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Trump’s White House tossed aside norms. Of course Omarosa did too.

Alaska News - Thu, 2018-08-16 05:40

FILE - In this March 12, 2017 file photo, White House Director of communications for the Office of Public Liaison Omarosa Manigault, right, walks past President Donald Trump during a meeting on healthcare in the Roosevelt Room of the White House in Washington. Manigault Newman, who was fired in December, released a new book "Unhinged," about her time in the White House. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File) (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/)

For eight years, upon entering the White House Situation Room, I had to put my Blackberry into a box with foam padding, to prevent foreign adversaries from hacking into it and turning it into a listening device. This became routine, a reflex upon entering the windowless complex. Omarosa Manigault Newman did not, apparently, develop a similar reflex. And after she played a recording of Chief of Staff John Kelly firing her in the Situation Room, the response was swift: Sarah Huckabee Sanders said Manigault Newman’s actions demonstrated, “a blatant disregard for our national security.” President Donald Trump called her a "a “dog” on Twitter.

It's safe to say that Manigault Newman's employment status was not, in fact, a matter of national security. Even an adversary with a voracious interest in American politics, such as Russia, didn't have much to gain from hearing Kelly's vaguely threatening dismissal of a staffer whose responsibilities were never entirely clear in the first place. Still, an important norm has been broken: When White House staffers record conversations in places that are literally built to be discreet, there is no longer any of the trust and confidentiality that a White House relies upon to function.

This seemingly trivial Manigault Newman episode illustrates a much more consequential problem - one of Trump's own making: When the president of the United States routinely violates the norms of his office, there is no reason to believe that the people who work for him will not do the same.

Norms are not self-executing, and - unlike laws - they can be harder to enforce. They depend upon the expectations that people have in their leaders and institutions: to exert some measure of self-control in putting a common good ahead of a personal impulse; to buy into the notion that we benefit, in the long run, when we abide by a set of standards that we want others to meet.

By contrast, Trump has eviscerated the expectations we have for political leaders. We have a norm that presidents tell the truth, or at least that they're supposed to; Trump, as The Washington Post has documented, has promoted more than 4,000 falsehoods since he took office, laying siege to the very concept of objective truth that is essential for democratic governance. After ignoring the norm that presidents release their tax returns, Trump has blown through any concern about the appearance of making money off his office. At a minimum, he has profited repeatedly from foreign interests and influence peddlers who spend lavishly at his properties to curry favor. It should therefore come as no surprise that the people he hires - in the case of Manigault Newman - have cut ethical corners to monetize government service.

Trump himself has dispensed with national security norms far more readily than Manigault Newman. He has revealed highly sensitive information in an Oval Office meeting with Russians, met with Kim Jong Un and Vladimir Putin without any note-taker present, picked unprecedented fights with our allies, and repeatedly, publicly trashed the credibility of the United States intelligence community on foreign soil (notably, both times after meeting with Putin). Most disturbingly, Trump has challenged the norm that presidents respect the independence of the rule of law in our country. By attacking the FBI, constantly dismissing the Russia investigation as a witch hunt, and demanding that the attorney general shut it down, he is - wittingly or unwittingly - leading America to embrace the concept that justice should be arbitrary.

Manigault Newman's celebrity is a creation of Donald Trump, just as her unusual appointment to the highest level of White House staffer could have occurred only in a Trump White House. And her violation of norms in recording White House conversations took place because of the culture that Trump himself has created in the White House. Ironically, we've seen this cultural contagion spread to other parts of the government in ways that could hurt Trump: corruption scandals at the EPA, HHS, and HUD; an aversion to telling the truth that led multiple Trump associates to plead guilty to making false statements to the FBI; and a casual hostility to the Russia investigation that could land Trump's family members - or Trump himself - on the wrong side of the law if they lied to investigators or obstructed justice.

Faced with Manigault Newman's tapes, Trump must be wondering what other staffers will take with them when they walk out the door. More ominously, for our country, is the issue of what could happen in a dangerous world when so many norms are rendered obsolete. In the face of a financial crisis, the markets might not trust the information coming from a truth-challenged White House. Confronted with an epidemic disease, a dysfunctional White House staff might not be able to pull together, or provide the public with clear guidance. In an escalating trade war with China or military intervention abroad, Trump might not be able to count on support from American allies. In the aftermath of a cyberattack, foreign countries could use Trump's own attacks on our intelligence community to discredit our claims.

As the Trump White House has learned this week: Norms can seem like inconvenient conventions, until you see what the world is like without them.

Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser during the Obama administration, is author of “The World as It Is.”

Brennan: Trump colluded with Russians and now he’s desperate

Alaska News - Thu, 2018-08-16 05:31

Former CIA Director John Brennan testifies on Capitol Hill in Washington in May 2017, before the House Intelligence Committee Russia Investigation Task Force. President Donald Trump is revoking Brennan’s security clearance. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File)

WASHINGTON — Former CIA Director John Brennan said Thursday that President Donald Trump yanked his security clearance because his campaign colluded with the Russians to sway the 2016 election and is now desperate to end the special counsel's investigation.

In an opinion piece in The New York Times, Brennan cites press reports and Trump's own goading of Russia during the campaign to find Democrat Hillary Clinton's missing emails.

Trump himself drew a direct connection between the revocation of Brennan's clearance and the Russia probe, telling The Wall Street Journal the investigation is a "sham," and "these people led it!"

"So I think it's something that had to be done," Trump said.

Brennan wrote that Trump's claims of no collusion with Russia are "hogwash" and that the only question remaining is whether the collusion amounts to a "constituted criminally liable conspiracy."

"Trump clearly has become more desperate to protect himself and those close to him, which is why he made the politically motivated decision to revoke my security clearance in an attempt to scare into silence others who might dare to challenge him," he wrote.

Brennan's loss of a security clearance was an unprecedented act of retribution against a vocal critic and politicizes the federal government's security clearance process. Former CIA directors and other top national security officials are typically allowed to keep their clearances, at least for some period, so they can be in a position to advise their successors and to hold certain jobs.

Trump said Wednesday he is reviewing the security clearances of several other former top intelligence and law enforcement officials, including former FBI Director James Comey. All are critics of the president or are people whom Trump appears to believe are against him.

Democrats called it an "enemies list," a reference to the Nixon White House, which kept a list of President Richard Nixon's political opponents to be targeted with punitive measures.

There was no reference to the Russia probe in a White House statement Wednesday in which Trump denounced Brennan's criticism of him and spoke anxiously of "the risks posed by his erratic conduct and behavior." The president said he was fulfilling his "constitutional responsibility to protect the nation's classified information."

Trump, his statement read by his press secretary, accused Brennan of having "leveraged his status as a former high-ranking official with access to highly sensitive information to make a series of unfounded and outrageous allegations, wild outbursts on the internet and television about this administration."

"Mr. Brennan's lying and recent conduct characterized by increasingly frenzied commentary is wholly inconsistent with access to the nations' most closely held secrets," Trump said.

In the Journal interview, Trump said he was prepared to yank Brennan's clearance last week but that it was too "hectic." The president was on an extended working vacation at his New Jersey golf club last week.

Brennan has indeed been deeply critical of Trump's conduct, calling his performance at a press conference last month with Russian President Vladimir Putin in Finland "nothing short of treasonous."

Brennan said Wednesday that he had not heard from the CIA or the Office of the Director of National Intelligence that his security clearance was being revoked, but learned it when the White House announced it. There is no requirement that a president has to notify top intelligence officials of his plan to revoke a security clearance.

Trump's statement said the Brennan issue raises larger questions about the practice of allowing former officials to maintain their security clearances, and said that others officials' were under review.

