Alaska Dispatch News

Subscribe to Alaska Dispatch News feed
Updated: 1 hour 2 min ago

Portland suspect in 2 slayings on train is known for hate speech

1 hour 33 min ago

PORTLAND, Oregon — Jeremy Joseph Christian, the man accused of aggravated murder in the brutal knife slayings of two good Samaritans on the MAX, has described himself as a sociopath and threatened to kill or stab people in Facebook postings online.

"I AM TROUBLE," he said in an April comment.

He has shared anti-Muslim memes, espoused Nazi beliefs and called Oklahoma City bomber Timothy McVeigh a "true patriot."

Christian, 35, was booked into the Multnomah County Detention Center on suspicion of aggravated murder and attempted murder early Saturday morning, records show. He was also arrested on suspicion of misdemeanor charges, according to records. He's being held without bail.

He has a criminal history, including felony robbery, kidnapping and weapon convictions, records show. When he was 20 years old, he was shot in the face by Portland police after he robbed a convenience store.

On his Facebook page, Christian has spoken of his Nazi sympathies and posted a picture of Adolf Hitler in an album he called "Good Stuff." The Southern Poverty Law Center, which tracks extremist groups, said his posts reflected "an individual all over the political spectrum but indicates that he holds some racist and other extremist beliefs."

In one post, he says: "I want a job in Norway cutting off the heads of people that Circumcize Babies….Like if you agree!!!"

In March, he told someone on Facebook: "Since you brought up Violence I'm gonna stab some masked up bitchs protesting Black Metal shows as soon as they touch me."

Last December, he posted a photo of the Jonestown Massacre, saying, "I hold Revolutionary Suicide in the Highest Esteem!!!"

Christian's friends on Facebook unfollowed him throughout the day Saturday. More than 20 had unfriended him by midday.

Christian was a participant in the April 29 "March for Free Speech" on 82nd Avenue in Montavilla. He posted an OregonLive video of the event to his Facebook page, referencing himself as "the Lizard King" as he walked among fellow protesters holding American flags and "Trump Make America Great Again" flags.

"Nobody likes me," Christian wrote when he shared the video.

Another video of the event shows Christian, standing in a Burger King parking lot and wrapped in a Revolutionary War-era American flag, casting Nazi salutes while shouting: "Die Muslims!"

Federal prosecutors are in contact with the FBI and local law enforcement to consider whether hate crime or civil rights charges may be added against Jeremy Christian, Oregon's U.S. Attorney Billy J. Williams said Saturday.

"There's certainly a potential federal crimes could be added," Williams said. "We will look at all avenues working with our local partners. We just need to led the investigation progress."

Williams was headed Saturday afternoon for a debriefing with the Multnomah County District Attorney's Office and Portland Police Bureau.

Portland police spokesman Sgt. Pete Simpson said Saturday morning police are "familiar with the (April 29) incident," and that "certainly the detectives will be looking into his background."

Portland police chief Mike Marshman sent a note to Muslim community leaders assuring them that investigators were working on the case and adding, "With Ramadan beginning this evening, please know that the Portland Police Bureau stands by your side and will have extra police patrols for you."

On May 12, 2002, Christian handcuffed the owner of a North Portland market to a counter and stole cash and cigarettes.

The robbery at Ed's Market, a convenience store at North Lombard Street and Vancouver Avenue, occurred shortly after the store's 10 p.m. closing. Owner Bob Sung said at the time he was staying late to finish paperwork when a man walked in wearing a black ski mask, with openings cut out for the eyes, nose and mouth.

He looked around the store to see whether anyone else was inside and then walked out.

"I immediately recognized him. I know all the customers' faces," Sung told The Oregonian at the time. "I thought he was just joking or kidding. But then he walked back in."

North Precinct Officer Chris Devlin fired three shots as he was chasing Christian, striking him in his cheek. He was then brought to Legacy Emanuel Hospital & Health Center, in serious condition.

The two men killed in the stabbing on the MAX train Friday were trying to intervene as another man yelled racial slurs at two young women who appeared to be Muslim, including one wearing a hijab, police have said.

The suspect's mother, Mary Christian, told the Huffington Post that "I can't imagine he would do anything like this, unless he was on drugs or something."

"He's been in prison, he's always been spouting anti-establishment stuff, but he's a nice person," she said. "I just can't imagine."

Isaiah Bostic, who attended Applegate Elementary with Christian but later lost touch, said he seemed like a regular kid when they were growing up. "I would never think he was that kind of dude," Bostic said. "I don't remember nothing like that."

Neil Brookins said when he first heard about the stabbing, he immediately wondered if it was Christian. Then, when he learned the suspect had been ranting, he became really worried.

His worst suspicions, it appears, have turned out to be true.

Just last week, Brookins said, Christian came to his house and was acting strangely.

"He was being really wild. He couldn't stop talking," Brookins said. "He was almost talking to himself, ranting to himself."

Nobody answered the door Saturday afternoon at what is believed to be Christian's home, a two-story house on the corner of North Albina and Morgan.
Potted flowers and plants lined the front of the house. A window on the side of the house was propped up with a running fan.

A BMW bike with a for-sale sign dating it to 1976 was parked in front of the house, behind a white Chevy Cavalier.

A neighbor said there was nothing extraordinary about the family that lived across the street, where Christian lived with his parents.

"It's just the house on the corner," she said, declining to provide her name
Friday marked the start of Ramadan, a month-long fast observed by most of the world's 1.6 billion Muslims. Portland is home to a rough estimate of about 50,000 Muslims of different ethnicities.

One of the men was pronounced deceased on the train, the other died at a hospital. A third passenger who tried to help was also stabbed, but is expected to survive.

The suspect was ranting about many things, using "hate speech or biased language," and at one point focused on the young women, Simpson said in a news conference Friday evening at the Hollywood/Northeast 42nd Avenue Transit Center.

Officers arrested the suspect as he ran from the Hollywood transit station into the neighborhood near Providence Portland Medical Center in Northeast Portland. A video appears to show the suspect taunting police officers before his arrest.

Simpson thanked witnesses who called 911 and reported where the suspect went and what he was wearing.

"It was really critical to us taking this man into custody. (He was) obviously very dangerous based on his actions," he said.

Police ask anyone who has information about the stabbing to call a non-emergency line, 503-823-3333. A vigil is planned for Saturday night at the transit center.

Pilots to fly historic military planes to Dutch Harbor for 75th anniversary of bombing

2 hours 5 min ago

Pilots will fly two historic military planes to Dutch Harbor next week for the 75th anniversary of the bombing of the remote community in the Aleutian Islands.

On Saturday, people gathered at the Wings of Freedom hangar in Anchorage for a send-off party. They posed for photographs with the planes on display, and some took plane rides in the skies above the city.

The two planes — a Grumman G-21 Goose and a Harvard Mk IV — will leave for Dutch Harbor on Monday if weather conditions allow, said Suellyn Wright Novak, executive director of the Alaska Veterans Museum.

Events are planned in Dutch Harbor June 2-4 to remember the 1942 World War II raid by Japanese forces, as well as the Aleut evacuation, Novak said.

"The problem is 98 percent of Americans do not know that we were bombed and then invaded and occupied in World War II," she said. "Our primary mission is to ensure that those Aleutian campaign veterans are never forgotten and their stories are told."

The 75th anniversary event is a collaborative effort among the National Park Service, the Alaska Veterans Museum and the Ounalashka Corp., Novak said. It will include storytelling, a remembrance walk, an airmen memorial and an airplane display.

[The WWII raid that transformed Alaska]

Soldotna, Fairbanks athletes grab All-America honor for UAA track team

2 hours 13 min ago

The UAA track and field team received All-America performances from Soldotna's Danielle McCormick and Fairbanks' Tevin Gladden on the final day of the NCAA Division II track and field championships Saturday in Bradenton, Florida.

The Seawolves also got an All-America result from the men's 1,600-meter relay team, whose fourth-place finish helped the UAA men claim 13th place in the team standings. The women placed 62nd.

McCormick, a sophomore, grabbed seventh place in the 800 meters with a time of 2 minutes, 8.72 seconds. Gladden, a senior, tied for seventh place in the high jump with a jump of 6 feet, 10.75 inches.

First-team All-America honors go to the top eight finishers in each event, and the Seawolves finished with five top-eight efforts in the three-day meet.

The team of Nicholas Taylor, Liam Lindsay, Travis Turner and Adam Commandeur provided one of those results by placing fourth in the 1,600-meter relay with a time of 3:10.86

On Thursday, Dominik Notz of Germany ran to third place in the men's 10,000 meters and on Friday, Edwin Kangogo of Kenya claimed sixth place in the 3,000-meter steeplechase.

Notz followed up his strong 10,000 run with a 10th-place finish in Saturday's 5,000 meters. He clocked 14:27.09 in his final race for UAA, a career in which he earned All-America honors nine times in track and cross-country.

How to recover — and learn lessons — from a career mistake

2 hours 16 min ago

Q: Life coaching is my passion and I started a small life coaching business a year ago. Before that, I worked for someone else. Working for her grated on me, as she never listened to my business advice or suggestions about how to better handle employees, including me. As a result, we went through several receptionists, which was a great inconvenience.

I worked hard as an employee but she never seemed to appreciate it. In the summer, when she could have said, "You've all done a great job. Take off early Friday afternoon," she kept us working until five.

Finally, I did the math. She made more from the clients I worked with than I did. So I began planning to go out on my own. My friends and even my clients gave me encouragement. Many told me that if I went out on my own, particularly if I could charge just a little bit less, they'd switch over to me.

So I quit, and started my own coaching business. At first I was wildly successful because many of my former clients followed me. Then, because Alaska's economy got worse, some of my clients moved out of state. Other clients decided they couldn't afford to continue coaching. A couple felt that they'd "graduated."

I expected that each client who left would tell her friends and I'd get referrals. I got some but not many. My landlord unexpectedly raised my lease rate six months after I started my business, and because I was renting month to month, I had no protection. I could have found a new location but didn't feel I could afford the disruption. I started to worry about what would happen if I got sick and couldn't keep a regular schedule.

When I added all the expenses, I realized I'd do better as an employee, working perhaps in human services and running my life coaching practice in the evenings and on weekends. I'm back on the job market, but my former employer tells prospective employers who call that I'm "not eligible for rehire."

Also, I'm embarrassed to have failed and this bleeds through into my coaching. A client this morning told me I don't seem confident, and I'm afraid she's going to drop me. I urge all of my clients to be the heroine of their life story and follow their dreams, but my dream crashed. Can you help?

A: Let go of your embarrassment. You had a dream and it didn't work out. No matter how good we are or how well we plan, things don't always go as we hope and expect. If this was the story of your life, you could view what happened as a plot twist, a setback that you as the heroine need to deal with as you move forward toward an even more wonderful climax. If you were coaching yourself, you'd ask, "what have you learned?" and "where do you go from here?"

Here's what you may have learned. You had no idea how hard running a successful small business might be. You focused on the revenue each client brought in, without realizing what it cost your former employer to secure those clients, or to pay expenses such as rent, utilities,  supplies and your salary. You discounted your former employer because she didn't close up shop on sunny Friday afternoons, but perhaps she couldn't afford to. Your new knowledge can make you a better life coach.

