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UAF retains Governor’s Cup after beating UAA 3-2

Alaska News - Sun, 2017-12-10 00:00

The UAF Nanooks will keep the Governor's Cup trophy in Fairbanks this season after beating UAA 3-2 on Saturday for their fourth win in the series.

After falling behind 2-0 in the second period, UAA twice got back within a goal of the Nanooks, but could never find the equalizer late in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association game.

The win was UAF's seventh straight over UAA going back to Dec. 9 of last year when the Seawolves (1-11-4, 1-6-3 WCHA) last beat the Nanooks.

UAF has won five straight Governor's Cups. The Nanooks have won every Governor's Cup series since 2010, but three titles from 2010-12 were vacated due to NCAA infractions.

On Saturday, UAF (7-11-2, 5-8-1) struck first on Kylar Hope's eighth goal of the season midway through the first period.

In the second period, simultaneous penalties by UAA's Tad Kozun, called for goalie interference, and Alex Jackstadt, called for tripping, gave the Nanooks a 5-on-3 advantage. The visitors capitalized with a Steven Jandric goal to go up 2-0.

UAA winger Austin Azurdia gave the Seawolves life when he shot the puck high over UAF goalie Anton Martinsson's glove and into the net with five minutes to go in the period.

The teams traded goals in the third period, with goals by UAF defenseman James LaDouce and UAA defenseman Eric Sinclair — his second as a Seawolf — and UAA trailed 3-2 with seven minutes to go.

UAA pulled goalie Olivier Mantha, who tallied 29 saves, for 48 seconds late in the game, but the Seawolves' last-chance shot bounced off Martinsson's leg pad and the Nanooks cleared the puck as time expired. Martinsson recorded 19 saves.

UAF outshot UAA 32-21 on the night and held UAA scoreless on the power play (0-for-4).

The in-state rivals will play in one more weekend series this season in February in Fairbanks.

The 10th-place Seawolves will try to snap an eight-game winless streak on the road next week against eighth-place Bemidji State (5-6-5, 2-4-4), which has struggled at times this season after winning the WCHA regular-season title last season.

UAA women’s basketball team clobbers UAF 88-56

Alaska News - Sat, 2017-12-09 22:39

The second-ranked UAA women's basketball team rolled into Fairbanks and throttled its in-state rivals UAF 88-56 on Saturday.

It was the Seawolves' 21st consecutive win against the Nanooks. It also extended program records of 24 straight road wins, 23 straight Great Northwest Athletic Conference regular-season wins and 19 straight conference road wins.

Shelby Cloninger (career-high 22 points) and Sydni Stallworth (career-high 17 points) did the majority of the damage for UAA. They combined to shoot 18-for-30 from the field (60 percent).

The Seawolves (9-0, 3-0 GNAC) jumped out to a 22-5 lead after the first quarter and UAF didn't get within 17 points the remainder of the game. Their five points allowed equaled their fewest points allowed in the first quarter of a GNAC game and their second-fewest ever allowed in the opening quarter.

"Our fast start was important tonight because it took their crowd out of the game early and allowed us to play relaxed and at our kind of tempo," UAA coach Ryan McCarthy said in a press release. "We got nice offensive efforts up and down the lineup, and individually, Shelby gave us another great game, and Sydni began to show the scoring touch that made her a two-time JC All-American."

UAA's defense forced 32 turnovers that resulted in 40 points. The Seawolves committed 14 turnovers in the game. The Seawolves outrebounded the Nanooks 43-33.

Eleven of the 12 Seawolves scored at least two points and grabbed at least one rebound, while eight different players recorded at least one steal.

Lexi Carpenter led UAF (2-5, 0-3) with 18 points on 6-of-12 shooting.

The Seawolves stay on the road for their next five games, beginning with their final two nonconference games, Dec. 16 at Notre Dame de Namur and Dec. 19 at Sonoma State in the California Bay Area.

Prep hockey: South 9, East 1

Alaska News - Sat, 2017-12-09 21:03

South' used an onslaught of offense to overpower East 9-1 in a Saturday Cook Inlet Conference hockey game at Ben Boeke Arena.

Trevor Sawicki's four-point night included two goals and two assists to lead the Wolverines, who outshot the T-birds 69-9.

Nicholas Corbin added two goals for South and Nicholas Eddens scored East's lone goal.

East goalie Lane Fox racked up 60 saves.

Schumacher, Gellert hold off field to win Lynx Loppet ski crowns

Alaska News - Sat, 2017-12-09 20:53

Last year, Service's Gus Schumacher had to come from behind on Day 2 to win a Lynx Loppet nordic ski title. This year, he had to stay in front.

Schumacher held off the field Saturday's 5.4K pursuit portion to win the boys championship at Kincaid Park combined time of 24 minutes, 26.3 seconds over two days of racing — more than two minutes ahead of second-place Ti Donaldson of West Valley.

Molly Gellert of West took home the girls title in 30:13.8 a year after finishing the race in second. West teammate Aubrey LeClair was second, 42.1 seconds behind, and West Valley's Kendall Kramer finished third for the second straight year.

[Rewind: York, Schumacher come from behind to win Lynx Loppet ski crowns]

Schumacher started Saturday's with more than a minute head start after cruising to a win in Friday's classic race and Gellert started the day with a 17-second advantage.

The two individual champions also led their teams to titles. The Service boys were the only team to finish under 1:50:00, with a total time of 1:49:55.1 and deny West a repeat title.

The West girls cruised to their second straight Lynx Loppet in 2:05:19.2 to beat second-place West Vally by more than 10 minutes.

[West girls put 5 skiers in top 10 on 1st day of at Lynx Loppet races]

Lynx Loppet two-day times

Girls team times

1) West 2:05:19.2
2) West Valley 2:15:50.1
3) Service 2:16:44.6
4) South 2:18:25.8
5) Chugiak 2:22:35.6
6) Colony 2:25:30.6
7) Eagle River 2:27:22.9
8) Dimond 2:34:53.7
9) Palmer 2:39:39.0

Individual top 10

1) Molly Gellert, West, 30:13.8
2) Aubrey LeClair, West, 30:66.9
3) Kendall Kramer, West Valley, 30:57.3
4) Helen Wilson, Eagle River, 31:15.3
5) Heidi Booher, Chugiak, 31:30.4
6) Annika Hannestadt, Colony, 31:37.8
7) Quincy Donley, West, 31:43.2
8) Maggie Druckenmiller, 32:14.1
9) Garvee Tobin, Service, 32:14.5
10) Adrianna Proffitt, Chugiak, 32:21.1

Boys team times

1) Service 1:49:55.1
2) West 1:50:36.4
3) West Valley 1:50:59.2
4) Chugiak 1:52:15.3
5) Soldotna 1:54:43.0
6) Dimond 1:54:45.7
7) South 1:57:10.6
8) Grace 2:01:47.8
9) Colony 2:15:01.4
10) Eagle River 2:15:07.0

Boys individual top 10

1) Gus Schumacher, Service, 24:36.3
2) Ti Donaldson, West Valley, 26:38.4
3) Eli Hermanson, Service, 26:45.0
4) Zanden McMullen, South, 27:04.0
5) Maxime Germain, West, 27:23.5
6) Rhys Yates, West Valley, 27:28.7
7) Miles Dennis, Chugiak, 27:30.3
8) Karl Danielson, Kenai, 27:31.6
9) Sam York, West, 27:42.8
10) Ari Endestad, West Valley, 27:35.4.

We need a better solution for crime in Anchorage

Alaska News - Sat, 2017-12-09 20:27

"What the hell is going on here?"

That's the kitchen-table question people in Anchorage are asking this year as 33 homicides and thousands of car thefts underscored both the reality of rising crime rates and the perception of them, stoked by the 24/7 social media narrative of siren-chasing and suspicious characters.

Yes, the fear can be out of proportion to the threat. Historically, property crime rates have been higher in Anchorage. But the recent spikes in shoplifting and vehicle thefts and a homicide rate that might set the all-time record make it clear: Both the crime and the question are for real.

Further, there's a sense that criminals have become more brazen, that deterrence in both police presence and sentencing has weakened and that Anchorage is simply not as safe as it used to be.

[Anchorage police announce new strategy to deal with increases in crime]

That's why, rightly, there was a scathing response to the comment by Mayor Ethan Berkowitz after the triple homicide at The Bullion Brothers in Spenard: "I understand the concern; we've got our work cut out for us. But if you're not engaged in drug trafficking and not out after midnight, it's a very safe city."

The remark suggested that after the clock strikes 12, let the citizen beware, as if we're ceding the wolf hours to the wolves. And it wasn't a good answer to the question at the top.

The mayor apologized for any insensitivity in the wake of the daytime triple homicide and for any sense he might have given that any time or place in Anchorage shouldn't be safe. In truth, the mayor was only saying what police have long pointed out here — your chances of being murdered or otherwise a victim of violent crime are greatly diminished if you don't travel in the same circles as some of the city's worst actors.

That's common sense. But it's also true that people have been victimized well outside those circles. To a long-suffering merchant dealing with shoplifting or a couple suddenly bereft of their car, numbers and probabilities don't matter. When somebody calls 911 they don't want to be told to go online and fill out a form. When somebody calls 911 they don't like to hear the most urgent need in their life at the moment assigned a number in a triage exercise, no matter how unavoidable that exercise is for police.

[Drug-driven crime is out of hand in Anchorage]

And when they've been victimized repeatedly, as some merchants and others have been, they tend to have little patience for discussions about alternatives to incarceration or how criminal justice reform will work out in the long term.

People want to be safe — and feel safe — to go about their daily lives, and they want to see justice done.

By all accounts, drugs drive much of the property crime in Anchorage; drug dealing is part of many of the homicides. Drugs change the equation in public safety. Deterrence may be less of a factor for those feeding an addiction, but deterrence still makes a difference, and the apparent lack of it in sentencing was a force in the recent amendments to criminal justice reform by the Alaska Legislature.

It's a complicated business, involving legislation, staffing in the courts, deciding what crimes and criminals to prosecute and the severity of sentences; drug treatment and education; prevention and after-school programs. While the discussion continues in Juneau, Anchorage needs its leaders to find solutions for today, not just the long term.

One simple aspect that the city administration can control is on the right track:  Provide more police officers.

Anchorage now has more than 400 sworn officers on duty. That's good news, especially given the crime suppression initiatives described by Chief of Police Justin Doll over the past year, which include both a new investigative unit, additional detectives, a restructured drug investigations command along with more officers walking beats and doing regular patrols.

But it can't just be more officers. The city's limited resources need to be deployed in a focused, strategic way that addresses crime at all levels. The people of Anchorage don't care how many officers are on duty when they're being victimized at historic rates.

Anchorage's leaders need to develop and communicate a clear, comprehensive strategy to prevent, combat and investigate crime in this city.

Have some officers concentrate on homicide, drugs and sexual assault cases; deploy others to get to know neighborhoods and communities, build relationships and trust with people.

APD can't control every aspect of public safety, but something must be done because this surge of crime can't continue. Our police are both the presence that deters crime and the first responders when the call goes out for help. We need more of them, and they need to be deployed strategically. The swifter and more effective the response — and the steadier and more consistent the presence — the safer the city will be.

BOTTOM LINE: City leaders must have a clear, effective program to cut crime in Anchorage — and communicate that clearly to citizens.

South wins 6th straight CIC wrestling title

Alaska News - Sat, 2017-12-09 20:14

There was no stopping the South Wolverines wrestling team on a mission for its sixth straight Cook Inlet Conference title in the conference tournament Saturday at Chugiak High.

South wrestlers won nine of the 15 individual championships on the boys side, one on the girls side, and rolled to the team title with 508.5 points — more than double that of second-place Eagle River with 225.

Three Wolverines earned back-to-back titles, including sophomore Aedyn Conception, who beat Eagle River's Collin Blank by major decision at 106 pounds; junior Jacob Shack, who defeated teammate Theo Cha 8-2 at 132 and sophomore Shelby Ottum, who pinned Service's Adrienne Toyukak at girls 132.

