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Letter: We owe veterans

Wed, 2018-11-14 10:27

Alaskans know how important it is to respect the sacrifice and service of veterans. We also know that when those who serve return home, they often face a new struggle: Many have a hard time finding work to support themselves and their families.

Fortunately, there are a number of programs that can help veterans get back on their feet. The Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, formerly called food stamps, helps veterans afford groceries and make ends meet. Nearly 1.4 million veterans use SNAP, including roughly 4,000 in our state.

This program is a critical lifeline for many veterans, but its future is uncertain as farm bill negotiations continue. The House version of the farm bill includes cuts and harmful changes to SNAP, which would take food assistance away from 2 million Americans, including veterans, children, and seniors. Alternatively, the Senate version of the bill protects and strengthens SNAP, and ensures that struggling veterans can put food on the table.

We owe veterans more than just lip service. It’s time to support policies like SNAP that support them here at home.

— Jim Baldwin


Have something on your mind? Send to 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: Mueller’s investigation

Wed, 2018-11-14 10:25

Robert Mueller’s Russia investigation needs to be allowed to proceed without political interference, regardless of where it leads. I would expect our Congressional representatives to support the rule of law, as did our attorney general who was just fired.

— Jim Bailey


Have something on your mind? Send to 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.

Guidelines for letters to the editor and opinion columns

Wed, 2018-11-14 09:07

iStock / Getty Images

The Anchorage Daily News seeks to publish a wide range of points of view and to be a town square of ideas on issues affecting Alaska and Alaskans.

Here's how you can participate:

Letters to the editor

Letters under 200 words have the best chance of being published — and those under 100 words have an even better chance. Letters must be signed and must include the writer's city of residence. Writers should disclose any personal or professional connections with the subjects of their letters. Letters must be original works. Avoid personal attacks. Letter writers are limited to one published letter per month.

Letters are edited for accuracy, clarity and length. If you're citing a fact or quote from a news source or elsewhere, include a link.

We generally don't publish open letters ("An open letter to Sen. Murkowski…"), though letters thanking someone for a good deed ("To the person who helped pull my car out of a snow drift…") are just fine.

Given the volume of letters we receive, we can publish only a selection. We strive for balance, broad interest, variety and timeliness. We do not screen letters based on any political point of view. Letters published reflect the overall volume received on any given issue.

Submit your letter here.

Commentary from the community

These are longer than letters and have a clear point of view. We ask writers to keep submissions between 500 and 600 words — shorter when possible and appropriate.

Commentaries should generally focus on Alaska issues, although we will consider pieces on timely national or international issues. We give preference to Alaska writers. Like letters, articles will be edited for accuracy, clarity and length. We ask that facts or quotes be cited with links wherever possible, both to enable fact-checking and to be transparent with readers when the piece is published online. Columns must be original works and we ask that commentaries be specific to the Daily News; that is, not submitted to several newspapers at once. Commentary writers are limited to one published piece per month.

Submissions should include a one-sentence biography and, if possible, a photo (in JPG format) of the author. Writers need to disclose any personal or professional connections with the subjects of their commentaries.

We do not generally pay for submissions. As a rule, we don't publish poetry or cartoons.

While commentaries often deal with public policy and political issues, we put a high value on columns that reflect everyday experiences of Alaskans, especially when they tell a wider story or intersect with timely issues or policies. We love publishing pieces with solutions to problems.

Given the volume of commentaries received, we cannot publish every submission. We aim for variety, balance, broad interest and timeliness. We publish more commentaries online than in print, so it's possible a submission will appear online only.

Think of readers. Get to your point quickly. Avoid broadsides and attacks. Stay on-point. We find that many longer commentaries are better expressed in letters.

Email submissions to Include the topic in the subject line.

Have questions about letters or opinion columns? Email Editor David Hulen or Opinions Editor Tom Hewitt.

A note to candidates and campaigns

We will aim to provide a platform for candidates and their supporters on all sides, particularly those running for local and statewide office. The above guidelines apply, and we reserve the right not to publish any submission for any reason.

Candidate-written pieces: For state offices, starting on June 1 of the election year, ADN will consider publishing up to one commentary per month per candidate. Candidates for governor and lieutenant governor are considered separate candidates. Our strong preference is that commentaries be issue-focused and not a general 'Here's-why-I'm-running.' In general, we do not publish links to campaign literature in op-ed columns or letters to the editor.

Third-party endorsements: We'll publish no more than one per week for any candidate/ticket, and reserve the right not to publish submissions. Submissions must be original. We'll make an effort to provide balance in space given to the respective campaigns.

Letters to the editor: There's no limit on letters to the editor beyond our standard one-per-month-per-person limit, but we do not have space to publish all letters we receive. What we publish will be a representative sampling of what we receive.

Candidate endorsements: The ADN will consider endorsing candidates or positions on ballot measures that in the judgment of the Editorial Board have been deemed to be in the best interest of the state or city. Guests are invited to editorial board meetings and will be scheduled on an first-come, first-served basis with priority given to statewide elections and ballot initiatives. Candidates for statewide election will be allowed one ed-board meeting per election (once before the primary, once before the general).  All other candidates are only eligible for one meeting. For more info, please contact Opinions Editor Tom Hewitt.

Prosecuting Ohio massacre case could take years, official says

Wed, 2018-11-14 07:49

These undated images released by the Ohio Attorney General's office, show from left, George "Billy" Wagner III, Angela Wagner, George Wagner IV and Edward "Jake" Wagner. Authorities announced Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2018, that the family of four has been arrested in the slayings of eight members of one family in rural Ohio two years ago. (Ohio Attorney General's office via AP)

WAVERLY, Ohio - Prosecuting an Ohio family of four arrested in the gruesome slayings of eight people from another family could take years to conclude, a county prosecutor said as the first break in the more than two-year-old case was announced.

Tuesday's announcement marked the culmination of a massive investigative effort that began after seven adults and a teenage boy were found shot in the head at four separate homes in April 2016. The killings terrified local residents and spawned rumors that it was a drug hit, but prosecutors suggested the attack had stemmed from a custody dispute.

The investigation is one of the most complicated and extensive in state history, with enormous numbers of witnesses and a huge amount of evidence, said Pike County Prosecutor Rob Junk.

"There is a lot of hard work ahead of us. I cannot emphasize that enough. An indictment is only the beginning of the case," Junk said Tuesday, adding that the case may have to be moved from Pike County because of the pre-trial publicity.

[Family accused of Ohio massacre spent months living quietly in Alaska mobile home]

Other Pike County officials are concerned about the costs and other issues they will face in housing the suspects, such as added security and other needs. County Commissioner Blaine Beekman said Wednesday the county of 28,000 is already in a budget crunch and officials plan to meet with Junk and then reach out of state officials for help.

“Obviously, we are pleased that the arrests have been made and that if the evidence is there, the people will be brought to justice,” Beekman said. “But it’s a double-edged sword. ... Now comes the reality of how are we going to pay for this? We have no book to refer to. There are just so many unknowns.”

Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine said a grand jury indicted the four members of the Wagner family on aggravated murder charges. Police arrested George “Billy” Wagner III, 47; his wife, 48-year-old Angela Wagner; and his sons George Wagner, 27, and Edward “Jake” Wagner, 26. They could be sentenced to death if convicted, DeWine said.

DeWine gave scant detail about why the victims were killed, but said the custody of a young child played a role. Edward Wagner was the long-time former boyfriend of 19-year-old Hanna Rhoden, one of the eight victims, and shared custody of their daughter at the time of the massacre.

Edward Wagner was also charged with unlawful sexual conduct with a minor for having sexual contact with Rhoden when she was 15 years old and he was 20 years old, DeWine's office said.

Tony Rhoden, who lost two brothers in the killings, said the family was still processing the news.

"We just don't know what to think," Rhoden told the Columbus Dispatch. "It's a lot to take in."

The Wagner family lived near the scenes of the killings about 60 miles south of Columbus. They moved to Kenai, Alaska, in June 2017, then returned to Ohio this past spring.

Kelly Cinereski, an Alaska pastor and friend of the family, told the Dayton Daily News he was shocked by their arrests.

"These people wept over dogs, I can't imagine them taking people's lives," he said.

The mothers of Angela Wagner and George Wagner also were arrested in Ohio and charged with misleading investigators.

Both Edward Wagner and Angela Wagner previously told the Cincinnati Enquirer that they were not involved in the killings.

Angela Wagner said in an email to the newspaper that what happened was devastating and Hanna Rhoden was like a daughter to her. Wagner also told The Enquirer that her husband, George, and Christopher Rhoden Sr. were more like brothers than friends.

John Clark, a lawyer who has been representing the Wagners, has said previously that four of the Wagner family members provided laptops, phones and DNA samples to investigators, and agreed to be interviewed about the slayings.

"We look forward to the day when the true culprits will be discovered and brought to justice for this terrible tragedy," Clark said in a statement Tuesday.

