Alaska Dispatch News
U.S. Army Alaska held its annual Best Warrior Competition at Joint Base Elmendorf-Richardson on Wednesday. Elite competitors representing their units test their Army aptitude, conquering urban warfare simulations, physical fitness tests, written exams, and warrior tasks and battle drills relevant to today's operating environment.
Over several days, warriors in the ranks of private through specialist will compete for the U.S. Army Alaska Soldier of the Year title. Those in the ranks of corporal through sergeant first class will compete for the U.S. Army Alaska NCO of the Year title.
The two winners will later compete in Hawaii to be U.S. Army Pacific's best and a chance to compete for the U.S. Army Noncommissioned Officer and Soldier of the Year title in Virginia this fall.
"We are America's Arctic warriors. We are ready to deploy, fight and win in any environment. And we're here to test our best soldiers to see how they do," says U.S. Army Alaska's Command Sgt. Maj. Jeffrey Dillingham.
A Senate committee Wednesday rejected the governor's request for money to centralize the state's 911 system.
Gov. Bill Walker had sought $9.5 million in the annual capital budget to pay for the first phase of a 911 upgrade across Alaska in an effort to improve emergency response times.
The Senate Finance Committee didn't include the request in the budget Wednesday.
Sen. Anna MacKinnon, R-Eagle River, said the administration hadn't provided enough information about how the change would improve emergency responses.
"As far as I understand it, it's a request to consolidate (the statewide system) in Anchorage in a building, and there's not much background or actual conversation that has happened with how fast it would actually save the lives they talked about," MacKinnon said.
Centralizing the system is "certainly important at some time, whether it's important now is subjective," she said.
The Alaska State Troopers' emergency dispatch system relies on four regional hubs that use different computer systems. Emergency calls in most of the state can result in a series of transferred calls and lost caller data, reducing the chance of a timely response, the administration has said.
In some rural communities, callers must dial 800 numbers for emergencies instead of 911 used in cities, and residents have complained that the disparity threatens public safety.
To pay for the improvements, Walker had proposed diverting cash he previously wanted set aside for studying the oil and gas potential of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.
Despite the disturbing circumstances that led to the recent arrest of the company's former CEO, I am incredibly proud to be working for Quintillion and with its team. I have been in the telecommunications business for 35 years and have yet to see a team as dedicated to its mission as the one I lead today. The small team of women and men of Quintillion, together with our investors and partners, have remained focused on the job and our clients. As a result, we have built and now operate a world-class fiber-optic network that is transforming communities, businesses, and lives in Alaska's Arctic.
I want to acknowledge that what is alleged to have occurred is appalling, and not
representative of the way Quintillion or its people do business. Equally important to note is that Quintillion's board of directors were the ones who discovered the wrongful activity, conducted a detailed and extensive internal investigation, voluntarily reported these findings to the U.S. Department of Justice, and were the first to notify Quintillion's customers and lenders. Quintillion itself, along with its investors and lenders, were the victims of the charged conduct. We will continue to fully cooperate with the U.S. Department of Justice as they prosecute this matter.
While all this transpired, we nevertheless still had an important job to do. Our
management team focused on completing construction and providing commercial service to all of our clients and end users across our complete network. I am tremendously proud that our team responded aggressively to this challenge and diligently executed the plan to construct and operate a remarkable system, in a place where nothing like this had ever been done. Along with a new 500-mile terrestrial fiber system from Fairbanks to Deadhorse, Quintillion's team built a 1,200-mile subsea fiber system, the first-ever submarine cable system in the North American Arctic, which, in fact, did go live on time on December 1, 2017, and has performed flawlessly for our customers ever since.
That network has the ability to serve some 20,000 residents and businesses in the
Alaska Native communities of Utqiaġvik, Point Hope, Wainwright, Kotzebue, and Nome — communities that have epitomized the term "digital divide." The majority of these communities have been without reliable, affordable, high-speed broadband, or any kind of meaningful modern cell service. The Quintillion network is now providing access to high speed broadband capacity for telecommunication service providers at a significantly lower cost per megabit, providing dramatically improved quality of service over existing satellite and microwave options. Quintillion's infrastructure is enabling isolated communities to connect to the outside world in a manner that is historic. From telemedicine to virtual classrooms and on-line training programs, these communities are starting to leverage our system to the benefit of their patients, students and consumers. One school has had its internet bill cut by two thirds. Downloads are faster.
Businesses are able to order supplies faster. One community has a public center
offering free Wi-Fi and video conferencing. Entrepreneurs are selling their wares online.
What is happening is truly transformative, and given we have only been in service for four months, this is only the beginning.
Quintillion is seeing success in all of our markets, and we and our investors are confident that we will continue to deliver unique value to those who we serve, and we view our mission as greater than any individual parts. At Quintillion, our focus is on the future we can achieve for the benefit of many. Our management team and investors are fully engaged and committed, and we will remain steadfast and in pursuit of these goals until the job is completed.
George Tronsrue III is interim CEO of Quintillion.
WASHINGTON – On the eve of critical hearings on Capitol Hill, top White House officials are intensifying efforts to document wasteful spending by Scott Pruitt as President Donald Trump weighs whether to keep supporting his controversial Environmental Protection Agency chief, senior administration officials said Wednesday.
According to the officials, White House budget director Mick Mulvaney has expanded an inquiry into the nearly $43,000 soundproof phone booth Pruitt had installed in his office to cover other costly expenditures, including tickets on first-class flights and stays at boutique hotels.
And the White House Counsel's Office is examining allegations of unethical behavior, among them Pruitt's decision to rent part of a Capitol Hill condo for $50 a night from a lobbyist and her husband, who had business before the agency.
EPA staffers are aiding both probes, the officials said, speaking on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal matters. Those investigations signal how uncertain Pruitt's status is within the White House.
The administrator is expected to address the dizzying swirl of allegations Thursday, when he is set to testify before two House panels about his agency's budget. Several staffers said he was huddling privately with his closest aides on how to best answer non-budget questions. He has outlined plans to blame others for some of his most controversial decisions, such as the large pay raises given to two staffers who moved with him from Oklahoma to Washington.
But even some supporters in Congress are growing impatient, with Republican lawmakers demanding greater accountability and telling Pruitt allies to stand down from praising him.
Sen. James Inhofe, R-Okla., said in a statement Wednesday that he has "been pleased" with Pruitt's work "rolling back regulations and restoring the EPA to its proper size and scope, but these latest reports are new to me. While I have no reason to believe they are true, they are concerning and I think we should hear directly from Administrator Pruitt about them."
Inside the White House, the EPA chief has lost the backing of many senior aides, including Chief of Staff John Kelly, and communications officials, lawyers and Cabinet affairs officials, whose calls he ignores. He is not interested in "turning the page," as one senior administration official put it Wednesday.
Pruitt, for his part, believes the White House is leaking damaging details about him and is "out to get him," in the words of a Pruitt ally.
Trump is not ready to remove Pruitt from his post, according to individuals who have spoken with him, but he has become increasingly concerned as new allegations have continued to surface.
Marc Short, a senior Trump aide and longtime Koch brothers political operative, remains one of the few in the administration willing to defend him, administration officials said. Short has told donors and advisers in recent days that Pruitt has done well at the agency.
Thursday's budget hearings – before the House Energy and Commerce environment subcommittee in the morning and the House Appropriations subcommittee on interior, environment and related agencies in the afternoon – will expose Pruitt to the most intense congressional scrutiny he has faced. Despite his eroding support on the Hill, nearly all Republicans have stopped short of calling for his resignation.
Rep. Ryan Costello, R-Pa., who sits on the Energy and Commerce panel, said he and other lawmakers will be looking at whether the administrator's spending was more "a one-off," like the $139,000 doors installed in Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke's office.
"Like, Ryan Zinke's doors? I wouldn't have done that, but whatever. Sometimes a bad headline's a bad headline," Costello said. "But the sound booth thing, I don't get that. (Pruitt) flies coach when he pays, and he flies first class if they pay? It doesn't sit well, and it undermines his credibility."
One Republican with longtime ties to Pruitt, Rep. Tom Cole, R-Okla., has warned him that he could face a bruising inquisition. Cole, who sits on the Appropriations subcommittee that oversees the EPA, said he told him the upcoming hearing would "be pretty rough. And be ready."
"If you haven't talked to the chairman yet, I would recommend that you do that," Cole said he advised Pruitt. "And frankly, I would also recommend, if you have the time, that you call every member of the subcommittee, Democrat and Republican alike. Give them the chance to tell you what they're concerned about, maybe even answer some of these in private."
Pruitt appears to have heeded part of this advice, having called House Energy and Commerce Committee Chairman Greg Walden, R-Ore., and Appropriations interior subcommittee Chairman Ken Calvert, R-Calif. The administrator also contacted some lawmakers from both parties Wednesday to inform them that their districts had received agency grants to clean up former industrial sites, known as brownfields.
But he never reached out to Walden's and Calvert's Democratic counterparts, Reps. Frank Pallone, N.J., and Betty McCollum, Minn.
"I think that he should resign, because he's used his position to enrich himself rather than to address the health and safety of the public," Pallone said in an interview Wednesday.
Keeping the White House at arm's length, Pruitt has rehearsed answers aimed at deflecting some of the most serious ethical allegations to surface over the past few months. The prep sessions, which started Friday, have included policy briefings from each of the agency's program offices.
Staffers drafted a set of talking points titled "hot topics," which has been altered over time and includes responses to several questions related to his spending practices. One statement in the document, which was first reported by the New York Times, addresses how Pruitt's security team has begun to explore ways to have him travel without sitting in first class.
"Changes have already begun occurring, and I have been flying coach," it reads.
Asked about Pruitt's preparations, EPA spokesman Jahan Wilcox called the hearings "an opportunity to reiterate the accomplishments of Trump's EPA, which includes working to repeal (President Barack) Obama's Clean Power Plan and Waters of the United States, providing regulatory certainty and declaring a war on lead – all while returning to Reagan-era staffing levels."
