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Confidential report at the heart of Anchorage police chief’s secret suspension in 2015

Thu, 2018-02-15 21:06

Anchorage's former police chief was secretly suspended for two weeks without pay in 2015, a fact hidden even from elected representatives until it emerged in the course of a civil trial last year.

A confidential city report at the time criticized the chief, Mark Mew, for the way he handled concerns about a police lieutenant who allegedly interfered with investigations into the Alaska National Guard sex and drug scandal, court records show.

As a result of the report, the administration of then-Mayor Dan Sullivan suspended Mew. The city also fired the police lieutenant, Anthony Henry, who soon countered with a lawsuit alleging retaliation and unlawful termination.

Word of the secret suspension, first reported by KTUU-TV, raised questions about the balance between personnel records and the public's right to know about city officials accused of misconduct.

But few details are publicly known, and an Anchorage Superior Court judge this week denied an effort by the Anchorage Daily News and KTUU to gain access to the confidential report that led to the disciplinary action.

The two news organizations argued there was a constitutional right for public access to the report, which was an exhibit in the trial and was provided to the jury. But the judge, Frank Pfiffner, said he did not think it was the "time or place" to disclose the report. He pointed, in part, to privacy rights for Henry and the police employees, victims and informants named in the report and also said the news organizations should have asked for the report before the case was over.

Existence of the report, written by former Pennsylvania state police officer Rick Brown, emerged last year during a lawsuit brought by two former minority Anchorage police officers, Alvin Kennedy and Eliezer Feliciano, who claimed they were subjected to a hostile work environment. A jury ultimately awarded more than $1 million in damages each to Kennedy and Feliciano. Pfiffner sharply castigated the city for its tactics, in an order awarding nearly half a million dollars in attorney fees to the plaintiffs — double the amount that would otherwise have been due.

There were two trials in the Kennedy-Feliciano case. The first happened in 2014.

At that time, Henry was a star witness for the city. Henry had conducted an 18-month investigation of APD's now-disbanded Metro Drug Unit, to which  Kennedy and Feliciano were assigned.

Before the second trial, Mew knew of serious accusations against Henry, according to Pfiffner's ruling last year on the attorney fees. Henry was accused of ordering APD officers investigating members of the National Guard to identify sexual assault victims and whistleblowers to Gen. Thomas Katkus, the head of the Guard and Henry's former colleague at APD. The investigative leads "promptly" dried up after the alleged disclosures by Henry, Pfiffner wrote.

Even so, to preserve Henry as a credible witness in the Kennedy-Feliciano trial, Mew delayed investigating Henry, according to Pfiffner's ruling.

The first trial resulted in a hung jury. It was then that the city hired Brown to investigate Henry, Pfiffner wrote.

By the second trial, in 2017, the city had fired Henry based on Brown's investigation and Henry had sued the city. Henry was now considered a "hostile witness," and the city chose not to use him in the second trial, Pfiffner wrote.

According to Pfiffner, Mew's motivations for delaying an investigation of Henry were disclosed in the Brown report.

The nearly 100-page report also includes what the city describes as sensitive information about sexual assault victims and illegal activity. Portions of the report were provided to jurors during the second Kennedy-Feliciano trial as evidence that claims against white officers, like Henry, were thoroughly investigated, while claims against minority officers were not. Pfiffner initially ruled in January 2017, at the start of the second trial that the redacted the full document should be made public. But lawyers for Henry convinced him the next day to limit public access to the report.

In December, the Daily News and KTUU filed the motion in the Kennedy-Feliciano suit to obtain a redacted version of the entire document. An attorney for the two organizations, John McKay, argued the report was already part of the judicial record when it was admitted as an exhibit and given to the jury, and the public had the right to access the information

The content in the Brown report "relate directly and substantially to whether the behavior of the police officers and officials involved conformed to the code of conduct required of a democratic society," McKay wrote.

The city and Henry's attorneys — at odds in Henry's lawsuit against the city — joined together to oppose the release of the Brown report.

City attorneys argued the report was under a protective order in federal court, and an order from Pfiffner to unseal it would cause it to violate that order.

Henry's attorneys, meanwhile, said Henry would not have a chance to defend himself if the document were released now, though they suggested Henry planned to refute the report in the upcoming trial in his lawsuit. One attorney called the report "false and salacious"; Henry's court filing to oppose the release of the Brown report called the arguments about a National Guard cover-up "over-generalized" and "unsupported."

In his order not to make the Brown report public, Pfiffner said he agreed that if he required ordering the city to produce the report, he would be ordering it to violate a federal court order. He also cited confidentiality rights for Henry and others mentioned in the report, including sexual assault victims.

Pfiffner suggested the news organizations instead pursue the case in federal court, where the Henry case may go to trial later this year.

The news organizations haven't decided whether to appeal, said Daily News editor David Hulen.

Ken Legacki, the attorney for Kennedy and Feliciano, called in to the court hearing Wednesday afternoon. He told Pfiffner the Brown report should be public, and said he had spoken to Anchorage Assembly members who were not familiar with the document.

"I don't know who is really driving the bus here, as to what is disclosed or not to even the executives of our city who make financial decisions," Legacki said.

Either way, such a high-level suspension will likely not be so secretive again.

This past September, after learning of Mew's suspension from media reports, the Assembly updated the city's laws governing disclosures on personnel matters.

The change means the city must report disciplinary action for high-level city executives, including the police chief, to the Assembly within a month of the action taking place.

Loss to Vikings keeps UAA men’s basketball team tied with UAF for final conference playoff spot

Thu, 2018-02-15 20:45

The UAA men's basketball team remains tied with the in-state rival Nanooks for the final playoff spot in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference after both teams lost road games Thursday night.

The Seawolves lost to Western Washington 66-56 and UAF lost to Simon Fraser 83-51 to remain locked in a tie for sixth place in the GNAC. The top six teams will advance to the conference tournament March 1-3 in Anchorage.

The teams swap opponents Saturday, and on paper, the Nanooks face a tougher challenge than UAA.

Western Washington is the GNAC's second-place team and has only lost three conference games this season. Simon Fraser is 10th in the 11-team conference, and the win over UAF was its fourth of the season.

Three games remain in the conference season for both Alaska teams.

UAA (12-12 overall, 8-9 GNAC) dictated the pace at Carver Gym in Bellingham, Washington, but fell victim to a monster run by the Vikings (19-6, 14-3) that spanned the two halves.

The Seawolves took a 24-22 lead on a 3-pointer by Curtis Ryan with a little more than two minutes left in the first half, but Western Washington went on a 17-2 tear to secure a big lead early in the second half.

Deandre Dickson scored seven of his team-high 17 points in the final two minutes of the first half and the first 3 1/2 minutes of the second half to lift Western Washington to a 39-26 lead.

Dickson connected on 8 of 12 shots from the field and grabbed seven rebounds to help the Vikings to a huge 35-21 rebounding advantage. He added three steals, two blocks and one assist and made three turnovers in 33 minutes.

D.J. Ursery led UAA with 11 points, a team-high four rebounds and three assists while committing four turnovers. Malik Clements added 10 points and three Seawolves chipped in nine points apiece — Ryan, Brian Pearson and Josiah Wood. Wood also contributed three rebounds, three assists and two steals.

Three GNAC teams have clinched playoff spots — Western Oregon, Western Washington and Saint Martin's. Five teams remain in the hunt for the remaining three playoff spots — Central Washington (10-7), Seattle Pacific (9-8), UAA and UAF (both 8-9) and Northwest Nazarene (7-10). All have three games remaining.

Students fled and cowered as gunman coolly dealt out death

Thu, 2018-02-15 20:36

PARKLAND, Fla. – The young man got out of an Uber, wearing school colors. He had on a maroon polo shirt with the logo of the Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School Eagles on the sleeve.

He was carrying a black backpack and a long black bag. He was walking – "purposefully," a police report would later say – toward the school's "1200 building." Three stories of classrooms, with interior hallways and few means of escape.

If the gunman, whom police identified as Nikolas Cruz, 19, was trying to disguise himself as a student, it didn't work. He was too well known at Douglas, where staffers had been warned that the troubled former student could someday potentially pose a risk. A staffer recognized him instantly and radioed to warn a co-worker.

But the shooter still got to the 1200 building.

A few seconds later, the same worker heard gunshots.

"Code Red!" he radioed – an all-out emergency call, meant to trigger a campus lockdown.

In the next five minutes, 17 people were fatally shot.