The victims were identified as 40-year-old Christopher Rhoden Sr.; his ex-wife, 37-year-old Dana Rhoden; their three children, 20-year-old Clarence "Frankie" Rhoden, 16-year-old Christopher Jr., and 19-year-old Hanna; Clarence Rhoden's fiancée, 20-year-old Hannah Gilley; Christopher Rhoden Sr.'s brother, 44-year-old Kenneth Rhoden; and a cousin, 38-year-old Gary Rhoden. Hanna Rhoden's days-old baby girl, another baby and a young child were unharmed.


Welsh-Huggins reported from Columbus. Associated Press Writers John Seewer in Toledo and Dylan T. Lovan in Louisville, Kentucky, and AP Researcher Jennifer Farrar in New York contributed to this report.

Rocket company seeks to make its first Kodiak launch

Wed, 2018-11-14 07:30

File -- A rocket leaves the Pacific Spaceport Complex-Alaska in Kodiak (Alaska Aerospace Corp. handout photo)

KODIAK - Vector Launch Inc. is planning a commercial rocket launch at the Pacific Spaceport Complex, its first launch at the Alaska facility.

The company based in Tucson, Arizona, has applied with the Federal Aviation Administration for a launch license, aiming to test its Vector-R rocket by April 2019, the Kodiak Daily Mirror reported Tuesday.

"Vector is aiming to meet its goal of achieving the first orbital attempt of its Vector-R rocket," said Shaun Coleman, the company's chief sales and marketing officer.

The two-stage rocket would not carry a payload during the launch, according to the company's application. A little over two minutes after launch, the stages would separate and land off the coast of Kodiak.

The flight is expected to last less than 10 minutes, and the maximum operating time should be less than 3 hours from launch activities.

"This is an absolute worst-case estimate as operating longer than 30 to 60 minutes may require shut down of the transmitters due to thermal concerns," the document states.

Vector plans to conduct more launches from Kodiak Island if the test is successful, Coleman said.

"Part of Vector's strategy is to launch from multiple sites, not exclusively from Kodiak," Coleman said. "Within a few years, Vector envisions launches from Kodiak, as well as Vandenberg Air Force Base in California, and Wallops Island in Virginia to name a few."

Vector has previously conducted various tests in Kodiak to prepare for a launch, said Craig Campbell, CEO of Alaska Aerospace Corp.

“They’ve been up here twice, doing pathfinders, bringing the rocket up and doing all the steps leading up to a launch,” Campbell said.

Scientists acknowledge key errors in study of how fast the oceans are warming

Wed, 2018-11-14 07:23

FILE - In this July 21, 2017, file photo, the sun sets over sea ice floating on the Victoria Strait along the Northwest Passage in the Canadian Arctic Archipelago. (AP Photo/David Goldman) (David Goldman/)

Scientists behind a major study that claimed the Earth’s oceans are warming faster than previously thought now say their work contained inadvertent errors that made their conclusions seem more certain than they actually are.

Two weeks after the high-profile study was published in the journal Nature, its authors have submitted corrections to the publication. The Scripps Institution of Oceanography, home to several of the researchers involved, also noted the problems in the scientists' work and corrected a news release on its website, which previously had asserted that the study detailed how the Earth’s oceans “have absorbed 60 percent more heat than previously thought.”

“Unfortunately, we made mistakes here,” said Ralph Keeling, a climate scientist at Scripps, who was a co-author of the study. “I think the main lesson is that you work as fast as you can to fix mistakes when you find them.”

The central problem, according to Keeling, came in how the researchers dealt with the uncertainty in their measurements. As a result, the findings suffer from too much doubt to definitively support the paper’s conclusion about how much heat the oceans have absorbed over time.

The central conclusion of the study - that oceans are retaining ever more energy as more heat is being trapped within Earth's climate system each year - is in line with other studies that have drawn similar conclusions. And it hasn't changed much despite the errors. But Keeling said the authors' miscalculations mean there is a much larger margin of error in the findings, which means researchers can weigh in with less certainty than they thought.

"I accept responsibility for what happened because it's my role to make sure that those kind of details got conveyed," Keeling said.

The study's lead author was Laure Resplandy of Princeton University. Other researchers were with institutions in China, Paris, Germany and the U.S. National Center for Atmospheric Research and Geophysical Fluid Dynamics Laboratory.

"Maintaining the accuracy of the scientific record is of primary importance to us as publishers and we recognize our responsibility to correct errors in papers that we have published," Nature said in a statement to The Washington Post. "Issues relating to this paper have been brought to Nature's attention and we are looking into them carefully. We take all concerns related to papers we have published very seriously and will issue an update once further information is available."

The original study, which appeared Oct. 31, derived a new method for measuring how much heat is being absorbed by the oceans. Essentially, the authors measured the volume of gases, specifically oxygen and carbon dioxide, that have escaped the ocean in recent decades and headed into the atmosphere as it heats up. They found that the warming “is at the high end of previous estimates” and suggested that as a result, the rate of global warming itself could be more accelerated.

The results, wrote the authors, may suggest there is less time than previously thought to curb greenhouse gas emissions. The study drew considerable media attention, including from The Washington Post.

However, not long after publication, an independent Britain-based researcher named Nicholas Lewis published a lengthy blog post saying he had found a “major problem” with the research.

"So far as I can see, their method vastly underestimates the uncertainty," Lewis said in an interview Tuesday, "as well as biasing up significantly, nearly 30 percent, the central estimate."

Lewis added that he tends "to read a large number of papers, and, having a mathematics as well as a physics background, I tend to look at them quite carefully, and see if they make sense. And where they don't make sense - with this one, it's fairly obvious it didn't make sense - I look into them more deeply."

Lewis has argued in past studies and commentaries that climate scientists are predicting too much warming because of their reliance on computer simulations, and that current data from the planet itself suggests global warming will be less severe than feared.

It isn't clear whether the authors agree with all of Lewis's criticisms, but Keeling said "we agree there were problems along the lines he identified."

Paul Durack, a research scientist at the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in California, said that promptly acknowledging the errors in the study "is the right approach in the interests of transparency."

But he added in an email, "This study, although there are additional questions that are arising now, confirms the long known result that the oceans have been warming over the observed record, and the rate of warming has been increasing," he said.

Gavin Schmidt, head of the NASA Goddard Institute for Space Studies, followed the growing debate over the study closely on Twitter and said that measurements about the uptake of heat in the oceans have been bedeviled with data problems for some time - and that debuting new research in this area is hard.

"Obviously you rely on your co-authors and the reviewers to catch most problems, but things still sometimes slip through," Schmidt wrote in an email.

Schmidt and Keeling agreed that other studies also support a higher level of ocean heat content than the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change, or IPCC, saw in a landmark 2013 report.

Overall, Schmidt said, the episode can be seen as a positive one.

"The key is not whether mistakes are made, but how they are dealt with - and the response from Laure and Ralph here is exemplary. No panic, but a careful reexamination of their working - despite a somewhat hostile environment," he wrote.

“So, plus one for some post-publication review, and plus one to the authors for reexamining the whole calculation in a constructive way. We will all end up wiser.”

Justice Dept. releases memo defending Whitaker’s appointment as acting attorney general

Wed, 2018-11-14 07:08

WASHINGTON - The Justice Department released a memorandum Wednesday defending the legality of President Donald Trump appointing Matthew Whitaker as acting attorney general - rejecting criticism from some lawyers that the move violates the Constitution.

Since his appointment last week, some have charged that Whitaker, who served as the chief of staff to the previous attorney general, Jeff Sessions, is not legally eligible to serve as the head of the Justice Department because he is not a Senate-confirmed official.

On Tuesday, Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh, a Democrat, asked a federal judge to block Whitaker from serving as acting attorney general, arguing that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein should instead take on the role.

The Justice Department's Office of Legal Counsel, which provides legal guidance to the federal government, said in a 20-page memo that past practice, court rulings, and legal analysis show that the Whitaker appointment is legal. In particular, it says the scenario is expressly authorized by the 1998 Vacancies Reform Act.

FILE - In this April 11, 2014, file photo, Iowa Senate candidate Matt Whitaker speaks during the Iowa Republican Party's annual Lincoln Day dinner in Cedar Rapids, Iowa. A GOP TV spot comparing castrating hogs to cutting spending, and Democrat Bruce Braley’s comment that lawyers like him are better suited to serve on the Senate Judiciary Committee than “an Iowa farmer” like U.S. Sen. Charles Grassley, have raised the Iowa’s open Senate seat on the GOP’s list of winnable races in the 2014 elections. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File) (Charlie Neibergall/)

The memo also notes that before Sessions was forced out of the job, the White House had sought advice from the OLC and was told Whitaker could be appointed.

"As all three branches of government have long recognized, the president may designate an acting official to perform the duties of a vacant principal office, including a Cabinet office, even when the acting official has not been confirmed by the Senate," the memo said.

The memo notes that Trump has now done it six times, and that then-president Barack Obama did it twice, and then-president George W. Bush did it once.

