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Taking care of Anchorage schools

Alaska News - Tue, 2021-11-30 14:50

Parents and guardians bring their children to Inlet View Elementary School as students return to in-person learning in Anchorage on Wednesday, Jan. 20, 2021. (Emily Mesner / ADN) (Emily Mesner/)

As parents from neighborhoods across Anchorage, we are writing to thank the Anchorage School Board for advancing a bond package that takes care of our schools as we retire debt from previous bonds. This is a fiscally conservative investment in our schools, and we must take care of our school facilities to educate our children and ensure Anchorage is economically competitive. Now the school bond goes to the Anchorage Assembly, and we urge members to support it so it can be approved by voters in the April municipal election.

Public schools are a cornerstone of our economy. When parents consider whether to stay in Alaska or move to Alaska, the first thing they consider is quality of our schools. Every local business depends on our school system to educate and train a skilled workforce: The better our schools, the more competitive and profitable our businesses will be. We know that school buildings must be maintained so kids can learn — broken heating systems, leaking roofs and closed bathrooms create more and unnecessary challenges for teachers and students alike.

This bond package has improvements for 28 schools in neighborhoods across Anchorage, from Chugiak to South Anchorage and from East Anchorage to downtown. Birchwood Elementary desperately needs a new boiler, and this bond funds it. Time-sensitive roof replacements at Chugiak, Chinook, Campbell, Ursa Minor and College Gate elementary schools are on this bond. We know that failing to maintain roofs only leads to more extensive and costly repairs later, so these roof replacements adhere to the old adage “a stitch in time saves nine.”

Safety improvements are a central part of this bond package. At East High School and numerous others, this bond package funds entry vestibule and video improvements that significantly reduce the risk of school shootings. It is tragic that we live in a world where such things are necessary, but we urge you to vote yes on the bond and keep kids safe at school.

This bond also addresses more extensive improvements that are needed at our oldest school, Inlet View. Built in 1957, Inlet View has a leaking roof, broken heating systems that force children to wear down parkas at their desk, and a plumbing system failing so dramatically that bathrooms have been closed and raw sewage recently spilled out onto the playground. The School District professional staff carefully analyzed Inlet View, and determined that building replacement is more economical than a slow, complicated renovation.

A school is so much more than a building. The parents, teachers, and students who work together every day are the heart and soul of our school system. These school bond improvements simply ensure our kids have a place where they can learn, and reach their full potential as smart, caring, and engaged citizens in our community. Considering how much our parents and teachers invest in our education system, the least we can do is maintain buildings that are warm in winter, with roofs that keep rain and snow out.

Many of these projects only come to the bond after years of work by parents, teachers and school district staff. These projects reflect what our communities need in every part of Anchorage. We thank the school board and district staff for their hard work, urge the Assembly to pass this bond package, and look forward to voting “yes” for school bonds in the April election.

Petra Wilm, Lia Keller and Heather Calcaterra are Anchorage School District parents from South Addition, East Anchorage and Eagle River, respectively.

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. Read our full guidelines for letters and commentaries here.

Police calls for Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2021 | <b>Juneau Empire</b>

Juneau Hot Topics - Tue, 2021-11-30 14:32
Tuesday, November 30, 2021 6:30am; NewsCrime. This report contains information available to the Empire from law enforcement and public safety ...

Higher education is failing Indigenous students. One Alaska program models a solution.

Alaska News - Tue, 2021-11-30 14:22

From left, Eva Johnson of Noorvik, Madison Newlin of Noorvik and Shameka Geter of Kotzebue take temperature measurements while studying energy efficiency in buildings on Oct. 18, 2016, at the Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program Academy building at UAA. (Alaska Dispatch News/)

Indigenous students have been rendered virtually invisible in higher education. As an Alaska Native Cup’ik from Chevak who was once a drastically underprepared college student, I understand the challenges Indigenous students face and how to overcome them.

The future of our nation lies in the proper education of our youth — all of our youth. Why, then, are Indigenous students and their academic needs being neglected? As we look back on Native American and Alaska Native Heritage Month, we should not only be honoring the cultural traditions and contributions of America’s Indigenous people, but we should also be asking ourselves how education can be more responsive to the values, needs and perspectives of Indigenous students.

As an undergraduate student at the University of Alaska Anchorage, I began my first semester taking the lowest level of math and English, though I had completed advanced English and pre-calculus in high school. I repeatedly failed my college courses, but not for a lack of trying. Many Indigenous students, including myself, grow up in small, rural villages, so the culture shock of transitioning from our village to living on a college campus is rattling.

There is a major lack of representation of Indigenous students in academic data, research and curricula. Of the data available from the Postsecondary National Policy Institute, Native American students make up only 1% of the U.S. undergraduate population. Here at the Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program, we are working to change those statistics starting as early as kindergarten.

There are several factors that contribute to the low enrollment of Native American students in higher education. Native students are more likely to attend high-poverty K-12 schools where there is a lack of academic opportunity and frequent turnover of educators, the cost of higher education is high and there is virtually no Native representation in the faculty on college campuses. Put together, this often results in Native students feeling as if they do not belong on a college campus and questioning whether they are even capable of completing a degree.

ANSEP focuses on inspiring students to collaboratively work hard in school early in their academic career and prepares them for higher education with fun, challenging, hands-on, interactive learning exercises and rigorous curricula. The program then guides them through school and provides opportunities along the way.

