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With crude oil prices falling, economists question the sustainability of Dunleavy's PFD plan - KTUU.com

Legislative News - Wed, 2018-11-14 22:00

KTUU.com

With crude oil prices falling, economists question the sustainability of Dunleavy's PFD plan
KTUU.com
Local economists say predicting prices in the long-term is not surefire, and having other means in place to fund deficits could very well be the difference in Alaska's future. Gov. ... The legislature followed suit in 2017, setting a fixed dividend ...
Dunleavy calls on former Oil and Gas lead Feige for DNR commishAlaskajournal.com

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South hockey team stays undefeated with win over Eagle River

Alaska News - Wed, 2018-11-14 21:35

South High junior forward Hayden Fox celebrates the first goal of his hat trick in Wednesday’s 5-3 victory over Eagle River. (Bill Roth / ADN)

Hayden Fox scored a hat trick and the South Wolverines remained undefeated Wednesday night with a 5-3 victory over Eagle River at Ben Boeke Arena.

Fox opened the scoring with an unassisted goal early in the Cook Inlet Conference game and added two more goals in the third period to open up a one-goal game.

Hannah Hogenson made 23 saves, Ryan Bailey and Josh Costello scored one goal apiece and Logan Orr handed out a pair of assists for the Wolverines, who improved to 5-0 overall and 3-0 in the CIC.

South led 3-1 after the first period and 3-2 after the second. Fox's back-to-back goals made it 5-2.

Eagle River's goals came from Ty McEnaney, Aidan Burton and Brayden Rachow. Logan Dudinsky had a pair of assists for the Wolves.


Eagle River junior goaltender Ryan Gray had 29 saves during the Wolves’ 5-3 loss to the South Wolverines at Ben Boeke on Wednesday. (Bill Roth / ADN)

‘Defendants are slumlords.’ Tenants sue Anchorage hotel over rodents, roaches, bed bugs

Alaska News - Wed, 2018-11-14 20:33

Portia Belshe sits on her bed at the Mush Inn Motel on Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2018. Belshe moved into the $800 per month room in May and has had problems with bedbugs and cockroaches ever since. (Loren Holmes / ADN) (Loren Holmes / ADN/)

Portia Belshe, 67, has lived at the Mush Inn Motel since May. Lately, she said, she’s been going to bed with tissue paper stuffed in her ears to keep insects from roaming inside her ears as she sleeps. Once, she said, a roach crawled inside her open mouth.

“They taste just as bad as they smell,” said Belshe, one of nine current and former Mush Inn tenants suing the Third Avenue hotel. They claim that when they moved into the 43-room complex near Merrill Field, managers failed to warn them that the building was infested with bed bugs, roaches and mice.

The lawsuit, filed in October in state Superior Court, alleges the hotel owners and management ignored tenant complaints, lied to new customers and “endangered basic health and safety" of tenants. Families, including small children, live for months and years in the rentals, said Nicholas Feronti, an Alaska Legal Services attorney who filed the complaint.

Citing the ongoing lawsuit, an attorney for two of the owners, couple Ho Jin Kim and Young Mee, said they would not be available for an interview. They deny the complaints.

“Mr. and Mrs. Kim cannot comment on the pending litigation, other than to say that they vehemently dispute the claims alleged in the plaintiffs' complaint and will be answering the complaint in due course,” attorney Robert Misulich wrote in an email.

Misulich would not say if the owners’ denial of the claims in the lawsuit also meant that they dispute that the hotel is infested. When a reporter visited the hotel on Wednesday, bed bugs detritus ringed Belshe’s mattress. When she moved her refrigerator, cockroaches scattered for the walls.

Other plaintiffs, who are suing the hotel with free legal help from the non-profit Alaska Legal Services Corp., say that when they complained of mice they were given mouse traps by the management. Others caught dozens of roaches in sticky traps in the hotel’s small one-room units.

“Defendants are slumlords," the lawsuit says. “They foist this dangerous housing on low-income tenants who have few, if any, alternatives.”

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The city health department has received nine complaints, from seven different people, about cockroaches and bed bugs at Mush Inn since February 2016. The department issued a citation and single, $300 fine, to the hotel on July 19 for “failure to maintain a dwelling unit in a clean and sanitary condition,” said deputy director DeeAnn Fetko.

One of the complaints came from Belshe, who said the city inspections and inexpensive fine -- it can costs hundreds of dollars per room to eradicate a bug problem -- don’t seem to make any difference. The owners sometimes use a device to super-heat the rooms in an effort to drive away or kill the pests, she said, but the bugs reappear days later. In the meantime, her attorney said, the pests scurry to adjacent rooms.

Of the nine plaintiffs, several have moved out. Some said they had felt trapped and struggled to find another affordable place to live. Rent is $800 but the security deposit is only $200, the plaintiffs' attorney said, making it easier to get into a room than a traditional apartment.

City housing codes says owners of rental units are responsible for eradicating pests and rodents, which can spread and disease. Municipal records list six current owners of the hotel, which was built in 1960 and most recently changed hands in 2004. Misulich, with the law firm Holland and Knight, said he only represents two of the owners and does not represent the management company for the hotel. Employees referred all questions to Misulich.

As of Wednesday, the hotel had not filed a response to the lawsuit.

Belshe has lived in Alaska since the 1990s and her sons played high school football in Palmer, she said. She had driven by the hotel many times and, when she was looking for a place just outside downtown Anchorage, it seemed like a convenient location.

“One thing that infuriates me, when you check in, you are not told there is an infestation here,” Belshe said. She said she cannot afford to move.


The Mush Inn Motel, photographed on Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2018. Tenants at the motel are suing the motel's owners, claiming that they have known about unlivable conditions including an infestation of bedbugs, cockroaches and rodents for years but did nothing. (Loren Holmes / ADN) (Loren Holmes / ADN/)
Bedbugs are collected in a glass jar in Portia Belshe's room Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2018 at the Mush Inn Motel. Belshe moved into the $800 per month room in May and has had problems with bedbugs and cockroaches ever since. (Loren Holmes / ADN) (Loren Holmes / ADN/)

Belshe said she learned of the infestation when she discovered bed bug bites appearing all over her body. In the early afternoon, the roaches began to grow lively. Scampering across the bamboo-pattern wallpaper. Falling from the cabinets to the kitchen counter as she cooked dinner for one.

Two other tenants began renting a unit in June 2017. They puzzled over the bite marks appearing on their bodies before learning the room was infested with bed bugs, the lawsuit says. The couple convinced management to move them to another unit, which also turned out to have a pest problem. When the pair complained, they were told they could “get out,” the suit says.

Another woman, 63-year-old Naomi Shearrod, remains at the Mush Inn because she can’t afford to move, according to the complaint. She wipes her counters with bleach. Others bought air mattresses or slept fully clothes on top of their covers to keep the bed bugs away. Tenants Ruth Ballot and Prentiss Williams said they only slept an hour their first night at the hotel, appalled at the crawling walls. They too were moved to a second unit, where they trapped at least seven mice.


Children's drawings adorn the wall of Portia Belshe's room Wednesday, Nov. 14, 2018 at the Mush Inn Motel. Belshe has cut off contact with the family she used to babysit for, because she is worried about giving them bedbugs and cockroaches. (Loren Holmes / ADN) (Loren Holmes / ADN/)

Children of all ages live at the 43-unit hotel, Belshe said. On her wall is a coloring-book drawing of a character from the movie “Trolls,” the character’s hair colored purple with a magic marker. Belshe said she used to babysit a 4-year-old in her room but can no longer have children – or anyone else – visit because she’s afraid they will take bed bugs home with them.

