I recently spent a week exploring the Brooks Range and Arctic Plains, ANWR's "1002" area. I suspect most of you have heard of this place. I'm older than the state itself and have heard this number tossed around since the 1980s, when most of us were too busy being busy. I've spent my life as a financial professional, an energy executive and avid outdoorsman. Like most of you, I don't care what the weather gives me, I'm just outside. And I'm concerned that the outside is being threatened.
We're all familiar with the environmental arguments against resource development in the 1002. I get it. I'm also a businessman. Heck, I was in the energy industry! I get their argument, however self-serving it really is. And hats off to them. We saw the short-term benefits they helped create. We also have seen that it's not sustainable for the long run.
Which gets me to my point: Alaska's budget crisis. It's self-inflicted. And the argument to open the 1002 area for oil exploration is simply an attempt to do the same thing all over again and expect a different outcome. That's the textbook case for insanity. Don't take my word; Einstein said it.
We need different sources of revenue to sustain this great place. My retirement portfolio isn't solely invested in one thing. I doubt yours is either. It's diversified. It's focused on long-term sustainability. And it's conservative. Boom and bust it isn't.
So we need a sales tax. A really small one, if for no other reason than to capture the short-termers who just come here for the oil or ulu knives. And we need to expand our economic base to other areas: manufacturing, services, transportation. I can't for the life of me understand why the Jones Act is still a thing! It's a tax! Which gets me to another point: We need to stop the Alice-in-Wonderland-like tax-and-subsidy treatment resource companies receive, for in its essence, it's just another tax for the rest of us.
I believe in the free market. I believe in portfolio diversification. We know these things work. Let's have a budget that can beat commodity price swings, can leverage our geography, our human capital, and provide a long-term solution for our future.
— James Haupt
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Alaska State Troopers arrested a Soldotna man who faces 40 criminal charges related to a string of burglaries at seasonal homes in the Big Eddy subdivision on the Kenai River in Soldotna.
At around 10:50 p.m. on Saturday, troopers in Kenai pulled over David L. Frost, 27, of Soldotna. Frost had a $25,000 warrant out for his arrest, according to a dispatch posted by troopers.
The 27-year-old had been wanted by police on a long list of charges related to a series of burglaries between October of 2017 and February of 2018.
According to reporting in the Peninsula Clarion newspaper, the thefts included "thousands of dollars in fishing gear, electrical equipment, gasoline, tools, DVDs and electronics."
Troopers began investigating the case last fall, according to the dispatch. In March, they found some of the stolen goods at a home in Kenai — and a vehicle stolen during one of the break-ins.
Frost is also accused of stealing items including industrial equipment and copper wire from a Nikiski business, according to the Peninsula Clarion.
Frost has 40 charges from the alleged burglaries, including numerous counts of theft, burglary, criminal mischief and vehicle theft.
When troopers arrested Frost they found drugs on him and added a count of misconduct involving a controlled substance, according to the dispatch.
Frost is being held at Wildwood Pretrial Facility in Kenai.
As a constituent and a woman, I urge Sen. Lisa Murkowski to oppose the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh as the Supreme Court nominee.
Sen. Murkowski can pick any reason she likes — there are many good reasons to oppose him. Her easiest "out" is to simply comply with the GOP's own "McConnell Rule," deferring any Supreme Court confirmation in an election year.
Should Sen. Murkowski fail to stand by women's health (or, honestly, everyone's), put the president above the law or engage in the hypocrisy of not following the McConnell Rule, I will do everything in my power to see that she will not be our senator for much longer. She will be voted out. Sen. Murkowski needs to grow a conscience and do the right thing.
— Ariel Phifer
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The Palm Beach Gardens Police Department's first homicide investigation of 2018 opened in late January – rather early in the year, considering that Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, is basically a live-in golf course of 50,000 people, where the annual murder count rarely cracks one.
The case proceeded by the books, at first.
Victim: Alan J. Abrahamson. A well-liked man, by the accounts of friends and family. Ostensively happy, according to the same.
"Alan was an avid golfer, enjoyed traveling and had a zest for life," per his obituary in the Palm Beach Post. "He woke up each morning with a smile on his face and was adored by all."
Abrahamson lived in a $900,000 house, inside the gates of an opulent country club, within walking distance to the ocean and whatever amenities a 71-year-old man might avail himself of. He owned the house with his wife, Linda, ("soul mates," as a family friend put it to police.) He had children and stepchildren and step-grandchildren. He had no major medical issues that police knew of. No known enemies, either.
He must have been walking to meet a friend at Starbucks when it happened, his wife told police, per the investigative report. Abrahamson's pre-dawn walks were a new routine – he told friends he wanted to lose a few pounds he'd gained on a cruise. But they hardly seemed out of character for such an active, sociable man.
A surveillance camera at the community's north gatehouse captured Abrahamson's last living images on Jan. 25.
It was a windy morning, still climbing toward the 70s. He wore a sweatshirt, ball cap and shorts, passing the gate and walking out of the camera frame at 5:53 a.m.
He seemed to be carrying something in his left hand, police noticed. What? Too dark to make out.
Exactly 37 minutes later, the surveillance camera recorded the sound of a gunshot, then silence.
A dog found Abrahamson just before 7 a.m., police wrote. It jumped off a golf cart and ran over to the body, which was lying in a palmetto-lined field near a walking path, maybe 300 feet past the gate.
Abrahamson was lying on his back, feet pointed east toward the Atlantic, arms at his side, blood pooled around the hole in his sweatshirt.
Three detectives were on the scene by sunrise and found few clues near the body. No weapon, no shell casing, no signs of struggle, no dirt on the soles of his sneakers.
Abrahamson still had his phone and his wallet – though a binder clip he commonly used to carry several hundred dollars in cash was empty. A watch that his wife said he usually wore also was missing. The index finder of his left hand was extended, detectives noted before the body was carried away for an autopsy.
"This kind of crime is unheard of in this area," a CBS 12 News anchor said. George Blackstone, who owned a lighting company where Abrahamson worked, told the Palm Beach Post that his friend had been in typically good spirits when they spoke a few days earlier – "optimistic about a business opportunity," he said.
"It's horrifying, just the thought of it," Blackstone told one of the TV reporters. "Why Alan? Why Alan? Why Alan?"
Shortly after lunchtime that day, the autopsy found a hollow-point bullet lodged in Abrahamson's torso. It had mushroomed into the shape of a six-point star after ripping through his heart and lungs.
By sundown, TV stations were reporting that the search for the killer was on.
On Feb. 2, a week and a day after the body was found, police offered a $3,000 reward for information leading to a suspect's arrest. Abrahamson's friends later chipped in to increase that amount, but not a single tip came in, according to police.
By then, detectives had met with Abrahamson's wife and biological children, including an estranged son. They had stopped and questioned early morning commuters near the country club, canvassed homeless shelters and cross-referenced robbery reports. They had repeatedly scoured the field, searched storm drains and rooted through dumpsters. And for all that, they had turned up not so much as the shell casing, let alone the gun, let alone a suspect.
But it would be wrong to say that police were totally stumped. Although the field work had turned up little, police wrote in the case report, Linda Abrahamson had helped police unlock her husband's phone.
The contents were, at least, interesting.
A preliminary search of Abrahamson's emails turned up a curious email regarding an order he had placed on Christmas Day 2017 from an online science supply company.
"Weather Balloon, $55.00, 600 g, x1."
In Abrahamson's Google Maps history, investigators discovered that between his typical morning walks to Starbucks and various errands, he had visited an industrial supply store in West Palm Beach two days before his death.
