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Updated: 27 min 40 sec ago

Letter: Wolf debacle

29 min 35 sec ago

Anyone who pays attention to the decades of the Denali National Park Stampede Trail wolves debacle and insists that the killing of especially alpha breeding wolves straying beyond park boundaries by trapping and hunting has no impact upon park wolves is likely delusional or ideologically opposed to national parks.

The recent State of Alaska Fish and Game Commissioner Doug Vincent-Lang’s predictable denial of a citizens’ request to issue an emergency hunting and trapping closure reflects ideology if it reflects anything. I read his stated rationale like this: The ratio of wolves to moose over X square miles is all that matters. Alaska steps over dollars to pick up dimes — dollars from park visitors seeking wildlife viewing, the dimes, furs.

To the Alaska Board of Game, the national park is not there. It’s just a forest with prey and predators, humans among the latter. What park? What viewing?

— Jim Kowalsky


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: Governor’s defunding plan

40 min 31 sec ago

Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s latest plan for more slowly defunding the University of Alaska seems a bit strange, for two reasons.

He only has the right to allow the legislative budget to pass, or he can line-item veto parts of it. He can’t set up an alternative plan by himself. If he calls another special session to deal with his three-year plan, that would seem to conflict with his opposition to legislative action that would forward-fund school disbursements.

I wonder when this governor will begin to understand how Alaska state government works.

I support the recall. When Gov. Dunleavy said he only vetoed so many programs to get conversations started, that just added one more item to the long list of reasons for getting rid of him. He really needs to change his party affiliation too. Other than his position on abortion, he’s thoroughly a Republican in name only, a Libertarian.

— Jon Sharpe


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.

Alaska Railroad cancels passenger service between Anchorage and Denali due to wildfire

41 min 50 sec ago

Alaska Railroad stock Friday, June 3, 2016. (Sarah Bell / ADN) (Sarah Bell / ADN/)

The Alaska Railroad has canceled all passenger service between Anchorage and Denali National Park and Preserve due to the wildfire burning north of Willow, the corporation announced Monday.

The McKinley fire jumped the tracks Saturday night near railroad Mile 205 between Willow and Talkeetna and continued to burn Monday on both sides, the railroad said in an emailed statement.

“Numerous burned trees have fallen on the tracks and crews are in the process of removing downed trees and are monitoring the situation,” the railroad said.

About 200 railroad passengers were transported by motor coach from Anchorage to Denali and Talkeetna on Sunday, and 140 southbound passengers from Fairbanks, Denali and Talkeetna were rerouted to Fairbanks by motor coach after “several hours of delay” because of the Parks Highway closure.

More passengers are expected to travel both directions by motor coach on Monday. The railroad expects to use motor coach service through Tuesday.

The Parks Highway reopened Monday morning to one lane with a pilot car leading vehicles through a 28-mile stretch, but there were still significant delays and drivers were urged to avoid the area, authorities said.

When sharing the backcountry with bears, choose a shotgun as your companion

52 min 39 sec ago

A grizzly bear prepares cross a braid of the Savage River in Denali National Park on Tuesday, September 23, 2014. (Bob Hallinen / ADN)

Bears are fascinating critters. If asked, most folks unfamiliar with the big, furry animals would call them unpredictable and dangerous. Both statements could be true ... but not really.

Dogs are unpredictable if one isn’t familiar with them, but to those who know them, there are few unexplainable dog actions. The difference between dogs and bears is that many of us live around dogs, but very few live with bears.

Fear is the most common notion associated with bears, especially grizzly or brown bears. Grizzlies exude power. They look unstoppable.

A cannister of pepper spray is a cap gun in the face of a brigade. How many of us will stand in the face of the 30 mph charge of an angry sow protecting her cubs? Would you be comfortable waiting until she is 15 feet out before you press the trigger on your tiny can of pepper?

You probably can count those who have done that on one hand, because surely some of those who might have tried are no longer with us.

I can recall hearing a story first-hand from a couple of geologists who were out taking ore samples on a ridge. It was open country and the two guys spotted a medium-size grizzly lopping toward them down a slight incline. Both were armed with pepper spray, which they pulled out and readied.

The bear did not slack speed or alter his path. He was on the geologists in seconds. Both fired their pepper spray, though they admitted the spray may have been triggered at 30 feet or better. The grizzly did not stop, but instead ran over both of them, swatting and growling while continuing on his way.

Both men received minor cuts, but no major damage. Neither could offer any explanation why that bear chose that particular path. They also remarked that while the bear paid little attention to the pepper spray, they were almost incapacitated by the cloud.

A more predictable bear attack took place in the town of Naknek recently. A would-be fisherman spent little too much time at a local bar. He was hungry, so grabbed a pizza on his way back to the boat yard. Rather than climb onto his boat, he made the decision to nap in his truck. The door was open and the remains of the pizza were on the seat. His morning was ruined by a brown bear dragging him out of the truck by his leg. The attraction was undoubtedly the pizza. That’s one guy whose dreams will never be the same.

Boat storage yards in Naknek are notorious for garbage hunting bears. Most incidents can be blamed on inattention and poor reactions. A deckhand who also spent a bit too much time at one of the local bars stumbled by a dumpster on his way back to the boat and found a small bear rummaging through garbage. The deckhand was startled and immediately ran toward his boat. The bear gave chase and gave him a few good bite wounds before heading back to his dumpster. Predictable.

An almost identical encounter happened to me a few weeks ago. I walked by a garbage truck at one of the canneries and belatedly noticed three small cubs in the back munching on garbage. Without changing stride I continued on my way while noticing a sow, undoubtedly Mom, slinking along the brush line. I will admit that upon reaching my boat, I wasted little time getting up the ladder.

In another instance, a setnetter was caught on the cannery dock between stacks of fish totes. A brown bear sow appeared, coming up the aisle in front of him. Turning, the man discovered three big cubs coming from behind him. The totes were stacked four high so there was no climbing out. The setnetter screamed and ran at the cubs, who did backflips to get out of his way. There is no telling how far the fisherman ran, but he was still wild-eyed when he told me the story a day later.

In the majority of grizzly stories I have told, the responses of the bears are pretty straightforward. There are other instances that are not so easily explained.

A decade or so back, a couple was camping on the North Slope. They did everything right, or so it seemed. Their food was cached far from their tent. The approach to the camp had a clear field of view. In spite of that, a bear came along and got both from the tent; neither survived. No one knows exactly what happened in this instance.

Unpredictable, or just unfamiliar, it matters little. We all hear of bear attacks these days and for most, that creates a little tickle of fear when hiking in the outback. My advice? Use the pepper spray on your eggs -- and carry a decent 12-gauge shotgun.

John Schandelemeier is a lifelong Alaskan who lives with his family near Paxson. He is a Bristol Bay commercial fisherman and a two-time winner of the Yukon Quest.

