The Young Dubliners — The Young Dubs are back in Alaska on their “March to St. Patty’s Day Tour.” The band will draw from all nine of their albums to put together this performance, including many from “With All Due Respect - The Irish Session,” which is celebrating its 10th year. $20-$50. 10 p.m. Friday and Saturday, Feb. 22-23, Matanuska Brewing Company, Anchorage, 2830 C St. (brownpapertickets.com)
The Sound of Music — For the second weekend, hear the classic melodies of “My Favorite Things,” “Do-Re-Mi,” “Edelweiss” and more at Anchorage Concert Association’s production of “The Sound of Music.” The show is based on the true story of Maria, a nun in training who looks over the seven mischievous von Trapp children. Come watch the show on Sunday night for a special singalong performance. $49.25-$81.50. 8 p.m. Friday, Feb. 22, 2 and 8 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 23, 2 and 7:30 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 24, Atwood Concert Hall, 621 W. Sixth Ave. (anchorageconcerts.org)
The Anchorage cast of "Sound of Music"
Haydn Missa in Angustiis — Alaska Chamber Singers will perform one of Haydn’s most famous compositions, “Missa in Angustiis,” or Nelson Mass with a chamber orchestra. $30-$35. 8-10 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 23, Our Lady of Guadalupe Co-Cathedral, 3900 Wisconsin St. (centertix.com)
Princess Brunch — Enjoy a breakfast buffet with a crew of princesses and enter to win prizes including an entry to Enchanted Alaska’s Princess Prep School, where your little ones will learn how to behave like royalty. There will also be a build-your-own mimosa and bloody Mary bar, along with other craft beers and SteamDot coffee. $25. 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 23, Williwaw Social, 609 F St. (eventbrite.com)
Joan Osborne — Seven-time Grammy-nominated singer Joan Osborne (best known for 1995′s “One of Us”) will sing Bob Dylan songs in Anchorage. $40.25-$56. 7:30 p.m. Friday, Feb. 22, Discovery Theatre, 621 W. Sixth Ave. (anchorageconcerts.org)
Winter Words — Join 49 Writers for a winter tea and fundraiser with special guest, novelist Eowyn Ivey, author of “The Snow Child” and “To the Bright Edge of the World.” Gather, eat, drink and celebrate the written word as you hear from Ivey and other surprise guests. $75. 2-5 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 24, the specific address will be sent to attendees after registration (events.r20.constantcontact.com)
Maximum Love Vibes — Four musicians, Dave Schools, Jerry Joseph and Steve and John Kimock, are coming to together for a debut performance as Maximum Love Vibes. $30. 10 p.m.-2 a.m. Friday and Saturday, Feb. 22-23, Sitzmark Bar & Grill, 100 Olympic Circle (see facebook.com for details)
Emma Hill and Bryan Daste — After nearly 11 years and many tour miles, the Alaska-Portland duo Emma Hill and Bryan Daste released their sixth studio album, “Am I Talking To You?” Hill and Daste will perform one of their signature listening room style shows for all ages at La Potato. Grab a bite to eat and enjoy as they perform a span of their music, including songs from their new album. $12. 6 p.m. Sunday, Feb. 24, La Potato, 3300 Spenard Road (brownpapertickets.com)
Emma Hill and Bryan Daste perform at the Live @the Library concert series midday Thursday, July 6, 2017, at Loussac Library. The series of Thursday concerts is continuing even as the library is closed to patrons through July 18. (Erik Hill / Alaska Dispatch News) (Alaska Dispatch News/)
Winter Beach Ball — Shake off the winter cold and cure cabin fever with a beach bash. Throw on your summer attire for a dance party with DJ GRE mixing up old and new hits. There will be tropical cocktails, ice-cold Midnight Sun Brewing Company beer, surf movies, beach balls and prizes for best-dressed. 9:30 p.m.-1:30 a.m. Saturday, Feb. 23, Williwaw Social, 609 F St. (facebook.com)
Prudhoe Bay's Flow Station 1, which separates oil, gas and water, sending each component to other facilities for further processing. (ADN archives, 2015) (Alaska Dispatch News/)
The geologist behind Alaska’s oil resurgence is chasing a new opportunity near the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge that he hopes will equal his 2013 discovery that led to a rethinking of North Slope exploration.
“We think it could be really big,” Bill Armstrong said, referring to his new prospect. “We have multiple ideas, but the running room there is massive."
Bill Armstrong of Armstrong Oil and Gas of Denver in 2017. (Michael Dinneen / Alaska Journal of Commerce) (Michael Dinneen 2017/)
In November, Armstrong quietly snatched up 200,000 acres in the state’s annual lease sale, bidding $14 million and dominating the sale. On the little-explored acreage west of ANWR, Armstrong hopes to repeat his success at Pikka far to the west.
The effort has a big partner.
Oil Search announced last month it’s paying $8 million to buy half the new leases from Lagniappe Alaska, Armstrong’s new company.
Lagniappe, a Cajun word, means “bonus,” he said.
“A little something extra,” Armstrong said last month. “A bit like serendipity. In Louisiana, it means you find something you didn’t expect. It’s like, ‘We got a lagniappe.’ ”
The Pikka, Lagniappe, Prudhoe Bay and Point Thompson fields (Kevin Powell/)
Oil Search sees lots of potential in the Lagniappe land, including geological characteristics similar to Pikka’s, the company said Jan. 25.
A regional study by Armstrong and Oil Search in 2018 pegged the land as "highly prospective for oil,” Oil Search said.
Drillers could also come up dry, Armstrong said.
“It’s still wildcatting and risky,” he said.
Oil Search came to Alaska in 2017 to pursue development at Pikka, one of the biggest onshore U.S. oil discoveries in decades. The $5 billion project has the potential to significantly boost Alaska oil production. The first drops could flow in 2023.
“What we’re chasing with Lagniappe is what see at Pikka, but younger,” Armstrong said.
Wells drilled in the region decades ago sought deeper, bigger prospects, like Alaska’s giant Prudhoe Bay field. Companies were “blowing past shallow zones” where Pikka-like opportunities exist, he said.
More Pikkas could be waiting across the North Slope and into the Arctic Ocean, he said. The oil traps are “subtle," challenging to find on seismic data.
“They don’t say, ‘Jump out and drill me,’ ” he said. “They’re hard to see until you know what you’re looking for. Then you say, ‘Oh, there’s another, and another, another.’ ”
“Alaska is in the beginnings of something that could be really game changing," Armstrong said. “Usually you have to go to some remote part of the globe to find something like this, but it’s right here, and industry is just waking up to this."
Armstrong’s Pikka discovery has sparked new exploration in Alaska, including by ConocoPhillips, showing that big fields remain undiscovered.
The chance to discover new oil is also behind BP’s first-ever seismic shoot across all of Prudhoe Bay, though officials caution they don’t expect to find anything close to Pikka’s size.
“This field is really mature, so to find something big, I don’t think it’s in the cards,” said Fabian Wirnkar, BP’s vice president of reservoir development in Alaska.
But BP might find “little pockets” of “bypassed” oil at Prudhoe, he said.
Fabian Wirnkar, vice president of reservoir development for BP Exploration (Alaska). (Photo provided by BP Exploration)
“Once you start doing some investigation, you might be surprised with what you see," he said.
BP’s seismic shoot does not stem from the Pikka discovery, he said. Instead, it grew out of BP’s smaller 2015 seismic survey that helped the company stabilize Prudhoe oil production for three straight years.
The goal once again is minimizing declining production at Prudhoe Bay, also owned by ConocoPhillips and ExxonMobil. Thirteen billion barrels of oil has been produced there since the 1970s. Its peak production days are long gone.
“Very few people acquire seismic on a field that’s 41 years old,” Wirnkar said, saying it shows BP’s long-term commitment to Alaska.
This winter’s shoot will provide detailed images of subsurface rocks, using rapidly advancing seismic technology and computer processing, Wirnkar said. The survey lasts through March, covering more than 450 square miles.
“My job is to look at Prudhoe Bay and make sure we are turning it upside down to see what’s available,” Wirnkar said. “Something might come up, something might not, but being optimistic geoscientists, we’re always looking for that opportunity.”
The data can also improve the company’s ongoing horizontal drilling. With crisper detail, drillers can avoid costly troublesome spots that damage equipment, and more efficiently link oil deposits spread over long distances.
Drillers today are like surgeons who thread catheters through blood vessels, starting in the leg, to insert a stent in the heart, he said.
Prudhoe is still Alaska’s largest oil field, producing more than 250,000 barrels daily, about half the North Slope production.
BP is already accumulating results from the ongoing shoot, Wirnkar said recently.
By the end of the year, BP should have much of the data "processed to identify new pockets of oil,” he said.
Gluten-free baked "Idita-doughnuts" (Julia O'Malley/ADN)
Confession time: Seven years ago when I was pregnant, I walked into Fire Island Rustic Bakeshop one day and sneezed. Pretty soon, anytime I got near flour, my eyes started to water and my nose stuffed up. When I ate flour, the symptoms were even worse. I had developed, for reasons unclear, a pregnancy allergy to wheat. It improved after I had my son, but never got totally better. And it caused me to become one of those people I had until then made fun of: a person who avoided gluten.
