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Roy Clark, dead at 85, was a country guitar virtuoso and star of TV’s ‘Hee Haw’

Alaska News - Thu, 2018-11-15 10:48

FILE - In this May 17, 2009, file photo, country music star Roy Clark performs after being inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in Nashville, Tenn. Clark, the guitar virtuoso and singer who headlined the cornpone TV show "Hee Haw" for nearly a quarter century, died Thursday, Nov. 15, 2018, due to complications from pneumonia at home in Tulsa, Okla., publicist Jeremy Westby said. He was 85. (AP Photo/Mark Humphrey, File) (Mark Humphrey/)

Country star Roy Clark, the guitar virtuoso and singer who headlined the cornpone TV show “Hee Haw” for nearly a quarter century and was known for such hits as “Yesterday When I was Young” and “Honeymoon Feeling,” has died. He was 85.

Publicist Jeremy Westby said Clark died Thursday due to complications from pneumonia at home in Tulsa, Okla.

Clark was "Hee Haw" host or co-host for its entire 24-year run, with Buck Owens his best known co-host. The country music and comedy show's last episode aired in 1993, though reruns continued for a few years thereafter.

"'Hee Haw' won't go away. It brings a smile to too many faces," he said in 2004, when the show was distributed on VHS and DVD for the first time.

Clark played the guitar, banjo, fiddle, mandolin, harmonica and other instruments. His skills brought him gigs as guest performer with many top orchestras, including the Boston Pops. In 1976 he headlined a tour of the Soviet Union, breaking boundaries that were usually closed to Americans.

And of course, he also was a member of the Grand Ole Opry.

His hits included "The Tips of My Fingers" (1963), "Yesterday When I Was Young" (1969), "Come Live With Me" (1973) and "Honeymoon Feeling" (1974). He was also known for his instrumental versions of "Malaguena," on 12-string guitar, and "Ghost Riders in the Sky."

He was inducted into the Country Music Hall of Fame in 2009, and emotionally told the crowd how moving it was "just to be associated yourself with the members of the Country Music Hall of Fame and imagine that your name will be said right along with all the list."

In his 1994 autobiography, "My Life in Spite of Myself," he said "Yesterday, When I Was Young" had "opened a lot of people's eyes not only to what I could do but to the whole fertile and still largely untapped field of country music, from the Glen Campbells and the Kenny Rogerses, right on through to the Garth Brookses and Vince Gills."

FILE - In this April 8, 1974, file photo, Roy Clark, one of the leading performers of country music on television, performs in Burbank, Calif. Clark, the guitar virtuoso and singer who headlined the cornpone TV show "Hee Haw" for nearly a quarter century, died Thursday, Nov. 15, 2018, due to complications from pneumonia at home in Tulsa, Okla., publicist Jeremy Westby said. He was 85. (AP Photo/Harold Filan, File) (Harold Filan/)

Clark was guest host on “The Tonight Show” several times in the 1960s and 1970s when it was rare for a country performer to land such a role. His fans included not just musicians, but baseball great Mickey Mantle. The Yankees outfielder was moved to tears by “Yesterday When I Was Young” and for years made Clark promise to sing it at his memorial — a request granted after Mantle died in 1995.

Beginning in 1983, Clark operated the Roy Clark Celebrity Theatre in Branson, Missouri, and was one of the first country entertainers to open a theater there. Dozens followed him.

He was a touring artist as late as the 2000s. Over the years, he played at venues around the world: Carnegie Hall in New York, the Sporting Club in Monte Carlo, the Grand Palace in Brussels and the Rossiya Theatre in Moscow.

Clark was born in Meherrin, Virginia, and received his first guitar on his 14th Christmas. He was playing in his father's square dance band at age 15.

In the 1950s, Clark played in bands in the Washington, D.C., area. In 1960, he got the chance to front the band of country singer Wanda Jackson. He also performed regularly in Las Vegas. He got his first recording contract, with Capitol Records, in 1962.

He appeared on Jimmy Dean's TV show "Town and Country Time" and took over the show when Dean left.

In 1997 he released "Roy Clark's Christmas Memories."

Clark and Owens worked together for years, but they had very different feelings about "Hee Haw." Owens, who left the show in 1986, later referred to it as a "cartoon donkey," one he endured for "that big paycheck." Clark told The Associated Press in 2004 that "Hee Haw" was like a family reunion.

"We became a part of the family. The viewers were sort of part owners of the show. They identified with these clowns, and we had good music."

Clark said the hour-long program of country music and corny jokes capped off his career.

"This was the icing on the cake. This put my face and name together."


Former AP writer Joe Edwards contributed to this report.

A journey in painting: Alaska to Iceland and back again

Alaska News - Thu, 2018-11-15 10:46

Christina Wilson holds up a painting during a residency in Iceland. (Courtesy Christina Wilson)

Christina Wilson’s art jumps off the canvas, not just in the way she captures her scenery, but also through her use of thick, layered oil paint. Her approach to painting, known as the impasto technique, takes a palette knife through paint from the tube onto a birch canvas. The end result is what Wilson calls a “thick frosting-like texture.”

“I like people to want to walk up to the painting and touch it and feel intrigued by the texture,” Wilson said.

Wilson’s art will be on display this Friday in Anchorage in her latest exhibit, aptly titled “A Year of Residencies” for her participation in residency programs in Juneau and Iceland. Wilson’s acrylic paintings of Juneau are easily distinguishable from her oil paintings of Iceland, which are on a birchwood canvas. The Iceland residency program was organized by a nonprofit called Norðanbál, which brings artists of all mediums from all over the world to the island of Hrísey in north Iceland. Wilson spent the month of September painting on the island with her husband and her 2-year-old son.

Spending time on the remote island allowed Wilson to reconnect with her love of oil painting. The art requires more time and storage space than other paint mediums since oil paintings take one to two weeks to dry. Wilson’s exhibit will feature several oil paintings of Iceland’s mountains, which Wilson said “kind of resemble Alaskan mountainscapes as well.”

This is not Wilson’s first time traveling internationally to paint. After receiving her degree in art history from the University of Minnesota Morris, Wilson joined the Peace Corps. While she was serving in West Africa, she would paint murals with her community to educate the area on health issues. Wilson previously painted en plein air during her travels in Spain and Italy as well.

Christina Wilson stands at a canvas during a residency in Juneau. (Courtesy Christina Wilson)

Wilson’s trip to Juneau this past May was the product of Alaska State Parks' Artist-in-Residence program. The program enables artists to spend up to two weeks at the Ernest Gruening Cabin to work on their craft.

“The idea of the residency program originally is to give artists a space to work in and create art and they would donate some art back to the state parks that we could use for other purposes later,” said the program’s development specialist, Wendy Sailors.

Artists who participate in the program donate at least one work back to the park and agree to a community outreach event that will share the beauty of creating art in the Alaska State Parks. Preston Kroes, Alaska State Parks Southeast regional superintendent, said these residency programs also help people think about parks in a new way.

“When you picture recreational activities in Alaska State Parks, you generally think about hiking, camping, picnicking, bird and wildlife viewing, possibly fishing and hunting, and other similar traditional outdoor interests as how people enjoy the parks,” Kroes said. “Most likely you would create a long list before or perhaps maybe never include someone creating artwork as a way to benefit from visiting a park. The AIR program not only promotes artists enjoying the parks but provides them with a location to create and share their experience through their artwork. ”

Christina Wilson with her paintings produced in Iceland. (Courtesy Christina Wilson)

Wilson spent 10 mostly cloudy days in Juneau, but the pieces she’s most excited to showcase from Juneau are ones that capture the rare sunsets of her trip. Most of her paintings feature vibrant colors and rich textures. Wilson likes to add a “surreal, dream-like color and style” to the canvas to turn the scenery around her into a contemporary, abstract painting.

When she’s not painting, Wilson is teaching studio art at Alaska Pacific University. She believes residency programs are important for an artist to diversify their experience and income.

“I want to let students know that just like study abroad experiences, artists' residencies function in the same way in the sense that there is funding that’s available. There’s ways to see the world and create art without spending a fortune doing it,” Wilson said.

After “A Year of Residencies” is over, Wilson will be focusing on the launch of her self-published children’s book, “Peek-a-boo Bear” which showcases her illustrations. The project was also born out of her love of reading to her son, and the art will display the animals of Alaska playing peek-a-boo with the reader.

“I think it’s really important for individuals who are going to pursue a career in art to diversify what they do,” Wilson said. “It’s great to create art and sell art, but as artists, we depend on a lot of different jobs in a career.”

A painter, professor and now author, Wilson is most excited about displaying her renderings of Iceland’s mountains, lighthouses and auroras at the exhibit. Her work will be on display from 6-9 p.m. Friday at the Church of Love on Spenard Road. For more information about Wilson’s work, visit christinawilsonart.com or dnr.alaska.gov/parks/asp/artistinresidence.htm for more information about the Alaska State Parks’ Artist-in-Residence program.

