Alaska News

Subscribe to Alaska News feed
Alaska Dispatch News News Feed
Updated: 2 hours 4 min ago

Letter: UAA money

Sat, 2019-07-20 15:18

Why is the University of Alaska Anchorage spending so much money on advertising against the governor cutting their funding instead of on education? I guess it proves they do not really need that funding.

Dick Whitaker

Wasilla

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

Letter: Just the beginning

Sat, 2019-07-20 15:12

The scenes of a Wasilla middle school gym filled with mostly empty portable tables, with bleachers full of PFD fans cheering on, as the place our governor selected to make some of the most important decisions ever facing Alaska, says more than words can say about the state of our state.

Early on in this debate about the state budget, the Mayor of Valdez wrote an editorial titled “Death by one cut,” in response to the governor’s proposal to cut property tax sharing with his community. Gov. Mike Dunleavy has upped the ante with over 110 cuts to a state budget proposal that represent the efforts of the majority of the state legislators to represent the best interests of all Alaskans. And please note, Alaskans, this is only Phase One of budget cuts by the Pied Piper of Permanent Fund dividends, as he has promised more to come in the future sessions.

Can you imagine three more years of this?

Is it not clear that Alaskans must find a leader more suited to the challenges that face us?

It’s time to thank our governor for creating the most involvement ever by Alaskans in what they view as the priorities of this state, then send him a furlough notice akin to that which many of them have already received as a result of his budget vetoes.

Let’s begin recall proceedings. Immediately.

Dick Shellhorn

Cordova

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

Letter: Petty dictatorships

Sat, 2019-07-20 14:57

President Donald Trump is moving ahead with the citizenship question for the census, even though the Supreme Court declared it unconstitutional. Gov. Mike Dunleavy vetoed funds for the Alaska Supreme Court based on the abortion decision he didn’t like. They need to read their respective constitutions and remind themselves they are not above the law.

Both cases are wrong on so many levels. If we continue in this direction, we’ll be nothing but a loose collection of petty dictatorships. It is our duty as patriots and citizens to stand up to both administrations and make sure we vote these two individuals out of office.

Cheryl Lovegreen

Anchorage

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

Letter: Dividend doesn’t make business sense

Sat, 2019-07-20 14:53

A well-managed corporation wouldn’t give its shareholders a dividend if the corporation was facing revenue declines, a cash-flow crisis and an inability to fund its operations. On the contrary, it would ask its shareholders to pitch in to help it out.

If Alaska were a well-run business, the Permanent Fund dividend wouldn’t be happening this year and taxes would be in order.

— Lela Ryterski

Homer

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

Letter: Legislative fiasco

Sat, 2019-07-20 14:42

If the Alaska Constitution were so easily interpreted the way Sen. Mia Costello, Rep. Lance Pruitt and the other legislators who showed up in Wasilla have chosen to interpret it — that the governor has the all-powerful right to decree special sessions in any location his little heart desires — I guarantee you, former governors would have already done it. C’mon, you know half-Gov. Sarah Palin would have had as many sessions in Wasilla as she possibly could. I bet she wishes now that she’d had Kevin Clarkson as her attorney general.

The bottom line: The governor wanted to meet in Wasilla because that is where his base of support is. And Costello, Pruitt and the others who went to Wasilla are just typical Republicans who blindly follow their leaders. I wish Republicans would start thinking for themselves. But how can they, I guess, when their own members punish them for not voting the party line? What a circus. Ultimately, we Alaskans are the ones hurt by this fiasco we call a Legislature.

— Jackie Endsley

Eagle River

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

Letter: Support the common good

Sat, 2019-07-20 14:39

Our current budget crisis is the effect of a contest between two ethics: self-interest and the common good. The two are not mutually exclusive, but too much an emphasis on one damages the other, which is where we are now. In privileging self-interest through a full Permanent Fund dividend — without any sort of offsetting revenue-builders — the governor, his legislative allies and citizen supporters are proposing sharp harm to the common good through severe cuts to government services.

The decimation of education, health, public safety, and other “common good” programs will interlace our state in such a way that nearly everyone will be negatively affected in some way or another. And the immediate damage of lost jobs and services will be magnified and extended as expertise moves to better prospects and infrastructure degrades to worse condition.

We won’t all have the same needs, but we’ll all have some need, which is why “the common good” concept is worth supporting.

In short, Alaskans may all be a bit richer for the short term, but Alaska will be much poorer in the long run. If you want extra spending money, support Gov. Mike Dunleavy; if you want to invest in Alaska, it is imperative you contact your legislators and demand they vote to restore funding cut by his excessive budget vetoes.

— Clinton Holloway

Eagle River

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

Which Alaska do we want?

Sat, 2019-07-20 14:38

A group of campers protesting Gov. Mike Dunleavy's budget vetoes gather on the Delaney Park Strip Thursday, July 18, 2019. The city has posted notices informing the campers that the camps are illegal and must be removed by Friday. (Loren Holmes / ADN) (Loren Holmes / Anchorage Daily News/)

As the end of July nears, our state stands at a crossroads. An unprecedented amount of the state’s business remains unfinished in Juneau. Gov. Mike Dunleavy and factions of the Legislature are deeply divided over the Permanent Fund dividend. Hanging in the balance are $444 million in cuts to the state operating budget made by the governor’s 182 line-item vetoes, the entire state capital budget and hundreds of millions of dollars in federal matching transportation funds, as well as the PFD allocation itself. Also, close to $2 billion swept from dedicated accounts into the Constitutional Budget Reserve endangers merit scholarships for college-bound Alaskans, Power Cost Equalization funds that defray rural energy expenses, and a host of operating funds that state agencies can ill afford to lose.

Whether our government reaches a compromise on these items — or doesn’t — will propel Alaska toward one of two starkly different futures. Let’s have a look.

Jan. 2020: As legislators prepared to return to Juneau to begin the legislative session, the failures of the summer and fall of 2019 were still fresh in their minds. Alaskans’ hopes that a compromise might have been close in July when Gov. Dunleavy amended the second special session call to meet in Juneau were dashed when it became clear that the “Wasilla 22” and Gov. Dunleavy would not back down from their demand for a $3,000 PFD before any other business was done, and the House and Senate majority caucuses similarly refused to waver from the position that paying such a dividend while other services were axed didn’t make sense. Hundreds of millions of dollars in federal road funding were lost when the Legislature narrowly passed funding for a capital budget, only to see it vetoed by Gov. Dunleavy because funding for the PFD wasn’t yet guaranteed. With the Legislature unable to reach consensus on a PFD amount, not only were fund the governor’s operating budget vetoes not restored, the state had gone without a PFD for the first time in almost 40 years. Recall petitions were circulating, targeting not only Gov. Dunleavy but each of the members of the Legislature not already up for re-election. All would garner enough signatures to appear on the ballot, and even those in the safest seats looked increasingly unlikely to be re-elected.

In the cities, towns and villages of the Last Frontier, the damage from the budget train wreck mounted. The University of Alaska had been able to keep all three of its major campuses open, but they were ghost towns, offering fewer than half the programs they had before. More than $100 million in research money had been lost, and more would follow as the system’s best professors were poached by other institutions. Student enrollment hadn’t yet dropped precipitously, as students had already signed up for classes before the vetoes took effect. In Fall 2020, however, thousands of students would be gone, transferring out of state. Four-fifths would never return. The Alaska Airlines Center sat empty, all athletics funding having been cut. The intramural teams that remained didn’t draw fans. In Sen. Peter Micciche’s district, the Kenai Peninsula College, formerly the second-largest branch campus in the system, was decimated.

