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Seattle clearing ‘occupied’ area amid protester resistance

Wed, 2020-07-01 05:54

Protesters stand on barricades a block away as Seattle Department of Transportation workers remove other barricades at the intersection of 10th Ave. and Pine St., Tuesday, June 30, 2020 at the CHOP (Capitol Hill Occupied Protest) zone in Seattle. Protesters quickly moved couches, trash cans and other materials in to replace the cleared barricades. The area has been occupied by protesters since Seattle Police pulled back from their East Precinct building following violent clashes with demonstrators earlier in the month. (AP Photo/Ted S. Warren) (Ted S. Warren/)

SEATTLE — Seattle police early Wednesday showed up in force at the city’s “occupied” protest zone, tore down demonstrators’ tents and used bicycles to herd the protesters so the officers could carry out an executive order from the mayor for the area to be vacated.

Television images showed no immediate signs of clashes between the police, many dressed in riot gear, and dozens of protesters at the “Capitol Hill Occupied Protest” zone that was set up near downtown following the police killing of George Floyd in Minneapolis.

Police moved in to the zone known as CHOP at about 5 a.m. and a loud bang was heard at about 6:15 a.m. followed by a cloud of smoke. KUOW radio reported police had made at least 10 arrests by 5:30 a.m.

The protesters have occupied several blocks around a park for about two weeks and police had abandoned a precinct station following standoffs and clashes with the protesters, who called for racial justice and an end to police brutality.

Police on Wednesday said they moved in to protect the public after Mayor Jenny Durkan issued the order for protesters to leave.

“Since demonstrations at the East Precinct area began on June 8th, two teenagers have been killed and three people have been seriously wounded in late-night shootings,” Seattle police said on Twitter. “Police have also documented robberies, assaults, and other violent crimes.

The tweet added that “suspects in recent shootings may still be in the area, and because numerous people in the area are in possession of firearms.”

Seattle Police Chief Carmen Best said in statement that she supports peaceful demonstrations but that “enough is enough.”

“The CHOP has become lawless and brutal. Four shootings–-two fatal—robberies, assaults, violence and countless property crimes have occurred in this several block area,” she said.

There had been mounting calls by critics, including President Donald Trump, to remove protesters following the fatal shootings.

Protesters have said they should not be blamed for the violence in the area.

Republicans, with exception of Trump, now push mask-wearing

Tue, 2020-06-30 20:31

FILE - In this June 17, 2020, file photo, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Ky., leaves a news conference on Capitol Hill in Washington. For more than three years, President Donald Trump instilled such fear in the Republican Party's leaders that most kept criticism of his turbulent leadership or inconsistent politics to themselves. That's beginning to change. While Trump avoids wearing a mask in public, McConnell said facial coverings are “really important” until a vaccine is found. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik, File) (Andrew Harnik/)

WASHINGTON — In Republican circles -- with the notable exception of the man who leads the party -- the debate about masks is over: It’s time to put one on.

As a surge of infections hammers the South and West, GOP officials are pushing back against the notion that masks are about politics, as President Donald Trump suggests, and telling Americans they can help save lives.

Sen. Lamar Alexander, a Tennessee Republican, on Tuesday bluntly called on Trump to start wearing a mask, at least some of the time, to set a good example.

"Unfortunately, this simple, lifesaving practice has become part of a political debate that says: If you're for Trump, you don't wear a mask. If you're against Trump, you do," Alexander said.

It's a rare break for Republicans from Trump, who earlier this month told the Wall Street Journal that some people wear masks simply to show that they disapprove of him. And the Republican nudges for the public -- and the president -- to embrace mask-wearing are coming from all corners of Trump's party and even from friendly conservative media.

Both Vice President Mike Pence and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell in recent days have urged Americans to wear one when they are unable to maintain social distance. Sen. Mitt Romney, a Utah Republican, told reporters it would be "very helpful" for Trump to encourage mask usage.

"Put on a mask -- it's not complicated," McConnell, R-Ky., urged Americans during his weekly news conference Tuesday.

Last week, Republican Rep. Liz Cheney of Wyoming tweeted a photo of her father, former Vice President Dick Cheney, wearing a disposable mask and a cowboy hat. She included the message: "Dick Cheney says WEAR A MASK #realmenwearmasks," a hashtag that echoed words spoken earlier by the Democratic House Speaker Nancy Pelosi.

Steve Doocy, co-host of a Trump friendly morning show "Fox & Friends," said during an interview with House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy that he doesn't "see any downside in the president being seen more often wearing it."

McCarthy, R-Calif., responded that, for the upcoming holiday, "we could all show our patriotism with a red, white and blue mask."

Jacksonville, the Florida city where Trump is scheduled to accept his renomination as Republicans' presidential candidate in August, announced a mask requirement for indoor public spaces this week. The president's eldest son said the new requirements were no big deal.

"You know, I don't think that it's too complicated to wear a mask or wash your hands and follow basic hygiene protocols," Donald Trump Jr. told Fox Business on Tuesday.

Trump aides have defended the president's refusal to wear a mask by noting that he is regularly tested for the coronavirus, as are his aides. Those outside the administration -- including White House visitors and members of the media who are in close proximity to him and Pence -- are also tested.

White House press secretary Kayleigh McEnany didn't directly address Republican calls for Trump to wear a mask in public more often, but noted that the president has said in the past he has no problem wearing one when necessary.

But even with safeguards, the virus has found its way into the White House. A top aide to Pence, as well as a military valet to Trump, in May tested positive for the virus.

Still, mask usage remains rare in the West Wing, said Rep. Brad Sherman, a California Democrat who attended an intelligence briefing at the White House on Tuesday with senior members of the president's staff.

At the briefing, which he said included about eight White House staffers, only national security adviser Robert O'Brien wore a mask, Sherman said. He added that no one in the secure briefing room was able to maintain 6 feet (1.8 meters) of social distancing, as recommended by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

"I learned something major, and that is the White House is a mask-free zone," Sherman told The Associated Press. "The president is consistent. He's fine with people not wearing masks."

Polls show how the partisan divide on masks has seeped into public opinion.

The vast majority of Democrats think people in their community should wear a mask when they are near other people in public places at least most of the time, including 63% who say they should always, according to a Pew Research Center poll published in early June. Among Republicans, 29% say masks should be worn always, and 23% say they should be worn most of the time. Another 23% say masks should rarely or never be worn.

Trump has been caught on camera once wearing a mask. But Pence and members of the White House coronavirus task force frequently appear in public wearing masks.

"If you want the return of college football this year, wear a face covering. If you want a chance at prom next spring, wear a face covering," Surgeon General Jerome Adams urged Americans.

Over the course of the crisis, the government has sent mixed messages on masks. As the first COVID-19 cases were identified on U.S. soil, top public health officials insisted masks should be reserved for front-line workers.

In early April, the CDC issued a recommendation that people wear cloth face coverings in public settings where other social distancing measures were difficult to maintain.

But Trump immediately undercut the CDC guidance by flatly stating that he wouldn't be following it, suggesting it would be unseemly for the commander in chief to wear one as he meets with heads of states.

Other world leaders, including Canada's Justin Trudeau and France's Emmanuel Macron, have worn masks in public and urged their citizens to do the same when they can't maintain social distance

Lawrence Gostin, a public health expert at Georgetown University, says he worries Republican calls for wearing masks "might be too late."

"The public has received such mixed messages from the administration," Gostin said. "I fear we may be stuck with coronavirus until it burns through the American population and leaves hundreds of thousands dead."


Associated Press writers Jill Colvin, Darlene Superville and Hannah Fingerhut in Washington contributed to this report.

Asian shares up after Wall St. closes best quarter since 1998

Tue, 2020-06-30 20:18

A woman wearing a mask passes a sign for Wall Street, Tuesday, June 30, 2020, during the coronavirus pandemic. (AP Photo/Mark Lennihan) (Mark Lennihan/)

TOKYO — Asian shares were mostly higher Wednesday after Wall Street capped its best quarter since 1998, shrugging off continued signs of global economic damage from the coronavirus pandemic.

Japan's benchmark Nikkei 225 slipped 0.2% to 22,187.27. South Korea's Kospi rose 1.0% to 2,130.14. Australia's S&P ASX 200 gained 0.9% to 5,953.50. Hong Kong's Hang Seng added 0.5% to 24,427.19, while the Shanghai Composite rose 0.3% to 2,993.60.

Markets have continued gaining despite signs global economies are ailing seriously because of the outbreak, with uncertainty still the new normal as reported cases keep surging around the world while no cure or vaccine for COVID-19 is available.

A quarterly Bank of Japan survey released Wednesday showed Japanese manufacturers' sentiment plunged to its lowest level in more than a decade, as the pandemic crushes exports and tourism, mainstays for the world's third largest economy.

The headline measure for the "tankan," tracking sentiment among large manufacturers, fell to minus 34, the lowest since 2009, from minus 8 the previous quarter. The tankan measures corporate sentiment by subtracting the number of companies saying business conditions are negative from those responding they are positive.

A survey showed China's manufacturing activity improved in June, adding to signs of a gradual recovery from the country's deepest economic downturn since at least the mid-1960s.

The monthly purchasing managers' index issued by a business magazine, Caixin, rose to 51.2 from May's 50.7 on a 100-point scale on which numbers above 50 indicate activity increasing. A sub-index for export orders rose to 47 from 41.7.

The Chinese economy has been recovering but only slowly since global demand for exports is weak and consumers and businesses inside China are wary of further outbreaks and other risks from the pandemic.

