Keravita Pro can be thought of as a powerful dietary supplement that seeks to cure any problems that one may have regarding one’s nails and hair. According to the information on their official website and the review in the Globe Newswire here, each serving of this supplement comes packed with a host of natural herbs, plant extracts that have been clinically tested and found to be highly efficacious. Not only that, they are fully biocompatible with the human body and thus can be used for extended periods of time without any risk of addiction or tolerance formation.
Who isn’t curious about knowing the future? We all are. However, all of us also know that predictions cannot be 100% accurate, and there is a possibility of change all the time. Yet, most of us still try to find a psychic in one way or another; to gain some insight into our future.
Alaska Run for Women goes virtual for another year, and one team’s message is very real: Don’t delay mammograms
Members of "Squeeze 'em for a Reason," a team formed for the annual Alaska Run for Women, gather outside Imaging Associates in Anchorage on Thursday. (Emily Mesner / ADN) (Emily Mesner/)
Nothing mixes tears and laughter quite like the Alaska Run for Women, and nothing shows the two sides of the event quite like some of the T-shirts worn by participants.
The race, which this year is an eight-day virtual run beginning Saturday, strives to raise awareness and money to support the fight against the disease. And while race day produces its share of somber moments, it’s also a time to celebrate survival, sisterhood and the color pink.
Look at the backs of many runners, and you might shed a tear. Many write the names of loved ones on cards pinned to the backs of their shirts -- “In memory of my aunties,” perhaps, or “In honor of Grandma.” There are thousands of names and each represents someone with the disease, some who are alive, some who are not.
Look at the front of the T-shirts, and you might bust a gut laughing at the jokes and puns. “Save the Ta-Tas.” “Justice for Jugs.” “Rack Pack.” “Breast Friends.”
A year ago, the team for Imaging Associates went with the name “Simply the Breast,” a nod to the old Tina Turner song.
This year, the team is going with a name appropriate for a world emerging from a global pandemic: “Squeeze ‘em for a Reason.”
Their message: If you delayed your mammogram because of COVID-19, don’t delay any longer.
“There’s been a lot of discussion among breast imagers about people delaying their screenings,” said Dr. Brittany O’Steen, a diagnostic radiologist with fellowship training in breast imaging. “This is definitely unprecedented in my career.”
A woman at the 2012 Alaska Run for Women wears a card honoring her grandmother. (Bob Hallinen / ADN) (Bob Hallinen/)
Women who skipped their yearly mammograms are starting to resume screenings, “and we’re finding things that would have been nice to find multiple months ago,” O’Steen said.
“I don’t know that we have data -- it’s kind of early in the recovery -- but I know just from our day-to-day numbers that I believe the data will bear out that we are seeing more cancers from this,” she said.
O’Steen is a member of “Squeeze ‘em for a Reason” along with Sarah Wottlin, the executive assistant for Imaging Associates and Alaska Radiologist Associates. Both women say there’s no backlog for mammogram appointments.
“Please come in,” Wottlin said. “We can get people scheduled within a day or so.”
Wottlin, 37, is in her first year as race director for the Run for Women, which because of the pandemic is a virtual event for the second year in a row.
Participants have eight days, from June 12-19, to do either the five-mile event or the one-mile event. As of Thursday afternoon, 2,875 people had signed up, including 301 survivors of breast cancer.
Online registration at akrfw.org is open until the final day. Donations, which hit $130,000 on Thursday, are encouraged in lieu of an entry fee.
Wottlin said she plans to take advantage of the event’s eight-day duration. Her team plans to participate in several smaller groups, and she plans to join a couple of those groups. She plans to climb Flattop with one group and run on city streets and trails with another.
“I’m going to try to get out every day,” she said, sometimes for one mile but at least once for five miles.
Saturday’s kickoff will include opening ceremonies on Facebook live, which will feature Alaska’s most famous breast cancer survivor -- Olympic gold medalist Kikkan Randall. Randall, a past Run for Women champion who discovered a lump several weeks after her triumph at the 2018 Winter Olympics, will lead a warmup session along with Sadie Maubet Bjornsen, a recently retired two-time Olympian.
Kikkan Randall does her signature finish-line jump as she completes the 2019 Alaska Run for Women in third place -- a little more than a year after her 2018 breast cancer diagnosis. Randall finished the five-mile race in a time of 29:29. (Loren Holmes / ADN) (Loren Holmes / Anchorage Daily News/)
Because the 29th edition of the race is virtual, people anywhere can participate. People in all 50 states and Washington, D.C., are signed up, as well as people from 61 Alaska communities.
Of the 35 members of “Squeeze ‘em for a Reason,” several live outside Alaska, including O’Steen’s mother in Wisconsin and her sister and sister-in-law in Vermont. Her mother, Karen, has survived breast cancer multiple times
“She’s a great poster child why screening really matters,” O’Steen said. “She got her first diagnosis in her 40s. She had an annual screening and they found a small area that turned out to be Stage 1 invasive cancer and only needed a lumpectomy and radiation.
“Ten or 15 years later, she was still getting annual screenings and they found calcifications on both breasts. She opted for mastectomies and didn’t need any treatment other than that. All because she was persistent in getting her screenings. She’s a busy woman, but she made time for it.”
Runners wear "Tenacious Ta-Tas" T-shirts at the 2013 Alaska Run for Women. (ADN archives)
State prosecutors accuse former Alaska legislator of 4 more voter-fraud felonies linked to 2018 campaign
FILE - In this Jan. 22, 2016, file photo, Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux, R-Anchorage, watches National Guard Lt. Col. Christopher Weaver and Capt. Forrest Dunbar confer during a House Judiciary Committee hearing in Juneau. (AP Photo/Rashah McChesney,File) (Rashah McChesney/)
An Anchorage grand jury has indicted former Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux, R-Anchorage, on four new felonies related to her 2018 campaign for the Alaska Legislature. LeDoux’s former chief of staff and the chief of staff’s son were also charged. LeDoux had previously been accused of another felony last year.
The three pleaded not guilty to the charges during an appearance Wednesday in Anchorage Superior Court.
“I’ve done absolutely nothing wrong. I’m looking forward to clearing my name,” LeDoux said afterward.
This week’s indictments lengthen a list of accusations made last year, when prosecutors accused LeDoux, former chief of staff Lisa (Vaught) Simpson and Simpson’s son, Caden Vaught, of attempting to collect and submit absentee ballots illegally during two campaigns for office.
