Alaska News

Subscribe to Alaska News feed
Alaska Dispatch News News Feed
Updated: 1 hour 38 min ago

Police converge on Fairview burglary in progress

Tue, 2018-05-22 08:39

An armed burglary in progress at a Fairview business was drawing a large police presence Tuesday morning.

Officers were investigating a report of an armed burglary at Quality Rides in the 500 block of East 13th Avenue, according to an Anchorage Police Department release.

Police believe a suspect or suspects are inside, APD spokesman MJ Thim said just before 8:30 a.m.

Officers at the scene used a bullhorn to to try to get them to come out.

"We know you're armed," an officer could be heard saying. "You need to come out with your hands empty, do it now. Don't make things any worse for yourself."

Police were setting up a large perimeter in the area between Eagle Street and Fairbanks Street before 8:30 a.m. People were asked to avoid the area.

Reporters Matt Tunseth and Zaz Hollander contributed.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Rammed or shooting the gap? Salmon seiners clash in Prince William Sound criminal case

Tue, 2018-05-22 08:19

An unusual criminal case in Cordova that centers on a violent fishing boat collision two years ago is expected to wrap up without jail time.

The June 2016 crash between seiners in a Prince William Sound cove near Whittier revealed a dark side of Alaska's multi-million-dollar pink salmon fishery.

Kami Cabana, the 25-year-old third-generation fisherman at the helm of the Chugach Pearl, faced first-degree felony assault charges for what prosecutors called an intentional ramming.

Cabana's Girdwood family has fished for more than 50 years. She's well-known local skier featured in a 2016 North Face film.

Her attorney argued it was Jason Long, the Cordova-based skipper of the Temptation, who was actually at fault: he tried to force his way through a line-up of boats with a dangerous maneuver.

A U.S. Coast Guard investigation found the Temptation "dramatically increased its speed" about 12 seconds before the collision, according to an October 2017 final assessment letter. Long spotted a school of salmon in the bay and tried to pass through an opening between Cabana and the Silver Streak before they closed the gap.

Cabana never stopped her forward motion as she closed the gap, the report found. The Silver Streak's captain put his boat in reverse.

Long never slowed, the report states.

The Coast Guard hearing officer faulted Cabana and the other skipper. But he also found Long could have avoided the collision had he taken "proper evasive maneuvers" rather than speeding up.

The two sides reached a plea deal in the 2017 criminal case Friday in Cordova District Court.

The deal likely involves no incarceration for Cabana, now 27 and still fishing.

Who's to blame?

Minutes before a morning pink salmon opener that June day, boats nearly filled the cramped head of Waterfall Cove in Hidden Bay as seiners hauling skiffs jockeyed for position.

Salmon seiners use vertical nets weighted at the bottom and fitted with floats. Alaska's pink salmon catch, canned or frozen for international sale, was worth $169 million last year.

Long admitted he tried to shoot the gap between two vessels, part of what he called a blockade by the Cabana family.

That's where the stories diverge.

The state Office of Special Prosecutions claimed Cabana sped up and rammed the Temptation, injuring a deckhand seriously enough he was medivacked out by air.

"She never slowed down," Long said in an April interview. "I didn't realize until probably two seconds before she hit me that she was just wide open. Then she slammed into me broadside."

He said others overheard radio traffic suggesting Cabana's father told her to "keep 'em outta here no matter what you do."

The defense claimed that Long caused the crash by aggressively gunning through a too-small gap between Cabana's Chugach Pearl and another boat.

Cabana's converted Pearl Harbor tour boat was no match for Long's "souped up speed boat" despite his contention that she was traveling as fast as 10 knots when the collision happened, Cabana attorney Patrick Bergt said Monday. "Her boat is too big and underpowered to do anything close to that."

Captured on GoPro

The criminal case was filed last year but the incident took on new life when a 6-minute GoPro video surfaced on social media in March. (Heads-up: The video contains some not-safe-for-work language.)

In the video, deckhand Gerald Cunningham stands next to the nets in the Temptation's stern as the boat's engines get louder. The Temptation speeds up as it enters the bay. Cunningham is grinning, but then suddenly hunkers down like he's anticipating a hit.

The Silver Streak collides with the boat's starboard side, then the Chugach Pearl collides with the Temptation's port side in a jarring crunch of metal on metal.

Cunningham is thrown backwards to the deck. An exhaust stack topples onto his prone body. He stands up, wobbly, and says he's OK but dabs blood from his head.

Other boats circle the Temptation. A woman can be heard shouting, and Cabana is visible in the crow's nest, waving her arms and yelling.

Cunningham had to be airlifted for medical care and still suffers after-effects of his head injury, Long said last month. Nobody on the other boats offered any help.

"Her first words were 'Get the f— out of here so I can set my net,'" he said.  "Then her relatives surrounded me."

Cabana's attorney Patrick Bergt, however, says Cunningham's injuries weren't immediately obvious or his "compassionate" client would have offered help.

"She is yelling," Bergt acknowledged. "Nobody knew the crewman was injured."

Plea deal

Under the plea agreement reached Friday, Cabana will plead guilty to a reduced misdemeanor charge of reckless endangerment.

In exchange, she's required to do 120 hours of community work service and complete a U.S. Coast Guard boating course and pay any restitution ordered for the injured crewman, according to a sentencing memo. She's already completed the work service in Girdwood and did the course, her attorney said.

It wasn't immediately clear what restitution the state would seek.

The state prosecutor handling the case, Aaron Peterson, wasn't in the office Monday and didn't respond to an email list of questions.

Both sides also settled a civil case last summer for an undisclosed amount.

Valdez District Court Judge Daniel Schally said during Friday's hearing that he expected to dismiss the charges before the next scheduled hearing in December hearing provided Cabana meets all the conditions of her release, Bergt said.

Long expressed frustration Monday, calling the deal a slap on the wrist that sends a message to the fleet that "orchestrated" blockades like the one he says he encountered in Waterfall Cove will be tolerated.

"It's probably going to get worse," he said. "There's a lot of people I know that are going to be really pissed off about that. Give it 10 years and a Cabana could get hurt because another person is gonna ram them."

