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Updated: 35 min 5 sec ago

Microsoft ties fake websites to Russian hackers

Mon, 08/20/2018 - 20:55

SAN FRANCISCO — A group affiliated with the Russian government created phony versions of five websites – including some related to public policy and to the U.S. Senate – with the apparent goal of hacking into the computers of people who were tricked into visiting, according to Microsoft, which said Monday night that it discovered and disabled the fake sites.

The effort by the notorious APT28 hacking group, which has been publicly linked to a Russian intelligence agency and actively interfered in the 2016 presidential election, underscores the aggressive role Russian operatives are playing ahead of the midterm congressional elections in the United States. U.S. officials have repeatedly warned that the November vote is a major focus for interference efforts. Microsoft said the sites were created over the past several months but did not go into more specifics.

Microsoft's Digital Crimes Unit took the lead role in finding and disabling the sites, and the company is launching an effort to provide expanded cybersecurity protection for campaigns and election agencies that use Microsoft products.

Among those targeted were the Hudson Institute, a conservative Washington, D.C., think tank active in investigations of corruption in Russia, and the International Republican Institute (IRI), a nonprofit group that promotes democracy worldwide. Three other fake sites were crafted to appear as though they were affiliated with the Senate, and one nonpolitical site spoofed Microsoft's own online products.

The Senate did not immediately respond to requests for comment late Monday.

Microsoft said Monday that it had found no evidence that the fake sites it recently discovered were used in attacks, but fake sites can carry malware that automatically loads onto the computers of unsuspecting visitors. Hackers often send out deceptive "spear-phishing" emails to trick people into visiting sites that appear to be authentic but in fact allow the attackers to penetrate and gain control of computers that log on, allowing the theft of emails, documents, contact lists and other information.

"This apparent spear-phishing attempt against the International Republican Institute and other organizations is consistent with the campaign of meddling that the Kremlin has waged against organizations that support democracy and human rights," said Daniel Twining, IRI's president, who put blame on Russian President Vladimir Putin. "It is clearly designed to sow confusion, conflict and fear among those who criticize Mr. Putin's authoritarian regime."

The move by Microsoft is the latest effort by Silicon Valley to address Russian threats to the coming election more aggressively than the technology industry did in 2016, when many woke up to the seriousness and sophistication of disinformation efforts only after Americans had voted. Companies and U.S. officials have vowed to work together more closely this year. Facebook recently disclosed that the company had taken down 32 fake accounts and pages that were tied to the Internet Research Agency, a Russian disinformation operation active before and after the 2016 election.

After discovering the sites recently, Microsoft said, it sought to obtain a court order to transfer the domain names to its own servers, a legal tactic that the company's security division has used a dozen times since 2016 to disable 84 websites created by APT28, which also is sometimes called Strontium or Fancy Bear. APT28, a unit under the Russian military intelligence agency GRU, specializes in information warfare or hacking and disinformation operations. "APT" refers to "advanced persistent threat" in cybersecurity circles.

The court order, executed last week, effectively allowed Microsoft to shut down the sites and to research them more fully. Microsoft has used the legal tactic to go after botnets, or malicious networks of automated accounts, since at least 2010.

Microsoft President Brad Smith said in an interview that the company had been tracking the Russian-government-backed group for two years but had decided to speak publicly about the company's efforts for the first time because of a growing sense of urgency and an uptick in Russian activity ahead of the midterms.

"You can't really bring people together in a democratic society unless we share information about what's going on," Smith told The Washington Post. "When there are facts that are clear as day, for those of us who operate inside companies, increasingly we feel it's an imperative for us to share this more broadly with the public."

He said that the technology industry was seeking to become more transparent with the public. The company previously had announced that two political candidates had been subjected to spear-phishing attacks.

Installing malicious software on phony websites is a popular method for hacking into computers and resembles the tactic used in the attack on John Podesta, the campaign chairman for Hillary Clinton, who received a fake security-warning email that linked to a phony site created by Russians. His stolen emails were released publicly in the final weeks of the presidential election and caused embarrassment for their blunt assessments of various matters. Cybersecurity researchers have blamed the hack of Podesta's email on APT28.

Special Counsel Robert Mueller in July indicted 12 Russian intelligence officers, accusing them of hacking the Democratic National Committee, also in 2016.

Microsoft did not explicitly blame the Russian intelligence agency for the attack announced Monday but it did cite Russia's government and named APT28 and its pseudonyms, Strontium and Fancy Bear.

The Hudson Institute said that it, like many Washington institutions, had been the subject of previous cyberattacks. David Tell, the group's director of public affairs, said that the Hudson Institute's Kleptocracy Initiative, which frequently reports on corruption in Russia, may have made the conservative think tank a target. Tell also noted that Director of National Intelligence Daniel Coats, speaking at the Hudson Institute in July, called Russia "the most aggressive foreign" actor in seeking to divide Americans, which could have drawn the attention of APT28. "This kind of stuff does happen. It's happened to us before," Tell said. "It doesn't surprise me that bad actors in nondemocratic states would want to mess with us."

The phony websites, which were registered with major web-hosting companies, were at,,, adfs-, and, according to Microsoft. Their discovery underscores the central role that American tech companies, which frequently have been criticized for hosting Russian disinformation on their platforms, can play in ferreting it out.

Eric Rosenbach, former Pentagon chief of staff and now co- director of Harvard University's Belfer Center for Science and International Affairs, applauded Microsoft for quickly announcing its discoveries. He said that companies sometimes can act in ways that governmental agencies cannot because of legal and ethical restrictions.

"The tech sector needs to play a role in protecting elections and protecting campaigns," Rosenbach said. "The tech sector will have visibility on some of these things that the [National Security Agency] never could and never should."

Microsoft also said Monday it was launching an initiative to provide enhanced cybersecurity protections free to candidates and campaign offices at the federal, state and local level that use its Office 365 software, as well as think tanks and political organizations the company believes are under attack.

"For many decades, people in democratic societies saw these as fundamentally tools that were more likely to bring information to people living in authoritarian countries, and we didn't really worry about these kinds of technologies causing risks to a democratic society," Smith said. "What we're seeing now, with email and voting systems and social media, is [the technologies] creating an asymmetric risk for democratic societies."

The Washington Post's Ellen Nakashima contributed to this report.

Alaska Natives believed whale hunt was legal, federal investigation finds

Mon, 08/20/2018 - 20:09

Indigenous hunters in Alaska initially believed they were legally hunting a beluga whale when they unlawfully killed a protected gray whale with harpoons and guns after the massive animal strayed into a river last year, a federal investigative report said.

After the shooting began, the hunters then believed the whale to be a bowhead, according to the report released to The Associated Press last week through a public records request.

"The hunters also believed that if they were the first ones to shoot or harpoon the whale, the kill would be theirs," it states. "This comes with a large amount of community pride."

Federal law prohibits killing gray whales, though Alaska Natives are allowed to kill other whales. The hunt underscores the tension between animal rights activists who want to safeguard at-risk species and indigenous residents who depend on subsistence fishing and hunting as part of their ancient culture and traditions.

The whale strayed into the Kuskokwim River near the Yup'ik village of Napaskiak on July 27, 2017. The 37-foot whale was cut up, with about 20,000 pounds (9,100 kilograms) of meat and blubber reportedly distributed among Alaska Natives in more than five communities.

