Alaska News

Subscribe to Alaska News feed
Alaska Dispatch News News Feed
Updated: 22 min 54 sec ago

Fairbanks district attorney won’t reopen ‘extremely frustrating’ rape case against man with face tattoo

37 min 56 sec ago

After a review prompted by public outrage, the Fairbanks district attorney’s office announced Thursday it will not reopen a dismissed rape and kidnapping case against Daniel Selovich, also known as Pirate.


In this Nov. 24, 2015 photo, Daniel Lloyd Selovich, 37, of Manley Springs, is arraigned in Superior Court in Fairbanks. (AP Photo/Fairbanks Daily News-Miner, Dorothy Chomicz) (AP/)

The dismissal of a 2015 case against Selovich, who bears a distinct facial tattoo, was “extremely frustrating but appropriate under the law,” the Alaska Department of Law said in a statement.

In 2015, Selovich was charged in a brutal and high-profile case that alleged he held a woman captive at a cabin near Manley Hot Springs for five weeks of torture and sexual assault.

In July 2016, the victim died and the case was dismissed.

At the time, the then-district attorney in Fairbanks said the woman was a “necessary witness” to the case.

Pirate’s reappearance in Fairbanks in recent weeks had led to intense online tracking of the man, cases of mistaken identity and widespread requests that the district attorney revisit the decision to dismiss the case.

“Very recently, Mr. Pirate has been seen by residents in Fairbanks, prompting public inquiry and concern regarding community safety and the dismissal of the 2015 case,” the statement from the Department of Law said.

The review of the case was conducted “in response to citizens’ concerns,” according to Fairbanks district attorney Joe Dallaire in the statement.

The statement did not explain more about the legal underpinning of the decision.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.









Sitka and police detective agree to $325K settlement over demotion

45 min 16 sec ago

SITKA - The city of Sitka has agreed to pay a former detective $325,000 to settle a lawsuit in which he claimed to have been punished for speaking out about problems in the police department, officials said.

Officer Ryan Silva's lawsuit against the City and Borough of Sitka also said he was penalized for taking time off from his job for periodic Coast Guard Reserve duty, The Daily Sitka Sentinel reported.

The municipality has denied all claims and did not admit liability in the agreement settled through mediation in October, Sitka city attorney Brian Hanson said.

Silva's treatment by the city was a violation of the Uniformed Services Employment and Re-employment Rights Act, the lawsuit filed in Sitka Superior Court said.

Silva was demoted to the patrol division due to his support of a female officer about her separate complaints against the department, as well as his public discussion concerning department decisions, perceived favoritism, and other internal issues, he claimed.

Silva, Sitka Interim Municipal Administrator Hugh Bevan and the executive director of the Public Safety Employees Association representing Silva signed an agreement letter in October, officials said.

Under the terms of the settlement, the city will allow Silva to remain employed with the police department until Oct. 1, 2020, while on Coast Guard military leave. He will not receive city pay or benefits during the leave.

Silva also agreed not to work as a police officer elsewhere during his leave.

Party planning? This chocolate cake with mascarpone pumpkin frosting is even better made in advance

54 min 37 sec ago

Double-layer chocolate cake with ganache and pumpkin-mascarpone frosting. (Photo by Kim Sunée)

Chocolate layers with a hint of pumpkin in the frosting are delicious as is, but you could always add a slick of rich chocolate ganache to take it to the next level. Italian mascarpone has higher fat content than cream cheese — which you could sub in — but adds rich, creamy texture and flavor. If you have time, make this cake a day or two before serving for deeper chocolate flavor. Make sure to use the best chocolate you can find. Most supermarkets carry Lindt or Ghiradelli; for a real treat, seek out Valrhona or Callebaut.

Double-layer chocolate cake with ganache and pumpkin-mascarpone frosting

Makes 1 double-layer 9-inch round cake

4 ounces semisweet chocolate, chopped

1 cup brewed espresso

2 1/2 cups granulated sugar

2 cups all-purpose flour

1/2 cup almond meal/flour

1 1/2 cups unsweetened cocoa powder (not Dutch process)

2 teaspoons baking soda

3/4 teaspoon baking powder

1 1/4 teaspoon fine salt

3 large eggs

3/4 cup vegetable oil such as grapeseed or avocado

1 1/2 cups cream or buttermilk

1 teaspoon vanilla extract

Chocolate ganache (optional - recipe below)

Pumpkin-mascarpone frosting

1. Preheat oven to 300 degrees. Line two 9- by 2-inch round cake pans with rounds of parchment paper; grease paper and sides of pan.

2. Stir chopped chocolate with hot espresso or water in a bowl. Let stand, stirring occasionally, until chocolate is smooth and melted. In a large bowl, sift together sugar, both flours, cocoa powder, baking soda, baking powder and salt. In another large bowl (or bowl of a stand mixer), beat eggs — using an electric hand mixer if not using a stand mixer — until thickened, about 3 minutes. Slowly add in oil, buttermilk, vanilla, and the melted chocolate-espresso mixture, beating until well combined. Add sugar-flour mixture a little at a time and beat on medium speed until just combined. Divide batter evenly among prepared pans and bake in middle of oven, rotating pans halfway through, until a tester inserted in center comes out clean, about 60 to 65 minutes.

4. Cool layers in pans on cooling racks 20 minutes. Run a thin knife around edges of pans and invert cake onto racks. Carefully remove parchment paper and cool completely. Note: Cake layers can be made 1 day ahead and stored, wrapped well in plastic wrap, at room temperature.

5. Assemble cake: Place one cake layer on cake stand. Spread ganache over layer. If not using ganache, spread with a layer of frosting. Top with second cake layer. Frost top and sides with frosting. Note: Cake and frosting can be made and assembled, covered and stored in refrigerator 3 days before serving. Bring to room temperature before serving.

Ganache

1 cup (8 ounces) dark chocolate chips

½ cup heavy cream

1 tablespoon light corn syrup.

1. Combine chocolate, cream and corn syrup in a small bowl; microwave until melted. Chill, if needed, until spreadable.

Pumpkin-mascarpone frosting

2 (8-ounce) containers mascarpone cheese, cool but not cold

4 tablespoons unsalted butter, softened to room temperature

1 cup powdered sugar

1 cup heavy cream

1/3 cup canned pumpkin purée (not pumpkin pie filling)

Pinch salt

1 teaspoon pure vanilla extract or almond extract

1. In the bowl of an electric mixer, fitted with whip attachment, whip together the mascarpone, butter and powdered sugar until light and fluffy, about 3 minutes. Slowly add in cream until there are soft to medium peaks. Add pumpkin purée, salt and vanilla; blend just until combined. If frosting is very soft, let chill about 15 minutes in refrigerator before using. Frosting can be made two days in advance and stored in an airtight container in the refrigerator. Let soften a bit before using.



House Judiciary panel moves toward approval of articles of impeachment

1 hour 10 min ago

WASHINGTON - Democrats and Republicans on the House Judiciary Committee engaged in a rancorous debate over President Donald Trump’s conduct regarding Ukraine on Thursday as they moved toward approval of two articles of impeachment alleging abuse of power and obstruction of Congress.

A Republican amendment to strike the article on abuse of power was defeated 23-17 after nearly three hours of debate.

There were several nasty moments.

The top Republican on the panel, Rep. Douglas Collins of Georgia, took the unusual step of objecting to Democrats' unanimous consent requests to insert media articles into the record.

When Rep. Steve Cohen, D-Tenn., asked to submit several major newspaper editorials that called for Trump's impeachment, Collins blocked it, saying, "I want to read it."

"I'd love for him to read them," Cohen said, drawing a rebuke from Collins.

Nearly every lawmaker on the 41-member panel took the opportunity to speak, using motions to "strike the last word" to gain recognition from the chair.

Trump is just the fourth president in U.S. history to face the prospect of impeachment for alleged misconduct in office.

Congress has impeached only two presidents: Andrew Johnson in 1868 and Bill Clinton in 1998. President Richard Nixon resigned in 1974 before the House could vote on articles of impeachment in the Watergate scandal. Lawmakers drafted three articles against Nixon, including charges of "high crimes and misdemeanors" that mirror the abuse-of-power and obstruction allegations Trump now faces.

At the heart of the Democrats' case is the allegation that Trump tried to leverage a White House meeting and military aid, sought by Ukraine to combat Russian military aggression, to pressure Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky to launch an investigation of former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden, as well as a probe of an unfounded theory that Kyiv conspired with Democrats to interfere in the 2016 presidential election.

Shortly after Thursday's hearing convened at 9 a.m., Madeline Strasser, the Judiciary Committee's chief clerk, read in full the nine-page resolution that includes the two articles of impeachment.

It concludes that Trump "has demonstrated that he will remain a threat to the Constitution if allowed to remain in office, and has acted in a manner grossly incompatible with self-governance and the rule of law."

"President Trump thus warrants impeachment and trial, removal from office, and disqualification to hold and enjoy any office of honor, trust, or profit under the United States," the resolution says.

Soon after, Republicans on the committee launched their first procedural attack at the impeachment markup by protesting Chairman Jerrold Nadler's refusal to respond to a request for a minority hearing day on impeachment.

Collins asked the majority on Dec. 4 to schedule a hearing for them to call their own witnesses on behalf of Trump, citing House rules allowing for the minority to have such events on major issues.

"The House rule does not require me to schedule a hearing on a particular day," Nadler, D-N.Y. said at Thursday's hearing. "Nor does it require me to schedule the hearing as a condition precedent to taking any specific legislative action. Otherwise, the minority would have the ability to delay or block majority legislative action, which is clearly not the purpose of the rule."

Collins blasted Democrats for trampling minority rights: "Minority rights are dead in this committee."

Democrats are confident they have the votes to approve both articles, setting up votes by the full House next week before the holiday break.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., has said a trial would begin in his chamber in early January. Senate Republicans are coalescing around a strategy of holding a short impeachment trial early next year that would include no witnesses.

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., signaled Thursday that he would support a short impeachment trial in the Senate.

"If it goes over to the Senate, I don't think it should have to last too long," McCarthy said at his weekly news conference.

But such a plan could clash with Trump's desire to stage a public defense of his actions toward Ukraine that would include testimony the White House believes would damage its political rivals.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., showed no concern Thursday about the prospect of Democratic defections when impeachment comes to the House floor for a vote next week.

"This is a vote that people are going to have to come to their own conclusions on," she said at a weekly news conference. "People will vote the way they vote."

Two Democrats opposed an Oct. 31 resolution setting rules for the impeachment inquiry: Reps. Collin Peterson of Minnesota and Jeff Van Drew of New Jersey. Democratic aides believe a handful more may follow on the actual impeachment vote but nowhere near enough to imperil passage of the two articles.

