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In blow to GOP, House fails to pass massive farm bill in face of conservative showdown

Alaska News - Fri, 2018-05-18 13:03

WASHINGTON – A sweeping farm bill failed in the House on Friday in a major embarrassment to GOP leaders who were unable to placate conservative lawmakers demanding commitments on immigration.

Leadership put the bill on the floor gambling it would pass despite unanimous Democratic opposition. They negotiated with members of the conservative House Freedom Caucus up to the last minutes.

But their gamble failed. The vote was 198-213, with 30 Republicans joined 183 Democrats in defeating bill.

The outcome exposed what is becoming an all-out war within the House GOP over immigration, a divisive fight the Republicans did not want to have heading into midterm elections in November that will decide control of Congress.

The bill's collapse also revealed the intractable divisions within the GOP conference that have bedeviled House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., and will be certain to dog the top lieutenants in line to replace him, Majority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., and Majority Whip Steve Scalise, R-La.

With moderate Republicans maneuvering to force a vote on legislation offering citizenship to some younger immigrants who arrived in the country as children, conservatives revolted. The farm bill became a bargaining chip as they lobbied leadership for a vote on a hard-line immigration bill.

Leaders tried to come up with a compromise, but a series of 11th-hour negotiations, offers and counteroffers failed. Both McCarthy and Scalise will take their share of the blame for the failure, and their fortunes in the race to replace Ryan next year could suffer accordingly.

[Rep. Young nabs Alaska exemption from Forest Service rule in House farm bill]

The farm bill itself became practically a sideshow, despite its importance to agriculture and the significant changes it would institute to food stamp programs.

On immigration, Scalise described a deal that would ensure a vote on a conservative immigration bill by Reps. Bob Goodlatte, R-Va., and Michael McCaul, R-Texas – while also allowing moderate Republicans the opportunity to negotiate on legislation that could win the support of President Donald Trump and resolve the status of immigrants who face losing protections offered by the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, or DACA.

"We came to an agreement that I think gives everybody what they want," Scalise said ahead of the farm bill vote. "That's a vote on Goodlatte-McCaul as well as an opportunity to try to work with the president on an alternative that can pass on DACA. We want to solve the DACA problem and secure the border and I still think there's a path to get there working with the president."

The solution may eventually emerge, but it didn't do so in time to save the farm bill Friday.

Goodlatte-McCaul bill authorizes construction of a border wall, cracks down on "sanctuary cities" that protect immigrants against federal immigration authorities, and provides for three-year temporary guest work permits that don't offer a chance at citizenship. Leaders and conservatives alike agree that it doesn't command the votes to pass the House, but nonetheless conservatives want to vote on it.

The farm bill itself broke open partisan divisions in the House as Democrats abandoned negotiations with Republicans over the food stamp changes, which would require adults to spend 20 hours per week either working or participating in a state-run training program as a condition to receive benefits. Democrats argue that a million or more people would end up losing benefits as a result because most states don't have the capacity to set up the training programs required.

House Democratic Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., described the legislation as "cruel" and argued that with the proposed changes to food stamps, "Republicans are taking food out of the mouths of families struggling to make ends meet."

Republicans contend the food stamp changes are a reasonable approach that would help move able-bodied adults from poverty to work. "Our bill goes shoulder-to-shoulder with recipients to help get them the training and education they need to attain a job that can provide for them and their families," said Agriculture Committee Chairman Michael Conaway, R-Texas.

The House farm bill would have been a non-starter in the Senate anyway, which is writing its own farm bill. Any legislation that ultimately makes it to President Trump's desk will have to look more like the Senate version, where bipartisan support will be necessary for anything to pass and there is not sufficient support for the food stamp changes.

Trump had tweeted his support for the House bill late Thursday, writing: "Tomorrow, the House will vote on a strong Farm Bill, which includes work requirements. We must support our Nation's great farmers!" So the president, too, shares in Friday's failure.

The current farm bill expires Sept. 30 and the legislation would have reauthorized numerous programs and policies. In addition to the food stamps, flash points included an extension of supports for the sugar program, which a coalition of conservative lawmakers backed by free-market outside groups tried unsuccessfully to get rid of in an amendment defeated Thursday.

The legislation also would have extended the Agriculture Department's subsidy program that compensates farmers when average crop prices fall below certain levels – and expanded by widening who counts as a "farmer," for subsidy purposes.

Conaway pleaded for the legislation before the vote. "Times are not good right now in the heartland. Many of our nation's farmers and ranchers, who have been struggling under the weight of a five-year recession, are just one bad year away from being forced out of business," he said. "And in the face of these serious challenges, the last thing they need is the uncertainty of a prolonged debate over the 2018 farm bill."

– – –

The Washington Post's Caitlin Dewey contributed to this report.

Boeing 737 with at least 104 on board crashes in Cuba

Alaska News - Fri, 2018-05-18 12:49

HAVANA – More than 100 people were killed in a fiery crash of a Boeing 737 passenger plane in Cuba on Friday, Cuban broadcaster CubaTV reported.

There were three seriously injured survivors among the 114 passengers and crew, Cuban president Miguel Diaz-Canel said.

The aircraft, on a domestic flight to Holguin in eastern Cuba, crashed shortly after taking off from Havana, Cuban state-run media reported. There were 105 passengers, including five children, and nine crew members.

The fire from the crash had been put out and authorities were identifying bodies, President Diaz-Canel said, adding that authorities were investigating the cause of the crash.

Wreckage was strewn over the area 12 miles south of Havana, a Reuters witness said, and blackened parts of the fuselage were visible.

"We heard an explosion and then saw a big cloud of smoke go up," said Gilberto Menendez, who runs a restaurant near the crash site in the agricultural area of Boyeros.

Carlos Alberto Martinez, the director of Havana's Calixto Garcia hospital, told Reuters that four victims of the accident had been brought there. One had died and three others, all women, were in a serious condition, he said.

"She is alive but very burnt and swollen," said a distressed relative of one of the survivors at the hospital.

The flight was leased by airline Cubana from a small Mexican airline called Damojh or Global, Cuban state media said. Holguin has some of the island's most pristine beaches, and attracts tourists.

Cubana declined to comment. A Damojh representative in Mexico said, "we are gathering what we can to give correct information."

The nationality of those on board was not immediately clear. State media said that the crew were foreign, but provided no further details.

Flight tracking websites indicated the flight was CU972, departing Havana at 11 a.m.

The Mexican government said on its website that the plane was a Boeing 737-201 built in 1979, making it around 39 years old.

Boeing Co. said in a Twitter post: "We are aware of news reports out of Cuba and are closely monitoring the situation."

Boeing 737 aircraft use engines made by CFM International, the supplier of the world's most-used engines, built by a joint venture of GE and France's Safran.

On Thursday, Cuba's First Vice President Salvador Valdés Mesa had met with Cubana bosses to discuss public complaints about its service, according to state-run media. Problems included the cancellation of numerous domestic flights this year, and long delays which the company said were caused by technical problems with its aircraft.

Earlier this month, the company was ordered to suspend flights by its six Russian built AN-158 aircraft, of which most had reportedly already been grounded.

The last fatal crash in Cuba was in 2017, the Aviation Safety Network said. It was a military flight that killed all eight personnel aboard. In 2010, a commercial Aero Caribbean plane crashed in central Cuba. All 68 people on board were killed.

The latest available information on Cuba from U.N. safety aviation agency ICAO, dating back to 2008, ranks it above the global average – though that preceded the latest three crashes.

