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Dunleavy to be sworn in as governor in Northwest Alaska village of Noorvik

Sat, 2018-11-10 20:31

Gov.-elect Mike Dunleavy announced Saturday he will be sworn in next month in the Northwest Alaska village of Noorvik, his wife's hometown.

The village, on the Kobuk River and with a population of around 700, is home to Dunleavy's wife, Rose, and extended family. The swearing-in, on Dec. 3, will be followed by an inauguration ceremony in Wasilla on Dec. 4, Dunleavy's transition organization said in a statement.

"The decision to hold the swearing-in ceremony in Noorvik was made by the governor-elect himself, in an effort to honor and recognize residents of rural Alaska, whom he called neighbors for almost 20 years," it said.

Dunleavy was superintendent of schools for the Northwest Arctic Borough School District, based in Kotzebue, and later was elected to the state Senate from Wasilla, where he lives with his family.

Dunleavy also announced that Rina Salazar of Anchorage and Cynthia Henry of Fairbanks will serve as inaugural event co-chairs. Dunleavy spoke Saturday night to the Alaska Outdoor Council banquet in Fairbanks.

Cold spell in Hawaii dooms UAA men’s basketball team

Sat, 2018-11-10 20:12

The UAA men's basketball team let a slim lead slip away in the final minutes Saturday to absorb its first loss of the season.

Up by three points with about four minutes remaining, the Seawolves were doomed by a late Chaminade run in a 71-62 setback in Honolulu.

Chaminade (2-0) outscored UAA 13-1 in the final minutes to pull out the victory.

"In the last three minutes we did not respond on either end," UAA coach Rusty Osborne said in a release from the school. "Poor defensive containment and rebounding hurt on one end, and poor decisions hurt offensively. But we are a new group and getting better each week."

Junior Tyler Brimhall, a transfer from North Idaho College, continued to dominate for UAA (3-1). He pumped in 23 points on 7-of-15 shooting to improve his scoring average to 21 points per game and grabbed a career-best 11 rebounds.

Jack Macdonald, a veteran guard, added 13 points and four assists, and newcomer Niko Bevens and veteran Brennan Rymer both dropped in nine points, with Rymer adding a career-high six rebounds.

UAA trailed 9-0 at the start of the game but came back to tie it 29-29 at the half. But the Seawolves, who shot 56.6 percent in Friday's 83-79 win over Hawaii Pacific, hit 39.3 percent of their shots from the field and were a sub-par 10 of 19 from the foul line.

"It was a hard-fought, tough game," Osborne said. "We dug out of an early hole and gave ourselves a chance, but missed free throws by excellent shooters kept us from extending the lead."

Chaminade, a Pac West Conference team that shot 48.9 percent, had four players in double figures. Erik Scheive led the way with a game-high 19 points.

The Seawolves continue their nonconference schedule with games against Northwood on Friday and Lake Superior State on Saturday at the Alaska Airlines Center.

Nikiski Bulldogs are top dogs in Class 3A volleyball

Sat, 2018-11-10 20:07

Dressed in thrift-store clothes her players went shopping for before the game, coach Stacey Segura (with clipboard) celebrates the final point in Nikiski’s state-championship victory Saturday. Jumping for joy is Kaycee Bostic (12). (Loren Holmes / ADN)

Nikiski volleyball coach Stacey Segura came dressed to cringe for the Class 3A state championship match, but her players came dressed to kill. And block. And dig.

The Bulldogs, who dressed their coach in clothes they bought at a thrift store earlier in the day, beat Valdez in the if-necessary match to claim the state championship Saturday afternoon at the Alaska Airlines Center.

It was the first state title for the Bulldogs since 2000, when Segura was a seventh grader and this season's seniors were learning to crawl.

Nikiski beat Barrow, Valdez and Grace Christian during the first two days of the double-elimination tournament to sail into the championship match.

There, the Bulldogs faced a rematch with defending champion Valdez, which beat Grace in a Saturday morning match to earn a shot at the title.

Nikiski’s Bethany Carstens spikes the ball while Valdez’s Ally Seiber (8) and Jade Watts (1) defend. (Loren Holmes / ADN)

Valdez, led by all-tournament picks Kassandra Howard and Sydney Johnson, prevailed 25-17, 21-25, 25-22, 25-22 to force the if-necessary game. The Bulldogs seized control early in the extra set to clinch the championship with a 30-22 victory.

Powering Nikiski in the five sets against Valdez were Bethany Carstens (19 kills, 8 blocks), Kaycee Bostic (12 kills, 29 digs), Kaitlyn Johnson (10 kills, 21 assists) and Emma Wik (23 assists).

The stat of the day belonged to senior Kelsey Clark, who came through with 55 digs.

"She was all over the place," said Segura, a 2006 Nikiski graduate. "She played so steady and amazing and got so many wonderful digs. I can't say that enough."

The game evoked memories of the 2016 championship match, when Nikiski stumbled big-time. Like Valdez this year, Mt. Edgecumbe came through the losers bracket and forced the if-necessary game. Unlike this year, Nikiski wasn't up to the challenge.

"It was a huge surprise to be that far and we were star-struck," Segura said. "We were struggling with the intensity of it and forgetting to play point for point."

This time, the Bulldogs were more relaxed. Their coach had promised they could dress her in thrift-store clothes if they made it to the championship, so before the match they made a trip to Value Village, where they chose a blazer with shoulder pads and a pair of white pants.

"I was very much uncomfortable," Segura said of the ensemble.

Angela Druesedow passes the ball for Nikiski. (Loren Holmes / ADN)

After losing the initial match to Valdez, the Bulldogs left the gym and gathered in a hallway.

"I wanted to reset," Segura said. "I told them either way, everyone's proud of them; stay positive and play with intensity.

"They were ready to fight. They were not going to let it get away from them."

ASAA/First National Bank state volleyball championships

Saturday's results

Consolation semifinal — Valdez def. Grace Christian 25-15, 25-22, 25-17

Championship — Valdez def. Nikiski 29-27, 25-17, 25-19

If-necessary — Nikiski def. Valdez 30-22

All-tournament team

Bethany Carstens, Nikiski
Kassandra Howard, Valdez
Briana Master, Grace Christian
Kastyn Lie, Nome
Brianna Hetrick, Homer
Chloe Maynard, Monroe
Megan Cowell, Grace Christian
Kelsey Clark, Nikiski
Amy Bioff, Mt. Edgecumbe
Marina Carroll, Homer
Kaitlyn Johnson, Nikiski
Sydney Johnson, Valdez

Fentanyl smuggled from China is killing thousands of Americans

Sat, 2018-11-10 19:35

The Zheng drug trafficking organization was hardly clandestine. The Shanghai-based network sold synthetic narcotics, including deadly fentanyl, on websites posted in 35 languages, from Arabic and English to Icelandic and Uzbek.

The Chinese syndicate bragged that its laboratory could "synthesize nearly any" drug and that it churned out 16 tons of illicit chemicals a month. The group was so adept at smuggling, and so brazen in its marketing, that it offered a money-back guarantee to buyers if its goods were seized by U.S. or other customs agents.

Over the last decade, federal officials say, the Zheng group mailed and shipped fentanyl and similar illicit chemicals to customers in more than 25 countries and 35 U.S. states. U.S. officials say the syndicate's success, laid bare in a recent federal indictment, partly helps explain America's skyrocketing death toll from drug overdoses.

Fentanyl — 50 times more potent than heroin _ and related laboratory-crafted drugs have become the No. 1 cause of opioid-related overdose deaths. And rogue chemical companies in China — operating openly and outside the reach of U.S. authorities _ are the largest single source of the deadly drugs, law enforcement officials say.

“People in labs in China are producing this substance that is killing Americans,” Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein said in an interview. “This is a real crisis. The Chinese government has the ability to stop this if they want to. We believe they should want to do that.”

U.S. officials have pushed Beijing to shut down the labs, and say Chinese authorities have taken steps to police chemical makers. The push comes even as relations with Beijing have grown acrimonious amid an escalating trade war and U.S. unease over China's increasing economic and military clout.

Nearly 29,000 people died last year in the United States from overdoses linked to synthetic opioids, a category that experts say is dominated by fentanyl and its chemical cousins _ a staggering surge from the 3,100 such deaths reported in 2013.

One reason for the increase: The drug is so powerful that a sugar-packet-sized bag of it can contain 500 lethal doses. That also means it can be smuggled through the mail in what officials call micro-shipments, which are far harder to identify and interdict than bulkier loads of heroin, cocaine or marijuana.

Chinese companies send fentanyl in small quantities to dealers in the United States or Canada, but ship the drugs in bulk to criminal cartels in Mexico. The cartels then mix the synthetics into heroin and other substances, or press them into counterfeit pills. The product is then smuggled across the border.

A bag of heroin fentanyl pills, as seen on July 2, 2018. (U.S. Drug Enforcement Administration) (DEA/)

While total fentanyl seizures more than doubled last year, to 1,196 pounds, officials say far more of the illicit drug is getting through. Some of the biggest fentanyl busts have been in California because of the Mexican connection.

In September, for example, U.S. Customs and Border Protection agents seized 52 pounds of powdered fentanyl at the Pine Valley checkpoint near San Diego _ and that wasn't a record. In December, officers discovered nearly 80 pounds in a college student's car.

This summer, authorities discovered 20,000 fentanyl pills in a hidden compartment of a Mini Cooper at the San Ysidro checkpoint _ a week after confiscating 11,500 pills in another vehicle.

U.S. drug dealers also purchase directly from China with a few clicks of a computer mouse on company websites or in so-called dark web drug bazaars, where communications are encrypted and dealers often pay with cryptocurrencies or gift cards that are difficult to trace.

A 33-year-old Long Beach man, for example, was sentenced in June to more than 26 years in federal prison for illegally importing chemicals in bulk from China, including a fentanyl analog, and then producing tens of thousands of pills in a homemade lab.

