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A White House aide picked a fight with Melania Trump. The first lady won.

Thu, 2018-11-15 08:06

Deputy National Security Adviser Mira Ricardel, right, watches as President Donald Trump arrives for a Diwali ceremonial lighting of the Diya in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2018, in Washington. In an extraordinary move, first lady Melania Trump is publicly calling for the dismissal of Ricardel. After reports circulated that the president had decided to remove Ricardel, the first lady’s spokeswoman issued a statement saying: “It is the position of the Office of the First Lady that she no longer deserves the honor of serving in this White House.” Ricardel is national security adviser John Bolton’s deputy. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci) (Evan Vucci/)

WASHINGTON - A transoceanic personnel crisis that engulfed the National Security Council this week is partly rooted in a bureaucratic dispute over the seating arrangements aboard first lady Melania Trump's plane to Africa last month during her maiden solo trip abroad.

As the East Wing prepared the flight manifest for the marquee trip, deputy national security adviser Mira Ricardel became angry that seats on the first lady's government jet were assigned to a larger-than-usual security entourage and a small press corps with none for Ricardel or another NSC staffer, according to current U.S. officals and others familiar with the trip and its aftermath.

Policy experts from the NSC and State Department were advised to fly separately and to meet the first lady's party on the ground, a practice the State Department had often used, but Ricardel objected strenuously, those people said. She threatened to revoke NSC resources associated with the trip, meaning no policy staff would advise the first lady during her visits to Ghana, Kenya, Malawi and Egypt.

Bad blood between Ricardel and Melania Trump and her staff continued for weeks after the trip, with the first lady privately arguing that the NSC's No. 2 official was a corrosive influence in the White House and should be dismissed. But national security adviser John Bolton rebuffed the first lady and protected his deputy, prompting the first lady's spokeswoman, Stephanie Grisham, to issue an extraordinary statement to reporters Tuesday effectively calling for Ricardel's firing.

"It is the position of the Office of the first lady that she no longer deserves the honor of serving in this White House," Grisham said of Ricardel in the statement.

After an uncomfortable day of limbo, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders announced Wednesday evening that Ricardel was leaving the White House.

"Mira Ricardel will continue to support the President as she departs the White House to transition to a new role within the Administration," she said in a statement.

An NSC spokesman declined to elaborate.

The first lady's decision to publicly advocate for the ouster of a senior member of her husband's staff shows a new willingness on her part to weigh in on White House operations and marks a change from earlier in the Trump administration, when she repeatedly played down her role as an adviser to the president.

First lady Melania Trump pauses for photographs as she visits the historical site of the Giza Pyramids in Giza, near Cairo, Egypt. Saturday, Oct. 6, 2018. She was visiting Africa on her first big solo international trip. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster) (Carolyn Kaster/)

It also comes as the president is mulling personnel changes, including possibly ousting Chief of Staff John Kelly and firing Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.

Anita McBride, who was chief of staff to first lady Laura Bush, says Melania Trump's move was a dramatic show of power.

"If anyone had questions about her willingness to exert her influence, they got their answer," she said.

Ricardel's dismissal also serves as a rebuke of Bolton, known for his sharp elbows and ability to navigate internal tensions, who refused for weeks to fire his hand-picked deputy and worked in the past day to protect her.

Soon after the first lady's office issued its statement Tuesday, surprised senior White House aides walked to Ricardel's office to see whether she was still there. She was, albeit confused.

Bolton, who was awakened in Asia in the middle of the night and told of the dustup, was soon on the phone, telling Ricardel to remain at her post, three administration officials said.

The White House was trying to find a soft landing place for Ricardel, but agencies including the Commerce Department, where she worked in the first year of the Trump administration, are hesitant to take her on because of her reputation, two senior administration officials said.

The first lady's statement came after months of tension in the White House over Ricardel's abrasive interactions with staffers in both the East Wing and the West Wing, according to several current and former staffers.

Melania Trump and Ricardel have never met, according to people familiar with each of them. But the first lady viewed the conservative operative, who was among the most senior women in the West Wing, as a toxic influence in the White House, to the point that she spoke to Trump about Ricardel after the Africa trip and authorized others to spread the word that Ricardel had overstepped the mark, several people familiar with recent events said.

A senior White House official said the first lady believed Ricardel was spreading false rumors about her office, including a misleading story that aides had arranged a $10,000 hotel stay in Egypt. Other White House aides said Ricardel belittled underlings, shouted at professional staff and was the most disliked aide in the West Wing.

Last weekend, according to administration officials, the first lady's office again asked Bolton to oust Ricardel. Others, including Kelly, have wanted her gone for months, administration officials said, with little success in overcoming Bolton's objections.

Bolton declined again - and went to Asia.

While the first lady's public statement came as a surprise to many, including in the White House, Paolo Zampolli, a longtime friend of the Trumps', said the move isn't out of character for the first lady. "Our first lady is very strong, and she has the right to choose who she's working with," he said.

In past administrations, first ladies exerted similar or greater influence, but always behind the scenes. The most famous modern example is Nancy Reagan's engineering the ouster of chief of staff Donald T. Regan, who had made the dire mistake of hanging up on her. While Nancy Reagan's fingerprints were all over the firing, there were no statements from her office to that effect.

"You never hang up on the first lady. She can be your strongest ally. She can help you more than anybody realizes," said Kenneth Duberstein, who fared better as chief of staff to Reagan.

Martha Washington, historian Carl Sferrazza Anthony noted, once wrote that she felt like a "state prisoner" because of protocol rules and a schedule set in part by her husband's chief adviser, Tobias Lear. And there was no love lost between Mary Lincoln and Abraham Lincoln's chief counselors, John Hay and John Nicolay, who referred to her as "the hellcat" behind her back.

Pat Nixon, Anthony says, chafed at top White House aides H.R. "Bob" Haldeman and John Erlichman for perceived offenses that included not giving her enough notice before travel and for not taking her own ambitious agenda seriously, Anthony said.

"It goes back so far, that what we're really talking about is human nature and the problem of the boss' wife," he said.

Melania Trump has taken on a more public role recently, launching her anti-bullying campaign earlier this year and traveling to Africa in October.

She has made symbolic gestures that suggest she felt free to make her views plain and to disagree with her husband.

In a rare sit-down interview with ABC News last month, Mrs. Trump was asked whether it was true that she had more control over her notoriously volatile husband than anyone else. "Oh, I wish," she said. "I give him my honest advice and honest opinions. And then he does what he wants to do."

Melania Trump has privately complained about other current and former White House officials to her husband - Steve Bannon, chief among them - but has never issued such a public statement before.

The East Wing often does not approve its statements with the White House. Senior White House aides, including Kelly and Bolton, were not aware the statement was coming before it was issued Tuesday. Sanders had not seen the final statement, a senior administration official said.

Even Kelly, who wanted Ricardel gone, admitted to others the situation was handled poorly, and that the White House looked bad.

The controversy has added to the turmoil surrounding the White House following last week's midterm elections where Republicans lost control of the House and maintained a slim Senate majority despite having a favorable electoral map this cycle. Last week Trump fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions before heading over to Paris over the weekend for the commemoration of the end of World War I where he clashed with French President Emmanuel Macron.

"This shows it's still a broken and dysfunctional White House. Maybe John Kelly has made a few trains run on time, but it's clearly still broken," said Chris Whipple, author of a 2017 book, "The Gatekeepers," about White House chiefs of staff and West Wing operations.


The Washington Post’s Philip Rucker contributed to this report.

Upper Cook Inlet fishermen seek federal disaster declaration

Thu, 2018-11-15 07:59

A Cook Inlet drift gillnet salmon boat. Fishermen who saw their fishery value shrink by about two-thirds in 2018 are seeking support for a federal disaster declaration that would enable Congress to appropriate relief funds. (Rashah McChesney / AJOC file)

This season was a sour one for salmon fishermen across the Gulf of Alaska, and participants in multiple fisheries are seeking funding for relief.

The Board of Fisheries and Gov. Bill Walker already granted a disaster declaration for Chignik, which harvested next to zero sockeye salmon this year due to an unprecedented poor return to the Chignik River on the Alaska Peninsula. Sockeye salmon runs across the Gulf of Alaska failed to deliver this year, either in timing or in size, at a huge cost to fishermen.

Now the Upper Cook Inlet fishermen want a chance at federal funding to recover some of their losses. The set gillnet and drift gillnet fleet in Upper Cook Inlet harvested about 1.3 million salmon, 815,000 of which were sockeye, or about 61 percent below the 10-year average harvest of sockeye.

This year was forecasted to be lower than the average, but the harvest as of Oct. 5 — when all Upper Cook Inlet salmon fishing closed for the 2018 season — brought in about $11 million in ex-vessel value, a little more than a third of the $31 million recent 10-year average.

The total run, however, was about 32 percent below what was forecast, according to the 2018 salmon fishing summary from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game issued Oct. 22.

The trick of it was that the Kenai River sockeye run — the heavy-hitting run of the region, which usually peaks in July — didn’t arrive in force until August. For only the second time in Fish and Game’s records, more than half the run arrived after Aug. 1.

That late arrival was exacerbated further by the existing management structure around the high-tension commercial, sport, personal-use and subsistence fisheries on the Kenai River.

“In the previous 10 years, the average date where 50 percent of sockeye salmon passage has occurred in the Kenai River is July 23,” the report states. “In 2018, 50 percent of the final passage estimate did not occur until August 3, or 11 days later than average. The late run timing and smaller peak complicated management in 2018 as management plans with specific dates and triggers were developed to account for average run entry timing and magnitude.”

