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Police: Man bites cab driver, hits him with bolt cutters and flees into Peanut Farm

Fri, 2018-07-20 12:44

A 37-year-old Anchorage man was charged with assault after he bit a cab driver late Thursday and then attacked him with bolt cutters in a gas station parking lot, police said.

The driver called police about 11:30 p.m. to report the assault, said Anchorage police spokesman MJ Thim. The incident happened at the Chevron on the 5200 block of Old Seward Highway.

The driver said he had been bitten in the arm and struck in the face with bolt cutters, Thim said.

As officers were talking to the driver, employees from the Peanut Farm across the street called 911.

A man had just run into the restaurant with bolt cutters and was hiding in the restroom, Thim said.

"Officers put two and two together and said that's our guy," Thim said.

A team of officers and police dogs went over, he said. Employees pointed the officers in the direction of the restroom.

Then a man ran out of the restroom and through the restaurant, ignoring officers' calls to stop, Thim said.

He ran into the restaurant kitchen, crashed into a wall and fell down, Thim said.

At that point officers handcuffed the man, identified as Justin Saunders. Police took Saunders to the hospital to check for head injuries from striking the wall, Thim said.

Saunders was belligerent toward police and hospital staff, at one point spitting in an officer's face, Thim said.

Thim said Saunders was treated for minor injuries and taken to jail.

Thim didn't immediately have information about what sparked the confrontation in the cab. But Saunders faces several assault charges, Thim said.

Truck carrying rock that killed boy in car ‘tentatively’ ID’d, investigators say

Fri, 2018-07-20 12:43

State investigators believe they've identified the driver of a truck from which a rock fell and killed an 8-year-old boy Thursday on the Sterling Highway but have yet to release a name or further details about the incident.

"Investigators have tentatively identified the vehicle and driver involved," Jonathon Taylor of the Department of Public Safety said in a Friday email.

However, Taylor said, investigators are still looking for anyone who saw the incident, which claimed the life of Noah Schwebach, and said anyone who might have information should contact the Soldotna post of the Alaska State Troopers at (907) 262-4453.

Troopers on Thursday said Schwebach was in the middle back seat of a Volkswagen GTI Hatchback that was northbound on the Sterling Highway and was struck by a rock that fell from a southbound rock truck. The rock went through the windshield and hit the boy, troopers said. He died at the scene.

Anchorage School District spokeswoman Catherine Esary said Schwebach was a student at Mt. Spurr Elementary School on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. No one answered the door of the Schwebach family home Friday in Eagle River.

The incident occurred near Mile 58.7 of the Sterling Highway on the Kenai Peninsula, near its intersection with the eastern end of Skilak Lake Road, where the highway is being resurfaced and widened, according to the project website.

Contractor Granite Construction is the overseeing the project. On Friday, the company issued a statement saying it's cooperating with investigators and unaware of any of its trucks or drivers being involved.

"We are deeply saddened by yesterday's tragic incident on the Sterling Highway. Our thoughts and prayers are with the Schwebach family," read a statement issued by Granite corporate spokesperson Jacqueline Fourchy. "While the incident occurred within our project site, we are presently unaware that any of our equipment or personnel were involved. We are fully cooperating and assisting with the investigation. Out of respect for the family, we have voluntarily suspended night shift work on the roadway until Saturday night."

Check back for updates on this developing story.

Whether Putin won in Helsinki remains to be seen

Fri, 2018-07-20 12:26

Russian President Vladimir Putin listens to U.S. President Donald Trump during a press conference after the meeting of U.S. President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, Finland, Monday, July 16, 2018. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

Russian President Vladimir Putin is probably still smirking about the chaos created by President Donald Trump's European tour, which has led thoughtful people on both sides of the Atlantic to conclude that not just NATO but the whole post-World War II liberal order led by the United States is doomed.

They may be proved right. But I suspect that before they are, Putin, too, will come to regret the Helsinki summit. More than likely, it has torpedoed the Russian president's chances of extracting practical benefits from Trump's fervent attempt to court him – favors Putin badly needs. As the foreign relations scholar Stephen Sestanovich put it on Twitter, "an idiot who's too big an idiot can't be a useful idiot."

We still don't know all that Putin and Trump discussed during their two hours alone – but that is part of Putin's problem. He evidently got Trump to nod along to the preposterous idea that Russian investigators should be allowed to observe interrogations of present and former senior U.S. officials on bogus political charges. So we can assume Trump swallowed a few other hooks on Syria or Ukraine or nuclear weapons.

Trouble is, those "important verbal agreements," as Russia's ambassador in Washington called them, are vulnerable to the same fate as the universally denounced investigation proposal. As Putin acknowledged in a speech Thursday, "powerful forces" oppose his deals with Trump. On Russia, Trump is a minority of one within his own government – and it is his minions, not the president, who will be charged with following up on those supposed deals.

What's coming could be intuited from the State Department's icy description of the summit. At her daily briefing Wednesday, department spokeswoman Heather Nauert began by condemning Putin's proposal to investigate U.S. officials – which Trump had called "an incredible offer" – as "absolutely absurd." Then she described the "takeaways" of Helsinki as the creation of three discussion groups among U.S. and Russian business executives, political scientists and the two national security councils. In other words, next to nothing. "These are certainly all modest proposals," she said.

