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Alaska seafood harvesting jobs sharply rebounded in 2017

Tue, 2018-11-13 15:53

After a steep drop in 2016, seafood harvesting jobs grew 8.3 percent last year, the most in percent terms among all Alaska industries.

Harvesting hit a record in 2017 at 8,509 monthly jobs on average and jumped to over 24,000 jobs in July.

According to the state Department of Labor’s November report on economic trends, salmon fishing jobs grew overall but varied considerably by region. The crab fisheries had the only employment loss by species.

By region, harvesting jobs in the Aleutians jumped by nearly 20 percent, mostly through gains in groundfish catches.

Bristol Bay’s fishing jobs also grew overall by 6.2 percent.

The Southcentral region continued its trend of harvester job gains, adding 116 jobs for 7 percent growth.

Southeast Alaska’s fishing jobs were up by 7.7 percent with halibut harvesting growing the most, by 150 jobs.

Kodiak was one of the few areas to lose fishing jobs. While halibut and salmon harvesting jobs increased, losses in groundfish pushed down Kodiak harvesting employment.

The Yukon Delta also lost fishing jobs in groundfish and salmon for an overall decline of 12.7 percent.

The November economic trends report also shows that among all Alaska industries, seafood processing tops the list for injuries.

A rate of 8.8 injuries per 100 full-time workers is more than double for other Alaska industries, and is 1 1/2 times the national average for food manufacturing.

Fish watch

Some major Alaska fisheries are winding down for the year, while others are still going strong.

In Southeast, a fishery opened Thursday for seven kinds of rockfish.

About 170 divers are still going down for more than 1.7 million pounds of sea cucumbers, and more than 700,000 pounds of giant geoduck clams.

The Dungeness crab fishery is ongoing and Southeast’s golden king crab fishery ended districtwide on Tuesday.

Trollers also are out on the water along the Panhandle targeting winter king salmon.

Pollock fishing closed to trawlers in both the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska on Nov. 1. Ditto for cod except for boats using longline, jig and pot gear. Boats also are still fishing for flounders and many other species of whitefish.

Crabbers are close to wrapping up the 4 million-pound red king crab fishery at Bristol Bay; likewise, the take of 2.4 million pounds of Bering Sea Tanner crab is going fast. No landings are reported yet for snow crab; that fishery typically gets underway in mid-January.

Fishing for halibut and sablefish (black cod) closed Nov. 7. For halibut, 95 percent of the nearly 20 million-pound catch limit was taken; for sablefish 79 percent of the 26 million-pound quota was caught.

Homer regained its title as Alaska’s top port for halibut landings, followed closely by Seward and Kodiak.

The industry will get its first look at potential halibut catches for next year at the International Pacific Halibut Commission meeting set for Nov. 27-28 in Seattle.

Finally, the state Board of Fisheries meets in Dillingham from Nov. 28-Dec. 3 to take up 47 management proposals for Bristol Bay commercial, sports and subsistence fishery issues.

Fish moves

Alexa Tonkovich is leaving the helm of the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute to pursue a master’s degree in international business. Tonkovich has been at ASMI for nine years and has been executive director since 2015. She will leave her position in mid-December.

After more than a decade as director of NOAA’s northernmost research lab at Kodiak, Dr. Bob Foy has been named as Science and Research Director for the Alaska Fisheries Science Center. Foy will be based at the Auke Bay lab in Juneau starting this month and will oversee nearly 500 employees at facilities in Seattle, Oregon and Alaska. Foy has gained international recognition for his work on Bering Sea crab stock assessments and impacts of climate change on crabs and other marine organisms.

Moving beyond ballot initiatives

Tue, 2018-11-13 15:47

An undated file photo shows an aerial view of the Red Dog Mine, in Alaska's Northwest Arctic Borough. (EPA)

Voters last week in Alaska, Colorado and Washington all decisively rejected expensive environmental ballot measures funded by many of the same large donors. Clearly, voters here in Alaska and in these other states are interested in real conversations and solutions, rather than bumper-sticker ballot propositions.

Outside support for the ballot measures came from wealthy tech-venture capitalists and high-end outdoor recreation interests. I believe these major funders share the same honest desire for strong global environmental stewardship as those of us who opposed these measures. Unfortunately, they are part of a growing societal disconnect in where the raw materials for our stuff can and should come from. What is missing is a real conversation about common objectives.

Our world has entered a new age in which the tech economy uses one-tenth of the world’s electricity, more than the entire world did in 1985. This has resulted in a few large tech companies and entrepreneurs now holding the highest concentration of wealth ever seen, along with one of the greatest wage disparities in the history of mankind. Axios reports this is why a growing number of scholars are referring to this as a new tech “gilded era.”

The wealthy tech entrepreneurs who helped fund these three ballot initiative campaigns would have made it harder to develop energy and metals here in the U.S., a jurisdiction with the strongest environmental and worker safety standards in the world.

Yet without plentiful energy, the growing array of computers and smart phones that are the basis of the tech economy would go dead, as would the ability to charge the exciting new generation of electric cars, scooters, buses and potentially airplanes. Without metals and plastics, these would disappear, along with all of the expensive, high-end sports equipment on the shelves of outdoor companies who supported these initiatives as well. In fact, forecast data from the International Energy Agency and other leading sources predict that emerging declines in crude oil usage for old-fashioned car transportation due to higher-efficiency cars and electric vehicles is being largely offset by increased uses of crude oil products for things like the plastics that are in virtually all high-end outdoor gear and tech products.

This makes the underlying question all the more important. Where should the materials necessary to make all of this stuff come from, and where should the energy necessary to power it come from?

We have several examples of producing these metals and this energy to the highest standards here in Alaska. We find examples of smart resource development at places like the Red Dog Mine and the North Slope. These are case studies in decades of smart global environmental stewardship that has also improved the quality of life, education, health care and life expectancy that parallel the experiences of Colorado and Washington. We may not have always done it perfectly, but like many in the tech economy, we have learned from mistakes and pressed forward with optimism, human ingenuity and modern technology.

Two billion people have the potential to move out of poverty across the globe in our lifetimes, a greater good we should all support. All will require more energy and minerals for their improving health care, smart phones, computers, and energy-efficient housing and transportation. We have the opportunity to do all of this right, and for this to be a catalyst that continues real advances in global environmental stewardship, benefiting those who use these products and those who produce them.

Later this month, the International Energy Agency is convening a gathering in Scotland of leading scientists, government leaders, financing entities and energy CEOs to talk about working together on exciting new technologies to potentially remove carbon from the atmosphere. I hope the wealthy interests who funded these unsuccessful and ill-conceived ballot measures will join these sorts of meaningful conversations and become part of the solution to where the stuff for their tech stuff and outdoor should come from, rather than part of the problem.

This is the sort of approach we all need to encourage as a rule, rather than an exception. Tuesday’s resounding defeat of these ballot measures in Alaska, Colorado and Washington should be the starting point for a better conversation.

David Parish is an Alaskan who has been involved in Alaska natural resource public policy issues for more than 30 years. He lives in Anchorage.

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

As Arctic ship traffic increases, narwhals and other unique animals are at risk

Tue, 2018-11-13 12:47

A pod of narwhals (Monodon monoceros) in central Baffin Bay. Narwhals are the most vulnerable animals to increased ship traffic in the Arctic Ocean. (Kristin Laidre/University of Washington, CC BY-ND)

Editor’s note: This piece originally appeared on The Conversation.

Most Americans associate fall with football and raking leaves, but in the Arctic this season is about ice. Every year, floating sea ice in the Arctic thins and melts in spring and summer, then thickens and expands in fall and winter.

As climate change warms the Arctic, its sea ice cover is declining. This year scientists estimate that the Arctic sea ice minimum in late September covered 1.77 million square miles (4.59 million square kilometers), tying the sixth lowest summertime minimum on record.

With less sea ice, there is burgeoning interest in shipping and other commercial activity throughout the Northwest Passage – the fabled route that links the Atlantic and Pacific oceans, via Canada’s convoluted Arctic archipelago – as well as the Northern Sea Route, which cuts across Russia’s northern seas. This trend has serious potential impacts for Arctic sea life.

In a recent study, we assessed the vulnerability of 80 populations of Arctic marine mammals during the “open-water” period of September, when sea ice is at its minimum extent. We wanted to understand the relative risks of vessel traffic across Arctic marine mammal species, populations and regions. We found that more than half (53 percent) of these populations – including walruses and several types of whales – would be exposed to vessels in Arctic sea routes. This could lead to collisions, noise disturbance or changes in the animals’ behavior.

Map of the Arctic region showing the the Northern Sea Route and Northwest Passage. (Arctic Council/Susie Harder)

Less ice, more ships

More than a century ago, Norwegian explorer Roald Amundsen became the first European to navigate the entire Northwest Passage. Due to the short Arctic summer, it took Amundsen’s 70-foot wooden sailing ship three years to make the journey, wintering in protected harbors.

