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Angoon concerns not irrelevant

Juneau Hot Topics - Wed, 2018-02-21 06:56
The Juneau Empire stories I have read suggest to me that the concerns of the Angoon people (regarding being annexed by the Juneau borough), are being brushed off, by the majority vote of Juneau Assembly members, as being irrelevant. I was not at the meeting in question. I do not know the ...

Death in our schools

Juneau Hot Topics - Wed, 2018-02-21 06:56
After the Columbine school shooting in 1999, I wrote a letter to the editor where I lived in Michigan at the time. I am unable to remember the wording but do recall the overall content. It started like this: Children learn by example. We verbalize to our children the need for peaceful conflict resolution. But we ...

Man who died in Yellowstone fall was hunting for treasure millionaire says he buried

Alaska News - Wed, 2018-02-21 06:55

On a bright morning last summer, Jeff Murphy disappeared through the northern gates of Yellowstone National Park. The 53-year-old had traveled from the Chicago suburbs to the Montana-Wyoming border, and his planned hike up a nearby mountain trail should have taken him about half a day. But as the hours passed and no one heard from him, his wife reported him missing.

Park workers mounted a massive search operation. Eight hiking teams, four horse teams, five dog teams and a helicopter fanned out around Turkey Pen Peak, whose 7,000-foot summit overlooks the Yellowstone River. On June 9, rescuers found Murphy's body at the bottom of a steep, rocky slope.

For months, Yellowstone officials offered little information about Murphy's death except to say that an investigation was underway. But on Tuesday, a local news station confirmed what some have suspected all along: Murphy died – as have at least three others in recent years – in a quest for treasure that a millionaire said he buried in 2010.

Reporters from KULR said they obtained through a public-records request a private report from park investigators that showed Murphy had set out in search of a cache of gold and jewels that antiquities dealer Forrest Fenn says he hid somewhere in the Rocky Mountains.

Fenn, an eccentric man in his 80s who lives in New Mexico, claims that a small Romanesque treasure chest, supposedly filled with $2 million in riches, is stashed at an elevation above 5,000 feet between Santa Fe and the Canadian border. A poem in his 2010 memoir offers clues on how to find the elusive bounty.

It has to be said that this treasure might not exist. Perhaps it's a big joke. Still, the challenge has drawn untold thousands of people to scour the hills and mountain ranges of the American West, as The Washington Post has reported. No one has come back rich. But some have died searching.

In early 2016, Randy Bilyeu, one of Fenn's most enthusiastic followers, ventured into the New Mexican wilds, determined to track down the prize. Days passed and no one heard from the 54-year-old. A search was launched, then called off, The Post reported. Six months later, officials pulled his remains from the Rio Grande.

Last summer, just weeks after Murphy made his fatal trip to Yellowstone, 52-year-old Paris Wallace died during a trek into the mountains of New Mexico in search of the chest. The pastor from Colorado had disappeared in a rugged tract of the Rio Grande Gorge, The Post reported. His body, too, was pulled from a riverbank.

Also that summer, 31-year-old Eric Ashby went rafting along a turbulent stretch of the Arkansas River in Colorado. Weeks later, his remains were found several miles upstream. In January, officials confirmed he was another treasure-seeker.

According to KULR, Murphy was hiking up Turkey Pen Peak when he lost his footing and tumbled 500 feet down the mountain. The report by park investigators called his death an accident, saying "it appeared he stepped or hopped into the chute from the less steep slope above." Officials had suggested in October that his death was somehow linked to Fenn's treasure, but declined to offer any specifics about the investigation.

Days before he died, Murphy emailed Fenn who, in turn, alerted park officials when Murphy was reported missing, according to KULR. "The man who invited people to look for his chest of gold and jewels in the Rockies was very concerned about Murphy, and also offered to help pay for a helicopter to find the missing man," KULR wrote. "He also wrote that he had never been to the area where Murphy fell."

In an interview with the Albuquerque Journal this week, Erica Murphy said her husband was captivated by Fenn's treasure after reading about it in an airline magazine. She said he bought Fenn's memoir, "The Thrill of the Chase," from a Santa Fe bookstore a few years ago. The treasure hunt has been a "pastime" for him ever since, she told the newspaper.

"He loved anything that caused him to use his brain," she said, "and he loved being out in nature."

Along with his wife, Murphy, who worked as vice president of the International Housewares Association, left behind two young children.

Erica Murphy said she didn't blame Fenn for her husband's death and that he wouldn't have either. He understood the risks, she told the Journal, and "he wouldn't have wanted to hinder anyone" from the same adventure.

Fenn was not immediately available for comment Tuesday night, and he declined local media's requests to discuss Murphy's death. He previously told the Journal that the treasure is not hidden in a dangerous place.

"As with deer hunters and fishermen, there is an inherent risk that comes with hiking the canyons and mountain trails," Fenn said. "I have said that no one should search in a place where an 80-year-old man could not hide it."

Fenn claims his treasure chest contains 265 gold coins, ancient Chinese jade figurines, rubies, emeralds, diamonds and hundreds of gold nuggets, some as large as chicken eggs. He estimates tens of thousands of people have gone looking for it, sharing their experiences on blogs and treasure hunting forums. One of his motives in hiding it, he told an ABC affiliate in 2015, was to "get the kids off the couch and away from the game machine."

A mysterious 24-line poem in his memoir is supposed to hint at the location. It ends with the following lines: "So hear me all and listen good, Your effort will be worth the cold. If you are brave and in the wood, I give you title to the gold."

A fun piece for your evening read! Why #FennTreasure hunt is good for America!! https://t.co/qk0ghJA0hW

— Tom Rogan (@TomRtweets) June 21, 2017

In light of the deaths, Fenn has faced calls to end the hunt. He has offered condolences to victims families and encouraged people to stay safe during their excursions. But otherwise, he has resisted.