Next, if this is your life story, quitting isn't an option. Yes, reality slammed a hard fist into your stomach, but perhaps it's time that you took an honest look in the mirror and assessed your strengths and weaknesses so you can regroup and move on. Isn't that what you'd tell any of your life coaching clients?

Your strengths include that you're passionate about life coaching and willingly took an entrepreneurial risk. Your weaknesses may include ethics and a tendency to judge others — and now yourself. For example, you appear to have started your business by siphoning off your former employer's clients. You judged your former employer as lacking because she didn't listen to your business advice. You described receptionist turnover as a great inconvenience, when it may have been unavoidable, and now you hold your failure against yourself.

Here's what is great about failure. As a wise woman once said, life is the classroom that gives you tests before it outlines the lessons you need to learn.

Priest crushes Trent/Waldron half-marathon field

2 hours 36 min ago

Cody Priest turned in a dominating effort in Saturday's Trent/Waldron Glacier Half Marathon, winning the 13.1-mile race by more than four minutes.

Priest clocked 1:16:17 in the event that began and ended at Westchester Lagoon. Taking the women's title was April Nelson in 1:32:26.

In the 10K Pulsator companion race, titles went to Anna Dalton (38:17) and Chris Smith (35:10), with Dalton beating all but two of the men.

Trent/Waldron Glacier Half Marathon

Women's half marathon

1) April Nelson, 1:32:26; 2) Joanne Bozek, 1:33:11; 3) Michelle Mitchell, 1:33:41; 4) Samantha Wilson, 1:35:33; 5) Mariah Graham, 1:36:41; 6) Kellie Richmond, 1:38:21; 7) Lena Palmer , 1:40:25; 8) Maria Whitworth, 1:40:45; 9) Kate Blair, 1:40:46; 10) Andrea Ward, 1:41:48; 11) Susan Craig, 1:42:59; 12) Laura McDonough, 1:43:11; 13) Kelti Lorence, 1:44:05; 14) Dorothy Shearn, 1:44:20; 15) Elizabeth Knapp, 1:44:36; 16) Trish Lacey, 1:44:42; 17) Lucy Swygman, 1:45:05; 18) Andrea Clark, 1:45:20; 19) Chris Clark, 1:46:17; 20) Tammy Weaver, 1:46:19; 21) Justina Jaminet, 1:46:20; 22) Marie Evans, 1:46:44; 23) Sarah Haltness, 1:46:46; 24) Tricia Fields, 1:47:32; 25) Eva Hall, 1:48:36; 26) Kari Lovett, 1:48:50; 27) Amanda Day, 1:48:55; 28) Julie Ross, 1:49:49; 29) Jackie Minge, 1:51:08; 30) Kim Stahlnecker, 1:52:01; 31) Erin O'Connell, 1:52:41; 32) Jennifer Gates, 1:52:43; 33) Jill McLeod, 1:52:58; 34) Kristina Anderson, 1:53:37; 35) Brenna Larson, 1:54:14; 36) Deana Watson, 1:54:37; 37) Alyssa Hargis, 1:54:48; 38) Kyra Meyer, Valdez 1:54:56; 39) Nina Schwinghammer, 1:55:06; 40) Theresa Phillips, 1:55:38; 41) Karla Secor, 1:57:07; 42) Katie Myers, 1:57:47; 43) Kathy Jacobsen, 1:58:10; 44) Kristin Stadsklev, 1:59:49; 45) Sarah Kleedehn, 2:00:04; 46) Michelle Fabry, 2:00:21; 47) Zaz Hollander, 2:00:50; 48) Kelsey Tranel, 2:01:00; 49) Sarah Hurkett, 2:01:19; 50) Melanee Stinnett-Voss, 2:01:51; 51) Janet Warner, 2:02:06; 52) Janet Mamikunian, 2:02:11; 53) Julie Haltness, 2:02:48; 54) Emily Soule, 2:02:55; 55) Mary Ann Renkert, 2:03:19; 56) Laura Southwell, 2:04:16; 57) Kelly Daugherry, 2:04:38; 58) Allison Atteberry, 2:04:39; 59) Kelley Jansen, 2:04:59; 60) Natalie Bickers, 2:06:57; 61) Emily Becker, 2:07:38; 62) Heather Velasquez, 2:07:47; 63) Diane Johannes, 2:07:49; 64) Milca Widmer, 2:07:58; 65) laura peterson, 2:09:21; 66) Amy Scharpf, 2:09:38; 67) Jen Novobilski, 2:11:00; 68) Kari Burrell, 2:11:16; 69) Angela Craft, 2:12:30; 70) Laurel Foster, 2:13:25; 71) Jean Cumlat, 2:13:48; 72) Andrea Kordik, 2:13:57; 73) Victoria Flint, 2:14:39; 74) BRANDE MANSFIELD, 2:15:22; 75) Joyce Khann, 2:15:24; 76) Aimee Woodley, 2:16:14; 77) Patricia O'Gorman, 2:16:34; 78) Rianne Campbell, 2:16:43; 79) Julie Harvey, 2:17:01; 80) Padi McFadden, Concord 2:17:35; 81) Grace McCarty, 2:18:57; 82) Sonja Lynm, 2:19:31; 83) Echo McDonald, 2:19:51; 84) Destiny Lee, 2:19:57; 85) Linda Remaley, 2:22:13; 86) Rose Osborn, 2:22:55; 87) Nicole Kordik, 2:23:44; 88) Linda Olmstead, 2:23:57; 89) Kate Swaby, Soldotna 2:27:51; 90) Melanie Clark, 2:29:15; 91) Marissa Gingery, 2:29:22; 92) Heather Guthrie, 2:32:24; 93) Veronica Vania, 2:37:27; 94) Nancy Wingate, 2:37:28; 95) Leah Schilling, 2:37:43; 96) Debbie Lorence, 2:44:40; 97) Maria Sweppy, 2:51:15; 98) Deanna Beck, 2:53:38; 99) Susan Miche Greer, 2:53:39; 100) Dawn Hansen, 2:55:38; 101) Deborah White, 3:10:10; 102) Lesha Jones, 3:20:31.

Men's half marathon

1) Cody Priest, 1:16:17; 2) James Miller, 1:21:40; 3) Christopher Ashland, 1:21:59; 4) Eric Lashway, Saint Johns 1:22:28; 5) Lloyd Raines, 1:26:03; 6) Kyle Cheesbrough, 1:27:00; 7) Chester Gilmore, 1:28:15; 8) Gunner Bahn, 1:28:24; 9) Christopher Walker, 1:29:14; 10) Michael Bourdukofsky, 1:29:44; 11) Sam Saunders, 1:30:21; 12) Gregory Scofield, 1:30:41; 13) Beau Wood, 1:30:54; 14) Scott Ivany, 1:32:22; 15) Mike Heatwole, 1:32:23; 16) Randy Williams, 1:32:28; 17) Craig Gulledge, 1:32:54; 18) Thomas Burton, 1:34:14; 19) Erik Pihl, 1:34:29; 20) Adam Perlin, 1:34:44; 21) Andy Bartel, 1:34:45; 22) Colin Reedy, 1:34:49; 23) John Fick, 1:35:30; 24) Clay Crossett, 1:35:48; 25) Connor Priest, 1:36:08; 26) Mario Galindo, 1:36:29; 27) Matthew Cahill, 1:38:25; 28) Dominic Ancona, 1:38:37; 29) Daniel Carson, 1:40:32; 30) Larry Nickell, 1:41:00; 31) Richard Hansen, 1:42:24; 32) Hunter Crumley, 1:42:48; 33) Steve Cockrell, 1:43:24; 34) Richard Campbell, Redmond 1:44:23; 35) Daniel Delfino, 1:44:29; 36) Regan Sarwas, 1:48:02; 37) Rob Campbell, 1:49:07; 38) Mark Jacobsen, 1:49:27; 39) Matt Childs, 1:50:05; 40) john brewer, 1:50:43; 41) Don Connelly, 1:50:49; 42) Ed Leonetti, 1:51:25; 43) Nathan Gold, 1:51:55; 44) Brant Grifka, 1:52:24; 45) Justin Stennes, 1:53:15; 46) Cloyd Crow, 1:53:52; 47) Sam Crow, 1:53:52; 48) Alan Drake, 1:54:23; 49) Robert Golde, 1:55:51; 50) Alan Parkinson, 1:56:04; 51) Nico Romeijn-Stout, 1:56:23; 52) Tom Quimby, 1:56:29; 53) Jerry Claussen, 1:59:02; 54) Leo Lashock, 1:59:29; 55) Mark Stadsklev, 1:59:49; 56) Johnny Khatthamane, 2:00:13; 57) Frank Cahill, 2:00:20; 58) Ty Ketchum, 2:00:37; 59) Keith Harvey, 2:00:52; 60) Gerard Radstaat, Meerkerk 2:03:06; 61) Scott Yahr, 2:03:31; 62) Nate Wilson, 2:04:07; 63) Carlo Rapanut, 2:04:17; 64) Raj Choudhury, 2:04:33; 65) Justin Atteberry, 2:04:39; 66) Shamarcus Grayson, 2:04:59; 67) Frank Thomson, 2:05:03; 68) Robert Muncy, 2:07:46; 69) Johnny Johnson, 2:11:19; 70) Ed Sears, 2:13:18; 71) Richard Hickman, 2:13:38; 72) Mark Thomas, 2:17:22; 73) Dave Hill, 2:17:36; 74) Sonny Adams, 2:18:12; 75) Aaron Rocereta, 2:19:01; 76) Edward Osborn, 2:22:55; 77) Stuart Jackson, 2:32:19; 78) James Feaster, 2:36:10; 79) Andrew Mullins, 2:53:25; 80) Don Ford, 2:57:02.

