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Updated: 1 hour 17 min ago

U.S. military commander survives attack at Afghan governor’s compound

1 hour 30 min ago

U.S. Army Gen. Austin Miller speaks during the change of command ceremony at Resolute Support headquarters in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, Sept. 2, 2018. Miller assumed command of the 41-nation NATO mission in Afghanistan following a handover ceremony. (AP Photo/Massoud Hossaini) (Massoud Hossaini/)

KABUL, Afghanistan - A gunman wearing an Afghan army uniform opened fire Thursday on participants in a meeting with the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, killing three top southern provincial officials and wounding at least three Americans, officials said. But Gen. Austin "Scott" Miller, the target of the attack claimed by the Taliban, escaped unharmed, they said.

Among those reported killed in the attack inside the governor's compound in southern Kandahar province were the country's top police general, Abdul Raziq, who was seen as the most powerful man in southern Afghanistan.

U.S. military officials confirmed that a U.S. soldier, a contractor and another civilian were wounded in the attack, which occurred shortly after a high-level meeting attended by Miller.

Initial accounts said the three senior Afghan officials were wounded in the shooting in Kandahar.

A Taliban spokesman, Qari Mohammad Yusuf Ahmadi, said in an email to journalists that the group carried out the attack and that its "main target" was Miller. Ahmadi asserted that Miller had been killed, a claim denied by U.S. military officials. He claimed that in addition to Abdul Raziq, whom he described as "the savage commander of Kandahar," the dead included Kandahar's provincial governor, Zalmai Wessa, and its intelligence chief, Abdul Momin.

There were conflicting reports on the fate of Wessa and Abdul Momin, with Afghan news media reporting variously that they had been wounded or killed.

The attacker was apparently a man wearing the uniform of an Afghan soldier, who opened fire as the officials were in the governor's compound following a security meeting about crucial parliamentary elections on Saturday, officials said.

The lone attacker was killed after fatally shooting Abdul Raziq and wounding several of his bodyguards, Afghan and U.S. security officials said. He was reported to be a member of the provincial governor's security team.

Several current and former officials confirmed the death of Abdul Raziq, 39, a close U.S. ally and fierce anti-Taliban fighter.

"It is a big loss for Afghanistan," Shakeba Hashimi, a legislator from Kandahar, said by cellphone as she was en route to his funeral at a hospital there. "We have security in Kandahar that we don't have in the capital. It is because of this honorable general."

Another lawmaker, Khalid Pashtun, also said the police chief, governor and intelligence chief were killed in the attack, the Associated Press reported.

Amrulleh Saleh, a former Afghan national intelligence chief, tweeted that Abdul Raziq had been "an architect of stability" in Kandahar who had established "deep political networks" in support of the government. "This is a pan-Afghan loss," he wrote.

Abdul Raziq, a lieutenant general in the Afghan National Police, was a controversial official who had been repeatedly accused of torturing detainees and other abuses during his rise to power in Kandahar. At the same time, he earned a reputation as a ferocious opponent of the Taliban and gained the respect of successive American and NATO military officials in Afghanistan.

He had survived a number of assassination attempts, including suicide attacks, but had managed to strengthen security in Kandahar, the birthplace of the Taliban militants.

A slight and youthful-looking man, Abdul Raziq earned a reputation for brutality and corruption in the border police beginning a decade ago. He was also accused of drug smuggling and corruption. But in recent years, as a top police official and ruthless anti-insurgent fighter, he was widely praised for bringing Kandahar and the surrounding region under government control. His forces received Western training and funds, and U.S. military officials often consulted him.

Miller, 57, took over last month as the top U.S. commander in Afghanistan, replacing Gen. John W. Nicholson Jr. A veteran of some of the U.S. military's most secretive combat units, he formerly served as commander of the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command and participated in numerous combat operations, including in Mogadishu, Somalia, in 1993 and the wars in Afghanistan and Iraq since 2001.

The shooting in Kandahar continued a surge in violence across Afghanistan ahead of parliamentary elections Saturday. The Taliban has threatened to disrupt the voting and has warned Afghans against participating in what the radical Islamist group regards as a pretext for perpetuating U.S. intervention in the country.

In a suicide attack late Wednesday near the largest U.S. military base in Afghanistan, a bomber killed two Afghan civilians and wounded at least five Czech soldiers belonging to the U.S.-led NATO coalition in the country, officials said. The Taliban claimed responsibility for the bombing near Bagram air base about 30 miles north of the capital, Kabul.

Earlier Wednesday, a parliamentary candidate in southern Helmand province was killed when a bomb exploded while he was holding a meeting in the courtyard of his campaign headquarters in the provincial capital, Lashkar Gah.

In January last year, the visiting ambassador of the United Arab Emirates, five other UAE diplomats and some local officials were killed by explosives hidden in a government building in Kandahar.


The Washington Post’s William Branigin in Washington contributed to this report.

Since when does being a conservative mean that you have to follow Donald Trump?

1 hour 31 min ago

President Donald Trump waves as he leaves a campaign rally, Friday, Oct. 12, 2018, in Lebanon, Ohio. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci) (Evan Vucci/)

I experienced a moment of existential confusion in July when I saw myself described in the New York Times as a “former conservative.” I immediately emailed the reporter, Peter Baker, and asked him to change that to “former Republican,” which he graciously did. But I’m now wondering if perhaps Baker was right the first time.

Maybe I really am a former conservative? It's hard to know for sure, because it's hard to know what "conservative" means anymore other than "Trump toady." Ergo, if you're a #NeverTrumper, you must not be a real conservative - even though President Donald Trump is antithetical to the kind of conservativism I spent most of my life espousing.

That appears to be the logic of 37 “conservative leaders” who wrote to The Washington Post demanding that my colleague Jennifer Rubin no longer be identified as a conservative or even center-right blogger. The conservative elders excommunicating Rubin include retired Lt. Gen. William G. Boykin, an evangelical Christian who has said that “Islam is evil”; Brent Bozell, head of the Media Research Center, who has suggested that President Barack Obama looked like a “skinny, ghetto crackhead”; Diana West, a journalist who has promulgated “birtherism”; and Matt Schlapp, chairman of the American Conservative Union, who recently tweeted a picture of Democratic senators of color under the race-baiting headline “Look at this photo conservative voters.” Apparently this is the new face of American conservatism - and anyone who disagrees with the racism, xenophobia and general nuttiness exhibited by these worthies is a cuck or RINO. Probably both.

After I wrote that the GOP must be punished at the ballot box for its espousal of white nationalism and know-nothingism, the right-wing website twitchy demanded to know: “How on earth can Max Boot call himself a conservative after this?” I’ve lost track of how many Trump supporters have written some version of “Max Boot isn’t a conservative.” I’m even being read retrospectively out of the conservative movement by right-wingers who claim I was never really one of them.

Ross Douthat is a socially conservative New York Times columnist who has criticized Trump but now argues that the job of conservative thinkers is to “basically accept” his “populist turn” while supplying the Trumpist movement with “coherence and intellectual ballast.” He writes dismissively that “Max Boot ... self-defined as a conservative mostly because he favored a democratic imperialism of the kind that George W. Bush unsuccessfully promoted.”

That’s news to me. As I explain in my new book, I became a conservative in the 1980s because of Ronald Reagan’s clear-eyed opposition to communism. I would call that moral leadership, not democratic imperialism. Moreover, I espoused not just democracy promotion but many other conservative views. I criticized political correctness, judicial activism, tort-law abuses, gun control, wasteful government spending, high tax rates and heavy-handed regulation.

That's why I was comfortable for decades writing for conservative publications and advising Republican presidential candidates. Yet now that I've come out against Trump and have begun a critical re-examination of the GOP's checkered history of racism and know-nothingism, I am being airbrushed out of the conservative movement as if I were some old Bolshevik who had fallen out with Comrade Stalin.

It is true that my views have shifted over the years. I no longer favor preventative wars or oppose more stringent gun controls. I've always been socially liberal and have never engaged in climate denialism. So does that mean I am a born-again liberal? Not so fast. I still favor limited government, fiscal discipline, entitlement reform, free trade, robust defense spending and maintaining America's current military commitments. Those views hardly place me in league with Bernie Sanders and Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. But they also place me outside of the Trumpified Republican Party. I would never have imagined conservatives swooning over a president who raises tariffs (aka taxes), praises dictators, pays off a porn star, denigrates prisoners of war and vilifies the FBI. Yet here we are.

It is tempting to say that I'm the "real" conservative and the Trump-worshipers are the imposters. But it's not so simple. Trump taps into the kind of blood-and-soil, chauvinistic conservatism that has a long history not only in Europe but also in this country, where its champions have included John C. Calhoun, Charles Lindbergh, Father Charles Coughlin, George Wallace and Pat Buchanan. Some modern conservatives such as William F. Buckley Jr., Charles Krauthammer and Irving Kristol tried to move the right in a less bigoted and more high-minded direction, but Trump's ascendance proves they have failed. At least for the time being.

That’s why I don’t give a damn whether anyone thinks I’m a conservative or not. I’m just as happy not to be associated with what passes for conservatism in 2018 America. I still find it a bit disconcerting, however, to be told I was never a conservative in the first place.

Former head of juvenile detention center charged with possession of child pornography

1 hour 44 min ago

A former superintendent of an Anchorage juvenile detention facility was indicted Wednesday on possession of child pornography, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office in Anchorage.

A federal grand jury returned the indictment against 54-year-old Dennis Weston of Anchorage on one count of sexual exploitation of a child for possessing in June "visual depictions of minors engaging in sexually explicit conduct" on a computer or digital device, federal prosecutors said.

Weston is a former employee of the state Department of Juvenile Justice and previously worked as superintendent at the McLaughlin Youth Center.

The FBI conducted the investigation that led to the indictment. Members of the public with additional information or concerns about Weston's activities can contact the FBI at 907-276-4441.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates. 