During Thursday's House Judiciary Committee meeting, moderate Democrats voiced support for the articles of impeachment.

Rep. Kurt Schrader, D-Ore., said in a statement Thursday that he would support both articles of impeachment, noting that Trump's actions regarding Ukraine "were illegal and he obstructed justice by refusing to cooperate with Congressional investigations."

Trump returned to Twitter early Thursday morning to push back on Democratic efforts to impeach him. In one tweet, he said that new polls show most Americans oppose impeachment, attributing that information to the Fox News show "Fox & Friends."

Some polls in recent days have showed a slim majority opposed to removing Trump from office, but others have showed slightly more Americans in favor of removing than keeping him.

Trump weighed in deliberations again later in the morning, resurrecting a claim that military aid to Ukraine was withheld in part to try to get other nations to contribute a greater share.

"I also have constantly asked, 'Why aren't Germany, France and other European countries helping Ukraine more?'" Trump tweeted. "They are the biggest beneficiaries. Why is it always the good ol' United States? The Radical Left, Do Nothing Democrats, never mention this at their phony hearing!"

U.S. aid to Ukraine resumed without a change in levels of aid from those countries.

The president and first lady Melania Trump are scheduled to host an annual congressional ball at the White House on Thursday night. The event, listed on Trump's public schedule at 7 p.m., could provide an incentive for Republican lawmakers to wind down their efforts at the House Judiciary Committee by then.

- - -

The Washington Post’s Rachael Bade, Mike DeBonis, Karoun Demirjian and Elise Viebeck contributed to this report.

Fairbanks man bit off part of another man’s nose, charges say

1 hour 13 min ago

FAIRBANKS - A man has been charged with biting off part of the nose of a friend.

Zachary Atchley, 27, of Fairbanks, was arrested Tuesday on felony assault charges, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported. He is represented by the Alaska Public Defender Agency, which as a policy does not comment on pending cases. Public defender Justin Racette said by email Thursday that public defenders had no comment.

He is represented by the Alaska Public Defender Agency, which does not comment on pending case and which did not respond to an email request for comment Thursday.

The injured man told Alaska State Troopers he went to see Atchley and another man at about 3 a.m. Tuesday. They gathered at Atchley’s camper west of Fairbanks and began drinking hard liquor.

Atchley, the man said, approached and bit him. The man tried to leave to get medical help but Atchley took the man's coat, told him to sit and prevented him from leaving for about an hour, a criminal complaint said. Atchley also punched him in the head and neck about 10 times, the man said.

Troopers shortly after 7:30 a.m. took a 911 call from the man at the intersection of two rural roads. He had blood running from his nose and mouth and tears streaming down his face, the criminal complaint said. An ambulance transported the man to Fairbanks Memorial Hospital.

Part of the man’s left nostril and the tip of his nose were missing.

Troopers contacted Atchley and the other man at the camper. Atchley initially denied any physical altercation, troopers said, but later acknowledged biting the injured man to make him back up.

Troopers observed blood on Atchley’s T-shirt and right knuckles, troopers said.

A Mississippi mother installed a Ring camera in her children’s room for peace of mind. A hacker used it to harass her 8-year-old daughter.

2 hours 54 min ago

When Alyssa LeMay heard the strange music and sounds coming from her bedroom, she walked in expecting to find one of her sisters. But the room was empty.

Then, as the 8-year-old wandered around her room alone, the mysterious song abruptly stopped.

"Hello there," a man's voice said.

It wasn't Alyssa's father, who was elsewhere inside the family's Mississippi home. The voice belonged to a stranger. And not only could the faceless man speak to the young girl - he could see her.

In a chilling exchange caught on video last week, the LeMays say the man was able to interact with their daughter after hacking into a Ring security camera that had recently been installed in the bedroom shared by Alyssa and her two younger sisters. Over the course of several minutes, the man repeatedly directed a racial slur at Alyssa and tried to persuade her to misbehave, according to a copy of the video obtained by The Washington Post.

"I can't even put into words how badly I feel and how badly my children feel," Alyssa's mother, Ashley LeMay, told The Washington Post on Thursday. "I did the exact opposite of adding another security measure. I put them at risk and there's nothing I can do to really ease their mind. I can't tell them I know who it is. I can't tell them that they're not going to show up at our house in the middle of the night."

The LeMays, however, aren't the only people who have experienced this nightmare in recent weeks. Several Ring users nationwide have reported that their security systems were also infiltrated by hackers who harassed them through the camera's two-way talk function. (Ring is an Amazon product. Amazon Chief Executive Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.)

A spokesperson for Ring told The Post in a statement early Thursday that what happened to the LeMays "is in no way related to a breach or compromise of Ring's security." The "bad actors" behind the attacks "often re-use credentials stolen or leaked from one service on other services," the spokesperson said. Ring has addressed the other reports of hacking with similar statements.

"Customer trust is important to us and we take the security of our devices seriously," the spokesperson said.

Trust was a major factor in Ashley LeMay's decision to buy Ring cameras for her home. For two years, the 27-year-old mother of four said she talked herself out of getting indoor security cameras, citing potential privacy breaches as one of her concerns. That changed when she saw that a majority of people in her neighborhood in a small northern Mississippi community had outfitted their homes with Ring doorbells. LeMay's friend, a fellow mother, also recommended the indoor camera to her.

"It seemed like nobody had ever had any issues with it," she said. "Everybody seemed to go with that same brand, so it seemed like something that was trustworthy."

Armed with LeMay's research, the family purchased two cameras on Black Friday. LeMay said one was installed in her infant's room and the other went on the wall in the girls' bedroom.

For LeMay, who works overnight at a hospital as a laboratory scientist, the cameras not only gave her "peace of mind" but also helped her children feel safe.

"It's really neat that you could talk to them," she said. "When I would go into work, I'd be like, 'Love you, good night.' It just made them feel like I was close."

On Dec. 4, that sense of security was shattered.

Shortly after 8 p.m., both cameras started live-streaming and the Tiny Tim cover of "Tiptoe Through the Tulips," a song that famously appeared in a scene from the 2010 horror film "Insidious," poured from the speakers, LeMay said. At the time she was out running errands while her husband was home with the children.

It was this tune that first caught Alyssa's attention, the 8-year-old told WMC.

"I thought it was my sister because I hear music. It's like, 'Tiptoe to the window,' " she said. "So I come upstairs and I hear some banging noise, I was like, 'Who is that?' "

In the video recorded by the camera, the overly cheerful song is playing as Alyssa walks into the empty bedroom. The hacker's sudden greeting prompts the girl to gasp and whip her head from side to side, frantically looking for the source.

From there, the exchange takes a dark turn.

The voice begins shouting the n-word at Alyssa, who is becoming increasingly confused.

"Go tell Mommy you're a n-----," the voice commands Alyssa, who is white.

"Who is that?" Alyssa can be heard asking.

The voice responds: "I'm your best friend. You can do whatever you want right now. You can mess up your room. You can break your TV."

The young girl repeats her question, sounding distressed. At one point, she screams, "Mommy!"

"I'm your best friend. I'm Santa Claus," the voice says, later adding, "Don't you want to be my best friend?"

The conversation ends when Alyssa says, "I don't know who you are," and walks out of the room. The camera's microphone picks up audio of Alyssa telling her father what happened.

"Someone's being weird upstairs," she says.

LeMay said her husband immediately texted her and unplugged the cameras. The worst part of watching the video was seeing her daughter call out for her, she said.

"That was the most chilling part to me," LeMay said. "She's asking for my help and there's literally nothing I could do to protect her in that moment."

Although LeMay said she contacted Ring right after the frightening incident, the family had plans to leave for a cruise the next morning, and she had to wait until they returned earlier this week to start seeking answers.

The company's responses, she said, left her frustrated. Instead of answering her questions about whether the hack was done locally or by someone far away, LeMay said, a Ring representative repeatedly brought up how she didn't set up two-factor authentication as an added security measure.

"The fact that they're just continuing to give customers the same blanket statement, it's like they don't seem concerned at all," she said. "To be honest, it felt like they were trying to place the blame on me. As a mother, I already feel guilty enough that I let this happen to my family. . . . There's just no need for that."

Meanwhile, Ring users elsewhere were also being hacked. Over the weekend, a family in Cape Coral, Florida, said a man started talking to them through their camera and making racist comments about their son, asking, "Is your kid a baboon, like the monkey?" WBBH reported. On Monday, the same thing happened to a woman in Atlanta, who was screamed at while in bed, as well as a couple in Grand Prairie, Texas, who say they were threatened with a ransom demand.

But LeMay said her family's experience differs from the others.

"What's so scary to us is that this person did not care that it was a young child," she said, adding: "Whoever this was, they did not stop until we unplugged the cameras. He just would not stop."

Now, Alyssa and her sisters are afraid to sleep in their bedroom. For the past few days, the girls have been camped out in the living room, LeMay said.

“This is our first house,” the mother said. “It’s really sad to not feel safe.”

Colon cancer in Alaska: Common and completely preventable

2 hours 58 min ago

Cancer. A few decades ago it was a disease so frightening and misunderstood that people would often whisper when talking about it.

Today we’re inundated by messages about cancer, its causes and how to reduce our own risk. Certain behaviors, like smoking cigarettes, are now well known to increase cancer risk. We know that a healthy diet and regular exercise can help guard against cancer, too.

Still, there aren't many recommendations a doctor can make that come with a near-guarantee they'll help you avoid certain cancers. That’s why it’s striking to hear someone like Dr. Stephen O’Keefe address a specific disease with such a direct, simple message: Add fiber to your diet and you can pretty much kiss your risk of colon cancer goodbye.

Now O’Keefe is seeking volunteers to participate in research that could have a major impact on the leading cause of illness and mortality among Alaska Native people.

Understanding colon cancer in Alaska Native people

O’Keefe leads the Cancer Biome Group at the University of Pittsburgh Center for Medicine and the Microbiome and is the director of the African Microbiome Institute at Stellenbosch University in Cape Town, South Africa. A year and a half ago, he embarked on a new study in partnership with Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium to learn more about the epidemic of colon cancer among Alaska Native people.

“Colon cancer is devastating in the (Alaska Native) community,” O’Keefe said. “It’s the highest death rate of colon cancer in the world.”

And, he added: “It’s almost totally preventable.”

The Alaska study anticipates results similar to those seen in O’Keefe’s prior research in South Africa: If you add more fiber to the diets of Alaska Native people, those good gut bacteria will flourish to combat carcinogens like fat and smoke.