"I heard a girl screaming for help," said Nathanael Clark, a student at the South Florida school. "And we can't open the door because if we open the door then . . . the shooter will come inside and kill all of us. And then I heard gunshots after the screams."

[The victims of the Florida high school mass shooting]

Before Wednesday, the town of Parkland was known for being the safest city in Florida, with just seven violent crimes reported last year. Douglas – a high-achieving school set among suburbs on the edge of the Everglades – was known for graduating baseball star Anthony Rizzo.

Its news was high school news: There was a dance marathon coming up next Saturday. The tennis team was selling hoodies, yoga pants and pajamas with the Douglas logo, according to that morning's announcements; see Coach Pena in the guidance office for details.

If the students felt safe, it was because they were prepared. There was an armed police officer on campus. The students had practiced to deal with an active shooter.

But then, on Wednesday, police said, trouble arrived. The gunman walked purposefully, and nothing stopped him.

"They knew what to do. We knew what to do," said Melissa Falkowski, a teacher at the school, talking about students and faculty on CNN. "And, even still – even with that – we have 17 casualties." She started to cry.

On Wednesday morning, the suspect was staying with a friend's family, which had taken him in after Cruz's mother died last year. Most mornings, the friend's father drove Cruz to an adult-education class, where he was studying for a GED.

Not Wednesday.

"He said something to the effect of, 'Oh, it's Valentine's Day, I don't go to school on Valentine's Day,' " said Jim Lewis, an attorney who represents the family Cruz was staying with.

That afternoon, Cruz hailed an Uber, using the online car-service app. In the car on the way to Douglas, he was texting with the friend whose family had taken him in. That friend was a junior at Douglas. He was in class as Cruz neared the school. But Cruz's texts to him gave no reason for alarm.

"Hey yo, hey whatcha doin?" was the last text Cruz sent, Lewis recounted.

That was 2:18 p.m.

At 2:19 p.m., the gunman arrived, according to a police timeline released Thursday.

He walked into the 1200 building, also called the "freshman building," because many of the classes were for first-years. Authorities say he removed an AR-15 assault-style rifle from the long black bag.

At about 2:21 p.m., the shooting began. Bullets streamed from the hallway, through doorways, into classrooms on the first floor.

In a psychology class, a bullet came in through the window in the classroom door and skimmed past Meghan Hill's ear, trailing an intense ringing sound. It struck her friend in the knee. Three others also were hit. The gunman moved on.

"No one was crying," said Mackenzie Hill, Meghan's twin sister, relaying her sister's memories. The wounded were moaning.

After firing into four classrooms on the first floor, police say the gunman went upstairs.

Mackenzie, who'd just left the psychology class to use an upstairs bathroom, saw a man with a gun at the other end of the second-floor hallway. Mackenzie said she recognized him.

"I immediately knew it was him," she said. She remembered the boy from her middle school and from the Dollar Store in town. She recalled his terrifying Instagram posts about wanting to kill people. "I always had a bad feeling about him," she said.

Mackenzie, caught in the hallway, rushed to the nearest classroom. She knocked on the door.

But the school had gone on lockdown. She couldn't get in.

She knocked on another door. A teacher she didn't know looked out, saw her and opened the door. He must have "seen the fear on my face," Mackenzie said.

She hid in the back of the classroom, beside a desk, with students she barely knew. One girl was having trouble breathing. Mackenzie texted a photo to her parents, showing her hiding under a desk, tears falling down her face.

"I love you guys so much," she texted, fearing it could be her last communication.

Elsewhere, entire classes were caught in the hallways: They had heard an alarm – possibly related to the shooting – and thought it was a fire drill. So they left their classrooms, dutifully following the protocol for the wrong kind of emergency.

Hearing the shots, geography teacher Scott Beigel tried to reverse course and rush his students back into the room he'd just left. He had locked it behind them.

Beigel unlocked the door.

Students ran in and cowered behind the teacher's desk. They noticed Beigel wasn't with them.

"My teacher is on the floor," Kelsey Friend, 16, texted her mother. Beigel, 35, had been shot while rushing students to safety. He died.

"He's my Superman," Friend said Thursday. "Superman saves lives, and that's exactly what Mr. Beigel did."

Another school staffer – Aaron Feis, an assistant football coach and security guard – also was credited with sacrificing his life to save students during the rampage.

Elsewhere in the school, students huddled inside closets, under desks, searching for news coverage and texting parents and siblings and friends. "I love you," Meghan Hill wrote in text messages to her sister, as they hunkered down one floor apart. "Please be safe."

In one classroom, a student used the social-media app Snapchat to record his classmates hiding. "Our f—ing school is getting shot up," he wrote as a caption. In the video, gunfire seems to be coming through the door into the classroom – about 18 shots, the gunman so close that smoke seemed to billow in the window behind the bullets.

"Oh my God! Oh my God!" the student screamed, along with others.

At 2:24 p.m., just five minutes after police say the gunman got out of the car in front of the school, the shooting stopped, according to an official police timeline. The rifle and backpack were ditched in a stairwell, and police say the shooter left the school in a crowd of fleeing students. In his Douglas High School polo shirt – authorities said Cruz had such a shirt from his time as a member of the school's Junior Reserve Officer Training Corps – he blended in. The armed police officer on the Douglas campus never encountered him, police said.

The gunman walked to a nearby Walmart, police said, and bought a drink at the Subway outlet inside.

Then he left and went to a McDonald's. He sat for a while, then moved on.

Back at the school, police began to clear classrooms, scooping up the wounded and leaving the dead. Students evacuated past bodies of their teachers and classmates, both inside and outside the building.

Nathanael Clark – who'd heard a girl pleading for help outside his classroom's locked door – left that classroom at last. He saw a girl's body outside. He wondered if it was the girl he had heard.

In the classroom where Mackenzie Hill had been hiding, police broke through the door. As the officers were guiding students out, they noticed something odd: One of the students had put on a bulletproof vest.

The student said he'd been given the vest by his father, a police officer.

Even in the safest city in Florida, he'd brought it to school with him, just in case.

As ambulances began to bring the wounded to nearby hospitals, and students began to reunite with parents, the gunman left the McDonald's and walked into a neighborhood about a mile and a half from campus. He was headed in the opposite direction of his home, into a dead-end neighborhood bounded by lakes, an expressway and the Everglades.

A police cruiser passed, and Officer Michael Leonard spotted him. Maroon shirt, black pants – the description matched. But Leonard said he hesitated, just for a moment. Could this really be the mass shooter he was looking for? This 5-foot-7, 120-pound teenager?

"He looked like a typical high school student," said Leonard, of the Coconut Creek Police.

Leonard called out. The young man didn't run. He laid down on the grass, and the handcuffs went on.

It was 3:41 p.m.

Schmidt and Fahrenthold reported from Washington. Renae Merle and Tim Craig in Parkland, Florida, and Mark Berman, Ellie Silverman and Abby Ohlheiser in Washington contributed to this report.

Anchorage police ask for public’s help in finding shooting suspect

Thu, 2018-02-15 19:57

Anchorage police are asking for the public's help in finding a man who they say exchanged gunfire with another person in downtown Anchorage.

Officers are looking for 22-year-old Elijah C. Ramirez, Anchorage police said in a written statement.

Police say that on Jan. 28, just after 10 p.m., the officers got word of a shooting in the 5900 block of 6th Avenue.

Shots had been fired at a house from a passing vehicle. Ramirez emerged from the home and ran down the street, firing at the vehicle. Ramirez was not allowed to be at the house due to a domestic violence incident from Jan. 1, police said.

About 45 minutes later, a woman arrived at an Anchorage hospital with non-life threatening bullet wounds.

"Officers have determined she was inside the residence at the time the shots were fired and was struck," police wrote.

The suspect responsible for injuring the woman has not been charged yet, according to police.

Ramirez is described by police as 5-feet 5-inches tall and weighing 155 pounds. He is being charged with violation for conditions of release and misconduct involving a weapon in the second degree.

Hoonah man charged with shipping opioid tramadol across Alaska

Thu, 2018-02-15 18:41

A Hoonah man faces criminal charges after police seized more than 9,000 synthetic opioid pills from packages that he was allegedly receiving and shipping across Alaska and the United States.

Nickolas Paul Cakmis, 39, was charged Wednesday with one count of misconduct involving a controlled substance in the third degree. The charge carries a maximum five-year prison sentence and a fine of up to $50,000.

Over the course of two months, investigators seized packages containing the synthetic opioid tramadol that Cakmis was allegedly sending and receiving at the Hoonah post office. Tramadol is a synthetic opioid used for pain management.

