Alaska News

Subscribe to Alaska News feed
Alaska Dispatch News News Feed
Updated: 2 hours 31 min ago

Letter: Be safe with guns

Wed, 2019-02-20 15:11

I read the article, with great despair, about the child who brought a hand gun to the Rogers Park Elementary School.

This is a very serious matter and the article, the school district, law enforcement and the school made light of the situation, stating, “Staff reacted quickly and at no time were students or staff in danger.” No child under the age of 18 should have access to a handgun to put in their backpack and bring to school or anywhere. Period.

There should be strict consequences for this child’s family and the child. The school and law enforcement should have an internal investigation on how this happen and take steps to prevent it in the future. When an Anchorage student spray-painted on the bathroom walls that they were going to harm students at school last fall, there was quite a bit of panic, investigation, and consequences for the district and the student. It doesn’t matter if the child had intent or not, the consequences could have been deadly. This situation should be regarded as serious in every way. The parents at the school and the community have the right know if the handgun was loaded or not. They would be the ones suffering the consequences if it had been fired on purpose or accidentally.

I know children make mistakes, and this could be that. But this is an adult problem. All households with minors should have their guns unloaded and locked away with ammunition separate. All parents should ask before you send your child or teenager to someone’s else’s house if they have their firearms secure and unloaded.

The school district in Anchorage should increase its gun safety education immediately, and the public should be informed how the gun was found and if it was loaded. The school district should educate children and adults on gun safety education, and not make light of any situation where a child brings a handgun to school. The district has the power to permeate communities on gun safety education.

For more information on gun safety, please see these resources: ASKING SAVES KIDS or BE SMART.

It could save your child's life or someone else's.

- Kate Wool

Fairbanks

Have something on your mind? Send to letters@adn.com 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.

AK Pond Hockey Classic is outdoor hockey, and a whole lot more

Wed, 2019-02-20 15:10

The AK Pond Hockey Classic on Big Lake featured 107 teams in 2018. (Photo by Mike Newcity) (Mike Newcity/)

The AK Pond Hockey Classic is classic Alaska.

“People ride up to the games on their snowmachines,” said Hailey Gill, 29, of Anchorage.

The tournament, which started as The Last Frontier Pond Hockey Classic in 2015 before outgrowing Goose Lake, is now held on Big Lake, and it’s more than pond hockey.

It’s a festival on ice.

In addition to the March 8-10 games, there will be a concert, a fireworks display and dog sled rides — all for free.

Last year, 107 teams participated.

The Classic has a place for every player. There are nine divisions, including an over-49 class, a women’s division, coed competition and several youth divisions.

The lake provides a place for everyone to park. You can anchor your RV on the ice for all three days for $15, and daily parking is $5. All of the parking proceeds go to the Houston High hockey association, whose players serve as parking attendants.

Each team is made up of six players, but for squads that need a player or two or players who don’t have a team, there is a free-agent board on the website. The deadline for players and teams to sign up is March 1.

The action will be fast and furious. There will be 14 rinks with teams playing on a running clock — two 15-minute halves with a two-minute halftime. For those who would like to warm up but aren’t playing, there will be a sheet of ice for skaters who aren’t in the tournament.

The Classic is more than a tournament for some. For some, it’s a destination.

Jan Rumble of Homer and her teammates rent a house on the lake for the weekend.

“The Alaska hockey community is tight,” she said, "and perhaps no other tournament displays this camaraderie better than this tournament.”

Letter: Give Brune a chance

Wed, 2019-02-20 14:51

I have read and listened with interest about concerns regarding Department of Environmental Conservation Commissioner-designee Jason Brune. While I can understand the opposition of my fellow conservationists, I submit that his background in regulated industries is perhaps not a negative attribute.

Indeed, others with industry backgrounds have led the agency in the past, and done so honorably. Two that quickly spring to mind are Gene Burden, back in the 1990s, and the recently-departed Larry Hartig. Both men were intelligent, qualified commissioners who respected the professionalism of agency staff, and neither would have a snowball’s hope in Hades of getting hired at the Alaska Center. While I don’t claim to know him well, Mr. Brune appears to be cut from the same cloth.

Given some other questionable appointments made by this administration, I think we would be well-served to support Mr. Brune’s appointment and hold him to the standards established by his predecessors. Where he meets those standards he should be commended; where he falls short he should be held to account.

It’s looking like a long four years for Alaskans who care about anything beyond this year’s Permanent Fund dividend; let’s think twice before chasing off one of the few capable hands on the ship of state.

- Patrick Flynn

Anchorage

Have something on your mind? Send to letters@adn.com 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.

Murkowski: Cutting state funds makes it more difficult to unlock federal cash

Wed, 2019-02-20 14:38

U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski shakes the hand of state Sen. Elvi Gray-Jackson, D-Anchorage, after Murkowski's annual address to the Alaska Legislature on Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2019 in the Alaska Capitol. (James Brooks / ADN)

JUNEAU — Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s cost-cutting budget proposal may make it more difficult for Alaska’s congressional delegation to deliver federal money to Alaska, U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski said Tuesday during her annual visit to the state Capitol.

Alaska’s two U.S. senators normally stay away from legislative issues when they deliver their annual addresses to the Alaska Legislature, but Murkowski obliquely and directly addressed aspects of the governor’s planned $1.8 billion budget cut.

In a news conference following her address to the Legislature, Murkowski said it “absolutely” is more difficult for her and the other members of Alaska’s congressional delegation to obtain federal funding if the state doesn’t pitch in.

“If we’re not willing to invest in ourselves, why would we expect anyone else to invest?” she said.

According to figures from the Office of Management and Budget, Dunleavy’s budget reduces spending by $1.8 billion. With less state funding, many programs become eligible for less federal funding.

Without that state cash — and particularly at a time when the governor is considering a boost to the Permanent Fund dividend — Murkowski said it becomes more difficult to unlock federal coffers for Alaska.

“When I try to make the case for additional money for very basic things — water and sewer — what I’ll hear is, ‘Well, wait a minute, how much is that free money that you give away to Alaskans every year?’" she said. “What I say is, we were actually smart and responsible in saving and investing the revenues that we received from our finite resources, so good on us.”