On Wall Street, the S&P 500 climbed 1.5%, bringing its gain for the quarter to nearly 20%. That rebound followed a 20% drop in the first three months of the year, the market's worst quarter since the 2008 financial crisis. The plunge came as the pandemic brought the economy to a halt and millions of people lost their jobs.

"It's the first time you've had back-to-back (quarters) like this since the 1930s," said Willie Delwiche, investment strategist at Baird. "It's pretty unprecedented."

The whiplash that ripped through markets in the second quarter came as investors looked beyond dire unemployment numbers and became increasingly hopeful that the economy can pull out of its severe, sudden recession relatively quickly.

Promises of massive amounts of aid from the Federal Reserve and Congress helped propel markets upward. Low interest rates generally push investors toward stocks and away from the low but less volatile returns from bonds, and the Federal Reserve has pinned short-term interest rates at a record low of nearly zero.

The hopes looked prescient after reports during the quarter showed that employers resumed hiring again and retail sales rebounded as governments relaxed lockdown orders.

But most of Wall Street says not to expect anything close to a repeat of the rocking second quarter. Rising infections have several states pausing their lifting of restrictions.

The surge in confirmed new cases, which has prompted the European Union to bar U.S. travelers from entry, is seeding doubts that the economic recovery can happen as quickly as markets had forecast. That helps explain why the market's momentum cooled somewhat in June.

On Tuesday Dr. Anthony Fauci, the nation's top infectious-disease expert, warned that the number of daily new reported infections could surge to 100,000 if Americans don't start following public health recommendations.

Beyond the coronavirus, analysts also point to the upcoming U.S. elections and other risks that could upset markets. If Democrats sweep Congress and the White House, which many investors see as at least possible, it could mean higher tax rates, which could weaken corporate profits.

The S&P 500 gained 47.05 points to 3,100.29 on Tuesday. The Dow Jones Industrial Average rose 0.9% to 25,812.88. The Nasdaq composite climbed 1.9%, to 10,058.77.

The quarter featured steady gains in technology stocks, which climbed 27.6%, second only to the consumer discretionary sector's 30.2% gain. Airlines and cruise operators traded wildly after being battered for much of the first quarter.

Apple, once again the most valuable company in the S&P 500, gained 43.5% for the second quarter, American Airlines climbed 7.2% for the quarter, while Royal Caribbean Cruises vaulted 56.4%. Still, they each remain down nearly 60% for the year.

Benchmark U.S. crude lost 56 cents to $39.83 a barrel. It slid 43 cents to $39.27 a barrel on Tuesday, still nearly double where it was at the end of the first quarter. Brent crude fell 56 cents to $41.15 a barrel.

The U.S. dollar fell to 107.82 Japanese yen from 107.93 yen. The euro rose to $1.1238 from $1.1236.


AP Business Writers Joe McDonald in Beijing, and Stan Choe, Alex Veiga and Damian J. Troise contributed.

With a pen stroke, Mississippi drops Confederate-themed flag

Tue, 2020-06-30 20:00

Mississippi Republican Gov. Tate Reeves signs the bill retiring the last state flag in the United States with the Confederate battle emblem, at the Governor's Mansion in Jackson, Miss., Tuesday, June 30, 2020. Family members are at left. Applauding are, from fifth from left, Sen. Angela Turner Ford, D-West Point; House Speaker Philip Gunn, R-Clinton; Reuben Anderson, former Mississippi Supreme Court Justice; Lt. Gov. Delbert Hosemann; and Transportation Commissioner for the Central District Willie Simmons. (AP Photo/Rogelio V. Solis, Pool) (Rogelio V. Solis/)

JACKSON, Miss. — With a stroke of the governor’s pen, Mississippi is retiring the last state flag in the U.S. with the Confederate battle emblem — a symbol that’s widely condemned as racist.

Republican Gov. Tate Reeves signed the historic bill Tuesday at the Governor's Mansion, immediately removing official status for the 126-year-old banner that has been a source of division for generations.

"This is not a political moment to me but a solemn occasion to lead our Mississippi family to come together, to be reconciled and to move on," Reeves said on live TV just before the signing. "We are a resilient people defined by our hospitality. We are a people of great faith. Now, more than ever, we must lean on that faith, put our divisions behind us, and unite for a greater good."

Mississippi has faced increasing pressure to change its flag since protests against racial injustice have focused attention on Confederate symbols in recent weeks.

A broad coalition of legislators on Sunday passed the landmark legislation to change the flag, capping a weekend of emotional debate and decades of effort by Black lawmakers and others who see the rebel emblem as a symbol of hatred.

Among the small group of dignitaries witnessing the bill signing were Reuben Anderson, who was the first African American justice on the Mississippi Supreme Court, serving from 1985 to 1991; Willie Simmons, a current state Transportation Commissioner who is the first African American elected to that job; and Reena Evers-Everette, daughter of civil rights icons Medgar and Myrlie Evers.

Medgar Evers, a Mississippi NAACP leader, was assassinated in the family's driveway in 1963. Myrlie Evers was national chairwoman of the NAACP in the mid-1990s and is still living.

"That Confederate symbol is not who Mississippi is now. It's not what it was in 1894, either, inclusive of all Mississippians," Evers-Everette said after the ceremony. "But now we're going to a place of total inclusion and unity with our hearts along with our thoughts and in our actions."

Reeves used several pens to sign the bill. As he completed the process, a cheer could be heard from people outside the Governor's Mansion who were watching the livestream broadcast on their phones. Reeves handed the pens to lawmakers and others who had worked on the issue.

The Confederate battle emblem has a red field topped by a blue X with 13 white stars. White supremacist legislators put it on the upper-left corner of the Mississippi flag in 1894, as white people were squelching political power that African Americans had gained after the Civil War.

Critics have said for generations that it's wrong for a state where 38% of the people are Black to have a flag marked by the Confederacy, particularly since the Ku Klux Klan and other hate groups have used the symbol to promote racist agendas.

Mississippi voters chose to keep the flag in a 2001 statewide election, with supporters saying they saw it as a symbol of Southern heritage. But since then, a growing number of cities and all the state's public universities have abandoned it.

Several Black legislators, and a few white ones, kept pushing for years to change it. After a white gunman who had posed with the Confederate flag killed Black worshipers at a South Carolina church in 2015, Mississippi's Republican speaker of the House, Philip Gunn, said his religious faith compelled him to say that Mississippi must purge the symbol from its flag.

The issue was still broadly considered too volatile for legislators to touch, until the police custody death of an African American man in Minneapolis, George Floyd, set off weeks of sustained protests against racial injustice, followed by calls to take down Confederate symbols.

A groundswell of young activists, college athletes and leaders from business, religion, education and sports called on Mississippi to make this change, finally providing the momentum for legislators to vote.

Before the bill signing Tuesday, state employees raised and lowered several of the flags on a pole outside the Capitol. The secretary of state's office sells flags for $20 each, and a spokeswoman said there has been a recent increase in requests.

During recent news conferences, Reeves refused to say whether he thought the Confederate-themed flag properly represents present-day Mississippi, sticking to a position he ran on last year, when he promised that if the flag design was going to be reconsidered, it would be done in another statewide election.

Now, a commission will design a new flag that cannot include the Confederate symbol and must have the words "In God We Trust." Voters will be asked to approve it in the Nov. 3 election. If they reject it, the commission will draft a different design using the same guidelines, to be sent to voters later.

Reeves said before signing over the flag's demise, "We are all Mississippians and we must all come together. What better way to do that than include 'In God We Trust' on our new state banner."

He added: "The people of Mississippi, black and white, and young and old, can be proud of a banner that puts our faith front and center. We can unite under it. We can move forward — together."


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As Fourth of July looms, governor urges Alaskans to mask up and keep their distance

Tue, 2020-06-30 19:48

Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy during a media briefing on Tuesday. (Screengrab from Facebook Live video)

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With the Fourth of July weekend coming up, Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy returned to the public stage to urge Alaskans to cover their faces in public and maintain social distance.

Alaska’s COVID-19 cases are surging, with small outbreaks around the state. The state on Tuesday reported the highest new daily case count yet — a total of 48 Alaskans and nonresidents — though no new hospitalizations or deaths from the novel coronavirus.

“I want to just remind folks that the virus is real,” Dunleavy said during the state’s first media briefing on COVID-19 in several weeks. “It’s alive and it’s spreading.”

The governor and Alaska’s chief medical officer, Dr. Anne Zink, said new cases are showing up in younger people with few if any symptoms but who can spread the disease to vulnerable seniors or people with underlying health problems.

There were three people hospitalized with confirmed COVID-19 infections as of Tuesday, officials said, and one person was on a ventilator.

Dunleavy, while praising the state’s relatively low case counts and high testing rates, also tried to get out a message of caution ahead of the holiday weekend.

He urged people to cover their faces in public enclosed places like stores and “put some distance between you and others” while out fishing or at a backyard party.

Numerous communities have canceled all holiday plans, including Seward, where an outbreak began last week.

[July 4 parades and celebrations canceled across Alaska]

“I’m just asking especially with this weekend coming up that we show not just ourselves but again we show this country that Alaska can think of others as we’re thinking of ourselves,” Dunleavy said. “If we can do our best, we’ll keep these numbers at a certain level."

Alaska’s COVID-19 rates held steady in the single digits for weeks in May, but then began climbing again after the state’s economy reopened. Some clusters were also linked to Memorial Day gatherings.

Now the state’s infection rates are rising in part because far more people are getting tested due to requirements for people traveling into the state or working in industries like seafood, officials say. But there are also new clusters associated with people going to bars and mixing with still more people in the community after that.

The Kenai Peninsula in the past two weeks experienced an average of 3.9 new cases per 100,000 people — far above the statewide average of 2.4 cases per 100,000, Zink said. One state investigation in Seward involved two bars there.

