Feed aggregator

Alaskans collect medals, including gold in women’s hockey, at Gay Games

Alaska News - Mon, 2018-08-13 15:35

Members of the Alaskan Ice women’s hockey team pose with their gold medals in Aug. 2018 at at the Gay Games in Paris. (Photo courtesy of Hilary Morgan)

When the Alaskan Ice women's hockey team got its start several years ago in advance of the 2014 Gay Games, the first order of business for some of the players was to learn how to skate. Others merely had to learn how to play hockey.

They learned their lessons well. Last week at the 2018 Gay Games in Paris, the Alaskan Ice captured the gold medal in women's hockey.

The hockey gold was among seven medals collected by Alaskans during the weeklong competition.

Darl Schaaff won four medals in martial arts, including gold in self-defense in the over-50 men's black belt division. He also claimed a silver and two bronzes.

Stephan Smith grabbed silver in the men's 50-54 cycling time trial, and Trevor Storrs took bronze in the men's 45-49 triathlon.

In the gold-medal hockey game, the Alaskans cruised to a 6-0 win over NATO, a team made of up women from Germany, France, Canada and the United States.

They finished with a 2-3 record, with all three losses and one of the wins coming against men's teams. Their last game was against NATO, the only other women's team in the tournament.

The gold medal capped a journey that started several years ago, player Hilary Morgan said.

"About 6 or 7 years ago, teammates Robyn Henry and Amy Holman heard that Gay Games 9 were going to be played in their hometown, Cleveland," Morgan said by email from Paris.

Holman, who plays in the Subway women's league, was one of the few who already played. Henry, Morgan and others decided to learn, and in 2013 their YWCA Alaska/Lifeskills team joined the Anchorage Women's Hockey League.

The team that played in Cleveland in 2014 didn't win any medals, but several members returned to play in Paris. The 2018 roster had an age range from 21 to 60 and included three married couples and one engaged couple.

In their first four games, the Alaskans played men's teams. They lost 5-1 to a California team, 6-1 to a New York team and 4-1 to a Toronto team.

They eked out a 3-2 win against a men's team from France to gain some confidence heading into the gold-medal game, where they scored two minutes in and never looked back.

Q&A with House District 20 candidate Cliff Groh - Anchorage Press

Legislative News - Mon, 2018-08-13 15:23

Anchorage Press

Q&A with House District 20 candidate Cliff Groh
Anchorage Press
I was born and raised in Alaska — the only Democratc candidate who can say that. What's your background with the Legislature? I have studied Alaska public policy and the challenges facing the state for about four decades…. I was in the Alaska ...
Three Democrats vying for Gara's Anchorage House seatKTVA

all 2 news articles »

Federal government advances Donlin gold project, issuing major permit

Alaska News - Mon, 2018-08-13 15:16

Donlin Gold mine work camp and runway are seen from the air, August 2015. (Lisa Demer / ADN file)

The federal government on Monday gave a thumbs up to the Donlin Creek gold project in southwestern Alaska, issuing major permits for development following an environmental review of the project, officials said.

The approval by the Army Corps and Bureau of Land Management on Monday followed a six-year environmental review of the project, an open-pit hard rock gold mine that would be built about 10 miles north of the Kuskokwim River community of Crooked Creek, about 275 miles west of Anchorage.

Donlin Gold, owned by NovaGold Resources and Barrick Gold U.S., must still seek scores of individual state and federal permits for everything from water discharge to waste management.

The Army Corps, the lead agency in the review, and the BLM, said it preferred Donlin's proposed development scenario, according to a statement from Donlin Gold. The decision rejects other development proposals that sought reduced environmental impact, including not allowing the development at all.

The company expects to produce 33 million ounces of gold over the project's 27-year life. Mining facilities, including a 2,350-acre tailings pond to hold 568 million tons of ground-up waste material, would occupy land owned by The Kuskokwim Corp. and Calista Corp., Alaska Native organizations from the region.

Construction would last about four years, including development of a 316-mile natural gas pipeline from Cook Inlet, and a 30-mile access road to a port along the Kuskokwim. Barges would haul cargo, supplies and diesel fuel along the river that links to the Bering Sea.

The Corps issued a permit under the Clean Water Act, while BLM issued a permit for the pipeline right-of-way over federal lands.

Donlin Gold has agreed with Calista Corp. to give hiring preference to the company's Alaska Native shareholders, according to a summary of the proposal from the Corps. The company has said it would employ about 1,750 regional residents during construction, and another 550 residents during operations.

Deantha Crockett, executive director of the Alaska Miners Association, said the project would employ about 1,200 people total during operations.

"This is great news for the economy," she said.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates

Sturgeon wants protection for Alaskans’ rights and subsistence use

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

John Sturgeon, in front of the Supreme Court, is part of a case involving a hovercraft and moose hunting,, on January, 17, 2016 in Washington, DC.(Bill O’Leary / The Washington Post)

When John Sturgeon walked into my office seven years ago, he had a simple story that the National Park Service had unlawfully denied him access to his longtime hunting grounds in Interior Alaska. His case is in the news now, pending again before the United States Supreme Court. In those seven years, John has carried the burden of protecting Alaskans' right to use Alaska's land and waters.

John had hunted moose for 40 years along the Nation River, which flows into the Yukon downriver from Eagle. It's a "navigable river," which means control of its submerged lands and waters had been granted to Alaska at statehood. The best moose hunting grounds are some 15-20 miles upriver. To get there, however, John had to traverse a portion of the river that runs through the Yukon-Charley National Preserve. Like all Interior rivers, the Nation often runs shallow during hunting season. When this happened, John couldn't get his riverboat upriver to where the moose were. In 1990, he bought a small air cushion vessel, a "hovercraft," about the size of a personal watercraft, to skirt over shallow places that grounded his river boat to a halt when the Nation was low. One day in 2007, he was stopped on a gravel bar to repair a steering cable. A riverboat with National Park Service rangers motored up. The rangers told John it was illegal to operate the hovercraft on the Nation River within the boundaries of Yukon-Charley. John objected that the Nation was state water because it was navigable. The rangers shook their heads. If John tried to launch the hovercraft back into the river, he would be arrested.