For the past 27 years, ANSEP’s sequential education model has been successfully making a difference in the lives of Alaska Native and other underrepresented students — including me. ANSEP offers STEM (science, technology, engineering and math)-focused components from kindergarten all the way through to a Ph.D.

The full-time Acceleration Academy and University Success components together offer a solution that can support Alaska Native and Native American students across the country. Acceleration Academy allows students to begin taking college courses on campus the moment they enter high school, making it seamless to go from high school to college. Then, University Success continues to offer the support students need to finish their degree once they are living independently on campus.

Students enrolled in Acceleration Academy complete their high school education while simultaneously earning free college credits. The component is offered in Anchorage, the Matanuska-Susitna Valley and expanded to the Lower Kuskokwim School District in Bethel this past fall. Alaska Native students and others in these three cities and surrounding areas can apply for the component as early as the end of their eighth-grade year.

When students spend all four years of high school in Acceleration Academy and graduate from the component, they begin college in junior or senior standing. By taking college courses the moment students enter high school, Acceleration Academy eliminates remedial coursework and helps students save on college costs.

Four years in Acceleration Academy saves families $75,000 per student in University of Alaska college costs and the state saves nearly $40,000 per student, making it a win for both the government and Alaska families. We know these savings can impact our students in big ways. According to a Generation Progress and Center for American Progress report families spend $1.3 billion annually on remedial courses, which are eliminated through our component. And, beyond the monetary benefits, the program leads to a more educated and prepared workforce.

Once Indigenous students get to college, the challenges don’t stop. To continue supporting our students all the way through earning their degrees, ANSEP introduced University Success in 1995. The component assists college students in overcoming the challenges associated with cultural differences, language barriers, lack of Native representation on campus, and distance from traditional practices and their communities. The component provides college students the community and resources they need to not only succeed academically and socially, but to also freely and comfortably embrace and practice their heritage in the presence of like-minded individuals.

ANSEP’s University Success component supports college students by providing them a community on campus through co-enrollment, small-group study sessions, professional mentorship, research projects, internships, housing, scholarships and student activities.

For myself and many other Native students, attending college was a huge culture shock. I went from graduating high school at the top of my class of 31 graduating students to failing at least one of my college courses each semester for my first four years. It took me eight years to finish my undergraduate degree.

I only began to excel in college thanks to the support system ANSEP’s University Success component gave me. Thanks to ANSEP, I proudly became the first engineer of my village when I graduated from UAA with a civil engineering degree and a master’s degree in engineering management. I am now proud to serve as the Senior Director of Acceleration Academy.

ANSEP is the only program of its kind in the country making educational opportunities more available to Indigenous students. And it’s one that can be easily adopted by other academic institutions. The success of the program and its components is proof of how implementing higher academic standards and fostering a collaborative environment at any stage in a student’s academic career can positively impact students and the country.

For more Native students to access higher education, academic institutions need to address the realities and challenges Native students face, intervening early in their education journeys. They can start by embracing and executing ANSEP’s sequential education model. Until the model is adopted by more academic institutions, the inequalities that have existed for decades will continue to exist and Indigenous students will remain invisible in higher education.

We are always excited to welcome new students into our program. Applications to join our full-time Acceleration Academy component in Anchorage, Mat-Su and Bethel in January 2022 are available until Dec. 10 and applications to join in fall 2022 are available until March 4, 2022. Alaska students and parents interested in full-time Acceleration Academy can learn more and apply for the spring or fall 2022 semesters. Educators who are interested in learning more about ANSEP can visit www.ansep.net for more information and to get in contact.

Michael Ulroan serves as senior director of the Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program.

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. Read our full guidelines for letters and commentaries here.

1st of 4 accusers takes stand at Ghislaine Maxwell trial

Alaska News - Tue, 2021-11-30 14:11

In this courtroom sketch, assistant U.S. attorney Alison Moe questions an unidentified victim about her experiences with Jeffery Epstein and Ghislaine Maxwell Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2021, in New York. (AP Photo/Elizabeth Williams) (Elizabeth Williams/)

NEW YORK — A woman testified on Tuesday that British socialite Ghislaine Maxwell was often in the room when the witness, then just 14, had sexual interactions with the financier Jeffrey Epstein.

Maxwell “was very casual,” she told a New York City jury. “Like it was no big deal.”

She claimed the defendant instructed her on how to give Epstein sexual massages and sometimes physically participated in the encounters as well.

The witness, using the pseudonym “Jane,” was the first of four alleged victims expected to testify against Maxwell at a New York City trial where she is charged with recruiting and grooming girls for Epstein to sexually abuse from 1994 to at least 2004.

The witness first met Epstein in 1994 when she was attending a music camp in pursuit of a singing career, she said. He came up to her and introduced himself as a donor. They discovered that they both lived in Palm Beach, Florida, she said.

The woman and her mother soon received invitations to Epstein’s home, she said. He and Maxwell would take her shopping for clothes, including underwear from Victoria’s Secret, she said.

The cycle of abuse started when Epstein abruptly took her by hand one day and said, “Follow me,” before taking her to a pool house at the home. Then he pulled down his pants, pulled her close and “proceeded to masturbate,” she said.

“I was frozen in fear,” she said. “I’d never see a penis before. ... I was terrified and felt gross and felt ashamed.”

Another time, she was taken to a massage room where he and Maxwell both took advantage of her, she said.