Mountain Village officer honored for work with Alaska Native women and children

1 hour 57 min ago

BETHEL — A village police officer in Western Alaska was selected to receive the Shirley Demientieff Award for her efforts in improving the lives of Alaska Native women and children.

Gov. Bill Walker is scheduled to present the award Thursday to Mountain Village Officer Anna Bill at the Alaska Federation of Natives Convention in Anchorage, KYUK-AM reported.

Bill had gone back to work only a couple days before Walker called her, telling her she was the recipient. Bill had resigned from the job while on medical leave for an on-the-job injury caused by an assault.

"I think I resigned out of anger and frustration," Bill said. "I was going through a phase where my PTSD had gotten the better of me, and I was so mad at everybody in the world."

Bill was previously the village's only law enforcement officer. She stayed on call around the clock and volunteered her extra hours knowing that the city lacked the funding to pay for all her work. Before Bill had resigned, she responded to 66 attempted suicide calls in less than a year.

Bill sought counseling during her leave, and she also received encouragement from Mountain Village residents telling her to "don't give up" and to "keep going."

"And so as that came along, it made me think about how much I really miss my job," Bill said.

The night before she was due back to work, a person in the community had died by suicide.

"It took a lot out of me just thinking about, you know, what if he'd had somebody to talk to? Or what if I'd signed on a day before? Or, you know, there's always these 'what ifs'," Bill said.

Bill said she hopes the award will motive government officials to better fund public safety in rural Alaska.

You’ll be sneaking a couple of these parmesan-roasted Alaska carrots before dinner

1 hour 58 min ago

Parmesan roasted Alaska Carrots. (Maya Wilson/Alaska From Scratch)

The closer the restaurant gets to opening, the more often I arrive to find local food samples. A couple of weeks back it was two dozen duck eggs. Last week, the first harvest of micro greens from the hydroponic farm. Most recently it was two bags of Alaska-grown carrots, just pulled from the ground, clean and symmetrical, portioned evenly into two clear plastic bags, each with a wooden tag.

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I take the samples home to recipe test, wanting to do the ingredients – and thus the farmers behind those ingredients- justice by making something beautiful.

I enjoy roasting carrots whole, leaving a bit of the green tops and those squiggly little root strands at the bottom. This works best when the carrots are uniform in size. Whole roasted carrots are somehow rustic and fancy at the same time. Pile them together on an oblong platter and serve them up alongside a pot roast or roasted chicken. (If you have some bigger ones, slice them in half down the center.)

Often, you'll see carrot recipes go the sweeter route, with honey or brown sugar or orange, but I was quite taken with this saltier take, with butter, garlic, and a crispy layer of golden parmesan cheese, finished with a sprinkling of fresh parsley. This is one of those simple recipes that will have you standing over the pan, eating carrots with your fingers and grabbing the garlicky cheese bits that are stuck to the pan (my favorite part).

Parmesan Roasted Carrots
Serves 4

8-10 carrots, peeled
2 tablespoons butter, melted
3 garlic cloves, minced
1/4 cup grated parmesan cheese
kosher salt
2 tablespoons fresh parsley, chopped

Preheat oven to 400°. Line a large rimmed baking sheet with aluminum foil. Place the carrots on the baking sheet, allowing space between each one. Add the garlic to the melted butter. Drizzle the carrots with the garlic butter mixture, turning to coat. Season the carrots with kosher salt. Roast for 20 minutes (15 for thinner carrots). Sprinkle the parmesan cheese evenly over the carrots and return to the oven to roast another 10 minutes, or until the cheese is golden brown and crispy and the carrots are tender-crisp. Sprinkle with parsley and serve. (Recipe adapted from Your Homebased Mom.)

Alaskana recipe: Sort of Sarah Palin’s moose chili

2 hours 28 sec ago

Sarah Palin’s famous moose chili, made with the original recipe. (Photo by Julia O’Malley / ADN)

I know, know. You all are way, so, crazy, tired-isn't-even-the word of the Palin drama, but stay with me for a sec. It's the end of moose season, the wind's howling as I write this, and we're all settling into our winter routines. Doesn't chili sound kind of good? This isn't any chili, it's chili with a story, a little culinary snapshot of a moment in time in Alaska's history. And, with a couple tweaks, it's pretty good.

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As far as I can tell, Sarah Palin's chili recipe was served to the nation about 2013. It was published in her Christmas book, recirculated by Fox News and showed up on at least one reality TV show. But the Palin Crock-Pot started feeding local reporters way before 2013, at least as early as when she was running for vice president in 2008. A number of my Alaska journalism colleagues have crumbed chips into steamy bowls in her kitchen.

"I remember wondering if it was appropriate to eat the chili and thinking it would be rude not to try it," Kyle Hopkins, who covered politics at the Anchorage Daily News back then, said.

Sure, the chili became a political device, a public-relations dish with a folksy message about the candidate and the place she comes from. But maybe for a moment, way back when she was still willing to talk to Alaska reporters in her Wasilla kitchen, it had something to say about our Alaska and how we cook that's actually true?

I just spent a week with the recipe and I'm going to tell you something: As an idea, it's not half bad. With a tricking out, it's great, and beyond that, it's SUPER practical and uses pantry and freezer stores. And that is truly Alaskan. Go ahead, Twitter, @ me.

Here's the thing: A can of kidney beans is 98 cents at Walmart right now. You can make her chili, which serves eight to 10 people, for less than $10 if you've already got moose. And those beans, they just hang in your pantry until you're in a pinch and need to feed a crowd. It also requires maybe 10 minutes of prep and can sit on the counter half a day. What working mother in America can't get behind something like that on, say, a Wednesday night before basketball practice?

Her recipe had five ingredients: Eight cans kidney beans, a pound of browned moose, two cans of tomato sauce and two packages of taco seasoning, one regular and one hot. My recipe stays with the easy, super Alaska shelf-stable food/chest freezer bounty vibe, but uses homemade taco seasoning and adds a can of beer. I used a can of Alaska-brewed porter, but a Bud Light works too.

Sort of Sarah Palin's moose chili 

Makes 10 servings

1 large white onion
2 pounds ground meat (moose, caribou, beef, bison, musk ox or a combination)
2 cans tomato sauce
4 cans pinto beans, drained and rinsed
4 cans kidney beans, drained and rinsed
1 can RoTel
A can of dark beer
Two packets of low-sodium taco seasoning or make your own (see recipe below)
To serve: cheese, sour cream, chopped green onions, hot taco sauce

Brown meat and put in a slow cooker. Pour most of the fat out of the pan. Finely chop the onion. Saute in the fat until soft. (If you are using all wild game, you may need a little splash of olive oil.) Add to slow cooker. Add beans, RoTel, tomato sauce, taco seasoning and beer. Cook on high for two hours, or low for four.

Make-your-own taco seasoning
(enough for two pounds meat)

2 tablespoons chili powder
1 tablespoon cumin
1 teaspoon salt
1 tablespoon paprika (smoked or sweet)
1 tsp onion powder
1 tsp garlic powder
2 tsp oregano
2 tsp cornstarch (optional)

Mega Millions and Powerball manipulated the odds to create monster jackpots

2 hours 3 min ago

They don’t buy lottery tickets. Not habitually, anyway.

But the jackpot chasers typically emerge when they see the Mega Millions prize tick up and up and up, and they figure, "Hell, why not?"

That's by design.

And if you have noticed a run of eye-popping jackpots from Mega Millions and the similarly designed Powerball recently, that's by design, too.

There were no winners in Tuesday's Mega Millions drawing for a $667 million jackpot.

So the prize rolled over, ballooning to an estimated $900 million. If somebody wins the Mega Millions on Friday, it will be the second-largest jackpot in U.S. lottery history, behind the 2016 Powerball jackpot that was worth $1.6 billion, split across three winning tickets.

And the current Powerball jackpot continues to grow, too: Nobody won Wednesday's drawing, so on Saturday, the jackpot will be worth an estimated $430 million.

Mega Millions has existed in some form since 1996. But only recently has the game been shelling out massive jackpots. The lottery officials who run Mega Millions tweaked the rules and odds of the game last October to make jackpots pay out less frequently, spurring their monster growth. Since that change, three of the six largest Mega Millions jackpots have been paid out.

And then there's Friday's monster Mega Millions drawing, the largest in the game's history.

"Ultimately, these games, they're all about the jackpots," Gordon Medenica, Maryland's lottery and gaming director, said Wednesday.

Officials were worried that the relatively smaller but more frequent prizes - a "paltry" $100 million, for instance - would result in "jackpot fatigue," which is why they tweaked the game last year, Medenica said. Now, the Mega Millions jackpots grow and grow, creating huge prizes with infrequent payouts. The other significant change that helped fuel the jackpot growth was the increase in the Mega Millions ticket price, which doubled to $2.

The last time somebody hit the Mega Millions was July 24, when an office pool in Silicon Valley won the $543 million jackpot. The jackpot reset at $40 million for the next drawing and has been soaring ever since.

The game - played in 44 states, plus the District of Columbia and the U.S. Virgin Islands - becomes a "cultural phenomenon" somewhere in the $200 million to $400 million range, said Medenica, who holds the informal and rotating director position for an 11-state Mega Millions consortium. When the jackpots flirt with the half-billion-dollar mark, state lotteries don't even feel the need to advertise, he said.

Here's how Mega Millions used to work: Players picked five numbers from 1 to 75 and a Mega number from 1 to 15. The odds of winning the top prize were 1 in 258,890,850.

Since Mega Millions modified the formula, players now pick five numbers from 1 to 70 and a Mega number of 1 to 25. The odds of winning the jackpot are now 1 in 302,575,350.

Reducing the number of balls for the first five numbers increases the chances of winning a smaller prize. But raising the number of Mega Balls makes it harder to win the jackpot. (You still win the big jackpot by matching all six winning numbers in a drawing.)

Powerball made similar changes to its rules in 2015.

Lottery officials have said that the change was in response to demand from players that they wanted to start with a big jackpot and have a better shot at smaller prizes, such as getting your $2 back all the way up to a $1 million payout for matching all five numbers.

