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Anchorage animal shelter adds QR code for pet tags

Tue, 2019-02-19 16:54

Whisper, a dog owned by Laura Atwood, shows off his new QR-coded license tag on Feb. 12 at the Anchorage Animal Care and Control Center. The new tags can help expedite reunions of lost pets with their families. (Loren Holmes / ADN) (Loren Holmes / Anchorage Daily News/)

Anchorage pet licenses can now come with digital codes aimed at more rapidly reuniting lost pets with owners and freeing up shelter space, officials say.

The Anchorage Animal Care and Control Center started offering digital pet licenses earlier this year. A Washington state-based company called Pethub produces the tags, which come with a digital quick response code, or QR code.

Scanning the tag with a smartphone pulls up a webpage with a profile for the pet, which can include multiple contact numbers, health information and eating preferences.

Shelter communications director Laura Atwood’s husky, Whisper, has a digital tag and a page. The page lists five phone numbers, along with Whisper’s birthday, his microchip ID and a physical description that includes a notch missing from his tongue.

“He is not food motivated so coaxing him with food may not work unless it’s real chicken or turkey,” the page says. “Or pizza.”

If Whisper got lost, his finder could send a GPS location through the page, Atwood said. Atwood would also get a text telling her that the code was scanned.

New digital pet licenses offered by the Anchorage Animal Care and Control Center contain QR codes that make it easy to look up contact information for the owners of lost pets and can help expedite reunions. (Loren Holmes / ADN) (Loren Holmes / Anchorage Daily News/)

The tag comes with a red sticker with activation instructions. In one recent case, someone found a lost dog with a digital license that hadn’t yet been activated. The dog ended up staying briefly at the shelter until its family picked it up, according to a post about the incident on the Animal Care and Control Facebook page.

Activating the tag falls to pet owners, not the animal shelter, so the owner can decide what information to provide to the call center, Atwood said.

The tags are the latest example of Anchorage city government tapping into QR code technology.

At the Anchorage cemetery, families have the option of paying $150 for a QR code to accompany the gravesite of a loved one. The codes are mounted on the columbarium wall. A smartphone scan launches a memorial website.

About a dozen families have purchased the codes since the program began a few years ago, said cemetery director Rob Jones.

The cemetery has also purchased a code to be placed near the whale bones that mark the graves of a whaling captain and his wife, Jones said. He said it would be a way to tell the story of the whale bones, which mark the center of the city cemetery.

In the case of the city animal shelter’s foray into digitizing, Atwood said she learned about the digital pet licenses at a conference in 2018.

“It’s just truly a way to help reunite lost dogs more quick with their owners, and without the animal having to come through the shelter,” Atwood said.

Anchorage resident Cynthia White manages two different Facebook pages for lost pets. She spends a lot of time connecting pet owners to resources, making posters and loaning out animal traps. The digital licenses are a good way to use new technology and make it easier for people to track down lost pets, White said.

But White also urged pet owners and animal shelter staff to update microchip data, which she said is often out-of-date.

“So many dogs get lost who do not have a collar on,” White said.

Atwood also said the new licenses do not take the place of microchips. She said the tags are meant to be an additional tool to help pet owners.

The new digital tags can be purchased at the Anchorage animal shelter off Elmore Road, at most veterinary offices or online at

If it’s a first-time license application or a renewal, the current fees apply, Atwood said. Duplicating an existing license to add a digital tag costs an extra $5.

Chugiak’s Kelsey Griffin wins MVP honors as Australia’s top women’s basketball player

Tue, 2019-02-19 15:56

Former Chugiak student Kelsey Griffin cheers on girls at the AT&T Sports Center in Palmer on Saturday, August 30, 2014. Griffin now plays professional basketball in the WNBA, and was on hand for a day camp organized by the Alaska Lady Hoops.

Kelsey Griffin’s legend continues to grow Down Under.

The 2005 Chugiak High grad and former NCAA All-American capped her best season as a professional basketball player Monday by winning the Australian Women’s National Basketball League’s MVP award.

It’s the first time the 6-foot-2 Griffin has won the league MVP award but it’s the second time this month she has garnered a major award. Griffin was named the WNBL Grand Finals MVP after leading the Canberra Capitals to the league title with a 93-73 win over the Adelaide Lightning on Feb. 16.

Griffin, who starred at the University of Nebraska before going pro, averaged 19.3 points and a league-best 11.6 rebounds this season. She ranked fifth in the league with 1.8 steals per game and eighth with 1.0 blocks per contest. Griffin earned 119 out of 189 possible votes to win the MVP title, outdistancing Dandenong Rangers guard Bec Cole, who got 99 votes, according to the Sydney Morning Herald.

Griffin scored 29 points and grabbed 15 rebounds in the title game, and afterward told the Canberra Times she’s “in talks” to potentially return to the WNBA, where she played for the Connecticut Sun from 2010-2014.

Since 2012 Griffin has been a fixture in the Australian league, first with the Bendigo Spirit, where she played until joining Canberra this season. In addition to her three Finals MVP awards, Griffin is also a former WNBL Defensive Player of the Year and a three-time WNBL All-Star Five honoree. The naturalized Australian also helped her adopted country win a gold medal at the 2018 Commonwealth Games.

Murkowski worries about precedent with emergency declaration

Tue, 2019-02-19 13:53

JUNEAU — U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski says she worries about the precedent that could be set from President Trump’s declaration of a national emergency to secure more money for a wall on the U.S.-Mexico border.

The Alaska Republican did not explicitly say Tuesday whether she would support a resolution of disapproval if one came before the Senate.

But she says if lawmakers stand down and give in to Trump on this, what would stop the next president from declaring an emergency to get around Congress to achieve his or her priorities.

Murkowski says she supports efforts to bolster security at the border but is concerned about an erosion of checks and balances.

Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy has said the Alaska National Guard stands ready, if called upon, to support border security efforts.

Trump approves plan to create Space Force and puts it under Air Force control

Tue, 2019-02-19 13:43

WASHINGTON --- President Donald Trump signed a policy directive Tuesday that laid out a framework for the Space Force he has long sought but that fell short of his initial vision for a new service that is "separate but equal" to the Air Force.

In the document, the president directed the Pentagon to create legislation for Congress that would place the Space Force under the control of the Air Force Department, in a fashion similar to how the Navy Department oversees the Marine Corps. It marks a partial win for senior Air Force officials: They argued that creating a separate military department - as Trump had stated he wants - would create unnecessary Pentagon bureaucracy.