Interestingly, the legal opinion also concludes that even if Trump had fired Sessions, he could have replaced him with a non-Senate confirmed government employee for a period of up to seven months. By that reasoning, the president has the power to replace Cabinet-level officials at will and put them in charge of major government branches for half a year or more.

Critics of the Whitaker selection have argued the Vacancies Reform Act should not take precedence over other statutes and the Constitution's formula for replacing senior government officials.

"Few positions are more critical than that of U.S. Attorney General, an office that wields enormous enforcement power and authority over the lives of all Americans," Frosh, the Maryland attorney general, said in a statement Tuesday.

Trump tapped Whitaker to serve as acting attorney general last week after Sessions resigned at the president's request. Whitaker's elevation has raised concerns about his qualifications, his past statements as a U.S. Senate candidate and his business practices.

The legal challenge to Whitaker's appointment comes as part of Maryland's ongoing federal lawsuit that is trying to force the Trump administration to uphold a key provision of the Affordable Care Act.

Frosh's filing argues that Whitaker's promotion violates the Appointments Clause of the Constitution, which requires "principal" senior officials, such as the attorney general, to be confirmed by the Senate. Maryland also contends that the appointment violates a federal statute that lays out the line of succession and gives authority to the deputy attorney general when the top job is vacant.

A number of current and former government lawyers have said that while elevating Whitaker to attorney general was unwise and unprecedented, it is not illegal.

A senior Justice Department official said the OLC’s legal analysis of the practice found 160 such instances in which a non-Senate confirmed official became the acting head of an agency, but the vast majority of those instances came before 1870.

People are misbehaving on India’s prized new bridge

Wed, 2018-11-14 05:53

The Signature Bridge is shrouded in smog on Nov. 8, 2018. (Bloomberg photo by Ruhani Kaur) (Ruhani Kaur/)

NEW DELHI - It took eight long years to build the new Signature Bridge. When it finally opened on Nov. 4, a minister called it the pride of the city and likened it to the Eiffel Tower in Paris.

Now, just days after it was inaugurated, the Indian government's flagship engineering marvel has become a site for dangerous selfies, piles of garbage and absurd traffic violations.

“We did not expect that there would be such a craze around this bridge,” said Shurbir Singh, managing director of the Delhi Tourism and Transportation Development Corp., speaking to the Indian Express newspaper.

People risk their lives to click pictures at newly-inaugurated Signature Bridge in Delhi; #visuals from last night

— ANI (@ANI) November 10, 2018

The 2,214-foot asymmetrical bridge was built across the Yamuna River and connects north Delhi to Wazirabad, an increasingly populated area to its east. The cable-stayed structure also has a 505-foot-high viewing gallery.

According to the Express, in just two days, police recorded 53 cases of improper parking and 24 one-way violations, and they had to tow away 27 vehicles.

According to news reports in India, the bridge is littered with parked cars and thrill-seekers climbing the bridge's suspension cables to take hands-free selfies. Street hawkers have set up stalls to capitalize on the bridge's popularity.

“The government has done a great job, but people are making the bridge dirty. It is attracting a lot of tourists for sure, but it is disorganized,” said one visitor, Om Prakash Sharma, speaking to the Hindu newspaper.

India's rapid economic growth over the past three decades is finally starting to deliver long-awaited urban infrastructure.

Prime Minister Narendra Modi has promised flashy new transport links, including a $17 billion bullet train and 53,000 miles of new roads.

According to a recent study by the All India Institute of Medical Sciences, about half of the world’s selfie-related deaths between 2011 and 2017 happened in India.

The city of Mumbai has even introduced “no selfie zones” to prevent reckless selfie-taking.

Aiding Alaskans

Wed, 2018-11-14 05:07

SPONSORED: When Suzi Pearson, executive director of Abused Women's Aid in Crisis (AWAIC, pronounced "awake"), meets with potential donors, she has a story she likes to tell.

Years ago, one of AWAIC's prevention speakers was at a local middle school, explaining what an abusive relationship looks like. His presentation resonated with one of the young girls in class; what he was describing sounded awfully similar to her mother's home life.

"She went home and told her mom, 'Look at this information, I think you're in an abusive relationship,'" Pearson said. "(The) mom called us really upset, asking how we could tell her daughter these things. But a few days later, (the) mom called again and said, 'I think I am in an abusive relationship and it's not safe for me to be at home.'"

The woman and her daughter soon came to the shelter, working their way through AWAIC's various programs — ranging from recognizing domestic abuse to legal advocacy — before leaving the toxic relationship and relocating.

"The continuum of services we provide greatly touched those lives," Pearson said. "It's incredible that it all started with one kid in a classroom."

A place to breathe

Many people in Anchorage might hold the notion that AWAIC is simply an emergency shelter. While that's partially true — the non-profit provides a 52-bed shelter where victims are safe from emergency abuse, the largest of its kind in the state — the breadth of their services encompasses so much more.

They also provide personal support, advocacy and support groups; maintain a 24-hour crisis line; and have a myriad of programs available to help victims, ranging from emergency financial aid and relocation, to preventing violence through education and outreach.

"We work with people to first be safe and then start addressing what they identify as their needs," Pearson said.

Those self-identified needs can be anything from support in finding housing or landing a job, to getting substance abuse help or learning how to open a bank account.

What AWAIC does best, though, Pearson said, is provide a safe and non-judgmental environment for those experiencing domestic violence. A place to breathe. A place to think.

"If someone needs to come back 20 times, that's the number they need to come back, they need that safe place," Pearson said. "It's very difficult to leave an abusive relationship, so the fact they know they can always come back to AWAIC is really critical."

This  is particularly significant in Alaska, Pearson said, a state that experiences the most domestic violence in the nation. According to the UAA Justice Center, one in two Alaska women experience domestic or sexual abuse in their lifetime. In the last year, more than 7,000 women have been abuse victims in Anchorage alone.

"When you look at those stats, it's evident that domestic violence shelters are so necessary," Pearson said. "We have almost 300,000 people in this community, but only 52 beds. We've been at or over capacity for a decade — that shows you that the demand for our services is critical."

Continuing support

As a non-profit, AWAIC is constantly working to stay nimble in the current economy and continue to grow to meet demand.

AWAIC is currently in the middle of a campaign to raise funds for an expansion that would add 15 more beds, three of which would be designated for male victims (now, males who seek aid are put up in hotels), as well as create more designated office spaces to house their services.

Another way they continue to grow is by working with investment management bankers at First National Bank Alaska to help turn their savings into greater amounts.

"We have a commercial banker (at First National) who finds me the resources I need," said Susan Peterson, AWAIC's Finance Director. "They help us much like a community member would."

Beyond support from their bank and grants from the state, another $900,000 comes from individual donors annually.

"It's expensive to do what we do for the community," Pearson said.

There's no shortage of success stories in Pearson's repertoire or in the number of people who believe in the non-profit's mission.

For the past two New Year's Days, AWAIC has been the recipient of Kaladi Brothers New Year's Day of Giving. Profits from every beverage and baked good sold at Kaladi's locations on January 1 went directly to AWAIC. The baristas volunteered their time, working strictly for tips. Sponsors chipped in to help match the funds raised.

Last year, AWAIC was gifted approximately $25,000 from the New Year's Day of Giving. It was a sum enough to keep the lights on and survivors safe for about five days.

"We have great relationships with people in our community who believe in what we're doing," Pearson said. "How can you not get behind helping people who are recovering from domestic violence? We have people dedicated to the mission. Without them we wouldn't be able to do what we do."

This article was produced by the creative services department of the Anchorage Daily News in collaboration with First National Bank Alaska. The ADN newsroom was not involved in its production.

SNL mocked my appearance. Here’s why I didn’t demand an apology.

Tue, 2018-11-13 20:40

Rep.-elect Dan Crenshaw and Pete Davidson. (NBC via Youtube)

The past couple of weeks have been unusual for me, to say the least. After a year of hard campaigning for Congress in Texas and gradually entering the public sphere, I was hit by a sudden, blinding spotlight. But I have no complaints - it wasn’t as bad as some other challenges I’ve faced, like a sudden, blinding IED explosion. (See what I did there? “Saturday Night Live” has created a comedic monster.)

On the Nov. 3 show, SNL's Pete Davidson mocked my appearance - "he lost his eye in war . . . or whatever," Davidson said, referring to the eye patch I wear. His line about my looking like a "hit man in a porno movie" was significantly less infuriating, albeit a little strange. I woke up on the Sunday morning after the show to hundreds of texts about what Davidson had said. A lot of America wasn't happy. People thought some lines still shouldn't be crossed.

I agreed. But I also could not help but note that this was another chapter in a phenomenon that has taken complete control of the national discourse: outrage culture. It seems like every not-so-carefully-worded public misstep must be punished to the fullest extent, replete with soapbox lectures and demands for apologies. Anyone who doesn't show the expected level of outrage will be labeled a coward or an apologist for bad behavior. I get the feeling that regular, hardworking, generally unoffended Americans sigh with exhaustion - daily.

