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6.6 magnitude earthquake shakes Aleutian Islands

Alaska News - Wed, 2018-08-15 15:31

A strong earthquake with a preliminary magnitude of 6.6 hit the of the Aleutian Islands Wednesday afternoon, according to the Alaska Earthquake Center.

No tsunami is expected, according to the Pacific Tsunami Warning Center.

The earthquake struck at 1:56 p.m., about 75 miles southwest of the community of Adak, the center said, at a depth of about 7 miles.

Beth Carroll, Adak city clerk, said she had just returned to her office after her lunch break when the earthquake struck.

"It was pretty intense for about 15 seconds," Carroll said. "It started out slow, and then it got heavier and heavier, and then it finally died down."

Carroll said she hadn't heard of any earthquake damage in Adak.

"Every time I live through one of these, I'm thankful," Carroll said.

The quake was near the Andreanof Islands, a group of islands near the western edge of the Aleutians.

We'll have reviewed info soon for the strong earthquake in the Andreanof Islands. Preliminary magnitude is 6.6, but that could move a bit up or down. No tsunami expected. https://t.co/BLi4reDW5A

— AK Earthquake Center (@AKearthquake) August 15, 2018

If you felt the earthquake, you can report your experience to the U.S. Geological Survey.

An icy reminder in an Arctic thaw

Alaska News - Wed, 2018-08-15 15:22

The the stern of the USS Abner Read was recently found the off the Aleutian island of Kiska, where it sank during World War II after hitting a mine. Seventy-one Navy sailors were lost in the aftermath of the blast. (Photo: U.S. National Archives)

USS Momsen (DDG 92) visited Anchorage this week in support of the 2018 Arctic Maritime Symposium. The three-day event focuses on providing participants opportunities to engage with Arctic intergovernmental and military representatives, academics and experts. Given that the Navy has operated in the Arctic for decades, this kind of visit might not look like anything special. Couple the ship's visit, however, to calls on Alaska by the Navy, Army and Air Force service secretaries — all this month — and it's obvious something has our collective attention. Have no illusions: There are competing interests in the waters at the top of the world. The race is on.

A great-power competition has re-emerged as the central challenge to U.S. security and continued prosperity for all Pacific nations. The globe is still round. And more than 70 percent of it is still covered in water. What's changed? The once inhospitable maritime environment in and around the Arctic is thawing. The same is true for the icy waters at the top of the Pacific Ocean in the Bering Sea, bracketed on the south by Aleutian Islands and to the north where it connects to the Arctic Ocean. The means to operate in this region for military and commercial interests are more possible than ever. These warmer climes bring new opportunities — but also vulnerabilities — to our commerce, security and way of life.

Amazingly, as if a macabre prequel to this week's symposium, the stern section of the World War II destroyer USS Abner Read (DD 526) was discovered off the coast of Kiska Island. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration's Office of Ocean Exploration and Research released exploration imagery of the watery grave for 70 sailors. This announcement comes some 75 years to the week after the ship was believed to have hit a mine. The U.S. and Japan had been battling each other and the harsh elements there since early June 1942.

For some of the same reasons as today, the waters off Alaska and the Arctic were key strategic areas in WWII. Many Americans are aware of the Battle of Midway, but it was a complementary action off the Aleutians launched simultaneously by the Japanese that gives leaders pause now. While the famous naval aircraft carrier battle in the middle of the Pacific captured the world's attention, Japanese carrier-based aircraft were also attacking Dutch Harbor in the Aleutians. For roughly the following year, Japanese forces occupied the U.S. territory. Japan understood the geography, and hoped to prevent the U.S. from using the islands as a base from which they could more directly attack their homeland. USS Abner Read was operating there in support of operations to eradicate the occupiers — only to find in mid-August that the Japanese had abandoned the island.

It was early the morning of Aug. 18, 1943, when an otherwise quiet patrol was rocked by a violent explosion aft. Although much of the Abner Read's hull plating at the rear of the ship was buckled, fast-acting repair parties shored the damage and prevented further flooding. It didn't take long for the stern section to literally break away and sink. The remainder of the Abner Read remained afloat. After recovering surviving sailors, the ship was towed first to Adak, and eventually to Puget Sound Naval Shipyard in Washington. In only a few short months, a new stern section was fashioned and affixed. Remarkably, the vessel and her determined crew returned to service in the Pacific War on Dec. 21, 1943. After contributing to numerous actions, she was sunk by a Japanese kamikaze on Nov. 1, 1944, while she patrolled a beachhead during the famed Battle of Leyte Gulf. Remarkably, only 22 members of Abner Read's crew were lost in this action. In her relatively short service, the ship earned four WWII battle stars.

Things are a little different in northern waters today. In 2012, Arctic sea ice reached its smallest extent in recorded history — 1.3 million square miles. As Arctic sea lanes grow more open and navigable, so too do America's interests in the waters there. U.S. maritime forces are charged with the responsibility to secure shipping lanes, protect natural resources, deter conflict and safeguard national interests. Shrinking ice notwithstanding, the region's unpredictable, harsh weather and unforgiving sea conditions remain limiting factors for Arctic Ocean operations. U.S. Navy and Coast Guard vessels, aircraft and shore facilities are actively improving interoperability in order to maximize sea control and maritime security capabilities. Working together, the sea services will provide sea ice, hazardous weather and ocean current forecasting necessary to operate in the evolving Arctic region maritime environment.

Beyond these operational efforts, our nation must work alongside interagency and international partners to improve information sharing, and communications capabilities in the Arctic region. Promoting a safe, stable, and secure Arctic region by strengthening existing and fostering new cooperative relationships will be essential to fostering a climate of peace and prosperity. Doing so will require enduring commitment, investment and focus. What's the alternative?

The global security environment is increasingly complex as revisionist and emerging powers compete across all dimensions of power. There's ample evidence China and Russia want to shape a world consistent with their authoritarian model: Gaining veto authority over other nation's legitimate economic, diplomatic and security decisions.

The men of the USS Abner Read who gave their lives 75 years ago who figuratively surfaced this week should haunt our national conscience. Their sacrifice should lend renewed urgency and commitment to our efforts in the region. These men also serve as a testament to our national resolve in sustaining a fair, rules-based international order that has benefited all like-minded countries for decades.

The world is getting warmer. And this great-power competition is heating up. Fast.

Capt. Dave Werner retired from the U.S. Navy in 2012 after 24 years. He currently serves as a public affairs specialist with the U.S. Pacific Fleet.

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

Bishops accused of brushing off sexual abuse complaints

Alaska News - Wed, 2018-08-15 14:27

Victims of clergy sexual abuse, or their family members react as Pennsylvania Attorney General Josh Shapiro speaks during a news conference at the Pennsylvania Capitol in Harrisburg, Pa., Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2018. A Pennsylvania grand jury says its investigation of clergy sexual abuse identified more than 1,000 child victims. (AP Photo/Matt Rourke)

HARRISBURG, Pa. — A priest raped a 7-year-old girl while visiting her in the hospital after she had her tonsils removed. Another priest forced a 9-year-old boy into having oral sex, then rinsed out the youngster's mouth with holy water. One boy was forced to say confession to the priest who sexually abused him.

An estimated 300 Roman Catholic priests in Pennsylvania molested more than 1,000 children — and possibly many more — since the 1940s, according to a scathing Pennsylvania grand jury report released Tuesday that accused senior church officials, including the man who is now archbishop of Washington, D.C., of systematically covering up complaints.

The "real number" of victimized children and abusive priests might be higher since some secret church records were lost and some victims never came forward, the grand jury said.

U.S. bishops adopted widespread reforms in 2002 when clergy abuse became a national crisis for the church, including stricter requirements for reporting accusations to law enforcement and a streamlined process for removing clerics. But the grand jury said more changes are needed.