U.S. officials didn't prosecute the hunters. The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration sent letters to officials in three communities advising Native leaders about the law and limits to subsistence whaling.

NOAA officials had declined to say which communities received the March 2018 letters, which also warned that future offenses would be dealt with more severely. The documents show the letters were sent to tribal leaders in Bethel, Napaskiak and Oscarville.

Vivian Korthuis, CEO of the Bethel-based Association of Village Council Presidents, got a letter and said in a statement Monday that the organization respects national laws and international treaties to protect whales.

"We have provided educational presentations about whaling last October in our annual convention to help educate the region we serve," Korthuis wrote. "NOAA and other federal agencies are always encouraged to interact with the tribes on a government-to-government basis."

Napaskiak tribal administrator Sharon Williams said the Native council discussed the issue about two months ago.

"The incident came and went," Williams said. "We got reprimanded and that's it."

The other leaders who received the letters could not immediately be reached for comment Monday.

The Washington, D.C.-based Animal Welfare Institute criticized NOAA for not pushing for charges over a violation of the Marine Mammal Protection Act. Institute wildlife biologist DJ Schubert also questioned the claim that the hunters originally believed the gray whale to be a much smaller, white beluga, and then a bowhead.

Subsistence hunting of smaller beluga whales is allowed in the region. Bowheads, however, can only be legally hunted by 11 villages farther north that are authorized by the International Whaling Commission.

And the commission only allows a small number of gray whales to be harvested by Russian hunters.

"We have laws in this country. Laws have to be followed," Schubert said. "If laws are not going to be followed, why have them?"

In a similar case in 2016, Native Alaska villagers in Toksook Bay killed a protected humpback whale. It also prompted a NOAA investigation that did not result in prosecution.

Killing the gray whale last year helped Native Alaska residents who got its meat and blubber after much of the salmon they had harvested was ruined by heavy rains, Williams said last year. The rain prevented the fish that was being dried outside from preserving properly.

Eastern Pacific gray whales, also called California gray whales, are protected by federal rules. They feed in the Bering, Chukchi and Beaufort seas in summer and migrate down the West Coast each winter to breed, mostly in the bays of Baja California. The whales were removed from the endangered species list in 1994.

On the first day of school, Anchorage teens share tips for high school freshmen

Mon, 08/20/2018 - 19:13

Fourteen-year-old Jaylen Tocktoo couldn't sleep Sunday night.

Monday was her first day of school as a freshman at Anchorage's Bartlett High. She was so excited, she said, and also so nervous. She previously went to Anchorage's Alaska Native Cultural Charter School. She'd never had a locker before or changed classes. She hadn't boarded a school bus since kindergarten. She recounted a recent conversation she had with her mom: "She's like, 'I'm crying, you're going into high school.' And I'm like, 'Mom, I'm fine.'" But, it's a lot of change and it kept Tocktoo awake.

"I didn't go to sleep until like 1 a.m.," she said on Monday afternoon as she sat in Bartlett's auditorium with more than 400 other new freshmen. This day was set aside entirely for them.

Tocktoo and the group got their schedules, they went to their lockers, they found their classrooms and, most importantly, they were linked up with high school juniors and seniors who served as their mentors, said Rebecca Vano, a Bartlett teacher and organizer of Monday's transition program. The hope is that those relationships continue through the school year, Vano said. There's a difference when a upperclassman reaches out to a freshman, instead of a teacher offering help.

"It matters a lot more because they have social capital," she said. "They're cool."

Those upperclassmen had advice to share Monday for Tocktoo and others new to high school.

The Anchorage Daily News asked 10 of the mentors what they wish they would've known as a freshmen. Here's what they said.

1. Stay on top of your homework. Don't procrastinate. Don't overload yourself. Academics come before sports. — Tyler Reierson, 17, senior.

2. It's easier to study at school than at home. Talk to the librarian about using the library before and after school. — Evie Tuisamatatele, 16, junior.

3. You're only in high school for four years, but they go by really fast. Embrace the experience. Treat everyone with respect, especially your teachers, because they're the ones that pass you at the end of the day, and have fun. — Jayshawn Hudson, 16, junior.

4. Maintain a good reputation. Be kind. Be involved. Be helpful. Then people will want to help you too. — Herman Grey, 17, senior.

5. Join a club. It really helps you and motivates you and gives you a sense of community. — Brandon Lavoie, 17 senior

6. Find a short, easy way to get to lunch. The lunch line gets long. — Maikia Thao, 16, junior.

7. If you ever need help, just go to your teacher. That's one thing I wish I really did. They're really understanding. — Ethan Douglas, 17, senior.

8. High school is temporary. Don't sweat the small stuff. You might lose some friends, but you'll gain better friends. — Joua Hang, 18, senior, and Xai Xiong, 16, junior.

9.  People aren't as judgmental as others make them out to be. They're actually a lot nicer than you think, especially upperclassmen, they'll help you out. — Dagny Cunningham, 17, junior.

10. Always participate in spirit week, whether it's fuzzy-sock day or triplet day or onesie day. — Aryel Williams, 16, junior.

Lost for 3 days near Haines, 74-year-old pastor walked, prayed and admired the stars

Mon, 08/20/2018 - 19:04

While multiple agencies and volunteers searched for him, 74-year-old Valentino Burratin described his weekend wandering the Sunshine Mountain woods as a private three-day camping trip where he admired the starry night sky and "the creation that my God made."

Noticing his absence on Saturday, Aug. 10, Burratin's son Darrel Jerue said he thought his father drove to Anchorage to visit with his wife Sally, who was there seeing family. But Jerue's sister told him his dad wasn't in Anchorage. Suspecting he might have gone blueberry picking, Jerue and a friend drove to a popular berry picking area and found his dad's white Jeep Liberty parked on the side of a remote road. After searching until dark, he drove back to Klukwan and reported his father missing to the police.

More than 30 volunteers from Haines, Skagway and Juneau turned out to help search for Burratin. Jerue said when he returned Sunday morning to look for his dad he saw a sow and two cubs. "Tears were in my eyes thinking he's out there with these bears and with no protection," Jerue said.

Burratin had parked his car on Sunshine Mountain Road and went to pick salmonberries early Friday afternoon. After loading the salmonberries into his car, he decided to return to the woods for blueberries. He picked a little more than 2 gallons before turning around, but mistakenly followed the direction of the setting sun, Burratin said, which pointed north rather than west toward his Jeep.

Burratin is an ordained pastor from Italy. He moved to Klukwan, a village of about 95 people located 21 miles northwest of Haines, about 20 years ago, and has spent many summer days berry picking in the area. Burratin said he realized he was lost, but continued to search for his vehicle.

"Walking, walking, walking. Three days walking," Burratin said. "Walking in the woods is not easy. Mountain after mountain, thinking I knew where I was going."

Armed with only a 5-gallon bucket, a blueberry rake and a cell phone with no reception, Burratin was determined to find his way home. On Friday around midnight, he fell and scraped his leg. Burratin finally sat and rested. At 4 a.m., as dawn cast enough light to see, he stood and started walking again. Tired of bushwhacking and itchy from devil's club spines, he started following bear trails.

"It was a struggle in the bush because you don't have a trail except for the bear trail," Burratin said. "You have to climb logs or go under. At first you can do it easily and then you get tired."

