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Readers write: Letters to the editor, December 7, 2017

Alaska News - Wed, 2017-12-06 20:57

AGDC picture confuses

They say a picture is worth a thousand words, but the message in the glossy Alaska Gasline Development Corp. publication included with Sunday's Anchorage Daily News isn't clear. It shows Alaskan and Chinese dignitaries smiling and shaking hands across the signing table for the pipeline agreement. Chinese President Xi Jinping in the background on the right is smiling and applauding. On the left is President Trump, with eyes closed and a frown. Is he … napping (It was a busy trip, after all), or unhappy ("I could have gotten a much better deal!"), or contemplating his next tweet (about how great the Chinese are)?

I'd like to know.

— Jon Sharpe
Anchorage

Sherwonit's data too narrow

RE: Bill Sherwonit's letter 'Grizzlies more deadly' (Dec. 4) responding to my letter 'Black bears kill more often' (Nov. 30): Science News "Beware of predatory male American black bears: Attack rates are rising with human population growth" (May 11, 2011), cites University of Calgary's Stephen Herrero as its source, stating "most fatal black bear attacks were predatory," etc. This is quite different than Sherwonit portraying black bears as soft and fuzzy while confining his data to Alaska, which is misleading as it is too narrow.

After two people were killed by black bears earlier this year, KTUU provided "North America's fatal bear attack map" compiled by Sidney Sullivan July 5, 2017, showing 25 human fatalities from black bears and 18 from brown between 2000-2017. And although Sherwonit maligns researcher Larry Kaniut, it's Kaniut who necessarily points out bear spray is not enough in a bear attack, while Herrero — who Sherwonit praises — advocates bear spray. Finally, Sherwonit wrote he didn't understand my Romy Schneider "La Califfa" YouTube video reference, but it was meant to complement Sherwonit's Nov. 28th commentary on Anchorage bear deaths as both evoke sadness over tragic death.

— Chris Deile
Anchorage

Tax bill was drafted in secret

John Klapproth (Letters, Dec. 5) repeats the canard about Obamacare not being thoroughly vetted before passage.

The current tax bill — in addition to its substantive problems (highly favoring the rich, reducing medical care for millions, blowing up the deficit) — was drafted in secret and had zero committee hearings.

Obamacare, by contrast, was drafted and debated openly for over a year, with numerous hearings where experts and others could voice their views.

What Speaker Nancy Pelosi referred to was not that people didn't know what the bill said — it had been thoroughly vetted — but rather that, being long and complex, we'd have to see in practice how it all worked out, and undoubtedly there would be problems that would need to be fixed.

The current Congress has had that opportunity, and failed.

— Rick Wicks
Anchorage

Be wary of gas deal with China

On the last page of the Joint Development Agreement for Alaska LNG with China, the signatures of Bill Walker and Keith Meyer stand out clearly, while the signatures of those who signed for China Petrochemical Corp, CIC Capital Corp and the Bank of China are blocked out for privacy. Now, why is that? So much for transparency with China.

China is a dictatorship with no respect for the rule of law, transparency or an independent judiciary. China has no regard for human rights, labor rights, freedom of speech and religion, or environmental protection. Internet censorship is widespread.

A joint venture of this size with Chinese state entities that engage in these practices worries me. And the fact that it got a nod from Trump and China's unelected president Xi Jinping offers no consolation whatsoever.

Alaska needs to be wary … very wary.

— William M. Cox
Anchorage

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

Don’t read this article if you are afraid of snakes 3 times your size

Alaska News - Wed, 2017-12-06 20:46

A Burmese python – more than 17 feet long and weighing more than 130 pounds, with more rows of sharp teeth than you ever cared to imagine – has been captured and killed in the Florida Everglades.

Officials said the hunter, Jason Leon, set a record late last week for bringing in the longest snake recorded in the South Florida Water Management District's Python Elimination Program, which was designed earlier this year to help trim the reptile's troubling population.

[Earlier this year: Owner says Sam, the missing 17-foot python, has returned home in Meadow Lakes]

District spokesman Randy Smith said the non-venomous constrictor was captured in the Everglades, about 40 miles from Miami, and brought to the district's Homestead Field Station to be measured.

The hunter also claimed a bounty – $50 for the first four feet and an extra $25 for each foot more, according to the district spokesman.

Leon, the hunter, said when he saw the python, it was completely submerged in water.

In a video from the South Florida Water Management District, he said he "got her out, shot her right in the head while I was holding her."

"I grabbed her first by the center of the body. She had her head over wrapped around by the tree and I was able to go ahead and grab her farther up by the head. When I had her farther up on the head, I came and took a shot on her right here," the hunter said in the video, wrapping his hands around the dead python's head to show where he shot it. "And she got popped again here on the neck later."

When asked about the hunt, Leon told NBC Miami that no one should attempt to do it alone.

"That snake could pretty much kill any full-grown man," he told the news station about the serpent. "If that snake was alive right now, it would probably take like three of us to be able to control that snake."

The Burmese python, which is considered one of the largest snakes in the world, is native to Asia and an invasive species to the Everglades, according to the Florida Fish and Wildlife Conservation Commission.

The South Florida Water Management District says on its website that the Burmese python was likely introduced to the Florida Everglades "by accidental or intentional releases by pet owners."

[After Allie the alligator, a Valley shop is inundated with reptiles in need of rescue]

It states:

"Since making their way into the bountiful grounds of the Everglades, these giant constrictors have thrived, assuming a top position on the food web.

"While researchers have been hard pressed to provide specific population numbers in the Everglades, a rapid number of increased sightings from 2005 to 2010 is concerning. The species was once relegated to only Everglades National Park and Miami-Dade County, but recent tracking shows pythons are moving westward into locations such as Big Cypress National Preserve and northward into Broward and Palm Beach counties.

"Burmese pythons possess an insatiable appetite. They cannot only kill Florida native prey species and pose a threat to humans, but also rob panthers, birds of prey, alligators and bobcats of a primary food source."

"We saw that there was a very serious problem," Smith, the spokesman, said.

Smith added the python program has been the "most successful endeavor in trying to make a dent in the population," eliminating at least 743 snakes (some of them pregnant females) since the program's inception in March.

To participate, hunters must be at least 18 years old and without a felony conviction or wildlife-related offense within the past five years, according to the site.

Seawolves notebook: It’s rivalry weekend for hockey and women’s hoops

Alaska News - Wed, 2017-12-06 20:29

It's a full-fledged rivalry weekend for UAA and UAF with Govorner's Cup hockey in Anchorage and a women's basketball showdown in Fairbanks.

The Seawolves hockey squad is looking for its first win against the Nanooks this season after dropping two games in October in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association rivalry.

UAA hosts UAF Friday and Saturday at Sullivan Arena. The teams will play each other six times this season.