Trump will continue to tweet, and he has invited Putin to Washington this fall. But if the Russians think there was a breakthrough on nuclear weapons, they'll have to explain it to John Bolton, Trump's national security adviser and one of Washington's foremost opponents of arms control. If they think Trump agreed to Putin's plan for Syria, they'll have to tell it to Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Defense Secretary Jim Mattis, both of whom have repeatedly condemned Russia's intervention.

Putin might check in with North Korea's Kim Jong Un, who must have thought he had gotten everything he wanted from Trump during their Singapore summit last month. After Pompeo appeared for follow-up talks three weeks later, Pyongyang was left sputtering about "one-sided and robber-like" demands.

This is not to suggest Trump is pursuing a cleverly two-faced strategy designed to extract the maximum from Putin and Kim. Rather, in his ignorance and naive zeal to strike deals with strongmen, he is making actual accords impossible. In the case of North Korea, that's bad for the United States, which is trying to alter the unacceptable status quo of the North's possession of nuclear weapons. In the case of Russia, the big loser is likely to be Putin, who needs American help to escape the quagmires of Syria and Ukraine, not to mention the sanctions that are squeezing his inner circle.

Notwithstanding his World Cup swagger, Putin is weaker than he has been in some time. With Russia's economy stagnant, the government has been forced to slash pensions, a hugely unpopular move that sent Putin's approval ratings crashing below 50 percent. Despite Trump, NATO just adopted a tough new plan to counter Russian aggression. And, despite the successes of pro-Putin parties in recent elections, the European Union just agreed to extend its own economic sanctions on Russia for six more months.

Putin undoubtedly hoped that, after Helsinki, Trump would start lifting U.S. sanctions. But Congress last year gave itself the right to vote down any easing. Before this week, it was possible to imagine Trump brazening his way through that obstacle with the help of an increasingly compliant GOP caucus. Following the uproar over his toadying to Putin, he would be foolish to try anytime soon.

As for the decline and fall of the West, Putin would be wise not to count on it. Backing for the alliance remains overwhelming within the U.S. political establishment – the Senate voted 97 to 2 to endorse NATO as Trump left for Europe – and the public remains on board, too. Though Trump has swayed some in his base against NATO, Americans who favor the alliance still outnumber those who don't nearly 2 to 1. The West has its problems, but there's good reason to believe it will outlast Trump – and Putin.

Jackson Diehl is deputy editorial page editor of The Washington Post. He is an editorial writer specializing in foreign affairs.

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 Send submissions shorter than 200 words to or click here to submit via any web browser.

Senate Republicans drop bid to block Trump from helping Chinese telecom giant ZTE

Fri, 2018-07-20 11:53

ZTE's logo is seen in a telecommunication services shop in Beijing Wednesday, July 4, 2018. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan) (Ng Han Guan/)

WASHINGTON - Bowing to White House demands, Senate Republicans have backed off their attempt to reimpose U.S. sanctions on the Chinese telecommunications giant ZTE, a congressional source said Friday.

The retreat means that ZTE - a company found guilty of selling U.S. goods to Iran in violation of sanctions - will get to duck tough Commerce Department penalties that bar U.S. companies from doing business with it. Chinese officials said those penalties would effectively put ZTE out of business.

President Donald Trump had ordered his own Commerce Department to lift the penalties, but senators wanted to reimpose them as part of a sweeping defense policy bill set to be unveiled next week. They have now agreed to language advanced by the House instead, which bars government contractors from doing business with ZTE but allows the company to continue doing business with private U.S. firms, according to a source who spoke on the condition of anonymity to speak about the internal negotiations.

Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., blasted the decision Friday. The “chances that a #China controlled telecomm will not just stay in business, but do so here inside the U.S. sadly just went up,” he wrote on Twitter.

How Alaska eats: Build your own ‘secret’ salmon spread recipe (and other food news)

Fri, 2018-07-20 11:00

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

Salmon spread with jalapenos. (Julia O’Malley / ADN)

Newsletter 5: Shhh. It's a secret.

When I put out the call over the last few weeks for salmon spread recipes, I got dozens of great ones. I also got a good number of coy messages saying, "I'll never tell." So many, in fact, I'm starting to believe there's like a whole Skull and Bones-style "secret" salmon spread recipe society. I want in. And I want you to be in too. Secret salmon spread recipes for all!

So, I built a super solid base recipe and, through manipulation, bartering and coercion, I collected a list of "secret" ingredients. Now you have the building blocks for an awesome recipe you can make all the time and refuse to talk about. You're welcome. (My secret salmon spread recipe is in there. Share it freely.)

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

Meanwhile, if you're in the market for a nice weeknight dinner with a side of sass, you might try this Maya Wilson rosemary honey-mustard chicken with peaches number. (Just don't be calling it "man-pleasing chicken.") If you want to talk to her about this and any other topics, she's signing her cookbook on Saturday at Barnes & Noble in Anchorage at 1 p.m. (Oh, and she and I got a hello in the New York Times food newsletter this week! Maya's soup recipe floats all boats.)