While Burratin walked, U.S. Coast Guard aircrews, the Alaska State Troopers and three canine search teams all searched for Burratin. "[A] Jayhawk aircrew conducted a one-hour search utilizing night vision goggles, forward-looking infrared radar, and a spot light," a Coast Guard news release said.

Burratin walked again all day Saturday and into the night. On Saturday night, he wrapped his hands with a plastic grocery bag to keep them warm and laid down on a makeshift bed of grasses. As he stared skyward, he heard helicopter blades thumping overhead. To no avail, he shined the dim, tiny light of his cell phone toward the sky.

"I wasn't scared at all," Burratin said. "I had the opportunity to see the stars, [which] in the middle of the night, you have quite some time to admire."

Jerue said an official with the troopers told him early Sunday morning that the Coast Guard air crews found no sign of Burratin during their search. "They said they didn't hit anything," Jerue said. "No heat source from a human and no heat source from bears."

Although the area is without coverage, Burratin's daughter-in-law Tina Jerue said she called his cell phone every half-hour. "I was scared and worried that something had happened to him…so worried and stressed that I ended up getting sick and having a really bad migraine."

Burratin might not have been scared, but he was thirsty. While rescuers searched from air and land, Burratin subsisted on watermelon berries, a berry Tina told him about the day before he got lost.

Valentino Burratin refused intravenous fluids from medical staff, saying watermelon berries kept him hydrated.( Photo courtesy of Darell Jerue)

"I believe it wasn't just a coincidence. The lord provided for me to know the watermelon berry," Burratin said. "Blueberries, when you are thirsty, they don't satisfy."

On Sunday he continued wandering, but eventually circled back to where he started the day, near Walker Lake a little more than 6 miles from his Jeep. Exhausted, Burratin finally stopped. "I said, 'No more walking.'"

He decided to stay put and signal for help. He used bundles of ferns, tied with makeshift strings from a plant, to form letters. He crafted an 'H' and an 'E' when he heard the sound of a helicopter.

The Coast Guard Jayhawk aircrew spotted Burratin, and his yellow rain pants, near Walker Lake Sunday afternoon. They airlifted him to the airport where an ambulance transported him to the Haines SEARHC clinic, his son and daughter-in-law following close behind. When rescuers informed Burratin's family he'd been found, Tina said she wanted to scream.

In the helicopter and in the clinic, Burratin refused intravenous fluids, he said. "They want to give me IV," Burratin said. "I said 'I don't want it. I need to drink water.' But I wasn't dehydrated. If I wasn't eating all those watermelon berries I would have been dehydrated."

Burratin ate chicken soup at the clinic and again when he got home and drank moose broth Monday morning for breakfast. "I lost so much weight I was losing my pants. I put my coat inside my pants so they were staying up," Burratin said. "I believe I lost about 12 to 15 pounds."

Tina said Burratin was in good spirits on his return home. "He's the same old dad. I gave him a big hug. I think my husband was able to sleep well [Sunday] night. I was."

Tina and Darrel Jerue moved to Klukwan from Juneau about a month ago. If they hadn't been in town, it's likely no one would have reported Burratin missing, Jerue said.

Valentino Burratin, left, Darell and Tina Jerue, and dog Harley pose together when Burratin was ready to leave the Haines clinic after his rescue. (Photo courtesy of Darell Jerue)

Burratin said when he takes to the woods, he'll never leave home again without leaving a note. He also said he'll always remember to walk into and out of the bush by the same trail.

Throughout his days and nights wandering the woods, Burratin said he often prayed.

"I prayed, 'Lord answer me! You know I'm lost.' He never said anything," Burratin quipped. "One time I said, 'Lord send an angel.' He didn't send an angel, he sent a helicopter."

This story was republished with permission from the Chilkat Valley News

Alaska’s movie star Ray Mala returns home, 65 years after his death

Mon, 08/20/2018 - 18:30

On Monday, Alaska's first — and only — movie star returned home, 65 years after his death.

Ray Mala was an Inupiaq movie star during the  Hollywood's golden age.  His biggest hit, the 1933 MGM epic "Eskimo," was filmed in Alaska and featured Mala as the leading man.

It won an Oscar for film editing and became a hit not only with critics but a touchstone for generations of kids in Alaska villages, where battered copies of the film were passed around on reel-to-reel and videocassette for decades.

Ray Mala 1933 film “Eskimo”

Mala went on to success as both an actor and a cinematographer in Hollywood, appearing in more than 25 films before he died in 1952 at the age of 46.

It always felt wrong that Mala was buried in Hollywood, said his son, Ted Mala Sr., a retired Anchorage doctor and Southcentral Foundation administrator.

So Mala Sr. and his son investigated what it would take to move the remains of the star and his wife Galina back to Alaska.

The process turned out to be complicated and expensive. It took about three years to secure the necessary permissions, Mala Sr. said.

"It took tons of paperwork and tons of money," he said. "But it was time. I'm 72 now and it was on my bucket list, bring them home so they can be with lots of people."

In more recent years, the publication of a biography about Mala and his unique role as an Alaska Native actor in early Hollywood has elevated his profile in Alaska.

Born in a sod house in the now-abandoned Northwest Alaska settlement of Candle  in 1906 and raised by his grandmother, Mala's successful pursuit of a "genuinely improbable dream" in Hollywood set him apart, said Lael Morgan, author of a biography about Mala, "Eskimo Star: From the Tundra to Tinseltown: The Ray Mala Story."

He was the first nonwhite actor to play a leading role in a Hollywood movie.

"He was just way ahead of his time," she said.

More people than ever know about Ray Mala's career, said his grandson Ted Mala Jr., because films like "Eskimo" that were once hoarded in a few fuzzy copies have been remastered and are now available on DVD.

Mala Jr. is part of an effort to get a posthumous star on the Hollywood Walk of Fame for his grandfather.

'Mr. Mala inspired me'

On Monday, the couple's cremated remains were reburied in a plot at the Anchorage downtown cemetery.

Family and friends helped Dr. Ted Mala, with shovel, helped rebury his father Ray Mala, a cinematographer and Alaska’s first movie star along with his mother Galina Liss in the Anchorage Memorial Park Cemetery on Monday. (Bill Roth / ADN)

There was a simple gravestone with the family name Mala on it. Pamyua musician and artist Ossie Kairaiuak, from Chefornak, created a sculpture of a seal with a person's head above it — symbolizing a person's spirit riding on the animal's back in another realm, Kairaiuak said.

A Jewish prayer was followed by a Russian Orthodox blessing, which was followed by a Choctaw and English rendition of "Amazing Grace."

Then two dozen people from Buckland stood to sing a hymn, punctuated by the sound of floatplanes flying overhead. A prayer in Inupiaq followed. After that, a Chevak spirit traveling drumming song.

Among the crowd of dozens were some people who counted themselves as distant relatives of Mala, or who just loved his story and his movies.

Elmer Bekoalok, an aspiring actor from Shaktoolik, wore a tuxedo and sealskin boots. He'd been an extra in the Big Miracle movie and had decided, after reading Mala's biography, to pursue a dream of acting.

"Mr. Mala inspired me," he said.

The going had been rough — he'd been rejected from countless auditions.

"I gave up," he said.

But just a few weeks ago, he'd heard that a group of UCLA film students were making a movie in Alaska. They'd had a few no-shows in their intended cast. And now he had the first speaking role of his acting career, Bekoalok said.

