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Juneau Hot Topics - 10 hours 42 min ago
It's a matter of letting local governments decide if existing state regulations adequately protect public health in their jurisdictions. State law already prohibits smoking at ... “My Turn” to the Juneau Empire. My Turns and Letters to the Editor represent the view of the author, not the view of the Juneau Empire.

Fast finish lifts Metlakatla Chiefs to 2A boys basketball crown

Alaska News - 16 hours 30 min ago

A solid five minutes after the final buzzer sounded Saturday night, Tyler Henderson couldn't catch his breath.

Desmond King trembled nearby, his eyes red from many tears of joy.

"I can't even speak," King said. "Sorry about that, but I'm still in shock."

In a game featuring 15 lead changes and nine ties, the Metlakatla Chiefs found something extra late to extract a thrilling 49-45 victory over Unalaska in the Class 2A boys basketball state championship game at the Alaska Airlines Center.

The Chiefs, from the Annette Island village in Southeast Alaska, closed with a 9-0 run in the final 3 minutes, 46 seconds to win their first state title after a pair of second-place showings (2013 and 2017).

"Basketball is everything in the village, I can't even begin to tell you," Metlakatla coach Tony Scott said. "These kids worked so hard for so long to do something special for their community."

Metlakatla and Unalaska collided exactly 366 days earlier in the 2017 tournament semifinals. Metlakatla squeaked out 50-43 victory in that contest before bowing to Petersburg in the title tilt.

"I consider that game one of the best of that tournament," Scott said. "So you knew both teams would come into this one ready for a fight. It was clean, but so hard-fought."

Metlakatla junior Conrad Hudson (13 points, eight rebounds) gave the Chiefs a 46-45 lead with a pair of free throws with 1:34 remaining. Moments later, he forced a turnover in the lane.

That set up Henderson. With 57 ticks left, the senior laced in a 3-pointer from the right wing to close things out.

A few seconds later, he was heard happily shouting to his teammates, "no way I was missing that."

A few minutes later, he was dazed by the outcome. "I'm not even sure what's happening," Henderson said.

The first half provided an early indication of how evenly matched the teams were. They went to the locker rooms at halftime tied 20-20.

Metlakatla senior Danny Marsden (13 points, seven rebounds) gave the Chiefs a 20-17 edge with 1:14 remaining in the second quarter, but Unalaska junior Trevor Wilson (19 points in 32 minutes played) knotted things up with his second 3-pointer of the half.

The game seemed destined to be decided in the closing seconds. But Wilson said Unalaska (16-2) simply failed to execute.

"Metlakatla is really tough to play against and it played so well today," Wilson said. "In those final minutes we kind of struggled on offense and had that critical turnover.

"We'll just need to look ourselves in the mirror and use this experience to get better."

The loss was Unalaska's first in a state title game. The Raiders won 2A crowns in their other two appearances (1997 and 2016).

Marsden and Henderson combined for four of Metlakatla's six 3-pointers. The Chiefs (21-4) collected 27 rebounds to Unalaska's 20, and Metlakatla helped itself by making seven of eight free throws, while the Raiders missed all five of their attempts from the line.

King, one of four seniors in Metlakatla's starting lineup, finished with eight points, five assists and five rebounds. After being tongue-tied for a few seconds after the game, he was finally able to express what the championship means to the Chiefs.

"It means we finally get that ring," King said in full throat.

Unalakleet 66, Tok 55

Aidan Ivanoff and Arctic Ivanoff combined for 54 points to propel Unalakleet to third place with a 66-55 victory over Tok.

Aidan supplied 29 points and nine rebounds, and Arctic added 25 points.

Dennis Mitchell played a complete game with 20 points, eight rebounds, six assists and five steals to spark Tok.

Petersburg 51, Cordova 49

Petersburg relied on a dominating rebound effort to nip Cordova 51-49 in the fourth-place game.

Gunnar Payne piled up 12 points and 13 points for the Vikings, who also got 12 points from Thomas Durkin and 11 from Mark Neidiffer.

Cody Sjostedt pumped in 20 points for Cordova.

Class 2A all-tournament teams


Bridgett Oviok, Tikigaq
Drena Hayward, Metlakatla
Kaylyn Easterly, Wrangell
Gloria Jacobsen, Glennallen
Aquinnah Tremblay, Nenana
Hailey Wilson, Unalaska
Jordyn Lane, Tikigaq
Alexis Russell, Metlakatla
Helen Decker, Wrangell
Kendra Kapotak, Dillingham


Trevor Wilson, Unalaska
Danny Marsden, Metlakatla
Desmond King, Metlakatla
Arctic Ivanoff, Unalakleet
Cody Sjostedt, Cordova
Gunnar Payne, Petersburg
Dennis Mitchell, Tok
Carey Boston, Unalaska
Kaleb Hill, Bristol Bay
Conrad Hudson, Metlakatla

Tikigaq wins Alaska’s big dance, then does an Eskimo dance

Alaska News - Sat, 2018-03-17 21:13

Two teams from villages on opposite ends of Alaska met for basketball supremacy Saturday night at the Alaska Airlines Center, and at the end of the game, it was the Eskimos who were dancing.

"Come on! Eskimo dance!" Tikigaq coach Ramona Rock called to her players after the Harpoonerettes claimed the Class 2A girls basketball crown by beating Metlakatla 47-38 in the championship game.

And with that, the Harpoonerettes returned to the court and formed a circle for a brief traditional dance.

Maybe that's why March Madness is called the big dance.

Tikigag is the school in the Eskimo village of Point Hope, way up on the Chukchi Sea coast. Metlakatla is a Tsimshian village on Annette Island, way down near Ketchikan.

About 1,400 air miles separate the two villages, but through the first 20 minutes of play Saturday, barely a point or two separated these teams.

The game was tied five times in the first half, which ended with Metlakatla clinging to a 25-23 lead, and was tied three more times early in the third quarter, the last time at 29-29.

Then it became a matter of too many Metlakatla misses — and too much Bridgett Oviok.

Oviok, a deadly long-range shooter, scored seven of her 27 points in the final four minutes of the third quarter to give Tigigaq a 36-32 lead, and the Miss Chiefs never recovered.

Oviok drained six of 12 attempts from 3-point range for the game, sometimes shooting from Steve Kerr range. "She's a pure shooter," Rock said.

The Miss Chiefs have shooters too, but in the second half, the shots wouldn't fall. Their defense gave them chances — Drena Hayward came up with five steals — and they got decent looks, but the ball drew iron but not net too many times.

When Nichole Hank (12 points) banked in a shot to give Tikigaq a 42-34 lead with little more than four minutes left, the Harpoonerette fans sensed victory was coming and rose to their feet with a roar. When Rock emptied her bench a couple of minutes later, she shared a long embrace with senior leader Jordyn Lane.

"I've been waiting to win state for so long," Lane said as a single teardrop fell on her cheek. "All the hard work finally paid off."

Metlakatla gave Tikigaq fits in a fast-paced, well-played first half, thanks to its defense and the play of Hayward, who finished with 15 points, Tenisha Nelson-Jackson (9 points) and Alexis Russell (8 assists, 6 rebounds). But every time it looked like the Miss Chiefs might open up a gap, Oviok knocked down a 3-pointer.

The Harpoonerettes are regular participants at the state tournament, but this time, Lane said, they came to Anchorage as a true team. She credited her cousin, sophomore Angela Lane, for creating a strong team bond.

"It's her first year here (on the team) and she just really brings life to everybody," Lane said. "She's always pumping us up."

Angela Lane said when she joined the team this year, some of the players didn't talk to each other much.

"They all had drama," she said, "and I just brought them together."

Point Hope is a whaling community — Rex Rock, Ramona's husband and assistant coach, is a whaling captain — and teamwork is necessary to harvest a whale. Ramona Rock said she uses that as a metaphor to encourage a close bond between her players.

"We talk about putting everything else aside and working on one goal for our community," she said.

Nenana 71, Unalaska 47

Aquinnah Tremblay was all over the court for Nenana in a 71-47 victory that gave the Lynx third place in the tournament.

She scored 16 points to go along with seven assists, five rebounds and five steals. Teammate Julie Frankson added 13 points, six rebounds and five steals.

Hailey Wilson and Kayla Villamor both scored 12 points for Unalaska.

Wrangell 54, Dillingham 36

Wrangell stole the ball 18 times and limited Dillingham to seven field goals to cruise to a 54-36 win in the fourth-place game.

Helen Decker delivered 10 points and 10 rebounds, Kaylyn Easterly had 18 points and Madda Harding chipped in 14 points and five steals for the Wolves.

Dillingham was led by Kendra Kapotak's 15 points and Sue Lee's 12 points.

‘A sinking feeling in my throat’: Iditarod mushers recount hours lost and freezing along the trail

Alaska News - Sat, 2018-03-17 20:42

Veteran musher Jim Lanier was about 40 miles away from the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race finish line in Nome when things started to go wrong.

He lost the trail in strong winds and darkness, had to huddle with another musher for hours in freezing temperatures, and without emergency help, he said, death would have been certain.

At age 77, this was Lanier's 20th time racing the Iditarod. At the last couple of checkpoints before Safety — the final stop before Nome — he felt increasingly weak and unsteady on his feet. Still, the Chugiak musher was confident he could finish.

"My team was strong. I knew I could make it to Nome if nothing went wrong," he said. "But I'd have trouble dealing with it if it did go wrong."

He and his team of 13 dogs left the White Mountain checkpoint, headed for Safety. They made it to the Solomon Blowhole, a section of the trail known for extreme winds. It was dark. With the wind and snow, he lost sight of his lead dog. He kept going, hoping soon he would see trail markers again along his route, assuring him he was on track. But he didn't.

"I kind of floundered around in the deep snow guessing where the trail was and trying to get my team to go that way," he said, "but I never found the trail."

Then, a spark of hope. Lanier saw a headlamp glowing in the distance. It was Larry Daugherty, Lanier said, a musher who had already been helping Lanier along the way because he was sick with tracheobronchitis.

Lanier hoped Daugherty might be able to help get his team turned around. He yelled out. But Lanier was out on the sea ice, too far to be heard. The headlamp went on by.

"That put a sinking feeling in my throat," Lanier said. "I knew my best chance to get out of that had come and gone."

Musher Monica Zappa and her dog team came along, too, and she tried repeatedly to help get Lanier back on course. But her dogs, excited and ready to keep running, bolted for the sea ice and she had to chase after to make sure she didn't lose them.

Then, another musher. Lanier's longtime friend, 57-year-old Scott Janssen of Anchorage, had gone off trail in the same treacherous area. He got back on track in a storm so bad that he could barely see his front three dogs. His team of 11 was charging along when, suddenly, the dogs' ears all perked up. They looked to the left.

Janssen looked over. He saw the reflectors of a dog sled that was facing the wrong way.

"I slowed my team way down and yelled, 'Are you OK?' And I heard a voice yell back, 'I need help,' " Janssen said. He made his way over to find that it was his friend, whose sled was stuck on a piece of driftwood. "(Lanier) said, 'Scott, I'm in trouble.' "

[Previously: The Iditarod gave Jim Lanier broken bones and frostbitten toes. At 77, he's not ready to stop racing.]

Janssen worked on untangling the dogs. He took his gloves off to do so and they blew away in the wind. Lanier was starting to freeze at that point, and so were the men's corneas.

Despite their best efforts, the two eventually decided they would not be able to make it to Nome by mushing their dogs.

"It took quite awhile to get to that conclusion. It was after many failed attempts to get going again," Lanier said. "At one point, Scott said, 'I'm not going to leave you here, Jim.' And for that, I was grateful."

The two huddled next to each other, ruffs pulled up, Janssen rubbing Lanier for warmth. They told each other stories about things that had happened on the trail in the past. They talked about the possibility of losing fingers.

"I said, if we lose our fingers we'll make necklaces out of them," Janssen said. "And (Lanier) said, 'What?!' And I said, then if people say, 'You lost your fingers,' we can say, 'No I didn't, they're right here!' Here we sat there facing death in the face, and we were able to laugh at different times."

Janssen at one point called his family on a satellite phone to tell them he loved them.

Then, out of the storm came three people on fat bikes.

