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Letter: Time and tide

Wed, 2018-10-17 00:21

Although I got run off a couple of times by the owner's security, I used to love to sit on the rocks with a beer at the inlet and watch the tides. Twice a day, the tides go out. A 40-ounce ice beer or fortified lager did me OK when the water was out.

Although a boat might be riding low in the water, in all the times I was there, I never saw anybody throw anybody overboard. I never saw anybody stop paddling, get out and leave the state. I never saw anybody take half of anybody's PFD.
Alaska's such a big place. Alaska's such a beautiful place. We, as Alaskans rolling with the economy's punches — we, as Americans, have deep within us fairer measures meting out pain proportionately than these state politicians have employed these last years in our names.

The tides go out twice a day. On Election Day, let a new, incoming tide take their places.
— Louis A. Breuer

Have something on your mind? Send to 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: Confirmation confusion

Wed, 2018-10-17 00:19

More than 350 Alaska attorneys, all of them women, signed a letter against the confirmation of the Judge Kavanaugh. Whether I agree with them or not, I am surprised: Why did they decide to play identity politics? No men were available to sign this letter also, or this option didn't come to their judicial minds?
I am confused. #YouToo?
— Rudy J. Budesky

Have something on your mind? Send to 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: Begich leads for Alaska

Wed, 2018-10-17 00:16

Mark Begich has two opponents for governor. When I look at all three, Begich leads in all the ways that matter to me. Begich stands strongly for the things I care most about: environment, education, women's rights, human rights, and sustainable Alaskan jobs and ways of life.

Mark Begich is the only candidate who supports a woman's right to make her own health decisions. As a woman, I find that obvious, but neither of the other candidates supports that. Both feel those are decisions best left to government.
Mark Begich is the only candidate who supports the fishing industry and our Alaska way of life. When temporary interests threaten their very survival, Mark Begich stands up for Alaskans' legal voice to protect wild salmon and those jobs and lives that depend on them. What kind of Alaskan does not value salmon and the vast community they support?
Mark Begich has spent a lifetime working to strengthen communities throughout Alaska, championing subsistence rights, strong cultural heritage, good public education, sustainable jobs, health, wellness and mail delivery in all parts of our state.

The choice is obvious. Mark Begich for Alaska.
— Carol Ford

Have something on your mind? Send to 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: Salmon initiative fearmongering

Wed, 2018-10-17 00:12

Opponents of the "Stand for Salmon" initiative must be getting desperate. Beyond their claims of outside "dark money" — this from a group funded in large part by multinational corporations— we now see the "No on 1" folks stooping to classic scare tactics.

With no real evidence to support her claims, state Sen. Natasha Von Imhof warns Alaskans that voting "yes" on the initiative will threaten the Permanent Fund and, more importantly, PFD payments. I hope most Alaskans are able to see her fear-mongering for what it is, just as we Alaskans should be skeptical of a corporate-led attack on an initiative that would enact a long-overdue update of the regulations that guide development in areas important to salmon and their spawning habitat. I should emphasize I have no direct connection to the initiative, except that I think it's a good idea and will vote "yes" on Ballot Measure 1 in November.
— Bill Sherwonit

Have something on your mind? Send to 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: Democrats are actors

Wed, 2018-10-17 00:09

I would like to thank the Democrats for their fierce stance against the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh to the U.S. Supreme Court. It brought clarity to an issue that I've long questioned.

I was having a difficult time understanding the kinship between the Democrats and Hollywood and now I finally have the answer. Both groups are actors.

We've always known that Hollywood is full of actors, but now, since the rejection of Hillary Clinton in 2016, we have had the misfortune of realizing that the Democratic Party is full of actors as well. They have no interest in legislating our country as they were elected to do. They just want to "sway" your vote by theatrics and obfuscation.
I'm glad that most of America is still smarter than that! Hopefully it stays that way.
— Todd Porter

Have something on your mind? Send to 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.

Campaign notebook: Begich, Walker press Dunleavy during heated governor’s race debate

Tue, 2018-10-16 20:54

Candidates for Alaska governor face off at a forum Tuesday hosted by the Anchorage Rotary Club. From left to right the candidates are: Mike Dunleavy, Mark Begich and Gov. Bill Walker. (Tegan Hanlon / ADN)

Things got heated between candidates in the Alaska governor's race at a debate Tuesday in downtown Anchorage, with Gov. Bill Walker, an independent, and Democratic candidate Mark Begich both zeroing in on Republican Mike Dunleavy when they had chances to ask an opponent questions.

At the midday debate, hosted by the Anchorage Rotary Club, Walker brought up events Dunleavy had been absent from, including an NAACP-hosted forum in September and a debate focused on the Permanent Fund dividend at the University of Alaska Anchorage Monday night.

"I think it's pretty disrespectful the way you have said no to so many different groups across the state of Alaska," Walker said. "Why won't you show up and participate in the process that allows Alaskans to find out, understand your math? You throw out math that doesn't make sense, so why have you been so aloof and avoiding Alaskans in this process?"

People in the crowd applauded. Dunleavy shot back that he has "been to debates for the past nine months, I've been to more debates than you have been, more forums than you have been, more town halls than you have been."

The one-hour forum happened just before an announcement from Walker's office Tuesday afternoon that Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott had resigned. Mallott had been running for re-election with Walker. The announcement of his abrupt resignation came just over an hour after the end of the forum, but it was not mentioned or alluded to as candidates traded jabs.

[Campaign notebook: Begich and Walker blast Dunleavy for absences from forums; Dunleavy fires back]

Begich focused his first question during the debate on Dunleavy's record related to crime, asking about Dunleavy's time as a state senator.

"You cut all the programs that could help us combat crime," Begich said. "How will voters trust you to do the right thing when your record is very, very clear on crime?"

Dunleavy pointed to an endorsement he got last week from the Public Safety Employees Association, which represents Alaska State Troopers and other state law enforcement personnel.

"They believe that I'm the guy that will focus on crime and actually make it happen, actually make crime go away," he said.

This is hardly the first time the other candidates have hammered Dunleavy on not attending debates and forums. At a previous forum, Walker posed his question to an empty chair that had been reserved for Dunleavy. "Where are you?" Walker asked.

Dunleavy used both of his chances to question an opponent during Tuesday's debate to focus on Walker. Citing crime rates, unemployment, and educational outcomes, Dunleavy's first question to the incumbent was: "Why should the people of Alaska trust a governor who has failed in so many ways?"

Walker answered by challenging Dunleavy to a debate, and Dunleavy agreed.

"I challenge you to a debate, we can actually have a discussion about those issues. You've been talking about them, but only in sound bites," Walker said.

The candidates also discussed the Alaska gas pipeline project, how they would encourage growth in the state's private sector, and more.

Here's the full debate.

(function(d, s, id) { var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0]; if (d.getElementById(id)) return; js = d.createElement(s); = id; js.src = ''; fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs); }(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk'));Anchorage Downtown Rotary 2018 Gubernatorial Debate

WATCH: All three candidates in the 2018 governor's race will debate questions encompassing growing the private sector, Knik Arm Bridge, addressing the Port of Alaska, the deficit, and more.

Posted by KTVA 11 News on Tuesday, October 16, 2018

An overdue step for Alaska

Tue, 2018-10-16 20:37

Lt. Gov. Valerie Davidson talks about the resignation of Byron Mallott Oct. 16, 2018. Gov. Bill Walker stands behind. (Bill Roth / ADN)

On Tuesday afternoon, Lt. Gov. Valerie Nurr'araaluk Davidson was sworn into office in Anchorage to replace Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott, who resigned earlier in the day.

The circumstances surrounding the reasons for former Lt. Gov. Mallott's surprise resignation have yet to be fully made clear. But Lt. Gov. Davidson's service as the state's second-in-command is well worth noting. She is the first Alaska Native woman to serve in statewide office in our young state's history.

Lt. Gov. Davidson is eminently qualified for her post. She has served in Gov. Bill Walker's Cabinet as Director of Health and Human Services since 2014. That post capped multiple decades of service dealing with Alaska Native health issues. She also served as chairwoman of The Foraker Group, as chairwoman of the Alaska Commission on Children and Youth, and as a member of the Alaska Health Care Commission.

