Alaska News

Subscribe to Alaska News feed
Alaska Dispatch News News Feed
Updated: 12 min 53 sec ago

Sponsor FedEx asks Redskins to change their name

Fri, 2020-07-03 07:08

FILE - In this Dec. 9, 2018, file photo, FedEx Field is less than full during the second half of an NFL football game between the Washington Redskins and the New York Giants in Landover, Md. The title sponsor of the Redskins’ stadium wants them to change their name. FedEx said in a statement Thursday, July 2, 2020, “We have communicated to the team in Washington our request that they change the team name.“ (AP Photo/Mark Tenally, File) (Mark Tenally/)

WASHINGTON — The title sponsor of the Washington Redskins’ stadium wants the NFL team to change its name.

“We have communicated to the team in Washington our request that they change the team name,” FedEx said in a statement Thursday.

The company paid the team $205 million in 1999 for the naming rights to FedEx Field in Landover, Maryland.

In addition to the stadium name and sponsorship agreement, FedEx CEO Frederik Smith is a minority owner. Majority owner Daniel Snyder has shown no indications he’ll change the name since buying the team in 1999.

Amid the national debate over race, pressure has been mounting on the organization to abandon the name called a “dictionary-defined racial slur” by experts and advocates.

Investors this week wrote to FedEx, PepsiCo and other sponsors asking them to request a change. FedEx is believed to be the first to take action.

On Thursday night, Nike appeared to remove all Redskins gear from its online store. The other 31 NFL teams were listed and a search for “Redskins” came up with no results. Nike did not immediately respond to an email message seeking comment.

Asked about Snyder changing the name, a spokesman said recently the team had no comment. The team last week removed the name of racist founder George Preston Marshall from its Ring of Fame at FedEx Field, and a monument to him was removed from the site of the old RFK Stadium.

Washington, D.C., mayor Muriel Bowser also said the name was an “obstacle” to the team returning to the District. The team’s lease at FedEx Field expires in 2027, and it is still talking to Washington, Virginia and Maryland about building a new stadium.

Five myths about free speech

Fri, 2020-07-03 06:57

A Trump supporter engages with counter-protesters near the entrance of the BOK Center on Saturday afternoon in Tulsa, Okla. Photo by Amanda Voisard for The Washington Post

Suzanne Nossel is the chief executive of PEN America and the author of “Dare to Speak: Defending Free Speech for All.”

Free speech rights are under fire. Police lob rubber bullets and tear gas at protesters. The Trump administration and Congress are moving to hold Internet companies liable for user content.Court battles rage over the publication of books criticizing the president. Individuals are shunned or forced out of their jobs for racist social media posts. While many people know that free speech is enshrined in the First Amendment, there’s a lot about it that many still misunderstand.

Myth No. 1: Speech cannot cause harm by itself.

The schoolyard chant "Sticks and stones may break my bones but names can never hurt me" reflects an ingrained belief that words do not inflict lasting harm. In "The Coddling of the American Mind," Jonathan Haidt and Greg Lukianoff dispute the notion that speech can "trigger" students or make them feel "unsafe." The head of a leading British girls school recently dismissed, in the Sunday Times, students concerned about objectionable speech as "victims of a mad health and safety culture that has made them unable to deal with anything difficult."

While they are categorically different from bodily harms, the hazards of speech are real; words can inflict genuine and lasting wounds. Online speech, including harassment and cyberbullying, can drive individuals to self-harm or suicide. Microaggressions - fleeting, often unintentional insults or slurs based on race, ethnicity, gender or religion - can, over time, have effects similar to those of serious trauma. Speech should not be equated with physical violence, but at its most extreme, hateful speech can be an instigating prelude to violence, riling people up to commit crimes.

Myth No. 2: Government prohibitions can suppress hateful ideologies.

With rising incidences of hate-motivated crimes in the United States and hateful speech proliferating online, there are increasing calls for the government to tamp down on bigoted expression. In a Washington Post op-ed, Richard Stengel pushed for state governments to adopt hate speech statutes to "curb the incitement of racial and religious hatred." Critical race theorists have long argued that reinterpreting the First Amendment to allow for more robust regulation of hateful speech would help ensure a more tolerant and equal society.

But recent history indicates that such legal prohibitions are ineffective in stamping out bigotry. In the United States,Holocaust denial and anti-Semitic vitriol, among other categories of hateful expression, are protected speech; Germany bans such sentiments. The Anti-Defamation League reported a disturbing 12 percent rise in anti-Semitic hate crimes in the United States from 2018 to 2019, and Germany's Interior Ministry recorded an almost identical jump of 13 percent in the same time frame. Meanwhile, the European Union's efforts to expunge hateful speech from online platforms have driven its purveyors underground, to shadowy niche sites and networks where they can recruit while shielded from the prying eyes of law enforcement.

[Read more Five Myths]

There is also evidence that authorities can use hate speech laws not to silence prejudice but rather to suppress dissenting views, such as support for Palestinian rights or antiwar activism. At a moment when democratic governments - including in India, the Philippines and Hungary - are showing increasing hostility to dissent, expanding state leeway to suppress speech is risky.

Myth No. 3: The best remedy for disfavored speech is more speech.

The notion that the ideal antidote to menacing or harmful arguments is better arguments was set forth by Justice Louis Brandeis in his concurrence in the 1927 case Whitney v. California,where he argued that the best response to communist propaganda was "more speech, not enforced silence." More recently, in her 2018 book, "Hate: Why We Should Resist It With Free Speech, not Censorship," law professor Nadine Strossen made a forceful case that hateful and "extremist" speech is "most effectively 'undermined' by counterspeech."

Debate, rebuttals and denunciations are almost always preferable to government prohibitions on offending speech. But the Internet age has demonstrated that fighting speech with speech has its own perils. Research shows that efforts to refute conspiracy theories and disinformation can end up amplifying the original falsehoods. In other instances, counterspeech can itself veer into hatred, or incur such high costs that it mutes speakers: When, in 2014,women criticized sexism in the video-game industry, the avalanche of hostile and menacing retorts, including threats of physical harm, forced some to flee their homes and intimidated others into silence. Offline, demonstrations that drown out a speaker become a heckler's veto, depriving audiences of a chance to listen - and sometimes prompting authorities to shut down the exchange for fear of a melee.

Myth No. 4: We all enjoy the same speech rights.

The combination of the First Amendment's protections for free speech and the 14th Amendment's guarantee of equal protection under law would seem to ensure that, in the United States, everyone's speech is equivalently free and safeguarded. The Universal Declaration of Human Rights makes this explicit, guaranteeing that "everyone shall have the right to freedom of expression; this right shall include freedom to seek, receive and impart information and ideas of all kinds." In a series of decisions fortifying the speech rights of corporations, the Supreme Court has "repeatedly assured the nation that the First Amendment protects everyone, regardless of popularity and regardless of viewpoint," Garret Epps wrote in the Atlantic in 2019.

While universal and equal free speech rights may be an ideal to which we aspire, the reality is different. Socioeconomic status, race, gender identity, ideological proclivities and other factors shape whether individuals have the means to express themselves. Creative industries including journalism, book publishing and filmmaking are rife with disparities in terms of who gets the opportunity to create and share their work, and how much they are paid to so do.

Despite the First Amendment's legal protections, social norms and taboos dictate the parameters of acceptable discourse, and can shunt unorthodox views out of the public sphere. After Wanna Thompson tweeted criticism of rapper Nicki Minaj in 2018, fans barraged the culture writer with hateful messages over Instagram, email and the phone; Thompson ultimately lost a writing job. This spring, University of Chicago economist Harald Uhlig was subject to calls for removal from his role as a journal editor, after he compared advocates of defunding the police to flat earthers. Social barriers and ideological deterrents shape the landscape for speech, so that liberties that may be equal in theory may be difficult to exercise in practice.

Myth No. 5: Social media restrictions are forms of censorship.

When social media companies demote or delete posts or disable accounts that violate their usage rules, those targeted and their allies, including President Trump, are often quick to cry censorship. Right-wing commentators are urging a shift from Twitter to Parler to escape what they call censorship. Aggressive content-moderation efforts aimed to stanch the spread of conspiracy theories and quackery amid the coronavirus pandemic have sparked accusations that social media platforms are engaging in Orwellian tactics of information suppression.

But Twitter, Facebook and other online platforms are private companies, which have their own free speech rights - including the right to elevate or take down content as they see fit. Courts have not adopted arguments that private businesses should be subject to the speech-protective constraints that prevent the government from suppressing viewpoints. The major platforms all have community standards and guidelines that allow for far more aggressive policing of speech - including disinformation about voting, impostor profiles and the glorification of self-harm - than the government could constitutionally carry out.

This does not mean people have no recourse if they believe that an online platform is muzzling a particular viewpoint. Consumers and clients are free to put pressure on the platforms and to stop using services that they think are overly restrictive.

Originally published by The Washington Post.

Gov. Inslee will require Washington businesses to turn away customers without coronavirus facial coverings

Fri, 2020-07-03 06:41

Gaye Scheel, left, and Kari Roberts wear masks as they walk, Tuesday, June 23, 2020, along Ruston Way in Tacoma, Wash. Gov. Jay Inslee announced that Washington state will require people to wear facial coverings in most indoor and outdoor public settings, under a statewide public health order in response to ongoing coronavirus-related health concerns. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren) (Ted S. Warren/)

OLYMPIA, Wash. -- Gov. Jay Inslee Thursday announced several new restrictions intended to dampen a rise in new coronavirus cases, including a statewide order to take effect next week barring businesses from serving customers who don’t wear facial coverings.

In a news conference, the governor also announced other new restrictions. Inslee put a two-week pause on any county advancing to a broader phase in the his four-part reopening plan. And he tightened restrictions on bars opening back up under the third phase of that plan.

Thursday's announcement came as Washington reported 716 new coronavirus cases -- the state's highest daily total since the beginning of the pandemic -- including three more deaths.

The update brings the state’s totals to 34,151 cases and 1,342 deaths, meaning about 3.9% of people diagnosed in Washington have died, according to the state Department of Health (DOH).

The data is as of 11:59 p.m. Wednesday.

So far, 584,989 tests for the novel coronavirus have been conducted in the state, per DOH. Of those, 5.8% have come back positive since testing began.

Inslee pointed to virus modeling showing that the transmission rate of the virus -- meaning the number of people a sick person goes on to infect  --  has increased in Western Washington.

The governor attributed the increasing cases to people interacting more across the state as restrictions on businesses and activities lifted over the past couple months.

"It means the pandemic is growing, not slowing, in our state," said Inslee.

And Washington is not alone. Texas, California, Arizona and Florida are reporting record numbers of daily infections, into the thousands each day.

To reverse that trend here, Inslee is urging residents to use a "very, very low-cost, noninjurious, almost universally available tool at our disposal."

"And that's a mask," he said, while donning his own mask during the news conference. "Which we know works."

The statewide requirement for businesses to prohibit customers from entering without a facial covering essentially expands an order Inslee announced last week that focused just on Yakima County, one of Washington's hardest-hit places. The governor at that time also ordered state residents to wear masks while in public when they couldn't social distance themselves from others.

Businesses that don't comply with the new statewide order, which will take effect July 7, could face sanctions, such as fines or potential closures.

"But we don't want to use those systems, and should not have to," Inslee said.

People can complain via an online form on the state's coronavirus website anonymously, a feature that was added after groups opposed to virus-related emergency restrictions posted names and contact information for residents making complaints.

People can also contact the state Department of Labor and Industries, which will lead enforcement on the requirements, according to Inslee's office.

Requirements to wear facial coverings have increased around the nation as elected officials and health authorities seek to tamp down what has become an alarming rise in new COVID-19 cases.

The governor of Oregon recently instituted a requirement for facial coverings. The governor of Texas on Thursday followed suit with an executive order that covers many residents there.

Meanwhile, Inslee on Thursday announced a new restriction that still allows bars in counties in the third phase of reopening to start back up, but without bar seating. Customers will still be able to sit at tables in those establishments.

And the governor and state Secretary of Health John Wiesman put in place a two-week pause on any county advancing to a new -- and less restrictive --  reopening phase in the plan. That pause puts on hold applications made by counties that haven't yet gotten approval.

Wiesman called the rise in cases "very concerning" and urged state residents to take precautions over the holiday weekend.

"This is not the time for extended family or friends, neighborhood birthday parties, retirements or Fourth of July barbecues," he said during the news conference. "It's a time to keep enjoying your immediate household and a very small, close circle of friends, if you must."

Meanwhile, Inslee relaxed a set of restrictions for three hard-hit counties that have been stuck in the first  -- and most restrictive -- phase of the four-part plan.

State officials will work with Benton, Franklin and Yakima counties to move them to a modified Phase 1 to let some activities resume. That move is intended to keep residents there from going to other counties for services, and comes as more people in the region begin to wear facial coverings.

Even as Inslee and state officials confront a rising number of cases, appetite appears to be fading for a special session of the Legislature to work on the $8.8 billion virus-related budget shortfall estimated through 2023.