The pest problem has left her isolated and anxious, she said. When she visited the city health department to complain, she said, a roach crawled out of her paperwork.

Now, Belshe said, “I don’t go anywhere except to buy groceries.”


Alissa Pili, a star in basketball, volleyball and track, draws a crowd for signing her name

Alaska News - Wed, 2018-11-14 20:23

Billy Pili, left, gets choked up as he talks about his daughter Alissa Pili, right, during a National Letter of Intent signing ceremony Wednesday at Dimond High. Alissa Pili is headed to USC on a basketball scholarship. (Marc Lester / ADN)

Dreams came true. Tears were shed. Cupcakes were eaten.

Wednesday was a National Letter-of-Intent signing day for high school athletes who have made their college choices, a day when a teenager signing his or her name on a piece of paper qualifies as a big deal.

Heather Pili, whose daughter was among those in the day's spotlight, can tell you why.

"A free education," she said. "You can't beat that."

Alissa Pili, a 17-year-old senior at Dimond High, was the day's biggest catch, and not just because she is a formidable 6-footer who as a sophomore won a state wrestling championship in the girls' 220-pound weight class.

She is the 2017-18 Max Prep Sports national high school athlete of the year and a 10-time Alaska high school state champion, a multi-sports star who had her pick of colleges — and her pick of sports, for that matter.

Though she has won state titles in basketball, volleyball, track and wrestling, Pili long ago chose basketball as the game that will get her undivided attention in college. More recently she chose to play at USC, the Pac-12 Conference school where her brother, Brandon Pili, is a sophomore defensive lineman on the football team.

"I put them into consideration because my brother's there," Pili said Wednesday, "but seeing it first-hand I was really impressed by the whole family atmosphere. They made me feel like I'm a part of the team already."


Billy Pili grabs his daughter Alissa Pili’s arm and jokingly asks if anyone wants her to go to a different college just before she signs her National Letter of Intent. (Marc Lester / ADN)

Another thing that hooked her was the idea that USC's family atmosphere doesn't end once an athlete's eligibility does.

"They have a saying — it's not a four-year contract, it's a 40-year contract," she said. "Going away from my family is going to be hard, so I'm going to need that."

The second of Heather and Billy Pili's eight children, Pili put her family values on full display at her signing ceremony. Her parents and several siblings sat at a table with her, and members of her large extended family — many wearing cardinal-and-gold USC gear — sat in the bleachers along with a big group of Dimond students.

Banners, flowers, leis and cupcakes made the event festive. Billy Pili was initially too choked up to say much about his daughter's achievement but he recovered in time to lighten the mood. As Alissa began to sign her letter of intent, her dad grabbed her arm. "Anybody want her to go someplace else?" he joked.

A hallway or two away, in Dimond's multi-purpose room, another family gathered for cupcakes and tears.


Kady Bryant gets ready to sign a National Letter of Intent to join the University of Oregon’s acrobatic and tumbling team. (Marc Lester / ADN)

Kady Bryant hasn't earned the headlines or national honors that Pili has — few from Alaska's Class of 2019 have — but Wednesday was a big day for her too.

Flanked by giant gold balloons spelling out "OU DUCKS," she signed a letter of intent with Oregon, where she'll be a member of the school's acrobatic and tumbling squad.

Acrobatics and tumbling isn't an NCAA sport — it is governed by the National Collegiate Acrobatics and Tumbling Association — but the team is part of Oregon's athletic program and it offers scholarships.

Earning one of them was a dream come true for Bryant, 18.

"As long as I can remember I've wanted to be a Duck," an emotional Bryant said after signing her letter of intent. "My cousin is an OU alum and she's been dressing me up in Ducks gear since I was little."

Bryant was 10 years old when that cousin, 2008 Oregon grad Allyson Berg, told her the Ducks had started an acrobatic and tumbling program. "I had just started doing competitive cheerleading, so from that background I came to this," Bryant said.

Berg, who was among those who watched Bryant sign her letter of intent, remembers telling her cousin about Oregon's team back in 2010. "I said, hey, this is right up your alley," she said. "For her to actually follow through is incredible."

Wednesday’s Division I signings

Kady Bryant, Dimond — Oregon acrobats and tumbling

Corina Froehle, Bartlett — Eastern Washington women's soccer

Isabel List, Colony — Montana volleyball

Alissa Pili, Dimond — USC women's basketball

Azaria Robinson, East — New Mexico women's basketball

Submit letter-of-intent signings to sports@adn.com and we'll add them to this list.

Thanksgiving season is upon us. Here are 5 ways you can give back.

Alaska News - Wed, 2018-11-14 19:26

Volunteers from Clear Channel Media collect food donations during the United Way Day of Caring Food Drive in the parking lot of the Mall at Sears on Friday, September 14, 2012. 120914 (Bob Hallinen / Anchorage Daily News) (Anchorage Daily News/)

Next week, Alaskans will celebrate the Thanksgiving holiday with their friends and loved ones. This is a time to reflect and be thankful for all that we have — and also an excellent time to help those who are not privileged to be in the same position. Whether you’re able to contribute money, time or material goods, here are a few ways you can help ensure others in our community also have a happy, healthy and safe holiday season.

1. Give food

Nonprofit groups that help address food needs are always in need of donations, and the holidays are a time when that need is acute. As part of its #GiveHealthy initiative, the Food Bank of Alaska is trying to reach 2,000 pounds of donated food by Friday, Nov. 16. The Food Bank serves not only the Anchorage area, but also remote communities across Alaska, so donations can reach far beyond our backyard. Additionally, the Food Bank accepts some donations unique to Alaska: According to the organization’s website, it “welcomes gifts of moose, caribou, deer and sheep meat, as well as salmon and halibut,” so long as the donations are commercially processed.

2. Give money

Many worthwhile groups in the Anchorage area devote services to the less fortunate, and donating to them is one of the best, most direct ways to help neighbors in need. You can give a targeted donation to a group that serves a particular need, or you can give to an umbrella agency such as United Way of Anchorage, which supports a host of member agencies that provide services locally. Donating to the United Way is one of the easiest ways to ensure that money you give will be used locally and have benefits close to home. Donations to the group or its member agencies may not provide the instant gratification of handing a dollar bill to someone who approaches you in a parking lot, but it’s a far better way to ensure the money helps those who are in greatest need.

3. Give time

One of the most valuable ways to donate to your charity of choice is by giving of yourself — contributing volunteer hours to an organization you support. We often think we don’t have enough time to volunteer, but most nonprofit groups are happy to have volunteers for even a single hour at a time, and for many, volunteer hours are the area of most critical need in fulfilling their mission. All kinds of volunteer opportunities abound, from food-based groups and homeless services nonprofits to groups such as Big Brothers Big Sisters or the Red Cross. You can find a clearinghouse of opportunities online at the VolunteerMatch website.