"Not only do we already have two games under our belt in terms of knowing what to expect from them, but if there's two teams in college hockey that know each other inside and out, it's the two Alaska teams," UAA coach Matt Thomas said. "They're fun games to play in."

UAA (1-9-4, 1-4-3 WCHA) dropped to last place in the 10-team conference last week after falling twice to Ferris State, 2-0 Friday and 5-2 Saturday.

The Seawolves have nine points in the WCHA standings, one behind ninth-place Bemidji State. Bowling Green leads the conference with 24 points.

The Friday loss was UAA's first shutout loss of the season.

In the Saturday game, UAA battled back to tie the game at 2-2 with two goals in a 32-second span in the second period. Senior Austin Azurdia scored his team-leading seventh goal of the season followed by Corey Renwick's first-career goal moments later.

Ferris State pulled away with three goals in the third period.

[UAA hockey team loses twice to Ferris State]

Despite the losses, Thomas said he likes the way the Seawolves have been playing.

"I think last weekend could have been different in terms of results if a few pucks would've went into the back of the net at key times for us," he said. "We've got a good feel about our team right now — we're executing our game plan for the most part."

UAA women retain No. 2 basketball ranking

The Seawolves are ranked No. 2 in NCAA Division II for the third straight week heading into Saturday's women's basketball game against UAF in Fairbanks.

The Seawolves and Nanooks enter the rivalry contest on opposite sides of the Great Northwest Athletic Conference standings. UAA is undefeated at 8-0 overall and 2-0 in the conference, while UAF is 2-4 overall and 0-2 in league play.

But UAA coach Ryan McCarthy said his team isn't overlooking its rivals.

"Fairbanks is always an interesting game," McCarthy said at UAA's weekly press conference. "I actually found out an interesting fact that we're 41-6 against Fairbanks at home, but 25-24 on the road.

"It's always a tough game."

The Seawolves are winning their games by an average of 23 points per game — by far the best in the GNAC.

Junior forward Hannah Wandersee is pacing UAA with 17.1 points — good for third in the GNAC — and 6.8 rebounds per game. Wandersee's 57.8 field goal percentage is second best in the league.

In the national rankings, the Seawolves only trail No. 1 Ashland (Ohio) — the defending Division II champion. Ashland is 8-0 on the season.

Gymnastics to open with Green and Gold meet

First-year UAA gymnastics coach Tanya Ho will get her first glimpse of her team in action Saturday in the Green and Gold meet at the Alaska Airlines Center.

The Seawolves boast 11 returners and four freshmen this season.

"I'm excited to see how the team performs under pressure," Ho said. "They've worked really hard in the gym and I think them putting all those routines in … it should be a little easier now to compete in front of a live audience."

Ho is only the second UAA gymnastics coach in program history. She joined the team over the summer after former UAA coach Paul Stoklos retired after 33 years at the helm.

One of UAA's top returners this season is senior Kendra Daniels, who broke a 21-year-old UAA beam record with a 9.9 Feb. 19 at UC Davis.

Swiss named honorable mention All-American

After being snubbed in the West Region honors, UAA junior Leah Swiss was named an honorable mention Division II All-American this week by the American Volleyball Coaches Association.

The 6-foot outside hitter was instrumental in the Seawolves making their fifth straight NCAA tournament appearance and a 19-11 record this season. UAA fell to Western Washington in four sets in the first round of the tournament last week.

Swiss, a Dimond High grad, ranked sixth in the GNAC with 4.09 points per set and second with 0.43 aces per set this season.

Swiss was a second-team All-America pick by the Division II Conference Commissioners Association last season as a sophomore in 2016, when she when she helped the Seawolves win a second straight GNAC title and advance to the NCAA national championship, where UAA finished runner-up.

HOCKEY

Last week
Ferris State 2, UAA 0
Ferris State 5, UAA 2

This week
Governor's Cup
Friday — UAA vs. UAF, 7:07 p.m., Alaska Airlines Center
Saturday — UAA vs. UAF, 7:07 p.m., Alaska Airlines Center

WOMEN'S BASKETBALL

Last week
UAA 70, Central Washington 58
UAA 78, Northwest Nazarene 68

This week
Saturday — UAA at UAF, 7:30 p.m., Patty Center, Fairbanks

MEN'S BASKETBALL

Last week
UAA 65, UAF 39
UAA 74, Montana State-Billings 62

This week
Cal Miramar 61, UAA 59, exhibition
Wednesday — UAA vs. Cal Miramar

GYMNASTICS

This week
Saturday — Green and Gold intrasquad exhibition, 2 p.m.

VOLLEYBALL

Last week
West Region championships
Western Washington 3, UAA 1 (26-24, 23-25, 25-18, 25-18)

Legislators, Assembly look forward at school funding - Kenai Peninsula Online

Legislative News - Wed, 2017-12-06 20:17

Legislators, Assembly look forward at school funding
Kenai Peninsula Online
At separate work sessions this week, Superintendent Sean Dusek and school board members met with the legislators and the Borough Assembly to set the groundwork for the FY19 budget in hopes of avoiding a repeat of last year, when uncertainty loomed over ...

Former legislative staffer alleges harassment by Rep. Westlake - KTOO

Legislative News - Wed, 2017-12-06 20:07

KTOO

Former legislative staffer alleges harassment by Rep. Westlake
KTOO
Garrett also called on Westlake to resign. She said the House majority should remove Westlake from committees and take away his staff. Alaska Democratic Party Executive Director Jay Parmley said the Legislature should investigate Garrett's allegations ...

Father of Anchorage 5-year-old who died of self-inflicted gunshot wound is approved for house arrest

Alaska News - Wed, 2017-12-06 19:48

The parents of a 5-year-old who accidentally killed himself Tuesday with a gunshot to the head were in federal court Wednesday, surprisingly composed though signs of tension broke through.

The father, Anthony L. Johnnson, has a record for drug trafficking and wasn't supposed to have a gun, according to Assistant U.S. Attorney Kimberly Sayers-Fay. After his son's death, he was arrested and charged with being a felon in possession of a firearm. The criminal complaint was quietly filed Tuesday and made public Wednesday.

The main issue before U.S. Magistrate Judge Kevin McCoy was whether to allow Johnnson out on house arrest for now. That would allow him to help with funeral preparations and attend the service, which is planned for Saturday, said defense attorney Gary Colbath.

His fiancee, Jualisa House, took the witness stand for questioning on whether she could keep him under watch as his third-party custodian, and turn him in if he violated the terms.

"We're putting you in the middle of a very difficult situation," McCoy told House.

[Previous coverage: 5-year-old killed by self-inflicted gunshot in East Anchorage, police say]

One side of the courtroom was packed with friends and family of the couple. House held someone's young child for part of it.