[Valerie Davidson, Alaska's new lieutenant governor, has long history fighting for Native issues]

The ascendance of an Alaska Native woman to the top tier of our state's government is auspicious, regardless of the circumstances that presaged it. It is also long overdue. Although it took 59 years after statehood for an Alaska Native woman to hold the lieutenant governor's office, the legacy of strong Alaska Native women making strides on Alaska's political scene has existed for much longer. It stretches from Elizabeth Peratrovich's fight for Alaska Native civil rights, leading to the passage of the territorial Anti-Discrimination Act, to Ahtna elder Katie John's historic lawsuit establishing subsistence hunting and fishing privileges, to Tara Sweeney's appointment as federal Assistant Secretary of Indian Affairs, and now to Lt. Gov. Davidson.

Lt. Gov. Davidson has celebrated her heritage, including her Yupik name — Nurr'araaluk — on her business cards, and she has promoted representation and inclusivity for Alaska's indigenous people. Her efforts and example will no doubt encourage others to come forward and help lead our state.

The story of Alaska Native women and their accomplishments on the statewide stage is just beginning, but one more chapter was added Tuesday. It will not — and should not — take another 59 years for the next step forward.

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

Wasilla elementary teacher charged with sex abuse enters not guilty plea

Tue, 2018-10-16 19:59

An Alaska State Trooper points out where Lukis Nighswonger should sit for his arraignment on additional charges at the Palmer Courthouse in Palmer on Tuesday. (Bob Hallinen / ADN)

PALMER — The Wasilla elementary teacher accused of sexually abusing students says he isn't guilty of the growing list of charges against him.

Lukis Nighswonger, the 35-year-old former Iditarod Elementary teacher, entered a not guilty plea through his lawyer during a Palmer Superior Court hearing on Tuesday afternoon.

A teenager who says she was one of the popular teacher's victims was there to watch.

Madalyn Turnbull was a student in Nighswonger's class seven and eight years ago when she was in third and fourth grades at Iditarod. She's a junior at Wasilla High School now.

"He was really touchy," Turnbull said after the hearing. Her mother sat next to her on a bench.

"He would ask if it's OK," she said, starting to cry. "You would think when you're young that somebody you trust so much isn't going to hurt you."

Maddy Turnbull and her mother Lorie Turnbull talk to the media after Lukis Nighswonger was arraigned Tuesday. Maddy Turnbull is one of Nighswonger’s victims. (Bob Hallinen / ADN)

Turnbull said the teacher touched her inappropriately, though not to the level described by some other victims.

Nighswonger's former students told investigators he touched their genitals beneath their clothes.

He was Turnbull's cross-country and track coach. Her mother volunteered in his class. She and her friends returned to visit his classroom, even this year.

Turnbull said it doesn't necessarily make her feel better to talk about what happened. Instead, she said, it's ruined what should have been fond memories of school.

Nighswonger encouraged older students to help in the class. He kept personal photos of her and her friends behind his desk.

"He's why I wanted to be a teacher," she said. Asked if she still wants to be a teacher, she shook her head no.

Turnbull told her mother about what happened after the first news stories emerged late last month.

She contacted authorities but has not been scheduled for an interview as part of the investigation yet, they said.

A Wasilla police spokeswoman wasn't available for comment Thursday afternoon.

The Mat-Su school district has sent letters to more than 300 households with children who had Nighswonger as a teacher in his time at Iditarod, starting in 2005.

The family knows "every single victim," Lorie Turnbull, Maddy's mother, said.

All four of her children had Nighswonger as a teacher, Turnbull said. They all loved him.

Lorie Turnbull said the Iditarod school community has been very supportive. But she's angry the Mat-Su school district didn't step in sooner to protect students.

"This could have been ended a long time ago," she said.

Maddy Turnbull and her mother Lorie Turnbull talk to the media after Lukis Nighswonger was arraigned on additional charges in Palmer on Tuesday. Maddy Turnbull is one of Nighswonger’s victims. (Bob Hallinen / ADN)

Nighswonger was allowed to continue teaching after students began reporting concerning behavior.

The first report came in 2012 when a boy who was about 9 in 2008 reported to Wasilla police that Nighswonger had touched his genitals.

The school district wasn't informed by the Wasilla Police Department because no criminal charges were filed.

In January, an older girl who said she came to visit Nighswonger in 2013-2014 said he touched her genitals. That report was taken by the state Office of Children's Services but not shared with police.

School district officials say no criminal charges resulted. They refused to say what, if any, action was taken with the teacher.

Nighswonger's classroom was moved downstairs, next to the new principal's office, this year.

Nighswonger was arrested in late September only after he admitted to touching a former student who's now 14 but was in his class in 2014.

Lukis Nighswonger is arraigned on additional charges on Tuesday. (Bob Hallinen / ADN)

A fourth child was added to the felony sex-abuse case this month based on their description of "hand to genital" contact that occurred in 2015-2016, according to a Palmer grand jury indictment.

Nighswonger appeared by video from Mat-Su Pretrial Facility during his first appearance in court on felony sex-abuse of a minor charges in late September.

He is scheduled for his next hearing in late November, with trial week currently set for mid-December.

Anchorage Daily News generally does not name alleged victims of sexual abuse. Turnbull, with her mother's permission, said she wanted to talk about what happened.

She plans to attend as many of Nighswonger's hearings as she can.

Valerie Davidson, Alaska’s new lieutenant governor, has long history fighting for Native issues

Tue, 2018-10-16 19:56

Department of Health and Social Services Commissioner Valerie Davidson, left, and Gov. Bill Walker , right, sign Alaska Tribal Child Welfare Compact on the first day of AFN at the Dena’ina Center in Anchorage on Thursday, Oct. 19, 2017. Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott, center, watches the historic signing with tribal leaders. (Bill Roth / ADN)

Valerie Davidson, the state's new lieutenant governor and the first Alaska Native woman to hold higher office in Alaska, has fought for Alaska Native social issues for decades.

Now 51, the Yup'ik from Southwest Alaska was an 18-year-old college student when she made national headlines in 1985.

She silenced an Anchorage meeting of the Senate committee on Indian Affairs with her warning of rampant alcohol and drug abuse in villages that killed too many people, according to a news report from that year.

In more recent decades, Davidson has been on the front lines of battles to improve health care for Alaska Natives, including as Gov. Bill Walker's Health and Social Services commissioner until this week.

In a private ceremony on Tuesday, Walker swore Davidson in as lieutenant governor. She replaced Byron Mallott, who resigned from the post and stepped down from the Walker-Mallott reelection campaign, after Mallott made "inappropriate comments" to a woman.

The changes come as the Alaska Federation of Natives prepares to hold its annual convention starting Thursday. Davidson is planned as the keynote speaker, on Thursday morning at 9:20 a.m.

[View this year's AFN Convention agenda here.]

Julie Kitka, AFN president, said Davidson is extremely bright, and the state's largest Native organization is honored she'll set the tone for this year's convention.

"Commissioner Davidson's work and contributions are themselves great examples of the kind of innovative thinking that inspired this year's convention theme — Innovation in the Past, Present and Future — and we all look forward to her insights," Kitka said.

Chief of Staff Scott Kendall, left, Lt. Gov. Valerie Davidson, center, and Gov. Bill Walker, right, participate in the swearing-in ceremony, Oct. 16, 2018. (Office of Gov. Walker photo)

Davidson could not be reached for comment for this article.

Before Walker appointed Davidson to his cabinet in 2014, she had worked at the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium for several years, leading the legal and intergovernmental affairs team.

She was a key figure in negotiations with the federal government that in 2012 allowed rural veterans to get care at tribal clinics in their communities.

Before that, she fought to put dental therapists in rural villages — despite legal challenges from dental associations — helping create the first mid-level dental program in the U.S.

The program improved villages' access to health care. Dental therapists, who can perform some of the same work as dentists, now treat tens of thousands of Alaskans.

Walker announced Davidson as his choice for Health commissioner shortly after taking office in 2014, saying she was the foremost expert on Medicaid expansion in Alaska.

She played a vital role in the governor's decision to expand Medicaid in 2015, arguing the move meant broader health-care services for Alaskans, including Alaska Natives.

Born in Bethel, Davidson also attended school in Aniak, a village in that region.

She used her personal experiences of limited access to dental and health care in those communities to fight for health care improvements, said Grace Jang, deputy chief of staff to Walker.

Davidson has played a key role in Washington, D.C., fighting to keep lawmakers from killing the Affordable Care Act in recent years, also known as Obamacare, Jang said.

Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott has resigned. Here’s what that means for the Nov. 6 ballot.

Tue, 2018-10-16 19:51

Bill Walker and Byron Mallott arrive at the Dena’ina Civic and Convention Center on primary election night, Aug. 21, 2018. (Loren Holmes / ADN)

With three weeks until Alaska's general election, Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott abruptly resigned Tuesday over "inappropriate comments" he had made.

Mallott, a Democrat, had been running for re-election with Gov. Bill Walker, a Republican-turned-independent.

So what does Mallott's resignation mean for the Nov. 6 ballot?

Walker remains in the governor's race, according to his campaign.

Mallott's name will remain on the ballot, despite his resignation, said a statement from the Alaska Division of Elections.

That's because the ballot had already been certified and printed by Tuesday, and the elections division had already sent more than 20,000 ballots out to voters, said Samantha Miller, division spokeswoman. Just over 1,000 of those ballots had been voted and returned, according to the division.

Under state law, candidates must withdraw at least 64 days before the election.

"Under the Alaska Constitution, a vote for governor is considered a vote for the lieutenant governor running with him or her," said the statement from the elections division.

"Even if a lieutenant governor withdraws, the gubernatorial candidate may remain on the ballot," it said. "Accordingly, if Governor Walker is re-elected, Byron Mallott will technically be elected along with him."

However, given Mallott's resignation, Walker would be able to appoint a lieutenant governor if he is re-elected, the division said.

Walker would appoint Valerie Nurr'araaluk Davidson, said his campaign manager, John-Henry Heckendorn.

[Alaska Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott abruptly resigns following "inappropriate comments"]

Davidson was sworn in as the new lieutenant governor Tuesday after Mallott's resignation. She had served as commissioner of the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services up until then.

Davidson's party affiliation is listed as "other," according to state voter registration data. Heckendorn said Davidson was "progressive."

Walker is in a three-way fight for governor with Democratic candidate Mark Begich and Republican candidate Mike Dunleavy. Libertarian candidate Billy Toien is also running for governor.

ADN reporter Annie Zak contributed to this story. 

Ask Amy: New mom feels no love for her firstborn

Tue, 2018-10-16 18:13

Dear Amy: I need help. I don’t love my firstborn son. I feel nothing with him. When I hold my second son, my newborn, my heart swells with love. It used to be like that with my first, too, but it’s not like that anymore, and I’m not sure why.

My older son is two-and-a-half, and a real handful. That might be why he's into everything constantly.

I feel like all I do is get after him! I hardly have time to sit for a second anymore.

I try to bond with him, I try to play with him, but every time I try he's good for a minute and then starts biting me or slapping me or licking me, and I just feel angry again.

I feel so guilty. I want to love him like I love my other son but for now I just pretend to love them the same. I don't want to hurt his little feelings. What should I do?

-- Sad Mom

Dear Sad: Your life right now is the very definition of overwhelming (parents everywhere are nodding their heads in solidarity). However, you might also be depressed. Post-partum depression affects an estimated 10 percent to 15 percent of new moms. The symptoms include having trouble sleeping or concentrating; anger and having trouble bonding. (You have bonded with your baby, but are now detached from your toddler.)

You should see your doctor as soon as possible. Describe in detail how you are feeling.

Also understand that your son's behavior is linked with yours. He is also overwhelmed. He is trapped in his toddler body, but he's regressing; he wants to be a baby again. Offer him a special blankie or stuffed toy to hug for those times when he's feeling needy.

For expert wisdom, I shared your question with Gay Cioffi, a parent-coach (, and former director of the Little Folks School in Washington, D.C. In four decades of teaching young children, she has found ways to love hundreds of toddlers.

She says, "Toddlers will inevitably begin to challenge parents as they try to figure out where their needs begin and end. That's their job, and they frequently do it in ways that are maddening. Add an infant, and a parent who is feeling overwhelmed and disconnected, and the situation is magnified further.

"All children, especially young ones, will mirror the emotion of their caregiver, and thus the cycle continues. Even when we do not feel calm and loving, it is our responsibility to try to send that message -- or get the support we need to get there.

"In addition to professional support, enlisting the help of a family member or even a mother's helper for just an hour a day might help. Self-care is critical in this scenario."

Your son would benefit from attending a toddler group, early Head Start or a preschool class. He should spend some time in an environment where he will be stimulated, learning, and around other adults and children.

Dear Amy: I just received a text picture of an invitation to a baby shower. I found it very tacky. It made me feel unimportant.

Why would somebody text or email when they can use Evite? Is this something new?

-- On the B List

Dear On The B List: Yes, this is something new. I notice several outlets helping people to create invitations suitable for texting. Consider this an Evite.

Technology is constantly enabling people to reach one another in new ways. Sometimes this creates confusion or -- in your case -- hurt feelings.

This does not mean you are on the "B List." It likely means that your host has your phone number but not your email address, and is perhaps sending all of the invitations this way. As always, you should respond politely, considering only the way you feel about the event itself, and not the way the invitation was delivered.

I received a texted photo of a wedding invitation, including a photo of a hand-lettered envelope (addressed to someone else), the week before the wedding. Now that's B List!

Dear Amy: I’d like to echo others' objections to your awful answer to “Wondering Woman,” who wouldn’t tell a man in her neighborhood her exact address. Doing this is incredibly dangerous!

-- Disappointed

Dear Disappointed: “Wondering Woman” described herself as an “urban pioneer,” who was gentrifying the neighborhood. I saw this query as a bid for connection, from a longtime resident of the neighborhood. But yes, Wondering Wife was right to follow her own instincts, as I said in my answer.

Rejection of hundreds of absentee ballots in suburban Atlanta county draws legal challenges

Tue, 2018-10-16 18:13

Voters gather outside the Ebenezer Missionary Baptist Church in Macon, Ga., on Monday to hear Democratic gubernatorial candidate Stacey Abrams. Washington Post photo by Melina Mara (Melina Mara/)

Three weeks before Election Day, election officials in a suburban Atlanta county have rejected hundreds of absentee ballots, prompting state and local inquiries and legal challenges by voting rights advocates, who say the moves have disproportionately affected African-American, Latino and Asian-American voters.

Among the reasons cited for ballots being tossed are signatures that do not match those on file, missing addresses and incorrect birth years, according to state data.

The data show that more than 1,200 ballots have been rejected statewide. The number of rejected ballots is most concentrated in Gwinnett County, northeast of Atlanta, where 465 ballots had been tossed as of Monday night - 38 percent of all those rejected statewide.

"This is an unprecedented number of disqualifications, and it's happening in a county where there are a number of contested races that have minority candidates on the ballot," said Andrea Young, executive director of the Georgia chapter of the American Civil Liberties Union, which filed a lawsuit Tuesday against state and local election officials over the rejected ballots.

"This is cumulative," she added. "It's not an isolated instance."

Gwinnett County, the state's second-largest county, has undergone a demographic transformation in recent years, moving from 67 percent white in 2000 to 62 percent nonwhite last year. Democrats have sought to mobilize the new residents in support of their efforts to turn the state blue.

It's unclear why Gwinnett County is rejecting more absentee ballots than other counties in Georgia, but some voting rights advocates said a new law that changed the information voters must provide on the envelope used to send in the ballots may have caused confusion.

Gwinnett County spokesman Joe Sorenson said in a statement Tuesday evening that the county "is committed to a process that protects the voting rights of all of its citizens and fully complies with the law in the process."

"The handling of absentee ballot applications and the acceptance and rejection of ballots by Gwinnett County has complied with the law and will continue to do so," he said, adding that there have been no allegations that county officials are violating the law.

Stephen Day, the chairman of the county elections board, told the Atlanta Journal-Constitution that an examination of the matter was underway. Day, a Democrat, rejected the possibility of intentional voter suppression.

A spokeswoman for Georgia Secretary of State Brian Kemp said his office is also looking into the ballot rejections. Kemp, the Republican nominee for governor, is locked in a fierce debate about voting access with his opponent, Democrat Stacey Abrams, who has accused him of supporting efforts to disenfranchise voters of color.

"We will not be bullied by out-of-state organizations or political operatives who want to generate headlines and advance a baseless narrative," said Kemp's spokeswoman, Candice Broce. "We will do our part to keep elections secure, accessible, and fair in Georgia."

