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Tracking COVID-19 in Alaska: 58 new cases, no new deaths reported over the weekend

Alaska News - Mon, 2021-06-14 19:23

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Alaska on Monday reported 58 new coronavirus infections identified over the weekend, according to the state Department of Health and Social Services.

Alaska’s average daily case counts have been trending down significantly statewide.

By Monday, roughly 54% of the state’s population age 12 and older had received at least their first dose of the vaccine, while 48% of residents 12 and older were fully vaccinated.

On Monday, 21 people with COVID-19 were hospitalized in the state.

In total, 366 Alaskans and seven nonresidents with COVID-19 have died since the pandemic reached the state last spring. Alaska’s death rate per capita remains among the lowest in the country, though the state’s size, health care system and other factors complicate national comparisons.

Over the weekend, there were 55 new cases reported among residents, including: 18 in Anchorage; four in Fairbanks; four in Nome; four in Wasilla; three in Hooper Bay; three in Juneau; three in Ketchikan; two in Eagle River; two in the Nome Census Area; two in Palmer; two in Utqiaġvik; one in the Chugach Census Area; one in Chugiak; one in the Copper River Census Area; one in Dillingham; one in Homer; one in Kodiak; one in the Northwest Arctic Borough and one in the Yukon-Koyukuk Census Area.

There were also three new non-resident cases, including one in Juneau; one in Seward and one in the Southeast Fairbanks Census Area.

— Morgan Krakow

Seward’s Lydia Jacoby breaks national age-group record while swimming into finals at US Olympic Trials

Alaska News - Mon, 2021-06-14 19:09

Lydia Jacoby reacts after setting a national age-group record in the women's 100-meter breaststroke Monday at the U.S. Olympic swim trials in Omaha, Nebraska. (Jeff Roberson / Associated Press) (Jeff Roberson/)

Seventeen-year-old Lydia Jacoby of Seward of set a national age-group record Monday and will try to win a spot on the Olympic team Tuesday at the U.S. Olympic Trials for swimming in Omaha, Nebraska.

Jacoby won her semifinal heat with a scorching time Monday to advance to the eight-woman finals of the 100-meter breaststroke.

She finished in 1 minute, 5.71 seconds, the fourth-fastest time in the world this season.

She broke the national age-group record for 17-18 girls by an eyelash — the previous record was 1:05.75, set in 2009 — while shaving nearly seventh-tenths of a second off her previous best (1:06.38, posted in an April meet).

The real test comes Tuesday when she swims in the eight-woman finals at the CHI Health Center in Omaha.

The top two swimmers will earn spots on the American team that will compete in the Summer Olympics, which begin July 23 in Tokyo.

And while Jacoby’s semifinal time ranks fourth in the world, the women who own the No. 1 and No. 2 times will be in the finals too.

[With a new PR that puts her among the world leaders, Lydia Jacoby inserts herself into the Olympic conversation]

World-record holder Lilly King won Monday’s other semifinal in a course-record time of 1:04.72, the world’s fastest time this season. Annie Lazor placed second the same heat in 1:05.37, the world’s second-fastest time.

Jacoby, a member of Seward’s Tsunami Swim Club, advanced to the 16-swimmer semifinals by turning in the fourth-fastest qualifying time in Monday’s preliminary (1:06.40, just shy of a personal-best).

She went on to win a close semifinal race.

Lydia Jacoby, left, takes the lead from Bethany Galat in the semifinals of the women's 100-meter breaststroke Monday at the U.S. Olympic swim trials. (AP Photo/Jeff Roberson) (Jeff Roberson/)

She trailed Bethany Galat, who ranked third after the preliminaries, by more than a half-second at the turn. She blazed through the second half to win by .25 of a second.

Jacoby swam the first 50 meters in 31.50 seconds and the second 50 meters in 34.21. Her split in the final 50 meters was the best of the day, surpassing King’s 34.53.

The final is the fifth race in Tuesday’s evening session, which begins at 4 p.m. Alaska time.

New York-based charitable trust announces $20M grant to help address rural Alaska water issues

Alaska News - Mon, 2021-06-14 19:09

The Helmsley Charitable Trust is announcing a $20 million grant for water and sanitation improvements in Alaska. Projects will include installing remote monitoring equipment in villages statewide, and the construction of water and sewer projects in the Bering Strait region. Walter Panzirer, trustee of Helmsley Charitable Trust, discussed the grant in Anchorage on Monday, June 14, 2021. (Marc Lester / ADN) (Marc Lester/)

A New York-based charitable trust, a nonprofit and an Alaska regional health corporation on Monday announced a three-year plan to invest $20 million in improving access to clean water and sewer in parts of rural Alaska.

The funds will help support a utility-assistance program in 15 rural communities in the Norton Sound region of the state and to-be-determined water and sewer projects in those communities. It will also support the installation of water system monitoring equipment in dozens of other rural communities around the state.

The money is coming from the Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust, a private foundation based in New York with an endowment of over $8 billion.

The Helmsleys were New York real-estate magnates, and the trust began grant-making in 2008, after Leona Helmsley’s death. It is focused on health initiatives in communities around the world.

The grant will be implemented by the Engineering Ministries International, a Christian nonprofit made up of architects, engineers and surveyors, and the Norton Sound Health Corporation.

Neither EMI nor the Helmsley Trust have worked on projects in Alaska before, but the two entities have worked together on other projects worldwide. The idea for the funding project came when Walter Panzirer, a Helmsley trustee, visited Alaska in 2019 as part of a tour for philanthropies hosted by the Rasmuson Foundation.

”It broke my heart to see here in America people not having access to water, safe water, proper sanitation,” Panzirer said Monday at a media briefing announcing the grant. “I never knew that this happened in the U.S. I never knew that this was a problem here in Alaska,” he said.

In Alaska, roughly 3,300 rural homes in 32 communities have no running water or sewer, according to an estimate from the Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation. These families rely on water hauled from rivers and stored in drums, and honey buckets or outhouses in place of toilets.

Access to running water is a public health issue: Homes without running water have significantly higher infant hospitalization rates for pneumonia, according to the Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium. And rates of invasive pneumococcal disease in Southwest Alaska are among the highest in the world.

Health disparities were exacerbated during the pandemic, when following public health guidance around frequent hand-washing and sanitizing was difficult for those without easy access to clean water.