Around 12:20 a.m. Tuesday, House was preparing food and Johnnson was elsewhere in the home when she heard a shot, according to Anchorage police.

Their son, Christian Johnnson, found a loaded handgun in the master bedroom nightstand, then shot and killed himself with it, according to Anchorage police. The new charge describes the gun as a .40-caliber semiautomatic pistol.

Police found Christian dead in the master bedroom from a gunshot to the head, the sworn statement filed in federal court says. A pistol was beside him.

Police got a warrant and searched the house. They seized items that included the pistol, 22 .40-caliber rounds recovered from the kitchen counter, 17 .40-caliber rounds found in a bag in a kitchen cabinet, an automatic rifle-style magazine with more rounds in a cabinet, and 43 9mm rounds recovered from a night stand, according to the sworn statement by Jason Crump with the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives.

The mother, father and child all lived in the East Anchorage apartment on  Rocky Mountain Court, the federal court filing says.

Sayers-Fay, the prosecutor, said she wasn't against allowing Johnnson out on house arrest and tracked by an electronic ankle monitor until after the funeral even though normally the government would fight it.

Yet there are concerns, she said. Johnnson, who appeared in court in a light orange jailhouse uniform, a month ago had tried to buy a gun in Mississippi, she said. There were other guns in the vehicle that he said he was holding for someone else — a person he could only vaguely identify, the prosecutor said. There's concern for his mental state, though a jail watch on him has been removed, she said.

As the hearing went on, Johnnson fidgeted, perhaps from cold. He wrapped his arms in the jail shirt.

Mainly, Sayers-Fay said, she didn't want House — in the midst of a trauma and the longtime romantic partner of Johnnson — as the third-party. The two have been together 10 years, House said in court.

Did House know that her fiance, as a convicted drug trafficker, wasn't supposed to have a gun? Sayers-Fay asked.

"We needed it because it was protecting me and my son," House answered. She said she didn't know Johnnson couldn't legally buy a gun, but it was for her. Anyway, he was done with probation, she said.

As the questioning went on, House said she was now well aware that he couldn't buy a gun and she wouldn't want one in the house anymore. After what happened, she said, she doesn't want a gun for protection or anything else.

Why should he, the judge, trust her? McCoy asked.

She said she knew Johnnson very well and she hoped what happened is eye-opening for him.

He didn't always listen to her but that should change, she said.

"After all this, he's going to listen to everything," House said.

House works for a local bank. Her supervisor said she could take all the time she needs, she told the judge.

McCoy ultimately agreed to allow Johnnson out on house arrest with a GPS-connected ankle monitor. He has to stay under House's watch around the clock and can only leave the house for pre-approved reasons, the judge said.

Another hearing was set for Monday to address whether Johnnson can remain out of jail.

During Wednesday's hearing, McCoy also went over the charge — a federal offense that occurs when a felon has a gun or ammunition "which has been shipped or transported in interstate or foreign commerce."

What? Johnnson asked.

There are no gun manufacturers in Alaska, so they are all shipped here, McCoy explained.

The drug case began in 2011 when House was pregnant, she said.

A sworn statement filed in court said federal agents were targeting a man nicknamed Popeye in a Ford Explorer and Johnnson was in the front seat. After being ordered out, he tossed a baggie under the Ford, the statement said. It contained about half an ounce of crack, an amount that indicated drug trafficking, the statement said.

He was sentenced in 2012 to serve nine months, which could be in a halfway house, and three years of probation. Most of his time was in Mississippi, where House said she is from. She wants to bury their child there.

A vigil was planned for Wednesday night outside the family's apartment.

Anchorage police also are investigating the child's death.

Jury finds man guilty of running heroin, meth ring in Southeast Alaska - Juneau Empire

Juneau Hot Topics - Wed, 2017-12-06 17:52

Juneau Empire

Jury finds man guilty of running heroin, meth ring in Southeast Alaska
Juneau Empire
A Washington man is facing a minimum of five years in jail after a jury found him guilty of running a drug trafficking ring in Southeast Alaska. Zerisenay Gebregiorgis, 35, was found guilty of conspiring to sell heroin and methamphetamine in Ketchikan ...

and more »Google News

Push to open ANWR gets another boost as Murkowski named to Senate tax negotiating team

Alaska News - Wed, 2017-12-06 17:44

U.S. Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell on Wednesday named Lisa Murkowski, R-Alaska, to his chamber's team of negotiators charged with resolving the differences between dueling tax overhaul bills approved by the Senate and U.S. House.

The Senate's tax legislation — but not the House's — also includes language to open a portion of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge for oil drilling, and Murkowski's presence on the negotiating team gives a boost to those hoping the language sticks.

There are also significant differences between the proposed tax revisions in each bill, which must be resolved.

U.S. Rep. Don Young was named to the House's negotiating team earlier in the week. He said in a prepared statement at the time: "I'll do everything in my power to ensure this important moment to unlock ANWR's energy resources does not pass us by."

[Related: Don Young just became the longest-serving member of the U.S. House]

Murkowski chairs the Senate energy committee that wrote the language to open the refuge to drilling. She joins seven other senators on the conference committee with the House, and she said in a prepared statement Wednesday that she's confident the negotiators will "quickly reach agreement."

"With Congressman Young representing the House of Representatives on our energy provisions, Alaskans will have a very strong voice at the table to ensure this bill crosses the finish line," Murkowski said.

Freezing rain expected in Anchorage on Thursday

Alaska News - Wed, 2017-12-06 17:39

Freezing rain was expected in Anchorage on Thursday, creating potentially difficult travel conditions, the National Weather Service said.

A winter weather advisory was issued for 9 a.m. to 10 p.m. Thursday warning of intermittent freezing rain throughout the day.

"Some areas may warm above freezing, though side roads will likely remain hazardous," the National Weather Service wrote.

"The ice will result in difficult travel conditions, including during the evening commute," the agency wrote.

O Christmas tree, how hard we worked to get thee

Alaska News - Wed, 2017-12-06 17:21

There have been few times in my life when I have felt as triumphant as I did last Saturday.

The day didn't start well. Work spilled over into Saturday morning from the long week. It was eerily warm outside so I could hear water dripping on my porch. Not a good soundtrack for December in Alaska.

I played Christmas carols to drown out the snowmelt and sat in my pajamas on the floor with my laptop and a cup of coffee. When I was finally at a point where I could stop, it was already noon.

Luckily, I had something to look forward to: Christmas tree hunting.

To be honest, I have spent many years in Alaska either treeless (I'm Jewish, and a Hannukah bush just doesn't cut it) or sneaking down to Dimond Boulevard in the cover of night to purchase a tree shipped up to Alaska from the Lower 48. Hats off to the fine people making a living this way, but for me this trip has always felt like a shameful journey: I failed to find a viable tree by myself in all of the great state of Alaska, and instead paid $80.