"Life is too short to wear both a belt and suspenders," he told the New York Times last year. "If someone drowns in the swimming pool we shouldn't drain the pool, we should teach people to swim."

End of an era: Juneau's Dennis Egan reflects on why his successor must learn to 'get along' - KTOO

Legislative News - Wed, 2018-02-21 06:49


End of an era: Juneau's Dennis Egan reflects on why his successor must learn to 'get along'
His father was Bill Egan, a longtime member of the Alaska Territorial Legislature and the first state governor. Growing up in the Alaska Governor's Mansion, Dennis Egan would get into all sorts of trouble, resulting in well-earned comparisons to Dennis ...

Pence was set to meet secretly with North Koreans during Olympics before last-minute cancellation

Alaska News - Wed, 2018-02-21 06:12

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea – Vice President Mike Pence departed for a five-day, two country swing through Asia earlier this month having agreed to a secret meeting with North Korean officials while in South Korea at the 2018 Winter Olympic Games.

But on Saturday Feb. 10, less than two hours before Pence and his team were set to meet with Kim Yo Jong, the younger sister of North Korean leader Kim Jong Un, and Kim Yong Nam, the regime's nominal head of state, the North Koreans pulled out of the scheduled meeting, according to Pence's office.

The North Korean decision to withdraw from the meeting came after Pence had used his trip to denounce their nuclear ambitions and announce the "toughest and most aggressive" sanctions against the regime yet, while also taking steps to further solidify the U.S. alliance with both Japan and South Korea.

It also came as Kim Jong Un, through his sister, invited South Korean President Moon Jae-in to Pyongyang to begin talks "soon" – a development that would likely cause consternation in Washington, where the Trump administration has been leading a campaign to put "maximum pressure" on the Kim regime to give up its nuclear program. Moon said through a spokesman that he would try to make it happen.

Pence's actions and rhetoric in the lead up to the Olympics contrasted with the image of progress being promoted by the South Koreans, who would also have been eager to involve the United States in direct talks with the North.

The vice president's office promoted his trip as an effort to combat what it said was North Korea's plan to use the Winter Games for propaganda purposes and portrayed the cancellation of the meeting as evidence his mission was a success.

"North Korea dangled a meeting in hopes of the Vice President softening his message, which would have ceded the world stage for their propaganda during the Olympics," said Nick Ayers, the vice president's chief of staff, while also pointing to the specific events Pence held to highlight human rights abuses by Pyongyang. "North Korea would have strongly preferred the vice president not use the world stage to call attention to those absolute facts or to display our strong alliance with those committed to the maximum pressure campaign. But as we've said from day one about the trip: this administration will stand in the way of Kim's desire to whitewash their murderous regime with nice photo ops at the Olympics."

The vice president's office said that when canceling the meeting, the North Koreans expressed dissatisfaction with Pence's announcement of new sanctions as well as his meeting with North Korean defectors.

State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert, in a statement Tuesday evening, said that during Pence's visit, "the possibility arose of a brief meeting with the North Korean delegation leaders," but at the last minute, the North Korean officials "decided not to go forward with the meeting."

"We regret their failure to seize this opportunity," Nauert said.

The meeting – which Pence had coyly teased en route to Asia, saying "We'll see what happens" – was two weeks in the making, and started when the Central Intelligence Agency first got word that the North Koreans wanted to meet with Pence when he was on the Korean Peninsula, according to a senior White House official. A second official said the initiative for the meeting came from South Korea, who acted as an intermediary between the two sides to set up the meeting.

South Korean officials did not immediately respond to a request for comment on Tuesday.

Though Pence had agreed to the North Korean invitation before he departed for Asia on Monday Feb. 5, no details were set until the vice president arrived in Seoul on Thursday Feb. 8, according to the White House official.

The two sides agreed to meet at South Korea's Blue House early that Saturday afternoon, the official said. No South Korean officials were scheduled to attend, but the Blue House was to serve as a neutral meeting place, which could also accommodate the security demands of both sides.

Pence, a representative from the National Security Council, a representative from the intelligence community and Ayers were planning to attend from the U.S. side. The North Korean side was expected to include Kim Yo Jong and Kim Yong Nam, as well as a possible third official.

Within the White House, discussions of the possible meeting were kept to a small group of senior administration officials and the plan was finalized the Friday before the vice president left during an Oval Office meeting with President Donald Trump, Pence, national security adviser H.R. McMaster, White House Chief of Staff John Kelly and Ayers. CIA Director Mike Pompeo called in by phone, while Defense Secretary Jim Mattis and Secretary of State Rex Tillerson were also part of the ongoing discussions.

The president and vice president were in agreement on the goal of the meeting: Pence would privately meet with the North Koreans not to open any negotiations with Kim's regime, but to deliver the administration's tough stance against North Korea face-to-face, two White House officials said.

The administration also took it as a sign of the North Korean's seriousness that Kim sent his younger sister to South Korea, making her the first member of the Kim family to visit the South since the Korean War.

"The president's view was that they need to understand that what our policy is publicly and what we are saying publicly is actually what we mean," a senior White House official said, explaining Trump's decision to greenlight the possibility of a Pence meeting with the North Koreans.

White House officials said Trump and Pence had viewed the meeting as a continuation of the administration's maximum pressure campaign against North Korea, as well as in line with the message Pence had delivered, publicly and privately, all trip. The talks between Pence and the North Koreans, had they happened, were not intended to serve as any sort of de-escalation of the administration's stance against North Korea, a senior White House official said.