Box in holiday wrapping prompts Anchorage federal building evacuation

Alaska News - Thu, 2018-11-15 10:38

A bomb squad member outside the Anchorage federal building on Thursday morning, Nov. 15, 2018. (Loren Holmes / ADN)

A suspicious package that triggered an evacuation Thursday morning at the federal building in Anchorage was a package in holiday wrapping, police said.

"This has been determined to be an isolated incident and there is not any ongoing public threat," Anchorage Police Department spokeswoman Kendra Doshier said in an email.

The 12- by 12-inch box was found in the cafeteria, according to the U.S. Marshals Service in Anchorage. The eastern portion of the building was evacuated "out of an abundance of caution," said John Lajeunesse, a supervisor with the marshals service.

The Federal Protective Service has jurisdiction over the building, but the marshals initially dealt with a person involved with the package, Lajeunesse said.

It's unclear what, if any, charges that person faces.

Anchorage police officers provided assistance, Doshier said. Patrol cars could be seen blocking side streets Thursday morning.

Federal entities made the decision to evacuate the premises.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates. 

Graffiti found at Service High, including ‘hateful slur,’ prompts restroom closures

Alaska News - Thu, 2018-11-15 10:29

Graffiti discovered Thursday morning at Service High School in Anchorage triggered restroom closures and sweeps as well as locker searches.

One message was similar to written threats found last week at Dimond High School, according to a message sent to Service parents by principal Frank Hauser. The other message "contained a hateful slur," Hauser said.

The graffiti was discovered in the Grant Frasier Memorial Auditorium boys bathroom and in the Lower G boys bathroom, he said.

The school's two resource officers were investigating the incident.

Service on Thursday enacted several changes in response: locking most bathrooms that are out of camera view; checking other bathrooms for new graffiti every half hour; and random locker searches through the day.

A school district spokeswoman wasn't immediately available for comment. The district is working with Anchorage police, officials say.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.  

Sweet potato pie with marshmallow meringue wants on your dessert table

Alaska News - Thu, 2018-11-15 09:30

Sweet potato pie with marshmallow meringue. (Maya Wilson/Alaska From Scratch)

To lovers of candied yams with marshmallow topping, I'm not going to hate on you. That dish, a retro classic that has graced many a Thanksgiving table throughout the decades, has gotten a bad rap over the years. I know what a powerful thing food nostalgia can be. I've made a pie in your honor, a show-stopping sweet potato pie with marshmallow meringue.

Two of my kids thought this was pumpkin pie, and my daughter declared it to be the best she'd ever tasted. This sweet potato pie does easily pass as pumpkin pie, but in my opinion, has better texture. It's more velvety and smooth. It's great on its own, but this marshmallow meringue takes it over the top. If you happen to have a kitchen torch on hand and like your marshmallows a little charred, feel free to brown the marshmallow topping just before serving. I just wouldn't recommend putting it under the broiler because the pie crust would burn on the edges. Both the pie and and topping can be made in advance and refrigerated.

Sweet Potato Pie with Marshmallow Meringue
Makes 1 pie

1 large orange-fleshed sweet potato (about 1 pound)
1 unbaked pie crust
1/2 cup butter, melted
1/2 cup whole milk
2 eggs
1/2 cup brown sugar
1/3 cup sugar
1/2 teaspoon nutmeg
3/4 teaspoon cinnamon
1/4 teaspoon salt
1 teaspoon vanilla
1 teaspoon maple extract (optional)
2 tablespoons bourbon (optional)

Preheat oven to 400 degrees. Line a baking sheet with aluminum foil. Prick the sweet potato with a fork. Roast it on the baking sheet until tender in the center, 45-60 minutes. Allow to cool 30 minutes.

Place the pie dough into a standard pie plate. Trim and crimp the edges. Set aside.

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. Peel the sweet potato. Add the flesh of the sweet potato to a blender or large food processor. Pour in the melted butter and milk. Whirl to break down the sweet potato. Add the eggs, sugars, nutmeg, cinnamon, salt, vanilla, and maple extract and bourbon (if using). Whirl on medium speed until completely smooth and combined, scraping the sides of the blender as needed. Pour the custard into the pie crust. Bake for 55 minutes or until completely set in the center and crust is golden brown. Place pie on a cooling rack to cool.

For the meringue:
2 egg whites
1/2 cup sugar
1/4 cup water
1/4 teaspoon cream of tartar
1/2 teaspoon vanilla

Add the egg whites to the bowl of a stand-mixer fitted with the whisk attachment. Whip the whites on high until they turn white and frothy and hold a soft peak. Let stand while you do the next step.

In a small saucepan over medium-high heat, whisk together the sugar, water, and cream of tartar. Bring to a rolling boil and cook until the syrup reaches 245 degrees on a candy thermometer.

With the mixer on low, gradually stream the hot syrup mixture into the egg whites. Turn the mixer up to high speed and whip until a thick marshmallow consistency is reached, about 3 minutes. Add the vanilla and whip to combine. Using an off-set spatula, spread the marshmallow meringue on top of the cooled pie. Slice and serve.

Let easy caramel pie ease your pie anxiety

Alaska News - Thu, 2018-11-15 09:26

Easy caramel pie. (Photo by: Kim Sunee)

For thoughtful cooks and hosts, it's easy to bite off more than we can chew during the holidays. Weeks ahead of time, I make a list of guests and menu options, noting allergies and aversions in order to accommodate everyone's tastes. Even the most seasoned cooks can get overwhelmed.

I always like to have one dessert option that's quick and easy to put together. And speaking of, I just came back from a trip with chef and cookbook author Sara Foster, who recently published a book titled "Pie" filled with inspiring recipes, including a simple apple sour cream slab and buttermilk cardamom pie that I might add to the dessert offerings this year. For another easy option, I'm opting for an old-school pantry pie that turns cookie crumbs and shelf-stable condensed milk into something luxurious. But keep in mind that this combo is for the relentless sweet tooth, so it might be wise to have some lighter fruit options on hand as well.

Making the caramel takes some slow-cooking time. There are slow cooker and stove-top versions but this one, made in the oven, gets a little help from a water bath. Graham crackers make for a classic crust but I've had a bit of an obsession lately with the cinnamon-flecked Biscoff cookies (thanks Alaska Air) and am happy to report that you can buy whole sleeves of the addictive biscuits at Safeway. Top with fresh whipped cream and some finishing salt, or add a drizzle of glossy chocolate ganache and a few crushed cookie crumbs or some bright pomegranate arils. Make sure to let the pie sit out a good 30 minutes before serving.

Easy Caramel Pie
Makes 1 (9-inch) pie

1 (8.8-ounce) package Biscoff cookies (or graham crackers)
1 tablespoon packed light brown sugar
1/8 teaspoon ground cinnamon
6 tablespoons unsalted butter, melted
2 (14-ounce) cans sweetened condensed milk
1/2 teaspoon Maldon flake salt or Fleur de sel
1 teaspoon vanilla extract
1 1/2 cups heavy whipping cream
1 teaspoon powdered sugar
Garnish: chocolate ganache; cookie crumbs; pomegranate arils

Preheat oven to 350 degrees. In a food processor, combine cookies, brown sugar, and cinnamon and pulse into fine crumbs. (Leave out 1 to 2 tablespoons for garnish). Pour in the melted butter and pulse until well blended. Press cookie mixture into the bottom and up the sides of a 9-inch pie plate. Bake for 12 to 15 minutes until golden brown. Remove and let cool. Increase oven temperature to 400 degrees.

Pour condensed milk into a 9- by 13-inch ovenproof glass baking dish and sprinkle with salt. Cover dish with foil and place dish in a larger pan, such as a roasting pan. Add enough hot water to the larger pan to reach at least halfway up the side of the baking dish. Bake, lifting foil to stir 2 to 3 times, until milk is deep golden and thickened, about 2 1/4 hours. NOTE: add more water, as needed, to the larger pan. The consistency should be like a soft deep caramel. If lumpy, it will smooth out as it cools.

Remove pan and carefully whisk vanilla extract into the hot caramel. Scrape caramel filling into pie crust and smooth top. Spray a sheet of plastic wrap with cooking oil and place on top of filling. Chill in refrigerator until filling is set, at least 4 hours and up to overnight.

Remove pie from fridge at least 30 minutes before serving. Whip cream and sugar together until medium peaks form. Pile on top of pie and garnish with reserved cookie crumbs; slice and serve, if desired with chocolate ganache or pomegranate arils.

