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Liberalism is neither a defect nor a stranger to Alaska

Sat, 2017-12-09 13:14

I have to say, it's often a wonderful thing to have folks quote lines back to me that I've written in this paper. It seems most often they are quips or parables from Pop Moore, but sometime they are little turns of phrase that come back to me. It's a nice confirmation that you, dear reader, take some of this beyond your Sunday morning coffee time.

A particular line from a columnist that ran last week has been stuck in my head, but not in a good way.

"Liberalism is, after all, a genetic defect," he wrote.

I don't remember much else about the column, other than the writer has a liberal friend who he thinks is defective.

Oh, I thought of lots of snarky responses. You know, like if liberalism was a defect that could be detected in the first trimester of pregnancy, you'd be damn sure the conservatives would put it as a caveat in their list of exceptions to an abortion ban.  "Incest, Rape, Life of the Mother, and, it's a Liberal!" Oh, but you don't have to look further than Ronald Reagan's kids to know conservatism isn't passed on. (The one conservative Reagan is adopted. See, it doesn't work.) Goodness sakes! Is this genetic condition covered or will it have to be considered a pre-existing condition?

[Tough week for liberals: Gun control still dead, pope still Catholic]

It's bugging me. I'm a liberal. I assure you it isn't genetic, but may have to do with reading all those red words during Mr. Harris' Sunday school class. Just a guess.

I know I should feel like an endangered species in Alaska, but I don't. I know what principles and beliefs have worked here for years, and I know that I stand on many shoulders.

In 1922, a Tlingit Chief, Charlie Jones, was jailed for voting. His protest gave way to Alaska Natives getting the right to vote two years before Native Americans. In 1944, years before the civil rights movement in the states, Alberta Schenck, a Native woman, refused to budge from her seat in the "Whites Only" section of a movie theater in Nome. She was dragged out and jailed. Schenck was Alaska's Rosa Parks. Because of her bravery and the moving testimony of Elizabeth Peratrovich, on Feb. 16, 1945, Territorial Gov. Ernest Gruening signed an anti-discrimination law. Against the argument that the law would not eliminate discrimination, Peratrovich said, "Do your laws against larceny and even murder eliminate those crimes?"

The liberal history of Alaska is constantly buried under "new" waves of oil workers and rapture watchers. McChurches promise to Super Size your Jesus. Too many preachers haven't noticed the miracle of "curing a gay guy" wasn't mentioned in the works of Christ.

[Liberals get their own 'ALEC;' it's called 'SiX']

Alaska women aren't all waltzing around with "the bigger the hair the closer to God" up-do, lining up to live the American dream of buying flag lapel pins and sequined "I Heart America" T-shirts made by un-aborted children in China while they punctuate their purchase with a personalized credit card owned by a company in Abu Dhabi. The men drive by in the newest "Ford Compensator 350," towing a trailer loaded with ATVs; Rush Limbaugh blares when the Lee Greenwood CD gets too teary; something about "Where at least I know I'm free." Yellow ribbon magnets claim to support the troops, the same troops who are fighting to make sure the gallon of gas moving him all of 9.4 miles stays cheaper than a latte.

Our first senators were feisty liberals. Bob Bartlett wrote the original legislation for what would become the Americans With Disabilities Act. Ernest Gruening authored what became our nationwide 911 emergency telephone service. How many lives have been saved because of their leanings? Mike Gravel was our senator drumming the Washington, D.C., Democrats into voting for the trans-Alaska pipeline. Oh, my! A Liberal? Yes. It wouldn't have passed when it did if it weren't for him.

There are liberals — and conservatives — buried in Arlington who give me and others the right to have our opinions regardless of if you agree with them or not. That isn't lost on me, and I am grateful.

As Stephen Colbert says, "It is a well-known fact that reality has a liberal bias."

Shannyn Moore is a radio broadcaster and regular contributor to the Daily News.

The views expressed here are the writer's and are not necessarily endorsed by the Anchorage Daily News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary@adn.com. Send submissions shorter than 200 words to letters@adn.com or click here to submit via any web browser.

Court should side with baker; First Amendment is at stake

Sat, 2017-12-09 12:42

There is absolutely no question the U.S. Supreme Court should side with a Colorado baker who refused, because of his religious convictions, to bake a custom cake for a gay couple's wedding. The First Amendment's future hangs in the balance.