"Despite some institutional reform, individual leaders of the church have largely escaped public accountability," the grand jury wrote in the roughly 900-page report. "Priests were raping little boys and girls, and the men of God who were responsible for them not only did nothing; they hid it all."

Top church officials have mostly been protected, and many, including some named in the report, have been promoted, the grand jury said, concluding that "it is too early to close the book on the Catholic Church sex scandal."

Cardinal Donald Wuerl, leader of the Washington Archdiocese, was accused in the report of helping to protect abusive priests when he was Pittsburgh's bishop from 1988 to 2006.

Wuerl has disputed the allegations.


In this Dec. 12, 2010, photo, Cardinal Donald Wuerl, the Archbishop of Washington, greets a woman after giving a Mass of Thanksgiving at St. Paul Cathedral in Oakland neighborhood of Pittsburgh. (Rebecca Droke/Pittsburgh Post-Gazette via AP)

At a Mass held Thursday in Washington on the feast of the Assumption of Mary, Wuerl did not address the accusations against himself but urged parishioners not to lose confidence in the church over the "terrible plague" of abuse.

In nearly every case, the Pennsylvania grand jury said, prosecutors found that the statute of limitations has run out, meaning criminal charges cannot be filed. More than 100 of the priests are dead. Many others are retired or have been dismissed from the priesthood or put on leave.

Authorities charged just two as a result of the grand jury investigation, including a priest who has since pleaded guilty, though some of those named were prosecuted years ago.

Attorney General Josh Shapiro said the investigation is still going on.

The investigation of six of Pennsylvania's eight dioceses— Allentown, Erie, Greensburg, Harrisburg, Pittsburgh and Scranton — is the most extensive investigation of Catholic clergy abuse by any state, according to victims' advocates. The dioceses represent about 1.7 million Catholics.

Until now, there have been nine investigations by a prosecutor or grand jury of a Catholic diocese or archdiocese in the U.S., according to the Massachusetts-based research and advocacy organization BishopAccountability.org.

"One thing this is going to do is put pressure on prosecutors elsewhere to take a look at what's going on in their neck of the woods," Terry McKiernan of BishopAccountability.org said.

The Philadelphia Archdiocese and the Johnstown-Altoona Diocese were not included in the probe because they have been the subject of three previous scathing grand jury investigations.

The grand jury heard from dozens of witnesses and reviewed more than a half-million pages of internal diocesan documents, including reports by bishops to Vatican officials about the allegations against priests.

The panel concluded that a succession of bishops and other diocesan leaders tried to shield the church from bad publicity and financial liability. They failed to report accused clergy to police, used confidentiality agreements to silence victims and sent priests to "treatment facilities," which "laundered" the clergymen and "permitted hundreds of known offenders to return to ministry," the report said.

The conspiracy of silence extended beyond church grounds: Police or prosecutors sometimes did not investigate allegations out of deference to church officials or brushed off complaints as outside the statute of limitations, the grand jury said.

Diocese leaders responded Tuesday by expressing sorrow for the victims, stressing how they've changed and unveiling, for the first time, a list of priests accused of sexual misconduct.

James VanSickle of Pittsburgh, who testified he was sexually attacked in 1981 by a priest in the Erie Diocese, called the report's release "a major victory to get our voice out there, to get our stories told."

The report is still the subject of a legal battle, with the identities of some current and former clergy blacked out while the state Supreme Court weighs their requests to remain anonymous.

The findings echoed many earlier church investigations around the country that found widespread sexual abuse and attempts to conceal it. U.S. bishops have acknowledged that more than 17,000 people nationwide have reported being molested by priests and others in the church going back to 1950.

The report comes at a time of fresh scandal at the highest levels of the U.S. Catholic Church. Pope Francis last month stripped 88-year-old Cardinal Theodore McCarrick of his title amid allegations that McCarrick had for years sexually abused boys and committed sexual misconduct with adult seminarians.

___

Associated Press writers Nicole Winfield in Vatican City, Claudia Lauer and Michael Rubinkam in Pennsylvania and David Porter in New Jersey contributed to this report.

Trump revokes security clearance of former CIA director John Brennan

Alaska News - Wed, 2018-08-15 13:49

Former CIA director John Brennan testified before the House Intelligence Committee on the Russia investigation in Washington, D.C. Must credit: Washington Post photo by Melina Mara (Melina Mara/)

WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump has revoked the security clearance of former CIA director John Brennan, White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders announced Wednesday, citing “the risk posed by his erratic conduct and behavior.”

Brennan is a leading critic of Trump who as recently as Tuesday sharply denounced the president for calling his former aide Omarosa Manigault Newman "that dog."

Trump is also reviewing security clearances of other former officials including former FBI director James Comey, Sanders said during a regular White House news briefing.

"First, at this point in my administration, any benefits that senior officials might glean from consultations with Mr. Brennan are now outweighed by the risk posed by his erratic conduct and behavior," Trump said in a statement read by Sanders at Wednesday's briefing.

"Second, that conduct and behavior has tested and far exceeded the limits of any professional courtesy that may have been due to him," Trump said in the statement. "Mr. Brennan has a history that calls into question his objectivity and credibility."

Last month, Sanders said Trump was "looking to take away" the clearances of Brennan, Comey and several other former senior national security and intelligence officials who served in the administrations of George W. Bush or Barack Obama.

Those officials included former CIA director Michael Hayden, former national security adviser Susan Rice, former director of national intelligence James Clapper Jr. and former FBI deputy director Andrew McCabe.

On Wednesday, Sanders expanded that list to include former acting attorney general Sally Yates, former FBI lawyer Lisa Page, former FBI agent Peter Strzok and former Justice Department official Bruce Ohr.

[Trump administration, North Slope Borough eye protected Teshekpuk area for drilling]

Yates was fired by Trump last year after she defied the president and ordered federal attorneys not to defend his controversial travel ban. Strzok and Page, two of Trump's favorite targets on Twitter, became the centerpiece of Republicans' efforts to discredit special counsel Robert Mueller III's Russia probe after anti-Trump texts between the two were revealed last year. Strzok was fired over the texts this week.

Ohr is also the frequent object of GOP criticism; he was named by Republicans in a memo earlier this year that targeted his ties to the former British intelligence officer who wrote the controversial dossier on the Trump campaign's alleged contacts with Russian officials.

The announcement Wednesday that Brennan's clearance had been revoked triggered an outcry from critics who argued that the move was aimed at silencing critics of the president.

In an appearance on CNN shortly after Sanders' appearance in the White House briefing room, Clapper described the move as "unprecedented" and an "infringement on our rights of speech," noting that all of the former officials on Trump's list have been outspoken in their criticism of Trump at one point or another.

Clapper maintained that the move would not affect his own decision on whether to speak out against the president.

"If they're saying that the only way I can speak is to be in an adulation mode of this president, I'm sorry, I don't think I can sign up for that," he said.

Ben Rhodes, a deputy national security adviser during the Obama administration, echoed Clapper's criticism in an appearance on MSNBC in which he blasted the move as "authoritarianism in its purest form."

Some Democrats argued that by revoking Brennan's clearance, the White House was aiming to change the narrative away from several days of damaging coverage of Trump's escalating feud with Manigault Newman over her accusations that Trump is a racist.

"This might be a convenient way to distract attention, say from a damaging news story or two," Sen. Mark Warner, D-Va., said on Twitter. "But politicizing the way we guard our nation's secrets just to punish the President's critics is a dangerous precedent."

Rep. Adam Schiff, D-Calif., top Democrat on the House Intelligence Committee, said Trump's move demonstrates "how deeply insecure and vindictive he is - two character flaws dangerous in any President."