The controversies have prompted at least one change among Pruitt's senior staff: the accelerated retirement of the head of his protective detail, Pasquale "Nino" Perrotta, according to an EPA official. Perrotta, who advocated for the administrator flying first-class as a security precaution, enlisted a business associate to conduct a security sweep of Pruitt's office and endorsed other privacy measures, had planned to step down this summer. He now will leave sooner, the official said.
Perrotta did not return a call seeking comment.
While protesters gathered outside EPA headquarters to chant slogans nears Pruitt's third-floor office, lawmakers such as Sen. Pat Roberts, R-Kan., indicated that they were still willing to support him.
"I hope he stays," Roberts said. "Because what he's doing to relieve farmers, ranchers, small-town folks of their regulatory morass has been good. I mean, results count."
The Washington Post's Dino Grandoni, David Weigel, Mike DeBonis, Aaron C. Davis and Erica Werner contributed to this report.
WASHINGTON — French President Emmanuel Macron told a joint session of Congress on Wednesday that the United States should stay in the Iran nuclear deal and the Paris climate change accord, both international deals that President Donald Trump has denounced as part of his America First foreign policy.
Macron's speech, delivered in the House chamber, spurred multiple standing ovations, many from Democratic lawmakers heartened by his none-too-subtle rebuke of many of Trump's positions and political instincts.
Macron upbraided those who he said were animated by the siren of nationalism, a political fault line in both America and Europe. He also defended free trade, globalism and science, and cited the contributions of African-Americans and women in the push for civil rights and equality.
"We have two possible ways ahead," Macron said. "We can choose isolationism, withdrawal and nationalism. This is an option. It can be tempting to us as a temporary remedy to our fears.
"But closing the door to the world will not stop the evolution of the world. It will not douse, but inflame, the fears of our citizens. We have to keep our eyes wide open to the new risks right in front of us."
Macron and Trump have forged what appears to be an affectionate relationship as newly elected outsiders. But their political centers of gravity remain distant, and their personal styles at times seem awkward.
On Tuesday, Trump, in full view of TV cameras, reached over and said he flecked a bit of dandruff off the younger man's shoulder in order to render him "perfect." Later, Macron threw his right arm over the taller man's shoulder and kept it there as they left a news briefing,
At times in his speech Wednesday, Macron lauded policies that have flowed from the relationship, including the recent airstrikes by U.S., French and British forces against three suspected chemical weapons facilities in Syria.
But there was no question that Macron also sought to distance himself from the president.
Macron offered a firm denunciation of Trump's threat to withdraw from the 2015 Iran nuclear deal by a self-imposed deadline of May 12 unless it is "fixed."
"We signed it, at the initiative of the United States," Macron said. "We signed it, both the United States and France. That is why we cannot say we should get rid of it like that."
The French president said supplemental agreements under discussion would address Trump's concerns. They include greater efforts to constrain Iran's support for militant groups in the Middle East, and additional monitoring of Tehran's ballistic missile program.
Macron was similarly critical of Trump's decision to withdraw from the Paris climate accord, which Trump dismissed last June by announcing he "was elected to represent the citizens of Pittsburgh, not Paris."
"What is the meaning of our life, really, if we work and live destroying the planet, while sacrificing the future of our children?" the French leader asked.
"By polluting the oceans, not mitigating CO2 emissions, and destroying our biodiversity, we are killing our planet. Let us face it: There is no planet B."
Macron also took aim at the president's objections to global trade deals, which he said had created jobs on both sides of the Atlantic.
"A commercial war opposing allies is not consistent with our mission, with our history, with our current commitments for the global security," he said. "At the end of the day, it will destroy jobs, increase prices and the middle class will have to pay for it."
"Legitimate concerns" should be dealt with by negotiating within the World Trade Organization, he said.
"We wrote these rules," he said. "We should follow them."
Macron's speech to Congress followed two days in which he and his wife, Brigitte, were feted by the president and his wife, Melania.
The foursome took a helicopter ride Monday night to George Washington's riverside estate at Mount Vernon in Virginia, where they ate dinner on the terrace. On Tuesday, the Trumps formally welcomed the couple on the South Lawn of the White House, followed by a news conference. That night, Trump and Macron offered warm toasts at the first state dinner of the Trump administration.
JUNEAU — A Juneau Democratic state House member's announcement this week that he would not seek re-election came three months after a woman filed a sexual harassment complaint against him.
The Juneau media outlet that employs the woman filed the complaint against Rep. Justin Parish in late January, House Speaker Bryce Edgmon, D-Dillingham, said in a prepared statement Wednesday.
Edgmon's statement did not identify the outlet nor describe Parish's alleged conduct. But a Juneau Empire story on the complaint references "a year and a half of unwanted public encounters that began before Parish's election to the Legislature," in November 2016.
"The encounters, documented in depth by the woman, included unwanted attention, flirting, phone calls and touching on the arms and torso. The woman repeatedly requested that he stop calling her and touching her," the Empire's story said.
The media outlet where the woman works launched its own investigation into the legislator's behavior.
At the outlet's request, Parish completed "additional training" in response to the complaint, Edgmon's statement said. That "closed this matter," Edgmon's statement said, without a finding of harassment under the Legislature's policy.
Parish did not respond to a request for comment. House leaders canceled their daily floor session and two of the three hearings they had scheduled for Wednesday.
The Empire's story was published late Tuesday, just hours after Parish announced that he would not seek re-election.
One of his former aides, Rob Edwardson, has filed to run for Parish's seat. Edwardson didn't respond to a request for comment about the complaint against his former boss.
Parish is the third member of the House's mostly-Democratic majority to be accused in recent months of inappropriate sexual advances.
Former Kiana Democratic Rep. Dean Westlake resigned in December after being accused of sexual harassment by multiple women. And former Bethel Democratic Rep. Zach Fansler resigned in February after a woman accused him of slapping her during a romantic encounter in a Juneau hotel room.
A committee of legislative leaders on Tuesday approved two rewritten sexual harassment and misconduct policies.
Chad Winberg thought he'd seen the last of a 200-pound water heater that was dumped at his South Anchorage business last week, which — in a case of do-it-yourself justice that has turned Winberg into a local internet hero — he promptly returned to the owner's driveway.
But on Wednesday, Winberg got an update on Facebook: Someone had spotted the water heater yet again. This time it was behind a dumpster in Midtown.
In a brief interview Monday, the owner of the water heater, whom the Anchorage Daily News has not identified because he has not been charged with a crime, admitted he left the huge metal shell at Winberg's business.
He then said he took it to the dump.
But when Winberg drove to the dumpster off Latouche Street, he found the water heater leaning against a fence. The water heater had easily identifiable spray paint markings made by Winberg the week before.
It wasn't clear how long the water heater had been there. Winberg picked it up, spray-painted it some more and wrote: "Return to sender. Address not deliverable. Thanks, Anchorage."
On Wednesday afternoon, Winberg drove back to the man's South Anchorage house and, once again, dropped it off in the man's driveway. He later recorded a Facebook Live video of the man rolling the water heater up the driveway.
In a second video, a grinning Winberg drives past the house, and sees the man with the water heater at the top of the driveway. "Looks heavy! Take it to the dump this time!" he yelled.
"Whatever," the man can be heard saying.
Winberg, in a phone interview Wednesday, said he was both amused and disappointed that the water heater had resurfaced.
He also said that while he doesn't really have time to deal with it again, it would be funny if it showed up anywhere else in town.
At this point, Winberg said, a lot of people in Anchorage are keeping an eye out for it.
Travis Reinking, the mentally disturbed man charged in the Waffle House killings, had his guns taken away with the help of law enforcement.
This is a fact.
But the guns were returned to him by his father, and four people were killed the other day in that Waffle House in Nashville, Tennessee.
These, too, are facts.
President Donald Trump did not give the guns back to Reinking, the NRA didn't, and the Republicans did not meet in a quiet cloakroom so innocents would be slaughtered.
Law-abiding gun owners of America didn't demand that the guns be returned to a man with obvious mental illness.
The killer's father, Jeffrey Reinking, did that on his own, according to police.
He took possession of the guns from law enforcement. He knew that his son was sick, that he may well have been dangerous.
And yet he gave them back to his son.
Yes, facts are stubborn things, aren't they?
Yet immediately after the Waffle House killings, the hot takes were launched in media, on Twitter, and the high priests of the left began attacking the Second Amendment right to bear arms.
It was Trump's fault and the NRA's fault and the fault of America's "gun-culture" and the Republicans' fault, and the fault of the patriots who wrote the Constitution to protect liberty and minority rights, and on and on.
If you're a regular consumer of American news, you know this liturgy by heart. Do we really need another "town meeting" on national cable news to unleash the demagogues?
Using the Nashville Waffle House shooting in hot takes to shame Americans away from publicly supporting the Second Amendment must be extremely satisfying to some.
But it's about as logical as using the Toronto van attack the other day to stop Canadians from renting vans.
When partisan politics meets fear and opportunity, the hot takes come rushing, and the herding of the mob commences and facts are pushed aside.
We've seen this before in the aftermath of other shootings, like the recent carnage at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Florida.
The immediate cry was to gut the Bill of Rights in the name of "common sense" gun laws, and those who didn't join up were shamed.
Only later did facts come out.
An armed Broward County sheriff's deputy refused to engage the shooter. Local law enforcement had repeated run-ins with the alleged shooter; they knew he was armed and dangerous and yet did nothing.
The federal PROMISE program, brainchild of the Obama administration, was designed to allow schools to deal with disciplinary issues without notifying police.
The 19-year-old suspect, former student Nikolas Cruz, was reportedly not in this program. But such policies may allow troublemakers like him to fall through the cracks.
Seventeen were killed, and he confessed pulling the trigger, authorities said.