O’Keefe said he believes the traditional Alaska Native subsistence diet is “superior” in many ways, especially because of its high concentration of Omega-3 fatty acids derived from high consumption of fish and marine animals, and the high quality of meat from wild animals. But like most Americans, Alaska Native people consume low quantities of fiber-rich foods, providing about 15g per day which is much less fiber than is ideal.

The USDA currently recommends 34g/day for men and 28g/day for women -- and in fact, most Americans don’t even get that much fiber in their daily diet. Based on his research, O’Keefe said he thinks even those recommendations don’t go far enough.

“We feel that the fiber recommendations in the USA put forward by USDA … are insufficient to meet colonic needs,” O’Keefe said.

O’Keefe said he believes 50g per day is a better target. That’s the amount being administered to participants in the ANTHC study. It’s a number based on a real-world example: the traditional diet of rural South Africa, where colon cancer is very uncommon, and where O’Keefe’s work in Alaska has its roots.

From Africa to Alaska

In 2015, O’Keefe was the lead author of a study that examined the wild disparity in colon health between rural South African and African American people. While colon cancer is rare among rural South Africans, African Americans experience high rates of colorectal cancer.

"When we did colonoscopies in Africa, you very, very rarely saw polyps or diverticularity or other problems in the colon," O'Keefe said. "When we went to look at similar problems in Virginia and then Pennsylvania, if you did colonoscopies on African Americans, you were very likely to find polyps. It was a striking difference."

The difference, O'Keefe found, came down to diet. The traditional African diet includes lots of high-fiber vegetables and some lean meat; on average, African study participants consumed in excess of 50g of fiber per day. African American participants tended to eat a diet high in meat and fats and low in fiber -- an average of 14g per day.

At that point, O'Keefe's research team began looking at what effect those different diets have on "gut bacteria" -- the microbes that live in the colon.

"We began to understand the microbiota and how it might mediate risk," O'Keefe said.

The makeup of the bacteria in your colon depends on the diet you consume. When you eat a high-fiber diet, you're encouraging the growth of bacteria that degrade starches and ferment fiber to produce nutrients called short-chain fatty acids.

"The good thing about fiber fermentation products is they produce this one chemical called butyrate, which can actually antagonize these cells that are carcinogens," O'Keefe said. They can help protect the body against other kinds of cancers, too. "If you do have high intakes of fiber and produce a lot of short chain fatty acids, they're not only used by the colon itself. They're absorbed by the body and can act as inhibitors of inflammation throughout the body."

What was incredible about the South Africa study was that it indicated that dietary changes can have immediate effects -- both positive and negative.

"We switched the diets of African Americans and rural Africans, and within two weeks we showed dramatic changes in the microbiota in both groups," O’Keefe said.

Good bacteria flourished in the colons of African American participants who had switched to a high-fiber, low-fat diet, while those cancer-fighting gut microbes had quickly diminished among the rural South African subjects who’d replaced fiber with protein and fat.

“Diet, indeed, was the main driver,” O’Keefe said.

Benefits beyond colon health

Avoiding colon cancer isn’t the only reason to consider adding fiber to your diet. Short-chain fatty acids have multiple benefits. Acetate, for example, has been shown to increase insulin sensitivity, making it useful for patients with Type 2 diabetes, according to O’Keefe.

But that’s not all.

“It’s even more powerful than that,” O’Keefe said. “If you take a fiber-rich diet … (you reduce risk of) about nine other common cancers in westernized society, such as breast cancer, liver cancer, and lung cancer.” Cancer mortality in general is lower among people who follow a plant-based diet, he added.

If necessary, a fiber supplement will get the job done -- that’s what they’re using in the study -- but O’Keefe said whole foods are the best source of fiber. Affordable high-fiber foods are available canned and frozen, but they can also be found growing wild across Alaska.

According to the Alaska Native Traditional Food Guide, Alaskans living in rural areas harvest about 44 million pounds of wild food each year, an average of about 375 pounds per person. Wild foods aren’t just more affordable and easier to access than foods shipped in from urban areas; gathering them comes with the added benefit of physical activity. And wild plants can be excellent sources of fiber. One cup of raw blueberries, for example, has 4 grams of fiber, and one cup of crowberries or wild blackberries has 5 grams. Wild greens such as fiddlehead, fireweed, nettle, seaweed and sourdock are also high in fiber.

Whatever the source, O’Keefe said there’s no question that a high-fiber, plant-rich diet is the key to reducing colorectal cancer -- and he hopes the study, and its findings, will be the beginning of the end of colon cancer’s devastating effect on Alaska Native families.

“It’s almost totally preventable by dietary means,” he said.

ANTHC is still enrolling participants in the fiber study. To learn more or take part, contact a study staff member at 907-229-0712.

This story was sponsored by Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, a statewide nonprofit Tribal health organization designed to meet the unique health needs of more than 175,000 Alaska Native and American Indian people living in Alaska.

This story was sponsored by Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, a statewide nonprofit Tribal health organization designed to meet the unique health needs of more than 175,000 Alaska Native and American Indian people living in Alaska.

This story was produced by the creative services department of the Anchorage Daily News in collaboration with Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium. The ADN newsroom was not involved in its production.


Donald Trump Jr. got Mongolia’s approval to hunt an endangered sheep days after he had already killed it

4 hours 39 min ago

In this Oct. 15, 2019, photo, Donald Trump Jr. speaks to supporters of his father, President Donald Trump, during a panel discussion in San Antonio. (AP Photo/Eric Gay) (Eric Gay/)

At nighttime in a remote region of western Mongolia, Donald Trump Jr. used a rifle with a laser sight to shoot and kill an endangered argali, the largest living sheep. Local hunting guides fanned the lights of their cellphones across the ground to search for where the ram-like creature fell. Trump Jr. asked them not to dismember the animal on the spot, but instead to carry it away on an aluminum sheet to keep its fur and horns intact.

ProPublica described the August excursion in a report that relies on records and interviews to allege that the president's son received special treatment from the Mongolian government just weeks after U.S. and Mongolian officials met at the White House. The Trump administration has sought to strengthen ties with Mongolia, a longtime defense partner that lies between China and Russia, to prepare for Beijing's growing global influence.

In Mongolia, permits to shoot and kill an argali, which are prized for their tusks and meat, are determined largely by politics, connections and money, experts told ProPublica. Trump Jr. received a permit after his hunt - which ProPublica reported is a rare occurrence.

Amgalanbaatar Sukh, a scientist who heads an argali research center in Mongolia, told ProPublica that high-level government contacts often decide who gets hunting permits in ways that are opaque to almost everyone else. The government authorized 86 permits to be issued in this year's hunting season, which runs from July 1 to Sept. 30, ProPublica reported.

Trump Jr. also met privately with the Mongolian president, Khaltmaagiin Battulga, during the trip that he took with his son, according to ProPublica. Andy Surabian, a spokesperson for Trump Jr., did not answer a question about what the pair discussed.

Surabian said in a statement that Trump Jr. bought the trip to Mongolia at a National Rifle Association auction in 2015, before his father announced his candidacy for president. Trump Jr. used his own funds to pay for the trip, flew commercial and got the required permits through a third-party outfitter, Surabian said. He said neither U.S. nor Mongolian officials helped to organize Trump Jr.'s trip.

Jandos Kontorbai Ahat, a member of the Mongolian president's political party, arranged the hunting trip, ProPublica reported. He told the news organization that the trophy hunting system in Mongolia is "very political."

Ahat said the U.S. Embassy in Mongolia's defense attache accompanied Trump Jr. and the other hunters. Hunting guides and scouts told ProPublica that five American bodyguards also protected Trump Jr. Surabian said the Secret Service, and not Trump Jr., determines what security protocols are necessary.

Trump Jr. documented his trip in Instagram posts this fall in which he stood in front of a yurt, rode a horse and held a live eagle. Ahat told ProPublica that Trump Jr. was "an upstanding person" who treated others with respect. The local guides said Trump Jr.'s hunting skills impressed them.

Trump Jr. and his brother Eric Trump are avid big-game hunters who have killed animals on African safaris before. During then-candidate Trump’s presidential campaign, photos resurfaced of his sons posing with an elephant, a buffalo and a leopard they had killed on a safari. In February, a hunting advocacy and lobbying website raffled off a five-day elk hunt in Utah with Trump Jr.

The oldest story ever told is painted on a cave wall in Indonesia, archaeologists report

5 hours 29 min ago

A photo-stitched panorama of the scene at the Sulawesi cave in Indonesia. On the far right, small humanlike figures confront an animal. (Adam Brumm/Ratno Sardi/Adhi Agus Oktaviana)

Archaeologists working in Indonesia say they have discovered the earliest artwork that depicts a story. It is a tale told in red pigment on a cave wall. The scene, in the scientists’ interpretation, shows supernatural people hunting wild animals.

People living on the island of Sulawesi drew this image of pigs and horned animals as long as 44,000 years ago, according to a study published Wednesday in the journal Nature. Surrounding the animals are people or humanlike figures. This artwork predates the charcoal cave art in Europe by thousands of years.

Ancient Sulawesi people, like European cave painters, drew lots of wildlife. On the limestone walls, animals loom larger than the other characters, who are nearly as spindly as stick figures. In one section, those figures cluster in front of a buffalo. They appear to face off against the animal. Lines connect their small arms to the buffalo's chest.

"It's quite amazing. It's a narrative scene, and it's the first time we see that in the rock art," said study author Maxime Aubert, an archaeologist at Griffith University in Australia. "Everything," he said, meaning narration and creative invention, "is there from the beginning."

The large horned animals scrawled on the walls are anoa, a species of water buffalo found only on Sulawesi. Anoa are about the size of large dogs, but what they lack in stature they make up for in aggressive tempers. The characters in the scene appear to be hunting or, perhaps, wrangling one of the buffalo, Aubert said.

Study author Adam Brumm first saw the artwork as blurry photos in a messaging app. "I was just screaming with excitement when these images ended up in my phone," said Brumm, an archaeologist at Griffith University.

Modern civilization surrounds this ancient place. It's a 30-minute drive from the airport in the city of Makassar. The painted wall is part of a network of limestone caves on land that belongs to a mining company. Dust from the dirt road that leads to the company's cement factory, Aubert said, frequently blows into the cave. The scientists worry pollution could harm the art.

Researchers have studied the caves, which contain nearly 250 locations with art, since the 1950s. (This scene escaped attention for so long, Aubert said, because it was in a raised alcove about 60 feet above ground level.) In 2014, Aubert, Brumm and their colleagues announced that handprints in the caves were at least 40,000 years old, and pig art there was at least 35,000 years old.