4. Give blood

Alaska and the U.S. are in the midst of a blood shortage, and donations literally save lives. The Blood Bank of Alaska is hosting near-daily mobile blood drives at locations across Southcentral Alaska, in addition to taking donations at its two Anchorage centers. Make a date with a friend or family member to go and donate together as a new holiday tradition. Accident victims and surgery patients will thank you. It is gratifying, after tragedies, to see community members line up around the block to give blood, but it shouldn’t take a mass casualty incident to remind us of the need for blood. Set a calendar reminder; you can donate multiple times per year.

5. Give clothes or other items

Organizations that help Alaskans in need, particularly those experiencing homelessness, can almost always use donations of clothing. Groups such as Covenant House and Abused Women’s Aid in Crisis accept new and gently used clothing and other in-kind donations, and groups such as The Arc of Anchorage have drop-off locations for used clothing that help fund their programs.

There are many ways to help neighbors and community members in need during the holiday season. Whatever your level of ability to give, everything you contribute helps make our city and state a better place. As the holidays approach, that’s the greatest gift we can give to one another.

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.

Join us in celebrating a combined 65 years of award-winning ADN photojournalism

Alaska News - Wed, 2018-11-14 19:07

Readers: Join us Thursday night for a free event celebrating the Anchorage Daily News / adn.com’s rich history of Alaska photojournalism - in particular the work of Bob Hallinen and Erik Hill. Bob retired last week after more than 30 years at the ADN; Erik left us last year after a similar run.

The free event is from 5-8 p.m. upstairs at the new King Street Brewing Co., 9050 King Street, in South Anchorage. Both Bob and Erik will show their work, and talk about it, starting at 6 p.m.

We’d love to see you there.

— David Hulen, editor

[Related: A letter to Alaska, by Bob Hallinen]

Trial kicks off in cocktail napkin lawsuit between former Alaska Dispatch News owner and editor

Alaska News - Wed, 2018-11-14 19:00

Jeffrey Robinson, lawyer for Tony Hopfinger, holds an enlarged version of a message originally written on a napkin by Alice Rogoff. A lawsuit between former Alaska Dispatch editor Tony Hopfinger and owner Alice Rogoff began on November 14, 2018. Hopfinger claims he is owed money that he said Rogoff agreed to pay on a cocktail napkin. (Marc Lester / ADN) (Marc Lester/)

Does a statement written on a cocktail napkin constitute an enforceable contract?

That’s one question at the heart of a civil trial that kicked off Wednesday in Anchorage Superior Court, between two well-known former figures in Alaska’s news media landscape.

Tony Hopfinger, the former president and editor of the newspaper Alaska Dispatch News, filed a lawsuit against Alaska Dispatch Publishing LLC and its owner, Alice Rogoff, in 2016. He alleges that Rogoff failed to pay him money he says she promised to him.

Enter the cocktail napkin. In April of 2014, Rogoff wrote on a napkin: “I agree to pay Tony $100K at end of each calendar year (beginning ’14) for 10 years," totaling $1 million. She did pay Hopfinger the first $100,000 payment, in January 2015, according to the lawsuit.

In the courtroom Wednesday, an attorney representing Hopfinger presented a copy of that napkin to the jury, blown up and supersized on poster board.

“How do we know when parties have an agreement?” attorney Jeffrey Robinson said in his opening statement. “The strongest evidence that we expect you’ll hear in this case that the parties had a binding agreement is because Ms. Rogoff believed that the parties had a binding agreement. People don’t cut $100,000 checks unless they believe that they have reached an agreement.”


Alice Rogoff listens to opening statements with her legal team. A lawsuit between former Alaska Dispatch editor Tony Hopfinger and owner Alice Rogoff began on November 14, 2018. Hopfinger claims he is owed money that he said Rogoff agreed to pay on a cocktail napkin. (Marc Lester / ADN) (Marc Lester/)
Jeffrey Robinson, left, talks to his client, Tony Hopfinger. A lawsuit between former Alaska Dispatch editor Tony Hopfinger and owner Alice Rogoff began on November 14, 2018. Hopfinger claims he is owed money that he said Rogoff agreed to pay on a cocktail napkin. (Marc Lester / ADN) (Marc Lester/)

Robinson closed his opening statement with: “We’re confident that at the end of the day, you know what a promise is and you know who broke that promise. And that person is not Mr. Hopfinger. That person is Alice Rogoff.”

David Gross, an attorney representing Rogoff, said a significant part of what the napkin says is the part about the payments happening over 10 years. Hopfinger lives in Chicago now and has not been involved in the operations of the newspaper since 2015. (He moved to Chicago to be near his terminally ill mother, who died.)

The term “was an effort to lock Tony in to that 10-year period,” Gross said. “To commit Tony to work for the newspaper for that 10-year period so he that would be with her hand-in-hand to run this newspaper."

Gross told members of the jury to ask themselves, once they have all the evidence, if there was an enforceable contract in place.

“And if there was an enforceable contract in place," he said, “what was it for? What were the terms of this contract?”

He finished his opening remarks to the jury by saying that, come the end of the trial, “I’m going to tell you to pay Tony what he is owed in this case, which is nothing. I’m going to tell you to pay Tony what he earned, which is nothing. And I’m going to tell you to pay Tony what he deserves, which is nothing.”

In March 2014, Robinson said Wednesday, Hopfinger told Rogoff he wanted to be bought out of the company.

“His proposal was $1.3 million offered over a period of five years, she would buy out his shares,” Robinson said. “Alice Rogoff countered with $1 million over 10 years," plus stock options.

Hopfinger co-founded a news website called Alaska Dispatch in 2008 with his then-wife, Amanda Coyne. In 2009, Rogoff purchased a majority of Alaska Dispatch Publishing LLC. Hopfinger and Coyne each kept 5 percent of the company.

Then, in 2014, Alaska Dispatch bought the much larger Anchorage Daily News from the newspaper chain McClatchy Co. The name of the operation became Alaska Dispatch News.

The new Alaska Dispatch News enterprise experienced “massive and significant losses after Ms. Rogoff took control,” Robinson said, “about $400,000 a week” at some point within the first year.

Under her ownership, Alaska Dispatch News filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection in August of 2017. It was bought by the Binkley family of Fairbanks and the name soon changed back to the Anchorage Daily News.

Rogoff took the stand later Wednesday. Robinson questioned her about the value of Alaska Dispatch and an employment contract Hopfinger had. He was eventually making $190,000 a year in his position at the newspaper, according to a detailed employment contract presented in court.

Rogoff also said in court that she and Hopfinger were at one point in “serious discussions” with Schurz Communications, the Indiana-based company that used to own Anchorage TV station KTUU, in hopes that that company might buy the Anchorage Daily News along with Rogoff.

The trial is set to continue the rest of this week and into next week.


Winter survival guide: Pile on the layers and resist hygge until after you’ve been outside

Alaska News - Wed, 2018-11-14 17:33

Mary Beth Risvold walks her dog along an icy trail near Westchester Lagoon on Tuesday. (Bill Roth / ADN)

I hit rewind on the seasons for a couple of weeks in late October by traveling to the East Coast. For 13 days, I leaf-peeped, bonfired and ate crunchy fresh apples to my heart's content. The days were a perfect balance of warm in the sun yet cool in the shadows; the nights sparkled with stars.

When I arrived back in Alaska the entire landscape was draped in fresh snow and the sunsets were already tinged with a pink-purple Arctic hue. And of course the starkest reality check — Minnesota Drive leading us away from the airport had formed its signature luge run on-ramp, curving sharply around, goading me to try it racecar-style without studded tires (I've been in many taxis that tried just that and each time I've found god).