But before the details were all known, the hot takes were already thrown.
Appeals to fear and rage aren't policy, but they are effective politics, especially in a culture that has been weaned away from understanding that our republic was designed to be slow and deliberate to protect the rights of the minority against the passions of the day.
Now we're fed a daily dose of policy by polls and pundits shouting on TV. Civics in schools is an afterthought.
Fear and rage are potent weapons. And there's nothing like pushing raw emotion and political tribal chant to herd people to policy, whether that be another war in the Middle East or tearing up the Bill of Rights.
Are there good and honestly outraged and frightened Americans who just want to put an end to these shootings? Yes, of course.
But fear and outrage also have political utility. And those techniques are used by political hacks with their eyes on the 2018 elections.
That is the way of hot takes. Then, a few hours pass, and the facts start coming out.
In August 2017, the U.S. Secret Service arrested Travis Reinking, who is from Morton, Ill., near the White House. He demanded a meeting with President Trump. Federal authorities contacted the Illinois State Police asking that Reinking's state firearm owner's identification card be revoked. It was. He gave up his FOID card.
Travis Reinking also gave up his guns, three rifles and a 9 mm handgun.
But his father gave them back to him.
In June 2017, Travis Reinking was wearing a dress, pulled it off and jumped into a pool and began yelling at people. Authorities said he was spotted tossing a rifle into the trunk of his car.
According to news reports, a Tazewell County, Ill., sheriff's deputy told the father what had happened, adding in his police report that "he might want to lock the guns back up until Travis gets mental help which he stated he would."
That report mentions Jeffrey Reinking taking Travis' guns away earlier.
And in May 2016, the sheriff's office found Travis Reinking talking of suicide, that pop singer Taylor Swift was stalking him and that he had weapons.
You want "common sense" gun laws? How about promoting Gun Violence Restraining Order bills in the states? A GVRO would allow family members living with a mentally ill person to seek a court order to temporarily seize their guns.
But in this case?
This one is not on law-abiding gun owners who safely keep weapons to defend themselves and their families, as is their right.
This one's on the father.
He gave those guns back to his son.
John Kass is a columnist for the Chicago Tribune. His Twitter handle is @john_kass.
President Donald Trump's personal attorney Michael Cohen on Wednesday told a federal judge that he would invoke his Fifth Amendment right not to incriminate himself in a lawsuit brought by adult entertainer Stormy Daniels.
Cohen's declaration, in support of his request to pause proceedings in the civil case, cited an "ongoing criminal investigation by the FBI and U.S. Attorney for the Southern District of New York."
Earlier this month, the FBI raided Cohen's home, office and a hotel room where he had been staying. That investigation includes the effort to quash embarrassing stories about Trump during the 2016 campaign, according to a person familiar with the matter.
Daniels, who alleges she had an affair with Trump years ago, is seeking to void a confidentiality agreement she signed just days before the 2016 presidential election in exchange for $130,000. Cohen has said he facilitated the payment using his own money from a home-equity line of credit.
The suit, filed last month, names the president and Essential Consultants, a company Cohen created as a vehicle for the payment, as defendants. She later added Cohen as a defendant.
In the filing Wednesday, Cohen said the FBI had seized "various electronic devices and documents" that contained information relating to the payment to Daniels, as well as related communications with Cohen's lawyer, Brent Blakely.
"This is a stunning development," Michael Avenatti, a lawyer for Daniels, said in a tweet. "Never before in our nation's history has the attorney for the sitting President invoked the 5th Amend in connection with issues surrounding the President. It is esp. stunning seeing as MC served as the "fixer" for Mr. Trump for over 10 yrs."
It is not uncommon for defendants facing both civil liability and criminal prosecution to request a pause in civil proceedings to avoid giving sworn testimony and producing documents that could prove incriminating.
Even so, in 2016, Trump sneered at Hillary Clinton aides for exercising their right not to self-incriminate during a congressional investigation into her private email server.
"The mob takes the Fifth," Trump said at one campaign rally, according to the Associated Press. "If you're innocent, why are you taking the Fifth Amendment?"
Yet in 1990, Trump himself took the Fifth to avoid answering 97 questions in a divorce deposition, the AP noted.
Cohen's attorneys argued last week for a pause in the Daniels case, in the U.S. District Court of the Central District of California. Judge James Otero ordered them to file a declaration from Cohen himself, stating whether he intended to assert his constitutional right against self-incrimination.
Otero must now decide whether there is evidence of enough overlap between the civil case and the criminal investigation to justify a pause.
In New York, meanwhile, lawyers for Cohen and Trump continue to fight for the ability to review material seized in he raids before prosecutors have access to it.
They have argued Cohen should have the ability to decide whether some of the material relates to communications between Cohen and his legal clients and therefore should be shielded from prosecutors' review.
In letters to the court filed Wednesday, lawyers for Cohen, Trump and the Trump Organization said they were prepared to put significant resources into quickly reviewing the documents. A lawyer for Trump wrote that the president himself would be available "as needed" to assist in the process.
Federal District Judge Kimba Wood has ordered that prosecutors let Cohen's lawyers review some of the seized material. She has scheduled a hearing for Thursday to provide an update on the issue.
I respectfully disagree with Rep. Josephson's recent opinion piece about the Pebble mining prospect that is full of misleading and inaccurate claims. Because he is in session, he may not have had the benefit of the most up-to-date information about the project.
He goes to great length to suggest that the state of Alaska needs to participate in Pebble permitting and quotes from a February hearing to make this point. It is nothing more than political sophistry designed to obscure the normal process. Since that hearing and not because of it, the Army Corps of Engineers, following normal procedure, has reached out to the multitude of regulatory agencies responsible for reviewing Pebble about their interest in reviewing Pebble's plan. The state of Alaska is a cooperating agency, along with several federal agencies, the local borough and tribal governments.
Rep. Josephson makes the claim that scientific evidence shows the project is risky. This refers to the Environmental Protection Agency's Bristol Bay Watershed Assessment, a hastily crafted desktop survey of the region developed for the sole purpose of allowing the EPA to take an unprecedented pre-emptive action to stop Pebble before it could enter permitting. The U.S. House Science Committee
put it best in 2017, noting that EPA's actions were rife with misconduct and "determined that the preemptive action taken for the Pebble Mine Project was unprecedented under the Clean Water Act and was justified by a questionable scientific assessment that relied on predetermined conclusions developed by EPA officials."
Rep. Josephson says we are continuing to advance our project while ignoring Alaskans. I disagree and will remind the representative what I said in front of his committee outlining changes we have made to the project in direct response to things we heard from Alaskans. Among the more noteworthy: no cyanide
for gold recovery; enhanced safeguards for our tailings facility; presenting an overall smaller, more compact mine plan with no major mine infrastructure in the Upper Talarik Creek drainage; and looking at a range of initiatives to help share the opportunity from the project with residents of the region, including extra capacity in our energy infrastructure to potentially share gas or electricity, should there be interest within Southwest Alaska communities.
This is not ignoring; it is listening and changing.
Pebble has initiated the intensive National Environmental Policy Act (NEPA) review process for the project. Whatever one's views about Pebble development, most Alaskans agree the project should be afforded a fair and rigorous process — one based on a real project with volumes of technical information and not the hypothetical construct from the EPA. This NEPA process is hailed from all quarters, including national environmental groups opposed to all development in Alaska who call NEPA the "Magna Carta" of environmental law. Pebble is not seeking special treatment, just fair treatment, via this review process.
Rep. Josephson says we have a track record of not finishing what we started. Not only is this factually wrong, but I also take personal offense on behalf of the hardworking staff at our site operation who take their jobs seriously. We have done everything asked of us by the state Department of Natural Resources and then some. We have been inspected 57 times since 2003 and have never had a serious issue. While there was no justification for the state taking the step to ask for a bond, it has the legal authority to take this step and we agreed.
Our exploration work at the Pebble site is in line with accepted industry and state of Alaska standards. Statements to contrary are either misinformed or intentionally misleading.
Rep. Josephson claims we do not understand the science or the economics of the region. Perhaps he can take us up on our offer to visit the region to learn firsthand about the project. We take our commitment to presenting a responsible plan of development seriously and have backed this talk with an extensive amount of engineering, environmental and technical information, including investing more than $150 million dollars on environmental studies alone.
Additionally, those painting the Southwest Alaska economy as robust must be looking at a different data set than we are. The communities around Iliamna Lake face many socioeconomic challenges. Whether Pebble can play an important role in the future of the region is an issue Alaskans will continue to discuss.
The one thing Rep. Josephson and I can agree upon is the importance of participating in all public comment opportunities for the project. Currently, the project is in the scoping process — a process for the public to tell the Army Corps of Engineers what issues should be within the "scope" of their review.
I will conclude by publicly reiterating my offer to Rep. Josephson that he considers me a resource for timely information about the project. I think it would be time better spent than composing uninformed rants about our project.
Mark Hamilton is president emeritus of the University of Alaska and a retired major general, U.S. Army. He currently serves as executive vice president of external affairs for the Pebble Limited Partnership.
The mostly gravel road that follows the northern section of Alaska's 800-mile-long oil pipeline is officially named the Dalton Highway, although to call it a highway rather than the Haul Road is somewhat like the difference between calling a particular stream a creek or a crick.
Steve, who was raised on a farm in North Dakota, explained the difference between the two terms for a small water flow as determined by cattle, which could change a creek "where native brook trout make their living" into a crick "where cows and ducks do their business."
I was raised in Alaska and had not heard of either. I called them streams and thought the difference was as unimportant as "tomayto" vs. "tomahto."
The name of the road didn't make a difference to me, but I follow the disputes about other place names and landscape words — like what to call Denali or Utqiagvik.
It bothered me the first time I saw the clipping of rainbow trout to "bow" and caribou to "boo" in text. Outdoor vocabularies seem caught somewhere between honoring traditions by conveying a sense of place through diverse language and advancing as a monoculture to a dictionary of emojis.
