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Bartlett Regional Hospital honors hard work, longevity

Juneau Hot Topics - Sat, 2018-05-19 18:46
Service at a hospital can range anywhere from cooks to nurses to doctors and surgeons and it takes all of them together in making everything run ...

Saari, Hjelm sail to victories in Bear Valley 5K

Alaska News - Sat, 2018-05-19 18:11

Matias Saari and Nicole Hjelm took top honors at the Bear Valley 5K, which marked its 25th anniversary Saturday.

Saari paced a field of 183 finishers with a time of 20 minutes, 56 seconds. He enjoyed a healthy lead over runner-up Ben Ward, who edged Ian Moore by 15 seconds to take second place in 22:16.

Hjelm finished 10th overall and took the women's win in 25:23, more than two minutes ahead of Jen Jolliff, whose 27:42 put her six seconds ahead of Heidi Jensen in the race for second place.

Top 10 men — 1) Matias Saari 20:56, 2) Ben Ward 22:16, 3) Ian Moore 22:31, 4) Jonny Hughes 22:56, 5) Jim McDonough 23:04, 6) Dan Myers 23:40, 7) Kyle Fischer 24:44, 8) Bryce Bethard 24:45, 9) Rich Suddock 25:01, 10) Eli Robinson 25:26.

Top 10 women — 1) Nicole Hjelm 25:23, 2) Jen Jolliff 27:42, 3) Heidi Jensen 27:48, 4) Abby Robinson 28:14, 5) Ingrid Reese 29:14, 6) Kristy Marchant 29:49, 7)Keilo Wilson 30:35, 8) Shelby Wilson 30:26, 9) Cariana Kay 30:29, 10) Liz Stadnicky 31:44.

The earth cracked open. Walls of lava encroached. That’s just life on a Hawaiian volcano.

Alaska News - Sat, 2018-05-19 17:46

PAHOA, Hawaii – The earth cracked open beneath Leilani Estates in middle-of-the-night darkness, glowing crimson against a black sky.

Salvador Luquin awoke on his 50-acre ranch to acrid smoke billowing from the ground and a family, including two young daughters, that needed to get somewhere safe. There also were 140 head of livestock and horses on his hilly property that, as one crack spidered into many, were threatened by gas and fire.

It took three days and many friends to get the animals to safety – to a county-run equestrian center near Hilo, to a ranch for the livestock in the south. The girls, Camila and Isabella, ended up with mom and dad in Luquin's Mexican restaurant, sleeping on air mattresses under tables.

"We all know that when we buy a piece of land here, you are on a big piece of lava rock that could pop open at any time," said Luquin, 56, who arrived from Los Angeles in 1982 to visit a friend and never left. "But the volcano also makes new land, and suddenly you have something new and beautiful."

[Another Kilauea eruption shatters the quiet in a Hawaii 'ghost town']

On this eastern edge of the nation's southernmost state, the people who live here are accustomed to – and awed by – their volcanic real estate, perched on the side of an angry mountain that rises out of the Pacific. But this eruption of Kilauea, which began May 3 and shows no sign of abating, is the most severe in the community's long collective memory.

Several thousand residents of the Big Island's southeast corner, far from the tourist destinations of the Kona Coast, have been displaced from their modest homes and patches of land owned for generations by the same, sprawling families. It is a region blessed by its serendipitous geography and cursed by the laws of gravity when Kilauea acts up – as it has on a nearly continuous basis for the past quarter-century.

No one has died in this eruption. No one who owns land intends to leave.

For many Native Hawaiians, this moment on the lava is simply Pele, the volcano goddess who features in murals along the main street here, coming to collect a bit back from the bargain many know they made when they settled here.

Live on the black rock and amid the skinny palms. Abide by the hang-loose "aloha" ethic. But know that at any moment you will be forced to wonder whether all you have will be lost in slow motion to creeping walls of lava.

Island life is risky in its remoteness, and the thousands who have chosen this island for their home have long known that in times of emergency they probably will have to save themselves. Friends take in evacuated families, delivery companies rescue pets, restaurants donate meals for hundreds of people and helicopter companies offer cut-rate flyovers to those who had to abandon homes.

A fantasy for some on the mainland, this island – magma and all – is to many just home.

"I wouldn't even know where to go," said Pauline McLaren, 77, who left her home of 15 years in the town of Kapoho a few miles from here on the eastern coast.

Her neighborhood is famed for its tide pools, crystal clear and full of life. Now she lives in a pair of tents on a soggy athletic field behind Pahoa's community center, transformed into a shelter.

"Pele is my home girl," reads a bumper sticker on a car parked near McLaren's patch of grass.

[Ash fallout alert issued after Big Island volcano erupts in 6-mile-high plume]

On a recent afternoon, between heavy rain showers, McLaren reclined on a plastic lounge chair, reading in shorts and slippers a mystery called "Ricochet" by Sandra Brown. Pookie and Beau, her mixed-breed rescues, watched strangers approach warily.

A severe storm struck several years ago, sealing her and Eddie, her husband of four decades, in their neighborhood for weeks without power. This time the eruption rattled the couple's big landscape windows, the result of the frequent banging as vents thrust out steam and gas that serves as a nerve-jangling score to life here now.

"We were thinking about putting the place on the market; it's just too big for us now as we get old," McLaren said. Would she leave the island? No, but perhaps move away from the volatile bottom of Kilauea's funnel.

"We'd move to Volcano," she said, laughing and pointing uphill, where the town sits on the edge of Kilauea's 4,000-foot peak.

Old Pahoa Road, lined with pizza places and head shops, health-food stores and cultural museums, connects the community center with the highway junction at the entrance to the evacuated neighborhoods.

Teams of National Guard troops operate the checkpoints, Humvees blocking the lanes in and out. Beyond them, the roads are empty. The palms, ferns and spreading monkey pod trees are withering in the fumes pouring from fissures that now number 22.

Downed power lines hang in webs at intersections with 10-foot-high walls of black lava sometimes appearing in the near distance, blocking roads.

The noise around the most active fissures is deafening, a constant roar as they release gas high in toxic sulfur dioxide. The sulfur scent is potent. When members of the National Guard head into the neighborhoods, they measure air quality with handheld meters.

"I've never been this close," said Kuulei Kanahele, a researcher at a local cultural foundation, who joined a tour of Fissure 6 on a recent morning.

Kanahele began a traditional chant in celebration of the lava, raising her voice above the sizzle and blast. She learned it at her hula school. "The power of this, it's just amazing," she said.

In a vacant lot at the highway crossroads, residents have set up a center for donations – food and diapers, shampoo and clothing, crates of water and cereal. The volunteers who work there call it Pahoa's "city of refuge."

"Do you have a place to put critters?" asked Asa Hanson, a local businessman who is using his delivery truck to evacuate animals.

Chasity Quihano, a supervisor at the center, began to make arrangements for a small number of pets to arrive. Her sister and three children have evacuated from the neighborhood, but her mother, though warned to do so, has declined to leave what Quihano calls "our family land."

"That's just part of our culture, part of who we are," she said.

['Pele's the boss': Hawaiians ride out uncertainty as lava devours more Big Island homes]

Princess Kuahiwinui, also volunteering at the donations center, lives in a family compound with five brothers and sisters. She runs a weekly night market, and despite the conditions, has kept it going through the eruption with far fewer customers.

Despite the uncertainty of life on the volcano, Kuahiwinui said, there is a determination to keep it all as normal as possible. Her 12-year-old daughter, Kuupua, has not missed a class at Pahoa High and Intermediate School across from the donations center.