The state is investigating seven cases of the virus involving people who were at bars after they were infected, Zink said. Going to a bar is a “really high-risk activity,” she said. And if people do go to a bar — especially one indoors — Zink said they should limit their contact with others, particularly the vulnerable, for two weeks after attending.

People who test positive for COVID-19 are now coming into contact with dozens of other individuals, as compared to earlier in the pandemic, when they might have been in contact with just a few people, she said.

“What we’re really noticing instead of people having one contact or five contacts when we talk to someone, they’ll have 20 contacts or 40 contacts,” Zink said.

The state’s health department has continually said they’d like to hire 500 more contact tracers. But the process has taken longer than first expected due to delays in technology and agreements with partners, said Heidi Hedberg, director of Alaska’s Division of Public Health.

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

Zink addressed the continued variability in turnaround times for testing within the state, noting that commercial labs outside Alaska could go from a few days of wait time to several days as cases in the Lower 48 spike. In Alaska, some urgent care facilities can conduct rapid testing in minutes, Zink said, and hospitals and public health labs take about one to two days to process results.

At this time, Zink said, the state isn’t planning to restrict testing in order to conserve test kits, but is working to further expand testing.

Dunleavy urged Alaskans to continue taking steps to help limit the spread of the virus, acknowledging that many people, including the governor himself, feel “done” with the virus.

He asked that people “still work together to the best extent that we can with our fellow Alaskans. That we still say, ‘Yeah, all right, you know I’m going to go to the store, I’ll throw the dang mask on,’ that we still do our best to socially distance.”

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

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Carl Reiner, comedy’s rare untortured genius, dies at 98

Tue, 2020-06-30 19:34

FILE - In this Oct. 3, 1977 file photo, writer-director Carl Reiner appears during an interview about his movie " Oh God!" in New York. Reiner, the ingenious and versatile writer, actor and director who broke through as a “second banana” to Sid Caesar and rose to comedy’s front ranks as creator of “The Dick Van Dyke Show” and straight man to Mel Brooks’ “2000 Year Old Man,” has died, according to reports. Variety reported he died of natural causes on Monday night, June 29, 2020, at his home in Beverly Hills, Calif. He was 98. (AP Photo/Suzanne Vlamis, File) (SUZANNE VLAMIS/)

NEW YORK — No one in the world of comedy was more admired, and loved, than Carl Reiner.

Reiner was the rare untortured genius of comedy, his career a story of laughter and camaraderie, of innovation and triumph and affection. His persona was so warm and approachable — everyone's friend or favorite uncle — that you could forget that he was an architect of modern comedy, a "North Star," in the words of Billy Crystal.

As a writer and director, he mastered a genial, but sophisticated brand of humor that Steve Martin, Jerry Seinfeld and others emulated. As an actor, he was the ideal straight man for such manic performers as Mel Brooks and Sid Caesar and dependably funny on his own. As an all-around talent, he helped perfect two standard television formats — sketch and situation comedy.

Reiner's death Monday at 98 from natural causes prompted an outpouring from t hose he inspired, a group that included Brooks, Dick Van Dyke, George Clooney and Billy Eichner and millions more.

Tall and agile, equally striking whether bald or toupeed, he entertained in every medium available to him, from movies and vinyl records to Broadway and Twitter. But he will be remembered best for "The Dick Van Dyke Show," the landmark series which aired from 1961-66 and was a master class of wit, ensemble playing, physical comedy and the overriding good nature of Reiner himself.

Based on his time in the 1950s with Sid Caesar's "Your Show of Shows," the forerunner to "Saturday Night Live," it was among the first sit-coms about TV itself and inspired such future hits as "Mad About You" and "30 Rock."

FILE - In this May 24, 1964 file photo, cast and crew of the television comedy series "The Dick Van Dyke Show" from left, Richard Deacon, Mary Tyler Moore, Outstanding Continued Performance by an Actress in a Series, Lead; Dick Van Dyke, Outstanding Continued Performance by an Actor in a Series, Lead; Sheldon Leonard, producer of the show, which was named best comedy series; Carl Reiner, Outstanding Writing Achievement in a Series; and Jerry Paris, Outstanding Directorial Achievement in Comedy. pose with their awards at the 16th Annual Emmy Awards in Los Angeles. Variety reported that Reiner died of natural causes on Monday night, June 29, 2020, at his home in Beverly Hills, Calif. He was 98. (AP Photo, File)
FILE - In this Feb. 24, 1999 file photo, Mel Brooks, left, and Carl Reiner accept their award for best spoken comedy album, "The 2000 Year Old Man in the Year 2000," during the 41st Annual Grammy Awards in Los Angeles. Reiner, the ingenious and versatile writer, actor and director who broke through as a “second banana” to Sid Caesar and rose to comedy’s front ranks as creator of “The Dick Van Dyke Show” and straight man to Mel Brooks’ “2000 Year Old Man,” has died, according to reports. Variety reported he died of natural causes on Monday night, June 29, 2020, at his home in Beverly Hills, Calif. He was 98. (AP Photo/Kevork Djansezian, File) (Kevork Djansezian/)

As millions of fans know, Van Dyke starred as comedy writer Rob Petrie, who worked for the demanding, eccentric Alan Brady (Reiner) and lived on Bonnie Meadow Road in suburban New Rochelle with his wife Laura (Mary Tyler Moore, in her first major TV role) and young son. Petrie's fellow writers were veteran character actors Morey Amsterdam as Buddy Sorrell and Rose Marie as Sally Rogers. Reiner originally had a very different title and cast in mind. The pilot was called "Head of the Family," which starred Reiner and Barbara Britton, and aired as a single episode in July 1960. But CBS executives worried that Reiner would make Petrie seem too Jewish, so Van Dyke was cast instead.

Reiner likely needed the time spared from playing the lead. Besides acting in and producing the "Van Dyke" series, he wrote or co-wrote dozens of episodes — a feat that exhausted Reiner and amazed the cast and others in the business. Some of the more notable shows: Laura inadvertently revealing to the public that Alan Brady was bald; Rob on a radio marathon, delirious from lack of sleep, calling out to a kitten he's learned is stuck in a tree; Rob as a jury foreman, clumsily smitten by the attractive defendant (Sue Ann Langdon), and unaware that Laura is in the courtroom.

"I can explain ... nothing,'' a sheepish Rob later tells his wife.

"Although it was a collaborative effort," Van Dyke wrote in "My Lucky Life In and Out of Show Business, a memoir published in 2011, ``everything about the show stemmed from his (Reiner's) endlessly and enviably fascinating, funny, and fertile brain and trickled down to the rest of us." On Tuesday, Van Dyke called Reiner "kind, gentle, compassionate, empathetic and wise."

Reiner and Co. had parodied current events and popular culture on the Caesar program, but for the Van Dyke show he deliberately avoided topical references, hoping it would seem timeless. The sitcom remained highly popular in re-runs, with Laura Petrie's plaintive "Oh, Rob!" a lasting catchphrase. One famous fan, Orson Welles, was known for rushing to his bedroom in the afternoon so he could be near a TV set when the show was on. First lady Michelle Obama once joked that she preferred watching "Dick Van Dyke" to viewing her husband's debates.

Reiner had broken through in television's early days, before he even owned a TV: He joined "Your Show of Shows" in 1950 after performing in several Broadway plays, and much of his early work came as a "second banana." Reiner was part of an extraordinary writing team that included Brooks, Neil Simon and Larry Gelbart, and a performing cast featuring Caesar and Imogene Coca. He was never funnier than as an unhinged mechanical figure from a Bavarian clock, never steadier than in a spoof of "This Is Your Life," in which he is the host and Caesar a surprise honoree who desperately — violently — doesn't want the honor. "

As second banana," Reiner told TV Guide, "I had a chance to do just about everything a performer can ever get to do. If it came off well, I got all the applause. If it didn't, the show was blamed."

Off stage, Reiner and Brooks had a rapport which launched a comic franchise. During the "Show of Shows" years, they started improvising skits which became the basis for "The 2000 Year Old Man." Reiner was the interviewer, Brooks the old witness to history.

Reiner: "Did you know Jesus?"

Brooks: "I knew Christ, Christ was a thin lad, always wore sandals. Hung around with 12 other guys. They came in the store, no one ever bought anything. Once they asked for water."

Their routine was an instant favorite at parties, and Reiner recalled that Steve Allen insisted they should turn their banter into a record. "2000 Years with Carl Reiner and Mel Brooks" came out in 1960 and was so popular that Reiner would later tell NPR even Britain's Queen Mother, "the biggest shiksa in the world," loved it. The duo updated their shtick over time and won a Grammy in 1998 for their "The 2000 Year Old Man in the Year 2000," the same year Reiner received the Kennedy Center Mark Twain Prize for Humor. When the sound system failed at the start of the ceremonies, Reiner called from the balcony, "Does anybody have four double-A batteries?"

After the Van Dyke show, Reiner appeared in such hit movies as "The Russians Are Coming, the Russians Are Coming" and the "Ocean's Eleven" films that starred George Clooney. He directed George Segal and Ruth Gordon in "Where's Poppa?", George Burns in "Oh, God!" and Steve Martin in "The Jerk" and "All of Me." He took pride in his books, notably "Enter Laughing," a "bio-novel" which later became a film and Broadway show.

Reiner was the father of actor-director Rob Reiner, who starred as Archie Bunker's son-in-law on "All in the Family" and directed "When Harry Met Sally..." Rob Reiner said in a tweet Tuesday that his "heart is hurting. He was my guiding light."