I had closely followed the parceling out of public lands in Alaska since statehood. In 1980, Congress established Yukon-Charley as part of the Alaska National Interests Lands Conservation Act. Prior to passage, conservation groups sought to sweep navigable rivers and uplands owned by the state and Native corporations into many new national parks and refuges. A deal was struck in Congress. The boundaries could encircle state and private lands as long the law made it clear the National Park Service could not regulate those lands as if they were federal lands. For the next 15 years, the Park Service honored this agreement, but for some inexplicable reason reversed itself in the mid-1990s. The rangers threatening to arrest John Sturgeon in 2007 were implementing that reversal.

To me, borrowing from Robert Service, John's case was simply whether the promise made by Congress to Alaskans was a debt unpaid. I thought John a worthy client to pursue that claim. The very first time we met, he had trouble getting in the door. He had been bowhunting for Dall sheep with a friend in the Chugach Mountains during a snowstorm. His leather boots froze solid, but none of that mattered when his friend was fortunate enough to kill a legal ram. They focused on getting the meat out despite John's freezing feet. John's story convinced me he wasn't picking a fight with the Park Service for ideological reasons. He lived for hunting, and he just wanted to use the vessel he'd always used. "He's the real deal," I told my wife that night.

Recently, John was accused in personal terms in this newspaper of prizing his own right to hunt over Alaska Native subsistence fishing rights. This was upsetting because John has longtime ties to Native communities and has been forceful in his belief that Alaska Natives should have the rural subsistence fishing preference enforced in the Katie John line of cases. As a result, he has argued throughout this case that the courts can let him hunt with the hovercraft without disturbing Native subsistence fishing rights. Last winter, he reached an agreement with the state of Alaska and the Alaska Federation of Natives on a specific legislative fix to ANILCA which would have reaffirmed Congress' promise to Alaska and ratified the rural subsistence fishing preference decisions. The language was successfully introduced in Congress. John took heat from many hunting organizations for taking that stand, but he did it because he thought it was right. The fact that this settlement effort failed disappointed everyone involved.

Now, the Supreme Court is again called upon to decide if the promise made to Alaskans when ANILCA passed is indeed a debt unpaid and John is still arguing that the court can enforce that promise without disturbing Native subsistence fishing rights. The author of the piece accusing John of being anti-subsistence knew all of this. For shame.

Doug Pope is a longtime attorney in Alaska and one of two Alaska attorneys representing John Sturgeon in his case currently pending before the United States Supreme Court.

Mark Begich gets things done - Anchorage Daily News

Legislative News - Mon, 2018-08-13 15:04

Anchorage Daily News

Mark Begich gets things done
Anchorage Daily News
Walker's proposal, the permanent fund dividend is severed from the productivity of the Alaska Permanent Fund, and the amount of the dividend is now left to annual haggling among legislators. We agree with Mr. Begich that the dividend should be added to ...

and more »

Mark Begich gets things done

Alaska News - Mon, 2018-08-13 15:04

Mark Begich files to run for governor Friday, June 1, 2018 at the state division of elections office in midtown. (Loren Holmes / ADN)

We want to tell you why we support Mark Begich for governor. He has the executive experience to lead the state government, as he did for six years as the mayor of Anchorage. Additionally, he will work across the aisle with the Alaska's legislature to achieve policies and actions that enhance Alaska, as he did in the U.S. Senate for six years.

We supported Bill Walker for governor in 2014 and participated in his transition forum, as well as his Fairbanks meetings on the state's fiscal crisis. He worked hard on the state's fiscal shortfall but was unable to persuade the Legislature to adopt most proposals he advanced. Instead, he oversaw reductions in state services as state savings were depleted.

We are particularly concerned that under Gov. Walker's proposal, the permanent fund dividend is severed from the productivity of the Alaska Permanent Fund, and the amount of the dividend is now left to annual haggling among legislators. We agree with Mr. Begich that the dividend should be added to the Constitution and that amount of the dividend should be set as a product of the earnings of the principal of the fund. Also, inflation-proofing must occur annually.

We know Gov. Walker's efforts on the gas pipeline have been his primary focus, but it may not come to fruition due to forces beyond Alaska's control. In the meantime, we need leadership to strengthen other sectors of Alaska's economy, now.

At 56, Mark Begich has already demonstrated an outstanding record of getting things done. He has led actions at the local, state, and national levels. He is also a successful Alaska business entrepreneur who has met a payroll.

When elected mayor, he faced a $33 million deficit, so Mark reduced costs and restructured city departments to be more efficient. They fixed the intersection of Lake Otis and Tudor, built other major road projects and developed the Dena'ina Convention Center.

Mark served as U.S. senator from Alaska from 2009 to 2015. His service was marked by working across party lines to meet Alaska needs. Thus, together with Republicans, he expanded services to veterans, kept the F-16s in Fairbanks, and provided access to funds to expand fiber-optic connectivity throughout Alaska. He gets things done.

He continued his support of women and children by voting to provide equal pay for equal work, protected a woman's right to make her own health care decisions, and funded early childhood education, because 90 percent of brain development happens by the time children are five years old.

We believe that as our next governor, Mark will lead colleagues to solve the fiscal issues of the state government. We are confident that he will protect the permanent fund and bring stability to the Permanent Fund Dividend program. We believe he will bring new vitality to our public education system, because he believes it will build the economic foundation for the future.

We have known Mark and his family for decades. We trust him to act in the best interest of Alaska. He solves problems. He solicits and listens to all points of view before making a decision. Mark will bring his creative energy and experience to meet the challenges of Alaska.

As people who want to strengthen the future of Alaska, we urge you to vote for Mark Begich for governor.

Vic Fischer was a delegate to the Alaska Constitutional Convention, 1955-56, and later served in the state senate. He was Anchorage's first planning director and is the University of Alaska Anchorage Institute for Social and Economic Research's Director Emeritus.