"An enemies list is ugly, undemocratic and un-American. I also believe this action to silence a critic is unlawful," Schiff said in a tweet.

Trump's targeting of Brennan also prompted disapproval from within his own party. Alberto R. Gonzales, attorney general under President George W. Bush, said in an appearance on Fox News Wednesday afternoon that while Trump appears to have the authority to revoke the clearances, his actions come across as "petty and somewhat childish."

"I think in this position as president of the United States, you're going to be criticized, and people are going to disagree with you, and you have to accept that," Gonzales said, casting doubt on the White House's contention that the revocation was due to national security concerns.

[Analysis: Winners and losers from Tuesday’s primaries: Once again, Trump is a big winner]

Last month, House Speaker Paul Ryan, R-Wis., had downplayed Trump's threat to revoke the officials' security clearances, telling reporters at the Capitol, "I think he's trolling people, honestly."

The move comes one day after Brennan took to Twitter and cable TV to issue a particularly biting condemnation of Trump's performance as president.

After Trump described his former aide Manigault Newman as "that dog," Brennan responded on Twitter that the president's rhetoric was "so disheartening, so dangerous for our Nation."

"It's astounding how often you fail to live up to minimum standards of decency, civility, & probity," Brennan tweeted. "Seems like you will never understand what it means to be president, nor what it takes to be a good, decent, & honest person."

Brennan later said in an interview on MSNBC Tuesday night that Trump had "badly sullied the reputation of the office of the presidency with his invective, with his constant disregard, I think, for human decency."

He also took aim at what he cast as Trump's cozy relationship with authoritarian leaders and argued that "America's standing in the world has also been tarnished."

"What he is doing here in the United States is very polarizing," Brennan said, calling Trump "the most divisive president we have ever had in the Oval Office."

Some of Trump's own White House officials have had security clearance troubles in the past.

Jared Kushner, Trump's senior adviser and son-in-law, had his clearance level downgraded in February before being granted a permanent clearance in May.

Democrats also raised questions regarding the granting of a security clearance to former White House staff secretary Rob Porter after allegations surfaced that he had been violent toward his two ex-wives. Porter, who has denied the accusations, later resigned.

Survivor of newly found WWII shipwreck: ‘So many’ to rescue

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

ANCHORAGE — Daryl Weathers remembers trying to pull men from the sea off Alaska's Aleutian Islands after a U.S. Navy destroyer hit a mine left by the Japanese following the only World War II battle fought on North American soil.

The explosion, which ripped the stern off the USS Abner Read, also covered many of the men in oil, which prevented some from being rescued.

"They were so slippery, you couldn't get ahold of them," the 94-year-old Weathers said this week from his home in Los Angeles.

The remaining 250 crew members made the ship watertight, and it limped back to the West Coast for repairs. Only one body among the 71 men killed was recovered.

Nearly 75 years later, scientists using multi-beam sonar have discovered the 75-foot stern about 290 feet below the Bering Sea.

The scientists from Scripps Institution of Oceanography at the University of California, San Diego, and the University of Delaware found it last month during a research mission funded by the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

The researchers confirmed the discovery with a remotely operated craft, which provided high definition video in real time to those on the research ship.


Coral-encrusted USS Abner Read stern wreckage. (Courtesy of Project Recover)

"To hit success is obviously extremely joyous for everybody. There's lots of cheering you know, it's like scoring a touchdown," said Andrew Pietruszka, an underwater archaeologist with Scripps.

[Officials are racing an Alaska glacier that threatens to swallow what's left of a 1952 plane crash that killed dozens]

The euphoria ended with the realization that it was the final resting place for U.S. service members. Those aboard the research vessel held a wreath-laying ceremony to honor the dead.

There are no plans to raise the stern.

"We take the protection of these wrecks seriously because we believe that they are war graves," said Paul Taylor with the Naval History and Heritage Command.

The original stern of the Fletcher-class destroyer named for a naval officer killed in the Civil War lay on the seafloor near Kiska Island for three-quarters of a century. The area is a crowded underwater remnant of the Battle of Attu, which became known as WWII's forgotten battle, though it was the only fought in North America.

Japanese forces took Attu Island in June 1942 and captured about 45 Aleuts as prisoners of war. U.S. forces reclaimed Attu on May 30, 1943, after a bloody battle that left nearly 2,500 Japanese and 550 Americans dead.

The Abner Read was sent to look for Japanese submarines. During one of the ship's figure 8 maneuvers, the explosion blew off the stern.

"We thought it was a submarine that got us with a torpedo," Weathers said. "We were waiting for another torpedo."

Weathers said the crew put boats in the water to help rescue the men.

"So many," he said. "We couldn't find them all."

It was nearly impossible to pull the men covered in oil into boats unless they were wearing life jackets, which gave rescuers something to grab onto.

"The water was so cold, you were only good for a few minutes in there, then you had hypothermia," Weathers said. "They just give up. I seen the guys just say, 'Oh, forget it,' and just quit swimming."

After getting a new stern, the ship fought in the South Pacific until Nov. 1, 1944, when a Japanese plane dropped a bomb on the rear engine room and then dive-bombed the deck, striking the gun Weathers had been manning.

The kamikaze attack during the Battle of Leyte Gulf in the Philippines sank the destroyer, killing 22 sailors.

Weathers said he knows he's one of the lucky ones, twice surviving attacks on the Abner Read. First launched in 1942, the ship had a "short life, but it was very active," he said.

Beer and wine will continue to flow at Arctic Valley Ski Area

Alaska News - Wed, 2018-08-15 13:12

The taps can keep flowing at Arctic Valley.

On Tuesday, the Alaska Alcoholic Beverage Control Board voted 4-1 to renew the ski area's beer and wine license during the board's meeting in Denali Park.

"We got exactly what we hoped for," Arctic Valley general manager John Robinson-Wilson said Wednesday.

The decision went against a recommendation made by Alaska Alcohol & Marijuana Control Office staff to not renew the license based on her determination Arctic Valley didn't fit the criteria for a "recreational permit."

In a letter to the board, AAMCO director Erika McConnell argued Arctic Valley didn't meet the requirements of a recreational site license, which include that license holders "may sell beer and wine at a recreational site during and one hour before and after a recreational event…"

McConnell said two legislative audits "called out, among other things, bowling alleys and pool halls as ineligible businesses." She argued Arctic Valley fell into the same category as such businesses, and therefore should not be renewed.

But lawmakers themselves disagreed.

In one of numerous letters sent by legislators, state Sen. Dan Saddler, R-Eagle River, argued the ski area is an important part of the local economy.

"I must emphasize how important a resource the Arctic Valley ski area and it's (sic) continued financial success is to the town of Eagle River," Saddler wrote.

The license renewal had the support of the entire Chugiak-Eagle River legislative delegation, as well as the Anchorage Assembly and several Southcentral Alaska legislators. Support for the renewal was widespread and bipartisan, with the likes of conservative Assembly member Amy Demboski of Eagle River and liberal Anchorage Assemblyman Chris Constant finding common ground.

"It was hard to find anyone who didn't think we qualified as a recreational license," Robinson-Wilson said.

The renewal ends months of worry on the steep slopes overlooking both the Anchorage Bowl and the Eagle River Valley. The issue was supposed to be settled in June, but was postponed until Tuesday's meeting due to a high number of items on the board's agenda. Robinson-Wilson said losing the license — which Arctic Valley has held since 2010 — would have dealt a severe blow to the small, nonprofit-run ski area's business, and he's happy to be moving forward with business as usual.

"We're doing maintenance projects and getting ready for winter," he said.

