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As Russians describe ‘verbal agreements’ at summit, U.S. officials scramble for clarity

Alaska News - Wed, 2018-07-18 19:37

WASHINGTON – Two days after President Donald Trump's summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, Russian officials offered a string of assertions about what the two leaders had achieved.

"Important verbal agreements" were reached at the Helsinki meeting, Russia's ambassador to the United States, Anatoly Antonov, told reporters in Moscow on Wednesday, including preservation of the New Start and INF agreements, major bilateral arms control treaties whose futures have been in question. Antonov also said that Putin had made "specific and interesting proposals to Washington" on how the two countries could cooperate on Syria.

But officials at the most senior levels across the U.S. military, scrambling since Monday to determine what Trump may have agreed to on national security issues in Helsinki, had little to no information Wednesday.

[White House again attempts to clarify a Trump response to Russian election meddling]

At the Pentagon, as press officers remained unable to answer media questions about how the summit might impact the military, the paucity of information exposed an awkward gap in internal administration communications. The uncertainty surrounding Moscow's suggestion of some sort of new arrangement or proposal regarding Syria, in particular, was striking because Gen. Joseph Votel, who heads U.S. Central Command, is scheduled to brief reporters on Syria and other matters Thursday.

Defense Secretary Jim Mattis did not attend Wednesday's Cabinet meeting with Trump and has not appeared in public this week or commented on the summit.

Current and former officials said it's not unusual for it to take at least several days for aides to finalize and distribute internal memos documenting high-level conversations. Adding to the delay in the case of Trump's Russia summit is the fact that the president's longest encounter with Putin, a two hour-plus session, included no other officials or note-takers, just interpreters.

Trump continued to praise his private meeting with Putin and an expanded lunch with aides as a "tremendous success" and tweeted a promise of "big results," but State Department spokeswoman Heather Nauert said the administration was "assessing . . . three takeaways," which she characterized as "modest." They were the establishment of separate working groups of business leaders and foreign policy experts, and follow-up meetings between the national security council staffs of both countries.

White House spokeswoman Sarah Huckabee Sanders listed a number of topics that had been discussed, including "Syrian humanitarian aid, Iran's nuclear ambition, Israeli security, North Korean denuclearization, Ukraine and the occupation of Crimea, reducing Russian and U.S. nuclear arsenals, and of course your favorite topic, Russia's interference in our elections."

But while Trump told lawmakers this week that he and Putin had made "significant progress toward addressing" these issues and more, neither Sanders nor any other U.S. official from Trump on down has offered specifics on what was accomplished on those subjects beyond what she called "the beginning of a dialogue with Russia."

Asked about calls from congressional Democrats for testimony from the U.S. interpreter, Sanders said it was a question for the State Department. Nauert said that there was no precedent for such a demand and that there had been "no formal request" for such an appearance. "Overall, as a general matter," she said, "we always seek to work with Congress, and that's all I have on this, OK?"

Some military officials, accustomed a year and a half into the Trump administration to a decision-making process that is far less structured than it was under President Barack Obama, appeared unfazed by the lack of clarity. Unlike Obama, who oversaw a national security process that was famously meticulous and often slow, Trump has presided over a more fluid, less formally deliberative system.

Few if any top-level national security meetings, for example, have been held this spring following the administration's attack on Syrian military facilities in April, according to officials who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal deliberations. That shift, while welcome by those frustrated by the pace of decision-making under Obama, may provide top military officials less regular access to their commander in chief and fewer opportunities to influence the policy process.

Nonmilitary officials who were provided minimal, indirect readouts expressed confidence that no agreement had been struck with Putin on Syria, and that Trump – who early this year expressed a desire to withdraw all U.S. troops from that country – made clear to Putin that no American departure was imminent.

One idea under consideration, Antonov said, was a joint U.S.-Russian fight against terrorism in Syria. "It seemed to me, my impression was that the U.S. side listened . . . with interest," he said. Russia has, like Syrian President Bashar Assad, defined all opponents of the Syrian government as "terrorists" and made similar proposals throughout the seven-year Syrian civil war.

The leaders also discussed an earlier agreement Russia had reached with Israel – based on a 1974 United Nations agreement – to keep all Iranian and proxy forces fighting on behalf of Assad's military at least 50 miles from Syria's border with the Israeli-occupied Golan Heights, and not to contest Israeli strikes against perceived threats from Iranian proxies inside Syria.

[Alleged Russian agent ordered to remain in custody after prosecutors argue she has ties to intel agency]

At the Russian Foreign Ministry, spokeswoman Marina Zakharova said that implementation of summit agreements had already begun. "A lot of what the president of the Russian Federation talked about is now being worked through," she said. "Relevant instructions are being carried out, and diplomats are beginning to work on the outcomes."

Richard Fontaine, a former U.S. official and adviser to Sen. John McCain, R-Ariz., who now heads the Center for a New American Security, said the Helsinki summit illustrated Trump's evolving management of national security affairs and his handling of advice from senior advisers such as White House Chief of Staff John Kelly, Secretary of State Mike Pompeo and Mattis.

"It seems to be certain that Trump is becoming more confident in his foreign policy instincts, and more likely to go with his gut," Fontaine said. "He seems more comfortable now overruling them and doing his own thing."

While a void remained in U.S. descriptions of the summit, Antonov called it "important, comprehensive, productive, and constructive."

Putin is expected to speak about the summit in a speech Thursday.

Antonov said it was "very bitter" to hear the intense criticism in the United States of the Helsinki meeting. He cited Trump's reference to investigations of Russian election interference as a "witch hunt," and said Russia was "a hostage to the domestic political battle" in the United States.

"When I return from Moscow, I will have the very clear-cut and lucid determination to go knock on every door at the State Department and the National Security Council to understand what we can do together in order to realize the agreements, the ideas, that the two presidents supported," Antonov said.

"Even in talking with you now, I am afraid to say something positive about the American president," he said, "because when American journalists or policymakers read my interview, they'll say Russia is again meddling and helping Donald Trump."

– – –

The Washington Post's Troianovski reported from Moscow.

An ode to Crocs, those ugly shoes that are so useful in Alaska

Alaska News - Wed, 2018-07-18 19:26

I packed flip-flops for an early spring work trip to the desert southwest, figuring they were a little better looking than my beloved Crocs. But once I landed I kicked myself.

Outdoors columnist Alli Harvey says Crocs might not be the pinnacle of fashion, but they’re her favorite camp shoes. (AP File Photo/Jacquelyn Martin)

No, it wasn't because the denizens of the desert southwest had suddenly decided Crocs are cool and I was the odd woman out. I was because I was daydreaming about the backpacking trip I had planned at the end of the work week and remembered that Crocs are the best camp shoes.

I'd have to go backpacking with my flip-flops. Tugging off hiking boots at the end of a long, hot day only to stuff my feet into the criss-cross straps of my flip-flops, my feet exposed to the detritus of the natural world and possibly biting insects, was not ideal.