Paleolithic artists in France and Spain, nearly 8,000 miles away from Sulawesi, drew animals in charcoal. The walls of Chauvet cave, in France, teem with horses, rhinos, reindeer and bison. Most studies of European cave art use carbon in charcoal to determine dates. Chauvet's art has been dated to be about 30,000 years old, with more recent studies suggesting humans inhabited the caves 36,000 years ago.

Scientists are unable to use the same technique in Sulawesi, because the iron-based red pigment lacks organic matter. Instead, they measure a coating that forms over the artwork as water trickles across the cave walls. The sweat leaves behind mineral deposits, which condense into nodules nicknamed "cave popcorn." The researchers can detect decaying elements within these globs to establish the rock's age.

The scene, based on the dating of cave popcorn above some of the wild animals, was created roughly 35,000 to 43,900 years ago.

"The science and results are totally credible," said Susan O'Connor, an expert in Southeast Asian archaeology at the Australian National University, who was not involved with this study. The story on the cavern walls shows "how people at the time conceived of their relationship with animals."


A Sulawesi hunting scene. (Ratno Sardi)

“If the dates from the article are correct,” said Nicholas Conard, an archaeologist at the University of Tübingen in Germany who was not involved with the study, “the images would be some of the earliest figurative images known anywhere, and of great importance.”

Exactly what is happening in the artwork is up for interpretation. Consider the thin red lines, for instance. "We cannot prove they are spears or ropes," Aubert said.

Or the figures' bizarre features. To Aubert they look like humans with animal traits. "The humans there, they are not fully human: One has a tail, then others may have some sort of bird head or something," he said. "I think it's probably something that didn't really exist. Maybe it's part of a mythical creature . . . We don't know. But it is one of the possibilities."

The oldest humanoid figures in European art weren't found on walls. A decade ago, Conard discovered the "Venus of Hohle Fels," a human figurine with exaggerated female anatomy, in southwest Germany. The woman was carved from a 35,000-year-old mammoth tusk. Older still, dated to around 40,000 years ago, is the mammoth ivory "Lion Man" figurine, discovered by German archaeologists in 1939. The two-and-a-half-foot man has a human body topped with a cave lion's head.


A human figure with an animal head. (Ratno Sardi)

Aubert and Brumm likened the Sulawesi figures to the cat-headed man. These painters, like the early ivory carvers in Europe, were storytellers with imaginations, they said. Their subject matter “has no place in reality,” Brumm said. Either humans developed these elements of creative storytelling at the far corners of the planet around the same time, or storytelling is a trait developed by even older human ancestors.

"If these are mixed human-animal creatures, their small size is fascinating," Conard said. "As are their movements, that seem to be a kind of flying or jumping rather than the more grounded movements of humans or terrestrial mammals." He confessed he had "no idea what the lines mean."

But Paul Pettitt, an archaeologist at Durham University in the United Kingdom who was not a member of this research team, was skeptical of the interpretation. "Is it a scene? The 'humanoids' are depicted horizontally, and at a differing scale to the animals they are said to be hunting," Pettitt said.

"As for 'spears,' just look at them. They are long lines that just pass close to some humans," Pettitt said. "Hardly weapons held in the hand." He suggested it was also possible different artists added the figures to the wall later, citing European caves that were decorated in several phases.

Brumm said the style and weathering of the artwork was consistent in the animals and people. "We really don't know" what these artists were trying to say, the archaeologist said. To do so for certain would require "photorealistic depiction" in prehistoric art or barring that, he said, time-traveling anthropologists.

There will be plenty of time for debate. More pressing is the preservation of the cave's art. The study authors fear they have only a limited amount of time to observe the paintings.

"The surface of the cave is exfoliating like it's peeling off. And big chunks, every year, are disappearing, and we don't know exactly why," Aubert said. A list of possible afflictions: climate change that altered the monsoon seasons, speeding up a destructive wet-dry cycle. Or it could be the influence of local pollution. Aubert is trying to raise funds to digitize the cave paintings using laser scanners.

“It could be one of the bitter ironies that we only just discovered the extreme antiquity of this rock art in the last few years,” Brumm said, “and it could be gone within our lifetimes.”

Looking for climate change’s big picture, rural Alaska communities gather to compare notes

7 hours 55 min ago

Heat waves. Coastal erosion. Shortened salmon runs. Across Alaska, there are clear signs that the climate is changing.

What’s not always so clear is how different regions and individual communities will be affected, or how they should prepare for the changes still to come.

At the 2019 Alaska Tribal Conference on Environmental Management, known as ATCEM, in November, climate change was a common thread woven throughout the weeklong event.

“Before this year, we had a specific track just for climate change issues,” said Oxcenia O’Domin, who co-leads ATCEM with her colleague Desirae Roehl.

This year, organizers of the 25-year-old conference, which attracts about 500 environmental and community health professionals and local leaders from around the state, decided that climate change could no longer be considered a standalone issue; it’s relevant to every subject the gathering covers, from community health to public utilities to contamination support.

“We realized that climate change isn’t just one topic,” O’Domin said. “It touches the whole community and every aspect, from the natural land to infrastructure.”

The conference also draws attendees from the Environmental Protection Agency, the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration, the Army Corps of Engineers, and other state and federal agencies. Topics range from household water use and tick-borne pathogens to spill response, historic preservation, and how to hire the right environmental consultant. The gathering is an opportunity to have what O’Domin calls “let’s sit down and have some tea” conversations -- in-depth discussions about environmental health topics.

Increasingly, those conversations share a common theme: responding to the challenges raised by climate change.

Storytelling and science

ATCEM is a conference developed specifically for and by Alaska Native people, and its structure is deeply rooted in cultural traditions. Storytelling plays a central role as presenters from around the state share perspectives and events from their communities. The stories shared at this year’s conference ranged from fish die-off in White Mountain to last summer’s emergency wildfire evacuation in Levelock.

“They were very, very touching,” O’Domin said. “(Levelock council member Janice Chukwak) talked about how grateful they were for all the volunteers to come in from across the state, and how they worked tirelessly to save the homes so people who had to evacuate had a home to go back to.”

But the stories shared at ATCEM are more than personal experiences; they’re learning opportunities. Chukwak talked not just about the fire, but about the steps the village has taken -- and the steps other communities can take -- since the evacuation.

“They didn’t have an emergency evacuation plan,” O’Domin said. “She talked about how they’re now working towards having a plan and encouraged everybody else to develop plans and know what resources they have available. She brought in some of the health effects of breathing in the wildfire smoke.”

Chukwak presented alongside representatives from the State of Alaska who talked about wildfire prevention and response. The combination of first-person sharing and technical information is common in ATCEM presentations.

“When we’re planning, we try to pair up those community stories with the scientific story and the technical story so that our audience can pull from both sides -- relate to that emotional side of what’s going on in the community, but also understand the science behind it,” O’Domin said.

Statewide data collection underway

The stories shared at ATCEM from around Alaska are compelling, but even the best anecdotes don’t necessarily translate to data. Conference organizers are trying to change that.

“We get observations from all over the state about a really wide variety of phenomena -- unusual species sightings, unusual weather, things like that,” said Erica Lujan, who coordinates ANTHC’s statewide network of local environmental observers, the LEO network. “Sometimes we don’t get a lot of information about what happens after that in terms of impact to the community and what work they have done, or plan to do, to address those impacts.”

In order to start assembling a more complete picture of what’s changing and where, this year’s ATCEM attendees were invited to complete a survey about what’s happening in their regions.

“These are people who know their communities very well,” Lujan said. “We’re hoping that they’ll be able to comment on what sort of environmental challenges they’re facing, what work they’ve done, and what resources they need to make their projects successful.”

Respondents are being asked about the environmental health issues that have most impacted their communities, like fires, water security, infrastructure damage related to erosion and permafrost thaw, or changes to the subsistence harvest.

“Alaskan environments are changing very rapidly, and this survey will hopefully give us an opportunity to better understand what is happening where, and how that has changed from previous years,” Lujan said.

While specific challenges vary by region, she added, they’re all part of an overall pattern of change: “It’s important to be able to stitch those together into a larger picture of environmental health across the state.”

The survey data will be compiled and analyzed in early 2020. While the results aren’t yet available, informal polling done at the conference hinted at the likely responses.

“We did do just a hand raise in a plenary (session) with probably over 400 people in the room, asking, ‘Did you experience significant impacts from this or that,’” said Mike Brubaker, director of ANTHC’s Community Environmental Health Services department. “As you might expect, two of the big ones were changes in air quality and also changes in harvest success for subsistence foods.”

Regionally, he added, most of southern Alaska also reported drought conditions and increased need for water conservation measures due to decreased rain and snow pack.

“I don’t think there are any communities in Alaska that are not significantly impacted,” Brubaker said.

ATCEM’s data should help quantify the effects of climate change and track them on an annual basis.

“We will use the survey results to create an ATCEM environmental statement that we will post on the website as an educational resource for Tribes, agencies and policy makers,” Lujan said.

Accepting and adapting to change

Brubaker, whose department organizes the conference, said in its 25-year lifespan, ATCEM has seen a major boom in rural problem-solving. Around the time ATCEM was launched, he said, the EPA also started providing funding for Tribes to establish their own environmental programs. As those programs have grown, innovation has started to flourish at the local and regional level. Communities have come up with alternative energy solutions, solid waste cleanup and recycling programs, and spill response systems, among other creative initiatives.

“The people at this conference are very front-line,” Brubaker said. “They are first-person witnesses to climate change impacts. It’s written into their job description to help deal with it.”

O’Domin recalled how one ATCEM attendee, Jaclyn Christensen, spoke in a general session about recent events in Port Heiden. There the community has been feeling the impacts of coastal erosion for decades, moving homes, buildings and even gravesites further inland as the shoreline recedes. This fall, the strip of land separating Goldfish Lake and Bristol Bay eroded, causing the lake to spill into the ocean.

“It was a hard ask to say ‘Can you get up and share your story?’” O’Domin said. “It was so raw. She talked about how some of the solutions were to ‘Well, just move your village.’ But they already did that, and they’re wondering how far they need to go.”

Although it was an emotional story, she added, it ended with a message of hope.

“Jaclyn talked about how resilient they are, that they weren’t leaving the community, that they were going to adapt no matter what it took,” O’Domin said.

And that’s the goal of sharing these stories, ATCEM organizers say: to look at the challenges facing Alaska and work together to find solutions.

“One thing we’ve learned is when you talk about big environmental impacts, whether it’s an oil spill or climate change, it can be very concerning and you can feel a certain sense of hopelessness about it when you look at the big picture,” Brubaker said.

That hopelessness starts to fade, he said, when you hear from communities that are finding innovative ways to address everything from coastal erosion to air quality to wastewater management to emergency preparedness.

