FILE - In this Feb. 26, 2018 file photo, a banner to welcome immigrants is shown through a fisheye lens over the main entrance to the Denver City and County Building. The U.S. Justice Department told The Associated Press at the end of February 2019 that 28 jurisdictions, including Denver, that were targeted in 2017 over what it considered "sanctuary" policies have been cleared for law enforcement grant funding. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File) (David Zalubowski/)
WASHINGTON -- It is mystifying why Democrats are so up in arms about President Trump’s declaration that he is considering releasing illegal immigrants into so-called “sanctuary cities.” After all, Trump’s plan simply follows the Democrats’ own policy prescriptions for dealing with illegal immigrants.
First, Democrats support releasing illegal immigrants into U.S. communities. Just a few months ago, during the negotiations to end the government shutdown, Democrats sought to limit the number of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) detention "beds available for interior enforcement" to about 16,500 per day, and to reduce the overall number of available beds to less than 36,000. In January, ICE was holding 48,088 illegal immigrants.
When Homeland Security officials warned this could force the release of thousands illegal immigrants, Democrats openly declared it was their goal to do precisely that. Rep. Lucille Roybal-Allard, D-Calif., who chairs the House Appropriations subcommittee on homeland security, said the goal of capping the beds was to "force the Trump administration to prioritize deportation for criminals and people who pose real security threats, not law-abiding immigrants."
Many other leading Democrats -- including presidential candidates Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Kirsten Gillibrand, D-N.Y., -- have gone further, proposing to abolish ICE altogether. In 2013, when she was House minority leader, Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., -- now the House speaker -- called for an end to deportations for illegal immigrants who have not committed felonies, declaring "Our view of the law is that … if somebody is here without sufficient documentation, that is not reason for deportation." Some Democrats, including California Attorney General Xavier Becerra and presidential candidate and former San Antonio mayor Julián Castro, have gone so far as to propose decriminalizing illegal border crossings entirely. "The truth is, immigrants seeking refuge in our country ... shouldn't be a criminal-justice issue," Castro said.
So, Democrats have been pretty clear -- they want illegal immigrants released and allowed to live in the United States.
Where should they live? Well, it was Democrats who created "sanctuary cities" as sanctuaries for illegal immigrants. If they want illegal immigrants released, why would they oppose having President Trump release them into the very sanctuaries (BEG ITAL)they(END ITAL) created for that express purpose?
If anything, the Democratic leaders of those sanctuary cities are working overtime to turn them into magnets for illegal immigrants.
Democratic California Gov. Gavin Newsom vowed in his 2019 inaugural address to make the entire state of California a "sanctuary to all who seek it," and on his first day in office, he proposed making illegal immigrants eligible for Medi-Cal, the state's version of Medicaid, until age 26. Some sanctuary cities are even allowing illegal immigrants to vote in local elections. In 2016, San Francisco passed Proposition N, which allows illegal immigrants to vote in school board elections. And in 2017, College Park, Md., became the largest U.S. city to allow illegal immigrants to vote in municipal elections.
Sorry, Democrats, you don't get to have it both ways. You can't on one hand try to force Trump to release illegal immigrants, create sanctuaries for them and arrange local laws to encourage illegal immigrants to come to those sanctuaries, and then simultaneously be outraged that Trump wants to do exactly what you have said should be done with those who cross our borders illegally.
Whether Trump can legally follow through on his proposal to send illegal immigrants to sanctuary cities is in question. But there is nothing morally wrong with what he has proposed. There is certainly no harm being done to the illegal immigrants. Far from it, they would be sent to welcoming communities where they would receive free health care, protection from deportation and possibly even the right to vote. And then the Americans who voted to turn their cities into magnets for illegal immigrants could bear the costs of supporting them.
If anything, it is conservatives who should be up in arms over the idea of releasing illegal immigrants into sanctuary cities. Once they are in sanctuary cities, then it will be harder to find and deport the ones committing violent crimes. Just ask the family of Kate Steinle.
Trump’s plan likely won’t ever come to fruition, but the president is effectively calling out Democrats for their hypocrisy. There was a time when many Democrats believed, as Sen. Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a 2009 speech, that “Illegal immigration is wrong, plain and simple.” No longer. If Democrats won’t help the president secure the border, then there’s nothing outrageous about making them live with the consequences of the policies they advocate.
The views expressed here are the writer’s and are not necessarily endorsed by the Anchorage Daily News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary(at)adn.com. Send submissions shorter than 200 words to firstname.lastname@example.org or click here to submit via any web browser. Read our full guidelines for letters and commentaries here.
Russian President Vladimir Putin chairs a Security Council meeting in Moscow, Friday, Feb. 1, 2019. (Alexei Nikolsky, Sputnik, Kremlin Pool Photo via AP) (Alexei Nikolsky /)
In 2016, Russian President Vladimir Putin orchestrated a comprehensive attack on U.S. sovereignty by attempting to shape the outcome of our presidential election. Special Counsel Robert Mueller and his investigative team should be commended for providing amazing details about some aspects of this Russian intervention.
But Mueller's accounting should not be confused with the 9/11 Commission report that was issued after the terrorist attacks against the United States on Sept. 11, 2001. Mueller and his team had a specific task, not a comprehensive mandate. They did not analyze all aspects of the Russian interference campaign, which extended beyond social media strategies and computer-intrusion operations. They did not assess how the Obama administration, social media companies and media organizations responded to Russian meddling. They did not evaluate the appropriateness of a number of interactions between the Trump campaign and Russian officials. Most importantly, they did not propose policies for preventing future attacks. The Mueller report is an important first step, but only a first step.
Volume I of Mueller's report focuses principally on the two operations conducted by the Internet Research Agency (IRA) and the GRU, Russia's military intelligence agency. This scope is reasonable, since they probably had the biggest impact. As the Mueller report reveals in fantastic detail, the IRA deployed multiple methods to influence U.S. electoral preferences and political views - primarily in the virtual world, on social media platforms, but also, at times, in the physical one. The GRU stole private property from the Democratic National Committee and Democratic Congressional Campaign Committee, as well as from Clinton campaign chairman John Podesta, and then published this data to try to damage candidate Hillary Clinton and help candidate Donald Trump.
Yet the Russian government and its proxies ran several other plays only partially discussed in the Mueller report. Russian media companies, including primarily RT and Sputnik, sought to influence American voter attitudes. Most audaciously and frighteningly, cyber operatives closely tied to the Russian government probed the U.S. electoral infrastructure in 21 states in 2016. And we still have little transparency about the economic ties between Russian actors and U.S. candidates and their campaign officials involved in the 2016 elections. The U.S. national interest would be well served by Mueller-size reports on these other Russian activities as well.
We also need in-depth studies of how policymakers (and others) responded or failed to respond effectively to these Russian efforts. The bipartisan commission established
after 9/11 investigated thoroughly what measures the George W. Bush administration did and did not take to prevent that attack. There has been no such accounting of President Barack Obama's administration and congressional efforts. Should the FBI have moved more quickly to communicate with the campaigns under attack or withthe social media platforms being exploited by the IRA? Should the White House have spoken more forcefully and more often about these attacks? What did Congress do right and wrong? We need to learn from past mistakes to avoid them in the future.
The actions of social media companies and traditional media organizations require similar scrutiny. How could Russian actors so easily broadcast partisan and false information on social media platforms? Why did the "sweeping and systematic" Russian attacks (to use Mueller's words) get so little attention from the broadcast and print media in 2016? Why did some journalists and commentators wrongly label this attack on our country a "hoax"? Were government officials, including those in charge of the investigation at the time, deliberately misleading the media, or could more have been done to dig deeper into this story before November 2016? What is the proper use of stolen data in future reporting?
We also need a more thorough and precise assessment of the intentions behind contacts between campaigns and foreign governments, companies or individuals to develop policy prescriptions - be they norms or laws - for future elections. (If these assessments are in the classified parts of the Mueller report, they should be published.) Mueller decided that these contacts were not criminal, but they were, in my view, wrong. They should not be repeated.
Candidates should not be in direct contact with foreigners to obtain compromising material on their opponents. They should not encourage foreign governments to steal property from their opponents and then promote the widespread dissemination of that illicit material. And they should not engage in business deals with foreign partners in ways that could be construed as conflicts of interest. At minimum, all candidates should disclose their business interests in foreign companies; publishing one's tax returns would be an easy way to provide this necessary transparency. And foreign companies, organizations and consultants (e.g., Orbis Business Intelligence, Cambridge Analytica, WikiLeaks) should not be allowed to work on U.S. campaigns.
The report appears to clear Trump and his campaign team of the crime of conspiring with the Russians. That means that the president and his associates should feel free to acknowledge and criticize forcefully what the Russians did to us in 2016. The Trump administration should seize this chance to work with Congress, the media and election officials to protect our elections from the malign influence of foreign forces. Some policy prescriptions are obvious and ripe for implementation. Other issues, however, will require more analysis and more creative solutions.
The Mueller report is good start. But it is only a start.
Michael McFaul is director of the Freeman Spogli Institute for International Studies and a Hoover fellow at Stanford University and a contributing columnist to The Post. He is the author of “From Cold War to Hot Peace: An American Ambassador in Putin’s Russia.”
The views expressed here are the writer’s and are not necessarily endorsed by the Anchorage Daily News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary(at)adn.com. Send submissions shorter than 200 words to email@example.com or click here to submit via any web browser. Read our full guidelines for letters and commentaries here.
President Donald Trump listens as he meets with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg in the Oval Office of the White House, Tuesday, April 2, 2019, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci) (Evan Vucci/)
President Donald Trump should not be impeached. It would be a terrible thing for the country.
This is not because he doesn't deserve it. The long-awaited report by special counsel Robert Mueller has provided a devastating inside look at Trump's White House, where he has created a culture of recklessness and deceit.
More than two years of admirably accurate investigative reporting on the part of the media - the same accounts that the president so often labeled "fake news" - gave the country a basic outline of how this presidency operates.
But the sworn testimony that Mueller compiled from insiders revealed that Trump has created, as my colleagues Philip Rucker and Robert Costa wrote, "an atmosphere of chaos, dishonesty and malfeasance at the top echelons of government not seen since the [Richard] Nixon administration."
With Mueller's decision not to charge the president with a crime - preordained not by the weight of the evidence, but by the Justice Department's long-standing view that a sitting president cannot be indicted - he has left it to Congress to determine what to do with the bill of particulars he put together.
"The conclusion that Congress may apply the obstruction laws to the President's corrupt exercise of the powers of the office accords with our constitutional system of checks and balances and the principle that no person is above the law," he wrote.
Mueller's report amounts to an invitation to - and roadmap for - impeachment.
It is important to remember that this would be a political, not a legal, adjudication. The Constitution does not define what constitutes the "high crimes and misdemeanors" that merit removal from office; they are whatever Congress deems them to be.
But doing it at this particularly tender moment in our history is something that lawmakers should resist.
Even a successful impeachment by the House would come screeching to a halt in the Republican-controlled Senate, where chances of the constitutionally mandated two-thirds vote it would take to convict are virtually zero. The only thing the exercise would accomplish is further inflaming both the president's political base and the opposition.
What's more, the process would probably take a year or more, during which the country would become not only more deeply divided, but thoroughly preoccupied, as anyone who was sentient during the 1998-99 impeachment saga of President Bill Clinton will recall.
All of this would take us right into the height of the 2020 presidential campaign season, when voters will be given their opportunity to say directly whether they believe Trump is fit to occupy the Oval Office.
As I've traveled with a number of the Democratic candidates in the early states, I have been struck by how infrequently the subject of the Mueller investigation has come up. The crowds are large and enthusiastic, eager for the contest to get underway, but seem far more interested in hearing about issues such as health care, jobs and the environment, which have a more direct impact on their own lives.