“There were hands everywhere and Jeffrey proceeded to masturbate again,” she said.

Other encounters involved sex toys or turned into oral sex “orgies” with other young women and Maxwell, she added.

On cross-examination, defense lawyer Laura Menninger sought to grill the witness on why she waited 20 years to report the alleged abuse by Maxwell. Menninger also asked if it was true she had previously spoken to her siblings and others close to her about Epstein’s behavior, but left Maxwell out of the earlier accounts.

“You never mentioned Ghislaine Maxwell?” the lawyer asked.

“I don’t know,” the witness responded, adding she only remembered being uncomfortable with going into all the details.

The cross-examination was expected to continue Wednesday.

Maxwell has pleaded not guilty. One of her lawyers said in an opening statement Monday that she’s being made a scapegoat for Epstein, who killed himself in his Manhattan jail cell at age 66 in 2019 as he awaited a sex trafficking trial.

Earlier Tuesday, a former pilot for Epstein testified that he never saw evidence of sexual activity on planes as he flew his boss and others — including a prince and ex-presidents — for nearly three decades.

Lawrence Paul Visoski Jr., the trial’s first witness, was responding to questions by a defense lawyer when he acknowledged that he never encountered sexual activity aboard two jets he piloted for roughly 1,000 trips between 1991 and 2019.

He said he stayed in the cockpit for the majority of flights, but would sometimes emerge to go to the bathroom or get coffee.

Although he was called as a witness by the government, Visoski’s testimony seemed to aid the defense of Maxwell as he answered questions posed by Maxwell attorney Christian Everdell about what he saw when he straightened up the aircraft after a flight.

Visoski didn’t hesitate when Everdell asked him if he ever saw sexual activity when he went for coffee or found sex toys when he cleaned up.

“Never,” the pilot answered to both questions. He said he never saw used condoms either.

And when he was asked if he ever saw sex acts with underage females, he answered: “Absolutely not.”

The pilot said Epstein never warned him to stay in the cockpit during flights and also encouraged him to use a bathroom near the rear of the plane that would require him to walk past the plane’s couches.

He said he never saw any children on his planes who were not accompanied by their parents.

When Everdell asked him about a teenager who prosecutors say was sexually abused by Epstein before she became an adult, Visoski said he believed she was “mature” when he was introduced to her.

He also acknowledged that Clinton was a passenger on a few flights in the 2000s and he had piloted planes with Britain’s Prince Andrew, the late U.S. Sen. John Glenn of Ohio — the first American to orbit Earth — and former presidents Donald Trump and Bill Clinton, “more than once.”

Epstein’s plane was derisively nicknamed “The Lolita Express” by some in the media after allegations emerged that he had used it to fly teenage girls to his private island, his New Mexico ranch and his New York City townhouse.

Maxwell, 59, traveled for decades in circles that put her in contact with accomplished and wealthy people before her July 2020 arrest.

Asked by Assistant U.S. Attorney Maurene Comey where Maxwell stood in the hierarchy of Epstein’s world, Visoski said Maxwell “was the Number 2.” He added that “Epstein was the big Number 1.”

That testimony supported what Assistant U.S. Attorney Lara Pomerantz told jurors in her opening statement Monday: Epstein and Maxwell were “partners in crime.”

Brazil and Japan report first cases of the omicron variant

Alaska News - Tue, 2021-11-30 14:03

The arrival lobby of the international terminal is deserted at Haneda Airport in Tokyo, Japan, Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2021. Japan confirmed on Tuesday its first case of the new omicron coronavirus variant, a visitor who recently arrived from Namibia, an official said. Japan announced Monday it will suspend entry of all foreign visitors from around the world as a new coronavirus variant spreads (Shinji Kita/Kyodo News via AP) (Shinji Kita/)

Brazil and Japan joined the rapidly widening circle of countries to report cases of the omicron variant Tuesday, while new findings indicate the mutant coronavirus was already in Europe close to a week before South Africa sounded the alarm.

The Netherlands’ RIVM health institute disclosed that patient samples dating from Nov. 19 and 23 were found to contain the variant. It was on Nov. 24 that South African authorities reported the existence of the highly mutated virus to the World Health Organization.

That indicates omicron had a bigger head start in the Netherlands than previously believed.

Together with the cases in Japan and Brazil, the finding illustrates the difficulty in containing the virus in an age of jet travel and economic globalization. And it left the world once again whipsawed between hopes of returning to normal and fears that the worst is yet to come.

The pandemic has shown repeatedly that the virus “travels quickly because of our globalized, interconnected world,” said Dr. Albert Ko, an infectious disease specialist at the Yale School of Public Health. Until the vaccination drive reaches every country, “we’re going to be in this situation again and again.”

Brazil, which has recorded a staggering total of more than 600,000 COVID-19 deaths, reported finding the variant in two travelers returning from South Africa — the first known omicron cases in Latin America. The travelers were tested on Nov. 25, authorities said.

Japan announced its first case, too, on the same day the country put a ban on all foreign visitors into effect. The patient was identified as a Namibian diplomat who had recently arrived from his homeland.

France likewise recorded its first case, in the far-flung island territory of Reunion in the Indian Ocean. Authorities said the patient was a man who had returned to Reunion from South Africa and Mozambique on Nov. 20.