The terminology used by those who communicate about hunting often leads to misunderstanding. It is not a matter of taste as much as a failure to come to terms with what certain words mean both in and out of context.
To hunters, "sport" hunting is defined more by what it is not and is inaccurate in describing what it is. When the word gained popularity in the United States, it was meant to differentiate hunters who did not earn an income from their hunting activity from market hunters, who decimated the waterfowl, buffalo and passenger pigeon populations for profit.
In recent times, the term differentiates this same "regular" hunter from other types of hunting — subsistence hunting or government management programs. But it gives the misleading impression that hunters are killing animals "just for fun."
This typing of hunters betrays the fact that the motivation of individual hunters can be the same or different despite the type. It includes multiple reasons — obtaining meat to survive or for a ceremonial meal, participating in nature, sharing in a tradition, or escaping from the alienating qualities of a life spent inside an office, house and car.
Hunters justify hunting in terms of their positive contribution to game management and conservation funding. But it isn't why they hunt. And those who don't hunt sometimes judge hunters for the "psychotic" urge to kill an animal that cannot be justified by science or economics. To call hunting sport and recreation doesn't help the lawful hunter who pursues a path that is honest and in accordance with his or her own ethics.
I follow food writer Millie Diamond, who shares her experience raising pigs for food on Instagram. Her account, piglet2plate, is an often uncomfortable yet authentic portrayal of a meat eater's desire to value the life of an animal that will become food as an alternative to eating meat from slaughterhouses. I didn't grow up farming or hunting, and I imagine it would be more difficult for me to kill an animal I raised than one living in the wild.
It's all difficult — life on this planet, whether we are disconnected from the pain and suffering of wild creatures or involved in it. Eating is one of life's great joys, and hunting includes a variety of motivations. To call it sport or recreation, to call a hunter an athlete or mentor, to call an animal a harvest or a trophy — it is all a borrowing of words that don't quite fit.
Reading hunting literature, I find hunters divide each other into types based on motivations as much as they are lumped together in what they do: Fair Chase vs. Subsistence; the Western Mountain Man vs. the Eastern Aristocrat Sportsman; the Honest Serious Poacher vs. the Gentleman Hunter; Appreciative-oriented vs. Achievement-oriented; Plastic Hunting vs. Real Hunting; Backcountry vs. Road Hunter; Market Hunter vs. Wilderness Warrior; Urban vs. Rural; Hunters vs. Shooters. And so on.
In truth, hunting is particular to an individual in place and time. I remember meeting another hunter and questioning whether or not I liked him very much. He wasn't much of a conversationalist. But after spending a day in the field with him and the dogs hunting birds, I learned what kind of hunter he was.
At the end of a long day, four of us and our dogs got back to the vehicles. One guy immediately opened a soda and guzzled it and then ate a candy bar while his dog panted under the tailgate. Not this other guy, who carefully went over his dog and inspected her paws, eyes and ears. He brushed the burrs from her fur and poured her a clean dish of water. When she settled into the back seat of his truck, he took care of his birds, then cleaned his gun and put it away. Only then did he take a drink and have a bite to eat.
I would call him the kind of hunter who took care of his dog first — a bird hunter. And, I'd like to be the kind of hunter whose actions demonstrate what I believe and who has the courage to be honest and accurate about what hunting is, because the difference between words is important if it gives rise to misunderstanding.
There is much a hunter can share about her direct experience of the outdoors. It's something we may need now more than ever as we move farther away from wild environments and toward electronic backgrounds.
Christine Cunningham of Kenai is a lifelong Alaskan and avid hunter. On alternate weeks, she writes about Alaska hunting and fishing. Contact her at email@example.com.
One group's camping gear was blown away in the wind. The other's shelter was destroyed, and they couldn't start a fire.
Two camping parties in different areas of Alaska were rescued overnight after severe weather destroyed their camps, stranding them without needed supplies, Alaska State Troopers said Wednesday.
In both cases, search and rescue crews were delayed in reaching the groups due to a powerful windstorm that slammed some parts of the state, and they had to turn back because the weather was so bad, troopers said.
The first rescue happened in the Alaska Range, southeast of the community of Nikolai. Two out-of-state hunters, led by a Talkeetna bear hunting guide, called in an SOS from a Garmin InReach device around 7:30 a.m., saying they were caught above the tree line in extreme weather, troopers said.
Winds over 70 mph had destroyed their camp and survival gear. They were stranded without shelter and unable to make a fire, troopers were told.
"Continuous communication throughout the day indicated the weather was worsening and their plight had become desperate," troopers said.
The Rescue Coordination Center launched from Anchorage but had to turn back due to "extreme conditions," troopers said. Later in the day, search and rescue teams left from the Interior city of Fairbanks.
Around 11 p.m., troopers got word that one of the hunters, Roxanne Cadotte-Speckman, 60, of Pleasant Hill, Oregon, was rescued by another hunting guide in a PA-18 Super Cub plane. She had been taken to a lower elevation, troopers were told.
Search and rescue teams reached the other two stranded hunters — Calvin Speckman, 71, from Pleasant Hill, Oregon, and guide Jason Vogel, 45, from Talkeetna — shortly afterward, troopers said.
All three were taken to Fairbanks in a Black Hawk helicopter. They were dropped off "in good condition after suffering from exposure," and didn't report any major injuries, troopers said.
The second search and rescue, also hindered by bad weather, took place early Wednesday morning on Powell Glacier, north of the community of Chickaloon.
A couple from Washington state became stranded after their camping supplies were blown away in the windstorm, trooper said.
Troopers were called around noon from a person outside Alaska, saying that Katherine Wyatt, 32, and Andrew Wyatt, 33, were stuck and needed help getting off the glacier. Troopers think the couple had a satellite communication device that they used to call the person from out of state.
With bad weather, including winds clocking in over 80 mph, troopers couldn't launch search and rescue efforts for 10 hours.
The Rescue Coordination Center was able to reach the couple just before 3 a.m. Wednesday. They were picked up by a Black Hawk helicopter, according to troopers, and taken to an Anchorage hospital.
WASHINGTON — Six new Coast Guard fast response cutters and two new patrol boats are headed to Alaska, members of the state's congressional delegation announced Wednesday.
The new cutters will be stationed in Kodiak, Seward, Kitka and Ketchikan, with additional patrol boats sent to Petersburg and Juneau. (Kodiak and Ketchikan are getting two cutters each.)
Wednesday's Coast Guard announcement came after Alaska Sen. Dan Sullivan threatened to derail the nomination of Vice Adm. Karl Schultz to be commandant of the Coast Guard.
In 2015, the Coast Guard indicated that they planned to remove seven major cutters — Island Class, 110-foot ships — and replace them with six 154-foot fast response cutters, clustered in just two communities.
"We have an enormously big area to cover," Sullivan said. And clustering the vessels would also mean less infrastructure, and ultimately fewer employees.
"They had sent us a letter committing to this two days ago," Sullivan said. "It wasn't good enough. We sent it back." He said the earlier letter was "vague" and didn't provide the number or locations of new vessels. He offered a deadline of 9 a.m. Wednesday for a new response, or he would pull Schultz's nomination from the day's agenda — and he heard back at 8:45 a.m., he said.
"Today we got a finalized, no kidding letter from the commandant of the Coast Guard (saying) that we're going to have not six, not seven, but eight hulls for Alaska," Sullivan said Wednesday. And he said, "particularly for Southeast Alaska, this is a big deal."
The new boats will show up in 2023, and "no assets will be decommissioned prior to the arrival of new assets," according to Sullivan's office. The senator credited "consistent pressure" from the delegation for Alaska acquisitions — an effort that he said prevented a potential draw-down of support in those towns.
"I still have a hold on" his nomination, Sullivan said, noting that he still had other issues to work through with Coast Guard before accepting the new nominee.
Rep. Don Young said that he has "long advocated for these updates," working with leadership in the House of Representatives to make sure that the state's Coast Guard needs were prioritized and funded. "I am particularly pleased to see these vessels will be distributed across Southeast Alaska," Young said.
The fiscal year 2018 budget included $340 million for the Coast Guard to commission new fast response cutters. The new vessels are longer and can stay at sea for greater lengths of time than the current 110-foot Island Class patrol boats, Young said.
The delegation also grabbed $51.5 million in the budget to fund new housing and infrastructure projects related to the cutters, Young said.
"Our study uncovered the need for facilities including piers, maintenance buildings and community housing to support these cutters and their crews prior to homeport arrival," Coast Guard Adm. Paul Zukunft said in a letter to Sullivan dated April 25.
"This plan requires significant infrastructure and local housing investments in the communities of Kodiak, Seward and Kitka," Zukunft wrote. He asked for support when the Coast Guard requests federal funding, "and for the support of city officials as we mutually prepare for the arrival of the patrol boats."
"This announcement gives many of our Southeast communities the long-term certainty they've been asking for and brings significant investments — in infrastructure and local housing — to our coastal communities," Sullivan said. "And frankly, we're not done pushing the Coast Guard during their recapitalization process. In fact, we're just beginning."
The community of Petersburg will still lose three personnel members by moving to a smaller vessel. Sullivan still counted it as a victory, saying the city's mayor was worried they were going to "lose everything." The new vessel will be 87 feet long, replacing a 110-foot cutter.
All three members of Alaska's congressional delegation signed on to a letter Nov. 17 that expressed concern about future limitations to the state's Coast Guard fleet.
"We are deeply concerned with the impact you decision may have on operational response time to national security threats, fisheries enforcement, and search and rescue missions," they wrote.
At the time, Alaska was set to get six cuttters to replace seven "Island Class Patrol Boats." And, they wrote,"the tyranny of distance is the bane of any search and rescue case; a matter of hours can mean the difference between life and death."