LeDoux was accused of one felony and multiple misdemeanors after the Alaska Division of Elections investigated a suspicious number of absentee ballots that were cast from a small number of addresses in a Muldoon trailer park. State investigators obtained text messages from LeDoux’s phone and submitted them to review by the U.S. Department of Justice. That review finished in February 2020.
According to the state’s account of events, LeDoux, Simpson and Vaught “solicited and/or encouraged people who did not live in her district to vote in the House District 15 primary and general elections” in 2018.
Prosecutors say Simpson and Vaught voted for LeDoux despite moving out of her legislative district in the summer before the elections. Each of this week’s felonies say the three broke state law when they knowingly provided wrong information for Simpson’s voter registration, Vaught’s voter registration, his primary ballot and his general-election ballot that year.
Prosecutors also say the three committed several misdemeanors in the process.
The state previously accused the three of misdeeds relating to the 2014 legislative election as well, but an Anchorage judge has dismissed two misdemeanor charges relating to that campaign. Court documents filed earlier this month still list those misdemeanors, but assistant attorney general Grace Lee said that was a mistake, and those will be removed from the filing on Friday.
LeDoux was still in office when she was accused. She lost her reelection campaign in the August 2020 Republican primary and previously said that she believes the charges are politically motivated.
LeDoux was a Republican member of the state House’s majority coalition from 2017 through 2019 and frequently clashed with Gov. Mike Dunleavy. The investigation began during the administration of former Gov. Bill Walker.
“The political establishment will not stop until I am gone — but let them come, because I will fight to clear my name,” she said in a Facebook post soon after charges were filed.
The case has been substantially delayed by the COVID-19 pandemic. Kevin Fitzgerald, LeDoux’s attorney, said earlier this year that he believes his client’s innocence and is seeking a speedy trial to clear her name.
First-degree voter misconduct is a Class C felony punishable by up to five years in jail and a $50,000 fine. First-time felonies receive less punishment.
Bronson homeless plan begins to emerge, including possibility of a large temporary shelter in East Anchorage
Roxanne Jnolewis reads at the emergency shelter operated by Bean's Cafe in the Sullivan Arena, April 14, 2021. Jnolewis said she has been staying at the shelter since the end of last May and is on a waiting list for housing and other services. (Bill Roth / ADN) (Bill Roth / ADN/)
The administration of Anchorage’s new mayor won’t unveil how it plans to provide emergency shelter for hundreds of homeless residents until next week, but some details are beginning to emerge.
Mayor-elect Dave Bronson’s team is looking at using domed fabric buildings, called Sprung Structures, for a large but temporary shelter that would house up to 900 people on land near the intersection of Tudor and Elmore roads, according to several people briefed on aspects of the plan. The area under consideration is adjacent to the old Anchorage Police Department headquarters, a Bronson spokesman said Thursday.
The city faces a politically sensitive task with massive human consequences: It must find a way to shelter up to 900 homeless Anchorage residents when Sullivan Arena, which has acted as a mass emergency shelter during the coronavirus pandemic, is decommissioned at the beginning of September.
Bronson’s recently named homelessness coordinator, Dr. John Morris, an Anchorage anesthesiologist, has been meeting with local organizations that serve homeless Anchorage residents, as well as some Anchorage Assembly members.
In an opinion column published in the Anchorage Daily News last weekend, Morris laid out his approach: “Build enough shelter capacity to provide a safe place for everyone who needs it,” he wrote. “Fast. Go out and find our homeless neighbors where they are, engage them with teams of people who can earn their trust, with lived experience and training, carrying the message that there is a better, safer place for them.”
Morris was not available for an interview Thursday, said Bronson transition spokesman Matt Shuckerow.
Bronson takes office July 1.
While some of the organizations say they were asked not to share details of the plans publicly, the contours of the proposal have become public.
At Tuesday’s Anchorage Assembly meeting, Eagle River Assembly member Jamie Allard suggested that the arrangement being proposed would be “a dome-like structure” similar to The Dome, the large inflatable sports facility on Raspberry Road.
“It will be broken down into separate areas,” she said. “It would be a one-stop shop. We’d be able to circulate folks who come through the homeless population … they would then move them into permanent structures. It would be better than what they have at the Sullivan Arena.”
Christopher Constant, who represents downtown on the Assembly, said his understanding was that a single, large site shelter was being proposed.
“The only difference of opinion I have — it could be a great site. It can’t be the only site,” he said. “Putting 1,000 people in one site costs that neighborhood their integrity.”
Still, Constant said he was hearing the Bronson administration talk about operating a mass shelter in a way he could get behind.
“Comprehensive social services, lockers, storage — all the things we’ve been working toward, they’re talking about it,” Constant said.
In May, Reno, Nevada, opened a similar mass shelter using a temporary fabric building. The 45,900-square-foot structure can hold up to 900 people and was paid for by federal pandemic relief funds sent to state and local governments.
Sprung Structures buildings can be erected in a relatively short time frame and are not permanent structures. They’ve been used around the world, including in war zones, and can withstand extreme temperatures.
The emergency shelter at Anchorage's Sullivan Arena in February, 2021. (Bill Roth / ADN) (Bill Roth / ADN/)
A site adjacent to the former Anchorage Police Department headquarters near the intersection of Tudor and Elmore roads “has been reviewed and considered as part of their plan,” Shuckerow said.
Morris has been meeting with homeless service providers around the city recently, soliciting feedback for the plan, said Lisa Aquino, executive director of Catholic Social Services.
Aquino said she had reservations about the potential size of the shelter.
“It’s really big,” she said. “That was our first comment — that’s a lot of people at a single site.”
While the physical structure could be similar, Morris has indicated in conversations and in the opinion column that he’d prefer an approach where people experiencing homelessness could get a range of services in one place: not only shelter but health care and help with finding permanent housing and job opportunities.
“They had other thoughts about how to do it,” said Aquino.
Aquino said she felt her organization’s feedback on the plan was “being heard” and that the moment felt like it had great potential for a sea change in Anchorage’s approach to sheltering homeless people.
“We have a unique opportunity right now,” she said. “I want to be hopeful.”
Many details about the plan, including how the structures would be paid for and who would operate them, have not been disclosed yet. The plan is set to be shared publicly at 11 a.m. Tuesday at the Assembly Chambers in the Loussac Library.