He says what happened on the water that day ruined his life. His family left Alaska and moved to Port Angeles Washington. He's flying to Ketchikan next month to work on a tender but sold his Alaska home, as well as his boat and fishing permit.

Cabana, too, "paid the price" for the accident through "months of online bullying" that included threats to her and her family, the  sentencing memo states. Exhibits filed in the case include Facebook messages like "You going to jail, b—-" and "trashy, classless and downright ugly — c—."

Bergt said Monday that his client now fishes alone, skipping openers or showing up late, to avoid confrontation.

"She's now forced to fish in places where other people are not," he said.

Anchorage fire chief Denis LeBlanc retires; city deciding replacement

Tue, 2018-05-22 07:11

Anchorage Fire Chief Denis LeBlanc retired Friday after nearly three years on the job, officials said.

A successor to LeBlanc will be named in a few weeks, said Kristin DeSmith, spokeswoman for Mayor Ethan Berkowitz. Jodie Hettrick, the fire department's deputy chief of operations, is serving as interim chief.

LeBlanc, who is 70, said he told the administration of his decision in early May. He said he has loved the job, but he's been working on and off for 53 years, including a few decades in the oil industry.

"After 53 years working, it's time," LeBlanc said.

The fire chief, who is appointed by the mayor, oversees an annual budget of about $95 million and about 385 employees. It's a job with some turnover: The department has had about a half-dozen chiefs in the past nine years, said the president of the local fire union, Mike Stumbaugh.

LeBlanc came to work for Berkowitz in July 2015 from the engineering company CH2MHill (now CH2M and Jacobs), where he had been director of maintenance and operations on North Slope.

In the early 2000s, LeBlanc worked as a consultant on Anchorage Fire Department budget operations. He then filled in for a stint as budget director under Mayor George Wuerch. During the administration of Mayor Mark Begich, LeBlanc served as city manager.

When he took over as fire chief, the department had consistently struggled to meet its budget. After curtailing some operations, the department finished about a half-million dollars under-budget in 2017, LeBlanc said.

[Neighborhood chaos drives a new approach at an Anchorage social services hub]

LeBlanc also oversaw efforts to add more ambulances and firefighters and restructure the department to focus more heavily on emergency medicine, which make up the majority of the department's call. He ended his tenure well-liked by fire union members, earning their respect after coming in without a fire background, said Stumbaugh, the union president.

LeBlanc said he felt comfortable leaving after Berkowitz was re-elected in April. He said the administration was coming up with a "short list" of replacements.

The fire chief can earn up to $172,000 in salary. Berkowitz and the Anchorage Assembly boosted the salary about 30 percent since LeBlanc was first hired, as part of broader salary increases for top police and fire executives. The administration said the higher salaries aimed to fix a situation where a promotion meant a pay cut from a lower-ranking job.

Driver’s decision to take scenic route helped save Chugiak family from fire

Tue, 2018-05-22 05:59

A family of six narrowly escaped a house fire with their lives Sunday evening, but things could have been a lot worse if Anchorage's Daren Beals hadn't decided to take the scenic route.

Beals, 50, was driving from Eagle River to Chugiak with his girlfriend Irene Bush, and two other family members when he decided — on a whim, he said Monday — to take the quieter Old Glenn instead of the quicker Glenn Highway.

As they drove past the home the Sparks family has lived in for more than 30 years, Beals said he noticed something odd.

"I was like, 'There's some weird smoke coming from next to the road,'" Beals recalled.

A trained volunteer firefighter and EMS captain who works as a health and safety advisor for ConocoPhillips on the North Slope, Beals is no stranger to life-threatening situations. In 2016, he and two other employees working at the remote Alpine oil field helped a 9-week-old baby from the village of Nuiqsut reach critical medical care. For their efforts, the trio — Beals, Dave Decker and Rose Frisby — were honored by the Red Cross at its annual Real Heroes Breakfast in April of 2017.

So Beals knew better than to drive by the smoky scene without investigating. Upon closer inspection, he saw flames.

"We stopped at the end of the driveway and…the garage was on fire," he said.

[House fire displaces family of 6 in Chugiak]

Beals ran to the front door and started banging, but couldn't get an answer. So he pounded harder as the flames grew — but still couldn't raise anyone.

So he went inside.

"I didn't hesitate, since I knew I needed to check the house," he said.

The door was unlocked. When Beals got inside, he ran into a very agitated homeowner in Edward Sparks, who was inside with his wife and their four kids.

"He's like, 'Who the [heck] is in my house?'" Beals said. "I'm like, 'Get the [heck] out, your house is on fire!"

As Beals helped get the family out, his fiance called 911.

"Thank God they had their address at the end of the driveway," he said.

According to Chugiak Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department assistant chief Clifton Dalton, the fire was reported at 5:47 p.m. and firefighters arrived from the nearby CVFRD Station 35 on the Old Glenn Highway two minutes later. When crews arrived, Dalton said the home was about 50 percent engulfed in flames.

"It took us about 45 minutes to get it under control," he said.

A total of 20 units from CVFRD, Anchroage Fire Department and the Central Mat-Su Fire Department responded to the fire, which caused the Old Glenn to be shut down for more than two hours.

Once firefighters arrived, Beals said there wasn't much left to do.

"They had it all under control," he said. Their good deed done, Beals and his passengers got in their car and drove away.

Beals's coworker, Willie Hatch, said he wasn't surprised to hear of Beals's latest act of heroism.

"He is addicted to medicine and helping people," Hatch wrote in an email. "It's his vice: he gets a rush from it."

An East High graduate and lifelong Anchorage resident, Beals said he's worked on the North Slope since around 2000. He said he simply likes to help people, and he and Bush were more than happy to help a fellow Alaskan in need when they were called upon.

"We felt pretty good," he said.

The Sparks family has set up a GoFundMe.com account to help pay for expenses associated with the fire.

"The damage is extreme and is going to take a lot of reconstruction," reads the post by Sparks's daughter, Juanita Kakiva."… This fire not only displaced him, but his wife and four boys. They've been left with very little."