Jane Angvik was on the Anchorage Unification Charter Commission in 1976, and was a member and chairwoman of the Anchorage Assembly. Jane also served as state Commissioner of Commerce and state Director of Lands in the Department of Natural Resources.

I always bomb when it comes to presentations – and it’s starting to hurt my career

Alaska News - Mon, 2018-08-13 13:42

I'm totally intimidated when I stand up in front of a group to give a presentation.

On a good day, a jolt of adrenaline hits me and I speed-talk. On bad days, I open my mouth and nothing comes out. When I finally get started, my thoughts come out jumbled and I forget key sections of what I planned to say. If I'm put on the spot by someone asking a simple question to which I should know the answer, I freeze, making it appear I'm incompetent.

Unfortunately, my job increasingly calls for me to give presentations. My manager has let me know that if I don't improve, I'll get a needs improvement in this area and lose not only on a bonus but possibly a chance for promotion as the expectation of managers in our company is that we be able to present our projects and programs to other groups within the company.

I'm scheduled for one tomorrow. I fear it will be a disaster and need some help.

A: Instead of focusing on what might go wrong, plan what you want to say. Is it important? If so, get over yourself. This change in focus can help you ahead of time by short-circuiting how much time you spend worrying about your jitters and becomes your best strategy for giving a great presentation. Much of a scared presenter's nervousness stems from wondering if he or she'll do well and be able to handle all the questions asked. By concentrating totally on the audience and forgetting yourself you can at least partially forget your worries.

After you've planned what you want to say and in the safety of your own office or home, give your presentation to your office mate or partner, your pup or yourself in front of the mirror at least three to five times. These pre-presentations help, because when you stand up in front of the group, you'll have multiple presentations under your belt.

Also, if you're imagining the worst about your audience – that they'll be a sea of blank or skeptical faces with arms crossed — stop. Audiences hope you'll have something to say and will say it effectively. If you don't believe this, imagine you're in the audience and someone else is presenting. Would you rather the presenter be great or a bomb? Every audience hopes those who present can do so effectively.

Next, pre-emptively provide an antidote to the adrenaline jolt you fear. When under stress, your body instinctively reacts as though it's threatened. Starting about 30 minutes before your speech, adrenaline begins coursing through your bloodstream. You may feel your heart pounding, your muscles tightening and your breathing and perspiration rates increasing. You can process this excess adrenaline by walking. Find every opportunity to walk down the hallway, around the room or make a quick strategic exit to the restroom.

When we stand up to speak, our breathing also becomes rapid and shallow and it becomes more difficult to pull information from memory. This relationship between shallow breathing and memory explains why you space information you know. It's the same as what happens when you meet someone on the street and can't remember the name and then walk off, and the name suddenly pops into your brain. By walking off, you began breathing more deeply. Just before you stand up to speak, concentrate on slowing and deepening your breathing to combat your increasing tension.

Whenever someone asks you a question, use the pause before you answer to slow your breathing and you'll give better answers. You may also want to bring a short information sheet to accompany your presentation as a handout, to facilitate answers to expected questions. To your group, this becomes a bonus. For you, it's a useful crutch.

Finally, if your chance for a promotion depends on a skill you lack, consider finding a personal coach or a group that offers the training you need. When you invest in yourself, it pays off.

[When a new supervisor clashes with long-term employees, whose side to take?]

[How to recover when an office confrontation turns into the showdown at the O.K. Corral]

steve slideshowtest – 2

Alaska News - Mon, 2018-08-13 12:58

Photos: Best of July 2018

Alaska News - Mon, 2018-08-13 12:35

Anchorage Daily News photographers and contributors capture slices of life around Anchorage and beyond.

Mix of legislators and veterans compete to be Republican lieutenant governor candidate - Alaska Public Radio Network

Legislative News - Mon, 2018-08-13 11:33

Alaska Public Radio Network

Mix of legislators and veterans compete to be Republican lieutenant governor candidate
Alaska Public Radio Network
Sharon Jackson also served in the military, and her position with the U.S. Army brought her to Alaska. She also has worked for the National Federation of Independent Business and in constituent relations for U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan. She said her energy ...

How Google tracks your movements, like it or not

Alaska News - Mon, 2018-08-13 10:38

(AP Photo/Seth Wenig) (Seth Wenig/)

SAN FRANCISCO (AP) — Google wants to know where you go so badly that it records your movements even when you explicitly tell it not to.

An Associated Press investigation found that many Google services on Android devices and iPhones store your location data even if you've used a privacy setting that says it will prevent Google from doing so.

Computer-science researchers at Princeton confirmed these findings at the AP's request.

For the most part, Google is upfront about asking permission to use your location information. An app like Google Maps will remind you to allow access to location if you use it for navigating. If you agree to let it record your location over time, Google Maps will display that history for you in a "timeline" that maps out your daily movements.

Storing your minute-by-minute travels carries privacy risks and has been used by police to determine the location of suspects — such as a warrant that police in Raleigh, North Carolina, served on Google last year to find devices near a murder scene. So the company will let you "pause" a setting called Location History.

Google says that will prevent the company from remembering where you've been. Google's support page on the subject states: "You can turn off Location History at any time. With Location History off, the places you go are no longer stored."

That isn't true. Even with Location History paused, some Google apps automatically store time-stamped location data without asking. (It's possible, although laborious, to delete it .)

For example, Google stores a snapshot of where you are when you merely open its Maps app. Automatic daily weather updates on Android phones pinpoint roughly where you are. And some searches that have nothing to do with location, like "chocolate chip cookies," or "kids science kits," pinpoint your precise latitude and longitude — accurate to the square foot — and save it to your Google account.

The privacy issue affects some two billion users of devices that run Google's Android operating software and hundreds of millions of worldwide iPhone users who rely on Google for maps or search.

Storing location data in violation of a user's preferences is wrong, said Jonathan Mayer, a Princeton computer scientist and former chief technologist for the Federal Communications Commission's enforcement bureau. A researcher from Mayer's lab confirmed the AP's findings on multiple Android devices; the AP conducted its own tests on several iPhones that found the same behavior.