So I was not terribly devastated when, three hours after work was over and I'd driven away toward the weekend, I realized I'd left the flip-flops behind. Call it fate or subliminal, but it seemed to me that this was the perfect time to score myself a new pair of Crocs.

Some background here on my relationship with Crocs, because it's a long one:

I first met Crocs during their brief heyday in New York City. Some people say that "Crocs" and "heyday" do not belong in the same sentence. Those are the same people that call Crocs things like "devil spawn," "blasphemic" or "ugly."

Perhaps these people deny that Crocs ever made it to the ever-fashionable isle of Manhattan. But I was working at my desk job one day when a woman in bright orange Crocs paraded into the office, and while I can't say it was love at first sight, they certainly made an impression.

I was fascinated by them. They were, indeed, ugly. They were so ugly (and this particular pair was so orange) that I found myself transfixed. What were these shoes? Why would you wear them? What swagger would I need to possess to pull off a pair of Crocs, and could I ever be that confident?

When I encountered my first entire wall of Crocs flooding a shoe store in a plastic, punch-holed rainbow, I knew I had to try on a pair.

I slipped my feet into an emerald-colored shoe. And just like that, the plastic shroud encased my feet, and my heels sank gratefully into the cushiony, slightly textured-with-the-tiniest-massaging-pebbles, sole.

Crocs became beautiful to me. I wasn't alone. The shoes were everywhere. There were even knockoffs. George W. Bush famously wore a pair of Crocs, and the internet derided him for it like it was 2018. I wore mine for years until the soles wore through.

In 2008, I bought another pair. They were baby blue. These were the Crocs I left behind in Alaska during my trip to the southwest.

These Crocs backpacked with me through mountains across Alaska, Nevada and Utah. When the heel straps eventually broke off, I'd loop a piece of line through the holes and firmly affix them to the outside of my pack. The soles wore thin and sharp rocks could hurt my feet.

Still, I kept my Crocs. I'm not a fan of landfills any more than the next person. I could see my poor baby-blue Crocs swimming their way toward the Pacific gyre, and I figured they could last another day, another backpacking trip.

It was with all of this in mind that I set out to find a new pair of Crocs while in the southwest. I realized that I hadn't seen them in many stores recently, so I figured I should make a few calls before I got in the car.

I called one shoe store. No Crocs. Another — the same. Five shoe stores later, I felt discouraged. Finally, I called a sports store that sold Crocs. When I showed up, they only had three colors — baby pink, camouflage and black.

Nothing against wearing baby colors or making your feet invisible, but I chose black. Perhaps this was a fitting tribute to the standard uniform of Manhattanites, where I'd met my first Crocs. Or a nod to the flip-flops I'd left behind, also black.

When I tried them on, I realized how old and worn out my baby blues truly were. The new Crocs didn't have creases or paint splatters, they had both heel straps, and they didn't invite every prickly thing I walked on to stab through to my heel.

Now, back in Alaska, I still have my old Crocs (to the delight of my husband, who has never once suggested the Crocs might be lost in a move, or thrown from a bridge). These are now my inside Crocs.

My new black ones spend lots of time with me in the garden. They get hauled up mountains. I pull them on to cross glacial streams. I'm far from New York City now, but feel I have found my stride in Crocs. We are doing exactly what we were meant to do.

That confidence I wanted, back in New York City? Crocs helped me get there. After all, not just anyone can rock an ugly shoe like that.

Alli Harvey lives in Palmer and plays in Southcentral Alaska.

Weekend baseball series will decide season winner between Bucs, Pilots

Alaska News - Wed, 2018-07-18 19:13

Mat-Su Miners first baseman Spencer Henson of Oral Roberts, who competed in the Alaska Baseball League’s home run derby on Sunday, leads the league in RBIs and home runs. (Bill Roth / ADN)

The Anchorage Glacier Pilots and the Anchorage Bucs will meet this weekend in a three-game Alaska Baseball League series that will decide the season-series winner.

The Bucs and Pilots are 4-4 against each other going into the series, which runs Friday, Saturday and Sunday at Mulcahy Stadium.

Those games will mark the last time the Pilots will play at Mulcahy during the regular season, which ends July 30 and will be followed by postseason playoffs at various ballparks. The Bucs will play eight of their final 10 regular-season games at Mulcahy.

Based on statistics going into Wednesday's games, the Bucs and Pilots boast three of the league's four players who are hitting .300 or better — Jake Vieth of the Bucs, who is hitting an ABL-best .376, and Ryan Knowles (.342) and Marc Mumper (.330) of the Pilots. The league's other .300-plus hitter is Mat-Su's Spencer Henson.

Henson, a first baseman from Oral Roberts, leads the league in two categories — RBIs with 26 and home runs with six.

Jordan Arruda of the Pilots, an infielder from Fresno State, also leads two categories with 32 runs scored and 17 stolen bases.

Among pitchers, league-leaders include Jared Reklaitis of the Chugiak-Eagle River Chinooks, who has struck out 43 batters; Mike Lopez of the Peninsula Oilers, who owns a .54 earned-run average; and Bryce Tassin of the Miners, who has seven saves.

ABL standings

Mat-Su Miners 21-14
Peninsula Oilers 19-16
Anchorage Bucs 16-17
Glacier Pilots 15-17
Chugiak-Eagle River Chinooks 14-21

Upcoming games


Oilers at Bucs, 7 p.m., Mulcahy Stadium
Pilots at Chinooks, 7 p.m., Lee Jordan Field


Oilers at Miners, 6 p.m., Hermon Brothers Field
Pilots at Bucs, 7 p.m., Mulcahy Stadium


Miners at Chinooks, 6 p.m., Lee Jordan Field
Bucs at Pilots, 7:10 p.m., Mulcahy Stadium


Pilots at Bucs, 2 p.m., Mulcahy Stadium
Chinooks at Miners, 3 p.m. (doubleheader)

Statistical leaders

(Top 5 entering Wednesday's games)

Batting average

Jake Vieth, Bucs .376
Spencer Henson, Miners, .348
Ryan Knowles, Pilots, .342
Marc Mumper, Pilots, .330
Jordan Arruda, Pilots, .293


Spencer Henson, Miners, 26
Jake Vieth, Bucs, 22
Austin Pinorini, Miners, 21
Anthony Forte, Oilers, 19
Dominic Foscalina, Pilots, 19


Jordan Arruda, Pilots, 32
Willy Escala, Bucs, 26
Kona Quiggle, Miners, 24
Ryan Koch, Oilers, 22
2 with 20

Home runs

Spencer Henson, Miners, 6
Ryan Koch, Oilers, 5
Jake Vieth, Bucs, 4
6 with 2


Jordan Arruda, Pilots, 17
Drew Swift, Miners, 13
Marc Mumper, Pilots, 9
Gregory Ozuna, Chinooks, 9
Bailey Collins, Chinooks, 8

Earned-run average

Mike Lopez, Oilers, .54
Adam Seminaris, Bucs, .60
Cole Cook, Pilots, 1.25
Josh Haley, Miners, 1.84
Grant Cox, Bucs, 1.91


Jared Reklaitis, Chinooks, 43
Tevin Murray, Oilers, 36
Josh Haley, Miners, 35
Andrew Almquist, Chinooks, 33
3 with 32


Bryce Tassin, Miners, 7
River Carbone, Chinooks, 6
Bret Ricklefs, Oilers, 4
Adrian Mardueno, Bucs, 4
2 with 2

Former Anchorage bowling alley owner sentenced for child porn distribution

Alaska News - Wed, 2018-07-18 19:10

The former owner of an Anchorage bowling alley was sentenced to eight years in prison on Wednesday for distributing child pornography, according to federal prosecutors.