Since becoming president, Trump has taunted Kim Jong Un with grade school boasts about who has more powerful nuclear button, dubbed him "Rocket Man" and promised that North Korea's provocations would be met with "fire and fury and frankly power, the likes of which this world has never seen before."

Pence used his trip to the region to further underscore the administration's combative stance.

At the Olympic opening ceremony, Pence sat in South Korean President Moon Jae-in's VIP box along with Moon and Japanese Prime Minister Shinzo Abe – with Kim Yo Jong and Kim Yong Nam sitting almost directly behind him. Pence studiously ignored the North Koreans all evening and photos of the uncomfortable tableau prompted public headlines and private speculation about who, exactly, had won the propaganda war.

That Friday, before heading to the Olympics, Pence visited the Cheonan Memorial, a tribute to 46 South Korean sailors who were killed in 2010 by a North Korean torpedo, and he met with four North Korean defectors, urging them to share their stories before the assembled media. He also invited Fred Warmbier – father of Otto Warmbier, the American student who died last year after North Korea detained him for 17 months for stealing a propaganda poster, then sent him home in a coma – to attend the opening ceremony as his guest.

It was all part of Pence's effort to cast himself as a warrior against North Korea's propaganda.

Pence seemed to make a point of ignoring the North Koreans at the opening ceremony, both at a VIP reception and in Moon's VIP box. The vice president also only stood to cheer for the U.S. athletes when they marched out, staying seated when the North and South entered the Olympic Stadium together under a united Korean flag.

The North's state-run Korean Central News Agency unleashed a torrent of vitriol against the Vice President on Saturday. "Pence must know that his frantic acts of abusing the sacred Olympics for confrontational ruckus are as foolish and stupid an act as sweeping the sea with a broom," the agency said in a report.

"If Pence wants to avoid experiencing a hot agony of shame on the stage of the Olympics, he had better stop behaving imprudently and clearly learn about how ardently the compatriots of the north and the south of Korea wish to reunify the country . . . and quietly disappear," the report continued.

Pence's stony demeanor and ramrod straight posture at the opening ceremony earned snarky reviews in the Korean media, with some grousing that he had snubbed the North Koreans and even disrespected the Olympic Games.

The vice president's team saw it differently.

Communications Director Jarrod Agen tweeted a laudatory review of Pence's evening: "VP stands and cheers for U.S. athletes. VP hangs out with U.S. athletes instead of dining with Kim regime. VP does not applauded N. Korea or exchange pleasantries w/ the most oppressive regime on earth."

Another member of Pence's staff explained the vice president's public behavior with, "I don't think you talk geopolitics over speed skating."

In fact, at that very moment, Pence was still planning to talk geopolitics with the North Koreans the next day, reiterating his week-long public message in private with Kim Yo Jong and Kim Yong Nam.

On the morning of Saturday Feb. 10, the North Koreans sent word to Pence's team that the meeting was still on – but they didn't like his rhetoric, a senior administration said.

Then, just hours later, the North Koreans changed their minds, abruptly backing out of their offering of a meeting.

Pence then watched speed skating with his wife before boarding Air Force Two to return home.

– – –

The Washington Post's Anna Fifield contributed to this story.

To boost election security, Alaska suspends electronic absentee program

Juneau Hot Topics - Wed, 2018-02-21 06:11
According to Division of Elections statistics, 8,411 absentee ballots were returned electronically in 2016. That represents about 7 percent of the 123,239 absentee ballots voted in the most recent statewide election. According to the Department of Homeland Security, Alaska's voting system was one of 21 ...

Blanked by the Czechs in a shootout, US men’s hockey team is out of the Olympics

Alaska News - Wed, 2018-02-21 06:05

GANGNEUNG, South Korea – As the clock ticked toward the conclusion of overtime, Coach Tony Granato thought, "I don't like the idea of this." His team was playing to delay the end. Most of the U.S. men's hockey players had come from European teams, minor leagues or semiretirement. A win meant another day here, another day of USA across the chest and global relevance and the potential for adulation. A loss would launch them back to hockey's hinterlands.

With those stakes, their sport would morph into a parlor game, and not a parlor game they were suited to win. The team produced by USA Hockey's odd experiment skated hard, scrapped in corners and cared like hell.

What it lacked was even a modicum of goal-finishing skill. Once the clock hit zeros, that would be the only skill measured. It would come down to a shootout.

"It's hard to believe the way it was being played, and how hard those teams were competing, it was going to go to that," Granato said.

The Czech Republic eliminated the United States from the Olympic tournament Wednesday afternoon in an overtime shootout, when all five Americans failed to score on Czech goalie Pavel Francouz. All game at half-full Gangneung Hockey Center, the United States had survived despite the Czechs' frequent domination. All just-missed chances, the squandered power plays, the gigantic performance of goalie Ryan Zapolski – it all vanished in the cursed shootout.

"I feel empty," said journeyman forward Jim Slater, whose shorthanded, second-period goal extended the game in the first place. Slater only played in three of the five games, and he had been included because he was, Granato said, "a worker." Slater nearly had another crack at the dominant Russian team.

But the United States faltered utterly in the shootout. Francouz presented unique problems. He wore his glove on his right hand, not left, like most goalies. He charged out of the net with aggression. He was big and quick.

For the Americans, Chris Bourque went first. It may have been karmic misfire – his father, the legendary defenseman Ray, had lost a shootout to the Czechs in the Olympics 20 years prior. After a series of dekes, Bourque buried a shot in Francouz's blocker.

Ryan Donato, the Harvard kid who led the U.S. team with five goals in the tournament, including the first Wednesday afternoon, fooled Francouz, but couldn't stuff the puck inside the right post. Mark Arcobello shot a wrister from close range into Francouz's pads. Troy Terry couldn't slip a backhand past, able to induce Francouz to drop his shoulder, but unable to flip the puck over him. Bobby Butler went last, and when Francouz rebuffed him, the Czechs exulted.

