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Yup'ik teachers from Bristol Bay reflect on Alaska Native Language Revitalization Institute - KDLG

Legislative News - Mon, 2018-07-16 14:12

KDLG

Yup'ik teachers from Bristol Bay reflect on Alaska Native Language Revitalization Institute
KDLG
This spring, the Alaska legislature asked the governor's office to declare a state of emergency for 20 Alaska Native languages. Two participants of an indigenous language workshop talked to KDLG about challenges of revitalizing language in Yup'ik ...

Tundra Suites Hotel Charged With Medicaid Fraud

Alaska News - Mon, 2018-07-16 14:04

The owner of Bethel’s Tundra Suites hotel was charged with Medicaid fraud in June 2018.(Photo by: Teresa Cotsirilos/KYUK)

The owner of Bethel's Tundra Suites hotel has been charged with Medicaid fraud.

When Medicaid recipients fly to Bethel for medical appointments, they pay for their food, hotel rooms, and cab rides with vouchers in lieu of payment. Local companies then use those vouchers to bill Medicaid for reimbursements.

Tundra Suites' owner, Chin S. Kim, 58, is accused of billing the government for Medicaid recipients who never actually stayed at his hotel. Alaska's Office of Special Prosecutions has also charged Tundra Suites employee Mi Ae Young, 56, in the alleged scheme.

According to charging documents filed with the court last month, Tundra Suites' Medicaid billing increased from an average of $4,000 a month to a high of $57,000 for December 2017. On several occasions, Kim and Young allegedly billed the government for more Medicaid recipients than there are rooms in their hotel.

Investigators claim that Mi Ae Young admitted to fraudulently billing Medicaid. According to the charging documents, Young says that she did it to help Kim when Tundra Suites started struggling financially. Kim allegedly didn't know about the scheme for months.

Kim and Young are each charged with medical assistance fraud and scheme to defraud, both of which are felonies. They were arraigned in Bethel last week and their next hearings are scheduled for July 23.

Guidelines for letters to the editor and opinion columns

Alaska News - Mon, 2018-07-16 13:56

iStock / Getty Images

The Anchorage Daily News seeks to publish a wide range of points of view and to be a town square of ideas on issues affecting Alaska and Alaskans.

Here's how you can participate:

Letters to the editor

Letters under 200 words have the best chance of being published — and those under 100 words have an even better chance. Letters must be signed and must include the writer's city of residence. Writers should disclose any personal or professional connections with the subjects of their letters. Letters must be original works. Avoid personal attacks. Letter writers are limited to one published letter per month.

Letters are edited for accuracy, clarity and length. If you're citing a fact or quote from a news source or elsewhere, include a link.

We generally don't publish open letters ("An open letter to Sen. Murkowski…"), though letters thanking someone for a good deed ("To the person who helped pull my car out of a snow drift…") are just fine.

Given the volume of letters we receive, we can publish only a selection. We strive for balance, broad interest, variety and timeliness. We do not screen letters based on any political point of view. Letters published reflect the overall volume received on any given issue.

Submit your letter here.

Commentary from the community

These are longer than letters and have a clear point of view. We ask writers to keep submissions between 500 and 600 words — shorter when possible and appropriate.

Commentaries should generally focus on Alaska issues, although we will consider pieces on timely national or international issues. We give preference to Alaska writers. Like letters, articles will be edited for accuracy, clarity and length. We ask that facts or quotes be cited with links wherever possible, both to enable fact-checking and to be transparent with readers when the piece is published online. Columns must be original works and we ask that commentaries be specific to the Daily News; that is, not submitted to several newspapers at once. Commentary writers are limited to one published piece per month.

Submissions should include a one-sentence biography and, if possible, a photo (in JPG format) of the author. Writers need to disclose any personal or professional connections with the subjects of their commentaries.

We do not generally pay for submissions. As a rule, we don't publish poetry or cartoons.

While commentaries often deal with public policy and political issues, we put a high value on columns that reflect everyday experiences of Alaskans, especially when they tell a wider story or intersect with timely issues or policies. We love publishing pieces with solutions to problems.

Given the volume of commentaries received, we cannot publish every submission. We aim for variety, balance, broad interest and timeliness. We publish more commentaries online than in print, so it's possible a submission will appear online only.

Think of readers. Get to your point quickly. Avoid broadsides and attacks. Stay on-point. We find that many longer commentaries are better expressed in letters.

Email submissions to commentary@adn.com. Include the topic in the subject line.

Have questions about letters or opinion columns? Email Editor David Hulen or Opinions Editor Tom Hewitt.

A note to candidates and campaigns

We will aim to provide a platform for candidates and their supporters on all sides, particularly those running for local and statewide office. The above guidelines apply, and we reserve the right not to publish any submission for any reason.

Candidate-written pieces: For state offices, starting on June 1 of the election year, ADN will consider publishing up to one commentary per month per candidate. Candidates for governor and lieutenant governor are considered separate candidates. Our strong preference is that commentaries be issue-focused and not a general 'Here's-why-I'm-running.' In general, we do not publish links to campaign literature in op-ed columns or letters to the editor.

Third-party endorsements: We'll publish no more than one per week for any candidate/ticket, and reserve the right not to publish submissions. Submissions must be original. We'll make an effort to provide balance in space given to the respective campaigns.

Letters to the editor: There's no limit on letters to the editor beyond our standard one-per-month-per-person limit, but we do not have space to publish all letters we receive. What we publish will be a representative sampling of what we receive.

Candidate endorsements: The ADN will consider endorsing candidates or positions on ballot measures that in the judgment of the Editorial Board have been deemed to be in the best interest of the state or city. Guests are invited to editorial board meetings and will be scheduled on an first-come, first-served basis with priority given to statewide elections and ballot initiatives. Candidates for statewide election will be allowed one ed-board meeting per election (once before the primary, once before the general).  All other candidates are only eligible for one meeting. For more info, please contact Opinions Editor Tom Hewitt.

Judge temporarily halts deportation of reunified families

Alaska News - Mon, 2018-07-16 13:50

Allison, 6, and her mother Cindy Madrid share a moment during a news conference, Friday, July 13, 2018, in Houston. The press conference, the mother and daughter spoke about the month and one day they were separated under the President Donald Trump administration immigration policy that has separated families attempting to claim asylum in the United States. (Marie D. De Jes's/Houston Chronicle via AP) (Marie D. De Jes's/)

SAN DIEGO — A federal judge on Monday ordered a temporary halt to deportations of immigrant families reunited after being separated at the border, as the Trump administration races to meet a July 26 deadline for putting thousands of children back in their parents' arms.

U.S. District Judge Dana Sabraw imposed a delay of at least a week after a request from the American Civil Liberties Union, which cited "persistent and increasing rumors ... that mass deportations may be carried out imminently and immediately upon reunification."

Justice Department attorney Scott Stewart opposed the delay but did not address the rumors in court.

The ACLU requested that parents have at least one week to decide whether to pursue asylum in the U.S. after they are reunited with their children. The judge held off on deciding that issue until the government outlines its objections in writing by next Monday.

ACLU attorney Lee Gelernt told reporters that he was "extremely pleased" by the halt and that parents need time to think over with their children and advisers whether to seek asylum.

"It's hard to imagine a more profound or momentous decision," he said.

The hearing in San Diego occurred as the government accelerated reunifications at eight unidentified U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement locations. The families are scattered around the country, the adults at immigration detention centers, the children at shelters overseen by the government.