"The bus still comes every morning at 6 a.m.," she said. "You never know what's going to happen here. The earth may open up and we all fall into the water. But it's impossible to leave."

Lee Begaye is a special-education teacher at Pahoa High, home of the Daggers. He fled his home on the night of May 4 after police banged on his door. When he looked outside, lava streams bursting from Fissure 3 shot above the tree line, streaking the night blackness and hissing in the quiet.

Friends in Hilo, about 20 miles north of here, have taken in Begaye and his partner. Every day he commutes to school, which had its first cancellation Thursday when Kilauea erupted at its summit, producing a towering ash plume and a civil-defense warning for everyone to stay inside with the windows shut.

School officials have held assembly sessions to discuss the emergency with students. The air quality is the immediate concern. Two students have passed out on the campus because of the air.

"The students are staying calm, but many truthfully are staying home," said Begaye, who has taught there for 12 years. "But I do believe the school is providing a sense of normalcy, routine. That seems important right now."

For those who have had children in recent years, the eruption has forced a reevaluation of life here. Families on the mainland have been calling their grown children, asking them to move back to the Pacific Northwest or Southern California.

"They're like, 'What are you doing over there?' And I tell them that I have a job and a mortgage to pay, a life here," said Shellyne Anderson, who has lived here for 25 years. "I tell them that I don't think so, no, I won't be coming back."

But Anderson, whose family is in Aberdeen, Washington, has a 7-year-old daughter named Jewel. In two weeks, she is scheduled to have a heart procedure in Honolulu, and with the air here potentially poisonous, she is considering a return to Washington state to help with Jewel's recovery.

"I have to take more precautions than I did for her," said Anderson, 35, who works in Luquin's food truck. "But it's scary to leave your home in this situation for any amount of time."

The road into Luquin's ranch and a second home he has inside Leilani Estates that is even more threatened is empty on a recent afternoon. Smoke from lava-scorched trees, mixing with the steam and gas arising from fissures, hangs heavy over the roads. It is known as "vog."

"It's eerie in here," said Kirstin Heid, an equestrian expert and Luquin's partner of a dozen years. The two train horses in two now-abandoned rings on their land, and they graze Black Angus on the surrounding pasture.

Luquin wants to return to the ranch, blown this day by a clearing breeze. But there are cracks running under their home, and Heid said she does not intend to return until the frequent earthquakes shaking the region stop "shifting my house."

Heid's phone rang as she pulled her pickup into the ranch's long driveway.

"How does it smell out there?" asked Isabella, the couple's 8-year-old.

"Not too bad," Heid responded. "Have you eaten anything?"

"I mean, what are you doing there?" Isabella asked, ignoring her mom's question. "Are you getting things? I need to think about what I want you to bring."

"If you have to think about it, you really don't need it," Heid told her.

The call ended, and Heid set off to inspect her house.

Luquin walked the grounds, discussing post-eruption plans to line an old cinder quarry pit to turn it into a pond for fish. To him, the eruption is just a periodic nuisance, one he has managed several times over the years, if not to this extent.

"I love this place, the peace of it after a day at the restaurant," he said. "I just find it to be a relief, even though that might sound strange right now."

He said he doesn’t want a relationship – so why is he acting like my boyfriend?

Alaska News - Sat, 2018-05-19 17:17

Dear Wayne and Wanda,

There's this guy I've been hooking up with for a while now. In the beginning I told him I wanted more and he would just avoid it. Then one day, I decided I wouldn't let him avoid my feelings any longer, and I told him I wanted to know if he wanted a relationship with me. He told me he wasn't ready for or looking for a relationship at that point.

Well, that was two to three months back and we have still continued to have a physical but no-strings-attached relationship. When I asked for more from him, he said if I wanted more, I should move on and we should end things, and stay friends. Maybe I should have taken him up on that, but instead I kept seeing him.

Things seem to have changed though. Now he stays at my house at least a couple of nights a week. It's starting to feel like a relationship and I'm confused. I don't mean to get down to details but the sex has become a lot more intimate and he says things to me that sound loving and even possessive, suggesting he doesn't want anyone else to be with me, and vice versa. I don't know what to do. I'm afraid to say anything, because I don't want things between us to end. But I'm afraid if I don't say anything he might not realize how much I still care and he might think I don't want him like that anymore.

Please help me! I'm conflicted. Does he really want a relationship and is afraid, or what's the deal?

Wanda says: 

Usually, guys say what they think and ask for what they want. As a species, dudes are generally too basic for game-playing, and so literal that there's rarely much to read between the lines. I don't mean to suggest they're over-simplified creatures; anyone who's tried to date a man knows that's far from the truth. What I mean is, they generally are pretty straightforward. When we try to guess what they're really thinking, we often forget they've already told us their thoughts; when we try to read intention into their behaviors, we forget they've already explained their position.

Your man-friend told you a couple months ago he doesn't want a relationship, and I totally get why the sleepovers and sexy talk are causing bewilderment. But anchor back to his original words and his original intent: he doesn't want a serious relationship right now.

I know that sucks to hear and I know you wish it was different. I've been there, and I'm betting most people have. The most likely scenario here is that you've found a guy who was super stoked that even after he admitted he didn't want commitment, the cool girl he was hanging with not only hasn't booted him, but has let him take up increasing space in her life. It's a win-win for him — all the benefits of the girlfriend experience without having to actually have a girlfriend. Ugh.

[Wayne and Wanda: When casual dating gets complicated]

Yes, there's of course a chance he's had a change of heart, and if you've really hit a wall here, you could lob one last Hail Mary and tell him again how you feel. It could be the push he needs to take the relationship plunge — or the words that push him away. I understand how scary that decision is, but remember, your most important relationship and commitments are with yourself. You sound like a really nice and compassionate person whose current situation is bringing confusion, not comfort, and who isn't having her needs fulfilled. Are you really OK with that?

Wayne says:

Grunt! Groan! Wayne want tacos! And football! And partner who read Wayne's simple mind! … Oh, thanks for clarifying that we men aren't complete communication cavemen, Wanda. No offense to cavemen. Especially those Geico cavemen. Excellent spokespeople.

Two more great communicators: our letter-writer, who once upon a time clearly expressed a desire for a committed relationship; and the man without strings who clearly replied that he didn't want to be tied down. OK, not the response we were hoping for, but at least everyone was honest.

A few months of sex go by and our letter-writer expressed their relationship requirements again. And their friend with benefits again explained that his benefits package still does not include a committed relationship clause and that further inquiries about his FWB package could result in FWB termination.

After a few more months of sex, of course everyone's feeling more comfortable and intimate – the two of you are practically living together! And this is what he's continually said he's in this for — sex, fun and no commitment.

My question to you, letter-writer: Why are you now asking us what he wants? Ask him! He'll tell you exactly what he wants. He always does. The real issue is that you don't let his honesty and rejection keep you from ending things and chasing what you really want: a boyfriend, not a bed buddy.

Don't ever stop communicating your needs, with him or anyone else. Just don't be shocked if he tells you, for like the millionth time, that he doesn't want a relationship. I truly hope that he suddenly does, but if not I suggest you both live your respective truths and move on.

Want to respond to a recent column, point out a dating trend, or ask Wanda and Wayne for wisdom regarding your love life? Give them a shout at wanda@adn.com.