Their one goal against Zapolski had been enough. Petr Koukal, the second Czech shooter, fooled Zapolski with a deke and slipped a puck between his legs. Zapolski had made four other saves in the shootout. But the American shooters, with the NHL players at home, could not muster one response. Where have you gone, T.J. Oshie?

The U.S. team could have won in regulation. With 2:42 left in the third period, forward Brian O'Neill beat Francouz with a wrister from the slot, but the puck pinged off the crossbar. "Even when I hit the bar," O'Neill said, "I thought it was going in."

With 80 seconds left, Czech Vojtek Mozik took a slashing penalty. But the U.S. power play had been a special kind of mess all day, and they never generated much heat on Francouz. Even playing 4-on-3 for 40 seconds to start overtime, the United States did not threaten. Unlike the Czechs, the Americans had to play Tuesday just to make the quarterfinals.

"Maybe our legs weren't there," Zapolski said. "You could kind of see, once they got in our zone we had a difficult time getting it out."

The defeat robbed the United States of a semifinal rematch against the Olympic Athletes from Russia, who had beaten them, 4-0, in group play. The Americans left that game, despite the lopsided score, believing they had played Russia evenly.

"I wanted one more crack at them," Granato said. "They're an elite team. They might be as good as 20 out of the 30 teams playing in the NHL right now. That's how good they are. But I thought how we played them, how we attacked them, I think we could have went back at them."

Instead, the Americans gathered on their half of the rink. They pounded the ice with their sticks and waved to the crowd.

"If you were in our locker room, you wouldn't know we've only been together for two weeks," said Terry, a 20-year-old University of Denver forward who tallied five assists and piloted the U.S. attack. "When I look back, I'll have a whole locker room full of brothers I didn't have two weeks ago."

Having grown close, they now will scatter in disparate directions. Captain Brian Gionta may try to hook on with an NHL team. O'Neill would head back to his Kontinental Hockey League team. Donato, a Boston Bruins prospect still playing at Harvard, planned on doing homework on the flight home.

Donato, Terry and Jordan Greenway may go on to lengthy careers, to Stanley Cup playoffs, maybe even all-star games. For the semi-retirees and minor leaguers and KHLers, two weeks spent in South Korea with USA across their chest will be the pinnacle.

"In 10 or 15 years, when we're done playing, it's something we'll look back on as probably the best moment of our careers," Zapolski said.

It had a chance to be so much better, to last just a little longer. They will go home without medal, but what hurts most is just going home at all.

Lindsey Vonn settles for bronze in Olympic downhill

Alaska News - Wed, 2018-02-21 06:04

PYEONGCHANG, South Korea — It took eight years, but Lindsey Vonn finally roared across another finish line at the Olympic women's downhill, a moment that was, at once, a rebirth and an ending.

As she did at the 2010 Vancouver Olympics, Vonn immediately spun her head in the direction of the timing scoreboard. At those Winter Games, Vonn saw her name atop the leaderboard and let loose a resounding scream as she crumpled to the snow, the first American woman to win the event.

But at the 2018 Pyeongchang Games, Vonn's scoreboard glance elicited only a tempered, quiet smile and a shrug of the shoulders at her showing, good enough for a bronze. She grinned and pointed across the snow at her friend and the race winner, Sofia Goggia of Italy.

Vonn's life since Vancouver, her last Olympics, has included major knee constructions, multiple broken bones, nerve damage and shredded cartilage.

So it was probably the happiest third-place finish of her storied career.

"I'm not beaten — I won the bronze medal but I feel like I've won the gold medal," said Vonn, 33, who also won a bronze medal in the super-G at the 2010 Winter Games and now becomes the third American Alpine skier to win three Olympic medals. "I'm so thankful to be here and to be on an Olympic podium with the next generation of my sport."

But there was a farewell tone in Vonn's voice as well. Though she will ski in the Alpine combined on Thursday, she will not be a medal favorite. The downhill has always been her signature event, and Vonn was saying goodbye to both a race and a stage that had made her famous.

"I wish I could keep going; I wish this wasn't my last Olympics but it is," she said, adding: "I don't think my body can take another four years of ski racing."

Vonn, whose victory Wednesday made her the oldest woman to win an Alpine Olympic medal, was a childhood idol of Goggia, 25, whose time of 1:39.22 was just 0.09 seconds ahead of the silver medalist, Ragnhild Mowinckel of Norway, also 25.

Vonn was 0.38 seconds behind Mowinckel, who last week won the silver medal in the giant slalom.

Goggia has become one of Vonn's biggest rivals in the downhill, which Vonn — when healthy — has largely dominated since the Vancouver Games.

They entered Wednesday's race as favorites for the gold medal. In fact, Vonn chose bib No. 7 so that she could first see how Goggia, who was starting fifth, tactically approached the racecourse.

Goggia came out of the gate slowly and was the 26th fastest — out of 31 racers who finished — in the first timed interval. But Goggia quickly settled into a confident, aggressive stance on her skis, which she repeatedly pressured for more and more speed. By the third interval, Goggia was fifth fastest in the field.

As it turned out, she was just finding her rhythm. By smoothly linking her turns and occasionally taking a more rounded approach to the gates, Goggia kept the flat bases of her skis on the snow surface for longer stretches. The payoff was the fastest time in each of the three final timed intervals.

When Vonn followed two skiers later, she was faster at the start but less fluid in the middle section. Her skis seemed on edge and rattling more often than Goggia's, and after a bit of a miscue coming off the third jump in the course, Vonn trailed Goggia by nearly a half-second. She did not make up the time.