They include Comey; James Clapper, the former director of national intelligence; former CIA Director Michael Hayden; former national security adviser Susan Rice; and Andrew McCabe, who served as Trump's deputy FBI director until he was fired in March.

Also on the list: fired FBI agent Peter Strzok, who was removed from the Russia investigation over anti-Trump text messages; former FBI lawyer Lisa Page, with whom Strzok exchanged messages; and senior Justice Department official Bruce Ohr, whom Trump recently accused on Twitter of "helping disgraced Christopher Steele 'find dirt on Trump.'"

Ohr was friends with Steele, the former British intelligence officer commissioned by an American political research firm to explore Trump's alleged ties with the Russian government. He is the only current government employee on the list.

At least two of the former officials, Comey and McCabe, do not currently have security clearances, and none of the eight receive intelligence briefings. Trump's concern apparently is that their former status gives special weight to their statements, both to Americans and foreign foes.

Former intelligence officials said Trump has moved from threatening to revoke security clearances of former intelligence officials who have not been involved in the Russia investigation to former officials who did work on the probe. They spoke on condition of anonymity to share private conversations Trump has had with people who have worked in the field.

The CIA referred questions to the White House.

Clapper, reacting on CNN, called Trump's actions "unprecedented," but said he didn't plan to stop speaking out.

Sarah Huckabee Sanders, Trump's press secretary, insisted the White House wasn't targeting only Trump critics. But Trump did not order a review of the clearance held by former national security adviser Mike Flynn, who was fired from the White House for lying to Vice President Mike Pence about his conversations with Russian officials and later pleaded guilty to lying to the FBI.

Democrats, and even some Republicans, lined up to denounce the president's move, with House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., slamming it as a "stunning abuse of power." And California Rep. Adam Schiff, the ranking Democrat on the House intelligence committee, tweeted, "An enemies list is ugly, undemocratic and un-American."

Several Republicans also weighed in, with Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., saying, "Unless there's something tangible that I'm unaware of, it just, as I've said before, feels like a banana republic kind of thing."

___

Associated Press writers Deb Riechmann, Zeke Miller, Lisa Mascaro and Matthew Daly contributed to this report.

Here's Why Alaska Might Seriously Consider a Carbon Tax - Mother Jones

Legislative News - Thu, 2018-08-16 02:01

Mother Jones

Here's Why Alaska Might Seriously Consider a Carbon Tax
Mother Jones
Alaska isn't exactly the first state you'd expect to embrace a price on carbon. Yet the state legislature will likely be weighing one after the November elections. When carbon taxes keep getting scrapped by blue states like Washington and Oregon, why ...

Republican Lt. Gov. candidates discuss upcoming election - Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

Legislative News - Thu, 2018-08-16 00:17

Republican Lt. Gov. candidates discuss upcoming election
Fairbanks Daily News-Miner
Jackson moved to Alaska for an Army assignment in 1983 and also worked as a constituent liaison for Sen. Dan Sullivan. Meyers was a senator in the Alaska legislature for 10 years and a member of the House for eight years. Wright was born on Elmendorf ...

In debate, Democratic primary candidates stake out plans for taking on Don Young

Alaska News - Wed, 2018-08-15 21:55

Alyse Galvin and Dimitri Shein, candidates running in the Democratic primary for U.S. Congress in Alaska, offered voters a choice between a progressive businessman and an independent moderate in an Anchorage debate Tuesday night.

Galvin has long been registered an independent, and spent much of the debate staking out the "listen to all sides" territory. Shein is a Democrat with a quick wit who has focused his message on "Medicare for all," offering single-payer health care for all Americans.

Galvin said she has the political and financial backing to take on Alaska Rep. Don Young. Shein said he has the radical message needed to counter the longtime lawmaker.

So far, the money has flowed towards Galvin in the campaign: She has raised more than $600,000, mostly in small-dollar donations, while Shein's campaign has been largely self-funded. He raised less than $40,000 from donors as of his August 1 filing with the Federal Election Commission.

Galvin said her opponent is "a really nice person," but "what he doesn't have is the machine that I have to win" against Young, who has held his seat since 1973.

But Shein argued that the way to take down Young (who had raised more than $800,000 as of August 1) is with the right message. "The only way we can win" is by connecting with the business community, Shein said. "You better be talking business. You better be talking about bringing money to the state of Alaska."

Shein said that Medicare for All would be an economic driver. He wants the plan that is available to his wife and six children — all Alaska Natives — to be available to the rest of the state's residents.

Having government-sponsored health care allowed Shein, an accountant, to start his own business, he said. Making it available to all Alaskans will diversify the state's economy and bring in more doctors, he argued.

"The reason Republicans win and Don Young wins is they talk money. I am going to talk money. We need a business message. We need to connect financially" with voters, Shein said.

Shein supports existing legislation H.R. 676, a Medicare-for-all bill that pays for health care from exisiting government revenues, such as payments for the Medicare, Medicaid and the Children's Health Insurance Program, increasing personal income tax on the top 5 percent of earners, adding a progressive excise tax on payroll, a tax on unearned income and a tax on stock and bond transactions.

"We just need to get people elected to pass it," Shein said at the debate.

Shein is a Russian immigrant — he moved to Alaska when he was 12 years old. He met his wife at West High School in Anchorage. They both attended University of Alaska Anchorage. She is a physician; he is an accountant. They have six children.

Galvin, a lifelong Alaskan who previously lobbied for education initiatives, offered a less specific prescription for addressing Alaskan's high health care costs, but said she is open to any solution that helps offer comprehensive health care for all and lower costs for pharmaceuticals and insurance.

As an independent, she would start by focusing on solutions that the parties have in common, Shein said. "We have not had an advocate at the table," she said.

When asked about drilling in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, the pair proved that in Alaska, even Democratic primary candidates, aren't going to aggressively oppose the state's most lucrative industry. Galvin said she supports a continued quality process for listening to local communities. She criticized the way it came about, and the tax bill to which Alaska's congressional delegation attached it. Shein said he doesn't think ANWR oil will be the financial boon some hope, as oil prices go down and drilling becomes a less-viable option in the future.

Both Galvin and Shein are making a play to nab the rural and Native voters that have long come out Don Young.

"You're not going to beat Don Young without the rural vote," Shein said.

"People got into a habit," Gavlin said. Village elders want to know that candidates appreciate their ways and opinions, she said.

Why attacks on free speech and the free press are so dangerous

Alaska News - Wed, 2018-08-15 19:17

(Pixabay)

"Fake news." It's been repeated so frequently that it's become a tired joke. As time has passed, the rhetorical war on the press has heated up: President Donald Trump called the media "the enemy of the American people" as early in his presidency as February 2017, and since then, the attacks from our nation's president and some of his supporters have become increasingly strident, and the threats of economic or physical consequences more severe. Informed criticism of the media is normal, even healthy for our democracy. But branding the press as the enemy and threatening actions that would curtail First Amendment protections for free speech and the free press isn't just wrongheaded, it's dangerous.

The media in America isn't some homogeneous soup. It's made up of thousands of press entities, from national outlets such as cable news networks, big city newspapers, radio and TV stations, all the way down to small-town weekly papers and hyperlocal news sites at which the editor, reporter, sales manager, circulation director and publisher are all the same person. Although the industry has trended toward consolidation and chain ownership, many — including the Anchorage Daily News — are independently owned, based entirely within the communities they serve.

To be clear, some of the fault for perceptions of bias in the media lies with outlets that have blurred the lines between which content is news and which is opinion. In particular, cable news networks such as FOX News and MSNBC, which have aligned their commentary with ideological factions, have lent credence to the notion that the media is pushing an agenda rather than focusing on balanced reporting.

But the vast majority of U.S. journalists don't deserve to be tarred by accusations of bias. They go out every day and tell their communities' stories, making every effort to be fair and accurate in their coverage. When they make errors, it is the result of honest misunderstanding, not an insidious agenda.