Was I really outraged by SNL? Really offended? Or did I just think the comment about losing my eye was offensive? There is a difference, after all. I have been literally shot at before, and I wasn't outraged. Why start now?

So I didn't demand an apology and I didn't call for anyone to be fired. That doesn't mean the "war . . . or whatever" line was acceptable, but I didn't have to fan the flames of outrage, either. When SNL reached out with an apology and an offer to be on the show, I wasn't fully sold on the idea. It was going to be Veterans Day weekend, after all, and I had events with veterans planned. I asked if another weekend might work. No, they said, precisely because it was Veterans Day, it would be the right time to send the right message. They assured me that we could use the opportunity to send a message of unity, forgiveness and appreciation for veterans. And to make fun of Pete Davidson, of course.

And that's what we did. I was happy with how it worked out. But now what? Does it suddenly mean that the left and right will get along and live in utopian harmony? Maybe Saturday's show made a tiny step in that direction, but I'm not naive. As a country, we still have a lot of work to do. We need to agree on some basic rules for civil discourse.

There are many ideas that we will never agree on. The left and the right have different ways of approaching governance, based on contrasting philosophies. But many of the ultimate goals - economic prosperity, better health care and education, etc. - are the same. We just don't share the same vision of how to achieve them.

How, then, do we live together in this world of differing ideas? For starters, let’s agree that the ideas are fair game. If you think my idea is awful, you should say as much. But there is a difference between attacking an idea and attacking the person behind that idea. Labeling someone as an “-ist” who believes in an “-ism” because of the person’s policy preference is just a shortcut to playground-style name-calling, cloaked in political terminology. It’s also generally a good indication that the attacker doesn’t have a solid counter-argument and needs a way to end debate before it has even begun.

Similarly, people too often attack not just an idea but also the supposed intent behind an idea. That raises the emotional level of the debate and might seem like it strengthens the attacker's side, but it's a terrible way to make a point. Assuming the worst about your opponents' intentions has the effect of demonizing their ideas, removing the need for sound counter-reasoning and fact-based argument. That's not a good environment for the exchange of ideas.

When all else fails, try asking for forgiveness, or granting it. On Saturday, Pete Davidson and SNL made amends. I had some fun. Everyone generally agreed that a veteran's wounds aren't fair game for comedy. Maybe now we should all try to work toward restoring civility to public debate.

Crenshaw, a former Navy SEAL, is a Republican representative-elect from Texas. Originally published by The Washington Post.

The views expressed here are the writer’s and are not necessarily endorsed by the Anchorage Daily News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary(at) Send submissions shorter than 200 words to or click here to submit via any web browser. Read our full guidelines for letters and commentaries here.

Alaska’s commercial salmon harvest came in below forecast in 2018, largely due to pink salmon

Tue, 2018-11-13 19:01

Sockeye salmon, Kenai Peninsula. (iStock / Getty Images)

Bristol Bay's commercial sockeye salmon fishery boomed in 2018, but on the other side of the Alaska Peninsula it was a terrible year for Chignik.

The statewide value of Alaska's commercial salmon harvest this year was down 13 percent compared to the 2017 season, according to preliminary numbers released this month by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. Fishermen caught fewer salmon compared to last year, as expected, but the harvest also fell short of the state's forecast.

About 115 million salmon were harvested this year. That total is probably in the lower quarter of commercial harvests dating back to 1975, said Forrest Bowers, acting director at Fish and Game in the division of commercial fisheries.

"That's offset somewhat by the relatively high proportion of the harvest that's comprised of sockeye salmon and the strength of the sockeye salmon market," he said.

The preliminary ex-vessel value for all Alaska commercial salmon harvested this season was $595.2 million. (Ex-vessel is the price paid to fishermen from processors.) In 2017, that value was $685 million.

Sockeye salmon accounted for about 59 percent of the total harvest value this year, at $349.2 million, and 44 percent of the total harvest at nearly 50 million fish. Chum salmon were the second most valuable species.

That 13 percent drop in value for all commercial salmon compared to 2017 is "not a lot," Bowers said.

Last year, the commercial salmon harvest was about 223 million fish. This year's catch of about 115 million fish missed a state forecast in March that projected a harvest of 147 million fish. That's largely because of the pink salmon, Bowers said.

"Sockeye salmon harvest has been pretty constant for the last four years or so, but pink salmon has been oscillating," he said. "We were forecasting almost 70 million pink salmon harvest, and we had 40 million."

The state's pink salmon returns in 2016 were so bad that there was a federal disaster declaration for Gulf of Alaska pink salmon fisheries. The pinks returning this season were the offspring of the ones that spawned that year.

Lower pink salmon numbers this season are likely the result of two main factors, Bowers said: that disaster in 2016, and also warmer water conditions in the North Pacific Ocean in recent years.

"We know the warm water isn't necessary favorable for salmon production, so we think that has a role to play," he said.

[Report: Early in the season, Alaska commercial salmon harvests are lagging]

For Alaska king salmon, the 2018 total commercial harvest value was the lowest since limited entry began in 1975.

The harvest numbers from Fish and Game are preliminary, and can change later.

Bristol Bay's sockeye salmon run of 62.3 million fish this season is the largest on record, according to Fish and Game. The commercial harvest of 41.3 million sockeye there topped the forecast and was the second biggest harvest on record. The ex-vessel value of $281 million set a new record.

Just on the other side of the Alaska Peninsula from Bristol Bay, the Chignik River had its poorest sockeye salmon run on record since statehood, the agency said. It was so bad, there was no commercial fishing targeting sockeye salmon in the Chignik Management Area.

"Essentially didn't have a fishery in Chignik this year," Bowers said.

['No fish and no hope': Poor sockeye salmon run takes a toll on Chignik]

The commercial chum harvest in Kotzebue this year was a record high. In Norton Sound, the harvest ranged from above average to record-size for chum, pink, sockeye and coho salmon, according to Fish and Game.

"Even though those areas are relatively small producers, the fisheries up there are a really important part of the economy," Bowers said, "and it's interesting to see the trend there, where these fisheries in the Arctic … seem to be outperforming salmon fisheries in other parts of the state."

Family accused of Ohio massacre spent months living quietly in Alaska mobile home

Tue, 2018-11-13 18:30

Pike County Sheriff Charles Reader, left, speaks alongside Ohio Attorney General Mike DeWine, right, during a news conference to discuss developments into the slayings of eight members of one family in rural Ohio two years ago, Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2018, in Waverly, Ohio.A family of four, the Wagner family, who lived near the scenes of the killings, was arrested Tuesday. (AP Photo/John Minchillo)

Four members of a family had been charged Tuesday with a notorious, execution-style massacre of eight people in Ohio spent at least six months living in Alaska starting last summer.

At the time they told Cincinnati Enquirer reporters they'd moved more than 4,000 miles from Pike County, Ohio, to a mobile home north of Kenai to escape unfair speculation that they were involved in the murders.

But on Tuesday the Wagner family — father Billy, mother Angela and sons Jack and George — were arrested on charges that they killed eight people on one day in April 2016 in a small town in southern Ohio. Most of the victims were killed in their sleep.

In a news conference in Ohio on Tuesday, Ohio attorney general and governor-elect Mike DeWine said detectives working on the case spent "some very significant time in Alaska" during the two-year murder probe.

Police haven't detailed a motive but said the Wagner family wanted to "wipe out" another family, people they knew well, for reasons involving a child custody dispute.

Authorities have described the case as the largest, most complex investigation in Ohio history.

The Wagner family first vacationed in Alaska because they were friends with the pastor of a Resurrection Bay Baptist Church in Seward, the Cincinnati Enquirer reported.

"They're just good country people," pastor Kelly Cinereski told the Dayton Daily News of Dayton, Ohio.

During the spring of 2017, they vacationed in Alaska while authorities in Ohio searched their farmhouse, news reports said at the time.

Then they sold the farm, packed their belongings into a horse trailer and flatbed truck and drove north, moving into a into a double-wide trailer converted into a larger home on Melody Lane, a rural road off the Kenai Spur Highway north of town.

Melody Lane north of Kenai. (Google Streetview image)

A real estate listing for the property described it as offering "privacy with a big backyard."

One of the sons, Jake Wagner, told the Cincinnati Enquirer that the family had moved, in part, to offer a "better environment" to his daughter. The girl's mother was one of the victims of the slayings.

But the rumors "followed us here," Wagner told the reporter.

It's not clear whether they worked while in Kenai. Locals said they kept a very low-profile.

Public records show the Wagners had a few minor interactions with Alaska authorities as they began to cement their life in their new home.

These undated images released by the Ohio Attorney General’s office, show from left, George “Billy” Wagner III, Angela Wagner, George Wagner IV and Edward “Jake” Wagner.  (Ohio Attorney General’s office via AP)

Mother Angela Wagner registered to vote in Alaska on July 3. So did father George "Billy" Wagner. Later that summer he was fined for not having enough life jackets onboard a boat last summer. He paid the fine.