The ski area and tube park typically opens in late December or early January, depending on snow conditions. In the summer, Arctic Valley hosts weddings and is a popular alpine hiking destination. The area's main draw this time of year, Robinson-Wilson said, are blueberries.

The berries are a bit late this year, he said, but he expects prime picking over the next couple weeks.

"They're slowly ripening up," he said.

Email Star editor Matt Tunseth at editor@alaskastar.com.

Comedian Kevin Hart will perform in Anchorage this November

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

In this Thursday, July 27, 2017, file photo, comedian Kevin Hart speaks to reporters as he arrives on the red carpet for Eat My Shorts at the Short Films Premiere at the Just for Laughs comedy festival in Montreal. (Graham Hughes/The Canadian Press via AP, File)

Comedian Kevin Hart – who has starred in major film releases ranging from the Scary Movie franchise to "Ride Along" and 2017's "Jumanji: Welcome to the Jungle" – will perform in Anchorage this November.

The Nov. 27 show at the Sullivan Arena is part of Hart's international "The Irresponsible Tour." Almost all his U.S. tour dates have sold out so far, according to Hart's websiteRolling Stone reported that during Hart's previous "What Now?" world tour in 2015 and 2016, he became the first comedian to sell out a NFL stadium.

Tickets will be from $59.50 – $135.50 and go on sale at 10 a.m Friday at ticketmaster.com.

There's no word yet whether Hart, an avid runner, will be organizing one of his famous 5K runs while he's in Alaska.

Warning: The video below contains profanity

Man dies in apparent drowning off south end of Kodiak Island

Alaska News - Wed, 2018-08-15 13:00

KODIAK — A man died after falling into ocean water off Kodiak Island.

The Coast Guard late Monday afternoon reported that an unconscious man was receiving CPR about a mile from the fish cannery at Alitak at the southern tip of the island.

Alaska State Troopers say the man was in a skiff that overturned.

The lifesaving measures were not successful and the man died.

Troopers say the man's next of kin has not been notified.

Crime rose 6 percent across Alaska in 2017

Alaska News - Wed, 2018-08-15 12:25

Crime rose 6 percent in Alaska in 2017 compared to the previous year, according to new statewide statistics released today by the Department of Public Safety.

Violent crime rates, including murder, rape, robbery and assault, increased 7 percent. Property crimes such as car theft and burglary, rose 6 percent compared to 2016.

Alaska Attorney General Jahna Lindemuth said in a news conference this morning that the rising violence and property crimes go "hand in hand" with the ongoing state opioid epidemic.

Public Safety Commissioner Walt Monegan, asked about the spike in violence, said gangs are partly to blame.

"We've seen a lot more activity in the urban areas in regards to some of the violence that (is) kind of related to gangs … that's probably driving our numbers up quicker than elsewhere," he said.

The Daily News requested Anchorage-area crime statistics for 2017 earlier this year for a special report on record-breaking property crime in the city.

The statistics, known as the Uniform Crime Report, are reported by Alaska law enforcement agencies to the FBI. Find historical numbers here.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates. 

Anchorage’s first public radio station celebrates four decades on air

Alaska News - Wed, 2018-08-15 11:55

The cover of KSKA’s program guide in 1982. (ADN)

There was excitement in the air. We were about to celebrate the new radio station's first day of broadcasting. The guests were thrilled. The staff was jittery. And the audience was delighted.

The sign-on ceremony for KSKA, Anchorage's first public radio station, was 40 years ago, August 15, 1978, and it happened at Grant Hall on the campus of Alaska Pacific University. As its founding general manager, I had led the team that put the new station on the air.

The voices of Jim, Corky, Barbara and Jeff soon became familiar to Anchorage listeners. But there were well over 100 others working on the air and behind the scenes — all volunteers with lots of energy and enthusiasm. In those heady, early months of broadcasting, we worked hard and had fun.

Six months later, Bede Trantina, ultimately the most familiar voice of all, joined the team. And she stayed longer than any of us, retiring only recently after 39 years of service to listeners across Southcentral Alaska. Bede signed off just a few months ago with her last "Yippee, it's Friday!"

At 103.1 on the FM dial, KSKA was an instant success. Our telephone rang constantly. Listeners were glad to have a public radio station, but some had trouble picking up our signal. We told them how to rig up an antenna to help with reception, but the real problems were our low transmitter power and the height of our transmitting antenna, which sat atop a 70-foot tower on the roof of APU's Grant Hall. I sometimes climbed that tower to adjust the antenna and improve our signal. It was just one of my many duties as general manager.

In those days, power and antenna height meant a lot. We sometimes joked that KSKA was just a "peanut whistle," radio slang for a low-power station.
But the station later moved to 91.1 on the dial, with increased power and a much higher antenna. The coverage area was expanded dramatically, extending to the far reaches of the Mat-Su and the Kenai peninsula.

The people of Anchorage welcomed public radio. Yet Anchorage was not the first Alaska community to get a public radio station. In fact, it wasn't even near the head of the line. By 1978, eight public radio stations were already on the air serving communities in western Alaska and in Southeast, communities previously with little radio service — or none at all.

In 1978, the managers of those other public radio stations and I banded together to form a new statewide radio network. We called it the Alaska Public Radio Network. In our centerpiece program, a Juneau reporter used a pay phone in the capitol building to broadcast a 15-minute report on each day's legislative activities. It was an early, primitive version of today's "Gavel-to-Gavel" coverage. APRN is now a well-known and respected source of Alaska news. Its programs are carried on 27 stations across the state.

Yes, KSKA and APRN are all grown up. And they've merged with KAKM, Anchorage's public television station. The three are housed in the Elmo Sackett Broadcast Center — still on the campus of APU.

Technology has changed the way we use radio. The car radio's KSKA button is often pushed, but we also listen to KSKA live on the Internet, and we can do that from anywhere in the U.S. or the world. If we miss a KSKA or APRN program, a podcast is waiting, available with only a click.

With the Internet, it's no longer a question of who has the most powerful transmitter. Now people listen to the station with the best, most appealing, and most relevant programs.
For many of us, that station is KSKA.

Alex Hills, Ph.D., who lives in Palmer, worked through the decade of the 1970s to establish public broadcast stations and telecommunication networks across Alaska. His adventures in rural Alaska are the subject of his latest book, "Finding Alaska's Villages: And Connecting Them."

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

That little shaker was a 4.3 magnitude earthquake near Talkeetna

Alaska News - Wed, 2018-08-15 10:28

PALMER — A small earthquake rumbled across parts of Southcentral Wednesday morning.

The quake, initially estimated as a magnitude 4.3, triggered numerous reports from the public, according to the Alaska Earthquake Center.

Most of the reports came from Anchorage, Wasilla and Chugiak and Eagle River, according to the center website. A few came in from Talkeetna and Willow.

The quake was centered about five miles east-southeast of the Talkeetna "Y" and 63 miles north of Anchorage.

Senator who often stood alone runs for state's highest office - Alaska Public Radio Network

Legislative News - Wed, 2018-08-15 10:08

Alaska Public Radio Network

Senator who often stood alone runs for state's highest office
Alaska Public Radio Network
It was set by a formula in state law until Gov. Bill Walker vetoed roughly half of two years ago. Walker cited the state's fiscal crisis and shrinking savings. The Legislature then passed reduced PFDs the last two budgets. Dunleavy said Alaska voters ...

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Trump’s failure to condemn the bigots of the alt-right tars his presidency

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

Jason Kessler, the organizer of the Unite the Right rally, is interviewed by reporters while police escort him into the Vienna metro station before they gather for a second Unite the Right Rally on the anniversary of last year's deadly Charlottesville demonstration on August 12, 2018 in Washington. MUST CREDIT: Washington Post photo by Calla Kessler (Calla Kessler/)

WASHINGTON -- How can a president as successful as Donald Trump be so unpopular?