The work of the press is essential. Without a free press to provide a check on our government, we would have little means to check the claims of politicians. Imagine trying to figure out what was going on in Juneau if it were legislators themselves in charge of the flow of information about the state government. Journalists are key to holding our public servants accountable.

Nationally, this means making Americans aware of the more than $1 million in chartered flights taken by former Health and Human Services Secretary Tom Price, or civilian deaths caused by drone strikes under President Barack Obama. Closer to home, it means keeping Anchorage residents aware of the spike in property crime, the outsize cost of the Legislature's local office space or the swelling price tag of the municipality's financial software. If the press is the enemy of anything, it is corruption and waste by those in positions of power in our society. And it's easy to see why the people in those positions would seek to undermine trust in the media.

In particular, it is dangerous for a U.S. president to label the press the enemy and to threaten to undermine protections for press freedom, because his statements carry great weight both at home and abroad. When a president declares he and his government are the only reliable source of information, the potential for his abuse of the people's trust should be clear to all.

Another major consequence of the attacks on the press has been the damage done to our sense of shared truth and reality. As political figures have declared any coverage with which they disagree to be inaccurate, conspiracy theories have spread about mass shooting victims being actors, or vast plots and shadow governments controlling events across the world. As politicians — and even the president — encourage their supporters to disregard the reporting of the media, they also foster an ecosystem in which people are free to disregard information that makes them uncomfortable or challenges their views. If we can't agree on basic facts, there is little hope for us to agree on anything else.

The First Amendment is first for a reason. Without it, maintaining the rights guaranteed by the others would be next to impossible. The ability to espouse contrary views and confront uncomfortable truths is the bedrock of American democracy. As Thomas Jefferson wrote in a letter to a member of the Continental Congress, "Were it left to me to decide whether we should have a government without newspapers or newspapers without a government, I should not hesitate a moment to prefer the latter."

The Anchorage Daily News is proudly owned and operated by Alaskans. Our reporters live in neighborhoods across Anchorage and the Mat-Su. Our sales employees shop at the businesses they talk to about placing ads in the paper. Our paper carriers are on your street every morning. All of these people believe in the importance of news in our community, and none of them are your enemy.

The views expressed here are those of the Anchorage Daily News, as expressed by its editorial board, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. Current editorial board members are Ryan Binkley, Andy Pennington, Julia O'Malley, Tom Hewitt and Andrew Jensen. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary@adn.com. Send submissions shorter than 200 words to letters@adn.com or click here to submit via any web browser.

In high-stakes primary, Dunleavy and Treadwell battle for GOP spot in three-way governor’s race

Alaska News - Wed, 2018-08-15 18:54

Mead Treadwell and Mike Dunleavy are Republican candidates for governor of Alaska, 2018. (Bob Hallinen / ADN archives)

In a primary election that could very well determine the next governor, Alaskans will head to the polls Tuesday to decide which of two Republican front-runners will advance to the November ballot.

One contender is Mead Treadwell, who lives in Anchorage and served as lieutenant governor under then-Gov. Sean Parnell. The other is Mike Dunleavy, of Wasilla, who served as a state senator.

For Alaska Republicans, this year is an opportunity to reclaim the state's top elected office, with the race on track to be a three-way fight. In red-state Alaska, some Democrats fear that incumbent Gov. Bill Walker — a Republican-turned-independent who teamed with a Democrat to defeat Parnell — will split votes with former U.S. Sen. Mark Begich, a Democrat, handing the advantage to the Republican nominee.

Among the seven candidates in the Republican primary for governor, Dunleavy and Treadwell have emerged as the two main contenders, equipped with significant campaign donations and political experience.

[Early voting has started for Alaska's primary election. Here's what you need to know.]

Both candidates present themselves as pro-life conservatives. Dunleavy campaigns on a plan to "Make Alaska Safe Again." Treadwell blasts current state policy toward criminals as "catch and release."

In an interview this week, 62-year-old Treadwell said, if elected governor, his top priorities would include growing the state economy and "taking care of Alaska families." Dunleavy, 57, named public safety, educational outcomes and the state's fiscal issues as priorities.

Dunleavy has been in the running for governor since last year, resigning from the state Senate in January to focus on his campaign. Treadwell jumped into the race at the last minute, on June 1.

"(Dunleavy) got commitments from people early. Solidified his base," said Curtis Thayer, president of the Alaska Chamber who has long been active in Alaska Republican politics. "That's one thing Mead fights against, he did get late into the game, and people have made commitments."

Parnell, whom Treadwell served with as lieutenant governor, has endorsed Dunleavy. So has former Anchorage Mayor Dan Sullivan and organizations such as Alaska Family Action, a Christian conservative group.

Treadwell said this week he had not initially planned to run for governor, but his mind changed as he noticed other Republican campaigns weren't taking off, leaving Dunleavy without a well-funded challenger.

"This opportunity is too strong to leave to somebody who I believe the Democrats could make mincemeat of in the fall," he said.

Dunleavy and an independent expenditure group supporting his candidacy have raised and spent far more than Treadwell, according to reports filed Tuesday with the Alaska Public Offices Commission.

[Pro-Dunleavy super PAC says supporters have pledged more than $500,000 to boost gubernatorial bid]

By Aug. 11, Dunleavy had raised $311,330 over the course of his campaign and spent $290,676, according to a report filed with APOC.

Treadwell had raised $136,312 and spent $130,595.

Meanwhile, the independent expenditure group Dunleavy for Alaska had raised nearly $750,000, according to an APOC report. A big chunk of that money — more than $500,000 — was donated by two people: Dunleavy's brother, Francis, who lives in Texas, and Bob Penney, a developer and Alaska sportfishing advocate. An independent expenditure group that formed in support of Treadwell has raised a fraction of that amount, according to APOC reports.

Independent expenditure groups can collect unlimited donations from individuals and corporations under a legal framework set out in the 2010 Citizens United ruling by the U.S. Supreme Court. However, the groups are barred from coordinating with a candidate's campaign.

Given the lopsided fundraising race, Jerry McBeath, an emeritus professor of political science at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, said he expected Dunleavy would likely win the Republican primary.

"He's getting his message out," McBeath said.

Dunleavy said money helps in spreading a campaign's message, but added he doesn't think it can buy an election.

"I have a brother who cares about his brother, who thinks it would be kind of cool to help his brother win an election just like any family member would, whether they lived in state or out of state," he said.

Barring any last-minute attacks, the primary has been relatively uneventful, absent the bare-knuckle jabs that often emerge in statewide races.

James Muller, a political science professor at the University of Alaska Anchorage, said it's not unusual for an election in August to seem quiet. Alaskans are still outside — fishing, gardening, enjoying summer. He anticipates that some voting in the Republican primary will decide who they'd prefer for governor right before Election Day.

Conservative voters who know they don't want Walker or Begich might still be undecided on the Republican nominee, in other words.

"Part of the reason for that is the two of them (Dunleavy and Treadwell) agree on a lot of things," Muller said.

Both candidates "seem to be fairly polite in criticizing the other," Muller added.

"I'd say that even though there has been mudslinging, there hasn't been to the extent that we've seen in the past," said Rebecca Logan, who is CEO of oil and gas group the Alaska Support Industry Alliance but spoke independent of her role there. "It's not anywhere near what we've seen before."

[The race is on: Why Begich and Treadwell are joining the crowded fight for governor]

She said Dunleavy and Treadwell are "similar in a lot of their ideas." McBeath said he also doesn't see any stark contrasts between the positions the two candidates have taken on campaign issues. Dunleavy seems slightly more aggressive about cutting the budget, he said, and they're both against cutting the Permanent Fund dividend, the annual payout Alaska residents get from the state's oil wealth fund.