Cakmis moved to Hoonah, a Southeast Alaska town of around 750 people, in October, charging documents say. Online public records show a Kotzebue post office box as Cakmis' mailing address.

On Dec. 13, the U.S. postmaster inspector got word that Cakmis was "mailing a large number of pills in Priority Mail parcels," charging documents say. Eight packages containing around 2,500 tramadol pills were opened and seized.

Then, on Dec. 14, a package from India came in for Cakmis at the Hoonah post office. Another 2,000 tramadol pills were seized. A second international package addressed to Cakmis was seized on Dec. 20, with 2,000 pills.

Despite his incoming packages being seized, Cakmis continued to ship tramadol pills across the U.S., charging documents say.

On Jan. 28, the postal inspector spoke with the Hoonah postmaster.

The postmaster said "Cakmis has been coming into the Hoonah post office approximately every two weeks to mail multiple parcels using fictitious return addresses and never uses his name," court documents say.

On Jan. 30, law enforcement intercepted seven packages that Cakmis shipped with fake return addresses in Juneau. Another 1,880 pills were seized.

On Feb. 13, officers spoke to Cakmis at his Hoonah job. He admitted to getting overseas shipments of tramadol, which he would reship "throughout Alaska" and the U.S., according to charging documents.

His overseas source would text him or message him on the WhatsApp smartphone app and tell Cakmis where to ship the drug.

"He started to reship tramadol in early October 2017 when he moved to Hoonah," the court documents say.

Tramadol is used for pain management in both humans and animals. Veterinarians prescribe the drug for dogs and cats. It's described as a small, white, bitter-tasting pill.

The drug is a much weaker opioid than fentanyl, a powerful synthetic opioid responsible for at least 22 overdose deaths in the first five months of 2017, said Jay Butler, chief medical officer for the Alaska Department of Health and Social Services.

While tramadol does "have some abuse potential," it is generally less addictive than drugs like oxycodone or morphine, Butler said.

But tramadol overdoses are "very challenging," Butler said, due to some effects of the drug — like seizures and heart arrhythmia — not seen in other opioids.

"Patients who have a tramadol overdose are seriously ill and often take days of intensive medical support to be able to recover," Butler said.

Butler said he has heard public testimony that tramadol is diverted and abused in rural areas of Alaska more often than urban parts of the state.

"I think it's filling the market niche in areas where the price of heroin is very high," Butler said.

Tramadol has been listed as a federal controlled substance since 2014.

In November, Alaska legislators passed a bill adding tramadol to the state's controlled substance list, which gave law enforcement the ability to prosecute cases on the state level.

Cakmis and his attorney could not immediately be reached Thursday. His next hearing is scheduled for Feb. 24.

Tramadol has been in Alaska news this year after Iditarod officials said dogs on four-time Iditarod champion Dallas Seavey's team tested positive for tramadol.

On Wednesday, Seavey's attorney held a press conference during which he said that an investigation had proven that the musher did not drug his sled dogs during the 2017 race to Nome.

[The Iditarod controversy revolves around a drug called tramadol. What does it actually do?]

Photos: Olympics, Day 6

Thu, 2018-02-15 18:40

Readers write: Letters to the editor, February 16, 2018

Thu, 2018-02-15 18:26

Unisex bathrooms would solve problem
Regarding "the bathroom bill" — Solution: Make all bathrooms unisex with private stalls and functioning doors. Problem solved.
— Judie Wolfe
Anchorage

Where has the politeness gone?
I was riding the Route 25 bus Feb. 14. on A street, going downtown, around 6:30 p.m. It was crowded and a young mother with a toddler (about 3-5 years old) was sitting up front opposite the driver. They got off with a stroller at 12th and A. Do you think somebody would have helped them as it was snowing as they got off the bus? Maybe 10 or 15 years ago somebody would have helped them. But not today.
— Donald Head
Anchorage

No thanks to ANWR drilling
Columnist Steve Meyer's recounting of a summer evening spent in camp chairs is nearly identical to my Alaska experience. I was born and raised here by avid outdoorspeople, spending weekends and summers exploring Alaska's untrammeled expanses. Now, at 25, I continue to enjoy this wilderness to the fullest.
Meyer reluctantly expressed his support for drilling in the Arctic refuge, explaining that he doesn't want to prevent a younger generation of Alaskans from "getting theirs" in oil revenues. I'm a member of that generation, and I say, "no, thank you" to ANWR drilling.
Oil is a finite resource; we'll need to transition our economy someday. I don't want to hand this problem down to my children to deal with. Furthermore, we're already experiencing climate change impacts. I don't want to saddle future generations with more erosion, wildfires and subsistence shifts.
Meyer points to the lack of alternative energy as a reason to fall back on oil. But that's precisely what's keeping Alaskans from envisioning a sustainable future. We should do more than lament the lack of alternatives — we should come together and demand them. For the sake of future Alaskans, let's make proactive changes now while we still have places like ANWR that make this state special.
— Rebecca Wolfe
Anchorage

The views expressed here are the writers' own and are not necessarily endorsed by the Anchorage Daily News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a letter under 200 words for consideration, email letters@adn.com, or click here to submit via any web browser. Submitting a letter to the editor constitutes granting permission for it to be edited for clarity, accuracy and brevity. Send longer works of opinion to commentary@adn.com.

Coming up this week: Pulse Dance Company, Prohibition party and Blackwater Railroad

Thu, 2018-02-15 17:54

Pulse Dance Company in concert

Celebrate the close of Pulse Dance Company's eighth season with this finale concert featuring choreography from Pulse founder Stephanie Wonchala and internationally acclaimed dancer Jake Casey. Guest performances by award-winning groups Artistic Drift hip hop crew and the Senior Company from Studio 49. Tic$25-$28. 8 p.m. Friday and Saturday, 6 p.m. Sunday, UAA Wendy Williamson Auditorium, 2533 Providence Dr. (pulsedancecompany.org)

Arctic Entries 'Under the Influence'

Arctic Entries is back for its annual Bear Tooth show. This time around, seven local storytellers will each tell seven-minute long "stories of mad love, losing control and drinking the Kool-Aid." $20-$25. 8 p.m. Thursday, Bear Tooth Theatrepub, 1230 W. 27th Ave. (beartooththeatre.net)

Little Shop of Horrors

Seymour Krelborn, a timid floral assistant, encounters a crude and carnivorous talking plant in this award-winning, genre-spanning musical. Featuring music and lyrics from Broadway legends Howard Ashman and Alan Menken. $49.25-$91.75. Showtimes vary Tuesday-Sunday, Atwood Concert Hall, 621 W. Sixth Ave. (centertix.com)

Prohibition party at Tequila 61

Travel back to Prohibition era Alaska with Tequila 61° this weekend. The restaurant and bar will be transforming into a 1920s speakeasy for one night only to celebrate the life of Anchorage's first chief of police, John "Blackjack" Sturgus. Dress in flapper dresses and fedoras and enjoy a build-your-own-taco bar and appetizers, specialty cocktails, live jazz music from three-piece band "Katie Begins at 8" and more. Don't forget the password: "the bee's knees." 21 and over. $20 in advance, $25 at the door. 9 p.m. Saturday, Tequila 61°, 445 W. Fourth Ave. (eventbrite.com)

Salsa Festival masquerade ball

Indulge in a night of glitz and glamour at the Alaska Salsa Festival. Feel free to participate in the Jack and Jill dance competition (couples are randomly selected) or grab a drink and watch the local and international talent perform. Find a mask and a partner and dance the night away. $50. 9 p.m. Friday, Sheraton Anchorage Hotel and Spa, 401 E. Sixth Ave. (alaskadancepromotions.com)
planetarium

Explore dark matter

Explore the galaxy with UAA astronomer and planetarium director Dr. Erin Hicks as she takes you on a journey through the history of dark matter, from the Big Bang to the latest studies on the subject. Learn the science from top astronomers throughout time and witness the beauty of space and matter all from your seat. $5-$10. 6:30 p.m. Friday, UAA Planetarium, 3101 Science Circle. (uaatix.universitytickets.com)

Blackwater Railroad Company

Before they embark on their Off the Highway tour of rural Alaska, Blackwater Railroad Company is bringing its indie-folk stylings to Williwaw for one night. Formed in a basement in Seward, Blackwater Railroad Company is known all across Alaska for upbeat originals and eclectic covers of both modern and classic hits. 21 and over. $10 in advance, $13 at the door (plus fees.) 10 p.m. Friday, Williwaw, 609 F St. (eventbrite.com)

Boat Show

Get ready for summer at Alaska's biggest boat show. This event features food, countless boating displays and a special rate from Alaska USA Federal Credit Union. Sign up at each display for a chance to win over $20,000 in boating and outdoor gear prizes. $3-$10. 10 a.m.-8 p.m. Friday-Sunday, Dena'ina Civic and Convention Center, 600 W. Seventh Ave. (anchorageboatshow.com)

Video: Chinese New Year celebration at Bartlett High School

Thu, 2018-02-15 17:50

Chinese language students performed traditional dragon and lion dances during a Chinese New Year celebration at Bartlett High School on Thursday, Feb. 15, 2018. Kindergartners and first graders from the Chinese immersion program at Scenic Park Elementary and the UAA Confucius Institute helped ring in the Year of the Dog, which begins on Friday.