Fast-forward to summer 2016, when a cruise ship carrying more than 1,000 passengers negotiated the Northwest Passage in 32 days. The summer “open-water” period in the Arctic has now increased by more than two months in some regions. Summer sea ice cover has shrunk by over 30 percent since satellites started regular monitoring in 1979.

Bowhead whale (Balaena mysticetus) in Disko Bay, West Greenland. (Kristin Laidre, CC BY)

Arctic seas are home to a specialized group of marine mammals found nowhere else on Earth, including beluga and bowhead whales, narwhals, walruses, ringed and bearded seals and polar bears. These species are critical members of Arctic marine ecosystems, and provide traditional resources to Indigenous communities across the Arctic.

According to ecologists, all of these animals are susceptible to sea ice loss. Research at lower latitudes has also shown that marine mammals can be affected by noise from vessels because of their reliance on sound, as well as by ship strikes. These findings raise concerns about increasing vessel traffic in the Arctic.

Sensitivity times exposure equals vulnerability

To determine which species could be at risk, we estimated two key factors: Exposure – how much a population’s distribution overlaps with the Northwest Passage or Northern Sea Route during September – and sensitivity, a combination of biological, ecological and vessel factors that may put a population at a higher risk.

Ringed seal (Pusa hispida) pup in Alaska. (NOAA)

As an illustration, imagine calculating vulnerability to air pollution. People generally are more exposed to air pollution in cities than in rural areas. Some groups, such as children and the elderly, are also more sensitive because their lungs are not as strong as those of average adults.

We found that many whale and walrus populations were both highly exposed and sensitive to vessels during the open-water period. Narwhals – medium-sized toothed whales with a large spiral tusk – scored as most vulnerable overall. These animals are endemic to the Arctic, and spend much of their time in winter and spring in areas with heavy concentrations of sea ice. In our study, they ranked as both highly exposed and highly sensitive to vessel effects in September.

Narwhals have a relatively restricted range. Each summer they migrate to the same areas in the Canadian high Arctic and around Greenland. In fall they migrate south in pods to offshore areas in Baffin Bay and Davis Strait, where they spend the winter making deep dives under the dense ice to feed on Greenland halibut. Many narwhal populations’ core summer and fall habitat is right in the middle of the Northwest Passage.

A pod of narwhals (Monodon monoceros) in central Baffin Bay. Narwhals are the most vulnerable animals to increased ship traffic in the Arctic during September. (NOAA/OAR/OER/Kristin Laidre) (NOAA/)

Vulnerable Arctic regions, species and key uncertainties

The western end of the Northwest Passage and the eastern end of the Northern Sea Route converge at the Bering Strait, a 50-mile-wide waterway separating Russia and Alaska. This area is also a key migratory corridor for thousands of beluga and bowhead whales, Pacific walruses and ringed and bearded seals. In this geographic bottleneck and other narrow channels, marine mammals are particularly vulnerable to vessel traffic.

Among the species we assessed, polar bears were least vulnerable to September vessel traffic because they generally spend the ice-free season on land. Of course, longer ice-free seasons are also bad for polar bears, which need sea ice as a platform for hunting seals. They may also be vulnerable to oil spills year-round.

Research in the harsh and remote Arctic seas is notoriously difficult, and there are many gaps in our knowledge. Certain areas, such as the Russian Arctic, are less studied. Data are sparse on many marine mammals, especially ringed and bearded seals. These factors increased the uncertainty in our vessel vulnerability scores.

We concentrated on late summer, when vessel traffic is expected to be greatest due to reduced ice cover. However, ice-strengthened vessels can also operate during spring, with potential impacts on seals and polar bears that are less vulnerable in September. The window of opportunity for navigation is growing as sea ice break-up happens earlier in the year and freeze-up occurs later. These changes also shift the times and places where marine mammals could be exposed to vessels.

Planning for a navigable Arctic

Recent initiatives in the lower 48 states offer some models for anticipating and managing vessel-marine mammal interactions. One recent study showed that modeling could be used to predict blue whale locations off the California coast to help ships avoid key habitats. And since 2008, federal regulations have imposed seasonal and speed restrictions on ships in the North Atlantic to minimize threats to critically endangered right whales. These practical examples, along with our vulnerability ranking, could provide a foundation for similar steps to protect marine mammals in the Arctic.

The International Maritime Organization has already adopted a Polar Code, which was developed to promote safe ship travel in polar waters. It recommends identifying areas of ecological importance, but does not currently include direct strategies to designate important habitats or reduce vessel effects on marine mammals, although the organization has taken steps to protect marine habitat in the Bering Sea.

Even if nations take rigorous action to mitigate climate change, models predict that September Arctic sea ice will continue to decrease over the next 30 years. There is an opportunity now to plan for an increasingly accessible and rapidly changing Arctic, and to minimize risks to creatures that are found nowhere else on Earth.

Donna Hauser is a research assistant professor at the International Arctic Research Center at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Harry Stern is a principal mathematician at the Polar Science Center at the University of Washington. Kristin Laidre is an associate professor of aquatic and fishery sciences at the University of Washington. Hauser receives funding from the North Pacific Research Board, Alaska Arctic Observatory & Knowledge Hub, Moore Foundation, and Collaborative Alaska Arctic Studies Program. Stern receives funding from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the National Science Foundation, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers. Laidre receives funding from the National Aeronautics and Space Administration, the Department of Defense, the Pew Foundation, and the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers.

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

If you venture to places where trappers may work, keep your dog close

Tue, 2018-11-13 12:32

River otter lying above some of their favorite haunts, rocks and crevices on saltwater shorelines, places trappers, and dogs, might find interesting. (Photo by Steve Meyer)

In better times, November was a magical month for Alaska big-game hunters.

Late-season hunts for moose and caribou were the norm, as was a significant blanket of white over the landscape. It was a time when many Alaskans filled the freezer — not so much because there were more animals, but because the human population was half what it is today. The pressure on game was much less and allowed for more opportunity for game meat.

That's all water under the bridge, and it isn't going to flow back upstream. Now the remarkable event in November is the start of trapping season across most of Alaska.

Although there are earlier openings for trapping coyote and wolf in some parts of Alaska, most trappers don't target them until November, when they have grown their fur.

Because the majority of our outdoor pursuits involve our dogs, the opening of trapping season changes the way Christine and I pursue game.

We all but abandon lowland grouse hunting. Our setters are big running dogs that hunt out of our sight. The potential is there for them to catch wind of bait, investigate and get caught in a trapping device, so we avoid it. This isn't much of a hardship because our lowland hunting is for spruce grouse, and by November they are rank with spruce-needle flavor and aren't the best eating.

We go into the high country, as long as snow conditions allow, year-round. There are areas we go into that are used by trappers, although not many. Most trappers who run significant traplines do so from snowmachines, and we avoid those areas. In the country below treeline that we must pass through to get to the alpine regions, we keep the setters at heel until we can determine if someone is trapping the area. It's a minor inconvenience that is well worth the peace of mind it brings.

Getting to know the country while exercising caution is perhaps the best way to think of it. The allure of the outdoors, at least for me, is the freedom to make your way into it and rely on your own knowledge and skills to get you there and back. Expectations of safety rest on your shoulders, not on government regulation.

Alaska waterfowl hunters enjoy good hunting along open waterways in November and December. Open rivers and streams are natural corridors for predators such as wolves, coyotes, foxes and river otters, which makes the corridors attractive to trappers as well. This includes the beaches and rocky shoreline of saltwater. Waterfowl hunters keep their dogs close except for retrieving, which is typically from the water. Even so, they are aware of the potential for traps and keep their dogs in check. This same precaution applies to walking a dog along a river or beach.

We Americans love our dogs, some would say with a fervor that borders on psychosis. Christine and I could be poster children for this dog loving, which sometimes might defy rational description. With that love, November brings the murmur of what I'll refer to as the "dog wars."

It seems every year there is an incident that involves a dog getting caught in a trap or snare, sometimes with fatal results. Most often this occurs near roads or trails used by folks out walking their beloved dogs on public land where it is legal for the trap to be set.

What a 330 Conibear, the largest of the body grip traps, might look like when set for business. (Photo by Steve Meyer)

On the heels of such an occurrence comes the cry demanding this, that or another government to ban trapping in the area. Those who hate trappers help fuel the fire, and in some cases laws have been passed. Many municipalities have trapping bans in place. In 2017, the Mat-Su Borough imposed bans in some areas in response to public complaints. In other areas, the fight continues.

Being a trapper (although inactive for a number of years) and a dog lover, these bans are of no concern to me. From the trapper's perspective, neither I nor any other legitimate trapper I have known sets traps in areas frequented by dogs. The thought of catching and harming or killing someone's dog is repulsive. The subject of avoiding catching dogs is addressed in trapping classes, by trapper's associations and by trappers in general, on a regular basis.

