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Updated: 2 hours 53 min ago

Missionaries plucked from Bering Sea after crash

Fri, 2018-08-10 12:18

This story was originally published Aug. 15, 1993.

Seven people returning from a church mission in Russia spent about 30 minutes in the Bering Sea on Friday before being rescued after the plane they were in ran out of fuel. Alaska State Troopers responded to an emergency distress call from a twin- engine Navajo about 8 p.m. Friday. The plane, returning from Russia, had taken off from St. Lawrence Island and was headed toward Nome. It went down about 25 miles west of the town near Sledge Island.

State troopers in Nome said Saturday that they relied on local volunteers, who scrambled to come up with a helicopter and small plane, for the rescue. While the passengers and pilot clung to empty fuel drums, the helicopter hovered inches above as volunteers plucked them from the frigid waters. The helicopter flew each one to the nearby island while a small plane flew overhead to keep track of those left in the water.

“They were real lucky,” said state trooper Gary Jones, who helped coordinate the rescue effort from his Nome office. “Basically, that’s all they had was those cans. They were all exhausted and clinging to cans, and it doesn’t take long for that cold water to sap their strength.”

Jones said members of the Nome Army National Guard, who usually respond to such emergencies, were on their way back from a mission and were unable to respond.

“We are just really grateful that it turned out way it did,” he said. “It was not an easy rescue.”

All seven were treated for hypothermia at Norton Sound Hospital in Nome, and by Saturday all had been released.

Among those from Alaska rescued were Pamela M. Swedberg , 30, of Soldotna and the pilot, David G. Cochran, 70, of Kenai. The others were from out of state.

Review: Lead actors are definitely the high point in stoner comedy “Never Goin' Back”

Fri, 2018-08-10 11:56

At one point in "Never Goin' Back," a pair of 16-year-old waitresses sit in the dimly lit back office of a small-town Texas diner, high out of their minds on edibles. After staring at a picture of a tropical paradise on their boss's computer screen, one of them turns to the other and says, slurring her words, "What's the deal with screen savers like that in depressing places like this?"

A similar question could be asked of the movie's buoyant stars, Maia Mitchell and Camila Morrone, who play high school dropouts Angela and Jessie, who long to escape their humid, desolate hometown. Although these best friends do their best to scrape together enough money to pay for rent and a beach vacation, a string of drug-fueled detours - some of their own making, others the fault of Jessie's dealer brother Dustin (Joel Allen) - land themat a wild party, in a burger joint's supply closet and even behind bars. Everywhere but the beach.

Camila Morrone, left, and Maia Mitchell play a pair of waitresses who hit some detours in a quest for a beach vacation. MUST CREDIT: Photo by Clay Grier-- A24 (Clay Grier/)

Director Augustine Frizzell has drawn from her own wayward youth to write "Never Goin' Back," which puts a fresh spin on stoner-comedy tropes. These teenage girls can be just as crass as their counterparts Harold and Kumar. They spew dirty jokes, most of which - for once! - occur at the expense of male characters, such as their pervy roommate (Kyle Mooney). And although financial struggles don't bog down the lighthearted tone, they remind viewers that well-off teenagers aren't the only ones who deserve to let loose on screen.

Because of its girls-gone-bad premise, which Frizzell clings to for dear life, "Never Goin' Back" has been compared to "Spring Breakers" (also from indie studio A24). There are few notable plot points here: a good portion of the meandering movie, which relies heavily on bodily-fluid-centric humor, follows Angela and Jessie on a quest to launder their work uniforms. At times, it seems as though there is no point to the lowbrow movie at all.

[Review: ‘The Spy Who Dumped Me’ is so … so-so. Kate McKinnon: So good.]

The supporting characters' shenanigans eventually wear thin, save for a hilarious attempted robbery in which Dustin believes that wearing sheer pantyhose as a mask will conceal his identity. But Angela and Jessie's antics never get old. "Never Goin' Back" owes much of its watchability to the actresses' natural chemistry. Together, they paint a portrait of adolescent friendship so vibrant that it makes up for much of the movie's structural flaws.

Each time Angela tries to rope Jessie into another one of her harebrained schemes, you root for Jessie to go along with it, even though it will inevitably fail. (Past attempts to get out of work include hitting each other with bricks to fake a car accident, and deliberately getting bitten by bugs to fake chickenpox.) To viewers, it won't matter where the girls are trying to end up. You're just happy to witness their unwavering determination to getting there.


2.5 stars.

R. Contains crude sexual material and coarse language throughout, drug use and brief nudity, all involving teens. 86 minutes.

Ratings Guide: Four stars masterpiece, three stars very good, two stars OK, one star poor, no stars waste of time.

