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White House threatens to veto aid bill for migrant families

55 min 58 sec ago

This June 20, 2019, frame from video shows the entrance of a Border Patrol station in Clint, Texas. A legal team that interviewed about 60 children at the station near El Paso said young migrants being held there were experiencing neglect and mistreatment at the hands of the U.S. government. (AP Photo/Cedar Attanasio) (Cedar Attanasio/)

WASHINGTON — The White House is threatening to veto a $4.5 billion House bill aimed at improving the treatment of migrant families detained after crossing the U.S. southern border, saying the measure would hamstring the administration’s border security efforts and raising fresh questions about the legislation’s fate.

The warning came as Hispanic and liberal Democrats press House leaders to add provisions to the legislation strengthening protections for migrant children, changes that might make the measure even less palatable to President Donald Trump. Though revisions are possible, House leaders are still hoping for approval as early as Tuesday.

The Senate planned to vote this week on similar legislation that has bipartisan backing, but many House Democrats say the Senate version's provisions aimed at helping migrant children are not strong enough. House Democrats seeking changes met late Monday with Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif.

"Right now, the goal is really to stop — one death is just too much," said Rep. Adriano Espaillat, D-N.Y., as he left that meeting.

Many children detained entering the U.S. from Mexico have been held under harsh conditions, and Customs and Border Protection Chief Operating Officer John Sanders told The Associated Press last week that children have died after being in the agency’s care. He said Border Patrol stations are holding 15,000 people — more than triple their maximum capacity of 4,000.

[US government moves migrant children from Texas facility after poor treatment publicized]

Congress plans to leave Washington in a few days for a weeklong July 4 recess. While lawmakers don’t want to depart without acting on the legislation for fear of being accused of not responding to humanitarian problems at the border, it seems unlikely that Congress would have time to send a House-Senate compromise to Trump by week’s end.

In a letter Monday threatening the veto, White House officials told lawmakers they objected that the House package lacked money for beds the federal Immigration and Customs Enforcement agency needs to let it detain more migrants. Officials also complained in the letter that the bill had no money to toughen border security, including funds for building Trump's proposed border wall.

"Because this bill does not provide adequate funding to meet the current crisis, and because it contains partisan provisions designed to hamstring the Administration's border enforcement efforts, the Administration opposes its passage," the letter said.

Several Democrats said some language they were seeking could end up in separate legislation. Several said changes might include provisions aimed at ensuring that detained children are treated humanely.

"We've got lives at stake," said Rep. Tony Cardenas, D-Calif. He said the U.S. has been "the gold standard" for treating refugees fleeing dangerous countries, "and I don't think we should compromise that at all."

[House Democratic leaders to amend border bill to placate angered liberals]

The meeting may have helped ease Democratic complaints. Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., told reporters before the meeting that she would oppose the bill but left the door open afterward, saying, “I oppose the situation we’re in, but my main goal is to keep kids from dying.”

Much of the legislation's money would help care for migrants at a time when federal officials say their agencies have been overwhelmed by the influx of migrants and are running out of funds.

The back-and-forth on the spending measure came as Congress' top Democrats criticized Trump for threatening coast-to-coast deportations of migrants.

Over the weekend, Trump tweeted that he would give Congress two weeks to solve "the Asylum and Loopholes problems" along the border with Mexico. "If not, Deportations start!" he tweeted.

The president had earlier warned that there would soon be a nationwide sweep aimed at "millions" of people living illegally in the U.S., including families. The sweeps were supposed to begin Sunday, but Trump said he postponed them.

Pelosi, D-Calif., said the threatened raids were "appalling" when she was asked about them at an immigration event Monday in Queens, New York.

"It is outside the circle of civilized human behavior, just kicking down doors, splitting up families and the rest of that in addition to the injustices that are happening at the border," she said.

On the Senate floor, Minority Leader Chuck Schumer, D-N.Y., described Trump's "chilling, nasty, obnoxious threats" and said the president "seems far more comfortable terrorizing immigrant families" than addressing immigration problems.