The whole thing made Helen Simmons a bit teary. Growing up in Barrow, now called Utqiagvik, she remembered seeing a showing of "Eskimo" at the theatre and marveling at Mala.

"I could just imagine the life he led," she said. It felt good to be able to claim an Alaska Native movie star.

"I mean, what other big movie star is Alaskan?"

Then it was time for the urns to be placed in the ground.

One by one, people took a handful of Alaska soil and dropped it over the urn, welcoming Alaska's own movie star and his wife home for good.

Student loans are starting to bite the economy

Mon, 08/20/2018 - 17:23

It's that time of year, when students prepare to head back to the classroom. For many taking the next step in higher education, the question is increasingly, "Is it worth it?" Millions of millennials have already put off settling down because of the rising costs of servicing college debts to the detriment of economic growth.

Student loans are now the second-largest category of household debt in America, topping $1.4 trillion and trailing only mortgages at $9 trillion. And while Korn Ferry puts the average starting salary for a 2018 college graduate at $50,390, up 2.8 percent from 2017, the just-released July Consumer Price Index report shows the inflation rate rose 2.9 percent over the last 12 months. Does the phrase "treading water" come to mind?

A recent report by Bloom Economic Research breaks out the demographic challenges that have resulted from the 176 percent increase in student loan debt in the decade through 2017. In the years leading up to the housing crisis and the dramatic loosening of mortgage credit standards, many families tapped readily available home equity to finance pricier higher educations for their children than they would have otherwise been able to afford. After the bust, this avenue was blocked, leaving only the higher education inflation it had fueled.

From 2007 through 2017, the CPI rose by 21 percent. Over that same period, college tuition costs jumped 63 percent, school housing surged 51 percent and the price of textbooks by 88 percent. These troubling growth rates wipe away any mystery behind today's staggering levels of student loan debt, which have almost tripled from the 2007 starting point of $545 billion. As of the fourth quarter, student loans represented 10.5 percent of a record $13.1 trillion in U.S. household debt, up from 3.3 percent at the start of 2003.

Regardless of income bracket, housing is the biggest line item in family budgets. On that count, the best news for fresh grads is that rent growth appears to be slowing as a flood of apartment supply hits the market. According to RentCafe, the average rent in the U.S. was a record $1,409 in July, a 2.8 percent from a year earlier. While rent growth has stopped outpacing gains in salaries, the level is nevertheless prohibitively high for many, especially those weighed down by student loans the minute they cross the stage. The average student loan payment is $351. Tack that on to average rents and you're pushing $1,800 before you hit the online grocery app icon on your smart phone, the bill for which runs at least $100 a month for most of us. Using college grad starting salaries, that takes up a large chunk of monthly take-home pay of about $3,400 if you live in Texas or $3,100 if you're in New York.

The latest demographic breakdown available has an end point of 2016. What we know through that period is that 22.4 percent of all U.S. households carried student debt, with the percentage rising to 44.8 percent for those aged 18-34, or $33,000 on average, up from 18.6 percent in 2001. The average household has to save for almost six and a half years to cover a 20 percent down payment on a home at current prices, according to a recent study by Zillow's HotPads. That's based on the steep assumption that workers can sock away 20 percent of their monthly take-home pay.

The outer birth-year band for millennials is 1981, making 2018 the year millennials are closer to 40 than they are to 30. While homeownership has picked up, it's been held back for a decade due to the stagnant wage growth coupled with onerous debt burdens. The macroeconomic ramifications are well-documented. Baby boomers house a record level of their millennial offspring who can't afford to leave home. Birth rates have fallen to a 30-year low as marriage is put off. Emanating from this trend is the money not plunked into nesting as families grow, a consequence not lost on Federal Reserve Chairman Jerome Powell.

"You do stand to see longer-term negative effects on people who can't pay off their student loans. It hurts their credit rating, it impacts the entire half of their economic life," Powell said in March. "As this goes on and as student loans continue to grow and become larger and larger, then it absolutely could hold back growth."

Clearly, reform of some kind must address the issue of student debt, which is not to say debt relief or outright forgiveness. Institutions of higher learning in this country must take some of the responsibility for the current state of affairs in the nation's most populous demographic group. And while the misguided cultural stigmatization of vocational education appears to finally be abating, further inroads to reintroduce balance to the workforce must be made.

The return on investment in a four-year degree isn't as straightforward as it was for high school grads circa 1988. The reality of cost burdens must be weighed against the quality of life millions have forsaken thanks to the ease with which they've been able to finance the higher educations that have rendered their lives to lower rungs.

DiMartino Booth, a former adviser to the president of the Dallas Fed, is the author of "Fed Up: An Insider's Take on Why the Federal Reserve Is Bad for America," and founder of Quill Intelligence.

The views expressed here are the writer's and are not necessarily endorsed by the Anchorage Daily News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary(at) Send submissions shorter than 200 words to or click here to submit via any web browser. Read our full guidelines for letters and commentaries here.

With school budgets tight, let’s focus on what matters

Mon, 08/20/2018 - 16:39


On Monday, nearly 50,000 Anchorage School District students walked through school doors full of hope for the year and with backpacks of school supplies. If you've been back-to-school shopping, you know it involves choices about what is vital and what is luxury spending. One might purchase a generic binder over one with a movie character or standard colored pencils over twistable. We have choices to make when it comes to how we spend our money, especially in times of tight budgets, and these choices expose our priorities. This is true of families as well as the Anchorage School District.

Also on Monday, 3,300 education experts, including teachers, counselors, librarians, nurses, and psychologists, with thousands of years of education and experience in teaching and learning, walked through those same doors to work without a contract for the second year in a row. They walked through those doors making less in adjusted dollars than they may have seven or eight years ago. They walked through those doors, once again, being asked to do more with less and for less. What does this say about our own priorities?

A back-to-school supply list for education would have, in order, students at number one and, tied for number one, would be educators. And that's the end of the list. Everything else, from paper and pencils to school boards and superintendents, is to support the learning happening due to the relationship between student and educator.

We have heard the terms "budget problem" and "fiscal crisis" for years, and we do have limited funds. ASD faces fiscally constrained times with flat funding and increased costs. (I will pause to credit this past Legislature for incrementally increasing and forward funding education. Thank you.) However, within these constraints, we have choices that reflect our priorities. As an expert on teaching and learning, I say we don't have a "budget problem," but a priority problem. We don't have a fiscal crisis, we have a choice crisis.

We are choosing programs over people and consultants over classrooms. Every million dollars ASD sends to for-profit companies or consultants rather than using the 3,300 experts it employs equals 10 adults that could be building relationships with students. In recent times, hundreds of classroom positions have been cut, class sizes have increased, course offerings have been limited, and this year middle school was terminated. After spending untold millions to build schools based on the middle school model and develop our own education experts to implement it, it was eliminated with no public discussion.

At the same time, millions were given to the educational industrial complex of for-profit companies, testing services and "expert" consultants. We have chosen data and programs over the health and hopes of our children and the experts who teach them. In the last two years, while educators were told there is no money for wages to keep up with inflation, millions of dollars were spent to start new programs. Are there valuable programs that increase student learning? Of course. Should they have priority over people? Absolutely not.