Eagle River put five wrestlers in championship matches and earned one individual title from Josh Robles at 113.

Service's Kaden Caldarera won his second consecutive 220-pound title.

One of the closest matchups came at 285 with Dimond's John Faletagoai beating Poe Vaafuti in a sudden-victory period.

Next up is the Class 4A state tournament Friday and Saturday at Chugiak and Bartlett.

Cook Inlet Conference tournament

Saturday's results

Team Scores
1) South 508.5; 2) Eagle River 225.0; 3) West 161.0; 4) Bartlett 150.0; 5) Service 147.5; 6) East 133.0; 7) Dimond 108.0; 8) Chugiak 101.0

Championship matches

98 pounds
1st place — Adam Concepcion (So.) t.f. Ethan Robles (ER), 17-1.

106
1st place — Aedyn Concepcion (So.) m.d. Collin Blank (ER), 18-4.
3rd place — Cosmo Crowley (W) d. Colter Hansen (B), 5-2.
5th place — Christian Chavis (B) p. Oliver Hays (C), 2:01.

113
1st place — Josh Robles (ER) p. Octavius McCleskey (E), 5:24.
3rd place — Duane Chavis (B) d. Steven Saephan (B), 14-7.
5th place — Sabastian Mireles (W) p. Tyler Ormsbee (ER), 0:34.

120
1st place — Niko Mayo (So.) m.d. Austin Kraft (ER), 16-6.
3rd place — Simon Keffalos (So.) p. Joseph Fetko (D), 2:33.
5th place — Thomas Fitzgerald (W) p. Haysen Madrid (E), 4:09.

126
1st place — Jacob Shack (So.) d. Theo Cha (So.), 8-2.
3rd place — Joseph Perkins (Ser.) p. Brandon Davis (W), 4:08.
5th place — Lance Plummer (ER) m.d. Domenic Wilkins (ER), 13-4.

132
1st place — Riley Harris (So.) p. Riley Demboski (C), 4:33.
3rd place — Robert Allen (So.) m.d. Caleb Robles (ER), 10-2.
5th place — Rylon Jones (Ser.) d. Myles Harrison (W), 5-1.

138
1st place — Micah Ee (So.) p. Cameron Peck (C), 0:50.
3rd place — Jedidiah Patzke (So.) m.d. Carl Malagodi (W), 12-0.
5th place — Camron Hennon (E) m.d. James Salter (ER), 14-6.

145
1st place — Spencer Martin (So.) d. Grant Burningham (ER), 8-4.
3rd place — Brandon Deyarmon (So.) d. Grant Jones (C), 3-2.
5th place — Sergio Cuellar (Ser.) d. Jaylen Wilson (B), 3-0.

152
1st place — Rylan Randolph-Oxholm (D) d. Mason Keffalos (So.), 10-4.
3rd place — Michael Chaput (So.) p. Andrew Green (Ser.), 4:08.
5th place — Dillon Dochnahl (B) d. Jerry Martinez (Ser.), 8-3.

160
1st place — Jacob Anderson (So.) won by injury default over Luke Lockard (So.), 0:00.
3rd place — Andrew Hamilton (ER) d. Samko Thirakul (E), 13-12.
5th place — Christian Bielefeld (D) d. Azariah Sims (W), 2-0.

170
1st place — Tyler Farless (Ser.) t.f. Daniel Niebles (C), 17-2.
3rd place — Job Thomas (So.) p. Elias Roehl-Paredes (W), 2:35.
5th place — Colton Copelin (W) p. Alex Webb (B), 3:57.

182 Results
1st place — Auston Vreeland (D) d. Elijah Lear (B), 9-3.
3rd place — Kelton Mock (W) p. Dorian Mellon (So.), 4:12.
5th place — Eli Lincoln (So.) m.d. Michael Caywood (ER), 11-2.

195
1st place — Riley Sweet (So.) p. Dylan Webb (E), 0:52.
3rd place — Morgan Piltz (Ser.) p. Andrew Lear (B), 2:38).
5th place — Matthew Predmore (B) p. Loke Iese (So.), 0:54.

220
1st place — Kaden Caldarera (Ser.) p. Tyler Cross (So.), 1:15.
3rd place — Jacquez Mason (E) won by injury default over Dwayne Nichols (E), 0:00.
5th place — Will Mouracade (ER) p. Collin Bryant (ER), 1:47.

285
1st place — John Faletagoai (D) won by sudden victory over Poe Vaafuti (W), 2-1.
3rd place — Henry Saafi (So.) d. Makiah Stafford (ER), 4-0.
5th place — John Fitzpatrick (E) won by injury default over Daniel Fujimoto (C), 0:00.

Girls

106
1st place — Rachelle Bault (B) p. Carson Adams (W), 0:43.
2nd place — Carson Adams (W) won by rule over Caitlyn Blank (ER).
3rd place — Caitlyn Blank (ER) d. Eva Sherman-Dawe (D), 9-8.

113
1st place — Breeze Anderson (B) received a bye.

120
1st place — Tatiana Green (E) d. Katlynn Powell (E), 7-0.
2nd place — Katlynn Powell (E) won by rule over Caitlin Andrews (ER).
3rd place — Caitlin Andrews (ER) d. Kyla Trout (ER), 4-0.

132
1st place — Shelby Ottum (So.) p. Adrienne Toyukak (Ser.), 4:42.
2nd place — Adrienne Toyukak (Ser.) won by rule over Braydn Boswell (ER).
3rd place — Braydn Boswell (ER) won by default.

145
1st place — Madison Ellis (So.) p. Carressa Hoover (B), 2:30.

160
1st place — Maleah Vint (W) received a bye.

182
1st place — Thereisa Vaafuti (W) received a bye.

220
1st place — Jayleen Sekona (So.) p. Ashlan Tisega (W), 3:21.

The latest idea for states seeking new ways to execute death row prisoners: Opioids

Alaska News - Sat, 2017-12-09 19:41

The synthetic painkiller fentanyl has been the driving force behind the nation's opioid epidemic, killing tens of thousands of Americans last year in overdoses. Now two states want to use the drug's powerful properties for a new purpose: to execute prisoners on death row.

As Nevada and Nebraska push for the country's first fentanyl-assisted executions, doctors and death penalty opponents are fighting those plans. They have warned that such an untested use of fentanyl could lead to painful, botched executions, comparing the use of it and other new drugs proposed for lethal injection to human experimentation.

States are increasingly pressed for ways to carry out the death penalty because of problems obtaining the drugs they long have used, primarily because pharmaceutical companies are refusing to supply their drugs for executions.

The situation has led states such as Florida, Ohio and Oklahoma to turn to novel drug combinations for executions. Mississippi legalized nitrogen gas this spring as a backup method – something no state or country has tried. Officials have yet to say whether it would be delivered in a gas chamber or through a gas mask.

Other states have passed laws authorizing a return to older methods, such as the firing squad and the electric chair.

"We're in a new era," said Deborah Denno, a law professor at Fordham University. "States have now gone through all the drugs closest to the original ones for lethal injection. And the more they experiment, the more they're forced to use new drugs that we know less about in terms of how they might work in an execution."

Supporters of capital punishment blame critics for the crisis, which comes amid a sharp decline in the number of executions and decreasing public support for the death penalty. As of late November, 23 inmates had been put to death in 2017 – fewer than in all but one year since 1991. Nineteen states no longer have capital punishment, with a third of those banning it in the past decade.

"If death penalty opponents were really concerned about inmates' pain, they would help reopen the supply," said Kent Scheidegger of the Criminal Justice Legal Foundation, which advocates the rights of crime victims. Opponents "caused the problem we're in now by forcing pharmaceuticals to cut off the supply to these drugs. That's why states are turning to less-than-optimal choices."

Prison officials in Nevada and Nebraska have declined to answer questions about why they chose to use fentanyl in their next executions, which could take place in early 2018. Many states shroud their procedures in secrecy to try to minimize legal challenges.

But fentanyl offers several advantages. The obvious one is potency. The synthetic drug is 50 times more powerful than heroin and up to 100 times more powerful than morphine.

"There's cruel irony that at the same time these state governments are trying to figure out how to stop so many from dying from opioids, that they now want to turn and use them to deliberately kill someone," said Austin Sarat, a law professor at Amherst College who has studied the death penalty for more than four decades.

Another plus with fentanyl: It is easy to obtain. Although the drug has rocketed into the news because of the opioid crisis, doctors frequently use it to anesthetize patients for major surgery or to treat severe pain in patients with advanced cancer.

Nevada officials say they had no problem buying fentanyl.

"We simply ordered it through our pharmaceutical distributor, just like every other medication we purchase, and it was delivered," Brooke Keast, a spokeswoman for the Nevada Department of Corrections, said in an email. "Nothing out of the ordinary at all."

The state, which last put someone to death in 2006, had planned its first fentanyl-assisted execution for November. The inmate involved, 47-year-old Scott Dozier, was convicted of killing a man in a Las Vegas hotel, cutting him into pieces and stealing his money.

According to documents obtained by The Washington Post, Nevada's protocol calls for Dozier first to receive diazepam – a sedative better known as Valium – and then fentanyl to cause him to lose consciousness. Large doses of both would cause a person to stop breathing, according to three anesthesiologists interviewed for this report.

Yet Nevada also plans to inject Dozier with a third drug, cisatracurium, to paralyze his muscles – a step medical experts say makes the procedure riskier.

"If the first two drugs don't work as planned or if they are administered incorrectly, which has already happened in so many cases . . . you would be awake and conscious, desperate to breathe and terrified but unable to move at all," said Mark Heath, a professor of anesthesiology at Columbia University. "It would be an agonizing way to die, but the people witnessing wouldn't know anything had gone wrong because you wouldn't be able to move."

John DiMuro, who helped create the fentanyl execution protocol when he was the state's chief medical officer, said he based it on procedures common in open-heart surgery. He included cisatracurium because of worries that the Valium and fentanyl might not fully stop an inmate's breathing, he said. "The paralytic hastens and ensures death. It would be less humane without it."

A judge postponed Dozier's execution last month over concerns about the paralytic, and the case is awaiting review by Nevada's Supreme Court. In the meantime, Nebraska is looking toward a fentanyl-assisted execution as soon as January. Jose Sandoval, the leader of a bank robbery in which five people were killed, would be the first person put to death in that state since 1997.

Sandoval would be injected with the same three drugs proposed in Nevada, plus potassium chloride to stop his heart.

Even at much lower concentrations, intravenous potassium chloride often causes a burning sensation, according to Heath. "So if you weren't properly sedated, a highly concentrated dose would feel like someone was taking a blowtorch to your arm and burning you alive," he said.

Fentanyl is just the latest in a long line of approaches that have been considered for capital punishment in the United States. With each, things have often gone wrong.

When hangings fell out of favor in the 19th century – because of botched cases and the drunken, carnival-like crowds they attracted – states turned to electrocution. The first one in 1890 was a grisly disaster: Spectators noticed the inmate was still breathing after the electricity was turned off, and prison officials had to zap the man all over again.

Gas chambers were similarly sold as a modern scientific solution. But one of the country's last cyanide gas executions, in 1992, went so badly that it left witnesses crying and the warden threatening to resign rather than attempt another one.

Lethal injection, developed in Oklahoma in 1977, was supposed to solve these problems. It triggered concerns from the start, especially because of the paralytic drug used. Even so, the three-drug injection soon became the country's dominant method of execution.

In recent years, as access to those drugs has dried up, states have tried others. Before the interest in fentanyl, many states tested a sedative called midazolam – leading to what Supreme Court Justice Sonia Sotomayor called "horrifying deaths."

Dennis McGuire, who raped and killed a pregnant newlywed in Ohio, became the first inmate on whom that state's new protocol was tried. Soon after the 2014 execution began, his body writhed on the table as he gasped for air and made gurgling, snorting noises that sounded as though he was drowning, according to witnesses.