"I mean, my God, to threaten separating children from their parents as a bargaining chip? That's the very definition of callousness," Schumer said.

It is not clear exactly what Trump, who has started his 2020 re-election bid, means regarding asylum and loophole changes. He's long been trying to restrict the numbers of people being allowed to enter the U.S. after claiming asylum and impose other restrictions, a path he's followed since he began his quest for president years ago. His threatened deportations came as authorities have been overwhelmed by a huge increase of migrants crossing the border into the U.S. in recent months.

For years, Democrats and Republicans have unable to find middle ground on immigration that can pass Congress. It seems unlikely they will suddenly find a solution within two weeks.


AP Congressional Correspondent Lisa Mascaro and Associated Press writer Colleen Long contributed to this report.

Iran calls new U.S. sanctions ‘outrageous and idiotic,’ warns that path to diplomacy is permanently closed

1 hour 36 min ago

In this photo released by the official website of the office of the Iranian Presidency, President Hassan Rouhani speaks in a meeting with the Health Ministry officials, in Tehran, Iran, Tuesday, June 25, 2019. Iran on Tuesday sharply criticized new U.S. sanctions targeting the Islamic Republic's supreme leader and other top officials, saying the measures spell the "permanent closure" for diplomacy between the two nations. For his part, Iran's president described the White House as "afflicted by mental retardation." (Iranian Presidency Office via AP)

DUBAI, United Arab Emirates - Iranian officials slammed the Trump administration Tuesday for new sanctions targeting the country’s leadership, saying the measures permanently closed the path to diplomacy and that the White House had “become mentally crippled” under the current president.

In a searing televised address, Iranian President Hassan Rouhani called restrictions against Iran's supreme leader "outrageous and idiotic" and said they showed "certain failure" on the part of the Trump administration to isolate Iran.

"You call for negotiations. If you are telling the truth, why are you simultaneously seeking to sanction our foreign minister?" Rouhani said Tuesday, referring to remarks by U.S. officials suggesting plans to sanction Foreign Minister Mohammad Javad Zarif later this month.

Iran's Foreign Ministry spokesman said on Twitter that the "useless sanctioning" of Supreme Leader Ali Khamenei and Zarif, who led Iran's nuclear negotiations with world powers, "means the permanent closure of the doors of diplomacy."

"Trump's government is annihilating all of the established international mechanisms for maintaining world peace and security," the spokesman, Abbas Mousavi said.

President Donald Trump announced the measures Monday, which U.S. officials said came in response to the downing of a U.S. Navy surveillance drone over the Strait of Hormuz last week. The sanctions also targeted senior commanders of Iran’s Islamic Revolutionary Guard Corps and mean foreign financial institutions providing significant “financial services” to any of the Iranian officials would be subject to U.S. penalties.

Rouhani said Tuesday that the sanctions against Khamenei - who Trump described as "the one who is ultimately responsible for the hostile conduct of the regime" - were futile because the 80-year-old leader does not maintain any financial assets abroad.

He said: "Tehran's strategic patience does not mean we have fear."

National security adviser John Bolton described the new economic penalties Tuesday as "significant" but said that Trump has also "held the door open to real negotiations" with Iran.

He spoke at a trilateral summit of U.S., Israeli and Russian national security advisers in Jerusalem - the first of its kind.

"All that Iran needs to do is walk through that door," Bolton said, adding that any deal would need to "eliminate Iran's nuclear weapons program, its pursuit of ballistic missile delivery systems, its support for international terrorism and other malign behavior worldwide."

Iran does not have a nuclear weapons program and has complied with restrictions to its atomic energy activities set out under the 2015 deal it negotiated with world powers, including the United States.

The Trump administration abandoned that pact and reimposed a near-total embargo on Iran's economy, including its oil, shipping, manufacturing and banking industries.