This year that changed. My husband and I drove out to the Moose Range, near Hatcher Pass. With no permit needed, we'd heard we could find that perfect tree.

[How to harvest your own Christmas tree in Alaska]

Our plan was a slightly different take on the classic. Normal people walk into the woods, cut down a tree and lug it out. Easy. Our approach involved fat bikes.

As we got closer to the Moose Range, the dreary freezing rain started turning to snow. By the time we'd pulled up, the temperature had dropped 15 degrees, and white, fluffy flakes were falling steadily from the sky. The Christmas music we were playing suddenly made sense. My mood lifted.

I saw families pulling sleds loaded with their trees. Kids wobbled around in snowsuits as parents let down the tailgate and poured hot chocolate. Yes, it was that cute. It was even better because everyone was in a picture-perfect Alaska snow globe.

My husband and I dawdled outside our truck. Our supplies: our fat bikes, a 3-foot yellow sled, a handsaw, a backpack, two ski straps and a wad of thin, black line. The merriness of our scene faded slightly as we bickered over the best arrangement.

First we tried to affix the sled, with nothing on it, with line to the back of my bike. This failed when line got bunched in my gears within five seconds of attempting to ride.

The second system was better — attaching the sled with ski straps to my husband's backpack and stowing the rest of the materials in a side pocket. We headed down the trail, glad to be moving and that we'd at least figured out how to pack our things, but still uncertain as to what we'd do when we found an actual tree.

[This Alaska family travels to New York City every year to sell Christmas trees]

That part didn't take long. We rode for about 10 minutes, veered off onto a small pathway and found a reasonably sized, mature tree that didn't seem too terribly Charlie Brown-esque. It filled out nicely at the bottom and tapered at the top. We ditched our bikes and sawed it down.

It fell with a gentle, guided whumph into the snow.

We stood back. We were back where we'd started: same tools, no real system in place, but now with a tree.

We got to work. First, we pulled the tree onto the sled with the stump facing the bike so that when we dragged it the branches would naturally go in the right direction. Then we attached the tree to the sled with the two ski straps, ratcheting them down to secure the tree.

Then, the fun part: figuring out how to affix to the sled to a bike. We tried several systems.

We looped the line through holes in the sled, geniuses that we are.

Then, my husband, who would probably be a combination of a sled dog and mountain goat if he were an animal (and this description will be a delightful Christmas surprise for him), took the first try at hauling.

He wrapped line around his gloves and stuffed them into his pogies. He slowly pedaled forward. In 10 seconds, line was caught in his gears.

We tried again. Same thing happened.

Then we tried the brilliant move of each of us taking some line. He pulled the line on his right side; I pulled on my left. This lasted about five seconds.

Finally, just as we were going to give it up and walk the tree out Ye Olde Fashioned Way, I gave it one more try. I wrapped the line several times around each of my handle bars. I braced myself against the weight of the tree, pulling slack out of the line on either side of me.

And I very slowly started pedaling.

And pedaling.

It was working!

With the exception of a few quick stops, I pulled that tree out with our ridiculous makeshift bike trailer. As long as I kept a steady pace, which took steady effort, everything moved forward. Under my labored breath I alternated between mutter-singing "Jingle Bells" ("on a one-horse open sleigh"), and vowing to invest in an actual bike trailer. A family riding an ATV regarded me with what seemed to be a mix of curiosity and pity. My husband Snapchatted and shouted encouraging words.

We made it back to the truck, snow still gently falling on our snow globe expedition. It stayed that way all the way back to our house, where it started to rain.

But our house smelled like evergreen, Christmas and triumph. We strung up the lights. Soon darkness fell. All was December again in the world, now with our tree — or at least I could pretend.

Alli Harvey lives in Palmer and plays in Southcentral Alaska.

Wasilla police are seeing a spike in counterfeit bills

Alaska News - Wed, 2017-12-06 16:45

Wasilla police are warning people to look out for counterfeit currency making the rounds at much higher levels this year than last.

Last year, police responded to three reports of counterfeit money use, according to Wasilla Police Department spokeswoman Amanda Graham.

So far this year they've responded to 24, Graham said, mostly at restaurants.

The bills are larger denominations: $20s, $50s and $100s.

The money is a mix of bills with Chinese printing, movie prop money and "just flat-out fake-looking currency," Graham said.

The Chinese bills are printed with characters that, loosely translated, say they're practice money and not meant for circulation, she said. "People should reject currency that has Chinese writing on it, as a general rule."

Wasilla police offer tips to avoid counterfeit money:

— If accepting currency from people for items purchased online, meet at a bank or the police station, where the bills can be checked.

— On the front lower-right corner of bills, the denomination should be in color-shifting ink.

— When holding the bill up to light, you should see a watermark of the portrait that matches the one on the face of the bill.

— In various places on the bill you should see microprinting and feel raised text.

— There should be a security tag running down the left side visible in the light with the correct face value on it. On the new $100s there is a holographic blue bar next to Benjamin Franklin's face.

— Fake bills usually feel fake because they're made of poor-quality paper often missing red and blue threads.

Police say anyone suspecting they've received fake cash can call 907-352-5401 with a description of the person they got it from and their vehicle, if possible.

Murkowski strikes sweet note on immigration - KTOO

Legislative News - Wed, 2017-12-06 16:41

KTOO

Murkowski strikes sweet note on immigration
KTOO
Murkowski's video, on the other hand, plugs cultural diversity, refugees and immigrants in general. “They're lifting up our communities,” she said on the video, referring to immigrants. “They're creating American jobs. They're paying billions in taxes ...

and more »

This weird, water-loving dinosaur has claws like a velociraptor and a neck like a goose

Alaska News - Wed, 2017-12-06 16:09

If it walks like a duck and swims like a duck, it might be a dinosaur. Scientists have discovered a flippered theropod dinosaur that appears to have spent much of its life in water.

The fossil of Halszkaraptor escuilliei, described in the journal Nature, reveals a strange dinosaur that defies paleontologists' expectations: one that mixes the traits of theropod dinosaurs with those of aquatic or semi-aquatic birds and reptiles today.

"The first time I saw the fossil I was shocked," said lead author Andrea Cau, a paleontologist at the Geological and Palaeontological Museum Giovanni Capellini in Italy. "It was so unexpected and bizarre."

[Dispatches from Denali National Park: When dinosaurs ruled Alaska]

H. escuilliei lived some 75 million years ago, during the Cretaceous Period. It was a theropod, a largely carnivorous group of dinosaurs whose members included Tyrannosaurus rex and the ancestors of all living birds.

H. escuilliei, called Halszka for short, was part of the dromaeosauridae, a group of feathered theropods that included velociraptor and that were not birds or bird ancestors, but closely related to them. While no feathers survived on this specimen, Halszka probably sported plumage and it had a somewhat birdlike bill that was still not a true beak (in part because it housed several teeth).

