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Last lap at the lectern: Celebrated Alaska historian gives one final lecture

Alaska News - Tue, 2018-05-22 17:37

All of us eventually do the thing we're best at one last time. Most of us don't know it when it happens.

Terrence Cole has been a history professor and author at the University of Alaska Fairbanks for decades. On Wednesday evening, he'll give the last lecture of his career.

It started with the cancer. In September 2017, doctors discovered tumors on Terrence's stomach. It wasn't just cancer. It was the kind of cancer that might lead a less optimistic person to stop checking the expiration dates when buying canned goods. It was Stage IV, where the diagnosis comes with simultaneous recommendations to start aggressive treatment right away and also to get your affairs in order.

For most of us, life after such a diagnosis would be a grim process — updating a will, leaving a job, spending time with family, trying to tick as many items off a bucket list as possible and hoping for as much time as possible. For Terrence, while it includes those items as well, he's added a couple of items unique to his profession: teaching a final course, and giving one last lecture.

To call Terrence Cole a history professor isn't quite the same as calling Yo Yo Ma a cellist, but it's in the same ballpark. Here in Alaska, we're more keenly aware of the tenuous nature of our collective memory — few people stay here long enough to have personal insight dating back more than a generation, and fewer still seek out those who do have that insight and tease out the threads of our state's story that make the historical record come alive. Terrence is one of perhaps half a dozen people who rise to the level of being the keepers of Alaska's story, and he's almost certainly the funniest of the bunch.

I was lucky enough to take part in the final course, "Polar Exploration and its Literature," enrolling along with a host of other students, staff and community history buffs — including Terrence's identical twin, Dermot — at the University of Alaska Fairbanks. Everyone who signed up knew it would be the last class Terrence taught, and the $700-odd cost of tuition felt less like an investment in higher education than it did buying tickets to all the shows on your favorite band's final tour.

"Watching Terrence teach this last class was like watching a kid in a candy store," said Victoria Smith, a graduate student and university staff member who said she considers him a role model. "He doesn't just try to pour knowledge into empty vessels … that kind of humility is hard to find, particularly in faculty members."

Because of the fact he was receiving cancer treatment throughout the semester, Terrence co-taught the class with fellow professor Mary Ehrlander. This turned out to be a fortuitous arrangement, and one the university probably should have cottoned onto sooner. Terrence would be the first to admit that his classes often took off on wild tangents mid-lecture, as he recounted a hilarious story about a self-styled Czech historian who made up tales of 350-dog mail teams in Alaska, interrupting his own lesson about the Second Organic Act. An hour later, the class would be in stitches and full up on the best kind of north country trivia, but no one could remember the lecture topic.

With a second instructor in the mix, the discussion could usually be nudged back on topic after 10 or 15 minutes — enough time to hear the stories that only Terrence knew, but not so much that the entire point of the discussion was irretrievably lost.

According to Terrence's twin, Dermot, who is an author and journalist in his own right, writing Alaska's history and teaching it have been twin passions. "He loved doing it," Dermot said. "Ever since he went to college, all he wanted to do was write history. Teaching grew out of that."

In the weekly class sessions, Terrence's cancer was at the back of everyone's minds, or at least mine. There was no way around it, really, and from time to time he would make a joke of it — after dropping a particularly egregious pun, Terrence would say, "Remember, you can't get mad at me — I have cancer."

Discussions about the historical record took on an almost metaphysical nature. It would do a disservice to history, he reminded the class, to cast things that happened long ago in black and white, through the lens of our present senses of ethics and morality. Discussions of explorers' legacies and the way people are remembered long after their deaths had a different tone when one of the keepers of that history was staring his own mortality in the face. If any of us were in danger of forgetting that, all we needed for a reminder was the blinking "Record" light on the camera near the back of the class; Terrence's lectures were being captured for posterity.

Though he will be remembered after his final lecture and long into the future as a prominent Alaska historian, those who have had the privilege to know Terrence personally got to see more than that: a wisecracking, relentlessly positive jokester who never hesitated to poke fun, particularly when his twin Dermot was the victim. A devoted father who accompanied his sons on hiking trips across Interior Alaska with the Boy Scouts. A diehard baseball fan firmly posted up in the stands at Growden Memorial Park watching the Alaska Goldpanners trounce a Lower 48 squad while his oldest son, Henry, ran the ancient scoreboard from the press box.

No matter where he is, from the classroom to the backcountry to the ballpark, Terrence has always been game for discussions about both history and current events, particularly when they get below the surface of the "who" and "what" and "when" to address the "why" — the motivations that drive people to plant a flag on the North Pole, to seek statehood for a territory few in Washington, D.C., cared about, or to fight for the survival of a frontier town on the banks of the Chena River. That drive to figure out the "why," and to delight in the details uncovered along the way, has defined Terrence's life for the three decades I've known him — and, I suspect, long before that.

On Wednesday night at 7 p.m. in Fairbanks, Terrence Cole will lead a lecture at UAF's Schaible Auditorium one last time. It will no doubt be an uproarious affair, packed with some of the best and brightest in Interior Alaska. I won't be there, but my heart will.

Tom Hewitt, born and raised in Fairbanks, is the opinion editor for the Anchorage Daily News.

Memorial Day in Alaska: When the most peaceful spot for a campfire is your backyard

Alaska News - Tue, 2018-05-22 17:25

The last time Steve suggested a fishing and camping trip over Memorial Day weekend, it still sounded like a good idea. The slight hint of green on the trees and in the more progressive corners of the yard meant summer and its 24-hour days were near.

Romanticized images of camping filled my head — a campfire, falling asleep to the sound of a nearby creek, waking up to birds chirping outside. I was careful not to imagine the real bird that wakes me up — the one that has the consistent chirp of a truck backing up for several hours.

No, I imagined delightful birds and just a few, almost novel, mosquitoes. My ability to remember why we didn't camp on Memorial Day the year before was lost in all the details of unpacking gear that had been put away for the winter. Getting reacquainted with last season's gear is better than Christmas for me. And, it's a testament to my ability to forget.

So enraptured was I by the upcoming trip, I didn't hear the growl Steve made as we turned into the Seaview Campground in Hope. At first, I was overjoyed. Although it looked more like a fairground than a tent in the woods, it did not occur to me that both of us could have forgotten what "a little crowded" actually meant.

For two people who live outside of city limits, a little crowded means seeing any people at all.

"Doesn't look like there's a spot," I said.

I picked up on Steve's nonverbal cue as the truck made a five-point turnaround — he was not interested in wedging between the two honeymooners in a Pinto or the painted school bus advertising peace, love and music.

Since it was still before 6 a.m., we had plenty of time to find another spot. Steve liked to get an early start for just such reasons.

"There's not going to be a place without a crowd," he said.

This was the pertinent fact that we had failed to consider from previous years when we swore to learn from our mistakes. It was like deja vu with a twist of lament. Our last Memorial Day tour of crowded campgrounds did not end with the feeling of life-enriching elation.

"Maybe we could stop at that restaurant for breakfast," I suggested.

"Too late," Steve said. "We passed it."

The rule of not turning around once an establishment has been passed is driver-centric. And when the driver is desperate for a quality experience, the quality of the passenger's experience drops in proportion. It felt as though we were driving faster than normal even though our destination was unclear.

"I have a plan," Steve said, as if on a mission too severe to warrant additional detail.

The landscape turned from partly sunny with green sprouts emerging from the recently thawed woods to a shadowy, snow-covered stretch of road as we zoomed farther away from spring and into the remote still-winter pass where no one would want to camp.

We pulled into the second campground and this one was packed with winter sports enthusiasts clinging to the last bit of snow, a tent revival and an espresso truck. Before I knew it, a full-size English setter was sitting in my lap, and we were facing the opposite direction. That turnaround only had one point — a hard right.

"Where do we go next?" I asked. "Where is there a place that is so absolutely unappealing that only we would want to camp there?"

I was being rhetorical, but I noticed Steve eyeing a vacant gravel pit in the distance.

My first mistake — though I may not remember the correct order of my mistakes — was not to consider past mistakes. After that, I should have realized that while I would be happy to sit in a crowded campground just to get smoke in my eyes, my partner's idea of camping involved a fly rod, a spring creek bustling with trout, and the proverbial sound of crickets.

At the end of the day, we arrived in the very driveway where we began. We built a fire in our backyard firepit and cooked hot dogs until they were charcoal black.

"Next Memorial Day, let's come to this same spot," I said. "There's nobody around, and we would save a fortune in gas."

The great backyard does not invoke the same feeling as a mountain view or cooking a freshly caught fish over the fire. Sure, there are places we could find to get away if we hiked long enough. But first we would have to pass through the playground atmosphere of the weekend on the crowded roads, campgrounds and trails.

Memorial Day was first observed to remember fallen Civil War soldiers, and many of us reflect on the sacrifices made by those who served our country. I read somewhere that the only thing worse than war is the feeling that nothing is worth fighting for.