Rosemary honey mustard chicken with peaches served over couscous (Maya Wilson / Alaska from Scratch)

Meanwhile, our restaurant reviewer Mara Severin waded into some deep water, coming up with a guide to the best burgers in Anchorage. Give it a read and tell us if you agree. (I'm a little sore Lucky Wishbone didn't make the cut.)

Tegan Hanlon, writer of outdoor stories, is looking for your recommendations when it comes to camp food. If your recipes aren't secret, mind sharing with fellow campers?

[Find more recipes and food news in the ADN Food and Drink section]

And, shoppers in the crowd, our market column has tips on how to get you some Bristol Bay salmon and what you'll find at this week's farmers markets.

In other news, our virtual recipe test kitchen is looking at fish pie recipes and, on Facebook, we're talking about how village cooks make doughnuts. Join us?

Here's hoping a lot of people ask for your secret recipe. See you next week.


Murkowski joins bipartisan group of senators in letter urging Trump to keep immigrant families together

Fri, 2018-07-20 10:33

WASHINGTON — Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski joined a bipartisan group of more than two dozen senators in urging President Donald Trump to keep immigrant families together at the border.

Their letter is a response to the administration's initial policy of separating children from their parents at the border in cases where people were suspected of crossing into the United States illegally. Many families have not yet been reunified despite a court order.

"This sad chapter in our nation's history must come to an end. And the families who were broken up must be reunited without unnecessary delay," Murkowski said in a statement. "I am fervent in my view that there are more effective, appropriate and humane ways to enforce our nation's immigration laws than the status quo."

The senators said they heard consistently from constituents that families should be kept together.

"We write to urge your administration to prioritize the reunification of families and to ensure that, from this point forward, the default position of the United States of America is to keep families together," the senators wrote in the letter.

"As we work to find a permanent solution, we urge the administration to use all available resources currently at its disposal to reunite families as soon as possible."

Yeni Gonzalez, right, with her children Lester, 11, second from right, and Jemelin, 9, second from left, and Deyuin, 6, outside the Cayuga Center, Friday, July 13, 2018, in New York. Gonzalez, who was separated from her three children at the U.S.-Mexico border, was reunited last week at the social services center. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer)

To that end, they urged the president to partner with faith-based service groups, like Catholic Charities USA, Sojourners and the National Association of Evangelicals, to serve immigrant "humanitarian goals."

Senators also signing the letter included: Republicans James Inhofe of Oklahoma, Jerry Moran of Kansas, Cory Gardner of Colorado, Lindsey Graham of South Carolina, Steve Daines of Montana, Thom Tillis of North Carolina and Jeff Flake of Arizona; Democrats Patrick Leahy of Vermont, Richard Blumenthal of Connecticut, Joe Donnelly of Indiana, Amy Klobuchar of Minnesota, Jeff Merkley of Oregon, Tom Carper of Delaware, Gary Peters of Michigan, Maggie Hassan of New Hampshire, Tina Smith of Minnesota, Bill Nelson of Florida, Ben Cardin of Maryland, Catherine Cortez Masto of Nevada, Heidi Heitkamp of North Dakota and Chris Van Hollen of Maryland; as well as independent Sen. Angus King of Maine.

We need a Plan B for North Korea

Fri, 2018-07-20 09:49

U.S. President Donald Trump and North Korean leader Kim Jong Un walk after lunch at the Capella Hotel on Sentosa island in Singapore June 12, 2018. REUTERS/Jonathan Ernst

While everyone hopes President Donald Trump's historic diplomacy with North Korea will succeed, it's increasingly clear that the whole process is going poorly. In the end, leader Kim Jong Un may not be serious about denuclearizing and turning his country into a modern economy in partnership with the United States. Washington must prepare now for the possibility that diplomacy with Pyongyang could fail.

Pretending everything is going great, as Trump has done repeatedly this week, is a dangerous self-delusion. The stakes are too high to give in to the temptation to convince ourselves that a peace deal is in the offing. Of course, the best outcome would be for Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who is leading the negotiations, to succeed. But ignoring the growing possibility of the opposite result is just irresponsible.

There is already a quiet effort, both inside the Trump administration and around Washington, to develop options if the talks should fail. The aim is to avoid war, prevent North Korea from being accepted as a nuclear state and return to a policy of maximum pressure. But for that to succeed, the United States can't wait until the talks actually break down.

"Things are going well. There's no rush," Trump said Tuesday at the White House. "We have no time limit, we have no speed limit. We are just going through the process."

Since the June 12 summit, Trump has claimed, falsely, that the North Korea nuclear threat is over, that the remains of 200 American soldiers had been returned and that North Korea would destroy another missile site after his meeting with Kim. But his newest assertion – that there's no rush – is perhaps his biggest misstep to date.

While Pompeo has refused to put a timeline on the discussions, he and other officials repeatedly have said that they don't want to repeat the mistakes of previous administrations that got dragged into protracted negotiations in which Pyongyang dangled concessions and played games. Time is on North Korea's side, not ours.

Officials have privately briefed Congress that the administration will evaluate Kim's sincerity in the spring. Between now and then, the United States' ability to maintain its sanctions regime and return to maximum pressure will suffer. Pompeo has acknowledged that China is already loosening controls on its border with North Korea.