[Previous coverage: Fires, deteriorating infrastructure and unusually cold weather strain rural Alaska’s already fragile water systems]

This winter, several remote communities across the state struggled to maintain water services. For example, in Unalakleet — one of the communities slated to benefit from the grant — frozen, corroded pipes left over 40 homes without running water for weeks. Officials say remote locations with extreme weather make repairs difficult — and that the problem is decades-old and difficult to solve.

Diane Kaplan, president and CEO of the Rasmuson Foundation, said she views this project as a pilot program.

“We recommended Norton Sound because of the cohesive governance at Norton Sound and in the region itself,” Kaplan said. “(Norton Sound) was already laying the groundwork for a project like this, and they were very committed... to seeing it through.”

[‘Unserviced’: Why some Western Alaska villages lack basic sanitation infrastructure]

Angie Gorn, president and CEO of the Norton Sound Health Corp., said the health corporation is still in the early stages of determining exactly how the funding will be used. But first steps will include making repairs to existing water systems, and then beginning the process of installing running water in communities that are unserved, Gorn said.

The $20 million in funding represents just a small piece of what is needed to fully address the problem in rural Alaska, officials say.

“It costs millions of dollars to help a community get water and sewer if they don’t currently have it,” Gorn said. “And so with this funding that’s available, we’re hoping that we can look at what are the steps needed — maybe it’s a preliminary engineering report for one of those communities.”

It would cost about $1.8 billion to put in water pipes for all of Alaska’s unpiped communities and to repair the existing ones, the state Department of Environmental Conservation told the Daily News in March.

Gorn said she’s hopeful that within the next year, the funding will have allowed project managers to have a stronger plan in place, including a list of repair projects, and that community visits to assess need will begin this summer.

The utility assistance program is also in the works, she said.

“We do hope that homeowners (in the region) will see a reduction in their water and sewer bills hopefully within the next year and a half,” Gorn said.

Daily News journalist Marc Lester contributed reporting.

Woman arrested after driving 112 miles per hour into a construction zone, police say

Alaska News - Mon, 2021-06-14 18:53

A woman was arrested after driving 112 miles per hour into a construction zone on the Glenn Highway and failing a sobriety test north of Anchorage on Saturday evening, Anchorage police said in an online report released Monday.

At about 8 p.m. Saturday, the sergeant of APD’s Impaired Driving Enforcement Unit saw a gold sedan speeding on the Glenn Highway near the North Eagle River Exit at 108 miles per hour, police wrote.

When a different officer caught up to the car, he saw the driver, who police later identified as Angel I. T. A. Hopson, 20, maneuver the sedan “between two vehicles travelling in lanes side-by-side which almost caused a collision,” police wrote.

Despite the officer activating his lights and siren, Hopson continued to speed, driving 112 mph into a construction zone that was posted at 55 miles per hour, according to police.

“When it became clear the suspect was not going to yield, the officer terminated the pursuit for safety reasons,” police wrote.

The officer then saw the car near the intersection of the Old Glenn Highway and Eklutna Village Road about five minutes later, police wrote.

Three women were standing near the car, a 2002 Pontiac Sunfire, and police identified Hopson as the driver, according to police. Police wrote that upon noticing signs of impairment the officer performed a sobriety test on Hopson and charged her with operating under the influence as well as failure to stop and reckless driving. Hopson was cited for speeding in the construction zone, not having a valid license and a failure to obey traffic citations, police wrote.

She was remanded at Hiland Mountain Correctional Center.

Matt Curley resigns as coach of beleaguered UAA hockey team

Alaska News - Mon, 2021-06-14 17:59

Matt Curley leads his team during a September 2018 practice. (Loren Holmes / ADN archive) (Loren Holmes/)

The UAA hockey team took another blow Monday when head coach Matt Curley announced his resignation after three turbulent years with the Seawolves.

The school will not begin a search for a new coach unless hockey supporters are able to save the program by raising $3 million by the end of August, athletic director Greg Myford said in a statement released by the school.

The team is fighting for its existence after being eliminated by the University of Alaska’s Board of Regents in September. The regents said they will reinstate the program if two years’ worth of expenses — $3 million — can be raised by the end of August.

So far, nearly $2.3 million has been raised, according to the group called Save Seawolf Hockey.

Among those who have made individual donations to the cause is Curley, who hasn’t coached a game with the Seawolves since March 7, 2020.

He stuck with the team after the regents voted to eliminate it, he stuck with it after the 2020-21 season was canceled because of COVID-19, he stuck with it after every player either transferred or quit college hockey, and he stuck with it after UAA canceled the upcoming 2021-22 season in order to regroup and recruit a roster full of new players.

“His professionalism and effort in support of our students never wavered,” Myford said.

Now, with no guarantee the Seawolves will ever play again, Curley — who has repeatedly professed his affection for Anchorage and Alaska — is leaving.

“This was a very difficult decision for me and my family because we believe in Seawolf hockey’s future,” Curley said in a statement released by the school. “It’s been a privilege to coach such fine young men, as well as live in the Anchorage community.

“The outpouring of recent financial support for the team has been great to see, and I wish the program nothing but the very best.”

It’s not clear what’s next for Curley, who did not immediately respond to a message.

No players remain at the school but assistant coaches Matt Bruneteau and Nick Walters are still on staff, UAA spokesman Ian Marks said.

[As UAA hockey fights for its life, 9 players transfer to other schools, with more expected to follow]

“Normally, we would immediately put full attention into determining our next coach, but these are not normal times,” Myford said. “We first have to save our hockey program by securing the $800,000 we still have to raise before August 30.”

If the Seawolves survive, a new coach will start from scratch. Besides needing to recruit an entirely new team, he or she will have to put together a schedule without the benefit of a conference membership.

A longtime member of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association, UAA was one of three teams left behind — along with UAF and Alabama-Huntsville — when the league’s other seven teams decided to form a new conference that will begin play in the 2021-22 season.

The Seawolves were 7-53-10 during the two seasons they played under Curley. During Curley’s three years at the school, 33 hockey players earned WCHA Scholar Athlete honors and 45 earned WCHA All-Academic honors.

Curley was UAA’s sixth head coach, and the fifth who will leave with a losing record.

He was hired in August 2018 after at least three other candidates reportedly turned down the job at a school that had considered cutting hockey two years earlier.