Alaska used to lead the nation in COVID-19 vaccinations. Six months in, the state has fallen behind.
Josh Gardner, a nationally certified medical assistant, gave Kael Harrod, 15, his first dose of the Pfizer vaccine at the Visit Healthcare vaccination site in the Dimond Center on Thursday, May 13, 2021. (Bill Roth / ADN) (Bill Roth / ADN/)
This spring, Alaska was hailed as a vaccination success story — shipping doses via plane, snowmachine and boat to remote corners of the vast state. But it has gradually fallen from first place to the middle of the pack in the six months since the first doses of COVID-19 vaccine arrived here in mid-December.
In March, Alaska became the first state in the country to open up vaccinations to all residents 16 or older, without other restrictions on eligibility. Health officials say that in the months since then, however, a saturation of available vaccine hasn’t translated into a corresponding number of vaccine recipients.
“We’re definitely seeing more supply than demand,” said Matt Bobo, the director of Alaska’s immunization program, during a call with reporters Thursday.
The state even opted to donate about 3,000 doses of its allocated vaccine recently to a federal pool based on an assessment that the vaccine wouldn’t get used, Bobo said.
In contrast, some cities and states in the Lower 48 are chugging toward widespread vaccine coverage. The national average of those 12 and older with at least one shot is 61.5% while Alaska’s average is 54%. By Thursday, Alaska had fallen to No. 28 among states for per capita vaccinations, according to data from the CDC.
This week, Seattle Mayor Jenny Durkan announced that with 78% of those 12 and older having received at least one vaccine dose, “Seattle is America’s most vaccinated major city,” the Seattle Times reported.
San Francisco was neck-and-neck with Seattle: The city’s vaccine tracker showed that about 79% of its eligible residents had received at least one vaccine dose by Wednesday — at or close to a “herd immunity” benchmark that epidemiologists say can occur once 70% to 80% of a population is immune to a virus.
Meanwhile, just over half of eligible Alaskans had received at least one dose of COVID-19 vaccine as of Thursday morning while a higher percentage of its more vulnerable 65-and-older population — about three-quarters — was at least partially vaccinated.
That puts Alaska’s current vaccination rate several points below the national average, said Dr. Joe McLaughlin, Alaska’s state epidemiologist.
“We’ve got a lot of work to do to kind of catch up with the rest of the nation,” he said.
Although Alaska’s coronavirus case counts have been falling since early spring, slumping vaccination rates through the summer could mean an uptick in cases come fall. There will be more COVID-19 activity in the colder months, McLaughlin suspects, but the number of people vaccinated in the state will likely help determine how much virus spread may occur.
Six months into the vaccine rollout, vaccination rates have varied widely across Alaska. Some of the least vaccinated regions happen to be some of the state’s most populated and connected areas, where vaccines are available at restaurants, fairs and just about every major grocery store chain. Meanwhile, some of the state’s more remote and hard-to-reach regions are recording some of the highest rates of vaccination.
For example, 84% of eligible residents in the Aleutians East Borough — which leads regions statewide — have received at least one dose of vaccine. Regions including Skagway, Bristol Bay and the Nome Census Area are also seeing some of the highest vaccination rates.
On the opposite end of the spectrum, the Southeast Fairbanks Census Area has a 31% vaccination rate, followed by the North Slope with 35% and the Mat-Su Borough with 37%. The Municipality of Anchorage, Fairbanks North Star Borough and the Kenai Peninsula Borough are all in the bottom third as well.
Much of the success in many rural communities in Alaska can be attributed to strong tribal health presence in those places, where primary care providers and public health nurses have strong relationships with their patients and the communities they serve.
In communities with lower vaccination coverage, the slowdown can’t entirely be traced to vaccine hesitancy, McLaughlin said. Rather, he said, many young, healthy people are busy and likely have not gotten around to taking the time to get a shot.
Six months ago, state leaders expected to have significantly fewer doses of the shots, said Dr. Anne Zink, Alaska’s chief medical officer, and being able to vaccinate people as young as 12 is another unexpected development that has boosted the vaccine effort. Goals have changed, and health officials are putting their efforts into driving up demand for the shots.
State officials said this week that they hoped that over time, more Alaskans would opt to get vaccinated, and they emphasized how well the vaccines appeared to be working: Since Jan. 1, 98% of COVID hospitalizations have been among people who were unvaccinated.
“The vast majority of people who have gotten vaccinated are not getting sick,” added Louisa Castrodale, an epidemiologist with the state health department.
“I think that speaks to the effectiveness of the vaccines,” she said.
The USA Patriots softball team, shown here in a screenshot from its website, is in Anchorage for a two-day tournament at Cartee Fields.
One of the teams entered in this weekend’s Pot of Gold softball tournament at Cartee Fields comes to town with a rider list, sort of like a rock band. The game-day requests include:
• At least 48 bottles of water/Gatorade/Powerade or jugs of water with cups in the dugout.
• Light snacks such as protein bars, granola bars, fruit, and crackers.
• Sharpies/pens for autographs.
And then there’s this:
• Medical support (EMT, certified nurse, physician assistant or athletic trainer) and a prosthetist.
Clearly, the USA Patriots are not your every-day softball team.
Formerly called the Wounded Warriors Amputee Softball Team, the Patriots are a squad of amputees — every player is missing a limb or another body part, and all but one is a military veteran injured while on active duty.
“We are, as I like to call us, America’s softball team,” said Desiree Ellison, the executive director of USA Patriots Veteran Athletics. “We bring a whole lot of everything — the skill, the story behind who we are and what it is we’re doing.
“A massive part of what we do is connect our guys (to communities) and give them an opportunity to serve beyond the uniform, which has become our slogan.”
During their extended stay in Alaska, the Patriots have a packed schedule that includes a Thursday night meet-and-greet at an American Legion club, a Friday clinic at the Special Olympics headquarters, softball games Saturday and Sunday at Cartee Fields, a Monday visit to the VA Hospital and then a couple of days for sightseeing.
“We do 17 or 18 events a year, and I try to pick one big event a year, and this is obviously our big event this year,” Ellison said. The excitement level among players is high, she said.
The 18-man roster includes players who are missing hands, arms, legs and eyes. None are in wheelchairs but many use prosthetics — another part of the team’s game-day requests is no interviews for 30 minutes before a game, so players have ample time to warm up and make sure their prosthetics are fitting well.