When I got home to my neighborhood in Palmer, the thermometer in my car read 9 degrees. Snow weighed on every branch of every tree and glimmered in the headlights of my car before I shut it off, and then there was just dark, clear sky with our signature big dipper overhead. My breath unfurled in puffy, cloud-like bursts, and when I inhaled, I felt the familiar sharp iciness in my throat and nose.

When I left it was still fall and I joked that winter was coming. It's no longer on its way — at least in Palmer. It's full-on here, in all of its pendulum-swinging, climate-changing glory. One minute it's a snowglobe, the next it's icy hail. I'm adapting.

Overall I love winter, but it's just a tad more difficult than the other seasons. It's like a needy teenager. Winter requires more of me.

For one, there's my constant battle against hygge.

Hygge, remember, is a Danish concept meaning "coziness" (pronounced hue-guh). Like so many traditions in the world that Americans find charming, we have taken that word and really run with it: hygge is something to be hashtagged and consumed. That's not really the Danes' problem, though, or an issue with the concept itself. No, my problem with hygge is that it's so damn tempting.

I love where I live. Really, really love it. I like being cozy inside with my cup of tea and gazing out on the snowy woods and seeing what the light is doing from minute to minute. I like the contrast of warm wood walls with the sharp blue-and-white relief of winter right through the window. I love building up the woodstove and being in a blanket right next to it until I feel like I am in a sauna built for one.

In theory, I also love being outside instead of just gazing at it from the comfort of my home. But it's really difficult to get from inside to outside when hygge is present. This is true even though experiencing the cold and fresh air actually makes hygge later on even better — and that's part of what I have to tell myself as I'm tugging on my 10th layer and shuffling toward the door.

This is part of the cycle, I mutter. This is good for your health, both physical and mental. I eventually put down my cookie, withdraw from my blanket cocoon and shove myself into the cold whether it's 5 degrees or minus-5, dark or light. I do this because I value my sanity, and experience has told me the best way to retain it during the Alaska winter is to routinely go outside.

But now let me turn your attention to gear. I don't mean fancy gear, like crampons and ice axes. I mean simple, warm layers that suffice for any length of time outside.

Accruing enough of these layers, and keeping them clean, is a whole ordeal in and of itself. I have piles of head bands, gloves, mittens, balaclavas to cover my mouth and protect my fragile lungs from the cold, and I have enough Patagonia jackets from when I worked there that it looks like they've been breeding in my closet.

Yet it always seems like there is never quite enough. My favorite pants are inevitably dirty or my preferred thick buff has that perma-stink all too familiar to anyone who has sweated in a piece of synthetic clothing for long enough that, despite consistent laundering, you can't ever quite get rid of the smell.

Winter comes with layers. Cold, darkness, ice. Each layer forms a barrier between me and the outdoors, which means there is more to push through and pile on in order to get myself out the door. In the end, it's worth it.

Usually.

Alli Harvey lives in Palmer and plays in Southcentral Alaska.

Playing mom to three newborn pups is a stinky, dirty, never-ending job

Alaska News - Wed, 2018-11-14 17:19

Winter arrived in a rush. We wandered through October like a balmy September. Then, overnight, we got kicked in the butt.

Snow. The temperature at our place dropped below zero and has stayed there. The temperatures are nice enough for November, but we missed the normal set-up. I wasn't quite ready for the puppies that came along either.

The pups were planned and the projected birth date was known. But this was a first litter for the female so we watched her closely.

Within a day, it became apparent the new mom had no milk. The newborns would have to be bottle fed. The pups were set up in a cardboard box next to the wood stove in the living room.


John Schandelmeier bottle-feeds a 21-day-old puppy, Sunday, Nov. 11, 2018. (Photo by Jona Schandelmeier)

I have had dogs my entire life. My first coherent memory is being bit by a cocker spaniel (I tried to take her bone). That incident did not deter me from liking dogs. Labradors, dobermans, German shepherds and sled dogs have followed through the years. Over the last 40-odd years with shepherds and sled dogs, there have been 30-odd litters of pups.

I have never had to bottle feed a litter. The learning curve is tremendous.

It took only a couple of days to figure out how happy that mother dog was to get rid of those demanding little buggers. They wake up and scream for food every couple hours. That means at night too. The formula must be right. They have to get used to the taste. The temperature needs to be consistent.

A mother dog can nurse three pups at one time. I can only do one, which means loud screaming from the other two.

Replacement milk formula is expensive. The can I got made 60 ounces, and they emptied that in a couple of days. The internet tells me how to make my own, and here is a modified recipe that has worked out well over the past few weeks. This formula is a bit more substantial than the canned product and seems to satiate the pups longer.

— 8 ounces evaporated milk

— 4 ounces warm water (you can sterilize it by boiling, if you like)

— 4 ounces plain yogurt (not fat-free)

— 2 egg yolks for protein. There are claims that egg whites can cause a deficiency of biotin, which is necessary for protein digestion. Given that unknown, avoid the whites with a tiny pup. You can substitute 2 tablespoons of fish meal after the first week.

— 4 tablespoons of canola oil.

— 4 tablespoons of milk substitute (to help out with necessary vitamins)

The objective is to get the fat content near the 40 percent range. The protein level should be 35 percent or more.

Now, what no one says much about is this: Whatever you put into the puppy comes out the other end. The mother dog cleans up her pups. She licks up the pee and eats the poop. Efficient? Yes. I'm not doing it. Newspapers work for the first few days, especially just before elections.

Old towels and a real good washing machine work. Cloth baby diapers probably would be effective. We opted for doggy pee pads — the kind you get for the Chihuahua that doesn't house train. By the end of the second week, you'll be changing pads every few hours.

Twenty days into the feeding process, dog food can be introduced. Teeth don't have to be formed, but the gum line should be pretty solid. The kids should yelp when the puppy sucks their finger.

The switch to solid food is not an immediate transition. Warm-soak the dog food, but don't turn it to mush. Hand feed it to the pups for a day or so. Continue with the milk, though by now you might stretch time between feedings to four hours at night.

Three weeks acting as Mr. Mom has not gotten easier. The feeding is smoother, but the clean-up is proportionately tougher.


The Schandelmeier house German Shepard Charlie took to grooming the pups, Sunday, Nov.11, 2018. (Photo by John Schandelmeier)

We are fortunate. The kids help feed and clean up during the day. Uncle Charlie, our house German shepherd, has taken over some of the chores. He cleans up the pups by licking them, just like their real mother would. Before we realized that Charlie would do this, we had to wipe the pups down with a warm rag before every feeding.

The pups still receive a daily bath to get the stuff Charlie misses. The stinky little critters have moved to the wood stove in the shop so as to save on incense sticks. When I walk out to the dog yard, the pups' mom greets me with a big smile, as if to say: "Glad they are yours now!"

John Schandelmeier is a lifelong Alaskan who lives near Paxson with his family. He is a Bristol Bay commercial fisherman and a two-time winner of the Yukon Quest.

Woman killed in hit-and-run collision was mother from St. Lawrence Island

Alaska News - Wed, 2018-11-14 17:18

Anchorage police identified the woman killed Saturday in a hit-and-run collision on a street in Ship Creek as Michele Kulukhon, 35.

Kulukhon grew up in Gambell, on St. Lawrence Island, said her mother Ellen Kulukhon.