I am not staying home this Memorial Day weekend for any noble reason but rather to avoid the "fight" for a great camping spot.

While I am home, camped out in the yard, I'll reflect on the wild places worth fighting for and be grateful those places exist, not as a backdrop or a place to recreate but in our spiritual reserves.

The backyard is also wild country, although diminished and worn by human habitation. I have found it holds quite a few annoying bird sounds.

Christine Cunningham of Kenai is a lifelong Alaskan and avid hunter. On alternate weeks, she writes about Alaska hunting and fishing. Contact her at cunningham@yogaforduckhunters.com.

U.S. House Democrats against ANWR drilling vow to keep up their quest

Alaska News - Tue, 2018-05-22 16:55

WASHINGTON — Environmentalists, Democrats and a representative of the Gwich'in community of Arctic Village pledged Tuesday to keep fighting efforts by Alaska's congressional delegation to open part of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to drilling.

After a decades-long effort, Alaska's congressional delegation finally succeeded in opening a relatively small part of the refuge to potential drilling in a provision inserted into December's federal tax bill — the culmination of four decades of effort by Alaskans who favor drilling in ANWR.

Rep. Jared Huffman, D-Calif., introduced a bill Tuesday to reverse the provision in the tax bill that opened ANWR to potential drilling. The bill faces no chance of passage currently. But if Democrats take control of the House of Representatives after November elections, it will be one of the first bills to come out of the House Natural Resources Committee, said Rep. Raúl Grijalva, D-Ariz., the top Democrat on that committee.

The anti-drilling meeting in the U.S. Capitol came on the same day as the first of seven public meetings to collect information in preparation for an environmental assessment on the impact of drilling on the 1.6-million-acre coastal plain. The meeting was scheduled for a community hall in Kaktovik, a village of 240 on an island near the refuge's coastal plain.

['A historic moment': How ANWR drilling was passed by Congress after decades of effort]

The Interior Department is in the early stages of a regulatory process to prepare for leasing tracts for oil and gas development in the refuge.

ANWR is "too unique, too special to spoil," said David Hayes, of the State Energy and Environmental Impact Center at New York University School of Law. Hayes served at the Interior Department during the presidencies of Barack Obama and Bill Clinton.

Hayes said that the ongoing environmental review, conducted under the direction of the National Environmental Policy Act, "will play a critical role here in the coming months." The environmental review "must be completed before any testing or leasing decisions are made for the Arctic," and he said that it should take into account the impact of climate change on the refuge, and now any newly extracted oil plays into that. His position revealed the likely tactic that environmental lawyers will take as they seek to challenge and stall the leasing process for ANWR.

An environmental analysis will conclude that America doesn't need ANWR oil for national security any more than it needs geothermal energy from Yellowstone National Park, Hayes said.

"Caribou don't conduct a lot of fundraisers and the wilderness can't write us checks. And these are all being sacrificed to satisfy this Republican obsession of opening up every acre of public land to drilling or mining. And we can't allow this to happen," Grijalva said.

Republican Alaska Rep. Don Young, a senior member of the House Natural Resources Committee, called the bill a "ridiculous political stunt" and said those opposed to drilling in ANWR are "bought and paid for by Earthjustice and (Natural Resources Defense Council)."

Young said he has invited Huffman and other members who co-sponsored the legislation to visit the coastal plain drilling area of ANWR "and hear from Alaskans (who) have long supported development" and want to be good stewards of the land.

"Our communities in Alaska are some of the most isolated in the world" and drilling supports Alaskans, providing funds to "build schools and hospitals and improve the infrastructure," Young said.

Members of Alaska's congressional delegation have said that they hope to see initial lease sales in one year. The law passed by Congress requires the first lease sale within four years.

The environmentalists and lawmakers at the Washington, D.C., meeting acknowledged that they face an uphill battle. Many Alaskans strongly disagree with them.

"When I first joined the Interior Department in February of 1997 and had my first trip to Alaska, as I was checking in with my federal ID to the Captain Cook hotel, the man behind the desk said, 'Oh, you're federal government. When are you going to give us ANWR back?' " Hayes said. "It's beyond the rational at this point."

But not all Alaskans are in favor of drilling, said Donetta Tritt, who is Gwich'in from Arctic Village and visited Washington, D.C., to work with the Democrats at the meeting.

Tritt said the Native corporations don't speak for her people and it is not the case that only Gwich'in Natives are opposed to drilling in the refuge. The land is irreplaceable, she said. And "what you do to that land, you can't take back."

"We're just getting started and we are in it for the long haul, until this refuge is protected permanently," said Jamie Rappaport Clark, from green group Defenders of Wildlife.

I won’t apologize for giving graduates tools to succeed

Alaska News - Tue, 2018-05-22 16:50

Educating our youth here at home is what those who walked before us envisioned when the North Slope Borough was created years ago. Prior to that time, our young people were sent away after grade school from their homes and their culture. They were thrust into boarding schools — sometimes out of state — where they were sometimes forbidden from practicing their culture.

I was lucky. Because of my elders who fought for my right for self‐determination, I was able to stay here at home with my family and my village throughout my schooling. I was able to hunt, eat my Native foods, practice my Native dancing and speak my Native tongue. I did so while also receiving a good education and had opportunities to stay in my village after I graduated.

I would have liked to have had the chance to further my education beyond high school. Now I want to give every high school graduate the chance that I didn't get. I want to give them hope for their future and I want them to know that we all stand behind them and we will do all we can do to support them as they continue on their journey.

This is the cultural context surrounding my decision this year to give all of our North Slope high school graduates, including GED and KIITA students, a $500 scholarship to an institution of higher education or trade school, and an iPad that can give them greater access to researching opportunities for themselves.

However, none of this context made its way into a recent Arctic Sounder article on the issue, which is a shame. Instead of focusing on many of the obstacles our students face after they graduate from high school — cultural, societal, or financial — the reporter chose controversy ginned up on social media.

While I absolutely respect the opinions of all of the people that I serve, I don't believe that social media comments, taken out of the larger discussion, should be the central theme of any story, say nothing of the one that is as culturally layered as this one.

[Ilisagvik College in Utqiaġvik waives tuition for all Alaska Native students]

As the first North Slope Borough mayor to graduate high school in Barrow, I vowed when elected to do everything I could to help our young people to get the education they need to succeed. At a time when the state of Alaska is struggling to meet its financial commitments, the North Slope Borough has been able to increase the local contribution to the School District by $1.16 million. The proposed contribution of more than $36 million represents the highest level of local contribution funding for the school district since the formation of the North Slope Borough.

I am absolutely committed to educating our young people, and I will never waver from that commitment. We are all firsthand witnesses to the adage that it takes a village to raise a child. Many of us also know that it can take extra help and nurturing for that child to blossom into an adult. We should never
apologize for giving that extra help when we can.

Harry K. Brower Jr. is the mayor of the North Slope Borough.

Want to grow something beautiful in your garden this year? Farmers markets are flush with plant starts

Alaska News - Tue, 2018-05-22 16:06

Kate Timmons and Elderberry Essentials is joining the Thankful Thursdays market this week inside the Mall at Sears.

Timmons says she started the business after working in the medical field for years. According to a variety of studies, elderberry has many natural health benefits, including as a cold and flu fighter and an aid in fighting sinus infections.

"Elderberry and its incredible healing abilities have been traced back to Hippocrates," Timmons says. "He described the plant as his 'medicine chest' because it seemed to cure a wide array of health concerns. This medicinal berry is a real powerhouse for good health."

Elderberry Essentials emphasizes incorporating local Alaska ingredients into their products, she said.

Timmons' product line includes three varieties of elderberry syrup—one made with raw, local Alaska honey, another with raw manuka honey from New Zealand and a vegan-friendly honey-free alternative made with raw Alaska birch syrup. The syrups are available in three sizes—4, 8 and 16 ounces. Elderberry Essentials also has elderberry gummies and suckers.

Duane Clark will be at the market with raw dog food, grass-fed beef, honey, birch syrup, zucchini relish, jams, salsa, Denali Dog Treats, items from Alaska Sprouts, Rosie's Pasta and seafood, including black cod, smoked black cod, halibut, scallops, cod and shrimp.

Farm 779 is unveiling a new version of its coconut kefir, along with kombucha, beet kvass, vegetable krauts, snacks and ferments specific for dogs. Farm 779 is also at the South Anchorage Farmers Market on Saturday.

Anchorage Farmers Market

Memorial Day weekend is quickly approaching, and Sarah Bean from Arctic Organics says that means "it's time to plant your garden. Let's hope the weather has finally settled into spring!"

To support gardeners, Arctic Organics will have a large selection of tomato plants, vegetable and flower seedlings, hanging baskets and fertilizer blends. "It's time to get your zucchini, beans, tomatoes and other tender varieties hardening off," Bean says.

For those looking to fill the fridge and table, Arctic Organics will have their first harvest of lettuce mix and more arugula.