Federal judge: Florida is ‘laughing-stock of the world’

Alaska News - Thu, 2018-11-15 08:36

Canvassing Board chair Judge Betsy Benson, left, and board member Judge Deborah Carpenter-Toye, right, show political lawyers one of the ballots that was damaged during the recount that will need to be duplicated and then recounted, at the Broward County Supervisor of Elections office during a recount, Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2018, in Lauderhill, Fla. (AP Photo/Wilfredo Lee) (Wilfredo Lee/)

TALLAHASSEE, Fla. — A federal judge slammed Florida on Thursday for repeatedly failing to anticipate election problems, and said the state law on recounts appears to violate the U.S. Supreme Court ruling that decided the presidency in 2000.

"We have been the laughing-stock of the world, election after election, and we chose not to fix this," U.S. District Judge Mark Walker said in court.

Walker vented his anger at state lawmakers but also Palm Beach County officials, saying they should have made sure they had enough equipment in place to handle this kind of a recount. Walker also said he's not happy about the idea of extending recount deadlines without limit.

The overarching problem was created by the Florida Legislature, which Walker said passed a recount law that appears to run afoul of the 2000 Bush v. Gore decision, by locking in procedures that don't allow for potential problems.

A total of six election-related lawsuits are pending in Tallahassee. Earlier Thursday, Walker ordered that voters be given until 5 p.m. Saturday to show a valid identification and fix their ballots if they haven't been counted due to mismatched signatures.

Florida's 67 counties have faced a 3 p.m. Thursday deadline to finish recounts that could determine the next senator and governor in one of America's top political battlegrounds. Republicans said they would immediately appeal.

State officials testified that nearly 4,000 mailed-in ballots were set aside because local officials decided the signature on the envelope didn't match the signature on file. If these voters can prove their identity, their votes will now be counted and included in final official returns due from each county by noon Sunday.

Meanwhile, the ongoing recount threatens to stretch into the weekend. The election supervisor in Palm Beach County, a Democratic stronghold, warned they may not meet Thursday's initial deadline. U.S. Sen. Bill Nelson and Democrats want that looming deadline set aside, and other lawsuits could lead to more delays.

More than a week after Election Day, an immediate resolution seems remote.

Once the machine recount is complete, state law requires a hand review of races with margins of less than 0.25 percentage points. This almost certainly means another recount in the Senate race, with unofficial results showing Republican Gov. Rick Scott ahead of Nelson by 0.14 percentage points.

Also, the election won't be certified until Tuesday, even though the machine recount may essentially bring a conclusion to the governor's race, where Republican Ron DeSantis leads Democrat Andrew Gillum by 0.41 percentage points in unofficial results.

Nelson, a three-time incumbent, has defended his legal strategy that resulted in Walker's ruling, saying in a statement Wednesday that "it remains the most important goal of my campaign to make sure that every lawful vote be counted correctly in this Senate race, and that Floridians' right to participate in this process is protected."

Republicans, however, say in their own lawsuits and motions that Democrats are trying to change the rules after the voting didn't go their way.

"We will continue to fight to defend Florida law and uphold the will of the voters," said Chris Hartline, a spokesman for Scott.

Nelson and Democrats had wanted Walker to order the counting of all mail-in ballots rejected for a mismatched signature, arguing that local election officials aren't handwriting experts.

Walker said he could not go along with that suggestion.

"Let this court be clear: It is not ordering county canvassing boards to count every mismatched vote, sight unseen," Walker wrote in his 34-page ruling. "Rather, the county supervisors of elections are directed to allow those voters who should have had an opportunity to cure their ballots in the first place to cure their vote-by-mail and provisional ballots now, before the second official results are fully counted. This should give sufficient time, within the state's and counties current administrative constraints, for Florida's voters to ensure their votes will be counted."

Lauren Schenone, a spokeswoman for Scott, called Walker's ruling "baseless" and said they were "confident" it would be overturned by the Atlanta-based appellate court.

The developments are fueling frustrations among Democrats and Republicans alike. Democrats want state officials to do whatever it takes to make sure every eligible vote is counted. Republicans, including President Donald Trump, have argued without evidence that voter fraud threatens to steal races from the GOP.

Just when state officials will get recount results from all counties remains unclear. Tallying machines overheated earlier this week in Palm Beach County. That caused mismatched results with the recount of 174,000 early voting ballots, forcing staffers to go back and redo their work.

The county’s Supervisor of Elections Susan Bucher said the machines underwent maintenance right before the election, but “I don’t think they were designed to work 24/7.”

A White House aide picked a fight with Melania Trump. The first lady won.

Alaska News - Thu, 2018-11-15 08:06

Deputy National Security Adviser Mira Ricardel, right, watches as President Donald Trump arrives for a Diwali ceremonial lighting of the Diya in the Roosevelt Room of the White House, Tuesday, Nov. 13, 2018, in Washington. In an extraordinary move, first lady Melania Trump is publicly calling for the dismissal of Ricardel. After reports circulated that the president had decided to remove Ricardel, the first lady’s spokeswoman issued a statement saying: “It is the position of the Office of the First Lady that she no longer deserves the honor of serving in this White House.” Ricardel is national security adviser John Bolton’s deputy. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci) (Evan Vucci/)

WASHINGTON - A transoceanic personnel crisis that engulfed the National Security Council this week is partly rooted in a bureaucratic dispute over the seating arrangements aboard first lady Melania Trump's plane to Africa last month during her maiden solo trip abroad.

As the East Wing prepared the flight manifest for the marquee trip, deputy national security adviser Mira Ricardel became angry that seats on the first lady's government jet were assigned to a larger-than-usual security entourage and a small press corps with none for Ricardel or another NSC staffer, according to current U.S. officals and others familiar with the trip and its aftermath.

Policy experts from the NSC and State Department were advised to fly separately and to meet the first lady's party on the ground, a practice the State Department had often used, but Ricardel objected strenuously, those people said. She threatened to revoke NSC resources associated with the trip, meaning no policy staff would advise the first lady during her visits to Ghana, Kenya, Malawi and Egypt.

Bad blood between Ricardel and Melania Trump and her staff continued for weeks after the trip, with the first lady privately arguing that the NSC's No. 2 official was a corrosive influence in the White House and should be dismissed. But national security adviser John Bolton rebuffed the first lady and protected his deputy, prompting the first lady's spokeswoman, Stephanie Grisham, to issue an extraordinary statement to reporters Tuesday effectively calling for Ricardel's firing.

"It is the position of the Office of the first lady that she no longer deserves the honor of serving in this White House," Grisham said of Ricardel in the statement.

After an uncomfortable day of limbo, White House press secretary Sarah Sanders announced Wednesday evening that Ricardel was leaving the White House.

"Mira Ricardel will continue to support the President as she departs the White House to transition to a new role within the Administration," she said in a statement.

An NSC spokesman declined to elaborate.

The first lady's decision to publicly advocate for the ouster of a senior member of her husband's staff shows a new willingness on her part to weigh in on White House operations and marks a change from earlier in the Trump administration, when she repeatedly played down her role as an adviser to the president.

First lady Melania Trump pauses for photographs as she visits the historical site of the Giza Pyramids in Giza, near Cairo, Egypt. Saturday, Oct. 6, 2018. She was visiting Africa on her first big solo international trip. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster) (Carolyn Kaster/)

It also comes as the president is mulling personnel changes, including possibly ousting Chief of Staff John Kelly and firing Homeland Security Secretary Kirstjen Nielsen.

Anita McBride, who was chief of staff to first lady Laura Bush, says Melania Trump's move was a dramatic show of power.

"If anyone had questions about her willingness to exert her influence, they got their answer," she said.

Ricardel's dismissal also serves as a rebuke of Bolton, known for his sharp elbows and ability to navigate internal tensions, who refused for weeks to fire his hand-picked deputy and worked in the past day to protect her.

Soon after the first lady's office issued its statement Tuesday, surprised senior White House aides walked to Ricardel's office to see whether she was still there. She was, albeit confused.

Bolton, who was awakened in Asia in the middle of the night and told of the dustup, was soon on the phone, telling Ricardel to remain at her post, three administration officials said.

The White House was trying to find a soft landing place for Ricardel, but agencies including the Commerce Department, where she worked in the first year of the Trump administration, are hesitant to take her on because of her reputation, two senior administration officials said.

The first lady's statement came after months of tension in the White House over Ricardel's abrasive interactions with staffers in both the East Wing and the West Wing, according to several current and former staffers.

Melania Trump and Ricardel have never met, according to people familiar with each of them. But the first lady viewed the conservative operative, who was among the most senior women in the West Wing, as a toxic influence in the White House, to the point that she spoke to Trump about Ricardel after the Africa trip and authorized others to spread the word that Ricardel had overstepped the mark, several people familiar with recent events said.