"I have no idea what their names are," Janssen said, "but they stopped and they came over and they catch us two mushers spooning in the snowstorm and they said, 'Can we help in any way?' "

Someone eventually pushed the help button on Lanier's GPS tracker, signaling to race officials in Nome that they needed assistance. Janssen's hands were too frozen to push it himself, he said. The Iditarod Trail Committee got the alert for the need for help around 7 a.m. Friday.

Zappa had gone on to the Safety checkpoint in order to send help back to Lanier. The decision to do so was incredibly difficult, she said.

"I didn't know how hypothermic he was," she said. "I've been going over in my head a lot. Did I do the right thing? It's kind of been difficult for me. I kind of wish I had just pressed the button for him."

Musher Jessie Royer was in Safety when Zappa got there. Royer headed out on a snowmachine to help Lanier and Janssen. She was the first responder.

"She gave us a drive to Safety — literally," Lanier said. By then, the men were "just sort of shriveled up into ourselves."

Lanier and Janssen, both hypothermic, got a ride on Royer's snowmachine. Not much later, they met up with another snowmachiner who then gave Janssen a ride. A search-and-rescue team helped the men and their dogs. After reaching Safety, where Lanier and Janssen scratched at 11:30 a.m. Friday, a helicopter flew the men to Nome on Friday morning.

"Lanier scratched out of concern for his race team and personal health reasons," a Friday statement from the Iditarod Trail Committee said. "Janssen scratched out of concern for Lanier's safety."

In Nome on Friday, both men were "with their loved ones and also in good health," the statement said.

Daugherty, the musher Lanier saw pass by, wrote in a Facebook post on Friday that he was "heartbroken" to have lost Lanier out on the trail.

"When I got to Safety, I learned Jim had not checked in. I could not believe I passed him somehow," Daugherty wrote. "I was physically sick thinking of the possibilities."

Lanier and Janssen both declined medical treatment when they got to Nome. Lanier said he was feeling "rotten" and still weak on Saturday afternoon, and Janssen said he was generally feeling well.

The two men first met in 1985 when Lanier, a retired pathologist, was working on an autopsy at the funeral home Janssen now owns.

"The situation Jim was in could have happened to anyone," Janssen said. "It was absolutely nothing to do with his age."

This was already set to be Janssen's last Iditarod race. Lanier said another Iditarod for him at this point seems unlikely.

"That's the essence of being a musher," Janssen said. "We get ourselves into these incredible situations and can get out. But in this situation, we couldn't get out."

Noatak boys ride offensive onslaught to 1A title

Alaska News - Sat, 2018-03-17 20:01

Like many of the Class 1A boys basketball teams that annually compete at the state tournament in Anchorage, the Noatak Lynx are a long way from home.

But they couldn't have looked more comfortable on the Alaska Airlines Center hardwood Saturday, cruising to the school's first championship since 1988.

Noatak, located about 600 miles northwest of Anchorage, scored 20 of the game's first 24 points and rolled past Nunamiut 71-35 to claim the crown for a second time. Dressed in St. Patrick's Day green and gold, the Lynx finished their season with a 27-1 record and allowed head coach Brianna Kirk to make state history.

Kirk played collegiately at UAF before returning to her hometown in 2016 and taking over as boys coach early this season. She is believed to be the second woman to lead a boys team to an Alaska state basketball championship, joining Kodiak's Amy Rakers, who won a Class 4A title in 2001.

"Her leadership really meant a lot to us," said Noatak junior Robert Sheldon, who dazzled with 23 points and 13 rebounds in nearly 30 minutes of playing time.

To her credit, Kirk knew coming in not to change how the Lynx play. Noatak is fast and full of confidence, as evidenced by an early onslaught that featured four  3-pointers in the first few minutes of play. Sheldon's second triple of the first quarter gave the Lynx a commanding 18-4 lead with three minutes left.

"These kids had already played so much in the offseason, open gyms and years of being together, that they already had the chemistry they needed," Kirk said. "I wasn't going to come in stop them from shooting. They've had something going for them since they were little kids, so I wasn't holding anybody back."

The Lynx led 25-6 after the first quarter, 36-14 at halftime and 56-31 at the end of third. By game's end, Noatak had completed an impressive four-day run in the state's largest city by winning four straight games and outscoring opponents 282-160.

Saturday's show was witnessed by a few thousand rowdy fans, something that wasn't lost on Sheldon.

"We're certainly not used to this kind of atmosphere, a large crowd like this," he said. "It does take a few minutes to let it all sink in."

[Aniak Halfbreeds claim 1A girls state basketball title, giving their village reason to celebrate]

Eight of Noatak's nine players scored, and senior Levi Mills (12 points), sophomore Amos Sage (12 points) and senior Joel Onalik (10 points) all hit double figures. Onalik joined Sheldon in double-double territory with 11 rebounds.

The Lynx held a 42-28 rebounding edge.

Nunamiut, located in Anaktuvuk Pass about 480 miles north of Anchorage, never found solid footing against Noatak's fast-paced attack. Sophomore Jacob Ahgook led the Amaguqs with a double double (11 points, 10 rebounds) in the school's second championship-game appearance. The first came in 2010.

"We did just about everything we could defensively, but (Noatak) made just about every shot," said Nunamiut coach Cody Rigney. "But we made it to the championship, which is something special when you think about the hundreds of (1A) schools which would happily take our place.

"Only two teams played today. It's incredible to have been one of them."

Kirk noted further significance in Noatak's first championship in 30 years. She said school principal Stan Van Amburg arrived at the school in 1988 and will leave at the end of this school year.

"It's huge for Noatak," Kirk said. "A welcome for Stan back then, and a farewell now. As for the team, I think there are a lot of important values they should take from this experience.

"It should remind them to never quit on their dreams."

Birchwood 56, Newhalen 41

Birchwood Christian wore down Newhalen's five-player team in the fourth quarter to capture third place with a 56-41 victory.

Birchwood, which got minutes from eight players, led by three after three quarters but pulled away in the fourth quarter by outscoring Newhalen 21-9.

Peter Swanberg powered Birchwood Christian with 17 points and nine rebounds. Newhalen, which had two players with four fouls late in the game, got a boost from Matthew Tretikoff's 17 points and eight rebounds.

King Cove 63, Shishmaref 59

Graydon Severian racked up 33 points and 17 rebounds to carry King Cove to fourth place with a 63-59 win over Shishmaref.

Gary Gould added 20 points for the winners, who limited Shishmaref to three points in the decisive third quarter. The Northern Lights were led by Fred Sinnok (22 points, 6 rebounds) and Edward Kokeok (18 points, 7 rebounds).

Halfbreeds claim 1A girls state basketball title, giving their village reason to celebrate

Alaska News - Sat, 2018-03-17 17:53

The Aniak Halfbreeds can party like it's 1999 now that they've won a state basketball championship banner to hang next to the one they won 19 years ago.

The Halfbreeds sank nine 3-pointers and forced 19 turnovers to capture the Class 1A girls championship Saturday afternoon with a 55-44 victory over the Selawik Wolves.

With a loud, proud cheering section behind its bench during the second half at the Alaska Airlines Center, Aniak survived a late push by the Wolves to claim the school's second girls title in history and its first since 1999.

After the game, the Halfbreeds gestured to the sky in honor of a player from the school's 2011 boys state championship team who died last fall. Players wore T-shirts in honor of Bruce "Gotor" Morgan, "and we played in his memory," said junior Kayla Morgan.

Aniak is a small Western Alaska village northeast of Bethel, and it is teeming with Morgans. Wayne Morgan is the coach, and four of his family members are on the team — daughter Skye Morgan, niece Alyssa Morgan and two girls who are the grandchildren of a cousin, Kayla Morgan and Pearl Morgan.

Fewer than 500 people live in Aniak, making for a tight-knit community. People celebrate successes together, Wayne Morgan said, and they grieve losses together.

Lately, there's been plenty of grief. In August, 24-year-old Bruce Morgan was shot to death, and in January, 16-year-old Kayden Morgan and 28-year-old Charlie Lang Jr. were killed in a snowmachine collision with a moose.

In that context, a championship season is enormous, the coach said.

"It's a positive thing," Wayne Morgan said. "It's a positive start to get over our grief and that sense of loss. We're all family members. Community members. This is very positive for us."

Shauna Koonuk, a senior who led the Halfbreeds with 19 points and eight rebounds, said the championship fulfills a season-long goal. The Aniak girls have played in three straight state tournaments, and they figured this year was their time to win it all.

"Since the beginning of the year, this has been our main goal," Koonuk said. "We practice three hours a day, from dinner to night-time.

"We're here, and we did it."

Selawik ruled the rebounds, getting 23 from Kali Howarth to outrebound the Halfbreeds 52-33. But the Wolves missed 36 of of their 50 shots, many of them layups, and gave away the ball 19 times.

Aniak, which finished the season with a 22-5 record, pulled away by forcing seven straight turnovers — five at the end of the first quarter, two at the start of the second quarter — to pull away from the Wolves.

Selawik led 9-5 with three minutes left in the first quarter but turned over the ball on its next five possessions. Aniak only cashed in for four points but that was enough to tie the game, 9-9.

The Wolves gave up the ball on their first two possessions of the second quarter, and Kayla Morgan made them pay for the second one by knocking down a 3-pointer from the baseline.

That was the first of four treys — others came from Koonuk, Alyssa Morgan and Skye Morgan — that lifted the Halfbreeds to a 27-19 halftime lead.

Selawik cut the lead to two points twice in the third quarter, but both times Koonuk answered, the first time with a steal that led to a layup and the second time with a deep 3-pointer.

Aniak built its lead to 12 points early in the fourth quarter before the Wolves cut the gap to 48-41 with six straight points. But by then only 2:25 remained, and on its next possession Aniak played keep-away to slice one minute off the clock, dashing Selawik's hopes of a comeback.

Howarth finished with 16 points for Selawik. Laura Ramoth added 13 points and eight rebounds, and Marjorie Hingsbergen had 11 points.

Besides the big effort from Koonuk, Aniak got 13 points and seven rebounds from Alyssa Morgan and 11 points and eight rebounds from Kayla Morgan, who said the team's dream of winning state goes way back.

"Ever since we were little girls playing outside our houses," she said. "We were always watching our Halfbreeds go to state."

Scammon Bay 68, King Cove 50

After winning the previous two state titles, Scammon Bay settled for the third-place trophy Saturday.

Almira Kaganak poured in 25 points, hitting 8 of her 9 field-goal attempts, to lead the Eagles past King Cove 68-50. Scammon Bay was 12 of 29 from 3-point range.

Jalaya Duarte led King Cove with 16 points and 10 rebounds.

Tri-Valley 50, Shaktoolik 39

Two players posted double-doubles to power Tri-Valley past Shaktoolik 50-30 in the fourth-place game.

Olivia Juhl totaled 15 points and 12 rebounds, and Rachel Cockman had 10 points and 14 rebounds to lead Tri-Valley.

Anikan Paniptchuk's 17 points paced Shaktoolik.

He threatened to kill himself. So the police took his guns.

Alaska News - Sat, 2018-03-17 17:16

LISBON, Conn. – John McGuire was inside his house with 81 guns when five state troopers were dispatched to investigate a threat he had reportedly made. They drove past a series of frozen lakes and up an unplowed driveway to a house set back in the Connecticut woods. The shades were drawn. A tattered mattress wasted away on the front porch, and boxes of medical equipment cluttered the entryway.

McGuire, 76, came to the door wearing a stained sweatshirt and uncombed gray hair. He hadn't dealt with police in the two decades since he retired from the force himself, but he still knew the legal statutes and understood his rights. He asked the police if he was under arrest, and the officers said he was not. He asked if he had broken any laws, and they said he hadn't. They told him he wasn't being charged, or investigated, or even accused of any crime. Instead, they had come to search his house this winter evening based on a controversial type of warrant, one that represents the United States' latest piecemeal attempt to prevent gun violence.

"Person Posing Risk to Self or Others," read the bold lettering on top of the warrant.

Probable cause: "McGuire stated to a medical technician that . . . he was going to kill himself by burning his house down and blowing his head off with a revolver."

Number of registered firearms: "38 or more."

Purpose of search: "Take any and all firearms to prevent imminent personal injury."

In the polarizing gun debate, here was the latest attempt at a solution: civil seizures that allow police to temporarily take guns from at-risk owners without consent after a credible threat is reported. Gun-control advocates say it is a common-sense way to prevent suicides, murders and mass shootings. The National Rifle Association says it is the manifestation of a gun owner's greatest fear, in which the government confiscates legal guns from the homes of law-abiding citizens. Five states have passed versions of the law. Eighteen more and the District of Columbia are considering doing so.