This is the debate that needs to happen - and that would be smothered if the election becomes a referendum on impeachment.
Nor would this missed opportunity be the only danger.
One of the features of Clinton's character, both a flaw and a survival skill, was his ability to "compartmentalize" - to attend to the business of his presidency even as it was teetering on oblivion. That is one reason his job approval reached its highest point in the Gallup poll - 73 percent - the same week the House voted to impeach him in 1998. (It is also worth noting that the Republicans lost five House seats in the midterm elections that year, largely in punishment for an overreach that nearly cost them their majority.)
What we have seen from Trump is the opposite, both in his public behavior and the behind-the-scenes accounts in the Mueller report; under pressure, he becomes more erratic and reckless, prone to pushing legal boundaries and making policy pronouncements by tweet.
That the president did not succeed in his efforts to obstruct Mueller's investigation, the special counsel wrote, was "largely because the persons who surrounded the President declined to carry out orders or accede to his requests." But there are fewer and fewer of those non-sycophants around him.
None of this is to argue that Trump should not be held accountable for his actions, or that Congress - which has a constitutional duty to provide oversight of the executive - should do nothing in the wake of Mueller's devastating report.
But there is another option: Either house, could, with a majority vote, formally censure Trump, something that has not happened to any chief executive since the Senate censured Andrew Jackson in 1834.
While this would be dismissed in some quarters as merely a symbolic act, it would be a historic rebuke of the Trump presidency - and would, properly, leave it to the voters to decide whether they have had enough of it.
The views expressed here are the writer’s and are not necessarily endorsed by the Anchorage Daily News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary(at)adn.com. Send submissions shorter than 200 words to firstname.lastname@example.org or click here to submit via any web browser. Read our full guidelines for letters and commentaries here.
President Donald Trump walks towards the steps of Air Force One at Andrews Air Force Base in Md., Monday, April 15, 2019. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh) (Susan Walsh/)
President Donald Trump seethed Friday over the special counsel’s damning portrayal of his protracted campaign to thwart the Russia investigation and directed much of his ire at former White House counsel Donald McGahn, whose ubiquity in the report’s footnotes laid bare his extensive cooperation in chronicling the president’s actions.
Some of the report's most derogatory scenes were attributed not only to the recollections of McGahn and other witnesses, but also to the contemporaneous notes kept by several senior administration officials - the kind of paper trail that Trump has long sought to avoid leaving.
Many White House aides use pen and paper both as a defensive mechanism - such as when then-chief of staff John Kelly documented Trump's move to grant security clearances to his daughter and son-in-law, Ivanka Trump and Jared Kushner - and as a means of creating the first draft of a page-turning presidency.
But the fact that some of those notes became primary source material for Mueller to paint a vivid portrait of Trump's deception and malfeasance angered the president, who was stewing over the media coverage as he decamped to Florida for the holiday weekend, according to people familiar with his thinking.
"Statements are made about me by certain people in the Crazy Mueller Report, in itself written by 18 Angry Democrat Trump Haters, which are fabricated & totally untrue," the president tweeted Friday morning from his Mar-a-Lago Club. "Watch out for people that take so-called 'notes,' when the notes never existed until needed."
[Read the full Mueller report]
Trump went on to claim that some of the statements made about him in the Mueller report were "total bullshit & only given to make the other person look good (or me to look bad)."
Trump attorney Rudy Giuliani said that since charges were not brought against Trump for obstruction of justice, Mueller should not have so thoroughly detailed the acts that were under examination, such as the president's attempts to remove the special counsel and curtail the probe.
"The narrative is written as if it's all true and somebody proved it. Nobody proved it," Giuliani said in an interview Friday. "I'm frustrated by the report because in some ways I'd love to have a trial and prove that it's not true."
Giuliani singled out McGahn, noting that Trump waived executive privilege to allow him to describe episodes to Mueller.
"If McGahn thought any of those things were crimes, why did he stay there?" Giuliani asked. "They're trying to make it out as if there's something illegal about what happened with McGahn. The guy is a very good lawyer. If he believed that there was something illegal, he wouldn't have stayed in his job."
William Burck, counsel to McGahn, issued a statement late Friday in response to Giuliani.
"It's a mystery why Rudy Giuliani feels the need to re-litigate incidents the Attorney General and Deputy Attorney General have concluded were not obstruction," Burck wrote. "But they are accurately described in the report. Don, nonetheless, appreciates that the President gave him the opportunity to serve as White House Counsel and assist him with his signature accomplishments."
In this Aug. 21, 2018 photo, White House counsel Don McGahn, follows Supreme Court nominee Judge Brett Kavanaugh to meetings on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Jose Luis Magana) (Jose Luis Magana/)
According to the account McGahn provided investigators, Trump directed him to call Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who supervised the Russia probe, and tell him to remove Mueller as special counsel. McGahn refused and prepared to resign but was convinced by colleagues to remain as White House counsel.
One of McGahn's friends, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to speak publicly about the matter, said McGahn was focused on his work at the Jones Day law firm and is trying to lay low, hopeful of avoiding a dispute with Trump.
Trump had a tempestuous working relationship with McGahn, who departed the White House last fall, but a White House official who is friendly with McGahn said the president's fury was driven in part by news coverage and therefore unlikely to last long. Several Trump advisers said they believed McGahn was being unfairly targeted inside the West Wing because of past tensions with Kushner and Ivanka Trump.
"If anything, Don saved this presidency from the president," one adviser said, requesting anonymity to speak candidly. "If Don had actually gone through with what the president wanted, you would have had a constitutional crisis. The president's ego is hurt, but he's still here."
Despite Trump's angry tweets Friday morning about the Mueller report, the president was in a good mood as he dined on the Mar-a-Lago patio after landing in Palm Beach on Thursday night. On Friday, he played golf with conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh, who strongly defended the president on the air Thursday.
"My friends, I'm telling you, this report is made to order for the Democrat Party to ignore what is the only important thing about this: No collusion, no obstruction, period," Limbaugh told his listeners.
After huddling with his lawyers, including White House attorney Emmet Flood, Trump complained that the second volume of the Mueller report, which focuses on obstruction of justice, is a political document intended to make him look bad, according to a senior White House official.
Former Trump campaign adviser Jason Miller argued that the report's revelations "are not necessarily vote determinative issues. Any of this type of West Wing inside baseball drama, or somewhat contrived stories, nobody in the real world actually votes on that. Nobody in the real world is reading all 450 pages of that."
More than a dozen aides provided notes to the special counsel, with "notes" mentioned in the Mueller report at least 160 times. As evidence for the obstruction of justice inquiry, Mueller relied heavily on notes recorded by McGahn's chief of staff, Anne Donaldson, as well as those taken by former White House staff secretary Rob Porter and Sessions chief of staff Jody Hunt, according to the report's citations.
The report also cited interviews with McGahn, Porter, former chief of staff Reince Priebus, former chief strategist Stephen Bannon and former communications director Hope Hicks, among others.
Once Trump and his lawyers decided to cooperate with the special counsel investigation, many administration officials voluntarily sat for interviews with Mueller's team and shared their emails, notes and other records. Several witnesses said Ty Cobb, a White House lawyer who handled the Russia probe during its first year, instructed them to cooperate with Mueller and they would have told Trump or his lawyers what they were prepared to say or what notes they were going to provide if asked.
Now, some of them said they are worried Trump may try to retaliate against them, as the president has in the past when he believes aides cooperated with some book authors.
Before becoming president, Trump left the impression with his employees that he did not want them to take too many notes, for fear of a paper trail that could haunt them down the road. Sam Nunberg, one of Trump's former political advisers, recalled him saying, "I can't believe what people put in emails."
In the White House, many aides take notes - sometimes to memorialize strange moments or orders Trump gave that made them uncomfortable, and sometimes simply to remember one's marching orders or what was agreed to during a meeting.
Trump sometimes warily views note-taking in the Oval Office. He rarely takes copious notes himself, aides said, but occasionally scribbles on the side of papers. During a briefing on cybersecurity hacks, for instance, Trump bragged to officials that he never used email and said companies would be better off without using technology that harbors such records.
Trump's nervousness over there being a record of his private comments is evident in the requirement that guests at his fundraisers must put their phones in their bags because, as he put it at a recent Texas fundraiser, he sometimes makes problematic comments.
Trump is quoted in the Mueller report admonishing McGahn for taking notes; he replied that he kept a record of conversations because he was a "real lawyer."
Yet Trump understands the power of a written record.
In another scene from Mueller's report, Trump instructs former campaign manager Corey Lewandowski to "write this down" when he asked Lewandowski to help secure the resignation of Jeff Sessions as attorney general.
Mueller also reveals that Trump asked deputy national security adviser K.T. McFarland to draft an internal letter stating that he had not directed national security adviser Michael Flynn to discuss sanctions with Russian Ambassador Sergey Kislyak. McFarland declined, according to Mueller's report, because she did not know whether that was true.
The Washington Post’s Anne Gearan in Palm Beach, Florida, contributed to this report.
The death of a woman whose body was found Friday next to the Loussac Library in Midtown Anchorage “doesn’t appear to be suspicious at this time,” according to police.
Anchorage police received a report of a body found next to the library, at 3600 Denali St., around 4:30 p.m. Friday, according to an alert.
Police were collecting evidence at the scene Friday evening, and the State Medical Examiner Office will determine the woman’s cause of death, police said.
The woman was not identified.
Police asked anyone with information to call dispatch at 311.
President Donald Trump and his accompanying motorcade vehicles arrive at Trump International Golf Club, Friday, April 19, 2019 in West Palm Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais) (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/)
WASHINGTON — President Donald Trump lashed out Friday at current and former aides who cooperated with special counsel Robert Mueller’s investigation, insisting the deeply unflattering picture they painted of him and the White House was “total bullshit.”
In a series of angry tweets from rainy Palm Beach, Florida, Trump laced into those who, under oath, had shared with Mueller their accounts of how Trump tried numerous times to squash or influence the investigation and portrayed the White House as infected by a culture of lies, deceit and deception.
"Statements are made about me by certain people in the Crazy Mueller Report, in itself written by 18 Angry Democrat Trump Haters, which are fabricated & totally untrue," Trump wrote, adding that some were "total bullshit & only given to make the other person look good (or me to look bad)."
The attacks were a dramatic departure from the upbeat public face the White House had put on it just 24 hours earlier, when Trump celebrated the report's findings as full exoneration and his counselor Kellyanne Conway called it "the best day" for Trump's team since his election. While the president, according to people close to him, did feel vindicated by the report, he also felt betrayed by those who had painted him in an unflattering light — even though they were speaking under oath and had been directed by the White House to cooperate fully with Mueller's team.
The reaction was not entirely surprising and had been something staffers feared in the days ahead of the report's release as they wondered how Mueller might portray their testimony and whether the report might damage their relationships with Trump.
While Mueller found no criminal evidence that Trump or his campaign aides colluded in Russian election meddling and did not recommend obstruction charges against the president, the 448-page report released Thursday nonetheless paints a damaging picture of the president, describing numerous cases where he discouraged witnesses from cooperating with prosecutors and prodded aides to mislead the public on his behalf to hamper the Russia probe he feared would cripple his presidency.
The accounts prompted Republican Sen. Mitt Romney, who has sometimes clashed with Trump, to release a statement saying he was "sickened at the extent and pervasiveness of dishonesty and misdirection by individuals in the highest office of the land, including the President."
"Reading the report is a sobering revelation of how far we have strayed from the aspirations and principles of the founders," he said.