Oh, but do I crave things. Croissants. And decent pizza crust. Terrible, diner-grilled cheese sandwiches on Wonder Bread. And doughnuts, especially super cheap, after-church maple bars. What is it about those? The thing I have learned about not eating wheat all these years, though, is that you really can’t replace it with gluten-free approximations of wheat things. Because you’ll just be disappointed. You have to think of gluten-free things as different things altogether.
Enter my “Idita-doughnut.”
Every year since I had children, about the time the sprint dogsled racers start downtown, I am thinking about baking doughnuts. It’s quicker, healthier and way less messy than making real doughnuts, and it’s become a funny little tradition. Whichever morning I take the kids to watch the dogs, I always pack a thermos of coffee, a thermos of cocoa and these doughnuts in our sled. The key to enjoying them, though, is not thinking of them as doughnuts. Idita-doughnuts do play some real cake doughnut notes, but it’s better to think of them as spicy, baked, ring-shaped, dunking pastries. Because if you think of them like that, they are delicious.
Baked doughnuts go well with the special Iditarod section of the paper when you're just learning to read. (Julia O'Malley/ADN)
I’ve made several recipes, but I like this one, adapted from a King Arthur Flour recipe, best. You can eat them plain, tossed with powdered sugar or dipped in chocolate. I prefer to roll them in cinnamon-sugar. You must have a doughnut pan to make them. I sometimes prepare the batter the night before and put it in a plastic bag and refrigerate it. Then I snip a corner and pipe it into the pan. The doughnuts can be made with regular flour (see notes) or gluten-free flour.
Baked gluten-free Idita-doughnuts
Makes 12-15 doughnuts
4 tablespoons butter, softened
1/4 cup vegetable oil
1/2 cup white sugar
1/3 cup brown sugar
2 teaspoons baking powder (For real flour version, reduce to 1 1/2 teaspoons.)
1/2 teaspoon baking soda (For real flour version, reduce to 1/4 teaspoon.)
1 teaspoon nutmeg
1/4 teaspoon xanthan gum (Omit if using real flour; reduce if it’s already included in your gluten-free flour mixture.)
3/4 teaspoon salt
2 and 2/3 cups gluten-free flour (I recommend Cup4Cup, Pamela’s, King Arthur or gfJules brands. Do not use any mixture with garbanzo bean or pea flour. Do not use straight brown rice or almond flour. You can also sub in regular flour.)
1/2 cup whole milk
1/2 cup buttermilk (or substitute milk with a teaspoon of lemon juice in it)
1/3 cup cinnamon-sugar mixture (roughly 1 tablespoon cinnamon to 4 tablespoons sugar)
Method: Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Grease a doughnut pan with cooking spray. In the bowl of a standing mixer, cream butter, then add oil and eggs and mix until fluffy. Add sugars. Mix until well-combined. In a small bowl, whisk baking powder, soda, nutmeg, xanthan gum, salt and flour. With the mixer running, alternate pouring in each of the milks and half the dry ingredients. Once the batter is mixed, allow to sit for 10 minutes. It will become more airy as the buttermilk reacts with the baking soda. Scrape the mixture into a plastic freezer bag, snip the corner and pipe the batter into the pan. Bake for 10 minutes. Pour the cinnamon-sugar mixture into another large paper or plastic bag. When the doughnuts are done, allow to cool for 5 minutes, then gently toss them in the cinnamon-sugar. Serve warm.
Fur Rondy starts this week -- giving Anchorage dwellers plenty of excuses to get out of the house for some quirky fun. There’s a packed schedule, but here are some highlights of the next two weeks (for a complete schedule, visit furrondy.net)
Alaska State Snow Sculpture Championship — Check out enormous sculptures carved from blocks of compressed snow. Judging will happen at 10 a.m. Sunday, Feb. 24, and you can cast your vote for the People’s Choice. Awards will be handed out at noon. After that, the sculptures will be on display 10 a.m.-10 p.m. throughout the entire event, Ship Creek, 111 W. Ship Creek Ave.
The GCI Snow Sculpture Competition, a popular Fur Rondy event, was judged on Sunday, Feb., 24, 2013. People are welcome to check out the snow sculptures at Ship Creek across from the Comfort Inn. (Bill Roth / ADN archive) (Anchorage Daily News/)
Charlotte Jensen Native Arts Market — More than 150 Alaska Native artisans will sell their works and demonstrate basket-weaving, dolls, beading, carving and more. 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday, noon-5 p.m. Sunday, Dimond Center, 800 E. Dimond Blvd.
Rondy Carnival — Enjoy classic carnival festivities, including funnel cakes, Ferris wheels, caramel apples and the Gravitron. Noon-9 p.m. Friday, 11 a.m.-9 p.m. Saturday, noon-8 p.m. Sunday, 3-9 p.m. Monday-Thursday, Third Ave. and E St.
Blurred lights on the Eli and Century ferris wheels as people enjoyed the Golden Wheel Amusements rides at the Rondy Carnival during the Anchorage Fur Rendezvous winter festival on Monday night, Feb. 27, 2017. (Bill Roth/Alaska Dispatch News) (Bill Roth/)
Amateur Photo Contest — Winning photos and selected finalists will be on display throughout the Mall. 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Monday-Friday, 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Saturday, noon-6 p.m. Sunday, Midtown Mall, 600 E. Northern Lights Blvd.
Melodrama - “Goldsinger” — In this year’s melodrama, Aria Goldsinger’s lust for gold brings her to Alaska, where she will go to great lengths to get her hands on it. $24.75-$35. 7:30 p.m. Friday-Saturday, Thursday, 3 p.m. Saturday, 2 and 6 p.m. Sunday, 49th State Brewing Company, 717 W. Third Ave.
Fur Auction — One of the original Fur Rendezvous events, South Central Chapter of the Alaska Trappers Association offers Alaska furs over two weekends. 11 a.m.-3 p.m. on both Saturday Feb. 23 and March 2. Third Ave. and E St.
WEEKEND 1: Feb. 22-24
Open World Championship Sled Dog Races — This race pits sprint mushing teams against each other over three days of the same 25-mile route for a total of 75 miles. The course winds through the city’s forests, across major roads and back downtown. Noon Friday-Sunday, Fourth Ave. and D St.
BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News The first day of 2014 World Championship Fur Rondy Sled Dog race in Anchorage, AK on Friday, February 21, 2014. 140221 (Anchorage Daily News/)
Jim Beam Jam — Kick off Rondy with spirits, appetizers and live music by the Ken Peltier Band. $30. 7 p.m. Friday, Egan Center, 555 W. Fifth Ave.
Frostbite Footrace & Costume Fun Run — The Frostbite Footrace offers two opportunities for fun: The Frostbite Footrace 5K and the 2.5K fun run, open to all ages and athletic abilities. The route begins at the Fifth Avenue Skywalk and finishes at Sixth Ave. and H St. An awards presentation will be held at the Glacier Brewhouse shortly after the race. $10-$150. 9:30 a.m. Saturday, Fifth Ave. and F St.
Fur Rendezvous activities kicked off on Saturday, February 27, 2010, with the Frostbite Footrace around downtown Anchorage.100226
Snowshoe Softball Tournament — Hardy athletes will strap on snowshoes and play ball. $250. 8:45 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday-Sunday, Kosinski Field, 201 E. 16th Ave.
Fielder Stephanie Dush throws the ball in during the Fur Rondy snowshoe softball tournament at Kosinski Fields in Anchorage, Alaska on Saturday, Feb. 25, 2017. (Bob Hallinen / Alaska Dispatch News) (Bob Hallinen/)
The Alaska Railroad Fur Rondy Express — All aboard this family-friendly celebration of Fur Rondy for a 2 1/2 hour round-trip journey along the Turnagain Arm. Enjoy fun activities like Alaska Native Heritage Center dancers and drummers, crafts, music and more along the way. $36-$71. 10 a.m.-12:30 p.m., 3-5:30 p.m. Saturday, Anchorage Train Depot, 411 W. First Ave.
BP Rondy Grand Parade — Bring the family, a thermos of hot cocoa and cheer on Rondy royalty, Rondy Bear, nifty cars and more. 10:30 a.m. Saturday, Fifth and Sixth Ave.
Location: Fur Rondy Parade, 02/22/14
Minors and Nappers — There will be trapper-themed activities throughout the museum for toddlers and their families. Pan for gold, dress up for a photo booth and design a Rondy-inspired pin. 1-4 p.m. Saturday, Anchorage Museum, 625 C St.
Freez-N-Fizz Ice Cream and Root Beer Chugging Contest — Who can eat ice cream and chug root beer the fastest? There will be complimentary root beer and cream soda for the cheering gallery. 2 p.m. Saturday, Glacier Brewhouse parking lot, 737 W. Fifth Ave. #110
Big Fat Ride — Join hundreds of other fat-tire bikers on a beginner-friendly ride across Anchorage. Make your way from downtown to Westchester Lagoon for a party with DJ Doug White, food from the Slice of Heaven Food Truck and hot chocolate from REI. After warming up, head to the finish line at Beartooth. 3:15-5:45 p.m. Saturday. Starts at Fourth Ave. between F and E St.