Annunciation House, a shelter in El Paso, said the government has begun transporting children in a "tremendous amount of airline flights" to El Paso and elsewhere. Director Ruben Garcia said he is preparing to take in as many as 100 reunified families a day.

Late last month, Sabraw ordered the government to reunite the thousands of children and parents who were forcibly separated at the border by the Trump administration this spring. He set a deadline of July 10 for children under 5 and gave the government until July 26 to reunite more than 2,500 youngsters ages 5 to 17.

On Monday, the judge commended the government for a plan submitted over the weekend to reunify the older children. The plan calls for DNA testing and other screening measures only if red flags are raised during background checks.

Jonathan White of the Office of Refugee Resettlement, who is overseeing the government's effort, assured the judge that some reunifications of older children already occurred, and "it is our intent to reunify children promptly." He went into detail on how the process was working.

The judge praised White's testimony, saying, "What is in place is a great start to making a large number of reunifications happen very, very quickly."

Justice Department attorneys also assured Sabraw the children were well cared for, offering him a visit to a shelter if he wanted. The judge replied that the main concern wasn't whether the children were well cared for.

"Obviously the concern that has been at issue has been the passage of time," he said. "No matter how nice the environment is, it's the act of separation from a parent, particularly with young children, that matters."

Sabraw has scheduled three more hearings over the next two weeks to ensure compliance with his order.

Also Monday, advocates said in federal court in Los Angeles that immigrant children in government custody are being given poor food, kept in unsanitary conditions and face insults and threats.

The allegations came amid a long-running effort by attorneys to have a court-appointed monitor oversee the U.S. government's compliance with a decades-old settlement governing the treatment of immigrant children caught on the border.

Attorneys interviewed immigrant parents and children in June and July about their experiences in Border Patrol facilities, family detention and a youth shelter. They described much of the testimony as "shocking and atrocious."

Families described meals of frozen sandwiches and spoiled food, overflowing toilets and guards yelling at them and kicking them while they slept. Children said they were hungry and scared when their parents were taken away.

Tuluksak tribal council opposes Donlin mine

Alaska News - Mon, 2018-07-16 13:46

A final environmental impact statement for the Donlin gold mine is nearing release after five years of work. (Donlin Gold)

Another tribe in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta has come out against the proposed Donlin Gold mine. The Tuluksak Native Village Council passed a resolution on July 5 opposing the mine, which would be one of the biggest in the world if developed.

[Donlin gold mine brings hope of jobs — and fear of destruction]

Middy Peter, the village council president, says the tribe passed the resolution because of the number of cancer deaths in the village. He says the health risks are too high to support Donlin.

"We passed the resolution due to our elders having cancers, and now we're finding out more on these elders having dementia in our villages," Peter said.

The lower Kuskokwim River village is about 120 miles downriver from the proposed mine site. Peter also said the mine would disrupt subsistence, which the majority of Y-K Delta residents practice.

"It would most significantly dwindle our fish habitat," Peter said.

The resolution passed unanimously, and Village Council Vice President Waska Fly read it during the contentious annual meeting of the Calista Regional Native Corp. last week in Bethel.

The Yukon-Kuskokwim Health Center also passed a resolution against the Donlin mine two years ago. They cited potential health risks and raised concerns about people leaving or refusing to come to the region because of fears over potential contamination.

[Final Donlin mine environmental statement released, but doesn't include agency preference]

Tuluksak is the first tribe in the region to formally come out against Donlin since the Bethel ONC tribe marched against the mine in June.

Anchorage woman missing in Delta Junction

Alaska News - Mon, 2018-07-16 13:32

Update noon Thursday:

Alaska State Troopers said an Anchorage woman missing in Delta Junction since Saturday was found by a camper.

Tatyana Ionashku, 23, is safe and with her family after a man camping on the Gerstle River found her. He gave her food, warmed her up and returned her to her family, the agency said in a public notice.

Original story:

An Anchorage woman is missing in Delta Junction after she reportedly hit a parked car early Saturday morning and then ran away when confronted by the vehicle owner, Alaska State Troopers said.


Tatyana Ionashku was reported missing July 1, 2018. (Alaska State Troopers)

Tatyana Ionashku, 23, of Anchorage, was reported missing on Sunday. Family reported to troopers that she hadn't been seen for a few days, and that she had missed work.

Around 3:30 a.m. Saturday morning, Ionashku was driving in the Interior Alaska community of Delta. She was near the intersection of Souhrada and Remington Road when she hit a parked car, troopers said.

The car owner came out of his house and confronted Ionashku, troopers said.

Ionashku reportedly took off her high heeled shoes and ran away, taking her cell phone with her, but leaving her vehicle and purse, said trooper spokesperson Megan Peters.

The man figured out that he knew Ionashku's family, and contacted them to say that her car was at his home, Peters said.

Troopers and PAWS Search and Rescue looked for Ionashku in the surrounding area, Peters said. She may have been picked up by a passing motorist, troopers said.

Anyone with information about Ionashku's whereabouts is asked to called troopers in Delta at 907-895-4800.


Tatyana Ionashku was reported missing July 1, 2018. (Alaska State Troopers)

Correction: An earlier version of this story misspelled Remington Road, where Ionashku was seen on June 30.

Why I reduced the Permanent Fund dividend

Alaska News - Mon, 2018-07-16 13:26

Alaska Gov. Bill Walker addresses a joint session of the state Legislature for his annual State of the State speech on Thursday, Jan. 18, 2018 at the state Capitol in Juneau.In the background are Senate President Pete Kelly, left, a Republican from Fairbanks, and House Speaker Bryce Edgmon, right, a Democrat from Dillingham. (Klas Stolpe)

Why did I reduce the Permanent Fund dividend in 2016?

The decision to reduce the PFD in 2016 in response to Alaska's fiscal crisis will be one of the defining issues of this election. Our opponents on both the left and the right have criticized this decision.

Some Alaskans believe that it was a terrible decision that we never should have considered, that this decision was unnecessary, that if we had cut more out of state government, we could have avoided making any changes to the way we manage the Alaska Permanent Fund.

Other Alaskans believe that restructuring the Permanent Fund was an essential step to creating a long-term fiscal plan and to making sure that the Permanent Fund and the dividend could continue to grow for future generations.

One of the main reasons I ran four years ago was because Alaska was running a $1.6 billion deficit and nobody was talking about it. This gap between our spending and what we were bringing in could have been addressed by budget cuts alone, without a PFD reduction or any new revenue.

However, days after we were elected, the price of oil collapsed, reducing state revenues by more than 80 percent. Alaska went from having the largest savings account in the country to the largest budget deficit of any state in the country — $3.7 billion — overnight.

In our first year, before we looked at any changes to the fund, we went to work to reduce the state budget. We did not want to propose changes before we had cut everything we felt we could. That meant closing more than 40 state facilities. It meant a loss of 77 positions at the Department of Public Safety alone (and that was the department with one of the smallest reductions). It meant reducing the state spending by 44 percent, or $1.7 billion, from 2013.

Ultimately, we reduced the budget to 2007 levels, with state employment at its lowest level in 15 years.

Additional cuts would mean hurting our schools. Additional cuts would mean cutting the people that keep our roads and airports running. Additional cuts would mean cutting our ability to fund troopers, prosecutors and our response to the opioid epidemic. Additional cuts would mean cutting the things that keep businesses and workers invested in Alaska. Additional cuts would mean eliminating our state share of federal grants that match our share up to 10 times over. We will continue to look for ways to reduce the budget and spend our money smarter.

But we are literally at the point where large additional cuts could cost us more money then they would save.

