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Letter: Why bash people who help?

Alaska News - Sun, 2018-08-12 11:07

I am wondering if there is a psychologist who could write the paper to help us understand our president? Why would our president bash a sports star, on Twitter, who chooses to us his wealth to create a school for at-risk kids? How and why does creating a school threaten the president?
— Nick Cassara

Have something on your mind? Send to letters@adn.com or click here to submit via any web browser. Letters under 200 words have the best chance of being published. Writers should disclose any personal or professional connections with the subjects of their letters. Letters are edited for accuracy, clarity and length.

Letter: Fields would continue good work for Alaska

Alaska News - Sun, 2018-08-12 11:03

Before explaining why I feel Zack Fields is the strongest candidate in the race for the seat I currently hold, I want to thank my constituents for letting me represent them. It's been an honor to wake up every day knowing I've had the chance to make someone's life better. Thank you very much for giving me that privilege.
From everything I've learned in this job, I feel strongly that Zack will be the most effective of the candidates in this race. He's exceptionally bright, he listens, and he works tirelessly. You deserve that.

One often-overlooked key to being a good legislator is the ability to build relationships. Contrary to the image that all legislators fight across party lines all the time, I've had good relationships with all but the most partisan legislators. Allies matter if you want to get things done.

Zack is affable and will build needed relationships. Too many candidates want to go to Juneau to tell people they're the smartest person in the room with the only good ideas. That puts you on a lonely island.

He will continue the children's work I've focused on. He knows money is better used on schools, making neighborhoods safe and to help seniors and others in need, than on wasteful projects like the Knik Arm Bridge. He's laid out a fair fiscal plan to balance our budget that I support.

Speak to the candidates, many of whom have laudable backgrounds. I don't get to tell anyone who to vote for. I just get to offer who I think will do the strongest job continuing the work you and I believe in.
— Rep. Les Gara

Have something on your mind? Send to letters@adn.com or click here to submit via any web browser. Letters under 200 words have the best chance of being published. Writers should disclose any personal or professional connections with the subjects of their letters. Letters are edited for accuracy, clarity and length.

Experts predict Alaska’s Arctic region may see a population spike by 2045

Alaska News - Sun, 2018-08-12 11:02

Midday light glows on the southern horizon as seen from Utqiagvik, formerly Barrow, on December 14, 2016. Utqiagvik is the northernmost community in the United States. (Marc Lester / ADN archive)

Alaska's northernmost regions could see a possible 15 percent jump in population over the next few decades, according to a new report from the Department of Labor and Workforce Development.

"While the future is always uncertain and the projections change with each release, they offer our best and most current insights into Alaska's population trends," wrote Eddie Hunsinger, the state demographer who wrote about the projections for the August 2018 edition of Alaska Economic Trends.

The projections take into account birth rates and death rates, along with migration trends for particular areas.

The northern region, which includes the North Slope Borough, the Northwest Arctic Borough and the Nome Census Area, is anticipated to see some of the greatest growth in the state. The Matanuska-Susitna Borough leads the growing regions with a projected 61 percent population increase by 2045, far outpacing every other region in the state. The Southwest region, which includes the Aleutians, the Bethel area and Bristol Bay, could see as much as a 19 percent increase.

"The Northern and Southwest regions are younger and have higher birth rates and lower death rates than the rest of the state," wrote Hunsinger. "We project this will continue, and while age structure alone would suffice for growth, this trend will be compounded by high fertility rates."

The baseline population estimates for the report came from July 2017. The North Slope Borough had an estimated population of 9,849 residents at that time, with about 6,000 male and just under 4,000 female. The median age for all was 33.

That's expected to grow to about 10,033 people by July 2020. Gradually, the increases will get larger over five-year increments of time. Based on growth rates of about 0.6-0.7 percent every five years, the North Slope Borough population will reach 11,819 by 2045.

The baseline for Northwest Arctic Borough in 2017 was 7,850 people. That's made up of about 4,200 male residents and 3,600 female residents, with a median age of 27.

The population there is expected to fall slightly over the next few years, with gains in female residents unable to make up for projected losses of male residents, and a population standing at 7,831 by 2020, or a growth rate of -0.1 percent.

From there on, though, the population is expected to grow, seeing growth rates rising from 0.2–0.5 percent through 2045. The projected population for that year is 8,571.

Finally, for the Nome Census Area, the 2017 baseline was 10,006 people, with a more even male-female split at about 5,300 of the former and 4,700 of the latter, and a median age of 28. That will grow slightly to 10,038 by 2020.

Growth rates there will see a spike from 0.1 percent in the first five years to about 0.7 percent by the last five of the projection. The population in 2045 is anticipated to be 11,462 people, almost divided down the middle for male and female residents.

Overall, the Northwest Arctic Borough is expected to see the smallest total growth at 9.18 percent, with 721 additional residents. Nome should see an increase of about 14.5 percent and 1,456 residents. The North Slope Borough may see the greatest change at 20 percent and about 1,970 people.

The report's authors note that, perhaps as would be expected, aging was the easiest factor to take into account. Population estimates for people age 50 in 2007 give a fairly good picture of what the numbers will be for 60-year-olds in 2017, for example.

"In each published population projections report, we noted that migration, and particularly net migration — the difference between in-migration and out-migration — is the most uncertain component of population change," the authors noted.

While population growth may be good for an area's economy, it also potentially raises concerns around services to care for additional people in a particular area.

For example, both the Northwest Arctic Borough and the North Slope Borough are currently suffering from a housing crunch (with inadequate quality and quantity of housing for residents). If options don't keep up with population change — which could be as much as 20 percent — that problem, and others like it, could be compounded.

The Alaska Economic Trends report can be found online at labor.alaska.gov/trends/aug18.pdf. Full population projections are at live.laborstats.alaska.gov/pop/projections/pub/popproj.pdf.