When agents raided his lab, federal prosecutors said, they seized more than 11 kilograms of acetyl fentanyl, an analog 15 times more powerful than morphine. During a nine-month span, prosecutors said, the Long Beach lab sold an estimated 300,000 pills nationwide.

In Salt Lake City, a former Eagle Scout is awaiting trial after he and five others were charged with turning his mother's basement into a illicit pill lab. When her house was raided in November 2016, police found 70,000 pills laced with fentanyl and $1.2 million in cash, prosecutors said. The group allegedly sold hundreds of thousands of the pills on the dark web.

The ease with which dealers can buy fentanyl from China "is a challenge because it's creating traffickers who are not affiliated with larger organizations or with cartels," said Paul Knierim, a top Drug Enforcement Administration official.

It isn't hard to find fentanyl and similar drugs on the Internet, and sales tactics rival those of online retailers, according to federal investigators.

"A simple Google search of 'fentanyl for sale' returned a number of potential sellers," according to a Senate Homeland Security Committee report released in January.

It said investigators, "posing as a first-time fentanyl purchaser," had contacted six online sellers overseas, and each offered to ship purchases to the United States _ sometimes with aggressive salesmanship.

The sellers "actively negotiated ... to complete a deal by offering flash sales on certain illicit opioids and discounted prices for bulk purchases," the report said. When investigators "failed to immediately respond to an offer, the online sellers proactively followed up, sometimes offering deeper discounts to entice a sale."

Fentanyl was developed decades ago as an ultra-powerful painkiller _ 100 times more potent than morphine _ for use in surgery. It is still used to help hospice-level cancer patients.

Drug dealers began dabbling in the drug in the mid-2000s, but it surged in popularity in 2014 and 2015 because it was easy to obtain and hugely profitable.

A $1,500 kilogram can bring $1.5 million in profits after the drug is cut and sold on the street, according to the DEA.

There was only one place to obtain the drug: China. It has a robust chemical and pharmaceutical sector, as well as lax regulations and widespread corruption.

"Regulatory gaps have led to a large increase in the number of unlicensed or 'semi-legitimate' chemical manufacturers or distributors," Bryce Pardo, an analyst from the RAND Corp. think tank, recently told Congress.

"A lack of oversight and government and corporate accountability increase opportunities for corruption," he added.

Chinese dealers targeted a loophole that let them send packages to the United States through the mail without providing detailed information on the sender or the contents of the package. Private carriers such as FedEx and UPS are required to provide such information to customs inspectors, which can help authorities identify smugglers and smuggling patterns.

Congress last month passed legislation designed to close that gap, and President Trump is expected to sign it into law.

U.S. officials long have pressed China to more aggressively police its chemical manufacturers, and China has strictly regulated the production of 175 chemicals, including fentanyl and some of its analogs.

That chemical-by-chemical approach, however, permits drug companies to tweak chemical formulas to get around a ban.

U.S. officials want China to follow the lead of the DEA, which in February used emergency powers to categorize fentanyl-related substances as controlled substances under federal law. The move was designed to make it easier to prosecute offenders and to prevent chemists from slightly altering formulas.

A Chinese Embassy representative in Washington declined to comment, but forwarded remarks made by Hua Chunying, a Ministry of Foreign Affairs official, at a January news conference in Beijing.

"Anti-drug cooperation is one of the highlights of China-U.S. law enforcement cooperation," Hua said. "In recent years, the two sides have conducted some highly effective cooperation on cracking down on cross-border drug-related crimes and advancing psychoactive substance listing and control, which has won wide approval from the public of the two sides. China's attitude on this issue is very clear."

The Justice Department has brought charges against several Chinese manufacturers of synthetic opioids. They are unlikely to end up in U.S. courtrooms because Washington and Beijing do not have an extradition treaty, and China has generally refused to send its citizens to the United States for criminal trials.

In October 2017, the Justice Department unveiled the first indictment against Chinese manufacturers of opioids, accusing two groups of operating illicit labs that sold fentanyl and other drugs to U.S. dealers. The rings were vast _ one involved at least 100 distributors _ and authorities were able to trace at least four deaths to fentanyl and related chemicals sold by one of the groups, court records show.

Then in August, federal prosecutors in Cleveland unveiled a 43-count indictment against the Zheng organization. The indictment alleged that Fujing Zheng, 35, and his father, Guanghua Zheng, 62, both of Shanghai, ran a global organization that manufactured tons of illicit chemicals each month.

U.S. officials said the Zhengs were adept at staying ahead of regulators _ and police. When China banned unregulated production of one synthetic narcotic, officials said, the Zhengs used their expertise to adjust the formula to skirt the prohibitions and keep the drugs flowing.

"We work diligently to make every possible chemical to meet the needs of our customers," the Zhengs wrote on one of their websites, according to court papers. "We will create custom-made products for you."

To get their product to U.S. customers, the Zhengs often relied on middlemen who hid the drugs in bulk freight shipments and then helped redistribute them. Prosecutors said that helped obscure the narcotics' origins.

The Zhengs could not be reached for comment for this story.

But their operation has had a deadly effect halfway across the world. In February 2015, Leroy Steele, 38, a small-time drug dealer in the Akron, Ohio, area, sent the Zheng organization an email seeking to purchase acetyl fentanyl, according to court papers.

"Send me prices as well as information on where I can send the money," Steele wrote.

A member of the Zheng group quickly replied, prosecutors alleged, and claimed he represented a "professional acetyl fentanyl manufacturer in China," and that "our products are all best quality, a lot of U.S. and Europe customers purchase largely from us every month."

"Tell me how many quantity you wanna buy," the member wrote. "Do you wanna have a sample order?"

Steele wired the Zhengs $3,500 for half a kilogram of the narcotic.

The dealer, who later would be sentenced to 20 years in prison after pleading guilty to drug distribution charges, soon was slinging heroin laced with acetyl fentanyl to his customers, prosecutors said.

Within a few weeks, federal officials said, two of Steele’s customers, a 37-year-old man and a 23-year-old woman, were dead _ from overdoses.

As Missouri turns red, Democrats search for relevance

Sat, 2018-11-10 19:25

Claire McCaskill supporter Daria Locher, a junior at Washington University from New York, watches as CNN reports poor numbers for McCaskill during a post-election gathering at the Majestic Ballroom in the Marriott St. Louis Grand on Tuesday, Nov. 6, 2018. "I'm sad, I knocked on over a 1,000 doors and it doesn't even look like it's going to be close," said Locher, who canvased for McCaskill. (David Carson/St. Louis Post-Dispatch/TNS) (David Carson/)

JEFFERSON CITY, Mo. — Democrats in Missouri, once a potent force in state politics, were relegated to the wilderness by Missouri voters in Tuesday’s midterm elections.

Just two years ago, the Show-Me state had Democratic officeholders spread throughout state government. Offices of the governor, secretary of state, treasurer, auditor, attorney general and U.S. Senate were all in Democratic hands.

Now, Auditor Nicole Galloway, who won Tuesday over Republican Saundra McDowell, is the lone Democrat standing after U.S. Sen. Claire McCaskill lost her re-election bid to Republican Attorney General Josh Hawley.

And, analysts say, there is no clear path back to relevance in a state in which rural red areas are becoming more dominant in deciding the outcome of statewide races.

"The playing field for Democrats looks terrible for Democrats this morning," University of Missouri-St. Louis political scientist Dave Robertson said Wednesday.

Up until two years ago, Democrats were able to win by cobbling together coalitions of urban and suburban voters and identifying with residents in some areas that have now turned deep red.

In 2016, for example, then-Attorney General Chris Koster was able to gain the support of Republican-leaning organizations such as the Missouri Farm Bureau and the National Rifle Association in his quest to beat Republican Eric Greitens.

But Trump's 19-point victory that year, and Greitens' outsider campaign, erased the crossover appeal of Koster's candidacy.

In the case of Galloway, her vote totals show her winning in the Democratic strongholds of the St. Louis, Kansas City and Columbia areas, but failing to pick up many counties in the rest of the state. If not for her Republican opponent's well-documented financial problems, Galloway's election night might have mirrored McCaskill's.

Robertson said the future for Democrats would depend largely on picking the right candidates and finding cracks to fill in the Republican agenda on issues such as economic stability.

"Individual candidates have a way sometimes of finding a sweet spot, like (former Gov.) Jay Nixon did," Robertson said. "In part, this is going to depend on the quality of the candidates and their skill at finding an agenda that appeals to a large number of Missourians."

To do that, Democrats will have to listen to people in rural areas to determine how they can fit in.

Rep. Bruce Franks, a St. Louis Democrat, said members of his party must work with lawmakers from rural Missouri to forge better ties and bring the state together.

"I think that's a big part of it, being able to work across the aisle," Franks said. "We do have a lot of commonalities. We do have a lot of common interests."

He said Democrats needed to find a way to motivate voters as they did in the city of St. Louis Tuesday, where more than 59 percent of the registered voters went to the polls.

"How can we duplicate that across the state?" Franks said. "I am absolutely disappointed in the results. But, I know we still have to fight. We've got to patch it up and get out there. 2020 will be there before we know it."

Rep. Kip Kendrick, D-Columbia, said the Democratic rebuilding process could take longer than two years.

"The party infrastructure had really deteriorated over the years," Kendrick said. "It's going to take us a while."

Robertson said Democrats "need to find ways to make themselves credible in delivering on that agenda. The rejection of Claire McCaskill by just about every county in the state really speaks volumes about the condition of the Democratic Party at this point. Democrats need to find out what kinds of ways they are perceived as unsafe for voters," he added.

For the time being, Stephen Webber, the chairman of the Missouri Democratic Party, will be the one to lead the party out of its morass.

Webber could not immediately be reached for comment Wednesday, but he did find some reasons to cheer Tuesday night.

Webber retweeted a message offering congratulations to voters who approved a phased-in increase in the state's minimum wage, long a Democratic initiative.

"You just raised the minimum wage for 677,000 of your hardworking neighbors," read the tweet from the campaign committee supporting the amendment.

Franks said Webber's two-year tenure at the helm of the party operation had been a positive one.