An estimated 450 fat-bikers rolled down Fourth Avenue in Anchorage on Saturday, Feb. 27, 2016 for the first-ever Fur Rendezvous "Big Fat Ride." The event didn't break a world record, but organizers said they were pleased with the rider turnout, which included Mayor Ethan Berkowitz.
Outhouse Races — Teams are busting out the porta-potties and heading down to Fourth Ave. The race course will be a two-lane course with two teams racing each other down and back around a pylon. 4 p.m. Saturday, Fourth Ave. and E St.
Ben Mishler, Tom Lannan, Mark Just and Valerie Stewart work to untangle their outhouse from the snow fence as rider Reed Douhith waits patiently during the Rondy Outhouse Races on Fourth Avenue in Anchorage, Alaska on Saturday, Feb. 25, 2017. Peak Health Dentistry sponsored the Toot Fairy team. (Bob Hallinen / Alaska Dispatch News) (Bob Hallinen/)
Blanket Toss — An Alaska Native tradition, the blanket toss joined the festival in 1950 and is a signature event of Rondy and Alaska. 4-5:30 p.m. Saturday, Third and E St.
Mason Schrage, 11, flies through the air after being launched during the blanket toss at the Fur Rondy carnival area in downtown Anchorage on Sunday, Feb. 23, 2014.
Fireworks Extravaganza — Fireworks will be set off at 6:55 p.m. Saturday, Feb. 23 from Downtown Anchorage (facing Ship Creek and the Small Boat Harbor). Free. The Bridge will have a party to celebrate, with special menu, live auction action and great view of the pyrotechnics. $60. 6-10:30 p.m. Saturday, Bridge Seafood Restaurant, 221 W. Ship Creek Ave.
Fireworks burst over the 2018 Fur Rendezvous carnival at the buttress in downtown Anchorage, AK on Saturday, Feb. 24, 2018. (Bob Hallinen / ADN) (Bob Hallinen/)
Rondy Dash — This scavenger hunt gives teams of up to four people 90 minutes to reach as many checkpoints as they can, which are a combination of downtown businesses and Fur Rondy events and exhibits, as possible before returning to Town Square Park. Prizes will be awarded to best costume, and anyone who completes the scavenger hunt within the given time will be entered to win the grand prize of four round-trip tickets anywhere Alaska Airlines flies. 10 a.m. Sunday, Town Square Park, Sixth and E St.
Hide and Horn Auction — Items up for auction include many different types of hides along with horns and antlers -- all from animals that were illegally poached, killed accidentally or in self-defense or became a threat. Noon-3 p.m. Sunday, Third Ave. and E St.
Auctioneer David Childs with the Alaska Trappers Association takes bids on a dall sheep cape displayed by Pete Reddington during the annual State Hide and Horn Auction at Fur Rondy in Anchorage on Sunday, Mar. 1, 2015. (Bill Roth / ADN archive) (Alaska Dispatch News/)
WEEKEND 2: March 1-3
World Championship Outdoor Hockey Tournament — Bang the boards and cheer on the action yourself in this fun, family-friendly hockey tournament. $35-$500. Friday-Sunday, Mulcahy Stadium, 498 E. 16th Ave.
Running of the Reindeer — Racers in costumes make a mad dash down the streets of Anchorage in front of running reindeer. 4 p.m. Saturday, Fourth Ave. between H and D St. Little ones can participate in a one-block “Running with the Critters” on Fourth Avenue from F Street (by the log cabin) to E Street (registration at 2 p.m., running starts at 3 p.m.; there will be hot chocolate and photos).
A costumed competitor runs just ahead of the reindeer at the Fur Rondy Running of the Reindeer in downtown Anchorage, Alaska Saturday, March 1, 2014. Hundreds of people ran in four heats sprinting down 4th Avenue ahead of a herd of reindeer. (Photo by Philip Hall for the ADN) (Philip Hall/)
Miners & Trappers Ball — Costumes are not required -- but they’d also not be out of place at this annual party. Check out the magnificent mustaches and furry faces at the Mr. Fur Face Contest, the Alaska State Championship Beard and Mustache Competition. After the contest, awards will be given out for best costumes at the ball. $30. 5:30 p.m. Saturday, Egan Center, 555 W. Fifth Ave.
Costumed partiers filled the Egan Convention Center for the Miners and Trappers Charity Ball on Saturday night, March 2, 2013. The Fur Rendezvous event featured live music, a beard and mustache competitions and costume contests. This was the 63rd anniversary of the event.
Iditarod Ceremonial Start — Cheer the mushers and dog teams traveling through Anchorage in celebration of the beginning of Iditarod. At 10 a.m. Saturday, March 2, teams will set off from Fourth Avenue and D Street, turn onto Cordova Street and drop down the hill to Mulcahy Stadium before winding through the city and finishing at Campbell Airstrip in Far North Bicentennial Park. See Iditarod.com for details.
Great Alaska Talent Competition finals — The Great Alaska Talent Competition is comprised of Alaskans age 6 and up who showcase their talents of acting, singing, dancing, drumming, martial arts, playing an instrument and more. Watch finalists compete at 4 p.m. Sunday, Discovery Theatre, 621 W. Sixth Ave.
UAA School of Education interim director Claudia Dybdahl explains the School of Education's loss of accreditation for its initial licensure programs to a classroom full of students on Monday, Jan. 14, 2019. The Council for the Accreditation of Education Preparation (CAEP) notified the university last Friday that its accreditation of these programs had not been renewed. (Bill Roth/ ADN) (Bill Roth / ADN/)
We are writing to urge community support for the UAA School of Education. Our experience confirms for us the clear benefit to our community of teacher education that is accessible and of the highest quality. We are concerned that forces outside our community are taking actions that could eliminate this valuable resource by closing down the UAA School of Education.
In the past five years, the UAA School of Education has prepared over 300 certified educators. Established in 1976, they are the largest provider of quality teachers in Alaska. The 2017 Milken Educator awardee and the 2018 and 2019 Alaska Teacher of the Year awardees were all UAA School of Education graduates. The current Alaska Teacher of the Year is one of four finalists for National Teacher of the Year. They are examples of Anchorage education graduates who enrich the lives of our community and have a tremendously positive impact on the children and youth in their classrooms and schools.
Of those who earn their teaching certificates at UAA, 100 percent pass national exams that measure academic skills, subject area expertise and teaching knowledge. They have completed their education coursework with a 3.0 or higher grade point average. Data from employer surveys show that they are on par with graduates of other institutions in Alaska and the nation. Data also show that teachers prepared in Alaska are retained at a higher rate than teachers coming from outside Alaska, so UAA’s students are significantly contributing to the state’s goal of ensuring that Alaska’s children are educated by Alaska-prepared teachers.
UAA serves a region that includes some 65 percent of Alaska’s population and is a vital resource for the region and the state. Anchorage’s School of Education has:
- the state’s largest pool of teacher education candidates and the greatest number of jobs for educators. They also prepare teachers for rural Alaska.
- the only early childhood education program in the state that leads to teacher certification, and it is nationally recognized.
- a professional education faculty, many of whom with national reputations, engaged in local and state partnerships and research.
The School of Education has been under new leadership for the past year. With the current chancellor’s support, its interim director has worked closely with faculty and staff to address the issues raised by CAEP, the national accrediting body for education schools. We are confident the school, which has been continuously accredited every year since it first achieved the standard, is now largely in compliance with the national requirements and will be reaccredited as soon as possible. The school must be allowed to move forward and maintain their quality programs, ensuring that the Alaska State Board of Education will continue to grant licensure for graduates as UAA reapplies for accreditation.
Voice your support of the UAA School of Education by writing UA President Jim Johnsen and UA Board of Regents Chair John Davies. Ask them to preserve these important programs.
Donna Gail Shaw, Ph.D., Kate O’Dell, Ph.D., and Gretchen Bersch, Ph.D., are professors emeriti, retired with a combined 99 years of service and teaching at UAA.
The views expressed here are the writer’s and are not necessarily endorsed by the Anchorage Daily News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary(at)adn.com. Send submissions shorter than 200 words to email@example.com or click here to submit via any web browser. Read our full guidelines for letters and commentaries here.
The death of a man discovered after a fire in a home near Russian Jack Springs Park early Thursday is considered suspicious, police say.
Anchorage police and firefighters responded around 4:30 a.m. to a residence on the 1800 block of Twining Drive following the report of smoke billowing from the home, according to an Anchorage Police Department alert Thursday morning.
The man was pronounced dead at the scene and his death is “suspicious in nature,” police said. No additional details were immediately provided. No one else was hurt.
The cause of the fire remains under investigation, and homicide detectives are also at the scene. Anyone with information about the incident or surveillance footage can call 3-1-1.
Check back for updates on this developing story.
JUNEAU — The state official overseeing Alaska’s cruise ship monitoring program is concerned about losing independent environmental inspectors on cruise ships.
CoastAlaska reports the inspectors, known as Ocean Rangers, are on the chopping block as Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s budget cuts work their way through the legislature.
The State Department of Environmental Conservation's top budget official, Jeff Rogers, laid out the Dunleavy administration's case for removing inspectors from cruise ships.
But those that work in the state's cruise ship program note that without onboard inspectors, the state's authority to monitor pollution from ships would be limited.
