Alaska News

Subscribe to Alaska News feed
Alaska Dispatch News News Feed
Updated: 1 hour 30 min ago

5 Fairbanks inmates convicted in 2017 prison riot

Tue, 2018-07-17 08:26

FAIRBANKS – Five prison inmates have been convicted of rioting at the Fairbanks Correctional Center.

The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reports a Fairbanks jury on Monday afternoon convicted the men on felony counts of riot and criminal mischief.

The jury deliberated for less than one day.

The five include Jerald Burton Jr., Patrick Burton-Hill, Tevyn Davis, Robert Gentleman III and Marcus Howard.

Eight other inmates face the same charges. They're being tried in groups because Fairbanks doesn't have a courtroom large enough to try 13 defendants.

Prosecutors say inmates in August broke windows, poured soap on the floor and refused to leave a common area and return to cells. Law enforcement officers deployed chemical irritants and the inmates surrendered.

Alaska law defines rioting as "tumultuous and violent conduct" by five or more people.

Memorial for 1918 steamship tragedy dedicated on beach near Juneau

Tue, 2018-07-17 06:43

The Princess Sophia underway with passengers on deck. (Alaska State Library, John Grainger Photo Collection, P255-79-79)

JUNEAU – A memorial has been placed on a beach northwest of Juneau in memory of a Canadian passenger liner that sank a century ago, killing about 350 people.

Juneau members of Pioneers of Alaska dedicated a 10,000-pound slab of granite and quartz Saturday at Eagle Beach State Recreation Area to remember the sinking of the SS Princess Sophia, the Juneau Empire reported.

The 245-foot steamship sank on Oct. 25, 1918, after grounding on Vanderbilt Reef in Lynn Canal, northwest of Eagle Beach.

As the 100-year anniversary approaches for Southeast #Alaska's most famous shipwreck, #Juneau residents installed a permanent memorial for it this weekend:

— Juneau Empire (@JuneauEmpire) July 16, 2018

Members of an Alaska fraternal organization had worked for about five years to raise funds and develop the memorial. The sinking, one of the worst maritime disasters in Alaska history, had ripple effects on the region, said Fred Thorsteinson, king regent of the Igloo 6 – a group that strives to preserve Alaska history.

"It was a major event in the history of the Yukon territory and Alaska. It had lasting effects," Thorsteinson said. "It was just a forgotten event. A lot of people didn't know about it, so we thought it was an important thing to do."

Two people related to a passenger on the ship attended the dedication. Maxine Harper Richert and Toni Mallott are relatives of Walter Harper, an Alaska Native man known for his mountaineering and outdoors skills. He died at the age of 25 with his wife onboard the ship. They died hand in hand, Harper Richert said of her great uncle.

"My mom had heard stories of when they brought the bodies back, how hard it was on the people," Harper Richert said. "I am happy that 100 years from then they are still paying tribute."

Blockbuster is near extinction – and so is a daily experience

Tue, 2018-07-17 06:03

Jason Eccles, of Glacier Sign and Lighting, removes a Blockbuster Video sign from the rear of the business’ closed location on Northern Lights Boulevard in Midtown on Friday, September 30, 2016. (Marc Lester / ADN)

They were blue and yellow and you could see their signs from far away. At their peak, they averaged nearly 100 per state, and it felt as if there was one on every corner. We joined their ranks. We had their membership cards. We knew their hours.

They were called Blockbuster, and if you are under 20 and reading this, you may not know what I'm talking about. Blockbuster is the American buffalo of the home entertainment world, once mighty, now all but gone.

I thought about this when I read that Blockbuster will soon close two of its remaining three stores, leaving it with one — one? — in all of the United States. From 4,500 stores in this country, from nearly 85,000 employees around the world, to one American outlet. One?

Bend, Oregon. That's where you'll have to go to wander the aisles and do what so many of us did in the '80s and '90s — "pick up a movie."

It's hard to fathom. Sure, many retail business have gone belly up or vanished in mergers. There are no more Marshall Field's stores, or Filene's, or W. T. Grants, or Hudson's. But these were largely regional shopping experiences.

['Why are you still here?': Inside the last Blockbuster left in America]

Blockbuster was everywhere. That was the idea. You could be on vacation, on a business trip, visiting your cousins in Duluth, but you found the local Blockbuster and you whipped out your blue and yellow membership card and you drove home with a clunky cassette tape of "Die Hard" or "Back to the Future" or "Terminator" that you popped in your — ahem — VHS player.

And, oh, yeah. After two days, you had to bring it back. Or get fined.

Remember that? It was an everyday American conversation:

"Where are you going?"

"To grab some dinner."

"Stop by Blockbuster and get us a good movie."

"Where are you going?"

"To grab some dinner."

"Stop by Blockbuster and take the movies back."

Pick up. Drop off. It was, for many, a daily experience. Blockbuster made it easy for you, with mailbox-like units that you could deposit your used movies in like letters. You didn't even have to get out of your car. You pulled up, rolled down your window…

And in writing this, I realize how absolutely ancient that must seem to a teenager.

Yes, kids, just as we used to hunt animals to bring food to the tribe, so, too, did we journey into the snowy night so our families could enjoy another viewing of "Home Alone."

Now, perhaps you think I'm going to wax nostalgic about the good old days of videos with covers, or endless aisles of "Horror," "Family," "Foreign," or the joy of checking out the "New This Week" display, or the oft-repeated conversations from Anchorage to Miami that began with holding up a particular tape and asking a Blockbuster salesperson, "Is this any good?"

But no. That's not my point. Shopping methods have changed so much, so fast, that you barely have time to wave goodbye before a drone from Amazon drops a package on your head.

No, what struck me when I read about Blockbuster being down to one store is how vast those stores used to feel. It was like walking into the New York Public Library. You couldn't possibly ever watch all those movies, you thought, or even sift through them.

Yet the inventory of a Blockbuster store now seems like an empty fridge. Amazon and iTunes can bring 10 Blockbusters up on your computer screen. Netflix, Hulu, HBO, Showtime, Paramount, National Geographic — they are all in the movie or series business now, providing a lifetime's worth of choices to sit and watch. You could die of popcorn consumption just trying to keep up.

So I guess maybe I am being a bit nostalgic, not for a franchise, but for the effort once required to amuse ourselves. I mean, to visit a Blockbuster, we had to get in a car. A car! To think!

Go back even further, before multiplexes, before cable TV, before TV at all, and we used to wait until the local movie house changed its feature — its one feature — to have a new film to watch.

It makes you wonder what we did with all that time. If I took all the hours in my life I've spent perusing choices of movies — not watching them, just deciding which ones to watch — I could likely make more films than Spielberg.

One store. You think about all those people who used to stock the shelves, all the hours we put in going up and down the aisles, all the money we spent because we kept "Ghostbusters" four days too long.

One store. I don't know what the folks in Bend, Oregon, are doing differently. But I kind of want to visit.

I still have some credit on a Blockbuster gift card.

Mitch Albom is an internationally best-selling author, journalist, screenwriter, playwright, radio and television broadcaster, philanthropist and musician.

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 Send submissions shorter than 200 words to or click here to submit via any web browser.

Showtime and Sacha Baron Cohen push back against Sarah Palin

Tue, 2018-07-17 06:00

Sacha Baron Cohen arrives at the Vanity Fair Oscar Party on Sunday, March 4, 2018, in Beverly Hills, Calif. (Photo by Evan Agostini/Invision/AP)

NEW YORK — Showtime and Sacha Baron Cohen are pushing back against allegations the comedian duped guests on his new show by posing as a disabled veteran.

The network said in a statement Monday that Baron Cohen "did not present himself as a disabled veteran" or wear any military apparel when he met with Sen. Bernie Sanders and former Republican vice presidential candidate Sarah Palin.

Palin last week on Facebook complained that Baron Cohen "heavily disguised himself" as a disabled U.S. veteran in a wheelchair when she was "duped" into an interview. She challenged Baron Cohen and Showtime to donate proceeds from the show to a veterans' charity.

In the new show "Who Is America?" Baron Cohen dons various prosthetics and accents in an attempt to embarrass those on the right and left.

‘Very much counter to the plan’: Trump defies advisers in embrace of Putin

Tue, 2018-07-17 05:45

U.S. President Donald Trump, left, listens to Russian President Vladimir Putin during a press conference after their meeting at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, Finland, Monday, July 16, 2018. (AP Photo/Markus Schreiber) (Markus Schreiber/)

WASHINGTON - Administration officials had hoped that maybe, just maybe, Monday’s summit between President Trump and Russian President Vladmir Putin would end differently - without a freewheeling 46-minute news conference in which Trump attacked his own FBI on foreign soil and warmly praised archrival Russia.

Ahead of the meeting, staffers provided Trump with some 100 pages of briefing materials aimed at laying out a tough posture toward Putin, but the president ignored most of it, according to one person familiar with the discussions, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to disclose internal deliberations. Trump's remarks were "very much counter to the plan," the person said.

"Everyone around Trump" was urging him to take a firm stance with Putin, according to a second person familiar with the preparations. Before Monday's meeting, the second person said, advisers covered matters from Russia's annexation of Crimea to its interference in the U.S. elections, but Trump "made a game-time decision" to handle the summit his way.