McBeath believes many Alaskans are most concerned about how gubernatorial candidates will protect those PFD checks.

"Elections are often decided on real short-term issues," McBeath said. The PFD, he said, "is a money-in-the-pocket issue — so it's not the general state of the Alaska economy, it's how much money is coming into my pocket? Is it going to be reduced or increased?"

The main place where McBeath sees significant differences between the candidates is in their backgrounds.

Dunleavy has worked as a teacher, principal, superintendent and an education consultant. He also served as a school board member, and was elected to the state Senate in 2012.

Treadwell is a former chairman of the U.S. Arctic Research Commission. In addition to serving with Parnell, he was deputy commissioner for the Department of Environmental Conservation under Gov. Wally Hickel in the early 1990s. He most recently worked at private equity firm PT Capital, where he was president.

[Treadwell says he's unbothered by Parnell's support of rival]

There are also five other candidates on the ballot in the Republican primary race for governor: Thomas Gordon, Gerald Heikes, Merica Hlatcu, Michael Sheldon, and Darin Colbry. But, so far, those candidates have raised little to no money and campaign-watchers do not see a potential spoiler among them.

"The reality is, money always makes a difference," said Ivan Moore, a longtime Alaska pollster and campaign consultant.

Polls open statewide at 7 a.m. Tuesday. Find your polling place here.

Dunleavy and Treadwell will face off in a debate on Thursday, Aug. 16, on KTVA Channel 11. The debate will be televised from 6 to 7 p.m. The debate will run longer online, where you can watch it from 6 until 7:30 p.m. at KTVA.com

Two UAA volleyball players named to GNAC preseason team

Alaska News - Wed, 2018-08-15 18:13

When this season's UAA volleyball team debuts Saturday with the annual alumni match, it really will pit the old against the new.

Coach Chris Green's youngest team since he took over 11 years ago will introduce itself to fans in the 7 p.m. match at the Alaska Airlines Center.

The 15-woman roster includes seven freshmen, four sophomores, one junior and three seniors. The seven freshmen are the most for a Green team, as are the combined total of 11 freshmen and sophomores.

But the Seawolves are by no means green.

Among those returning to the team are two seniors and one sophomore who netted major postseason awards in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference.

Two of them Wednesday were named to the GNAC preseason team — Chrisalyn Johnson, a senior outside hitter from Anchorage, and Casey Davenport, a sophomore setter from Auburn, Washington.


Johnson

Johnson, a powerful 5-foot-9, was a unanimous pick on the 14-player team. She was made the GNAC honorable mention team at the end of last season, during which she averaged 3.05 kills per set. She posted double-doubles in 11 of her final 15 matches last season.

Davenport took over as UAA's starting setter midway through last season and garnered Freshman of the Year honors in the GNAC.

Johnson is one of three seniors on the team. Tara Melton, a 6-foot senior middle blocker from Glendale, Arizona, joined the team last season as a transfer and earned the GNAC Newcomer of the Year award after averaging 1.46 kills per set.


Davenport

Taylor Noga, a 5-9 defensive specialist from Anchorage, averaged 2.07 digs per set, is a strong server and is one of UAA's top players on serve-receive.

The only junior on the team is 6-1 middle blocker Vanessa Boyer (formerly Vanessa Hayes) of Salem, Oregon. Last season for the Seawolves she ranked third in kills per set with 1.65 and second in blocks per set .82

UAA is coming off a 19-11 season and its fifth straight NCAA tournament appearance. The Seawolves aren't ranked in the Division II preseason top 25, although they received votes in the poll.

Navy guided-missile destroyer visits Anchorage

Alaska News - Wed, 2018-08-15 17:45

The U.S. Navy guided-missile destroyer Momsen docked at the Port of Alaska on Wednesday. The ship's visit to Alaska coincided with the Arctic Maritime Symposium, a multi-agency discussion of the challenges and opportunities presented by Arctic maritime operations.

The USS Momsen will be docked at the port until Saturday and will host small community groups. There will not be any public tours.

The Momsen's crew of roughly 320 will be visiting Anchorage throughout the week, enjoying a few days of shore leave before the ship departs Saturday.

About the News-Miner 2018 primary election candidate surveys - Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

Legislative News - Wed, 2018-08-15 17:15

About the News-Miner 2018 primary election candidate surveys
Fairbanks Daily News-Miner
The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner sent a list of questions to candidates for U.S. House, governor, lieutenant governor and Alaska Legislature, whose names will appear on the Aug. 21 primary election ballot. Of special note is that Gov. Bill Walker and Lt ...

and more »

Second Alaska cannabis event fined over public consumption - Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

Legislative News - Wed, 2018-08-15 17:03

Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

Second Alaska cannabis event fined over public consumption
Fairbanks Daily News-Miner
Alaska Marijuana Control Office Director Erika McConnell suggested that the Legislature create an event permit under which public consumption would be allowed at marijuana-related gatherings. McConnell asked for the fine against Hempfest in a ...

and more »

Kathryn Dodge--House District 1 - Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

Legislative News - Wed, 2018-08-15 17:03

Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

Kathryn Dodge--House District 1
Fairbanks Daily News-Miner
The Alaska Legislature has been carefully going through department budgets looking for savings since 2015. That said, I always watch and listen for opportunities to do things smarter, better or cheaper. Contact me if you have a cost-saving idea. 4 ...

Byron Mallott--Lieutenant governor (Incumbent not on Aug. 21 ballot. See note at top of file) - Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

Legislative News - Wed, 2018-08-15 17:03

Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

Byron Mallott--Lieutenant governor (Incumbent not on Aug. 21 ballot. See note at top of file)
Fairbanks Daily News-Miner
Bill Walker signed legislation allowing Alaska Permanent Fund investment earnings to be used to help close the state's projected $2.1 billion budget for the next fiscal year, which starts July 1. Still, the budget is expected to be short $700 million ...

Steve Thompson--House District 2 - Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

Legislative News - Wed, 2018-08-15 17:03

Fairbanks Daily News-Miner

Steve Thompson--House District 2
Fairbanks Daily News-Miner
Ideally, I would like to see every Alaskan receive a full PFD. Legislation passed this session limits legislators' fund withdrawal from the earnings reserve. 2. Do you support or oppose placing into the Alaska Constitution the issuance of the annual ...

Not just land heat waves: Oceans are in hot water, too

Alaska News - Wed, 2018-08-15 16:32

WASHINGTON — Even the oceans are breaking temperature records in this summer of heat waves.

Off the San Diego coast, scientists earlier this month recorded all-time high seawater temperatures since daily measurements began in 1916.

"Just like we have heat waves on land, we also have heat waves in the ocean," said Art Miller of the Scripps Institution of Oceanography.

Between 1982 and 2016, the number of "marine heat waves" roughly doubled, and likely will become more common and intense as the planet warms, a study released Wednesday found. Prolonged periods of extreme heat in the oceans can damage kelp forests and coral reefs, and harm fish and other marine life.

"This trend will only further accelerate with global warming," said Thomas Frolicher, a climate scientist at the University of Bern in Switzerland, who led the research.

His team defined marine heat waves as extreme events in which sea-surface temperatures exceeded the 99th percentile of measurements for a given location. Because oceans both absorb and release heat more slowly than air, most marine heat waves last for at least several days — and some for several weeks, said Frolicher.

"We knew that average temperatures were rising. What we haven't focused on before is that the rise in the average comes at you in clumps of very hot days — a shock of several days or weeks of very high temperatures," said Michael Oppenheimer, a Princeton University climate scientist who was not involved in the study.

Many sea critters have evolved to survive within a fairly narrow band of temperatures compared to creatures on land, and even incremental warming can be disruptive.