Fueled by his historic tax reform and an unprecedented regulatory rollback, the economy grew by 4.1 percent in the second quarter. The unemployment rate is just 3.9 percent -- near the lowest it has been in nearly two decades -- and the New York Times reports, "Job growth is on a record streak [and] American factories ... are hiring at their fastest rate in two decades." African American and Hispanic unemployment rates are at near record lows. And the unemployment rate for women is the lowest it has been since 1953.

Virtually everyone is doing better thanks to the Trump economic boom. And yet the president's approval rating is stuck at 42 percent. Even worse, his disapproval rating has risen 11 points since his inauguration. When asked if Trump is doing an "excellent," "pretty good," "fair" or "poor" job as president, a stunning 45 percent say Trump is doing a "poor" job.

Part of his disapproval is driven by the intensity of the Democratic "resistance," and the ongoing investigation by special counsel Robert S. Mueller III has certainly taken its toll. Others are put off by his tweetstorms and the chaotic nature of an administration that produces self-inflicted wounds such as family separations at the border.

But ultimately, what makes it impossible for many Americans who approve of Trump's policies to also approve of Trump's presidency is his failure to definitively reject and ostracize the bigots who inhabit the fever swamps of the alt-right. A year after Charlottesville, Trump has still not explicitly condemned them. "Riots in Charlottesville a year ago resulted in senseless death and division," Trump tweeted Saturday morning. "We must come together as a nation. I condemn all types of racism and acts of violence. Peace to ALL Americans!"

Sorry, that's not good enough. Not all types of racists were marching in his name in Charlottesville. Not all types of racists held a rally after his election in which they shouted "Hail Trump!" Not all types of racists continue to claim to be a part of Trump's coalition.

The fact that the Unite the Right rally in front of the White House on Sunday fizzled does not let Trump off the hook. His defenders will argue that there are always protesters outside the White House, and none of his Republican or Democratic predecessors was expected to comment on them. Why should Trump have to do so? The answer is simple: because the ethno-nationalists of the alt-right have embraced him, and Trump has failed to make clear that he does not accept their support.

This is not hard. After some white nationalists praised a recent monologue she delivered, Fox News host Laura Ingraham went on the air and blasted them, declaring to "all white nationalists ... you don't represent my views, and you are antithetical to the beliefs I hold dear."

Why can't Trump bring himself to say the same thing?

Trump's failure to reject the bigots of the alt-right not only tars his presidency, it also tars his supporters. The overwhelming majority of people who voted for Trump are not racists. They are good, decent, patriotic Americans who were sick and tired of being ignored by the political establishments of both parties in Washington. They had legitimate grievances that were not being addressed, from the opioid crisis to an economy that was not giving them the chance to work and pursue lives of dignity.

Trump's election finally gave them a voice. But his failure to condemn the alt-right allows his critics to dismiss his supporters' valid concerns and lump them in with the tiny minority of bigots who have embraced the president.

His failure to condemn the alt-right has also prevented him from expanding his support beyond his core supporters. With his record, he should be winning over millions of Americans who did not vote for him in 2016 but whose circumstances have markedly improved under his presidency. Instead, his support is stagnant and his disapproval is growing. He would gain far more supporters by rejecting alt-right bigots than he would lose.

The fact is many Americans support Trump’s policies -- from his outstanding Supreme Court picks to his bold economic reforms -- but don’t support him for one simple reason: They don’t want to be associated with a man who seems to have so much trouble telling the white nationalists of the alt-right that they don’t represent his views and are antithetical to the beliefs he holds dear.

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

Hanging on to Trump’s rabid base won’t be enough for Republicans

Alaska News - Wed, 2018-08-15 08:24

President Donald Trump arrives at a rally, Thursday, Aug. 2, 2018, at Mohegan Sun Arena at Casey Plaza in Wilkes Barre, Pa. (AP Photo/Carolyn Kaster) (Carolyn Kaster/)

After the Helsinki debacle, 11 days of the Paul Manafort trial, contradictory statements on the infamous June 2016 Trump Tower meeting, numerous obnoxious and racist tweets, never-ending verbal duels with accusers (including past employees) and, for good measure, a senseless trade war, we shouldn’t be surprised that President Donald Trump’s approval rating is slipping somewhat. Gallup has it down to 39 percent; Quinnipiac has it at 41 percent.

The Quinnipiac poll numbers highlight how poorly Americans think of him:

"Only 31 percent of American voters like President Donald Trump as a person, while 59 percent dislike him, according to a Quinnipiac University National Poll released (Tuesday). ... By a smaller 54 - 43 percent margin, American voters dislike President Trump's policies.

“Voters disapprove 54 - 41 percent of the job Trump is doing as president, including 48 percent who disapprove strongly. Another 30 percent approve strongly. The Trump Administration is not doing enough to help middle class Americans, voters say 58 - 38 percent.”

Americans don't need to hear a tape of Trump saying the n-word to know he "does not treat people of color with the same amount of respect he affords white people" - by a margin of 54 percent to 39 percent. Moreover, "American voters say 54 - 37 percent that 'President Trump has emboldened people who hold racist beliefs to express those beliefs publicly.' "

As for the media, Trump strikes out there, too. ("The news media is an important part of democracy, 65 percent of American voters say, while 26 percent of voters say the media is the enemy of the people.") On Russia, 55 percent say he is too weak, while only 36 percent say his attitude toward Russia is "about right." Unfortunately for Trump, "It is never acceptable for a presidential campaign to obtain information on a political opponent from a hostile foreign power, voters say 79 - 12 percent, including 69 - 19 percent among Republicans." And finally, special counsel Robert Mueller III is holding his own, with 51 percent saying he is doing a fair investigation and only 33 percent saying he is not.

Republicans operate in a different political universe. They approve of his job performance (83 percent) and actually like him (66 percent) - which makes one seriously question what attributes they find so attractive. (His vulgarity? His racism? His greed?) In the minds of Republicans, he is doing enough for the middle class (80 percent/16 percent) and the media is the "enemy of the people" (51 percent/36 percent). Sixty-eight percent of Republicans say he is tough enough on Russia, while 55 percent say Mueller is not conducting a fair investigation. The GOP has been thoroughly Trumpized and now resembles the right-wing, nativist parties of Europe.

This split in opinion between Republicans and everyone else is not a sustainable situation for a national party. Pew Research reported this year that "37% of registered voters identified as independents, 33% as Democrats and 26% as Republicans. ... The 8-percentage-point Democratic advantage in leaned partisan identification is wider than at any point since 2009, and a statistically significant shift since 2016." You cannot win national elections with a narrow base of support. (Quinnipiac's pollster aptly describes Trump's political situation: "The base is hanging in and the rest aren't buying in.")

We'll see in November how much of Trump's unpopularity weighs down Republicans. However, it doesn't bode well for Trump in 2020.

"The warning light for supporters of President Trump should be his seeming inability, or perhaps unwillingness, to expand his base," writes pollster Charlie Cook. "It would seem to be advisable for someone who captured the office with just 46 percent of the popular vote, 2.1 percentage points and 2.9 million votes less than his opponent had."

Trump cares only about the people who love him, and he needs their approval like a drug addict needs his next fix. He therefore goes back incessantly to the well of base-pleasing lines and themes. The base gets more and more fired up; everyone else gets more and more horrified. Cook cautions: "Politics is supposed to be an exercise in addition, not subtraction or division." Right now all Trump is doing is seeing how many groups (women, nonwhites, college-educated voters) he can drive away from the GOP.