Iran said last week that it was on course to boost its stockpile of low-enriched uranium beyond the limits prescribed by the deal, a move arms control experts said does not pose a near-term proliferation risk.

The agreement curbed Iran's nuclear energy program in exchange for widespread sanctions relief. But the deal's other signatories, including the European Union, have struggled to maintain the economic benefits promised to Iran under the pact.

Trump has said that he is willing to speak to Iran with no preconditions but U.S. officials said this week that there is currently no backchannel between the U.S. and Iranian governments. And planned sanctions against Iran's chief diplomat undermined the administration's message that it seeks unconditional talks with Iranian officials.

"If Zarif is sanctioned, it won't be to punish him because of his service to the Islamic Republic," said Esfandyar Batmanghelidj, founder of the Europe-Iran forum that promotes business ties between Iran and European nations.

"It will be because of his own dogged commitment - to diplomacy - and of his proven ability to keep the door open for negotiations despite the sabotaging by rivals in both Tehran and Washington," he said.

The sanctions were announced as Secretary of State Mike Pompeo began recruiting allies, including Saudi Arabia and the United Arab Emirates, to help monitor what they said were threats from Iran in the Persian Gulf. The United States has blamed Iran for a recent string of attacks on commercial tankers near the Strait of Hormuz, a key waterway for global oil shipments.

Iran has denied involvement in the attacks.

Military officials have said a new program for international cooperation on maritime security in the Persian Gulf is still in the early stages. It will require foreign nations from Asia and the Gulf region to provide payment or naval assets to help monitor and protect maritime commerce in the Middle East, said one official, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss a program that as not been finalized.

Countries that buy and sell oil in the region would be asked in certain cases to escort ships, place vessels at fixed positions in the region or provide maritime patrol aircraft.

Pompeo also met with King Salman and his son, Crown Prince Mohammed bin Salman, on Monday in Saudi Arabia, which has signed on to the plan.

Trump complained on Twitter that the United States is "protecting the shipping lanes for other countries" and suggested he could stop U.S. naval patrols at the entrance to the Persian Gulf, one of the world's most volatile flash points.

"All of these countries should be protecting their own ships on what has always been a dangerous journey," Trump wrote.

Pompeo reiterated that message Monday during his meeting with Mohammed bin Zayed, the crown prince of Abu Dhabi. Asking for military help with maritime security, Pompeo said "we'll need you all to participate, your military folks."

"The president is keen on sharing that the United States doesn't bear the cost of this," he added.

Eglash reported from Jerusalem. The Washington Post’s Carol Morello and Missy Ryan contributed to this report.

Trump says latest accuser, E. Jean Carroll, is ‘totally lying’ and ‘not my type’

Mon, 06/24/2019 - 23:20

E. Jean Carroll is photographed, Sunday, June 23, 2019, in New York. Carroll, a New York-based advice columnist, claims Donald Trump sexually assaulted her in a dressing room at a Manhattan department store in the mid-1990s. Trump denies knowing Carroll. (AP Photo/Craig Ruttle) (Craig Ruttle/)

President Donald Trump on Monday said New York-based writer E. Jean Carroll was “totally lying” when she accused him of sexually assaulting her more than two decades ago, adding that Carroll is “not my type.”

"I'll say it with great respect: No. 1, she's not my type. No. 2, it never happened. It never happened, OK?" Trump told the Hill newspaper in an interview.

In an interview with CNN's Anderson Cooper on Monday night, Carroll responded: "I love that I'm not his type. Don't you love that you're not his type?"

She noted that Trump had previously criticized the appearance of a former Miss Universe, taking aim at her weight.

"One of the most beautiful women in the solar system, and he called her fat," Carroll said.

His comments came hours after Carroll voiced frustration that Trump has not faced consequences from a string of previous allegations of misconduct. "With all the women it's the same: He denies it, he turns it around, he attacks, and he threatens - and then everybody forgets it until the next woman comes along," Carroll said during an interview on CNN. "I am sick of it. I am sick of it."