"I'll be the first person to say this. I think our Democratic Party is years better than what it was in 2016," Franks said. "I think Stephen Webber has done an excellent job. I think the Democratic Party and their entire staff has done a good job."

Kendrick, too, credited Webber for jump-starting the rebuilding process.

"We feel like the foundation has been laid. It's going to take time," Kendrick said.

But others could step up to bolster the party's chances in the future.

Cort VanOstran, who lost to incumbent Republican U.S. Rep. Ann Wagner of Ballwin, 51 percent to 47 percent, could be counted on to identify with suburban voters.

McCaskill, who will leave office in January, also could become a motivating force for the party.

On Tuesday, as she conceded the race, McCaskill hinted that she would be sticking around after her 36 years in office comes to an end.

“It is good night, not goodbye,” McCaskill said before leaving the stage to a chant of “Claire” from her supporters.

Woman killed in Anchorage hit-and-run

Sat, 2018-11-10 19:19

Police are investigating a fatal hit-and-run Saturday night that left a woman dead in an industrial area north of downtown Anchorage.

The woman, whose name has not been released, was found dead in the road at the intersection of East 3rd Avenue and Orca Street, the Anchorage Police Department said in a statement. The area is outside the Anchorage jail.

Authorities responded to the area at about 5:30 p.m.

"The preliminary investigation has found that the adult female victim was a pedestrian when a vehicle struck the victim and fled the scene," the department said. "Both the suspect vehicle and suspect driver are unknown at this time."

Police closed the intersection to investigate the death, they said at 6:30 p.m. Saturday.

Police are looking for witnesses and surveillance footage of the area. They're asking people with information about incident to call non-emergency dispatch at 311, (option No. 1).

Veterans have shaped Alaska through their service

Sat, 2018-11-10 19:13

Frost covers the statue of a soldier at the Anchorage Veteran’s Memorial on the Park Strip in Anchorage, Alaska on Thursday, Dec. 28, 2017. (Bob Hallinen / ADN)

A century ago this weekend, the "war to end all wars" came to its official end in a rail car in Europe, at the 11th minute of the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month of 1918. Known as Armistice Day, the event became an official U.S. holiday to remember the contributions of those who had fought in the war, and in 1954, President Dwight D. Eisenhower expanded its scope to commemorate the service of all U.S. veterans, renaming it Veterans Day.

Since the days of the American Revolution, the U.S. has owed a great debt to its service members, one not quantifiable in any list of victories or policy accomplishments. An incredible 16.1 million U.S. veterans are alive today who have served in at least one war, from World War II to Afghanistan. Alaska has the highest number of veterans per capita of any U.S. state; one in 10 Alaskans is a veteran.

Alaska has always depended heavily upon the contributions of veterans — even before its military infrastructure was expanded during World War II, the first World War was a massive influence on the territory. When the U.S. signaled it would join the war effort in Europe, many of the young men who worked on small mining claims in Alaska went Outside to enlist. A total of 10,000 Alaskans enlisted, some of whom died in service to their country. Others perished in the Spanish Flu pandemic of 1918, and some never returned to Alaska upon completing their service. The combined effect of the war and the flu devastated the territory, decimating some towns and accelerating the move toward corporate mining.

The story of veterans in Alaska can't be told in numbers. It's better expressed in stories like that of Alaska-born Medal of Honor recipient Archie Van Winkle. A staff sergeant in the Korean War, Van Winkle and his unit came under attack by a larger North Korean force. He "boldly spearheaded a determined attack through withering fire," Van Winkle's citation reads, going on to say that "though he and all the others who charged with him were wounded, (he) succeeded in enabling his platoon to gain the fire superiority and the opportunity to reorganize." Wounded in the arm and chest from enemy fire and a hand grenade, "he staunchly refused evacuation and continued to shout orders and words of encouragement to his depleted and battered platoon."

Alaska has ties to other Medal of Honor recipients with similarly harrowing stories — Drew Dix, who earned his medal as a staff sergeant in Vietnam, finished his service at Fort Wainwright in Fairbanks and retired in the Interior, where he still lives. And medical sergeant Ronald J. Shurer, born in Fairbanks, was awarded the Medal of Honor earlier this year for his heroism in a 2008 battle in which he saved the lives of four critically wounded U.S. soldiers and 10 injured Afghan commandos until teammates arrived.

Casualty counts have fallen in recent conflicts as the U.S. military shifts to tactics and technology that limits exposure of large masses of troops to enemy fire. But in some regards, war never changes. Our understanding of the effects of combat service on veterans is increasing, but we still suffer major deficits in our ability to treat not just physical wounds but also post-traumatic stress disorder and the psychological burden of war. We must continue to do better for those who have done their best for us.

A century after the "war to end all wars," it's clear that war has not and will not end, despite our continuing, essential pursuit of that goal. Whether their service is performed fighting the wars we cannot avoid or deterring the ones we can, America's veterans are owed a great debt by our nation, and one that we should remember on this day and all others.

The views expressed here are those of the Anchorage Daily News, as expressed by its editorial board, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. Current editorial board members are Ryan Binkley, Andy Pennington, Julia O'Malley, Tom Hewitt and Andrew Jensen. To submit a piece for consideration, email Send submissions shorter than 200 words to or click here to submit via any web browser.

It was quite a week for Marko Cheseto, who became a marathoner and an American in a 3-day span

Sat, 2018-11-10 18:14

Marko Cheseto after becoming a United State citizen in Florida recently. (Photo from Marko Cheseto)

Marko Cheseto sends his love. As a marathoner, and as an American.

Cheseto, the former University of Alaska Anchorage runner from Kenya who lost both of his feet to frostbite in 2011, enjoyed two milestone moments in the past week.

Racing on carbon-fiber running blades, Cheseto ran his first marathon last Sunday in New York City. He finished in 2 hours, 52 minutes, 33 seconds — about 10 minutes off the world-best for a double-leg amputee.

Two days later, he became an American citizen.

"This is an emotional moment for me," Cheseto said by email from Orlando, Florida, his home since early this summer. "I have been longing for this. During the ceremony, I was extremely excited. America has offered me great opportunities to excel."

As has Alaska.

Cheseto, 35, came to Anchorage in 2008 on a UAA athletic scholarship. He quickly established himself as one of the program's all-time bests, earning NCAA Division II All-America honors six times in track and cross country.

In November 2011 of his senior year, despondent over the suicide of another UAA runner from Kenya, Cheseto overdosed on prescription pills and disappeared into the woods around the UAA campus.

He was the subject of a massive, two-day search during which it snowed more than a foot and temperatures dipped to single digits. On the third day he stumbled into a hotel near campus, his sneakers frozen to his feet. Both feet had to be amputated.

Cheseto remained in Anchorage, graduated with a degree in nutrition, got married and had three children. Eighteen months after losing his feet, he resumed running once he was fitted with a pair of running blades.

Marko Cheseto competes in the Skinny Raven Half Marathon at the Anchorage RunFest in August. (Bill Roth / ADN)

Early this summer, the Cheseto family moved to Orlando so Cheseto could work and train at Prosthetic & Orthotic Associates. He came back briefly in August to run the Anchorage RunFest half marathon, placing 10th in 1:26:55 (he still owns the Mayor's half-marathon record, a 1:07:47 set in 2010).

In his 26.2-mile debut at the New York City Marathon last week, Cheseto placed 613th overall in a field of nearly 53,000. He is believed to be the second person with two prosthetic feet to break the 3-hour mark in the marathon. The other, Richard Whitehead of Great Britain, owns the world's top marathon time for a double amputee — he ran 2:42:52 at the 2010 Chicago Marathon.

"I was happy with my time," Cheseto said. "My biggest challenge was going over the bridges, and sharp inclines. (It) is not an easy course running with blades, the last 0.2 was the hardest, after crossing mile 26 mark, I was so ready to be done and I couldn't see the finish line."

He said one of his goals "is to run with elites in one of the major marathons." The time he's chasing? A sub-2:10.

Stan Patterson, the owner and head prosthetist at POA in Orlando, thinks that's an achievable goal.

"As you know, Marko is a natural runner," Patterson said by email. "The terrain of the NY Marathon course is hilly, which is more difficult for an amputee, and thus slows down the completion time. Our immediate plan for Marko is to enter him in marathons with flatter terrain and believe just that difference should get his time down to 2:38 or so — easily beating Whitehead's record.

"The ultimate goal is to break the overall world record and finish a marathon in less than 2 hours. We believe that Marko is the man to do it!"

The world record, set in September by Kenya's Eliud Kipchoge at the Berlin Marathon, is 2:01:39. Only nine people have run sub-2:04 marathons, according to Runners World.

Cheseto is hopeful that the marathon for lower-limb amputees will be added to the Paralympics, which currently offers a wheelchair marathon, but none for runners with prosthetics.

If the event is added while Cheseto is still competing, he'd get to race as part of Team USA, thanks to his recent change of citizenship.

Cheseto said he became a permanent U.S. resident in 2014. "I applied for citizenship while I was in Alaska, I in fact took my citizenship test in (the) Anchorage office back in May before moving to Florida," he said.

While Florida's weather is more conducive for year-round training, a big piece of Cheseto's heart is still up north.

"I love Alaska dearly," he said.

With playoffs a longshot, Seawolves win what could be their final match

Sat, 2018-11-10 18:05

The UAA volleyball team will learn Sunday if 21 victories are enough to earn it a sixth consecutive trip to the playoffs. If not, at least the season will end on a winning note.

The Seawolves got big games from their three seniors and their star freshman Saturday in a four-set win over Northwest Nazarene in Nampa, Idaho.

The 25-21, 25-14, 25-27, 25-14 triumph in their regular-season finale leaves the Seawolves with a 21-7 overall record and a 14-6 Great Northwest Athletic Conference record.

They entered the week with a slim shot at the NCAA Division II playoffs — they're ranked 10th in the West Region, which will send eight teams to the postseason — but they suffered a Thursday night loss at sixth-ranked Central Washington.

