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After 30 years, police say they’ve captured a child-killer who left a sickening trail of taunts

Alaska News - Mon, 2018-07-16 08:49

April Tinsley. (FBI) (FBI/)

The message was slashed onto the weather-beaten planks of a barn in the empty farmland not far from where the girl’s body had been found.

Police in northern Indiana stared at the jerky handwritten scrawl in May 1990, realizing this was the most significant clue to drop in the region's most publicized unsolved crime. In 1988, 8-year-old April Tinsley had been found murdered and sexually assaulted. Two years later, police were now studying the white building on a stretch of lonely rural road, fields running to the horizon on all sides. The message appeared to be a confession - as well as a taunt and a threat.

"I kill 8 year old April M Tinsley," the barn read, according to a recently filed police affidavit. "[D]id you find the other shoe haha I will kill again."

Although the message initially failed to steer investigators to Tinsley's killer, it was not the last word from the alleged murderer. As the case stalled, and hundreds of suspects were targeted and cleared, the girl's assailant would continue to haunt the Fort Wayne area. Grotesque messages - left with used condoms and Polaroids - were sent to other little girls who the child killer claimed were next on his list.

This reign of terror also failed to direct police to a suspect. But the horrific messages did provide investigators with the DNA they would eventually use to zero in on the killer - albeit once the right advanced science and technology came along.

On Sunday, investigators from the Fort Wayne Police Department and the Indiana State Police arrested John D. Miller for Tinsley's April 1988 death. The 59-year-old is scheduled to make his first court appearance on Monday morning. According to a probable cause affidavit filed in Allen County Superior Court, Miller confessed when questioned about Tinsley's death.

Documents show that the arrest was not the result of intense media attention over the years - the case was featured twice on America's Most Wanted as well as a 2016 episode of Crime Watch Daily - nor the repeated pleas for information that followed the 30th anniversary of Tinsley's death last April. Once again, the cold case was cracked thanks to the dramatic scientific breakthrough pairing forensic DNA with genealogical research.

The new science has led to a run of cold case arrests, including the prosecution of alleged Golden State Killer Joseph James DeAngelo and an arrest in the 1992 murder of Pennsylvania schoolteacher Christy Mirack. Court records indicate the Tinsley break came thanks to Parabon NanoLabs, the Reston, Virginia-based company at the center of many of the recent cold case arrests.

It was chilly on April 1 - Good Friday - 1988, the sky in Fort Wayne bruised over with threatening storm clouds. April Tinsley - a blond-haired, dark-eyed first-grader - left her home in Fort Wayne for a friend's house two streets away. When Tinsley failed to walk through the door by dinner time, her mother reported the little girl as missing. "You're sitting there looking out the window, and trying to think where is she? Who's got her?" Tinsley's mother, Janet Tinsley, told Crime Watch Daily in 2016.

Three days later a jogger spotted the body of a child in a water-filled ditch twisting through the rural fields of the nearby Amish country. One of Tinsley's shoes was found 1,000 feet from where she was located, according to court documents. Police also recovered a sex-toy in a shopping bag left near the site. An autopsy showed the victim had been sexually assaulted and asphyxiated.

"You got an 8-year-old girl that was sexually assaulted and strangled," Fort Wayne Police Detective Cary Young told Crime Watch Daily. "She suffered, and we don't know exactly how long she suffered. It could have been three days of horror."

Witnesses recounted seeing a girl matching Tinsley's description being forced into a blue truck near her house. A description of the suspect was circulated, but investigators failed to track down any substantial leads. DNA evidence found in the girl's underwear also did not initially point to a perpetrator. The barn message scrawled two years later in 1990 unnerved the community. But again, the taunting note produced nothing in terms of immediate concrete investigative evidence.

But the alleged killer surfaced again 14 years later.

In 2004, four notes were left at homes scattered around the Fort Wayne area. Three of the messages - written on lined yellow paper - were placed on young girls's bicycles. An additional note was put in a mailbox. Three of the messages were inside plastic baggies with used condos and Polaroid pictures of the sender's nude lower body. Several of the notes referred to Tinsley.

"Hi honey," one note read, according to a picture released by the FBI. "I been watching you I am the same person that kinapped an rape an kill Aproil Tinsely you are my next victim [sic]." The same message demanded the young girl report the note to the police; the writer said that if he didn't see a report on the message in the newspaper or local TV, he would blow up the child's house.

Again, the letter did not immediately point police toward a suspect. But the DNA material recovered from the condoms did match the evidence recovered from Tinsley's underwear - concretely linking the deranged 2004 notes with the 1988 killing.

Years passed. The case flickered in and out of the national spotlight. Last April, to mark the 30th anniversary of April's murder, Janet Tinsley decided to hold a balloon release in a small neighborhood park dedicated to April near her home. More than 70 people attended, sending balloons up into the gray April sky.

"We thought ain't nobody really going to show up," Janet Tinsley told the Fort Wayne Journal Gazette. "But then all the sudden we see a lot of people. It made me pretty happy. And hopefully they'll continue supporting her, and thinking of her, and bringing up her name."

According to the recently filed court documents, by the next month, the case had taken a dramatic turn.

In May, the Fort Wayne Police Department submitted the suspect's DNA to Parabon NanoLabs. Using public genealogy databases, the firm's researcher CeCe Moore was able to narrow the possible suspects down to two brothers in the Fort Wayne area.

Police tracked one - John D. Miller - to a trailer park in Grabill, Indiana, outside Fort Wayne. Investigators pulled trash from the location, including three used condoms Miller had allegedly discarded. According to the probable cause affidavit, the DNA from the recently obtained condoms matched the DNA from the 2004 condoms, which matched the genetic profile found on the victim.

On Sunday, two detectives approached Miller outside his trailer and asked him to come to the police station to talk. There, after advising Miller of his rights, the detectives asked him if he knew why they wanted to speak with him.

"April Tinsley," the suspect allegedly told police, according to the affidavit.

According to the court document, Miller allegedly confessed after learning police had a DNA match linking him to the murder. He allegedly admitted to police he abducted Tinsley, took her back to his trailer, and raped her. He allegedly strangled her to keep her from reporting the rape to police. Miller allegedly told police he dumped her body at night.

The next day he allegedly found the young girl's shoe in his car. Driving past the ditch where he laid the body, Miller tossed the shoe in, too, he allegedly told investigators.

Miller faces felony charges or murder, child molestation, and criminal confinement. Authorities plan to offer additional information at a news conference on Tuesday.

1948 print of iconic Denali photo by Ansel Adams is up for auction

Alaska News - Mon, 2018-07-16 06:08

Ansel Adams' 1948 print of Denali and Wonder Lake in Alaska. (Ansel Adams via Christie's)

FAIRBANKS — An iconic image of an Alaskan landscape taken by renowned American photographer Ansel Adams is up for auction this week.

Adams' original photograph of Denali and Wonder Lake is being sold in an online auction that ends Thursday, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported .

The black and white photograph taken at Denali National Park features North America's tallest mountain, previously known as Mount McKinely, in the background with the lake in the foreground. The image mounted on board was printed in 1948 and has an estimated value of $4,000 to $6,000.

London-based auction house Christie's is selling the gelatin silver print in an auction of photographs from the Museum of Modern Art in New York. The sale is to benefit the acquisition fund for the museum's department of photography, according to Christie's.

"Adam's love of nature led him to photograph places such as Yosemite Valley and the Alaska wilderness," the auction house said in a statement. "Adams was an advocate for the magnificence of Alaska's natural surrounding, after visiting there with his son and capturing Mount McKinley and Wonder Lake."