This story is republished with permission from The Arctic Sounder

Letter: No to diversity

Alaska News - Sun, 2018-08-12 10:57

Mine own philosophy on this life is something that I truly believe can and would end all 'isms' at once. Regardless of what leftist proponents of diversity promote, therein lies only separation of what they determine as various groups, each somehow victimized unto themselves whilst seeking equality. Equality, within itself, resides within the individual, not because of what they are but who they are.

The very basic ideology of victimhood is more than flawed, it is moronic. As an individual, one attains success, or does not attain success as simply that — an individual. The leftist victimization ideology always blames the lack of success upon some group that supposedly keeps the victims down, when it is that ideology that does exactly that.

The diversity crowd — the divisive crowd — consider their own power through separation, rather than inclusion, as they would have us believe.
We are all of us inclusive, regardless of our supposed differences, should we seek a common goal, though the divisive leftists may wish the all of us to act not as a community, but as idealistic followers of their propaganda.

Let us come together, as individuals, regardless of our differences within the supposed diversity that the leftists put forth, and solve our problems together, rather than allow the leftists to determine what we are.
— Randy Lee Harkins

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Letter: Kavanaugh nomination threatens Alaskans’ rights

Alaska News - Sun, 2018-08-12 10:52

With the nomination of Brett Kavanaugh, Alaskans' civil rights are in the crosshairs of activist right-wing judges. If Kavanaugh is confirmed, it will give anti-civil rights activists a majority that they have not had since the late 19th century, when the Taney Court issued the notorious Dred Scott decision.

Tragically, it is all too clear where Chief Justice Roberts wants to take the court: He wants to reverse every landmark civil rights protection issued during the 20th century. Reproductive rights for women? Those would be gone with Kavanaugh's confirmation.

Voting rights for blacks and Alaska Natives? Those would be obliterated if Kavanaugh consolidates the reactionary power bloc.
Basic labor protections for hard-working Americans? Gone, if Kavanaugh creates the most radical anti-democratic majority we've seen in a hundred years.
The Roberts court poses an existential threat to our democracy.

Sen. Lisa Murkowski should vote "no" on his confirmation, because we can't go back to the Jim Crow era, a time when women couldn't control their own bodies, blacks and Alaska Natives couldn't exercise the franchise, and corporations ran roughshod over workers' rights.
— Kevin D. McGee
President, Anchorage NAACP

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Letter: Not the enemy

Alaska News - Sun, 2018-08-12 10:35

News media is not the "enemy of the people." Journalists defend our freedom without guns! Thank a journalist for his or her service.
— Terry Casdorph

Have something on your mind? Send to letters@adn.com or click here to submit via any web browser. Letters under 200 words have the best chance of being published. Writers should disclose any personal or professional connections with the subjects of their letters. Letters are edited for accuracy, clarity and length.

Omarosa Manigault Newman says she secretly taped firing in White House Situation Room, plays audio

Alaska News - Sun, 2018-08-12 10:33

BRIDGEWATER, N.J. (AP) — Former presidential adviser Omarosa Manigault Newman said Sunday she secretly recorded conversations she had in the White House, including her firing by chief of staff John Kelly in the high-security Situation Room. It was a highly unusual admission, which immediately drew fire from allies of the president and national security experts.

Parts of her conversation with Kelly were played on the air when she appeared on NBC's "Meet the Press" to promote her new book, "Unhinged," which will be released next week. The Associated Press independently listened to the recording of the conversation between Manigault Newman and Kelly, in which Kelly is heard referring to potential "difficulty" in Manigault Newman's future "relative to your reputation." She said she interpreted his comments as a threat.

In her book, Manigault Newman paints a damning picture of President Donald Trump, including claiming without evidence that tapes exist of him using the N-word as he filmed his "The Apprentice" reality series, on which she co-starred.

Manigault Newman said in the book that she had not personally heard the recording. But she told Chuck Todd on Sunday that, after the book had closed, she was able to hear a recording of Trump during a trip to Los Angeles.

"I heard his voice as clear as you and I are sitting here," she said on the show.

But the other recording she discussed Sunday could prove equally explosive.

"Who in their right mind thinks it's appropriate to secretly record the White House chief of staff in the Situation Room?" tweeted Ronna McDaniel, chair of the Republican National Committee.

In the recording, which Manigault Newman quotes extensively in the book, Kelly can be heard saying she can look at her time at the White House as a year of "service to the nation" and referring to potential "difficulty in the future relative to your reputation."

Manigault Newman said she viewed the comment as a "threat" and defended her decision to covertly record it and other White House conversations, describing it as a form of protection.

"If I didn't have these recordings, no one in America would believe me," she said.

The Situation Room is a Sensitive Compartmented Information Facility, or SCIF, where the nation's most consequential foreign policy decisions are made, and staff are not permitted to bring in cell phones or other recording devices.

"I've never heard of a more serious breach of protocol," said Ned Price, who served as spokesman of the National Security Council in the Obama administration. "Not only is it not typical, something like this is unprecedented."

Price said there is no one checking staffers for devices at the door, but there is a sign outside the room making clear that electronic devices are prohibited.

"The Situation Room is the inner-most sanctum of a secure campus," he said, describing the breach as part of a culture of disregarding security protocols in the Trump White House. He also questioning why Kelly would ever choose to have such a meeting there.

The White House did not immediately respond to questions about the tape, but has tried to discredit the book. White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders called it "riddled with lies and false accusations" and Trump on Saturday labeled Manigault Newman a "lowlife."

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway also questioned Manigault Newman's credibility in an interview Sunday on ABC's "This Week."

"The first time I ever heard Omarosa suggest those awful things about this president are in this book," she said, noting Manigault Newman "is somebody who gave a glowing appraisal of Donald Trump the businessman, the star of the 'The Apprentice,' the candidate and, indeed, the president of the United States."

Conway said that, in her more than two years working with Trump, she has never heard him use a racial slur about anyone.