Much remains unknown about the new variant, including whether it is more contagious, as some health authorities suspect, whether it makes people more seriously ill, and whether it can thwart the vaccine.

Dr. Anthony Fauci, the United States’ top infectious disease expert, said much more will be known in the next several weeks, and “we’ll have a much better picture of what the challenge is ahead of us.”

In the meantime, a WHO official warned that given the growing number of omicron cases in South Africa and neighboring Botswana, parts of southern Africa could soon see infections skyrocket.

“There is a possibility that really we’re going to be seeing a serious doubling or tripling of the cases as we move along or as the week unfolds,” said Dr. Nicksy Gumede-Moeletsi, a WHO regional virologist.

Cases began to increase rapidly in mid-November in South Africa, which is now seeing nearly 3,000 confirmed new infections per day.

Before news of the Brazil cases broke, Fauci said 226 omicron cases had been confirmed in 20 countries, adding: “I think you’re going to expect to see those numbers change rapidly.”

Those countries include Britain, 11 European Union nations, Australia, Canada, Britain and Israel. American disease trackers said omicron could already be in the U.S., too, and probably will be detected soon.

“I am expecting it any day now,” said Scott Becker of the Association of Public Health Laboratories. “We expect it is here.”

While the variant was first identified by South African researchers, it is unclear where and when it originated, information that could help shed light on how fast it spreads.

The announcement from the Dutch on Tuesday could shape that timeline.

Previously, the Netherlands said it found the variant among passengers who came from South Africa on Friday, the same day the Dutch and other EU members began imposing flight bans and other restrictions on southern Africa. But the newly identified cases predate that.

NOS, the Netherlands’ public broadcaster, said that one of the two omicron samples came from a person who had been in southern Africa.

Belgium reported a case involving a traveler who returned to the country from Egypt on Nov. 11 but did not become sick with mild symptoms until Nov. 22.

Many health officials tried to calm fears, insisting that vaccines remain the best defense and that the world must redouble its efforts to get the shots to every part of the globe.

Emer Cooke, chief of the European Medicines Agency, said that the 27-nation EU is well prepared for the variant and that the vaccine could be adapted for use against omicron within three or four months if necessary.

England reacted to the emerging threat by making face coverings mandatory again on public transportation and in stores, banks and hair salons. And one month ahead of Christmas, the head of Britain’s Health Security Agency urged people not to socialize if they don’t need to.

After COVID-19 led to a one-year postponement of the Summer Games, Olympic organizers began to worry about the February Winter Games in Beijing. Chinese Foreign Ministry spokesperson Zhao Lijian said omicron would “certainly bring some challenges in terms of prevention and control.”

World markets seesawed on every piece of medical news, whether worrisome or reassuring. Stocks fell on Wall Street over virus fears as well as concerns about the Federal Reserve’s continued efforts to shore up the markets.

Some analysts think a serious economic downturn will probably be averted because many people have been vaccinated. But they also think a return to pre-pandemic levels of economic activity, especially in tourism, has been dramatically delayed.

Letter: No slot machines in Alaska

Alaska News - Tue, 2021-11-30 14:03

The first time I was in Las Vegas, I hadn’t even made it to baggage pickup before I started hearing the “clang clang clang” of slot machines, a calling to the addicted.I thought it strange that the hallways of the airport were lined with slot machines, but little did I know, I would not escape that annoying sound until the airplane door closed behind me on my departure.

On one hand, I admit that casinos bore me to tears, but the “clang clang clang” of slot machines was inescapable.

Every gas station, every quick stop, every bar, and every restaurant bombarded my ears with that annoying sound. There was no relief until that airplane door closed behind me on my departure.

Learning that Gov. Mike Dunleavy wants to live like that, I can only respond by saying, “Please, governor, please just move there. I’d happily supply your ticket.”

Ray Metcalfe

Anchorage

Have something on your mind? Send to letters@adn.com or click here to submit via any web browser. Letters under 200 words have the best chance of being published. Writers should disclose any personal or professional connections with the subjects of their letters. Letters are edited for accuracy, clarity and length.

Authorities: Student kills 3, wounds 8 at Michigan school

Alaska News - Tue, 2021-11-30 14:00

Parents walk away with their kids from the Meijer's parking lot in Oxford where many students gathered following an active shooter situation at Oxford High School, Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2021, in Oxford, Mich. Police took a suspected shooter into custody and there were multiple victims, the Oakland County Sheriff's office said. (Eric Seals/Detroit Free Press via AP) (Eric Seals/)

OXFORD TOWNSHIP, Mich. — A 15-year-old sophomore opened fire at his Michigan high school on Tuesday, killing three students and wounding eight other people, including at least one teacher, authorities said.

Oakland County Undersheriff Mike McCabe said at a news conference that investigators were still trying to determine a motive for the shooting at Oxford High School in Oxford Township, a community of about 22,000 people roughly 30 miles north of Detroit.

He said he was aware of allegations circulating on social media that there had been threats of a shooting at the roughly 1,700-student school prior to Tuesday’s attack, but he cautioned against believing that narrative until investigators can look into it.

Authorities didn’t immediately release the suspect’s name, but McCabe said deputies arrested him without incident within minutes of arriving at the school in response to a flood of 911 calls about the attack, which happened shortly before 1 p.m. He said the deputies also recovered the semi-automatic handgun and several clips the suspect used in the attack.

“He fired multiple shots,” McCabe said. “Somewhere in the area of 15 to 20.”