The victims of the Florida high school mass shooting

Thu, 2018-02-15 16:48

The Broward County Sheriff's Office released the names of the 17 people killed Wednesday in the mass shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School. Relatives and friends of the victims took to social media Thursday to mourn and honor the people they lost. The victims were:

– Alyssa Alhadeff, 14

Alyssa, a freshman, had been reported missing by her grandmother Wednesday after the shooting. Her cousin Ariella Del Quaglio confirmed the student's death via Facebook on Thursday.

– Scott Beigel, 35

Beigel was a geography teacher and a cross country coach at the school who unlocked his classroom to allow panicked students to take shelter inside during the shooting. He was struck and killed by a bullet while closing the door behind them.

Kelsey Friend, one of the students whose lives he saved, told CNN, "When he opened the door, he had to relock it so that we could stay safe, but he didn't get the chance."

Directly addressing Beigel's family, Friend said, "Thank you for bringing and having this amazing person in life and giving him the power to be stronger than I could have ever been."

Thomas Risley, 15, said he had been in Beigel's world history class earlier in the day. They were doing assessments and talking about the Glorious Revolution.

Risley said he can't believe his teacher is gone.

"He cared a lot about his students," he said. "It's going to be really sad walking into that classroom and not seeing him. I'm going to miss his colorful personality."

[Authorities seek motive after 19-year-old confesses to Florida school shooting]

– Martin Duque, 14

Martin, a freshman, was at school Wednesday and died in the shooting. His older brother Miguel, who graduated from Stoneman Douglas High last year, shared the news via an Instagram post early Thursday morning. "Words can not describe my pain," he wrote. "I love brother Martin you'll be missed buddy."

– Nicholas Dworet, 17

Nicholas, a senior who had just received a swimming scholarship to the University of Indianapolis, was killed. Glenn Greenwald, a journalist with The Intercept, shared the news on Twitter.

– Aaron Feis, 37

Feis, an assistant football coach, was critically injured after jumping in front of the shooter to protect students. He died from his wounds Wednesday night. The school's football team announced the news on its Twitter account.

– Jaime Guttenberg, 14

Jamie, a student at the school, was killed during the rampage. Her father, Fred, shared the tragic news in a Facebook post.

"My heart is broken. Yesterday, Jennifer Bloom Guttenberg and I lost our baby girl to a violent shooting at her school. We lost our daughter and my son Jesse Guttenberg lost his sister. I am broken as I write this trying to figure out how my family gets through this. We appreciate all of the calls and messages and we apologize for not reacting to everyone individually. Jen and I will be figuring things out today and so we ask that you respect our privacy. We will be getting messages out later regarding visitation. Hugs to all and hold your children tight."

– Chris Hixon, 49

Hixon, the athletic director at the high school, was confirmed dead by family and friends Thursday. He previously served as South Broward High School's athletic director.

– Luke Hoyer, 15

Luke was confirmed to have died on the third floor of the school by family members.

"This has devastated our family and we're all in shock and disbelief. Our hearts are broken. Luke was a beautiful human being and greatly loved," posted his uncle, Toni Brownlee, on Facebook. "Also, pray for the other families whose loved were also murdered so cruelly."

His aunt, Mary Stroud-Gibbs, also shared her pain: "Our Luke was a precious child, who just went to school yesterday not knowing what was to come."

– Cara Loughran, 14

Cara was confirmed dead by a peer counselor at her church.

"RIP Cara, and fly with the angels. You will be greatly missed, and we will always love you and celebrate your beautiful life," her neighbor wrote on Facebook.

– Gina Montalto, 14

Gina, a freshman, served on the school's winter guard team. She died late Wednesday night, friends and family confirmed on social media. Gina had been missing after the shooting and was not answering her phone.

One of her color guard instructors from middle school, Manuel Miranda, posted about her death Wednesday night.

"My heart is broken into pieces. I will forever remember you, my sweet angel," Miranda told the Miami Herald. Miranda taught Montalto last year at Westglades Middle School in Broward. "She was the sweetest soul ever. She was kind, caring, always smiling and wanting to help."

The Stoneman Douglas winter guard group was scheduled to perform at a regional event in Tampa this weekend.

– Joaquin Oliver, 17

Joaquin was born in Venezuela and moved to the U.S. at the age of 3 with his family. He had become a U.S. citizen in January 2017.

His Instagram account includes several photos with his mother and sister, to whom he was extremely close. His girlfriend, Victoria Gonzalez, confirmed he was killed in the massacre.

– Alaina Petty, 14

Alaina was confirmed dead, according to friends and family.

"There are no hashtags for moments like this, only sadness," said Claudette McMahon Joshi, Petty's great-aunt. "Our hearts are with them and all the families touched by this tragedy."

In a statement, her family said Alaina was a member of the JROTC program and volunteered with the "Helping Hands" program of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints, including a cleanup of the Keys after Hurricane Irma.

"It is impossible to sum up all that Alaina was, and meant, to her family & friends," the family wrote. "Alaina was a vibrant and determined young woman, loved by all who knew her."

[As shots rang out, a student texts: 'If I don't make It, I love you']

– Meadow Pollack, 18

Pollack, a senior, planned to attend Lynn University. She was confirmed dead early Thursday.

"Please say a prayer for the family of an amazing girl I got to call my best friend growing up," posted her friend Gii Lovito on Facebook. "Her life was taken way too soon and I have no words to describe how this feels."

– Helena Ramsey, 17

Helena would have started college next year. Her family member, in a lengthy Facebook post, called her a "smart, kind hearted and thoughtful person."

"Though she was some what reserved, she had a relentless motivation towards her academic studies, and her soft warm demeanor brought the best out in all who knew her. She was so brilliant and witty, and I'm still wrestling with the idea that she is actually gone."

Helena's death was confirmed via an official – yet incomplete – list of victims released by the Broward County State Attorney's Office.

– Alex Schachter, 14

Alex, a marching band student, was confirmed dead by a former instructor as well as by Congregation Beth Am in Longwood.

– Carmen Schentrup, 16

Schentrup, a 2017 National Merit Scholar semifinalist, was confirmed dead Thursday morning by several friends on social media.

– Peter Wang, 15

Peter was in the school's ROTC program, and he was last seen wearing the gray uniform with black stripes as he held open the door so others could escape, his cousin, Aaron Chen, told the Miami Herald. Peter, who Aaron described as brave, was in study hall when the shooting started.

His best friend, Gabriel Ammirata, said Peter was "funny, nice and a great friend. He's been my best friend since third grade."

Gabriel planned to celebrate the Chinese New Year on Thursday with Peter and his family at the Chinese restaurant Peter's family owned.

El Nuevo Herald staff writer Johanna A. Alvarez contributed to this report.

Olympic notebook: US women skiers are ready for relay; former UAA hockey captain shines for Canada

Thu, 2018-02-15 16:34

Bring on the relay.

The U.S. women's cross-country team is salivating for an Olympic medal and would like nothing better than to win one in a team race like the relay.

A tight-knit group known for their team spirit, the Americans make videos together and put glitter on each other's faces before races. They like to do things together, which makes the relay the perfect race for them to make history.

"I'm so stoked for the relays," Minnesota's Jessie Diggins told teamusa.org Thurday after coming agonizingly close to a medal for the third straight race. "They're my all-time favorite events and I know we have a really strong team. This is the best women's team in the history that we've ever had at the Games.

At any other Winter Olympics, American skiers would be turning cartwheels after landing three skiers in the top 16 like they did in the 10-kilometer freestyle Thursday.

But this is the Olympics where the U.S. medal drought, which dates back to 1976, is supposed to end. The one where the women, who have never earned an Olympic medal, place someone on the podium.