Manigault Newman had indeed been a staunch defender of the president for years, including pushing back, as the highest-profile African-American in the White House, on accusations that he was racist.

But Manigault Newman now says she was "used" by Trump for years, calling him a "con" who "has been masquerading as someone who is actually open to engaging with diverse communities" and is "truly a racist."

"I was complicit with this White House deceiving this nation," she said. "I had a blind spot where it came to Donald Trump."


Associated Press writers Darlene Superville and Hope Yen contributed to this report from Washington.

6.1 earthquake hits northeast Alaska

Alaska News - Sun, 2018-08-12 08:31

Location of Sunday morning’s earthquake inside the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge in northeast Alaska.

An earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.1 rattled a remote region of Alaska's North Slope southeast of Prudhoe Bay Sunday morning.

It's an unusual location for an earthquake in Alaska.The quake was centered in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge about 52 miles southwest of Kaktovik, 85 miles southeast of Deadhorse and 104 miles north of Arctic Village according to the Alaska Earthquake Center.

It hit at 6:58 a.m. and occurred at a depth of about six miles, the center said.

Kaktovik, on the Beaufort Sea coast, is the nearest community. There were no reports of any damage.

Unusually large North Slope earthquake at 6:58am, near the Beaufort Sea coast. Right now we have the magnitude at 6.4. Location is very remote, so there are no known or expected human impacts. We'll share info as we put it together.

— AK Earthquake Center (@AKearthquake) August 12, 2018

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Utility Companies May Soon Provide Loans for Energy Upgrades - U.S. News & World Report

Legislative News - Sun, 2018-08-12 07:52

Utility Companies May Soon Provide Loans for Energy Upgrades
U.S. News & World Report
JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) — Utility companies are looking at offering their customers loans for energy-efficiency upgrades and renewable energy systems that would be paid back through their monthly utility bills. The lending system called "on-bill financing ...

and more »Google News

Mix of legislators and veterans compete to be Republican lieutenant governor candidate - KTOO

Legislative News - Sun, 2018-08-12 04:00


Mix of legislators and veterans compete to be Republican lieutenant governor candidate
Sharon Jackson also served in the military, and her position with the U.S. Army brought her to Alaska. She also has worked for the National Federation of Independent Business and in constituent relations for U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan. She said her energy ...

Bartlett Golden Bears pile up yards and points to race past Maui football team

Alaska News - Sun, 2018-08-12 03:37

The Bartlett Golden Bears delivered a Hawaiian punch Saturday night in Maui, beating H.P. Baldwin High School 74-55.

Three running backs rushed for more than 200 yards apiece to lead Alaska's Division I defending state champs to a decisive victory in Wailuka, Hawaii.

Hunter Cargill rushed for 275 yards on 18 carries, Tsugi Fudge had 246 on 14 and Elijah Lear had 203 on 22. Kahn Mavaega and Demario Moore combined for another 75 yards as the Golden Bears piled up nearly 800 rushing yards.

Bartlett established its running game early to grab a 14-0 lead in the first two minutes of the game. Lear raced 80 yards on Bartlett's first play of the game and Fudge dashed 27 yards into the end zone on Bartlett's second possession.

Bartlett led 20-0 before Baldwin scored and was up 20-8 after the first quarter. The Golden Bears built their lead to 42-23 at the half.

Fudge finished with five touchdowns on runs of 27, 57, 20, 55 and 9 yards. Cargill rushed for three touchdowns, Lear had two and Mavaega one.

Thinking outside the classroom: University students discover new opportunities through career and technical education

Alaska News - Sun, 2018-08-12 03:11

SPONSORED: Some people know exactly what they want to do after graduating from high school.

Stevie Malaski was not one of those people.

Malaski completed just one semester of college after she graduated from high school in 2009. After that, she moved from job to job for a long time. Anxiety kept her from performing well at work and made it hard for her to stay in a job for more than a few months. It wasn't until she landed a job working at a boarding kennel for dogs and cats that she finally found some stability, confidence — and joy in her work.

"I flourished in the right work environment," Malaski said. She knew she wanted to keep working with animals.

That led her to the University of Alaska Anchorage's Mat-Su College, where this summer she completed her occupational endorsement in veterinary assisting.

Malaski is one of the thousands of Alaskans who pursue job training each year through postsecondary career and technical education programs (or CTE for short). Along with veterinary assisting, University of Alaska CTE students can prepare for jobs ranging from pharmacy work and phlebotomy to welding, tribal justice, rural behavioral health, and fisheries technology.

These skill-based programs offer occupational endorsements that can be obtained in under 30 credit hours (an associate's degree, by comparison, requires a minimum of 60 credits) and prepare students to enter the workforce trained for a specific field.

"This is a program that is more designed to get people out in the field and working," said Dr. Susan Whiton, a Wasilla veterinarian who teaches in the vet assisting program at Mat-Su College. "They make good money, and they're happy with what they're doing."

Skilled jobs, in-demand workers

Although there isn't a lot of data that specifically tracks jobs connected with CTE training, there's no question that in general, more job training correlates to more opportunity.

"Almost all of the good jobs, almost all of the high-paying jobs, almost all of the high-growth jobs are going to require something beyond high school education," said Dan Robinson, chief of the Alaska Department of Labor's Labor Research and Analysis Section.

But that doesn't have to mean an academic degree, and with jobs in the trades now facing labor shortages, even Congress has gotten involved; the U.S. House of Representatives last month passed a bipartisan bill promoting career and technical education.

While Robinson stressed that a bachelor's degree correlates to higher earnings over time, he said there's no doubt that workers who can do jobs that require skilled training — but not necessarily a college degree — are in high demand.

"If you think you're ready for the working world when you're done with high school — you're not," Robinson said. "Earnings are low. Unemployment rates are high. Every level of additional education you get creates a lot more earnings."

