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Photos: Best of October 2018

Wed, 2018-10-17 17:09

ADN photojournalists and contributing photographers record life around Anchorage and Southcentral Alaska.

You’ve won the Mega Millions jackpot. Now what?

Wed, 2018-10-17 17:05

Despite the terrible odds — one in 302.5 million for those keeping score at home — someone will eventually match all six numbers and win the Mega Millions jackpot, now at $900 million. It could happen as soon as Friday night, when the next drawing is held, leaving most of us disappointed but some lucky winner beset by a host of questions.

Here are some answers for someone holding that prized lottery ticket.

I’VE WON. NOW WHAT?

Lottery officials recommend winners take a deep breath, put their winning ticket in a safe spot and consult with a reputable financial planner before popping over to the lottery headquarters. Their first decision is whether to take the cash option, which would now be $513 million, or an annuity, with one initial payment and annual installments over 29 years. Nearly all winners opt for cash, but the annuity has advantages, as it reduces the tax bill a little and offers a stable flow of income that climbs by 5 percent annually.

HOW LONG DO I HAVE TO CLAIM THE JACKPOT?

States have different rules, so depending on where you purchased the ticket, you have from 180 days to a year.

DO I GET MY MONEY INSTANTLY?

No, you can't just cash one of those oversized checks shown in all the winner photos. Payment speed also varies by state, but a week or two is common. Carole Gentry, a spokeswoman for the Maryland lottery, said the requirement is seven to 10 days in that state.

CAN I KEEP MY NAME SECRET?

Winners can remain anonymous in six states — Delaware, Kansas, Maryland, North Dakota, Ohio and South Carolina. In Arizona, people who win more than $600 can keep their names secret for 90 days after claiming prizes, but after that names are public record. In Michigan, winners are anonymous unless they win Mega Millions or Powerball prizes.

WHAT ABOUT TAXES?

For winners of $5,000 or more, all states automatically deduct 24 percent in federal taxes but state taxes vary widely. Some big states, including California, don't withhold taxes from lottery winnings, and some like Texas don't have individual income taxes at all. For the others, the state takes a bite, especially in New York, where a winner would need to pay a state tax of 8.8 percent. Residents of New York City would pay an additional tax of 3.9 percent. In general, taxes eat up nearly half of winnings.

Melissa Labant, a tax policy expert at the American Institute of Certified Public Accountants, said winners should realize that while taxes are initially withheld when prizes are awarded, more money will likely be due at tax time as people suddenly are in up to a 37 percent tax bracket.

"That catches people off guard," she said. "You have to be prepared to write another check to the IRS in April."

WHAT ARE MY TAXES IF I DON’T LIVE IN THE STATE WHERE I BOUGHT THE TICKET?

This can get complicated, but for the most part winners pay taxes where they bought the ticket and then can get a credit on their taxes in their home state. The final tax bill can depend on if the state where you live taxes at a higher or lower rate than where you purchased the ticket. Rules vary by state, so this is a good topic for that financial planner.

Gov. Bill Walker reaffirms that he’ll stay in the governor’s race despite former Lt. Gov. Mallott’s resignation

Wed, 2018-10-17 16:09

Gov. Bill Walker speaks during the 7th annual AFN-NCAI Tribal Conference at the Egan Center on Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018. (Bill Roth / ADN)

Gov. Bill Walker reaffirmed Wednesday that he plans to remain in the governor's race, a day after his former lieutenant governor and running mate Byron Mallott resigned over unspecified "inappropriate comments" he made to a woman.

Mallott's resignation on Tuesday came just three weeks before the Nov. 6 general election. Walker losing his running mate adds a new wrinkle in a crowded race for governor. Walker, an independent, is running against former U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, a Democrat, and former state Sen. Mike Dunleavy, a Republican. Libertarian Billy Toien is also on the ballot.

In a brief interview Wednesday, Walker said he was not spending a lot of time at the moment thinking about how he would win in the three-way governor's race.

"We have a lot of stuff happening — the transition, AFN. I'm busy being governor right now," Walker said.

[Alaska Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott abruptly resigns following 'inappropriate comments'']

Walker talked to reporters at the Egan Center in downtown Anchorage Wednesday before speaking at the annual tribal conference organized by the Alaska Federation of Natives and the National Congress of American Indians. Valerie Nurr'araaluk Davidson, the new lieutenant governor, also spoke at the conference. Mallott had originally been scheduled to speak.

"While I'm really honored to step into the role of lieutenant governor, this is not really a situation that any of us could have predicted and, I'll just be honest, yesterday was a really tough day for all of us," Davidson said during the conference.


Lt. Gov. Valerie Davidson looks towards Gov. Bill Walker after she was introduced during the 7th annual AFN-NCAI Tribal Conference at the Egan Center on Wednesday, Oct. 17, 2018. (Bill Roth / ADN)

"But today is a new day and today is an opportunity to move forward, to work together, to continue to heal the past so we can move forward in strength and together, and that's what we do as Native people and we will continue to do that today," she said.

Davidson was sworn in as lieutenant governor Tuesday. She had served as commissioner of the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services up until then. She will also serve as Walker's new running mate in the upcoming election, though the Nov. 6 ballots have already been printed with Mallott's name on them.

Walker declined Wednesday to further describe the comments made by Mallott that triggered his resignation. Walker had called them "inappropriate overtures" a day earlier. He would not specify Wednesday what that meant.

Walker said he didn't know whether Mallott's comments qualified as sexual harassment. That's a legal determination he said he couldn't make. He said he also couldn't speak to whether the woman considered the comments as sexual harassment. He referred to the woman as a victim.

"I don't know, as governor, whether or not technically it's sexual harassment," Walker said.

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

Grace Jang, Walker's deputy chief of staff, said, "There was a conversation that took place. It was perceived one way by one party. The lieutenant governor took full responsibly for the actions and he resigned."

[Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott has resigned. Here's what that means for the Nov. 6 ballot.]

Walker's campaign manager, John-Henry Heckendorn, on Tuesday told the Anchorage Daily News that the governor and Begich had been engaged in conversations for the past several days "about a path forward" that doesn't result in Dunleavy being governor. There are concerns among some Democrats about Begich and Walker splitting the vote, handing the governorship to Dunleavy.

But Walker said Wednesday that he and Begich "rarely speak."

"It's not a regular thing," he added later. "Occasionally we do."

This is a developing story. Check back for updates. 

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WATCH LIVE: Governor Bill Walker and his new lieutenant governor, Valerie Davidson, are giving the state update at the annual tribal conference organized by Alaska Federation of Natives and National Congress of American Indians. Mallott was originally scheduled to give the 45-minute update to Alaska tribes. - Read more on Valerie Davidson: on.adn.com/2CoQLEf

Posted by Anchorage Daily News on Wednesday, October 17, 2018

Judge Corey wasn’t the only one to fail a sexual violence survivor, but accountability matters.

Wed, 2018-10-17 15:59

A wooden mallet sits next to superior court judge Michael Corey during a hearing Wednesday, Sept. 27, 2017 at the Nesbett Courthouse in Anchorage. (Loren Holmes / Alaska Dispatch News)

It is to be expected that critics of the effort to vote Judge Michael Corey off the bench will call for "cooler heads to prevail," predictable that commenters will say you can't speak rationally to the irrational. Yes, it is to be expected that the defenders of the status quo, the defenders of a system that has failed its most vulnerable citizens, will imply that women can't possibly understand the system or what is broken. That women, faced with endemic social and judicial injustice, can't possibly govern their emotions and act in their own or society's best interests.

It is to be expected, but it is wrong.

Women know the odds. Women face the odds every day. Not just in a judicial system that fails to represent us, but in our homes, our workplaces, on the streets, and in our schools.

However, the effort to vote out Judge Corey is not about that. It is about one crime, one victim upon whom that crime was perpetrated, and the one criminal who caused it all. Yes, it is about the insufficiency of the law, the serpentine sentencing guidelines and so much more. The circumstances are as we find them.

Judges stand for retention from time to time. It has long been the public's right to have a voice and determine whether Judge Corey, or any other judge standing for retention, has earned our trust and the right to remain on the bench.

I have no ill will toward Judge Corey.

I do think he failed to protect the public. He failed to keep in mind that Justin Schneider's crime involved a victim. His own language at the sentencing is damning: "Those who learn about what is transpiring here today would find the result breathtaking."

Here again, there was room in the system to blame the woman. She became uncooperative. She can't be found. These are excuses. It is unfortunate that the assistant district attorney is not up for a retention vote. He, too, has failed the public he is sworn to serve.