"I think that the United States has been foolish," Trump said at one point, referring to tensions with Russia. "I think we've all been foolish. We should've had this dialogue a long time ago; a long time, frankly, before I got to office."

A senior White House official disputed the idea that the president acted unilaterally, and said he had numerous sessions with senior administration officials preparing for the summit in addition to briefing materials.

In the end, Trump's performance alongside Putin in the Finnish capital seemed like a tour through his most controversial conspiracy theories, tweets and off-the-cuff musings on Russia - except he did it all while abroad, standing just feet from Putin, the leader of one of America's greatest geopolitical foes.

The spectacle in Helsinki also underscored Trump's eagerness to disregard his own advisers, his willingness to flout the conclusions of his own intelligence community - that Russia interfered in the 2016 U.S. elections - and his apparent fear that pressing Putin on the subject might cast doubt on his electoral victory.

"The president has been more reluctant than most to weigh into the idea that Russia did it and they're still doing it," said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C. "He felt that would undermine his own election."

This account of the days leading up to Trump's Helsinki summit is based on interviews with more than a half-dozen White House officials, advisers and diplomats, most of whom requested anonymity to reveal internal discussions.

Signs that things might not go according to plan were evident during the two days Trump spent holed up at his luxury seaside golf resort in Turnberry, Scotland.

The president spent much of the weekend "growling," in the words of one White House official, over the Justice Department's indictment Friday of 12 Russian intelligence officials for interfering in the 2016 election. He fretted that the timing of the indictments was intended to injure him politically, the official said.

But a senior White House official said Trump had been in favor of announcing the indictments before the trip so he could raise the issue privately with Putin.

Trump also made it clear that he was more excited to sit down with the Russian president than he had been to visit with NATO allies earlier in the week in Brussels.

"He loved the summit with Kim Jong Un," the White House official said, referring to the North Korean leader with whom Trump met last month in Singapore. "He thinks he can sit down eye to eye with these guys, flatter them and make a deal."

In advance of the Putin meeting, White House officials repeatedly told European allies "not to worry," according to diplomats familiar with the discussions. No deals would be made between Putin and Trump, they said, and no secret promises would be offered that could threaten the balance of power on the continent.

They also said the summit would have a declaration text that was short and generic.

But the officials could not provide similar assurances about the summit's live news conference, a setting where the president routinely defies the carefully laid plans of his White House team.

One European official acknowledged the difficulty of relying on the assurances of Trump's aides, saying, "These people don't control the reality."

Putin almost seemed unable to hide his delight as Trump, standing just to his right, excoriated the FBI, Hillary Clinton and Democrats, among others, and said he held "both" Russia and the United States responsible for the declining relations between the two countries.

Trump had grown frustrated that his own government had been so negative about meeting with Putin and wanted a one-on-one meeting so it would not leak, aides said. One senior White House official described Trump's public remarks as striking a deliberately "contrarian" tone.

Administration officials said Trump's national security team - including national security adviser John Bolton and Secretary of State Mike Pompeo - has generally urged him to be tough on Putin and to view the Russian leader through a far more negative prism than he does.

Trump's remarks in Helsinki were met with widespread condemnation, including from many within his own party.

Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats put out a statement distancing himself from Trump and his comments. "The role of the Intelligence Community is to provide the best information and fact-based assessments possible for the President and policymakers," Coats said in the statement. "We have been clear in our assessments of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and their ongoing, pervasive efforts to undermine our democracy, and we will continue to provide unvarnished and objective intelligence in support of our national security."

As Trump flew back to Washington aboard Air Force One late Monday, he and his team struggled to quell the outcry.

"President Trump must clarify his statements in Helsinki on our intelligence system and Putin," tweeted Newt Gingrich, a steadfast Trump ally and former Republican House speaker, whose wife Trump appointed ambassador to the Vatican. "It is the most serious mistake of his presidency and must be corrected - immediately."

Trump issued a tweet that seemed to backtrack slightly. "As I said today and many times before, 'I have GREAT confidence in MY intelligence people,' " he wrote. "However, I also recognize that to build a brighter future, we cannot exclusively focus on the past - as the world's two largest nuclear powers, we must get along! #HELSINKI2018."

And others rushed to Trump's defense. Barry Bennett, a former Trump campaign adviser, downplayed the controversy.

"I didn't think Trump was going to call him a liar to his face after he denied it," Bennett said. "I don't think it makes sense to stand six feet from him and call him a liar."

One of Trump's most vocal defenders was Vice President Mike Pence, who has cemented his relationship with the president through unflinching loyalty.

In a speech to Commerce Department employees Monday afternoon, Pence offered a rosy review of what he described as Trump's "historic trip" abroad.

"The truth is, over the last week, the world saw once again that President Donald Trump stands without apology as leader of the free world," Pence said. ". . . What the world saw, what the American people saw, is that President Donald Trump will always put the prosperity and security of America first."

- - -

The Washington Post’s John Hudson and Felicia Sonmez contributed reporting.

Trump returns from summit with Putin to forceful criticism

Tue, 2018-07-17 05:30

U.S. President Donald Trump, left, and Russian President Vladimir Putin, right, during their joint news conference at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, Finland, Monday, July 16, 2018. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

HELSINKI — In an extraordinary embrace of a longtime U.S. enemy, President Donald Trump openly questioned his own intelligence agencies' firm finding that Russia meddled in the 2016 U.S. election to his benefit, seeming to accept Russian President Vladimir Putin's insistence that Moscow's hands were clean.

The reaction back home was immediate and visceral, among fellow Republicans as well as usual Trump critics. "Shameful," "disgraceful," "weak," were a few of the comments. Makes the U.S. "look like a pushover," said GOP Sen. Bob Corker of Tennessee.

Trump's meeting with Putin in Helsinki was his first time sharing the international stage with a man he has described as an important U.S. competitor — but whom he has also praised a strong, effective leader.

His remarks, siding with a foe on foreign soil over his own government, was a stark illustration of Trump's willingness to upend decades of U.S. foreign policy and rattle Western allies in service of his political concerns. A wary and robust stance toward Russia has been a bedrock of his party's world view. But Trump made clear he feels that any firm acknowledgement of Russia's involvement would undermine the legitimacy of his election.

[Alaska Sens. Murkowski, Sullivan critical of Trump's Russia statements at Helsinki summit]

Standing alongside Putin, Trump steered clear of any confrontation with the Russian, going so far as to question American intelligence and last week's federal indictments that accused 12 Russians of hacking into Democratic email accounts to hurt Hillary Clinton in 2016.

"I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today.

"He just said it's not Russia. I will say this: I don't see any reason why it would be," Trump said.

His skepticism drew a quick formal statement — almost a rebuttal — from Trump's director of national Intelligence, Dan Coats.

"We have been clear in our assessments of Russian meddling in the 2016 election and their ongoing, pervasive efforts to undermine our democracy, and we will continue to provide unvarnished and objective intelligence in support of our national security," Coats said.

Fellow GOP politicians have generally stuck with Trump during a year and a half of turmoil, but he was assailed as seldom before as he returned home Monday night from what he had hoped would be a proud summit with Putin.

Sen. John McCain of Arizona was most outspoken, declaring that Trump made a "conscious choice to defend a tyrant" and achieved "one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory." House Speaker Paul Ryan, who rarely criticizes Trump, stressed there was "no question" that Russia had interfered.

Even staunch Trump backer Newt Gingrich, the former House speaker, called Trump's comments "the most serious mistake of his presidency" and said they "must be corrected — immediately."

Former CIA Director John Brennan, who served under President Barack Obama, called Trump's words "nothing short of treasonous." Brennan tweeted: "Not only were Trump's comments imbecilic, he is wholly in the pocket of Putin. Republican Patriots: Where are you???"

In a Fox News Channel interview after the summit, Putin pronounced the meetings "the beginning of the path" back from the West's past efforts to isolate Russia. "I think you see for yourself that these efforts failed, and they were never bound to succeed," he said.

As he flew home to Washington aboard Air Force One, Trump tried to clarify his position via tweet, saying: "As I said today and many times before, 'I have GREAT confidence in MY intelligence people.' However, I also recognize that in order to build a brighter future, we cannot exclusively focus on the past – as the world's two largest nuclear powers, we must get along!"

In an interview with Fox News' Sean Hannity that aired later Monday, Trump said "it's a shame" that he and Putin were being asked questions about the Russia probe while they were trying to discuss issues like Syria and nuclear proliferation. "We've had a phony witch hunt deal drive us apart," he said.

In their totality, Trump's remarks amounted to an unprecedented embrace of a man who for years has been isolated by the U.S. and Western allies for actions in Ukraine, Syria and beyond. And it came at the end of an extraordinary trip to Europe in which Trump had already berated allies, questioned the value of the NATO alliance and demeaned leaders including Germany's Angela Merkel and Britain's Theresa May.

The two leaders' long-awaited summit began with a private face-to-face sitdown — just the leaders and their interpreters — that lasted more than two hours, before additional meetings joined by senior aides.

The pair had held lengthy talks before — on the sidelines of world leader meetings in Germany and Vietnam last year — but this was their first official summit and was being watched closely, especially following the announcement Friday of new indictments against 12 Russian intelligence officers accused of hacking Democratic emails to help Trump's campaign.