A senior White House official said the first lady believed Ricardel was spreading false rumors about her office, including a misleading story that aides had arranged a $10,000 hotel stay in Egypt. Other White House aides said Ricardel belittled underlings, shouted at professional staff and was the most disliked aide in the West Wing.

Last weekend, according to administration officials, the first lady's office again asked Bolton to oust Ricardel. Others, including Kelly, have wanted her gone for months, administration officials said, with little success in overcoming Bolton's objections.

Bolton declined again - and went to Asia.

While the first lady's public statement came as a surprise to many, including in the White House, Paolo Zampolli, a longtime friend of the Trumps', said the move isn't out of character for the first lady. "Our first lady is very strong, and she has the right to choose who she's working with," he said.

In past administrations, first ladies exerted similar or greater influence, but always behind the scenes. The most famous modern example is Nancy Reagan's engineering the ouster of chief of staff Donald T. Regan, who had made the dire mistake of hanging up on her. While Nancy Reagan's fingerprints were all over the firing, there were no statements from her office to that effect.

"You never hang up on the first lady. She can be your strongest ally. She can help you more than anybody realizes," said Kenneth Duberstein, who fared better as chief of staff to Reagan.

Martha Washington, historian Carl Sferrazza Anthony noted, once wrote that she felt like a "state prisoner" because of protocol rules and a schedule set in part by her husband's chief adviser, Tobias Lear. And there was no love lost between Mary Lincoln and Abraham Lincoln's chief counselors, John Hay and John Nicolay, who referred to her as "the hellcat" behind her back.

Pat Nixon, Anthony says, chafed at top White House aides H.R. "Bob" Haldeman and John Erlichman for perceived offenses that included not giving her enough notice before travel and for not taking her own ambitious agenda seriously, Anthony said.

"It goes back so far, that what we're really talking about is human nature and the problem of the boss' wife," he said.

Melania Trump has taken on a more public role recently, launching her anti-bullying campaign earlier this year and traveling to Africa in October.

She has made symbolic gestures that suggest she felt free to make her views plain and to disagree with her husband.

In a rare sit-down interview with ABC News last month, Mrs. Trump was asked whether it was true that she had more control over her notoriously volatile husband than anyone else. "Oh, I wish," she said. "I give him my honest advice and honest opinions. And then he does what he wants to do."

Melania Trump has privately complained about other current and former White House officials to her husband - Steve Bannon, chief among them - but has never issued such a public statement before.

The East Wing often does not approve its statements with the White House. Senior White House aides, including Kelly and Bolton, were not aware the statement was coming before it was issued Tuesday. Sanders had not seen the final statement, a senior administration official said.

Even Kelly, who wanted Ricardel gone, admitted to others the situation was handled poorly, and that the White House looked bad.

The controversy has added to the turmoil surrounding the White House following last week's midterm elections where Republicans lost control of the House and maintained a slim Senate majority despite having a favorable electoral map this cycle. Last week Trump fired Attorney General Jeff Sessions before heading over to Paris over the weekend for the commemoration of the end of World War I where he clashed with French President Emmanuel Macron.

"This shows it's still a broken and dysfunctional White House. Maybe John Kelly has made a few trains run on time, but it's clearly still broken," said Chris Whipple, author of a 2017 book, "The Gatekeepers," about White House chiefs of staff and West Wing operations.


The Washington Post’s Philip Rucker contributed to this report.

After 9 years with Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, director Tonkovich steps down - Anchorage Daily News

Legislative News - Thu, 2018-11-15 08:03

Anchorage Daily News

After 9 years with Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, director Tonkovich steps down
Anchorage Daily News
Times have tightened financially at ASMI. While the organization, a public-private partnership intended to market Alaska wild-harvested seafood, used to receive state funding, the Legislature has been working on eliminating its support from the general ...

Upper Cook Inlet fishermen seek federal disaster declaration

Alaska News - Thu, 2018-11-15 07:59

A Cook Inlet drift gillnet salmon boat. Fishermen who saw their fishery value shrink by about two-thirds in 2018 are seeking support for a federal disaster declaration that would enable Congress to appropriate relief funds. (Rashah McChesney / AJOC file)

This season was a sour one for salmon fishermen across the Gulf of Alaska, and participants in multiple fisheries are seeking funding for relief.

The Board of Fisheries and Gov. Bill Walker already granted a disaster declaration for Chignik, which harvested next to zero sockeye salmon this year due to an unprecedented poor return to the Chignik River on the Alaska Peninsula. Sockeye salmon runs across the Gulf of Alaska failed to deliver this year, either in timing or in size, at a huge cost to fishermen.

Now the Upper Cook Inlet fishermen want a chance at federal funding to recover some of their losses. The set gillnet and drift gillnet fleet in Upper Cook Inlet harvested about 1.3 million salmon, 815,000 of which were sockeye, or about 61 percent below the 10-year average harvest of sockeye.

This year was forecasted to be lower than the average, but the harvest as of Oct. 5 — when all Upper Cook Inlet salmon fishing closed for the 2018 season — brought in about $11 million in ex-vessel value, a little more than a third of the $31 million recent 10-year average.

The total run, however, was about 32 percent below what was forecast, according to the 2018 salmon fishing summary from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game issued Oct. 22.

The trick of it was that the Kenai River sockeye run — the heavy-hitting run of the region, which usually peaks in July — didn’t arrive in force until August. For only the second time in Fish and Game’s records, more than half the run arrived after Aug. 1.

That late arrival was exacerbated further by the existing management structure around the high-tension commercial, sport, personal-use and subsistence fisheries on the Kenai River.

“In the previous 10 years, the average date where 50 percent of sockeye salmon passage has occurred in the Kenai River is July 23,” the report states. “In 2018, 50 percent of the final passage estimate did not occur until August 3, or 11 days later than average. The late run timing and smaller peak complicated management in 2018 as management plans with specific dates and triggers were developed to account for average run entry timing and magnitude.”

The Kenai City Council unanimously adopted a resolution in October asking Walker to declare an economic disaster in the Upper Cook Inlet fishery for 2018, with Mayor Brian Gabriel abstaining due to a conflict of interest because he commercially setnets.

With the city of Kenai’s support, the fishermen and a number of organizations and businesses are now seeking support from the Kenai Peninsula Borough Assembly to declare an economic disaster in the fishery as well.

The assembly will consider a resolution to support the request at its Nov. 20 meeting. Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association, the Cook Inlet Fisherman’s Fund, Copper River Seafoods and the Kenai Peninsula Economic Development District all submitted letters in support of the resolution, citing the difficulty to the fishery participants this year.

“Most fishermen didn’t even cover expenses,” wrote Cook Inlet Fisherman’s Fund President Steve Vanek in the organization’s letter. “…Resident commercial fishermen are an important contributor to the economy of the borough. We appeal to the borough for assistance.”

Copper River Seafoods Corporate Development Officers Martin Weiser wrote that the organization, which has “expansion plans in Cook Inlet,” doesn’t have a choice but to absorb the loss, but the fishermen don’t.

“Being a large company with operations in almost every major fishery in this state, we will absorb this loss (as we do not have a choice) and continue with business. This is not the case for many of the folks who focus their fishing activities in Cook Inlet,” he wrote. “It is for their sake and the sake of the future of this fishery that we write this letter in support of a disaster recovery effort on the part of the State of Alaska.”

Disaster declarations made by the governor then go to the federal Department of Commerce, requiring the Secretary of Commerce’s approval. Congress can then appropriate the funds to return to the fishermen. That process recently concluded with $56 million in relief for the 2016 pink salmon disaster, taking nearly two years before funds surfaced. A federal disaster was also declared in 2012 for low king salmon returns to Cook Inlet and the Yukon and Kuskokwim rivers, for which $21 million was eventually appropriated.

The process is too slow to help the people of Cook Inlet, Weiser noted in his letter.

If a disaster is declared, it could open up opportunities for legislative appropriation of assistance grants as well as the opportunity of assistance to permit holders who have loans through the Commercial Fishing Revolving Loan program and may not be able to meet the terms of their loans, noted Cook Inlet Aquaculture Association Executive Director Gary Fandrei in his letter.

The sockeye salmon fishery on the river was stop-and-start, with commercial fishing closed for up to six days at one point to boost passage in the Kenai River. Fishermen complained about the closure on sockeye, the most valuable commercial species in the Inlet, and their complaints were exacerbated later by restrictions on harvest to chum salmon stocks in Kamishak Bay due to low numbers of chum salmon in aerial surveys and a lack of offshore test fishery information to provide for openings for late sockeye salmon.

Managers were working within tight date and opening confines, trying to meet strict Kenai River king salmon goals and multiple sockeye salmon sonar goals while opening up sockeye fishing opportunities with various tools.