Among the players is Reece Hines, who lived in Eagle River before moving to Texas and still has connections here. A retired Air Force master sergeant, Hines lost his right eye and two fingers while attempting to disarm an IED while in Afghanistan in 2011. He also suffered skull and facial fractures, nerve and tissue damage to one of his legs and other injuries.
Others on the team have lost legs or arms. The only player who isn’t a military veteran is 18-year-old Scotty Fura, who was a little boy when he lost an arm in an accident involving a lawn mower. He got involved with the Patriots when he attended one of the organization’s annual Kids Camps.
Twenty children each year are invited to attend the week-long Kids Camps, which this year is being held in Wisconsin. Ellison said the Patriots raise $180,000 a year to make the camp happen.
Fura exemplifies what the Patriots hope to achieve, both with the Kids Camps and their visits like this week’s to Anchorage.
“He may not be a veteran but ... he’s everything we hope to give to these children — to have them grow up with a love of sports,” Ellison said. “He was the pitcher on his high school team, he wrestled and played football. He did all this thanks to the exposure he had” at Kids Camp.
Roger Garcia, the commissioner of USA Softball of Alaska, said bringing the Patriots to town was a five-year effort. “Five years of planning, preparing, getting sponsorships and donations,” he said.
Garcia said he learned about the Patriots at a national softball convention a few years ago and later saw them play at a tournament in Ohio.
“They take it very seriously, but it’s also educational for them, to teach people that life isn’t over after an amputation or a disability,” he said. “You can carry on and things aren’t that bad.”
In the case of the Patriots, the players are carrying on quite nicely. They have made several appearances at the McQuade Charity Softball Tournament, a huge event in North Dakota that draws hundreds of teams. After twice finishing third in their division, the Patriots won their division at the 2019 tournament.
“We do win our fair share,” Ellison said.
The Patriots are guaranteed four games this weekend at Cartee Fields. Their first game is Saturday at 9:10 a.m.
A view of the West Front of Capitol Hill in Washington, looking at the National Mall and Washington Monument, Nov. 15, 2016. (Susan Walsh / AP File) (Susan Walsh/)
WASHINGTON — The Biden administration on Thursday told federal agencies that more employees can return to their offices as the threat of the coronavirus pandemic ebbs, but it also laid out a permanent work-from-home expansion that will drastically alter the federal government’s workplace culture.
Federal agencies no longer have to limit the number of staffers allowed in their offices to 25% occupancy, the administration said in the first major announcement on pandemic staffing it has issued since January.
But the 20-page memo to federal agencies also maintains what started as an experiment in March 2020 to contend with the public health crisis — for the immediate future and potentially the long term.
As they make plans for a post-pandemic workplace, agencies across the government will be allowed to offer employees flexible schedules and remote work, depending on their needs, according to the guidance from the acting heads of the Office of Management and Budget, the Office of Personnel Management and the General Services Administration.
“Evaluation of an employee’s performance should be based on factors such as accountability for results or quality of the work, and should not be affected by whether an employee is working in the office, teleworking, based remotely, or working a flexible work schedule,” they wrote.
The embrace of “maximum telework flexibilities” amounts to a massive shift for the federal government, which has long lagged behind the private sector when it comes to offering remote work. It is likely to be closely watched by other employers, since the federal government, with a workforce of 2.1 million, is the country’s largest employer.
The move shows how the thinking about the workplace has shifted inside the federal bureaucracy, which for decades has operated under a top-down, risk-averse model requiring employees to be in their seats to show they were working. That approach has hampered efforts to attract new employees — especially the young talent the civil service lacks, some officials said.
“It is a positive development for the government to make the promotion of flexibility and remote work a core principle in its plans for the post-pandemic world of work,” Adam Ozimek, chief economist at Upwork, an online site for hiring freelancers and a leading voice on remote work, said in an email. “This isn’t just about making work better for people, but increasing access to talent and spreading opportunity across the U.S.”
The announcement was sharply criticized by some Republicans in Congress who have complained that a slow return of federal employees to the workplace by the Biden administration has led to diminished services for the public.
“With continued telework flexibility, government workers won’t be able access constituents’ VA medical records or IRS financial records while working from home because those need to be secured in an office,” Rep. Michael Waltz, R-Fla., said in a statement. “This is an enormous problem as constituents lack access to key government services and are seeing in real time their taxes wasted.”
Waltz is one of several Republican lawmakers who have asked the Biden administration to explain why federal offices in states with low transmission rates remain closed.
Jason Miller, OMB deputy director for management, said in a statement that the new guidance “will facilitate planning for an increased return of Federal employees to physical workplaces, and it clearly reinforces that the safety of the Federal workforce remains a top priority.”
“The President has established two clear goals that serve as the foundation for today’s guidance: that this Administration will empower, rebuild, and energize the Federal workforce and that the U.S. government must deliver results for all Americans,” he added.
Thursday’s memo envisions expanded support for employees who request flexible work schedules. It calls for new training for managers on “fair and equitable performance management” for staffers working hybrid schedules that combine in-office and at-home work. It emphasizes expanded opportunities for employees who live in one part of the country to report on a permanent basis to managers multiple states away — an arrangement that was rare before the pandemic.
“Employees who have been teleworking during the pandemic generally will remain eligible for telework, at least on a situational basis,” the memo stated.
The new policy is likely to be cheered by many federal employees, 59% of whom were teleworking at the peak of remote work during the pandemic.
Federal workers gave the flexibility high marks in a workforce survey, and many managers concluded that productivity did not suffer.
“This pandemic has proven that telework works,” said Tony Reardon, president of the National Treasury Employees Union, which represents 150,000 employees in 34 departments. “Agencies in our view can’t and shouldn’t try to put that toothpaste back in the tube.”
He said the questions of which employees are eligible to work from home and for how many days a week would be the subject of collective bargaining, along with safety-related issues such as access to testing, cleaning of workspaces, accommodations for employees at high risk of health problems and notice to employees if a nearby co-worker has tested positive for the coronavirus.
Formal negotiations over those and other issues could be lengthy, Reardon said — but could go quickly if agencies commit to working them out with unions informally.
Much of the government has worked remotely since March 2020, with entire departments still out of the office in some cases. However, hundreds of thousands of employees whose jobs require them to be on-site — such as meat inspectors and airport security screeners — never worked from home.