Be assured in the days leading to Nov. 6, people will tell you it's the laws, it's the system, it's not about Judge Corey. But it is a system written, governed, interpreted and applied by people.

Judge Corey is one of those people.

Our options at this juncture are not perfect. Voting no on retaining Judge Corey is the limited option the public has, kind of like poor sentencing guidelines. Our hands are tied. We'll have to go with voting him out.

I pray every woman who goes to the polls finds the courage and strength to do just that. The courage not to be bullied by the shamers and critics who want to defend the failing system.

I pray that every father, brother, husband and son can support the women in their lives by voting no.

Your no vote says no more free passes, no more revictimization of women.

My expectation is that Judge Corey will be retained. Because that's what always happens. Because I am so irrational.

But there can be enough no votes to send a message. Enough no votes to get the attention of the Alaska State Legislature, the Department of Law, the attorneys, judges and all the other people that are part of a failing system. Time is up.

Whatever the numbers are on Nov. 6, I pray they are loud enough for every exploiter, abuser and rapist to hear. Alaska is no longer their predatory playground. Alaska women will no longer be silent. And I say that with a clear head and a firm grasp on how daunting a task we have before us.

Vote no on Judge Michael Corey on Nov. 6.

Wanetta Ayers is a lifelong Alaskan who has worked for three decades in community and economic development.

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 letters@adn.com or click here to submit via any web browser. Read our full guidelines for letters and commentaries here.

Fishery council considers options for tracking halibut rental boats

Wed, 2018-10-17 12:53

A lot of unanswered questions, concern about fishery access and uncertainty about who is responsible remain part of the debate over how to register and track halibut harvested by unguided anglers in rental boats.

The North Pacific Fishery Management Council discussed a potential course of action on a registry system for rental boats carrying unguided anglers fishing for halibut.

It's been an issue for the council for several years, springing from a sore spot among the commercial and charter halibut fleets because of the more relaxed bag limits on unguided halibut anglers. Unguided anglers get to keep two fish per day of any size, while guided anglers only get to keep one in Southeast and two with a size limit on the second one in the Central Gulf of Alaska.

The charter sector is also subject to a sector harvest limit, while there's no real tracking on unguided angler halibut harvest.

In recent years, both private citizens and guides have been asking the council to do something about businesses renting out boats for unguided halibut fishing, particularly in Southeast. The intent of the higher bag limits was to protect access to the fishery for Alaskans, but some operations have begun commercializing it to bypass the charter sector.

Potential solutions, though, are difficult to pin down. Council member and charter business owner Andy Mezirow introduced a motion with three suggested alternatives for how to keep a closer track on unguided anglers in rental boats, including doing nothing, requiring registration for non-guided rental sportfishing vessels, and aligning the bag limits in the charter and non-guided sector.

Mezirow said this will be necessary given the growth in participation among nonguided anglers.

"Defining all of these entities as one sector, requiring registration and applying the same bag limits is a necessary action to understand and then manage this fleet," he said.

The total sportfishing harvest of halibut in regulation areas 2C and 3A — Southeast Alaska and the Central Gulf of Alaska, respectively — actually declined between 2003 and 2016, but the proportions of who was harvesting them changed.

In 2011, the harvest by unguided anglers surpassed the harvest of the charter fleet in Southeast, which may account for why people say the unguided sector is growing while the overall harvest numbers have stayed relatively flat, said Steve MacLean, the protected species coordinator for the North Pacific Fishery Management Council.

In the raw data, though, fish being caught on private boats by individual Alaskans are indistinguishable from fish coming off rental boats being hired by tourists, MacLean said.

"Unfortunately, we don't have data on the number of fish caught by rental boats," he said. "We don't have any way of understanding the number of halibut coming off these rental boats like other private boats."

Council staff researched the registration methods available and concluded that the Alaska Division of Motor Vehicles registry is likely close to accurate, though it's hard to separate vessels specifically registered to rent for unguided halibut angling from other pleasure craft, he said.

"We did identify at least one company that is known to offer boats to rent for anglers for halibut that does not have any registered rental boats, but does have registered pleasure boats," he said. "We had to look up the business owner and look up their address, and then search for boats identified or registered to that owner or that address, and we did find that there were a number of boats registered to multiple people at that address, pleasure boats.

"We also do know that there are several companies that do have a boat that is registered as a rental boat but they do not offer fishing services. There are a number of venture companies that offer zodiacs for (activities like) wildlife viewing, glacier access. Those are all counted as rental boats."

While staff members were building the discussion paper, they also investigated which would be the best agency to implement registration or logbook requirements. The National Marine Fisheries Service, which works with the council and the International Pacific Halibut Commission to regulate halibut harvest, has one type of registration established but does not collect logbooks.

While the Alaska Department of Fish and Game does collect sportfishing guide logbooks and conduct a private angler statewide harvest survey, the agency indicated that a separate logbook just for private halibut anglers would be burdensome, MacLean said.

Several residents of Southeast Alaska testified that they've seen operations like fishing lodges take advantage of the more liberal unguided bag limit by offering a day or two of guided fishing followed by a rental boat for unguided fishing or the establishment of "fishing clubs."

Linda Behnken, the executive director of the Alaska Longline Fishermen's Association, urged the council to move forward with registration requirements. Though it looks like harvest is flat, the council has to account for the fact that overall halibut abundance in the Gulf of Alaska has been declining, she said.

"You've seen a drop in abundance, and you've seen the same level of removals," she said. "That's only happening because there's an increased effort."

There's a delicate line for the council to walk: protecting private resident access to the fishery and controlling business use of it. The motion isn't intended to impinge upon private Alaskans' ability to fish for halibut, especially as food, as citizen access to resources is provided for in the Alaska Constitution, Mezirow said.

However, that's something Alaska Department of Fish and Game Commissioner Sam Cotten said he's concerned about in this motion.

"There's a strong level of support from the commercial halibut industry for the direction this will take, and it sounds like there's a strong level of support from the charter industry … but there's really no lobby for the resident angler," he said. "When you look at the definition that's been used here … resident anglers are going to be impacted differently based on their own economic situation, perhaps."

Elizabeth Earl can be reached at elizabethearl@gmail.com.

Lean into October with a fresh apple cake

Wed, 2018-10-17 12:26

Fresh apple cake. (Photo by: Kim Sunee)

This past weekend, while chasing the last bits of October sunlight, I filled the kitchen with everything apple. I've been wanting to make a fresh apple cake ever since picking small crabapples and a slightly larger green variety a few weeks back. Some went into a fresh sauce flecked with cardamom and ginger, others eaten out of hand while simmering Calvados-spiked toddies and waiting for dough to rise for apple-grape focaccia.

I first made this apple almond cake in a Bundt pan but found that, moist with fruit, it can be difficult to turn out without sticking to the curves of the pan. So I simplified and layered the batter with apple slices in a 9-x-13-inch dish. You can peel the apples or not (sometimes I only peel half the amount so the cake has flecks of color) and I've included a step to sauté the apples for ten minutes so they soften a bit more. You can toss them in the cake without pre-cooking but just know they will be a bit firmer*.

I like the addition of almond flour for moisture and flavor. I'm not one for sugar-forward baked goods, but if you prefer, you can always up the sugar by a quarter cup and/or dust the whole slab with some confectioner's sugar once it's cooled a bit; serve as is or with vanilla ice cream, sweetened whipped cream, or vanilla custard sauce.

Fresh Apple Cake
Makes 1 (9×13-inch) cake

2 cups all-purpose flour
1 cup ground almond meal/flour
1 tablespoon baking powder
1/2 teaspoon baking soda
1/2 teaspoon ground cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon fine salt
4 tart firm apples, peeled, cored, and cut into ¼-inch slices (about 1 1/2 pounds after coring and peeling), such as Granny Smith or Braeburn
Juice and zest of 1 lemon
Scant 1 cup granulated sugar plus 1 tablespoon, divided
1 cup unsalted butter plus 1 tablespoon, softened
4 large eggs, room temp
1 cup sour cream
1/4 cup fresh orange juice
1 1/2 teaspoons vanilla extract
Optional serving suggestions: confectioner's sugar; whipped cream; vanilla custard sauce; vanilla ice cream

Preheat oven to 350°. Grease a 9-by-13-inch cake pan and line with parchment paper with a two-inch overhang on either side (for easy removal of cake from pan). Combine flour, almond flour, baking powder, baking soda, cinnamon and salt together in a medium bowl; set aside.