In memoir, former White House aide says she refused hush money from Trump campaign

Fri, 2018-08-10 11:43

Omarosa Manigault Newman on “Celebrity Big Brother.” (Cliff Lipson, CBS / File)

WASHINGTON – Omarosa Manigault Newman was offered a $15,000-a-month contract from President Donald Trump's campaign to stay silent after being fired from her job as a White House aide by Chief of Staff John Kelly last December, according to a forthcoming book by Manigault Newman and people familiar with the proposal.

But she refused, according to the incendiary new book, "Unhinged: An Insider Account of Trump's White House," which also depicts Trump as unqualified, narcissistic and racist. Excerpts of the book were obtained by The Washington Post.

After she was fired, Manigault Newman wrote, she received a call from Trump campaign adviser Lara Trump, the president's daughter-in-law, offering her a job and the monthly contract in exchange for her silence.

The proposed nondisclosure agreement allegedly said Manigault Newman could not make any comments about Trump or his family; Vice President Mike Pence or his family; or any comments that could damage the president. It said she would do "diversity outreach," among other things, for the campaign, according to her account.

"The NDA attached to the email was as harsh and restrictive as any I'd seen in all my years of television," Manigault Newman writes in the book.

The Trump campaign did not respond to a request for comment on Friday.

In a statement, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the book "is riddled with lies and false accusations. It's sad that a disgruntled former White House employee is trying to profit off these false attacks, and even worse that the media would now give her a platform, after not taking her seriously when she had only positive things to say about the President during her time in the administration."

The allegations threaten to become another political headache for the administration akin to another controversial book earlier this year by journalist Michael Wolff, "Fire and Fury: Inside the Trump White House," which detailed a wayward White House and prompted broad denunciations from Trump and his aides. The White House had initially planned on trying to avoid commenting on the Manigault Newman's book to keep it from getting more attention, White House aides said.

Manigault Newman is expected to appear on "Meet the Press" Sunday morning and will then go on a longer publicity tour. It comes at the first anniversary of deadly white-supremacist protests in Charlottesville, where Trump was criticized for saying there fine people "on both sides."

Her book is the first insider account from a White House aide that is not largely flattering toward the president. Manigault Newman, who was the highest-ranking black employee in the White House, calls Trump a "racist, misogynist and bigot." She alleges in the book that there is a tanning bed in the White House residence and says the president fought with the now-departed chief usher over the installation of the bed; other aides say they have not seen a tanning bed in the White House.

Manigault Newman also writes that Trump told her he was unaware of her firing by Kelly. "No! No one even told me," she quotes Trump as saying. "I didn't know that. Damn it."

Whether the book paints an accurate depiction of Trump's conduct or amounts primarily to a disgruntled tome from a reality TV star-turned-White House aide is in dispute. Manigault Newman has known Trump for more than a decade and held one of the highest-paid positions in the West Wing for a year, securing the job as an "assistant to the president" after starring as a famed villain in his TV show, "The Apprentice," and working for the Trump Organization.

Manigault Newman does not offer evidence for some of her most explosive charges but also extensively taped her conversations in the White House, according to people familiar with the tapes, who requested anonymity to describe the recordings. The existence of some tapes was first reported Wednesday by the Daily Beast.

Manigault Newman litters the book with specific quotes from White House aides. She describes many scenes inside the White House vividly – explaining who was in the room and exactly what was said.

She questions Trump's mental state, describes him as unstable and portrays him as unable to control his impulses while describing the extensive lengths that staff members have gone to in attempts to keep him in line.

"All we need to remember is that Trump loves the hate," she writes in the book. "He thrives on criticism and insults. He delights in chaos and confusion. Taking to Twitter to call him names only fuels him and riles his base. To disarm him, starve his ego; don't feed into it."

White House aides have long described Manigault Newman as a problematic employee who tried to stage a wedding photo shoot at the White House, exploded at other West Wing aides and left shoes strewn around the West Wing. For months, they accurately feared that she was taping conversations inside the building. In the eyes of many around Trump, the book is another publicity-grabbing stunt from a reality TV star known for them.

Even as aides warned him against it, Trump often spoke to Manigault Newman and invited her to come by the Oval Office, a practice that Kelly eventually curtailed. She served as Trump's chief liaison to the African American community and often vouched for him.

The book is a mix of unverified accusations and vivid, quote-filled exchanges from her time with Trump on the campaign trail and in the White House.

For months while in the White House, Manigault Newman said she spent time searching for a rumored tape of Trump saying the n-word on tape as host of "The Apprentice." She writes in the book without providing evidence that such a tape exists. Manigault Newman also says that other aides in the White House kept tabs on rumors of the tape.

"By that point, three sources in three separate conversations had described the contents of this tape," she writes. "They all told me that President Trump hadn't just dropped a single n-word bomb. He'd said it multiple times throughout the show's taping during off-camera outtakes, particularly during the first season of the Apprentice."