We must ask ourselves, what kind of citizens, employees, parents and leaders of tomorrow do we wish to cultivate? Ones an outside company tests as proficient in reading or math at the same time? Or ones that can approach, work through and solve the complex problems of our time with perseverance, creativity, innovation and empathy?

While we may not know what opportunities exist in the unwritten lives of our children, we do know the skills needed to succeed in a changing and increasingly global world are not measureable by tests, reportable by data, or teachable by programs. These include collaboration, communication, empathy, problem solving, critical thinking, cultural competence, and multilingualism. Yet we continue to spend our limited resources on programs developed by consultants and companies that at best limit student choice, creativity and relevancy and, at worst, have students working lock step, day after day.

These "one size fits all" programs aimed at moving the data needle erode the personal relationship between teacher and student. When we have every student marching through a program based on scripts for the teacher to read and clickers to keep students on pace, we lose the fundamental core of education since the beginning of time, that of a personal connection to learning. "One size fits all" most often means nobody gets what they need.

On Monday, students and educators walked through those doors together to mark another year on our journey of learning. This journey is the bedrock of a thriving free society and those who guide, educators, are responsible for developing our most precious resource. We as society have to ask ourselves, are both students and educators getting what they deserve or are they losing out to luxury purchases?

Ben Walker is a National Board Certified science teacher at Romig Junior High in Anchorage and the 2018 Alaska State Teacher of the Year. He is the 2013 Alaska Science Awardee for the Presidential Award for Excellence in Mathematics and Science Teaching and a proud parent of two children enrolled in their neighborhood public school.

The views expressed here are the writer's and are not necessarily endorsed by the Anchorage Daily News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary(at) Send submissions shorter than 200 words to or click here to submit via any web browser. Read our full guidelines for letters and commentaries here.

Tuesday is statewide Election Day, Alaska. Here’s how to find your polling place

Mon, 08/20/2018 - 16:27

In Alaska's primary election Tuesday, voters will decide who will advance to the November ballot in races for governor, lieutenant governor, Alaska's U.S. House representative and state House and Senate seats.

Unlike the Anchorage city election in April, this is not a vote-by-mail election. Polls will be open on Tuesday, Aug. 21, from 7 a.m. to 8 p.m. You can look up your polling place on the Alaska Division of Elections website, and you can view sample ballots here.

If you requested an absentee by-mail ballot, it needs to be postmarked on or before election day. If you're unable to vote in person on Tuesday because of age, serious illness or a disability, a representative can pick up your ballot for you.

The political party affiliation that shows up on your voter registration record 30 days prior to the election determines which ballot types you're eligible to vote on, according to the Division of Elections.

Voters registered as Republicans, as well as undeclared and nonpartisan voters, can pick a Republican Party primary ballot. Any voter can pick the other ballot, which has candidates in the Democratic, Libertarian, and Alaska Independence parties. Each voter can only vote one ballot.


[In high-stakes GOP primary, Dunleavy and Treadwell battle for spot in three-way governor's race]

Alaska voters to decide primaries for governor, US House, legislature

Mon, 08/20/2018 - 16:26

Voters in Alaska on Tuesday will select a Republican to move on to what's expected to be a closely watched governor's race this fall and choose the latest contender to try to unseat the longest-serving member of the U.S. House.

Meanwhile, voters will select candidates in state legislative primary races that will set the table for campaigns across the state this fall.

Former state Sen. Mike Dunleavy and former Lt. Gov. Mead Treadwell are the highest-profile candidates seeking the Republican nomination for governor. The winner advances to the November general election.

Gov. Bill Walker, an independent, is skipping Tuesday's primaries, while former U.S. Sen. Mark Begich is unopposed in the Democratic primary. Libertarian William "Billy" Toien also is running.

[Tuesday is statewide Election Day, Alaska. Here's how to find your polling place]

In Alaska's other big race, independent Alyse Galvin and Democrat Dimitri Shein are among the candidates vying for a shot to take on Republican U.S. Rep. Don Young. The 85-year-old Young has served in the House since 1973. The closest anyone has come to upsetting Young in recent years was 2008, when he eked out a 304-vote win over then-Lt. Gov. Sean Parnell in the GOP primary.

The Democratic party changed its rules to allow independents to run in its primaries if they want the party's backing, a move OK'd by the state Supreme Court earlier this year.

Party primaries determine who runs as a ticket in November. By bypassing the primaries and instead gathering signatures to appear on the general election ballot, candidates have a say in their running mates.

Walker flirted with running in the Democratic primary but decided not to when it appeared that Begich would run. Walker said he also wanted to ensure that he and Lt. Gov. Byron Mallott, a Democrat, run together. Walker changed his party affiliation from Republican to undeclared in 2014 in forming a so-called unity ticket with Mallott, which was backed by Democrats.

Walker and Mallott submitted signatures Monday to appear on the general election ballot.

[In high-stakes GOP primary, Dunleavy and Treadwell battle for spot in three-way governor's race]

The next governor will face big issues, including crime and the economy, and decisions on the annual check that Alaskans receive from the state's oil-wealth fund, the Alaska Permanent Fund.

Both Dunleavy and Treadwell have positioned themselves as conservative voices critical of a 2016 criminal justice overhaul and the state's approach to budgeting. Both support the formula in state law for calculating the oil-wealth check, which has been ignored, first by the governor and then by legislators, for the past three years amid a budget deficit.

Dunleavy, a former educator, left the Senate in January, after five years, to focus on a campaign in which he's emphasized more disciplined state spending and argued against tinkering with the dividend. Treadwell, who served as lieutenant governor under Parnell from 2010-2014 and most recently worked for a private equity firm, has cast himself as a more experienced and well-rounded candidate.

Treadwell said more needs to be done to understand what's happening with Alaska fish and oceans and wants to revive the "Choose Respect" campaign aimed at reducing domestic violence.

[Races to watch in Anchorage-area primary elections for House and Senate on Tuesday]

Of the candidates in the Democratic race for U.S. House, Galvin, an education advocate, and Shein, a Russian immigrant who became involved in politics after President Donald Trump's election, have most actively campaigned.

Health care, an emphasis on renewable energy and climate change are issues each has raised in the race. Both Galvin and Shein say new energy and ideas are needed in Washington.

Shein has pushed strongly for Medicare for all, a concept popularized by U.S. Sen. Bernie Sanders. Galvin said she supports comprehensive health care for all Alaskans but says there are steps that can be taken to improve the existing system in the meantime.

Shein said Galvin's ties to the oil and gas industry bother him. Galvin's husband is an executive with a petroleum company.

Galvin notes that oil is an important part of the state's economy but says she also wants to diversify the economy and is excited about the potential for renewable energy.

"I'm my own person," she said.

Also running in the Democratic U.S. House primary are independent Christopher Cumings and Democrat Carol Hafner, who has never lived in or visited Alaska. Democrats questioned Hafner's political affiliation and the authenticity of her bid.

Young faces a primary challenge from Thomas "John" Nelson and Jed Whittaker, who have limited resources and little name recognition.

Tuesday's primaries also include a contested GOP race for lieutenant governor and a flurry of state legislative races.

Pedestrian-powered Sitka makes it easy for families to get outdoors

Mon, 08/20/2018 - 16:23

The new Sitka Community Park is convenient to downtown and is suited for kids of diverse ages and abilities. (Photo by Erin Kirkland)

Sitka's residents always seem to be on their way to an adventure. No matter how often I visit, I see people bustling around downtown, toting kids and gear for a day on the water, in the mountains or along the expansive shoreline.