Murkowski did not say whether she supports or opposes the governor’s budget but said it’s now time for the Legislature to play its role in the process.

“Here in Alaska, we’ve got a Legislature that is going to be dealing with some very difficult and very challenging issues, but I think the Legislature needs to recognize its role and stand up to its role as the appropriators,” she said after her address.

Sen. Donny Olson, D-Golovin, asked Murkowski her opinion on Dunleavy’s proposal to divert petroleum property taxes from local governments to the state.

“At first blush, the proposal is concerning to me,” Murkowski said of the idea.

She said encouraging North Slope development is difficult enough without adding additional obstacles.

“I would discourage anything that creates division among Alaskans over the value of our natural resources,” she said. “The state’s going to have to decide this, but we’ve got enough opposition coming at us from outside the state to develop our own resources.”

Murkowski said she supports the proposal to build a trans-Alaska natural gas pipeline and hopes the Dunleavy administration will continue to seek a federal permit for it. The pipeline project’s permit application is being considered by the Federal Energy Regulatory Commission.

“Going through the FERC application process is not a cheap undertaking,” she said. “It will be very difficult to come back to it later.”

Murkowski said she is concerned about budgetary changes that could reduce Medicare and Medicaid payments to doctors who serve patients under those state-federal programs. The governor has proposed cutting Medicaid services by more than $700 million, according to figures from the Office of Management and Budget.

If doctors are paid less, they might be unwilling to take Medicare or Medicaid patients.

“It would be a pretty tough scenario around this state if providers were to say, I can’t do Medicare and I can’t do Medicaid,” Murkowski said.

Letter: Another view on ANWR meetings

Wed, 2019-02-20 14:30

Letters to the editor responded to a column on health care cost August 9, 2017. (Charles Wohlforth / Alaska Dispatch News)

In response to the industry-authored column “Alaskans support opening of the ANWR coastal plain,” and the description of the Fairbanks public environmental impact statement draft meeting, I would like to offer another viewpoint as a meeting attendee.

According to the EPA, the main advantage of public meetings is the ability for the public, not just an agency, to listen and talk to each other. After the Bureau of Land Management presented an informational slide show, Alaskan Natives, elders and others who felt their voices were being silenced, insisted they have the chance to speak. Stories, knowledge and language of food security and culture were told. These words touched the soul and wouldn’t have been the same if provided in written form.

The Bureau of Land Management’s attempt to hold a meeting with five days’ notice, with no time allotted for public testimony, was a clear attempt to minimize the unified voice of a public that officials did not want to hear. However, those whose lives would be most negatively impacted by drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge spoke up and were supported by others who care about this issue.

- Stephen Harvey

Fairbanks

Have something on your mind? Send to letters@adn.com or click here to submit via any web browser. Letters under 200 words have the best chance of being published. Writers should disclose any personal or professional connections with the subjects of their letters. Letters are edited for accuracy, clarity and length.

Letter: Diversify state revenue

Wed, 2019-02-20 14:24

FILE - In this Jan. 16, 2019, file photo, Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy speaks at a news conference in Juneau, Alaska. Dunleavy’s process for screening candidates for government work is under scrutiny after three people picked for prominent positions quit or declined roles. (AP Photo/Becky Bohrer, File) (Becky Bohrer/)

The governor’s budget proposal is an existential threat to Alaska’s economy and the people it serves. Legislators, business owners and civic leaders need to respond with authority and leadership. It’s time for everyone to step up to the plate with a firm counter-proposal to generate revenue. A good first step is to institute a statewide room-and-meals tax and an income tax tied to the federal code.

Rooms and meals, also know as a “bed tax,” is an easy decision. Almost two million visitors come to Alaska every year. Travelers are used to this tax no matter where they journey. Alaska could institute an 11 percent tax and few travelers would care about the difference.

An income tax just makes sense. Despite anyone’s fears, state income taxes are far less burdensome than many folks might assume. Thirty-seven states tie their state income tax to the federal code. If you get a refund on your federal tax return, you will get a refund on your state return, too.

I’ve lived in seven states in the past 30 years. Alaska’s state funding model is the least diversified I’ve ever seen. It’s self-defeating. We need leadership in the private sector and state government to counter the governor with a commitment to a strong economy, fueled by revenue. A state that doesn’t tax its people only serves a fantasy. Reality will be painful if we let the governor skin Alaska’s hide and hang it up to dry.

- Nathan Freeman

Atmautluak

Have something on your mind? Send to letters@adn.com 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.

Coast Guard lieutenant planned widespread terror attack, prosecutors say

Wed, 2019-02-20 14:16

A U.S. Coast Guard lieutenant and self-identified white nationalist has been arrested after federal investigators uncovered a cache of weapons and ammunition in his Maryland home that authorities say he stockpiled to launch a widespread domestic terrorist attack targeting politicians and journalists.

Christopher Paul Hasson called for "focused violence" to "establish a white homeland" and dreamed of ways to "kill almost every last person on earth," according to court records filed in U.S. District Court in Maryland. Though court documents do not detail a specific planned date for an attack, the government said he had been amassing supplies and weapons since 2017 at the latest, developed a spreadsheet of targets that included House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., and searched the internet using phrases such as "best place in dc to see congress people" and "are supreme court justices protected."

"The defendant intends to murder innocent civilians on a scale rarely seen in this country," the government said in court documents filed this week, arguing that Hasson should stay in jail awaiting trial.

Hasson, of Silver Spring, is expected to appear before a judge for a detention hearing in federal court in Greenbelt on Thursday.

Hasson was arrested on illegal weapons and drug charges on Friday, but the government says those charges are the "proverbial tip of the iceberg." Officials with the U.S. attorney's office in Maryland outlined in court documents Hasson's alleged plans to spark chaos and destruction, describing a man obsessed with neo-fascist and neo-Nazi views.

"Please send me your violence that I may unleash it onto their heads," Hasson wrote in a letter that prosecutors say was found in his email drafts. "Guide my hate to make a lasting impression on this world."