The Trump administration is preparing minimum sanctions maintenance, which means designating new North Korea entities under existing sanctions authorities. But inside the administration, some officials want to start readying new sanctions, in anticipation of when they might be needed.

After his latest trip to Pyongyang, Pompeo claimed progress but has refused to give any details. Privately, some administration officials describe the process as a disaster, often made worse by the president's own behavior, including his offering of unilateral concessions, misrepresenting the status of key issues and speculating about removing U.S. troops from South Korea.

Talks over returning U.S. soldiers' remains have only just begun, North Korea has not issued a basic declaration of its nuclear-related assets, there's no public clarity on what Kim's pledge of denuclearization really means and there's even evidence that Pyongyang is improving its nuclear facilities.

It's not all bad news. North Korea has frozen missile and bomb tests in exchange for Trump freezing major U.S.-South Korean military drills, which is reversible. Tensions have gone down. Still, it's time for the United States to own up to the likelihood that a grand bargain may not be possible. Kim simply might not be interested in giving up his nuclear program at all. He may not think Trump's proposal to turn North Korea into a modern economy is in his best interest.

The domestic politics of North Korean diplomacy are good for Trump, so he has a personal incentive to keep it going. Like President Richard Nixon in 1969, he can use the issue to distract from other scandals and present himself as a "peacemaker." Trump bragged about the media attention on his Kim summit and attacked the media for negative coverage; that's a win-win for him. There's no political upside to ending the process, especially not before the next election.

But the national security implications of a long, drawn-out negotiation – one in which Kim plays Trump until Trump realizes it – are severe. Nobody wants Trump to resort to a military solution, so other options must be readied. Congress should hasten work on new sanctions bills. The State Department must prepare a diplomatic strategy to pivot back to maximum pressure when the time comes, focusing on China. The Pentagon must update the military options so they remain credible, thereby lowering the prospect that they might ever be used.

Everybody wants Trump and Pompeo's North Korea diplomacy to succeed. But pretending that's likely or neglecting to anticipate the next step is foolish and risky. The United States needs to start working on a Plan B now, or be left with a binary choice between accepting a nuclear North Korea or going to war.

Josh Rogin is a columnist for the Global Opinions section of The Washington Post. He writes about foreign policy and national security. Rogin is also a political analyst for CNN. He previously worked for Bloomberg View, the Daily Beast, Foreign Policy, Congressional Quarterly, Federal Computer Week and Japan's Asahi Shimbun newspaper.

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 Send submissions shorter than 200 words to or click here to submit via any web browser.

FBI seized recording of Trump and lawyer discussing payments for story of ex-model who alleged affair

Fri, 2018-07-20 09:22

Michael Cohen, personal lawyer to President Donald Trump, exits from Federal Court in New York on April 16, 2018. (Bloomberg photo by Victor J. Blue)

In secret recording, Trump and Cohen discuss payments for story of ex-model who alleged affair with Trump

Federal investigators have an audio recording in which then-presidential candidate Donald Trump and his personal attorney Michael Cohen discussed in the fall of 2016 making payments for the story of Playboy centerfold Karen McDougal, who allegedly had an extramarital affair with Trump, according to two people familiar with the tape.

Cohen recorded the conversation with Trump, which was seized by federal agents now investigating Trump's longtime confidant for potential bank and campaign finance crimes, according to multiple familiar with the probe.

In a statement Friday, President Trump's attorney Rudolph Giuliani confirmed the tape's existence and said no payment was ever made. The New York Times first reported the existence of the recording.

Trump and Cohen discussed the possible payment after AMI, the parent company of the National Enquirer, bought the rights to McDougal's story for $150,000 in August 2016, then sat on it.

"Nothing in that conversation suggests that he had any knowledge of [the AMI payment] in advance," Giuliani said. "In the big scheme of things, it's powerful exculpatory evidence."

The revelation of the tape comes as Cohen has signaled that he might be willing to cooperate with the federal investigation into his business dealings, a probe that has examined his interactions with AMI and a hush-money payment he arranged with adult-film actress Stormy Daniels, who also claimed to have had a sexual encounter with Trump.

In the September 2016 conversation, Cohen and Trump were discussing a plan by Cohen to attempt to purchase the rights to McDougal's story from AMI for roughly $150,000, according to one person familiar with recording.

On the tape, Trump can be heard urging Cohen to make sure he properly documents the agreement to buy the rights and urges him to use a check – rather than cash – to keep a record of the transaction, the person said.

It is unclear why Cohen and Trump sought to purchase the story from AMI and then did not complete the transaction.

In a March interview with CNN, McDougal said she had a 10-month affair with Trump in 2006 and 2007, beginning in the year after Trump married Melania.

The former Playboy model said that after their first sexual encounter, Trump tried to offer her money. She turned down the offer and began a relationship that included, she said, interactions between the two "many dozens of times."

In August 2016, AMI, the parent company of the National Enquirer, paid McDougal $150,000 for the right to her story but never published an article based on her account. But the agreement meant that McDougal signed a non-disclosure agreement that prevented her from revealing the affair. She filed a lawsuit against AMI this year seeking to regain the rights to her story and settled with the company in April.