The same year, Oklahoma used midazolam on an inmate convicted of kidnapping and killing a teenager; authorities aborted the execution after Clayton Lockett kicked, writhed and grimaced for 20 minutes, but he died not long after. Three months later, Arizona used midazolam on Joseph Wood III, who was convicted of killing his ex-girlfriend and her father. Officials injected him more than a dozen times as he struggled for almost two hours.

Like officials in other states, Arizona officials argued that the inmate did not suffer and that the procedure was not botched. Later, they said they would never again use midazolam in an execution.

Joel Zivot, a professor of anesthesiology and surgery at Emory University, called the states' approach ludicrous. "There's no medical or scientific basis for any of it," he said. "It's just a series of attempts: obtain certain drugs, try them out on prisoners, and see if and how they die."

The bad publicity and continuing problems with drug supply have sent some of the 31 states where capital punishment remains legal in search of options beyond lethal injection. Turning to nitrogen gas would solve at least one issue.

"Nitrogen is literally in the air we breathe – you can't cut off anyone's supply to that," said Scheidegger, who strongly supports the idea.

In addition to Mississippi, Oklahoma has authorized nitrogen gas as a backup to lethal injection. Corrections officials and legislators in Louisiana and Alabama have said they hope to do the same.

And yet, critics note, there is almost no scientific research to suggest that nitrogen would be more humane.

Zivot is among those skeptical that nitrogen would work as hoped.

"There's a difference between accidental hypoxia, like with pilots passing out, and someone knowing you're trying to kill him and fighting against it," he said. "Have you ever seen someone struggle to breathe? They gasp until the end. It's terrifying."

Dozier, the inmate Nevada hopes to execute soon with fentanyl has said he would prefer death by firing squad over any other method. In more than a dozen interviews, experts on both sides of the issue expressed similar views.

Of all the lethal technology humans have invented, the gun has endured as one of the most efficient ways to kill, said Denno, who has studied the death penalty for a quarter-century.

"The reason we keep looking for something else," she said, "is because it's not really for the prisoner. It's for the people who have to watch it happen. We don't want to feel squeamish or uncomfortable. We don't want executions to look like what they really are: killing someone."

– – –

The Washington Post's Julie Tate contributed to this report.

My girlfriend said ‘no gift cards’ for Christmas – and now I have no idea what to give her

Alaska News - Sat, 2017-12-09 19:19

Dear Wayne and Wanda,

I've never been a very good gift giver. Some people are just so good at picking out meaningful items for their loved ones. So, I'm the gift card guy, and I've always been good with that. Who doesn't like getting a gift card? Minimal shopping for me, and the gift recipient gets exactly what they want. Perfect!

Last Christmas, I had just started seeing "Sally." I mean, we had only been together a little bit of time. So, I got her a gift card! It was like $50 to her salon. She seemed really happy! She got me a framed picture from one of our first dates, and a really nice hoodie I'd been wanting, and some other small things. All in all, it felt like we spent probably about the same amount of money, so I figured I did good.

Well here we are a year later and at dinner the other night, Sally asked what I want for Christmas. I offered a few ideas, then asked what she wanted and she said, "No gift cards," and winked at me.

Oh great. Now what? I asked if she was serious and she said yes, she doesn't need gift cards. Dang it. Though maybe she was joking, because she winked? Now I don't know what to do. I feel this newfound pressure to get her something nice, and I have absolutely no idea what that could be. I don't have a ton of money, either. And she has hinted a few times that she's giving me something "special." That just makes me feel more pressured. Any advice would be great.

Wanda says:

I'll let you in on a little secret: For many women in the early stages of romance, it's not so much about what you give her as it is about the thought and care you invest in the choice. That's why Sally was likely irritated by the Great Gift Card Fail during Christmas 1.0. I imagine she used the card to get an enjoyable pedicure, complete with a soothing foot massage and some sparkly nail polish. Or she used it for a haircut. Or an eyelash fill. Or a waxing. The point is, you might not even know, because you didn't actually give her a specific gift. You gave her currency.

Women want to know that you spent time thinking about what's special to her. Exhibit A: the framed picture she gave you. She probably printed that photo off at work and bought a cheap frame at Walgreens, but it's the thought that counts. She didn't just give you any hoodie; she gave you one you'd been pining for. These gifts, in translation, say, "Hey babe, I'm paying attention to what you like, I'm listening, and I'm giving you things you desire."

[First Christmas with a holiday-happy significant other? Gift carefully]

Try this Christmas to do the same for her. If you're completely stuck on items to purchase for her, consider buying experiences. Pick up a pair of tickets to an upcoming paint night at a bar – it's a creative, lively way to spend an evening together. Book a night at a hotel and include a fancy dinner beforehand. Or pick up tickets to a show or concert she's dying to see.

And also, stop doing math. Gifts really aren't about equality of expenditures, so while you were pleased that during your first Christmas, you and Sally probably spent about the same, it really isn't the point. The value of gifts isn't in the sum total of the price tag, but in the emotional investment and value behind the gesture and the way it ultimately makes someone feel. You can't put a dollar amount on that.

Wayne says:

Hi. I'm Wayne and I'm a gift card giver, too. They're just so darn easy. And I'm just so darn busy. One stop at the gas station on the way to the party — boom, a 12-pack, a bag of tortilla chips and a pocketful of gift cards. Shopping over.

But even I know that gift cards are only acceptable for 95 percent of your acquaintances, friends and family members. That other 5 percent — partners, kids and close family members – you have to put some thought and time into it. We'll focus on the partners today. (Good luck shopping for kids! What do they want: data for their parents' iPads?) Putting time and thought into gift-buying does not mean sitting across the table from your partner the week before Christmas and asking what they want. It means, as Wanda mentioned, paying attention. Like, all year long.

When you start really listening, you'll actually realize that your partner is constantly giving you Christmas gift material. They even give you cues on when to really listen up. When you hear: "Darn, I could really use a (blank) right now," or, "Oh, that's a really cute (blank)," or, "Grrr, this would be so much easier if I had (blank)," make a mental note. And yes, even when she says, "She's so lucky — her boyfriend bought her a (blank)."

Need some stocking stuffers? Just think about all the things your partner constantly borrows from you or friends and doesn't giving back. Buy them one of their own.

Look at you – a regular Super-Santa!

Want to respond to a recent column, point out a dating trend, or ask Wanda and Wayne for wisdom regarding your love life? Give them a shout at wanda@alaskadispatch.com.

Husband and wife win Jingle Bell Run

Alaska News - Sat, 2017-12-09 19:11

Jared Kirkham didn't have to wait long for his wife at the finish line of the Jingle Bell Run 5K on Saturday.

After finishing first in 20 minutes, 17 seconds, to win the men's race, Emily Urlacher-Kirkham won the women's race — and finished fifth overall — in 20:57.

James Miller was close behind Kirkham and finished 2 seconds back for second. Leslie Varys finished 3:40 behind Urlacher-Kirkham for second among women.

The race is a fundraiser for The Arthritis Foundation and 100 percent of the registration fee went toward arthritis research. The race attracted more than 150 runners.

Women

1. Emily Urlacher-Kirkham 20:57; 2. Leslie Varys 24:37; 3. Elizabeth Ferucci 26:38; 4. Rebecca Fowler 27:04; 5. Nicole Rogers 27:24; 6. Katie Jasnieski 28:35; 7. Amy Smith 28:37; 8. Azuree Richard 28:50; 9. Beth Verge 29:28; 10. Angela Kuest 29:42; 11. Trish Lacey 29:43; 12. Chrissy Barber 30:02; 13. Anne Marie Bott 30:14; 14. Bridgett Pedersen 30:20; 15. Patrick Mcanally 30:27; 16. Jessica Ecker 30:27; 17. Amber Draayer 30:28; 18. Jen Novobilski 30:28; 19. Katharina Zellmann 30:30; 20. Natasha Von Imhof 30:34; 21. Emily Draayer 30:34; 22. Laura Burzinski 30:49; 23. Lisa Land 30:50; 24. Teresa Cunningham 31:07; 25. Lauren Evans 31:27; 26. Molly Osborne 31:28; 27. Laura Zettler 31:59; 28. Katherine Jurva 32:09; 29. Pamela Kove 32:23; 30. Jennifer Newell 32:29; 31. Andrea Winn 33:00; 32. Christine Bingham 33:00; 33. Cheryl Richardson 33:11; 34. Lindsey Parker 33:18; 35. Keityn Young 33:48; 36. Judy Thompson 33:58; 37. Grace Champion 34:03; 38. Lacey Anderson 34:12; 39. Cheri Cubbison 34:20; 40. Pamela Obrien 34:28; 41. Brianna Campbell 34:34; 42. Patrice Icardi 34:54; 43. Katie Provencher 35:28; 44. Faith Kelly 36:08; 45. Tess Baez-Terry 36:22; 46. Laura Baez 36:24; 47. Taylor Levens 36:27; 48. Mary Flanigin 36:28; 49. Jenna White 36:57; 49. Kimberly Mortrud 36:57; 51. Kelly Bandoch 37:03; 52. Rebecca Palsha 37:31; 53. Candi Munguia 37:41; 54. Kelly Merrick 37:51; 55. Mary Pederson 38:04; 56. Isabella Pederson 38:04; 57. Kalinda Kindle 38:20; 58. Brittany Keener 38:22; 59. Kenzie Fredrickson 38:34; 60. Elizabeth Stevens 39:33; 61. Shannon Brown 39:36; 62. Krista Warden 39:43; 63. Rylee Warden 39:44; 64. Tina Worley 39:48; 65. Yaritza Martinez 40:49; 66. Rebecca Scott 40:57; 67. Shawna Bailey 42:09; 68. Deborah White 43:13; 69. Vanessa Crandell-Beck 43:32; 70. Tess Hopkin 43:35; 71. Kailey Gates 43:36; 72. Lorna Collins 43:42; 73. Amanda Milliman 44:04; 74. Stephanie Gutierrez 44:11; 75. Stacy Young 44:12; 76. Eyana Espinoza 44:12; 77. Kaylee Williams 44:29; 78. Emily Adrian 45:49; 79. Denice Worley-Callander 46:11; 80. Jean Moran 48:14; 81. Terry Slaven 49:04; 82. Cynthia Silvis 50:34; 83. Victoria Worley 53:13; 84. Dwayne Stacey 53:13; 85. Stephanie Stacey 53:16; 86. Bethanie Farrell 54:31; 87. Mckayla Silvis 54:32; 88. Rio Merriman 54:51; 89. Jodi Walton 55:18; 90. Cheryl Hannon 55:19; 91. Tori Brazil 55:28; 92. Cindy Ellis 56:39; 93. Helen Suh 56:41; 94. Ambrosene Attwood 57:13; 95. Sandi Fredrickson 57:34; 96. Amber Silvis 57:45; 97. Brylee Jasczsak 57:46; 98. Elle Darcy 58:44; 99. Erin Freel 59:02; 100. Kathleen Godsey 59:19; 101. Kris Wyatt 59:22; 102. Mandy Honest 59:25; 103. Lauren Schritter 59:51; 104. Jaclyn Levesque 59:51; 105. Tricia Munnlyn 59:53; 106. Karen Jakubczak 1:03:07; 107. Gerianne Thorsness 1:03:41; 108. Ruth Anderson 1:03:58; 109. Courtney Fleischman 1:07:50; 110. Jocelyn Cartwright 1:07:59.