House Majority Leader Pat Sullivan, D-Covington, said Thursday that lawmakers wouldn't return over the summer, as has been tentatively discussed.

And in his news conference, Inslee said the state has enough funds to wait until lawmakers return in January for their regularly scheduled session.

Republicans, who are in the minority in the state House and Senate, have called for a special session  -- ideally last month  -- to begin working on budget issues.

Trump’s ‘I alone can fix it’ campaign collides with a changed public mood

Fri, 2020-07-03 06:36

President Donald Trump swings a baseball bat during the Spirit of America Showcase at the White House, Thursday, July 2, 2020, in Washington. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci) (Evan Vucci/)

WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump will celebrate American independence Friday in his signature self-aggrandizing style, staging a fireworks show that frames him before a granite mountain carved with four of the nation’s most celebrated presidents.

But Democrats are hoping that the latest display of self-flattery by Trump at Mount Rushmore will have a different effect than similar efforts in the past, following a shift in public sentiment that suggests the 2020 presidential race is being fought on different terrain than Trump's first campaign for the White House.

"In 2016, Trump's buffoonery was held up by some as a refreshing rejection of an ineffectual status quo. He would step up to the plate eventually, they thought," said former Clinton campaign manager Robby Mook, explaining the thinking that now dominates his party's strategists. "Today, it's the same buffoonery, except it is killing people."

About 7,500 guests are expected to gather to see Trump. In keeping with the president’s preferences, the rally will occur without any mandates from South Dakota Gov. Kristi L. Noem (R) to socially distance or wear masks, despite federal health guidelines that suggest them and overwhelming public opinion against such events. A recent Fox News poll found eight in ten Americans favored mask wearers and less than one in four thought it was a good idea for presidential candidates to hold large political events or rallies right now.

This contradiction has become a central target for former vice president Joe Biden's presidential campaign, which has been drawing on Democratic polling and focus groups that find enormous new vulnerabilities for Trump that have contributed to his recent slide in the polls.

"Mr. President, this is not about you," Biden said Tuesday, in a succinct summary of his message. "It's about the health and well-being of the American public."

A gut political player, Trump has for years dismissed criticism of his narcissistic public style and proved his naysayers wrong when they predicted it would lead to his downfall. He boasted his way to the top of the Republican nomination fight in 2015 and won the White House with a great-man theory of governance summed up with his convention declaration: "I alone can fix it."

Since then, Trump has repeatedly declared himself the best, the most knowledgeable and the most righteous as president. "Nobody's ever done a better job than I'm doing as president," he said in 2018.

But he has struggled this year, as a pandemic and economic shutdown took hold, to wield that self-regard against national fears about crises that have impacted nearly every American in painful ways. In the last two weeks, Trump has pushed for largely maskless mass gatherings in Arizona and Oklahoma, two states that have seen recent spikes in coronavirus cases. He also pushed for the relocation of his nominating convention to Florida, another state battling an outbreak, to increase the odds that he is greeted by roaring crowds in late August.

Doug Heye, a Republican strategist and former spokesman for the Republican National Committee who did not vote for Trump, said voters took note when Secret Service agents and campaign officials had to self-quarantine after a rally Trump staged in Tulsa last month over the objections of public health experts. Two agents and at least six campaign staffers tested positive for the virus.

"The challenge for Trump here is that all of the risks that are being taken are done solely for his own benefit," he said. "That is, without question, going to cause some voters who would otherwise approve of things that his administration does to turn away from him. So by acting in his own very immediate self-interested interest, he's hurting himself in the longer term, which is reelection."

Democratic pollster Jefrey Pollock conducted focus groups on Trump in 2016 that found many Americans who disliked both presidential candidates were still attracted to Trump's self-important declarations, because they felt economically secure enough to take a chance on someone new. That same category of voters - those with a favorable view of neither candidate - now favors Biden over Trump by a margin of 55 to 21 percent, according to a Monmouth Poll released Thursday.

"Three years later, it is the voters who need attention," Pollock said of Trump. "Voters are looking at an individual who has a sense of entitlement, when they need more attention to their own needs."

Other polling by Navigator Research, a coalition meant to inform Democratic strategy up and down the ballot, has noted an uptick in recent weeks in the number of people who describe Trump as "self-absorbed," according to Nick Gourevitch, a pollster on the project. Of a long list of negative attributes that the Democrats regularly test against Trump - including "incompetent," "chaotic" and "divisive" - the poll has found "self-absorbed" raises the most concerns among self-described independent voters.

"A lot of the concerns throughout the pandemic - ignoring experts, not following precautions, - can all be tied back to this trait," Gourevitch said.

National polling shows Trump's ratings on empathy have not shifted much during his four years in office. A recent poll by the Pew Research Center found 41 percent believed he "cares about the needs of ordinary people," compared with 40 percent who told Gallup pollsters in September 2016 that he "cares about the needs of people like you."

But the candidate he is running against has changed, and so has the political dynamic. While 48 percent of voters gave Democrat Hillary Clinton positive marks for empathy in Gallup polling four years ago, 54 percent in the Pew poll now credit Biden with caring about ordinary people.

The problem with Trump's self-referential worldview appeared this April in focus groups by the pro-Biden SuperPAC Unite The Country. Memos produced by the group afterward identified a big opportunity for Biden to lean into his reputation for empathy.

"What is striking is that much of the criticism of Trump's response to the virus is about his personality ('he always makes it about himself') than setting in place policies that could have made a difference," one pollster wrote. The conclusion, which has become a driving theme of the $1.4 million in recent television advertising by the group, was that "many voters believe Trump's ego is getting in the way of progress on Covid-19."

Since then, Biden has draped himself in constant demonstrations of empathy and concern for others, consistently wearing a mask and often leaving it dangling from an ear when he speaks on camera to demonstrate its importance.

At the age of 77, he would find himself at high risk for serious complications were he to contract the coronavirus, and his travel and security detail puts him in touch with a large number of possible carriers. But he has so far refused to test himself for the disease, he said, so it would not look like he was "moving to the front of the line."

"I haven't wanted to take anybody else's place in the process," Biden said.

The president's defenders say voters appreciate Trump's straightforwardness more than symbolic gestures that smack of politics.

"The president is who he is - he's going to push," said Bryan Lanza, an adviser on Trump's 2016 campaign and transition. "He's not a typical politician who listens to you, tells you one thing and does something else behind your back. With Donald Trump, you know exactly what you're getting, and you know exactly what he's going to do."

The Trump campaign did not respond to a request for comment.

But a growing number of the president's former advisers have spoken out in recent weeks, offering at times blistering critiques of his leadership skills and personal character. Much of the criticism has taken Trump to task for being selfish or narcissistic, putting his own needs ahead of those of the country.

The list of aides-turned-detractors includes former defense secretary Jim Mattis, former White House chief of staff John Kelly and former national security adviser John Bolton.

In his book published last month, Bolton describes Trump as obsessed with his own press coverage and more interested in his reelection than any broader foreign policy objectives.

"I am hard-pressed to identify any significant Trump decision during my tenure that wasn't driven by reelection calculations," Bolton wrote in the book.

Trump, who has blasted Bolton as an "idiot," has claimed that his memoir is full of falsehoods.

Several Republicans have publicly and privately pushed Trump to focus less on himself as he prepares to face voters. Trump's rambling answer to a question about his "top priority items" for a second term during a Fox News town hall last month set off alarm bells among allies who hoped the president would offer a more detailed vision for the next four years.

In his answer, Trump used the word "I" 13 times, as he talked up his outsider "experience" in Washington and the "great people" in his administration.

"I always say talent is more important than experience," he said, offering little on his second-term plans.

Five days later, Biden offered a rejoinder at an event near his Delaware home, where he spoke to a mostly empty room of socially-distanced journalists.

“If you have noticed, the president puts everything in terms of him,” Biden said. “It’s not about ‘I.’ It’s about us.”

For the forgotten men of 1st Platoon, Trump’s pardon of an officer they helped convict of murder is a crushing betrayal

Fri, 2020-07-03 06:30

"I think when you see stuff like that sometimes it just flips a switch in some people and you're just not the same. ... I almost drank myself to death for two years," said Lucas Gray at home in Pulaski, Va. Washington Post photo by Bonnie Jo Mount

Only a few hours had passed since President Donald Trump pardoned 1st Lt. Clint Lorance and the men of 1st Platoon were still trying to make sense of how it was even possible.

How could a man they blamed for ruining their lives, an officer the Army convicted of second-degree murder and other charges, be forgiven so easily? How could their president allow him to just walk free?

"I feel like I'm in a nightmare," Lucas Gray, a former specialist from the unit, texted his old squad leader, who was out of the Army and living in Fayetteville, N.C.

"I haven't been handling it well either," replied Mike McGuinness on Nov. 15, the day Lorance was pardoned.

"There's literally no point in anything we did or said," Gray continued. "Now he gets to be the hero . . ."

"And we're left to deal with it," McGuinness concluded.

Lorance had been in command of 1st Platoon for only three days in Afghanistan but in that short span of time had averaged a war crime a day, a military jury found. On his last day before he was dismissed, he ordered his troops to open fire on three Afghan men standing by a motorcycle on the side of the road who he said posed a threat. His actions led to a 19-year prison sentence.

He had served six years when Trump, spurred to action by relentless Fox News coverage and Lorance's insistence that he had made a split-second decision to protect his men, set him free.

The president's opponents described the pardon as another instance of Trump subverting the rule of law to reward allies and reap political benefits. Military officials worried that the decision to overturn a case that had already been adjudicated in the military courts sent a signal that war crimes were not worthy of severe punishment.

For the men of 1st platoon, part of the 82nd Airborne Division, the costs of the war and the fallout from the case have been profound and sometimes deadly.

Traumatized by battle, they have also been brutalized by the politicization of their service and made to feel as if the truth of what they lived in Afghanistan - already a violent and harrowing tour before Lorance assumed command - had been so demeaned that it no longer existed.

Since returning home in 2013, five of the platoon's three dozen soldiers have died. At least four others have been hospitalized following suicide attempts or struggles with drugs or alcohol.

The last fatality came a few weeks before Lorance was pardoned when James O. Twist, 27, a Michigan state trooper and father of three, died of suicide. As the White House was preparing the official order for Trump’s signature, the men of 1st Platoon gathered in Grand Rapids, Mich., for the funeral, where they remembered Twist as a good soldier who had bravely rushed through smoke and fire to pull a friend from a bomb crater and place a tourniquet on his right leg where it had been sheared off by the blast.

They thought of the calls and texts from him that they didn't answer because they were too busy with their own lives - and Twist, who had a caring wife, a good job and a nice house - seemed like he was doing far better than most. They didn't know that behind closed doors he was at times verbally abusive, ashamed of his inner torment and, like so many of them, unable to articulate his pain.

By November 2019, Twist, a man the soldiers of 1st Platoon loved, was gone and Lorance was free from prison and headed for New York City, a new life and a star turn on Fox News.

This story is based on a transcript of Lorance's 2013 court-martial at Fort Bragg, N.C., and on-the-record interviews with 15 members of 1st Platoon, as well as family members of the soldiers, including Twist's father and wife. The soldiers also shared texts and emails they exchanged over the past several years. Twist's family provided his journal entries from his time in the Army. Lorance declined to be interviewed.

In New York, Sean Hannity, Lorance's biggest champion and the man most responsible for persuading Trump to pardon him, asked Lorance about the shooting and soldiers under his command.

Lorance had traded in his Army uniform for a blazer and red tie. He leaned in to the microphone. "I don't know any of these guys. None of them know me," Lorance said of his former troops. "To be honest with you, I can't even remember most of their names."


Mike McGuinness at home in Raeford, N.C. McGuinness legally changed his surname, which had been Herrmann, in an effort to shed the stigma of the crimes. Washington Post photo by Bonnie Jo Mount

The 1st Platoon soldiers came to the Army and the war from all over the country: Maryland, California, Pennsylvania, Oregon, Indiana and Texas to name just a few. They joined for all the usual reasons: "To keep my parents off my a--," said one soldier.

"I just needed a change," said another.

A few had tried college but quit because they were bored or failing their classes. "I didn't know how to handle it," Gray said of college. "I was really immature."

Others joined right out of high school propelled by romantic notions, inherited from veteran fathers, grandfathers and great-grandfathers, of service and duty. Twist's father served in Vietnam as a clerk in an air-conditioned office before coming back to Michigan and opening a garage. In his spare time Twist Sr. was a military history buff, a passion that rubbed off on his son, who visited World War II battle sites in Europe with his dad. Twist was just 16 when he started badgering his parents to sign his enlistment papers and barely 18 when he left for basic training. His mother had died of cancer only a few months earlier.

"I got pictures of him the day we dropped him off, and he didn't even wave goodbye," his father recalled. "He was in pig heaven."

Several of the 1st Platoon soldiers enlisted in search of a steady paycheck and the promise of health insurance and a middle-class life. "I needed to get out of northeast Ohio," McGuinness said. "There wasn't anything there."