State lottery commissions have relied on human psychology and the spirit of optimism to fuel sales. They discovered that when the jackpot grows to an absurdly high figure, even skeptical players will buy tickets - perhaps on a whim at a convenience store or by chipping in a few bucks in an office pool, Medenica said.

He calls these gamblers "infrequent players," and their participation helps boost jackpots to historic levels, he said. Colorado Lottery spokeswoman Kelly Tabor referred to them as "jackpot chasers," as the Powerball jackpot swelled to the second largest in lottery history.

That is, until Friday's Mega Millions drawing, which may produce one or more instant mega millionaires.

Mega Millions is in "uncharted territory," Medenica said, and the lotteries' financial models cannot predict what will happen. The estimated jackpot may be revised to account for higher ticket sales if officials see an uptick in activity before the next drawing, he said. On Wednesday, the jackpot was bumped from $868 million to $900 million.

U.S. lottery sales totaled $77.7 billion in fiscal 2018, up about $5 billion from the previous year, according to La Fleur's Magazine, a publication focused on the lottery industry. Sales were still down, compared with 2016, when they surpassed $80 billion, according to the North American Association of State and Provincial Lotteries. In that year, lottery ticket sales eclipsed the combined total of what Americans spent on movies, video games, books, music and sports tickets.

Lottery sales, defended by state commissions as a way to help fund education and veterans programs, have drawn fire in recent years. For instance, a KPCC/LAist investigation in California “found contributions to education by the lottery are essentially unchanged from 12 years ago, even though revenues are up by billions.”

Trump takes soft stance on Saudis as outrage grows over missing journalist

3 hours 16 min ago

President Donald Trump displays posters as he talks with Saudi Crown Prince Mohammad bin Salman during a meeting in the Oval Office at the White House on March 20, 2018 in Washington, DC. MUST CREDIT: Jabin Botsford/The Washington Post (Jabin Botsford/)

WASHINGTON - As gruesome details of Jamal Khashoggi’s alleged killing and dismemberment at the hands of Saudi operatives trickled into the public domain this week, calls sounded in capitals around the globe for immediate retaliation to the apparent human rights atrocity.

But President Donald Trump has remained dogged about the bottom line.

In days of private phone calls and Oval Office huddles, Trump repeatedly has reached for reasons to protect the U.S.-Saudi relationship, according to administration officials and presidential advisers.

Trump has stressed Saudi Arabia's massive investment in U.S. weaponry and worries it could instead purchase arms from China or Russia. He has fretted about the oil-rich desert kingdom cutting off its supply of petroleum to the United States. He has warned against losing a key partner countering Iran's influence in the Middle East. He has argued that even if the United States tried to isolate the Saudis, the kingdom is too wealthy ever to be truly isolated.

And he has emphasized that although Khashoggi had been living in Virginia and wrote for The Washington Post, the dissident journalist is a Saudi citizen - the implication being that the disappearance is not necessarily the United States' problem.

Secretary of State Mike Pompeo jetted home Wednesday to Washington after hearing Saudi denials in Riyadh and Turkish accusations in Ankara that Khashoggi was killed by Saudi agents. Trump's top diplomat received a firsthand briefing from Turkish authorities but did not listen to the audio recording that Turkish officials say offers a ghastly rendering of Khashoggi's killing and proves he was murdered inside the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul.

Pompeo also did not offer reporters traveling with him any deeper clarity into how the Trump administration would address the conflicting accounts, but suggested any possible U.S. response would weigh its "important relations" with Saudi Arabia.

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo meets with the Saudi Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman in Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, Tuesday Oct. 16, 2018. Pompeo also met on Tuesday with Saudi King Salman over the disappearance and alleged slaying of Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi, who vanished two weeks ago during a visit to the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. (Leah Millis/Pool via AP) (Leah Mills/)

Trump said his administration has asked for an audio recording “if it exists,” expressing doubt about the evidence. U.S. intelligence officials, speaking on condition of anonymity to discuss sensitive matters, said they had no reason to doubt that Turkey has an audio recording proving what officials claim. But the lack of a review by U.S. analysts makes it difficult for the administration to offer an independent assessment about who may be responsible for Khashoggi’s murder, the officials said.

Meanwhile, Senate Foreign Relations Committee Chairman Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said the administration had "clamped down" on sharing intelligence about the Khashoggi case. He said an intelligence briefing scheduled for Tuesday was canceled and he was told no additional intelligence would be shared with the Senate for now, a move he called "disappointing."

"I can only surmise that probably the intel is not painting a pretty picture as it relates to Saudi Arabia," Corker said. Based on the earlier intelligence he had reviewed, he added, "Everything points not to just Saudi Arabia, but to MBS," referring to Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman. "This could not have happened without his approval."

The Khashoggi episode has seen a two-week cycle of delay and deterrence on the part of Trump, a president known to act on his impulses.

Trump repeatedly has insisted on an unhurried response and largely has followed the cautious counsel of Pompeo, now one of his most trusted confidants. A senior White House official said that Trump dispatching Pompeo to Saudi Arabia showed how seriously he is taking the issue.

National security adviser John Bolton and, to a lesser extent, senior adviser Jared Kushner also have helped shape Trump's Saudi strategy. Kushner, who has cultivated a close relationship with the prince, has emphasized internally the importance of Saudi Arabia to prospects for Middle East peace, officials said.

The hesitation and friendly engagement with the Saudis has underscored Trump's view of American power: a transactional approach that prioritizes geopolitics and economic interests over human rights and democracy.

Explaining the administration's position, former House Speaker Newt Gingrich, R-Ga., said: "People would like to see something done because it's horrific. But it's not bad enough to make the Iranians happy and screw up the global economy. Who is going to put this high enough on the list of priorities that it suddenly overwhelms everything else that is going on?"

After a Monday call with King Salman, Trump first floated the idea that "rogue killers" somehow may have broken into the Saudi Consulate and murdered Khashoggi. And after Pompeo was photographed Tuesday morning smiling with Saudi monarchs in one of Riyadh's ornate palaces, Trump went so far as to cast the royals as victims of a global push to make them culpable.

"Here we go again with, you know, you're guilty until proven innocent. I don't like that," Trump told the Associated Press on Tuesday, invoking a comparison with sexual-assault allegations against Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

Marc Short, who ran legislative affairs in Trump's White House until departing this summer, said, "Saudi Arabia has created a real problem for itself."

"Our condemnation should be unequivocal," Short said. But he said the relationship is complicated, as it has been for previous administrations. "I think he's more concerned about the strategic alliance than anything else," he said of Trump.

A chorus of lawmakers, including some prominent Republicans, argued this week for more forceful action.

"Just because a country we're working with did it doesn't mean the U.S. can just shrug its shoulder and say, well, nothing happened here," Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., said Tuesday on CNN. "Human rights is worth blowing that up, and luring someone into a consulate where they're there by murdered, dismembered and disposed of is a big deal."

The Senate could enact sanctions against Saudi Arabia even if Trump objects, just as it did last year in passing sanctions against Russia with a veto-proof 98-2 vote.

"If [the Saudis] try to stonewall what happened or provide excuses that simply aren't credible, this isn't just up to the president to decide," said Leon Panetta, who served as defense secretary and CIA director in the Obama administration. "I think the Congress will step forward and take steps that will in fact damage the relationship."

Trump has long viewed his relationship with the Saudis through the prism of money. He regularly boasts of Saudi's commitment to buy $110 billion in U.S. arms, though that figure is misleading because it includes agreements reached by the Obama administration as well as sales that may not materialize for many years, if ever.

At a recent fundraiser at the Trump International Hotel in Washington for the Protect the House committee, Trump complimented Riyadh on being pretty and claimed the Saudis had spent $50 million cleaning it for his arrival. He also complained about how much the United States spends to support Saudi Arabia, according to an attendee.

"Ah, those schmucks," the attendee recalled Trump saying, noting that he elicited laughter from the audience.

Back in August, Trump told a group of chief executives at a dinner at his golf course in Bedminster, New Jersey, that he had told Saudi officials - whom he called his "friends in the Gulf" - that the United States was protecting them and therefore should not have to pay such high prices for oil, according to someone in attendance. Trump singled out oil baron Harold Hamm for his opinion, and Hamm said the oil supply needed to grow for prices to drop, the attendee said.

A Turkish forensic officer arrives at the Saudi consulate to conduct a new search over the disappearance and alleged slaying of Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi, in Istanbul, early Thursday, Oct. 18, 2018. Pro-government newspaper Yeni Safak on Wednesday said it had obtained audio recordings of the alleged killing of Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi inside the Saudi Arabia's consulate in Istanbul on Oct. 2. (AP Photo/Emrah Gurel) (Emrah Gurel/)

Dan Eberhart, an oil executive and prominent GOP donor who did not attend either gathering, said that while some lawmakers are demanding the administration sanction Saudi Arabia, Trump is fixated on keeping oil prices down and therefore hesitant to act.

"The U.S. is counting on Saudi Arabia to make up for the drop in Iranian production and cover for the Venezuela situation," Eberhart said. "The Saudis may not be in the mood for either if the U.S. cancels arms sales or initiates sanctions."

Trump's personal financial ties to Saudi Arabia are coming under scrutiny as well. The president falsely claimed in a tweet Tuesday that he has "no financial interests in Saudi Arabia," even though his real estate business has sold properties to wealthy Saudis, and Saudi visitors have stayed at his hotels while he has been president.

A group of Democratic senators on Wednesday called for a full disclosure of Trump-Saudi transactions and for freezing all business during the Khashoggi investigation.

With pressure mounting to punish Riyadh, the president is exercising an uncharacteristic amount of caution. And for Trump, the Saudi arms purchases are top of mind.

"The president is trying to introduce a little calm into this, to wait and see who's directly responsible," said Rudolph Giuliani, Trump's private attorney. "While he makes clear he doesn't approve of what has happened, it's complicated because this isn't a pure enemy he's dealing with, like if Iran did it . . . He sees those contracts out there with Saudi Arabia as not just money, but jobs."