Other vendors scheduled this week include AD Farm, Ed & Tina's Kraut & Pickling, Happy Valley Chickens' eggs, Matanuska Gardens, Persistent Farmer, Seldovitch Farm, Shaggy Mane Shroomery, Sun Fire Ridge and Turkey Red Café breads and treats.

Spenard Farmers Market

Mark Butler says the market will be packed with more vendors this week.

Highlights include: Ba-lesca Brothers with chive starts, raspberry starts, native spruce trees and salsa; Four Tern Farms with field greens and grass-fed beef; Glacier Seafoods with shrimp from Prince William Sound; Northern Flowers with large hanging flower baskets; Wildrose Harvest with herb starts and honey; Midnight Sun Farms with honey, jams and rhubarb starts; D&L; with seven varieties of pickled vegetables and Arctic Chicken Coops is taking orders for customized chicken coops.

South Anchorage Farmers Market

Market organizer Arthur Keyes was excited to see Wild Scoops back at the market last week, and he's already looking forward to this week.

"Wild Scoops and Little Dipper Donuts will be offering a cold scoop of ice cream over a bowl of hot fresh donuts—more yummy gooey goodness than should be legal," Keyes says.

Elissa Brown says some Wild Scoops flavors this week include AK Honeycomb, Coffee and Donuts, and a vegan Coconut Birch.

Of course, it's not all about sweet treats.

"We have been having this market now for 13 years and this is the first season we have this great of a variety of fresh veggies," Keyes says. "Harvest Point Farm is bringing radishes and fresh greens. Seeds of Change also has a large selection of greens. Northern Fungi has fresh oyster mushrooms, and Pam's Veggies had tomatoes and cucumbers."

Some of the other two dozen vendors include: Drool Central, Sweet and Sassy Kettle Corn, Earthworks Farm, Wild Child Salsa, Gold Nugget Farm, The Blue Poppy, Country Garden Farm, Butcher Block #9 and Arctic Choice Seafoods.

Center Market

Got an egg craving? Alex Davis of AD Farm can help. He will be at all three indoor markets with chicken, duck, goose, turkey and guinea eggs. Davis also has his regular lineup of pork cuts, including chops, sausage, loin roast, ribs, bone, fat and more, along with potatoes and carrots, raspberry jam, pumpkin butter and raw honey.

Davis says to look for these items and vendors at the market: Alaska Sprouts, Alaska Flour Co., Evie's Brinery, Mosquito Mama, Windy River Farm, Tonia's Biscotti, Jonsers and Monica's Confection Connection.

From the sea

Not surprisingly, "Copper River is the talk to the town right now," says Dannon Southall of 10th & M Seafoods about the salmon fishery in Prince William Sound.

"They have fished last Thursday as well as (Monday) and the fishing was not the best." Despite slow fishing, Southall says 10th & M will have both kings and sockeye in the store.

Troll-caught kings from Southeast are also available, along with halibut, cod, rockfish and Prince William Sound shrimp.

Steve Edwards lives and writes in Anchorage. Contact him at akmarketfresh@gmail.com.

Local farmers markets

Wednesday in Anchorage: Center Market, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., The Mall at Sears, Benson Boulevard and Denali Street

Thursday in Anchorage: Thankful Thursdays market, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., The Mall at Sears, Benson Boulevard and Denali Street

Friday in Anchorage: Center Market, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., The Mall at Sears, Benson Boulevard and Denali Street; Fourth Avenue Indoor Market, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., 333 W. Fourth Ave.

Saturday in Anchorage: Anchorage Farmers Market, 9 a.m.-2 p.m., 15th Avenue and Cordova Street; Anchorage Market and Festival, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Third Avenue between C and E streets; Center Market, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., The Mall at Sears, Benson Boulevard and Denali Street; Fourth Avenue Indoor Market, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., 333 W. Fourth Ave.; South Anchorage Farmers Market, 9 a.m.-2 p.m., O'Malley Sports Center; Spenard Farmers Market, 9 a.m.-2 p.m., 2555 Spenard Road

Sunday in Anchorage: Anchorage Market and Festival, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Third Avenue between C and E streets; Fourth Avenue Indoor Market, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., 333 W. Fourth Ave.

Pilot-hungry airlines are raiding flight schools – creating a shortage of instructors to train the next generation

Alaska News - Tue, 2018-05-22 15:22

Airlines' insatiable demand for pilots threatens to sabotage flight schools' ability to train new ones. Carriers are raising wages and hoarding every available pilot – including the instructors schools rely on to teach incoming students.

The very pilot pipeline that is supposed to meet decades of projected labor shortfalls is being squeezed. According to a report from the Government Accountability Office, some schools have been forced to scale back operations or turn down qualified students because they do not have enough instructors.

Michael Farley has been teaching at Bridgewater State University in Massachusetts for 18 years. Applications for his program are up, but the aviation department chair is so short on instructors that he has had to cap the number of students in his program.

"In my tenure, this is unprecedented," Farley said, reflecting on the speed with which airlines were hiring recent graduates.

[As Alaska Air cuts costs, employee discontent grows]

How the flight-school model used to work

The problem is rooted in how collegiate aviation is structured. Classroom courses such as meteorology and aviation law are taught by academic faculty, but flight instructors are usually experienced students or graduates looking to gain flight hours before heading off to the commercial big leagues.

Details vary between vocational, two-year and four-year schools, but an aspiring pilot at a typical accredited institution needs about 250 to 300 hours to become a certified instructor. Those 250 hours used to be all you needed to join an airline as a co-pilot. In some countries, it still is.

Since 2013, most students have had to fly between 1,000 and 1,500 hours to qualify for work at a passenger airline. Even before that, the GAO report found, airlines expected as much as 2,000 hours of experience from entry-level employees, depending on the job market.

So, where do young pilots get the other 1,000 hours or so? Some do aerial photography or fly banners, but the overwhelming majority work at their aviation college or an affiliated institution as a flight instructor. It is built into their career path.

In an ideal world, a pilot works first as an instructor at her flight school, then as a co-pilot and pilot at a regional airline (such as Cape Air or SkyWest Airlines) and finally as a co-pilot and pilot at a major airline (such as Southwest Airlines or United Airlines).

When the model snaps

Demand for pilots swings hard. In 2009, as American families and businesses slashed their air-travel budgets amid the Great Recession and furloughs swept the industry, major airlines hired just 30 pilots, according to pilot-advisory service FAPA.aero. That number soared to 5,000 in 2017. In 2018, it will be even higher.

When the market was slow, students stuck around, and instructors were cheap and abundant. But when hiring took off, they vanished into jobs flying passenger or cargo jets.

When employees complain about worker shortages, the obvious reply is employees would not be so hard to find if businesses just offered more money.

The aviation job market is complicated by strict federal regulations and what FAPA's president, Louis Smith, called the "poach chain."

[Alaska faces a pilot shortage. Could the state become a proving ground for pilotless aircraft?]

Flight-school instructors are almost all flight-school students, which means they came into aviation because they wanted to sit in the cockpit of a mammoth Boeing or Airbus with "Delta" or "American" stamped on the side, not babysit their peers in a single-engine Cessna.

From Day 1, they are focused on getting to a major airline and building seniority, the all-important number that rules everything from route assignments and pay scales to standby tickets. Those major airlines poach from the regional airlines, and regional airlines poach from flight schools.

Life is hard at the bottom of the poach chain, where flight schools compete for instructors. U.S. Aviation Academy, a large training outfit that partners with Tarrant County College in Texas, offers new instructors a $2,500 bonus and between $27 and $35 an hour – a wage it has been forced to raise about 15 percent in recent months.

"We think we're solving the problem," said Scott Sykes, who handles business development for the academy. "We've got a full-time recruiting staff that are out there nationwide beating the streets."

Their pay is competitive with regional airlines, where new pilots earn an estimated $50,000 to $60,000 a year. But when a 21-year-old instructor gets poached, the schools are not competing with the regional carrier. They are competing with the promise of a 44-year career in a high-profile, lionized position that can pay north of $200,000 a year and offers excellent benefits.

Aspiring pilot Cade Glass, of Midlothian, Virginia, plans on becoming an instructor to help pay for flight school and said he has considered a career in aviation education, but the 13-year-old already understands the cold calculus involved.

"If airlines are paying like they are today, with nearly $20,000 signing bonuses? I'm going to go there every time," Glass said.

Competition causes collateral damage

As flight schools pay instructors more, they are raising their prices to compensate. It is a fraught decision in an industry that worried it is charging too much to attract the quantity and diversity of students that airlines need.

Federal student aid, while available at many aviation schools, typically does not stretch to cover flight-school costs, which are boosted by investments in aircraft, fuel and facilities – not to mention the instructors. The GAO found that most pilot programs charge more than $50,000 for flight training alone.

Not all students have access to the wealth or credit needed to fill the gap between student aid and the flight-school bill, even if they can be reasonably sure – in this job market, at least – they will earn it back. Schools told the GAO that, after instructor attrition, their biggest obstacle to training enough pilots was their own high price tag.