Nearly everyone is smiling. And why wouldn't they?

Sitka, I've discovered, is dialed in to the secret sauce of meshing the outdoors with its citizens. For such a small place, it's big on community and opportunity.

The city is a designated Walk Friendly Community, recognized by the Pedestrian and Bicycle Information Center in North Carolina, an organization that encourages communities to commit to safer walking environments.

Located on the west coast of Baranof Island, Sitka is the largest United States city by land area (2,870 square miles), with a population of about 9,000.

But the city itself is concentrated into a fairly small area, and this provides easy access for families wanting to get outside.

From centuries-old history to Tlingit culture with a dash of kid-centric science and art thrown in the mix, Sitka is not just a blip on the map of Southeast Alaska. It's a destination not to be missed, no matter the season. And right now is a great season.

While the majority of visitors show up between May and August, September is a delightful time to take a long weekend with the family and take advantage of a less-crowded city. Below are some of my favorite haunts that maximize pedestrian-powered family fun.

Castle Hill

Formally known as the Baranof Castle State Historic Site, Castle Hill is one of the most historically significant places in Alaska. Not only did the Tlingit people inhabit and create a fortification on this knob of earth and rock, but in 1867, Russia officially handed over ownership of Alaska to the United States here.

A National Historic Landmark, Castle Hill is right downtown and is an excellent place to take in sweeping views of Sitka Sound and the surrounding mountains.

Sitka Sea Walk

This is my primary reason for ditching a vehicle and hoofing it around town. Recently upgraded, this wide, paved walkway stretches from Centennial Hall in downtown to Sitka National Historical Park, just over a mile in distance.

There's plenty to see along the way, so allow enough time to look at boats in the harbor, play on the kid-friendly sculptures in a grassy parkland and visit the Sitka Community Playground that opened in July.

Sitka National Historical Park

Commonly referred to as Totem Park by locals, the park is home to enormous trees, totem poles, rocky beaches and a flowing river that plays host to hundreds of migrating salmon each summer.

Walking through Sitka National Historic Park means exploring the many stories in the totems displayed there. (Photo by Erin Kirkland)

Although Sitka National Historical Park is Alaska's smallest national park, it is a big attraction for kids, says Angie Richman, chief of interpretation for the park.

"There are so many things to discover on a short walk through the visitor center, totem trail and tidelands," she said. "And the Junior Ranger program is a great way to start."

Pick up a Junior Ranger book at the visitor center (open daily from 8 a.m.-4:30 p.m. through Sept. 30; call for winter hours) or check out a free backpack full of fun items to learn about the forest and beach areas.

Kids (and their parents) will enjoy the innovative "Dial-a-Totem," an easy way to use a cellphone to learn about the stories of the totem poles. Even though I'm not necessarily a proponent of devices in the outdoors, I loved this idea.

Alaska Raptor Center

If you've got the energy and time, walk through Totem Park and follow directions to the Alaska Raptor Center, located on the far side of Sawmill Creek Road.

This 17-acre wooded facility is a hospital for injured or ill bald eagles and other raptors and a premier site for bird education and conservation. Each year the center aids 100 to 200 raptors.

Open 8 a.m.-4 p.m. daily through September, the center offers a comprehensive tour (no tours are provided after Oct. 1 but visitors can self-guide around the facility on weekdays from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m.)

Exploring downtown

The U.S. Forest Service publishes an excellent map of the downtown Sitka area, featuring other connector trails that can expand your family's adventure. I've used it to explore less-visited areas of the city, including a Russian cemetery and the Gavan Hill trailhead.

Just can't walk anymore? Try the Ride, which offers cheap  weekday bus rides ($2 adults, $1 kids) around the greater downtown area.

What to know if you go

You can fly to Sitka, or you can take the ferry. If you opt for the ferry, be aware that arrival and departure times can be very early or late in the day depending upon the schedule. For a fee, you can take a  shuttle into town.

The visitors bureau provides a listing of options ranging from hotels to vacation rentals. It also has a calendar of fall events.

Don't forget that fall in Sitka means cooler weather and frequent rain. Dress appropriately with boots, warm layers and rain gear.

Erin Kirkland is author of the Alaska On the Go guidebook series and publisher of, a website dedicated to family travel.

Oil and ANCSA were crucial to improving conditions in rural Alaska

Mon, 08/20/2018 - 15:29

Oil well 10 at BP’s drill site L3 on Alaska’s North Slope on Friday, May 22, 2015. Behind is Parker Rig 272, which is drilling into the Lisburne Reservoir. (Loren Holmes / Alaska Dispatch News)

There has been much discussion throughout the state in the past decades about how development of our natural resources has impacted Alaska. The general consensus is that while it hasn't been perfect, on the whole, we are a far better state because of our vast natural resources and their development. But there is a small circle of people who persist in arguing that development of those resources has been bad for Alaska. When I hear such arguments, I have to wonder if there is a larger agenda at work here — an agenda that would leave our resources in the ground and deny economic opportunity to all Alaskans, particularly those who I represent as the mayor of the North Slope Borough.

That was my suspicion when I read Charles Wohlforth's opinion column in the Anchorage Daily News entitled, "The oil boom made Alaskans richer, right? An economist says no."

In the column, Mr. Wohlforth uncritically cites a University of Alaska Anchorage economist who, through use of complicated data, "found that the economic benefit that oil brought to Alaska was consumed by population growth."

While I don't buy that having more people in our state automatically makes for a net loss to the state as a whole, I do agree that too many Alaskans are focused on what they can get out of the state, as opposed to what they can give. Maybe that's the result of the "resource" curse that Mr. Wohlforth discusses in his column. Or maybe that's because too many have too little invested in our state. Maybe it's all of those things in certain parts of the state. But as we all know, Alaska is a big place, and while some might argue that in some ways certain parts of Alaska are poorer, that's clearly not true in all areas or an argument I would embrace. The North Slope Borough, for one, is vastly better off because of our resources, as are so many of the Alaska Native communities throughout the state.

Mr. Wohlforth, a lifelong Alaskan, should know this history. But maybe the economist he cites, who is a newcomer to Alaska, doesn't. Before my people were able to lobby successfully to pass the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act which paved the way for production of oil from Prudhoe Bay, conditions in many parts of rural Alaska were horrific. Poverty and disease ran rampant.

In 1953, at the bequest of the Interior Department, researchers, professors and medical doctors from the University of Pittsburgh's graduate school of public health traveled throughout rural Alaska conducting a public health survey. From their report, what they saw — the conditions that they witnessed by those who lived just a generation ago — shocked them.

"The indigenous peoples of Native Alaska are the victims of sickness, crippling conditions and premature death to a degree exceeded in very few parts of the world," the team wrote in their introduction. "Among them, health problems are nearly out of hand. If other Americans could see for themselves the large numbers of the tuberculosis, the crippled, the blind, the deaf, the malnourished and the desperately ill among a relatively small population, private generosity would dispatch shiploads of food and clothing for Alaska alongside the cargoes setting out for Korea, doctors and nurses would be mobilized and equipped with the urgency of the great hospital units in wartime."