Carl Reiner, a son of Jewish immigrants, was born in 1922 in New York City, and raised in a three-room apartment. He loved to mimic voices and tell jokes, and, after high school, attended drama school. He then joined a small theater group. "It was a terrific experience, but I wasn't getting any money for it," he told the Akron Beacon Journal in 1963. "I got uppity one day — after all, the audience was paying from 22 to 88 cents for admission — and I demanded to be paid. They settled for $1 a performance and I ... became their highest-priced actor."

During World War II, Reiner served in the Army and toured in GI variety shows. After the war, he landed several stage roles, breaking through on Broadway in "Call Me Mister." He married Estelle Lebost, in 1943. Besides son Rob, the couple had another son, Lucas, a film director; and a daughter, Sylvia, a psychoanalyst and author. Estelle, who died in 2008, had a memorable role in "When Harry Met Sally..." — as the woman who overhears Meg Ryan's ersatz ecstasy in a restaurant and says, "I'll have what she's having."

Reiner, winner of multiple Emmys and other awards, was in the business for life. In the 1990s, he won an Emmy by reprising Alan Brady for an episode of "Mad About You" and more recently made appearances on "Two and a Half Men" and "Hot in Cleveland." In the 21st century, he was writing books and commenting daily through his Twitter feed, venting anger at the presidency of Donald Trump. Most nights, Brooks came over and the two ate dinner together. In the mornings, Reiner had a ritual that provided the title for the 2017 documentary he hosted and received an Emmy nomination for, "If You're Not in the Obit, Eat Breakfast."

"Every morning before having breakfast," Reiner said in the movie, "I pick up my newspaper, get the obituary section and see if I'm listed. If I'm not, I'll have my breakfast."


Associated Press writer Mike Stewart contributed to this report

Judge temporarily blocks tell-all book by Trump’s niece

Tue, 2020-06-30 19:16

A tell-all book by President Donald Trump’s niece cannot be published until a judge decides the merits of claims by the president’s brother that its publication would violate a pact among family members, a judge said Tuesday.

New York state Supreme Court Judge Hal B. Greenwald in Poughkeepsie, New York, issued an order requiring the niece, Mary Trump, and her publisher to explain why they should not be blocked from publishing the book: "Too Much and Never Enough: How My Family Created the World's Most Dangerous Man." A hearing was set for July 10.

The book, scheduled to be published in July, was written by Mary Trump, the daughter of Fred Trump Jr., the president's elder brother, who died in 1981. An online description of it says it reveals "a nightmare of traumas, destructive relationships, and a tragic combination of neglect and abuse."

The judge said no portion of the book can be distributed before he decides the validity of Robert Trump's claims. Robert Trump argues Mary Trump must comply with a written agreement among family members that such a book cannot be published without permission from other family members.

Mary Trump's lawyer, Theodore J. Boutrous Jr., and her publisher, Simon & Schuster, promised an immediate appeal.

"The trial court's temporary restraining order is only temporary but it still is a prior restraint on core political speech that flatly violates the First Amendment," Boutrous said.

"This book, which addresses matters of great public concern and importance about a sitting president in election year, should not be suppressed even for one day," Boutrous said in a statement.

Adam Rothberg, a Simon & Schuster spokesperson, said the publisher was disappointed but looks forward "to prevailing in this case based on well-established precedents regarding prior restraint."

Charles Harder, an attorney for Robert Trump, said his client was "very pleased."

He said in a statement that the actions by Mary Trump and her publisher were "truly reprehensible."

"We look forward to vigorously litigating this case, and will seek the maximum remedies available by law for the enormous damages," he said. "Short of corrective action to immediately cease their egregious conduct, we will pursue this case to the very end."

In court papers, Robert Trump maintained Mary Trump was part of a settlement nearly two decades ago that included a confidentiality clause explicitly saying they would not "publish any account concerning the litigation or their relationship," unless they all agreed, the court papers said.


Associated Press writer Michael Balsamo contributed to this report from Washington.

Before taking an unexpected break 90 years ago, Mount Marathon was a showcase for Native teens

Tue, 2020-06-30 18:18

Brothers Ephraim, left, and Inikenti Kalmakoff at the Jesse Lee Home sometime in the 1920s. Both earned victories in the Mount Marathon Race, and Ephraim held the race record for nearly 30 years. (Courtesy of Jacqueline B. Pels)

One of Alaska’s biggest sporting events, Mount Marathon won’t happen this year because of the COVID-19 pandemic. First held in 1915, the famous Seward race has been canceled on 13 previous occasions, most recently in 1942 because of World War II. This two-part story looks at the 1931 race, the last before a seven-year gap between races from 1932-38. Part two will be published Wednesday.

Teenaged Willie Kanyak liked to rock the boat, and in 1931 he rocked the Mount Marathon Race with a surprise win in what turned out to be, for unknown reasons, the last race until 1939.

Months before, visions of victory were unlikely.

The sky over Seward sparkled with an outstanding “Ku-eu-it,” or northern lights display, on the night of Dec. 4, 1929, but it did little to sooth the boys and girls with mumps at the Jesse Lee Home.

The residential newspaper — the Kueuit — was named after the aurora, and in 1929 it reported on the outbreak:

“The mumps are with us yet. Every little boy in C Dormitory has had them now except Nicolai Tutiakoff. The B boys have nearly all succumbed, also a number of A boys. It is slowly going the rounds of Goode Hall. And the nurses are kept busy making soups, Jell-o, custards and ice cream. Willie Kanyak hopes for the time he may chew again.”

The next year, 16-year-old Willie played basketball for the Jesse Lee Home, a residence for Alaska Native children who were either orphaned or in need of care. It opened in 1887 in Unalaska in the Aleutian Islands and moved to Seward in 1925.

Willie’s teammates included Ephraim Kalmakoff, Benny Benson, Andy Peterson, William Lyons and Alec Conn. In 1928, Benny had won the territorial contest to design Alaska’s flag. If that wasn’t honor enough for the home, that same year, Ephraim not only won Seward’s famous Mount Marathon Race, he broke the record with a time of 52 minutes, 35 seconds. Andy Peterson came in second.

Ephraim Kalmakoff at Race Point on Mount Marathon, circa 1930. The photo is from the scrapbook of Edith Neese, a teacher at Seward's Jesse Lee Home from 1930-34. (Doug Capra collection)
At left, a September 1925 special issue of the magazine published by the Woman’s Home Mission, the group that operated the Jesse Lee Home. At right, a page from the Sept. 1930 issue of the Kueuit, the newspaper put out by the home's children. (Courtesy of Jacqueline B. Pels)

In 1929, Ephraim won for a second time, Benny came in second and William Lyons was third. In 1930, Ephraim won again, becoming the first runner to win three years in a row (Ephraim’s exact age is unknown. Records indicate he was between 14 and 16 years old the year he broke the race record). Alec Conn placed second and Lyons third.

The Jesse Lee Home boys were dominating the Mount Marathon Race. By 1931, Willie Kanyak may have figured it was his turn. His school had a reputation to maintain.

Like many teenage boys, Kanyak had a touch of mischief in his soul. A few summers before, the local Shriners agreed to take some children from the home on a train ride to Kenai Lake for boat rides. The home’s staff gathered the children and some snacks and walked to the lake.

Rosabelle Groth recalled: “Mr. Hatten (Rev. Charles Hatten, head of the Jesse Lee Home) assigned me to a boat and one of the big boys rowed for us, but one mischievous boy named Willie Kanyak began rocking the boat … There must have been 10 kids in that boat with me.”

By the spring of 1931, Willie was a robust 17-year-old in great physical shape, and he decided to challenge the mountain. Ephraim and Alec were going to run too, so he didn’t expect to win. But maybe he would surprise them all. Willie liked to rock the boat.

The Jesse Lee Home in Seward, circa 1927. The boys’ dormitory is at left and the girls dormitory is at far right. The school is in the middle. (Doug Capra collection)

Seward planned a special two-day celebration for the 1931 Fourth of July, with the Mount Marathon Race as the main event, but held on the 3rd. On June 30, the Seward Gateway announced it would not publish on the holiday and joked about the dangers of a two-day event: “A two-day holiday looks bad for any printing plant because the question arises, will the crew be able to return to their duties Monday.”

With two big dances scheduled, the newspaper was rightly concerned. Organizers planned a big parade with decorated bicycles, doll buggies and wagons and awards for best costumes. Gus Manthy had a 12-piece band ready to go and its first number would be “They’ll be a Hot Time in the Old Home Town Tonight.” The American Legion sold small American flags for 25 cents.

There would bicycle, scooter, potato and three-legged races; pie eating, apple diving and nail-driving contests. There would be 100-yard and 50-yard dashes for both boys and girls and two baseball games. The Seward Giants would play both the Moose Pass Terriers and the crew of the Geodetic Survey steamer U.S.S. Discoverer.

The Alaska Railroad sold round-trip tickets from any points for reduced rates, and Seward hoped to attract visitors from all along the rail belt. Celebrations would begin the evening of July 3 with a Jitney Dance. “Jitney” was slang for a nickel, and these dances were often fundraisers, with couples buying five-cent tickets for each dance.

At the center of it all was the Mount Marathon Race, which was about to go on an unexpected and unexplained seven-year hiatus.

Doug Capra lives in Seward with his wife, Cindy. He’s the author of “The Spaces Between: Stories from the Kenai Mountains to the Kenai Fjords.” This story is a revision of one that ran in the July 1, 2015 issue of the Seward Journal. Capra used many sources to compile this story, but he wants to especially thank Jacquelin Pels, whose second volume of the history of the Jesse Lee Home was most helpful.