Democrats shouldn't start measuring the Oval Office drapes, however. They will not beat Trump in 2020 with another weak candidate who suffers from political scandal. They won't win with a candidate who cannot dominate in a side-by side face-off. (They need someone who can treat Trump with the disdain he deserves and who can expertly wield facts to unnerve him and reveal him as a liar.) Democrats will not beat him with someone easily characterized as a far-left radical.

The search for a plausible presidential nominee is no trivial task. A party lacking an obvious candidate whose views are mainstream, who is battle-tested in presidential politics and who has sufficient toughness to take on Trump risks losing yet again to an entirely unfit GOP nominee. As bad as Trump’s numbers are, he will win again unless the Democrats or independents find someone better.

Countdown to Election 2018: It's complicated - Juneau Empire

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

Countdown to Election 2018: It's complicated
Juneau Empire
In 2001, Alaska's Legislature passed a Bill that specified a primary election ballot for each political party. In 2004, a ruling allowed parties to decide if they wanted to appear on a Combined Party ballot. Parties also specified which voters could ...

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Lower Kuskokwim School District uses taxis to transport students

Alaska News - Wed, 2018-08-15 08:01

A mobile Kusko Cab dispatcher keeps track of his fleet on a board listing sections of town on a slow Aug. 28, 2014, in Bethel. (Erik Hill / ADN archive)

BETHEL – A Western Alaska school district is turning to taxis after scrambling to find transportation for students before the school year starts this week.

KYUK-AM reports the Lower Kuskokwim School District doesn't have enough buses for Bethel-area students, so administrators reached a deal with a taxi company to fill the transportation gap.

Kusko Cab will operate in a similar manner as the bus system. Owner Naim Shabani says the district will give cab vouchers to students and taxis will pick them up at designated stops in Bethel.

The district's last-minute scramble occurred after it parted ways with longtime contractor Golden Eagle Unlimited. The contractor provided transportation for students in Bethel for more than two decades.

The district has purchased a fleet of buses expected to arrive in about six weeks.

With little fanfare, Trump and McConnell reshape the federal judiciary

Alaska News - Wed, 2018-08-15 07:33

President Donald Trump (right) walks with Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., before attending the weekly Senate luncheons on Capitol Hill in Washington on May 15, 2018. Bloomberg photo by Aaron P. Bernstein. (Aaron P. Bernstein/)

WASHINGTON - As the Senate moves toward confirming Supreme Court nominee Brett Kavanaugh, President Donald Trump and Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell are leading a lower-key yet deeply consequential charge to remake the entire federal judiciary.

The Senate will return Wednesday from an abbreviated summer recess to confirm two more federal appeals court judges by the end of the week. That would come on top of a record-breaking string of confirmations: The Senate already has installed 24 appellate court judges since Trump was sworn in, the highest number for a president's first two years in office.

While much of the focus has been on Kavanaugh and Justice Neil Gorsuch, the Senate's rapid approval of appellate court judges is likely to have its own broad impact on the nation, as the 13 circuit courts will shape decisions on immigration, voting rights, abortion and the environment for generations.

For McConnell, this is the culmination of a years-long gambit that started with stymieing President Barack Obama's judicial nominees, most notably Supreme Court choice Merrick Garland, and creating a backlog of vacancies on the nation's highest courts.

Trump's 2016 election enabled McConnell, R-Ky., to cement a legacy of judicial confirmations that is likely to be felt long after the two men leave office. The Republican leaders are also trying to use judicial nominations to energize conservative voters, whom party leaders worry will sit out the midterm elections.

There are 179 authorized judgeships for the U.S. Court of Appeals. With 24 confirmations and 13 vacancies to fill, Trump and the Republicans have the power to install more than 20 percent of the judges on the nation's second-highest courts.

"One of the most significant accomplishments in President Donald Trump's first year will serve Americans for decades to come, yet it has received very little fanfare," wrote McConnell with Senate Judiciary Committee Chairman Charles Grassley, R-Iowa, in a January National Review op-ed.

On Wednesday, the Senate plans to advance the nominations of Marvin Quattlebaum Jr. and Julius Ness Richardson, both for the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 4th Circuit. Both Quattlebaum and Richardson have some bipartisan support, winning the votes of some Democrats when they were considered by the Senate Judiciary Committee.

"The Supreme Court gets the bulk of the attention, but the circuit courts decide the bulk of the cases," said Arthur Hellman, a University of Pittsburgh law professor who studies the federal judiciary. "Because the Supreme Court these days is taking so few cases, the law of the circuit is, on many, many issues, the final law for the people who live in that circuit."

Sen. Richard Blumenthal, D-Conn., a member of the Judiciary Committee, said two of his children are beginning law school and "these judges will be there for a good part of their legal careers." The appeals court is "the backbone of the federal judiciary," said Blumenthal, who regretted the "very unfortunate," enduring legacy of Trump's choices.

Virtually all of Trump's nominees have graduated from top law schools, held Supreme Court clerkships or worked in big-name law firms or the Justice Department. But they also have affiliations with the Federalist Society or other conservative credentials. That, as well as past writings and cases, have sparked often fierce opposition from Democrats and liberal groups.

"These are not mainstream jurists being nominated because they are legal luminaries, but people who are coming to the bench with clear ideological-driven missions of eroding constitutional rights and legal protections," said Daniel Goldberg, legal director for the Alliance for Justice, a liberal group focused on judicial issues.

Hellman said that Trump's nominees have, so far, largely replaced retiring Republican-appointed judges, and thus he has yet to wholly remake any of the 13 circuit courts. But he said at least one circuit - the 5th Circuit, covering Louisiana, Mississippi and Texas - is at a tipping point.

Democrats have sought to slow the confirmations, forcing every circuit court nominee to clear procedural hurdles. But a Democratic rule change in 2013 allows federal judicial nominees to advance to confirmation by a simple majority.

Under Trump, the pace of confirmations to the district courts, which are lower on the court hierarchy, has lagged behind Obama and George W. Bush.

"Twenty-four is excellent for two years," said Ed Whelan, president of the conservative Ethics and Public Policy Center and a former law clerk to the late Justice Antonin Scalia. "But it needs to be sustained in order to have any real transformative effect."

During the final two years of the Obama administration, in which Republicans controlled the Senate, the confirmation of judicial nominees slowed to a crawl - giving McConnell and Trump plenty of vacancies to fill starting in 2017.

Hours after Scalia's death in February 2016, McConnell said the Senate would not consider any Obama nominee until the voters had their say in the presidential election. Democrats were enraged but powerless.

The decision paid huge dividends when Trump won in 2016 and nominated Gorsuch, a conservative choice widely hailed by Republicans. Gorsuch won the vote of all Republican senators and three Democrats.

Now, McConnell is confidently eyeing a confirmation vote for Kavanaugh this fall. The judge plans to meet Wednesday with Democratic Sens. Heidi Heitkamp, N.D., and Joe Donnelly, Ind. The two backed Gorsuch, face challenging reelection bids in states Trump won and are feeling pressure to vote for Kavanaugh.

Russell Wheeler, a Brookings Institution visiting fellow who closely tracks judicial nominations, said that now more than ever, the confirmation process is more about hardball politics and less about cooperation between the parties. "It's just dog-eat-dog for the moment, and we'll worry about what happens when the tables get turned later," he said. "I don't see how you ratchet it back."

The Democratic attempts to defeat Kavanaugh have fallen flat, leading to finger-pointing within the party. Liberal activists have portrayed Kavanaugh as a threat to tilt the court toward erasing health-care protections and abortion rights - arguments that have shown virtually no signs of swaying most critical swing votes in the Senate.

McConnell is trying to use the Supreme Court pick as well as the Senate's work on lower court nominees to spur conservative voters to participate in November's midterms. Republicans are defending a 51-49 majority, and party leaders are bracing for a difficult election, due to Trump's unpopularity.