A magistrate judge ordered that the Office of the Federal Public Defender represent Hasson; the office declined comment Wednesday.

Hasson has been working at the U.S. Coast Guard headquarters in Washington since 2016, according to court documents filed by prosecutors. He also served in the U.S. Marine Corps from 1988 to 1993 and in the Army National Guard for about two years in the mid-90s.

Agents with the FBI field office in Baltimore and the Coast Guard Investigative Service arrested Hasson on Friday, FBI Baltimore spokesman Dave Fitz confirmed.

A Coast Guard spokesman, Lt. Cmdr. Scott McBride, said Wednesday that Hasson no longer works at Coast Guard headquarters.

"An active duty Coast Guard member stationed at Coast Guard Headquarters in Washington, D.C., was arrested last week on illegal weapons and drug charges as a result of an ongoing investigation led by Coast Guard Investigation Services, in cooperation with the FBI and the Dept. of Justice," McBride said in a written statement. McBride declined to comment further, citing the open investigation.

Court documents do not detail what prompted federal law enforcement to begin investigating Hasson, but they say Hasson has been studying the 1,500-page manifesto of right-wing terrorist Anders Behring Breivik, who unleashed two attacks in 2011 that killed 77 in Norway. They say Hasson's attack preparations resembled Breivik's.

The manifesto outlined how Breivik planned and prepared his attacks with the aim of providing an outline for others planning similar terrorist operations, the U.S. court filings say.

Breivik took steroids and narcotics, believing it would heighten his abilities to carry out attacks. When law enforcement raided Hasson's apartment, they said they found a locked container loaded with more than 30 vials of what appeared to be human growth hormones. He has also ordered more than 4,200 pills of the narcotic Tramadol since 2016, along with synthetic urine to allegedly bypass possible random drug screenings at work, they said.

Breivik encouraged identifying targets and traitors. In recent weeks, they said, Hasson developed a spreadsheet of targets that included top Democratic congressional leaders and media personalities. The list includes "JOEY," what prosecutors say is a reference to former Rep. Joe Scarborough, R-Fla., who works for MSNBC; "cortez," an alleged reference to freshman Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-New York; and "Sen blumen jew," presumably about Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn.

Authorities seized 15 firearms, including several long guns and rifles, and more than 1,000 rounds of ammunition from his basement apartment after executing a search warrant this month. Over the past two years, he had made nearly two dozen purchases of firearms or related equipment and made thousands of visits to websites that sell weapons or tactical gear.

Authorities said Hasson harbored extremist views for years.

"The defendant is a domestic terrorist," the government said in court filings, "bent, on committing acts dangerous to human life that are intended to affect governmental conduct."

In an email he drafted in June 2017, he contemplated biological attacks and targeting food supplies, according to court filings. He considered the merits of a "bombing/sniper campaign" and included a "Things to do" list that included purchasing land "out west or possibly NC mtns" for family and researching tactics used during the civil war in Ukraine.

"During unrest target both sides to increase tension," Hasson wrote in the email, according to the court filings. "In other words provoke gov/police to over react which should help to escalate violence. BLM protests or other left crap would be ideal to incite to violence."

In another letter drafted months later to an American neo-Nazi leader, Hasson called for a "white homeland." He sent the letter to himself nearly two months after the neo-Nazi rally in Charlottesville, Virginia, where torch-carrying white-supremacists clashed with anti-racist protesters.

"I never saw a reason for mass protest or wearing uniforms marching around provoking people with swastikas etc.," Hasson said in the letter, according to court filings. "I was and am a man of action you cannot change minds protesting like that. However you can make change with a little focused violence."

Hasson's commitment to destruction appeared to increase in recent weeks, according to details from prosecutors. He created a list of "traitors" and targets on Jan. 19 in a spreadsheet on his work computer, they said, which was created two days after he conducted a series of internet inquiries:

8:54 a.m.: "what if trump illegally impeached"

8:57 a.m.: "best place in dc to see congress people"

8:58 a.m.: "where in dc to congress live"

10:39 a.m.: "civil war if trump impeached"

11:26 a.m.: "social democrats usa"

- - -

The Washington Post’s Dan Lamothe contributed to this report.

Letter: The governor’s budget

Wed, 2019-02-20 14:09

Gov. Mike Dunleavy and his budget director Donna Arduin should have shown more compassion towards the citizens of Alaska by giving (as promised) the full Permanent Fund dividend back-payout in their budget this year. At least we would have a down payment for our moving expenses when our employers and communities bear the brunt of their proposed budget cuts.

I hope the remaining voters will ask questions, kick the tires and take a closer look ‘under the hood’ before they cast their next precious vote.

- Sandy Stolle

Seward

Have something on your mind? Send to letters@adn.com 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.

Staying warm on the Iditarod Trail with Russian Tea

Wed, 2019-02-20 14:03

Pour hot water over the spice and drink mixture.


The lake here at the Finger Lake Checkpoint along the Iditarod has come alive. Chatter between the lodge and volunteer Iditarod pilots on the VHF radio is fast and furious as the ten or so race checkers who will inhabit our lake for the next few days fly in with supplies and gear.

The checkers set up tents along the frozen lake near the shore to protect themselves from any wind or weather that might occur. A miniature village will spring up in the matter of hours, with straw bales for seats, a watering hole, a cook tent, and sleeping quarters. This year there is a small communications satellite positioned on the lake and the communications people now have a telephone. There seems to be advances every year.

This is the fifteenth year our lodge has served as support for the race at Finger Lake. I, along with my hardworking kitchen team including Mandy, Elizabeth and Carlyle, will cook meals for all the mushers who pass through and request one. Our kitchen becomes a hub of activity as mushers talk, socialize, and warm up a bit.

Most of the checkers here are veterinarians, from all over the world, it seems. They examine the race dogs, care for any dropped dogs, and they all frequently stop to pet my elderly black Labrador, Willow, who is always a little flummoxed by the hubbub on her lake.