UAA hasn’t had a winning record since the 2013-14 season, the first year of former coach Matt Thomas’ five-year stint. They’ve gone 55-158-31 since then.

The only coach in team history with a winning record is team founder Brush Christiansen, who led the Seawolves for their first 17 years.

UAA hockey coaches

Brush Christiansen, 1980-96 — 287-229-30 (17 seasons)

Dean Talafous, 1997-2001 — 50-108-22 (5 seasons)

John Hill, 2001-05 — 39-89-15 (4 seasons)

Dave Shyiak, 2005-13 — 80-177-33 (8 seasons)

Matt Thomas, 2013-18 — 48-105-21 (5 seasons)

Matt Curley, 2018-21 — 7-53-10 (2 seasons)

Coronavirus infections dropping where people are vaccinated, rising where they are not, analysis finds

Alaska News - Mon, 2021-06-14 17:42

People gather at the American Legion Post in Rock Springs, Wyo., on June 12. Rock Springs is in Sweetwater County, where the coronavirus caseload remains high and few residents are vaccinated. (Photo by Kim Raff for The Washington Post) (Kim Raff/)

States with higher vaccination rates now have markedly fewer coronavirus cases, as infections are dropping in places where most residents have been immunized and are rising in many places people have not, a Washington Post analysis has found.

States with lower vaccination also have significantly higher hospitalization rates, The Post found. Poorly vaccinated communities have not been reporting catastrophic conditions. Instead, they are usually seeing new infections holding steady or increasing without overwhelming local hospitals.

As recently as 10 days ago, vaccination rates did not predict a difference in coronavirus cases, but immunization rates have diverged, and case counts in the highly vaccinated states are dropping quickly.

Vaccination is not always even within each state, and The Post found the connection between vaccine shots and coronavirus cases at the local level comparing more than 100 counties with low vaccination rates (fewer than 20% of residents vaccinated) and more than 700 with high vaccination rates (at least 40% vaccinated).

Counties with high vaccination had low coronavirus rates that are going down. In counties where few people are vaccinated, not only are there higher case rates, but the number of cases there also is growing.

But experts worry that unvaccinated people are falling into a false sense of security as more transmissible variants can rapidly spread in areas with a high concentration of unvaccinated people who have abandoned masking and social distancing.

Nationally, 43% of eligible Americans are fully vaccinated, and the country is averaging under 16,000 new infections a day — levels not seen since the early days of stay-at-home orders in March 2020. Ten states, concentrated in the Deep South and rural West, report fewer than 35% of residents are fully immunized.

An uptick in infections in numerous states offers a preview of summer surges that could take hold “if the unvaccinated continue to behave as though they’re vaccinated,” said Michael Saag, an infectious-disease doctor at the University of Alabama at Birmingham. For now, risk is unevenly distributed, concentrated in communities where shots are sparse, he said.

Local public health officials fear the public is tuning out the danger as they see news reports of cratering infections and scenes of reopened bars and entertainment venues across the nation, assuming vaccinations are no longer necessary.

Missouri’s Polk County — where less than a quarter of the population of roughly 30,000 is fully vaccinated — has reported nearly 90 new infections in one week, an increase after several months of decline.

Michelle Morris, the country’s public health administrator, said infections are concentrated among students after the school year ended May 21 and clusters linked to Mother’s Day and graduation gatherings. Immunity isn’t widespread enough to naturally stop the spread.

“We are going to continue to see what we are seeing as far as our daily case count,” Morris said. “Unfortunately, we are going to see increased hospitalization, and it worries me we may see additional deaths related to it as well.”

A mass vaccination site in Polk County that drew as many as 400 people a day when it opened in January closed in early May after only about 100 people were showing up daily. Morris said she would reopen the site if there was demand. But like many other public health officials in low-demand communities, Polk authorities have shifted their attention to one-on-one conversations and encouraging doctors to persuade holdouts to get shots. On Thursday, her agency shared a Facebook post debunking the myth that coronavirus vaccinations make people magnetic.

A spokesman for the Missouri Hospital Association said it’s premature to draw a link between low vaccination and hospitalizations in Missouri, but noted urban hospitals treat severely ill COVID-19 patients from rural areas. All but four of 30 recent hospitalized COVID-19 patients in Boone County live outside the county that’s home to the University of Missouri, for example.

“While it isn’t possible to draw a straight line between the spikes, it is likely that higher rates are resulting in higher hospitalization,” Dave Dillon, the Missouri Hospital Association spokesman said. “And, given the lower capacity in rural communities to address complex COVID-19 cases, these will likely materialize as increased hospitalizations in the state’s metro areas or midsized communities.”

Experts said boosting vaccinations is the best avenue available for limiting the damage from the more transmissible variant of the virus first identified in India and known as delta.

“Without the variants, basically the epidemic would be over in the U.S.,” said Trevor Bedford, an evolutionary biologist and the Fred Hutchison Cancer Research Center in Seattle. “The previous non-variant viruses have been dying fairly rapidly.”

The delta variant, which has thrown Britain’s once-promising path back to normal into disarray, already accounts for 6% of new infections in the United States, officials said this week. The variant has been detected in all but two states — Hawaii and South Dakota — according to a spokeswoman for the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

One advantage the United States has over Britain is that health authorities here decided not to delay the second dose of the two-dose mRNA vaccines, and early evidence suggests a second shot delivers stronger protection against the delta variant than is provided by just one dose.

As variations in vaccination levels grow more stark among states — the share of eligible residents in Vermont who have received at least one dose is roughly double the share in Louisiana, Mississippi or Alabama — these disparities have gone largely unmentioned on weekly calls between governors and the White House’s coronavirus task force. “Crickets,” one state official said of whether governors with disappointing immunization figures were explaining their challenges and sharing best practices for boosting demand ahead of President Joe Biden’s goal of getting shots to 70% of adults by July 4.

People gather at Square State Brewing's block party in downtown Rock Springs, Wyo., on June 12, 2020. (Photo by Kim Raff for The Washington Post) (Kim Raff/)

“The July 4 goal that President Biden set up is quite frankly not in our sights right now,” said Keith Reed, deputy health commissioner in Oklahoma, where just 54% of adults have received at least one dose. Even though infections and hospitalizations remain under control, he said, “we know we don’t have enough of the population vaccinated to ensure us against a resurgence. We know the risk is still out there.”