“When you get to the ‘roll up your sleeves and let’s do something about it,’ it’s very empowering,” Brubaker said. “They’re moving beyond the emotional trauma of having to face loss of the traditional place where you’re from and thinking strategically about how to make their communities better and more resilient in a new location or a new way.”

This story was sponsored by Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium, a statewide nonprofit Tribal health organization designed to meet the unique health needs of more than 175,000 Alaska Native and American Indian people living in Alaska.

This story was produced by the creative services department of the Anchorage Daily News in collaboration with Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium. The ADN newsroom was not involved in its production.


Sea-Tac is first airport to resist federal push for facial recognition and other biometric technologies

Wed, 2019-12-11 21:02

SEATTLE – At least for now, controversial facial-recognition technology won’t be installed at boarding gates at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, making the airport the first in the country to resist the rollout of a federal biometric identification program.

After hours of impassioned public comment Tuesday, much of it from people calling facial recognition intrusive and dangerous, the Port of Seattle Commission unanimously approved a moratorium on some uses of the technology.

The five-member commission, which oversees Sea-Tac, suspended the introduction of some new biometric technologies – including facial recognition – until the commission adopts “tangible, enforceable” policies to govern their use.

The commission’s vote halts Delta Air Lines’ plans to roll out facial-recognition cameras at its Sea-Tac boarding gates by year-end.

The moratorium, though, applies only to areas the Port controls. Nor does the suspension apply to biometric technologies used solely by Port staff – for example, fingerprints used to access secure areas.

That means a Custom and Border Protection plan to install facial-recognition cameras at a new facility to process arriving international travelers, opening July 2020, will proceed as planned: The part of that building where the cameras will be located is controlled by the federal government.

And biometric technologies already in use at the airport – including CLEAR, a $179/year service for travelers who want to jump to the top of the TSA line – will continue operating.

The vote means the Port has committed itself to grappling with an issue that’s bedeviled federal and state legislators: How to balance civil-liberties concerns over biometrics with the efficiency and convenience some say they deliver.

At the meeting, Port commissioners said they were open to the possibility that tension may be insoluble.

If the Port were to adopt a more permanent prohibition on biometrics, it would be following in the footsteps of cities like San Francisco and Somerville, Massachusetts, that have banned the use of facial recognition by city agencies.

Delta says replacing manual document checks with facial-recognition technology, which it already uses at seven other U.S. airports, speeds passenger flow. The airline says it eventually hopes to install the cameras at every point a traveler would normally have to pull out their passport and boarding pass at Sea-Tac: Check-in, bag check, TSA and boarding.

But the primary push for the spread of facial recognition to check-in terminals and boarding gates at 20 airports in the past year comes from the federal Customs and Border Protection agency, which has a congressional mandate to deploy a nationwide biometric program to identify international travelers.

The agency says facial-recognition algorithms are better than human agents at detecting some kinds of immigration fraud.

The agency has partnered with airlines and airports to screen travelers leaving the country. It’s also installed its own cameras in 11 airport Customs terminals to identify arriving travelers.

No airport has sought to intervene in the program – until now.

Sea-Tac will be the first airport in the country to wrest some control over the rollout of facial recognition at airports back from the federal government and private entities, said Eric Schinfeld, the Port’s federal government liaison, at Tuesday’s commission meeting.

The Port joins a long list of governments at the local, state and federal levels similarly wrestling with how to mitigate the dangers of biometrics.

Technologies like facial recognition enable intrusive surveillance, which is likely to most adversely impact minority communities, representatives of groups advocating for civil liberties, privacy and the interests of Asian and Muslim Americans said at the commission meeting.

Japanese internment, said Stan Shikuma, the president elect of the Japanese-American Citizens League, was enabled by “surveillance kept by the FBI, the Office of Naval Intelligence, as well as private citizens.”

And facial-recognition algorithms tend to misidentify people of color, especially women, at a higher rate than white people.

Other speakers raised concerns about data security.

“Biometric data should not be taken lightly,” said Cynthia Spiess, a security researcher. “You only have one face. What is the recourse to the victims? What is the liability to the Port when a data breach happens? Because this data will be breached.”

Finding a way forward has stymied federal and local authorities, port staff acknowledged at the meeting.

At the national level, Congress has been unable to pass comprehensive regulation on biometrics.

In the state Legislature, bills to regulate facial recognition died this spring because lawmakers couldn’t agree on an approach to the technology.

In its resolution, the Port enumerated principles to guide the rollout of biometrics like facial recognition, including that the technology be implemented ethically, justifiably and voluntarily.

Protecting travelers’ privacy and ensuring that the technology is equitable are other concerns of the Port.

Developing policy recommendations in line with those principles is the responsibility of a new working group composed of Port staff, airlines, cruise lines, technology companies and community representatives.

The working group has until the end of March to present the commission with recommendations of “tangible, enforceable” policies dictating how biometric technologies will be used.

“The recommendation could be that we don’t think the technology is ready to use right now,” said Commissioner Courtney Gregoire at the meeting.

The commission will vote on the policy recommendations by late June.

Until that time, a halt on the introduction of new biometric technologies is in effect.

Once the new biometric policies are passed, though, operators like CLEAR will need to prove its iris- and fingerprint-scanning terminals are compliant.

And airlines like Delta will need to show how they plan to comply before the Port permits them to install facial-recognition cameras.

In a statement, Delta said it believed its facial-recognition cameras “meet or exceed the guiding principles in the motion that the Port of Seattle adopted today.”

The airline said its technology “adheres to high standards for data security and customer privacy – a responsibility Delta takes extremely seriously.”

Much of the hard work to regulate facial recognition lies ahead, said Commissioner Ryan Calkins at the meeting.

Facial recognition, he said, “is neither an unmitigated good nor an unmitigated bad. The very attributes that make it so much of a benefit – convenience and customer satisfaction – make it very dangerous.

“This is only the starting point for us.”

Weinstein reaches tentative $25M deal with accusers

Wed, 2019-12-11 20:49

Harvey Weinstein leaves court following a hearing, Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019 in New York. Weinstein’s bail was increased from $1 million to $5 million on Wednesday over allegations he violated bail conditions by mishandling his electronic ankle monitor. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan) (Mark Lennihan/)

NEW YORK (AP) — A tentative $25 million settlement revealed Wednesday to end nearly every sexual misconduct lawsuit brought against Harvey Weinstein and his former film studio's board was praised by a plaintiff and some lawyers but criticized by others who say those who opt out are punished.

Louisette Geiss, a plaintiff in a Manhattan federal court class-action lawsuit, said the settlement was "our way to hold all women up. We are trying to create a new reality where this type of behavior is not accepted."

In a statement, she said the lawsuit was intended as "a wake-up call for all companies that they will be held accountable if they protect predators in their midst."

"Now that The Weinstein Company is in bankruptcy and Harvey is about to stand to trial, this settlement will ensure that all survivors have the chance for recovery and can move forward without Harvey's damaging lock on their careers," Geiss said.

The New York Times first reported the deal, which was confirmed to The Associated Press by several lawyers for plaintiffs.

Attorney Thomas Giuffra said the agreement was the same deal announced several months ago but with more punitive provisions aimed at forcing holdouts to accept it.

"The most troubling aspect of this settlement is a punitive provision designed to force victims to settle," Giuffra said in a statement that included the names of several other lawyers from his firm. "Shockingly, any funds that would have been allocated to claims from the settlement fund for non-settling claimants would be turned over to Harvey and Robert Weinstein to defend against their claims in court."

"We understand that many victims have been so emotionally devastated and drained by this process that they cannot go on," he added. "But this proposed settlement does not allow for a truly voluntary choice."

Attorneys Douglas H. Wigdor and Kevin Mintzer said in a statement that they reject the notion that it was the best possible settlement, especially because it penalizes those who continue their lawsuits.

They also called it "shameful that $12 million of the settlement is going to the lawyers for the directors who we alleged enabled Harvey Weinstein."

Other lawyers praised the deal, including Steve Berman in Seattle and Elizabeth Fegan in Chicago.

"Given the hard legal issues involved this allows for some decent justice for the victims and therefore we are pleased with the settlement," Berman said.

Fegan said the settlement helps ensure women will be compensated, particularly since Weinstein is in bankruptcy proceedings and some court rulings have resulted in the dismissal of many claims.

"Our clients have shouldered a heavy burden, fighting a battle on behalf of all survivors to create a victims' fund that will be available for every woman who was abused by Weinstein to make a confidential claim," she said.

"Harvey Weinstein stripped the survivors of everything — dignity, dreams, careers, and money," Fegan added. "There is no amount of money that could restore what he took from the survivors. But a settlement will finally give the survivors a safe and confidential place in which to share their stories and receive the justice that the courts have withheld."

The $25 million is part of a larger pool of $46.7 million, with the remainder going to the Weinstein companies, general unsecured creditors and lawyers for defendants, Fegan said.

Fegan said at least 29 actresses and former Weinstein employees who had sued the movie mogul for accusations ranging from sexual misconduct to rape had agreed to the deal. She said that number included the New York attorney general's office, which also had sued.

Lawyers for Weinstein did not return messages seeking comment. Gerald Maatman, attorney for The Weinstein Co., declined comment.

Weinstein would avoid paying any of his own money and he would not be required to admit wrongdoing as part of the deal. Insurance companies representing the Weinstein Company would cover the settlement's cost, the Times reported.

The proposed settlement would require court approval before payouts could occur.

The settlement's terms remain uncertain. Eighteen of the alleged victims would split $6.2 million, with no individual receiving more than $500,000. A separate $18.5 million would go toward those involved in a class-action case, the New York attorney general's suit and any future claimants, the Times reported.

Rebecca Goldman, chief operating officer of the Time's Up gender equality initiative, called the deal "more than a math problem — it's a symptom of a problematic broken system that privileges powerful abusers at the expense of survivors."

Weinstein faces a Jan. 6 trial on rape and sexual assault charges. His bail was increased from $1 million to $5 million on Wednesday for allegedly mishandling his electronic ankle monitor.

He has pleaded not guilty to charges he raped a woman in a Manhattan hotel room in 2013 and performed a forcible sex act on a different woman in 2006.


More Americans are dying at home rather than in hospitals

Wed, 2019-12-11 20:47

In this 2016 photo provided by Thomas Marrinson, Allison Beach holds the hand of her ailing mother Kathryne Beach inside her home in Hinesburg, Vt. Allison Beach and her husband struggled to figure out how to get help for her mother, who lived with them for three years before dying at their home Hinesburg, Vermont, in 2016. The experience led Beach, who was a nurse, to seek special training in end-of-life care and has become a doula, hoping to help others in such circumstances. (Thomas Marrinson via AP) (Thomas Marrinson/)

For the first time since the early 1900s, more Americans are dying at home rather than in hospitals, a trend that reflects more hospice care and progress toward the kind of end that most people say they want.