Halszka had a long, swanlike neck, was the size of a goose, and it probably spent much of its time in lakes and rivers eating small fish, crustaceans and small animals such as lizards, Cau said. In this dino-eat-dino world, its predators may have included fellow theropods like velociraptor.

This fossil, which is still partly embedded in rock, was originally poached from Mongolia, passing through several private collections before a French fossil dealer acquired it in 2015 and donated it to the Royal Belgian Institute of Natural Sciences. It quickly struck researchers as an oddball.

"We're used to thinking of dromaeosaurs in the context of the classic raptors — velociraptor and Deinonychus and Utahraptor, because we now know they're totally feathered and so forth — as sort of knife-footed murder-birds," said Thomas Holtz Jr., a vertebrate paleontologist at the University of Maryland in College Park who was not involved with the study.

But this new fossil, he said, is one "weird … looking dromaeosaur."

This dinosaur did have a curved sickle-like claw on the second toe of the foot that is typical of dinosaurs like velociraptor, but it was not especially long and probably wasn't used that much for hunting, Holtz said. Meanwhile, its "arms" were small and appeared to have been modified for use as flippers, which could have helped it paddle through the water.

Unlike penguins and other aquatic birds today, Halszka would not have been a diver, Holtz said. Instead, it probably would have used its long neck to dart out and grab prey close to the water's surface.

The overall result was a sort of "pseudo-goose … something that could wade out into the water and dab around for some small-bodied prey," Holtz said.

[Duck-billed hadrosaurs loved frigid Arctic winters]

The animal's hind legs, meanwhile, appear to have been modified for standing in a more upright position — modifications that can be found in birds today such as ostriches and ducks, Cau said.

Because this fossil had been stolen from its original resting site in Mongolia, the researchers had to make sure that their fossil was authentic.

The scientists subjected Halszka to synchrotron multi-resolution X-ray microtomography, producing a high-resolution digital scan of the whole fossil. This allowed them to see that the structure of the rock around different parts of the specimen remained the same, confirming that the fossil had not been cobbled together from different parts.

This technique also allowed them to see the bones that were still embedded in the rock, the teeth within the bill and even a neurovascular mesh in its snout that's similar to what's found in aquatic reptiles like crocodiles today.

"Halszkaraptor shows aquatic and swimming adaptations not seen in other dinosaurs," Cau said.

Halszka wasn't the only dinosaur with this weird mix of traits, as it turns out: Two other Mongolian fossils — one found in 1970, the other in 1992 — may represent two other species that together with Halszka define a new group of amphibious or semi-aquatic dinosaurs.

The next step, Cau said, is to keep analyzing the six terabytes of scan data the scientists pulled form this single fossil. Once their study of this particular fossil is done, it will be returned to Mongolia.

House passes bill to let gun owners carry concealed weapons across state lines

Alaska News - Wed, 2017-12-06 16:01

WASHINGTON – People would be able to bring legal, concealed guns into any U.S. state under legislation the House of Representatives approved on Wednesday that would also bolster the national background check system and require a study of the "bump stocks" used in October's Las Vegas mass shooting.

The country's long-standing fight over gun ownership has grown more heated since a single person killed 58 people and injured more than 500 at a music festival in Las Vegas, Nevada, the deadliest mass shooting carried out by an individual in U.S. history. Stephen Paddock boosted his firearms with bump stocks to shoot thousands of bullets over 10 minutes.

On a vote of 231 to 198, the Republican-led House approved the Concealed Carry Reciprocity Act, which would require states to recognize each others' permits for carrying hidden and loaded firearms while in public.

States' requirements on concealed guns vary widely. Some states deny permits to people who have committed domestic violence or other crimes. Eight do not require permits at all.

[Commentary: If you decide to carry a firearm, know Alaska's gun laws]

Supporters of the bill, which still must be approved by the Senate, say states recognize each others' drivers licenses and other permits, making concealed-carry permits the exception.

Detractors say the bill tramples states' rights and that gun permits differ from drivers' licenses, which are generally uniform across the country. They also say that, under the legislation, gun owners will only have to abide by requirements of the most lenient states.

The bill passed eight days before the fifth anniversary of the Sandy Hook shooting in which 20 children and six adults perished. So far this year, 14,412 people have died and 29,277 have been injured in firearm-related incidents in the United States, according to the Gun Violence Archive. About 8 percent of them were children and teenagers.

Bill supporters also pointed to last month's Texas shooting, where a man fired his rifle on a fleeing gunman who had just killed 26 worshippers at a church. The gunman was later found dead in his car.

"We know that citizens who carry a concealed firearm are not only better prepared to act in their own self-defense, but also in the defense of others," said House Judiciary Committee Chairman Bob Goodlatte, a Republican.

The legislation also included a bipartisan measure to strengthen the National Instant Criminal Background Check System. Meanwhile, the Justice Department has already begun studying bump stocks, and could soon ban them.

Not my Alabama

Alaska News - Wed, 2017-12-06 15:17

In my family, Alabama was always spoken of as a magical place reflecting much of what is best about America. That may be hard to swallow for some. But for the Gups, Mobile was a haven. Hence, my father’s taste for grits; my courtly bachelor uncles, Nat and Gabe, lived there. In the city archives, a black-and-white photo of 56 Dauphin St. captures a sign reading “Gup The Tailor.” There my great-grandfathers, Marcus and Abraham, sat side by side, stitching costumes for Mobile’s fabulous Mardi Gras.

My family had fled pogroms, Cossacks and ghettos. They crossed the Atlantic in steerage with no more than a battered Torah, a samovar and passports marked Vilnius and Tbilisi. To Alabama they came and there they found the thing they hungered for most: acceptance. Over a generation, their Yiddish would yield to deep Southern drawls, their kosher palates to gumbo, their circle of friends widening well beyond their own faith. On Jan. 15, 1894, before a Mobile court, my great-grandfather Abraham renounced his allegiance to the sultan of Turkey and became a U.S. citizen, but also, and always, a proud Alabaman — a tale as improbable as it is distinctly American.

So it pains me to read how today’s Americans view Alabama, where much of my extended family still lives, as home to the sanctimonious Senate candidate Roy Moore, accused of trolling for children, and as a backwater state rife with bigotry, hypocrisy and xenophobia. I think of the Alabama to which I was reverently introduced in my youth — an Eden with live oaks draped with Spanish moss, wide porches and open hearts, romanticized to be sure. Mobile took my family in when no one else would. I feel indebted.