Diggins has come close in three consecutive individual races. She was 3.3 seconds out of the bronze-medal position in the 10K, 4.6 seconds out in the 15K skiathlon and made it to the six-woman finals of the classic sprint before finishing last.

Diggins placed fifth in Thursday's 10K and was joined in the top 16 by Anchorage skiers Sadie Bjornsen and Kikkan Randall, who placed 15th and 16th, respectively.

Randall and Bjornsen had earlier starts than Diggins and were in the finish area as their teammate approached. Race updates indicated Diggins was closing in on a medal.

"I thought we were going to be witnessing history," Randall said in a post-race interview with NBC. "Sadie and I were ready to go tackle her on the finish line."

That didn't happen, but the U.S. skiers are undeterred. They immediately turned their attention to the 4x5K mixed-technique relay is Saturday at 12:30 a.m. AST.

"We're having a lot of fun together, and we're looking forward to bringing the whole team together as we head into these relays and just use that team spirit," Randall said.

Randall, 35 and a five-time Olympian, said the team is having fun while remaining focused on its goal to leave Pyeongchang with a medal.

"We've had the best vibe going on the team that I've ever seen," she told NBC. "Everybody's lighthearted, everybody's doing exactly what they need to do to perform, but enjoying the process. I think that's what helps us ski fast."

Randall's 16th-place finish Thursday may have been her ticket onto the relay team. Diggins, Bjornsen, Randall and Sophie Caldwell, who advanced to the semifinals of the sprint, are the leading contenders to race the relay.

"I always said (winning a relay medal) would be the coolest thing because it shows the depth of a team," Diggins said in a teamusa.org race report. "I think you don't get anywhere alone in life."

Seawolves on ice

Former UAA hockey captain Mat Robinson played a key role in Canada's 5-1 win over Switzerland on Thursday morning.

Robinson and Chris Lee were Canada's top defensive pairing, and Robinson recorded more ice time than any other player.

He skated 30 shifts, logged a little more than 22 minutes of playing time and was of two Canadians who finished plus-2.

Canada jumped to a 4-0 lead early in the second period to avoid the first-game upset bug in Pyeonchang. Two powerhouses — the United States and the Olympic Athletes from Russia — both suffered upsets in earlier games, with the U.S. losing to Slovenia 3-2 in overtime and OAR falling to Slovakia 3-2.

Robinson, 31, served as a team captain for UAA during his time there from 2005-09 and plays professionally in Russia.

He and Lee, 37, are the only members of the Canadian team without any NHL experience.

Pentagon targets ‘non-deployable’ troops for removal in new effort

Thu, 2018-02-15 14:42

WASHINGTON – The Pentagon has launched a new effort to remove U.S. troops from the ranks who are considered unable to deploy, a sensitive decision that could push thousands of people out of the military.

The decision is in keeping with Defense Secretary Jim Mattis' guidance to put the readiness of the military to fight first, according to a memo released Thursday by the Pentagon. With few exceptions, service members who are considered unable to deploy for 12 months will be processed for "administrative separation," said the memo, signed by Robert Wilkie, the undersecretary of defense for personnel and readiness.

Service members can be considered unable to deploy for a variety of reasons, including physical injuries, mental-health concerns, legal action and poor physical fitness. Wilkie, speaking before the Senate Armed Services subcommittee on personnel and readiness, said Wednesday that about 13 to 14 percent of the military – an estimated 286,000 troops – are presently considered unable to deploy.

"The situation we face today is really unlike anything we have faced, certainly in the post-World War II era," he said.

[Missile defense gets major boost in funding bill, with big Alaska impact]

A fraction of the full population of non-deployable service members ultimately will probably be targeted for separation, but the new rules, first reported by Military Times, will force others to lose weight, seek required physical exams and obtain approval from their doctors to return to deployable status.

Exceptions to the new rules will be granted to women who are pregnant or recently had a child, the memo said. Service secretaries also can seek waivers to keep individuals who they deem worthy, including troops wounded or injured in military operations.

"Our wounded, ill, and injured service members remain a top priority and will continue to be given the best medical care available," said Air Force Maj. Carla Gleason, a Pentagon spokeswoman.

The decision was announced about a week before Mattis is expected to make his recommendations to the White House on how the military should handle transgender military service. Transgender service members have been allowed to serve openly in the military since the Obama administration allowed it in 2016, but President Donald Trump has indicated that he is against it.

Mattis formed a panel to review the issue last fall, and was directed by the White House to issue his recommendations to the president this month.

Gleason said the new policy on non-deployable service members applies equally to transgender troops, meaning that even if one pursued gender reassignment surgery, they must be ready to deploy within a year.

Wilkie said in the memo that the new guidelines were released on an interim basis, with a permanent policy to be released later. The military services have until Oct. 1 to begin removing service members, but they can start doing so immediately, the memo said.

Senior military leaders have expressed concern about the number of non-deployable service members for years. A 2011 study by several colonels at the Army War College in Carlisle, Pennsylvania, found that the service had seen a steady rise in non-deployable soldiers in the past few years.

"The non-deployable population – especially permanently non-deployable soldiers – places a drag on the manning system," the study said. "Because these soldiers are unable to deploy to operational assignments in theater, units require additional manpower to offset non-deployable soldiers to achieve combat effectiveness."

Ski resorts are going into the energy business

Thu, 2018-02-15 14:32

A lot of businesses have to rely on a supplier. But if you're in the ski resort business, there's probably no supplier more important than your energy supplier. The problem is that energy is expensive – and some of it is not so good for the environment. That's why more and more ski resort businesses are getting into the energy business. Not only is that good for their carbon footprint – it's also good for the bottom line.

It takes a lot of power to operate a resort, what with lifts to run, snow to make and vehicles to fuel. Which is why ski resorts are oftentimes the largest customers for their local utility providers, particularly during the winter months. That buying power has created opportunities.

For example, the Aspen Skiing Co. in Colorado generates 24 million kilowatt hours of energy a year – enough to power their mountains and 2,400 homes – and now they're doing much of it themselves through utilities that they own.

Smaller resorts, like the Mount Abram Ski Area in Maine, are collecting energy through hundreds of solar panels. Colorado's Vail Resorts says they'll be powered by 100 percent renewable energy by 2030 and another resort – Squaw Valley in Olympic Valley, California – plans to be 100 percent powered by reusable energy by the end of the year. These resorts are dramatically cutting their energy costs by either using their own collected power or selling it back to their utility companies.

"If they want to be able to survive as a ski resort, maintain the levels of snow that are critical, we have to get off of fossil fuels," Marta Stoepker, who works on the Sierra Club's Beyond Coal Campaign said in this Powder Magazine article. "They [ski resorts] have a vested interest in this."

Power storage is also in big demand. Batteries are handy for resorts when there isn't enough room (or money) to build their own grids. Some of these companies – such as Squaw Valley – use batteries to back up the collection of their solar power and which then helps them to better counteract the surges and volatility of power demand caused by the stopping and starting chairlifts and snow making machines.

"This is very real," Andy Wirth, Squaw Valley's chief executive said in the Powder Magazine report. "This is also very affordable. So why wouldn't we take advantage of that?"

Jalapeno popper macaroni and cheese: A childhood favorite grows up

Thu, 2018-02-15 14:14

Our picky-eating 10-year-old daughter's favorite food is macaroni and cheese. Except there's one critical caveat. It must come from a blue box. A blue box with a packet of cheese powder. You know the ones. If I offer her the organic version she can tell the difference immediately and pushes it away. If I make a batch of macaroni and cheese from scratch, with cheese that doesn't come in powder form, she turns her nose up at it and won't touch it, no matter how creamy and delicious it is. Despite all of my attempts to convert her, I have lost the macaroni and cheese battle. For now. I still hold out hope that one day when she is grown she might appreciate the sheer ecstasy that is a bowl of homemade macaroni and cheese.

In my cookbook, which hits the shelves on Tuesday, I share about growing up with food insecurity and the ways in which foods like macaroni and cheese from a blue box kept me going. I talk about my need to nourish people, most especially my children. And I discuss the bittersweet irony of my daughter choosing blue boxes of macaroni and cheese over anything her cookbook author mom might make for her.

This recipe for jalapeño popper macaroni and cheese is in the book, too. It's a grown-up version of macaroni and cheese — comfort food with a kick, as I like to say — for those in the house who actually appreciate a good macaroni and cheese made from scratch. I'm hopeful many of my readers will enjoy it, too.