In early 2017, Manigault Newman says she walked Michael Cohen, then Trump's personal lawyer, into the Oval Office for a meeting with Trump – and saw the president chewing up a piece of paper while Cohen was leaving the office. Another White House official confirmed that Manigault Newman brought Cohen into the White House and was later rebuked for it. The two remain in contact, according to people familiar with the relationship.

"I saw him put a note in his mouth. Since Trump was ever the germaphobe, I was shocked he appeared to be chewing and swallowing the paper. It must have been something very, very sensitive," she writes in her book.

There is no proof that he chewed on paper, and several White House aides laughed at the assertion and said it was not true.

Manigault Newman also writes in the book that she was contacted in February by the FBI, but does not elaborate on why they called her or what she told them.

She describes in vivid detail her firing from the Situation Room, with direct quotes attributed to Kelly and ethics lawyer Stefan Passantino.

According to her account, Kelly comes into the room and begins by saying, "We're going to talk to you about leaving the White House."

"The integrity issues are very serious," Kelly continues. "If this were the military, this would be a pretty high level of accountability, meaning a court-martial . . . If we make this a friendly departure, you can look at your time here in the White House as a year of service to the nation. You can go on without any type of difficulty in the future relative to your reputation."

Manigault Newman then begins demanding an explanation for why she was being fired and whether Trump knows. Kelly tells her it is nonnegotiable and soon leaves the room after mentioning "serious integrity issues."

"The staff works for me, not the president. So after your departure, I'll inform him," Kelly told her, according to the book. "With that, I'll let you go."

She is kept in the Situation Room for more than an hour, according to her telling in the book, with her husband waiting outside. She fights with Passantino, who tells her she is being fired for abusing the government car service. She tries to explain why she used the car each time – for official government business, in her telling – to no avail.

"It's not a fight that is winnable," Uttam Dhillon, another lawyer, says.

Manigault Newman writes in the book that there was erroneous reporting on her exit – that she did not get into a big fight with Kelly at the White House Christmas party and that she did not try to fight her way past security and get into the residence.

"I never imagined that this ludicrous story – pure gossip – would blow up like it did," she said.

Passantino did not respond to a request for comment.

Trump tells Manigault Newman that he had no idea she was ousted the day before, according to her account. "I just saw on the news you were thinking about leaving!" Trump says. "What happened?"

Manigault Newman responds that Kelly told her "you guys wanted me to leave." Trump expresses his displeasure.

Manigault Newman said the call from Trump was followed by a call from Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law, and Ivanka Trump, his daughter, who said she "really loves" Manigault Newman and would do anything for her.

"Call us anytime," Kushner says on the call, according to the book.

Then, Lara Trump called and reiterated how much the president and the family loved Manigault Newman, offering her the job and wanting to make sure "everything is positive."

"If you come on board, we can't have you mention that stuff," she added, referring to interviews Manigault Newman gave immediately after her firing.

Records show road rage and gun threats in Florida stand-your-ground shooter’s past

Fri, 2018-08-10 11:15

In this July 19, 2018 file frame from surveillance video released by the Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office, Markeis McGlockton, far left, is shot by Michael Drejka during an altercation in the parking lot of a convenience store in Clearwater, Fla. (Pinellas County Sheriff’s Office via AP, File)

TAMPA, Fla. — The Clearwater man who shot and killed a father of three outside a convenience store in a parking dispute last month — setting off a stand your ground debate that has swept Florida and the nation — has a history of road rage.

Since 2012, according to records and interviews, 47-year-old Michael Drejka has been the accused aggressor in four incidents. Investigators documented three cases in police reports.

The other was not shared with authorities at the time but involved the same handicap-reserved parking spot outside the Circle A Food Store near Clearwater and another shooting threat.

Two involved allegations of Drejka showing a gun. In another, a trooper accused him of aggressive driving and cited him after a crash when Drejka braked hard in front of a woman driving with two children.

Drejka has not spoken publicly in the weeks since he shot and killed 28-year-old Markeis McGlockton. No one has spoken much about him, either. Not family. Not neighbors. Not lawyers. Several alleged victims in previous incidents either declined to comment or could not be reached. Drejka remains, in many ways, an enigma to the public. He has not been arrested.

In the latest stand your ground controversy, Drejka is the key surviving player, yet people don't even know what he looks like. He's just a blurry figure on the ground in a grainy surveillance video, arms straight, head tilted as he pulls the trigger. He has no criminal record in Florida and no discernible social media presence.

The police reports describe a man quick to anger, but who always denied he threatened anyone with a gun. Former prosecutors said the earlier cases could possibly be used if Drejka is brought to trial, as evidence that he pulled out his weapon because he was frustrated, not afraid.

Twice investigators admonished Drejka, telling him he was fortunate the alleged victims of his road rage did not want to press charges.

If they had, an officer once said, authorities could have revoked his concealed carry permit.