Homeless shelters not forced to close entirely because of state funding losses had their capacity cut in half, pushing hundreds more people onto the streets as cold weather approached. Although ordinary Alaskans gave nonprofit aid organizations what little money they could spare, stretching their personal budgets even thinner, it could not make up for the loss of state funding. The municipality’s parks were full of illegal camps in such numbers that city police and other organizations were unable to deal with them. With nowhere stable to warm up, some would freeze to death, particularly in Fairbanks, where the temperature dipped to lows of 40 below for two weeks straight in December.

Having lost their senior benefits, low-income Alaska seniors were forced to make do with less and rely more on the help of friends and family, increasing the economic strain on Alaska families. Medicaid recipients who formerly had dental coverage did without, waiting until their root canals required care in the emergency room. The increased use of higher-cost care drove up private insurance premiums for all Alaskans. And despite the tough-on-crime approach championed by Gov. Dunleavy, state cuts to public safety and court funding left the system worse equipped to handle high crime rates. The districts of Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux and Rep. Lance Pruitt were struck by a wave of property crime even worse than under the much-derided Senate Bill 91.

Worst off were rural communities, where energy costs spiked dramatically because of the loss of Power Cost Equalization funds. In regions with particularly low incomes, even a super-sized PFD wouldn’t have covered the cost difference, and residents got none because of the standoff over the dividend amount. The two-tiered system already offering unequal justice in rural communities was made worse by financial stress and budget pressure. Residents in the dozens of villages in Rep. Dave Talerico’s district were furious.

Within organized boroughs and cities, property tax bills jumped because of the loss of revenue sharing and state school bond debt reimbursement. Suicide rates, already among the highest in the nation, crept higher, and Alaska’s fragile economic recovery was shattered. It was the worst low Alaska had faced since the late 1980s, and it was entirely self-inflicted. If an end was coming, it wasn’t coming soon.

There is another path for Alaska’s future, however, one that starts with the recognition that the first scenario cannot be allowed to take place. No one’s agenda is worth the damage that will be caused by a refusal to make a compromise in the state’s best interest. It starts with legislators sitting down with one another, putting real or perceived slights behind them, and finding a way to count to 45. It will take 45 legislators’ votes to reverse the sweep that emptied the funds for Power Cost Equalization and college scholarships for bright young Alaskans. It will take 45 votes to restore funding vetoed by Gov. Dunleavy. And, as the PFD will almost certainly be an aspect of whatever deal is made, it may well need 45 votes too.

Legislators, be the leaders Alaskans elected you to be. Do not allow our great state to fall backward into self-inflicted economic and social disaster. Find a way to a budget plan that will not leave our streets less safe, our vulnerable in harm’s way and our best and brightest young people on a one-way trip out of the state. Every day without action compounds the uncertainty and hardship already facing Alaskans. Find a way to count to 45.


Letter: Dunleavy is no Republican

Sat, 2019-07-20 14:35

Gov. Mike Dunleavy is not a Republican.Republicans are not for public assistance. However, Dunleavy insists we need to give everyone a welfare check of $3,000. Republicans hate taxes. However, Dunleavy is cutting municipal funding that will force us to pay higher taxes.

He’s cutting/killing the University of Alaska Anchorage and public education. Education is how we lift ourselves out of poverty. We all must learn skills rather than depend on government hand-outs and social services. Young Alaskans find UAA to learn skills to work beyond their high school education.

The Republican platform wants people to work for themselves, not receive welfare. The Republican platform does not like taxes to rise. The Republican platform wants people to raise themselves up from the dirt. A Christian would never cut people off at the knees, just when they are trying to raise themselves up.

Dunleavy does not represent the Republican Party. Republicans, as a party, you must steer the governor back to your platform. Tell him and your legislator that Gov. Dunleavy is killing a chance for people to pull themselves up. He is killing what Republicans stand for. Tell your legislator to restore the funds cut by Dunleavy’s idiotic vetoes. He is driving our state into the ground for a PFD bribe.

— Ilona Leider

Anchorage

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

Where does the current path lead?

Sat, 2019-07-20 14:31

Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy, left, speaks to reporters during a news conference on Tuesday, April 9, 2019, in Juneau, Alaska. Also seated at the table are Donna Arduin, Dunleavy's budget office director, and Bruce Tangeman, his Revenue commissioner. Dunleavy spokesman Matt Shuckerow is standing in the background. (AP Photo/Becky Bohrer) (Becky Bohrer/)

Just when you think you’ve seen the worst year of government in Alaska, you find out you were wrong. The past four years were awful. We had a fiscal crisis but nothing was being done about it. There were attempts to raise revenue, but even if they had succeeded, it wouldn’t have come close to solving the problem.

Fiscal analysis from the governor’s office tells the story: If you use the Permanent Fund dividend to fund government, you lose it in two years. If you use the Earnings Reserve balance, then you get about 10 more. If you then implement taxes you won’t get more than a few years (former Gov. Bill Walker’s attempt would have only raised $700 million). The natural increase of government — a conservative 4% estimate — will outpace the increase in revenue. This is what Gov. Mike Dunleavy realized when he was looking at the budget issue. It’s impossible to fix our budget based on revenues alone. If you try, you’ll just bankrupt the state in about a dozen years. You’ll then lose the university, all the retirement plans and all of those other programs you might love.

This explains why more cuts have to be made because, to get to a sustainable budget, you have to make a lot of cuts during the next few years. Now the governor is making the hard decisions on how to get there and is taking a lot of heat for being laser-focused on his campaign promise to fix this fiscal situation. It may be enough to cost him a second term, but that shows the courage he has to face the problem.

Now comes the irony. The Legislature is split in two factions. There is the anti-governor faction who want to repeal all of the cuts and not pay anything close to the statutorily mandated PFD, and they are fighting the governor every step in a way that mirrors the national-level politics. An example of this is their push for an unconstitutional forward-funding of education, which left no real funding in the budget for education. Then there are those who want some to none of the vetoes repealed and want to work with the governor to solve the problem. They had tried to amend in funding for education, but it was rejected by the other side.

The governor called the special session to deal with the undone PFD issue, and to give them a chance to repeal the line-item vetoes. The irony is because the anti-governor group decided to break the law and meet somewhere else than the governor chose, they didn’t have enough legislators in attendance to overturn the vetoes. After the cuts came out, they should have put their heads together and come up with a compromise to restore a bunch of the cuts and fund a full PFD. The governor made such large cuts that it made for an obvious compromise. What the anti-governor group has done is to “cut off their nose to spite their face." Sometimes in politics you just have to compromise to get important stuff done.

So now we have all the vetoes in place, a capital budget that has no funding and no PFD. Legislators are talking about amending something into the capital budget, but that can also still be line-item vetoed, so they have to get three-quarters of themselves to agree. Since a few members have been thrown out of the caucus because they stood for rule of law, it’s going to be pretty hard to get that agreement now.

One of the biggest mistakes of the last administration was cutting the PFD for three years. That took more than $2 billion out of the economy in a recession, so this governor is pushing hard not to replicate that mistake. A deal will have to be made so when you’re writing all those emails and letters to the legislators, you might want to ask them to act more maturely and make some kind of deal that will work for everybody. Email the House Minority thanking them for standing for rule of law and letting them know that you are OK with some veto or partial-veto overrides, as long as they make the trade for a full PFD. We finally have a governor intent on solving the problem. We just need a Legislature that acknowledges the issue and will rise above childish nose-thumbing to solve it.