Men

1. Jared Kirkham 20:17; 2. James Miller 20:19; 3. Daniel Evans 20:36; 4. Alec Levesque 20:41; 5. Zach Williams 21:36; 6. Derek Hodgkins 22:09; 7. Lawrence Davis 22:26; 8. David Jurva 22:35; 9. Paul Ferucci 23:01; 10. Daniel Ferucci 23:11; 11. Liam Baez-Terry 24:30; 12. Bryson Ecker 24:41; 13. Jonathan Hughes 24:43; 14. Brandon Childers 24:45; 15. Robert Champion 24:46; 16. Brewer John 25:44; 17. Gregg Kimbell 26:17; 18. Colin Flinn 26:22; 19. Chris Barnett 26:50; 20. Edward Hills 26:59; 21. Curtis Boudreau 27:11; 22. John Mcfalls 27:26; 23. Dominic Francis 28:02; 24. Brad Hillwig 28:24; 25. Pete Mauro 28:50; 26. Dan Newman 29:25; 27. Matias Castro 30:13; 28. Mason Ecker 30:28; 29. Shannon Davis 30:30; 30. Max Cernich 30:39; 31. Karl Bruening 30:40; 32. Charles Freel 30:59; 33. Jeff Gnass 30:59; 34. Drake Maestre 32:02; 35. Randal Ecker Ii 32:03; 36. Nate Missler 32:06; 37. Hunter Merrick 33:26; 38. Rich Young 34:29; 39. Kyla Wade 36:11; 40. Kevin Keener 38:27; 41. Stephen Espinoza 38:32; 42. James Robson 43:09; 43. Keith Thompson 46:49; 44. Sebastian Ojeda 53:06; 45. Steven Soto 55:22; 46. Jared Brazil 55:28; 47. Chad Darcy 58:46; 48. Jimmy Terry 1:03:08; 49. Hugh Wade 1:05:57.

Dave Barry Gift Guide: These will make you appreciate fruitcake

Alaska News - Sat, 2017-12-09 18:54

The holiday season is all about traditions, but these traditions differ from country to country around the world. For example:

– In Denmark, it's traditional, on Christmas Eve, to fill a bathtub with oatmeal.

–  In Russia, rural families observe the holidays by dressing a live sturgeon as a dental hygienist.

– In Bolivia, children place their shoes next to the fireplace at bedtime; when they fall asleep, the parents sneak out of the house and check into a resort hotel for several weeks.

These are just a few of the colorful international traditions that serve to remind us, as Americans, how weird foreign people are. Of course we have holiday traditions, too, but ours are normal:

– Our retail stores let us know that the holidays are here by putting up festive holiday decorations shortly after Labor Day.

– Our radio stations remind us of the true meaning of the season by playing sacred holiday songs such as "Grandma Got Run Over by a Reindeer."

– Starbucks gets us into the holiday spirit by introducing a specialty seasonal coffee beverage containing a mutant holiday ingredient such as giblets (the Turkey-spresso).

– And in an endless parade of TV commercials, sellers of automobiles, jewelry, liquor, power tools, etc., urge us, in the true spirit of the season, to give money to the poor.

Ha ha! That last one was of course a joke. In fact these companies urge us to purchase their products. Because in the end, the most important holiday tradition of all is the tradition of buying things whether anybody needs them or not.

And when you're talking about things that nobody needs, you're talking about our annual Holiday Gift Guide. People constantly say to us: "Your Holiday Gift Guide is amazing! How on Earth do you do it?" We never answer these people, because they are imaginary. But they make a valid point: This is no ordinary gift guide. This guide is the result of literally tens of minutes of effort by our staff, which combs the internet with an actual comb, looking for unique gift items that you will not find in any other gift guide, at least not one with standards.

All of the items in our Holiday Gift Guide are real. We purchased all of them with money from a large unsuspecting corporation and subjected them to our rigorous five-step quality-control procedure:

STEP ONE: We receive the item.

STEP TWO: We remove the item from its packaging.

STEP THREE: We take a picture of the item.

STEP FOUR: We put the item back into its packaging.

STEP FIVE: We wash our hands thoroughly.

It is because of this rigorous procedure that we are able to offer our Holiday Gift Guide Money Back Guarantee: If you purchase one of these gift items, and for any reason you are dissatisfied, simply send the item to us along with $500 cash for processing, and if there is any money left over after we are done processing, you can have it back, although this frankly seems unlikely.

But enough with the "sizzle." It's time for the "steak!" Here are the items that "made the cut" for the 2017 Holiday Gift Guide:

KITCHEN SAFE

$54.90 plus shipping and handling from Amazon.com, suggested by George Perera of Miami.

This is the ideal gift to give when you want to express the joyful holiday message:

"You could stand to lose some weight." This is a plastic food container with a lock and a timer. Let's say you have some fudge, and you don't want to eat any more, but you lack the willpower to stop yourself. You simply put the fudge in the safe, set the timer for the interval you want (it can be one minute to 10 days) and press the lock button. Now your fudge is totally secure, because the safe cannot be opened until the time is up, unless you get a blunt instrument and bash the safe open, which you will do within minutes, because, come on, it's FUDGE.

We understand that the White House goes through 15 of these things a week.

BARRY MANILOW COLORING BOOK

$12.99 (free shipping) from shopmanilow.com/barry-manilow-coloring-book, suggested by Jack Brown of Grand Rapids, Michigan.

There are many things wrong with today's young people. They pay extra for jeans that look like they have been attacked by rabid moths. They stick metal things through their noses. They constantly take pictures of themselves. They call people "salty." They live with their parents until age 37. The list of their flaws is endless. But without question one of the worst things about young people is their hideous taste in music, what with their "rap" tunes and their "hard metal."

If you have a musically misguided young person on your holiday list, we have the perfect gift for him or her: The Barry Manilow Coloring Book. We got it from the official website of Barry Manilow, and it is everything you'd hope it would be, assuming you'd hope it would be a book of photographs of Barry Manilow that have been converted to faded line art so you can sort of color them in.

Imagine the look on some lucky young person's face when he or she unwraps this item, along with a pack of crayons (not included) and you say, quote: "If you think this Barry Manilow coloring book is exciting, just wait until you hear his music!" Then you turn on your stereo system (not included) and the room fills with the scintillating sounds of "Copacabana" or one of the many other Barry Manilow hits from the past two centuries. Pretty soon that young person will develop an appreciation for good music. Either that, or that young person will move out of your house. Either way is good.

PORTOVINO WINE PURSE

$74.95 plus shipping and handling from Amazon.com, suggested by Jon Harris of Christiansburg, Virginia.

Here's the perfect gift for the fashionable lady on your holiday list who, for whatever totally innocent and legal reason, needs to carry a large hidden supply of wine. This is a stylish purse with a secret reservoir inside that can hold two bottles of wine, connected to a discreet spout on the outside for easy pouring.

This purse is a "must-have" fashion accessory for business meetings, parent-teacher conferences, funerals, Little League games, congressional testimony — anywhere you might feel a sudden need to drink two bottles of wine. We are not saying that Queen Elizabeth II carries a purse like this at all times. But we are not saying that she doesn't.

'MAN BUN' KEN DOLL

$17.84 plus shipping and handling from Amazon.com (prices may vary).

Here's a fun toy for the youngster on your holiday gift list who enjoys playing with dolls that are hep with the latest fashions. This is a Ken doll, but instead of the usual "square" Ken hairstyle, this Ken is sporting a "man bun" of the type that is highly popular among fashion-conscious men still living in the year 2015. To complete his look, 'Man Bun' Ken is wearing "distressed" jean shorts and a facial expression that says, "Can you believe how trendy I am?" Meanwhile Barbie is making out with Skeletor.

TOILET TROUBLE GAME

$15.99 plus shipping and handling from Amazon.com, suggested by Cindy K. of Shelby, North Carolina.

Nothing says "family fun" like a malfunctioning commode. That's the theory behind this hilarious game. Players take turns spinning the toilet paper roll, which tells them how many times they must flush the toilet. Usually the toilet just makes a flushing sound, but sometimes — this is the hilarious part — the toilet sprays water on the player. At least we hope it's just water. The fun continues until there's only one dry player, who is the winner. Then it's time for another round of … Toilet Trouble! Or you could break out the vodka. We are not judging your family.

STAR WARS LIGHTSABER BARBECUE TONGS

$27.99 plus shipping and handling from Amazon.com (price may vary).

Have you ever wondered what Luke Skywalker, Darth Vader, Yoda and other inhabitants of the Star Wars universe do when they want to relax? The answer is, they have backyard barbecues, just like you! The only difference is, they use these special light-saber tongs, which work just like regular barbecue tongs, except that, in addition to being able to manipulate hamburgers and hot dogs, they can kill whomever they touch. So we recommend that you read the directions carefully.

MEN'S 3-D EAGLE BOXER BRIEFS

$3.95 plus shipping and handling from Amazon.com.

It is an unfortunate fact that many males today are wearing boring ho-hum underwear that does not make a bold statement. If you know such a male, then this is the ideal gift for him. These briefs have an image of the head of a fierce-looking eagle on the front, with a "3-D effect" beak sticking out pretty much where you would expect. There is no mistaking the message sent by the man wearing these briefs, namely: "There is an eagle on my crotch."

You can also get these briefs with a wolf's head, but frankly that would look ridiculous.

FINGER HAND PUPPETS

$6.97 plus shipping and handling from Amazon.com (price may vary).

Here's a great gift for a person who would like to add some "pizazz" to his or her hand gestures. This is a set of five tiny rubber hands that you slip on over your regular fingers. So now, when you hold up your hand, you are actually holding up five little hands! Think of the many practical uses of this gift. Seriously, think of them, and let us know what they are.

SHAKESPEAREAN INSULT BANDAGES

$7.06 plus shipping and handling from Amazon.com (price may vary).

Every now and then, here at the Holiday Gift Guide, we come across an item so unusual that we ask ourselves, "How did they come up with this idea, and did it involve narcotics?"

That was our reaction to these Shakespearean insult bandages. These are normal adhesive bandages, except that they are imprinted with insults written by the late William Shakespeare. So let's imagine a scenario wherein you have (1) a minor flesh wound and (2) an annoying co-worker named Bob. You simply put your Shakespearean insult bandage over your wound, go to work, and, when Bob does something annoying, you display your bandage to him, and he reads a classic Shakespearean "zinger" such as: "Thy wit's as thick as Tewksbury mustard." Ha ha! That would certainly put Bob in his place, assuming he knows anything about Tewksbury mustard!

Seriously, those must have been strong narcotics.

BANANA SURPRISE YUMSTATION

$6 plus shipping and handling from eBay.com (also available at Amazon.com), suggested by Bob and Judy Pert of Shediac, New Brunswick, Canada, and Janice Gelb of Melbourne, Australia.

Do you have somebody on your holiday list who would enjoy nothing more than turning an ordinary banana into a banana with syrup inside it via a laborious process? If so, this is the gift for that person.

The Banana Surprise Yumstation is a kit containing various tools for preparing the banana, and a set of instructions totaling 10 steps. These include placing the banana in the Yumstation, inserting a "coring tube" into the banana to remove its core, removing the core from the coring tube with another tool, and using a squeeze bottle to fill the interior of the hollowed-out banana with a flavoring such as chocolate syrup.

Perhaps you are thinking: Why go to all that trouble? Why not just put some syrup on the banana?

It's people like you who make us wonder why we even bother to create this Gift Guide.

SONGS TO MAKE DOGS HAPPY

$19.95 plus shipping and handling from Laurel Canyon Animal Company; laurelcanyonanimalcompany.com.

Here's the perfect gift for the "four-legged friend" on your list. This is a collection of 12 songs written and performed by humans specifically for dogs. The songs, most of which are in a musical genre we would describe as "peppy," include such titles as "Squeaky Deaky," "You're a Good Dog," "Outside," "Scratch My Back," "I Love Food," "I'll Be Back" and "Cookies."

Do these songs actually make dogs happy? To answer that question, we conducted a scientific experiment: We played this album for Lucy, who is the Official Dog of the Holiday Gift Guide, and observed her reactions. Her main reaction was to cock her head toward the speaker during the part of "Squeaky Deaky" when you can hear a squeaky toy squeaking. Other than that one part of that one song, Lucy did not appear to be paying attention to the album, but there was no way to know for certain. It might have been making her happy. You can never really tell with Lucy.