"Twenty-one victories is an impressive accomplishment under any circumstances, so even if we are not fortunate enough to have our name called tomorrow, this team still has a lot to be proud of," UAA coach Chris Green said in a release from the school.

In what could be the final match of their careers, seniors Chrisalyn Johnson, Taylor Noga and Tara Melton shined.

Johnson, an outside hitter of Dimond High, registered the 39th double-double of her career and her 14th this season with 10 kills and 18 digs. Noga, an East High alum who returned to the front line after playing libero much of the season, racked up nine kills, 10 digs and four block assists. Melton, of Glendale, Arizona, tallied eight kills and a career-high 11 blocks, one of them solo.

Freshman Eve Stephens, meanwhile, provided impressive stats and a reminder that the future could be bright. The middle blocker from Colony High had 14 kills on flawless hitting — zero errors on 25 attack attempts for a hitting percentage of .560 – and was in on eight of UAA's 16 blocks.

Also sparking the Seawolves were junior Vanessa Boyer (10 kills), sophomore Anjoilyn Vreeland (team-high 26 digs), sophomore Casey Davenport (18 assists, 10 digs) and Ellen Floyd (28 assists, eight digs).

Shooting, then wildfire: Community faces dual tragedies

Sat, 2018-11-10 17:36

People pray outside a teen center in Thousand Oaks, California, which on Friday become a shelter for residents who fled the Woolsey Fire. Photo by Philip Cheung for The Washington Post (Philip Cheung/)

THOUSAND OAKS, Calif. - In a 24-hour span, Sgt. Eric Buschow worked two tragedies and slept no more than two hours.

A public information officer for the Ventura County Sheriff's Office, Buschow responded late Wednesday to a shooting at Borderline Bar & Grill that killed 12 people. He worked the scene all day, as the FBI arrived and the victims' names became public, before finally going to bed at 7 p.m. Thursday.

Two hours later, he was awake again. The raging Woolsey Fire, which started that afternoon and rapidly grew, had crept too close to his family's home. They were forced to evacuate.

Thousand Oaks is grappling with dual tragedies that struck within hours of each other, taking on more trauma and grief than a place could or should bear. After the shooting at Borderline, a popular country-music bar, many residents said they stayed up late, waiting to hear news. They went to bed physically and emotionally exhausted Thursday, only to be waked in the middle of the night by the blare of emergency alerts from their phones and frantic knocks at the door from neighbors. They needed to get out, they were told.

"Any one of these incidents would be a significant problem at any time," Buschow said, "but to have them actually all converge at once is just unprecedented for us."

This city of nearly 130,000 people is large enough to feel big, but small enough where many people are familiar faces. Red Spanish roofs top homes and shopping centers in this family-friendly city, which has dozens of parks and playgrounds.

On Friday, the normally picturesque town was surrounded by smoke.

Buschow and his family had to sleep in a car parked in a community college parking lot. The fire threatened many of the evacuation shelters nearby, and hotels across Thousand Oaks were full of reporters and area residents seeking safety.

When the sun came up, his wife and children returned to their house - which survived the fire - and he went to work.

Hundreds of personnel from more than 30 law enforcement agencies across the state have converged in the Thousand Oaks area, first to help with the shooting, then with the fires.

The FBI was there to investigate the shooting in a scene described as one from hell. The agency's effort was complicated by fears that wildfire debris and smoke might contaminate evidence from the shooting. Patrons threw stools through windows to escape, leaving behind holes in the walls that the FBI boarded up, Buschow said.

There are concerns that the fire could burn toward the bar. Buschow said law enforcement was looking into ways to mitigate the risk, and there is a contingency plan to keep the scene and the agents who are working it safe.

After working all day Thursday, the FBI agents retired to their hotel in nearby Agoura Hills, only to be evacuated as the Woolsey Fire, one of several wildfires burning in Southern California, raged toward them. The agents fled, Buschow said. They had nowhere to go, so they also slept in their cars.

"But you know what? At 5 a.m., they were back at the Borderline doing their work," he said.

One of the fires jumped Highway 101, a main thoroughfare that connects communities throughout the valley, clogging transportation arteries and delaying for hours the first responders who had been sent in to relieve people like Buschow.

"It's absolutely been chaotic. Nonstop chaos," Buschow said.

He added, "We also have a funeral to plan for a fallen sergeant." Sgt. Ron Helus, a 30-year veteran of the sheriff's office, was among those killed at the bar.

About three miles from the Borderline, officials had to repurpose the Thousand Oaks teen center. On Thursday, it was where relatives and friends of people missing at Borderline were told whether their loved ones were among the 12 who were killed. People cried and hugged and prayed. A man told the world through sobs that his beloved son was dead and that his last words to his child were, "Son, I love you." Members of the clergy streamed in the front doors, and a small therapy horse shuffled between the bar and center.

About 12 hours later, the complex reopened its doors, this time to house residents fleeing the wildfire. A gymnasium was filled with green cots. A woman on oxygen lay on one of the cots, a dog by her side. People wore green masks to protect themselves from the smoke. Others helped themselves to water and food: muffins, granola bars, fruit, croissants and blueberry scones.

At the senior center next door, a group of mostly elderly residents sat at long tables and watched television. A small fire broke out on a hill near the center Friday morning but was quickly doused by firefighters.

Patricia Reynolds, 57, sat on metal bleachers in the teen center's gym with her daughter Lyndsay Witkoski, 25, and her neighbor Mary Ann Best, 90.

"It's been a roller coaster for me emotionally," she said through tears. "My heart aches for everyone."

She had stayed up until 4 a.m. Thursday watching news of the Borderline shooting. At night, her phone buzzed: She needed to evacuate her condo complex. Her husband and son were at work and her daughter was at college in Northridge, a Los Angeles neighborhood that is about 35 miles northeast.

"I didn't know what to do," Witkoski said through sobs. She was already hurting from the shooting and felt lost. "I decided to come home regardless because I didn't know what to do."

Seventeen-year-old Karissa Herbert knew what she needed to do. She and her friends came to the center carrying packages with toothbrushes, deodorant and snacks for the evacuees.

The seniors at Rancho Campana High School in Camarillo, just west of Thousand Oaks, knew people who survived the Borderline bar shooting. The Borderline is one of the few places in the area where people under 21 can go out at night.

Herbert said she had been sending hourly text messages on Thursday to a friend who escaped the shooting. On Friday, she felt the urge to help the wildfire evacuees.

"What are the odds of that happening, a fire right after the shooting?" Herbert said. "The first responders had to deal with the loss of those innocent teenagers and then they have to deal with the fire. It's like, how much can we take?"

Across town, Beatriz Bera sat exhausted in a hotel lobby at 4 a.m. Friday. She and her family were waked by alerts on their phone two hours earlier telling them to evacuate, which were followed by their property manager banging on the door. Bera's family came to a hotel where her mother is a housekeeper.

"It is too much. First with the Borderline shooting, now the fire," Bera, 21, said.

As the assistant dean of students at California Lutheran University put it: "The whole city of Thousand Oaks is tired."

Outside the university's campus, Brandon Apelian waved a black and white flag with an orange stripe - a banner to honor those battling the blazes - when a classmate walked up to him.

"I just wanted to tell you thanks for being out here. You made my day," said Ramon Olivier, 22, a senior and music production major at the school. "My buddy Meek died."

Olivier had been forced to evacuate while still mourning the loss of his classmate Justin Meek, who died in the Borderline bar shooting. The school's president described Meek as "one of the greatest students we've ever had."

Meek and Olivier played water polo at school. Meek was killed trying to save others at the nightclub, the university said in a statement.

"It hurts me to see everyone else hurt," Olivier said. "This community is so close knit."

- - -

The Washington Post’s Annie Gowen and Tony Biasotti contributed to this report.

UAA women’s basketball team soars in season opener

Sat, 2018-11-10 17:10

And they're off.

The UAA women's basketball team opened its season in familiar fashion Saturday in San Francisco — with a lopsided victory fueled by defensive pressure and offensive balance.

In a 92-52 blowout of Holy Names University, the Seawolves — 124-12 in the previous four seasons — swiped the ball 16 times, scored 29 points off turnovers and got points and rebounds from 11 players.

The nonconference game was part of the Gator Invitational. The Seawolves return to The Swamp on Sunday to face tournament host San Francisco State.

Senior center Hannah Wanderee supplied 14 points and a game-high nine rebounds and newcomer Safiyyah Yasin scored a game-high 16 points to lead the Seawolves.

Yasin, a 5-foot-6 junior guard from Oakland, was one of five players in the UAA lineup who hail from the Bay Area. That attracted a fair number of fans who came to cheer for the Seawolves, who didn't disappoint.

Yazmeen Goo of nearby Daly City had 12 points on 5 of 7 shooting plus three assists and two steals; Sali Langi of Pacifica scored 12 points on 4 of 7 shooting and her sister Victoria Langi added four rebounds, three points and three assists; and Kian McNair of Vallejo was good for eight points, four rebounds and two steals.

Monica Valenzuela's 11 points topped Holy Names (0-1), a Division II team that plays in the Pac West Conference.

Her ex wants casual hook-ups even though he has a girlfriend. Good idea?

Sat, 2018-11-10 15:18

Wayne and Wanda advice bug

Dear Wayne and Wanda,

A few months ago, I ran into my ex, "Jack." It had been a while, and I had missed him, so when he suggested we walk to a bar down the block for a drink, I was game. I went along. Conversation flowed, so did the chemistry — and the drinks. He eventually suggested we go to my place, and we went there, and he stayed the night. And it was great. Sigh.

In the morning, Jack told me he'd had a lot of fun and he hoped we could hang out again but then he completely shocked me by saying he actually has a girlfriend. He said he hadn't done anything wrong — that they have an open relationship, but she would prefer to not know about his hook-ups.