"I was maybe a little too precise with my line but it was a clean run," Vonn said later. "Maybe I should have let the skis run a little more.

"But I didn't ski stiff or nervous," she added.

Vonn had dedicated her performance to her late grandfather, Don Kildow, who had helped teach her to ski. Kildow died in November.

"I desperately wanted to win for him and I wish he could have been here to watch," she said. "But I still think he is watching and I think he'd still be proud of me."

Though not naturally introspective, Vonn seemed eager to use the occasion to reflect on her career.

"I'm really proud of what I've accomplished in four Olympic Games because some of them were pretty difficult," she said.

Vonn was seriously injured in a crash days before the 2006 Olympics, hobbled again by a shin injury just before the Vancouver Games and missed the 2014 Sochi Olympics because of knee surgery.

"I have never thought of quitting," Vonn, who plans to retire after next winter's race season, said after the race. "But the injuries have taken their toll. I've crashed into so many fences."

She smiled.

"I'm on a first-name basis with so many doctors it's ridiculous," she said.

Number of cruise visitors expected to leap in 2019

Juneau Hot Topics - Wed, 2018-02-21 06:00
More tourists visit Juneau in the summer than any other city in the state, she said. Binkley debuted these numbers at the Southeast Conference's Mid-Session Summit on Feb. 14 in Juneau, showing that about 1.09 million cruise visitors came to Alaska in 2017 (a record). That was on 33 ships and just ...

Red Cross looks to prepare volunteers for large fire scenario

Juneau Hot Topics - Wed, 2018-02-21 06:00
Tom Mattice, Emergency Programs Manager at City and Borough of Juneau, goes over a list of needed supplies during training with one of six emergency shelters in Southeast Alaska at the Mt. Jumbo Gym on Aug. 31, 2010. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File). If you've ever wondered what you'd do if ...

Innovation Summit starts today

Juneau Hot Topics - Wed, 2018-02-21 06:00
“Driving Innovation through Diversity” is this year's motto as 250 attendees and more than 40 presenters from Alaska and beyond will examine current and future innovations at the seventh annual event, produced yearly by the Juneau Economic Development Council with the help of sponsors.

Number of cruise visitors expected to leap in 2019

Juneau Hot Topics - Wed, 2018-02-21 06:00
Binkley reported that cruise visitors in 2017 spent $176.6 million in Juneau in 2017, which CLIA projects will grow to above $200 million in 2019. This precipitous rise is the result of major cruise ... Contact reporter Alex McCarthy at 523-2271 or amccarthy@juneauempire.com. Follow him on Twitter at ...

Airport Board accepting public comment on upcoming demolition project

Juneau Hot Topics - Wed, 2018-02-21 06:00
As part of that review, the board would like to hear from the public. To share thoughts, community members can send comments to Cynthia Johnson at cynthia.johnson@jnuairport.com or 586-0703. They can also send letters to the Juneau International Airport, 1873 Shell Simmons Dr., Ste. 200, Juneau ...

Billy Graham, preacher to millions and adviser to presidents, dies at 99

Alaska News - Wed, 2018-02-21 06:00

U.S. evangelist Billy Graham, who counseled presidents and preached to millions across the world from his native North Carolina to communist North Korea during his 70 years on the pulpit, died on Wednesday at the age of 99, a spokesman said.

Graham died at 8 a.m. EST at his home in Montreat, North Carolina, according to Jeremy Blume, a spokesman for the Billy Graham Evangelistic Association.

With his steely features and piercing blue eyes, Graham was a powerful figure when he preached in his prime, roaming the stage and hoisting a Bible as he declared Jesus Christ to be the only solution to humanity's problems.

According to his ministry, he preached to more people than anyone else in history, reaching hundreds of millions of people either in person or via TV and satellite links.

Graham became the de facto White House chaplain to several U.S. presidents, most famously Richard Nixon. He also met with scores of world leaders and was the first noted evangelist to take his message behind the Iron Curtain.

"He was probably the dominant religious leader of his era," said William Martin, author of "A Prophet With Honor: The Billy Graham Story." "No more than one or two popes, perhaps one or two other people, came close to what he achieved."

In a rare trip away from his home in his later years, Graham had celebrated his 95th birthday on Nov. 7, 2013, at a hotel in Asheville, North Carolina, where some 800 guests, including Republican politician Sarah Palin, business magnates Rupert Murdoch and Donald Trump and television hostess Kathie Lee Gifford paid tribute.

The celebration featured a video of a sermon that his son Franklin said was Graham's last message to the nation. Graham had been working for a year on the video, which was aired on Fox News. In it, he said America was "in great need of a spiritual awakening."

In his prime Graham had a thunderous, quick-burst speaking style that earned him the nickname "God's Machine Gun." Through his "Crusades for Christ," Graham sowed fields of devotion across the American heartland that would become fertile ground for the growth of the religious right's conservative political movement.

His influence was fueled by an organization that carefully planned his religious campaigns, putting on international conferences and training seminars for evangelical leaders, Martin said.

Graham's mastery of the media was ground-breaking. In addition to radio and publishing, he used telephone lines, television and satellites to deliver his message to homes, churches and theaters around the world.

Some 77 million saw him preach in person while nearly 215 million more watched his crusades on television or through satellite link-ups, a Graham spokeswoman said.

Graham started meeting with presidents during the tenure of Harry Truman. He played golf with Gerald Ford, skinny-dipped in the White House pool with Lyndon Johnson, vacationed with George H.W. Bush and spent the night in the White House on Nixon's first day in office.