From the perspective of a dog lover and trapper who would never set traps in these areas, I don't object to a reasonable rule that the people of an area want to pass. The reason I don't concern myself with them is that I cannot allow myself to believe regulation alone will keep our dogs safe. They are my responsibility, and no matter where I am, no matter what regulations are in place, I'm not going to let my guard down. We have laws for just about everything these days, and there are always people willing to break them. To illustrate the point, last I checked it was illegal to steal someone's vehicle.

Instead of relying on the government to protect your dog, I would encourage those who frequent the outdoors with their dogs to become familiar with the country and the animals there that might be targeted by trappers. Learn how they move through the countryside, and learn how to identify places that would make for good trap sets. Learn to think like a trapper, and in the process you'll learn a lot about the world around you.

I won't go into how to spot a trapline because it would assist those whose personal convictions lead them to circumvent the law and sabotage traplines, or those who will steal from trappers.

I would encourage anyone who travels with their dog in the backcountry to have heavy-duty, wire-cutting pliers to cut a snare from a dog's neck. There are videos on the internet that show how to release a body grip trap with an easily carried length of rope. But seeing it on video isn't enough. Find a trapper willing to let you practice the procedure on a 330 Conibear. You don't want to have to do this for the first time while your dog is fighting for its life.

Steve Meyer of Kenai is a longtime Alaskan and an avid shooter.

How mass shootings make even Alaskans victims of terrorism

Tue, 2018-11-13 12:04

I realized for myself how America has changed one day in church when, instead of thinking about what the minister was saying, I imagined what would happen if someone began shooting.

It happened again at a community meeting. I guess it's in the back of my head all the time now.

I love country music. I thought about getting shot when I was looking at concert tickets online.

This is how it feels on the receiving end of terrorism. The fear works on the irrational part of our brains. And I think that fear is one reason why we haven't been able to find a solution.

[I sat down with my old political foe to talk about guns. Here's what we agreed on.]

The unease crept up on me. I didn't feel it after September 11, 2001, even though I lost a cousin in the World Trade Center.

At the time, the heightened security at the Barrow Airport seemed absurd. I thought, "How would a terrorist get to Barrow in the first place?"

But now I know the terrorists are everywhere. Most of them are just homegrown losers, American men who feel like failures and want everyone else to feel as badly as they do.

How do I know they're everywhere? Because fear tells me so.

I've walked through Pittsburgh's Squirrel Hill neighborhood with my son when he was in college there. Many Alaska friends had connections at the Tree of Life Synagogue.

It's no longer uncommon for Alaskans to have a connection to a mass shooting. There have been more than 130 of these events in our country.

For some of the college kids line dancing in Thousand Oaks, California, last week, it was the second time they had been under fire in just over a year, as they had already survived Las Vegas.

Those kids knew exactly what to do. They've grown up in the era of mass shootings. Like the teens in Parkland, Florida, they reacted like soldiers, half expecting bullets.

The chances of it happening to each of us remains small. I know that. I'm one of those annoying people who bring up statistics and rationality when people talk about their worries.

But the fear comes from a different part of the brain.

"That's from your amygdala. And I keep a close eye on mine," said Lou Theiss, an old friend who lives in Girdwood.

Five years ago, Lou had just gone through security at LAX when the entire airport was locked down. He was stuck seven hours. Five hours passed before he knew why.

"It was not knowing what was going on and just feeling rumors from other passengers, and the only information available was on the airport bar TV. That was what was really scary," he said.

Now he uses Orange County airport when he goes to L.A. Even though he knows, rationally, that doesn't make him any safer.

"It's just that geographic proximity thing, that paranoid thing," he said.

We each react differently. Sue Libenson reacted politically when she woke up to news of a massacre in the synagogue where she grew up, in Pittsburgh. She had planned a hike that day, but she had to do something.

(Just imagine, for a moment, if it was slaughter in your childhood synagogue or church.)

"I am not interested in banning guns," she wrote. "There are guns in my home. I am not even interested in becoming an expert on this. I do feel there needs to be more room for honest discussion. Our country is spiraling out of control and we need to at least make room."

I can't disagree, but we've had discussion. The conversation hasn't gone anywhere.

Ironically, the rising fear could be a reason for that.

Fear makes some of us want gun control, but it makes others want to hold tighter to our guns.

I can't imagine using my gun to shoot a human being. What do I know about gunfights?

But some people feel safer retreating into homes armed like fortresses. Many people think of their guns as protection. Talk of gun control scares them.

Rationally, guns can't protect us from most mass shootings (although occasionally a good guy with a gun has stopped one). Evidence is ample that more guns produce more shootings.

The security guard was the first person the Thousand Oaks assassin shot. He also killed a sheriff's deputy. The Vegas shooter sprayed bullets from a high rise.

Pastors and rabbis cannot and should not be asked to carry guns during services, nor teachers during classes. We cannot defend or harden all public places.

But I don't expect those points to convince anyone. That's the paradox of terrorism. Fear demands action, but what it is telling us to do is opposite to one another's impulses.

Terrorism works like poison, weakening our connection to one another. With distrust, communities disintegrate and those promising safety at any price can gain power.

Zoe Lamazou felt the impact of real international terrorism in Paris after the slaughter of the staff at the Charlie Hebdo satirical magazine in 2015. She is a French journalist who, with her husband, Victor Gurrey, became my friend during a reporting trip to Alaska (see their brilliant work here).

"Every time I go to the train station (which I do a lot) I check the exit," she wrote from her home in Marseille, via instant messaging. "I check the concrete parts of the station where I could find a safe place to hide since I know that the bullets go through everything but concrete. I check places where I could climb on if there is a big crowd moving in panic. Literally I do that every time."

But she tries not to look with suspicion on the other passengers. Despite the fear, she knows distrust is wrong.

"We have to learn and develop … the faith in people and humanity," she wrote. "We have to work hard in our everyday life to reverse this violence by any way we can."

I agree. The first step to fight the killing is to overcome the fear.

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

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

Tue, 2018-11-13 11:43

LONDON — After months of stalled talks, false starts and setbacks, negotiators from Britain and the European Union struck a proposed divorce deal Tuesday to provide for the U.K.'s smooth exit from the bloc.

But the agreement faces major political hurdles starting Wednesday, when British Prime Minister Theresa May will try to win the approval of her divided Cabinet for a deal many ministers view with skepticism.

The British government confirmed that the negotiating teams had reached a draft agreement and the Cabinet would hold a special meeting Wednesday afternoon to consider the proposal. Its support isn't guaranteed: May is under pressure from pro-Brexit ministers not to make further concessions to the EU on the key issue of the Irish border.

A spokesman for chief EU negotiator Michel Barnier urged caution, saying a deal wasn't yet finalized and the bloc would "take stock" Wednesday.

Ambassadors from the 27 other EU countries are also due to hold a meeting in Brussels on Wednesday.

Britain wants to seal a deal this fall, so that Parliament has time to vote on it before the U.K. leaves the bloc on March 29. The European Parliament also has to approve any agreement, as do all 28 EU nations.

Officials have said for weeks that agreement on divorce terms and a framework for future U.K.-EU relations was 95 percent complete, and for several days negotiators have been meeting late into the night in Brussels in a bid to close the remaining gaps.

The main obstacle has long been how to ensure there are no customs posts or other checks along the border between the U.K.'s Northern Ireland and EU member Ireland after Brexit. Britain and the EU agree that there must be no barriers that could disrupt businesses and residents on either side of the border and undermine Northern Ireland's hard-won peace process — but they have differed on how to achieve that.

Irish national broadcaster RTE said the draft agreement involves a common customs arrangement for the U.K. and the EU, to eliminate the need for border checks, with special provisions for Northern Ireland and a review mechanism to oversee its functioning.

Britain's Secretary of State for Exiting the European Union Dominic Raab, leaves after a cabinet meeting at 10 Downing Street in London, Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2018. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham) (Matt Dunham/)

A sticking point in talks has been Britain’s insistence that any such customs arrangement must be temporary. The EU says that in order to guarantee an open border, it can’t have a time limit.

The pound rallied on news of a deal, rising 1.5 percent against the dollar to $1.3038.

But May faces pressure from pro-Brexit Cabinet members and lawmakers not to agree to an arrangement that binds Britain to EU trade rules indefinitely.

Former Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, a staunch "Brexiteer," said the deal was unacceptable and Cabinet ministers should "chuck it out."

May also faces growing opposition from pro-EU lawmakers, who say her proposed Brexit deal is worse than the status quo and the British public should get a new vote on whether to leave or to stay.

Opposition from both sides of the Brexit divide means May could struggle to get a deal approved by Parliament.

May's Conservative Party doesn't hold a majority of seats in the House of Commons, and relies on 10 lawmakers from Northern Ireland's Democratic Unionist Party to win votes. The DUP is wary of any border compromise that could bind Northern Ireland to the EU.

DUP deputy leader Nigel Dodds said the party wouldn't accept "that our laws would be made in Brussels, not in Westminster or Belfast. That is the fundamental red line."