That's why, while you see both of our opponents advocating for "additional cuts," you won't see them specify where those cuts should go.

Alaskans knew that we could not cut our way out of the fiscal crisis we were in. The alternative was either make some changes, or just completely spend down our savings.

And that's what the Legislature chose to do. Rather than risk the political cost of change, the Legislature spent down $14 billion in savings. That's $14 billion that we will never have back to invest in our schools, infrastructure, and public safety.

We were behaving like a guy who loses his job and decides to spend down all his family's savings before looking for a new job. We were about to lose the house.

At the rate the Legislature was spending down our savings, the Permanent Fund itself was at risk. Once we spent our savings, the only thing left to meet our debts would be the Permanent Fund earnings account, from which the dividend itself is paid out each year. That put the dividend at risk of going away. Forever.

I reduced the PFD in 2016 because the Legislature had made it clear that they were not willing to be the first to take any action that would result in less money going out to Alaskans. I had legislators tell me privately: "We're going to make you do what we should be doing."

I reduced the PFD in 2016 in order to leave that money in the fund, so that it could continue to earn interest and grow the fund, strengthening Alaska's greatest asset. Every dollar that I vetoed from the PFD stayed in the fund.

I reduced the PFD in 2016 so that the Legislature would find the courage to pass a fiscal plan compromise. That compromise has provided the stability that businesses need to invest in Alaska. It has reduced our budget deficit by 80 percent.

It has allowed us to forward fund education rather than pink-slipping our teachers at the end of every school year. It has allowed us to bring on badly needed prosecutors and troopers in the fight against opioids.

Ultimately, I believe that the decision to restructure the Permanent Fund will allow both the Permanent Fund and the dividend to grow long-term. That's what we saw this year, with the PFD increasing to $1,600, well above the historic average.

The decision to reduce the PFD was the hardest decision I've ever made. It affected many Alaskans, no question about it. Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott and I believed that the alternative would hurt much worse, by endangering the future of the Permanent Fund and the dividend long-term.

I didn't make my decision because it was "politically correct." My job as governor isn't to be politically correct. My job is to put Alaska on the strongest path possible for the future.

If you have questions, let us know and we'll try to answer them. I can't promise that you will always like the decisions I make as your governor. But I can promise you that I will always tell you the truth and that I will always put Alaska's future first.

Bill Walker is the eleventh governor of Alaska. He is running for reelection as an independent.

Editor's note: This column, as it was originally published online, contained a link to campaign literature that has since been removed. It was taken offline while the ADN's editorial board drafted a blanket policy to deal with campaign op-ed columns. It was not taken offline because of any fault with the piece or linked material, and the link has been removed only because the editorial board opted to not allow links to campaign material in any campaign's op-ed submissions. 

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.

New UAF study ranks marine mammals’ vulnerability to ship traffic in Alaska’s Arctic waters

Alaska News - Mon, 2018-07-16 13:21

Bowhead whales rise to the surface while feeding. Among Alaska’s marine mammals, bowheads are the most vulnerable to increased shipping traffic in the Arctic, a new study concluded. (Photo by Cynthia Christman, National Marine Fisheries Service)

As seasonal Arctic ship traffic increases, bowhead whales are the marine mammals most vulnerable to potential disruption from more vessels in Alaska waters, according to a new study.

The study, from researchers at the University of Alaska Fairbanks and the University of Washington, is the first to assess the vulnerability of marine mammal species "that could encounter more vessels as the ice-free season expands in Arctic seas," according to a UAF blog post.

The study was published this month in the Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences journal. In the Arctic overall, researchers found that narwhals are most vulnerable to disruption.

[Port of Nome sees big growth as traversing the Arctic gets easier]

Ship traffic in Arctic waters — from tourism and freight — is projected to increase as sea ice recedes due to climate change, the blog post said.

"Even going right over the North Pole may be passable within a matter of decades," Donna Hauser, a UAF researcher who worked on the study, said on the university's website. "It raises questions of how to allow economic development while also protecting Arctic marine species."


This map shows the September ranges of all Arctic marine mammal species. Red represents areas where mammal populations are highly vulnerable to ship traffic, while blue indicates areas of low vulnerability. Mammal ranges that don’t overlap with sea routes are shown in light gray. (Image courtesy of Donna Hauser / UAF)

Because of their "surface-oriented behavior," size and speed, "bowhead whales are considered more sensitive to vessel strikes" than other Arctic marine mammals, the blog said. After bowheads, walruses — some of which live along shipping routes — and beluga whales would be the marine mammals most at risk for disruption in Alaska because of this traffic, the study found.

[Bowhead whales, dwellers of icy seas, enjoy steady growth off Alaska in the age of climate change]

Polar bears are the least vulnerable to vessel traffic, researchers found, because they're usually on land in September when Arctic seas have the most open water. They also don't rely on underwater sound to communicate and navigate, the post said.

"Shipping in other seasons may have a greater impact on the species, and previous research suggests sea ice loss will affect polar bears in other ways," the blog said.

There are also two areas the study found where animals and ships are most likely to cross paths and have a higher risk of conflict. One is the Bering Strait, and the other is Lancaster Sound in the Canadian territory of Nunavut.

[This luxury cruise ship will soon sail through the Arctic. Here's what that means for Alaska.]

"These species are critical traditional resources for coastal Alaska communities," Hauser said in the post. "Increased vessel traffic in this region is just one of many significant recent changes that have the potential to impact marine mammals but also the people that rely on them."

The potential for more marine traffic in Arctic waters is already showing up in Alaska. The Port of Nome, for instance, in recent years saw an uptick in both commercial and recreational vessels as sea ice melts.

In 2016, a luxury cruise ship called Crystal Serenity made its way through the Northwest Passage on an Arctic route from Alaska to New York.

[As a luxury cruise ship comes to town, Nome confronts its future]

Trump’s defense of Russia prompts outrage from some Republicans

Alaska News - Mon, 2018-07-16 12:43

U.S. President Donald Trump and Vladimir Putin, Russia's president at a news conference in Helsinki, Finland, on Monday. (Bloomberg photo by Chris Ratcliffe) (Chris Ratcliffe/)

President Donald Trump’s remarks at an extraordinary joint news conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin on Monday prompted sharp rebukes from several Republican lawmakers - many of whom are retiring. Ailing Sen. John McCain delivered the strongest broadside, describing it as “one of the most disgraceful performances by an American president in memory.”

At the news conference, which took place after the first formal one-on-one summit between the two leaders, Trump refused to back the conclusion of U.S. intelligence of Russian interference in the 2016 election and attacked the probe being led by special counsel Robert Mueller as "a disaster for our country."

Trump's doubts about U.S. intelligence community while on foreign soil - as well as his insistence on accepting Putin's denial on Russian interference - did not sit well with several Republicans.

Citing the findings of U.S. intelligence agencies as well as the House Committee on Intelligence, House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., said in a statement that "there is no question" that Russia interfered in the 2016 presidential election and continues to work against democracy in the U.S. and around the globe.

"The president must appreciate that Russia is not our ally," said Ryan, who is retiring at the end of his term. "There is no moral equivalence between the United States and Russia, which remains hostile to our most basic values and ideals. The United States must be focused on holding Russia accountable and putting an end to its vile attacks on democracy."

Before being elected House speaker, Ryan was the Republican Party's vice-presidential nominee in 2012. During that campaign, Ryan's running mate, former Massachusetts governor Mitt Romney, called Russia the United States' No. 1 geopolitical foe.

The other top Republican on Capitol Hill, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell of Kentucky had not weighed in at the time Ryan made his statement.