CTE programs offer something of a happy medium for students, providing valuable skills and certifications in less time and at significantly lower cost than a degree program.

A CTE program on its own can provide a foundation for a great career, or it can be the first step on a longer journey. Someone who wants to work in health care, for example, might start out by getting an occupational endorsement and working in the field for a while.

"A lot of people who do that get lit up by that work, and they become an RN or a nurse practitioner," Robinson said. "You're not choosing this fork in the road; you're choosing to continue your education."

To help make occupational endorsements more accessible and help get more people into skilled jobs in growing industries, this fall the University of Alaska will reduce tuition for 50 CTE programs and 305 courses.

The 25 percent discount will make it more affordable for Alaskans to earn certifications in fields like health care information, supply chain operations — and some fields that are uniquely Alaskan.

University of Alaska Fairbanks students, for example, can earn a Rural Human Services endorsement that balances traditional knowledge with modern medical practices and is designed to meet job requirements for Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium behavioral health aide positions. Most of those students go on to complete a two-year Rural Human Services certificate, according to Program Head Diane McEachern.

At the University of Alaska Southeast Sitka campus, Fisheries Technology students can opt to take select courses in an "off the grid" format, with course materials provided on a waterproof, go-anywhere iPad, letting them complete classwork remotely, whenever and wherever they choose. The fisheries endorsement, which was designed with input from the fishing industry, can be completed in as little as a single semester, said Program Director Reid Brewer.

Hands-on training, more opportunity

The 21-credit vet assisting program at Mat-Su College provides students with a foundation in the nitty-gritty of vet clinic life, Whiton said. They start off with the gross stuff — blood and things that stink — then learn anatomy and physiology, animal behavior, and best practices for animal care, cleaning and handling. Most critically, the program includes 135 hours of practicum, for which students are placed with local veterinarians.

(c)Ambience Photography

"This program gets you into the clinic," Whiton said. "That relationship is really important. We need the clinics to provide our students with that real-world experience."

The mean hourly wage for a veterinary assistant in Alaska is $15, according to the Department of Labor and Workforce Development, and at the high end it's closer to $19 or $20. That's better than the majority of jobs in retail, food service and hospitality, and with a rosier employment outlook than many other industries. The endorsement is versatile, too, Whiton added; it's helpful for someone who wants to work in any role at a vet clinic, including as a receptionist or office manager.

That's a possibility being considered by one of Whiton's students, Mercedes Houlton. Like Malaski, Houlton started the vet assisting program in the fall of 2017 and will finish at the end of the summer term. At the same time, Houlton is pursuing an associate's degree in business management at Mat-Su College.

"I think having a business degree will give me an extra step up in my career in veterinary medicine by understanding not only the medical side of it, but also the management side of it," Houlton explained.

Houlton has been working on her practicum at Wasilla Veterinary Clinic, which she said has been her favorite part of the program.

"I learn much better in a hands-on atmosphere," Houlton said. "I think there's a big difference between learning something in a book and actually doing it with a live animal."

'Now I have the confidence to set new goals'

With completion of her occupational endorsement on the horizon, Malaski was ready to reflect on the ways her life has changed in just a year of study.

"I was hesitant at first about attending school at all because it had been so long since I was in school," she said. "I was worried and had self-doubt, but when I reviewed the costs for the program I felt better about the decision. I felt like some of the weight of my worries was lifted from my shoulders."

Even though financial aid helped offset her costs, like many OE students, Malaski had to balance schoolwork with "real world" responsibilities.

"It was hard to make time to do some extra studying in between working at Lowe's as a cashier part-time and moving into a new house," she said.

The extra studying was a must when it came to passing her anatomy and physiology course — but it paid off. For Malaski, success in her CTE program has been a source of accomplishment and pride.

"I'm proud of myself taking that jump and applying to go to college, setting goals and accomplishing them," she said. "Now I have the confidence to set new goals professionally for myself and continue learning and growing."

Beginning fall semester 2018, the University of Alaska will reduce tuition rates by 25 percent in selected Career and Technical Education (CTE) programs. Click here to learn more about CTE and the programs available.

This article was produced by the creative services department of the Anchorage Daily News in collaboration with University of Alaska. The ADN newsroom was not involved in its production.

Inked Alaskans: Tattoo event connects artists and customers

Alaska News - Sat, 2018-08-11 19:31

Tattoo artist Bryan Wright works with a client.  (Marc Lester / ADN)

The Dena'ina Civic and Convention Center buzzed with the sound of tattoo guns Saturday. It was second day of the three-day Ink Masters Tattoo Show. Co-host Theresa Bae said the event consisted of 74 booths totaling about 140 artists. "It's like one big tattoo shop," Bae said.

All but about 15 of the tattoo businesses represented traveled here from Outside to participate, giving customers access to artists they might not otherwise be able to reach, Bae said. Artists set their own prices and schedules, and on midday Saturday most were busy working with customers. Bae said the event was also a chance for aspiring tattoo artists to meet and collaborate with other professionals.

The tattoo show continues Sunday, Aug. 12 at the Dena'ina Center, from 11 a.m. to 9 p.m. Anchorage tattoo business SDI Tattoos co-hosted the event.