Giuliani said Trump is not naive about Mohammed's authoritarian moves to consolidate power inside his kingdom, recalling that the president privately expressed concern about the crown prince's methods after he jailed a number of critics and royal family members last November.

"I know the bloom is off the rose with the crown prince," Giuliani said. "The president way back then started to have a more complex view of him."

In floating the notion of "rogue killers" and defending Saudi monarchs this week, Trump broke with key U.S. allies who have been united in emphasizing grave concerns about the missing journalist and calling on the Saudi regime to provide clear answers.

"European leaders were clear in their joint call for journalistic freedom, a credible investigation and accountability for any wrongdoing," said Amanda Sloat, a Europe scholar at the Brookings Institution. "In stark contrast, the American president chose to parrot Saudi denials and pitch an unsubstantiated and improbable explanation."

Trump's openness to accepting a rogue-killing theory threatens to solidify suspicions that the president would accept far-flung conspiracy theories if they prove convenient.

"Europeans see the President Trump as willing to brazenly bend the truth to accomplish his objectives, without any sense of shame or fear of discovery," said Jeremy Shapiro, research director at the European Council on Foreign Relations.

Gingrich said Trump is trying to find a balance.

"Trump is good enough reading this to know you can't have people going around the planet cutting people up," he said. "But the U.S. almost certainly won't go through self-flagellation like some in Congress want us to because it's not in our self-interest."

The Post’s Shane Harris, John Hudson and Carol D. Leonnig contributed to this report.

As Florida Panhandle residents return to find their homes gone, authorities battle looters

3 hours 25 min ago

MEXICO BEACH, Fla. — With stunned faces and tears, residents of hard-hit Mexico Beach returned home for the first time Wednesday about a week after Hurricane Michael hit to find pieces of their lives scattered across the sand and a community altered.

Nancy Register sobbed uncontrollably after finding no trace of the large camper where she'd lived with her husband. She was particularly distraught over the loss of an old, black-and-white photo of her mother, who died of cancer.

Husband Taylor Register said he found nothing but a stool that he uses for cutting his hair, a hose and a keepsake rock that was given to him by a friend 40 years ago.

"That's my belongings," he said, pointing to a small pile beside his red pickup truck. Choking up, he said: "I appreciate God humbling me. Everybody needs it."

Just up the road, tears ran down Lanie Eden's face as she and husband Ron Eden sifted through sand in search of items they left before evacuating from the small beach house they've rented each October for years. They didn't find much - just a large pack of toilet paper that somehow stayed dry and a son's camp chair.

The Edens, who are from Fort Knox, Kentucky, and are temporarily staying in Alabama, were stunned to see mountains of debris and countless destroyed buildings as they drove into town for the first time. In a state of condominium towers, Mexico Beach was one of the few remaining places with small houses and a 1950s feel.

"Basically, we lost 'old Florida.' It's all gone," said Lanie Eden.

Residents among the community of about 1,200 people who rode out the storm at home have been in Mexico Beach since Michael hit. But officials used the city’s Facebook page to tell others to stay away for a week after the Category 4 storm ravaged the beach town with 155 mph winds and a strong storm surge.

State emergency management officials said some 124,500 customers across the Panhandle were still without power Wednesday morning and 1,157 remained in shelters.

In Bay County, home to Mexico Beach and Panama City, more than half of the households and businesses remained without electricity. Inland, in Calhoun County, 98 percent of the customers didn't have power Wednesday morning, according to the emergency management website. And in Jackson County, which borders Alabama and Georgia, about 83 percent were without power.

In the meantime, in many areas devastated by the hurricane, law enforcement officials are battling looting of homes and businesses.

Bay County Sheriff's Maj. Jimmy Stanford said deputies have arrested about 10 looters each night since the storm hit. In some parts of the county, residents have spray-painted signs warning that "looters will be shot."

Panama City resident Wes Allen said looters have been a constant problem at the badly damaged motel where he is staying with his wife and three children. Residents have formed a nighttime patrol to keep an eye out for thieves.

"We've got looters breaking in and stealing whatever they can," he said. Allen said he hasn't reported the thefts to police because authorities seem so busy with other things.

Often the looters have been armed, Stanford said.

"Most of our officers lost their homes, have been working 16- to 18-hour shifts with no sleep, no shower, and now they're encountering armed individuals," he said. "It's a stressful time for everyone in Bay County."

The storm killed at least 16 people in Florida, most of them in the coastal county that took a direct hit from the storm, state emergency authorities announced Tuesday. That's in addition to at least 10 deaths in Georgia, North Carolina and Virginia.

The state's tally did not provide details of how the victims' deaths were storm-related, and The Associated Press was not immediately able to confirm those details for all of them. The AP's tally of deaths, in which authorities have confirmed details of how people died, stood at eight in Florida, and 18 overall including other states.

In Mexico Beach, what had been a town of about 1,200, residents don't expect power or anything else anytime soon.

Carlton Hundley, 25, returned to the house he rented with his girlfriend Connie Huff to find nothing but a long pile of shattered wood. What few possessions they found, including one of his shoes, were scattered across the ground.

"I knew it was bad, I'd already seen the pictures. But it's a lot more than I thought," he said.

Roxie Cline, 65, was overcome with emotion as she tried to describe the destruction in Mexico Beach, where she and her husband had lived for three years.

"I can't, I can't," she said, tearing up. "It's devastating. You lose everything. Everybody has."


Associated Press writers Brendan Farrington in Tallahassee, Florida, and Freida Frisaro in Miami contributed to this report.

Ask Amy: The wedding’s a year away; the nightmare has begun

Wed, 2018-10-17 21:58

Dear Amy: My daughter is getting married in a year. The wedding is a long way off, but the nightmares are already beginning.

My daughter isn't the problem, but my mother is! When I got married my mother informed me it was NOT my wedding, but a celebration she was putting together and therefore she would call all the shots, which she did.

I barely remember any of it because I really wasn't involved in the planning.

Now she is starting this with my daughter.

We live about 2,000 miles away from my mom, at my husband's insistence. My daughter flew there to check out a grad program and stayed with my mom. While there, mom took her dress shopping and BOUGHT her dress. It is not even something my daughter likes, so I called the shop later, and the dress was canceled.

Right now, my daughter and her fiancé want to elope. I'm fine with that but I know my daughter wants a nice wedding with family. I told her that if they want to elope I will support that and we'll have a HUGE reception when they return.

I feel they are being short-changed, but no one can stand mom's interference. Trust me, if you knew her, you would know there is no talking to her. What can we do?

-- Desperate

Dear Desperate: If there is simply no talking to your mother, then I vote for not talking to her.

Your daughter and her guy should have the wedding they want to have, without interference from her grandmother, or you. So far, you seem to be a prime mover regarding your daughter's plans -- calling to cancel her dress and communicating your own interpretation of what your daughter wants.

So yes, elopement might be the best idea for them, but if they do decide to host a wedding, the couple should not share any details with your mother (nor should you discuss this wedding with her).

They should limit their communication with her to an invitation. They should not accept any money from her (this puts her in a power position), and should only say that they hope she can make the journey to attend the ceremony. If your mother can't handle this, she might choose to stay home, which I assume might be a relief for everyone.

You seem to have developed survival skills, but not necessarily boundary-keeping skills. I suggest you work on your own boundary setting, and continue to explore the (negative) lessons your mother has taught you.

Dear Amy: I have two cousins -- they are sisters, who are not on speaking terms with each other. They are both in their 50s and haven’t spoken to each other for a few years. Their dispute came about after they divided up their parents' estate. I have tried to stay on good terms with both of them.

Recently, I found out from the daughter of one of these cousins that their mother has terminal cancer.

I've been asked to keep this information private, as the cousin with cancer doesn't want her sister to know about it. I have honored her wish, but it makes me feel conflicted because these sisters may never have a chance to have a better relationship before the one with cancer passes away.

What would you do?

-- Conflicted

Dear Conflicted: I would respect the privacy of the person with a terminal illness -- even if I didn't agree with her choice.

Of course, this places you in a tough spot, and you might want to continue to encourage the ill sister and her family to reconsider her choice. But it is not up to you to try to orchestrate a sick-bed reunion between two people who do not want to reunite.

Dear Amy: I was annoyed by “Too Old for Drama’s” proclamation that because she is “a very strong, independent woman,” she has no need for friendship.

I too am a strong, independent woman, with many treasured friends.

Having friends does not make you weak or needy; strength and independence appear in people with three friends, 100 friends or no friends.

No one is obligated to remain friends with someone who takes all the energy and fun from things, but please don't equate needing companionship with being of weak moral character. It simply isn't true.

-- Good Friend

Dear Friend: I also noticed this person’s characterization, and implication that “strong, independent” people don’t necessarily need friendships.

Having and keeping friends is definitely something that strong and independent people do.

Secret report says Anchorage police botched investigation into drug dealing by Alaska National Guard recruiters

Wed, 2018-10-17 21:54


An Army National Guard recruiter told police he served as "the main contact" into a Mexican drug ring operating in Alaska's largest city. He said he transported cocaine and marijuana using National Guard vehicles and sold them while on duty.

But Anchorage police mishandled the resulting investigation into accusations of drug sales and sexual assaults by National Guard members, according to a secret, city-funded investigation that became public for the first time this week.

The 97-page report, which was completed March 15, 2015, portrays a cozy relationship between some members of the police department and National Guard leadership and alleges misdeeds by former Guard officials and Anchorage police leaders alike.

The Anchorage Daily News and KTUU-Channel 2 went to court to unlock the report and make it public. A federal judge agreed to unseal the investigation, which has become a pivotal document in a civil trial that began Monday.

Among the revelations in the report, written by retired Pennsylvania state police Lt. Col. Rick Brown:

• Within three days of learning that a Guard recruiter admitted to illegally selling drugs with the use of National Guard resources, police revealed key details of the investigation to the head of the National Guard in violation of APD policies and over the objections of some officers. The Alaska National Guard commander at the time — Maj. Gen. Thomas Katkus — was also a retired Anchorage police captain and a potential target in the investigation.