Beals said he's just thankful he decided to take the scenic route on his Sunday drive.

"It's just one of those divine things that happen where you're in the right place at the right time."

Manafort accuses Mueller prosecutors of smearing him with leaks

Tue, 2018-05-22 05:29

NEWARK, N.J. _ Lawyers for Paul Manafort accused prosecutors working with special counsel Robert Mueller of smearing their client through unflattering media accounts that originated with illegal grand jury leaks.

The lawyers on Monday urged U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III to hold a hearing focusing in particular on communications involving Andrew Weissmann, one of the Mueller prosecutors, with The Associated Press.

Manafort, a former chairman of President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, faces charges of bank and tax fraud in Ellis’ court in Alexandria, Va. He has also been indicted by Mueller on charges of money laundering and operating as an unregistered foreign agent of Ukraine in a separate case in Washington.

The filing on Monday cited a report by Sara Carter, a freelance journalist and Fox News contributor, that the Justice Department received an FBI complaint about leaks in the Manafort investigation. His lawyers urged Ellis to determine “if there has been an internal investigation (or investigations) regarding such leaks, or if emails, notes or memoranda exist regarding the same.”

According to the filing, the meeting with reporters from The Associated Press took place in the spring of last year and was attended by prosecutors, including Weissmann, and FBI agents.

“Not only is leaking classified information a felony, but it was also apparently intended to create the false public narrative that Mr. Manafort was colluding with Russian intelligence officials during the Trump presidential campaign,” the defense lawyers said in the filing. “This smear campaign may have in fact irreparably prejudiced the jury pool.”

Manafort’s request comes amid mounting criticism by Trump, congressional Republicans and conservative news organizations over the conduct of Mueller’s investigation. The criticisms may find a receptive jurist in Ellis, who used a hearing earlier this month to criticize Mueller’s legal justification for investigating Manafort.

Weissmann has been accused by Trump supporters of bias. They have cited his contributions to Democratic candidates in the past.

Manafort’s lawyers first requested a leak hearing in a May 1 filing. In response, prosecutors denied wrongdoing and said a hearing was not necessary.

A spokesman for Mueller’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

White House plans meeting between intelligence officials, GOP lawmakers on FBI source

Tue, 2018-05-22 05:19

WASHINGTON - The White House and the Justice Department have put off a high-stakes confrontation over the FBI’s use of a confidential source to aid an investigation into the Trump campaign, after top law enforcement and intelligence officials met with President DonaldTrump on Monday to discuss the brewing controversy.

A White House spokeswoman said Chief of Staff John Kelly plans to convene another gathering between the officials and congressional leaders to “review highly classified and other information” about the source and intelligence he provided.

That could be viewed as something of a concession from the Justice Department, which had been reluctant to turn over materials on the source to GOP lawmakers demanding them. But it also could be a bureaucratic maneuver to buy time and shield actual documents.

Earlier this month, the department temporarily defused a similar standoff with House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., who is seeking internal records and FBI reports on the source and threatened to hold Attorney General Jeff Sessions in contempt. The department had Nunes over for a classified briefing but provided no documents, and Nunes decided not to attend a later briefing the department offered.

The Monday meeting, which included Trump, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, FBI Director Christopher Wray and Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats, lasted about an hour. Trump personally called to confer with the officials, two people familiar with the request said, though White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the meeting was put on the books last week.

The gathering came a day after the Justice Department asked its inspector general to investigate Trump’s claim that his campaign may have been infiltrated by the FBI source for political purposes. The officials planned to discuss that, as well as the Justice Department’s response to congressional requests for documents on the origin of what is now special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia to influence the 2016 election.

The source at issue is Stefan Halper, a veteran of the Nixon, Ford and Reagan administrations and an emeritus professor at Cambridge University in England, according to multiple people familiar with his role.

The Washington Post had previously confirmed Halper’s identity but did not report the information after warnings from U.S. intelligence officials that exposing him could endanger him or his contacts. Now that his name has been revealed by multiple news organizations, including the Wall Street Journal, New York magazine and Axios, The Post has decided to publish his name. The Daily Caller first reported on some of his contacts with members of the Trump campaign.

Sanders said in a statement after the Monday meeting: “Based on the meeting with the President, the Department of Justice has asked the Inspector General to expand its current investigation to include any irregularities with the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s or the Department of Justice’s tactics concerning the Trump Campaign.”

She added, “It was also agreed that White House Chief of Staff Kelly will immediately set up a meeting with the FBI, DOJ, and DNI together with Congressional Leaders to review highly classified and other information they have requested.”

The latter statement could be particularly significant. Justice Department leaders have fought vigorously against turning over to Congress materials on the FBI’s source. It was not clear whether they had backed down from their position and would now allow GOP leaders to look at or keep the documents, or whether there would simply be a follow-up meeting for more discussion.

It was also not clear which lawmakers would be invited to review the information. A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment.

Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., a close Trump ally who has been critical of the Justice Department for not turning over documents to Congress, said he was glad to hear that Justice officials seemed willing to share more material about how they opened the investigation into contacts between some in the Trump campaign and Russians.

“It’s a good day for transparency, and I appreciate the president’s leadership,” Meadows said. “Obviously, the details of the cooperation that is a result of this meeting today will be a defining moment for the Department of Justice. We can certainly applaud the progress and efforts that were made today.”

Meadows said he was interested to see which lawmakers would be invited to attend.

“If it includes critical members of the House Intelligence Committee, it will go a long way to answering these unanswered questions,” he said.

The stakes of the meeting were high, and Trump raised them significantly Sunday when he said on Twitter that he would order the Justice Department to “look into whether or not the FBI/DOJ infiltrated or surveilled the Trump Campaign for Political Purposes - and if any such demands or requests were made by people within the Obama Administration!”

That Justice Department officials acquiesced to the demand is significant in its own right. The president effectively requested, and apparently received, a review of the investigation into his campaign.

“In my opinion, it is a terrible outcome for the department,” said former Justice Department spokesman Matt Miller, who served in the Obama administration. “The president has basically requested an investigation of the investigators with no evidence of wrongdoing, and they’ve agreed to do it.”