She'd also spent time living in Nome, Diomede Island and Shaktoolik.

She came from a big family, with two brothers, three sisters and two step-sisters. Kulukhon was a mother, with five children of her own. One passed away.

In recent years, she'd lived between Fairbanks, Anchorage and other communities her mom said. She spent time at Beans Cafe.

"Everyone knew her there," Ellen Kulukhon said.

She said she doesn't know anything about the circumstances surrounding the hit-and-run collision.

Her daughter was a humble, kind and helpful, a person who would "help anyone who asked, especially elders," she said.

Ellen Kulukhon had just seen her daughter in October, when she'd traveled to Anchorage from Shaktoolik for a medical appointment.

The family is grieving and figuring out how to bring relatives scattered in remote villages together, she said. They are also bracing for what's next.

She said she's glad a suspect has been caught, but she's not sure what will happen next as the case unfolds in the criminal justice system.

"I have to go to court or something," she said. "I've never been in this kind of situation. It's real hard."

The man accused of hitting Kulukhon near the intersection of Orca Street and 3rd Avenue Saturday evening remains at the Anchorage jail. He is charged with leaving the scene of an accident.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Avenatti arrested on suspicion of domestic violence

Alaska News - Wed, 2018-11-14 17:16

Michael Avenatti speaks during a Bloomberg Television interview in New York on Aug. 2. Bloomberg photo by Mark Kauzlarich (Mark Kauzlarich/)

Michael Avenatti, a Democratic lawyer whose public profile exploded this year when he sued President Donald Trump on behalf of an adult-film star and flirted with a 2020 presidential bid, was arrested Wednesday in Los Angeles on suspicion of domestic violence.

The Los Angeles Police Department confirmed the arrest, which was first reported by TMZ, in a tweet late Wednesday.

"We can confirm that today LAPD Detectives arrested Michael Avenatti on suspicion of domestic violence. This is an ongoing investigation and we will provide more details as they become available," the department wrote, without providing further detail.

Avenatti is known for his aggressive media presence as he represents Stormy Daniels in two lawsuits against Trump. He has vowed to depose the president and said he is considering running for the Democratic presidential nomination in 2020 in order to challenge him politically.

Avenatti did not answer his cellphone or return messages late Wednesday. His law office in Newport Beach, California, automatically directed phone calls to an answering service.

Daniels, whose legal name is Stephanie Clifford, did not respond to a voicemail seeking comment.

It was unclear who was involved in the alleged incident. TMZ initially reported that Avenatti was arrested after his "estranged wife" filed a felony domestic violence report, but a lawyer for ex-wife Lisa Storie Avenatti told BuzzFeed News that the article was not true. TMZ later amended its story.

Avenatti's political celebrity has grown thanks to a continuous cycle of media interviews and an active Twitter presence that he uses to challenge Trump. He launched a political action committee and has spoken at Democratic events around the country.

The Vermont Democratic Party announced late Wednesday that it was canceling events scheduled with Avenatti in light of his reported arrest.

"The Vermont Democratic Party has cancelled Mr. Avenatti's forthcoming scheduled appearances in Vermont, and will be refunding all ticket sales," party spokesman Christopher Di Mezzo said in a statement.

Avenatti is representing Daniels in two lawsuits against Trump, with whom she claims to have had an affair. One, claiming Trump defamed her, was recently tossed in federal court; Avenatti is now appealing the ruling to the U.S. Court of Appeals for the 9th Circuit. The other seeks to formally invalidate a 2016 nondisclosure agreement that prevented Daniels from discussing her alleged affair with Trump in the lead-up to the election. Trump, who denies having an affair with Daniels, has said he will not enforce the agreement.

Trump lawyer Charles Harder noted that three legal motions in the cases are scheduled for oral arguments in a Los Angeles federal court on Dec. 3.

---

The Washington Post’s Felicia Sonmez contributed reporting.

Dunleavy taps Feige to be Alaska Natural Resources head

Alaska News - Wed, 2018-11-14 16:21

Alaska Gov.-elect Mike Dunleavy addresses the Alaska Miners Association annual conference at the Dena'ina Convention Center in Anchorage, Alaska, Thursday, Nov. 8, 2018. (AP Photo/Mark Thiessen) (Mark Thiessen/)

JUNEAU — Gov.-elect Mike Dunleavy has named a former director of Alaska’s Division of Oil and Gas to be his Natural Resources commissioner.

Corri Feige has spent her career working in the energy sector, including as a geophysicist and consultant and in management-level positions.

Feige worked as director of the Division of Oil and Gas from April 2015 to October 2016. The division falls under the Department of Natural Resources.

During her tenure, the state maintained its push for more information from top North Slope companies on plans to support a future potential major gas sale. Gov. Bill Walker has been pursuing a major gas project.

Dunleavy made the announcement Wednesday in Anchorage. Feige's appointment is subject to legislative confirmation.

She is married to former state Rep. Eric Feige of Chickaloon.

Judge agrees to trial date in Anchorage transgender case

Alaska News - Wed, 2018-11-14 16:18

The downtown soup kitchen Hope Center provides a women's shelter, job skills training, meal, launcry and clothing to people in need. (Anne Raup / ADN)

A federal judge in Alaska has agreed to a 2020 trial date for a lawsuit filed by a faith-based Anchorage women’s shelter against the city over a requirement that it accept transgender women.

In an order filed Wednesday, U.S. District Judge Sharon Gleason said she accepted a trial date starting April 8, 2020. That date was requested by the parties.

Alliance Defending Freedom, a conservative Christian law firm, previously sought an injunction to stop the city from applying its gender identity law to the Hope Center shelter.

The lawsuit also names the Anchorage Equal Rights Commission, which became involved after a transgender woman said she was denied entry at the shelter.

An attorney for the city has said the commission’s investigation hasn’t been concluded, largely because of the shelter’s noncooperation.

[Discrimination complaint against downtown Anchorage women’s shelter opens up political front]

In defense of Alaska polling

Alaska News - Wed, 2018-11-14 16:11

Voters enter the Region II Elections office at 2525 Gambell Street in Anchorage as early voting began for the general election on Monday, Oct. 22, 2018. (Bill Roth/ ADN) (Bill Roth/)

Pollsters don’t make predictions. We just show how things are at a given moment in time. It’s such a simple concept, but one that is routinely misunderstood, mostly deliberately and for partisan purposes. Whether it’s to score political points or get a few clicks on a blog, criticizing pollsters has become the new blood sport.

OK, bring it on. But here’s a story to illustrate how challenged and baseless these attacks are.

Back in 2002, I was lucky enough to work on Fran Ulmer’s campaign for governor. She had served as Alaska’s lieutenant governor for the previous eight years under Tony Knowles and was the Democrat in the governor’s race. She was up against Sen. Frank Murkowski, who had returned from Washington, D.C., to run as the Republican candidate.

In late August, just after the primary election was complete and the contests were determined, our poll results showed Ulmer in a 3-point lead, 46-43. Ulmer’s positive-negative rating was 63-27, Murkowski’s 56-36. My candidate was very well liked and respected. In early October, a month out from the Nov. 5 election date, we did another survey that showed Ulmer with a four-point lead, 47-43. I remember another Alaska pollster did a survey for KTUU at the exact same time and showed an essentially identical result, Ulmer in the lead by 3-4 points.