In 1999, he was set to pay his first union dues and go to work alongside his steelworker grandfather when the plant closed. So he became a paratrooper instead, eventually deploying three times to Afghanistan.

McGuinness didn't look much like a paratrooper with his thick, squat body. But he liked being a soldier, jumping out of planes, firing weapons and drinking with his Army buddies. After a while the war didn't make much sense, but he took pride in knowing that his soldiers trusted him and that he was good at his job.

Nine months before 1st Platoon landed in rural southern Afghanistan, a team of Navy SEALs killed Osama bin Laden.


James O. Twist poses with local children during his deployment in Afghanistan in 2012. Courtesy of the Twist family

Samuel Walley, the badly wounded soldier Twist pulled from the blast crater, wondered if they might be spared combat. “Wasn’t that the goal to kill bin Laden?” he recalled thinking. “Isn’t that checkmate?”

Around the same time, Twist was trying to make sense of what was to come. "I feel like the Army was a good decision, but also in my mind is a lot of dark thoughts," he wrote in a spiral notebook. "I could die. I could come back with PTSD. I could be massively injured."

"Maybe," he hoped, "it will start winding down soon."

But the decade-long war continued, driven by new, largely unattainable goals. When McGuinness saw where the platoon was headed - just 15 or so miles from the spot in southern Afghanistan where he had spent his second tour - he warned the new soldiers they were going to be "fighting against dudes who just really f---ing hate you."

They were told by commanders they were waging a counterinsurgency war in which their top priority was winning the support of the people and protecting them from the Taliban. But no one seemed entirely sure how to accomplish that goal. They helped build a school that never opened because of a lack of teachers and willing students. They met with village elders who insisted they knew nothing about the Taliban's operations or plans.

In May 2012, they moved to a new compound near Payenzai, a remote Afghan village west of Kandahar, which consisted of little more than mud-walled houses, hardscrabble farmers and the Taliban.

So began what Twist described, in a blog post written years later, as an "entire month of despair."

Four soldiers were severely wounded in quick succession. On June 6, Walley lost his leg and arm to a Taliban bomb. Eight days later, yet another enemy mine wounded Mark Kerner and 1st Lt. Dominic Latino, the platoon leader. Then, on June 23, a sniper's bullet tore through Matthew Hanes's neck, leaving him paralyzed.

The platoon was briefly sent back to a larger base a few miles away to shower, meet with mental-health counselors and pick up their new platoon leader. Lorance had served a tour as an enlisted prison guard in Iraq before attending college and becoming an infantry officer. He had spent the first five months of his Afghanistan tour as a staff officer on a fortified base.

This was his first time in combat.

"We're not going to lose any more men to injuries in this platoon," he told then-Sgt. 1st Class Keith Ayres, his platoon sergeant, shortly after taking over on June 29, according to Ayres's testimony.

His strategy, he said, was a "shock and awe" campaign designed to cow the enemy and intimidate villagers into coughing up valuable intelligence. When an Afghan farmer and his young son approached the outpost's front gate and asked permission to move a section of razor wire a few feet so that the farmer could get into his field, Lorance threatened to have Twist and the other soldiers on guard duty kill him and his boy.

"He pointed at the child . . . at the little, tiny kid," Twist testified. He estimated the child was 3 or 4 years old.

On Lorance's second day, he ordered two of his sharpshooters to fire within 10 to 12 inches of unarmed villagers. His goal was to make the Afghans wonder why the Americans were shooting at them and motivate them to attend a village meeting that Lorance had scheduled for later in the week, his soldiers testified.

His real motive, though, seems to have been cruelty. "It's funny watching those f---ers dance," Lorance said, according to the testimony of one of his soldiers. Lorance didn't pull the trigger. Instead, he stood by his men in the guard towers, picked the targets and issued orders. His troops finally balked when he told them to shoot near children. They refused again a few hours later when he ordered them to file a false report saying that they had taken fire from the village.

"If I don't have the support of my NCOs then I'll f---ing do it myself," Lorance exclaimed, according to testimony, referring to noncommissioned officers.

On the day of the killings for which he would be convicted, Lorance posted a sign in the platoon headquarters stating that no motorcycles would be permitted in his unit's sector. The platoon's soldiers were falsely told before the day's patrol that motorcycles should be considered "hostile and engaged on sight." Several soldiers testified that Lorance told them that senior U.S. officials had ordered the change. At least two sergeants recalled the guidance had come from the Afghans and did not apply to U.S. forces. Due to the conflicting testimony, the jury of Army officers acquitted Lorance of changing the rules of engagement. Still, Lorance's actions left soldiers confused on the critical, life-or-death question of when they were authorized to open fire.

The mission that day was a foot patrol into a nearby village to meet the elders.

Less than 30 minutes after they rolled out of the gate, three men on a motorcycle approached a cluster of Afghan National Army troops at the front of their formation. Lorance and his troops were standing about 150 to 200 yards away in an orchard, tucked behind a series of five-foot-high mud walls on which the Afghans grew grapes.

At the trial, Lorance's soldiers recalled how he had ordered them to fire.

"Why aren't you shooting?" he demanded.

A U.S. soldier fired and missed. The motorcycle carrying the three men, none of whom appeared to be armed, came to a stop. Upon hearing the shots, McGuinness began running toward Lorance, who was closer to the front of the U.S. patrol, to see out why they were shooting.

The puzzled Afghans were now standing next to the stopped motorcycle, "trying to figure out what had happened," according to one soldier's testimony. Gray, who was watching from a nearby armored vehicle, recognized the eldest of the three men as someone the Americans regularly met with in the village. He recalled the Afghans waving at them.

"Smoke 'em," Lorance ordered over the radio.

At first Gray and the other soldiers in the armored vehicle weren't sure whom Lorance wanted them to shoot. "There was a back and forth with the three of us in the vehicle," Gray recalled in an interview.

Then Pvt. David Shilo, who was in the turret of the armored vehicle just inches from Gray, fired, striking one of the men, who fell into a drainage ditch. Because the platoon had been told that morning that motorcycles weren't allowed in their sector, Shilo testified that he thought he was acting on a lawful order. Shilo declined to be interviewed.

The two surviving Afghan men bent to retrieve their dead colleague when Shilo cleared his weapon and shot again, killing a second Afghan. The third man ran away. Two U.S. soldiers testified that it was possible that an Afghan soldier also fired.

A few minutes later, a boy approached the dead men and the motorcycle, which was standing on the side of the road with its kickstand still down. Lorance ordered Shilo to fire a third time and disable the bike. This time he refused.

"I wasn't going to shoot a 12-year-old boy," Shilo testified.

Relatives of the dead were now on the scene screaming and crying. Lorance's immediate superior officer, Capt. Patrick Swanson, who was two miles away and couldn't see what was happening, ordered him over the radio to search the bodies.

Lorance was convicted of lying to Swanson, telling him that villagers had carried off the corpses before his men could examine them. In fact, Lorance's troops searched the bodies of the dead Afghans and found ID cards, scissors, some pens and three cucumbers, but no weapons, according to testimony.

The troops continued their patrol into the village while McGuinness and a small team of soldiers provided cover from a nearby roof. About 30 minutes after the first shooting, McGuinness spotted two Afghan men talking on radios.

"We have to do something to the Americans," one of the men was saying, according to U.S. intercepts. McGuinness and his troops received permission from the company headquarters to fire and killed the two men. The platoon cut short the patrol and returned to the base.

At the outpost the soldiers were shaken. "This doesn't feel right," Gray said.

"It's not f---ing right at all," McGuinness replied.

A few minutes later Lorance burst into the platoon's headquarters ebullient. "That was f---ing awesome," he exclaimed, according to court testimony.

"Ayres looked sick," one of the platoon's soldiers testified. McGuinness was furious.

The lieutenant tried to reassure his sergeants. "I know how to report it up [so] nobody gets in trouble," he said, according to testimony.

Lorance's soldiers turned him in that evening, and at the July 2013 trial, 14 of his men testified under oath against him. Four of those soldiers received immunity in exchange for their testimony. Lorance did not appear on the stand, and not one of his former 1st Platoon soldiers spoke in his defense. The trial lasted three days. It took the jury of Army officers three hours to find him guilty of second-degree murder, making false statements and ordering his men to fire at Afghan civilians. The jury handed down a 20-year sentence.

In response to a Lorance clemency request, an Army general reviewed the conviction and reduced the sentence by one year.


Dave Zettel reveals a tattoo of a lighter to represent the 82nd deployment outside his home in Blythewood, S.C. Washington Post photo by Bonnie Jo Mount

The war crimes and their aftermath followed Lorance's soldiers home to Fort Bragg and, in some cases, into their nightmares. On many nights Gray woke up to the image of a group of Afghan soldiers surrounding his cot and emptying their rifles into his sleeping body in retaliation for the murders.

"I dreamed it," he said, "because I thought that's what would happen."

Dave Zettel wasn't on the patrol when the killings were committed but was in the guard tower when Lorance ordered him and another soldier to fire harassing shots into the neighboring village. On his first full day back in the States, Zettel went out to a dinner with a large group from the platoon and their families.

By the end of the night, the soldiers, rattled from the tour, the stress of Lorance's upcoming trial and the return home, were intoxicated and emotionally falling apart. Zettel held it together until he was alone in a taxi with his wife and brother. In the quiet of the cab, he felt a crushing guilt that he had made it home unscathed.

"I just lost my s---. I felt like a failure," he said. "I felt abandoned and so f---ing angry."

In Afghanistan, Army investigators, who were primarily pursuing Lorance, threatened Zettel with aggravated assault charges for the shootings in the tower. And they showed McGuinness a charge sheet accusing him of murder for killing the Afghans who were talking on the radios about targeting Americans.

The threats of prosecution hung over them for months. Eventually, the Army concluded that McGuinness's actions were justified. Prosecutors never pursued charges against Zettel.

Instead the Army issued administrative letters of reprimand to Zettel and Matthew Rush, the soldier who fired the rounds at the civilians from the tower. Zettel had watched from the tower but did not shoot.

Ayres and McGuinness - the senior sergeants in the platoon - received disciplinary letters, which can hinder or delay promotions, for their failure to turn Lorance in sooner or stop the killings on the third day.

McGuinness legally changed his surname, which had been Herrmann, in an effort to shed the stigma of the crimes. "I wanted to get away from the entire situation and I thought I'll change units and no one will know," he said. But, because of the investigation and trial, McGuinness's orders to report to an airborne unit in Italy were canceled. "I ended up staying. People didn't forget," he said. "It was awful."

Shilo, who fired the fatal shots at the men on the motorcycle, was granted immunity and left the Army not long after the trial.

Even those who weren't punished or even on the patrol that day felt tainted. To some of their fellow troops they were the "murder platoon," a bunch of out-of-control soldiers who had wantonly killed Afghans. To others they were turncoats who had flipped on their commander. Gray was waiting for a parachute jump at Fort Bragg when he overheard a lieutenant colonel deride the platoon as nothing but a bunch of "traitors and cowards." Gray was just a low-ranking specialist, so he kept his mouth shut.

The unit had seen some of the heaviest fighting of the long Afghanistan war, but received no awards for valor. There was no recognition for Twist, who had pulled Walley from a blast crater and applied a tourniquet to the remains of his arm and leg. No one acknowledged Joe Fjeldheim, the platoon medic, who had cut a hole in Hanes's neck and inserted a breathing tube after a sniper's bullet left him paralyzed and choking for air.

"Not a single write up. The only thing we received were Purple Hearts for the guys that got messed up," Zettel said. "We were treated like we had an infectious disease. The Lorance issue evaporated any support from the Army when we got back, and it was absolutely crushing to those who needed help."

A group from the unit gathered regularly at Zettel's apartment off post to drink. Some Saturdays Fjeldheim would show up at 9:30 a.m. with booze and a plan to stay numb through the weekend. When the troops were too hung over to make it to mandatory morning formation and training, he would administer intravenousdrips in the barracks.

"I was working at Macy's, and I'd dread coming home because someone was doing something stupid or crying in the bathroom," said Zettel's wife, Kim. Often, it fell to her to offer a bit of empathy.

The soldiers blamed the killings when they were passed over for promotions or stripped of rank for drinking too much or missing formations. In early 2014, Gray was hospitalized for alcohol withdrawal and put on suicide watch. He had been drinking a half-gallon of whiskey each night to fall asleep. "It was my off switch," he said. A few days into his hospital stay, when he was still dosed up on Valium, an officer visited him.

"Why are you like this?" the officer pressed. "They are just dead Afghans. Why do you care so much?"

The question infuriated Gray. Before the war crimes, he had believed he was helping Afghans and defending his country. "It's like you're this hardcore Christian and some entity drops from the ceiling and says it's a sham," he said. "That's how it was for me. I thought of the Army as this altruistic thing. I thought it was perfect and honorable. It pains me to tell you how stupid and naive I was. The Lorance stuff just broke my faith. . . . And once you lose your values and your faith, the Army is just another job you hate."