(Additional reporting by Nelson Acosta in Havana, Anthony Esposito and Dave Graham in Mexico.)

Pregnant deaf woman and service dog punched on Frontier flight in Florida

Alaska News - Fri, 2018-05-18 12:44

ORLANDO, Fla. — A 59-year-old man punched a deaf pregnant woman and her service dog inside a Frontier flight upon landing in Orlando on Friday, police said.

According to a police report, Timothy Manley was traveling from Colorado Springs, Colorado, along with his wife, Petrini Manley, 56, and Joshua Manley, 27, all from Gainesville, Florida.

Petrini Manley complained of being allergic to dogs as the plane descended and was being taxied to the gate at the Orlando International Airport. The service animal, a Great Dane, woke up and Timothy Manley told police the dog "took up more space than (he) felt it deserved."

Timothy Manley punched the service dog, Zariel, and caused it to yelp. The dog shook its head and hid under a seat, according to the police report.

The 21-year-old woman and her 30-year-old partner, who is also deaf, tried to yell at Timothy Manley as best as they could, the report indicates.

Police said Timothy Manley then got into the man's face and punched the woman, who is about 20 weeks pregnant.

Two officers arrived at the scene of the scuffle as Timothy Manley passed by them, saying, "It took you all long enough to get here," according to the report.

The 30-year-old man said he tackled Timothy Manley until police arrived. All the people involved declined medical treatment, but the woman said she wants to prosecute and is willing to testify on court.

Orlando Police Department spokeswoman Michelle Guido said the incident report has been handed over to the FBI, which is handling the investigation since the altercation happened on the plane.

Rep. Young nabs Alaska exemption from Forest Service rule in House farm bill

Alaska News - Fri, 2018-05-18 12:39

WASHINGTON — As the U.S. House sparred over whether and when to pass the latest iteration of the massive farm bill, Alaska congressman Don Young made a deal.

Late Thursday, Young, a Republican, secured two amendments that moved his vote on the larger package from a "maybe" to a "yes": an Alaska exemption from a rule that limits logging in the Tongass National Forest, and another that ensures Alaska Native populations can use donations of traditional food sources as part of public assistance foods.

[Measure in Congress could cut into Alaska food benefits with work requirements]

In a flurry of floor activity, Young flipped three votes from "no" to "yes," squeezing out passage for his roadless rule amendment by a vote of 208-207.

Ultimately, the Republicans' farm bill went down Friday by a vote of 198-213, after party leaders could not persuade any Democrats or enough Republicans to vote in favor.

[In blow to GOP, House fails to pass massive farm bill in face of conservative showdown]

But a procedural move employed by House Speaker Paul Ryan allows him to pick the bill back up next week. That means this isn't the end for the farm bill, or for Young's amendments.

The farm bill manages a wide range of agricultural programs and subsidies, and is updated about every five years. The current iteration expires later this year, so Congress must come to some resolution by September.

What was supposed to be a two-minute House vote on Young's amendments stretched well past the 10-minute mark as leaders allowed Young to scour the aisles looking for votes to turn. When time was technically up, the vote tally read 204 in favor, 210 against, with 14 members not voting.

Don Young looks super pissed and is yelling at Republican leaders.

Currently, his amendment is losing 204-210.

“Reichert, where are you?!” Young yells out.

— Matt Fuller (@MEPFuller) May 17, 2018

But Young didn't rest there. One more "yes" vote came in, and the congressman persuaded three others to switch their initial votes. As soon as the tally ticked over 208 yes and 207 no, the chair called it.

Young convinced three lawmakers to change their votes: Ryan Costello, R-Pennsylvania; Marcy Kaptor, D-Ohio; and a third who remained unidentified. Young was not available to clarify who it was.

The Forest Service's roadless rule is designed to protect old-growth trees and sensitive habitats. Alaska's congressional delegation has railed against it since it was issued in the final days of the Clinton administration in 2001.

Though the courts have disagreed, Young and other Alaska Republican lawmakers have argued that Alaska should be exempt and that the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act protects plenty of state land from logging and development.

On the House floor Thursday, Young argued that 96 percent of the Tongass National Forest and 99 percent of the Chugach National Forest are protected by ANILCA and their forest management plans.

"Exempting Alaska from the roadless rule will ensure that what is left of the timber industry in Southeast Alaska can survive," Young said on the House floor.

Young also sponsored an amendment that passed by a voice vote: a repeat of a provision that passed in the 2014 farm bill allowing for subsistence donations for food assistance programs for rural Native Alaskans.

Food assistance, rather than agricultural subsidies, were one of the major sticking points of the bill that kept most Democrats and about a dozen moderate Republicans from voting in favor of the bill.

[Here's why a working family in Anchorage needs food aid to get by]

While its nominal purpose is agricultural programs, 80 percent of the farm bill's funding goes to the Supplemental Nutrition Assistance Program, known to many by its former name, "food stamps."

The bill would expand work requirements for many people receiving SNAP benefits. Young said via his spokesperson last week that he had concerns about the SNAP work requirements and what they could mean for remote areas of Alaska, where work opportunities can be scarce.

But those concerns were not enough to make Young a "no" vote on the bill once he secured his amendments.

Conservative House Republicans ultimately tanked the farm bill over their immigration priorities, but Ryan made a motion to reconsider, and the House could try and vote on it again next week. It would then move to the Senate for approval, or the Senate could pass its own farm bill and the two bills would be married in a bicameral conference committee.

Alaska performances of homegrown musical ‘Snow Child’ are canceled

Alaska News - Fri, 2018-05-18 12:21

All Alaska performances of a musical based on Palmer author Eowyn Ivey's highly praised first novel "The Snow Child" have been canceled.

The production by Arena Stage and Perseverance Theatre was scheduled for performances in Anchorage and Juneau.

Juneau-based Perseverance Theatre, Alaska's only professional theater company, announced the cancellation in a statement Friday.

"Perseverance Theatre stands by its reputation to create professional, high-quality theatre productions," executive and artistic director Art Rotch wrote. "Unfortunately, at this time, we are unable to meet the logistical needs this beautiful production deserves in order to stay true to our mission and the vision of the show."

The theater will contact ticket holders for a "Snow Child" performance with options for refunding or repurposing costs, Rotch said.

"We regret we couldn't successfully bring 'Snow Child' to Alaska this season and will look for other ways to share this adaptation of Eowyn Ivey's novel with Alaskans in the future," the statement continued.

Additional details weren't immediately available Friday morning.

Ivey's novel was a finalist for the Pulitzer Prize in 2013.

She took to Facebook on Friday morning with a brief note about the "disappointing news" of the cancellation.

"My understanding is that Arena Stage and Perseverance Theatre concluded that it was not economically feasible to bring the show north," Ivey wrote in a post on her page.

The stage production was described on the Perseverance website as as "a magical new musical that dances on the edge of legend. In the 1920s Alaskan wilderness, a couple reeling from the loss of an unborn child struggles to rebuild their lives. Everything changes suddenly when they are visited by a wild, mysterious girl who embodies the dark woods that surround their cabin."

The musical has a "bluegrass-infused" score, the site says.

Arena Stage premiered the musical at the Kreeger Theater in Washington, D.C., according to a report in Playbill. The production was scheduled to close at that 514-seat theater Sunday.

['The Snow Child' musical will premiere in Washington, DC]

The musical was slated to open in Anchorage on May 25 and run through May 27. It was also scheduled for a limited run of two days in Juneau next month.