A central question in court filings is "Whether applying Colorado's public- accommodation law to compel artists to create expression that violates their sincerely held religious beliefs about marriage violates the Free Speech or Free Exercise Clauses of the First Amendment."

The case, Masterpiece Cake Shop v. Colorado Civil Rights Commission, was born of a 2012 discrimination complaint to the Colorado Civil Rights Division.

The Christian baker, Jack Phillips, contends his custom cakes are art forms and he was exercising his constitutional right not to bake one celebrating, endorsing, a belief he disagrees with when he politely refused to bake a custom wedding cake for a gay couple, David Mullins and Charlie Craig.

Mind you, at the time, same-sex marriage was illegal in Colorado and there were dozens of nearby bakeries. Nevertheless, the couple decided to compel Phillips to comply with their demands.

[Wedding cakes can be stunning creations, but do they qualify as art?]

It should be noted Colorado three times has "declined to force pro-gay bakers to provide a Christian patron with a cake they could not in conscience create given their own convictions on sexuality and marriage," Robert P. George and Sherif Girgis point out in a New York Times opinion piece, "A baker's First Amendment rights."

Phillips' brief to the Supreme Court says because weddings and marriage have such religious significance for him, "he would consider it sacrilegious to express through his art an idea about marriage that conflicts with his religious beliefs."

Phillips, who has run his bakery since 1993, says he sells his ready-made confections to anybody. He does not discriminate against homosexuals, but draws the line at custom cakes celebrating things or events at odds with his religious beliefs. For instance, he refuses custom cakes for Halloween, or adult-themed parties, or to celebrate divorce. Ditto for vulgarities, profanity or anti-American messages, or cakes that disparage the lesbian, gay, bisexual and transgender community.

Baking is an artistic expression, Phillips says, and compelling him to bake for a same-sex marriage is forced speech violating free speech and religious-freedom protections.

Losing his case before the Colorado Civil Rights Division, he appealed to the Colorado Civil Rights Commission and lost again.

In its order, the commission required he: "(1) design wedding cakes that celebrate same-sex marriages if he creates cakes that celebrate opposite-sex marriages, (2) re-educate his staff (which includes his family members) on (Colorado Anti-Discrimination Act) compliance, and (3) submit quarterly compliance reports for two years describing all orders that he declines and the reasons for the denial."

If that is not unconstitutional, what is? He appealed to the Colorado Court of Appeals and lost yet again. Now the case is being weighed by the nation's high court. Much hangs on its outcome.

In the past, justices have protected our right not to be compelled to espouse in any fashion something we reject. In one notable case, 1943's West Virginia v. Barnette, they barred state denial of Jehovah's Witnesses' right to attend public schools unless they saluted the flag. "Compulsory unification of opinion," the Court said then, is antithetical to the First Amendment.

Today's court must decide whether the Centennial State can deny Phillips the right to craft and sell any custom wedding cakes unless he bakes them for gay weddings, as well.

[Supreme Court seems divided in case of baker who refused to create wedding cake for gay couple]

If artists of any stripe, if any citizen, for that matter, can be compelled by government to endorse ideas they find religiously reprehensible, what good is the First Amendment? We have hard-won rights in this country. One of them is freedom of expression. We are allowed to have our own beliefs; we do not have to endorse our neighbor's. We do not even have to like his dog. We certainly should not have to bake cakes that offend our sincerely held beliefs.

A problem here is the Supreme Court. It is a lousy place to resolve a divisive ruckus over social rights. Roe v. Wade stands as an example of Supreme Court overreach on something best left to the states and time; a judicial answer to a political question — leaving the question largely unresolved.

What this court will do is unpredictable. When the dust settles, one can only hope it finds "compulsory unification of opinion" as onerous now as it did 43 years ago; that the First Amendment survives this latest onslaught; that Jack Phillips can create custom cakes as he sees fit.

If not, the tapestry that is this great nation will unravel just a little more.

Paul Jenkins is editor of the AnchorageDailyPlanet.com, a division of Porcaro Communications.

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@adn.com. Send submissions shorter than 200 words to letters@adn.com or click here to submit via any web browser.