By way of a scientific "control" for our experiment, we also had Lucy listen to "Game of Love," the 1965 hit by Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders. Lucy did not appear to pay attention to that song, either. For the record — and we view this as an oversight on the part of Wayne Fontana, as well as the Mindbenders — "Game of Love" does not feature a squeaky toy.

In conclusion, if somebody on your holiday gift list would like an album of peppy songs that may or may not make dogs happy, this may or may not be the ideal gift for that person. And we stand behind that statement.

SEXY-CHEST SWIMSUIT

$49 plus shipping and handling from Beloved Shirts; www.belovedshirts.com, suggested by Ralph Kirshner of New Hampton, New Hampshire.

This is the perfect gift for the lady on your holiday list who would like to "make a splash" at the beach or pool. This is a woman's one-piece bathing suit with a high-definition graphic print on the front that looks like the bare chest and belly of a hairy male. The effect is to create a unique fashion "look" that is bound to make the woman wearing this suit the center of attention. Quite possibly from the police.

GUN AND TARGET RECORDABLE ALARM CLOCK

$20.38 plus shipping and handling from Amazon.com, (price may vary).

We've all done it. We are awakened by the annoying sound of an alarm, we lose our temper, we grab a pistol or assault rifle and we fire up to 17 shots into the clock radio to make it stop. Yes, it's satisfying. But it wastes ammunition, and it could cause serious, even fatal, harm to a perfectly good home appliance.

Well, now there is a better way to wake up, and that way is this gun and target recordable alarm clock. It's "recordable" because you can record your own wake-up song (we recommend "Game of Love" by Wayne Fontana and the Mindbenders). At the preset alarm time, your song will start playing, and a target will pop up on the clock. You can then use the included gun to shoot at the target; if you hit it, the alarm goes into "snooze" mode. Ha ha! What a fun morning you are having!

You can also use the included gun to protect yourself from home invaders, assuming they have a "snooze" mode.

JDHS twice loses one-goal contests in tournament - Juneau Empire

Juneau Hot Topics - Sat, 2017-12-09 18:42

Juneau Empire

JDHS twice loses one-goal contests in tournament
Juneau Empire
Juneau-Douglas' Erik Genitz takes the puck from West Valley's Joe Kimbrough at Treadwell Arena Nov. 30, 2017. The Juneau-Douglas High School hockey team fell to Kenai Central 4-3 in the third-place game at the Big Lake Lions Christmas Classic Saturday ...

Readers write: Letters to the editor, December 10, 2017

Alaska News - Sat, 2017-12-09 17:33

Unions take extra money

It's that time of year again, and I don't mean the holidays. It's time to write my yearly letter to the union.

I am a state of Alaska employee, and union dues to ASEA/AFSCME are automatically deducted from my paychecks. I have no problem with that.

I do have a problem with the fact that some of the dues they collect (they say it's averaged to 22.44 percent of the total) are not legally required. The extra money funds things like political and other activities for which they cannot force us to pay. To not pay these fees, I must submit a letter informing them I object to the use of a portion of my agency fees for non-chargeable services, and I must submit this letter every year. Forgetting to do so costs me several hundred dollars, because not sending it implies consent. There is a little window of time during which this letter is allowed; if you miss that window you imply consent. And it is "strongly recommended" to send this letter via certified mail and return receipt, which of course costs more and requires a visit to the post office.

The need for this letter year after year outrages me, but Executive Director Jim Duncan and the union ignore my small voice. I consider it unethical to deduct non-legally-required extra dues from our state workers via "implied consent," just because they don't send in a letter over and over every year, objecting. Most of them don't even know about this extra deduction because it's referenced in fine print on a buried page in a thick notice full of legal jargon and accolades for the union, which is mailed out to fee payors each year.

A few years ago an ADN article referenced the firefighters' win against their union for this exact same practice. That is what needs to happen for state employees!

— Lisa Good
Anchorage

Pebble questions remain

I enjoyed reading the Dec. 8 commentaries on the Pebble prospect. But I found Gen. Hamilton's stance a little weak in a couple places. He writes of "willful distortions and premature judgements" about the prospect and of "society's growing inability to reason and make sound judgments based on observable facts." Well, I have seen the remnants of open pit mining in Bisbee, Arizona, and Butte, Montana. I have seen the tailings ponds surrounded by barbed wire at Globe, Arizona, and watched the horror of the failing containment dam at the Mount Polly mine in British Columbia in August 2014. I think those qualify as observable facts.

Pebble has the potential to become the largest open pit mine in North America. The Pebble Partnership will submit a permit application for a much smaller project. How will the smaller project work out financially? Not mentioned by either commenter is the need for construction of a deep-water port, approximately 95 miles of road, and an electrical infrastructure to power the mine. It has been the policy of the state to assist with the development of such projects. But to what degree is the state capable of doing so now?

— Pete Panarese
Eagle River

Suicide views outdated

We read the article by reporter Laurel Andrews, Dec. 6, "Department of Correction at fault for inmate suicide in 2014, jury finds."

The state's attorney in the case put forth the idea that suicide is often committed by cowards. It is the state's misguided opinion that has Alaska about 20 years behind best practice when it comes to treating the mentally ill.

Individuals with a mental illness to the point of a disability in jail need better and up-to-date treatment.

— Faith Myers and Dorrance Collins
Mental health advocates
Anchorage

Changes hurt bus service

The removal of all bus service for Independence Park is not right and unacceptable. Our residents are complaining they don't want to walk over a mile to catch a bus. I don't understand how taking away residential service and just keeping bus service along an arterial not even close to a community filled with apartments, starter single family homes and duplexes increases ridership.

Independence Park is being asked this spring to fund roads, school repairs with none in our area and now service relied on by residents was taken away. This issue is not going away. There have been two articles in ADN both complaining about the lack of service. Helping one area (Midtown and Muldoon) at our expense is not going to get us to vote for these other issues confronting Anchorage this spring.

I have asked my neighbors, our tenants in our four-plexes to vote no and not support the current administration this spring on this issue.

— Duncan Harrison
president, Freedom Square Homeowners Association;
board member, Autumn Ridge Homeowners Association;
member, Parkside Homes Homeowners Association
Anchorage

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

New Mexico school gunman was ex-student investigated by FBI

Alaska News - Sat, 2017-12-09 17:20

TAOS, New Mexico – A gunman who killed two students at a New Mexico high school and then took his own life was a former student who was investigated by the Federal Bureau of Investigation last year after he asked online about buying weapons for a mass shooting, officials said on Friday.

Authorities identified the shooter in Thursday's attack as 21-year-old William Atchison, who worked at a gas station in Aztec, New Mexico, and was an enthusiast of active shooter gaming websites.

"He was a single coward shooter," San Juan County Sheriff Ken Christesen said at a news conference by law enforcement. "It's important to understand how focused he was, how deranged he was, in his intent."

The shooting occurred shortly after 8 a.m. Thursday at the high school in Aztec, a town of 6,000 people about 200 miles northwest of Santa Fe and 20 miles from the Navajo Nation reservation.

Atchison disguised himself as a student, entered the school as students got off buses, and was in a bathroom preparing for the shooting when Francisco Fernandez, a pupil at the school known for his computer skills, entered the restroom, officials said.

Atchison shot Fernandez, then exited the bathroom and shot cheerleader Casey Jordan-Marquez in the hallway, said New Mexico State Police Chief Pete Kassetas.

Atchison fired randomly in the hallway before entering a computer lab and firing through a wall at students barricaded inside a closet, Kassetas said. Atchison likely shot himself shortly afterwards as police entered the school, he added.

Police found a thumb drive on Atchison's body that contained a Dec. 7 message indicating he was unhappy with work and life, and he planned to attack a school.

"If things go according to plan, today would be when I die," the message read.

In March 2016, Atchison was interviewed by the FBI, which had acted on a tip about a comment he made on an online gaming site.

"If you're going to conduct a mass shooting does anyone know about cheap assault rifles?" FBI special agent Terry Wade said Atchison asked.

The FBI closed its investigation after determining no crime was committed, Wade said.

Atchison did not have any weapons when the FBI interviewed him, officials said. He purchased the 9mm pistol he used in the shooting locally and legally last month, officials said.

'A small community'

"This is a small community where everyone knows everyone else," New Mexico Gov. Susana Martinez said at a news conference Thursday.

New Mexico State Police said no other injuries were reported, the school was evacuated, and families of the victims were notified. Police said there were no other credible threats to students.

Martinez said terrified students hid in closets, classrooms, teachers' offices and under desks.

Garrett Parker, a sophomore at the school, told Hearst news affiliate KOAT-TV that he initially thought the gunshots were other students banging on locker doors.

"As it got closer and louder and it was obvious it was gunshots, all I could think of was that definitely, this is it today, if whoever it is comes in, then I'm probably done," Parker said.

"Thankfully our teacher always locked his door. When they called over the intercom that this was not a drill, we went over to the corner to the classroom out of sight of the door and just started hiding."

Navajo Nation President Russell Begaye said in a statement: "It's tragic when our children are harmed in violent ways especially on school campuses."

(Additional reporting by Gina Cherelus in New York and Bernie Woodall in Fort Lauderdale, Fla.)

Video shows Arizona police officer fatally shooting unarmed, pleading man in 2016

Alaska News - Sat, 2017-12-09 16:30

After the officer involved was acquitted of second-degree murder charges, officials in Arizona released graphic video showing Daniel Shaver crawling on his hands and knees and begging for his life in the moments before he was shot and killed by police in January 2016.

Shaver died in one of at least 963 fatal police shootings in 2016, according to a Washington Post database. And his death was one of an increasing number of such shootings to prompt criminal charges in the years since the 2014 protests in Ferguson, Missouri, following the death of Michael Brown. Yet charges remain rare, and convictions even more so.

The shooting, by Philip "Mitch" Brailsford, then an officer with the Mesa Police Department, occurred after officers responded to a call about a man allegedly pointing a rifle out of a fifth-floor window at a La Quinta Inn. Inside the room, Shaver, 26, had been doing rum shots with a woman he had met earlier that day and showing off a pellet gun he used in his job in pest control.

The graphic video, recorded by Brailsford's body camera, shows Shaver and the woman exiting the hotel room and immediately complying with commands from multiple officers.

After entering the hallway, Shaver immediately puts his hands in the air and lays down on the ground while informing the officer that no one else was in the hotel room.

"If you make a mistake, another mistake, there is a very severe possibility that you're both going to get shot. Do you understand?" an officer yells before telling Shaver to "shut up."

"I'm not here to be tactical and diplomatic with you. You listen. You obey," the officer says.

For the next five minutes, officers give Shaver a series of instructions. First, an officer tells Shaver to put both of his hands on top of his head, then he instructs him to cross his left foot over his right foot.

"If you move, we're going to consider that a threat and we are going to deal with it and you may not survive it," the officer said.

[From 2016: Fatal shootings by police remain relatively unchanged after 2 years]

The officer then has the woman crawl down the hallway, where she is taken into custody. Shaver remains on the ground in the hallway, his hands on his head.

The officer tells Shaver to keep his legs crossed and push himself up into a kneeling position. As Shaver pushes himself up, his legs come uncrossed, prompting the officer to scream at him.

"I'm sorry," Shaver says, placing his hands near his waist, prompting another round of screaming.

"You do that again, we're shooting you, do you understand?" an officer yells.

"Please do not shoot me," Shaver begs, his hands up straight in the air.

At the officer's command, Shaver then crawls down the hallway, sobbing. At one point, he reaches back – possibly to pull up his shorts – and Brailsford opens fire, striking Shaver five times.

According to the police report, Brailsford was carrying an AR-15 rifle with the phrase "You're F-ed" etched into the weapon. The police report also said the "shots were fired so rapidly that in watching the video at regular speed, one cannot count them."

Brailsford testified in court that he believed Shaver was reaching for a gun.

"If this situation happened exactly as it did that time, I would have done the same thing," Brailsford said during the trial. "I believed 100 percent that he was reaching for a gun."

No gun was found on Shaver's body. Two pellet rifles used in Shaver's pest-control job were later found in the hotel room.