Lance Roberts is an engineer in Fairbanks, as well as a former member of the Fairbanks North Star Borough Assembly.

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

Letter: Soccer glory

Sat, 2019-07-20 14:26

What a time it has been this summer for U.S. soccer fans!

To the U.S. Women’s National Team: Congratulations on winning yet another World Cup!

To the members of the U.S. Men’s National Team, who lost to Mexico in the Gold Cup: Play like a girl.

— Mary Navitsky

Anchorage

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

Alaska Senate approves fixes for capital budget and reverse sweep

Sat, 2019-07-20 13:55

JUNEAU — The Alaska Senate has voted 19-0 to approve a fix for two of the four major budget issues facing the Alaska Legislature this summer.

Meeting in special session at the state Capitol, the Senate approved Senate Bill 2002, a measure introduced by Gov. Mike Dunleavy and rewritten Friday by the Senate Finance Committee. The bill funds the state’s capital budget and approves the “reverse sweep" necessary to preserve dozens of savings accounts used to pay such things as college scholarships, rural power subsidies, vaccines and occupational licenses.

The bill must still be approved by the Alaska House of Representatives and the governor to become law.

The other budget issues that remain unresolved include setting an amount for this year’s Permanent Fund dividend and deciding whether to reverse any of the governor’s $444 million operating budget vetoes.

Canadian police investigating double homicide of young couple found dead on Alaska Highway

Sat, 2019-07-20 13:16

Chynna Deese, 24, and her boyfriend, 23-year-old Lucas Robertson Fowler, were found dead on the Alaska Highway in British Columbia on July 15, 2019. Royal Canadian Mounted Police investigators said they believe the two were killed. (Photo courtesy RCMP)

Police in Canada say a young couple found dead on the Alaska Highway this week were killed.

The bodies of Chynna Deese, 24, and Lucas Robertson Fowler, 23, were found Monday morning about 14 miles south of Liard Hot Springs in British Columbia, a popular tourist spot for travelers driving along the Alaska Highway, according to Royal Canadian Mounted Police.

Fowler was from Australia, and Deese, his girlfriend, was from Charlotte, North Carolina, according to a statement from the Fowler family that was released by Australian police.

Police would not release information about where exactly the two were found or the manner in which they were killed. A blue 1986 Chevrolet van with Alberta license plates was also found at the scene, police said.


A 1986 Chevrolet van was on the Alaska Highway where Chynna Deese, 24, and Lucas Robertson Fowler, 23, were found dead on July 15, 2019. (Photo courtesy Royal Canadian Mounted Police.)

The two were believed to have been sightseeing throughout British Columbia when they were killed, said Sgt. Janelle Shoihet, a police spokeswoman. It’s not clear whether or not they were specifically targeted.

“At this point we have nothing to suggest that there is a heightened risk to the safety of anyone traveling or planning to travel in that area,” Shoihet said in an email Saturday.

Investigators are asking anyone who was traveling in the area of Liard Hot Springs between 4 p.m. Sunday and 8 a.m. Monday to call police at 250-774-2700.

Nation marks 50 years after Apollo 11′s ‘giant leap’ on moon

Sat, 2019-07-20 12:55

Visitors pose for photos beside a portrait of Neil Armstrong at the Armstrong Air & Space Museum as special events are underway for visitors commemorating the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing, Saturday, July 20, 2019, in Wapakoneta, Ohio. (AP Photo/John Minchillo) (John Minchillo/)

CAPE CANAVERAL, Fla. — A moonstruck nation celebrated the 50th anniversary of Apollo 11′s “giant leap” by Neil Armstrong and Buzz Aldrin at parties, races, ball games and concerts Saturday, toasting with Tang and nibbling MoonPies.

At NASA's Kennedy Space Center, Aldrin showed Vice President Mike Pence the launch pad where he flew to the moon in 1969. At the same time halfway around the world, an American and two other astronauts blasted into space from Kazakhstan on a Russian rocket. And in Armstrong's hometown of Wapakoneta, Ohio, nearly 2,000 runners competed in "Run to the Moon" races.

"Apollo 11 is the only event in the 20th century that stands a chance of being widely remembered in the 30th century," the vice president said.

Wapakoneta 10K runner Robert Rocco, 54, a retired Air Force officer from Centerville, Ohio, called the moon landing by Armstrong and Aldrin "perhaps the most historic event in my lifetime, maybe in anybody's lifetime."

At the Museum of Flight in Seattle, Gilda Warden sat on a bench and gazed in awe at the Apollo 11 command module, Columbia, on display. "It's like entering the Sistine Chapel and seeing the ceiling. You want to just sit there and take it in," said Warden, 63, a psychiatric nurse from Tacoma, Washington.

On July 20, 1969, Armstrong and Aldrin undocked from Columbia in lunar orbit and then descended in the lunar module Eagle to the Sea of Tranquility. Armstrong was the first to step onto the lunar surface, proclaiming for the ages: "That's one small step for man, one giant leap for mankind." It was humanity's first footsteps on another world.

In a speech at Kennedy, Pence paid tribute to Armstrong, Aldrin and command module pilot Michael Collins — if they're not heroes, "then there are no heroes" — as well as the 400,000 Americans who worked tirelessly to get them to the moon.

Aldrin, 89, grabbed the right hand of Neil Armstrong's older son, Rick, at Pence's mention of heroes. He then stood and saluted, and received a standing ovation. Armstrong died in 2012. Collins, 88, did not attend the Florida ceremony. But Apollo 17's Harrison Schmitt, the next-to-last man to walk on the moon in 1972, was there.

Pence reiterated the Trump administration's goal of sending American astronauts back to the moon within five years and eventually on to Mars. He said this next generation of astronauts will spend weeks and months on the lunar surface, not just days and hours like the 12 Apollo moonwalkers did.


In this July 20, 1969 photo made available by NASA, astronaut Buzz Aldrin, lunar module pilot, walks on the surface of the moon during the Apollo 11 extravehicular activity. (Neil Armstrong/NASA via AP) (Neil Armstrong/)

NASA had other celebrations going on Saturday, most notably at Johnson Space Center in Houston, home to Mission Control; the U.S. Space and Rocket Center next door to Marshall Space Flight Center in Huntsville, Alabama, where the Saturn V moon rockets were born; and the Smithsonian Institution's National Air and Space Museum in Washington.

And where better to celebrate than Apollo, Pennsylvania — located in Armstrong County not far from the town of Mars and Moon Township. The historical society revived the annual moon-landing celebration in honor of the big 50. All of the Apollo astronauts have long been honorary citizens of Apollo, the society's Alan Morgan said.

At New York's Yankee Stadium, former space shuttle astronaut Mike Massimino threw out the ceremonial first pitch to former pitcher Jack Aker, who was on the mound when the July 20, 1969, baseball game was interrupted to announce that the Eagle had landed. Armstrong and Aldrin were "A1, No. 1, higher than major league," Aker recalled Saturday. "It's a mutual feeling," Massimino agreed.

Elsewhere in New York, organizers moved a moon-landing party from Times Square into a hotel because of a heat wave. Youngsters joined former space shuttle astronaut Winston Scott there, as a giant screen showed the Saturn V rocket lifting off with the Apollo 11 crew in 1969.