• In 2013, Anchorage Police Chief Mark Mew asked the FBI to launch an investigation into Maj. Gen. Katkus for potentially interfering with the police department's drug investigation into Guard members.

• An Anchorage police sergeant claimed a drug trafficking organization with ties to the Mexican cartel La Familia supplied the drugs sold by a Guard recruiter. One or more sources in the fledgling drug investigation told police of plans for Alaska National Guard members to "start sticking drugs on the AKNG aircraft."

• Anchorage police opened as many as 27 cases related to sexual assault and the Alaska National Guard, dating back to 2004. A Guard member who told police she was sexually assaulted by a Guard member said she didn't know who she could trust due to the web of connections among Alaska National Guard and APD personnel.

A federal judge unsealed a redacted version of the confidential report Tuesday in response to the Daily News and KTUU court filings and the judge's order. The news organizations argued the public should have access to allegations of wrongdoing by high-ranking public officials.

[Read the first half of the report here. Read the second half here.]

The Brown report served as the grounds for the secret suspension of former Anchorage Police Chief Mew in 2015. Brown concluded that Mew failed to launch an internal investigation into apparent police misconduct and, by attempting to rely on the FBI, "abdicated his authority" to determine if his officers were involved in wrong-doing.

The report also led to the firing of police Lt. Anthony Henry, who colleagues accused of revealing confidential details of the police department's investigation to the commander of the Alaska National Guard.

Lt. Henry's firing sparked an expensive, drawn-out lawsuit that has culminated in the jury trial that began Monday in U.S. District Court in Anchorage. Henry claims he was wrongfully terminated and the target of retaliation from police leadership for actions he said he took to protect a co-worker against discrimination based on a disability.

Henry's attorneys call the Brown report — which concluded that Henry violated APD policies —  false and salacious. The city fought the public release of the Brown report, saying it contained sensitive information, and continues to object to it being made public, even in its redacted form.

The Brown report describes a fizzled investigation, fearful sexual assault victims and finger-pointing among law enforcement amid Alaska's National Guard scandal. Here is what it says.

Investigation began in a parking lot

On Feb. 23, 2010, an Anchorage police officer spotted a drug deal going down in the Costco parking lot on DeBarr Road in East Anchorage. When police stopped the driver's car, "a large amount of powder cocaine" fell from the driver's pants.

The driver faced felony drug charges. He began to talk. The boyfriend of an Alaska National Guard member, he connected police to a Guard recruiter.

The recruiter admitted to "transporting drugs on AKNG (Alaska National Guard) work time and in AKNG vehicles," the report says. The recruiter agreed to cooperate as a police informant but asked that investigators refrain from telling his employers at the National Guard.

The investigators, members of APD's Special Assignment Unit, agreed. But their commander, Lt. Henry, soon told them it was a promise they could not keep, the Brown report alleges.

Multiple police officers at APD were also Alaska National Guard members, and soon word of conversations at the police department about a drug-dealing Guard recruiter made their way to Maj. Gen. Katkus, the former police captain. (Some interviewees told Brown that Katkus was alarmed to hear that Anchorage police implied he could not be trusted as the investigation began.)

[Support local journalism in Alaska. Subscribe to the Anchorage Daily News /]

A meeting was arranged for Feb. 26 at the Alaska National Guard. One of Henry's Special Assignment Unit members, Officer Jack Carson, said Henry forced him to reveal the identity of the recruiter as well as other Guard members suspected of being involved in or knowing about illegal drug trafficking.

Contrary to the suspicions of other investigators, Henry later told investigators that there did not appear to be a "cell" of Alaska National Guard members selling drugs, and that one recruiter simply seemed to be "selling dope on the side." He said he did not arrange a meeting with his Special Assignment Unit and Alaska National Guard leaders.

Maj. General Tom Katkus on board a C-130, Dec. 1, 2012. (Loren Holmes / ADN file)

For his part, Katkus told a police internal-affairs investigator that he specifically told law enforcement officials that they should not provide him with specifics of their investigation.

But an FBI special agent working with Anchorage police said he was blown away by the allegation from members of Henry's team that APD told National Guard commanders about their new investigation into the Guard.

FBI Special Agent Steve Payne said, "Any squared away police officer, regardless of whether they were a detective or not, should have known better than to compromise their informant," according to the report.

The FBI agent said that prematurely notifying the Alaska National Guard commanders of the inquiry  — when they were potentially part of the problem — later made the case "impossible to solve."

'Lay low'

The source of drugs for the Guard member who told police he transported drugs in Guard vehicles was a civilian, the report said. According to the Brown report, police believed the civilian had connections to California, "and AKNG members were going to start sticking drugs on the AKNG aircraft."

Meantime, also in 2010, another Guard member reached out to police with new information. This is the point, officers told Brown, when the investigation began to include reports of sexual assault within the Alaska National Guard.

The Guard member told police that Gen. Katkus "went to the Army Guard recruiters and told them to lay low" and that "the police were looking at them" following the initial meetings between Anchorage police and the Guard.

The Guard member said he knew the identities of four women who said they were sexually assaulted by members of the Alaska National Guard. He said he drove one of the women, a Guard member herself, to the Anchorage Police Department to report the assault.

That woman later told an investigator that she believed the National Guard tried to learn her identity and lost confidence in the police department as a result.

Officer Seth McMillan, a member of the APD Special Assignment Unit led by Lt. Henry, arranged to talk with one of the Alaska National Guard recruiter suspects on June 3, 2010. The meeting didn't go well.

[From 2014: National Guard documents detail chronic misconduct among recruiting leaders]

McMillan believed the recruiter planned to reveal details of criminal activity within the Guard. Instead the recruiter seemed to be trying to pump the police officer for information about the Anchorage police and FBI investigation, McMillan said.

[Report calls for apology, accountability for toxic culture at Alaska National Guard]

When McMillan returned to Anchorage police headquarters, he said he was called into Henry's office "and questioned why he was still looking into the AKNG," the Brown report says.

Henry said Maj. Gen. Katkus wanted to know the name of McMillan's source of information from within the National Guard. McMillan said he argued that it might not be a good idea to reveal the name to the general.

Henry ordered him to do so anyway, according to the report. Henry denies that assertion.

Katkus later told investigators that he was not trying to get the names of sexual assault victims for his own purposes, but wanted to ensure that victims "received assistance and were all accounted for," according to the report.

Carson, another member of Henry's team, said that the investigation into National Guard drug dealing fizzled when Henry told them to stop looking into the matter and because McMillan had been forced to reveal the name of the informant who claimed to have information on sexual assaults. Henry disputed Carson's accusations and said Carson had "an ax to grind" against Henry.

Police penalized, no charges against Guard members

In 2014, the National Guard scandal became a political liability for Gov. Sean Parnell, who lost re-election to Bill Walker.

Parnell had requested a federal investigation into the Alaska National Guard that found "several instances of fraud," "actual and perceived favoritism, ethical misconduct and that the Alaska National Guard was "not properly administering justice."

Upon release of that report, Parnell sought and received Katkus' resignation as Guard commander and commissioner for Alaska's Division of Military and Veteran Affairs.

Henry was fired but is fighting back in the federal civil case that went to trial this week.

In opening arguments, Meg Simonian, a defense attorney for Henry, called the Brown report a "sham" and a "hit job." She asserted that Brown was not a truly independent investigator and was part of a broader effort by Henry's commanders to set him up. She also complained that City Hall officials who fired Henry did not read the report in its entirety.

Former Anchorage Police Chief Mark Mew, Jan. 29, 2015. (Bob Hallinen / ADN)

The city suspended Mew for two weeks, with Brown saying the police chief violated department regulations and procedures related to internal investigations. Brown said it was "unreasonable" for Mew to fail to launch an investigation into Henry's conduct.

The police chief's punishment remained secret — as did the existence of the Brown report — for more than two years. The suspension only became known when a civil lawsuit brought by two former minority Anchorage police officers, Alvin Kennedy and Eliezer Feliciano, claimed they were subjected to a hostile work environment.

Mew told Brown that he had not launched an internal investigation into Henry in part because city attorneys had told him pursuit of Henry on other matters might look like retaliation because of ongoing civil matters. Mew said he faced three conflicting pressures when it came to Henry at that time: "competing criminal investigations, Office of Equal Opportunity rules and the Kennedy-Feliciano lawsuit."

The secrecy surrounding the Mew suspension and Brown report raised questions about the balance between employees' rights to privacy and the public's right to know when officials are accused of misconduct.

Anchorage Assembly members took steps to prevent a secret suspension from happening again.

In September 2017, after learning of Mew's suspension from media reports, the Anchorage Assembly revised city laws that relate to disclosure of personnel matters. Now, if the city takes disciplinary action for high-level executives, including the police chiefs, the Assembly has to be told within a month.

Along with calling for punishment of Chief Mew and Lt. Henry, the Brown report also recommended that Anchorage police make a series of policy changes to prevent similar problems in the future. It is unclear if those changes occurred.

Among the recommendations, Brown urged the department to make recordings of all sexual assault complaints and to create an agreement with the Alaska National Guard on a policy that "clearly establishes the respective lines of responsibility and authority when an AKNG member desires to report that he or she was the victim of the crime."

Current Anchorage Police Chief Justin Doll, through a spokesman, said he could not comment on details of the report or police policy due to the ongoing Henry civil trial.

"Today, APD is under new leadership, and I can say with certainty APD takes any allegations of misconduct seriously and any substantiated misconduct will not be tolerated," Doll said in a written statement.

Public records show that the former Army National Guard member described in the Brown report as "E.P." — the recruiter who told police he transported drugs on Alaska National Guard vehicles and sold drugs on duty — has not been charged with any related crime. The recruiter was eventually discharged from the Guard, according to an Alaska National Guard spokeswoman.