One of the sons, Edward "Jake" Wagner, applied for a fishing and hunting license around the same time. Jake Wagner got a minor speeding ticket in Kenai in January.

Other than the speeding ticket, Kenai police said they had no interactions with the Wagners, said chief David Ross.

The family moved back to Ohio in the spring of 2018, DeWine said at the press conference.

The Kenai Police Department and Alaska State Troopers both said they were not involved in the investigation and arrests.

Kenai-area residents said the Wagners drew little attention on the Peninsula.

The Wagner family's presence didn't really make waves in Kenai, even after authorities in Ohio put out a press release asking for tips about the family in relation to the slayings, said Will Morrow, who was then the editor of the Peninsula Clarion newspaper.

Stacy Oliva, who lives in Nikiski, said a visiting relative had been spooked out of staying alone at their guest house in the area when she saw something on social media about a family "on the lam from Ohio" and wanted in a murder case.

But that was about it, she said. The case was discussed on some local Facebook crime-watching groups.

But to some people in Kenai, the family's story didn't seem unusual.

One Melody Lane neighbor, Brad Conklin, told the newspaper the family told him they'd moved up to Alaska to find work, and start a new life.

Anchorage School District and teachers union will resume contract talks Wednesday

Tue, 2018-11-13 17:31

The Anchorage School District and the teachers union will resume contract negotiations Wednesday. It's the latest step in the monthslong, at times contentious, bargaining process.

Representatives for the school district and the union, the Anchorage Education Association, will sit down with federal mediators Wednesday in another effort to reach a tentative, three-year contract agreement, according to the union and district. This will be the third round of mediation.

The district and the union have remained locked in contract negotiations since April. Union members are currently working under the terms of their old contract, which expired June 30. The union represents roughly 3,300 educators including classroom teachers, counselors and school nurses.

Frustrations have continued to mount among union members as the contract negotiations continue. Educators have packed Anchorage School Board meetings, airing frustrations about working conditions and, last week, staging a walkout.

Hundreds of Anchorage educators walk out of an Anchorage School Board meeting together on November 5, 2018, the evening before contract negotiations were scheduled to resume between the school district and teachers union. (Marc Lester / ADN)

The union and district could decide on a tentative contract agreement Wednesday or they could decide they've hit an impasse and continue moving to the next step in the bargaining process — arbitration, according to the union president, Tom Klaameyer. The groups could also decide to have another round of mediation.

Once the district and union reach a tentative contract deal, union members and the school board must vote to ratify the agreement before it takes effect.

There are a list of differences between the district's and union's contract proposals that are posted online. Those include salary, the district's contribution toward health insurance premiums and pay for additional classes taught. The union and district also have different visions for part of the contract about academic freedom, among others.

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

Klaameyer and Todd Hess, district chief human resource officer, said last week that progress had been made during the second round of mediation. It's unclear where the group found common ground. They both said the conversations during mediation were confidential.

Paradise, Calif., residents wait anxiously to return to devastated homes

Tue, 2018-11-13 17:29

Wildfire evacuee Greg Gibson looks for information about his missing neighbors at The Neighborhood Church in Chico, Calif., on Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2018. The fire exploded so quickly, Gibson said, that he first noticed the bottom of a shed burning about one-quarter of a mile from his house and by the time he reached the home he shares with an elderly woman, the fire was on all sides. He helped his 79-year-old roommate into her car and they fled. (AP Photo/Gillian Flaccus) (Gillian Flaccus/)

OROVILLE, Calif. -- A few hundred members of the frantic exodus from Paradise ended up here, in the large hardscrabble parking lot of the Church of the Nazarene.

There are campers and pickup trucks, their beds filled with pet and human food, bottles of water, blankets and toys. Dogs roam between the cars where, early Tuesday, people reclined in front seats to sleep. Camping tents dot the parking lot.

The neighbors who fled the Camp Fire, now the deadliest in state history, did so together. Now on this patch of dirt they have recreated their old neighborhoods, which sit an hour or so up the hill and likely have been reduced to ash.

But no one knows for certain. That is the enduring anxiety at this and other evacuation centers where tens of thousands of residents have ended up.

Their towns, where some here have lived for decades, are now a mystery. What has happened to friends and family is a mystery. The identity of the 42 people who have died in the Camp Fire is a mystery, given that forensic testing is needed on most of the victims to determine who they are.

A sign on Highway 191 in Paradise, Calif., warns looters to stay away after the Camp Fire destroyed the town, Monday, Nov. 12, 2018. (Hector Amezcua/The Sacramento Bee via AP) (Hector Amezcua/)

What becomes of Paradise, once residents are allowed back in and witness the comprehensive devastation firsthand, is a mystery. Many here just simply do not know how bad the damage is.

"We're just hearing so many different stories and many of us have no idea whether our homes are still standing," said Erin Finafrock, 33, who fled with her roommate Thursday morning from the Pleasant Pines RV Park in Magalia, a town next to Paradise. "We're really up in the air here."

As the Camp Fire expanded Tuesday to the northeast, fire and rescue crews searched the ruins of Paradise and nearby towns for bodies.

Two large fires also continued burning north of Los Angeles, and officials said the Woolsey Fire, which has torched parts of Malibu, has now destroyed more than 80 percent of the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area - a large swath of protected urban parkland that is home to hundreds of animal species and native plants.

There is no rain in sight on either end of the state.

A fire truck drives through an area burned from the wildfire, Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2018, in Paradise, Calif. Five days after flames all but obliterated the Northern California town, officials were unsure of the exact number of missing. But the death toll was almost certain to rise. (AP Photo/John Locher) (John Locher/)

Fire and rescue officials here expect the death toll from the Camp Fire to rise as the slow search work unfolds in the weeks ahead. More than 200 people remain unaccounted for, some of them likely huddling in shelters, waiting.

Until the work is complete, no one is allowed into Paradise.

People here have become online sleuths, scouring Facebook pages for any amateur video shot as the fire tore through town. They work their cellphones to check on friends and relatives. Some have been told it could be weeks before they can head back up the hill.

"I'd never owned a cellphone in my life, but I finally had to buy one two days ago," said Harold Crouch, 55, who was born and raised in Paradise. "And then the first person I called on it told me I was on the sheriff's missing list."

Crouch fled the Pine Grove Mobile Home park with his neighbors, Jessica and Ian Franklin, who have set up their tent and a pair of pickup trucks next to him.

A man from Shasta County wanting to help visited the evacuation center a few nights ago and gave the Franklins a camper that fit the bed of their truck. Virgil, their 14-month-old son in onesie pajamas, played in the tent as his parents and neighbor figured out what to do next.

Shawn Slack carries a chainsaw after felling trees burned in the Camp Fire, Monday, Nov. 12, 2018, in Paradise, Calif. (AP Photo/John Locher) (John Locher/)

The Franklins and Crouch know their homes did not survive. As they drove out of their neighborhood Thursday morning, first ash, then burning embers rained down on them. The direction of the wind and proximity of the flames made clear their homes were doomed.

Crouch was not insured against fire. But he will return to Paradise, where he manages a pharmacy, and seek federal emergency assistance. His company also has established an employee relief fund.

"Some of our neighbors have already told us, 'We're out of here,' and will not be going back," Crouch said. "For me, it's my home, it's where I've been happiest. I'm going back."

The Franklins will, too. They were insured and Ian Franklin is a fourth-generation "Paradisian." There is no place else for him.

"We go back, we rebuild," he said.

Those pledges, while heartfelt, are provisional. No one in this parking lot has seen the destruction, a town utterly annihilated by flame. More than 7,000 buildings have been burned, most of them homes in and around Paradise.

"We think we're going to be OK, but we don't really know," said Jeanne Neeley, who fled with her husband and 7-year-old daughter, Faith, from their home in Berry Creek to the southeast of Paradise. The family has been told they likely will not be allowed back into their town until Nov. 30.

In the meantime, Faith, who is avidly following the fire news on social media and through word of mouth, is building a tent. There are also seven dogs to care for, many of them puppies. The Neeleys have given four of them away since arriving Thursday night.

"These people just lost their dogs in the fire, so we're happy to give them some of these guys," said David Neeley, an auto mechanic whose employer was spared by the fire.

The generosity is widespread.

Doug Chandler, his girlfriend and her daughter left their rented home when they saw the Feather River Hospital catch fire and burn. It was not Chandler's first experience with fire. Five days after he moved into his house a few years ago, the Lime Saddle Fire burned up the hills toward him and he was forced to evacuate.

Following the Camp Fire, scorched cars line Pearson Road, Monday, Nov. 12, 2018, in Paradise, Calif. (AP Photo/Noah Berger) (Noah Berger/)

This time Chandler’s landlord helped the family. He gave them his RV, which the Chandlers might be living in for the next week or so. KC, the family Australian shepherd, curled up on a patch of artificial turf on the doorstep.