Adding to the complexity was the relatively decent-sized run of sockeye returning to the Kasilof River, mixed along the shore with Kenai River king salmon. This year marked the first time the North Kalifornsky Beach area was opened within 600 feet of shore in an attempt to focus harvest on Kasilof River sockeye while minimizing Kenai sockeye and king harvest.

As the Kenai sockeye run continued to fail to materialize, the Kasilof run kept coming back, and managers used the 600-foot fishery in the Kasilof section and ultimately the Kasilof River Special Harvest Area — a one-mile square area around the mouth of the Kasilof River — to try to harvest that stock to prevent the run from surpassing the escapement goal. In the end, it did anyway, according to the salmon season management report.

Pink salmon harvests were also significantly lower than average— about 84 percent below the recent 10-year average — mostly due to fishing restrictions during the sockeye season. One bright note, however, was the coho harvest. Upper Cook Inlet fishermen brought in about $1.3 million in ex-vessel value for cohos, about double the recent 10-year average of $699,300, according to the management report.

Elizabeth Earl can be reached at elizabethearl@gmail.com.

After 9 years with Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, director Tonkovich steps down

Alaska News - Thu, 2018-11-15 07:58

Alexa Tonkovich. (Michael Dinneen for the Alaska Journal of Commerce) (Michael Penn/)

After nine years with the Alaska Seafood Marketing Institute, Executive Director Alexa Tonkovich has resigned.

The organization announced Tonkovich’s departure Nov. 10, though she will stay on as executive director until mid-December while the board of directors searches for a replacement. She plans to pursue a master’s degree in international business and has been accepted to a number of programs in the U.S. and abroad, according to a press release.

“After nine years at ASMI, the timing felt right to further my education and prepare myself for wherever the next steps in my career may lead,” she said in the release.

Tonkovich became executive director in 2015, taking over for former executive director Michael Cerne. Previously, she served as the international director for ASMI. She worked primarily in developing emerging markets in southeast Asia and Brazil, with an office opening in the latter in 2011.

She said the opening of that office as one of the most memorable moments of her time as the international marketing program.

“I love market exploration and expansion,” she said. “There have been a few ups and downs (with Brazil’s economy) … we still see good potential there, particularly with the loss in access to the Chinese market (from retaliatory tariffs).”

She plans to continue her studies in international business, which is a key part of the seafood industry. Despite the recently souring global trade positions in the U.S. — the nation has been caught up in an escalating trade war with China over a set of tariffs implemented by President Donald Trump’s administration, including on seafood products — Tonkovich said she hopes it isn’t forever.

ASMI has spent years cultivating its relationship with China, but there are potentially other trade relationships on the horizon, too.

“I’m hoping this is just a passing phase,” she said. “…(International trade) really is such an important part of the (seafood) business.”

For now, she said she’s looking to international business schools in London.

The board plans to meet Nov. 19 to discuss appointing a candidate for interim executive director and drafting a notice for recruitment. ASMI Communications Director Jeremy Woodrow said in an email that the board members should have more details about the parameters of the recruitment after that meeting.

“With a heavy heart, the ASMI board accepted Ms. Tonkovich’s resignation,” said ASMI board of directors Chari Jack Schultheis, the general manager of Kwik’Pak Fisheries. “Her dedication to Alaska and the Alaska seafood industry is unparalleled. While she will be missed, we also support her decisions and wish her the very best in what is sure to be a very bright future.”

ASMI has gone through a number of changes in the past few years, particularly since the budget cuts began in 2015 as the state descended into a fiscal crisis. The organization cut expenses, closed its Seattle office and changed out staff, Tonkovich said.

The industry has changed in her time at ASMI, too, she said — more women are moving up into positions of power, and more people of diverse economic, educational and cultural backgrounds are beginning to step in.

In the future, innovation and product development will continue to be issues for the Alaska seafood industry to keep pace with the world, Tonkovich said. Addressing the graying of the fleet and bringing more young people into the seafood industry is an issue in Alaska as well as the rest of the world that needs to be addressed, she added.

With a degree in Asian studies, Tonkovich said she didn’t originally seek a job in seafood, but is glad for the time she spent there.

“I’ve been so honored and it’s bee such a pleasure (to work with ASMI),” she said. “I really grew up here … the organization is in great hands.”

Times have tightened financially at ASMI. While the organization, a public-private partnership intended to market Alaska wild-harvested seafood, used to receive state funding, the Legislature has been working on eliminating its support from the general fund, zeroing it out in the fiscal year 2019 budget.

This year, the organization plans to request an additional $3.75 million from the Legislature to support programs, according to an Oct. 30 news release from the Department of Commerce, Community and Economic Development.

The funds would go to support a match for competitive grant funding, according to the release.

“Specifically, this appropriation would bolster the match on a federal grant program, which will strengthen ASMI’s annual application for federal funding,” the release states. “The competitively awarded federal grant for international marketing allows ASMI to market Alaska seafood internationally, funding consumer and trade programs in 30 countries. ASMI competes each year against such national stalwarts as Sunkist Growers, Washington Apples, the Cotton Council Incorporated, and the U.S. Meat Export Federation.”

Elizabeth Earl can be reached at elizabethearl@gmail.com.

FDA unveils sweeping anti-tobacco effort to reduce underage vaping and smoking

Alaska News - Thu, 2018-11-15 07:43

WASHINGTON - The Food and Drug Administration on Thursday launched a multipronged attack on the rising underage use of tobacco products, imposing sharp sales restrictions on flavored e-cigarettes and announcing plans to ban menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars.

The FDA says it will limit sales of many flavored e-cigarettes to bricks-and-mortar outlets that have either age-restricted entry or areas inside stores that are not accessible to people under 18. Such restrictions are tantamount to a ban for many convenience stores and gas stations but not for specialty vape and tobacco stores, said a top agency official. The FDA also will require stepped-up age verification for online sales.

The new limits reflect health experts' concerns that e-cigarette use could lead to nicotine addiction early in life and affect the developing adolescent brain and that some e-cigarette users will go on to smoke more dangerous regular cigarettes.

Perhaps even more significant than the e-cigarette steps are the FDA's commitments to propose bans on menthol in cigarettes and cigars, as well as other flavors in cigars. Such prohibitions will require new regulations that could take years to go into effect, and could be derailed by opposition from the cigarette industry. If successful, though, the bans could have an especially significant impact on African American adults and youth, who smoke menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars at higher rates than other groups.

The tobacco blueprint was released by FDA Commissioner Scott Gottlieb as the government published new data showing a surge in e-cigarette use among minors. The 2018 National Youth Tobacco Survey, by the FDA and the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, found that vaping had increased 78 percent among high school students since last year and almost 48 percent among middle schoolers; 3.6 million youngsters reported vaping at least once in the previous 30 days.

Scott Gottlieb, commissioner of the Food and Drug Administration, at a House Oversight and Investigations subcommittee hearing in Washington, D.C., on March 8, 2018. (Toya Jordan Sarno/Bloomberg) (Toya Sarno Jordan/)

Especially concerning to officials was a sharp rise in regular use. Almost 28 percent of high school vapers said they used e-cigarettes at least 20 days a month, and most used flavored products.

"The bottom line is this: I will not allow a generation of children to become addicted to nicotine through e-cigarettes," Gottlieb said in a statement. "We won't let this pool of kids, a pool of future potential smokers, to continue to build." He said the new policy was designed to get to the "core" of the issue - flavored nicotine products, often in fruity, sweet and creamy flavors, that appeal to kids. The restrictions do not affect mint, menthol and tobacco flavored e-cigarette products.

Gottlieb called on companies to remove the affected products within 90 days from stores that children can enter and from online sites that don't have adequate age-verification procedures.

The FDA's moves on menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars drew widespread praise even before they were officially announced. Its actions on e-cigarettes were more controversial. Public health experts called them a start but said they were not a comprehensive solution to the problem, while vaping advocates said they would hurt adult smokers using e-cigarettes to quit.

"The proposal to prohibit the sale of menthol cigarettes and flavored cigars has the potential to have a greater impact on youth tobacco use and tobacco use among African Americans than any regulatory measure every undertaken by the federal government," said Matt Myers, president of the Campaign for Tobacco-Free Kids. But he added that the e-cigarette actions "fall short of what's needed."

Robin Koval, chief executive of Truth Initiative, a tobacco-control group, also praised the planned bans, but said it was a mistake to exempt mint and menthol e-cigarettes from sales restrictions, given that data shows those flavors are becoming increasingly popular among high schoolers.

But Gottlieb insisted that the exclusion of mint and menthol reflected a "careful balancing" of concerns about youth and the needs of adult smokers using e-cigarettes to quite smoking. And he said he would consider restricting those flavors if youth use didn't decline.

Some critics raised the possibility that the agency could face a lawsuit by trying, in effect, to limit vaping product sales to certain types of stores.