The spokeswoman said she would need more time to respond to detailed questions about the Brown report because she and other Guard officials had not seen the report until the Daily News provided a copy on Wednesday.

The ADN's Devin Kelly contributed to this report. 

After Mallott resignation, Walker’s campaign recasts itself with less than 3 weeks to election

Wed, 2018-10-17 21:28

Lt. Gov. Valerie Davidson and Gov. Bill Walker listen to tribal members during the 7th annual AFN-NCAI Tribal Conference at the Egan Center on Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018. (Bill Roth / ADN)

Gov. Bill Walker's re-election campaign has started to recast itself after the sudden resignation of former Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott on Tuesday, three weeks from Election Day.

Away went photographs of Mallott from the campaign's website. Away went the biography about Mallott's family and career. Away went his name from the campaign's logo that now simply reads "Walker" on the site.

But scrubbing Mallott out of the campaign is complicated. Not only does Mallott's name remain on plenty of campaign material, including signs across the state, but Mallott also resigned too late to remove his name from the Nov. 6 ballots. So when Alaska voters head to the polls — and 20,000 ballots have already been sent out — Mallott will still appear there as Walker's running mate.

Even before Mallott resigned over unspecified "inappropriate comments" he made to a woman, Walker was already locked in a tough race for re-election. He's up against former U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, a Democrat, and former state Sen. Mike Dunleavy, a Republican. Libertarian candidate Billy Toien is also running for governor.

Walker supporters and people in Alaska's political sphere speculated Wednesday about whether or how Mallott's resignation would impact Walker's campaign. Some supporters of the Walker-Mallott ticket said they will still vote to re-elect the governor. Some had questions about what the change means.

Mallott has not yet made any public comments about stepping down, aside from those in his resignation letter that was released by the governor's office Tuesday. A large Walker-Mallott campaign sign remained outside his house in Juneau, The Associated Press reported on Wednesday.

Walker's campaign staff spent a lot of time on the phone Wednesday with the Alaska Public Offices Commission and the Alaska Division of Elections to understand how to best incorporate the new lieutenant governor, Valerie Nurr'araaluk Davidson, into the campaign, said Walker's campaign manager John-Henry Heckendorn.

If Walker is re-elected, he would name Davidson his lieutenant governor, Heckendorn said. Davidson was sworn in as lieutenant governor Tuesday after Mallott's resignation. She previously served as commissioner of the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services.

"We can't really get into the functionality of designing logos and re-branding until we decide from a legalistic standpoint what the options are," Heckendorn said. "The path that I think we're going down is making it really clear that a vote for Walker-Mallott is a vote for Walker-Davidson, telling Val's story and making sure that it's clear how incredible she is."

Walker and Davidson were together Wednesday afternoon at the Egan Center in downtown Anchorage for the annual tribal conference organized by the Alaska Federation of Natives and the National Congress of American Indians. Both spoke to a room full of people whom Mallott had originally been scheduled to address.

Outside the event, Walker had confirmed to reporters that he plans to stay in the governor's race. Asked what Mallott's name on the ballot means for going forward with the campaign, Walker said: "We have more work to do."

Mallott's resignation will absolutely impact the governor's race, said Jay Parmley, executive director of the Alaska Democratic Party. He said he didn't see any way it wouldn't. It complicates messaging, he said, and the Walker campaign must now explain why Mallott's name remains on the ballot, and what a vote for the Walker-Mallott ticket actually means.

"It requires an explanation, and you don't do that easily in a 30-second sound bite," Parmley said.

'It's bad to lose your running mate'

Mallott's name will still appear on the ballot because the ballot had already been certified and printed by Tuesday, and the elections division had already sent more than 20,000 ballots out to voters, according to the division.

Under state law, candidates must withdraw at least 64 days before the election, the division said in a statement Tuesday. If Walker is re-elected, Mallott will technically be re-elected along with him. However, given his resignation, Walker would be able to appoint a lieutenant governor, the division said.

Walker would appoint Davidson, according to Heckendorn.

"It's bad to lose your running mate, I lost my running mate," said Andrew Halcro, executive director of the Anchorage Community Development Authority. He was referring to his 2006 run for governor, when his running mate Ken Lancaster dropped out due to health reasons. "It's worse to lose your running mate after the ballots are printed."

Parmley, who is supporting Begich in the election, said he hopes Walker drops out of the race.

Dunleavy has been leading in polls, and there have been concerns among some Democrats that Begich and Walker will split the vote, handing a win to Dunleavy.

Parmley said he did see a path to victory for Begich, but not Walker.

"You hate to kick people when they're down but the fact of the matter is the governor can't win," he said. "I felt that way for a long time, this just crystallizes it."

At this crucial point in the campaign, "there's not a lot of persuadable people," said Matt Larkin, a political consultant who does work for Dunleavy for Alaska, an independent expenditure group that supports Dunleavy.

"I'm not sure this really changes much. If it benefits any of the Walker opponents, I think it benefits Mark Begich," Larkin said.

As speculation swirled Tuesday about what Mallott's resignation meant for Walker's campaign and Begich's campaign, Parmley said he got a call from Begich. Begich told him that any rumors that he would serve as lieutenant governor under Walker weren't true, according to Parmley.

"He put that rumor to bed, there's no deal, there's never been a deal," Parmley said.

Begich's campaign manager, Nora Morse, did not return phone calls Tuesday and Wednesday, and did not answer specific questions sent by text message about whether Walker and Begich had been in talks about a path forward, as Heckendorn had said Tuesday.

Heckendorn said those conversations were unrelated to Mallott's resignation.

Begich was in Ketchikan Wednesday to speak at a convention and also told the Ketchikan Daily News that the conversations happened before the resignation. He said nothing had changed about his campaign.

"We know November sixth is around the corner so we ain't stopping," Begich told the newspaper. "… Nothing has changed with our campaign; we are full steam ahead."

Morse pointed reporters to a statement on the Begich campaign's Facebook page posted Wednesday. Begich said in the statement he was shocked and saddened to hear about Mallott's resignation. He said he believed accepting the resignation and replacing Mallott was appropriate.

"There must be a zero tolerance policy for inappropriate behavior of any kind from our elected leaders," Begich said in the statement.

Dunleavy said in a statement Tuesday that his campaign remained "focused on restoring trust in state government." His campaign, he said, "has always been about the people of Alaska, not politicians."

'Bill and Byron show'

The most likely outcome after Mallott's resignation is that both Walker and Begich continue forward with their campaigns, Alaska Republican Party chairman Tuckerman Babcock said on Wednesday.

"I certainly hope it doesn't result in a bunch of scheming, plotting, manipulating the process behind the scenes to figure out how to win an election," he said.

"Up until yesterday it was the Bill and Byron show," Babcock said, calling that a "strong team that dissolved overnight."

"That puts him in an awkward spot to try to get re-elected," he said.

Walker, a Republican-turned-independent, and Mallott, a Democrat, teamed up in the 2014 election, merging their campaigns. Mallott, who had won the Democratic nomination for governor, stepped off the ticket to support Walker and run for the lieutenant governor spot instead. Walker and Mallott won that year's election on what they called a unity ticket.

Babcock said he also thinks Alaskans should be told what Mallott's comments were.

Walker has described Mallott's comments as "inappropriate overtures," but would not specify Wednesday what that meant.

"We're just not going to elaborate much further on what we've said," Walker said. "Really trying to be respectful of the individual involved, the victim that, has requested that, you know, we be very careful. Everything we've said, we've — I've run past her."

In interviews Wednesday, some people and groups who have supported or endorsed the Walker-Mallott ticket earlier in the campaign season said they plan to continue supporting Walker's re-election bid.

That included Don Gray, a former chairman of the Alaska Democratic Party who posted a petition on in August calling for Begich to withdraw from the race. Gray said his support for the re-election of Walker remained unwavering and he was saddened to hear of Mallott's resignation.

"I'm still trying to figure all of this out. I'm very sad to hear that Byron resigned," Gray said. "To resign his office right now is really a tragedy, and I'm having a hard time understanding that."

Rep. Adam Wool, D-Fairbanks, was one of the people who signed that online petition. He said on Wednesday that Walker is still his first choice out of the three candidates.

However, he said that the resignation, "puts a bump in the path."

Halcro said Wednesday he plans to vote for Walker. He thinks Mallott's resignation will be "irrelevant" to the outcome of the race.

"People expect Walker and Begich are going to split the vote regardless of who the running mate is," Halcro said. "If the race was tighter, if Walker was closer to Dunleavy you could see where that could have an impact on the race.

Unite Alaska, the independent expenditure group that formed in support of the re-election of Walker and Mallott, is "not wavering" in its support of the governor's re-election, according to an emailed statement from Barbara Donatelli, co-chair of Unite Alaska and senior vice president at Cook Inlet Region, Inc.

Rep. David Guttenberg, a Fairbanks Democrat, also signed Gray's petition and said Wednesday he would continue to support Walker's re-election bid. He also supported Davidson as the new lieutenant governor.

"The problem was taken care of," he said. "Before it ever became public, they were proactive and did the right thing and Byron stepped aside and now they have even stronger ticket now."

Davidson was confirmed as lieutenant governor-designee earlier this April, according to the governor's office.

Guttenberg said he understood people wanted the "juicy details" of what Mallott said, but he believed the more information given out, the closer people would become to finding out the identity of the woman whom Mallott made the comments to.

"I think that one of the things that (Walker) has done in his four years in office is he's done the right thing, regardless of what people want and I think protecting the woman involved is the right thing," Guttenberg said. "Byron is gone. You move forward."

Halcro thinks both Walker and Begich are "in it 'til the end," he said Wednesday. Even if the "world changes" and the two were to somehow team up, he added, there's so little time left.

"I don't see how you get a coordinated message with three weeks to go," he said.

Some of the people at the tribal conference on Wednesday said they were saddened to hear Mallott backed out of the race, but they said it seems to have been the right step.

