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Plane crash reported at mouth of Tutka Bay near Homer, troopers say

Fri, 2019-07-19 12:00

Troopers are responding to reports of a plane crash near the mouth of the Tutka Bay near Homer, according to a spokesman.

No additional information was immediately available, troopers said.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Bullet from accidental Anchorage shooting hits man’s head, bounces off

Fri, 2019-07-19 11:58

An Anchorage man escaped serious injury when a bullet fired from an apartment above him penetrated his ceiling and hit him in the head.

Anchorage police say the man in the lower apartment on Wednesday night was seated on his couch, holding his toddler.

The bullet bounced off the man's skull. The man was transported to a hospital, where he was treated and released.

Investigators determined that the bullet was fired by 46-year-old Ronny Smith Jr.

Police say Smith was manipulating a handgun when it fired into the floor.

Smith is a convicted felon prohibited from possessing a handgun.

He was arrested on charges of felony assault, possessing a weapon as a felon, and reckless endangerment. He remained jailed Friday.

Online court documents do not list his attorney.

Two men rescued from Mount Marathon after fleeing bear

Fri, 2019-07-19 11:57

A father and son from Hungary were rescued off Mount Marathon Wednesday evening after leaving a trail they were hiking due to a bear encounter, according to the Alaska National Guard.

The hikers, Gabor Toth, 47, and son, Ben Toth, 14, were unable to navigate back to the trail they’d fled because of difficult terrain on the mountain, officials said. The hikers requested help from Alaska Sate Troopers who then notified the Alaska Rescue Coordination Center for search and rescue assistance.

Easily accessed from downtown Seward, Mount Marathon stands 2,974 feet in the Kenai Mountains. It’s home to the popular Fourth of July mountain race that’s the oldest in Alaska.

It wasn’t immediately clear where on the mountain the two men became trapped on Wednesday.

An Alaska Army National Guard medevac unit and two pararescuemen rescued two hikers on July 17 at Mt. Marathon in Seward.

Rescuers from the Alaska Army and Air Guards, flying in a Black Hawk helicopter, located the hikers and were able to use a hoist to lift the men off the mountain, said officials. They were recovered safely around 5:30 p.m.

The hikers were flown to Seward airport where a trooper drove the men to their vehicle in Seward, said an agency spokesman.

Seward residents occasionally report problems with bears, but negative contact is fairly rare, said Jeff Selinger, a biologist and management coordinator with the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

“We get occasional interactions with bear, but I haven’t heard anything specifically pointing out Mount Marathon as a hot spot,” said Selinger.

Letter: The ‘brain drain’ is real

Fri, 2019-07-19 11:40

When we talk about the brain drain that will come from the budget cuts, we are talking about me and my students. I am Inupiaq, and from Kotzebue. I earned a bachelor’s degree in medical microbiology and immunology and a Ph.D. in microbiology in the Lower 48. One of the few Alaska Natives with a Ph.D., I now teach microbiology to University of Alaska Anchorage students and have trained more than 30 people in my research laboratory. My students learn how microbes help us grow and protect us against pathogens.

While Outside for 20 years, I missed funerals and births, and lost my language, dances and connection with the land. I love that my students, mostly from Alaska and 10% of whom are Alaska Native/American Indian, can get a quality education while close to home. My students will feel the budget cuts through decreased course offerings and increased tuition, and will struggle with a weaker economy, fewer resources, and increased levels of crime and social problems in Alaska.

I am also a mom with elderly parents in rural Alaska. The governor’s cuts will impact my kids’ education, my parent’s ability to live off the land, and the health and safety of my family and friends all over Alaska. I came back, but may have to leave again due to the impact the budget cuts will have on my family, friends and students.

— Kat Milligan-Myre, Ph.D.

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.

Fast-growing web of doorbell cams, bolstered by support from police across U.S., raises privacy fears

Fri, 2019-07-19 11:37

In this Tuesday, July 16, 2019, photo, Ernie Field holds up a live video of himself taken by a Ring doorbell camera at the front door at his home in Wolcott, Conn. Field won a free Ring camera and said he had to register for the app to qualify for the raffle. Now he gets alerts on his phone when a car drives by and a 30-second video when his daughter gets home from school. (AP Photo/Jessica Hill) (Jessica Hill/)

The woodsy community of Wolcott, Connecticut, doesn’t see a lot of crime. But when the police chief heard about an opportunity to distribute doorbell cameras to some homes, he didn’t hesitate.

The police who keep watch over the town of 16,000 raffled off free cameras in a partnership with the camera manufacturer. So far, the devices have encountered more bears than criminals, but Chief Ed Stephens is still a fan. "Anything that helps keep the town safe, I'm going to do it," he said.

But as more police agencies join with the company known as Ring, the partnerships are raising privacy concerns. Critics complain that the systems turn neighborhoods into places of constant surveillance and create suspicion that falls heavier on minorities. Police say the cameras can serve as a digital neighborhood watch.

Critics also say Ring, a subsidiary of Amazon, appears to be marketing its cameras by stirring up fear of crime at a time when it's decreasing. Amazon's promotional videos show people lurking around homes, and the company recently posted a job opening for a managing news editor to "deliver breaking crime news alerts to our neighbors."

"Amazon is profiting off of fear," said Chris Gilliard, an English professor at Michigan's Macomb Community College and a prominent critic of Ring and other technology that he says can reinforce race barriers. Part of the strategy seems to be selling the cameras "where the fear of crime is more real than the actual existence of crime."

The cameras offer a wide view from wherever they are positioned. Homeowners get phone alerts with streaming video if the doorbell rings or the device's heat sensors detect a person or a passing car. Ring's basic doorbell sells for $99, with recurring charges starting at $3 a month for users who want footage stored. Ring says it stores the recordings for two months unless they are deleted by users.

Many law enforcement agencies nationwide said the idea to partner with Ring came after the company promoted its product at law enforcement conferences.

Some departments have chosen to simply use Ring's Neighbors app, which encourages residents to share videos of suspicious activity. Other agencies agreed to provide subsidies, matched by Ring, to offer hundreds of discounted cameras in hopes of tapping into footage of residential streets, yards and sidewalks. And some police chiefs raffle off the devices.

Ring would not disclose the number of communities with such partnerships. Sharing video is always voluntary and privacy is protected, according to the company and police.

"There is nothing required of homeowners who participate in the subsidies, and their identity and data remain private," spokeswoman Brigid Gorham said. She said customers can control who views their footage, and no personally identifiable information is shared with police without a user's consent.

Realistically, though, if police want video for an investigation, they can seek a search warrant.


In this Wednesday, July 3, 2019, frame made from video, a person uses the Ring smartphone app in Detroit. America’s fast-growing web of doorbell cameras is being fueled in part by the support of cities and police departments. They see the cameras as a tech ally in the never-ending fight against crime. But some privacy advocates worry that the program is being driven by overblown fears of crime and contributes to a surveillance society. (AP Photo/Mike Householder) (Mike Householder/)

Tech industry analyst Carolina Milanesi said engaging with police and offering incentives is a "very smart move by Ring" and a missed opportunity for competitors, including Google's Nest and smaller companies such as Arlo Technologies and SimpliSafe.

But a staff attorney at the American Civil Liberties Union of Southern California called the system "an unmitigated disaster" for the privacy of many neighborhoods.

Through the subsidy programs, Amazon "gets to offer, at taxpayer dime, discounted products that allow it to really expand its tentacles into wide areas of private life way more than it already has," Mohammad Tajsar said.

The Los Angeles suburb of Arcadia has spent $50,000 to offer discounts on 1,000 cameras. Several other communities in the region also participate in subsidy programs, and officials in Los Angeles County just voted last month to get on board.

Officers can view a "heat map" that shows the general area where cameras are, but they do not see a camera's actual location. If police want a video, they must contact Ring to see if the resident is willing to share, said Jennifer Brutus, senior management analyst for the Arcadia Police Department.

Arcadia launched its program at the end of 2017, and in the following year, the city saw a 25% decrease in residential burglaries, Brutus said. It's hard to quantify how much of that is directly related to Ring, but she said the devices act as a deterrent.

In one case, a doorbell camera caught footage of four burglary suspects trying to enter a residence. Three were arrested at the time, but a fourth got away. After the homeowner gave Arcadia detectives some Ring video clips, police identified and arrested the last suspect.

Hammond, Indiana, also put up money to offer Ring cameras at a discount. Lt. Steve Kellogg said the partnership was a natural move for a city that already uses cameras to read license plates.

"You cannot enter or leave our city without ... being captured on film," he said, adding that doorbell cameras are the next logical step. "We thought, 'Well, the only angle we don't really have is cameras right by the homes.'"

He said sharing video is voluntary.

Green Bay, Wisconsin, gets one free camera for every 20 people who sign up for the Ring app through a city link. Initially, police required recipients of those free cameras to agree to provide any video police requested. It dropped the requirement after The Associated Press began reporting this story.

In the Minneapolis suburb of Coon Rapids, a thief stole a 7-foot, 150-pound bald eagle carving from Larry Eklund's yard earlier this year. Police had a key piece of evidence: an image of the suspect looking directly into Eklund's doorbell camera.


In this Saturday, March 23, 2019, image made from video, a man tries to leave with an bald eagle carving at the Coon Rapids, Minn., home of Larry and Vicki Eklund. A thief stole the 7-foot, 150-pound carving from the Eklunds’ yard. Police had a key piece of evidence, though: An image of the suspect looking directly into the Eklunds’ doorbell camera (Courtesy of Larry and Vicki Eklund via AP) (Mike Householder/)

A few days went by with no leads. Then officers posted the video on social media. Hours later, the carving was returned.