The report concluded that one reason Trump managed to stay out of trouble was that his "efforts to influence the investigation were mostly unsuccessful ... largely because the persons who surrounded the President declined to carry out orders or accede to his requests."
That didn't spare those who defied Trump's wishes from his wrath.
Trump appeared to be especially angry with former White House counsel Don McGahn, who sat with Mueller for about 30 hours of interviews, and is referenced numerous times in the report.
In one particularly vivid passage, Mueller recounts how Trump called McGahn twice at home and directed him to set in motion Mueller's firing. McGahn recoiled, packed up his office and threatened to resign, fearing the move would trigger a potential crisis akin to the Saturday Night Massacre of firings during the Watergate era.
In another section, Mueller details how Trump questioned McGahn's note-taking, telling the White House counsel that, "Lawyers don 't take notes" and that he'd "never had a lawyer who took notes."
"Watch out for people that take so-called "notes," when the notes never existed until needed," Trump said in one of his tweets Friday. Others whose contemporaneous notes were referenced in the report include former staff secretary Rob Porter and Reince Priebus, Trump's first chief of staff.
Trump ended his tweet with the word, "a..." suggesting more was coming. More than eight hours later, he finally completed his thought, calling the probe a "big, fat, waste of time, energy and money" and threatening investigators by saying, "It is now finally time to turn the tables and bring justice to some very sick and dangerous people who have committed very serious crimes, perhaps even Spying or Treason." There is no evidence of either.
Trump, who is in Florida for the Easter weekend, headed to his West Palm Beach golf club Friday after some early morning rain had cleared. There he played golf with conservative talk radio host Rush Limbaugh "and a couple friends," according to the White House.
He'll spend the rest of the weekend with family, friends and paying members of his private Mar-a-Lago club in Palm Beach.
As Trump hopped off the steps from Air Force One on Thursday evening, he was greeted by a throng of supporters, who clamored for autographs and selfies. He repeatedly told the crowd "thank you everybody" as they yelled encouragement.
Ari Fleischer, who served as White House press secretary to former President George W. Bush, said in an appearance on Fox News that he didn't understand why Trump decided to send his tweets lashing out at former aides.
"I think it's over," he said. "If I were the president, I would have basically declared victory with the Mueller report and everything that came out and move beyond it."
Still, he said he hoped the White House had learned some lessons.
"The president and his entire team needs to realize how close they came to being charged with obstruction," Fleischer said. "Asking your staff to lie and engaging in some of the activities that the Mueller report stated the president engaged in is too close to obstruction. And that's a lesson I hope everybody at the White House takes with them going forward."
Associated Press writers Deb Riechmann in Washington and Kevin Freking in Palm Beach, Florida, contributed to this report.
Donald Trump, Hillary Clinton and Bernie Sanders (AP file photos)
WASHINGTON - The report from special counsel Robert Mueller lays out in stark detail Russian efforts to foment anger in the U.S. electorate and influence the 2016 election. But it also makes clear the extent to which that 2016 Russian campaign has indelibly formed the landscape for the 2020 race.
On the campaign trail, President Donald Trump and his supporters still rail regularly about the need to investigate Hillary Clinton and her missing emails. Calls to "lock her up" are a part of many rallies.
On the Democratic side, old grudges laid bare by the Russian hacks and disinformation campaign are a significant part the 2020 battlefield. Supporters of Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., still regularly cite emails purloined by the Russians to argue that the nomination was stolen from him. Some insist, incorrectly, that Sanders received more votes than Clinton.
Earlier this week, Sanders added to that sense of grievance, accusing a liberal think tank of trying to undermine his 2020 presidential campaign. "The Democratic primary must be a campaign of ideas, not of bad-faith smears," Sanders wrote in a letter to the board of the Center for American Progress (CAP).
The bad blood between Sanders and CAP traces back to Russia's 2016 hack of emails from the Democratic Party and Clinton's campaign chairman, John Podesta. Sanders was upset that CAP "fought" him on a $15 minimum wage and other policies, said Faiz Shakir, Sanders's campaign manager. His evidence: A hacked email from CAP President Neera Tanden disparaging the idea.
At its outset, the Russian effort sought to sow "discord in the U.S. political system," according to the Mueller report. That discord and lack of trust, in turn, made Americans more vulnerable to the Russian disinformation efforts that followed.
Over time the disinformation and hacking campaign, which began in 2014, evolved to support Trump and disparage Clinton. Internal documents from the Russia-based Internet Research Agency cited directions to IRA operators not to harm Sanders.
"Main idea: Use any opportunity to criticize Hillary [Clinton] and the rest (except Sanders and Trump - we support them)" the report quoted an IRA document as stating. Sanders's 2016 campaign manager, Jeff Weaver, said recently that "none of us knew" about the Russian interference.
Now, some 30 months after the 2016 election, the U.S. government and its biggest tech companies are better positioned to identify Russian interference. The FBI has a foreign influence task force and many technology companies have disinformation units aimed at thwarting foreign influence. The biggest companies, such as Google, Twitter and Facebook, gather intelligence about disinformation efforts, shut down problematic accounts and require a new degree of transparency and verification when customers buy political ads.
"One of the biggest problems was a lack of cooperation between the public and private sectors in 2016," said Alex Stamos, former chief security officer at Facebook and now director of the Stanford Internet Observatory. "It was nobody's job."
But so many of the conditions that made the U.S. electorate vulnerable to Russian hacking - polarization, anger, lack of trust in U.S. institutions - have grown significantly worse in the years since 2016.
"I'm going to keep repeating this point: Our vulnerability to Russia or any other foreign power is directly related to how divided, partisan and dysfunctional our political process is," then-President Barack Obama told reporters weeks after the 2016 election. "So if we really want to reduce foreign influence . . . then we better think about how to make sure our political process . . . is stronger than it has ever been."
By almost every measure, the partisan discord that marked 2016 has only grown worse, between the political parties and inside them.
Trump's relentless attacks on the news media as the "enemy of the people" have dramatically widened the gap between Republican and Democratic perceptions of the news media's accuracy and trustworthiness, according to surveys by the Pew Research Center. In 2016 similar numbers of Republican and Democrats said they believed the national news media "do very well" at keeping them informed. By 2018 the gap between Democrats and Republicans was 16 percentage points.
The president also has worked to diminish other institutions, including the courts, the Justice Department and federal agencies.
On matters of policy, the views of most Americans haven't changed substantially. But the vehemence of their positions has. "What has changed is that partisans report disliking the other party more than they did a few years ago, continuing a long trend of growing animosity," said Nathan Kalmoe, a political scientist at Louisiana State University. "The us versus them aspect of partisanship has gotten worse."
Another factor likely to influence the 2020 campaign: The Russians have become more adept at using social media to manipulate public opinion.
The Mueller report documents Russian trolls with tens of thousands of followers on Twitter and Facebook. And it offers repeated instances of their social media messages being touted in the news media and by top Trump campaign officials, including the president, who as recently as September 2017 responded to a "We Love You, Mr. President" tweet from @10_GOP, a Russian controlled account.
Even today, Russian Facebook posts and tweets can wrack up hundreds of thousands of likes and regularly find their way into real news, said Darren Linvill, an associate professor of communications at Clemson University who studies Russian disinformation efforts. "They have gotten so good at viral content," Linvill said, "and they know where to find it."
Many of the most recent posts seem designed to stoke racial animosity ahead of the 2020 presidential campaign. Just last week a Russian Twitter account drew more than 33,000 retweets for a video of a white woman in Dallas threatening to call Immigration and Customs Enforcement on a taco truck.
After an online poll, the Russian troll account dubbed the woman "Taco Truck Tammy," a moniker picked up by newspaper and television stations. Earlier this week Twitter shut down the account @Dany_xoo after Linvill called it to the company's attention.
In the case of 2016 hack of Democratic Party emails, the Mueller report revealed messages between Russian military intelligence and WikiLeaks laying out the two groups’ goals. “We think trump has only a 25 percent chance of winning against hillary,” a WikiLeaks message read. “so conflict between bernie and hillary is interesting.”
Now, that conflict is playing out in the context of 2020 and a crowded and competitive Democratic field.
"The dangers on the Democratic side are much deeper than they were," said Stamos, the former Facebook security chief. "The large number of candidates and leftover ill feelings from 2016 increase the likelihood that some Democratic voters will emerge from the primary process disaffected."
"If I was working at a Russian troll farm . . . I would be 100 percent focused on the Democratic primary," Stamos said.
Democratic officials are doing their best to safeguard against such efforts by encouraging candidates to work together to battle trolls and disavow information gleaned through illegal hacks.
"Like you, we don't want a repeat of what happened in 2016, and are alarmed by recent reports of ongoing activity by hostile foreign powers and malicious domestic actors," a recent letter from Association of State Democratic Committees to its state chapters says. The letter proposes discussions with the presidential primary campaigns and the Democratic National Committee to agree to a "new set of norms" for this "age of social media and disinformation."
But some experts are skeptical that these new efforts will amount to much at a moment when voters are angry and U.S. political actors have become more adept at manipulating voter distrust.
Several liberal operatives mimicked Russians tactics in seeking to manipulate Alabama voters through social media during the 2017 special election for U.S. Senate, under the code name Project Birmingham.Many disinformation experts now regard such threats from domestic political activists as more serious - and harder to combat - than ones from foreign operatives such as the Russians.
"They set off the powder keg, and we'll never be able to come together in one reality again," said Clinton Watts, a former FBI agent who studies Russian disinformation for the Foreign Policy Research Institute. "Their work is done. We're already at each other's throats."
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The Washington Post’s Sean Sullivan contributed to this report.
David Turpin becomes emotional as he reads a statement during a sentencing hearing Friday, April 19, 2019, in Riverside, Calif. Turpin and his wife, Louise, who pleaded guilty to years of torture and abuse of 12 of their 13 children have been sentenced to life in prison with possibility of parole after 25 years. (Will Lester/The Orange County Register via AP, Pool) (Will Lester/)
RIVERSIDE, Calif. — The eldest son and daughter of a couple who starved and shackled 12 of their children spoke publicly for the first time Friday, alternately condemning and forgiving their parents before a judge sentenced the pair to up to life in prison.
Since being freed from their prison-like home more than a year ago, the two adult children of David and Louise Turpin described how they had gained control of lives and, despite receiving little education at home, were now enrolled in college and learning simple things, including how to ride a bike, swim and prepare a meal. They are still thin from years of malnutrition.
"I cannot describe in words what we went through growing up," said the oldest son, now 27. "Sometimes I still have nightmares of things that have happened, such as my siblings being chained up or getting beaten. But that is the past and this is now. I love my parents and have forgiven them for a lot of the things that they did to us."
The hearing put an end to a shocking case that had gone unnoticed until a 17-year-old girl escaped from the home in January 2018 and called 911. Investigators discovered a house of horrors hidden behind a veneer of suburban normalcy.
The children — ages 2 to 29 — had been chained to beds, forced to live in squalor, fed only once a day, allowed to shower only once a year and deprived of toys and games. They slept during the day and were active a few hours at night.
As her children spoke from a lectern, 50-year-old Louise Turpin sobbed and dabbed her eyes with tissues.
"I'm sorry for everything I've done to hurt my children," she said. "I love my children so much."
Louise Turpin, left, listens to her attorney, Jeff Moore, during a sentencing hearing Friday, April 19, 2019, in Riverside, Calif. Turpin and her husband, David, who pleaded guilty to years of torture and abuse of 12 of their 13 children have been sentenced to life in prison with possibility of parole after 25 years. (Will Lester/The Orange County Register via AP, Pool) (Will Lester/)
Her husband, who was shaking and could not initially read from a written statement, let his lawyer speak for him until he regained his composure. He did not apologize for the abuse but wished his children well in with their educations and future careers and hoped they would visit him. He then began sobbing.