Some public health officials have resigned themselves to the reality that many in their community will not budge on shots.

In Wyoming’s Sweetwater County, population 44,000, authorities are at a loss for what else they can do to achieve herd immunity.

Sweetwater carries the unfortunate distinction of being the county with the steepest increase in infections in the state with the most new infections per capita in the country. Only a quarter of its residents are fully vaccinated, and public health officials don’t see the number budging much higher.

Jean Stachon, Sweetwater County’s health officer, said officials held mass clinics, brought vaccine doses to employers and churches and accept walk-ins at the public health office. They have sacrificed extra doses in a vial to vaccinate at least one person. But demand is minimal, even as the virus still looms in the community. Two people died of COVID-19 in the last week. Eight emergency room patients were diagnosed with coronavirus in one night.

“As much as the general public figures COVID is done, gone and over with, and they don’t want to hear about it, the health department wishes the same. It’s not so,” Stachon said.

Kim Lionberger, director of the county board of health, said her staff is doing the best they can to provide scientific facts about the virus and the vaccines. But they are also competing with skeptical residents who prefer affirmation to information and find it from anti-vaccine doctors and questionable reports on Facebook.

“The mentality of people in Wyoming is that rugged individualism where they do their own thing and don’t want people telling them what they should be doing because they are going to do what they want to do,” said Lionberger.

Stachon isn’t sure what she would do if a highly contagious variant tears through the community and some have already been detected. The Wyoming legislature restricted the powers of public health officials like her to put disease control measures in place.

“For me to try to say we need to go back and mask or do anything like that, I would almost think I need police protection,” Stachon said. “It’s just sad. You feel impotent.”

There have been bright spots elsewhere in the country, including in Washington’s King County, home to Seattle and not far from where the virus was first detected in the U.S., where 69% of the population was fully vaccinated and 77% had received at least one shot.

Jeffrey Duchin, health officer for Seattle and King County, said the success was a result of longtime efforts to address health disparities among racial and ethnic groups. When the vaccination program began, the county quickly tapped relationships they already forged with leaders, community groups and small businesses and placed navigators in 30 different ethnic communities.

The county also sent mobile vaccine vehicles into neighborhoods where hard-to-reach residents, such as the homebound elderly, live. He also credited trust in science.

“The bottom line is people have to want to be vaccinated, and in that sense, our community is very enlightened,” Duchin said.

But there are disparities. Seventy-eight percent of Asian residents and 65% of White residents 16 or older are fully vaccinated, county statistics show. But just half of Black and Latino residents have completed the full course. The county projects that those communities won’t reach the 70% landmark until Sept. 7 and Sept. 2, respectively.

Access is the easiest obstacle to overcome, Duchin said. More difficult are fears among some people about missing work if they encounter side effects from the vaccine. Others have been poisoned by misinformation, he said.

“There are early adopters and people who are not early adopters,” Duchin said. “I think it’s wrong to assume that everyone who is not currently vaccinated is not interested in being vaccinated and will not be vaccinated in the future.”

The broader slowdown in vaccinations may be a sign that the United States cannot vaccinate its way to safety from new virus variants, said Neha Agarwal, associate director of diagnostics at PATH, a global health equity nonprofit.

“We’re beginning to reach a saturation point in terms of the population that’s willing to be vaccinated,” she said.

What’s needed is long-term investments in testing and surveillance, similar to those made in several Southeast Asian countries after the 2009 H1N1 flu pandemic, she said. Germany, too, is betting on expanded testing as a way to safely permit people to resume normal activities. In the U.S., meanwhile, testing has fallen off dramatically, and public testing sites have closed throughout the country.


The Washington Post’s Joel Achenbach contributed to this report.

COVID at a glance for Friday, June 11

Juneau Hot Topics - Mon, 2021-06-14 17:39
The most recent state and local figures. Monday, June 14, 2021 6:31pm; NewsCoronavirus.

‘She needs a lot of work’: Museum of the North staff begins work on ‘Into the Wild’ bus

Alaska News - Mon, 2021-06-14 17:00

University of Alaska Museum of the North Director Pat Druckenmiller checks out Bus 142 last week with Colin Howard, left, and Aaron Warkinton, right, who work for Pennsylvania-based B.R. Howard Conservation. (Tim Ellis/KUAC)

Originally published by KUAC in Fairbanks and republished with permission.

FAIRBANKS — Preliminary work began last week on a project to create a museum exhibit featuring the old bus where the central character in the book and movie “Into the Wild” spent his last days.

The rusty relic was airlifted out of a remote spot off the Stampede Trail last year and brought back to Fairbanks, where it had been used decades ago as a city transit bus. Now, staff at University of Alaska Museum of the North are planning a new outdoor exhibit that will tell the story of how Bus 142 became an American cultural icon.

Colin Howard and another artifact-conservation expert are conferring with Museum of the North staff about the fragile condition of Bus 142 before the conservators head back to Pennsylvania, where their art- and artifact-conservation company is based.

“It provides a whole bunch of challenges,” Howard said. “I mean, she’s really dirty, and she needs a lot of work.”

He and his colleague, Aaron Warkinton, met with museum staff last Friday after spending a couple of days examining the old rig as part of their assessment on what’s needed to keep it from further deteriorating, and make it presentable to the public.

“So, we don’t want to make it brand new,” Howard said. “I don’t want to make it look like it was just repainted. It carries a significant story for multiple decades, and we want to keep that story going.”

Those stories are told in part through the rust and chipping paint typically found on a 75-year-old vehicle, especially one that’s been sitting exposed to the elements at a remote site near Denali National Park since it was hauled back there in 1961. The bus served as a shelter for hunters and hikers, including Christopher McCandless, the hapless wanderer profiled in Jon Krakauer’s account titled “Into the Wild.”

Museum of the North Senior Collections Manager Angela Linn explains conservation work needed to stabilize the floor of the bus and other parts of its interior. (Tim Ellis/KUAC)

Museum of the North Senior Collections Manager Angela Linn explained the conservation work needed to stabilize the floor of the bus and other parts of its interior.

“So we just want to stabilize it, make sure that the corrosion is no longer active,” Howard said. “We want to stabilize flaking paint that’s coming off. There’s stories inside that are falling off the walls, literally.”