Peel apples. Cut in half and remove core and stem; discard. Slice apples into 1/4-inch slices and toss in a small bowl with lemon juice and zest and one tablespoon sugar. *SEE NOTE ABOVE: Heat one tablespoon butter in a medium skillet over medium-high heat. Add apple-lemon mixture (save bowl) and sauté 10 minutes, stirring occasionally. Remove apples back to bowl and toss with heaping one tablespoon reserved flour mixture; set aside.

Beat one cup butter in a large bowl (or bowl of stand mixer) until light and fluffy, scraping down sides of bowl. Add remaining scant one cup sugar and beat until well combined. Add eggs one at a time, beating well after each addition. Gradually beat in remaining flour mixture on low speed just until blended. Add sour cream, orange juice and vanilla extract and beat until well blended, being careful not to overmix.

Spoon one half of batter into prepared pan. Top with most of apple slices, reserving a few for the top. Spread remaining half of batter in a single layer, using a spatula to smooth the top. Arrange remaining apples over top of batter. Bake for 60 to 65 minutes or until cake is golden brown and a tester inserted in center comes out clean. Transfer cake in pan to a wire rack and let cool 10 minutes. Run a knife around edges of pan and gently lift cake, using the parchment overhang, and place on a cooling rack. Serve warm, dusted with sugar, if desired or serve with lightly sweetened whipped cream, vanilla custard sauce, or vanilla ice cream.

Gas line agency navigates trade friction, touts Alaska-hire agreements

Wed, 2018-10-17 12:20

State gas line officials celebrated progress ensuring Alaskans will have first crack at filling the thousands of jobs that could be available to build the $43 billion Alaska LNG Project while at the same time trying to navigate the no man's land of the U.S.-China trade dispute.

The Alaska Gasline Development Corp. announced a framework deal with three construction trade groups Oct. 13 that are expected to lead to project labor agreements for building the three major components of the LNG export plan.

The agreement with the Southcentral Alaska Building and Trades, Fairbanks Build and Trades, and the Alaska Petroleum Joint Craft councils sets the groundwork for negotiating project labor agreements, or PLAs, with the large engineering, procurement and construction firms that will manage the project through the construction phase.

It sets the terms for work rotation schedules, employment and safety training requirements. Wage schedules for the project will be set based on current rates for public construction contracts when the work begins, according to AGDC.

Gov. Bill Walker said in a formal statement that the state's leading role in the project gives Alaskans control over the megaproject and puts them "in the driver's seat for filling the thousands of jobs that this project will create."

The trade councils are affiliated with the Alaska AFL-CIO, which has endorsed Walker in the upcoming election for governor.

"An Alaskans-first agreement guarantees qualified Alaska residents will be first in line to construct and operate the major components of this gas line," Alaska AFL-CIO President Vince Beltrami said.

AGDC estimates the project will generate upwards of 18,000 new jobs in the state over about six years of construction if it is sanctioned.

Nearly 12,000 of those jobs will be directly dedicated to the project itself: 1,300 heavy equipment operators; 1,500 pipefitters and welders; 2,300 general laborers; and 3,500 truck drivers to move countless types of materials, modules and construction equipment — not to mention the 807 miles of steel pipe.

Hundreds more electricians, carpenters, ironworkers and engineers will also be needed, as well as 1,600 people to feed, house and otherwise support those swinging hammers and welding pipe, according to AGDC.


Xi Jinping, president of China, and Alaska Gov. Bill Walker meet at the Hotel Captain Cook on April 4, 2017. (Bob Hallinen / Alaska Dispatch News)

Trade talk

Meanwhile, corporation president Keith Meyer emphasized the ongoing viability of the project in the face of a 10 percent tariff instituted last month by China on U.S. LNG imports during an Oct. 11 board of directors meeting.

China originally contemplated a 25 percent tariff on U.S. LNG imports.

Nationalized Chinese oil and gas giant Sinopec is a tentative anchor customer for the project after it signed a nonbinding agreement with AGDC to purchase up to 75 percent of Alaska LNG's expected 20 million tons per year of production capacity in November 2017.

That joint development agreement also detailed the prospect of the Bank of China and China Investment Corp. correspondingly financing up to 75 percent of project development costs with a mix of debt and equity.

The Chinese consortium and AGDC signed a supplemental agreement Sept. 29 to collectively reaffirm their desire to reach a firm deal by the end of this year, Meyer noted.

He said the "trade friction" between Washington and Beijing is creating uncertainty that LNG project developers in other countries see as an opportunity to fill growing Chinese demand for natural gas imports.

"This project looks beyond that momentary friction," Meyer said in an interview, adding that a contingent from the Chinese embassy was recently in Anchorage to discuss Alaska LNG and broader trade opportunities with state officials.

"Their message is cooperation not conflict, and we feel that way as well," he said.

Negotiations are progressing; the companies are awaiting government approval on certain deal terms and Sinopec has signed confidentiality agreements with the producer companies in Alaska that provides access to the upstream gas resource data, according to Meyer.

He also stressed that the project's stable gas pricing — AGDC has estimated it can get LNG to Asian ports for $7 to $8 per million British thermal units — is still a very strong selling point for utility customers wanting an alternative to the price volatility of traditional oil-linked LNG contract terms.

FERC homework

On the regulatory side, AGDC Vice President of Program Management Frank Richards said he expects the corporation to set a schedule to respond to the latest series of questions and comments from the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission in the next few weeks.

On Oct. 2, FERC, which is writing the Alaska LNG environmental impact statement, or EIS, sent AGDC 193 questions and comments, the sixth such data request the agency has issued for the project.

Richards said that some of FERC's requests will have to wait until data can be gathered during the 2019 summer field season and others won't be needed until the final EIS is being drafted.

AGDC has been on a tight budget since taking control of the project in January 2017 and Meyer acknowledged that funding has to some extent impacted the corporation's ability to answer FERC quickly.

"If we had more money to spend we could turn (responses) quicker, but I think we're turning it adequately," he said.

AGDC has chosen not to request additional funding from the state Legislature over the last two budget cycles while the state was in the midst of multibillion-dollar budget deficits. Instead, since early 2017 the corporation has relied on $102 million left over from prior year gas line appropriations to pull together the $43 billion endeavor.

The corporation had $48.6 million remaining as of August and is forecasted to have $12.1 million left at the end of the 2019 state fiscal year in June, according to Finance Manager Philip Sullivan.

He said AGDC is under-spending its budget in all areas; actual spending was $247,000 below its operating budget plan for the first two months of fiscal 2019. Its full-year operating budget was approved at $10.3 million.

A contributing factor to that is AGDC currently has 20 full-time in-house employees, but it budgeted for 26 employees, Sullivan added.

Richards and Meyer also noted that despite the tight funding for advancing the EIS, FERC recently moved the Alaska LNG EIS schedule up a month; the draft EIS is now expected in February 2019, with a final draft coming the following November.

Meyer said additional funding would most help with "keeping an aggressive construction schedule on track," as the industry consensus is that the current global LNG oversupply will evaporate closer to 2022 than the 2024-25 timeframe discussed a couple years ago. Most of the growing demand is coming from China, he said.

"Now everybody's trying to be that project to fill that (supply) gap," Meyer added.

While AGDC has not directly asked for additional funding, the corporation requested authority from the Legislature last session to accept third-party investments. However, the Legislature rejected that request in its final state operating budget.

If AGDC could get an injection of more than $100 million, the corporation would be able to complete advanced engineering and schedule long lead time items, such as pipe for the gasline from steel mills that are already busy with orders in the global natural gas boom, Meyer said.

That funding would be rewarded with an equity share of the project.

"The more money we have the more aggressive we can be," he said.

Elwood Brehmer can be reached at elwood.brehmer@alaskajournal.com.

Mitch McConnell: I’m proud of the Senate’s vote on Kavanaugh

Wed, 2018-10-17 11:39

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., joined by Sen. Roy Blunt, R-Mo., left, Sen. John Thune, R-S.D., second from right, and Majority Whip John Cornyn, R-Texas, right, speaks with reporters about the confirmation for President Donald Trump’s Supreme Court nominee, Brett Kavanaugh, following a closed-door GOP policy meeting, at the Capitol in Washington, Tuesday, Sept. 25, 2018. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster)

Oct. 6, 2018, was a proud day for the U.S. Senate. We fulfilled one of our most critical constitutional duties and confirmed Brett M. Kavanaugh, a stunning legal mind and an exemplary federal judge, as the newest associate justice on the U.S. Supreme Court.