Carroll, a longtime advice columnist for Elle magazine, is among 16 women who have publicly accused Trump of sexual misconduct over the past several decades. Most spoke out just weeks before the 2016 election, after The Washington Post published a recording of Trump bragging during a 2005 "Access Hollywood" interview that his celebrity gave him permission to grab women by their genitals.

Trump has denied the allegations of misconduct and called the women "liars."

In a statement released Friday night, Trump said the encounter described by Carroll never happened and that he did not know her. In his statement, Trump asked that anyone who has information that Carroll or the magazine were working with the Democratic Party to come forward.

Carroll denied that politics played any role in her decision to come forward.

"I'm barely political. I can't name you the candidates who are running right now," she told CNN. "I'm not organized. . . . I'm just fed up."

"I can't believe that he's in the White House, and it makes me sick," she said. "What else can I do but just tell my story?"

Carroll, a registered Democrat, told The Post in an interview Friday that she voted for Hillary Clinton in 2016. She donated $1,000 this cycle to Emily's List, which supports female candidates who back abortion rights, and $500 in 2012 to President Barack Obama's reelection campaign in 2012, according to campaign finance records. On Twitter, she has posted several sharp remarks about Trump and has retweeted satirical and critical articles about him.

Carroll alleged that the assault took place more than 20 years ago in a dressing room of an upscale Manhattan department store. She detailed the alleged encounter in a book excerpt published Friday in New York magazine.

In the Post interview, Carroll repeated the allegations, saying that during a chance encounter with the then-real estate developer at Bergdorf Goodman in late 1995 or early 1996, Trump attacked her in a dressing room. She said he knocked her head against a wall, pulled down her tights and briefly penetrated her before she pushed him off and ran out.

During the CNN interview, Carroll said she would be open to working with the New York Police Department in a criminal investigation into the attack.

"I would consider it," she said, adding that her lawyers have advised her that the statute of limitations has expired for bringing such a complaint.

Carroll said she plans to continue speaking out about the alleged assault by Trump.

"We have to hold him accountable - not only him, but a lot of guys," she said.

- - -

The Washington Post’s Beth Reinhard and Colby Itkowitz contributed to this report.

4 border deaths in Texas could be a preview of the summer

Mon, 06/24/2019 - 23:13

CORRECTS BYLINE TO CHRIS PIZZELLO INSTEAD OF RICHARD SHOTWELL - NBA player Rudy Gobert, of the Utah Jazz, accepts the NBA defensive player of the year award at the NBA Awards on Monday, June 24, 2019, at the Barker Hangar in Santa Monica, Calif. (Photo by Chris Pizzello/Invision/AP) (Chris Pizzello/)
This June 13, 2019, photo shows a sign that reads "Many people have died trying to swim to the other side," posted in a church sheltering Central American migrants in Ciudad Juarez, Mexico. The irrigation canals near El Paso look calm on the surface and easy to cross, but their V-shape creates a quick undertow. (AP Photo/Cedar Attanasio) (Cedar Attanasio/)

Two babies, a toddler and a woman were found dead near the U.S.-Mexican border, overcome by the sweltering heat in a glimpse of what could lie ahead this summer as record numbers of migrant families try to get into the United States.

Authorities believe the four may have been dead for days before the bodies were discovered on Sunday in the Rio Grande Valley. No details were released on the victims' relationship.

It was the latest grim discovery of migrants who died while trying to cross the perilous desert and the swollen Rio Grande.

A law enforcement official close to the investigation told The Associated Press the four were overcome by the heat after fording the river. The official was not authorized to discuss the matter publicly and spoke on condition of anonymity.

Migrant families have been coming over the border in unprecedented numbers in recent months, reaching a peak in May, when 84,000 adults and children traveling together were apprehended. Nearly 500,000 immigrants have been detained at the border since the start of the year, resulting in dangerous overcrowding in U.S. holding centers.

A total of 283 migrant deaths were recorded along the 2,000-mile border last year. The death toll so far this year was not immediately released.