The Alaska Legislature did its job. But the process is still broken. - Anchorage Daily News

Legislative News - Sat, 2018-05-19 17:14

Anchorage Daily News

The Alaska Legislature did its job. But the process is still broken.
Anchorage Daily News
The best thing that can be said about the Legislature this year is that its members finally took an unpopular but necessary vote to close a considerable portion of Alaska's mammoth budget deficit. That shouldn't be undervalued; the passage of a ...

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The Alaska Legislature did its job. But the process is still broken.

Alaska News - Sat, 2018-05-19 17:09

The best thing that can be said about the Legislature this year is that its members finally took an unpopular but necessary vote to close a considerable portion of Alaska's mammoth budget deficit. That shouldn't be undervalued; the passage of a percent-of-market-value plan that will use earnings from the Alaska Permanent Fund to help cover the cost of state services is the single biggest step legislators could take to help balance the budget.

But lawmakers also shouldn't break their arms patting themselves on the back for doing so — before taking that hard vote, the Legislature punted on the issue in 2015, 2016 and 2017, waiting until the statutory and constitutional budget reserves were drained before deciding how to address the issue in a smarter way than just spending from savings every year.

The hard work of balancing the budget is far from over; in fact, the hardest choices may be yet to come. Barring an influx of revenue from higher oil prices or increased production, next year's budget deficit will likely be close to a billion dollars. With services already cut substantially from pre-recession levels, it will be near impossible to solve the deficit through further reductions, absent major structural changes in state funding for formula-driven services such as health care and education. Those changes would reduce services that are crucial to tens of thousands — even hundreds of thousands — of Alaskans. Some legislative leaders, believing such steps are necessary, are already looking down this path.

The other option will be changes that increase state revenue, the most obvious of which — and most derided by Alaskans and lawmakers alike — are taxes. But whether those taxes take the form of changes to the state's oil tax structure or individual taxes on income or sales, they will decrease investment beneficial to the state's economy. That decrease in investment and spending could deepen the state's recession. There are no easy answers.

The worst news about the legislative session, from a public accountability standpoint, is that it was business as usual. For folks who don't watch Juneau particularly closely, what that means is that for months at the beginning of the session, the pace of work is slow and gamesmanship is high. Important pieces of legislation are held hostage in committees to extract concessions from their sponsors' caucuses, then released in a flood in the final few days when legislative leaders come to terms on the budget or other must-pass bills.

A particularly egregious example of hostage-taking this year included Senate Bill 76 from Sen. Peter Micciche, R-Soldotna, which would have given Alaska's alcohol laws a much-needed overhaul. The bill was held for months in the House Labor and Commerce Committee. It only emerged after Rep. Louise Stutes, R-Kodiak, herself a former bar owner, grafted on a disastrous amendment to restrict serving sizes at breweries and distilleries that ended up killing the bill altogether.

[How an effort by bar owners to limit sales by craft breweries and distilleries sank a widely supported overhaul of Alaska's alcohol laws]

Elsewhere, House Rules Committee co-chair Rep. Gabrielle LeDoux, R-Anchorage, held a statewide workplace smoking ban bill hostage for the entire session before the volume of public outcry became too strong to ignore.

These were only two of many bills that went unheard for most of the session, many of which had only perfunctory hearings, before being dealt with in a rush as the clock ticked down to adjournment. Many didn't get the public hearings they needed and deserved. In most cases, Alaskans were only dimly aware of the bills, if they'd heard about them at all.

This is a broken process, and there's no easy fix. Legislators will continue to hold up bills and use them as leverage to further their caucus' own ends. They will abuse the process of regular order to stifle debate on measures they don't support. The only way to mitigate the phenomenon at all is to apply public pressure — quickly, consistently and unremittingly. Even then, it's not a sure thing, but it's the best tool available.

As legislators return to their districts, let them know you paid attention to what happened in Juneau. Give them kudos for the work they did that you supported, and offer criticism for their failures. Let them know there's an election this fall, and how they vote affects how you do. The process in Juneau isn't healthy, but it's our shared responsibility to hold lawmakers accountable for their actions. Without that feedback from the public, nothing in the Legislature is likely to improve anytime soon.

The views expressed here are those of the editorial board of the Anchorage Daily News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary@adn.com. Send submissions shorter than 200 words to letters@adn.com or click here to submit via any web browser.

1 dead, 1 injured in cougar attack east of Seattle

Alaska News - Sat, 2018-05-19 17:02

One man is dead and another has been taken to Harborview Medical Center after they were attacked by a cougar while riding bicycles around 11 a.m. Saturday in the woods in the Snoqualmie-North Bend area, said the King County Sheriff's Office.

Using a hound-dog tracker, agents for the state's Fish & Wildlife Police shot and killed the cougar a little before 3 p.m., said Capt. Alan Myers, with the agency.

In the last 100 years, according to the Washington Department of Fish & Wildlife, there has been only one other fatal attack in the state. Fifteen others, before Saturday, were nonfatal.

The injured man, 31, called for help on his cellphone, said Sgt. Ryan Abbott. He was in serious condition, but awake and alert, according to a Harborview spokeswoman.

Abbott said the attack took place near North Fork Road Southeast and Lake Hancock Road, a Snoqualmie address.

In the first hours after the attack, the dead man's body was not retrieved because of concern about the cougar on the loose.

In the last 100 years in North America, according to the agency, roughly 25 fatalities and 95 nonfatal attacks have been reported. But more cougar attacks have been reported in the Western United States and Canada over the past 20 years than in the previous 80 years.

The agency says a high percentage of cougars attacking domestic animals or people are 1- to 2-year-old cougars that have become independent of their mothers.

It adds, "When these young animals, particularly males, leave home to search for territory of their own, and encounter territory already occupied by an older male cougar, the older one will drive off the younger one, killing it if it resists. Some young cougars are driven across miles of countryside in search of an unoccupied territory."

Vehicle strikes pedestrian in Midtown Anchorage

Alaska News - Sat, 2018-05-19 16:47

Two vehicles collided in Midtown Anchorage on Saturday afternoon and one struck a pedestrian, a police spokesman said.

That pedestrian, a man, was taken to a hospital for treatment of life-threatening injuries, said Anchorage police spokesman MJ Thim.

The vehicles collided at West 36th Avenue and C Street, and one of them "spun around" and hit the man, Thim said. One of the drivers also had minor injuries, Thim said.

The crash prompted police to close the eastbound lanes of West 36th at C Street for about three hours.

Police are still trying to determine who had the right of way, Thim said.

Lung disease leaves this 70-year-old breathless, but it won’t keep her out of the Gold Nugget Triathlon

Alaska News - Sat, 2018-05-19 16:25

After completing her first Gold Nugget Triathlon in 2009 when she was 61 years old, Anne Kessler made it a goal to keep doing the race until she was 70.

"I call it my annual physical," she said. "Last year I flunked big-time. This year I'm going to pass with the help of some accommodations."

Kessler, who turned 70 this year, skipped last year's race after being diagnosed with an interstitial lung disease called chronic hypersensitivity pneumonitis.

The condition, caused by allergens, takes her breath away — literally. When she hikes, bikes or does similar activities, scarring in her lungs limits the amount of oxygen that goes into her bloodstream and leaves her dangerously short of breath.

To compensate, Kessler wears a small, 6-pound backpack containing a portable oxygen concentrator (POC). The battery-operated device takes in air, filters out most of the nitrogen and delivers nearly pure oxygen into a long, narrow tube that Kessler breathes through.