Austin Pyle, of Anchorage, gets a tattoo from Danielle White of Primal Instinct Tattoo.  (Marc Lester / ADN)
Maurice Williams of Anchorage works with tattoo artist Beth Maseuli of Southside Tattoo. (Marc Lester / ADN)
Courtney Fremont, of Wasilla, is tattooed by Laura Craver of Anchorage. (Marc Lester / ADN)
Horses are tattooed across the back of Jake Nelson, of Fairbanks. The work was done by Rickey Moxey of Liberty Tattoo. (Marc Lester / ADN)
Line work of Jimi Hendrix is applied to a customer’s arm by tattoo artist Kevin Caron of Sin Inc. Tattoo. (Marc Lester / ADN)
Alicia Adachi is tattooed by Alex Truxillo. (Marc Lester / ADN)
Alan Angeles, of Aspired Ink, tattoos LaDarius Anthony.  (Marc Lester / ADN)
Beth Maseuli of Southside Tattoo prepares to work on Maurice Williams of Anchorage.  (Marc Lester / ADN)
Tattoo artist Emily Rodkey, of Juneau, works on Gabby Anderson of Anchorage. (Marc Lester / ADN)

Alaska football: Week 1 scores

Alaska News - Sat, 2018-08-11 19:21

Friday's games

Colony 27, South 26
Eagle River 42, Houston 14
East 47, Chugiak 0
Ketchikan 49, Redington 14
Kodiak 56, Homer 15
West 18, Soldotna 13
West Valley 40, Service 35

Saturday's games

Barrow 40, Nikiski 7
Dimond 35 Wasilla 21
Lathrop 49, Kenai 21
Monroe 27, Seward 12
Palmer 31, Juneau 8
Eielson at North Pole, late

Bartlett at Baldwin (Maui), late

Political sign enforcement justified

Alaska News - Sat, 2018-08-11 19:07

Political signs that were removed by the Alaska Department of Transportation sit in a DOT complex in Anchorage on Thursday, Aug. 9, 2018. The signs were removed because they were illegally placed along road rights-of-way and posed a safety concern. (Loren Holmes / ADN)

Understanding the wisdom of a recent Department of Transportation enforcement action removing illegal campaign signs from road rights of way is as easy as taking a drive across town. As the Aug. 21 primary election approaches, signs are sprouting alongside Southcentral roads like bird vetch. And although they're not as difficult to remove as invasive weeds, the signs are considerably worse about cluttering the visual landscape — and sometimes dangerously obstructing drivers' view.

Alaska has a particularly restrictive set of laws that govern advertising on or near the roadway. A voter initiative passed in 1998 set severe limits on campaign signs and other billboards. As DOT officials remind campaigns in a statement issued each year, "Alaska laws apply to signs on public or commercial property either within 660 feet of the state's public right of way or beyond 660 feet and legible from the main traveled way. These signs may be removed by the state at the expense of the property owner."

It's rare, however, for the law to be enforced, and campaigns and property owners flagrantly flout the restrictions, placing signs the size of a mattress or larger well within the right of way on major thoroughfares. Sometimes this is merely an annoyance for drivers who dislike seeing ads during their commute, but in some cases, large signs near intersections or access to businesses can impede drivers' ability to see oncoming traffic or other cars about to enter the roadway. Typically, the only signs removed by DOT are ones about which they receive many complaints, and even then, tight budgets mean quite a few problem signs will remain. Too often, those providing and placing the signs exploit that lack of enforcement.

This isn't to say that the law should always be enforced to the letter; indeed, few laws are. But in its crackdown on illegal signs thus far, DOT officials haven't flagged every sign legible from the roadway, as they could. Instead, they have wisely opted to focus on ones that are obvious offenders and those that pose potential hazards, much as state troopers don't try to pull over every speeding driver, only those most likely to present safety hazards. What's more, although DOT has the option of performing the removals at property owners' expense, they have opted instead to use their own funds. So far, they estimate a cost of $3,600 for sign removals. If one fender-bender is prevented, the expense of sign removal will have been more than justified.

There has been predictable grousing from campaigns whose signs have been removed, and even allegations that Gov. Bill Walker has orchestrated the sign removal campaign to disadvantage his opponents. Mudslinging is par for the course during campaign season, but these attacks don't hold water. It's not as though Walker's campaign somehow benefits unduly from everyone having to play by the same rules. And from a practical perspective, arguing that signs should be placed more directly in drivers' field of vision probably isn't politically wise for campaigns — the voters, after all, were the ones who overwhelmingly approved the sign ban in the first place.

There's no need for stringent sign enforcement that unfairly restricts Alaskans' rights to engage in political speech. But the DOT sign removal campaign has so far balanced the right to campaign for candidates with Alaskans' rights to get around Anchorage safely and not be unduly barraged by billboard-style signs close to the road. Who can take issue with that?

Huge comeback puts Dimond back in the win column

Alaska News - Sat, 2018-08-11 19:06

Colton Lindquist of Wasilla upends Dimond ballcarrier Gio Young during Saturday’s game at Dimond Alumni Field. (Bob Hallinen / ADN)

The big news of the weekend was West's 18-13 victory over Soldotna that ended the Stars' state-record 59-game winning streak.

But that wasn't the only Alaska football streak that ended.

The Dimond Lynx staged a huge comeback to defeat Wasilla 35-21 and end a seven-game losing streak Saturday afternoon at Dimond Alumni Field.

Dimond trailed 21-0 before seizing control of the game by scoring 35 unanswered points.

Reginald Drummond of Wasilla gains some ground as Jaili Rescober of Dimond gets a hand on him at Dimond High School in Anchorage, AK on Saturday, Aug. 11, 2018. Dimond High defeated Wasilla High 35-21 in their opening football game of the season. (Bob Hallinen / ADN)

A touchdown with 95 seconds left in the first half put the Lynx on top 22-21, and they held the Warriors scoreless the rest of the way.

"Coming out of the locker room the coaches told us no matter what happens, we're a family," junior quarterback Riley Whetten said. "We knew if we all stuck in there, we could do it."

Whetten threw two touchdown passes, both to Dylan Tibbets. Gio Young rushed for two touchdowns and R.J. Cavazos ran for one.
The victory came in Bernardo Otero's debut as Dimond's head coach.

"The coming back tells us we have a lot more pride than maybe we had in the past," he said, "and that we're mentally disciplined."