Asked about the indictments, Putin suggested that Moscow and Washington could jointly conduct the investigation, inviting special counsel Robert Mueller's investigators to come to Russia to interview the 12 people — an idea Trump hailed as an "incredible offer."

Putin said he'd expect the U.S. to return the favor and cooperate in the Russian probe against William Browder, a British investor charged with financial crimes in Russia. Browder, an outspoken Putin critic, was a driving force behind a U.S. law targeting Russian officials over human rights abuses.

The summit began just hours after Trump blamed the United States — and not Russian election meddling or its annexation of Crimea — for a low-point in U.S.-Russia relations.

"Our relationship with Russia has NEVER been worse," Trump tweeted Monday morning, blaming "many years of U.S. foolishness and stupidity and now, the Rigged Witch Hunt!"

The Russian foreign ministry responded by liking Trump's tweet and then replying, "We agree."

Asked whether Russia was responsible at all, Trump said "we're all to blame" for the soured relations.

However, "that changed," he said, "as of about four hours ago."

Putin ridiculed as "sheer nonsense" allegations that Russian intelligence agencies had collected compromising information on Trump during his visit to Moscow years before the election, saying that he had no idea Trump was even visiting.

Trump also dismissed the idea in his interview with Hannity, adding, "If they had it, it would have been out."

Still, Putin said he had indeed wanted Trump to win the election — a revelation that might have made more headlines if not for Trump's performance — but had taken no action to make it happen.

"Yes, I wanted him to win because he spoke of normalization of Russian-U.S. ties," Putin said. "Isn't it natural to feel sympathy to a person who wanted to develop relations with our country? It's normal."

At the closing press conference, Putin, riding high after hosting a successful World Cup, unveiled a gift he'd brought for Trump: a red and white soccer ball, which he tossed to Trump at the neighboring lectern. Trump passed it over to his wife, and said they'd give it to their soccer-loving 12-year-old son, Barron.

Out on the streets, the summit attracted a grab-bag of protesters, with abortion-rights activists wearing artificially bulging bellies and Trump masks, anti-fascist protesters bearing signs with expletive-laden insults, and free traders, anti-war Ukrainians and gay rights supporters making their voices heard.


Associated Press writers Zeke Miller, Ken Thomas and Darlene Superville in Washington contributed to this report.

Lava crashes through roof of Hawaii tour boat, injuring 23

Mon, 2018-07-16 20:28

This photo provided by the Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources shows damage to the roof of a tour boat after an explosion sent lava flying through the roof off the Big Island of Hawaii Monday, July 16, 2018, injuring at least 23 people. The lava came from the Kilauea volcano, which has been erupting from a rural residential area since early May. (Hawaii Department of Land and Natural Resources via AP) (uncredited/)

An explosion caused by lava oozing into the ocean sent molten rock crashing through the roof of a sightseeing boat off Hawaii’s Big Island, injuring 23 people Monday, officials said.

A woman in her 20s was in serious condition with a broken thigh bone, the Hawaii County Fire Department said. Three others were in stable condition at a hospital with unspecified injuries. The rest of the passengers suffered burns, scrapes and other superficial injuries.

They were aboard a tour boat that takes visitors to see lava plunging into the ocean from a long-erupting volcano that has been vigorously shooting lava from a new vent in the ground for the past two months. The lava punctured the boat's roof, leaving a gaping hole, firefighters said.

Shane Turpin, the owner and captain of the vessel that was hit, said he never saw the explosion that rained molten rocks down on top of his boat.

He and his tour group had been in the area for about 20 minutes making passes of the ocean entry about 500 yards offshore, Turpin said.

He didn't observe "any major explosions," so he navigated his vessel closer, to about 250 yards away from the lava.

"As we were exiting the zone, all of a sudden everything around us exploded," he said. "It was everywhere."

Turpin said he had no idea just how big the blast was until he saw video of the event later on shore.

"It was immense," he said. "I had no idea. We didn't see it."

The U.S. Geological Survey says explosions of varying sizes happen whenever 2,000-degree (1,093-degree Celsius) lava enters much colder seawater. Some of those explosions can be so tiny they are hard to see.

"That's one way we generate black sand," said USGS geologist Janet Babb. But when the conditions are just right, much larger explosions send molten rock and other debris high into the air. Lightning is sometimes produced within the plumes of gas and lava that are ejected from the so-called "littoral" explosions.

But Monday's large blast may also be related to the undersea landscape and the amount of lava being produced by a fissure miles from the coast.

FILE - In this May 20, 2018 file photo, lava flows into the ocean near Pahoa, Hawaii. Officials say an explosion sent lava flying through the roof of a tour boat off the Big Island, Monday, July 16, 2018, injuring at least 13 people. The people were aboard a tour boat that takes visitors to see lava from an erupting volcano plunge into the ocean. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File) (Jae C. Hong/)
FILE - In this May 20, 2018 file photo, people watch a plume of steam as lava enters the ocean near Pahoa, Hawaii. Officials say an explosion sent lava flying through the roof of a tour boat off the Big Island, Monday, July 16, 2018, injuring at least 13 people. The people were aboard a tour boat that takes visitors to see lava from an erupting volcano plunge into the ocean. (AP Photo/Jae C. Hong, File) (Jae C. Hong/)

Babb said sometimes molten rock can become encrusted underwater, and when that crust breaks large amounts of lava hit the water and create huge steam explosions.

"How high and how far really depends on the vigor of the steam explosion, and that depends on the amount of lava going into the ocean," Babb said. "Based on a lot of years of observations of ocean entries," USGS estimates these explosions can send debris up to 300 meters in any direction.

In a flow that reached the ocean in 2016, the lava "hit a steep slope and was very quickly carried down to deeper parts of the ocean," Babb said. But the offshore topography of the new ocean entry is shallow, meaning explosions could occur much closer to the surface.

And the volume of lava now entering the ocean is much higher than in previous eruptions, Babb said. The active eruption site is sending as much as 100 cubic meters of lava per second snaking down to the sea. In the 2016-2017 flow to the south, there was only about 4 cubic meters per second being erupted.

Turpin said that he has been observing and documenting these explosions and that this type of activity is new to him. There were no warning signs before the blast, he said.

"There's something new. There's something really new," he said. "And I've been documenting them a bit."

Turpin has been navigating lava tour boats for many years and has lived on the Big Island since 1983.

He said most of the injuries were minor, but that he had just visited one woman who sustained serious injuries in the hospital.

"They're unbelievable people," he said of the woman and her family, who are visiting the island. "Just really good people."

The others in the tour group quickly pulled together helped one another, Turpin said.

"What I saw in humanity this morning was amazing. I mean this was a group of people that never met before, and they were brought together," he said. "In all honesty, we definitely evaded a catastrophic event today."

Officials have warned of the danger of getting close to lava entering the ocean, saying the interaction can create clouds of acid and fine glass. Despite the hazards, several companies operate such tours. The Coast Guard said tour vessels have operated in the area going back at least 20 years.

The U.S. Coast Guard in May instituted a safety zone where lava flows into the ocean off the Big Island. It prohibits vessels from getting closer than 984 feet (300 meters) from ocean-entry points.

The agency allows experienced boat operators to apply for a special license to get up to 164 feet (50 meters) from where lava sizzles into the sea.

The molten rock is coming from the Kilauea volcano, which has been erupting continuously for the past 35 years. In May, its eruption entered a new phase when it began spurting lava through newly formed fissures in a residential neighborhood. It has destroyed more than 700 homes since then. But the only serious injury over the past two months was to a man who was hit by flying lava that broke his leg.

Officials were interviewing injured passengers at a hospital.

Here’s how the trade war with China is affecting the outlook for Alaska’s seafood industry

Mon, 2018-07-16 20:22

Trump's trade war now includes tariffs on seafood going to and from China.

China is Alaska's biggest seafood buyer, purchasing 54 percent of Alaska seafood exports last year valued at $1.3 billion. On July 6, a 25 percent tariff went into effect on U.S. imports to China, including all Alaska salmon, pollock, cod, herring, flatfish, dungeness crab, sablefish, geoduck clams and more.

Then on July 11 Trump added a 10 percent tariff on all seafood sent from China to the U.S.

According to market expert John Sackton of, it includes products that are reprocessed in China and sent back for distribution in this country.

The total value of the 291 seafood products China sends to the U.S. each year is $2.75 billion. Sackton called the 10 percent tariff "a $275 million dollar direct tax on Americans."

It will hit 70 percent of imports of frozen cod fillets. Likewise, 23 percent of all frozen salmon fillets come into the U.S. from China, including pink salmon that is reprocessed into salmon burgers and fillets.

Trade data show that China represents 47 percent of U.S. breaded shrimp imports and 37 percent of frozen squid imports. China also supplies 20 percent of the U.S. frozen scallop market.

Sackton said the economic hit will go far beyond the $275 million.

"As sellers are forced to raise prices, competitive products from other countries will follow suit, resulting in across the board seafood price increases. That will discourage seafood buying so sellers will lose business as customers back away," he added.