An Arena Stage representative directed all questions to Perseverance Theatre on Friday.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Who is Jonathan Oddi, the gunman shot after ranting at Trump golf club?

Alaska News - Fri, 2018-05-18 11:23

MIAMI — The man accused of firing inside Trump National Doral Miami resort has been identified as 42-year-old Jonathan Oddi.

On social media, Oddi lists himself as a fitness instructor, real-estate investor and manager at Pegasus, a business dealing in minerals and gemstones. Oddi lived a few miles away at a rental complex and became a U.S. citizen in August.

Miami-Dade's police director said Oddi removed a flag from the back of the property and entered the lobby early Friday morning shouting "anti-Trump rhetoric," later shooting into the ceiling and chandeliers as officer rushed in. Five officers fired their weapons, Perez said, and Oddi suffered multiple gunshot wounds to the legs.

The suspect — who was not a guest at the resort — waited in the lobby for police officers to arrive before luring them into a gunfight, authorities said. During the gunfight, the unidentified man was struck several times in the lower body. No workers at the resort or guests were injured. A Doral cop hurt his wrist.

"There's a shootout in the lobby," said Miami-Dade Police Director Juan Perez. "He's at the hospital stable. Don't know how many times he was hit."

News footage shows a bald man arriving at Kendall Regional Medical Center on a stretcher. Doral mayor J.C. Bermudez said authorities do not believe the shooting was terrorism related.

"Thank God no one was hurt," Bermudez said.

The shooting unfolded at the sprawling West Miami-Dade resort, which was bought by the Trump Organization in 2012 and used to host the popular World Golf Championships-Cadillac Championship. Gunfire broke out just after 1:30 a.m. in the lobby of the resort; several Doral cops and one Miami-Dade police officer were involved.

As rush hour began Friday morning, entrance to the hotel was blocked off as media awaited updates in the parking lot of the nearby Carolina Ale House.

The president's son, Eric Trump, tweeted his appreciation to the police departments involved in the shootout.

"A huge thank you to the incredible men and women of the @DoralPolice Department and @MiamiDadePD. Every day they keep our community safe. We are very grateful to you!" Eric Trump tweeted.

Police said the lobby wasn't crowded, but there were employees and hotel guests there. By sunrise, an array of federal agencies were on scene: the Secret Service, Department of Homeland Security and the FBI. The Florida Department of Law Enforcement will investigate the police shooting, along with the Miami-Dade State Attorney's Office.

Investigators are now trying to figure out Oddi's motivations; FBI agents were searching his apartment Friday morning and will examine his computers and electronic devices.

His online public postings provide few clues, but offer mixed political leanings.

In an Instagram post, he posted a meme from Turning Point USA, a right-wing conservative group. The meme contrasts a U.S. soldier with NFL quarterback Colin Kaepernick, who famously knelt during the national anthem to protest police brutality.

"colin worries he doesn't have a nfl career and kneels for popularity," Oddi wrote in his Oct. 26 Instagram post.

A look at his private Instagram account reveals scores of posts, most of them screenshots of news stories. Among them, accounts of singer Chris Brown being accused of rape, federal authorities pushing the death penalty for opioid dealers and the downfall of movie mogul Harvey Weinstein.

He fawns over First Lady Melania Trump: "#flotus rocks! She sets the example of mannerism. She counters Trumps aggressiveness," he wrote in one post showing Melania Trump smiling in the White House.

Another post shows a Time magazine cover depicting Trump for a story about his troubles with porn star Storm Daniels. "Reality is harsh," Oddi wrote.

And in another post, Oddi blasts the United States for "giving $10.4 million every day" to Israel. "They have free healthcare and college. but we don't because we can't afford it!"

Oddi, who is married, shows no arrests in Miami-Dade County.

Longtime friend Luis David Gonzalez was on his way to Oddi's home with eggs and coffee when he learned of the shooting. He and Oddi worked out together every day at the LA Fitness in Doral. Gonzalez said Oddi is a dancer, possibly a stripper, and has a small dog named Popo.

"I just wanted to see if he was doing fine," Gonzalez said. "I'm surprised and confused … I knew him 10 years. He's a good person. I've very surprised he did this."

Trump personally pushed postmaster general to double rates on Amazon and other firms

Alaska News - Fri, 2018-05-18 11:19

WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump has personally pushed U.S. Postmaster General Megan Brennan to double the rate the Postal Service charges Amazon.com and other firms to ship packages, according to three people familiar with their conversations, a dramatic move that probably would cost these companies billions of dollars.

Brennan has so far resisted Trump's demand, explaining in multiple conversations occurring this year and last that these arrangements are bound by contracts and must be reviewed by a regulatory commission, the three people said. She has told the president that the Amazon relationship is beneficial for the Postal Service and gave him a group of slides that showed the variety of companies, in addition to Amazon, that also partner for deliveries.

Despite these presentations, Trump has continued to level criticism at Amazon. And last month, his critiques culminated in the signing of an executive order mandating a government review of the financially strapped Postal Service that could lead to major changes in the way it charges Amazon and others for package delivery.

Few U.S. companies have drawn Trump's ire as much as Amazon, which has rapidly grown to be the second-largest U.S. company in terms of market capitalization. For more than three years, Trump has fumed publicly and privately about the giant commerce and services company and its founder Jeff Bezos, who is also the owner of The Washington Post.

Trump alleges Amazon is being subsidized by the Postal Service, and he has also accused The Post as being Amazon's "chief lobbyist" as well as a tax shelter - both false charges. He says Amazon uses these advantages to push bricks-and-mortar companies out of business. Some administration officials say several of Trump's attacks aimed at Amazon have come in response to articles in The Post that he didn't like.

The three people familiar with these exchanges spoke on the condition of anonymity because they were not authorized to discuss the White House's internal deliberations.

Brennan and Trump have met at the White House about the matter several times, beginning in 2017, and most recently four months ago, the three people said. The meetings have never appeared on Trump's public schedule. Brennan has spent her career at the Postal Service, starting 32 years ago as a letter carrier. In 2014, the Postal Service's Board of Governors voted to appoint her as postmaster general.

Clouding the matter even further, Trump's aides have also disagreed internally about whether Amazon is paying enough to the Postal Service, with some believing the giant commerce company should be paying more, while others believe that if it weren't for Amazon, the Postal Service might be out of business, according to the three people.

Trump has met with at least three groups of senior advisers to discuss Amazon's business practices, probing issues such as whether they pay the appropriate amount of taxes or underpay the Postal Service, according to the three people.

These groups include Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin, then-National Economic Council Director Gary Cohn and Domestic Policy Council Director Andrew Bremberg. Bremberg has served as a key liaison with Brennan.

One of Amazon's biggest defenders within the White House was Cohn, who had told Trump that the Postal Service actually made money on the payments Amazon made for package delivery. Cohn announced his departure from the White House in March.

The White House, the Postal Service and Amazon - as well as Bezos, via an Amazon spokesman - declined to comment for this report.

While Trump has leveled a range of criticisms at Amazon, his efforts to increase the company's shipping and delivery costs stand as the only known official action he's taken to go after the company.

The company, meanwhile, has tread carefully around Trump. It has dramatically expanded its spending on lobbying in the past few years, according to data from the Center for Responsive Politics, but Amazon officials have not been directly engaged with White House officials about the review, according to the three people familiar with the White House deliberations as well as others familiar with Amazon's approach.