Nowhere is the approach used more than in Connecticut, which instituted the country's first "red flag" law in 1999 and where each year about 200 cases tell the story of a nation always on the precipice of the next shooting. An opioid addict threatened to show his "favorite semi-automatic" to a nurse who refused to provide more pills. A fired parking attendant told his co-workers that he would "give a whole new meaning to going postal." A mother discovered her 19-year-old son in his bedroom writing a suicide note. "Three guns to choose from. Which does the job?"

Each time a threat is reported, police can seize a person's guns for up to two weeks before a court decides if and when those firearms will be returned. Case by case, judges weigh questions at the heart of the United States' complicated relationship with guns. When does the right to public safety eclipse the right to bear arms? Out of the country's estimated 95 million gun owners, which tiny fraction might be dangerous?

In the case of McGuire, the gun owner was a recent widower who had been diagnosed with melanoma. He let the officers into his house, walked them to his bedroom and began handing them guns stacked in his closet, guns lying under his bed and a gun sitting beside his nightstand. There were antique rifles, semiautomatics and miniature pistols still unopened in their boxes. "My babies," was what McGuire sometimes called his guns, which he had been collecting for five decades since he joined the Army.

"Will I get them back?" he asked as the officers carried guns out by the armful, and an officer said there would be a court hearing in a few weeks. McGuire tried to explain that his threat was actually a misunderstanding – a heated comment made after a series of horrible events. First his daughter had died in 2015, and then his wife had died two days earlier while in hospice care in their living room. A medical technician had come to take away her hospital bed early the next day, and McGuire told the man he wanted to burn down his house and shoot himself. "What else do I have to lose?" he remembered saying.

A few officers continued to search his house while another drove McGuire to the hospital for a voluntary mental-health evaluation. His blood pressure was dangerously high. He was agitated and tearful. A doctor handed him an intake form, and for the first time McGuire began to consider the questions that would determine so much about the next few weeks.

"How often are you angry?"

"Do you ever have feelings of losing control?"

[In Alaska, a high bar for taking guns from the mentally ill]

He returned home from the hospital that night with a prescription for antidepressants, a booklet labeled "Tips for Self Care" and a three-page printout of the guns no longer in his house. The list included Winchesters, Remingtons, Rugers, Berettas, Colts and Glocks – a high-end collection that McGuire considered one of his biggest investments.

"Obviously there's the sentimental value, but this is also a major part of my savings," McGuire said later that week to a lawyer who had agreed to represent him in the case. The lawyer, Chuck Norris, was an old friend from the police force, and he explained to McGuire that to get his guns back at the upcoming hearing they would need to prove he was neither a threat to others nor a risk to himself.

"They see 81 guns, and alarm bells are going off," Norris said. "We need to show that you're responsible and that you're someone who only uses these guns the right way."

In truth, McGuire could barely remember the last time he fired one of his guns. Had it been three years? Or maybe five? He'd long ago dropped his membership to the small shooting gallery near his house. He'd never discharged his weapon during 17 years on the police force, and his only shots in the Army had come during occasional training exercises. On his last hunting trip, he'd somehow managed to stalk and kill a beautiful moose in Maine, and the guilt that followed made him give much of the meat away to a local food bank. What he said he loved most about guns was not the hunting, or the culture, or even the thrill of pulling a trigger. It was the way that holding a weapon in his hand could make him feel in control when so many other aspects of his life did not.

He'd begun collecting guns in the late 1970s, not long after his only child was diagnosed with Ewing's sarcoma, a rare cancer. His wife, Bridie, started spending her evenings in a Catholic church, but McGuire wasn't ready to pray to a God who'd given his 11-year-old daughter a degenerative cancer. He started lifting weights to deal with his anger, and soon he was dead-lifting 580 pounds.

All three of them coped with the disease in part by starting their own collections. His daughter bought refrigerator magnets to commemorate each place she visited, from Ireland to Dollywood to Nova Scotia, a reminder of life beyond the disease. His wife stockpiled Hummel figurines, because she liked seeing hundred of idyllic porcelain children all over the house. And McGuire bought guns, because he said they made him feel as if he was protecting his family, even as his daughter's cancer rendered him powerless. His daughter started chemotherapy, and he bought four revolvers from the Norwich police department. She started radiation, and he purchased a combat rifle from a dealer in Florida. Doctors removed a kidney, and he bought a .44 magnum. They took out part of her intestines, and he bought a pistol that looked like one made famous by James Bond. His collection grew over three decades of his daughter's health emergencies – through 11 surgeries and dozens of infections, until the one that killed her at age 46 in the spring of 2015.

His wife had never seen the point of owning so many guns, especially when the only intruders on their property were raccoons and deer. She wanted him to get rid of them, McGuire said, but in the months after their daughter died, he was increasingly grief-stricken and angry, and he felt convinced that much about the United States was coming dangerously undone. He watched TV each night as the news cycled through stories about opioids, illegal immigration and the shrinking white middle class. "It could reach the point where there's another civil war," he told Bridie, so he bought more ammunition and promised to protect her.

By then she had started to forget little things, sometimes leaving the stove on after she cooked or making wrong turns on the way home from the grocery store. She blamed her lapses on the fog of grief, but before long doctors had diagnosed her with advanced dementia. Within a few months she entered hospice care, spending every moment in a hospital bed in their living room as McGuire taught himself to become a caretaker. He spoon-fed her three meals each day, applied her makeup because it made her feel better about herself, and changed her sheets and diapers each night. He slept next to her in a recliner facing the door with a pistol near his side, just in case. The gun couldn't protect her from rapid memory loss. It couldn't protect her from the nightmares that sometimes left her shouting and grasping in the night at imaginary objects in front of her head. She said she was scared. She said she didn't want to die by herself. She said she wanted McGuire to come with her. And then he was alone with a medical technician who came to clean and prepare the body, using a string to slide a wedding ring of 53 years off his wife's swollen finger, and McGuire's thoughts had gone back to the one thing that gave him a sense of control. A gun. He was ready to end it.

"She wanted me to go with her," he remembered telling the technician that day, and then hours later the police were at his door.

Now empty gun boxes left over from their search were strewn around his house, and a holster dangled on the bedroom doorknob. He hadn't washed dishes or done laundry in a week. The kitchen table was cluttered with 19 prescription bottles of his wife's medications, and McGuire wondered why the police hadn't taken those, too. "Pills, knives, ropes, belts, cars – there are so many other ways, if I really wanted to do it," he said.

His daughter's travel magnets were still on the refrigerator. His wife's Hummel figurines remained on their shelves. On the table in front of him was the self-care booklet, which suggested that one way to take back control was to begin by asking for support.

He reached for his cellphone and called a friend.

"Can you come get me?" he asked. "I probably need to get out of here."

[Study confirms what gun rights advocates have said for a long time about crime]

A few hours later a pickup truck pulled into McGuire's driveway, and Rich DeLorge rolled down his window and leaned hard against his horn. "Hurry up!" he shouted, and eventually McGuire walked outside holding both of his middle fingers high in the air.

"What the hell took you so long?" DeLorge asked as McGuire climbed into the passenger seat.

"Screw you," he said.

"Are we angry and depressed again?"

"What do you think?"

"Well, you're still breathing, so at least you haven't gone off and done it yet."

"You're an asshole," McGuire said, but then they both started to laugh. DeLorge was McGuire's oldest friend – one of the few people who had regularly come to visit during Bridie's final weeks – and seeing him usually improved McGuire's outlook more than the antidepressants or the bereavement group he'd tried joining at the hospital. He had no energy for making small talk with strangers, which was one of the reasons he had decided against holding a wake for Bridie. He didn't want to hear people tell him that they understood when in fact they didn't or that things would get better when he felt certain they never would. He had no patience left for pretending. He wanted to be honest – which often meant being sulky, angry, bitter or mean – and for that he had DeLorge.

They had met 30 years earlier, when McGuire was investigating a tip about a fight involving DeLorge's motorcycle club. McGuire had interviewed DeLorge and found him to be honest, funny and apologetic, so instead of arresting him, McGuire had let him off with a warning. That was how he liked to police – paying less attention to the letter of the law than to the nuances of each situation. Sometimes the drunk at the bar just needed to take a walk, or the driver had a good reason for speeding.

"You only bring in the courts if it's the absolute last resort," he said now in the car, thinking again about his guns. "If it had been me on the other side of that door, no way would I have started seizing property. I would have sat the guy down, bought him a cup of coffee, maybe asked about his family, checked up on how he was doing."

"It's not about people anymore," DeLorge said. "It's all about rules and regulations."

"Maybe I was just blowing off steam," McGuire said. "Maybe I'd been through hell for the last two years. They ever stop and think about that?"

"So you collect guns. What's the big deal?" DeLorge said, because even if he thought McGuire was depressed, he didn't consider him dangerous or suicidal.

"I don't bother anybody," McGuire said. "I don't break the law. I don't even drink. And then they come and do this to me at the worst possible time."

They didn't have any place in particular to go, so DeLorge drove for more than an hour to the far northern corner of the state, and then he stopped at an abandoned gas station where people had gathered for a small auction. There were 30 folding chairs set up around a small space heater. The room smelled of marijuana, and a food vendor sold expired bags of chips for 25 cents. People rotated to the front of the room to take turns selling off their items. "Who will give me three bucks for this nice candle, guys?" the first auctioneer began. "Warm vanilla. Two bucks? A dollar? Anyone for a dollar?" Next it was miniature teddy bears, camouflaged umbrellas, Second Amendment T-shirts and coffee mugs with handles shaped like guns. There were six auctioneers and nine potential customers, at least one of whom wasn't bidding.

"Congratulations on finding the one place even more depressing than my house," McGuire told DeLorge, and a few minutes later they were headed home.

They drove back across the railroad tracks and past a row of decaying textile mills. "This state's going to hell for the working class," McGuire said. They passed through a tiny town called Canterbury, where McGuire said there had been an armed robbery two nights before. "Heroin addicts everywhere," he said. "Everyone out for themselves, just no regard for human life." They drove by a 19th-century mansion that had fallen into disrepair and been subdivided into multifamily homes. "Probably all immigrants now," he said. "Probably on welfare." They drove through Jewett City, where an atheist had filed a noise complaint against the Baptist church on Main Street for ringing its hourly electronic bell. "Goddamn nanny state," he said. "They just passed a law that says I can't take a piss in my own yard. Can't burn your trash. Can't keep my own damned guns."

"All right, sunshine. Take it easy," DeLorge said.

"This whole country's going to hell," McGuire said, and now there were tears in his eyes, and he was thinking about the thing that had been troubling him most during the past few days. His wife was a loyal Catholic who knew exactly where she was going after death, and lately McGuire thought he knew where he might be going, too.

"I have so much hate in my heart," he said.

"Yeah, you're a real asshole," DeLorge said, laughing, but this time McGuire didn't laugh. They pulled into his driveway, and he opened the passenger door to get out.

"You OK?" DeLorge asked.

"Terrific," he said.

"Hey. I'm being serious," DeLorge said, but McGuire was already out the door and walking up the driveway toward his house.

[Rep. Don Young says he isn't bothered by controversy over his remarks about gun control, Jews and Nazi Germany]

Was he OK?

That was the question again one morning later that month at the small courthouse in downtown Norwich. Norris, McGuire's attorney, had pushed back the hearing by a few weeks to better prepare his case, and when the court date finally arrived McGuire decided not to attend. It was a civil case, so he had no legal obligation to appear. He knew almost everyone at the courthouse from his time as a police officer and a marshal, and he didn't want to run into dozens of former colleagues on his way to a risk warrant hearing.

"I'm still not ready to deal with condolences and questions from all those people," he said, so instead he hoped Norris would relay a message to the court: that it was being without his guns that made him feel "stressed, vulnerable and at risk," he said, and that he was sorry for "saying something dumb."

"Tell them I got caught up in the heat of the moment," McGuire told Norris, and then he stayed alone in his house and waited near the phone as the hearing began.

"This is a good man who's gone through an incredibly difficult time," Norris told the court.

"There is compelling evidence here that Mr. McGuire's threat was likely situational," the prosecutor agreed, because he knew and trusted McGuire's attorney, and also because he had been provided with a doctor's report that said McGuire was "healthy" and "grieving."