China has been the fastest growing global market for high-end seafood. Last month Governor Walker led a trade mission to China with several Alaska seafood companies which have spent millions to expand their brand even more.

"All this money will go up in smoke," Sackton said.

In recent years, Alaska seafood sales to China have increased by millions of dollars through eCommerce activity, said Hannah Lindoff, international program director for the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute.

Lindhoff said ASMI will try to expand sales to other markets, such as Brazil, Spain and Ukraine. But, as Sackton points out, it is more expensive to mount campaigns in multiple countries than in a single large market like China.

ASMI operates on a shoestring international budget of less than $7 million a year, mostly from grants and federal dollars. Its overall budget is about $22 million, nearly all from processor taxes.

Trump's seafood tariffs come at a time when the Alaska legislature has zeroed out the state's $1 million dollar contribution to ASMI.

Compare that to Norway's more than $50 million marketing budget from a small tax on its seafood exports.

Meanwhile, the Associated Press reported on Thursday that "scant" American fish or shellfish was for sale at Jingshen, Beijing's largest wholesale seafood market, which supplies restaurants and grocers across China. Several distributors said that the recent 25 per cent tariff has made American seafood unaffordable.

Unless Congress intervenes, the additional 10 percent will take effect in September. Alaska's delegation has yet to comment.

Gearing up for crab

Boats already are signing up to participate in fall Bering Sea crab fisheries that begin October 1. Meanwhile, many crabbers are still awaiting word on what their pay outs are for last season.

Prior to the crab fisheries changing from "come one, come all" to a catch share form of management in 2005, prices were set before boats headed out, said Jake Jacobsen, director of the Inter-Cooperative Exchange which negotiates prices for most of the fleet.

"Since then the price is based on the historical division of revenues and there is a formula that is applied to sales. It takes a long time for sales to be completed to the point where we know or can predict what the final wholesale prices will be, and then we can apply the formula to it," he explained.

Prices to fishermen were down a bit from last year but historically very high, Jacobsen said. For snow crab and bairdi Tanners, which typically are hauled up after the start of each year, prices were just settled and won't be made public for another week.

"Most of the snow crab and bairdi prices were over $4 a pound, so that's very good," he hinted.

According to processor data, last season's average snow crab price was $4.07 a pound; Tanner crab averaged $3.33. For golden king crab, fishermen averaged $5.51 per pound.

For Bristol Bay red king crab, the price averaged $9.20 a pound last year, down from the record $10.18 in 2016.

Heading into the fall, Jacobsen said the price outlook is good.

"We expect king crab to be very high this year. There is quite a bit of demand throughout the world and it's in short supply," he said, adding that a huge reduction in illegally caught crab imports from Russia has helped boost the market for Alaska crab.

Right now stakeholders are "on pins and needles" that crab stock surveys underway now will yield good news for the 2018/2019 crab catches, which have been on a downward trend for several years.

"Based on last year's surveys it looks like we might have another decline in snow crab and we're not sure about red king crab as it was kind of on the margin last year," Jacobsen said. "With Tanners, we never know. If we can get some good quotas it should be a good year,"

Last season's catch limit for Bristol Bay red king crab was 6.6 million pounds, down 20 percent. For golden king crab the quota has remained stable at 6.3 million pounds. The snow crab catch quota at 19 million pounds was a 12 percent decline. For bairdi Tanners, a catch of just 2.5 million pounds was down from over 20 million pounds two years prior.

The combined value of the 2017/2018 Bering Sea crab fisheries was nearly $190 million at the Alaska docks.

Fish prices

The first thing any fisherman wants to know is what he's getting paid for his catch.

The Alaska Dept. of Fish and Game provides dock prices for nearly every fish species with comparisons going back to 1984 in its Commercial Operator's Annual Report (COAR) compiled from inputs by Alaska processors.

Here's a sampler of some of the average prices from 2017 –

The price for cod was 32 cents per pound, an increase of 4 cents from 2016. The ling cod price averaged $1.88, up 33 cents.

Those 3 billion pounds of Alaska pollock fetched 12 cents a pound for fishermen, down a penny. Herring also dropped a penny to 11 cents.

Octopus averaged 60 cents a pound, a 14 cent increase; sea cucumbers fetched $5.02, up nearly a dollar.

For 11 types of flounders, pesky arrowtooth increased 3 cents to 10 cents a pound; rex sole held as the priciest flat fish at 34 cents. Alaska plaice was the cheapest at 3 cents a pound.

For 20 types of rockfish, yellow eye (red snapper) topped the list at $1.49, up 20 cents.

Geoduck clams paid out at $6.27, down 32 cents. Longnose skates fetched 49 cents, up a nickel.

Halibut averaged $6.25, an increase of 19 cents a pound. Sablefish averaged $7.36 compared to $6.50 the year before.

Sockeye salmon averaged $1.26, up 20 cents. Chinook at $5.73 increased from $4.88; cohos at $1.23 were up a nickel, chums at 70 cents increased by 8 cents, and pinks at 36 cents a pound dropped a penny.

The priciest Alaska catch was spot shrimp paying out at $9.32, up 36 cents. Sculpins were the cheapest at one penny a pound.

Another report shows how much each fishery produced and what processors sold it for.

Alaska pollock topped them all with 1.3 billion pounds processed for a first wholesale value of $1.5 billion.

Sockeye salmon was second at nearly $790 million for 208 million pounds.

Why should all Alaskans care about fish prices? With annual catches coming in at 5 to 6 billion pounds per year, adding just one penny per pound to the total catch makes a difference of nearly one million dollars in landing taxes for the state and local governments each.

Anchorage police seek public help finding shooting suspect

Mon, 2018-07-16 18:47

Update, Monday, July 16: 

Daren Barnhart, wanted as a suspect in a non-fatal shooting, was arrested Friday evening, according to the Anchorage Police Department.

Barnhart was seen around 9 p.m. on July 13 on the 2700 block of Spenard Road. Officers responded to find him riding a bike. When ordered to stop, Barnhart "ignored the commands" and rode away to a field near Carousel Lounge, where he hid in tall grass, police said.

When police warned Barnhart that they had K9s, "Barnhart ignored those warnings, leapt up from where he was hiding, and started to run," police said. A police K9 was released and bit Barnhart in the right forearm. He was treated at the scene for the dog bite, and was then taken to the Anchorage jail on existing warrants. He was also charged with resisting arrest, police said.

Original story:

Police are seeking the public's help in finding a man who shot another man Wednesday during a dispute at a Midtown Anchorage park.

Daren Barnhart (Anchorage Police Department photo)

Daren Barnhart, 50, shot the man in the leg at Arctic Benson Park, causing minor non-life-threatening injuries, according to a preliminary investigation by the Anchorage Police Department.

The dispute involved multiple adults. It stemmed from questions over ownership of a bicycle, police said in an alert Thursday afternoon.

Officers were notified about the shooting at 6:10 p.m. Wednesday. The park is at Arctic Boulevard and West 31st Avenue.

"The group dispersed and fled on foot. This incident does not appear to be drug-related," police reported.

The individuals knew one another, and police called the shooting an "isolated incident."

MJ Thim, an APD spokesman, said officers were initially unsure whether the shooting was self-inflicted, among other questions. But they pieced together what happened and on Thursday morning nailed down the suspect's identity. As soon as police received a warrant for Barnhart's arrest, they alerted the public, he said.

The warrant for Barnhart is for a third-degree charge of weapons misconduct. He also has an outstanding misdemeanor warrant associated with an assault charge.

Police are asking for people with tips about the shooting to call non-emergency dispatch at 3-1-1.

Fish and Game restricts king salmon fishing to catch-and-release on Kenai, Kasilof rivers

Mon, 2018-07-16 18:26

A fishing boat motors past RW’s Fishing and Big Eddy Resort in Kenai on Friday, June 29, 2018. Guides at the resort, reacting to this summer’s emergency king salmon closures, are getting creative, sending guests to other rivers or having them fish for other kinds of salmon, trout or halibut. (Loren Holmes / ADN)

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game has restricted king salmon fishing to catch-and-release only on the Kenai and Kasilof rivers.

The department issued dual emergency orders Monday in response to low king salmon numbers in Cook Inlet streams.

"The 2018 king salmon runs throughout Cook Inlet have consistently and significantly underperformed preseason expectations resulting in restrictions and closures of inriver and marine sports fisheries," wrote Cook Inlet Management Coordinator Matt Miller in the release announcing the Kenai River restrictions.

[After years of poor king salmon runs, renowned Kenai River sportfishing community adjusts]

On the Kenai, anglers fishing from the mouth of the river upstream to a regulatory marker about 300 yards downstream from Slikok Creek must release kings immediately and not remove them from the water. The river upstream of the marker has been closed to all king salmon fishing since June.

In addition, anglers are prohibited from using bait on both rivers and may only use single-hook lures. As of July 14, 2,770 large king salmon (defined as fish at least 29.53 inches long) had passed the Kenai River sonar site at river mile 13.7. That compares to 4,770 kings through July 14 last year and 5,727 through the same date in 2015.

The late run on the Kenai (which began July 1) is managed for a sustainable escapement goal range of 13,500 to 27,000 late-run, large king salmon.

"Without further restrictions to harvest, the goal for Kenai River late-run king salmon is not expected to be achieved," Miller said.