As we went through October, the race tightened up. Ulmer’s positive rating was dragged back into the 50s, by mid-month the race was tied, and by the third week of October, Ulmer had fallen two points behind. In the final 10 days before the election, we started nightly tracking. On the Monday eight days out, we were four points down, by Wednesday it was 7, and by the time the weekend arrived, it was 10.

Murkowski won the following Tuesday by 15 points.

Of course, nothing’s worse on a campaign than having cratering internal numbers like those taking the wind out of your sails. But our obligation was to put on happy faces and go out there and finish it up. If memory serves me, I don’t think there was even full disclosure with our client, such was the need to maintain morale and get to Tuesday.

In the 16 years since, if I had a dollar for every time some armchair quarterback had criticized me for “getting Ulmer-Murkowski wrong,” for crying out loud, I’d have a very large wad of cash in my pocket right now. The fact was, my polling wasn’t wrong. It matched up with other poll results at critical points during the campaign, and then I watched it shift, gradually at first, but then suddenly and precipitously at the end, in front of my eyes, because Alaskans decided (to their cost, as it turned out) that they were more comfortable with Frank.

Nate Silver at fivethirtyeight.com claims that Alaska “is difficult to poll,” like he thinks we live in igloos or something and don’t have phones. The reality is, there’s nothing difficult to poll about Alaska itself. It’s Alaskans who are difficult to poll, because we change our minds.

What I was coming to understand prior to that campaign in 2002, and have learned since, is that this movement is an Alaska Shift, a systematic surge in Republican vote that has happened countless times before. It happened the first year I worked in politics, in 1990, when John Devens had Don Young’s campaign on the ropes and convinced they were going to lose, but come election day, Young pulled out a miraculous recovery to win by 4 points. It happened in 1994, when Tony Knowles managed to lose a double-digit lead in the final days of the campaign and only scrape home by 500 votes. More recently, it happened in 2008 and 2014, when Don Young was challenged by Ethan Berkowitz and Forrest Dunbar, both of whom led in polls but lost hard on election day, by 5 and 10 points respectively. And it has happened again this year, with Begich-Dunleavy and Galvin-Young.

All the Democrats I’ve mentioned, perhaps none more so than Fran Ulmer, were likable, accomplished and qualified candidates, and all of them made good initial impressions in their races. But there’s a sizable subset of the Alaska electorate who, while they’re predisposed to personally liking the Democrat in a race, at least at first, get their amygdalas lit up when campaign messaging turns, as it inevitably does in Alaska, to fear-based, nonsense talk about the things Democrats will do if we’re stupid enough to elect them. Messages that Democrats will raise taxes, grow government, spend uncontrollably and steal your Permanent Fund dividend are principal among them. At the same time this is going on, the pleasure centers of those same voter brains are rendered awash with serotonin with promises of the continuation of the free ride. That was the case with Murkowski in 2002, and this year’s promise of a bumper dividend is a repeat performance.

The final poll I did in the governor’s race this year was done the penultimate weekend, about 10 days out from Election Day. It showed Begich and Dunleavy well matched and in a close race. That poll was perfectly representative of likely Alaska voters, by party affiliation, by age, by ethnicity and by geographical region. In the 10 days that followed, we saw the ritual demonization of the Democrats on the ballot reach a full crescendo. We saw Francis Dunleavy drop a chunk of his Alaska investment into the final week in support of his brother, we saw the oil industry spend untold millions promoting and getting out the “No on 1” vote and, like the cherry on top, we had Mike Dunleavy’s promise of a $6,700 payday and a restoration of the old PFD formula.

Who wouldn’t expect the race to fundamentally shift after all that?

Listen, is every poll that I do bang on target? Of course not. Like any survey measurement, we are approximating the characteristics of the population we’re studying, and it is by definition inexact. Have I had outlier polls before that I would take back if I could? Sure, every pollster has. But outliers are a different thing. They occur because of random variation and don’t demonstrate the kind of systematic consistency I’ve described here.

Don’t worry, be happy. No taxes. Free money. Alaskans simply like that message and instinctively respond to it with their votes. Over and over again.

Ivan Moore is a longtime Alaska pollster and the owner of Alaska Survey Research in Anchorage.

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.

Raccoons drunk on crab apples cause false rabies scare in West Virginia

Alaska News - Wed, 2018-11-14 16:02

A drunk raccoon in Milton, W.Va. Photo handout from Milton Police Department (Milton/)

Rabid animals are, of course, no laughing matter. The rabies virus can infect the central nervous system, resulting in disease and death, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. But that happens after a host of increasingly scary symptoms: partial paralysis, agitation, hallucinations, hydrophobia. A British man and two children died in Morocco after they were bitten by a rabid cat.

So it was not surprising that when people in the city of Milton, West Virginia, saw raccoons behaving weirdly, they involved the local police.

Officers staked out the area where the suspect animals were hanging out, looking for any signs of the masked perpetrators.

But when they caught two of them, they realized they were dealing with a different kind of issue.

The raccoons weren't rabid. They were drunk.

The raccoons, apparently, had been feasting on crab apples that had fermented on the tree, causing the small animals to walk around "staggering and disoriented," police said.

"Turns out they appear to be drunk on crab apples," police said in their official statement to the community.

The apprehended animals were held in custody and allowed to sober up in what can only be deemed a raccoon drunk tank.

Then they were released into the wild, but not before some enterprising officer took a picture of the animal, showing it to be dazed, woozy, more than a little out of it. They named one drunk raccoon Dallas and released both near the woods.

And with that, Dallas joined a long line of animals that have made headlines for public intoxication.

Officers in Gilbert, Minn., for example, received reports of under-the-influence birds "flying into windows, cars and acting confused," Police Chief Ty Techar wrote. An early frost meant that berries had fermented before the birds flew south for the winter, according to The Washington Post's Antonia Noori Farzan, and birds were eating them and getting drunk.

But all birds weren't equally affected, the chief wrote: "It appears that some birds are getting a little more 'tipsy' than normal," he wrote. "Generally, younger birds' livers cannot handle the toxins as efficiently as more mature birds."

Residents who thought that perhaps they were in a 21st-century remake of an Alfred Hitchcock film were amused but also relieved:

"This explains why I have hit 7 birds with my car this week," one person commented on the chief's post.

And in Wayne Township, Indiana, in the spring, a frantic woman walked into a fire station and told firefighters that her pet raccoon was "lethargic" and possibly severely stoned after getting into someone else's pot, according to The Washington Post.

High animals are more common as more jurisdictions legalize marijuana and people plop the drug into tasty edibles that also appeal to their pets, who can't read warning labels and don't typically have the impulse control to stop at one, Brulliard reported.

Although most of the calls involve dogs chomping on marijuana edibles, Brulliard wrote, “veterinarians also cited examples of chihuahuas lapping up bong water, cats being exposed to vaping, and even rabbits, ferrets and birds getting accidentally stoned.”

Settlement allows campaign signs on private property near Alaska state roads

Alaska News - Wed, 2018-11-14 15:10

Political signs that were removed by the Alaska Department of Transportation sit in a DOT complex in Anchorage on Thursday, Aug. 9, 2018. The signs were removed because they were illegally placed along road rights-of-way and posed a safety concern. (Loren Holmes / ADN) (Loren Holmes/)

Alaska residents can voluntarily display small, temporary political campaign signs on private property along state roadways, contrary to past interpretations of state and federal law, a new legal settlement says.