"The first day or so it was shock and awe," said Chandler, 60, who served in the Army for a dozen years. "The next days were fear and sadness. Now it's just frustration with not knowing anything and not being allowed to return."

Finafrock moved into her mobile home in Magalia five months ago. She left Oakland, hoping, as she put it, "to find a better quality of life."

"And I found it here," she said. "The people are so much kinder."

Many of her neighbors surround her small yellow car where she sleeps and, on this morning, has scattered an assortment of yogurt and bananas for people to take. But at least three of her neighbors are missing and unaccounted for, worrying the whole group of them here.

Even as a newcomer to the region, Finafrock intends to return and rebuild - "especially now," she said.

“I’m closer than I have ever been to these people,” Finafrock said. “When you go through a traumatizing event like this as a group, you come together.”

Photos: Best of November 2018

Tue, 2018-11-13 17:25

The best photos of life in Anchorage and Southcentral Alaska from Anchorage Daily News photojournalists and contributing photographers.

With Legislative power at stake, Kawasaki and Democrats pull ahead in latest vote count

Tue, 2018-11-13 17:08

In the latest count of outstanding ballots, Democratic Rep. Scott Kawasaki of Fairbanks has rebounded to more than a 140-vote lead in his bid to unseat Alaska Senate President Pete Kelly, a Republican, Fairbanks TV station KTVF reported Tuesday.

A Democrat also took a slight lead in the race for Kawasaki’s old House seat, District 1. As of Tuesday, Kathryn Dodge was leading Bart LeBon by 10 votes, KTVF reported.

Some 300 absentee ballots still need to be counted. That will happen Friday, meaning the results could still change, particularly in House District 1.

Among Republicans, there was optimism LeBon would ultimately pull ahead; Kawasaki’s campaign, meanwhile, said it was feeling positive about its chances.

“There are still votes to be counted but at this point we are pretty confident that things may go our way,” said the spokesman, Will Jodwalis.

On Monday, Kawasaki emailed supporters asking for more donations to cover legal counsel and extended staff time during the ballot count.

Kelly could not immediately be reached for comment Tuesday. Neither he nor his Republican colleagues in the Senate have spoken publicly on the future of the Senate’s leadership.

The House race between LeBon and Dodge, meanwhile, is the deciding factor in whether Republicans or Democrats establish control over the chamber. In 2016, Democrats joined with Republicans and independents to hold a 22-18 majority in the last Legislative session. But two key members of that coalition -- Paul Seaton and Jason Grenn -- were unseated Nov. 6.

If Dodge ends up winning, the Legislature would have a 20-20 split, largely along party lines. A caucus needs at least 21 votes to pass a budget.

A victory by LeBon would favor a new Republican House Majority that was announced last week, headed up by Rep. David Talerico of Healy.

On Tuesday, Talerico said there won’t be a clear winner until all of the absentee ballots are tallied.

“It’s a pretty narrow margin, I think we’ll just have to wait until Friday to see,” Talerico said.

Control over the chambers of the state Legislature is significant, in large part because of the way the parties diverge over fiscal issues. Democrats are more inclined to likely to support increased education spending and new revenue measures, like taxes, to close the state’s fiscal gap.

Republicans tend to focus more on cutting government spending, and are also likely to be more aligned with the new Republican governor, Mike Dunleavy.

At the same time, the undecided Fairbanks race is not the only uncertainty facing the Republicans. Rep. David Eastman of Wasilla, a hard-line Republican who is known for an uncompromising approach to issues relating to his district, said this week he isn’t a certain “yes” vote on Talerico for speaker.

Eastman said Tuesday he wanted to know if Talerico would commit to the outright repeal of Senate Bill 91, the state’s contentious criminal justice reform law. He also said he would not participate in a majority that included Democrats.

“Who is going to be the 21?” Eastman said. “It’s very difficult to really start talking about anything as far as agenda. if even that number is subject to change.”

In an interview late Tuesday morning, Talerico said he planned to talk to Eastman. He said the caucus would have to meet again after election results became final to sort out its agenda and structure.

Republicans agree on issues like responsible resource development, limited government and improved public safety, Talerico said. But he said that with so many new members, it would likely take longer than usual to come together on a plan.

When it comes to Senate Bill 91, Talerico said there may be elements of the amended law worth keeping.

“A lot of folks have certainly committed to the repeal, but I haven’t gotten a great description about, what exactly does that mean?” Talerico said.

He said, however, that much of the planning activity had stalled pending the outcome of the Fairbanks House race.

Mike Mason, the press secretary for the Democratic-led House Majority coalition, declined to comment Tuesday.

Pickup crashes into sled dog team along Knik-Goose Bay Road

Tue, 2018-11-13 16:17

A pickup hit a sled dog team training off Knik-Goose Bay Road late Tuesday morning, according to Alaska State Troopers.

A preliminary investigation revealed that a Volkswagen SUV rear-ended a Chevrolet pickup near Mile 12.5 of the road, troopers said in an online dispatch. The truck rolled, left the roadway and hit a sled dog team on a nearby trail, troopers said. Troopers got report of the wreck shortly after 11 a.m.

"A few dogs from a dog team training on a frontage trail were impacted by the Chevy," troopers said in the dispatch.

Andy Pohl identified the musher as his wife, Kristy Berington. Berington and her identical twin sister, Anna, are well-known Iditarod mushers. They operate a kennel in Knik.

Kristy Berington works with her dogs Dingo and Lobo at the Ruby checkpoint during the 2017 Iditarod. (Bob Hallinen / ADN archive)

On Tuesday, Kristy Berington was training a dog team of fellow musher Tom Knolmayer, Pohl said in a Facebook message.

"As of right now I have only spoken with Kristy briefly, she is obviously shaken up and is now very busy taking care of the rest of the dogs that were there at the crash," Pohl said.

The SUV's driver was taken to the hospital with injuries. Troopers said they believed the injuries were not life-threatening. The pickup's driver was checked by medics at the scene and then released.

"The musher left the scene prior to AST arrival to transport the involved dogs to a vet," troopers said.

Pohl said Anna Berington responded to the crash scene and took two injured dogs to a veterinarian. He said he didn't think Kristy Berington was injured in the crash, "but shaken up for sure."

Kristy Berington said in a text message later Tuesday: "The dogs are all okay."

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Thank you all for the concerns and well wishes after this mornings accident. It could have been a complete tragedy. My...

Posted by Kristy Berington on Tuesday, November 13, 2018

In a Facebook post, Berington thanked people for their concerns and well wishes.

"It could have been a complete tragedy. My neighbor and I were running teams together like we always do," she wrote. "Talk about being in the wrong place at the wrong time. I will share all of the love and prayers with the dogs. We are all okay."

Emergency responders with the Matanuska-Susitna Borough were called to the crash site Tuesday. The pickup and the SUV collided on an icy stretch of road, said Ken Barkley, deputy director of emergency services for the Mat-Su Borough.

"So the problem with the roads is: If the sun is beating on them, it's fine," he said. "If you get to a shaded area, it's automatically ice."

Maryland challenges legality of Whitaker’s appointment as acting US attorney general

Tue, 2018-11-13 16:04

FILE - In this April 24, 2014, file photo, then-Iowa Republican senatorial candidate and former U.S. Attorney Matt Whitaker watches before a live televised debate in Johnston, Iowa. Maryland is challenging the appointment of Matthew Whitaker as the new U.S. acting attorney general. A draft filing obtained Tuesday by The Associated Press argues that President Donald Trump sidestepped the Constitution and normal procedure by naming Whitaker to the position in place of Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein. (AP Photo/Charlie Neibergall, File) (Charlie Neibergall/)

Maryland’s top lawyer asked a federal judge Tuesday to block Matthew Whitaker from serving as acting U.S. attorney general, contending that the appointment is illegal.

Maryland Attorney General Brian Frosh, D, said President Donald Trump's appointment of Whitaker to the nation's highest law enforcement post is unconstitutional and that he should be replaced by Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who was confirmed by the Senate.

"Few positions are more critical than that of U.S. Attorney General, an office that wields enormous enforcement power and authority over the lives of all Americans," Frosh said in a statement.

Trump tapped Whitaker to serve as acting attorney general last week after Jeff Sessions resigned at the president's request. Whitaker's elevation has raised concerns about his qualifications, his past statements as a U.S. Senate candidate and his business practices.

The legal challenge to Whitaker's appointment comes as part of Maryland's ongoing federal lawsuit that is trying to force the Trump administration to uphold a key provision of the Affordable Care Act.

"Who the attorney general is at the core of this lawsuit," Frosh said in an interview Tuesday.

"Aside from the constitutional issue, this guy, Mr. Whitaker, has extreme views and that's dangerous in itself," said Frosh, adding he also expects any ruling in the state challenge to Whitaker's role would be appealed.

Frosh was not required to notify Gov. Larry Hogan, R, about a motion in an existing case. Hogan spokeswoman Amelia Chasse said the governor's office received no prior communication about the filing and declined to comment on it.