Women's 10K Pulsator

1) Anna Dalton, 38:17; 2) Mandy Vincent-Lang, 38:52; 3) Michelle Baxter, 39:55; 4) Kimberly Coscia, 42:29; 5) Riley Burroughs, 42:29; 6) Whitney Bouchard, 43:09; 7) Kari Skinner, 45:51; 8) Joanne Allan, 46:11; 9) Kristine Percival, 47:17; 10) Breanna Day, 47:35; 11) Tammi Linn, Kenai 48:29; 12) Kendall Stevens, 48:33; 13) Tracie Jean Haan, 49:56; 14) Julie Michels, 50:24; 15) Marci Cartier, 51:44; 16) Pam Tittle, 52:26; 17) Roman Rubio, 52:36; 18) Annette Funk, 52:38; 19) Cynthia Wymer, 52:42; 20) Michelle Cox, 53:33; 21) Jaena Tranberg, 53:45; 22) Tiffany Tam, 53:59; 23) Ashley Mattson, 54:07; 24) Janet Petersen, 54:25; 25) Alicia Miner, Quinhagak 54:27; 26) Sharity Sommer, 54:32; 27) Alexandra Post, 54:56; 28) Sara Lopez, 55:00; 29) Lesley Yamauchi, 55:01; 30) Diana Carter, 55:03; 31) Elizabeth Calabro, 55:21; 32) Bethany Essary, 55:24; 33) Megan Peltier, 55:30; 34) Margaret Stroble, 55:33; 35) Leslie Boughton, 55:37; 36) Christy Schwartz, 55:43; 37) Angela Randall, 55:51; 38) Jamey Bradbury, 56:02; 39) Linda Shaw, 56:41; 40) Lisa DeLoney, 56:46; 41) Kerry Clark, 57:19; 42) Cathi Geerin, 57:46; 43) Sheila Savoie, 58:03; 44) June Takagi, 58:05; 45) Jennifer McGrath, 58:15; 46) Robyn Ellison, 58:26; 47) Deborah Chambers, 58:34; 48) Pauline Ruddy, 58:45; 49) Abby Beltz, 59:31; 50) Pam Barbeau, 59:43; 51) Grace Atteberry, 1:01:27; 52) Aunnie Steward, 1:01:33; 53) Emily Niebuhr, 1:01:51; 54) Roxy Petrilla, 1:02:18; 55) ELIZABETH LOPEZ, 1:03:39; 56) Kim Baldwin, 1:03:42; 57) Jessica Tabor, 1:03:44; 58) Darci Horner, 1:03:48; 59) Pok Maley, 1:03:52; 60) Elizabeth Saunders, 1:03:59; 61) Teresa Combs-Fisher, 1:04:00; 62) Anna Maria Parkinson, 1:04:33; 63) Tiffany Bruns, 1:04:49; 64) Sarah White, 1:05:30; 65) Frances Haering, 1:05:37; 66) Dana Hubbard, 1:06:08; 67) Ella Atteberry, 1:06:09; 68) Marcie Stavich, 1:06:10; 69) Heidi Hill, 1:06:41; 70) Margaret Petersen, 1:07:52; 71) Karen Loeffler, 1:07:56; 72) Kristin Blees, 1:07:57; 73) Melynda Belde, 1:08:00; 74) Ann Gray, 1:08:06; 75) Mary Kurniawan, 1:08:48; 76) Amintha Ratnayake, 1:08:49; 77) Mary Flanigin,1:09:01; 78) Kate Nixon, 1:09:32; 79) Louanne Lum, 1:09:33; 80) Kelly Bigelow, 1:10:51; 81) Erin Egan, 1:10:59; 82) Fay Ondelacy, 1:12:34; 83) Elizabeth Hodges, 1:13:39; 84) Jodie Mack, 1:13:54; 85) Joan Galt, 1:15:02; 86) Judy Krier, 1:17:54; 87) Rachelle Martie, 1:18:44; 88) Sheryl Gillespie, 1:19:27; 89) Charlyn Espejo-Monyer, 1:19:38; 90) Christina Chisholm, 1:20:45; 91) Ruth Cardoso, 1:21:28; 92) Nancy Gould, 1:22:07; 93) Catherine Mullins, 1:22:20; 94) Traci Caudill, Chugiak 1:27:40; 95) Carrie Erickson, 1:30:06; 96) Ashley Harris, 1:30:33; 97) Diane NICKELL, 1:31:47; 98) Kristin Delfino, 1:31:49; 99) Jessie Lavoie, 1:33:52; 100) Ouida Morrison, 1:34:51; 101) Corrine Wiseman, 1:39:17; 102) Tiffany Thomas, 1:40:29; 103) Janine Sears, 1:40:46; 104) Lindsay Edman, 1:42:54; 105) Lisa Santos, 1:49:36; 106) Denise Demetree-Tromb, Chugiak 1:49:37; 107) Terri Dennett, 1:50:09; 108) Paula Colescott, 2:01:04; 109) Jo Ann Bartley, 2:01:12.

Men's 10K Pulsator

1) Chris Smith, 35:10; 2) Brian Kirchner, 36:00; 3) Chad Trammell, 38:18; 4) Michael Ulroan, 44:33; 5) Brent Williams, 45:12; 6) Joshua ESTES, 45:50; 7) Zach Frain, 46:00; 8) Aaron Ramirez, 46:11; 9) Justin Carpenter, 47:25; 10) Jack Bonney, 47:52; 11) Mark Lyle Wiley, 48:47; 12) Michael Stahl, 49:03; 13) Jordan Hedges, 50:20; 14) Jeffrey Martie, 50:28; 15) Dan Baldwin, 50:39; 16) Mark Roseberry, 51:13; 17) Tom Schultz, 51:28; 18) Cody Christ, 52:03; 19) Clint Sengmany, 52:18; 20) Michael White, 52:33; 21) Jeff ESTES, 53:26; 22) Edward Hills, 53:45; 23) Jason Zottola, 54:19; 24) Trent Taylor, 54:40; 25) Vern Randall, 55:51; 26) Thomas Pittman, 58:58; 27) Chad Bouchard, 59:39; 28) Jason Sanders, 59:44; 29) Tylere Schmitt, 59:52; 30) Rodney Kleedehn, 1:03:26; 31) Bill Kane, 1:04:55; 32) Peter McGlashan, 1:05:40; 33) Jason De Heus, 1:05:41; 34) Josue Carreon, 1:20:58; 35) Tyler Thomas, 1:24:01; 36) Lawrence Bigelow, 1:24:28; 37) Jessie Caudill, 1:27:41; 38) Matt Edman, 1:42:52.

South rallies to win 2nd straight CIC softball championship

2 hours 39 min ago

With the conference's player of the year in the pitching circle and an undefeated record on the line, the South Wolverines rallied Saturday to defeat East 7-5 for their second straight Cook Inlet Conference softball championship.

CIC Player of the Year Danni Desjarlais tossed a seven-strikeout no-hitter and the Wolverines poured on four runs in the fifth inning to take the lead for good.

Heading into the state tournament, the Wolverines were undefeated at 24-0.

But the championship win didn't come without some adversity at Albrecht Fields. East took an early 3-0 lead through the first inning and led 4-3 heading into the fifth.

South was propelled at the plate by a pair of big home runs from Sophie Hultberg (2 runs, 2 RBIs) and Anika Valdez (1 run, 3 RBIs).

East's Nicollette Dabs (1 run, 2 RBIs) also hit a home run and Daisy Page provided two runs and an RBI for the T-birds.

Five South players were named to the All-CIC teams and East garnered four honors.

East and South could face each other again in the state tournament, which begins Thursday at South Davis Park Complex in Fairbanks.

All-Cook Inlet Conference teams

Player of the Year
Danni Desjarlais, South

Coach of the Year
Joe White, South

First team

Lesley Bingham, West
Danni Desjarlais, South
Kamryn Frisk, Service
Haily Greening, Service
Katie Hanson, Dimond
Ashton Jessee, South
Emma Kleven, South
Mikeala Lawrence, Dimond
Daisy Page, East
Rebecca Syrup, West
Precious Tofaeona, East
Tristen Tolan, South

Second team

Alina Cook, Eagle River
Nicolette Dabbs, East
Eva Damril, West
Regina Devoue-Gonitzke, Dimond
Sophia Hultberg, South
Megan Luther, Dimond
Allegra Mergen, Chugiak
Christa Rapoza, Bartlett
Kylie Seagroves, Chugiak
Chloe White, East

A bad health care system is about to get worse, thanks to politics

3 hours 47 min ago

House Republicans couldn't wait for the results of the Congressional Budget Office's assessment of their bill to repeal and replace "Obamacare," so they rushed the vote on it. They passed the American Health Care Act in early May.

And now we know. It's a disaster.

The CBO released findings that estimate 23 million people will lose their insurance, only 1 million fewer than a previous version of the plan that failed in the House in March. If it's passed by the Senate and adopted into law, the costs of coverage will escalate for millions more. Older and poorer Americans will be disproportionately affected. The rich will be rewarded with lower premiums.

After the CBO released its analysis, Republicans predictably questioned its accuracy while Democrats issued grim warnings. Absent was any bipartisan resolve to improve the current health care system.

A booklet that has been sitting on my desk for a month beckoned. Spiral-bound, it's titled "The Face of our ACA: Stories from the Kansas City Metro Area."

[Here's what could happen to your health care in
Alaska under the ACHA]

It's a collection of accounts written by average citizens detailing their health care dilemmas. Their words are simple, direct — like something your neighbor might convey over the fence or a cup of coffee. And you'd listen.

Getting Congress to listen is another matter.

A grandmother writes of her 3-year-old granddaughter, diagnosed with cancer. She includes a beautiful color photograph of the girl, which graces the cover.

She's wearing a pink princess dress, a plastic scepter at her side. The look on her face is one of stern resolve, unusually serious for a toddler wearing what is surely a favorite frilly dress-up outfit.

The little girl is bald. And it's somehow obvious, without reading the accompanying text, that her hair loss is the effect of radiation and chemotherapy. The little girl was diagnosed 18 days after the family signed up for the Affordable Care Act, "Obamacare."

"The bills for her treatment are approaching $2 million," her grandmother writes. "Without the ACA, I don't know what this family would have done."

Probably separate the girl from her three siblings, she guesses, so that the ill daughter could get treatment at charity care out of state. Or the family would go bankrupt.

[23 million would lose health insurance under the ACHA, CBO says]

The booklet is handmade, printed at home from a computer by a Kansas City area woman, Janis Deveney. She solicited people's stories via social media, printed them up and sent the compilation to Kansas and Missouri members of Congress.

One can easily imagine identical booklets compiled in every congressional district in the country. And they should be.

A mother writes of her adult son, who had a pre-existing condition of asthma and avoided going to the doctor because of his health plan's high deductible, fearing the out-of-pocket expense. He wound up in the emergency room in 2012 with chest pains and difficulty breathing, which the doctor assessed as his asthma acting up.

"He was treated and discharged. He was very frugal and knew he couldn't afford the ER visit. Later that week, he had the same symptoms. I was not aware of this. The following weekend he had cardiac arrest and died. He was my only child."

She concludes: "People need affordable health care and not (to) be punished with high premiums and high out-of-pocket expenses because they have pre-existing conditions. … (T)hey defer care and some die."

The pages turn easily. The stories are short and compellingly frank. Many speak of their jobs, of savings decimated by hospital and prescription bills costs, and of their fears of being without coverage.

Cancer, heart disease, diabetes — medical maladies know no political bounds.

Nor do the cruel effects of aging. Anyone can suffer a debilitating health crisis. At some point in their life, most people will.

The point is made anecdote by anecdote, deftly and jarringly.

Interestingly, one subject the writers mostly avoid is politics. How I wish the same were true of Congress. Passing solid health care reform aimed at improving the lives of the most vulnerable among us should be the aim — not pressing political advantage.

Literally, the health of the nation relies upon transcending politics. And yet it is partisan preening that has carried the day.

Mary Sanchez is an opinion-page columnist for The Kansas City Star. Readers may write to her at: Kansas City Star, 1729 Grand Blvd., Kansas City, MO 64108-1413, or via email at

The views expressed here are the writer's and are not necessarily endorsed by Alaska Dispatch News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email Send submissions shorter than 200 words to 

Court rejects First Amendment challenge to Homer City Council recall

4 hours 4 min ago

A Superior Court judge has declined to stop an upcoming Homer City Council recall election, rejecting a challenge that argued the recall violated the freedom of speech rights of the three council members facing the recall.