Trump signed the directive Tuesday afternoon in the Oval Office while flanked by senior defense officials that included acting defense secretary Patrick Shanahan, Air Force Secretary Heather Wilson and Air Force Gen. Paul Selva, the vice chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff. The president he was "thrilled" to do so, and believes it is just the beginning in an important process.

"Our adversaries... whether we get along with them or not, they're up in space," Trump said. "And they're doing it, and we're doing it. And that's going to be a very big part of where the defense of our nation - and you could say "offense," but let's just be nice about it and let's say the defense of our nation - is going to be."

The plan, which requires congressional approval, could mark the first time the U.S. government has established a new military branch since the National Security Act of 1947 created the Air Force in the wake of World War II. The administration could still press for a full Space Force Department in the future, but it is unclear whether or when that would happen.

The move appears to mark a rhetorical and political compromise: While the Trump administration will continue to call the new service the Space Force, it will more closely resemble a previous proposal on Capitol Hill for a smaller Space Corps that does not have a new, separate service secretary appointed by the president. Like the Marine Corps, it will be led by a four-star general who takes a new seat among the Joint Chiefs of Staff, the Pentagon's top officers.

A Pentagon spokesman, Charles E. Summers Jr., said that in coming weeks the Defense Department will submit a legislative proposal to Congress that authorizes the establishment of the Space Force as the sixth branch of the U.S. military.

"The United States considers freedom to operate in space a vital national interest, one that is fundamental to our prosperity and security," Summers said. "With Space Policy Directive-4, President Trump is posturing the United States to compete, deter, and win in a complex multi-domain environment characterized by great power competition."

Gen. David L. Goldfein, chief of staff of the Air Force, said Tuesday morning that U.S. officials examined options ranging from the creation of a full space department that would have had its own service secretary to something akin to the Medical Corps, a part of the U.S. Army comprising medical professionals in uniform.

"We wanted a robust debate, as you would imagine, on where was the right place to land that aligns with the president's direction, and what's going to roll out today is a service within the Department of the Air Force," Goldfein said during a public appearance at the Brookings Institution in Washington.

Shanahan was expected to sign a memo directing Wilson to establish a team to finalize details of the Pentagon's space plan, Defense One reported last week, citing a draft memo. The Pentagon also will create a Space Force undersecretary who reports to Wilson and a four-star vice chief of staff who reports to the Space Force service chief, the report said.

Trump also created a new position in December: chief of U.S. Space Command. The four-star officer will oversee the U.S. military's operations in space, which are currently focused on communications, surveillance, and defending U.S. satellites from threats posed both by the elements and by adversaries such as Russia and China.

Goldfein said Tuesday that he sees the creation of the head of Space Command as the most important step. It will allow the services to prepare troops for the Space Command chief to use, he said, similar to how the services prepare troops to be deployed under the control of U.S. Special Operations Command.

“I think the fact that we’re having a national debate on space is really healthy. Really healthy,” Goldfein said. " . . . We’re the best in the world at space, and our adversaries know it, and they’ve been studying us and investing in ways to take away that capability in crisis or conflict. That, to me, is the problem statement, and we as a nation cannot let that happen."

Letter: Knopp did right by Alaska

Tue, 2019-02-19 13:13

As a lifelong Alaskan, I wholeheartedly support the actions taken by Rep. Gary Knopp (R) during the 31st Legislature. In today’s political environment, we cannot afford to be one party or the other. The political divide is getting us nowhere fast, and Alaskans know better than anyone how to work together and put aside our political differences to get the job done.

It should be clear to all that Republicans do not singularly represent Alaska, we need to raise and embrace our diverse voices to succeed. Rep. Knopp has all of Alaskans in mind by being courageous enough to vocally recognize that a Republican-led administration, Senate and House will not do justice for representing the whole of Alaska. He realizes we need one joint coalition to alleviate the biases already in place. He has been open and honest about his transactions. When he was brave enough to go against his party and not confirm Rep. Dave Talerico (R), which would have handed the Republicans the majority in the house, his fellow Republicans chastised him, going as far as calling him a “terrorist” and “traitor." Security at the capitol building needed to be upped because there were threats made against him. This is not the Alaska that I know and love.

On the contrary, when Rep. Louise Stutes (R) nominated Rep. Knopp for Speaker of the House, the 20 Republicans who reprimanded Knopp for voting against his own party, in turn voted against him. Hypocrisy is alive and well in the Republican Party.

Rep. Dan Ortiz (I), voicing his support for Knopp, said, “through cooperation, we can represent all Alaskans’ interests in a very positive way.” I believe Rep. Ortiz was speaking for all Alaskans who are frustrated that the job is not getting done due to egos and stubbornness.

Rep. Knopp does not represent my district, but he represents me as an Alaskan who doesn’t wish to see partisan control ruin our great state. I urge House Republicans to do what’s best for Alaska, not just their party. We elected our representatives to get a job done, a job that is not getting done because of party differences. It’s time they roll up their sleeves and work together.

- Susie Jenkins-Brito


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Letter: Knopp’s stunt

Tue, 2019-02-19 12:53

Thanks to Rep. Gary Knopp. Thanks for throwing a wrench into the Legislature. Is he going to reimburse the public for his political stunt? The joke’s on us, again.

- Jeff Carlson


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Man and woman found dead at Wasilla residence; troopers investigating

Tue, 2019-02-19 12:52

WASILLA -- A 47-year-old woman and 57-year-old man were found dead on a Wasilla property Monday evening, Alaska State Troopers said.

Troopers located the bodies of Sarah Klingener and Shawn McVey, both of Wasilla, after someone reported two people dead at a residence, according to a dispatch posted Tuesday. The address was near Bogard Road, troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters said. A family member of Klingener reported the deaths.

Klingener was last known to be alive on Sunday, Peters said.

The general investigations unit has taken over the case, troopers said. The investigation into the cause and manner of death continues. The state medical examiner’s office is conducting an autopsy, Peters said.

No additional details were immediately available.

Check back for updates on this developing story.

Letter: Governor’s budget assumptions

Tue, 2019-02-19 12:42

In a recent article about the budget, Gov. Mike Dunleavy mentioned twice that the people are better at spending money than the government. He mentioned New York, Illinois and California as examples where government spending is too high. Are the people going to spend their money on road construction, schools, police protection, clean the air/water, solving homelessness and health care cost containment?

I have lived in two of the states mentioned (Illinois and California), and I can say that they had cleaner water and air, higher school attainment, better wages, lower unemployment, better parks, better and safer roads, much less crime, longer longevity and lower health care costs — and they received much less federal money than Alaska. Maybe the governor should be looking to these states for examples of success instead of being obsessed with corporate tax welfare and large Permanent Fund dividends?

- David R. McCorkell


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Letter: Where is the Alaska Mental Health Trust?