Across the country in Seattle, Tim Turner was first in line at the Museum of Flight to see the Apollo 11 command module. Collins orbited the moon alone in Columbia, as Armstrong and Aldrin descended to the gray, desolate surface.

Turner recalled watching the lunar landing with his family in Tennessee, then going outside to gaze at the moon.

"There was just excitement," Turner said. "It was just the novelty of it all. Good grief! It's still amazing, the No. 1 feat of the 20th century, if not all of modern history, that first time there."


Visitors look at the NASA Apollo 11 command module Columbia, the centerpiece of Destination Moon: The Apollo 11 Mission exhibit at the Museum of Flight, Friday, July 19, 2019, in Seattle. The module functioned as a mother ship, carrying the crew of three astronauts and the second Apollo spacecraft, the lunar module, to orbit around the moon, and brought the astronauts back to Earth. The exhibit commemorates the historic landing by American astronauts on the moon 50 years earlier, on July 20, 1969. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson) (Elaine Thompson/)
Ethan Reynolds browses a display of archival newspaper front pages announcing the first moon landing at the Armstrong Air & Space Museum as special events are underway for visitors commemorating the milestone's 50th anniversary, Saturday, July 20, 2019, in Wapakoneta, Ohio. (AP Photo/John Minchillo) (John Minchillo/)

Clocks counted down to the exact moment of the Eagle’s landing on the moon — 4:17 p.m. EDT — and Armstrong’s momentous step onto the lunar surface at 10:56 p.m. EDT. The powdered orange drink Tang was back in vogue for the toasts, along with MoonPies, including a 55-pound, 45,000-calorie MoonPie at Kennedy’s One Giant Leap bash.

About 100 visitors and staff at the American Space Museum in Titusville, across the Indian River from Kennedy, cheered and lifted plastic champagne cups of Tang at precisely 4:17 p.m.

"This is what we're here for, to share the American space experience," explained executive director Karan Conklin, who led the toast.

In the 100-degree heat of Kazakhstan, an American, Italian and Russian, rocketed into the night to the International Space Station. Only one of the three — cosmonaut Alexander Skvortsov — was alive at the time of Apollo 11. The three already living on the space station also were born long after the moon landings.

The crew deliberately modeled its mission patch after Apollo 11's: no astronaut names included to show the universal nature of space flight. Morgan explained in a NASA interview that Apollo 11, and now his flight, represents "an accomplishment of the world and not one single country."

___

AP reporters Angie Wang in Wapakoneta, Ohio, and Carla K. Johnson in Seattle, and freelance writer Charles O’Brien contributed to this report.


Visitors look onto a scale model of the Saturn V rocket used in the United State's Apollo program at the Armstrong Air & Space Museum as special events are underway for visitors commemorating the 50th anniversary of the first moon landing, Saturday, July 20, 2019, in Wapakoneta, Ohio. (AP Photo/John Minchillo) (John Minchillo/)

Hot weather is intensifying hold on much of East, Central US

Sat, 2019-07-20 12:51

People enjoy the day playing in a water fountain as the Empire State Building is seen from Williamsburg section of Brooklyn on Saturday, July 20, 2019 in New York. Americans from Texas to Maine sweated out a steamy Saturday as a heat wave spurred cancelations of events from festivals to horse races and the nation’s biggest city ordered steps to save power to stave off potential problems. (AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez) (Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/)

NEW YORK — Americans from Texas to Maine sweated out a steamy Saturday as a heat wave canceled events from festivals to horse races and pushed New York City to order power-saving steps to avoid overtaxing the electrical grid.

The National Weather Service said "a dangerous heat wave" was expected to break record highs in some places, particularly for nighttime. Daytime temperatures were poised to hit the mid- to upper 90s (about 34 to 37 degrees Celsius), with high humidity making it feel considerably hotter.

"It's brutal," Jeffrey Glickman said as he paused during a run Saturday in Washington.

The 37-year-old got out early to try to escape the worst heat but still planned to cut his route short on an already 90-degree morning.

"You just have to power through it the best you can," he said.

Many places facing excessive heat this weekend have no air conditioning, with cities opening shelters for people to cool off. While the Midwest will get some relief Sunday as a cold front moves in, the East isn't so lucky, the weather service warned.


Street performers dressed in costume take a break to drink water in Times Square as temperatures reach the mid-to-upper 90s Saturday, July 20, 2019, in New York. (AP Photo/Jonathan Carroll) (Jonathan Carroll/)

In Norwich, Connecticut, Larry Konecny watched as one of his workers a couple of stories up in a boom lift cleaned the outside of an office building. The pair had no choice but to work in 90-degree heat and stifling humidity because the job needed to be done when office workers were away, Konecny said.

"He's pressure-washing, so the water is splashing. So at least there's some degree of refreshment," he said.

New York City authorities canceled a Times Square commemoration of the 1969 moon landing and an outdoor festival featuring soccer star Megan Rapinoe, musician John Legend and "Daily Show" host Trevor Noah.

The city also directed owners of many office buildings to set thermostats no lower than 78 degrees through Sunday to reduce strain on the electrical grid.

The measure came after a power outage — related to an equipment failure, not heat — caused a roughly five-hour blackout July 13 that affected a 40-block stretch of Manhattan, including Times Square and Rockefeller Center.

Storms from the Great Lakes to the Central Plains have caused power outages, heightening the misery.

In Michigan's Lower Peninsula, strong winds, hail and lightning knocked out electricity to more than 200,000 people. The storms left about 20,000 customers without power in Wisconsin, toppling trees as wind gusts reached more than 80 mph.

In Philadelphia, several hundred people were evacuated from a retirement community due to a partial power outage, though it wasn't immediately clear whether the problem was heat related. Residents were taken to a nearby shelter, and police said some went to a hospital for evaluation.


Track security officer Patty Patterson carries a bag of ice on her shoulders as she walks back to her post during a NASCAR Cup Series auto race practice at New Hampshire Motor Speedway in Loudon, N.H., Saturday, July 20, 2019. Temperatures were forecasted to reach nearly 100 degrees at the track. (AP Photo/Charles Krupa) (Charles Krupa/)

In Chicago, heat forced organizers of the Humana Rock 'n' Roll Marathon series to cancel one of three weekend races. Saturday's 5K is off, but a 10K and half marathon are expected to go ahead Sunday.

In New Jersey, operators of the Monmouth Park horse racing track were considering whether to push back the $1 million Haskell Invitational later in the evening. Maximum Security, the horse that crossed the finish line first in this year's Kentucky Derby and then was disqualified, was among those scheduled to run.

The track set up misting fans in the paddock and saddling areas for the 14-race card, and there were plans for shorter post parades before the race starts to limit track time for the horses.

Amid pressure over a series of horse deaths in California, several tracks have canceled their Saturday races, including Saratoga Race Course and Finger Lakes in New York and Laurel Park in Maryland.

At Yankee Stadium, where the home team was set to face the Colorado Rockies, extra hydration stations were set up in all three decks and the bleachers. Announcements reminded fans to keep drinking water.

Yankees manager Aaron Boone said he was mindful of the heat, too.

"You tend to monitor guys a little more closely, want to see how your pitchers are doing," he said.

___

Associated Press writers Ronald Blum in New York; Michael Balsamo in Washington; Susan Haigh in Norwich, Connecticut, and Tom Canavan in Oceanport, New Jersey, contributed to this report.