Ronald Teekell, 53, was charged with distribution of child pornography in October. He was sentenced to 97 months in prison, followed by a life term of supervised release, the U.S. Attorney's Office for the District of Alaska wrote in a release.

Prosecutors said that, as part of a plea deal, Teekell admitted to knowingly receiving, possessing and distributing more than 500 images and videos of child pornography. He also forfeited ownership of Jewel Lake Bowl as part of the deal.

Teekell was first flagged by Homeland Security Investigations in 2009, when a lead from German law enforcement said that someone at the bowling alley was distributing images of child pornography, according to prosecutors. An investigation did not uncover any such images.

In 2010, when returning from an international vacation, Teekell's belongings were searched and "forensic examination reveled several hundred deleted images" of child pornography on Teekell's devices. He wasn't charged at the time, prosecutors said.

In November 2014, an undercover FBI special agent "received hundreds of images and videos depicting child sexual exploitation from an IP address assigned to Jewel Lake Bowl," prosecutors said.

Then, in May 2016, Anchorage police detectives observed a "suspect device" distributing hundreds of child sexual exploitation images and videos from an IP address assigned to Teekell's home address. Search warrants at his home and workplace and subsequent analysis "revealed corroborating evidence of his distribution of images … between 2009 and 2016," prosecutors said.

More than a dozen people, mostly family and friends, wrote in support of Teekel, asking for a more lenient sentence.

One letter was from former Anchorage Assembly chairman Dan Coffey, who said he is a friend of the family. Coffey wrote about his own struggles with alcohol, and how Teekel had been going to Alcoholics Anonymous prior to his arrest. Coffey wrote that Teekel had an addiction to child pornography that could be managed.

"If he works the program, ultimately, he can return to society as a man who will … never commit this crime again," Coffey wrote.

Another was from his sister, Donna Opitz, who identified herself as an elementary school principal and former mental health therapist. "Because of my background, I was particularly affected by Ron's charges. However, I want to assure you that I love Ron very much, and firmly believe that he is capable of change for the better."

Prosecutors had asked for 97 months in prison, which was ordered by the judge.

Bill to cut lawmakers' perks set for signing today - KTUU.com

Legislative News - Wed, 2018-07-18 18:57


Bill to cut lawmakers' perks set for signing today
The bill also bans foreign companies from contributing money to Alaska politics, adding to a ban already in place on foreign individuals. And it requires legislators to get advance approval to travel to another country. The approval would be a public ...

Alaskans, not Outsiders, oppose Pebble mine

Alaska News - Wed, 2018-07-18 18:51

Aerial view of Dillingham on Tuesday, August 27, 2013. (Bill Roth / ADN archive)

The scoping period for the U.S. Army Corps of Engineers' review of the proposed Pebble mine permit application concluded on June 29, around the same time that Bristol Bay's robust commercial salmon fishery was in full swing. Although the purpose of the scoping period is to provide the public with an opportunity to identify the issues the Corps should address in the review process, the period ended with many unanswered questions about the project proposal itself.

The Pebble Limited Partnership (PLP) has yet to answer or is unable to answer some very basic questions about the proposed project, and its permit application lacked the type of information and documentation that would normally accompany an application for a project as complex and controversial as Pebble. It is therefore no surprise that many Alaskans — including all of the undersigned and the governor — asked the Corps of Engineers to suspend its review.

A major reason a suspension is justified is that PLP's proposed mine plans fundamentally changed during the scoping process. After the Corps' public scoping meetings had concluded, the Pebble partnership substantially revised its mine plans to increase the quantity of mined materials during the first 20 years by 25 percent, increase the size and change the contours of the proposed open pit, change the layout of the tailings storage facility and increase the power plant capacity, among other changes. It would seem that the project plans are yet still a moving target.

A second justification for the suspension concerns the tailings storage facility , the structure in which the project will store all the waste rock that it excavates during production. Following the Mount Polley tailings dam failure in British Columbia, Pebble CEO Tom Collier went on record to assure Alaskans that the facility for Pebble would not suffer a similar fate. PLP's website statement at the time read, "(t)o ensure that Pebble meets the standards and expectations of Alaskans, PLP CEO Tom Collier has committed to submit the engineering design for the project's tailings storage facility to an independent review prior to initiating permitting." PLP has not done this. This is another broken commitment from the company that is asking Alaskans to trust it with the health and sustainability of the world's greatest remaining wild sockeye salmon fishery.

We also do not know at present whether any scale of mining operations at Pebble is economically feasible. PLP has not completed a financial feasibility study. PLP prefers to let the Corps of Engineers and the thousands of Alaskans who are concerned about the project endure a prolonged permitting process before it assesses whether the project will pencil out. This puts the cart before the horse. By way of comparison, the Donlin Project in Western Alaska completed multiple economic feasibility studies before filing for its permit application with the Corps.

Another area of concern is that PLP has once again lost its financial partner. First Quantum Minerals pulled out of its framework agreement with PLP's parent company Northern Dynasty Minerals last May and cut off its funding for the permitting process. To date, no new partners have emerged. This begs the very real and immediate question. Can PLP fund the current permitting process?

Shifting mine plans, the lack of an independent tailing facility engineering review and financial uncertainty are far from the only red flags. PLP's permit application is lacking sufficient and recent environmental baseline data for many project components, including an adequate wetlands delineation and a compensatory mitigation plan. The Corps itself has acknowledged extensive data gaps through its more than three dozen Requests For Information sent to PLP's permitting contractor. Many of these requests remain unanswered.

PLP has reacted to this criticism with bluster. Collier has dismissed the criticism of Pebble as the work of "national environmental groups" that are "anti-Alaska, anti-development." But that is not the case. We are Alaskans and we oppose the project.

Let us not forget what is at stake. Bristol Bay's commercial salmon fishery once again opened with remarkably strong early-season returns in the Nushagak District, including multiple days with sockeye salmon harvests exceeding a million fish. The Nushagak is also one of the few rivers in Alaska experiencing a normal run of king salmon. Successful management has sustained the commercial and subsistence fisheries in Bristol Bay for well more than 100 years and can continue to do so for many generations more.