As of Sunday, the photo’s top bid was $13,000.

Businessman Wade Bryson joins District 2 race

Juneau Hot Topics - Mon, 2018-07-16 06:03
His businesses have suffered a series of drug-related break-ins in the last few years that left him wanting to do something about Juneau's opioid crisis.

Man indicted for Fourth of July assault

Juneau Hot Topics - Mon, 2018-07-16 06:03
A Juneau grand jury indicted Ernest K. Joseph, 48, after he allegedly hit and strangled a friend of his. The District Attorney's Office is also pursuing ...

Princess Sophia gets permanent memorial at Eagle Beach

Juneau Hot Topics - Mon, 2018-07-16 06:03
“A century ago, Juneau was a town of less than 3,000 people. When the bodies arrived, the territorial capital received a deluge equal to more than 10 ...

Trump-Putin summit underway, after Trump faults US ‘stupidity’ for poor relations with Russia

Alaska News - Mon, 2018-07-16 05:48

HELSINKI – President Donald Trump and Russian President Vladimir Putin met here Monday for their first formal one-on-one summit, firmly shaking hands hours after Trump began the day by blaming his own country, rather than Russia, for the hostilities between their two nations.

Seated alongside Putin, Trump began by congratulating Russia on successfully hosting the World Cup soccer tournament, which concluded Sunday, then noted that the United States and Russia have "not been getting along too well" in recent years. He said he hoped that would change and that "I think we will end up having an extraordinary relationship."

"Getting along with Russia is a good thing, not a bad thing," Trump said, as Putin slouched in his chair. Trump added that the "world wants to see us getting along."

Trump said he and Putin have a "lot of good things to talk about, and things to talk about," including trade, military issues, nuclear proliferation and China, in particular their "mutual friend," Chinese President Xi Jinping.

Trump did not mention Russia's interference in the 2016 presidential campaign as one of the topics to be discussed.

Putin, who spoke before Trump made his opening remarks, said to the U.S. president: "Of course, the time has come that we speak extensively about our bilateral relations and various problem points around the world. There are enough of them that we ought to pay attention to them."

The meeting began later than originally planned, after the perennially tardy Putin arrived in Helsinki well behind schedule, keeping Trump waiting.

Although most U.S. officials argue that Russia's interference in the 2016 U.S. presidential election, use of a nerve agent on British soil and aggression in Ukraine and Syria have worsened relations, Trump instead faulted "U.S. foolishness and stupidity" in tweets Monday morning, as well as the expansive Justice Department investigation into Russia's election intrusion.

"Our relationship with Russia has NEVER been worse thanks to many years of U.S. foolishness and stupidity and now, the Rigged Witch Hunt!" Trump tweeted Monday morning as he prepared for his meeting with Putin.

Trump is facing immense pressure to aggressively confront Putin over Russia's election interference, especially after the Justice Department indicted 12 Russian intelligence officials Friday and charged them with hacking and stealing Democratic emails, as part of a broad subterfuge operation that U.S. intelligence agencies believe was ordered by Putin to help elect Trump.

But Trump's comments Monday were in sync with the argument Putin and his government have long made, which is that the policies of the Obama administration – as well as the investigation into election interference, which Putin repeatedly has denied – inflamed tensions between the two nuclear superpowers. The Russian Foreign Ministry's official Twitter account retweeted Trump's "U.S. foolishness and stupidity" tweet and said, "We agree."

Trump – who has been reticent to criticize Putin and has said he admires the Russian autocrat's leadership style and strongman image – began their meeting shortly after 2 p.m. (3 a.m. Alaska time) at the Presidential Palace, a neoclassical residence facing Helsinki's heavily touristed Baltic Sea waterfront. They were originally scheduled to meet at 1 p.m.

But Putin arrived later than expected in Helsinki on Monday and did not disembark from his plane until after 1 p.m., delaying the scheduled start time of the summit. Putin is known for his frequent tardiness; he once made President Barack Obama wait 45 minutes for one of their meetings.

The two leaders first were meeting alone, with interpreters present but without their advisers, for 90 minutes. They then will be joined by their delegations for a working lunch, followed by a joint press availability. Trump then will fly home to Washington.

Trump is joined in Helsinki by Secretary of State Mike Pompeo, national security adviser John Bolton, chief of staff John F. Kelly and other advisers, including National Security Council Russia expert Fiona Hill.

Earlier in his Europe trip, Trump told reporters he would raise the election interference issue with Putin, although he indicated that he would not be too stern, saying he assumes Putin will deny responsibility, and then they would move on to other topics.

In another Monday morning tweet, Trump sought to pin blame for the matter on Obama.

"President Obama thought that Crooked Hillary was going to win the election, so when he was informed by the FBI about Russian Meddling, he said it couldn't happen, was no big deal, & did NOTHING about it. When I won it became a big deal and the Rigged Witch Hunt headed by Strzok!" Trump wrote, referencing first 2016 Democratic presidential nominee Hillary Clinton and then FBI agent Peter Strzok, who testified before Congress in a combative hearing last week.

Trump arrived with first lady Melania Trump in Helsinki late Sunday, after spending the weekend golfing at his property in Scotland. Aboard Air Force One, the president aired some of his grievances on Twitter ahead of his upcoming summit with Putin.

"Unfortunately, no matter how well I do at the Summit, if I was given the great city of Moscow as retribution for all of the sins and evils committed by Russia over the years, I would return to criticism that it wasn't good enough – that I should have gotten Saint Petersburg in addition!" Trump wrote.

And after a week of denigrating the U.S. news media on foreign soil, Trump continued in his tweetstorm: "Much of our news media is indeed the enemy of the people and all the Dems know how to do is resist and obstruct! This is why there is such hatred and dissension in our country – but at some point, it will heal!"

Trump began his day Monday in this Nordic capital by meeting Finnish President Sauli Niinisto for breakfast, along with their wives. When a reporter asked about his message for Putin, Trump replied, "We'll do just fine."

Trump also touted the unity of NATO, saying the treaty alliance of 29 nations that is a Western bulwark against an expansionist Russia, has "never been stronger than it is today."

Last week in Brussels, Trump upended the NATO summit with demands that European allies increase their defense spending commitments. On Monday in Helsinki, Trump claimed credit for forcing the hands of his counterparts. "It was a little bit tough at the beginning," he said, "but it turned out to be love."

Putin had been set to land in Helsinki around noon local time with fresh momentum after presiding over the World Cup final in Moscow, a tournament that many observers – including Trump – hailed as a success.

Beyond spreading a positive image of Russia, the World Cup also gave Putin a chance to exercise his diplomatic chops ahead of the Helsinki summit amid a revolving door of visiting world leaders. On Sunday alone, Putin met with French President Emmanuel Macron; Hungarian Prime Minister Viktor Orban; Croatian President Kolinda Grabar-Kitarovic; and Emir of Qatar Tamim bin Hamad al-Thani.

Last week, Putin separately received Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu and Ali Akbar Velayati, a top adviser to Iran's supreme leader, Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, stoking speculation that Putin would discuss Iran's presence in Syria with Trump.

Russian officials have kept expectations low, emphasizing that the very fact of the meeting is an important step forward after years of tensions between Moscow and Washington. Ahead the summit, Putin spokesman Dmitry Peskov praised Trump's pragmatism in an interview with pro-Kremlin broadcaster RT.