Here’s why I joined the House majority coalition

Sat, 2017-12-09 12:14

It has always been my plan to write a letter to my constituents addressing questions some have regarding my political standing and choice to join the House Coalition. Given recent events, this seems like an opportune time.

Joining the coalition was a difficult decision, but it was one that as a person of conscience, I ultimately had to make. I am a Republican and that has not changed; however, I am first and foremost an Alaskan and a representative of my district. My ultimate responsibility is to my constituents and the people of this state.

Clearly, the most pressing issues facing Alaska are addressing the deficit and achieving a sustainable and balanced fiscal solution. Despite having ample opportunity, the former House Majority proved itself unwilling to address these issues in a meaningful way. I was upfront with my colleagues and on the campaign trail that I would join the majority that was committed to taking the hard votes to get our economy back on track.

So, I joined the new Alaska House Majority Coalition, which is a group of Democrats, Republicans, and Independents who are committed to changing the status quo. The common thread that brought us together was not partisanship, but was a shared belief that action is needed now to ensure that our children and our children's children can continue to live, work and play in a prosperous Alaska.

[Alaska Republicans move to block primary ballot access to lawmakers who joined House coalition]

That being said, I want to address the recent vote by the Alaska Republican Party to bar myself and two other Republicans from next year's Republican primary ballot. Essentially, a small group of political elites is attempting to usurp voters and dictate who can run in their party's primary based on whether elected officials toed the party line.

Shouldn't the voters decide who is fit to be the party representative for their district? Aren't I ultimately accountable to my voters?

I did what I felt was right for the communities I represent and the people of Alaska. I stand by that decision. If my constituents are unhappy with those actions or the job I've done, I fully expect them to vote their conscience. That is what our electoral process is based on. It is the residents of my district that I am accountable to, not a group of people in a boardroom.

This is simply an attempt to diminish the power of voters by bolstering the power of a select few. The idea that a state political party may exclude individuals from their primary who acted on behalf of their constituents instead of the will of the party runs counter to the principles of a representational democracy. Moreover, it actively discourages independent thought and bipartisanship when that is clearly something we need more of.

[Alaska GOP should let primary voters decide fate of Musk Ox reps]

Lastly, bipartisan coalitions are not a new concept in this state. Alaskans are an independent group of people and our political history is replete with examples of legislatures that set aside party-line politics for the betterment of the state. There are many examples, but two recent ones come to mind.

• In 2007, Republicans held an 11-9 majority in the Alaska Senate. Despite being elected as Republicans, the mother-in-law of the current chairman of the Alaska Republican Party and five other Republicans joined nine Democrats to form a majority coalition. I don't recall an attempt to remove those individuals from the following year's primary.

• A little over a year ago, the former Republican-led House Majority bolstered its numbers with members who were elected as Democrats. The Alaska Democratic Party did not attempt to bar those individuals from running in their primary. Furthermore, it is ironic that an organization is suddenly taking issue with a practice that it has used to its advantage in previous years.

I do not believe this action will be enforceable. As a voter, however, I have to ask myself: Why is a political party attempting to manipulate the system to control the actions of legislators while in office?

I, for one, do not want Alaska to turn down that path.

There aren't a lot of certainties in this line of work, but I can promise this: As long as I am in office, I will not prioritize the needs of a political party over the communities I represent and the people of Alaska.

Rep. Louise Stutes, R-Kodiak, represents District 12, which includes Kodiak, Yakutat, Cordova and Seldovia.

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@adn.com. Send submissions shorter than 200 words to letters@adn.com or click here to submit via any web browser.

Disgruntled Anchorage McDonald’s customer shoots the building

Sat, 2017-12-09 12:06

A young man pulled up to a McDonald's drive-thru in West Anchorage early Saturday in an agitated state, then shot the building, police said.

No one was hurt, said MJ Thim, Anchorage police spokesman.

Police were called at 1:12 a.m. about the agitated customer, described as an Asian man in his late teens or early 20s wearing a red hoodie and a baseball cap, Thim said.

He was driving a red four-door sedan and had a passenger when he pulled up to the McDonald's window at 800 W. Northern Lights Boulevard, Thim said.

The man argued with the McDonald's employee over payment and eventually did pay.

"He drove forward, turned around and shot at the building," Thim said. The single shot hit the restaurant, he said.

"We still don't know why he was upset," Thim said. Witnesses told police that he was disgruntled from the get-go.