Tonight the trailbreakers -- eight men on snow machines who ensure the trail is in good enough condition for the sled dogs -- will come through and stay with us. Big Roger, as he is known, and his crew will repair damage to the trail from their last visit created by wayward snowmachiners who have inadvertently created alternate routes, ruts or other hazards. The trailbreakers will eat with our staff in the kitchen and fill us in on any gossip along the trail.

The checkers will go through their boxes of food and discover what might be available to cook for dinner. Usually there is someone in the group that has an affinity for cooking over a small camp stove and will take the lead on meal preparations. The food is mostly donated and some is purchased. It's fare such as boxed noodle mix and crackers, ground beef and canned vegetables. Some checkers will pride themselves in how creative they might get with a one-skillet meal.

In the boxes of supplies for checkers, there is always that famous orange powdered drink, an essential ingredient in Russian tea. I can't figure out why or when the tradition of blending hot orange drink with hot tea started but I've been hearing about it ever since I first came to Alaska. And, every Iditarod, there seems to be plenty of orange drink going around. Joe Redington swore by hot orange drink, saying the intense orange flavor offered a jolt to otherwise dulled taste buds on the trail.

I think tonight, after the staff meal is underway, I might slip down to the tent village on my lake, sit on a bale of straw and sip some hot Russian tea with a few of the checkers. Perhaps we'll see the northern lights and be glad we are here together along the Iditarod Trail.

You can make Russian Tea in the traditional style or a more modern version using orange juice, lemon tea or lemon juice and other non-processed ingredients.


Lodge employee Neil Lippincott likes Russian Tea.

Traditional Russian tea

(makes four servings)

Ingredients:

2 tablespoons powdered orange drink, like Tang

2 tablespoons powdered lemon drink

Pinch of ground cinnamon

Pinch of ground cloves

1 large lemon peel

1-2 tea bags (your choice of variety -- we used black tea)

Method: Combine the powders and spices into a heatproof container. Hang the tea bag (or bags) over the container and pour in 4 cups of boiling water. Stir the mixture and serve hot.

Dimond Lynx post rare victory at East gym to grab sole possession of CIC basketball lead

Wed, 2019-02-20 14:01

East High senior Kaeleb Johnson defends as Dimond High junior Isaiah Moses drives to the basket during the Lynx 52-45 victory over the Thunderbirds. (Bill Roth/ ADN) (Bill Roth / ADN/)

The Dimond Lynx edged the East Thunderbirds 52-45 Tuesday night at East High to gain sole possession of first place in the Cook Inlet Conference.

The teams entered the game with identical records. Before Tuesday, Dimond’s only conference loss of the season was a 50-49 setback to East.

Dimond (20-2 overall, 9-1 CIC) won its sixth straight game while ending an eight-game winning streak for the Thunderbirds (8-2, 19-3).

“I’ve coached a long time, and I can count the number of wins at East High School on one hand," said Dimond coach Brad Lauwers.

The Lynx shot 41 percent (18 of 43) to the Thunderbirds’ 31 percent (16 of 51).

“They played better than us just in the simple fact that they put the ball in the basket,” East coach Chuck Martin said. “They outrebounded us, but they had a lot more opportunities for rebounds because we shot 31 percent and they shot 41 percent. They were a lot better around the rim than we were."


East's 6-10 senior Andrew Graves (13) and Dimond's 6-7 senior Evan Hoosier (44) battle for a rebound. (Bill Roth/ ADN) (Bill Roth / ADN/)

The Lynx and Thunderbirds seemed evenly matched for majority of the game, but poor shooting around the rim and a lack of rebounding led to East’s downfall.

Andrew Graves, East’s 6-foot-10 senior, picked up three fouls in the first half, which sidelined him early. That enabled 6-8 senior Evan Hoosier of Dimond to feast in the paint and snag multiple offensive rebounds.

All of Dimond’s points were scored by four players, with senior Noah Brandon and junior Isaiah Moses both pouring in game-highs of 18. Junior Jaren Carle pitched in 10 points and Hoosier added six points and seven rebounds.

“This game means a little more since they’re such a good team, but I think we stayed poised the whole game and we played with great confidence,” said Moses.


East High senior Jaron Williams looks to pass the ball during the Thunderbirds' 52-45 home loss to the Dimond Lynx on Tuesday evening, Feb 19, 2019. (Bill Roth/ ADN) (Bill Roth / ADN/)

East’s backcourt led the scoring, with senior Kaeleb Johnson tallying 18 points and senior Jaron Williams adding nine.

The Lynx have been in the state championship game the past three years and East has not missed the state tournament since 2012. Though the teams won’t see each other again in the regular season, a postseason meeting is probable.

“We know we’re going to see them again since they’re a really good team," Moses said. “We’re ready.”


Dimond High junior Isaiah Moses attempts to move the ball down court past East High defenders Jaron Williams (10) and Hasaan Herrington (2) during the Lynx 52-45 victory over the Thunderbirds at East High on Tuesday evening, Feb 19, 2019. (Bill Roth/ ADN) (Bill Roth / ADN/)

Teen tried to sell pieces of gold nugget stolen from bank headquarters, Anchorage police say

Wed, 2019-02-20 13:56

A teenager who attempted to sell pieces of a gold nugget stolen from Wells Fargo corporate headquarters in Anchorage was arrested Monday, police said.

Austin M. Sala, 19, tried to sell parts of a gold nugget taken Friday from a display case at the bank headquarters, located at 301 W. Northern Lights Blvd., police said in an alert Wednesday.

The officer who responded to the theft last week warned several pawnshops that the nugget had been stolen, police said. On Monday, an employee of Gold Buyers of Alaska in Eagle River called police to report three people in the store were trying to sell pieces of a gold nugget that had been cut up.

Officers arrived and Sala was arrested on a previous felony warrant for weapons misconduct and assault. He was also charged with theft, police said. He was out of jail on $5,000 bond when he was arrested, according to online court records.

A woman who was with Sala at the pawnshop was also questioned by detectives but wasn’t charged.

Police do not believe Sala is the person who originally stole the nugget. That suspect is described as a white man between the ages of 35 and 40 who is about 5 feet, 8 inches tall with long brown hair. He was wearing a white coat at the time of the theft, police said.