Kessler received permission from Gold Nugget organizers to use the POC during the 12-mile bike and 3.5-mile run of Sunday's race.

During the 500-yard swim at the Bartlett High pool, Kessler will leave her backpack behind. She paid an extra fee to get an entire lane to herself, which will allow her to go at her own pace and make frequent stops.

"I used to swim in high school and college so the swim isn't worrisome, but there's no way I could wear my POC in the pool," Kessler said. "I'll go two laps and then stop for a full minute to catch my breath.

"So I'll add five minutes to my swim time, just to survive."

Kessler said she came up with the two-lap plan by using a fingertip oxygen monitor during workouts. She learned that after two laps her oxygen level would drop to 86 (88 or lower means it's time to use oxygen, she said). After a one-minute break, it would be up to 91 (above 90 is good, she said, although 95 or higher is preferred).

When in use, Kessler's POC backpack vibrates and emits a low, steady hum. "You have to really focus on getting in sync with the machine," she said.

Kessler's specific type of interstitial lung disease is caused by allergens — doctors suspect the culprit was either mold or bird feathers — and in her case is not reversible. But she can manage it with Prednisone and, when needed, the POC.

The POC allows her to remain active. Kessler likes to hike, bike and ski, and it was because she is active that she realized something was amiss a little more than a year ago.

"She found out through hiking," husband Steve Kessler said. "She couldn't keep up with anybody and she had to take breaks all the time."

Kessler spoke with a doctor, and X-rays and a CT scan revealed the disease a month before last year's Gold Nugget Triathlon.

"I missed the race," she said. "There were too (many) adjustments to make. And I went through denial. So I didn't do it.

"By January my life had settled down and I thought, 'Well, I'm going to try it.' ''

Kessler is confident she will complete the triathlon, although she isn't promising any speed records. She's pretty sure she'll have to stop at least once during the 12-mile bike, and she plans to walk, not run, the final 3.5 miles.

Kessler said that in the years since her first Gold Nugget Triathlon, she has fantasized about someday breaking into the top five in her age group. Before her diagnosis, she thought her best bet for such a result would come when she moved into the 70-74 age group, which has fewer participants than most others.

"I thought maybe when I'm 70 I could be in the top five, but now I don't care," Kessler said. "I want to finish, to say this (disease) didn't stop me."

Letter: It’s about education, and educators

Alaska News - Sat, 2018-05-19 15:31

Thanks to the Alaska Legislature for maintaining the public education budget and adding an additional $20 million to local school districts. Now the Anchorage School District has to decide how to spend the roughly $5.5 million it will receive.

I suggest the money go to the contract they are currently negotiating with the Anchorage Education Association. Teacher pay and working conditions are deplorable, and morale is at a new low. Many teachers, nurses, and counselors are leaving the state or considering transferring to better districts. A good contract could help attract and retain quality educators, which will make a bigger difference than anything else the district could do right now.

ASD, please put your money where your mouth is and put this windfall to good use — budget more money to educators, so they can serve our students better.

Cheryl Lovegreen

Letter: Fight the ravages of Alzheimer’s and dementia

Alaska News - Sat, 2018-05-19 15:31

There are 5.7 million Americans living with Alzheimer's disease, including 7,500 in Alaska. In addition, there are more than 16 million Americans caring for someone with Alzheimer's or another dementia, including 33,000 caregivers in Alaska. This debilitating disease is the sixth-leading cause of death in the United States and the only cause of death in the top 10 in America that cannot be prevented, cured or slowed.

Having watched my mother and three of her sisters battle Alzheimer's before passing away, I know that the impact of this disease is devastating. The experience of watching Alzheimer's rob loved ones of their ability to communicate, recall treasured memories, follow daily routine and recognize those they love is immensely painful.

In addition to the human toll, Alzheimer's takes a financial toll, costing an estimated $277 billion in 2018 and expected to cost the nation more than $1.1 trillion by 2050 and afflict more than 14 million affected Americans by 2050.
These costs include a five-fold increase in government spending under Medicare and Medicaid and nearly a five-fold increase in out of pocket spending. One in five Medicare dollars are spent today on people with Alzheimer's and other dementias. In 2050, it will be one in every three dollars. In order to change the trajectory of Alzheimer's we must take bold steps now toward finding the treatments, prevention and one day a cure.

The urgency is clear. Alzheimer's can't wait. Please contact Sens. Dan Sullivan and Lisa Murkowski and Rep. Don Young and ask them to support the additional $425 million increase in funding Alzheimer's research activities at the National Institute of Health for fiscal 2019.

Together we can be part of the first survivor.

Cindy Harris

Letter: New river crossing needed at Brooks Camp

Alaska News - Sat, 2018-05-19 15:30

In his May 14 op-ed, Tom Walker spoke of challenges resulting from high visitation to Katmai National Park's Brooks Camp in mid-summer, when large numbers of brown bears share space along a short stretch of river with even larger numbers of people. Most of the people who visit Katmai's Brooks Camp during peak season stay for only a few hours and depart on the same day. Their planes usually land on Naknek Lake, on the north side of Brooks River, making it necessary for the visitors to walk across a floating (pontoon) bridge to reach the three bear viewing platforms located on the river's south side, then to return for meals and departure. The gravel trail that leads from the lodge to the floating bridge passes through heavily-used bear habitat, often resulting in surprise bear encounters. During peak visitation, park managers frequently close the bridge for safety, sometimes for periods of several hours at a time.

Unfortunately, in his opposition to facility improvements at Brooks Camp, Mr. Walker failed to mention that the floating bridge has long outlasted its purpose, and it impedes movement by salmon, bears and people, especially during low-water periods. He also neglected to mention the wealth of information and experience tapped by the National Park Service in coming to their decision to replace the obsolete floating bridge.

I have previously reviewed, organized or participated in multiple assessments of bear and visitor management at Brooks Camp, including design specifications for crossing alternatives, in my capacity as NPS Alaska Regional Science Advisor (now retired). I have also interacted with dozens of managers, scientists, employees, visitors and others with firsthand experience at Brooks Camp, most recently during a week-long stay at the campground last July. Bear and fish biology, visitor safety and experience, facility management and other factors were thoroughly considered through on- and off-site discussions among knowledgeable and experienced wildlife biologists who recommended both the route and critical design elements selected by NPS.

The selected design reflects the best features of the highly-effective elevated boardwalks that already lead to the Falls and Riffles platforms. I am confident that the new structure will provide a better viewing experience for visitors and better access to habitat for Katmai's brown bears, and I look forward to bringing my own family when I visit Brooks Camp again to see the improvements.

Robert A. Winfree

Letter: Sound thinking on plastic bag ban

Alaska News - Sat, 2018-05-19 15:30

Thanks to Sophie Tidler for her opinion piece "Anchorage, it's time for a plastic bag ban," published in the May 14 edition of the ADN. It is time for Anchorage to follow the examples of Kodiak, Homer, Bethel, Hooper Bay and Wasilla.

Did you know the entire states of Hawaii and California have plastic shopping bag bans? Austin, Chicago, Seattle, Boulder, New York City and the countries of China and Australia also have bag bans. The information I found on these bans show that the transition for people was relatively painless and successful.

As Anchorage is a coastal city, it is time to make the proactive change. How good it would be as a city to know we are reducing nasty litter, dangerous threats to land and ocean animals, and the overall impact of human trash on Earth? Since the Alaska Legislature has not been able to get much accomplished in the past few years of long, lengthy sessions, maybe the Anchorage Assembly could show them how it is done by banning plastic shopping bags in the municipality.