As Southcentral Alaska winds ease, crews battling Susitna Valley wildfire work to gain control

1 hour 11 min ago

Motorists wait in line in Willow for an escort north through the McKinley fire zone on the Parks Highway on Monday, Aug. 19, 2019. (Bill Roth / ADN)

Intense wind that fueled a Susitna Valley wildfire north of Willow over the weekend, burning dozens of structures, has died down -- a “huge” factor in battling the blaze, Alaska Division of Forestry spokesman Tim Mowry said Monday.

“The fact that the winds have calmed down is going to be a great help,” he said. “There’s still a huge amount of work to do, but having the winds subside is going to make a huge difference.”

Firefighters worked Monday to contain the active wildfire on both sides of the Parks Highway. The McKinley Fire was estimated at 2,000 acres, the Alaska Division of Forestry said Monday morning.

An evacuation order remains in effect along both sides of the highway from mileposts 82 to 91. Residents who have been evacuated were not being allowed back into the fire area Monday morning, for the safety of firefighters and for the public, authorities said in an update on the state’s fire information website.

At least 50 structures have been lost. The previous size estimate on the fire was about 1,800 acres as of 10 p.m. Sunday. Mowry was not aware of any injuries as of Monday morning.

One lane of the Parks Highway was opened with pilot cars Monday morning between Mile 71 and Mile 99, authorities said. But there was still heavy traffic and long delays, and the road could be closed again at any time, said Alaska Department of Transportation spokeswoman Danielle Tessen.

State agencies urged people to avoid using the highway in the area. Pilot cars were leading 50 vehicles at a time along the 28-mile stretch from Willow-Fishhook Road north to the Montana Lake area, and it was taking 50 cars about an hour to get through, Tessen said.

“There is zero visibility, with active flames on both sides of the road,” agencies said in an online post. “Be on the lookout for firefighting personnel and equipment on the roadway.”

Motorists head south after turning around on the Parks Highway as strong winds advanced the wildfire on Sunday, Aug. 18, 2019. (Bill Roth / ADN) (Bill Roth / ADN/)

Drivers should instead take the Glenn and Richardson highways between Fairbanks and Anchorage, Tessen said.

The Alaska Railroad said it has canceled service between Anchorage and Denali National Park.

The McKinley Fire “jumped the Alaska Railroad tracks on Saturday night near ARRC MP 205 and continues to burn on both sides of the tracks,” railroad officials said in an email update.

Evacuation shelters have been established north and south of the Parks Highway closure zone, authorities said. The shelter on the south end is at the Menard Memorial Sports Center in Wasilla, and the shelter on the north end is at the Upper Susitna Senior Center around Mile 98.5.

The fire started Saturday when wind blew a tree onto a power line near Mile 91 of the Parks Highway, and powerful weekend winds stoked the blaze.

The forestry division is working with the Alaska State Fire Marshal’s Office and Red Cross to confirm the number of structures lost.

Additional resources from the Lower 48 are expected to arrive in Alaska on Monday to help with suppression efforts on the McKinley Fire and others in Southcentral Alaska, authorities said. Ten hotshot crews, two air retardant tankers and four water-scooping aircraft had arrived or were en route.

The McKinley Fire was one of several fires in Southcentral Alaska this weekend amid dry weather and windy conditions. The months-old Swan Lake fire on the Kenai Peninsula spread rapidly again on Saturday, prompting an evacuation notice and closing part of the Sterling Highway. In Anchorage, officials warned of extreme fire danger.

Check back throughout the day for updates as this story continues to develop.

NYPD fires officer for 2014 chokehold death of Eric Garner

2 hours 9 min ago

NEW YORK — After five years of investigations and protests, the New York City Police Department on Monday fired an officer involved in the 2014 chokehold death of the black man whose dying cries of “I can’t breathe” fueled a national debate over race and police use of force.

FILE - In this May 13, 2019, file photo New York City police officer Daniel Pantaleo leaves his house Monday, May 13, 2019, in Staten Island, N.Y. After five years of investigations and protests, New York City's police commissioner on Monday, Aug. 19, fired Pantaleo, an officer involved in the 2014 chokehold death of an unarmed black man whose dying cries of "I can't breathe" fueled a national debate over race and police use of force. (AP Photo/Eduardo Munoz Alvarez, File) (Eduardo Munoz Alvarez/)

Police Commissioner James O’Neill’s said he fired Daniel Pantaleo, who is white, based on a recent recommendation of a department disciplinary judge. He said it was clear Pantaleo “can no longer effectively serve as a New York City police officer.”

"None of us can take back our decisions," O'Neill said, "especially when they lead to the death of another human being."

Asked whether Mayor Bill de Blasio forced his hand, O'Neill said the dismissal was his choice. "This is the decision that the police commissioner makes," he said, calling Eric Garner's death an "irreversible tragedy" that "must have a consequence."

The president of the police union, Patrick Lynch, accused O'Neill of choosing "politics and his own self-interest over the police officers he claims to lead."

Lynch urged police officers to "proceed with the utmost caution in this new reality, in which they may be deemed 'reckless' just for doing their job."

"Now it is time for every police officer in this city to make their own choice," he said in a statement. "We will uphold our oath, but we cannot and will not do so by needlessly jeopardizing our careers or personal safety."

Video of the confrontation led to years of protests and calls by black activists and liberal politicians for Pantaleo to lose his job. City officials had long insisted that they could not take action until criminal investigations were complete.

A state grand jury declined to indict Pantaleo in 2014. Federal authorities, however, kept a civil rights investigation open for five years before announcing last month they would not bring charges.

Pantaleo's lawyer has insisted the officer used a reasonable amount of force and did not mean to hurt Garner.

O'Neill said Pantaleo initially placed Garner in a chokehold as the two men stumbled backward into a glass window. That, he said, was understandable, given the struggle.

But after the officers got Garner on the ground, Pantaleo did not relax his grip but "kept his hands clasped and maintained the chokehold." That, he said, was the mistake that cost him his job.

"That exigent circumstance no longer existed when they moved to the ground," O'Neill said.

Garner's death came at a time of a growing public outcry over police killings of unarmed black men that sparked the national Black Lives Matter movement.

Just weeks later, protests erupted in Ferguson, Missouri, over the fatal shooting of teenager Michael Brown. And later in 2014, a man angry about the Garner and Brown cases shot two New York City police officers to death in their cruiser in retribution.

De Blasio never said whether he believed Pantaleo should lose his job but promised "justice" to the slain man's family.

At a recent administrative trial at police headquarters, Pantaleo's lawyers argued he used an approved "seat belt" technique to subdue Garner, who refused to be handcuffed after officers accused him of selling untaxed cigarettes.

In a bystander's video, it appeared that Pantaleo initially tried to use two approved restraint tactics on Garner, who was much larger at 6-foot-2 (188 centimeters) and about 400 pounds (180 kilograms), but ended up wrapping his arm around Garner's neck for about seven seconds as they struggled against a glass storefront window and fell to the sidewalk.