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Some free-swimming sea animals like bat rays or lobsters may shift their routines. But stationary organisms like coral reefs and kelp forests "are in real peril," said Michael Burrows, an ecologist at the Scottish Marine Institute, who was not part of the research.

In 2016 and 2017, persistent high ocean temperatures off eastern Australia killed off as much as half of the shallow water corals of the Great Barrier Reef — with significant consequences for other creatures dependent upon the reef.

"One in every four fish in the ocean lives in or around coral reefs," said Ove Hoegh-Guldberg, a marine biologist at the University of Queensland. "So much of the ocean's biodiversity depends upon a fairly small amount of the ocean floor."

The latest study in Nature relied on satellite data and other records of sea-surface temperatures including from ships and buoys.

It didn't include the recent record-breaking measurements off Scripps Pier in San Diego — which reached 79.5 degrees Fahrenheit on August 9 — but Frolicher and Miller said the event was an example of a marine heat wave.

Miller said he knew something was odd when he spotted a school of bat rays — which typically only congregate in pockets of warm water — swimming just off the pier earlier this month.

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Changes in ocean circulation associated with warmer surface waters will likely mean decreased production of phytoplankton — the tiny organisms that form the basis of the marine food web, he said.

Marine biologists nicknamed a patch of persistent high temperatures in the Pacific Ocean between 2013 and 2016 "the Blob." During that period, decreased phytoplankton production led to a cascading lack of food for many species, causing thousands of California sea lion pups to starve, said Miller, who had no role in the Nature study.

“We’ve repeatedly set new heat records. It’s not surprising, but it is shocking,” he said.

Is Trump finally ready to turn his sights to remaking the 9th Circuit Court?

Alaska News - Wed, 2018-08-15 16:19

WASHINGTON – There's been a noticeable exception to President Donald Trump's otherwise successful effort to appoint young, conservative judges to the nation's appellate courts.

The Senate has confirmed a record 24 new circuit court judges nationwide in 20 months — with two more nominees scheduled for votes this week. But Trump has made far less progress in the jurisdiction he criticizes the most: the liberal-leaning U.S. 9th Circuit Court of Appeals, including California and eight other Western states.

Since Trump took office, the Senate has confirmed only one 9th Circuit judge — in Hawaii — leaving seven openings. A nominee in Oregon was abruptly withdrawn last month when it became clear he lacked the votes for Senate approval.

And Trump has yet to even nominate anyone for the three vacancies in California, partly because of a standoff with Sens. Dianne Feinstein and Kamala Harris.

But there are signs that the administration is beginning to set its sights on the 9th Circuit, likely triggering a bruising fight with Democrats.

For one thing, Trump is running out of vacancies in other circuits, particularly in conservative states where confirmation is easier.

"They've been focusing on lower-hanging fruit," said Ilya Shapiro, a senior fellow in constitutional studies at the Cato Institute. "After a while there are only so many seats to fill."

More than half of the 13 vacancies remaining nationwide are on the 9th Circuit.

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Why Trump isn't moving faster is a mystery, considering how conservatives have long reviled the 9th Circuit and Trump has frequently attacked its rulings.

Since his inauguration, 9th Circuit judges have ruled that he couldn't legally bar tens of thousands of visitors and immigrants from several mostly Muslim nations from entering the country (a decision the Supreme Court overturned). They've forced him to continue processing renewal applications of immigrants previously approved for the Deferred Action for Childhood Arrivals program, which Trump ended. Last month, a judge knocked down Trump's order restricting federal funds to so-called sanctuary cities.

"I thought they would have moved more aggressively," San Francisco appellate attorney Ben Feuer said.

But the recent fight over Ryan W. Bounds' nomination in Oregon showed that Trump and the Republican-led Senate are ready to adopt a tougher stance, including scrapping a long-standing Senate tradition to push through Trump's choices if necessary.

Oregon's two Democratic senators, Ron Wyden and Jeff Merkley, opposed Bounds and refused to issue their "blue slips," a century-old courtesy in which senators are asked to sign off on nominees from their state.

In the past, rejection by both home state senators was enough to effectively kill a nomination. But for the first time, Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles E. Grassley of Iowa brushed off the home senators' views and moved forward anyway.

Previously the Senate has only considered a nomination if both or at least one of the home state senators approved.

Bounds' nomination ultimately failed, but not because the Oregon senators didn't return their blue slips. Instead some of Bounds' old racially charged writings raised doubts among enough senators, including at least one Republican, that the White House withdrew his nomination.

But the precedent of breaking with the blue-slip tradition has deep implications for the 9th Circuit, where four of the nine states it covers have two Democratic senators.

Idaho's Republican senators support Trump nominee Ryan D. Nelson, so he is quickly moving through the process without a problem.

And Hawaii's two Democratic senators enthusiastically backed Trump nominee Judge Mark J. Bennett as a consensus pick who had already been vetted by their review committees. He was approved in July by a 72-27 vote.

But the rest of the vacancies will not be so easy.

Trump nominated appellate attorney Eric D. Miller of Washington state though he was not recommended by the review committee created by the state's Democratic senators, Patty Murray and Maria Cantwell. Murray says she's reserving judgment on Miller, but Cantwell's office immediately signaled another potential fight ahead, telling the Seattle Times that "the senator did not and does not consent to Eric Miller's nomination."

In Arizona, where Trump doesn't get along with either Republican senator, he's held off as well.

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Trump is saving the biggest battle for last. In California, talks between the administration and the state's senators appear to have stalled.

The White House floated some potential names, which the senators' review committees have examined. In early May, Harris and Feinstein recommended three potential judges to the White House. Neither side would say if there was any overlap between the two groups, but the lack of any nomination suggests there was not.

A White House official said the president intended to fill the 9th Circuit vacancies with more conservatives, but would not provide any timeline.
The recent focus on completing the confirmation of Judge Brett Kavanaugh to the Supreme Court could be delaying action in the 9th Circuit, though it hasn't stopped the Senate from voting on other judicial nominees.

Feinstein said in a statement that they are working to come to consensus.

Trump's best chance to reshape the 9th Circuit will be filling two of the vacant California seats once held by liberal lions: Judge Harry Pregerson, who took a reduced workload in 2015 and died in late 2017, and Judge Stephen Reinhardt, who died unexpectedly in March. Both were President Jimmy Carter appointees and were considered among the most left-leaning judges in the country.

Judge Alex Kozinski, who was appointed by President Ronald Reagan, retired in December amid accusations of sexual misconduct, creating a third California vacancy.

Though Trump is within striking distance of flipping some circuits from a majority of Democratic appointees to a majority of Republican appointees, the best he can hope for so far in the 9th would be increasing the conservative presence on the court.

Before Trump took office, the 9th Circuit had 20 Democratic and nine Republican appointees. If Trump filled all the current openings with conservatives, the balance would be 16 Democratic appointees to 13 Republican appointees.

Feinstein, the ranking Democrat on the Senate Judiciary Committee, is livid about Republicans' willingness to move forward without the blue slips and has warned them publicly against proposing nominees in California she and Harris don't support.

"It's no secret that President Trump and Republicans want to reshape the 9th Circuit and we will not accept unwarranted, partisan attacks on our courts," Feinstein said in March. "I am fully committed to ensuring that 9th Circuit nominees reflect our state's communities and values and are well-regarded by their local bench and bar."

Be kind to your mind and make podcasts your new running buddy

Alaska News - Wed, 2018-08-15 16:12

I suppose the easiest route to triple-digit comments on a Facebook post is to spout an incendiary political commentary, or ask people about their favorite podcasts.

I asked about podcasts last week and watched, eyes widening, as the thread grew and grew.