Deaths in nursing homes also have declined, according to Wednesday's report in the New England Journal of Medicine.

"It's a good thing. Death has become overly medicalized over the last century" and this shows a turn away from that, said the lead author, Dr. Haider Warraich of the Veterans Affairs Boston Healthcare System.

Betsy McNair, a tour guide who now lives in Mexico, is proud of the ending she helped give her father. Robert McNair was 83 when he died at home in Belle Haven, Virginia, in 2009, six weeks after learning he had lung cancer.

"I made him exactly what he wanted to eat, whenever he wanted it. He had a scotch every night, he had a very high quality of life. If he woke up at 2 o'clock in the morning and wanted to have coffee and pie, that's what we did," she said.


In this Sept. 26, 2009 photo provided by Betsy McNair, Robert McNair smiles while eating a banana cream pudding, in Belle Haven, Va. McNair was 83 when he died at his home in Belle Haven, Virginia, in 2009, six weeks after learning he had lung cancer. His daughter Betsy is proud of the ending she helped give him. For the first time since the early 1900s century, more Americans are dying at home rather than in hospitals, a trend that reflects more hospice care and progress toward the kind of end that most people say they want. (Betsy McNair via AP) (Betsy McNair/)

Warraich and Duke University graduate student Sarah Cross used government health statistics on deaths from natural causes, rather than accidents or homicides, from 2003 through 2017. The portion that occurred in hospitals fell from 40% to 30% over that period and in nursing homes from 24% to 21%.

Deaths in homes rose, from 24% to 31%. Some assisted living centers may have been counted as homes; researchers had no way to tell.

People who were younger, female or a racial or ethnic minority were less likely to die at home than those who were older, male or white. Cancer patients were more likely to die at home; people with dementia, in a nursing home, and people with lung diseases, in a hospital.

The type of illness matters, McNair said. Besides her father, she helped care for a brother who died of Lou Gehrig's disease in his 50s, and her mother, who died at age 92 in a nursing home after a long decline in health.

"They were all completely different experiences," and sometimes it's not possible to adequately care for a family member at home, McNair said.

Allison Beach and her husband struggled to figure out how to get help for her mother, Kathryne Beach, who lived with them for three years before dying at their home in Hinesburg, Vermont, in 2016. She had lost her vision, had suffered a fall and then succumbed to heart failure at age 91.


In this 2016 photo provided by Thomas Marrinson, Kathryne Beach lays shrouded inside her family's home following her death in Hinesburg, Vt. Allison Beach and her husband struggled to figure out how to get help for her mother, who lived with them for three years before dying at their home Hinesburg, Vermont, in 2016. The experience led Beach, who was a nurse, to seek special training in end-of-life care and has become a doula, hoping to help others in such circumstances. (Thomas Marrinson via AP) (Thomas Marrinson/)

"We had to really reshuffle our lives. I was determined not to put her into a facility," Beach said. "We were alone with her at the time of death and I wish we had had more support."

The experience led Beach, who was a nurse, to seek special training in end-of-life care, hoping to help others in such circumstances.

The rise of home hospice services has helped more people spend their last days at home, Warraich said.

"I have met many patients who just want to spend one day at home, around their dog, in their bed, able to eat home food," he said.

People are not only living longer, but they're often spending more years at the end of life with chronic illnesses.

"Ideally we'd like to see people live longer and with fewer disabilities," he said. "We have work to do there."

___

The Associated Press Health and Science Department receives support from the Howard Hughes Medical Institute’s Department of Science Education. The AP is solely responsible for all content.


Judiciary panel takes first steps toward impeachment vote

Wed, 2019-12-11 20:42

Rep. Louie Gohmert, R-Texas, rubs his face during a House Judiciary Committee markup of the articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019, on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin) (Jacquelyn Martin/)

WASHINGTON — The House Judiciary Committee took the first steps Wednesday evening toward voting on articles of impeachment against President Donald Trump, beginning a marathon two-day session to consider the historic charges with a lively prime-time hearing at the Capitol.

Democrats and Republicans used the otherwise procedural meeting to deliver sharp, poignant and, at times, personal arguments for and against impeachment. Both sides appealed to Americans' sense of history — Democrats describing a strong sense of duty to stop what one called the president's "constitutional crime spree" and Republicans decrying the "hot garbage'' impeachment and what it means for the future of the country.

Rep. David Cicilline of Rhode Island asked Republicans standing by Trump to "wake up" and honor their oath of office. Republican Rep. Mike Johnson of Louisiana responded with his own request to "put your country over party." Rep. Lou Correa, D-Calif., shared his views in both English and Spanish.

One Democrat, Rep. Val Demings of Florida, told the panel that, as a descendant of slaves and now a member of Congress, she has faith in America because it is "government of the people" and in this country "nobody is above the law." Freshman Democratic Rep. Lucy McBath of Georgia emotionally talked about losing her son to gun violence and said that while impeachment was not why she came to Washington, she wants to "fight for an America that my son Jordan would be proud of."

Republican Rep. Jim Jordan of Ohio said Democrats are impeaching because "they don't like us," and read out a long list of Trump's accomplishments.

"It's not just because they don't like the president, they don't like us," Jordan added. "They don't like the 63 million people who voted for this president, all of us in flyover country, all of us common folk in Ohio, Wisconsin, Tennessee and Texas."

The committee is considering two articles of impeachment introduced by Democrats. They charge Trump with abuse of power for asking Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden while withholding aid as leverage, and obstruction of Congress for stonewalling the House's investigation.

On Thursday, the committee will likely vote to send the articles to the full House, which is expected to vote next week. That could come after hours of debate over Republican amendments, though the articles aren't likely to be changed. Democrats are unlikely to accept any amendments proposed by Republicans unified against Trump's impeachment.

Democrats are also unified. They have agreed to the language, which spans only nine pages and says that Trump acted "corruptly" and "betrayed the nation" when he asked Ukraine to investigate Joe Biden and the 2016 U.S. election. Hamstrung in the minority, Republicans wouldn't have the votes to make changes without support from at least some Democrats.

The Wednesday evening session of the 41-member panel lasted more than three hours, with opening statements from lawmakers on both sides of the aisle.

House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler opened the hearing by making a final argument for impeachment and urging his Republican colleagues to reconsider. He said the committee should consider whether the evidence shows that Trump committed these acts, if they rise to the level of impeachable high crimes and misdemeanors and what the consequences are if they fail to act.

"When his time has passed, when his grip on our politics is gone, when our country returns, as surely it will, to calmer times and stronger leadership, history will look back on our actions here today," Nadler said. "How would you be remembered?"

Republicans are also messaging to the American people — and to Trump himself — as they argue that the articles show Democrats are out to get the president. Most Republicans contend, as Trump does, that he has done nothing wrong, and all of them are expected to vote against the articles.

The top Republican on the panel, Georgia Rep. Doug Collins, argued that Democrats are impeaching the president because they think they can't beat him in the 2020 election.

Democrats think the only thing they need is a "32-second commercial saying we impeached him," Collins said.

"That's the wrong reason to impeach somebody, and the American people are seeing through this," Collins said. "But at the end of the day, my heart breaks for a committee that has trashed this institution."

Republicans are expected to offer an array of amendments and make procedural motions on Thursday, even if they know none of them will pass. The Judiciary panel is made up of some of the most partisan members on both sides, and Republicans will launch animated arguments in Trump's defense.

Earlier Wednesday, Collins said the GOP would offer amendments but said they'd mainly be about allowing more time to debate.

"Remember, you can't fix bad," Collins said. "These are bad, you're not going to fix it."

In the formal articles announced Tuesday, the Democrats said Trump enlisted a foreign power in "corrupting" the U.S. election process and endangered national security by asking Ukraine to investigate his political rivals, including Biden, while withholding U.S. military aid as leverage. That benefited Russia over the U.S. as America's ally fought Russian aggression, the Democrats said.

Trump then obstructed Congress by ordering current and former officials to defy House subpoenas for testimony and by blocking access to documents, the charges say.

Trump tweeted that to impeach a president "who has done NOTHING wrong, is sheer Political Madness."

The House is expected to vote on the articles next week, in the days before Christmas. That would send them to the Senate for a 2020 trial.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell said Tuesday that he would be "totally surprised'' if there were the necessary 67 votes in the chamber to convict Trump, and signaled options for a swift trial. He said no decision had been made about whether to call witnesses.

___

Associated Press writers Alan Fram and Padmananda Rama contributed to this report.


White House defends withholding aid to Ukraine

Wed, 2019-12-11 20:39

WASHINGTON - The White House budget office asserts in a new legal memo that it withheld military aid to Ukraine as a temporary move to study whether the spending complied with U.S. policy - and not as a political effort to block Congress’ spending decisions.

The office first began reassessing whether to release the aid on June 19, the day President Donald Trump learned of the aid from an article in the Washington Examiner and questioned the wisdom of the spending. That move sent aides scrambling, according to a senior administration official who spoke on the condition of anonymity to share internal conversations.

The Office of Management and Budget extended the temporary hold on the aid eight times in August and September, the last time being Sept. 10. Almost immediately after that hold, the money was released, according to the new memo, which was reviewed by The Washington Post.

The memo details the White House's latest legal rationale for freezing foreign aid to Ukraine over the summer. OMB General Counsel Mark Paoletta wrote the memo to respond to a request from the U.S. Government Accountability Office, which had asked why the aid had been delayed.

Those delays are now at the center of House Democrats' accelerating impeachment probe of Trump. House Democrats unveiled on Tuesday two articles of impeachment against the president, saying he abused the office of the presidency and obstructed a congressional investigation into his actions regarding the aid to Ukraine.

The OMB has been ensnared by the controversy for months. Two career OMB officials resigned in part over concerns about the agency's hold on the Ukrainian assistance, according to the testimony of Mark Sandy, a career OMB official. Current and former OMB employees describing the decision as highly unusual.

Government officials have testified that they were alarmed that the aid to Ukraine was withheld despite OMB staffers pushing to get the aid out as soon as possible, according to Sandy. Some have told Congress they worried Trump was trying to use government funds for personal political gain.

Trump agreed to release the aid under pressure to do so from Vice President Mike Pence and Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, in a phone call on Sept. 11.

In the memo, Paoletta says that the agency frequently puts temporary holds on money already signed into law and that Congress also stops money that has already been approved from reaching federal agencies.

In a footnote to the memo, the OMB calls on the nonpartisan Government Accountability Office to look into what it says are Congress's own moves to hold up money already signed into law.