The proposed Pebble mine poses fundamental and unacceptable risks to the salmon fisheries of the Bristol Bay region and the economic and subsistence benefits those fisheries provide. Suspending the permitting process is right thing to do. It is the only option for all who depend on Bristol Bay for their livelihoods and way of life.

Ralph Anderson serves as president and CEO of Bristol Bay Native Association. Norm Van Vactor is president and CEO of the Bristol Bay Economic Development Corporation. Jason Metrokin is president and CEO of Bristol Bay Native Corporation, and Alannah Hurley is executive director of the United Tribes of Bristol Bay.

NTSB: Terrain warning system in floatplane that crashed near Ketchikan was turned off

Alaska News - Wed, 2018-07-18 18:46

Two Coast Guard Air Station Sitka MH-60 Jayhawk helicopter crews rescue 11 people after a floatplane crashed 39 miles south southwest of Ketchikan, on Prince of Wales Island, July 10. (U.S. Coast Guard photo)

Investigators have found the pilot of a Taquan Air plane that crashed into a mountainside near Ketchikan on July 10 with 11 people on board was not using a warning system meant to prevent such collisions.

The National Transportation Safety Board's released its preliminary report on the crash Wednesday. Some of the circumstances described in the case echoed those in the 2015 crash of a Promech Air flightseeing plane that killed the pilot and eight passengers near Ketchikan. Locals and tourists routinely travel the region in small planes, traversing rugged environments in fast-changing weather.

In both crashes, a floatplane pilot became disoriented in the low-visibility weather conditions common to Southeast Alaska and subsequently crashed into a mountainside.

And in both crashes, a system that's supposed to warn pilots when they are too close to terrain was switched to "inhibit mode" — a common practice in areas where pilots frequently fly low and through mountain passes, causing near-constant "nuisance alarms," according to federal investigators' report on the 2015 crash.

The July crash of the Taquan Air plane had a happy ending: All 11 people onboard survived. Six people sustained serious injuries and four walked away with minor injuries.

In 2016, Promech Air operations were purchased by Taquan Air.

In a statement Wednesday, Taquan Air President Brien Salazar said the Ketchikan-based company was studying the report to "better understand how the incident occurred, and ensure an accident like this doesn't happen again."

The pilot of the crashed plane "is not eligible to fly for Taquan at this time," Salazar said. "This follows our company protocols and there is no existing timeline for reinstating his status."

Wednesday's NTSB report detailed the sequence of events leading up to the crash.

The pilot had picked up 10 passengers at Steamboat Bay Fishing Club, a luxury lodge on Noyes Island, around 7:45 a.m. July 10.

"Marginal visual meteorological conditions prevailed," according to the report.

The flight had been cleared to take off after meeting the requirements of a company's risk assessment procedure, Salazar said.

The group was flying back to Ketchikan when visibility "decreased rapidly" around an area called Sulzer Portage — quickly going from "3-5 miles to nil," according to the report.

The pilot tried to turn around, saw what he thought was water and became "momentarily disoriented."

"Shortly thereafter, he realized that the airplane was approaching an area of snow-covered mountainous terrain" so he tried to climb sharply to avoid it, according to the report. "As the emergency climb continued, the airspeed decayed, and the airplane subsequently collided with an area of rocky, rising terrain."

The impact into Jumbo Mountain, about 9 miles west of Hydaburg, sheared off the plane's floats.

Passengers on the plane told the NTSB investigators they were nervous as the weather closed in. One man said he noticed "numerous course deviations" and times when "all forward visibility was lost" as the plane flew through clouds.

"(The passenger) said he became uncomfortable and was thinking it would be prudent just to land on the water," the report said.

Another man seated toward the rear of the plane texted a fellow passenger to "ask the pilot to land and wait for the weather to improve."

Both passengers said they couldn't see the mountain until just before the plane crashed into it.

One described seeing a "large mountain loom directly in front of the airplane" and thinking there must be a pass around it because the plane couldn't climb above it.

The Terrain Awareness and Warning System, which is supposed to sound an alarm when a plane is about to fly into a mountain or other terrain, was in the "inhibit mode" at the time of the crash, according to the report.

The Federal Aviation Administration doesn't require the system to be used when a plane is flying under visual flight rules, said Salazar.

One of NTSB recommendations that came from the investigation into the 2015 Promech Air crash was to fix the nuisance alerts problem that led some pilots to turn off the warning system.

Taquan's president said the report released Wednesday "reiterates the need for the FAA to implement ways to provide effective terrain awareness and warning system protections while mitigating nuisance alerts."

"This issue is important to us, and we are dedicated to working with the FAA and other operators to address it."

NTSB investigators are still in the process of analyzing the crash, said the agency's Alaska chief, Clint Johnson.

Fish and Game kills 4 black bears at Anchorage campground

Alaska News - Wed, 2018-07-18 18:46

(Video by Rich Phillips)

State wildlife biologists shot and killed four black bears Wednesday afternoon at Anchorage's Centennial Campground near Muldoon after one of the bears reportedly tore into a tent with a camper inside, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game.

The bears — a sow and three cubs — had caused issues in the area for weeks, said Ken Marsh, a Fish and Game spokesman. They had gotten into trash in the campground and adjacent neighborhoods, he said. They started to become more aggressive, nabbing food left on picnic tables and in tents.

Then Wednesday, Fish and Game got a report that the sow was tearing into a tent with someone inside, Marsh said.

"That was kind of the last straw," he said.

Fish and Game wildlife biologists shot and killed the sow and its three cubs shortly after 2 p.m. Wednesday at the campground on the edge of the city, off the Glenn Highway. Marsh said the department couldn't find any licensed wildlife facility with room for the three black bear cubs, including the local zoo and out-of-state facilities.

Melanie Ritter said a bear ripped a hole in her tent at Centennial Park Campground earlier this week. The bear took a bottle of soda. The rest of her food was in her vehicle, she said. Fish and Game killed four black bears at the campground on July 18, 2018. (Marc Lester / ADN)

Marsh said the meat from the four black bears would be salvaged. The cubs were born late this past winter or early this spring, he said.

The campground this summer had recorded at least five prior incidents in which the four black bears got into human food, whether left unattended on a table or in a tent, said Brad Cooke, outdoor recreation superintendent with Anchorage's Parks and Recreation Department.

Cooke said he had received no reports of the bears acting aggressively toward campers or causing injury. Marsh said he had also not heard of the bears causing any injuries, including to the camper in the tent Wednesday.

Camper Melanie Ritter said a bear had torn into her tent earlier this week while she was away from the campsite. She returned to a 2-foot-long hole in the tent and a punctured 2-liter bottle of soda. She said she was sharing the tent with a friend and they had stored the rest of their food in a truck.

"We were lucky we were out walking the dogs," Ritter said. "Thank God I wasn't here."

Another camper, Rich Phillips, said he saw the four black bears moments before they were shot and killed by Fish and Game. The three cubs had scaled a tree. People who he believed were also camping were throwing rocks at them, he said. He said the sow wasn't acting aggressively, but believed it was trying to protect the cubs.