The stakes are always high when the Senate considers a Supreme Court nomination. But the shameful spectacle that unfolded in recent weeks raised the stakes higher still. By the end, senators were not merely deciding whether to confirm an impressive nominee; we were also deciding what kind of institution the Senate is and what kind of politics we would enable.

Senate Democrats and far-left special interests made their goal perfectly clear from the beginning. The same night the nomination was announced, as protesters who had made up their minds beforehand filled in the blanks on their signs, Democrats attacked then-Judge Kavanaugh in absurd and irresponsible terms. He would "pave the path to tyranny." His supporters were "complicit in the evil." And these are just the quotations from sitting senators.

Sadly, this wasn't surprising. Shameless distortions have greeted every one of the Supreme Court nominees of Republican presidents since the left took down Robert Bork in 1987. But the far left faced a problem: The scare tactics weren't working anymore.

Kavanaugh was one of the most qualified Supreme Court nominees in history. He built a 12-year record as a respected appellate judge who painstakingly considered both sides of a case. Senators reviewed more than 300 of his opinions, along with the highest number of pagesof documents ever produced for a Supreme Court nomination. And we heard high praise from peers across the political spectrum.

Members of the so-called resistance were running out of options. That's when they reached a shameful new low.

Senate Democrats mishandled a confidential letter and helped ignite a nationwide feeding frenzy. A parade of uncorroborated allegations and outlandish rumors poured forth. Kavanaugh and his family were dragged through the mud. And the whole spectacle was eagerly cheered on by an irresponsible media and by many of my Democratic colleagues, some of whom read even the wildest personal smears into the Senate record and amplified even the most outlandish accusations.

Sexual assault is abhorrent. Victims deserve to be heard. These are not partisan positions, and little could be more cynical than pretending otherwise. But that is exactly how the far left sought to divide our nation. Factual questions and a lack of corroborating evidence were brushed aside in the rush to destroy a man's good name as some kind of political catharsis.

The intimidation wasn't aimed only at Kavanaugh. The Senate itself also came under attack. While many Americans on both sides made their voices heard respectfully, many others on the far left chose the darker road of mob tactics.

Far-left activists drove one member and his wifeout of a restaurant. They blocked another senator's car door. They hurled death threats at Senate staff members and vandalized offices. Members were harassed on their own front steps, chased through airports and accosted in Senate hallways. Protesters even screamed down from the galleries as senators were voting.

The mob and the media wanted senators to dispense with inconvenient things such as the presumption of innocence and arrive at the outcome they wanted. If we didn't, the message was clear: We should be personally afraid.

That is why our vote was not just about Kavanaugh, nor just about the Supreme Court.

Senators had to make a choice. Would we let this partisan fever overwhelm the basic principles of fairness that have sustained our country for centuries? Would we declare that uncorroborated and vigorously denied allegations of nearly 40-year-old events are enough to dynamite a citizen's career and reputation? Would we signal that naked intimidation could shape the Senate?

Nobody described the stakes better than my distinguished colleague from Maine, Republican Sen. Susan Collins. Her remarks from Oct. 5 will echo through Senate history: "We must always remember that it is when passions are most inflamed that fairness is most in jeopardy."

The Senate listened. We took a stand. We stood up to the media and the mob. We voted to set the right precedent and reaffirm American justice. We voted to shrug off the intimidation tactics and honor our body's history of reasoned deliberation. We voted to slam shut this dark and disgraceful chapter and turn toward a brighter tomorrow.

We voted to confirm Justice Brett M. Kavanaugh, whose commitment to the Constitution and the rule of law is exactly what the American people deserve on their Supreme Court.

The courts guard Americans' freedoms. The Senate guards the courts. If our nation wants judges who are thoughtful, independent and unintimidated, we need senators who display the same qualities. I could not be prouder that my colleagues rose to the occasion.

Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., is the Senate majority leader.

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 letters@adn.com or click here to submit via any web browser. Read our full guidelines for letters and commentaries here.

Man who robbed Anchorage coffee shop and fired at pursuing police gets 20-year federal sentence

Wed, 2018-10-17 11:18

Anchorage police investigating two armed robberies and an officer involved shooting in September 2017 attempted to stop the suspect vehicle in the area of Dimond Boulevard and C Street before it crashed. (Bill Roth / Alaska Dispatch News)

The 28-year-old Anchorage man who robbed a coffee shop at gunpoint and fired at police officers was sentenced in federal court Tuesday to 20 years in prison, the U.S. Attorney's Office said.

Myles Gonangnan and another man worked together to rob the Caffe D'Arte drive-through and tried to rob the Heavenly Cup coffee stand in September 2017 before leading police on a pursuit in South Anchorage, authorities said.

Gonangnan entered a guilty plea in February to four charges related to the crime, according to releases Wednesday from federal prosecutors and the Anchorage Police Department.

The other man, 36-year-old Eagle River resident Shane Twigg, is scheduled for sentencing in December.

Gonangnan admitted he and Twigg planned the robberies, which Gonangnan conducted while riding a bicycle and carrying a Ruger Redhawk .44-caliber pistol, charging documents say. Twigg drove nearby in a silver Buick SUV.

Gonangnan demanded money and banged the weapon against the pass-through window at the Caffe D'Arte drive-through, according to a sworn affidavit filed with the charges last year. He got $1,200 from the barista.

About an hour later, a barista at Heavenly Cup said a man matching Gonangan's description rode up on a bike, began mumbling and showed her the holster, the affidavit says. She went into the back of the store and didn't give him any money. Security video showed him trying, unsuccessfully, to get the gun from the holster.

Anchorage police spotted the Buick and tried to pull it over but the driver didn't stop and the pursuit began, the document says.

Gonangnan fired at pursuing officers at Dimond Boulevard and C Street, according to the affidavit.

Police returned fire in a "chaotic" encounter that ended when the Buick crashed into trees near the Costco entrance on Dimond.

Gonangnan, convicted of felony burglary in the past, wasn't allowed to have a firearm, federal prosecutors say.

U.S. District Judge Sharon Gleason recommended that Gonangnan be placed in a facility with strong mental health treatment services, and that he undergo substance abuse treatment during incarceration, according to the U.S. Attorney's Office.

He was also ordered to pay $1,200 in restitution to Caffé D'Arte and $23,929 to the Anchorage Police Department for repairs to service two police vehicles damaged in the pursuit.

Three of the four charges against Gonangnan mentioned interstate commerce, triggering federal involvement. That commerce: The coffee beans both stands use are grown outside of Alaska.

[Coffee beans don't grow in Alaska. That's why the feds teamed with local prosecutors against robbery suspects.]

Saudi Arabia’s leader doesn’t fear US fury for good reason

Wed, 2018-10-17 11:17

People hold signs during a protest at the Embassy of Saudi Arabia about the disappearance of Saudi journalist Jamal Khashoggi, Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018, in Washington. (AP Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

Intelligence reports suggest that Saudi Arabia killed Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi in its Istanbul consulate earlier this month, possibly on the orders of Crown Prince Muhammad bin Salman. MBS, as he is known, insisted to President Donald Trump this week that he didn't know anything about the incident. MBS has orchestrated a crackdown against critics in recent years as he consolidates power in anticipation of his eventual ascent to the throne.

If the crown prince or anybody else in his government is responsible, they clearly believed Saudi Arabia could get away with Khashoggi's abduction and slaying without U.S. disapproval. (Or, worse, they thought they had Washington's implied approval in advance.) There's a reason for that: MBS has developed such a close relationship with the Trump administration that he has gotten almost everything from it that he wants. In his mind, he may have concluded that, as far as U.S. policy goes, he can act with impunity.

His tightest relationship is with Jared Kushner, the president's senior adviser and son-in-law, and the closeness of their bond (Kushner successfully lobbied Trump to make Saudi Arabia his first foreign visit as president) has been well-documented. But during 2017, many in Washington, the American business community and the media fell in love with MBS and what he appeared to represent. His young and refreshing personal style was a radical departure from a history of geriatric Saudi leaders. He wanted social liberalization for his nation, including cinemas (which had been banned), live entertainment like concerts and, most of all, a policy that finally permitted women to drive cars, which he implemented in June. His ambitious plans for economic transformation involved diversifying away from the kingdom's dependence on oil; the Vision 2030 project was potentially lucrative for American businesses.