The company has, however, hosted more than a dozen lawmakers and governors at numerous Amazon facilities across the country to impress upon them the company's economic footprint and job creation potential.

On March 7, when the company announced that it would be building a new fulfillment center in Missouri and hiring 1,500 employees, it alerted the state's two U.S. senators on Twitter, Democrat Claire McCaskill and Republican Roy Blunt.

Trump has berated Amazon and The Post on social media, briefly driving down Amazon's stock price. And he has said publicly that he doesn't believe the information he has been presented by some of his advisers and Brennan herself regarding the Postal Service's contract with Amazon.

"I am right about Amazon costing the United States Post Office massive amounts of money for being their Delivery Boy," he wrote on April 3. "Amazon should pay these costs (plus) and not have them bourn by the American Taxpayer. Many billions of dollars. P.O. leaders don't have a clue (or do they?)!"

Details of Amazon's contract with the Postal Service are secret, making it difficult for financial experts to assess claims about the relationship. Amazon has said that publicly releasing the contract, which contains detailed information on the company's delivery systems, would give competitors an unfair advantage.

Amazon primarily uses the Postal Service for the "last mile" of its deliveries. It brings the packages to the post office closest to the final destination, and then the Postal Service takes it from there. The Postal Service says other companies also have "last-mile" agreements with it but declines to say whom.

Amazon is the leading player in e-commerce but competes with other retail giants such as Walmart, Macy's and Costco to offer fast and inexpensive delivery of products. The Postal Service competes with UPS, FedEx and others for delivery.

Amazon said it spent $21.7 billion on shipping costs in 2017, a figure that includes sorting, delivery center and transportation costs. Roughly 40 percent of its packages are delivered by the Postal Service, according to some analysts, a figure neither Amazon nor the Postal Service have confirmed. It is not known how much Amazon pays the Postal Service each year and what percentage of its items are shipped via the Postal Service.

The Postal Service, meanwhile, reported shipping and package income of $19.5 billion last year, an 11.8 percent increase from one year before. This increase wasn't enough to stop the Postal Service from losing money for the eleventh straight year. That's largely because of the continued decline in first-class mail, and expensive health benefit costs that the Postal Service must set aside for future retirees, according to data released by the agency.

Delivering packages has been a financial boon to the Postal Service in an otherwise tumultuous time, but experts say it is an open question whether Amazon's arrangement fully compensates the Postal Service for its range of expenses. While the Postal Service is legally prohibited from charging a shipper less than it costs to deliver a package, the Postal Service is not required to include in its costs things such as retiree benefits.

David Vernon, an analyst at Bernstein Research, estimates that Amazon pays the Postal Service roughly $2 per package for each delivery, about half of what Amazon would pay United Parcel Service or FedEx. He based this estimate on broader data released by the Postal Service.

The Postal Service has tried to rapidly adjust its business model to take on more package delivery, but he said it would be better suited if it delivered fewer packages at a higher rate.

"In my business judgment, there's too much 'package' in the postal network," he said in an interview. "If you doubled the price, you would have fewer of them, but you would make money off what is left."

Still, Postal Service officials, both in meetings with Trump and publicly, have insisted that they are making money off their arrangement with Amazon.

In January, Postal Service spokesman David Partenheimer wrote an op-ed in the Hill newspaper pushing back against calls for it to raise package rates.

"Some of our competitors in the package delivery space would dearly love for the Postal Service to aggressively raise our rates higher than the marketplace can bear - so they could either charge more themselves or siphon away postal customers," he wrote.

"The Postal Service is a self-funding public institution that generates its revenue from the sale of postal products and service, we compete for every customer across all of our product categories, and we exist for the benefit of American businesses and consumers."

Because the Postal Service has lost money for 11 straight years, it has had to repeatedly borrow funds from the Treasury Department's Federal Financing Bank, totaling $15 billion. Its reliance on taxpayer funds has allowed Mnuchin - one of Trump's closest advisers - to gain a foothold in its future.

One of Mnuchin's counselors, Craig Phillips, is leading Trump's review of the Postal Service, along with Kathy Kraninger, associate director for general government at the Office of Management and Budget. It is due in July.

The review group is tasked with reviewing the package delivery market, the Postal Service's role in that market and the decline in first-class mail volume, among other things. It is required to recommend changes to the White House and Congress.

The Postal Service is overseen by a board of nine governors, which pick the postmaster general and the deputy postmaster general. Currently, there are no governors serving on the board, though Trump has nominated three individuals who are awaiting Senate confirmation. The Postal Service, led by the postmaster, works out contracts with private companies that are approved by an independent federal agency, the Postal Regulatory Commission, which also assesses each year whether the contracts are in compliance with the law. Amazon has a multiyear contract with the Postal Service, and it is not clear how quickly it could be changed.

Trump's attacks on Amazon date to 2015, when he accused Bezos of using The Post as a tax shelter to allow Amazon to avoid paying taxes, a false accusation. (Amazon is a publicly traded company, and The Post, wholly owned by Bezos, is private. The companies' finances are not intermingled. The Post's editors and Bezos also have declared that he is not involved in any journalistic decisions.)

Bezos responded to Trump's 2015 attack with a tweet.

"Finally trashed by @realDonaldTrump. Will still reserve him a seat on the Blue Origin rocket. #sendDonaldtospace," Bezos, who owns a space company, tweeted in December 2015.

This angered Trump, who at the time was fighting for credibility during the GOP primary.

"Trump takes everything personally," said Steve Moore, a former economic adviser to Trump during the 2016 campaign.

Moore says he has told White House officials that Amazon is paying the Postal Service plenty for its services and in fact helping the agency survive.

But others say Trump sees one company exploiting the government for a competitive edge. Amazon's stock price is up close to 70 percent in the past year, and a growing list of competitors have complained that they have a hard time competing with the giant company on everything from delivery to its cloud computer business.

"I think this particular issue is one that he comes at from his business background and understanding the dynamics of cost and delivery and overhead," Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., said of Trump's approach to the postal issue with Amazon. "And so . . . when you put all those components in there, it allows him to probably have a position on this that is deeper rooted in an understanding of a business model than perhaps some other presidents."

- - -

The Washington Post's Erica Werner contributed to this report.

Planned Parenthood likely to lose millions under Trump administration's new family planning rules

Alaska News - Fri, 2018-05-18 10:40

The Trump administration on Friday announced a far-reaching change in how Title X family planning funds are awarded so that clinics that provide abortion services will no longer be eligible - a move that would effectively defund Planned Parenthood by millions of dollars.

Under the proposal filed by the Department of Health and Human Services, the $260 million program would require a "bright line" of physical and financial separation between Title X services and those which perform, support, or refer to abortion as a method of family planning.

These requirements are similar to those in place during the Reagan-era. However, unlike the Reagan regulation, the proposal will not prohibit counseling for clients about abortion, meaning that there's no "gag rule" that critics of the changes had feared, according to an administration official.

The changes, the official said, reflect the view that taxpayer funds should not be used to fund abortion and that Title X funds are for family planning services, and abortion is not family planning. The updates are also designed to establish more transparency about the activities of grantees and their sub-grantees.

Conservatives are confident that the new rules will withstand a legal challenge, because similar Reagan-era requirements withstood a Supreme Court challenge.

David Christensen, vice president of government affairs for the Family Research Council, said in an interview that those standards-which were never implemented-required operations receiving Title X funds to be physically and financially separate from those performing abortions.

"Under Reagan, they could not be co-located, they couldn't refer for abortion," Christensen said.