If there is no final agreement soon, U.K. businesses will have to start implementing contingency plans for a "no-deal" Brexit — steps that could include cutting jobs, stockpiling goods and relocating production and services outside Britain.

Even with such measures in place, the British government says leaving the EU without a deal could cause major economic disruption, with gridlock at ports and disruption to supplies of foods, goods and medicines.

On Tuesday, the European Commission published a sheaf of notices outlining changes in a host of areas in the event of a no-deal Brexit. They point to major disruption for people and businesses: U.K. truckers' licenses won't be valid in the EU, British airlines will no longer enjoy traffic rights, and even British mineral water will cease to be recognized as such by the EU.

The EU said Tuesday it was proposing visa-free travel for U.K. citizens on short trips, even if there is no deal — but only if Britain reciprocates.

For now, whether or not there is a deal relies on volatile British politics, and the outcome is hard to predict.

"This side of the Channel we are very happy with a balanced solution to the Northern Irish dilemma," said Tom Vandenkendelaere, a Christian Democrat member of the European Parliament. "The other side of the Channel? No idea what the priorities of the British government are.

"This promises to produce fireworks. Wait and see."


Raf Casert in Brussels contributed to this story.

Family that moved to Kenai after notorious Ohio killings have been charged in the case

Tue, 2018-11-13 10:37

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

COLUMBUS, Ohio - A family of four was arrested Tuesday for the gruesome slayings of eight people from another family in rural southern Ohio two years ago, the first break in a case that left a community reeling and surviving family members wondering if answers would ever come.

Arrested were four members of the Wagner family, who lived near the scenes of the killing about 60 miles south of Columbus.

One of those arrested was Edward "Jake" Wagner, 26, who was once the boyfriend of one of the eight victims, 19-year-old Hanna Rhoden.

The others were Wagner’s father, George “Billy” Wagner III, 47; his wife, 48-year-old Angela Wagner; and George Wagner, 27. The Wagners had since moved to Alaska. No motive has been announced.

It was not immediately known if the family was still in Alaska nor where the arrests occurred.

It’s the culmination of a massive investigative effort since seven adults and a teenage boy were found shot in the head at four homes in April 2016.

Investigators scrambling to determine who targeted the Rhoden family and why had conducted over 130 interviews and processed over 100 pieces of evidence and 550 tips, while getting assistance from more than 20 law enforcement agencies.

Authorities had refused to discuss many details about the slayings, saying they didn't want to tip their hand to whoever was responsible for the shootings.

Authorities in June of 2017 announced they were seeking information about the Wagners, including details on personal or business interactions and conversations that people may have had with the four.

None was named a suspect at the time. Investigators also said they had searched property in southern Ohio sold by the Wagners.

Jake Wagner was a long-time former boyfriend of Hanna Rhoden, one of the eight victims, and shared custody of their daughter at the time of the massacre.

Both Jake Wagner and Angela Wagner told the Cincinnati Enquirer they were not involved in the April 2016 killings.

Angela Wagner said in an email to the newspaper that what happened was devastating and Hanna Rhoden was like a daughter to her.

A message was left Tuesday with John Clark, an attorney who has been representing the Wagners. Clark said a year ago that four of the Wagner family members had provided laptops, phones and DNA samples to investigators, and agreed to be interviewed about the slayings.

The Wagner family lived in Peebles, Ohio, at the time of the killings but later moved to Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula.

Clark told the Cincinnati Enquirer that the family was being “harassed while the real killer or killers are out there.”

A coroner said all but one of the victims was shot more than once, including two people shot five times and one shot nine times. Some also had bruising, consistent with the first 911 caller's description of two victims appearing to have been beaten. The coroner's report didn't specify which victims had which wounds.

Authorities said marijuana growing operations were found at three of the four crime scenes. That's not uncommon in this corner of Appalachia but stoked rumors that the slayings were related to drugs, one of many theories on possible motives that percolated in public locally.

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

It appeared some of them were killed as they slept, including Hanna Rhoden, who was in bed with her newborn nearby, authorities said. The child, Hannah Gilley's 6-month-old baby and another small child weren't hurt.

Three funerals were held for the victims.


Associated Press Writer John Seewer in Toledo contributed to this report.

New York trial to tell epic tale of Mexican drug lord ‘El Chapo’

Tue, 2018-11-13 09:46

FILE - In this Jan. 19, 2017 file photo provided U.S. law enforcement, authorities escort Joaquin "El Chapo" Guzman, center, from a plane to a waiting caravan of SUVs at Long Island MacArthur Airport, in Ronkonkoma, N.Y. A jury has been picked for the U.S. trial of the Mexican drug lord. Seven women and five men were selected Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2018, as jurors in the case against Guzman. The trial is set to begin Nov. 13 with opening statements in federal court in Brooklyn. (U.S. law enforcement via AP, File)

NEW YORK — During the height of Mexican drug wars in 1993, an attempted hit on Joaquin “El Chapo” Guzman went wrong.

A team of gunmen sent to rub out the notorious drug lord instead killed a Roman Catholic cardinal at an airport in Guadalajara, outraging the Mexican public enough to touch off a massive manhunt for Guzman. He was captured, but prosecutors say he was undeterred from a brutal pursuit of power that lasted decades, featured jail breakouts and left a trail of bodies.

The story of the botched assassination will be part of an epic tale told in a tightly secured New York City courtroom as Guzman’s long-awaited trial opens Tuesday. Opening statements were delayed after a juror was excused; a replacement was being selected.

Guzman, who has been held in solitary confinement since his extradition to the United States early last year, has pleaded not guilty to charges that he amassed a multi-billion-dollar fortune smuggling tons of cocaine and other drugs in a vast supply chain that reached New York, New Jersey, Texas and elsewhere north of the border.

If convicted, he faces a possible life prison sentence.

Prosecutors have said they will use thousands of documents, videos and recordings as evidence, including material related to the Guadalajara airport shooting, drug smugglers' safe houses, Guzman's 2015 prison escape and the law enforcement operation to recapture him.

More than a dozen cooperating witnesses are scheduled to testify, including some who worked for Guzman's Sinaloa cartel. Prosecutors say they risk retribution by taking the stand and the court has taken steps to conceal their identities. U.S. District Judge Brian Cogan barred courtroom sketch artists from drawing them.

Guzman’s lawyers are expected to attack the credibility of the witnesses by emphasizing their criminal records, saying some have an incentive to lie to win leniency in their own cases.

One of Guzman's attorneys, Eduardo Balarezo, has suggested that he hopes to convince jurors Guzman wasn't actually in charge of the cartel but was a lieutenant taking orders from someone else.

"Now that trial is upon us, it is time to put up or shut up," Balarezo said.

Despite his diminutive stature and nickname that means "Shorty," Guzman was once a larger-than-life figure in Mexico who has been compared to Al Capone and Robin Hood and been the subject of ballads called narcocorridos.

Among the highlights of his lore: He was known for carrying a gold-plated AK-47, for smuggling cocaine in cans marked as jalapenos and for making shipments using planes with secret landing strips as well as container ships, speedboats and even submarines.

But Guzman is perhaps best known for escaping custody in Mexico, the first time in 2011 by hiding in the bottom of a laundry bin. He escaped again in 2015 through a mile-long tunnel dug into a shower in his jail cell that he slipped into before fleeing on a motorcycle.

Guzman's second escape was a black eye for the Mexican government, an embarrassment amplified when the actor Sean Penn was able to find and interview him at one of his hideouts in Mexico while he was on the run from authorities.

Guzman's extradition to New York City shook up Mexico's drug underworld.

Mexican security analyst Alejandro Hope said it created "something of a civil war within the Sinaloa cartel" that has essentially ended with the arrest of internal rivals and allowed his sons to take control of what remains a "weakened" but far-from-finished smuggling operation.

Hope said he has seen no sign that Guzman's extradition and jailing in the U.S. had a major impact on drug flows or routes.

"But symbolically I think it's important. It's a bit of an end of an era. There are very few kingpins of that size left, of that importance," Hope said. "We are actually leaving behind that era, the era of the kingpin." Smaller gangs now dominate, he said.

Raul Benitez, a security expert and professor at the National Autonomous University of Mexico, said Guzman's oversized myth has been fading, too.

In Mexico, news stories about Guzman's trial have been prominent in the media even though it's viewed by some as old history.

"He is totally isolated. He cannot approach anyone. His wife was not even able to approach him. So he is now out of the game," Benitez said, referring to an order by the judge banning Guzman's wife from hugging him in the courtroom during the trial.

Whether he is out for good will be decided by an anonymous jury of 12 men and women who will decide the case. The trial is expected to last into next year.


Associated Press writer Peter Orsi in Mexico City contributed to this report.

Southern California wildfire roars back to life

Tue, 2018-11-13 09:40

A firefighter battles a fire along the Ronald Reagan Freeway, aka state Highway 118, in Simi Valley, Calif., Monday, Nov. 12, 2018. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu) (Ringo H.W. Chiu/)

MALIBU, Calif. — Southern California’s huge wildfire roared to life again Tuesday in a mountain wilderness area even as many neighborhoods were reopened to thousands of residents who fled its advance last week.