"Where we place our assets in order for them to be responsive is crucial not only from a national security perspective, but for fisheries enforcement and search and rescue missions as well," Alaska Sen. Lisa Murkowski said in a statement Wednesday.
Murkowski is a member of the Homeland Security Appropriations Subcommittee, where she said she advocated for the funding to spread vessels among "as many communities as possible."
Ron Alleva, the Anchorage auctioneer who has waged a long campaign against the homeless shelter and soup kitchen that operate next to his business in the Ship Creek area, has again sued the city and nonprofits for causing what he says is deep damage to his business and family.
It's the latest in a string of legal entanglements between Alleva and the city, which have led to several payouts of taxpayer money in his favor in recent years.
The new lawsuit, filed April 17 in Anchorage District Court, is largely identical to one Alleva filed in 2012. That suit resulted in a $30,000 cash settlement, records show. In the new suit, Alleva stands to get a lot more.
Alleva is trying to recoup economic losses as he prepares to shut down and move much of his auction business along East Third Avenue, he said.
"They're suffocating me emotionally, spiritually, physically, financially," Alleva said in a phone interview.
In the lawsuit, Alleva claims "urination and defecation … thrown bottles, strewn trash and the frequent scaring" of customers and tenants had led to mounting operating losses since 2011, including a $362,000 loss in 2016. The suit names Catholic Social Services, the parent organization of the Brother Francis Shelter; Bean's Cafe, a separate nonprofit; and their longtime landlord, the city of Anchorage.
Alleva made similar claims in 2012. This time, Alleva is also claiming "inverse condemnation," alleging the city and nonprofits had effectively condemned his property by failing to control illegal activity and other bad behavior by some shelter clients.
Officials with Catholic Social Services and Bean's Cafe declined to comment Tuesday. City attorney Rebecca Windt-Pearson said the city was still evaluating the lawsuit.
But Windt-Pearson noted new efforts by the city to better manage the area around Brother Francis Shelter and Bean's Cafe: A team of police officers, paramedic firefighters and social workers has been stationed there since January, in hopes of reversing a flood of non-emergency 911 calls over the years. Between 2010 and 2017, the number of emergency responses to the area more than doubled, data show.
"The presence of emergency personnel down there on an ongoing basis, I think, has made a considerable difference recently," Windt-Pearson said.
Officials say the new strategy, aimed at finding permanent solutions to some of the city's more intractable problems, has led to a noticeable reduction in calls to police and emergency responders, cited by Alleva in the lawsuit.
Alleva said the city had tried to clean up the area but he hadn't noticed much of a difference. He said he spent many hours this past weekend picking up garbage.
A fixture at public meetings and at City Hall, Alleva is known for staging public demonstrations to air his grievances. In September, Alleva blared train horns, alarm bells and sirens from his auction storage yard and put up a sign declaring to shelter residents that "THE PARTY IS OVER," sowing confusion and anger among people who were camping on the street.
In both the 2012 suit and the most recent lawsuit, Alleva said he wants the shelter and soup kitchen to shut down or move.
Alleva has tangled in court with the city in other ways over the use of his land.
In November, Alleva sued the city to assert trees had been improperly cut down on a property he was leasing to Municipal Light & Power.
Just last week, the city agreed to pay $5,000 to settle that suit, records show.
The city split the 2012 settlement with Catholic Social Services and Bean's Cafe, according to a copy of the settlement agreement.
In the new lawsuit, the city could be on the hook for damages that include the fair market value of Alleva's properties.
At the same time, Alleva said he is planning to massively shrink the footprint of his auction business. A statement to news media said Alleva plans to liquidate the auction yard between April and June.
"I'm going to shut down at that location," Alleva said. "We're just going to streamline to a different location."
Over the past year, the city tried to work with Alleva on selling his properties to a nonprofit.
Robin Ward, the city's chief housing officer and a longtime real estate manager, said she stepped in to help broker a deal. The city split the $6,400 bill with Alleva to appraise his three properties next to the shelter and soup kitchen, Ward said.
But Alleva did not agree with the appraiser's assessment, and the effort has stalled, Ward said.
Alleva also turned down an offer from the city to buy the properties leased by ML&P; because it wasn't high enough, according to Ward.
Editor's note: This story was originally published June 19, 2002.
A former Kodiak resident was arraigned Tuesday in Superior Court in Anchorage on charges related to the killing of his older brother more than nine years ago.
Rolando Vizcarra-Medina is charged with one count of second-degree murder for the May 1993 death of Carlos Medina. Vizcarra-Medina, 36, is also charged with two counts of first-degree theft for allegedly stealing more than $258,000 in life insurance payments from his brother's widow.
Vizcarra-Medina is being held at the Anchorage Jail in lieu of $500,000 cash-only bail.
Medina, 36 at the time of his death, was well-known in Kodiak, where he owned the Asia House Restaurant and was a leader in the Filipino community.
The town was shocked when Medina's body was found on Pillar Mountain. His skull was bashed in. Residents donated money for a reward to catch Medina's killer.
Vizcarra-Medina was among the family members who publicly questioned the slow investigation. He stepped in to manage his deceased brother's restaurant. But as time passed, the business began to fail. Vizcarra-Medina drifted back to the Philippines in 1995.
A third brother, Jerry Medina, heard Vizcarra-Medina was living lavishly in their parents' former Philippines home. Jerry Medina traveled there in 1997, but apparently Vizcarra-Medina was away at the time.
Jerry Medina searched the house and among piles of new clothes and some 800 compact discs he found credit cards and identification belonging to his dead brother.
Within a few months, Jerry Medina contacted Kodiak authorities. Sometime later, Kodiak Police Chief John Palmer traveled to the Philippines and interviewed Vizcarra-Medina at the house.
Vizcarra-Medina was indicted in 1998 by a Kodiak grand jury.
U.S. Marshals recently located Vizcarra-Medina in the Philippines. He was taken into custody in Guam and returned to Alaska after he waived extradition.
Editor's note: This story was originally published June 14, 1998.
The mysterious death of Carlos Medina on a night of howling rain five years ago haunted everyone in Kodiak. But no one more than Jerry Medina, whose slain brother kept coming to him in his dreams.
It haunted the thriving Filipino community in Kodiak, where Carlos Medina was a successful young businessman and bright political force. The killing left doubts hovering around Medina's hard-won immigrant success and raised unwelcome questions in the community about whether Kodiak's Filipinos were telling police all they knew — and whether the police cared.
"We start to wonder, if it could have been white folks that died, would they get (a suspect) right away?" said Bernie Ballao, a friend of Medina and the only Filipino city councilman at the time of his death.
It haunted Kodiak Police Chief John Palmer, who was an investigator when Medina's bludgeoned body was found atop Pillar Mountain in 1993. It was the one case Palmer continued to investigate personally after he was named chief.
"It seems no matter how many homicides you solve, you get remembered for the ones you don't, " Palmer said. "I didn't want to be remembered for this one."
It haunted Carlos Medina's widow and three small children, who turned to her husband's large, close-knit family when they could get few answers from police. They grew especially close to his younger brother Rolando, a recent immigrant who took over managing Carlos' restaurant.
"Carlos' death stunned and still saddens our family, " Rolando wrote Gov. Wally Hickel in 1993, seeking state intervention. "We would appreciate any help you can supply toward expediting the criminal investigation and dispensing justice for my brother, so our anguished family may rest in peace and go on with our lives."
But it especially haunted brother Jerry Medina, who made five trips to Kodiak from his home in Winnipeg, Manitoba, to push the stalled investigation and raise money for a reward — because an angry Carlos kept appearing in his dreams demanding justice.
Finally, Jerry said, Carlos appeared for three consecutive nights and pointed him toward crucial evidence that would break the case open.
On Thursday, after considering that evidence, a Kodiak grand jury issued an indictment on a charge of second-degree murder against Rolando, the younger brother of Jerry and Carlos.
Rolando Medina, who has returned to the Philippines, will face an extradition proceeding in an attempt to bring him back for trial, Palmer said. Extradition could be difficult, law enforcement officials said.
News of the murder charge spread through Kodiak's large Filipino community on Friday as area residents celebrated the 100th anniversary of Philippine Independence Day.
"It shocks me. Even if I ran out of people to suspect, I would never suspect him, " said Ballao, who had been the first to call police the day of Carlos' disappearance.
For Jerry Medina, the indictment of his 33-year-old brother was bittersweet. It has divided the large family, many of whom still live in the Philippines, he said. In fact, he hesitated for three months before making photocopies of the evidence and putting them in a Federal Express envelope to Chief Palmer.
"Rolando is a big-time liar, " Jerry Medina said Friday. "I believed him for years. He is a master of disguise, a master of intrigue."
Carlos Medina was the kind of young civic leader nobody said unkind things about — until his bloodied silver pickup was found on Pillar Mountain Road on May 1, 1993. By the time his badly beaten body was found lying in the alpine tundra, two nights of hard rain had washed his wounds and cleared away physical evidence of a struggle.
Medina had come to Kodiak in 1983 at 26 and started in a fish plant like generations of Filipinos before him. In less than a decade, he owned the Asia House restaurant and karaoke club, had a good job at Kodiak Electric Association and was a leader in Filipino-American service clubs. He sent money home to the islands, helped Filipino teens and elders and spoke on behalf of poor immigrants before the Kodiak City Council.
In the polyglot city of Kodiak, where Filipinos outnumbered Alaska Natives, Medina was a symbol of immigrant success.
He married and started a family and also paid the school fees back home for his brother Rolando, the youngest of his 11 siblings. In 1992, after Rolando's effort to settle in Canada with Jerry turned sour, Carlos brought Rolando to Kodiak. Jerry said Rolando had a problem with drugs and alcohol in Canada but swore to the family he'd turned his life around in Kodiak.