Policymakers here tolerated his clampdown on dissent – he has purged and imprisoned royals who represent rival power centers, such as the investor Alwaleed bin Talal, and expelled Canadian diplomats because one official lamented the lack of human rights there. The crown prince's greatest gift to Western allies was the "moderate Islam" he promised, which would reject Saudi Arabia's previous backing for dubious religious schools and charitable donations. An added element of the seduction was an inclusive attitude toward Israel as part of the Middle East; the Palestinian issue needed to be sorted out, but it wouldn't stop the kingdom from developing technological and commercial relations with Israel. Saudi Arabia, the UAE, and Israel seemed to be forming a new alliance around countering Iran.

MBS scored a major victory when Trump decided to withdraw from the Iran nuclear deal, which, in Saudi eyes, normalized Iran's nuclear status without containing it. The deal had been seen in Riyadh as the ultimate insult to the kingdom and a further display of former president Barack Obama's natural sympathy for Iran. It had also failed to contain Iran's missile developments; its rockets, including modified Scud-type missiles, funneled to, and launched by, Yemeni rebels, now land regularly on Saudi territory. At least two salvos have been aimed at Riyadh itself.

The war in Yemen is another MBS policy that won Washington's tacit approval. Launched in 2015, the kingdom has sought to dislodge the putsch by Houthi tribesman supported by Iran. But Saudi military inadequacies on the battlefield have been matched by incompetence in the air war, with embarrassing levels of civilian casualties caused by less-than-perfect Saudi targeting. Amid the chaos there is also a catastrophic looming famine. Last month, when members of Congress vowed to stop the flow of U.S. military assistance to the Saudi campaign, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo directed bureaucrats to keep us the aid, arguing that casualties would rise even higher without U.S. help. It was a huge victory for MBS, the war's architect.

Even before the war, the United States had been a major provider of military equipment to the kingdom, the biggest buyer of U.S. weapons. Principally it purchases F-15s for its air force, now regularly used for bombing Yemen, but the arsenal also includes Patriot missiles to protect air bases and cities from Yemeni rocket attacks and, perhaps more importantly, munitions, service and training contracts that last for years. Trump has refused repeatedly to entertain the notion of canceling any of it to shape Saudi behavior, showing MBS that he may have impunity.

Elected officials in the United States and Europe have often been challenged – by journalists, human-rights watchdogs, Khashoggi himself – about their support for MBS. The response generally holds that his impulsiveness and authoritarianism at home has to be matched with his success in changing the kingdom from an incubator of extremism Islam to the "real" Saudi Islam MBS describes, a moderate variant derailed by the 1979 Iranian revolution. But the Islamic State-type horror of Khashoggi's demise – which appears to involve a bone-saw, a basement and more than a dozen agents flown in from Riyadh – imperils this image.

In response, members of Congress are competing to find phrases of condemnation. Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., vows to prevent "business as usual" until the Khashoggi affair is explained properly, and Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., jokes about avoiding Saudi Arabia while MBS is there. A number of District of Columbia strategy and communication shops have dropped the Saudis as clients.

Still, Trump left another window open for MBS by saying this week that the Khashoggi slaying may have been perpetrated by "rogue killers." After talking to the king and his heir, he said flatly that they deny responsibility, and Trump seemed to compare the royal family to Brett Kavanaugh, saying it was being judged "guilty until proven innocent." With friends like these in Washington, no wonder MBS thought he could get away with whatever he wanted.

Simon Henderson is the Baker Fellow and director of the Bernstein Program on Gulf and Policy at the Washington Institute for Near East Policy.

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 letters@adn.com or click here to submit via any web browser. Read our full guidelines for letters and commentaries here.

Record number of migrant families crossing U.S. border as Trump threatens new crackdown

Wed, 2018-10-17 09:55

Honduran migrant making their way the U.S. in Esquipulas, Guatemala, rest early Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2018. U.S. President Donald Trump threatened on Tuesday to cut aid to Honduras if it doesn’t stop the impromptu caravan of migrants, but it remains unclear if governments in the region can summon the political will to physically halt the determined border-crossers. (AP Photo/Moises Castillo) (Moises Castillo/)

The number of migrant parents entering the United States with children has surged to record levels in the three months since President Donald Trump ended family separations at the border, dealing the administration a deepening crisis three weeks before the midterm elections.

U.S. Border Patrol agents arrested 16,658 family members in September, the highest one-month total on record and an 80 percent increase from July, according to unpublished Homeland Security statistics obtained by The Washington Post.

Large groups of 100 or more Central American parents and children have been crossing the Rio Grande and the deserts of Arizona to turn themselves in, and by citing a fear of return, the families are typically assigned a court date and released from custody.

"We're getting hammered daily," said one Border Patrol agent in south Texas who spoke on the condition of anonymity because he was not authorized to speak to the news media.

Having campaigned on a promise to stop illegal immigration and build a border wall, Trump now faces a spiraling enforcement challenge with no ready solutions. The soaring arrest numbers - and a new caravan of Central American migrants heading north - have left him in a furious state, White House aides say.

Trump has been receiving regular updates on the border numbers, telling senior policy adviser Stephen Miller and Chief of Staff John Kelly that something has to change, according to senior administration officials.

Aides including Miller and Sarah Huckabee Sanders have continually told the president that many of the children coming across the border are being smuggled illegally, and that the United States is being taken advantage of. The president's welling anger has left him pushing once more for a reinstatement of a family separation policy in some form, which he believes is the only thing that has worked, despite the controversy it triggered.

One senior official conceded that the separations were halted to stanch political fury, but ended up sending a "clear signal" that people could cross, adding "now we're actually getting crushed."

GOP strategists working in the midterms said the separations were among the worst polling times of the presidency, and reinstituting the separations would sag numbers for the Republicans, who are already struggling in many close races.

Trump continues to criticize Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen and has asked Secretary of State Mike Pompeo to work with Mexico to make it tougher for Central American immigrants to cross its southern border, inserting the issue into ongoing trade negotiations.

A senior DHS official said Wednesday that Nielsen continues to take the lead role engaging with leaders from Central America on migration issues and has been in regular contact with the Mexican government and the transition team of president-elect Andrés Manuel López Obrador, who will take office Dec. 1.

Trump has been lashing out this week at the new caravan of 2,000 migrants, mostly from Honduras, who crossed into Guatemala on Monday, pushing past police roadblocks. On Tuesday, Trump threatened to cut off aid to Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador if their governments "allow their citizens, or others, to journey through their borders and up to the United States."

Trump urged GOP candidates to campaign on the issue in a tweet Wednesday morning. "Hard to believe that with thousands of people from South of the Border, walking unimpeded toward our country in the form of large Caravans, that the Democrats won't approve legislation that will allow laws for the protection of our country. Great Midterm issue for Republicans!" he wrote.

The latest DHS figures show 107,212 "family units" members were taken into custody during the 2018 fiscal year, obliterating the previous high of 77,857 set in 2016.

There have been several senior-level meetings at the White House about the numbers, administration officials say, where Miller has channeled the president's frustration.

Miller is pushing for a more aggressive stance, including changes at U.S. ports of entry that would make it tougher for asylum-seeking Central Americans to gain admission.

Another option under consideration, known as "binary choice," would detain migrant families together and give parents a choice - stay in immigration jail with their child for months or years as their asylum case proceeds, or allow their child to be assigned to a government shelter while a relative or guardian can apply to gain custody.

Some Homeland Security officials remain wary of the proposal and the potential blowback it could bring, and they lack the detention space to accommodate the record wave of parents and children coming across. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) has about 3,300 detention beds at three "family residential centers," but five times as many parents and children are crossing each month. The volume has overwhelmed Border Patrol stations and prompted mass releases.

Though the Rio Grande Valley of South Texas remains the busiest corridor for illegal crossings, Border Patrol agents in recent weeks have seen a new spike in southern Arizona. Busloads of migrant parents and children have been dropped off at churches and charities there by ICE, which has little detention space for families and pregnant women.

The latest Department of Homeland Security figures show U.S. agents made 396,579 arrests along the Mexico border during the government's 2018 fiscal year, a 30 percent increase over the same period in 2017, when illegal migration dropped to a 56-year low.

Trump viewed the 2017 figures as a validation of his tough rhetoric on illegal immigration, and had plans to campaign on the achievement this year. When border arrests jumped earlier this spring, he berated Nielsen and demanded swift action, furious to be losing ground on one of his core issues.

That led to the "zero tolerance" prosecution initiative this spring and the separation of at least 2,500 children from their parents, hundreds of whom were deported without their sons and daughters. The president issued an executive order June 20 ending the practice amid public outcry.

Homeland Security officials have seen a particularly large increase this year in families arriving from Guatemala, where smuggling guides have been encouraging migrants to bring children with them to avoid deportation.