Those are the stories told through graffiti that’s been scrawled all over the bus and its few remaining windows. Many were left as an homage to the memory of McCandless, whose body was found in the bus on Sept. 6, 1992, by some moose hunters.

One of the scrawls reads, “Godspeed Chris, and say hi to my mom from me!”

Another reads: “Thanx 4 the inspiration!”

Yet another simply says “He was here!”

Many of those who reached the bus left messages addressed to McCandless and their fellow "pilgrims." (Tim Ellis/KUAC)

“There’s Japanese kanji in there. Russian – people from all over the world have journeyed out there to interact with that relic,” Warkinton said. He says the graffiti attests to the universal appeal of the story of McCandless, a tragic figure who after graduating from college decided to escape society and its materialism and instead find the meaning of life. It was a search that led him deep in to the wilds of Alaska.

Many of those who reached the bus left messages addressed to McCandless and their fellow “pilgrims.”

“I think he touched on something that a lot of people struggle with,” Warkinton said. “Like I’d mentioned earlier, about dealing with the modern world – it can be so overwhelming!”

Linn, the senior collections manager at the Museum of the North, agrees.

“This is a story that really resonates with millions of people around the world,” she said. “And whether it’s because of the mystique of Alaska, whether they really identify with Chris McCandless and the transition he maybe was going through himself. That, y’know, people see that in themselves.”

Linn, who’s managing the project, says that’s one of the main reasons why Museum of the North officials believe it’s important to preserve the bus and share its stories with the public.

This March 21, 2006 file photo shows the abandoned bus where Christopher McCandless died in 1992 on Stampede Road near Healy, June 18, 2020.(AP Photo/Jillian Rogers, File ) (Jillian Rogers/)
In this photo released by the Alaska National Guard, Alaska Army National Guard soldiers use a CH-47 Chinook helicopter to airlift an abandoned bus, popularized by the book and movie "Into the Wild," out of its location in the Alaska backcountry in light of public safety concerns, as part of a training mission Thursday, June 18, 2020. (Sgt. Seth LaCount/Alaska National Guard via AP) (Sgt. Seth LaCount/)
Bus 142 in front of University of Alaska Museum of the North, Sept 24, 2020. (Photo by Roger Topp / UA Museum of the North)

“We think it’s really important to spend the money and the time and the great amount of effort to bring all those stories together,” she said. “And that’s part of what our job is in museums, is to get people to connect those dots within themselves.”

Linn says it’s cost about $7,000 so far for Howard’s firm to assess the work needed on the bus and estimate how much it’ll cost to do it. The money was raised through online crowdfunding. She’s hoping to raise additional money with crowdfunding help from Friends of Bus 142, an online group founded by McCandless’s sister, Carine.

Linn says much of the consulting and planning for the exhibit is being done by a 25-member interpretive team, which includes university faculty and members of the community.

She says if all goes well, the exhibit could be opened in 2023.

Let’s put the honey buckets in a museum for good

Alaska News - Mon, 2021-06-14 15:34

Honey bucket in the village of St. Michael on the Norton Sound in Western Alaska on Thursday, June 27, 2019. (Bill Roth / ADN) (Bill Roth / ADN/)

It’s 2021. Alaskans video chat with smart phones, pay bills with strokes on a keyboard, turn off lights with virtual assistants and yet remarkably, 3,300 rural households still use five-gallon honey buckets as toilets. While futuristic innovations have become commonplace, thousands of Alaskans are living in homes without running water or proper sanitation. This must change. Those who live in rural Alaska deserve better.

Families in more than 30 communities across Alaska do not have adequate access to safe, modern drinking water and sanitation systems -- and almost 20% of them are operating without these critical services entirely. I learned this in 2019, when I accepted an invitation from the Rasmuson Foundation to travel across Alaska and better understand the needs. I witnessed firsthand the silent public health crisis these 5,000 families were struggling with, and I was moved to do more.

In communities without running water or proper sanitation, disease rates are much higher than elsewhere in the state. For example, those who live in the Bering Strait region experience higher instances of serious diseases, including invasive bacteria, skin infections, respiratory infections and dental disease than other Alaskans. Your address should never dictate your health, but that’s what’s happening here.

To improve the water, sanitation and hygiene (WASH) for residents in rural Alaska, we must focus on addressing critical gaps in infrastructure. Geographic isolation and arctic conditions create barriers to providing and maintaining these necessary services, yet these are manageable. If we invest in appropriate technologies and operational support, we can deliver water to these homes in an affordable and sustainable way.

Indeed, this is a critical yet solvable problem. To help, The Leona M. and Henry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust awarded Engineering Ministries International USA (EMI) a grant of more than $20 million to moderinize water and sewer services in villages where residents’ most basic needs have gone unmet for far too long. The goal of this project is to revitalize operations and best practices at rural water and wastewater utilities and the health and lives of Alaskans who call those communities home. By partnering with local organizations that are already doing work in these villages and knowledgeable about them, EMI will be able to pinpoint how to create the greatest impact so that this grant can drive the long-overdue, positive changes to WASH utilities throughout the state.

This work is in line with our overall mission at the Helmsley Charitable Trust – to build healthy communities, both here and abroad. But we cannot do it alone. There is currently an estimated $900 million to $2 billion revenue gap for programs to address this fundamental issue in Alaska, and funding is currently declining. Many foundations are supporting similar efforts in other countries while the necessity for clean water and accessible sanitation services remains unmet in many U.S. communities.

Too many Alaskans are living in 19th-century homes in a 21st-century world. It is past time to update individual, community and regional water and sanitation services in these areas, and in turn improve health outcomes in rural Alaska.

A lack of water and sanitation infrastructure is not a distant, third-world problem. It is happening right here, in Alaska. It’s one that we know how to fix and doing so should be a priority. No Alaskan should be carrying human waste and dumping it in a sewage lagoon. As a popular former Alaska governor remarked decades ago, it’s time to put honey buckets in a museum. It’s 2021. We must do better. We must do more. And we must do it now.

Walter Panzirer serves as a trustee for The Leona M. and Harry B. Helmsley Charitable Trust.

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.