Detectives drove to the store and came back with a copy of Abrahamson's receipt for a 40-cubic-foot helium tank.
Perplexed, police re-interviewed friends and relatives to find out whether Abrahamson's hobbies might have included atmospheric science. But as they wrote in the report: "Nobody could advise … any reason why he would have a weather balloon or helium tank."
So investigators' suspicions began to turn in a new direction. A detective remembered that more than half an hour had elapsed between the time Abrahamson had walked past the gatehouse, beyond camera view, and the time of the gunshot.
"I later walked the same route, exiting around the guard gate and then back onto the sidewalk to the location where Abrahamson was located," the detective wrote. "It took me approximately 4 minutes 3 seconds at a normal walking pace."
The peculiarities kept mounting, eventually coalescing into something approaching a theory. The evening before police publicized their $3,000 reward for information leading to an arrest, a detective who had been poring over Abramson's phone and computers privately advanced a wild idea to his colleagues.
"Det. (Bryan) Broehm, theorized that it possibly was not a homicide, but possibly a suicide," an investigator wrote in the report. "That he tied a gun to a string, and attached it to the weather balloon, and once the shot was fired the weather balloon ascended carrying the weapon from the scene."
Police researchers could find only two cases of such a thing being attempted, both somewhat ridiculous. A man had tried to fake his murder in the New Mexico desert in 2008 – but his bundle of helium balloons had merely carried the gun into a cactus not far from his body.
The only other example detectives could find of someone managing to balloon a weapon out of a crime scene was from 2003 – on an episode of the fictional TV show "CSI: Las Vegas."
Still, a Palm Beach Gardens investigator wrote in his report, "although the theory seemed far-fetched, it was plausible."
Police returned to the field again on Feb. 5. Near the wall of the country clubs, more than 100 feet from where the body had lain, they found a few rubber bands and a piece of knotted string. Abrahamson had more of the same in his home office, police wrote.
The next day, a forensics investigator noticed something peculiar in the bloodstain on Abrahamson's sweatshirt. A very thin, straight trail of blood led from the center of the stain outward toward a shoulder, police wrote – "possibly indicating that something was in the blood and dragged across to the top of the shirt."
Two weeks after Abrahamson's death, as the by-the-books homicide investigation continued, a detective called a nearby airport and a TV traffic reporter to ask whether anyone had seen a weather balloon drifting over Palm Beach Gardens on Jan. 25.
No one had. But police were able to access Abrahamson's phone and web searches dating back nearly a decade. As excerpted in the final police report, the search queries told a story that made sense to detectives:
July 7, 2009: "Suicide." "How to commit Suicide."
April 10, 2012: "Life insurance suicide."
March 17, 2016: "Undetectable suicide methods."
Feb. 21, 2017: "Gizmodo.com, explains what happens when you get shot in the Head." And: "If shot in the heart do you die instantly." And: "Can you have a gunshot suicide with no weapon present."
Feb. 23, 2017: "YouTube / SEG, Suppressors, Jefferson Silencer on Walther PPK's Suppressed .380."
Aug. 28, 2017 (voice search): "How many cubic feet of helium do you need to raise one pound?"
Jan. 23, 2018: "Helium suppliers near me."
Jan. 24, 2018 (final search before death): "Dawn / Dusk Times."
A full three weeks into the investigation, the balloon theory no longer sounded far-fetched to police. A detective finally contacted the owner of the online company from which Abrahamson had purchased his weather balloon.
"I asked (the owner) how far a 600-gram balloon can travel," the detective wrote. "He advised me he launched a balloon on Monday in Huntsville, AL and l8 hours later it burst in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of New Jersey."
Police fed the weather conditions for Palm Beach Gardens on Jan. 25 into a simulator. The result, they wrote, was that if Abrahamson had inflated his weather balloon and tied it to a gun before dawn that morning, then walked out into the palmettos beyond his gates and shot himself point blank in the heart, gusts of wind would have carried the evidence somewhere north of the Bahamas before it fell into the Atlantic Ocean.
In early March, detectives again contacted Abrahamson's wife, his children and stepchildren, and some of his friends and told them that their first homicide investigation of 2018 had been closed, canceled and ruled a suicide.
Police released their final report to the public this week. A spokesman declined to comment on what motive Abrahamson might have had for faking his murder, and his family could not be reached.
Meanwhile, the workers who dredge the many water hazards of Palm Beach Gardens for sunken golf balls have been advised to keep an eye out for a helium tank.
I recently contacted our three representatives in Washington, D.C., about the recent controversy involving immigration and the separation of children from their families at the southern border. I have done this maybe half a dozen times in last dozen or so years about different issues.
I always received a reply from Sen. Ted Stevens' office, never contacted Sen. Mark Begich, got auto-responses from Sen. Lisa Murkowski, some assistance on an issue from her dad's office, and this year, an auto-response from Sen. Dan Sullivan's office. And, in a continuation of his unblemished record, no response at all yet again from Congressman Don Young's office. That's perfection, I guess.
— Doug Lyon
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On June 30, I attended the 2018 Summer Performing Arts Academy's "Blown Away Broadway" production. All of the children were darling, singers amazing, and the performance was fun — until, at the end of a performance of "Officer Krupke" from "West Side Story," when the children/cast put their fists in the air and shouted, "Trump you, Officer Krupke."
Is that the left's watered down way of saying, " F*** you, Officer Krupke?" I don't believe any of the children were mature enough to understand what this was intended for. The easiest people to brainwash or hypnotize are students and children.
The left is pushing its agenda at most colleges, at high schools (Parkland was a good example, as no teenagers could have organized so quickly), and now at a children's performance. I realize the "arts" can be very liberal, but using children for a political statement was very tacky!
— Jeannette Walker
Sandy Gonzalez, 8, and her mother, Angelica Gonzalez-Garcia, at a home in suburban Boston where the two are now staying. Mother and daughter were reunited July 5 after being separated at the border and detained by ICE. Photo for The Washington Post by Josh Reynolds (Josh Reynolds/)
BOSTON - When the 8-year-old stepped off a plane here earlier this month with freshly cut bangs and a shelter-issued sweatsuit, she was met by crowds and television cameras and finally, in a carpeted airport conference room, by the mother who had been taken from her two months earlier at the border.
But now, a day after that joyous reunion, the girl from Guatemala was shoving a toddler who had tried to give her a hug and a kiss at a welcoming party in the suburbs. Now she was screaming and crying and telling the boy to stay away.
This is what two months in a Texas shelter had taught Sandy Gonzalez.
"They always kept the boys and the girls separate," the second-grader explained last week. "And they punished us if we went near each other."
Under court order, federal officials have begun to return the more than 2,500 immigrant children taken from their parents under the Trump administration's short-lived family separation policy. Across the country, mothers and fathers are slowly being reunited with the children they last saw being led away by Border Patrol agents weeks or months ago.
Experts warn that many of these children may be deeply traumatized by their experiences. Their voices have seldom been heard during the frenzied debate over family separation.
"I felt like a prisoner," said Diogo De Olivera Filho, a 9-year-old from Brazil who spent five weeks at a shelter in Chicago, including three weeks in isolation after getting chickenpox. When he got lonely and left his quarantined room to see other kids, he said the shelter put up a gate to keep him in. "I felt like a dog," he said.
He and Sandy are among the six children recently released from the shelters who described to The Washington Post what their time separated from their parents was like.
One 11-year-old boy from Guatemala who spent six weeks in the same Chicago shelter as Diogo said he had to ask permission to hug his sister. Some of the children said they now suffer from nightmares. A few, including Sandy, have had difficulty trusting their parents again.