Former Alabama Supreme Court Chief Justice Roy Moore speaks at the Values Voter Summit of the Family Research Council in Washington, D.C., Oct. 13, 2017. (REUTERS/James Lawler Duggan/File Photo)

In the minds of many, particularly in the North and Northeast, Alabama has become the poster child of the narrow-minded, the self-righteous, the extreme. It is the butt of jokes. (What is “Alabama” backward? Alabama is backward.) The cesspool of modern politics would seem to find its drain in Alabama, where even God is seen to lend his blessing to corruption.

[Trump endorses Roy Moore in Alabama race]

But if Alabama makes us uncomfortable, it is perhaps because our own foibles are writ a little larger there, magnified that we may see ourselves for who we are and what we are becoming. Alabama hosts rank partisanship and evangelical fervor (both religious and political) that contravenes the Christian spirit. It has demagoguery and scapegoating, the demonizing of fellow citizens, zealotry, suspicion and tribalism – but in none of this is it alone. In Alabama it just seems to play out on a wider screen. It is the mirror we shun – not just a state but a state of mind. We hold it at arm’s length because we cannot face the truth about ourselves.

Walking among my family’s graves in Mobile, I know that even in death it was “White Only,” and that a foreign-born Jew had access to this soil when a native-born black man did not. The legacy of Gov. George Wallace, the bombing of the 16th Street Baptist Church in Birmingham, the water cannons and police dogs now find full expression in the face of Moore, who champions the Ten Commandments but sees them as a license to lie, hate and bring out the least Christian of impulses in his constituents. He is a master of mixing virtue and vice till neither is distinguishable from the other.

[Alabamans can do better than Roy Moore]

But the Alabama my family knew and knows is only partially reflected in the headlines. It is not the caricature of the ignorant Southerner, not the Bible-thumping congregation that prefers a potential child molester to missing out on a tax cut. My relatives in Alabama could not be more pained by the thought of Moore’s ascent to the U.S. Senate. But their anguish should be familiar to many well beyond the state who wince at Donald Trump as president, commander in chief and the face of the United States. Alabama is no more monolithic than the rest of the country, and no less divided. The war for the soul of America goes on there as it goes on in states and homes across this land.

The truth is that if Alabama did not exist, we might have to invent it. In this moment of national doubt and angst, we need to look down our noses at someplace else, to express the disdain of those who themselves have become unmoored, complacent or resigned. Alabama is the perfect foil in the Trump era, a reference point on the Southern horizon – a safe distance from Los Angeles and New York – that offers us the sense that we are somehow different, better and above. My adopted home, smug Boston, like so many other places quick to judge, can block out its own dire record on race and religious intolerance as it spurns its Southern cousins (mine, literally). But it is self-delusion, the kind that compromises the conscience and allows for the rest of us to descend deeper into the abyss. In each of us, there is a bit of Alabama, the shameful and the noble, warring for dominance.

Ted Gup is a Boston-based author of several books about secrecy and is a professor of journalism at Emerson College. He wrote this 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.

Snowstorm triggers avalanche in Thompson Pass, closing road to Valdez

Alaska News - Wed, 2017-12-06 14:55

A storm swept through parts of Southcentral Alaska overnight, dumping more than 40 inches of snow on Thompson Pass and triggering an avalanche that has shut down the highway to Valdez.

The Richardson Highway was closed from Mile 12 to 42 on Wednesday, said Meadow Bailey, spokeswoman for the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities.

The highway is the only road out of Valdez, a city of about 4,000 people tucked between the Chugach Mountains and Prince William Sound.

An avalanche that happened around 3:30 a.m. at Mile 39 in Thompson Pass had crossed the road, Bailey said. Crews were waiting for the weather to improve before heading in to clear it.

The avalanche was 20 feet deep and 200 feet long, Bailey said. It was estimated to take about five hours to clear, but "depending on conditions, it could be a couple days before we get there," Bailey said.

[From the archives: Alaska highway officials say they've never seen an avalanche this large touch a road]

More than 40 inches of snow had fallen in Thompson Pass overnight, said Kyle Van Peursem, meteorologist with the National Weather Service office in Anchorage. On Wednesday morning, 15 inches had fallen in just 90 minutes, he said.

In Valdez, the overnight forecast was for a mix of rain and snow, but temperatures were colder than expected and had instead dumped 12 inches of snow through the morning, Van Peursem said.

A mix of heavy snow and rain in the Copper River Basin and Valdez had created "very difficult and hazardous driving conditions on the Richardson, Edgerton, Glenn and Tok Cutoff highways," Bailey said in a written statement.

Sean Holland, who lives in Eagle River, was in Valdez on Wednesday. "We are all watching the pass closure and progress on the avalanche," Holland wrote in a Facebook message.

"Road plow crews down here are awesome! Roads are plowed every day and travel inside Valdez is great! Snow machine riders are all sorts of excited! All in all, every one is up beat, enjoying Snowmigeddin and ready for the holidays!" Holland wrote.

Holland was planning to drive out of Valdez on Monday, but he wasn't worried. "I was born and raised in Wyoming. The law of the land is 4 wheel drive!" Holland wrote.

More snow was in the forecast Thursday, with another storm expected to bring another "foot or so" of snow to Thompson Pass, Van Peursem said.

State offices were closed in Valdez on Wednesday. Schools in Glennallen, Kenny Lake, and Slana were also closed on Wednesday, the Copper River School District said on Facebook.

Thompson Pass is occasionally shut down due to avalanches. In 2014, two giant avalanches closed the road, one of which created a snow dam and backed up the Lowe River, complicating efforts to clear the highway of the massive avalanche debris.

Small bidders snatch up land near ANWR in state lease sale

Alaska News - Wed, 2017-12-06 14:30

Major oil companies did not bid Wednesday on state leases near the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge as Congress moves to open the refuge's coastal plain to drilling, but small bidding groups did.

And new North Slope prospects generated interest in the annual state lease sale that officials said was one of the biggest of the last two decades.

The state received $19.9 million in bids for the North Slope lease sale on Wednesday, making it the third-largest sale in the last two decades, said Chantal Walsh, director of the Alaska Oil and Gas Division. That was a surprise because so much of the land in the region had already been leased, she said.

The amount of leased state land on the North Slope is at historically high levels, said Mark Wiggin, deputy commissioner of the state's Natural Resources department.

Alaska officials opened bids for the lease sale at the Dena'ina Center in Anchorage. The state also received $1.3 million in bids for leases in state waters of the Beaufort Sea.

The federal government planned to open bids for an unprecedented lease sale for the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska on Wednesday afternoon. The Trump administration offered 900 tracts in the 23 million-acre reserve, the most ever.

[Record lease sale planned for NPRA]

The federal lease sale by the Bureau of Land Management comes on the heels of a big lease sale last year in the NPRA that generated $18.8 million for 614,000 acres, the largest sale since 2004.

The recent, large Pikka discovery east of NPR-A and the Willow discovery within NPR-A have raised interest in the state and federal lease sales.