Police are looking for the man and reviewing security footage.

Prominent appeals court judge accused of sexual misconduct by 6 women

Sat, 2017-12-09 11:46

A former clerk for Judge Alex Kozinski said the powerful and well-known jurist, who for many years served as chief judge on the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit, called her into his office several times and pulled up pornography on his computer, asking if she thought it was photoshopped or if it aroused her sexually.

Heidi Bond, who clerked for Kozinski from 2006 to 2007, said the porn was not related to any case. One set of images she remembered was of college-age students at a party where "some people were inexplicably naked while everyone else was clothed." Another was a sort of digital flip book that allowed users to mix and match heads, torsos and legs to create an image of a naked woman.

Bond is one of six women – all former clerks or externs in the 9th Circuit – who alleged to The Washington Post in recent weeks that Kozinski, now 67 and still serving as a judge on the court, subjected them to a range of inappropriate sexual conduct or comments. She is one of two former clerks who said Kozinski asked them to view porn in his chambers.

[7 aides at Alaska Capitol say legislator made unwanted advances and comments]

In a statement, Kozinski said: "I have been a judge for 35 years and during that time have had over 500 employees in my chambers. I treat all of my employees as family and work very closely with most of them. I would never intentionally do anything to offend anyone and it is regrettable that a handful have been offended by something I may have said or done."

When Bond was clerking, Kozinski was on the precipice of becoming chief judge for the 9th Circuit – the largest federal appeals court circuit in the country, handling cases for a large swath of the western United States as well as Hawaii and Alaska. The other people who alleged that Kozinski behaved inappropriately toward them worked in the 9th Circuit both before and after her, up to 2012.

Bond said she knew that she was to come to the judge's office when her phone beeped twice. She said she tried to answer the judge's inquiries as succinctly and matter-of-factly as possible. Bond was then in her early 30s and is now 41.

If the question was about photoshopping, Bond said, she would focus on minor details of the image. If Kozinski asked whether the images aroused her, Bond said, she would respond: "No, this kind of stuff doesn't do anything for me. Is there anything else you need?" She said she recalled three instances when the judge showed her porn in his office.

"I was in a state of emotional shock, and what I really wanted to do was be as small as possible and make as few movements as possible and to say as little as possible to get out," Bond said.

Bond, who went on to clerk for the Supreme Court and now works as a romance novelist writing under the name Courtney Milan, and another clerk, Emily Murphy, who worked for a different judge on the 9th Circuit and is now a law professor, described their experiences in on-the-record interviews. The other four women spoke on the condition that their names and some other identifying information not be published, out of fear that they might face retaliation from Kozinski or others.

Kozinski, who served as the chief judge on the 9th Circuit from 2007 to 2014, remains a prominent judge, well known in the legal community for his colorful written opinions. His clerks often win prestigious clerkships at the Supreme Court.

[Lobbyists ask for votes. Some lawmakers want much more.]

Murphy, who clerked for Judge Richard Paez, said Kozinski approached her when she was talking with a group of other clerks at a reception at a San Francisco hotel in September 2012. The group had been discussing training regimens, and Murphy said she commented that the gym in the 9th Circuit courthouse was nice because other people were seldom there.

Kozinski, according to Murphy and two others present at the time who spoke to The Post, said that if that were the case, she should work out naked. Those in the group tried to change the subject, Murphy and the others present said, but Kozinski kept steering the conversation toward the idea of Murphy exercising without clothes.

"It wasn't just clear that he was imagining me naked, he was trying to invite other people – my professional colleagues – to do so as well," Murphy said. "That was what was humiliating about it."

Murphy, who was 30 at the time of the incident and is now 36, provided The Post with a 2012 email showing that she told a mentor about what had happened at the time. Two of Murphy's friends who were present at the time of the encounter, speaking on the condition of anonymity, also confirmed her account. Bond, similarly, provided emails showing that she told a friend what had happened at least as of 2008.

The friend, fellow romance novelist Eve Ortega, provided the same emails. She confirmed that Bond had told her years ago that Kozinski made inappropriate sexual comments and showed her porn.

Kozinski has previously been embroiled in controversies relating to sexually explicit material.