Most of the children were reluctant to talk about what they went through while they were detained.
"I don't want to remember," said one 10-year-old, who recounted watching an out-of-control kindergartner get injected with something after he misbehaved in class.
Parents sometimes learned the details of their kids' time in custody by listening to them talk to The Post.
Sandy was reunited with her mother on July 5 after 55 days at Southwest Key Combes, a shelter in Harlingen, Texas, that was caring for about 60 kids. Some had been separated from their parents; some had crossed the border on their own.
For Sandy, it was a place of sorrow, fear and scoldings.
"They told us to behave," she said, "or we'd be there forever."
When Angelica Gonzalez-Garcia decided to flee her abusive husband in eastern Guatemala earlier this year, she left it to her daughter, then 7, to decide whether to stay behind with her grandparents.
"I want to go with you, Mommy," she said Sandy replied.
Gonzalez-Garcia said she didn't know about President Donald Trump's new "zero tolerance" policy and the push to separate children from their parents to discourage families from coming to the United States.
On May 9, shortly after illegally crossing the border between Mexico and Arizona, Sandy and her mother suddenly found themselves surrounded by Border Patrol vehicles. Gonzalez-Garcia told them she was seeking asylum.
They were taken in the back of a pickup truck to a Border Patrol holding facility known as a hielera, or icebox, and put in a room with a few dozen other migrants and one toilet, surrounded by a low partition.
Sandy was too embarrassed to use the toilet. She and her mother slept on a plastic mat on the floor with two other people. They were given thin metallic mylar blankets for the cold.
"They didn't give us anything (else) to cover us," recalled the girl with almond-shaped eyes and gaps between her teeth, crossing her arms as if shivering at the thought. "They gave us soup, just soup, and some cookies and juice."
After a day in the hielera, Gonzalez-Garcia said Border Patrol agents told her they were going to take her daughter away and deport Gonzalez-Garcia. As they asked her to sign documents authorizing the separation, one agent wished her a Happy Mother's Day, which is celebrated in Guatemala on May 10.
That night, Gonzalez-Garcia tried to prepare Sandy for what was coming.
"I told her it was like a vacation, she'd be playing, there'd be dolls, and ballgames and pizza" - Sandy's favorite food, recalled Gonzalez-Garcia. "I told her not to cry."
Before dawn on May 11, Border Patrol agents took mother and daughter to a trailer with showers. Gonzalez tried not to get emotional as she bathed her girl for what she thought might be the last time, then dressed her in a baggy blue uniform.
"She brushed my hair, she gave me a kiss and she hugged me," Sandy remembered.
When it came time to go, however, the girl tried to hide under the mylar blankets.
"Don't tell them I'm under here," Sandy said, according to her mother. "They can look for me but they won't find me."
But they did find her. And suddenly she was alone for the first time in her life.
"They put me in a car, then two airplanes, then another car, then another," she said. She cried for much of it. "I was so sad," Sandy said.
When Sandy arrived at the Southwest Key shelter, the first thing she remembers is being lined up with other new kids and being told the rules: No touching, no talking to boys, lights on at 6:30 a.m., lights out at 8 p.m.
Southwest Key Combes in Harlingen, Texas, is a facility run by Southwest Key Programs that houses "tender age" immigrant children who were separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border. Washington Post photo by Jahi Chikwendiu (Jahi Chikwendiu/)
For a girl who’d grown up running freely around her neighborhood in Guatemala, playing and asking tourists for candy, the restrictions were a shock.
She said some of the shelter employees were nice, but others shouted "cállense " or "be quiet" at her and the other kids. Sandy said she had trouble falling asleep and the food tasted "nasty."
She spent part of each day in school, but was put in a class that was too advanced for her. "It was stuff for older kids," she said.
Jeff Eller, a spokesman for Southwest Key, one of the country's biggest shelter providers, said he couldn't discuss Sandy's account of her time in custody.
"We have appropriate touching policies in place, so we can keep all kids safe," he said. "We have a 20-year history of providing compassionate child care and we're proud of what we do."
More than two weeks passed before Sandy's mother was able to call her from an ICE detention center in Colorado.
"When she heard my voice she stayed quiet," Gonzalez-Garcia recalled. "She didn't say anything. I asked how she was, and all she said was 'Fine.' "
When the girl did start talking, what she said startled her mother. Her birthday on May 19 had passed without anyone at the shelter noticing, she said. The staff shouted at the children, she told her mom, and a boy had kicked her in the face during recess.
Sandy kept asking her mother why she hadn't come to get her, Gonzalez-Garcia recalled. The 31-year-old promised her daughter she'd come as soon as she could, and give her a birthday party with pizza and gifts.
Sandy also told her mom that she had gotten conjunctivitis and been put into a room by herself. ("When a child enters with or contracts a communicable disease," Eller said, "we make sure to minimize their contact with other children with guidance from medical professionals.")
Asked what she did all day alone in a room, Sandy said she played a memory game with cards. The only other game was checkers.
"And that was for two people," she said, "so I couldn't play."
Sandy Gonzalez plays with her mom, Angelica Gonzalez-Garcia. The 8-year-old still fears she'll wind up back at the shelter. Photo for The Washington Post by Josh Reynolds (Josh Reynolds/)
Like Sandy, all the children who spoke to The Washington Post struggled to cope with being ripped away from their parents and then placed in shelters filled with unfamiliar adults and unfamiliar rules.
"There were people there who only spoke English, and they always said to us, 'No touch, No touch,' " recalled Leidy Veliz, a pencil-thin 9-year-old from Guatemala who was sent along with her brother to a Chicago shelter called Casa Guadalupe, run by a nonprofit called Heartland Alliance.
Her brother, Victor, 11, said he had to ask permission to hug Leidy at the shelter, a cluster of three houses in the suburbs that housed about 60 kids.
"You always had to be 'an arm's length' from everyone," Victor said as the siblings repeated in unison the phrase in Spanish: "Un brazo de distancia. Un brazo de distancia."
Girls were kept in a separate house, so Victor only got to see his sister twice a day during recess.
Victor said the children were told there were "hidden cameras" everywhere except the bathrooms and bedrooms, so any misbehavior would be caught on video.
He and Leidy said they feared running afoul of the rules and being reported - a worry echoed by all the children The Post interviewed.
They also feared other punishment. Victor said he was once "dragged" inside by two adult male shelter employees after lingering on the soccer field - his most painful memory from the shelter.
Diogo De Olivera Filho, the 9-year-old from Brazil, said he was used to sleeping late but that habit quickly got him in trouble at Casa Guadalupe.
"They told me, 'If you keep doing that, you're going to have to stay here until you're 18,' " he said.
Diogo and another Brazilian boy he befriend, Diego Magalhaes, 10, said they saw a troubled 5-year-old boy repeatedly injected with something that made him fall asleep at his desk. The boy's father had been deported, Diego said, and he often melted down during the daily classes the immigrant children were given.
"I was very scared," Diego said. "I thought they were going to inject me, too."
Asked about the children's accounts, Heartland Alliance said in a statement that it took concerns about its shelters "extremely seriously."
"We have extensive policies, procedures, and standards of care that guide our trauma-informed approach to ensure the safety and well-being of all children in our care," the statement said. "While this does include daily routines and structure, age-appropriate chores, and practices to prevent the spread of communicable illnesses, we understand how these practices may be experienced by young children who are already suffering emotionally from being apart from those they love most."