Jeanne Mancini, president of the anti-abortion group March for Life, praised the administration in a statement Friday for taking action to direct taxpayer dollars to centers that do not promote or perform abortions.

"This money will now be redirected to comprehensive family health and planning centers that don't perform abortions and understand that abortion is not healthcare," she said. "The pro-life grassroots will be pleased to see President Trump deliver on yet another pro-life promise, and we look forward to continued progress is restoring a culture of life here in the United States."

In recent weeks, officials from Planned Parenthood, which receives $50 million to $60 million in Title X funds and which services an estimated 41 percent of the 4 million patients who receive care through Title X, have expressed alarm about what the changes will mean.

Title X-funded health centers provide services such as cancer screenings, birth control, sexually transmitted infection screenings, pregnancy testing, and well-woman exams.

Earlier this week, more than 200 members of Congress - including Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Patty Murray, D-Wash., and Rep. Joseph Crowley, D-N.Y. - expressed their opposition to the change in a letter to Secretary of Health and Human Services Alex Azar.

"The move would disproportionately impact communities of color, the uninsured, and low-income individuals, and could reverse progress made in critical areas," they wrote.

Dana Singiser, vice president of public policy for Planned Parenthood Federation of America, said in a statement earlier this week that the new rules would make it "impossible" for patients to get birth control or preventive care from its clinics.

"No one should be worried that their doctor will be forced to lie to them. No one should be kept from the best medical information and care available. No one should be prevented from getting basic care like birth control," she said.

The administration official said that the changes would not necessarily result in the defunding of Planned Parenthood as long as the group is willing to "disentangle" their abortion related services from family planning services. However, Planned Parenthood officials have argued that informing women of all their choices - including abortion - is an integral part of the family planning discussion.

In an interview before the new policy was announced, the heads of several family planning clinics across the country said that imposing the kinds of restrictions that were proposed two decades ago would have an enormous impact on their operations.

Susan Buchanan, CEO of the Boulder Valley Women's Health Center, said the proposal "undermine our ability to provide health care services to low-income women, and other women who face barriers."

Buchanan noted that the state had made major strides between 2009 and 2014 through the Colorado Family Planning Initiative, which focused on providing women with long-acting reversible contraceptives. The state's teen birthrate dropped 50 during that five-year period, she said, avoiding at least $66 million in spending on entitlement programs such as food stamps.

"They're shooting themselves in the foot, really," she said.

Boulder Valley Women's Health Center is the only Title X recipient in Colorado that provides abortions: several years ago it separated its family planning and abortion provider operations in an effort to comply with requirements imposed by then-Gov. Bill Owens, R, but was told these measures were insufficient.

"We separated into two different corporate structures. We had separate books, insurance, separate boards, separate everything," she said. "And it didn't work. It didn't satisfy them, If they truly believe in the fungibility of money, nothing that we do is going to convince them that we're going to have adequate separation."

Trump to nominate acting Veterans Affairs Secretary Robert Wilkie to become department's permanent leader

Alaska News - Fri, 2018-05-18 10:03

WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump announced Friday that he plans to nominate Department of Veterans Affairs Acting Secretary Robert Wilkie to become the department's permanent leader, noting that the decision may come as a surprise to Wilkie.

"I'll be informing him in a little while - he doesn't know this yet - that we're going to be putting his name up for nomination to be secretary of the veterans administration," Trump said at a Friday morning event at the White House that Wilkie attended. The president added that Wilkie has done "an incredible job" as the acting secretary.

As the crowd applauded the announcement, Wilkie stood to shake the president's hand, nodding his head as he did so. Wilkie then received a standing ovation.

"Fantastic," Trump said. "I'm sorry that I ruined the surprise."

Trump named Wilkie VA's acting secretary in March, upon firing David Shulkin. Wilkie, 55, moved into the job from the Defense Department, where he was undersecretary for personnel and readiness.

Wilkie is the son of an Army artillery commander who was wounded in combat. He served as an intelligence officer in the Navy before joining the Air Force Reserve and has worked as a senior leader at the Pentagon under former defense secretaries Robert Gates and Donald H. Rumsfeld.

In a short video address last month to VA's 360,000 employees, he implored staff to improve internal communication so the agency is best positioned to address the needs of its clientele.

---

The Washington Post's Emily Thibodeaux-Wax contributed to this report.

Assembly lends support to vets’ housing proposal for Eagle River

Alaska News - Fri, 2018-05-18 09:20

A long-dreamed-of plan to bring a veterans' housing facility to the Chugiak-Eagle River area has received the endorsement of the Anchorage Assembly — with the caveat developers work in tandem with local residents.

At its May 8 meeting, the assembly unanimously approved a resolution of support for the concept of Vet's Village, a housing project first proposed in 2009 that would house as many as 100 homeless veterans on property off Hiland Road in Eagle River. The proposed village (which would eventually include a two-story building and as many as 75 cabins), has yet to receive funding or land, but the assembly's support is the latest in a long list of government and private agencies who have signed on in support of the concept.

"We're about halfway on a project that we hope to finish as soon as possible," Alaska Veterans Foundation director Russ Kell told the assembly.

The project has been in the planning stage for seven years, but the selection of a site near Hiland Road is new and likely to get the attention of nearby residents. The foundation is working with the Alaska Mental Health Trust to try to obtain property currently owned by the U.S. Department of Defense as part of Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson for the project. The land is located roughly between the Glenn Highway and Hiland Road on the opposite side of the highway from the Anchorage Landfill.

According to a feasibility report, the Vet's Village concept would start with a main building, 25 living units and five cabins. It would house previously homeless veterans, who would be required to work in order to live at the village. The initial startup cost would be roughly $9 million, with operational costs after that coming from federal grants and a percentage of residents' wages. The group has yet to identify funding, but says the project will pay for itself by getting homeless veterans off the streets.

In its resolution supporting the project, the assembly acknowledged the high cost of homelessness, citing figures showing each homeless person costs taxpayers between $80,000 and $100,000 per year. If the project becomes reality, that could mean an annual savings of as much as $10 million per year.

But the location of the facility could prove contentious. It's relatively near neighborhoods on Hiland Road and Yosemite Drive, and Amy Demboski said she believes folks in those areas need to have input on any housing facility in the area. To that end, she added a friendly amendment to the resolution that mandates the Alaska Veterans Foundation keep locals in the loop.

"I would highly encourage you and your group to reach out to the South Fork Community Council," she said. "It's a very astute and very … engaged community council and so they're going to want to be a part of this collaborative process as this project moves forward."

During brief remarks to the assembly, Kell promised the group would make sure that happens.

"I assure you we'll be able to do that," he said.

Eagle River Valley Community Council president Karl von Luhrte said the group knows little about proposal. The council — which only heard about the project May 7 — doesn't meet again until September, but von Luhrte said he'd certainly like to know more about the foundation's designs for the area.

"I'm curiously waiting," he said Monday.

The council can't take a position until it knows more, he said. However, in an email he pointed out the area is heavily populated with veterans and stressed the Eagle River Valley strongly supports veterans.

"We look forward to the promised additional information and discussing the Vet Village concept at our next meeting on 6 September," he wrote.

In an interview May 17, foundation president Ric Davidge said he's had follow-up conversations with the council and is hoping to meet with its members in the near future.

"Any community council that wants to meet with us, we will meet with them," said Davidge, who pointed out he's been to dozens of community council meetings over the seven years he's been working on the project.