Native Hawaiians say telescope represents bigger struggle

Sat, 2019-07-20 12:13

FILE - In this Sunday, July 14, 2019, file photo, Native Hawaiian activists pray at the base of Hawaii's Mauna Kea, background. For activists who say they're protecting Mauna Kea, the fight against the proposed Thirty Meter Telescope is a boiling point in Hawaiian history: the overthrow on the Hawaiian kingdom, battles over land, water and development and questions about how the islands should be governed. (AP Photo/Caleb Jones, File) (Caleb Jones/)

HONOLULU — Walter Ritte has been fighting for decades to protect Native Hawaiian rights, inspiring a new generation of activists trying to stop construction of a giant telescope they see as representative of a bigger struggle.

In his early 30s, Ritte occupied a small Hawaiian island used as a military bombing range. Now at 74, he's still a prolific protester, getting arrested this week for blocking a road to stop construction of the one of the world's most powerful telescopes on Hawaii's tallest peak, which some Native Hawaiians consider sacred.

For activists who say they're protecting Mauna Kea, the long-running telescope fight encapsulates critical issues to Native Hawaiians: the 1893 overthrow of the Hawaiian kingdom, clashes over land and water rights, frustration over tourism, attempts to curb development and questions about how the islands should be governed.

It's an example of battles by Native Americans to preserve ancestral lands, with high-profile protests like Dakota Access pipeline leading to arrests in southern North Dakota in 2016 and 2017.

For Native Hawaiians, opposition to the $1.4 billion Thirty Meter Telescope isn’t universal — some support the educational opportunities from the project and are facing backlash from those questioning their identity.

[Giant Hawaii telescope will dive into the big unknowns of the universe]

Ritte's first taste of activism came during a resurgence of cultural pride and identity that began in the late 1960s and 1970s. He and other Native Hawaiian men hid on the small island of Kahoolawe that the military used for bombing practice. They were arrested, but the U.S. eventually stopped the training.

"We didn't know anything about ourselves as Hawaiians," Ritte said of his youth. "When we got involved with Kahoolawe, we had no language, no history."


Kaho'okahi Kanuha, wearing a traditional Hawaiian battle helmet, addresses a group of protesters who are continuing their opposition vigil against the construction of the Thirty Meter Telescope at Mauna Kea on the Big Island of Hawaii Friday, July 19, 2019. Hundreds of protesters trying to stop the construction of a giant telescope on land some consider sacred continue to gather at the base of Hawaii's tallest mountain on Friday, July 19, 2019, as Democratic presidential candidate Bernie Sanders expressed his support for the demonstration. (Bruce Asato/Honolulu Star-Advertiser via AP) (Bruce Asato/)

The young people leading the fight against the telescope grew up learning about his experiences and speaking Hawaiian amid an ongoing cultural renaissance. A 30-year-old leader of the telescope protest, Kaho’okahi Kanuha, credits Ritte and the Hawaiian movement for allowing him to grow up rooted to his culture.

"Uncle Walter can talk about not knowing the language and not knowing the history. But he knew how to stand up, and he knew how to fight," Kanuha said. "Because of the things they did, the results were Hawaiian language programs. The results were revitalization of the culture and of understanding and of awakening."

At Mauna Kea, Kanuha wears a traditional battle helmet as he speaks Hawaiian with protesters and negotiates with law enforcement. Thanks to the movement, he said he was able to learn Hawaiian at an immersion preschool and eventually earn a bachelor's degree in Hawaiian language from the University of Hawaii.

He's fighting a project that dates to 2009, when scientists selected Mauna Kea after a global campaign to find the ideal site for what telescope officials said "will likely revolutionize our understanding of the universe." The mountain on the Big Island is revered for its consistently clear weather and lack of light pollution.

The telescope won a series of approvals from Hawaii, including a permit to build on conservation land in 2011. Protests began during a groundbreaking in 2014 and culminated in arrests in 2015.

Last year, the state Supreme Court upheld the construction permit, though protesters are still fighting in court and at the mountain.


FILE - This July 14, 2019, file photo shows the summit of Hawaii's Mauna Kea. For activists who say they're protecting Mauna Kea, the fight against the proposed Thirty Meter Telescope is a boiling point in Hawaiian history: the overthrow on the Hawaiian kingdom, battles over land, water and development and questions about how the islands should be governed. (AP Photo/Caleb Jones, File) (Caleb Jones/)
FILE - In this Monday, July 15, 2019, file photo, Dexter Kaiama, foreground, joins demonstrators gathered to block a road at the base of Mauna Kea, Hawaii's tallest mountain. For activists who say they're protecting Mauna Kea, the fight against the proposed Thirty Meter Telescope is a boiling point in Hawaiian history. (AP Photo/Caleb Jones, File) (Caleb Jones/)

Thirty-four people, mostly elders, were arrested this week as officials try to start building again.

The swelling protest is a natural reaction to the pain Native Hawaiians have endured and the changes the islands have seen, said Glen Kila, program director of Marae Ha'a Koa, a Hawaiian cultural center.

"The pain began when they took people off the land," he said. "And then they took governance and stewardship of the land, like Mauna Kea."

The battle is bigger than the telescope, said Hinaleimoana Wong-Kalu, a teacher and cultural practitioner.

"The TMT and Mauna Kea is just the focal point. For me it's just a galvanizing element," she said. "It goes back to the role that foreigners played and continue to play in Hawaii."

From 18th century explorer James Cook's arrival in the islands, to laborers brought to plantations and today's tourism, the telescope is another example of outside interests overtaking Hawaiian culture, she said.

"They capitalize and commercialize our culture," Wong-Kalu said. "They prostitute the elements that make us Hawaiian. They make it look pretty and make it look alluring in an effort to bring more money into this state."

But not all Native Hawaiians see the telescope as representative of past wrongs.

"My family feels that they're trying to use the TMT to boost their sovereignty issue," said Annette Reyes, a Native Hawaiian who supports the telescope project. "I want sovereignty for the Hawaiian people. I want them to have their country back. But TMT shouldn't be the lightning rod for it."


FILE - In this Sunday, July 14, 2019, file photo, a Native Hawaiian activist prays at the base of Hawaii's Mauna Kea. For activists who say they're protecting Mauna Kea, the fight against the proposed Thirty Meter Telescope is a boiling point in Hawaiian history: the overthrow on the Hawaiian kingdom, battles over land, water and development and questions about how the islands should be governed. (AP Photo/Caleb Jones, File) (Caleb Jones/)

Reyes pointed to telescope officials' pledge to provide $1 million every year to boost science, technology, engineering and math education. She said opponents have called her a fake Hawaiian for supporting the project.

For some, it's not just a political issue. It's spiritual for Kealoha Pisciotta, who's long fought the telescope.

"The problem is being Hawaiian today is a political statement," she said. "We have to take political action to practice religion."

Mauna Kea is a "living entity" that "gives life," Kila said.

"So that's a different philosophy from the scientific world, that it's just a mountain that can be used for an observatory. It can be developed. For us, that's sacrilegious," he said.

For Ritte and others, the telescope is the latest battle over Hawaiian culture. He spent 11 hours Monday lying attached to a grate in the road leading up to Mauna Kea's summit with seven other protesters.

“We protected and saved Kahoolawe from the United States military,” Ritte said. “Now we have to save and protect the rest of our islands.”