In her lawsuit against AMI, McDougal said she was happy when AMI bought her story in August 2016 but did not publish it, because she was not anxious for publicity before the campaign. But her opinion changed this year when she learned new details about the deal, including that her lawyer at the time and AMI had both been in contact with Cohen while her deal was being negotiated.

Woman wounded during gun battle outside Chilkoot Charlie’s, police say

Fri, 2018-07-20 09:14

A woman was injured in a shooting early Friday outside of the Chilkoot Charlie's bar in Spenard, Anchorage police said.

Police were notified about 2:25 a.m. about shots fired near Spenard Road and 25th Avenue. An initial investigation found that a fight broke out after bar break among a group of people in the south parking lot of the bar, said Anchorage police spokesman M.J. Thim.

"Gunfire was exchanged between the group and everyone fled," Thim wrote in a statement.

Thim said in a later interview that multiple shots were fired.

Not long after the report of the shooting, a woman arrived at an Anchorage hospital with a gunshot wound to her upper body, Thim said. He said the injuries weren't life-threatening.

Investigators determined the woman was shot in the fight outside the bar and brought to the hospital by other people in the group, Thim said. Police later impounded the victim's car as evidence.

Detectives spoke to the victim at the hospital, he said. But he said it wasn't clear yet what the fight was about or how the people were related.

Police are asking anyone who was in or around the Chilkoot Charlie's parking lot at the time of the shooting to speak to detectives, Thim said.

He said anyone with information about the investigation, including surveillance video, should call at 311 (option #1). To give an anonymous tip, call Crime Stoppers at 907-561-STOP.

Fishing crewman missing after going overboard in Southwest Alaska

Fri, 2018-07-20 08:42

DILLINGHAM – A fisherman who fell into the Ugashik River is missing.

Alaska State Troopers said 25-year-old Grant Hildreth Jr. fell overboard Thursday afternoon while working on a fishing vessel.

The village public safety officer in Pilot Point notified Dillingham troopers of the missing man. Troopers called the Coast Guard.

Hildreth was not wearing a life jacket. Troopers said crew members attempted to get a flotation device to Hildreth but he went underwater and was not seen again.

The Coast Guard and private vessels searched for Hildreth.

The Ugashik River flows into Ugashik Bay, an estuary of Bristol Bay.

Justice Department plans to alert public to foreign operations targeting US democracy

Fri, 2018-07-20 08:10

WASHINGTON - The Justice Department plans to alert the public to foreign operations targeting U.S. democracy under a new policy designed to counter hacking and disinformation campaigns such as the one Russia undertook in 2016 to disrupt the presidential election.

The government will inform American companies, private organizations and individuals that they are being covertly attacked by foreign actors attempting to affect elections or the political process.

"Exposing schemes to the public is an important way to neutralize them," said Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who announced the policy at the Aspen Security Forum in Colorado. Rosenstein, who has drawn President Donald Trump's ire for appointing a special counsel to probe Russian election interference, got a standing ovation."The American people have a right to know if foreign governments are targeting them with propaganda," he said.

The Obama administration struggled in 2016 to decide whether and when to disclose the existence of the Russian intervention, fearing that without GOP participation it would be portrayed as a partisan move. Concerns about appearing to favor the Democratic presidential nominee, Hillary Clinton, weighed on President Barack Obama, who was reluctant to give then-GOP-nominee Donald Trump ammunition for his accusation that the election was rigged.

"If this disclosure requirement had been around in 2016, I firmly believe that it would have served as a meaningful deterrent after Russia's interference was first discovered, and it would have informed voters more quickly and more forcefully that a foreign government was trying to affect their vote," said Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., who two years ago pressed the Obama administration to call out Russia's activities.

Rosenstein said the Russian effort to influence the 2016 election "is just one tree in a growing forest. Focusing merely on a single election misses the point."

He cited Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats, who last Friday said that Russia's actions have continued. "As Director Coats made clear, these actions are persistent, they are pervasive, and they are meant to undermine America's democracy on a daily basis, regardless of whether it is election time or not,' " Rosenstein said.

At the Aspen Forum on Thursday, a Microsoft executive said that Russian military intelligence, known as the GRU, has targeted at least three candidates running for election this year. Tom Burt, the company's vice president for customer security and trust, said that his team had discovered a spear-phishing campaign targeting the candidates. Spear-phishing is a technique hackers use to trick victims into clicking on malware-laced links in emails that enable access to the victims' computers.

Twelve GRU officers were charged last week by Special Counsel Robert Mueller with conspiracy for their role in the hacking of the Democratic National Committee and the transfer of thousands of emails to the anti-secrecy group WikiLeaks, which published them at key moments in the campaign.

Pressure has been building on the Trump administration to commit to informing the public when the government becomes aware of a foreign influence operation targeting U.S. democracy, with lawmakers on the House and Senate intelligence committees debating passage of such a requirement that would give it the force of law.