Seward Library-Museum Archives; Seward Gateway archives; Jacqueline B. Pels history of the Jesse Lee Home, “Family After All: Alaska Jesse Lee Home (Seward, 1925-1965);” Sept. 199 Alaska Sportsman “all you have to do is run up that mountain,” by Frances B. Currier; 1952 Seward Seaport Record article by Justin Jay Stauter; and the author’s personal files and research.

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McGrath man charged with murder after woman found dead with severe head injuries

Tue, 2020-06-30 18:00

A McGrath woman died of blunt force and sharp object injuries inflicted by a man she lived with, Alaska State Troopers said Tuesday.

Troopers arrested 46-year-old Glen Holmberg in connection to the death of 50-year-old Carol Whalen. The two lived together, troopers spokeswoman Megan Peters said.

Holmberg is facing a charge of second-degree murder.

According to charging documents filed Tuesday by Bethel District Attorney Tom Hoffer, both Holmberg and Whalen had been at their home with a neighbor on Saturday afternoon. When the neighbor left around 4 p.m., Whalen was alive, the charges said.

Holmberg told his neighbor around 10:30 a.m. Sunday that Whalen wasn’t responsive, the charges said. The neighbor called troopers after he went to the home and found Whalen dead, according to the charges.

Troopers said Holmberg had blood on his body and clothing when they arrived. It appeared Whalen was dragged from a mattress to the bathroom, according to the charging documents.

After completing an autopsy Monday, the State Medical Examiner Office declared Whalen’s death a homicide and said she died from “blunt force and sharp object injuries,” noting “significant head trauma and significant blood loss,” according to the charging documents.

It was not immediately clear what may have motivated the killing. Troopers did not provide additional details as to the nature of Holmberg and Whalen’s relationship.

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July 4 parades and celebrations canceled across Alaska

Tue, 2020-06-30 17:58

The Anchorage Fire Department honor guard marches at the Anchorage July 4th Celebration parade July 4, 2012, on the Delaney Park Strip in Anchorage. (ADN archive)

Anchorage’s downtown Fourth of July Parade and Festival typically draws large crowds, with over 20,000 people attending last year’s celebration, according to organizers. But the concern over the COVID-19 pandemic has canceled that event, along with almost all other official Independence Day celebrations in Alaska.

Anchorage Fairs and Festivals, the nonprofit that organizes the July 4 festival, decided to cancel in April. Board Chair Nicki Hale said that in the wake of the pandemic, the group thought it was best not to have an event of that size.

“Even though we’re outdoors, we went over it with the municipality ... and everyone concerned just decided not to do it this year,” she said.

The traditional Alaska Baseball League doubleheader game between the Anchorage Glacier Pilots and Bucs is also canceled, and there won’t be an official fireworks show in Anchorage for a second year (last year’s display was canceled due to wildfire danger).

Another obstacle for the celebration is funding, Hale said. It costs over $15,000 to put on the Anchorage event, and since it is free to the public, Anchorage Fairs and Festivals relies on sponsorships. With the economic uncertainty created by COVID-19, Hale said it was impossible to fundraise.

“In April, we had literally been turned down by so many,” she said. “That was also part of making it an easy decision to cancel.”

As for other Anchorage festivities, the city did not receive any permit applications for events, a spokesperson from the Anchorage mayor’s office wrote in an email.

Outside Anchorage

Hallmark events like the Mount Marathon race in Seward and the Girdwood Forest Fair are canceled, though the Girdwood festival will host a Facebook Live event featuring performances by local Alaska musicians.

In light of a recent surge in local cases, the Seward Chamber of Commerce decided Monday to cancel that city’s fireworks show and celebration. Homer has canceled its annual July Fourth parade and picnic, and Kenai canceled its parade as well.

Soldotna is not holding a July 4 event, though the city plans to hold its annual Progress Days later in the month on July 22. The schedule has not been finalized, Soldotna Chamber of Commerce executive director Shanon Davis wrote in an email.

On Tuesday, Juneau also canceled its fireworks display, after the city’s Assembly voted against the ordinance that would have authorized the show.

Pioneer Park in Fairbanks had a virtual Memorial Day celebration, but is not hosting any events in person or virtually for the Fourth of July, park manager Donnie Hayes wrote in an email. Talkeetna also is not hosting any Independence Day events.

An exception to the wave of cancellations is in Mat-Su.

While a Wasilla official confirmed last week that the city’s official July 4 celebration is canceled, Valley Freedom Festival Committee — a private group — is putting on a two-day Valley Freedom Festival in Palmer. The event’s schedule includes a pie-eating contest and parade throughout downtown.

For those planning on attending in-person events, the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention recommends wearing face coverings and maintaining 6 feet of distance from others to reduce the risk of contracting or transmitting COVID-19. It also advices regular hand washing for at least 20 seconds or using hand sanitizer that has at least 60% alcohol.

Here are the virtual and in-person celebrations residents currently scheduled over the Fourth of July weekend.

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


Alaska Veterans’ Fourth of July Televised Special — The Alaska Veterans’ Fourth of July Parade Council is hosting “A Special Presentation of the History of the Fourth of July Parade,” which will commemorate Independence Day and honor America’s active-duty military and veterans. It will also feature messages from Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer and Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz. The special will air at 11 p.m. July 4 on KAKM.

Girdwood Forest Fair All Access Music Pass — The Facebook Live event will feature performances by Alaska musicians. From noon to 6 p.m. Friday through Sunday, listen to the sounds of the Forest Fair from wherever you are celebrating. Get your free pass at for access to the Facebook event and to shop from online vendors.

In person

Glacier View Fourth of July — Bring a chair and watch a Lexus, a Volkswagen Passat and more get launched off a 300-foot cliff at the Glacier View car launch. Gates open at 10 a.m. with food vendors and zipline rides available. The national anthem will be performed at 1:30 p.m., and the car launch will start at 2 p.m. Tickets can be purchased at the door for $20 for attendees 13 and older and $10 for children ages 2 to 12. Discounted rates are available for Glacier View residents. 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Saturday, Glacier View River Retreat, 35068 W. Glenn Highway, Glacier View.

An unmanned Chevy van flies through the air after being launched off a 300' bluff in Glacier View on July 4, 2016. The van was one of three vehicles launched at the 12th annual Fourth of July community potluck. (Scott Jensen / ADN archive) (Scott Jensen / ADN/)

Palmer Valley Freedom Festival — The Valley Freedom Festival Committee is hosting a two-day celebration in Palmer with live music, a pie-eating contest and a parade going through downtown starting at 11 a.m. July 4. Lawn chairs and picnics are encouraged. For more information and to view the festival’s full schedule, visit 10 a.m.-7 p.m. Friday and Saturday, MTA Events Center, 1317 S. Kerry Weiland Court, Palmer.

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Alaska Airlines says it may deny future travel to passengers who refuse to wear a mask

Tue, 2020-06-30 17:53

Alaska Airlines employees Sachi Kwon, left, and Mary Graham help a customer at the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport on Friday, June 5, 2020. (Loren Holmes / ADN) (Loren Holmes/)

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Alaska Airlines announced Tuesday that any passenger who repeatedly refuses to comply with the airline’s mandatory mask policy while on board could have their future travel suspended.

Flight attendants are now able to issue a warning, in the form of a yellow card, that means the passenger’s travel will be reviewed and “could be suspended for a period,” the airline said in a statement. “It’s a decision that would not be made lightly.”

Tim Thompson, a spokesman for Alaska Airlines, said in an email that flight attendants would be able to use their own judgment to decide how to respond in cases of non-compliance.

“Our flight attendants will approach guests who aren’t wearing a mask to learn more about their circumstances,” he said.

Alaska Airlines has required passengers to wear masks or face coverings since May 11.

But enforcement of COVID-19 health and safety policies has been difficult for some airlines. And while Alaska Airlines’ previously released guidelines stated that passengers who refused to wear a mask could be refused boarding, flight attendants had not, until now, been given authority to hand out warnings.

A blog post on the airline’s website further explained why officials felt stricter enforcement was needed.

“Overwhelmingly, those who fly with us understand and appreciate the importance of wearing masks,” the blog post said.

But there are also times when “our flight crews encounter moments when some travelers disregard or disobey our mask requirement. It creates tension and anxiety for many of our passengers who do have their face coverings on. So, a change is needed.”

At least two other major airlines, American Airlines and Delta Air Lines, have announced policies saying that passengers who refuse to wear masks may no longer be allowed to fly with them.

Beginning Tuesday, Alaska Airlines passengers will be asked at check-in “to sign off on a required health agreement to acknowledge and attest to their willingness to adhere to the mask policy.”

Masks will also be available upon request for passengers who forget theirs. Adjusting a mask while eating or drinking on board is OK, the airline said.

Exceptions to the mask requirement will be made for “children under age 2; anyone with a medical issue that creates trouble breathing; anyone who cannot remove a mask without assistance; or anyone with a disability that prevents wearing a mask.”

“We realize a piece of fabric across your nose and mouth is probably not your ideal way to travel,” the blog post said. “But if we all take that small step while flying, we’ll be better off in the long run.”

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Alaska Airlines should remain committed to a local, professional workforce

Tue, 2020-06-30 17:39

Alaska Airlines passenger jets parked at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport on Monday, June 22, 2020. (Bill Roth / ADN) (Bill Roth / ADN/)

Alaska Airlines recently announced significant changes for their flying in the state of Alaska. In the wake of the collapse of RavnAir, many communities have lost their connection to the broader national air network. Bringing another Alaska Air Group carrier, like Portland-based Horizon Air, to replace many of these connections may make sense for Alaska Airlines, but we hope the arrival of Horizon transpires in a way that makes sense for consumers and workers at Alaska Airlines as well.