Still, conditions didn't change until a powerful group of Alaska Natives were able to successfully lobby for ANCSA and for self-determination.

Change has been incremental, but because of our resources, we have been able to wrest our way out of the kind of third world conditions that I'm pretty sure neither a University of Alaska economist from California nor a columnist for the Anchorage Daily News could imagine living under.

I, along with the people of the North Slope, and so many villages across rural Alaska, are the proud beneficiaries of what our people fought for.

Things are not perfect, but because of proceeds from oil production, we in rural Alaska are able to stay here at home with our families to go to school. We are able to eat our Native foods, practice our Native dancing and speak in our Native tongues. Many of us now have a cutting edge medical clinic in our rural hubs. We can heat our homes and turn on our lights with a flick of the switch. We aren't one whaling hunt away from starvation. We have amenities and opportunities that those who came just a generation before us — including my parents — could only dream of.

We are able to have all of this and still be rich in spirit.

Maybe next time a university economist conducts a study on the effects of resource development in our state, and maybe next time an ADN columnist writes about that study, they could ask us, those who are closest to the resources, what we think.

In our own ways, we might tell them this: No matter the political motivations of those who will insist on casting a dim light on our achievements, we won't let them take away what our ancestors fought for.

Harry K. Brower Jr. is the mayor of the North Slope Borough.

The views expressed here are the writer's and are not necessarily endorsed by the Anchorage Daily News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary(at) Send submissions shorter than 200 words to or click here to submit via any web browser. Read our full guidelines for letters and commentaries here.

Three dead in boating accident on Kuskokwim River

Mon, 08/20/2018 - 14:30

Three Tuntutuliak residents died over the weekend in a boating accident on the Kuskokwim River, Alaska State Troopers said.

The bodies of Peter Joseph Jr., 50, Jennifer Joseph, 43, and Nettie Evan, 44, were recovered Sunday, troopers said.

The Josephs, who were married, were both affiliated with the K-12 school in Tuntutuliak: She was the cook at the Lewis Angapak Memorial School and he served as an advisory school board member, according to Lower Kuskokwim School District Superintendent Daniel Walker.

Their three children attend the 140-student school, which had a social worker on hand Monday for students and teachers to talk to, Walker said. "It's a really hard day for them."

Jennifer Joseph told a family member by phone around 1:30 p.m. Saturday that they were on the Kuskokwim River between Napaskiak and Napakiak en route to Tuntutuliak, according to a troopers dispatch posted Monday.

That same day, a passing boater spotted the Josephs' boat stuck on a sandbar, troopers said. The boat — described as a black 20-foot Lund riverboat with an 85-horsepower motor — was empty and the boater couldn't get to it due to low water.

Someone notified troopers just before noon Sunday that a body had been found on the bank three miles upriver from the mouth of the Tuntutuliak River, troopers said. As troopers prepared to fly to Tuntutuliak, tribal police officers reported another two bodies found.

Dislodged by the tides, the boat was located Monday at Eek Island.

It appears the three may have been thrown from it when it hit the sandbar, a trooper spokeswoman said.

Alcohol containers were found floating in the debris field when the bodies were discovered, spokeswoman Megan Peters said Monday. A toxicology will be a part of the autopsies to determine if impairment was an issue.

Tuntutuliak is a village of about 400 people about 40 miles southwest of Bethel.

Teens are texting and using social media instead of reading books, researchers say

Mon, 08/20/2018 - 14:24

A new study has alarming findings but is probably not surprising to anyone who knows a teenager: High schoolers today are texting, scrolling and using social media instead of reading books and magazines.

In their free time, American adolescents are cradling their devices hours each day rather than losing themselves in print or long-form media, according to research published Monday by the American Psychological Association.

In fact, 1 in 3 U.S. high school seniors did not read a book for pleasure in 2016. In the same time period, 82 percent of 12th-graders visited sites such as Facebook, Twitter and Instagram every day.

Jean Twenge, a professor of psychology at San Diego State University and one of the authors of the study, said the lack of leisure reading is troubling. For her, the most important discovery hidden in the data is this statistic: In the 1970s, about 60 percent of high school seniors reported reading a book, magazine or newspaper every day. Four decades later, in 2016, 16 percent of high school seniors reported doing so.

"This decline in reading print media – particularly the decline in reading books – it's concerning," said Twenge, author of "iGen: Why Today's Super-Connected Kids Are Growing Up Less Rebellious, More Tolerant, Less Happy – and Completely Unprepared for Adulthood – and What That Means for the Rest of Us."

The reason for the concern is that the skill set and attention it takes to digest concepts in long-form writing are quite different from glancing at a text message or status update, she said.

"Reading long-form texts like books and magazine articles is really important for understanding complex ideas and for developing critical thinking skills," Twenge said. "It's also excellent practice for students who are going on to college."

The study, conducted by Twenge and two colleagues at San Diego State, Gabrielle Martin and Brian Spitzberg, is based on data culled through a survey project called Monitoring the Future that has been going on since 1975. Run by researchers at the University of Michigan and funded by the National Institutes of Health, Monitoring the Future surveys high school students across the nation, quizzing them on their career plans and drug use, among other things.

Twenge, Martin and Spitzberg analyzed self-reported reading habits of eighth-, 10th- and 12th-graders from 1976 to 2016, representing more than 1 million teenagers. The researchers compared high schoolers' consumption of "legacy media" – books, newspapers and magazines – to their consumption of "digital media," which includes the internet, cellphone texts, video games and social media sites.

The decline in reading rates of legacy media began in the early 1980s and accelerated swiftly after the mid-2000s, when smartphones and high-speed internet access became widely available. At the same time, high schoolers' screen time, including television, began to rise, nearly tripling from the late 1970s to the mid-2010s, according to the study.

In 2016, 12th-graders reported devoting about six hours of their free time every day to digital media. Tenth-graders reported devoting five hours, and eighth-graders reporting devoting four hours.

Twenge said she and her co-authors think that the trends are intertwined. The data show that, given an hour to themselves, teens would rather pick up their devices than a book. "Does digital media displace the leisure time people once spent on legacy media? We find that the answer is yes," she said.

The racial and gender breakdown of the surveyed group roughly matched national demographics, and the main findings did not vary according to race, gender or socioeconomic status, Twenge said. There was one slight difference between the sexes: Girls reported visiting social media sites more often than boys, while boys reported spending more time on video games.

The survey question asking students whether and how often they read books, magazines and newspapers did not differentiate between print and electronic versions of these items. Twenge acknowledged that this could mean the study's results underestimate or discount the amount of time high schoolers spend reading online.

But this is unlikely, especially with regard to books, she said. The study cites previous research in support of the idea that students view books and e-books as falling under the same umbrella, meaning the study's findings probably accurately reflect teenagers' reading habits.

Twenge, herself a mother of three, said she suspects many parents will find the new study worrisome. Not only could less time spent reading translate to poorer performance in college, but also social media usage has been shown to lead to increased social isolation and mental health issues.

So, what can parents do to make their teenager put down the phone and crack open a book?

The solution can require a complicated dance between coercion and suggestion, said Daniel Willingham, a professor of psychology at the University of Virginia and the author of "Raising Kids Who Read."

The first step is prying your kids away from their screens, Willingham said. But don't tie lack of screen time to enforced reading. Don't, for example, take your teenager's phone and tell him he can have it back once he has read for 30 minutes.