Biden rallies NATO support ahead of confrontation with Russian President Putin

Alaska News - Mon, 2021-06-14 15:12

President Joe Biden and other NATO heads of the states and governments pose for a family photo during the NATO summit at the Alliance's headquarters, in Brussels, Belgium, Monday, June 14, 2021. (Kevin Lamarque/Pool via AP) (KEVIN LAMARQUE/)

BRUSSELS — President Joe Biden used his first appearance at a NATO summit since taking office to call on Russian President Vladimir Putin to step back from provocative actions targeting the U.S. and its allies on Monday. NATO leaders joined the United States in formally accusing Moscow and Beijing of malign actions.

Biden’s sharp words for Russia and his friendly interactions with NATO allies marked a sharp shift in tone from the past four years and highlighted the renewed U.S. commitment to the 30-country alliance that was frequently maligned by predecessor Donald Trump.

Biden, wearing a NATO lapel pin, said that in his extensive talks with NATO leaders about his planned meeting with Putin on Wednesday, all were supportive of his plans to press the Russian leader to halt Russian-originated cyber attacks against the West, end the violent stifling of political dissidents and stop interfering in elections outside its borders.

“I’m going to make clear to President Putin that there are areas where we can cooperate, if he chooses,” Biden told reporters as he ended his day at NATO headquarters. “And if he chooses not to cooperate and acts in a way that he has in the past relative to cybersecurity and other activities, then we will respond, we will respond in kind.”

Biden is on an eight-day visit to Europe in which he is seeking to rally allies to speak with a single voice on countering Russia and China.

To that end, NATO leaders on Monday declared China a constant security challenge and said the Chinese are working to undermine global order, a message in sync with Biden’s pleas to confront Beijing on China’s trade, military and human rights practices.

In a summit statement, the leaders said that China’s goals and “assertive behavior present systemic challenges to the rules-based international order and to areas relevant to alliance security.”

The heads of state and government expressed concern about what they said were China’s “coercive policies,” the opaque ways it is modernizing its armed forces and its use of disinformation.

The NATO leaders also took a big swipe at Russia in their communique, deploring what they consider its aggressive military activities and its snap wargames near the borders of NATO countries as well as repeated violations of their airspace by Russian planes.

They said that Russia had ramped up “hybrid” actions against member countries by attempts to interfere in elections, by political and economic intimidation, by disinformation campaigns and “malicious cyber activities.”

“Until Russia demonstrates compliance with international law and its international obligations and responsibilities, there can be no return to ‘business as usual,’” they said.

The North Atlantic Treaty Organization is an alliance of European and North American countries formed after World War II as a bulwark against Russian aggression. The new Brussels communique states plainly that the NATO nations “will engage China with a view to defending the security interests of the alliance.”

Biden arrived at the NATO summit after three days of consulting with Group of Seven allies in England, where he successfully pushed for a G-7 communique that called out forced labor practices and other human rights violations impacting Uyghur Muslims and other ethnic minorities in China’s western Xinjiang province.

However, differences remain among the allies about how forcefully to criticize Beijing.

German Chancellor Angela Merkel said NATO’s decision to name China as a threat “shouldn’t be overstated” because Beijing, like Russia, is also a partner in some areas. China is Germany’s top trading partner, and she said it is important to “find the right balance.”

France’s President Emmanuel Macron urged the alliance not to let China distract it from what he saw as more pressing issues facing NATO, including the fight against terrorism and security issues related to Russia.

“I think it is very important not to scatter our efforts and not to have biases in our relation to China,” Macron said.

The Chinese Embassy to the United Kingdom on Monday issued a statement saying the G-7 communique “deliberately slandered China and arbitrarily interfered in China’s internal affairs.” There was no immediate reaction from the Chinese government to the new NATO statement.

Biden arrived at his first NATO summit as president as leading members declared it a pivotal moment for an alliance beleaguered during the presidency of Trump, who questioned the relevance of the multilateral organization.

Biden sat down with NATO Secretary General Jens Stoltenberg and underscored the U.S. commitment to Article 5 of the alliance charter, which spells out that an attack on any member is an attack on all and is to be met with a collective response.

“Article 5 we take as a sacred obligation,” said Biden. “I want NATO to know America is there.”

It was a marked contrast to the days when Trump called the alliance “obsolete” and complained that it allowed for “global freeloading” countries to spend less on military defense at the expense of the U.S.

Biden was greeted by fellow leaders with warmth and even a bit of relief.

Belgian Prime Minister Alexander de Croo said Biden’s presence “emphasizes the renewal of the transatlantic partnership.” De Croo said NATO allies were looking to get beyond four stormy years with Trump and infighting among member countries.

“I think now we are ready to turn the page,” de Croo said.

The alliance also updated Article 5 to offer greater clarity on how the alliance should react to major cyber attacks — a matter of growing concern amid hacks targeting the U.S. government and businesses around the globe by Russia-based hackers.

Beyond extending potential use of the mutual defense clause to apply to space, the leaders also broadened the definition of what might constitute such an attack in cyberspace, in a warning to any adversary that might use constant low-level attacks as a tactic.

The organization declared in 2014 that a cyber attack could be met by a collective response by all 30 member countries, and on Monday they said that “the impact of significant malicious cumulative cyber activities might, in certain circumstances, be considered as amounting to an armed attack.”

The president started his day meeting with leaders of the Baltic states on NATO’s eastern flank as well as separate meetings with leaders of Poland and Romania to discuss any threat posed by Russia and the recent air piracy in Belarus.

Biden also met with Turkey’s President Recep Tayyip Erdogan, on the summit sidelines.

Biden has known Erdogan for years, but their relationship has frequently been contentious. Biden, during his campaign, drew ire from Turkish officials when he described Erdogan as an “autocrat.” In April, Biden infuriated Ankara by declaring that the Ottoman-era mass killing and deportations of Armenians was “genocide” — a term that U.S. presidents have avoided using.


Associated Press writers Frank Jordans, Sylvie Corbet, Zeke Miller and Alexandra Jaffe contributed reporting.

Pedestrian struck by truck and injured in north Anchorage, police say

Alaska News - Mon, 2021-06-14 14:43

A woman was seriously injured Saturday when she was struck by a pickup truck in north Anchorage, police said.

The woman was in the roadway when a red 1997 Dodge pickup eastbound on East Third Avenue struck her around 8:50 p.m. near the intersection with Concrete Street, police spokeswoman Renee Oistad said in an email.