"If you're going to allow users to turn off something called 'Location History,' then all the places where you maintain location history should be turned off," Mayer said. "That seems like a pretty straightforward position to have."

Google says it is being perfectly clear.

"There are a number of different ways that Google may use location to improve people's experience, including: Location History, Web and App Activity, and through device-level Location Services," a Google spokesperson said in a statement to the AP. "We provide clear descriptions of these tools, and robust controls so people can turn them on or off, and delete their histories at any time."

To stop Google from saving these location markers, the company says, users can turn off another setting, one that does not specifically reference location information. Called "Web and App Activity" and enabled by default, that setting stores a variety of information from Google apps and websites to your Google account.

When paused, it will prevent activity on any device from being saved to your account. But leaving "Web & App Activity" on and turning "Location History" off only prevents Google from adding your movements to the "timeline," its visualization of your daily travels. It does not stop Google's collection of other location markers.

You can delete these location markers by hand, but it's a painstaking process since you have to select them individually, unless you want to delete all of your stored activity.

FILE - In this June 15, 2017, photo, people walk inside the Oculus, the new transit station at the World Trade Center in New York. Data collection practices of tech firms are increasingly under the microscope. An Associated Press investigation shows that using Google services on Android devices and iPhones allows the search giant to record your whereabouts as you go about your day. (AP Photo/Frank Franklin II, File) (Frank Franklin II/)

You can see the stored location markers on a page in your Google account at myactivity.google.com, although they’re typically scattered under several different headers, many of which are unrelated to location.

To demonstrate how powerful these other markers can be, the AP created a visual map of the movements of Princeton postdoctoral researcher Gunes Acar, who carried an Android phone with Location history off, and shared a record of his Google account.

The map includes Acar's train commute on two trips to New York and visits to The High Line park, Chelsea Market, Hell's Kitchen, Central Park and Harlem. To protect his privacy, The AP didn't plot the most telling and frequent marker — his home address.

Huge tech companies are under increasing scrutiny over their data practices, following a series of privacy scandals at Facebook and new data-privacy rules recently adopted by the European Union. Last year, the business news site Quartz found that Google was tracking Android users by collecting the addresses of nearby cellphone towers even if all location services were off. Google changed the practice and insisted it never recorded the data anyway.

Critics say Google's insistence on tracking its users' locations stems from its drive to boost advertising revenue.

"They build advertising information out of data," said Peter Lenz, the senior geospatial analyst at Dstillery, a rival advertising technology company. "More data for them presumably means more profit."

The AP learned of the issue from K. Shankari, a graduate researcher at UC Berkeley who studies the commuting patterns of volunteers in order to help urban planners. She noticed that her Android phone prompted her to rate a shopping trip to Kohl's, even though she had turned Location History off.

"So how did Google Maps know where I was?" she asked in a blog post .

The AP wasn't able to recreate Shankari's experience exactly. But its attempts to do so revealed Google's tracking. The findings disturbed her.

"I am not opposed to background location tracking in principle," she said. "It just really bothers me that it is not explicitly stated."

Google offers a more accurate description of how Location History actually works in a place you'd only see if you turn it off — a popup that appears when you "pause" Location History on your Google account webpage . There the company notes that "some location data may be saved as part of your activity on other Google services, like Search and Maps."

Google offers additional information in a popup that appears if you re-activate the "Web & App Activity" setting — an uncommon action for many users, since this setting is on by default. That popup states that, when active, the setting "saves the things you do on Google sites, apps, and services ... and associated information, like location."

Warnings when you're about to turn Location History off via Android and iPhone device settings are more difficult to interpret. On Android, the popup explains that "places you go with your devices will stop being added to your Location History map." On the iPhone, it simply reads, "None of your Google apps will be able to store location data in Location History."

The iPhone text is technically true if potentially misleading. With Location History off, Google Maps and other apps store your whereabouts in a section of your account called "My Activity," not "Location History."

Since 2014, Google has let advertisers track the effectiveness of online ads at driving foot traffic , a feature that Google has said relies on user location histories.

The company is pushing further into such location-aware tracking to drive ad revenue, which rose 20 percent last year to $95.4 billion. At a Google Marketing Live summit in July, Google executives unveiled a new tool called "local campaigns" that dynamically uses ads to boost in-person store visits. It says it can measure how well a campaign drove foot traffic with data pulled from Google users' location histories.

Google also says location records stored in My Activity are used to target ads. Ad buyers can target ads to specific locations — say, a mile radius around a particular landmark — and typically have to pay more to reach this narrower audience.

While disabling "Web & App Activity" will stop Google from storing location markers, it also prevents Google from storing information generated by searches and other activity. That can limit the effectiveness of the Google Assistant, the company's digital concierge.

Sean O’Brien, a Yale Privacy Lab researcher with whom the AP shared its findings, said it is “disingenuous” for Google to continuously record these locations even when users disable Location History. “To me, it’s something people should know,” he said.

People on the Peninsula: The RV crowd

Alaska News - Mon, 2018-08-13 09:34

The Kenai Peninsula comes alive during summer. Tourists, fishermen, seasonal workers and year-round residents share highways and harbors from Homer to Seward. ADN's Tegan Hanlon and Marc Lester recently spent a week meeting some of the people who make the Peninsula unique. Over the next few days, we'll be publishing more than 20 of their stories.

RVs fill hundreds of spots along Seward’s waterfront on June 23, 2018. (Marc Lester / ADN)

SEWARD — This scenic city of about 2,700 year-round residents comes alive in the summer.

Tens of thousands of campers cycle through, transforming seaside campgrounds into tiny, temporary communities with hundreds of tents and RVs. All kinds of people crowd the area, drawn for all kinds of reasons.

Here are some of their stories.

The campground host

Tim Foster has been camping in Seward since he was a child. Now he’s a campground host who stays in an RV with his dogs for several months each year. (Marc Lester / ADN)

Tim Foster's cancer diagnosis changed his priorities.

"That's a real eye-opener," said Foster, a longtime Alaska resident. "When you think you're invincible all your life and then someone tells you you have cancer. You think, 'How can that be?'"