Davidge said he's eagle to work alongside neighbors to ensure the project is a success.

"I like community councils because, frankly, we learn a lot from community councils," he said.

To read more about the proposed Vets Village project, visit the group's website.

Contact Star editor Matt Tunseth at 257-4274 or email editor@alaskastar.com

Moments of truth: Life and change on the Kobuk River

Alaska News - Fri, 2018-05-18 09:19

KOBUK RIVER — It's getting dark in my sod house. I'm alone, and the heaped snowdrifts out my windows make me feel more buried down in the ground than usual in this subterranean home. In the dimness, along the north wall, my Mason jars and hanging cups and the pinned-up photographs of my family's past here on this hill reflect the faint and fading glow.

I'm hoping my solar panel charged today; I'd like some light, maybe some music. And I promised myself I'd write this evening, about caribou. I promise that every day, but every day I just want to be outside, snowshoeing after rabbits, chipping a waterhole, hauling firewood, doing what I grew up doing, what I love — working and hunting and inhaling the land and wind and returning sun — not struggling with unruly words. Being alone is easier outside than inside, too.

Writing, for me, is tougher than all the toughest things I do, and lately there's a new hole in the trail — another added difficulty besides my dyslexia, bad spelling and jumbled thoughts — a steady blizzard of mixed messages in my head, questioning what matters most in these modern days, what will help, how will I write about caribou without making people mad? The most discordant voice demands: Why write? Who reads? Who out there is not on their phone, or busy buying a newer phone? Who has time or even cares anymore about caribou, or porcupine problems, how tall the Labrador tea has grown, or how thin the ice on the river is this year?

Speaking of ice, the traditional trail along this section of the river has been snowed-in this season, unused, buried. Finally, this week some travelers are passing, mostly because of the Kobuk 440 dog race. They are sticking to the fresh trail, though. That leaves me uneasy, strangely — feeling at home but a little out of place — to have almost no people out roaming the country for food and furs.

[Seth Kantner: A trip to New York reminded me what's worth fighting for in Alaska]

Beside me here, on the old table my dad made, under my stained coffee mug, a yellow sticky Post-It note says, "Tell a truth you didn't know." There are a lot of notes scattered on my table, like yellow leaves in the fall. I can't recognize most human faces, and have virtually no short-term memory; I live under the vague impression that I have a hundred sagacious thoughts each day, but I'm not at all sure about that, since I can't seem to remember any of them. Hence the yellow sticky notes. Lately, I've been threatening to get tattoos, too, to help remember essential stuff. The first one, on my chest — or better yet, my forehead — will say: nwob ti etirW.

I shift my coffee cup. Scrawled underneath: Do you still believe in heroes? Hunters? Humor? At the bottom corner is one more tiny word. kids. Hmm, I wish I could remember what I meant there, exactly.

I miss the old hunters stopping in when they were traveling the land. I miss one constant in my life, since I was a little kid — one as consistent as the north wind: Clarence Wood's face showing up at the door, at any hour, black, frostbitten, sun-cooked, often needing gas, wanting coffee — at any hour, of course — sitting awhile, joking, teasing, telling stories of hunting and the rough country he'd crossed, and then rising stiffly, aching from the miles but unable not to stare hungrily out at the landscape, and travel on.

All my life, Clarence has been the most persistent hunter on this land, here and traveling north to Point Hope, Anaktuvuk and beyond, traveling some of the wildest country left on Earth, in the worst weather, in every season — until his name grew to almost be more than a name, to be the epitome of a true hunter and that culture he came from — but I think these years might finally be catching Clarence. And I'm not sure there's a place anymore for anyone to take his place.

***

It's midnight now: This day has been another beautiful one, sunny and bright, white snow and blue sky, splendid traveling conditions, to the mountains and more mountains beyond. This evening I've done my countless chores, sharpened the chain saw, wired the split rusted stovepipe, filled the kettles, hauled in a last armload of wood, finished frying some caribou meat and muskox fat, and now the ice and the sky out there are bluish-gray, descending into night.

The spring light reminds me of half a century of Aprils on this hill. The sun returning, the long sun-drenched days; the slow letting-go of winter while still half-expecting more snow, still waiting on the first caribou herds to appear from the south and the first fat geese to fly overhead — both species navigating separate migrations north, their arrivals announcing the coming flood of birds, mosquitoes, green leaves, and that exhilarating, almost unbelievable transformation of Arctic winter melting back to summer.

Actually, I did see caribou last week. When I snowgoed to Ambler to buy gas and see the dog mushers, I was surprised to run into a small herd standing in the trail. I don't think they are part of the migration, though. The main herds have been far away, absent here most of the winter, and these likely are survivors from stragglers that wintered farther east.

I stopped, and they watched me and then bolted up the hard-packed trail, sprinting straight for Ambler, a few miles away. In the next moments I experienced some dismaying realizations: Somehow I'd forgotten my wallet at home; Martin Cleveland at the Ambler city gas pump would be locking up in about 12 minutes; I was going to arrive late, broke and driving a herd of caribou into town — this on the big race day, with out-of-town visitors and villagers gathered and watching the river, waiting to greet arriving mushers — and with a hundred high-strung racing dogs already staked out behind the community building, resting. Or trying to.

Quickly, I did something I usually avoid: I gunned my snowgo and managed to zoom past just yards beside the fleeing animals. "Sorry, guys," I muttered. They were mostly girls, actually, bravely running their hearts out — sadly not in the wisest of directions.

At Don and Mary Williams' house, along the river at the lower end of town, I left my machine running, knocked and rushed in. "Oh! Hi!" Don shouted, alone, surprised, pleased to have a visitor.

I didn't have time for that. Gas is too important. I held out my hand. "Can I borrow some money?"

Later, over lunch in town with Don and Mary, I grinned at Mary and said, "I probably shouldn't tell you this …" She was slicing bread and glanced up, curious and expectant. She's in her 70s and has been sick, coughing, and had spent half the night at the clinic, but had just been prescribed Prednisone and now was bustling around, heating leftover caribou soup, making coffee. "I passed a bunch of nice-looking caribou, on the river, below your old igloo."

Her face lit up, shocked, thrilled, and then teasingly miffed that I hadn't shot any. "Ah! Ah, you!" She waved her hand, and then smiled acceptingly. That's something the elders here are amazingly good at: acceptance. It is kind of necessary, with the alien changes they've experienced in the last five or 10 or 20 decades, but still it's remarkable.

Mary has a perspective from the old culture. No matter the season, she's always excited to have fresh meat; she'll never say no to a fresh caribou. Picture yourself driving by $100 bills heaped along the side of the road and deciding to not pick up even one, and then stopping in and telling your Depression-era grandma about it. To Mary, that's how juvenile I can be at times. That was the surprise, excitement and then acceptance on her face.

Don just chuckled. He's from Ohio, a long, long time ago, and more pragmatic at this point, more inclined to think of the work involved, and the fact that their freezers are fairly full. He grinned, eating, gripping a marrow bone in his fingers, and pointed his knife over his shoulder. Beside the stove, the black hooves and gray furry ankles of four lower legs stuck out of a box, thawing. "She got them legs need skinning," he assured me.