The two 18-year-olds called authorities when the black truck was still behind them.

One said he had stopped at a yellow light about noon on Jan. 10, 2012, and the man in the pickup began to honk and yell out the window. He motioned for the teen to walk back to the truck, according to the 18-year-old, then hung a black handgun out the window, taking out the magazine and putting it on his dashboard alongside another magazine.

The 18-year-old said he drove away with his friend, on U.S. 19 around Sunset Point Road, but the truck followed, then passed. The man slammed on his brakes, the teen recalled, and turned into the parking lot of an Arby's at Curlew Road. The 18-year-old said he kept driving, but soon the black truck, a Toyota, had returned.

In this Sunday, July 22, 2018 photo, family, friends and demonstrators gather in a parking lot in Clearwater, Fla., where Markeis McGlockton, 28, was shot and killed in an altercation. (Luis Santana/Tampa Bay Times via AP)

The man eventually broke off in a different direction, the teens said, but they had taken down his license plate number. Deputies traced it to Drejka and went to his house in Clearwater, according to the police report. He pulled into the driveway as they were leaving a business card.

Drejka told the deputy the other car had cut him off at State Road 580 and U.S. 19. He said he honked and yelled but did not follow the other car and did not show a gun. He did have one, however, a .40-caliber Glock in his center console. He also had a concealed carry permit.

The deputy was skeptical, according to the report, asking Drejka how the teens knew he had a gun.

The deputy wrote: "I informed Michael if he had displayed his weapon that he was lucky (the teens) did not wish to press charges."

A Largo police officer was driving later that year when several people in another car pulled up to him on Highland Avenue to make a report.

A man in a black Toyota pickup had just threatened one of them with a gun, they said, pointing it out. They drove off, but the officer turned around to follow the truck on Dec. 13, 2012.

The driver of the Toyota pulled into a church parking lot before the officer could make a traffic stop. By the time the officer approached, Drejka already held his driver's license and concealed carry permit in hand.

He said "he had not pointed a gun at the other car," according to a police report, and that the other people were lying, before the officer asked any questions.

Drejka had tucked a .40-caliber Glock between his seat and center console. He said he always kept it there while driving, according to the report. The officer asked him to step out of the truck and found a loose bullet near the gas pedal and a loaded magazine below the seat. Drejka wore a holster inside his shorts behind his right hip.

"I could still see the impression of the gun in his skin," the officer wrote.

Drejka told the officer he honked at the people in the other car but never showed them his gun. He said he did not think they were driving fast enough in a school zone, where the speed limit was 15 mph. The people in the other car, Drejka said, threw up their middle fingers as soon as he honked, and one of them had shouted at him.

The officer wrote that he asked what the man in the other car had said, and "Michael contorted his face while doing a gruff Spanish accent, saying 'You got a gun in your truck, you got a gun in your truck.'"

The officer didn't believe Drejka and said it would be strange for someone to shout about a gun if they hadn't already seen it.

The officer wrote that there was "no doubt" Drejka pulled his gun. But the victims drove off, so the officer did not arrest him.

"I advised him his (concealed carry) permit did not give him the right to exhibit (a gun) because he was 'flipped off' for honking at someone," the officer wrote. "I told him a report would be taken and that if the victim was located he could face jail and the loss of his (concealed carry permit)."

A Florida Highway Patrol trooper responded to a car crash at Alt. U.S. 19 and Pennsylvania Avenue less than a year later.

A woman in a Ford Edge had crashed into the back of Drejka's pickup. She had two children, ages 4 and 7, in her vehicle, but no one was hurt.

The woman said she was turning and had pulled into the center lane, waiting for the truck to pass, but Drejka said he thought she had almost hit him. He "began to slam on his brakes," according to a crash report, "decreasing his speed quickly in an aggressive manner."

The woman smashed into the back of his truck shortly before 3 p.m. Nov. 13, 2013.

Drejka "admitted that he was 'brake checking'" the woman, the trooper wrote. He was cited for stopping or making a sudden decrease in speed without signaling. The woman's car had to be towed from the scene, according to the report, and the trooper estimated the damage at $8,000.

A couple of months ago, Drejka was in the same parking lot outside the same Circle A Food Store arguing over the same handicap-reserved space, according to a man who said Drejka threatened to shoot him.

Rick Kelly, 31, told The Tampa Bay Times that Drejka circled his tanker truck and confronted him about why he parked there.

Kelly asked why it mattered. He recalled that Drejka said his mom (whom records show died in 2007) is handicapped.

The argument escalated. Drejka yelled, Kelly said, and used a racial slur. Kelly is black. Drejka is white.

Drejka, he said, threatened to shoot him.

But the dispute didn't end there.

Drejka called the Clearwater septic tank company Kelly works for to complain, telling owner John Tyler that he didn't like the way Kelly had talked to him and that he was "lucky I didn't blow his head off."