Tue, 2019-02-19 12:33

Where is the Alaska Mental Health Trust in the talks about Alaska Psychiatric Institute and its woeful performance? Maybe I don’t understand the role of the Mental Health Trust, but I thought it was created specifically to provide care for its beneficiaries, those with mental illness, developmental disabilities, drug and alcohol addictions, Alzheimer’s disease and related dementia, and traumatic brain injuries. With the Trust, why does API have such a poor record, and why is there a conversation about turning its management over to the private sector? In short, what does the Alaska Mental Health Trust do and why was it created, if not to provide for its beneficiaries?

- Jill Griffin


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

The hard truth about Medicaid expansion

Tue, 2019-02-19 11:52

iStock (Getty Images/iStockphoto/)

It’s time for a reality check. Since Alaska expanded Medicaid to able-bodied adults in 2015, our state has experienced cost overruns, unexpected — but predictable — over-enrollment, and is facing a dependency crisis. Some, local lawmakers and local lobbyists included, would have you believe that Medicaid expansion has benefited our state. But it’s time to face the facts: Medicaid expansion is failing Alaskans.

In 2017, the Walker administration projected that 23,273 able-bodied adults would enroll in Medicaid expansion at a cost of $7,500 per person. Actual enrollment in 2017 reached over 35,000 adults, and the cost per person was nearly $10,500 — nearly a $200 million cost overrun. While it’s true that the federal government is responsible for a portion of Medicaid expansion costs, Alaska lawmakers would be foolish to think our federal government will subsidize the program indefinitely. Medicaid costs are growing across the nation, not just here, and the federal debt already stands at more than $21 trillion. Pair that with the federal government’s poor record of keeping its funding promises and passing on more Medicaid costs to the states doesn’t seem so farfetched. In the meantime, Alaska is diverting more and more of our own sparse funds to prop up Medicaid expansion, using public dollars that would otherwise go to education, public safety, infrastructure, and the truly needy.

Instead, these funds are going directly to able-bodied adults—the majority of whom are not working. A recent opinion column by Becky Hultberg uses a debunked Kaiser Family Foundation report in an attempt to build a case that proves these adults are working. The reality paints a more grim picture: There are over 12 million able-bodied adults in the U.S. dependent on Medicaid as a result of expansion, and the majority do not work at all.

The Kaiser report cited in the editorial used inaccurate numbers in every single state it pulled data from—in Nevada alone, Kaiser claims that “only” 35 percent of able-bodied adults on Medicaid aren’t working. The truth is that 60 percent report no income in Nevada. The number of able-bodied adults not working here in Alaska isn’t currently available from the state—but given what every other state is experiencing, it’s not difficult to imagine how many able-bodied Alaskans aren’t working.

That’s not the only misconception touted by those who think able-bodied adults should be prioritized over the truly needy. The recent editorial also claims that Medicaid expansion has acted as a stimulus to the economy—but the truth is, Medicaid expansion discourages work and shrinks the economy. The jobs that were promised by Obamacare supporters have yet to materialize, and instead, more able-bodied adults have been trapped in a downward spiral of dependency than were ever anticipated.

Consider what the state of Kentucky experienced: “The reality is, the number of Kentuckians who have enrolled in Medicaid expansion is more than double the number projected, while the number of new jobs created and the economic impact from Medicaid expansion has been significantly lower than forecasted ... The reality is that Medicaid expansion does not pay for itself.”

The solution for Alaska isn’t more welfare — it’s more work. Common sense work requirements for able-bodied adults can help Alaskans break free from the Medicaid expansion trap and regain their self-sufficiency, while preserving state resources for the truly needy instead.

Research shows that work requirements — requiring able-bodied adults to work, train, or volunteer at least part-time in order to receive benefits — offer enrollees a better future through the power of work. When work requirements were implemented in welfare programs, able-bodied adults leaving welfare found work in diverse industries and more than tripled their incomes—more than offsetting any lost benefits.

Adding a common-sense work requirement to Alaska’s Medicaid program makes sense. We should be encouraging these able-bodied adults to move off the sidelines and back into the workforce, not the opposite. By implementing a Medicaid work requirement, we can emphasize the power of work to transform lives and break the cycle of dependency while preserving resources for truly needy Alaskans and shoring up our state budget for the future.

It’s not too late for Alaska policymakers to do the right thing — if they’re willing to face the facts.

Bethany Marcum is the executive director of the Alaska Policy Forum.

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.

Trident Seafoods to spend up to $23 million to correct air pollution issues

Tue, 2019-02-19 11:20

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency says one of the nation’s biggest seafood companies has agreed to spend up to $23 million to fix serious air pollution issues with its vessels and land-based facilities.

Seattle-based Trident Seafoods will also pay a $900,000 fine for Clean Air Act violations under a settlement agreement filed Tuesday in federal court in Anchorage.

The company uses ozone-depleting coolants in its refrigerators. While the law requires any leaks to be fixed within 30 days, the government said Trident allowed some leaks to persist for years. The EPA said more than 200,000 pounds of harmful gases were released into the atmosphere.

Trident agreed to retrofit or retire 23 refrigeration appliances, install leak detectors and promptly repair leaks.

The settlement is subject to public comment and court approval.

Trident did not immediately return a call seeking comment.

Maine man charged in Alaska cold-case killing contests extradition

Tue, 2019-02-19 10:32

LEWISTON, Maine - A man charged with killing a woman 26 years ago in Fairbanks is contesting extradition.

Steven H. Downs, 44, was arrested Friday, Feb. 15, 2019, in connection with the death of 20-year-old Sophie Sergie at the University of Alaska Fairbanks in 1993. (Photo courtesy Androscoggin County Jail.)

Steven Downs, of Auburn, Maine, made his intentions known in the first court appearance since his Friday arrest. A judge on Tuesday ordered him held without bail pending another hearing next month.

Alaska authorities charged Downs in the 1993 sexual assault and killing of 20-year-old Sophie Sergie, whose body was found in a dorm bathtub at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

The 44-year-old Downs was a university student at the time. Sergie was a former student.

Alaska police zeroed in on Downs after DNA submitted by his aunt on a genealogical website was linked to DNA from the crime scene. Downs told investigators he recalled Sergie’s murder, but insisted he’d never met her.

[How genealogists helped track down the Maine man accused of killing Sophie Sergie nearly 26 years ago]

Trump appointees promoted nuclear sales to Saudis despite objections, House Democrats say

Tue, 2019-02-19 10:12

WASHINGTON - Several current and former Trump administration appointees promoted sales of nuclear power plants to Saudi Arabia despite repeated objections from members of the National Security Council and other senior White House officials, according to a new report from congressional Democrats.