It started because it was my long run day. I sat sipping my coffee extra-slowly, thinking about the hours stretching ahead of me on my feet. I'm training for the Equinox marathon in Fairbanks in mid-September, and the runs on my calendar have only gotten longer and hillier as my plan has progressed.

I run for a duration of time, not miles, and that Saturday my calendar told me I needed to run for between 4.5-5 hours. That's a road trip to Denali. That's a flight to California. That's when I'm most of the way through a work day and have waited too long to eat; it's a double-feature movie.

I was wringing my hands about what to do with my poor old brain. Sure, when race day rolls around I won't be plugged in. But then, unlike during my training runs, I'll have the high of race day and the energy of other runners to buoy me. As I run through those beautiful fall Fairbanks woods I've been picturing, I'll think about how every step and every minute gets me closer to the finish line. Closer to that unique form of post-marathon exhaustion beyond exhaustion combined with euphoria.

Typically I combine a few different tactics to keep myself motivated during long runs.

I may run with someone for all or part of the run. The downside to this for me is that while I love catching up with friends, I also covet the alone time I get from running. It can take all or most of my brain space to focus on moving forward and staying positive, and sometimes when I'm also focused on conversation it feels doubly draining. Still, going for part of a long run with someone helps me to break things up, shaving off an hour or two here or there, so the rest of it doesn't feel as long.

There's music, of course. But that gets old. And I hate that even one song that rubs me slightly the wrong way can impact my mood, which is a fragile and mission-critical thing when running.

So, enter podcasts.

I admit that podcast people, probably myself included, can be fanatical in their enthusiasm. Since the dawn of podcasts in the mid 2000s, genres have exploded. You can download and listen to these bite-sized (typically ranging from 30 minutes to an hour) audio files on topics ranging from current events, true crime, short stories, music, comedy and so much more.

Podcasts have made folding laundry enriching. I scrub down my bathroom to podcasts; I paint; I commute. And they've vastly improved my long runs.

While running, my mind is receptive to any level of stimulation. Listening to an episode of a favorite podcast while running can set off fireworks in my head. I feel synapses fire in concert with bursts of endorphin-fueled euphoria. I want to share what I've just heard with the world, convinced it'll be made a better place with whatever revelations have just poured into my brain.

Yes, it's like I said — it becomes fanatical. I try to convince other people to listen. Like any new hobby or habit, it can be hard to pick up listening to podcasts if it's not already a thing you do. So I try to share and convince people, like my grandma, my dad, my best friend, to just get over that first hump and listen to a damn podcast.

So, with that, podcasts are readily accessible via streaming on the internet and on a number of free podcast phone apps. You can even download podcasts for airplanes, or, say, for long runs that may not have great cell signal.

Like with anything else, I recommend being wary of where it's relatively safe in Alaska to have earbuds in, and where it's not. For my long runs along the Old Glenn Highway, I'm pretty confident I'm not going to run into any bears.

Here are some of my favorite shows:

This American Life. The exact same as the radio show on NPR, but you can download the full hour-long episodes to listen to when it's convenient.

99% Invisible. An incredible and varied series that takes deep dives into the design and thought behind everyday objects and phenomena in the world around us.

Rough Translation. Another NPR podcast, this beautiful series explores worldwide perspectives on issues we talk about in the United States.

Midnight Oil. Produced right here in Alaska via APRN, this excellent podcast delves into the complex history and impacts of oil development in Alaska.

Reply All. An entertaining podcast mostly about the internet.

Love + Radio. One of my very favorites even though it's often one of the most difficult, this show features in-depth interviews that often challenge my morality. Not for the faint of heart.

Some of the shows recommended to me:

Living Myth with Michael Meade. I listened to one episode, No. 82, and was absolutely sold. A stunning and straightforward reflection on life and spirituality.

In the Dark. A Peabody Award-winning true crime podcast.

Ear Hustle. Life inside San Quentin State Prison, produced by two inmates alongside a volunteer artist.

And those are just the ones I've been able to listen to.

Here's to many more miles with many more podcasts, something that have truly made the 21st century a pretty great time to live (and run).

Alli Harvey lives in Palmer and plays in Southcentral Alaska.

Alaska marijuana board taking comment on proposal for onsite cannabis use

Alaska News - Wed, 2018-08-15 15:54

JUNEAU — Alaska marijuana regulators will take public comment on the latest draft proposal for allowing onsite use of marijuana in authorized stores.

The Marijuana Control Board voted Wednesday for a 60-day comment period and to hold a public hearing.

Regulators have gone back and forth on onsite use for several years, adopting rules that contemplate onsite use but never finalizing how that would work.

The draft calls for consumption areas separated from other areas of a retail store by walls and a secure door, a smoke-free place for employees and a special ventilation system.

The draft also allows for outdoor consumption areas if the board finds that compatible with neighboring uses.

Local governments, via ordinance or a ballot question, could bar onsite use or aspects of it, such as smoking.

She works for Trump. He can’t stand him. This is life with Kellyanne and George Conway.

Alaska News - Wed, 2018-08-15 15:47

In this Thursday, Jan. 19, 2017 file photo, President-elect Donald Trump adviser Kellyanne Conway, center, accompanied by her husband, George, speaks with members of the media as they arrive for a dinner at Union Station in Washington, the day before Trump’s inauguration. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

WASHINGTON – Kellyanne Conway is in her living room, showing me an enormous painting of Audrey Hepburn wearing a peacock on her head, but her husband, George, really wants us to come into his office and look at a photograph of the moment everything changed.

It's a picture he took on election night 2016: Donald Trump is reaching for the first draft of his acceptance speech, just as victory seemed imminent. Back then, George was such an ardent supporter of the president, and so proud of his wife for her historic role as campaign manager, that he wept for joy.

"That photo was from before you cried," Kellyanne says

"Now I cry for other reasons," George mutters.

Kellyanne pretends to ignore that comment, something she's been doing a lot of lately.

"You gotta see this picture," George, 54, says. "You should like this, it's your boss."

"He's not just my boss," Kellyanne, 51, says. "He's our president."

"Yeah," George says, walking out of the room. "We'll see how long that lasts."

Here at the Conways', it's a house divided. She is Trump's loyal adviser, the woman who carried him over the finish line to the White House. He is one of the president's most notable conservative critics and wishes he had never introduced his wife to Trump in the first place.

Kellyanne invited me here because she thought it would be a good symbol for her commitment to, and the enduring strength of, the Trump presidency. The White House may be shedding staff at record speed, but this new home is a sign that Kellyanne isn't going anywhere; that she is, in fact, flourishing.

And that may be true. But as I spent time with Kellyanne and George, I saw an alternative symbol: The Conways, like the rest of the country, have been jolted by the Trump presidency. They love each other, are exasperated by each other, talk about each other behind each other's backs. They share a roof and live in different bunkers.

This may be the story of any marriage – partners can drive each other crazy and still stay together for 50 years – but this marriage is, in many ways, emblematic of our national political predicament, particularly on the right.

And their feud, thanks to George's newfound Twitter hobby, is playing out for more than just the neighbors to see.

When the president was in search of a new communications director last year, George tweeted it was "absurd" that the president so often says one thing and then does the opposite. In addition to various tweets about corgis and the Philadelphia Eagles, he has retweeted dozens of articles critical of the president and his administration, and he penned a 3,473-word essay rebutting Trump's assertion that special counsel Robert Mueller III's Russia investigation was "unconstitutional."

Because George is married to Kellyanne, the chief architect and top saleswoman for Trumpism, and because his dissent seemed to come out of nowhere, George went viral. His retweets were themselves retweeted and topped with bug-eyed emoji. His follower count soared to more than 90,000, and the left adopted this conservative super lawyer as an honorary member of the resistance.