“The adult male driver pulled into a nearby parking lot and then walked back to the scene and made contact with police,” Oistad wrote.

The woman was brought to a hospital and is expected to survive her injuries, according to Oistad.

Police did not say who had the right of way at the time of the collision.

Charges have not been filed and Oistad said a decision will be made after toxicology results are received by the department.

Police closed East Third Avenue between Sitka and Concrete streets on Saturday for several hours while officers investigated the scene. Oistad said Monday that the investigation is ongoing.

Turn my PFD into a personal flotation device for future Alaskans

Alaska News - Mon, 2021-06-14 14:24

FILE - In this May 18, 2020 file photo, a woman walks past the Alaska Capitol in Juneau. Alaska lawmakers are set to convene amid a near decade-long run of deficits and economic fallout from the ongoing coronavirus pandemic. Go-to reserve accounts are depleted, and tough decisions await on how to use the state's nest-egg oil-wealth fund. It's unclear who will lead those debates: neither the House nor the Senate has organized. (AP Photo/Becky Bohrer, File) (Becky Bohrer/)

With the Permanent Fund dividend question so front-and -center in the debate before the Alaska Legislature, I’ve been thinking about the original intent of the dividend. As I learned from Gov. Jay Hammond it was to create a vested interest in protecting the principal of the Fund from excessive government spending; thus, investing more in the Permanent Fund. He was also adamant about giving each Alaskan a share of the oil resource they collectively own. In his book, “Tales of Alaska’s Bush Rat Governor” (published in 1994), Hammond reflected, “Today, most Alaskans recognize that without the dividend program, the billions now invested in the Permanent Fund would have long since been squandered.”  In terms of creating an interest in protecting the rainy-day account (now at $77.8 billion), the dividend has been a huge success, larger than Gov. Hammond’s woodpile. I highlight the term interest because it differs from the sense of entitlement that pervades the current “how much” debate.

The whole design of the Permanent Fund was to be able to fund government off the interest earned. To accomplish this meant determining what budget is the right size for providing essential public services. This has been the focus of the Alaska Legislature since about 2015. According to fiscal analyst Cliff Groh, “The state of Alaska has cut the budget substantially — it is 43% lower this year than eight years ago. After adjusting for population and inflation, the state’s spending is lower now than before the big oil revenues started to arrive four decades ago.”

Without commenting on whether or not this is the right size, it appears that the Alaska Legislature has finally come to agreement on the level of government spending. As noted in a recent opinion piece, Speaker Louise Stutes (R-Kodiak) said, “Today, there is broad agreement that the level and type of services is close to where the state needs to be.” Now the focus switches to the PFD side of the equation. As it turns out, in order to sustain a meaningful dividend check, the state must now either overdraw or look at taxes.

In a recent article on Gov. Dunleavy’s dividend plan, Sen. Natasha von Imhof, (R-Anchorage) pointed out that it doesn’t make sense to tax Alaskans in order to pay them a dividend - unless the tax proposal has some other policy objective, like switching from a regressive tax to a progressive tax, where the tax rate increases with an increase in the taxpayer’s income.

I absolutely agree with Sen. von Imhof’s assessment that it makes no sense to tax for the sole purpose of a generating a handout back to the taxpayer. It’s all administrative costs, with little to no public benefit.

The other aspect of the ongoing debate in the Legislature that I find troublesome is the “just this once” thinking. As Speaker Stutes said, What the disagreement now boils down to this year is whether to spend more than we can afford “just this once.” That’s like saying, “Let’s eat the seed corn just this once.”

How did we get to this point in our fiscal considerations? In part we got here because of massive tax breaks given to the producers of Alaska’s legacy oil fields. In part, we got here because many Alaskans think of the PFD as an entitlement. And in this regard, it’s important to note that once there is a sense of entitlement, it will be extremely difficult to overdraw “just this once” for a higher PFD amount.

The dividend program was not set up to become the obstacle in gaining a budget sustainably funded by Permanent Fund earnings; rather it was established to be a pathway toward fiscal stability not only for Alaskans today but for future generations. As noted earlier, the dividend program succeeded in creating such a pathway. Now we must decide if we want this pathway to continue for future generations or not.

If the only way to keep future generations in mind is to reduce the check amount to a level that avoids an overdraw, so be it. I realize this is easy for me to say because I have enough income where I’m not dependent on a PFD check to make ends meet. If there is a way to make the dividend more needs based and still not overdraw, that could work as well. Ultimately, the objective should be to set or alter the PFD amount in a way that it acts as personal-floatation-device for future budgets.

I may not be entitled to an annual check, but I am entitled to encourage common-sense budgeting that is forward thinking.

Kate Troll, a longtime Alaskan, has over 22 years experience in coastal management, fisheries and energy policy and is a former executive director for United Fishermen of Alaska and the Alaska Conservation Voters. She’s been elected to local office twice, written two books and resides in Douglas. She is a former board member of Alaska Common Ground, which has hosted several forums on the state’s fiscal situation.

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.

After more than a decade, Israelis wake up to a government without Netanyahu

Alaska News - Mon, 2021-06-14 13:01

Former Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu speaks to right-wing opposition party members a day after a new government was sworn in, at the Knesset, Israel's parliament, in Jerusalem, Monday, June 14, 2021. (AP Photo/Maya Alleruzzo) (Maya Alleruzzo/)

TEL AVIV - A new, odds-defying unity government began laying the groundwork Monday for an Israeli political scene that - for the first time in 12 years - will be defined by factors beyond Benjamin Netanyahu, his divisive rhetoric and his proclivity for testing the country’s democratic founding principles.

Immediately after a Sunday evening confidence vote in the Knesset confirmed the new coalition government, demonstrations for and against Netanyahu erupted on the streets, across social media and in family and community WhatsApp groups. The outpourings highlighted the sharp divide between those who have long seen Netanyahu as “crime minister” - borderline dictator, embroiled in corruption charges, willing to take the country down with him - and those who see him as “King Bibi,” the blameless victim of what he calls leftist “witch hunts.”