"If we wouldn't have had the Ring, we would have never been able to recognize the guy," Eklund said. "I'm sure it would've been just really hard to get it back."

But Coon Rapids opted not to partner with Ring and instead started its own in-house volunteer camera registry. Trish Heitman, a community outreach specialist for the police department, said the city did not want to promote a particular camera brand.

Another big issue was confidentiality. Coon Rapids keeps its list of registered camera owners private. If a crime occurs near a camera, police can contact homeowners in the registry to see if they want to share video.

If any partnership required data sharing, "we would never do it," Heitman said.

Back in Wolcott, Ernie Field won a free Ring camera and said he had to register for the app to qualify for the raffle. Now he gets alerts on his phone when a car drives by and a short video when his daughter gets home from school.

"I don't know if there's more crime now, or we just know about it more because of social media," he said.

Field, who said he had been looking at other cameras, wondered whether Wolcott's partnership gave Amazon an unfair advantage.

"They have a monopoly over a lot of things," he said. "And they're kind of taking over everything."

__

Forliti reported from Minneapolis. O’Brien reported from Providence, Rhode Island.

Giant Hawaii telescope will dive into the big unknowns of the universe

Fri, 2019-07-19 11:20

In this Sunday, July 14, 2019, file photo, a telescope at the summit of Mauna Kea, Hawaii's tallest mountain is viewed. Astronomers using a giant telescope planned for Hawaii's tallest peak will be able to study how the earliest galaxies formed not long after the Big Bang more than 13 billion years ago, which will inform humanity's understanding of how the universe came to be what it is today. They will be able to study planets orbiting stars other than our own with much greater detail. (AP Photo/Caleb Jones, File) (Caleb Jones/)

HONOLULU — Is there life on planets outside our solar system? How did stars and galaxies form in the earliest years of the universe? How do black holes shape galaxies?

Scientists are expected to explore those and other fundamental questions about the universe when they peer deep into the night sky using a new telescope planned for the summit of Hawaii's tallest mountain.

But the Thirty Meter Telescope is a decade away from being built. And Native Hawaiian protesters have tried to thwart the start of construction by blocking a road to the mountain. They say installing yet another observatory on Mauna Kea's peak would further defile a place they consider sacred.

Activists have fought the $1.4 billion telescope but the state Supreme Court has ruled it can be built. The latest protests could be the final stand against it.

Here's a look at the telescope project and some of the science it's expected to produce.

WHY WOULD THE TELESCOPE BE MORE POWERFUL?

The large size of the telescope's mirror means it would collect more light, allowing it to see faint, far-away objects such as stars and galaxies dating back as long as 13 billion years.

The telescope gets its name from the size of the mirror, which will be 30 meters, or 98 feet, in diameter. That’s three times as wide as the world’s largest existing visible-light telescope.

Adaptive optics would correct the blurring effects of the Earth's atmosphere.

The telescope would be more than 200 times more sensitive than current telescopes and able to resolve objects 12 times better than the Hubble Space Telescope, said Christophe Dumas, head of operations for the Thirty Meter Telescope.


This undated file illustration provided by Thirty Meter Telescope shows the proposed giant telescope on Mauna Kea on Hawaii's Big Island. Construction on the giant telescope was expected to start again this month, after court battles over the site that Native Hawaiians consider sacred. (TMT via AP, File) (Thirty Meter Telescope (TMT)/)
In this Aug. 31, 2015, file photo, observatories and telescopes sit atop Mauna Kea, Hawaii's tallest mountain and the proposed construction site for a new $1.4 billion telescope. Astronomers using a giant telescope planned for Hawaii's tallest peak will be able to study how the earliest galaxies formed not long after the Big Bang more than 13 billion years ago, which will inform humanity's understanding of how the universe came to be what it is today. They will be able to study planets orbiting stars other than our own with much greater detail. (AP Photo/Caleb Jones, File) (Caleb Jones/)

WHAT RESEARCH WOULD THE TELESCOPE DO?

• Distant planets. During the past 20 years, astronomers have discovered it is common for planets to orbit other stars in the universe. But they don’t know much about what those planets — called extrasolar planets or exoplanets — are like. The new telescope would allow scientists to determine whether their atmospheres contain water vapor or methane which might indicate the presence of life.

"For the first time in history we will be capable of detecting extraterrestrial life," Dumas said.

Dumas said the new telescope would use special optics to suppress the light of stars. He compared the technique to blocking a bright street light in the distance with your thumb then seeing insects circling in the fainter light below.

• Black holes. Black holes at the center of most galaxies are so dense that nothing, not even light, can escape their gravitational pull.

Andrea Ghez, a University of California, Los Angeles physics and astronomy professor who discovered our galaxy's black hole, said scientists believe black holes play a fundamental role in how galaxies are formed and evolve.

But so far astronomers have only been able to observe this dynamic in detail in the Milky Way because the next galaxy is 100 times farther away.

The Thirty Meter Telescope would enable scientists to study more galaxies and more black holes in greater detail.

It may also help them understand gravity. Those who doubt the importance should note that GPS-enabled maps on cellphones rely on Einstein's theories about gravity.

“We think of these things as esoteric. But in fact, in the long run, they have profound impacts on our lives,” Ghez said.

• Dark matter and dark energy. Humans see only about 4% of all matter in the universe, Dumas said. Dark energy makes up about three-quarters and dark matter the rest. Neither can be seen.

"We have no idea what dark matter is and no idea what dark energy is. That's a big dilemma in today's world," Dumas said.

Because mass deforms space and light, Dumas said the new telescope would make it possible to measure how dark matter influences light.

It could do this by studying light from far-away galaxies. The light would take different paths to the telescope, generating different images of the same object.


In this Sunday, July 14, 2019, file photo, the sun sets behind telescopes at the summit of Mauna Kea. (AP Photo/Caleb Jones, File) (Caleb Jones/)

WHY MAUNA KEA?

The weather at the summit of Mauna Kea tends to be ideal for viewing the skies. At nearly 14,000 feet, its peak is normally above the clouds. Being surrounded by the ocean means air flows tend to be smoother and it has the driest atmosphere of any of the candidate sites.

The mountain is already home to 13 other telescopes.

Ghez used the Keck Observatory there to find our galaxy's black hole. Other discoveries credited to those sites over the years include the first images of exoplanets and the detection of 'Oumuamua, the first object from interstellar space, which turned out to be a comet from a distant star system.

NEXT-GENERATION TELESCOPES

Two other giant telescopes are being built in Chile, which also has excellent conditions for astronomy.

The European Extremely Large Telescope will have a primary mirror measuring 39 meters, or 128 feet, in diameter. The Giant Magellan Telescope’s mirror will be 24.5 meters, or 80 feet, in diameter.

The Thirty Meter Telescope is the only one expected to be built in the Northern Hemisphere. Because different spots on Earth look out on different parts of the sky, the next-generation ground telescopes will ensure scientists are able to see the entire universe.

The universities and national observatories behind the Thirty Meter Telescope have selected Spain’s Canary Islands as a backup site in case they are unable to build in Hawaii.


In this Aug. 31, 2015, file photo, telescopes are viewed on Mauna Kea, the proposed construction site for a new $1.4 billion telescope. (AP Photo/Caleb Jones, File) (Caleb Jones/)

Labor nominee Scalia has long record of opposing regulations

Fri, 2019-07-19 11:09

WASHINGTON — Eugene Scalia has a decades-long record of challenging Labor Department and other federal regulations, as well as a famous last name. The combination proved irresistible to President Donald Trump.

Trump selected Scalia Thursday to be his new labor secretary. If formally nominated and confirmed, he’ll join an administration that has moved aggressively to reverse regulations and work under a president who had repeatedly lauded Scalia’s late father, Justice Antonin Scalia.

The president announced the news on Twitter less than a week after his previous secretary, Alexander Acosta, said he would resign amid renewed criticism of how, as a federal prosecutor, he handled a 2008 secret plea deal with wealthy financier Jeffrey Epstein. The financier was indicted this month on charges of sexually abusing underage girls and pleaded not guilty.

Friday was Acosta's last day on the job. His deputy, Patrick Pizzella, will serve as acting secretary until Scalia is confirmed.

"Gene has led a life of great success in the legal and labor field and is highly respected not only as a lawyer, but as a lawyer with great experience" working "with labor and everyone else," Trump wrote.

Scalia, 55, served for a year as the Labor Department's top lawyer, its solicitor, during the George W. Bush administration. But most of his career has been spent as a partner in the Washington office of the Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher firm, where he has run up a string of victories in court cases on behalf of business interests challenging labor and financial regulations. "Suing the Government? Call Scalia!" was the headline on a 2012 profile by Bloomberg.

His most prominent labor case helped undo an Obama-era rule to put stricter requirements on professionals who advise retirement savers on investments. He also criticized a Clinton-era rule to protect workers from repetitive stress injuries that was ultimately repealed early in the Bush administration. Scalia defended Boeing from a labor union lawsuit and fought on behalf of Wal-Mart against a Maryland law aimed at improving workers' health care.

Scalia represented the Chamber of Commerce opposing rules requiring mutual fund companies to put independent overseers on their boards of directors, and insurance companies challenging the SEC's authority to regulate certain annuities with values tied to stocks. Annuities are a sort of hybrid of insurance and investments.

In 2016, he successfully argued for removal of a designation given to insurance giant MetLife by federal regulators that would have brought stricter government oversight. The process of regulators selecting certain large financial companies as "systemically important financial institutions" deemed "too big to fail" was mandated under the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act that overhauled regulation of Wall Street and the banking industry in the wake of the financial crisis.