"Our president is very pragmatic, very open and consistent," Peskov said, referring to Putin, according to the Interfax news agency. "He always says that the interests of Russia and the people of Russia are the main thing to him. And therefore he respects the fact that Donald Trump has the same attitude to his country."

For Putin, the setting of the summit provides something of a home-turf advantage. Although Finland is a member of the European Union and is a neutral nation, it borders Russia and is familiar to Putin, as Helsinki is just up the Bay of Finland from his hometown of St. Petersburg.

This vibrant Nordic capital, which in the summertime glistens with sunlight late into the evening, holds significant resonance for U.S.-Russia affairs as a neutral site for leaders of the two countries to meet.

In 1990, then-President George H.W. Bush met in Helsinki with then-Soviet leader Mikhail Gorbachev to show a unified front against then-Iraqi President Saddam Hussein amid escalating tensions in the Persian Gulf. And in 1997, then-President Bill Clinton and then-Russian President Boris Yeltsin held a two-day summit here to discuss arms control and the addition of former Soviet countries to NATO.

Trump has said he has low expectations for Monday's summit with Putin and heads into it without the kind of pre-scripted outcomes typical at such international meetings. Rather, he sees the meeting as a chance to build a better rapport with Putin and foster warmer relations between the United States and Russia.

"Right now, there's no trust in the relationship, and because of that, problem-solving is practically impossible," U.S. Ambassador to Russia Jon Huntsman said Sunday on NBC's "Meet the Press." "So this is an attempt to see if we can defuse and take some of the drama, and quite frankly some of the danger, out of the relationship right now."

Trump and his advisers have sought to temper expectations for the summit, which is expected to include discussions over the ongoing conflicts in Syria and Ukraine, a Reagan-era arms-control agreement and the prospect of extending a 2011 nuclear arms reduction treaty with Russia.

The president declined to outline his objectives in an interview with CBS News in advance of the summit, and his advisers have said the mere act of holding the direct meeting with Putin is a "deliverable."

Back in Washington, lawmakers from both parties have implored Trump to aggressively confront Putin.

"President Trump should have only one message for Putin [on Monday]: Quit messing with America," Sen. Ben Sasse, R-Neb., said on Twitter early Monday, arguing that Trump should not be "dignifying" the Russian president by granting a meeting.

Clinton tweeted, "Question for President Trump as he meets Putin: Do you know which team you play for?"

Putin's allies say that last Friday's indictments represented the latest effort by the Washington establishment to derail Trump's effort to improve relations with Russia.

"It seems to us the opponents of the improvement of U.S.-Russia relations should not be allowed to endlessly exploit this harmful topic, which is being kept afloat artificially," Putin's foreign policy adviser Yuri Ushakov said ahead of the summit, according to Interfax.

Looking Back: July 16, 2018 - Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

Legislative News - Sun, 2018-07-15 23:53

Looking Back: July 16, 2018
Fairbanks Daily News-Miner
Young's teaching job for the state and his membership in the Alaska Legislature were in conflict with the constitution the Alaska Supreme Court ruled. Young and two other legislators, Nick Begich of Anchorage and George Hohman of Bethel, were in the ...

Extra 10% Duty on China Seafood Exports to US = $275 Million Tax for Americans - SitNews

Legislative News - Sun, 2018-07-15 21:42

Extra 10% Duty on China Seafood Exports to US = $275 Million Tax for Americans
Trump's seafood tariffs come at a time when the Alaska legislature has zeroed out the state's $1 million dollar contribution to ASMI. Compare that to Norway's more than $50 million marketing budget from a small tax on its seafood exports. Meanwhile ...

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Sitka historical park gets benefit of Native knowledge in unique partnership

Alaska News - Sun, 2018-07-15 19:57

Sitka Tribe of Alaska’s Mark Sixby talks about the totems at the Sitka National Historical Park Thursday, July 5, 2018 in Sitka, Alaska. Sitka Tribe of Alaska is collaborating with the National Park Service to interpret the park’s holdings this year after the first of its kind agreement was signed between STA and the Department of the Interior. (James Poulson/Daily Sitka Sentinel via AP)

SITKA — Mark Sixbey, Sitka Tribe of Alaska education specialist, stood on the porch of the Sitka Historical National Park visitor center and gestured toward the Centennial Pole behind him as he related the significance of its symbols and shapes for the two tourists seated in front of him.

Sixbey wore the Tlingit colors of red and black, and described to the visitors the creation, use, and maintenance of the pole. He explained that the stacked segments — among them, raven, eagle, skunk cabbage, and devil's club — pay tribute to the park's 100th anniversary, which was celebrated with the raising of the pole in 2011.

"They have new stories to tell," he said.

Sixbey holds one of the 10 positions at the park created by a new partnership between the Sitka Tribe of Alaska and the National Park Service. He divides his days between the visitor center and the Russian Bishop's House, and estimates he interacts with anywhere between 20 and 400 people daily, as the visitor center door counter registers 1,300 people on a busy day.

The collaboration between STA and the NPS is the first of its kind in the country, said STA Chairman KathyHope Erickson. There are comparable partnerships elsewhere in the U.S., but they are "project-based" rather than enduring, she said.

The partnership has been years in the making, Erickson said.

The tribe officially expressed interest in co-management of the park in 2004.

"You can imagine that it's been in people's minds for a lot longer than that," Erickson said. "It's been a long time for this dream to come to fruition."

The agreement between STA and the Department of the Interior was made under the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act, and funds three year-round and seven seasonal positions at the visitor center and the Russian Bishop's House.

The tribe has received $300,000 in 2018 for the project, which will be in effect only six months because of the timing of its approval. It is expected to continue for years to come, however, and negotiations for 2019 are currently ongoing, said Louise Brady, Kiks.adi culture-bearer and lead ranger.

Brady said the tribe's new hires received two weeks of training starting in late April, and were delivering their first interpretive programs by early May. She said the arrangement allows the tribal employees, four of whom are Kiks.adi, to reclaim the narrative surrounding their history in Sitka.

"I think there's a huge significance because, when I come in here, I'm Kiks.adi," she said. "It's our clan that fought the Russians in 1804, and the park has always been a really special place for me because I come out here. Most of my life I've come out here, if I'm having a rough time or not having a rough time. I'll be walking through the park, and I'll think of my ancestors that fought for this land. I've heard stories about women fighting alongside the men, so I personally get a lot of strength from this place, from that history."

Angie Richman, director of visitor services at the national park, said the depth and authenticity of the new hires' expertise has already proved beneficial to the park's programming.

"It's really wonderful to have our tribal citizens share their own personal stories," she said. "They are all able share stories that are more authentic than what the park has offered in the past."

She said she was glad to see a more diverse NPS workforce, especially one so grounded in local history.

"It's nice to see so many people in the local community that are employed at the park, for one, and also we have a more diverse staff in our interpretive operation than we've had at the park than maybe ever," she said.

Brady said that her main task so far this summer has "just been getting up and running." Already, though, there have been slight but significant shifts in the programs offered at the park.

For example, Brady said, when she tells tourists about the Battle of 1804 between the Russians and the Tlingit, she can lean on the oral history passed down, across generations, from Tlingit warriors present at the scene. She can flesh out the narrative, offer textures and perspectives omitted from traditional textbooks and talks.

"In the history books, you can go, 'OK, so in 1804, there was a battle between the Russians and blah blah blah,' and a lot of times you don't get the firsthand accounts, and the ones that we have that have been handed down," she said.