At the state lease sale, Repsol E&P; USA, a subsidiary of Spanish multinational Repsol, was the high bidder on acreage near the large Pikka prospect. Repsol is a partner in the prospect, which experts have said could produce at least 120,000 barrels of oil daily.

Repsol is looking to maximize its opportunity at Pikka, said Jason Sebastinas, a senior landman for Repsol, after the bid opening.

On several leases, Repsol outbid a partner in the project, independent Armstrong Oil and Gas of Denver. Repsol made its decision to bid at the 11th hour following a long administrative process, leading to the unexpected dueling bids with a partner, Sebastinas said.

ConocoPhillips also was the high bidder on tracts not far from Pikka and near its Kuparuk River unit.

Far to the North Slope's eastern flank, near the doorstep of the 19 million-acre ANWR, the state offered offshore tracts and a few onshore tracts. The tracts could generate strong interest if Congress succeeds in opening the refuge's coastal area to drilling as part of the tax bill that appears likely to pass.

Much of the state acreage near ANWR is already part of ExxonMobil's Point Thomson Unit, leaving limited onshore acreage available for leasing.

Major oil companies did not bid on the tracts near ANWR.

But the bidding group of individuals Dan Donkel and Samuel Cade won rights to offshore tracts in the state waters near ANWR. The tracts are extremely promising for a large oil discovery, Donkel said by phone Wednesday.

"There is room to boom for small oil companies on the North Slope of Alaska," said Donkel in an emailed statement.

A new company, Regenerate USA, outbid Donkel and Cade on a group of onshore tracts just west of the wildlife refuge.

Regenerate USA was incorporated in Alaska last month. Alaska business records show its president is David Wall of Australia. Wall is also director of another North Slope exploration company, Accumulate Energy Alaska, records show.

69 mushers have signed up for the 2018 Iditarod

Alaska News - Wed, 2017-12-06 14:02

Sixty-nine mushers have signed up to compete in the 2018 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race, including four returning race champions and 16 rookies.

The deadline to register for the 2018 Iditarod was Friday. Mushers can still sign up to compete in the race until Feb. 15, but now they must pay double — a $4,000 late fee in addition to the $4,000 entry fee, according to race rules.

For now, the size of the 2018 Iditarod field is about average. Seventy-two mushers competed in the 2017 Iditarod. The year before that, 85 mushers started the race, the third largest field ever. The last time the Iditarod had 69 total teams was in 2014.

So far, the 2018 Iditarod mushers include 17 women and 52 men. Eleven mushers listed their hometown as somewhere outside the United States — eight are from Canada, two from Norway and one is from Sweden. A total of 49 mushers said they were from Alaska.

Reigning Iditarod champion Mitch Seavey is signed up for the 2018 race, as are four-time Iditarod champions Martin Buser and Jeff King. John Baker, the 2011 Iditarod champion, is also signed up to compete.

Four-time Iditarod champion Dallas Seavey and his sled dog team will not show up at the 2018 starting line. Instead, they'll be in Norway.

Seavey dropped out of the Iditarod earlier this year in protest over how race officials handled the investigation into his sled dogs' drug test results. The Iditarod announced in October that dogs on Seavey's team tested positive for tramadol, an opioid painkiller that the race prohibits. Seavey said he did not give the drug to his dogs.

Last week, Seavey announced that he would compete in the 2018 Finnmarksløpet, Europe's longest sled dog race. The 745-mile race starts on March 9 in Norway.

(function(d, s, id) { var js, fjs = d.getElementsByTagName(s)[0]; if (d.getElementById(id)) return; js = d.createElement(s); js.id = id; js.src = 'https://connect.facebook.net/en_US/sdk.js#xfbml=1&version=v2.11'; fjs.parentNode.insertBefore(js, fjs); }(document, 'script', 'facebook-jssdk'));Dallas Seavey skal kjøre Finnmarksløpet

THE BIGGEST WOW! Den største stjerna skal delta i Finnmarksløpet 2018. Fire ganger Iditarod champion, Dallas Seavey (30) har meldt seg på Finnmarksløpet 2018. Dette synes vi er utrolig bra både for Finnmarksløpet og norsk langdistanse. Dallas vil kjøre FL-1200 med sine egne hunder og vil ankomme landet noen uker før løpet starter. Vi blir glade hvis dere vil dele denne nyheten.

Posted by Finnmarksløpet on Thursday, November 30, 2017

"It's important to me to have a lifetime of mushing experiences, not just running the same race over and over," Seavey said in a video posted online.

The 2018 Iditarod ceremonial start is scheduled for March 3 in Anchorage with a restart in Willow the following day.

Calling fair trial ‘unlikely’ in Palmer, attorney wants new venue for Grunwald murder

Alaska News - Wed, 2017-12-06 13:57

PALMER — The attorney for a teen accused of David Grunwald's murder wants the trial moved out of Mat-Su — even though Palmer is his client's hometown.

Erick Almandinger, 17, is one of four teens charged with Grunwald's murder, which began with a beating in a camper trailer.

Now Almandinger's court-appointed lawyer is arguing he won't get a fair trial in small-town Palmer given the notoriety of the November 2016 killing and the publicity generated by the death of a popular 16-year-old with a clean-cut reputation.

Jon Iannaccone, Almandinger's court-appointed attorney, doesn't suggest a better location.

Grunwald went missing in mid-November last year. His torched Ford Bronco was found the next day at the base of the Talkeetna Mountains. But despite hundreds of searchers combing the area, his body wasn't found for three weeks and only after another teen later charged in the murder led authorities to it.

[Documents shed new light on slain Palmer teen's final moments]

Iannaccone, in a change of venue motion filed last month, wrote that the community's search efforts for Grunwald were "admirable" and the "outrage and horror" were understandable when his body was found and arrests made.

But, Iannaccone continued, it is unlikely Almandinger can get a fair trial given "the attention this case has gotten and the (intense) anger over it."

He is asking Palmer Superior Court Judge Gregory Heath for an immediate change of venue.

The prosecutor in the case, Palmer District Attorney Roman Kalytiak, opposes moving the trial.

Yes, Palmer is a small town, Kalytiak wrote in his opposition to the change of venue, filed last week. But the Matanuska-Susitna Borough, with more than 100,000 residents, offers a large jury pool from many places besides Palmer, he wrote. People involved in the Grunwald search would be weeded out during jury selection.

News reports about Grunwald's death have been read by people across Alaska, Kalytiak wrote.

"Picking a jury on this case in Anchorage, Fairbanks or Kenai would require the same amount of attention and diligence as picking a jury in Palmer," he wrote.

Also charged in Grunwald's murder are Valley residents Dominic Johnson, 17, Austin Barrett, 20, and Bradley Renfro, 17. Devin Peterson, 19, is charged with helping hide evidence used in the crime.