Tyler, a gun owner himself, told the Times he was shocked.

"I said, 'I'm sorry you feel that way, that you feel that it's justified to take someone's life over a parking space,'" he said. "That was the chilling part about it when I found out who it was with the (McGlockton) situation."

Drejka's case is before the Pinellas-Pasco State Attorney's Office, which will decide if he should face charges in McGlockton's death.

Pinellas Sheriff Bob Gualtieri declined to arrest him, citing Florida's stand your ground law.

Legal experts said Drejka's previous road rage incidents could come into play if he is charged, especially if his defense team were to argue stand your ground.

The statute applies when a person has reasonable fear for his life or serious injury. Shortly before the shooting, surveillance footage shows, McGlockton pushed Drejka to the ground as Drejka argued with McGlockton's girlfriend about the handicap-reserved parking space.

Former Pinellas prosecutor Bill Loughery said the other dispute over parking at the store, and the two driving confrontations involving guns, could show Drejka "uses his gun in an unreasonable fashion."

"(If) he had a propensity to use or show his gun in unreasonable circumstances, that would definitely affect whether he behaved in a reasonable manner," Loughery said.
Bob Dekle, a former prosecutor and professor emeritus at the University of Florida, said previous cases are not always admissible, but prosecutors may argue Drejka's history offers evidence about his mindset.

"If he wasn't in fear," Dekle said, "self defense is not an issue and stand your ground is not an issue."

The state attorney, he said, could use the previous cases to try to prove the shooting was in fact "not a product of fear, but a product of anger."

(Times senior news researcher Caryn Baird contributed to this report.)

Alaska seabird die-off continues for another summer

Fri, 2018-08-10 11:05

In this March 15, 2016, photo provided by the National Park Service, Tony DeGange, a retired U.S. Geological Survey biologist, takes measurements of common murre carcasses at Hallo Bay in Katmai National Park, Alaska. (Stacia Backensto/National Park Service via AP)

U.S. wildlife officials are documenting a continuing seabird die-off stretching hundreds of miles along the coast of Alaska.

U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service seabird biologist Katherine Kuletz says the die-off follows previous bird deaths over the past five years tied to warming ocean water.

The birds have been found emaciated, but Kuletz says it's too early to rule out diseases that could cause seabirds to experience problems foraging.

Hundreds of thousands of seabirds died in late 2015 and early 2016.

[Hundreds of dead birds found on Bering Sea shores]

Kuletz says the numbers this year range into the hundreds from the Bering Strait to the Gulf of Alaska.

She says it's unusual for seabirds to be dying over such a broad geographic area for so long.

Agencies are appealing to coastal communities to report dead and dying birds.

Check back for updates.

How Alaska eats: From sea to Saltry in Halibut Cove; high time for local zucchini, porcini and berries

Fri, 2018-08-10 10:39

Alaskans know how to eat. Find another place where people are better at DIY food (hunting it, fishing it, picking it; schlepping it on airplanes, ATVs, snowmachines, kayaks, in backpacks; butchering it, cleaning it, smoking it, freezing it, preserving it). You can't. To eat at our tables is to understand our culture. (Home cooking is another area where we excel.) This newsletter is a place for all things Alaska food. 

Maya Wilson – ADN food columnist, cookbook author and author of the blog Alaska from Scratch – is filling in for writer Julia O'Malley for the next few weeks. As always, we'd love to hear your feedback, Alaska food ideas and questions!

An off-menu Alaska seafood mixed protein plate at The Saltry in Halibut Cove, with octopus, king salmon, scallops, side stripe shrimp and a side of mussels. August 4, 2018. (Photo by Maya Wilson)

Newsletter #8: How to eat mussels like an Alaskan

Last weekend for my birthday, my wife surprised me with a trip to The Saltry in Halibut Cove, the stuff of Alaska food dreams. We sat down to our 8:15 p.m. dinner reservation at a table directly facing the water. Picturesque is an understatement. Our server came to the table and raved about the mussels, harvested just nearby at precisely 9:25 a.m. that morning and in the kitchen by 10:30 a.m. He named the farmer and the location and explained that all of the wild Alaska seafood on the menu is caught within 10 miles of the restaurant. It really doesn't get much fresher than that. Of course, we ordered those mussels.

Our server then taught us how to enjoy our mussels Alaska-style by forgoing the fancy little forks and instead using an already emptied mussel shell like tweezers to pinch out the meat. Worked like a charm. Finally, he encouraged us to toss the mussel shells over the rail, back into the sea.