Political campaign signs are still illegal in highway rights-of-way, though campaigns and supporters regularly flout that rule during election season. The state Department of Transportation can clear those signs without any notice to sign owners.

But those removals must be done in an “equal, content-neutral manner,” according to the Tuesday order from Anchorage Superior Court Judge Herman Walker -- an apparent reference to complaints that political signs were being unconstitutionally targeted.

Those complaints were central to the lawsuit filed in August by an independent expenditure group supporting now-governor-elect Mike Dunleavy; a private resident, Eric Siebels, who said he was worried about his right to display a sign on his property; and the American Civil Liberties Union of Alaska.

The lawsuit specifically targeted a state law that barred outdoor advertising on private property 660 feet from the edge of state rights-of-way. The law also said signs couldn’t be installed or positioned on private property so the message could be read from state roadways.

Walker’s order essentially threw out those provisions, as part of a settlement announced Wednesday. It resembles a September order saying temporary signs no larger than 32 square feet are allowed on private property outside highway rights-of-way.

In a statement, the ACLU of Alaska cheered the settlement as a victory for free speech.

“Everything outside of the right-of-way has been knocked down if it’s political speech,” said Casey Reynolds, a spokesman for ACLU of Alaska.

The state of Alaska also said it was happy with the settlement, which it has said clarifies state law. Michael Schechter, a state attorney, said in an email that it allows DOT to enforce the state’s longstanding prohibition on billboards, while still allowing small political campaign signs on private property.

As part of the settlement, the state must also pay $15,000 in attorney’s fees to the plaintiffs, according to Walker’s order.

State officials and attorneys said the intent of the private property section of the sign law was to comply with a 1998 voter initiative that banned billboard advertising along Alaska roads. Schechter has said there was no evidence DOT had ever physically removed signs from private property.

In a previous order, however, Walker cited “threatening letters” that some private property owners had received about the placement of signs.

One DOT official acknowledged in an August interview the state did enforce the provision about signs on private property, though she said it was “very uncomfortable.” The official, Heather Fair, said the state generally sent a letter to property owners asking for signs to be removed voluntarily, and most did.

Though the plaintiffs had further legal questions about rights-of-way, Reynolds said the group felt it had won on most of the issues, avoiding the need for a trial. He also noted that the urgency had passed, with election season over.

He said the plaintiffs agreed the state DOT needs authority within the public rights-of-way when it comes to public safety issues.

Victim in ‘one free pass’ case files civil lawsuit against Justin Schneider

Alaska News - Wed, 2018-11-14 15:00

The 26-year-old victim in a notorious “one free pass” case has filed a civil lawsuit against Justin Schneider, the Anchorage man who received a no-jail sentence for assaulting her.

The lawsuit was filed Tuesday in Anchorage Superior Court.

In September, Schneider, a 34-year-old former air traffic controller from Anchorage, pleaded guilty to choking and masturbating on the victim, who has not been publicly named. The plea agreement did not call for any jail time.

Activists angered by the deal campaigned to vote the Anchorage judge who approved the agreement out of office.

Anchorage Superior Court Judge Michael Corey was ousted by voters last week.


Eagle River resident Justin Schneider appears in Anchorage District Court on Aug. 17, 2017. (Kirsten Swann/Alaska Star archive) (Kirsten Swann/)

The victim, who is named as “Jane Doe” in the lawsuit, was outraged by the outcome of the criminal case and wants to pursue justice through the civil system, said her attorney, James Davis of the Northern Justice Project.

“She wanted to signal to other victims ... even if the criminal justice system lets you down, you have a right to other remedies you might pursue," said Davis. "And to the perpetrator, the civil system might still pursue even if you got off easy in the criminal system.”

Nicole Borromeo of the Alaska Federation of Natives is also involved in the lawsuit as an advocate for the victim.

The civil lawsuit filed Tuesday represents the first time the victim has publicly shared her views on the events of the Schneider case.

The lawsuit directly challenges statements by the prosecutors that the victim was unreachable and unwilling to cooperate in the legal process.

“That’s just bogus and she wants the truth,” Davis said.

The victim gave the district attorney “multiple telephone numbers and an e-mail address," the filings say.

“Jane Doe is -- and was always -- reachable and she is -- and always was -- willing to be a witness,” the lawsuit says.

Attorneys made the plea agreement that allowed Schneider to walk away from the case without jail time without “input or approval” from her, the suit says.

The suit asks for unspecified damages for intentional infliction of emotional distress, assault and negligence.

Schneider has not responded to the suit.

Judges and prosecutors have legal immunity from civil lawsuits.

Steep drop in oil prices brings both good, bad

Alaska News - Wed, 2018-11-14 13:43

The swift drop in oil prices in recent weeks may have motorists cheering, but the financial world is in a tizzy over whether there is a larger meaning behind the shocking plunge in the commodity that greases the global economy.

"The thing you have to worry about when you have a precipitous drop like this is it could be signaling bad things for everybody," said Phil Flynn, senior market analyst at Chicago-based Price Futures Group. "That's the big concern."

American motorists are saving about $80 million a day, thanks to a 20-cent-a-gallon drop in the price of regular gasoline since Oct. 1.

Business like lower oil prices, too. But if companies think the decline portends an economic slowdown, the firms may rein in spending and hiring. Those fears can spread into recession.

The long-running bull market is already under pressure from the Federal Reserve raising interest rates, from tariffs between the United States and China, and from a sell-off in technology stocks.

Continued pressure on oil prices could drag stocks even deeper.

Stocks declined again Wednesday, with the Dow Jones industrial average dropping 205 points. The blue-chip barometer is 7.48 percent off its all-time high on Oct. 3. The Nasdaq composite is down 12.7 percent from its Aug. 30 peak. The S&P 500 is 8.7 percent below its Sept. 21 record.

Flynn rated the six-week oil price pullback "a minor bust."

Benchmark Brent Crude and West Texas Intermediate both saw price increases on Wednesday, snapping a 12-day losing streak. Brent was $65.70 per barrel, up 0.41 percent on the day. West Texas Intermediate closed at 55.86, up 0.36 percent. Each is down more than 20 percent from their highs in the beginning of October.

The magic number is $50 per barrel.

"We are clearly in the 'danger zone,' " said Frank Verrastro of the Center for Strategic and International Studies. "For U.S. producers, sustained prices below $50 would undoubtedly be problematic for all but the most efficient operators."

The International Energy Agency two days ago issued a report that trimmed its forecast for oil demand growth in 2018 and 2019, citing weaker economic outlook, a China slowdown, trade concerns and even higher oil prices.

Several experts echoed Flynn, saying said the current oil price pullback is temporary and they expect Brent and WTI to settle in a range of $50 to $80 longer term.

"That is the band where neither consumers nor producers are hurt," said Bob Tippee of Oil & Gas Journal. "There is some of a swoon right now. This is the kind of gyration that is part of market psychology. The market is fundamentally softening. Demand growth has slowed."

Energy analyst Pavel Molchanov of Raymond James sees oil prices toward $100 a barrel by 2020.

"The big picture is very bullish," Molchanov said in a recent interview.

The current surplus is largely attributed to a miscalculation between demand and major producers, including Iran. A strong dollar is also weighing on oil prices because it makes oil more expensive to much of the world. Oil prices tend to fall as a result.