And yet, anyone wondering how Kellyanne and George manage to live in the same place these days should really see the house.

The $7.7 million Mediterranean revivalist, with its terra-cotta roof and three-story turret, looks like a mini Mar-a-Lago. Clocking in at 15,000 square feet, it gives the Conways room for their four children, two corgis and art collection, with plenty of space left over for the kind of dinner parties typical in this tony neighborhood off Embassy Row.

Inside, Kellyanne, who's shorter than she appears on television, scrambles up the staircase barefoot to put on workout clothes. George, a stocky man with a mop of dark hair ("He looks Hawaiian,"as Kellyanne puts it), retires to his office.

"George, we're going for a walk," Kellyanne, now wearing sneakers and her hair in a ponytail, shouts.

George never comes on these walks.

– – –

In fairness to George, Kellyanne is difficult to keep up with.

We're in the woods, chugging up a steep incline. We're in Georgetown going on and off the sidewalk, and on and off the record. We're in Tenleytown, weaving through the sideways glances of lookie-lous, then power-walking through Glover Park.

It's a swampy August night, but Kellyanne doesn't have a drop of sweat on her.

And she talks, about any and everything: issues with her father (he left when she was 3), feminists (the funny thing, she says, is she's living the life they claim to want), or her thoughts on the administration's practice, since reversed, of having federal agents separate migrant families at the border (She didn't like it, she says, but that wasn't the president's fault).

It's never his fault. Kellyanne prides herself as someone willing to "go into any den, and talk about any subject," and often the subject is her boss, our president – whether he deserves the latest volley of outrage from the left, the center, and occasionally the home office just off her living room. She goes on CNN and takes the fight to the journalists Trump calls the enemy. If the president throws playground punches at the press, the Justice Department, his fellow Republicans, she'll find a way to explain that he was the one being bullied. She'll do it with the ferocity of a mother – or a daughter.

It can be a spectacle. Fans call her courageous; critics call her shameless; TV bookers just call her.

Now we're somewhere back near the house, and we've arrived at a different view of family loyalty, one she'd rather not discuss.

"If you make this story all about him, I'll definitely push back on that after it's printed," Kellyanne says, talking about George. "There's no story about me, except the overcoming of circumstance and the fact that I'm so independent."

But it's a story about both of them. Of course it is. The more time I spend with them, the more I know that. It's the story of people who love Trump, and the people who are trying to love them.

Kellyanne remembers how encouraging George was of that independence when they first got married 17 years ago. Back then, Kellyanne was just finding her footing as a sought-after pollster in Washington. She remembers one of George's friends telling him that the best thing for their marriage would be for her to shut down her business – the company she built from scratch – and how George, even though he made enough money himself to support the family, encouraged her to keep working toward her own dream.

And now?

"I feel there's a part of him that thinks I chose Donald Trump over him," Kellyanne says as we walk. "Which is ridiculous. One is my work and one is my marriage."

Naturally, though, the two things overlap. When George criticizes the president publicly, Kellyanne says, the media coverage and the implication that they are pitted against each other bothers their children. And as for the president himself, Kellyanne won't say it irks him, but she does think he finds it "impolite." On that, she'd agree.

"I think it's disrespectful," she says. "I think it disrespects his wife."

Kellyanne is an independent woman, an independent woman stuck between two men who could blow up her day with a tweet.

"Nobody knows who I am because of my husband," she says. "People know of my husband because of me."

After our six-mile sojourn, it is late when we get back to their house. George is in his office, eating a bowl of cereal and yawning. He's too tired for an interview at the moment, he says. He's never done an interview on his thoughts on Trump, preferring to let the tweets speak for themselves.

Two hours after I leave, he's awake and online. A tweet from Merriam-Webster has caught his eye, and he presses the retweet button:

Merriam-Webster: 'Mendacious' (adj.) – likely to tell lies

'Mendacity' (n.) – a lack of honesty or a lie

– – –

There's a theory among District of Columbia Trumpologists that this is all a charade. A way for the Conways to be part of both the Trump White House and the Trump-leery establishment. They live in a part of the city where wealth and influence serve as a cooling balm for the partisan inflammation that has spread elsewhere. In their neighborhood, everybody – Democrat and Republican – belongs to the garden party.

They live across the street from Vernon Jordan, once a top adviser to Bill Clinton, just down the way from Adrienne Arsht, the uber-rich philanthropist and Democratic donor, and next door to a house that until recently belonged to Oleg Deripaska, the Vladimir Putin ally who owned Paul Manafort's debt. Other than the Russian oligarch, whom they never met, the Conways say they get along with their neighbors swimmingly.

From here it's easy to imagine, if you'd like, that not much has changed since Trump took office, save for a bump in everyone's stock portfolio. Mendacity is a vocabulary word, and the border is 1,500 miles away. Here, a husband subtweeting his wife's boss may seem less an act of moral courage than a juicy gossip item, or possibly a way for the family to hedge its bets. (After all, isn't this the same George Conway who once – allegedly! – leaked details of the curvature of Bill Clinton's genitals to the Drudge Report?)

Kellyanne, for her part, told me that part of George's motivation might be that he's just playing his favorite "role" of "agitator."

She, too, is familiar with playing a role. Back before she was the president's wingwoman – a gut check for his political agenda and messaging – she worked for Ted Cruz during the 2016 campaign. Then, she called on Trump to release his tax returns, called him "vulgar" and "unpresidential."

Now she's bound to Trump, both on and off camera. She speaks with the president daily, offering advice both on policy and messaging. She hits the road in her "personal" capacity to stump for candidates and spread the gospel of Trump. She is helping run the administration's war on opioids, works to maintain relationships with Republicans on the Hill and is one of the only threads from the White House that goes all the way back to the campaign. For a president who fears betrayal, that's worth a lot.

"I think he looks at her as part of the family," said Jim McLaughlin, a Republican pollster who knows both the president and Kellyanne.

In Washington, changes in allegiance are nothing new, nor is the art of redirecting any criticism that might follow. Trump loyalists have not changed the fundamental rules of the city – the weapon of shame remains most powerful in the hands of the shameless – but they have redefined the boundaries of play. Some people seem uncomfortable with that, but not Kellyanne. Here's a conversation from a few days after our walk:

Me: You told me you found [George's tweets] disrespectful.

Kellyanne: It is disrespectful, it's a violation of basic decency, certainly, if not marital vows . . . as "a person familiar with their relationship."

Me: No, we're on the record here. You can't say after the fact "as someone familiar."

Kellyanne: I told you everything about his tweets was off the record.

Me: No, that's not true. That never happened.

Kellyanne: Well, people do see it this way. People do see it that way, I don't say I do, but people see it that way.

Me: But I'm saying we never discussed everything about his tweets being off the record. There are certain things you said that I put off the record.

Kellyanne: Fine. I've never actually said what I think about it and I won't say what I think about it, which tells you what I think about it.

– – –

It's three days after the house tour, and we're in Ventnor, New Jersey, just a boardwalk away from Atlantic City, and George is out walking the two Corgis, Skipper and Bonnie.

"I have a dog trainer friend who says when they start pulling, the trick is to turn around quickly and pull in the other direction," George says, spinning on his ankles and gently yanking the dogs to demonstrate. This has always been George's way – not just resisting the current of the world, but trying to redirect the stream itself.

We're outside of George and Kellyanne's beach house, and I'm drowning in metaphors.

Kellyanne bought this house, back in the late '90s when she was single and just starting to make good money. She had to renovate it a few years later, after learning it had been built by boatbuilders who didn't know much about constructing a foundation.

She picked this spot because it felt like home; her mother had been employed at a casino nearby for more than 20 years and still lives in the house where she raised Kellyanne less than an hour away. The beach house also happens to be right down the road from Trump's old Taj Mahal resort and casino.