This bothered me for a lot of reasons. I guess I didn't know it at the time, but I hoped I was more than just a hook-up? And maybe if I had known he had a girlfriend, I wouldn't have hooked up with him? He said I should relax and enjoy the "casual nature" of our connection — that we were never serious anyway, and this is "best of both worlds" because we can still meet up sometimes. But I feel confused about this whole thing. Maybe I like him more than I thought? I'm not sure if I feel OK with just hooking up. But dang I like this guy and also would like to enjoy whatever I can get. Is that bad?

Wanda says:

Open relationships have become something of a trend. Once taboo, illusive and rare, being "polyamorous" these days — meaning, having a relationship where you're allowed to varying degrees to take other lovers — is way more mainstream.

Just because something is part of the conversation doesn't mean it's something you need to be comfortable with. Especially when you're the sidecar to the motorcycle. Too blunt? Sorry. But here's the deal: if your dude is telling the truth, then he has a partner who is his priority, and you are a plaything whose involvement is occasional and the terms of which have been pre-negotiated with his primary.

If she even knows. Let's be honest, this sounds fishy. She knows he's in other relations but doesn't want to hear the details? That's a convenient narrative to support him being able to carry on with you in complete anonymity.

Take a time out and ask yourself, what do you really want here? Just sex? You can get that with someone with way simpler circumstances, who would be available to you more frequently. Do you want a relationship? You won't find it with this guy. That, I can guarantee.

Wayne says:

Also ask yourself if you would even want more out of this if he didn't have a girlfriend. Seriously. Up until the point he dropped the 'oh by the way' on his relationship status, it seemed like you didn't mind just fooling around and continuing on with your respective lives. But then he gives you the scoop on his girlfriend and (possibly) open relationship, and you get all sensitive and competitive.

That's understandable because it is something of a bad-timing bombshell and a really lame spot to put you in. He should have been more open — pun intended — about his situation before things escalated to the sheets with you.

But he's your ex, right? You didn't mention why you two stopped dating, but you also didn't say that you were really really hoping to one day get back together with him. You randomly bumped into him and then you did some not-so-random, totally casual and probably very familiar and fun bumping and grinding. Old feelings bubble up, sparks fly, things happen — it is what it is, until you both made it something more than it is.

He should have been more honest with you. And you should be more honest with yourself — you're upset because he's dating someone else and he put you in an awkward spot, not because you really want him back. Trust me: No more sex or texts with this ex.

The day the guns fell silent

Sat, 2018-11-10 14:24

Sgt. Robert Cude remembered that the bugle call, “Stand Fast” - cease firing - sounded across the foggy landscape of the British lines that morning.

The American motorcycle courier Leon George Roth noted that in the sudden quiet, he could hear his watch ticking.

Near the Moselle River in northeastern France, recording equipment that had been tracking the thunder of artillery flatlined.

It was 11 a.m. on Nov. 11, 1918 - a century ago Sunday - the 11th hour of the 11th day of the 11th month.

Armistice Day.

Now called Veterans Day, in the United States, it was the end of World War I, the Great War, which had killed and maimed millions of people and turned parts of Europe into a wasteland.

[‘The soul of America’: The day Arlington’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was dedicated]

It was the end of four years of unimaginable calamity.

Men and women were killed on an industrial scale with poison gas, machine guns and flamethrowers. Combat became mechanized, and machines helped consume much of a generation of young men, including more than 100,000 Americans.

The conflict was so devastating that it was called "the war to end all wars." Surely nothing like it could ever happen again. But it left a legacy of grievance and disorder, and historians now see it as Act I of the two-part tragedy that culminated in World War II and still echoes today.

But in 1918, soldiers knew only that the war was over.

"No more horrors," British Lt. Col. William Murray wrote. "No more mud and misery. Just everlasting peace."

The battle-weary French Cpl. Louis Barthas wrote: "How many times had we thought about this blessed day. . . . How many times had we peered into the mysterious future, looking for this star of salvation."

In Washington that night, bonfires burned on the Ellipse, south of the White House.

This weekend, the solemn day is being marked across Europe at the battlefields and cemeteries of France and Belgium, and in the United States at the future site of the National World War I Memorial in Washington, at Washington National Cathedral and at Arlington National Cemetery.

World War I had lasted more than four years, pitting Germany and its allies against France, Britain, Russia and their allies. The United States entered the war late but played a crucial role in the victory.

It had started over the assassination of an Austrian archduke in 1914 and rapidly pulled in Europe's major powers via a tangle of alliances, and a certain eagerness to be tested in war. "God be thanked Who has matched us with His hour," the British poet Rupert Brooke wrote in 1914.

Battles went on for months, trapping the combatants in what historian Paul Fussell called a "troglodyte world" of squalid trenches and endless artillery barrages.

In his book "The Great War and Modern Memory," Fussell calculated that there were 25,000 miles of trench lines on the Western Front, enough to encircle the Earth.

Between the trenches was the toxic, uninhabitable "no man's land," infected with putrefying corpses, rats and chemical agents, and swept by machine-gun fire.

In such conditions, the British and French fought the Germans at the Battle of the Somme from July 1 until November 1916. On just the first day, almost 20,000 British soldiers were killed.

At the Battle of Verdun, the Germans fought the French for nine months in 1916. The Germans suffered 325,000 casualties, including more than 140,000 men killed. French losses were about the same.

In the Meuse-Argonne Offensive, the Americans and the French fought the Germans for six weeks in 1918. Twenty-six thousand Americans were killed - the most of any battle in American history.

Some soldiers, called "Neverendians," thought the war would go on forever and become "the permanent condition of mankind," Fussell wrote, "like the telephone and the internal combustion engine, a part of the accepted atmosphere of the modern experience."

- - -

On Nov. 9, 1918, two German generals went to a stately mansion outside the Belgian town of Spa to call on the 59-year-old German emperor, Kaiser Wilhelm II.

The army was collapsing, the Kaiser was told. Armistice terms demanded by the Allies must be accepted. The war had been a disaster for Germany. Back home, the people were in revolt.

The kaiser, who bore much of the blame for fueling the war, objected.

"I shall remain at Spa, and then lead my troops back to Germany," he replied, according to historian Joseph Persico.

"Sire, you no longer have an army," said Chief of Staff Gen. Wilhelm Groener.

The kaiser agreed to abdicate and seek refuge in Holland. But as he was pondering a draft of his statement renouncing the throne, a German telegraph agency, tipped to what was coming, broke the news: The kaiser was finished.

"Treason, gentlemen!" the kaiser bellowed when he heard of the report. "Barefaced, outrageous treason!"

- - -

The armistice was signed at 5:10 a.m. in a railroad car in the Forest of Compiegne, northeast of Paris, an event described in Persico's 2004 book, "Eleventh Month, Eleventh Day, Eleventh Hour."

But it didn't go into effect until 11 a.m.

All the soldiers had to do was stay alive until then.

"I am as nervous as a kitten," the British sergeant Cude wrote. "If I can only last out the remainder of the time, and this is everyone's prayer. I am awfully sorry for those of our chaps who are killed this morning and there must be a decent few of them too."

Indeed, in some places, the war went on insanely right up to 11 a.m.

At 10:45 a.m., the American 313th regiment - Baltimore's Own - had already taken the town of Ville-devant-Chaumont. But the brigade commander, Brig. Gen. William Nicholson, had ordered "no let up" until 11.

At that moment, Henry Gunther, a draftee from East Baltimore, was pinned down in the fog by two German machine guns. Gunther had been an employee of the National Bank of Baltimore. But he was of German descent, had relatives in Germany, and worried that his comrades thought he was a sympathizer, according to Persico and old newspaper stories.

[Commemorating the ‘Great War,’ America’s forgotten conflict]

He tried to prove he wasn't by an almost reckless action, his fellow Doughboys said later.

"We couldn't see them, but we hugged the ground and sent a lot of rifle fire in the direction of the position," Gunther's buddy Ernest Powell recalled of the moment many years later.

"Gunther, who was lying by my side, suddenly jumped up and ran into the fog toward the Germans," Powell wrote in the Baltimore Sun Magazine in 1968.

A 1919 report in the Sun, gathered from Gunther's buddies by a former Sun reporter, said that as Gunther charged, the Germans yelled and waved him back. But he kept on, firing with an automatic rifle. Finally, one of the machine guns fired a short burst.

"That was the end of the war for Henry Gunther," Powell wrote.

It was 10:59 a.m. Gunther is believed to be the last American killed in World War I and one of the estimated 2,700 men killed on both sides on the Western Front on the war's last day.

Shortly after 11, the German gunners emerged, put Gunther's body on a stretcher and carried it into the American lines.

They had to shoot him, they said, because he wouldn't stop, and it was either him or them.

- - -

The night before, amid rumors of an armistice, the American 115th Infantry Regiment, an outfit from Maryland, had received what one of its chaplains called a death sentence.

Battered by bloody weeks at the front, where several men had committed suicide and others had suffered self-inflicted wounds, the regiment had been resting and recovering behind the lines.

But on Nov. 10, the 115th had been ordered to move out and join the assault on the ancient fortress city of Metz, then in Germany, scheduled for Nov. 14.

"All hopes were dashed," the chaplain, Lt. Frederick Reynolds, wrote. They would be returning to "hell."

The following morning, "we rolled our packs . . . and with heavy hearts turned grim faces toward Metz," he recalled after the war.

But just before the march began, came word of the armistice.

There would be no attack on Metz. The war was over.

"You can imagine - no, you can't imagine, it is impossible for anyone to imagine who did not experience it - the sense of relief and pure joy," he wrote. "The feeling of gratitude was too deep for noisy expression. . . . We quietly looked at each other, whispered a 'Thank God,' and wondered if it could really be true."

Across France, church bells rang, and people sang "La Marseillaise." In Paris, delirious citizens poured into the streets, linked arms, and clambered on top of trucks and cars. Veterans with crutches and empty coat sleeves joined in.

In the German trenches, joyous soldiers shouted that the war was over, and threw weapons and gear toward the American lines, according to Persico.