"I don't think they know where the law allows the FDA to ban hundreds of thousands of stores from selling a legal product," said Lyle Beckwith, senior vice president of the National Association of Convenience Stores.

On the menthol issue, the 2009 tobacco-control act banned all flavors in traditional cigarettes except menthol; that was left for the FDA to tackle. But the agency never sought to bar menthol cigarettes, which over the years have been marketed heavily to African Americans. A big-selling menthol cigarette is Newport, by Reynolds American, a subsidiary of British American Tobacco.

Black organizations late Wednesday applauded the idea of a menthol ban, noting that almost 90 percent of African American smokers choose menthols. "While we're saddened by the number of lives lost and new smokers addicted over the past decade, we're pleased that the FDA is moving in this direction," said Delmonte Jefferson, executive director of the National African American Tobacco Prevention Network in a statement also signed by the National Urban League, the National Association for the Advancement of Colored People and other groups.

Gottlieb, in pursuing his tobacco strategy, is taking some flak from fellow conservatives. "The administration promised less regulation - without sacrificing protections," said Jeff Stier, a senior fellow at the Consumer Choice Center. "So if the FDA fails to meet both objectives - by announcing a heavy-handed regulatory plan - President Trump should realize that the current leadership at the FDA is not equipped to implement the administration's policy agenda."

Health and Human Services Secretary Alex Azar signaled his support for the FDA. "We believe FDA's goals and policies strike the right public health balance in addressing the multifaceted challenge we have before us today," he said in a statement.

The FDA's e-cigarette crackdown already has had an impact. Juul Labs, which accounts for more than 70 percent of e-cigarette retail sales and has been blamed by the FDA for much of the rise in underage use, announced this week that it would stop selling most of its flavored e-cigarette pods - specifically, mango, fruit, crème and cucumber - in 90,000 retail outlets, and enhance its online protections. The company also said it would halt its social media promotions of the products. And Altria said late last month it would stop selling its pod-based flavored e-cigarettes for now.

The e-cigarette sales restrictions cover e-liquids as well as cartridges and pods, the FDA said. But e-liquids already are sold primarily in adult vape and tobacco shops, officials said.

The plan outlined by Gottlieb on Thursday is a major revision of his July 2017 tobacco framework. That plan emphasized that nicotine-containing products represent a spectrum of risk, with regular cigarettes on the one end and vaping products and nicotine-replacement products on the other. As part of that, he endorsed cutting the nicotine in regular cigarettes to minimally addictive levels. And he gave e-cigarette manufacturers an extra four years to apply for FDA marketing authorization.

Health groups sued Gottlieb, arguing that the delay in e-cigarette regulation inadvertently contributed to the recent surge in youth vaping. The FDA chief disagreed, saying Juul would have been on the market in any case.

Saudi Arabia seeks death penalty for 5 suspects in Khashoggi murder

Alaska News - Thu, 2018-11-15 07:36

FILE - In this Sunday, Nov. 11, 2018 file photo, Yasin Aktay, an advisor to Turkey's President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, speaks during an event organized to mark the 40th day of the death of Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi, background, in Istanbul, Turkey. Saud Al-Mojeb, Saudi Arabia’s top prosecutor, is recommending the death penalty for five suspects charged with ordering and carrying out the killing of Saudi writer Jamal Khashoggi. Al-Mojeb told a press conference in Riyadh Thursday, Nov. 15, 2018, that Khashoggi’s killers had been planning the operation since September 29, three days before he was killed inside the kingdom’s consulate in Istanbul. (AP Photo/Neyran Elden, File) (Neyran Elden/)

ISTANBUL - Saudi Arabia’s public prosecutor released the findings of a long-awaited investigation of the death of journalist Jamal Khashoggi on Thursday, saying that a team of Saudi agents who had been dispatched to Istanbul with orders to bring him home alive had instead killed the journalist and dismembered his body.

Saudi Arabia's crown prince had no knowledge of the operation, Shaalan al-Shaalan, a spokesman for the prosecutor, said at a news conference in Riyadh, the Saudi capital.

He said that 11 suspects had been indicted and that authorities were seeking the death penalty for five of them. None of the suspects were named. The order to kill Khashoggi, who had criticized the Saudi monarchy over the past year, had come from one of the leaders of the Saudi team in Istanbul, Shaalan said.

Prosecutor Saud al-Mojeb's conclusion - that the killing was authorized by relatively low-level officials who disobeyed orders and acted on the fly - contradicted assertions by Turkish investigators, who have said it was a meticulously planned affair, with elaborate preparations to cover up the crime that included the scouting of locations where Khashoggi's body could be disposed of in secret.

Turkish President Recep Tayyip Erdogan said that the slaying was premeditated and that the orders had come from "the highest levels of the Saudi government," without specifying exactly who was responsible.

Turkey has called for an international investigation into the killing. On Thursday, Turkish Foreign Minister Mevlut Cavusoglu said that some of the latest Saudi statements about the killing were not "satisfactory."

"This is not something that happens instantaneously," he said. "People and tools were brought to dismember the body."

Khashoggi, a contributor to The Washington Post, was killed Oct. 2, soon after entering the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul to obtain documents he needed to remarry.

The U.S. Treasury said Thursday that it would sanction 17 individuals linked to the "abhorrent killing."On the list was Saud al-Qahtani, a close adviser to the crown prince, and the consul general of the Istanbul mission, Mohammed al-Otaibi.

"These individuals who targeted and brutally killed a journalist who resided and worked in the United States must face consequences for their actions," the Treasury said in a statement.

Officials in several countries have said it is unlikely that Khashoggi was killed without the knowledge of Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, Saudi Arabia's de facto leader. But there is no definitive evidence that Mohammed ordered the operation. Saudi officials deny that the crown prince was in any way responsible for Khashoggi's death.

"He did not have any knowledge," Shaalan said Thursday.

Saudi Foreign Minister Adel al-Jubeir described the killing as a "mistake" and denied any involvement on the part of Mohammed. "His royal highness the crown prince has nothing to do with this issue," Jubeir he told reporters in Riyadh.

Mojeb's statement on Thursday implicated two higher-level officials in what the prosecutor said was an operation intended either to persuade or force Khashoggi to return to Saudi Arabia. One of them, Ahmed al-Assiri, a former deputy head of intelligence, issued an order for Khashoggi's return on Sept. 29, the prosecutor said. That was one day after Khashoggi first visited the Saudi Consulate in Istanbul and was told to return the following week.

Qahtani, sanctioned by the United States on Thursday, was also was involved in planning Khashoggi's repatriation, according to the prosecutor.

Saudi officials have changed their story about Khashoggi's killing several times since he disappeared, first denying any knowledge of his whereabouts and then saying that he was killed during a fistfight.

In the latest version laid out by the prosecutor, a 15-member team was formed to bring Khashoggi back from Istanbul, "by means of persuasion, and if persuasion fails, to do so by force." The team included a forensic expert "for the purpose of removing evidence from the scene in case force had to be used to return the victim," according to a summary of the prosecutor's statement that was emailed to reporters.

The leader of the Saudi team also contacted a collaborator in Turkey to secure a safe house in case Khashoggi was forcibly removed, the statement said. But after deciding that moving Khashoggi to a safe house would not be possible, a team leader decided to kill the journalist, according to the prosecutor.

"The investigation concluded that the crime was carried out after a physical altercation with the victim where he was forcibly restrained and injected with a large amount of a drug resulting in an overdose that led to his death, may Allah bless his soul," the statement said.

Khashoggi's body was dismembered and then taken by one of the Saudi agents to the "local collaborator," according to the prosecutor, who said a sketch of the collaborator had been produced.

Turkish officials have complained repeatedly about Saudi Arabia's refusal to identify the collaborator and said they suspect that such a person does not exist. They have also demanded that the Saudis reveal the whereabouts of Khashoggi's remains.

Turkey's prosecutor said late last month that Khashoggi was strangled or suffocated as soon as he entered the consulate, in line with "premeditated plans."

Salah Khashoggi, the journalist's eldest son, announced a mourning period during which the family would accept condolences in the Saudi city of Jiddah.

- - -

The Washington Post’s Louisa Loveluck and Zeynep Karatas contributed to this report.

Owners of Seattle electronics recycler that operates in Alaska charged with conspiracy

Alaska News - Thu, 2018-11-15 07:14

SEATTLE — The owners of a large Northwest electronics recycler are facing a federal conspiracy charge, after investigations found the company lied to customers by having mercury-containing flat-screen monitors shipped overseas instead of disposing of them safely in the U.S.

Charging documents filed in Seattle on Wednesday say Total Reclaim Inc.'s customers paid at least $1.2 million to have the material recycled from 2008 to 2016. Instead, the company sold the monitors to another company, knowing it would ship them to China, where workers dismantled them without safety or environmental protections, authorities said.