A pass to Dimond’s RJ Cavazos is just out of reach as Riley Fuller of Wasilla defends. (Bob Hallinen / ADN)

Man who authorities say took airliner and crashed was a standout athlete in Alaska

Alaska News - Sat, 2018-08-11 18:52

Richard “Beebo” Russell (Screenshot from YouTube)

WASILLA — The man authorities say stole a Horizon Air plane from Seattle-Tacoma International Airport and and later crashed it was a gregarious, outgoing star athlete at Wasilla High School remembered as "a great kid" by those who knew him.

"Absolutely the kind of kid you want on your team," said Wasilla High track and field coach Gary Howell.

Richard "Beebo" Russell graduated from Wasilla High School in 2008 after a standout career as a running back, wrestler and thrower. During his senior year of high school, Russell placed fifth in the discus at the 2008 ASAA/Alaska State Track and Field Championships, was fourth at 215 pounds at the state wrestling tournament and ran for six touchdowns as a fullback on the school's football team.

After graduating from Wasilla in 2008, he went on to play at least one season of football at Valley City State University in Valley City, North Dakota.

Pictures of Richard “Beebo” Russell from the 2008 Wasilla High School yearbook. (Bob Hallinen / ADN)

[Man who took Horizon Air plane from Sea-Tac was quiet and well liked, says former co-worker]

Russell appears to have settled in the Pacific Northwest, married and eventually landed a job with Horizon Air, according to news reports and his and others' social media postings. He wrote on his blog that he met his wife in Coos Bay, Oregon; they operated a bakery together and eventually moved to Washington state south of Seattle. He wrote about using Horizon travel benefits to visit Alaska, and posted pictures from here and other destinations around the world.

On Saturday, Russell's family released a letter to news media that said, in part, "It may seem difficult for those watching at home to believe, but Beebo was a warm, compassionate man. It is impossible to encompass who he was in a press release. He was a faithful husband, a loving son, and a good friend. …This is a complete shock to us."

Wasilla wrestling coach Shawn Hayes said his reaction was "surprise" when he heard the news about his former wrestler. Hayes said Russell was "a good kid who worked hard" while a member of the Wasilla wrestling program.

"He was always respectful, no signs of what happened, that's for sure," Hayes said.

Howell echoed Hayes' reaction.

"Total shock," Howell said Saturday, hours after learning of Russell's death. "The kid I knew, he wouldn't do that."

Howell said he first took notice of Russell long before the big, fast athlete went out for the track team.

"He had that energy, that vibrance," Howell said Saturday. "He was that kid you high-five in the hallway even if you don't know him."

Howell said he remembered Russell as a natural leader who wrote people's names and weight-lifting accomplishments on weight belts in the school's weight room as motivation.

"Still to this day, you go into the Wasilla High gym, there's a weight belt that says Beebo," Howell said.

[Seattle plane heist, fatal crash show gaps in security]

Russell's sister, Mary, also attended Wasilla High, and Howell said the two were extremely close.

"I can't even imagine what she's going through," he said.

Howell said he hopes people remember the Russell he knew — a "funny, great kid" who always had a smile and a joke.

"Everybody wanted to be around Beebo," he said.

As for why Russell chose to steal a plane and end his own life, Howell was at a loss for words.

"There's just no explanation."

Resources: Contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline for 24-hour, confidential assistance if you or someone you know needs help: 1-800-273-TALK (8255), suicidepreventionlifeline.org.

Stolen Horizon Air plane ‘a serious breach,’ raises questions about airport security

Alaska News - Sat, 2018-08-11 18:38

Fire engines board a ferry at Steilacoom, Wash., bound for the site of a plane crash of a stolen plane on an island nearby on August 10, 2018. (Dean Rutz/Seattle Times/TNS)

SEATTLE — He was a 29-year-old grounds crew member, fully credentialed to be inside secure areas and certified to tow aircraft around the tarmac. But federal investigators, Sea-Tac officials and his employer are scrambling to figure out how Richard Russell managed to steal a 76-passenger Horizon Air turboprop plane, take off from one of the busiest airports in the country and fly it around the south Puget Sound area before a fiery twilight crash Friday evening.

The answers to these questions could eventually alter security procedures not only at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport but at other airports around the country.

"Security is something that is taken very very seriously, and this clearly was a serious breach," said Michael Huerta, who until January of this year served as administrator of the Federal Aviation Administration, or FAA. "It won't surprise me if steps are taken to change protocol or put additional steps in place … The insider threat is something that is taken seriously."

[Richard 'Beebo' Russell was standout athlete at Wasilla High]

The FBI is leading the investigation into the takeoff and crash, working with the National Transportation Safety Board, the FAA, the airlines, the Port of Seattle, which operates the airport, and state and local authorities. Investigators had not released Russell's name as of Saturday afternoon, but several sources, including a law-enforcement official, identified him to The Seattle Times.

Russell's roughly 75-minute flight drew spectators on the ground, lit up social media, and caused F-15s to be scrambled from an air base in Portland as 75 flights were delayed for up to two hours at Sea-Tac. Law-enforcement officials have said they don't believe terrorism was involved, and nothing from Russell's dialogue with air traffic control during the flight would suggest otherwise. That dialogue, captured in publicly released audio recordings, also offers little evidence of motive as Russell tells an air traffic controller he just circled Mount Rainier, calling it "beautiful," and hoped to have enough gas to go the Olympic Mountains.

While the air traffic controller tries to convince him to land at Joint Base Lewis-McChord or in the water, Russell talks of wanting to do a barrel roll, "and if that goes good I'm just going to nose down and call it a night."

Air traffic control lost contact with the aircraft at 8:47 p.m. Friday and his flight ended on the heavily wooded 230-acre Ketron Island, which has a population of about 20, igniting a forest fire that was still smoking Saturday. No one on the ground was injured.

The insider threat is a difficult one to counter. Many of the protective measures involve using background checks, such as criminal screens conducted on airline ground crews such as baggage handlers and tow operators, to ensure that anyone inside a secure area does not pose a security risk. Although the employee was at the end of his shift — and had no purpose approaching the aircraft — he did have the right to be in the area where he made his heist, according to Brad Tilden, chief executive of Alaska Air Group, the parent company of Horizon.