The Kenai City Council unanimously adopted a resolution in October asking Walker to declare an economic disaster in the Upper Cook Inlet fishery for 2018, with Mayor Brian Gabriel abstaining due to a conflict of interest because he commercially setnets.

With the city of Kenai’s support, the fishermen and a number of organizations and businesses are now seeking support from the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly to declare an economic disaster in the fishery as well.

The assembly will consider a resolution to support the request at its Nov. 20 meeting. Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association, the Cook Inlet Fisherman’s Fund, Copper River Seafoods and the Kenai Peninsula Economic Development District all submitted letters in support of the resolution, citing the difficulty to the fishery participants this year.

“Most fishermen didn’t even cover expenses,” wrote Cook Inlet Fisherman’s Fund President Steve Vanek in the organization’s letter. “…Resident commercial fishermen are an important contributor to the economy of the borough. We appeal to the borough for assistance.”

Copper River Seafoods Corporate Development Officers Martin Weiser wrote that the organization, which has “expansion plans in Cook Inlet,” doesn’t have a choice but to absorb the loss, but the fishermen don’t.

“Being a large company with operations in almost every major fishery in this state, we will absorb this loss (as we do not have a choice) and continue with business. This is not the case for many of the folks who focus their fishing activities in Cook Inlet,” he wrote. “It is for their sake and the sake of the future of this fishery that we write this letter in support of a disaster recovery effort on the part of the State of Alaska.”

Disaster declarations made by the governor then go to the federal Department of Commerce, requiring the Secretary of Commerce’s approval. Congress can then appropriate the funds to return to the fishermen. That process recently concluded with $56 million in relief for the 2016 pink salmon disaster, taking nearly two years before funds surfaced. A federal disaster was also declared in 2012 for low king salmon returns to Cook Inlet and the Yukon and Kuskokwim rivers, for which $21 million was eventually appropriated.

The process is too slow to help the people of Cook Inlet, Weiser noted in his letter.

If a disaster is declared, it could open up opportunities for legislative appropriation of assistance grants as well as the opportunity of assistance to permit holders who have loans through the Commercial Fishing Revolving Loan program and may not be able to meet the terms of their loans, noted Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association Executive Director Gary Fandrei in his letter.

The sockeye salmon fishery on the river was stop-and-start, with commercial fishing closed for up to six days at one point to boost passage in the Kenai River. Fishermen complained about the closure on sockeye, the most valuable commercial species in the Inlet, and their complaints were exacerbated later by restrictions on harvest to chum salmon stocks in Kamishak Bay due to low numbers of chum salmon in aerial surveys and a lack of offshore test fishery information to provide for openings for late sockeye salmon.

Managers were working within tight date and opening confines, trying to meet strict Kenai River king salmon goals and multiple sockeye salmon sonar goals while opening up sockeye fishing opportunities with various tools.

Adding to the complexity was the relatively decent-sized run of sockeye returning to the Kasilof River, mixed along the shore with Kenai River king salmon. This year marked the first time the North Kalifornsky Beach area was opened within 600 feet of shore in an attempt to focus harvest on Kasilof River sockeye while minimizing Kenai sockeye and king harvest.

As the Kenai sockeye run continued to fail to materialize, the Kasilof run kept coming back, and managers used the 600-foot fishery in the Kasilof section and ultimately the Kasilof River Special Harvest Area — a one-mile square area around the mouth of the Kasilof River — to try to harvest that stock to prevent the run from surpassing the escapement goal. In the end, it did anyway, according to the salmon season management report.

Pink salmon harvests were also significantly lower than average— about 84 percent below the recent 10-year average — mostly due to fishing restrictions during the sockeye season. One bright note, however, was the coho harvest. Upper Cook Inlet fishermen brought in about $1.3 million in ex-vessel value for cohos, about double the recent 10-year average of $699,300, according to the management report.

Elizabeth Earl can be reached at

After 9 years with Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, director Tonkovich steps down

Thu, 2018-11-15 07:58

Alexa Tonkovich. (Michael Dinneen for the Alaska Journal of Commerce) (Michael Penn/)

After nine years with the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, Executive Director Alexa Tonkovich has resigned.

The organization announced Tonkovich’s departure Nov. 10, though she will stay on as executive director until mid-December while the board of directors searches for a replacement. She plans to pursue a master’s degree in international business and has been accepted to a number of programs in the U.S. and abroad, according to a press release.

“After nine years at ASMI, the timing felt right to further my education and prepare myself for wherever the next steps in my career may lead,” she said in the release.

Tonkovich became executive director in 2015, taking over for former executive director Michael Cerne. Previously, she served as the international director for ASMI. She worked primarily in developing emerging markets in southeast Asia and Brazil, with an office opening in the latter in 2011.

She said the opening of that office as one of the most memorable moments of her time as the international marketing program.

“I love market exploration and expansion,” she said. “There have been a few ups and downs (with Brazil’s economy) … we still see good potential there, particularly with the loss in access to the Chinese market (from retaliatory tariffs).”

She plans to continue her studies in international business, which is a key part of the seafood industry. Despite the recently souring global trade positions in the U.S. — the nation has been caught up in an escalating trade war with China over a set of tariffs implemented by President Donald Trump’s administration, including on seafood products — Tonkovich said she hopes it isn’t forever.

ASMI has spent years cultivating its relationship with China, but there are potentially other trade relationships on the horizon, too.

“I’m hoping this is just a passing phase,” she said. “…(International trade) really is such an important part of the (seafood) business.”

For now, she said she’s looking to international business schools in London.

The board plans to meet Nov. 19 to discuss appointing a candidate for interim executive director and drafting a notice for recruitment. ASMI Communications Director Jeremy Woodrow said in an email that the board members should have more details about the parameters of the recruitment after that meeting.

“With a heavy heart, the ASMI board accepted Ms. Tonkovich’s resignation,” said ASMI board of directors Chari Jack Schultheis, the general manager of Kwik’Pak Fisheries. “Her dedication to Alaska and the Alaska seafood industry is unparalleled. While she will be missed, we also support her decisions and wish her the very best in what is sure to be a very bright future.”

ASMI has gone through a number of changes in the past few years, particularly since the budget cuts began in 2015 as the state descended into a fiscal crisis. The organization cut expenses, closed its Seattle office and changed out staff, Tonkovich said.

The industry has changed in her time at ASMI, too, she said — more women are moving up into positions of power, and more people of diverse economic, educational and cultural backgrounds are beginning to step in.

In the future, innovation and product development will continue to be issues for the Alaska seafood industry to keep pace with the world, Tonkovich said. Addressing the graying of the fleet and bringing more young people into the seafood industry is an issue in Alaska as well as the rest of the world that needs to be addressed, she added.

With a degree in Asian studies, Tonkovich said she didn’t originally seek a job in seafood, but is glad for the time she spent there.

“I’ve been so honored and it’s bee such a pleasure (to work with ASMI),” she said. “I really grew up here … the organization is in great hands.”

Times have tightened financially at ASMI. While the organization, a public-private partnership intended to market Alaska wild-harvested seafood, used to receive state funding, the Legislature has been working on eliminating its support from the general fund, zeroing it out in the fiscal year 2019 budget.

This year, the organization plans to request an additional $3.75 million from the Legislature to support programs, according to an Oct. 30 news release from the Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development.

The funds would go to support a match for competitive grant funding, according to the release.

“Specifically, this appropriation would bolster the match on a federal grant program, which will strengthen ASMI’s annual application for federal funding,” the release states. “The competitively awarded federal grant for international marketing allows ASMI to market Alaska seafood internationally, funding consumer and trade programs in 30 countries. ASMI competes each year against such national stalwarts as Sunkist Growers, Washington Apples, the Cotton Council Incorporated, and the U.S. Meat Export Federation.”

Elizabeth Earl can be reached at

FDA unveils sweeping anti-tobacco effort to reduce underage vaping and smoking

Thu, 2018-11-15 07:43

WASHINGTON - The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday launched a multipronged attack on the rising underage use of tobacco products, imposing sharp sales restrictions on flavored e-cigarettes and announcing plans to ban menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars.

The FDA says it will limit sales of many flavored e-cigarettes to bricks-and-mortar outlets that have either age-restricted entry or areas inside stores that are not accessible to people under 18. Such restrictions are tantamount to a ban for many convenience stores and gas stations but not for specialty vape and tobacco stores, said a top agency official. The FDA also will require stepped-up age verification for online sales.

The new limits reflect health experts' concerns that e-cigarette use could lead to nicotine addiction early in life and affect the developing adolescent brain and that some e-cigarette users will go on to smoke more dangerous regular cigarettes.

Perhaps even more significant than the e-cigarette steps are the FDA's commitments to propose bans on menthol in cigarettes and cigars, as well as other flavors in cigars. Such prohibitions will require new regulations that could take years to go into effect, and could be derailed by opposition from the cigarette industry. If successful, though, the bans could have an especially significant impact on African American adults and youth, who smoke menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars at higher rates than other groups.

The tobacco blueprint was released by FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb as the government published new data showing a surge in e-cigarette use among minors. The 2018 National Youth Tobacco Survey, by the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, found that vaping had increased 78 percent among high school students since last year and almost 48 percent among middle schoolers; 3.6 million youngsters reported vaping at least once in the previous 30 days.