FILE - In this Feb. 1, 2017 file photo, National Security Adviser Michael Flynn speaks during the daily news briefing at the White House, in Washington. The Democrat-led House oversight committee launched an investigation Tuesday into whether senior officials in President Donald Trump’s White House worked to transfer nuclear power technology to Saudi Arabia as part of a deal that would financially benefit prominent Trump supporters. The proposal was pushed by former National Security Adviser Michael Flynn, who was fired in early 2017, but it has remained under consideration by the Trump administration despite concerns from Democrats and Republicans that Saudi Arabia could develop nuclear weapons if the U.S. technology was transferred without proper safeguards. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster) (Carolyn Kaster/)

The officials who objected included White House lawyers and H.R. McMaster, then the chief of the National Security Council, according to the report, which cited documents obtained by the committee and accounts of unnamed whistleblowers. The officials called for a halt in the nuclear sales discussions in 2017, citing potential conflicts of interest, national security risks and legal hurdles.

But the effort to promote nuclear sales persisted, led by retired Lt. Gen. Michael Flynn, who served briefly as President Donald Trump's national security adviser, and more recently by Energy Secretary Rick Perry. The possible nuclear power sale was discussed in the Oval Office as recently as last week.

Details about these internal White House battles are contained in a 24-page report released Tuesday morning by House Oversight and Reform Committee Chairman Elijah Cummings, D-Md. It said the unnamed whistleblowers inside the White House came forward because they were distressed at the continued effort to sell the power plants.

Committee Republicans said Tuesday they were not included in the drafting of the detailed report and had not received a copy until Monday night. They said they had not had a chance to fully assess it.

"This is a delicate and nuanced issue that Chairman Cummings is approaching without bipartisan input and with far flung requests for information," Charli Huddleston, a spokeswoman for Republicans on the committee, said in a statement.

The report includes a wide range of allegations and suggests the involvement of a long list of high-profile people in Trump's orbit.

The White House did not immediately respond to requests for comment Tuesday.

The report's release comes as Saudi-U.S. relations reach a particularly difficult moment. Following the death of Washington Post contributing columnist Jamal Khashoggi, Congress has expressed reluctance to continue with a business-as-usual relationship with Riyadh.

The Trump White House has balked at endorsing intelligence reports suggesting that Saudi Arabia's Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman was involved in the killing.

The Cummings report notes that one of the power plant manufacturers that could benefit from a nuclear deal, Westinghouse Electric, is a subsidiary of Brookfield Asset Management, the company that provided financial relief to the family of Jared Kushner, the president's son-in-law and senior adviser. Brookfield Asset Management took a 99-year lease on the family's deeply indebted New York City property at 666 Fifth Avenue.

"Multiple whistleblowers came forward to warn about efforts inside the White House to rush the transfer of highly sensitive U.S. nuclear technology to Saudi Arabia in potential violation of the Atomic Energy Act and without review by Congress as required by law - efforts that may be ongoing to this day," the report says.

The whistleblowers also "warned about a working environment inside the White House marked by chaos, dysfunction and backbiting. They noted that White House political appointees repeatedly ignored directives from top ethics advisers who repeatedly - but unsuccessfully - "ordered senior White House officials to halt their efforts."

The Oversight Committee report, which focuses on the first three months of the Trump presidency, may have special relevance this week as Kushner prepares for a trip to the Middle East.

The Dunleavy disaster

Tue, 2019-02-19 09:56

Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy speaks to reporters as his administration rolls out his budget plan in Juneau, Alaska, Wednesday, Feb. 13, 2019. Gov. Dunleavy's budget proposal includes deep cuts to public education, the university system, Medicaid and Alaska's ferry system. The budget plan also eliminates state support for public broadcasting and proposes changes in petroleum property tax collections that will benefit the state but affect areas like the North Slope Borough. The director of Dunleavy's budget office, Donna Arduin, is pictured on right. (AP Photo/Becky Bohrer) (Becky Bohrer/)

The proposed budget recently released by the Dunleavy administration reflects a stunning level of ignorance about the realities of Alaska history, geography, politics and economics. It is a preposterous proposal, maybe the single worst policy pronouncement to ever come out of the mouth of an Alaska governor dating back to 1884, and we have had our share of bad governors. This is ludicrous speed all the way, demonstrating a gross misunderstanding of the hard realities of Alaska life.

The budget could hardly be any more ridiculous if it repealed the law of gravity, required all clocks to run backwards and ordered the spoon to run away with the moon.

Dunleavy’s chief architect of the proposal, Donna Arduin, is just-off-the-plane from the Lower 48, the type of tourist surprised to learn we use American dollars, who doesn’t know the difference between Seward and the Seward Peninsula, and wants to see the aurora in the summertime. She has only been here for two months and is already proposing the elimination of public institutions and programs that for generations — long before Prudhoe Bay — have been fundamental to our social, political and economic infrastructure. What cannot be overstated is the radical nature of the administration’s outlandishly incompetent recommendations. It’s as if a cadre of right-wing Bolsheviks from the Third World have taken over the third floor of the state capitol, intent on the destruction of the 49th state.

These enormous cuts all seem to have been made with a laziness and lack of curiosity and concern about the people of our state that is beyond belief. The best metaphor I have heard so far is that the governor’s team learned the lazy man’s way from the Walter Sobchak School of zero-based budgeting: No matter what department, the answer is always the same: “Mark it zero!”

Ignorance of historical Alaska conditions is baked into virtually every aspect of the Dunleavy budget. Most of all it fails to acknowledge what most Alaskans instinctively know, which is that by necessity, things are done differently here. With our relatively small population spread across an area twice the size of Texas — or the size of Texas, California and Montana combined — rules made for the Lower 48 don’t apply. We have unique and costly challenges built into our state’s history and geography that are never going to fit the national norm.

For example, take roads and transportation. We have the least developed and most costly transportation infrastructure among the 50 states, and that means what works in Michigan and Illinois, where Arduin comes from, is impossible here. Are there any communities in any of the Other 49 not on a road system of some sort? We have hundreds of such examples. In Illinois, the Chicago metropolitan area alone has about ten times as many miles of paved roads as the entire state of Alaska.

When Alaska achieved statehood in 1959, the genuine fear was that a state with so many square miles and so few roads, industries and people would never be able to support the cost of state government, and that was why the statehood act includes extra provisions that let Alaska enter the Union under the most generous terms imaginable. Alaska was, from the beginning, a different kind of state, where the state government would by design and necessity always have to play an oversized role. It was not socialism, but by careful intention it was not pure capitalism either. This was what Wally Hickel called the “Alaska Solution,” where the state government would manage the resources owned in common by all of the people through their state government, and use the proceeds to pay the extra costs inherent in such a difficult environment to build a state. The Permanent Fund and the Permanent Fund dividend program are just two examples of this unique arrangement, which has never existed anywhere else in the United States.