Paoletta asserts that while the OMB must notify Congress before delaying allocation of some funds, the Ukraine assistance amounts to a "programmatic delay" that does not require notification, citing a prior Government Accountability Office opinion.

Paoletta authorized the repeated delays in the spending while awaiting a decision from Trump on the matter, according to the administration official.

"For decades, OMB has routinely used its apportionment authority to prevent funds from being used," Paoletta writes.

"Often, in managing appropriations, OMB must briefly pause an agency's legal ability to spend those funds for a number of reasons, including to ensure that the funds are being spent efficiently, that they are being spent in accordance with statutory directives, or to assess how or whether funds should be used for a particular activity."

The OMB has previously given partial explanations of its conduct over aid related to Ukraine, but the memo represents its most fully articulated defense to date of the legality of the hold it placed on the assistance.

The agency's memo does not attempt to rebut Democrats' contention that Trump abused his power by seeking to pressure a foreign nation to open an investigation into a political rival, or that he obstructed justice in deterring the investigation into his conduct.

Several OMB divisions wrote a joint memo in August recommending the military aid go to Ukraine as soon as possible, according to Sandy's testimony, noting the assistance "is consistent with the national security strategy . . . in terms of supporting a stable, peaceful Europe."

Paoletta's new memo states that the Ukrainian assistance was put on hold in response to an administration directive "pending a policy decision," with internal discussions on the aid beginning on June 19.

That is the same day the president read an article in the Washington Examiner about the Pentagon's plans to send $250 million in weapons to Ukraine, according to an administration official granted anonymity to share internal planning details. The president's questions set off a scramble to answer his questions about the aid, this person said.

The memo says that "at no point during the pause" did Department of Defense attorneys tell the OMB the Ukrainian funding would be prevented from being spent before the end of the year.

The OMB's memo also stresses that the Defense Department indicated to its staff that it didn't intend to release most of the security funds to Ukraine until September, so the damage of withholding the fund was minuscule.

Some experts have questioned the OMB's argument that it was following the president's direction, given the evidence that Trump had political motivations for withholding the funds.

"It's probably true that it's within the power of the executive branch, and OMB, to put constraints on funds to make sure they are going out appropriately. We have seen in the past that money has been held out or put aside," said Mark Mazur, former assistant secretary for tax policy at Treasury. "But it's a little weird to have an, 'I'm only following orders' defense here."

OMB officials also compiled a 10-page list of when, they say, Congress held up various programs that had already been signed into law.

The examples include Ukraine funding allocated through the Assistance for Europe, Eurasia, and Central Asia program, which the OMB's documents say were held up in 2017, as well as tens of millions of dollars for programs in countries such as Libya, the Philippines, Mexico, and Sri Lanka.

- - -

The Washington Post’s Carol D. Leonnig contributed to this report.



Keep the winter holiday spirit alive with these local events: Santas ski, Tuba Christmas and StinkyKids

Wed, 2019-12-11 20:20

StinkyKids the Musical — A play about Britt, a girl who wakes up with gum in her hair – a mistake that jeopardizes the big trip to Captain Happy’s Jumpy-Fun-Super-Bouncy-Indoor Place. $15-$20. 1 p.m. and 3 p.m. Saturday-Sunday through Dec. 22. Cyrano’s Theatre Company, 3800 DeBarr Road (cyranos.org)


A snowboarder, dressed as Santa Claus, makes his way down the mountain Friday, Dec. 23, 2016 in Girdwood. Alyeska Resort traditionally offers free lift tickets to anyone wearing a Santa costume on one day leading up to Christmas. (Loren Holmes / Alaska Dispatch News) (Loren Holmes/)

Santa Skis Free — Dress as Santa and ski free for the day at Alyeska. Your outfit must include Santa’s hat, beard, jacket and pants in order to qualify (beard optional). Stop by the ticket office for a costume check and then pick up your free lift ticket. An official Santa will also visit the Hotel Alyeska in the evening. Free. 11 a.m.- 9 p.m. Thursday, Dec. 19, Alyeska Resort, 1000 Arlberg Ave., Girdwood. (alyeskaresort.com)

Tuba Christmas — Hear dozens of tubas and other brass play Christmas songs at this free concert. Performance starts at noon Saturday in the Carr-Gottstein Lobby (Discovery Theatre Orchestra Level Lobby). (centertix.com)


Sonya Senkowsky plays her baritone during Tuba Christmas at the Alaska Center for the Performing Arts in Anchorage, Alaska on Saturday, December 10, 2016. The annual concert brings together players from throughout Southcentral Alaska. (Bob Hallinen / ADN) (Bob Hallinen/)

55th Anniversary Anchorage Youth Symphony — Violinist Paul Rosenthal joins 85 of Alaska’s youth musicians to perform a collection of classical pieces. Founding music director Frank Pinkerton joins as a guest conductor. A celebration of the past, present and future of Anchorage Youth Symphony. $20. 3 p.m. Sunday, Atwood Concert Hall, 621 W. Sixth Ave. (centertix.com)

The High Pets — The gritty indie pop rock band is performing this weekend at a 21-and-over event. Becky Kotter & Co. will open on Friday and Alaska Thunder Funk will open on Saturday. Free. 9 p.m.-1 a.m. Friday-Saturday, Sitzmark, 1000 Arlberg Ave., Girdwood. (See Facebook for details)

An Alaskan ‘Nutcracker’ — Still haven’t gotten your fill of Nutcracker magic? Moose, bears and the northern lights will dance to Tchaikovsky’s iconic score in an Alaska version of the holiday classic. One weekend only. $20. 2-4 p.m. Saturday, 7-9 p.m. Friday-Saturday, Glenn Massay Theater, 8295 E College Drive. (glennmassaytheater.com)

Parlor in the Round — Bear Tooth Theatrepub will be transformed into a dinner theater to welcome three remarkable musicians. Prolific songwriter and longtime Alaska favorite Dan Bern is back in town. Nick Carpenter of Medium Build returns from touring with Quinn Christopherson to perform raw, emotional pop rock improv. Denali Romero is a local singer and songwriter inspired by modern pop musicians like Sia and Janelle Monae. Hosted by Kevin Worrell. $25-$108. 7:30-10:30 p.m.Thursday, 1230 W. 27th Ave. (beartooththeatre.net)

Christmas Alaska Chamber Singers — The world premiere of a new carol arrangement by Grant Cochran featuring guest harpist Megan Bledsoe Ward. Choruses, arias and chorales from Bach’s “Christmas Oratorio” with the chamber orchestra. $0-$35. 4-6 p.m. Sunday, St. Andrew Church, 16300 Domain Lane. (alaskachambersingers.org)

Jolly Jerry Jam — A special fundraising house party with DJ Fan Service and Millenial Falcons. There will be a holiday costume contest with a $100 cash prize. Enjoy jello shots, giant Jenga, beer pong and all of the trimmings of a downtown Christmas party. All proceeds go to Jerry, an army veteran and recovering victim of a downtown Anchorage shooting. 7 p.m. Saturday at Williwaw. (williwawsocial.com)



Your cat shouldn’t be outside unless it’s on a leash. There, I said it.

Wed, 2019-12-11 19:31

When it comes to dwindling bird populations, outdoor cats are the real problem. Every year, these escapees from homes just like yours kill billions of birds nationwide. (Getty Images) (cynoclub/)

It is finally time to put up bird feeders. We had enough very cold weather as well as a few snows that should ensure the hibernation of the 300 bears in the Anchorage bowl as well as those in the rest of the Alaska.

It is really easy to feed birds. First, you can buy all manner of bird feeders or make your own. There is no need to go online to buy them, as there are plenty available right here in state. Look at nurseries and the big box stores.

Getting seed is just as easy. You will end up using black sunflower seed, probably, but I suggest getting a few different types of seed and trying them out. Even black sunflower should be tried in different forms, such as in-the-hull and split pieces.

Consider purchasing 25- and 50-pound bags of seed instead of those one-pounders. Birds can really clean out a feeder in no time. As far as I am concerned, the only reason to buy small bags of seed is to start small while making sure the birds in your area will be attracted.

In the suet and butter feeders, try crunchy peanut butter, almond butter, coconut butter along with plain peanut butter and different kinds of suets.

Hang feeders at different levels around your property and all over. Just remember that you will have to fill these feeders frequently, so in addition to being in the right spot for the birds, locate them where you can conveniently get to them. It also helps if you can see them from inside the house — that way you can enjoy the birds and also see when the feeders need refilling.

Let me preface this next part by noting that somewhere in my garden writer’s handbook is a chapter on how not to lose readers. A major rule is not to write negatively about squirrels. (It specifically says not to call them “rats with tails.”)

Oh well. Do not feed squirrels. You will understand why if any of them get into your house, using your insulation as their nests. Almost as important, we don’t need them competing with birds for food you put out. There are all manner of squirrel barriers that will make your feeders rodent proof.

The most hallowed rule to which my fellow garden writers adhere is to never diss cats. Never. Again, finally, and I am really going against the grain, not me.

When it comes to dwindling bird populations, it is the feral cat that is the real problem. Nationwide, these escapees from homes just like yours kill billions of birds.

I was stunned to learn feral cat populations are generally equal to one-tenth of a community’s human population. This means there are some 30,000 feral cats in Anchorage. And you thought 300 was a lot of bears for the Anchorage Bowl?

Even if you cut that estimate in half because you can’t believe it, 15,000 cats running around our bowl still need to eat, and birds are high up on their menu.

Folks, the solution is an ordinance absolutely making it clear that no cat is allowed to go outside unless it is on a leash. This way we can take care of all the unleashed, invasive, feral, bird-eating cats, humanely. It isn’t fair to the birds and the birds are the ones in big trouble, not cat populations.

What is that you say? Magpies eat birds? Don’t get me going regarding the need to cull magpie populations. I am sure I am in enough trouble as it is, demanding cats be kept on leashes.

Jeff’s garden calendar

Holiday lights at the Alaska Botanical Garden: 5-8 p.m. Wednesdays-Saturdays through Jan. 11. $5-$7 (children under age 6 are free). alaskabg.org

Pelargoniums: Should start blooming again if you give them light.

Thanksgiving cacti: Just let yours rest a bit. Let the flowers fall off.

Poinsettias: If you are going to buy some, now is the time! Keep yours out of drafts, even when driving home.

[What to gift a gardener? Funny you should ask.]

[In Alaska, dark winters are a constant. That’s all the more reason to string lights.]


Anchorage teen qualifies for Youth Olympic Games in nordic combined

Wed, 2019-12-11 19:17

Fifteen-year-old Carter Brubaker of Anchorage, who earlier this year became the first Alaskan to be named to the nordic combined national team, took another step in his young career last weekend.