Scalia's record drew unqualified praise from the chamber. "He is whip smart and knows the Department's mission and operations well from prior service as solicitor," said Glenn Spencer, a senior vice president.

The American Securities Association, a trade association representing investment banks, financial advisers, and wealth managers called Scalia a "fantastic pick."

Labor and consumer advocates were pessimistic that Scalia would serve their clients' interest.

"It's difficult to see how the lawyer who aggressively represented clients against one of the most important retiree protections rules of the Department of Labor in many, many decades is somehow going to flip 180 degrees and become somebody who effectively protects worker and retiree interests," said Dennis Kelleher, president of Better Markets, a financial industry and government watchdog.

Mary Kay Henry, president of the Service Employees International Union, urged the Senate to reject Scalia. "The last thing working people need is another Secretary of Labor who sides with corporate CEOs instead of hard-working Americans and makes it harder to join together in unions," Henry said on Twitter.

If Trump was attracted to Scalia's record, he also has made no secret of his fondness for the Scalia family.

Eugene Scalia accompanied his mother to Trump's first speech to a joint session of Congress in February 2017, where they sat in a box for the president's guests. She received a standing ovation when Trump introduced her. Maureen Scalia also was on hand at the White House when Trump announced both of his Supreme Court nominees, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.

During the presidential campaign, Trump repeatedly praised the justice, who died in February 2016, and said, "I am looking to appoint judges very much in the mold of Justice Scalia." Last year, Trump posthumously awarded the justice a Presidential Medal of Freedom, and Maureen Scalia was again at the White House to receive it. He remarked how Maureen Scalia had become a great friend to the Trump family and himself.

When Bush nominated Eugene Scalia as the Labor Department solicitor, unions howled in protest and Senate Democrats refused to hold a confirmation vote. Bush gave him a temporary, recess appointment to the job.

Even with strong Democratic opposition again, he has a clear path to confirmation in a Senate controlled by Republicans and stripped of the procedural requirement that nominees need 60 votes to proceed.

He would be reunited in Trump's Cabinet with two former bosses. Elaine Chao, now the transportation secretary, was head of the Labor Department when Scalia worked there. He also served for a time as special assistant to Attorney General William Barr, during Barr's first stint in charge of the Justice Department in the early 1990s.

___

Associated Press writer Marcy Gordon contributed to this report.

Deepfake videos pose a threat, but ‘dumbfakes’ may be worse

Fri, 2019-07-19 11:06

In this Monday, July 1, 2019, photo Hany Farid, a digital forensics expert at the University of California at Berkeley, gestures as he views video clips in his office in Berkeley, Calif. Dumb fakes, shallow fakes and cheap fakes, experts are still undecided on how to label the poorly made manipulated videos being viewed millions of times and even spread by high-ranking politicians. But they are sure that social media users will see much more of these videos ahead of the U.S. 2020 presidential elections. (AP Photo/Ben Margot) (Ben Margot/)

Sophisticated phony videos called deepfakes have attracted plenty of attention as a possible threat to election integrity. But a bigger problem for the 2020 U.S. presidential contest may be “dumbfakes” — simpler and more easily unmasked bogus videos that are easy and often cheap to produce.

Unlike deepfakes, which require sophisticated artificial intelligence, audio manipulation and facial mapping technology, dumbfakes can be made simply by varying the speed of video or selective editing. They are easier to create and can be convincing to an unsuspecting viewer, which makes them a much more immediate worry.

A slowed-down video of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that made her appear impaired garnered more than 2 million views on Facebook in May. In November, then-White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders tweeted a sped-up video of CNN reporter Jim Acosta that made him look more aggressive than he was during an exchange with an intern. Her post received thousands of retweets.

The fact that these videos are made so easily and then widely shared across social media platforms does not bode well for 2020, said Hany Farid, a digital forensics expert at the University of California, Berkeley.

"The clock is ticking," Farid said. "The Nancy Pelosi video was a canary in a coal mine."

Social media companies don't have clear-cut policies banning fake videos, in part because they don't want to be in the position of deciding whether something is satire or intended to mislead people — or both. Doing so could also open them to charges of censorship or political bias.

Facebook, however, will "downrank" false or misleading posts — including videos — so that fewer people will see them. Such material will also be paired with fact checks produced by outside organizations, including The Associated Press.

There are also vast gray areas depending on political affiliation or your sense of humor.

One social media user who calls himself Paul Lee Ticks— a play on the word "politics"— often makes fabricated videos, mostly of President Donald Trump. In one of his most recent video edits, he added a "concentration camps" sign to the Trump International Hotel & Tower in Chicago.

Another social media user who goes by the handle Carpe Donktum makes edited videos in support of the president. Following Trump's June comments that Joe Biden appeared slow, Carpe Donktum slowed down video footage of Biden and spliced two clips, making the former vice president appear to say something he did not.

Trump often retweets Carpe Donktum and last week he met the president in person during the White House’s “social media summit” featuring conservatives. Carpe Donktum says he makes parody videos and disputes the notion that his videos are “doctored” because their intent is satirical and the manipulations obvious.

"These are memes and have been on the internet since the internet's inception," he said.

Both Paul Lee Ticks and Carpe Donktum, who spoke to the AP on the condition of anonymity due to fear of threats and harassment, started off making videos that were more simplistic and comical. But their videos have become more sophisticated, blurring the line between what is real and fake in a more convincing way for an audience that is unsuspecting or unfamiliar with their comedic style.

Concern about these videos is growing among experts, politicians and the general public.

During a House Intelligence Committee hearing on June 13, Rep. Adam Schiff, a California Democrat, said the Pelosi video represents the scale of the problem ahead. According to a June Pew Research Center study, 63% of Americans surveyed about made-up news and information said that videos and images altered to mislead the public create a great deal of confusion around the facts of current issues.

Other manipulations are equally crude, yet more subtle. Some fake videos, for instance, mislabel authentic historical footage of public unrest or police activity with incorrect dates or locations to falsely suggest they depict breaking news.

"Disinformation is so powerful in our levels of political polarization," said Ohio State University professor Erik Nisbet, who co-authored a study in 2018 that found fake news may have contributed to Trump's 2016 win. "People are angry, worried and anxious. They are more vulnerable to misinformation and disinformation that validates their feelings."

Demographics also play a role. Cliff Lampe, a professor at the University of Michigan, said older generations that were raised on mass media "tend to trust video more." A study published in the Science Advances journal in January found that people over 65 and ultra-conservative were more likely to share false information.

Edward Delp, director of the Video and Imaging Processing Laboratory at Purdue University, and his team were able to develop an algorithm to detect deepfakes. Finding ways to protect and authenticate videos, he said, could help minimize the impact of manipulated video.

However, video authentication may do little to change people's views. Farid, the UC Berkeley professor, said with the manipulated Pelosi video, users could easily find the original clips of the House speaker online but people were still willing to believe the false video was real.

“If we can’t get it right, I mean the public and Facebook, where are we going to be when we have more complex fakes?” he said.

Anchorage eyes homeless camp clearance rules for fire safety

Fri, 2019-07-19 09:05

The Anchorage Assembly will consider an ordinance to protect neighborhoods from wildfires that start in homeless encampments, a report said.

The proposed changes to the municipal code would enable authorities to declare danger zones and clear such camps, KTVA-TV reported Wednesday.

The Assembly is scheduled to conduct a work session on the ordinance Aug. 2 and hold a public hearing Aug. 6.

Clearing the camps could occur after 24 to 72 hours of notice, depending on the fire threat level, replacing the current 10-day notice.

An immediate wildlife threat would allow immediate evacuation.

The proposed ordinance also gives the Anchorage Fire Department chief the ability to declare parts of town wildfire danger areas requiring mitigation for public safety.

Police could confiscate and store fire-making tools, and campers would be notified in person or through a posted notice, officials said.

Making changes to the municipal code to address risk when fire danger is high is a matter of public safety, said Assembly member Meg Zaletel, who sponsored the ordinance.

The change is meant to keep people safe who are living near encampments and protect people who are camping in the woods, Zaletel said.

“It still leaves the fire department, just like with our homes and everyone else, exigent circumstances where they can tell you you have to go now,” Zaletel said.

10 salmon recipes you can make right now, plus fillet and grill basics

Fri, 2019-07-19 08:17



Ziggo Cloud fillets sockeye salmon in June of 2018 at Drifter's Landing in Kenai. (Loren Holmes / ADN) (Loren Holmes/)

Newsletter #57: Sofishticated

For fun I did a little search though the Anchorage Daily News and Anchorage Times archives to see when recipe writers on “the women’s page,” which is where newspaper recipes used to go, started to write about putting salmon on the grill. Doesn’t it seem like grilled salmon is what summer here tastes like?

Turns out, it wasn’t always that way. Grilled salmon recipes appear way later than you’d expect, in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Before that, most all of the recipes were written for canned salmon (So much salmon loaf, also known as “sloaf!”). I imagine canned salmon was much more commonly available year-round and that getting fresh salmon to market was tricky.

A quick search on the history of backyard grilling charts its rise in popularity after World War II. Anchorage classifieds start advertising homes for sale and for rent with built-in barbecues in the post-war period. Then come my parents who grew up in Anchorage and remember eating salmon on the grill all their lives. Though they said that they ate fresh when someone caught it but don’t remember buying it at the grocery store. Anyway, there’s more research to do. If you are reading this and can fill in the details about when fresh salmon became widely available at the grocery counter in Anchorage, please write me.