By some measures, the discovery of oil made Alaska the richest state in the history of the United States, so much so that no individuals in Alaska have paid any individual state taxes for almost 40 years now — not a single penny. This incredible run of good fortune, exemplified by the PFD program — the costliest part of the annual state budget — has disguised the fragile nature and narrow base of the underlying Alaskan economy. Those who don’t know the history of Alaska, as appears to be the case with the governor and his entire team, fail to understand the irreplaceable role of the state government in making our state viable. Apparently Dunleavy can see nothing but dividends, a gross neglect of his responsibilities as governor.

Unlike normal budget proposals, the Dunleavy-Arduin plan is so unrealistic it is not in any way a rational basis to start negotiations. Like arguing with a Holocaust denier or a flat-Earther, debating the Dunleavy plan is a hopeless dead end. We cannot be held hostage by this nonsense. Even pretending the Dunleavy budget has some value distorts the situation irreparably — as if, for example, keeping half of the state ferry system, instead of abolishing it almost entirely as the governor recommends, would be some kind of grand concession, or thinking the University of Alaska will be fortunate if it shuts down only one campus instead of two.

The Legislature, in order to fulfill its constitutional role as an equal branch of government, must disregard the entire document and come together to start building a genuine budget on its own. Legislators not up to the challenge need to follow the proverbial instructions to get out of the way, lest they be accomplices in this Dunleavy disaster.

Terrence Cole has written five books about Alaska history and is an emeritus professor of History and Arctic and Northern Studies at the University of Alaska Fairbanks.

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.

Ruth Bader Ginsburg back on bench as Supreme Court resumes hearings

Tue, 2019-02-19 09:32

WASHINGTON - Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg was back on the bench Tuesday for the first time since her recent cancer surgery as the Supreme Court returned from its winter break and resumed hearing cases.

FILE - In this Nov. 30, 2018 file photo, Associate Justice Ruth Bader Ginsburg sits with fellow Supreme Court justices for a group portrait at the Supreme Court Building in Washington. Ginsburg has missed a month of Supreme Court arguments as she recovers from lung cancer surgery. But she’s not the first justice to be away for a while and her absence hardly compares with those of some of her predecessors. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) (J. Scott Applewhite/)

Ginsburg, 85, was the first justice to ask a question during the oral arguments in a case centering on whether the government could be considered a “person” able to challenge a patent. Just a minute after the arguments began, she asked the attorney for the company challenging the government a question clarifying its position. She asked a second question five minutes later.

For much of the time, Ginsburg remained still as her colleagues alternately leaned back in their seats, swiveled in place or rubbed their faces. Her head slightly bowed, she peered out over the court and appeared focused on the arguments. During the government's response, she asked three more questions.

She entered and left the courtroom without any assistance. Her appearance seemed to be the main attraction for some of the journalists who gathered into the crowded courtroom; two quickly left once she had appeared and asked her first question.

Ginsburg participated in a private conference Friday with her colleagues as they considered which cases to accept for review, said court spokeswoman Kathleen Arberg.

Ginsburg missed January arguments after undergoing a pulmonary lobectomy Dec. 21 to remove two malignant nodules from her left lung. It was the first time the justice had missed oral arguments since she joined the court in 1993, even though she has had two bouts with cancer in that time.

The justice's nearly two-month absence was about what most cancer specialists say should be expected of a person recovering from such a serious operation.

During the court's hearings in January, Ginsburg worked from home reviewing briefings and arguments in the January cases, and Chief Justice John G. Roberts Jr. said she would participate in deciding them.

She has also been involved in previous private conferences, and was part of the majority when the court granted an emergency order blocking implementation of a restrictive Louisiana abortion law.

Other justices in the past have missed time on the bench because of illness, but none has had the heightened scrutiny of social media. Conspiracy theories about Ginsburg have proliferated on fringe right-wing websites, with some demanding to see "proof of life."

Ginsburg attended a concert about her life sponsored by the National Constitution Center in Washington on Feb. 4, but those suspicious about her said they did not believe media reports about her appearance.

It is not uncommon for justices to participate in deciding cases when they have not attended oral argument.

The most recent example was when Chief Justice William H. Rehnquist missed considerable time as he battled thyroid cancer. He missed more than 40 oral arguments, and Justice John Paul Stevens presided over the court while he was gone.

Rehnquist helped decide most of those cases, and returned to the bench for the end of the term. He died on Sept. 30, 2005. President George W. Bush nominated Roberts as his replacement.

In a pulmonary lobectomy, a lobe of the lung is completely removed. The right lung has three lobes, the left has two.

Ginsburg was treated for colorectal cancer in 1999, and pancreatic cancer was discovered at a very early stage 10 years later. She scheduled treatment for both during the court's off days, and did not miss a day of oral argument.

She has also suffered broken ribs, several times, including last November after a fall in her chambers. That actually turned out to be lucky, as it was during treatment for that injury that the malignant modules were discovered.

Ginsburg has said repeatedly in interviews that she will continue in her role on the court as long as she feels she is able to do the job. She has hired law clerks through the 2020 term.

Her liberal supporters hope that she remains, partly to deny President Donald Trump a chance to nominate a third Supreme Court justices. Justices Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh were his first two choices.

Sea World gondola ride turns into harrowing, hours-long ordeal for 16 passengers

Tue, 2019-02-19 09:18

In this photo provided by Kasia Gregorczyk, more than a dozen people are trapped on a ride at SeaWorld Monday, Feb. 18, 2019, in San Diego. San Diego police tell FOX5 News that around six gondolas stopped functioning Monday night after a big gust of wind tripped a circuit breaker on "Bayside Skyride." (Kasia Gregorczyk via AP) (Kasia Gregorczyk/)

Sixteen passengers, including a baby, were rescued after spending four hours trapped inside a stalled SeaWorld gondola ride Monday night.

The San Diego Fire Department responded to a startling scene at Mission Bay around 7:20 p.m. A gust of wind halted the Bayside Skyride, leaving several gondolas suspended midair, above the water, and requiring harnesses and life boats to safely remove the passengers.

The fire department announced that firefighters from its Technical Rescue Team removed 16 people from five gondolas. Of the 16, were seven children, including a baby, according to KSWB in San Diego. The San Diego Police Department did not return a request for comment, but KSWB reported that the gust of wind tripped the circuit breaker.