The revelations about the absentee ballot rejections come days after the Associated Press reported that election officials across Georgia had suspended more than 50,000 applications to register to vote, most of them for black voters, under a rigorous Republican-backed law that requires personal information to exactly match driver's license or Social Security records.

Nearly 2.5 million Georgians cast ballots in the 2014 gubernatorial election, when Republican Gov. Nathan Deal beat his opponent by more than 200,000 votes. This year's contest appears to be much closer.

Republican lawmakers in Georgia have passed legislation in recent years that they say is intended to curtail voter fraud but that critics say restricts ballot access - particularly for voters of color, students and people with lower incomes, who tend to vote Democratic.

The state is home to one of the country's most restrictive voter ID laws. Changes to the mail-in ballot envelope were part of a broader law passed in 2017 requiring voters' registration applications to exactly match their driver's license and Social Security records.

Kemp has championed these policies. His office implemented the "exact match" policy long before the law was passed, but the effort was curtailed by a settlement agreement reached during litigation.

“Georgia is ground zero in the battle for protecting voting rights and voter suppression,” said John Powers, a lawyer with the Lawyers' Committee for Civil Rights Under Law, which sent a letter late Monday to state and local election officials asking that they make sure voters are quickly informed about their rejected ballots to give them time to fix any errors and cast ballots.

Canada to pardon pot possession as it legalizes marijuana

Tue, 2018-10-16 17:56

Brian Harriman, Cannabis NB president and CEO, shows some cannabis products at a Cannabis NB retail store in Fredericton, New Brunswick, Tuesday, Oct. 16, 2018. (Stephen MacGillivray/The Canadian Press via AP) (Stephen MacGillivray/)

TORONTO — The Canadian government is ready to pardon those with a pot possession record of 30 grams or less after Canada becomes the second and largest country with a legal national marijuana marketplace Wednesday.

A senior government official said those with a record will be allowed to apply for a pardon. The official was not authorized to speak publicly ahead of Wednesday's announcement and spoke on condition of anonymity.

On Wednesday, Canada becomes the second country after Uruguay to legalize so-called recreational marijuana. Tom Clarke, 43, will be among the first to legally sell recreational marijuana when his shop opens at midnight in Newfoundland, Canada's easternmost province.

"I am living my dream. Teenage Tom Clarke is loving what I am doing with my life right now," he said.

Clarke has been dealing marijuana illegally in Canada for 30 years. He wrote in his high school yearbook that his dream was to open a cafe in Amsterdam, the Dutch city where people have legally smoked weed in coffee shops since the 1970s.

Turns out, Clarke didn't have to go nearly so far to open his own retail cannabis outlet.

At least 111 legal pot shops are planning to open across the nation of 37 million people on the first day, according to an Associated Press survey of the provinces. That is a small slice of what ultimately will be a much larger marketplace.

No stores will open in Ontario, which includes Toronto. The most populous province is working on its regulations and doesn't expect stores until next spring.

Canadians everywhere will be able to order marijuana products through websites run by provinces or private retailers and have it delivered to their homes by mail.

Longtime pot fan Ryan Bose, 48, a Lyft driver in Toronto, said it's about time.

"Alcohol took my grandfather and it took his youngest son, and weed has taken no one from me ever," he said.

Canada has had legal medical marijuana since 2001, and amid excitement over the arrival of legal recreational pot, many in the industry spent the last days of prohibition on tasks familiar to any retail business — completing displays, holding mock openings and training employees to use sales-tracking software.

"It's been hectic," said Roseanne Dampier, who joined her husband — both former welders — in opening Alternative Greens, a licensed store in Edmonton, Alberta. "We have been extremely busy just trying to be able to meet that deadline."

Canada's federal government, led by Prime Minister Justin Trudeau, spent about two years planning for legalization, fueled by a desire to bring dealers like Clarke out of the black market and into a regulated system.

Canada's national approach has allowed for unfettered industry banking, inter-province shipments of cannabis and billions of dollars in investment — a contrast with national prohibition in the United States. Nine U.S. states have legalized recreational use of pot, and more than 30 have approved medical marijuana.

"Now that our neighbor to the north is opening its legal cannabis market, the longer we delay, the longer we miss out on potentially significant economic opportunities for Oregon and other states across the country," Democratic Sen. Ron Wyden of Oregon said in a statement.

U.S. Customs and Border Protection invited Canadian media to a conference call on Tuesday so officials could reiterate that marijuana remains illegal under U.S. federal law and that those who are caught at the border with pot are subject to arrest and prosecution.

A patchwork of regulations has spread in Canada as each province takes its own approach within the framework set out by the federal government. Some are operating government-run stores, some are allowing private retailers, some both.

Alberta and Quebec have set the minimum age for purchase at 18, while others have made it 19.

The provinces also have been able to decide for themselves how much to mark up the marijuana beyond the 10 percent or $1 per gram imposed by the federal government, and whether to allow residents to grow up to four plants at home.

Steve Hawkins, executive director of the Marijuana Policy Project, a Washington-based lobbying organization that has been pressing for legalization since 1995, said it is time for the U.S. to follow Canada's lead.

"Canada is setting a strong example for how to end marijuana prohibition at the national level and replace it with a system of regulated production and sales that is largely governed at the local level," he said. "The U.S. and other countries grappling with the complexities of such a significant policy shift will have an excellent opportunity to learn from the Canadian experience."

As Canada welcomes legalization, supply shortages could develop, as happened in some U.S. states when legalization arrived.

Trevor Fencott, chief executive of Fire and Flower, said his company has 15 Alberta stores staffed and ready to sell marijuana, but the province has supplied only enough product to open three of them Wednesday.

"We're aware of some of the kinks or growing pains that come with creating an industry out of whole cloth in 24 months," Fencott said.

Brenda Tobin and her son Trevor plan to open their pot shop in Labrador City in Newfoundland and Labrador at 4:20 p.m., a reference to 420, slang for the consumption of cannabis. Tobin, a longtime convenience store owner, said they will be cutting a ribbon and cake.

"We are just ecstatic," she said.

She doesn't expect to make much money off the pot itself, noting Newfoundland's 8 percent cap on retail pot profits. She hopes to make money from pipes, bongs and marijuana paraphernalia.

"There's no money in the product itself," she said. "You got to sell $250,000 worth of product in order to make $20,000. That's not even paying someone's salary."

Ontario won't have any stores open until April, after the new conservative government scrapped a plan for state-owned stores in favor of privately run shops. British Columbia on the Pacific Coast will have just one store open on Wednesday, but many more are expected to open in coming months. Quebec will have 12 open.

“It’s a historic day, a real first,” said Alain Brunet, project manager for the Quebec’s government corporation overseeing the stores. “The first G7 country to legalize cannabis coast-to-coast, and the second country in the world, after Uruguay.”

Political contests erupt as cities and hotel industry struggle to curb Airbnb

Tue, 2018-10-16 17:40

AirBNB landlord, Shaun Johnson, talks with his tennant, Taylor Valencia of San Francisco, at his property in northeast Washington. He rents properties via the website instead of to long-term tenants. Washington Post photo by Jonathan Newton (Jonathan Newton/)

Austin Hong of San Diego has used Airbnb and similar companies for the past five years to rent out a second home for short stays. The income allows him and his husband to cover the mortgage while keeping the three-bedroom house available for family members who visit often.

So Hong fought back when the city council passed a law in July that would ban such short-term rentals. He collected signatures on petitions at food courts and social gatherings as part of a successful campaign to block the law from taking effect until it can be put to popular referendum, possibly in 2020.

"They say it's regulation, but really it's a ban that they passed," said Hong, 34, who is creative director at a software company. "We absolutely want regulation. What we don't want is a ban."

The explosive growth of short-term rentals around the country has pushed local governments to rein in the practice, with help from the hotel industry, which wants to stifle a formidable competitor.

But the effort has spawned political contests that have highlighted the difficulty of managing a disruptive new industry. It has triggered a backlash in some jurisdictions from the short-term rental firms and property owners who don't want to lose a lucrative enterprise.

In June, voters in Palm Springs, California, overwhelmingly approved a ballot measure overturning limits on short-term rentals. Some state governments, such as Tennessee and Arizona, have intervened to protect hosts when legislators thought cities were setting limits that went too far.

In Washington, the tug-of-war is scheduled to reach a climax Tuesday with a second District of Columbia Council vote expected to approve some of the toughest restrictions in the country. They would ban short-term rentals of a second home--a measure that has proved to be the single most divisive provision in debates across the country.