After two days of deliberation, jurors found Brailsford not guilty of second degree murder as well as of a lesser charge of reckless manslaughter.

"The justice system miserably failed Daniel (Shaver) and his family," said Mark Geragos, an attorney for Shaver's widow, according to the Arizona Republic.

Attorneys for the officer had petitioned to keep the video from being released, and a judge agreed to block its release to the public until after the trial had concluded.

Brailsford's attorney, Mike Piccarreta, told The Post in a previous interview that he thinks the body camera footage clears his client.

"It demonstrates that the officer had to make a split-second decision when (Shaver) moved his hands toward the small of his back after being advised that if he did, he'd be shot," Piccarreta told The Post in 2016.

Piccarreta also said he wasn't sure his client would be interested in trying to get his police job back.

Shaver's widow and parents have filed wrongful-death lawsuits against the city of Mesa.

– – –

The Washington Post's Kimberly Kindy contributed to this report

In ‘Historic Denali National Park,’ the storied history of an Alaska icon

Alaska News - Sat, 2017-12-09 16:18

Historic Denali National Park and Preserve: the Stories Behind one of America's Great Treasures

Tracy Salcedo; Lyons Press; 264 pages; 2017; $16.95

Denali National Park turned 100 years old this year. The most heavily visited park in Alaska and site of the highest peak in North America, the mountain and its environs have been a source of fascination since well before the federal government set it aside for protection.

There is no shortage of books about Denali, but the centenary marks a good point to reflect on how the park came into being and what it means to have it. This job is nicely carried out by Tracy Salcedo in "Historic Denali National Park and Preserve," a book that wanders over the park's landscape, bringing back stories of the people who explored it and captured in their words and the essence of what draws thousands of visitors to Denali every year.

The first thing to say about this book is that it is not a chronological history of Denali. This is a wise move by Salcedo, as that job was already expertly carried out by Tom Walker in his two-volume account, "Kantishna" and "McKinley Station." What Salcedo instead offers is a collection of thematic essays exploring different aspects of the park, moving back and forth over the past century and more. In this way, we learn about how key figures in the park's history impacted its development. It also helps Salcedo avoid what would otherwise have been inevitable comparisons to Walker's work and instead deliver a book that stands on its own.

Salcedo begins with the Athabascan people who first came through the area as part of their seasonal subsistence migrations. Little is known owing to a lack of written records, but by drawing from oral histories, the observations of early white visitors, and what's been unearthed by archaeologists examining ancient camp sites, Salcedo offers readers a sense of life before the arrival of Europeans.

Next she jumps to the first wave of climbs that commenced shortly after the dawn of the 20th century. The summit of Denali — then called Mount McKinley –was a prize sought by Alaskans and Outsiders alike. Salcedo's retellings of the early ascents are briefer than those found elsewhere, but her abilities as a writer shine here. She clearly engaged in extensive and close reading of old accounts and other writings in preparation for this book, and she manages to vividly summarize these oft-told tales by including a few quotes from those involved that perfectly capture their personalities and their sense of what they accomplished. This is a skill she demonstrates throughout the book.

Owing to her thematic approach, too, Salcedo returns again and again to the pivotal players. East Coast naturalist Charles Sheldon was primarily responsible for convincing Congress to create what was originally called Mount McKinley National Park in 1917. He was motivated by a desire to protect the area's Dall sheep, which were in danger of extermination by market hunters supplying meat to Fairbanks. Thus he appears in the chapter on the park's establishment, as well as a later chapter exploring the work of important naturalists.

Other figures are similarly treated. Harry Karstens, the park's first superintendent, initially surfaces as part of the first successful summiting of Denali's south peak (the higher of the two) in 1913. We meet him again in the chapter about the Gold Rush to Kantishna as a mail carrier traversing the Interior by dog sled. Later still he warrants part of a chapter to himself for a brief account of how he set the park's early course.

This approach by Salcedo allows her to show the multiple facets of those she writes about in a manner that might have been missed if they had passed through the book in the order they passed through Denali. Legendary mountaineer Bradford Washburn naturally appears in the chapter discussing the second wave of climbing. His scientific work, which often takes a backseat to his epic ascents even though it had greater impact on our understanding of the park, is brought into focus in a later chapter on the geology and glaciology of Denali. Similarly, Grant Pearson is celebrated for both his climbing exploits and his lengthy midcentury tenure as superintendent.

Plenty of other good stories are included. A chapter on women in Denali naturally includes tales of the beloved Kantishna resident Fannie Quigley, but also honors Barbara Washburn (Bradford's wife), the first woman to the top of Denali and still the only woman to reach both north and south peaks on consecutive days. Also mentioned are Ginny Wood and Celia Hunter, who pioneered ecotourism when they established Camp Denali on a park inholding, and Florence Rucker Collins, mother of Trapline Twins Julie and Miki Collins, a geologist who studied sand dunes near Lake Minchumina.

Salcedo introduces those who have impacted Denali through chapters exploring natural history, science, transportation wildlife and more. And while she doesn't hide her biases when discussing controversies surrounding the park and its sometimes conflicting problems with Alaska — especially the 1980 expansion and the wolf issue — she approaches these things respectfully and thoughtfully, a rarity in a time when shrillness seems to be the only form of political discourse.

This is quite a good book written in a conversational manner that makes Salcedo a pleasant companion for readers. And while not specifically written for young adults, her style makes this a good choice for high school libraries.

Even more impressive is that Salcedo is not an Alaskan and has only visited the park, not lived there. Despite this, her enthusiasm for Denali drives the entire book and keeps it lively. And she's done her homework. As a one-time resident of the region who has read quite a bit of its history, I still learned things about the place from her that I didn't know. She's captured the spirit of Denali, which she properly describes as "an extraordinary park," it's a wilderness where, on her final drive in, "I could just make out the bulk of Denali, far distant, unmistakable, awesome."

Randall nabs first World Cup podium in 3 years

Alaska News - Sat, 2017-12-09 16:01

For the first time in nearly three years, Kikkan Randall found herself back on the podium at a World Cup event.

The Anchorage nordic skier and four-time Olympian finished third in the 1.5K freestyle sprint Saturday in a World Cup event in Davos, Switzerland, for her first major podium finish this season and second since the birth of her son, Breck, in April 2016.

In February, Randall captured bronze in the women's freestyle sprint at the Nordic World Ski Championships in Lahti, Finland — the first major step in her comeback.

[Randall's a mom with a medal after earning bronze at World Championships]

Sweden's Stina Nilsson of Sweden edged Norway's Maiken Caspersen Falla by 0.08 second for gold Saturday. Randall finished 2.53 seconds behind Nilsson and nearly two seconds ahead of teammate Jessie Diggins in fourth.

Ida Sargent (sixth) rounded out the field for the Americans, whose three skiers made up half of the final heat.

"The first couple weekends of the World Cup have been a mixed bag for me," Randall told the U.S. Ski & Snowboard Association. "I felt like my shape was there but I wasn't able to put it together in classic.

"It's really nice to know I'm in position where my fitness is good and I'm just sharpening that race gear."

Randall's bronze medal is her first on the World Cup circuit since skiing to a sprint bronze in March 2015 in Lahti.

Are you a travel-hacking hobbyist? Here are some sites to help step up your mileage game

Alaska News - Sat, 2017-12-09 15:46

Like many frequent flyers, I'm a travel-hacking hobbyist: I sign up for credit cards to get bonus miles and keep an eye on my mileage account to get elite status like MVP or MVP Gold.

Now there are more resources for the emerging travel hacker who wants to step up their game and earn some free trips.

Joe Cortez is the editor at "MileCards.com," a subsidiary of Lending Tree (a loan comparison website). On the site, you'll find brief descriptions of many of the most popular mileage-earning cards. There also are articles describing the features and benefits of various plans.

The site has a flexible bar, which you can slide to match how much money you spend each month — and a calculator to determine the approximate value of each mile or point. There's a side-by-side comparison of Visa cards, Mastercards, American Express and Discover. While many of the high-mileage cards have annual fees, there are many that will waive the fee for the first year. From the site, too, there's a link to apply, from which the website makes a commission.

One of Cortez's current favorites is the American Express Platinum card. This is different than Delta Air Lines' co-branded American Express card, which also bills itself as "platinum." The Delta card gives a fat bonus of Delta SkyMiles, while the American Express card awards bonus "Membership Rewards" points that can be transferred to many different loyalty programs.

"The American Express Platinum card is good for the elite traveler who appreciates special perks," said Cortez. "Platinum cardholders get special discounts at the Fine Hotels and Resorts collection including spa credits, dining credits and other discounts," he said. Then there's the $200 Uber credit for rides, the $200 airline incidental fee credit and all-lounge access, including the "Centurion" lounges. The fee: $550 per year.

For Delta travelers, Cortez likes the Delta Gold Skymiles card from American Express. On the MileCards.com site, there's a 30,000-mile bonus. But Cortez admits that you can find bigger bonuses up to 70,000 miles, including on Delta.com. One big advantage is cardholders get one free checked bag for up to eight people in a single reservation.

What card is at the top of Cortez's list for travelers in Alaska? The Alaska Airlines Visa card from Bank of America. "People underestimate the Alaska Air card," said Cortez. "It's one of the best." In addition to the yearly companion fare and low minimum-spend requirement, Cortez likes the partner airlines like American Airlines, Icelandair, Condor and Emirates.

While Cortez's site does a nice side-by-side comparison of credit cards, that's just one aspect of travel hacking. Matt Kepnes runs a website called NomadicMatt.com and details in one post how to earn 1,000,000 frequent-flyer points each year. This includes steps like signing up for a bunch of credit cards and then detailing his strategy for meeting the minimum spending requirement.

I met "Nomadic Matt" in Portland a couple of years ago, standing in line at a food cart. We didn't talk too much then, but have corresponded in the meantime about travel-hacking techniques. Since he lives in the Lower 48, he's a bigger fan of American Airlines and the "oneworld" alliance, while I lean toward the Alaska Airlines plan. But his million-point-per-year plan includes things like shopping online through your mileage plan portal (most airlines have one, including Alaska Airlines) and signing up for your airline's frequent dining program for restaurants.

Kepnes and I met while attending a conference featuring one of my favorite travel hackers: Chris Guilleabeau. He visited all 193 countries by the time he turned 35 and has fine-tuned travel hacking into an art form. He's the one who taught me to "stack" credit cards so I can roll the sign-up bonuses from several cards into one plan. I chose the Chase Ultimate Rewards program. In my wallet, I have three of the Chase cards. Between them, I earned 220,000 points, which I can move between several loyalty programs. My favorite is Hyatt, but others include United Airlines, Korean Air, Air France and IHG (Holiday Inn and Intercontinental).

Cortez, of MileCards.com, is quick to point out that frequent-flyer points are a lousy investment. "These points depreciate at an alarming rate," he said. "If you have a particular trip you want to do or a particular reward you want to claim, these bonuses are a good way to achieve that," he said. "Our goal is to help you leverage your dollars for the best travel experience."

So it's not enough just to earn the bonuses and rack up the miles and points. You have to use them right away. Don't sit on them, as they become less and less valuable over time. Your goal is to "earn-and-burn."

Scott McMurren is an Anchorage-based marketing consultant, serving clients in the transportation, hospitality, media and specialty destination sectors, among others. Contact him by email at zoom907@me.com. You can follow him on Twitter (@alaskatravelGRM) and alaskatravelgram.com. For more information, visit alaskatravelgram.com/about.

Police investigate fatal Glenn Highway crash near Knik River

Alaska News - Sat, 2017-12-09 15:35

Anchorage police are investigating a fatal Glenn Highway crash south of Palmer, officials said Saturday.

Officers have closed one lane of the highway in each direction at the Old Glenn Highway/Palmer Alternate, near the Knik River, police spokesman MJ Thim wrote in an alert.

The alert did not say how many fatalities there were or whether others were injured. A car was in a ditch at the scene, Thim wrote.