The head of DEC’s cruise ship monitoring program, Ed White, says the Ocean Rangers have been a “critical part” in the permitting process."
Downtown Anchorage is seen across Knik Arm from the Port MacKenzie dock in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough. (Alaska Journal of Commerce archive)
The state’s gas pipeline development corporation and the Matanuska-Susitna Borough continue debating the worthiness of the borough’s Port MacKenzie property for the proposed Alaska LNG Project, as the state’s latest filing with federal regulators accuses the borough of “factual and legal errors.”
The borough’s most recent comments to the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission “simply nit-pick (erroneously, in many instances) around the edges,” the Alaska Gasline Development Corp. told federal regulators Feb. 13.
The corporation has not strayed from its choice of Nikiski on Cook Inlet as the best site for the gas liquefaction plant and export terminal. The borough, however, is contesting the state-led project’s evaluation of Port MacKenzie at the entrance to Knik Arm, across from Anchorage, about 65 air miles northeast of Nikiski.
Both AGDC and the borough are adding to the file at FERC, which is preparing the project’s environmental impact statement, or EIS. FERC is scheduled to release the draft EIS by the end of February, followed by public hearings and comments, along with comments from federal and state and municipal agencies, and then, if the environmental review stays on schedule, a final EIS in November.
Federal law requires than an impact statement review economically feasible alternatives to a project developer’s preferred options to determine the “least environmentally damaging practicable alternative.” The Matanuska-Susitna Borough argues that AGDC has failed to give Port MacKenzie fair consideration. The proposed $43 billion project would move Alaska North Slope gas to a liquefaction plant for export.
AGDC denies the borough’s assertion that its analysis is flawed. But even if the review of Port MacKenzie was inadequate, AGDC said in its Feb. 13 filing with FERC, “(the) Matanuska-Susitna Borough’s comments do not change the unavoidable conclusion that the significant environmental impacts and safety concerns associated with siting the Alaska LNG liquefaction facilities at Port MacKenzie render it an inferior alternative to AGDC’s proposed site at Nikiski.”
Because of the considerable environmental issues of building at Port MacKenzie, AGDC told FERC, the regulators do not need to address every issue raised by the borough “to fulfill its obligations under the National Environmental Policy Act to examine alternatives.”
The state corporation and the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, along with the Kenai Peninsula Borough in its defense of Nikiski, have all contracted with Washington, D.C., law firms that specialize in work at FERC.
Neither AGDC, the Matanuska-Susitna Borough or FERC have raised any questions or added anything to the docket regarding the 7.0 earthquake that shook the Anchorage area on Nov. 30 and was centered about five miles north of Port MacKenzie.
Separate from the debate over the borough property, AGDC still owes a substantial amount of data to FERC, along with answers to more than 100 detailed questions about engineering and safety systems for the LNG plant, the gas treatment plant at Prudhoe Bay and the 807-mile pipeline from the North Slope to Nikiski. The corporation has said it will be September before it provides all the answers. Federal regulators have not said if that timeline for the missing data will affect the EIS schedule.
In its Feb. 13 filing, AGDC responded to the borough’s 145-page, Jan. 25 filing that listed why the municipal government believes the state project team shortchanged Port MacKenzie in its site consideration. The borough contends the state development team did not accurately map out and consider the “optimum site” proposed by the borough. “As a result,” the borough said, AGDC’s efforts “misidentify and overlook key features of Port MacKenzie.”
The borough further contends, “Rather than assessing Port MacKenzie as a unique site, AGDC begins from the assumption that the same facilities specifically designed for Nikiski will be built at Port MacKenzie. This assumption is irrational and leads AGDC to overestimate the amount of construction necessary to site a liquefaction facility at Port MacKenzie.”
Not true, AGDC told FERC on Feb. 13. Regardless of which exact site is mapped out at Port MacKenzie, there are multiple problems with building the LNG plant and marine terminal at the property.
The state corporation restated its concerns over conflicts with more frequent vessel traffic in the navigation channel to Port MacKenzie (across from the Port of Alaska) than in Nikiski; more significant ice conditions than at Nikiski; restrictions on when construction delivery ships and LNG carriers could cross the Knik Arm Shoal; and the impacts and restrictions of building in the critical habitat area for endangered beluga whales.
AGDC also took issue Feb. 13 with the borough’s analysis of berthing facilities, water depth, dredging and other issues at Port MacKenzie. And the state team told FERC that the existing haul road from the dock to the property is too steep to transport large modules to the upland construction site, regardless what the borough contends.
“In short, the Matanuska-Susitna Borough’s attempt to substitute its erroneous analysis for AGDC’s rigorous analysis and conclusions as to berthing and other design elements needed to construct and operate the project facilities reliably and safely should be rejected,” the corporation’s lawyer wrote to FERC.
The borough a year ago stepped up its complaints to federal regulators over AGDC’s analysis of Port MacKenzie as a potential site for the development. The borough charged that AGDC may have violated the National Environmental Policy Act and federal Clean Water Act by “improperly and intentionally excluding” Port MacKenzie as a “reasonable alternative” for the proposed LNG plant.
The borough has long promoted its money-losing port for the LNG project and other industrial developments, with little success.
Nikiski was selected as the preferred alternative from more than two dozen options in October 2013, when North Slope oil and gas producers ExxonMobil, BP and ConocoPhillips were leading the project. The state took over the venture in late 2016 after the companies declined to proceed with spending significant sums of money on additional engineering, design and permit applications. The state applied to FERC in April 2017.
“FERC has sufficient information to fulfill its responsibilities … to analyze Port MacKenzie,” the state corporation said Feb. 13. The borough’s suggestion that AGDC “should develop a site-specific design for Port MacKenzie … is unreasonable and not required for the commission to comply” with federal law, the corporation said.
Larry Persily is a former Alaska journalist, state and federal official who has long tracked oil and gas markets and projects worldwide.
Mark Harris, Republican candidate in North Carolina's 9th Congressional race, fights back tears at the conclusion of his son John Harris's testimony during the third day of a public evidentiary hearing on the 9th Congressional District voting irregularities investigation Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2019, at the North Carolina State Bar in Raleigh. (Travis Long/The News & Observer via AP, Pool) (TRAVIS LONG/)
RALEIGH, N.C. - The son of Republican congressional candidate Mark Harris testified Wednesday that he warned his father repeatedly that he believed a political operative now at the center of an election-fraud investigation had previously used illegal tactics to win votes.
John Harris, the son of Mark Harris, testifies during the third day of a public evidentiary hearing on the 9th Congressional District voting irregularities investigation Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2019, at the North Carolina State Bar in Raleigh. (Travis Long/The News & Observer via AP, Pool) (TRAVIS LONG/)
John Harris, now an assistant U.S. attorney in Raleigh, said he advised his father in conversations and emails that he believed Leslie McCrae Dowless was “shady” and appeared to have illegally collected absentee ballots in 2016 while working for a different Republican candidate in North Carolina’s 9th Congressional District.
The younger Harris, who is 29, said he offered the advice to his father as he considered whether to hire Dowless to run his absentee-ballot program in the 2018 congressional race. He conveyed similar concerns to the campaign's chief strategist, Andy Yates, he said. Mark Harris hired Dowless despite his son's concerns, which he expressed starting in the spring of 2017.
At one point during his testimony, John Harris' voice cracked and his father wept.
"I thought what he was doing was illegal, and I was right," John Harris said about Dowless. He added: "I had no reason to believe that my father actually knew, or my mother or any other associate with the campaign had any knowledge. I think Dowless told them he wasn't doing any of this, and they believed him."
Harris' dramatic testimony undercut claims by both his father, a 52-year-old evangelical minister, and Yates - who completed nearly eight hours of testimony earlier Wednesday - that they had not been aware of any red flags that Dowless might be breaking the law. Investigators also shared an email between father and son in which the younger Harris wrote: "Good test is if you're comfortable with the full process he uses being broadcast on the news."
John Harris' account ended the third day of testimony before the North Carolina State Board of Elections, which is hearing evidence this week to decide whether a suspected ballot-tampering scheme tainted the outcome in the 9th District, where Harris leads Democrat Dan McCready by 905 votes in unofficial returns. The district runs along the South Carolina border from Charlotte to rural eastern North Carolina.
The election, the last undecided congressional race in the country, has been in limbo since November, when the board declined to certify a winner and launched an investigation instead. The board's decision on whether to certify or call for a new election will wait at least another day, with the elder Harris scheduled to open his testimony Thursday morning.
The younger Harris told the board Wednesday that he began studying absentee-ballot tallies in the 9th District in June 2016, when his father narrowly lost the Republican primary to then-incumbent Robert Pittenger. In tiny Bladen County, Harris and Pittenger had dramatically lost the vote among mail-in voters to a third candidate, Todd Johnson - who had hired Dowless to run his absentee program.
John Harris described digging into the numbers and discovering that mailed ballots for Johnson had arrived at county election offices "in batches" - which he believed suggested that they had been collected illegally by campaign workers. It is a felony in North Carolina to collect and turn in another voter's ballot. Harris said he told his father then of his suspicions.
Dowless, 63, a Bladen County native who declined to testify this week to avoid self-incrimination, is accused of doing just that in the 2018 cycle - hiring a team of workers to illegally collect, sign, forge and turn in ballots.