Karen Avila-Lederhos

Katmai’s bridge is not to nowhere

Alaska News - Sat, 2018-05-19 14:59

The recent opinion piece by Tom Walker, "Katmai's bridge to nowhere," is emblematic of a person who is able to frequent places like Brooks River, but who would deny that same opportunity to others for whom it may be a once-in-a-lifetime experience — in this case, average tourists who may not have as much time or ability to enjoy all that Alaska has to offer.

Mr. Walker is concerned that "habitat can be quickly degraded" and that "wildlife will be displaced by too many people" at Brooks River. These were the same concerns that created the need for a bear study at Brooks River back in the early 1970s. Back then, there were far fewer human visitors to Brooks River and also far fewer bears. The study ended up concluding that "people had intruded into prime bear habitat" and it predicted the demise of the park's entire bear population, not just Brooks River, if the lodge were not removed. Those of us who knew better have been fighting against moving the visitor facilities ever since. Since then, human visitation has increased tenfold and has been paralleled by an equal increase in the number of bears, park wide. The purported doom and gloom never happened.

[Photos: Katmai bears feast on salmon]

The fact is that people have not "intruded into prime bear habitat," as the 1970s bear study concluded. The archaeological record of Brooks River goes back more than 4,500 years, when the area was a narrow constriction in a single, much larger lake. As the water dropped and the river formed between what is now Brooks and Naknek lakes, National Park Service archaeologists say that "all available evidence attests to an intense and continuous occupation of the river margins by Native Alaskans that extends well into the historic period. The mantle of cultural deposits extend out at least one quarter mile on each side of the river and frequently reach depths of up to two meters in thickness. Nearly 900 house and structural depressions are visible on the surface alone, not counting those that are buried deep within the ground," reads a 1992 paper by Ted Berkedal, Chief NPS archaeologist. Drying salmon on racks was then and still is the primary way these Native people preserved their subsistence catch. This could not have been done unless they excluded bears from the river for the past 4,000 years. Given that, it might be more accurate to say that bears have recently intruded into prime people habitat.

That said, I am not suggesting that Brooks River be returned to its prior subsistence fishing state. Rather, we just need to be honest about what it actually is. To again quote Mr. Berkedal's paper, "To the multitude of visitors that crowd the bear-viewing platforms each year, nothing appears more natural than the sight of dozens of satiated bears feeding and cavorting in the waters of Brooks River. Yet, from a historical vantage point nothing could be further from the truth — the situation is indeed most 'unnatural.' This 'bear heaven' is not a creation of Mother Nature, rather, it is a cultural artifact of National Park Service management."

Mr. Walker also says that the new park concessionaire, the operator of Brooks Lodge, "reportedly" plans this summer to increase the number of fly-in day visitors. This is patently false. In fact, just the opposite is true. For the first time ever, the Brooks Lodge concessionaire, which also operates Katmai Air, plans to cap the daily number of day trips they sell, and that number is less than what they sold last year, not more.

Also, Mr. Walker's contention that the new bridge will "do absolutely nothing to reduce or eliminate lines at the falls' trailhead" is not a view shared by the Park Service or myself. The main reason for lines at the falls trailhead is that the "bear jams" that happen at the current bridge create a situation where large numbers of people cross at once when the bridge finally opens. Everyone rushes to the trailhead, and they all get there at once. Hence the line forms. The new bridge will eliminate the bear jams so people can trickle across the bridge all day long. It may actually allow for longer viewing times on the falls platform, not shorter ones.

Besides, the main reason the Park Service limits viewing times at the falls platform is to prevent professional photographers with mega-cameras and tripods (like Mr. Walker) from hogging the prime spots all day long to the exclusion of ordinary tourist visitors, most of whom wouldn't spend more than an hour there anyway. There are ample opportunities to view bears in the rest of the Brooks River area.

[Beyond the bears: Appreciating other Brooks Camp attractions in Katmai]

Mr. Walker is correct on a couple of points. One is that, "a bear atop Brooks Falls is one of Alaska's iconic images." And it is also true that, "an up-close look at a wild bear has become a hallmark of almost every Alaska vacation." There are plenty of places where diehard photographers and campers can go to see bears with very few or even no people. Brooks Camp, Brooks River and its famous falls — which are currently accessible without limits — is the one place that provides that hallmark opportunity to anyone and everyone willing to go. There is nothing wrong with that, and the new bridge will help keep it that way.

Sonny Petersen is the previous owner of Katmailand Inc., the Brooks Lodge concessionaire and Katmai Air. The lodge was founded by his father Ray Petersen in 1950. Petersen recently sold the operations to Bristol Bay Native Corp. in May 2016.

Here’s what to expect on the road to Haines, by the numbers

Alaska News - Sat, 2018-05-19 13:43

Yes, it's road trip season. I did my part to prepare: the full-size spare, a couple of flares, tools, gloves, gas can and a bag of corn chips. Well, the corn chips were a gift from my neighbor. I ate most of them by the time I got to Eagle River.

My road trips this month are split into bite-size parts. The first was to get to Haines and to the Alaska Marine Highway.

Even in mid-May, the big lakes still are frozen on both sides of the border. The green buds are just barely sprouting, so the hillsides are gray and brown as more snow melts away. Still, the beautiful vistas at the Matanuska Glacier, at Kluane Lake and the Haines summit are compelling. Go ahead — pull over and take some photos. Fear not — the bug count is low. The weather was kind to me: 40s and 50s the whole way with high overcast, affording uninterrupted views of the spectacular Wrangell Mountains. There was very little traffic.

[Some things to keep in mind as you plan your next Alaska road trip]

Along the way, there's plenty of time to collect bits of useful information for the drivers still to come this summer. Here are some of the things I learned … by the numbers.

756: Number of miles from Anchorage to Haines. I've driven the route a couple of times, but not as many times as our state legislators. True story: just south of Tok yesterday, I passed a lobbyist who was returning from "a difficult session." Her vanity license plate gave her away!

33: number of litres of Canadian gas I bought for $50 at Haines Junction.

4: The number of CD audio books my neighbor gave me to listen to on the way: a little Stephen Colbert, a little John Grisham, but nothing too scary.

4: number of major highways between Anchorage and Haines. Glenn Hwy to Glennallen, Richardson Highway to Gakona, Tok Cutoff to Tok, Alaska Highway through the border to Haines Junction in the Yukon, then the Haines Highway into Haines. Actually the Alaska Marine Highway counts as a fifth highway. Right now, we're passing cruise ships down Lynn Canal to Auke Bay/Juneau.

3: Number of different states/provinces you'll travel through: Alaska, the Yukon and a thin slice of British Columbia before re-entering Alaska near Haines. You'll cross two borders: into Canada 90 miles southeast of Tok and back into the U.S. outside of Haines.

99: The number of dollars I spent to stay overnight at Young's Motel in Tok. Bronk Jorgensen runs the "All Alaska Gift Shop" at the "T" where the Tok Cutoff intersects the Alaska Highway. He gave me the heads-up on lodging in Tok: "Young's is really convenient since Fast Eddy's restaurant is right next door."

4: Number of different beers on tap at Fast Eddy's. They're all from Alaskan Brewing in Juneau. I opted for the Icy Bay IPA. It's one of my favorites.