Police are asking anyone with information about the theft to call police dispatch at 311 or Crime Stoppers at 907-561-STOP. Police are also taking anonymous tips at anchoragecrimestoppers.com.

Supreme Court limits power of states and localities to impose fines and seize property

Wed, 2019-02-20 13:13

Visitors enter the Supreme Court as a winter snow storm hits the nation's capital making roads perilous and closing most Federal offices and all major public school districts, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Feb. 20, 2019. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) (J. Scott Applewhite/)

WASHINGTON - The Supreme Court ruled unanimously Wednesday that the Constitution’s prohibition on excessive fines applies to state and local governments, limiting their abilities to impose financial penalties and seize property.

The decision delighted critics of civil asset forfeiture, who welcomed it as a new weapon in their war against what's been labeled "policing for profit" - the practice of seizing cash, cars and other property from those convicted, or even suspected, of committing a crime.

Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg, on her second day back on the bench after undergoing cancer surgery in December, announced the court's decision, saying the Eighth Amendment's Excessive Fines Clause protects against government retribution at all levels.

"For good reason, the protection against excessive fines has been a constant shield throughout Anglo-American history: Exorbitant tolls undermine other constitutional liberties," Ginsburg wrote. "Excessive fines can be used, for example, to retaliate against or chill the speech of political enemies. . . . Even absent a political motive, fines may be employed in a measure out of accord with the penal goals of retribution and deterrence."

Groups as diverse as the American Civil Liberties Union and the U.S. Chamber of Commerce warned the Supreme Court of abuses, with the chamber touting a national study that found "60 percent of the 1,400 municipal and county agencies surveyed across the country relied on forfeiture profits as a 'necessary' part of their budget.' "

The case at the court involved Tyson Timbs of Marion, Indiana, who had his $42,000 Land Rover SUV seized after his arrest for selling a couple hundred dollars' worth of heroin. Timbs has sued to get it back, and while Wednesday's decision did not dictate that outcome, it gave him a new day in court.

"Increasingly, our justice system has come to rely on fines, fees and forfeitures to fund law enforcement agencies rather than having to answer to elected officials for their budgets," said Scott Bullock, the president and general counsel of the Institute for Justice, which represented Timbs. "This is not just an ominous trend; it is a dangerous one."

The ACLU's brief said that in 2017, 10 million people owed more than $50 billion in criminal fines, fees, and forfeitures. It described how a $100 ticket for a red-light violation in California carried an additional $390 in fees, and how New Jersey's fine of $100 for marijuana possession could lead to more than $1,000 penalty for a poor person represented by a public defender.

Some justices, too, had become worried about the state and local efforts.

Justice Clarence Thomas wrote in a recent opinion that civil forfeitures have "become widespread and highly profitable."

"This system - where police can seize property with limited judicial oversight and retain it for their own use - has led to egregious and well-chronicled abuses," Thomas wrote, referring to reporting by the New Yorker, and an investigative series in The Washington Post that chronicled how aggressive policing tactics resulted in hundreds of millions of dollars collected from motorists not charged with crimes.

The issue has been divisive at the federal level as well. Democratic Attorney General Eric Holder restricted the Department of Justice's reliance on civil asset forfeitures, but Republican Jeff Sessions championed the program. A bipartisan group of senators objected to the Sessions initiative.

But those issues were largely missing in Ginsburg's crisp nine-page opinion. The issue, Institute of Justice Lawyer Wesley Hottot said at oral argument in the case, was a simple matter of "constitutional housekeeping."

The Constitution's Bill of Rights protects against actions of the federal government. But the Supreme Court over time has applied it to state and local governments under the due-process clause of the 14th Amendment. In 2010, for instance, the court held that the Second Amendment applied to state and local government laws on gun control.

The Eighth Amendment states: "Excessive bail shall not be required, nor excessive fines imposed, nor cruel and unusual punishments inflicted." Two of those commands - regarding bail and cruel and unusual punishments - have been deemed to apply to state and local governments. But until now, the ban on excessive fines had not.

The Indiana Supreme Court was among a handful of state high courts that had said that part of the Eighth Amendment did not apply to state actions.

Timbs provided the test case. The factory worker said in an interview before the Supreme Court hearing that he became reliant on painkillers after a foot injury. He moved from Ohio to Marion, Indiana, to live with his aunt and to try to make a fresh start.

With money he received from a life insurance policy after his father's death, Timbs bought the Land Rover. "The rest of the money I spent on drugs," he said. When that ran out, he undertook the small-time heroin dealing.

After he pleaded guilty to selling to an undercover agent, Timbs was sentenced to home detention, probation and a court-supervised treatment program for addiction.

Indiana then hired a private law firm to file a lawsuit forcing Timbs to forfeit the car, under a state law that allows seizure of vehicles used "to facilitate violation of a criminal statute."

Timbs sued to get the car back, and a judge agreed, citing the Excessive Fines Clause and saying "forfeiture of the Land Rover . . . was grossly disproportionate to the gravity" of the crime. He noted the maximum monetary penalty for Timbs's crime was $10,000.

But the Indiana Supreme Court held that the excessive-fines clause did not apply to the states. Citing Indiana's status as "a sovereign state within our federal system," the court said it would not "impose federal obligations on the state that the federal government itself has not mandated."

Three other states - Michigan, Mississippi and Montana - also take that position.

The Supreme Court's opinion Wednesday does not take a position on whether Indiana's seizure of the Land Rover was excessive. It holds only that the Indiana Supreme Court was wrong to say that the Eighth Amendment did not apply.

But Ginsburg noted the lower court's finding that the value of Timbs' vehicle was "more than four times the maximum $10,000 monetary fine assessable against him for his drug conviction."

Ginsburg's opinion said that the Excessive Fine Clause is incorporated to apply to state and local government under the 14th Amendment's Due Process Clause, the traditional way the court makes such decisions. Justices Thomas and Neil Gorsuch agreed with the outcome, but said they would have relied on a different part of the 14th Amendment.

The case is Timbs v. Indiana.