Almandinger successfully asked Heath to try him separately from the others earlier this year.

['No clue': Family of teen charged in Grunwald killing say they share public's shock]

Almandinger's attorney filed several other motions in recent weeks.

Iannaccone is asking the judge to not allow jurors to see photos of Grunwald's body or the forested, brushy spot off Knik River Road where he died.

Investigators found the body covered in a layer of snow with a single gunshot at the hairline and numerous deep head wounds consistent with a pistol-whipping, court documents show.

Kalytiak opposes that motion too, saying the grim photos prove his theory that the teens meant to kill Grunwald and conceal the body.

Almandinger's attorney is also asking the judge to bar prosecutors from introducing evidence of Almandinger's "other bad acts": violent, profane rap lyrics found in a notebook in his room; his efforts to sell one of his father's guns; an apparent desire to be accepted as a member of the Crips gang; and statements that he and other defendants spent time the summer before the murder crashing at a flophouse near Wasilla where a 16-year-old was shot and killed in July 2016.

[In June, a teen died from a gunshot wound in Wasilla. Now the once-closed case is getting another look.]

Kalytiak has until Dec. 29 to file his opposition to that and other motions, including those asking Heath to suppress several trooper interviews as well as the early December interrogation that included Almandinger's confession.

Trump recognizes Jerusalem as capital of Israel in reversal of longtime US policy

Alaska News - Wed, 2017-12-06 13:46

WASHINGTON – President Donald Trump on Wednesday formally recognized Jerusalem as Israel's capital, defying warnings from other Middle East countries and some U.S. allies in a politically risky move that he insisted would not derail efforts to broker a peace deal.

But in a sign that the move could backfire, Palestinian President Mahmoud Abbas slammed Trump's announcement as a "declaration of withdraw" by the United States from the peace process, according to the Associated Press.

In a midday speech at the White House, Trump defended his decision as "long overdue" recognition of reality given that Jerusalem is the seat of Israel's parliament, supreme court and prime minister's office. He argued that an agreement between the Israelis and Palestinians has remained elusive for more than two decades even as his predecessors declined to recognize the contested Holy City as Israel's capital.

"Some say they lacked courage, but they made the best judgment based on the facts as they understood them," Trump said, speaking in the Diplomatic Reception Room. "Nevertheless, the record is in. After more than two decades, we're no closer to a lasting peace agreement."

Trump added that "it's folly to assume that repeating the exact same formula will produce a different or better result."

The announcement came a day after senior White House aides previewed Trump's decision, and the president also ordered the State Department to begin planning to move the U.S. Embassy from Tel Aviv to Jerusalem, a process that administration officials said would take several years. After his remarks, Trump signed another six-month waiver to maintain the embassy compound in Tel Aviv, which senior aides said was meant to ensure funding was not eliminated under a 1995 law even as planning for a new embassy would commence.

Trump emphasized that despite his decision he remained committed to helping broker a peace agreement. The White House is working on a peace plan to be unveiled sometime next year.

"The United States remains deeply committed to helping facilitate a peace agreement that is acceptable to both sides," Trump said. "I intend to do everything in my power to forge such an agreement."

The announcement set off a flurry of reactions in Washington, Europe and the Middle East. Trump spoke with Abbas on Tuesday to inform him of the decision and Abbas told him his government would not accept the move.

In Israel, Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu hailed the president's announcement, calling it "a historic day" and stating that his nation is "profoundly grateful for the president for his courageous and just decision."

Other Middle East nations and some U.S. allies condemned the decision ahead of Trump's speech, suggesting the shift in policy would inflame regional tensions and make the process of brokering a peace deal between the Israelis and Palestinians more difficult.

"We think it's an unwise step and a counterproductive step. If we want to solve at some moment the conflict between the Palestinians and the Israelis, we need a two-state solution, and a one-sided step is not going to help," Dutch Foreign Minister Halbe Zijlstra said Wednesday.

"I don't think we can use another conflict in this very explosive region," Zijlstra said, adding that he had conveyed his concerns to U.S. Secretary of State Rex Tillerson in Brussels, during a NATO meeting.

But Tillerson insisted such concerns were misguided. Attending the meeting in Brussels, Tillerson said: "We continue to believe there is a very good opportunity for peace to be achieved."

"The president is very committed to the Middle East peace process," Tillerson said. "He has a team he put into place. That team has been working very diligently."

Trump campaigned on a promise to move the embassy to Jerusalem, a move popular among evangelicals. A slew of evangelical leaders, including former Arkansas Gov. Mike Huckabee and Robert Jeffress, senior pastor at First Baptist Church in Dallas, released statements of praise on Wednesday.

In Washington, Trump drew bipartisan support on Capitol Hill from Republicans and some Democrats.

In a statement, Sen. Marco Rubio, R-Fla., called the announcement "an important step in the right direction" and added that "unequivocal recognition of Jerusalem as Israel's capital will be complete when the U.S. embassy is officially relocated there."

Rep. Eliot L. Engel, N.Y., the top Democrat on the House Foreign Affairs Committee, said the decision "helps correct a decades-long indignity."

Yet House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said that Trump's move was premature and warned of "mass protests." Late last month, the State Department sent a memo to embassies in the Middle East warning of potential unrest.

"In the absence of a negotiated settlement between Israel and the Palestinians, moving the U.S. embassy to Jerusalem now may needlessly spark mass protests, fuel tensions, and make it more difficult to reach a durable peace," Pelosi said.

White House aides emphasized that Trump's decision would make clear to Middle East countries that the president, who campaigned on promises to move the embassy, keeps his word. Senior adviser Jared Kushner and other top administration officials are working on a proposed peace plan for the region, but aides said it is not imminent and the team would have time to factor in public reaction to Trump's speech.

One administration official, speaking on condition of anonymity, acknowledged that the Palestinians would likely threaten to reject peace talks. But this person said the White House recognized that peace deals often are not linear in how they are negotiated and that such deals are often presumed dead more than once before they reach the finish line.

"By overturning a decades-long policy adopted by administrations of both parties, President Trump is casting aside America's role as a mediator in the Middle East conflict [and] harming our Muslim allies," said Nihad Awad, executive director of CAIR, the nation's largest Muslim civil rights group.

In his remarks, Trump acknowledged that "there will of course be disagreement and dissent regarding this announcement, but we are confident … that when we work through our disagreements we will arrive at a peace and a place of far greater understanding and cooperation."

The Jerusalem municipality announced ahead of Trump's speech that it would illuminate the ancient walls of Jerusalem Old City with an Israeli and an American flag, "as a token of appreciation to President Trump for his recognition of Jerusalem." The city said that American flags would be hung on the streets surrounding the U.S. consulate.

The Washington Post's Rick Noack in Berlin, Ruth Eglash in Jerusalem and Carol Morello in Brussels contributed to this report.

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