Anchorage Police Chief Justin Doll has said the department is supportive of introducing body cameras but that it has so far been too expensive. A $1.8 million bond proposal in October by former Mayor Ethan Berkowitz helped set in motion the ballot proposition.

The police department intends to lease the necessary equipment and technology to keep up with upgrades and reduce maintenance costs..

Assembly member Christopher Constant on Tuesday said the equipment will protect citizens from abuses by police but will also protect police from unfounded allegations of mistreatment or abuse.

Despite a general agreement among Assembly members about the necessity of the cameras and upgrades, questions of how best to fund them dominated discussions before the members voted to pass both items.

Assembly members Crystal Kennedy, Jamie Allard and Kameron Perez-Verdia, who each voted against putting the tax levy on the ballot, said at various points during the meeting that the money should come from funds the municipality already has, not taxpayers.

“I truly do believe that if the will was there, we could identify existing funding within our operating budget to fund this now,” Perez Verdia said. “It concerns me that it’s not so much of a priority that there is enough will to do that.”

Kennedy said she worries voters will reject the levy, leaving the municipality and police department back at square one.

Kennedy also said the cost of leasing the technology would increase in coming years, and the size of the police force and vehicle fleet could increase, also increasing the need for more funding for the cameras.

The $1.84 million tax levy cap could be an issue down the line, she said. A tax levy also places a burden on citizens, she said.

“It’s those who can’t afford it, those that didn’t vote for it, that still end up paying for it anyway,” Kennedy said.

Alaska Black Caucus president Celeste Hodge Growden during public testimony questioned whether the Assembly is truly prioritizing the technology overhaul by allowing voters to possibly reject it.

But Hodge Growden later told the Assembly she is happy to see it commit to the program by putting up the initial municipal funds.

“At the end of the day, it’s about keeping our community safe,” Hodge Growden said.

Others on the Assembly and some people who called in or spoke in person expressed concern that if the upgrades were folded into the municipal budget, the program could be terminated by a future Assembly or mayoral administration.

“The voters can mandate that we keep these technologies around and it isn’t the whim of this or that mayor and this or that Assembly,” Assembly member Constant said.

Constant also said there is broad support in the community for this type of technology.

Several Assembly members said that if the levy does not pass, they intend to find another source of funding.

“I’m committed to ensure that we have a way to pay for it going forward. We will find the way,” Constant said.

A previous version of the resolution to fund the upgrades with municipal money would have pulled some money for funding of early childhood education from an alcohol tax approved by voters last year. That version was not passed.

The process to actually implement the technology will take time, and it means that the police department will need to develop protocol and policy around using body cameras, Zaletel said.

“Having some municipal skin in the game through a monetary contribution already, and then moving toward the tax levy, is a great way to jumpstart that process,” Zaletel said.

GOP signals unwillingness to part with Trump after riot

Tue, 2021-01-26 21:04

Sen. Roger Marshall, R-Kan., and Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., talk with reporters before a Republican policy luncheon on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, Jan. 26, 2021. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh) (Susan Walsh/)

PALM BEACH, Fla. — Donald Trump has lost his social media megaphone, the power of government and the unequivocal support of his party’s elected leaders. But a week after leaving the White House in disgrace, a large-scale Republican defection that would ultimately purge him from the party appears unlikely.

Many Republicans refuse to publicly defend Trump’s role in sparking the deadly insurrection at the U.S. Capitol. But as the Senate prepares for an impeachment trial for Trump’s incitement of the riot, few seem willing to hold the former president accountable.

After House Republicans who backed his impeachment found themselves facing intense backlash — and Trump’s lieutenants signaled the same fate would meet others who joined them — Senate Republicans voted overwhelmingly Tuesday for an attempt to dismiss his second impeachment trial. Only five Republican senators rejected the challenge to the trial.

Trump’s conviction was considered a real possibility just days ago after lawmakers whose lives were threatened by the mob weighed the appropriate consequences — and the future of their party. But the Senate vote on Tuesday is a sign that while Trump may be held in low regard in Washington following the riots, a large swath of Republicans is leery of crossing his supporters, who remain the majority of the party’s voters.

“The political winds within the Republican Party have blown in the opposite direction,” said Ralph Reed, chair of the Faith and Freedom Coalition and a Trump ally. “Republicans have decided that even if one believes he made mistakes after the November election and on Jan. 6, the policies Trump championed and victories he won from judges to regulatory rollback to life to tax cuts were too great to allow the party to leave him on the battlefield.”

The vote came after Trump, who decamped last week to his private Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach, Florida, began wading back into politics between rounds of golf. He took an early step into the Arkansas governor’s race by endorsing former White House aide Sarah Huckabee Sanders, and backed Kelli Ward, an ally who won reelection as chair of Arizona’s Republican Party after his endorsement.