Jonathan Sherr was riding one of the gondolas with his 15-year-old son when it stalled.

“I looked up at the cable, and right when I was looking up at the cable shaking violently, we just stopped,” he told KNSD in San Diego, adding that there was little communication between SeaWorld and the trapped passengers during the first hour of the ordeal.

Twelve-year-old Kimberly Sanchez told the TV station that she also took note of the severe wind conditions when boarding the ride.

"I don't know even why SeaWorld had the thing open," she said. "They should've just told us to walk out because it was windy, we could've fallen off, something could've happened. And something did!"

SEAWORLD RESCUE UPDATE: All 16 persons trapped in the gondola ride are safe on the ground. Great job by our Technical Rescue Team firefighters, @SDLifeguards & support staff.

— SDFD (@SDFD) February 19, 2019

The rescue mission lasted more than four hours, according to the San Diego Fire-Rescue Department. The department’s official Twitter account reported that by 11:30 p.m., “all 16 people trapped in the gondola ride are safe on the ground.”

"Guest safety is paramount," SeaWorld said in a statement Monday, according to KNSD; the company did not respond to a request for comment by The Washington Post. "Once our guests are cared for, we will conduct a thorough inspection of the ride before reopening. We apologize for the inconvenience this has caused the guests."

The statement also mentioned that there were blankets aboard each gondola. At the time of the rescue mission, the National Weather Service said it was approximately 50 degrees in San Diego.

SeaWorld will begin an inspection of the ride Tuesday, David Koontz, the park’s communications director told The Washington Post in an email. It does not yet know when the Bayside Skyride will reopen.

“We are happy that all 16 SeaWorld guests were safely removed from the ride and we applaud San Diego Fire & Rescue and San Diego Lifeguards for the professionalism during the evacuation operation,” he said.

McCabe: ‘No one objected’ when he told lawmakers about investigating Trump

Tue, 2019-02-19 09:07

WASHINGTON - Former acting FBI Director Andrew McCabe said Tuesday that officials briefed a bipartisan group of lawmakers after the bureau opened an investigation into President Donald Trump in May 2017, and that no one in the room pushed back.

FBI Acting Director Andrew McCabe speaks during a news conference at the Justice Department in Washington, July 20, 2017. (Aaron P. Bernstein / Reuters file) (Aaron Bernstein/)

“That’s the important part here, Savannah,” McCabe said in an interview with Savannah Guthrie on NBC’s “Today” show. “No one objected. Not on legal grounds, not on constitutional grounds and not based on the facts.”

The comments seemed designed to rebut criticism that McCabe has faced from Trump and other Republicans for initiating the investigation into Trump and participating in conversations about other, more dramatic steps against the president. McCabe told CBS' "60 Minutes" over the weekend that Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein talked with him about wearing a wire to surreptitiously record the president, or using the 25th Amendment to oust him - prompting a strong, negative reaction from Trump and his GOP allies. Rosenstein has vaguely disputed McCabe's description of those conversations.

"Treason!" Trump wrote Monday night on Twitter, after apparently quoting from a segment on Sean Hannity's television show about McCabe.

The briefing, McCabe said, was with the Gang of Eight - a bipartisan group of lawmakers comprising the Democratic and Republican leaders of the House and Senate, as well as the leaders from both parties of the House and Senate intelligence committees.

McCabe - who is in the middle of a media tour promoting his new book, "The Threat" - told Guthrie the FBI felt it had good reason to investigate Trump in May 2017 after he fired James Comey as the bureau's director. He said the bureau thought it was "possible" that Trump was working on behalf of Russia, and opening a case signified that the FBI was treating the matter as a national security threat.

"It is saying that we had information that led us to believe that there might be a threat to national security - in this case that the president himself might, in fact, be a threat to the United States' national security," McCabe said.

McCabe, who has long been a target of criticism from Trump, was fired from the FBI in March 2018, after the Justice Department's inspector general alleged he lied repeatedly to investigators exploring a media disclosure. McCabe has said he believes he was fired because he opened the investigation into Trump. He told Guthrie that he plans to sue the Justice Department over his dismissal - although he did not specifically address the evidence that the inspector general detailed against him.

On Tuesday, Trump again lashed out at McCabe - though he took aim not at McCabe's comments about the Russia investigation, but instead his separate assertion that Trump commented negatively on McCabe's wife's unsuccessful run for a state senate seat in Virginia. Trump has repeatedly noted that Jill McCabe took money from the group of a prominent supporter of Hillary Clinton, and Andrew McCabe alleged in his book that Trump told him in a conversation his wife's loss "must have been really tough."

"To lose," Trump said, according to McCabe's account. "To be a loser."

In a tweet Tuesday, Trump wrote, "I never said anything bad about Andrew McCabe's wife other than she (they) should not have taken large amounts of campaign money from a Crooked Hillary source when Clinton was under investigation by the FBI. I never called his wife a loser to him (another McCabe made up lie)!"

Asked on ABC’s “The View” about the president’s recent tweets about him, McCabe said, “The president has been lying about me and my family for the last two years.”

A hole in the ice, a chair to sit on, a book to read - ice fishing is stress-free fun

Tue, 2019-02-19 08:36

Christine Cunningham holds up a rainbow trout caught on a Kenai Peninsula lake. Behind her is an ice house left behind by other anglers. (Photo by Steve Meyer) (Steve A. Meyer/)

Sitting on the ice with my short jigging rod is the perfect place for focused meditation. The movement of the rod produces a lulling effect like counting sheep, but instead of causing me to nod off – although that has happened – I am alert to the slightest changes in the water below.

The particular hole I fished only yielded about 5 feet of water. Unlike Steve, who drills multiple holes to “find the fish,” I pick one spot and set up “house.” My beloved green pop-up shanty is 10 years old and smells fishy. It has off-green patches, replaced multicolored rods and at least one window with a missing square of plastic to allow a breeze to come through.

I turned on the propane heater and tucked a good book in the side pocket of the tent. Ice fishing makes me feel 5 years old and 80 years old at the same time. It’s easy to learn and hard to forget. It can be as simple as drilling a hole and sitting on a bucket, spending time around a fire on the lake with friends and family, or spending a day alone in a tiny house on skids with a television.

This year, I entered in the Soldotna Trustworthy Ice Fishing Derby after taking several years off. The derby brings another childlike aspect to fishing. I might get my name on the board or win a prize for my fish. Bringing your fish in to get weighed is a chance to see the cute kids with their Minnow Division catches and get firsthand reports of fishing across the Kenai Peninsula.

I never took my book out of the pocket. The small amount of water gave away the fact that fish were moving beneath the ice. The water level in my hole moved periodically, and I sat on the edge of my seat as I felt my lure bump fish or the pulse of near misses.