Mark Weber, a spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees the agency responsible for the shelters, said it couldn't comment on specific children or cases, but that "our focus is always on the safety and best interest of each child."
"These are vulnerable children in difficult circumstances, and HHS treats its responsibility for each child with the utmost care," he said. "Any allegation of abuse is taken seriously" and, after being investigated by the department's Office of Refugee Resettlement, "appropriate action is taken."
One day, Diego said he was playing soccer on a concrete basketball court when he fell and felt his arm crunch. He said regular shelter employees - not doctors or nurses - examined him, told him his arm was fractured and then gave him a temporary cast that he wore for weeks.
"It still hurts," Diego said, running his fingers over the injury.
After Diogo got chickenpox, he was moved from his room with three other boys to a playroom converted into a makeshift infirmary. There were toys and video games, he said, but the video games didn't work.
"They were just for show," he said. There were no other kids there and often no adults either, he said. When he got bored and left the room, he said employees scolded him and added the gate.
"They told me I couldn't get out because I'd infect everybody," added Diogo, who spent almost three weeks in isolation.
He and the other children said they were assigned cleaning duties at Casa Guadalupe. In addition to washing dishes and helping serve food, they had to scrub the bathroom at least twice a week.
"They didn't even give us gloves to clean the toilet," Diego said.
Shelter workers were particularly worried about lice, Leidy recalled.
"They would look over everything in your room," she said, "and if it wasn't perfectly clean, they'd take away your blankets."
While at the shelter, Diogo turned nine with no fanfare. His mother, Lidia Souza, had been released from ICE custody two weeks earlier. She called him on the phone, told him not to cry and promised him a party and a Nintendo - one that worked - for a present. He begged her to hurry.
When Victor turned 11 at the shelter, his mother called from a detention center in Eloy, Ariz., and sang him the Latino birthday song, "Las Mañanitas."
"When my mom sang to me," he said, "I was crying because it was the first time that we didn't celebrate my birthday together."
By the time some of the children were able to speak to the parents from whom they'd been taken, they felt like strangers to one another.
When Diego's mother, Sirley Silveira Paixao reached him in the shelter shortly after her own release from ICE detention, the boy didn't recognize her voice.
"Hi," he said. "Who is this?"
"Diego," she recalled answering, "this is your mom."
When Sandy arrived at her new home in the Boston suburbs, she saw leafy trees and thick grass and an expansive yard. Inside the main house, she marveled at the host family's piano, which she had only seen in movies.
But inside the small, two-story guesthouse where she and her mother would stay, the girl could not shake off the two months of conditioning in the shelter. She refused to sleep upstairs in the bed.
"The boys slept upstairs" at the shelter, she explained.
So mother and daughter slept on a pillow downstairs by the bay window, where the girl dreamed she was back in Guatemala, at her cousin's funeral. He'd been killed just before they left.
When Sandy woke up shouting and shaking, her mother said, Gonzalez-Garcia tried to calm her.
"It was like she didn't recognize me," Gonzalez-Garcia recalled.
The next day Gonzalez-Garcia threw her the pizza party she had promised. There were dolls and balloons featuring characters from her favorite movie, "Frozen."
But two days later, during a trip to the park, the girl threw a fit when her mother strayed from her side to talk to some friends.
"You don't love me," Sandy screamed before running off. "You don't want me."
Gonzalez-Garcia said she is planning to take Sandy to a psychologist this week. And there have been small signs of progress.
Her mother was delighted when Sandy raced outside last week after an invitation to play from the host family's 6-year-old boy. For an hour, the two rode bicycles and drew on the driveway in chalk.
On Friday, Sandy sat at the small table in the guesthouse, drawing and eating ramen as her mother met with one of the family's immigration attorneys.
In a black notebook, Sandy drew her new home and the path that connected it to the house of their host family. She colored the clouds blue and the sun bright yellow. Beneath one house, shaded purple and pink, she wrote the name of the host family. Beneath the other: Sandy.
But when her mother drew a bird near the clouds using a black pen, Sandy seemed to recoil.
"Tell the bird not to touch," she said.
Now she opened a "Frozen" coloring book to a picture of Elsa hugging Anna and began to translate the caption into Spanish.
"It says 'Elsa and Anna are sisters and friends,' " she read slowly. "They'll never be separated again."
When it came to her own family, Sandy wasn't so sure. She thought of the shelter every day. And when her mother didn't immediately fill out forms - for school, for health care, for asylum - the girl worried that it was she who would be punished; that she would be sent back to the shouting and the rules and the room where she had spent so many hours alone.
"Me van a regresar?" Sandy asked the attorney, Brittanie Allen. "Are they going to send me back?"
"No," Allen replied firmly.
"See?" said Gonzalez-Garcia. "Did you hear?"
"She said yes," Sandy insisted.
"You're never going to go back there again," Allen promised.
“No,” the girl agreed quietly.
Please tell me this is a joke. We're in a recession, our state has the highest unemployment in the nation, there is absolutely nothing in the future for our high school or college graduates, and our governor wants to kick one of the world's largest resource extraction companies out of the state?
Gov. Bill Walker allowed Northern Dynasty Minerals to spend several million dollars on exploration and permitting and now all of a sudden he and Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott now decide the EPA and Corp of Engineers don't have the qualifications to complete a permitting process that would take several more years.
This state's economy is based on resources, and Gov. Walker just sent a message to the industry that they're not welcome here. Why? He's sacrificing jobs and our future because he wants to be re-elected and he needs more votes.
— Dennis Smith
NORTH POLE — Construction is on the rise in North Pole, with several new housing units, a new dental office and a major water utility expansion all in the works, according to city officials.
The number of active building permits in North Pole has nearly doubled in recent years, City Services Director Bill Butler said.
North Pole has more than 30 building permits issued or under development, according to Butler. He said the number of building permits is usually closer to 15 or 20 in a typical year.
Butler said about $15.6 million worth of construction projects are pending in the city of 2,000. That dollar figure excludes the water utility expansion, involving tens of millions of dollars from a court settlement.
Most of the building permits are for new housing. Stepping Stone Builders Inc. is expanding the Eagle Estates Subdivision with hopes of building 39 more units in the next two years.
By the end of the project, the subdivision will boast about 65 houses, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported .
Butler said in addition to the construction activity, there are more properties subdividing. The city services director sees potential for even more construction in North Pole in the coming years.
A population boost is expected after new fighter jet squadrons are stationed at Eielson Air Force Base.
Other projects in North Pole include a building remodel for a new eye clinic and another remodel for a dental clinic. An old Blockbuster Video is being remodeled into a real estate office. The middle and high schools in North Pole are also getting improvements, Butler said.
Tree ring count samples show the brush along Chena Hot Springs Road in Fairbanks has not been cut for three to five years.
The brush height effectively camouflages moose that are about to run out into the 55 mph traffic. The measured width of the Department of Transportation cutter is four feet. Math question: How long does it take to cut three miles of CHSR on both sides back 20 feet?
Hint: one side takes five passes, as does the other. Total passes for one mile is 10 passes. Total passes for three miles is 30 passes.
Assuming 1 mph travel speed, it would take 30 hours to do three miles, or three-quarters of one work week.
DOT used to use a road grader and cut about three times as much with only one pass. DOT also, at one time, used a "hydro-axe" to cut maybe 16 feet wide with two passes.
I used a six-inch weed whacker; it took maybe an hour for 250 feet.
Is this an example of wasting taxpayer dividend money by using the wrong tool to do the job quickly and effectively?