Some of the most blistering criticism of Trump came from McCain, who has been absent from Congress since December as he undergoes treatment for brain cancer.

In a statement, the Arizona Republican said that Trump "proved not only unable, but unwilling to stand up to Putin" and that the two leaders "seemed to be speaking from the same script" at Monday's news conference.

"The damage inflicted by President Trump's naivete, egotism, false equivalence, and sympathy for autocrats is difficult to calculate. But it is clear that the summit in Helsinki was a tragic mistake," McCain said. He added that "no prior president has ever abased himself more abjectly before a tyrant."

Several other GOP lawmakers exiting Congress next year criticized Trump in the wake of his tete-a-tete with Putin.

Sen. Jeff Flake, R-Ariz., an outspoken Trump skeptic who is not seeking reelection, was among the first to weigh in, calling the president's performance in Helsinki "shameful."

"I never thought I would see the day when our American President would stand on the stage with the Russian President and place blame on the United States for Russian aggression," Flake said in a tweet.

Rep. Frank A. LoBiondo, R-N.J., a retiring member of the House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, also took Trump to task on the issue of Russian interference, saying in a tweet that he strongly disagrees with Trump's assertion.

"With all I have seen on House Intel Comm & additional indictments of 12 Russian officers last week, it is clear Russia's intentions. President Trump missed opportunity to hold Putin publicly accountable," he said.


President Donald Trump speaks during a news conference with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Helsinki, Finland, on Monday. (Bloomberg photo by Chris Ratcliffe) (Chris Ratcliffe/)

And Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen, R-Fla., a member of the Foreign Affairs Committee who is retiring, defended the Mueller investigation as “law enforcement doing work our country needs it to do.”

A handful of Republicans who are not retiring also pushed back against the president's remarks on Monday.

Among the lawmakers denouncing Trump's rejection of the findings of U.S. intelligence agencies was Rep. Adam Kinzinger, R-Ill., a military veteran, who tweeted: "It's time to wake up & face reality."

"The American people deserve the truth, & to disregard the legitimacy of our intelligence officials is a disservice to the men & women who serve this country," Kinzinger said, adding that Putin "is not our friend; he's an enemy to our freedom."

Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., who has also been openly critical of Trump, called the president's assertion that both the U.S. and Russia are to blame for the deterioration of bilateral relations "bizarre and flat-out wrong."

"The United States is not to blame," Sasse said in a statement. "America wants a good relationship with the Russian people but Vladimir Putin and his thugs are responsible for Soviet-style aggression. When the President plays these moral equivalence games, he gives Putin a propaganda win he desperately needs."

Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said that Trump's statements on Monday "demonstrate his continued refusal to accept the unanimous conclusions of U.S. intelligence leaders and the bipartisan findings of the Senate Intelligence Committee," on which Collins sits.

She called Trump's position "untenable and at odds with the forceful response this moment demands."

Libertarian-leaning Rep. Justin Amash, R-Mich., similarly voiced reservations, saying in a tweet that "a person can be in favor of improving relations with Russia, in favor of meeting with Putin, and still think something is not right here."

Some Republicans sent more complicated messages that weren't as caustic as their colleagues.

Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., a leading GOP voice on foreign policy who has had an on-again, off-again relationship with the president, lamented Trump's answer on alleged Russian meddling in the 2016 election as a "missed opportunity" to hold the Kremlin accountable and send a strong warning against any similar actions in the future.

"This answer by President Trump will be seen by Russia as a sign of weakness and create far more problems than it solves," Graham said in a tweet. He called for Congress to hold hearings probing the extent of any potential cooperation between Russia and Iran in Syria.

He also quipped about the souvenir soccer ball that Putin handed Trump during the news conference: "If it were me, I'd check the soccer ball for listening devices and never allow it in the White House."

But in a follow-up tweet, Graham sought to clarify that he has seen no evidence so far of any collusion between Russia and the Trump campaign in 2016, arguing that "meddling & collusion are NOT the same thing" and that "Russia didn't beat Clinton. Trump beat Clinton."

Beyond Capitol Hill, denunciations of Trump's remarks were even stronger.

Former CIA director John Brennan said on Twitter that Trump's news conference "rises to & exceeds the threshold of 'high crimes & misdemeanors.'"

"It was nothing short of treasonous. Not only were Trump's comments imbecilic, he is wholly in the pocket of Putin. Republican Patriots: Where are you???" Brennan said.

Former Republican National Committee chairman Michael Steele said of Trump's defense of Russia: "That's how a press conference sounds when an Asset stands next to his Handler."

And Abby Huntsman, the daughter of U.S. Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman, a Trump appointee, said on Twitter: “No negotiation is worth throwing your own people and country under the bus.”



Why I reduced the Permanent Fund dividend - Anchorage Daily News

Legislative News - Mon, 2018-07-16 12:40

Anchorage Daily News

Why I reduced the Permanent Fund dividend
Anchorage Daily News
Some Alaskans believe that it was a terrible decision that we never should have considered, that this decision was unnecessary, that if we had cut more out of state government, we could have avoided making any changes to the way we manage the Alaska ...

and more »

Why I reduced the Permanent Fund dividend

Alaska News - Mon, 2018-07-16 12:31

Alaska Gov. Bill Walker addresses a joint session of the state Legislature for his annual State of the State speech on Thursday, Jan. 18, 2018 at the state Capitol in Juneau.In the background are Senate President Pete Kelly, left, a Republican from Fairbanks, and House Speaker Bryce Edgmon, right, a Democrat from Dillingham. (Klas Stolpe)

Why did I reduce the Permanent Fund dividend in 2016?

The decision to reduce the PFD in 2016 in response to Alaska's fiscal crisis will be one of the defining issues of this election. Our opponents on both the left and the right have criticized this decision.

Some Alaskans believe that it was a terrible decision that we never should have considered, that this decision was unnecessary, that if we had cut more out of state government, we could have avoided making any changes to the way we manage the Alaska Permanent Fund.

Other Alaskans believe that restructuring the Permanent Fund was an essential step to creating a long-term fiscal plan and to making sure that the Permanent Fund and the dividend could continue to grow for future generations.

One of the main reasons I ran four years ago was because Alaska was running a $1.6 billion deficit and nobody was talking about it. This gap between our spending and what we were bringing in could have been addressed by budget cuts alone, without a PFD reduction or any new revenue.

However, days after we were elected, the price of oil collapsed, reducing state revenues by more than 80 percent. Alaska went from having the largest savings account in the country to the largest budget deficit of any state in the country — $3.7 billion — overnight.

In our first year, before we looked at any changes to the fund, we went to work to reduce the state budget. We did not want to propose changes before we had cut everything we felt we could. That meant closing more than 40 state facilities. It meant a loss of 77 positions at the Department of Public Safety alone (and that was the department with one of the smallest reductions). It meant reducing the state spending by 44 percent, or $1.7 billion, from 2013.

Ultimately, we reduced the budget to 2007 levels, with state employment at its lowest level in 15 years.

Additional cuts would mean hurting our schools. Additional cuts would mean cutting the people that keep our roads and airports running. Additional cuts would mean cutting our ability to fund troopers, prosecutors and our response to the opioid epidemic. Additional cuts would mean cutting the things that keep businesses and workers invested in Alaska. Additional cuts would mean eliminating our state share of federal grants that match our share up to 10 times over. We will continue to look for ways to reduce the budget and spend our money smarter.

But we are literally at the point where large additional cuts could cost us more money then they would save.