In 2008, the Los Angeles Times revealed that Kozinski had maintained an email list that he used to distribute crude jokes, some of them sexually themed, and that he had a publicly accessible website that contained pornographic images.

A judicial investigation ultimately found that Kozinski did not intend to allow the public to see the material, and that instead the judge and his son were careless in protecting a private server from being accessible on the Internet.

Anthony Scirica, then the chief judge of the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 3rd Circuit, wrote at the time that Kozinski's "conduct exhibiting poor judgment with respect to this material created a public controversy that can reasonably be seen as having resulted in embarrassment to the institution of the federal judiciary."

According to Scirica's report, Kozinski said that he used the server to keep a variety of items he received by email, including TV commercials, video clips, cartoons, games and song parodies.

Of the sexually explicit files, Kozinski testified: "Some I thought were odd or funny or bizarre, but mostly I don't have a very good reason for holding onto them. I certainly did not send them to anyone else or ask anyone to send me similar files," according to Scirica's report.

Kozinski also testified that he "does not visit and has no interest in pornographic websites," according to Scirica's report. He separately apologized for any embarrassment he had caused in maintaining the email list and said he had stopped sending the jokes.

Bond said the images Kozinski showed her seemed to come from his private server, because he pulled them from a site containing the term "kozinski.com."

[How Congress plays by different rules on sexual harassment and misconduct]

The other Kozinski clerk who said the judge showed her porn declined to provide specifics out of fear that Kozinski would be able to identify her. Bond said Kozinski also showed her a chart he claimed he and his friends from college had made to list the women with whom they had had sexual relations.

Bond said either Kozinski or his administrative assistant reached out to her around the time of the news reporting on his private server, asking if she would be willing to defend his character. She wrote Ortega about the inquiry in 2008, according to emails the women shared with The Post, and Ortega responded that it "sounds like a very bad idea to me."

"I know he brought you into his office to show you porn, I know he made sexual innuendos to you. I know this because you told me so in DC, and you even used the words sexual harassment," Ortega wrote. "You said you would warn off other women thinking of clerking for him. And if there's a woman out there he harassed worse than you, do you really want to be pitted against her? Because that's what it would be. I'm worried that this is what he's asking you to do – to be the female, intelligent face of his defense and make whoever it is accusing him look like a stupid slut, and then he hopefully never has to actually address those allegations."

Kozinski was born in Romania to Holocaust survivors in 1950, and the family fled the communist state when he was a boy. Decades ago, long before he was a federal judge, he appeared on the television show "The Dating Game," planting a kiss on a surprised young woman who selected him for a date. He is married and has three sons.

Kozinski was appointed to the 9th Circuit by President Ronald Reagan in 1985. He is an atypical federal appeals court judge – authoring irreverent opinions and not shying, as many of his colleagues do, from media appearances.

He styled one opinion in 2012 not as a traditional concurrence or dissent, but instead as "disagreeing with everyone." He famously wrote during a trademark dispute between the toy company Mattel and the record company that produced the 1997 song "Barbie Girl," "The parties are advised to chill."

In more recent years, Kozinski wrote that using lethal injections to impose the death penalty was "a misguided effort to mask the brutality of executions by making them look serene and beautiful – like something any one of us might experience in our final moments," and he told the Los Angeles Times, "I personally think we should go to the guillotine, but shooting is probably the right way to go."

The Post reached out to dozens of Kozinski's former clerks and externs for this story. Many of those who returned messages said they experienced no harassment of any kind, and their experience – which entailed grueling work into the wee hours of the morning every day – was a rewarding one. They noted Kozinski's wry sense of humor.

Those who talked to The Post about negative experiences said that they felt his behavior went beyond bad jokes or that they felt personally targeted.

A former Kozinski extern said the judge once made a comment about her hair and looked her body up and down "in a less-than-professional way." That extern said Kozinski also once talked with her about a female judge stripping.

"I didn't want to be alone with him," the former extern said.

A different former extern said she, similarly, had at least two conversations "that had sexual overtones directed at me," and she told friends about them at the time. One of the friends, also a former extern, confirmed that the woman had told her about the remarks – though both declined to detail them for fear of being identified.

One former 9th Circuit clerk said she was at a dinner in Seattle, seated next to Kozinski, when he "kind of picked the tablecloth up so that he could see the bottom half of me, my legs." She said Kozinski remarked, "I wanted to see if you were wearing pants because it's cold out." The former clerk said that she was wearing pants at the time. The incident, she said, occurred in either late 2011 or early 2012.