Foster underwent a radical prostatectomy. Then he started spending more time outside. He had retired about 10 years earlier from a 30-year-career at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport where he worked as the chief of airport safety. "I wasn't enjoying Alaska as much as I should have," he said.

Foster decided to return to Seward for the summers. As a child, his parents had taken him to the same shores to fish and camp. When he became a parent himself, he brought his children here to do the same.

Then two years ago, Foster took a job as one of Seward's volunteer campground hosts. He stays in his RV with his two Papillons, Angel and Tré, from May to September. He oversees the 50 or so RV spots in his area.

Seward campground host Tim Foster camps with his two Papillon dogs, Angel and Tré. (Marc Lester / ADN)

"We meet so many nice people," he said. "We get people from Europe, from Asia, New Zealand, Australia, Germany, France — you name it, they've come here."

In front of Foster's RV, two handmade benches flank a steel fire pit, just across a walkway from the rocky beaches of Resurrection Bay. He has also set up tall pieces of driftwood with flags for the United States, Canada, Alaska and the Green Bay Packers.

"This is my living room," Foster said. "The whales are here. The sea lions come in."

Tim Foster became a campground host in Seward two years ago. His wife, Mickey, often visits on weekends during the months he camps. Photographed June 23, 2018. (Marc Lester / ADN)

Compared to his job in airport management, he said, the gig as a campground host "is a cakewalk." There's no real drama or fights or rowdiness. The biggest commotion he remembers is the time a very large sea otter meandered out of the water, drawing a big crowd.

"This guy would come out like he owned the entire beach," he said. "You never know what you're going to see here."

The retiree

Gene Smith, from Montara, California, camped in Seward as part of a four-month road trip on June 22, 2018. (Marc Lester / ADN)

Gene Smith keeps his plans pretty loose. That's the beauty of having time and an RV, he said.

He might occasionally make a campground reservation a day in advance, but he has a generator and can make do on his own. If he isn't impressed with the RV park or isn't fond of his neighbors, he simply moves along.

"I have a general idea where I want to go, but as far as dates or anything like that? No," he said.

Smith, from Montara, California, retired from a career with Xerox when he was 58. Now 74, he camps as much as possible in a 35-foot fifth-wheel. Last year he circled the Lower 48, with stops in Texas, Maine, Michigan and North Dakota.

He and his wife of 40 years have been working their way north since April, pausing to visit his kids, his grandkids and his great-grandkid. Sometimes they worry about him, but he's got a cellphone with good coverage. He keeps in touch.

Children play by the Resurrection Bay coastline in Seward as the Royal Caribbean cruise ship Radiance of the Seas departs on June 22, 2018. The ship traveled Southeast Alaska toward its destination, Vancouver, B.C.(Marc Lester / ADN)

This is his first visit to Alaska, and the scenery has impressed him. Restaurant costs? Not so much.

"Your RV parks are not bad, but your food prices … You go out to get a hamburger and it starts at $14," he said as he worked on fixing a flat bicycle tire. "Give me a break."

Smith achieved a life goal on this visit to Alaska: He walked on a glacier. In future travels, he wants to experience a technology he thinks might allow older people to retain some independence when the day comes that they no longer drive.

Smith said he'll be happy if he can keep his RV travel up for another six or seven years. His next stop was Homer.

The ironic campers

Julie Morris, left, and Rachel Mulvihill sip wine on an air mattress in the back of an SUV in a Seward campground on June 22, 2018. The friends, from the Seattle area, were on a long weekend trip to Alaska, where Morris grew up. (Marc Lester / ADN)

You could hear them before you could see them.

Julie Morris, 29, and Rachel Mulvihill, 30, erupted into laughter while tucked into the back of an SUV.

The friends, who live in the Seattle area, couldn't find an affordable RV to rent for just one night, so they did the best with what they had: a Ford Escape and the decor from Morris' childhood home in Wasilla.

"We wanted to rent a camper van but there's a three-night minimum, so we turned her car into an ironic camper van," Mulvihill said as she reclined on a partially deflated air mattress.

Morris and Mulvihill were on a five-day trip to Alaska, where Morris grew up. They drove to Seward that morning to hike Mount Marathon, but rain derailed their plans. They went to Exit Glacier instead and now had more time in their makeshift RV that, with its trunk open, had a view of Resurrection Bay.

The women's laughter continued as they gave a tour of their temporary home. The house plant. The warm bottle of white wine in the tall wooden basket. The shelf that doubled as a card table. The sheet that doubled as a curtain. Every throw pillow Morris' parents own.

"We were hoping to find some macrame that we could dangle outside," Mulvihill said. "But this is all we've got."

The Palmer weekenders

Cindy and Larry Judd, from Palmer, and their 3-year-old dog Gizmo camped in an RV in Seward on June 23, 2018. (Marc Lester / ADN)

Cindy caught Larry's eye when she worked with his sister. Larry used to come around to visit.

"Maybe I should go over there a little more often," he remembered thinking. Eventually, his sister made the introduction.

"We were at Costco," Cindy said. "I met him by the beef jerky."

On a recent morning, the couple walked through Seward's RV campground together with matching coffee mugs. Larry has been an RV camper for 20 years, he said.

"I was kind of a tent camper until I met him," Cindy said. "Now I kind of like my amenities."

Often strangers stop to chat when they're sitting by a campfire on the Seward beach. Sometimes those strangers become friends when they return night after night to swap stories. The couple from Palmer sold their camper last spring, but it wasn't long before they craved another one.

"We wanted something a little different, a little bigger, to have a couch to socialize with," Larry said.

The family

Ryan Shaver, right, talks with his 3-year-old son, Liam, by the water in Seward at left. Jessica Shaver reaches for 1-year-old Rinette, on June 23, 2018. (Marc Lester / ADN)

Ryan Shaver had to wait for it, but he and his family eventually scored what he called the best RV spot in Alaska. They had spent the previous evening farther inland hoping a waterfront spot like this would open up.

"I guess that's why you have an RV," he said. "You can sleep anywhere."