In London, at 11, Big Ben tolled for the first time in four years. Crowds rejoiced outside Buckingham Palace. In the House of Commons, Prime Minister Lloyd George said, "I hope we may say that . . . on this fateful morning, came to an end all wars."

But some men weren't so happy.

U.S. Army Lt. Col. George Patton Jr., for one, was dismayed that it was over. The future World War II hero wrote a bleak poem, "Peace - November 11, 1918," in which he longed for more combat, according to National Archives historian Mitchell Yockelson.

I stood in the flag-decked cheering crowd

Where all but I were gay ...

Another distraught soldier was a German veteran recovering in a hospital after being gassed. A clergyman broke the news of the armistice to the patients.

"I tottered . . . my way back to the dormitory, threw myself on my bunk, and dug my burning head into my blankets and pillow," he wrote later. "That night I resolved that, if I recovered . . . I would enter politics."

The soldier was Adolf Hitler.

Commemorating the ‘Great War,’ America’s forgotten conflict

Sat, 2018-11-10 14:20

World War I was still a living memory for most Americans when I was growing up in the 1960s and early 1970s.

Aging doughboys who had fought on the Western Front in 1917 and 1918 still marched on Veterans Day. These World War I enlisted men often referred to this holiday by its original name, Armistice Day.

My mother invariably bought and wore an artificial red poppy on Veterans Day. I learned much later the poppy signified the blood and sacrifice of those who died on Flanders Field, a Belgian battle site that was the subject of the war's most famous poem.

With the 100th anniversary of the end of the First World War on Nov. 11, 2018, as a scholar who has spent my career studying war in 20th century America, I am struck by the degree to which World War I has faded from popular memory.

Few Americans can name a single battle from this conflict. Heroes such as "Ace of Aces" fighter pilot Eddie Rickenbacker and "the greatest civilian soldier of the war," Alvin York are no longer household names.

Even fewer Americans remember the distinguished record of the Harlem Hell Fighters and other black regiments attached to the French army.

The fact that World War I is the forgotten war for Americans serves as a cautionary tale that some important memories can fade despite sustained efforts to foster them.

On Nov. 11, 1921, the official first unknown soldier is buried in this tomb in Arlington National Cemetery. U.S. Army

Memorials proliferated

World War I broke out in Europe in 1914, eventually pitting Germany, the Austro-Hungarian empire, the Ottoman Empire and Bulgaria against Belgium, France and its empire, Great Britain and its Empire, Canada, Australia, New Zealand, Russia, Serbia, Romania, Italy, Japan, China, Portugal and a number of smaller nations.

The U.S. was officially neutral at the beginning of the war. Most Americans saw no compelling argument to send American troops to fight Europe's war abroad. Late in the war, and only after a divisive debate and German submarine attacks that caused the death of Americans, did the United States enter the conflict in 1917.

The United States' entry into the war ensured the European balance of war and avoided German dominance on the continent. The victory achieved on Nov. 11, 1918 at 11:00 a.m. would be commemorated by Americans as the "war to end all wars."

In its aftermath, the war was publicly acknowledged in a variety of ways. The generation that went to war in 1917 transmitted its memory through the thousands of memorials they built, the Memorial Day holiday, and in their memoirs of war as a glorious endeavor.

Under the auspices of the American Battle Monuments Commission, they established overseas national cemeteries for the war's dead and erected monuments in France and the United Kingdom.

They created a new way of mourning the war dead with the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier, where the unidentified dead received a state funeral and burial at Arlington National Cemetery.

Indeed, World War I marked the first time that many countries systematically created graves for all soldiers, whether they could be identified or not.

And in Paris in 1919, American veterans of World War I founded the American Legion, which is still the nation's largest veterans organization.

Flanders Field American Cemetery and Memorial, in Waregem, Belgium, where 411 American soldiers who died in WWI are buried. Library of Congress

Bitter debates

What has been lost along with the memory of the war is the memory of the bitter debates that engulfed the United States in the decades after the war, the 1920s and 1930s. When researching my dissertation and first book, Remembering War the American Way, I was stunned by how virtually every aspect of commemorating the war engendered debate during the interwar period.

For instance, the decision to build overseas cemeteries for the war dead faced challenges from parents of many of the fallen who wanted to bury their sons in hometown cemeteries. In the end, the federal government retreated from keeping all the war dead in cemeteries abroad and allowed families to decide whether a doughboy who died for his country would be buried at home or in one of the overseas cemeteries.

During my eighth-grade class trip to Arlington National Cemetery to visit the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier in 1974, I remember how impressed we were at the spit and polish of the ceremony marking the changing of the guard. In fact, the origins of this ceremony and even the need for a guard in the first place stems from complaints of the American Legion in the 1920s that tourists were picnicking on the unfinished tomb and, even worse, that juvenile delinquents were playing games on them.

Memorials and division

Those who build memorials are often implicitly aiming to accomplish something other than memorializing.

In the case of World War I, the memorials were intended to heal and mask regional, ethnic and ideological divisions. For instance, the Unknown Soldier was hailed as an everyman because he could be rich and poor, native born or foreign born, a city dweller or a farmer.

The paradox of these efforts to forge memories in stone, marble, and copper is that memorials are often overshadowed by the controversies they are intended to heal.

Although memorials to World War I proclaimed that Americans had fought a "war to end all wars," the post-war world remained perilous. Many elements contributed to the growing danger: A return of American isolationism, the war debt owed to the U.S. by European allies, the crushing of "Prussian militarism" that led to the birth of communist Russia and the fascism that took hold of Italy in the early 1920s.

Memorials sought to display the unity of all Americans, but the terrible legacy of World War I was the fear it engendered. During the war, German Americans were persecuted by vigilantes because of their ancestry. Despite the patriotic service of scores of new Americans from southern and eastern Europe, the U.S. Congress passed legislation restricting immigration of what were deemed undesirable immigrants from these regions.

Why have Americans forgotten World War I?

Perhaps the answer is that World War II reshaped the memory of the First World War. The fact that another world war broke out in less than a generation discredited the notion that World War I was a "war to end all wars." As World War I faded into oblivion, it became easier to simply forget all the deep divisions engendered by this war for the more comforting narrative of World War II as the "good war".

Gabriela Baláž Maduro contributed to this story.

G. Kurt Piehler is a Florida-based writer and Associate Professor of History at Florida State University.

‘Very strong’ storm poised to strike Bering Sea communities

Sat, 2018-11-10 13:47

A powerful storm could menace Western Alaska communities with 60 mph gusts and floods starting Sunday, potentially causing damage in villages lacking coastal sea ice to stop waves.

The storm should generate high winds and surf along the extreme western Seward Peninsula and St.  Lawrence Island in the Bering Sea through Tuesday, said Tyler Rodenbaugh, a meteorologist with the agency in Fairbanks.

Tempests in the region have packed an extra punch in recent years as sea ice has shrunk, leaving coastal communities increasingly exposed to wave damage.

Storms shredded roads and other property in coastal communities last fall and winter, including Utqiagvik, formerly Barrow, leaving costly damage and leading to a state disaster declaration.

Residents in the village of Gambell on St. Lawrence Island on Saturday were making sure boats and other items are secured, said Edmond Apassingok, 55, secretary for the village corporation.

The storm will be the village's first major storm this fall, he said.

Families typically have extra food on hand for situations like this, in case winds prevent planes from reaching the island for several days, he said.

"It will cause erosion on our northern beach," Apassingok said of the storm, though the ocean shouldn't reach the road, he said.

The weather service is calling for winds from the northeast between 35 mph and 45 mph. Gusts could reach 60 mph.

The agency has issued a high-wind warning for the region, with slight chance of snow and rain. It's keeping an eye on the system to determine if further warnings are necessary, said Rodenbaugh.

"We're expecting elevated water levels, and strong winds affecting east-facing and north-facing shorelines," he said.

A "very strong" low-pressure system is moving in from the west, generating the winds, he said. The winds could also causing flooding along coasts, the agency said.

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A strong storm system will impact portions of the Bering Sea early next week. Northeasterly winds from this system are...

Posted by US National Weather Service Alaska on Friday, November 9, 2018

Alaska chickadees are brainier than their southern counterparts

Sat, 2018-11-10 13:43

A black-capped chickadee at 40 below zero. (Photo by Ned Rozell)

Alaska chickadees have proven themselves brainier than Colorado chickadees.

A researcher at the University of California Davis once compared black-capped chickadees from Anchorage to chickadees from Windsor, Colorado, and found that the Alaska birds cached more sunflower seeds and found the seeds quicker when they later searched for them. The Alaska chickadees also had brains that contained more neurons than those of Colorado chickadees.

Vladimir Pravosudov of the UC Davis psychology department performed the study to test the notion that northern birds would be better at hiding and finding seeds than birds in a more moderate climate.

He chose to capture birds in Anchorage, which has a day length of about 5 hours, 30 minutes on Dec. 22, and compare them to birds he captured near Windsor, about 50 miles north of Denver, where the Dec. 22 day length is about 9 hours, 15 minutes.

With the help of biologist Colleen Handel of the U.S. Geological Survey in Anchorage, Pravosudov captured 15 black-capped chickadees using a mist net at bird feeders around Anchorage in fall 2000. He later captured 12 black-capped chickadees near Windsor.

All the birds went to his lab in Davis, where he gave them the same food and amount of daylight for 45 days. After 45 days he tested eight birds from Alaska and eight from Colorado in a room with 70 caching holes drilled in wooden blocks and trees.

In late summer through fall, black-capped chickadees gather and hide seeds, insects and other foods to retrieve later, when they have fewer hours of daylight to feed and less food is available. Though black-capped chickadees live their entire lives within a few square acres, the species ranges from as far north as Anaktuvuk Pass in Alaska to as far south as New Mexico.

All black-capped chickadees cache food, but Pravosudov and other researchers wanted to find out whether northern birds are better at hiding and finding food because of shorter days and colder temperatures.

The tests supported that theory. The Alaska birds cached about twice as many sunflower seeds as the Colorado birds and later found them with about one quarter as many tries per seed. The Alaska birds performed about the same as the Colorado birds on a test of learning to associate a color with a food, but Pravosudov said the Alaska birds also had a larger hippocampus, an area of the brain linked to memory.