Still, it was unclear how much further officials would be willing to go if the president remained unhappy.

Meadows said Monday before the meeting: “Rod Rosenstein knows exactly what happened and what is in the documents requested by Congress. Either the matter warranted investigation long ago and he did nothing, or he’s seen the facts and believes nothing is wrong. His belated referral to the IG is not news . . . it is a ruse.”

Justice Department officials cited the safety of the source and others, as well as damage to relations with partner intelligence services, as reasons not to reveal the materials to Congress. Trump has the power to order the department to comply with congressional demands, but it is possible that department officials might resign in protest or refuse the order and force Trump to fire them.

Rudy Giuliani, the president’s lawyer, said in an interview Sunday that Trump wanted the materials handed over to Congress, though he conceded that the Justice Department “may want to put some strictures on it, like it has to be confidential or they don’t give the name but they give the information.”

Speaking to reporters on Capitol Hill, Rep. Adam Schiff, Calif., the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said: “Rudy Giuliani made it clear today that he wants these documents for the Trump legal defense team. That is not appropriate, and I have a concern about anyone from the White House being present for review of these sensitive documents, because the White House should have no role in access to these investigative materials.”

Schiff also raised concerns that the Justice Department and the FBI were “capitulating” and pointed to past warnings that officials expressed about the safety of the source. “Why have those concerns gone away? Because if they haven’t, they shouldn’t be providing this information.”

In the summer of 2016, Halper met with Trump campaign co-chairman Sam Clovis for coffee in northern Virginia, offering to provide foreign policy expertise to the Trump team. In September of that year, he reached out to George Papadopoulos, an unpaid foreign policy adviser for the campaign, inviting him to London to work on a research paper. He also had multiple contacts with foreign policy adviser Carter Page for talks about foreign policy.

Rosenstein said Sunday that “if anyone did infiltrate or surveil participants in a presidential campaign for inappropriate purposes, we need to know about it and take appropriate action.”

‘He’s peeing!’: A man’s grabby hands were just the start of a Frontier plane nightmare, FBI says

Tue, 2018-05-22 05:14

To paraphrase an old air travel axiom: What goes in must come out, one way or another.

There are approximately seven fluid ounces in a double vodka tonic - give or take, depending on how generous Frontier Airlines is with the pour.

Michael Allen Haag ordered his first one during the first cart service Thursday evening, according to the FBI - shortly after the plane took off from Denver, with hundreds of miles to go before it reached Charleston, South Carolina.

Haag was assigned to a middle seat, but this didn’t seem to bother him, as his fellow passengers would later recall in their interviews with police.

Two women sat on either side of him. One, by the window, was already asleep with her head on the tray table. The other was awake in the aisle seat, and she wore a tank top that - she would later tell the FBI - Haag seemed very interested in.

Haag told the woman he was “physically excited” because he was flying to see his old girlfriend, an FBI agent wrote in a federal affidavit. As she recalled the conversation, he kept staring at her chest.

She put on headphones and tried to fall asleep, but Haag wouldn’t stop asking her questions, she said.

What sort of men did she like? Oh, she was married? What sort of relationship did she have with her husband? What was her “deal,” she said Haag asked her, when she made it clear she did not want to talk.

Haag’s first double was gone by now, the FBI agent wrote, so he ordered a second vodka tonic of the flight, the FBI agent wrote. What goes in . . .

Haag’s attention apparently shifted to the woman on his right. She recalled waking very suddenly, to discover that a 45-year-old man she did not know was touching her fingers.

“Stop touching me,” she told Haag. He apologized, according to the affidavit - but then kept apologizing, over and over, as he cornered her against the window.

“Back off,” she said.

When Haag allegedly touched her leg, she started to yell.

About a dozen rows back, at the rear of the plane, a woman identified only as Emily had also been asleep. She more or less had the whole row to herself.

But now she woke suddenly, too, to the sound of an uproar in Row 25. The woman in the window seat next to Haag was standing straight up, the FBI agent wrote, calling for a flight attendant.

“I hear a woman scream, ’If this man . . . touches me one more time, I’ll . . . kill him,” Emily told KDVR, including the expletives she heard.

Then Emily watched with growing concern as a flight attendant marched Haag to the back of the plane and gave him his own private row - directly across the aisle from her.

The man was at least very drunk, Emily thought to herself, as Haag took his new seat and fumbled for his seat belt.

“He was out of his mind,” Emily said. “Like he couldn’t speak. He was mumbling.”

In the FBI agents words, Haag was “clearly intoxicated and possibly high. But a flight attendant helped buckle him in, and for a while he seemed to go passive.

Sleep now behind her, Emily took out her phone, thinking she would take a furtive picture of the strange man to show her friends.

And then, the FBI wrote, Haag unbuckled himself.

Emily shared two pictures with the CBS affiliate in Denver. In the first, Haag is slouched in his chair, his hands apparently folded over his lap.

Her second photo, taken a few minutes later, looks no different - except for the thin, clear fountain arcing from between the man’s hands, seeming to land inside the magazine pouch in front of his knees.

“And I scream,” Emily recalled. “He’s . . . peeing! He’s peeing! Oh my God!”

And he was indeed peeing, the FBI agent wrote -- emptying two double vodka tonics and who knows what else into the small gap between seats.

What goes in, must come out, but how it gets out makes all the difference.

The plane landed in Charleston shortly after 9 p.m., after more than three hours in the air. Emily said she and the two women in Row 25 gave statements to police, and she eventually got a $200 flight voucher from Frontier Airlines - which did not return a request for comment from The Washington Post.

Emily took one more photo of Haag, this time being led through the terminal in handcuffs.

He was released from jail the next day on a $25,000 bond, charged with interfering with a flight crew and two counts of indecent exposure - worth up to 20 years in a federal prison if convicted.

Hawaii volcano eruption driving away millions in tourism dollars

Tue, 2018-05-22 05:13

HONOLULU, Hawaii - Cruise ships have canceled stops on Hawaii‘s Big Island. Hotel rooms will sit vacant this summer despite price cuts.