Jack Osborn, a lawyer representing the seven adult Turpin children, said they understand the consequences of their parents' actions and are working hard toward forgiving them. Some plan to talk with their parents eventually, but others want no contact with them for 10 years.
The one who called police was a hero for liberating her siblings, Osborn said.
"Maybe but for that we wouldn't be here today," he said.
The sentence of life with no chance of parole for 25 years was no surprise. It had been agreed to when the couple pleaded guilty in February to 14 counts each that included torture, cruelty and false imprisonment.
The courtroom fell hushed as the oldest daughter, now 30, entered wearing a blue cardigan over a white shirt, her dark hair in a ponytail. Her eyes were already red from crying when she began to speak in the voice of a little girl.
"My parents took my whole life from me, but now I'm taking my life back," she said, as her mother's lower lip quivered trying to hold back the tears. "Life may have been bad but it made me strong. I fought to become the person I am. I saw my dad change my mom. They almost changed me, but I realized what was happening. I immediately did what I could to not become like them."
There was no explanation from the parents or lawyers about why the abuse occurred, but a letter from one of the children read by an attorney hinted at a home life that veered from birthday celebrations and trips to Disneyland and Las Vegas to severe punishment and disarray.
"Through the years, things became more and more overwhelming, but they kept trusting in God," the girl wrote "I remember our mother sitting in her recliner and crying, saying she don't know what to do."
She said her parents did not know the children were malnourished because they thought the children inherited a gene from their mother, who was small.
From the outside, the home in a middle-class section of Perris, a small city about 60 miles (96 kilometers) southeast of Los Angeles, appeared to be neatly kept, and neighbors rarely saw the kids outside, but nothing triggered suspicion.
But when deputies arrived, they were shocked to find a 22-year-old son chained to a bed and two girls who had just been set free from shackles. All but one of the 13 children were severely underweight and had not bathed for months. The house was filled with the stench of human waste.
The children said they were beaten, caged and shackled if they did not obey their parents. Investigators concluded that the couple's youngest child, a toddler, was the only one who was not abused.
David Turpin, 57, had been an engineer for Lockheed Martin and Northrop Grumman. Louise Turpin was listed as a housewife in a 2011 bankruptcy filing.
The teenage daughter who escaped jumped from a window. After a lifetime in isolation, the 17-year-old did not know her address, the month of the year or what the word "medication" meant.
But she knew enough to punch 911 into a barely workable cellphone and began describing years of abuse to a police dispatcher.
Although the couple filed paperwork with the state to homeschool their children, learning was limited. The oldest daughter only completed third grade.
Referring to the restraints, the oldest daughter's statement said her mother "didn't want to use rope or chain but she was afraid her children were taking in too much sugar and caffeine."
Life got more difficult after her mother's parents died in 2016.
Her parents tried their best, "and they wanted to give us a good life," she said. "They believed everything they did was to protect us."
Associated Press writers Amanda Lee Myers and Michael R. Blood in Los Angeles contributed to this report.
This historic South Addition house might get demolished. A neighbor wants to move it a block to save it.
Joe Dugan is trying to save the Shonbeck house across from the Delaney Park Strip from being demolished by a developer who is planning a new development on the property. Dugan would like to move the home to a lot he owns about a block away in South Addition. Wednesday, April 17, 2019. (Bill Roth / ADN) (Bill Roth / ADN/)
The Cape Cod-style house at 1006 G St., a few steps from Anchorage’s Delaney Park Strip, is charming, with white columns on the porch and green trim against a pale blue-gray exterior. Its most distinctive feature is its rounded doorway, featuring thick layers of recessed arches.
The historic South Addition home was built in the late 1930s by Arthur A. Shonbeck, a figure from Anchorage’s early days. It is now in danger of being razed to make way for new townhomes. A neighbor wants to save it, but doing so is complicated.
South Addition was one of Anchorage’s four original neighborhoods — along with downtown, Government Hill and Fairview. Planning began in the early 1900s. Many of the houses are World War II-era and some are older, with distinctive architectural styles and details that you don’t typically see in South Anchorage, Midtown or Spenard. Birches and mature hedges line the sidewalks.
The Shonbeck house is one of 40 properties in the the neighborhood described in the Alaska Heritage Resources Survey, a listing of historic resources in the state.
Arthur Shonbeck, the man who built it, came to Alaska from Wisconsin in the late 1800s. He was in his early 20s and in search of gold, according to a description from the Cook Inlet Historical Society. He later operated a retail, wholesale and outfitting business called Shonbeck General Merchandise. Eventually he became a director of National Bank of Alaska. He was the first among 16 people who “weathered the early storms which determined the town’s destiny," according to a 1957 book about Anchorage by Evangeline Atwood.
Most people know the house by its distinct doorway, which creates something of an optical illusion that makes the door look shrunken.
“In my mind, it’s the entrance to the hobbit home,” said Joe Dugan, the neighbor trying to save it.
Dugan owns several houses in the neighborhood. One of those is a rental with a mostly empty yard on H Street, just around the corner. The plan, he said, is to get a house-relocating company to pick the Shonbeck house up and bring it over there.
“It’s a house that I looked at all of my life,” Dugan said. “Coming into South Addition from the Park Strip, coming down G Street, that’s, like, this very handsome street. That’s the most appealing entrance into a neighborhood I can think of off the Park Strip.”
The problem: City zoning rules say Dugan’s lot is too small to just set the house down in the backyard.
With the help of an architect, Dugan requested two zoning exceptions from the city to allow him to move forward with the project. Those requests were denied by the Zoning Board of Examiners and Appeals last week.
"My interest was like, really, are you serious? We don’t have enough flexibility in our zoning code to do something reasonable?” said Seth Andersen, who lives in the neighborhood and is a member of the city’s planning and zoning commission.
Two single-family homes aren’t allowed on Dugan’s lot, but a duplex is, said Francis McLaughlin, a senior planner with the city. If Dugan does end up relocating the house, he’ll need to make it qualify as a duplex. That will involve making the two buildings touch or be structurally connected in some way.
For some in the neighborhood, saving the house isn’t just about one property. It’s about preserving character in one of the few truly old neighborhoods in a relatively young city.
“There aren’t many historic neighborhoods in Anchorage,” said Moira Gallagher, president of the South Addition Community Council. “A city needs history. It’s an important touchstone for the community. It might seem like just a building, but for a lot of people, it represents how much has happened in South Addition.”
In August last year, Anchorage builder Hultquist Homes bought the property. The plan for the lot is to build four luxury townhomes there, vice president Cody Hultquist said in an email. Those will have a similar exterior design as the sleek, modern townhomes nearby at 804 W. 10th Ave., which Hultquist also built.
The company is “very close” to an agreement with Dugan and hopes to have the house moved in the near future, Hultquist said.
Joe Dugan would like to move the Shonbeck House to a lot he owns about a block away in South Addition. Wednesday, April 17, 2019. (Bill Roth / ADN) (Bill Roth / ADN/)
Asked what the timeline would be to demolish the house if it isn’t moved, Hultquist said: “We have not set a firm date as we prefer to make every effort with Joe.”
Jim and Lani Brennan owned the house from 1988 until last year when they sold it to Hultquist Homes and moved to Port Townsend, Washington, where they live during the winter.
They tried to find a buyer who would live in the house and keep it where it is, said Jim Brennan. They even handed out hundreds of flyers around town to get the word out. Most of the people who stopped by were just there to look, he said.
“They would come in and say, ‘This is my favorite house in Anchorage, I’ve been looking at this house since I was a kid,’” he said. “And we’d say, ‘Great, you wanna buy it?’ And we never got an offer approaching what we were looking for.”
So they ended up selling to Hultquist. It was a tough decision, Jim Brennan said, and now they hope it will be saved.
“The location almost doomed the house because the location was so valuable” to developers, he said.
The Shonbeck house isn’t on the National Register of Historic Places, though Alaska’s State Historic Preservation Office has determined it is eligible to be.
“Folks like historic districts, folks like walking downtown and seeing some of the older buildings,” said Monty Rogers, chair of Anchorage’s Historic Preservation Commission. “(But) that’s not necessarily compatible with increased housing demands. An increasing battle across the country.”
A ballpark estimate puts the cost of moving the house at about $40,000 to $50,000, Hultquist said. Dugan would be the one on the hook for that money, and the house itself would essentially cost nothing, he said. He hopes to reach an agreement with Hultquist and get the house moved by May 15.
New development in the neighborhood is wonderful, said Gallagher, on the community council.
“But,” she said, "it’s also nice to see old homes get updated and preserved.”
Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy speaks to reporters during a news conference on Tuesday, April 9, 2019, in Juneau, Alaska, that focused on the state budget. Dunleavy questioned the potential for any deal with lawmakers if they failed to act on his proposed constitutional amendments and crime bills. (AP Photo/Becky Bohrer) (Becky Bohrer/)
Eating lunch the other day, a friend turned and asked: “So, do you think Dunleavy is crazy or an accidental genius?”
A good question, considering the maelstrom swirling around Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s controversial bid to bridge Alaska’s $1.6 billion budget shortfall without taxes, while providing full Permanent Fund dividends. His approach would mean taking a meat ax to the most sacred of cows - state government.
The mere thought of it renders our friends on the Left apoplectic. Letter writers to newspapers are spitting mad. Umbrageous pundits whine and moan about this transgression and that. Dunleavy is misguided, they say, a fibber, a mean man, a bully. Worse, he hates kids and education and he hates poor people, sick people and the Marine Highway System - and everybody else, too. Oh, and rural Alaskans.
Dunleavy is demented, a certified wack job, his detractors want Alaskans to believe.
His sin? He wants to balance spending and revenues - rather a novel idea in Alaska. His audacious promise to sop up the red ink without imposing taxes or stripping Alaskans of their full dividend has the gobsmacked Left baying in full throat. It cannot be done, they tell anyone who will listen; Alaska will be destroyed, we will all die.
As if that were not enough, there are Dunleavy’s three proposed constitutional amendments that stick it to the Legislature’s spending and taxing authority. One would constitutionally enshrine the dividend’s traditional payout formula. The second sets a spending limit. The third would require voter approval for new taxes. The three would make ordinary Alaskans responsible for Alaska’s fiscal future, something that gives the Left palpitations.
Rather than pussyfoot around, Dunleavy unabashedly tells the Legislature to pass those amendments or there will be no budget deal of any kind. Nada. Zip.
Is our embattled governor as crazy as an outhouse rat, or an accidental genius? Or is he simply the last guy in line, the guy left holding the very short end of a very long stick?
The ugly truth? In recent years, Alaska’s lawmakers and governors have been grossly irresponsible, cleaning up billions in deficits by siphoning off the state’s once respectable savings accounts to appease special interests, the very same interests now loudly adverse to any Dunleavy plan. Legions of Alaskans were complicit accomplices.
Legislatures and governors simply kicked the can down the road. No fiscal plan. No forward-funding. No spending initiatives. No restraint. Oh, there have been, in recent years, anemic House attempts to adopt an income tax - as the state floundered in a recession, no less - but not much else.
Our spendthrift state long has been the poster child for fiscal goofiness. The $184 million railroad extension to Port MacKenzie. Dairies. A $50 million fish plant. Multi-millions here; mega-millions there. In 2008, former Gov. Sarah Palin, in an explosion of populist nitwittery, even handed out a “resource rebate” of $1,200 to each Alaskan. That tab? About $1 billion. Not much has changed. Got a buck? Spend two. Since fiscal 2013, Alaska has spent $16 billion more than it has taken in.
That was then; this is now. Dunleavy’s in-your-face budget proposal and demands for spending controls changed everything.