In a ruling issued late Tuesday, Superior Court Judge Erin Marston wrote that the recall petition was legally sufficient and disagreed with the claim that the petitions violated the council members' First Amendment right to freedom of speech. Marston said the Alaska Constitution provides that all publicly elected officials be subject to recall and guards against any barriers that would make it impossible for a citizen to bring forth that recall petition, such as rulings that would make it necessary for legal counsel to assist with the petition.

"To conclude that anytime a recall petition is based in part or in whole on what a politician said is protected by the First Amendment would be to eviscerate the recall statute to such an extent that the populace would almost never be able to seek recall of any of their elected officials," the ruling stated. "It is not what the Alaska Constitution and statutes contemplate and it is an unreasonable interpretation of the law."

The suit, in which the Alaska Civil Liberties Union of Alaska participated, involved a petition for a recall vote filed against three city council members — Donna Aderhold, David Lewis and Catriona Reynolds — who introduced a controversial resolution that called for the city to support inclusivity of all people, especially those of minority populations. The resolution was voted down 5-1.

A draft form of the resolution called for the city to resist efforts to profile undocumented immigrants and other vulnerable populations, echoing so-called "sanctuary city" measures adopted elsewhere. It was subsequently edited to remove explicit references to undocumented immigrants as well as references to President Donald Trump, but not before being circulated on social media sites, drawing an explosive response from opponents.

The petition for recall was requested shortly after the vote, and also included a reference to another resolution, which expressed opposition to the construction of the Dakota Access pipeline. That resolution passed in November after Mayor Bryan Zak broke the 3-3 tie in favor.

Homer City Clerk Jo Johnson ruled two of the three claims of the petition had substance and certified the petition, setting a recall election date of June 13.

In rejecting the legal challenge, Marston ruled that it was not the court's place to second-guess the clerk's reasonable interpretation.

"The Supreme Court has instructed courts to not review recall petitions in such a strict manner that petitioners would have no practical chance of qualifying for the ballot without the detailed advice of a lawyer," he wrote. "To do so would negate the recall process for citizens of small communities and school districts in rural Alaska."

In a statement released Tuesday afternoon, Sarah Vance, spokesperson for Heartbeat of Homer, a group organized to support the recall petitions, said the organization is very pleased with the ruling.

"It is our goal that every voter in Homer have an equal voice at the ballot box regarding the recall special election set for June 13," Vance wrote.

Vance contested the council members' claim that their free speech rights had been violated and continued that the lawsuit itself proves them unfit for office.

"Heartbeat of Homer is prepared to take whatever actions necessary to ensure these three council members will no longer serve as our elected officials," Vance wrote.

Aderhold said she was disappointed in the judge's ruling because of its precedent.

"My interest in participating in the lawsuit is to protect the integrity of our election system and ensure recalls are held for valid grounds," she said in a statement. "I pride myself on truthfulness, following process, and being open and deliberative. If council members can face recall for representing constituents by sponsoring resolutions and voting, which is what we were elected to do, then voters lose their representation and we are heading for chaos."

This story first appeared in the Homer Tribune and is republished here by permission.

St. Lawrence Island tribal groups tried to protect walruses. Now the animal they rely on faces a threat they cannot control.

4 hours 13 min ago

Second in a series. 

SAVOONGA — Long ago, the walruses were almost wiped out, and with them the people of St. Lawrence Island.

Commercial whalers were the danger. Now a new threat is emerging from the changing sea.

The island used to be home to an estimated 4,000 residents in dozens of villages. Today the population is 1,400, and they live in just two villages, Savoonga and Gambell.

In the late 1800s, commercial whalers slaughtered an estimated 140,000 walruses, mainly for fat and ivory, according to a 1980 study prepared for Arctic oil development that relied on old whaling logbooks. Someone from the island found old records in Washington, D.C., that suggested the slaughter was closer to 400,000.

"The unrecorded part we don't even know," said Delbert Pungowiyi, president of Savoonga's tribe.

Whalers also brought new diseases and traded barrels of alcohol for ivory, fox skins and polar bear furs. Some local men drank too much and failed to prepare for winter, Pungowiyi said, retelling the old stories.

[Part 1: For two Alaska villages, walruses remain essential. As sea ice disappears, can it last?]

And walruses were no longer there. Between 1878 and 1880, a great famine killed many of the St. Lawrence Island Native people, according to historical reports and descendants of those who survived.

"The unimaginable depletion of the walrus and the seals is what really caused the big famine," Pungowiyi said.

Russians also hunted them to feed farmed foxes and minks and Alaska Native hunters to feed dog teams and sometimes for ivory. But gradually walruses recovered.

These days most Pacific walruses look fat and healthy, say hunters and government biologists.

Walruses forage on the sea floor for clams, snails, worms and other sea animals. A population crash in the 1980s might have been caused by their own overpopulation.

Researchers still are trying to count Pacific walruses and whether the population is going up or down.

The animals cover a huge range in the Bering and Chukchi seas. They spend their lives mainly in water, and so are challenging to spot. A new preliminary estimate puts the number at a healthy 280,000, said Jim MacCracken, who oversees walrus and sea otter programs for the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

It could be as low as 90,000 or as high as 470,000, he said.

'No ice this year'

Years ago thick polar ice surrounded much of 100-mile-long St. Lawrence Island each winter. Broken pack ice remained even when the main ice went out, said Roy Waghiyi, Savoonga tribal treasurer, pointing out spots on a map at the IRA building, for the Indian Reorganization Act.

"Now this ice is gone also. No ice this year," said Waghiyi, 60.

That new reality came up in almost every conversation during a week in April on the island.

"It didn't last long," said Larry Kava, 76, a tribal leader.

"This year is probably a record breaker," Pungowiyi, 57, said. "Three and a half months of winter as opposed to nine months."

Only in January did the freezeup begin and three months later, the ice was gone. It never had time to thicken.

On most of the island, rough seas sidelined aluminum skiffs on beaches.

With no protective shorefast ice, big waves along the north shore at Savoonga crushed barrel-sized ice into softball-sized bits in the space of one April afternoon.

Thin ice is quick to go, said Edmond Apassingok, a Gambell resident, hunter and village corporation leader. Winds push it away, higher temperatures melt it like butter in a pan, waves pulverize it into snowcone material.

Walruses prefer stable, thick ice for haulouts, where they rest between dives for food, said Paul Rookok, 76, the former president of the Savoonga tribe. Calves are better protected from orcas there too, he said.

"They don't trust that ice so much," he said of thin ice.

Thousands of the animals died in stampedes in 2007 after congregating along the Russia coast in haulouts that grew big as sea ice disappeared. Some may have been spooked by planes or vessels. Now there's more guidance on how to prevent that. Calves especially are vulnerable and have died along Alaska beaches too.

It's been 20 or 30 years since wind-blown layers of thick pack ice pushed up to the island, said Paul Apangalook, 65, president of Gambell's village corporation, Sivuqaq Inc.

"I think changes happened long before Western man noticed," Apangalook said.

Higher Bering Sea temperatures are causing the sea to freeze later and the ice to begin to melt earlier, said Phyllis Stabeno, a Seattle-based oceanographer with the U.S. National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration.

This year's short ice life was startling, she said.

"As scientists looking at the big ice maps, we were seeing it and they were living it," Stabeno said.

As of April, the amount of Arctic sea ice, including that in the Bering Sea, was down by 394,000 square miles from the long-term average, according to the National Snow and Ice Data Center. That is a loss the size of Texas and New Mexico combined.

Village residents get ready

In the living room of a house in old town Savoonga, a group of local residents spent a Saturday in April assembling label kits for when the walruses come in. They are the walrus monitors, hired each year by the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service to meet the boats of returning hunters during prime walrus season. They help track the legal harvest of ivory and provide the government with information on walruses and hunting conditions.

The monitors attach temporary labels to each tusk. Most years they also collect samples for scientists from the liver, meat, skin, whiskers, ovaries and other parts, depending on the research underway. This year, they are collecting teeth and muscle that can be used in genetic studies to estimate the population.

The monitors collect information, too. How long was the trip? How far did hunters travel to get walruses? What other animals were taken?

Since 1989, Savoonga and Gambell combined have brought home more than 26,800 walruses, far more than anywhere else. In all, more than 35,500 walruses were taken by hunters in that time from 47 Alaska villages. Russian hunters got some too.

As of the last four years, Savoonga and Gambell are averaging about 250 walruses a year per village, about half of what they got in the 1990s. Bad weather, deteriorating ice and high fuel costs all contribute to the drop in harvest.

Another once-big walrus community, Little Diomede, has been getting fewer than 10 a year. Some walrus-hunting villages now get one or two, or none.

Are walruses threatened?

Biologists are now asking whether diminishing sea ice poses a new threat to ice-loving walruses.

The Fish and Wildlife Service is facing a Sept. 30 deadline on whether to list walruses as threatened or endangered in response to a petition filed in 2008 by the Center for Biological Diversity. The environmental group calls the disappearance of sea ice a grave threat to animals that use it for resting platforms as they forage along the sea floor.

Studies from radio-tagged walruses indicate that those on land haulouts are spending a lot more energy traveling to feeding areas and less time resting or foraging than walruses that can rest on ice, according to Chad Jay, lead walrus researcher with the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service.

Residents worry that hunting will be limited or halted if walruses receive extra protections.

Restricted hunting is unlikely, said MacCracken, of the Fish and Wildlife Service.

Walruses are abandoning ice when it is too far from feeding grounds and making new haulouts on land, he said.

"The walrus have kind of figured out — somewhat — what is going on and adapted to that," MacCracken said.

Unless walrus numbers crash, Alaska Native hunters should not face restrictions under the Endangered Species Act, he said.

Savoonga and Gambell are taking action themselves through tribal law. A flier on the wall at the lodge in Gambell titled "The Importance of the Marine Mammal Ordinance" explains how the villages that so rely on walrus are using old ways to conserve in modern times.

"Our goal is to protect marine mammals and their habitat, and to assure that walrus continue to play a defining role in the cultural identity of our children and grandchildren and beyond," the flier says.

Tribal groups put limits on walrus

Back in 1934, Savoonga and Gambell set their own quotas to keep their food source from being wiped out, said Kava, a current tribal leader. Modern rifles and, later, Lund skiffs, were highly effective compared to harpoons and skin boats, he said.

A cap of four walruses per boat per trip was reinstated in 2010 under new tribal ordinances. (Savoonga recently raised the limit from four to six adult walruses because of how hard hunting has become with diminished sea ice.)

"You can make another trip for four more," say handwritten signs with a drawing of a walrus posted in both Gambell and Savoonga.

When aluminum boats became prevalent, suddenly many more men were walrus hunters and some young, inexperienced captains became too focused on tusks, not meat, Kava said. They were forgetting elders' guidance.

"The forefathers come up with quota," Kava said. "We're like a manager for our food, the subsistence way of life."

Alaska's fast families of track and field

4 hours 30 min ago

It's believed that the Dunbars – dad Marcus of Bartlett High and son Trevor of Kodiak High – are Alaska's first family to produce two generations worth of individual state track champions.

Marcus won the 800 meters at the 1983 state meet, and 24 years later Trevor won the 3,200 at the 2007 state meet (his first of four state track titles).