Alaska Air Group spokeswoman Bobbie Egan introduced Alaska president and CEO Brad Tilden, Horizon Air president and CEO Gary Beck, Port of Seattle operations director Mike Ehl and FBI special-agent-in-charge Jay Tabb at a news conference at Sea-Tac International Airport on Saturday, Aug. 11, 2018. (Daniel Beekman/Seattle Times/TNS)

FAA regulations require pilots to undergo periodic physical examinations that may include questions about their psychological condition. Additionally, if the FAA receives information from another source about a mental-health issue, the agency may request a psychological evaluation. But no such evaluations are required for grounds-crew members.

[Man who took Horizon Air plane from Sea-Tac was quiet and well liked, says former co-worker]

The investigation into the aircraft theft will likely include a more detailed look at the scope of the screenings conducted on airline employees who have access to the ramps and also their ability to enter grounded aircraft.

"We pride ourselves on being a leader in safety and we will be a leader on this issue," Tilden said at a news conference Saturday morning. "But we're less than 24 hours after the incident. It's far too early to say what additional procedures we might implement."

Seattle plane heist, fatal crash show gaps in security

Alaska News - Sat, 2018-08-11 17:07

Alaska Airlines planes sit on the tarmac at Sea-Tac International Airport Friday evening, Aug. 10, 2018, in SeaTac, Wash. An airline mechanic stole an Alaska Airlines plane without any passengers and took off from Sea-Tac International Airport in Washington state on Friday night before crashing near Ketron Island, officials said. (AP Photo/Elaine Thompson)

The 29-year-old hijacker was performing midair stunts over Puget Sound, an erratic flight pattern that seemed to mirror the loops and barrel rolls of his radio chatter.

He told the control tower he was "a broken guy" but a lot of people cared about him and he wanted to apologize. He asked the whereabouts of an orca whale and her dead calf. And he wondered – laughing – what would happen if he tried to do a "backflip" with the plane he had stolen from Seattle's main airport.

When the control tower urged him to attempt to land the empty, 76-seat Bombardier Q400 belonging to his employer, Horizon Air, the man – identified by a law enforcement official as Richard Russell – worried about harm to others on the ground. Better to take a nose dive, he said, "and call it a night."

The stunning heist of a large commercial airplane from a major U.S. airport Friday night took no other lives than the pilot's, but the incident has heightened worries about gaps in American aviation security, forcing questions about how Russell, a baggage handler and grounds crew member, could take control of the aircraft, get it in the air and fly it willy-nilly over a major U.S. metropolitan area for nearly an hour.

As he flew in loops and zigzags into the sunset with Air Force F-15s shadowing him, spectators on the ground followed him across the sky with their phones, thinking it was an air show.

[Man who took Horizon Air plane from Sea-Tac was quiet and well liked, says former co-worker]

Within minutes of the theft, the two F-15s were scrambled and were in the air, flying at supersonic speeds from their Portland air base to intercept the aircraft, according to the North American Aerospace Defense Command, which oversees airspace protection in North America.

The jets were armed but did not fire on the aircraft, said Air Force Capt. Cameron Hillier, a NORAD spokesman. Officials declined to describe the circumstances in which they would bring down an aircraft with a missile, citing operational security, but Hillier did say any decision would involve "a lot of collaboration" between pilots, commanders on the ground and others.

The F-15 pilots attempted to divert the aircraft toward the Pacific Ocean while maintaining radio communication with controllers and Russell. The jets flew close enough to make visual contact, Hillier said.

Russell eventually told controllers that fuel was low and an engine was failing. Then he plunged the aircraft into a wooded area on sparsely inhabited Kentron Island, 25 miles south of the Seattle-Tacoma International Airport, setting trees ablaze.

Federal officials released few details Saturday about the hijacking, but airline executives said Russell had been an employee since 2015, and he possessed security clearances to gain access to the plane. He was also familiar with the towing tractors that move aircraft on the tarmac. He used one to back the plane out of a maintenance area, then climbed into the cockpit and roared down the runway.

Brad Tilden, the CEO of Alaska Airlines, which owns Horizon Air, told reporters Saturday the incident "is going to push us to learn from this tragedy and make sure this does not happen again at Alaska or any other airline."

But he and other airline executives declined to say what measures they could take to prevent someone with security badges from doing it again.

Tilden said his industry operates on the principle of checking the backgrounds of employees, not locking down airplanes in secure areas.

"The doors to the airplanes are not keyed like a car," he said.

Congress is already seeking to tighten the screening of airport employees and may do so with more urgency now, said Mary Schiavo, the former inspector general of the U.S. Transportation Department.

The United States has approximately 900,000 aviation workers, according to the most recent federal data, and Schiavo said screening procedures are "pretty rudimentary."

While pilots undergo periodic medical exams, she noted, airline mechanics and ground crew members are checked on a much more limited basis that does not include mental health exams.

Though aircraft mechanics have broad access and routinely taxi planes along the tarmac, Schiavo said, ground crew members are not supposed to be allowed inside cockpits, which have locking doors. But she said those security procedures are not always observed, especially for smaller commuter aircraft such as the Bombardier Q400. "It can be a little more casual and a little loosey-goosey, especially if they are doing overnight maintenance," she said.

Authorities were quick to assure the public that Friday's incident was not viewed as an act of terrorism. But the apparent ease with which the Horizon employee stole the plane points to the challenge of stopping "inside threat" attacks.

Richard Bloom, an aviation security expert at Arizona's Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, said he wasn't aware of another incident in the United States in which a ground crew member managed to steal an airplane. Incidents of aviation workers attempting to aid terrorists or drug traffickers are far more common globally.