And then it was up to the judge. She thought McGuire's circumstances seemed potentially volatile. She also said she empathized with him. Connecticut had ruled in hundreds of risk warrant cases during the past decade, with an average of seven guns seized each time. In most cases, judges ordered that the guns would remain in police storage for a year. Ten percent of the time, the guns were returned to owners immediately. In 14 percent, the guns were taken away permanently and then sold or destroyed.

The judge looked again at McGuire's file. He had no history of violence. He had admitted making a threat, but now he said the threat had passed.

"The guns are to be returned immediately to John McGuire," the court ruled, and a few minutes later Norris called McGuire to tell him. He said it was the best news of his year. He said he would once again feel whole and safe. "I can finally calm down and breathe," he said, and a few days later he was carrying 81 guns back up the long driveway and into his house.

Consultants for Trump misused Facebook data of millions

Alaska News - Sat, 2018-03-17 17:08

LONDON — As the upstart voter-profiling company Cambridge Analytica prepared to wade into the 2014 U.S. midterm elections, it had a problem.

The firm had secured a $15 million investment from Robert Mercer, the wealthy Republican donor, and wooed his political adviser, Stephen K. Bannon, with the promise of tools that could identify the personalities of U.S. voters and influence their behavior. But it did not have the data to make its new products work.

So the firm harvested private information from the Facebook profiles of more than 50 million users without their permission, according to former Cambridge employees, associates and documents, making it one of the largest data leaks in the social network's history. The breach allowed the company to exploit the private social media activity of a huge swath of the U.S. electorate, developing techniques that underpinned its work on President Donald Trump's campaign in 2016.

An examination by The New York Times and The Observer of London reveals how Cambridge Analytica's drive to bring to market a potentially powerful new weapon put the firm — and wealthy conservative investors seeking to reshape politics — under scrutiny from investigators and lawmakers on both sides of the Atlantic.

Christopher Wylie, who helped found Cambridge and worked there until late 2014, said of its leaders: "Rules don't matter for them. For them, this is a war, and it's all fair."

"They want to fight a culture war in America," he added. "Cambridge Analytica was supposed to be the arsenal of weapons to fight that culture war."

Details of Cambridge's acquisition and use of Facebook data have surfaced in several accounts since the business began working on the 2016 campaign, setting off a furious debate about the merits of the firm's psychographic modeling techniques.

But the full scale of the data leak involving Americans has not been previously disclosed — and Facebook, until now, has not acknowledged it. Interviews with a half-dozen former employees and contractors, and a review of the firm's emails and documents, have revealed that Cambridge not only relied on the private Facebook data but also still possesses most or all of the trove.

Cambridge paid to acquire the personal information through an outside researcher who, Facebook says, claimed to be collecting it for academic purposes.

During a week of inquiries from The Times, Facebook downplayed the scope of the leak and questioned whether any of the data still remained out of its control. But Friday, the company posted a statement expressing alarm and promising to take action.

"This was a scam — and a fraud," Paul Grewal, a vice president and deputy general counsel at the social network, said in a statement to The Times earlier Friday. He added that the company was suspending Cambridge Analytica, Wylie and the researcher, Aleksandr Kogan, a Russian-American academic, from Facebook. "We will take whatever steps are required to see that the data in question is deleted once and for all — and take action against all offending parties," Grewal said.

Alexander Nix, chief executive of Cambridge Analytica, and other officials had repeatedly denied obtaining or using Facebook data, most recently during a parliamentary hearing last month. But in a statement to The Times, the company acknowledged that it had acquired the data, though it blamed Kogan for violating Facebook's rules and said it had deleted the information as soon as it learned of the problem two years ago.

In Britain, Cambridge Analytica is facing intertwined investigations by Parliament and government regulators into allegations that it performed illegal work on the Brexit campaign. The country has strict privacy laws, and its information commissioner announced Saturday that she was looking into whether the Facebook data was "illegally acquired and used."

In the United States, Mercer's daughter, Rebekah, a board member, Bannon and Nix received warnings from their lawyer that it was illegal to employ foreigners in political campaigns, according to company documents and former employees.

Congressional investigators have questioned Nix about the company's role in the Trump campaign. And the Justice Department's special counsel, Robert Mueller, has demanded the emails of Cambridge Analytica employees who worked for the Trump team as part of his investigation into Russian interference in the election.

While the substance of Mueller's interest is a closely guarded secret, documents viewed by The Times indicate that the firm's British affiliate claims to have worked in Russia and Ukraine. And the WikiLeaks founder, Julian Assange, disclosed in October that Nix had reached out to him during the campaign in hopes of obtaining private emails belonging to Trump's Democratic opponent, Hillary Clinton.

The documents also raise new questions about Facebook, which is already grappling with intense criticism over the spread of Russian propaganda and fake news. The data Cambridge collected from profiles, a portion of which was viewed by The Times, included details on users' identities, friend networks and "likes." Only a tiny fraction of the users had agreed to release their information to a third party.

"Protecting people's information is at the heart of everything we do," Grewal said. "No systems were infiltrated, and no passwords or sensitive pieces of information were stolen or hacked."

Still, he added, "it's a serious abuse of our rules."

Reading voters' minds

The Bordeaux flowed freely as Nix and several colleagues sat down for dinner at the Palace Hotel in Manhattan in late 2013, Wylie recalled in an interview. They had much to celebrate.

Nix, a brash salesman, led the small elections division at SCL Group, a political and defense contractor. He had spent much of the year trying to break into the lucrative new world of political data, recruiting Wylie, then a 24-year-old political operative with ties to veterans of President Barack Obama's campaigns. Wylie was interested in using inherent psychological traits to affect voters' behavior and had assembled a team of psychologists and data scientists, some of them affiliated with Cambridge University.

The group experimented abroad, including in the Caribbean and Africa, where privacy rules were lax or nonexistent and politicians employing SCL were happy to provide government-held data, former employees said.

Then a chance meeting bought Nix into contact with Bannon, the Breitbart News firebrand who would later become a Trump campaign and White House adviser; and with Mercer, one of the richest men on earth.

Nix and his colleagues courted Mercer, who believed a sophisticated data company could make him a kingmaker in Republican politics, and his daughter, who shared his conservative views. Bannon was intrigued by the possibility of using personality profiling to shift America's culture and rewire its politics, recalled Wylie and other former employees, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because they had signed nondisclosure agreements. Bannon and the Mercers declined to comment.

Mercer agreed to help finance a $1.5 million pilot project to poll voters and test psychographic messaging in Virginia's gubernatorial race in November 2013, where the Republican attorney general, Ken Cuccinelli, ran against Terry McAuliffe, the Democratic fundraiser. Although Cuccinelli lost, Mercer committed to moving forward.

The Mercers wanted results quickly, and more business beckoned. In early 2014, investor Toby Neugebauer and other wealthy conservatives were preparing to put tens of millions of dollars behind a presidential campaign for Sen. Ted Cruz of Texas, work that Nix was eager to win.

When Wylie's colleagues failed to produce a memo explaining their work to Neugebauer, Nix castigated them over email.

"ITS 2 PAGES!! 4 hours work max (or an hour each). What have you all been doing??" he wrote.

Wylie's team had a bigger problem. Building psychographic profiles on a national scale required data the company could not gather without huge expense. Traditional analytics firms used voting records and consumer purchase histories to try to predict political beliefs and voting behavior.

But those kinds of records were useless for figuring out whether a particular voter was, say, a neurotic introvert, a religious extrovert, a fair-minded liberal or a fan of the occult. Those were among the psychological traits the firm claimed would provide a uniquely powerful means of designing political messages.

Wylie found a solution at Cambridge University's Psychometrics Centre. Researchers there had developed a technique to map personality traits based on what people had liked on Facebook. The researchers paid users small sums to take a personality quiz and download an app, which would scrape some private information from their profiles and those of their friends, activity that Facebook permitted at the time. The approach, the scientists said, could reveal more about a person than their parents or romantic partners knew — a claim that has been disputed.

When the Psychometrics Centre declined to work with the firm, Wylie found someone who would: Kogan, who was then a psychology professor at the university and knew of the techniques. Kogan built his own app and in June 2014 began harvesting data for Cambridge Analytica. The business covered the costs — more than $800,000 — and allowed him to keep a copy for his own research, according to company emails and financial records.

All he divulged to Facebook, and to users in fine print, was that he was collecting information for academic purposes, the social network said. It did not verify his claim. Kogan declined to provide details of what happened, citing nondisclosure agreements with Facebook and Cambridge Analytica, though he maintained that his program was "a very standard vanilla Facebook app."

He ultimately provided more than 50 million raw profiles to the firm, Wylie said, a number confirmed by a company email and a former colleague. Of those, roughly 30 million — a number previously reported by The Intercept — contained enough information, including places of residence, that the company could match users to other records and build psychographic profiles. Only about 270,000 users — those who participated in the survey — had consented to having their data harvested.

Wylie said the Facebook data was "the saving grace" that let his team deliver the models it had promised the Mercers.

"We wanted as much as we could get," he acknowledged. "Where it came from, who said we could have it — we weren't really asking."

Nix tells a different story. Appearing before a parliamentary committee last month, he described Kogan's contributions as "fruitless."

An international effort

Just as Kogan's efforts were getting underway, Mercer agreed to invest $15 million in a joint venture with SCL's elections division. The partners devised a convoluted corporate structure, forming a new U.S. company, owned almost entirely by Mercer, with a license to the psychographics platform developed by Wylie's team, according to company documents. Bannon, who became a board member and investor, chose the name: Cambridge Analytica.

The firm was effectively a shell. According to the documents and former employees, any contracts won by Cambridge, originally incorporated in Delaware, would be serviced by London-based SCL and overseen by Nix, a British citizen who held dual appointments at Cambridge Analytica and SCL. Most SCL employees and contractors were Canadian, like Wylie, or European.

But in July 2014, a U.S. election lawyer advising the company, Laurence Levy, warned that the arrangement could violate laws limiting the involvement of foreign nationals in U.S. elections.

In a memo to Bannon, Mercer and Nix, the lawyer, then at the firm Bracewell & Giuliani, warned that Nix would have to recuse himself "from substantive management" of any clients involved in U.S. elections. The data firm would also have to find U.S. citizens or green card holders, Levy wrote, "to manage the work and decision-making functions, relative to campaign messaging and expenditures."

In summer and fall 2014, Cambridge Analytica dived into the U.S. midterm elections, mobilizing SCL contractors and employees around the country. Few Americans were involved in the work, which included polling, focus groups and message development for the John Bolton super PAC, conservative groups in Colorado and the campaign of Sen. Thom Tillis, R-N.C.

Cambridge Analytica, in its statement to The Times, said that all "personnel in strategic roles were U.S. nationals or green card holders." Nix "never had any strategic or operational role" in a U.S. election campaign, the company said.

Whether the company's U.S. ventures violated election laws would depend on foreign employees' roles in each campaign and on whether their work counted as strategic advice under Federal Election Commission rules.

Cambridge Analytica appears to have exhibited a similar pattern in the 2016 election cycle, when the company worked for the campaigns of Cruz and then Trump. While Cambridge hired more Americans to work on the races that year, most of its data scientists were citizens of the United Kingdom or other European countries, according to two former employees.

Under the guidance of Brad Parscale, Trump's digital director in 2016 and now the campaign manager for his 2020 re-election effort, Cambridge performed a variety of services, former campaign officials said. That included designing target audiences for digital ads and fundraising appeals, modeling voter turnout, buying $5 million in television ads and determining where Trump should travel to best drum up support.

Cambridge executives have offered conflicting accounts about the use of psychographic data on the campaign. Nix has said that the firm's profiles helped shape Trump's strategy — statements disputed by other campaign officials — but also that Cambridge did not have enough time to comprehensively model Trump voters.

In a BBC interview in December, Nix said the Trump efforts drew on "legacy psychographics" built for the Cruz campaign.

After the leak

By early 2015, Wylie and more than half his original team of about a dozen people had left the company. Most were liberal-leaning and had grown disenchanted with working on behalf of the hard-right candidates the Mercer family favored.

Cambridge Analytica, in its statement, said that Wylie had left to start a rival firm, and that it later took legal action against him to enforce intellectual property claims. It characterized Wylie and other former "contractors" as engaging in "what is clearly a malicious attempt to hurt the company."