As in many other cities, the District of Columbia bill would allow property owners to rent out space in their primary residence when the host is present, and for a specified period - up to 90 days a year in Washington - when the host is absent.

These kinds of new restrictions - in scores of cities in the U.S. and hundreds worldwide - have barely slowed the rise in home-sharing. It is forecast to continue to expand rapidly and permanently transform the lodging and tourism business.

Short-term rentals have soared because hosts like the extra income and guests get alternatives, often at a lower price, to a hotel or motel. Matching the two has become much easier because bookings can be done online on Airbnb, HomeAway, VRBO and other sites.

The expansion aroused fear in the lodging industry, whose companies and unions have financed and promoted tight regulation of what they describe as "illegal hotels." They have formed an alliance with citizens unhappy that short-term rentals are altering their neighborhoods'' residential character, and affordable housing activists. They make claims, based on inconclusive data, that growth of short-term rentals is contributing significantly to housing shortages and rising rents.

"The real story over the last year or year and a half seems to be the hotel industry waking up to the fact that Airbnb poses a much bigger threat to their business than they originally imagined," said Anu Sundararajan, a New York University business professor.

He noted that on the most recent New Year's Eve, more than 3 million guests were staying in Airbnb rooms, or more than the total number staying in hotels owned by Marriott and Hilton combined.

The regulations have established a legal framework for the new industry, which in many cities was operating in violation of zoning laws or other ordinances. They also have allowed local governments to collect taxes on short-term rentals. Airbnb says about 60 percent of its U.S. hosts now pay such levies.

"We're encouraged to see places like San Diego, Boston and New York moving forward with regulations holding Airbnb and their counterparts accountable for fostering illegal hotel activity, which is really affecting quality of neighborhoods and housing affordability across the country," Troy Flanagan, vice president of the American Hotel and Lodging Association, said.

But the new regulations are barely slowing down the nascent industry. Global short-term rentals grew by 82 percent from 2012 to 2017, from 45.6 billion to 82.9 billion, according to a July report by Skift, a travel industry research firm. In the same period, hotel room sales increased 27 percent, from 404.2 billion to 512.3 billion.

By 2022, Skift forecast, short-term rentals sales will jump 60 percent from the 2017 level, to 132.5 billion rooms, while hotel room sales will rise by 34 percent to 686.9 billion.

It seems likely that short-term rentals would have grown even faster without the new regulations, but no figures are publicly available about how many listings were lost overall because of the new rules. In San Francisco, Airbnb reported in January that some of the tightest restrictions in the county had cost it nearly 5,000 listings.

Regulation can actually help encourage short-term rentals, according to the industry, because it legitimizes the activity and attracts interest. Also, it's so difficult to enforce many regulations that home-sharing continues even if it's technically illicit.

"The more heavy handed and draconian the regulations that cities try to impose, the more complicated it is for them to enforce," Matthew Kiessling, vice president of the Travel Technology Association, said.

But cities accuse the short-term rental companies of making enforcement difficult by declining to share data about who is listing properties.

In Portland, a city audit in August found that nearly 80 percent of listed rentals were operating without the mandatory city permit. City officials complained their hands were tied because they lacked data.

"It's still very challenging to have what I would call smart regulation, because it depends on data, and data is largely held by the companies, and the companies are largely not super-interested in sharing the data," said Kellen Zale, a University of Houston law professor.

She and other analysts said the research is inconclusive about whether the short-term rental business is contributing to shortages of affordable housing.

"I've seen various studies, and they point in different directions," Zale said. "We haven't really got good evidence."

Despite the bitter battle over regulation, some common ground exists. The short-term rental companies agree with the hotel industry that owners should be banned from having multiple listings. The hotel industry says it's fine with what it calls "true" home-sharing, in which hosts rent space in their primary residence when they're present.

The biggest challenge has been whether to allow short-term rentals of second homes. Seattle, Denver and Phoenix say "yes," while San Francisco and New York have largely banned the practice.

The question resonates in San Diego, a seaside city with thousands of vacation homes that have been rented out on a short-term basis for generations.

Blaine Smith owns a company that manages 150 vacation homes.All but two or three of the properties are second homes, which could not be rented under the proposed law.

“As written, it would pretty much put us out of business,” Smith, 32, said. “We have such a rich history of tourism and vacation rentals. It’s just crazy what happened here.”

Could rebuilding ruin ‘mom-and-pop’ Florida beach town?

Tue, 2018-10-16 17:35

In this Oct. 14, 2018 photo Dena Frost salvages an unbroken clay pot from the wreckage of her pottery business in Mexico Beach, Fla. For decades, the town has persisted as a stubbornly middlebrow enclave on what residents proudly refer to as Florida's "Forgotten Coast." Businesses are locally owned. While some locals owned posh homes that overlooked the beach on stilts, many lived in mobile homes. (AP Photo/Russ Bynum) (Russ Bynum/)

MEXICO BEACH, Fla. — Hurricane Michael swamped Dena Frost’s mobile home and obliterated the shop where she sold pottery beside the main highway running through Mexico Beach. Most of her neighbors saw similar destruction.

The monstrous storm wrecked the mayor's hardware store and the only grocery in this Gulf Coast town of about 1,000 people. It splintered beachfront condos and smashed the inn that has welcomed tourists for four decades. It reduced seafood restaurants to rubble and literally broke the bank.

As Frost, 62, searched on Sunday among the large clay pots lying scattered among her shop's ruins for undamaged inventory she might still sell, how soon — or even if — she might be able to reopen her business of 12 years was a question too painful to bear.

"It is so devastating right now that you can't think about," Frost said. "Mexico Beach was the loveliest place on Earth. And now it's gone."

As they face rebuilding a town that Michael practically wiped off the map, Frost and others worry about what Mexico Beach might become.

For decades, the town has persisted as a stubbornly middlebrow enclave on what residents proudly refer to as Florida's "Forgotten Coast." Businesses are locally owned. The closest thing to a national franchise is Mayor Al Cathey's Ace Hardware store. While some locals owned posh homes that overlooked the beach on stilts, many lived in mobile homes.

The spring-break influx of college students that fuels neighboring Panama City Beach’s economy bypasses Mexico Beach. High-rise condos and resort hotels have been kept at bay by local ordinances that restrict building heights to 48 feet.

"We're one of the most unique coastal communities left," said Cathey, a Mexico Beach native. "We're not commercialized. We're mom-and-pop businesses. There's no corporate America here. There's no Walmart. There's no Pizza Hut."

But the mayor, like many of his constituents, is concerned that could change. Many property owners in Mexico Beach are older retirees who may not want to rebuild. They and other owners might opt to sell rather than start over, Cathey said. And the new owners will probably want to build bigger.

"Families passing beach cottages along over three or four generations, that's over," Cathey said. "I think the pressure will come to want us to be something that we aren't."

Bill Shockey, 86, said he plans to sell his Mexico Beach home of more than 40 years after the hurricane battered it with storm surge and peeled off much of the roof.

Earl Boyett of Bainbridge, Georgia, has owned a condo for vacations and weekend getaways in Mexico Beach for 16 years. It's still standing, but with the side of the building facing the beach largely torn off.

The 60-year-old contractor isn't looking forward to rebuilding, and he is not sure what the four other owners who shared the building will want to do.

"Lots are going to be for sale now, point-blank," Boyett said. "I would sell, probably, before I build."

After falling in love with the small beach town during a decade of vacations, Hilary Davidson and her husband built a home two years ago and moved in permanently. Her stepson built the house to withstand a big storm, and it held up admirably during the hurricane. The only water that got in, she said, came up from the shower drain.

She describes Mexico Beach as a place where her daughter can ride a bike without worrying about speeding traffic. When she returned home after the storm, Davidson slept with the windows and doors open.

"We don't want our community to change," she said. "I'm afraid a lot of the people who have been devastated are going to give up. There are a lot of older people who aren't going to have the resources."

Many residents who also worked in Mexico Beach no longer have jobs. Tom Wood and his wife employed about a dozen people at the Driftwood Inn, which they opened more than 40 years ago.

The hurricane's storm surge nearly demolished the side of the 24-room inn facing the beach. Three of the four rental homes Wood had across the highway got smashed. Wood said he will keep workers on the payroll as long as he can afford to. But he also has to refund thousands of dollars in deposit money from guests who had booked vacations through next summer.