George W. Bush gave Graham credit for helping him rediscover his faith and in 2010, when it was difficult for Graham to travel, Barack Obama made the trip to the preacher's log cabin home in North Carolina's Blue Ridge Mountains.

Graham's ties to the White House were mutually beneficial. His reputation was enhanced as preacher to the presidents, while the politicians boosted their standing with religiously inclined voters.

"Their personal lives – some of them – were difficult," Graham, a registered Democrat, told Time magazine in 2007 of his political acquaintances. "But I loved them all. I admired them all. I knew that they had burdens beyond anything I could ever know or understand."

Graham's reputation took a hit because of Nixon after the release of 1972 White House tapes in which the two were heard making anti-Semitic comments. Graham later said he did not remember the conversation and apologized.

In the early half of his career, Graham often spoke his mind on social and political issues of the day, including his strong anti-communist sentiments. He dismissed Vietnam War protesters as attention-seekers and, while he eventually refused to hold segregated revival meetings, he did not take an active role in the 1960s civil rights movement.

But Graham's politics were not as overt as those of some religious leaders who came after him, such as Pat Robertson, who ran for president in 1988, and Jerry Falwell, co-founder of the Moral Majority, an organization whose purpose was to promote Christian-oriented politics.

As he grew older, Graham said he felt he had become too involved in some issues and shifted to a middle-of-the-road position in order to reach more people. He did, however, dive into the gay marriage issue in 2012 when he came out in support of a state amendment to ban same-sex marriages in North Carolina. He also met with Republican Mitt Romney in October 2012 and told him he supported Romney's run for the presidency.


William Franklin Graham was born on Nov. 7, 1918, into a Presbyterian family and was known as Billy Frank while growing up on a farm near Charlotte, North Carolina. As a teenager, he said he was mostly preoccupied with baseball and girls until he was moved by God after hearing a fiery revivalist in Charlotte.

After attending Bob Jones College, Graham ended up at a Bible school in Florida, where he would preach at his first revival, and was ordained in 1939 by a church in the Southern Baptist Convention. He received a scholarship to Wheaton College near Chicago, where he met Ruth Bell, whose parents were missionaries in China. They married in 1943.

Rather than work from a home church, Graham went on the road, preaching in tents and building a following. His breakthrough came with a 1949 Los Angeles tent crusade that was scheduled for three weeks but extended to eight because of the overflow crowds he attracted.

The success of the Los Angeles campaign and the fame it brought Graham was attributed to media magnate William Randolph Hearst, who had liked Graham's style and anti-communist stance so much that he ordered his newspapers to give Graham a boost.

Graham eventually outgrew tent revivals and would preach at some of the most famous venues in the world, such as Yankee Stadium and Madison Square Garden in New York and London's Wembley Stadium. He delivered sermons around the globe, including in remote African villages, China, North Korea, the Soviet Union, East Germany, Czechoslovakia and Hungary.

Liberals accused him of giving credibility to abusive governments while fundamentalist Christians criticized him for going to godless countries and promoting peaceful relations with them. Graham said he simply saw the trips as apolitical opportunities to win souls for Christ.

Graham concluded his career of religious campaigns in June 2005 in New York with a three-day stand that attracted more than 230,000 people, his organization said. He turned over his evangelical association to his son Franklin. Graham's other four children were also evangelists.


Graham managed to maintain his public integrity even as other TV star evangelists such as Jim Bakker and Jimmy Swaggart were hit in the 1980s by financial and sex scandals. To keep his reputation pristine, Graham had a policy of never being alone with any woman other than Ruth.

Graham's closest presidential relationship was with Nixon, who offered him any government job he wanted – including ambassador to Israel. It turned out to be a painful relationship for Graham, who said Nixon and his circle misled him on the Watergate scandal.

Nixon aide H.R. Haldeman first mentioned Graham's anti-Semitic remarks in a 1994 book, which Graham strongly denied. But when audio tapes from the Nixon White House were released in 2002, Graham could be heard referring to Jews as pornographers and agreeing with Nixon that the U.S. media was dominated by liberal Jews and could send the United States "down the drain."

Graham, who had a long history of supporting Israel, apologized again after the tapes' release and said he had no recollection of the conversation.

"If it wasn't on tape, I would not have believed it," Graham told Newsweek. "I guess I was trying to please. I felt so badly about myself – I couldn't believe it. I went to a meeting with Jewish leaders and I told them I would crawl to them to ask their forgiveness."

The author of more than two dozen books with titles such as "How to Be Born Again," Graham also ran the weekly "Hour of Decision" radio program broadcast around the world on Sundays for more than 50 years.

Graham helped bring religion into the television age. He first put together a television show, which was eventually syndicated, in 1951 and began live broadcasts of his revival meetings in 1957 from New York's Madison Square Garden.

In a 2011 Fox News interview, Graham was asked what he would do differently in his career.

"I would study more. I would pray more, travel less, take less speaking engagements," he said. "I took too many of them in too many places around the world. If I had it to do over again I'd spend more time in meditation and prayer and just telling the Lord how much I love him."

In addition to suffering with Parkinson's disease for many years, Graham's health problems in his later years included a broken hip, a broken pelvis, prostate cancer and installation of a shunt in his brain to control excess fluid. He was hospitalized in 2011, 2012 and 2013 for respiratory problems.

Graham and his wife, Ruth, who died June 14, 2007, had two sons and three daughters.

(Additional reporting by Ed Stoddard)

Gov. Walker asks to use $10M on seismic surveying at refuge - KTUU.com

Legislative News - Wed, 2018-02-21 05:53


Gov. Walker asks to use $10M on seismic surveying at refuge
JUNEAU, Alaska (AP) - Gov. Bill Walker's administration is asking the Alaska Legislature for permission to spend $10 million on seismic surveying in the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The Juneau Empire reported Tuesday that the ...