"You don't go into the military thinking you are going to be part of a war crimes case," said Mike McGuinness at his home in Raeford, N.C. Washington Post photo by Bonnie Jo Mount

McGuinness tried to intervene on behalf of his soldiers. He talked to Gray's new commanders, who McGuinness said wanted to run him out of the Army for being drunk.

"Did you ask him why he's drinking too much?" McGuinness pressed them.

Zettel asked McGuinness to meet with his new platoon sergeant when the Army, without explanation, blocked him from attending Ranger School.

McGuinness also spoke up for Jarred Ruhl, who had been one of his best soldiers in combat. Ruhl came home from Afghanistan with orders for Hawaii and a promotion to sergeant. But he soon began skipping morning formation, was demoted twice to private first class and forced from the Army.

"I just don't know how to deal with everything that happened," Ruhl told him. He had been standing next to Lorance when the lieutenant gave the orders to kill the Afghan men.

McGuinness, who said he felt like a failure for not stopping the killings or shielding his men from the fallout, was also self-destructing. "I was mouthy and insubordinate," he said. He felt distant from his two young children and said he was drunk "six days a week."

When conservatives rushed to turn Lorance into a hero, McGuinness felt as though the last shreds of his integrity were under assault. Former Lt. Col. Allen West, who had been relieved of command in 2003 for staging a mock execution of an Iraqi prisoner and was later elected to Congress in the tea party wave, blasted Lorance's conviction in a Washington Times op-ed as a product of the Army's "appalling" rules of engagement.

The rules were drafted by generals who worried that high civilian casualty rates were driving Afghans to support the Taliban. But West insisted that the rules put U.S. troops at undue risk and reflected President Barack Obama's "outrageous contempt for the military." West didn't respond to a request for comment.

Fox News's Sean Hannity took up Lorance's case, calling the conviction a "national disgrace."

In 2014, McGuinness was out drinking with an Army friend, and when the friend went home, stayed at the bar until he had downed enough booze to "sedate a rhino." A military police officer found him later that night, sitting in his truck on All American Parkway, the main drag through Fort Bragg, with a gun in his mouth.

A nurse in the psychiatric ward at Womack Army Medical Center asked him if he really wanted help. "If you tell me that to get better, I've got to eat a 100-pound bag of gummy bears, then I'm going to eat 100 pounds of gummy bears," he recalled telling her. "I just can't do this s--- any more."

It was the end of a 16-year Army career.

Soon the platoon began to suffer losses at home. First Kerner, who was wounded in a bomb blast with the unit's first platoon leader, died in March 2015 of cancer at age 23. Doctors discovered the malignancy when they were treating his combat wounds. Five months later Hanes, who was paralyzed by the bullet he took to his neck, died of a blood clot at age 24.

"Saying I love you doesn't even scratch the surface of how much you truly mean to me," he wrote in a note to the platoon three months before he fell into a coma. His closest friends from the unit - Zettel, Dallas Haggard and Fjeldheim, the medic who saved his life - were at his bedside in York, Pa., during his final unconscious hours.

At the funeral there was heavy drinking, just like at Bragg, but now that many in the platoon were out of the Army and no longer had to worry about drug tests, there was also cocaine to numb the pain.

Wives traded tips about how to persuade their husbands to go to therapy and talked about hiding their guns when they grew too depressed.

Ruhl complained to McGuinness that life at home felt empty. "Are you in therapy?" asked McGuinness, who was seeing a therapist and getting ready to start college at age 33.

"I don't know if I can do it," Ruhl said.

"It doesn't f---ing matter what you think you can do," he pressed. "It can't make things worse."

A few months later Zettel, who had finished college and was commissioned as an officer, stopped in to see Ruhl at his home in Fort Wayne, Ind. Zettel was on his way to a leadership course for new Army officers in Missouri.

Ruhl's stepbrother told him that Ruhl had pulled a gun on a woman in a traffic dispute just days earlier. "Take his gun," Zettel advised Ruhl's stepbrother. "Take it apart and hide the pieces so that he can't get it." It was impossible, the stepbrother said. Ruhl took his gun everywhere.

Ruhl confided to Zettel that there were days when he couldn't stop thinking about killing himself.

"How are we going to fix this?" asked Zettel, who helped Ruhl sign up for a counseling at a VA hospital.

Before he could start, Ruhl pulled his gun on an acquaintance at a party. His stepbrother tried to wrestle it away and the firearm discharged, severing Ruhl's femoral artery. He died before paramedics arrived.

Zettel came back for the funeral, then returned to Missouri to finish his five-month leadership course. Four years had passed since the war crimes, but the murders and their aftermath still seemed inescapable. A captain teaching Zettel's class on rules of engagement used Lorance as a case study, telling the new officers that Lorance had been trying to impose discipline on a platoon that had lost control after one of its soldiers was shot in the neck. The captain was referring to Hanes, who had given Zettel his first salute when he was commissioned as an officer.

Lorance's soldiers, the captain continued, had violated the rules of engagement and now Lorance, who hadn't fired a shot, was serving a 19-year prison sentence.

Zettel blew up. "I was there and you need to stop running your mouth," he recalled shouting at the instructor.

The instructor suggested they step out of the classroom. Zettel grew angrier.

"If I ever see Lorance on the street," he said. "I am going to rip his f---ing throat out."

- - -

Six days after Trump was inaugurated as president, Hannity asked him in a White House interview about pardoning Lorance. "He got 30 years," Hannity said incorrectly. "He was doing his job, protecting his team in Afghanistan."

"We're looking at a few of them," said Trump of the case.

In the months after his conviction, Lorance had begun to receive support from United American Patriots (UAP), a nonprofit group that represents soldiers accused of war crimes. UAP helped Lorance find new lawyers who claimed in an appeals court filing that they had uncovered evidence showing that the younger victim was "biometrically linked" to a roadside bomb blast that occurred before his death. The sole survivor, the lawyers said, took part in attacks on U.S. forces after the Americans tried to kill him.

"The Afghan men were not civilian casualties . . . but were actually combatant bombmakers who intended to harm or kill American soldiers," the lawyers wrote in their appeal.

In 2017, a military appeals court dismissed the biometric data as irrelevant because Lorance had "no indications that the victims posed any threat at the time of the shootings." The judges found that the surviving victim's decision to join the Taliban after the platoon tried to kill him probably would have helped prosecutors by demonstrating "the direct impact on U.S. forces when the local population believe they are being indiscriminately killed."

But the biometric evidence and support from UAP helped Lorance's mother and his legal team get on Trump's favorite television shows - "Fox & Friends" and "Hannity" - where they offered a new account of the killings that differed dramatically from the sworn testimony. In their telling, the motorcycle wasn't stopped on the side of the road with its kickstand down, as testimony and photos from the trial demonstrated, but was speeding toward Lorance and his men when he ordered them to fire.

"He's got to make a split-second decision in a war zone," Hannity said on his television show. "How did it get to the point where he got prosecuted for this?"

"I feel if he had not made that call," Lorance's mother replied, "my son today would be called a hero, killed in action."

Hannity turned to Lorance's lawyer, John Maher. "Was there anybody in the platoon that was with Clint that said that was the wrong decision?" he asked.

"That I don't rightly know," replied Maher, who had reviewed the platoon's testimony.

"Then who made the determination that this was the wrong thing to do?" Hannity pressed.

"The chain of command," Maher said.

"People that weren't there," Hannity concluded. Hannity and a Fox News spokeswoman did not respond to multiple requests for comment.

In a recent interview, Maher said his response to Hannity's question had been "potentially inartful." Lorance was in prison because the 1st Platoon soldiers turned him in and testified against him.

But Maher maintained that Lorance had made a split-second decision to protect his men from an enemy ambush. Some of the 1st Platoon soldiers said that the Afghan men had been standing on the side of the road for as long as two minutes before the U.S. gun truck opened fire on Lorance's orders. Others, including Lorance, estimated they had been stopped for only a few seconds.

"That's probably an eternity sitting here in the safety of this environment," Maher said. "But I assure you that it's not like that under volatile, uncertain, unforgiving conditions where life and death are right around the corner and a tardy decision results in death or dismemberment."

The Afghan men were about 150 to 200 yards from the U.S. position when they were killed. To reach Lorance and his troops, they would have had to scale multiple shoulder-high mud walls.

Zach Thomas, who had been standing just yards from Lorance when he gave the order to fire, was driving to community college in 2017 when he heard Hannity talking about the Lorance case on the radio.

"My blood just started boiling," he recalled.

Thomas had spent his last day in the Army testifying against his former platoon leader. He was just 18 when he left for Afghanistan, and like many in the unit, his return home had been difficult. He drank to blunt his PTSD and depression. Two of his sergeants were so worried about him that they let him move out of the barracks and spend his last two months living at their house. His plan after the Army was to forget about Afghanistan and start a new life in his hometown of Crosby, Tex.

Thomas pulled over on the side of the road and looked up the number for Hannity's radio show in New York City on his cellphone.

"I'm a big fan, but y'all are being led the wrong way," he told a producer for the show. "This isn't some innocent guy." The producer asked him if he knew about the biometric data Lorance's lawyers had uncovered.

"I don't know about any of that information, but I was there and these people were not enemy combatants," he said. He could tell he wasn't convincing the producer so he gave her McGuinness's cellphone number and urged her to call him. She talked with McGuinness as well but never invited him on the show.

A handful of other soldiers from the platoon did their best to counter Lorance's story. Todd Fitzgerald, who was also standing near Lorance when he ordered the killings, took to Reddit to defend the unit. He and several other soldiers spoke to the New York Times for a story that detailed the inaccuracies in Lorance's defense. Fitzgerald, McGuinness and Gray were interviewed for a documentary about the case, "Leavenworth," that aired on the Starz Network.

In April 2018, the platoon suffered its fourth death since returning home when Nick Carson, 26, crashed his car late at night.

Carson had been with McGuinness in Afghanistan on the day of the killings, and like his squad leader had been threatened with war crimes charges.

"I don't know what's fixing to happen, but our platoon leader is making us all out to be murderers," he told his parents in a 2012 phone call from Afghanistan. "Just know, I am not a murderer."

Carson's mother and stepfather were at Fort Bragg a few months later when he returned from the war. "He got off that big plane, hugged us and cried and then he said, 'I love y'all but I need to be by myself. I just need to go,' " recalled his stepfather.

Carson stayed in the Army after the combat tour, but he struggled with PTSD, depression and anger. He and Ruhl had been best friends and were supposed to go to Hawaii together when they returned from Afghanistan. After Ruhl's death, Carson tried to explain on the platoon's private Facebook page why he was skipping his friend's funeral. "It's not that I can't physically be there," he wrote. "I won't let my last memory of Jarred be at his funeral. I am sorry for that. Most of you know how close Jarred and I were, so this has been extremely difficult to accept."

On the night of the car accident that killed him, Carson had been drinking and wasn't wearing a seat belt. His parents said he may have fallen asleep while driving. The platoon blamed the war crimes and the deployment.

In Afghanistan, the platoon had dubbed themselves the "Honey Badgers" after the fearless carnivore.

Back home, they began to refer to themselves as "the cursed platoon."


Samuel Walley with his fiancee Hannah Smallwood in their garage in Buford, Ga. Walley lost his right leg and part of his left arm in Afghanistan. Washington Post photo by Bonnie Jo Mount

On October 23rd at 2:44 a.m., Twist's wife, Emalyn, messaged Sgt. 1st Class Joe Morrissey, who had been Twist's team leader with the platoon in Afghanistan.

"James committed suicide tonight," she wrote from the hospital where the doctors were preparing to harvest his organs. "Could you let his other Army friends know. . . . This is a fucking living nightmare." It was the platoon's fifth death since returning home four years earlier.

Morrissey woke to the message at Fort Bragg and began sobbing. His soon-to-be ex-wife knew immediately that another member of the platoon was gone. His first call was to McGuinness, who was returning home from a late-night shift as a bouncer at a Fayetteville bar. The two immediately began calling the rest of the platoon, which was scattered across the country.

The deaths had imbued them with a grim fatalism. "Who is it this time?" a few answered when they saw the 5 a.m. calls from Morrissey's phone.

"It's James," Morrissey said again and again.

At Fort Jackson, Zettel was administering a predawn fitness test to recruits when he got the call. He punched a fence and rushed back to his office so the new soldiers wouldn't see him fall part. Alone at his desk, Zettel thought about the steady stream of calls and texts Twist had sent him over the past five years, and he wondered if the messages were an indirect way of asking for help.

McGuinness caught Gray as he headed off to his job at a weapons arsenal in southwest Virginia. His wallpaper on his work computer was a photo of Twist and him in Afghanistan, their rifles slung across their chests. "Back when we were cool," Twist had written when he texted it to Gray.

The hardest call was to Walley, the soldier Twist had dragged from the blast crater. “What’s wrong?” his fiancee asked him when he got the call. “It’s Twist,” Walley told her. She tried to hug him, but he pushed her away. “I need to take this in alone,” he said.