Scott Gottlieb, commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, at a House Oversight and Investigations subcommittee hearing in Washington, D.C., on March 8, 2018. (Toya Jordan Sarno/Bloomberg) (Toya Sarno Jordan/)

Especially concerning to officials was a sharp rise in regular use. Almost 28 percent of high school vapers said they used e-cigarettes at least 20 days a month, and most used flavored products.

"The bottom line is this: I will not allow a generation of children to become addicted to nicotine through e-cigarettes," Gottlieb said in a statement. "We won't let this pool of kids, a pool of future potential smokers, to continue to build." He said the new policy was designed to get to the "core" of the issue - flavored nicotine products, often in fruity, sweet and creamy flavors, that appeal to kids. The restrictions do not affect mint, menthol and tobacco flavored e-cigarette products.

Gottlieb called on companies to remove the affected products within 90 days from stores that children can enter and from online sites that don't have adequate age-verification procedures.

The FDA's moves on menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars drew widespread praise even before they were officially announced. Its actions on e-cigarettes were more controversial. Public health experts called them a start but said they were not a comprehensive solution to the problem, while vaping advocates said they would hurt adult smokers using e-cigarettes to quit.

"The proposal to prohibit the sale of menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars has the potential to have a greater impact on youth tobacco use and tobacco use among African Americans than any regulatory measure every undertaken by the federal government," said Matt Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. But he added that the e-cigarette actions "fall short of what's needed."

Robin Koval, chief executive of Truth Initiative, a tobacco-control group, also praised the planned bans, but said it was a mistake to exempt mint and menthol e-cigarettes from sales restrictions, given that data shows those flavors are becoming increasingly popular among high schoolers.

But Gottlieb insisted that the exclusion of mint and menthol reflected a "careful balancing" of concerns about youth and the needs of adult smokers using e-cigarettes to quite smoking. And he said he would consider restricting those flavors if youth use didn't decline.

Some critics raised the possibility that the agency could face a lawsuit by trying, in effect, to limit vaping product sales to certain types of stores.

"I don't think they know where the law allows the FDA to ban hundreds of thousands of stores from selling a legal product," said Lyle Beckwith, senior vice president of the National Association of Convenience Stores.

On the menthol issue, the 2009 tobacco-control act banned all flavors in traditional cigarettes except menthol; that was left for the FDA to tackle. But the agency never sought to bar menthol cigarettes, which over the years have been marketed heavily to African Americans. A big-selling menthol cigarette is Newport, by Reynolds American, a subsidiary of British American Tobacco.

Black organizations late Wednesday applauded the idea of a menthol ban, noting that almost 90 percent of African American smokers choose menthols. "While we're saddened by the number of lives lost and new smokers addicted over the past decade, we're pleased that the FDA is moving in this direction," said Delmonte Jefferson, executive director of the National African American Tobacco Prevention Network in a statement also signed by the National Urban League, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and other groups.

Gottlieb, in pursuing his tobacco strategy, is taking some flak from fellow conservatives. "The administration promised less regulation - without sacrificing protections," said Jeff Stier, a senior fellow at the Consumer Choice Center. "So if the FDA fails to meet both objectives - by announcing a heavy-handed regulatory plan - President Trump should realize that the current leadership at the FDA is not equipped to implement the administration's policy agenda."

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar signaled his support for the FDA. "We believe FDA's goals and policies strike the right public health balance in addressing the multifaceted challenge we have before us today," he said in a statement.

The FDA's e-cigarette crackdown already has had an impact. Juul Labs, which accounts for more than 70 percent of e-cigarette retail sales and has been blamed by the FDA for much of the rise in underage use, announced this week that it would stop selling most of its flavored e-cigarette pods - specifically, mango, fruit, crème and cucumber - in 90,000 retail outlets, and enhance its online protections. The company also said it would halt its social media promotions of the products. And Altria said late last month it would stop selling its pod-based flavored e-cigarettes for now.

The e-cigarette sales restrictions cover e-liquids as well as cartridges and pods, the FDA said. But e-liquids already are sold primarily in adult vape and tobacco shops, officials said.

The plan outlined by Gottlieb on Thursday is a major revision of his July 2017 tobacco framework. That plan emphasized that nicotine-containing products represent a spectrum of risk, with regular cigarettes on the one end and vaping products and nicotine-replacement products on the other. As part of that, he endorsed cutting the nicotine in regular cigarettes to minimally addictive levels. And he gave e-cigarette manufacturers an extra four years to apply for FDA marketing authorization.

Health groups sued Gottlieb, arguing that the delay in e-cigarette regulation inadvertently contributed to the recent surge in youth vaping. The FDA chief disagreed, saying Juul would have been on the market in any case.

Saudi Arabia seeks death penalty for 5 suspects in Khashoggi murder

Thu, 2018-11-15 07:36

FILE - In this Sunday, Nov. 11, 2018 file photo, Yasin Aktay, an advisor to Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, speaks during an event organized to mark the 40th day of the death of Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi, background, in Istanbul, Turkey. Saud Al-Mojeb, Saudi Arabia’s top prosecutor, is recommending the death penalty for five suspects charged with ordering and carrying out the killing of Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi. Al-Mojeb told a press conference in Riyadh Thursday, Nov. 15, 2018, that Khashoggi’s killers had been planning the operation since September 29, three days before he was killed inside the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul. (AP Photo/Neyran Elden, File) (Neyran Elden/)

ISTANBUL - Saudi Arabia’s public prosecutor released the findings of a long-awaited investigation of the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi on Thursday, saying that a team of Saudi agents who had been dispatched to Istanbul with orders to bring him home alive had instead killed the journalist and dismembered his body.

Saudi Arabia's crown prince had no knowledge of the operation, Shaalan al-Shaalan, a spokesman for the prosecutor, said at a news conference in Riyadh, the Saudi capital.

He said that 11 suspects had been indicted and that authorities were seeking the death penalty for five of them. None of the suspects were named. The order to kill Khashoggi, who had criticized the Saudi monarchy over the past year, had come from one of the leaders of the Saudi team in Istanbul, Shaalan said.

Prosecutor Saud al-Mojeb's conclusion - that the killing was authorized by relatively low-level officials who disobeyed orders and acted on the fly - contradicted assertions by Turkish investigators, who have said it was a meticulously planned affair, with elaborate preparations to cover up the crime that included the scouting of locations where Khashoggi's body could be disposed of in secret.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that the slaying was premeditated and that the orders had come from "the highest levels of the Saudi government," without specifying exactly who was responsible.

Turkey has called for an international investigation into the killing. On Thursday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that some of the latest Saudi statements about the killing were not "satisfactory."

"This is not something that happens instantaneously," he said. "People and tools were brought to dismember the body."

Khashoggi, a contributor to The Washington Post, was killed Oct. 2, soon after entering the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul to obtain documents he needed to remarry.

The U.S. Treasury said Thursday that it would sanction 17 individuals linked to the "abhorrent killing."On the list was Saud al-Qahtani, a close adviser to the crown prince, and the consul general of the Istanbul mission, Mohammed al-Otaibi.

"These individuals who targeted and brutally killed a journalist who resided and worked in the United States must face consequences for their actions," the Treasury said in a statement.

Officials in several countries have said it is unlikely that Khashoggi was killed without the knowledge of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia's de facto leader. But there is no definitive evidence that Mohammed ordered the operation. Saudi officials deny that the crown prince was in any way responsible for Khashoggi's death.

"He did not have any knowledge," Shaalan said Thursday.

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir described the killing as a "mistake" and denied any involvement on the part of Mohammed. "His royal highness the crown prince has nothing to do with this issue," Jubeir he told reporters in Riyadh.

Mojeb's statement on Thursday implicated two higher-level officials in what the prosecutor said was an operation intended either to persuade or force Khashoggi to return to Saudi Arabia. One of them, Ahmed al-Assiri, a former deputy head of intelligence, issued an order for Khashoggi's return on Sept. 29, the prosecutor said. That was one day after Khashoggi first visited the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul and was told to return the following week.

Qahtani, sanctioned by the United States on Thursday, was also was involved in planning Khashoggi's repatriation, according to the prosecutor.

Saudi officials have changed their story about Khashoggi's killing several times since he disappeared, first denying any knowledge of his whereabouts and then saying that he was killed during a fistfight.

In the latest version laid out by the prosecutor, a 15-member team was formed to bring Khashoggi back from Istanbul, "by means of persuasion, and if persuasion fails, to do so by force." The team included a forensic expert "for the purpose of removing evidence from the scene in case force had to be used to return the victim," according to a summary of the prosecutor's statement that was emailed to reporters.

The leader of the Saudi team also contacted a collaborator in Turkey to secure a safe house in case Khashoggi was forcibly removed, the statement said. But after deciding that moving Khashoggi to a safe house would not be possible, a team leader decided to kill the journalist, according to the prosecutor.

"The investigation concluded that the crime was carried out after a physical altercation with the victim where he was forcibly restrained and injected with a large amount of a drug resulting in an overdose that led to his death, may Allah bless his soul," the statement said.

Khashoggi's body was dismembered and then taken by one of the Saudi agents to the "local collaborator," according to the prosecutor, who said a sketch of the collaborator had been produced.

Turkish officials have complained repeatedly about Saudi Arabia's refusal to identify the collaborator and said they suspect that such a person does not exist. They have also demanded that the Saudis reveal the whereabouts of Khashoggi's remains.

Turkey's prosecutor said late last month that Khashoggi was strangled or suffocated as soon as he entered the consulate, in line with "premeditated plans."