Alabama woman who joined Islamic State can’t return to US, Trump administration says

Wed, 2019-02-20 12:15

WASHINGTON — An Alabama woman who left home to join the Islamic State group in Syria is not a U.S. citizen and will not be allowed to return to the United States, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo said Wednesday.


This undated image provided by attorney Hassan Shibly shows Hoda Muthana, an Alabama woman who left home to join the Islamic State after becoming radicalized online. Muthana realized she was wrong and now wants to return to the United States, Shibly, a lawyer for her family said Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2019. (Hoda Muthana/Attorney Hassan Shibly via AP)

In a brief statement that gave no details as to how the determination was reached, Pompeo said Hoda Muthana, who says she made a mistake in joining the group and now wants to return with her 18-month-old son, has no “legal basis” to claim American citizenship.

"Ms. Hoda Muthana is not a U.S. citizen and will not be admitted into the United States," Pompeo said. "She does not have any legal basis, no valid U.S. passport, no right to a passport nor any visa to travel to the United States."

Muthana's status had been considered by lawyers from the departments of State and Justice since her case arose, according to one U.S. official who was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity. The official would not elaborate but said Pompeo's statement was based on the lawyers' conclusions.

An attorney for the woman's family, Hassan Shibly, said the administration's position is based on a "complicated" interpretation of the law involving her father.

"They're claiming her dad was a diplomat when she was born, which, in fact, he wasn't," Shibly told The Associated Press.

Muthana was born in 1994 in Hackensack, New Jersey, the lawyer said.

Most people born in the United States are accorded so-called birthright citizenship but there are exceptions.

Under the Immigration and Nationality Act, a person born in the U.S. to a foreign diplomatic officer is not subject to U.S. law and is not automatically considered a U.S. citizen at birth.

The 24-year-old, who joined the Islamic State after becoming radicalized, says she regrets aligning herself with the terrorist organization and wants to return to the United States, Shibly said on Tuesday. He said Muthana is putting herself at risk by speaking out against ISIS from a refugee camp where she has lived since fleeing the group a few weeks ago.

Muthana, who dodged sniper fire and roadside bombs to escape, is ready to pay the penalty for her actions but wants freedom and safety for the son she had with one of two IS fighters she wed, he said. Both men were killed in combat.

In a handwritten letter released by Shibly, Muthana wrote that she made "a big mistake" by rejecting her family and friends in the United States to join the Islamic State.

"During my years in Syria I would see and experience a way of life and the terrible effects of war which changed me," she wrote.

After fleeing her home in suburban Birmingham in late 2014 and resurfacing in Syria, Muthana used social media to advocate violence against the United States. In the letter, Muthana wrote that she didn't understand the importance of freedoms provided by the United States at the time.

"To say that I regret my past words, any pain that I caused my family and any concerns I would cause my country would be hard for me to really express properly," said the letter.

Shibly said Muthana was brainwashed online before she left Alabama and now could have valuable intelligence for U.S. forces, but he said the FBI didn't seem interested in retrieving her from the refugee camp where she is living with her son.

Muthana's father would welcome the woman back, Shibly said, but she is not on speaking terms with her mother.

Ashfaq Taufique, who knows Muthana's family and is president of the Birmingham Islamic Society, said the woman could be a valuable resource for teaching young people about the dangers of online radicalization were she allowed to return to the United States.

"Her coming back could be a very positive thing for our community and our country," Taufique said.

___

Reeves reported from Birmingham, Alabama.

Don’t believe the hype. Pebble is as risky as ever.

Wed, 2019-02-20 11:42

Chistian Alexie, 4, attends a rally outside the Hotel Captain Cook on Monday, Aug. 21, 2017. The protesters are strongly opposed to the proposed mine and are dedicated to protecting the Bristol Bay wild salmon runs that sustain indigenous cultures and fish-based businesses. (Bill Roth / Alaska Dispatch News) (Bill Roth/)

I listened to a discussion hosted by the Alaska Forum on the Environment between Pebble Partnership CEO Tom Collier and former Alaska State Senator Rick Halford, a Pebble opponent. Like many Alaskans, I’ve followed this issue closely, especially since it would impact my home. I was appalled at the lies spread by Mr. Collier during the presentation and owe great thanks to Mr. Halford for correcting him and telling the truth. I want to clear up a few points upon which Pebble is trying to mislead Alaskans, especially as we go into an important public comment period.

Pebble claims that they have “de-risked” the concerns Alaskans have raised about Pebble Mine. In reality, the mine remains as risky as it was 10 years ago, and new rhetoric is a thinly-veiled ruse to win public support and then expand the mine in 25 years once the initial damage is done and the infrastructure built. This is clear in how the project is being sold to investors, such as when Northern Dynasty (Pebble’s parent company) CEO, Ron Thiessen stated, “this project, it’s a multi-generational opportunity. Its size and scale will lead to a very, very long-life mine.”

Next, some of Pebble’s “no harm to the fishery” claims are based on an unreasonable assumption that no mistakes would be made, as well as on their removal of cyanide, at least in Phase One. A recent quote by Thiessen is quite contrary to that claim: “We said we’ll take it out for now, but … we can always reconsider that optionality in the future.” Further, cyanide is just one of many environmental concerns. The mine pit and its infrastructure will use unimaginable amounts of water and damage important wildlife and fish habitat regardless of design, and the tailings dams represent a forever risk to our waterways.

Collier says they will stay out of the Kvichak River drainage, but if you look closely at their plans, they cross dozens of salmon-bearing rivers, will be transporting mine materials across Lake Iliamna by ferry and have plans to withdraw massive amounts of water from Upper Talarik Creek, an important river for subsistence and sport fishing.

Mr. Collier also tried to hit economic points, but again skirted around the obvious. The Bristol Bay fishery is thriving. Last summer, a record return of sockeye powered a booming regional economy even in the recession, and Bristol Bay was the only region in the state to meet all escapement goals. At best, Pebble presents a “boom and bust” economic scenario for Bristol Bay, and comes at the price of trading in the fishery that has sustained our region forever. Pebble touts a potential 2,000 jobs for Alaskans. Meanwhile, the subsistence fishery feeds our families every year, and the Bristol Bay commercial fishery alone supplies more than 14,000 jobs, and that doesn’t account for over 70 sport-fishing lodges throughout the region, all of which rely on healthy fisheries and the remote, wild character that Pebble stands to ruin.