Glass's first choice of flight school – Embry-Riddle Aeronautical University, where he went to aviation camp and learned the ropes from student instructors – costs $48,000 a year. That does not include the cumulative $40,000 to $60,000 the school expects students to spend on flight training while they are there.

"If you don't have the financial backing, it's difficult," Glass said.

Putting the model back together

The quickest solution to the instructor shortage would be another downturn in the cyclical industry, which would reduce demand for new pilots and flood the market with laid-off and furloughed workers, but nobody's advocating that. It also seems unlikely given the industry's bullish projections that predict the pilot shortfall will extend for decades.

In the short term, schools have partnered with regional airlines and struck deals that allow pilots to earn seniority while they are instructing. They have also offered what Tom Hiltner, FAPA's vice president of operations, called "indentured servitude packages," in which students promise to stick around longer in exchange for advanced flight training. The GAO found at least one school is attempting to negotiate non-poaching agreements with regional airlines.

Hiltner said some schools have also intensified recruitment of nontraditional instructors including retired pilots, pilots who might not meet medical restrictions for airline certification, and pilots who care less about globe-trotting and more about working regular hours and sleeping in their own bed each night.

It is still a challenge. Farley of Bridgewater State University said that he had not been able to hire nontraditional instructors, and was not sure they would be a long-term solution to his instructor shortage. People join aviation because they want to work for airlines, and aviation schools just cannot compete in terms of pay or prestige.

The shortages are growing more acute as airlines hire away the people who would otherwise be training more people for them to hire – and Farley does not see a solution coming until (and if) the bottleneck works all the way up the poach chain.

"When it affects the major airlines, we might see some changes," Farley said.

U.S. House votes to roll back post-crisis financial rules in victory for Trump

Alaska News - Tue, 2018-05-22 14:35

WASHINGTON – The U.S. House of Representatives on Tuesday passed bipartisan legislation that would ease bank rules introduced in the wake of the 2007-2009 financial crisis, giving President Donald Trump a major legislative victory.

Tuesday's vote rolls back some of the 2010 Dodd-Frank rules that restricted operations by smaller banks and community lenders and keeps the Republican president's campaign promise to try to spur more economic growth by cutting regulation.

The bill, which was approved by the Senate in March, marks the first significant rewrite of U.S. financial rules introduced following the crisis, which saw Wall Street lenders bailed out to the tune of $700 billion.

Republican critics say Dodd-Frank went too far and curbs banks' ability to lend, while many Democrats say it provides critical protections for consumers and taxpayers.

The bill, approved 258-159, raises the threshold at which banks are considered systemically risky and subject to stricter oversight to $250 billion from $50 billion. It also eases trading, lending and capital rules for banks with less than $10 billion in assets.

It does not, however, weaken the top U.S. consumer watchdog created by Dodd-Frank that has been consistently attacked by Republicans who say it oversteps its mandate.

But the bill does offer a handful of niche provisions that would help some larger banks, such as allowing custody banks like BNY Mellon and State Street Corp. to exempt the customer deposits they place with central banks from a stringent capital calculation requirement.

It also offers more favorable treatment for municipal bonds, a measure that analysts say is likely to help Citigroup Inc.'s bond-trading business.

But backers of the bill stress that the core Dodd Frank provisions that aimed to shore up the financial system and make banks less risky, remain untouched by this legislation.

The bill also does not alter the so-called "Volcker Rule" banning Wall Street banks from making risky bets with their own money, or limit the ability of regulators to apply stricter rules to large institutions they deem critical to the financial system.

These nice guys’ conflict over trails shows how Anchorage is changing

Alaska News - Tue, 2018-05-22 13:31

Lee Bolling and Rick Sinnott are two of the nicest, most public-spirited guys I know. Seeing them in fundamental disagreement shows the depth of our city's conflict about the purpose of the city's open space.

Sinnott spent his career protecting Anchorage wildlife. Now retired from the Alaska Department of Fish and Game, he's still at it, as a writer and scientist, and as a skeptic of building more trails in our wooded parks.

Bolling, a newly minted engineer, hasn't had his career yet. But he already has led the transformation of Anchorage into a mountain biking city, raising money and recruiting volunteers to build singletrack trails that snake through the parks.

The trails built by Singletrack Advocates, the group of which Bolling is president, have put more people in close proximity to moose and bears. Is that good or bad?

This summer, more singletrack will be built in Far North Bicentennial Park. Bolling's group raised $220,000 for the work. Bowing to wildlife concerns, they cut the project from 6-8 miles to 4.5 miles to avoid an area where brown bears congregate during salmon runs.

Young workers also will improve trails for mountain bikers in Russian Jack Springs Park this summer, over the objections of some community council members who wanted to keep the park more natural.

[Do mountain bike trails improve Russian Jack Springs Park or disturb its peace?]

Each project raises a fight, but none has been stopped. The culture of the city is changing. This conflict is a sign of change.

In the 1960s, Anchorage's trail conflicts pitted cross-country skiers against snowmachiners. The skiers won and snowmachines were outlawed within the city.

Looking at the recreational facilities built in those days, you can see why. Leaders had an urban vision of Anchorage.

That generation built tennis courts, ball fields and paved trails. Russian Jack was a golf course and downhill skiing area. For nature, you went out of town.

I don't see many people playing on city tennis courts anymore. Recreation advocates are talking about turning them into skate and bike parks.

As a devoted cross-country skier, I hate to admit our sport is going the same way. Warmer winters have converted many skiers to fat-tire bikers.

Ski racing boosters widened some trails to allow two skate-technique athletes to pass, turning those trails into roads. The bikers like narrow paths, which have a more natural feel.

Mountain bikers and mountain runners experience nature in a new way. It's not just for weekends anymore. Bolling, who has two young sons at home, uses the trails for exercise and an hourlong natural experience after work and before his evening family time.

With his riding, his career, his volunteer work and his kids, he's too busy to do much else.

Riding singletrack is worth it. Rides are fun, athletic and challenging. The trails swoop through the woods like roller-coaster tracks. Going fast takes skill and can be dangerous.

One danger — but not the biggest one — is wildlife. On the singletrack in Kincaid last fall, I came around a corner and encountered a black bear at close quarters. As I tried to back slowly away, I could hear a cyclist coming the other direction toward me, hemming in the bear.

I yelled, "Bear! Bear!"

The oncoming cyclist yelled back, "What?"

Nothing bad happened, as far as I know, but that is the kind of encounter Sinnott is worried about.

[New singletrack trails spell sudden encounters with bears]

During moose calving season, going on now and for another four weeks or more, biking Kincaid's singletrack is particularly hazardous, as female moose fiercely defend their young. Bolling said warning signs are up, but it's up to riders to make their own decisions.

Sinnott fears that means death for wildlife. He doesn't want people getting hurt, partly because that often leads to calls to kill animals.

Wildlife were here first. As recreation in the city becomes more active and uses more of our wooded parks more intensively, we are leaving very little room for wild animals to be wild.

But parking lots and subdivisions hurt wildlife more. They obliterate habitat completely.

Maybe putting more cyclists in the woods ultimately helps protect nature. I imagine muddy mountain bikers develop more concern about conservation than tennis players do.

Sinnott disagrees. His says bikers and runners are just using the outdoors as a gym. He described a friend who runs and fast-hikes in the Chugach Mountains and doesn't know the names of plants beyond dandelions.

"In general, I think those folks are much less likely to be environmentalists than the walkers," Sinnott said.

"I would disagree with him," Bolling said. "It's a way to have fun, and live a healthy life, and enjoy nature. We don't live in a city to do city stuff. We live in Anchorage to get into the outdoors."

I've had this discussion with Sinnott before. I've known him many years and he has taught me a lot about wildlife.

A decade ago, we were on opposite sides when I worked as a consultant for Mayor Mark Begich, who was trying to extend the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail south along  the coast.

State and federal officials killed the project through the environmental process. Sinnott was in the middle of that, saying cyclists on the paved trail would disturb sandhill cranes, snow geese and tundra swans in the Anchorage Coastal Wildlife Refuge.

Perhaps they would. But today people hunt in the refuge, the city's partially treated sewage is pumped out into its waters, and Cook Inlet oil production threatens it with spills. Bikers and runners using and caring about the refuge would protect more than harm it.

Besides, we live in a city. I'm excited that our culture has shifted to integrate our natural parks into the lives of city residents.

The volunteer energy of Bolling and his friends is the best we have to offer.

Their trails should avoid key wildlife points — and they're doing that — but if mountain bikers are hurt by moose or bears, that's the cost of being outdoor Alaskans. I'm sure far more will be hurt falling off their bikes.

The views expressed here are the writer's and are not necessarily endorsed by the Anchorage Daily News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary(at)adn.com. Send submissions shorter than 200 words to letters@adn.com or click here to submit via any web browser.

City considering new waste management location

Juneau Hot Topics - Tue, 2018-05-22 10:56
In this June 2008 photo, Becky Iverson sorts her plastic container at the Waste Management site in Lemon Creek. (Michael Penn | Juneau Empire File).