[Decline in king salmon is rooted in the sea, state biologists say]

The early run on the Kenai failed to meet its escapement goal, with just 3,000 kings counted through June 30. The department's early run optimal escapement goal is 3,900 to 6,600 large king salmon. The Kasilof River restrictions were put in place to prevent an over-harvest of fish there by anglers fleeing the Kenai, Miller wrote.

"Regulation restrictions and closures have been issued for the Kenai River king salmon sport fishery during July," he wrote. "These emergency orders will likely result in an increase in the sport fishing effort and catch of king salmon in the Kasilof River during July."

He said the department will monitor the situation and take additional measures as necessary.

Trump repudiates U.S. intelligence community by according equal weight to Putin

Mon, 2018-07-16 18:13

President Donald Trump, left, and Russian President Vladimir Putin prepare to leave following a news conference in Helsinki, Finland, on Monday, July 16, 2018. Bloomberg photos by Chris Ratcliffe (Chris Ratcliffe/)

HELSINKI - U.S. officials had only days earlier released some of the most detailed intelligence on Russia that America’s spies have ever allowed the public to see: Information on bitcoin deposits, names of cyber operatives, even a description of a keyboard used to hack the 2016 U.S. election campaign. Then the nation’s top intelligence official warned that Russia’s cyber intrusions were not only real but have continued unabated.

None of it has been enough to convince President Donald Trump to believe his government over the claims of the Kremlin.

In an astonishing repudiation of U.S. intelligence services and the American system of justice, Trump used a stage he shared with Russian President Vladimir Putin - in a Finnish palace packed with international journalists - to voice breathtaking doubts about the case against Moscow and renew his attacks on special counsel Robert Mueller.

Questioned about Russia's attack, Trump said, "I don't see any reason why" Moscow would have even attempted to intervene in the 2016 campaign.

The intelligence community has concluded that the Russians conducted the operation to damage American democracy, help Trump and hurt Hillary Clinton, who has long been despised by Putin for questioning the legitimacy of his rule.

Challenged to condemn Russia's actions and warn Putin against future interference, Trump spun into a recitation of counterclaims and conspiracy theories about supposedly missing computer servers and Clinton's emails.

Asked whether he holds Russia accountable for any part of its attempts to undermine U.S. democracy, Trump said, "I hold both countries responsible . . . and I think we're all to blame."

Current and former U.S. officials were staggered by the spectacle, with some accusing Trump of having crossed a line into betrayal of his country.

Former CIA director John Brennan, who was among the first to warn that Russia was waging a campaign to help Trump, said in a posting on his Twitter account that the president's "press conference performance in Helsinki rises to & exceeds the threshold of 'high crimes & misdemeanors.' It was nothing short of treasonous."

Daniel Coats, the intelligence chief whom Trump treated as no more credible than Putin, issued a statement Monday saying that the nation's spy agencies "have been clear in our assessments of Russian meddling . . . and their ongoing, pervasive efforts to undermine our democracy."

The scorn Trump heaped on U.S. spy agencies was exceeded only by the attack he launched on Mueller and a probe that he called a "disgrace" and a "disaster for our country." He was speaking of an investigation that has racked up indictments and guilty pleas against some of the top advisers to Trump during his campaign and presidency - as well as leveling charges against 26 Russians, including military intelligence officers, for their alleged role in hacking Democratic computer networks, witness tampering and spreading disinformation to impact the vote.

"The repeated accusation that the special counsel's investigation is a 'witch hunt' is belied not only by the integrity and professionalism of the special counsel and his staff, but by their demonstrable and formidable accomplishments to date," said David Laufman, a former chief of the Justice Department's Counterintelligence and Export Control Section who had helped lead the Russia probe. "And to have lodged such an accusation on foreign soil, standing alongside the very individual believed to have sanctioned the 2016 assault on our electoral process, is a betrayal of the law enforcement and intelligence communities on whom we all depend to protect the national security of the United States."

Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein personally briefed Trump on the Russian hacking indictment before the president departed for Europe. When the charges against a dozen Russian military intelligence officers were announced Friday, by Justice Department officials who knew Trump would soon be meeting with Putin, Rosenstein delivered pointed remarks about the politicization of the probe.

"When we confront foreign interference in American elections, it is important for us to avoid thinking politically as Republicans or Democrats and instead to think patriotically as Americans. Our response must not depend on who was victimized," Rosenstein said

The Russia probe was set in motion by the FBI in 2016 amid a flurry of contacts between Trump campaign officials and Russians with close ties to the Kremlin, all against the backdrop of Moscow's hacking and the release of thousands of stolen emails on WikiLeaks.

Mueller, who was appointed after Trump fired former FBI director James Comey last year, has been tasked with uncovering the truth about Russia's interference and delivered the most detailed picture of the Kremlin operation in an indictment filed late last week.

The document charged 12 Russian spies accused of carrying out covert assignments as part of the Kremlin's interference campaign. It described how they used anonymous payment mechanisms to rent a computer server in the United States, disclosed the malware they used to rummage through Democratic Party networks, and traced some of the hackers' steps back to the keyboards where they directed hacking operations and adopted phony identities.

Some of the disclosures were so staggering that former CIA officials said they could not recall U.S. spy agencies ever allowing the public - and therefore the Kremlin as well - to have such insight into their espionage capabilities.

But Trump made clear that he sees the consensus position of U.S. spy services as offset by Putin's persistent denials, counterclaims clouded by too much ambiguity for the American president to make a judgment.

"I have great confidence in my intelligence people, but I will tell you that President Putin was extremely strong and powerful in his denial today," Trump said.

Sen. Richard Burr, R-N.C., chairman of the Senate Intelligence Committee, said it "has reviewed the 2017 [Intelligence Community] assessment and found no reason to doubt its conclusion that President Putin ordered an influence campaign aimed at the 2016 U.S. elections with the goal of undermining faith in our democratic process. . . . Any statement by Vladimir Putin contrary to these facts is a lie and should be recognized as one by the President."

At several moments Monday, Trump seemed to nod approvingly as Putin disputed American claims against Russia. "Who is to be believed and . . . who's not to be believed," Putin said, a line that closely tracked Trump's position.

At one point, Putin seemed to be mocking the United States - offering to help American investigators pursue their theories about Russian culpability, while imposing a condition that he knew the United States could never abide.

Putin said members of Mueller's team could travel to Moscow and be permitted to witness Russian authorities question the defendants named in the latest U.S. indictment. "This kind of effort should be a mutual one," Putin said, meaning that Russia would then expect to be granted entry to the United States to take part in questioning of CIA officers and others that the Kremlin suspects of interfering in Russian affairs.

Trump leaped at the proposal. "What he did is an incredible offer," Trump said. "I think that's an incredible offer."

Trump made his statements in front of senior members of his national security team, including Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, who previously led the CIA. Many senior officials in the administration are baffled by Trump's position but attribute it to his inability to accept any claim that might devalue his win over Clinton in the 2016 election.

He gave new credence to that theory on Monday, launching repeatedly into unprompted discourses about the magnitude of his win. "That was a clean campaign. I beat Hillary Clinton easily. . . . And it's a shame that there could be even a little bit of a cloud over it," he said.

The stream of outbursts came as part of a summit that Trump has pursued since the moment he took office with the foreign leader he most frequently lavishes with praise.

Trump's denials stretch back to before he was president, are now effectively "baked in" to his relationship with Putin, a former U.S. intelligence official said.

"He made it all about him and not Russia's attack on our democratic system," said another senior official, who was distraught over the spectacle of a U.S. president siding with an adversary power against his own intelligence leaders.

For some, the press conference was reminiscent of Trump's comments after last summer's protests in Charlottesville, in which Trump said that racist marchers and counterprotesters shared a measure of blame for the violence that ensued. Given the opportunity, with the world watching, to say once and for all that Russia was solely responsible for the election interference, Trump suggested that the story was more complicated, and refused to take a side.

The Washington Post’s Harris reported from Washington. Julie Tate, Ellen Nakashima and Matt Zapotosky contributed to this report.

Photos: A black bear visits Valdez Senior Center

Mon, 2018-07-16 18:07

A black bear hanging out at the Valdez Senior Center made itself available for some up-close photos Monday morning.

"She was out eating strawberries," said Katie Carr, activities coordinator for the senior center, who took the photos. The center has a strawberry patch, she said.

The black bear, which Carr said is recognizable by her markings, has been seen at the Valdez Senior Center a few times.

She's a young female black bear the center has nicknamed Missy, Carr said.

The bear hung out for about 45 minutes Monday morning, Carr said, at one point even putting her paw up to the door when Carr put her hand on the glass.

A young black bear peers through a window at the Valdez Senior Center on Monday. (Katie Carr / Valdez Senior Center)

Black bears are spotted at the senior center frequently, Carr said, as it is situated at the base of a mountain and near Crooked Creek, a salmon-spawning area.

Carr said the bear seemed "a little too comfortable with us," though, so Carr left a message with Valdez animal control alerting them to the bear's presence.

As for the senior center's 18 residents, Carr said "everyone here is pretty bear aware" and that staff and residents all watch out for the animals, keeping each other informed of recent sightings.