"It's absolutely crucial that the intelligence community lean forward, push the envelope on sharing as much of that information as possible, because one of the biggest challenges we have is on education of the public, of the electorate, on foreign, read Russian-influence operations," said former director of national intelligence James Clapper, who last year at Aspen called for such transparency.

He called the move "quite significant" and said "making that a standard policy across the government is a good one." Other agencies, he said, "will take a cue" from the Justice Department, which is part of the intelligence community and receives information from spy agencies.

The policy, which is part of a report issued on a new Cyber Digital Task Force, set up by Attorney General Jeff Sessions in February, also specifies that in considering whether to disclose information, the department must protect intelligence sources and methods, investigations and other government operations.

"Partisan political considerations must play no role in efforts to alert victims, other affected individuals or the American public to foreign influence operations against the United States," the policy states. A foreign influence operation will be publicly disclosed "only when the government can attribute those activities to a foreign government with high confidence," it said.

Rosenstein noted that influence operations are not new. The Soviet Union used them against the United States throughout the 20th century, including in 1963, paying an American to distribute a book claiming that the FBI and the CIA assassinated President John F. Kennedy.

The new task force for the first time spelled out five types of threats covered under foreign influence operations.

Hackers can target election systems, trying to get into voter registration databases and voting machines. Foreign operatives can pursue political organizations, campaigns and public officials. They can offer to assist political organizations or campaigns, while concealing their links to foreign governments. They can seek to covertly influence public opinion and sow division through the use of social media and other outlets. And they can try to employ lobbyists, foreign media outlets and other foreign organizations to influence policymakers and the public.

"Public attribution of foreign influence operations can help to counter and mitigate the harm caused by foreign-government-sponsored disinformation," Rosenstein said. "When people are aware of the true sponsor, they can make better-informed decisions."

Foreign governments "should not be secret participants" in U.S. elections, "covertly spreading propaganda and fanning the flames of division," he said.

The task force works closely with the FBI, whose director, Christopher Wray, last year established a Foreign Influence Task Force to focus on the same issue. The Justice Department task force is broader but includes as a key component foreign influence activities.

To counter foreign influence, the department will aggressively investigate and prosecute such activities, and will work with other departments, such as Homeland Security, to share information about threats and vulnerabilities with state and local election officials, political organizations and other potential victims so they can take measures to detect or prevent harm, the report said.

It also noted that the Justice Department supports other agencies' actions, such as financial or diplomatic sanctions and intelligence efforts. The department also is forming strategic relationships with social media providers to help them identify malign foreign influence activity.


The Washington Post’s Shane Harris contributed to this report.

Bristol Palin joins MTV reality show ‘Teen Mom OG’

Fri, 2018-07-20 07:32

FILE – In this July 27, 2012 file photo, Bristol Palin attends the “Dancing with the Stars: All Stars” panel at the Disney ABC Television Critics Association session in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Todd Williamson/Invision/AP, File)

Former vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin's daughter is returning to reality TV.

TMZ and Variety report Bristol Palin is joining the cast of MTV's "Teen Mom OG," replacing longtime cast member Farrah Abraham. Palin was 17 when she gave birth to her first child, Tripp, and has since welcomed two more children.

Palin, now 27, was pregnant when her mother, then the governor of Alaska, was named Republican presidential nominee John McCain's running mate in 2008. Tripp, whose father is Levi Johnston, was born shortly after the election; the couple called off their engagement less than six months later.

E! News reports Tripp is now 9 years old; Bristol Palin also has a 2-year-old daughter, Sailor Meyer, and 1-year-old daughter, Atlee Meyer, with her estranged husband Dakota Meyer. The U.S. Marine veteran filed for divorce from Palin in February.

MTV has not confirmed Palin's casting, but current cast member Kailyn Lowry commented on Twitter: "Bristol palin & cheyenne & Cory for teen mom og? Our producers sure know what to do."

"Teen Mom OG" follows Lowry, Catelynn Baltierra, Amber Portwood and Maci Bookout as they navigate life with children after giving birth as teenagers. Abraham, who's stirred controversy with a side career in porn (and a recent arrest), left the show earlier this year after settling a lawsuit.

E! and People report Cheyenne Floyd from MTV's "The Challenge" and former "Teen Mom 3" star Mackenzie McKee are also expected to join the cast of "Teen Mom OG" season 8. "Teen Mom," a spinoff of "16 and Pregnant," was renamed "Teen Mom OG" when it was revived in 2015.

Palin is no stranger to reality TV herself, previously appearing on "Dancing with the Stars" in 2010 and 2012, plus her own Lifetime series "Bristol Palin: Life's a Tripp." She also released a memoir in 2011, titled "Not Afraid of Life: My Journey So Far."

Call it what you will, rosemary honey-mustard chicken with peaches makes for a delicious summertime meal

Fri, 2018-07-20 07:23

Rosemary honey mustard chicken with peaches served over couscous (Maya Wilson / Alaska from Scratch)

For some time, there's been a popular recipe circling the interwebs dubbed "man-pleasing chicken." As a namer of recipes myself, this click-baitey title just really irks me. Honestly, you shouldn't even get me started unless you want to hear me rant endlessly, which would inevitably result in my inbox filling up, so I'm not gonna go there. I've probably already opened Pandora's (recipe) box by even mentioning it. Another recipe-namer took the same dish, or a very similar one, and named it "holy yum chicken" instead. This all just makes me want to scream silent screams into the food writing abyss.