Near the end of that year, a report in The Guardian revealed that Cambridge Analytica was using private Facebook data on the Cruz campaign, sending Facebook scrambling. In a statement at the time, Facebook promised that it was "carefully investigating this situation" and would require any company misusing its data to destroy it.

Facebook verified the leak and — without publicly acknowledging it — sought to secure the information, efforts that continued as recently as August 2016. That month, lawyers for the social network reached out to Cambridge Analytica contractors. "This data was obtained and used without permission," said a letter that was obtained by The Times. "It cannot be used legitimately in the future and must be deleted immediately."

Grewal, the Facebook deputy general counsel, said in a statement that both Kogan and "SCL Group and Cambridge Analytica certified to us that they destroyed the data in question."

But copies of the data still remain beyond Facebook's control. The Times viewed a set of raw data from the profiles Cambridge Analytica obtained.

While Nix has told lawmakers that the company does not have Facebook data, a former employee said that he had recently seen hundreds of gigabytes on Cambridge servers, and that the files were not encrypted.

Today, as Cambridge Analytica seeks to expand its business in the United States and overseas, Nix has mentioned some questionable practices. This January, in undercover footage filmed by Channel 4 News in Britain and viewed by The Times, he boasted of employing front companies and former spies on behalf of political clients around the world and even suggested ways to entrap politicians in compromising situations.

All the scrutiny appears to have damaged Cambridge Analytica's political business. No U.S. campaigns or super PACs have yet reported paying the company for work in the 2018 midterms, and it is unclear whether Cambridge will be asked to join Trump's re-election campaign.

In the meantime, Nix is seeking to take psychographics to the commercial advertising market. He has repositioned himself as a guru for the digital ad age — a "Math Man," he puts it. In the United States last year, a former employee said, Cambridge pitched Mercedes-Benz, MetLife and the brewer AB InBev but has not signed them on.

Matthew Rosenberg, Nicholas Confessore and Carole Cadwalladr reported from London. Gabriel J.X. Dance contributed reporting from London, and Danny Hakim from New York.

Our relationship is miserable, but when I tried to break things off my boyfriend threatened to kill himself

Alaska News - Sat, 2018-03-17 17:00

Dear Wayne and Wanda,

I am currently struggling with my boyfriend and I am in desperate need for help. It all started early last year. I was having problems with my parents (they even threatened to throw me out of the country) and my boyfriend asked me to move in with him. Tired of the daily arguments with my parents, I moved in with him and his family.

He promised me that within three months, we would get our own apartment, and I believed it. The first couple of months were fine. We were getting situated, we were looking for apartments and I was trying to fix things with my parents. As the months went by, my boyfriend was trying less and less. He started gaining weight, he started acting like a jerk, he would never help take care of our dog. Every apartment I brought up, he believed he had a good reason for why it was not a good fit for us.

All he does on his days off is play video games. By now I have fixed my relationship with my parents and yet my boyfriend never wants me to make the 15-minute drive from where we currently live to my parents' house. He just can't stand my parents. There is a language barrier but that had not been a problem at the beginning of our relationship and now, for some reason, that is a big problem.

I tried to break it off with him, giving him all the reasons why it's not working anymore and he threatens to kill himself and promises to make things better. It's fine for a couple of days and then he goes back to the same thing he's been doing. He hasn't even attempted to get a driver's license, so my commute to work is 20 minutes longer because I have to drop him off first. I'm so close to losing my job because of how often I've been late. He doesn't even offer to pay for gas anymore. What do I do?

Wanda says:

First of all, your boyfriend threatening to harm himself should be taken seriously and treated as urgent. For professional guidance on how to proceed and support him, call the Alaska CARELINE (1-877-266-4357/HELP), Mental Health Emergency Counseling line (907-563-3200) or Suicide Prevention Hotline (1-800-273-8255), and definitely reach out to your boyfriend's parents to tell them what is going on. Even if you think he's just saying these things to scare you and keep you close, his words should be taken seriously.

That serious issue aside, you've still got a tremendous amount on your plate — and all of it points to a draining, unhealthy relationship, where this man is taking extraordinary advantage of your vulnerabilities and your kindnesses. I didn't hear you name one positive benefit to you through this relationship. Instead, I heard you explain a dynamic where you're consistently neglected and taken advantage of by a person who sounds very depressed and in need of professional support.

It's very hard when we care about someone and see them spiraling to walk away. We feel responsible and we want to do something to help, to fix them. But sometimes these problems are bigger than us and we must reach out to our support networks and professionals to muddle through. I urge you to not try to manage this massive bundle of dark, confusing issues by yourself. Reach out to someone who can provide support and guidance for your boyfriend, and who can support you in breaking the dysfunctional cycle and you untangle yourself from this unhealthy dynamic and break away to start fresh — and single.

Wayne says:

Fully agree with Wanda and completely confirm your intuition — it's time to stop worrying about everyone else and time to start focusing on your own happiness and welfare. And, as you already know, what's best for you is to quickly exit this mess — your relationship with your boyfriend and his parents' home.

I know — it's really hard to end things. And your probably depressed, definitely manipulative boyfriend isn't going to make it easier. But remember: You deserve to be happy. You deserve to be around people who love and support you. You deserve the opportunity to have your hard work translate into success and independence.

Your boyfriend and your current living situation are preventing you from thriving and growing. So break up with him, leave his place and don't look back. Don't reply to his calls or texts. And don't feel guilty for taking care of yourself. You gave him more than enough chances to be a better partner and he's let you down and dragged you down every time.

Hopefully your parents will let you move back in with them, but don't view that as a permanent fix. Use the free (or cheap) room to save your money while you continue looking for an apartment of your own. Embrace this moment of growth and keep the momentum going. Months and years from now, you'll look back on this with pride for the way you stood up for yourself, for doing what was best for you, and you'll remember this as the start of your journey down the road of adulthood.

Good luck.

Want to respond to a recent column, point out a dating trend, or ask Wanda and Wayne for wisdom regarding your love life? Give them a shout at wanda@alaskadispatch.com.

[Wayne and Wanda: When casual dating gets complicated]

[Wayne and Wanda: Looking for Mr. Right by dating Mr. Wrongs]

Readers write: Letters to the editor, March 18, 2018

Alaska News - Sat, 2018-03-17 16:32

Not only is Prop. 1 unfair, it's written in a confusing way

Besides its inherent unfairness and immorality, there is another major reason to vote no on Proposition 1; it is drafted in a confusing way.

Look at it in the City's Ballot Review. It starts by saying that "This proposition enacts a law that, among other things, would enact …" (Italics added.) It then lists in six paragraphs what the law would do. It finishes with the question "shall this proposition become law?"

So the questions are:

Where do we find this law which we are enacting? Is it in a city ordinance or an initiative petition? If so, what is the number of the ordinance or where do we find the petition? And finally, what else is the in the law since the proposition says that there are "other things" in it besides the six paragraphs?

— Eric Wohlforth

Let's insist on compromise to resolve our pressing issues

In light of another recent mass shooting, there are many additional shots being fired by people from both sides of our political spectrum. It's concerning that most people, regardless of political leaning, party affiliations or social class, are so caught up in trying to push their particular agenda to "solve" this issue. On the right we have people proclaiming guns aren't the issue, stuff like mental health, or societal influences like violent video games, and lack of godly morals are what is creating these tragedies. The left is pushing heavier gun regulation in multiple ways, and that is scary to many people, especially those ardent about the Second Amendment to our constitution. Like most issues that divide the parties, such as gay marriage, immigration laws, and abortion, the real answer usually lies somewhere in the middle. There are valid points from both sides on all of these issues, and instead of headway being made, we simply argue and fight just to get our point validated and "win."

I truly believe that if we insisted that our political leaders come to compromise to get real solutions accomplished, we would see true resolution and improvement in all of our tough issues. In any relationship it takes compromise, and resolve to get change, and harmony. People get so overwhelmed trying to get things done their way that we end up getting nothing accomplished. Think of our state budget issues, or the national healthcare situation. We need to learn to respect each other's opinions, to listen, not to find a hole in someone's argument, but to learn their viewpoint and see if there is validity and solutions in their views. When we approach these issues in that way we end up learning, caring and getting some real solutions implemented. As for the mass shooting solution, the answer is complicated, and I don't claim to have it.

In my opinion, guns obviously play a role in these incidents. I have heard guns are a tool, not the cause. That's valid, because if a gun is just sitting there it doesn't kill anyone; it takes someone pulling that trigger. In saying that, if we make the process to get guns more difficult, or more regulated, we inherently make mass shootings less likely.

Mental health also plays a major role. We need to change the stigma on mental health and how we care for and approach people in those situations. Societal norms also contribute to this horrible trend. The media, electronics, and frankly our numbness to violence make the choice to commit a mass shooting easier. Now, because of how many shooting have occurred, when someone has been bullied, or isn't accepted, or is just plain crazy, they feel like going out and climbing the proverbial watchtower is acceptable. Education about violence, guns, the media, etc., needs to be a part of the conversations we all have with our children.

I'll leave you with this: Without compromise, listening, political accountability and multi-faceted approaches, we will still be talking about these same issues for many years to come. I encourage everyone to have conversations with people that think differently than yourself and see if you can find some common ground. I bet the answer is yes.

— Hunter Joy

LeDoux keeping smoking bill from going to floor for vote

This week I watched a local news station on which a story was aired about Senate Bill 63. This bill aims to regulate smoking in public places statewide. In essence, this bill would disallow smoking in public places statewide, similar to how smoking is regulated in Anchorage. Simply put, this bill is a public health bill, ensuring that workers in public places will not be subject to secondhand smoke as they earn a living.

I don't know about you, but I don't believe that a worker should be subject to secondhand smoke and risk getting cancer later in life simply because someone who smokes won't be inconvenienced by having to step outdoors. This bill ensures that these workers will not have to be subjected to the effects of secondhand smoke and its later effects on their health.

I was appalled to hear that Rep. LeDoux, from Anchorage, where such a ban is in place, has prevented this bill from reaching the House floor for a vote, where according to many the bill would pass easily. She is using her authority as the chair of the House Rules Committee to block this bill from reaching the House floor for a vote.

While this is action in itself is appalling enough, Rep. LeDoux would not make herself available to the press to answer questions as to her reasons for blocking the bills movement. We know that this is not because she is shy for press time, as she routinely makes herself available for numerous House Majority press conferences on the budget where she opines for a state tax to pay for such things as increased public spending for public health programs.

As such I find it perplexing why Rep. LeDoux and her ruling majority coalition party would not support a bill to improve public health. Rumors are that the bill is being held to be used as leverage in future bargaining with the Senate. If this is true, shame on them. It is unthinkable how anyone can justify putting public health at risk simply to have a bargaining chip at their disposal.

I ask these people to introspectively ask themselves how they would feel if a loved one got diagnosed with cancer caused by second hand smoke or how they could live with knowing that they could have prevented someone, a fellow Alaskan, from getting cancer because they failed in acting.

If you believe regulating secondhand smoke is the right thing to do, I urge you to contact Rep. LeDoux and Speaker Edgmon to allow a floor vote on this issue. If we can't agree on an issue as simple as protecting public health, we stand no chance in tackling the even-tougher issues facing our state.

— Doug Vincent-Lang

No facts to support Prop. 1

Homophobic Prop. 1 backers are doing their best to confuse Anchorage voters and make us afraid that preserving equal rights for our transgender friends and neighbors will somehow make women and girls vulnerable to increased attacks in public bathrooms.

But if bathroom equality really leads to increased violence, there would be facts to support that claim, since Anchorage's equal rights ordinance has been in place since 2015. In fact, no such evidence exists. If it did, don't you think the Prop. 1 backers would have provided us with all the gory details by now? The Anchorage Police Department is opposed to Prop. 1, which is also puts the lie to this scare tactic.

I've traveled quite a bit in Europe, where unisex public bathrooms are the norm. No one hesitates to use them or shows the slightest fear of being attacked. Human beings in Europe are quite capable of sharing bathroom facilities without assaulting each other or worrying about what kind of genitalia are in the stall next to the one they're in.

Are Alaskans with male genitalia somehow different, more predatory or aggressive, than Europeans? I think Alaskan men would be offended by such a suggestion, and so should Alaskan women.

Feeling uncomfortable sharing a bathroom someone who's a bit different doesn't mean you're actually unsafe.

Please vote no on Prop. 1 on April 4. Keep Anchorage fair and safe for all of us.