Rainbows are my favorite fish to catch through the ice. More than any other species, they seem to stalk the lure. Before almost every bite, I have felt the fish either move my lure or pass it in the water.

Some of my thinking tends toward fish fiction. Just to be sure there were real fish below, I covered all of the windows in my shanty and lay out on the ice to peer down the hole. Yes, there are underwater cameras for this sort of curiosity. And they help figure out what is below before you drop your line. I was too late for that kind of help.

Several big rainbows lolled in the water beneath me. I jigged my lure and watched their reactions, which ranged from disinterest to repulsion. Maybe I had lulled them to sleep.

I changed my jigging pattern but not my lure. While Steve might switch lures if one isn’t producing results, I stick to one. As much as I prefer one spot, my single-mindedness includes a favorite lure. If it doesn’t work, I read a book to pass the time while I jig. Obstinance only works as a fishing strategy if employed over an extended amount of time.

Fortunately, I have been lucky to catch as many fish as Steve has by using what I’ve learned about being lost in the woods (stay put). There have been times he has caught more fish switching lures and drilling as many holes as it takes. He has also managed to navigate us out of the woods.

After 15 years of fishing together, I trust my lucky lure and the zen-like peace of an easy day tucked away in my shanty. I sat back down in my camp chair and reached for a snack – a surefire ice-fishing tactic.

The water in my hole began to slosh, and I continued to jig, dropping my lucky snack and holding the rod with both hands. My lure felt heavy, and so I reeled up. The fish had knocked my 1-ounce spoon over the hook. I shook it loose and sent my tackle back down to the same spot.

I have lost plenty of fish on the bottom edge of the ice when fishing in shallow water. When I set the hook, it catches the rim, setting the fish free.

I steered my line to the center of the hole. The water surged just as my rod tip slammed down. I stood up and kept my line tight but didn’t reel. This isn’t open water, I told myself. You’ve got that edge to worry about, and the fish is 5 feet of line below a chunk of ice. Just line it up and pull it out.

Down the hole, the fish swirled, and its colors lit up the ice in a magnified silver and purple. It wasn’t a big fish by Kenai River – or derby – standards, but it was a dinner-sized fish. When the rainbow’s head centered in the hole, I brought it up.

It shook, and worms flew across the inside of my shanty. That’s a gross reality I tend to forget about fish in the Swanson River drainage. They sure have a lot of worms. I bonked the fish and called out to Steve.

He was across the lake, and after I made the trek to show him my fish, I saw he had found a structure built of ice blocks and abandoned by another party.

Inside the personal-size ice house was the best of two worlds – indoor and out. The light came through the enclosed space that evoked what my old shanty did – the childhood tree fort, the shelter hand-built in the woods, the duck blind of weaved grass cared for over time.

After years of ice fishing the same lakes, I realized no matter how you go about it – exploring the lake in the midday sun or relaxing with a book in a tiny hut -- the individual effort has a value all its own.

Ice fishing is my favorite kind of fishing because it’s not as serious as other types. It’s easy to do on your own – it’s for the kids and for grumpy old men. There is less pressure for it to be anything but what you make it. It takes you to those vibrant years of youth and old age in which each moment is less obligated and more yours.

It’s pure winter fun.

Mexican national dies in Border Patrol custody

Tue, 2019-02-19 05:45

A 45-year-old Mexican national detained by U.S. Customs and Border Protection died Monday at a medical facility in McAllen, Texas, after twice seeking medical attention, the agency reported.

The fatality followed the deaths in December of two migrant children in government custody, which prompted a vow from CBP to conduct health checks on all children in its "care and custody," as the agency's commissioner, Kevin McAleenan, said at the time. The fate of those two children, both from Guatemala, renewed concerns about the "zero-tolerance" immigration policy pursued by President Donald Trump.

Another death is likely to raise fresh questions for the border control organization at the forefront of that policy, especially as the president crusades for a wall at the southern border. Trump's critics point to a humanitarian crisis fomented by his own hard-line approach, rather than a crisis of illegal entries that he falsely claims is overwhelming the southwestern United States.

According to a statement Monday from the agency, the unnamed adult was apprehended on Feb. 2 for "illegal reentry," which means the individual had tried to enter the country at least once before. The migrant came into contact with authorities near a port of entry in Roma, Texas, about 50 miles northwest of McAllen.

The detainee requested medical attention and was transported to a hospital in Mission, Texas, adjacent to McAllen. The same day, the individual was cleared to travel and sent back to a CBP station in Rio Grande City, close to Roma.

On Feb. 3, the detainee again requested medical attention, and, according to CBP, was transported to the McAllen Medical Center "shortly thereafter." The Mexican national was diagnosed with cirrhosis of the liver and congestive heart failure and remained at the 441-bed hospital from Feb. 3 until dying just before 9 a.m. Monday.

The official cause of death was unknown. The border control agency said its Office of Professional Responsibility was conducting a review. It had also notified the Department of Homeland Security's inspector general, responsible for oversight of the department, as well as Congress and the Mexican government.

"This loss of life is tragic," Andrew Meehan, a CBP spokesman, said in the news release. "Our condolences go out to the family and loved ones. CBP remains committed to ensuring the safe and humane treatment of those within the care of our custody."

As of last month, when NBC News published a review of audits and other government reports, at least 22 immigrants had died in American detention centers over the previous two years.

In the same period, the DHS's Office of Inspector General issued numerous warnings about improper care at detention centers maintained by Immigration and Customs Enforcement, which receives migrants once they are processed at border facilities. A report released in December 2017 identified "problems that undermine the protection of detainees' rights, their humane treatment, and the provision of a safe and healthy environment." Earlier that year, the oversight office found that ICE agents were not always recording and promptly reporting instances in which detainees had been separated because of mental health problems.

The December deaths of 7-year-old Jakelin Caal and 8-year-old Felipe Gomez Alonzo came amid record-breaking numbers of families seeking entry to the United States. Holding cells filled up as Trump promised an end to a policy he calls "catch and release."

Meanwhile, facilities designed for single men proved inadequate for a more diverse population of migrants and asylum seekers, illustrated by a rash of illnesses at the end of last year. Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen said the immigration system had reached a "breaking point," advising those planning border crossings to desist. But advocates for immigrants warn that new barriers will only shift journeys to more remote and dangerous locations.

The budget compromise reached by lawmakers last week includes $415 million for humanitarian needs at the border, including medical care and transportation. That figure is significantly lower than the $800 million sought by Nielsen.