At the funeral, Walley spoke first for the platoon, rocking back and forth on his prosthetic leg. Walley was wounded a month before the murders, but they had affected him too. At times, he felt abandoned by those who had tried to distance themselves from the unit, the murders and the war. "I have to wake up every single day and look in the mirror. Every single day I am hopping in a wheelchair," he often thought. "I don't get to forget."

In January 2016, he was drunk and despondent in his apartment outside Atlanta and accidentally fired his pistol through the ceiling and into the apartment above him. After the shooting, Walley cut back on his drinking and returned to college. He was just one semester from graduating.

He stared out at the packed and silent church.

"Twist would probably give me a little bit of crap right now for having not wrote a speech," he began. "But I figured I'd just tell a story. It's a little bit of a harsh story, but I think it needs to be told."

Walley had spent dozens of hours reconstructing every second of the day he was injured. Eight years after the blast, he and his fellow soldiers would still argue over the smallest details: What kind of bomb had caused his wounds? Was it a pressure plate or remote-detonated? What exactly did Morrissey say as he and Carson lifted Walley into the helicopter? For Walley, the details were sacred. Remembering brought him comfort.

He took a breath and described the explosion and its aftermath. "My right leg was about 20 feet away. It was completely removed. My left leg, the tibia ripped through the [skin]; my foot was facing toward my butt," he said. His right arm was mangled.

"Twist ended up coming through this cloudy haze," Walley continued. "He was the most selfless man that I ever knew on this planet. He did not care if he died. He did not care if his limbs were to get ripped off. He didn't care. He just cared that his guys were okay."

A few minutes in a combat zone can define a life for good or for ill. "I believe that 10 minutes defined Twist," Walley said.

Morrissey spoke next of Twist's successes as a soldier, state trooper and father. "Those of us who knew Twist were extremely proud," he said. "Unfortunately . . . underneath it all, the demons are still there, still tearing away at us day in and day out."

- - -

The 1st Platoon soldiers were still filtering home from Twist's funeral when Pete Hegseth, a "Fox & Friends" co-anchor who had advocated on Lorance's behalf, tweeted that Lorance's pardon was "imminent."

The actual release came two weeks later on Nov. 15.

"It's done. It's a political move," one of the 1st Platoon soldiers wrote on the group's private Facebook page. "Time to move on."

Ayres, who had skipped all five of the platoon's funerals, agreed. "Not worth any of our time," he wrote. "What matters is that everyone that matters knows he is a piece of s---. Let's move on and enjoy life."

For McGuinness it wasn't an option. He couldn't bear the thought that Lorance was being hailed as a hero by Trump and others, while soldiers like Twist were being forgotten. "I've buried people that struggled with what happened, and whether through their own hands or their actions, they're gone," he said. "I'm not going to sit quietly while he gets paraded around and they're not recognized."

He texted with Gray, who wasn't on Facebook.

"Fuck it all," Gray wrote. "The one reprieve we had is gone."

"I feel so shitty right now," McGuinness replied.

"I'm going to drink until I can sleep," Gray added.

"I might do the same," McGuinness said.

Others in the platoon argued on social media with pro-Trump friends, who insisted Lorance was innocent. "You realize I was f---ing THERE, right?" one soldier wrote to a fellow veteran. "Like you realize I was one of the godd--- WITNESSES who testified, right?!"

Later that evening, Twist's father, John, called McGuinness, hoping to talk about his son and the pardon. McGuinness shared his memories of Twist, who came to the platoon when he was just 19. "We put so much work into him," McGuinness said. He talked about Twist's quirks - his irritating tendency to correct McGuinness when he got a minor fact wrong about a weapons system.

Twist's father asked whether the murders and the trial might have contributed to his son's torment. Twist wasn't on patrol the day of the killings, but McGuinness believed that what had happened with Lorance had wounded him too. "Twist had a big heart. He was like Gray. He wanted to do good," McGuinness said. "When Lorance took that away, he took a little part of Jimmy, too."

In Lorance's hometown of Merit, Tex., Lee Greenwood's "God Bless the U.S.A." blared from a sound system in the parking lot of the local high school. A cheering crowd of about 300 people had spent the previous two hours in the cold and dark awaiting Lorance's arrival.

"This is absolutely amazing," Lorance said as his car, escorted by the county constable, rolled to a stop in the high school parking lot.

"It's a hometown hero's welcome," said his cousin from the back seat.

Lorance climbed atop a flatbed trailer. Someone from the crowd gave him an American flag. The vice commander of the local VFW handed him a microphone.

"God Bless Texas!" Lorance yelled. "God Bless America!"

At his side was the head of UAP, the group that had worked to free him. Lorance's case and the publicity generated helped the group boost annual donations by about 150 percent, from $1.8 million in 2015 to more than $4.5 million in 2018.

Lorance, who was wearing his crisp, blue Army uniform - his pants tucked into his boots, paratrooper style - knew exactly what his backers wanted to hear. "We finally have a president who understands that when we send our troops to fight impossible wars, we must stand behind them," he told the crowd.

"Amen!" cried a voice from the high school parking lot.

"Amen is right!" Lorance answered.

For those in the parking lot that night, Lorance's freedom was proof that Trump would stand up for them and their town, population 215, at a moment when large swaths of the country seemed to hold them and their way of life in contempt. "You know how many people just want to see that someone cares," said Tiffany West, 37, who was standing feet from the stage.

Lorance thanked his family and the lawmakers who pressed for his release. He talked about Trump and Vice President Pence, who had called him at the penitentiary to tell him that they were setting him free. "We had a nine-minute conversation," Lorance said. "Yeah, I was timing it. . . . They took time out of their busy day to ask me what I was going to do with the rest of my life."

He blasted the craven "deep state" military officers he blamed for his conviction. "That's not really the military. That's the politicians who run the thing," he said. "The men and women in the mud and dirt. That's the real U.S. military."

He was still talking nearly an hour later when the television news crews from Dallas, about 60 miles away, began packing up their equipment.

"I'm sorry," he apologized. "I know it's cold."

"Go ahead!" a voice shouted.

"You're home!" added another.

Soon the crowd began drifting away for the night, past Merit's post office, its volunteer fire department, its recently shuttered convenience store, and the decaying wood clapboard building that once held its cotton gin. Lorance handed the microphone back to the local VFW's vice commander, a Gulf War veteran who had organized the gathering and would now get the final word.

"There's going to be people out there that are going to try to use this against Trump," he warned. "Well, we're going to throw it right back in their faces!"

The next morning Lorance boarded a plane for New York City, where he appeared on "Fox & Friends" and Hannity's radio show. In December, he joined Trump onstage at a GOP fundraiser.

In interviews after his release, Lorance insisted that the soldiers who testified against him were pressured by the Army or had turned on him because he was an exacting commander and they lacked discipline. "When I walked into the guard tower and the soldiers didn't have their helmet or body armor on, I told them to put it on," he told Blue Magazine, which advocates on behalf of police officers. "And they didn't like that, they didn't like taking orders like that, but I was brought in there to enforce the standard."

- - -

In Grand Rapids, Twist's father spent much of the winter trying to unravel the mystery of his son's death. His dining room table was covered with foot-high piles of papers from James's life.

There were old report cards, passports and programs from high school wrestling matches. A second pile from the Army included a spiral notebook that his son had used as a diary when he was going through basic training. A third pile contained a printout of the essay - "The Invisible War Inside My Head" - that his son wrote the day before he died.

In it, Twist wrote briefly about the killings that had "rocked and split up" his platoon. The longest section of the essay recounted the day Walley lost his arm and leg. "I found Sam in a small crater," he wrote. "He was missing his right foot and all the muscle and skin around his right tibia/fibula." That image, he said, played again and again in his head when he returned from the war.

"I really don't understand what PTSD is," his father said. "You can read about it, but I don't get it. So far the only thing I can get is that it's like having . . . poor Sam Walley getting blown up" playing in your head over and over. "And how do you get rid of that?"

Twist's wife, Emalyn, 27, also had been thinking about the meaning of her husband's life and sudden, violent death. In early March she was sitting alone in the parking lot of a nearby Target. Her three children - ages 1, 3 and 5 - were with a friend. She balanced a Starbucks coffee in one hand and hit record on her cellphone camera.

"It has been kind of a bad week, filled with a lot of 'it shouldn't have to be that way' kind of moments," she said. Earlier that morning, she had turned over their house keys to the new owners. Her 5-year-old son spotted the family's moving trucks in the driveway and panicked, yelling for her to "stop them."

Twist's children remembered their father as a dad who liked to wrestle and sing them to sleep. Emalyn couldn't forget her husband's insecurity, bouts of self-loathing and verbal abuse. On the night her husband took his life he was upset with her for going to see a therapist and terrified that she was going to divorce him. In a blog post, Emalyn described him slamming his head into the kitchen counter until blood was running down his face. Then he stormed to their bedroom and shot himself.

Emalyn pressed a pair of leggings to her husband's head in a futile attempt to stop the bleeding. With her other hand, she dialed 911. As she listened for the sound of approaching sirens, she stifled the urge to vomit and prayed that their children would not wake.

"I couldn't stand to live in that house or sleep in that bedroom when I had seen so much in there, and that just makes me mad, because I loved that house and I loved that neighborhood," she said to her cellphone camera. "And I shouldn't have had to leave. I shouldn't have had to pull my kids out of their little social circle and all those people who loved them. It shouldn't have to be that way."

For years she had helped her husband hide his pain from family, friends and even his fellow soldiers. Now she was determined to be honest. "I just don't have to keep up this facade of the grieving widow all the time, even though that's also what I am," she said. "There's almost always more to every story than we know. It's important to pay attention to that."

She stopped recording, turned on the ignition and picked up with her day.

- - -

In April with the country locked down by the coronavirus, McGuinness arranged for a dozen of the guys from the platoon to get together on a video call for beers. He and Walley were finishing up their last few college courses before they graduated. A couple of the soldiers and wives were expecting their first children. Two were in the early days of divorces.

An hour into the call almost everyone was drunk or stoned - except for the pregnant wives. One soldier kept streaming as he sat on the toilet. When he was done everyone screamed at him to wash his hands. Another soldier vomited and curled up on the floor.

"This is better than getting together at funerals," McGuinness said cheerily.

The troops talked about their plans for the future. Morrissey was just back from another tour in Afghanistan, where he mostly sat on base while the Afghans fought each other. "There's no war left there anymore," he said.

"What are you going to do when you retire?" McGuinness asked him.

"Let me finish, before you laugh," Morrissey replied. "I'm going to go to school to be a barber and open one of those high end barber shops where you can get a drink, a real gentleman's haircut and shave with a straight razor."

Walley tried to talk, but everyone was talking over him. "No one listens to me," he joked. "Everyone just stares at the guy with two limbs." He and his fiancee were planning their wedding for the spring of 2021. They had already reserved a "mansion where we can fit the whole platoon," he said.

"Just tell me the day and I'll be there," McGuinness promised.

Zettel and his wife were expecting their first child on Aug. 10. He was planning on leaving the Army for good in October. "It's not going to join the Army," Zettel said of his unborn child. "I'm going to burn everything so it doesn't even know I was in the f---ing Army."

The soldiers talked about the guys they had lost to suicide and self-destructive behavior. And they spoke briefly about Lorance, who has a memoir titled "Stolen Valor" that is going to be published by Hachette Book Group in the fall, when Lorance has said he is planning to start law school. A blurb for the book, posted by the publisher, calls Lorance "a scapegoat for a corrupt military" and asserts that "his unit turned on him because of his homosexuality." Lorance's lawyer said there was no evidence that homophobia played a role in conviction.

"We looked," Maher said, "and we came up with nothing."

In interviews, troops said that in Afghanistan they didn't know Lorance was gay and wouldn't have cared.

"We took s--- from so many people for so long," McGuinness said. "I'm not letting that happen anymore. I'm going to fight back."

The soldiers shared tips about how to find a good therapist and promised to look out for one another so that there would be no more funerals.

"You guys mean everything to me," McGuinness said. "We have to do this more often. We have to look after each other. If you guys are hurting, hit me up. We can do this instead of just letting things fester."

He rose from his desk chair - a little wobbly from all the beer. It was 2:30 a.m., and they had been talking for more than four hours. "I love you a--holes," he said, and signed off the call.

- - -

The Washington Post’s Julie Tate contributed to this report.

Trump’s Rushmore trip draws real and figurative fireworks

Fri, 2020-07-03 06:16

FILE - This March 22, 2019, file photo shows Mount Rushmore in Keystone, S.D. President Donald Trump will begin his Independence Day weekend on Friday with a patriotic display of fireworks at Mount Rushmore National Memorial before a crowd of thousands. (AP Photo/David Zalubowski, File) (David Zalubowski/)

SIOUX FALLS, S.D. — President Donald Trump will begin his Independence Day weekend on Friday with a patriotic display of fireworks at Mount Rushmore, an event expected to draw thousands where masks and social distancing aren’t required as coronavirus cases spike across the country.