A massive plume rose suddenly at midmorning in the Santa Monica Mountains near the community of Lake Sherwood, prompting authorities to send aircraft to drop retardant and water on the blaze.

Forecasters had warned of continuing fire danger in Southern California due to persistent Santa Ana winds, the withering, dry gusts that sweep out of the interior toward the coast, pushing back moist ocean breezes.

Except for an apartment building that burned overnight in coastal Malibu, there was little sign of fire activity elsewhere in the vast fire zone west of Los Angeles.

Officials said their most recent assessments indicated that the fire burned 435 buildings as it spread over about 146 square miles and was 35 percent contained, with full containment expected Thursday.

It was unclear how many people remained under evacuation orders, though at one point the number hit about 250,000. Authorities were expected to disclose details later Tuesday at a news conference.

The dry, gusty winds were expected to blow through Wednesday, although not quite as furiously as last week. Winds, coupled with higher average annual temperatures, tinder-dry brush and a lack of rain in recent years, make the "perfect ingredients" for explosive fire growth around the state, said Chris Anthony, a division chief with the California Department of Forestry and Fire Protection.

"I've been doing this job for 31 years and probably in the last five, maybe seven years, every year seems to get worse," California Fire Chief Scott Jalbert told The Associated Press.

The fire has burned more than 80 percent of National Parks Service land in the Santa Monica Mountains National Recreation Area, officials said.

Fire officials lifted evacuation orders early Tuesday in all or parts of about five communities in Ventura and Los Angeles counties.

But large, populated areas remained off-limits and authorities warned residents of those areas to stay out, saying there were hazards including downed power lines, embers that could re-ignite, buckled roads and lack of power and communications.

Relief and heartache awaited those who were allowed to return home Monday. Paul Rasmussen, his pregnant wife and 6-year-old daughter fled their mountainside Malibu home Friday for what they thought would be the last time.

An air tanker drops water on a fire along the Ronald Reagan (118) Freeway in Simi Valley, Calif., Monday, Nov. 12, 2018. (AP Photo/Ringo H.W. Chiu) (Ringo H.W. Chiu/)

Paul Rasmussen gasped Monday as he rounded corners on the road home that revealed the extent of damage with more than a dozen nearby houses reduced to rubble. But their home survived. His next-door neighbor, Randy Berkeley, protected his home and the Rasmussens' house.

Berkeley and his wife, Robyn Berkeley, choked back tears as they recounted their ordeal holding back a 100-foot wall of flames and then repeatedly beating back hot spots that continued to flare up throughout the night and next day.

The couple and their 25-year-old son, Colin, used hoses, buckets of water and chain saws to battle flames and cut back brush as the fire kept coming to life.

"Just when you think everything is dying down, everything keeps coming back," Randy Berkeley said.

The two people killed in the fire were adults found last week in a car overtaken by flames a couple miles from Rasmussen's house. They have not been identified. Those fatalities added to California's growing wildfire-related death toll.

At least 42 people were confirmed dead in the wildfire that obliterated the Northern California town of Paradise , making it the deadliest wildfire in recorded state history. The search for bodies continued.

The cause of the Southern California fires remained under investigation.

Southern California Edison reported to the California Public Utilities Commission "out of an abundance of caution" that there was an outage on an electrical circuit near where the fire started Thursday. The report said there was no indication its equipment was involved in the fire reported two minutes after the outage.

Downed powerlines and blown transformers have been blamed for several of the deadly fires that have burned in recent years.

California regulators said initial testing found no elevated levels of radiation or hazardous compounds after the fire burned near a former nuclear test site in hills northwest of Los Angeles.

The state Department of Toxic Substance Control said its staff went to the site known as the Santa Susana Field Laboratory on Saturday and found that facilities that previously handled radioactive and hazardous materials were not affected by the Woolsey fire.

The organization Physicians for Social Responsibility said in a statement Monday that it was likely that smoke and ash from the fire spread radiological and chemical contamination that was in soil and vegetation.

The site was used for decades for testing rocket engines and nuclear energy research. One of its nuclear reactors had a partial meltdown in 1959 and battles over decontamination efforts have gone on for years, with neighbors blaming illnesses on the site.


Melley reported from Los Angeles. Associated Press writer John Antczak contributed to this report from Los Angeles.

Northern California fire toll at 42 but hundreds may still be missing

Tue, 2018-11-13 08:07

A burned surfboard and a van are all that remain in the front of a destroyed home in the Point Dome neighborhood in Malibu, Calif., Monday, Nov. 12, 2018. (AP Photo/Richard Vogel) (Richard Vogel/)

PARADISE, Calif. — Authorities moved to set up a rapid DNA-analysis system and bring in cadaver dogs, mobile morgues and more search teams in an intensified effort to find and identify victims of the deadliest wildfire in California history, an inferno that killed at least 42 people.

Five days after flames all but obliterated the Northern California town of Paradise, population 27,000, officials were unsure of the exact number of missing. But the death toll was almost certain to rise.

"I want to recover as many remains as we possibly can, as soon as we can. Because I know the toll it takes on loved ones," Butte County Sheriff Kory Honea said Monday night as he announced the discovery of 13 more dead.

More than a dozen coroner search-and-recovery teams looked for bodies across the apocalyptic landscape that was once Paradise, while anxious relatives visited shelters and called police and hospitals in hopes of finding loved ones.

The dead were found in burned-out cars, in the smoldering ruins of their homes, or next to their vehicles, apparently overcome by smoke and flames before they could jump in behind the wheel and escape. In some cases, there were only charred fragments of bone, so small that coroner’s investigators used a wire basket to sift and sort them.

Hundreds of people were unaccounted for by the sheriff’s reckoning.

Lisa Jordan drove 600 miles from Yakima, Washington, to search for her uncle, Nick Clark, and his wife, Anne, who lived in Paradise. Anne Clark has multiple sclerosis and cannot walk. Jordan said no one seemed to know whether they were able to get out or whether their house was still standing.

"I'm staying hopeful," she said. "Until the final word comes, you keep fighting against it."

Butte County Search and Rescue worker Noelle Francis, left, and search dog Spinner look through the ashes for survivors and remains after a wildfire ravaged the area, at Skyway Villa Mobile Home and RV Park in Paradise, Calif., Monday, Nov. 12, 2018. (Hector Amezcua/The Sacramento Bee via AP) (Hector Amezcua/)

Authorities said they were bringing in two mobile morgue units from the military, requesting an additional 150 search-and-rescue personnel, and seeking the setup of a rapid DNA system to speed the analysis of remains.

Chaplains accompanied some coroner search teams that visited dozens of addresses belonging to people reported missing. No cars in the driveway was a considered a good sign, one car a little more ominous and multiple burned-out vehicles more reason for worry.

State officials said the cause of the inferno was under investigation.

But a landowner near where the blaze began, Betsy Ann Cowley, said Pacific Gas & Electric Co. notified her the day before the fire that crews needed to come onto her property because the utility's power lines were sparking. PG&E had no comment on the email.

More than 5,000 firefighters battling the blaze made gains overnight, slowing the flames' advance toward Oroville, a town of about 19,000 people. The fire, which has charred 195 square miles (505 square kilometers) and destroyed more than 6,400 homes since it started Thursday, was reported 30 percent contained.

At the other end of the state, in Southern California, firefighters continued making progress against a blaze that killed two people in star-studded Malibu and destroyed over 400 structures.

Crews lit backfires and extended containment lines overnight. They expected to have the more than 146-square-mile fire fully contained by Thursday.

The 42 dead in Northern California surpassed the deadliest single fire on record, a 1933 blaze in Griffith Park in Los Angeles. A series of wildfires in Northern California's wine country last fall killed 44 people and destroyed more than 5,000 homes.


Contributing to this report were Associated Press writers Sudhin Thanawala, Janie Har, Jocelyn Gecker and Daisy Nguyen in San Francisco and Andrew Selsky in Salem, Oregon.

CNN sues Trump, demanding return of correspondent to White House

Tue, 2018-11-13 07:37

FILE - In this Nov. 7, 2018, file photo, CNN journalist Jim Acosta does a standup before a new conference with President Donald Trump in the East Room of the White House in Washington. CNN sued the Trump administration Tuesday, demanding that correspondent Jim Acosta’s credentials to cover the White House be returned because it violates the constitutional right of freedom of the press. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File) (Evan Vucci/)

NEW YORK — CNN sued the Trump administration Tuesday, demanding that correspondent Jim Acosta’s credentials to cover the White House be returned because it violates the constitutional right of freedom of the press.

The administration stripped Acosta of his pass to enter the White House following President Donald Trump's contentious news conference last week, where Acosta refused to give up a microphone when the president said he didn't want to hear anything more from him.

White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders said "this is just more grandstanding from CNN, and we will vigorously defend against his lawsuit."