Some asylum seekers forced to wait in Mexico help each other

Sat, 2019-07-20 11:47

In this July 2, 2019 photo provided by Jesse Tellera, asylum seeker Claudio Aviles sits by a posted list of migrants who are in San Luis Río Colorado, Mexico, waiting to seek asylum in the United States. Aviles, of Guerrero, Mexico, has since made it to the U.S. with his wife and young children. Thousands of asylum seekers are waiting on the Mexican side of the border to ask for asylum in the U.S., which has severely restricted the number of people it allows in each day. (Jesse Tellera via AP) (Jesse T/)

SAN LUIS RIO COLORADO, Mexico — A small group of asylum seekers sit under a canopy on the side of a road leading into the United States, chatting to pass the time as a blazing desert sun pushes the heat into triple digits and fumes roll in from dozens of cars lined up to cross the U.S.-Mexico border.

Coming from Guatemala, Nicaragua, Mexico, Cuba and many other countries, they're waiting in San Luis Río Colorado, Mexico, to seek asylum at the official border crossing just south of San Luis, Arizona.

Under the canopy, surrounded by little but fencing and some stores and restaurants, they look like old friends. They have banded together around their small fold-up table, where they spend hours waiting.

They assign people with children to early morning shifts when the heat isn't as bad. A daily "colecta" — a collection of cash — pays for water and snacks for those guarding the table.

"Here, you have nobody but each other," Julio Montenegro, a 33-year-old Guatemalan who has been waiting for several weeks, said on a hot afternoon in late June.

Despite their bond, this group has just met. They're among roughly 950 people on the waitlist in San Luis Río Colorado that's moving slowly — only a few people each day get called for the chance to start a new life, and there are days when none do.

President Donald Trump's administration forces asylum seekers to wait in Mexican cities before they can start the asylum process, a policy referred to as "metering."

As a result, thousands of people along the Mexican border don't get an interview with an asylum officer for months and face danger even after fleeing violence and poverty in their home countries.

For the few who get an interview, the U.S. government still forces many to wait in Mexico while their immigration cases wind through court, which can take years.

The fate of those seeking asylum at the southern border is uncertain after the Trump administration this week said it was banning migrants from seeking U.S. protections if they pass through another country first. The rules have been challenged in court.


In this May 5, 2019 photo, migrants walk between tents, left, and cars waiting to cross the border in San Luis Rio Colorado, Mexico, and Arizona. The tent slots are for families about to be called, allowing them to be ready on a moment’s notice. (AP Photo/Elliot Spagat) (Elliot Spagat/)

Metering and other policies that make it hard to seek asylum have led some migrants to cross the border illegally out of desperation, including Óscar Alberto Martínez Ramírez and his young daughter, Valeria, who were seen in a widely shared photo last month after drowning in the Rio Grande.

On some parts of the border, asylum seekers camp out in tents for weeks. They did in San Luis Río Colorado until late spring, when temperatures became dangerously high.

Now, most stay in hotels or rent rooms in houses, paid for by relatives in the U.S. They rely on each other to ensure a constant presence at the border to know when U.S. officials call someone for an interview. Typically, a person has a brief period to show up or they can be skipped over on the list, which is ordered by when people arrived at the border.

Despite the heat, San Luis Río Colorado is relatively safe compared with other Mexican border cities, where kidnapping and murder are rampant. It's a small place that supplies many of the farmworkers who tend fields of lettuce and other leafy greens in Yuma, Arizona, about a 40-minute drive north.

Many migrants waiting to get to the U.S. can feel comfortable walking down the street here, said Martin Salgado, who runs a shelter in the city of less than 200,000 people. He also helps manage the wait list, getting word from the Mexican government when the U.S. approves a number of people for asylum interviews.

Migrants at the top of the list stay at his 30-person shelter less than a 10-minute drive from the border. His mother founded it decades ago to feed and house immigrants deported from the U.S. — usually adults — before they made their way home.

Casa del Migrante la Divina Providencia now is filled with the voices of young children at play. There are a few small rooms with bunk beds, one specifically for families with children and others for single adults.

Of the approximately 950 people on the waitlist here, 65% are Mexican, 20% are Cuban and the rest are from various countries, with people from African nations increasingly passing through the city, Salgado said. On average, the government calls about eight people a day, although some days, none are called, he said.

Montenegro, the Guatemalan, said he has been waiting for weeks to reunite with his daughters in California. The truck driver, who rents a room in a house near the border, said he left his home country because he feared for his life after threats from gangs trying to extort money.

"They knew my kids' schedules," he said. "We left with what we had on our backs."

Jesse Tellera, 32, said she fled Nicaragua because of deep political turmoil that has caused chaos and poverty. The hairstylist said she left her young son with her mom and hopes to work and send money home.

Tellera said she has been waiting to seek asylum for three months and expects to wait at least another month. Life in Nicaragua is "not calm, there's no opportunity," she said.

Claudio Aviles, 25, of Guerrero, Mexico, was in San Luis Río Colorado with his wife and two young children for over three months and helped Salgado, the shelter operator, coordinate the waitlist.

At the border, waitlists are managed by local shelters or asylum seekers themselves. There have been reports of bribery and cheating to move up the list, so Aviles was dedicated to making it fair. He's now in Alabama with relatives, who had sent money so his family could rent a house while they waited.

“There’s a lot of crime in Guerrero,” Aviles said. “We’re looking for a better life.”

Trails, mountain views, giant pancakes and great beer: a weekend in Talkeetna has a lot to offer

Sat, 2019-07-20 11:44

Patrons relax in the sun outside Nagley's Store in downtown Talkeetna, Alaska on Saturday, June 1, 2013. (ADN archive)

Last week, I headed north to Talkeetna for some beautiful views of Denali. But the smoky weather put a damper on any airborne adventures.

Instead, I walked across the street from the Talkeetna airport to the home of North Shore Cyclery. Shawn Thelan opened the shop last year and has bikes of every size and variety. Since I drove a big RV into town, I opted for one of the fat bikes, which rent for $15 an hour or $95 for 24 hours. There also are mountain bikes if you want to take advantage of some of the trails around town. Thelan has several trail maps on his website of off-road trails in the area.

For such a small town, there are lots of fun trips for locals and visitors alike. Although I took the highway north from Anchorage, you also can board the Alaska Railroad every day for the ride up to Talkeetna. The depot is an easy walk to Main Street.

If you drive up to Talkeetna but still want a train ride, take the “Hurricane Turn” trip that goes north from Talkeetna up to Hurricane Gulch. This is the nation’s last “flag stop” railroad, where you can stand out on the track and flag down the train.

There’s no food service on the train, so stop at the Talkeetna Roadhouse and pick up a box lunch to go.


Tourists pass by Nagley’s Store in Talkeetna on August 10, 2016. The store was previously called B & K Trading Co. (Bob Hallinen / ADN archive) (Bob Hallinen/)

There are a couple of trips available where you can ride the train north, then float in a raft or take a jetboat down the Susitna River back to Talkeetna.

If you want to get up high for a better view, go on the Denali Zipline Tour, with nine ziplines, three suspension bridges and a couple of other thrills. One of the zip stations features a beautiful view of Denali on a sunny day. The final zip takes you across a big lake. The crew provides helmets, harnesses and a robust safety briefing. The cost is $149 for adults and $119 for kids.

If it’s sunny outside, Ashley Kaso of Talkeetna River Guides recommends a float trip on the Chulitna River. “Denali and the whole Alaska Range are visible for most of the float,” she said. “We put in just before the Chulitna River bridge and float back to Talkeetna from there — so rafters get to go through the confluence of the Susitna River and the Talkeetna River as well,” she sa

Captain Israel Mahay has grown up on the rivers around Talkeetna. His dad, Steve Mahay, founded Mahay’s JetBoat Adventures in 1975. “All our trips are great,” he said, “but I really like the Devil’s Canyon tour on the Susitna River. We take a big, stable boat for the 135-mile journey. That way, even though the visuals are exciting as we go through Class IV and Class V whitewater the boat is solid.” All of Mahay’s trips include a stop at a Dena’ina Indian Encampment and a trapper’s cabin on the banks of the Susitna River.