Trump is expected to speak at the event, which has issued 7,500 tickets to watch fireworks that he says will be a “display like few people have seen.”

The president will likely enjoy a show of support, with the state Republican Party selling T-shirts that feature Trump on the memorial alongside George Washington, Thomas Jefferson, Abraham Lincoln and Theodore Roosevelt. But concern about the coronavirus risk and wildfire danger from the fireworks, along with protests from Native American groups, will also greet the president.

Republican Gov. Kristi Noem, a Trump ally, has said social distancing won't be required during the event and masks will be optional. Event organizers will provide masks to anyone who wants them and plan to screen attendees for symptoms of COVID-19.

The Republican mayor of the largest city near the monument, Rapid City, said he is watching for a spike in cases after the event, the Rapid City Journal reported.

“We’re going to have thousands of people, shoulder to shoulder at these events — someone in line to see a president and being able to see fireworks at Mount Rushmore — they are probably not likely to disqualify themself because they developed a cough the day of or the day before,” Rapid City Mayor Steve Allender said.

Leaders of several Native American tribes in the region also raised concerns that the event could lead to coronavirus outbreaks among their members, who they say are particularly vulnerable to COVID-19 because of an underfunded health care system and chronic health conditions.

“The president is putting our tribal members at risk to stage a photo op at one of our most sacred sites,” said Harold Frazier, chairman of the Cheyenne River Sioux Tribe.

Some Native American groups are using Trump's visit to protest the Mount Rushmore memorial itself, pointing out that the Black Hills were taken from the Lakota people against treaty agreements.

Protests are expected in Keystone, the small town near the monument. Chase Iron Eyes, a spokesman for the Oglala Sioux president, said protesters would like to make their voice heard at the memorial itself, but it's not clear they'll be able to get close.

Security is expected to be tight, with the road leading up to Mount Rushmore shut down. The governor's spokesperson, Maggie Seidel, would not say whether the South Dakota National Guard was being deployed, but said organizers are making sure it is a safe event.

But several people who once oversaw fire danger at the national memorial have said setting off fireworks over the forest is a bad idea that could lead to a large wildfire. Fireworks were called off after 2009 because a mountain pine beetle infestation increased the fire risks.

Noem pushed to get the fireworks resumed soon after she was elected, and enlisted Trump’s help. The president brushed aside fire concerns earlier this year, saying, “What can burn? It’s stone.”

The National Park Service studied the potential effect of the fireworks for this year and found they would be safe, though it noted that in a dry year, a large fire was a risk. Organizers are monitoring the fire conditions and were to decide Friday if the fireworks are safe.

Trump made no mention of the fire danger in fresh comments Thursday.

“They used to do it many years ago, and for some reason they were unable or unallowed to do it,” he said. “They just weren’t allowed to do it, and I opened it up and we’re going to have a tremendous July 3 and then we’re coming back here, celebrating the Fourth of July in Washington, D.C.”

Trump has presided over a several large-crowd events — in Tulsa, Oklahoma and at an Arizona megachurch — even as health officials warn against large gatherings and recommend face masks and social distancing. He plans a July Fourth celebration on the National Mall despite health concerns from D.C.‘s mayor. Trump and first lady Melania Trump plan to host events from the White House south lawn and from the Ellipse.

Annual cost of operating new Anchorage homeless and treatment programs estimated at $7 million

Thu, 2020-07-02 19:05

Americas Best Value Inn & Suites hotel, photographed in Spenard on June 18, 2020. (Loren Holmes / ADN) (Loren Holmes/)

As the Municipality of Anchorage pursues the purchase of four buildings for homeless services and substance misuse treatment, the mayor’s office projects an annual cost of $7 million to operate the programs.

That’s according to Jason Bockenstedt, Mayor Ethan Berkowitz’s chief of staff, who spoke at an Anchorage Assembly work session on Wednesday about a proposed ordinance to be taken up July 14. If the Assembly approves AO 2020-66, the city could use up to $22.5 million in federal funds to purchase and remodel four buildings in Spenard, Fairview and Midtown. They would be used for day engagement, overnight shelter and treatment for those with alcohol and substance use disorders.

Homeless Alaskans currently staying at Sullivan Arena, outdoors and elsewhere would move to the new shelters, transitional housing or a proposed drug and alcohol treatment center in the Geneva Woods neighborhood. Sullivan Arena, a city-owned facility on Gambell Street, would revert back to its former status as a sports and entertainment venue. The city wants to close the Sullivan as a mass shelter as soon as possible once the Assembly approves the building purchases.

The real estate acquisitions would be funded by the CARES Act, allocated by Congress to offset impacts of the coronavirus pandemic. At Wednesday’s meeting, Assembly member Forrest Dunbar, who represents East Anchorage, asked how the city would fund the ongoing operational cost of the programs.

The two most likely funding sources would be a voter-approved, 5% alcohol tax that takes effect on Feb. 1, and proceeds from the sale of city-owned Municipal Light & Power to Chugach Electric Association, Bockenstedt said. Voters approved the nearly $1 billion sale of ML&P in 2018.

Some $15 million in proceeds from the utility’s sale are earmarked for the creation of a drug and alcohol treatment center. The administration wants to buy the Best Western Golden Lion hotel at the corner of 36th Avenue and the new Seward Highway and convert it into an Alaska Center for Treatment, a move vocally opposed by many homeowners in the Geneva Woods, College Park and Rogers Park neighborhoods. Dozens of them turned out for a community meeting on Wednesday, taking turns at a microphone to share fears and concerns about a treatment center near their homes. Loss of property values and neighborhood safety were two top concerns expressed.

Besides the proposed treatment center in Geneva Woods, the city administration is seeking to buy the old Alaska Club building on Tudor Road west of the Old Seward Highway and turn it into a day engagement center for homeless residents, and eventually an overnight shelter as well. Bean’s Cafe on East Third Avenue would also become a day engagement center, if the Assembly approves and if the nonprofit’s board agrees to sell the building. Bean’s Cafe has set up a committee to study the proposal and bring a recommendation to the board at its August meeting, said Lisa Sauder, executive director.

Americas Best Value Inn & Suites in Spenard would become transitional housing under the proposed real estate deal.

The pandemic’s arrival in March spurred the city to overhaul its homeless shelter system. To provide adequate spacing between beds, hundreds of homeless residents were moved into the Sullivan and Ben Boeke arenas. The Boeke has since closed as a mass shelter.

Bockenstedt said the city has no plans to revert back to the way things were pre-pandemic when people slept mat to mat at Brother Francis Shelter and the adjacent Bean’s Cafe.

The changes COVID-19 has forced the city to take as far as its homelessness response system bode well for the future, downtown Assembly member Chris Constant said at Wednesday’s work session.

“This is truly kind of a miracle of timing that all of the plans we have been developing lead to this moment and this decision,” said Constant.

“Six months ago, this was an impossible phenomenon, an impossible moment. Here we are now. We can actually house most of these individuals,” he said.

The Assembly will hold another work session on the proposed building purchases on July 10.

Anchorage has an estimated 1,100 unhoused people who live in shelters or encampments as counted during a single night in January. Thousands more live doubled up with other individuals or families, or live in cars, cheap hotels or other in marginal scenarios.

Jasmine Boyle, who heads the Anchorage Coalition to End Homelessness, said Wednesday that Anchorage’s homeless population is expected to increase as the pandemic continues. Her group is conducting an assessment of what Anchorage needs as far as additional shelter beds and housing units for the homeless. The report is expected out before the July 14 Assembly meeting.

[Because of a high volume of comments requiring moderation, we are temporarily disabling comments on many of our articles so editors can focus on the coronavirus crisis and other coverage. We invite you to write a letter to the editor or reach out directly if you’d like to communicate with us about a particular article. Thanks.]

AWAIC shelter is the big winner of the 2020 Alaska Ski for Women

Thu, 2020-07-02 18:39

Women in tutus follow a dinosaur out of the Kincaid Park stadium at the 2020 Alaska Ski for Women. (Bill Roth / ADN) (Bill Roth / ADN/)

With Alaska’s domestic violence shelters stretched to the limit by the COVID-19 pandemic, the Alaska Ski for Women has decided to donate all of the proceeds from the 2020 race to the Abused Women’s Aid in Crisis shelter, or AWAIC.

The shelter will receive $25,747 from the 24th annual all-women’s ski race held at Kincaid Park in February.

“We usually accept grant applications and then the committee assigns funds; but this year due to COVID, things were different and the committee voted to donate 100% of the grant funds to AWAIC,” Sara Kamahele of the Nordic Skiing Association of Anchorage said by email.

[Previously: Hundreds of costumed skiers brave the cold for Alaska Ski for Women]

In most years, the race receives multiple applications for grants, which go to local nonprofits that provide services to women and children impacted by domestic abuse. Last year, three groups shared proceeds from the race -- AWAIC, the YMCA and the Running Free Alaska program.

AWAIC has been a chief beneficiary since the creation of the race. In the past 13 years alone, it has received grants totaling $404,000, Kamahele said.

AWAIC has experienced an increase in demand during the pandemic, especially during the weeks when people were asked to stay home and hunker down. AWAIC has 52 beds, but that number has been reduced to about 30 because of social-distancing policies.

The 2020 Alaska Ski for Women attracted more than 550 girls and women. Next year’s race is scheduled for Feb. 7.

[Because of a high volume of comments requiring moderation, we are temporarily disabling comments on many of our articles so editors can focus on the coronavirus crisis and other coverage. We invite you to write a letter to the editor or reach out directly if you’d like to communicate with us about a particular article. Thanks.]

Going virtual didn’t hurt the cause for the Alaska Run for Women

Thu, 2020-07-02 18:31

From left, Anchorage runners Carrie Wills, Laura Vidrine, Kathy Frank and Tia Wills gathered at Colorado's Garden of the Gods last Saturday for their 2020 virtual Alaska Run for Women. (Courtesy Alaska Run for Women)

No one knew quite what to expect when the Alaska Run for Women went virtual this year because of the global pandemic, but it’s safe to say the event exceeded expectations.

More than 3,700 people participated -- 3,705 to be precise -- in the annual footrace that raises money for the fight against breast cancer. Together they raised $142,538, pushing the total raised since the race began in 1993 to nearly $5 million.

The organizing committee “is overwhelmed with the outpouring of support,” spokeswoman Nance Larsen said by email.

[A rivulet of pink streams through Eagle River in Run for Women mini-race]

The virtual race covered an eight-day span that ended last Saturday -- eight days, race organizers said, because an average of one out of eight women is diagnosed with breast cancer.

During those eight days, the race’s Facebook and Instagram pages were flooded with photos from Alaska and beyond, many of them showing participants dressed in pink, the signature color of breast cancer awareness.


Jane Marshall and her dog Blossom hit the Kenai River beach for their virtual Alaska Run for Women. (Courtesy Alaska Run for Women)

Jane Marshall did the race for the 25th time, turning the Kenai River beach into a course. “The beach in Kenai was beautiful but I hope to rejoin the crowd next year,” she said in a Facebook post shared with the race.

Anna Dalton, the defending champion, wore her all-pink race gear and printed out a bib from the race website for her virtual run Saturday. She ran on trails and did 5 miles in about 33 minutes.

“I ended up doing the race as a workout after a 2.5-hour day in the mountains,” she said.

Sheri Fleming Boggs, a survivor of breast cancer, walked the Coastal Trail in Anchorage with a friend who is also a survivor. “It was great visiting with her,” she said.

A total of 349 survivors participated, a slight increase over last year’s 325. Last year’s total participation in the 1- and 5-mile events, usually held on a loop that begins at the Sullivan Arena parking lot and ends at the Anchorage Football Stadium, topped 4,000.


Pamela Bergmann, right, and Tsermaa Nyamdavaa used the Gold Mint Trail at Hatcher Pass for their virtual Alaska Run for Women. (Courtesy Alaska Run for Women)

Teams were a big part of the virtual experience. There were 163 of them, all with five or more members, and together they raised $108,603. The team with the most members also raised the most money -- Chugach Alaska Corporation, whose 192 members raised $12,398.

Team Screen took advantage of the virtual aspect of the race, which allowed people to sign up anywhere in the world. It boasted 62 team members from all over -- Alaska, Arizona, California, Colorado, the District of Columbia, Hawaii, Illinois, Maryland, Michigan, New York, Oregon, Virginia, Washington, Wisconsin and Canada.

[Because of a high volume of comments requiring moderation, we are temporarily disabling comments on many of our articles so editors can focus on the coronavirus crisis and other coverage. We invite you to write a letter to the editor or reach out directly if you’d like to communicate with us about a particular article. Thanks.]

Anchorage galleries cautiously return to in-person First Friday events

Thu, 2020-07-02 18:10

"In Memoriam 3, In Memoriam 10, and In Memoriam 8" by Trine Bumiller. Watercolor on mulberry paper. (Photo courtesy of the International Gallery of Contemporary Art)

Anchorage’s art community is adjusting to the new normal of socially distanced shows during the COVID-19 pandemic, and First Friday events are slowly returning with more in-person options this month.