Yes, there have been missteps. Trying to peddle his plan at meetings sponsored by Americans for Prosperity? Not such a great idea. It made the meetings the focus, not the message. Hiring an Outside budget lady to bring the bad news? With Alaskans’ parochial view of outsiders? Really?
With the almost daily blather from the Left that Alaskans really, truly want the state’s spending to continue unchecked, it is easy to forget 145,631 Alaskans voted to put Dunleavy in office - and his smaller-government agenda certainly was no secret. Nobody who cast a vote for him should be surprised he is trying to rightsize government. Nobody who listened should pretend surprise at his proposed cuts.
Will he be able to pull it off? It is difficult to believe lawmakers will go along completely, but he has indicated there could be a deal if his constitutional amendments are passed. In the end, Dunleavy has his veto pen; the Legislature has its override.
A rational person might ask, “Hey, there is $16 billion in the Permanent Fund’s Earnings Reserve Account, money earmarked for government and dividends, why not a compromise? Why not stretch the cutting process for a year or two or three to soften the blow?
That is a conversation we finally can have because Dunleavy dropped a cherry bomb in the sugar bowl and we are running out of can-kicking room. For the first time in years, we are at least talking - or yelling - about what must be done.
In stirring up the tempest to get here, Dunleavy, indeed, may be an accidental genius - or crazy like a fox.
Paul Jenkins is editor of the AnchorageDailyPlanet.com, a division of Porcaro Communications.
FILE - In this Saturday, April 21, 2018 file photo a bud tender offers attendees the latest products of cannabis at the High Times 420 SoCal Cannabis Cup in San Bernardino, Calif. Businesses inside and outside the multibillion-dollar cannabis industry are using April 20, or “420,” to roll out marketing and social media messaging aimed at connecting with marijuana enthusiasts. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel, File) (Richard Vogel/)
LOS ANGELES — Potheads have for decades celebrated their love of marijuana on April 20, but the once counter-culture celebration that was all about getting stoned now is so mainstream Corporate America is starting to embrace it.
No, Hallmark doesn't yet have a card to mark "420." But many other businesses inside and outside the multibillion-dollar cannabis industry are using April 20, or 4/20, to roll out marketing and social media messaging aimed at connecting with consumers driving the booming market.
On Saturday, Lyft is offering a $4.20 credit on a single ride in Colorado and in select cities in the U.S. and Canada. Carl's Jr. is using a Denver restaurant to market a hamburger infused with CBD, a non-intoxicating molecule found in cannabis that many believe is beneficial to their health.
On 420 last year, Totino's, a maker of frozen pizza snacks, tweeted an image of a microwave and an oven with the message: "To be blunt, pizza rolls are better when baked."
"I think brands that associate themselves with cannabis kind of get that contact high. In other words, they're just considered to be cooler by association," said Kit Yarrow, consumer psychologist at Golden Gate University. "As pot becomes more legal, more discussed, more interesting to people, more widely used, then 420 becomes more mainstream as well."
FILE - In this April 20, 2018 file photo an attendee hoists a flag during the Mile High 420 Festival in Denver. Potheads have for decades celebrated their love of marijuana on April 20, but the once counter-culture celebration that was all about getting stoned now is so mainstream Corporate America is starting to embrace it. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File) (David Zalubowski/)
Marijuana normalization has snowballed since 2012, when Colorado and Washington were the first states to legalize recreational use. Eight more followed, including California, Oregon and Michigan. Medical marijuana is legal in two-thirds of the states, with conservative-leaning Utah and Oklahoma among recent additions.
Meantime, the CBD market has exploded. CBD oil can be found in candies, coffee and other food, drinks and dietary supplements, along with perfume, lotions, creams and soap. Proponents say CBD helps with pain, anxiety and inflammation, though limited scientific research supports those claims.
U.S. retail sales of cannabis products jumped to $10.5 billion last year, a threefold increase from 2017, according to data from Arcview Group, a cannabis investment and market research firm. The figures do not include retail sales of hemp-derived CBD products.
Ben & Jerry’s was one of the earliest big brands to foster a connection with the marijuana culture through marketing. The Vermont-based ice cream company features Cherry Garcia and Phish Food, honoring late Grateful Dead member Jerry Garcia and the band Phish. Both bands are favorites of the marijuana-smoking crowd.
To mark 420 in recent years, Ben & Jerry’s debuted taco and burrito inspired ice cream sandwiches. This year the company partnered with a San Francisco Bay Area cannabis retailer to give customers who place delivery orders on Friday and Saturday a free pint of Half Baked, a combination of cookie dough and fudge brownie.
"We have a lot of fun, never being overt, but really playing into the moment of 420," said Jay Curley, the company's global head of integrated marketing.
Last year, Ben & Jerry’s also turned more serious, asking consumers to call on lawmakers to expunge prior marijuana convictions and press for pardons or amnesty for anyone arrested for smoking pot. This year the company is using the holiday to call for criminal justice reform.
"We're actually using this as an opportunity not to tell a stoner joke like we have in the past, but to raise what we see as a much more serious issue around justice," Curley said.
Those in the marijuana marketplace also are ramping up advertising around 420. Much of the marketing about cannabis or related products takes the form of online ads, emails, text messages and social media. Shops typically offer discounts. Some host parties with food and entertainment. The larger 420 events can draw thousands of people.
Verano Holdings, whose businesses include cannabis shops, sponsors street festivals in Chicago and Tulsa, Oklahoma, where attendees can learn about marijuana products, listen to music and grab a bite. The company expects this Saturday's festival in Chicago, going on its third year, will draw more than 4,000 people. Last year, it drew 1,500, said Tim Tennant, Verano's chief marketing officer.
In San Francisco's Golden Gate Park, Hippie Hill will again be the site of a 420 celebration. Last year, more than 15,000 attended the event, which has transformed from a small informal gathering into a full-blown festival of corporate sponsors and commercial booths selling smoking devices, T-shirts and food.
Roger Volodarsky, whose Los Angeles-based Puffco makes portable vaporizers, has celebrated 420 since he was a teenager. Back then, he said, "420 was the day that you splurged on yourself and got high in interesting ways. It was the day that you made a gravity bong and coughed your brains out."
Volodarksy likes that some Main Street brands are getting into the industry and the holiday.
"What's important to me about these ad campaigns is they're speaking to people who aren't users and they're normalizing the space to people who aren't users," he said.
Even as popularity grows, some companies will stay away from 420 as a marketing tool, said Allen Adamson, co-founder of Metaforce, a marketing consulting company.
“If you’re talking about a big brand that needs to appeal to everybody and is very risk-averse, then probably not,” he said. “I don’t think you’ll see large financial institutions doing it.”
Maureen Horne-Brine collects fish scales from king salmon caught in the Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game test fishery near Emmonak on June 20, 2005. The scales will be used to determine the age the fish. She was helping fishery biologist Larry DuBois conduct a study of Ichthyophonus, a disease first noticed in some Yukon River fish in the late 1980s.
Times are tight for state budgets these days. It’s easy to forget the crucial role government agencies play in sustaining our economy. Fisheries are a prime example. Most Alaskans don’t know that Alaska is world-famous for its management of fisheries through a system based on science.
Even those of us familiar with highly political “fish wars” over allocations of salmon between sport and commercial fishers sometimes forget that.
To be able to fight over fish we need healthy fisheries, however. Thanks to the commitment of Alaskans over the years to science-based fisheries management — in fact, since we became a state in 1959 — we’ve been blessed with a huge natural resource that employs thousands and feeds millions.
The sustainability of that depends on science-based management. For that, Alaskans can give themselves a pat on the back.
Interestingly, Alaska was the first place where the scientific principles of sustained-yield fisheries management were put in place on a broad scale, first with salmon and now with all the fisheries we manage in both state and federal waters, including cod, crab, herring and pollock.
Before Alaska became a state, our salmon fisheries were overfished and depleted. There had been decades of mismanagement by the federal government.
When Alaska’s Constitution was written in 1956, the delegates to the constitutional convention wisely put in a requirement that natural resources be managed for sustained yield. They had our then-depleted salmon fisheries in mind.
Based on that, when Alaska actually became a state, the new Department of Fish and Game adopted an innovative plan for managing salmon. It had been developed several years earlier by scientists at the University of Washington and recommended to federal fisheries managers, who largely ignored it.
But backed by our new constitutional mandate for sustained-yield management, Alaska’s Legislature and our first governor, Bill Egan, adopted it. Give them credit. The system wasn’t cheap, and Alaska’s treasury was basically empty at the time.
The Alaska management approach is labor and technology-intensive because it depends on field work, with biologists counting fish and estimating sustainable populations. That allows managers to ensure that a portion of a salmon run is not harvested, and survives to reach the spawning grounds.
Local fisheries managers assess the salmon runs throughout the season and are given the authority to open and close fisheries to achieve the escapement goals, while also providing for a fishery.
The local fisheries managers’ decisions are largely respected by harvesters and fish processors, as painful as they sometimes are.
For other state fisheries, such as cod, herring and crab, biologists do population assessments using test-fishing surveys, with boats out on water, to see if the population is healthy enough to support harvesting. This usually requires hiring a vessel. That’s $4,000 to $5,000 per day, not including crew. Aircraft are sometimes used for aerial surveys.
We shouldn’t forget game management, because the same principles of sustained yield backed by science apply there, too. This requires field work to estimate sustainable populations, data used by Fish and Game managers and the Board of Game to set hunting seasons and bag limits.
Some of the science is now pretty sophisticated. For example, state Fish and Game scientists operate a genetics laboratory in Anchorage which can determine the origin, or stock composition, of salmon harvested in a fishery.
It’s important to know about to improve management of “mixed-stock” fisheries where harvesters take salmon in areas where the salmon are migrating to other regions.
When boats are in the water fishing managers have to know quickly which streams the salmon being harvested are from so they can adjust the fishing closures and openers to ensure the escapement goals are being met.
Using tissue samples, scientists in Anchorage can tell, for example, if sockeye salmon being fished in Cook Inlet are from the Susitna or Kenai Rivers, or other streams, all which can have different needs for escapement.
Our state treasury is again under stress. But like those early leaders, who had foresight, let’s credit our Legislature and governor with giving state fisheries managers the money they need to do their jobs.
What happens if we don’t spend the money to get the field data? Quite simply, fewer fish will be caught by all users – commercial, recreational, subsistence and personal use.
If state fisheries managers don’t have the data to show there’s enough escapement, “I’m forced to manage more conservatively,” said Doug Vincent-Lang, the state’s Commissioner of Fish and Game.
That’s because of the constitutional requirement to manage for sustainability.
It would mean fewer fish caught and sold, less income for commercial fishermen and fewer dollars entering the economy.
This is a big deal. Commercial fishing and processing employ about 60,000, which includes more than 26,000 Alaska residents. Harvesters and processors also pay about $146 million a year in state and local taxes and fees.
To manage and sustain this, the Fish and Game department depends on state general funds for about $60 million a year, which is supplemented by user fees and federal funds, to support fisheries and game management.
Approximately one-third of the department’s total staffing of about 700 are employees tasked with ensuring that there’s enough science and data to make good decisions.
Based on that, one could assume that a third of the state general fund dollars, or about $20 million, goes to the science that supports industries that employ thousands of Alaskans.
Gov. Mike Dunleavy did order a reduction for the department this year, along with cuts to other state departments, but the Fish and Game agency fared better than most.
The governor is getting a lot of bricks thrown at him because of his budgets, but he has tried to support agencies that directly support the economy.
So let’s give him a little credit for that, and to legislators who continue to support sustained-yield, one of the bedrock principles in our constitution.
Tim Bradner is co-publisher of the Alaska Legislative Digest and Alaska Economic Report.