That's why, while you see both of our opponents advocating for "additional cuts," you won't see them specify where those cuts should go.

Alaskans knew that we could not cut our way out of the fiscal crisis we were in. The alternative was either make some changes, or just completely spend down our savings.

And that's what the Legislature chose to do. Rather than risk the political cost of change, the Legislature spent down $14 billion in savings. That's $14 billion that we will never have back to invest in our schools, infrastructure, and public safety.

We were behaving like a guy who loses his job and decides to spend down all his family's savings before looking for a new job. We were about to lose the house.

At the rate the Legislature was spending down our savings, the Permanent Fund itself was at risk. Once we spent our savings, the only thing left to meet our debts would be the Permanent Fund earnings account, from which the dividend itself is paid out each year. That put the dividend at risk of going away. Forever.

I reduced the PFD in 2016 because the Legislature had made it clear that they were not willing to be the first to take any action that would result in less money going out to Alaskans. I had legislators tell me privately: "We're going to make you do what we should be doing."

I reduced the PFD in 2016 in order to leave that money in the fund, so that it could continue to earn interest and grow the fund, strengthening Alaska's greatest asset. Every dollar that I vetoed from the PFD stayed in the fund.

I reduced the PFD in 2016 so that the Legislature would find the courage to pass a fiscal plan compromise. That compromise has provided the stability that businesses need to invest in Alaska. It has reduced our budget deficit by 80 percent.

It has allowed us to forward fund education rather than pink-slipping our teachers at the end of every school year. It has allowed us to bring on badly needed prosecutors and troopers in the fight against opioids.

Ultimately, I believe that the decision to restructure the Permanent Fund will allow both the Permanent Fund and the dividend to grow long-term. That's what we saw this year, with the PFD increasing to $1,600, well above the historic average.

The decision to reduce the PFD was the hardest decision I've ever made. It affected many Alaskans, no question about it. Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott and I believed that the alternative would hurt much worse, by endangering the future of the Permanent Fund and the dividend long-term.

I didn't make my decision because it was "politically correct." My job as governor isn't to be politically correct. My job is to put Alaska on the strongest path possible for the future.

If you have questions, let us know and we'll try to answer them. I can't promise that you will always like the decisions I make as your governor. But I can promise you that I will always tell you the truth and that I will always put Alaska's future first.

Gov. Bill Walker is the eleventh governor of Alaska. He is running for reelection as an independent.

Editor's note: This column, as it was originally published online, contained a link to campaign literature that has since been removed. It was taken offline while the ADN's editorial board drafted a blanket policy to deal with campaign op-ed columns. It was not taken offline because of any fault with the piece or linked material, and the link has been removed only because the editorial board opted to not allow links to campaign material in any campaign's op-ed submissions.

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.

After series of controversies, Iditarod adds four new board members

Alaska News - Mon, 2018-07-16 12:28

The governing board of the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race has four new members, including a former Olympian and an advertising executive, according to an announcement Monday from the organization.

The naming of new board members follows a controversial year for the historic race, including a drug-testing controversy involving a star competitor and demands from a group of mushers that Iditarod board members with conflicts of interest step down.

Earlier this year, the Iditarod board changed its bylaws to say that board members cannot compete in the Iditarod while serving on the board. Under the new rules, board members also cannot have a family member competing in the race.

The board also decided to expand from nine members to 12.

Two board members have resigned: Aaron Burmeister and Wade Marrs. Rick Swenson, a five-time Iditarod champion, chose not to seek another term on the board, according to Chas St. George, Iditarod spokesman.

Andy Angstman, who placed 42nd in the 2007 Iditarod, is the board's new musher representative, replacing Marrs. The musher rep is now a nonvoting board member.

The four new voting board members are:

— Nina Kemppel, a former Olympic cross-country skier who works as the president and chief executive officer of the Alaska Community Foundation.

— Karen King, the president and chief executive of Spawn Ideas, an advertising agency based in Anchorage.

— Mike Mills, legal counsel for Dorsey & Whitney LLP, a law firm with an office in Anchorage.

— Ryan York, the senior vice president and chief financial officer at Bristol Bay Native Corp.

Those remaining on the board are Andy Baker, Stan Foo, Danny Seybert, Mike Jonrowe, John Handeland and Mike Owens, according to St. George.

St. George said last month that Mike Jonrowe's wife, DeeDee Jonrowe, and Baker's brother, John Baker, have both retired from racing, and Owens' daughter Melissa is not entering the 2019 race, absolving them of conflicts of interest.

Board members serve three-year terms.

The Iditarod said it expects to name at least one more person to the board.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Spenard boosters buy iconic, fought-over neon palm tree at auction

Alaska News - Mon, 2018-07-16 12:18

The neon palm tree in front of the Paradise Inn is dark and the inn is closed along Spenard Road in Anchorage on Friday, September 28, 2017. (Bob Hallinen / Alaska Dispatch News)

The iconic neon palm tree formerly owned by the Paradise Inn is coming home to Spenard.

After the tree was seized by the government as part of a criminal drug case against the motel's former owner, Spenard locals banded together to buy it at auction, said Jay Stange, a teacher and community activist who headed the effort.

An online fundraiser garnered $2,700, he said. Some 59 people donated, in amounts from $5 to $200.

On Monday, Stange was notified that the Spenard boosters won the auction. There were no other bids.

The 22-foot tree should be available for pickup as early as this week, after wire transfers go through, he said.

"It's sitting under a tarp in a lot in South Anchorage right now," Stange said. "We're going to repatriate it."


The palm tree neon sign is trucked away from the Paradise Inn on Spenard Road on Thursday, Nov. 30, 2017. (Bob Hallinen / ADN)

Plans are in the works for a homecoming parade. The tree will become a piece of public art but no decisions have been made as to where it will end up, Stange said.

The sign, seized by federal authorities from what a criminal case called a motel-turned-meth haunt, symbolizes the neighborhood's underdog spirit, Stange says.

"Spenard is the 'Bad News Bears' of Anchorage," he said. "We're constantly not invited to eat at the adult table."

But the neighborhood is experiencing something of a renaissance, he said. The sign can be a symbol of that too.

"As goes this palm tree, so goes our neighborhood."

APD: Suspect vehicle sought in shooting of woman mistakenly targeted

Alaska News - Mon, 2018-07-16 12:04

A suspect vehicle whose driver is wanted in connection with a July 2 shooting at Dimond Boulevard and Minnesota Drive is seen in surveillance footage captured at the time of the crime, Anchorage police say. (Anchorage Police Department handout)

Anchorage police are looking for a white car involved in a July incident in which a woman was shot multiple times as she sat in her SUV at an Anchorage intersection, apparently after being mistaken for another person the shooter intended to target.

On Monday, police said the victim was mistakenly targeted due to the make and model of her vehicle.

"The victim herself was not the intended target," police said.


A suspect vehicle whose driver is wanted in connection with a July 2 shooting at Dimond Boulevard and Minnesota Drive is seen in surveillance footage captured at the time of the crime, Anchorage police say. (Anchorage Police Department handout)

There was no sign that the occupants of the sedan and SUV had been in an altercation before the shooting, APD said.

Police released two photos, taken from surveillance footage,  of a white sedan described as the suspect vehicle.

Police have not released the victim's name nor or her condition. She was hospitalized after the incident.

Anyone with information about the location of the sedan is asked to call the APD's non-emergency line at 311, or Crime Stoppers at 561-STOP.