The International Gallery of Contemporary Art is reopening Friday with three new exhibits of paintings and photography. Georgia Blue Gallery and Bivy will also hold events.

All three galleries will require face coverings and observe social distancing protocols, according to their websites. The Anchorage Museum is open during the day for ticketed entry and is hosting its First Friday online.

If you want to get out and see art but don’t want to go inside a gallery, the Anchorage Downtown Partnership has put together an art walk map of the windows of 16 downtown galleries and businesses. Some have monthlong window displays while others are hosting First Friday specific events. Check out the map at anchoragedowntown.org to find locations and event types.

(Note: As the COVID-19 situation continues to evolve and change, be sure to check ahead and confirm events you want to attend and get more information about health and safety protocols.)

July First Friday events

Anchorage Museum — The museum is open from 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Wednesday-Saturday (timed entry, face coverings required). The “Women in Vision” exhibit will be available for online viewing at 4:30 p.m. July 3 as part of the Juneau Arts & Humanities Council’s Virtual First Friday. The exhibit honors the 100th anniversary of women’s suffrage in the U.S. and features a collection of works by women spanning the last century. (625 C St., 907-929-9200)

[Related: An opportunity to listen as our ‘Unheard’ project becomes an Anchorage Museum installation]

Bivy — Join Bivy for the Conversation with A Constructed World virtual Zoom event. The artist of the exhibit “Using feelings to get rid of feelings VII” will be interviewed via Zoom from Paris. The exhibit will be on display at the gallery through Aug. 28. The conversation is open to the public and can be accessed from the Zoom link. The gallery will be open (for those from the same household, and for individual viewing) Friday from 5 p.m. until the interview starts at 8 p.m. Masks are required. The online event is from 8-9 p.m. (419 G St., Suite 100)


"Home" by Alex Rydlinski
. Oil paintings. (Photo courtesy of the International Gallery of Contemporary Art)

International Gallery of Contemporary Art — Opening Friday, the gallery will have three new exhibits:

In the Center Gallery will be “In Memoriam,” a series of 15 watercolor paintings of spruce trees by Colorado artist Trine Bumiller. The North Gallery will show “Third Nature: Divining the Scientific Archive” by Anchorage artist Sandra Talbot. The series consists of images on canvas that explore the impact of scientific expeditions and subsequent colonial expansion on the ecology of Alaska. And in the South Gallery, Kenai oil painter Alex Rydlinski will exhibit “Home,” paintings with a special interest in the human being in the Northland wild.

The gallery has new hours from noon to 4 p.m. Wednesday, Friday and Saturday and Thursdays 4-8 p.m. (427 D St.)

Fat Ptarmigan — The Alaska Concrete Collective will have a pop-up style show in the South room. 6-9 p.m. (441 W. Fifth Ave., Suite 100)


"Ain’t No Mountain High Enough" by Joyce Watts Coolidge. Encaustic mixed media painting. (Photo courtesy of Georgia Blue Gallery)

Georgia Blue Gallery — The gallery is hosting a double feature First Friday reception. Joyce Watts Coolidge’s “Ain’t No Mountain High Enough” exhibit of encaustic mixed media paintings will be on display. Jon Van Zyle’s and Jeff Schultz’s book, “Double Vision Alaska,” of paintings and photographs is also launching at the reception. Physical distancing and face coverings are required. 5-7 p.m. (3555 Arctic Blvd., Suite C-5)

Williwaw Social — Local artists, jewelers and clothing designers will sell and share their pieces at the First Friday Market. Entry is free and minors are welcome, accompanied by a parent or legal guardian, until 9 p.m. Masks are required inside and highly encouraged in outdoor areas. 5-10 p.m. (609 F St.)


Print cards by Christal Houghtelling. (Photo by Christal Houghtelling)

Midnight Sun Brewing Co. — First Firkin Friday will feature paintings by local artist Raeann Krugger, and when the reception begins at 5 p.m., she will tap a firkin of ‘Merica dry hopped with lemondrop hops. Krugger will donate 5% of her sales to the Beluga Whale Alliance. 5-8 p.m. (8111 Dimond Hook Drive)

Turnagain Arm Brewing — Portrait and lifestyle photographs from local photographer Cameron Donahue will be on display. 5-8 p.m. (7920 King St.)

Outside Anchorage

Poppy Lane Mercantile — Local photographer Christal Houghtelling’s art cards and prints will be on display. All purchasers, in-store and online, will be entered to win a gift basket. 5-8 p.m. 105 S. Valley Way, Palmer. (907-982-9215)

Bird Creek Crafts Fair — Nine local artists and craftspeople will be selling their work at Whispering Bird Studio. Pieces included are: fused glass, pottery, forged hooks, hatchets and Damascus knives, wooden bowls, hand-painted silk scarves and metal yard art. 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Friday and Saturday. 158 Whispering Bird Lane, Bird Creek.


Detail from 1888 "Quilt, Crazy-Quilt Style"; detail from 2009 "Death Comes to the Archbishop" by Willa Cather and Sandy Gillespie; detail from "Gloves" Athabascan cerca 1900. (Photo courtesy of the Anchorage Museum)

[Because of a high volume of comments requiring moderation, we are temporarily disabling comments on many of our articles so editors can focus on the coronavirus crisis and other coverage. We invite you to write a letter to the editor or reach out directly if you’d like to communicate with us about a particular article. Thanks.]

Thousands of Alaskans returned to work in May, but jobless claims remained ‘staggering’

Thu, 2020-07-02 17:52

The Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development office in Midtown Anchorage on April 15. The building houses the Job Center, which provides services to out-of-work Alaskans. (Loren Holmes / ADN) (Loren Holmes/)

We're making coronavirus coverage available without a subscription as a public service. But we depend on reader support to do this work. Please consider joining others in supporting local journalism in Alaska for just $3.23 a week. SUBSCRIBE NOW

Data on Alaskans who stopped collecting unemployment checks in May indicate that the valuable oil and gas industry could be in for a longer recovery than other sectors, according to a state report released this week.

Employment in the health care sector, meanwhile, appears to be recovering more quickly than other areas of the economy, according to the July edition of Alaska Economic Trends, released by the Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

A record of nearly 55,000 individuals received unemployment benefits for at least one week in May under the state’s traditional program, according to Lennon Weller, a state economist with the department.

“They are pretty staggering numbers,” Weller said.

An estimated 17,000 self-employed individuals also received benefits in May. Those workers are newly eligible after Congress expanded the federal unemployment benefits program in March in response to the pandemic. But data for that program is more limited compared to the state’s traditional program.

Some 8,300 people came off the traditional unemployment rolls in May, after many businesses began reopening under loosened COVID-19-related government restrictions, according to the state report.

[With congressional action unclear, jobless Alaskans face more hardship if extra unemployment benefits expire]

A snapshot of those workers suggests that relatively few who left the unemployment rolls were in the oil and gas industry, according to the state.

Overall, about 15% of claimants who weren’t self-employed appeared to have returned to work after they stopped filing for unemployment benefits in May, after receiving at least one check, according to a section of the report written by Dan Robinson, chief of research and analysis at the state Department of Labor.

But only 7% of the claimants in the oil and gas sector appear to have returned to work, based on the number in that industry who left the unemployment rolls in May.

The industry, where high-paying checks help support the broader economy, has been rocked by low oil prices caused in part by low demand as people stayed home during the pandemic.

The price for a barrel of North Slope crude oil averaged $28.21 in May, down from $70.30 a year before, the report says.

Between March and May, the sector shed 1,800 jobs, falling about 17%.

For example, Oil Search, the company from Papua New Guinea moving to develop the large Pikka field on the North Slope, laid off Alaska workers in March and April, said Amy Burnett, a spokeswoman with the the company.

The company cut the number of employees and contractors by more than 40% in Alaska, to about 150 from 287 early in the year.

[A second virus wave again threatens U.S. oil demand]

“While seasonal contractors associated with our winter drilling and exploration programs represent the majority, we have reduced full-time employees by about 15%,” Burnett said Wednesday.

Another round of layoffs by Oil Search, announced this week, did not affect the Alaska program, Burnett said.

Several oil field service companies in Alaska have also announced hundreds of layoffs in notices to state officials, including Doyon Drilling and Peak Oilfield Services.

The oil industry is in a unique spot compared to other businesses that were allowed to reopen, Robinson said.

It’s “clear that oil and gas job losses are less likely to be short-term than jobs in businesses that were temporarily forced to close,” Robinson wrote in the report.

“Oil is so different from a barber shop or gym that was ordered closed temporarily,” he said Thursday.

Oil prices that fuel the industry’s revenues remain well below what they were at the start of the year. It’s unclear when the prices will recover more fully to support a turnaround in the industry, he said.

The health care industry represented the largest percentage of claimants leaving unemployment rolls in May, after receiving at least one check that month.

About 25% of those claimants left the rolls, he said.

Elective surgeries that had been canceled were once again allowed, opening the door for some of those workers to return, he said.

About 15% of the claimants in the leisure, hospitality and trade sectors also left the rolls in May, he said. But the leisure and hospitality industry that includes bars and restaurants was the biggest group receiving benefits.

With COVID-19 cases spiking in the state, it’s unclear how long it will take until the economy can fully recover, Weller said.

“I think we’re recovering, but it’s pretty tepid,” Weller said.

[Because of a high volume of comments requiring moderation, we are temporarily disabling comments on many of our articles so editors can focus on the coronavirus crisis and other coverage. We invite you to write a letter to the editor or reach out directly if you’d like to communicate with us about a particular article. Thanks.]

Want positive change for Alaska? Stand and be counted.

Thu, 2020-07-02 17:18

The setting sun lights up the buildings of downtown Anchorage beneath the Chugach Mountains as seen from Port Woronzof in west Anchorage, AK, on Tuesday, May 22, 2018. (Bob Hallinen / ADN) (Anchorage Daily News/)

The census delivers power and money to our communities like a giant elevator. If we don’t press the button, it won’t stop for us. Going uncounted means we are underserved, underfunded and disenfranchised from political power.

As members of the Anchorage Complete Count commission, we are dedicated to ensuring an accurate count in the 2020 Census. As protests sweep across our state and nation to support the lives and livelihoods of Black communities and people of color, we feel it’s important to acknowledge the U.S. Census was not originally designed as a tool of equality. The NAACP describes it this way:

“Undercounting of the Black population was first required by law. The Three-Fifths Compromise of the Constitutional Convention in 1787 counted enslaved Black people as three-fifths of a person in apportioning congressional districts for the U.S. House of Representatives. Since then, the Census has severely undercounted the Black population, to great disadvantage in representation, resources, and power.”

The Three-Fifths Compromise is a chilling reminder that the system we use today to count every American was originally designed to devalue Black, Alaska Native, American Indian and other communities of color. We recognize the census is part of a deeply flawed system: That understanding helps us identify steps we can take to improve it. Despite its ugly history, the consequences of the 2020 Census are critical and will affect us for the next decade. Fewer than 50% of Alaskans have been counted so far, with COVID-19 further deepening the divide in this first year of the Census going online for the count.

The Census is a means to empower our families and communities. It shapes our laws and rights. It signals where new schools and houses can be built, where businesses can start and grow. The Census shows where to invest and how to deliver critical services most efficiently. The Census is a blueprint for democracy, determining where we vote, who we vote for and who they’ll represent. Census data helps protect civil rights, preventing voting discrimination based on race, ensuring Native language speakers have the equal access to voting information as English speakers. It allows us to find and fight gerrymandering in our elections, and to determine if we’re being represented equally under the law.

The potential of the census is equal to the potential of each of us. Through the census, we can ensure our laws, our government and our representatives reflect the true nature of our communities — a diverse group of people who expect and deserve equal treatment under the law.

The decennial Census, in its best form, uplifts us. It provides the whole picture of who we are, and breaks down the myth of a monolithic America. If you are a person of color, responding to the Census is an opportunity to advocate on behalf of your family. It’s a way to empower your community and peel back entrenched systems that have promoted systemic racism for decades. Without your voice, your visibility, we will never realize the potential of a nation of individuals, created equal.

Responding to the Census is an opportunity to generate structural change towards equity, no matter your race, ethnicity, socio-economic status, first language, citizenship status, age, or gender.

This is our chance to do our part for a better future, for all of us — be counted for Alaska.

Visit my2020census.gov or call 844-330-2020 to begin.

This op-ed was submitted jointly by the members of the Anchorage Complete Count Commission.