She tells visitors about the Tlingits' preparation for the Battle of 1804: how they stockpiled ammunition on an island for years in advance, knowing that Baranof would return, and how a delegation of elite warriors was blown out of the water by the Russians when they went to fetch it.

"Basically, we lost our strongest warriors," she said. "I think hearing it from our point of view and, you know, why we fought for this incredibly beautiful land and were willing to risk so much."

Rachel Moreno, one of the tribe's seasonal rangers, is also the vice president of the American Indian Alaska Native Tourism Association.

She expressed confidence that she could leverage the five years she spent as a tour bus operator for the tribe and her extensive experience working with "public lands agencies that are adjacent to or are located where Native peoples live or have lived" in her new role at the park.

"It's important that the tribal people are able to tell their story on these public lands," she said. "So much has been written about us, but not with our input. This is our opportunity to step up and say, 'OK, this is who we are. This is why we're here. This is what happened since contact. And, this is where we're at today.'"

Beyond shifting the focus of the stories told at the park, Brady and her co-workers have made adjustments to the language used in telling them.

"The big difference, I guess, now is we try to use the Tlingit names and share that information with the visitors whenever possible," Sixbey said.

For example, one of the interpretive programs offered at the visitor center had previously been called "Totem Talks."

"Totem," Sixbey said, is the Algonquin word for carved poles; the Tlingit word is "kooteya."

Brady now titles the talks, "Tlingit History Through Stories and Songs."

Another significant change is the revitalization of traditional practices like wood carving and the crafting of regalia, Sixbey added. Inside the visitor center, there are artifacts in glass cases, untouched and preserved for generations to come. Down the hall, however, there are also studios humming with activity.

Sixbey said he has experience bringing cultural projects to different pockets of the community: assisting with the Blatchley Middle School shop program for three years, demonstrating wood carving for the tribe across four summers, and conducting classes on tools and traditional carving knives at the University of Alaska Southeast since 2014.

Now, he said, he brings that expertise to the programs offered by the National Park Service. This educational outreach and active practice of tradition, he said, is rolled into his new position under the partnership.

"A big change this partnership has brought is the re-awakening of our cultural center inside, particularly the regalia and wood-working studios," he said. "We've brought it back to life." Prior to Celebration, held in June in Juneau, for example, he helped with the preparation of paddles and regalia.

"While the paddle workshops were happening, the regalia studios were full of people getting their dance aprons and button blankets and collars and moccasins," he said.

Even in his presentations to visitors, he likes to focus on recent history, which often bleeds into the present.

"I tend to focus on what's happening right now, what's happened in my lifetime," he said, noting that the park's carved poles range in age from one to 200 years. "I like to focus on the poles that we do know that stories about … especially, more of these newly created poles here. You know, we have the carvers. They work here some days. That's a really cool thing."

Looking forward, Brady will step into the role of STA operation lead. She expressed hope that the partnership would continue to thrive in the years to come.

"I hope it continues to be a strong partnership," she said. "I think we've been really successful. Everything has been done in a respectful way, and I think acknowledging the skills and the knowledge that the Park Service has to offer, and I think they've been successful with us, as well."

Moreno added that the new partnership could serve as a pathway to professional opportunities for young members of the tribal community.

"I hope that it continues and that we continue to train our tribal citizens to work in this kind of environment in partnership with our federal agencies," she said. "It can help our tribal citizens if they're interested in tribal tourism or if they decide to take a job with the National Park Service, which is a big need… It's a good first step for a lot of young people."

She added that even locals could benefit from the programs developed through the STA and NPS partnership.

"Any town has its story, whether it's Native or non-Native," she said. "Being able to be a part of that story, or at least know that story is incredibly important for everybody."

ANWR and sensible budget solution

Alaska News - Sun, 2018-07-15 19:43

I recently spent a week exploring the Brooks Range and Arctic Plains, ANWR's "1002" area. I suspect most of you have heard of this place. I'm older than the state itself and have heard this number tossed around since the 1980s, when most of us were too busy being busy. I've spent my life as a financial professional, an energy executive and avid outdoorsman. Like most of you, I don't care what the weather gives me, I'm just outside. And I'm concerned that the outside is being threatened.

We're all familiar with the environmental arguments against resource development in the 1002. I get it. I'm also a businessman. Heck, I was in the energy industry! I get their argument, however self-serving it really is. And hats off to them. We saw the short-term benefits they helped create. We also have seen that it's not sustainable for the long run.

Which gets me to my point: Alaska's budget crisis. It's self-inflicted. And the argument to open the 1002 area for oil exploration is simply an attempt to do the same thing all over again and expect a different outcome. That's the textbook case for insanity. Don't take my word; Einstein said it.
We need different sources of revenue to sustain this great place. My retirement portfolio isn't solely invested in one thing. I doubt yours is either. It's diversified. It's focused on long-term sustainability. And it's conservative. Boom and bust it isn't.

So we need a sales tax. A really small one, if for no other reason than to capture the short-termers who just come here for the oil or ulu knives. And we need to expand our economic base to other areas: manufacturing, services, transportation. I can't for the life of me understand why the Jones Act is still a thing! It's a tax! Which gets me to another point: We need to stop the Alice-in-Wonderland-like tax-and-subsidy treatment resource companies receive, for in its essence, it's just another tax for the rest of us.

I believe in the free market. I believe in portfolio diversification. We know these things work. Let's have a budget that can beat commodity price swings, can leverage our geography, our human capital, and provide a long-term solution for our future.
— James Haupt

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.

Soldotna man arrested on 41 charges stemming from vacation home burglaries

Alaska News - Sun, 2018-07-15 19:32

Alaska State Troopers arrested a Soldotna man who faces 40 criminal charges related to a string of burglaries at seasonal homes in the Big Eddy subdivision on the Kenai River in Soldotna.

At around 10:50 p.m. on Saturday, troopers in Kenai pulled over David L. Frost, 27, of Soldotna. Frost had a $25,000 warrant out for his arrest, according to a dispatch posted by troopers.

The 27-year-old had been wanted by police on a long list of charges related to a series of burglaries between October of 2017 and February of 2018.

According to reporting in the Peninsula Clarion newspaper, the thefts included "thousands of dollars in fishing gear, electrical equipment, gasoline, tools, DVDs and electronics."

Troopers began investigating the case last fall, according to the dispatch. In March, they found some of the stolen goods at a home in Kenai — and a vehicle stolen during one of the break-ins.

Frost is also accused of stealing items including industrial equipment and copper wire from a Nikiski business, according to the Peninsula Clarion.

Frost has 40 charges from the alleged burglaries, including numerous counts of theft, burglary, criminal mischief and vehicle theft.

When troopers arrested Frost they found drugs on him and added a count of misconduct involving a controlled substance, according to the dispatch.

Frost is being held at Wildwood Pretrial Facility in Kenai.

Letter: Murkowski should oppose Kavanaugh

Alaska News - Sun, 2018-07-15 19:25

As a constituent and a woman, I urge Sen. Lisa Murkowski to oppose the confirmation of Brett Kavanaugh as the Supreme Court nominee.
Sen. Murkowski can pick any reason she likes — there are many good reasons to oppose him. Her easiest "out" is to simply comply with the GOP's own "McConnell Rule," deferring any Supreme Court confirmation in an election year.