Oil is a boom-and-bust business. The price drops when supply exceeds demand. Producers pull back and slow production as a result of the price squeeze. When demand exceeds supply, producers start drilling again and the cycle picks up again.

The rub is the length and depth of the downcycle. The Houston oil crash of the 1980s after a collapse in oil prices is often cited for its severity. It flattened the city's economy, vaporized more than 200,000 jobs and emptied office buildings and wreaked havoc in the financial sector. The region took years to recover.

The United States is the world's biggest oil consumer at about 21 million barrels a day of 100 million barrels produced daily across the globe. It is also a top oil producer, thanks to the shale oil renaissance over the last half-decade.

Oil and gas represent about 7.6 percent of gross domestic product. Oil prices touch everyone. Low oil prices have a salutary effect across the economy, including moderating the rate of inflation. By helping keep inflation low, oil can help stem the rise of interest rates, mortgage rates and auto loans.

"Energy costs have a pervasive impact across the entire value chain of the U.S. economy," said Dean Foreman, chief economist for the American Petroleum Institute.

Some worry that the current cycle could be a replay of 2014 through 2016.

Starting in mid-2014, oil prices began dropping from $80 per barrel into the $20s after oil giant Saudi Arabia drove down oil prices, thereby squeezing U.S. producers.

"It was a major crash signaling a slowdown in the global economy," Flynn said. "We had Brexit, a slowdown in Europe. Big Oil had some of their worst years ever."

It took years for oil producers to exhaust the supply overhang with disciplined production limits. Only in the last year or so did prices recover to a level where producers could make healthy profits without incurring the wrath of consumers.

The good news is that pump prices have dropped 20 cents in the past six weeks, from $2.88 per gallon for regular gas to $2.68, according to the American Automobile Association.

That savings is fattening consumer pocketbooks as the holiday season approaches. Dollars that would have gone to oil and gas companies will instead be spent at retailers from home repair giant Home Depot to Macy’s to restaurants, hotels and online giant Amazon.com (led by Washington Post owner Jeff Bezos).

“Today the national average is about 30-cents less than the summer’s highest pump price,” said Jeanette Casselano, a spokesperson for the American Automobile Association. “Combine that savings with the sustained strong economy, and Americans will have more change in their pocket to spend around the holidays.”

Hunter dies after falling from canoe in Southeast Alaska

Alaska News - Wed, 2018-11-14 12:32

JUNEAU - A man hunting west of Juneau died when he fell from a canoe into the ocean.

The Juneau Empire reports the 60-year-old man died Tuesday near Young Bay off Admiralty Island. The bay is near the back side of Douglas Island.

Coast Guard Petty Officer First Class Charly Hengen says the man was hunting with his son and another person.

The man fell 150 yards offshore. He wore a float coat and floated near shore, where his son pulled him out.

Hengen says it's not known how he fell or how long he was in the water.

The man's son administered CPR until Coast Guard responders took over. They flew him by helicopter to Juneau.

He was pronounced dead at Bartlett Regional Hospital.

The man’s name was not released.

Rising comedy star from Eagle River gets a national TV special

Alaska News - Wed, 2018-11-14 12:24

Becky Braunstein, who grew up in Eagle River, will be featured in the upcoming EPIX television special “Unprotected Sets,” which airs Nov. 16. (Photo by Hilary Sander)

Becky Braunstein's opening joke always gets a laugh.

"It's kind of weird being in America."

It's a line that gets a chuckle from people Outside and knowing nods from the handful of Alaska expats likely in the crowd on any given night in Braunstein's adopted home of Portland, Oregon.

Being from the mountains of Eagle River isn't just a part of the 2001 Chugiak High grad's shtick, it's a key piece of her identity.

"There's something about us, we're tough people," Braunstein said in a recent interview from Portland, where she's gone from just another Alaska transplant with a dream to the brink of a national breakout.

That toughness has served Braunstein well during her journey, a long, strange trip that began with a cancer diagnosis and is about to culminate in a national TV special on premium cable and streaming network EPIX.

"It's very exciting, and a little scary," she said. "You're now getting put out in front of the entire country."

Braunstein's overnight success story started like most people's — years of hard work.

Growing up in Eagle River, she learned perseverance and toughness in a place where snowstorms and bears were regular visitors to the family home.

"If something goes wrong, you just have to deal with it," she said.

Braunstein started her career in the entertainment business by acting in local theater productions and school plays at Chugiak High, which started her down the road to comedy.

"That was definitely the beginning. I really came out of my shell as a performer," said Braunstein.

As a young actress, she always wanted to play dramatic roles but found she couldn't help making people laugh.

"I couldn't do it — I was funny no matter what I was doing," she said.

What brought Braunstein to Portland was no laughing matter. In 2010 she was diagnosed with metastatic thyroid cancer and went south to seek treatment. She beat cancer and in the process found a vibrant stand-up community that welcomed her with open arms.

"Coming into Portland I realized there was a great stand-up scene," she said.

Since moving to the Rose City, Braunstein has steadily climbed up the local comedy ladder, getting more attention and landing bigger gigs. In 2017, she was named one of the city's "Funniest Five" by Willamette Week and made the Portland Mercury's annual "Undisputable Geniuses of Comedy" showcase.

She recently got some national press when a Twitter thread she wrote about being overweight went viral. The thread — which urged people to focus on on elements of her life and personality other than "absolutely THE least interesting thing about me" — was picked up for a story in Teen Vogue.

Her thread noted that Braunstein is much more than her appearance, and noted that she's a former Alaska state spelling bee champion, has met the president of East Timor and can rap in German.

"TBH, each of those things deserve their own television show," wrote Teen Vogue's Brittney McNamara.

In addition to her stand-up, Braunstein has filmed her own specials — including one where she visited her old stomping grounds and managed to land an interview with Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz. Berkowitz even invited her into his office and played along with the bit.

"That would not happen in any other major city," she said.

But her biggest break came when she landed a spot on "Undiscovered Sets," a weekly series executive produced by Wanda Sykes and Page Hurwitz that premiered Oct. 5. According to a press release about the show, "Unprotected Sets" follows several comedians "on the verge of becoming the next big name in comedy."

"My family is so pumped," said Braunstein, whose parents and brother still live in Alaska. "They're telling all their friends."

Braunstein said the show will include elements of her stand-up along with documentary footage of her life away from the stage. Episodes were filmed with a variety of comedians from Portland, San Diego, Washington, D.C., Minneapolis and Atlanta.

"It's very cinematic the way it turned out," she said.

Braunstein has yet to see her episode — she'll be watching alongside everyone else when the show airs Nov. 16.

"I've been really happy with the episodes so far," she said.

Waiting to see herself on national television isn't just a little nerve-wracking, she said.

"It's a lot nerve-wracking."

EPIX can be found online at epix.com, where Braunstein said people who want to watch her episode can sign up for a free 14-day trial.

She hopes to get back to Eagle River soon, possibly next summer.

"I think the Third of July at Lions Park would be ideal," she said, giving a shout-out to one of Chugiak-Eagle River's favorite summertime bashes.

Braunstein said she's excited to take the next step on her comedy journey but will always be the girl who grew up with bears in her backyard, "hanging out in the Carrs parking lot" and neon bowling at the Eagle River Bowl.

"Eagle River is my heart and soul."

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