"All I know is they didn't have to kill the bears," he said. "It was sad."

Rich Phillips said he was disappointed black bears were killed at Centennial Park Campground, where he’s been camping for about a week. “They weren’t harming anybody at all,” he said. (Marc Lester / ADN)

Marsh said Centennial Park, which houses the campground, "has bear issues frequently — probably every summer."

Last year, a 911 caller reported a bear was on top of a tent in the woods outside of the campground. Fish and Game later said the bear got away and a woman inside the tent wasn't hurt.

Patrick Lampi, executive director at the Alaska Zoo in Anchorage, said it's particularly difficult to find permanent homes for orphaned black bear cubs because there are so many black bears — the animals can be found in nearly every state — and, in captivity, they can live 30 years or more. So, once a zoo gets a few black bears, they typically can't take any more for decades, he said.

The Alaska Zoo is currently holding two black bear cubs, one that will go to Washington state and one to Illinois, in addition to its permanent bear residents, Lampi said.

"We can't handle any more," he said.

Rich Phillips photographed black bears in Centennial Campground shortly before four were killed there by Alaska Department of Fish and Game. (Photo by Rich Phillips)

The bear killings Wednesday come less than a week after Fish and Game killed a brown bear sow and two cubs in the South Fork Eagle River Valley. DNA tests will determine whether the sow was involved in the two maulings in the area last month that left one man dead and another injured. It was the second fatal bear attack in the Municipality of Anchorage in two summers.

Marc Lester contributed reporting to this story.

Accused of attempted kidnapping of 13-year-old in Chugiak, man says he wanted to play a ‘prank’

Alaska News - Wed, 2018-07-18 18:40

Anchorage police say they arrested a man who tried to kidnap a 13-year-old boy at knifepoint Tuesday in the Chugiak area.

Lor Pao Lee was arraigned on attempted kidnapping and third-degree assault charges at the Anchorage Correctional Complex on Wednesday. (Bill Roth / ADN)

The man, 19-year-old Lor P. Lee, admitted to threatening the boy, but told police that he had only wanted to play a "prank" on the teenager, according to the charges.

The incident was first reported at 2 p.m. Tuesday when police were called to a home in Eagle River to talk to a reported victim of an attempted kidnapping, the Anchorage Police Department said in a statement.

The boy told police he was riding his bike on a trail that parallels the Old Glenn Highway on Tuesday afternoon when a man identified by police as Lee walked up to him near where the trail crossed Fire Lake Drive.

Lee, who was holding an iPhone charging cable, asked the boy whether he had seen a young child who had gone missing, court documents say.

"The victim stepped off his bicycle and told Lee he hadn't seen anyone," police said. "Lee offered to give the victim a ride which the victim declined."

The encounter became violent when Lee grabbed the boy's arm, pulled out a "knife with a long black handle," and threatened to kill the boy if he didn't get into Lee's car, which was pulled over on the side of the highway nearby, court documents say.

The boy tried to flag down a passing car but the vehicle didn't stop, the documents say.

Lee threatened the boy again and put the knife away before the boy punched him in the face, police said.

"The victim was able to get on his bicycle and ride away," according to police.

The boy spotted the vehicle's license plate number and gave it to police.

When officers arrived at the residence the vehicle was registered at — a home on the 16500 block of the Old Glenn Highway — police found Lee inside, along with a knife matching the boy's description.

When questioned by police, Lee said he had "wanted to play a prank" on the boy "that he had seen on Vine videos." Lee had been thinking about this plan for "three or four days," charging documents say.

Lee said that he had seen the boy riding his bike and had pulled over on the side of the Glenn Highway. Lee admitted to grabbing and threatening the boy, according to court documents, and that he was trying to get the boy into his car so that he could drive the boy "somewhere."

Lee was arrested on charges of kidnapping and third-degree assault.

Police say they aren't looking for any additional victims at this time.

Reporter Laurel Andrews contributed to this report.

The family of slain Anchorage bicyclist Jeff Dusenbury wants to name the park where he died after him

Alaska News - Wed, 2018-07-18 18:23

A “ghost bike” is parked at Spruce Park for Jeff Dusenbury on Tuesday, July 17, 2018, near the site were a hit-and-run collision by a teenaged motorist killed him four years ago. (Bill Roth / ADN)

The daughter of an Anchorage bicyclist killed in a notorious hit-and-run collision is leading an effort to have the park where her father died renamed after him.

Jeff Dusenbury, 51, was killed at Spruce Park in South Anchorage on July 19, 2014, when an intoxicated teenager backed into him with her truck as he headed out on a morning bike ride.

The one-year sentence handed down to the driver, Alexandra Ellis, drew outrage from some who said it was too lenient.

Now, Dusenbury's daughter, Madisen Dusenbury-Shannon, wants the city to officially change the name of Spruce Park to Jeff Dusenbury Memorial Park.

"There was a lot of anger surrounding my dad's death, and I don't want that to be the feeling that trumps his memory," she said. "I want our community to remember him for the kind, humble and helpful man that he was."

An initial public hearing on the proposed name change will be held at Spruce Park at 5:30 p.m. Thursday — the fourth anniversary of Dusenbury's death. The park is located near the intersection of Spruce Street and East 84th Avenue in South Anchorage.

The process for naming or renaming an Anchorage park works like this, according to Jared James, who works in the office of Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz:

First, a naming panel is convened with the help of the mayor's office. Often that panel involves someone from the neighborhood's community council. Thursday's open meeting at the park is a chance for the public to weigh in on the proposed name change.

Then, the panel forwards a recommendation to the city's Parks and Recreation Commission for consideration. If approved, the name change proposal goes to the Anchorage Assembly, which has the final say.

The process typically takes six to nine months, James said.

The city gets a proposal to rename one of Anchorage's 226 parks every couple of years, said Anchorage parks superintendent Josh Durand.

Proposed names are often memorials to people who have died, he said.

Other examples of such parks include Whisper Faith Kovach Park on Lore Road, named after a young girl hit and killed by a car in the area in 1998.

Michael J. Shibe Park on Cranberry Road is named after an Anchorage father killed in an electrical accident at the 2005 national Boy Scout Jamboree.

There's also Bob and Arlene Cross Park, formerly Birch Park; Pamela Joy Lowry Memorial Park, former Hathor Park; and Ira Walker Park, formerly Towne East Park, according to Tom Korosei, a land manager with the city department of Parks and Recreation.

Spruce Park is a 10-acre expanse of open fields and woods in a neighborhood between Lake Otis Parkway and Elmore Road in South Anchorage. It has no playground equipment or other infrastructure and is considered a "natural resource park" by the city.

It is mostly used by neighbors for exercising pets, sledding in the winter and picnics, said Durand.

Dusenbury-Shannon said her family lived in the Spruce Park neighborhood for more than 25 years. Spruce Park itself was a familiar part of the family's daily life.