A Pew Research Center poll in July found conservative Republicans more likely than moderate and liberal Republicans to say the choice of the next Supreme Court justice was very important to them.

Steven Law, a former McConnell aide who is now the president of the conservative group American Crossroads, predicted that the Supreme Court and judicial nominations more broadly "will be part of our pitch to conservatives on why their vote matters this fall."

Exit polls conducted in the 2016 election found that 7 in 10 said Supreme Court appointments were the most or an important factor in their vote. Among Trump voters, 26 percent said it was "the most important factor" and 48 percent said it was "an important factor."

"It was a way for him to reassure people who didn't really want to vote for Hillary Clinton that he was going to be, even though he was quite unusual, he was going to be a real Republican," McConnell said of Trump in an interview with The Washington Post this summer.

McConnell, who titled his memoir "The Long Game," frequently reminds his allies that the Senate is in the personnel business. He's had a rocky relationship with Trump since his election, but the confirmed judges have given them a common goal.

Republicans face difficult political head winds in November, with some on the right fearful they will soon lose their plum chances to push through court nominees.

"If the Republicans lose the Senate in November, the great start will be nothing more than a great start," said Whelan.

The Washington Post’s Emily Guskin, Seung Min Kim and Paul Kane contributed to this report.

Analysis: Winners and losers from Tuesday’s primaries: Once again, Trump is a big winner

Alaska News - Wed, 2018-08-15 06:32

Minnesota gubernatorial candidate Jeff Johnson, center, is greeted by his supporters after returning to the watch party, Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2018, in Plymouth, Minn. (Alex Kormann/Star Tribune via AP) (Alex Kormann/)

Primaries in four states Tuesday - Minnesota, Connecticut, Wisconsin and Vermont - set up competitive governors, Senate and House races across the country this November. But even before then, these primaries identified some clear winners and losers that reinforced trends we’ve been seeing all year. Here they are:

Winners

• Trump: At least in Republican primary politics, Tuesday once again proved he’s the king. Republican politicians on the ballot Tuesday who dissed him in 2016 raced to undo that, and those who didn’t do it convincingly enough lost their primaries. In Minnesota’s competitive governor’s race, Republican voters nominated a relative outsider, Jeff Johnson, over a former governor, Tim Pawlenty, as Pawlenty struggled to get out from under the fact he called Trump “unhinged and unfit” during the campaign. (Johnson has his own past problems with Trump, which we’ll get to in the loser section.) “The Republican Party has shifted,” Pawlenty said as he lost. “It is the era of Trump, and I’m just not a Trump-like politician.”

Trump's riskiest endorsement yet, in last week's GOP Kansas governor's primary, paid off Tuesday, too. Kansas Gov. Jeff Colyer conceded an ultra-close race to Secretary of State Kris Kobach, who helped lead Trump's voter fraud commission.

• Diversity: For the first time, voters of a major party nominated an openly transgender woman for governor. Christine Hallquist won the Democratic nomination for governor in Vermont (though she’ll have to work hard to actually make that race against Gov. Phil Scott, R, competitive). In Connecticut, Democrat Jahana Hayes won her primary for Congress and is set to become the first black woman to represent New England in the House. In Minnesota, Democrat Ilhan Omar is one of two candidates who won primaries in the past two weeks vying to become the first Muslim woman elected to Congress.

• Candidates with arrest records and alleged #MeToo perpetrators: Once again, 2018 is proving that politicians can be accused of -- or admit -- behaving badly and win elections. The felon on the ballot Tuesday, a Connecticut mayor running for governor, didn’t win. But in Wisconsin, an admitted drunk driver did. Democrat Randy Bryce, an iron worker who has raised millions to try to take the seat of retiring House Speaker Paul D. Ryan, R, in November, won his primary. In Minnesota, Rep. Keith Ellison, D, won his nomination for attorney general while denying accusations that he abused a former girlfriend.

Connecticut Republicans: It sounds counterintuitive to say a governor’s race in Connecticut would be among the most competitive races in the country this November. But that is exactly what appears to be shaping up after Tuesday. Both Democrats and Republicans nominated the candidates they wanted for this open seat (Democrat Ned Lamont and Republican Bob Stefanowski, both wealthy businessmen). Outgoing Democratic Gov. Dan Malloy is one of the most unpopular politicians in America, so Republicans feel like they have a real shot to seize this governor’s mansion.

Losers

Republican consistency on Trump: Any Republican on the ballot Tuesday who didn’t particularly like Trump in 2016 (or now) needed to pivot quickly. In Wisconsin, state Sen. Leah Vukmir did just that as she won her primary to challenge Sen. Tammy Baldwin, D-Wis. She called him “offensive to everyone” during the campaign but endorsed him after he won the primary.

And the night's big winner, Johnson in Minnesota's GOP governor's primary, had attacked Trump as a "jackass" during the campaign. But he successfully argued that, like Vukmir, he came around to supporting the president.

Gov. Scott Walker, R, who didn't have a competitive primary Tuesday but will have a competitive reelection in November, has twisted himself into a pretzel on whether he supports Trump's tariff policy, which has ensnared Wisconsin's Harley-Davidson.

Republicans' chances in governor’s races in Minnesota and Kansas: The Trumpier candidate won in each of these races, but that’s not necessarily a good thing for Republicans' chances in November.

In Kansas, Washington Republicans aren't happy that Kobach won. They feel that his inflammatory politics gives Democrats a leg up to take that governor's mansion. They're even less thrilled with Minnesota's results. The Republican Governors Association had reserved $3 million to $4 million in ads for the general election, but that could be in jeopardy now that a lesser-known candidate, Johnson, is the nominee.

People who don’t want white nationalists running for Congress: He lost, by a lot, but in the Republican primary to replace Ryan in Wisconsin, self-described “pro-white” nationalist candidate Paul Nehlen got 11 percent of Republican turnout on Tuesday. That’s about 6,500 votes for a guy who was banned from Twitter for racist posts.

Billionaires: In Wisconsin’s Republican Senate primary, both candidates were boosted by billionaires willing to throw millions at the race. In the end, someone had to win (Vukmir). The loser was Kevin Nicholson, a former Democrat who paradoxically was boosted by one of the most conservative billionaires active in U.S. politics, Richard Uihlein. Some $8 million in spending for Nicholson’s failed election can be tied back Uihlein.

White House admits error for false claim on black employment

Alaska News - Wed, 2018-08-15 06:07

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders smiles as she speaks to the media during the daily press briefing at the White House, Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2018, in Washington. Sanders took questions about former White House staffer Omarosa Manigault and other topics. (AP Photo/Andrew Harnik) (Andrew Harnik/)

WASHINGTON — The White House has acknowledged error in its false claim that President Donald Trump created three times as many jobs for African-Americans than President Barack Obama.

It was a rare admission of fault for an administration that frequently skews data and overstates economic gains.

White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders said on Twitter late Tuesday that she had been wrong earlier that day when she told reporters that Obama created only 195,000 jobs for African-Americans during his tenure compared with Trump's 700,000 new jobs in just two years.

The U.S. economy actually added about 3 million jobs for black workers during Obama's tenure, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics.

"President Trump in his first year and a half has already tripled what President Obama did in eight years," she told reporters during a Tuesday press briefing.

But that assertion is false. Official statistics show black jobs went from 15.5 million when Obama took office in January 2008 to 18.4 million when he left in January 2017.

In fact, the most dramatic drop in black unemployment came during the Obama administration as the nation climbed out of a crippling recession. Unemployment of black workers fell from 16.8 percent in March 2010 to 7.8 percent in January 2017.