P.S. Come see me at the Bear Tooth in Anchorage on Monday, Feb. 26, from 4:30-6:30 p.m., where I will be signing books. There will be copies of "The Alaska from Scratch Cookbook" available at the event.

Jalapeno popper macaroni and cheese

From "The Alaska from Scratch Cookbook"

3 cups water

1 1/2 cups whole milk, divided

3 cups elbow macaroni

1 teaspoon salt, plus more to taste

2 tablespoons butter

1 large jalapeño, thinly sliced

2 teaspoons cornstarch

1/2 teaspoon garlic powder

3 cups grated sharp cheddar cheese

3 ounces cream cheese

1/4 cup panko crumbs, toasted

In a Dutch oven or large pot over high heat, stir together the water, 1 cup of the milk, the pasta and salt. Bring to a boil, stirring often to prevent the pasta from sticking to the bottom of the pan. Reduce the heat to medium and simmer, continuing to stir often, for 9 minutes, or until the pasta is al dente.

Meanwhile, in a small skillet, melt the butter over medium-high heat. Cook the jalapeño pepper for 2 minutes, or until fragrant and tender. Turn off the heat and set aside.

In a small bowl, stir together the remaining 1/2 cup milk with the cornstarch and garlic powder. Add to the pasta mixture, stirring until it begins to thicken. Add the cheddar and cream cheese and mix until creamy and smooth. If the mixture is too thick, gradually add more water to make it creamier. Add the jalapeño and butter and toss to combine. Season with more salt as needed. Sprinkle the top of the macaroni with the toasted panko and serve promptly while hot.

Maya Wilson lives in Kenai and blogs about food at alaskafromscratch.com. Have a food question or recipe request? Email maya@alaskafromscratch.com and your inquiry may appear in a future column.

Republican Senate appointee who compared women to dogs and suggested execution of abortion providers withdraws from consideration

Thu, 2018-02-15 13:09
(function(d, s, id) { var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0]; if (d.getElementById(id)) return; js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id; js.src = 'https://connect.facebook.net/en_US/sdk.js#xfbml=1&version=v2.12'; fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs); }(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk'));Posted by Tom Braund on Tuesday, May 31, 2011

Update:

Alaska Gov. Walker's second choice to fill a vacant Mat-Su state Senate seat, Tom Braund, has withdrawn his name from consideration.

Braund announced his withdrawal in a letter to Walker at midday Thursday.

The Alaska Republican Party said it was replacing its suggestion of Braund with a Palmer woman, Vicki Wallner.

Wallner says she's a retired small-business owner. She's also the founder of a Facebook group called Stop Valley Thieves and a strident critic of Senate Bill 91, a 2016 criminal justice overhaul bill that Walker signed into law.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Original story:

Alaska Gov. Bill Walker has appointed a man to the state Senate who, on his Facebook page, has compared women to dogs, accused Sen. Lisa Murkowski of treason and suggested that medical workers who perform abortions should be "executed with scissors cutting their hearts out."

Walker announced late Wednesday that he'd chosen Tom Braund of Sutton to fill the state Senate seat left vacant by Wasilla Republican Mike Dunleavy, who resigned last month to run for governor.

Braund, a 71-year-old Republican who says he's worked as a police officer and in the Marine Corps, was one of three candidates for the seat recommended by Republicans from Dunleavy's Mat-Su district.

Senate Republicans, who must vote to confirm Walker's appointment, rejected the governor's first choice: Mat-Su Borough Assemblyman Randall Kowalke, another Republican who wasn't on the list of suggested candidates.

Walker's spokesman, Austin Baird, wouldn't endorse Braund as qualified for the job. The governor, in a prepared statement, didn't either, saying he still thought Kowalke was "the best candidate" for the seat.

"But I now believe Senate Republicans will continue to reject anyone I appoint, no matter how qualified, unless that person's name is on the list provided to me by the Republican Party," said Walker, an independent. "As such, I have appointed Thomas Braund to fill the vacancy."

Braund couldn't immediately be reached by phone.

But in a series of Facebook messages Thursday morning, he said he was busy trying to resolve a "critical issue." When a Daily News reporter referenced questions and concerns about some of his Facebook posts, Braund responded that people's concerns were "good."

"That means I scare them," he wrote. "Some of them need to be scared; they're on the wrong side."

He added: "Social media is just that, social. How much of it is true, how much is humor, how much is spin."

A spokesman for Senate Republicans, Daniel McDonald, said in a prepared statement that the group would meet to consider Braund's appointment "soon."

"Until they do, we have no comment on the candidate," McDonald said.

Within minutes of his appointment Wednesday, some of Braund's posts began circulating on social media and within the state's political circles.

Among them was one from December with the heading "Theory of why some men have dogs and not wives." Below was a list of 14 points including one that said "if a dog smells another dog on you, they don't get mad. They just think it's interesting."

The post ended: "To test this theory: Lock your wife and your dog in the garage for an hour. Then open it and see who's happy to see you!"

A separate 2017 post came in response to a campaign to defund the reproductive health organization Planned Parenthood, which performs abortions. Braund, in his reply, wrote: "Got to get a godly Legislature."

"If I had the reins, this would be murder and the abortionists and all their accessories would be hunted and executed with scissors cutting their hearts out. Oh, I forgot, they don't have hearts," he wrote.

And in 2016, Braund posted a link to a conservative news website's story about legislation in Congress to ease restrictions on abortion, attacking Republican U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski in the process.

"Sen. Murkowski, violating your oath of office is treason," Braund wrote.

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MY position on Life and Abortion. Clear it up any?

Posted by Tom Braund on Wednesday, January 17, 2018

Braund also posted a "position statement" on abortion last month in which he said life begins at conception.

"How do I know? I remember being in the womb and can testify that I could think, feel, see and hear," he wrote.

By picking Braund, Walker passed over a sitting GOP state representative, George Rauscher of Sutton, who was also on the local Republicans' list of suggested candidates.

Braund and the third candidate on the list, teacher Todd Smoldon, lean more toward Republicans' Tea Party faction and away from Walker's centrist politics.

But Baird, Walker's spokesman, said Rauscher "disqualified himself" when a sign appeared on his Capitol office door that referenced a former Democratic legislator alleged to have slapped a Juneau woman in his hotel room.

Afterward, the former Democratic legislator, Zach Fansler of Bethel, sent the woman a text message that said he was sorry for venturing into "kink BDSM" — a reference to sexual practices involving bondage, dominance, sadism and masochism.

Afterward, a sign was posted on Rauscher's door that said: "BDSM FREE ZONE."

"Bottom line, Rep. Rauscher disqualified himself from being appointed to anything by Gov. Walker when he made light of a violent attack of a woman by a former state lawmaker," Baird said in a phone interview. "More than ever, the state Capitol needs people who will maintain a level of political decorum rather than trying to score political points."

Rauscher, in a phone interview, said the poster was "a statement that hiding behind BDSM as a reason for hitting a woman is wrong and has no place here amongst us."

If Walker took issue with the sign, Rauscher added, "that probably should have been addressed in a conversation."

"I didn't realize it was a joke, but I think everything that you say can be construed in a different way," Rauscher said. "It was a Sunday afternoon. It was up there for 40 minutes."

Asked whether Walker believes that Braund is qualified to serve in the Legislature, Baird responded with a prepared statement that challenged Senate Republicans to make that decision.

"Tom Braund is a candidate that fits the criteria Senate Republicans established when they rejected Randall Kowalke," Baird wrote. "They will have final say on whether or not Mr. Braund is qualified."

Immigration bills fail in the Senate, casting doubt on fate of ‘dreamers’

Thu, 2018-02-15 12:39

WASHINGTON – The U.S. Senate failed to advance any legislation to protect "Dreamer" immigrants on Thursday, falling short of the 60 votes needed to move forward on four proposals including one backed by President Donald Trump and two bipartisan measures.

The series of votes came after Trump slammed the leading bipartisan proposal as "a total catastrophe," and the White House threatened to veto the bill, which had been considered the most likely to get through a deeply divided Senate.

The outcome concluded a week of Senate consideration on immigration and left in limbo the future status of 1.8 million young adults brought to the United States illegally as children. They had been protected from deportation under an Obama-era program that Trump has ordered to end by March 5.

Trump has said any immigration bill to protect Dreamers should also include funds to build a border wall with Mexico, end the visa lottery program and impose curbs on visas for the families of legal immigrants.