— Patti Saunders

Follow the rules in ML&P sale

Mayor Berkowitz wants the voters to approve the sale of ML&P to Chugach Electric and, oh by the way, amend the City Charter so that the whole process is really legal in the first place. Yup, nothing to see here, we offered the city-owned utility for sale, supposedly had a sealed-bid process, selected a winner, and now just have to deal with that pesky City Charter to make the process legal.

Once upon a time, the city had a phone company. To sell the utility required that the member owners, aka the city residents, approve the city soliciting bids. We did and the Anchorage Telephone Utility was offered for sale via sealed bid and sold. That's right, the City Charter requires that to sell off a city-owned utility that the voters approve it prior to offering it for sale. I am not an advocate of cities owning utilities in the first place, nor am I an advocate of doing an end run around the rules and having the voter approve it so it's all legal in the end. I'll be voting no on the sale of ML&P.; Mr. Mayor, if you want to sell it then do it via the rules, don't try an end run and then ask the voters to make the action legal after the fact.

— Benjamin E. Sherburne

Once about safety, NRA now lobbies for weapons sales

Thanks, NRA! You have bought and paid for our right to own our own personal WMDs and put them in the hands of people who shouldn't be allowed to own a pocket knife. I support the Second Amendment, but not the right to own weapons capable of firing an insane amount of rounds per minute. There is no logical reason for these types of weapons to be in the hands of private citizens. I believe that public safety outweighs the "need" or "right" to own semiautomatic weapons. I realize that even if illegal, these weapons would still be bought and sold on the black market, but keep in mind that the vast majority of mass shootings have occurred with weapons that were purchased legally by individuals who should not have been allowed to do so.

The NRA used to be about gun safety and responsible gun ownership. It has mutated into an immoral lobby for the unrestricted selling of weapons, with our members of Congress as complicit lap dogs. As citizens, we have the right to vote, but once elected, our "representatives" owe their allegiance to their political donors, whose agendas have little to do with public safety, consumer protection or the preservation of our planet's ecology.

Unless we can elect representatives who have the courage of their convictions, and can as citizens speak out in a loud enough voice to be heard over the rustling of donors' dollars, we will passively bear witness to the devolution of our society. Life, liberty, and the pursuit of happiness (not the pursuit of money at the expense of others) should be our moral compass, and not just a hollow phrase.

— Richard Hedman

Legislation must be passed to protect PFD for the future

I hope that the PFD bill gets passed by both houses and is signed by the governor. As I understand it, the PFD created by Jay Hammond and many others was not imagined only as an emergency reserve to rescue legislators unwilling to develop a realistic revenue source for our needs as a state. All other states pay for their costs by income or sales taxes or both; Alaska is the only exception.

We are special, but not that special. The Permanent Fund Dividend is in a class by its own: it is justified because it distributes for us and posterity the proceeds of the resources intrinsic to the state. In addition, the PFD has the effect of equalizing incomes in the state, rather than creating more disparity.

This is not ordinary tax revenue — it is our inheritance and should be preserved for following generations. Neither the Earnings Reserve Account or the Corpus should be spent to justify the failure of some legislators to allow us to pay as we go (a laudable conservative mantra).

— Steve Gibson

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.

These days, if you’re not sitting at the table, you’re on the menu

Alaska News - Sat, 2018-03-17 15:47

If you're paying any attention to what's happening in Juneau or Washington, D.C., well, it may remind you of breakfast. When you're looking at the chaotic situations, can you determine who is the bacon and who is the eggs?

Wait. Get another cup of coffee and bear with me.

In the great metaphor of "politics is a blue plate breakfast special," ask yourself, who gives the most to be on the plate? See, the chicken gives eggs, and keeps going to donate another day. The pig? Well, the pig has given everything. There's no going back. While the chicken is scratching for another speck of whatever chickens eat, the pig has been fully committed.

OK, you get it and now you may want oatmeal, but that's not an option in our little parable. Someone has to give, and a pain-free option doesn't easily present itself when it comes to public policy. I'm sure this isn't news to our leadership, but they seem to have no problem ordering ham, sausage and a side of bacon while barely squeezing out an egg of contribution themselves.

Hey, Alaska, we're going to take your collective PFD and tax your income, and then we'll spend it. Are we good? Um, not really. We're going to give all the bacon we can back to oil companies, because they're bacon producers and we really should be just so happy they are here at our farm, killing our pigs.

In Washington, D.C., it's worse. On the backs of the sick, hungry, poor and inmates (you know, all the people Jesus seemed most fond of) we are enriching the already rich. It would be great if the rising tide did float all boats, but too many Americans are being left drowning in debt.

It seems like every part of government is making it harder for the general public. Under the Environmental Protection Agency, the regulations to require hard-rock mining companies to prove they are financially sound enough to clean up their mess have been dropped. So mines who extract gold, silver, copper or lead no longer have to put up a bond or have insurance to cover contamination. Maybe they should call it the "Sorry about your Salmon!" rule. Or, "Remember when you could drink your water without consuming enough mercury to take your own temperature?" clause.

The protections for streams having coal mining waste dumped in them have been swept away. Again, the full weight of this decision is on the people who live downstream, and not the with the producers. I realize this is part of some campaign promise to raise the coal industry like Lazarus from the dead. Maybe this administration can bring back Beta video tapes too. Now that would be an accomplishment.

The U.S. Senate, both Republicans and Democrats, voted to roll back regulations on banks. It's as though there is a collective amnesia that struck all of them regarding the banking meltdown in 2008. Remember those "too big to fail" banks that had to line up in a breadline to take billions from American taxpayers? Well, rules had been put in place to create a threshold of who could get back in that line if they failed again. See, banks which have $50 billion or less in assets weren't on that list of "too big." That wasn't big enough for the Senate, so they've now set the bar at $250 billion. That's just an example of who gets protected. The result is there are only 12 banks left under the strictest regulations.

Dear America, Thanks for the bacon! Love, A bunch of banks.

Under the Department of Education, student loan borrowers are served up on a blue plate.  Several states sued lenders for illegal practices and harassment, and enacted new laws to protect students. The DOE stopped collaborating with the Consumer Financial Protection Bureau when they sued the largest servicer. This may be a fine time to let you know that nationally, there is more student loan debt than there is credit card debt. Read that again. Who could possibly get rich by getting rid of predatory student loan practices? Right. Got it. A collection company DOE Secretary Betsy DeVos formerly invested in. Mmmm. Bacon.

I know it's tempting for most of us to skip the "most important meal of the day." The truth is, if you aren't sitting at the table, you're on the menu.

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, emailcommentary(at)adn.com. Send submissions shorter than 200 words to letters@adn.com or click here to submit via any web browser.

Alaskans make new push to kill more sea otters, saying they’re decimating Southeast shellfish

Alaska News - Sat, 2018-03-17 15:34

Southeast Alaska's clams, urchins and crabs have fueled lucrative fishing industries and fed hungry families for decades.

They also feed sea otters.

And now, that human dependence on shellfish is clashing anew with a successful, state-sponsored restoration program that brought the adorable marine mammals' population back from near extinction a century ago.

The long-running conflict between otter conservation and Southeast fishermen and tribal groups has drawn new attention this year. State lawmakers and other policymakers have drafted letters asking the Trump administration and a Republican-controlled Congress to loosen federal otter protections, and to grant local managers more power to cull the animals and leave more urchins, clams, crab and sea cucumbers for humans.

Federal action is far from certain, but those who depend on shellfish warn of an increasingly dire problem.

The story of sea otters in Southeast Alaska spans more than 150 years — from when Russians hunted them to near-extermination to the 1960s restoration, which relocated hundreds of animals from the Aleutians by cargo plane.

The otter restoration has been a success, with the Southeast population growing to more than 20,000. Scientists say the otters' resurgence is restoring the environment to the way it was before the Russians, but they also acknowledge that shellfish, which boomed in the otters' absence, are now being depleted.

"I think what we're headed toward is a return to normality," said Jim Estes, an ecology professor and otter expert at the University of California, Santa Cruz. "None of this was there, almost certainly, for a long time – until the otters were hunted to extinction."

But dive fishermen, who swim or walk along the ocean floor in search of seafood, describe areas carpeted with shellfish 15 years ago that are now completely devoid of them. One Southeast tribal leader, Joel Jackson, said he listens from his home to the sound of sea otters breaking open the same clams that residents of his village want to harvest themselves.

"That's the whole thing about sea otters: They're competing with us," said Jackson, president of the Alaska Native tribal government in the Southeast village of Kake. "We don't want to completely annihilate 'em. But we'd like to keep 'em under control."

The roots of the present conflict reach back to the mid-18th century, when Russian explorers found otters in the Aleutian Islands. The Russians harvested thousands of otters a year, selling their furs largely to Chinese markets.

By 1900, there were small numbers of otters left in just 13 places in Russia, Alaska and California. An international treaty in 1911 allowed some populations to rebound, but into the 1950s, they were gone from Alaska's Southeast coast.

In the 1960s, the Alaska Department of Fish and Game began a transplant program to a half-dozen Southeast sites. The idea, Estes said, was both to restore the species to its former habitat and to give residents opportunities to sell furs.

The 400 otters came mostly from Amchitka Island in the Aleutians, where the federal government was doing underground nuclear tests.

Otters were caught in nets and flown to three Southeast Alaska airports in C-130 transport planes. They then were loaded into a Grumman Goose, an amphibious aircraft.

Otters awaiting pickup at the airports were doused with sea water by volunteers, to keep them from getting agitated, according to an account published by the state.

In the 50 years since, the otters have expanded their range far beyond the initial release sites, and their numbers are still growing. A 2008 federal assessment estimated 10,500 sea otters in Southeast Alaska, and that number rose to nearly 26,000 in the latest assessment, updated in 2014, which pegged the population's growth rate at between 12 and 14 percent a year.

Otters are effective predators; they have a high metabolism and lack blubber, eating about 25 percent of their body weight each day. In the areas where they've expanded, both researchers and fishermen say they can quickly deplete populations of abalone and sea urchins, then sea cucumbers, geoduck clams and Dungeness crabs.

Half of Southeast's urchin fishing areas have been closed, and 65 percent of areas have been impacted by "probable otter predation," according to state managers. For other fisheries, the effects are smaller, but still substantial.

One Ketchikan fisherman, Jeremy Leighton, said he used to earn as much as $100,000 a year just from gathering red urchins. He stopped a few years ago, when the urchins disappeared from his usual fishing area west of Prince of Wales Island.

He used to see "carpets" of urchins, where they'd be so close together that their spines would touch. After sea otters moved in, in spots where he used to see 100,000 pounds of urchins in a 500-foot-wide area, "you couldn't find one."

On his last urchin fishing trip, "we worked all the way down the coast for two days, didn't find any," said Leighton, president of Southeast Alaska's regional dive fishery association. "We just headed for town. We were like, 'that's it — ain't nothing left.' "

Jackson, the tribal leader, said otters are making it harder for residents to harvest clams and other shellfish in his village of Kake, where 20 percent of people below the poverty level.

"The economy's so bad here that we depend more and more on the land," he said. "There's still clams here, but they're becoming more scarce. Smaller."

Alaska lawmakers have been protesting the effects of sea otters' expansion for years. But they have been constrained by the Marine Mammal Protection Act, enacted in 1972, which placed sea otters off limits for hunting to everyone except Alaska Natives who live on the coast.

It also limits harvests to those for subsistence or clothing, which federal agencies have interpreted as barring the sale of otter pelts to non-Natives unless they've been "significantly altered" into handicrafts. And it only allows hunting by people who have at least one-fourth Alaska Native ancestry.

It also turned out that the fur market was smaller than expected, reducing the incentive to hunt, said Estes, the professor and otter expert.

Failed efforts to boost otter markets include when U.S. Rep. Don Young introduced a bill in 2011 to allow the sale of raw pelts to non-Natives. Two years later, Sitka Republican state Sen. Bert Stedman proposed legislation to offer a $100 bounty for each otter harvested. The bill didn't get a vote.

[Related: A bounty on sea otters?]

Stedman is leading another anti-otter push this year with Senate Joint Resolution 13. The measure isn't a bill — it has no binding effect and is more like a strongly worded letter to the federal government.

It contains a laundry list of requests to Congress and federal agencies: open otter hunting to any Alaska Native enrolled in a federally recognized tribe; allow raw otter pelts to be sold without restrictions; and delegate management to the state and tribes.