Richard Peterson, president of the Central Council Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes of Alaska, said he's glad Mallott did the right thing, "falling on his sword" and quickly acknowledging his mistakes.

"To be Tlingit means to be human," he said. "We're not going to ostracize him. We're going to support him."

Peterson said he's keeping his support with Walker. Davidson is a strong choice as a running mate, he said.

Phyllis Evan of Lower Kalskag said she will continue to support Walker and thinks Davidson will do a good job as his running mate.

"She's from our area. We believe in her and she's a strong leader," Evan said.

Henry Mitchell, a fisheries consultant, said he was a firm Walker-Mallott supporter. He had worked on Mallott's original campaign before Mallott quit as the Democratic Party's nominee for governor in 2014, and joined forces with Walker.

Mitchell said he's not sure where his vote will fall now, with Walker or with Begich. He's waiting to see if there's a major change in the race, such as one of those two candidates backing out of the race, to help him decide.

"I trusted his judgment and I'm saddened he dropped out," Mitchell said of Mallott. "I don't know the circumstances why."

Dennis Robinson, the vice mayor of Unalaska, said he's sticking with Walker, because of his strong support for tribal issues, including recognizing tribal sovereignty in 2017.

"It doesn't have a lot of effect on me," he said.

Marie Katcheak, who lives in Stebbins, originally named Tarpaq, said she is standing by Mallott. "He's a good man. Everyone makes mistakes. He was brave enough to let us know, and he still shines for us a terrific leader," Katcheak said.

In August, Walker-Mallott received endorsements from the Alaska AFL-CIO, the largest labor organization in the state, and the National Education Association-Alaska, an organization of more than 13,000 members who work in Alaska's public schools.

Tim Parker, president of NEA-Alaska, did not respond to messages Wednesday about whether the organization's support for Walker remained. A spokesman for NEA-ALaska said Parker was traveling.

Vince Beltrami, president of Alaska AFL-CIO, did not return calls on Wednesday.

Reporter Alex Demarban contributed.

Chugiak spikers sweep Wolfpack; Dimond fends off South; West rallies past East

Wed, 2018-10-17 21:26

Chugiak 3, West Valley 0

Chugiak got 12 kills and seven digs from Sophia Lestina in a 25-20, 25-20, 25-15 nonconference volleyball win over West Valley on Wednesday night in Chugiak.

Claire Schimmack dished 16 assists, Reyna Moore had 14 digs and Isabelle Kaltschnee notched eight kills for the Mustangs, who each recognized an inspirational teacher in their lives during a pre-match ceremony.

Dimond 3, South 1

In a meeting between a pair of powerhouse volleyball programs, Dimond took down South in four sets Tuesday night.

Alisa Pili racked up 15 kills and 19 digs, Madde Shockey had 11 blocks and six kills and Danae Stokes chipped in eight kills and eight blocks to lead the Lynx to the 25-12, 25-8, 21-25, 25-14 Cook Inlet Conference victory.

Hahni Johnson added 19 assists, 17 digs and seven kills, Reilly Plumhoff supplied 25 digs and three aces and Jalyn Osborne handed out 23 assists for Dimond.

For South, Cami Houser's 10 kills and Kylie Hurd's 20 digs led the way. Erin Doner and Hope Todd each had seven kills and Sarah Robinson came up with 14 digs for the Wolverines.

West 3, East 1

Brooke Dexter's 13 kills and eight blocks sparked West's come-from-behind victory over East on Tuesday.

The Eagles lost the first set but battled back to claim a 22-25, 25-16, 25-22, 26-24 win. Alize Taliauli provided West with three kills, three aces and 12 digs, and Filipina Mougaotega added eight digs.

East was led by Precilla Fagafaga's 17 kills and 24 digs, Tristhy Tulabot's 11 kills and Fale Aitu's 17 digs and three aces.

In tiny Bhutan, known for its pursuit of happiness, democracy brings discontent

Wed, 2018-10-17 18:47

A view of Thimphu, Bhutan's capital city. Washington Post photo by Joanna Slater (Joanna Slater/)

CHUNJE, Bhutan - It is harvest time in this village in western Bhutan, and residents are reaping an unusual crop: politicians making promises.

One politician vowed to pave the local road, now a rutted dirt track skirting a river, within three months. Another pledged to expand a nearby elementary school into a high school. A third warned against believing what the other two had said.

Within families in the village, divisions have erupted over which party to support, while partisan messages pop up daily on cellphones via a social media app called WeChat.

"In terms of peace and quiet and harmony, the old system was much better," said Chencho Dorji, 68, picking up a sheaf of rice and feeding it into a thresher.

A small Himalayan nation wedged between India and China, Bhutan is famed for its isolated location, its stunning scenery and its devotion to the principle of "Gross National Happiness," which seeks to balance economic growth with other forms of contentment.

Now Bhutan’s young democracy, only a decade old, is receiving a heady dose of the unhappiness that comes with electoral politics. In the months leading up to Thursday’s national elections, the first in five years, politicians have traded insults and made extravagant promises. Social media networks have lit up with unproven allegations and fear mongering about Bhutan’s role in the world.

Phub Tshering, a candidate for parliament for the Bhutan Peace and Prosperity Party, talks with voters Sunday. Washington Post photo by Joanna Slater (Joanna Slater/)

It's enough to make some voters express a longing for the previous system - absolute monarchy under a beloved king. "I would love to go back," said Karma Tenzin, 58, sitting in his apartment in the picturesque capital, Thimphu. "We would be more than happy."

Bhutan is roughly twice the size of New Jersey and blanketed with mountains. In Bhutanese culture, where unity is prized, the advent of democracy has been a mixed blessing.

"We feel sad with all of these social divisions," said Dorji Penjore, who heads the Center for Bhutan and Gross National Happiness Studies, a government think tank. Democracy in Bhutan is "going to work, but naturally there are going to be costs."

If any country could figure out how to be a happy democracy, Bhutan would be it. Long before there were courses in happiness studies at American universities and happiness curriculum’s in elementary schools, Bhutan led the way in placing national contentment at the heart of its policy making.

That philosophy helped Bhutan, a relatively poor country of 750,000 people, chart a unique course for its economic development. It accepts tourists but seeks to limit the flow with mandatory high fees; its constitution requires that at least 60 percent of its landmass remain forested, which has turned it into one of the only carbon-negative countries in the world.

Bhutan also had an unusual path toward democracy: Rather than voters rising up to fight for the right to elect their leaders, the country's revered fourth king, Jigme Singye Wangchuk, initiated himself the process of drafting a democratic constitution.

The way elections are structured here is atypical, too. Buddhist monks, nuns and other clergy are not allowed to vote, on the logic that they should remain outside politics. No campaigning is allowed after 6 p.m. And candidates found “defaming” their opponents or straying into certain sensitive topics - such as Bhutan’s oppressively close relationship with India - face fines or reprimands.

A child looks on as Phub Tshering campaigns in the village of Chunje, north of the town of Paro in Bhutan on Sunday. Washington Post photo by Joanna Slater (Joanna Slater/)

From the external signs, it is hard even to tell that there is an election underway. There are no campaign posters, except on easily missed public notice boards, no buses plastered with candidates' pictures and nothing resembling a lawn sign. The slogans of the two parties - "Narrowing the gap" and "Progress with equity and justice" - are not exactly fervid.

But the campaign is intense, even if the mudslinging doesn't quite register on the American scale. One party's supporters filed a complaint with the Election Commission of Bhutan arguing that their opponents had defamed them by describing their leader as "all talk and no substance." Another complaint alleged that one party's supporters had described the other party as "anti-national." In both cases, the Election Commission levied fines.

Like democracies throughout the world, Bhutan is wrestling with the effect of new technology on elections - a challenge that is particularly acute in a once-traditional society that only allowed television in 1999.

"The main challenge we face is social media," said Sonam Tobgay, a senior official at the Election Commission. A particular concern: anonymous posts by "faceless people who create disharmony in the society."

Sitting on Tobgay's desk on a recent afternoon was a letter from the government to Facebook asking it to suspend seven pages being used regularly by supporters of the two political parties contesting the election to "spread false information and hate messages."

Lotay Tshering, a urologist by training, is the president of the Druk Nyamrup Tshogpa (DNT), or Bhutan United Party, one of the two parties vying to govern Bhutan in the final round of the elections on Thursday. At a campaign event earlier this month, he was describing the insults lobbed at him on social media - including that he was a liar and a cheater - when he started to choke up.

"I was just struck by my emotions; I couldn't continue," said Tshering in an interview Tuesday. "I'm pretty sure these [insults] are engineered by my opponents."

His opponent, Pema Gyamtsho, is president of the Druk Phuensum Tshogpa (DPT), or Bhutan Peace and Prosperity Party. He, too, bemoaned the use of social media in the election to fling insults under the cover of anonymity.

"I guess that is part of the game, but we can do without it in a small society," Gyamtsho said. "Everybody should worry about division and disunity."

Those concerns are echoed on the streets of Thimphu, a capital city without a single stoplight where these days roofs are strewn with red chilies drying in the sun before they are stored for winter. "These party workers come to our houses and stoke bad feelings," said Dorji Pem, 66, in a neighborhood in the northern part of the city. "It's so irritating it makes your head burst."

Bhutan's own happiness researchers believe democracy is weighing on the country's contentedness. Penjore, of the Center for Bhutan, noted that the last quinquennial survey of the nation, in 2015, showed a decrease in two of nine indicators used to measure Gross National Happiness - psychological well-being and community vitality.

"Our intuition is democracy played a part," Penjore said. "We are assuming that it was due to party politics."

Penjore added that some aspects of democracy run up against elements of Bhutanese culture, which is deeply influenced by Buddhist precepts. The fact that candidates must flaunt their strengths and belittle their opponents is disconcerting for an older generation of Bhutanese, said Penjore. But "in democracy, to be humble is to commit electoral suicide."