City hears recommendation for new waste management site

Juneau Hot Topics - Tue, 2018-05-22 10:56
The City and Borough of Juneau would lease land for the household .... at the current and revised maps and comment by visiting www.juneau.org.

The destructive cycle of hating

Alaska News - Tue, 2018-05-22 10:36

There has been a great deal of discussion of social division and polarization in recent times, but those terms are inadequate. What besets the United States is much worse.

Both the right and the left are increasingly defined by a form of Manichaeism, in which the forces of light are taken to be in a death struggle with the forces of darkness. We are in a Manichaean moment.

Manichaeism was a religion founded in the third century by the prophet Mani, born in what is now Iraq. Seeking to synthesize all existing religions and offering its own elaborations, Manichaeism claimed that the principles of Good and Evil are in constant battle.

Known as the Apostle of Light, Mani regarded himself as the final successor to the most important prophets, including Buddha and Jesus. Between the third and seventh centuries, Manichaeism had a great deal of influence. It lost its popularity in the 14th century, but in different forms, it has endured; it speaks to something in the human soul.

Political Manichaeism, as I am understanding it here, can be found whenever disagreements about political issues are seen not as reasonable disputes among fellow citizens, but instead as pitting decent people with decent character against horrible people with horrible character.

Here's a quick way to identify those with a Manichaean sensibility: They hate what they hate more than they like what they like.

[Robert Reich: American division grows dangerous]

To be sure, Manichaeans have their preferred policies. They might be pro-life or supportive of tax cuts. They might favor gun control or increases in the minimum wage. But what most animates them — what makes them feel energized and alive — is what, or who, they despise.

George Orwell offered an unforgettable portrayal of Manichaeism in the form of the Two Minutes Hate, directed against Emmanuel Goldstein, opponent of the Party: "A hideous ecstasy of fear and vindictiveness, a desire to kill, to torture, to smash faces in with a sledge hammer, seemed to flow through the whole group of people like an electric current, turning one even against one's will into a grimacing, screaming lunatic."

That's a caricature, of course. But Republicans have become able practitioners of their own Two Minutes Hate, frequently directed against Hillary Clinton ("Lock her up!"), and also against James Comey, Nancy Pelosi and Chuck Schumer. President Donald Trump serves as the Manichaean-in-Chief. But within some parts of the Republican Party, Manichaeism has become the coin of the realm.

Left-wing Manichaeism can be found in efforts to demonize an economic class that is said to be responsible for the misfortunes and struggles of the rest of us. Sen. Bernie Sanders, a committed Manichaean, calls for "a moral and political war against the billionaires and corporate leaders, on Wall Street and elsewhere, whose policies and greed are destroying the middle class of America." Those who focus on what they see as the villainy of the top 1 percent, rather than the needs of the bottom 10 percent, tend to be Manichaean.

The rise of "partyism" — defined as strong, immediate revulsion toward people of an opposing political party — is best understood as a reflection of political Manichaeism. Consider the fact that in polls, nearly half of Republicans, and about a third of Democrats, have said they would be "displeased" if their child married a member of the opposing party. Just a few decades ago, the corresponding percentages were close to zero.

[Advice for a divided nation: Speak, listen and love your neighbor]

On some university campuses, left-wing Manichaeism is running rampant. An example is the prohibition on "microaggressions" — which are defined, absurdly, to include a commitment to meritocracy ("I believe the most qualified person should get the job" or "America is the land of opportunity"); a commitment to colorblindness ("There is only one race, the human race"); or a denial, by a white person, that he is a racist.

Sure, the concept of microaggressions is useful, and some comments are worse than offensive ("you are a credit to your race"). But the sheer proliferation of microaggressions, and the constant search for more of them, is best understood in Manichaean terms: People with conservative political views are evil.

One of the most corrosive features of Manichaeism is that it breeds more of itself. If people accuse you of being aligned with the forces of darkness, you might well respond in kind. That makes self-government far more difficult. It leads people to focus not on substantive issues on which progress might be made, but instead to attribute terrible motivations to their fellow citizens, and to see themselves as engaged in holy wars against both individuals and abstractions (such as "liberalism").

Aware of these risks, some of the nation's greatest leaders refused to speak in Manichaean terms. With the Civil War near its end, Abraham Lincoln asked, "With malice toward none, with charity for all, with firmness in the right as God gives us to see the right, let us strive on to finish the work we are in, to bind up the nation's wounds." In the midst of the struggle for civil rights, Martin Luther King Jr. declared, "There is some good in the worst of us and some evil in the best of us."

In a similar spirit, Joe Biden frequently quotes Mike Mansfield, his late Senate colleague, as saying, "it's always appropriate to question another man's judgment, but never appropriate to question his motives."

These comments reflect a commitment to the best antidotes to the temptations of Manichaeism: charity and grace. In American political life, both of these are endangered species. They urgently need a recovery plan.

Cass R. Sunstein is a Bloomberg Opinion columnist. He is the editor of "Can It Happen Here? Authoritarianism in America" and a co-author of "Nudge: Improving Decisions About Health, Wealth and Happiness."

The views expressed here are the writer's and are not necessarily endorsed by the Anchorage Daily News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary@adn.com. Send submissions shorter than 200 words to letters@adn.com or click here to submit via any web browser.

Police converge on Fairview burglary in progress

Alaska News - Tue, 2018-05-22 08:39

An armed burglary in progress at a Fairview business was drawing a large police presence Tuesday morning.

Officers were investigating a report of an armed burglary at Quality Rides in the 500 block of East 13th Avenue, according to an Anchorage Police Department release.

Police believe a suspect or suspects are inside, APD spokesman MJ Thim said just before 8:30 a.m.

Officers at the scene used a bullhorn to to try to get them to come out.

"We know you're armed," an officer could be heard saying. "You need to come out with your hands empty, do it now. Don't make things any worse for yourself."

Police were setting up a large perimeter in the area between Eagle Street and Fairbanks Street before 8:30 a.m. People were asked to avoid the area.

Reporters Matt Tunseth and Zaz Hollander contributed.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Rammed or shooting the gap? Salmon seiners clash in Prince William Sound criminal case

Alaska News - Tue, 2018-05-22 08:19

An unusual criminal case in Cordova that centers on a violent fishing boat collision two years ago is expected to wrap up without jail time.

The June 2016 crash between seiners in a Prince William Sound cove near Whittier revealed a dark side of Alaska's multi-million-dollar pink salmon fishery.

Kami Cabana, the 25-year-old third-generation fisherman at the helm of the Chugach Pearl, faced first-degree felony assault charges for what prosecutors called an intentional ramming.

Cabana's Girdwood family has fished for more than 50 years. She's well-known local skier featured in a 2016 North Face film.

Her attorney argued it was Jason Long, the Cordova-based skipper of the Temptation, who was actually at fault: he tried to force his way through a line-up of boats with a dangerous maneuver.

A U.S. Coast Guard investigation found the Temptation "dramatically increased its speed" about 12 seconds before the collision, according to an October 2017 final assessment letter. Long spotted a school of salmon in the bay and tried to pass through an opening between Cabana and the Silver Streak before they closed the gap.

Cabana never stopped her forward motion as she closed the gap, the report found. The Silver Streak's captain put his boat in reverse.

Long never slowed, the report states.

The Coast Guard hearing officer faulted Cabana and the other skipper. But he also found Long could have avoided the collision had he taken "proper evasive maneuvers" rather than speeding up.

The two sides reached a plea deal in the 2017 criminal case Friday in Cordova District Court.

The deal likely involves no incarceration for Cabana, now 27 and still fishing.

Who's to blame?

Minutes before a morning pink salmon opener that June day, boats nearly filled the cramped head of Waterfall Cove in Hidden Bay as seiners hauling skiffs jockeyed for position.

Salmon seiners use vertical nets weighted at the bottom and fitted with floats. Alaska's pink salmon catch, canned or frozen for international sale, was worth $169 million last year.

Long admitted he tried to shoot the gap between two vessels, part of what he called a blockade by the Cabana family.

That's where the stories diverge.

The state Office of Special Prosecutions claimed Cabana sped up and rammed the Temptation, injuring a deckhand seriously enough he was medivacked out by air.

"She never slowed down," Long said in an April interview. "I didn't realize until probably two seconds before she hit me that she was just wide open. Then she slammed into me broadside."

He said others overheard radio traffic suggesting Cabana's father told her to "keep 'em outta here no matter what you do."

The defense claimed that Long caused the crash by aggressively gunning through a too-small gap between Cabana's Chugach Pearl and another boat.

Cabana's converted Pearl Harbor tour boat was no match for Long's "souped up speed boat" despite his contention that she was traveling as fast as 10 knots when the collision happened, Cabana attorney Patrick Bergt said Monday. "Her boat is too big and underpowered to do anything close to that."