Valdez city clerk Sheri Pierce said that bear sightings are common in the city. Last week, 35 reports of bears were filed with the Valdez police, according to a data map provided by the city.

"This time of year, generally we've got them roaming around town, and people just have to be mindful," Pierce said.

"They're just basically waiting for the fish to come in," Pierce said.

Pierce said the bears haven't been aggressive, but that the city reminds residents and visitors throughout the summer not to approach the bears, leave trash or dog food out, or feed the bears.

Pierce said salmon begin running in Valdez in late July and early August. At that point, the bears tend to leave town and head for the woods, she said.

An employee’s shoddy work came to light while she was on maternity leave; how should we proceed?

Mon, 2018-07-16 17:37

Q: "Michelle" is due back from maternity leave tomorrow, but we don't want her back. When other employees struggled to take over her projects in her absence they found a rat's nest of poorly done and half-done assignments. When one of her co-workers alerted HR to the situation, IT looked at her computer. That's when we discovered what she's been doing during the work week when she's so "swamped" that she needs overtime — Ebay.

Not only did she cheat on her work hours, she also outright lied in the "project status" briefing she gave our management team as justification for awarding her four extra weeks of maternity leave. Her briefing swayed us, and we gave her two extra weeks of paid leave and two extra weeks of unpaid leave based on it.

It's apparent she thought we'd never look into things, and if she hadn't been gone for so long we wouldn't have, which is the silver lining to this mess.

We'd like to fire her on her first day back. We also know that pregnancy gives her "protected status." Other than documenting everything we've found, how do we protect ourselves from a wrongful termination or discrimination charge?

A: Michelle's pregnancy doesn't insulate her against being fired for dishonesty or poor performance. Another company found themselves in a similar situation this year and won their case, Oakwood Healthcare Inc. v. Michelle Bailey, in April.
When Oakwood fired the employee the day she returned from maternity leave, Bailey sued, alleging pregnancy, age and racial discrimination. The 11th Circuit ruled that Bailey's firing wasn't discriminatory given the performance deficiencies her supervisor and others discovered when they assumed her responsibilities, along with falsifications Bailey made on her employment application.

According to Ryan Braley, Regional HR Director for Avitus Group, your company and Oakwood Heathcare both found yourselves in a classic employer situation involving protected category leave. "Although both companies may be able to weather this particular storm," says Braley, "there are others ways that can head off and avoid litigation. We urge our employers to bring the employee into a meeting with their supervisor on the return to work. The supervisor can then lay out point by point the items discovered during her leave."

"On this foundation, the company can prepare a performance improvement plan, which details performance deficiencies and makes clear the need for immediate and continued improvement. Then, on a daily or weekly basis, whatever's reasonable, the supervisor can follow up. If the employee doesn't improve, then the company can terminate with less litigation risk."

Braley also notes the supervisor in this case has some accountability. "If the supervisor had been more aware of this employer's work habits, the entire situation might have been avoided."

Q: I need to terminate a popular employee. Although she's well-liked by her co-workers and others in the organization who don't supervise her, she cheats on her time sheet and makes and then hides constant errors. Then, rather than taking constructive criticism to heart, she claims I treat her unfairly. How do I handle the fallout?

A: When a supervisor terminates any employee, particularly a popular one, it weakens the supervisor's bond with other employees. Not only have you removed someone likable from their work environment, they may believe you treated her unfairly — and wonder what that means for their future.

Often, the employee you fired has invested significant amounts of time and energy telling her co-workers her views about you. She may even have lied. This leaves kindling on which you dare not toss a match by explaining "the rest of the story."

Instead, focus your energy on rebuilding your bonds with your other employees. The more you interact with them, the more your other employees will see you as you are rather than through the lens provided them by the departing employee.

Next, hold a team event as soon as possible, and focus everyone's attention on what is going right and the positive direction in which you and your continuing employees intend heading. This reestablishes some of the sense of security that gets lost whenever any employee exits.

How to maintain the republic? Originalist justices like Brett Kavanaugh

Mon, 2018-07-16 17:32

Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh listens to Sen. Rob Portman, R-Ohio, on Capitol Hill in Washington, during a meeting Wednesday, July 11, 2018. (AP Photo/Manuel Balce Ceneta) (Manuel Balce Ceneta/)

The best argument for the necessity of constitutional originalists on the Supreme Court is right before our eyes.

You can see it in the news, in our political discourse; you hear the shrieks of it everywhere: It's the hysteria of the American left over the loss of power over the nation's highest court. And now they've finally become quite unhinged.

President Donald Trump's nomination of conservative judge Brett Kavanaugh has pushed them over the edge.

Not all liberals are hysterical. Some are trying to be intellectually honest, in thanking those most responsible for Trump being able to shape the court: Like Harry Reid, the former Democratic Senate majority leader from Nevada. And former President Barack Obama, Democrat from Chicago.

It was Reid who blew up the old Senate filibuster rules to help Obama pack the federal courts with liberal judges.

Liberal Bloomberg pundit Albert R. Hunt advised Democrats to "look in the mirror."

"Democrats set the stage for their powerlessness to affect the court choice," Hunt wrote the other day, "and their reaction just deepens their political anguish."

When he was in the White House and his party was in control of Congress, Obama couldn't resist rubbing it in, like some Chicago political boss in a roomful of broken elbows. And he set the stage for all this a few years earlier, in a closed-door White House meeting with Republicans when Democrats had the power.

"Elections have consequences," he snapped, "and at the end of the day, I won."

Elections have consequences? Amazing.

And breaking established Senate precedent to serve short-term political goals like packing the lower courts with liberal judicial appointees has consequences, too. And now Republicans hold the Senate.

These days, as Senate Democrats gnash their teeth and pull their hair and their media friends announce the end of the world is at hand, there's only one thing missing: an inscription carved in stone, under the faces of Obama and Reid, with a line from a poem we read as children:

"Look on my works, ye mighty, and despair!"

I would lift a glass to such a touching monument. It would be a dry martini made of liberal tears. On the rocks, with three jalapeno/garlic olives -- shaken, not stirred.

So tasty. But only one. Moderation in all things is best.

Unfortunately, moderation is an unknown concept to many Democrats now. But their outrage over the Kavanaugh appointment can be entertaining political theater, like those protesters who dressed up in costumes from "The Handmaid's Tale."

They wore those ridiculous potato chip bonnets and warned that the Supreme Court will soon transform all American women into breeders controlled by bloodless patriarchs.

Just a little bit over the top? Perhaps. Roe v. Wade isn't going to be overturned anytime soon. Just screaming it out doesn't mean you understand how things work. At least those potato chip bonnets were nice.

But there's another side of the face of the left, a face of rage worthy of Mr. Hyde. And it howls that America is a monstrous nation and that an orange-haired demon has turned us into the country of the damned.

That's a bit over the top, too, no?

The rage is driven by the realization that Trump, who, without a conservative bone in his body, is governing as a conservative, with cuts to taxes and government regulation and a strict enforcement of borders.

And he's shaping a conservative Supreme Court that may last for generations, thanks to the Harry Reid rules that Democratic senators, from Charles Schumer of New York to Dick Durbin of Illinois, were only too eager to use when they had juice.

All this is just too much for the left. It has finally dawned on them that they've lost the Supreme Court.

For decades, the left couldn't get what they wanted through legislation, so they used activist courts to push their agenda instead.

Kavanaugh was the safe choice, a child of Washington, a loyalist in the George W. Bush White House, a conservative recruited by liberal Supreme Court Justice Elena Kagan to teach the law at Harvard. And he was an altar boy, and has a beautiful family, and feeds the poor.

Good luck, Sen. Durbin. Perhaps you can ask Kavanaugh if he, too, is an "orthodox Catholic."

When Kavanaugh is confirmed, the left will no longer be able to rely on demigods in black robes to make law from the bench.

Instead, Democrats will have to push policy agendas the old-fashioned way, through legislation in statehouses and in Congress, after convincing the American people of the rightness and reason of their policies.

Once they get legislation passed, they'll have to get it signed into law and hope such law is consistent with the Constitution.

What's wrong with that? Nothing.

I don't want the Supreme Court to give me a victory over those with whom I disagree. All I want is for the court to interpret the Constitution as it was written, as it was intended, to protect all our liberties, not just those on one side or the other depending on the political whims of the moment.

The Constitution is what protects us from our own passions and politics. Isn't that what's best for the country?

Persuading your fellow Americans to join you in pursuit of legislation -- hashing things out, compromising and building consensus so that half the country doesn't feel it has been tricked and betrayed -- is the best way.

It is the way our republic was designed. Our republic, if we can keep it.

Facing facts and correcting myths about Senate Bill 91

Mon, 2018-07-16 16:33

Passing criminal justice reform is a bit like painting a house: Sometimes, another coat or two of paint may be needed in a few spots. This is the case with Alaska and Senate Bill 91, which has been clarified during the past two legislative sessions but remains a landmark accomplishment that put Alaska's corrections system on a path that delivers more public safety for every dollar spent.