[Get all your Alaska recipes and food news in one place! Get How Alaska Eats newsletter delivered to your inbox every Friday: Sign up here]

As the night wound down and the sun began to set on the cove, the new chef came out and sat and enjoyed a glass of wine with us. He told us about the rigors and complexities of providing fresh, local cuisine on an island only accessible by boat, including a two-week long stint with no power, when they had to run the kitchen on a generator that only had enough juice to power either the refrigerator or the dishwasher, but not both at the same time. Later, the owner, Marian Beck, came and greeted us. We talked, not surprisingly, about our local fisheries and the accessibility of ingredients.

But for those of us who live on the road and have access to our farmers markets this weekend, it's zucchini time. Grab a bunch and try this week's recipe for zucchini brownies. For a savory take, try Alaska Knit Nat's white lasagna with zucchini and porcini mushrooms, which are also starting to pop up everywhere we look, a forager's dream. Berries are still at their peak, so check out Susie Jenkins-Brito's rhubarb kale smoothie bowls over at Set the Net.

Zucchini brownies (Maya Wilson / Alaska from Scratch)

Fire Island Rustic Bakeshop just announced the grand opening of their big, new South Anchorage bakery this Friday, Aug. 10, at 160 W. 91st Ave., just past Anchorage Brewing Co. Check out their new space @fireislandbread on Instagram or, better yet, go see it in person.

Julia O'Malley will be back in a few weeks, but in the meantime, check out her Alaska recipe testing group on Facebook.

Maya Wilson lives and cooks on the Kenai Peninsula and writes the Alaska From Scratch blog. Her book, "The Alaska from Scratch Cookbook: Seasonal. Scenic. Homemade," was published in 2018 by Rodale Books/Penguin Random House. She will be the head chef at a new restaurant (@addiecamp) in Soldotna coming later in 2018.

Judge holds Roger Stone associate in contempt for refusing to testify in Mueller probe

Fri, 2018-08-10 10:25

Roger Stone, former adviser to Donald Trump’s presidential campaign, arrives to a closed-door House Intelligence Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, D.C., Sept. 26, 2017. (Bloomberg photo by Andrew Harrer)

WASHINGTON – A federal judge has found a witness in contempt for refusing to testify before the grand jury hearing evidence in special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 presidential election.

U.S. District Chief Judge Beryl Howell made the ruling Friday after a sealed hearing to discuss Andrew Miller's refusal to appear before the grand jury. Miller is a former aide to longtime Trump confidant Roger Stone.

Miller's lawyer Paul Kamenar said after the hearing that Miller was "held in contempt, which we asked him to be in order for us to appeal the judge's decision to the court of appeals."

Howell stayed her order while Miller's legal team appeals the judge's decision.

Miller lost a court battle earlier this month to quash a subpoena, after Howell issued a 93-page opinion saying Miller must testify before the grand jury.

Kamenar said he believes Miller's challenge could ultimately rise to the Supreme Court.

"None of these questions are easy," the lawyer said, adding that the appeal was designed to challenge the constitutionality of Mueller's appointment, not slow or obstruct the investigation.

A hearing transcript from June 18 shows Miller was subpoenaed for information about Stone as well as key figures in the 2016 hacking of the Democratic National Committee, and the public release of Democrats' emails during the campaign.

According to that transcript, the subpoena seeks information from Miller about the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks and its leader, Julian Assange. WikiLeaks published large volumes of hacked Democrats' emails during the campaign.

The subpoena also seeks information about Guccifer 2.0 and DCLeaks. Investigators say both were online fronts invented by Russian intelligence operatives to spread the hacked documents. DCLeaks was a website that posted hacked emails of current and former U.S. officials and political aides, while Guccifer 2.0 claimed to be a Romanian hacker.

Miller had asked for "some grant of immunity" specifically regarding financial transactions involving political action committees for which he assisted Stone, according to Alicia Dearn, an attorney for Miller.

On that issue, Miller "would be asserting" his Fifth Amendment right to refuse to answer questions, Dearn said.

As for the hacking and WikiLeaks questions, Dearn said at the hearing, "we don't believe he has any information" about those topics.

Peter Flaherty, chairman of the National Legal and Policy Center, a conservative nonprofit that is funding Miller's legal fight, said Miller is in Missouri.

Earlier in the day, Kamenar and Flaherty were seen entering Howell's courtroom before she sealed it, and declined to comment on the proceeding. Kamenar spoke afterward, confirming it was a hearing held after prosecutors filed a motion to find the witness in contempt.

When a subpoenaed witness refuses to testify before a grand jury, that person can be held in contempt. In some cases, such a contempt finding can lead to a witness being sent to jail until the person agrees to testify.

Mueller is investigating whether any of Trump's associates conspired with Russia's efforts to influence the election. Stone has faced scrutiny in part because of a series of public statements and tweets he made during the 2016 campaign appearing to suggest he had advance knowledge of the hacked emails released by WikiLeaks. The emails' publication embarrassed Democratic nominee Hillary Clinton and helped disrupt the race.