This week, we’re all up to our eyeballs in fish (well, relative to last year), so here are 10 recipes you can make right now.

1) Sugar crusted salmon with mango-peach salsa.


Sugar-crusted salmon with avocado-peach salsa. (Maya Wilson/Alaska From Scratch)

2) Soy and brown butter roasted salmon.


Salmon roasted with soy and browned butter. (Photo by Kim Sunée)

3) Salmon lettuce wraps.


Honey Sriracha salmon lettuce wraps (Maya Wilson / Alaska from Scratch)

4) Blueberry cured lox.


Red salmon, cured with wild Alaska blueberries, makes for a striking twist on classic smoked salmon. (Kim Sunée)

6) Hong Kong spicy salmon.


Hong Kong-style spicy garlic salmon (Photo by Kim Sunée)

7) Salmon with birch syrup glaze.


Broiled salmon with birch syrup glaze (Maya Wilson / Alaska from Scratch)

8) Salmon Wellington.


Salmon Wellington is based on a traditional beef Wellington recipe. It's an impressive dish and quite easy to make. (Photo by Kim Sunée)

9. Smoked salmon pasta with garlic cream sauce.


Smoked salmon pasta in garlic cream sauce

10) Kale caesar with salmon and avocado.


Smoked salmon Caesar salad (Maya Wilson / Alaska from Scratch)

If you still can’t get enough, here’s a guide to filleting, grilling and more recipes. And a recipe for basic salmon dip, which we all need, but, let’s admit it, doesn’t photograph well.

In other food news, vegetables in the fields are maturing early and Steve Edwards has everything you need to know about where to get what. And, Mara Severin managed to get a table at Muse at the Anchorage Museum and tried Chef Laura Cole’s cooking. Here’s her review.

Here’s hoping you feel the tug of a salmon in your dipnet this weekend.

‘I made a change in my life.’ Village police say they make a difference despite criminal records

Fri, 2019-07-19 08:08

Village police officers leave on a four wheeler after giving public safety reports at a city council meeting in the Yup'ik village of Stebbins on the Norton Sound coast in Western Alaska on Thursday, June 27, 2019. (Bill Roth / ADN) (Bill Roth / ADN/)

STEBBINS — No gun. No training. $14 an hour.

If there were better jobs to be had, city police officers in this Bering Strait village say they’d apply for them. But working as a village police officer is one of the few options available. Especially for those with fresh criminal records or felony rap sheets.

“I made a change in my life. I don’t use drugs. I don’t drink,” said Officer Delbert Acoman, 45, who has served a total of 292 days behind bars and amassed 18 criminal convictions including burglary and assault over the years.

ProPublica and the Anchorage Daily News reported Thursday that at least 14 Alaska villages, including Stebbins, have hired police with criminal records, a violation of state hiring requirements. In eight other communities, tribes have hired tribal police officers convicted of domestic violence or sex crimes. The findings are based on the first-ever database of Alaska VPOs and TPOs, created by contacting city governments and tribes in 57 villages.

In Stebbins, all seven officers working as of July 1 had pleaded guilty or no contest in more than 70 criminal cases, spanning decades. Together they have spent years in prisons and jails for charges ranging from low-level misdemeanors to sexual abuse of a minor. (The Alaska Police Standards Council says that domestic violence convictions, even misdemeanors, disqualify someone from working as a VPO.)

Stebbins officials say they have no choice but to hire officers with convictions because few people apply for the low-paying, part-time jobs. In interviews, several residents said the current police force does a good job of responding to their calls for help and they were grateful for their service.

Some of the officers said that while they understand the concern about hiring officers who have criminal records, they believe they have turned their lives around and deserve another chance.

“I’m not the same person I used to be. I went to jail and did my time,” said Officer Vincent Matthias.

Below is a list of officers and the charges for which each was convicted or that resulted in the officer pleading guilty or no contest. Charges are misdemeanors unless otherwise noted. The list does not include pending charges, charges that have been dismissed or those in which a jury found the officer not guilty. Also not included are cases of minors consuming alcohol, which are now considered lower-level violations under the law.

Police Chief Sebastian Mike

Start date: Oct. 15, 2018

Convictions:

  • Assault, domestic violence (2017)
  • Assault - felony (2016)
  • Assault (2009)
  • Trespassing, probation violation (2007)
  • Violating conditions of release (2001)
  • Driving under the influence (2001)
  • Assault (2000)
  • Driving under the influence (2000)
  • Failure to register as a sex offender (1999)
  • Disorderly conduct (1997)
  • Sexual abuse of a minor - felony (1995)
  • Disorderly conduct (1994)
  • Assault (1993)
  • Trespassing (1993)
  • Theft (1992)
  • Trespassing (1992)
  • Attempted bootlegging (1992)

Time incarcerated in jails or prisons: 407 days

Officer’s response: In a brief conversation with a reporter, Mike acknowledged that he has a criminal record but drove off without answering additional questions. He also blocked a reporter on Facebook.

Robert Kirk

Start date: June 1, 2019

Convictions:

  • Assault, domestic violence (2015)
  • Assault (2014)

Time incarcerated in jails or prisons: 35 days

Officer’s response: Kirk said that working as a VPO is stressful and that he would find another job, if one were available in the village. He said it “could be a problem” for a VPO to have a domestic violence conviction but said he considers himself a good cop.

Vincent Matthias

Start date: Aug. 4, 2018

Convictions:

  • Reckless endangerment, domestic violence (2018)
  • Assault (2015)
  • Driving under the influence (2014)
  • Assault, domestic violence (2013)
  • Assault (2013)
  • Disorderly conduct (2011)
  • Criminal mischief (2010)
  • Bootlegging (2009)
  • Assault (2009)

Time incarcerated in jails or prisons: 286 days

Officer’s response: Matthias said that nobody wants to work as a VPO, but he is doing so to feed his children. He said he was unaware of the state regulation that prohibits village governments from hiring people with certain criminal convictions as VPOs. He said attention should be paid to the good work he and his colleagues do, such as preventing people from committing suicide and stopping violent encounters from escalating.

If others believe they could do a better job keeping the community of Stebbins safe, they should do so, he said.

“Did you stop anybody from killing themselves? Have you went to an argument where there is a knife?” he asked.

John Aluska

Start date: July 17, 2018

Convictions:

  • Assault, domestic violence (2014)
  • Assault, domestic violence (2010)
  • Assault, domestic violence (2009)
  • Assault (2007)
  • Driving under the influence (2006)
  • Violate conditions of release (2005)
  • Assault - felony (2003)
  • Assault (2002)
  • Attempted bootlegging (2001)
  • Assault (2000)
  • Assault (2000)
  • Misconduct involving a controlled substance (2000)
  • Assault (1999)
  • Attempted bootlegging (1999)
  • Assault (1998)
  • Assault (1997)
  • Assault (1997)
  • Assault (1997)
  • Assault (1997)
  • Misconduct involving a controlled substance (1996)
  • Misconduct involving a weapon (1995)

Time incarcerated in jails or prisons: 757 days

Officer’s response: Aluska said he is related to half of the community, meaning he must constantly police his relatives. “It gets hard,” he said. “But we got to do our job. It keeps money on the table.”

Aluska said he helped recruit many of the current VPOs, people who would not be intoxicated on the job and would work hard for the community. “We are doing good,” he said.

When he was younger, Aluska said he had escaped from custody. But he said it has been quite awhile since his last arrest, and he has hardly any options for other jobs in Stebbins.

Cylas Okitkun

Start date: Jan. 1, 2019

Convictions:

  • Criminal trespass, domestic violence (2018)

Time incarcerated in jails or prison: 1 day

Officer’s response: Okitkun said he does not believe his conviction should prevent him from working as a VPO because it was not a felony charge. The work is difficult, he said, and the city hasn’t called him lately to go on patrol. “They found somebody else, I guess.”

Delbert Acoman

Start date: Feb. 1, 2017

Convictions:

  • Trespassing (2018)
  • Trespassing (2018)
  • Disorderly conduct (2017)
  • Assault, domestic violence (2014)
  • Assault, domestic violence (2011)
  • Assault (2010)
  • Assault, domestic violence (2010)
  • Trespassing (2008)
  • Assault (2006)
  • Disorderly conduct (2005)
  • Assault (2004)
  • Assault (2004)
  • Burglary - felony (1998)
  • Trespassing (1995)
  • Harassment, trespassing (1995)
  • Trespassing (1993)
  • Misconduct involving a weapon (1993)
  • Theft (1992)

Time incarcerated in jails or prisons: 292 days

Officer’s response: Acoman said he has worked on and off as a Stebbins police officer for years and is the only current officer who received formal law enforcement training. He’s lost count of the number of times he’s been called respond to a report of a suicide or suicide attempt.

“To help out the community is good for me and my family,” Acoman said.

Denzel Nashoanak

Start date: Dec. 14, 2018

Convictions:

  • Assault, domestic violence - felony (2016)
  • Harassment, domestic violence (2015)

Time incarcerated in jails or prisons: 194 days

Officer’s response: Nashoanak acknowledged making mistakes, but he said, “I’m trying to change my ways and better my life.”

The Anchorage Daily News and ProPublica are spending the year investigating sexual violence in urban and rural Alaska. Here’s how you can stay in touch with us:

Get updates

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• Reach out to the reporting team anytime: alaska@propublica.org

He found your online data - and it’s for sale

Fri, 2019-07-19 05:51

I’ve watched you check in for a flight and seen your doctor refilling a prescription.

I've peeked inside corporate networks at reports on faulty rockets. If I wanted, I could've even opened a tax return you only shared with your accountant.