Captured on GoPro

The criminal case was filed last year but the incident took on new life when a 6-minute GoPro video surfaced on social media in March. (Heads-up: The video contains some not-safe-for-work language.)

In the video, deckhand Gerald Cunningham stands next to the nets in the Temptation's stern as the boat's engines get louder. The Temptation speeds up as it enters the bay. Cunningham is grinning, but then suddenly hunkers down like he's anticipating a hit.

The Silver Streak collides with the boat's starboard side, then the Chugach Pearl collides with the Temptation's port side in a jarring crunch of metal on metal.

Cunningham is thrown backwards to the deck. An exhaust stack topples onto his prone body. He stands up, wobbly, and says he's OK but dabs blood from his head.

Other boats circle the Temptation. A woman can be heard shouting, and Cabana is visible in the crow's nest, waving her arms and yelling.

Cunningham had to be airlifted for medical care and still suffers after-effects of his head injury, Long said last month. Nobody on the other boats offered any help.

"Her first words were 'Get the f— out of here so I can set my net,'" he said.  "Then her relatives surrounded me."

Cabana's attorney Patrick Bergt, however, says Cunningham's injuries weren't immediately obvious or his "compassionate" client would have offered help.

"She is yelling," Bergt acknowledged. "Nobody knew the crewman was injured."

Plea deal

Under the plea agreement reached Friday, Cabana will plead guilty to a reduced misdemeanor charge of reckless endangerment.

In exchange, she's required to do 120 hours of community work service and complete a U.S. Coast Guard boating course and pay any restitution ordered for the injured crewman, according to a sentencing memo. She's already completed the work service in Girdwood and did the course, her attorney said.

It wasn't immediately clear what restitution the state would seek.

The state prosecutor handling the case, Aaron Peterson, wasn't in the office Monday and didn't respond to an email list of questions.

Both sides also settled a civil case last summer for an undisclosed amount.

Valdez District Court Judge Daniel Schally said during Friday's hearing that he expected to dismiss the charges before the next scheduled hearing in December hearing provided Cabana meets all the conditions of her release, Bergt said.

Long expressed frustration Monday, calling the deal a slap on the wrist that sends a message to the fleet that "orchestrated" blockades like the one he says he encountered in Waterfall Cove will be tolerated.

"It's probably going to get worse," he said. "There's a lot of people I know that are going to be really pissed off about that. Give it 10 years and a Cabana could get hurt because another person is gonna ram them."

He says what happened on the water that day ruined his life. His family left Alaska and moved to Port Angeles Washington. He's flying to Ketchikan next month to work on a tender but sold his Alaska home, as well as his boat and fishing permit.

Cabana, too, "paid the price" for the accident through "months of online bullying" that included threats to her and her family, the  sentencing memo states. Exhibits filed in the case include Facebook messages like "You going to jail, b—-" and "trashy, classless and downright ugly — c—."

Bergt said Monday that his client now fishes alone, skipping openers or showing up late, to avoid confrontation.

"She's now forced to fish in places where other people are not," he said.

Anchorage fire chief Denis LeBlanc retires; city deciding replacement

Alaska News - Tue, 2018-05-22 07:11

Anchorage Fire Chief Denis LeBlanc retired Friday after nearly three years on the job, officials said.

A successor to LeBlanc will be named in a few weeks, said Kristin DeSmith, spokeswoman for Mayor Ethan Berkowitz. Jodie Hettrick, the fire department's deputy chief of operations, is serving as interim chief.

LeBlanc, who is 70, said he told the administration of his decision in early May. He said he has loved the job, but he's been working on and off for 53 years, including a few decades in the oil industry.

"After 53 years working, it's time," LeBlanc said.

The fire chief, who is appointed by the mayor, oversees an annual budget of about $95 million and about 385 employees. It's a job with some turnover: The department has had about a half-dozen chiefs in the past nine years, said the president of the local fire union, Mike Stumbaugh.

LeBlanc came to work for Berkowitz in July 2015 from the engineering company CH2MHill (now CH2M and Jacobs), where he had been director of maintenance and operations on North Slope.

In the early 2000s, LeBlanc worked as a consultant on Anchorage Fire Department budget operations. He then filled in for a stint as budget director under Mayor George Wuerch. During the administration of Mayor Mark Begich, LeBlanc served as city manager.

When he took over as fire chief, the department had consistently struggled to meet its budget. After curtailing some operations, the department finished about a half-million dollars under-budget in 2017, LeBlanc said.

[Neighborhood chaos drives a new approach at an Anchorage social services hub]

LeBlanc also oversaw efforts to add more ambulances and firefighters and restructure the department to focus more heavily on emergency medicine, which make up the majority of the department's call. He ended his tenure well-liked by fire union members, earning their respect after coming in without a fire background, said Stumbaugh, the union president.

LeBlanc said he felt comfortable leaving after Berkowitz was re-elected in April. He said the administration was coming up with a "short list" of replacements.

The fire chief can earn up to $172,000 in salary. Berkowitz and the Anchorage Assembly boosted the salary about 30 percent since LeBlanc was first hired, as part of broader salary increases for top police and fire executives. The administration said the higher salaries aimed to fix a situation where a promotion meant a pay cut from a lower-ranking job.

Driver’s decision to take scenic route helped save Chugiak family from fire

Alaska News - Tue, 2018-05-22 05:59

A family of six narrowly escaped a house fire with their lives Sunday evening, but things could have been a lot worse if Anchorage's Daren Beals hadn't decided to take the scenic route.

Beals, 50, was driving from Eagle River to Chugiak with his girlfriend Irene Bush, and two other family members when he decided — on a whim, he said Monday — to take the quieter Old Glenn instead of the quicker Glenn Highway.

As they drove past the home the Sparks family has lived in for more than 30 years, Beals said he noticed something odd.

"I was like, 'There's some weird smoke coming from next to the road,'" Beals recalled.

A trained volunteer firefighter and EMS captain who works as a health and safety advisor for ConocoPhillips on the North Slope, Beals is no stranger to life-threatening situations. In 2016, he and two other employees working at the remote Alpine oil field helped a 9-week-old baby from the village of Nuiqsut reach critical medical care. For their efforts, the trio — Beals, Dave Decker and Rose Frisby — were honored by the Red Cross at its annual Real Heroes Breakfast in April of 2017.

So Beals knew better than to drive by the smoky scene without investigating. Upon closer inspection, he saw flames.

"We stopped at the end of the driveway and…the garage was on fire," he said.

[House fire displaces family of 6 in Chugiak]

Beals ran to the front door and started banging, but couldn't get an answer. So he pounded harder as the flames grew — but still couldn't raise anyone.

So he went inside.

"I didn't hesitate, since I knew I needed to check the house," he said.

The door was unlocked. When Beals got inside, he ran into a very agitated homeowner in Edward Sparks, who was inside with his wife and their four kids.

"He's like, 'Who the [heck] is in my house?'" Beals said. "I'm like, 'Get the [heck] out, your house is on fire!"

As Beals helped get the family out, his fiance called 911.

"Thank God they had their address at the end of the driveway," he said.

According to Chugiak Volunteer Fire and Rescue Department assistant chief Clifton Dalton, the fire was reported at 5:47 p.m. and firefighters arrived from the nearby CVFRD Station 35 on the Old Glenn Highway two minutes later. When crews arrived, Dalton said the home was about 50 percent engulfed in flames.

"It took us about 45 minutes to get it under control," he said.

A total of 20 units from CVFRD, Anchroage Fire Department and the Central Mat-Su Fire Department responded to the fire, which caused the Old Glenn to be shut down for more than two hours.

Once firefighters arrived, Beals said there wasn't much left to do.

"They had it all under control," he said. Their good deed done, Beals and his passengers got in their car and drove away.

Beals's coworker, Willie Hatch, said he wasn't surprised to hear of Beals's latest act of heroism.

"He is addicted to medicine and helping people," Hatch wrote in an email. "It's his vice: he gets a rush from it."

An East High graduate and lifelong Anchorage resident, Beals said he's worked on the North Slope since around 2000. He said he simply likes to help people, and he and Bush were more than happy to help a fellow Alaskan in need when they were called upon.

"We felt pretty good," he said.

The Sparks family has set up a GoFundMe.com account to help pay for expenses associated with the fire.

"The damage is extreme and is going to take a lot of reconstruction," reads the post by Sparks's daughter, Juanita Kakiva."… This fire not only displaced him, but his wife and four boys. They've been left with very little."

Beals said he's just thankful he decided to take the scenic route on his Sunday drive.

"It's just one of those divine things that happen where you're in the right place at the right time."

Manafort accuses Mueller prosecutors of smearing him with leaks

Alaska News - Tue, 2018-05-22 05:29

NEWARK, N.J. _ Lawyers for Paul Manafort accused prosecutors working with special counsel Robert Mueller of smearing their client through unflattering media accounts that originated with illegal grand jury leaks.

The lawyers on Monday urged U.S. District Judge T.S. Ellis III to hold a hearing focusing in particular on communications involving Andrew Weissmann, one of the Mueller prosecutors, with The Associated Press.