No matter which trip or activity you choose, chances are good you’ll be hungry. Trisha Costello runs the Talkeetna Roadhouse, which offers big breakfasts, including pancakes so big they flop over the edge of the plate. There are two types of menu items at the Roadhouse: “breakfast” and “non-breakfast.” Additionally, you can’t miss the huge display of sweets and treats available at the counter. Nobody goes away hungry at the Roadhouse, which is open year-round.


The Talkeetna Roadhouse. Photographed May 11, 2019. (Vicky Ho / ADN)

“The Roadhouse, along with Nagley’s Store and the Fairview Inn, make up the holy trinity of legacy businesses in Talkeetna,” said Costello. Both Nagley’s and the Fairview were built around 1923. Nagley’s is the local store and also has the West Rib Pub and Grill attached to it. The Fairview is best known for its lively bar, which features live music each evening.

Along Main Street in Talkeetna are several other eateries, including Mountain High Pizza Pie (right across from the Talkeetna Roadhouse), Denali BrewPub and the Wildflower. Just past the pizza place is a polished-up Airstream trailer where they serve some delicious spinach bread. I had just finished my pizza, but still could not refuse a few slabs of cheese-and-spinach-covered bread.

Last week while visiting the Denali BrewPub, one of the owners, Sasson Mossanen, mentioned it was the company’s 10th anniversary (July 11). “Making beer is easy,” he said. “But making good, consistent beer is really difficult.”

Mossanen is dedicated to manufacturing his beer, gin, vodka and whiskey in Talkeetna. Denali Brewing quickly outgrew its downtown location and moved the brewery and distillery out of town, closer to the intersection with the Parks Highway.


Helen Hassinger, left, and Sven Johnson sample beers in the tasting room at Denali Brewing Company. Denali Brewing, located near Talkeetna, has grown to become one of the largest breweries in Alaska in recent years. Photographed on Thursday, May 21, 2015. (ADN archive)

At the Denali BrewPub, you can opt for a regular-sized glass of craft beer or choose a 5-ounce “tasting glass” to sample some of the best varieties. I recommend the Single Engine Red or the Mother Ale.

Mossanen has teamed up with the North Shore Cyclery to offer a tour of the brewery. Beer lovers meet at the bike shop to get fitted for their electric-assist bikes. Then, there’s an 18-mile ride from the shop to the brewery at Mile 2 of the Talkeetna Spur Road. On arrival, there’s a full tour of the facility. After a fair amount of sipping, touring and tasting, taxis are called to load up the bikes (and riders) for the trip back to Talkeetna.

Since I was driving an RV, I noticed there were several RV parks along the Talkeetna Spur Road. There also is a campground at the end of Main Street, although it tends to fill up pretty quick.

There are several hotels and inns close to town, including the Talkeetna Inn, which is close to the Susitna River, from $139 per room. Susitna River Lodging has both a lodge and a collection of private cabins just before you reach downtown, from $199 per night.

Additionally, you can look online to find an incredible selection of houses, yurts, cabins, renovated buses and campsites at vacation rental sites like Airbnb.

The nicest place in town is the Talkeetna Alaskan Lodge, which sits on Ski Hill just south of town. On a clear day, there’s an unobstructed view of the mountain. Summertime rooms start at $209 per night and there’s a full bar and restaurant. Of special interest is the collection of memorabilia from the adventures of Brad and Barbara Washburn. Brad Washburn was the first man to map Denali, and many of his maps still are in use today.

Travelers from Anchorage can zip up for the day to take advantage of Talkeetna’s trips and adventures. But if you spend a night or two, you’re well-positioned to do two or three fun trips.

In the early 20th century, Arctic fox fur was all the rage. The impact in Alaska was immense.

Sat, 2019-07-20 11:28

White Fox and Icy Seas in the Western Arctic: The Fur Trade, Transportation, and Change in the Early Twentieth Century


"White Fox and Icy Seas in the Western Arctic: The Fur Trade, Transportation, and Change in the Early Twentieth Century," By John Bockstoce

By John Bockstoce. Yale University Press. 2018. 344 pages. $40.

In most accounts, Alaska’s territorial history consists of a few periods of intense activity, followed by leaps of several decades. The land was purchased from Russia in 1867, miners swarmed northward during the Gold Rush three decades later, then it’s fast forward to World War II and statehood. Apart from brief mentions of Denali being climbed, territorial status being established, a railroad being built, and perhaps the creation of the Matanuska Colony, that’s pretty much it.

Yet quite a bit was happening, especially in Alaska’s Arctic. Ancient trade routes that stretched from the Canada to the Russian Far East became the basis for new endeavors that, for the first time, brought Native peoples into the global economy, and brought those of European extraction into permanent residence along the Arctic coast. This resulted in lasting changes, both for the good and otherwise, and turned the Arctic from a region of myth and mystery to a resource zone supplying goods used thousands of miles away by Americans and Europeans.

This is the history that John Bockstoce explores in remarkable depth in “White Fox and Icy Seas in the Western Arctic.” An independent scholar who has devoted more than half a century to the study of the physical, cultural and economic histories of the Far North, this, his 12th book, examines the crucial period when the North American Arctic was fully swept into the modern world.

While the book ranges over broad geographical and historical areas, the foundation of the story is quite simple. Inuit, Yupik and other Native peoples of the Arctic had been interacting with Europeans for centuries, and, owing to the brief popularity of baleen corsets, the whaling industry had brought them at least partially into the cash-based economy.

It was the fur industry, however, that tipped the scales. In the early 20th century, furriers discovered the the pelts of Arctic white foxes could be dyed to replicate any natural fur, or even turned colors not found on animals (pink, for instance). This led to a sudden and huge demand. Prices for raw furs skyrocketed, and traders, especially from America’s West Coast, steamed north. Goods produced by American factories were offered in trade for pelts, and a new industry was born.

Bockstoce goes into detail on the huge number of jobs that were created almost overnight. “Before the customer acquired the fur garment,” he writes, “it would have passed through many hands on the way, gaining value at each step and helping to provide a livelihood for many persons: the trapper, skinner, flesher, tripper, trader, baler, city collector, drummer, sorter, sample man, auctioneer, broker, dealer, grader, dresser, stamper, scraper, flesher, bleacher, dyer, pointer, manufacturer, designer, cutter, joiner, nailer, finisher, glazer, jobber, factor, resident buyer, and retailer.”

A fashion trend that kept gaining popularity all the way through the 1920s was built entirely on the skin of one animal found in Arctic coastal regions, and trapped mostly by Natives who previously had little use for it.

The impact in the north was immense. As traders moved in and established posts and bartered for pelts, Native peoples abandoned traditional subsistence economies and diets in favor of the goods and foodstuffs they could acquire from traders. The traditional means by which they had long thrived in such a harsh environment gave way as villages centered around trading posts, missions and schools replaced the migratory lifestyle that Arctic survival had always demanded.

Bockstoce discusses these changes, but wisely chooses to place the history before the reader while reserving moral judgment. It took two sides to make the system work, and had the influx of new goods not been seen as offering an improved quality of life, they wouldn’t have been embraced by people well accustomed to living with very few material possessions.