Bryan Thomas (right) and Peter Detwiler, technician, perform maintenance checks at the Barrow Atmospheric Baseline Observatory in Utqiaġvik, Alaska, on April 11, 2019. (Washington Post photo by Bonnie Jo Mount) (Bonnie Jo Mount/)
UTQIAGVIK - Bryan Thomas doesn’t want any more “wishy-washy conversations about climate change.”
For four years, he has served as station chief of the Barrow Atmospheric Baseline Observatory, America's northernmost scientific outpost in its fastest-warming state. Each morning, after digging through snow to his office's front door, Thomas checks the preliminary number on the observatory's carbon dioxide monitor. On a recent Thursday it was almost 420 parts per million - nearly twice as high as the global preindustrial average.
It's just one number, he said. But there's no question in his mind about what it means.
Alaska is in the midst of one of the warmest springs the state has ever experienced - a transformation that has disrupted livelihoods and cost lives. The average temperature for March recorded at the NOAA observatory in Utquiagvik was 18.6 degrees Fahrenheit above normal. Fairbanks notched its first consecutive March days when the temperature never dropped below freezing. Ice roads built on frozen waterways - a vital means of transportation in the state - have become weak and unreliable. At least five people have died this spring after falling through ice that melted sooner than expected.
"Climate change is happening faster than it's ever happened before in our record," Thomas said. "We're right in the middle of it."
Land surface temperature anomalies from March 1-31, 2019. Red colors depict areas that were hotter than average for the same month from 2000-2012; blues were colder than average. (NASA Earth Observatory)
Utqiagvik set daily temperature records on 28 of the first 100 days of this year, according to the Alaska Climate Research Center.
In early February, residents awoke to find that the land-fast ice that usually clings to their shore until summer had been swept out to sea by strong winds - a sign that the ice wasn't as thick or well-grounded as it used to be.
"It was like, 'Whoa, I've never seen that before,'" Thomas said.
"It was surprising in a human way," he added. "But not necessarily surprising in a science way." The Barrow observatory has been monitoring climate for more than 40 years. Thomas knows where the trends are headed.
Bryan Thomas, station chief at the Barrow Atmospheric Baseline Observatory, evaluates an equipment glitch in Utqiaġvik on April 11, 2019. (Washington Post photo by Bonnie Jo Mount) (Bonnie Jo Mount/)
Two hundred miles to the south, Marc Oggier, a graduate student at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, returned this month from conducting field work to find the city completely clear of snow. It was the shortest-lived snowpack in recent history.
Oggier wrinkled his nose at the vegetal, springlike scent in the air.
"It smells weird," he said. "It smells like rain."
This time of year, he explained, "you shouldn't be able to smell anything." The ground should still be frozen solid.
The historic warm temperatures this spring are linked to vanishing ice on the Bering and Chukchi seas. Both areas set records this year for their lowest amount of ice in March.
Warm weather threatens subsistence whaling - a centuries-old tradition in and around Utqiagvik, said Kaare Erickson, the North Slope Science Liaison for the Ukpeaġvik Iñupiat Corp., which manages Inupiat land and provides services to the community. Though the sea ice near the city refroze after the February wind event, many are concerned about whether it can provide a stable platform from which to hunt.
On Shishmaref, the barrier island where he grew up, "it's an even heavier impact," Erickson said.
When ice forms later and melts earlier, it leaves coastlines vulnerable to erosion from fall and spring storms. The shoreline on Shishmaref has retreated more than 100 feet in Erickson’s lifetime, and the town has voted to relocate to a site farther from the sea. Residents who subsist on seal and walrus meat must navigate an increasingly unreliable ice pack as they search for food.
Unstable ice has already claimed lives. Two men died of exposure in late March when their vehicles fell through the frozen Kuskokwim River near Bethel, the Alaska State Troopers said.
This week, three family members - including an 11-year-old girl - were killed after crashing through ice on their way to the small village of Noatak, which can be reached only by snowmobile, boat or air.
Sgt. Teague Widmier, who leads the Alaska State Troopers unit in Bethel, said authorities have urged people to stay off the increasingly weak river ice. But he acknowledged that residents have few other options for traveling in rural parts of the state.
The View through a window at the Barrow Atmospheric Baseline Observatory in Utqiaġvik, Alaska, on April 11, 2019. (Washington Post photo by Bonnie Jo Mount) (Bonnie Jo Mount/)
Spring breakup, when river ice thaws, is always a dangerous time in Alaska, Widmier said.
But this year it has come earlier than usual. Ice thickness this winter was below average on rivers across the state, according to the National Weather Service. On the Kuskokwim near Bethel, where the two men died in March, it was just 19 percent of normal. Many parts of the river are already ice-free - even though it usually remains frozen well into May.
All of this was on Bryan Thomas’ mind as he went about his Thursday morning routine at the Utqiagvik observatory.
The building is modest - just three small rooms and no bathroom ("We use a bucket," Thomas explained) - and crowded with devices. Air samplers take continuous measurements of every problematic molecule: carbon dioxide, methane, ozone-depleting chlorofluorocarbons. Meteorological instruments track the fluctuating weather. Computers communicate with nearly two dozen polar orbiting satellites, each of which can send down data as often as 14 times in a 24-hour period.
Each of these measurements helps explain the transformation occurring outside Thomas’ window.
"I think, OK, this [greenhouse gas measurement] is going to help people understand how much energy from the sun is being absorbed by the atmosphere," he said. "There's that visceral connection to what's happening."
His next task was clearing off the intake lines, tubes that pull gases from the atmosphere into the observatory's instruments. Donning insulated pants and a face mask, he trudged back outside to a rickety, 50-foot tower and began to climb. Strong winds rattled the metal and blew snow into his face; by the time he reached the top, the world below was lost in a swirl of white.
Thomas used a store-bought paintbrush to wipe ice from the instruments, making sure they continue to capture the changing climate for another day.
An Anchorage man jumped out of a taxi on his way home from a psychiatric hospitalization. He was never seen alive again.
Ribbons still mark the spot where Joseph "Grant" Orand's body was discovered in Midtown Anchorage woods in February 2018. Photographed on April 9, 2019. (Marc Lester / ADN) (Marc Lester/)
One frigid November afternoon in 2017, Grant Orand left an Anchorage psychiatric emergency department in a taxi.
For a month, the 53-year-old former UPS worker had been cycling through hospitals, gripped by psychosis. A day earlier, he’d been admitted to the Providence Alaska Medical Center psychiatric emergency department after taking off all his clothes in the back of his parents’ car.
On this day, he’d told a medical resident examining him that his “main complaint was visual hallucinations of demons,” according to an excerpt of his treatment records contained in court filings.
The hospital found him not gravely disabled or in imminent danger of harming himself or someone else — the standard needed to involuntarily commit someone in Alaska. He was deemed well enough to leave.
Orand never made it home. The taxi driver later told the hospital that his passenger had jumped out of the cab near the intersection of Tudor Road and Checkmate Drive in East Anchorage.
It was Nov. 19, and 17 degrees outside. The first big snow of winter was falling over Anchorage in the afternoon twilight. No one saw him alive again.
Nearly three months later, in February, his body was found naked, except for a pair of hospital socks, in a stand of birch trees on the edge of a snow dump.
Orand’s death illustrates a complex problem that Alaska’s crumbling psychiatric infrastructure is even less equipped to deal with today than it was in fall 2017: Clinicians must make constant, rapid-fire judgement calls about who is safe to be released and who is not.
Many people cycle through short periods of hospitalization and release, brought to the hospital by bizarre or disturbing behavior but found not to meet a legal standard to hold them against their will. For those who are released, there isn’t much waiting on the other side of the hospital doors at discharge.
Some mental health professionals say Alaska’s laws are part of the problem. They assert that the legal standard to keep someone hospitalized involuntarily in Alaska is so high patients are released when they aren’t really safe to be on their own — and clinicians get blamed when things end tragically.
Today, the whole ragged system is under additional pressure. With less than 20 beds available at the Alaska Psychiatric Institute, there’s a lengthy wait list for a spot in longer-term treatment.
Now, the courts will examine whether Grant Orand’s death could have been prevented — and what it tells us about the way Alaska’s fragile psychiatric care system functions.
A lawsuit that Orand’s family filed in March against Providence Alaska Medical Center charges that the hospital, which operates the only dedicated psychiatric emergency room in Alaska, negligently discharged Orand, leading to a gruesome death.
“It’s a terrible feeling to know your son died in the dark, naked and all by himself,” said Grant’s father Buddy Orand, who is 83.
Providence doesn’t comment on pending litigation. In a statement, the hospital said it was “always concerned for the health and safety of our patients.”
“All persons evaluated by the Emergency Department for a mental health concern receive a full psychological health assessment and a full physical health assessment,” Providence said. “If the patient is deemed stable, they are discharged with an appropriate follow-up care plan.”
The Orand family’s attorney, Jeff Vance, said the case rests on the question of why Grant Orand was allowed to go home on his own, despite exhibiting dangerous behavior repeatedly at the same hospital.
“He was a deeply mentally unstable man that was prematurely discharged, and was certainly discharged on his own versus in the care of family as had been the practice before.”
The lawsuit complaint is “just painful to read,” he said.
Orand’s death represents a nightmare scenario for mental health care providers: a patient going directly from a hospital to his own death, said Sara West, a forensic psychiatrist and assistant professor at Case Western Reserve University School of Medicine in Cleveland, Ohio.
It also illustrates the high-stakes daily calculus that workers in the world of psychiatric care must make: Does this person meet the legal standard to be released? If so, where do they go?
Ideally, a patient would be discharged to a social worker at an organization that could help make sure they take their medicine and go to follow-up appointments, and have a safe place to stay.
In Anchorage, there’s often very little support for people with serious mental illness after discharge. People regularly show up at emergency homeless shelters in taxis, straight from the Alaska Psychiatric Institute, said Lisa Sauder, the executive director of Bean’s Cafe.
“I think cases like this are canaries in the coal mine,” said David Fleurant, director of the Disability Law Center of Alaska. “There is not a continuum of care for people with mental health disorders, or intellectual disabilities or even dementia.”
Leaving the hospital after a crisis should be a “step-down” process, he said. Instead “it’s like a cliff.”
Joseph “Grant” Orand was born in Texas but raised in Anchorage, the only child of Buddy and Jolene Orand. A leader of the neighborhood pack of kids, he had a mostly happy childhood, according to his parents.
Buddy and Jolene Orand show photos of their son, Joseph "Grant" Orand on April 9, 2019. Grant's body was discovered in Anchorage woods after he had been missing for months. (Marc Lester / ADN) (Marc Lester/)
As a young adult, he suffered from bouts of depression but managed to hold down a job at UPS and buy a house in East Anchorage, not far from his parents. He liked to hike and play with his golden retrievers, they said. He was well into his in his 40s by the time he married Marcela Orand.
Then, in 2015, his wife was accused of molesting a child at the day care she’d run out of their East Anchorage house, according to court records. Grant Orand believed in his wife’s innocence. But in 2016, she eventually agreed to a plea deal that sent her to prison for 10 years.
Orand began drinking heavily, consuming a bottle of hard alcohol per day. His behavior became impulsive and bizarre, his parents said. He gave away his big screen TV and appliances to strangers. He lost his job. His parents got rid of almost everything in his house so he couldn’t trash it or destroy it. He asked his dad to take him on a drive one night, then jumped out of the car, found a giant rock and heaved it through the glass window, his parents said.
By fall 2017, Orand became so unstable that his elderly parents began to take turns watching over him 24 hours a day.
On Oct. 17, he slipped into the backyard and stabbed himself in the throat with a kitchen knife. His parents rushed him to the hospital, where he had emergency surgery.