"Drivers should expect delays for several hours and use alternate routes," Thim wrote.

As Trump redefines what it means to be president, an in-depth look at his approach

Alaska News - Sat, 2017-12-09 15:14

WASHINGTON — Around 5:30 each morning, President Donald Trump wakes and tunes into the television in the White House's master bedroom. He flips to CNN for news, moves to "Fox & Friends" for comfort and messaging ideas, and sometimes watches MSNBC's "Morning Joe" because, friends suspect, it fires him up for the day.

Energized, infuriated — often a gumbo of both — Trump grabs his iPhone. Sometimes he tweets while propped on his pillow, according to aides. Other times he tweets from the den next door, watching another television. Less frequently, he makes his way up the hall to the ornate Treaty Room, sometimes dressed for the day, sometimes still in nightclothes, where he begins his official and unofficial calls.

As he ends his first year in office, Trump is redefining what it means to be president. He sees the highest office in the land much as he did the night of his stunning victory over Hillary Clinton — as a prize he must fight to protect every waking moment, and Twitter is his Excalibur. Despite all his bluster, he views himself less as a titan dominating the world stage than a maligned outsider engaged in a struggle to be taken seriously, according to interviews with 60 advisers, associates, friends and members of Congress.

For other presidents, every day is a test of how to lead a country, not just a faction, balancing competing interests. For Trump, every day is an hour-by-hour battle for self-preservation. He still relitigates last year's election, convinced that the investigation by Robert Mueller, the special counsel, into Russia's interference is a plot to delegitimize him. Color-coded maps highlighting the counties he won were hung on the White House walls.

Before taking office, Trump told top aides to think of each presidential day as an episode in a television show in which he vanquishes rivals. People close to him estimate that Trump spends at least four hours a day, and sometimes as much as twice that, in front of a television, sometimes with the volume muted, marinating in the no-holds-barred wars of cable news and eager to fire back.

"He feels like there's an effort to undermine his election and that collusion allegations are unfounded," said Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who has spent more time with the president than most lawmakers. "He believes passionately that the liberal left and the media are out to destroy him. The way he got here is fighting back and counterpunching.

"The problem he's going to face," Graham added, "is there's a difference between running for the office and being president. You've got to find that sweet spot between being a fighter and being president."

Bracing and refreshing to his alienated-from-the-system political base, Trump's uninhibited approach seems erratic to many veterans of both parties in the capital and beyond. Some politicians and pundits lament the instability and, even without medical degrees, feel no compunction about publicly diagnosing various mental maladies.

In recent weeks, the president made a derogatory reference to Native Americans in front of Navajo guests, insinuated that a television host was involved in the death of an aide and prompted an international incident with Britain by retweeting inflammatory anti-Muslim videos — demonstrating the limits of a staff that has tried hard to steer him away from volatile territory.

His approach got him to the White House, Trump reasons, so it must be the right one. He is more unpopular than any of his modern predecessors at this point in his tenure — just 32 percent approved of his performance in the latest Pew Research Center poll — yet he dominates the landscape like no other.

After months of legislative failures, Trump is on the verge of finally prevailing in his efforts to cut taxes and reverse part of his predecessor's health care program. While much of what he has promised remains undone, he has made significant progress in his goal of rolling back business and environmental regulations. The growing economy he inherited continues to improve, and stock markets have soared to record heights. His partial travel ban on mainly Muslim countries has finally taken effect after multiple court fights.

Jared Kushner, his son-in-law and senior adviser, has told associates that Trump, deeply set in his ways at 71, will never change. Rather, he predicted, Trump would bend, and possibly break, the office to his will.

That has proved half true. Trump, so far, has arguably wrestled the presidency to a draw.

'Time to think'

In the jargon of the military, John F. Kelly, a retired four-star general, served as a "wagon boss" for Marines crashing into Iraq in 2003, keeping his column moving forward despite incoming fire. As White House chief of staff, Kelly has adopted much the same approach, laboring 14-hour days to impose discipline on a chaotic operation — with mixed success.

In the months before Kelly took over during the summer from his embattled predecessor, Reince Priebus, the Oval Office had a rush-hour feel, with a constant stream of aides and visitors stopping by to offer advice or kibitz. During one April meeting with New York Times reporters, no fewer than 20 people wandered in and out — including Priebus, who walked in with Vice President Mike Pence. The door to the Oval Office is now mostly closed.

Kelly is trying, quietly and respectfully, to reduce the amount of free time the president has for fiery tweets by accelerating the start of his workday. Priebus also tried, with only modest success, to encourage Trump to arrive by 9 or 9:30 a.m.

The pace of meetings has increased. Beyond Kelly and Kushner, they often include Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, national security adviser; Ivanka Trump, the president's daughter and senior adviser; Hope Hicks, communications director; Robert Porter, staff secretary; and Kellyanne Conway, the president's counselor.

Trump, who enjoyed complete control over his business empire, has made significant concessions after trying to micromanage his first months in office. Despite chafing at the limits, the president actually craves the approval of Kelly, whom he sees as a peer, people close to Trump said.

He calls Kelly up to a dozen times a day, even four or five times during dinner or a golf outing, to ask about his schedule or seek policy advice, according to people who have spoken with the president. The new system gives him "time to think," he said when it began. White House aides denied that Trump seeks Kelly's blessing but confirmed that he views him as a crucial confidant and sounding board. Kelly has also adopted some of Trump's favorite grievances, telling the president recently that he agrees that some reporters are interested only in taking down the administration.

At times, Trump has been able to circumvent Kelly. Over Thanksgiving at Mar-a-Lago, the president mingled with guests the way he had before the election. Some passed him news clips that would never get around Kelly's filters. And he dialed old friends, receiving updates about how they see the Russia investigation. He returned to Washington fired up.

Kelly has told people he will try to control only what he can. As he has learned, there is much that he cannot.

'I don't watch much'

For most of the year, people inside and outside Washington have been convinced that there is a strategy behind Trump's actions. But there is seldom a plan apart from pre-emption, self-defense, obsession and impulse.

Occasionally, the president solicits affirmation before hitting the "tweet" button. In June, according to a longtime adviser, he excitedly called friends to say he had the perfect tweet to neutralize the Russia investigation. He would call it a "witch hunt." They were unimpressed.

He has bowed to advice from his lawyers by not attacking Mueller, but at times his instincts prevail.

When three former campaign advisers were indicted or pleaded guilty this fall, Ty Cobb, the White House lawyer handling the investigation, urged the president not to respond. If he did, it would only elevate the story.

Trump, however, could not help himself. He tweeted that the financial charges lodged against his former campaign manager, Paul Manafort, had nothing to do with the campaign and that investigators should be examining "Crooked Hillary & the Dems" instead. By the next morning, he was belittling George Papadopoulos, the campaign adviser who pleaded guilty to lying about his outreach to Russians, dismissing him as a "low level volunteer" who has "proven to be a liar."

Trump was calm at first when his former national security adviser, Michael Flynn, pleaded guilty. The next morning, as he visited Manhattan for Republican fundraisers, he was upbeat. He talked about his election and the "major loser" in the Senate who had said his tax bill would add to the deficit (presumably meaning Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn.).

By Sunday morning, with news shows consumed by Flynn's case, the president grew angry and fired off a series of tweets excoriating Clinton and the FBI, tweets that several advisers told him were problematic and needed to stop, according to a person briefed on the discussion.

Once he posts controversial messages, Trump's advisers sometimes decide not to raise them with him. One adviser said that aides to the president needed to stay positive and look for silver linings wherever they could find them, and that the West Wing team at times resolved not to let the tweets dominate their day.

The ammunition for his Twitter war is television. No one touches the remote control except Trump and the technical support staff — at least that's the rule. During meetings, the 60-inch screen mounted in the dining room may be muted, but Trump keeps an eye on scrolling headlines. What he misses he checks out later on what he calls his "Super TiVo," a state-of-the-art system that records cable news.

Watching cable, he shares thoughts with anyone in the room, even the household staff he summons via a button for lunch or one of the dozen Diet Cokes he consumes each day.

But he is leery of being seen as tube-glued — a perception that reinforces the criticism that he is not taking the job seriously. On his recent trip to Asia, the president was told of a list of 51 fact-checking questions for this article, including one about his prodigious television watching habits. Instead of responding through an aide, he delivered a broadside on his viewing habits to befuddled reporters from other outlets on Air Force One heading to Vietnam.

"I do not watch much television," he insisted. "I know they like to say — people that don't know me — they like to say I watch television. People with fake sources — you know, fake reporters, fake sources. But I don't get to watch much television, primarily because of documents. I'm reading documents a lot."

Later, he groused about being forced to watch CNN in the Philippines because nothing else was available.

'Aren't you glad I don't drink?'

To an extent that would stun outsiders, Trump, the most talked-about human on the planet, is still delighted when he sees his name in the headlines. And he is on a perpetual quest to see it there. One former top adviser said Trump grew uncomfortable after two or three days of peace and could not handle watching the news without seeing himself on it.

During the morning, aides monitor "Fox & Friends" live or through a transcription service in much the way commodities traders might keep tabs on market futures to predict the direction of their day.

If someone on the show says something memorable and Trump does not immediately tweet about it, the president's staff knows he may be saving Fox News for later viewing on his recorder and instead watching MSNBC or CNN live — meaning he is likely to be in a foul mood to start the day.

Yet the image of Trump in a constant rage belies a deeper complexity for a man who runs in bellow-and-banter cycles. Several advisers said the president may curse them for a minor transgression — like bringing an unknown aide into his presence without warning — then make amiable small talk with the same person minutes later.

"He is very aware that he is only the 45th person to hold that job," Conway said. "The job has changed him a bit, and he has changed the job. His time as president has revealed other, more affable and accessible, parts and pieces of him that may have been hidden from view during a rough and tumble primary."

Few get to see those other parts and pieces. In private moments with the families of appointees in the Oval Office, the president engages with children in a softer tone than he takes in public, and he specifically asked that the children of the White House press corps be invited in as they visited on Halloween. Yet he does little to promote that side, some longtime friends say, because it cracks the veneer of strength that he relishes.

Only occasionally does Trump let slip his mask of unreflective invincibility. During a meeting with Republican senators, he discussed in emotional terms the opioid crisis and the dangers of addiction, recounting his brother's struggle with alcohol.

According to a senator and an aide, the president then looked around the room and asked puckishly, "Aren't you glad I don't drink?"

'Don't interrupt me'

Trump's difficult adjustment to the presidency, people close to him say, is rooted in an unrealistic expectation of its powers, which he had assumed to be more akin to the popular image of imperial command than the sloppy reality of having to coexist with two other branches of government.

His vision of executive leadership was shaped close to home, by experiences with Democratic clubhouse politicians as a young developer in New York. One figure stands out to Trump: an unnamed party boss — his friends assume he is referring to legendary Brooklyn fixer Meade Esposito — whom he remembered keeping a baseball bat under his desk to enforce his power. To the adviser who recounted it, the story revealed what Trump expected being president would be like — ruling by fiat, exacting tribute and cutting backroom deals.

But while he is unlikely to change who he is on a fundamental level, advisers said they saw a novice who was gradually learning that the presidency does not work that way. And he is coming to realize, they said, the need to woo, not whack, leaders of his own party to get things done.

During his early months in office, he barked commands at senators, which did not go over well. "I don't work for you, Mr. President," Corker once snapped back, according to a Republican with knowledge of the exchange.

Sen. Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., the majority leader, likewise bristled when Trump cut in during methodical presentations in the Oval Office. "Don't interrupt me," McConnell told the president during a discussion of health care.

Trump may have gotten the message. After a bout of public feuding during the summer, he and McConnell reconciled and began speaking most days. And as the president increasingly recognizes how much Congress controls his fate, Marc Short, the legislative affairs director, has sought to educate him by appealing to Trump's tendency to view issues in terms of personality, compiling one-page profiles of legislators for him, the congressional equivalent of baseball cards.