Some offices have selectively called employees back in recent months, but many senior leaders in the administration still have not moved to Washington.
Thursday’s memo was the first step to returning to a post-pandemic work environment.
Changes will not be immediate, however. Before increasing building occupancy or changing employees’ telework status, agencies have to come up with plans that satisfy any collective-bargaining obligations, update their coronavirus safety protocols and give employees “ample notice” — generally at least 30 days — to adjust their schedules. Agencies are required to complete their return-to-work plans by July 19.
Each department, down to the smallest unit, has the option to determine who will come back to the office and who will continue to work from home. To ensure safe workplaces and enough physical distance between employees when there are unvaccinated people in the office, an agency can establish occupancy limits, the guidance said.
“We’re happy to see that the administration is not rushing or imposing any kind of uniform schedule but rather allowing agencies time to work with us for a safe re-entry that incorporates the lessons learned about both the advantages and disadvantages of telework,” Everett Kelley, president of the American Federation of Government Employees, with 750,000 members the largest union representing federal employees, said in a statement.
The White House appears to be striking a balance between showing the public the administration has turned a corner on the pandemic, with a government ready to return to normal operations, and giving federal workers and the unions that represent them — key constituencies for President Joe Biden — flexibility to make child-care arrangements and move back slowly.
The incremental approach may also reflect a wariness that Biden’s goal of having 70% of the country vaccinated by July may be optimistic, particularly in red states where many federal offices are located.
The new policy comes a day after the administration told agencies they should not require their employees to be vaccinated against the coronavirus to return to the office or require them to disclose whether they are vaccinated.
The Equal Employment Opportunity Commission put out its own guidance this month saying that companies are permitted to require vaccinations for employees who return to the office. But many private companies have held back, wary of the fraught politics surrounding vaccine mandates and the untested legal issues involving vaccines cleared under the Food and Drug Administration’s emergency authority.
Remote work had been slow to take hold in the government, even as private companies allowed their workers flexibility to work where they wanted — a resistance that hardened during the Trump administration.
But the Biden administration, which is beginning to hire thousands of new employees at agencies depleted in the Trump era, has been more open to the idea that workers do not need to be physically present in the office to be productive.
At the Agriculture Department, Secretary Tom Vilsack told employees soon after he took office that he would work to restore a generous telework policy his predecessor, Sonny Perdue, sharply curtailed.
In recent weeks, congressional Republicans have pressured the administration to return large swaths of the workforce to the office, citing increased vaccinations, declining coronavirus cases and a need to better serve the public.
Of particular concern are partial in-person staffing levels at the National Personnel Records Center in St. Louis, an arm of the National Archives that provides veterans with vital paper records they need to obtain benefits, access to health care and burials at veterans cemeteries. Pandemic staff absences have created a backlog of close to half a million service requests that must be processed by hand.
A spokesman for the National Archives said last month that the records center was following federal guidelines on in-person work and had already recalled more than half its staff to the office.
Tempest restaurant in Charleston, S.C., on June 3. (Cameron Pollack / For The Washington Post) (Cameron Pollack/)
The owners of Klavon’s Ice Cream Parlor had hit a wall.
For months, the 98-year-old confectionary in Pittsburgh couldn’t find applicants for the open positions it needed to fill ahead of warmer weather and, hopefully, sunnier times for the business after a rough year.
The job posting for scoopers — $7.25 an hour plus tips — did not produce a single application between January and March.
So owner Jacob Hanchar decided to more than double the starting wage to $15 an hour, plus tips, “just to see what would happen.”
The shop was suddenly flooded with applications. More than 1,000 piled in over the course of a week.
“It was like a dam broke,” Hanchar said. Media coverage that followed his decision soon pushed other candidates his way.
Across the country, businesses in sectors such as food service and manufacturing that are trying to staff up have been reporting an obstacle to their success — a scarcity of workers interested in applying for low-wage positions.
The issue has raised concerns about the strength of the country’s recovery as coronavirus cases abate, with the economy still down more than 7.5 million jobs compared with before the pandemic.
Republicans have blamed enhanced unemployment benefits for the shortage; Democrats and most labor economists say the issue is the result of a complicated mix of factors, including many schools having yet to fully reopen, lingering concerns about workplace safety and other ways the workforce has shifted during the pandemic.
The experience of 12 business operators interviewed by The Washington Post who raised their minimum wage in the last year points to another element of the equation: the central role that pay — specifically a $15-an-hour minimum starting wage — plays in attracting or dissuading workers right now.
Nine of the businesses had increased pay to at least $15 an hour since March, amid struggles to hire in the face the tight labor market. The other three increased wages last year.
The business operators spoke about the challenges associated with increased labor costs, with three saying they had to raise prices for consumers. One of those, as well as two that did not raise prices, said they had to reduce some seasonal staffing or staff hours to make up the cost.
Enrique Lopezlira, a labor economist at the University of California at Berkeley and an expert on the low-wage workforce, said the stories were a sign, albeit anecdotal, that the market was functioning as it should in the face of excessive demand for workers.
“The more employers improve the quality of the jobs and the more they think of workers as an asset that needs to be maximized, the better they’re going to be able to find and retain workers long term,” he said.
A flex point
Patrick Whalen outside Tempest in Charleston, S.C. He is owner of the 5th Street Group, a group of restaurants in Charleston and Charlotte. (Cameron Pollack / For The Washington Post) (Cameron Pollack/)
For Patrick Whalen, co-owner of the 5th Street Group, comprising five restaurants in Charleston and Charlotte, the breaking point came in late March. The restaurants were getting busier as more people started venturing out to eat. But applicants for the dozens of positions the company was trying to hire for were scarce. Understaffed and busy, the company was starting to get shredded with negative reviews online.
After one of his managers told him that a line cook needed to borrow money to get groceries, Whalen was moved to reconsider wages at the company.
“It was just one of those moments where you just kind of stop and you say, ‘Is there a real problem in our industry?’” he said. “We always kind of knew it was there, but we didn’t really know what to do with it.”
The company raised the starting wage for all of its staff to $15 an hour, up from $12 to $13. And it created a “tip the kitchen” program, adding a second line to table checks for gratuity for the back-of-the-house staff, which the restaurant matches up to $500 per night. That move has increased wages for non-tipped employees such as line cooks and dishwashers to an average of $23.80 an hour, Whalen said.