Gun rights advocate charged in US with acting as agent for Russia

Alaska News - Mon, 2018-07-16 12:01

WASHINGTON – A Russian national with alleged ties to a top Russian official was charged in federal court in Washington Monday with conspiracy to act as an agent of the Russian Federation, and was ordered held without bond.

Maria Butina, 29, was arrested Sunday in Washington and made her first appearance in U.S. District Court before Magistrate Judge Deborah Robinson. Her attorney, Robert Neil Driscoll, told the judge that Butina's residence was searched by the FBI in April, that she had testified before the Senate Intelligence Committee in a closed session several months ago, and that "we have been offering to cooperate with the government the entire time."

Butina did not speak during the brief hearing other than to state her name. A detention hearing and preliminary hearing were set for Wednesday.

The charges against Butina come days after the Justice Department unveiled an indictment against 12 Russian intelligence officers for allegedly conspiring to hack Democrats in 2016 and just hours after President Donald Trump cast doubt on Russia's involvement in an extraordinary joint news conference with President Putin.

Butina is accused of developing relationships with American politicians and a "gun rights organization," none of which are named in the affidavit supporting the criminal complaint. FBI Special Agent Kevin Helson wrote that Butina was attempting to "establish a 'back channel' communication for representatives of the Government of Russia."

The affidavit also contains apparent communications, by direct message on Twitter, between Butina and the unnamed Russian official. "Your political star has risen in the sky," the official told Butina. "Now it is important to rise to the zenith and not burn out (fall) prematurely," and they later discussed the "Russia-USA friendship society."

In 2017, Butina and the official attended the National Prayer Breakfast in Washington, the affidavit states.

Driscoll said during the hearing that Butina had recently earned a master's degree in international relations from American University. "Maria Butina is not an agent of the Russian Federation," Driscoll said in a statement after the hearing. He said she "has been cooperating with various government entities for months regarding public allegations related to her contacts with various American and russian individuals," testified for eight hours before the Intelligence Committee and provided "thousands of documents."

"The substance of the charge in the complaint is overblown," Driscoll said. He said the government was attempting to make such actions as attending the prayer breakfast into "nefarious acts," when Butina was merely networking to develop relationships with Americans.

Butina, a former Siberian furniture store owner, founded a Russian gun rights group called the Right to Bear Arms and became an assistant to Russian central banker and former senator Alexander Torshin, who is a lifetime member of the NRA.

She began reaching out to NRA members and other American gun enthusiasts in 2013, on several occasions hosting NRA executives and gun activists in Moscow, including one delegation that included former Milwaukee Sheriff Dave Clarke. She and Torshin also attended a series of NRA events in the United States starting in 2014.

As she traveled the U.S., she had a number of key interactions with the Trump campaign. In June 2015, as Trump announced his candidacy, Butina wrote a column in the National Interest, a conservative U.S. magazine, suggesting that only by election a Republican could the U.S. and Russia hope to improve relations.

The next month, she attended a town hall meeting in Las Vegas where Trump – who had declared his candidacy for the presidency the previous month – was speaking. She found her way to a microphone and publicly asked Trump: "What will be your foreign politics, especially in the relations with my country?"

"I know Putin and I'll tell you what, we get along with Putin," Trump responded, in the first of his many campaign statements about his desire to build better ties with Russia.

Butina also attended an NRA convention in May 2016, where a Republican operative named Paul Erickson worked to get Torshin a meeting with Trump. In an email to the campaign, Erickson referred to Torshin as "President Putin's emissary" in an effort to improve relations with the United States.

The meeting did not happen, but Butina and Torshin did have brief interaction with Donald Trump Jr., the president's son, at the event. Trump Jr. has said the interaction was brief and not memorable.

Butina then accompanied Erickson to Trump's inauguration, one of a number of Russians who attended the festivities and toasted to better relations between Russia and the U.S.

After the Deepwater Horizon disaster, a new BP emerges

Alaska News - Mon, 2018-07-16 11:46

The Trans-Adriatic pipeline will carry Caspian Sea natural gas to Europe. (Bloomberg photo by Konstantinos Tsakalidis) (Konstantinos Tsakalidis/)

Eight years ago, the oil giant BP was struggling to cap an out-of-control exploration well that was gushing oil into the Gulf of Mexico. Tar balls had washed ashore on the Texas coast. A flotilla of boats was trying to skim or burn oil from the water’s surface.

At BP's Houston exploration headquarters, engineers and geologists - as well as much of the rest of the country watching at home - were transfixed by live silent video of the well being illuminated against the dark sea floor by underwater robots. It was like watching the company's lifeblood pour out of the ground and seep into the murky gulf.

But BP has survived. The 2010 oil spill, triggered by a blowout that killed 11 workers and toppled the Deepwater Horizon drilling rig, "shook the company to its core," says Robert Dudley, a low-key American from Mississippi who took charge of the storied company formerly known as British Petroleum.

Since the blowout, BP has sold off $75 billion of assets to cover unprecedented government fines, private damage claims and legal bills. It has retooled facilities, ousted two top executives and been lucky with the ups and downs of oil prices. Now it is once again investing profitably in massive oil and natural gas projects, including a Caspian gas pipeline, wells offshore Egypt and the fracturing of shale oil rock formations in Louisiana.

"The company has transformed itself. It's a tighter, more compact company than it was," Dudley said in a recent interview, adding that BP had brought online seven major projects last year and would add six more this year - "more projects than ever in our history."

"They have been forced to shrink to greatness," said Robinson West, managing director of the Boston Consulting Group's Center for Energy Impact. He said that the company got rid of some "lousy assets," often at high prices, and that "the resulting business is smaller but better."

In the midst of the spill crisis, Dudley took over BP from Tony Hayward, a geologist who had spent his entire career at BP. At the time, many underestimated the humble Dudley, who said then that "I did not seek out this job."

Yet Dudley has "turned out to be a more commanding figure than a lot of people initially thought," West said. "The entire organization was really in bad shape. Utterly traumatized. Bob got them to take a deep breath and start moving forward."

- - -

At one point during the spill, Dudley wondered whether BP would survive. The value of BP's bonds crashed as investors scrambled to sell. The company dropped its stock dividend to zero, sending shock waves through Britain, where BP accounted for 1 of every 6 pounds in dividends paid to pension and other retirement funds.

In the United States, the Obama administration was under pressure to put the company out of business by blocking permits for offshore drilling or imposing even steeper fines. When Interior Secretary Ken Salazar, talking about the gulf cleanup, said the administration would "keep our boot on their neck until the job gets done," it was typical rhetoric at the time.

But the company persevered. And over time, BP - which suffered a string of accidents including a major refinery explosion in Texas - overhauled its facilities and gave every employee the power to stop an operation if safety were at stake.

The government noticed. "I refused to impose the administrative deep-water death penalty on BP in 2010-2011, and I've never regretted that decision," said Michael Bromwich, whom President Barack Obama tapped in June 2010 to be the top regulator of offshore drilling safety and now runs a consulting group. "BP was appropriately remorseful and dealt with us forthrightly and transparently. They fully cooperated with our investigation and with countless others."


Robert Dudley, the company's CEO, says BP is undertaking "more projects than ever in our history." (Bloomberg photo by Chris J. Ratcliffe) (Chris J. Ratcliffe/)

Other big oil companies did not provide much support; their executives, most of whom never liked the British firm and its longtime chairman John Browne, disparaged BP and said it was an outlier when it came to safety. In fact, almost every company had its own disaster: Chevron had a gas well that burned uncontrollably for months; Shell had trouble keeping its pipelines safe from insurgents in Nigeria’s restive delta; a Thai-owned rig spilled oil off the coast of Australia for 74 days.