[UK Cabinet to meet after Britain and EU reach draft Brexit deal]

The legal action over Whitaker, first reported by NPR, says his appointment violates the Constitution's Appointments Clause that requires "principal" senior officials, like the attorney general, to be confirmed by the Senate. Maryland also contends it violates a federal statute that lays out the line of succession and gives authority to the deputy attorney general when the top job is vacant.

A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment on the Maryland filing. Since Whitaker's appointment Wednesday, Justice Department officials have defended it as legal under the Vacancies Reform Act, an argument repeated Tuesday by White House spokeswoman Mercedes Schlapp on Fox News.

A number of current and former government lawyers have said that while elevating Whitaker to attorney general was unwise and unprecedented, it is not illegal.

Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Calif., the Senate Judiciary Committee's ranking Democrat, also raised concerns Tuesday about Whitaker's appointment and called for hearings to better address the "serious questions" surrounding Trump's shake-up at the Justice Department and how it could affect the ongoing special-counsel investigation of Russian interference in the 2016 election.

Whitaker, who served as Sessions' chief of staff, is now supervising special counsel Robert Mueller III's investigation. He has previously been critical of the Russia probe when he was a political commentator and in a tweet.

In a letter to the committee's chairman, Sen. Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, Feinstein said she wants Whitaker to assure lawmakers "he will take no action to restrict or otherwise interfere with" the probe.

Grassley said Tuesday that he takes no issue with comments from Whitaker that disparaged the Mueller investigation, "as long as he made them as a private citizen."

"It seems to me that the president's the chief executive, and the president said he wasn't going to do that," Grassley said of the ongoing special counsel probe. "So, doesn't matter what Whitaker thinks. The president said it isn't going to be done."

Frosh's office said Tuesday that any action Whitaker takes in the health-care case on behalf of the federal government would be invalid because Whitaker should not be serving as acting attorney general.

The filing, prepared jointly with the law firm Goldstein & Russell, asks U.S. District Judge Ellen Hollander, who has the health-care case, to quickly issue an injunction to replace Whitaker with Rosenstein.

Maryland lawyers filed the underlying lawsuit in September after Sessions told Congress the Justice Department would not defend central provisions of the health-care act including protections for people with preexisting conditions.

Now that Whitaker is serving as acting attorney general, he is in position to make decisions on behalf of the federal government, including in the health-care litigation.

"It is troubling, to say the least, that the President is attempting to fill a 'vacancy' he created himself with a 'temporary' appointment that might last for many months or years," according to the filing from Frosh's office.

"It is especially troubling that the temporary appointee has not been confirmed by the Senate for his underlying position; the President might reasonably be seen as appointing a loyalist in a way that deliberately circumvents the Senate's constitutional advice-and-consent role."

- - -

The Washington Post’s Ovetta Wiggins, John Wagner, Devlin Barrett and Seung Min Kim contributed to this report.

Pilots unions criticize Boeing for withholding safety information

Tue, 2018-11-13 15:58

Commercial airline pilots at Southwest Airlines and American Airlines were not informed during training about a new flight control system that may have played a role in the fatal crash of a Boeing 737 MAX8 operated by Lion Air in Indonesia last month, pilot union representatives from both airlines said Wednesday.

Jon Weaks, president of the Southwest Airlines Pilots Association, said pilots were not made aware of the issue until last week when Boeing sent out an advisory over the issue.

"We did not know this was on the [Boeing 737] MAX models," Weaks said in a Tuesday interview, referring to a new automated flight control feature designed to prevent the plane from stalling by automatically nudging its nose downward in response to externally collected flight data. "When you're responsible for that aircraft and there are systems on there that you have not been made aware of, that's not right."

Dennis Tajer, communications committee chairman at Allied Pilots Association (APA), a labor union representing American Airlines pilots, said Boeing exhibited a "failure of the safety culture" by not updating pilots early enough on how the new systems work.

"This was clearly a sign that the safety culture [at Boeing] was missing on a cylinder or two," he said. "We're all on the same side looking at Boeing saying 'what else you got?'"

In response to the concerns raised by the pilots, a Boeing spokesperson said the company is "deeply saddened" by the recent plane crash in Indonesia and is working with officials to determine what went wrong.

"We are taking every measure to fully understand all aspects of this incident, working closely with the investigating team and all regulatory authorities involved," Boeing media relations lead Paul Bergman said. "We are confident in the safety of the 737 MAX. Safety remains our top priority and is a core value for everyone at Boeing."

They are trying to understand the implications of an Oct. 29 crash near Jakarta, Indonesia, in which a Boeing 737 MAX8 jet operated by Lion Air crashed into the Java Sea with 189 people on-board. A "black box" flight data recorder recovered from the wreckage showed that the plane's airspeed indicator had malfunctioned on its last four flights.

The exact cause of the crash, however, remains unknown. In the meantime airlines, pilots, regulators and jet manufacturers have been frantically reviewing flight protocols and systems to ensure passengers on other 737 MAX8 jets are not put at risk.

A series of updates issued last week by Boeing and the U.S. Federal Aviation Administration warned airlines that erroneous sensor readings from an important flight control system could "cause the flight crew to have difficulty controlling the airplane," and lead to "possible impact with terrain."

A feature in previous 737 models that allowed pilots to manually override an "electric trimming" process - which can automatically nudge the nose of the plane downward in certain situations - does not work in Boeing's 737 MAX8 planes, Boeing explained in a Nov. 7 bulletin.

"This is the first description you, as 737 pilots, have seen," APA safety committee chairman Mike Michaelis told pilots in a Nov. 10 advisory note obtained by The Washington Post and reported earlier by the Seattle Times. "It is not in the [flight manuals]. It will be soon."

Pilots say it is important that they have the power to manually override automated systems. In the case of Lion Air flight 610, a sensor that measures which way the plane's nose is pointing apparently fed erroneous data into the system, something that could have sent the plane into a nose dive.

The new flight-control systems "automatically put the nose down to keep the plane from stalling," Mary Schiavo, an airline lawyer and former inspector general of the U.S. Transportation Department, said in an email. "But the pilots don't know this and are not trained on this. So the pilots keep putting the nose up and the plane keeps putting the nose down."

Analysts caution against assigning blame before authorities complete their investigation. Still, the response from regulators and pilot representatives hints at a broader reckoning in the commercial aerospace industry over one of Boeing's marquee jets, the 737 MAX8.

“There is not any commercial damage to Boeing, but reputationally they need to get ahead of this,” said Richard Aboulafia, an aerospace analyst with Teal Group.

Can scientists build a blueprint for bluefin tuna?

Tue, 2018-11-13 15:55

Brian Wyrwas, left, and Mike Selden, founders of Finless Foods. Photo by Nick Otto for The Washington Post. (Nick Otto/)

For several years, biotech companies have been promising “clean” meat, “cell-based” meat, “cultured” meat - whatever you want to call it - as a way to enjoy the taste of chicken, pork and beef without the brutality of animal slaughter or the environmental damage of big agriculture. But what about fish? What about something as prized as buttery bluefin tuna, a delicacy that has become the forbidden fruit of the sea because of the many threats that have landed the fish on threatened and endangered species lists?

Where are the Silicon Valley start-ups promising to free us from the guilt of gobbling down a finger of otoro sushi, the rich bluefin belly meat, without contributing to the decline of the fish or the decline of our own health via mercury that accumulates in the flesh of this apex predator?

Well, there is at least one scientific pilgrim: Brian Wyrwas is the co-founder and chief science officer for Finless Foods, a Bay Area biotech dedicated to growing bluefin tuna in a lab. He can tell you all about the difficulties of his task, starting with the bone-weary process of securing bluefin tuna samples, the pristine source material for much of the science that follows in this field known as cellular agriculture.

Unlike scientists who grow chicken or cow cells in a lab, Wyrwas can't exactly biopsy a living animal for tissue, given that bluefin tuna travel the world's oceans at speeds approaching 40 miles per hour. Nor can he grab a sample from one of the precious few bluefin tuna farms, which would view him as competition. Nor can he walk into a fish processing plant and request a sample. Bluefin tuna die on ship, many miles from shore, their cells slowly decomposing even when frozen or on ice.

No, to get an uncontaminated sample, Wyrwas has to head out to sea. Wyrwas, 26, and his Finless co-founder, Mike Selden, 27, don't like to talk specifics when it comes to sourcing bluefin tuna samples. In the competitive, tight-lipped market of cellular agriculture, no company likes to volunteer information that it earned the hard way: Through scientific trial and error or, in Wyrwas' case, through countless hours sitting on boats, fighting the elements and his sterile equipment to secure a quality sample that could, hopefully, provide healthy stem cells.

Jennifer Tang inspects tissue cultures of bluefin tuna samples at the Finless Foods lab. Photo by Nick Otto for The Washington Post. (Nick Otto/)

Even once he succeeded, Wyrwas and the Finless team had to learn how to culture, or grow, bluefin tuna cells without the actual animal. Without the fish's natural habitat. And without the fish's standard diet of squid, mackerel, herring and more. The scientists had few blueprints to follow.