"My dad would pass by the park multiple times a week while going on bike rides, runs and family walks," she said.

Dusenbury-Shannon said she thought the park had been more visited and cared for since her father's death, due to two memorials to him already in place.

A ghost bike, painted white, is chained to a post. Another post near where the truck driven by Ellis hit Dusenbury is covered with fabric flowers, an American flag and a bicycle rim in a makeshift memorial.

A memorial at Spruce Park on Tuesday, July 17, 2018, reminds people of the hit-and-run collision that killed bicyclist Jeff Dusenbury four years ago. (Bill Roth / ADN)

On a recent sunny afternoon, the park was quiet except for a man playing with his puppy. Neighbor Layne Cropper strolled up with his dog.

Cropper said his wife was one of the first people at the scene when Dusenbury was hit by the truck.

"He died in my wife's arms," Cropper said.

The experience was traumatic, he said. Cropper said he'd attended hearings for the court case and supported the name change. He planned to come to Thursday's hearing.

Coffee Table - July 18, 2018 - KBBI

Legislative News - Wed, 2018-07-18 17:43


Coffee Table - July 18, 2018
Today on the Coffee Table, KBBI News Director Aaron Bolton speaks with House District 31 candidate Henry Kroll, Republican, and incumbant Paul Seaton, non-partisan, about how Alaska's Legislature should move forward on the state's budget gap.

Google News

Alaska National Guard turns over rural armories for public use

Alaska News - Wed, 2018-07-18 17:14

The Alaska Army National Guard armory in Stebbins, one of over 60 slated to be divested in rural Alaska. (Gabe Colombo / KNOM)

The Alaska Army National Guard is handing over ownership of over 60 armories in rural communities, mostly to municipalities.

Brian Duffy, administrative services director for the Alaska Department of Military and Veterans' Affairs, says, "Many of these places have sat vacant for some time." He says the reason the training and storage facilities were there in the first place was the Alaska Army National Guard's scout mission.

"So, imagine people out in remote locations, and they were our sensors, and they would report things that they saw, felt or heard that were different than what they normally observed day-to-day," Duffy said.

But the Alaska Army National Guard has since re-structured its forces, and its numbers have fallen since the 1990s. So they no longer do much with the dozens of armories in communities across the state.

Now, Duffy says, as part of a larger "right-sizing" initiative, they want to see the facilities put to better use.

"We take a building, and maybe some other property on the land on which it sits, and put it in the hands of an organization that can maybe better use it than we can at this time," Duffy said.

He says that involves a lot of work to survey the properties, make sure they're safe and not contaminated, figure out what exact entity owns them — whether it be federal, state, municipal, or private — and then complete the handover, usually to the local city.

So far, 15 armories have been divested, including in Noorvik and Kiana in the Northwest Arctic Borough. Over 35 Western-Alaska armories are scheduled for the process within the next four years, including most communities in the Norton Sound and Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta regions.

According to Duffy, Nome's armory is among 18 that the Alaska Army National Guard is keeping.

He says in general, the effort will save the National Guard some money, but: "What we feel better about is putting these buildings in the hands of people that can use them instead of having them sit there vacant," Duffy said.

As for what they'll become? The buildings often have the space and infrastructure to house community centers of some kind. In one case, Kwethluk hoped to turn its armory into a teen center.

So even as the Alaska Army National Guard is campaigning to expand its presence in rural Alaska and recruit more Alaska Native soldiers, it'll be doing so without its armories.

Davis Hovey contributed reporting.

This story originally appeared on KNOM and is republished here with permission.

ConocoPhillips raises reserve totals at North Slope discoveries

Alaska News - Wed, 2018-07-18 17:10

The Kuukpik 5 rig is seen at sunset while drilling the ConocoPhillips’ Putu well south of Nuiqsut in mid-February 2018. (Judy Patrick / ConocoPhillips)

ConocoPhillips believes its recent winter exploration campaigns on the North Slope have added up to 1.4 billion barrels of oil and gas resources to its portfolio, company officials said in a July 16 presentation to investors.

The estimate is largely derived from the results of the six exploration and appraisal wells the company drilled into its western Slope prospects last winter, which built on the work of two wells drilled in the federal National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska in early 2016.

The 2016 drilling led to ConocoPhillips' Willow oil discovery — a shallow, Nanushuk formation-focused prospect — with an early oil estimate of up to 300 million recoverable barrels announced in January 2017.

[Despite slight production dip, Alaska oil revenue grows in FY18]

Company leaders said July 16 that four more wells drilled into Willow early this year indicate the field could hold between 500 million and 1.1 billion barrels of gross resources that will cost between $4 billion and $6 billion to fully develop, with first oil potentially in the 2024-25 timeframe. It was also noted that roughly 75 percent of the company's prospective acreage in the area is yet to be drilled.

With a conventional target zone in the 4,000-foot range, ConocoPhillips also believes it can produce from Willow for less than $40 per barrel, according to a release accompanying the presentation.

"Alaska provides competitive investment opportunities and will generate profitable growth from diversified investments with significant exploration upside," CEO Ryan Lance said in the release. "We are proud of the value we create for the State of Alaska through the revenues we generate, the jobs we create and the community investments we make. Our shareholders realize the advantages of (Alaska North Slope)-priced oil, competitive cash and earnings margins from our operations and our years of expertise and sound stewardship. We plan to continue to strive to safely unlock the energy potential of this world-class oil province for years to come and play an active role in Alaska's economic future."

ConocoPhillips Alaska leaders have previously said Willow could produce at rates up to 120,000 barrels per day with standalone processing facilities, an investment the company is now leaning toward.

The Putu and Stony Hill wells the company drilled this year on state leases south of the Nanushuk discovery in the Pikka Unit collectively hold another 100 million to 350 million barrels, according to ConocoPhillips. Production from those prospects has been pegged at up to 20,000 barrels per day each.

ConocoPhillips is also expected to bring its roughly $1 billion Greater Mooses Tooth-1 project online sometime late this year. Located just east of Willow in the NPR-A, GMT-1 is expected to produce up to 30,000 barrels per day at its peak. The company is also in permitting with the Bureau of Land Management to develop its Greater Mooses Tooth-2 prospect, which is generally a mirror and just to the south of GMT-1.

Elwood Brehmer can be reached at elwood.brehmer@alaskajournal.com.

Anchorage police: Man shot in July 4 dispute over bicycle has died, case now a homicide

Alaska News - Wed, 2018-07-18 17:09

A July 4 shooting victim died Wednesday, according to Anchorage police.

Daren Barnhart (APD photo)

"This case is now being investigated as a homicide," the police said in an alert.

The victim had been shot in the leg following a dispute over a bicycle and was being treated at a local hospital, police said. Authorities have not publicly named the victim, an adult male.

Daren Barnhart, 50, is accused of shooting the man at a Midtown Anchorage park. At the time, police said the injuries were minor and non-life-threatening.