At the same time, Trump’s team has given allies an informal blessing to campaign against the 10 House Republicans who voted in favor of impeachment.

After Michigan Rep. Peter Meijer backed impeachment, Republican Tom Norton announced a primary challenge. Norton appeared on longtime Trump adviser Steve Bannon’s podcast in a bid to raise campaign contributions.

In this image from video, Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Fla., speaks as the House reconvenes to debate the objection to confirm the Electoral College vote from Arizona, after protesters stormed into the U.S. Capitol on Wednesday, Jan. 6, 2021. (House Television via AP)

On Thursday, another Trump loyalist, Rep. Matt Gaetz, plans to travel to Wyoming to condemn home-state Rep. Liz Cheney, a House GOP leader who said after the Capitol riot that “there has never been a greater betrayal by a president of the United States of his office and his oath to the Constitution.”

Trump’s eldest son, Donald Trump Jr. — a star with Trump’s loyal base —- has encouraged Gaetz on social media and embraced calls for Cheney’s removal from House leadership.

Trump remains livid with Republican Gov. Brian Kemp of Georgia, who refused to support Trump’s false charges that Georgia’s elections were fraudulent. Kemp is up for reelection in 2022, and Trump has suggested former Rep. Doug Collins run against him.

Ohio Republican Sen. Rob Portman’s decision not to seek reelection in 2022 opens the door for Rep. Jim Jordan, one of Trump’s most enthusiastic supporters, to seek the seat. Several other Republicans, some far less supportive of the former president, are also considering running.

Trump’s continued involvement in national politics so soon after his departure marks a dramatic break from past presidents, who typically stepped out of the spotlight, at least temporarily. Former President Barack Obama was famously seen kitesurfing on vacation with billionaire Richard Branson shortly after he left office, and former President George W. Bush took up painting.

Trump, who craves the media spotlight, was never expected to burrow out of public view.

“We will be back in some form,” he told supporters at a farewell event before he left for Florida. But exactly what form that will take is a work in progress.

Trump remains deeply popular among Republican voters and is sitting on a huge pot of cash — well over $50 million — that he could use to prop up primary challenges against Republicans who backed his impeachment or refused to support his failed efforts to challenge the election results using bogus allegations of mass voter fraud in states like Georgia.

“POTUS told me after the election that he’s going to be very involved,” said Matt Schlapp, the chair of the American Conservative Union. “I think he’s going to stay engaged. He’s going to keep communicating. He’s going to keep expressing his opinions. I, for one, think that’s great, and I encouraged him to do that.”

Aides say he also intends to dedicate himself to winning back the House and Senate for Republicans in 2022. But for now, they say their sights are on the trial.

“We’re getting ready for an impeachment trial — that’s really the focus,” said Trump adviser Jason Miller.

Trump aides have also spent recent days trying to assure Republicans that he is not currently planning to launch a third party — an idea he has floated — and will instead focus on using his clout in the Republican Party.

Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., said he received a call from Brian Jack, the former White House political director, on Saturday at home to assure him that Trump had no plans for defection.

“The main reason for the call was to make sure I knew from him that he’s not starting a third party and if I would be helpful in squashing any rumors that he was starting a third party. And that his political activism or whatever role he would play going forward would be with the Republican Party, not as a third party,” Cramer said.

The calls were first reported by Politico.

But the stakes remain high for Trump, whose legacy is a point of fierce contention in a Republican Party that is grappling with its identity after losing the White House and both chambers of Congress. Just three weeks after a pro-Trump mob stormed the Capitol, Trump’s political standing among Republican leaders in Washington remains low.

“I don’t know whether he incited it, but he was part of the problem, put it that way,” said Alabama Sen. Tommy Tuberville, a strong Trump supporter, when asked about the Capitol siege and the related impeachment trial.

Tuberville did not say whether he would personally defend Trump in the trial, but he downplayed the prospect of negative consequences for those Republican senators who ultimately vote to convict him.

“I don’t think there’ll be any repercussions,” Tuberville said. “People are going to vote how they feel anyway.”

Trump maintains a strong base of support within the Republican National Committee and in state party leadership, but even there, Republican officials have dared to speak out against him in recent days in ways they did not before.

In Arizona, Ward, who had Trump’s backing, was only narrowly reelected over the weekend, even as the party voted to censure a handful of Trump’s Republican critics, including former Sen. Jeff Flake and Cindy McCain, the widow of Sen. John McCain.

At the same time, Trump’s prospective impeachment sparked a bitter feud within the RNC.

In a private email exchange obtained by The Associated Press, RNC member Demetra DeMonte of Illinois proposed a resolution calling on every Republican senator to oppose what she called an “unconstitutional sham impeachment trial, motivated by a radical and reckless Democrat majority.”

Bill Palatucci, a Republican committeeman from New Jersey, slapped back.

“His act of insurrection was an attack on our very democracy and deserves impeachment,” Palatucci wrote.