Both Yates and Harris have denied knowledge of those alleged tactics. But in another email from 2016 and displayed during testimony Wednesday, the two Harrises discussed the anomalies that year - as well as the irony that Dowless had submitted a complaint to state elections officials that Democrats had employed similar tactics in Bladen County.
"Guess he didn't like the Dems cutting into his business!" the elder Harris wrote.
In a televised interview in early January, Mark Harris told Spectrum News in Raleigh that reports, including one in The Washington Post, that he had been warned of Dowless's alleged tactics, were untrue.
In his testimony Wednesday, the younger Harris also called into question the account of Yates, whose political consulting firm, Red Dome Group, had paid Dowless on behalf of the campaign.
John Harris said he was surprised to hear how little oversight Yates provided to ensure that Dowless was performing the services that he was being paid for. He was also surprised to hear Yates say he was shocked to learn of Dowless's alleged tactics once the investigation began in November.
"Mr. Yates said he was shocked and disturbed by the testimony," the younger Harris said. "I was disturbed. Less shocked."
Harris said that after he warned Yates of Dowless, "Andy assured me, 'Yeah, we're going to make sure that he does what he says he's going to do.' "
But in his testimony Tuesday and Wednesday, Yates describes an arrangement in which there was little oversight or accountability for Dowless' activities. He demanded payment, for instance, for submitting far more ballot-request forms - a legal activity - than records later showed were actually submitted.
John Harris emphasized his belief that his parents did not know of Dowless's alleged tactics, but he also acknowledged in wrenching testimony that they "wanted" to believe Dowless - perhaps against their better judgment.
The younger Harris asked the elections board if he could make a few final remarks after lawyers had completed their questioning of him.
"I love my dad, and I love my mom," he said. "I certainly have no vendetta against them, no family scores to settle. I think that they made mistakes in this process, and they certainly did things differently than I would have done them."
Harris also criticized both parties for working more to protect their political interests than to protect the integrity of the electoral process.
SITKA - An Alaska hospital announced that it will suspend all scheduled and emergency surgeries effective Feb. 28.
The Daily Sitka Sentinel reports the Sitka Community Hospital says the decision to terminate surgery is a result of staff departures, and the city's mandate to limit operating expenses during negotiations of the final agreement with Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium.
The city has been negotiating with Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium for several months to take over the delivery of all health care services currently provided at the hospital, the hospital says.
Hospital CEO Rob Allen says Sitka Community Hospital will continue offering minor surgical procedures at Mountainside Family Healthcare, the hospital’s outpatient clinic.
Sigurd Roenning found himself in a familiar spot and the UAA ski team found itself in an exciting spot Wednesday at Hatcher Pass.
Roenning, a freshman from Norway, skied his way onto the podium for the second time this week and the fifth time in nine races this season to help lift the Seawolves into third place in the team standings at the NCAA Western Regional championships.
UAA had a great day on the Government Peak trails. Casey Wright, a senior who skied for Australia at last year’s Winter Olympics in South Korea, posted her best result of the college season to lead five Seawolves into the top 20 of the women’s 5-kilometer freestyle. In the men’s 10K freestyle, Roenning and Toomas Kollo both notched top-10 finishes.
“(The) race of the day goes to Casey Wright who had her best race in quite some time,” UAA cross-country coach Andrew Kastning said in a press release from UAA.
Victories went to Erik Dengerud of Colorado, who topped the men in 26 minutes, 50 seconds, and Guro Jordheim of Utah, who paced the women in 15:05.
The race was part of a big week of college skiing in the Anchorage area. The Seawolves are hosting two meets — the UAA Invitational and the NCAA Western Regionals.
So far, only the nordic skiers have raced — they competed in UAA Invitational races Sunday and Monday at Kincaid Park, and kicked off the NCAA regionals with Wednesday’s race at Government Peak. Nordic skiers have their final race Friday at Kincaid.
Alpine skiers hit Alyeska on Thursday for the first of four straight days of slalom and giant slalom racing. Two of those races are part of the UAA Invitational; the other two are NCAA regional races.
One day into the four-day NCAA regionals, Utah has 170 points for a two-point lead over Colorado. In third place with 137 points are the Seawolves, who after this week won’t race again until the March 6-9 NCAA national championships in Vermont.
“Finishing third as a team is a great place to be as we head into NCAAs," Kastning said.
Posting top-20 results for UAA in the men’s race were third-place Roenning (27:19.6), eighth-place Kollo (27:46.5) and 18th-place JC Schoonmaker (28:35.9). Fairbanks brothers Max Donaldson of UAF (27:53.3) and Ti Donaldson of Montana State (28:07.1) placed ninth and 11th, respectively.
In the women’s race, Wright clocked 15:50.6. Michaela Keller-Miller (16:02.5), Anna Darnell (16:04.3) and Natalie Hynes (16:07.2) finished 12th, 13th and 14th, respectively, and Jenna DiFolco was 19th in 16:18.7.
More skiing this week
Thursday — Giant slalom, 10 a.m., Alyeska Resort
Friday — Giant slalom, 10 a.m., Alyeska Resort; mass-start classic races, 10 a.m., Kincaid Park
Saturday — Slalom, 10 a.m., Alyeska Resort
Sunday — Slalom, 10 a.m., Alyeska Resort
Macgill Adams skis with dogs Mike and Colby Lynne Jones on the Gasline Trail near the Upper O'Malley Trailhead on Wednesday. (Marc Lester / ADN) (Marc Lester/)
It isn’t for everybody. Some days a midday workout doesn’t work for me. But when it’s my only option, I go with it because the alternative is far worse.
I’ve told the world by now: I get crabby when I don’t get exercise. Another word for crabby is “morose,” or as my husband might point out, “insufferable.” My brain does a swan dive into the dark place; it feels like the upside-down from Stranger Things: murky, strange sticky sounds and weird fluff everywhere.
So I try and stay up on my exercise.
Ideally, I’m up and out the door first thing because then my time outside is checked off. I can feel the buoyancy of endorphins, and the relaxation for the rest of the day. But more often than not, I lose the battle with my alarm clock — especially in the middle of the winter when it’s still dark out at 7 a.m.
By the time the workday is done, all of my energy has been drained out of my fingertips and into a laptop, and I’m halfway on my way to the bad place. So, if I wait till after work, I bait myself with a buddy. Without the social contract, the likelihood that I’ll actually get out of the door plummets.
Enter: the midday workout.
Not so much. If it’s a little stroll around the block, that’s one thing. But bring biking, skiing, running or even sometimes a quick hike into the equation, and I need a strategy.
Strategies are difficult to come up with on a bleary wintry morning, even when the sun is coming back as quickly as it is. I imagine what follows is a very tame version of what managing a multi-kid household is like, so parents should feel free to laugh at me here.
First, I need to plan for food. Breakfast is good. Having a packed lunch always seems like an ordeal — sometimes it is a mason jar full of steamed broccoli, other times it is two hardboiled eggs because that is what I could manage to multi-task into “nutrition” on the way out the door. If I’m lucky, I pack a snack. (That’s where I’m like a child, I guess — I have everything but the apple juice and the nap).
Then the gear. Good lord, the gear.
Is it skiing? Then I need to figure out my boots situation. One of them may still be in the back seat of the truck which is unfortunate because it’s an 8-degree bootsticle at that point. For some reason my skis are in a bucket. I chastise myself that I should take better care of my things, as I’m throwing everything into the bed of the truck with a loud clatter.
Or maybe it’s biking. That’s a whole other ordeal. The pants situation changes from one of simple lycra to perhaps a waterproof and windproof layer. And my perpetually freezing feet require warmer shoes.
Running is easiest, but the question is whether it’ll be icy on the path. I shove studded sneakers in my bag just in case.
And then there’s the professional clothing I need to change back into. I stash warm, dry layers next to the tupperware tower that is my lunch and hope I didn’t forget an extra bra like that one time I wore a sweaty sports bra for the rest of the work day, shivering and meditating on “professionalism.”
Doesn’t all of this sound like fun?
It’s true that I am a crazy bag-lady, schlepping my assorted odds and ends into my office every day, with multiple tote bags slung on my shoulder filled with boots, balaclavas and only slightly worn base layers.
It’s also true that this schlep represents a promise to myself: the push to get myself outside, even through the mid- or late-day malaise and the rush of tasks that always seem to appear around my lunch hour, is stronger because of all of the planning and lugging of stuff. I don’t want to be crazy bag-lady for nothing, right?
And by the time I finally do make it outside — even for 30 or 40 minutes on my lunch hour — the daylight is the biggest and best payoff. They say stress melts away, although that’s not exactly the case. But it certainly does get muted by the consistent push of my body to keep up with what I want to do and the amazing scenery we are so lucky to have as part of our day-to-day lives in Alaska.
For me the art of the midday workout is about as sophisticated as kindergarten finger-painting, but it is so much better than nothing.
Alli Harvey lives in Palmer and plays in Southcentral Alaska.
WASHINGTON - Justice Department officials are preparing for the end of special counsel Robert Mueller's nearly two-year investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and believe a confidential report could be issued in coming days, according to people familiar with the discussions.