Salah Khashoggi, the journalist's eldest son, announced a mourning period during which the family would accept condolences in the Saudi city of Jiddah.

- - -

The Washington Post’s Louisa Loveluck and Zeynep Karatas contributed to this report.

Owners of Seattle electronics recycler that operates in Alaska charged with conspiracy

Thu, 2018-11-15 07:14

SEATTLE — The owners of a large Northwest electronics recycler are facing a federal conspiracy charge, after investigations found the company lied to customers by having mercury-containing flat-screen monitors shipped overseas instead of disposing of them safely in the U.S.

Charging documents filed in Seattle on Wednesday say Total Reclaim Inc.'s customers paid at least $1.2 million to have the material recycled from 2008 to 2016. Instead, the company sold the monitors to another company, knowing it would ship them to China, where workers dismantled them without safety or environmental protections, authorities said.

Total Reclaim’s customers have included the city of Seattle and the University of Washington. It also operates in Alaska.

The practice was uncovered almost three years ago when an independent watchdog group placed trackers on some of the monitors.

Total Reclaim has since been fined by regulators in Oregon and Washington, and in Washington it lost its biggest client — an organization financed by the electronics industry that operates the E-Cycle Washington program in conjunction with the state Department of Ecology.

The U.S. attorney's office in Seattle filed the conspiracy charge against Total Reclaim's owners, Craig Lorch and Jeffrey Zirkle, in a document called an information. Such charges can be filed only against defendants who have waived their right to be indicted by a grand jury, and it typically means they have agreed to plead guilty.

Lorch and Zirkle are scheduled to appear in U.S. District Court on Friday. Reached by phone Thursday, Lorch declined to say how they intended to plead, but he emailed a written statement noting that they have cooperated in all investigations.

"The charges filed today by the Department of Justice relate to conduct by Total Reclaim's owners that they previously and publicly acknowledged and for which they promptly apologized and took responsibility," the statement said.

Washington's Ecology Department fined Total Reclaim $444,000 in 2016 and fined the company $67,500 last year after saying it discovered the company was still improperly storing thousands of flat-screens in trailers on Seattle's Harbor Island.

The company appealed the fines, but in a settlement with the department last week it agreed to pay nearly $84,000 to the state as well as $300,000 to the Western States Project, which enhances government enforcement of environmental laws in the American West, Ecology spokesman Andrew Wineke said Tuesday.

UK’s May battles to save Brexit deal and her job amid cabinet revolt

Thu, 2018-11-15 06:49

An anti-Brexit supporter holds a European flag by a banner across the street from the Houses of Parliament in London, Thursday Nov. 15, 2018. Leading Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg has submitted a letter of no confidence in Theresa May, as the Prime Minister reels from the loss of four ministers - including two from her Cabinet - in protest at her Brexit plans. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham) (Matt Dunham/)

LONDON — British Prime Minister Theresa May was battling Thursday to save both her Brexit deal and her job, as ministers quit her government and a growing list of lawmakers demanded her ouster over the divorce agreement struck between Britain and the European Union.

Less than a day after May won her Cabinet's grudging backing for the deal, two Cabinet ministers and a handful of junior government members resigned, and a leading pro-Brexit lawmaker from May's Conservative Party called for a no-confidence vote in the prime minister.

The hard-won agreement has infuriated pro-Brexit members of her divided party. They say the agreement, which calls for close trade ties between the U.K. and the bloc, would leave Britain a vassal state, bound to European Union rules it has no say in making.

A defiant May insisted that Brexit meant making "the right choices, not the easy ones" and urged lawmakers to support the deal "in the national interest." She said the deal was best for business as it would help maintain easy trade with Europe and would reduce uncertainty.

But she has been weakened by the resignation of two senior Cabinet ministers, including Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab. Hours after he sat in the meeting that approved the deal, Raab said he "cannot in good conscience" support it.

Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey followed Raab out the door. She said in a letter that it is "no good trying to pretend to (voters) that this deal honors the result of the referendum when it is obvious to everyone that it doesn't."

In another blow to May, leading pro-Brexit lawmaker Jacob Rees-Mogg called for a vote of no-confidence in May, saying the Brexit deal was "worse than anticipated."

Standing outside Parliament Rees-Mogg said the deal agreed "is not Brexit" because it would keep Britain in a customs union with the EU, potentially for an indefinite period.

Under Conservative rules, a confidence vote in the leader is triggered if 15 percent of Conservative lawmakers — currently 48 — write a letter to the party's 1922 Committee of backbenchers, which oversees leadership votes.

Only committee chairman Graham Brady knows for sure how many missives have been sent, but Rees-Mogg's letter is likely to spur others to do the same.

Rees-Mogg denied he was calling for a party coup.

"A coup is when you use illegitimate processes," he said. "This is working through the procedures of the Conservative Party."

He called for May to be replaced by a more firmly pro-Brexit politician, naming ex-Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, former Brexit Secretary David Davis and Raab as potential successors.

If a confidence vote is held and May loses, it would trigger a party leadership contest in which any Conservative lawmaker can run. The winner would become prime minister without the need for a national election.

The turmoil prompted a big fall in the value of the pound, which was trading 1.5 percent lower at $1.2797 as investors fretted that Britain could potentially crash out of the EU next March, a development that could see tariffs placed on British exports, border checks reinstalled, and restrictions imposed travelers and workers — a potentially toxic combination for businesses.

A growing worry as Brexit day approaches is that companies will enact contingency plans that could include cutting jobs, stockpiling goods, and relocating production overseas.

May and her supporters say the alternatives to her deal — leaving the trading bloc without a deal or a second vote on Brexit — are not realistic options.

"The choice is clear," May told lawmakers. "We can choose to leave with no deal. We can risk no Brexit at all. Or we can choose to unite and support the best deal that can be negotiated — this deal."

News that a deal had been struck after a year and a half of negotiations was welcomed in Brussels and EU chief Donald Tusk called for a summit of leaders on Nov. 25 so they can rubber-stamp the agreement.

Tusk said it was "not for me to comment on the latest developments in London."

"All I can say is that the EU is prepared for a final deal with the U.K. in November," he said. "We are also prepared for a no deal scenario but of course we are best prepared for a no-Brexit scenario."

The deal needs approval from Britain's Parliament before the U.K. leaves the bloc on March 29 — and even if May survives as leader, the chances of that appear to be shrinking.

Her Conservative government doesn't have enough lawmakers of its own to get a majority, and relies on the support of the Democratic Unionist Party from Northern Ireland, which says it will not back the deal.

The DUP leader in Parliament, Nigel Dodds, said the "choice" was clear.

"We stand up for the United Kingdom, the whole of the United Kingdom, the integrity of the United Kingdom, or we vote for a vassal state with the breakup of the United Kingdom, that is the choice."

Opposition parties also signaled they would vote against the agreement.

Main opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said May should withdraw the "half-baked" Brexit deal and that Parliament "cannot and will not accept a false choice between this deal and no deal."

Ian Blackford, who heads the Scottish National Party in Parliament, said the deal was "dead on arrival" and urged May to "stop the clock and go back to Brussels."

An EU official cautioned that Britain was unlikely to get a better deal. Speaking on condition of anonymity because the process is still ongoing, the official said both sides "exhausted our margin of maneuver under our respective mandates."

The deal requires the consent of the European Parliament as well. Its chief Brexit official, Guy Verhofstadt, welcomed the draft deal as "the best agreement we could obtain." Verhofstadt predicted the EU Parliament could approve the deal at the start of next year, well in time for Brexit day.


Casert contributed from Brussels.

Sleep or die? Authorities consider killing nuisance bears in Kodiak if they don’t hibernate soon

Thu, 2018-11-15 06:43

KODIAK - Alaska wildlife officials are considering killing nuisance bears in Kodiak if they don’t go into hibernation soon.

City manager Mike Tvenge told the council last week that state Department of Fish and Game officials working with Kodiak police will likely kill these bears, noting that non-lethal measures have become less effective, the Kodiak Daily Mirror reported.

"Kodiak Police Department is working closely with Alaska Department of Fish and Game to deter the bears from getting into the (trash) roll carts, but those efforts have had short-lasting effects," Tvenge told the city officials. "The bears are now becoming used to the non-lethal bullets and pepper shots."

Police and wildlife officials have responded to several calls in recent weeks about bears getting into trash. In one incident last month, a bear broke into a garage.

Kodiak police will provide backup to the wildlife officials, who have already accompanied officers on some patrols, police Lt. Francis de la Fuente said. Killing a bear in a residential area is not an easy task, he said.

The wildlife department does not usually decide to kill a bear without first conferring with appropriate local, state or federal agencies, said Nate Svoboda, a department wildlife biologist.

"Making the decision to dispatch a bear is not something ADF&G often endorses, as this does little to curb the fundamental problem of bears getting into easily accessible and unprotected trash," Svoboda said.

Before killing a bear, the department will first try to address core problems, like what's attracting the bear to the area, Svoboda said. Relocating bears is not a viable option, he said.

“This can be very difficult, time-consuming, resource intense and expensive, and typically does little to solve the core problem,” Svoboda said. "In addition, relocating bears to other regions can disrupt the natural system in the area the bear gets relocated. "

Heat waves caused by climate change could impair male fertility across generations, scientists warn

Thu, 2018-11-15 06:04

One way that heat kills is by increasing pressure in the skull, constricting blood flow to the brain. Damaged tissue can also enter the bloodstream and cause kidney failure. At a certain point, an elevated internal temperature simply incinerates cells in the body.