Applicants began pouring in nearly overnight, Whalen said. A manager at one of his restaurants, Tempest, told him that 10 people walked in to drop off résumés over the course of one week after the policy change, compared with just 15 people over the four previous months.
Within three weeks, the restaurant group went from about 50 to 60% staffed to nearly fully staffed.
“There is no one in Charleston or Charlotte that can compete with what my guys are making,” Whalen said.
Aaron Dearing, a sous chef at Whalen’s 5Church Charlotte, said the tipping initiative had raised his pay by about $1,000 a month — the biggest raise he has received in 20 years in the industry.
“It puts everybody in a better position in their home life, so they come to work a lot happier,” he said.
John Puckett, one of the owners of Punch Pizza, a fast-casual restaurant group with about a dozen locations in the Twin Cities area, said the company experienced a similar boom when it made the decision in April to raise the minimum wage to $15 an hour from $11 as the company sought to fill 30 to 40 positions.
“We’ve seen an explosion of interest,” Puckett said. Job applications increased fivefold on its website and were 10 to 15 times higher on the jobs portal Indeed, he said.
Lexington Co-Op, which operates two grocery stores in Buffalo, is another business that found success by raising wages, from $13 an hour to $15, after having trouble filling about 15 positions in February and March.
Applications had been scarce. New hires who had accepted job offers then ghosted, failing to show for orientation or leaving the job after a few days. The company had begun leaning on high-schoolers to fill the positions.
“We’ve definitely been seeing a lot more candidates show up in their application pool and in orientation every week,” general manager Tim Bartlett said.
‘Investing in your people first’
Tyler Cook, a sous chef at Tempest restaurant in Charleston, S.C. MUST CREDIT: photo for The Washington Post by Cameron Pollack. (Cameron Pollack/)
Many of the business operators interviewed said that the decision to raise their employees’ starting wage was not motivated primarily by altruism or a desire to do right: It just made good business sense.
They said wage increases would help attract stronger candidates, reduce turnover and elevate company morale and culture — important for customer-facing businesses such as restaurants.
“We’re going to see savings in retention and turnover, which is so expensive,” said Nicole Marquis, the founder and chief executive of HipCityVeg, a group of fast-casual vegan eateries with locations in Philadelphia and D.C. that recently announced a $15 starting wage. “And this is going to help with recruiting, which will help with our culture — and is really what drives profit at the end of the day and creates a long-lasting brand.”
Other business owners said that they had raised wages to out-compete other companies for the best workers.
“We said let’s get way out ahead of this,” said Carl Segal, chief enterprise success officer at the “ghost kitchen” and technology company Reef, which raised its starting wage for its kitchen and grocery workers to $20 an hour in June, up from an average of around $16 to $18. “Let’s take care of the people that are on our team and really take them to the next level — just like they’re helping to take Reef to the next level — and do something amazing for them and their families.”
Most employers The Post spoke with acknowledged the challenges that came from increased labor costs, which already make up an outsize portion of the budget in restaurants and bars compared with other industries.
Three of the 12 businesses interviewed said that they had raised prices for consumers to help offset the wage increase. White Castle increased menu prices in the Detroit area after increasing its minimum wage there to $15 an hour, as did another restaurant that raised wages, Brown Sugar Kitchen in Oakland, Calif. The Midwest-based clothing and design store Raygun increased prices by about 1% after raising wages to an average of $15 last year, owner Mike Draper said.
Marquis said that HipCityVeg had not raised prices but that she thought customers would be willing to pay a bit more — 25 cents extra for a burger, for example — knowing employees were paid better.
One of the business owners, Gina Schaefer, who runs A Few Cool Hardware Stores, which has 13 locations in D.C., Maryland and Virginia, said that the wage increases led her company to trim some hours from the staffing schedule — some seasonal positions were left unfilled longer after workers left.
But she credited increasing wages at her stores to $15 an hour with helping her fill 71 positions since March.
“We’re having pretty good success,” she said.
Puckett, of Punch Pizza, said that raising wages had increased labor costs by 10%. Those costs eat up about 40% of sales revenue during normal times, and with a weakened bottom line during the pandemic, that meant that it had wiped out nearly 100% of the company’s profits.
But Puckett said the decision was not about short-term gains, even though the company was operating at a loss for the year.
“We are doing this for long-term competitive advantage through delivering more customer delight through engaged employees doing a great job,” he said. “Our business model to focus on the highest quality and service also makes a best-in-class wage structure for employees a good fit.”
For other businesses, increased costs from rising wages did not mean less profit.
While the staffing costs have gone up for the restaurants in 5th Street Group, overall sales also increased, and by a larger proportion, Whalen said. Customer reviews on sites such as OpenTable have gone up by nearly a half a point, too. Better service has translated to more sales and happier customers.
“Our top line is impacted dramatically because people come back and they talk about us,” Whalen said. “All these restaurants that are trying to figure out how to save money? The best way to save money is to make more, just have a better top line. The way you do that is by investing in your people first.”
Len Morris, owner of the Indiana-based staircase manufacturers Viewrail and StairSupplies, which recently raised starting wages to $25 an hour, said that material shortages — certain steels, aluminum extrusions, molds for plastic and rubber — were a much bigger concern for the company than worker availability.
“Wage increases aren’t necessarily driving price increases. Raw-material shortages are driving price increases,” he said. “It’s absolutely the greatest threat to our business.”
Not just pay
Most business owners emphasized that money was just one component of creating an appealing work environment for prospective employees, after a brutal year in which workers in sectors such as retail and hospitality faced high levels of job loss, the constant threat of coronavirus infection and other stressors.
“It’s tough if you have a family crisis and you need to deal with that and you have an employer that says, ‘If you leave to deal with that, you’re fired,’” Raygun’s Draper said. His company has emphasized leniency for workers, in addition to policies such as guaranteed sick time and paid time off. “We provide an environment where people don’t find themselves in that situation,” he said. “Work doesn’t have to be intractable.”
After White Castle had trouble hiring at its 37 stores in the Detroit area, its wage increase helped bring in more applicants. That also relieved pressure on its longtime staffers, who had picked up shifts to cover gaps amid shortages and turnover, Vice President Jamie Richardson said.
White Castle, with 362 locations nationwide, has opened only about 50 of its restaurants for dining, sticking instead with drive-through service, after employees reported in internal surveys that they felt safer that way.