The footage showed Garner, who was 43 at the time, crying out, "I can't breathe," at least 11 times before he fell unconscious. The medical examiner's office said a chokehold contributed to Garner's death.

Questions about the handling of the case have dogged de Blasio during his longshot run for president, with some protesters at the recent debate in Detroit chanting, “Fire Pantaleo.”

US extends limited reprieve on tech sales to China’s Huawei

2 hours 58 min ago

FILE - In this July 30, 2019, file photo a woman walks by a Huawei retail store in Beijing. The U.S. government gave chipmakers and technology companies a 90-day extension to sell products to technology giant Huawei. (AP Photo/Andy Wong, File) (Andy Wong/)

NEW YORK — Commerce Secretary Wilbur Ross said Monday that the United States will extend by 90 days a limited reprieve on U.S. technology sales to Huawei.

The U.S. government blacklisted the Chinese technology giant in May, deeming it a national security risk and restricting sales of U.S. technology to it.

But it granted a limited temporary reprieve to support existing equipment and ease the burden on U.S. rural internet and wireless companies. That reprieve would have expired Monday, had Ross not issued the extension.

The extension was announced a day after President Donald Trump said the U.S. shouldn't be doing business with Huawei.

Ross' comments Monday morning sent shares of U.S. computer chip makers higher.

But Ross also announced that the U.S. was adding 46 Huawei affiliates to the list of 69 already affected by sanctions. He also said the U.S. has granted no special licenses that would let any U.S. supplier sell technology to Huawei not affected by the limited reprieve.

Huawei released a statement saying Monday's extension "does not change the fact that Huawei has been treated unjustly." The company said the extension "won't have a substantial impact on Huawei's business either way."

Huawei is China's biggest phone maker, and sales to the company account for a significant portion of revenues for some U.S. suppliers.

Ross said the main aim of Monday's announcement is to give the U.S. companies that rely on Huawei more time to transition away from reliance on its products.

“Some of the rural companies are dependent on Huawei, so we’re giving them a little more time to wean themselves off,” Ross said during an interview with Fox Business Network.

Alaska wildfire smoke is making me ill, but my boss won’t install an air purifier

3 hours 19 min ago

Q: I work for a small business near Cooper Landing and am worried I’ll be fired for calling in sick so often because I’m really sensitive to poor air quality.

I’ve purchased my own portable air purifier and think my employer should be willing to purchase a larger system. He isn’t. He says air purifiers won’t work because customers come in and out of our workplace all day long. He basically says he isn’t responsible for the Swan Lake fire and the situation won’t last much longer. He gets mad at me for complaining and says that when I call in sick, it’s harder for everyone else.

I just want to be able to stay home or go to my parents’ home in Anchorage on days the air quality is bad. The situation started to get better but just this weekend has gone from bad to worse. Do I have any recourse if I’m fired?

A: You raise a safety issue and hopefully you and your employer can work together on this. If you’re fired for trying to maintain your health, you may have a potential grievance under the Occupational Safety and Health Standards Act.

Let your employer know that on July 29, the California Division of OSHA issued emergency regulations concerning what employers in that state must do to protect employees from the potential harm caused by wildfire smoke. While these regulations relate to only “exposed” workplaces -- those that aren’t in enclosed buildings with mechanical ventilation and the ability to close all windows and doors -- affected employers need to monitor their local Air Quality Index and take steps to protect their employees from wildfire smoke-related particulate matter if air quality levels rise to “unhealthy” or “hazardous.”

While Alaska employers aren’t under these regulations, they are subject to OSHA’s General Duty Clause, which requires that employers provide a workplace free from recognized hazards that could cause serious physical harm. I believe your employer takes a risk if he fires you for calling in sick.

Q: My coworker loves her job but hates our boss. While I like my coworker and want to support her as a person, her complaints get on my nerves, particularly since she doesn’t do anything to fix the situation. When I tell her, “I think you should bring this issue up to our boss,” she answers, “Won’t work. Tigers don’t change their stripes.”

Our boss isn’t that bad. He’s a bit OCD, but if you don’t get wound up yourself when he gets uptight, he calms down and backs off. I’ve told my coworker several times how to handle him, but she says she “shouldn’t have to” and then goes right back to telling me how she’s losing sleep over the situation.

A couple times lately she’s come to me in tears, and I think she wants me to talk to our boss on her behalf. Should I?

A: If you agree that your boss needs to change, and you have a good relationship with him, you’re in a good position to raise the topic. He might listen to you given that you don’t appear to blame him when he gets uptight and have figured out how to work well with him.

Your coworker, however, appears to own a considerable part of this problem without being willing to make an effort. As her friend, you would likely tell her that she had a piece of her lunch stuck to her chin. What keeps you from saying, “I’ll talk with him, but you need to make some changes too. If you want him to change, you need to be willing to meet him halfway.” Then, tell her what you think she needs to do differently.

Wildfire breaks out near Anchor Point on Alaska’s Kenai Peninsula

4 hours 16 min ago

The North Fork Road Fire was burning Sunday about 1.5 miles east of the Sterling Highway between Mile 165 and 164. (Alaska Division of Forestry)

Firefighters and air crews battled a wildfire Sunday evening near North Fork Road in Anchor Point on the Kenai Peninsula, Alaska officials said.

The fire was about 1.5 miles east of the Sterling Highway between miles 164 and 165.

The fire was reported at about 6:45 p.m. and was estimated at 6 to 7 acres, authorities said. It was burning in spruce trees, grass and brush east of the intersection of Sandy Avenue and Whitney Street.

The nearest structure was within half a mile but it was not threatened as of Sunday evening, authorities said. The fire was burning off a trail, which made access “difficult but not impossible” for firefighting vehicles.

About 20 firefighters from the Alaska Division of Forestry, Kachemak Emergency Services and the Anchor Point Fire & Emergency departments responded to the blaze, the state said, plus two helicopters with water buckets.

The North Fork Road Fire joins much larger Alaska fires farther north on the Kenai Peninsula and in the Susitna Valley.

[Strong winds push smoke from Swan Lake fire to Kenai communities, closing trails and public cabins]

Check back for updates on this developing story.

As mass shootings rise, high-capacity magazines should be the focus of lawmakers, experts say

6 hours 12 min ago

FILE - In this Jan. 16, 2013, file photo, high capacity magazines are seen on display at the 35th annual SHOT Show, Wednesday, Jan. 16, 2013, in Las Vegas. The largest gun industry trade show will be taking place in Las Vegas Jan. 23-26 just a few miles from where a gunman carried out the deadliest mass shooting in modern U.S. history. (AP Photo/Julie Jacobson, file) (Julie Jacobson/)

It took a shooter all of 32 seconds to spray 41 rounds outside a popular bar in Dayton, Ohio, this month, an attack that killed nine people and injured 27. A lightning-fast response from nearby officers prevented a far higher toll: When police shot him dead, the killer still had dozens of bullets to go in his double-drum, 100-round magazine.