— Jim Weidner
The city of Anchorage has paid more than $137,000 in federal safety fines over the decades, including for instances where inspectors found employees didn't receive required training or the city failed to document it, officials said.
Hoping to avoid future citations, city safety managers say they are now seeking out better technology to host and track employee training. The Anchorage Assembly will vote next week on sole-source contract with Washington-based Vivid Online Learning Systems for software that would train employees on a range of topics, from bloodborne pathogens to driving safety to preventing sexual harassment in the workplace.
The city-owned power utility, Municipal Light & Power, has used the software for years because it offers electrical courses for linemen. Because ML&P; was a long-time client, the company dropped its prices so the city could afford it, said Anneliese Roberts, the city safety manager.
Roberts said better training software will help avoid future citations tied to regulations from the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, also known as OSHA.
She said the city is also keenly interested in doing what it can to prevent accidents.
"We're trying to make the city safer by implementing this," Roberts said.
OSHA has specific regulations that require employers to provide training to employees, said Krystyna Markiewicz, the chief of Alaska's OSHA enforcement and consultation division.
OSHA then conducts inspections and interviews employers and employees to ask if the training happened, Markiewicz said.
"If they (employers) don't have documentation, then it is really difficult to prove the training was provided," Markiewicz said.
ConocoPhillips, one of the Alaska's largest private employers, has specific training software that tracks required training for every position in the company, as well as assigning compliance dates, said Natalie Lowman, a spokeswoman for the oil company.
Since 1982, the city has paid about 74 OSHA citations, totaling $137,511 in penalties, according to Roberts.
But poor record-keeping for employee training has cost the city in other ways in the past. In 2017, the city paid $675,000 to settle a lawsuit brought by a woman who was injured four years earlier when an equipment operator backed into her, according to Roberts.
Part of the reason for the amount of the settlement was failure to document safety training, Roberts said.
At the moment, city departments store safety training records in different ways, Roberts said. Some records are digital, and others are on paper, such as meeting sign-in sheets.
The new software would standardize both training and record-keeping, allowing managers to pull data from the same area, Roberts said.
In addition to record-keeping failures, the city has been cited by OSHA for other workplace safety issues, like employees failing to dress properly for work, Roberts said. That's human error, Roberts said, but getting employees on the same system would make a difference.
The new software would be used by all city workers, whether it's temporary hires in the Parks and Recreation department or the mayor, Roberts said.
She said she hopes the new software will be fully in place by the end of the year.
I thoroughly enjoyed Steve Haycox's discussion of the origin of the place name "Point Woronzof." It's important to add, however, that Lt. Joseph Whidbey in fact renamed that place.
For a thousand years or more, it has been known to the Dena'ina, the indigenous people of Anchorage, as Nuch'ishtunt, "Place Protected from Wind." Dena'ina families fished for salmon at Nuch'ishtunt into the mid-20th century, until federal authorities closed the area to fishing and the Dena'ina moved their camps to Fire Island (Nutuł'iy) and Point Possession (Tuyqun).
As presented in Shem Pete's Alaska, an ethnogeography of upper Cook Inlet (Tikahtnu), about 130 Dena'ina place names have been recorded within the boundaries of the municipality. A few Dena'ina names survive in anglicized form on today's maps: for example, Idlughet (Eklutna) and Chanshtnu ("Chester" Creek). But most have been largely ignored and almost — but not quite — forgotten. Since the Dena'ina Civic and Convention Center was named to honor Anchorage's original people in 2006, a small but growing number of interpretive signs have appeared featuring Dena'ina place names and heritage.
Professor Haycox' suggestion that a historical marker be displayed at Point Woronzof is a great one. An interpretive sign highlighting both George Vancouver's important exploratory voyage and the Dena'ina's long and intimate association with Nuch'ishtunt would be an appropriate step toward a better public awareness of our city's deep and fascinating history.
— James A. Fall
A wolf in Denali National Park, 2010. (Kent Miller / NPS)
Apparently, Secretary Ryan Zinke and others at the Interior Department think that unsporting and unethical hunting practices, such as killing hibernating black bear mothers and cubs in their dens (using artificial light); killing wolf and coyote mothers, pups and even entire packs at their den sites; shooting black and brown bears at point-blank range over grease, pet food and rotting meat baits; killing caribou while they're swimming; and hunting black bears with packs of dogs — are perfectly fine to allow on Alaska's National Park Service lands. Most Alaskans think they aren't.
These practices are an affront to most Alaskans' values, according to a June 2018 poll.
In 2015, the Park Service rightfully stepped in and ended the Alaska Board of Game's unreasonable priority for trophy hunting and predator control over wildlife conservation on Park Service lands in Alaska — even as those practices have been widely condemned as unscientific and too costly.
Despite the rhetoric coming from our congressional delegation and outside trophy hunting groups, the NPS's 2015 final rule does not ban subsistence hunting, it simply addresses these few egregious hunting practices that unnecessarily target Alaska's iconic and highly valued native carnivores. Predator control, or "intensive management," as it is euphemistically called by the state, means killing wolves, brown bears and black bears far in excess of what would occur in natural ecosystems, and this drastically destabilizes wild ecosystems. Alaska's predator control program is unscientific, unnecessary, ineffective and unethical. It has no place in our modern relationship with wild lands and wildlife.
The 2015 NPS rule was widely accepted by Alaskans. In developing the rule, the Park Service obtained significant public input across Alaska, holding 26 public hearings and meetings in Alaska, teleconferences with state of Alaska officials and meetings with villagers. The Park Service received 70,000 public comments overwhelmingly favoring the strict protections for wildlife in the 2015 rule. This was not a federal agency exerting its (albeit rightful) authority over national park lands in Alaska — this was the NPS following science, ethics, congressional law and the wishes of most Alaskans.
Living in Alaska, one of the first things one learns is to always respect wildlife. We value wildlife, not cruel and unsporting hunting practices. And the rest of the country and the world value our wildlife too: A 2014 study reported that wildlife viewing in Alaska contributes more than $2.7 billion to our local economies each year, more than twice what hunting contributes. According to the Park Service: "In 2017, 2.8 million park visitors spent an estimated $1.3 billion in local gateway regions while visiting NPS lands in Alaska. These expenditures supported a total of 18.9 thousand jobs, $618 million in labor income, $1.1 billion in value added, and $1.9 billion in economic output in the Alaska economy."
Despite this enormous economic benefit, the Department of Interior is now proposing a regulatory rule that would overturn the 2015 NPS prohibition on these appalling predator-control practices on national park preserves, even as the state's Intensive Management program has proved to be an utter failure. Studies show wanton and wildly expensive native carnivore killing hasn't benefited game species at all in Alaska. But out-of-state trophy hunters want it, so the state continues the outdated program. Wild ungulate populations are generally more limited by weather and the fragile Arctic ecosystem's carrying capacity.
Some might argue that this is about state vs. federal power, states' rights, and federal "overreach." Legally, that argument makes no sense: Time after time, the NPS appealed to the Alaska Board of Game to exempt our National Preserves from abusive predator-control practices, but the game board refused. As a result, the NPS was forced to initiate the process that lead to the 2015 rule. The NPS is mandated to conserve wildlife species for all Americans and future generations, and they were well within their authority to prohibit these inhumane and unsustainable activities on national preserves in Alaska.
As an Alaskan, I'm ashamed that the Board of Game supports these practices and wastes millions of public dollars to kill wolves and bears in management experiments that simply don't work. It is troubling to think that they may now influence our national preserve policies.