Manafort, a former chairman of President Donald Trump’s 2016 campaign, faces charges of bank and tax fraud in Ellis’ court in Alexandria, Va. He has also been indicted by Mueller on charges of money laundering and operating as an unregistered foreign agent of Ukraine in a separate case in Washington.

The filing on Monday cited a report by Sara Carter, a freelance journalist and Fox News contributor, that the Justice Department received an FBI complaint about leaks in the Manafort investigation. His lawyers urged Ellis to determine “if there has been an internal investigation (or investigations) regarding such leaks, or if emails, notes or memoranda exist regarding the same.”

According to the filing, the meeting with reporters from The Associated Press took place in the spring of last year and was attended by prosecutors, including Weissmann, and FBI agents.

“Not only is leaking classified information a felony, but it was also apparently intended to create the false public narrative that Mr. Manafort was colluding with Russian intelligence officials during the Trump presidential campaign,” the defense lawyers said in the filing. “This smear campaign may have in fact irreparably prejudiced the jury pool.”

Manafort’s request comes amid mounting criticism by Trump, congressional Republicans and conservative news organizations over the conduct of Mueller’s investigation. The criticisms may find a receptive jurist in Ellis, who used a hearing earlier this month to criticize Mueller’s legal justification for investigating Manafort.

Weissmann has been accused by Trump supporters of bias. They have cited his contributions to Democratic candidates in the past.

Manafort’s lawyers first requested a leak hearing in a May 1 filing. In response, prosecutors denied wrongdoing and said a hearing was not necessary.

A spokesman for Mueller’s office did not immediately respond to a request for comment.

White House plans meeting between intelligence officials, GOP lawmakers on FBI source

Alaska News - Tue, 2018-05-22 05:19

WASHINGTON - The White House and the Justice Department have put off a high-stakes confrontation over the FBI’s use of a confidential source to aid an investigation into the Trump campaign, after top law enforcement and intelligence officials met with President DonaldTrump on Monday to discuss the brewing controversy.

A White House spokeswoman said Chief of Staff John Kelly plans to convene another gathering between the officials and congressional leaders to “review highly classified and other information” about the source and intelligence he provided.

That could be viewed as something of a concession from the Justice Department, which had been reluctant to turn over materials on the source to GOP lawmakers demanding them. But it also could be a bureaucratic maneuver to buy time and shield actual documents.

Earlier this month, the department temporarily defused a similar standoff with House Intelligence Committee Chairman Devin Nunes, R-Calif., who is seeking internal records and FBI reports on the source and threatened to hold Attorney General Jeff Sessions in contempt. The department had Nunes over for a classified briefing but provided no documents, and Nunes decided not to attend a later briefing the department offered.

The Monday meeting, which included Trump, Deputy Attorney General Rod Rosenstein, FBI Director Christopher Wray and Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats, lasted about an hour. Trump personally called to confer with the officials, two people familiar with the request said, though White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said the meeting was put on the books last week.

The gathering came a day after the Justice Department asked its inspector general to investigate Trump’s claim that his campaign may have been infiltrated by the FBI source for political purposes. The officials planned to discuss that, as well as the Justice Department’s response to congressional requests for documents on the origin of what is now special counsel Robert Mueller’s probe into whether the Trump campaign coordinated with Russia to influence the 2016 election.

The source at issue is Stefan Halper, a veteran of the Nixon, Ford and Reagan administrations and an emeritus professor at Cambridge University in England, according to multiple people familiar with his role.

The Washington Post had previously confirmed Halper’s identity but did not report the information after warnings from U.S. intelligence officials that exposing him could endanger him or his contacts. Now that his name has been revealed by multiple news organizations, including the Wall Street Journal, New York magazine and Axios, The Post has decided to publish his name. The Daily Caller first reported on some of his contacts with members of the Trump campaign.

Sanders said in a statement after the Monday meeting: “Based on the meeting with the President, the Department of Justice has asked the Inspector General to expand its current investigation to include any irregularities with the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s or the Department of Justice’s tactics concerning the Trump Campaign.”

She added, “It was also agreed that White House Chief of Staff Kelly will immediately set up a meeting with the FBI, DOJ, and DNI together with Congressional Leaders to review highly classified and other information they have requested.”

The latter statement could be particularly significant. Justice Department leaders have fought vigorously against turning over to Congress materials on the FBI’s source. It was not clear whether they had backed down from their position and would now allow GOP leaders to look at or keep the documents, or whether there would simply be a follow-up meeting for more discussion.

It was also not clear which lawmakers would be invited to review the information. A Justice Department spokeswoman declined to comment.

Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., a close Trump ally who has been critical of the Justice Department for not turning over documents to Congress, said he was glad to hear that Justice officials seemed willing to share more material about how they opened the investigation into contacts between some in the Trump campaign and Russians.

“It’s a good day for transparency, and I appreciate the president’s leadership,” Meadows said. “Obviously, the details of the cooperation that is a result of this meeting today will be a defining moment for the Department of Justice. We can certainly applaud the progress and efforts that were made today.”

Meadows said he was interested to see which lawmakers would be invited to attend.

“If it includes critical members of the House Intelligence Committee, it will go a long way to answering these unanswered questions,” he said.

The stakes of the meeting were high, and Trump raised them significantly Sunday when he said on Twitter that he would order the Justice Department to “look into whether or not the FBI/DOJ infiltrated or surveilled the Trump Campaign for Political Purposes - and if any such demands or requests were made by people within the Obama Administration!”

That Justice Department officials acquiesced to the demand is significant in its own right. The president effectively requested, and apparently received, a review of the investigation into his campaign.

“In my opinion, it is a terrible outcome for the department,” said former Justice Department spokesman Matt Miller, who served in the Obama administration. “The president has basically requested an investigation of the investigators with no evidence of wrongdoing, and they’ve agreed to do it.”

Still, it was unclear how much further officials would be willing to go if the president remained unhappy.

Meadows said Monday before the meeting: “Rod Rosenstein knows exactly what happened and what is in the documents requested by Congress. Either the matter warranted investigation long ago and he did nothing, or he’s seen the facts and believes nothing is wrong. His belated referral to the IG is not news . . . it is a ruse.”

Justice Department officials cited the safety of the source and others, as well as damage to relations with partner intelligence services, as reasons not to reveal the materials to Congress. Trump has the power to order the department to comply with congressional demands, but it is possible that department officials might resign in protest or refuse the order and force Trump to fire them.

Rudy Giuliani, the president’s lawyer, said in an interview Sunday that Trump wanted the materials handed over to Congress, though he conceded that the Justice Department “may want to put some strictures on it, like it has to be confidential or they don’t give the name but they give the information.”

Speaking to reporters on Capitol Hill, Rep. Adam Schiff, Calif., the ranking Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said: “Rudy Giuliani made it clear today that he wants these documents for the Trump legal defense team. That is not appropriate, and I have a concern about anyone from the White House being present for review of these sensitive documents, because the White House should have no role in access to these investigative materials.”

Schiff also raised concerns that the Justice Department and the FBI were “capitulating” and pointed to past warnings that officials expressed about the safety of the source. “Why have those concerns gone away? Because if they haven’t, they shouldn’t be providing this information.”

In the summer of 2016, Halper met with Trump campaign co-chairman Sam Clovis for coffee in northern Virginia, offering to provide foreign policy expertise to the Trump team. In September of that year, he reached out to George Papadopoulos, an unpaid foreign policy adviser for the campaign, inviting him to London to work on a research paper. He also had multiple contacts with foreign policy adviser Carter Page for talks about foreign policy.

Rosenstein said Sunday that “if anyone did infiltrate or surveil participants in a presidential campaign for inappropriate purposes, we need to know about it and take appropriate action.”

‘He’s peeing!’: A man’s grabby hands were just the start of a Frontier plane nightmare, FBI says

Alaska News - Tue, 2018-05-22 05:14

To paraphrase an old air travel axiom: What goes in must come out, one way or another.

There are approximately seven fluid ounces in a double vodka tonic - give or take, depending on how generous Frontier Airlines is with the pour.

Michael Allen Haag ordered his first one during the first cart service Thursday evening, according to the FBI - shortly after the plane took off from Denver, with hundreds of miles to go before it reached Charleston, South Carolina.

Haag was assigned to a middle seat, but this didn’t seem to bother him, as his fellow passengers would later recall in their interviews with police.

Two women sat on either side of him. One, by the window, was already asleep with her head on the tray table. The other was awake in the aisle seat, and she wore a tank top that - she would later tell the FBI - Haag seemed very interested in.

Haag told the woman he was “physically excited” because he was flying to see his old girlfriend, an FBI agent wrote in a federal affidavit. As she recalled the conversation, he kept staring at her chest.

She put on headphones and tried to fall asleep, but Haag wouldn’t stop asking her questions, she said.

What sort of men did she like? Oh, she was married? What sort of relationship did she have with her husband? What was her “deal,” she said Haag asked her, when she made it clear she did not want to talk.