Trump has made CNN and its reporters a particular target of his denunciation of "fake news" and characterization of the media as an enemy of the people. CNN CEO Jeff Zucker, in a letter to White House chief of staff John Kelly, called it a "pattern of targeted harassment."

The White House initially contended it was Acosta's refusal to give up the microphone that led to his banishment; CNN said it's apparent the president didn't like his questions.

"Mr. Acosta's press credentials must be restored so that all members of the press know they will remain free to ask tough questions, challenge government officials and report the business of the nation to the American people," said Theodore Olson, former U.S. solicitor general and one of CNN's lawyers on the case.

The White House Correspondents' Association backed the lawsuit, filed in Washington, D.C., district court.

"The president of the United States should not be in the business of arbitrarily picking the men and women who cover him," said Olivier Knox, president of the correspondents' group.

CNN said Acosta was given no warning of the action, and no recourse to appeal it. Acosta traveled to Paris to cover Trump's visit there this weekend and, although given permission by the French government to cover a news event, the Secret Service denied him entrance, the company said.

"Without this credential, a daily White House correspondent like Acosta effectively cannot do his job," CNN's lawsuit said.

CNN asked for an injunction to immediately reinstate Acosta, as well as a hearing on the larger issue of barring a reporter.

In an effort to prove the administration's case last week, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders distributed via Twitter a doctored video sped up to make Acosta's physical actions toward the intern seem more threatening.

That wasn't mentioned by Sanders in a statement Tuesday. She cited his refusal to yield to other reporters after he asked Trump two questions.

"The White House cannot run an orderly and fair press conference when a reporter acts this way, which is neither appropriate nor professional," Sanders said. "The First Amendment is not served when a single reporter, of more than 150 present, attempts to monopolize the floor."

Trump told Acosta at the news conference that "CNN should be ashamed of itself, having you work for them. You are a rude, terrible person."

Acosta has been a polarizing figure even beyond the distaste that Trump and his supporters have for him. The Poynter Institute, a journalism think tank, editorialized last week that Acosta’s encounter with Trump at the news conference “was less about asking questions and more about making statements. In doing so, the CNN White House reporter gave President Donald Trump room to critique Acosta’s professionalism.”

Hate crimes rose 17 percent last year, according to new FBI data

Tue, 2018-11-13 07:34

WASHINGTON - Hate crimes in America rose 17 percent last year, the third consecutive year that such crimes increased, according to newly released FBI data.

Law enforcement agencies reported 7,175 hate crimes occurred in 2017, up from 6,121 in 2016. That increase was fueled in part by more police departments reporting hate crimes data to the FBI, but overall there is still a large number of departments that report no hate crimes to the federal database.

More than half of such crimes, about 3 of 5, targeted a person's race or ethnicity, while about 1 of 5 targeted their religion.

Of the more than 7,000 incidents reported last year, 2,013 targeted black Americans, while 938 targeted Jewish Americans. Incidents targeting people for their sexual orientation accounted for 1,130 hate crimes, according to the FBI.

The FBI has urged local police departments to provide more complete information about hate crimes in their jurisdictions.

Of the more than 7,000 hate crime incidents in 2017, more than 4,000 were crimes against people, ranging from threats and intimidation to assault, to murder. More than 3,000 were crimes against property, ranging from vandalism to robbery to arson.

Acting Attorney General Matthew Whitaker said the new figures are "a call to action - and we will heed that call. The Department of Justice's top priority is to reduce violent crime in America, and hate crimes are violent crimes. They are also despicable violations of our core values as Americans."

Whitaker said he was "particularly troubled by the increase in anti-Semitic hate crimes," which are already the most common type of religious hate crime in the United States.

Anti-Semitic hate crimes rose 37 percent in 2017. Anti-Islamic hate crimes declined 11 percent last year, with 273 such incidents, the data show.

Amazon splits prize of second headquarters between Virginia and New York

Tue, 2018-11-13 07:02

In this Wednesday, Nov. 7, 2018, photo, a rusting ferryboat is docked next to an aging industrial warehouse on Long Island City's Anable Basin in the Queens borough of New York. Across the East River is midtown Manhattan, top left. Long Island City is a longtime industrial and transportation hub that has become a fast-growing neighborhood of riverfront high-rises and redeveloped warehouses, with an enduring industrial foothold and burgeoning arts and tech scenes. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan) (Mark Lennihan/)

WASHINGTON - Amazon will open major new outposts in suburban Virginia's Crystal City and in New York City, splitting its much-sought investment of up to 50,000 jobs between the two East Coast sites, the company announced Tuesday.

"We are excited to build new headquarters in New York City and Northern Virginia," Amazon founder and CEO Jeff Bezos said in a statement. "These two locations will allow us to attract world-class talent that will help us to continue inventing for customers for years to come. The team did a great job selecting these sites, and we look forward to becoming an even bigger part of these communities."

The company also announced that it selected Nashville, Tennessee, for a new Center of Excellence for its Operations business, which is responsible for the company's customer fulfillment, transportation, supply chain, and other similar activities.

The choice of Crystal City in Arlington County as one of the winners cements Northern Virginia's reputation as a magnet for business and potentially reshape the Washington region into an eastern outpost of Silicon Valley over the next decade.

The decision hands Virginia Gov. Ralph Northam and local leaders the largest economic-development prize in a generation - one promising billions of dollars in capital investments alone - but could also put pressure on the region’s already steep housing prices, congested roads, and yawning divide between wealthy and low-income residents.

It also represents a victory for New York Mayor Bill de Blasio and Gov. Andrew Cuomo, who had joked that he would change his name to “Amazon Cuomo” if necessary to land the project.

Other final suitors included Washington, D.C., its Maryland suburb Montgomery County and 16 other jurisdictions Amazon considered since narrowing its list in January. Amazon could reward some of the finalists with smaller but still significant projects.

[Against all odds, these Anchorage women are asking Amazon to build its new headquarters here]

AOL co-founder Steve Case, who now works with tech entrepreneurs in smaller cities, issued a statement encouraging them not to lose faith despite the selection of two East Coast stalwarts.

"The best economic strategy is not to lure existing companies to open offices or factories, but instead to birth the new companies that could be the Amazons of tomorrow," he said. But in the same breath, the longtime Northern Virginia resident took a victory lap: "Amazon's announcement is a win not just for VA, but also for the entire greater D.C. region."

This Friday, Nov. 9, 2018, photo shows a view of Washington from a revolving restaurant in Crystal City, Va. If any place in the U.S. is well positioned to absorb 25,000 Amazon jobs, it may well be Crystal City which has lost nearly that many jobs over the last 15 years. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh) (Susan Walsh/)

Groups opposed to corporate subsidies also began rallying their supporters, in New York City and Northern Virginia, in advance of learning what the winning state and localities had agreed to provide the company behind closed doors. Public officials in both locations refused to provide details of their offers to Amazon.

"Thousands of new high-paying jobs could be a boon to our community, but we deserve to know the cost," said Anna Scholl, executive director of the advocacy group Progress Virginia. "Tens of thousands of new workers and their families are sure to strain community resources when it comes to affordable housing, mass transit and traffic, and quality local schools. It's only right that Amazon pay their fair share."

Amazon's decision to split the project rather than open a second headquarters on par with its Seattle campus has angered some who said the company had ginned up competition among cities only to change the rules midstream. Some said it was unfair that the company seemed to be considering only sites in more affluent communities.

Amazon launched the project in the fall of 2017, dubbing it HQ2 and issuing search criteria for "a second corporate headquarters" with as many as 50,000 jobs and an investment of $5 billion.

Bezos personally described the scope of the project, saying in a news release, "We expect HQ2 to be a full equal to our Seattle headquarters." Bezos owns The Washington Post.

Others said a split makes sense for Amazon because of the difficulty of finding 50,000 qualified workers, many of them computer engineers, in a single region. Dividing the project also could ease concerns about the pressure that the company's growth could put on housing, transportation networks and schools.

In picking Crystal City, Amazon opted for a close-in suburban site, just across the Potomac River from Washington and a half-mile from Reagan National Airport. Outdated buildings and underused properties now fill the site, where some office buildings have yawning vacancies.

In New York, the company had been eyeing a neighborhood in Queens called Long Island City, across the East River from Midtown Manhattan.

Arlington County offered Crystal City as part of a joint bid with an adjoining property at Potomac Yard, in the city of Alexandria. The state played a leading role in sponsoring the bid, including offering incentives that have not been disclosed publicly.

The selection represents a triumph for the growth strategy of Arlington and Alexandria to promote development along mass-transit routes. The site is close to the Crystal City Metro station on the Blue and Yellow lines, and the planned Potomac Yard station scheduled to open in 2021.

But residents in Alexandria's nearby Del Ray neighborhood expressed worry earlier this year that Amazon's arrival would worsen daily rush-hour backups that already slow traffic to a crawl, and would erode the quality of life in their neighborhood of mostly single-family homes.