Carlos Medina's killing raised many questions. Where had he gotten the money for a new house? Was he killed by a fishing-season transient? Someone from a secret life? Was it drugs? Medina's friends said he was so anti-drug he'd torn the door off his restaurant's men's room after catching two men smoking pot there. A robbery? His wallet and briefcase were missing. Mud had been smeared in the truck to hide fingerprints. But why would a robber beat a victim to death?
"We cannot go on with our lives without knowing more, " Rolando said in an interview a year after Carlos' death. By then, the restaurant was failing, soon to be sold. Rolando drifted back to the Philippines in 1995.
Palmer said police pursued "five years of false leads, " doing at least something on the case every day. Jerry Medina continued to raise reward money and seek publicity. Meanwhile, word came back from the Philippines that Rolando was living "like a millionaire."
In April 1997, Jerry Medina said, Carlos started appearing night after night in his dreams, demanding that Jerry confront Rolando about his high-flying lifestyle. Finally, Jerry said, he got on a plane and flew to the Philippines, where Rolando was living in the old family home on the island of Luzon now that their parents were dead. Whether by coincidence or because he was warned, Jerry said, Rolando had just flown back to Kodiak.
Instead of turning around, Jerry stayed and searched the house, which he said was "like a shopping store, " equipped with a marble bathtub, big color television, three VCRs, 800 CDs and piles of new clothes.
"It seems like it was my brother Carlos forcing me to look around, " Jerry recalled.
After several days of searching, he found a box containing Carlos' credit cards and identification, missing since the homicide. The box also contained canceled checks — one for $50,000 — apparently written out of an account where Carlos' life insurance money had gone. Carlos' widow and beneficiary, Tita, had received about $100,000 from Rolando, who apparently pocketed the balance of several hundred thousand dollars himself, Jerry said. He told people in the Philippines he'd made a fortune working in Kodiak.
Jerry Medina said he left the Philippines hastily after hearing his life might be in danger. After Rolando returned to the islands, Jerry said, he refused to respond to letters Jerry wrote while trying to decide whether to turn his brother in.
Once Chief Palmer received the checks and credit cards from Jerry, he went to the Philippines to interview Rolando, driving to the Medina home in a bulletproof embassy car with an officer from the Philippine national police. Rolando couldn't account for having his brother's credit cards but seemed "nonchalant" about the prospect of being charged with murder, Palmer said.
"Apparently he felt shielded from anything in the United States as long as he was in the Philippines," Palmer said.
Palmer said his interview with Rolando produced additional evidence linking him to the killing, though he would not be more specific. The Kodiak grand jury charged Rolando Medina with second-degree murder because the fatal beating was more probably an act of rage growing out of an argument with his brother than a premeditated act, Palmer said. Rolando was also charged with first-degree theft for allegedly stealing $258,000 in insurance money from Tita and the children, Palmer said.
The investigation is continuing and other indictments may yet be issued, Palmer said.
The murder charge is a relief to all of Kodiak, not just the Filipinos, because unsolved killings are unsettling in small communities, said Jesse Vizcocho, president of the Filipino-American Association.
"It's a sad case, but we know that in America you are innocent until proven guilty," he said.
The indictment should lift any suspicion about Filipino cooperation, Ballao said.
"It's a wake-up call for the rest of the community that we don't hide anything," he said.
Jerry Medina said he's glad his elderly aunts persuaded him to go ahead and turn in the evidence against his brother.
"I would say my brother Carlos is resting in peace right now, because I don't have any dreams," he said.
Editor's note: This story was originally published May 1, 1994.
Everybody said Carlos Medina was on a fast-track toward the Filipino-American dream. He grew up in the Philippines in a poor family with a dozen children.
When he came to Kodiak in 1983, he was only 26. Like so many new immigrants, he got his first job in a cannery killing crab.
In less than a decade, Medina had left the crab line far behind. He'd bought a restaurant in town, added Filipino food to the menu, changed the name from China House to Asia House, and opened Kodiak's first karaoke club.
He had a good job with the Kodiak Electric Association to pay the bills. His restaurant was popular and he was talking of expansion. He had gotten married and was raising three small children. He was buying a big house in a neighborhood sometimes known as Little Manila.
In the polyglot town of Kodiak, where Filipinos today outnumber Alaska Natives, Medina had become a talked-about symbol of immigrant success.
"It's the American dream. You start out making lousy wages and you get ahead," said Kodiak city manager Gary Blomquist. "What you see here is a dream that really isn't being accomplished many other places."
In his success, Medina did not forget other Filipinos. He sent money home to the islands and brought his father and a brother and sister to Alaska. He sponsored a Filipino basketball team and helped elderly ladies with medical bills. When new arrivals had financial trouble, they often got help from the Barangay Lions Club, the Filipino-American service group in which Medina served as president.
Last April, when the city threatened to crack down on immigrant boarding houses where seafood workers crowded together to save money, Medina appeared before the city council to appeal for understanding. Flush with success in a school board election, Filipino leaders were looking for a new city council candidate; they chose Carlos Medina.
"People had their hopes on him for higher things," said former Kodiak Mayor Bob Brodie.
Then, on a rainy Friday night three days after his appearance before the city council, Medina failed to show up at the Asia House.
His routine was well-established. After work at KEA he would go home, eat with his family and nap a few hours. Then he would drop by the restaurant, greeting patrons and looking after the books. Sometimes he would go out with friends, coming back before the 2 a.m. closing.
Medina's younger brother Rolando, who had come from the Philippines two years earlier and was helping run the restaurant, figured Carlos had business appointments and didn't worry. Business for Carlos sometimes meant socializing in bars. He had a lot on his mind that week he'd been meeting with other Kodiak bar owners to discuss complaints that his late-night karaoke was drawing customers for liquor, not food, in violation of his beer and wine license.
Carlos never made it home that night.
By midafternoon Saturday, May 1, Bernie Ballao was at the Asia House. Ballao, Kodiak's only Filipino city councilman, consulted with the family and then called the police to report Medina missing.
Just before dark, police found Medina's silver Nissan pickup truck at a gravel pit on a deserted road behind town. Police closed the road, which leads to the summit of Pillar Mountain. A detective was left to sit up through the rainy night near the truck. The inside of the truck's cab was streaked with blood.
The next morning, Vic Algoso was on his way to the Catholic church when he heard the helicopter. Algoso, a friend of Medina's who works at the Coast Guard base, had stopped by the Asia House Friday night, his birthday. He knew Medina was missing. Now, as he looked up and saw a Coast Guard helicopter hovering near the summit of Pillar Mountain, he sensed the worst.
Searchers found Medina's ring and his watch alongside the road that climbs out of the spruce on Pillar Mountain. Near the radio towers on the grassy summit, a mile from the truck, they found his body. He had been viciously beaten on the head, his skull caved in by a blunt weapon.
The murder shocked the Filipino community. Medina was a shining example of the Filipino rise into Kodiak's middle class. With an estimated 1,500 to 2,000 residents in a town of 8,300, Filipinos have become Kodiak's largest minority group. Filipinos today hold down jobs at the post office and the banks even as their old cannery jobs are being claimed by newer immigrants from places like El Salvador and Vietnam.
But the surprise was felt well beyond the minority community, because Medina was widely known. No one, it seemed, had any idea what lay behind the murder.
Today is exactly one year since Carlos Medina was killed. Kodiak police say they still don't know who killed him.
Police have issued statements and appeared before the city council to declare the investigation is still very active. Police say they have followed up hundreds of leads and obtained possible motives and suspects. But they have released almost no information about the murder, even to Medina's family. They say most details surrounding his death must remain secret for now.
Medina's family say they have been left in the dark. They say they may eventually leave Kodiak, but can't decide while the mystery is unsolved and their lives are on hold.
"We cannot go on with our lives without knowing more," says Rolando.
Business has slowed at the once-busy Asia House. Tita Medina, the shy Filipino woman Carlos met in the cannery and married, says she is still afraid to be photographed or appear in public. The family has written the governor and U.S. senators and put up a $10,000 reward, hoping to goad police and the community.
"They keep telling us they have suspects," Tita Medina muttered in a recent interview at the Asia House. Her 10-year-old daughter, Maria, sat obediently nearby, clutching a jump rope and staring at a bright-pink reward poster. "They keep saying that for a year."
If a prominent white restaurant owner had been found dead, Medina's family asks, would the case remain unsolved for a year? Some Filipino leaders back the police effort, but Medina's friends wonder whether the police are doing all they can.
"If they are, it sure looks very different from this angle," said Ernie Lansang, a Filipino friend at the Coast Guard base.
In fact, police might be willing to concede that a murder of a white victim could have been solved more quickly. Sgt. John Palmer, the lead investigator, says his biggest problem is that no one in the Filipino community will talk, even anonymously.
In a year he has had only three Crime Stopper tips, none of them particularly helpful. On the last complex murder case in Kodiak, a 1987 contract killing of a woman battling her ex-husband over child custody, he had 127 tips in the first week.
"Probably one of the big complications is that different ethnic groups have a hesitancy to talk with police because of their experience with police in their own communities," Palmer said.
Some Filipinos may not want to say negative things about the well-liked Medina, he said. Others may feel threatened. Palmer said he interviewed one witness, a woman, who seemed to know something about the case. That night Kodiak police received a 911 call from a phone booth.
"There was a movie about 'The Man Who Knew Too Much,' " the caller said, according to Palmer. "I've rewritten the movie to 'The Woman Who Knew Too Much.' " The caller named the witness and threatened to kill her. Police whisked her safely out of town, Palmer said.
Meanwhile, rumors and speculation abound. Since Medina's death, people have asked out loud how he managed to pay for his restaurant and talk about expanding. On the last day of his life, Medina had signed the final mortgage papers for a house that police say cost more than $200,000.
Palmer says it may well turn out that Medina's Filipino-American success story was more complicated than it appeared. If that's so, the dark side may have come out of hiding that stormy night on Pillar Mountain.
The key to unlocking the Medina mystery, Palmer is convinced, lies hidden behind the silence of Kodiak's up-and-coming Filipino community.