Should Sen. Murkowski fail to stand by women's health (or, honestly, everyone's), put the president above the law or engage in the hypocrisy of not following the McConnell Rule, I will do everything in my power to see that she will not be our senator for much longer. She will be voted out. Sen. Murkowski needs to grow a conscience and do the right thing.
— Ariel Phifer

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A 71-year-old man tied a gun to a weather balloon to fake his own murder, police say

Alaska News - Sun, 2018-07-15 18:39

The Palm Beach Gardens Police Department's first homicide investigation of 2018 opened in late January – rather early in the year, considering that Palm Beach Gardens, Florida, is basically a live-in golf course of 50,000 people, where the annual murder count rarely cracks one.

The case proceeded by the books, at first.

Victim: Alan J. Abrahamson. A well-liked man, by the accounts of friends and family. Ostensively happy, according to the same.

"Alan was an avid golfer, enjoyed traveling and had a zest for life," per his obituary in the Palm Beach Post. "He woke up each morning with a smile on his face and was adored by all."

Abrahamson lived in a $900,000 house, inside the gates of an opulent country club, within walking distance to the ocean and whatever amenities a 71-year-old man might avail himself of. He owned the house with his wife, Linda, ("soul mates," as a family friend put it to police.) He had children and stepchildren and step-grandchildren. He had no major medical issues that police knew of. No known enemies, either.

He must have been walking to meet a friend at Starbucks when it happened, his wife told police, per the investigative report. Abrahamson's pre-dawn walks were a new routine – he told friends he wanted to lose a few pounds he'd gained on a cruise. But they hardly seemed out of character for such an active, sociable man.

A surveillance camera at the community's north gatehouse captured Abrahamson's last living images on Jan. 25.

It was a windy morning, still climbing toward the 70s. He wore a sweatshirt, ball cap and shorts, passing the gate and walking out of the camera frame at 5:53 a.m.

He seemed to be carrying something in his left hand, police noticed. What? Too dark to make out.

Exactly 37 minutes later, the surveillance camera recorded the sound of a gunshot, then silence.

A dog found Abrahamson just before 7 a.m., police wrote. It jumped off a golf cart and ran over to the body, which was lying in a palmetto-lined field near a walking path, maybe 300 feet past the gate.

Abrahamson was lying on his back, feet pointed east toward the Atlantic, arms at his side, blood pooled around the hole in his sweatshirt.

Three detectives were on the scene by sunrise and found few clues near the body. No weapon, no shell casing, no signs of struggle, no dirt on the soles of his sneakers.

Abrahamson still had his phone and his wallet – though a binder clip he commonly used to carry several hundred dollars in cash was empty. A watch that his wife said he usually wore also was missing. The index finder of his left hand was extended, detectives noted before the body was carried away for an autopsy.

"This kind of crime is unheard of in this area," a CBS 12 News anchor said. George Blackstone, who owned a lighting company where Abrahamson worked, told the Palm Beach Post that his friend had been in typically good spirits when they spoke a few days earlier – "optimistic about a business opportunity," he said.

"It's horrifying, just the thought of it," Blackstone told one of the TV reporters. "Why Alan? Why Alan? Why Alan?"

Shortly after lunchtime that day, the autopsy found a hollow-point bullet lodged in Abrahamson's torso. It had mushroomed into the shape of a six-point star after ripping through his heart and lungs.

By sundown, TV stations were reporting that the search for the killer was on.

On Feb. 2, a week and a day after the body was found, police offered a $3,000 reward for information leading to a suspect's arrest. Abrahamson's friends later chipped in to increase that amount, but not a single tip came in, according to police.

By then, detectives had met with Abrahamson's wife and biological children, including an estranged son. They had stopped and questioned early morning commuters near the country club, canvassed homeless shelters and cross-referenced robbery reports. They had repeatedly scoured the field, searched storm drains and rooted through dumpsters. And for all that, they had turned up not so much as the shell casing, let alone the gun, let alone a suspect.

But it would be wrong to say that police were totally stumped. Although the field work had turned up little, police wrote in the case report, Linda Abrahamson had helped police unlock her husband's phone.

The contents were, at least, interesting.

A preliminary search of Abrahamson's emails turned up a curious email regarding an order he had placed on Christmas Day 2017 from an online science supply company.

"Weather Balloon, $55.00, 600 g, x1."

In Abrahamson's Google Maps history, investigators discovered that between his typical morning walks to Starbucks and various errands, he had visited an industrial supply store in West Palm Beach two days before his death.

Detectives drove to the store and came back with a copy of Abrahamson's receipt for a 40-cubic-foot helium tank.

Perplexed, police re-interviewed friends and relatives to find out whether Abrahamson's hobbies might have included atmospheric science. But as they wrote in the report: "Nobody could advise … any reason why he would have a weather balloon or helium tank."

So investigators' suspicions began to turn in a new direction. A detective remembered that more than half an hour had elapsed between the time Abrahamson had walked past the gatehouse, beyond camera view, and the time of the gunshot.

"I later walked the same route, exiting around the guard gate and then back onto the sidewalk to the location where Abrahamson was located," the detective wrote. "It took me approximately 4 minutes 3 seconds at a normal walking pace."

The peculiarities kept mounting, eventually coalescing into something approaching a theory. The evening before police publicized their $3,000 reward for information leading to an arrest, a detective who had been poring over Abramson's phone and computers privately advanced a wild idea to his colleagues.

"Det. (Bryan) Broehm, theorized that it possibly was not a homicide, but possibly a suicide," an investigator wrote in the report. "That he tied a gun to a string, and attached it to the weather balloon, and once the shot was fired the weather balloon ascended carrying the weapon from the scene."

Police researchers could find only two cases of such a thing being attempted, both somewhat ridiculous. A man had tried to fake his murder in the New Mexico desert in 2008 – but his bundle of helium balloons had merely carried the gun into a cactus not far from his body.

The only other example detectives could find of someone managing to balloon a weapon out of a crime scene was from 2003 – on an episode of the fictional TV show "CSI: Las Vegas."

Still, a Palm Beach Gardens investigator wrote in his report, "although the theory seemed far-fetched, it was plausible."

Police returned to the field again on Feb. 5. Near the wall of the country clubs, more than 100 feet from where the body had lain, they found a few rubber bands and a piece of knotted string. Abrahamson had more of the same in his home office, police wrote.

The next day, a forensics investigator noticed something peculiar in the bloodstain on Abrahamson's sweatshirt. A very thin, straight trail of blood led from the center of the stain outward toward a shoulder, police wrote – "possibly indicating that something was in the blood and dragged across to the top of the shirt."

Two weeks after Abrahamson's death, as the by-the-books homicide investigation continued, a detective called a nearby airport and a TV traffic reporter to ask whether anyone had seen a weather balloon drifting over Palm Beach Gardens on Jan. 25.

No one had. But police were able to access Abrahamson's phone and web searches dating back nearly a decade. As excerpted in the final police report, the search queries told a story that made sense to detectives:

July 7, 2009: "Suicide." "How to commit Suicide."

April 10, 2012: "Life insurance suicide."

March 17, 2016: "Undetectable suicide methods."

Feb. 21, 2017: "Gizmodo.com, explains what happens when you get shot in the Head." And: "If shot in the heart do you die instantly." And: "Can you have a gunshot suicide with no weapon present."

Feb. 23, 2017: "YouTube / SEG, Suppressors, Jefferson Silencer on Walther PPK's Suppressed .380."

Aug. 28, 2017 (voice search): "How many cubic feet of helium do you need to raise one pound?"

Jan. 23, 2018: "Helium suppliers near me."

Jan. 24, 2018 (final search before death): "Dawn / Dusk Times."

A full three weeks into the investigation, the balloon theory no longer sounded far-fetched to police. A detective finally contacted the owner of the online company from which Abrahamson had purchased his weather balloon.