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Governor Asks to Use $10M on Seismic Surveying at Refuge - U.S. News & World Report

Legislative News - Wed, 2018-02-21 05:15

Juneau Empire

Governor Asks to Use $10M on Seismic Surveying at Refuge
U.S. News & World Report
Gov. Bill Walker's administration is asking the Alaska Legislature for permission to spend $10 million on seismic surveying in the coastal plain of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. Feb. 21, 2018, at 9:19 a.m.. Governor Asks to Use $10M on Seismic ...
State asks Legislature for $10 million to survey ANWR for oilJuneau Empire
Sen. Murkowski to deliver Legislative address on ThursdayKFQD
Gov. Walker asks to use $10M on seismic surveying at refugeNews & Observer

all 10 news articles »

Anchorage skier Kikkan Randall wins Olympics gold

Alaska News - Wed, 2018-02-21 03:00

Kikkan Randall of Anchorage struck gold in her fifth and final Winter Olympics, winning the women's team sprint race with Minnesota's Jessie Diggins in Pyeongchang, South Korea, on Wednesday.

The medal is the first in Olympics history for American women. The nation's only other Olympics medal in cross-country skiing came from Bill Koch in 1976.

Randall, 35, and Diggins, 26, edged Sweden by .19 of a second to win the 7.5-kilometer freestyle race in 15 minutes, 56.47 seconds. Skiers took turns racing 1.25 kilometers at a time, with Randall going first and Diggins going second.

Pure adrenaline for @jessdiggs & @kikkanimal after winning @TeamUSA's first cross-country skiing #gold medal! https://t.co/ijxwbhtcCo pic.twitter.com/alnMNQOOvI

— NBC Olympics (@NBCOlympics) February 21, 2018

Both women have had individual disappointments at the Olympics. Randall experienced heartbreak at the 2014 Sochi Olympics, where she was a gold-medal favorite in the freestyle sprint but failed to advance to the quarterfinal heats. In two previous races in Pyeongchang, Diggins placed seconds away from bronze medals.

But as the U.S. women like to proclaim on social media, they are #bettertogether. And so it was Wednesday in Pyeongchang.

Diggins, who in the final few meters of the race passed Sweden's Stina Nilsson  with one final burst of grit and power, raised her arms in triumph as she lunged across the finish line.

She let out a roar and then collapsed to the ground on her back, where Randall pounced on her. The two remained dogpiled for a long, jubilant moment.

The victory was redemption for both skiers, although both boast resumes that require no excuses or apologies. It's just that until now, all of their triumphs had come at the World Championships or on the World Cup circuit. Olympic glory had eluded them both.

Randall, who starred in skiing and running at East High School in Anchorage and is a longtime member of Alaska Pacific University's nordic ski program, is America's most decorated cross-country skier. She's a three-time World Cup sprint champion, a three-time World Championship medalist and the owner of numerous World Cup podium finishes.

Diggins grew up in Afton, Minnesota, idolizing Randall and has solidly established herself as a worthy heir apparent. She's also a three-time World Championship medalist — in 2013, she and Randall won the team sprint at worlds — and a frequent visitor to the World Cup podium.

Randall, who is retiring after this season, and Diggins were part of a big lead pack early in the eight-team finals. By the fifth leg — Randall's final leg — it was a three-team race between Sweden, Norway and the United States.

Norway's Marit Bjoergen and Sweden's Charlotte Kalla — two of the sport's greatest competitors — were ahead of Randall but never managed to break away from her.

When Randall tagged off to Diggins for the last time, she was in third place, just .75 of a second out of the lead.

Diggins seized the lead quickly. The three leaders soon built a sizable gap, and for the final minute or two of the race it became clear that barring a disaster, Diggins and Randall would claim a medal.

Diggins came from behind in the final few meters to beat Sweden's Stina Nilsson to the finish line. Norway's Maiken Caspersen Falla finished 2.97 seconds behind the Americans in third place.

One of the first people to congratulate Randall was Bjoergen, who also made history by winning her 14th medal, the most in Olympic history. She has won four medals in Pyeongchang to overtake Norwegian biathlete Ole Einar Bjorndalen, who held the previous record of 13 medals.

Randall and Bjoergen, 37, are both five-time Olympians and both are mothers of toddlers. Randall's son Breck will turn 2 in April, and Bjoergen's son turned 2 in December. Both have shown that neither age nor motherhood spell the end of a world-class career.

Randall is the sixth Alaskan to win a medal at the Winter Olympics and the first since 2006, when snowboarder Rosey Fletcher and hockey player Pam Dreyer both came home with bronze medals.

Hilary Lindh was Alaska's first Winter Olympian to medal, claiming silver in the 1992 downhill. In 1994 Tommy Moe stunned the world with gold in the downhill and silver in the super-G, and in 2010 Kerry Weiland was a member of the silver-medal women's hockey team.

Randall and Diggins set a fast pace in their semifinal heat, which produced all four teams that advanced to the finals as lucky losers.

The Americans were in the lead or close to it in all six legs of their semifinal. Randall, who skied first, got off to a good start, finishing third in the first leg, less than a second out of the lead.

Diggins quickly grabbed the lead and tagged off to Randall in first place. Randall was a close second after both of her next two legs, and each time Diggins surged into the lead.

The pair finished the semifinal in a time of 16:22.56, more than 10 minutes faster than Norway's winning time of 16:33.26 in the other heat.

Looking Back: February 21, 2018 - Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

Legislative News - Wed, 2018-02-21 00:04

Looking Back: February 21, 2018
Fairbanks Daily News-Miner
A law passed by the Alaska Legislature in June mandates that midwives must be licensed by the state. The law also creates a licensing board which oversees the licensing, discipline and programming of midwives in Alaska. Since December, the board has ...