The incident kicked off a month of cycling through the Providence psychiatric emergency room, with brief stays at the Alaska Psychiatric Institute and his parents’ house. To keep him hospitalized against his will under Alaska’s Title 47, medical professionals would need to find that Orand’s illness rendered him “gravely disabled” or a risk to himself or others.
He would meet that standard, and then he wouldn’t, and he would be discharged, his parents said.
“They’d keep him a few days, send him over to API, they’d keep him a few days and let him go,” said Jolene Orand, who is 77. "We knew it was just going to be repeated.”
Buddy and Jolene Orand talk about the death of their son, Joseph "Grant" Orand on April 9, 2019. Grant Orand's body was discovered in Midtown Anchorage woods in February 2018. (Marc Lester / ADN) (Marc Lester/)
Doctors noted that he seemed to be losing his grip on reality, according to the complaint. On Nov. 4, a doctor noted that Grant Orand was “making statements like ‘they want to kill me’ and ‘the demons look like werewolves.’”
A doctor wrote that Orand “had been in and out of API recently. He has multiple ex-partes. (Legal orders for involuntary commitment.) He has elderly parents in their 80s who help take care of him… patient continues to present as gravely disabled, responding to internal stimuli...exhibiting manic thinking patterns, i.e. racing thoughts and fleeting thoughts to harm self.” The excerpts of his medical records say he was diagnosed with bipolar disorder.
On Nov. 18 he was again admitted, naked, to Providence’s psychiatric ER, at least the third time in a month, according to an account in the lawsuit complaint.
That time, a licensed professional counselor evaluated Orand. She noted that he was “reluctant to engage” and at times appeared to be “pretending to be falling asleep” and theatrically apologized when she tried to wake him.
“Description of suicidal ideation: Unknown. Intent to act on suicidal ideation: unknown. Degree of planning: Unknown,” the counselor wrote, according to the treatment records.
When he was asked about whether he was suicidal or homicidal, he said yes but closed his eyes and made snoring noises, she wrote. The evaluation lasted 28 minutes.
The next day a medical resident visited Orand for an evaluation, according to the treatment record excerpts in the lawsuit.
“His main complaint today is visual hallucinations of demons,” she wrote.
He also talked about the water being poisoned and someone trying to ruin his life, according to the treatment record.
“Imminent risk of suicide at discharge: low. He is at low risk of suicide at this time. He denies any suicidal ideation at this time,” she wrote, according to the lawsuit complaint.
She noted that he didn’t try to harm himself or say anything that indicated he would hurt himself in the future. He had a “sub-therapeutic” level of lithium, a mood-stabilizing medication, in his blood and needed to get more of it.
“Patient is discharged from (the emergency department) with cab vouchers, warm clothing and shoes to return to his home,” the notes from his file said, according to the lawsuit complaint.
Vance, the Orand family’s attorney, says the treatment records suggests Grant Orand should have been found gravely disabled and unable to care for himself. If the case goes to trial, that will likely be debated in court.
‘We couldn’t believe it’
Around the time that Orand left the hospital, his parents were in the car on their way to see him. They missed a call to their home phone saying he was being released. By the time they got to the hospital he was already gone.
“We couldn’t believe it,” Jolene Orand said.
They rushed to his house on Checkmate Drive, knowing he had no key and no way of getting inside. Nobody was there. They called the hospital again and learned that, according to the taxi driver, Grant Orand had jumped out of the cab near his home “and was running down the road,” the lawsuit says.
They called the Anchorage Police Department. A dispatch bulletin was sent to the public with Orand’s picture on it. That day, another mentally ill man had also gone missing so the disappearances of the two men shared a single press release.
Buddy and Jolene Orand spent the next months searching for their son. Buddy drove to Wasilla and asked around at the Anchorage Gospel Rescue Mission on Tudor Road. They hoped Grant Orand was simply living on the streets, maybe drinking a lot and off his medications but alive.
Buddy and Jolene Orand talk about the death of their son, Joseph "Grant" Orand on April 9, 2019. Grant Orand's body was discovered in Midtown Anchorage woods in February 2018. (Marc Lester / ADN) (Marc Lester/)
They looked and looked until the day in February 2018 when a police officer knocked on their door and told them Orand’s body had been found. They still don’t know where he went that night, how long he was out in the cold, or how he got to the wooded area near the snow dump on Brayton Drive.
Buddy Orand says he blames himself for taking his son to the hospital at all.
“I’m all alone,” he said. “Grant was all he we had. He was our only son. Now we don’t have him anymore.”
Firefighters work at the scene of a fire in an abandoned building off of Fireweed Lane in Midtown Anchorage on Friday, April 19, 2019. (Madeline McGee / ADN)
An unoccupied building in Midtown Anchorage was destroyed Friday in an early morning fire, marking at least the third time an unoccupied commercial building has burned this year.
When the Anchorage Fire Department was called to 202 East Fireweed Lane just after 4:30 a.m., firefighters initially thought the flames were coming from a larger building to the west because the wind was blowing the smoke across the road, Senior Capt. Paul Urbano said.
The fire actually originated in a small, abandoned 30-by-30-foot commercial building that Urbano said was likely once a restaurant, based on its ventilation shafts. The fire department hadn’t been able to get in touch with the property owner, he said.
Anchorage property records list the small building as a warehouse.
A small commercial building in Midtown Anchorage was destroyed in an early morning fire on Friday, April 19, 2019. Firefighters believe the abandoned building was likely once a restaurant, but hadn't been able to locate the owner. (Madeline McGee / ADN.)
Firefighters brought the fire under control at 6:11 a.m., Urbano said. Pale smoke was still rising from the burned-out building at 7 a.m., and firefighters hadn’t been able get inside to begin investigating the cause.
Urbano said the power line to the building had been disconnected, so it wasn’t receiving electricity.
Friday’s fire marks at least the third time this year that an unoccupied building in Anchorage has burned. In January, the recently closed Sea Galley restaurant off of Tudor Road was destroyed in a similar fire. Investigators later determined that people they described as “vagrants” had broken into the building before the fire started.
Later that month, an unfinished Courtyard by Marriott hotel on A Street was destroyed in a fire that investigators determined was arson.
From left, Scarlett Johansson, Chris Evans, Mark Ruffalo and Don Cheadle in "Avengers: Endgame." (Marvel Studios) (Marvel Studios/)
The greatest threat in the Marvel Cinematic Universe is Thanos, a powerful warlord who obliterated half of all life in the universe by snapping his fingers. But among the greatest threats to the Marvel Cinematic Universe, in the eyes of those who created it, is anyone who spoils even the smallest of plot details.
That makes the "Avengers: Endgame" footage that leaked earlier this week almost as terrible as that Thanos snap, as far as spoilers go. While they didn't respond directly to the leak, directors Joe and Anthony Russo tweeted a letter to fans Tuesday, with the hashtag #DontSpoilTheEndgame, imploring viewers not to give anything away after the movie hits theaters next week.
"Please know that the two of us, along with everyone involved in Endgame, have worked tirelessly for the last three years with the sole intention of delivering a surprising and emotionally powerful conclusion to the Infinity Saga," the Russo brothers wrote. "... Remember, Thanos still demands your silence."April 16, 2019
Since launching the MCU more than a decade ago, Marvel has become notorious for going to extreme lengths to keep spoilers at bay, sometimes withholding significant details from actors to keep them from blabbing. The spoiler concern afflicts many plot-heavy projects of a certain stature, such as HBO's "Game of Thrones," which reportedly once filmed fake scenes to foil paparazzi circling the set. Secrecy leads to intrigue, which makes the viewing experience more attractive and, therefore, more profitable.
But "Endgame," the final installment in this era of the MCU, won't likely be affected much by the leak (especially given the spoiler-averse warnings that quickly swept the internet). Fandango reported that the movie beat a first-day presale record set by fellow Disney property "Star Wars: The Force Awakens" within just six hours, and its opening weekend is expected to rank among the most successful in history, per Fortune. Some domestic box-office estimates for opening weekend near the $280 million mark.
That would top the $257.7 million that "Avengers: Infinity War" made in its first weekend domestically, following a slightly treacherous media tour. Speaking to "Good Morning America" several months before the film's release, Mark Ruffalo, who plays Bruce Banner, let it slip that "everybody dies." Don Cheadle, who plays Rhodey from the "Iron Man" franchise, reacted with wide eyes and a tense, "Du - dude! Dude. Dude."
"Not everybody, no," Ruffalo said quickly, his voice tense with palpable fear of Marvel executives' wrath. "Can we rewind that part?" (The answer was no, apparently.)
Mark Ruffalo as Bruce Banner in "Avengers: Endgame." (Marvel Studios) (Marvel Studios/)
Ruffalo had already erred before, accidentally live-streaming part of "Thor: Ragnarok" while at its Los Angeles premiere. Last October, Ruffalo stopped by "The Tonight Show Starring Jimmy Fallon" and joked about how Cheadle would no longer do interviews with him because of the "Good Morning America" incident. And when Ruffalo swung by the show again last month to promote "Endgame," he revealed that there's another castmate he can no longer do media interviews with: Tom Holland, who plays Peter Parker.
"I asked to be paired with him during the press, and they rejected that," Ruffalo said. "I didn't even get 'Holland' out. It's like, 'What about Tom Ho-,' 'No! Absolutely not.' "
Because Holland is also somewhat of a blabbermouth. At a screening of "Infinity War" last year, the actor, unaware that the audience had not yet seen the movie, jumped out and yelled, "I'm alive!" (A nod to the fact that Spider-Man was one of the characters who disintegrated after Thanos collected all the Infinity Stones and snapped.) Benedict Cumberbatch, who plays Stephen Strange, repeatedly stopped Holland from spilling other details throughout the tour. A supercut of such occurrences went viral, gaining enough traction that the Russo brothers even addressed it in an interview.
"Benedict is a great partner for him on the press tour," Joe told "Entertainment Tonight." "Because Benedict is actually very good at dancing around spoilers - and monitoring Tom Holland."
So are the directors, to an almost ridiculous extent. While promoting "Endgame" earlier this month, per IndieWire, the Russos confirmed that Holland wasn't even given a full script.
"Tom Holland gets his lines and that's it," Joe said. "He doesn't even know who he's acting opposite of. We'll just, we use like every vague term to describe to him what is happening in the scene, because he had a very difficult time keeping his mouth shut." (Holland had first mentioned this last year at an ACE Comic-Con event in Phoenix: "So I'm just standing there punching the air for 15 minutes," he reportedly said, "and when I took the job I didn't think that's what I'd be doing. I've gotten used to it now.")
Ruffalo's and Holland's loose lips have become a running joke among Avengers fans, but the studio isn't willing to take chances with anyone else, either. Not one out of five cast members - Holland; Robert Downey Jr., who plays Tony Stark; Zoe Saldana, who plays Gamora; Paul Bettany, who plays Vision; and Pom Klementieff, who plays Mantis - whom Jimmy Kimmel interviewed ahead of "Infinity War" had seen the final cut of the film before speaking to him. "We barely read the script," Saldana said. Bettany admitted that he had read a fake script twice.
Downey did get to read the full script, however, as he and Chris Evans, who played Steve Rogers for eight years, are veteran Avengers and apparently trusted the most. (Ruffalo said he got paired with Evans after his request to do media interviews with Holland was denied.) Evans confirmed last year that he will retire from playing Captain America after "Endgame," prompting rumors of the character's death. He gets asked about this quite often and, usually, masterfully deflects.
But even Captain America slips. In a recent Hollywood Reporter cover story, Evans joked that Steve dies "by Tony's hand" in "Endgame." More seriously, he said he couldn't "believe they even cut a trailer."