Dozens of police, fire, and EMS personnel work on the scene of a shooting at Oxford High School, Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2021, In Oxford Township, Mich. (Todd McInturf/The Detroit News via AP) (Todd McInturf/)

The three students who were killed were a 16-year-old boy and two girls, ages 14 and 17, McCabe said. Two of the wounded were undergoing surgery as of 5 p.m. and the six others who were wounded were in stable condition, he said.

McCabe said the suspect’s parents visited their son where he’s being held and advised him not to talk to investigators, as is his right. Police have to seek permission from a juvenile suspect’s parents or guardian to speak with them, he added.

McCabe said he wasn’t aware of any prior run-ins the suspect had with law enforcement or if he had any disciplinary history at school.

Gov. Gretchen Whitmer also spoke at the news conference, saying, “I think this is every parent’s worst nightmare,” while choking up.

The school was placed on lockdown after the attack, with some children sheltering in locked classrooms while officers searched the premises. They were later taken to a nearby Meijer grocery store to be picked up by their parents.

Isabel Flores, a 15-year-old ninth grader, told WJBK-TV that she and other students heard gunshots and saw another student bleeding from the face. They then ran from the area through the rear of the school, she said.

McCabe said investigators would be poring over the school’s video footage and looking through social media posts for any evidence of a possible motive.

A concerned parent, Robin Redding, said her son, Treshan Bryant, is a 12th grader at the school but stayed home on Tuesday. She said he had heard threats that there could be a shooting.

“This couldn’t be just random,” she said.


Oxford High School is shown in Oxford, Mich., Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2021, where authorities say a student opened fire at the school. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya) (Paul Sancya/)

Redding didn’t provide specifics about what her son had heard, but she expressed concern with school safety in general.

“Kids just, like they’re just mad at each other at this school,” she said.

Bryant said he texted several younger cousins in the morning and they said they didn’t want to go to school, and he got a bad feeling. He asked his mom if he could do his assignments online.

Bryant said he had heard vague threats “for a long time now” about plans for a shooting at the school.

“You’re not supposed to play about that,” he said of the threats. “This is real life.”

School administrators posted two letters to parents on the school’s website this month, saying they were responding to rumors of a threat against the school following a bizarre vandalism incident.

According to a Nov. 4 letter written by Principal Steve Wolf, someone threw a deer head into a courtyard from the school’s roof, painted several windows on the roof with red acrylic paint and used the same paint on concrete near the school building.


Parents walk away with their kids from the Meijer's parking lot, where many students gathered following an active shooter situation at Oxford High School, Tuesday, Nov. 30, 2021, in Oxford, Mich. Police took a suspected shooter into custody and there were multiple victims, the Oakland County Sheriff's office said. (Eric Seals/Detroit Free Press via AP) (Eric Seals/)

Without specifically referencing that incident, a second post on Nov. 12 assured “there has been no threat to our building nor our students.”

“We are aware of the numerous rumors that have been circulating throughout our building this week. We understand that has created some concern for students and parents,” the administrators wrote. “Please know that we have reviewed every concern shared with us and investigated all information provided. Some rumors have evolved from an incident last week, while others do not appear to have any connection. Student interpretations of social media posts and false information have exacerbated the overall concern.”

McCabe said the incident with the deer head was “absolutely unrelated” to Tuesday’s shooting.

“That was a different incident, different student,” he said.

Letter: On press freedom

Alaska News - Tue, 2021-11-30 13:57

As reported by ADN on Nov. 23, the Stockholm-based International Institute for Democracy and Electoral Assistance added the U.S. to the list of “backsliding democracies” for the very first time.

In addition, the Reporters Without Borders organization published the report on ranking of 180 countries worldwide in its 2021 Press Freedom Index. This Index reflex the degree of freedom that journalists, news agencies and internet users have, and how authorities support this freedom. Seventeen separate data metrics are used to calculate this Index.

The U.S. ranked 44th on this Press Freedom Index, while Canada and Latvia, for example, are ahead of the U.S. with ranks of 14th and 22nd accordingly.Why has this happened? Ultra-lefts would blame owners of the means of production of media, and ultra-rights would blame Antifa. Moderate-lefts would blame Donald Trump, and moderate-rights would blame political correctness.

It is, using the modern slang, diversity, isn’t it?

Rudy J. Budesky

Anchorage

Have something on your mind? Send to letters@adn.com or click here to submit via any web browser. Letters under 200 words have the best chance of being published. Writers should disclose any personal or professional connections with the subjects of their letters. Letters are edited for accuracy, clarity and length.

Letter: Don’t give pets as gifts

Alaska News - Tue, 2021-11-30 13:45

As the holidays approach, I’d like to remind people to consider our animal friends. What I’d like most to convey is this. Please, please don’t give animals to people as gifts, to those who have no way or knowledge on what these animals need in the way of care. Some people give kittens, puppies, even horses to children who have no way to take care of them. And as soon as the puppy or kitten poops on the floor in the house, they are sternly thrown out in the hard weather and snow to try and survive. Of course they can’t.

I’ve seen this happen way too many times. People, please have a heart. Don’t give animals as Christmas gifts to those who don’t want them or don’t know how to care for them!

Lee Smith

Wasilla

Have something on your mind? Send to letters@adn.com or click here to submit via any web browser. Letters under 200 words have the best chance of being published. Writers should disclose any personal or professional connections with the subjects of their letters. Letters are edited for accuracy, clarity and length.