A robust community
Last summer, Vic Algoso was traveling through Anchorage International Airport with three middle-aged Filipino friends when they struck up a friendly conversation with another traveler. Algoso, 54, a civilian supervisor at the Coast Guard base, mentioned they'd just come from Kodiak.
"What's the matter. No work at the canneries?" the other man asked.
The four Filipino men all of them retired military, none of them cannery workers just smiled back.
"We don't want to embarrass him," Algoso recalled.
Filipinos and canneries: it's an old Alaska association. Not so long ago, Algoso said, that was the way people thought in Kodiak, too. But attitudes changed as the island's Filipino population was changing.
Before 1970, Filipinos came to Kodiak only in the summer to process salmon. Most were U.S. citizens or legal immigrants from the West Coast or Hawaii. Then in the early 1970s, crab and shrimp fisheries provided winter processing work, and Filipinos began to settle in Kodiak as year-round residents. Some came for the work, some because they had families here. Some liked the outdoor life that attracted other Alaskans. Some said they liked living on an island.
When a bar fight involving migratory Filipino workers resulted in a fatal stabbing two decades ago, the new community's elders called a meeting and laid down the law to the outsiders, recalls Louie Reyes, now a supervisor at a seafood plant.
Among those working on the cannery lines were teachers and engineers, college graduates from the Philippines looking for a foothold in a new land.
"To be fair, the town wasn't that receptive to us back in those days, so people were compelled to find work in the canneries," says Pat Tabon, a chemical engineer who started in a cannery in 1977.
Today she owns a restaurant, works as controller at Kodiak Oil Sales and serves on the Kodiak Island school board. Not everyone started at the canneries. Several of today's leading citizens, including Algoso, came to America and Kodiak courtesy of the U.S. military.
Under a unique 1947 treaty between the United States and the Philippines, the U.S. Navy was able to enlist up to 2,000 Philippine nationals a year. The treaty arrangement had its roots in the first half of the century, when the Philippines were a U.S. territory. It expired in November 1992, when the Philippine government closed the U.S. Navy base at Subic Bay, according to Frank Jenista, a spokesman with the U.S. Embassy in Manila.
Some of those who joined the Navy at Subic Bay later became U.S. citizens and transferred into the Coast Guard. They came to Kodiak, which has the largest Coast Guard base in the country, and found a large Filipino community already on the island. They remained in Kodiak after they retired.
City councilman Ballao, who like Algoso came to Kodiak with the Coast Guard, said the military experience probably made some Filipinos more civic-minded.
"When you are in the service, you learn all the rights you have, I think," said Ballao, owner of a video arcade. "You are more indoctrinated in the American way of life."
Filipinos are the second largest Asian minority in the United States, after the Chinese, said the State Department's Jenista. Immigrants maintain close ties back home, repatriating $2 billion every year from the states to the Philippines. And every year the United States grants visas to 50,000
immigrants from the Philippines more than for any country except Mexico, Jenista said.
In Kodiak, the growing Filipino presence can be seen in the grocery stores, with their ready supplies of staples such as pancit wheat noodles and palmnut syrup. But nowhere is it more visible than in the 14-team Filipino basketball league, a cultural celebration that packs the local gyms with fans every April.
This year, when a group of large Samoans asked to join the Filipino league, city recreation director Ian Fulp drew up a grid of Kodiak's many ethnic groups on the basis of height and realized he had a multicultural nightmare on his hands. Fortunately, he said, the Fil-Am Association took over financial support for the league from the city and that way were able to maintain the Filipinos-only rule.
"Once you open it up and say Laotians can play but Samoans can't, how are you going to do that?" said Fulp.
Now the Filipino numbers are beginning to translate into political clout.
Former Mayor Brodie relied on an unprecedented Filipino turnout to put him in office in 1987. He was later credited with increasing minority hire by the city. Last fall, Brodie helped a group of Filipino leaders organize a successful school board campaign for Pat Tabon. Vic Algoso narrowly lost a bid for city council.
But Kodiak's Filipinos are no monolithic power bloc.
The Philippine Islands themselves are famously fractious, a stewpot of conflicting ethnic groups and interisland rivalries more than 70 languages are spoken there, in addition to Tagalog, a national dialect. Filipinos say many old rivalries and jealousies have been transported intact to Kodiak. In last year's election, feelings were hurt when Tabon's backers formed an ad hoc group rather than working through the two traditional organizations, the Fil-Am Association and the Barangay Lions Club.
"I was hoping we would bring over only the good traits and not the bad ones," said Clinton Rosales, who took over from Carlos Medina as president of the Barangay Lions two weeks before Medina was killed. "Carlos always said look at the Vietnamese and Chinese. When they are prospering, they don't put down their fellow people. When a Filipino person gets high, the others put him down."
Medina's friends say he found himself in the midst of some rivalry after he opened his restaurant in competition with Tabon's Four Seasons restaurant, which also served Chinese and Filipino food. The two-restaurant clash seems even more pronounced since Medina's death, especially after the Barangay Lions held a Valentine's Day party at Asia House this year when some people thought it was Four Seasons' turn.
Tabon calls the whole thing "childish" and says Medina was a good friend. But she acknowledges they saw little of each other after he became busy with his restaurant. Petty feuds are still a big impediment for Kodiak's Filipinos, she said.
As a leader in the Fil-Am Association and later the Barangay Lions, Medina tackled several problems of broad concern to Filipinos. One was the housing shortage for seafood workers, which promoted the spread of boarding houses "shared homes," Medina called them that could sometime be dangerously overcrowded. Another was the high level of Filipino school dropouts, especially troubling in a culture that traditionally placed a high value on education as a way to get ahead.
One reason for the school problem, says Jesse Vizcocho, a bilingual instructor with the school district, is that Filipino kids see college graduates from the Philippines working in seafood processing plants. Last April, the district brought in successful Filipinos to provide role models for the students.
"They know their mom is a teacher but she is not teaching. What good did it do to them?" said Dr. Rosario Bermisa, a Kodiak pediatrician. "We want to show them that we work at what we studied for."
High school students heard from doctors, a bank manager, the owner of an auto repair shop. And they heard from Carlos Medina, in the same busy week that Medina spoke to the city council about boarding houses, and argued over his liquor license, and closed on a new house. He told the students the story of his life, and a few days later his life was over.
Silence guards mystery
He was the seventh child of 12 in Cavite Province outside Manila, but he was the backbone of his family, according to his brothers. When their beloved mother died in 1977, Carlos took over support for the family while working his way through college. With a degree in business administration, he went briefly to Saudi Arabia, then moved to Kodiak, where he had cousins. He worked as a liquor store clerk, ward clerk at the hospital and receptionist at the Kodiak Council on Alcoholism before landing a warehouse job at Kodiak Electric Association, the second Filipino ever to work at the utility. He paid brother Rolando's school fees in the Philippines, then sponsored his immigration to the United States. In 1992 he bought the China House, a restaurant in the heart of town upstairs above the Polaris snowmachine dealer.
"He always told his wife, 'Don't worry, sooner or later you'll be First Lady in this community,' " says a younger brother, Jerry.
Such a story is not supposed to end in the wind and rain on Pillar Mountain.
Sgt. Palmer says police have examined a variety of possible scenarios to explain what happened and why. He's not saying which he favors. Family members, too, have sorted through various possibilities.
"I spend sleepless nights thinking about him," says Jerry Medina. "There are so many maybes."
"Really, we cannot go on with our lives without knowing more about him," says Rolando.
Was it a robbery turned violent? A drifter who was gone from the island before the body was found? Medina was known to pick up hitchhikers. But he had no reason to carry cash and never handled the restaurant's nightly receipts, Rolando says. And why, his brothers ask, would a robber beat a victim to death?
Police examined the financial records of the Asia House to see if drug money was being laundered through the restaurant. "There's enough narcotics in this community to warrant businesses laundering money," Palmer said. He won't say what he found. But friends say it's hard to imagine Medina involved with drugs. He considered drugs a scourge, they say. He tore the door off the stall in the Asia House men's room after he caught two men smoking dope, says Ernie Lansang, who carried a 9mm pistol for several months after his friend's murder.
"Maybe it's a lesson from those business people who are doing business with us," said Barangay Lions president Rosales. He said he didn't mean anyone in particular. But he shivered, and held out his forearms. "My hair stands straight up just thinking about that."
In the 1970s, a strongarm gang called the Brothers had a hand in many Filipino activities on the island, Palmer said. Some Filipinos remember the Brothers as a benign self-policing organization for the community. Palmer said they were also involved in extortion, arranging cannery jobs for Filipinos and then shaking workers down for a percentage of their salaries. In any event, the Brothers dispersed long ago, and no Filipino underworld operates on Kodiak these days, police say.
Did Medina owe somebody money? What about the down payment for the new house? How was he going to pay for the bar and a liquor license he told friends he was considering? His wife and brothers say he borrowed the money from cousins and other relatives. The story checks out, according to Palmer. As for the liquor license, he was forced to consider expanding into a full- fledged bar because of complaints about his karaoke to the Alcoholic Beverage Control Board, says Jerry Medina.
And if the murder was planned, there are easier ways to execute someone.
"If somebody had planned on taking Carlos Medina to the top of the mountain, he would have been shot or stabbed," says Palmer. "This way takes too long."
So was it something unplanned? A sudden crime? Palmer will only say he thinks Medina had a secret, some side to his life that his friends and family didn't know about or won't discuss. A secret that may have led to his death.
"There's a public side and a private side to Mr. Medina, and they're like two different people," the police investigator said.
Medina's Filipino friends say that's hard to believe. They say he was too busy to have a secret life. His brothers say the police are pressing them for information they don't have.
"I asked everyone to tell me, whether it's bad or good, I don't care," says Jerry Medina, who lives in Canada and has been to Kodiak three times since the murder. "I told them that no matter what comes out, I don't care as long as justice is done. But the Filipino community likes him. He is a dead hero. I don't think the answer is in the Filipino community."