Haag’s first double was gone by now, the FBI agent wrote, so he ordered a second vodka tonic of the flight, the FBI agent wrote. What goes in . . .

Haag’s attention apparently shifted to the woman on his right. She recalled waking very suddenly, to discover that a 45-year-old man she did not know was touching her fingers.

“Stop touching me,” she told Haag. He apologized, according to the affidavit - but then kept apologizing, over and over, as he cornered her against the window.

“Back off,” she said.

When Haag allegedly touched her leg, she started to yell.

About a dozen rows back, at the rear of the plane, a woman identified only as Emily had also been asleep. She more or less had the whole row to herself.

But now she woke suddenly, too, to the sound of an uproar in Row 25. The woman in the window seat next to Haag was standing straight up, the FBI agent wrote, calling for a flight attendant.

“I hear a woman scream, ’If this man . . . touches me one more time, I’ll . . . kill him,” Emily told KDVR, including the expletives she heard.

Then Emily watched with growing concern as a flight attendant marched Haag to the back of the plane and gave him his own private row - directly across the aisle from her.

The man was at least very drunk, Emily thought to herself, as Haag took his new seat and fumbled for his seat belt.

“He was out of his mind,” Emily said. “Like he couldn’t speak. He was mumbling.”

In the FBI agents words, Haag was “clearly intoxicated and possibly high. But a flight attendant helped buckle him in, and for a while he seemed to go passive.

Sleep now behind her, Emily took out her phone, thinking she would take a furtive picture of the strange man to show her friends.

And then, the FBI wrote, Haag unbuckled himself.

Emily shared two pictures with the CBS affiliate in Denver. In the first, Haag is slouched in his chair, his hands apparently folded over his lap.

Her second photo, taken a few minutes later, looks no different - except for the thin, clear fountain arcing from between the man’s hands, seeming to land inside the magazine pouch in front of his knees.

“And I scream,” Emily recalled. “He’s . . . peeing! He’s peeing! Oh my God!”

And he was indeed peeing, the FBI agent wrote -- emptying two double vodka tonics and who knows what else into the small gap between seats.

What goes in, must come out, but how it gets out makes all the difference.

The plane landed in Charleston shortly after 9 p.m., after more than three hours in the air. Emily said she and the two women in Row 25 gave statements to police, and she eventually got a $200 flight voucher from Frontier Airlines - which did not return a request for comment from The Washington Post.

Emily took one more photo of Haag, this time being led through the terminal in handcuffs.

He was released from jail the next day on a $25,000 bond, charged with interfering with a flight crew and two counts of indecent exposure - worth up to 20 years in a federal prison if convicted.

Hawaii volcano eruption driving away millions in tourism dollars

Alaska News - Tue, 2018-05-22 05:13

HONOLULU, Hawaii - Cruise ships have canceled stops on Hawaii‘s Big Island. Hotel rooms will sit vacant this summer despite price cuts.

And guest house owners and tour guides that depend on the 2 million visitors each year to Hawaii Volcanoes National Park are wondering how long their families will go without any income.

Tourism authorities say summer bookings for hotels on Hawaii’s Big Island have fallen almost 50 percent since the volcano began spewing lava and toxic gases on May 3.

The closure of the park, the state’s top tourist destination, alone is costing the island $166 million, the National Park Service said on Monday.

The lost revenue rises to $222 million when some 2,000 jobs indirectly impacted by park tourists are included, according to a park service report. (https://bit.ly/1NoB40V)

Tourism is the Big Island’s largest industry, and by far, biggest employer, providing more than 30 percent of private sector jobs in 2017, according to the Hawaii Visitors Bureau.

Erik Storm’s EcoGuides business, which conducts tours of Hawaii Volcanoes National Park, ground to a halt a month ago when volcanic conditions made it too dangerous to visit lava areas.

“We have a family to support so we hope that the National Park will reopen again soon, otherwise this could have a serious impact on our life.”


The volcano, however, shows no sign of quieting down. Geologists say the current cycle of eruption is among the worst events in a century from one of the world’s most active volcanoes. A series of Kilauea eruptions in 1955 lasted 88 days.

Potential visitors to the Big Island have been spooked by images of lava torching homes, soldiers wearing gas masks and now deadly white clouds of acid and glass shards as molten rock streams into the Pacific.

While Kilauea’s lava flows are in a small, roughly 10-square-mile rural area in the southeast Puna district, the volcano is having an impact on tourism across the Big Island, home to 200,000 people.

Beverly Oka’s family-run Uncle Billy’s Kona Bay Hotel is 120 miles (193 km) west of the lava flows, but bookings through the summer months are down around 40 percent.

“We are not affected. We have some vog, but not more than usual,” said Oka of the volcanic smog that routinely blows from Kilauea, which has been in a near constant state of eruption since 1983. Her hotel is offering a 30 percent discount to try to lure customers.

Norwegian Cruise Line canceled stops on the Big Island for its cruise ships due to “adverse conditions.” Royal Caribbean Cruises nixed a port call in Hilo, the island’s largest city, which is about 20 miles (32 km) northeast of the volcano.

Rob Guzman and his husband Bob Kirk fled their guest-house rental business just 6 miles (10 km) from the lava flows, unnerved by near constant tremors, clouds of toxic sulfur dioxide gas and risks highway escape routes would be cut off.

“We’ve lost more than half of our household income and many other people will be in the same situation indefinitely,” said Guzman, a resident of Kalapana Seaview Estates, who is staying with friends north of Hilo.

North Korea is acting up because Trump has it cornered

Alaska News - Tue, 2018-05-22 04:29

WASHINGTON -- North Korea’s recent temper tantrum over U.S.-South Korean military exercises and its threat to pull out of its upcoming summit with President Trump are signs that Trump’s North Korea strategy is working.

Over the past several months, Trump has boxed in Kim Jong Un. First, he ramped up economic pressure on Pyongyang while making clear that, unlike his predecessors, he was willing to take military action. Yet when Kim offered to meet face-to-face, Trump shocked everyone (probably including Kim) by reportedly accepting on the spot. Instead of rejecting the offer, or using it as a bargaining chip to elicit concessions, Trump said “yes” and put the two nations on a faster track to nuclear negotiations than anyone had anticipated.

Then, the president began shaping the parameters of an agreement -- starting with making clear what kind of deal he would not cut. The North Koreans want a nuclear deal like the one President Barack Obama gave to Iran: sanctions relief up front, billions of dollars in cash, a weak inspection regime and sunset clauses on the back end. By withdrawing from the Iran deal last week, Trump sent Pyongyang a crystal-clear message: I don’t cut deals like that.

He then used his senior officials to lay out the parameters of the kind of accord he would cut. Kim wants to get paid for the promise of denuclearization. Appearing on “Face the Nation,” national security adviser John Bolton played the bad cop and explained that that is not happening. Trump will only pay for actual denuclearization. The president, Bolton said, is looking for “a manifestation of the strategic decision to give up nuclear weapons [that] doesn’t have to be the same as Libya but it’s got to be something concrete and tangible it may be that Kim Jong Un has some ideas and we should hear him out.”

While Bolton set expectations for denuclearization, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo played the good cop and held out the twin carrots of security and prosperity if Kim agrees. “If North Korea takes bold action to quickly denuclearize,” Pompeo said, “the United States is prepared to work with North Korea to achieve prosperity on par with our South Korean friends.” That stunning offer is deeply destabilizing for Kim. If he goes to a summit with Trump and refuses to accept a deal that provides his country with prosperity on par with South Korea, then he can no longer blame the West for the misery of the North Korean people.

In other words, Trump and his national security team have put Kim in a corner, offering him peace, security and prosperity, but only if he first denuclearizes completely, verifiably and irreversibly. Little wonder that North Korea is lashing out.

Kim might be looking for a pretext to get out of his meeting with Trump, and the military exercises provide a perfect excuse.

He may also be testing Trump to see how badly he wants the summit. Or he may be trying to drive a wedge between the United States and South Korea in advance of the talks. He knows South Korean President Moon Jae-in is deeply invested in his “Sunshine Policy” with Pyongyang. If the North threatens a little rain, perhaps the South -- which desperately wants the summit -- will pressure Trump to cancel the military exercises or be more flexible at the bargaining table.

Trump needs to show Kim that he won’t respond to threats by refusing to call off the exercises. Through back channels, he needs to reaffirm his willingness to provide North Korea with security and prosperity in exchange for immediate denuclearization but also make clear that if North Korea refuses, the alternative is not the status quo. Sanctions will be ramped up, and military action is possible. Above all, Trump should take North Korea’s recent outburst as a signal that Pyongyang is feeling the heat.

A cornered animal roars, precisely because it is cornered. Stand firm, Mr. President, and don’t let up the pressure.

Marc Thiessen writes a twice-weekly column for The Post on foreign and domestic policy and contributes to the PostPartisan blog. He is a fellow at the American Enterprise Institute, and the former chief speechwriter for President George W. Bush.