"This is not the way we treat things that we want to teach children are pleasurable," Willingham said. "I mean, think about it. You would never think of coercing your child into having a piece of cake."

Instead, when enforcing a temporary ban on devices, make sure that books are the second-best option available (after the forbidden screens) to stave off boredom. One way to do this, according to Dean-Michael Crosby, a teacher at a school in England who often advises parents on this issue, is to "litter your house with eye-catching titles." He suggested leaving books lying around the living room, the kitchen, even the bathrooms.

"Even if they pick one up to browse as they're waiting for the kettle to boil, that might be just the book for them," Crosby said. "That might be the book that hooks them forever!"

Both Willingham and Crosby advised trying graphic novels. With their abundance of pictures – coupled with more mature themes and age-appropriate content – these books can help usher reluctant teens into the world of literature.

Another way to instill a love for reading is to teach kids how useful it can be. The next time your child comes to you with a question, Willingham said, tell them to go find the answer by visiting a library and reading about the issue on their own. Explain that books offer a level of in-depth knowledge not available through the "instant gratification" of the internet.

Finally, it's important to model good reading behavior. "That almost goes without saying," Willingham said. "If you're nagging your child to read, and you're just sort of on Instagram all the time, why in the world would they take that seriously?"

Would-be robber fired at restaurant employees pursuing him, police say

Mon, 08/20/2018 - 14:23

A man tried to rob a Spenard pizza restaurant Sunday but was turned back by the owner and employees who chased him outside.

The man didn't get any money, then fired a gun in the direction of Milano's Pizzeria employees and others pursuing him, the restaurant owner said Monday.

The shots-fired call came in just before 11:45 a.m. Sunday, according to an Anchorage Police Department update Monday.

Officers who responded found the man entered the restaurant on West 36th Avenue and tried to take money out of the register but an employee ran to the front and he ran outside without taking anything, the update said.

Owner Pete Foudeas said he was in his office when he noticed the man on his surveillance camera "acting very weird."

An employee saw him at the register and asked him what he was doing, Foudeas said. It was clear the man planned to rob the restaurant at gunpoint.

He came out of his office and, with three others including the owner of Tony's Auto next door, started chasing the man, Foudeas said. The man fired his gun at them, he said. Foudeas said he was about 25 feet away at the time, but an employee was within 12 feet or so.

The pursuit ended with no one hurt, police said.

Police said they had no suspect information Monday. The restaurant provided a photo of the man they believe is the suspect.

Anyone with information regarding this crime can call Dispatch at 3-1-1 (option #1) or remain anonymous by contacting Crime Stoppers at 561-STOP.

Letter: Bear population control needed

Mon, 08/20/2018 - 13:33

In response to your Aug. 13 article, "Assembly looks at trash laws to reduce bear problems," I believe the Anchorage Assembly and Alaska Department of Fish and Game will be doing a disservice to our citizens if they don't take proactive measures to control the bear population in the Anchorage Bowl.

With public safety one of the most vital essential functions of government, fining our taxpayers and writing ordinances to restrict trash bin hours on the street are short-sighted. This issue is an animal control problem, not a citizen control problem! You can't legislate animal behavior, but animal behavior can be controlled.
— Ed Kittel

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

Letter: Fish and game blows it

Mon, 08/20/2018 - 13:28

As a sportfisherman on the Kenai River for 40 years, it has been painful to watch the continued destruction of our salmon runs. This year sets a new low under Department of Fish and Game management. Too many commercial openings were given too early, despite all the signs of a poor red run. Their paranoia about having a single fish too many in the river has bitten us all, as it now appears there won't be enough to make minimum escapement. Otherwise, they played Russian roulette with the run and lost, big time.

It's time for a new governor, a new commissioner who isn't a lifelong commercial fisherman and an overhaul of the Board of Fish. I look forward to the next round of Southcentral management review with some new personnel that care first and foremost about maintaining healthy salmon runs for the next 100 years.
— Tom Wellman

Letter: Less drama, more substance needed on Sturgeon

Mon, 08/20/2018 - 13:13

Upon reading and considering Lloyd Miller's opinion column of July 29, "When is a boat more important than a way of life?" I more fully understand why there are so many derogatory jokes about how some lawyers operate.

Years ago, as I was fuming over the disinformation given Congress about subsistence uses and lifestyles in Alaska, an acquaintance laughed, and told me "You just have to realize that 90 percent of the talk on this subject is theatrics."

Times have changed but strategies have not. And Mr. Miller is an accomplished thespian. But his pathetically melodramatic declamation so distorts reality that it deserves pity rather than praise.
— Richard Bishop

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

Letter: Alaskans are richer because of oil

Mon, 08/20/2018 - 13:05

As a lifelong Alaskan since territorial days, I have witnessed the many benefits of oil production for more than 40 years — benefits that have significantly improved the quality of life for our growing population.

For this reason, I must disagree with UAA economist Alexander James, who, in an Aug. 8 column by Charles Wohlforth, claims that because of Alaska's oil-related population increase, roughly 100,000, the economic benefit to citizens was "diluted," making all of us "poorer."

When we look around our state at road and highway improvements, airport and port expansions, new public school construction, state-of-the-art facilities within our hospitals, parks and trail developments, arts facilities — amenities and projects that came from the billions of dollars of oil revenue over the past 40-plus years — it's obvious that individually and collectively, we are all "richer" than we were before oil.

I'm not sure what Mr. James thinks would have replaced the tens of thousands of oil industry — direct and contractor — jobs during those four decades, or where taxes and revenues would have come from to grow the Alaska Permanent Fund into the $65 billion it is today. Or what entity other than the oil industry, I wonder, would have donated hundreds of millions of dollars to education, non-profit and social service agencies?

A more accurate and incisive column about Alaska's economy appeared Aug. 10, with Tim Bradner's description of Alaska's prospects for the future — which, while challenging, are bright. That future, I'm confident, will ultimately make Alaskans richer, not poorer.
— Frank E. Baker
Eagle River

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

Letter: Don’t fall for PFD pandering

Mon, 08/20/2018 - 13:00

The pandering surrounding the Permanent Fund Dividend by nearly every candidate for public office is disheartening and downright scary. The promise "to restore the full PFD" is an illusion. From what pool of funds do candidates intend to draw these funds? The budget is still in negative territory.

Placing the PFD in the Constitution is equally irresponsible. That sets up a contest between the PFD and education funding — and everything else. Sadly, I fear that instant gratification, even greed, outweighs common sense.

The PFD may pay down your credit card or buy you a new toy, but education buys you a life. Question candidates on these critical issues. And as you go to the polls, think of the next generation, not just the next election.
— Heather Flynn

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Candidates not above the law

Mon, 08/20/2018 - 12:57

I'm losing patience with the folks who complain about their campaign signs being taken down. In nearly every election I can recall in recent years, the subject has come up and the law has been explained to concerned parties. Any candidate who was not aware of the law concerning signs is probably not qualified for public office. And if you were aware, why did you blithely assume the law didn't apply to you?

Suppose I knowingly drive the same stretch of road every day at 10 miles over the limit. Eventually I get a speeding ticket. Should I expect the judge to be sympathetic when I plead that I shouldn't be cited because I was not cited the past 10 times I ignored the law?
Grow up, people.
— Don Neal

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