2: Number of scoops of ground coffee I used to fix my own cup in the room at Young's. Oh, they have the pre-packaged coffee-by-the-cup. But since I travel with the Aeropress system, I just used the in-house coffee maker to spit out the hot water. Then I poured it into the compact plastic contraption for a top-notch cup of coffee.

3: Number of black bear cubs that I scared when I rounded a corner near Kluane Lake between the border and Haines Junction. Later down the road, a big boar hesitated for a moment so I could take a picture.

6: Number of young caribou that ran across the Tok Cutoff in front of me near Chistochina.

2: Number of road construction sites that required a hard stop. That's not counting the two border stops. There was one on the Glenn Highway before Sheep Mountain Lodge. The road crews are working hard to cut away a mountain that had a habit of spilling boulders on the roadway. There was another delay right outside of Haines along the Chilkat River. There are crews on both sides of the border continuously filling in potholes and regrading stretches of road damaged by frost heaves. If you see a sign that says "bump" or "road damage," go ahead and slow down. If you see paint marking off an area on the road — that's code for a really bad bump: slow way down.

6: The number of hours to drive from Anchorage to Tok. The next day, it took me about eight hours to drive from Tok to Haines. It took me a little longer because I was stopping for photos, but not for meals. I waited to eat at my destination.

$1.25: The cost of a copy of The Chilkat Valley News, the local paper in Haines. I picked up a copy when I ordered my dinner at Mountain Market.

1. The number of Holland America cruise ships that call in to Haines each week. Wednesday is cruise day. All of the Chilkat River rafting tours, eagle-watching expeditions and other activities are in full swing. So is internet usage. When the ship docks, it boosts the town's population by about 2,600 people. Everyone's checking their email and posting on Facebook — and the network speeds slow down.

I arrived too late to visit the Hammer Museum in Haines. Don't make that mistake. The kids love it. It's right on main street and has all manner of hammers on display. It's one of many local treasures in Haines.

In ‘A Wild Promise,’ a wilderness area in limbo and a book with a mission

Alaska News - Sat, 2018-05-19 12:34

A Wild Promise: Prince William Sound

By Debbie S. Miller. Photography by Hugh Rose. Braided River/Mountaineers Books, 2018. 176 pages. $29.95.

Well-known Alaska writer Debbie Miller has teamed up with naturalist-guide and photographer Hugh Rose to produce this gorgeous, large-format book that celebrates a very special part of wild Alaska, "where land and sea are woven together." The high-quality photos speak loudly for their subjects, large and small — mountains and glaciers, wildlife, tiny flowers, striations on rock, bluest ice. The well-informed and often lyrical text details both Miller's personal explorations of the area and its cultural and natural history.

This is a book with a mission, and that mission is not only to share an amazing place with readers but to advocate for its protection. The specific area (displayed on a map right at the start) is not the whole of Prince William Sound but what's known as the Nellie Juan-College Fiord Wilderness Study Area. Miller avoids the awkwardly long title by calling it, simply, the "Chugach wilderness." It covers most of the western half of Prince William Sound, from Elrington Island in the south into the Chugach Mountains and their glaciers in the north.

The "study area" status originated in 1980, with passage of the Alaska National Interest Lands Conservation Act (ANILCA). As part of the act, 2.1 million acres of the 5.6-million-acre Chugach National Forest were set aside in an area to be studied for future designation as wilderness. After study, Congress was to determine what portions should receive wilderness status and what parts might be managed for multiple uses.

Thirty-eight years later, after multiple studies and recommendations to Congress, the entire area remains in limbo, as "unfinished business." Congress has never acted on Forest Service recommendations developed with public input. Hence this book's title — "A Wild Promise." The promise is still out there, waiting to be fulfilled.

An irony documented by Miller and Rose is that the area, so close to Anchorage and now road-connected via the Whittier Tunnel, is wilder today than it was for much of the past. Throughout the text, Miller details use of the area by the early Chugachmiut people and later by gold and copper miners, canneries and fox farmers. "Culturally modified trees" from which slabs of hemlock bark were cut for housing planks are found in the woods, along with rusted mining machinery. "At one time, there were three active gold mines, sixteen fox farms, and four salmon canneries in the region," Miller tells us.

The authors are not suggesting that such extractive activities be reintroduced — only that we understand that the area has a human history as well as a natural one involving glaciers, earthquakes and ecosystem changes. Today, most use is recreational, and the authors build a strong case for protecting wilderness values that are increasingly rare anywhere else. As the rest of the world gets busier and noisier, a wild place crackling with glacier ice, mewing with baby otters and forested with twisted hemlocks and ancient cedar trees takes on significant new meaning. In addition to recreational and spiritual values, it offers a living laboratory for studying natural systems and climate change.

Among its other attributes, the Chugach wilderness is home to the largest concentration of tidewater glaciers in America. The photos and descriptions of glaciers, glacier-carved landscapes, and floating ice are ones a reader will want to linger with. Most of these glaciers are now receding rapidly, with notable changes from year to year. A two-page spread in the middle of the book shows Columbia Glacier in 1983 and again today from the same location. The images are startling. The massive Columbia Glacier has retreated more than 12 miles in that time, its thickness and volume shrunk by half.

Elsewhere, Miller brings to life the Harriman Alaska Expedition of 1899, which slipped past the toe of Barry Glacier into an unchartered fjord now known as Harriman Fjord; the expedition also named College Fjord and the glaciers within it. Miller researched John Muir's notes and drawings from that trip and shares some of both.

One lovely feature of this book is insert panels identified as "snapshots." These portray individuals associated with the Chugach wilderness and serve to make the point that wild places need human stewards. One of these tells of biologist Kate McLaughlin, who lives in Chenega Bay (just outside the study area) and "runs the northernmost hummingbird banding station in America." She has captured more than 500 individual rufous hummingbirds in a single summer, including one previously banded in Florida.

Another snapshot is of Scott Groves with the nonprofit Gulf of Alaska Keeper. That organization since 2005 has removed more than three million pounds of plastic debris from beaches, mostly on Montague Island, the long outer island that guards the sound. These clean-ups prevent debris from making its way into the wilderness area or from entering the food chain.

Yet another snapshot tells of oyster farmer Dave Sczawinski and his permitted operation within the study area, as an example of a sustainable business that can be compatible with protections.

Get this book for the beautiful and inspiring photographs, but then read every page of Miller's text. Marbled and Kittlitz's murrelets, ghost forests, staircase meadows, the return of sea otters, the legacy of the Exxon Valdez oil spill, the origin of the name "Chugach" — these are all here. You may even be moved to action — to work towards stewardship and permanent wilderness protection for, as Miller calls it, "this precious piece of the planet."

Suspect confesses in Texas high school shooting that left 8 students, 2 teachers dead

Alaska News - Sat, 2018-05-19 12:18

SANTA FE, Texas – This time, it happened during first period.

The day after a student went on a shooting rampage at a Texas high school, a Houston-area community grappled with a horrific reality that has unfolded in so many other places across the nation.

On Friday morning, a 17-year-old student armed with a shotgun and a pistol stormed Santa Fe High School, about 30 miles southeast of Houston, and opened fire in an art class, officials said.

He killed at least 10 people and wounded 10 others, including a school resource officer who was left in critical condition, police said, before surrendering to the officers who confronted him.

Of those killed, eight were students and two were teachers, Santa Fe Independent School District Superintendent Leigh Wall said in a letter to parents.

"Our community has suffered a terrible tragedy," Wall wrote. "We are all feeling the overwhelming grief of this horrific event."