Total Reclaim’s customers have included the city of Seattle and the University of Washington. It also operates in Alaska.

The practice was uncovered almost three years ago when an independent watchdog group placed trackers on some of the monitors.

Total Reclaim has since been fined by regulators in Oregon and Washington, and in Washington it lost its biggest client — an organization financed by the electronics industry that operates the E-Cycle Washington program in conjunction with the state Department of Ecology.

The U.S. attorney's office in Seattle filed the conspiracy charge against Total Reclaim's owners, Craig Lorch and Jeffrey Zirkle, in a document called an information. Such charges can be filed only against defendants who have waived their right to be indicted by a grand jury, and it typically means they have agreed to plead guilty.

Lorch and Zirkle are scheduled to appear in U.S. District Court on Friday. Reached by phone Thursday, Lorch declined to say how they intended to plead, but he emailed a written statement noting that they have cooperated in all investigations.

"The charges filed today by the Department of Justice relate to conduct by Total Reclaim's owners that they previously and publicly acknowledged and for which they promptly apologized and took responsibility," the statement said.

Washington's Ecology Department fined Total Reclaim $444,000 in 2016 and fined the company $67,500 last year after saying it discovered the company was still improperly storing thousands of flat-screens in trailers on Seattle's Harbor Island.

The company appealed the fines, but in a settlement with the department last week it agreed to pay nearly $84,000 to the state as well as $300,000 to the Western States Project, which enhances government enforcement of environmental laws in the American West, Ecology spokesman Andrew Wineke said Tuesday.

UK’s May battles to save Brexit deal and her job amid cabinet revolt

Alaska News - Thu, 2018-11-15 06:49

An anti-Brexit supporter holds a European flag by a banner across the street from the Houses of Parliament in London, Thursday Nov. 15, 2018. Leading Brexiteer Jacob Rees-Mogg has submitted a letter of no confidence in Theresa May, as the Prime Minister reels from the loss of four ministers - including two from her Cabinet - in protest at her Brexit plans. (AP Photo/Matt Dunham) (Matt Dunham/)

LONDON — British Prime Minister Theresa May was battling Thursday to save both her Brexit deal and her job, as ministers quit her government and a growing list of lawmakers demanded her ouster over the divorce agreement struck between Britain and the European Union.

Less than a day after May won her Cabinet's grudging backing for the deal, two Cabinet ministers and a handful of junior government members resigned, and a leading pro-Brexit lawmaker from May's Conservative Party called for a no-confidence vote in the prime minister.

The hard-won agreement has infuriated pro-Brexit members of her divided party. They say the agreement, which calls for close trade ties between the U.K. and the bloc, would leave Britain a vassal state, bound to European Union rules it has no say in making.

A defiant May insisted that Brexit meant making "the right choices, not the easy ones" and urged lawmakers to support the deal "in the national interest." She said the deal was best for business as it would help maintain easy trade with Europe and would reduce uncertainty.

But she has been weakened by the resignation of two senior Cabinet ministers, including Brexit Secretary Dominic Raab. Hours after he sat in the meeting that approved the deal, Raab said he "cannot in good conscience" support it.

Work and Pensions Secretary Esther McVey followed Raab out the door. She said in a letter that it is "no good trying to pretend to (voters) that this deal honors the result of the referendum when it is obvious to everyone that it doesn't."

In another blow to May, leading pro-Brexit lawmaker Jacob Rees-Mogg called for a vote of no-confidence in May, saying the Brexit deal was "worse than anticipated."

Standing outside Parliament Rees-Mogg said the deal agreed "is not Brexit" because it would keep Britain in a customs union with the EU, potentially for an indefinite period.

Under Conservative rules, a confidence vote in the leader is triggered if 15 percent of Conservative lawmakers — currently 48 — write a letter to the party's 1922 Committee of backbenchers, which oversees leadership votes.

Only committee chairman Graham Brady knows for sure how many missives have been sent, but Rees-Mogg's letter is likely to spur others to do the same.

Rees-Mogg denied he was calling for a party coup.

"A coup is when you use illegitimate processes," he said. "This is working through the procedures of the Conservative Party."

He called for May to be replaced by a more firmly pro-Brexit politician, naming ex-Foreign Secretary Boris Johnson, former Brexit Secretary David Davis and Raab as potential successors.

If a confidence vote is held and May loses, it would trigger a party leadership contest in which any Conservative lawmaker can run. The winner would become prime minister without the need for a national election.

The turmoil prompted a big fall in the value of the pound, which was trading 1.5 percent lower at $1.2797 as investors fretted that Britain could potentially crash out of the EU next March, a development that could see tariffs placed on British exports, border checks reinstalled, and restrictions imposed travelers and workers — a potentially toxic combination for businesses.

A growing worry as Brexit day approaches is that companies will enact contingency plans that could include cutting jobs, stockpiling goods, and relocating production overseas.

May and her supporters say the alternatives to her deal — leaving the trading bloc without a deal or a second vote on Brexit — are not realistic options.

"The choice is clear," May told lawmakers. "We can choose to leave with no deal. We can risk no Brexit at all. Or we can choose to unite and support the best deal that can be negotiated — this deal."

News that a deal had been struck after a year and a half of negotiations was welcomed in Brussels and EU chief Donald Tusk called for a summit of leaders on Nov. 25 so they can rubber-stamp the agreement.

Tusk said it was "not for me to comment on the latest developments in London."

"All I can say is that the EU is prepared for a final deal with the U.K. in November," he said. "We are also prepared for a no deal scenario but of course we are best prepared for a no-Brexit scenario."

The deal needs approval from Britain's Parliament before the U.K. leaves the bloc on March 29 — and even if May survives as leader, the chances of that appear to be shrinking.

Her Conservative government doesn't have enough lawmakers of its own to get a majority, and relies on the support of the Democratic Unionist Party from Northern Ireland, which says it will not back the deal.

The DUP leader in Parliament, Nigel Dodds, said the "choice" was clear.

"We stand up for the United Kingdom, the whole of the United Kingdom, the integrity of the United Kingdom, or we vote for a vassal state with the breakup of the United Kingdom, that is the choice."

Opposition parties also signaled they would vote against the agreement.

Main opposition Labour Party leader Jeremy Corbyn said May should withdraw the "half-baked" Brexit deal and that Parliament "cannot and will not accept a false choice between this deal and no deal."

Ian Blackford, who heads the Scottish National Party in Parliament, said the deal was "dead on arrival" and urged May to "stop the clock and go back to Brussels."

An EU official cautioned that Britain was unlikely to get a better deal. Speaking on condition of anonymity because the process is still ongoing, the official said both sides "exhausted our margin of maneuver under our respective mandates."

The deal requires the consent of the European Parliament as well. Its chief Brexit official, Guy Verhofstadt, welcomed the draft deal as "the best agreement we could obtain." Verhofstadt predicted the EU Parliament could approve the deal at the start of next year, well in time for Brexit day.


Casert contributed from Brussels.

Sleep or die? Authorities consider killing nuisance bears in Kodiak if they don’t hibernate soon

Alaska News - Thu, 2018-11-15 06:43

KODIAK - Alaska wildlife officials are considering killing nuisance bears in Kodiak if they don’t go into hibernation soon.

City manager Mike Tvenge told the council last week that state Department of Fish and Game officials working with Kodiak police will likely kill these bears, noting that non-lethal measures have become less effective, the Kodiak Daily Mirror reported.

"Kodiak Police Department is working closely with Alaska Department of Fish and Game to deter the bears from getting into the (trash) roll carts, but those efforts have had short-lasting effects," Tvenge told the city officials. "The bears are now becoming used to the non-lethal bullets and pepper shots."

Police and wildlife officials have responded to several calls in recent weeks about bears getting into trash. In one incident last month, a bear broke into a garage.

Kodiak police will provide backup to the wildlife officials, who have already accompanied officers on some patrols, police Lt. Francis de la Fuente said. Killing a bear in a residential area is not an easy task, he said.

The wildlife department does not usually decide to kill a bear without first conferring with appropriate local, state or federal agencies, said Nate Svoboda, a department wildlife biologist.

"Making the decision to dispatch a bear is not something ADF&G often endorses, as this does little to curb the fundamental problem of bears getting into easily accessible and unprotected trash," Svoboda said.

Before killing a bear, the department will first try to address core problems, like what's attracting the bear to the area, Svoboda said. Relocating bears is not a viable option, he said.

“This can be very difficult, time-consuming, resource intense and expensive, and typically does little to solve the core problem,” Svoboda said. "In addition, relocating bears to other regions can disrupt the natural system in the area the bear gets relocated. "

Heat waves caused by climate change could impair male fertility across generations, scientists warn

Alaska News - Thu, 2018-11-15 06:04

One way that heat kills is by increasing pressure in the skull, constricting blood flow to the brain. Damaged tissue can also enter the bloodstream and cause kidney failure. At a certain point, an elevated internal temperature simply incinerates cells in the body.