Others on the list include:

Chris Jones and Hans Roelle. As a runner for Bartlett, Jones won the 880-yard race in 1980 and the 800-meter race in 1981. Roelle, her son, won the 800 for West High in 2010.

Richard Welling and Naomi Welling. Richard won state titles in the high jump and triple jump for Dimond in 1983. Naomi won nine state titles at Juneau's Thunder Mountain, including three as a senior in 2015.

Bruce Jackman and Josh Jackman. Bruce was a three-time long jump champion for Kenai Central in 1986, 1987 and 1988. Josh, a senior at Kenai Central, on Friday claimed his third state long jump championship.

Mike Kramer and Kendall Kramer. Mike, running for Lathrop, won the 3,200 crown in 1984 and took the 1,600 and 3,200 in 1986. Kendall, a freshman running for West Valley, won Friday's 3,200.

If you know of any other parent-child combos who both won individual state track championships – no relays, please — email the details to and we'll add them to this list after verification.

Cuts push many Oklahoma schools to 4-day week

4 hours 32 min ago

NEWCASTLE, OKLA. – A deepening budget crisis here has forced schools across the Sooner State to make painful decisions. Class sizes have ballooned, art and foreign-language programs have shrunk or disappeared, and with no money for new textbooks, children go without. Perhaps the most significant consequence: Students in scores of districts are now going to school just four days a week.

The shift not only upends what has long been a fundamental rhythm of life for families and communities. It also runs contrary to the push in many parts of the country to provide more time for learning – and daily reinforcement – as a key way to improve achievement, especially among poor children.

But funding for classrooms has been shrinking for years in this deep-red state as lawmakers have cut taxes, slicing away hundreds of millions of dollars in annual revenue in what some Oklahomans consider a cautionary tale about the real-life consequences of the small-government approach favored by Republican majorities in Washington and statehouses nationwide.

[On the last day of school, Anchorage principals hand layoff notices to 220 teachers]

School districts staring down deep budget holes have turned to shorter weeks in desperation as a way to save a little bit of money and persuade increasingly hard-to-find teachers to take some of the nation's lowest-paying jobs.

Of 513 school districts in Oklahoma, 96 have lopped Fridays or Mondays off their schedules – nearly triple the number in 2015 and four times as many as in 2013. An additional 44 are considering cutting instructional days by moving to a four-day week in the fall or by shortening the school year, the Oklahoma State School Boards Association found in a survey last month.

"I don't think it's right. I think our kids are losing out on education," said Sandy Robertson, a grandmother of four in Newcastle, a fast-growing rural community set amid wheat and soybean fields south of Oklahoma City. "They're trying to cram a five-day week into a four-day week."

Oklahoma is not the only state where more students are getting three-day weekends, a concept that dates to the 1930s. The number is climbing slowly across broad swaths of the rural big-sky West, driven by a combination of austere budgets, fuel-guzzling bus rides and teacher shortages that have turned four-day weeks into an important recruiting tool.

The four-day week is a "contagion," said Paul Hill, a research professor at the University of Washington at Bothell who has studied the phenomenon in Idaho and who worries that the consequences of the shift – particularly for poor kids – are unknown.

But in other states, the Great Recession sparked a spike in the growth of four-day weeks that has since slowed, according to data collected by The Washington Post. Oklahoma stands out for the velocity with which districts have turned to a shorter school week in the past several years, one of the most visible signs of a budget crisis that has also shuttered rural hospitals, led to overcrowded prisons and forced state troopers to abide by a 100-mile daily driving limit.

Democrats helped pass bipartisan income tax cuts from 2004 to 2008. Republicans – who have controlled the legislature since 2009 and governorship since 2011 – have cut income taxes further and also significantly lowered taxes on oil and gas production.

"The problems facing Oklahoma are our own doing. There's not some outside force that is causing our schools not to be able to stay open" said state Sen. John Sparks, the chamber's top Democrat. "These are all the result of a bad public policy and a lack of public-sector investment."

But Gov. Mary Fallin (R) said a downturn in the energy sector and a decreasing sales tax revenue have led to several "very difficult budget years."

The governor said in an email to The Post that she thinks "students are better served by five-day weeks" because moving to four days requires a longer school day. That makes it "hard for students, especially in the early grades, to focus on academic content during the late hours of the day," she said.

Facing a $900 million budget gap, lawmakers approved a budget Friday that will effectively hold school funding flat in the next year. In Washington, President Trump has proposed significant education cuts that would further strain local budgets.

Few states have schools that are worse off.

Oklahoma's education spending has decreased 14 percent per child since 2008, according to the left-leaning Center on Budget and Policy Priorities, and the state in 2014 spent just $8,000 per student, according to federal data. Only Arizona, Idaho and Utah spent less.

"We've cut so much for so long that the options just are no longer there," said Deborah Gist, superintendent in Tulsa, a district that still holds classes five days a week but plans to merge schools and eliminate more than three dozen teaching positions.

This year has been particularly tough, as repeated revenue shortfalls have left districts facing midyear cuts. "I've done this job a long time, and this is the hardest I've ever had it," said Tony O'Brien, superintendent of Newcastle schools, which have about 2,300 students.

Elementary class sizes in the town now hover around 26 and 27, far higher than a 20-student limit set in a 1990 state law. In 2016, schools started charging to participate in sports and extracurricular activities and, after considerable community debate, moved to a four-day week, with longer school days.

O'Brien said the schedule change helped Newcastle shave about $110,000 out of its $12 million annual budget, savings that equal more than two teachers. The savings come mostly from shutting off building utilities on Fridays and from using less diesel fuel to run buses. Teacher salaries – the bulk of any district's cost – didn't change.

Experts say four-day weeks don't save much money. In Newcastle and elsewhere, school leaders say the biggest benefit has been attracting and retaining teachers in some of the nation's lowest-paying jobs.

Oklahoma has not raised teachers' salaries since 2008, and the average salary in 2013 – $44,128 – put the state at 49th in the nation, according to the latest available federal data. Teachers are leaving in droves for better-paying jobs across state lines, superintendents say. And the number of positions filled by emergency-certified teachers – who have no education training (or, in O'Brien's words, "are upright and breathing") – is now 35 times as high as it was in 2011.

Districts figure that if they can't give teachers a raise, they can at least give them extra time off.

[Mat-Su schools confront water issues as infrastructure lags behind growth]

Chris Treu, a Newcastle High business teacher in her 20th year, said that with a master's degree and an extra stipend for working in career and technology education, she earns about $48,000 – barely more than some of her former students earn fresh out of college. "It's disheartening," she said. "If I have to go back to a five-day week, I think I'm done, because I know I'm not going to get more money."

Shannon Chlouber, a third-grade teacher at Newcastle Elementary, said she spends half her Fridays off working on lesson plans and grading papers, leaving her weekends free and making a relentless job more sustainable. She is an 18-year classroom veteran, and she earns $39,350. "If I were single, I'd be on welfare," she said.

Oklahoma opened the door to shorter weeks in 2009 with a bill meant to help school districts cope with snow-day closures. The change allowed schools to meet instructional requirements by holding class either 1,080 hours or 180 six-hour days a year.

That flexibility opened the way for districts to try four-day weeks – a move that in many cases required lengthening each remaining day by about 45 minutes.

Research on the academic effects of four-day weeks is thin, and the picture is decidedly muddy. A 2015 study of fourth- and fifth-graders in Colorado showed that students on four-day weeks fared better in math than their peers on traditional schedules, and no different in reading.

Tim Tharp, Montana's deputy state superintendent of education, found the opposite when he studied longer-term effects for his 2014 University of Montana doctoral dissertation. Montana students tended to show academic gains in the first year of four-day weeks, but over four or five years, their achievement declined.

Tharp thinks that districts at first pick up the academic pace to make sure their students don't lose ground, but then grow complacent and start teaching as though they're still on five-day weeks. "Old routines are easy to slip back into," he said.

Many parents here said they like the four-day schedule because it gives them more time with their children. Principals were also upbeat, saying grades are up, disciplinary incidents down, and students and staff happier and more motivated. Teachers said students are faring as well or better, academically, than before.

Predictably, plenty of young people are thrilled.

"It rocks," said Jordan Banfield, 18, who liked having Fridays off during her senior year at Newcastle High. "You honestly don't dread going to school as much."

But even kids are not unanimous. Chad Marble said his second-grader, Emerson, comes home complaining that school is too rushed. And some children are sensitive to the fact that the four-day week means extra stress for working families that struggle to find day care and poor children who depend on school for meals.

"It's good and bad," one Newcastle fourth-grader said. "The good part is we have more time with our families, and the bad part is some people don't get to eat."

Newcastle has arranged for low-cost child care on Fridays – $30 per child per week – and the town has a low poverty rate by Oklahoma standards. Only about one-third of students qualify for free- and reduced-price lunch. A food bank sends extra food home with hungry students to tide them over during long weekends, but teachers say few ask for that help.

In most other Oklahoma districts with four-day weeks, the overwhelming majority of students qualify for subsidized meals.

Macomb, a tiny rural district where 88 percent of students qualify for subsidized meals, was on four-day weeks until Superintendent Matthew Riggs persuaded the school board in 2015 to return to a traditional schedule.

Riggs said he could not "in good conscience" continue the four-day weeks – not when his students were already struggling in math and reading, and not when some were going hungry.

Meals are also a concern for David Pennington, superintendent in Ponca City on the western edge of the Osage Reservation, where nearly 70 percent of students qualify for subsidized meals. Ponca City cut 25 positions last year, consolidated bus routes, stopped offering German and wood shop, and packed 38 kids into one high school astronomy class.

Pennington said that four-day weeks are on the table for next fall but that he doesn't want to go that route. He's more inclined to stop hiring substitute teachers or to get rid of less-popular extracurricular activities.

"I can't even remember the last time we sat down and talked about what can we do that's good for kids," he said. "Our conversations are what are we going to cut next."

Protect ANWR; it's the wise investment

4 hours 47 min ago

Last week, President Trump introduced his budget, putting forth a proposal that includes speculative drilling revenues from the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge. The pro-drilling Alaskan delegation is supportive of this effort, despite the momentum growing in the state of Alaska to protect the Arctic refuge. Earlier this year, a growing number of state lawmakers voted against drilling in the Arctic refuge, reflective of the increasing number of Alaskans that support protection.

From the alpine tundra of the continental divide to the flat expanse of the wildlife-rich coastal plain, exploring the refuge has become one of the foremost passions of my life and the reason why I feel the need to protect it. The refuge represents many things to me personally – employment, recreation, spiritual escape. I have been traveling to, and working within, the refuge and throughout Alaska's Brooks Range for eight years.

When I travel to the refuge, I don't go alone. I guide guests from Alaska, the Lower 48 and around the world. These people are world-travelers with high levels of disposable income. They can, quite literally, afford to go almost anywhere. However, they overwhelmingly choose to come to the refuge for a few key reasons – the refuge's reputation as a truly wild place, the chance to experience an intact ecosystem, the hope of seeing wildlife, including the Porcupine Caribou herd and the fear that the refuge will not remain intact or unadulterated for long.