Work performed by other airlines — especially those based outside the state of Alaska — represents a loss of jobs to our local economy. Unless it is a Boeing 737 series or Airbus 320 series, even though the paint on the aircraft says Alaska Airlines and the ticket says Alaska Airlines, it is being flown by another carrier. Despite commonalities related to agreements under a holding company known as the Alaska Air Group, the pilots flying Horizon planes are not Alaska Airlines pilots. The Anchorage-based pilots of Alaska Airlines by a large majority live in Southcentral Alaska, and many of us have been a part of the fabric of our communities for many years and in numerous cases generations. Any flying performed by a different carrier represents a loss of high-quality jobs over what we could have in this region. Anchorage-based Alaska Airlines pilots by and large spend their wages in our local economy.

With that reality and the current economic situation where every Southcentral job counts, we hope to see Alaska Airlines utilize Horizon Air to feed the current Alaska Airlines route network. Horizon Air should be flying flights that Ravn previously flew. Connecting passengers from cities that do not currently have jet options is something that can help Alaskans and Alaska Airlines, and assuming continued connections to Alaska Airlines flights, it can benefit Alaska Airlines pilots as well. We applaud and encourage this type of investment in our community. On the other hand, utilizing the recent emergency to outsource flying currently performed by Alaska Airlines pilots should be viewed very dimly indeed. It appears that’s exactly what is planned in several markets and that’s likely just a beginning. We fear the incremental changes that are likely as Alaska Airlines may choose to outsource more flying in the state to these out-of-state workers.

Luckily, the way forward for Alaska Airlines on this issue is clear, and it has been for several decades. Rather than selling tickets on another airline, the company should seek to partner with the Airline Pilots Association (its pilots’ union) on the very real issue of job security — not because it limits options, but because it legitimizes the trust that employees place in management. The pilots of Alaska Airlines remain focused on safely delivering our passengers and cargo. We hope that our management shares our concern for safety and a locally sourced workforce to transport Alaskans and their commerce.

Capt. Jeff Schroeder is Anchorage Council 64 Chairman for the Airline Pilots Association.

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.

Have you experienced sexual violence in Alaska? Help us report these stories.

Tue, 2020-06-30 17:06

Since 2019, ProPublica and the Anchorage Daily News have worked together to report on sexual violence in Alaska. We know it’s important to collaborate with the community in order to understand the breadth of the problems. We are continuing to do so in 2020.

We have received hundreds of responses to this questionnaire, all important to our work (see the reporting here). We’ve published a series of profiles featuring many of the people who first got in touch here. We’ve interviewed as many people as we can, taking note of themes common to the stories.

We’ve heard stories of assault by a boss, an educator or another powerful person in their community. These are a few areas we plan to focus on next:

• The education system. We’re looking at public schools, home schools, principals and professors. If someone has used his or her position as an educator to coerce you into sex or threaten retribution for reporting an assault, we hope you’ll tell us what happened.

• The workplace. Tell us your stories about dynamics in corporations and professional settings.

• Law enforcement and government. We’ve heard stories about people assaulted by those who were supposed to protect them. We’d like to learn more.

• Homelessness and foster care. Help us reach the most vulnerable in your community.

While we are no longer adding new profiles to the “Unheard” project, we’re still reporting. We’re especially interested in cases you reported that went unresolved. If you have a tip about an issue that is not listed above, please tell us about that too. You can talk to us by filling out this form or email us at

We understand that your privacy is important. We are the only ones reading what you submit. If you would prefer to use an encrypted app, here is what we suggest.

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Watch live: Gov. Dunleavy, state officials present update on COVID-19 in Alaska at 5 p.m.

Tue, 2020-06-30 16:54

Gov. Mike Dunleavy will discuss the COVID-19 pandemic via livestream at 5 p.m. Tuesday. He’ll be joined by Dr. Anne Zink, Alaska’s chief medical officer, who will discuss the latest cases; Julie Anderson, commissioner of the state Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development; Tamika Ledbetter, commissioner of the state Department of Labor and Workforce Development; Heidi Hedberg, public health director at the Department of Health and Social Services; and Bryan Butcher, Alaska Housing Finance Corp. CEO and executive director.

Dunleavy and state officials will address CARES Act funding, unemployment insurance benefits and housing assistance.

Related stories:

48 more Alaskans and nonresidents test positive for virus in state’s biggest daily case increase so far

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

Alaska’s governor and attorney general say Anchorage’s mask mandate doesn’t apply to state offices. The city disagrees.

Seward, ‘at the precipice’ of a major COVID-19 outbreak, cancels Fourth of July celebration

Anchorage businesses report an uptick in masks following mandate, though compliance isn’t universal

Juneau fireworks show canceled after assembly fails to agree on masks

Officials identify person who died in fire at Spenard apartment building

Tue, 2020-06-30 15:46

Anchorage firefighters work on a fire at the La Maisonnette Apartment Homes on West 26th Ave., June 23, 2020 (Bill Roth / ADN)

Update, 3:30 p.m. Tuesday, June 30: Anchorage police in an alert Tuesday identified the victim who died in the fire as 67-year-old Sue Ulmer.

Original story:

One person was killed in a fire Wednesday afternoon at a 16-unit apartment building in Anchorage’s Spenard neighborhood, fire officials said.

No one else was injured in the blaze at La Maisonnette Apartment Homes at 1402 W. 26th Ave., Assistant Fire Chief Alex Boyd said Wednesday evening. The Anchorage Fire Department will not release the fire victim’s identity until next of kin have been notified, the department said in an alert.

Firefighters were called to the apartments, on West 26th between Spenard Road and Minnesota Drive, around 1:30 p.m., and Boyd said flames were coming from one of the units. A second set of crews was called to the scene, and there were 17 units still in the area roughly two hours later. The fire caused heavy damage to two units, Boyd said.

Firefighters were working with the American Red Cross to find temporary housing for all of the residents, Boyd said. Residents gathered in the parking lot of a neighboring building Wednesday afternoon as they spoke with volunteers and glanced at the charred exterior of their building.

Lynette Larsen and her friend Krysten Beatty, both 15, had slept in Wednesday and awoke in the early afternoon. Larsen said she was microwaving food when the fire alarms first went off and she initially thought she’d accidentally triggered the response.

She said she heard breaking glass and yelling from the building shortly afterward. When the teens opened the door of the top-level apartment, Larsen said the air had turned black from the thick smoke trapped in the hallway.

Anchorage firefighters responded to a structure fire in apartment homes off West 26th Avenue in Spenard on Wednesday, June 24, 2020. (Bill Roth / ADN) (Bill Roth / ADN/)
Anchorage firefighters responded to a structure fire in apartment homes off West 26th Avenue in Spenard on Wednesday, June 24, 2020. (Bill Roth / ADN) (Bill Roth / ADN/)

After they made it out of the building, Larsen called her mother, Jesse Merculief, who raced home from work. She said she’s thankful her daughter and many of the building’s residents were safe. Merculief and her daughter live in the apartment next to one that sustained significant damage. She’s not sure if her apartment has any damage.

“I just can’t believe this happened,” she said.

Red Cross volunteer Bruce Whelan said all of the complex’s residents would receive immediate assistance because the building would likely be uninhabitable for 72 hours. The power was off, Whelan said, and it’s unclear if there was damage from the fire, smoke or water in any of the other units.

Whelan said the building’s owner, Weidner Apartment Homes, was helping relocate some residents into units in other buildings the company owns. The Red Cross also planned to put residents up in hotel rooms Wednesday night.

Boyd, the assistant fire chief, said it was not immediately clear what caused the blaze.

The fire was under control shortly after 3 p.m., the fire department said. Investigators were working to determine its cause and origin at the scene Wednesday evening.

West 26th between Minnesota Drive and Spenard Road was closed for several hours as firefighters responded to the blaze, and fully reopened by 7 p.m.

Anchorage Daily News reporter Emily Goodykoontz contributed to this story.

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Earthquake with preliminary magnitude of 3.7 shakes Anchorage

Tue, 2020-06-30 15:17

An earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 3.7 shook Anchorage at 2:58 p.m. Tuesday, June 30, 2020. (Alaska Earthquake Center website)

An earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 3.7 rumbled through Anchorage on Tuesday afternoon, according to the Alaska Earthquake Center.

The quake at 2:58 p.m. was centered 6 miles southwest of Anchorage at a depth of 9.9 miles, the earthquake center said.

Hey Anchorage! We have some preliminary info on that EQ a few minutes ago. M3.7 6 miles SW of Anchorage. Please remember to fill out the DYFI!! We'll update when our duty seismologist has finished reviewing this event.

— Alaska Earthquake Center (@AKearthquake) June 30, 2020

According to a shakemap on the U.S. Geological Survey website, the quake was felt throughout the municipality.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

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Bristol Bay fishermen wait as proposed Pebble mine churns through federal permit application process

Tue, 2020-06-30 14:38

The biggest red salmon run in the world is building at Bristol Bay.

Up to 50 million fish could surge into its eight river systems in coming weeks, on par with past seasons. When it’s all done, the fishery will provide nearly half the global supply of wild sockeye salmon.

But this summer is different, not only due to the restrictions and fears and economic chaos caused by COVID-19.

At the height of the fishery, fishermen will learn if a massive gold and copper mine that’s been hanging over their heads for two decades gets a greenlight from the federal government.

In mid-July, the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers will unveil its federal “record of decision” on the permit application by Northern Dynasty of Vancouver, B.C., to build the Pebble mine at the sprawling mosaic of headwaters that provide the spawning and rearing grounds for the region’s salmon.