"The rest of the industry tried to paint BP as the black, noncompliant sheep of the Big Oil family," Bromwich said. "That was its way of arguing that company-specific rather than industry-wide reforms were called for. We disagreed with that line of argument, and independent studies exposed it as nonsense."

Once BP reached an initial agreement with the Obama administration to set up a $20 billion fund for damages, fines and coastal science research, Dudley figured the administration would want to keep BP around to pay for all that.

Now years later, scientists and other experts are still monitoring the condition of the gulf, and lawsuits related to the past 300 claims for economic damages continue.

"It's odd because from a Louisiana point of view, the BP blowout and its subsequent funding has provided important moneys for coastal protection that otherwise would have been unavailable," said Oliver Houck, who teaches environmental law at Tulane University. Although some people's health was affected, Houck said, "biologically, in terms of the terrestrial impacts, the marsh impacts were relatively minor given what else is going on down there. They were but a drop in a really nasty bucket."

- - -

Facing a slew of lawsuits, BP quickly sold its assets and ended up reaping the benefits of high crude oil prices. It sold pipelines, storage facilities and other infrastructure while hanging on to oil and gas prospects. Against the advice of consultants, the board voted to keep refining and marketing operations that later provided a cushion when oil prices dropped.

One major error: It sold old Permian Basin acreage in Texas just as the shale drilling boom was taking off and turning that aging conventional field into a hot new shale prospect.

Lately, though, BP has begun growing again.

It shows the imposing scale of the oil and gas business. BP is producing about 3.6 million barrels of oil and oil equivalent a day, about 10 percent less than before the Deepwater Horizon incident but more than most members of the Organization of the Petroleum Exporting Countries. Moreover, BP's output was up 10 percent last year and is expected to keep rising.

To achieve that, BP has cast a wide net for new prospects, including offshore Brazil and the Ivory Coast, while driving down exploration costs by 46 percent.

It has created an autonomous unit for the Lower 48 states, trying to duplicate the aggressive, creative approach used by independent U.S. drillers. Though BP had little interest in the rich Haynesville shale oil area in Louisiana, over the past two years, it has quadrupled its acreage in an area it calls SoHa, for south of Haynesville. Production started at zero and could climb to 150,000 barrels a day in the next four or five years.

BP has stayed committed to the deep waters of the Gulf of Mexico. Its net production climbed to 304,000 barrels a day of oil and oil equivalents in 2017, up 20 percent in three years though still below the level at the time of the spill. The company also owns unexplored acreage there.

This year, BP will squeeze more oil from the British North Sea fields that have been seen as in decline; it plans to double its production by 2020.

Many projects focus on natural gas.

Last year, the company started producing substantial shale gas from about 200 wells in Oman. This year, it is adding natural gas and condensate production off the coast of Egypt.

The $44 billion Shah Deniz 2 pipeline project came online last month, carrying natural gas from the Caspian Sea through Azerbaijan and Georgia to Turkey. The pipeline will unlock gas produced through 26 subsea wells. The company plans to extend the pipeline through Bulgaria, Greece and Italy.

All this requires petro-diplomacy by Dudley. One BP executive said Dudley traveled to Iraq when other senior managers worried about safety. He visited Iraqi governors in Kirkuk and the prime minister in Baghdad. Later, at a State Department meeting, he recognized and greeted a diplomatic staffer he had met at a meeting in Baghdad two years earlier.

- - -

For all the company's far-flung efforts, the jewel in BP's crown has been Russia. In 2003, under Browne, BP invested between $7 billion and $8 billion in a joint venture called TNK-BP. Dudley was BP's top executive at the joint venture until the Russian government - which raided BP's offices in 2008 and blocked Dudley's work visa - drove him from the country.

Although it was a rocky relationship with the Russian partners, it was also a lucrative one, earning BP billions of dollars in profit. Eventually, BP sold its share of the venture to Rosneft for nearly four times as much as it had invested. In return, BP received a 19.75 percent share of Rosneft, the Russian state-run oil company. In 2017, dividends from its stake in Rosneft accounted for 7 percent of BP's pretax and pre-interest profit. And BP benefits from booking its share of Rosneft's reserves.

An unusual byproduct of that arrangement is that Dudley, an American, represents a British-based multinational on the board of a sanctioned Russian oil company chaired by Igor Sechin, who has been personally sanctioned by the United States.

Dudley says he takes care to avoid violating the sanctions. He recuses himself from conversations about long-term financing, a sanctions target. He doesn't weigh in on Sechin's salary because the Russian's personal business is also targeted. And Dudley says BP has turned down offers to take part in projects involving shale or Arctic drilling.

A former BP executive, recalling how Russian President Vladimir Putin awarded then-ExxonMobil chief executive Rex Tillerson Russia's Order of Friendship, said, "Dudley knows Russia really well," but added, "Putin did not give Dudley the Tillerson award."

- - -

A dozen years ago, then-chief executive Browne changed the company's logo and said "BP" stood for "beyond petroleum." He invested about $8 billion - and lost almost all of it. At one point, BP was the leading U.S. solar panel manufacturer. Within a couple of years, it abandoned the business. Dudley worked on the renewables ventures.

Now the company is dipping its toe back into renewable energy, but not as a manufacturer. Instead, BP is investing small amounts in young technology-oriented firms such as Freewire, which works on charging electric vehicles faster.

In June, it bought Chargemaster, Britain's largest network of EV charging stations. In a larger step, it purchased a 43 percent interest in Lightsource, Europe's largest solar development firm, for $200 million. For BP, these are modest sums. Renewable investments may reach $400 million a year, a tiny fraction of BP's $15 billion or more in capital spending.

"If someone said, 'Here's $10 billion to invest in renewables,' we wouldn't know how to do it," Dudley said. "Our shareholders want us to get involved, but they also want to make sure we'll allocate their capital carefully."

Meanwhile, many oil executives have latched on to natural gas as the fuel that could help reduce global greenhouse gas emissions by replacing coal, part of what BP dubs the "energy transition." Unlike Obama, who called natural gas a "bridge to the future," big oil and gas companies say it is the future. Thousands of people in the gas business recently packed the Walter E. Washington Convention Center to talk about the natural gas rush.

Yet BP's chief economist, Spencer Dale, said the conversion from coal to gas is going too slowly. "We know how to do this," he said. "What's frustrating is that we're not doing it" fast enough.

Most of BP's projects through the end of the decade will be natural gas, which will rise to 60 percent of BP's fossil production from 50 percent.

"This is not a race to renewables. It has to be a race to reduce emissions," Dudley said. The "great dual challenge," he said, is to do that while generating enough energy to lift people out of poverty and absorb population growth.

BP has joined a group of 10 big oil companies to set up a $1 billion fund to figure out how to detect methane leaks in natural gas operations. And it has set a 0.2 percent target for its own methane emissions, a small fraction of the entire industry's current rate. Methane is a potent greenhouse gas, albeit much shorter-lasting than carbon dioxide. Although the Trump administration has delayed setting methane standards, Dudley said the company wasn't waiting around.

Yet no matter how much BP thinks about the future, it may never shed the burden of its past. It has set aside $66 billion as a result of the spill, and some small bills might still be coming.

"We will never forget what happened," said BP's head of exploration, Bernard Loomey, who in 2010 was in the Houston office trying to figure out how to plug the Macondo well. "We always have to have an eye on the past because that has shaped the company, unquestionably."

As Bromwich put it, “the shadow of Deepwater Horizon will always be with the company.”