"I asked (the owner) how far a 600-gram balloon can travel," the detective wrote. "He advised me he launched a balloon on Monday in Huntsville, AL and l8 hours later it burst in the Atlantic Ocean off the coast of New Jersey."

Police fed the weather conditions for Palm Beach Gardens on Jan. 25 into a simulator. The result, they wrote, was that if Abrahamson had inflated his weather balloon and tied it to a gun before dawn that morning, then walked out into the palmettos beyond his gates and shot himself point blank in the heart, gusts of wind would have carried the evidence somewhere north of the Bahamas before it fell into the Atlantic Ocean.

In early March, detectives again contacted Abrahamson's wife, his children and stepchildren, and some of his friends and told them that their first homicide investigation of 2018 had been closed, canceled and ruled a suicide.

Police released their final report to the public this week. A spokesman declined to comment on what motive Abrahamson might have had for faking his murder, and his family could not be reached.

Meanwhile, the workers who dredge the many water hazards of Palm Beach Gardens for sunken golf balls have been advised to keep an eye out for a helium tank.

Letter: Good luck contacting our delegation

Alaska News - Sun, 2018-07-15 18:30

I recently contacted our three representatives in Washington, D.C., about the recent controversy involving immigration and the separation of children from their families at the southern border. I have done this maybe half a dozen times in last dozen or so years about different issues.

I always received a reply from Sen. Ted Stevens' office, never contacted Sen. Mark Begich, got auto-responses from Sen. Lisa Murkowski, some assistance on an issue from her dad's office, and this year, an auto-response from Sen. Dan Sullivan's office. And, in a continuation of his unblemished record, no response at all yet again from Congressman Don Young's office. That's perfection, I guess.
— Doug Lyon

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Letter: Performance moment in poor taste

Alaska News - Sun, 2018-07-15 18:17

On June 30, I attended the 2018 Summer Performing Arts Academy's "Blown Away Broadway" production. All of the children were darling, singers amazing, and the performance was fun — until, at the end of a performance of "Officer Krupke" from "West Side Story," when the children/cast put their fists in the air and shouted, "Trump you, Officer Krupke."

Is that the left's watered down way of saying, " F*** you, Officer Krupke?" I don't believe any of the children were mature enough to understand what this was intended for. The easiest people to brainwash or hypnotize are students and children.

The left is pushing its agenda at most colleges, at high schools (Parkland was a good example, as no teenagers could have organized so quickly), and now at a children's performance. I realize the "arts" can be very liberal, but using children for a political statement was very tacky!
— Jeannette Walker

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Immigrant children held in shelters: ‘They told us to behave, or we’d be here forever’

Alaska News - Sun, 2018-07-15 16:40

Sandy Gonzalez, 8, and her mother, Angelica Gonzalez-Garcia, at a home in suburban Boston where the two are now staying. Mother and daughter were reunited July 5 after being separated at the border and detained by ICE. Photo for The Washington Post by Josh Reynolds (Josh Reynolds/)

BOSTON - When the 8-year-old stepped off a plane here earlier this month with freshly cut bangs and a shelter-issued sweatsuit, she was met by crowds and television cameras and finally, in a carpeted airport conference room, by the mother who had been taken from her two months earlier at the border.

But now, a day after that joyous reunion, the girl from Guatemala was shoving a toddler who had tried to give her a hug and a kiss at a welcoming party in the suburbs. Now she was screaming and crying and telling the boy to stay away.

This is what two months in a Texas shelter had taught Sandy Gonzalez.

"They always kept the boys and the girls separate," the second-grader explained last week. "And they punished us if we went near each other."

Under court order, federal officials have begun to return the more than 2,500 immigrant children taken from their parents under the Trump administration's short-lived family separation policy. Across the country, mothers and fathers are slowly being reunited with the children they last saw being led away by Border Patrol agents weeks or months ago.

Experts warn that many of these children may be deeply traumatized by their experiences. Their voices have seldom been heard during the frenzied debate over family separation.

"I felt like a prisoner," said Diogo De Olivera Filho, a 9-year-old from Brazil who spent five weeks at a shelter in Chicago, including three weeks in isolation after getting chickenpox. When he got lonely and left his quarantined room to see other kids, he said the shelter put up a gate to keep him in. "I felt like a dog," he said.

He and Sandy are among the six children recently released from the shelters who described to The Washington Post what their time separated from their parents was like.

One 11-year-old boy from Guatemala who spent six weeks in the same Chicago shelter as Diogo said he had to ask permission to hug his sister. Some of the children said they now suffer from nightmares. A few, including Sandy, have had difficulty trusting their parents again.

Most of the children were reluctant to talk about what they went through while they were detained.

"I don't want to remember," said one 10-year-old, who recounted watching an out-of-control kindergartner get injected with something after he misbehaved in class.

Parents sometimes learned the details of their kids' time in custody by listening to them talk to The Post.

Sandy was reunited with her mother on July 5 after 55 days at Southwest Key Combes, a shelter in Harlingen, Texas, that was caring for about 60 kids. Some had been separated from their parents; some had crossed the border on their own.

For Sandy, it was a place of sorrow, fear and scoldings.

"They told us to behave," she said, "or we'd be there forever."


When Angelica Gonzalez-Garcia decided to flee her abusive husband in eastern Guatemala earlier this year, she left it to her daughter, then 7, to decide whether to stay behind with her grandparents.

"I want to go with you, Mommy," she said Sandy replied.

Gonzalez-Garcia said she didn't know about President Donald Trump's new "zero tolerance" policy and the push to separate children from their parents to discourage families from coming to the United States.

On May 9, shortly after illegally crossing the border between Mexico and Arizona, Sandy and her mother suddenly found themselves surrounded by Border Patrol vehicles. Gonzalez-Garcia told them she was seeking asylum.

They were taken in the back of a pickup truck to a Border Patrol holding facility known as a hielera, or icebox, and put in a room with a few dozen other migrants and one toilet, surrounded by a low partition.

Sandy was too embarrassed to use the toilet. She and her mother slept on a plastic mat on the floor with two other people. They were given thin metallic mylar blankets for the cold.

"They didn't give us anything (else) to cover us," recalled the girl with almond-shaped eyes and gaps between her teeth, crossing her arms as if shivering at the thought. "They gave us soup, just soup, and some cookies and juice."

After a day in the hielera, Gonzalez-Garcia said Border Patrol agents told her they were going to take her daughter away and deport Gonzalez-Garcia. As they asked her to sign documents authorizing the separation, one agent wished her a Happy Mother's Day, which is celebrated in Guatemala on May 10.

That night, Gonzalez-Garcia tried to prepare Sandy for what was coming.

"I told her it was like a vacation, she'd be playing, there'd be dolls, and ballgames and pizza" - Sandy's favorite food, recalled Gonzalez-Garcia. "I told her not to cry."

Before dawn on May 11, Border Patrol agents took mother and daughter to a trailer with showers. Gonzalez tried not to get emotional as she bathed her girl for what she thought might be the last time, then dressed her in a baggy blue uniform.

"She brushed my hair, she gave me a kiss and she hugged me," Sandy remembered.

When it came time to go, however, the girl tried to hide under the mylar blankets.

"Don't tell them I'm under here," Sandy said, according to her mother. "They can look for me but they won't find me."

But they did find her. And suddenly she was alone for the first time in her life.

"They put me in a car, then two airplanes, then another car, then another," she said. She cried for much of it. "I was so sad," Sandy said.