Despite soaring numbers of "family unit" arrests, the number of single adults and minors who arrive without a parent remained essentially flat last month, another indication that more migrants who might have traveled alone in the past are now brining children with them.

Courts have limited the amount of time minors can be held in immigration jails to 20 days, so many parents who arrive with children are fitted with ankle monitoring bracelets and given a court appointment that may be several months away.

Administration officials blame this "catch and release" model for the growing number of families arriving at the border, proposing to end it by expanding family detention space and changing rules that limit their ability to hold children in long-term custody.

Agents along the border say the family migration surge has continued this month.

“If October is any indication of what’s to come, Fiscal Year 2019 is going to be a very busy year,” Manuel Padilla, chief of the Border Patrol’s Rio Grande Valley sector in South Texas, said on Twitter. Agents in the sector, the busiest for illegal crossings, arrested more than 1,900 people last weekend alone, according to Padilla.

Roseanne overdosed on opioids and left ‘The Conners’ behind. It’s better this way.

Wed, 2018-10-17 09:48

ohn Goodman, left, and Ames McNamara in “The Conners.” (Eric McCandless, ABC)

ABC's "The Conners," a retitled reboot of a revival, made its return Tuesday night with the now widely known news that its main character, Roseanne Conner, had recently died in her sleep at the sitcom family's home in Lanford, Illinois, a small town that has always just fallen on hard times.

Although her family first believes a heart attack has claimed Roseanne (once famously played by – are we even allowed to say the name anymore? – Roseanne Barr), a coroner's report days later shows otherwise: She died of an opioid overdose. Her husband, Dan (John Goodman), was convinced he'd got rid of all the pills that Roseanne abused during one of the newfangled-yet-familiar episodes of "Roseanne" that aired last spring.

Now his daughter Becky has found another bottle of pills while going through her mother's things – prescribed to someone else. Dan snatches them from Becky and storms off.

"Damn," Becky says, "That's the only thing from Mom's closet that I wanted."

The studio audience laughs, of course, because what we still have here – after "Roseanne's" Category 4 pop-culture storm blew through with its tinge of red-state politics and a temperamental star who couldn't keep her worst thoughts off Twitter – is a sitcom.

Just a sitcom. And an old-school sitcom at that, shot with multiple cameras and a studio audience, the way sitcoms used to be in those good old days that we keep trying to reconjure by pathologically bringing back all of our favorite old shows. It's now up to "The Conners" to make sense of what happened and see if there's anything relevant for its characters to tell us in 2018.

Thematically, at least, there ought to be plenty to work with here – even after the fiasco that led to ABC to fire Barr after a racist tweet, cancel "Roseanne," and then pick up "The Conners" in apparent agreement with Barr that the rest of the cast and crew shouldn't be punished because of something she alone did. (Also there was another problem, too tempting to overlook: The "Roseanne" revival had been a big ratings hit, in an era where those are few and far between.)


Sara Gilbert, left, and Laurie Metcalf in “The Conners.” (Eric McCandless, ABC)

Tuesday's episode provided hints of the topically relevant family comedy that producers had set out to make all along. With or without Roseanne, the fact remains that TV could always use a well-written, well-performed comedy about an extended, underemployed, underinsured family of mostly white, Midwestern cynics who are navigating what's left of the American Dream in a part of the country where people feel as if they are largely ignored.

On that point, one could certainly argue that since the 2016 election of President Donald Trump, folks who demographically resemble the Conner family have received a surplus of attention, much of it from the very same media they've been coached to despise. Reporters never seem to tire of gentle, empathetic interviews with flyover citizens who found promise in Trump's nationalist, quasi-patriotic message of "Make America Great Again."

Roseanne Conner had been one of those voters, and, critically speaking, I was more than ready to follow a show about how she got there. What I and other viewers forgot was the inevitable cost of bringing Barr the celebrity back into the spotlight. It could never last; she would have courted disaster no matter what.

"The Conners" reminds us that there's a fine concept for a TV show here despite all that – although, like its predecessor, there's a tendency by its writers to circumvent the thing they ought to be writing toward. Tuesday's episode was loaded with characters and jokes, but a viewer quickly got the sense that only Goodman and Laurie Metcalf (as Roseanne's sister Jackie) have the acting chops strong enough to convey deep grief along with sudden segues into catharsis and punchlines about condolence casseroles.

Callous as it may sound, the sooner Roseanne is forgotten, the better the show might become, as a widowed construction worker known for hiding his feelings finds new ways to relate to his oldest daughter (herself widowed, years ago) and his younger daughter, son and grandchildren. The new-old "Roseanne" left a lot of topical loose ends to play with: a military daughter-in-law serving overseas; a young grandson coming out as a gay and genderfluid; and constant references to economic hardship. (What hardship? In Trump's winning America, with the best economy in history?)

As preoccupied as they seem to be, I wouldn't blame the Conners if they never breathed another word about politics. And yet, for the show's sake, I hope they will.

"The Conners" (30 minutes) airs Tuesdays at 8 p.m. on ABC.

Senior Treasury employee charged with leaking documents related to Russia probe

Wed, 2018-10-17 09:31

This June 8, 2017, photo shows the U.S. Treasury Department building in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais) (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/)

WASHINGTON - A senior Treasury Department employee was charged Wednesday with leaking confidential government reports about suspicious financial transactions related to the special counsel's probe of Russian election interference and Trump associates.

The charges reflect the latest move in the Trump administration's effort to root out leakers within the government. Earlier this week, a former senior Senate staffer pleaded guilty to lying to FBI agents in a separate leak investigation.

The Treasury case centers on a dozen stories published by BuzzFeed News that described suspicious activity reports, or SARs, which are generated by banks when a financial transaction may involve illegal activity.

Prosecutors charged Natalie Mayflower Sours Edwards with the unauthorized disclosure of suspicious activity reports and conspiracy. The charges were filed in federal court in New York but she is scheduled to make her first court appearance in Northern Virginia, officials said.

Edwards, 40, works as a senior adviser at the Treasury Department's Financial Crimes Enforcement Network, often referred to as "FinCEN."

Geoffrey S. Berman, U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York, said Edwards "betrayed her position of trust by repeatedly disclosing highly sensitive information."

The stories cited in the criminal complaint filed against Edwards match the headlines, wording and information contained in BuzzFeed News stories, though the court papers did not identify the company by name.

The 18-page criminal complaint details a search of Edwards's phone and a flash drive she possessed, on which FBI agents say they found a lengthy digital trail of her interactions with the reporters, in which she shared SARS reports.

"The majority of the files were saved to a folder on the flash drive entitled 'Debacle - Operation-CF,' and sub-folders bearing names such as 'Debacle\Emails\Asshat'," the complaint stated. "Edwards is not known to be involved in any official FinCEN project or task bearing these file titles or code names."

The flash drive files "appear to contain thousands of SARs, along with other highly sensitive material relating to Russia, Iran, and the terrorist group known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant," the complaint charges.

When FBI agents questioned Edwards on Tuesday, she initially denied having contacts with the reporter whose name appears on the stories at issue, then "changed her account, and admitted that on numerous occasions, she accessed SARs on her computer, photographed them, and sent those photographs to Reporter-1" using an encrypted application on her phone, according to the complaint.

The court filing said Edwards referred to herself as a whistleblower in the interview, but added while she had previously filed a whistleblower complaint related to her work, that did not involve the SARs disclosures.

The court documents also indicate the FBI has investigated one of Edwards's bosses, an associate director of FinCEN, noting that person exchanged 325 text messages with the reporter in question during the month when the first story appeared citing SARs reports.

A BuzzFeed representative did not immediately return a call for comment, nor did a FinCEN spokesman.

Woman who FBI said cast ‘hoodoo’ spells convicted of fraud

Wed, 2018-10-17 09:00

GREENBELT, Md. — An investment adviser was convicted Wednesday of charges she defrauded investors out of millions of dollars, some of which she used to pay more than $800,000 for prayers by Hindu priests in India to ward off federal investigators.

A federal jury deliberated for roughly four hours over two days before convicting 56-year-old Dawn Bennett of all 17 counts in her indictment, including charges of securities fraud, wire fraud and bank fraud. The verdict came after a two-week trial in Maryland. Bennett was indicted last year.

U.S. District Judge Paula Xinis did not immediately set a sentencing date.

Prosecutors said Bennett used money that people had invested in her luxury sportswear company to finance her lavish lifestyle, including six-figure expenditures on astrological gems, cosmetic medical procedures and the religious rituals in India.