Letter: Able to celebrate again

Alaska News - Tue, 2021-11-30 13:33

This time last year, I was pretty much holed up all alone. I can’t afford to get sick. Last year I shopped once a month, if that. I ordered online whenever possible.Last year, for the first time in 60 years, I spent Thanksgiving alone. A dear friend, and someone I barely knew, both made up plates of food from their family gatherings for me to eat, alone. It was so sweet, I cherished every single item on those dishes and still I cried. The holidays were really hard.

This winter, I go out into the city and I spend money nearly every day. Every day I share the money I have earned in my lifetime with businesses around town. Through those businesses I help support not only the businesses, but the wage earners who call this place home. Every day I am an active member of Anchorage, doing my part.

I can only do this because of the mask mandate and the vaccine. Because of the tools available, I am once again participating in community.

This Thanksgiving, I have had several invitations and I am eternally grateful. I will bring a pie, flowers, gift, all from several different businesses around town. I am shopping here for Christmas. I love feeling the spirit of the season – with strangers – in the shops, at the events.I only feel comfortable doing so because of the mask mandate and being vaccinated. Anchorage is a spectacular place to live, and I so look forward celebrating the holidays this year as a part of this community. Doing my part.

Lisa G. Frederic

Anchorage

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Letter: Electric cars don’t make sense

Alaska News - Tue, 2021-11-30 11:59

In Sunday’s paper, I saw a portion of the wasteful spending by Congress (both sides very guilty, a train wreck, especially since 1996) will be used to build charging stations for electric vehicles. A few thoughts on EVs: I believe all Americans should be stewards of our beautiful island planet, and I think most are. Living here is an unbelievable blessing from cradle to grave.

That being said, I have some concerns about EVs and their short-term and long-term impact on the environment. Don’t go blindly forward, ask these questions: How long will the batteries last? Can they be recycled? Will they be hazardous waste? Where will we put them? Why in the world is our government trying to subsidize them?

The future of fuel is hydrogen. Do the research; it will be the dominant source of energy in the very near future. I do agree the age of fossil fuel is in a state of slow decline, but we are at an important crossroads. When you look at EVs as a whole, they don’t make a lot of sense.

Brad Stiles

Anchorage

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Letter: Build out the railroad

Alaska News - Tue, 2021-11-30 11:57

Not one dime for a railroad extension to the Lower 48 through Canada. An extension everybody wants — my random verbal poll over 10 years shows 250 people (100% of those polled) are in total agreement they would use the train as an option to flying and driving Outside.  

The only caveat was it wasn’t too costly. All would pay at least $1,000 to $1,250 round-trip, which would include a sleeper, food and an optional cost to have your vehicle loaded on board. I stopped polling after 250 because it was obvious the next 5,000-plus would agree. The Lower 48 Amtrak is waiting to take us to Seattle, Chicago, Philadelphia, Florida and Arizona. What a ride!

We know what’s happened in the past to the ferry business. In 10 years it’ll be bankrupt again, but a railroad has many uses. It can haul mineral freight and people southward and haul people and building materials plus foodstuffs northward at a far cheaper price than what we are paying for freight now. I’m not against improving our ferry service — we do need upgrades to serve our outlying areas.

And by the way, the tracks exist right now in Canada waiting for Alaska to hook up with theirs. We have the money now, so let’s get off the rock and build a line and hook up to Canada’s line.  

To Tim Sullivan over at the Alaska Railroad, who said to me some years ago, “it doesn’t pencil out,” well Tim, now it pencils out, so go get the railroad’s share of this infrastructure money and build the tracks. All aboard!

Larry Costella

Wasilla

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Letter: Parnell’s short-sightedness

Alaska News - Tue, 2021-11-30 11:52

Aristotle said, “Educating the mind without educating the heart is no education at all.”

Sean Parnell—a politician and oil-industry public relations man who inexplicably was chosen as chancellor of the University of Alaska Anchorage despite having no background as an educator or university administrator—takes a different view. In his op-ed touting the vocational-technical opportunities available at UAA, he wrote only about training workers, with no mention of the university’s role in expanding minds and developing the intellectual rigor we need to learn from our past, understand our present and create a vision for our future. Yes, we need welders, bookkeepers, medical assistants, pastry chefs and first responders. Those are valuable and respectable roles in our community. But a university is supposed to be about more than simply training people to fill jobs. We need a chancellor who envisions not only a plentiful workforce, but a thriving society.

At a time when Mike Dunleavy’s draconian budget cuts are resulting in the firing of tenured faculty and gutting the college of arts and sciences, Parnell’s shallow sales pitch reveals how ill-prepared he is to defend UAA from ruin, or to ensure Anchorage will have the kind of rich, robust university we need to ensure a bright future for Alaska.

If our state is to thrive in the future, we must see beyond Parnell’s myopic goal of supplying a workforce. We must also educate thinkers and visionaries who will enrich our state with arts, science, improved social justice, technological innovation and so many other things that grow in the hearts and minds of well-educated and intellectually curious Alaskans.