On Sunday, Tel Aviv, Israel’s liberal hub, burst into celebration. Thousands of Israelis flooded Rabin Square, waving blue and white Israeli flags and dancing to Beatles ballads and Israeli pop songs while being sprayed with foam machines. “We are rid of Haman!” Israeli singer Achinoam Nini exclaimed from the stage, referring to the villain from the biblical story of Purim. The cheers exalting the end of the Netanyahu era echoed across town, as Israelis stripped down and splashed in the water of public fountains at Dizengoff Square and the Habima theater.

Netanyahu supporters, on the other hand, attended somber protests near the prime minister’s residence in Jerusalem, where demonstrators hoisted Israeli flags featuring Netanyahu’s face. They decried the new governing coalition as “dangerous” and “left-wing,” and they chanted for the return of Netanyahu to power.

“Bibi, King of Israel,” one group chanted into the evening, referring to Netanyahu by his nickname and prompting a thank-you tweet from him.

“I love you! We are not afraid of a long journey!” he wrote.

There were immediate signs of a shift from Netanyahu’s conservative focus. Health Minister Nitzan Horowitz of the liberal Meretz party announced plans to lift restrictions on gay men donating blood, reversing an AIDS-era policy that many in the LGBTQ community see as discriminatory.

Defense Minister Benny Gantz called for a state inquiry into an April stampede at Mount Meron, where 45 people were killed at a religious event. An official probe of the disaster was thwarted by ultra-Orthodox politicians. The call for an investigation marked an early sign that the leniency Netanyahu often showed to ultra-Orthodox leaders is changing.

The unity government - which calls for right-wing former defense minister Naftali Bennett to serve as prime minister for two years before handing over the job to centrist Yair Lapid - is composed of eight ideologically disparate parties from the left, center and right, including, for the first time in Israel’s history, a party from the country’s Arab-Islamist community.

United by the mission of dislodging Netanyahu from power, the coalition also includes the left-wing Meretz party, led by Nitzan Horowitz. It had been relegated for years to the fringes of the opposition, as its main rallying cry - the two-state solution to end the Israeli-Palestinian conflict - was seen as increasingly irrelevant.

Of the 27 ministers, nine are women, including Labor Party leader and vocal feminist Merav Michaeli. Their roles represent a sharp contrast with Netanyahu’s previous cabinets, which were deeply influenced by ultra-Orthodox parties that opposed the participation of women in government. One ultra-Orthodox newspaper blurred out the faces of women in the coalition’s first group photograph.

The newcomers, who have pledged to improve strained bipartisan relations with the United States, basked in a flurry of congratulatory messages from Washington, including phone calls from President Joe Biden to Bennett, U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin to Gantz and Secretary of State Antony Blinken to Lapid, the new foreign minister. That, too, was a change from Biden’s weeks-long delay in calling Netanyahu after entering the White House.

“The outgoing government took a terrible gamble, reckless and dangerous, to focus exclusively on the Republican Party and abandon Israel’s bipartisan standing,” said Lapid, who accepted Blinken’s invitation to Washington.

Netanyahu, on the government’s first day, predicted that the new coalition would topple soon.

“The fraudulent government will fall quickly,” Netanyahu said Monday. “Three things unite it: hatred, exclusion and domination. With such hatred it is impossible to hold a government for long.”

His allies, including far-right religious nationalists and ultra-Orthodox parties, are also pledging a comeback.

Rabbi Shmuel Eliyahu, a member of the Chief Rabbinate Council that enjoyed elevated status during Netanyahu’s tenure, led a prayer alongside other influential rabbis at the Western Wall on Sunday. They prayed for the failure of a government that they said “wants to erase the Jewish identity in the state of Israel” . . . and “harm the holiness” of Jewish laws and customs.

The new government will have little room for error as it tries to get its footing. The leaders have pledged to focus largely on Israel’s budget, which has not been updated in more than two years. But Israeli negotiators are still working on a longer-term cease-fire with Hamas, the militant group that controls the Gaza Strip. And tensions remain high in the Arab neighborhoods of East Jerusalem. On Tuesday, a group of right-wing nationalists has planned a march through the Arab Quarter of Jerusalem’s Old City.

“You don’t get the 100 days of grace period any more,” said Tamar Hermann, a political scientist at the Israel Democracy Institute and the Open University. “The honeymoon is like an hour or two before the media starts to criticize.”

On Monday, Netanyahu refused to participate in the customary handover-of-power ceremony for Bennett, instead opting for an abbreviated half-hour meeting.

The last time Netanyahu was unseated, in 1999, he raised a glass to then-Labor Party leader Ehud Barak, who had defeated him at the polls. But then, Barak has said, it took Netanyahu and his family six weeks to evacuate the prime minister’s residence.

The ever-present anti-Netanyahu protesters on Balfour Street near the residence said they would maintain their vigil until the Netanyahus move out.

“We’re not leaving until he’s gone,” said Sylvia Strumpfma, a 68-year-old pensioner who has been part of the encampment for more than a year.

Letter: Division

Alaska News - Mon, 2021-06-14 12:03

To my friend Kenny Ziegahn in his recent letter, “Truth matters”: I’m not sure where he got some of his statistics, but this kind of rhetoric does nothing to bring us together as a country — it will further divide us. As both of us are former educators, I would hope he would understand this.

— Greg Svendsen


Have something on your mind? Send to letters@adn.com or click here to submit via any web browser. Letters under 200 words have the best chance of being published. Writers should disclose any personal or professional connections with the subjects of their letters. Letters are edited for accuracy, clarity and length.

Letter: Downtown summer

Alaska News - Mon, 2021-06-14 11:56

When I left the office on Friday evening, I was amazed by the energy in downtown! Lines of runners waiting outside Skinny Raven to begin the Twilight 12K. Outdoor seating in new places, and even new places I hadn’t heard of yet.

Blankets and people dotted across the museum lawn. Shops and galleries reminded people how much they missed First Fridays. Faces and voices from across the world strolling our sidewalks, smiles everywhere, enjoying the sun that would not be setting for hours yet. Probably some first dates; definitely also some first “date nights” in a long time. We’re only one week into June, and downtown is totally transformed from the past year: The events are back, the restaurants are back, the people are back. Downtown Anchorage is back!

Have you been to downtown lately? Don’t miss out on the fun!

— Anna Brawley


Have something on your mind? Send to letters@adn.com or click here to submit via any web browser. Letters under 200 words have the best chance of being published. Writers should disclose any personal or professional connections with the subjects of their letters. Letters are edited for accuracy, clarity and length.