And guest house owners and tour guides that depend on the 2 million visitors each year to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park are wondering how long their families will go without any income.

Tourism authorities say summer bookings for hotels on Hawaii’s Big Island have fallen almost 50 percent since the volcano began spewing lava and toxic gases on May 3.

The closure of the park, the state’s top tourist destination, alone is costing the island $166 million, the National Park Service said on Monday.

The lost revenue rises to $222 million when some 2,000 jobs indirectly impacted by park tourists are included, according to a park service report. (https://bit.ly/1NoB40V)

Tourism is the Big Island’s largest industry, and by far, biggest employer, providing more than 30 percent of private sector jobs in 2017, according to the Hawaii Visitors Bureau.

Erik Storm’s EcoGuides business, which conducts tours of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, ground to a halt a month ago when volcanic conditions made it too dangerous to visit lava areas.

“We have a family to support so we hope that the National Park will reopen again soon, otherwise this could have a serious impact on our life.”

SPOOKED BY LAVA

The volcano, however, shows no sign of quieting down. Geologists say the current cycle of eruption is among the worst events in a century from one of the world’s most active volcanoes. A series of Kilauea eruptions in 1955 lasted 88 days.

Potential visitors to the Big Island have been spooked by images of lava torching homes, soldiers wearing gas masks and now deadly white clouds of acid and glass shards as molten rock streams into the Pacific.

While Kilauea’s lava flows are in a small, roughly 10-square-mile rural area in the southeast Puna district, the volcano is having an impact on tourism across the Big Island, home to 200,000 people.

Beverly Oka’s family-run Uncle Billy’s Kona Bay Hotel is 120 miles (193 km) west of the lava flows, but bookings through the summer months are down around 40 percent.

“We are not affected. We have some vog, but not more than usual,” said Oka of the volcanic smog that routinely blows from Kilauea, which has been in a near constant state of eruption since 1983. Her hotel is offering a 30 percent discount to try to lure customers.

Norwegian Cruise Line canceled stops on the Big Island for its cruise ships due to “adverse conditions.” Royal Caribbean Cruises nixed a port call in Hilo, the island’s largest city, which is about 20 miles (32 km) northeast of the volcano.

Rob Guzman and his husband Bob Kirk fled their guest-house rental business just 6 miles (10 km) from the lava flows, unnerved by near constant tremors, clouds of toxic sulfur dioxide gas and risks highway escape routes would be cut off.

“We’ve lost more than half of our household income and many other people will be in the same situation indefinitely,” said Guzman, a resident of Kalapana Seaview Estates, who is staying with friends north of Hilo.

North Korea is acting up because Trump has it cornered

Tue, 2018-05-22 04:29

WASHINGTON -- North Korea’s recent temper tantrum over U.S.-South Korean military exercises and its threat to pull out of its upcoming summit with President Trump are signs that Trump’s North Korea strategy is working.

Over the past several months, Trump has boxed in Kim Jong Un. First, he ramped up economic pressure on Pyongyang while making clear that, unlike his predecessors, he was willing to take military action. Yet when Kim offered to meet face-to-face, Trump shocked everyone (probably including Kim) by reportedly accepting on the spot. Instead of rejecting the offer, or using it as a bargaining chip to elicit concessions, Trump said “yes” and put the two nations on a faster track to nuclear negotiations than anyone had anticipated.

Then, the president began shaping the parameters of an agreement -- starting with making clear what kind of deal he would not cut. The North Koreans want a nuclear deal like the one President Barack Obama gave to Iran: sanctions relief up front, billions of dollars in cash, a weak inspection regime and sunset clauses on the back end. By withdrawing from the Iran deal last week, Trump sent Pyongyang a crystal-clear message: I don’t cut deals like that.

He then used his senior officials to lay out the parameters of the kind of accord he would cut. Kim wants to get paid for the promise of denuclearization. Appearing on “Face the Nation,” national security adviser John Bolton played the bad cop and explained that that is not happening. Trump will only pay for actual denuclearization. The president, Bolton said, is looking for “a manifestation of the strategic decision to give up nuclear weapons [that] doesn’t have to be the same as Libya but it’s got to be something concrete and tangible it may be that Kim Jong Un has some ideas and we should hear him out.”

While Bolton set expectations for denuclearization, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo played the good cop and held out the twin carrots of security and prosperity if Kim agrees. “If North Korea takes bold action to quickly denuclearize,” Pompeo said, “the United States is prepared to work with North Korea to achieve prosperity on par with our South Korean friends.” That stunning offer is deeply destabilizing for Kim. If he goes to a summit with Trump and refuses to accept a deal that provides his country with prosperity on par with South Korea, then he can no longer blame the West for the misery of the North Korean people.

In other words, Trump and his national security team have put Kim in a corner, offering him peace, security and prosperity, but only if he first denuclearizes completely, verifiably and irreversibly. Little wonder that North Korea is lashing out.

Kim might be looking for a pretext to get out of his meeting with Trump, and the military exercises provide a perfect excuse.

He may also be testing Trump to see how badly he wants the summit. Or he may be trying to drive a wedge between the United States and South Korea in advance of the talks. He knows South Korean President Moon Jae-in is deeply invested in his “Sunshine Policy” with Pyongyang. If the North threatens a little rain, perhaps the South -- which desperately wants the summit -- will pressure Trump to cancel the military exercises or be more flexible at the bargaining table.

Trump needs to show Kim that he won’t respond to threats by refusing to call off the exercises. Through back channels, he needs to reaffirm his willingness to provide North Korea with security and prosperity in exchange for immediate denuclearization but also make clear that if North Korea refuses, the alternative is not the status quo. Sanctions will be ramped up, and military action is possible. Above all, Trump should take North Korea’s recent outburst as a signal that Pyongyang is feeling the heat.

A cornered animal roars, precisely because it is cornered. Stand firm, Mr. President, and don’t let up the pressure.

Marc Thiessen writes a twice-weekly column for The Post on foreign and domestic policy and contributes to the PostPartisan blog. He is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and the former chief speechwriter for President George W. Bush.