Bernie Sanders will seek the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020

Tue, 2019-02-19 05:30

Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont, whose 2016 presidential campaign grew from a left-wing insurgency to a force that reshaped the Democratic Party, announced Tuesday that he will seek its nomination for president again in 2020.

FILE - In this Nov. 27, 2018, file photo, Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., speaks about his new book, 'Where We Go From Here: Two Years in the Resistance', at a George Washington University/Politics and Prose event in Washington. Sanders, whose insurgent 2016 presidential campaign reshaped Democratic politics, announced Tuesday, Feb. 19, 2019 that he is running for president in 2020. (AP Photo/Alex Brandon, File) (Alex Brandon/)

Sanders wrote in an email sent to supporters Tuesday that he was building “an unprecedented and historic grassroots campaign” that would draw on people across the country.

"Our campaign is not only about defeating Donald Trump, the most dangerous president in modern American history. It is not only about winning the Democratic nomination and the general election," he wrote. "Our campaign is about transforming our country and creating a government based on the principles of economic, social, racial and environmental justice."

The senator, an independent, cited health care, climate change, student debt, the "demonization" of undocumented immigrants, income inequality, gun violence and the myriad problems of America's needy as propelling him into his second presidential contest.

In a video released Tuesday morning, Sanders calls President Trump "the most dangerous president in modern American history."

"I think the current occupant of the White House is an embarrassment to our country," Sanders said in an interview with Vermont Public Radio, where he first announced his bid. "I think he is a pathological liar. ... I also think he is a racist, a sexist, a homophobe, a xenophobe, somebody who is gaining cheap political points by trying to pick on minorities, often undocumented immigrants."

Sanders, who has held dozens of political rallies across the country since the 2016 election, enters the race with the biggest social media following - and biggest mailing list - of any candidate for the Democratic nomination. His decision came after a number of groups that spun out from his 2016 run, such as Our Revolution and People for Bernie, held house parties to mobilize his old supporters, and to find new ones.

After coming a few hundred delegates short of victory in 2016, Sanders begins a 2020 race with some advantages. He is one of the best-known and most admired figures in Democratic politics, though he is not a member of the party. He built campaign operations in every primary and caucus state.

But unlike Hillary Clinton, who recovered from her 2008 primary defeat to become the party's front-runner in 2016, Sanders has not built on his support from the prior campaign. In early polls of Iowa and New Hampshire, where he won 50 percent and 60 percent of the vote, support for the senator from Vermont has ranged from the low teens to 30 percent.

Two Democrats who endorsed him in 2016, Rep. Tulsi Gabbard, D-Hawaii, and author Marianne Williamson, have themselves entered the race; a third, Sen. Jeff Merkley, D-Ore., is considering a bid. Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., who has long been a friend of Sanders and shared an overlapping network of supporters, announced her campaign on New Year's Eve. And some strategists and endorsers who helped Sanders in 2016 have already moved to other campaigns.

Sanders also faces a crowded and liberal-leaning field of candidates that bears little resemblance to the lengthy two-way race with Clinton. Most of the Democrats currently seeking the nomination back Sanders's signature legislation to turn Medicare into a universal health-care plan, and to raise the federal minimum wage to $15.

"There are some really good people who have announced, and they're friends of mine," Sanders told The Washington Post last month. "My views are maybe a little bit different."

Both Sanders and Trump in 2016 argued that Americans were suffering from a rigged economy and that chunks of the country had been forgotten as Wall Street and other elites prospered. Sanders bridled at such comparisons in 2016, and on Tuesday upbraided the president in stark terms.

"You know as well as I do that we are living in a pivotal and dangerous moment in American history," he wrote. "We are running against a president who is a pathological liar, a fraud, a racist, a sexist, a xenophobe and someone who is undermining American democracy as he leads us in an authoritarian direction. I'm running for president because, now more than ever, we need leadership that brings us together - not divides us up."

Sanders's successes in 2016 capped an unlikely political ascent. He ran for multiple offices in Vermont before a stunning 1981 upset that made him mayor of Burlington, the state's largest city.

In office, Sanders became the best-known democratic socialist in American politics, bringing new development to the city while building ties to international left-wing movements. In 1990, he won the state's sole seat in the House of Representatives, as an independent, after Democrats did not field a candidate of their own - an understanding that would continue through seven more House campaigns and three for the Senate.

Despite that, Sanders was not viewed as a first-tier challenger to Clinton when his 2016 bid began. Liberal groups had launched efforts to draft Warren, although she chose not to run. When he announced his campaign, Sanders parried away questions about poll numbers that showed Clinton 40 or 50 points ahead, saying he was "in this race to win," and battling the impression of a fringe candidacy.

To Clinton's surprise, Sanders's campaign caught fire. By the summer of 2015, he was regularly speaking to crowds numbering in the thousands or tens of thousands. He stuck to the issues that animated him: universal health care, free college tuition and higher taxes on the rich. After several speeches were disrupted by protesters, he began speaking more about criminal justice reform and an end to the war on drugs.

"We can live in a country where every person has health care as a right, not a privilege," Sanders said on the trail, words he repeated in Tuesday's presidential announcement.

As Sanders's last campaign surged, neither candidate was comfortable making personal attacks. Sanders refused to talk about the investigation of Clinton's use of a private email server while at the State Department, focusing instead on whether Clinton was too close to Wall Street; Clinton accused Sanders of making unrealistic promises, warning that his agenda would lose in a general election.

Sanders nonetheless won more than 13 million votes and consistently trounced Clinton among voters under 30. While the senator later endorsed Clinton and campaigned for her, some of his supporters walked out of the 2016 Democratic National Convention, and Republicans used social media to urge Sanders's voters to cast protest votes or embrace Trump as the real change candidate.

"His attacks caused lasting damage, making it harder to unify progressives in the general election and paving the way for Trump's 'Crooked Hillary' campaign," Clinton wrote in her 2017 campaign memoir.

Clinton's surprise defeat left Democrats leaderless. Sanders, who had never actually joined the party, began to take a bigger role in shaping it. He joined the Senate Democratic leadership for the first time, and held dozens of rallies around the country - some alongside Democratic National Committee Chairman Tom Perez - to build opposition to the Republican agenda.

Sanders also began recrafting and reintroducing ambitious bills to enact his agenda, starting with "Medicare-for-all" legislation that was co-sponsored, for the first time, by more than a dozen colleagues. Through much of 2018, he worked with Sen. Mike Lee, R-Utah, and Sen. Chris Murphy, D-Conn., to pass a war powers resolution to end America's involvement in the Saudi bombing of Yemen.

If successful, Sanders, 77, would also be the oldest nominee ever put forward by a major political party.

- - -

The Washington Post’s John Wagner contributed to this report.