I found your data because it's for sale online. Even more terrifying: It's happening because of software you probably installed yourself.

My latest investigation into the secret life of our data is not a fire drill. Working with an independent security researcher, I found as many as 4 million people have been leaking personal and corporate secrets through Chrome and Firefox. Even a colleague in The Washington Post's newsroom got caught up. When we told browser makers Google and Mozilla, they shut these leaks immediately - but we probably identified only a fraction of the problem.

The root of this privacy train wreck is browser extensions. Also known as add-ons and plug-ins, they're little programs used by nearly half of all desktop Web surfers to make browsing better, such as finding coupons or remembering passwords. People install them assuming that any software offered in a store run by Chrome or Firefox has got to be legit.

Not. At. All. Some extensions have a side hustle in spying. From a privileged perch in your browser, they pass information about where you surf and what you view into a murky data economy. Think about everything you do in your browser at work and home - it's a digital proxy for your brain. Now imagine those clicks beaming out of your computer to be harvested for marketers, data brokers or hackers.

Some extensions make surveillance sound like a sweet deal: This week, Amazon was offering people $10 to install its Assistant extension. In the fine print, Amazon said the extension collects your browsing history and what’s on the pages you view, though all that data stays inside the giant company. (Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.) Academic researchers say there are thousands of extensions that gather browsing data — many with loose or downright deceptive data practices — lurking in the online stores of Google and even the more privacy-friendly Mozilla.

The extensions we found selling your data show just how dangerous browser surveillance can be. What's unusual about this leak is that we got to watch it taking place. This isn't a theoretical privacy problem: Here's exactly how millions of people's data got grabbed and sold - and the failed safeguards from browser makers that let it happen.


Researcher Sam Jadali identified the browsing data of as many as 4 million people for sale online. Washington Post photo by Jonathan Baran (Jonathan Baran/)

A ‘catastrophic’ leak

I didn’t realize the scale of the extension problem until I heard from Sam Jadali. He runs a website hosting business, and earlier this year found some of his clients’ data for sale online. Figuring out how that happened became a six-month obsession.

Jadali found the data on a website called Nacho Analytics. Just one small player in the data economy, Nacho bills itself on its website as a marketing intelligence service. It offers data about what's being clicked on at almost any website - including actual Web addresses - for as little as $49 per month.

That data, Nacho claims, comes from people who opt in to being tracked, and it redacts personally identifiable information.

The deeper Jadali looked on Nacho, the more he found that went way beyond marketing data. Web addresses - everything you see after the letters "http" - page titles and other browsing records might not seem like they'd expose much. But sometimes they contain secrets sites forget to hide away.

Jadali found usernames, passwords and GPS coordinates, even though Nacho said it scrubs personal information from its data. "I started realizing this was a leak on a catastrophic scale," Jadali told me.

What he showed me made my jaw drop. Three examples:

• From DrChrono, a medical records service, we saw the names of patients, doctors, and even medications. From another service, called Kareo, we saw patient names.

• From Southwest, we saw the first and last names, as well as confirmation numbers, of people checking into flights. From United, we saw last names and passenger record numbers.

• From OneDrive, Microsoft’s cloud storage service, we saw a hundred documents named “tax.” We didn’t click on any of these links to avoid further exposing sensitive data.

It wasn't just personal secrets. Employees from more than 50 major corporations were exposing what they were working on (including top-secret stuff) in the titles of memos and project reports. There was even information about internal corporate networks and firewall codes. This should make IT security departments very nervous.

Jadali documented his findings in a report titled "DataSpii," and has spent the last two weeks disclosing the leaks to the companies he identified - many of which he thinks could do a better job keeping secrets out of at-risk browser data. I also contacted all the companies I name in this column. Kareo and Southwest told me they're removing names from page data.

I wondered if Jadali could find any data from inside The Washington Post. Shortly after I asked, Jadali asked me if I had a colleague named Nick Mourtoupalas. On Nacho, Jadali could see him clicking on our internal websites. Mourtoupalas had just viewed a page about the summer interns. Over months, he'd probably leaked much, much more.

I called up Mourtoupalas, a newsroom copy aide. Pardon the interruption, I said, but your browser is leaking.

"Oh, wow, oh, wow," Mourtoupalas said. He hadn't ever "opted in" to having his Web browsing tracked. "What have I done wrong?"

Follow the data

I asked Mourtoupalas if he'd ever added anything to Chrome. He pulled up his extensions dashboard and found he'd installed 17 of them. "I didn't download anything crazy or shady looking," he said.

One of them was called Hover Zoom. It markets itself in the Chrome Web Store and its website as a way to enlarge photos when you put your mouse over them. Mourtoupalas remembered learning about it on Reddit. Earlier this year, it had 800,000 users.

When you install Hover Zoom, a message pops up saying it can "read and change your browsing history." There's little indication Hover Zoom is in the business of selling that data.

I tried to reach all the contacts I could find for Hover Zoom's makers. One person, Romain Vallet, told me he hadn't been its owner for several years, but declined to say who was now. No one else replied.

Jadali tested the links between extensions and Nacho by installing a bunch himself and watching to see if his data appeared for sale. We did some of these together, with me as a willing victim. After I installed an extension called PanelMeasurement, Jadali showed me how he could access private iPhone and Facebook photos I'd opened in Chrome, as well as a OneDrive document I had named "Geoff's Private Document." (To find the latter, all he had to do was search page titles on Nacho for "Geoff.")

In total, Jadali’s research identified six suspect Chrome and Firefox extensions with more than a few users: Hover Zoom, SpeakIt!, SuperZoom, SaveFrom.net Helper, FairShare Unlock and PanelMeasurement.

They all state in either their terms of service, privacy policies or descriptions that they may collect data. But only two of them - FairShare Unlock and PanelMeasurement - explicitly highlight to users that they collect browser activity data and promise to reward people for surfing the Web.

"If I've fallen in for using this extension, I know hundreds of thousands of other people easily have also," Mourtoupalas told me. He's now turned off all but three extensions, each from a well-known company.

The tip of the iceberg

After we disclosed the leaks to browser makers, Google remotely deactivated seven extensions, and Mozilla did the same to two others (in addition to one it disabled in February). Together, they had tallied more than 4 million users. If you had any of them installed, they should no longer work.

A firm called DDMR that made FairShare Unlock and PanelMeasurement told me the ban was unfair because it sought user consent. (It declined to say who its clients were, but said its terms prohibited customers from selling confidential information.) None of the other extension makers answered my questions about why they collected browsing data.

A few days after the shutdown, Nacho posted a notice on its website that it had suffered a "permanent" data outage and would no longer take on new clients, or provide new data for existing ones.

But that doesn't mean this problem is over.

North Carolina State University researchers recently tested how many of the 180,000 available Chrome extensions leak privacy-sensitive data. They found 3,800 such extensions - and the 10 most popular alone have more than 60 million users.

"Not all of these companies are malicious, or doing this on purpose, but they have the ability to sell your data if they want," said Alexandros Kapravelos, a computer science professor who worked on the study.

Extension makers sometimes cash out by selling to companies that convert their popular extensions into data Hoovers. The 382 extensions Kapravelos suspects are in the data-sale business have nearly 8 million users. "There is no regulation that prevents them from doing this," he said.

So why aren’t Google and Mozilla stopping it? Researchers have been calling out nefarious extensions for years, and the companies say they vet what’s in their stores. “We want Chrome extensions to be safe and privacy-preserving, and detecting policy violations is essential to that effort,” said Google senior director Margret Schmidt.

But clearly it's insufficient. Jadali found two extensions waited three to five weeks to begin leaking data, and he suspects they may have delayed to avoid detection. Google recently announced it would begin requiring extensions to minimize the data they access, among other technical changes. Mozilla said its recent focus has also been on limiting the damage add-ons can do.

Just as big a problem is a data industry that's grown cavalier about turning our lives into its raw material.

In an interview, Nacho CEO Mike Roberts wouldn't say where he sourced his data. But Jadali, he said, violated Nacho's terms of service by looking at personal information. "No actual Nacho Analytics customer was looking at this stuff. The only people that saw any private information was you guys," Roberts said.

I'm not certain how he could know that. There were so many secrets on Nacho that tracking down all the ways they might have been used is impossible.

His defense of Nacho boiled down to this: It's just the way the Internet works.

Roberts said he believed the people who contributed data to Nacho - including my colleague - were "informed." He added: "I guess it wouldn't surprise me if some people aren't aware of what every tool or website does with their data."

Nacho is not so different, he said, from others in his industry. "The difference is that I wanted to level the playing field and put the same power into the hands of marketers and entrepreneurs - and that created a lot more transparency," he said. "In a way, that transparency can be like looking into a black mirror."

He's not entirely wrong. Large swaths of the tech industry treat tracking as an acceptable way to make money, whether most of us realize what's really going on. Amazon will give you a $10 coupon for it. Google tracks your searches, and even your activity in Chrome, to build out a lucrative dossier on you. Facebook does the same with your activity in its apps, and off.

Of course, those companies don’t usually leave your personal information hanging out on the open Internet for sale. But just because it’s hidden doesn’t make it any less scary.

Letter: One Alaskan’s perspective on the value of education

Fri, 2019-07-19 00:25

I was born Halloween 1956 at Providence Hospital downtown, left-handed and dyslexic. Thirteen years of Anchorage public schools: Chugach (pre-optional, third grade twice), Central Junior High and West Anchorage High School preceded admission to Dartmouth. I fully expected the Eastern elite preppies would eat my lunch, the opposite occurred.