Like nearly all Bhutanese politicians, Phub Tshering wears a button bearing the image of the current king and his father - a sign of the esteem with which Bhutanese view their monarchs. Washington Post photo by Joanna Slater (Joanna Slater/)

Still, both Bhutanese voters and politicians are making the switch - and some are even enjoying it. On a recent afternoon, Phub Tshering, a DPT candidate for Bhutan's parliament, began a final round of door-to-door campaigning in Chunje, a village about 12 miles north of the town of Paro.

He cheerfully stomped through fields of freshly shorn rice in the shadow of a jagged peak with flanks that rose in shades of green, ochre and slate toward a deep blue sky. His brother, an unofficial campaign aide, handed out little pouches of areca nut wrapped in betel leaf, a mild stimulant that reddens the teeth when chewed.

Around the country, the most important issues were unemployment and health care. But in Chunje, voters were worried about a shortage of drinking water, finding ways to keep wild boars out of the rice fields and the poor condition of the village road.

The real problem, according to Tshering, was that his opponent from the DNT had "told all these lies." So many lies had been told, he said, that it was "time for a counterattack from my side."

As he hopped into his car to set off for his next campaign stop, he called out a jaunty farewell. “Be happy!”

Boxing returns to Anchorage on Thursday night

Wed, 2018-10-17 18:43

Thursday Night at the Fights begins its 30th season this week with a seven-fight card at the Egan Convention Center.

Boxing and MMA fighting are both on tap, and the competition includes men, women, veterans and newcomers.

Thursday's event is the first of 21 nights of fighting between now and the end of March. Doors open at 6:30 p.m. and the first fight starts at 7:30.

Anyone interested in fighting should call matchmaker Jerry Miller (907-223-4320).

McConnell: GOP may take another shot at repealing Obamacare after the midterms

Wed, 2018-10-17 18:35

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., speaks after the Republican policy luncheon on Capitol Hill, Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon) (Alex Brandon/)

WASHINGTON - Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell , R-Ky., said Wednesday that Republicans may try once again to repeal the Affordable Care Act after the November midterm elections, reviving an issue that polls show has swung sharply in the Democrats' favor.

In an interview with Reuters, McConnell said that his party's failure last year to repeal the health-care law, also known as Obamacare, was "the one disappointment of this Congress from a Republican point of view."

"If we had the votes to completely start over, we'd do it. But that depends on what happens in a couple weeks. . . . We're not satisfied with the way Obamacare is working," McConnell said.

Republicans are optimistic about their chances of maintaining control of the Senate next month, while a Democratic takeover of the House appears increasingly likely.

Polls show health care is a top issue for voters, and many GOP candidates have begun campaigning on a longtime Democratic theme - protecting people with preexisting medical conditions - despite the fact that congressional Republicans have voted time and again to repeal the Affordable Care Act, which provides those protections.

A Washington Post-ABC News poll released Sunday showed Democrats hold an 18-point advantage over Republicans on the question of which party voters trust to do a better job of handling health care. Eighty-two percent of respondents cited health care as either "one of the single most important issues" or "a very important issue" in their vote for Congress this year.

Repealing the Affordable Care Act remains popular with the Republican base, however, and McConnell's remarks could be aimed at turning out core voters ahead of next month's election.

Democrats immediately seized on McConnell's comments, with the Democratic National Committee, the Senate Democratic campaign arm and Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., immediately sending out statements casting them as indicative of Republicans' plans to do away with protections for preexisting conditions should they retake the Senate.

"Americans should make no mistake about it: if Republicans retain the Senate they will do everything they can to take away families' health care and raise their costs, whether it be eliminating protections for pre-existing conditions, repealing the health care law, or cutting Medicare and Medicaid," Schumer said in a statement. "Americans should take Senator McConnell at his word."

Sen. Brian Schatz, D-Hawaii, said in a tweet that McConnell's statement underscores that Republicans "really are coming after your healthcare."

“I mean like they are no kidding coming after all of it - pre-existing conditions, essential health benefits - mental health, privatizing the VA - Medicare, Medicaid,” Schatz said. “They believe that more healthcare equals less liberty or something. In any case we have to vote them out.”

UAA volleyball team hopes to cool off a red-hot opponent

Wed, 2018-10-17 18:25

The nation's fourth-ranked Division II volleyball team will bring a 17-match winning streak into a Thursday night match against the Seawolves, who hope to lure a hungry Alaska Day crowd to the Alaska Airlines Center.

UAA is offering a deal good for all of its remaining home matches, but it's available for purchase only on Thursday, which is Alaska Day — the anniversary of Alaska's transfer from Russia to the United States. For $49 (a nod to Alaska eventually becoming the 49th state), you get four tickets to a match, plus four hot dogs and four sodas.

The Seawolves can use all the support they can get for the 7 p.m. match against Western Washington.

The Vikings are 17-3 overall and 12-0 in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference.

UAA (16-4, 9-3) holds down second place. Among UAA's losses are a four-set setback to Western Washington a month ago in Bellingham, Washington.

The match is the first of two GNAC matchups for the Seawolves this week. On Saturday, they face Simon Fraser (10-8, 7-5).

To get the Alaska Day deal, call 907-786-1562 or visit or on Thursday.

Letter: Thanks to Sen. Collins

Wed, 2018-10-17 18:00

I would like to thank Sen. Susan Collins for voting to confirm Judge Brett Kavanaugh. I wonder if she would move to Alaska. We need a new senator.
— Craig Lance

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.

A couple of former Alaska Baseball League players loom large in MLB playoffs

Wed, 2018-10-17 17:45

The Alaska Baseball League is well represented in the Major League Baseball playoffs.

A former player for the Mat-Su Miners is managing the Milwaukee Brewers, and a former player for the Anchorage Bucs is the president of the Houston Astros.

Craig Counsell, an infielder for the Miners in 1991, is makings things interesting in the NLCS. On Wednesday, he pulled his starting pitcher, a lefthander, after one batter and replaced him with a righthander in the hope the move would foil the Los Angeles Dodgers. It didn't, and the Dodgers lead the series, 3-2.

Reid Ryan, a pitcher for the Bucs in 1991 and 1992, has been the president of the Astros since 2013. The Astros, who are playing the Boston Red Sox in the ALCS, won last year's World Series and Ryan's dad, Hall of Fame pitcher Nolan Ryan, is Houston's executive advisor.

Entering a footrace? Please mute your late-90s pop (and other tunes)

Wed, 2018-10-17 17:33

I was running in a Bonny Sosa Tuesday Night Race recently and felt my heart rate spike. No, it wasn't a hill. It was the sound of late 90s music blaring from the hip of the runner next to me.

My brain lit into angry fireworks. No, I thought. This isn't supposed to be here. I'm supposed to be listening to the quiet thump of footfalls all around me.

I look forward to this: the thrum of community and energy accumulated in the footsteps of people who have dedicated their Tuesday night to getting outside, often with their families and friends. I know when I inevitably fall behind many of those runners, it'll just be me and the trees and dirt. Silence.

The music next to me tore into my enjoyment of the race, and surprisingly I felt myself speeding up.

"Must — avoid — (late 90s song)," I gasped as I caught up to a friend. I ran with her for a while so I could be sure I'd gotten rid of the person with the pocket-sized boombox. Eventually the music faded, and so did my anger.

Listen: I'm not a hater. I'm all for people having different methods of getting out and being in the outdoors. I know that in general a comfy couch is a more reliable and safe venue for a Tuesday night, and sometimes you need a little incentive to push yourself to do the harder but ultimately more rewarding activity.

I bait myself with friend dates, a beer, a TV show later and, yes, listening to one of my favorite pump-up jams on the way to the race. Sure, it is sometimes a bummer there are restrictions on headphones at races. But it seems like there are good safety and awareness reasons for that, and besides, I can always use a break from additional chatter between my ears. Running in relative silence is good for me.

I have tried to imagine what it would take for me to blast music from my hip during a race. At best I find it presumptuous to think I would know what 30 other runners around me want to listen to at any given moment. At worst, it's rude. By blasting whatever song I wanted, I'd basically be announcing to everyone around me that I care more about my experience than theirs.

Go ahead and call me Miss Manners, I guess. In my world that is so full of clamor — including everything from jangly pop music to yowling old folk, the advertising I experience on every given day, and the constant yammering of my own voice combined with those of my colleagues, friends and family — I need silence. Or at least something close to it.

I need the soothing sound of my own breathing, the swooshy sound of wind and the faint far-off buzz of airplanes. Especially when I'm out on a trail with other people, I don't need to feel like I'm trapped in a car with a stranger who keeps turning up the radio.

Part of sharing the outdoors is behaving in a way that doesn't impact others' experiences. And I wouldn't be writing this if it were limited to a single occasion. I've experienced it in other races and have heard from friends who have also found themselves stuck for miles next to someone playing music on a speaker.

Even with all of this indignation directed at fellow racers, I don't think avoiding speakers entirely is a universal rule. Actually, I think there are some times where playing music out loud is totally fine.

When running, biking, or even hiking alone on some trails it would make sense to use the speaker. I get that bear bells get maddening, and you can only sing so many songs aloud when you're moving fast. If you're really, truly alone, or near a noisy river, the speaker would be a good option for bear safety.

That said, I think it's the responsibility of the person playing the music to have a keen awareness of where other trail users are and to turn music off when there are other people around for a long time — someone just ahead or behind you on the trail. And again, this does not hold for most trail races where there is a critical mass of people on the trail at any given time.

I also think it's totally fun and lovely for people to blast music at aid stations. Runners breeze right through those, so even if we don't like the tunes we're not stuck with them.

Finally, if you're really all alone out there on the trail, I say play your tunes to your heart's content. If a speaker plays out on the tundra and there's no one there to hear it, it never really played at all as far as other people are concerned.

What it comes down to for me is that being outside, like anything else, is a shared resource that people use for different reasons and in different ways. I think playing music out loud in those spaces a disruption of that shared resource. Please, fellow outsdoorsy people: be considerate about your music. Especially 90s pop.

Alli Harvey lives in Palmer and plays in Southcentral Alaska.