The results of the experiment did not surprise Susan Sharbaugh, an expert on chickadees formerly with the University of Alaska's Institute of Arctic Biology. Alaska's winters probably do a good job of favoring birds that have good memories, she said.

"It's a great example of natural selection," she said. "Tough winters winnow out the ones that can't remember where their caches are. In the Lower 48, if a chickadee has a good memory, it's fine; up here you have to have a great memory."

‘The soul of America’: The day Arlington’s Tomb of the Unknown Soldier was dedicated

Sat, 2018-11-10 12:20

Honor guards patrol the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier at Arlington National Cemetery in Arlington, Virginia, on Friday. Photo for The Washington Post by Astrid Riecken (Astrid Riecken/)

Arlington National Cemetery had never seen a funeral quite like the one that was held the morning of Nov. 11, 1921. The nation’s highest military officers were there, along with congressional leaders, Supreme Court justices, diplomats from around the world and a crowd so huge the president’s car was forced to drive across fields for him to get there in time.

An "homage of a hundred million" was how one breathless headline writer described the unprecedented turnout and a funeral that took up nearly the entire front page of the next day's Washington Post.

It was a historic honor for one person, although no one in attendance knew who that person was.

Today, the Tomb of the Unknown Soldier is as solid in the public psyche as its massive marble slabs are heavy on that hallowed ground. The resting place of one "hero known but to God" sits at the center of national remembrance, drawing millions of visitors a year and an annual pilgrimage from the commander in chief.

Before that autumn morning, there had been no such tradition. Monuments to the unnamed dead had always been collective. The original site of Memorial Day ceremonies at Arlington was an enormous ossuary containing bones from 2,111 soldiers gathered from Civil War battlefields.

But the killing technologies of World War I brought new levels of identity-wiping devastation. More than 116,000 Americans were slaughtered, including 1,652 who were too damaged to be identified.

"People could be atomized by a shell fired from five miles away," said Philip Bigler, the former of historian at Arlington National Cemetery and author of a soon-to-be-released book, "Tomb of the Unknown Soldier: A Century of Honor."

Britain, which suffered even greater losses, didn't allow its dead to be brought home for burial to avoid years of disheartening and politically destabilizing funerals.

Instead, on Nov. 11, 1920, the second anniversary of the armistice that ended the war, the British military buried an unknown casualty at Westminster Abbey with state honors. France, likewise, interred an unknown soldier at the Arc de Triomphe.

In Washington, decorated World War I veteran and Rep. Hamilton Fish of New York proposed the United States do the same. New York City offered to host the memorial in its new Pershing Square. Some lawmakers wanted to put the body in the crypt beneath the Capitol Rotunda that had been designed for - and refused by - George Washington. But in March 1921, Congress approved a measure to locate the tomb in front of the newly constructed Memorial Amphitheater at Arlington.

For Fish, who led the African-American Harlem Hellfighters in combat, the key was to honor a soldier who could have been of any rank or race. "The whole purpose of this resolution is to bring home the body of an unknown American warrior who in himself represents no section, creed, or race," Fish said in congressional testimony, "who typified, moreover, the soul of America and the supreme sacrifice of her heroic dead."

As work started on the tomb, officers in Europe began the tricky work of finding a suitably unidentified body to fill it.

It took tremendous efforts to keep the Unknown Soldier from being known, even just a little bit. Officials didn't want anyone to suss out even where the soldier had been killed - be it Belleau Wood, Marne or Meuse-Argonne - so he could better represent every casualty.

To start, they disinterred four sets of remains from American battlefield cemeteries in France and made doubly sure there was no way to get a trace on their identities, no scrape of a letter, rosary or distinguishing mark.

On Oct. 23, they arrived at the village of Châlons-sur-Marne. In a specially decorated room in the city hall, the unmarked coffins were placed on their shipping crates, which had been draped with American flags to conceal any hint of which cemetery they had come from. A combined French and American honor guard stood post.

Early the next morning, an American major shuffled the coffins again, putting them on crates other than their own. With a crowd of onlookers outside, a military band in the courtyard and senior officers lining the corridor, a much-decorated American enlisted man, Sgt. Edward F. Younger, entered the chamber carrying a spray of white roses. After circling the four caskets more than once, Younger placed the roses on one, stepped back, and saluted it.

That morning, the Unknown Soldier began an unprecedented ceremonial journey from Northeastern France to a bluff over the Potomac River. (The three unselected bodies were buried not far from Paris.)

The casket, still carrying its spray of roses, was rolled through town on a caisson, escorted by Army units from both countries, generals, military bands, Boy Scouts and American Legionnaires. Local widows, many in black, lined the route to the railroad station.

An honor guard stayed with the casket day and night during its rail journey to Paris and then to the port of Le Harve, where more crowds, speeches and salutes awaited.

Schoolchildren threw flower petals as they proceeded to the docks. Six sailors and two Marines took possession of the casket from the Army body bearers and carried it to a place of honor at the stern of the USS Olympia. A 17-gun salute boomed around the port as the cruiser and its escorting destroyer put to sea, followed at the start by eight French naval vessels.

"The French very much appreciated the United States coming over there," said Bigler. "There was a sense that this had been an American victory."

Two weeks later, the Olympia docked at the Washington Navy Yard and the pomp continued. The ship was greeted by the Army chief of staff, the Marine commandant, the secretaries of the Navy and Army, and Gen. John J. Pershing.

Following an enormous and meticulously timed procession to the Capitol, the Unknown Soldier lay in state in the Rotunda, his casket resting on the platform, or catafalque, built for Abraham Lincoln. Among the first to pay respects were President Warren G. Harding. His wife, Florence, placed a ribbon next to the spray of roses. More than 90,000 people passed through on Nov. 10.

The next day - Armistice Day (now called Veterans Day) - the walking parade from the Capitol to Arlington was a "Procession Without Parallel," according to the next day's Post.

The soldier's caisson was accompanied by the president, chief justice, Pershing and the chiefs of staff, members of Congress, more than 40 fraternal group and Medal of Honor winners marching four abreast. Only former president Woodrow Wilson, who had suffered a stroke, rode in a carriage.

"All America, Rich and Poor, Aged and Young, President and Commoner, Solemnly Bares Head to Unknown Hero," read a headline.

More than 5,000 tickets has been distributed, swamping the capacity of the amphitheater. Fish laid a wreath, as did Chief Plenty Coups, leader of the Crow Nation. Following the ceremonies, the soldier was lowered onto a layer of soil from France and a three-volley salute salute fired.

It would be a decade before the budget process allowed the simple slab to be replaced with the sculpted Colorado marble tomb that is there today, its sunset-facing side bearing the familiar epitaph: "HERE RESTS IN HONORED GLORY AN AMERICAN SOLDIER KNOWN BUT TO GOD."

Nearly a century later, countless flowers and wreaths have been placed before the tomb (and the unknown fallen from World War II and Korea that came in later years), laid by presidents and veterans and the simply grateful. Within the stone, beneath the dust of ancient white roses, rests a nameless soldier known around the world.

New edition of a solo kayak adventure will charm and inspire

Sat, 2018-11-10 12:18

Paddling North: A Solo Adventure Along the Inside Passage, by Audrey Sutherland. Patagonia Works, 2018 paperback. 303 pages. $16.95.

In 1980, at the age of 60, a high school counselor in Hawaii decided it was time to do something for herself and set out on a solo kayak trip from Ketchikan to Skagway. She not only completed this — 850 miles in 85 days — but returned for twenty more summers to again kayak through Alaska's Inside Passage. The story of her first journey is told in this remarkable book, first published in 2012 and now available in a beautiful paperback edition.

Audrey Sutherland, who died three years ago at age 94, was a truly amazing and inspiring person, as well as a lovely writer. In Hawaii, she tells us, before she could afford any kind of boat she used to swim around the islands, "towing a bag of gear and camping in the valleys." (An earlier book about this, "Paddling My Own Canoe: A Solo Adventure on the Coast of Molokai," has also just been reprinted by Patagonia.)

“Paddling North: A Solo Adventure Along the Inside Passage” (Courtesy Patagonia Works)

The boat Sutherland depended upon in Alaska was a nine-foot-long, yellow, inflatable "plastic canoe" without a rudder. Her main consideration in choosing it, aside from its low cost, was that she could bring it in a duffle from Hawaii and carry it by herself up and down beaches. It weighed eighteen pounds. Her creed: go simple, go solo, go now.

Sutherland planned meticulously for her adventure — drying and packaging foods, studying maps and charts, mailing ahead packages to meet her at post offices in a handful of communities, and reserving Forest Service cabins for ten nights, to take a break from camping in rain. A goal she set for herself was to visit nine hot springs en route, and her search and descriptions of these — some found and others not — are one of the delights here. (She was to find that many features on her maps and charts, including cabins, trails, and even one water passage, no longer existed. Time and tide, even isostatic rebound — the lift of land after the last glacial period — were then and still are reshaping the coastline.)

In what she refers to as her "epicurean spoof," Sutherland details many of her meals. These may leave even an armchair reader jealous — that she could put together such gorgeous, mouth-watering meals while the rest of us, in our home kitchens, settle for toast and canned soup. Here's one she prepared for herself: "First the hot wet oshibori washcloth, the hot sake to sip, sushi rolled in black nori seaweed, miso soup, a mound of hot rice, a tempura assortment of fresh mussels, rehydrated mushrooms, and fucus seaweed, and finally smoked oysters from a can." She did not forget the powered wasabi for her sushi. Then there was the mug of tea and a sweetened black-bean paste for dessert. She ate with spruce chopsticks she whittled on the spot.

Anther time, when she had the use of a cabin, she made and canned kelp pickles, using glass jars she collected from beaches. She carried these to her next post office stop and mailed them home to Hawaii.