Three decisions are possible for the mine: issue a permit, issue a permit with conditions or deny the application.

“As Bristol Bay’s fishermen head out to the fishing grounds for the next six weeks, we are counting on Congress to protect the 14,500 workers directly employed by the commercial salmon fishery,” said Andy Wink, director of the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association. “Pebble Mine is a threat to Alaskan jobs, America’s food security, and a salmon resource unparalleled anywhere on the planet.”

“The EPA’s own science shows that this project poses an unacceptable risk to our country’s greatest remaining wild salmon runs,” said Katherine Carscallen, director of Commercial Fishermen for Bristol Bay. “We look to Alaska’s senators for their leadership and implore the EPA to use its authority under the Clean Water Act to veto Pebble’s permit.”

[Pebble mine developer launches plan to share profits with local residents]

Alaska’s two Republican U.S. senators and lone congressman have staunchly stood behind the Pebble project’s right to go through a rigorous and fair permitting process and have been relatively tight-lipped about their opinions in the meantime.

Now that the process is pretty much a wrap, will they tell Alaskans if they are for or against it?

“Congressman Young remains committed to seeing the process fully completed, but without a finished report, there is nothing that can be commented on,” responded press secretary Zack Brown.

“The federal permitting process is ongoing, and until there is a decision document to review, there is nothing on which to provide comment,” said Mike Anderson, communications director for U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski’s office did not respond. Last summer, Murkowski echoed concerns raised by the Environmental Protection Agency about the Army Corps’ analysis of the proposed mine’s impact on the Bristol Bay watershed and fisheries.

A map of the mine plan Pebble Limited Partnership is proposing. (Image courtesy U.S. Army Corps of Engineers)

Surveys and polls have shown that a significant number of Alaskans oppose the Pebble mine.

Former Sen. Ted Stevens in 2008 stated emphatically and often: “I’m not opposed to mining, but Pebble is the wrong mine in the wrong place.” Love him or not, you always knew Uncle Ted’s stance on anything you asked him in his 40-year tenure in the U.S. Senate.

Investors are wiping their hands of the project. Global investment banking firm Morgan Stanley, once the fourth largest institutional shareholder in Northern Dynasty, on March 31 dumped 99.14% in its shareholdings in the project, reported the National Resources Defense Council and CNN Money.

“While the reasons for Morgan Stanley’s recent sell-off are unknown, the global investment company is known as a strong proponent of the principle that environmental and social responsibility are essential to long-term investment success,” the National Resources Defense Council said.

In 2011, Mitsubishi Corp. sold out. In 2013, Anglo American abandoned its partnership, walking away from a nearly $600 million investment. In 2014, Rio Tinto donated its shares to two Alaskan nonprofits: Alaska Community Foundation and the Bristol Bay Native Corporation Education Foundation. In 2018, First Quantum Minerals walked away after five months from a $37.5 million investment and option for a 50% partnership. Also in 2018, BlackRock zeroed out its shareholdings.

New York investment firm Kerrisdale Capital Management called Northern Dynasty’s plans “worthless,” “a value-destroying boondoggle,” “doomed,” “politically-impaired” and “commercially futile.”

“The cash-strapped 100 percent owner’s desperate hope — its ‘business plan’ — is that the issuance of a permit by the Army Corps will attract new investment, a new partner, or a buy-out,” the National Resources Defense Council said.

Despite its claims of a “smaller footprint” for Pebble, Northern Dynasty states on its website that its “principal asset, owned through its wholly owned Alaska-based U.S. subsidiary, Pebble Limited Partnership (”PLP”), is a 100% interest in a contiguous block of 2,402 mineral claims in southwest Alaska, including the Pebble deposit.”

Building a mine like Pebble (or Donlin) can be compared to building a new Alaska city.

The “Pebble deposit” lies within a 417-square-mile claim block and will include an open pit, a 550-foot-high tailings dam to hold roughly 30 billion cubic feet of mining wastes forever, overburden stockpiles, quarry sites, water management ponds, milling and processing facilities, a 188-mile natural gas pipeline from the Kenai Peninsula to the site, a power plant, water treatment plants, camp and storage facilities, and an 83-mile road along Lake Iliamna to haul the gold and copper to Diamond Point in Cook Inlet for shipment. (Based on a new “northern route” plan that Pebble opted for a few weeks ago.) The EPA said in a May 28 letter, “the discharges of dredged or fill material … may well contribute to the permanent loss of 2,292 acres of wetlands and other waters is anticipated, including 105.4 miles of streams, along with secondary impacts to 1,647 acres of wetlands and other waters, including 80.3 miles of streams, associated with fugitive dust deposition, dewatering, and fragmentation of aquatic habitats.”

The tools of the mining trade — hundreds of huge, diesel-fueled bulldozers, blasters, crushers, trucks and other heavy equipment — kick up a lot of dust.

The Army Corps says Pebble will generate nearly 16,000 tons of “fugitive dust” during mining and transports. When it’s blowing in the wind, the dust will carry copper and other particles to thousands of acres of wetlands and streams.

“Increases in copper concentrations of just 2-20 parts per billion, equivalent to two drops of water in an Olympic-sized swimming pool, have been shown to impact the critical sense of smell to salmon which they use to avoid predators and to locate the stream in which they were spawned,” said Thomas Quinn, aquatic and fishery science professor at the University of Washington.

In 2014, the Environmental Protection Agency ruled that a large-scale mine like Pebble would be “devastating” to the world’s biggest salmon run and to the region’s culture, and special protections were provided under the Clean Water Act.

The Trump administration abruptly removed the protections in 2017, saying the move “pre-empted the permitting process.” It also got a big push from Gov. Mike Dunleavy who has made no secrets about his support for Pebble. Alaska’s senators and congressman supported Trump’s move.

But D.C. can now step aside. The state of Alaska will make the final decision on the mine.

The Pebble applicants do not own the surface rights associated with the mineral claims and all the lands are owned by the state. Notably, the claim(s) lies within the 36,000-square-mile Bristol Bay Fisheries Reserve, created by voter initiative (70%) in 1972 as a way to safeguard salmon from large-scale oil, gas and mining projects.

State law requires that the final say on permitting Pebble falls to the Alaska Legislature.

Fish on!

What challengers say

Dr. Al Gross, Democratic candidate for U.S. Senate running against Sen. Dan Sullivan: “I know the developers have scaled back the scope of the mine to try to reduce the impact, but that doesn’t change the fact that it’s still at the headwaters of one of the world’s most important salmon runs. And I’m worried that if they start small, that at some point in the near future they’ll push to expand it. Nothing is going to change the fact that this is the wrong mine, wrong place, and even a small risk to this state and national treasure is too much.”

Alyse Galvin, Democratic candidate for U.S. House running against Rep. Don Young: “Alaska is a natural resource state and mining is a key part of our economy, however, so are our fisheries. I am opposed to the Pebble Mine Project because it is the wrong mine in the wrong location and represents too big a risk to Bristol Bay, the greatest salmon fishery in the world. We need Alaska’s representatives in Washington to once again be full-throated champions of Alaska’s fisheries.”

48 more Alaskans and nonresidents test positive for virus in state’s biggest daily case increase so far

Tue, 2020-06-30 14:23

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Alaska recorded its highest daily increase in COVID-19 cases yet since the pandemic began, with 36 new cases among residents and 12 cases among nonresidents, according to state data Tuesday.

There were no new deaths or confirmed COVID-19 hospitalizations reported by the state. The number of active cases of the virus rose to 544 total: 400 Alaska residents and 144 visitors, according to state data.

Alaska is seeing a surge in active cases after a period in May with few or no new cases reported each day. Low case numbers in May, along with efforts to bolster health care capacity and Alaska’s supply of personal protective equipment, prompted the state to gradually remove most of its pandemic-related restrictions by the beginning of June.

Since the pandemic reached the state, 940 Alaskans total have tested positive for the virus, including 526 who are considered to be recovered. Another 194 nonresidents in Alaska have tested positive. Fourteen Alaskans with the virus have died, including four who were out of state at the time.

Most of the new cases on Tuesday were concentrated in Southcentral Alaska, with 21 new cases among Anchorage residents and one in a nonresident here. There was also one case involving an Eagle River resident and two involving Palmer residents, according to the state’s COVID-19 data.

In Seward, state data showed four new cases of COVID-19 among residents and three cases involving nonresidents. The City of Seward announced six of those new cases Monday, and as the community works to contain the outbreak, officials canceled the city’s annual Fourth of July celebration.

Health officials in Seward had urged anyone who was at the Yukon Bar or Seward Alehouse during a specific time period last week get tested for the virus.

[Seward, ‘at the precipice’ of a major COVID-19 outbreak, cancels Fourth of July celebration]

The rest of the cases reported Tuesday are spread across the state, including one involving a Juneau resident, one involving someone from a smaller community in the Valdez-Cordova Census Area, someone from Soldotna who tested positive and five cases among Fairbanks residents, state data showed.

The Tuesday data reflects new cases reported to the state throughout Monday.

A majority of the new COVID-19 cases in nonresidents continued to involve seafood industry workers. Two seafood industry workers from outside the state tested positive for the illness in Sitka, as did five seafood workers in the Bristol Bay and Lake & Peninsula Boroughs and one seafood worker in Dillingham.

Check back for updates on this developing story.

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Fauci: US is ‘going in wrong direction’ in coronavirus outbreak

Tue, 2020-06-30 12:07

Dr. Anthony Fauci, director of the National Institute for Allergy and Infectious Diseases, testifies before a Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions Committee hearing on Capitol Hill in Washington, Tuesday, June 30, 2020. (Kevin Dietsch/Pool via AP) (KEVIN DIETSCH/)

The U.S. is “going in the wrong direction” with the coronavirus surging badly enough that Dr. Anthony Fauci told senators Tuesday some regions are putting the entire country at risk — just as schools and colleges are wrestling with how to safely reopen.