He had urged support for a measure by Republican Senator Chuck Grassley, but that bill gained only 39 votes in support. A narrow bill focusing just on Dreamers and border security, by Republican John McCain and Democrat Chris Coons, failed on a 52-47 vote.

The leading bipartisan measure, crafted by a group led by Republican Senator Susan Collins, would have protected the Dreamers and also included a $25 billion fund to strengthen border security and possibly even build segments of Trump's long-promised border wall with Mexico.

But the White House had criticized the bill, saying it would weaken enforcement of current law and produce a flood of illegal immigration. The Department of Homeland Security and Attorney General Jeff Sessions also had blasted it.

"This amendment would drastically change our national immigration policy for the worse by weakening border security and undercutting existing immigration law," White House spokeswoman Sarah Sanders said in a statement.

The bipartisan bill failed on a 54-45 vote.

A fourth measure, focused on punishing "sanctuary cities" that do not cooperate with federal immigration enforcement efforts, also fell short of 60 votes.

Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell had set a deadline for the Senate to pass an immigration measure by the end of this week. In light of the failure, some immigration advocates have considered trying to push a "Band-Aid" approach providing temporary protections for Dreamers.

Although the protections under the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals (DACA) program are due to start expiring on March 5, federal judges have blocked that from taking effect amid ongoing litigation.

(Additional reporting by Susan Heavey, Katanga Johnson and Makini Brice)

‘He died a hero’: Beloved football coach among 17 dead in Florida school shooting

Thu, 2018-02-15 12:20

It is with Great sadness that our Football Family has learned about the death of Aaron Feis. He was our Assistant Football Coach and security guard. He selflessly shielded students from the shooter when he was shot. He died a hero and he will forever be in our hearts and memories pic.twitter.com/O181FvuHl3

— MS Douglas Football (@MSDEagles) February 15, 2018

FORT LAUDERDALE, Florida — Aaron Feis, an assistant football coach and security guard at Marjory Stoneman Douglas, was among the 17 people shot and killed Wednesday at the Parkland high school.

According to Douglas football coach Willis May, Feis' family was notified around midnight Wednesday or very early Thursday morning. In a news conference late Wednesday night, Broward County Sheriff Scott Israel referenced a football coach dying, but did not give a name.

Social media accounts throughout the day called Feis a hero, saying he was shot while helping a student. May said he heard directly from a student that Feis jumped between her and the shooter, to push her out through a door and out of the line of fire.

"It is with Great sadness that our Football Family has learned about the death of Aaron Feis," the Douglas football team's Twitter account posted early Thursday morning. "He was our Assistant Football Coach and security guard. He selflessly shielded students from the shooter when he was shot. He died a hero and he will forever be in our hearts and memories."

Feis, in his capacity as a school security guard, responded to the original call on the school's security radio walkie-talkies. Someone asked on the radio if the loud sounds heard were firecrackers, according to May, who also carries a radio.

This, ladies and gentlemen, if the face of a hero. Coach Aaron Feis was injured protecting a student in the shooting at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School and, at last report, is in critical condition. He is a friend to all students that know him. He was always so nice to me when I went to school there, and I know he is close with my brother and his friends. Please, take a moment to send healing prayers for him.

A post shared by Angelica Losada (@jelly_lo) on Feb 14, 2018 at 2:42pm PST

"I heard Aaron say, 'No, that is not firecrackers.' That's the last I heard of him," May said.

May was in his football office at the time of the shooting and went into a lockdown mode with four football players and two coaches from Nichols College, who were recruiting at the school when Mays heard "Code Red" over the intercom. He added they later saw the shooter outside the office window, trying to blend in with students evacuating.

As for Feis, May talked about a man he worked with and cared for deeply.

"Big ol' teddy bear," May said of Feis. "Hardcore — he coached hard. Real good line. He did a great job with the [offensive] line. He took pride with working with those guys. Loyalty — I trusted him. He had my back. He worked hard. Just a good man. Loved his family. Loved his brother — just an excellent family man."

Can everyone please take a second to pray for my coach today he took serval bullets covering other students at Douglas . pic.twitter.com/8AMG7t6tpH

— Charlie Rothkopf (@RothkopfCharlie) February 14, 2018

Earlier in the day, Douglas junior lineman Charlie Rothkopf tweeted a picture of Feis with the text: "Can everyone please take a second to pray for my coach today he took serval bullets covering other students at Douglas."

It was one of many social media tributes to Feis that floated around Wednesday in the aftermath of the shooting.

"He was a great guy," said sophomore Douglas lineman Gage Gaynor. "Everyone loved him. Shame he had to go like this. Always gave his all to making us better. Definitely learned a lot from him."

In addition to coaching linemen, Feis served as the school's junior varsity football coach for eight years, according to his bio on the football team's website. He also played a role in football operations and was the team's college recruiting coordinator.

He resided in Coral Springs and leaves behind a wife, Melissa, and a daughter, according to his bio.

Invasion of the Russian election bots

Thu, 2018-02-15 12:14

WASHINGTON — If you want to know whether Democrats will take back the House and/or Senate in November, just ask Russia.

Or rather, ask the Russian trolls who have triumphed in disseminating real "fake news" to influence U.S. elections. They credibly did so in 2016 by creating a more-favorable electoral environment for Donald Trump. And, reportedly, they're determined to make trouble again in the 2018 midterms.

In the meantime, Russian "bots" — applications that perform an automated task — were helping Trump once again by creating momentum for the Feb. 2 release of the so-called "Nunes memo," the four-page brief from the House Intelligence Committee chairman alleging surveillance abuses by FBI investigators.

To do this, Russian operatives created a #ReleaseTheMemo campaign on Twitter, which quickly went viral and created a sense of urgency and import to the committee's findings — at least those by Republican members. Trump, who has final authority over such things, refused to approve release of a Democratic rebuttal. Apparently, the latter was far more detailed than the Republican version and, according to the administration, could be harmful. Perhaps.

But, also, Trump likely wanted the Nunes memo released for its value in casting doubt on the FBI's investigation into possible collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign. And, undoubtedly, Trump and his Republican supporters want to end the investigation as soon as possible, discrediting the agency in the process. Not that the agency needed much help. With two agents exchanging romantic texts and emails that also included expressed contempt for Trump, it would be fairly easy for the predisposed to conclude that the entire investigation was contaminated.

Thus far, the memo has succeeded only in damaging trust between the FBI and Congress, possibly hindering future sharing of classified material. As Senate Intelligence Committee member Angus King, I-Maine, pointed out Tuesday on MSNBC's "Morning Joe," the Senate and House panels are the only watchdogs of U.S. intelligence agencies. If the FBI or the CIA refuse to share, "then nobody's watching."

The extent to which Russia's cyberantics have manipulated American thought is of no small concern or consequence. But when nearly two-thirds of U.S. adults get at least some of their news from social media, the potential reach of bad actors is incalculable. Facebook and YouTube lead the pack in sheer numbers of users, according to a 2017 Pew Research Center study. Sixty-six percent of U.S. adults use Facebook, with 45 percent getting news on the site.

YouTube can boast that 58 percent of U.S. adults watch its clips, but only 18 percent rely on the video emporium for news. Relatively few adults use Twitter — just 15 percent — but nearly all who do (74 percent) get their news from the little blue bird. Although its base is far smaller than Facebook, its viral capacity is incalculable. One need only think of the global reach of the #MeToo movement that spread in a matter of virtual nanoseconds.

No one has better understood this infectious power than Trump. Crazy like a fox, he knows that he can imprint on the minds of his followers far more quickly than he could by traditional means — and without accountability. While President Obama used Twitter to fundraise and convey campaign information, Trump uses his account to advance his opinion, taunt his enemies, exact revenge and, strategically, to misinform. Sort of the way Russia does.

No wonder he admires Russia President Vladimir Putin, with whom he spoke by phone on Monday. What do you suppose they talk about? The "Russia investigation?" Hashtags for future mind-melding ops? Midterm elections?

They're just around the corner. Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats, testifying Tuesday before the Senate Intelligence Committee, warned that Russia considers its efforts to disrupt the 2016 election a success and likely sees 2018 as another opportunity. While congressional leaders are hoping to pressure social media groups into becoming more responsible, the burden for fail-safing our democratic election process falls to citizens to become more discerning as news consumers.

Unfortunately, the minds of social-media users are likely becoming more, not less, malleable. Demographically, the largest increase in news users on social media has been among older, nonwhite, less-educated people, according to Pew. Except for the nonwhite part, this would seem a boon to the GOP, whose constituents, though whiter than the DNC's, tend to be older and slightly less educated than Democrats.