Rep. Young has about $470K in hand toward Alaska re-election bid

Alaska News - Mon, 2018-07-16 10:32

Alaska U.S. Rep. Don Young reported raising more than $175,000 toward his re-election bid during the latest fundraising quarter.

Filings with the Federal Election Commission show Young ended the quarter on June 30 with just under $470,000 available.

Young, a Republican, has served in the House since 1973. One of his GOP challengers, Thomas "John" Nelson, reported raising a nominal amount.

On the Democratic side, Democrat Dimitri Shein (Shayne) reported raising nearly $130,000 between April and June. That includes a personal loan of more than $100,000. Shein ended the quarter with nearly $120,000 available.

Independent Alyse Galvin is running against Shein in the Democratic primary. Galvin and Shein have been the highest-profile candidates on that side of the race. Galvin's FEC filing wasn't immediately available.

The primary is Aug. 21.

The challenges of revitalizing Yup'ik - KDLG

Legislative News - Mon, 2018-07-16 10:23

KDLG

The challenges of revitalizing Yup'ik
KDLG
Arnaq Esther Ilutsik and her daughter, Atkiq Michelle Ilutsik Snyder, attended a four-day language institute at UAF in May, which coincided with the Alaska legislature's April declaration of a linguistic emergency for Alaska Native languages. Michelle ...

Photos: Best of July 2018

Alaska News - Mon, 2018-07-16 10:12

Anchorage Daily News photographers and contributors capture slices of life around Anchorage and beyond.

Thai cave rescuer considers suing Elon Musk over deleted ‘pedo’ tweets

Alaska News - Mon, 2018-07-16 08:57



This photo tweeted by Elon Musk shows efforts underway to rescue trapped members of a youth soccer team from a flooded cave in northern Thailand. (Courtesy of Elon Musk via AP)

It has been six days since a dozen boys were rescued from a flooded cave in Thailand, and six days since Elon Musk has been wandering in a Twitter labyrinth of his own making.

The Silicon Valley engineer and billionaire was briefly seen in Thailand last week, hauling a miniature submarine to the mouth of the cave just before an international dive team rescued the boys without it.

Since then, he has been arguing with people who accuse him of shoehorning himself into the drama and imagining hypotheticals in which rescuers had not deemed his hastily built submarine unnecessary and impractical.

This has, inevitably, led Musk into public arguments people who actually participated in the rescue operation - a rhetorical war that he drastically escalated on Sunday, when he called one of the cave explorers a "pedo," prompting the explorer to consider a lawsuit.

If you're already acquainted with Musk and his bizarre entanglement with the Thai cave story, you may skip to the end of this report for a fuller accounting of his baseless pedophilia accusations.

If not, a summary of man and cave follows.

Musk - briefly - is a person who co-founded the e-commerce site PayPal, who later built rocket ships through SpaceX and electric cars through Tesla, and who is alternately hailed as a visionary or derided as a showboater for pitching ideas to begin colonizing Mars next decade, or build highways under Los Angeles, or create a website to rate the credibility of journalists who report on problems at his electric-car company.

The cave saga, on the other hand, was a massive, weeks-long operation to rescue a boys soccer team from a flooded tunnel system, an effort led by the Thai government, carried out with the help of British divers, and watched obsessively by much of the world.

It really had nothing to do with Musk - until one of his Twitter fans suggested, a week and a half into the operation, that he build an invention to help get the boys out.

As Abby Ohlheiser has already chronicled for The Washington Post, Musk accepted the challenge with "a lengthy, live brainstorming process on Twitter," which ended when he traveled to Thailand with a miniature submarine made from rocket parts, tweeted some photos of the cave, left the device there and went home.

Hours later, a dive team sans submarine began extracting the children - ultimately successfully. And while Musk's fans lauded his intentions, his submarine drive-by also became the butt of many jokes.

The mockery was fueled, in part, by reports that top rescue officials had considered Musk's submarine impractical for the cave's tight-winding passages.

As Ohlheiser wrote, Musk soon "started a Twitter argument over how much credit he deserved for offering to help save the youths," during which argument he showed off an email of himself corresponding with one of the British divers and incidentally claimed that the Thai official in charge of the rescue had not been in charge.

Then, three days after the rescue operation was completed, CNN posted an interview with a British spelunker who had helped locate the boys. That spelunker, Vernon Unsworth, called Musk's submarine "a PR stunt."

"He can stick his submarine where it hurts," Unsworth told CNN. "It just had absolutely no chance of working. He had no conception of what the cave passage was like."

Like other critics, Unsworth noted that the flooded tunnel was extremely narrow and twisted. "The submarine, I believe was about five, six feet long. Rigid," he said. "So it wouldn't have gone around corners or around any obstacles. It wouldn't have made it the first 50 meters."

Unsworth concluded this portion of the interview by claiming that Musk had been quickly asked to leave the cave during his much-tweeted-about visit.

The interview spread through the weekend - until a Twitter user baited Musk into responding to it, just as he had been lured by another fan into devising his submarine.

In a series of tweets that Musk appears to have deleted while this article was being written, he claimed that he had been repeatedly asked by rescuers to build the sub. He wrote that he was escorted into the cave by Thai Navy SEALS - "total opposite of wanting us to leave."

He said he had not seen Unsworth - whom he dismissed as "this British expat guy who lives in Thailand" - during his brief guided tour of the cave system and suggested that, therefore, Unsworth had not actually participated in the rescue operation. (Unsworth absolutely and crucially had, per CNN.)

Furthermore, Musk insisted that his submarine (designed in consultation with "cave experts on the Internet," he wrote) would have worked. He bragged that he would one day pilot it through the now child-free cave system as proof.

And midway through his rant, for some inexplicable reason, he accused Unsworth of sex crimes.

"Sorry pedo guy, you really did ask for it," Musk wrote, clarifying in a follow-up tweet that he meant "the Brit expat diver" was a pedophile.

Generally confused, some Twitter followers guessed that Musk was dubiously linking Unsworth (who has been mapping the Tham Luang caves for a decade) with Thailand's epidemic of child-sex tourism.

"Bet ya a signed dollar it's true," Musk wrote late Sunday morning, a few hours before he deleted his tweets - too late to avoid yet another deluge of public criticism.

Condemnation of his remarks seemed universal - a mixture of outrage at the slur against Unsworth, outrage against the implied slur against Thailand, and yet more mockery of Musk.

The Guardian, a British newspaper, consulted a legal expert who thought Unsworth had "a cast iron case of libel." The spelunker did not necessarily disagree when reporters asked for his reaction to the pedophile comments.

"I'll take advice when I get back to London," he told 9 News during a celebratory ceremony outside the evacuated gave.

"Legal?" the reporter asked.

"Yeah."

The accusation had angered and astonished him, Unsworth told the Guardian. He said Musk, whom he had never met, must have a "bruised ego." And speaking to a gaggle of TV reporters at the ceremony, Unsworth explained:

"I believe he's called me a pedophile. Well." He cleared his throat. "By definition, I mean rescuing 12 young boys, by definition that puts everybody else in the same context."

"I'm not going to make any further comment about him," Unsworth continued. "But I think people realize what sort of guy he is."

"Would you consider taking legal action against him?" a reporter asked, again.

"Yes," Unsworth said instantly. "Yes, it's not finished."

Spokespeople at Musk's companies, Tesla and SpaceX, have not replied to requests for comment on his tweets or the possibility of a libel lawsuit.

James Anderson, one of the largest shareholders in Tesla, told the Guardian that he planned to convey his concerns to the company.

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