Bill Popp is the president and CEO of Anchorage Economic Development Corporation. Candace Bell is a representative of AARP Alaska and SAGE Alaska. Carol Gore is the president and CEO of Cook Inlet Housing Authority, as well as past chair of the National Advisory Committee to the U.S. Census Bureau. Darrel Hess is the Municipal Ombudsman. Felix Rivera is the Chair of the Anchorage Assembly. Gabe Layman is the chair of the Alaska Census Working Group and co-chair of the Anchorage Complete Count Commission. Katie Bisson is the English Language Learner Family Liaison with the ASD Family Welcome Center. Kirsten Schultz is Executive Director of Marketing and Communication for Providence Health and Services Alaska. Laurie Wolf is president and CEO of The Foraker Group and founder of the Alaska Census Working Group. Mary Jo Torgeson is the Director of the Anchorage Public Library. Monique Martin is the Director of Governmental Affairs and Regulatory Navigation for Alaska Regional Hospital. Robin Bronen is the Executive Director of Alaska Institute for Justice. Sonya Hunte is the Senior Director for the Anchorage School District’s Office of Equity and Compliance and Co-Chair of the Anchorage Complete Count Commission. Tanya Dumas is a program officer with the Rasmuson Foundation. Veri di Suvero is the Executive Director of Aaska Public Interest Research Group.


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

Letter: Ancient wisdom

Thu, 2020-07-02 16:34

Old proverb: "If you want to clear the stream, get the hog out of the spring." Modern translation: Vote for Joe Biden.

Dale Gerboth

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: New statue idea

Thu, 2020-07-02 16:32

I think now is the time to replace the Captain James Cook statue at Resolution Park with a statue of Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez. The congresswoman from New York is the greatest intellectual of our time. She is the mother of the Green New Deal that will save mankind from world extinction. Now is the time to get onboard with this change before it is too late.

John Suter

Chugiak

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.

At least 80 Washington state students in fraternities test positive for coronavirus, a foreboding sign for college reopenings

Thu, 2020-07-02 16:31

Washington's Greek Row, just north of campus, has been hit hard by an outbreak of COVID-19 with at least 10 fraternities reporting cases. (Dean Rutz/The Seattle Times/TNS) (Dean Rutz/)

SEATTLE — At least 80 students living in a dozen fraternity houses just north of the University of Washington campus have reported testing positive for COVID-19, the coronavirus disease, with hundreds of results pending.

The university learned Saturday that three fraternity residents had symptoms of COVID-19, and public health officials noticed a spike in cases from the area among people ages 18 to 20, said UW spokeswoman Michelle Ma. Since UW announced Tuesday that at least 38 students tested positive, the student-run Interfraternity Council informed the university of 42 more positive results.

More than 800 students have been tested at a site set up Monday in response to the Greek system outbreak, Ma said. The university expects to have an updated case count early next week.

Experts say the outbreak, along with cases among student athletes, is a troubling sign of what may be in store if colleges reopen in the fall. University of Washington leadership said this week they hope to reopen in-person, with larger classes held virtually, but that plans could change based on the virus’s spread.

Daniel Leifer, a pediatrician studying dermatology at UW, said he saw more than a dozen parties when walking by Greek Row in recent months. Students stood close together, and masks were nowhere to be seen, he said.

It was concerning to Leifer, who recently completed a biosecurity fellowship at Johns Hopkins University and worked with the U.S. Department of State on its response to swine flu while in college.

“I don’t hold it against college students that they’re partying with each other and getting to know each other, because that’s everyone’s college experience. It just doesn’t make for a safe campus,” Leifer said. “A lot of college reopening plans are premised on students wearing masks and social distancing. This crystallized for me that that doesn’t seem very realistic.”

[Young people urged to take virus more seriously as pandemic worsens in US]

UW epidemiology professor Janet Baseman said the outbreak mirrors what was seen in long-term care facilities, with COVID-19 spreading widely in communal settings.

Prior to the Greek Row outbreak, the university’s Seattle campus was reporting about 80 cases among students and staff.

“This is another reminder that we have our work cut out for us,” Baseman said. “We need to be really prepared, and we have time to prepare because it’s summer right now.”

In a letter to faculty and students this week, President Ana Mari Cauce and Provost Mark Richards broadly outlined steps — including expanded testing, contact tracing and setting up isolation rooms — the university would take to reopen in the fall if King County reaches the state’s third phase of reopening by then. But, they said, “it is possible that we have to pivot to all-remote learning, as we did in spring quarter, if the virus is spreading too quickly in our state.”

Gov. Jay Inslee released requirements last month for colleges and universities to reopen in person, including asking students and staff to self-report if they have had symptoms since their last visit to campus.

In a news conference with Inslee, Cauce said UW had asked fraternity and sorority houses to reduce occupancy by 50% and planned to decrease the number of students in residence halls.

State and federal guidance so far hasn’t accounted much for the nature of college life, Baseman said.

“What I’m seeing less of and think is really important is communication strategies for people of this age and trying to make sure that they are given the information they need for risk management and not just a set of rules,” she said. “That can be a really challenging way to communicate information to college-aged students.”

About 1,000 students are living in 25 fraternity houses, according to the university. Most sorority houses close in the summer, although some members rent rooms in fraternity houses.

Fraternity leaders at the UW say students who have tested positive or have symptoms are isolating in their rooms, and officials have asked that all students living in the houses isolate. UW doesn’t have the authority to enforce quarantines at the houses, which are independent organizations, Ma said.

The Interfraternity Council, a student-run governing board, has asked fraternity houses to stop holding social events, Ma said. The university has received reports of informal gatherings in recent months, which it is not able to stop, she said.

Public Health — Seattle & King County, which is leading the response to the outbreak, said it is not aware of any hospitalizations from the outbreak.

The university said it would not give out the names of houses with infected residents to protect their privacy. Names of some fraternities have circulated online, with some saying more than a dozen cases were in one house.

But the presidents of the house and Interfraternity Council declined to speak to The Seattle Times on Wednesday about the outbreak, as did the UW’s Office of Fraternity & Sorority Life.

Letter: Masks work

Thu, 2020-07-02 16:31

So now wearing a mask while in public spaces is controversial. Really? There are studies showing that transmission of the COVID-19 virus is significantly reduced when mask wearing is prevalent. Studies using both experimental and empirical evidence show the effectiveness of this simple act. Consider that the mask a surgeon wears isn’t necessarily of the N95 variety. She wears the mask not because she’s worried about the patient infecting her, she’s worried about microscopic droplets in her breath infecting the patient in her care. Would you allow her to operate on you if you knew she wasn’t going to take the precaution of wearing a mask?

But the psychology here is interesting. The non-maskers often talk of their rights being trampled on if they’re required to wear a mask. Remember when laws dictating the wearing of a shoulder and lap restraints when driving were controversial? Now how many feel safe if they haven’t buckled up? These laws have saved tens of thousands of lives, perhaps yours or a loved one’s. 

Consider the “No shirt, no shoes, no service” signs that are prevalent in the windows of businesses in warm coastal communities. Are there protests over this requirement? Not that I’m aware of, and any health risks associated with patronizing a business bare-chested or free of flip flops pales in comparison to the potential danger unmasked customers pose to their fellow customers.

So what if our infection numbers begin to rise as they are in Florida, Texas, Arizona, Missouri, and Oklahoma (to name the states where the infection rate rises are most prevalent) and a new crackdown on venturing out is implemented? It will need to be far more onerous than what we experienced in March and April, because the virus will be much more widespread. If you think businesses are suffering now, just allow the infection rate to begin rising significantly. The old adage, “an ounce of prevention is worth more than a pound of cure,” couldn’t be more relevant than it is today when it comes to whether or not to wear a mask.

Mark Lovegreen

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: Crucial election

Thu, 2020-07-02 16:27

In our three-branch government, the courts and justice officials make impartial, independent decisions. Our President and his lackeys are now interfering with that system. He ran for office claiming he would drain the swamp, but it appears the swamp has grown and is lapping at the doors of the Justice Department.

To give a few examples, they fired Geoffrey Berman (top prosecutor in New York’s Southern District) without cause, they dismissed Michael Flynn’s case even though he pled guilty to lying to the FBI, and Roger Stone’s case was “treated differently” because of his relationship with the President. We are sliding toward a dictatorship at the same time our COVID-19 rates are higher than ever, due in part to the president’s downplaying masks and encouraging businesses to operate unsafely.

Please vote as if your life depends on it. It may.

You can request an absentee ballot to vote safely by mail.

Cheryl Lovegreen

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: We all wear clothes

Thu, 2020-07-02 16:24

I have read a number of people writing in saying that they “do not have to” wear a face mask. I believe these same people get up in the morning and put on clothing that at least covers certain parts of their body — why? We all wear clothes because many years ago, as a society, we determined that it was in “our” best interest. So why do some people feel like it is such a burden to have to wear a face mask in “our” best interest, for a year, until there is a vaccine?

Nick Cassara

Palmer

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.

Punch up summer seafood with this fresh herb and tomato salad

Thu, 2020-07-02 16:21

Fresh herb and tomato seafood salad (Photo by Kim Sunée)

This time of year, with our farmers markets and vegetable beds bursting, it can be gratifying to throw together a dish that’s mostly made of local flavors — bright, clean notes that mirror the season. Bitter hits of arugula and chard and tons of fresh herbs sing when paired with rich, succulent seafood. I always grill extra salmon and other seafood to add to salads and omelets or tacos for quick meals. This week, some Copper River salmon — you could use fresh halibut, cod, shrimp, crab and even oysters — found its way into several recipes, including this copious salad.

If you’ve got your grill fired up for cooking the seafood, add a lime, with the cut side down, along with some tomatoes and chiles; giving them some smoke and heat will add extra flavor. The dressing is mostly grated, so get out your box grater and pick out a variety of seasonal vegetables, such as carrot, zucchini, snow turnips and kohlrabi. This dish is good warm or chilled. If taking to an outdoor picnic, make sure to dress the salad just before serving. Serve as is or over cooked noodles, couscous or rice.

Fresh herb and tomato seafood salad

Makes 4 servings

1 pound cooked seafood, such as wild salmon, cod, shrimp, crab, etc.

Salt and freshly-ground black pepper, to taste

About 1 ½ pounds ripe tomatoes

1 medium carrot or zucchini

1 to 2 cloves garlic, minced or grated

1 (1-inch) piece fresh ginger

1 tablespoon fish sauce

Juice squeezed from 1 lime (about 3 tablespoons)

2 teaspoons sesame oil or extra-virgin olive oil

1 small jalapeño, thinly sliced (optional)

To serve: Sliced cucumbers; Sliced strawberries; Greens and herbs such as arugula, pea shoots, beet leaves, lettuce, cilantro, dill, etc.

Cabbage wedges or cooked noodles or steamed couscous or rice (optional)

Garnishes: salt flakes, extra-virgin olive oil, lime wedges, crispy garlic

1. Grill or steam seafood if not using already-cooked leftover seafood. Wash and dry all the lettuce and herbs and place on a serving platter or bowl.

2. Make sauce: Cut tomatoes in half and grate tomato halves into a bowl; discard stems and skin. Grate carrot or zucchini, garlic and ginger into bowl with tomatoes. Stir in fish sauce and lime juice. Taste and add more garlic or fish sauce or lime, as desired. Stir in sesame oil or olive oil and jalapeño, if using. Spoon most of the sauce over the cooked seafood and add seafood to platter of lettuce and herbs, serving remaining sauce on the side. Garnish, if desired, with salt, oil, lime, and crispy garlic. Serve with, if desired, cooked rice, rice or ramen noodles, couscous, or with cabbage wedges.

Other recipes to celebrate the season:


End-of-summer bread and veg salad (Photo by Kim Sunée)

Bread and tomato salad


Pick zucchini blossoms early in the day when it's cool. Brush off any insects with a damp paper towel. (Photo by Kim Sunée)

Stuffed and fried quash blossoms


Summer garden ice cube soup (Kim Sunée)

Cold cucumber soup


Salmon herb layer dip. (Photo by: Kim Sunee)

Salmon herb layer dip


Watermelon-feta salad with pepitas and mint (Photo by Kim Sunée)

Feta and watermelon salad

[Because of a high volume of comments requiring moderation, we are temporarily disabling comments on many of our articles so editors can focus on the coronavirus crisis and other coverage. We invite you to write a letter to the editor or reach out directly if you’d like to communicate with us about a particular article. Thanks.]

Letter: Bedtime rules

Thu, 2020-07-02 15:50

“I don’t wanna go to bed. You can’t make me.” Such a challenge. You know perfectly well it’s better for everyone that your kid goes to bed. The hard part is you don’t want to be overbearing; you want your child to be healthy and learn personal responsibility. Do you yell at them? Make a rule? Hand them scientific articles proving the efficacy of sleep? 

What about the neighbor kid with the basketball who keeps ka-blamming away at 11:00 pm.: Do you hide under a pillow? Call the parents about teaching respect for others? 

What about the drunk driver weaving all over the road? Somebody could die! Do you want laws against drunk driving? Would that impinge on “American” freedom? 

When people started begging for haircuts in April, it was clear that independence and self-sufficiency were myths that could only be sustained about a month. We can’t live on our own. We need our community, our government services, schools, healthcare, and rules for equality. But how can I feel “free” then? Maybe: Do what’s right. Be considerate. Pay my dues. Give to others. Wear a mask. Feel good about it, because no one made me do it.

Tania Vincent

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.

Pages