"It was wildly popular," says Kellyanne.

"It went bankrupt twice," says George.

George isn't from around here. He grew up in Massachusetts, a contrarian since, as a child, he decided to root for the Yankees instead of the Red Sox. By the time he was 30 he was a hotshot lawyer, a partner at a big-time law firm in New York City. While there, George fell into a clutch of Republicans secretly working behind the scenes to lay the groundwork for Bill Clinton's impeachment. It wasn't his day job, just a hobby, but one that got him a lot of attention. One of his friends from that time, Ann Coulter, introduced him to Kellyanne.

George would, in turn, introduce Kellyanne to Donald Trump.

Shortly after getting married in 2001, Kellyanne and George moved into an apartment in Manhattan's Trump World Tower. There, George made an impression on the future president at a condo board meeting where he argued against removing Trump's name from the building. The speech earned George an offer to join the condo board, which he declined but passed on to his wife, who accepted.

"Knowing what I know now," George told me later, back in Washington, "I would have said no, and never mentioned it when I got home."

Nevertheless, George liked Trump well enough for a time that he considered joining his administration with a top role in the Justice Department. But his pre-nomination process coincided with Trump firing FBI Director James Comey and the beginning of the Mueller investigation. Friends of George told me he decided he didn't want to be part of a DOJ that would constantly be at odds with the president.

Instead, George immersed himself in the small fraternity of anti-Trump conservatives. He is now a man without a party: In early May of this year, George changed his affiliation from Republican to "unaffiliated." He has, according to Politico, offered unsolicited advice to journalists who have written articles critical of the president. And recently, he has been spotted at a semi-secret group of Trump skeptics known as the Meeting of the Concerned, eviscerating his wife's boss among fellow conservatives who would like to see Trump, and by extension Kellyanne, out of a job.

If he's being honest, that would make George happy, too.

"If there's an issue," George said, "it's because she's in that job, for that man."

His wife may find his gestures of resistance disrespectful of her, but George disagrees. He can redirect criticism as deftly as she can. "Her problem is with her boss," he says, "not me."

"If my wife were the counselor to the CEO of Pepsi and I had a problem with her boss, I would simply drink my Coke and keep my mouth shut," he says. "If the president were simply mediocre or even bad, I'd have nothing to say. This is much different."

George is clearly worried about Kellyanne and her reputation, just as Kellyanne told me she is worried about George's. But that doesn't mean everything has changed. He's still proud of what she's been able to accomplish, he says. And when he looks at that picture from election night, he's still reminded of the sheer elation he felt.

"I'm just saddened by how things turned out," he says.

On their last full day together on the beach, George is in the kitchen with his wife by his side. Their four kids (Claudia and George, Jr., 13-year-old twins; Charlotte, 10; Vanessa, 8) are running around with their friends before the family takes a trip to the water park. Kellyanne has left her work phone in another room, and so has George. She's more than her job, she says; he's more than his tweets.

Tomorrow this house will be set up for "Face the Nation," after which Kellyanne will be swarmed on the street by fans while George watches the second half of the show – the part where pundits analyze his wife's interview – alone in the kitchen. But for now, things feel almost like they used to be. This is what George misses at times, his simpler life.

He starts to open up about his tweets. Kellyanne is cutting vegetables 10 feet away with a longtime friend. The women start singing "The Glory of Love," a central song in the weepy movie "Beaches," which also took place on the Jersey Shore and is about two childhood best friends.

"It's an outlet, that keeps it a small part of my life," George says of his tweeting.

You've got to win a little, lose a little, yes, and always have the blues a little.

"It's a quick easy way to express myself, that keeps me from making it a bigger part of my life," he says.

You've got to give a little, take a little, and let your poor heart break a little.

"I think I'm actually holding back a little," he says. "I think the reason why is obvious."

Kellyanne is now singing loudly into a cucumber, completely drowning out George, who has stopped talking and just looks on.

That's the story of, that's the glory of love.

A rising concern? After straws, balloons get more scrutiny

Alaska News - Wed, 2018-08-15 15:35

In this Oct. 14, 2017, file photo balloons are released in Memorial Stadium before an NCAA college football game between Indiana and Michigan in Bloomington, Ind. The celebration of releasing balloons into the air has long bothered environmentalists, who say the pieces that fall back to earth can be deadly to seabirds and turtles that eat them. So as companies vow to banish plastic straws, there are signs balloons are among the products getting more scrutiny. (AP Photo/AJ Mast, File) (AJ MAST/)

NEW YORK — Now that plastic straws may be headed for extinction, could Americans' love of balloons be deflated?

The joyous celebration of releasing balloons into the air has long bothered environmentalists, who say the pieces that fall back to earth can be deadly to seabirds and turtles that eat them. So as companies vow to banish plastic straws, there are signs balloons will be among the products to get more scrutiny, even though they're a very small part of environmental pollution.

This year, college football powerhouse Clemson University is ending its tradition of releasing 10,000 balloons into the air before games, a move that's part of its sustainability efforts. In Virginia, a campaign that urges alternatives to balloon releases at weddings is expanding. And a town in Rhode Island outright banned the sale of all balloons earlier this year, citing the harm to marine life.

"There are all kinds of alternatives to balloons, a lot of ways to express yourself," says Kenneth Lacoste, first warden of New Shoreham, Rhode Island, who cites posters, piñatas and decorated paper.

Following efforts to limit plastic bags, the push by environmentalists against straws has gained traction in recent months, partly because they're seen as unnecessary for most. Companies including Starbucks and Disney are promising to phase out plastic straws, which can be difficult to recycle because of their size and often end up as trash in the ocean. A handful of U.S. cities recently passed or are considering bans. And the push may bring attention to other items people may not have considered — like festive balloons.

[Public weighs in, but no action yet on plastic bag ban in Anchorage]

"The issue of straws has really broadened the marine debris issue," says Emma Tonge of the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration. People might not realize balloons are a danger, she says, because of their "light and whimsical" image.

Balloons are not among the top 10 kinds of debris found in coastal cleanups, but Tongue says they're common and especially hazardous to marine animals, which can also get entangled in balloon strings.

Chelsea Rochman, an assistant professor of ecology at the University of Toronto, says people should think systemically about waste and pollution, but that efforts to bring attention to specific products shouldn't be dismissed as too minor.

"If we said that about everything, we wouldn't get anything done," she says.

Already, a few states restrict balloon releases to some extent, according to the Balloon Council, which represents the industry and advocates for the responsible handling of its products to "uphold the integrity of the professional balloon community." That means never releasing them into the air, and ensuring the strings have a weight tied to them so the balloons don't accidentally float away.

Lorna O'Hara, executive director of the Balloon Council, doesn't dispute that marine creatures might mistake balloons for jellyfish and eat them. But she says that doesn't mean balloons are necessarily causing their deaths.

Clean Virginia Waterways still thinks balloons can be harmful. Included in its report last year: A photo of a soaring bird with a deflated balloon trailing behind it.

The report addresses the "rising concern" of balloons, which also often use helium, a non-renewable resource. It notes the difficulty of changing a social norm and that even typing "congrats" in a Facebook post results in an animation of balloons. It even claims the media play a role and that some groups conduct balloon releases "just so reporters will cover the event."

"We don't want to say don't use them at all. We're saying just don't release them," says Laura McKay of the Virginia Coastal Zone Management Program.

Some states such as California ban balloon releases for other reasons. Pacific Gas & Electric, which serves northern and central California, says metallic balloons caused 203 power outages in the first five months of this year, up 22 percent from a year ago.

Lacoste thinks other towns, particularly those along the coasts, will also ban balloons as people become more aware of environmental issues. He notes that plastic bags were once seen as harmless, but many places now ban them.

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