“The plan right now is I’ll build it back bigger and better than it was,” Wood said. “But it’ll take me two years to rebuild.”

After voting for all three, it’s Begich for me

Tue, 2018-10-16 16:13

Mark Begich, candidate for governor, greets supporters after speaking at his Anchorage campaign headquarters on Sept. 4, 2018. (Marc Lester / ADN)

I am an independent voter from the Mat-Su, and I have the unique perspective of having voted for all three of the major candidates who are in this year's governor's race: Mike Dunleavy for school board, Bill Walker for governor, and Mark Begich for U.S. senator.

I naively thought Dunleavy meant what he said about being an advocate for education, but I quickly learned that I was mistaken. In 2014, Walker seemed to be the better gubernatorial candidate, but now with Alaska ranking first in crime rate, last in education, and near the bottom for economy, we need to do much better. I didn't agree with everything Begich did as a senator, but overall, I was pleased with his work for our state.

I have carefully read the plans for the candidates who are in this year's governor's race, and there is no doubt as to which candidate has the most forward-thinking vision for our state. Mark Begich is the only candidate who has been proactive and forward-thinking about laying out a series of comprehensive and detailed plans that are relevant to most Alaskans, including crime, education, the PFD, and others.

Those of us who have worked in education would greatly appreciate his educational funding plan. This would avoid the incalculable spring ritual when school districts try to make their budgets without knowing how much money they'll receive from the state, causing great stress, anxiety and staffing problems. When I saw that Mark Begich actually figured out a permanent solution to solve this huge educational conundrum, I wondered why no one else had thought of that years ago. Not only would his funding plan save much time and angst, it would have freed up more than $1 billion in general funds.

Dunleavy, whose wealthy Texas brother and other Outside donors are providing him with substantial support, claims to be a champion for education. What he says, though, and what his records show, are highly inconsistent. Dunleavy voted to cut more than $30 million for education, job training, and workforce development. According to a commentary written by professors from Kotzebue's Chukchi College, titled "Should Mike Dunleavy be elected to the Mat-Su School Board?", Dunleavy's brief experience as superintendent of the Northwest Arctic Borough School District led to his resignation just eight months into his lucrative three-year contract. Most teachers work weekends and evenings, but Dunleavy felt as if his evening and weekend work was such a burden that he requested an additional 5 weeks' pay to his 12-month contract. (I'm quite sure governors are also expected to work many evenings and weekends, without additional financial compensation.) Dunleavy supports closing rural schools and sending rural students to boarding schools. That experiment has been tried before, and many adults who were sent to boarding schools as children resent having family time replaced with institutional living.

On Walker's website, I see educational goals listed, but no plan as to how to reach those goals. Now is the time for a concrete plan. We can't wait four more years.
In regards to the campaign trail, why does Dunleavy think it's OK to stop participating in debates? Or to not even show up at the Alaska Federation of Natives board meeting with the other candidates? Begich and Walker are showing up and talking with Alaskans. These things matter, and it speaks volumes if a candidate doesn't value debating or listening to the opinions and experiences of elders, leaders and residents of our state. A governor is, after all, our elected representative.

After doing research on the candidates, the choice for me is clear. Alaska would benefit from a governor who is forward-thinking, hard-working, articulate and who has a plan to keep our state moving forward. I'm joining Bella Hammond, Vic Fischer, Jane Angvik, Tony Knowles and many others and voting for Mark Begich for governor.

Diana Sloan-Basner worked as an educator in the Mat-Su for 30 years and has called Alaska home since 1982.

Alaska Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott abruptly resigns following “inappropriate comments”

Tue, 2018-10-16 15:34

Former Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott and Gov. Bill Walker at the First Alaskans Institute Elders & Youth Conference on Monday Oct. 15, 2018, at the Dena’ina Center. (Bill Roth / ADN)

Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott abruptly resigned from office Tuesday, Alaska Gov. Bill Walker said, following disclosure of recent "inappropriate comments" he made. It wasn't immediately clear what Mallott said or to whom, and the governor and his staff were not answering questions about what happened.

A new lieutenant governor, Alaska Health and Social Services Commissioner Valerie Nurr'araaluk Davidson, was immediately sworn in. In a brief statement, she said she was "profoundly disappointed" by Mallott's conduct, adding "respect for women, and the dignity of all Alaskans, is our responsibility."

Walker, in a written statement that he later read in a brief news conference in Anchorage, said, "Byron recently made inappropriate comments that do not reflect the sterling level of behavior required in his role as lieutenant governor. I learned of the incident last night. Byron has taken full responsibility for his actions and has resigned."

Mallott's resignation comes three weeks before Election Day. Walker, elected as an independent, faces Democrat Mark Begich and Republican Mike Dunleavy.

Lt. Gov. Valerie Davidson talks about the resignation of Byron Mallott Oct. 16, 2018. Gov. Bill Walker stands behind. (Bill Roth / ADN)

In his resignation letter to Walker, Mallott wrote:

"It is a resignation compelled by inappropriate comments I made that placed a person whom I respect and revere in a position of vulnerability….I take full responsibility for this action and apologize to, and seek healing for, the person I hurt."

The letter did not identify the person.

"I also recognize that my actions have compromised my ability to lead this state and for that I express my remorse and sorrow."

Davidson was sworn into the office during a private ceremony Tuesday afternoon, the governor's office said.

"While I am deeply saddened by the resignation of Lt. Governor Byron Mallott, I am profoundly disappointed by his conduct," Davidson said in the statement. "Respect for women, and the dignity of all Alaskans, is our responsibility. I stand ready to serve as your lieutenant governor."

Both Walker and Davidson appeared briefly at a news conference at the governor's office in Anchorage, read the statements that had been issued earlier, then left without taking questions.

Valerie Nurr’araaluk Davidson (left), Director of Rural and Native Affairs Barbara Blake (center), and Gov. Bill Walker (right) participate in a swearing-in ceremony Tuesday as Davidson replaced Byron Mallott as lieutenant governor. (Office of Gov. Walker photo)

Dr. Jay Butler, chief medical officer in the Division of Public Health, was appointed commissioner of the Department of Health and Social Services, the governor's office said.

Asked what the inappropriate comments were, John-Henry Heckendorn, campaign manager for the Walker-Mallott re-election campaign, declined to comment.

Mallott's resignation also applies to Walker's campaign for re-election, Walker said in another emailed statement Tuesday afternoon sent by Heckendorn.

"Though he cannot remove his name from the ballott, he will not accept the position of Lieutenant Governor if elected," Walker said. "Val Davidson will be sworn in as Lieutenant Governor and will also assume this role on the campaign. We hold everyone on our team to a high standard in all of their words and actions. This campaign and the stakes of this election are greater than any one person."

Dunleavy said in a statement this his campaign remained "focused on restoring trust in state government" as they awaited details surrounding Mallott's resignation.

"We need safe neighborhoods, a health economy and full Permanent Fund dividends," he said. "This campaign has always been about the people of Alaska, not politicians."

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Strangulation is a deadly tactic. Believe victims.

Tue, 2018-10-16 15:30

On Sept. 6, a little girl, Ashley Johnson-Barr, played in the fall weather at her local park in Kotzebue. She will never return to play there again. Her body was found on September 14. The autopsy conducted by the State Medical Examiner's Office revealed "signs of trauma that include strangulation and sexual abuse," according to a statement released by the Department of Law. Furthermore, this same autopsy reported "distinct ligature marks" around her neck, facial injuries and "large amounts of mud/debris" on her body.

What are ligature marks? According to Richard Harruff, Chief Medical Examiner of the Seattle-King County Medical Examiner's office, these are visual results of strangulation. Dr. Harruff outlines two types of strangulation – manual and ligature. Manual strangulation takes place when a person uses their hands to compress the neck.

Ligature strangulation refers to "neck compression produced by an object that can be used for tying, such as a rope, cord, belt, shoelace, wire or electrical cable." Ashley Johnson-Barr, like the victim in the recent Justin Schneider case, experienced strangulation. These victims were not choked; they were strangled. Strangulation is a violent and effective tactic that is misunderstood, deadly and consistently downplayed.