The use of such high-capacity magazines was banned in Ohio up until 2015, when a little-noticed change in state law legalized the devices, part of an overall rollback in gun-control measures that has been mirrored in states nationwide.

With the pace of mass shootings accelerating - and their tolls dramatically increasing - criminologists and reform advocates are more intently focused on limiting access to such accessories as one of the most potent ways to curb the epidemic.

Restrictions on the capacity of bullet magazines will not stop mass shootings, but they could make the attacks less deadly, giving potential targets precious seconds to escape or fight back while the shooter reloads, experts say.

"The high-capacity magazine is what takes it to a whole other level of carnage," said David Chipman, who served 25 years as a special agent for the Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Firearms and Explosives. "It's the primary driver for why we're seeing more mass shootings more regularly."

Chipman, who now serves as a senior policy adviser for Giffords, a group that advocates for gun control, said banning the devices "does seem like a logical policy choice if you're trying to stop a killer from turning into a killing machine."

The odds that Congress or state legislatures will act still appear relatively remote. Powerful gun rights lobbying groups, including the National Rifle Association, vigorously oppose high-capacity magazine bans or limits, arguing that criminals will find a way to obtain the devices regardless of the law, just as they do with weapons. Would-be killers, they say, can always arm themselves with multiple weapons or magazines, effectively skirting any ban.

FILE - In this Oct. 3, 2013, file photo, a custom-made semi-automatic hunting rifle with a high-capacity detachable magazine is displayed at a gun store in Rocklin, Calif. (AP Photo/Rich Pedroncelli, File) (Rich Pedroncelli/)

A man in Philadelphia held police at bay for seven hours Wednesday with an arsenal of weapons and ammunition that, as a felon, he should not have been able to have at all; he shot and injured six police officers before surrendering, and authorities have said it was a “miracle” that no one died in the shootout.

Still, a growing body of evidence suggests that past federal and current state-level restrictions on magazine capacity have been effective. And with high-capacity magazines becoming a staple of mass shootings, experts have an ever-longer litany of case studies to bolster their argument.

Magazines like the one used in Dayton have little utility in hunting, law enforcement or self-defense. But high-capacity devices, which are readily available online and in stores, have been used in more than half of all mass shootings in recent years, including especially deadly attacks in Las Vegas, Sutherland Springs, Texas, and Parkland, Florida. Taken together, those three attacks from October 2017 to February 2018 claimed 101 lives and injured 459 people at an outdoor concert, in a church and inside a public high school.

They were also used in the 2011 Tucson shooting of then-Rep. Gabrielle Giffords, D-Ariz., for whom Chipman's group is named. That attack was interrupted when the shooter, who was using a 33-round clip, stopped to reload and fumbled the fresh ammunition. A bystander seized the chance, clubbing him in the back of the head with a folding chair while another tackled him to the ground.

With smaller-capacity magazines, said Robert Spitzer, a State University of New York at Cortland professor who has written five books on gun policy, "you could still do bad things. But not nearly to the same scale."

Studies have bolstered the view that a ban could have an impact.

Magazines with a capacity of more than 10 bullets were prohibited from 1994 to 2004 under federal law that included a prohibition on assault weapons. But since the law lapsed, gun crimes involving high-capacity semiautomatic weapons have increased markedly, according to research conducted by George Mason University criminologist Christopher Koper.

A Washington Post analysis in 2011 came to a similar conclusion, finding that the percentage of firearms equipped with high-capacity magazines seized by police agencies in Virginia dropped during the decade covered by the federal ban, only to rise sharply once the restrictions were lifted.

In more recent research, to be published in the coming months, Koper and his colleagues have found promising signs about the potential for large-capacity magazine prohibitions and their ability to yield reductions in mass-shooting deaths and injuries.

Boston University professor Michael Siegel has found that states limiting the size of magazines are less likely to experience a mass shooting. Nine states and the District of Columbia have such bans on the books, with most of them limiting magazines to 10 bullets.

Until 2015, Ohio had its own restrictions, capping magazines at 30 bullets. But the Republican-dominated state legislature erased those rules as part of a broader package of changes aimed at loosening gun laws.

"They just slipped it through," said Cecil Thomas, a Democrat in the Ohio state Senate. Following the Dayton attack, Thomas and other Democrats are pushing for new limits.

Thomas, a 27-year veteran of the Cincinnati Police Department, said he had to worry as an officer that, with a 15-round clip and one in the chamber of his pistol, criminals would outgun him. "My little nine-millimeter would be useless against an AR-15," he said, referring to his standard-issue handgun and a high-powered assault-style rifle that has proved popular among mass killers.

The Dayton shooter's killing rampage - carried out with a large magazine and other equipment obtained from a friend - has only deepened Thomas' conviction that the laws need to be toughened. He said he hopes Republicans will be amenable to a change that would not infringe on the legality of guns themselves.

"I hear all the time from Republicans about the constitutional right to bear arms," Thomas said. "I say 'You can bear the arms. But I don't know if you have the right to bear all the ammunition in the world.' "

There is precedent for accessory bans, even with pro-gun rights Republicans in charge: The Trump administration last year banned bump stocks, the device that allowed the Las Vegas shooter to fire a semiautomatic rifle almost as fast as a machine gun.

In Ohio, however, there is little indication that a renewed magazine limit is viable. Republican Gov. Mike DeWine - who was greeted with cries of "Do something!" in his first appearance after the Aug. 4 Dayton attack - has proposed a range of measures that includes background checks and increased funding for mental health care.

A high-capacity magazine ban is not among them. In a legislature dominated by Republicans - as well as some Democrats - who prize their ratings with the NRA, few dare defy the group, which calls magazines with more than 10 bullets "standard equipment for many handguns and rifles" and disputes findings that suggest limits can be effective.

"There's not a shred of evidence that high-capacity magazine bans work," said NRA spokeswoman Catherine Mortensen. "Politicians ought to focus on solutions that keep guns out of the hands of dangerous criminals."

The situation is similar at the federal level, where President Donald Trump has expressed a willingness to work with Democrats on background checks. But he has said there is not sufficient "political appetite" for any bans - despite the fact that polls show a large majority of the public in favor. Republicans in Congress have echoed that view, with many recoiling even at the idea of background checks.

Democrats on the presidential campaign trail have said they would prioritize the issue if elected, and they have expressed incredulity that it has not been addressed.

"Who in God's name needs a weapon that has 100 rounds?" former vice president and Democratic poll-leader Joe Biden asked a crowd in Iowa. "For God's sake."

Whether anyone needs them, many people evidently want them. The NRA estimates that more than 250 million magazines with a capacity of 11 rounds or greater are in circulation. Of those, 100 million have a capacity of at least 30 rounds.

Gun experts say their popularity has undoubtedly grown as technology has advanced, making the devices lighter weight and less prone to jams.