Anchorage parents are split over possible changes to school start times, survey shows

Mon, 2018-05-21 21:05

Anchorage parents are split over possible changes to school start times, according to survey results presented to the Anchorage School Board Monday.

The recent telephone survey is the district's latest step in its process to determine whether or not it should change school schedules starting in the 2019-20 school year. While research shows older students would benefit by starting school later, the district has said, a limited number of buses and time would mean that to do that, everyone's schedules would have to shift in some way.

[The Anchorage School District is considering changing school start times. What do you think?]

Two weeks ago, a consultant hired by the district to study school start times presented two new possible scheduling scenarios to the board: Either move all school start and end times back by 30 minutes or move schedules back and swap the start-time order. The second option would have elementary school students starting classes first at 8 a.m., high school students starting second at 8:45 a.m. and then middle school students starting at 9:30 a.m.

According to the results from the telephone survey, 45.7 percent of 383 randomly selected Anchorage parents said they liked the first scenario best, 37.6 percent preferred the second scenario and 12.5 percent said they did not support a change.

The margin of error was plus or minus 5 percent, said Adam Hays, research director at Hays Research Group, which conducted the survey.

However, some school board members questioned how accurately the survey reflected what parents wanted. School board members Starr Marsett and Dave Donley said they received complaints from parents, who told them that while they were asked which of the two schedule changes they liked, they were not asked whether they preferred no change at all.

Anchorage School District Superintendent Deena Bishop told the board that it has the option to not act on start time changes, leaving the schedules as they are. She said the district has also already asked the community whether it wanted a change or not. Now, she said, it wanted to determine if there was a change, what parents preferred.

According to feedback from the district's community open house meetings earlier this year, 48 percent of those who attended said they wanted to keep school schedules the same, 43 percent were split among three possible changes and 9 percent said they had no preference.

Shannon Bingham, the district's consultant, told the board Monday that the two proposed scheduling options presented this month would cost the district little to nothing to enact. If the Board wanted middle and high schools to start at identical times, instead of staggering schedules, it would cost about $9.5 million for additional buses plus about $7.7 million more each year in operational costs, he said.

School Board President Marsett said the board would continue discussing school start times June 2 at its daylong retreat. With two new board members, she said, they needed more time to talk about the possible changes. She said she did not believe the Board was leaning one way or the other as of Monday.

"I think the board really is up in the air," she said.

Letter: Alaska, U.S. health systems are a joke

Mon, 2018-05-21 20:49

I read the recent letter about how great the Alaska health care system is. I had to laugh.

The U.S. is the only industrialized country without health care guaranteed by its government for all the people. We are the leaders in maternal deaths.

The Republicans, led by President Donald Trump, with the help of Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan, as well as Rep. Don Young, are trying to take away what little health care poor people can afford. We can afford trillions of dollars for war and war equipment but nothing for people or infrastructure. The U.S. is rapidly achieving third-world status.

I suggest the good doctor look to Southcentral Foundation and the Alaska Native health care system if he wants to see a system that works.
Jay Cross
Big Lake

Letter: Why is America so united?

Mon, 2018-05-21 20:47

Thanks to Charles Wohlforth for his writings and articles three times a week in the ADN. Thanks to the ADN for the latter. I found his May 18 article ("Why is America so divided?") interesting and thought-provoking down to the last paragraph, when I realized we are divided as we are "united," and that we have been and are struggling to find the truth and define our future.

Questions inherently make us seek and find answers to our problems and help us define our future. Forgive me for condensing 86 years of experience into this paragraph and partly answering Mr. Wohlforth's second question, about whether we can help bridge divides in America. Yes, Alaska can help and is helping now!

Someone said life is a mystery and I would agree. I would also agree with their advice to "relax into the mystery and enjoy it." Support for the truth of these conclusions comes to me in the first 75 pages of "The Soul of America," by Jon Meacham. He offers hope for our future and insight into our division and our Union, starting with Lincoln and the Civil War.

Hugh R. Hays
Soldotna

Letter: Legislature passed tax on Alaskans by cutting dividends

Mon, 2018-05-21 20:13

A recent opinion column by Jeremy Price, director of Americans for Prosperity — Alaska, applauded the Alaska Legislature's failure to enact any new taxes. But that is incorrect. The Legislature reduced the size of the 2018 Permanent Fund dividend by more than $1,000. That is effectively a $1,000 head tax on every Alaskan, from infants to seniors. Rich folks won't even notice this, but for low-income people and families, it's a big hit.

Mr. Price also quotes the AFP line, "the long-term solution is to spend less on government." Ask the folks in Kansas and Gov. Sam Brownback how that has worked out for them lately.

Should we not support the basics of civilization including: clean air and water, health care, education for our children and law enforcement, and should those of us benefiting from these services not pay our fair share? Americans for Prosperity supports only the desires of the Koch Brothers, which have little to no overlap with those aims.

Gail Heineman
Anchorage

Letter: 5 seconds of kindness

Mon, 2018-05-21 20:11

Little did you know, the boy who you threw against a locker is going into foster care because his parents died in a car accident. That girl you called fat is at home purging herself to have the "perfect body." Little did you know, the boy you called stupid is planning on taking his own life.

In the past year, I have had to experience four suicides. Three of the deaths could not have been foreseen because of the fact that the victim seemed "normal" and did not show any obvious signs of depression — but that one death could have been prevented. That one victim could have been saved.

Some people think, "It's only one person, it won't make a difference," but in reality, that one life means the world to someone. A friend of mine who took her life wrote a letter beforehand, saying, "If someone would have said something, if someone would have made me feel like I was worth fighting for, I would not have gone through with my violent actions."

If one word can change the way someone thinks, why can't one word change their actions? If everyone took five seconds out of their day to say hello to someone, those words could save a life. If you see a person that seems even the slightest bit unlike himself or herself, say something or smile to show you care.

Even if it seems like just a "hello" to you, that "hello" could save a human being. So please, take five seconds of kindness out of your day to save a life. It's that easy.