Ryan and Jessica Shaver met in pharmacy school in North Carolina. They bought their RV for their move from Texas to Anchorage so Ryan could take an Air Force job at the hospital on Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson. They took 30 days to make the trip, winding through Canada on the way.

The Shaver family dogs, Ali Bears, left, and Geppetto, wait by the family’s RV on June 23, 2018. (Marc Lester / ADN)

Nowadays, trips in the RV include their kids, Liam, 3, and Rinette, 1, and their two dogs, Geppetto, a Dalmatian, and Ali Bears, a Weimaraner.

Jessica said Liam's ears perk up whenever there's talk of a family RV road trip.

"He knows that he's going to get s'mores at night," she said.

Meet more people on the Peninsula 

Alaska Sen. Sullivan visits Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta residents - KFQD

Legislative News - Mon, 2018-08-13 08:41


Alaska Sen. Sullivan visits Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta residents
Mine developers promise to bring more than 3,200 jobs at the height of its construction, and 1,000 annually to the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta, one of Alaska's most impoverished regions. Sullivan wouldn't say outright whether he supports the mine, but says ...

FBI agent Peter Strzok fired over anti-Trump texts

Alaska News - Mon, 2018-08-13 07:44

Peter Strzok during a joint House Judiciary, Oversight and Government Reform Committees hearing in Washington on July 12, 2018. Bloomberg photo by Andrew Harrer. (Andrew Harrer/)

WASHINGTON - The FBI has fired Agent Peter Strzok, who helped lead the bureau’s investigation into Russian interference in the 2016 election until officials discovered he had been sending anti-Trump texts.

Aitan Goelman, Strzok's lawyer, said FBI Deputy Director David Bowdich ordered the firing on Friday - even though the director of the FBI office that normally handles employee discipline had decided Strzok should face only a demotion and 60-day suspension. Goelman said the move undercuts the FBI's repeated assurances that Strzok would be afforded the normal disciplinary process.

"This isn't the normal process in any way more than name," Goelman said.

The FBI declined to comment.

The termination marks a remarkable downfall for Strzok, a 22-year veteran of the bureau who investigated Russian spies, defense officials accused of selling secrets to China and myriad other important cases. In the twilight of his career, Strzok was integral to two of the bureau's most high-profile investigations: the Russia case, and the investigation into Hillary Clinton's use of a private email server while secretary of state.

But when a Justice Department inspector general investigation uncovered politically charged messages that Strzok had exchanged with another FBI official, he was relegated to a position in human resources. Conservatives soon made Strzok the face of their attacks against the special counsel investigation into the president's campaign, and the FBI took steps to remove him from its ranks.

Strzok's position in the bureau had been precarious since last summer, when Inspector General Michael Horowitz told Special Counsel Robert Mueller that the lead agent on his team had been exchanging anti-Trump messages with an FBI lawyer. The next day, Mueller expelled Strzok from the group.

The lawyer, Lisa Page, had also been a part of Mueller's team, though she left a few weeks earlier and no longer works for the FBI. She and Strzok were having an affair.

President Donald Trump has derided the pair as "FBI lovers," and he and his conservative allies have pointed to their conduct in an attempt to discredit the Mueller probe. As recently as Saturday, Trump tweeted an attack on Strzok, Page and former FBI director James B. Comey and deputy director Andrew McCabe.

"Will the FBI ever recover it's once stellar reputation, so badly damaged by Comey, McCabe, Peter S and his lover, the lovely Lisa Page, and other top officials now dismissed or fired?" Trump wrote. "So many of the great men and women of the FBI have been hurt by these clowns and losers!"

Horowitz concluded that Strzok showed a "willingness to take official action" to hurt Trump's electoral prospects, particularly in a text he sent telling Page "we'll stop" Trump from being president.

Strzok, who was a deputy assistant director for counterintelligence at the bureau, has apologized for sending the messages and said they reflected personal views that did not affect his work. His lawyer has said that had Strzok wanted to prevent Trump's election, he could have leaked that Trump's campaign was under investigation for possibly coordinating with Russia - a revelation that might have upended his bid to become president.

At a congressional hearing earlier this month, Strzok sparred with Republican lawmakers who raised questions about his character and even his marriage. He asserted there was "no evidence of bias in my professional actions" and that his having to testify was "just another victory notch in [Russian President Vladimir] Putin's belt and another milestone in our enemies' campaign to tear America apart."

Strzok was escorted out of the FBI building in June and effectively relieved of work responsibilities, though he technically remained an FBI employee as he and his attorney challenged the effort to dismiss him. On July 24, they made a final pitch to Candice Will, who leads the FBI's Office of Professional Responsibility.

Goelman said Will ultimately decided that Strzok face a demotion and 60-day suspension and be subjected to a "last chance agreement." That would have put him on thin ice if he were commit another offense. But Goelman said Bowdich overruled that decision and ordered Strzok's termination.

During a June congressional hearing, FBI Director Christopher Wray said Strzok had been referred to the Office of Professional Responsibility - which he referred to as the bureau's "independent disciplinary arm" - and that officials would "not hesitate to hold people strictly accountable." Wray promised that process would be "done by the book."

Strzok is the third high-ranking FBI official involved in the Clinton and Russia investigations to be fired amid an intensely political backdrop. Trump removed Comey as the bureau's director and said he did so thinking of the Russia case. Attorney General Jeff Sessions later removed Comey's deputy, McCabe, after the inspector general alleged he lied about a media disclosure related to Clinton.

McCabe - who, unlike Comey, could not be removed at the will of the president - has said his termination was a politically motivated attempt to undermine the Mueller probe. He is currently facing a criminal investigation by prosecutors in the D.C. U.S. Attorney's Office.

It is possible that others could yet face discipline. The inspector general identified five FBI employees, including Strzok and Page, with some connection to the Clinton email case who had exchanged messages expressing hostility toward Trump, support for Clinton or other political views. Each was referred to the FBI for possible violations of the bureau’s code of conduct.