One year after the murder, the mystery remains. But the story of Carlos Medina's long Pacific journey didn't really end on Pillar Mountain.
One thing that set Medina's Filipino-American dream apart was that he never talked about moving back to the Philippines. Many Filipinos in Kodiak speak longingly of retiring someday to the islands, though their Americanized children often end up blocking such a move. Medina thought he might end up in California someday, but never spoke of going back to the Philippines, according to his brothers and friends.
When he died, however, Tita Medina told the family he'd wanted to be buried on the island where he grew up. So after the autopsy and the memorial service in Kodiak, Carlos Medina's body was flown home to the Philippines, where he was buried on Luzon Island, next to the grave of his mother.
PALMER — An indoor gun range that drew protest for plans to locate in downtown Palmer got the permit it needs to proceed.
But officials say there may be little chance the range will actually end up in the former Fred Meyer building that owners hope to occupy.
The Palmer City Council voted 5-2 in favor of a noise permit for the range Tuesday night following 2 1/2 hours of public testimony. Officials also received 75 written comments.
A local company called Valkyrie Security and Asset Protection Inc. is proposing the large 29-lane range and hopes to add a weapons manufacturing business.
Valkyrie's owner had urged the council to adopt the permit so he could locate in the space left empty when a new Fred Meyer store opened across the Glenn Highway last year.
Owner Larry Clark, however, said he'd start looking at other options after the council delayed a decision two weeks ago following public outcry.
Backers say the range provides a needed safe place to shoot. But critics say it has no place in Palmer's snug downtown core.
The real estate agent handling the building sale — it's listed at $6.5 million — and company that hopes to buy it both say Valkyrie is not currently a contender for that space.
"The whole shooting range is nothing that we're involved with or part of or have any knowledge of," said Andrew Ingram, the Jack White Real Estate agent dealing with the sale. "I'm not sure why that guy is referencing the building that is owned by Kroger and going to city council meetings on it."
U-Haul has made an offer on the building and hopes to close the deal at the end of May, according to a corporate official.
The company is in negotiations with Kroger and the city to buy the store, said John Norris, U-Haul Company of Alaska president. "Right now, we are the sole bidder."
U-Haul has the right of first refusal on the contract before Kroger can offer the building to someone else, Norris said.
If the purchase goes forward, U-Haul is planning the company's first all-indoor climate-controlled facility in Alaska.
Clark couldn't immediately be reached for comment Wednesday. But he has said all along he needed the permit before he could start the building purchase process.
Sabrena Combs, the councilor who voted against the permit along with council member Pete LaFrance, said she made her vote in support of public opposition.
Even Combs put the odds Valkyrie would actually occupy the space at low.
"I would say extremely low," she said Wednesday.
When members of a board advising the federal government on national parks resigned en masse this year, the Trump administration said it welcomed the news.
But new internal emails obtained by The Washington Post show Trump officials pleaded with angry board members to stay on despite their mounting frustrations with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.
The email records, released under the Freedom of Information Act, provide an inside look at the unconventional way the Trump administration has handled nonpartisan boards of outside experts advising the government on energy and environment issues.
The National Park System Advisory Board was authorized by Congress in 1935 to advise Interior Department leadership on how to run the national parks. By law, the board also must sign off on all new national landmarks.
Yet the internal emails show that didn't go as planned. Emails show board members worried Zinke was sidelining them as he reviewed the work of more than 200 outside committees to make sure they reflected the Trump team's priorities.
In October, Tony Knowles, the board's chairman and a former governor of Alaska, emailed Zinke requesting he meet with the board. The board met with both of Zinke's predecessors under President Barack Obama, Ken Salazar and Sally Jewell.
Knowles didn't get a response. The next month, he followed up by email with Mike Reynolds, who was then the Park Service's acting director. Knowles said the board members interpreted Zinke's silence to mean that "our Board will be dismissed." (That month, Zinke had announced the creation of a new "Made in America" outdoor recreation committee that covered much of the board's portfolio.)
Reynolds, a 31-year Park Service veteran who in January was reassigned to run Yosemite National Park, responded in a flurry of emails over the next several days urging Knowles and the others not to quit. "I regret anyone feeling disrespected and I can't control their behavior," Reynolds told Knowles in response to the Nov. 8 message.
"I'm sorry there is no response from the Secretary yet but I hear that occurs to many groups right now," Reynolds wrote. "They have not focused on advisory groups . . . as other administrations have."
A few days later, Knowles warned Reynolds that a "number of members of the Board are suggesting that we all 'resign as a protest.' " Reynolds tried to reassure Knowles that higher-ups at the Interior Department wanted to keep the board going, since the department was requesting nominations to fill vacancies on the board.
Finally on Nov. 16, Reynolds emailed the entire board. "With so many competing requests for meetings, it is just taking a long time to get any response from the Department," Reynolds wrote."I apologize for this, and share your frustration. Please hang in there."
Despite Reynolds's best efforts, 10 of the 12 board members decided to pull the plug on their membership in January. "We understand the complexity of transition but our requests to engage have been ignored and the matters on which we wanted to brief the new Department team are clearly not part of its agenda," Knowles wrote in a resignation letter to Zinke. "I wish the National Park System and Service well and will always be dedicated to their success."
Publicly, the department was quick to blast the decision as a "hollow and dishonest political stunt."
"We welcome their resignations and would expect nothing less than quitting from members who found it convenient to turn a blind eye to women being sexually harassed at national parks," Interior Department representatives said in statements to reporters following the mass resignation. It referred to a widely acknowledged culture of sexual misconduct in the Park Service, on which Zinke has pledged to take "action."
When reached for comment on the internal emails, which showed a different tone, Interior Department spokesperson Heather Swift referred to past department statements on the resignations.
In an email this month to The Post, Knowles bemoaned that the board's concerns were not taken more seriously.
"I think we were all disappointed to see the response to our letter was not to address the issues but to snidely 'welcome' our resignation and fabricate a charge that we were a political Board and 'turned our face' on the sexual harassment issues in the National Parks," he wrote. "It is so sad that our level of discourse and the treatment of volunteer public service has fallen to this level."
Zinke disbanded at least one advisory body – the Advisory Committee on Climate Change and Natural Resource Science, which aimed to help policymakers incorporate climate analysis into long-term planning. He also revived another panel, the Royalty Policy Committee, which had lapsed under Obama.
The Trump administration has grand ambitions for the Park Service, which faces a $11.6 billion backlog in much-needed repairs across the country. Zinke and many members of Congress want to pay for the upgrades with money the government collects from energy development on public lands.
The national park board never had the chance to formally weigh in on the infrastructure fund.
Although the board is required to meet twice a year, it never convened during President Donald Trump's first year in office.
WASHINGTON – White House physician Ronny Jackson, President Donald Trump's nominee to lead the Department of Veterans Affairs, wrecked a government vehicle after getting drunk at a Secret Service going away party, according to an explosive list of allegations released Wednesday by the Democratic staff of the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee.
In the two-page summary of interviews conducted by the minority staff, Jackson also stands accused of a "pattern" of handing out medications with no patient history, prescribing medications to himself, and contributing to a hostile work environment with "a constant fear of reprisal."
According to the report: "Jackson was described as 'the most unethical person I have ever worked with,' 'flat-out unethical,' 'explosive,' '100 percent bad temper,' 'toxic,' 'abusive,' 'volatile,' 'incapable of not losing his temper,' 'the worst officer I have ever served with,' 'despicable,' 'dishonest,' as having 'screaming tantrums' and "screaming fits,' as someone who would 'lose his mind over small things,' 'vindictive,' 'belittling,' 'the worse leader I've ever worked for.'"
It continued: "As Jackson gained power he became 'intolerable.' One physician said, 'I have no faith in government that someone like Jackson could be end up at VA.' A nurse stated, 'this [working at WHMU] should have been the highlight of my military career but it was my worst assignment.' Another stated that working at WHMU was the 'worst experience of my life.' "
The document does not provide specifics on when some of the alleged incidents occurred and it presents a stark contrast to the stellar portrait offered by Jackson's defenders, who have described allegations as a smear job.
Jackson, 50, a Navy rear admiral and former combat physician who served in Iraq, has been under fire for days amid questions about his qualifications to lead VA and allegations of his management practices at the White House Medical Unit. Late Monday, Jackson's confirmation hearing before the Senate Veterans' Affairs Committee was postponed, two days before it was scheduled to occur. Trump told Jackson Tuesday that he should fight for the nomination, according to people familiar with the discussion, but earlier in the day had suggested that perhaps the doctor should withdraw.
In addition to Jackson's lack of management experience, he had come under fire for his glowing appraisal of Trump's health following his annual physical in January. Jackson said then that the president might live to the age of 200 with a healthier diet. In recent days, fresh concerns arose about Jackson's management of the White House medical office, said the officials, who declined to provide details.
Earlier Wednesday, the White House intensified its defense of Jackson, arguing that his record as personal physician to the past three presidents was sterling and demanding that he have an opportunity to personally attest to his character and job performance before the Senate.
"Dr. Jackson's record as a White House physician has been impeccable," White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders told reporters Wednesday. "In fact, because Dr. Jackson has worked within arms' length of three presidents, he has received more vetting than most nominees."
Sanders said that Jackson's background had been scrutinized in four separate investigations, including one conducted by the FBI, which she described as "very detailed and thorough." She said that he had received "unanimous praise" from dozens of witnesses and "glowing" evaluations from his superiors.
But Sanders would only generally praise Jackson and stopped short of answering for specific allegations leveled against Jackson this week, including that he over prescribed drugs to White House staff.
Though Sanders said Jackson underwent background investigations pertaining to his position as presidential physician, she would not detail what if any separate vetting process may have been conducted on him once Trump decided he wanted to nominate him to be VA secretary.