A 100-round drum is still too heavy to make it useful for law enforcement or for self-defense, and it is not needed for hunting, said Rick Vasquez, a retired firearms officer and trainer for the federal government.

At the range where he and other professionals shoot, he said, he has never seen a 100-round magazine in use.

But to a certain demographic, the appeal is all about the image.

"You put it on your gun and take a YouTube video of yourself," said Vasquez, who now runs Texas-based Active Crisis Consulting. "It looks really cool to the younger generation."

At the online gun retailer Cheaper Than Dirt, where a drum similar to the one used in Dayton is on sale for $181.33, fun is what is emphasized.

"This 100 round drum magazine lets you shoot while your friends reload," the seller boasts, noting that whether "stress relief or Zombie horde destruction fire this magazine lets the good times roll."

Cheaper Than Dirt did not respond to a request for comment.

Even if a 100-round magazine is not particularly useful, Vasquez said he believes there is little benefit in banning it. The Dayton shooter, he said, "wanted to create havoc. He could have done that with 30-round magazines, 20-round magazines or 10-round magazines. It didn't matter."

Gun-control advocates say that misses the point. And they say they suspect the real point for the gun industry in defending high-capacity magazines is that they are lucrative.

“They make a lot of money off these devices,” said Laura Cutilletta, who, like Chipman, pushes for gun control at Gifford. “They’re reluctant to let any law get in the way of their profit.”

Afghanistan vows to crush Islamic State havens after suicide bomber kills scores at wedding

6 hours 29 min ago

Relatives grieve near the near the coffins of victims of the Dubai City wedding hall bombing during the mass funeral in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, Aug.18, 2019. The deadly bombing at the wedding in Afghanistan's capital late Saturday that killed dozens of people was a stark reminder that the war-weary country faces daily threats not only from the long-established Taliban but also from a brutal local affiliate of the Islamic State group, which claimed responsibility for the attack. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool) (Nishanuddin Khan/)

KABUL, Afghanistan — Afghanistan’s president on Monday vowed to “eliminate” all safe havens of the Islamic State group as the country marked a subdued 100th Independence Day after a horrific wedding attack claimed by the local IS affiliate.

President Ashraf Ghani's comments came as Afghanistan mourns at least 63 people, including children, killed in the Kabul bombing at a wedding hall late Saturday night. Close to 200 others were wounded. Fresh violence was reported Monday as an Afghan official said at least 66 people were wounded in a series of explosions in the eastern city of Jalalabad. There was no immediate claim of responsibility.

Many outraged Afghans are asking whether an approaching deal between the United States and the Taliban to end nearly 18 years of fighting — America's longest war — will bring peace to long-suffering civilians. The wedding hall bomber detonated his explosives in the middle of a dancing crowd, and the IS affiliate later said he had targeted a gathering of minority Shiites, whom it views as apostates deserving of death.

Both the bride and groom survived, and in an emotional interview with local broadcaster TOLOnews the distraught groom, Mirwais Alani, said their lives were devastated within seconds. Even as victims' loved ones mourned, there were fears that funerals and memorials could also be targeted.

A sharply worded Taliban statement questioned why the U.S. failed to identify Saturday's attacker in advance. Another Taliban statement marking the independence day said to "leave Afghanistan to the Afghans."

Chairs stained with blood are seen at damaged Dubai City wedding hall after an explosion in Kabul, Afghanistan, Sunday, Aug. 18, 2019. A suicide-bomb blast ripped through a wedding party on a busy Saturday night. (AP Photo/Rafiq Maqbool) (Rafiq Maqbool/)

More than anything in their nearly year-long negotiations with the U.S., the Taliban want some 20,000 U.S. and allied forces to withdraw from the country. The U.S. for its part wants Taliban assurances that Afghanistan — which hosted al-Qaida leader Osama bin Laden before 9/11 — will not be a launching pad for global terror attacks.

The U.S. envoy in talks with the Taliban, Zalmay Khalilzad, on Sunday said the peace process should be accelerated to help Afghanistan defeat the IS affiliate. That would include intra-Afghan talks on the country's future, a fraught process that could take years.

But Ghani on Monday asserted that the Taliban, whom the U.S. now hopes will help to curb the IS affiliate's rise, are just as much to blame for the wedding attack. His government is openly frustrated at being sidelined from the U.S. talks with the insurgent group, which regards the Afghan government as a U.S. puppet.

The Taliban "have created the platform for terrorists" with their own brutal assaults on schools, mosques and other public places over the years, the president said.

More than 32,000 civilians in Afghanistan have been killed in the past decade, the United Nations said earlier this year. More children were killed last year — 927 — than in any other over the past decade by all actors, the U.N. said, including in operations against insurgent hideouts carried out by international forces.

Details have yet to emerge on Monday's blasts in Jalalabad, the capital of Nangarhar province, where both the Taliban and the IS affiliate are active. Noor Ahmad Habibi, deputy spokesman for the provincial governor, said some 10 explosions took place and that most people had minor injuries. And in the capital of neighboring Laghman province, Miterlam, governor's spokesman Asadullah Dawlatzai said a mortar attack by the Taliban slightly wounded six people.

"We will take revenge for every civilian drop of blood," Afghanistan's president declared. "Our struggle will continue against (IS), we will take revenge and will root them out." He urged the international community to join those efforts.

Ghani asserted that safe havens for militants are across the border in Pakistan, whose intelligence service has long been accused of supporting the Taliban. The IS affiliate's claim of the wedding attack said it was carried out by a Pakistani fighter seeking martyrdom.

Ghani also called on people in Pakistan "who very much want peace" to help identify militant safe havens there.

Last month after meeting with President Donald Trump, Pakistan's Prime Minister Imran Khan insisted he will do his best to persuade the Taliban to open negotiations with the Afghan government to resolve the war.

Trump on Sunday told reporters he doesn't want Afghanistan to be a "laboratory for terror" and he described discussions with the Taliban as "good." He was briefed on Friday on the progress of the U.S.-Taliban talks, of which few details have emerged.

Some analysts have warned that Trump's eagerness to bring at least some troops home ahead of next year's election could be weakening the U.S. stance in the negotiations as the Taliban might see little need to make significant concessions.

In a message marking Afghanistan’s independence and “century of resilience,” U.S. Secretary of State Mike Pompeo called the weekend wedding bombing “an attack against humanity.” It was one of many international expressions of condemnation pouring in following the attack.

Photos: North wind blows Swan Lake fire into high gear

Sun, 08/18/2019 - 21:51

Pushed by strong winds, the Swan Lake fire on the Kenai Peninsula spread rapidly Saturday night, crossing the Sterling Highway and prompting a highway closure and evacuation notice, authorities said Sunday, Aug. 18, 2019.

[Related: Swan Lake fire closes Sterling Highway; Cooper Landing under “be ready” evacuation notice]

Photos: Residents evacuate as fires near Parks Highway escalate

Sun, 08/18/2019 - 21:42

The McKinley Fire, a fast-moving wildfire north of Willow whipped up by a dry north wind, prompted evacuations and a road closure on the Parks Highway Sunday Aug. 18, 2019.