It is true that black workers under Trump have continued to see gains, reaching a record low of 5.9 percent in May. Still, black unemployment rate is now nearly double that of whites, which is 3.4 percent.

Sanders tweeted Tuesday: "Jobs numbers for Pres Trump and Pres Obama were correct, but the time frame for Pres Obama wasn't. I'm sorry for the mistake, but no apologies for the 700,000 jobs for African-Americans created under President Trump."

Sanders linked to a tweet by the White House Council of Economic Advisers, which claimed responsibility for the “miscommunication.”

Death toll hits 39 in Italy bridge collapse; blame begins

Alaska News - Wed, 2018-08-15 06:02

Cars and trucks are left on a section of the collapsed Morandi highway bridge in Genoa, northern Italy, Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2018. A bridge on a main highway linking Italy with France collapsed in the Italian port city of Genoa during a sudden, violent storm, sending vehicles plunging 90 meters (nearly 300 feet) into a heap of rubble below. (AP Photo/Nicola Marfisi) (Nicola Marfisi/)

GENOA, Italy — Italian prosecutors on Wednesday focused their investigation into the Genoa highway bridge collapse on possible design flaws or inadequate maintenance, as the death toll rose to 39 and Italian politicians looked for someone to blame.

Fears mounted that a part of the Morandi Bridge which is still standing could also coming crashing down. That prompted authorities to widen their evacuation to include some 630 people living near the highway bridge that was carved in two by the collapse of its midsection during a violent storm.

On Tuesday, just as many Italians were driving to vacation destinations on the eve of Italy's biggest summer holiday, a huge stretch of the 51-year-old bridge collapsed, sending over 30 cars and three trucks plunging to the ground as far as 45 meters (150 feet) below.

As this crippled major Mediterranean port city of 600,000 reeled from the tragedy, about 1,000 rescue workers on Wednesday kept searching through tons of broken concrete slabs, smashed vehicles and twisted steel from the bridge for any more bodies. At least two more were pulled out.

Some of the tons of debris that rained down from the bridge landed in a dry stream bed, while other wreckage came crashing down perilously close to apartment buildings. At one point, Sky TG24 said, residents were temporarily stopped from even returning to their homes briefly to grab essential documents, medicine or other necessities.


Cars and trucks are left on a section of the collapsed Morandi highway bridge in Genoa, northern Italy, Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2018. A bridge on a main highway linking Italy with France collapsed in the Italian port city of Genoa during a sudden, violent storm, sending vehicles plunging 90 meters (nearly 300 feet) into a heap of rubble below. (AP Photo/Nicola Marfisi) (Nicola Marfisi/)
General view of the collapsed Morandi highway bridge in Genoa, northern Italy, Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2018. A bridge on a main highway linking Italy with France collapsed in the Italian port city of Genoa during a sudden, violent storm, sending vehicles plunging 90 meters (nearly 300 feet) into a heap of rubble below. (Luca Zennaro/ANSA via AP) (Luca Zennaro/)
A view of the Morandi highway bridge that collapsed in Genoa, northern Italy, Wednesday, Aug. 15, 2018. A large section of the bridge collapsed over an industrial area in the Italian city of Genova during a sudden and violent storm, leaving vehicles crushed in rubble below. (AP Photo/Antonio Calanni) (Antonio Calanni/)
In this photo released by the Italian firefighters, rescue teams work among the rubble of the collapsed Morando highway bridge in Genoa, northern Italy, Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2018. A bridge on a main highway linking Italy with France collapsed in the Italian port city of Genoa during a sudden, violent storm, sending vehicles plunging 90 meters (nearly 300 feet) into a heap of rubble below. (Vigili Del Fuoco via AP)
Rescue teams search for survivors among the rubble of the collapsed Morandi highway bridge in Genoa, northern Italy, Tuesday, Aug. 14, 2018. A bridge on a main highway linking Italy with France collapsed in the Italian port city of Genoa during a sudden, violent storm, sending vehicles plunging 90 meters (nearly 300 feet) into a heap of rubble below. (Flavio Lo Scalzo/ANSA via AP) (Flavio Lo Scalzo/)

Besides searching through the mountain of debris, emergency workers said it has to be cleared away as soon as possible. Genoa is a flood-prone city, and authorities warned that the piles in the dry riverbed could become a dam in a matter of hours if heavy rains arrive.

Civil protection chief Angelo Borrelli confirmed Wednesday that 39 people had died and 15 were injured. Interior Minister Matteo Salvini said three children were among the dead. Three French citizens and two Albanians were also killed.

Genoa Prosecutor Francesco Cozzi told reporters the investigation into the collapse was focused on human causes, specifically the possibility of inadequate maintenance or a design flaw in the bridge’s construction.

"'I don't know if there is responsibility. For sure it was not an accident," he said.

Asked if authorities had been given any warning that the bridge, — a key link between two high-speed highways, one headed toward neighboring France and the other to Milan — could be dangerous, Cozzi indicated that no serious safety concerns before Tuesday had reached his office.

Otherwise "none of us would have driven over that highway 20 times a month as we do," Cozzi said.

Work to upgrade the bridge's safety with a 20 million-euro ($22.7 million) project had already been approved, with public bids for the work to be submitted by September. According to the business daily Il Sole, the improvement work involved two weight-bearing columns that support the bridge — including one that collapsed Tuesday.

The 1967 bridge, considered innovative in its time for its use of concrete around its cables, was long due for an upgrade, especially since the structure was more heavily trafficked than its designers had envisioned.

One expert in such construction, Antonio Brencich at the University of Genoa, had previously called the bridge "a failure of engineering."

Engineering experts, noting that the bridge was 51 years old, said corrosion and decades of wear-and-tear from weather could have been factors in its collapse.

The Italian CNR civil engineering society said structures dating from when the Morandi Bridge was built had surpassed their lifespan. It called for an ambitious comprehensive plan to repair or replace tens of thousands of Italian bridges and viaducts built in the 1950s and 1960s, during the Italian economy's rapid growth as the nation surged back after the damage of World War II.

Mehdi Kashani, an associate professor in structural mechanics at the University of Southampton in Britain, said pressure from "dynamic loads," such as heavy traffic or strong winds, could have resulted in "fatigue damage" in the bridge's parts.

Italian politicians, for their part, were busy pointing fingers at possible culprits.

Italy's deputy premier, Luigi Di Maio, blamed the bridge collapse on a lack of maintenance by the private company that operates many of the nation's toll highways. Speaking in Genoa, Di Maio said Wednesday that he was looking at revoking highway concessions.

"Instead of investing money for maintenance, they divide the profits. And that is why the bridge falls," Di Maio said of the holding company that controls Autostrade Per Italia.

Di Maio, who leads the anti-business 5-Star Movement party that is part of Italy's coalition government, also took a swipe at the Benetton group, which controls Autostrade SRL through its Atlantia holding company. He blamed previous Italian governments of turning a blind eye to the health of the nation's toll highways because of political contributions.

Autostrade controls 3,020 kilometers (1,876 miles) of Italian highways.

Transport and Infrastructure Danilo Toninelli, also from the populist 5-Star Movement, threatened in a Facebook post that the state, if necessary, would take direct control of the highway contractor responsible for the bridge if it couldn't properly care for it.

State radio reported Wednesday that some 5-Star lawmakers in 2013 had questioned the wisdom of an ambitious, expensive infrastructure highway overhaul program as possibly wasteful, but that a post about that on the Movement's site was removed Tuesday after the bridge's collapse.

Just hours after the collapse, Salvini also was trying to shift the blame away from Italy’s new populist government, vowing not to let European Union spending strictures on Italy, which is laden with public debt, stop any effort to make the country’s infrastructure safe

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