He earned a spot on the American team headed to January’s Youth Olympic Games in Switzerland.

Brubaker claimed third place at last weekend’s U.S. Cup in Steamboat Springs, Colorado, a result that earned him one of two nordic combined spots available for boys on the U.S. team headed to Lausanne.

Competing in the men’s Under 20 division, Brubaker had the fourth-best ski jumping result and the fifth-fastest cross country time to place third overall Saturday in Colorado. Niklas Malacinski of Steamboat Springs won the competition and will join Brubaker in Lausanne pending approval of their nominations by the U.S Olympic Committee. The Youth Olympic Games is an age-group competition for athletes 15 to 18 years old, and Saturday’s second-place finisher is too old to qualify.

Brubaker is the second Alaskan to qualify for the Youth Olympic Games, a quadrennial event first held in 2012. Maja Lapkass, a 16-year-old from Anchorage, qualified for the biathlon team earlier this year.

Another young Alaska skier made a promising international debut last weekend. Anja Schweiger of the Alyeska Ski Club skied in a pair of FIS ski cross races in Red Deer, Alberta, where she showed good improvement from her first race to her second race.

Schwieger, a 17-year-old who goes to Grace Christian High School, finished 17th in a Friday race and jumped to 12th place in a Saturday race.

Despite Dunleavy plan, Alaska legislators say big dividend is unlikely

Wed, 2019-12-11 18:56

Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy announces his state budget during a press conference at the Capitol in Juneau, Alaska, on Wednesday, Dec. 11, 2019. (Michael Penn/Juneau Empire via AP) (Michael Penn /)

JUNEAU — On Wednesday, Gov. Mike Dunleavy unveiled a state budget proposal that avoids the big spending cuts he pushed for last year. While some lawmakers said they were pleasantly surprised by the governor’s new approach, they also said the Alaska Legislature is unlikely to approve the “full” Permanent Fund Dividend requested by the governor.

“Based on meetings that I have been to, I think that is going to be a heavy lift,” said Rep. Cathy Tilton, R-Wasilla and a supporter of the traditional dividend.

Between 1982 and 2016, the state relied on a formula to determine the amount of the Permanent Fund Dividend. That formula remains on the books, but lawmakers have declined to follow it in recent years, instead following an Alaska Supreme Court ruling that said the formula is not binding.

Dunleavy reiterated Wednesday that he believes the state should follow it until it is altered.

Rep. Chris Tuck, D-Anchorage, supports the traditional dividend but said he doesn’t even know whether the legislature will repeat the $1,600 dividend approved for 2019.

“The question is: This year, are we even going to be able to do a $1,600 PFD with the savings we have now?” he said.

[Gov. Dunleavy proposes spending from savings to balance state budget and pay traditional PFD]

For the fiscal year that starts July 1, the state of Alaska does not have enough revenue to pay both a traditional dividend and for government services at current levels.

The governor’s plan is to spend $1.5 billion from the Constitutional Budget Reserve to close the gap. After another $200 million is spent to cover unplanned expenses in the current fiscal year, the reserve will have about $500 million remaining.

“By draining it to $500 million, I think it’s very risky, and I don’t agree,” said Sen. Natasha von Imhof, R-Anchorage and a co-chair of the Senate Finance Committee.

“I pretty much see this budget as in essence a first draft,” she said, adding that the Senate will be prepared to make changes when the Legislature convenes Jan. 21. “Leaving just $500 million in there does not leave us any cushion for natural disasters … or a drop in oil prices.”

House Speaker Bryce Edgmon, I-Dillingham, agreed with von Imhof’s assessment.

“There’s not going to be any appetite for basically drawing our CBR down to a very minimal amount,” he said.

It isn’t clear what the Legislature will do as an alternative. Earlier this year, lawmakers rejected major budget cuts suggested by Dunleavy, and under former Gov. Bill Walker, the Legislature rejected taxation proposals that could have addressed the problem.

Edgmon and Senate Minority Leader Tom Begich, D-Anchorage, said the governor’s decision to not propose significant budget cuts is a positive step, however.

“I’d like to think that the governor, after a rocky first year, has realized that he’s got to work with the Legislature,” Begich said.

In addition to his plans for the 2020 dividend, Dunleavy said he intends to ask for a $1,400 supplemental dividend to make up the difference between the traditional formula and what legislators authorized this year.

In 2018, the Legislature and then-Gov. Walker agreed to limit the amount of money that can be spent from the Permanent Fund each year. The limit is intended to preserve the fund for growth, allowing transfers and dividend payments in the future.

Lawmakers said the supplemental dividend idea is likely dead on arrival, as is the governor’s request for supplemental payments from 2016, 2017 and 2018.

“The Permanent Fund shouldn’t be the flavor of the moment for expenditures," said Sen. Bert Stedman, R-Sitka and co-chair of the Senate Finance Committee.

Angela Rodell, CEO of the Alaska Permanent Fund Corp., said the corporation’s trustees have previously urged the governor and Legislature to stick to the rules limiting transfers, and that view hasn’t changed.

“We would like the Legislature and the governor to demonstrate the constraint of the last two years and stick to the rules they’ve set for themselves,” she said.

Fairbanks band The Avery Wolves bring psychobilly rock, harrowing musical stunts to Anchorage.

Wed, 2019-12-11 18:34

Last month, Chilkoot Charlie’s Ice Bar was a sea of perfectly quaffed pompadours, colorful tattoos and well-worn Doc Martens as the Rumble Cats Vintage Motor Club played host to a night of psychobilly worship.


The Avery Wolves, November 2019. (O'Hara Shipe / Shipe Shots) (Shipe Shots/)

A crisp $5 bill at the door opened a curtain on a world that is equal parts nostalgia and an assault to the senses. Punctuated by stripteases from local burlesque performer Bunnicula Blanc, the bar was a frenzy as Fairbanks-based psychobilly rockers The Avery Wolves took the stage.

Peppered with harrowing musical stunts, The Avery Wolves’ live shows are as much a visual spectacle as a musical one. It’s not uncommon that you’ll see singer-bassist Nathan Harris deftly turn the standup bass on its side, allowing him to slap it with the heel of his boot. Former metal guitarist Jeremy Larson will precariously balance on the backend of the bass, playing his guitar one-handed and sipping a beer, before leaping into the mosh pit.

The Avery Wolves play a subgenre of hard-hitting music called “psychobilly” that meshes ‘50s rockabilly culture with lyrics and fashion influenced by the horror genre. The result is less Marilyn Manson and more delightfully kitsch — think Jack Arnold’s 1954 masterpiece “Creature from the Black Lagoon.”

“[Psychobilly] is obviously influenced by horror, but we’re not trying to be that gothy, scary band. There is a lot of camp that goes into it because you know, there are only so many serious songs you can write about werewolves,” says Harris, the band’s founder.

Infused with campiness, The Avery Wolves’ history also has a dose of the macabre. When Harris and Jason Dahlke left their hardcore band to form The Avery Wolves in 2010, they made the Fairbanks funeral home where Harris both worked and lived their practice space.

"It made for a great location because it was quiet and sterile," jokes Harris.

The solitude proved to be the perfect place to launch, as both Harris and Dahlke attempted to learn a new style of music — and new instruments.

Both had been guitarists, “but neither of us wanted to play guitar anymore,” Harris says. “Initially, we tried to find a bass player but couldn’t so I went out and bought a standup bass so I could learn how to play it and Jason [Dahlke] decided to play drums.”

The only drum kit they could afford was a free one salvaged from the junkyard and supplemented with cheap add-ons from friends.

“We pretty much had to practice with a kick drum, a snare and some $20 cymbals we found,” says Harris.

Undeterred by the duct tape holding their instruments together, Harris and Dahlk prepared for their first gig — a battle of the bands with the opportunity to open for nationally touring act Everclear awaiting the winner.


Avery Wolves (Photo by O'Hara Shipe / Shipe Shots)

To Harris’ surprise, they won (Everclear, however, ended up canceling).

A few months after that, the band was invited to compete in another battle of the bands in Fort Wainwright — this time with a $3,000 prize on the line. The Avery Wolves won again.

“I remember, the organizers pulled us on stage after we won and asked us what we were going to do with the money. We told them we were going to buy a drum kit and they were like, ‘you mean you’re going to buy a new kit,’ and we said, 'no, we don’t have a drum kit, we’re going to buy one,” Harris says, laughing.

Finally armed with functioning equipment, The Avery Wolves began work on their first EP, “Wreckin’ with the Wolves” in 2011. An ode to the band’s quirky beginnings — and empty wallets — their first EP was recorded and produced entirely in the basement of the mortuary the band called home.

For the next five years, The Avery Wolves continued to hone their sound while playing gigs around the state. But in 2015, a series of misfortunes — including the departure of Dahlke — threatened to end the band.

“When Jason [Dahlke] decided to relocate to Texas, I knew they were going to break up if they didn’t get a drummer,” explains Avery Wolves’ current drummer, Barbie Keller.

A self-proclaimed “Avery Wolves’ fangirl” with aspirations to be on stage, Keller was married to the band’s guitarist. Although she had kicked around as a bassist for a Fairbanks punk band, Keller hadn’t had much experience behind a drum set.

“When I told Nathan [Harris] I wanted to be their drummer, he was kind of over the band because he was sick of teaching members how to play their instruments. Even my husband didn’t think I could do it, but I told him there was no way I was going to quit,” says Keller.

With Keller on drums, the band slowly began working on their first full-length album "Call of the Wolf.” Then Keller and her husband decided to divorce.

“I just remember thinking, ‘great, we just got the band back together and now my drummer and guitarist are getting divorced,” says Harris.

Then, shortly after the divorce papers were finalized, Keller’s ex-husband suffered a stroke and could no longer play.

For Harris, it seemed like the final nail in the band’s coffin.

“I mean, you can only annually and creatively reanimate Frankenstein’s monster so many times,” says Harris.

But though she was only three months into her tenure as The Avery Wolves’ drummer, Keller refused to allow the band to fade into oblivion. Over the course of a weekend, the band recorded the bass, guitar, and drum parts at Surreal Studios in Anchorage before returning to Fairbanks.

Three years later and armed with seasoned metal guitarist Jeremy Larson, the band is still rocking out and recording for “Call of the Wolf" has finally concluded.

With fingers crossed, Keller says the tentative release date for the album is early 2020.

But for now, the only way to enjoy The Avery Wolves’ music is also the best — live.

The Avery Wolves will make the journey down from Fairbanks on Friday, Dec. 13, for a performance at Van’s Dive Bar (1027 E. Fifth Ave.) with Anchorage bands Saucy Yoda, Hoss and Icky Nikki. The show begins at 9 p.m. and is free to attend.

Pages