The state Board of Fisheries also sent a letter this month to Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke and Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross asking for more flexibility for Alaska communities to manage sea otters. Local governments and fishing groups in Southeast Alaska have taken similar positions, according to Petersburg's public radio station, KFSK.

"The growth has continued and the harvest rate has been declining," Stedman said, citing federal data.

He added that he thinks there's a better chance of action in Washington, D.C., under Trump's administration. "Otherwise, it would be whistling Dixie in the wind," he said.

A spokeswoman for Zinke, Heather Swift, said the secretary strongly supports making fish and game management decisions at the local and tribal level. But she also suggested that the law provides federal agencies with only so much flexibility — pointing out that the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service already places no limits on the number of sea otters that Alaska Natives can harvest.

"USFWS can work with interested parties to address conflicts, consistent with the law and available resources," Swift said in an email.

Any changes to the Marine Mammal Protection Act will have to come through Congress.

Alaska's two Republican U.S. senators, Dan Sullivan and Lisa Murkowski, are both interested in reviewing elements of the law, and Sullivan plans to hold a subcommittee hearing on the issue, a spokesman said.

But Murkowski, in a prepared statement, also hinted at the potential to provoke opposition if Alaska lawmakers are seen to be favoring a broad rollback of the Marine Mammal Protection Act.

"I do not support stripping protections for marine mammals protected under the act," she said. "Rather, I support flexibility in the framework to allow accounting for the entire ecosystem."

In interviews, officials with Alaska Native groups said they support some changes to the existing system for managing Southeast sea otters, like changing the requirement that hunters have at least one-fourth Native ancestry.

But they so far have opposed Stedman's resolution in the Legislature.

Members of a statewide tribal sea otter commission voted unanimously against Stedman's proposal, saying they oppose the idea of giving the state of Alaska more management authority.

"If you go back and look at the reality between tribes and the state of Alaska, it's not a good history there," said Lianna Jack Peterson, the commission's director.

The outcome of the debate over Southeast Alaska's otters will likely depend on the value that policymakers assign to the industries and cultures that have sprung up in their absence, said Estes.

"It's one thing to tell these people that you want to help them," he said. "But when it comes to actually sending an army of people out there to start shooting sea otters, will that happen?"

There are more than 600 active commercial permits in fisheries most affected by otters — urchins, geoduck clams, sea cucumbers and Dungeness crabs. Their gross earnings in 2016 topped $15 million.

But lawmakers also acknowledge that otters help boost Southeast's growing tourism industry. And scientists say that while the animals do deplete shellfish stocks, they can also help boost the presence of some species like kelp — which produces habitat for fish and can even trap climate-warming carbon from the atmosphere, Estes said.

"You could ask the question: What's the benefit of having kelp versus the cost of losing the shellfish, and how do these things balance out?" he said. "It's complicated. It's not a simple, little problem."

The thin line between Canada and Alaska

Alaska News - Sat, 2018-03-17 15:05

Marked by metal cones and a clear-cut swath 20 feet wide, Alaska's border with Canada is one of the great feats of wilderness surveying.

The boundary between Alaska and Canada is 1,538 miles long. The line is obvious in some places, such as the Yukon River valley, where crews have cut a straight line through forest on the 141st Meridian. The boundary is invisible in other areas, such as the summit of 18,008-foot Mount St. Elias.

In the early 1900s, workers cemented boundary monuments made of aluminum-bronze and standing 2.5 feet tall along much of the border's length.

The country that makes up the border is some of the wildest in North America. Spanning a gap equal to the distance between San Francisco and St. Louis, the border intersects only one settlement: Hyder in Southeast Alaska. Starting in 1905, surveyors and other workers of the International Boundary Commission trekked into this wilderness to etch into the landscape a brand-new political boundary.

The border was unknown in 1867, when the U.S. purchased Alaska from Russia for two cents an acre. An 1825 treaty between Russia and Great Britain, then the controlling power of Canada, described the boundary as following a range of mountains in Southeast parallel to the Pacific Coast, but in some places no such mountains existed.

The undefined border in Southeast became a problem during the Klondike gold rush of the late 1890s, when Canadian officials requested ownership of Skagway and Dyea, which would allow Canadians access to the Klondike gold fields without crossing American soil.

To settle the dispute in 1903, President Theodore Roosevelt gathered a committee of three Americans, two Canadians, and England's chief justice. The British representative, Lord Richard Alverstone, sided with the three Americans, and the committee rejected the Canadian claims by a vote of four to two.

With a boundary agreed upon, the next step was the immense job of surveying and marking it. In 1904, crews with members from both the U.S. and Canada started work on the panhandle of southeast Alaska. They used boats, packhorses and backpacks to reach the remote mountains of the Southeast border.

In a typical effort, a Canadian crew led by H.S. Mussell in 1911 searched for a boundary point near Mount St. Elias. The crew landed a ship in the rough surf of Disenchantment Bay and transferred hundreds of pounds of gear to the foot of a glacier. Assisted by 10 Natives, the crew cut a trail across tangled brush and set up an aerial tramway across a glacial stream that the Natives thought too dangerous. Without local escorts, the crew made its way up Malaspina Glacier using sleds and identified the boundary point on an unnamed peak.

By 1913, crews farther north had marked the straight line of the 141st Meridian from the Arctic Ocean to the south side of Logan Glacier. They left behind 202 obelisks — shaped like tiny Washington Monuments — that now line the border.

Thomas Riggs was a crew chief for the International Boundary Commission. He spent eight summers, which he called the happiest of his life, marking the border. After his crew tied in the final section of border east of McCarthy in 1914, he described his feelings for the raw wilderness work with a short telegram to his supervisor at the end of August 1914:


Watch: From start to finish, fly along the 1,000-mile Iditarod trail

Alaska News - Sat, 2018-03-17 14:57

The Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race is an epic adventure that traverses nearly 1,000 miles across the remote Alaska landscape. See the 2018 race in a new way, from the viewpoint of a drone, as we fly from Anchorage to Nome.

In ‘Island of the Blue Foxes,’ the fraught, unruly mission that led to Russia’s discovery of Alaska

Alaska News - Sat, 2018-03-17 14:34

Island of the Blue Foxes: Disaster and Triumph on the World's Greatest Scientific Expedition

Stephen R. Bown, Da Capo Press, 352 pages, 2017. $28

"The most eloquent pen would find itself too weak to describe our misery," wrote the famed naturalist Georg Wilhelm Steller from aboard the Russian ship St. Peter in the North Pacific in the fall of 1741. Battered by storms and racing to find their way back to Siberia after sighting Alaska, the scurvy-ridden crewmen were dying in their bunks while the ship's commander, Vitus Bering, barely clung to life himself. Then they ran aground on an uncharted island.

It wasn't supposed to come to this, but the entire enterprise had been poorly planned from the start. It was in its time the greatest expedition for scientific and geographical knowledge ever assembled, tasked with exploring Russia's vast eastern frontier of Siberia and claiming land in the New World for the Russian throne. How it played out is the tale Canadian historian Stephen R. Bown tells in "Island of the Blue Foxes," a compact and highly engaging account of the events that resulted in the discovery of Alaska.

Bown, whose numerous prior works include biographies of Roald Amundsen and Knud Rasmussen, begins with Peter the Great. The first czar to orient the Russian empire toward Europe, Peter was a polymath driven to establish glory for his nation as a geographical and military force and a great center of learning. The pathway for that objective led directly through Siberia, which Russia held but knew little about, and onward to America.

Although Peter didn't live to see the expedition off, he did choose the man who would lead it. Bering, a Dane who had risen through the Russian navy, was placed in charge of what became known as the First Kamchatka Expedition, which departed St. Petersburg in 1725. The men blazed a path across the breadth of Siberia while dragging the goods to keep themselves alive and build a ship once they reached the shoreline. It was a brutal journey through land with no roads, wild tribes and only a few tiny settlements. They reached Kamchatka and built the ship, which they sailed north into the sea that now bears Bering's name. Their objective was to determine if North America was connected to Asia, a supposition they found no evidence for.

Bering returned to St. Petersburg after five years with thoughts of a second journey. Knowing the difficulties of crossing Siberia and the limited resources available along the way, he envisioned a lean and streamlined affair. But the government got involved, and despite his protestations it quickly grew into a massive expedition encompassing thousands of scientists, surveyors, military personnel, laborers and more, "all of whom had to be brought to the eastern coast of Asia across thousands of miles of roadless forests, swamps, and tundra, again hauling vast quantities of equipment and supplies," Bown writes. By horse, dogsled and foot, they would travel nearly halfway around the world.

Bown brings to life the unruly expedition and the internal frictions such a large contingent was bound to develop. Departing early in 1733, it was nearly five years before they began trickling into the tiny Siberian village of Okhotsk, where they first built shipyards and then built ships. Only in 1741 did two vessels, the St. Peter under Bering and the St. Paul captained by Aleksei Chirikov, set sail for America.

The story of Bering's journey across Asia has been told elsewhere, but this is the first account for to cover it in depth for a general audience, and that alone makes this a worthy addition to any Alaska history bookshelf. But Bown doesn't stop there. As the ships head to sea, the focus of his story shifts from Bering, who immediately took ill, to Steller, without whom probably none of the crewmen aboard the St. Peter would have returned alive.

The ships initially traveled south based on a mistaken map and squandered much of the short sailing season looking for America in the wrong direction, part of what led to the calamity. They became separated from each other early on, and both crews sighted Alaska within a day of each other, the first Europeans to do so. After an ordeal of their own, Chirikov's crew got back to Siberia before winter hit, but for Bering's men, shipwreck awaited.

First, however, nearly all took ill with scurvy. "Day by day," Bown recounts, "mariners perished with agony frozen on their ghastly countenances, and the living hauled the stiff corpses above deck and hove their erstwhile companions overboard."

Running aground proved a blessing, though not for Bering, who died soon after. Trapped on what is now Bering Island and beset by blue foxes that robbed them of goods and fed on their corpses, the men established a camp where Steller slowly nursed the survivors back to health.

Steller was brilliant but mercurial, often belligerent, and not particularly liked. But he was also a keen observer of both the natural world and its Native inhabitants, and in a time when the cause of scurvy was unknown, he would correctly surmise that diet was critical to preventing it (after all, the Natives didn't suffer the condition). He also devised a means of capturing the sea mammals that kept the men from starvation. While mostly known today for the many species he discovered, it's his humanitarian accomplishment that Bown celebrates most heartily.

The survivors built a smaller vessel from the wreck of the St. Peter and reached Kamchatka the following summer. Out of their sacrifice, Russia's empire reached its height and in their wake the first European colonists were soon arriving on Alaska's shores.

"Island of the Blue Foxes" moves quickly, and Bown does a fine job of giving readers a strong feel for both what the men endured and how the personal characters of the major players were tested by their tribulations. We come to know several of these people as complex, often flawed, but still admirably capable when necessary. For aficionados of the genre a friend of mine recently dubbed "armchair suffering," this is a must-read.

[Book review: In 'A Wretched and Precarious Situation,' a mission to a continent that didn't exist]

Alaska elections officials certify salmon ballot initiative - San Francisco Chronicle

Legislative News - Sat, 2018-03-17 14:34

San Francisco Chronicle

Alaska elections officials certify salmon ballot initiative
San Francisco Chronicle
JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — The Alaska Division of Elections has certified a ballot initiative that aims to strengthen state law that protects salmon habitat, officials said. The Stand for Salmon initiative could appear on the ballot for either the primary ...

and more »

RACE UPDATES: Last Iditarod musher finishes, Dallas Seavey places 3rd in Norway race

Alaska News - Sat, 2018-03-17 13:21

Race comes to an end

The 2018 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race finished Saturday morning as Magnus Kaltenborn of Whitehorse, Yukon, crossed the finish line in Nome at 11:13 a.m. He claimed the Red Lantern award, given to the last finisher.

Kaltenborn's race time was 12 days, 20 hours, 13 minutes and 14 seconds. This was his second Iditarod, after placing 33rd in 2011.

Fifty-two mushers made it to Nome in this year's race. Thirteen decided to scratch, and two were withdrawn for going too slow.

Joar Leifseth Ulsom of Norway won this year's race, the first musher other than Mitch Seavey or son Dallas Seavey to come in first place since 2011.