Instead of screaming, I made my own iteration of this recipe, just so I could rename it: rosemary honey mustard chicken. Now readers everywhere can know what the heck it is without even having to click on it if they don't want to.

My version uses honey, however, I think Alaska birch syrup would be brilliant instead. Had I had some on hand I would have used it, but sadly, I'm all out. Also, I added thick slices of fresh summer peaches to the pan with the chicken and the rosemary honey mustard sauce, because the combination of flavors makes me swoon. I served it all over some well-seasoned couscous, but quinoa or potatoes would also be nice. You could also grill this chicken, as well as the peaches, out on your barbecue. However, you wouldn't get all those nice pan juices to pour over everything at the end of cooking, which is probably my favorite part.

Rosemary honey mustard chicken with peaches

Serves 4

4 boneless, skinless chicken thighs (1 to 1 1/2 pounds total)

1 large ripe peach, cut into thick slices

1/3 cup Dijon mustard

3 tablespoons honey

2 teaspoons rice wine vinegar

1 tablespoon fresh rosemary, roughly chopped

salt and pepper

Preheat oven to 450 degrees. Line a small sheet pan with aluminum foil. Place the chicken and peaches onto the sheet pan in a single layer. Season the chicken thighs and peach slices on both sides with salt and pepper.

In a small bowl, stir together the mustard, honey, vinegar and rosemary. Season with salt and pepper. Brush the mixture evenly onto the chicken, then drizzle the rest onto the peaches. Bake the chicken and peaches until the chicken is cooked through and beginning to caramelize on the edges, about 20 minutes, depending on the thickness of your chicken. Transfer the chicken and peaches to a serving platter. Pour all of the juices and sauce from the pan over top of the chicken and peaches before serving.

Maya Wilson lives in Kenai and blogs about food at Her new book, "The Alaska from Scratch Cookbook," is available now. Have a food question or recipe request? Email and your inquiry may appear in a future column.

Afghan officials investigating 14 civilian deaths after battle that involved US airstrikes

Fri, 2018-07-20 07:20

KABUL, Afghanistan - Afghan officials Friday were investigating the cause of at least 14 civilian deaths in the northern Kunduz province after a battle with the Taliban that involved U.S. airstrikes.

Mohammad Radmanish, a spokesman with the Afghan Defense Ministry, said joint Afghan and U.S. airstrikes occurred in the Chahar Dara district of Kunduz during a battle with Taliban forces there on Thursday.

"The Ministry of Defense is deeply saddened," Radmanish said, adding that high-ranking officials within his department were traveling from Kabul to investigate.

Lt. Col. Martin O'Donnell, a NATO spokesman, said in an email that the United States carried out airstrikes in the area in support of Afghan troops on the ground.

But, "on-the-ground assessment of those strikes reveals no indications they caused civilian casualties," O'Donnell said.

Mohammad Yusuf Ayubi, a member of provincial council in Kunduz, said the people killed - including women and children - were part of three families who lived less than 100 yards from a government base.

"I do not know who carried out the airstrikes, but these people were killed in the aerial attack," Ayubi said.

Kunduz, where Taliban forces have a strong presence, has been the site of civilian deaths caused by airstrikes in the past.

In April, Afghan helicopters attacked a Taliban stronghold in a location that was being used as a training camp for the group in Dashti Archi district, killing dozens of people, including civilians.

In 2015, a U.S. gunship plane fired on a Doctors Without Borders hospital in Kunduz city, killing at least 30 people, including doctors and patients.

U.S. officials later said that those involved did not realize the buildings they targeted were a hospital. Sixteen people were disciplined in that incident, but the Pentagon found that it did not amount to a war crime because it wasn't intentional.

So far, 2018 has been a record year for civilian deaths in Afghanistan.

A recent report by the U.N. Assistance Mission in Afghanistan found that 1,692 Afghan civilians have been killed in the first six months of the year, more than in any comparable period during the past decade.

- - -

The Washington Post’s Sharif Hassan contributed to this report.

Feds officially kill Juneau road extension that Walker previously halted

Fri, 2018-07-20 06:23

JUNEAU – The federal government has officially killed a project to improve access to Alaska's capital nearly two years after Gov. Bill Walker halted the road extension.

In a document published Thursday, the Federal Highway Administration said it has decided to take no action on the proposed 50-mile road extension north from Juneau, the Juneau Empire reported.

The document by Alaska Division Administrator Sandra Garcia-Aline cited the state's shrinking budget and "a high level of controversy" over construction as principal factors for the road not being built.

The Juneau Access Project aimed to connect the city to the North American road system as well as lower costs and reduce ferry travel for drivers trying to reach Skagway or Haines. Juneau is accessible only by water or air.

The project divided Juneau residents and was opposed by environmental groups that said the road would disrupt environmentally sensitive areas.

The agency's decision is a "huge victory," said Buck Lindekugel, an attorney for the SouthEast Alaska Conservation Council, which opposed the project.