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Readers write: Letters to the editor, February 21, 2018

Alaska News - Tue, 2018-02-20 22:43

Thanks to the special counsel
Thank you, Mr. Mueller. This is a good foundation. I hope you can help us restore the USA we used to have in the work you are doing for our nation.
— Beverly Metcalfe

Those backing Prop. 1 want policy based on their religion
To: Mr. Minnery and followers:
From now on, please begin your appeal for passing Proposition 1 with the truth. Homosexuals, transgenders, bisexuals, etc. should be banned from certain bathrooms not because they are sexual predators, but because they are sinners. And as proof, you can cite the book of Leviticus in the Old Testament. And you can quote the words of Jesus in the New Testament railing against LGBT people. Oops … I guess you can't because he never said anything about them.
However, Jesus addressed the sin of divorce and re-marriage in both Matthew and Mark.
After Proposition 1 becomes law, perhaps the bathroom police should not only check birth certificates of suspected LBGT people, but also require every marriageable age person to show divorce papers if they have gone through that unfortunate experience. How about written proof from those who covet wealth, use God's name in vain, have been caught shoplifting or gotten a traffic ticket? Shall we all have our sins tattooed on our foreheads to make it easier to decide who can use the bathrooms?
— Kay A. Abrams
Eagle River

No mass shootings at gun shows
Ever wonder why you never hear about mass shooting events at gun shows? All those handguns and ARs laying around with thousands of rounds of ammo available? On a side note; I bet most of the readers of this very liberal paper have no idea what AR, in AR15 stands for. Those idiots think it stands for automatic rifle. WOW.
— Eric Olenick

Mass shootings tell sad truth
We must stop hiding from the facts. From Columbine to Virginia Tech, Sandy Hook and Orlando, Las Vegas to Sutherland Springs, now Parkland and all the other mass shootings that have taken place since 1966. Since that time: 1,076 people, 176 of whom were children, have been murdered. There are two common denominators; a deranged shooter and a military style weapon. We are unable to manage human nature in a democracy. We can invoke the Second Amendment of the Constitution which calls for "A well-regulated Militia" and start regulating military style weapons in the hands of our citizens. A well-regulated militia does not mean that all citizens have access to automatic killing machines designed to kill in mass quantity. The "right of people to keep and bear arms," is infringing upon the rest of our society in a bloody way.
— Garth Olson

Restrooms can be dangerous
I haven't made up my mind about transgenders' use of bathrooms (Proposition 1). I am horrified of the potential for transgenders being ridiculed or abused. However, I worry about the unintended consequences of voting no on Proposition 1. Mainly, I believe heterosexual, predatory males may view this as another opportunity to pose as transgender and prey on the vulnerable. I note Mr. McGee's opinion that these acts are illegal. (ADN Feb. 9). Unfortunately, illegal acts happen. Here are two examples: I know a woman who was raped in a restroom and another who foiled an attempt in a dorm shower. So, if we see a masculine-looking person enter the female bathroom or locker room and we don't do anything, could we be enabling a crime? How would we feel if we find out later a woman/child was harmed? Can anyone address this side of the issue?
— Elaine Pfeiffer
Eagle River

Don't close transit center restrooms because of damage
The act of one individual damaging the public restroom at the Anchorage Downtown Transit Center should not have resulted in a permanent closure of said restrooms.
Public transportation provides residents of Anchorage an affordable and efficient way to navigate our community. As a public service the People Mover allows individuals and families of Anchorage to have the ability to get to school, work, houses of worship, parks, healthcare facilities and cultural institutions.
To deny bus riders access to basic amenities while they wait for their transfer sends a message that ACDA doesn't see transit users as part of the population they serve. I hope ACDA sees the error in this closure and works to provide transit riders a waiting experience with dignity, respect, and access to public restrooms.
Britta Hamre
Chair, Public Transportation Advisory Board
— Anchorage

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

Olympic notebook: Duncan 8th in skicross; Stassel misses big air finals

Alaska News - Tue, 2018-02-20 21:17

Ryan Stassel went big, and now he'll go home.

Stassel, a 25-year-old snowboarder from Anchorage, didn't make the cut for the Winter Olympics big air finals during qualifying Wednesday in Pyeonchang, South Korea.

Stassel went with a big trick on both of his runs — a front-side 1440, meaning he did four full mid-air revolutions.

His best score was 76.25, and he needed a 90.5 or better to finish in the top six in his heat and earn a spot in Saturday's finals in South Korea.

On both of his runs, Stassel didn't have a clean landing, hurting his chances at a big score. He scored 39.5 on his first run, when he over-rotated.

He improved on his second run, but not enough. He finished 13th in his heat and 26th overall.

This is the second Olympics for Stassel, and the second time he's competed in a sport making its Olympic debut.

Big air is new to the Winter Olympics this year, and slopestyle made its debut at the 2014 Sochi Olympics. Stassel placed 14th in slopestyle in Sochi and 35th in Pyeongchang.

Duncan 8th in skicross

Dave Duncan, a three-time Olympian who used to ski for UAA, turned in his best Olympic result Wednesday by claiming eighth place in men's skicross.

Duncan, 35, won his first heat and finished second in his quarterfinal heat to gain a spot in the semifinals for Canada.

In his four-man semifinal, Duncan led early but finished last, half a second behind the winner. That put him in the four-man small final, where he again finished last, giving him eighth place overall.

Duncan, who skied slalom and giant slalom for the Seawolves from 2002-06, was injured during training in his first Olympic appearance in 2010 and didn't get to compete.

At the 2014 Olympics in Russia, he placed 26th.