Strangulation results in cerebral hypoxia – this means that there is not enough oxygen delivered to the brain to maintain the functioning of the brain and results in a loss of consciousness. A victim who is being strangled may lose consciousness in as little as 10 seconds – seconds that are often filled with confusion, disorientation and disbelief. Although victims may recover consciousness, if strangulation stops oxygen for a longer period of time – say four minutes – they could die.

If victims consistently experience bouts of non-fatal strangulation where critical areas of the brain do not get enough oxygen or neurological input, they may experience diminished brain functioning resulting in memory loss and minor strokes. A particularly concerning characteristic about strangulation is that victims can be strangled with no physical signs or symptoms on their body. In the absence of physical injuries, victims themselves, family members, untrained health care providers, and other first responders may assume that there is little danger or injury. However, a victim who has been strangled can develop symptoms such as swollen airways and difficulty breathing for up to three days after the strangulation incident. Even without physical marks, a victim who has been strangled can die three to four days later.

Alaskans must do a better job of understanding the severity of strangulation, and we must do a better job to protect victims. One way is to learn how tactics work, and to use the correct terms when describing those tactics. For example, victims who are strangled are not choked and do not pass out, even though these terms are often used to describe what happens when a victim is strangled. Victims lose consciousness because there is an intentional act to cut off oxygen flow to their brains.

Another important factor to consider is the link between strangulation and increased risk of homicide. Dr. Nancy Glass reported in 2008 that non-fatal strangulation is an important risk factor for homicide in domestic violence victims. This means that when victims report that their partners have "choked" them – even if there are no marks – those victims are at higher risk of being murdered by their partner. Dr. Glass rightly points out the need to factor the real risks of non-fatal strangulation when conducting lethality assessments with abused women. In other words, strangulation is deadly, and it should never be taken lightly.

Alaskans must collectively do more to support victims, listen to their experiences and provide relevant and timely services. We must collectively do more to prevent violence, and acknowledging what we know to be true is a good place to start. The recently released "2016 Felony Level Sex Offense Crime in Alaska Supplemental Report" highlights the following:

The most common victim is a 14-year-old female.

The most common suspect is a 19-year-old male.

The most common space where the assault occurs is in the home.

Alaska has one of the highest rates of sexual assault in the country and is especially dangerous for Alaska Native women and girls who continue to experience the highest rates of sex offence victimization across all age groups. 54 percent of the reported victims identified as Alaska Native. The dangers that women currently face in our communities is profound in light of statistics like these, and in light of current sex offense cases.

We know enough now to do a better job responding to and preventing sexual assault and domestic violence. Now is the time to act. Contact your local domestic violence and sexual assault program in your community and ask what you can do. Contact the Alaska Native Women's Resource Center and ask how to better support Alaska Native survivors and communities. Contact the Alaska Network on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault to learn more about sexual assault and domestic violence prevention and intervention efforts in our state. Contact the Council on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault and ask how we can change practices and policies to provide better protection for survivors. Contact your local school board to find out if students have access to sexual and dating violence prevention classes. Contact your elected officials and let them know that sexual assault and domestic violence are serious crimes, and that the impacts reverberate in the family and community, damage our economy, and brutally reinforces intergenerational and historical trauma.

Finally, believe. Believe survivors, and believe that we can make a difference. As Alaskans we can lift each other up, hold each other accountable, and protect the most vulnerable. It is our collective responsibility.

Carmen Lowry, Ph.D., is the Executive Director of the Alaska Network on Domestic Violence & Sexual Assault.
Dr. Tracey Wiese, APRN, FNP-BC, PMHNP-BC, is an Advanced Nurse Practitioner certified in both Family Practice and Psychiatric Mental Health.

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) Send submissions shorter than 200 words to or click here to submit via any web browser. Read our full guidelines for letters and commentaries here.

The most tedious parts of a hunt can still be time well spent

Tue, 2018-10-16 15:29

There’s something gratifying about a pile of feathers between your boots, according to columnist Steve Meyer. (Photo by Christine Cunningham)

The screech issued from my mom's mouth took me by surprise, as I came through the door into the kitchen from the cellar below. Between her intermittent cursing of my dad, hunting and me, she demanded I look at my pants.

I don't remember for sure if she swatted me with a broom, rushing me out the front door, but I did look at my pants. It must have been a latent survival instinct that informed me I better not laugh at what I took to be high humor. The light-colored pants were almost black, and they seemed to have a life of their own. Turns out, the life was in the form of fleas, and they hadn't restricted their playground to my pants. I was crawling with them.

The best I can remember, it was mid-November and bird hunting season was in full swing. I think I was 8 years old, and my favorite chore was plucking the ducks and geese Dad had shot in the morning. There was a snow goose and a couple of mallards on the front porch when I got home from school, and I snatched them up and headed down to the cellar.

We lived in a small two-story farmhouse with a cellar that housed a big, round, coal-burning furnace. It sat in the middle of the room. Directly above, on the first floor of the house, there was a square grate that dispersed heat to the home.

There wasn't much in the cellar besides the furnace. I had a small bench and a chair set up beneath a naked light bulb, where I did my work. I would pluck, or skin (in the case of pheasants), the birds and eviscerate them, placing everything but the plucked or skinned birds in paper grocery sacks.

The "chore" was part of earning my keep to be allowed to go hunting. It wasn't much of a chore. More like my own little slice of paradise. I would disappear down there, free to take my time and examine every bird. It was a post-graduate education in bird anatomy and terminal ballistics.

There were also plenty of bugs on the wildfowl. All sorts of lice are present on feathered wildlife. The duck lice were sort of annoying, as they would get in your hair or under a shirtsleeve and feel weird. But they weren't harmful to humans, and they died once removed from the host bird. But, it seems, not so much with fleas.

I didn't intend to forget to take the bags of entrails and feathers out for disposal, but I did, leaving a breeding ground for fleas. We had to move out of the house, to my grandmother's place, while it was fumigated for an impressive infestation of fleas. A delight for my grandmother, as it cemented her belief that I was a heathen and needed to go to church more and hunt less. It didn't work.

What brought these memories around was a comment on a media post about the recent regulation change that requires hunters to salvage, in addition to the breast meat, the legs of geese and cranes. The comment was that the regulation would go away soon enough. That seems unlikely.

Growing up, everyone plucked ducks and geese and roasted them, pheasants and other upland game were skinned (upland birds have delicate skin that doesn't take well to plucking, especially in young birds and early in the season) and cooked in a variety of gravies or barbecue.

I can't remember when the norm changed to "breasting" — that is, removing the breast meat and discarding the rest. It must have been after the magic of plucking birds dissipated, as I adopted the method and never thought much about it.

Then some years ago, Christine and I took a young fellow on his first duck hunt. He was a good shot and took his first bird on the wing as a small flock of pintails streaked past the blind. I had shot one as well and the young man wanted to know how to take care of a bird.

I thought, well, I need to show this kid the right way, and I started plucking my bird right there in the blind, as he followed my lead and did the same. It was a joy to watch this young fellow emulate my work, and it occurred to me — if this is the right way, why wasn't I doing it all the time?

Since then, Christine and I have taken to plucking or skinning birds more often. In the evenings at duck camp we'll sit along the banks of a tidal cut while the light grows dim, with a couple of Labs lying beside us, and pluck some of our birds.

Sometimes, after a day afield, we'll start a fire in the fire ring at home and sit in its warmth while plucking ducks, and sometimes grouse, or skinning ptarmigan. In its own way, there is a therapy to the process. It's an extension of the reason we hunt, a connection to the natural world.

Spruce, sharptail and ruffed grouse in September 2017. The thin skins are harder to pluck but worth the effort. (Photo by Steve Meyer)

Truth be told, the meat gained by using the entire bird doesn't amount to much with ducks, grouse or ptarmigan. But it is meat. In the modern world it seems everything has a cost-benefit analysis, with time being a valuable commodity. I expect that is why the breasting of birds became the norm for most, myself included.

But the cost-benefit in terms of the amount of meat versus cost of travel, equipment and time never pencils out for the modern hunter. Pure speculation, but if one were to add it all up, most of the game meat consumed costs twice what the best New York steak does per pound.

Lest anyone think I'm on a bandwagon for hunters to start plucking and skinning birds in lieu of breasting, I'm not. I understand it, and I still do it, although not so much as I used to. It's more about sharing something of value that was discarded in favor of expedience, to be found again. I expect there are plenty of hunters who have never practiced it, or even know that it was the way of things, and maybe they would like to give it a try.