[Opening ANWR to oil drilling is priority in Trump's budget]

These guests help to employ not only myself, but numerous other people in Alaska's tourism, hospitality and transportation industries. From hotel employees in Fairbanks to air taxi pilots in Coldfoot, tourism keeps food on our tables and roofs over our heads.

But even if I never set foot on refuge soil again, I would still fight to protect this ecologically unique area. What sets the refuge apart is its "intactness." Between the refuge's 19 million acres and the 3.5 million adjacent acres of protected land in Canada, our two nations have taken an incredible step toward protecting polar bears, their denning sites and hunting grounds, caribou, their calving areas and migratory paths, wolves, grizzlies, Dall sheep, musk ox, wolverines, an incredibly diverse array of migratory, resident and nesting birds, rare alpine plants and cultural sites. Ruining a portion of the refuge affects its whole because no part of this great place exists in a vacuum. Damage to the natural world, even in a small corner of this place, has the potential to send waves of disruption across the whole refuge.

[As hopes for drilling in ANWR rise, Native corporations argue over potential riches]

It is no secret that Alaska is in dire financial trouble. But for too long all other industries have taken a backseat to natural resource extraction. As the world moves away from its dependency on oil and gas, and today as over 70 percent of Alaskans worry about the effects of climate change on our lives and livelihoods, I hope we will not sacrifice one of our last great wild spaces as we desperately grasp at the last remaining revenues to be pulled from Alaska's arctic ground.

I urge our elected officials to protect the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge – as one of our last great places on Earth, its intactness and wildlife values, and for the tourism boost it adds to our economy.  The wild lands of the refuge have provided for people in Alaska for thousands of years, and they will for thousands more if we do not follow President Trump's lead and destroy them for a few decades of profits.

Haley Johnston is the program manager and a senior guide with Alaska Alpine Adventures. She lives in Anchorage.

The views expressed here are the writer's and are not necessarily endorsed by Alaska Dispatch News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email Send submissions shorter than 200 words to 



Two dead in Southeast Alaska plane crash

5 hours 7 min ago

Two people died and one person was seriously injured in a plane crash Saturday near the Southeast Alaska community of Haines, according to the National Transportation Safety Board.

Witnesses reported the plane crash around 11 a.m., said Clint Johnson, the NTSB's Alaska chief.

Johnson said three people were in the twin-engine plane. It crashed about 9 miles southwest of Haines, in the area of Glacier Point, he said.

"We had two deceased at the scene," he said. A third person was in critical condition and flown to Juneau, he said.

Haines is located about 80 air miles northwest of Juneau.

Johnson said the cause of the crash was not known Saturday afternoon. He also did not yet know where the plane took off from and where it was headed. Johnson said the plane crashed in tidal flats.

Ian Gregor, a spokesman for the Federal Aviation Administration, wrote in an email that the plane was a twin-engine Piper PA-30. He said the plane crashed "under unknown circumstances on a beach."

"The FAA and NTSB will investigate," he wrote.

As Johnson spoke about the Southeast Alaska plane crash in an interview around 2:45 p.m. Saturday, he said he was also just getting preliminary reports of another plane crash outside of Fairbanks.

Gregor wrote that the plane crashed "under unknown circumstances" near Butte Creek north of the Salcha River, about 60 miles east of Fairbanks.

NTSB first reported that the crash was south of Fairbanks, but the location was updated as it received additional information.

Gregor said two people were on board the single-engine Arctic Aircraft S-1B2.

Johnson said he did not immediately have additional information on the second crash. Information was not immediately available on the condition of the two on board the plane.

A request for additional information has been sent to Alaska State Troopers.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

No surprise in assault on reporter

5 hours 37 min ago

Some people will call it surprising that a reporter was reportedly assaulted Wednesday night by a political candidate. Truth is, it is not surprising in the least.

For those who hadn't heard: Greg Gianforte, a Montana Republican running for Congress, was charged with misdemeanor assault for allegedly body-slamming Ben Jacobs, who works for the British newspaper The Guardian, hard enough to break his glasses. This, because Jacobs tried to ask for Gianforte's opinion of the GOP health care bill in the wake of an estimate from the Congressional Budget Office that it would leave 23 million Americans without health care.

In a statement, Gianforte's campaign sought to paint the incident as a result of Jacobs' aggressiveness:

[GOP candidate in closely-watched Montana race charged with assault on reporter]

"Tonight, as Greg was giving a separate interview in a private office, The Guardian's Ben Jacobs entered the office without permission, aggressively shoved a recorder in Greg's face, and began asking badgering questions. Jacobs was asked to leave. After asking Jacobs to lower the recorder, Jacobs declined. Greg then attempted to grab the phone that was pushed in his face. Jacobs grabbed Greg's wrist, and spun away from Greg, pushing them both to the ground. It's unfortunate that this aggressive behavior from a liberal journalist created this scene …"

Problematically for Gianforte, his version of events is at odds with audio captured by Jacobs' recorder. In it, Gianforte is heard declining to answer Jacobs' question. Jacobs tries again, and Gianforte tells him to "speak with Shane" — meaning his flack. Immediately, there is a loud crash, and Gianforte is heard ranting: "I'm sick and tired of you guys! The last guy who came in here, you did the same thing. Get the hell out of here!"

Gianforte's story is also refuted by eyewitnesses, a crew from — you can't make this stuff up — Fox News, who describe the candidate grabbing Jacobs' neck with both hands, slamming him to the floor, and punching him.

Many adjectives might apply to all this. The incident is appalling, infuriating, disturbing. But no, it is not surprising.

[Montanan wins special election despite assault charge]

Not after a congressman threatened to throw a reporter from a balcony. Not after the arrest of reporters covering a protest in Baton Rouge and the arrests and intimidation of reporters covering unrest in Ferguson. Not after a West Virginia reporter was jailed for shouting questions.

And especially not after Donald Trump declared journalists "enemies of the people." That was not unlike a home invader declaring the family Doberman an "enemy of the house," but his fans bought it, snarling at reporters and dismissing as "fake news" every fact that intruded upon their fantasies.

"Rope. Journalist. Tree," read a T-shirt spotted at Trump rallies. "Some assembly required."

Perspective is important here. After all, this is not yet Mexico, where journalists are killed with frightening regularity.

Still, Gianforte's alleged assault is the latest addition to a growing body of evidence suggesting right-wing intolerance not simply for inconvenient facts but also for impertinent questions. Of course the one is a tool of the journalist's trade, the other a part of her job description. So this should trouble you, whatever your partisan loyalties.

Power that answers no questions has no conscience. Power unconstrained by facts is unconstrained by anything. And a nation where asking questions or reporting facts leads to assault or arrest cannot be America. Down this path, then, lies potential disaster.

Many adjectives will apply to that too. Once again, surprise will not be one of them.

(Leonard Pitts is a columnist for The Miami Herald, 1 Herald Plaza, Miami, FL 33132. Readers may contact him via e-mail at

Don't burn through Memorial Day without a thought for the fallen

5 hours 42 min ago

This is the weekend that officially starts summer for most of us. Cussing out the back ends of RV's that don't understand what a pull-off is for or that it's illegal to back up more than five cars' worth of traffic. Ever see a giant motor home pulled over or ticketed for 27 cars behind it? Me neither. People are breaking the barnacles off their barbecue grills and trying to remember if it's the recipe for St. Louis ribs or molasses and mustard rub that got their version of Uncle Leo so excited last year. From the fold-outs in the paper, it seems like a good time to buy washers, dryers and lawn mowers.

We seem to have lost what Memorial Day is about. It's not a launch forward into salmon canning season or hurry up and paint the spare bedroom because the long-lost relatives have discovered you moved to Alaska. It was originally called Decoration Day when people would visit the graves of those lost in the Civil War. It was a remembrance.

When President Ronald Reagan laid a wreath in honor of our fallen, he said: "If words cannot repay the debt we owe these men (I would add women), surely with our actions we must strive to keep faith with them and with the vision that led them to battle and final sacrifice. Our first obligation to them and ourselves is plain enough: The United States and the freedom for which it stands, the freedom for which they died, must endure and prosper. Their lives remind us that freedom is not bought cheaply. It has a cost, it imposes a burden. And just as they whom we commemorate were willing to sacrifice, so too must we — in a less final, less heroic way — be willing to give ourselves."

[Memorial Day ceremony]

A week or so ago, a couple men with guns walked up the beach. I don't know what happens in your neighborhood in spring, but in our watery cul de sac it could easily be bear hunters. I usually root for the bears and figure anyone with the sense to buy that much camo didn't really know how to hunt. I'm usually right. This time I was wrong. They were land surveyors measuring plots and marking corners. Considering how many piles of bear scat there are, it wasn't a bad idea to have protection.

I had a chance to visit with them. I have lots of questions about boundaries. I'm sure you're shocked. Both were retired military and one works as a chaplain counseling suicidal veterans. He's not able to save them all and it weighs on him. At one point he had at least one veteran from every branch of the service in crisis care.
Memorial Day isn't the same as Veterans Day, but because of our lack of care for these broken souls coming home from wars we ignore, they are going into the Memorial column and out of the Veteran column at what should be unacceptable levels. When I mentioned 22 a day to the good chaplain, he said that number was way too low.

The American Legion blasted the 2018 Trump administration budget, saying it was a "stealth privatization attempt" of veterans benefits and that it "breaks faith with Veterans." It also breaks faith with the memory of the fallen who, had they survived, would need more than a damn wreath laid on their grave and a poppy on a lapel.

Every grave from every war was someone with a birth story. Who were they named after? Was it an uncle who sent $5 on birthdays? What sports teams did they cheer for? What books did they read over and over? What did they order on their pizza?

[Remember all, forget none this Memorial Day in Alaska]

How do you measure the space of someone's life between the morning paper and a cup of coffee? What calibration is there to put a number on the tears shed or moments taken from a departed soul? How do you know what they could have been?

You can't.

You can honor the not knowing. Acknowledge the vacancy their deaths have made. Say their names out loud, even if your voice breaks for a stranger. They were somebody's someone.

This weekend, don't try to pass campers, don't burn the ribs, don't forget our fallen, and remember the walking wounded.

Shannyn Moore is a radio broadcaster.

The views expressed here are the writer's and are not necessarily endorsed by Alaska Dispatch News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email Send submissions shorter than 200 words to

U.S. withholds its endorsement on Paris climate pact

7 hours 8 min ago

President Donald Trump declined to endorse the Paris climate accords on Saturday, ending his first foreign trip much as he began it: at odds with several of the nation's allies and under a cloud of questions back home about his ties to Russia.

Trump refused to bend on the pact after three days of contentious private debate and intense lobbying by other leaders that began Wednesday with an appeal by Pope Francis. The six other nations in the Group of 7 reaffirmed their commitment to cutting greenhouse-gas emissions in a joint statement issued Saturday.

The stalemate leaves the country's future role in the climate accord in flux, though Trump promised to make a decision in the week ahead on whether the United States will be the first of 195 signatories to pull out.

Trump left Italy on Saturday afternoon, returning home to a White House in crisis after a nine-day trip to the Middle East and Europe that was bookended by new disclosures about links between his aides and Russia.