U.S. intelligence agencies have concluded the Russian government was behind the hacking of the material from the Democratic Party and the personal email account of Clinton's campaign chairman, John Podesta. A grand jury indicted 12 Russian military officers in July for orchestrating the hacks.

Miller worked for Stone during the 2016 presidential campaign, handling duties such as setting up media interviews. He is one of at least a half-dozen of Stone's associates to be called to testify. Others include his driver, John Kakanis, and a social media consultant, Jason Sullivan. Kristin Davis, who gained notoriety in the 2000s as the "Manhattan Madam" when she ran a high-end prostitution ring, is also expected to testify to the grand jury.

Stone has accused Mueller's team of harassing his associates.

Park service helicopter reaches wreckage of plane on ridge near Denali

Fri, 2018-08-10 10:18

The wreckage of the K2 Aviation plane is near the summit of Thunder Mountain on the north side of the ridge, roughly 14 miles southwest of the summit of Denali. (NPS photo)

A National Park Service helicopter reached the site of a crashed flightseeing plane near Denali on Friday morning.

Better weather allowed a high-altitude helicopter to get a ranger to the wreckage before 10 a.m., park service spokeswoman Katherine Belcher said.

The de Havilland Beaver is perched on a hanging glacier on the north side of a 10,500-foot ridge about 14 miles from the summit of Denali.

Bad weather persisted for days after the crash, allowing just a 5-minute window for a mountaineering ranger who dropped to the wreckage by rope Monday to confirm that nobody aboard survived.

Five people — a pilot from Michigan and four passengers from Poland — were aboard when the flightseeing plane crashed Saturday on a remote mountain deep in the Alaska Range. It was the deadliest accident in recent history for an air taxi flying into Denali National Park and Preserve.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

This NASA spacecraft will go where none has gone before: Very, very close to the sun

Fri, 2018-08-10 09:44

An illustration of the sun-bound Parker Solar Probe. NASA/Johns Hopkins APL/Steve Gribben

The source of all light and life on Earth is also the source of one of its biggest natural threats: space weather. The sun's atmosphere regularly erupts with fast-moving flashes of protons and explosions of energetic particles that can hit Earth within minutes and disrupt radio communication, interfere with GPS and fry the electric grid. A "worst case scenario" space weather event could cause more damage than Hurricanes Katrina, Harvey and Sandy combined.

"It sounds like science fiction," said National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration meteorologist William Murtagh, who heads the Space Weather Forecasting Center. "But it's something that's not only possible but very likely to happen in the not-too-distant future."

Scientists have long struggled to understand and predict space weather events, because the ferocious environment around the sun makes them difficult to witness as they form.

But as early as Saturday morning – if all goes according to plan – Murtagh and scores of other researchers will watch as NASA's newest spacecraft, the Parker Solar Probe, embarks on a mission to get closer to the sun than any human-made object has before.

It's the culmination of a half-century effort to understand our star, Murtagh says, and it may help us prepare for the hazards the sun may throw at us in the future.

Part of the sun erupted on Sept. 1, 1859. English astronomer Richard Carrington noticed a brilliant white solar flare on the sun, brighter than the sunspots he usually observed. Roughly a day later, a blast of charged particles – known as a coronal mass ejection, or CME – arrived at Earth, jostling the planet's magnetic bubble. People as far south as Cuba saw the sky light up with auroras. Geomagnetic currents sent surges of electricity through copper telegraph wires, zapping operators and setting telegraph paper aflame.

If a similar event happened today, it would bring life as we know it to a halt.

The energetic particles within a coronal mass ejection can penetrate the walls of spacecraft and pose a radiation risk to astronauts and the technology they depend on. They can interfere with satellites, disrupting radio communication and GPS. And a CME hits our planet's magnetosphere at the right angle, it can generate powerful waves of electricity within the Earth. These may then infiltrate utility grids and blow out transformers that provide electricity – like tripping a circuit on a massive scale.

The sun exploded again in July 2012, spewing material toward Earth at nearly 6 million miles per hour. This time the coronal mass ejection hit a NASA spacecraft called STEREO-A at full-blast. The spacecraft's sensors were stressed, but they still managed to measure the solar particles, gusts of solar wind and the strength of the interplanetary magnetic field.

A year after the explosion, in a paper published in the journal Space Weather, astrophysicists examined the STEREO-A data to answer a worst-case question. "What if that coronal mass ejection had occurred 10 days earlier," said Daniel Baker, a professor of planetary and space physics at the University of Colorado at Boulder and one of the authors of the study, "when the earth was in the line of fire?"

Their conclusion: If it had hit Earth, Baker and his colleagues wrote, there was a "very legitimate question of whether our society would still be 'picking up the pieces.'"

In 2008, a National Academies of Sciences, Engineering and Medicine report on the economic and societal impacts of space weather came up with a worst-case estimate for an extreme geomagnetic storm: It could cost North America up to $2 trillion in the first year, and recovery would take four to 10 years.