"It made me uncomfortable, and it didn't seem appropriate," said the former clerk, who worked for a different judge.

All of the women The Post interviewed said they did not file formal complaints at the time. Bond said Kozinski had so vigorously stressed the idea of judicial confidentiality – that what is discussed in chambers cannot be revealed to the outside – that she questioned even years later whether she could share what had happened with a therapist, even though she had already talked with Ortega about what had happened.

Bond said Kozinski worked his clerks so hard that "there was no thought that I could see him as anything other than in complete control," and she feared that not leaving with a good recommendation from him might jeopardize her career.

"I did think about walking away and concluded I just didn't know what I would do if I did," Bond said.

The other former Kozinski clerk who said the judge asked her to watch porn in his chambers said she both feared what the judge might do and knew that a complaint was unlikely to strip him of his influence.

"I was afraid," the former clerk said. "I mean, who would I tell? Who do you even tell? Who do you go to?"

Murphy said she discussed what had happened with the judge for whom she was clerking, and he was supportive of her filing a complaint. But because the complaint would first go to Kozinski himself, then be referred elsewhere, Murphy said she chose not to proceed. The judge, Paez, declined to comment for this story through a representative.

As a judge, Kozinski has addressed the topic of sexual harassment in important ways. In 1991, he joined an opinion that decided such cases should be judged from the perspective of the victims, using what was then called the "reasonable woman" standard. The opinion, written by then-Judge Robert R. Beezer, noted pointedly, "Conduct that many men consider unobjectionable may offend many women."

Beezer died in 2012. Kozinski himself wrote about sexual harassment in 1992, commenting on how legal remedies could come with unforeseen consequences.

He wrote that men "must be aware of the boundaries of propriety and lean to stay well within them," while women "must be vigilant of their rights, but also have some forgiveness for human foibles: misplaced humor, misunderstanding, or just plain stupidity."

He acknowledged, though, that the problem of harassment was a real one.

"But who knew, who understood, that it was quite so pervasive," Kozinski wrote. "Apparently most women did, while most men did not. It was the best-kept secret of modern times."

– – –

The Washington Post's Julie Tate contributed to this report.

How skiers and snowmachiners are helping scientists improve snow models

Sat, 2017-12-09 10:57

Snow falling silently on Alaska's mountains will in a few months transform into a medium for migrating salmon, and so much more.

"That snowflake that falls on the mountain now is water that flows in streams and rivers late in summer," said Gabe Wolken, a glaciologist who works both for the state and the University of Alaska.

Wolken and his colleagues recently added a snow-depth button to a smartphone app that allows anyone to add information about favorite winter landscapes and help scientists in the process.

The free app, Mountain Hub, now allows skiers, snowmachiners, mountaineers and others to enter a snow-depth measurement that helps researchers calibrate models of snowmelt and ground truth measurements from aircraft and satellites.

[APU skiers help researcher conduct glacier melt study]

In Alaska, figuring how much snowfall will turn into river is a guessing game backed by a few real measurements fed into computer models. In other places, snow scientists can drive all over the place to sample, but Alaska has fewer miles of road than Vermont.

Wolken came up with the idea for help from "citizen scientists" a few years ago while flying a snow-measuring mission near Valdez. To check the accuracy of a series of photos taken from a plane to get snow elevations and compare them to the height of the bare ground, Wolken invited people from the Alaska Avalanche Information Center up to Thompson Pass, one of the snowiest places in Alaska and a favorite of backcountry skiers.

A group of snowmachiners and skiers took off in different directions that April day. They probed snow-depth measurements and added waypoints with GPS units. They met at the end of the day and gave their field books and handheld GPS receivers to Wolken.

"We ended up getting so many more measurements than we could with just a science team," he said.

When he saw a NASA call for proposals on projects to help make snowmelt models more accurate, Wolken got with scientists from UAF, the Alaska Division of Geological and Geophysical Surveys, the University of Washington and Oregon State University. They proposed to enhance the Mountain Hub app with a tab for snow-depth measurements. NASA funded their proposal for a prototype, and outdoors people have responded.

"There's lots of measurements popping up right now," Wolken said.