Living so close to such wild splendor is something we all cherish living in this state, and most of our fellow Alaskans feel the same way. If you wish to comment (before July 23), please go online and submit a comment saying you are opposed to the proposed NPS rule. The future of our majestic wildlife depends on it.
Jim Kowalsky is an environmemtal and wildlife activist, musician, and 47-year resident of Fairbanks.
It has been more than 10 months since the Alaska Supreme Court confirmed that the Legislature can appropriate the Permanent Fund earnings in a manner that can deprive Alaskans of the Permanent Fund dividend. The court was very clear when it stated, "Absent another constitutional amendment, the Permanent Fund Dividend program must compete for annual legislative funding just as other state programs." (Page 23, Wielechowski, Court No. S-16558, Aug. 25, 2017) Outrage over the prospect of losing the dividend to the whim of the Legislature or the governor's veto power does not appear to have materialized.
However, Tuckerman Babcock (chairman of the Alaska Republican Party), in his opinion column June 18, stated the Republican Party wants a "vote of the people … when it comes to changes to how we manage the earnings of the Permanent Fund." Mr. Babcock went on to state the Republican Party is for "funding government from existing resources (no new taxes)."
One might reasonably conclude from Mr. Babcock's column that the Alaska Republican Party supports a constitutional amendment where the "vote of the people" determines the fate of the PFD. One would be wrong. The Republican Party will never support a constitutional amendment to protect the PFD. Why not? A constitutional amendment protecting the PFD would prevent the imposition of the equivalent of a regressive tax on the poorest Alaskans and might force the Legislature to consider a broad-based progressive tax whereby more affluent Alaskans would pay their fair share for government services.
If the Republican Party does in fact support a constitutional amendment to allow "the people" to determine the fate of the PFD, I will become a registered Republican and vote accordingly. Otherwise, we Alaskans should support only those politicians who will commit to supporting a constitutional amendment allowing "the people" to determine the fate of the PFD.
— William Maxey
I have two issues to comment upon: First, I greatly appreciate and wholeheartedly support Marc Grober's recent suggestion that the ADN stop wrapping its newspapers in plastic, given what we know about the great harm that plastics are doing to the Earth, especially our planet's oceans and marine life. If the company needs to protect the paper, it should find an alternative. And there are many times when no protective wrapping is needed at all. It's ridiculous that my newspaper comes wrapped in orange plastic on dry, hot days. Please stop that!
Second, I applaud Gov. Bill Walker's recently announced position on the Pebble mine project and his request that the Army Corps of Engineers suspend its environmental review process. There's an abundance of scientific evidence that the proposed Pebble project would threaten Bristol Bay's fisheries and McNeil River's world-class gathering of brown bears; it's also clear that a substantial majority of Alaskans oppose the project because of the likely harm it would do. I urge our state's leaders to continue doing everything they can to put an end to this proposed mining development.
— Bill Sherwonit
A burglarizing black bear killed after breaking into a car for a sandwich at the Glen Alps trailhead, and increasing and fraught contacts between bears and people in the Anchorage bowl, prompts some outside-the-box thoughts of solutions.
There's that popular McNeil River bear webcam. What if we had a Denali Highway Garbage Bear and Wolf webcam? We're training our bears to eat trash, right? Pizza crusts are a lot easier to track and kill (and tastier — all that salt and sugar) than a whole moose or caribou, right? And the Alaska Board of Game allows and encourages hunting apex predators in border areas around Denali to boost moose and caribou populations for hunters, right?
So if the goal is to prevent bears and wolves from killing and eating little baby moose and caribou, why not line up trash cans the length of the highway from Anchorage to Fairbanks, fill them with everybody's garbage that they're putting out way too soon anyway so bears shop early and often? Lower platforms could serve the wolves. Then set up webcams and designate the whole highway corridor a world-class tourist corridor.
Bus tours, flyovers, international marketing — think of the possibilities.
True, the occasional selfie-taking tourist might get eaten, but some could well fall in the McNeil River every summer and perish too.
Wolves would live. Bears would live and waddle peacefully off to hibernation every winter. Moose and caribou numbers would soar. Tourists and hunters would be happy. What's not to like?
It would be simpler, of course, if everybody simply secured their trash until pickup, but it doesn't look as if that's going to happen.
— Cheryl Chapman
MOSCOW — Kylian Mbappe and France put on a thrilling show in winning the World Cup title. All Russian President Vladimir Putin might remember is the Pussy Riot protest.
The 19-year-old Mbappe became only the second teenager after Pele to score in a World Cup final, helping France beat Croatia 4-2 on Sunday.
Mbappe had just shown his electrifying speed in the 52nd minute when play was held up by four protesters who ran onto the field in the second half. Russian punk band Pussy Riot later took credit for the incident — watched from the VIP seats by Putin, whose government once jailed members of the activist group.
About 12 minutes after play resumed, Mbappe sent a right-footed shot past Croatia goalkeeper Danijel Subasic.
The only other teen to score in a World Cup final was Pele, who was 17 when Brazil beat Sweden 5-2 in 1958.
Mbappe, who plays for Paris Saint-Germain in the French league, was born months after France first won its only other World Cup title in 1998.
Putin was later on the field during a downpour to award medals to the players. FIFA president Gianni Infantino then handed France captain Hugo Lloris the World Cup trophy.
Paul Pogba and Antoine Griezmann, France's two other key players, also scored at the Luzhniki Stadium.
But it was Mbappe who put the match out of reach with a furious passage of play in the second half. In the 59th, a run from Mbappe started a play that ended up with Pogba on the edge of the penalty area. With his second attempt, the midfielder curled his shot beyond Subasic.
Mbappe then scored himself, his fourth of the tournament, to make it 4-1.
Griezmann scored from the penalty spot in the 38th minute after a video review. About four minutes after his corner kick was knocked out of play, the referee ruled Ivan Perisic had handled the ball on the way.
France took the lead in the 18th when Croatia's tallest outfield player, 1.90-meter (6-foot-3) forward Mario Mandzukic, rose to meet Griezmann's free kick with the top of his head. He inadvertently sent it past his own goalkeeper.
Perisic and Mandzukic both scored for Croatia, first to equalize in the 28th minute and later as a consolation goal in the 69th, embarrassing Lloris with a flicked shot as the France goalkeeper tried to dribble the ball out of his goalmouth.
France coach Didier Deschamps became only the third man to win the World Cup as a player and a coach. Mario Zagallo of Brazil and Franz Beckenbauer of Germany are the others.
Serena Williams of the United States celebrates winning her women's singles quarterfinals match against Italy's Camila Giorgi, at the Wimbledon Tennis Championships, in London, Tuesday July 10, 2018.(AP Photo/Ben Curtis) (Ben Curtis/)
Serena Williams is a lesson in the varieties of strength. There is absolute strength, explosive strength, sustained strength. All of which she has, to one extent or another. And then there is the out-of-category strength it took to return to the top of her profession at 36 years old with a baby on her shoulder and scars on her belly and in her lungs from the childbirth ordeal that almost killed her.
Nothing against Angelique Kerber, who is a great champion, but Kerber was playing just one opponent in the Wimbledon final. Williams was playing against a lot of them, including time and nature. In the end, time and nature won, but didn't Williams give them a run for their money?
In addition to the C-section and the blood clots and the baby weight, there was a torn pectoral muscle that meant she couldn't serve for three weeks. A touch of something was missing off that serve, a lack of heat. The feet were a tad slow, which made the ball tick the net or spin just beyond the baseline. Result: 6-3, 6-3. Afterward, her voice broke as she said: "To all the moms out there, I was playing for you today. And I tried."