The special counsel's investigation has consumed Washington since it began in May 2017, and it increasingly appears to be nearing its end, which would send fresh shock waves through the political system. Mueller could deliver his report to Attorney General William Barr next week, according to a person familiar with the matter who, like others, spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss with reporters sensitive deliberations.
Regulations call for Mueller to submit to the attorney general a confidential explanation as to why he decided to charge certain individuals, as well as who else he investigated and why he decided not to charge those people. The regulations then call for the attorney general to report to Congress about the investigation.
An adviser to President Donald Trump said there is palpable concern among the president's inner circle that the report might contain information about Trump and his team that is politically damaging, but not criminal conduct.
Even before he was confirmed by the Senate, Barr had preliminary discussions about the logistics surrounding the conclusion of Mueller's inquiry, a second person said. At that time, though, Barr had not been briefed on the substance of Mueller's investigation, so the conversations were limited.
CNN first reported Wednesday that Mueller could send a report to Barr as early as next week.
A spokesman for Mueller declined to comment, as did a Justice Department spokeswoman.
How detailed either Mueller's report or the attorney general's summary of the findings will be is unclear. Lawmakers have demanded that Mueller's report be made public, but Barr has been noncommittal on that point, saying he intends to be as forthcoming as regulations and department practice allow. He has pointed, however, to Justice Department practices that insist on saying little or nothing about conduct that does not lead to criminal charges.
The special counsel's office, which used to have 17 lawyers, is down to 12, and some of those attorneys have recently been in touch with their old bosses about returning to work, according to people familiar with the discussions. All but four of the remaining 12 lawyers are detailed from other Justice Department offices.
The end of the special counsel's probe would not mean the end of criminal investigations connected to the president. Federal prosecutors in New York, for instance, are exploring whether corrupt payments were made in connection with Trump's inaugural committee funding.
If Mueller does close up shop, government lawyers on his team would likely return to their original posts but would be able to continue to work on the prosecution of cases initiated by the special counsel's office.
That was the case for two special counsel lawyers, Brandon Van Grack and Scott Meisler, who have left the office formally but are still working on cases begun by Mueller.
When the special counsel brought the case against Roger Stone, a longtime adviser and friend to Trump, for lying to the FBI, attorneys from the U.S. attorney's office in Washington were assigned to it from the start - an indication that Mueller expects to hand off the investigation soon.
The four prosecutors remaining who aren't part of the Justice Department are some of the special counsel's highest-ranking lawyers: Aaron Zebley, who is effectively Mueller's chief of staff; James Quarles, who is a senior executive in the office; Jeannie Rhee, the lead prosecutor in the case against Michael Cohen, Trump's former personal attorney; and Greg Andres, the lead prosecutor in the trial of Paul Manafort, Trump's former campaign chairman.
According to people familiar with the special counsel's work, Mueller has envisioned it as an investigative assignment, not necessarily a prosecutorial one, and for that reason does not plan to keep the office running to see to the end all of the indictments it has filed.
Mueller's work has led to criminal charges against 34 people. Six Trump associates and advisers have pleaded guilty.
Among those who have pleaded guilty are Trump's former national security adviser, Michael Flynn; former deputy campaign manger Rick Gates; and former campaign adviser George Papadopoulos, as well as Manafort and Cohen.
Most of the people charged in Mueller's investigation are Russians. Because there is no extradition treaty with their country, those 26 individuals are unlikely to ever see the inside of a U.S. courtroom.
None of the Americans charged by Mueller are accused of conspiring with Russia to interfere in the election. Determining whether any Trump associates had plotted with the Kremlin in 2016 was the central question assigned to Mueller when he got the job, in a moment of crisis for the FBI, the Justice Department and the country.
Days earlier, Trump had fired FBI Director James Comey. The purported reason for the dismissal was Comey's handling of the 2016 investigation of Hillary Clinton, but Trump said in an interview with NBC shortly after the firing that he was thinking about the Russia inquiry when he decided to fire Comey.
Because FBI directors are appointed to 10-year terms to ensure their political independence, the Comey firing rattled Washington, setting off alarms not just in the Justice Department but in Congress, where lawmakers feared the president was determined to end the Russia investigation before it was completed.
In the wake of Comey's firing, Deputy Attorney General Attorney General Rod Rosenstein chose Mueller as special counsel, in part to quell the burgeoning political crisis.
Mueller, a Vietnam War veteran, prosecutor and former FBI director, was highly regarded. Politicians on both sides of the aisle - as well as law enforcement and intelligence veterans within federal agencies - had long admired and trusted Mueller, a Republican.
Trump has repeatedly denounced the Mueller investigation as a "witch hunt" and accused Mueller's prosecutors of political bias because a number of them had made donations to Democratic candidates in the past. Some congressional Republicans who back the president have repeatedly attacked Mueller's work as corrupted by anti-Trump bias among Comey and his senior advisers at the FBI.
When Mueller's investigation ends, it is likely to set off a fresh political firestorm.
Democrats are already demanding a detailed public accounting of what Mueller found, beyond what is in the public indictments and trial evidence to date. Republicans, meanwhile, are poised to escalate their attacks on the special counsel's work as a waste of time and money - and paint the end of the investigation as final proof that there was nothing to the suspicion that the Trump campaign colluded with the Kremlin.
Much of Mueller's time was spent trying to determine whether the president attempted to obstruct the investigation. Toward that end, Mueller questioned those closest to the president about his private statements about the inquiry, his public tweets that attacked law enforcement officials, and internal White House documents that might shed light on Trump's behavior.
Months of negotiations over a possible interview of Trump came to little. Ultimately, Mueller and the Justice Department did not serve the president with a subpoena, which could have led to a fight at the Supreme Court, and Trump’s lawyers submitted written answers to questions from the special counsel.
In this Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2019, photo, firefighters try to douse flames in Dhaka, Bangladesh. A devastating fire raced through at least five buildings in an old part of Bangladesh's capital and killed scores of people. (AP Photo)
DHAKA, Bangladesh — A devastating fire raced through buildings in an old part of Bangladesh’s capital and killed at least 69 people, officials and witnesses said Thursday.
About 50 other people were injured and the fire in Dhaka was mostly under control after more than nine hours of frantic efforts by firefighters.
The Chawkbazar area where the fire was burning is crammed with buildings separated by narrow alleys. The neighborhood is a mix of residential and commercial, with buildings that commonly have shops, restaurants or warehouses on the ground floors.
The blaze started late Wednesday night in one building but quickly spread to others, fire department Director General Brig. Gen. Ali Ahmed said.
The death toll rose to 69, with many of the victims trapped inside the buildings, said Mahfuz Riben, a control room official of the Fire Service and Civil Defense in Dhaka.
"Our teams are working there but many of the recovered bodies are beyond recognition. Our people are using body bags to send them to the hospital morgue, this is a very difficult situation," he told AP by phone.
Some floors of the destroyed buildings had chemicals and plastic in storage.
Most buildings are used both for residential and commercial purposes despite warnings of the potential for high fatalities from fires after one had killed at least 123 people in 2010. Authorities had promised to bring the buildings under regulations and remove chemical warehouses from the residential buildings.
The death toll could still rise as the condition of some of the injured people was critical, said Samanta Lal Sen, head of a burn unit of the Dhaka Medical College Hospital.
Sen said at least nine of the critically injured people were being treated in his unit.
Witnesses told local TV stations that many gas cylinders stored in the buildings continued to explode one after another. They said the fire also set off explosions in fuel tanks of some of the vehicles that got stuck in traffic in front of the destroyed buildings.
I am writing in response to the recent op-ed “Alaskans support opening the ANWR coastal plain.” I was present at the Fairbanks hearing that the authors characterize as “disrespectful… portray(ing) Fairbanks in a poor manner… (and) disrupt(ing) open and fair debate.”
The official format of the meeting was an affront to the democratic process, neither open nor fair, and deliberately designed to lessen the voice of the community. The meeting was scheduled with only five days notice. There were no translators present. Comments could only be made individually in writing or privately to a stenographer, literally behind a black curtain.
After Bureau of Land Management representatives finished their presentation, frustrated community members insisted they be heard. For the remainder of the evening, the community, in an orderly and just manner, allowed for first elders, then other Alaska Natives, then other community members to share their concerns publicly.
We did not “derail open and fair debate;” rather, we created an environment in which the voices of the people could be heard.
I am proud of my community for calling out the injustice of this process and raising the voices of elders and Native peoples and those most affected by what happens in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
- Sarah Furman
Have something on your mind? Send to firstname.lastname@example.org or click here to submit via any web browser. Letters under 200 words have the best chance of being published. Writers should disclose any personal or professional connections with the subjects of their letters. Letters are edited for accuracy, clarity and length.
The M/V Tustumena, a 296-foot ferry of the Alaska Marine Highway System, departs Homer on Sept. 1, 2016. The ferry's route includes towns on Kodiak Island, the Alaska Peninsula and the Aleutian Islands. (Marc Lester / ADN archive) (Alaska Dispatch News/)
JUNEAU — Alaska state ferries would stop running on Oct. 1 under sweeping budget cuts proposed by Gov. Mike Dunleavy, the Alaska Senate Finance Committee was told Wednesday morning.
Dunleavy is proposing to cut $97 million from the ferry system’s $140 million budget in the fiscal year that begins July 1. That means the system will not have enough money to operate after Oct. 1, a state budget official said.