Like so much else, that afternoon was not as simple as years back. The rifle I wore is new, a .17 HMR bolt action, but I'm pretty sure it's illegal to hunt caribou with it because it's rimfire. Meanwhile, Mary is far from young; moving slow, gone on medical trips a lot — and she'd want a female caribou, what people are accustomed to shooting in April. Half of the herd had hard antlers, which means female, pregnant and, hopefully, carrying some brisket and back fat. My eyes had instinctively — hungrily — latched onto those animals, and nothing makes me feel as worthwhile as delivering good meat to good people. But these days it's more complicated. I worry about waste. I'm hesitant to shoot a pregnant animal. Or break new laws.

***

Outside, it's as dark as it's going to get now, a low twilight, and the bare branches of the birches and aspens out on the hill are jagged forks, reaching like delicate black lightning up into the night sky. Across the river ice, the timber on the far riverbank is dark.

I just flipped on the 11-watt bulb over my table. There is power in my batteries. Under shards of thin light, I reread that yellow note, still pondering what I might have meant. I do like kids. I relate to young children better than to most adults. Probably it's my childish nature, limited vocabulary and boundless imagination. I admire their unfiltered view of the world, too, their attraction to furry animals and bugs, berries and flowers, rocks, mud and water, and all the intricacies of nature.

Maybe that's a part of what I like and miss about the old Eskimo hunters and elders, too — besides the friendships, laughter and heroic stories — that intense focus on animals and the endless and uncertain providences of the land. Me, as a kid, all I wanted was be outside, hunting and trapping and running my dogs, or if stuck inside, hopefully hearing tales of adventures out on the land. Unfortunately, with this dyslexic brain, the only thing algebra, Shakespeare and Walt Whitman ever taught me was to feel retarded.

I remember some schoolteachers back then saying that villagers weren't teaching their children the old ways, as if they had zero confidence that their vast cultural knowledge would have any value going forward. It's a strange feeling now, after all these years, to be staring into that same storm.

Maybe that happens when you've lived in two different cultures, or through too much change too quickly. Still, I don't know where I'd be without the things my parents taught me. Even the small stuff — especially the small stuff: how to tie knots and sharpen my knife, how to gut geese and render bear fat. The modern world places little or no value on those things, but oddly I don't know how I would have survived without them — and the land — to fall back on, in so many ways. Maybe that is where caribou and kids intersect for me.

With how fast everything is changing, children these days are basically living in more than one culture. It seems that's what the past, present and future have become for all of us: separate cultures. I wish I could advise them, tell them some good trails. I wish I could tell them to trust in that instinctive fascination with nature, and we (tech-dazed adults) will instinctively trust in you. But that would be old-fashioned. Touchy-feely. Too weird. Maybe not even useful at all.

In schools, I just show slides of caribou and other animals, and encourage students to write a good sentence or two. Maybe one perfect paragraph. A few words that might change their lives. I give examples: a job application; a letter to Cabela's informing them they sold you leaky waders, and you need a new pair; a note to your best friend telling him or her how loved they are, truly, and please don't ever forget. I don't mention letters to the president anymore, or our Congress people. I stay with the handful of things I know are still true. And tonight, maybe that is what this little yellow sticky note under my cup of coffee is trying to tell me.

Seth Kantner is the author of the best-selling novel "Ordinary Wolves" and most recently the nonfiction book "Swallowed by the Great Land." He lives in Northwest Alaska and can be reached at sethkantner.com.

Legislative session an improvement from 2017 - Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

Legislative News - Fri, 2018-05-18 09:09

Legislative session an improvement from 2017
Fairbanks Daily News-Miner
News-Miner opinion: The 30th session of the Alaska Legislature ended Sunday within the 120-day limit laid out in the Alaska Constitution. The session was a major improvement from last year in which Alaskans watched special sessions drag on through ...

No, the Mueller investigation hasn’t gone on too long

Alaska News - Fri, 2018-05-18 08:28

Special counsel Robert Mueller's investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election and related matters turned one year old Thursday, and Republicans are simply disgusted that it could have dragged on this long. Their position is summed up by the president:

Donald J. Trump tweeted "Congratulations America, we are now into the second year of the greatest Witch Hunt in American History … and there is still No Collusion and No Obstruction. The only Collusion was that done by Democrats who were unable to win an Election despite the spending of far more money!"

As President Trump's crackerjack lawyer Rudy Giuliani put it on Fox: "It's about time to get the darn thing over with. It's about time to say, 'Enough. We've tortured this president enough.'"

[After Trump tweets, Republicans rally behind special counsel]

The truth, however, is that Mueller's investigation has been both fruitful and efficient compared with many similar investigations of administration officials. To make that clear, let me offer you a selection of prior investigations conducted by independent and special counsels, along with the length of time they took to conclude:

— Iran-Contra: 6 years, 8 months (1986-1993)

— Samuel Pierce, HUD corruption: 9 years (1990-1999)

— Bush administration, improper search of passport records: 3 years (1992-1995)

— Henry Cisneros, mistress payments: 11 years (1995-2006)

— Mike Espy, gifts from agriculture company: 6 years (1994-2001)

— Bill and Hillary Clinton, Whitewater: 6 years 8 months (1994-2000)

— Scooter Libby, CIA leak: 3 1/2 years (2003-2007)

In all these cases, people complained that the investigations went on too long, and they were often right. But some of them certainly warranted a lengthy investigation. Iran-Contra was a sweeping conspiracy involving multiple crimes committed by multiple people in the Reagan administration, in which arms were sold to Iran and the profits taken to fund an illegal proxy war in Central America. Even if almost seven years was too long, it would have been ridiculous to suggest that a single year would have been enough.

Other investigations were absurdly lengthy given what they were investigating; for instance, HUD secretary Henry Cisneros lied to the FBI during his background check about money he had paid to his mistress, which was indeed against the law but hardly warranted an investigation that went through multiple phases and wasn't completely closed for 11 years.

But no one is suggesting that Mueller will need another 10 years to get to the bottom of the Trump omni-scandal. Informed observers looking from the outside believe that he'll be finished by the end of this year or the beginning of next year, meaning the whole thing will be wrapped up in less than two years.

[Could Mueller lose public support? Yes.]

One of the most important things to remember about Mueller's critics is that, like all of us, they have only a general sense of what Mueller has been doing. His investigation has been leakproof; whenever we learn something about it, it's via someone who has testified to the grand jury or the substance of court filings. There's zero indication that Mueller has been anything but thorough and professional, which is exactly why he, a lifelong Republican and widely respected law enforcement official, was picked for the job.

Now let's do a quick rundown of what Mueller has so far produced:

— An indictment of 13 individuals and 3 companies in connection with Russian efforts to infiltrate and manipulate the 2016 election.

— Indictments on multiple charges against former Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

— Guilty pleas from former Trump aides Michael Flynn, Rick Gates, and George Papadopoulos, offered in exchange for their cooperation.

— Guilty pleas from two other figures, Alex van der Zwaan and Richard Pinedo, tangentially connected to the original investigation.

There is obviously much more on its way.

We have to remind ourselves of the scale of what Mueller has to investigate. It starts with the fact that a hostile foreign government mounted a comprehensive effort to swing the results of an American election. That we have to actually argue about whether or not that is a big deal is utterly insane. Then there are Trump's efforts to obstruct justice, for which there is ample evidence. Then you move to the other potential crimes the investigation has uncovered along the way, like Paul Manafort's alleged money-laundering and Michael Cohen's Trump Tower-sized pile of potential crimes. Given what we know and what we're learning literally on a daily basis, nobody sincerely thinks that Manafort and Cohen aren't going to wind up behind bars.