[Trump administration sought last-minute changes to soften Arctic Council climate-change commitment]

The climate accord was the most vivid sign of division between the United States and its allies, but it was not the only one: Trump also scolded Germany for its trade practices and lectured NATO members for not adequately supporting the alliance.

"There was a lot of give-and-take between the different countries in the room," said Gary D. Cohn, director of the National Economic Council.

But he insisted that the other countries understood Trump's refusal to decide now, even if they did not support that position.

"The president's only been in office for a certain period of time, and they respect that," Cohn said. He added: "We're all allies. We're all trying to get to the right place and be respectful of each other."

While Trump's decision was not a surprise, the reaction was swift and critical.

"President Trump's continued waffling on whether to stay in or withdraw from the Paris Agreement made it impossible to reach consensus at the Taormina summit on the need for ambitious climate action. But he stands in stark isolation," said Alden Meyer, director of strategy and policy at the Union of Concerned Scientists.

The leaders of Germany and France expressed disappointment, according to The Associated Press.

"The whole discussion about climate was very difficult, not to say unsatisfactory," Chancellor Angela Merkel of Germany said. "There's a situation where it's six — if you count the European Union, seven — against one."

President Emmanuel Macron of France said he had told Trump it was "indispensable for the reputation of the United States and for the Americans themselves that the Americans remain committed" to the climate agreement.

The G-7 statement provides the United States more time to resolve internal White House debates about whether to pull out of the pact. It says the United States is "in the process of reviewing its policies on climate change and on the Paris Agreement and thus is not in a position to join the consensus on these topics."

The president did not mention the impasse in his only public remarks after the summit, to U.S. troops at Naval Air Station Sigonella in Sicily. But he repeated his complaints about trade and the financing of NATO, even as he pronounced the trip a rousing success.

"We hit a home run no matter where we are," he said.

[Trump returns home to face a growing crisis over Kushner]

For Trump, however, the lack of a decision on the climate accord put an uncertain ending on an ambitious first presidential trip abroad that began as a respite from the surfeit of scandal at home.

Beleaguered White House aides — who were aboard Air Force One flying to Riyadh, Saudi Arabia, when they heard reports that Trump had called his former FBI director a "nut job" — had hoped the trip offer a much-needed change of subject. And to some degree, it did, if only because the White House engineered the itinerary to keep Trump far away from reporters who could ask him questions. They scheduled no news conferences and put the president only in highly controlled situations: a brief photo session with a foreign leader; a teleprompter speech; ceremonial gatherings with other leaders.

But on Saturday, as his aides tried to promote the trip's accomplishments, reporters bombarded them with questions about reports that Trump's son-in-law an adviser, Jared Kushner, had talked about opening a secret back channel to Russia during the transition.

"We're not going to comment on Jared," an exasperated Cohn said.

In some ways, it was not one trip, but two, each with very different themes.

In Saudi Arabia and Israel, Trump was surprisingly disciplined, sticking to his script and delivering two speeches that set a clear course for his approach to the Middle East. His rapturous welcome in both countries suggested that the United States could make a new start with allies who had grown restive during the Obama administration.

In Europe, however, the pugnacious side of Trump reasserted itself. In addition to offering a harangue of NATO members over budgetary matters, he declined to explicitly reaffirm America's commitment to Article 5, which requires the United States to come to the defense of allies in the event of an attack.

He also won derisive headlines across the Continent after muscling the prime minister of Montenegro aside during a photo shoot, an image that quickly became a metaphor for his rough dealings with Europeans.

"His advisers tried to make him understand that there are some allies that are really nervous and needed reassurance," said Volker Perthes, the director of the German Institute for International and Security Affairs. "He managed to do it with the Saudis and the Israelis." But in Europe, he said, "he does take us for granted."

Brian McKeon, a senior policy official in the Pentagon during the Obama administration, said: "The in-your-face thing at the NATO headquarters was pretty undiplomatic. He succeeded at busting norms, but not building good will."

The U.S. national security adviser, Lt. Gen. H.R. McMaster, said that Trump's participation in the ceremony was an implicit endorsement of Article 5. "He did not make a decision not to say it," McMaster said.

On climate, Trump has long railed against what he says are the economic dangers of a global climate pact. He has demanded more flexibility in setting standards on emissions, saying other countries are getting a better deal and that the agreement could be costly for U.S. businesses.

In a message on Twitter on Saturday, he said: "I will make my final decision on the Paris Accord next week!"

There is an intense debate inside the West Wing over whether to withdraw from the accord or to try to renegotiate its terms, pitting hard-line nationalists, like the chief strategist Steve Bannon, against more mainstream advisers like Cohn.

On Thursday, Cohn told reporters that Trump's thinking on the subject was "evolving." But other senior officials said even if the United States remained in the agreement, it could effectively gut its principles.

The exit of the United States, the world's second-largest greenhouse gas emitter after China, would not immediately dissolve the pact, which was negotiated under President Barack Obama and legally ratified last year. But it would profoundly weaken the strength of the deal and pave the way for other countries to withdraw from it.

Some climate diplomats said the rest of the world was growing weary of America's back-and-forth on climate change policy. In 1997, the United States joined the world's first climate treaty, the Kyoto Protocol, but later withdrew during the Bush administration.

"At some juncture, other countries are going to get sick of us joining in, pulling out, joining in and pulling out and say, 'Are we really going to work with the U.S. on this anymore?'" said Michael Oppenheimer, a professor of geosciences and international affairs at Princeton.

Trump's supporters, particularly coal state Republicans, are eager for him to withdraw from the Paris accord, and see such a move as a fulfillment of a signature campaign promise. Speaking to a crowd of oil-rig workers in May 2016, Trump vowed to "cancel" the agreement.

Coal miners and coal executives in states like Kentucky and West Virginia have pushed hard for Trump to reverse all of Obama's climate change policies, which are ultimately aimed at reducing the widespread use of burning coal.

In a recent letter to Trump from 10 state attorneys general, West Virginia's attorney general, Patrick Morrisey, wrote, "Withdrawing from the Paris Agreement is an important and necessary step toward reversing the harmful energy policies and unlawful overreach of the Obama era."

On trade, Trump pushed his demand that any trade agreements the United States negotiates must be fair. The Trump administration has taken particular aim at Germany, accusing it of depressing the value of the euro to make its exports more competitive and to undercut U.S. goods.

In a meeting with leaders of the European Union in Brussels on Thursday, Trump complained about imports of German cars, threatening to stop them and calling Germany "very bad" on trade.

German officials point out that its two leading luxury automakers, BMW and Mercedes-Benz, have huge assembly plants in the United States. They are also frustrated that Trump officials repeatedly raise the prospect of negotiating a bilateral trade agreement with Germany, something that the country, as a member of the European Union, cannot do.

Shortly after Air Force One took off from Sicily for Washington, Trump said on Twitter that he had enjoyed "great" meetings on trade, saying, "We push for the removal of trade-distorting practices … to foster a truly level playing field."

Coral Davenport and Eric Schmitt contributed reporting from Washington, Alissa Rubin contributed from Paris, and Alison Smale from Berlin.

Mat-Su schools confront water issues as infrastructure lags behind growth

7 hours 32 min ago

WASILLA — Most of the schools in the fastest-growing part of Alaska rely on wells rather than municipal water systems.

Several schools in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough School District experienced boil-water notices this year triggered by isolated spikes in bacteria or lead. None led to reports of health problems.

There's no one connected reason for the water issues, district officials say — except they all involved wells.

"That water has its own characteristics, its own challenges," said Jim Estes, the district's facilities manager.

Growing amid unmet needs

Mat-Su is still growing, unlike most parts of Alaska. But infrastructure like utilities and roads isn't necessarily keeping up.

The school district had to install a 210,000-gallon water tank at the new Redington school campus out Knik-Goose Bay Road to comply with fire code, officials say. They also had to extend telecommunications, three-phase power and natural gas to the site.

Mat-Su school officials say they're trying to get out ahead of the challenge of operating a growing district — almost 300 more students are predicted for next year — under the constraints of older or finicky water systems.

The biggest parental concern officials hear about is lead, they say. That's at least in part due to a public health crisis that developed in Flint, Michigan, in 2015 after the city failed to add anti-corrosion agents to a new water source, causing aging service lines to leach the potentially toxic metal.

For the first time, the Mat-Su district plans to send educational fliers to families at schools served by wells to explain how the district monitors water quality under Alaska Department of Environmental Conservation regulations and responds to any issues, said Mike Brown, executive director of district operations.

"We're trying to work through the perception that the infrastructure is failing, the water's not safe. That's not what's happening," Brown said. "What's happening is we're being overly cautious to make sure we don't have an incident. Everybody, after the Flint, Michigan, deal, is very sensitive. DEC is sensitive. We're sensitive."

[The curious popularity of a water pipe on the Seward Highway]

More wells

Mat-Su relies on wells more than any other similar district in the state with a mix of urban and far-flung remote sites.

Schools that operate their own wells fall under state testing requirements for bacteria, lead and other potential health hazards. The district monitors multiple locations at different schools through an independent contractor.

If a reading is off and can't be fixed immediately, the district puts a school on a boil-water order and brings in water dispensers until the problem is fixed, Brown said. That brings grumbles from school staff and parents sometimes.

"It is frustrating. We get it's a disruption," he said. "But we're not taking any chances."

Just four of the 33 schools in the Fairbanks North Star Borough School District are on wells. Three of the 10 schools in the Yukon-Koyukuk district are.

And two of those wells are often a source of trouble, Superintendent Kerry Boyd said.

One in Manley needs continuous monitoring for arsenic, Boyd said. And in Allakaket, a village of about 100 people on the Koyukuk River, a shallow well needs constant monitoring and an 800-foot section of line tends to freeze in winter.

The first year Boyd was superintendent — about 10 years ago — the well went dry, she said. "So we had no water to the school. We were literally completely out of water."

Then again, the Kenai Peninsula Borough School District relies on wells at 13 schools and municipal water at 17 others.

On the Kenai at least, municipal systems are also susceptible to issues that prompt boil-water orders, according to Julie Cisco, the district's director of planning and operations.

Every system is prone to the same challenges, Cisco said, whether it's sediment from an earthquake or a red flag on monitoring results after a school sits largely unused all summer without water circulating from "300 littles flushing."

Kenai has had two boil-water orders in the past few months, she said. Both involved municipal systems.

Different flags, different fixes

The Mat-Su schools that experienced recent water issues did so for different reasons, according to an email from Brown.

At Big Lake Elementary, a frozen water supply line once thawed would have required disinfecting the entire domestic water and fire suppression system that includes a 20,000-gallon tank located under the school gym. Officials decided to supply water for the 37 days remaining in the school year then disinfect the system.

At John Shaw Elementary, depressurization of the water system during routine water filtration maintenance led to elevated coliform levels. The school remained on a boil-water notice for several weeks until the system was chlorinated and tested.

At Tanaina Elementary, a faucet at a little-used library sink exceeded the lead action level in 2016. The fixture was taken out of service and families were notified as required. Officials re-tested the sink before allowing its use again and is now required to monitor more often.

Similar exceedances, all involving one fixture, have occurred at Glacier View and Houston Middle schools.