He has seen snow-depth readings from the White Mountains outside Fairbanks, Sitka and favorite climbing spots in the Alaska Range. Snow travelers have sent in more than 400 measurements from Thompson Pass.

People have measured snow using avalanche probes, often carried in the backcountry, but can use something as simple as a yardstick in areas like the Interior that receive less snow.

The app registers location and the typed-in snow depth even if the reporter has no cell signal. As soon as the smartphone senses a cell or wifi signal, the information is transferred to a site used by researchers. Though developed for Alaska, the app takes readings from anywhere in the world.

"We're trying to get people to do this anywhere, any time there's snow on the ground," Wolken said. "In Alaska, there are so many areas without weather or snow observations. And if we can get a better idea of baseline conditions now, we'll have a better idea of climate change effects."

As more reports come in on the Mountain Hub app, scientists will pay attention to where the reports come from.

"We want to let the data guide us to where we tune the next models," Wolken said.

For more information, see communitysnowobs.org.

Billionaire David Rubenstein and his wife, Alice Rogoff, divorce

Sat, 2017-12-09 10:49

WASHINGTON – After months of rumors, the marriage of billionaire philanthropists David Rubenstein and Alice Rogoff has officially ended.

The couple, who married in 1983, was granted a divorce in Montgomery County, Maryland, on Friday morning. All financial and other terms were settled privately and will remain confidential, according to Rubenstein's lawyer, Sandy Ein, and Rogoff's lawyer, Linda Ravdin.

"Alice and David Rubenstein have decided to formalize a divorce following a lengthy separation," Ein said in a statement on behalf of the couple. "The parties continue in support of one another and their respective endeavors. They are and continue to be devoted parents and their love and respect for their family is most important to each of them. They wish each other nothing but the best."

Ein said the two would have no further comment.

According to the court filing, the couple separated in 2005. Publicly, the two lived largely separate lives but appeared together periodically on behalf of their philanthropic projects, such as the Kennedy Center and other institutions, and formal events, such as a state dinner for Chinese President Xi Jinping in 2015. The Rubensteins never discussed their marriage in public. The most Rogoff ever revealed was saying "It's complicated" in 2014.

Rubenstein, 68, is co-founder of the private equity firm the Carlyle Group, chairman of the Kennedy Center and head of the board of the Smithsonian Institution. He is one of the most visible philanthropists in Washington, giving millions to the Kennedy Center, the National Archives and a number of universities. He has signed the Giving Pledge and says that he plans to donate the bulk of his fortune – estimated at $2.8 billion – to charitable causes.

Rogoff, 66, most recently published Alaska Dispatch News in Alaska, where she has lived for several years. (The organization was sold in September and renamed Anchorage Daily News.)

After living apart for years, rumors of a divorce intensified this summer after Rogoff referred to a "marital settlement agreement" in court documents for her newspaper's bankruptcy proceedings. It turned out that the agreement had been in place for several years, and it is not clear why the couple decided to formalize their divorce at this time.

The couple has three grown children.

UAF swarms past UAA 7-2 in Governor’s Cup hockey game

Sat, 2017-12-09 00:12

A small contingent of UAF jersey-clad, flag-waving fans behind the Nanooks bench had the most to cheer about at Friday night's Governor's Cup hockey game at Sullivan Arena.

The game was controlled by UAF from Colton Leiter's first goal 45 seconds into the game to the final buzzer in the Nanooks' 7-2 win over UAA in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association rivalry showdown.

The win gave UAF a 3-0 lead in Governor's Cup games with three games to go and it pushed the Seawolves' winless streak to seven games.

Even when trailing 4-0 midway through the second period, UAA actually led in shots on goal 14-13. The difference is UAF (6-11-2, 4-8-1 WCHA) got quality shots and some easy looks and UAA (1-10-4, 1-5-3) couldn't finish its attacks.

"They capitalized on all their chances that they had, especially early, (and) we didn't capitalize on any of ours," UAA coach Matt Thomas said. "We didn't play as bad as the scoreboard showed. Unfortunately, the scoreboard showed how much better they were at finishing."

Six players finished with two points for the Nanooks, who led 2-0 after the first period, 5-0 through the second and 6-0 before UAA got on the scoreboard on defenseman Mason Anderson's first career goal midway through the third period.