In contrast to extreme weather events so visible and violent that they hardly escape public notice, such as hurricanes and tornadoes, heat waves are more of a "silent killer," as the National Weather Service has called the prolonged periods of hot weather.

But kill they certainly do. Heat fatalities in the United States exceed all other weather-related deaths in the 30 years since such data has been available. In Britain, Parliament's Environmental Audit Committee recently warned of 7,000 annual deaths by heat by 2050 unless quick action is taken, the need for which was underscored by last month's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report.

Heat doesn’t just kill. It is also diminishes the vitality of sperm, curtailing the capacity to reproduce, as scientists have documented.

“Heatwaves reduce male fertility and sperm competitiveness, and successive heatwaves almost sterilise males,” wrote the authors of a study published Tuesday in the peer-reviewed Nature Communications.

Green fluorescent protein, or G.F.P., highlights sperm in the female reproductive tract following mating with control (top) and male subject to heat wave (bottom). (Matthew Gage and Martin Taylor)

But the research points newly to an even longer-lasting effect. Ecologists and evolutionary biologists at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England, found that heat stress appears to be associated with transgenerational fertility problems.

That means that organisms may bear the effects of elevated temperatures long after the initial exposure - in the form of reduced lifespans, reproductive challenges and other defects passed to offspring.

The scientists found that heat waves undermine sperm production and viability, and also interfere with movement through the female. They further discovered that extreme heat “reduced reproductive potential and lifespan of offspring when fathered by males, or sperm, that had experienced heatwaves.”

The researchers used red flour beetles to test sensitivity to temperature in cold-blooded ectotherms, species that don't regulate their own body temperature, in contrast to endotherms, such as humans. Warm-blooded mammals have been the primary focus of existing research on warming and sperm quality, their paper noted.

They set out to fill this gap while finding applications to the human case. Most terrestrial species are insects, and most life on Earth is cold-blooded, making the findings especially relevant to the question of climate change’s effect on biodiversity. As the lead author, Matthew Gage, observed in an accompanying blog post on the study, “we know that insect numbers are crashing, but we understand remarkably little about the particular mechanisms driving population declines.”

To examine one possible mechanism, reproduction, the scientists exposed mature adult beetles to experimental heat waves lasting five days at 104 to 107.5 degrees Fahrenheit (40 to 42 degrees Celsius) - above their optimum by about 10 degrees. "It's worth noting that these temperatures have been exceeded in the natural environment in half the world's countries over recent years," Gage wrote. Each male was paired with a female for 15 minutes before being transferred to the next mate.

Male reproductive reproductive performance halved after a first heat wave. After a second, males became almost completely sterile - contradicting theories of acclimation or hardening as a response to environmental stress.

Female potential was unchanged. But inseminated sperm already within the female tract were vulnerable to elevated heat, and caused a reduction in female fertility by one-third.

Most surprising, Gage said, was the effect they observed across generations.

"It suggests there could be problems for sons," he said. "We know that in humans, heat can damage sperm DNA, and we know that men with damaged DNA in their sperm have problems with fertility, but you can't really do an experiment to heat males up and look at whether that damages human offspring performance, so this is one way to get at that."

The results, he said, primarily indicate problems with fertility - with the clearest implications for insect biodiversity - but there is also evidence of an "underlying, longer-term damage as a result of damaged sperm DNA."

"In much the same way that radiation causes damage, and that can lead to offspring problems, there could be that kind of damage operating as a consequence of heat conditions," Gage said. "You're looking at possible population viability problems, which need to be studied more."

When it comes to humans, not all populations will be equally affected, studies have shown. The elderly, low-income people and those who are immobile or have preexisting health issues are especially vulnerable.

While the results of the experiment don't offer conclusions about population viability, they offer insight into how a particularly sensitive trait, sperm function, reacts to heat waves, which scientists say will continue to be among the severe effects of global climate change.

“If sperm function goes down, reproduction goes down,” Gage said. “If reproduction goes down, you’re looking at population viability problems.”

South wrestlers take down Chugiak

Thu, 2018-11-15 02:54

Five South Wolverines wrestlers won by pin Wednesday night in a 76-6 dual-meet win over Chugiak.

Christian Hudson (152 pounds) and Aiden Davis (215) each needed less than a minute to get their pins in the Cook Inlet Conference match.

Chugiak's lone winner, Daniel Niebles, also won by pin.

South 76, Chugiak 6

145: Jedi Patzke (SAHS) over TOMAS NIEBLES (CHS) (Fall 1:44). 152: Christian Hudson (SAHS) over DANIEL BROOKS (CHS) (Fall 0:32). 160: Michael Chaput (SAHS) over DAKOTA DAVIS (CHS) (Fall 1:45). 171: Hayden Brinkman (SAHS) over   (CHS) (For.). 189: DANIEL NIEBLES (CHS) over Dorian Mellon (SAHS) (Fall 1:29). 215: Aiden Davis (SAHS) over COLLIN CALDWELL (CHS) (Fall 0:40). 285: Henry Saafi (SAHS) over   (CHS) (For.). 103: Angus Hays (SAHS) over   (CHS) (For.). 112: Adam Concepcion (SAHS) over   (CHS) (For.). 119: Aedyn Concepcion (SAHS) over   (CHS) (For.). 125: Taylor Mcalpin (SAHS) over   (CHS) (For.). 130: Jacob Shack (SAHS) over OLIVER HAYS (CHS) (TF 16-0 3:27). 135: Theo Cha (SAHS) over TRISTAN PETRYKIEVICZ (CHS) (TF 19-4 4:09). 140: Riley Harris (SAHS) over CAMERON PECK (CHS) (Fall 3:43).

After months of negotiations, Anchorage School District and teachers union reach a tentative contract deal

Wed, 2018-11-14 22:54

The Anchorage School District and the union that represents roughly 3,300 of its educators reached a tentative agreement on a three-year contract late Wednesday after months of negotiations.

The Anchorage School Board and the educators themselves still must vote to ratify the tentative agreement before it takes effect.

The school district and the union, the Anchorage Education Association, announced the tentative contract agreement in a joint statement around 10:15 p.m. Wednesday. If approved, the contract would extend through June 30, 2021, it said.

The statement didn’t include details of the terms of the tentative contract. Additional details will be released at a joint press conference, it said. The date and time were still being determined late Wednesday, according to a school district spokeswoman.

The union represents roughly 3,300 educators, including classroom teachers, counselors and school nurses. They’re currently working under the terms of a contract that expired June 30.

The school district and the union have been negotiating a contract since April.

As negotiations continued, educators packed Anchorage School Board meetings, telling board members about concerns, including frustrations with working conditions. They staged a walkout at last week’s meeting. They also held a “walk-in” during students’ first day of school and have gathered outside of schools and the district administration building with signs such as: “We Demand: The schools all our children deserve!”

Hundreds of teachers lined Northern Lights Boulevard and Boniface Parkway during an "informational picket" outside the Anchorage School District headquarters on Monday, May 7, 2018. (Bill Roth / ADN) (Bill Roth/)

After months of bargaining, the union and the school district reached a stalemate in September and called in federal mediators from Seattle to help. Wednesday was the third round of mediation.

Wednesday night’s statement included quotes from Deena Bishop, school district superintendent; Todd Hess, the district chief human resource officer; and Tom Klaameyer, president of the union.

Bishop said: “I appreciate the dedication of every teacher and employee in AEA. The heart of our classrooms resides with our teachers and this Tentative Agreement allows them and the District to move forward to achieve positive outcomes for our students.”

Hess said: “The ASD appreciates the work and dedication of our teachers and other AEA members. We value the work they do and their recognition of the District’s overall fiscal situation."

Klaameyer said: “AEA members are committed to working with the District to provide an excellent education for all of our students. This agreement will allow us to focus on that core mission together.”

[Related: Bargaining teams for Anchorage teachers union and school district have a list of items to settle]

Last year, the school district and union reached a tentative, one-year contract deal in November, which educators later voted on and rejected. The bargaining teams reached another tentative agreement in January, and educators voted to approve it. That contract followed more than two years of negotiations. It took effect retroactively to July 1, 2017 and expired June 30, 2018.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

South hockey team stays undefeated with win over Eagle River

Wed, 2018-11-14 21:35

South High junior forward Hayden Fox celebrates the first goal of his hat trick in Wednesday’s 5-3 victory over Eagle River. (Bill Roth / ADN)

Hayden Fox scored a hat trick and the South Wolverines remained undefeated Wednesday night with a 5-3 victory over Eagle River at Ben Boeke Arena.

Fox opened the scoring with an unassisted goal early in the Cook Inlet Conference game and added two more goals in the third period to open up a one-goal game.

Hannah Hogenson made 23 saves, Ryan Bailey and Josh Costello scored one goal apiece and Logan Orr handed out a pair of assists for the Wolverines, who improved to 5-0 overall and 3-0 in the CIC.

South led 3-1 after the first period and 3-2 after the second. Fox's back-to-back goals made it 5-2.

Eagle River's goals came from Ty McEnaney, Aidan Burton and Brayden Rachow. Logan Dudinsky had a pair of assists for the Wolves.