It was only her fourth tournament back. There hasn't even been a full change of seasons since Alexis Olympia was born in September, followed by weeks of medical complications, to which Williams was startlingly defenseless despite all of her wealth and winning. In dealing with them she demonstrated a more commonplace kind of strength, one that doesn't make her world class but rather is shared by innumerable women.
It's a brand shared in particular by black women in America, who are three to four times more likely to suffer from life-threatening childbirth complications than whites, according to the Centers for Disease Control. One speculative reason for this is something called allostasis, which is the body's response to withering lifelong stressors and challenges. Another is that "doctors aren't listening to us, just to be quite frank," Williams said in an interview with the BBC this spring.
For a few years now, Williams has been taking a slow walk toward becoming a powerful social messenger and an influencer on the level of a Billie Jean King, addressing issues from the gender pay gap to body image to sexism in Silicon Valley. There was a time when Williams was a somewhat facetious interview. Not anymore. At a pre-tournament news conference podium, she ruminated on myths around breast feeding. "I feel like everyone says, 'You're so thin when you breast-feed.' I'm going to be totally frank . . ." she said.
Offstage a woman interrupted and said, "That's a lie."
"Isn't it?" Williams said. "Thank you."
In an interview with Vogue she talked plainly about her post-birth complications - the pulmonary embolisms, the rupture of her C-section wound and a large hematoma in her abdomen that left her bedridden for six weeks - and the emotional surges of new motherhood while trying to reclaim her body after all the trauma.
"No one talks about the low moments - the pressure you feel, the incredible letdown every time you hear the baby cry," she said.
How much easier, she said with an amused ruefulness, it was for Roger Federer to come back after the births of his two sets of twins.
"He produced four babies and barely missed a tournament," she said. "I can't even imagine where I'd be with twins right now. Probably at the bottom of the pool."
In every interview and appearance, she has never let anyone forget the statistics and the disparities and the dismissiveness that black women can face when they complain of pain even in a state-of-the art hospital with the best doctors and medicines. She talked about women who give birth in countries where they have no access to medical care and pleaded for contributions to UNICEF.
"I was in a really fortunate situation where I know my body well, and I am who I am," she said. ". . . I had a wonderful, wonderful doctor. Unfortunately, a lot of African-Americans and black people don't have the same experience that I've had."
Shannon Sullivan, a philosophy chair at the University of North Carolina Charlotte, has argued that racial disparities can be manifested physiologically, even cellularly. She wrote: "Our cells - our bodies - are dynamically co-constituted by things both inside and outside of us." Does this contribute to hypertension and preeclampsia, and is this partly why a black woman is 22 percent more likely to die of heart disease, 71 percent more likely to die of cervical cancer and a staggering 243 percent more likely to die during pregnancy or childbirth? I'm not smart enough to know.
But I do know that this spring while Serena Williams was recovering her form, another great and beautiful but less prominent athlete, Daedra Charles, complained of not feeling well.
Charles was a two-time national champion center at the University of Tennessee, the 1992 winner of the Wade Trophy given to the nation’s best female college basketball player and an Olympian. She worked as an assistant coach at Auburn and at Tennessee, but after a bout of breast cancer she struggled to find employment in a coaching profession that is ungenerous to black women. She moved back to Detroit to work as a youth counselor while putting her son Anthonee through college. In April, she went to a hospital complaining of terrible fatigue. They told her it was just dehydration, gave her some fluids, sent her home. Two days later she collapsed with heart failure. She was buried at 49, cracking the hearts of all of us who knew her.
At every turn, Serena Williams has refused to let her new motherhood be a story about a stud-heroic athletic feat but instead has continually made a vital pivot to other women. What, physiologically, do years of internal pressure and emotional abrasions do to struggling expectant mothers? As for Williams herself, what did fighting out of that bottle-shattered court in Compton do to her - and her mother, Oracene - and what has been the toll of the long duel with the cool suspiciousness of the tennis establishment, which persists to this day (she was drug tested five times in June)? It's hard to say.
What’s certain is that Williams has triumphed over all to stand on the cusp of equaling Margaret Court’s record of 24 Grand Slam titles, and with her health restored, she has plenty of chances ahead to become the greatest champion ever. But more interestingly, she already has become an important, transformational one.
Ice floes and fog surround the U.S. Coast Guard Cutter Healy in the Arctic Ocean on July 29, 2017. The cutter is the largest icebreaker in the Coast Guard and serves as a platform for scientific research. (Washington Post photo / Bonnie Jo Mount)
With concerns that an international free-for-all might be emerging during President Donald Trump's approach to asserting his will with the NATO member states, another issue that requires multilateral agreement and action is unfolding — this time in the Arctic region.
Satellite measurements during the past 30 years show a rapid decline in Arctic sea ice. The reduction in year-round and summer ice is creating open water, drawing increasing investments by commercial interests, particularly shipping and its related oil and gas ventures.
A seeming rejection or reconsideration by the president of the post-World War II international order comes as a critical moment for new approaches to Arctic policy.
During the Cold War, the Arctic region was geopolitically vital to both the Soviet Union and the U.S., as armed bombers and submarines criss-crossed both below the polar ice and in the skies above. With the collapse of the Soviet Union, the Arctic practically vanished in terms of strategic significance. Now, nearly three decades later, with sea ice in retreat, the Arctic region is opening as a commercial and geostrategic hub with complex challenges for both the U.S. and the Russian Federation.
As the Arctic region moves from the periphery closer to the center of international interest, it is imperative that Presidents Trump and Vladimir Putin take time during the Helsinki summit to launch a vital conversation about what an appropriate Arctic security architecture might be – and, what other nations, beyond the Arctic coastal states, should be part of that conversation.
Security issues are likely to heighten in the high North as shipping and energy development accelerates along with broader commercial interests. A significant component of the unfolding events is the diminishment of sea-ice in what will become the international waters of the Central Arctic Ocean – a Mediterranean sized – and currently frozen – sea. As one of the planet's most pristine bodies of water it will require governance, marine environment protection and security as vessels, in due course, traverse the North Pole.
Governance of a new ocean, economic stability and preventing mishaps offer several reasons for a collaborative Arctic regional security architecture. First, Russian interests. Russia is the high North nation with jurisdiction and sovereignty over the largest territorial and offshore span, and with the greatest Arctic engagement. Its long-term billion dollar strategic plan for the Arctic, announced in 2013, is unfolding. The Kremlin's plans includes government support for oil and gas development, an upgrade of ten deep water ports capable of search and rescue operations, spill response and capabilities for destinational and international shipping, enabled by a fleet of some 41 ice breakers and ice-capable support ships.
While some Western skeptics view Russia's 2014 creation of its Arctic-focused Joint Strategic Command based in its Northern Fleet as a "Ukrainization" of the Arctic, the Kremlin's view of its dual use and military ships, expressed by several academics, is to protect Russia's growing economic and security interests that "hinges" on the Arctic. Russia's relationship to the Arctic has long been one of strategy, cooperation and a leading role in creating and adhering to international legal standards, such as the United Nations Law of the Sea where it involves Arctic matters.
However, beyond the need to protect its increasingly vulnerable northern border, international tit-for-tat has crept through. Russian aerial training or intentional buzzing of the Alaska Coast along with U.S. jets scrambled in the international skies offer another reason for a security architecture to avoid potential mishaps or misunderstandings.