Education advocate aiming to unseat longtime Alaska Rep. Don Young

Alaska News - Mon, 2018-08-13 07:27

In this Aug. 5, 2018, photo, independent U.S. House candidate Alyse Galvin, center, speaks during a meet-and-greet at a tea shop in Juneau, Alaska. Galvin is running in the Aug. 21 Democratic primary for U.S. House in Alaska. The state Democratic party changed its rules to let independents run in its primary. (AP Photo/Becky Bohrer)

JUNEAU — When Alyse Galvin ran into resistance from some state legislators in a fight over school funding, she didn't give up. She got a loudspeaker.

In 2017, the activist, along with other worried moms, helped gather hundreds of letters from Alaskans urging legislators not to cut school funding amid a state budget deficit. The letters were read on the Capitol steps during an hours-long event — replete with props — that Galvin helped organize.

When a budget finally passed two months later, schools were fully funded. One legislator says the persistence of Galvin's organization, Great Alaska Schools, made a difference.

It's that tenacity that supporters say will serve Galvin, a familiar face at the Capitol, well if she accomplishes her next goal: election to the U.S. House.

The independent is seeking the Democratic nomination and a chance to challenge U.S. Rep. Don Young, a Republican who has held the office for 45 years. If elected, Galvin would be the first woman to hold Alaska's lone House seat.

Her opponents in the Aug. 21 primary are Democrats Dimitri Shein and Carol Hafner, who does not live in Alaska, and independent Christopher Cumings. Young is expected to win his primary.

[Russian immigrant seeks Democratic nomination for Alaska's U.S. House seat]

Of her primary opponents, Shein has been the most active, pushing an agenda that includes Medicare for all. He said he's bothered by Galvin's ties to the oil and gas industry: her husband, Pat Galvin, is an executive with Great Bear Petroleum.

Galvin said she wants to diversify a state economy that relies largely on oil and see greater investment in renewable energy. She said she supports responsible resource development and that more needs to be done in response to climate change. Both she and her husband, a Democrat who served as state revenue commissioner during then-Gov. Sarah Palin's administration, drive hybrid Priuses.

But she's the candidate, she notes — not her husband. "I'm my own person. … Anybody who knows me knows that."

In college in California, Galvin trained to be an opera singer but found it "a little bit self-serving," so she switched her focus to political science. Her background includes work in fish processing, managing a hotel and volunteering with Great Alaska Schools.

Alison Arians, who worked with Galvin on Great Alaska Schools, said Galvin is the smartest, hardest-working person she has known."To me, I can't think of somebody who would be more likely to get in there and be able to, I'm not saying change how Congress works, but maybe she could," Arians said.

Deena Mitchell, who knows Galvin through their education advocacy, said Galvin listens and has empathy but is also tough and does what she thinks is right. "She can push back when she needs to," Mitchell said.

Galvin initially intended to help like-minded candidates get elected before deciding to jump in herself, becoming part of a record number of women running for the House. Her own top-level campaign staff is all women, which she said was intentional, though she said that could change as the campaign grows.

Galvin, 53, said she was frustrated by what sees as a lack of leadership and the ongoing partisan rancor. Most registered voters in Alaska identify as independents, and Galvin said she's grateful the Democratic Party opened its primary to give those like her — whose values align closely with the party's — a voice.

It's important for people to work together, and that has been missing in Congress, she said. "I am one of those who just believes that we can find common ground enough to get things done," she said.

Health care costs are an ongoing concern for Alaskans. Galvin said she wants comprehensive coverage for everyone. She added, however, that there are things that can be done to fix the existing system in the meantime, including opening health care exchanges across state lines to expand coverage pools and enacting policies that lower prescription drug costs.

Galvin said she wouldn't take money from corporate political action committees but has accepted contributions from two union PACs, including $4,000 from the NEA Fund for Children and Public Education, the PAC of the major teachers union that endorsed her.

At a recent meet-and-greet at a tea shop in Juneau that played New Age-y music, whenever the conversation ebbed, Galvin would ask if there were more questions or concerns or ideas to share.

Aaron Brakel, a facilities manager who attended the event, said he was deciding between Galvin and Shein but said he liked what he heard from Galvin.

Galvin has mounted a vigorous campaign, crisscrossing the state — sometimes traveling in her family RV emblazoned with her campaign logo.

She said she respects Young's service, but it's time for new energy.

Young, 85, recently referred to cellphones as "the worst thing that God ever gave man." His spokeswoman says that's a reference to how phones can be distracting and says Young thinks traveling the state and speaking with people one-on-one is the best form of communication.

Galvin said people are excited she knows how to text and uses Facebook Live to engage with them.

In one Facebook video last month, Galvin recorded herself calling Young's office to lament his lack of response to President Donald Trump's summit with Russian President Vladimir Putin, which both Alaska's U.S. senators weighed in on.

The video was part tutorial — showing people how to call their congressman, down to giving them his office number — and part infomercial, saying she hopes people will call her, too, with concerns.

Associated Press reporter Mark Thiessen contributed to this report from Anchorage.

Court: Some sex offenders don't have to register in Alaska - Juneau Empire

Legislative News - Mon, 2018-08-13 06:16

Court: Some sex offenders don't have to register in Alaska
Juneau Empire
After hearing oral arguments and considering the facts, “neither Doe I nor Doe II is required to register under Alaska law,” the court wrote. “The problem is that the Legislature used specific language when it crafted the statute requiring similarity ...

and more »

Aretha Franklin ‘gravely ill’ in Detroit hospital, reports say

Alaska News - Mon, 2018-08-13 06:02

FILE - In this Feb. 11, 2011 file photo, Aretha Franklin smiles after the Detroit Pistons-Miami Heat NBA basketball game in Auburn Hills, Mich. Franklin is seriously ill, according to a person close to the singer. The person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the person was not allowed to publicly talk about the topic, told The Associated Press on Monday, Aug. 13, 2018, that Franklin is seriously ill. No more details were provided. (AP Photo/Paul Sancya, File) (Paul Sancya/)

Aretha Franklin is seriously ill, according to a person close to the singer.

The person, who spoke on the condition of anonymity because the person was not allowed to publicly talk about the topic, told The Associated Press on Monday that Franklin is seriously ill. No more details were provided.