In contrast to extreme weather events so visible and violent that they hardly escape public notice, such as hurricanes and tornadoes, heat waves are more of a "silent killer," as the National Weather Service has called the prolonged periods of hot weather.

But kill they certainly do. Heat fatalities in the United States exceed all other weather-related deaths in the 30 years since such data has been available. In Britain, Parliament's Environmental Audit Committee recently warned of 7,000 annual deaths by heat by 2050 unless quick action is taken, the need for which was underscored by last month's Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change report.

Heat doesn’t just kill. It is also diminishes the vitality of sperm, curtailing the capacity to reproduce, as scientists have documented.

“Heatwaves reduce male fertility and sperm competitiveness, and successive heatwaves almost sterilise males,” wrote the authors of a study published Tuesday in the peer-reviewed Nature Communications.

Green fluorescent protein, or G.F.P., highlights sperm in the female reproductive tract following mating with control (top) and male subject to heat wave (bottom). (Matthew Gage and Martin Taylor)

But the research points newly to an even longer-lasting effect. Ecologists and evolutionary biologists at the University of East Anglia in Norwich, England, found that heat stress appears to be associated with transgenerational fertility problems.

That means that organisms may bear the effects of elevated temperatures long after the initial exposure - in the form of reduced lifespans, reproductive challenges and other defects passed to offspring.

The scientists found that heat waves undermine sperm production and viability, and also interfere with movement through the female. They further discovered that extreme heat “reduced reproductive potential and lifespan of offspring when fathered by males, or sperm, that had experienced heatwaves.”

The researchers used red flour beetles to test sensitivity to temperature in cold-blooded ectotherms, species that don't regulate their own body temperature, in contrast to endotherms, such as humans. Warm-blooded mammals have been the primary focus of existing research on warming and sperm quality, their paper noted.

They set out to fill this gap while finding applications to the human case. Most terrestrial species are insects, and most life on Earth is cold-blooded, making the findings especially relevant to the question of climate change’s effect on biodiversity. As the lead author, Matthew Gage, observed in an accompanying blog post on the study, “we know that insect numbers are crashing, but we understand remarkably little about the particular mechanisms driving population declines.”

To examine one possible mechanism, reproduction, the scientists exposed mature adult beetles to experimental heat waves lasting five days at 104 to 107.5 degrees Fahrenheit (40 to 42 degrees Celsius) - above their optimum by about 10 degrees. "It's worth noting that these temperatures have been exceeded in the natural environment in half the world's countries over recent years," Gage wrote. Each male was paired with a female for 15 minutes before being transferred to the next mate.

Male reproductive reproductive performance halved after a first heat wave. After a second, males became almost completely sterile - contradicting theories of acclimation or hardening as a response to environmental stress.

Female potential was unchanged. But inseminated sperm already within the female tract were vulnerable to elevated heat, and caused a reduction in female fertility by one-third.

Most surprising, Gage said, was the effect they observed across generations.

"It suggests there could be problems for sons," he said. "We know that in humans, heat can damage sperm DNA, and we know that men with damaged DNA in their sperm have problems with fertility, but you can't really do an experiment to heat males up and look at whether that damages human offspring performance, so this is one way to get at that."

The results, he said, primarily indicate problems with fertility - with the clearest implications for insect biodiversity - but there is also evidence of an "underlying, longer-term damage as a result of damaged sperm DNA."

"In much the same way that radiation causes damage, and that can lead to offspring problems, there could be that kind of damage operating as a consequence of heat conditions," Gage said. "You're looking at possible population viability problems, which need to be studied more."

When it comes to humans, not all populations will be equally affected, studies have shown. The elderly, low-income people and those who are immobile or have preexisting health issues are especially vulnerable.

While the results of the experiment don't offer conclusions about population viability, they offer insight into how a particularly sensitive trait, sperm function, reacts to heat waves, which scientists say will continue to be among the severe effects of global climate change.

“If sperm function goes down, reproduction goes down,” Gage said. “If reproduction goes down, you’re looking at population viability problems.”

Cellphone, recess, cray cray: How Tlingit speakers are coining new words in an ancient language

Juneau Hot Topics - Thu, 2018-11-15 06:00
Physical descriptions are also an option if there isn't an obvious local relative. Twitchell said a Tlingit word for elephant that literally means limp nose.

South wrestlers take down Chugiak

Alaska News - Thu, 2018-11-15 02:54

Five South Wolverines wrestlers won by pin Wednesday night in a 76-6 dual-meet win over Chugiak.

Christian Hudson (152 pounds) and Aiden Davis (215) each needed less than a minute to get their pins in the Cook Inlet Conference match.

Chugiak's lone winner, Daniel Niebles, also won by pin.

South 76, Chugiak 6

145: Jedi Patzke (SAHS) over TOMAS NIEBLES (CHS) (Fall 1:44). 152: Christian Hudson (SAHS) over DANIEL BROOKS (CHS) (Fall 0:32). 160: Michael Chaput (SAHS) over DAKOTA DAVIS (CHS) (Fall 1:45). 171: Hayden Brinkman (SAHS) over   (CHS) (For.). 189: DANIEL NIEBLES (CHS) over Dorian Mellon (SAHS) (Fall 1:29). 215: Aiden Davis (SAHS) over COLLIN CALDWELL (CHS) (Fall 0:40). 285: Henry Saafi (SAHS) over   (CHS) (For.). 103: Angus Hays (SAHS) over   (CHS) (For.). 112: Adam Concepcion (SAHS) over   (CHS) (For.). 119: Aedyn Concepcion (SAHS) over   (CHS) (For.). 125: Taylor Mcalpin (SAHS) over   (CHS) (For.). 130: Jacob Shack (SAHS) over OLIVER HAYS (CHS) (TF 16-0 3:27). 135: Theo Cha (SAHS) over TRISTAN PETRYKIEVICZ (CHS) (TF 19-4 4:09). 140: Riley Harris (SAHS) over CAMERON PECK (CHS) (Fall 3:43).

After months of negotiations, Anchorage School District and teachers union reach a tentative contract deal

Alaska News - Wed, 2018-11-14 22:54

The Anchorage School District and the union that represents roughly 3,300 of its educators reached a tentative agreement on a three-year contract late Wednesday after months of negotiations.

The Anchorage School Board and the educators themselves still must vote to ratify the tentative agreement before it takes effect.

The school district and the union, the Anchorage Education Association, announced the tentative contract agreement in a joint statement around 10:15 p.m. Wednesday. If approved, the contract would extend through June 30, 2021, it said.

The statement didn’t include details of the terms of the tentative contract. Additional details will be released at a joint press conference, it said. The date and time were still being determined late Wednesday, according to a school district spokeswoman.

The union represents roughly 3,300 educators, including classroom teachers, counselors and school nurses. They’re currently working under the terms of a contract that expired June 30.

The school district and the union have been negotiating a contract since April.

As negotiations continued, educators packed Anchorage School Board meetings, telling board members about concerns, including frustrations with working conditions. They staged a walkout at last week’s meeting. They also held a “walk-in” during students’ first day of school and have gathered outside of schools and the district administration building with signs such as: “We Demand: The schools all our children deserve!”

Hundreds of teachers lined Northern Lights Boulevard and Boniface Parkway during an "informational picket" outside the Anchorage School District headquarters on Monday, May 7, 2018. (Bill Roth / ADN) (Bill Roth/)

After months of bargaining, the union and the school district reached a stalemate in September and called in federal mediators from Seattle to help. Wednesday was the third round of mediation.

Wednesday night’s statement included quotes from Deena Bishop, school district superintendent; Todd Hess, the district chief human resource officer; and Tom Klaameyer, president of the union.

Bishop said: “I appreciate the dedication of every teacher and employee in AEA. The heart of our classrooms resides with our teachers and this Tentative Agreement allows them and the District to move forward to achieve positive outcomes for our students.”

Hess said: “The ASD appreciates the work and dedication of our teachers and other AEA members. We value the work they do and their recognition of the District’s overall fiscal situation."

Klaameyer said: “AEA members are committed to working with the District to provide an excellent education for all of our students. This agreement will allow us to focus on that core mission together.”

[Related: Bargaining teams for Anchorage teachers union and school district have a list of items to settle]

Last year, the school district and union reached a tentative, one-year contract deal in November, which educators later voted on and rejected. The bargaining teams reached another tentative agreement in January, and educators voted to approve it. That contract followed more than two years of negotiations. It took effect retroactively to July 1, 2017 and expired June 30, 2018.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.