With about 40,000 new cases being reported a day, Fauci, the government’s top infectious disease expert, said he “would not be surprised if we go up to 100,000 a day if this does not turn around.”

“I am very concerned,” he told a hearing of the Senate Health, Education, Labor and Pensions committee.

Infections are rising rapidly mostly in parts of the West and South, and Fauci and other public health experts said Americans everywhere will have to start following key recommendations if they want to get back to more normal activities like going to school.

“We’ve got to get the message out that we are all in this together,” by wearing masks in public and keeping out of crowds, said Fauci, infectious disease chief at the National Institutes of Health.

Connect the dots, he told senators: When and how school buildings can reopen will vary depending on how widely the coronavirus is spreading locally.

“I feel very strongly we need to do whatever we can to get the children back to school,” he said.

[As virus roars back in US, so do signs of a new round of layoffs]

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention plans more guidelines for local school systems, Director Robert Redfield said.

But in recommendations for colleges released Tuesday, the agency said it won’t recommend entry testing for all returning students, faculty and staff. It’s not clear if that kind of broad-stroke testing would reduce spread of the coronavirus, CDC concluded. Instead, it urged colleges to focus on containing outbreaks and exposures as students return.

Lawmakers also pressed for what Sen. Patty Murray of Washington, the committee’s top Democrat, called a national vaccine plan — to be sure the race for the COVID-19 vaccine ends with shots that really are safe, truly protect and are available to all Americans who want one.

“We can’t take for granted this process will be free of political influence,” Murray said. She cited how President Donald Trump promoted a malaria drug as a COVID-19 treatment that ultimately was found to be risky and ineffective.

The Food and Drug Administration released guidelines Tuesday saying any vaccine that wins approval will have to be at 50% more effective than a dummy shot in the final, required testing. That’s less effective than many of today’s vaccines but independent experts say that would be a good start against the virus.

FDA Commissioner Stephen Hahn said vaccine makers also must test their shots in diverse populations, including minorities, the elderly, pregnant women and those with chronic health problems.

“We will not cut corners in our decision-making,” Hahn told senators.

[Europe restricts visitors from the US amid virus resurgence]

About 15 vaccine candidates are in various stages of human testing worldwide but the largest studies -- including 30,000 people each -- needed to prove if a shot really protects are set to begin in July. First up is expected to be a vaccine created by the NIH and Moderna Inc., followed closely by an Oxford University candidate.

At the same time, the Trump administration’s “Operation Warp Speed” aims to stockpile hundreds of millions of doses by year’s end, so they could rapidly start vaccinations if and when one is proven to work.

Redfield said the CDC already is planning how to prioritize who is first in line for the scarce first doses and how they’ll be distributed.

But a vaccine is at the very least many months away. For now, the committee’s leading Republican stressed wearing a mask -- and said Trump, who notoriously shuns them, needs to start because politics is getting in the way of protecting the American people.

“The stakes are too high for the political debate about pro-Trump, anti-Trump masks to continue,” said Sen. Lamar Alexander of Tennessee, who chaired Tuesday’s hearing.

Alexander said he had to self-quarantine after a staff member tested positive for the virus but that he personally was protected because his staffer was wearing a mask.

“The president has plenty of admirers. They would follow his lead,” Alexander said. “The stakes are too high” to continue that fight.


AP writers Ricardo Alonso-Zaldivar and Matthew Perrone in Washington, Collin Binkley in Boston and Mike Stobbe in New York contributed to this report.

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

Tue, 2020-06-30 11:57

Alan Budahl, executive director of Lutheran Social Services of Alaska, holds about 2 1/2 days' worth of rental and mortgage assistance applications that have been processed through an economic relief program, funded by the city and using federal CARES Act money, for people who lost work due to COVID-19. Budahl said LSSA schedules about 60 appointments a day for applicants. (Marc Lester / ADN) (Marc Lester/)

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For 20 years, Brandy Harmon went to the same job. She is a banquet server working in Anchorage’s convention centers.

But in March, all events were canceled due to the COVID-19 pandemic. Harmon hasn’t had work since.

Now, she and her 9-year-old son are getting by on a safety net of social services she’s never had to depend on before, like a food pantry and a rental assistance program set up by the Municipality of Anchorage.

And after about a month without work, Harmon was approved for unemployment. The idea of accepting assistance was strange for her.

“I’ve always worked, I’ve always done what I’m supposed to do and I raise my kid by myself,” Harmon said.

Harmon, like more than 65,000 other Alaskans, has benefited from a special $600 weekly federal boost to help unemployed Americans during the pandemic. With unemployment, Harmon said she has about the same income as she did when working, so she’s been able to pay her bills and rent so far. But she’s worried about the future.

[Alaska’s unemployment rate improved in May, but COVID-19′s economic impacts are far from over]

The $600 weekly federal supplement to unemployment, responsible for pumping millions of dollars into the Alaska economy every week, is slated to end July 31.

Harmon said she started using the food pantry to stock up on canned goods to last her and her son through the fall if the federal unemployment benefits expire. Factoring in the $992 Alaska Permanent Fund dividend to be dispersed in July, she said she could probably make it another few months. If she doesn’t get work again, she won’t be all right, she said.

“I’m OK now, but what happens in August?” she said. “So now I am trying to make sure I am OK up through, like, December.”

Economists warn that without an extension or some form of replacement aid, thousands of Alaska households will suffer, ushering in waves of hardship for families and businesses statewide.

Congress is discussing ideas to replace some of the income amid concerns, particularly among Republicans, that the current federal supplement is so large that it’s keeping some people from returning to work.

It’s unknown what will happen, said Lennon Weller, an economist with Alaska Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

“That is kind of the million-dollar question right now,” Weller said.

A record 66,500 Alaska workers, or about 19% of the workforce, received unemployment checks for the week ending June 13, Weller said.

[Economists project another slow Alaska recovery after pandemic]

The $600 weekly supplement, created by Congress in March, enhances Alaska’s traditional average payment of about $250, he said. The bonus injected about $40 million into the Alaska economy in one week.

“That is helping to keep what employment is left in the economy actually there,” Weller said. “If that support goes away, we’ll probably see another bump in unemployment and in claims.”

If more support doesn’t come, the effects could be widespread, experts say.

Terry Fields, head of the Weidner Property Management and Real Estate program at the University of Alaska Anchorage, said the extra aid and other state and federal benefits have stabilized the rental market.

But without continued support, many Alaskans will no longer be able to pay bills, he said.

Nolan Klouda, head of the University of Alaska Center for Economic Development, said Alaska’s traditional unemployment payment falls well short of covering average monthly rents that exceed $1,000.

Without continued support, Alaskans’ ability to cover car loans, insurance, groceries and medical supplies will all suffer, he said.

“If it isn’t done, you’ll see pretty serious effects and contraction of the economy,” Klouda said.

Alaska lawmakers are among the leaders in Congress who suggest that continuing the benefits as-is has drawbacks.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski said Congress needs to focus on ensuring that unemployment benefits are available for Alaskans who have truly relied on it as a lifeline, she said.

“As the economy begins to recover and businesses reopen, we want to make sure that we don’t create disincentives to return to work,” Murkowski said. “There are innovative ideas that are being discussed now to support returning to work, and I am engaged in those conversations and listening to Alaskans.”

House Democrats have voted to extend the $600 payment through January. Republicans have considered other ideas, including a back-to-work bonus.

Rep. Don Young’s office said the lawmaker has frequently heard from business owners in Alaska who are having trouble finding workers.

“It is no coincidence that people aren’t returning to work if they can make more through expanded UI benefits, which create a disincentive for them to jump back into the workforce,” said Zack Brown, a spokesman for Young. “The congressman will review any future proposals, but is focused on returning people to work and getting the economy back on track.”

Sen. Dan Sullivan and “colleagues are engaging in discussions with the White House as it relates to proposals surrounding unemployment insurance, return to work bonuses, and other proposals,” spokesman Mike Anderson said in an email.

Alan Budahl is the executive director for Lutheran Social Services of Alaska, which screens applications and cuts checks for the rental assistance program that’s helped Harmon.

He said people like Harmon, who have never previously relied on these sorts of social services, have become common visitors to his office.

“This is the first time they’ve ever experienced this, and they really didn’t know how to navigate the network,” Budahl said.

He said even though they are now out of work, many Alaskans still don’t think they qualify for financial assistance because they’ve always had steady income in the past. He’s had to explain that now, with no income, they do qualify, and walk them through the various programs.

[As virus roars back in US, so do signs of a new round of layoffs]

“Some are paralyzed, and several have used that word,” Budahl said. “It’s the fear, the anxiety, the uncertainty, that all this brings.”

On July 1, Alaska courts can again start holding hearings in eviction proceedings. Budahl said most of the people coming in seeking rental assistance are already a month behind on their rent, and some are several months behind.

While the state could extend the moratorium on eviction proceedings, that would only delay the date the bill is due, meanwhile the amount owed in back rent only grows.

“It doesn’t erase the debt,” Budahl said.

An eviction, Budahl said, will haunt people for years as they seek new housing. These people have to find a way to pay their rent.

“People are going to have some really tough decisions to make,” he said.

On Thursday, he recalled a single mother raising an autistic son who came in to get help with rent.

After, the woman asked if she could take a moment before leaving.

“She just broke down and wept,” Budahl said. “A lot of people, when you hand them the check they say, ‘I could cry, I could cry.' And some people do.”

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

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