“Because so much of it is a visual spoiler. You’ll see. A lot of the characters have -,” he said, cutting himself off by covering his mouth. “Probably shouldn’t have even said that.”
Elle Fanning plays an aspiring pop star in "Teen Spirit." (LD Entertainment/Bleecker Street) (LD Entertainment/Bleecker Street/)
Among “A Star Is Born,” “Vox Lux” and the new movie “Her Smell,” there’s been a fair amount of cinematic poking around into the theme of pop-music stardom and its discontents. The first two films chart the rise of female rock singers; the third follows an ugly fall.
And now, there's a fourth film joining this trifecta of tales about how wrong things can go with the work of stoking the starmaker machinery behind the popular song, as Joni Mitchell once put it.
It's called "Teen Spirit," and it's arguably the best movie of the bunch.
Starring Elle Fanning, the new film is a serious departure from the other two by looking at the very beginnings of a young woman's dreams of musicmaking, and not her descent into recording-industry dissipation (which, let's face it, is a giant cliche).
The assured directorial debut of Max Minghella - an actor who also happens to be the son of the late Oscar-winning director Anthony Minghella ("The English Patient") - "Teen Spirit" tells the story of Violet Valenski (Fanning), a shy English teen living with her Polish mother (Agnieszka Grochowska) on the Isle of Wight, where she escapes from the drudgery of farm and restaurant work by singing her heart out at a seedy karaoke bar. When Violet hears about "Teen Spirit," a TV singing competition along the lines of "American Idol" and its ilk, she decides to try out.
And yes, that fairy-tale starting point is exactly as much of a cliche as everything else that so often happens to people like Violet in movies like this. (I'm looking at you, Lady Gaga.) But there's something disarmingly irresistible about Fanning, who capably sings all her own vocals (covers of hits by the likes of Robyn, Ellie Goulding and Sigrid) and whose character can't seem to believe her own good fortune - let alone that she has a great set of pipes. It's never really clear whether Violet even wants the pot of gold she's pursuing at the end of the rainbow.
Elle Fanning capably belts out all her own vocals, which include covers of hits by the likes of Robyn, Ellie Goulding and Sigrid). (LD Entertainment/Bleecker Street) (LD Entertainment/Bleecker Street/)
Minghella, who also wrote the screenplay, has the good sense to end his movie just at the point where many others would only have been getting started: at the inflection point of stardom, not after the star has burned out. He proves himself to be a canny storyteller, with a flair for spinning a yarn that is at once slick and more than slightly eccentric, simply because the story withholds as much as it reveals.
It's not the slickness that sells "Teen Spirit" anyway, but its strangeness.
Much of that strangeness derives from Violet's relationship with her accidental mentor/manager, a dissolute former opera singer named Vlad who she meets at the karaoke bar. Where many a movie might have opted to have Violet find romance along with fame and fortune, "Teen Spirit" scrupulously avoids that trope, focusing instead on the unexpectedly tender dynamic between these two outsiders: one a deeply sad, almost alien-looking waif on the cusp of her adventure as an artist, and the other (played by the grizzled, bearlike Croatian actor Zlatko Buric) a cockeyed optimist nearing the end of his journey. If Vlad's advice to Violet is cringingly banal - "Sing from your heart," he tells her - there's something palpably real about the connection that inspires it.
Don't expect more of "Teen Spirit" than the movie can deliver: It's an unapologetically slight story about a girl with ambitions that many would call shallow. But even as it obeys the rules of the Cinderella story in many ways, it defies them in some others. At its heart, "Teen Spirit" is a story about a fairy godfather pushing 70 and a pop princess who's ambivalent about the very meaning and existence of a happily ever after.
Three stars. Rated PG-13. Contains some suggestive content, and for teen drinking and smoking. 92 minutes.
Ratings Guide: Four stars masterpiece, three stars very good, two stars OK, one star poor, no stars waste of time.
American Ninja Warriors Nate DeHaan of Bethel and Nick Hanson of Unalakleet on DeHaan's warped wall. (Katie Basile / KYUK)
The television show “American Ninja Warrior” enters its 11th season next month, and again will feature the Eskimo Ninja, Nick Hanson from Unalakleet.
Hanson visited Bethel last week to hang out with his buddy, fellow show competitor Nate DeHaan. These two make up two-thirds of all the American Ninja Warriors to ever come from Alaska. KYUK sat down with the two ninjas to talk about how they became friends, and what it means for them to represent rural Alaska on the show.
DeHaan first saw Hanson on TV in 2015.
“Here’s this guy from Unalakleet, Alaska, on the show,” DeHaan said. “And it was really cool to see someone from rural Alaska that made it there and did really well, and I thought, well, maybe I should give it a try.”
A few months later DeHaan happened to be visiting Unalakleet, and he remembered that Hanson lived there.
“I knew from Nick being on the show that he happened to have a warped wall on the beach in Unalakleet. … So when we get up there, and I was like, I gotta try this. I didn’t ask Nick’s permission. I don’t know if I ever told you that,” DeHaan admitted to Hanson.
A warped wall is just a wall with a slight curve. The goal is to run up it until you can grab the top and pull yourself up. In Unalakleet, DeHaan stood in front of Hanson's wall in his winter boots. He had to try it, and after a few falls, he made it.
“Standing on top of that warped wall, I thought, 'All right, I’m gonna go for it.'”
DeHaan applied to the show and got invited to season eight of “American Ninja Warrior.” He tracked down Hanson on social media to ask for tips. Instead, he got an invitation to train in Unalakleet with the person who had inspired him.
DeHaan lives a few hundred miles away in Bethel. Luckily, he’s a pilot.
Hanson remembered, “Nate actually flew his plane like, he was like, ‘Oh yeah, I can just borrow a plane from the place that I work.'”
The ninjas from the Bush trained together and competed in season eight of the show. They got along really well. When they both got invited back for the next season, they kept training together.
“As Nate kept flying up, like first year flew up, trained with me and left, and we filmed that, we actually got an Emmy for that by the way, on NBC. I don’t know if you knew that,” Hanson told DeHaan.
“I’m taking credit for that, absolutely,” DeHaan retorted.
They didn’t quite win, but still, DeHaan and Hanson’s season was nominated for an Emmy. Since appearing on “American Ninja Warrior,” DeHaan has gotten a chance to do for others what Hanson did for him. He remembers an encounter while shopping in Bethel after his first season of the show aired.
“While I was checking out, I had someone say to me, ‘Hey, I saw you on the show. I was going through a pretty hard time right then, and it really gave me hope and it inspired me.’ And it was crazy to hear that,” DeHaan said.
Hanson knows the power that local heroes have, especially heroes who people can see themselves in. He says, “I am Alaska Native. I did grow up born and raised in an Alaskan village. I speak the Inupiaq language with my aaka and aapa (grandma and grandpa), and the kids from rural Alaska can all relate to me in a way that they might not be able to relate to a Steph Curry or a LeBron James.”
DeHaan told his friend, “It’s really special to see people be inspired by you. It’s about inspiring the people around you to be able to reach for their own goals and to do things they didn’t think were possible.”
“Thank you, man," said Hanson, laughing.
Hanson will return for season 11 of “American Ninja Warrior,” premiering May 29. DeHaan injured his knee last year trying to dunk a basketball, but he still plans to pursue some form of obstacle course racing in the future.
You can’t keep a ninja down for long.
A former Anchorage bank employee who stole $4.3 million in cash and fled to Mexico is set to be sentenced.
The former cash vault services manager loaded boxes of cash onto a cart and wheeled them out of a KeyBank in Anchorage in 2011, according to court documents.
He had organized an ice cream social for that day, giving him the opportunity to stay late to access the vault under the guise of cleaning up from the event, according to the documents. He also set measures in place to allow himself to open the vault without another employee present.
Valenzuela drove to the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport and boarded a private jet to Seattle. He then bought an AK-47 rifle and a handgun and drove to Mexico.
After crossing into Mexico, Valenzuela boarded a bus. Mexican authorities happened to conduct a random search of the bus, finding Valenzuela with the cash and guns, federal prosecutors said. They arrested him on smuggling charges, and Valenzuela was jailed for seven years until his extradition.
Prosecutors plan to seek a nine year prison sentence and restitution of $500,000 - the amount the bank spent on trying to get the money back. The financial harm caused by the theft, resulted in the bank laying off some employees, prosecutors said.
Valenzuela is scheduled to be sentenced April 29.
U.S. Rep. Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., chair of the House Judiciary Committee, speaks during a news conference, Thursday, April 18, 2019, in New York. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer) (Mary Altaffer/)
WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump sought Friday to discredit damaging portions of the report by the special counsel, while Democrats subpoenaed the full report that led to no criminal charges but laid bare what they characterized as “alarming” behavior by the president.
House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., pledged rigorous congressional oversight following the report by special counsel Robert Mueller that Democrats said showed that Trump sought to obstruct justice in trying to undermine the investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election.
Mueller reached no conclusion on that issue in the report, but Attorney General William Barr said Thursday that the president’s action did not amount to criminal conduct. The report also found insufficient evidence to charge Trump with illegally coordinating with Russia during the 2016 election.
House Judiciary Committee Chairman Jerrold Nadler, D-N.Y., vowed Friday to hold "major" public hearings in the wake of the Mueller report. Speaking to WNYC radio in New York, Nadler indicated that besides hearing from Barr and Mueller, he is planning to summon several figures key to the report's findings.
"We will have major hearings," Nadler said. "Barr and Mueller are just the first. We will call a lot of other people. We'll see who they are. We will get to the bottom of this."
White House spokesman Hogan Gidley lashed out at House Democrats for subpoenaing the unredacted version of Mueller’s report, saying they are engaged in “more political grandstanding.”
"When does this ever stop?" Gidley asked during an appearance on Fox News. "The Democrats have nothing to talk about. They don't want to talk about their agenda, making America socialist. . . . They'd rather talk about trying to go after this president."
Gidley asserted that Mueller's report proved Trump "completely innocent of any crime."
Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said the Trump administration would continue to press upon Russia that interference in other countries’ elections is “unacceptable behavior” with consequences.
He challenged the assertion from the Kremlin that the Mueller report did not prove that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential campaign.
"The work they've done to interfere in elections around the world is real, there are real interferences," Pompeo told reporters during a news conference. "I don't think there's been a discussion between a senior U.S. official and the Russians in this administration where we haven't raised this issue and concerns about interference in our elections."
The United States imposed new sanctions on Russian businesses and individuals in response to the election interfering, but Trump has been lukewarm at best about punishing Russia.
Many Democrats, including Nadler, have said Mueller's report suggests that Trump obstructed justice and provides a road map for Congress to follow up on that issue.
But Rep. Douglas Collins of Georgia, the top Republican on the House Judiciary Committee, accused Democrats of issuing a "wildly overbroad" subpoena to Barr.
Collins's statement came shortly after Nadler announced the issuance of a subpoena seeking Mueller's full report and underlying documents.
"It commands the [Justice Department] to provide Congress with millions of records that would be plainly against the law to share because the vast majority of these documents came as a result of nearly 2,800 subpoenas from a grand jury that is still ongoing," Collins said.
Former attorney general Eric Holder, who led the Justice Department in the Obama administration, seemed to suggest in a tweet Friday morning that Congress should begin impeachment proceedings against Trump for obstruction of justice.
"ANY competent public corruption prosecutor would bring obstruction charges against Trump/win," he wrote.
Holder pointed to a section of the special counsel report explaining why Mueller didn't charge the president. Mueller wrote that he was limited by precedent that a sitting president can't be indicted, and that he didn't want to "potentially preempt constitutional processes for addressing presidential misconduct."
Holder interpreted that to mean “Congress now has a constitutional responsibility” to act.