I then entered the four-year Washington, Wyoming, Alaska Montana and Idaho (WWAMI) program, Alaska’s medical school, in Fairbanks. Then, after a one-year internship, I served four years as a commissioned officer in the Alaskan Indian Health Service in Barrow, Bethel and the old Alaska Native Medical Center on Third Avenue. Following a four-year residency in orthopedic surgery, I returned to practice in Anchorage in 1992. Except for three months of mission work in Uganda, Liberia and Kenya, my post-graduate surgical and research career has been within the boundaries of this magnificent state.

On June 22, I gave a TED talk on cobalt poisoning by joint replacement, a previously unrecognized problem that I found to be common in my patients. Eight million Americans with cobalt-chrome joint replacement parts are at risk. Why me and not the Mayo Clinic? I credit my 17 years of Alaska education and my first four years of Alaska post-graduate medical-surgical experience. Most critically, my unfunded research into the premature failure of joint replacement devices is supported by the University of Alaska and Alaska’s medical school, where I am an affiliated (unpaid) professor.

Alaska was not a wealthy state during the years from 1966-1983, yet it granted me immense primary, secondary and post-graduate educational opportunity. It grieves me that my grandchildren will not enjoy similar advantages unless the governor and the Legislature can reach some form of compromise to ensure our Alaskan primary, secondary, university and post-graduate opportunities remain competitive with the “Outside.”

— Dr. Stephen S. Tower

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.

Letter: Two-state solution

Fri, 2019-07-19 00:11

A line has been drawn in the glacial silt, just south of Wasilla: A “New Alaska” Legislature meets in Wasilla, while “Old Alaska” meets in Juneau. Let us, therefore, build a shining capital of “New Alaska” in the Mat-Su Borough, as the people voted for in ballot initiatives of old, and let “Old Alaska” have their old capital in Juneau. Only then can our two new state Legislatures make decisions and laws that represent their respective constituents. Keeping all our legislators hogtied and hamstrung together in Juneau has brought us quagmire and a failed state. The time for a two-state solution has come.

— Daniel N. Russell

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.

Letter: Governor’s vision is lacking

Thu, 2019-07-18 23:56

It’s pretty clear our new governor is in over his head. Extreme partisanship is clearly enough to get you elected in Alaska, but is a useless tool when it comes down to the hard work of uniting adversaries, building coalitions and leading the people of our great state through tough times. When you take office solely to take swings at your enemies, you find yourself surrounded by united angry people with black eyes and bloody noses. So far, the governor has recklessly threatened to fire state workers, cripple our universities, abandon our elderly pioneers, increase homelessness, drugs and crime, and he has disrespected the public he has sworn to serve.

These accomplishments are not the acts of a leader, but of an angry madman swinging a wrecking ball. All the partisan rancor emanating from this administration will gain us is a victory in the race to the bottom. It is time for Alaskans to wake up from the fantasy that our government can continue to give away free money with no taxes and declining oil revenue. All Alaskans of all political stripes need to join together to advocate for the restoration of funding cut by the governor’s budget vetoes.

— Scott Miller

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.

Letter: Protect education opportunities

Thu, 2019-07-18 23:52

When I first enrolled at the University of Alaska Anchorage after graduating from Eagle River High School, I was not excited nor hopeful about my education there. My plan was to transfer out of state, to something bigger and better, as soon as possible. I, like many of my peers in high school, believed that UAA was a mediocre school, and if we went there, we would receive a mediocre education. I never imagined that not only would I stay at UAA, but that UAA would change my life.

Our little university is different, and it is different for all the right reasons. As a naive 18-year-old, I was exposed to a wide range of life experiences and beliefs through my classes, in which my fellow students reflected our diverse population: veterans, mothers and fathers, immigrants from countries I had never heard of and Alaskans from places I had never been to. You can’t get that experience at any other university in the world. I joined extracurricular programs, such as the Model United Nations program, which works with college, high school and middle school students to teach them about international diplomacy. I joined a sorority, through which I began to volunteer for the first time. Working with Covenant House, Special Olympics and Girls on the Run, as well as other local organizations, has made me learn and love so much about our community. I became a member of the Seawolf Debate Program, through which I have had the incredible opportunity to represent Alaska at tournaments in our country and internationally. Our “mediocre” university has the best public school debate team in the entire U.S., thanks to our dedicated students and coaches.

I never imagined that I would not just receive an education in my field of study, but also in what it means to be an Alaskan — to be determined and ambitious, to help and give back to your community, and to build a better community for the next generation. No “Outside” university could ever teach that. Please don’t let this opportunity, to stay in Alaska and receive an Alaskan education, be vetoed.

— Hayley Cavitt

Eagle River

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.

House OKs $15 minimum wage, setting marker for 2020 campaign

Thu, 2019-07-18 19:51

WASHINGTON — House Democrats approved legislation Thursday to raise the federal minimum wage for the first time in a decade, to $15 an hour, transforming an issue that once splintered the party into a benchmark for the 2020 election.

Even though the bill has little chance of passing the Republican-led Senate, or being signed into law by President Donald Trump, the outcome pushes the phased-in rate to the forefront as the new standard, one already in place at some leading U.S. corporations.

While the increase would boost pay for some 30 million low-wage workers, intended as one answer to income inequality, passage was assured only after centrist Democrats won adjustments to the bill. Reluctant to embrace the party's left flank, they pushed for changes, including a slower six-year phase-in of the wage. It's a reminder of moderates' influence on policy, but also the limits.

"We're testing candidates from the presidential all the way down to the school board," said Mary Kay Henry, the president of the Service Employees International Union whose members cheered passage from the House gallery. To address stark income inequality, she said, "they have to raise wages."

A hike in the $7.25 hourly wage has been a top Democratic campaign promise, and what Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland called Thursday the "right thing to do."

"America's workers deserve a raise," said Speaker Nancy Pelosi at a press conference with labor leaders and employees ahead of voting. Lifting a young girl into her arms, Pelosi said, "This is what it's all about... It's about family."

The last increase in the federal minimum occurred 10 years ago, the longest stretch without an adjustment since the wage floor was first enacted during the 1930s. The wage protection covers millions of low-wage workers in all types of jobs.

Under the House bill, for the first time, tipped workers would be required to be paid the same as others earning the minimum, boosting their pay to $15 an hour, too. It's now $2.13, in what labor scholars call a jarring remnant from the legacy of slavery, when newly freed workers received only tips.

Republicans in the House balked at the wage hike, which would be the first since Democrats last controlled the majority. Just three Republicans joined most Democrats in passage, on a 231-199 vote.

During the floor debate, Rep. Ronald Wright, R-Texas, called it a "disastrous bill."

Republicans have long maintained that states and municipalities are already able to raise the wage beyond the federal minimum, and many have done so. They warn higher wages will cost jobs, especially among smaller business owners.

Wright said the bill should be renamed the "Raising Unemployment for American Workers Act."

While opponents have long said higher minimum wages lead to job losses, economists say new studies are casting doubt on those long-held theories.

A report from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office sent mixed messages. It said more than 30 million workers would see bigger paychecks with a higher wage, lifting more than 1 million workers from poverty. It also said between 1 million and 3 million jobs could be lost.

At time of wage stagnation and grave income inequality that's playing out on the campaign trail, Democrats led by Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., the chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, are willing to accept that tradeoff.

But swift passage earlier this year ran into trouble when centrists and those Democrats from rural regions and Southern states raised concerns.

While the new Democratic majority is often seen as pushing the House leftward, many of the freshmen are actually moderates from districts won by Trump in 2016. Those same freshmen will face some of the toughest reelection races in 2020.

The moderate Blue Dog Coalition, led by Rep. Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla., advocated for changes to the wage bill. With some two dozen members, the caucus has enough votes to deny Pelosi a majority and sink the legislation.

They wanted the longer phase of six years instead of five. And they included an amendment requiring a report from the General Accountability Office, after the first phases of the wage hike, to assess the economic impact on jobs and whether wages should be fully raised to $15.

"I've always been one to believe compromise is not a dirty word," Murphy said in an interview. "It has helped us get things done."

Most members of the Blue Dogs and another centrist caucus, the New Democratic Coalition, ended up voting for the bill. They also held the line against a Republican alternative.

Progressives and labor leaders said they could live with the changes. Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wis., co-chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said the bill is popular back home and far from Trump's characterization of Democrats as "socialists."

The idea of a $15 hourly wage, "somehow that's an out-of-the-mainstream thought?" he said. "Of course not."

Advocates who have been trying to boost wages for workers for years said they were stunned at how quickly the debate shifted.

Sara Jayaraman, president of the Restaurant Opportunities Center United, group founded with displaced workers from the World Trade Center after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, said boosting the tipped wages in particular, for waiters and other tipped workers, was a milestone.

It’s “historic moment and a historic bill,” she said. “Once you start raising workers’ wages it’s hard to go back.”

Summit snacks and dreams of lawn chairs lead to a women’s speed record in the Chugach front range

Thu, 2019-07-18 19:03

April McAnly, left, and Abby Jahn negotiate rocky terrain at 5,383-foot Temptation Peak, part of the 12-peak Chugach Front Linkup the climbers completed in less than 24 hours last weekend. (Photo by Julianne Dickerson)

In the spirit that has come to envelop the quest to climb the 12 peaks towering 5,000 feet or higher in the front range of the Chugach Mountains, Julianne Dickerson, Abby Jahn and April McAnly will share few details of the route they took last week while establishing a speed record for women.