“At this time, the schedule looks at operating through the summer, and through the month of September there would be reduced service, and then there potentially would be no service starting in October,” said Amanda Holland, administrative services director for the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities.
Holland said the ferry system “is continuing to look at options for how they might readjust that sailing schedule,” but an updated plan isn’t expected until Aug. 1.
If ferry service ends without a replacement, coastal communities from Kodiak to Ketchikan will be left without surface access to the North American road network.
In a memo this month, DOT commissioner John MacKinnon called the shutdown of the ferry system a “LARGE and significant impact with longer term implications to DOT and Alaska.”
Joshua Bowen, mayor of the Admiralty Island town of Angoon, with a population of 410, was in the Capitol on Wednesday and said the end of ferry service would be disastrous.
“Angoon right now only has a seaplane base for air transport. With that, we rely on our ferry service for everything,” he said. “If the ferry gets cut, this winter is going to be brutal.”
Angoon also lacks a full-fledged barge landing and does not receive regular commercial shipping service.
“With the ferry going away, our one and only form of transportation in or out of town will be on seaplanes, with pontoons,” Bowen said.
Is it time for communities like Angoon to panic?
No, said Sen. Bert Stedman, R-Sitka and co-chairman of the Senate Finance Committee.
“If you panic, there’s nowhere to go, and there’s even less places to go if you don’t have a ferry,” he said.
Sen. Donny Olson, D-Golovin, right, talks with Sen. Bert Stedman, R-Sitka, following a Wednesday morning hearing of the Senate Finance Committee. (James Brooks / ADN)
“I wouldn’t say panic, but I think plan with urgency,” said Robert Venables, chairman of the state’s Marine Transportation Advisory Board and one of the recipients of that memo, which was obtained by the Daily News.
In a separate memo dated Feb. 12, Dunleavy directed MacKinnon to investigate possibilities for the future of the Alaska Marine Highway System, such as privatization or a public-private partnership. A report on those possibilities is due Aug. 1.
Venables also serves as executive director of Southeast Conference, an economic development organization for Southeast Alaska. That group has been drafting a plan to create a public corporation for the Alaska Marine Highway System. That proposal envisions a structure akin to the Alaska Railroad. Venables said he has had a pair of meetings with former state Sen. Ben Stevens, who now works as a special adviser to the governor.
“If truly everything is on the table for discussion, then we’re ready for that discussion,” Venables said.
The ferry budget proposed by Dunleavy is not final. The Alaska Legislature has not yet had its say, and in the Alaska Senate, Stedman will seek to keep the system running through the winter.
“We need to have an appropriation added, or funds added to the marine highway budget to ensure they can operate through next June, at least at a reduced level," he said.
Speaking Wednesday in committee, Stedman expressed concerns about the idea that private industry can entirely take up the slack if the ferry system stops running.
The Inter-Island Ferry Authority is a semi-privatized ferry service between Ketchikan and Prince of Wales Island in Southeast Alaska, but it still receives a state subsidy, Stedman said.
“If the state had not stepped in with half a million a year for several years … that transportation system would not exist today,” he said.
The governor’s budget proposal for state ferries — and the rest of the Alaska Department of Transportation — will go to a Senate subcommittee for consideration. Stedman is in charge of that subcommittee.
Stedman said he doesn’t believe the governor is opposed to the ferry system. It’s merely a victim of the governor’s effort to increase the Permanent Fund dividend without raising taxes or spending from savings, Stedman said. The ferry system receives a significant amount of state support but doesn’t serve as many people as the state’s road network.
“He’s a friend of mine, and he does not have bad will toward the coast. This is just one of those issues where we have significant general fund money going into a transportation system that has structural problems,” Stedman said.
The ferry system is undergoing labor negotiations with its leading unions this year, and Stedman said he hopes employees “come to the bargaining table in earnest.”
If the Legislature does increase the ferry system budget, Dunleavy could use his line item veto to restore the cuts he initially proposed. The Legislature could then seek to override the veto, but doing so requires the support of three-quarters of lawmakers.
Stedman said it’s too early to talk about a veto override, but it’s not too early to begin negotiating with the governor to see what he will accept.
“We need to work through the political process and negotiate with him,” Stedman said.
It’s not really, “If you can read this, thank a teacher.” Or, I should say that it goes much deeper than that.
It is, “If you can leave a note for your child that you’ve gone to the store and will be back shortly and they can read it and be comforted, thank a teacher.” Or, “If you can write to your mother on a card nestled in the flowers you will have delivered, and she can read it and smile knowing you remembered her and that you love her, thank a teacher.” Or, “If you can email your boss a heads-up that your child has a concussion from a fall in a basketball game and you are headed to the emergency room to meet your spouse and hold your child’s hand while the doctor checks their brain function, thank a teacher.”
Public school teachers stitch society together. A teacher is a public servant who takes every student who jumps off the bus, totters off the bus, carefully slips out of their grandpa’s truck, runs past the crossing guard or quietly approaches with their nose in a book and creates a society of equals.
Students become a throng of peers when they take their place in the classroom. They all have taxpayer-provided desks, in a taxpayer-provided room in a public school provided by taxpayers. They congregate in a cafeteria, a playground or a hallway paid for by taxes, but protected by their teacher, so they can relax and create community. They exercise in a gym provided by their community, but they open up and learn because their teacher creates a culture of learners.
Their school is staffed with secretaries, custodians and administrators, who tell corny jokes, ask about their families and feed them something when they have forgotten their lunch. People who value children and the sacredness of learning. People who work in step with their teachers to catch students lest they fall.
It really isn’t, “If you can read this…”
It is, “If you have a place among equals, you have a sense of community in your city, town, neighborhood or workplace. If you feel as though you can speak up and represent yourself to your community or to your friends and feel safe. If you feel you have a right to exist and say what you think. If you feel you have a right to believe — or not believe — in a higher being or the Constitution, thank a teacher.”
Thank a teacher because they showed you in kindergarten, first grade, and on through your senior year in high school, that a community can be made tight knit and whole from a loosely banded group of people from various backgrounds, beliefs and experiences. A teacher created a place for you when you switched schools, towns, states, maybe even families and made you whole within a new community.
You can read, work and respect others who were once complete strangers to you — because a teacher taught you that you could.
Thank them for that.
- Shannon Dwyer
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Members of Alaska's Marijuana Control Board listen to public comment during a meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2019, in Juneau, Alaska. Shown are, from left, Nicholas Miller, Brandon Emmett and Mark Springer. (AP Photo/Becky Bohrer) (Becky Bohrer/)
JUNEAU — Alaska’s new governor has no plans to change marijuana legalization, a spokesman said Wednesday, even as the Republican administration’s appointments and proposal for a state regulatory board worry some in the legal cannabis industry.
Spokesman Matt Shuckerow also said that Gov. Mike Dunleavy has no desire to push the industry in one direction or the other.
Dunleavy has made new appointments to the five-member Marijuana Control Board while also planning to propose repealing its existence.
His appointment of Vivian Stiver, a marijuana critic, has riled industry members who have cast her as a prohibitionist. Stiver would replace Brandon Emmett, who is one of two industry representatives on the five-member board. State law allows up to two seats to go to industry representatives though one of the seats could go to a member of the general public.
The board began a three-day meeting Wednesday in Juneau, which was expected to be Emmett's last meeting. Voters in 2014 approved legalizing the use of so-called recreational marijuana by those 21 and older.
Shuckerow said repealing the board would require legislative approval and it's important to have a functioning board as that process plays out. State Commerce Commissioner Julie Anderson has said that Dunleavy intends to propose transferring the board's responsibilities to the commissioner.
Further details on what Dunleavy is planning are expected when he introduces the repeal legislation, Shuckerow said.
Other states handle cannabis regulation at the agency level, and Chris Lindsey, senior legislative counsel with the Marijuana Policy Project, said as long as the agency has a clear mandate and supports the program, everything should be fine.
But Stiver's appointment has fueled uncertainty in the industry, so a proposal like this has left people to "kind of look for the conspiracy," Lindsey said.
The appointment "calls into question everything that the governor might be trying to do now," he said.
Stiver and Lt. Christopher Jaime, an Alaska Wildlife Trooper appointed to the board's public safety seat, are subject to legislative confirmation. Shuckerow has said Dunleavy believes Stiver would bring a valuable perspective to the board.
Jaime was said to be out of state and did not attend Wednesday's meeting. The director of the Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office mentioned Dunleavy's proposal to repeal the board in her report, but the board itself did not delve into the topic.
Alaska's Marijuana Control Board listens to public comment during a meeting on Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2019, in Juneau, Alaska. Some in the industry say they feel uncertain about Gov. Mike Dunleavy's intentions toward legal cannabis, while a Dunleavy spokesman says the governor has no intention of changing the fact that broad use of marijuana is legal in the state. (AP Photo/Becky Bohrer) (Becky Bohrer/)
Lacy Wilcox, who serves on the board of the Alaska Marijuana Industry Association, said Dunleavy should meet with the industry. She worries the public process that has surrounded rule-making so far could be eroded if the board is repealed.