When it comes to Cohen in particular, his misdeeds keep leading back to Trump. The fact that Trump has now admitted that he lied about what he knew about the hush money Cohen arranged for Stormy Daniels is just the tip of a very dirty iceberg, a colorful illustration of the fact that we have only the barest idea what the investigation will uncover about the Trump Organization and Trump himself. The president may be the single most corrupt prominent business figure in America, and once prosecutors start examining that business, they're going to have a lot of work to do.

So no, this investigation hasn't gone on too long. All indications are that Mueller is moving with all appropriate speed; the trouble is that there's just so much potential malfeasance to examine. And no amount of hand-waving from Rudy Giuliani or cries of "Witch hunt!" from the president will change that.

Paul Waldman is an opinion writer for the Washington Post.

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

Police cars get silvery, starry makeover

Juneau Hot Topics - Fri, 2018-05-18 07:33
You might have noticed something different about Juneau Police ... on is the same as repainting the cars with the current design and decal, she said.

City Manager Rorie Watt talks new City Hall, AEL&P, whale statue

Juneau Hot Topics - Fri, 2018-05-18 07:33
City Manager Rorie Watt spoke to the Juneau Chamber of Commerce ... Watt pointed to the idea of a new City Hall as a current big project that could soon play .... (of maintenance costs),” Derr said in a phone interview with the Empire. ... Juneau Empire - Alaska's Capital City Online Newspaper © 2018.

People of <b>Juneau</b>: Leon Shaul, the coho king

Juneau Hot Topics - Fri, 2018-05-18 07:22
People of Juneau: Leon Shaul, the coho king .... To nominate someone for a profile, email editor@juneauempire.com with “People of Juneau” in the ...

McKenna and York win scholarship

Juneau Hot Topics - Fri, 2018-05-18 07:22
Juneau Trail & Road Runners president John Kern presents Juneau-Douglas High School senior Tim McKenna, left, and home-school senior ...

&#39;Flappers &amp; Fashion&#39; show will be the &#39;cat&#39;s meow&#39;

Juneau Hot Topics - Fri, 2018-05-18 07:22
“I was in the audience last year and it was great. Now I get to ... Contact reporter Gregory Philson at gphilson@juneauempire.com or call at 523-2265.

Multiple fatalities reported in active-shooter situation at Texas school

Alaska News - Fri, 2018-05-18 06:56

https://s3.amazonaws.com/arc-wordpress-client-uploads/adn/wp-content/uploads/2018/05/17223633/2018-05-18T135325Z_1_LOV000K0G61DB_RTRMADV_STREAM-2000-16X9-MP4_TEXAS-SHOOTING-ROUGH-CUT.mp4

Police rushed to a high school in Santa Fe, Texas on Friday after an assailant with a gun wounded people in the latest shooting to rock a country still shaken by the massacre at a Florida high school in February.

The school district in Santa Fe, about 30 miles southeast of Houston, said the situation was "active, but has been contained." Local media reported that a suspect was in custody.

Multiple fatalities were reported, according to the Houston Chronicle.

"There have been confirmed injuries," the Santa Fe school district said in a statement.

A Santa Fe Police Department spokesman could not immediately confirm details. Local media said a medical Life Flight was dispatched to the school.

The latest possible shooting at a U.S. school underscored a renewed national debate over gun control and gun rights that has intensified after an assailant killed 17 students and staff on Feb. 14 at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida.

Aerial video outside the school broadcast on local television showed police escorting lines of students out of the building and then searching them for weapons as many police cars and at least two ambulances with lights flashing stood by.

Sophomore Leila Butler told the local ABC affiliate that fire alarms went off at about 7:45 a.m. local time and students left their classrooms. She said some students believe they heard shots fired, and that she was sheltering with other students and teachers near campus.

Another sophomore, named only as Nikki, told ABC13 that: "Someone had walked in with a shotgun and a girl got shot in her leg."

Police wound man firing gun inside Trump Doral Miami hotel and 'yelling' about president

Alaska News - Fri, 2018-05-18 06:45

Gunman who opened fire, yelled about Trump inside Trump Doral hotel shot by officers, police say

Authorities in South Florida said a man who opened fire early Friday morning in the lobby of Trump National Doral Miami resort in Doral, Florida, was “yelling” about President Donald Trump before he was shot and wounded by police officers.

Police said it appeared that the gunman - who they identified as Jonathan Oddi, 42, of Doral - began shooting at the resort in order to lure officers there so he could ambush them.

“It appears he was trying to engage our police officers [in] some type of ambush-type of attack, trying to lure our police officers … into this gunfight,” Juan J. Perez, director of Miami-Dade police, told reporters at a briefing. “He did succeed, and he did lose, and that’s the bottom line.”

Perez said the gunman pulled the fire alarm, adding that this fueled his belief that Oddi was seeking to shoot law enforcement officers. When police from Doral and Miami-Dade responded, they engaged in a shootout with Oddi, who was shot in his legs by officers, Perez said. Oddi was taken to an area hospital in stable condition, he said.

No guests or employees were injured, and one officer suffered a broken wrist during the encounter, authorities said.

Perez cautioned that it was early in the investigation, and he said police did not know what the gunman’s “long term intentions” were and what else he could have done. But he said the prompt response by officers appeared to avert a more deadly attack.

“If not for the heroic efforts of the police officers that responded here today, this individual would have caused a lot of harm, and he was not able to do that,” Perez said.

Perez described a scene at the resort outside Miami that began with bizarre behavior before quickly turning dangerous.

The gunman came onto the property, took down an American flag from the rear part of the complex and draped it on a counter in the hotel lobby before he began yelling “anti-Trump, President Trump, rhetoric,” Perez said.

The luxury hotel is part of Trump National Doral Golf Club, an 800-acre resort owned by Trump outside Miami; the president purchased the golf course in 2012 for $150 million.

After yelling about Trump, the gunman then began to open fire in the lobby, prompting people to call police. The officers who headed to the property were confronted by a man wielding a handgun.

“He waited for our police officers in the front lobby to engage them,” Perez said.

Five officers - one from the Miami-Dade department, four from Doral - exchanged fire with him, Perez said.

Perez said his department is investigating the motivation and what led up to the shooting, with assistance from the Secret Service and the FBI. Authorities are considering the shooting a state crime so far, though they are investigating whether there were any federal crimes committed, he said.

The Secret Service said none of the people it protects were in the Miami area when the shooting occurred. The agency said in a statement that it was aware of the shooting and had dispatched special agents from its Miami field office to the scene.

The Florida Department of Law Enforcement said Friday that it is investigating the officer-involved shooting part of what happened at the request of the Miami-Dade police. Video footage did capture what happened, but police have said they do not immediately intend to release it, citing the open investigation.

Court records showed that Oddi appeared to have a number of traffic infractions, but no other criminal history could immediately be found. It was not clear whether he had an attorney.

Perez said police are still investigating how the gunman was able to enter the resort. Authorities were at Oddi’s home Friday morning and preparing to search the property.

Doral Police Chief Hernan Organvidez said at an earlier news briefing that there was no need to evacuate the hotel because the threat was quickly dealt with, adding that the violent encounter lasted less than two minutes.

Eric Trump, one of the president’s sons who helps manage the company, tweeted a message of thanks to the police officers who responded to the shooting, “A huge thank you to the incredible men and women of the @DoralPolice Department and @MiamiDadePD. Every day they keep our community safe. We are very grateful to you!”

The Trump Organization declined to comment further Friday.

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The Washington Post’s Julie Tate contributed to this story.

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