"Medical conditions can change which is what happened in this case," wrote police spokeswoman Renee Oistad.

Barnhart shot the man during a dispute at Arctic Benson Park involving multiple adults, and stemming from questions over ownership of a bicycle, police said.

Police had asked for the public's help finding Barnhart, who was arrested Friday evening. Police say officers had spotted him riding a bicycle in Spenard.

Police said Barnhart tried to flee from officers and hid in a field before being bitten by a police dog.

Given the death of the victim, additional charges might be filed in the case, police said. The victim's identity is expected to be released Thursday, pending notification of his family.

Open & Shut: Another brewery in Anchorage, plus new restaurants

Alaska News - Wed, 2018-07-18 16:53

Turnagain Brewing, at 7920 and 7924 King St., had its grand opening Saturday. (Annie Zak / ADN)

This is an installment of an occasional series in the Anchorage Daily News taking a quick look at the comings and goings of businesses in Southcentral Alaska. If you know of a business opening or closing in the area, send a note to reporter Annie Zak at azak@adn.com.


Turnagain Brewing: This new brewery had its grand opening Saturday at 7920 and 7924 King St., where King Street Brewing Co. used to be. Turnagain Brewing makes a range of beers, with a focus on sours and Belgian-style ales, said co-owner Ted Rosenzweig. He's been brewing for decades.

"I love the art of it, the science of it," he said. "It's sort of like where cooking and science meet, and there's a lot of room to innovate."

He's not concerned about adding yet another brewery to a patch of the city where there are already a handful. Turnagain Brewing isn't far from Anchorage Brewing Co., the new King Street location and Midnight Sun Brewing Co.

"It's a blessing and a curse," he said. "In some respects, it'd be really nice to be in Midtown away from all the other breweries and kind of have a corner on that market. But in another way, it's sort of handy. It promotes beer tourism, it makes it convenient for people to hop breweries, go from one to the other."

You can get a free 12-ounce pour if you bring in 5 pounds of rhubarb for use in a future brew. Turnagain Brewing is open Wednesday from 4 to 8 p.m., Thursday through Saturday from noon to 8 p.m. and Sunday from noon to 6 p.m.

King Street Brewing Co.: This brewery moved a few blocks south to 9050 King St., where it's been open since early June. The old spot just wasn't big enough anymore, said co-owner Dana Walukiewicz.

"We were renting, and we'd been in there for seven years. As we kind of matured, we wanted to have a place of our own," he said. "Be able to brew and keep up with demand."

The new location was built specifically for King Street's move, and it's now near Anchorage Brewing Co. King Street now has about four times the space it had before, Walukiewicz said, and plenty more parking.

King Street is open Monday through Thursday from 2 to 8 p.m. and Friday through Sunday from noon to 8 p.m.

[South Anchorage entrepreneurs team up for a trendy new destination]

League: This retail shop, which carries collectible consignment sneakers and other streetwear, opened a few days ago at the Dimond Center mall. Its owner, 17-year-old Deven Jackson, may be the youngest business owner that mall has ever had, ADN reported Tuesday.

Jackson's business partner, John Daet, will run the store when Jackson heads off to college in the fall. Read more about the shop and Jackson's story here.

Seoul Casa: This Mexican-Korean fusion restaurant at 601 E. Dimond Blvd. opened about a month ago. The eatery focuses on Mexican food like tacos and burritos, but using Korean-style meats.

The spot used to be occupied by Terra Bella Bistro. Co-owners Andrew Cho and his brother-in-law Ronald Tzou came up with the idea for the restaurant a few years ago, Cho said.

Seoul Casa is open Monday to Thursday from 11 a.m. to 10 p.m., and Friday and Saturday from 11 a.m. to 2 a.m.

Mo's Deli and Catering: Co-owner Jason Ellis said he believes the spot he opened in June with his wife, Betty Sheldon, is the only Jewish deli in town.

Mo's, at 9220 Lake Otis Parkway, took over the space where Quiznos used to be. The deli tries to source its food locally, Ellis said.

"We're an authentic deli, something you might find back East," he said. "Not really kosher, so to speak, but more Jewish flavors."

Mo's, which is named after Ellis' grandfather, is open seven days a week from 10 a.m. to 8 p.m.

Vine and Branches Christian Bookshoppe: This store recently closed its location at 1120 Huffman Road when the former owner, Tony Hooyer, retired. Then Shauna Howell came along and bought the business from him. She reopened it at 1108 E. Northern Lights Blvd.

The store also sells art and does consignment for used Christian books.

"We found quite a few gems in that," Howell said. "There's kind of a lot of treasures here in town. It's like pull tabs for Jesus."

The shop is open from 9 a.m. to 6 p.m. Monday through Friday and noon to 3 p.m. Saturday.


Quickie Burger: The Spenard burger spot at 1087 W. 27th Ave. has closed, according to its Facebook page.

"Quickie Burger is closed for business," according to a June 24 post. "We are working a deal to get into a building however until then we are shutting down and we do not know for how long."

A phone call from a reporter Tuesday went straight to a voice recording.

Blockbuster: The last two Blockbuster stores in Alaska have closed for rental business, ADN reported last week. Now the DeBarr Road store in Anchorage and the Fairbanks store will sell off inventory through July and August in preparation for closing for good.

‘Was that as scary as I feel like it was?’: Crew of Bristol Bay fishing boat crushed between ships barely escapes

Alaska News - Wed, 2018-07-18 16:16

Kyle Brojakowski and Jan Medhaug climbed of the F/V Kristi seconds before it capsized. (Still image from video courtesy of Dennis Villanez via KDLG.org)

DILLINGHAM — Shortly after midnight on Saturday, the fishing vessel Kristi lost power near Clark's Point, a Bristol Bay village just outside Dillingham. The tide was coming in, and the boat floated in the current at 5 knots.

While its skipper Jan Medhaug and deckhand Kyle Brojakowski worked to restore power to the 32-foot aluminum drift boat, Medhaug's wife, Kayla Breeden, went to the stern to hang a protective buoy.

"When you're out there fishing for that many days, you just think kind of everything is mundane, so I grabbed my buoy to go out there," said Breeden. "I didn't even put my rain jacket on and I almost didn't put my boots on because I thought we were going to clear her."

She could see two large ships, which she estimated were "three football fields away." The 400-foot cargo ship Sohoh was anchored about 15 feet from the 330-foot fish-processing vessel Gordon Jensen. About 10 seconds after Breeden hung the buoy, the Kristi struck the Gordon Jensen.

"We ended up getting jammed between the two vessels, pushed up against their Yokohama fender that was between the two of them," recounted Medhaug. "We started to violently smash between the two vessels."

The fender, a giant, rubber cylinder filled with air and designed to protect the two larger ships from damaging one another, pinned the Kristi at the bow. The aluminum boat bounced between the two steel ships.