Tim Woody

Anchorage

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Letter: Beth Bragg’s contributions

Alaska News - Tue, 2021-11-30 11:51

The Alaska Run for Women is another group who has benefited greatly from Beth Bragg’s writing skill. Beth has covered many (if not all!) of the past 29 editions of the Run and done a superb job. She always manages to convey the excitement of the event as well as the solemnity of the reason the RFW is held: to fight breast cancer. We will miss her coverage of the Run for Women as well as the many other sports she covered for our community. Beth’s contribution has been huge and greatly appreciated.

Thank you, Beth. We’ll miss you, and congratulations on your well-earned retirement. See you on the trails.

Karla Kolash and Kathy Wisthoff

Anchorage

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Letter: Working together

Alaska News - Tue, 2021-11-30 11:49

Rep. Matt Gaetz, R-Florida, has summed up the problem with our government in a few words. “Either they win or we win.”

I thought the government worked for us, all of us. These people need to be reminded that they work for all Americans.

And until they do we will have a devided nation and very little will be accomplished.

Whether you like the infrastructure bill or not, it was passed because people on the other side of the aisle worked for the good of the country. And we need more of that. Not more of “we win or they win.”

Louis Dupree

Homer

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Letter: We must find peace

Alaska News - Tue, 2021-11-30 11:46

Taking this time to wish you a very Merry Christmas and a New Year filled with joy and happiness. May we bond together in love and caring and keep the stars adjoined in the glow of a peaceful outcome for the problems faced in this world.

The battle of life is difficult and peace hard to find, but each of us has the ability to take that moment to feel the joy of peace and love, if only in our hearts.

Who knows, one day we may all join together with the wisdom, strength and grace to be a part of a lasting and eternal peace. I know that looking at the world as it is now, it is hard to imagine. Keep the heart of love always present and find the joy that is there within you. Perhaps one day the hate and violence will be a thing of the past.

We must look forward to a future filled with beauty and love. If we do not do this, we become the embittered remnants of all those who have been the catalysts for all things evil in this world. Love is the promise, God is the gift, and we must be the answer. God bless you all.

Gary Carter

Homer

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Letter: Democrats are the problem

Alaska News - Tue, 2021-11-30 11:44

Democrats are the types of people to steal your purse and help you look for it. Create a problem and give 100 solutions, but never the one that gets you the purse back. I’m tired of the partisan gridlock created by the left with the refusal to look at reality.

Tyler Swain

Eagle River

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Alaska-grown player makes NBA debut in Houston

Alaska News - Tue, 2021-11-30 11:27

Trinity International's Daishen Nix talks to a teammate during a game against Colony on January 23, 2020. (Marc Lester / Anchorage Daily News) (Marc Lester/)

Daishen Nix, who was born and raised in Alaska, entered the game for the Houston Rockets on Monday, adding one more name to the very short list of players with Alaska roots to reach the NBA. Nix, a shooting guard, was called up from NBA G League’s Rio Grande Valley for the game in Houston against the Oklahoma City Thunder.

Nix had no points and one assist in two minutes during his big-league debut. He joins Trajan Langdon, Carlos Boozer, Mario Chalmers and JT Thor as Alaskans who have played in the NBA. Thor, who played junior varsity basketball at West High School in Anchorage, was drafted by the Charlotte Hornets in July and made his season debut on Oct. 7 against the Grizzlies. Thor, a power forward, was sent to the G League on Nov. 18.

Nix moved with his family to Nevada after middle school in Anchorage, in part to pursue basketball opportunities. As a high schooler in Las Vegas with Trinity International, Nix became a highly sought recruit and was named to the McDonald’s All-American team. Nix committed to play for UCLA, but backed out in favor of the G League.

Court upholds California ban on high-capacity magazines

Alaska News - Tue, 2021-11-30 10:27

A variety of military-style semi-automatic rifles obtained during a buy back program are displayed at Los Angeles police headquarters. (AP Photo/Damian Dovarganes, File) (Damian Dovarganes/)

SACRAMENTO, Calif. — The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals overturned two lower court judges and upheld California’s ban on high-capacity magazines Tuesday in a split decision that may be headed for the U.S. Supreme Court.

“The statute outlaws no weapon, but only limits the size of the magazine that may be used with firearms,” the judges ruled in the 7-4 decision.

The majority reasoned that “the record demonstrates that the limitation interferes only minimally with the core right of self-defense, as there is no evidence that anyone ever has been unable to defend his or her home and family due to the lack of a large-capacity magazine; and ... that the limitation saves lives.”

The en banc panel of the San Francisco-based court acted after two of three judges on a smaller 9th Circuit panel last year ruled that the state’s ban on magazines holding more than 10 bullets violates the U.S. Constitution’s protection of the right to bear firearms.

Gunowners’ rights groups have been trying to get firearms cases before a more conservative U.S. Supreme Court and immediately promised to seek the high court’s review.

Seven judges on the 11-member 9th Circuit panel were appointed by Democratic presidents, but the nation’s high court tilted to the right under with appointees by former President Donald Trump.

The three-judge panel had backed a 2017 ruling by San Diego-based U.S. District Judge Roger Benitez that declared unconstitutional a state law that since 2000 had prohibited buying or selling such magazines. That law barred new sales or imports but let those who had the magazines before then keep them.

The lower court ruling also barred the state from enforcing a voter-approved law that would have barred gun owners from possessing magazines holding more than 10 bullets.

Aside from the effect on high-capacity magazine laws in California and other states, the ruling helps to unjam a roadblock in other pending cases over the state’s ban on assault weapons.