"The cell culture would often die because we were sort of shooting in the dark in the beginning," says Selden, sitting in a conference room at Finless's offices in Emeryville, Calif. "We didn't know how to culture bluefin tuna cells because basically nobody knows how to culture bluefin tuna cells."

But if they can figure out the science from beginning to end and, perhaps more important, figure out how to scale up the process into a viable commercial venture, the folks at Finless Foods hint at an almost utopian reversal of fortunes for humans, fish and the environment.

Consumers could enjoy bluefin tuna above current recommended levels - one serving per month, says the Environmental Defense Fund; avoid altogether, counters the Monterey Bay Aquarium Seafood Watch - without fear of ingesting mercury, plastic or other contaminants. Just as important, the three bluefin species could begin to recover from decades of overfishing, which has decimated wild populations mostly to cater to the Japanese market, by far the largest consumer of bluefin tuna. (The Pacific bluefin tuna population, for example, has dropped by more than 97 percent from its historical high.)

What's more, marine ecosystems could begin to restore the harmony that's disturbed when a top-level predator is removed in such large numbers. To cite just one example, scientists predict that jellyfish populations could explode without an apex predator, affecting both tourism and fishing operations. Plus, without the need for commercial fishing boats to chase after tuna, the oceans could see a drop in the pollution from these vessels, whether discarded plastics or dumped fishing gear.

So, has Finless Foods figured it out? Yes, in part.

The challenge ahead: to produce the fish in large quantities - and in a form that sushi lovers would recognize.

Bluefin tuna is processed at ABS Seafood in San Francisco. Photo by Nick Otto for The Washington Post. (Nick Otto/)

In 2013, when Dutch researcher Mark Post debuted what would become the world's most famous lab-grown meat - a five-ounce beef patty mixed with bread crumbs - the response from tasters was tepid. Which was not surprising. The beef was grown without any fat. Regardless, the tasting was designed more as a public-relations stunt to drum up interest in an emerging field that promised to give diners their meat with fewer of the harmful side effects - such as greenhouse gases, animal waste, reckless use of freshwater resources and animal suffering - of big ag.

But that staged burger tasting - especially the resulting photo - created a false impression about cellular agriculture, says Ben Wurgaft, a writer and historian who researched the industry for five years.

Post and his colleagues "left the media with the impression that you grew a burger in something that looked like a petri dish," says Wurgaft, author of "Meat Planet: Artificial Flesh and the Futures of Food," set for release next year. "It's like imagining that rice grew in a bento box."

In reality, the scientists grew thin sheets of bovine muscle cells - thousands of sheets, each no wider than a strand of hair - which they essentially fused together with a kind of meat glue. The process is "obviously not scalable," Wurgaft says.

In a whitewashed room that smells like bleach, Jennifer Tung, a senior cell biologist for Finless Foods, actually does rely on something that looks like a petri dish. It's called a cell-culture flask, and Tung uses a lot of them to keep bluefin tuna stem cells alive. It's a standard part of the R&D process. Each flask contains a thin layer of grapefruit-colored liquid - it's the food, or "media" as its known in the trade - that allows the cells to grow. The only way to see the cells is under a microscope.

One vital step in culturing meat is to create an "immortalized" cell line, which theoretically can grow forever, meaning you never again need to go out to sea to capture fresh samples.

"We think our bluefin tuna line is immortalized," Selden says. "We're pretty sure."

As important as that development is, however, "it is not the same as being able to make meat," Wurgaft cautions.

In fact, growing stem cells into something that precisely mimics the fatty flesh of bluefin tuna is not considered possible yet. The technology for such a textured product is still years away from a commercial application, say Selden and others. At present, biotech firms can grow cells in devices called bioreactors, but the resulting meat is more paste than flesh. Which is why Just, the San Francisco company behind a plant-based version of mayonnaise, plans to first release cultured meat products that don't rely on firm, fleshy textures.

Before the end of the year, Just expects to introduce a chicken product to some still-unnamed restaurants in Asia. It won't be a cultured chicken breast or thigh, but something closer to the consistency of a nugget, with fried-chicken skin and with plant-based materials serving as binder and flavoring agents.

"If you buy Tyson chicken nuggets, some percentage of the nugget is plant-based," says Josh Tetrick, co-founder and chief executive of Just, formerly known as Hampton Creek, a company with almost as many controversies as successes. "A chicken bite is much easier than bluefin tuna."

Then there's taste. The flavor of the chicken you now eat occurs naturally, in part, from the animal's diet. Tetrick and his team at Just say they have found a way to incorporate plant-based material into the food media so that when chicken cells are cultured into paste, they end up tasting like the real thing.

In an experimental kitchen at Just's headquarters in the Mission District, Chris Jones gets to play around with the plant-based materials and cultured meats that others in the company discover or create. A former chef de cuisine at Moto, the once-celebrated and now-closed restaurant in Chicago, Jones is vice president of product development for Just. Recently, he's been dehydrating cultured chicken paste so that it resembles skin, presumably for those nuggets.

"I actually think it tastes cleaner, and better, than real chicken skin," Jones says. He hands me a golden sliver of the lab-based skin. It crackles under tooth, both salty and savory. Most people would never know it was developed in a lab.

Beakers hold culture samples that may one day be developed into bluefin tuna meat at Finless Foods. Photo by Nick Otto for The Washington Post. (Nick Otto/)

Over on the east side of the San Francisco Bay, where Finless Foods has its offices, the seven-person team has yet to determine the exact food media mix necessary to give their bluefin tuna the proper flavor, ruby-red color and healthful omega-3 fatty acids that consumers desire. But they do have one advantage over the researchers who produced that cultured hamburger five years ago: The Finless folks have figured out how to grow three kinds of tissues from bluefin stem cells: Muscle, fat and connective tissue. They even claim they can manipulate the amount of fat to mimic the lush flavor of otoro tuna.

Last year, Finless hosted a tasting of its first fish prototype, a cultured carp paste, which a local chef mixed with potato into a croquette. Selden and Wyrwas figured that, if they had produced a pound of this cultured carp, it would have cost $19,000, not including labor. A reporter for the Guardian sampled the croquettes and found them "both delicious and disappointing . . . I just about detect a pleasant aftertaste of the sea, though not fish as such."

Flavor profiles are just one obstacle. Fetal bovine serum, or FBS, is an essential ingredient in the culturing process. The serum stimulates cells to divide and grow outside the animal's body. The problem is, as the name implies, FBS is derived from fetuses removed from pregnant cows during slaughter, which, as Tetrick notes, connects "clean" cellular agriculture to a sometimes inhumane system that the start-ups are trying to disavow. Just, Tetrick adds, has developed its own plant-based serum to replace FBS.

Selden and Wyrwas with Finless say they're working on their own alternative serum, too, which they plan to have ready in time to launch their first bluefin tuna product - a paste that could be used in sushi rolls and other dishes - by the end of 2019 or beginning of 2020.

"Barring major regulatory shake-ups," Selden notes.

The small cellular ag community is still waiting to learn what U.S. agency, or agencies, will have oversight of the industry. Both the U.S. Department of Agriculture and the Food and Drug Administration can justifiably lay claim to the task. But Just's Tetrick, for one, isn't waiting around for the government; he's looking toward Asia. If the politicians in America, Tetrick says, can't clear a path to market for cultured meat, other countries will.

"And we will be buying our meat for the next 30 years from them," he adds.

Mike Selden checks on bluefin tuna cultures in a storage device at the Finless Foods lab. Photo by Nick Otto for The Washington Post. (Nick Otto/)

Consumer acceptance is another hurdle. One study, conducted several years ago when cultured meat was just entering the public consciousness, indicated that only a quarter of the participants would be willing to try the product. One factor was cost, which Finless is working to reduce. Selden and Wyrwas say they already can produce a bluefin tuna paste that compares favorably to retail prices at California sushi restaurants.

But even if consumers are hesitant, some meat producers and fish processors are already on board. Cargill and Tyson Foods, two of the largest meat producers in America, have both invested in Memphis Meats, another Bay Area cultured meat company. In an email to The Post, Uma Valeti, co-founder and chief executive of Memphis Meats, said that "we believe that Tyson can help us on our journey to scale up production and bring products to consumers."

Henry Ichinose, owner of ABS Seafood in San Francisco, sees the potential of cell-based bluefin tuna. Standing in his warehouse on the famous Fisherman's Wharf, oblivious to the chilly temperatures required to process fish, Ichinose says: "The oceans are already taxed. Nobody really knows how bad it is out there." He thinks the seafood industry needs to embrace change to survive as the planet's population continues to grow and its resources continue to shrink. But will chefs, home cooks and diners accept cell-based fish?

“I don’t see why not,” Ichinose says. “Ultimately, it’s cells dividing and growing, just like any other animal or plant.”