Finally, the mine permit review process came up many times. Our state leaders’ choice to let the process play out before they weigh in is failing Alaskans. The process is set up to ask “how” to best build Phase-One Pebble, not “if” it should advance at all. We can’t fall back on this process to protect us, and the reasons for that are as ample as Pebble’s falsehoods about mine size. The permit the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers is reviewing is constantly changing (with new updates as late as last week), missing key components and due diligence by Pebble, and the project it describes is just a fraction of the development we know Pebble is planning. The Army Corps review isn’t terribly thorough either: It doesn’t even include a comprehensive analysis of a tailings dam failure. Our leaders should be speaking up for our concerns, not waiting for the deeply flawed process to play out.

Tom Collier is a compelling speaker and is working hard to give Pebble a “fresh look,” as he puts it. I’d work hard too, if I had a deadline to meet to get a $12.5 million personal bonus. However, with a little background information, open eyes about the region and a basic understanding that water flows downhill and forever is a long time, the whole Pebble Mine case gets boiled down to four simple words: wrong mine, wrong place. And I’ll add one more: forever.

Alaskans don’t want Pebble. We didn’t 10 years ago; we don’t now. Alaskans, please, stand strong and don’t fall for the lies Collier and team are spreading. Don’t let Collier get his bonus at our expense. Do what you can to help protect the incredible fishery, our Native cultures and thousands of American jobs in Bristol Bay from this mine. Please speak up every chance you get, including commenting on the just-released Draft Environmental Impact Statement.

Holly Wysocki is a lifelong Bristol Bay resident and subsistence/commercial fisherwoman.

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 letters@adn.com or click here to submit via any web browser. Read our full guidelines for letters and commentaries here.

‘Person of interest’ in fatal Anchorage shooting sought by police

Wed, 2019-02-20 11:41

Anchorage police are asking for public help finding a woman who may have information about what they’re calling a drug-related shooting near downtown Anchorage this month that left a woman dead.


Anchorage police are asking for the public’s help in locating 38-year-old Falesavili J. Mataia in connection with the homicide of Salisa Loucks on February 4, 2019. (Courtesy Anchorage Police Department)

Detectives are looking for Falesavili J. Mataia, 38, who they believe may have information about the death of 30-year-old Salisa Loucks, police said.

Officers found Loucks dead in a Jeep SUV in an alley on the 200 block of East 12th Avenue late on Feb. 4. She had been shot in the upper body, according to police.

Police described Mataia as 5-foot-9 and 185 pounds with black hair and brown eyes.

Investigators ask anyone with information about Mataia’s whereabouts to call dispatch at 311 or Crime Stoppers at 907-561-STOP to remain anonymous. Police are also taking anonymous tips at anchoragecrimestoppers.com.

Trump administration advances Alaska’s Pebble gold project with release of draft environmental review

Wed, 2019-02-20 11:30

An aerial view of a work camp in the area of the proposed Pebble mine in Iliamna, seen on Aug. 27, 2013. (Bill Roth / ADN archive) (MCT/)

The Trump administration on Wednesday unveiled the first-ever draft environmental review of the controversial Pebble gold and copper project.

The report is a key step in the regulatory process and will lead to a public comment period for the Southwest Alaska mine that has been in the works for more than a decade, the U.S. Army Corps said Wednesday.

The agency is expected to later release a final report and make a final decision on how development should proceed at the giant prospect in the Bristol Bay region.

A tribal group on Wednesday immediately slammed the ‘woefully inadequate” report, saying it ignores major impacts to fish and people from the region. The draft review shows the process is rigged for Pebble, said Alannah Hurley, United Tribes of Bristol Bay executive director.

“The Army Corps’ review ignores the very real concerns about the changes and devastation Pebble would bring to our region, and is clearly the result a rushed process that has ignored local voices and ignores the existing science in the Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment that shows how devastating this project would be in Bristol Bay,” Hurley said.

Developer Pebble Limited Partnership said Wednesday it believes the review demonstrates that its proposed 20-year mine plan can be done in an environmentally responsible way.

“Our preliminary review of the DEIS shows no major data gaps or substantive impacts that cannot be appropriately mitigated,” said Tom Collier, chief executive of Pebble Limited. “We see no significant environmental challenges that would preclude the project from getting a permit and this shows Alaska stakeholders that there is a clear path forward for this project that could potentially generate significant economic activity, tax revenue and thousands of jobs.”

The report, broken down into several chapters and supporting documents, is available electronically at the federal agency’s Pebble Project website, pebbleprojecteis.com.

If built, the open-pit mine would be about 200 miles southwest of Anchorage, straddling salmon-producing headwaters of the valuable Bristol Bay fishery.

Plans submitted by developer Pebble Limited Partnership call for extracting 1.3 billion tons of ore and 200 million tons of waste rock over 20 years. They include a 188-mile natural gas pipeline crossing Cook Inlet, construction of a port in the Inlet, and a tailings dam with an embankment 600 feet high

[Pebble unveils long-awaited smaller mine plan]

The dam, for storing finely ground waste material and wastewater, attracted the most attention during the last round of public comments about what the Corps should consider in its draft environmental report. The agency heard a range of concerns, including on the impacts of a dangerous dam failure like those that have occurred elsewhere, such as at British Columbia’s Mount Polley mine in 2014.

The draft review analyzes the impact of various development scenarios, including no development. The first alternative listed would accept Pebble’s proposed development plan.

One option proposes reducing the length of access roads and altering construction plans for the tailings storage facility. Another would eliminate a ferry crossing at Iliamna Lake that would transport materials.

A 90-day public comment period is expected to begin March 1, after the report is published in the Federal Register, said John Budnik, a spokesman with the Army Corps in Alaska.

“The intent is to give people time to digest it, read the document, think about their comments and provide the feedback we’re looking for,” Budnik said.