When Sandy arrived at the Southwest Key shelter, the first thing she remembers is being lined up with other new kids and being told the rules: No touching, no talking to boys, lights on at 6:30 a.m., lights out at 8 p.m.

Southwest Key Combes in Harlingen, Texas, is a facility run by Southwest Key Programs that houses "tender age" immigrant children who were separated from their parents at the U.S.-Mexico border. Washington Post photo by Jahi Chikwendiu (Jahi Chikwendiu/)

For a girl who’d grown up running freely around her neighborhood in Guatemala, playing and asking tourists for candy, the restrictions were a shock.

She said some of the shelter employees were nice, but others shouted "cállense " or "be quiet" at her and the other kids. Sandy said she had trouble falling asleep and the food tasted "nasty."

She spent part of each day in school, but was put in a class that was too advanced for her. "It was stuff for older kids," she said.

Jeff Eller, a spokesman for Southwest Key, one of the country's biggest shelter providers, said he couldn't discuss Sandy's account of her time in custody.

"We have appropriate touching policies in place, so we can keep all kids safe," he said. "We have a 20-year history of providing compassionate child care and we're proud of what we do."

More than two weeks passed before Sandy's mother was able to call her from an ICE detention center in Colorado.

"When she heard my voice she stayed quiet," Gonzalez-Garcia recalled. "She didn't say anything. I asked how she was, and all she said was 'Fine.' "

When the girl did start talking, what she said startled her mother. Her birthday on May 19 had passed without anyone at the shelter noticing, she said. The staff shouted at the children, she told her mom, and a boy had kicked her in the face during recess.

Sandy kept asking her mother why she hadn't come to get her, Gonzalez-Garcia recalled. The 31-year-old promised her daughter she'd come as soon as she could, and give her a birthday party with pizza and gifts.

Sandy also told her mom that she had gotten conjunctivitis and been put into a room by herself. ("When a child enters with or contracts a communicable disease," Eller said, "we make sure to minimize their contact with other children with guidance from medical professionals.")

Asked what she did all day alone in a room, Sandy said she played a memory game with cards. The only other game was checkers.

"And that was for two people," she said, "so I couldn't play."


Sandy Gonzalez plays with her mom, Angelica Gonzalez-Garcia. The 8-year-old still fears she'll wind up back at the shelter. Photo for The Washington Post by Josh Reynolds (Josh Reynolds/)

Like Sandy, all the children who spoke to The Washington Post struggled to cope with being ripped away from their parents and then placed in shelters filled with unfamiliar adults and unfamiliar rules.

"There were people there who only spoke English, and they always said to us, 'No touch, No touch,' " recalled Leidy Veliz, a pencil-thin 9-year-old from Guatemala who was sent along with her brother to a Chicago shelter called Casa Guadalupe, run by a nonprofit called Heartland Alliance.

Her brother, Victor, 11, said he had to ask permission to hug Leidy at the shelter, a cluster of three houses in the suburbs that housed about 60 kids.

"You always had to be 'an arm's length' from everyone," Victor said as the siblings repeated in unison the phrase in Spanish: "Un brazo de distancia. Un brazo de distancia."

Girls were kept in a separate house, so Victor only got to see his sister twice a day during recess.

Victor said the children were told there were "hidden cameras" everywhere except the bathrooms and bedrooms, so any misbehavior would be caught on video.

He and Leidy said they feared running afoul of the rules and being reported - a worry echoed by all the children The Post interviewed.

They also feared other punishment. Victor said he was once "dragged" inside by two adult male shelter employees after lingering on the soccer field - his most painful memory from the shelter.

Diogo De Olivera Filho, the 9-year-old from Brazil, said he was used to sleeping late but that habit quickly got him in trouble at Casa Guadalupe.

"They told me, 'If you keep doing that, you're going to have to stay here until you're 18,' " he said.

Diogo and another Brazilian boy he befriend, Diego Magalhaes, 10, said they saw a troubled 5-year-old boy repeatedly injected with something that made him fall asleep at his desk. The boy's father had been deported, Diego said, and he often melted down during the daily classes the immigrant children were given.

"I was very scared," Diego said. "I thought they were going to inject me, too."

Asked about the children's accounts, Heartland Alliance said in a statement that it took concerns about its shelters "extremely seriously."

"We have extensive policies, procedures, and standards of care that guide our trauma-informed approach to ensure the safety and well-being of all children in our care," the statement said. "While this does include daily routines and structure, age-appropriate chores, and practices to prevent the spread of communicable illnesses, we understand how these practices may be experienced by young children who are already suffering emotionally from being apart from those they love most."

Mark Weber, a spokesman for the Department of Health and Human Services, which oversees the agency responsible for the shelters, said it couldn't comment on specific children or cases, but that "our focus is always on the safety and best interest of each child."

"These are vulnerable children in difficult circumstances, and HHS treats its responsibility for each child with the utmost care," he said. "Any allegation of abuse is taken seriously" and, after being investigated by the department's Office of Refugee Resettlement, "appropriate action is taken."

One day, Diego said he was playing soccer on a concrete basketball court when he fell and felt his arm crunch. He said regular shelter employees - not doctors or nurses - examined him, told him his arm was fractured and then gave him a temporary cast that he wore for weeks.

"It still hurts," Diego said, running his fingers over the injury.

After Diogo got chickenpox, he was moved from his room with three other boys to a playroom converted into a makeshift infirmary. There were toys and video games, he said, but the video games didn't work.

"They were just for show," he said. There were no other kids there and often no adults either, he said. When he got bored and left the room, he said employees scolded him and added the gate.

"They told me I couldn't get out because I'd infect everybody," added Diogo, who spent almost three weeks in isolation.

He and the other children said they were assigned cleaning duties at Casa Guadalupe. In addition to washing dishes and helping serve food, they had to scrub the bathroom at least twice a week.

"They didn't even give us gloves to clean the toilet," Diego said.

Shelter workers were particularly worried about lice, Leidy recalled.

"They would look over everything in your room," she said, "and if it wasn't perfectly clean, they'd take away your blankets."

While at the shelter, Diogo turned nine with no fanfare. His mother, Lidia Souza, had been released from ICE custody two weeks earlier. She called him on the phone, told him not to cry and promised him a party and a Nintendo - one that worked - for a present. He begged her to hurry.

When Victor turned 11 at the shelter, his mother called from a detention center in Eloy, Ariz., and sang him the Latino birthday song, "Las Mañanitas."

"When my mom sang to me," he said, "I was crying because it was the first time that we didn't celebrate my birthday together."

By the time some of the children were able to speak to the parents from whom they'd been taken, they felt like strangers to one another.

When Diego's mother, Sirley Silveira Paixao reached him in the shelter shortly after her own release from ICE detention, the boy didn't recognize her voice.

"Hi," he said. "Who is this?"

"Diego," she recalled answering, "this is your mom."


When Sandy arrived at her new home in the Boston suburbs, she saw leafy trees and thick grass and an expansive yard. Inside the main house, she marveled at the host family's piano, which she had only seen in movies.

But inside the small, two-story guesthouse where she and her mother would stay, the girl could not shake off the two months of conditioning in the shelter. She refused to sleep upstairs in the bed.

"The boys slept upstairs" at the shelter, she explained.

So mother and daughter slept on a pillow downstairs by the bay window, where the girl dreamed she was back in Guatemala, at her cousin's funeral. He'd been killed just before they left.

When Sandy woke up shouting and shaking, her mother said, Gonzalez-Garcia tried to calm her.