[School shooting suspect was nondescript, betraying growing darkness]

Santa Fe High School became the latest scene of carnage in what has become a national epidemic of mass shootings. For the second time in the past three months, the victims were children and their teachers.

Isabelle Laymance, 15, was in art class, drawing geometric shapes, when she heard gunshots. She froze for a moment, then she ran to a back door leading to a patio, but it was locked. She and seven other students barricaded themselves in a supply closet that connected two art classrooms. She lay on the floor and called police, and then called her mother, whispering "I love you" while holding a friend's hand. They shushed each other, hoping to avoid detection.

The trenchcoat-clad gunman – whom police identified as student Dimitrios Pagourtzis – came into the first art classroom and began shooting. He knew students were hiding in the supply closet, Isabelle said.

"He said, 'Surprise,' and then he started shooting, and he killed one or two people. And he shot a girl in the leg. In the closet. He shot through the window," she said. "We blocked the doors with ceramic makers, and he kept on trying to get in and he kept on shooting inside the closet."

She called police three times over the course of 30 terrifying minutes. A police dispatcher told her to be quiet and assured her that help was on the way, she said.

The gunman kept shooting, cursing and yelling. He shot a police officer who approached, then engaged other officers in discussion, offering to surrender.

"He kept saying 'If I come out, don't shoot me.' They didn't shoot him; they just put him in handcuffs," she said.

Pagourtzis, whom students described as a quiet loner, was held Friday without bond at the Galveston County jail, charged with capital murder and aggravated assault on a peace officer. It was unclear what motivated the attack, as authorities said it came without any obvious warning.

Pagourtzis made his first court appearance Friday evening, a little more than 10 hours after the massacre. He spoke quietly, saying, "Yes, sir," when asked if he wanted a court-appointed attorney. After the brief hearing, Pagourtzis was led away.

Police said Pagourtzis gave a statement admitting responsibility for the shooting, according to a probable-cause affidavit filed in court. Pagourtzis told police that he went into the school wearing a trench coat and wielding two guns, intent on killing people.

The affidavit, which identifies him as Dimitrios Pagourtzis Jr., states that the 17-year-old told police that "he did not shoot students he did like so he could have his story told."

The two guns used in the shooting belong to Pagourtzis's father, according to Gov. Greg Abbott, who said it was unclear if the father knew his son had taken them. Unlike many other mass shootings carried out with high-powered rifles such as the AR-15, this one, authorities said, included relatively common weapons.

Police said they also found explosive devices inside the school and at locations off campus.

['Loner' student shoots and kills 10 at Texas school]

Authorities said they also were scrutinizing two other potential suspects in the shooting. Harris County Sheriff Ed Gonzalez said officials questioned another student, described as "a person of interest." Abbott said police also hoped to speak with a third person who he said could have "certain information," though he did not elaborate.

Three officers responded to the attack, officials said. The first to confront the shooter was school safety officer John Barnes, a retired Houston police officer who, according to former Houston colleague Capt. Jim Dale, joined the Santa Fe Independent School District police force because he wanted a less-stressful job.

Barnes was shot in both arms, Dale said. A second Santa Fe ISD officer arrived, pulled Barnes to safety and applied a tourniquet. A third officer, a state trooper, also engaged the gunman, according to a state police official.

Officials have not yet provided a timeline showing how long it took to respond to the active-shooter emergency calls, nor have they disclosed many details about their interactions with the shooter.

Barnes was taken by helicopter to the trauma center at the University of Texas Medical Branch in Galveston, where he was in danger of "bleeding out" when he arrived, chief medical officer Gulshan Sharma told reporters. Dale, the Houston police captain, said many officers descended upon the hospital to show their support and that the family is in good spirits after hearing from doctors that Barnes's injuries probably were not fatal.

Santa Fe High School, home of the Indians, had won a statewide award for its safety program. As an ominous precursor to Friday's shooting, the school had experienced a false alarm about an active shooter in February, an event that attracted a massive emergency response and the chaotic arrival of fearful parents.

Many of the 1,400 students had staged a walkout April 20 as part of a nationwide school shootings protest, part of a grass-roots movement among young Americans in the wake of the February massacre of 17 students and staffers at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida. One sign carried by Santa Fe students during their April protest: "#NeverAgain."

Four Fridays later, their school was attacked.

Gage Slaughter, 17, said he was sitting in his Advanced Placement history class when the shooting started. When he heard the gunshots, he thought – as is so often the case in mass shootings – that it was just firecrackers. Someone pulled a fire alarm, he said, and everyone went outside. Then a coach and some teachers told the students to start running.

"There were people who were starting to cry," he said. "I didn't know what was going on until I was down the road a little ways and I heard one of the teachers saying it was a school shooter."

In the hours that followed, heavily armed officers in tactical gear surrounded the school. Authorities said they found explosives in the high school and in surrounding areas, and put out warnings on social media for people to avoid touching anything unfamiliar.

Parents were picking up their children early from other schools in the area as they reeled from the horror that had come to their community.

"I just need to cuddle [my] baby girl," said Catharine Lindsey, a parent who lives nearby and said she could hear the rescue helicopters from her home. "Ever since Parkland, I've had to tell my 13-year-old daughter to 'not be a hero, to hide and stay safe with teacher' if something like this happens, because she's the type who would try and talk the shooter down."

This was the 16th school shooting so far this year, according to a Washington Post analysis. That's the highest number at this point in any year since 1999, the year of the Columbine High massacre. The Post's analysis found that since 1999, shootings during school hours have killed at least 141 children, educators and other people, with another 284 injured.

There was limited solid information about the victims at Santa Fe High in the hours after the shooting.

The Embassy of Pakistan confirmed Friday evening that Sabika Sheikh, a Pakistani exchange student, was killed in the attack.

"Our thoughts and prayers are with Sabika's family and friends," Ambassador Aizaz Ahmad Chaudhry said in a statement.

Another exchange student, Sayyed Zaman Haider, said Sabika was from Karachi City and was studying through the Kennedy-Lugar Youth Exchange and Study Program, funded by the U.S. Department of State's Bureau of Educational and Cultural Affairs. A spokesman for the bureau did not immediately respond to a message seeking comment. Haider said Sheikh was about to return home: The academic year was ending, so she was almost done with her cultural exchange.

Cynthia Tisdale, 63, a substitute teacher at Santa Fe High School, died in the shootings there, her family confirmed Friday. Tisdale worked at the school frequently, her son Recie Tisdale said.

"She started substitute teaching because she loved to help children," he said. "She didn't have to do it. She did it because she loved it."

Recie Tisdale is a police detective in nearby League City. Cynthia Tisdale lived in Dickinson, Tex., with her husband of nearly 47 years, William Tisdale. The couple had three children and 11 grandchildren. William Tisdale said his wife had also been a paralegal for 22 years.

"She was a good woman," he said. "She watched out for me."

Among the injured was sophomore Rome Shubert, a pitcher on the school baseball team, who said that a bullet grazed his head. "I'm so grateful and blessed that God spared my life today," Shubert wrote in a tweet. "Today I was shot in the back of the head but I am completely okay and stable."

On Friday night, students gathered at a vigil here wearing T-shirts, made after Hurricane Harvey, that read "Texas Tough." On the back: "Indians got your back."

The shooting immediately drew condemnation nationwide. President Trump quickly decried the Texas shooting.

"This has been going on too long in our country – too many years, too many decades now," Trump said in Washington. "We grieve for the terrible loss of life and send our support and love to everyone affected by this absolutely horrific attack."