Many of her recipes (paella valenciana, Portuguese bean soup, and fruit dumplings among them), with camp cookery tips, are included with the text, along with detailed maps showing her route, campsites, and key landmarks. Colorful block prints of landscapes, wildlife, and that yellow canoe add to the whole effect.

Always, the author's writing is insightful and charming, with truly beautiful descriptive passages. Often it's also humorous.

Here she is, camping on a sunny day, with laundry hung to dry and herself in a hammock made from seine web she found on the beach: "I lay bare in the sun, listening, dreaming, melting like a lighted candle into the earth. It was strange to see my bare feet again. They usually went from boot to bed to boot again, without taking off the socks. They looked quite fragile. My hands, however, are tools — pliers, carabiners, vise grips, antennae, turnbuckles. I should spray them with Rustoleum."

Mostly alone, she relished her solitude. On occasion, she met up with other boaters or fishermen, or residents of the few and far communities where she stopped. "There is a rhythm to this country: hard paddling and rest, rain and sun, wind and calm, hide tide and low tide. A sense of space and the far-off throb of a diesel tugboat. A forest enclosure and the chirp of a tiny brown bird. People and a sense of being human, then a week of being a solo animal in an animal world. A dozen dragonflies hovering, then soaring out of sight. The mite of a red spider crawling over my toe."

"Paddling North," while it can locate readers to specific coves, beaches, current-rushed straits, and even hot springs in Southeast Alaska, is not a guidebook. Rather, it is a sort of guide to life, a sharing of one adventurer's philosophy and her love for what she finds in nature, in testing herself, and in deep thinking. It stretches far past "I went there, I did this" into an examination of life akin to the work of Thoreau, Muir, E. B. White, and others she quotes along the way. She also brings into her text her cultural knowledge of Hawaii and what she learns along the way of Alaska history and indigenous knowledge.

In our age of high-tech clothing and equipment, guided trips, and lives that are circumscribed in so many ways, Audrey Sutherland shows us a life of purposeful self-realization. "Paddling North," previously known mostly within the kayaking world, deserves to become a beloved classic. "Go simple, so solo, go now."

Nancy Lord is a Homer-based writer and former Alaska writer laureate. Her books include "Fishcamp," "Beluga Days," and "Early Warming." Her latest book is "pH: A Novel."

Recount to begin in Florida Senate, governor’s races, in echo of 2000 presidential election

Sat, 2018-11-10 11:10

Republican Senate candidate Rick Scott smiles as he speaks to supporters at an election watch party, Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2018, in Naples, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee) (Wilfredo Lee/)

As heavily Democratic counties in South Florida scrambled to meet a Saturday deadline to report election returns, Republican Rick Scott’s lead over Democrat Bill Nelson in the U.S. Senate race shrunk to just 12,562 votes out of nearly 8.2 million votes cast, ensuring a recount.

Vote totals posted Saturday showed the margin in the marquee race in the nation's biggest battleground state at .015 percent, close enough to trigger a recount by machine. Also hitting that threshold was the race for governor between Democrat Andrew Gillum and Republican Ron DeSantis, who is sitting on slightly bigger cushion of 33,684 votes over Gillum.

In Broward and Palm Beach counties Saturday morning, attorneys from both parties quibbled over ballots in which the intent or eligibility of the voter was in doubt as the minutes ticked toward a noon deadline. Scott's narrowing lead as vote-counting continued this week has provoked litigation and raucous street protests reminiscent of the contentious 2000 election, as well as accusations by President Donald Trump of "election theft."

Scott, who has also raised allegations of fraud, used his bully pulpit Saturday to encourage Florida sheriffs to keep an eye out for any violations of election laws.

But the claims by the president and the governor were undercut Saturdayby the Florida Department of State, which said in a statement it found "no evidence of criminal activity at this time." The department, which oversees elections, had sent two monitors to observe Tuesday's vote in Broward County as result of a lawsuit over the mishandling of ballots in a 2016 congressional race.

A spokeswoman for the state department, Sarah Revell, said the observers were sent to "monitor the administration of the election, including visiting polling locations throughout the day as needed and observing preparation of the voting equipment and procedures for the election." The monitors have continued to monitor the vote-counting this week.

Nelson has accused Scott of using the power of his office to try to secure his Senate victory. Earlier this week, the governor called for state law enforcement to investigate the voting in South Florida - a probe that the state agency has so far declined to begin because the state department has not presented any allegations of fraud.

Under Florida law, a statewide machine recount is conducted when the margin of victory is less than 0.5 percent, and a manual recount is ordered if the margin is less than 0.25 percent. The governor's race does not appear to meet the manual recount standard, according to Saturday's tally.

A manual recount is defined as "a hand recount of overvotes and undervotes set aside from the machine recount," centering on ballots in which voters skipped a race or voted for two candidates in one race.

Officials from both parties have focused much of their ire on Brenda Snipes, supervisor of elections in Broward County, Forida's second-largest county and the site of the "hanging chads" and other ballot irregularities during the 2000 presidential recount.

In a brief interview, Snipes brushed off the criticism. "It's kind of like a hurricane, where things get really stirred up for a while and then it passes," she said. "I don't know when this will pass, but it will."

The battle is also playing out on a national level, as the Scott campaign arranged for Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., to complain about the vote-counting in a call with reporters. He compared the situation in Florida to the contentious confirmation of Supreme Court Justice Brett Kavanaugh.

Graham encouraged Scott to report to Washington next week for orientation for new senators, regardless of the recount. "If the recount goes, the recount goes," said Graham.

Scott campaign manager Jackie Schutz Zeckman said the governor's team was still working on his schedule.

- - -

The Washington Post’s Sean Sullivan contributed to this report.

Millennial men leave perplexing hole in hot US job market

Sat, 2018-11-10 11:04

Job seekers arrive for a Shades of Commerce Career Fair in the Brooklyn borough of New York on Feb. 7, 2018. Bloomberg photo by Gabby Jones. (Gabby Jones/)

Nathan Butcher is 25 and, like many men his age, he isn’t working.

Weary of long days earning minimum wage, he quit his job in a pizzeria in June. He wants new employment but won't take a gig he'll hate. So for now, the Pittsburgh native and father to young children is living with his mother and training to become an emergency medical technician, hoping to get on the ladder toward a better life.

Ten years after the Great Recession, 25- to 34-year-old men are lagging in the workforce more than any other age and gender demographic. About 500,000 more would be punching the clock today had their employment rate returned to pre-downturn levels. Many, like Butcher, say they're in training. Others report disability. All are missing out on a hot labor market and crucial years on the job, ones traditionally filled with the promotions and raises that build the foundation for a career.

"At some point, you can have a bit of an effect of a lost generation," according to David Dorn, an economist at the University of Zurich. "If you get to the point where you're turning 30, you've never held a real job and you don't have a college education, then it is very hard to recover at that point."

Men -- long America's economically privileged gender -- have been dogged in recent decades by high incarceration and swollen disability rates. They hemorrhaged high-paying jobs after technology and globalization hit manufacturing and mining.

The young ones have fared particularly badly. Many of them exited high school into a world short on middle-skill job opportunities, only to be broadsided by the worst downturn since the Great Depression. Employment plummeted across the board during the 2007 to 2009 recession, and 25- to 34-year-old men fell far behind their slightly-older counterparts.

Though employment rates have been climbing back from the abyss, young men never caught up again. Millennial males remain less likely to hold down a job than the generation before them, even as women their age work at higher rates.

Their absence from the working world has wider economic consequences. It marks a loss of human talent that dents potential growth. Young people who get a rocky start in the job market face a lasting pay penalty. And economists partly blame the decline in employed, marriageable men for the recent slide in nuptials and increase in out-of-wedlock births. Those trends foster economic insecurity among families, which could worsen outcomes for the next generation.

Butcher has a high-school diploma and a resume filled with low-wage jobs from Target and Walmart to a local grocery store. He's being selective as he searches for new work because he doesn't want to grind out unhappy hours for unsatisfying compensation.

"I'm very quick to get frustrated when people refuse to pay me what I'm worth," he said. His choosiness could be a generational trait, he allows. His mother worked to support her three kids, whether she liked her job or not.

"That was the template for that generation: you were either working and unhappy, or you were a mooch," he said. "People feel that they have choice nowadays, and they do."

There is no one explanation for what's sidelining men -- data suggest overlapping trends -- but Butcher sits at a revealing vantage point. His demographic has seen the single biggest jump in non-participation among prime-age men over the past two decades: About 14 percent of 25- to 34-year-olds with just a high-school degree weren't in the labor force in 2016, up from 6.4 percent in 1996, according to Federal Reserve Bank of Kansas City analysis by economist Didem Tuzemen.

It's difficult to pin down whether the demographic wants to remain on the sidelines or is kept there by a dearth of attractive options. They could be choosing to stay home or enroll in school because well paying, non-degree jobs in industries like manufacturing are fewer and further between. But it isn't clear why lost opportunity would hit young men hardest.

Other social changes could be exacerbating the trend. Better video games might make leisure time more attractive, some economists hypothesize, and opioid use might make many less employable. Young adults increasingly live with their parents, and cohabitation might be providing a "different form of insurance," said Erik Hurst, an economist at the University of Chicago.

So the question looms: Is the group's employment decline permanent? Survey data may offer clues.

Young men have been reporting higher rates of school and training as a reason for their non-employment in a Labor Department survey, and a large share say that disability and illness are keeping them from work. Those factors explain much of the wider post-2007 participation gap between 25- to 34-year-olds and their older counterparts, according to an analysis by Evercore ISI economist Ernie Tedeschi.

Disability insurance overall has begun to fall amid economic gains, so young men offering that explanation might start working again, Tedeschi said.

As for school and training, it's not obvious that the move toward higher enrollment will reverse -- or that it should.

"Education doesn't necessarily strike me as a policy failure," Tedeschi said.

Butcher, for one, hopes EMT training at The Community College of Allegheny County will be a first step toward a career in health care. He wants to earn enough to provide security for his son and daughter, who live with their mother.

“It’s a good start to a career,” he said.