But setting up a comprehensive screening system to evaluate the mental health of aviation workers would be difficult, Bloom cautioned, and it would risk rejecting large numbers of workers who do not pose a danger.

"There are such significant challenges to preventing inappropriate security behavior," he said. "It's kind of surprising that these types of things don't happen more often."

A bipartisan House bill, approved last year, calls for more stringent standards in employee background checks and increased surveillance of secure areas at airports. A Senate version of the bill has yet to come up for a vote.

The bill followed a February 2017 House Homeland Security Committee report warning of vulnerabilities that could allow terrorists and criminals to get jobs as aviation workers. Concerns over mental health were not a focus of the report.

But those worries have increased in recent years, analysts say, particularly after the 2015 crash of a Germanwings flight, whose co-pilot deliberately steered the plane into a French mountainside, killing 144 passengers and five crew members.

The co-pilot, Andreas Lubitz, had been treated for depression and psychiatric problems but concealed the information from his employer. Once the flight was airborne, Lubitz locked his more senior pilot out of the cockpit.

Gary Beck, the CEO of Horizon Air, told reporters he didn't know whether Russell was trained as a pilot, but he called the flight "incredible."

At one point, an air traffic controller urged Russell to land at the airfield of a nearby military base, Joint Base Lewis-McChord.

"Oh man," Russell said, "Those guys will rough me up if I try and land there. I think I might mess something up there, too. I wouldn't want to do that."

Russell described his experience flying in video games and asked for the coordinates to the orca whale that has been pushing her dead calf through Washington state's coastal waters for nearly three weeks.

"You know, the mama orca with the baby," he said. "I want to go see that guy."

Resources: Contact the National Suicide Prevention Lifeline for 24-hour, confidential assistance if you or someone you know needs help: 1-800-273-TALK (8255), suicidepreventionlifeline.org.

– – –

The Washington Post's Devlin Barrett contributed to this report.

On the menu for northern snowshoe hares: Dirt

Alaska News - Sat, 2018-08-11 16:50

A snowshoe hare in Wiseman licks the drippings tray from Clutch Lounsbury’s grill. (Ned Rozell)

The evidence is in: Snowshoe hares near Wiseman eat lots of dirt.

"I have thousands and thousands of photos of hares eating soil in this one little spot," said Donna DiFolco, a biologist and cartographer with the National Park Service.

DiFolco has studied hares in the eastern portion of Gates of the Arctic National Park since 1997. That's when she started counting hare tracks near Wiseman as part of a lynx study.

A few years after that, the hares disappeared, as did the many creatures that eat them.

Since then, hares around Wiseman have started to boom, lynx have followed, and DiFolco, collaborating with UAF's Knut Kielland, now uses GPS collars and trail cams. That newish technology helps her confirm what researchers have seen in the lab and Wiseman residents have noticed at river banks: Snowshoe hares are engaging in geophagy, and, unlike the lynx that eat them, they are probably better off for it.

Geophagy is the word for a living creature eating soil. It's unusual for people, except for pregnant women in Africa who buy it at open-air markets, but many wild animals visit mineral licks and chomp away.

[Why only female mosquitoes bother us (and other facts about the insects Alaskans love to hate)]

Years ago, Wiseman resident and naturalist Jack Reakoff mentioned to DiFolco and UAF biologist Knut Kielland that hares were beating a winter path to an exposed bluff on the Hammond River.

Jack Reakoff of Wiseman. (Ned Rozell)

With Reakoff's help, the scientists have since mapped more than 40 mineral lick sites not far from Wiseman. DiFolco has deployed her trail cameras at a few of them.

The cameras confirmed that hares were indeed eating soil, something Suzanne Worker also found in a Fairbanks lab. Worker, a graduate student who worked with Kielland, created discs of soil she got from the Hammond River and offered them captive hares. She found that the ones that ate the soil seemed to eat more willow leaves and were able to maintain their weight better than those that didn't. Why? The compounds in dirt may help hares offset chemical defenses plants produce to make themselves bitter or otherwise unpleasant.

DiFolco has analyzed the area's soils and vegetation to find the chemicals within. The white powder visible on the Hammond bluffs is a precipitate that contains almost pure magnesium. The bluff soil also has calcium and sodium. Eating it is like taking mineral supplement pills.

"It's better than what they get with vegetation," DiFolco said.

Hares that eat a lot of dirt might be more lethargic than those that don't. Lynx that eat a lot of soil-eating hares can develop purple muscle tissue, Reakoff observed while trapping.

"Lynx feeding on geophagic hares (on the Hammond River) may be . . . ingesting a dietary supplement of magnesium," DiFolco wrote in a review paper.

Those lynx might accumulate a slight overdose of heavy metals in their systems, which can leave them skinnier and less healthy, even in times like this, when hares in the Wiseman area are near peak population numbers.

"(Wiseman resident) Heidi Schoppenhorst told me she saw 20 hares the other night on her drive home (from Coldfoot, 12 miles away)," DiFolco said.

Snowshoe hare population explosions in the Wiseman area may happen every 20 years rather than the 10-year peak seen in other areas, according to Reakoff.

"When the hares are up, we see everything," DiFolco said. "I never see hawk owls when the hares aren't around.

[This scientist has been tracking the peregrine falcon's recovery in Alaska over nearly 5 decades]

"Lynx were completely absent for a while," she said. "We saw a couple tracks in 2009 and '10, then trappers started to catch a few in 2014."

Kielland and graduate student Claire Montgomerie have been live-trapping lynx in the area and monitoring their movements as part of a project involving great-horned owls, lynx, and the animal that enables the ecosystem, the snowshoe hare.

Now that Wiseman-area hares are all over the place, DiFolco is glad she kept up with the study, even through the lean years. She now has a record of the important little creatures for the last 20-plus years and, even though she's got a lot more to learn, is satisfying her curiosity of long ago, when she wondered why an animal might eat dirt.

A snowshoe hare in Wiseman. (Ned Rozell)