District operations officials are asking the Mat-Su school board to move $290,000 from the operations budget to the capital side to fix the Big Lake Elementary system. The money would allow the district to separate domestic and fire suppression systems to simplify water maintenance and reduce potential for cross-contamination that exists now. The request is on the calendar for the board's June 7 meeting.

Without the funding, the district will still fix the system but the school remains at risk for future problems, Estes said.

Overall, the district is trying to be proactive about water systems and staying ahead of major problems, he said. Both Estes and Brown have children in Mat-Su schools.

"This is one of those things that could keep you awake at night if you weren't doing the right thing," Estes said.

Taking stock as TAPS turns 40

7 hours 47 min ago

They say life begins at 40. The trans-Alaska pipeline turns 40 this June, and the pipeline may indeed be entering a new phase in its existence. It's a good time to take stock – and to remember how we got where we are.

Oil first flowed south to Valdez on June 20, 1977. Forty years later, it is still the superpower among economic drivers for Alaska. But looking at the pipeline's role today, it's as though the coin has turned. Cause and effect have changed places.

In the 1970's, it was the oil in the ground that drove the building of the pipeline, one of the largest and most challenging construction projects in history. But today, in its turn, it's the pipeline itself that's becoming the driver. It's the fact that the pipeline is in place, with all its associated infrastructure, that makes economic conditions favorable for new exploration and discovery on the North Slope.

Even amid the pricing and supply chaos of today's oil industry, the harsh and expensive Slope is still a good bet for exploration – because Alaska's delivery infrastructure is there.

Repsol, the Spanish oil operator, said as much in March when it announced what may be the largest onshore oil discovery in three decades. In its statement, Repsol said its discovery in what was previously viewed as a mature basin is very much connected to the reality that "Alaska has significant infrastructure which allows new resources to be developed more efficiently."

That's the alchemy of the pipeline and the capital investment it represents. It's not just a kind of ATM to get money out of the ground. It's also an enabler of new investment and expanding wealth. If new discoveries play out because TAPS is in place, then a new life for the pipeline may indeed be starting at 40.

There's another big aspect of the pipeline's alchemy. In a state that is by nature friendly to new ideas, the pipeline has enabled innovation on a grand scale. In particular, the Permanent Fund and its dividend payments to Alaskans – now totaling $24.3 billion – were unique steps.

Alaska had learned the hard way how fast a lot of money can disappear ($900 million from the lease sale in 1969 was gone in a few years). With the Permanent Fund, the state stepped up to a disciplined savings plan with innovative citizen profit-sharing through dividends.

How unusual is the Permanent Fund's dividend plan? Actually, policy-makers today are considering the pros and cons of a universal basic income for all Americans. And as they consider that idea, it turns out there is only one place in the world where they can look for empirical evidence from a similar approach: the 49th state and its Permanent Fund dividends.

Maybe universal income is a good idea, maybe it isn't. But Alaska is both the place where that kind of groundbreaking innovation has taken place and where further innovation is possible. In the years to come, the pipeline could finance still other new approaches to in-state investment and infrastructure-building, broadening and deepening Alaska's economy.

Forty years out, it's important to remember how the pipeline came into existence. Alaskans are "can-do" people. But the actual building of the pipeline was by no means inevitable.

Legitimate issues of Native land claims as well as environmental impacts had to be faced. And then, even after those issues had been confronted, there was politics. In Washington, "can-do" met "can't-do" in dramatic fashion.

Legitimate delays ultimately turned into delays for their own sake and for the sake of ideology. More and more study was being proposed, no longer based on good-faith calculations of risk and benefit, but based on viewpoints that fundamentally opposed the risks associated with all economic growth on the scale of the pipeline.

It was Mike Gravel, Alaska's Democratic U.S. senator from 1969 to 1981, who broke through Washington's "can't-do" wall. With an amendment to a bill that would have required yet further study, Sen. Gravel instead called on Congress to step up and make the decision.

His amendment said, in effect: "Enough study has been performed. Build the pipeline." In a dramatic vote on July 13, 1973, his amendment was passed, 50-49, with a tie-breaking vote cast by the vice president. Construction could begin.

Gravel's amendment was based on a judgment call. He believed that delay would continue indefinitely until Congress itself made the decision. So he forced the issue.

Many others thought that economic considerations would eventually make construction inevitable and that Gravel's confrontational style wasn't necessary.  Of course, that's possible – there's really no way to be sure. But the constraints we've seen Washington impose since that time, not to mention the failure over these 40 years to build a gas pipeline, suggest that Gravel's judgment was on point. The issue had to be brought to a head in the one place where a final decision could be made.

Today, as we celebrate the pipeline's 40th, so many people deserve credit – from the geologists responsible for the discoveries, to the engineers and workers who built the pipeline, to the state leaders who created the Permanent Fund. We should even credit those good-faith environmentalists who insisted on the highest safety standards.

But as we remember, can we also recognize Gravel's particular role? When all the legitimate problems had been worked through, it was Washington that loomed as the ultimate bottleneck. And it was Gravel who pulled the cork. The amendment he insisted on was passed, the pipeline was set free and the oil flowed.

Forty years later, it may look like ancient history and it may seem like the pipeline was inevitable. But in truth it could have turned out differently. Alaska and the scope of opportunity it has come to take for granted could have been radically constrained.

Campbell Gardett served as Sen. Mike Gravel's press secretary. William Hoffman was Gravel's legislative director. Jim Palmer was his office and staff manager. Former State Sen. Mike Szymanski previously served as Sen. Gravel's Fairbanks representative.

The views expressed here are the writers' and are not necessarily endorsed by Alaska Dispatch News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email Send submissions shorter than 200 words to 

Gregg Allman, influential force behind The Allman Brothers Band, dies at 69

7 hours 48 min ago

Gregg Allman, a founding member of the Allman Brothers Band, the incendiary group that inspired and gave shape to both the Southern rock and jam-band movements, died Saturday at his home in Savannah, Georgia. He was 69.

His death was announced in a statement on Allman's official website. No cause was given, but the statement said he had "struggled with many health issues over the past several years."

The band's lead singer and keyboardist, Allman was one of the principal architects of a taut, improvisatory fusion of blues, jazz, country and rock that — streamlined by inheritors like Lynyrd Skynyrd and the Marshall Tucker Band — became the Southern rock of the 1970s.

The group, which originally featured Allman's older brother, Duane, on lead and slide guitar, was also a precursor to a generation of popular jam bands, like Widespread Panic and Phish, whose music features labyrinthine instrumental exchanges.

Allman's percussive Hammond B-3 organ playing helped anchor the Allman Brothers' rhythm section and provided a chuffing counterpoint to the often heated musical interplay between his brother and the band's other lead guitarist, Dickey Betts.

His vocals, by turns squalling and brooding, took their cue from the anguished emoting of down-home blues singers like Elmore James, as well as more sophisticated ones like Bobby Bland. Foremost among Allman's influences as a vocalist, though, was the Mississippi-born blues and soul singer and guitarist known as Little Milton.

"'Little Milton' Campbell had the strongest set of pipes I ever heard on a human being," Allman wrote in his autobiography, "My Cross to Bear," written with Alan Light (2012). "That man inspired me all my life to get my voice crisper, get my diaphragm harder, use less air and just spit it out. He taught me to be absolutely sure of every note you hit, and to hit it solid."

The band's main songwriter early on, Allman contributed expansive, emotionally fraught compositions like "Dreams" and "Whipping Post" to the Allman Brothers repertoire. Both songs became staples of their epic live shows; a cathartic 22-minute version of "Whipping Post" was a highlight of their acclaimed 1971 live album, "At Fillmore East."

More concise originals like "Midnight Rider" and "Melissa," as well as Allman's renditions of blues classics like "Statesboro Blues" and "Done Somebody Wrong," revealed his singular affinity with the black Southern musical vernacular.

Allman also enjoyed an enduring, if intermittent, career as a solo artist, both while a member of the Allman Brothers Band and during periods when he was away from the group. His recordings under his own name were typically more subdued, more akin to soulful singer-songwriter rock, than his molten performances with the Allmans.

A remake of "Midnight Rider" from "Laid Back," his first solo album, reached the pop Top 20 in 1973. "Laid Back" also featured a cover of "These Days," an elegiac ballad written by Jackson Browne, who on occasion roomed with Allman while he was living in Los Angeles in the 1960s.

"Low Country Blues," Allman's sixth studio recording as a solo artist, was nominated for a Grammy Award for best blues album in 2011. Produced by T Bone Burnett, it consisted largely of interpretations of blues standards made popular by performers like Junior Wells and Muddy Waters.

His final studio album, "Southern Blood," produced by Don Was, is scheduled to be released this year. All his 2017 tour dates, including 10 nights at City Winery in New York in July, were canceled in mid-March.

In 1977, Allman and singer Cher, to whom he was married at the time, released the album "Two the Hard Way." (They were billed on the cover as Allman and Woman.) The project was poorly received by critics and the record-buying public alike.

Allman struggled for years with alcohol, heroin and other drugs, and entered treatment for them numerous times, before embarking on a path of recovery in the mid-1990s. He was later found to have hepatitis C and received a liver transplant in 2010.

As a member of the Allman Brothers Band, Allman was inducted into the Rock & Roll Hall of Fame in 1995. He was admitted to the Georgia Music Hall of Fame in 2006 and, with the Allman Brothers, received a Grammy Award for lifetime achievement in 2012.

Spruce-tip pickle recipe from Juneau chef Beau Schooler

8 hours 6 min ago

Chef Beau Schooler got his first batch of this season's Sitka spruce tips earlier this week for his Juneau restaurants. Schooler said the tips are easy to work with and versatile. That lends them to a variety of different applications, he said, from savory to sweet dishes.

Schooler said he'll be tinkering with them all week. On Friday he said he was in the midst of making spruce-tip marshmallows.

Schooler has no preference when it comes to a specific type of spruce tip to use. He said this pickle could serve as the base of a tartar sauce or be served as-is with battered halibut or cod or alongside crab cakes.

Spruce-tip pickles

3 cups diced cucumber, about 2 cucumbers
2 cups spruce tips
1 1/2 cups cider vinegar
1 1/2 cups water
2/3 cup sugar
2 1/2 tablespoons salt
1 bay leaf
2 sprigs of dill
1 tablespoon celery seed
1 tablespoon mustard seed
2 garlic cloves, peeled and slightly crushed

Cut the cucumbers in half lengthwise and scrape out the seeds. Roughly chop them and toss with a pinch of salt. Set cucumbers in a colander and drain excess water for 30 minutes.

After the cucumbers have drained, mince them with the spruce tips using either a knife or food processor. The size of the chopped pieces will affect the texture of the finished product. For a bit of crunch leave the pieces larger, for a soft relish mince them really fine. Place in a medium size bowl and set aside.

Place the rest of the ingredients in a pot and bring to a boil to until the sugar and salt dissolves. Once dissolved, pour the hot brine over the cucumber and spruce tip mixture. Cover with a small plate to keep everything submerged. Allow to cool to room temperature. Then cover and place in the refrigerator overnight before serving.

From Beau Schooler, chef and co-owner of The Rookery, In Bocco al Lupo, Panhandle Provisions and The Taqueria

Related story: In Southeast Alaska, spring means spruce tips — on the plates of local diners