“Employees are going to judge the places they worked based on what people did when times were toughest. Did that employer stick to the words they put on a poster in the backroom?” Richardson said. “That compact is always changing because times change, but I think the pressure of a pandemic really accelerated that time frame.”
Most of the owners said the political debate in Washington about the labor shortage seemed to present a simplistic view of business challenges — none said that they believed unemployment insurance was solely to blame for hiring hurdles.
“There’s a shaming that’s happening to working-class people,” said Schaefer, the owner of the D.C.-area hardware stores. “Nobody talks about the fact that the economy is going to fall apart when a tech guy gets a $195,000-a-year salary with a 5% raise every year, or when lawyers are making $300,000. This conversation only happens when you’re talking about the people who make the lowest wages. And I think as a society, that’s just really insulting.”
Anchorage Police investigate a homicide scene where a woman found dead early Tuesday at the Nunaka Valley baseball fields on Tuesday, June 8, 2021. (Bill Roth / ADN) (Bill Roth / ADN/)
Anchorage police on Thursday identified an 18-year-old who was found dead earlier this week at the Nunaka Valley baseball fields.
Officers are investigating the death of Katelynn Shelhamer as a homicide, the department wrote in an online statement.
Police said they were called to the East Anchorage neighborhood around 4:15 a.m. Tuesday because a woman had been found dead with “trauma to the upper body.”
Police on Tuesday blocked off the end of the street and two baseball fields at the end of Craig Drive. The baseball fields are adjacent to Nunaka Valley Elementary School.
Limited information was available about the circumstances surrounding Shelhamer’s death, including what kind of injuries she sustained.
“Detectives believe this incident is isolated and not random,” police wrote.
No arrests had been made by Thursday, said police spokeswoman Renee Oistad. Police did not say if they had identified any suspects.
Shelhamer is the seventh homicide victim in Anchorage this year. A man was fatally shot the day after her death near downtown Anchorage. A spokesman for the department said earlier this week that the incidents are not believed to be connected.
Police asked anyone with information or surveillance footage from the area to call dispatch at 311 or make a report online at anchoragecrimestoppers.com.
A 29-year-old man accused of attacking a Gulkana woman with a hatchet while she was sleeping now faces charges of attempted murder, assault and burglary, according to law enforcement officials.
The woman awoke early Wednesday to a masked man striking her in the head with a hatchet, Alaska State Troopers said.
The man was wearing a mask and the woman “stated he said nothing to her and (she) had no idea why she was being attacked,” Sgt. Wallace Kirksey wrote in a sworn affidavit. “She stated she thought she was fighting for her life and thought he was going to kill her.”
Her 14-year-old son grabbed a large knife, which caused the man to flee the home, the affidavit said. The woman called 911 just before 5 a.m., troopers wrote in an online statement.
Village Public Safety Officers and troopers were unable to find the man when they arrived, troopers wrote in the statement. A small hatchet was in the woman’s bed, the affidavit said.
She was brought to a medical facility for cuts to her head and hand that required stitches and staples, among other injuries, the affidavit said.
Surveillance footage from a nearby house tied Rodney Stevens’ car to the area, the affidavit said.
Stevens initially told troopers that he had been drinking and had not left his Glennallen home early Sunday but eventually said he went to the Copper Center area, Kirksey wrote in the affidavit. He said he had a hatchet in the vehicle that night but it was not there in the morning, the affidavit said.
When a trooper showed him the hatchet used to attack the Gulkana woman, Stevens said it was his, the affidavit said. He had no explanation for why it was in the woman’s bed, according to the affidavit. Stevens is related to the woman, the affidavit said.
He was arrested on charges of attempted first-degree murder, assault and burglary. Troopers said the investigation is ongoing.
The image from video provided by the Department of Defense labelled Gimbal, from 2015, an unexplained object is seen at center as it is tracked as it soars high along the clouds, traveling against the wind. “There's a whole fleet of them,” one naval aviator tells another, though only one indistinct object is shown. “It's rotating." The U.S. government has been taking a hard look at unidentified flying objects, under orders from Congress, and a report summarizing what officials know is expected to come out in June 2021. (Department of Defense via AP)
In April 2020, the Defense Department released videos recorded by infrared cameras on U.S. Navy aircraft that documented the planes’ encounters with a variety of “unidentified aerial phenomena.” Pilots reported seeing objects flying across the sky at hypersonic speeds and changing direction almost instantaneously, capabilities far beyond that of any known aircraft.
What were the pilots seeing? Bizarre atmospheric phenomena? Alien spacecraft? Something else? Several branches of the government have been investigating the events, motivated in part by concern that adversaries such as Russia or China might have made some spectacular technological advance, and later this month, the government plans to publish a report revealing what they know. Reportedly, the government will say there’s no proof of extraterrestrial activity, but that the incidents remain unexplained.
Chances are, though, that we should all be grateful that we don’t yet have any evidence of contact with alien civilizations. Attempting to communicate with extraterrestrials, if they do exist, could be extremely dangerous for us. We need to figure out whether it’s wise — or safe — and how to handle such attempts in an organized manner.
Some scientific circles have already been debating questions around whether to try to contact other civilizations. It’s a topic of profound importance for the entire planet. For 60 years, scientists have been searching with radio telescopes, listening in for possible signals coming from other civilizations on planets orbiting distant stars. These efforts have largely been organized by the SETI institute in California — the acronym stands for Search for ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence — and so far, they’ve had no success. Getting impatient, some other scientists are now pushing for a more active program — METI, for Messaging ExtraTerrestrial Intelligence — that wouldn’t just listen, but actually send out powerful messages toward other stars, seeking to make contact.
The search for aliens has reached a stage of technological sophistication and associated risk that it needs strict regulation at national and international levels. Without oversight, even one person — with access to powerful transmitting technology — could take actions affecting the future of the entire planet.
That’s because any aliens we ultimately encounter will likely be far more technologically advanced than we are, for a simple reason: Most stars in our galaxy are much older than the sun. If civilizations arise fairly frequently on some planets, then there ought to be many civilizations in our galaxy millions of years more advanced than our own. Many of these would likely have taken significant steps to begin exploring and possibly colonizing the galaxy.
Hence, it’s a profound mystery — known as the Fermi Paradox, after the Italian physicist Enrico Fermi — why we haven’t yet seen any such aliens. Many resolutions of the paradox have been proposed, among them the suggestion that all civilizations, once reaching sufficient technological capacity, eventually destroy themselves. Or perhaps aliens are so alien and unlike humans that we simply cannot interact with them.