Eagle River junior goaltender Ryan Gray had 29 saves during the Wolves’ 5-3 loss to the South Wolverines at Ben Boeke on Wednesday. (Bill Roth / ADN)

‘Defendants are slumlords.’ Tenants sue Anchorage hotel over rodents, roaches, bed bugs

Wed, 2018-11-14 20:33

Portia Belshe sits on her bed at the Mush Inn Motel on Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2018. Belshe moved into the $800 per month room in May and has had problems with bedbugs and cockroaches ever since. (Loren Holmes / ADN) (Loren Holmes / ADN/)

Portia Belshe, 67, has lived at the Mush Inn Motel since May. Lately, she said, she’s been going to bed with tissue paper stuffed in her ears to keep insects from roaming inside her ears as she sleeps. Once, she said, a roach crawled inside her open mouth.

“They taste just as bad as they smell,” said Belshe, one of nine current and former Mush Inn tenants suing the Third Avenue hotel. They claim that when they moved into the 43-room complex near Merrill Field, managers failed to warn them that the building was infested with bed bugs, roaches and mice.

The lawsuit, filed in October in state Superior Court, alleges the hotel owners and management ignored tenant complaints, lied to new customers and “endangered basic health and safety" of tenants. Families, including small children, live for months and years in the rentals, said Nicholas Feronti, an Alaska Legal Services attorney who filed the complaint.

Citing the ongoing lawsuit, an attorney for two of the owners, couple Ho Jin Kim and Young Mee, said they would not be available for an interview. They deny the complaints.

“Mr. and Mrs. Kim cannot comment on the pending litigation, other than to say that they vehemently dispute the claims alleged in the plaintiffs' complaint and will be answering the complaint in due course,” attorney Robert Misulich wrote in an email.

Misulich would not say if the owners’ denial of the claims in the lawsuit also meant that they dispute that the hotel is infested. When a reporter visited the hotel on Wednesday, bed bugs detritus ringed Belshe’s mattress. When she moved her refrigerator, cockroaches scattered for the walls.

Other plaintiffs, who are suing the hotel with free legal help from the non-profit Alaska Legal Services Corp., say that when they complained of mice they were given mouse traps by the management. Others caught dozens of roaches in sticky traps in the hotel’s small one-room units.

“Defendants are slumlords," the lawsuit says. “They foist this dangerous housing on low-income tenants who have few, if any, alternatives.”

[Support local journalism in Alaska. Subscribe to the Anchorage Daily News /]

The city health department has received nine complaints, from seven different people, about cockroaches and bed bugs at Mush Inn since February 2016. The department issued a citation and single, $300 fine, to the hotel on July 19 for “failure to maintain a dwelling unit in a clean and sanitary condition,” said deputy director DeeAnn Fetko.

One of the complaints came from Belshe, who said the city inspections and inexpensive fine -- it can costs hundreds of dollars per room to eradicate a bug problem -- don’t seem to make any difference. The owners sometimes use a device to super-heat the rooms in an effort to drive away or kill the pests, she said, but the bugs reappear days later. In the meantime, her attorney said, the pests scurry to adjacent rooms.

Of the nine plaintiffs, several have moved out. Some said they had felt trapped and struggled to find another affordable place to live. Rent is $800 but the security deposit is only $200, the plaintiffs' attorney said, making it easier to get into a room than a traditional apartment.

City housing codes says owners of rental units are responsible for eradicating pests and rodents, which can spread and disease. Municipal records list six current owners of the hotel, which was built in 1960 and most recently changed hands in 2004. Misulich, with the law firm Holland and Knight, said he only represents two of the owners and does not represent the management company for the hotel. Employees referred all questions to Misulich.

As of Wednesday, the hotel had not filed a response to the lawsuit.

Belshe has lived in Alaska since the 1990s and her sons played high school football in Palmer, she said. She had driven by the hotel many times and, when she was looking for a place just outside downtown Anchorage, it seemed like a convenient location.

“One thing that infuriates me, when you check in, you are not told there is an infestation here,” Belshe said. She said she cannot afford to move.

The Mush Inn Motel, photographed on Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2018. Tenants at the motel are suing the motel's owners, claiming that they have known about unlivable conditions including an infestation of bedbugs, cockroaches and rodents for years but did nothing. (Loren Holmes / ADN) (Loren Holmes / ADN/)
Bedbugs are collected in a glass jar in Portia Belshe's room Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2018 at the Mush Inn Motel. Belshe moved into the $800 per month room in May and has had problems with bedbugs and cockroaches ever since. (Loren Holmes / ADN) (Loren Holmes / ADN/)

Belshe said she learned of the infestation when she discovered bed bug bites appearing all over her body. In the early afternoon, the roaches began to grow lively. Scampering across the bamboo-pattern wallpaper. Falling from the cabinets to the kitchen counter as she cooked dinner for one.

Two other tenants began renting a unit in June 2017. They puzzled over the bite marks appearing on their bodies before learning the room was infested with bed bugs, the lawsuit says. The couple convinced management to move them to another unit, which also turned out to have a pest problem. When the pair complained, they were told they could “get out,” the suit says.

Another woman, 63-year-old Naomi Shearrod, remains at the Mush Inn because she can’t afford to move, according to the complaint. She wipes her counters with bleach. Others bought air mattresses or slept fully clothes on top of their covers to keep the bed bugs away. Tenants Ruth Ballot and Prentiss Williams said they only slept an hour their first night at the hotel, appalled at the crawling walls. They too were moved to a second unit, where they trapped at least seven mice.

Children's drawings adorn the wall of Portia Belshe's room Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2018 at the Mush Inn Motel. Belshe has cut off contact with the family she used to babysit for, because she is worried about giving them bedbugs and cockroaches. (Loren Holmes / ADN) (Loren Holmes / ADN/)

Children of all ages live at the 43-unit hotel, Belshe said. On her wall is a coloring-book drawing of a character from the movie “Trolls,” the character’s hair colored purple with a magic marker. Belshe said she used to babysit a 4-year-old in her room but can no longer have children – or anyone else – visit because she’s afraid they will take bed bugs home with them.

The pest problem has left her isolated and anxious, she said. When she visited the city health department to complain, she said, a roach crawled out of her paperwork.

Now, Belshe said, “I don’t go anywhere except to buy groceries.”

Alissa Pili, a star in basketball, volleyball and track, draws a crowd for signing her name

Wed, 2018-11-14 20:23

Billy Pili, left, gets choked up as he talks about his daughter Alissa Pili, right, during a National Letter of Intent signing ceremony Wednesday at Dimond High. Alissa Pili is headed to USC on a basketball scholarship. (Marc Lester / ADN)

Dreams came true. Tears were shed. Cupcakes were eaten.

Wednesday was a National Letter-of-Intent signing day for high school athletes who have made their college choices, a day when a teenager signing his or her name on a piece of paper qualifies as a big deal.

Heather Pili, whose daughter was among those in the day's spotlight, can tell you why.

"A free education," she said. "You can't beat that."

Alissa Pili, a 17-year-old senior at Dimond High, was the day's biggest catch, and not just because she is a formidable 6-footer who as a sophomore won a state wrestling championship in the girls' 220-pound weight class.

She is the 2017-18 Max Prep Sports national high school athlete of the year and a 10-time Alaska high school state champion, a multi-sports star who had her pick of colleges — and her pick of sports, for that matter.

Though she has won state titles in basketball, volleyball, track and wrestling, Pili long ago chose basketball as the game that will get her undivided attention in college. More recently she chose to play at USC, the Pac-12 Conference school where her brother, Brandon Pili, is a sophomore defensive lineman on the football team.

"I put them into consideration because my brother's there," Pili said Wednesday, "but seeing it first-hand I was really impressed by the whole family atmosphere. They made me feel like I'm a part of the team already."

Billy Pili grabs his daughter Alissa Pili’s arm and jokingly asks if anyone wants her to go to a different college just before she signs her National Letter of Intent. (Marc Lester / ADN)

Another thing that hooked her was the idea that USC's family atmosphere doesn't end once an athlete's eligibility does.

"They have a saying — it's not a four-year contract, it's a 40-year contract," she said. "Going away from my family is going to be hard, so I'm going to need that."

The second of Heather and Billy Pili's eight children, Pili put her family values on full display at her signing ceremony. Her parents and several siblings sat at a table with her, and members of her large extended family — many wearing cardinal-and-gold USC gear — sat in the bleachers along with a big group of Dimond students.

Banners, flowers, leis and cupcakes made the event festive. Billy Pili was initially too choked up to say much about his daughter's achievement but he recovered in time to lighten the mood. As Alissa began to sign her letter of intent, her dad grabbed her arm. "Anybody want her to go someplace else?" he joked.

A hallway or two away, in Dimond's multi-purpose room, another family gathered for cupcakes and tears.

Kady Bryant gets ready to sign a National Letter of Intent to join the University of Oregon’s acrobatic and tumbling team. (Marc Lester / ADN)

Kady Bryant hasn't earned the headlines or national honors that Pili has — few from Alaska's Class of 2019 have — but Wednesday was a big day for her too.

Flanked by giant gold balloons spelling out "OU DUCKS," she signed a letter of intent with Oregon, where she'll be a member of the school's acrobatic and tumbling squad.

Acrobatics and tumbling isn't an NCAA sport — it is governed by the National Collegiate Acrobatics and Tumbling Association — but the team is part of Oregon's athletic program and it offers scholarships.

Earning one of them was a dream come true for Bryant, 18.

"As long as I can remember I've wanted to be a Duck," an emotional Bryant said after signing her letter of intent. "My cousin is an OU alum and she's been dressing me up in Ducks gear since I was little."