"It was like she didn't recognize me," Gonzalez-Garcia recalled.

The next day Gonzalez-Garcia threw her the pizza party she had promised. There were dolls and balloons featuring characters from her favorite movie, "Frozen."

But two days later, during a trip to the park, the girl threw a fit when her mother strayed from her side to talk to some friends.

"You don't love me," Sandy screamed before running off. "You don't want me."

Gonzalez-Garcia said she is planning to take Sandy to a psychologist this week. And there have been small signs of progress.

Her mother was delighted when Sandy raced outside last week after an invitation to play from the host family's 6-year-old boy. For an hour, the two rode bicycles and drew on the driveway in chalk.

On Friday, Sandy sat at the small table in the guesthouse, drawing and eating ramen as her mother met with one of the family's immigration attorneys.

In a black notebook, Sandy drew her new home and the path that connected it to the house of their host family. She colored the clouds blue and the sun bright yellow. Beneath one house, shaded purple and pink, she wrote the name of the host family. Beneath the other: Sandy.

But when her mother drew a bird near the clouds using a black pen, Sandy seemed to recoil.

"Tell the bird not to touch," she said.

Now she opened a "Frozen" coloring book to a picture of Elsa hugging Anna and began to translate the caption into Spanish.

"It says 'Elsa and Anna are sisters and friends,' " she read slowly. "They'll never be separated again."

When it came to her own family, Sandy wasn't so sure. She thought of the shelter every day. And when her mother didn't immediately fill out forms - for school, for health care, for asylum - the girl worried that it was she who would be punished; that she would be sent back to the shouting and the rules and the room where she had spent so many hours alone.

"Me van a regresar?" Sandy asked the attorney, Brittanie Allen. "Are they going to send me back?"

"No," Allen replied firmly.

"See?" said Gonzalez-Garcia. "Did you hear?"

"She said yes," Sandy insisted.

"You're never going to go back there again," Allen promised.

“No,” the girl agreed quietly.

Letter: Governor’s Pebble stance stupefies

Alaska News - Sun, 2018-07-15 15:57

Please tell me this is a joke. We're in a recession, our state has the highest unemployment in the nation, there is absolutely nothing in the future for our high school or college graduates, and our governor wants to kick one of the world's largest resource extraction companies out of the state?

Gov. Bill Walker allowed Northern Dynasty Minerals to spend several million dollars on exploration and permitting and now all of a sudden he and Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott now decide the EPA and Corp of Engineers don't have the qualifications to complete a permitting process that would take several more years.

This state's economy is based on resources, and Gov. Walker just sent a message to the industry that they're not welcome here. Why? He's sacrificing jobs and our future because he wants to be re-elected and he needs more votes.
— Dennis Smith

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Construction projects on the rise in North Pole

Alaska News - Sun, 2018-07-15 15:07

NORTH POLE — Construction is on the rise in North Pole, with several new housing units, a new dental office and a major water utility expansion all in the works, according to city officials.

The number of active building permits in North Pole has nearly doubled in recent years, City Services Director Bill Butler said.

North Pole has more than 30 building permits issued or under development, according to Butler. He said the number of building permits is usually closer to 15 or 20 in a typical year.

Butler said about $15.6 million worth of construction projects are pending in the city of 2,000. That dollar figure excludes the water utility expansion, involving tens of millions of dollars from a court settlement.

Most of the building permits are for new housing. Stepping Stone Builders Inc. is expanding the Eagle Estates Subdivision with hopes of building 39 more units in the next two years.

By the end of the project, the subdivision will boast about 65 houses, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported .

Butler said in addition to the construction activity, there are more properties subdividing. The city services director sees potential for even more construction in North Pole in the coming years.

A population boost is expected after new fighter jet squadrons are stationed at Eielson Air Force Base.

Other projects in North Pole include a building remodel for a new eye clinic and another remodel for a dental clinic. An old Blockbuster Video is being remodeled into a real estate office. The middle and high schools in North Pole are also getting improvements, Butler said.

Letter: DOT failing to effectively manage brush

Alaska News - Sun, 2018-07-15 13:39

Tree ring count samples show the brush along Chena Hot Springs Road in Fairbanks has not been cut for three to five years.

The brush height effectively camouflages moose that are about to run out into the 55 mph traffic. The measured width of the Department of Transportation cutter is four feet. Math question: How long does it take to cut three miles of CHSR on both sides back 20 feet?

Hint: one side takes five passes, as does the other. Total passes for one mile is 10 passes. Total passes for three miles is 30 passes.

Assuming 1 mph travel speed, it would take 30 hours to do three miles, or three-quarters of one work week.

DOT used to use a road grader and cut about three times as much with only one pass. DOT also, at one time, used a "hydro-axe" to cut maybe 16 feet wide with two passes.

I used a six-inch weed whacker; it took maybe an hour for 250 feet.
Is this an example of wasting taxpayer dividend money by using the wrong tool to do the job quickly and effectively?
— Jim Weidner
Two Rivers

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After about $137,000 in fines, Anchorage considers new software to track employee safety training

Alaska News - Sun, 2018-07-15 13:05

The city of Anchorage has paid more than $137,000 in federal safety fines over the decades, including for instances where inspectors found employees didn't receive required training or the city failed to document it,  officials said.

Hoping to avoid future citations, city safety managers say they are now seeking out better technology to host and track employee training. The Anchorage Assembly will vote next week on sole-source contract with Washington-based Vivid Online Learning Systems for software that would train employees on a range of topics, from bloodborne pathogens to driving safety to preventing sexual harassment in the workplace.

The city-owned power utility, Municipal Light & Power, has used the software for years because it offers electrical courses for linemen. Because ML&P; was a long-time client, the company dropped its prices so the city could afford it, said Anneliese Roberts, the city safety manager.

Roberts said better training software will help avoid future citations tied to regulations from the federal Occupational Safety and Health Administration, also known as OSHA.

She said the city is also keenly interested in doing what it can to prevent accidents.

"We're trying to make the city safer by implementing this," Roberts said.

OSHA has specific regulations that require employers to provide training to employees, said Krystyna Markiewicz, the chief of Alaska's OSHA enforcement and consultation division.

OSHA then conducts inspections and interviews employers and employees to ask if the training happened, Markiewicz said.

"If they (employers) don't have documentation, then it is really difficult to prove the training was provided," Markiewicz said.

ConocoPhillips, one of the Alaska's largest private employers, has specific training software that tracks required training for every position in the company, as well as assigning compliance dates, said Natalie Lowman, a spokeswoman for the oil company.

Since 1982, the city has paid about 74 OSHA citations, totaling $137,511 in penalties, according to Roberts.

But poor record-keeping for employee training has cost the city in other ways in the past. In 2017, the city paid $675,000 to settle a lawsuit brought by a woman who was injured four years earlier when an equipment operator backed into her, according to Roberts.

Part of the reason for the amount of the settlement was failure to document safety training, Roberts said.

At the moment, city departments store safety training records in different ways, Roberts said. Some records are digital, and others are on paper, such as meeting sign-in sheets.

The new software would standardize both training and record-keeping, allowing managers to pull data from the same area, Roberts said.

In addition to record-keeping failures, the city has been cited by OSHA for other workplace safety issues, like employees failing to dress properly for work, Roberts said. That's human error, Roberts said, but getting employees on the same system would make a difference.

The new software would be used by all city workers, whether it's temporary hires in the Parks and Recreation department or the mayor, Roberts said.

She said she hopes the new software will be fully in place by the end of the year.