A pair of sophomore forwards, Tyler Cline and Leiter, paced the Nanooks with two goals apiece.

"We know what's at stake playing against Anchorage, so we just brought a lot of energy and we capitalized when we needed to," Leiter said. "It felt good to finally get one quick there off the start."

To start the third period, UAA benched starting goalie Olivier Mantha for Brody Claeys to get Claeys some more experience, Thomas said. But UAA's woes continued with an easy backdoor goal by Leiter 20 seconds into the period.

Claeys tallied eight saves in 20 minutes and Mantha recorded 14 saves in 40 minutes for UAA. UAF goalie Anton Martinsson snagged 22 saves.

Anderson's goal quelled UAF's shutout bid and an unassisted goal by UAA winger Jonah Renouf helped UAA avoid tying its worst loss to the Nanooks.

The two in-state rivals will meet for the fourth time Saturday night at Sullivan Arena.

"Tomorrow is a whole different day and I know our team will have the right attitude coming into it because just the way you're made up," Thomas said. "It will reveal a lot about our character."

Needed: Volunteers and gifts to help keep Christmas

Fri, 2017-12-08 22:16

On Wednesday and Thursday, Dec. 13 and 14, The Salvation Army will join the Food Bank of Alaska, U.S. Marine Corps Toys for Tots, Lutheran Social Services, United Way of Anchorage and many other social service organizations for one of Alaska's largest charity events, Neighborhood GIFT. The event, which will attract thousands of Anchorage residents, will take place at the Sullivan Arena and at St. Andrew Catholic Church in Eagle River.

This annual event is staffed by an army of community volunteers. These volunteers donate their time, energy, money and love to provide a full holiday meal including whole turkeys, stuffing, vegetables, plus children's Christmas toys to thousands of families in need here in Anchorage and Eagle River. Last year at GIFT more than 15,000 people were served and went home with the fixings of a great holiday meal or toys for their children or both.

In 2016, our volunteers and donors at GIFT helped 5,753 families who were facing a choice between a Christmas celebration or paying rent. Because of the community's generosity, families that otherwise would have spent Christmas pretending it is a day like any other could now afford to prepare themselves a well-stocked, nutritious, and fully donated meal. 7,767 children woke up on Christmas morning able to open presents that were provided by Neighborhood GIFT. Indeed, more than 15,500 toys and gifts were distributed during these two days.

The Salvation Army has spent weeks collecting toy donations through our Angel Tree program and other toy drives for Neighborhood GIFT, but sadly we are extremely low and do not have enough donations to provide what will be needed this year. Especially in short supply are gifts for children ages 9-14.

It is an unfortunate reality that we will never be equipped to help everyone who needs it, but this year it seems that Anchorage is being hit by hard economic times. There are more people than ever who need help during the upcoming Christmas holiday.

In 2016, The Salvation Army was blessed to have the help of 1,220 volunteers at GIFT who gave a combined 3,941 volunteer hours over two days.  It's only because of the kindness of our volunteers that we are able to provide some holiday relief for Anchorage families that need a hand.

We are desperately short of volunteers this year, and we are in dire need of toys and gifts for ages 9-14 by this Tuesday.

Please, go to volunteer.salvationarmy.org and sign up to volunteer and visit alaska.salvationarmy.org to find the many locations where you can drop off new, unwrapped toys to be donated to Neighborhood GIFT.

All over town you can find Angel Trees sponsored by Wells Fargo, Bass Pro Shops, Carrs, GCI, Sears Mall, Denny's, Chugach Electric Assoc. and scores more generous Alaska businesses and agencies. Pick a tag from a tree and bring some cheer to a child who needs it this year. You can also find toy and gift collection boxes at participating Walmart and Fred Meyer stores across Anchorage.

The Salvation Army, Lutheran Social Services, Food Bank of Alaska and all our partner agencies will be at the Sullivan Arena this Wednesday and Thursday. We'd love to see more Alaskans come together in this time of need and join us as we encourage our neighbors during these trying times.

There is always someone in need, but there is also always a way to help.

Thank you for helping us help others.

Merry Christmas.

Maj. Mike Dickinson is divisional commander for The Salvation Army Alaska.

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@adn.com. Send submissions shorter than 200 words to letters@adn.com or click here to submit via any web browser.

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