They will disclose that they began their journey — known as the 12-peak Challenge, the Chugach Front Linkup or the Cosmic Integration — on Friday, July 12, at 2:41 p.m. and ended it 23 hours and 50 minutes later, at 2:31 p.m. Saturday. They will divulge that the first peak they climbed was South Suicide and the last was Tikishla. They will allow that, generally speaking, they traveled south to north.

“In the spirit of the linkup and respect to the route-finding, part of (the challenge) is to not share the route, because a lot of it is researching and figuring out how do to it,” Jahn said.

So, no details about the route that took the Anchorage women from summit to summit to summit.

But details aplenty about their reward upon reaching each summit (listed here in order of elevation, with the exception of South Suicide and Tikishla):

• South Suicide (5,005 feet), macarons from Fire Island bakery.

• Williwaw Peak (5,445 feet), string cheese and Slim Jims.

• Temptation Peak (5,383 feet), Swedish Fish and Nalley Elites pickles.

• Tanaina Peak (5,358 feet), peanut butter banana bites and Krave sea salt jerky.

• The Ramp (5,240 feet), Lay’s potato chips.

• West Tanaina Peak (5,200 feet), sea salt chocolate caramels.

• O’Malley Peak (5,150 feet), sea salt chocolate caramels (so nice they had them twice).

• Koktoya Peak (5,148 feet), maple cashew butter packets.

• Hidden Peak (5,105 feet), Honey Stinger waffles.

• North Suicide (5,065 feet), lavender rose chocolate.

• Avalanche (5,050 feet), Mount Olive baby dill pickles.

• Tikishla (5,230 feet), leftovers.


April McAnly, left, checks her watch as Julianne Dickerson displays lavender rose chocolate the climbers ate at the top of 5,065-foot North Suicide. (Photo by Abby Jahn)

The summit snacks, as they called them, were more than just fuel for their bodies, Dickerson said.

“These were fantastic little morale boosters,” she said. “At each summit, we alternated which person was responsible for a quick photo and which person was responsible for the on-the-go summit snack to share.

“We highly recommend this technique.”

Not so highly recommended is their timing.

All three were coming off impressive finishes at Mount Marathon, the punishing mountain race in Seward that happened July 4 — eight days before their epic hike. Dickerson, a 31-year-old electrical engineer originally from Kenai, placed third; Jahn, a 26-year-old graduate student originally from Wasilla, placed eighth; and McAnly, a 37-year-old physician assistant originally from Kentucky, placed 15th.

“All of us were still recovering from blisters,” Jahn said in an interview the day after the climb. “Now we have blisters on blisters, or blisters coming off and new blisters forming.

“I think the feet have seen better days. I went for a really nice, long walk this morning but I don’t think I’ll be doing much more of anything soon.”

That would make Jahn the outlier in this group. Dickerson and McAnly both plan to compete in wilderness races on Saturday — Dickerson is entered in the 22.5-mile Crow Pass Crossing from Girdwood to Eagle River, and McAnly is headed to Sitka for the Alpine Adventure Run, a 7-mile run with 2,500 feet of climbing in the first 3 miles.


Abby Jahn, left, and Julianne Dickerson pause at the top of 5,150-foot O'Malley Peak. (Photo by April McAnly)

Other than all of those snacks, the women traveled light. Each carried seven to 10 pounds, including two water bottles they kept filled throughout their climb (part of their advance research included noting where water was available). They brought one medical kit and one can of bear spray, plus a GPS spotting device capable of sending a signal.

“It was turned on, so people would know we were still moving and still alive,” Dickerson said.

All three have spent hours climbing in the Chugach Mountains, whose front range provides a stunning east-end backdrop to Anchorage. Dickerson had previously climbed all 12 of the front range’s highest peaks, Jahn had done 10 of them and McAnly nine.

Depending on the route, the linkup entails 36 to 44 miles and 19,000 to 21,000 vertical feet. The trick is to bag all 12 summits in one continuous push.

Shawn Lyons, who has written books about hiking in Alaska, is the first known person to do it, in 1990. Sixteen years passed before Joe Stock and Trond Jensen made the next known climb in 2006.

Twelve more have happened since then, half of them in the last four years. Stock’s website has become a clearinghouse for information about the climbs.


From left, Julianne Dickerson, Abby Jahn and April McAnly take a selfie as fog begins to clear on 5,445-foot Mount Williwaw at 4 a.m. on Saturday, July 20. (Photo courtesy of Julianne Dickerson)

About a year ago, Dickerson, Jahn and McAnly decided to take on the pursuit, thinking they could be the first women to do it unaccompanied by men — until this summer, the only woman known to do the linkup is Abby Rideout, the 2010 Crow Pass women’s winner who did the climb with her husband in 2012.

When they consulted Stock’s webpage in the days leading up to their adventure, however, they discovered a new entry on the list of completed climbs: Sophie Tilder of Anchorage did the linkup by herself on June 22-23.

A civil engineer who graduated from UAF and Service High, Tilder said she made the climb in celebration of her 25th birthday on June 23.

“I do things solo a lot,” she said. “I’m super comfortable with all of the terrain because I’ve been on it multiple times.”

That said, Tilder started with a plan but didn’t stick with it, which is why she needed to call for a ride home after reaching the Snowhawk Valley trailhead after finishing her trek — she had planned to finish at Stuckagain Heights, where she had left a bicycle.

“I changed my game plan a lot,” Tilder said. “I (wanted) to do it in under 24 hours. That was my initial goal, but by the eighth peak my goal had changed to just completing it.”

She made the trip in 26 hours.

The news of Tilder’s accomplishment — “Kudos to her, especially for doing it solo,” Dickerson said — meant Dickerson, Jahn and McAnly needed to readjust their goal. They decided they wanted to be the first women to break the 24-hour mark, something that had been done in seven of the previous 14 known linkups.

“So now we’ve got to focus on being fast,” Dickerson said.

They took an 11-minute break while everyone put on clean socks and paused briefly atop each peak for photos and summit-snacks. Other than that, they agreed that if someone had to stop, the other two would keep moving and it was the third person’s responsibility to catch up.

“That wasn’t super difficult,” McAnly said, “because what I noticed is we tended to speed up a little when we had to shake rocks out of our shoes or something, so catching up wouldn’t be that hard.”

They contended with poor visibility when they found themselves in fogs for a couple of hours as Friday turned into Saturday, and as they headed to their 12th and final peak, they were a bit loopy. The last valley they had to cross loomed large and was filled with Dall sheep.

“It’s going to take five hours to get across,” they thought as they journeyed on.

Followed by: “Where did all the sheep go?”

The sheep were actually white rocks. And it took 77 minutes to cross the valley, not five hours.

By then they were tired, punchy and ready to be done. When they finished, their husbands and boyfriends were waiting with nachos, beer and camp chairs.

“I was thinking about sitting down in a chair for the last hour,” Jahn said. “That was one of my main motivations. I’ve never been so happy to sit down.”


From left, April McAnly, Julianne Dickerson and Abby Jahn eat nachos from the comfort of camp chairs after completing the 12-peak Challenge. (Photo courtesy of Julianne Dickerson)

Linked up

Here’s a look at known climbs of the Chugach Front Linkup.

1990 — Shawn Lyons, 27 hours, 30 minutes

2006 — Trond Jensen and Joe Stock, 23:13

2008 — Rob Develice and Charlie Thomas, 34 hours.

2008 — JT Lindholm, 22:40

2010 — Harlow Robinson, 22:42

2012 — Abby and Stephen Rideout, 29 hours

2016 — Harlow Robinson and Matias Saari, 22:10

2016 — Aaron Thrasher, 27:22

2016 — Marlo Karjala, 24:13

2017 — Peter Mamrol and Lars Arneson, 18:10

2018 — Adam Jensen and Matt Shryock, 17:43 (fastest known time)

2018 — Joe Nyholm and Miles Knotek, 23 hours

2019 — Sophie Tidler, 26 hours

2019 — Julianne Dickerson, April McAnly and Abby Jahn, 23:50 (fastest known women’s time)

Kenai River sockeye salmon returns steady but not spectacular as peak of run arrives

Thu, 2019-07-18 18:53

Teresa Nelson, of Chugiak, casts on the Kenai River near the Russian River confluence on July 18, 2019. (Marc Lester / ADN) (Marc Lester/)

As the run approaches its apex, Kenai River late-run sockeye appear to be entering the river in decent numbers -- a departure from last year’s disappointing return.

Through July 17, 266,472 sockeye had been counted by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s in-river sonar station at river mile 19. That’s the highest count through that date since 2016 -- though still well short of the previous 10-year average of about 367,000 sockeye.

“This is the time when we should see a decent pulse come in,” area management biologist Colton Lipka said Wednesday.

Dipnetters Wednesday reported good catch numbers, indicating the run could be nearing its peak. According to the department, the peak of the Kenai sockeye run is typically July 16-25. Sport anglers have been having worse luck due mainly to high, muddy water that has the fish close to the banks.

“The best advice I could give is back up,” Lipka said, saying anglers “flipping” flies for reds are reporting their best catch rates close to shore.

Last year just 123,772 sockeye had been counted through July 17, and state biologists were forced to close the hugely popular personal use dipnet fishery at the mouth of the Kenai River early in order to ensure the escapement goal was reached.

The Kenai River dipnet fishery runs through July 31, with Alaska residents annually harvesting between 130,000 and 540,000 sockeye. Millions of sockeye salmon return to Upper Cook Inlet streams each year to spawn, with the largest returns seen in the Kenai River, which this year is managed for an in-river escapement goal of between 1 million and 1.3 million sockeye.

When exactly the bulk of the run will hit the river is anyone’s guess.