The region is getting crowded. Calling itself a "near Arctic state," China's growing prominence due to its well-financed shipping, science and energy investments, recently announced its Polar Silk Road strategy as a component of its wider economic Belt and Road initiative. China's Arctic initiative is being defined, in part, by its ice-capable container ships that have transited Russian and Canadian waters from the Pacific to Atlantic. Further, China's major stake, a billion-dollar investment, in Russia's Yamal liquefied natural gas project reflects the envisioned scale of its long-term interests.
The U.S. is an Arctic nation by virtue of Alaska. However, no significant Congressional or private capital has yet been obligated to build a high north deep-water port to accommodate the traffic that is likely to come. Only one functional icebreaker exists for the U.S. – with recent authorization for a second. Yet, while diminished commercial interest currently plagues Alaska following the earlier drop in the price of oil, this is likely to change as the price of oil increases and oil and gas fields – both on and offshore – are more accessible.
The governance and security issues that are emerging in the high North, whether constabulary or military, must improve direct dialogue between the U.S. and Russia, both to minimize military risk and to clarify how the region will be protected as it opens to international shipping and commerce. Cooperation and a degree of interoperability between the U.S. and Russian Coast Guards, particularly across the Bering, has generally been resilient to tensions in other parts of the world.
The Department of Defense, in its 2016 Report, noted that it preferred a new yet "small footprint" in the Arctic region as a "wide range of challenges and contingencies" are likely to unfold. The report most notably described the necessity that "alliances and strategic partnerships" are the defining feature of Arctic security.
Alaska maintains two large national air bases that houses combat and some 200 long-range maritime patrol aircraft. At a recent stopover, the Associated Press reported Defense Secretary James Mattis said of the region, the U.S. has to "up its game" as shipping lanes increase along with sea ice retreat.
Presidents Trump and Putin must start the conversation on an Arctic-wide security architecture. A solid cooperative backdrop to a new regional security arrangement are a combination of Russian- and U.S.-backed Arctic treaties for search and rescue, spill response, illegal and unregulated fishing and the Arctic regional Coast Guard agreements. Further, the recent approval by the International Maritime Organization of a joint U.S.-Russia agreement on forthcoming rules for Bering Strait shipping lanes set the stage for a larger region-wide security architecture.
A new security architecture would offer the stability necessary to support the investments, shipping and sustained and sustainable commerce that is likely to continue to emerge. Tero Vauraste is the CEO of the Finnish icebreaker-building company Arctia and current chairman of the Arctic Economic Council, which is linked to the eight-nation collaborative Arctic Council. He offered a view that might help give shape to the summit. Vauraste said a discussion between the two presidents should include a cooperative and more efficient use of existing resources, including icebreakers for governance, monitoring and safety that the CEO says "could be up and running within weeks."
Such a rethinking could help focus a regional security agenda, prevent spillover from other global concerns, and just maybe, encourage voices from what has long been called the "zone of peace" to give shape to a sorely needed policy discussion.
It's worth a try by the president of the world's largest economy and the president of the world's largest Arctic nation. Given the interests at stake, it just might work.
Anita L. Parlow, Esq., is a recent Fulbright scholar in Iceland, team lead for the inaugural Woodrow Wilson Polar Code Roundtable Project and advisor for the Harvard–MIT Arctic Fisheries Project. Parlow has advised corporations, NGOs and international agencies on corporate social responsibility and environmental and community risk.
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 firstname.lastname@example.org. Send submissions shorter than 200 words to email@example.com or click here to submit via any web browser.
President Trump, front right, German Chancellor Angela Merkel, center, and NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg, left, stand for a photo during the NATO summit in Brussels on Wednesday. Bloomberg photo by Marlene Awaad (Marlene Awaad/)
WASHINGTON -- As President Trump put Germany and other allies on notice for the harm they are doing to NATO with their failure to spend adequately on our common defense, Democrats in Washington came to Germany’s defense. “President Trump’s brazen insults and denigration of one of America’s most steadfast allies, Germany, is an embarrassment,” Senate Minority Leader Charles E. Schumer and House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi said in a joint statement.
Sorry, Trump is right. The real embarrassment is that Germany, one of the wealthiest countries in Europe, spends just 1.24 percent of its gross domestic product on defense -- in the bottom half of NATO allies. (The U.S. spends 3.5 percent of GDP on its military.) A study by McKinsey & Co. notes that about 60 percent of Germany's Eurofighter and Tornado fighter jets and about 80 percent of its Sea Lynx helicopters are unusable. According to Deutsche Welle, a German parliamentary investigation found that "at the end of 2017, no submarines and none of the air force's 14 large transport planes were available for deployment due to repairs," and "a Defense Ministry paper revealed German soldiers did not have enough protective vests, winter clothing or tents to adequately take part in a major NATO mission." Not enough tents?
To meet its promised NATO commitments, Germany needs to spend $28 billion more on defense annually. Apparently Germany can't come up with the money, but it can send billions of dollars to Russia -- the country NATO was created to protect against -- for natural gas and support a new pipeline that will make Germany and Eastern European allies even more vulnerable to Moscow.
Sadly, Germany is not alone. Belgium, where NATO is headquartered, spends just 0.9 percent of GDP on defense -- and fully one-third of its meager defense budget is spent on pensions. European NATO allies have about 1.8 million troops, but less than a third are deployable and just 6 percent for any sustained period.
When Trump says NATO is "obsolete," he is correct -- literally.
This is not a new problem. I was in the Pentagon on Sept. 11, 2001, and vividly recall how, when it came time to take military action in Afghanistan, only a handful of allies had any useful war-fighting capabilities they could contribute during the critical early stages of Operation Enduring Freedom. At NATO's 2002 Prague summit, allies pledged to address these deficiencies by spending at least 2 percent of GDP on defense and investing that money in more usable capabilities. Instead, defense investments by European allies declined from 1.9 percent of GDP in 2000-2004 to 1.7 percent five years later, dropping further to 1.4 percent by 2015.
Little surprise that when NATO intervened in Libya a decade after 9/11, The Post reported, "Less than a month into the Libyan conflict, NATO is running short of precision bombs, highlighting the limitations of Britain, France and other European countries in sustaining even a relatively small military action over an extended period of time." An alliance whose founding purpose is to deter Russian aggression could not sustain a limited bombing campaign against a far weaker adversary.
President Barack Obama called NATO allies "free riders," and President George W. Bush urged allies to "increase their defense investments," both to little effect. But when Trump refused to immediately affirm that the United States would meet its Article 5 commitment to defend a NATO ally, NATO allies agreed to boost spending by $12 billion last year. That is a drop in the bucket: McKinsey calculated that allies need to spend $107 billion more each year to meet their commitments. Since polite pressure by his predecessors did not work, Trump is digging in on a harder line: On Thursday he suggested NATO members double their defense spending targets to 4 percent of GDP.
This is not a gift to Russia, as his critics have alleged. The last thing Putin wants is for Trump to succeed in getting NATO to spend more on defense. And if allies are concerned about getting tough with Russia, there is an easy way to do so: invest in the capabilities NATO needs to deter and defend against Russian aggression.
Trump's hard line also does not signal that he considers NATO irrelevant. If Trump thought NATO was useless, he would not waste his time on it. But if allies don't invest in real, usable military capabilities, NATO will become irrelevant. An alliance that cannot effectively join the fight when one of its members comes under attack or runs out of munitions in the middle of a military intervention is, by definition, irrelevant.
NATO needs some tough love, and Trump is delivering it. Thanks to him, the alliance will be stronger as a result.
Marc Thiessen writes a twice-weekly column for The Washington Post on foreign and domestic policy and contributes to the PostPartisan blog. He is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and the former chief speechwriter for President George W. Bush.