"You could hear it crushing the boat in between. … Aluminum is strong, but it's not stronger than steel and water with all that pressure. She cried and moaned and banged really bad," said Breeden, recalling the sound of the breaking ship.

Medhaug radioed the Gordon Jensen for assistance, and the processor lifted Breeden off the boat in a man basket.

She said, "The guys were still trying to figure out if there was something we could do. Right as I got off I said to (the Gordon Jensen crew), 'Was that as scary as I feel like it was?' And they said, 'Oh my gosh, yes,' and they were looking at me like I was a ghost almost."

Medhaug and Brojakowski attempted to situate the Kristi so it could stay afloat through the incoming tide. They hoped to extricate the boat from between the ships at slack tide, when it would no longer be pinned to the fender.

From her position on the Gordon Jensen, however, Breeden could see that the men were in more danger than they knew.

"Our boat is not a flat deck; it's got a pit in the back for picking, so more water was building up in there," she said.

At the screeching groan of twisting metal, Medhaug and Brojakowski finally abandoned ship. They scrambled onto the fender a moment before the Kristi capsized, bow over stern, and sank beneath the waves in seconds.

"As Jan was stepping off the bow, the stern was taking on all the water and starting to curl under, so two seconds later and he probably wouldn't have been able to get off," said Breeden.

The Gordon Jensen brought Medhaug and Brojakowski aboard in the same man basket that had rescued Breeden 20 minutes earlier.

"When the guys did get lifted off, I ran up and we all three hugged each other just like out of a movie," said Breeden.

In the aftermath of the disaster, many loose ends remain. The Coast Guard is investigating the incident. It was not immediately assigning fault in the accident to any party.

The senior investigating officer did note that the anchor line on board the Kristi was not long enough to be useful in this situation, where it was drifting in water 40 to 50 feet deep.

"Certainly an anchor might have helped in this case," cautioned Lt. Cmdr. Michael Novak. "Situational awareness is always key, and having the right equipment, knowing your operation can obviously prevent disasters."

Story continues below video.

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Friday the 13th night in Alaska

Alcohol-related liver deaths have increased sharply

Alaska News - Wed, 2018-07-18 16:11

Deaths from liver disease have increased sharply in recent years in the United States, according to a study published in the British Medical Journal. Cirrhosis-related deaths increased by 65 percent from 1999 to 2016, and deaths from liver cancer doubled, the study said. The rise in death rates was driven predominantly by alcohol-induced disease, the report said.

Over the past decade, people ages 25 to 34 had the highest increase in cirrhosis deaths - an average of 10.5 percent per year - of the demographic groups examined, researchers reported.

The study suggests that a new generation of Americans is being afflicted "by alcohol misuse and its complications," said lead author Elliot Tapper, a liver specialist at the University of Michigan.

Tapper said people are at risk of life-threatening cirrhosis if they drink several drinks a night or have multiple nights of binge drinking - more than four or five drinks per sitting - per week. Women tend to be less tolerant of alcohol and their livers more sensitive to damage.

The liver cleans blood as it exits the gut. The more toxins, sugars and fats consumed, the harder it has to work. If the liver gets overloaded, its plumbing can get blocked up, causing scarring that can reduce liver function.

"Dying from cirrhosis, you never wish this on anybody," Tapper said.

If people with alcohol-related disease stop drinking, "there's an excellent chance your liver will repair itself," Tapper said. "Many other organs have the ability to regenerate to some degree, but none have the same capacity as the liver," he added. He said that he routinely sees patients going "from the sickest of the sick to living well, working and enjoying their life."

The problem, Tapper said, is that "we do not yet have a highly effective treatment for alcohol addiction."

The study examined death rates in several demographic groups - divided by age, race, place of residence and gender - using death certificate data and census data. The researchers found that deaths for certain groups of people decreased between 1999 to 2008 - but rose sharply starting in 2009. They speculated that the 2008 economic crisis and subsequent rise in unemployment may have been a factor. Studies have shown that losing a job is associated with increased alcohol consumption in men.

The new study found that men were twice as likely to die from cirrhosis and nearly four times as likely to die from liver cancer as women. The study also found whites, Native Americans and Hispanic Americans are experiencing increased death rates for cirrhosis, along with people living in Kentucky, Arkansas and New Mexico. The one positive report from the study is the declining rate of deaths in Asian-Americans from both cirrhosis and liver cancer.

"Scar tissue is silent, developing silently, and they [the patients] don't know. It comes as a big surprise," said Jessica Mellinger, a clinical lecturer at the University of Michigan who was not involved in the study. Patients typically experience the symptoms "all of a sudden," Mellinger said of patients suffering from cirrhosis.

Initial cirrhosis symptoms of yellowing skin, jaundice and a swollen abdomen are usually the first signs that something is wrong, Mellinger said. The fluid in the abdomen can make it look and feel "like you have multiple bowling balls" in your stomach, Tapper said. As the disease progresses, the symptoms worsen, including degenerative brain injury, severe bleeding, kidney failure and increasing frailty.

The BMJ report was consistent with data issued earlier in the week by the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. In a new report, the agency's National Center for Health Statistics said that age-adjusted death rates for liver cancer increased steadily from 2000 through 2016 for both men and women. The agency said that liver cancer had moved to the sixth-leading cause of cancer deaths in 2016, up from the ninth-leading cause in 2000.

The increase in liver cancer comes as overall cancer death rates in the United States continue to decline, according to the National Cancer Institute.

The CDC report showed that, among the 50 states and the District of Columbia, the District had the highest liver cancer death rate in the country, followed by Louisiana, Hawaii, Mississippi and New Mexico. The five states with the lowest death rates were Vermont, Maine, Montana, Utah and Nebraska.

- - -

The Washington Post’s Laurie McGinley contributed to this report.

Defense allowed to keep prison visit records from prosecution in cruise ship murder case

Juneau Hot Topics - Wed, 2018-07-18 14:50
Manzanares, who is accused of murder in the July 25, 2017 death of his wife Kristy aboard the Emerald Princess in Juneau, is currently at LCCC and ...

Fishermen spot giant squid, turns out to be a 'badly-decomposed' whale

Juneau Hot Topics - Wed, 2018-07-18 14:18
Saturday saw the highest and lowest tide in July for the Juneau area. Water levels dropped 24.4 feet from a high tide to low. Large tidal movement can ...

The Latest: Law referrals by Alaska Legislature infrequent - Bristol Herald Courier (press release) (blog)

Legislative News - Wed, 2018-07-18 14:12

Bristol Herald Courier (press release) (blog)

The Latest: Law referrals by Alaska Legislature infrequent
Bristol Herald Courier (press release) (blog)
File - In this Jan. 16, 2018 file photo, State Sen. Bert Stedman, a Sitka Republican, is shown at the start of the Alaska legislative session at the Alaska State Capitol in Juneau, Alaska. An Alaska lawmaker is asking the state Department of Law to ...
The Latest: Chair: Trust Board Takes Leak Concern SeriouslyU.S. News & World Report

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