Although SB 91 has had its share of critics, it is important to remember why lawmakers overwhelmingly decided that Alaska's system had lost its shine back in July 2016. First, the system was not accomplishing its mission, as 63 percent of those who left prison in Alaska in 2011 returned within three years. Also, the exploding costs associated with a prison population that had grown 27 percent from 2006 to 2016, left the state with a smaller budget for other priorities like education and health care. Without SB 91, the prison population would have surged another 27 percent. All told, the reforms in SB 91 were projected to give state residents a break of some $380 million with $211 million in direct net savings and $169 million in savings from averted prison growth.

Of course, saving money without protecting public safety is a fool's errand. Although SB 91 has wisely been tweaked in a few ways since it was originally approved, at its core are policies that protect Alaskans. First, it requires pretrial release decisions based on risk to public safety, rather than the defendant's wealth. After all, someone charged as a serial murderer should not be released, no matter how much money they have. And someone charged with writing a hot check without prior significant offenses will likely be assessed as low risk and should be released, even if they cannot afford to pay bail.

Second, SB 91 backed up policy changes on strengthening community supervision by investing a substantial share of money in treatment and other interventions that promote accountability and reduce re-offending. Among the key investments are $17 million on pretrial supervision officers to perform assessments and supervise defendants, $1.7 million for substance abuse treatment behind bars, $800,000 for substance abuse treatment in halfway houses, $3 million for re-entry interventions to connect returning prisoners to jobs and housing, and $3 million for domestic violence and sexual assault prevention.

It is also important to note policies that SB 91 did not change. It did not alter existing laws regarding public access to parole records. Also, SB 91 did not require that anyone be released from prison. While it did expand the eligibility for parole for certain offenders, no one is entitled to parole and the decision is made by a board composed of retired corrections and law enforcement professionals with decades of experience in public safety. Rates of granting parole have remained stable since SB 91 went into effect.

Moreover, SB 91 included provisions that make it more likely those coming out of prison will be prepared to be law-abiding citizens, such as providing photo identification to discharging inmates and the development of individualized reentry plans 90 days prior to release that better enable inmates to connect with family, employment, and housing. SB 91 also implemented swift and certain sanctions and incentives for people on supervision, which could be a curfew on one hand or a travel permit on the other. These have been found to reduce re-offending by sending an immediate and clear message that compliance is expected.

Though SB 91 has not been on the books long enough to do a full evaluation of the impact, there are signs that it is doing more than simply averting a fiscal tsunami. One intended goal of SB 91 was to enhance the use of alternatives to prison for nonviolent offenders, thereby prioritizing prison space for violent and dangerous offenders. Indeed, since the legislation went into effect, the percentage of prisoners incarcerated for a violent offense has gone up 7 percentage points.

Of course, the 120-page legislation wasn't perfect. In the most recent session, Alaska lawmakers made a few adjustments around the edges, including sensibly allowing for out-of-state prior convictions to be considered when performing the pretrial risk assessment. Though it is the exception, not everyone comes to the nation's most pristine state for pristine reasons and, in those cases, a checkered past may still place them on thin ice in the last frontier.

Unfortunately, some categories of crime were increasing in Alaska before SB 91 was passed, but there is no evidence that provisions of SB 91, such as allowing police discretion to issue a citation for low-level offenses instead of making an arrest (which can sometimes involve a plane ride), have exacerbated this trend.

Many factors affect crime rates, including an economy in recession, Alaska's geography, which strains the ability of police to deter and respond to crime, as well as a higher percentage of men compared with other states. However, SB 91 is ensuring that limited law enforcement and corrections resources are being focused on those types of crime that have the most pernicious impact on victims and communities while expanding treatment and services for behaviors driven by addiction and homelessness.

Like the system in every state, Alaska's corrections infrastructure remains a work in progress. However, given that the standard measures of recidivism involve a three-year evaluation following release from incarceration, the full impact of the programs funded through SB 91 to reduce recidivism will take additional time to assess. For now, given that lawmakers have touched up the finer points of SB 91 without painting with too broad a brush, they should await further research on the impact of the legislation before making further changes.

Marc Levin serves as Vice President of Criminal Justice Policy at the Texas Public Policy Foundation.

Fun on two wheels: biking Talkeetna with kids

Mon, 2018-07-16 16:06

Facebook recently reminded me that eight years ago my son hopped on his little BMX bike and wobbled down the driveway, peddling madly. He didn't fall off, and a broad grin from the photo told us everything. A lifetime of cycling adventure had begun.

Today that kid rides my mountain bike and powers down both single-track trails and city bike paths with confidence, enjoying the freedom a bicycle affords with the excitement Alaska's varying terrain has to offer.

This summer has found us camping often in Talkeetna, 120 miles north of Anchorage, partly because we have friends in this funky village, but also because we were looking for a place where my son, now 13, and his friends could explore on their own without an overabundance of parental oversight.

In many ways the small community of Talkeetna represents much about my own childhood — quirky neighbors, interesting places, and kids. Kids are everywhere, playing on the baseball diamond, splashing in the shallow channels of nearby rivers, bikes tossed askance on the ground. Last visit I secretly watched our gaggle of old and newfound friends mount up and head to Nagley's corner store for a scoop or two of ice cream before dinner.

While Talkeetna (population 900 or so) swells with tourists and their accompanying vehicles between May and September, Main Street's downtown core is still a place where bikes, cars and people manage to coexist rather peaceably, most of the time. This is partly due to the resurgence of biking as a form of transportation in other U.S. communities, and Talkeetna, with its slower pace and tiny streets, appears to lead the way.

Where to go

A great attribute of Talkeetna is its geographic landscape — mostly flat with a few rolling hills, the perfect environment for young bikers.

Some families enjoy puttering around downtown, enjoying the stop-start of shopping, eating and viewing Denali from the river banks. Others take on sections of the 14-mile Talkeetna Spur Road trail, a wide, paved pathway providing access to all sorts of activities, including the area's more challenging trails.

Shawn Thelen, owner of North Shore Cyclery, says the area is an ideal place for families to test their biking mettle.

"Talkeetna's paved trail is excellent, since a lot of people just want to cruise around town," he told me as we stood in the bustling rental area of this newly-opened business on 2nd Street. "But we also send a lot of folks out to XYZ Lakes a few miles away."

XYZ, part of the Matanuska-Susitna Borough's Talkeetna Lakes Park system, opened in 2008 with much fanfare as a year-round destination accessible to just about everyone. Located two miles from downtown along the Talkeetna Spur Road, the park is more than 1,000 acres of forest surrounding six lakes, with hiking and biking trails winding through its scenic landscape.

Fill a backpack with lunches, water and bug spray and ride south along the Talkeetna Spur Road until you reach Comsat Road. Take a left (mind the narrow shoulder) before pulling into the Talkeetna Lakes parking area. From there it's a matter of deciding which trail to take first. The larger X Lake loop is 3.5 miles of gentle ups and downs and is perfect for kids ready for a bit of adventure.

Casey Ressler, director of marketing for the Matanuska-Susitna Convention and Visitors Bureau, agreed with my assessment.

"The Talkeetna Lakes system is perfect for families with kids," he said by email. "These trails are in great shape right now and are a nice break from the busyness of downtown."

The Denali Ski Club has done an excellent job of maintaining adjacent trails –Mink, Ermine, Otter and Marten. Allow at least a few hours to reach the trails, have lunch, ride around the lakes and ride back with tired kids.

For a longer ride that explores Talkeetna's historic past and exposes kids to the importance of the Alaska Railroad, head north on the Chase Trail.

Lasting 14 miles between a bridge spanning the fast-flowing Talkeetna River and the deserted town of Curry, this trail is shared with ATVs and can be a dusty ride in the summer.

The first five miles follow the railroad tracks in a fairly predictable manner, but after that the terrain changes to a more rugged dirt path, a potentially rough ride for younger kids. Generally, the 10-mile out and back is enough for most families.

Do not, for any reason, allow anyone in your party to go on the train tracks.

Need a bike?

Most Alaskans have their own bicycles, but for those who don't, or who may want to test different brands before purchasing for growing kids, it may prove worthwhile (and fun) to rent a bike.

North Shore Cyclery is part museum,part bike shop and all cool. Look for fat bikes, mountain bikes and an eclectic collection of vintage bicycles that will have you shouting "banana seat!" with flashbacks to the 1970s.

If you'd like to rent bikes, bike trailers or tag-alongs in Anchorage, try Pablo's Bicycle Rentals on L Street. Don't have a bike rack? They have those for rent too, carrying up to five bikes.

Talkeetna: If you go

Location: 120 miles north of Anchorage along the Parks Highway. Allow 2.5 hours, plus a bit extra due to summer road construction.

Lodging: The Talkeetna Chamber has listings of options ranging from small camping areas to large lodges and everything in between.

Bring: Lots of water, a backpack or bike panniers, bug spray and layers of extra clothing. Don't forget a bike patch kit and pump, but North Shore Cyclery can also help with quick fixes.

Erin Kirkland is author of the Alaska On the Go guidebook series and publishes, a website dedicated to Alaska family travel and outdoor recreation.

We just watched a U.S. president acting on behalf of a hostile power

Mon, 2018-07-16 15:52

U.S. President Donald Trump speaks with Russian President Vladimir Putin during a press conference after their meeting at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, Finland, Monday, July 16, 2018. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

President Donald Trump habitually calls the press "the enemy of the people" – a loathsome calumny, redolent of dictatorships, that he repeated on Sunday. In fact, by asking tough questions at Trump's joint news conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday, reporters once again showed that they are the sentinels of America democracy. If anyone is "the enemy of the people," it is Trump himself.