Within that framework, however, Bockstoce does tell stories of various traders, some of whom were kind and honest and others who were exploitative. Those who came north were entering waters and lands that, apart from whalers, still remained little known to Westerners. They were certainly pioneers, and as with any pioneer population, not all were upstanding. At least one prominent trader was a murderer who possibly killed more than once.

The fur trade was not limited to the Alaska and Canadian Arctic. One of the most fascinating and illuminating sections of this book covers the trade that opened up with Yupik and Chukchi peoples living in Kamchatka.

Russian control of eastern Siberia had always been nominal at best, and inefficient even when present. This made it easy for Americans to cross the Bering Strait from Nome to build trading posts and conduct business. For a brief period it benefited both sides, but following the Bolshevik Revolution it was quickly squelched.

By the early 1920s, Americans traveling to Siberia could find themselves subject to arrest and the seizure of assets. Before long they ceased coming for their own safety. Meanwhile, the locals were forced into the Soviet system that demanded pelts and offered squalor in return.

The stories Bockstoce tells from before the communist takeover serve to remind readers that trade had long been the norm across the Strait, and that peaceful commerce could have grown from it, had not rigid ideology been shoved in its way.

Meanwhile, on the Western side, in 1929 the Depression collapsed the fur trade, and Natives who had enjoyed boom years had to partially revert to subsistence. But they would never quite live as they once had again.

In this informative book, Bockstoce also follows the adventures of white trappers who explored the Arctic, recounts seafaring exploits, examines the role played by the Hudson’s Bay Company which entered the Western Arctic and cornered the market just in time for the profits to drop out, and much more. His writing style can be dry and academic at times, but the history is fascinating. Northern Alaska was booming in the 1920s, a fact often ignored by historians. Bockstoce has done a great service by bringing it to light.

The dragonfly, Alaska’s state insect, is a nimble flying machine

Sat, 2019-07-20 11:02

The compound eyes of a sedge darner dragonfly. Each eye is made up of thousands of light-and-motion-sensitive units. (Ned Rozell)

The Piper Super Cub is a nimble favorite of Alaska bush pilots who land on and take off from gravel bars and mountaintops. Engineers who designed the plane in the 1940s found a simple model that still works.

Another flying machine, the dragonfly, has not changed much in 300 million years, except it is no longer as large as a raven.

Humans have for a long time admired the design of this creature, one that can fly backwards and zigzag with abrupt turns.

Aerospace scientists at the University of Colorado once leashed live dragonflies inside a wind tunnel. By observing smoke added to the wind, the researchers noticed the dragonflies twisted their wings on each downstroke. The smoke curled off the top of their wings, reducing air pressure there and providing more lift than is available to any aircraft with static wings.

A few years ago, scientists at Harvard, the University of Chicago and Columbia developed a mathematical model in an attempt to predict and duplicate the complex patterns within dragonfly wings.


Closeup of a dragonfly wing. (Ned Rozell)

Each veined dragonfly wing, “a model of evolution and biological engineering,” is as unique as a human fingerprint, wrote Harvard Ph.D. student Jordan Hoffmann, a mathematician who likes to find order in systems that seem to have none. His team came pretty close to nature’s design.

[The weird world of northern dinosaurs is coming into focus]

[What’s the purpose of a moose’s long nose?]

Worldwide, there are about 3,000 species of dragonfly. Thirty types live in Alaska. The largest in the state is the lake darner, a cool blue dragonfly that turns dark when the air is chilly. The delicate treeline emerald flies around cold ponds north of the Brooks Range, miles farther north than any tree. The azure darner patrols the extreme northern coast of Alaska, just a few yards from sea ice and the Arctic Ocean.

The dragons of summer live as flying adults in Alaska for about two warm months. They can live much longer as larvae in bodies of water. After hatching from an egg and developing into an aquatic creature, the larvae use a spoonlike lower lip to capture small fish, tadpoles and other insects. Larvae then crawl above the water on the stems of aquatic vegetation, shed their larval skins, and pop their new wings out to dry.


A dragonfly larva, with ladle lip extended, collected by UAF Bug Camp participant Finn Lindsey in 2016. (Ned Rozell)

Often pursuing moths, midges and mosquitoes from beneath, dragonflies succeed at catching their prey about 95% of the time. This is according to Harvard researchers who in 2011 documented dragonflies’ efficiency at capturing fruit flies.

Dragonflies have such a short time to shine here in Alaska because, like most insects, they need warm air temperatures for their body parts to perform. Biologists Pat Doak and Todd Sformo studied dragonflies on the UAF campus in Fairbanks. They found the adults started flying when the air temperature warmed to 57 degrees Fahrenheit.

Forty-eight states have official insects. The dragonfly took the honor in both Alaska and Washington. Butterflies are the official insect of most other states.

Alaska school kids voted for a state insect during the 1993-94 school year. The four-spotted skimmer dragonfly took first, over the second-place mosquito. Rep. Irene Nicholia, who sponsored the bill, explained.

“The dragonfly’s ability to hover and fly forward and backward reminds us of the skillful maneuvering of the bush pilots in Alaska,” she wrote.

Man charged with murder in Togiak shooting claims self-defense

Sat, 2019-07-20 10:13

A Togiak man charged with murder in a shooting that left him wounded by an Alaska state trooper claims he fired in self-defense, according to the charges against him.

A charging document filed Wednesday in Anchorage accuses Richard Sears, 34, of shooting and killing 61-year-old Samuel Brito after Brito confronted him about an earlier fight Sears had with Brito’s son.

The fight apparently started after the son, Manuel Brito, “made numerous unwanted sexual advances” toward Sears’ sister and groped her, wrote Sgt. Scott Bartlett, who investigated the killing for the troopers.

The charges claim Sears left a gash in Manuel’s scalp, along with a bloody nose and facial bruising.

After Manuel left the Sears’ home, Sears’ sister noticed he’d left some of his belongings on the ground in front of the house and rode on a bicycle with her 8-year-old daughter to return them, Bartlett wrote.

Troopers said Samuel Brito, whom Manuel had told about the fight, came across Sears’ sister as she was riding and threw rocks at her, hitting her in the back of the head. She dropped the belongings in the road and returned home to warn her brother that Samuel Brito "was upset and might be on his way,” the charges say.

Witnesses told troopers Samuel Brito then walked to Sears’ house with an aluminum baseball bat in hand and began to yell, asking “who had assaulted his son.”

That’s when Sears, who troopers say was standing at a window near the entrance to his house, shot Brito three times with a pistol, according to the charges.

Sears told troopers he fired in self-defense, claiming Samuel Brito "looked at him in a way that made him feel that Samuel was going to come into the house and hurt him,” according to the charges.

Sears then retrieved a rifle and shot Brito again while he was on the ground “to make sure he stayed down," he reportedly told troopers.

When a detective later asked whether that meant he wanted to make sure Brito was dead, Sears said, “That too,” Bartlett wrote.

Trooper Daniel Sadloske, who lived nearby, said he heard the three gunshots and walked toward the end of his home in time to see Sears fire the fourth shot. Troopers say Sadloske ordered Sears to drop the gun and fired at him when he refused.

Brito was pronounced dead at the scene by a Togiak health aide. Sears was taken to a hospital in Dillingham for medical treatment and booked into the Anchorage Correctional Complex on Friday. He has been charged with first- and second-degree murder in Brito’s death, and his bail was set at $500,000.

Pages