"This road was unsafe and impractical, and the costs always outweighed the benefits and it just didn't make sense," Lindekugel said. "We thank the governor for his steadfast opposition, and we are glad to see the agencies take this action."

Walker stopped the project in late 2016, citing the state's fiscal crisis.

"The FHWA no-build record of decision for the Juneau Access road closes the previously proposed project," Walker said in a statement. "The funding that the legislature appropriated will not be spent, and will remain in the account until acceptable alternative concepts to advance transportation access for Juneau are proposed and agreed upon by stakeholders."

More than $42 million is unallocated in project accounts, according to the state Department of Transportation.

Motorcyclist dies in collision with pickup in Sterling

Fri, 2018-07-20 06:01

A motorcyclist died Thursday afternoon in Sterling in a collision with a pickup truck, troopers said.

The driver of a Chevy pickup was turning left from Joyful Circle onto Sandlin Drive as a BMW motorcycle was approaching on Sandlin.

"The driver of the pickup attempted to swerve left to avoid a collision. The motorcycle also swerved left and struck the front passenger side of the truck," troopers said in a Thursday alert.

The motorcyclist, who was wearing a helmet, landed off the road and died at the scene, troopers said. No name was released pending notification of relatives.

Troopers received a report of the collision around 5 p.m. Thursday. An investigation was continuing.

Letter: Anchorage should follow Mat-Su’s lead on bag ban

Fri, 2018-07-20 01:32

The somewhat conservative Mat-Su Valley is to be commended for the progressive action related to plastic bags that were being pumped into our environment. I have never been a "tree hugger" or a proponent of the many emotional causes that are prevalent in recent years. However, the plastic litter and bags that show up during spring breakup has caused me concern for many years.

The recent political action to outlaw plastic bags in our grocery stores was welcomed by almost every elected official, mayor and city administrator. In the community, I detected 100 percent approval of the action by our elected officials.
The plastic junk on our lands and waters has gotten to a critical point. Dead whales washing upon our beaches with intestines full of plastic bags should alert everyone and not tolerated. There are accounts of our caribou and reindeer with plastic in their stomachs.

So, citizens of the Mat-Su, congratulations for your actions regarding plastic bags. Perhaps the elected officials in our neighboring big city will see the need, follow our lead and enact the necessary legislation to ban the use of plastic bags.
— Darroll Hargraves

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Letter: Sen. Murkowski should oppose Kavanaugh

Fri, 2018-07-20 01:25

I last wrote to Sen. Lisa Murkowski in opposition to President Donald Trump's Supreme Court nomination before his reality-TV-style nomination of Judge Kavanaugh. Today, my opposition remains unchanged.

It is clear from the circumstances surrounding Judge Kavanaugh's vetting and selection that President Trump chose him out of self-interest. While the short list of nominees was superficially similar in terms of credentials and conservative ideology, Judge Kavanaugh is unique in that he has telegraphed his personal loyalty to Trump. Cases with legal implications for President Trump will inevitably come before the court, and he should have no further role in selecting

Justices until the investigation into his and his campaign's involvement in the confirmed Russian government hacking of our election has been completed.
Sen. Murkowski must not facilitate or allow President Trump to evade justice for his wrongdoing. The nation now turns its eyes to her for reassurance that, in the end, the rule of law will hold.
— Jeffrey Gordon

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Letter: Trump is a bully

Fri, 2018-07-20 01:16

Years ago, a friend told me that I had "a perceptive grasp of the obvious." Lately, I have noticed that many people lack that ability. Our president is a bully.
Whether you agree or disagree with any specific policy, he is still a bully. Not wanting a bully serving as our president, I asked people about being bullied and how they dealt with it. In almost every case, their experience mirrored mine: At some point, we stood our ground and refused to be bullied any more. We did not win every confrontation, but we continued to stand up for ourselves until the bullying stopped. Bullies can be stopped by our resolve to continue to confront them until the behavior changes.

This is our government, and it should reflect our values. If we allow President Donald Trump to continue unchecked, destroying our way of life, then we are also complicit in its destruction. The noble notion that people can govern themselves for the benefit of all will have finally failed.
— Mark Beaudin

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: Ahtna must renounce its role in refugee detainment

Fri, 2018-07-20 01:06

Regarding the use of the Port Isabel Detention Center to imprison immigration detainees: Ahtna may only have a direct role in operating a quasi-federal prison under government contract, and may not be directly involved in setting policy in the state-sanctioned kidnapping and political coercion being directed by the White House.

But, by allowing the White House to use their facility as an instrument in what amounts to an extortion racket, using the threat of force, termination of parental rights and imprisoning infants, young children and adults of perhaps the most powerless population in the world today, Ahtna will be forever tainted by their cooperation and will be viewed as a willing partner in this reprehensible act.

Ahtna needs to seek the advice and assistance of their attorneys and prevent the White House from carrying out this evil process within their facility. As a Native corporation that consistently extols the virtues of family, Ahtna needs to take a stand, rebuke the White House's action, and at least attempt to prevent them from using their facility in this manner. Anything less will be viewed as complicity. This time will be seen as a very dark stain in U.S. history, and Ahtna should do everything in their power to rise above this.
— Ross Klooster

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.