Those are words I never thought I would write about an American president — even one as boorish and bigoted as Trump. But after his appalling performance in Helsinki at what CNN's John King aptly called the "surrender summit," questions about Trump's loyalty to the American people will only intensify. Indeed, the question came up at the news conference itself. The Associated Press's Jonathan Lemire courageously asked "does the Russian government have any compromising material on President Trump or his family?"

Think of how extraordinary — how unprecedented — that moment was. Can you imagine a similar question being asked about any previous U.S. president? I can't. In the past, the only people who questioned the loyalty of U.S. presidents were crazy conspiracy theorists such as the John Birchers, who accused President Dwight Eisenhower of being a Russian agent — or the birthers, including Trump, who questioned whether President Barack Obama was really born in the United States. But today, the question of where the president's loyalties lie is a legitimate one, and it will only grow in urgency after Putin deflected the question about whether he had kompromat on Trump.

The Russian president dismissed the issue as "nonsense," but it was his answer that was nonsensical. Putin said that he was not even aware that Trump was in Moscow in 2013 for the Miss Universe pageant when it has been previously reported that Trump invited him to attend. Putin declined but, according to The Post, he did send "a 'friendly' letter and a gift of a Russian lacquered box" to Trump.

Trump's 2013 trip to Moscow is only the tip of a Titanic-size iceberg. As Jonathan Chait writes in New York magazine, Trump's ties to Russia stretch back to 1987 and include extensive financial connections. Chait suggests that Trump may have been compromised by the KGB, to which Putin once belonged. The speculation, while hardly conclusive, is entirely reasonable. In the past week, I have asked two senior, retired U.S. intelligence officers who spent most of their careers focused on Russia how they would characterize the Putin-Trump relationship. Independently of each other, they both said, "Putin has something on Trump."

Every week lends further credence to that disturbing hypothesis. Chait wrote before special counsel Robert Mueller unsealed his indictment against 12 Russian GRU military intelligence officers who hacked into Democratic Party emails as part of Moscow's effort to help elect Trump. (Putin admitted on Monday that he favored Trump.) The Russians, we now know, began hacking Hillary Clinton's private servers on the very day, July 27, 2016, that Trump invited them to do so ("Russia, if you're listening"). Trump's enablers tried to dismiss his words as a big joke, but the GRU seems to have taken them as a "tasker."

The sellout in Helsinki only adds further credence to this speculation about the true nature of Trump-Putin ties. Not only did Trump fail to call out the Russian strongman for his many crimes — he also attacked the FBI and accepted Putin's assurances that Russia was not responsible for interfering in the U.S. election even though the U.S. intelligence community has provided overwhelming evidence that it did. "President Putin, he just said it's not Russia," Trump said. "I will say this: I don't see any reason why it would be."

We are past the point when such statements can be dismissed as naivete — especially when Trump has previously admitted that Russia did hack the election. We are past the point where Trump's conduct can be ascribed to his belief that it is imperative to improve U.S.-Russia relations. If Trump doesn't care about the state of U.S.-German relations, U.S.-Canadian relations or U.S.-U.K. relations — all of which he has damaged in the past month — why would he care about U.S. relations with a country that has one-fourteenth of America's GDP and one-tenth of its defense budget? We are past the point where Trump's conduct can be ascribed to his general sympathy for dictators. If he is waging a trade war on China's dictator, why is he cozying up to Russia's dictator?

We are past the point when Trump's conduct — which leaves future elections wide open to Russian manipulation — can be ascribed to his unwillingness to do anything that will tarnish his glorious victory. It is true but insufficient to point out that that Trump's unwillingness to acknowledge the Russian attack on America is putting his own interests above the country's.

Even if Trump were thinking only in terms of his own political survival — his usual mode — he would be tougher on Putin, because he must realize that kowtowing to the Russian only strengthens suspicions of collusion. But Trump just cannot bring himself to do it. Is that because he hopes for more aid from Putin in the future – or because he is afraid of what Putin can reveal about him? Either way, he gives every impression of betraying his oath of office.

U.S. Constitution, Article III, Section 3: "Treason against the United States, shall consist only in levying war against them, or in adhering to their enemies, giving them aid and comfort." Trump's own national security adviser said the Russian election attack constituted an "act of war." So what does that make his boss? Some, including former CIA director John Brennan, now dare call it treason. That conclusion was once unthinkable. No longer.

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 Send submissions shorter than 200 words to or click here to submit via any web browser.

JBER plans blast testing this week

Mon, 2018-07-16 14:54

It's about to get loud in Eagle River.

According to officials with Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson, the base plans controlled detonations on the Eagle River Flats July 17-19 in order to test sound levels in the area.

"Residents in and around JBER and Eagle River may hear loud noises created by life-firing of high-explosive munitions as these test are conducted in support of data collection as part of a scientific acoustic study," reads a press release issued Monday.

[For some in Anchorage, it's been the summer of airplane noise. But just wait until next year.]

The testing will take place between 8 a.m. and 4 p.m. each day, with July 20 scheduled as a make-up day. During those times, residents can expect to hear intermittent explosions coming from the base. Depending on weather, the base said the detonations could be heard as far away as Wasilla.

The testing is being done "to measure sound levels within Knik Arm and the Eagle River Flats waterways," the release said.

Alaska Sen. Sullivan rejects Trump’s Russia comments, calls Putin ‘mafia regime leader’

Mon, 2018-07-16 14:52

U.S. President Donald Trump, left, and Russian President Vladimir Putin shake hand at the beginning of a meeting at the Presidential Palace in Helsinki, Finland, Monday, July 16, 2018. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais)

WASHINGTON — Alaska Republican Sen. Dan Sullivan strongly rejected President Donald Trump's dismissal of American intelligence indicating Russian interference in the U.S. presidential election Monday, following a press conference after a summit between Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland.

"I disagree with the President's remarks. Specifically, do I believe the professional and patriotic men and women of our intelligence community, including the Director of National Intelligence, or a mafia regime leader like Putin? It's not even a close call," Sullivan said.

"As our intelligence agencies have informed us, Russia tried to interfere in our elections and the elections of our allies across the globe. We need to take measures to prevent this from happening again and to continue to hold Russia accountable," Sullivan said in a statement.

As our intelligence agencies have informed us, Russia tried to interfere in our elections and the elections of our allies across the globe. We need to take measures to prevent this from happening again and to continue to hold Russia accountable.

— SenDanSullivan (@SenDanSullivan) July 16, 2018

Sullivan's statement comes a day after he appeared on Sunday talk show Meet the Press, where he said he felt the president's meeting with U.S. North Atlantic Treaty Organization (NATO) allies was a success overall, and that the Russia meeting should proceed.

[With Putin beside him, Trump questions U.S. intelligence on Russian election tampering]

On Sunday, Sullivan argued that if the U.S.-Russia relationship is to improve, the onus should be on Russia.

"Russia shouldn't invade its neighbors and should move out of countries it's invaded. Russia should stop aligning itself with Iran, the world's largest state sponsor of terrorism. Russia should stop backing regimes like Bashar al-Assad, who butchers his own people. And certainly, Russia should stop meddling in the elections of democracies like the United States and our allies," Sullivan told host Chuck Todd.

Before the meeting Monday, Trump tweeted that blame for a failing U.S.-Russia relationship lies with the United States. "Our relationship with Russia has NEVER been worse thanks to many years of U.S. foolishness and stupidity and now, the Rigged Witch Hunt!" he wrote.

Alaska's other senator, Lisa Murkowski, could immediately be reached for comment on Monday.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Tundra Suites Hotel Charged With Medicaid Fraud

Mon, 2018-07-16 14:04

The owner of Bethel’s Tundra Suites hotel was charged with Medicaid fraud in June 2018.(Photo by: Teresa Cotsirilos/KYUK)

The owner of Bethel's Tundra Suites hotel has been charged with Medicaid fraud.

When Medicaid recipients fly to Bethel for medical appointments, they pay for their food, hotel rooms, and cab rides with vouchers in lieu of payment. Local companies then use those vouchers to bill Medicaid for reimbursements.

Tundra Suites' owner, Chin S. Kim, 58, is accused of billing the government for Medicaid recipients who never actually stayed at his hotel. Alaska's Office of Special Prosecutions has also charged Tundra Suites employee Mi Ae Young, 56, in the alleged scheme.

According to charging documents filed with the court last month, Tundra Suites' Medicaid billing increased from an average of $4,000 a month to a high of $57,000 for December 2017. On several occasions, Kim and Young allegedly billed the government for more Medicaid recipients than there are rooms in their hotel.

Investigators claim that Mi Ae Young admitted to fraudulently billing Medicaid. According to the charging documents, Young says that she did it to help Kim when Tundra Suites started struggling financially. Kim allegedly didn't know about the scheme for months.

Kim and Young are each charged with medical assistance fraud and scheme to defraud, both of which are felonies. They were arraigned in Bethel last week and their next hearings are scheduled for July 23.