“We just passed the quarter point, so we still have a lot of the run to look at,” Lipka said.


Olin Napoleon teaches his son Christian, 12, to cast while fishing on the Kenai River near the Russian River Ferry crossing on Thursday, July 18, 2019. Both are from Anchorage. (Marc Lester / ADN) (Marc Lester/)
Anglers work along the south side of the Kenai River near its confluence with the Russian River on Thursday, July 18, 2019. (Marc Lester / ADN) (Marc Lester/)
Aaron Henle, of Anchorage, releases a sockeye salmon back into the Kenai River. The fish was inadvertently hooked in its belly on Thursday, July 18, 2019. (Marc Lester / ADN) (Marc Lester/)

Schools of sockeye can swarm the Kenai in massive numbers of more than 100,000 fish in a single day. When that happens, personal use fishermen and shore-based recreational anglers are able to catch their entire limits in a matter of an hour or two.

Currently sport anglers can harvest three sockeye per day on the Kenai.

Alaska residents participating in the personal use fishery are allowed to catch 25 sockeye per season plus 10 more for each member of their household. Nonresidents are not allowed to participate in the personal use fishery. Personal use fishermen must have a valid sportfishing license and a free personal use harvest card, which must be returned at the end of the season. The Kenai River personal use dipnet fishery is open from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily. Check regulations before heading out.


Wildfire smoke creates a hazy atmosphere on the Kenai River near Cooper Landing on July 18, 2019. The Swan Lake wildfire has been burning on the Kenai Peninsula for several weeks. (Marc Lester / ADN) (Marc Lester/)
Chase Snider, of Oxford, Mississippi, operates the Russian River Ferry on Thursday afternoon, July 18, 2019. (Marc Lester / ADN) (Marc Lester/)

A bit farther south on the smaller Kasilof River, which is also open for personal use and sportfishing, the numbers are even better. Through July 17, the Kasilof had already seen more than 193,000 sockeye return, the best since 2015 and higher than the previous 10 years’ average of 175,000 fish through that date. The Kasilof is managed for an in-river escapement of between 160,000 and 340,000 fish.

Although sockeye numbers are solid, king salmon returns on the Kenai continue to lag far below their historic averages and fishing is reportedly poor for kings due to both low numbers and high water, according to a midseason report provided by the department. As of July 16, 3,647 kings had been counted so far in the run, which peaks around July 27. That’s about 500 more than last year but still well below average.

“Fishing effort and catch rates have been below average as water conditions have been unfavorable to anglers,” reads an in-season summary by the department.

Fish and Game’s forecast models currently project the run will narrowly reach the lower end of its 13,500 to 27,000 optimal escapement goal for “large” king salmon, which are those at least 34 inches in length.

King salmon fishing has been restricted due to low numbers on the Kenai, where anglers may only use a single, unbaited hook. Keeping kings in the personal use fishery has also been prohibited. The sport harvest on the formerly world famous river (in 1985 the world-record 97-pound, 4-ounce king was caught there by Les Anderson) has been tiny this year, with the department estimating a harvest of about 233 kings in the first 15 days of July.


Jason Schuler of Wahpeton, North Dakota, left, poses for a photo with his 224.2-pound halibut alongside captain Daniel Donich, center, after Schuler landed the new leader in the Homer Jackpot Halibut Derby on July 12, 2019 in Homer, Alaska. (Homer Chamber of Commerce photo)

Homer derby has new leader

A North Dakota angler leads the Homer Jackpot Halibut Derby with a 224.2-pound flatfish caught July 12.

According to the Homer Chamber of Commerce, Jason Schuer of Wahpeton, North Dakota, was fishing with guide Daniel Donich aboard the Optimist when he landed his lunker. The derby includes a cash prize of $10,000 plus $0.50 for each ticket sold and runs through Sept. 15.

Closer to home

Anchorage-area anglers have more options than ever with the July 14 opening of Bird and Campbell creeks. The former is a popular and productive roadside fishing hole located less than 30 minutes south of Anchorage on the Seward Highway, while the latter is a small in-town coho fishery.

Fishing in Bird Creek is open on the lower part of the stream only, and king salmon may not be retained. Anglers typically cast flashy spinning lures into the muddy water, where hip boots or chest waders are strongly recommended.

Campbell Creek is open for coho fishing from Dimond Boulevard to Shelikof Street through Sept. 30.

On Ship Creek in downtown Anchorage, anglers may no longer retain king salmon, but coho salmon fishing is reportedly picking up, according to Fish and Game, which releases online fishing reports for each area of the state on its website at adfg.alaska.gov. Anglers are having success with both lures and bait.

Always check regulations before heading out.

Kenai River sockeye escapements (through July 17)

2019 - 266,472

2018 - 123,772

2017 - 179,835

2016 - 540,893

2015 - 230,371

2014 - 340,548

2013 - 708,473

2012 - 497,116

2011 - 322,389

2010 - 343,434

2009 - 390,686

Source: Alaska Department of Fish and Game

Alaska lawmakers are cautiously optimistic on quick fix to issue that stopped scholarships and power subsidies

Thu, 2019-07-18 18:44

A meeting of the Senate Finance Committee is seen Thursday, July 18, 2019 in the Alaska State Capitol at Juneau. (James Brooks / ADN)

JUNEAU — Alaska lawmakers said Thursday they are prepared to move quickly to fix a broken state capital budget that threatens more than $1 billion in state projects and services, but with the Permanent Fund dividend and the governor’s budget vetoes competing for attention, no compromise has yet been reached to fix the problem.

“There’s multiple trainwrecks heading our way,” said Rep. Bart LeBon, R-Fairbanks.

Last month, Gov. Mike Dunleavy vetoed more than $444 million from the state’s operating budget, but failures within the capital budget could lead to more than $1 billion in additional losses to state programs and services, including road and airport construction, college scholarships, rural electrical subsidies and the state ferry system.

Dunleavy has proposed new legislation to repair the capital budget, but with lawmakers still absent from Juneau, neither the House nor the Senate were able to begin considering his ideas on Thursday. Instead, work will begin Friday morning, and Senate President Cathy Giessel, R-Anchorage, said she and others are preparing to move quickly.

“Part of the thing that slows us down is legal drafting,” she said, explaining the process of physically writing legislation. “(The drafters) have been asked to be all hands on deck over the weekend by both the House and Senate.”


Senate President Cathy Giessel, R-Anchorage, speaks to Sen. Natasha von Imhof, R-Anchorage, before the start of a Senate technical floor session Thursday, July 18, 2019. (James Brooks / ADN)

Before a new law can be written, however, lawmakers have to agree on what that law should contain, and that has been a consistent problem for the capital budget, which requires a three-quarters supermajority.

“People are trickling back in,” LeBon said. “I think tomorrow you’re going to see just about everyone back, and there’s going to have to be some very intense and focused negotiations and compromising and finding a middle ground. In the House, we’ve got to get to 30, and the Senate, we’ve got to get to 15.”

Most legislation requires a simple majority — 21 votes in the House and 11 in the Senate — to advance to the governor. The capital budget requires more votes because it includes a procedure known as the “reverse sweep."

That procedure is required to prevent a state constitutional amendment from automatically draining dozens of state savings accounts into the Constitutional Budget Reserve.

This year, members of the 15-member Republican minority in the House refused to offer their votes for the reverse sweep unless the Legislature approved a $3,000 Permanent Fund dividend first.

It didn’t, and so the state has begun the process of automatically draining those savings accounts, which fund things like scholarships and the state’s Power Cost Equalization endowment, which subsidizes rural power programs.

Already, many college students have been warned that their scholarships will not be paid unless there is legislative action.

Complicating matters is the fact that the Office of Management and Budget has defined the list of drainable programs to include some, such as the power endowment, that were thought to be immune.

Ironically, said David Teal, director of the nonpartisan Legislative Finance Division, the same justification used to drain the Power Cost Equalization endowment could also be used to drain the earnings reserve of the Alaska Permanent Fund, the account that pays dividends.

“If this goes to court, even over PCE … it almost has to expand to the earnings reserve account as well,” Teal said.

“That’s why I say, you simply have no choice other than getting this reverse sweep done,” he said. “The chaos caused by not reversing the sweep is simply massive."

Speaking Wednesday, House Minority Leader Lance Pruitt, R-Anchorage, said his caucus might be willing to adjust its prior position.

“If we need to take it up first, that’s fine,” Pruitt said of the capital budget. “This is not about playing games with Alaska.”

Rep. Cathy Tilton, R-Wasilla and the leading minority member on the House Finance Committee, said Thursday that it would be appropriate to say her caucus will be further refining its position in light of the governor’s proposed fix. A meeting of the minority caucus will take place Friday morning.

According to a draft of the governor’s legislation obtained by the Daily News, the governor is proposing to fix the holes in the capital budget but not restore the money drained from the Power Cost Equalization endowment.

“It takes all of the money from the PCE. That’s causing a lot of alarm. There will be changes there, I can predict,” Giessel said.

Lawmakers have not reached agreement on what should be in the legislation, Giessel said.

LeBon said that with the capital budget, reverse sweep, budget vetoes and dividend all in play, there might be a temptation for lawmakers to seek leverage for their favored topic in exchange for a vote on the capital budget.

“Everybody has a favorite piece of the puzzle, if you will," he said.

If that happens, progress could be slow, and the trouble could mount. If the capital budget is not fixed by the end of the month, more than $900 million in federal matching funds for road and airport construction could go to other states.

“The capital budget is on a clock. Get that fixed. We don’t want to lose the matching dollars,” LeBon said.

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