Everytown for Gun Safety, a leading group seeking firearms restrictions, said state officials’ appeal of Benitez’s ruling this year throwing out California’s assault weapon restrictions was on hold while the 9th Circuit considered the ban on high-capacity magazines.

The assault weapons ruling is also on hold while the appeals court considers the same issues in a different case, where a different federal judge upheld the state’s ban in 2018.

Aside from the merits of each case, the appeals court is weighing the legal standard that courts must consider in Second Amendment cases. Gunowners groups are hopeful that the recently more conservative U.S. Supreme Court will change the legal tests in their favor.

Stocks sink as omicron, rate worries rattle Wall Street

Alaska News - Tue, 2021-11-30 10:18

FILE - In this March 23, 2021 file photo, pedestrians walk past the New York Stock Exchange in New York's Financial District. Stocks are opening lower on Wall Street after the head of a major vaccine maker expressed concern about how effective current jabs will be against the new variant of the coronavirus. The S&P 500 gave back 0.6%, the Nasdaq slipped 0.3% and the Dow Jones Industrial Average fell 0.9%. European markets were also modestly lower. (AP Photo/Mary Altaffer, File) (Mary Altaffer/)

NEW YORK — Already unnerved by the newest coronavirus variant, Wall Street’s losses deepened on Tuesday after the head of the Federal Reserve said it will consider shutting off its support for financial markets sooner than expected.

The S&P 500 was 1.3% lower in afternoon trading after Fed Chair Jerome Powell told Congress the central bank may halt the billions of dollars of bond purchases it’s making every month “perhaps a few months sooner.” It had been on pace to wrap up the purchases, meant to goose the economy by lowering rates for mortgages and other long-term loans, in June.

An end to the purchases would open the door for the Fed to raise short-term interest rates from their record low of nearly zero. That in turn would dilute a major propellant that’s sent stocks to record heights and swatted away concerns about an overly pricey market. As investors moved up their expectations for the Fed’s first rate hike following Powell’s remarks, yields on short-term Treasurys almost immediately flipped from losses to gains.

Losses for stocks accelerated, with the drop for the Dow Jones Industrial Average more than tripling in half an hour. It was down 506 points, or 1.4%, at 34,629, as of 1:55 p.m. Eastern.

The Nasdaq composite was down 1.3% after earlier holding up better than the rest of the market. Higher interest rates tend to hurt stock prices broadly, but they hit hardest on those seen as the most expensive or banking on big profit growth the furthest in the future. Such companies play a bigger role in the Nasdaq than other indexes.

The whammy on interest rates came after stocks were already weak in the morning due to concerns about how badly the fast-spreading omicron variant of the coronavirus may hit the global economy.

The CEO of Moderna predicted in an interview with the Financial Times that existing COVID-19 vaccines may be less effective with omicron than earlier variants. Regeneron also said Tuesday that its monoclonal antibody treatment may have reduced effectiveness on omicron.

Much is left to be determined about the variant, including how much it may slow already gummed-up supply chains or scare people away from stores. That uncertainty has sent Wall Street through jagged up-and-down jolts as investors struggle to handicap how much economic damage omicron will ultimately do.

“There will be heightened volatility around any piece of information,” said Kristina Hooper, chief global market strategist at Invesco. She said markets will likely remain cautious “before we know more.”

The S&P 500 sank 2.3% Friday for its worst loss for February, only to rise 1.3% Monday as investors reconsidered whether the reaction was overdone, before giving way to Tuesday’s loss.

One measure of nervousness in the stock market jumped almost 20%, nearing its level from Friday, when it touched its highest point since March. Much of the rise occurred after Powell began speaking.

Gold usually does well when fear among investors is rising, but its price flipped from a gain to a loss of 0.5%. Higher interest rates could reduce the appeal of gold, which doesn’t pay its holders any interest.

Crude oil prices slid with concerns that a global economy weakened by omicron would burn less fuel. Benchmark U.S. crude dropped 6.1% and touched its lowest level in three months. Brent crude, the international standard, fell 6.5%.

If omicron does ultimately do heavy damage to the global economy, it could put the Federal Reserve in a difficult spot. Usually, the central bank will lower interest rates, which encourages borrowers to spend more and investors to pay higher prices for stocks.

But low rates can also encourage inflation, which is already high across the global economy. Powell acknowledged in his testiony before Congress that inflation has been worse and lasted longer than the Fed expected. For months, officials described inflation as only “transitory,” but Powell said that word no longer works.

The subsequent losses for stocks Tuesday were widespread, with nearly 95% of the big stocks in the S&P 500 lower.

Smaller stocks fell even more, with the Russell 2000 index down 2.1%. Investors typically see them getting hurt more than their larger rivals by both higher interest rates and by a weaker U.S. economy.

One signal in the bond market was also flashing some concern about the economy’s prospects. Longer-term Treasurys usually offer higher yields than shorter-term Treasurys, in part to make up for the increased risk that future inflation will eat into their returns.

A 10-year Treasury is still offering more in yield than a two-year Treasury, but the gap narrowed sharply on Tuesday. The two-year yield rose to 0.51% from 0.51% late Monday. The 10-year yield, meanwhile, fell to 1.44% from 1.52%.

Many investors see that narrowed gap as meaning the bond market has less confidence in the economy’s long-term strength. If it were to flip, with short-term yields rising above long-term yields, many investors see that as a semi-reliable predictor of a recession.

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