Jurors heard testimony that Bennett paid a man in Washington state to arrange for Hindu priests to pray for her while her business was collapsing and she faced a Ponzi scheme investigation by the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission.

"I am in a very very tough fight going against my enemies and I need all the help I can get," Bennett wrote in an email to Puja.net website operator Benjamin Collins.

FBI agents also found evidence in Bennett's Chevy Chase home that she tried to silence SEC investigators by casting "hoodoo" spells, according to an FBI affidavit that accompanied her arrest last year in Santa Fe, New Mexico. Agents found instructions for placing people under a "Beef Tongue Shut Up Hoodoo Spell" and found the initials of SEC attorneys written on the lids of Mason jars stored in Bennett's freezers, the affidavit said.

However, jurors didn't hear any testimony about paranormal practices during Bennett's trial.

Prosecutors said Bennett didn't tell investors she was using their money on Hindu prayers and other personal expenses. One of her attorneys insisted Bennett was free to mix her personal and business expenses.

Defense attorney Dennis Boyle also said his client's religious practices are irrelevant.

"It should be free from government scrutiny," he said. "The fact that her prayers look or sound different (is) of no consequence."

Bennett used promissory notes to raise more than $20 million from at least 46 investors in her company, DJBennett, authorities said. Some of the investors were longtime friends. Others knew her from a radio show she hosted in the Washington, D.C., area.

Many of them lost their life savings or retirement funds when they gave their money to Bennett, who promised them a 15 percent return on their investment.

Bennett provided investors with falsified balance sheets and other fraudulent documents to her company appear profitable when it actually was in "abysmal" financial shape, Assistant U.S. Attorney Gregory Bernstein told jurors at the close of the trial.

"The company was losing millions of dollars, year after year," Bernstein said. "She lied to them."

Boyle depicted his client as a fraud victim herself, saying she invested more than $8 million of her own money in her online business and relied on false financial numbers and records prepared by her company's chief financial officer, Bradley Mascho.

Mascho pleaded guilty in June to conspiring to commit securities fraud and awaits a sentencing hearing. Neither he nor Bennett testified at trial.

"Dawn Bennett is actually the first victim in this case," Boyle said.

Stuart Berman, Mascho's attorney, declined to comment on Boyle's claims about his client.

Assistant U.S. Attorney Thomas Windom said it was Bennett, not Mascho, who profited from the scheme.

"Ms. Bennett had no intention of helping her friends with these investments," he said. "She wanted to help herself."

The FBI's investigation of Bennett began in December 2015 after the SEC formally accused her of defrauding investors by inflating the amount of assets she managed and exaggerating the returns on her customers' investments. The SEC cited Bennett's statements on her paid weekly radio show, "Financial Myth Busting With Dawn Bennett."

Bennett used investors' money to pay off other investors and for her own personal benefit, including more than $141,000 on astrological gems, more than $100,000 on cosmetic medical procedures and a $500,000 annual lease for a luxury suite at the Dallas Cowboys' home stadium, prosecutors said.

Pro-government Turkish newspaper publishes gruesome account of Khashoggi’s alleged death based on audio recording

Wed, 2018-10-17 08:39

U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo walks with U.S. Charge d'Affaires Jeffrey M. Hovenier, front left, as he prepares to leave Ankara, Turkey, Wednesday Oct. 17, 2018. On Wednesday a pro-government Turkish newspaper published a report made from what they described as an audio recording of Saudi writer and journalist Jamal Khashoggi's alleged torture and slaying on Oct. 2, at the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul. (Leah Millis/Pool via AP) (Leah Millis/)

ISTANBUL — Turkish crime-scene investigators entered the residence of the Saudi consul general in Istanbul on Wednesday to search for evidence in the disappearance of Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi, just as a pro-government newspaper published a gruesome recounting of his alleged slaying.

Saudi Arabia’s green national flag flapped overhead as forensics teams walked into the residence, only about a mile from the consulate where Khashoggi vanished Oct. 2 while trying to pick up paperwork to get married. It was the second-such extraordinary search of land considered under international law to be Saudi sovereign soil after Turkish police searched the consulate through the early morning Tuesday.

The new search and newspaper report put further pressure on Saudi Arabia to explain what happened to Khashoggi after a visit by U.S. Secretary Mike Pompeo to both the kingdom and Turkey. Flying back home, Pompeo remained positive about an ongoing Saudi probe into Khashoggi’s disappearance, but stressed answers need to come soon.

"Sooner's better than later for everyone," Pompeo said.

The residence search came after a report by the newspaper Yeni Safak citing what it described as an audio recording of Khashoggi's slaying. It described the 60-year-old Washington Post columnist as having his fingers cut off and being decapitated after entering the consulate.

The newspaper said Saudi Consul General Mohammed al-Otaibi could be heard on the tape, telling those allegedly torturing Khashoggi: "Do this outside; you're going to get me in trouble."

The newspaper said one of the Saudis replied: "Shut up if you want to live when you return to (Saudi) Arabia."

Security services in Turkey have used pro-government media to leak details of Khashoggi's case, adding to the pressure on the kingdom.

Saudi officials have not responded to repeated requests for comment from The Associated Press in recent days. Al-Otaibi left Turkey on Tuesday afternoon, Turkish state media reported.

On Wednesday, Pompeo held separate meetings with President Recep Tayyip Erdogan and Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu, each for about 40 minutes in Ankara, Turkey's capital.

The three posed for photos, but said nothing together in front of reporters.

On a plane back home, Pompeo said Erdogan "made clear that the Saudis had cooperated with the investigation that the Turks are engaged in and they are going to share information."

"If a country engages in activity that is unlawful it's unacceptable," Pompeo said. "No one is going to defend activity of that nature. We just need to simply say what happened."

Pompeo met with Saudi King Salman and his son, the 33-year-old Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, on Tuesday. Before leaving Riyadh, Pompeo told reporters that the Saudi leaders "made no exceptions on who they would hold accountable."

"They made a commitment to hold anyone connected to any wrongdoing that may be found accountable for that, whether they are a senior officer or official," Pompeo said.

No major decisions are made outside of the ultraconservative kingdom's ruling Al Saud family. Khashoggi had fled the country last year amid the rise of Prince Mohammed, whom he wrote critically about in the Post.

On Tuesday, a high-level Turkish official told the AP that police found "certain evidence" of Khashoggi's slaying at the consulate, without elaborating. The official spoke on condition of anonymity because the investigation was ongoing.

President Donald Trump's previous warnings over the case drew an angry response Sunday from Saudi Arabia and its state-linked media, including a suggestion that Riyadh could wield its oil production as a weapon. The U.S. president has been after King Salman and OPEC to boost production to drive down high oil prices, caused in part by the coming re-imposition of oil sanctions on Iran.

Prominent U.S. newspapers have reported, citing anonymous sources, that Saudi officials may soon acknowledge Khashoggi's slaying at the consulate but blame it on a botched intelligence operation. That could, like Trump's softening comments, seek to give the kingdom a way out of the global firestorm of criticism over Khashoggi's fate.

___

Fraser reported from Ankara, Turkey, and Gambrell reported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates. Associated Press writer Matthew Lee in Washington contributed to this report.

GCI objects to big cut in Rural Health Care payments for internet service

Wed, 2018-10-17 07:00

A crew with STG Inc. waits for a heavy-lift helicopter to deliver a section of tower as part of the $300 million-plus TERRA project that was completed last year by GCI to connect more than 80 rural communities with broadband internet. (Photo courtesy STG Inc.)

Alaska internet service providers are getting millions of dollars to provide lower-price service to rural health care centers, but not as much as they sought to cover their costs.

The Federal Communications Commission provides cost assistance through its Rural Health Care program, intended to help rural medical clinics afford internet connections to facilitate telemedicine services without breaking the bank.

By law, internet service providers have to serve rural health care clinics at the same cost they give to urban health care clinics, and to make up the difference, they can apply for funding through the RHC program.

The catch is that they have to justify the rates they're charging for rural connections. After an investigation, the FCC found that two non-Alaska carriers were inflating their rural rates to increase their payments from the program in 2017 and fined the companies about $40 million.

The agency then requested more information from the participating companies to justify the rural rates they charged. That proved to be an issue for Alaska telecom providers, where internet connections are notoriously expensive and limited outside urban centers.

The FCC announced Oct. 10 that GCI, one of the two largest internet providers in the state, would receive $77.8 million in funding through the program. That's about $28 million less than the company requested in its cost estimates.

GCI objected, saying in an Oct. 12 press release that the reduction from the funding request essentially forces the company to swallow $28 million in services that had already been provided.