I can tell you that when we go to the extra trouble, we feel good about it, and maybe, in the hunting world that affords so much freedom and so many individual choices, that is answer enough.

Steve Meyer of Soldotna is a longtime Alaskan and an avid shooter. Contact him at

Hurricane death toll climbs in Florida as officials get into most devastated areas

Tue, 2018-10-16 15:18

FILE- In this Oct. 11, 2018 file photo, Mishelle McPherson looks for her friend Agnes Vicari in the rubble of her home in Mexico Beach, Fla. Vicari stayed in her home during Hurricane Michael and has not been found. The storm that ravaged the Panhandle left incredible destruction, but so far getting a firm grasp on how many died is proving somewhat elusive. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert, File) (Gerald Herbert/)

After Hurricane Michael tore through the Florida Panhandle on its way north, officials in the state were left with the macabre task of figuring out the storm's death toll - a question that could take some time to answer.

In Bay County, Florida, where Michael made landfall last week as a powerful Category 4 storm, the sheriff said Tuesday that 12 hurricane-related deaths had been confirmed there. That pushes the total deaths linked to the storm to at least 30 across four states, with other deaths in Florida under investigation and officials still exploring some of the most ravaged areas.

Bay County Sheriff Tommy Ford said the toll, while tragic, remains lower than what many had expected based on the sheer devastation the hurricane left behind. Some had anticipated a higher death toll in Mexico Beach, Florida, because nearly 300 people had told authorities they weren’t planning to evacuate the tiny seaside town, which was obliterated by Michael’s storm surge and 155 mph winds as it made landfall.

FILE- In this photo taken Oct. 12, 2018, a body being removed after being discovered during the search of a housing structure in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael in Mexico Beach, Fla. (AP Photo/David Goldman, File) (David Goldman/)

Ford said in an interview that the death toll could rise in Bay County, which includes Panama City.

"But based on what we're seeing on the ground, I don't anticipate it rising - we don't anticipate it rising dramatically," Ford said. "It's nothing short of a miracle. We expected a large death toll."

Ford said the medical examiner had determined the 12 deaths were all storm related. While Ford did not have a breakdown of the deaths by location, he said at least a couple of people were killed in Mexico Beach. Ford also said he suspected that many of the people in Mexico Beach who had planned to ride out the storm there "did flee at the last minute."

“It was sobering to wake up . . . at 4 o’clock in the morning on Wednesday and see it was continuing to intensify and we were within the crosshairs and there was a narrowing cone of uncertainty,” he said.

[Florida families are still searching for people missing in after Hurricane Michael]

It was unclear how many people were still missing as of Tuesday. Ford said he did not know exactly how many people were still believed to be missing in Bay County, where officials are still struggling with their communication systems in the storm’s wake; several could not be reached Tuesday as cellphone service remained limited. CrowdSource Rescue, an organization in Texas that collects reports of missing people and relays them to first responders and volunteers on the ground, said it still had reports of more than 700 people missing across Florida as of Tuesday afternoon.

In this Sunday, Oct. 14, 2018, photo, a billboard lies atop a Waffle House restaurant after being knocked down by Hurricane Michael, in Panama City, Fla. (Carlos R. Munoz/Sarasota Herald-Tribune via AP) (Carlos R. Munoz/)
Anthony Weldon, 11, pulls a cart with his family's belongings as they relocate from their uninhabitable damaged home to stay at their landlord's place in the aftermath of Hurricane Michael in Springfield, Fla., Monday, Oct. 15, 2018. (AP Photo/David Goldman) (David Goldman/)

Florida officials did not immediately provide a statewide number for how many people are still considered to be missing, though they noted that large numbers of people are often reported missing after disasters, particularly when cell service and electricity are both in short supply. The office of Gov. Rick Scott, R, reported that more than 138,000 people still lacked electrical power as of Tuesday afternoon, many of them in the waterfront counties along the gulf and tracking inland across the panhandle along the storm's track.

"One thing that complicates the missing-person issue is a lot of that is the inability to communicate with each other and communicate with the outside world," Ford said.

He was out Monday night and got a text message from a law enforcement officer in another county unable to reach an elderly uncle in Bay County. "I was able to go by and check and he was fine," Ford said. "He just had no ability to communicate he was fine."

Parts of Florida remained shattered. Seven school districts were “closed until further notice,” Scott’s office said Tuesday. In a statement, Scott also called on telecommunications companies to make clear how they would help get service going again, and his office was sharply critical of the lingering outages affecting Floridians.

Jeff Ready and his wife Julie Ready rest in a a hallway at an evacuation shelter set up at Rutherford High School, in advance of Hurricane Michael, in Panama City Beach, Fla., Wednesday, Oct. 10, 2018. (AP Photo/Gerald Herbert) (Gerald Herbert/)

"Due to these outages, families are having a difficult time communicating with loved ones, first responders have faced challenges communicating and people are having difficulty getting their prescriptions filled because of the inability to connect to a network," his office said.

The storm’s ultimate death toll still remained unclear nearly a week after the storm. Virginia officials reported six deaths there, while authorities reported three deaths in North Carolina and two in Georgia.

Brad Parsons, with the Davis H. Elliot company, works to replace a cross arm on a utility pole in Hanover County, Va., on Friday Oct. 12, 2018. Remnants of Tropical Storm Michael left hundreds of thousands in Virginia without power. (Dean Hoffmeyer/Richmond Times-Dispatch via AP) (Dean Hoffmeyer/)
Dave Stough recovers a flag that was attached to his car port that was crushed by a large tree crashing and his mobile home, Friday, Oct. 12, 2018 in Virginia Beach, Va. Strong winds from the remnants of Michael moved through Hampton Roads. Dave and his wife were awake at the time but not injured. They and their pets are now trying to figure out where they will stay. (L. Todd Spencer/The Virginian-Pilot via AP) (L. Todd Spencer/)

State officials in Florida late Tuesday afternoon said they had confirmed 16 deaths due to the storm, an increase from earlier in the day when they confirmed two deaths while local authorities were reporting larger numbers. The state's figure was determined in part because of how storm-related fatalities are reported in Florida after natural disasters.

Death tolls after hurricanes are reported through the Medical Examiners Commission of the Florida Department of Law Enforcement. Counties send their death counts to the commission, which then sends that information to state officials for release as the official tallies for Florida, said Stephen Nelson, chair of the commission.

"Our problem here is that it's taken a while to even access those communities and to be able to talk to our folks on the ground," Nelson, the medical examiner in a district that includes Polk County, Florida, said in an interview. He said that, in Bay County, the medical examiner's office had no electricity as of Monday afternoon and was relying on a generator.

There are two kinds of deaths attributed to a storm, Nelson said. Direct deaths include people slain when they drive into flooded areas and drown or are inside buildings that are knocked over. Indirect deaths, which are typically more frequent, often happen during preparations and cleanup, including when someone slips and falls off a roof or dies of poisoning from carbon monoxide produced by a generator.

Emergency workers form a caravan at the western edge of town at Mexico Beach, population 1200, where they planned to join the South Florida Search and Rescue Task Force to clear home and to make contact with survivors in the township which lay devastated on Thursday, Oct 11, 2018. (Douglas R. Clifford/Tampa Bay Times via AP) (Douglas R. Clifford/)

The State Emergency Operations Center said a 94-year-old woman was killed in Clay County. The state also reported one storm-related death in Gulf County, although more information was not available about what happened.

State officials also said the deaths of two men, 44 and 71, had been confirmed in Gadsden County. The Gadsden County Sheriff's Office initially reported four "storm-related fatalities" last week, then said only one had been officially confirmed as a death from the hurricane and that the other three were sent to the medical examiner's office for further determination. A sheriff's spokeswoman did not immediately respond to a request for comment about whether the second death confirmed by the state was among those that was being investigated.

Some local officials have reported figures that the state has not yet released; Rodney Andreasen, emergency management director for Jackson County, Florida, said his county had confirmed three deaths from the storm.

Law enforcement officials and first responders are still working to figure out if there are any dead or injured people unaccounted for, and Nelson warned that the number could rise across the state.

“As those search and recovery efforts take place, I would be surprised if our body count did not rise,” Nelson said. It is difficult for them to get into all of the impacted areas, Nelson said, so “the more that they’re able to get into . . . the more remote areas, I’d be very surprised if that death count does not go up.”