She and others have raised concerns with language in one of Dunleavy's crime bills they say would make it a felony to possess 25 or more cannabis plants, which they argue could affect legal growers. Department of Law spokeswoman Cori Mills has said the provision was not aimed at growers operating under the state's regulated industry and that the administration is open to clarifying the language.
Chase Griffith, who has retail and growing facilities on the Kenai Peninsula, said he's been confused by Dunleavy's actions and wants to hear from him.
“We just need to see the details and actually hear his true intent on the cannabis industry in Alaska,” he said, adding later: “I just want him to publicly say how he stands on cannabis because I haven’t heard that myself.”
Two moose block the Tour of Anchorage trail on Feb. 2 in Far North Bicentennial Park. (Loren Holmes / ADN) (Loren Holmes / ADN/)
Wildlife biologists are asking Anchorage residents to be on the lookout for moose this weekend as they try to get a grasp on the size of the population.
Starting Friday, biologists from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game will canvass the Anchorage Bowl in hopes of determining how many moose are roaming the city. They will search until Sunday evening across an area that extends from Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson in the north to Potter Marsh in the south, they said.
The moose count, now in its second official year after a successful “test count” in 2017, informs how the agency manages the moose population. That includes everything from the number of hunting permits the department gives out to how it tracks vehicle collisions to the recommendations it makes for building fences, according to area biologist Dave Battle.
“It’s part of the big puzzle, and it’s one of the most basic bits of information that we can relate all these other things we do to," Battle said.
While biologists will be the ones going out and cataloging the moose, they said they’re relying on the thousands of eyes scattered across Anchorage to point them in the right direction.
The department is asking members of the public to call 907-267-2530, text 907-782-5051 or report online at adfg.alaska.gov if they see a moose this weekend. Moose-spotters should report the location of the moose, the time it was seen and how many were observed.
“This project would be dead in the water without the public," Battle said.
During the 2017 “test run” count, the agency fielded more than 600 calls from members of the public who had spotted moose. Last year, it was more than 500, biologists said.
Last year’s final count sat at 143 moose, so many of these callers were reporting the same moose, said wildlife biologist Dave Saalfeld.
The biologists caution moose-spotters to keep their distance from any moose they might see and watch for body language that may indicate stress, like hair standing up on the moose’s hump or ears flattening.
Moose feed at Potter Marsh on Feb. 1. (Loren Holmes / ADN) (Loren Holmes / ADN/)
This year’s count is special, biologists said, because it’s the first year they expect to get a true population estimate, rather than just a minimum count. Last year, they were only able to say there were “at least” 143 moose in Anchorage, but by combining this year’s count with last year’s, they will be able to get a clearer picture of the actual population size, Saalfeld said.
“Each year’s number will get tighter and tighter the more years we do this,” Saalfeld said.
In the past, the size of the moose population in Anchorage has only been a guess, Battle said. Normally, moose surveys have to be done from the air from early in the winter so that biologists can easily spot the animals against the snow, but Anchorage’s congested airspace and increasingly warm winters make aerial counts impossible.
It wasn’t until two years ago that biologists first were able to do ground counts in Anchorage. Their new method allows them to shoot a dart that collects a small amount of tissue from the moose without harming it. The DNA sample they collect allows biologists to identify how many individual moose have been spotted, as well as what the population’s male-to-female ratio is.
Once information from this year’s count is available, Saalfeld said, biologists may be able to start to get a handle on other questions as well, like how many moose move into the city during the winter and what triggers them to move.
How to help
What: Anchorage moose survey
When: Friday, Feb. 22 through Sunday, Feb. 24
Where: Anchorage Bowl, stretching from JBER in the north to Potter Marsh in the south, and from Kincaid Park in the west to the front range of the Chugach Mountains in the east
Contact: Between 8 a.m. and 5 p.m., call the Alaska Department of Fish and Game at 907-267-2530, text 907-782-5051 or report moose sightings online at adfg.alaska.gov. You don’t need to stay near the moose until wildlife biologists arrive; you only need to report where you saw the moose, how many moose there were and when you spotted it.
FILE - In this Aug. 8, 2017 file photo, Jussie Smollett participates in the "Empire" panel during the FOX Television Critics Association Summer Press Tour at the Beverly Hilton in Beverly Hills, Calif. Chicago's top prosecutor has recused herself from the investigation into the attack reported by Smollett. Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx offered few specifics when announcing she was stepping back Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2019. (Photo by Willy Sanjuan/Invision/AP, File) (Willy Sanjuan/)
CHICAGO — Detectives suspect that “Empire” actor Jussie Smollett filed a false police report when he said he was attacked in downtown Chicago by two men who hurled racist and anti-gay slurs and looped a rope around his neck, a police official said Wednesday.
Police spokesman Anthony Guglielmi also said detectives and two brothers who were earlier deemed suspects in the Jan. 29 beating testified before a grand jury. If indicted for filing a false report, a felony, the actor would face a possible prison sentence of one to three years and could be forced to pay for the cost of the investigation.
Smollett's attorneys met with prosecutors and police earlier Wednesday. It was unknown what they discussed or whether Smollett attended the meeting. The attorneys did not reply to requests for comment.
The police announcement came after a flurry of activity in recent days that included lengthy interviews of the brothers by authorities, a search of their home and their release after police cleared them.
Investigators have not said what the brothers told detectives or what evidence detectives collected. But it became increasingly clear that serious questions had arisen about Smollett's account — something police signaled Friday when they announced a "significant shift in the trajectory" of the probe after the brothers were freed.
Smollett, who is black and gay and plays a gay character on the hit Fox television show, said he was attacked as he was walking home from a Subway sandwich shop. He said the masked men beat him, made derogatory comments and yelled "This is MAGA country" — an apparent reference to President Donald Trump's campaign slogan, "Make America Great Again" — before fleeing.
Earlier Wednesday, Fox Entertainment and 20th Century Fox Television issued a statement saying Smollett "continues to be a consummate professional on set" and that his character is not being written off the show. The series is shot in Chicago and follows a black family as they navigate the ups and downs of the record industry.
The studio's statement followed reports that Smollett's role was being slashed amid the police investigation.
Whispers about Smollett's potential role in the attack started with reports that he had not fully cooperated with police and word that detectives in a city bristling with surveillance cameras could not find video of the attack.
Investigators did find and release images of two people they said they wanted to question and last week picked up the brothers at O'Hare Airport as they returned from Nigeria. Police questioned the men and searched their apartment.
The brothers, who were identified by their attorney as Abimbola "Abel" and Olabinjo "Ola" Osundairo, were held for nearly 48 hours on suspicion of assaulting Smollett before being released.
Police said one of the men had appeared on "Empire," and Smollett's attorneys said one of the men is the actor's personal trainer, whom he hired to help get him physically ready for a music video. The actor released his debut album, "Sum of My Music," last year.
The Osundairos' attorney, Gloria Schmidt, has not responded to multiple requests for comment from The Associated Press.
Smollett's lawyers, Todd Pugh and Victor P. Henderson, have said the actor was angered and "victimized" by reports suggesting that he may have played a role in staging the attack.
"Nothing is further from the truth and anyone claiming otherwise is lying," the attorneys said Saturday in a statement.
Smollett has been active in LBGTQ issues, and initial reports of the assault drew outrage and support for him on social media, including from Sen. Kamala Harris of California and TV talk show host Ellen DeGeneres.
If Smollett's account is determined to be a fabrication, legal experts say he could be charged with any number of felonies. The most obvious charge is felony disorderly conduct, which is legalese for filing a false police report.
Such a charge is fairly common. In Boone County, Illinois, for example, a woman is awaiting trial on allegations that she called in a false threat of a gunman in September. The call prompted a police search for a suspect and put several area schools on lockdown.
Former Cook County prosecutor Andrew Weisberg recently represented a client who was charged with the same crime when her account of being robbed by three men at O'Hare Airport came apart. Police found surveillance video that showed the woman and an accomplice walking through the airport without the items they claimed were stolen.
Another possibility is an obstruction-of-justice charge. Both crimes are Class 4 felonies, which in addition to prison time carry the possibility of a fine of $25,000.
Weisberg said judges rarely throw defendants in prison, opting instead to place them on probation, particularly if they have no prior criminal record.
Smollett has a record — one that concerns giving false information to police when he was pulled over on suspicion of driving under the influence. According to records, he was also charged with false impersonation and driving without a license. He later pleaded no contest to a reduced charge and took an alcohol education and treatment program.
Another prospective problem is the bill someone might receive after falsely reporting a crime that prompted a massive investigation that lasted nearly a month and included the collection and review of hundreds of hours of surveillance video.
The size of the tab is anyone's guess, but given how much time the police have invested, the cost could be huge.
For an investigation that took only a single day, Weisberg's client had to split restitution of $8,400, Weisberg said. In Smollett's case, "I can imagine that this would be easily into the hundreds of thousands of dollars."
Also Wednesday, Chicago's top prosecutor, Cook County State's Attorney Kim Foxx, announced that she had recused herself from the investigation.
Her office explained that Foxx made the decision "out of an abundance of caution" because of conversations she had with one of Smollett's family members just after the report. When the relative expressed concerns about the case, Foxx "facilitated a connection" between the family member and detectives, according to a statement.
Foxx said the case would be handled to her first assistant, Joseph Magats, a 28-year veteran prosecutor.