Public meetings on the report are planned to be held in Anchorage and Homer, and the rural Alaska communities of Dillingham, Igiugig, Kokhanok, Naknek, Newhalen, New Stuyahok and Nondalton.

The draft report, called an environmental impact statement, can also be viewed electronically at libraries across the state, the Corps said.

This story will be updated as more information is available.

Photos: February’s full moon was a stunner

Wed, 2019-02-20 11:26

The Feb. 19 full moon was among three supermoons for 2019, according to Farmer’s Almanac. January, February and March all have supermoons, but February’s appeared to be the largest and brightest.

Sentencing of former Arizona lawmaker for Alaska murder delayed again

Wed, 2019-02-20 11:02

JUNEAU - Sentencing has again been delayed for a former Arizona state legislator who last year was convicted of first-degree murder in the death of a man at a remote cabin in Southeast Alaska.

Mark Desimone was found guilty in May of killing Duilio Antonio “Tony” Rosales during a 2016 hunting and fishing trip.

Sentencing has twice been delayed. It has now been set for June 17 to accommodate travel for Rosales' family.

During trial, his attorney didn’t dispute Desimone fatally shot Rosales, but unsuccessfully argued it was an accident and a lack of motive was a huge hole in the prosecutor’s case.

Desimone resigned from the Arizona House in 2008 after being arrested in a domestic dispute with his then-wife. That case was dropped when he agreed to counseling.

Eliminating alcohol, marijuana control boards will create a bureacratic nightmare

Wed, 2019-02-20 10:07

iStock / Getty Images (Panpetch Petchphloy/)

The liquor and marijuana industries had better fight for their lives against this latest proposal by the Dunleavy administration to remove their regulatory boards and put that power in the hands of the commissioner in the Commerce Department.

To suggest this is being done to save the state money is disingenuous. The present boards’ expenses are more than offset by revenue raised from license fees. The move will amount to nothing more than a giant bureaucratic power grab.

There is, and has been maintained by hard-fought legislative efforts from all sides over many years, a delicate balance of power on the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, of which I have been chairman on two different occasions. Such a balance is a necessity for having a properly regulated industry that is at the same time allowed to operate in a hospitable and profitable environment. History shows that when you do not have a healthy industry with licensed, responsible licensees, bad things happen.

When the industry was placed under the Department of Law by the Murkowski administration, that was bad enough. No legal industry should be overseen and regulated by the cops, but, at 76 years of age, I am one of the few around who can remember when the director of the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, Claude Millsap, had a vote on the board. Director Millsap is credited with starting the first Alcoholics Anonymous club in Juneau, hardly an unbiased recommendation for the position. That fifth vote gave him the swing vote on the board. I mean no disrespect to a man who recently passed away, but he was, in fact, simply a tyrant.

I am retired and no longer in the industry, but my ex-employees continue to operate Chilkoot Charlie’s and I fear for their welfare. Giving regulatory power to a commissioner with an enforcement staff and no board to answer to is a nightmare scenario if I ever dreamed of one.

Mike Gordon, now retired, is the former owner of Chilkoot Charlie’s.

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 letters@adn.com or click here to submit via any web browser. Read our full guidelines for letters and commentaries here.

Donley should step down from school board

Wed, 2019-02-20 08:56

Anchorage School Board candidate Dave Donley watches the results come in at Election Central on April 4, 2017.(Marc Lester / Alaska Dispatch News) (Alaska Dispatch News/)

Recently, Dave Donley was hired as a deputy commissioner of the Department of Administration. Mr. Donley has taken this executive-level state position with a compensation of $157,000 annually ($20,000 more than most deputy commissioners and $12,000 more than the governor), while at the same time holding a seat on the Anchorage School Board (compensation $23,816). Although Mr. Donley’s new executive position in the Dunleavy administration will surely require him to deal with many issues that relate directly to Anchorage schools, he has not indicated he will resign from his school board seat. I see several conflicts with his new role with the state.

Mr. Donley’s new deputy commissioner role with the Department of Administration will support the implementation of centralized administrative services to all state agencies. Mr. Donley’s department provides hundreds of state functions, including oversight of the Alaska Public Offices Commission, the Office of Administrative Hearings, the Department of Motor Vehicles, Personnel and Labor Relations, and the State’s Retirement and Benefits section, to name a few. It In other words, the Department of Administration is in every town’s state office and deals with every state department, including those that deal with some Anchorage School Board’s responsibilities.

What duties will Mr. Donley be assigned in his service as deputy commissioner? Will he oversee the State Retirement and Benefits Section, where all of Alaska’s present and retired school teachers have their retirement funds housed and managed? Will he have authority over the health care plans offered to school districts?

Most importantly, Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s budget shows a deficit of $1.6 billion for 2019 on top of our $263 million deficit for 2018. With Alaska education a significant part of the state’s budget, there is every chance there will be proposals from the Dunleavy administration to reduce or adjust funds going toward education. Will Mr. Donley, as an executive-level state administrator, support the Dunleavy administration in cuts to education funding that will directly affect the Anchorage School District?

Perhaps as an executive in the Department of Administration, Mr. Donley will be assigned oversight of the Alaska Public Offices Commission (APOC) and all lobbyists in the state.

The Anchorage School Board hired lobbyist Wendy Chamberlain to lobby for ASD issues, with compensation of $50,000 per year.

Mr. Donley himself has been a lobbyist for the past several years, and the state’s APOC website now shows his wife Jamie Donley as a brand-new lobbyist, with her client paying a $25,000 fee for services. How will Mr. Donley handle these potential conflicts?

Shamelessness has sharply increased in our society recently, but public service is still a noble cause, not an opportunity to ‘get mine.' There are obvious conflicts with Mr. Donley as a school board member and a deputy commissioner, and Mr. Donley should do the right thing and resign from his Anchorage School Board seat to reduce the serious conflicts that will arise from his executive-level post with the state government.

Suzanne Little is a founding member of Great Alaska Schools. She lives in Anchorage.

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 letters@adn.com or click here to submit via any web browser. Read our full guidelines for letters and commentaries here.

Pages