The decision marks a dramatic upturn in fortune for Crystal City, which lost thousands of jobs when military agencies and defense contractors departed in the Pentagon's Defense Base Closure and Realignment Commission (BRAC) process, beginning in 2005.

One advantage is that the properties are all overseen by a single, well-capitalized company, JBG Smith. The $4.4 billion firm is the region’s biggest real estate owner and most active developer, and it owns a majority of the property in the bid - enough to accommodate the entire project on its own.

Amazon's choice also burnishes Northern Virginia's standing as an attractive site for corporate headquarters. In the past 15 years, it has lured Volkswagen Group of America to Herndon, Northrop Grumman to Falls Church, Hilton Worldwide to Tysons and Nestle's U.S. headquarters to Arlington.

Northam said in March that the state's pitch centered on workforce development, inclusivity and transportation, along with quality of life.

Although 238 locations initially submitted proposals to Amazon, many experts considered the Washington region a favorite from the outset because of Bezos's personal connections in the region, particularly the $23 million mansion he purchased in the city's Kalorama neighborhood last year and his ownership of The Post.

Others suggested that Amazon executives want to be near Washington to cozy up to the federal government, either because of increased concerns that regulators may pursue antitrust actions against the company or because the government has become a critical Amazon customer.

Virginia also offers the political advantage of being a purple state, making it easier for the company to seek support from both parties.

Amazon previously announced that it would headquarter its cloud computing unit, Amazon Web Services, in Herndon, near some of its data centers.

The Washington area also naturally fit many of the criteria Amazon called for in its search, among them a deep pool of talented workers, a robust public-transit system and easy airport access.

In discussions with local officials this year, Amazon executives were especially focused on the quality of the workforce and availability of affordable housing, according to Hoskins, the Arlington economic development director.

When Amazon narrowed the list of contenders to 20 in January, it included three in the Washington area - the District, Northern Virginia and Montgomery County - more than any other part of the country.

Amazon launched its search in September 2017, vowing to make a decision by the end of 2018 and occupy an initial building of 500,000 square feet in 2019.

The company says its Seattle headquarters has injected $38 billion beyond what the company spent on its buildings into the area economy, generating an additional $1.40 for every dollar the company spent.

Seattle officials have not disputed the figures, but they have also been racing to keep up with the company's staggering growth and the requirements it places on public transit, schools, road networks, parks and utilities. The company now has more than 45,000 employees, occupying more than 40 buildings and 10 million square feet of office space.

Compared with other large corporations, Amazon employees are less likely to commute by car, as about 55 percent either walk, bike or take public transit, according to a survey the company did of its Seattle workforce. The company purchases transit cards for employees and is building a dedicated cycle track to separate bikes from cars near its Seattle buildings.

Amazon's growth is also likely to put new strains on housing. Since Amazon's arrival, Seattle has become one of the most expensive places in the United States to live, forcing lower-income residents to move to far-off suburbs. The city and surrounding King County declared a state of emergency in 2015 over homelessness.

Even without Amazon, the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments estimated that the region needs to add 235,000 housing units by 2025 to keep pace with expected job growth. Amazon's arrival could push the goal above 267,000, according to a recent analysis by the Urban Institute. Right now it is on pace to add about 170,000 new units by 2026.

Since beginning the headquarters search, Bezos and the company have made several announcements that could soften Amazon's image as it moves to open its second hub.

Bezos announced in September that he would donate $2 billion of his own money to support groups battling homelessness in America and to create a network of preschools in underserved communities. In October - after bearing months of criticism from Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., over its treatment of workers - Amazon announced that it would raise its minimum wage for all employees to $15 per hour.

The minimum-wage decision isn't likely to have much effect on the company's hiring in Northern Virginia, where Amazon says its facility will employ mainly white-collar workers with an average salary of more than $100,000 a year.

Before Amazon announced its search, Washington-area jurisdictions - forced in part by federal budget cuts - had already been diversifying their workforces away from a reliance on federal spending. The region gained more than 55,000 jobs annually from 2015 to 2017 despite budget cuts and stagnation in Congress. But its job growth has been slower than average among major metropolitan areas.

- The Post’s Gregory S. Schneider contributed to this report.

Absence of October sea ice makes Utqiagvik warmer, scientists say

Tue, 2018-11-13 06:43

The iconic whale bone arch is photographed on Wednesday, September 23, 2015, in Barrow. (Erik Hill / ADN) (Erik Hill / ADN/)

UTQIAGVIK - Changing sea ice patterns are affecting fall temperatures in the far northern Alaska city of Utqiagvik, scientists say.

Temperatures in the town formerly known as Barrow have increased in October more than any other month over the past five decades, Alaska’s Energy Desk reported.

The lack of ice is both the effect of warming in the Arctic and a primary driver for the town's warmer Octobers, said Rick Thoman, climate specialist at the Alaska Center for Climate Assessment and Policy at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

"When you've got that water right off shore that's staying at 28 (degrees) or warmer, that greatly limits how cool the air can get," Thoman said. "Even a thin layer of ice with a little bit of snow on it, the air right above that can cool much more."

[Alaska’s weird, warm fall: a boon for farmers, but ‘really scary’ for people who depend on Arctic ice]

Pack ice that remains on the Arctic Ocean through the summer had usually started floating to shore in October. That ice would cool the land and water around it, helping new sea ice to form along the coast.

Pack ice has been steadily retreating north. It’s now typically hundreds of miles offshore in October, but two decades ago it was rare for the ice to be more than 50 miles from the coast.

With the pack ice absent, new ice takes longer to form, Thoman said.

The ice now forms in November or December, said Billy Adams, a lifelong resident of Utqiagvik. When he was growing up, there was always ice attached to the shore in October, he said.

“We could have been walking out there and hunting ringed seals,” Adams said last month. “But we’re on land right now.”

Several Susitna Valley schools closed Tuesday due to road conditions

Tue, 2018-11-13 05:48

Four schools in the Susitna Valley will be closed Tuesday, the Matanuska-Susitna School District announced in the early morning.

The closed schools are Willow Elementary, Talkeetna Elementary, Trapper Creek Elementary and Su Valley High. All other schools are open, the district said in social media posts.

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School Closure Notification for Tuesday November 13. Willow Elementary, Talkeetna Elementary, Trapper Creek Elementary, and Su Valley HS are closed today. All other schools are open.

Posted by Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District on Tuesday, November 13, 2018

The district said on Facebook that conditions on side roads were the reason for the closure.

‘We’re just a little afraid’: Anchorage parents criticize handling of threats against Dimond High

Mon, 2018-11-12 22:09

Anchorage School District chief academic officer Michael Graham and Dimond High School principal Tina Johnson-Harris spoke to parents Monday night at Dimond High School. (Tegan Hanlon / ADN)

Hundreds of people packed Anchorage's Dimond High School on Monday evening for a meeting about the written threats found in the school last week.

For nearly three hours, parents lined up to ask an Anchorage School District administrator and the school principal questions about the threats, school safety, communication plans and more. Many also criticized the way the district and the school handled the threats. Some parents said they were left without information Friday morning as police vehicles were parked outside of their children's school. Some said their children didn't feel safe.

"I have a 16-year-old son," one parent said. "He told me, 'I don't want to die in high school.' "

"We're just a little afraid of what's going on," another parent said.

Anchorage Schools Superintendent Deena Bishop said Friday that the district never believed students were in danger.

Anchorage police continued to investigate Monday, said a statement from Kendra Doshier, a police spokeswoman. Doshier said in an email that she had no new information to release about the investigation. If police made an arrest, they would send out a statement, she said. There had been no such statement by 9:30 p.m. Monday.

Four threats were found written in bathrooms at Dimond High last week, district officials have said.

One read: "I'm shooting up the school, I'm not joking. I have a gun in my lock," according to an email last week from Dimond High Principal Tina Johnson-Harris to parents.

Johnson-Harris told parents Monday that there will continue to be limited hall passes and limited access to upstairs bathrooms Tuesday as the police investigation continued. There will also be more school resource officers at Dimond High.

In response to parents' requests at Monday's meeting, she said students' backpacks and lockers would be searched Tuesday morning.

"When they come tomorrow, their backpacks will be searched," Johnson-Harris told the parents. "I don't have a problem doing that."

Students across the school district will resume classes Tuesday after having Monday off in observance of Veterans Day. It will be the first day Dimond High students return to classes since police were at the school Friday investigating the threats. School staff had kept students in their first-hour classes for an extended time Friday morning.

Some parents said at Monday's meeting that they got text messages or calls from their worried children who were held in their first classes.

Classes weren't canceled at Dimond High on Friday, but some parents did decide to pick up their children from school.

Johnson-Harris assured parents Monday that she took students' safety and the threats seriously.

"It is my utmost goal to not only work for the academic success of our students, but, foremost, to ensure the safety of our school," Johnson-Harris said.

Michael Graham, district chief academic officer, told parents that there's nothing more important to educators than taking care of their students.