[Related: Wildfire crosses Parks Highway north of Willow; area residents urged to evacuate]

The wind roars at Anchorage RunFest, and so do the women

Sun, 08/18/2019 - 20:18

Keri McEntee of Fairbanks was the overall winner and set a women's record in the Humpy's Marathon during RunFest in downtown Anchorage on Sunday morning, Aug. 18, 2019. (Bill Roth / ADN) (Bill Roth / ADN/)

The winds of change blew through downtown Anchorage on Sunday, when a woman grabbed the overall victory for the first time in the three-decade history of the Humpy’s Marathon.

A real wind blew too, toppling at least two trees on the race course, blasting sand into runners’ faces and forcing officials to take down the giant, inflatable arch marking the finish line near Town Square.

Keri McEntee of Fairbanks breezed through it all to break her own women’s marathon record and take home the overall victory in 2 hours, 49 minutes, 40 seconds. She was part of a impressive showing by women — third place overall in the marathon went to Soldotna’s Megan Youngren and second place overall in the half marathon went to Portland’s Sarah Reiter, who also set a course record.

Second place in the marathon went to Cody Priest, the Chugiak cross country coach, the top man in 2:52:17. He wasn’t at all bothered to finish behind a woman — especially a woman like McEntee, who is headed to the U.S. Olympic marathon trials next year.

“No shame,” Priest said. “With that caliber of running, no shame at all.”

The 26.2-mile marathon was one of four distances contested Sunday as part of the Anchorage RunFest.

Ken Bereski of Miami Beach and Kamie Miller of Eagle River won the 49K ultramarathon titles, Reiter and Stewart Reich of Columbia, Maryland, won the 13.1-mile half marathon titles and Anchorage runners David Volcy and Jennifer Page won the 5K races.

Reiter’s time of 1:16:25 sliced more than two minutes off the previous women’s half marathon record of 1:19:08, set by Gina Slaby in 2012.

Strong winds briefly knocked down the finish arch during RunFest in downtown Anchorage on Sunday morning, Aug. 18, 2019. (Bill Roth / ADN) (Bill Roth / ADN/)

The wind took its toll on nearly everyone and everything.

Two trophies broke when they blew off a table set up in Town Square, and the finish line arch was trouble all morning. The first time it blew down, volunteers used wire to anchor it to a truck after putting it back up. Around noon, with hundreds of racers still on course, it came down for good.

“It was becoming a liability,” said Mark Iverson of the Skinny Raven timing crew.

The wind took down two trees where the course goes through Tikishla Park, “so we had to jump over them,” Priest said. “It was like steeplechase.”

Volunteers arrived soon with chainsaws, so not everyone had to test their hurdling skills.

Volunteers braved the wind during RunFest in downtown Anchorage on Sunday morning, Aug. 18, 2019. (Bill Roth / ADN) (Bill Roth / ADN/)

Nothing was as bad as the sand-blasting absorbed by marathoners and ultramarathoners on the Coastal Trail near Point Woronzof. Sand from Cook Inlet filled the air and covered the trail.

“Oh my gosh, my eyes,” said fourth-place ultramarathoner David Johnston of Willow. “I couldn’t see. It got in your teeth. On the bike path (near Point Woronzof) you could see everybody’s footprints, because there was a quarter-inch of sand on the ground.”

Said Priest, whose arms were covered by fine silt that made them feet like sandpaper: “Racing always requires grit. But today there was plenty of grit, thanks to the sand from the wind.”

Said McEntee: “That was awful.”

“You couldn’t see anything,” she said. “All I could taste was sand.”

McEntee said she had never before claimed an overall victory while racing against men, but she had an idea it could happen Sunday.

Before the race she talked with Priest and some of the other top men and learned they were pursuing times slower than hers. Priest was going for a 2:58, she said, while she was going for a 2:50.

By clocking 2:49:40, McEntee shaved more than a minute off her record of 2:50:48 set last year. She was well off the personal-best 2:41 she ran earlier this summer, which qualified her for the U.S. Olympic marathon trials in February.

McEntee came into the race fresh off a two-week vacation in Costa Rica — a trip paid for in part by the airline ticket she won for winning last year’s marathon.

“It was really motivating to have just gone,” she said, because the trip was a vivid reminder of what a RunFest victory is worth.

McEntee wasn’t the only one inspired by the prospect of winning a plane ticket.

Ken Bereski of Miami Beach, who won the 49K in 3:39:53, is living frugally since suffering a traumatic brain injury in 2015 when a hit-and-run drive struck him on his bicycle. The prospect of winning a plane ticket spurred him to enter the RunFest.

Bereski said he lost his business as a self-employed technology consultant after his injury and has spent the last couple of years couch-surfing and using mileage awards to travel to races.

He said he used five different airlines to get to Anchorage. He took a layover in Chilliwack, British Columbia, where he ran a 3:19:41 marathon on Saturday and then flew to Alaska. He spent the night at the Anchorage airport and walked to the downtown start line Sunday morning.

Runners leave the start during the Spenard Roadhouse 5K during RunFest in downtown Anchorage on Sunday morning, Aug. 18, 2019. (Bill Roth / ADN) (Bill Roth / ADN/)

Sunday’s RunFest was dedicated to Tom Coolidge, a long-time member of the RunFest race committee and an avid trail runner who trained with Alaska Winter Stars. He died at age 68 last year.

Numerous runners wore black-and-white ball caps that memorialized him, and some wore T-shirts with photos of him in the Alaska outdoors.

Shelley Coolidge, his wife, walked the half marathon course with a sister and a friend. Her T-shirt had a picture of Tom riding a fat bike in the Iditarod Trail Invitational on the front and a picture of him holding up a fish in Seward. The sister wore a T-shirt with a photo of him at Mount Marathon, where he twice set age-group records, and the friend wore one with a photo of him climbing Bomber Glacier.

Other family members also participated Sunday, including two daughters and their husbands, two nephews, and Shelley Coolidge’s sister and brother-in-law from Maryland. On Saturday, the couple’s three grandchildren ran a 2K race for kids that was also part of the two-day RunFest.

“Tom loved events like this that brought people out to participate,” Shelley Coolidge said. “It’s a hard day, but it’s a real honor.”

At the deadline, multiple applicants apply for vacant Anchorage state Senate seat

Sun, 08/18/2019 - 20:05

The Alaska State Capitol in Juneau is seen on Thursday, July 11, 2019. (James Brooks / ADN)

At least five south Anchorage residents have applied to fill the Alaska Senate seat vacated by the death of Sen. Chris Birch, R-Anchorage, according to interviews Sunday evening.