"GCI strongly disagrees with the bureau's decision," said GCI president and CEO Greg Chapados in the release. "The decision ignores the fact that our services are competitively bid in a competitive market. It also fails to provide any compelling explanation of the methodology behind the reduction in support payments. It does not even set forth the specifics of the methodology."

The company challenges the FCC Wireline Competition Bureau's authority and "intends to pursue all available remedies," according to the release. GCI spokeswoman Heather Handyside said in an email the company didn't have any more to add to the press release at present.

In its release, the FCC emphasized the "fiscal responsibility" of the decision to reduce the funding to GCI.

"Critically, this fiscally responsible determination will not require participating rural health care providers in Alaska to pay more for their telecommunications services or risk losing those services," the release states. "By law, telecommunications carriers cannot cut off or deny service to existing rural health care provider customers for failure to pay a rate higher than the urban rate. Moreover, the methodology outlined in the Bureau's approval letter will provide additional regulatory certainty and thus support continued investment in technologies that support telemedicine in communities across Alaska."

GCI stated that it has invested hundreds of millions of dollars into building out infrastructure for its network in rural Alaska and that the decision does not hold with industry practice, economics, policy or prior audits conducted back to 1997, in the earliest days of the RHC program.

Alaska Communications, the other major internet provider in the state, previously outlined to the Journal the difficulties in meeting the information request specifications for the FCC to approve its rural rates.

As of Oct. 16, most of the requests from the providers the company served in 2017 had been approved, but a handful had not yet been approved and therefore not funded, wrote Alaska Communications spokeswoman Heather Cavanaugh in an email.

The RHC program has grown significantly in recent years, with growing concern from providers as requests for funding outstripped the funding provided. In June 2018, the FCC increased the available funding from $400 million to $571 million, which has since been scaled to $581 million for inflation, according to FCC spokesman Mark Wigfield in an email.

Elizabeth Earl can be reached at elizabethearl@gmail.com.

Student goes on shooting spree in Crimean high school, kills 17, wounds 50

Wed, 2018-10-17 06:41

MOSCOW - At least 13 people, mostly teenagers, were killed and 50 more wounded when an explosive device rocked a high school in Crimea on Wednesday, Russia’s investigative committee said.

Russia's National Guard has called the explosion an act of terrorism, while the investigative committee has opened a terrorism probe.

"The majority of them are teenagers," the committee said in a statement, adding that the metallic device was planted in the school's cafeteria.

Eyewitnesses at the school, attended by children between the ages of 14 and 18, said gunmen fired into the air before the explosion, Russian media reported.

"There are lots of wounded, we started to evacuate people through the windows. People are panicking," the Russian Telegram news service Mash cited an unnamed student as saying.

The attack took place in Kerch, a city on the east of Crimea, a peninsula Russia-annexed from Ukraine four years ago. Kerch is also where a new Kremlin-financed bridge connects Crimea to Russia.

The blast is the first fatal attack on the territory of Russia since a suicide bomber killed 16 people on the St. Petersburg metro in April last year. No group claimed responsibility for that attack, but Russian security forces said it was the work of an Islamist radical.

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The Washington Post’s Natalia Abbakumova contributed reporting.

Bright seafood, artisan chocolate and resilient dahlias highlight fall markets

Wed, 2018-10-17 05:29

Dannon Southall of 10th & M Seafoods has an interesting perspective on the recently fickle weather.

"The seafood world is definitely a lot brighter than the weather outside," Southall says. "It is a perfect time to take advantage of the amazing fresh Alaska seafood and avoid the terrible weather."

Southall says some of the prize seafood include fresh Southeast troll-caught king salmon, with both red and white kings available, along with Gulf of Alaska fresh cod and halibut. Southall says the fresh cod fillets are available for $7.95 per pound, while the headed and cleaned 10- to 20-pound halibut are $9.49/pound. Also look for live oysters from a variety of Alaska locations.

Center Market

Rob Wells and the newly renamed Hatcher Pass Dahlias (formerly The Persistent Farmer) says the "plants just won't quit … or freeze," so he will be at Saturday's Center Market. Wells expects to have more than 100 dahlia blooms at the market.

Alex Davis of AD Farm says it's a busy time, but he's still at the market thrice-weekly.

"We have been busting it here on the farm to get the goodies into storage, and it always strikes me as funny that the second we finish putting a crop in storage we start taking it out for the market," Davis says.

"As of now, we are looking at one of our most well-rounded eating options for the fall. Lots of brussels sprouts, cabbage, carrots, potatoes, beets, pork, beef, chicken, and fresh eggs."

Davis says other produce includes five varieties of cauliflower, kale and salad mix, while the pork cuts include chops, roast, fresh side, sausage, soup bones and fat. Other items include a wide variety of jams, and items from Tonia's Biscotti and Alaska Flour Co.

Earthworks Farm will be at the Wednesday market with a fresh crop of honey.

Thankful Thursdays

Coddle & Cosset is joining the lineup at the Thankful Thursdays market.

Coddle & Cosset is owned by Lindsay Clark, an artisan chocolatier and baker who worked as head chocolatier at Modern Dwellers Chocolate Lounge and has also worked at Two Sisters Bakery in Homer and for Arctic Organics. Clark focuses on hand-rolled truffles and other specialty chocolates. This summer, Coddle & Cosset was a regular vendor at the Spenard Farmers Market.

"The recipes and flavors of Coddle & Cosset reflect past chapters in organic farming, cheesemaking, baking, specialty coffee and food justice," Julie Meer says. "Look for intriguing ingredients like cheese, fennel and chaga, as well as local ingredients such as honey, jams and birch syrup."

Other vendors include Harvest Point Farms, Elderberry Essentials, Farm 779, the Dog Side and Duane Clarks Top Shelf Artisan Market.

Harvest Point Farms will have fresh microgreens, bagged salads and more.

Connect with the Harvest Point folks to check on their CSA, with products available through the end of the year. Elderberry Essentials returns with keto cakes in small jars, along with glycerides, gummies and elderberry syrups. The Dog Side has fresh-packed USDA inspected pucks and chubs specifically for raw-fed dogs, along with treats, raw whey, faux tripe, organ meats and fresh marrow bones.

Farm 779 has a variety of krauts, including garlic, hot, and turmeric; fermented onions and lemons; kombucha; keto cookie snacks; and coconut kefirs. Clark will have grass-fed beef, yak, carrots, honey, potatoes and birch syrup.

Northway Mall Wednesday Market

Dinkel's Veggies will be hosting the final outdoor market of the year at Northway Mall on Wednesday. The Dinkels will continue to be at Wasilla Lake on Wednesdays and Saturdays as the weather allows.

Veggies include carrots, cabbage, broccoli, potatoes, tomatoes, sweet onions, cauliflower and pumpkins.

Steve Edwards lives and writes in Anchorage. Contact him at akmarketfresh@gmail.com.

Local farmers markets

Wednesday in Anchorage: Center Market, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Midtown Mall, Benson Boulevard and Denali Street; Northway Mall Wednesday Market, 9 a.m.-4 p.m., Northway Mall

Thursday in Anchorage: Thankful Thursdays market, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Midtown Mall, Benson Boulevard and Denali Street

Thursday outside of Anchorage: Peters Creek Farmers Market, 3-7 p.m., 21426 Old Glenn Highway, Chugiak

Friday in Anchorage: Center Market, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Midtown Mall, Benson Boulevard and Denali Street

Saturday in Anchorage: Center Market, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Midtown Mall, Benson Boulevard and Denali Street

Police: Man who walked into traffic on C Street struck and killed by SUV

Wed, 2018-10-17 03:27

A man died Tuesday evening when he stepped into traffic on C Street south of Tudor Road and was struck by an SUV, Anchorage police said.

The man was not in a crosswalk, police said in an online alert.

A gray 2016 Ford Explorer was northbound on C Street approaching Tudor Road just after 8 p.m. when the man "stepped out into oncoming traffic" and was struck by the Explorer, police said.

The driver, an adult male, was not hurt and performed lifesaving measures until medics arrived, but the pedestrian was declared dead at the scene.

Police asked that anyone with information about the accident, including surveillance video, call dispatch at 311.

Letter: Thanks for good service

Wed, 2018-10-17 00:25

I wish to thank you for making the extra effort to deliver a missing paper even though I called late. I listen to the news daily on TV and radio, but appreciate the chance to relax with the print version and peruse the news at my own pace.
Your paper delivers more in-depth background information. The audio news is more intrusive to my senses.
— Marilyn Asicksik
Anchorage

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

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