Trump once exclaimed, "I love the poorly educated!" Doubtless, Russia does, too.

How an awkward evening with a transgender woman opened my eyes to my own prejudice

Thu, 2018-02-15 12:11

I spent an awkward evening with a transgender woman last week, hoping to learn her story for a column on the Anchorage bathroom ballot measure. What I learned instead was the extent of my own prejudice.

Now I feel even more strongly about defeating Proposition 1. These folks need protection, not exclusion.

The proposition would limit use of single-sex public bathrooms and locker rooms to people with birth certificates with the matching gender, reversing part of an equal rights ordinance we have lived under since 2015.

[Anchorage 'bathroom bill' will appear on the April 2018 ballot]

Both major candidates for mayor and the Anchorage Chamber of Commerce have come out against the proposition. Some other places that passed similar legislation soon repealed it, most famously North Carolina, as they faced economic calamity from business and tourism boycotts.

Anchorage Police Chief Justin Doll has said the department wouldn't post officers to check IDs at bathrooms, which seems obvious.

Those are plenty of reasons to vote no. But supporters have a powerful weapon, too. They have the power of uncomfortable feelings about people we don't understand.

I get that, as much as I wish I didn't. I was raised to believe we're all equal and to treat everyone with respect. But an uncomfortable feeling is still there, as much as I fight it.

I met Andrea Redeker, 47, through the Fair Anchorage campaign, which opposes the proposition. We talked across a table at a coffee shop one evening after dinner.

But the conversation wouldn't flow.

Redeker was nervous and I wasn't doing my job as well as I normally do. I've been at this a long time and I can almost always make a connection.

She explained that being transgender is not a choice. But her story made the point better than her explanation. Redeker's life has been terribly hard.

She was a manly construction company owner, skydiver and husband until, struggling with depression, and after two suicide attempts, she gave in to a lifelong need to be a woman.

Some Proposition 1 supporters say transgender people are mentally ill, but that makes no sense. Like others who have transitioned, Redeker said she felt authentic and whole for the first time only after she had made the switch. Mental illness doesn't produce feelings of health and well-being.

She showed me a picture of herself as a burly, broadfaced man. I asked about her previous name.

"That is a question you never ask a transgender person," she said. "It is called dead-naming, and it is in horribly bad taste."

I asked what else is in bad taste.

"Sooner or later you're going to ask me what's down there," she said. "We don't talk about that, because it's nobody's business."

The coffee shop closed and the interview wasn't complete. I offered to continue at my house, but Redeker refused. I realized that her decisions are constantly conditioned by fear. She said she has been physically attacked.

[Finding room for religious rights and LGBT rights to coexist in Anchorage]

We ended up at the Spenard Roadhouse, sitting across a little two-top bar table as if we were on a date. I felt like people were looking at me. I didn't like it.

Maybe this weird feeling was the tiniest dose of the anxiety Redeker feels when she is in public.

"Sometimes I'm easily detectable, sometimes I'm not," Redeker said.

She said the longer she spends with people, the more details they notice. She can't avoid the stereotypically male mannerisms she developed over a lifetime.

"I was socialized as a man, unfortunately," she said.

I suspect our conversation stumbled partly because of my reaction to that.

I'm not aware of speaking differently to men and women, but family members have heard me and can guess the gender of a person on the phone by hearing only my side of the conversation.

I bought Redeker a Bloody Mary. I had a beer. But my unconscious brain didn't know how to click into the gender of the person I was talking to.

Redeker called me cisgender, meaning the opposite of transgender. I tried not to wince.

I didn't choose the cisgender label and I don't like it — I just want to be me. Which everyone feels, I suppose, but in the past only minorities were named by others while my majority defined "normal."

Am I normal? I have stereotypically masculine and feminine qualities that are not exactly like anyone else's. Few of us are boring enough to fit right in the middle of society's expectations. Normality, if it exists, must be a range that encompasses a variety of people on a continuum of differences.

But society constantly moves that range as we learn more about different kinds of people — as more human beings are included.

In 1976, the first time Anchorage fought over a gay rights ordinance (as the issue was then called), opponents expressed open disgust, hounding gays and lesbians from the community. Forty years later, anyone saying those same things would probably be labeled a bigot and excluded from the mainstream.

A group of African-American pastors recently came out in favor of Proposition 1, taking offense at the comparison of the 1960s civil rights movement to today's movement for transgender rights. But maybe the racist whites of the past felt as uncomfortable around blacks as some do now around people such as Redeker.

All she wants is to go to the bathroom.

"There's a lot of times when trans people will not use the bathroom because they're fearful of what will happen to them," Redeker said. "I'm not free to move around Anchorage, because I'm tethered to bathrooms. … I'm constantly in fear that somebody is going to react strongly to seeing me."

The bathroom bill is unenforceable, but the symbolism is powerful. It tests the decency and fairness of those of us who still feel prejudice. Are we real in holding our American principles, or is equality only for those with whom we are comfortable and familiar?

I hope to change as I get to know more transgender people. But my vote won't depend on that.

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

How to watch Alaskans compete live at the Olympics

Thu, 2018-02-15 11:58

Here's how you can watch live coverage of the Alaskans at the Winter Olympics. Alaska is 18 hours behind South Korea, so any event that begins before 6 p.m. in South Korea happens on the preceding day in Alaska.

All times are Alaska times. Some events will also be re-aired at other times; check nbcolympics.com for all listings.

Keegan Messing

Friday, Feb. 16 — Singles figure skating: Men's singles long program, 4 p.m. (NBC)

Ryan Stassel

Saturday, Feb. 10 — Men's slopestyle qualifying, 5:15 a.m. (NBCSN)

Saturday, Feb. 10 — Men's slopestyle qualifying, 11 a.m. (NBC)

Saturday, Feb. 10 — Men's slopestyle final, 4 p.m. (NBCSN)

– Coverage: Mistakes cost Anchorage's Ryan Stassel a spot in the slopestyle finals

Tuesday, Feb. 20 — Men's big air qualifying, 4 p.m. (NBC)

Friday, Feb. 23 — Men's big air final, 4 p.m. (NBC)

Rosie Mancari

Thursday, Feb. 15 — Women's snowboardcross, 4 p.m. (NBC)

– Coverage: Anchorage snowboarder Rosie Mancari's Olympics end with training accident

Cross country skiing

Eleven Alaskans plus one UAA skier will compete in cross country. The U.S. team includes Kikkan Randall, Sadie Bjornsen, Rosie Brennan, Caitlin Patterson, Rosie Frankowski, Erik Bjornsen, Scott Patterson, Reese Hanneman, Logan Hanneman and Tyler Kornfield. The Australian team includes Jessica Yeaton of Anchorage and UAA junior Casey Wright.

Friday, Feb. 9 — Women's skiathlon, 10:15 p.m. (NBCSN)

– Coverage: History for Norway's Bjoergen but no medal for US in Olympic cross-country opener

Saturday, Feb. 10 — Men's skiathlon, 9:15 p.m. (online only)

– Coverage: Ski racer Scott Patterson of Anchorage finishes 18th in Olympic debut

Monday, Feb 12 — Men's and women's classic sprint qualifications, 11:30 p.m. (online only)

Tuesday, Feb. 13 — Women's classic sprint heats, 2 a.m.; men's classic sprint heats, 2:25 a.m (NBCSN)

– Coverage: Olympic medal drought continues for US women in cross-country skiing

Wednesday, Feb. 14 — Women's 10K skate, 9:30 p.m. (online only)

– Coverage: 3 American skiers in top 16 but none on Olympic podium in women's 10K

Thursday, Feb. 15 — Men's 15K skate, 9 p.m. (NBCSN)

Saturday, Feb. 17 — Women's 4x5K relay, 12:30 a.m. (online only)

Saturday, Feb. 17 — Men's 4x10K relay, 9:15 p.m. (online only)

Tuesday, Feb. 20 — Men's and women's team sprint semifinals, 11 p.m. (online only)

Wednesday, Feb. 21 — Men's and women's team sprint finals, 1 a.m. (online only)

Friday, Feb. 23 — Men's 50K classic, 8 p.m. (NBCSN)

Saturday, Feb. 24 — Women's 30K classic, 9:15 p.m. (online only), 10 p.m. (NBCSN)

NBC: GCI channels 652 (HD), 2 (SD)

NBCSN: GCI channel 697 (HD), 39 (SD)

Check nbcolympics.com or local channel schedules to confirm broadcast times.

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