Jenna Gawrys
Eagle River

Mean ex-coworkers made my life hell. Now I have a chance to get back at them. Should I take it?

Mon, 2018-05-21 19:38

Q. Three years ago, a group of mean girls in the workplace made up false stories about me and ostracized me. I hadn't done anything to deserve how they treated me. They hated me because the departing CEO gave me a promotion that one of them felt was rightfully hers. After the CEO resigned, these coworkers made my work life a living hell.

I wisely quit. However, I've never been able to let go of what happened and it eats away at me. I've dreamed of revenge, of making them pay for how they hurt me. Now, life has handed me an opportunity to get back at these former coworkers. Should I take it?

A. Make your decision based on what you feel to be right. Could you fix a bad situation? Save someone else from experiencing what happened to you? When you're not able to let something go, taking action can be emotionally satisfying.
On the other hand, when you have a wound that needs healing, do you pull the scab off? Revenge re-opens and aggravates emotional wounds. Further, revenge rarely fully satisfies, because whatever was done to you has happened and revenge can't undo history.

Further, revenge can backfire. Gov. Chris Christie's presidential aspirations experienced a potentially fatal blow after his team was alleged to have created a traffic jam that tied up traffic at the George Washington Bridge and turned a half hour commute into a four hour experience for many furious New Jersey residents.

Here's the more important question. Why have you given these mean girls the power to stay in your mind and thus your life? What exactly eats at you? Is it that you let them run you off? What if you took that energy you've channeled toward revenge and put it into your personal and professional growth? When you mentally move forward, you can make these former mean girls irrelevant. Then, from that perspective, you can answer your own question. Will getting back at these former coworkers make you feel better or worse?

Q. When we promoted "Jack" as department lead, we thought we'd made the right choice. He knew every job in the department, was hard-working and completely committed to our company. Soon after we made him the lead, two other employees quit. We figured they were jealous.

Since then, seven other employees have left. The last three employees who quit told the same story. They call Jack a jerk, say he's "on them" the whole time they're working, and they don't want to work with him. What do we do? We don't want to demote Jack; if we do so, we'll lose him and he regularly saves the day when his direct reports slip up. At the same time, we can't afford any more employees quitting.

A. If you didn't provide Jack with supervisory training when you promoted him, you set him up to fail. Jack sounds like a man who sets high standards for himself and others. He may not, however, know how to work with those who don't meet his standards.

Here's what Jack needs to know. He needs to know how to talk with and not at those who report to him. He needs to learn how to set clear expectations for his crew and then work as the coach on the sidelines rather than as the hero who runs onto the field. He needs to know how to give constructive feedback in a way that elicits understanding and change instead of in manner that belittles. The good news — Jack's a hard worker and can learn supervision — if you provide the training.

Wildlife officers investigating the illegal killing of a black bear in the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge

Mon, 2018-05-21 19:04

Wildlife officers are investigating the illegal killing of a black bear last week on a popular road within the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge. They're asking anyone with information about the apparent poaching to come forward.

"We try to provide the greatest opportunity for people to do wildlife viewing," Steve Miller, deputy refuge manager, said Monday. "One of those bears that people would normally see is now gone."

Witnesses who were driving on the road told wildlife officers that a person shot a bear Thursday as it stood in the middle of Skilak Lake Road, about a half-mile from Jim's Landing, a recreation area with access to the Kenai River. They said the bear weighed about 100 pounds and it seemed to have no fear of vehicles or people, Miller said.

Miller said it's believed the person shot the bear, dragged it into the woods for "minimal processing" and pulled the bear's carcass back to the road. The person then loaded it into a blue hatchback, similar to a Subaru Outback, according to the refuge.

"This was a harvest of an animal that was otherwise legally allowed to be harvested, but it was in a closed area," Miller said.

While some parts of the refuge are open for hunting, this area is not, he said. Even if it was, it's illegal for someone to take game by shooting on, from or across a drivable surface, according to Alaska hunting regulations.

Wildlife officers first learned of the shooting around 9:30 a.m. Thursday, Miller said.

Photographs that the refuge posted online Sunday show a pool of blood on the road and a trail of blood leading into the nearby trees.

Miller said Monday that wildlife officers continued to follow up on tips in the case. He asked anyone with information about the shooting to call Federal Wildlife Officer Rob Barto at 907-262-7021. All information will remain confidential, he said.

(function(d, s, id) { var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0]; if (d.getElementById(id)) return; js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id; js.src = 'https://connect.facebook.net/en_US/sdk.js#xfbml=1&version=v3.0'; fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs); }(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk'));

On Thursday, May 17, 2018 at approximately 0930 hours, Federal Wildlife Officers (FWO) received a report of a Black Bear...

Posted by Kenai National Wildlife Refuge on Sunday, May 20, 2018

Potter Creek trailhead closed due to moose kill attracting bears

Mon, 2018-05-21 18:14

Anchorage's popular Potter Creek trailhead is closed due to a moose kill that has attracted bears, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

Chugach State Park rangers closed the trailhead, located at Mile 15 of the Seward Highway, on Saturday, said Ken Marsh with the Department of Fish and Game.

The moose kill is about a mile from the trailhead in the direction of McHugh Creek.

Marsh said black bears had been seen eating the carcass.

"The estimate is that it will be closed for about a week," he said.

A red bear danger sign has been posted at the site.

The Potter Creek trailhead is a heavily-used gateway to the Turnagain Arm Trail, a 9.4 mile trail that paralells the highway below from Potter to Windy Corner. Bears are often spotted along the trail.

1 injured by stray bullet after cars fire at eachother in Fairview, police say

Mon, 2018-05-21 17:17

The Anchorage Police Department is asking the public's help in gathering information after a stray bullet hit a person in a Fairview residence Monday afternoon.

At 3:54 p.m., police began getting calls about two moving vehicles firing shots at each other. A stray bullet went into a residence on the 700-block of East 11th Avenue, police said.

A female, in her living room with other family members, was struck. She was taken to a hospital; the extent of her injuries was not known Monday evening.