More alarming is the possibility that alien civilizations are remaining out of contact because they know something: that sending out signals is catastrophically risky. Our history on Earth has given us many examples of what can happen when civilizations with unequal technology meet — generally, the technologically more advanced has destroyed or enslaved the other. A cosmic version of this reality might have convinced many alien civilizations to remain silent. Exposing yourself is an invitation to be preyed upon and devoured.
I’ve written about METI in the past, suggesting such activity takes a huge risk for very little gain. But these concerns don’t convince supporters of trying it, who have some counterarguments. Douglas Vakoch of METI International argues that it’s unrealistic to worry about the danger of an alien invasion. We have, after all, been sending radio and television emissions into space for a century, and a civilization far more advanced than our own will probably have already detected these. If they wanted to invade, they already would have.
He also argues that, in assessing risks, it’s important not only to consider the risk coming from taking an action, but also from not taking that action. Our world faces a number of potentially existential threats, including global warming and destabilization of the environment, and it’s possible that far more advanced civilizations may have already faced these issues and found solutions. If we don’t send out signals, Vakosh writes, we risk “missing guidance that could enhance our own civilization’s sustainability.” It’s also conceivable, he suggests, that we’re making a spectacular misjudgment — and some super-advanced alien civilization may attack us precisely because we haven’t reached out.
For obvious reasons, much of the thinking about these issues has to be rather speculative. The best way forward, perhaps, is to broaden the discussion. If all of humanity is exposed to the possible consequences trying to contact alien civilizations, then more people should be involved in making decisions about what is wise and what isn’t. It shouldn’t be left to a handful of radio astronomers.
One vocal critic of the idea of reaching out to aliens proactively — astronomer John Gertz of SETI — has developed proposals to move toward more inclusive public consideration of these activities. What we need, he suggests, are laws and international treaties to govern more explicit contact attempts. Without prior broad agreement from some globally representative body, Gertz says, contacting extraterrestrials should be considered “as the reckless endangerment of all mankind, and be absolutely proscribed with criminal consequences, presumably as exercised at the national level, or administered through the International Court of Justice in The Hague.”
Currently, no such prohibitions exist. Some informal protocols for interacting with alien civilizations have been informally adopted by researchers involved in SETI, but these are far from legally binding governmental regulations. That’s mostly because, up to now, talking about meeting or contacting aliens has seemed widely speculative — if not a little deranged — despite the apparent scientific plausibility of such an event.
It’s not easy to weigh the pros and cons of activities around which so much remains unknown. We don’t know if there are any aliens. They might be friendly. They might not be. Given the potential risks involved with trying to make contact, perhaps it would be safer and wiser to just wait — we can always reach out later, and meanwhile, our abilities to do passive listening are rapidly growing more powerful.
In 2015, SETI launched a new 10-year program called Breakthrough Listen, funded by a $100 million donation from Russian billionaire Yuri Milner. As a result, SETI is now recording more signals than ever before, over a frequency range some tenfold larger, and bringing more computational power to bear on analyzing the recorded signals. It’s impossible to know how close or far from making a discovery we may be, but Gertz estimates that our chances are at least 100 times greater than they used to be.
The search is also benefiting from astronomers’ knowledge of exoplanets — planets in orbit around stars other than the sun. Since the first exoplanet was found in 1992, we’ve identified nearly 5,000 more, and the rate of discovery is accelerating. Each one give SETI researchers new promising targets to scrutinize.
Personally, all of this makes me dead-set against any experimentation with attempting to contact other civilizations. Why take cosmic risks when we may have a far safer pathway to discovering them, if they’re out there? Of course, even listening comes with some potentially fraught governance issues also: If and when someone really identifies an alien signal, we’ll need to decide if we should reply — and if so, how. Surely such an act — putting all of humanity at risk — ought to be the result of some collective decision. But there’s no mechanism to encourage that now. Any individual or nation could take the human response into their own hands.
Both paths — listening for aliens or trying to call them — have reached the stage where they require broader public discussion, with an eye to developing sensible regulation. That’s going to take the efforts of leaders from many nations, presumably coordinated through the United Nations or some similar international body. It should happen now. Or soon. Before it’s too late.
Mark Buchanan is a physicist and science writer based in Europe.
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(at)adn.com. Send submissions shorter than 200 words to email@example.com or click here to submit via any web browser. Read our full guidelines for letters and commentaries here.
KENAI — A Seward City Council member has apologized for making an antisemitic comment during a council work session earlier this week.
Council member Sharyl Seese said she was “embarrassed” and “very sorry” for the comments made Monday, the Peninsula Clarion reported.
The comments came during a nearly two-hour work session during which council members and city leaders discussed how to spend $1 million the city is receiving from Norwegian Cruise Line. Seese suggested that the city negotiate regarding plans to use $500,000 to reimburse developers and $500,000 to expand child care options, the Clarion reported.
“Maybe they can get other stuff to pay the difference to get the building and maybe we can Jew them down,” Seese said, according to a YouTube stream of the work session.
“You mean negotiate them down? Is that what you meant to say?” Christy Terry, the mayor of Seward, asked in response.
The comments were met with awkward laughter by some council members while Seward Vice Mayor Tony Baclaan put his head in his hands, the Clarion reported. The work session was almost immediately adjourned after the comment was made.
Seese issued a statement of apology Tuesday.
“Please accept my sincere apology for what I said last night during my comments at the work session,” Seese said in the statement. “I would never want to hurt or offend anyone, and my mouth got the best of me. I had a sleepless night worrying about hurting people.”
Dunleavy Urges Swift Legislative Action on Constitutional Amendment to Protect Permanent Fund – Mike Dunleavy - Alaska Governor Office
- Dunleavy Urges Swift Legislative Action on Constitutional Amendment to Protect Permanent Fund – Mike Dunleavy Alaska Governor Office
- Legislative update: A tax is on the table, and a new 'dividend fund' plan is heard, conference committee stagnates Must Read Alaska
- 'Pick. Click. Pay your taxes.' Legislators hear alternative PFD proposals The Midnight Sun
- Sen. Stevens promises government will not shut down over budget Homer News
- LETTER: Base Dividends on resource revenue deposits to the Fund instead of percent of Fund earnings Anchorage Press
- View Full Coverage on Google News