Bryant was 10 years old when that cousin, 2008 Oregon grad Allyson Berg, told her the Ducks had started an acrobatic and tumbling program. "I had just started doing competitive cheerleading, so from that background I came to this," Bryant said.

Berg, who was among those who watched Bryant sign her letter of intent, remembers telling her cousin about Oregon's team back in 2010. "I said, hey, this is right up your alley," she said. "For her to actually follow through is incredible."

Wednesday’s Division I signings

Kady Bryant, Dimond — Oregon acrobats and tumbling

Corina Froehle, Bartlett — Eastern Washington women's soccer

Isabel List, Colony — Montana volleyball

Alissa Pili, Dimond — USC women's basketball

Azaria Robinson, East — New Mexico women's basketball

Submit letter-of-intent signings to and we'll add them to this list.

Thanksgiving season is upon us. Here are 5 ways you can give back.

Wed, 2018-11-14 19:26

Volunteers from Clear Channel Media collect food donations during the United Way Day of Caring Food Drive in the parking lot of the Mall at Sears on Friday, September 14, 2012. 120914 (Bob Hallinen / Anchorage Daily News) (Anchorage Daily News/)

Next week, Alaskans will celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday with their friends and loved ones. This is a time to reflect and be thankful for all that we have — and also an excellent time to help those who are not privileged to be in the same position. Whether you’re able to contribute money, time or material goods, here are a few ways you can help ensure others in our community also have a happy, healthy and safe holiday season.

1. Give food

Nonprofit groups that help address food needs are always in need of donations, and the holidays are a time when that need is acute. As part of its #GiveHealthy initiative, the Food Bank of Alaska is trying to reach 2,000 pounds of donated food by Friday, Nov. 16. The Food Bank serves not only the Anchorage area, but also remote communities across Alaska, so donations can reach far beyond our backyard. Additionally, the Food Bank accepts some donations unique to Alaska: According to the organization’s website, it “welcomes gifts of moose, caribou, deer and sheep meat, as well as salmon and halibut,” so long as the donations are commercially processed.

2. Give money

Many worthwhile groups in the Anchorage area devote services to the less fortunate, and donating to them is one of the best, most direct ways to help neighbors in need. You can give a targeted donation to a group that serves a particular need, or you can give to an umbrella agency such as United Way of Anchorage, which supports a host of member agencies that provide services locally. Donating to the United Way is one of the easiest ways to ensure that money you give will be used locally and have benefits close to home. Donations to the group or its member agencies may not provide the instant gratification of handing a dollar bill to someone who approaches you in a parking lot, but it’s a far better way to ensure the money helps those who are in greatest need.

3. Give time

One of the most valuable ways to donate to your charity of choice is by giving of yourself — contributing volunteer hours to an organization you support. We often think we don’t have enough time to volunteer, but most nonprofit groups are happy to have volunteers for even a single hour at a time, and for many, volunteer hours are the area of most critical need in fulfilling their mission. All kinds of volunteer opportunities abound, from food-based groups and homeless services nonprofits to groups such as Big Brothers Big Sisters or the Red Cross. You can find a clearinghouse of opportunities online at the VolunteerMatch website.

4. Give blood

Alaska and the U.S. are in the midst of a blood shortage, and donations literally save lives. The Blood Bank of Alaska is hosting near-daily mobile blood drives at locations across Southcentral Alaska, in addition to taking donations at its two Anchorage centers. Make a date with a friend or family member to go and donate together as a new holiday tradition. Accident victims and surgery patients will thank you. It is gratifying, after tragedies, to see community members line up around the block to give blood, but it shouldn’t take a mass casualty incident to remind us of the need for blood. Set a calendar reminder; you can donate multiple times per year.

5. Give clothes or other items

Organizations that help Alaskans in need, particularly those experiencing homelessness, can almost always use donations of clothing. Groups such as Covenant House and Abused Women’s Aid in Crisis accept new and gently used clothing and other in-kind donations, and groups such as The Arc of Anchorage have drop-off locations for used clothing that help fund their programs.

There are many ways to help neighbors and community members in need during the holiday season. Whatever your level of ability to give, everything you contribute helps make our city and state a better place. As the holidays approach, that’s the greatest gift we can give to one another.

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.

Join us in celebrating a combined 65 years of award-winning ADN photojournalism

Wed, 2018-11-14 19:07

Readers: Join us Thursday night for a free event celebrating the Anchorage Daily News /’s rich history of Alaska photojournalism - in particular the work of Bob Hallinen and Erik Hill. Bob retired last week after more than 30 years at the ADN; Erik left us last year after a similar run.

The free event is from 5-8 p.m. upstairs at the new King Street Brewing Co., 9050 King Street, in South Anchorage. Both Bob and Erik will show their work, and talk about it, starting at 6 p.m.

We’d love to see you there.

— David Hulen, editor

[Related: A letter to Alaska, by Bob Hallinen]

Trial kicks off in cocktail napkin lawsuit between former Alaska Dispatch News owner and editor

Wed, 2018-11-14 19:00

Jeffrey Robinson, lawyer for Tony Hopfinger, holds an enlarged version of a message originally written on a napkin by Alice Rogoff. A lawsuit between former Alaska Dispatch editor Tony Hopfinger and owner Alice Rogoff began on November 14, 2018. Hopfinger claims he is owed money that he said Rogoff agreed to pay on a cocktail napkin. (Marc Lester / ADN) (Marc Lester/)

Does a statement written on a cocktail napkin constitute an enforceable contract?

That’s one question at the heart of a civil trial that kicked off Wednesday in Anchorage Superior Court, between two well-known former figures in Alaska’s news media landscape.

Tony Hopfinger, the former president and editor of the newspaper Alaska Dispatch News, filed a lawsuit against Alaska Dispatch Publishing LLC and its owner, Alice Rogoff, in 2016. He alleges that Rogoff failed to pay him money he says she promised to him.

Enter the cocktail napkin. In April of 2014, Rogoff wrote on a napkin: “I agree to pay Tony $100K at end of each calendar year (beginning ’14) for 10 years," totaling $1 million. She did pay Hopfinger the first $100,000 payment, in January 2015, according to the lawsuit.

In the courtroom Wednesday, an attorney representing Hopfinger presented a copy of that napkin to the jury, blown up and supersized on poster board.

“How do we know when parties have an agreement?” attorney Jeffrey Robinson said in his opening statement. “The strongest evidence that we expect you’ll hear in this case that the parties had a binding agreement is because Ms. Rogoff believed that the parties had a binding agreement. People don’t cut $100,000 checks unless they believe that they have reached an agreement.”

Alice Rogoff listens to opening statements with her legal team. A lawsuit between former Alaska Dispatch editor Tony Hopfinger and owner Alice Rogoff began on November 14, 2018. Hopfinger claims he is owed money that he said Rogoff agreed to pay on a cocktail napkin. (Marc Lester / ADN) (Marc Lester/)
Jeffrey Robinson, left, talks to his client, Tony Hopfinger. A lawsuit between former Alaska Dispatch editor Tony Hopfinger and owner Alice Rogoff began on November 14, 2018. Hopfinger claims he is owed money that he said Rogoff agreed to pay on a cocktail napkin. (Marc Lester / ADN) (Marc Lester/)

Robinson closed his opening statement with: “We’re confident that at the end of the day, you know what a promise is and you know who broke that promise. And that person is not Mr. Hopfinger. That person is Alice Rogoff.”

David Gross, an attorney representing Rogoff, said a significant part of what the napkin says is the part about the payments happening over 10 years. Hopfinger lives in Chicago now and has not been involved in the operations of the newspaper since 2015. (He moved to Chicago to be near his terminally ill mother, who died.)

The term “was an effort to lock Tony in to that 10-year period,” Gross said. “To commit Tony to work for the newspaper for that 10-year period so he that would be with her hand-in-hand to run this newspaper."

Gross told members of the jury to ask themselves, once they have all the evidence, if there was an enforceable contract in place.

“And if there was an enforceable contract in place," he said, “what was it for? What were the terms of this contract?”

He finished his opening remarks to the jury by saying that, come the end of the trial, “I’m going to tell you to pay Tony what he is owed in this case, which is nothing. I’m going to tell you to pay Tony what he earned, which is nothing. And I’m going to tell you to pay Tony what he deserves, which is nothing.”

In March 2014, Robinson said Wednesday, Hopfinger told Rogoff he wanted to be bought out of the company.

“His proposal was $1.3 million offered over a period of five years, she would buy out his shares,” Robinson said. “Alice Rogoff countered with $1 million over 10 years," plus stock options.

Hopfinger co-founded a news website called Alaska Dispatch in 2008 with his then-wife, Amanda Coyne. In 2009, Rogoff purchased a majority of Alaska Dispatch Publishing LLC. Hopfinger and Coyne each kept 5 percent of the company.

Then, in 2014, Alaska Dispatch bought the much larger Anchorage Daily News from the newspaper chain McClatchy Co. The name of the operation became Alaska Dispatch News.

The new Alaska Dispatch News enterprise experienced “massive and significant losses after Ms. Rogoff took control,” Robinson said, “about $400,000 a week” at some point within the first year.

Under her ownership, Alaska Dispatch News filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in August of 2017. It was bought by the Binkley family of Fairbanks and the name soon changed back to the Anchorage Daily News.

Rogoff took the stand later Wednesday. Robinson questioned her about the value of Alaska Dispatch and an employment contract Hopfinger had. He was eventually making $190,000 a year in his position at the newspaper, according to a detailed employment contract presented in court.