[Iditarod withdraws pair of last-place teams for lagging too far behind]

Dallas Seavey finishes third in Norway race

Meanwhile, four-time Iditarod champion Dallas Seavey came in third in the Finnmarksløpet, a 750-mile dog sled race in Norway, the longest such race in Europe. Seavey finished the race in Alta, just before 1 a.m. Saturday there.

Seavey dropped out of the 2018 Iditarod in October in protest over how the race committee handled the results of his dog team's drug tests. In a series of press releases that month, race officials announced that urine samples taken from dogs on Seavey's 2017 Iditarod team tested positive for tramadol, a prescription painkiller the race prohibits. The dogs were tested in Nome after finishing the race.

Seavey has repeatedly denied giving the drug to his dogs. Instead of competing in the 2018 Iditarod, he announced he would compete in Norway's Finnmarksløpet this year.

His father, Mitch Seavey, placed third in this year's Iditarod. Mitch has won the 1,000-mile race to Nome three times before, including in 2017.

Fired FBI official McCabe is said to have written memos detailing his interactions with Trump

Alaska News - Sat, 2018-03-17 12:59

WASHINGTON – Former FBI official Andrew McCabe memorialized his interactions with President Donald Trump in contemporaneous memos, a person familiar with the case said, and they could become a key piece of evidence in special counsel Robert Mueller's probe.

Mueller has been investigating, among other things, whether Trump obstructed justice in his interactions with top law enforcement officials, including McCabe and his former boss, FBI Director James Comey. Comey also kept memos documenting his interactions with Trump, which Mueller already was reviewing.

The memos could help bolster McCabe's credibility, insulating him from allegations that he misstated or misremembered his interactions with Trump. On Friday, McCabe was fired from the FBI, about 26 hours before he was set to retire, over allegations from the Justice Department's inspector general that he authorized the disclosure of information to a reporter about an ongoing criminal investigation, then misled investigators about it. McCabe disputes that he misled anyone or did anything wrong.

[Former FBI deputy director fired just before retiring]

McCabe had been the FBI's No. 2 official until earlier this year, when he stepped down after FBI Director Christopher Wray was briefed on the inspector general's findings. He had remained an FBI employee until Friday when Attorney General Jeff Sessions, acting on a recommendation from the FBI's disciplinary office, fired him over the allegations.

It was not immediately clear which interactions with Trump the memos detailed, or how specific they were. McCabe has now spoken publicly about a number of awkward conversations he claims to have had with the president.

In January, The Washington Post reported that Trump, during an Oval Office meeting in May, had asked McCabe who he voted for in the 2016 election, then vented about hundreds of thousands of dollars in political donations that McCabe's wife had received. His wife, Jill McCabe, a Democrat, ran for a seat in the Virginia State Senate in 2015, and the donations came from a political action committee controlled by Terry McAuliffe, a close friend of Trump's opponent, Hillary Clinton.

Trump renewed some of those complaints on Saturday, writing in a tweet, "The Fake News is beside themselves that McCabe was caught, called out and fired. How many hundreds of thousands of dollars was given to wife's campaign by Crooked H friend, Terry M, who was also under investigation? How many lies? How many leaks? Comey knew it all, and much more!"

Comey's lawyers declined to comment for this story. McCabe said Friday night Comey was "aware of the interaction" he authorized two other FBI officials to speak with a reporter. Comey wrote on Twitter just minutes after the Trump's tweet, "Mr. President, the American people will hear my story very soon. And they can judge for themselves who is honorable and who is not."

McCabe told CNN in an interview in advance of his firing that Trump was focused on his wife's campaign and alleged there were at least four times where Trump called it a "mistake" or "problem," or branded his wife a "loser." McCabe said he told the president he himself had not voted in the 2016 election.

Mueller has shown interest in McCabe's interactions with the president, though Comey's conversations might more squarely fit into a possible obstruction of justice case. Comey alleges the president asked him for a pledge of loyalty, and asked if he could let go an investigation into former national security adviser Michael Flynn. Flynn has since pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI as a part of Mueller's ongoing investigation. Trump fired Comey in May, and McCabe briefly took over as the FBI's acting director.

The president would later say in a television interview that he was thinking of "this Russia thing with Trump" when he decided to remove Comey.

McCabe said Friday that his own firing was part of "this Administration's ongoing war on the FBI and the efforts of the Special Counsel investigation, which continue to this day."

The move will likely cost McCabe significant retirement benefits, because he could not retire Sunday, when he turns 50. Perhaps more significantly, it again draws the federal law enforcement into a controversy at a time when those inside the bureau already fear the institution's reputation won't survive the near constant attacks from Trump and conservatives mistrustful of their work.

Wray, the current FBI director, has been trying to restore morale at the FBI by quietly installing his own people in top management positions and – though it has proven impossible – trying to stay out of the news.

"Certainly the FBI is in the barrel, and they badly want to get out of it – the workforce does," said former FBI Assistant Director Ron Hosko. "But headlines like this are not the way out."

[Trump's lawyer calls on Justice Department to immediately end Russia probe]

Several former federal law enforcement officials questioned the timing of McCabe's firing, as the president's lawyer seized on it to call for the shutting down of Mueller's probe.

Former CIA Director John Brennan, who responded on Twitter to Trump, said, "When the full extent of your venality, moral turpitude, and political corruption becomes known, you will take your rightful place as a disgraced demagogue in the dustbin of history. You may scapegoat Andy McCabe, but you will not destroy America … America will triumph over you."

Former Attorney General Eric Holder wrote, "Analyze McCabe firing on two levels: the substance and the timing. We don't know enough about the substance yet. The timing appears cruel and a cave that compromised DOJ independence to please an increasingly erratic President who should've played no role here. This is dangerous."

Inside the FBI, the mood was tense Saturday, but the reaction was somewhat mixed. Some agents exchanged messages about how they might be able to help McCabe and expressed anger at how he was removed so close to his retirement, people familiar with the matter said. McCabe, though, was not universally loved inside the institution, as some employees resented him for what they felt was a rapid rise through the ranks in his 22 years at the FBI.

Many at the bureau were saying, "This is crazy. I can't believe this is happening to him," while others expressed the sentiment, "That's kind of what you get," one law enforcement official said.

Current and former law enforcement officials noted that misleading investigators is a fatal offense – though they were curious the degree to which the evidence would show McCabe had done so. The inspector general has not yet released a report detailing the allegations against McCabe, though they have been generally described by people familiar with the matter.

"I got one comment from a McCabe critic that he got what was coming to him and has been coming to him," Hosko said. "But I've heard, too, from people who say they feel sorry for him. . . . Anybody who's had the retirement rug jerked out from him in this way is troubling. If it can happen to him, it can happen to you."

In the past year, the FBI fired 19 people for showing a lack of candor not under oath and 12 for showing a lack of candor under oath – though those figures might represent double counting if a person showed a lack of candor in both settings.

Trump’s lawyer calls on Justice Department to immediately end Russia probe

Alaska News - Sat, 2018-03-17 12:35

President Donald Trump's lawyer called on the Justice Department to immediately shut down the special counsel probe into Russian interference in the 2016 election, in the wake of the firing of FBI Deputy Director Andrew McCabe.

Attorney John Dowd said in a statement that the investigation, now led by special counsel Robert Mueller, was fatally flawed early on and "corrupted" by political bias. He called on Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, who oversees that probe, to shut it down.

"I pray that Acting Attorney General Rosenstein will follow the brilliant and courageous example of the FBI Office of Professional Responsibility and Attorney General Jeff Sessions and bring an end to alleged Russia Collusion investigation manufactured by McCabe's boss James Comey based upon a fraudulent and corrupt Dossier," Dowd said in an emailed statement.

[Former FBI deputy director fired just before retiring]

Dowd told The Washington Post on Saturday he was speaking for himself and not on Trump's behalf. Earlier Saturday, Dowd told the Daily Beast that he was speaking on behalf of the president and in his capacity as the president's attorney. (After the Daily Beast published its story, Dowd emailed the publication and said he was not speaking on the president's behalf.)

In a Saturday afternoon tweet, Trump reiterated his claim that there was "no collusion" between his campaign and Russians, and bemoaned what he described as "leaking, lying and corruption" in federal law enforcement agencies. But he stopped short of echoing Dowd's call for an end to the Mueller probe.

Trump tweeted: "As the House Intelligence Committee has concluded, there was no collusion between Russia and the Trump Campaign. As many are now finding out, however, there was tremendous leaking, lying and corruption at the highest levels of the FBI, Justice & State. #DrainTheSwamp."

Trump was referring to the Republican members of the House Intelligence Committee's announcement this past week that they were concluding their investigation of Russian interference in the election, though a separate investigation by the Senate Intelligence Committee continues, as does Mueller's probe.

Sessions late Friday night fired McCabe, a little more than 24 hours before McCabe was set to retire – a move that McCabe alleged was an attempt to "slander" him and undermine the ongoing special counsel investigation into the Trump campaign.

Sessions announced the decision in a statement just before 10 p.m., noting that both the Justice Department inspector general and the FBI office that handles discipline had found "that Mr. McCabe had made an unauthorized disclosure to the news media and lacked candor – including under oath – on multiple occasions."

An inspector general raised questions about McCabe's discussions with reporters about a case related to Hillary Clinton.

If Dowd's statement reflected Trump's legal strategy, it would represent a significant shift in the president's approach to the Mueller investigation.

Trump's lawyers and spokesmen have long pledged that he and his White House staff would cooperate fully with Mueller's probe. The White House has responded to requests for documents, while senior officials have sat for hours of interviews with the special counsel's investigators.

Asked Thursday whether the special counsel's subpoena of documents from the Trump Organization regarding its dealings with Russia crossed a red line in the view of the president, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said it did not.

"As we've maintained all along, and as the president has said numerous times, there was no collusion between the campaign and Russia," Sanders told reporters. She added, "We're going to continue to fully cooperate out of respect for the special counsel."

Senate Minority Leader Charles Schumer, D-N.Y., said in a statement Saturday that there will be "severe consequences" for both Democrats and Republicans if Trump and his legal team take steps to interfere with or end Mueller's probe.

"Mr. Dowd's comments are yet another indication that the first instinct of the president and his legal team is not to cooperate with Special Counsel Mueller, but to undermine him at every turn," Schumer said.

[Mueller subpoenas Trump Organization, demanding documents about Russia]

McCabe's firing touched off a firestorm late Friday. The now-former No. 2 at the FBI, who is a witness in the Russia case, shot back immediately.

"This attack on my credibility is one part of a larger effort not just to slander me personally, but to taint the FBI, law enforcement, and intelligence professionals more generally," McCabe said. "It is part of this Administration's ongoing war on the FBI and the efforts of the Special Counsel investigation, which continue to this day. Their persistence in this campaign only highlights the importance of the Special Counsel's work."

His firing – which was recommended by the FBI office that handles discipline – stems from a Justice Department inspector general investigation that found McCabe authorized the disclosure of sensitive information to the media about a Clinton-related case, then misled investigators about his actions in the matter, people familiar with the matter have said. He stepped down earlier this year from the deputy director role after FBI Director Christopher Wray was briefed on the inspector general's findings, though he technically was still an employee.

Trump tweeted early Saturday morning, "Andrew McCabe FIRED, a great day for the hard working men and women of the FBI – A great day for Democracy. Sanctimonious James Comey was his boss and made McCabe look like a choirboy. He knew all about the lies and corruption going on at the highest levels of the FBI!"

When asked by The Post if he believed the Russia case was flawed because of new findings about McCabe or larger issues with the early FBI handling of the investigation, Dowd declined to elaborate.

"Just end it on the merits in light of recent revelations," he said. "My statement is clear."

Anchorage police investigating death of man found in car as homicide

Alaska News - Sat, 2018-03-17 12:08

Anchorage police are investigating the death of a man found Friday evening in a car "suspiciously parked" in the 8900 block of Dewberry Street blocking traffic, police said in a statement.

The death is being investigated as a homicide, police said Saturday morning.

The man was found inside a dark colored sedan, police said. Residents approached the vehicle, saw the body and called 911 shortly after 7 p.m. Friday, according to the police statement.

The victim, whom police did not identify, was shot in the upper body. Detectives believe the incident was a targeted, drug-related crime, police said.

Police are asking anyone with information about the investigation to call police dispatch at 907-786-8900 or anonymously call Crime Stoppers at 907-561-STOP.