Anyone with information is asked to called Anchorage's non-emergency line, 311, or submit an anonymous tip through Anchorage Crime Stoppers.

SB 91 must be repealed and replaced to restore public confidence

Mon, 2018-05-21 16:21

As a State House candidate from South Anchorage, self-described as fiscally conservative and socially progressive, I've been catching a great deal of grief for stating firmly and without any reticence that I believe Senate Bill 91 should be repealed and replaced.

One of the principal reasons the bill was created was to decrease the costs of Alaska's criminal justice system. That was a stated goal in the creation of the Alaska Criminal Justice Commission and in the bill's sponsor statement, and it was the dominant discussion as the bill made its way through the Legislature.

To be fair, our system is expensive, and it has terrible outcomes. We have more prisoners, they stay in prison longer, and many of them are going back in once they get out. On top of that, Alaska's pretrial population makes up a quarter of the prison population. So, people who haven't been convicted are sitting in jail. That's particularly terrible for people who are ultimately found not guilty.

[How SB 91 has changed Alaska's justice system]

Also, to be fair, SB 91 may be successful in a stated purpose (saving the state money), but Alaskans won't like how it does it. The omnibus crime bill will save the state money by essentially decriminalizing – or abandoning meaningful consequences for – many crimes. People can steal, stalk people, sell drugs and do all kinds of terrible things to their friends, family and neighbors and be given a citation instead of going to prison. This doesn't drive down crime, it simply shifts the cost of the crime to friends, family, neighbors, small business owners, nonprofits, and communities. It's that simple.

The bill is supported by numbers put forward by an out-of-state firm called the Justice Reinvestment Initiative, which has helped a lot of other states implement similar (but not apples-to-apples) initiatives. The results of these programs are mixed. If you're told that the system put forward by SB 91 is successful somewhere else, listen with skepticism – it should be clear that there is no place where this exact system exists; Alaska is the only state to have instituted so many of the recommendations made by the JRI.

It's also important to note that true believers in justice reinvestment programs, like Susan B. Tucker and Eric Cadora, visionaries in justice reinvestment, aren't fans of the Justice Reinvestment Initiative because they view it as a bastardization of the concept. The original justice reinvestment concept was, at its core, about finding community-level solutions to community problems. It was focused on finding out what drives criminal behavior, then redirecting the money formerly used to incarcerate people into fixing whatever enabled the criminal behavior in the community.

[People in Anchorage are fed up with crime. Did SB 91 make it worse?]

That's not what SB 91 does at all. SB 91 is focused on savings first and reinvestment peripherally. We're not taking the total "savings" from incarcerating people and developing comprehensive, community-driven programs to strengthen the webs of support under those people likely to commit crimes and most in need of our support. Very little reinvestment is being done at all. We're basically just giving them a stern talking-to and sending them out into whatever situations led them to make their previous bad decisions.

In fact, we're weakening those webs of support by perpetuating petty crime and developing a sense of divisiveness within our communities, which leads to less neighborliness, less trust between fellow community members, and more likelihood that people needing support will slip through the cracks. On Nextdoor and Facebook, people are talking about SB 91, posting pictures of people in their neighborhoods whom they believe don't belong, and warning neighbors about "suspicious characters." That is the antithesis of community building. We are developing neighborhood-by-neighborhood xenophobia.

So why are so many progressive folks defending SB 91? Well, the population in our prisons is not reflective, by demographic breakdown, of the population of our communities, and many find this troubling. This is a problem that we absolutely need to deal with, and we need to deal with it immediately. But we don't do that by decriminalizing crime. We do that by better engaging our diverse communities and applying their wisdom, knowledge, and resources to create community-level fixes that considers them. We do that by developing bottom-up solutions that address issues that drive or enable crime. We invest in aggressive opioid addiction support programs. We find ways to ensure Alaska's youth have strong connections to the community and positive role models. We make our education system the best in the country. We fix the economy so that a positive future is a given, rather than a hope. We need to find solutions to issues like moving people through pretrial quickly or keeping rural Alaskans close to their families and communities even if they commit crimes, so their communities can be a part of driving down recidivism and helping them to create a better life.

So, yes, I believe that we should repeal and replace SB 91. The bill was rolled out during an opioid crisis, a fiscal crisis, rising unemployment rates, and after years of cuts to our police force in Anchorage (which Mayor Berkowitz has gone a good way to restore).

We have the real problem of crime in our communities. Alaskans don't feel safe in their daily lives or heard by their representatives. SB 91 is contributing to that situation both from public perception and a practical perspective (by hamstringing law enforcement, prosecution, and corrections).

We need to restore public safety as a priority and, in doing so, we'll restore the public's confidence. Conservatives and progressives share the vision of criminal justice reform, but what we're arguing about is our ability fund necessary programs – an impossibility under our current fiscal situation.

So why is a progressive Alaskan supporting the repeal of a bill that was pushed hard by progressive groups? Because I believe that, at its core, this bill is not about creating true equity; it's about saving money and creating a fictional equality of outcomes through the manipulation of statistics. At the core of our progressive values is social equity, and that doesn't happen by shifting government's responsibility for public safety to Alaskans.

Amber Lee is a candidate for House District 28 in Anchorage. She is a longtime resident of Bear Valley, owns a consulting firm and is the mother of two boys who attend Bear Valley Elementary.

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

Alaska Airlines says goodbye to plastic straws, stir sticks

Mon, 2018-05-21 16:17

Alaska Airlines is ditching plastic straws.

In an announcement Monday, the company said that it will no longer be handing out single-use, non-recyclable plastic straws, stir sticks and citrus picks.

The airline plans to make the switch July 16 on all of its domestic and international commercial flights, as well as in airport lounges, the release says.

In 2017, the company handed out 22 million plastic stir straws and citrus picks. In July, those will be replaced by white birch stir sticks, certified by the Forest Stewardship Council, and bamboo citrus picks.

Meanwhile, "non-plastic, marine-friendly straws will be made available to guests with special needs and upon request," the release says.

Alaska Airlines hopes to reduce per-passenger in-flight waste by 70 percent by 2020, the company says.

Pages