Rogoff also said in court that she and Hopfinger were at one point in “serious discussions” with Schurz Communications, the Indiana-based company that used to own Anchorage TV station KTUU, in hopes that that company might buy the Anchorage Daily News along with Rogoff.

The trial is set to continue the rest of this week and into next week.

Winter survival guide: Pile on the layers and resist hygge until after you’ve been outside

Wed, 2018-11-14 17:33

Mary Beth Risvold walks her dog along an icy trail near Westchester Lagoon on Tuesday. (Bill Roth / ADN)

I hit rewind on the seasons for a couple of weeks in late October by traveling to the East Coast. For 13 days, I leaf-peeped, bonfired and ate crunchy fresh apples to my heart's content. The days were a perfect balance of warm in the sun yet cool in the shadows; the nights sparkled with stars.

When I arrived back in Alaska the entire landscape was draped in fresh snow and the sunsets were already tinged with a pink-purple Arctic hue. And of course the starkest reality check — Minnesota Drive leading us away from the airport had formed its signature luge run on-ramp, curving sharply around, goading me to try it racecar-style without studded tires (I've been in many taxis that tried just that and each time I've found god).

When I got home to my neighborhood in Palmer, the thermometer in my car read 9 degrees. Snow weighed on every branch of every tree and glimmered in the headlights of my car before I shut it off, and then there was just dark, clear sky with our signature big dipper overhead. My breath unfurled in puffy, cloud-like bursts, and when I inhaled, I felt the familiar sharp iciness in my throat and nose.

When I left it was still fall and I joked that winter was coming. It's no longer on its way — at least in Palmer. It's full-on here, in all of its pendulum-swinging, climate-changing glory. One minute it's a snowglobe, the next it's icy hail. I'm adapting.

Overall I love winter, but it's just a tad more difficult than the other seasons. It's like a needy teenager. Winter requires more of me.

For one, there's my constant battle against hygge.

Hygge, remember, is a Danish concept meaning "coziness" (pronounced hue-guh). Like so many traditions in the world that Americans find charming, we have taken that word and really run with it: hygge is something to be hashtagged and consumed. That's not really the Danes' problem, though, or an issue with the concept itself. No, my problem with hygge is that it's so damn tempting.

I love where I live. Really, really love it. I like being cozy inside with my cup of tea and gazing out on the snowy woods and seeing what the light is doing from minute to minute. I like the contrast of warm wood walls with the sharp blue-and-white relief of winter right through the window. I love building up the woodstove and being in a blanket right next to it until I feel like I am in a sauna built for one.

In theory, I also love being outside instead of just gazing at it from the comfort of my home. But it's really difficult to get from inside to outside when hygge is present. This is true even though experiencing the cold and fresh air actually makes hygge later on even better — and that's part of what I have to tell myself as I'm tugging on my 10th layer and shuffling toward the door.

This is part of the cycle, I mutter. This is good for your health, both physical and mental. I eventually put down my cookie, withdraw from my blanket cocoon and shove myself into the cold whether it's 5 degrees or minus-5, dark or light. I do this because I value my sanity, and experience has told me the best way to retain it during the Alaska winter is to routinely go outside.

But now let me turn your attention to gear. I don't mean fancy gear, like crampons and ice axes. I mean simple, warm layers that suffice for any length of time outside.

Accruing enough of these layers, and keeping them clean, is a whole ordeal in and of itself. I have piles of head bands, gloves, mittens, balaclavas to cover my mouth and protect my fragile lungs from the cold, and I have enough Patagonia jackets from when I worked there that it looks like they've been breeding in my closet.

Yet it always seems like there is never quite enough. My favorite pants are inevitably dirty or my preferred thick buff has that perma-stink all too familiar to anyone who has sweated in a piece of synthetic clothing for long enough that, despite consistent laundering, you can't ever quite get rid of the smell.

Winter comes with layers. Cold, darkness, ice. Each layer forms a barrier between me and the outdoors, which means there is more to push through and pile on in order to get myself out the door. In the end, it's worth it.


Alli Harvey lives in Palmer and plays in Southcentral Alaska.

Playing mom to three newborn pups is a stinky, dirty, never-ending job

Wed, 2018-11-14 17:19

Winter arrived in a rush. We wandered through October like a balmy September. Then, overnight, we got kicked in the butt.

Snow. The temperature at our place dropped below zero and has stayed there. The temperatures are nice enough for November, but we missed the normal set-up. I wasn't quite ready for the puppies that came along either.

The pups were planned and the projected birth date was known. But this was a first litter for the female so we watched her closely.

Within a day, it became apparent the new mom had no milk. The newborns would have to be bottle fed. The pups were set up in a cardboard box next to the wood stove in the living room.

John Schandelmeier bottle-feeds a 21-day-old puppy, Sunday, Nov. 11, 2018. (Photo by Jona Schandelmeier)

I have had dogs my entire life. My first coherent memory is being bit by a cocker spaniel (I tried to take her bone). That incident did not deter me from liking dogs. Labradors, dobermans, German shepherds and sled dogs have followed through the years. Over the last 40-odd years with shepherds and sled dogs, there have been 30-odd litters of pups.

I have never had to bottle feed a litter. The learning curve is tremendous.

It took only a couple of days to figure out how happy that mother dog was to get rid of those demanding little buggers. They wake up and scream for food every couple hours. That means at night too. The formula must be right. They have to get used to the taste. The temperature needs to be consistent.

A mother dog can nurse three pups at one time. I can only do one, which means loud screaming from the other two.

Replacement milk formula is expensive. The can I got made 60 ounces, and they emptied that in a couple of days. The internet tells me how to make my own, and here is a modified recipe that has worked out well over the past few weeks. This formula is a bit more substantial than the canned product and seems to satiate the pups longer.

— 8 ounces evaporated milk

— 4 ounces warm water (you can sterilize it by boiling, if you like)

— 4 ounces plain yogurt (not fat-free)

— 2 egg yolks for protein. There are claims that egg whites can cause a deficiency of biotin, which is necessary for protein digestion. Given that unknown, avoid the whites with a tiny pup. You can substitute 2 tablespoons of fish meal after the first week.

— 4 tablespoons of canola oil.

— 4 tablespoons of milk substitute (to help out with necessary vitamins)

The objective is to get the fat content near the 40 percent range. The protein level should be 35 percent or more.

Now, what no one says much about is this: Whatever you put into the puppy comes out the other end. The mother dog cleans up her pups. She licks up the pee and eats the poop. Efficient? Yes. I'm not doing it. Newspapers work for the first few days, especially just before elections.

Old towels and a real good washing machine work. Cloth baby diapers probably would be effective. We opted for doggy pee pads — the kind you get for the Chihuahua that doesn't house train. By the end of the second week, you'll be changing pads every few hours.

Twenty days into the feeding process, dog food can be introduced. Teeth don't have to be formed, but the gum line should be pretty solid. The kids should yelp when the puppy sucks their finger.

The switch to solid food is not an immediate transition. Warm-soak the dog food, but don't turn it to mush. Hand feed it to the pups for a day or so. Continue with the milk, though by now you might stretch time between feedings to four hours at night.

Three weeks acting as Mr. Mom has not gotten easier. The feeding is smoother, but the clean-up is proportionately tougher.

The Schandelmeier house German Shepard Charlie took to grooming the pups, Sunday, Nov.11, 2018. (Photo by John Schandelmeier)

We are fortunate. The kids help feed and clean up during the day. Uncle Charlie, our house German shepherd, has taken over some of the chores. He cleans up the pups by licking them, just like their real mother would. Before we realized that Charlie would do this, we had to wipe the pups down with a warm rag before every feeding.

The pups still receive a daily bath to get the stuff Charlie misses. The stinky little critters have moved to the wood stove in the shop so as to save on incense sticks. When I walk out to the dog yard, the pups' mom greets me with a big smile, as if to say: "Glad they are yours now!"

John Schandelmeier is a lifelong Alaskan who lives near Paxson with his family. He is a Bristol Bay commercial fisherman and a two-time winner of the Yukon Quest.

Woman killed in hit-and-run collision was mother from St. Lawrence Island

Wed, 2018-11-14 17:18

Anchorage police identified the woman killed Saturday in a hit-and-run collision on a street in Ship Creek as Michele Kulukhon, 35.

Kulukhon grew up in Gambell, on St. Lawrence Island, said her mother Ellen Kulukhon.

She'd also spent time living in Nome, Diomede Island and Shaktoolik.

She came from a big family, with two brothers, three sisters and two step-sisters. Kulukhon was a mother, with five children of her own. One passed away.

In recent years, she'd lived between Fairbanks, Anchorage and other communities her mom said. She spent time at Beans Cafe.

"Everyone knew her there," Ellen Kulukhon said.

She said she doesn't know anything about the circumstances surrounding the hit-and-run collision.

Her daughter was a humble, kind and helpful, a person who would "help anyone who asked, especially elders," she said.

Ellen Kulukhon had just seen her daughter in October, when she'd traveled to Anchorage from Shaktoolik for a medical appointment.

The family is grieving and figuring out how to bring relatives scattered in remote villages together, she said. They are also bracing for what's next.

She said she's glad a suspect has been caught, but she's not sure what will happen next as the case unfolds in the criminal justice system.

"I have to go to court or something," she said. "I've never been in this kind of situation. It's real hard."

The man accused of hitting Kulukhon near the intersection of Orca Street and 3rd Avenue Saturday evening remains at the Anchorage jail. He is charged with leaving the scene of an accident.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.