While Trump is no policy wonk — "nobody knew that health care could be so complicated," he famously said at one point — he has shown more comfort with the details of his tax-cutting legislation. And aides said he had become more attentive during daily intelligence briefings thanks to pithy presentations by Mike Pompeo, the CIA director, and a deeper concern about the North Korea situation than his blithe, confrontational tweets suggest.

"At first, there was a thread of being an impostor that may have been in his mind," said Rep. Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., the House minority leader, who has tried to forge a working relationship with the president.

"He's overcome that by now," she said. "The bigger problem, the thing people need to understand, is that he was utterly unprepared for this. It would be like you or me going into a room and being asked to perform brain surgery. When you have a lack of knowledge as great as his, it can be bewildering."

Graham, once a fierce critic and now increasingly an ally, said Trump was adjusting. "You can expect every president to change because the job requires you to change," he said. "He's learning the rhythm of the town." But Graham added that Trump's presidency was still "a work in progress." At this point, he said, "everything's possible, from complete disaster to a home run."

'He wears you down'

In almost all the interviews, Trump's associates raised questions about his capacity and willingness to differentiate bad information from something that is true.

Monitoring his information consumption — and countering what Kelly calls "garbage" peddled to him by outsiders — remains a priority for the chief of staff and the team he has made his own. Even after a year of official briefings and access to the best minds of the federal government, Trump is skeptical of anything that does not come from inside his bubble.

Some advisers, like Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin consider this a fundamentally good thing. "I see a lot of similarities between the way he was running the campaign and the way he is as president," Mnuchin said. "He really loves verbal briefings. He is not one to consume volumes of books or briefings."

Other aides bemoan his tenuous grasp of facts, jack-rabbit attention span and propensity for conspiracy theories.

Kelly has told people he pushed out advisers like Stephen Bannon and Sebastian Gorka, who he believed advanced information to rile up Trump or create internal conflict. But Trump still controls his own guest list.

Jeanine Pirro, whose Fox News show is a presidential favorite, recently asked to meet about a deal approved while Clinton was secretary of state that gave Russia control over some U.S. uranium, which lately has become a favorite focus of conservatives.

Trump, Kelly and Donald F. McGahn II, the White House counsel, met for more than an hour on Nov. 1 as Pirro whipped up the president against Mueller and accused James Comey, the former FBI director, of employing tactics typically reserved for Mafia cases, according to a person briefed on the meeting.

The president became visibly agitated as she spoke. "Roy Cohn was my lawyer!" he exclaimed, referring to the legendary McCarthy-era fixer who mentored Trump in the 1980s, suggesting that was the type of defender he needed now.

At another point, Kelly interrupted. She was not "helping things," he said, according to the person briefed. Even Trump eventually tired of Pirro's screed and walked out of the room, according to the person.

Trump is an avid newspaper reader who still marks up a half-dozen papers with comments in black Sharpie pen, but Bannon has told allies that Trump only "reads to reinforce." Trump's insistence on defining his own reality — his repeated claims, for example, that he actually won the popular vote — is immutable and has had a "numbing effect" on people who work with him, said Tony Schwartz, his ghostwriter on "The Art of the Deal."

"He wears you down," Schwartz said.

'Where the hell have you been?'

Some of the changes resulting from Kelly's arrival have been subtle. For the past decade, for example, Trump's most trusted aide was his longtime security chief, Keith Schiller, a bald, brawny former New York police officer who played an ambiguous role as protector, gatekeeper and younger brother to the president. An early warning system, Schiller tipped callers when the boss was in a bad mood and sometimes reached out to the president's friends to urge them to buck him up.

In August, Trump asked Schiller for a newspaper article he had heard about. After Trump mentioned the article to Kelly, the chief of staff dispatched two aides to investigate how it had gotten to the president without being cleared. Schiller acknowledged providing the contraband newsprint. Kelly thanked him tersely for coming forward, according to two people Schiller later told.

To the surprise of aides, the president did not try to make clear Schiller's unique place in the Trump orbit. After some additional encounters with Kelly, Schiller announced his departure, a decision fueled primarily by a dislike for Washington and a desire to once again earn private-sector pay before retiring.

Since then, Trump has repeatedly expressed frustration at Schiller's absence, telling a visiting lawmaker that his Oval Office suite now seems "empty." The departure of other familiar faces has been equally unsettling.

Once this fall, Trump lashed out at an aide he had not seen for weeks, asking, "Where the hell have you been?" When the aide told him that Kelly had limited the meetings he could attend, the president cooled off and said, "Oh, OK," according to an aide told of the exchange.

If Kelly knows he cannot always control access, he is intent on at least knowing who is peddling what to his boss. He reserves the right to listen to calls coming to the president through the White House switchboard. To some callers, Kelly politely promises to forward messages. On calls he cannot monitor personally, Kelly or a deputy will usually double-back to debrief the caller on any promises the president may have made in unguarded moments.

'I can invite anyone'

Trump seeks release on the golf course on weekends. But on weekdays, his principal mode of blowing off steam is his nightly dinner in the White House residence, which begins at 6:30 or 7 p.m. with a guest list organized by the ever-vigilant Kelly.

"I can invite anyone for dinner, and they will come!" Trump marveled to an old friend when he took office.

Trump has always relished gossiping over plates of well-done steak, salad slathered with Roquefort dressing and bacon crumbles, tureens of gravy and massive slices of dessert with extra ice cream.

He needs support, a sounding board and, as a lifelong hotelier, guests. Trump is naturally garrulous, and loves to give White House tours. He has an odd affinity for showing off bathrooms, including one he renovated near the Oval Office, and enjoys pulling dinner companions into the Lincoln Bedroom or onto the Truman Balcony for the postcard view of the city he has disrupted.

Over the summer, he invited four Democratic lawmakers and immediately peppered them with questions as they strolled through the Diplomatic Reception Room.

"Who is going to run against me in 2020?" he asked, according to a person in attendance. "Crooked Hillary? Pocahontas?" — his caustic nickname for Sen. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., who once claimed Native American heritage on an employment form.

Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., the president opined, would definitely run — "even if he's in a wheelchair," Trump added, making a scrunched-up body of a man in a wheelchair.

Trump still takes shots at Mark Cuban, a fellow rich-guy reality star, and expresses disappointment that Tom Brady, the New England Patriots quarterback, has distanced himself. But he spends much of his time puzzling over political options and wrestling with the terrifying responsibilities of the presidency.

Even when Trump is in a lighthearted mood, hints of anxiety waft over the table like steam over a teacup. In September, he met with evangelical leaders to reassure them that he would still pursue their agenda despite a flirtation with Democrats.

"The Christians know all the things I'm doing for them, right?" he asked, according to three attendees, who reported praising his positions on issues like abortion and Planned Parenthood.

When the guests depart, the remote control comes back out. He is less likely to tweet at this hour, when the news he would react to is mostly recycled from hours earlier. But he watches Pirro and her fellow Fox News hosts Sean Hannity and Laura Ingraham, and sometimes "hate-watches" CNN to get worked up, especially Don Lemon.

In between, it is time for phone calls, to people he has fired like Corey Lewandowski and Bannon, old friends like Thomas J. Barrack Jr. and Richard LeFrak, and more recently Republican lawmakers, especially Rep. Mark Meadows of North Carolina, head of the conservative Freedom Caucus. This is when his fixations are unfettered: Russia, Clinton, Barack Obama, the "fake news" media, his bitter disappointment with Attorney General Jeff Sessions.

In recent weeks, Trump's friends have noticed a different pitch, acknowledging that many aides and even his own relatives could be hurt by Mueller's investigation. As for himself, he has adopted a surprisingly fatalistic attitude, according to several people he speaks with regularly.

"It's life," he said of the investigation.

From there it is off to bed for what usually amounts to five or six hours of sleep. Then the television will be blaring again, he will reach for his iPhone and the battle will begin anew.

Glenn Thrush contributed to this article before he was suspended pending the result of an investigation into allegations of inappropriate behavior. Matt Apuzzo also contributed reporting.

Editorial voice is back

Alaska News - Sat, 2017-12-09 15:05

As part of the rebirth of the Anchorage Daily News, we'll resume writing editorials.

This is the first under the paper's new ownership.

For starters, we'll aim for one editorial a week, usually on Sundays.

We intend this voice to be independent, beholden to no one. We aim to be willing to speak truth to power, whether that power is corporate or individual, public or private.

Some might wonder what kind of voice we'll be — liberal, conservative, favoring development or conservation? Will we be ideological or pragmatic? Some might frame it this way — will we be more like the old Anchorage Times or the old Anchorage Daily News?

In this paper's DNA is the ADN. Our name is the Anchorage Daily News and we're proud of it. Here's the course we'll take:

We'll listen to all interests, but won't be a mouthpiece for any. We'll try to see through spin and half-truths to clarify issues and choices.

We're a business; we do our work in the marketplace and we want that marketplace to thrive. But to be a worthy newspaper, we need to keep more than the market in mind. The heart of our business is accurate information and honest opinion. We need to earn and keep your trust that we'll provide those to the best of our ability, that we won't be bought, hoodwinked or intimidated.

Hosea Paddock's "mission statement" for his suburban Chicago paper of more than a century ago comes to mind: "Our aim: To fear God, tell the truth and make money." A bit dated but a decent guide.

Where moneymaking and truth collide, we aim to come down on the side of truth and believe that truth pays in the long run.

Those are the goals for our "institutional voice," which we hope never reads like an institutional voice but like an intelligent conversation with a trusted friend. We'll leave the mount to Moses and talk with you at the kitchen table — or on your phone, tablet or laptop — whenever you'll have us.

That institutional voice is just one of the voices you'll read here. We intend to keep these pages a battleground of ideas, powered by your voices. We hope you'll keep sending us commentaries, letters and comments online. We hope you will challenge us and one another. We all gain by robust debate, with no punches pulled but no low blows, either.

In the exchange on these pages you'll encounter plenty of spin and self-interest. The nation's founders knew that when they agreed on the First Amendment, and it's hardly news that the debates we have in Alaska are no different. But when all sides get to weigh in, there's a better shot at good conclusions. So we aim to publish and prosper by principles of fairness and free speech.

We also hope this forum is a home to Lincoln's "better angels of our nature," a place where grace and laughter temper fierce debate, and that you'll help to fulfill that hope. Some of the finest and most memorable words written on these pages over the decades weren't written by us, but by you.

We'll make mistakes, and we won't always agree. But we hope that you'll read these pages, in print and online, with trust that we earn.

Letters and commentaries

Readers often ask about guidelines for sending in letters and commentaries. We're making a few changes in those guidelines — or just enforcing old rules.

If you'd like to submit a letter, we ask that you keep it to 200 words or less. In the past, we've had the limit as low as 175 words, but 200 should work. We will generally trim letters to fit the limit, and for clarity and taste, but it's your letter, so we'll respect your voice. Brevity is a virtue in this business, especially given the limited space in print, and a 200-word limit makes room for more people to join the conversation.

For commentaries, the range is 600-800 words. That works well for both limited print space and online publication. If you write longer, there's a chance your commentary may go online only. We ask also that you send us a brief description of yourself, particularly anything that relates to your subject, and to let us know if you have any personal or professional stake in the subject. Last, we ask for a head shot photo of yourself to run with the print edition, and sometimes online as well. We prefer a photo, as it draws readers in and puts a face with a name, but it's not mandatory.

We never guarantee publication, and we never guarantee a specific day of publication, but we'll consider all submissions and their timeliness.

We want to publish a wide range of viewpoints and opinions. Most of all, we look for good writing with clear, strong arguments. Be a tough critic if you like, but spare the name-calling and personal attacks. A little zinging is all right, but within civil bounds. Attack your neighbor's idea, but not your neighbor.

Even better, light that candle rather than curse the darkness.

With that, you're invited to the conversation.

Letters: letters@adn.com

Commentary: commentary@adn.com

Mail: Anchorage Daily News, 300 W. 31st Ave., Anchorage, AK 99503

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