A family member told a Detroit’s WDIV-TV Monday that the singer is “gravely ill.”

The Queen of Soul canceled planned concerts earlier this year after she was ordered by her doctor to stay off the road and rest up.

Last year, the 76-year-old icon announced her plans to retire, saying she would perform at “some select things.”

Democrats have their own foreign espionage problem

Alaska News - Mon, 2018-08-13 05:49

WASHINGTON -- Imagine if it emerged that the Republican chairman of the House or Senate intelligence committee had a Russian spy working on their senate staff. Think it would cause a political firestorm? Well, this week we learned that Sen. Diane Feinstein, D-Calif., had a Chinese spy on her staff who worked for her for 20 years, who was listed as an "office director" on payroll records and served as her driver when she was in San Francisco, all while reporting to China's Ministry of State Security though China's San Francisco Consulate. The reaction of the mainstream media? Barely a peep.

Feinstein acknowledged the infiltration, but downplayed its significance. "Five years ago the FBI informed me it had concerns that an administrative member of my California staff was potentially being sought out by the Chinese government to provide information" Feinstein said in statement -- which means the breach took place while Feinstein was heading the intelligence committee. But, Feinstein insisted, "he never had access to classified or sensitive information or legislative matters" and was immediately fired. In other words: junior staffer, no policy role, no access to secrets, quickly fired -- no big deal.

But it is a big deal. I asked several former senior intelligence and law enforcement officials how serious this breach might have been. "It's plenty serious," one former top Justice Department official told me. "Focusing on his driver function alone, in Mafia families, the boss's driver was among the most trusted men in the crew, because among other things he heard everything that was discussed in the car."

A former top CIA clandestine officer explained to me what the agency would do if they had recruited the driver of a senior official like Feinstein. "We would have the driver record on his phone all conversations that Feinstein would have with passengers and phone calls in her car. If she left her phone, iPad or laptop in the car while she went to meetings, social events, dinners, etc., we would have the driver download all her devices. If the driver drove for her for 20 years he would probably would have had access to her office and homes. We would have had the source put down an audio device in her office or homes if the opportunity presented itself. Depending on the take from all of what the source reported, we would use the info to target others that were close to her and exhibited some type of vulnerability."

"In short," this officer says, "we would have had a field day."

It seems improbable that Feinstein never once discussed anything sensitive in her car over a period of years. But let's assume that Feinstein was extraordinarily careful and never discussed any classified information in front of her driver or on any devices to which he had access. Even so, one former top intelligence official told me, "someone in that position could give an adversary a whole bunch on atmospherics and trends and attitudes which are from time to time far more important than the things we call secrets." He added "It's like [having access to her] unclassified emails." (And we all know no one ever exposes classified information on unclassified emails).

Washington is understandably focused on the threat from Russia. But according to FBI director Chris Wray, "China from a counterintelligence perspective represents the broadest, most pervasive, most threatening challenge we face as a country." It was China, after all, which hacked the Office of Personnel Management in 2015, stealing the SF-86 security clearance forms of many thousands of executive branch employees in the most devastating cyberattack in the history of our country. Beijing has successfully recruited FBI agents and State Department employees as spies, and has used information from U.S. informants to kill dozens of CIA sources inside the regime. And now, we know they recruited a high value senate staffer who worked in immediate proximity to the head of the senate intelligence committee.

Feinstein owes the country a detailed explanation of how she let a Chinese spy into her inner sanctum. And the media should give this security breach the same attention they would if it involved Russia and the Republicans.

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

Court: Some sex offenders don’t need to register in Alaska

Alaska News - Mon, 2018-08-13 05:40

JUNEAU — The Alaska Supreme Court has ruled that some sex offenders convicted outside the state are not required to register in Alaska.

The Juneau Empire reports the court ruled Friday that the Alaska Department of Public Safety does not have leeway when determining if out-of-state sex crimes match with offenses under Alaska law.

For registered sex offenders who moved to Alaska, it was up to the public safety department to determine if their names would be entered into Alaska's sex offender database.

Defense attorney Darryl Thompson, whose client's case was one of two that spurred the ruling, says the department was unrestricted in making that determination. He says the ruling calls for legislative solutions.

The state Department of Law declined to comment, saying it was still reviewing the court opinion.

U.S. News & World Report ranks Alaska Airlines’ Mileage Plan as the nation’s best airline rewards program

Alaska News - Mon, 2018-08-13 05:28

(AP Photo/Elaine Thompson) (Elaine Thompson/)

U.S. News & World Report recently announced their annual 2018-19 Best Travel Rewards Programs. Alaska Airlines' Mileage Plan made the No. 1 spot in the Best Airline Rewards Programs category for the fourth year running.

The report, which evaluates rewards programs based on criteria such as membership benefits and ease of use, cites Alaska's mileage-based earning structure, the option to cash in miles for free flights, and the elite members' benefits as reasons for its top ranking.

This may come as good news to former Virgin America Elevate members who were recently transferred to the Mileage Plan as a part of the merger between Virgin America and Alaska announced in 2017. Virgin America Elevate ranked 5th on the 2016-2017 list.

This year, Delta SkyMiles took the No. 2 spot for the second year in a row, and JetBlue's TrueBlue program ranked third. The report also includes a category for Best Hotel Rewards Programs; Marriott Rewards is in the No. 1 spot on that list.

The full listings for the Best Airline Rewards Programs and the Best Hotel Rewards Program are below:

Best Airline Rewards Programs

Alaska Airlines Mileage Plan

Delta SkyMiles

JetBlue TrueBlue

American Airlines AAdvantage

Southwest Rapid Rewards

United MileagePlus

Frontier Miles


Free Spirit

Best Hotel Rewards Programs

Marriott Rewards

Wyndham Rewards

World of Hyatt

Choice Privileges

Best Western Rewards

IHG Rewards Club

Radisson Rewards

La Quinta Returns

Invited (Small Luxury Hotels of the World)

Leaders Club

Hilton Honors

Sonesta Travel Pass

Stash Hotel Rewards

Omni Select Guest

Le Club Accorhotels

I Prefer Hotel Rewards