The deadline for eligible Alaskans to submit an application to the Alaska Republican Party was 5 p.m. Sunday. The party did not immediately release a list of applicants, and party chairman Glenn Clary did not answer a call seeking comment, but five people are known to have applied: Rep. Laddie Shaw, R-Anchorage; Rep. Josh Revak, R-Anchorage; former state senator and current Anchorage School Board member Dave Donley; Tali Birch Kindred, daughter of Chris Birch; and Al Fogle, who ran for the Legislature in 2018 and the Anchorage Assembly in 2017.

Under state law, Gov. Mike Dunleavy has 30 days to name a replacement for any Legislative vacancy. The replacement must be a registered voter of the same political party as the original legislator and be otherwise eligible to run for the seat. A replacement is also subject to confirmation by his or her counterparts; in this case, a majority of the Alaska Senate’s Republicans must approve Birch’s replacement before the person begins serving.

To help Dunleavy make his pick, the Alaska Republican Party has a set of procedures to select a list of finalists for the governor’s consideration. Those procedures include an application process — which concluded Sunday — and a series of interviews Wednesday before local party officials vote on the list of finalists.

“If the party and the governor and the Senate all decide that I’m the best person to serve, then that would be a huge honor,” Revak said by phone Sunday evening.

Shaw said he and Revak spoke before they decided to each submit their names for consideration.

“Both of us have a very good working relationship with the governor, and that would make a huge difference,” Shaw said.

He said he feels that if he is chosen, he could help the Senate’s predominantly Republican majority resolve their deep division over the amount of this year’s Permanent Fund dividend. Birch favored balancing the state’s budget by reducing the dividend; Shaw and Revak have each voted against reducing the dividend below its traditional formula payout.

If either is selected, Dunleavy would be allowed to name their replacement to the Alaska House of Representatives.

[With senator’s death, Alaska Legislature loses prominent voice in favor of lower dividend]

Dave Donley served in the Alaska Legislature for 16 years in both the House and Senate. He now serves on the Anchorage School Board and took a job with the Alaska Department of Administration after Dunleavy’s election last year.

In the Senate, Donley was co-chair of the powerful Finance Committee and said that with his experience and knowledge, “I thought the appropriate thing was to put my name forward as a possibility.”

“If there ever was a need with experienced hands dealing with the operating budget, now is the time,” he said.

He said he had intended to run for another term on the school board, but would serve in the Senate if chosen.

“This was not a career move on my part,” he said, explaining that he is happy with his job in the Department of Administration.

“I definitely didn’t want to shirk away from what I saw as a potential call to duty for the people of Alaska.”

Albert Fogle is an employee benefits consultant for RISQ Consulting and former U.S. Army soldier. In addition to his 2018 run for the Republican nomination in House District 26 (where he sought to replace Birch, who had run for Senate), he ran for Anchorage Assembly in 2017, losing to Suzanne LaFrance.

Fogle is married to Austin Fernandez and has two children. He also owns Catahoula Enterprises, a snow-plowing and property-management business, as well as rental properties in Anchorage, according to a filing with the Alaska Public Offices Commission.

Fogle did not return phone calls Friday or Sunday to the number listed on his APOC form.

Tali Birch Kindred is a former assistant district attorney who now practices law for the firm Oil Search. The daughter of Chris Birch, she said she decided to apply after speaking with her brother and their mother following her father’s death. She said Sunday that her legal experience in criminal law and the oil and gas industry gives her unique qualifications among the five who are known to have applied.

She said the ultimate decision is up to local party officials and the governor.

“It sounds like it’s just going to be me and the boys, so we’ll see what happens,” she said.

High winds bring down tree limbs, cause power outages in Anchorage

Sun, 08/18/2019 - 16:49

A second day of fierce winds scoured Anchorage Sunday, causing scattered power outages, downed trees and other weather-related mayhem.

A wind from the north blew at sustained speeds of 15-20 miles per hour with gusts into the 30s, building in the late morning and afternoon, according to the National Weather Service.

One especially strong gust, caught at Ted Stevens International Airport, hit 51 mph.

Winds should taper off this evening, dissipating after midnight, said meteorologist Bob Clay of the National Weather Service’s Anchorage office.

The winds knocked down tree limbs and power lines, causing power outages around the city for a second day.

As of mid-afternoon Sunday, about 600 people were without power in the Chugach Electric service area, including 100 people in the village of Tyonek on the west side of Cook Inlet.

“Once again today, the winds are causing problems across our service territory,” Chugach Electric said in an update.

Outages in pockets of Spenard and downtown had been resolved by mid-afternoon, Municipal Light and Power said in an update.

Kuskokwim River erosion threatens diesel-filled fuel tanks in Napakiak

Sun, 08/18/2019 - 16:23

The Napakiak School fuel storage facility sits 76 feet from the riverbank’s erosion point, along the Kuskokwim River in Napakiak, Aug. 16, 2019. (Photo courtesy Coast Guard)

BETHEL — The Lower Kuskokwim School District has a plan for multiple diesel-filled fuel tanks bordering a river after erosion threatens an environmental disaster, officials said.

The school district plans to transport fuel from a group of 10 tanks into three new tanks expected to be placed in the Napakiak school parking lot further inland, KYUK-AM reported Friday.

Action is expected to begin in the spring following the Kuskokwim River's annual freeze, but fall storms are likely before then, officials said.

On Friday, the Coast Guard issued an administrative order to the school district “to remove all fuel oils from the Napakiak School fuel storage facility by Aug. 30.”

The tanks sit less than 150 feet from the river and currently hold 34,000 gallons of diesel, school officials said. Measurements show that at its closest point, the fuel storage facility is “76 feet from the riverbank’s erosion point,” the Coast Guard said.

"We will do our absolute best. We just simply can't have that level of disaster take place," LKSD Superintendent Dan Walker said.

The Napakiak School fuel storage facility sits 76 feet from the riverbank’s erosion point, along the Kuskokwim River in Napakiak, Aug. 16, 2019. (Photo courtesy Coast Guard)

The school district is responsible for the tanks and the school they service adjacent to them, so the community has been unable to take action, officials said.

“The Coast Guard is dedicated to the protection of the marine environment and in this case that means we’re taking preventative steps to mitigate the potential for pollution,” Lt. James Nunez, incident management division, Coast Guard Sector Anchorage, said in a statement.

The school district’s plan calls for tanks that do not have the same capacity to store as much diesel, and with less fuel the hope is the tanks are less likely to spill, school officials said.

Additional plans included putting up barriers, but the school district is prohibited from spending money on non-school property and community efforts with sandbags failed, officials said.

The Napakiak community about 15 miles southwest of Bethel has moved various buildings further inland, officials said. Accelerated erosion has been responsible for more than 100 feet of lost shoreline this year.