"In this day and age, no school, no movie theater, no shopping mall, no church, no synagogue, can guarantee you 100 percent that your kid's going to be safe," Graham said. "Can't do it. But we can tell you that we put every single thing in place that we can to ensure it because there's nothing more important to educators – we know you're sending us your babies."

Check back for updates.

Man accused in Anchorage hit-and-run told police he stopped to help victim

Mon, 2018-11-12 18:48

Ruti Malietufa, 71, appeared in court at the Anchorage Correctional Complex on Monday, Nov. 12, 2018. (Bill Roth / ADN)

The driver accused in the hit-and-run death of a pedestrian near the Anchorage jail Saturday told police he stopped to check on the victim after hitting her — and she insisted she was fine.

Charging documents filed Monday against 71-year-old Ruti Malietufa described a very different scene, with emergency responders arriving to find the woman dead in the road, debris strewn around her.

Police have not released the victim's name.

Malietufa, 71, was arraigned at the Anchorage jail court Monday on a single charge of leaving the scene of an accident without assisting an injured person, a felony punishable by up to 10 years in prison.

The charging documents laid out in detail what police say happened — and what Malietufa says happened: Police were called to the intersection of Third Avenue and Orca Street at 5:26 p.m. on Saturday.

When officers arrived, they found a woman on the ground in the eastbound lane of traffic, surrounded by debris from a broken headlight. One of her shoes was in the westbound lane, charges said.

It would have been dark, but witnesses had heard the impact of the crash and summoned the Anchorage Safety Patrol, according to the charges.

The crash site is directly adjacent to the area of the Anchorage Correctional Complex where the city's "sleep off" sobering facility is located.

Motorists travel eastbound up a hill on East Third Avenue near Orca Street on Monday, Nov. 12, 2018. (Bill Roth / ADN)

Anchorage Safety Patrol vans drop off people being taken to the sleep-off center because they are too intoxicated to care for themselves.

Police have issued no information about where the victim may have been headed.

Workers with the safety patrol rushed to the scene and tried to administer CPR until medics arrived and declared her dead, according to the charges.

In court, prosecutors said police were still working on notifying the victim's next-of-kin.

Malietufa told police he'd been driving east on Third Avenue when he struck something, stopped and returned to the scene to see what he'd hit, according to the charging document.

"He saw a woman there … she told him she was alright," the charging documents said. "He double checked with her and after she again said she was fine."

He then drove to a Brown Jug liquor store where his wife works.

Meanwhile, detectives were reviewing surveillance video from near the scene that showed a Ford Explorer driving eastbound after the crash.

They tracked the vehicle to the Brown Jug and asked for security footage from the store. Hours later, the wife called police to say she was at home with Malietufa and he was willing to turn himself in.

In court, Malietufa said he had a job and took home about $2,500 in pay, and also drew on Social Security. He said he didn't own a house or other major assets and asked for a public defender. He has no other criminal record in Alaska.

An Anchorage magistrate judge set bail at a $20,000 performance bond and a $20,000 appearance bond.

He also said that if Malietufa bails out, he will be supervised on electronic monitoring house arrest, with passes to work. He will not be allowed to drive.

The area where the woman was hit is treacherous and frequented by people walking, said Lisa Sauder of Bean's Cafe, a nonprofit cafe that serves the homeless.

Bean's Cafe is located about two blocks away from the accident site, and many of its clients regularly walk in the area. Sauder says she worries about their safety, and Bean's holds safety training where clients can get reflective vests.

"It's very dangerous," she said. "Many times the sidewalks aren't cleared. People go way too fast."

Man shot in Spenard hotel parking lot; police say attack appears drug related

Mon, 2018-11-12 17:52

Anchorage police investigate the scene of a shooting behind the Holiday Inn Express in Spenard on Monday, Nov. 12, 2018. (Bill Roth / ADN)

Anchorage police say a man was shot in a Spenard hotel parking lot Monday in what appears to be a drug-related attack.

The gunfire was reported at 4:27 p.m. in the parking area of the Spenard Holiday Inn Express at 4411 Spenard Road. Officers arrived to found a man who had been shot in the upper body.

The victim was taken to a local hospital with what appeared to be life-threatening injuries, police said. "The incident appears to be isolated and there is no threat to the public," the department wrote in a statement posted online.

Police said they have no information on the suspect and, as of Monday afternoon, offered no description other than the shooter is an adult male.

"At this time, the incident is believed to be drug related," police wrote.

APD is asking anyone with information about the shooting to call non-emergency dispatchers at 311. Police said drivers should avoid the area of the Spenard Holiday Inn Express.

Rates may rise for Solid Waste Services customers as utility makes big plans

Mon, 2018-11-12 17:51

Anchorage’s city-owned trash utility wants to raise rates for the first time in years to shore up a looming deficit and, managers say, set in motion a revolution in how the city handles its trash and junk.

In 2019, Solid Waste Services customers may be asked to pay 5 percent more for trash pickup, the first such hike in a decade. At the same time, the utility wants to boost its drop-off fees by 6 percent at the Anchorage Regional Landfill in Eagle River and the Central Transfer Station off the Old Seward Highway in Anchorage. Those rates last rose in 2012.

Without the changes, the utility will run a deficit next year, said Mark Spafford, the general manager of Solid Waste Services. The utility serves 12,000 residential customers and 4,700 commercial dumpsters in the downtown area, but a financial loss would be backfilled by general government funds.

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The Anchorage Assembly needs to approve the proposed new rates. That vote is expected by the end of December. Higher rates would generate a combined $1.7 million in new annual revenue in 2019, according to documents submitted to the Assembly.

In addition to closing a budget gap and building up financial reserves, Spafford said, the utility needs the extra cash for bigger projects -- with the goal of massively reducing the amount of waste that goes to the landfill each year.

Solid Waste Services is preparing to buy 27 acres of undeveloped land south of the existing transfer station at 1111 E. 56th Ave. The land, currently owned by Wal-Mart, is slated become the future home of a brand-new Central Transfer Station -- one that is larger and more advanced than the existing facility.

The current transfer station was built in the 1980s, when Anchorage had about half its current population. It is in serious need of upgrades, Spafford said. The facility closed for three weeks in August to replace a tipping floor and commercial scales, but officials warned that closures would become more extended and frequent.

A loader moves trash around the tipping floor at the central transfer station Friday, Aug. 10, 2018. Solid Waste Services, which operates the transfer station, closed for three weeks in August for renovations including replacing the tipping floor. (Loren Holmes / ADN) (Loren Holmes/)

The transfer station is a crucial nexus to the more remote landfill. About 80 percent of the waste delivered to the landfill first comes to the transfer station. On just one day in 2016, a total of 640 vehicles circulated through the facility. Long lines often snake out to the surrounding public streets.

Utility staff also contend with leaky roofs, failing heating and air conditioning and limited maintenance and storage space, Spafford said.

“We’ve outgrown it, to a certain degree,” Spafford said. “And the philosophy with solid waste management has definitely changed in the last 30-40 years.”

Depending on the level of sophistication, a new and expanded transfer station would cost between $60 million and $90 million, financed with borrowed money. Spafford said the utility will start drawing up designs next year. There would likely be new buildings for administration, maintenance and storage. The utility would also repurpose some of the old buildings at the existing transfer station to expand its drop-off facilities.

Spafford especially wants to divert waste away from the landfill. He imagines special areas where people can drop off yard waste, food scraps, recyclables and even tires.

“We have to do everything we can now to take care of (the landfill) and the extend the life of it, because our options for disposal once the landfill is gone are not good,” Spafford said.

Extending the life of the landfill is central to a master plan Solid Waste Services recently completed. Tetra Tech, a Pasadena, California-based consulting firm, got the contract to create the plan, which is like a road map for the utility’s future.

The document particularly emphasizes a growth in recycling and composting, known as “waste diversion.”

At Solid Waste Services, Spafford led a push to get pink curbside composting bins for a small portion of customers this past summer. Next year, the utility plans to make the curbside compost program available to all its customers.

Other longer-term ideas in the master plan include an “alternative technology facility” and methods to convert food scraps and organic waste into a renewable bio-gas.

Earlier this year Spafford traveled to Florida and toured plants in West Palm Beach and Tampa that convert waste into energy. Those plants burn clean, like natural gas, he said.

The “big, hairy audacious goal” for Anchorage, Spafford said, is an incinerator that can burn waste and reduce the volume of trash in the city by 90 percent. That project would extend the life of the landfill another 200 years and also generate energy, Spafford said.

Such facilities are common in Europe, but would demand serious financial and political heft, Spafford said. It’s also a long ways down the road. But he still gets excited talking about it.

In the immediate future, Spafford is bullish about timelines. He thinks construction on a new transfer station can start by 2021.

“The site is just undersized for what we want to do,” Spafford said.

Letter: A good result

Mon, 2018-11-12 17:49

I thank God that the people of Alaska have once again rejected Mark Begich, for many reasons, but most especially his pro-abortion stance. Thank you, Alaska.

— Jon Eric Thompson


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