It's said that space weather science lags about 50 years behind terrestrial weather forecasting. Meteorologists know what conditions cause hurricanes, and they can spot the seeds of a storm brewing over the ocean long before it makes landfall.

But warning times for space weather events are often measured in minutes, Murtagh said, and there's too much we don't know.

"There's a lack of understanding," Murtagh said. "It's science. It's knowledge of the sun and the physical processes that are likely to produce those energetic particles. We just don't fully understand the science yet."

Much of our modern understanding of the sun stems from 91-year-old Eugene Parker, for whom NASA's new probe is named.

In the mid-1950s, Parker discovered a link between two seemingly unrelated space mysteries. First, bizarrely, the corona, or atmosphere of the sun, is hotter than its surface – scientists liken the sun to a campfire that feels hotter the further one stands from the flames. And second, the dusty tails of comets always point away from the sun, as if blasted by a powerful wind.

Parker realized that the corona isn't a static halo, but a stream of material from the sun itself. It starts slow and dense and zooms up as it escapes the sun's gravity, eventually exceeding the speed of sound. The pointed tails of comets behave like windsocks caught in the solar wind.

The acceleration of the particles in the solar wind remains one of the "fundamental mysteries of the sun," said Nicola Fox, a heliophysicist at the Johns Hopkins Applied Physics Laboratory and the project scientist for Parker Solar Probe. And it's one of the keys to understanding CMEs – the extra-destructive blasts that pose so much danger to life on Earth.

After the National Academies released its sobering 2008 report, "awareness, both at government and in the public, for this hazard really came to the fore," said a Federal Emergency Management Agency official, who agreed to speak on the record on the condition of anonymity.

Trillion-dollar space storms are a rare issue that rallies Republicans and Democrats alike. The Obama administration's executive order 13744 created a national space weather policy in 2016. FEMA recently finished drafting a federal operations plan for space weather, which was sent to the Trump administration for approval. Congress is also considering legislation directing funds toward developing a space weather plan.

The issue is particularly pressing for the East Coast of the United States between Washington and Maine, not only because of the extensive electric infrastructure in this region. The very ground beneath our feet makes us vulnerable, Murtagh said. The 300-million-year-old igneous rock on which the Eastern Seaboard is perched doesn't conduct electricity well. If a current strikes this rock, it will seek an easier path – like metal pipes, telephone wires and electric cables.

Eventually, the current can hit high-voltage transformers, the spine of the power grid, and overwhelms their magnetic cores.

Technological infrastructure affected by space weather events. (NASA)

This isn't idle speculation. It happened, on a relatively small scale, in Canada in 1989. The sun belched out a gas cloud in early March that cut off radio signals. (At first, some observers suspected Soviet, not solar, interference.)

Electrical currents buzzed through the ground and flooded into the Hydro-Québec power plant. Six million people in Québec were without power for nine hours. Glancing effects were felt as far away as New Jersey, where the electrical surge roasted a transformer at the Salem Nuclear Power Plant.

Industry reports suggest operators would have enough time to shut down the grid before it suffered permanent damage. But others are not as optimistic.

"We're not going to know until a real event happens whether or not that's a true statement," said the FEMA official, who added that power utility engineers "won't say this publicly," but they have been stocking up on spare transformers where they can. Installing new transformers – which would have to be built overseas – might take one or two years.

That a future solar storm will blast Earth is not a question of if, but when. In 2012, Peter Riley, who studies the sun's corona at Predictive Science Inc., a San Diego-based company that develops computer models of the sun, published an article in Space Weather that calculated the odds of a Carrington-scale repeat. Within the next decade, he concluded, it could be about 12 percent – on par with the risk of other 100-year hazards, like massive floods.

Over the next seven years, the Parker Solar Probe will embark on a series of 24-egg shaped orbits around the sun, repeatedly swinging past Venus to re-orient itself. Each close approach will shoot it through the corona at a breathtaking 450,000 miles per hour – fast enough to get from Washington to New York in about a second. With its dust detectors, particle counters, and a telescope that can take 3-D images of the corona, the probe will measure the sun's electric and magnetic fields, scoop particles from the solar wind for sampling, and watch as shocks travel out from the sun's surface, through the atmosphere and into space.

"There's no doubt in my mind that measurements from probe and our understanding is going to have a huge impact on our ability to predict space weather," said Christina Cohen, a scientist at the California Institute of Technology's Space Radiation Lab who studies energetic particles.

It's a project scientists have dreamed about for roughly as long as they've known about the solar wind. But it took half a century to develop the necessary technology. When the spacecraft makes its first close approach in November, a carbon-composite heat shield will be all that protects the minivan-sized Parker Solar Probe from the million-mile-wide ball of hot gas.