Alaska’s leaders must hold Army Corps of Engineers, Pebble accountable

Sun, 08/18/2019 - 16:20

Aerial view of the village of Newhalen and the mouth of the Newhalen river on the edge of Lake Iliamna on Tuesday, August 27, 2013. The Bristol Bay watershed supports all five species of Pacific salmon found in North America and accounts for almost half the world's supply of wild red salmon. (Bill Roth/Anchorage Daily News) (Bill Roth/)

It’s August and that means the silvers are running, berries are ripe, and our U.S. Senators are back in state on recess. Alaskans may have the chance to pull them aside at a farmers’ market, on the river, or on a flight and if they do, I hope many of us will raise the faulty review process for the Pebble Mine and ask what they are doing to fix it.

The state and federal scientists and agency experts have raised substantial issues with the assessment of the proposed Pebble Mine coordinated by the Army Corps of Engineers. Thousands of Alaskans voiced their concerns. Sen. Lisa Murkowski recently acknowledged that the Corps’ Draft Environmental Impact Statement has “failed to meet my standard of a robust and rigorous process.”

I commend our leaders for being more vocal on this issue, as well as their commitment on keeping Alaska open for business. I am proud that, in many places, we have proven we can develop without harm to the land and water. But the alarm bells are ringing on the Pebble Mine proposal. As an Alaskan whose family businesses rely on Bristol Bay’s wild salmon, I am extremely concerned that these red flags are being ignored.

We need action from our elected officials that addresses these warning signs — our responsible resource development reputation, as well as thousands of Alaskan jobs and a world-class hunting and fishing region, are on the line.

The proposed Pebble Mine is unlike other resource development projects and it is far from responsible. It is located in the heart of a landscape that already supports thriving industries. It will create massive amounts of waste, far greater than anything the state has ever seen before. The ore body, according to Pebble’s own data, is very likely to produce acid-generating waste, toxic to salmon.

On top of that, the Pebble Partnership has uniquely been allowed to rely on outdated baseline data, not study many of the salmon streams that will be impacted and not submit key details for mine construction, operations, mitigation or water management. This corner-cutting is the opposite of what Bristol Bay demands and what other companies have committed to doing.

These shortcomings were recently called out. Several agencies stated that the draft EIS formed unsubstantiated conclusions and lacked data, which means the actual risks of the proposed Pebble Mine are being downplayed. The state of Alaska, the Department of the Interior and the Environmental Protection Agency all agree that Pebble’s permit lacks precision and critical analysis.

Those who defend the strength of our permit review process are right: it is normally a benchmark for smart, responsible development. However, the permit review process only works when a project backer provides a realistic and detailed application, and the permit reviewers make sure that all the required information has been provided. Neither of these things happened. While this process has played out dependably for other projects in the past, it has not in the case of Pebble.

If you put garbage in, you get garbage out. How do we change this?

Our leaders must hold the Corps and the Pebble Partnership accountable. It was good to see both of Alaska’s senators acknowledge gaps highlighted by the EPA, but it’s extremely frustrating that our leaders have not actively pursued fixes to the gaps in this review. It’s even more frustrating to see Gov. Dunleavy actively supporting a mine that most Alaskans oppose.

Alaskans from across the political spectrum have voiced concerns about the Pebble mine and its risk to thousands of fish-based jobs. If the permitting process continues in its current form, it will be at the expense of Alaskans and our economy for the benefit of a foreign entity and a select few. The Corps’ process must analyze the full risks of the project. Anything short of this is not rigorous, a waste of public resources, and it is not enough.

Its far past time our federal regulators and our elected officials to step in and put a halt to this permit process. It’s failing Alaskans; we demand better.

Indy Walton lives in Soldotna. He is a financial advisor with Edward Jones Investments, a registered Republican, commercial fishes in Bristol Bay and owns a sport fishing lodge downstream of the Pebble deposit with his family.

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.

Close call decides 64th annual Seward Silver Salmon Derby

Sun, 08/18/2019 - 15:45

Michelle Murray of Eagle River holds the 15.99-pound coho that made her the winner of the 64th annual Seward Silver Salmon Derby. (Photo provided by Seward Chamber of Commerce)

The weight of about four pennies made Eagle River’s Michelle Murphy $10,000 richer Sunday.

Murphy won the 64th annual Seward Silver Salmon Derby with a silver that was a sliver heavier than the cohos that finished in second place and third place.

She prevailed with a 15.99-pound fish that gave her an edge of 9.07 grams over the second-place fish and 13.60 grams over the third-place fish.

For perspective, a penny weighs 2.5 grams. So the weight of less than four pennies separated Murphy from second-place Angela Garner of Wichita, Kansas, and the weight of less than six pennies separated her from third-place Ron Goodwin of Wasilla.

Garner’s fish weighed 15.97 pounds and Goodwin’s weighed 15.96.

A total of 2,092 silver salmon were entered in the nine-day derby. They weighed a total of 17,186 pounds, an average of 8.2 pounds per fish.

Murphy, who caught her championship coho Tuesday at the head of Resurrection Bay, took home $10,000 for the victory.

Garner, who hooked her big fish Sunday at Tonsina Creek, pocketed $5,000, and Goodwin, who hooked his Monday at Pilot Rock, collected $2,500.

None of the derby’s big-money tagged fish were caught, but if anyone catches one between now and Sept. 30, it’s worth $100 if turned in to the Seward Visitors Center.

Fire officials warn of “extreme fire danger” amid high winds in Anchorage

Sun, 08/18/2019 - 14:15

Anchorage fire officials warned the public Sunday of “extreme” fire danger brought on by a treacherous combination of dry weather and high winds.

As firefighters battle a pair of wildland blazes threatening cabins and homes in the Willow area, the Anchorage Fire Department told city residents Sunday to be vigilant about anything that could spark fire.

Recent warm weather has “dropped the humidity and dried surface fuels into very high and extreme conditions,” the AFD said in an alert.

“It cannot be stressed enough that the extreme fire danger is still impacting the entire Municipality,” the statement said.

Even a carelessly discarded cigarette could ignite a blaze, the AFD warned.

The high winds causing havoc on an unseasonably warm August weekend started Saturday, barreling in to Southcentral Alaska Saturday. Fallen power lines are suspected to have sparked several wildfires in the Susitna Valley.

High winds knocked over power lines, causing outages and a brief brush fire at a Boy Scout camp in Eagle River. No one was hurt and no buildings were damaged.

The winds intensified Sunday. Ted Stevens International Airport in Anchorage recorded a wind gust of 51 mph Sunday, the highest in the area, according to National Weather Service data.

The wind is expected to stick around at least until Sunday evening, said Bob Clay, a NWS meteorologist in Anchorage.

“We’re expecting the wind to be up through evening, dropping after midnight most places,” Clay said.

Some of the AFD’s crews and apparatus, along with crews from Joint Base Elmendorf Richardson and volunteers from Chugiak are at the McKinley Fire, one wildfires burning near the Parks Highway in the Willow area.

“AFD has back-filled reserve apparatus with crews to maintain resources within (Anchorage),” the statement said.

As of Sunday, barbecues and enclosed pellet grills are allowed in Anchorage but outdoor fireplaces are not. No burning of yard debris is allowed.