In Santa Fe, Sen. Ted Cruz said: "Once again Texas has seen the face of evil."

Late Friday, Houston Texans star J.J. Watt offered to personally cover funeral costs for all of the victims from the Santa Fe shooting.

In his jailhouse booking photo, the suspect, Pagourtzis, wore a blank expression, as if bored.

On a Facebook page, Pagourtzis had posted a photograph of a T-shirt saying "Born to Kill," Abbott said during an afternoon news conference. But Abbott said the suspect did not have a criminal record or show signs of being violent. He said that in this case there weren't the kind of red flags seen in other mass shootings, such as the one last year at a church in Sutherland Springs, Texas, or the one in Parkland.

The suspect documented his thoughts on his computer and cellphone, and the writings revealed not only that he intended to commit the shooting but also planned to commit suicide, the governor said. He said the shooter didn't have the "courage" to follow through on the suicide.

Experts on mass shootings note that the killers study their predecessors, copy their moves and even their fashion choices. The shooter at Santa Fe High appeared to copy elements of the Columbine massacre: a black trench coat, a shotgun, explosives.

More than 30 shooters have copied the Columbine killers and admitted they'd done so, according to Adam Lankford, a criminology professor at the University of Alabama.

"This seems like actually a more extreme version because of all of the different elements that seem to be copied, from clothing to weapons and modus operandi in terms of planting bombs," Lankford said. "It's a form of celebrity worship. The celebrities in this case are celebrity killers – the Columbine killers."

Abbott said he will convene a roundtable of experts to discuss ways to stave off another school shooting, including speeding up background checks on gun buyers, putting more money into mental-health treatment, and adding security personnel.

Lt. Gov. Dan Patrick said infrastructure is a problem: Schools have too many entrances and exits and need to be retrofitted.

"We may need to harden our schools and make them safer," Patrick said.

Cable news and social media were dominated Friday by painfully familiar images of students being led out of the school by armed officers. Survivors of the Parkland massacre and their relatives, many of whom have become outspoken advocates for stronger gun-control laws, publicly offered support to the Santa Fe community – and sent angry messages to politicians they said have not acted to avert such massacres.

– – –

Berman, Achenbach and Wang reported from Washington. Christian Davenport and Stephanie Kuzydym in Sante Fe, Tex., and William Wan, Julie Tate, Alice Crites, Jennifer Jenkins, Jenna Johnson, Susan Svrluga, Emily Wax, Matt Zapotosky, Nick Anderson and Abigail Hauslohner in Washington contributed to this story.

Letter: Can we stop with the megaprojects?

Alaska News - Sat, 2018-05-19 12:01

It is beyond belief that our Legislature has the nerve to insert funding for megaprojects in the budget when our state is in a financial crisis. Their priorities are skewed when said money could be utilized in so many other ways that would actually benefit Alaskans. Not to mention, these specific megaprojects have massive logistical issues.

I hope Gov. Bill Walker will veto funding for these megaprojects, as that was one of his campaign promises. I only voted for him because I believed him.
Della Dempsey

Village police officer charged with evidence tampering in Mountain Village murder investigation

Alaska News - Sat, 2018-05-19 11:56

A village police officer has been charged with tampering with physical evidence and third-degree theft in a Mountain Village shooting death in April, Alaska State Troopers said Friday.

Coy Bryan, 18, was shot and killed and found dead inside his home in the Southwest Alaska village, troopers said. John Hunter, a 22-year-old village police officer, "was involved in criminal activity related to the aftermath of the murder," according to an online dispatch from troopers Friday.

[16-year-old charged with murder in Mountain Village shooting]

Hunter was arrested this week and transported to the Yukon Kuskokwim Correctional Center, troopers said, and his bail was set at $2,000. In addition to evidence tampering and theft charges, he is also charged with official misconduct.

At the end of April, troopers charged 16-year-old Ramond Landlord with first-degree murder in the case, among other charges.

The investigation is ongoing, troopers said.

Legislature paves the path to end Permanent Fund dividends

Alaska News - Sat, 2018-05-19 11:47

I'm lucky enough to have family visiting. Oh, the joys of hosting a dear cousin, then screaming about how insane our state lawmakers are. Stop being jealous; at least I can cook. "Oh, we're borrowing money so we can pay banks and oil companies." Try explaining that to someone who was under the impression that Alaska owned its oil and even pays out dividend checks yearly. Why would we jeopardize that?

The Legislature broke its budget stalemate as time ticked down to the end of the session. For the first time in Alaska's history, earnings from the Alaska Permanent Fund will be used to pay for government — well more than a billion dollars this year. The Legislature passed Senate Bill 26, which capped the amount of funds that can be taken out of the earnings reserve at 5.25 percent (dropping to 5 percent in three years). While several legislators and the governor proclaimed how "monumental" this bill was, and that it was the panacea for our fiscal ills, it doesn't actually bind the Legislature or prohibit it from exceeding that 5.25 percent draw. While a cap on funds taken from the earnings reserve is fiscally responsible, the Legislature could decide to take 10 percent or 20 percent of the value of the earnings reserve next year, and this statute would not stop them.

The statute also creates a conflict in our dividend laws. There are still statutes on the books that require the Permanent Fund to calculate the full value of Alaskans' PFDs and then other statutes order that they "shall transfer" those funds to a special dividend fund, where the Commissioner of Revenue "shall" pay those funds to Alaskans in the form of a dividend. But the Supreme Court has ruled that "shall" really means "may" here, and these statutes don't have to be followed. This means that instead of following the statutory formula for the PFD, the Legislature can set the amount of the dividend at whatever amount it chooses. This year, for example, the statutory formula mandates that the PFD be approximately $2,650. But the Legislature instead ignored the statute and set the dividend at $1,600.

Here is how SB 26 played out this year. The statutory formula — still on the books — required the Permanent Fund Corp. to transfer about $1.7 billion to pay full $2,650 dividends to Alaskans. However, under SB 26, the Alaska Permanent Fund Corp. is now required to calculate 5.25 percent of the value of the fund (averaged over the past five years) — and that comes to about $2.7 billion. This is the total amount of funds available to be drawn from the Earnings Reserve. If the Legislature wanted to limit the total draw from the Permanent Fund to 5.25 percent and still follow the statutory dividend formula, they could have done so. Government would have had access to about $1 billion — still a significant amount. But this was not enough to balance the budget. Instead, they chose to violate one of those statutes — the one requiring a full PFD — so they could stay within their new 5.25 percent draw limit.

The Legislature cut the amount transferred for PFDs by $700 million — and gave that money to themselves to spend. In the end, government got $1.7 billion (about 63 percent) and the people got $1 billion (about 37 percent). $700 million equates to almost $1,000 for every man, woman and child in Alaska.

Recent versions of SB 26 eliminated the requirement to pay a full PFD, and stated the PFDs "may" be paid. That would have been a more intellectually honest way of dealing with this. Instead, the Legislature took the more politically expedient (although some might use some other choice words) method of simply slapping a new, conflicting statute on the books — then ignoring the PFD statute. This gives them the cover to go back to their constituents and say they fought to keep the PFD statute on the books.

It will be interesting to see how the electorate responds when they see how this plays out. I suppose it's time to climb out of the weeds of state law to go see what's blooming and crawling in the tide pools. It won't take a decade for Alaskans to start saying, "I remember the Permanent Fund dividend." Remember who wrecked it. Remember who tried to save it.

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