Three children and an adult from Honduras are believed to have died after their raft overturned on the Rio Grande in April. They had considered seeking asylum but were daunted by a long wait list to get into the U.S., according to a shelter official who met the family.

A 6-year-old immigrant from India was found dead in the triple-digit heat in Arizona this month, and seven people believed to be migrants died in June alone in irrigation canals that run alongside border barriers near El Paso. The total last year for such deaths in those canals was 11.

And the bodies of a father and nearly 2-year-old daughter from El Salvador were recovered from the Rio Grande on Monday, the Mexican newspaper La Jornada reported. The mother told the paper she watched her husband and child disappear in the strong current.

Border Patrol spokesman Ramiro Cordero said that in past years, agents would be posted near canals and hear the cries of help from migrants. But they are doing other duties this year with so many immigrants showing up, some in poor health.

"Unfortunately, because of the large influx of illegal aliens and agents having to be diverted to other duties, such as transporting, hospital escorts ... there are not a lot of agents readily available to hear these cries," he said in a statement.

The Trump administration is also under siege from critics who believe it is taking too hard a line toward humanitarian volunteers who help border crossers by leaving jugs of water in the desert and providing medical assistance.

The Justice Department prosecuted a volunteer with the aid group No More Deaths on conspiracy charges for providing two migrants with water, food and lodging last year. He faced up to 20 years in prison, but the case ended in a mistrial earlier this month when the jury deadlocked.

The immigrants who make it across the border and turn themselves in to authorities are experiencing their own problems and safety risks in government detention. Five children have died after being detained by the government since late last year, and dozens of youngsters were found last week in unsanitary conditions inside a Border Patrol station near El Paso. The government had transferred the majority of the children out of the facility by Monday.

Authorities say the weather is one factor in some of the recent deaths.

Higher-than-average snowfall in the Rocky Mountains is sending more water into the Rio Grande and adjacent canals, creating deceptively swift waters. Border agents say they are rescuing immigrants from the river on an almost daily basis.

Customs and Border Protection agents have responded to 3,330 rescue emergencies since the start of the fiscal year Oct. 1. Those numbers typically spike in the coming months as triple-digit heat becomes the norm.

During the last budget year, Customs and Border Protection rescue teams responded to more than 4,300 emergencies.

The irrigation canals near El Paso look calm on the surface and easy to cross, but their V-shape creates a quick undertow, and it is difficult to climb out of them.

"They don't realize that once they get in there, their feet can get swept away. There's a lot of obstacles, there's debris in the canal, and there are headgates," which can trap or stop people, said Capt. Kris Menendez, head of the El Paso County Water Rescue Team.

The team was training near a headgate on June 11 when one of the firefighters spotted a body in the water. By the time they got in the water, there were two bodies — one a preschool-age girl, and the other a 30-year-old man.

The names of the four who died in the Rio Grande were not immediately released, and authorities were working to determine their country of origin. The bodies were found in or near a park that borders the river in the city of Mission, Hidalgo County sheriff's Sgt. Frank Medrano said.

The FBI is leading the investigation because the park is on federal land.

Medrano said the area is commonly used by migrants entering the country illegally.

“It’s a well-known route because it’s so close to the border,” he said.

Sulzberger is right (and wrong)

Mon, 06/24/2019 - 21:59

The New York Times.

I never thought I would write this, but the publisher of The New York Times, A.G. Sulzberger, is right. Sulzberger wrote an op-ed for The Wall Street Journal in response to President Trump’s claim that his newspaper committed “treason” by publishing a story about U.S. efforts to compromise Russia’s power grid should Moscow again try to meddle in U.S. elections. The Times says it consulted National Security officials who raised no objections to its publication.

It is one thing for the president to criticize sloppy, inaccurate and biased reporting by the media, including The New York Times. It is quite another to use such an incendiary word as "treason," whose definition does not fit what the president sees as a crime: "the offense of acting to overthrow one's government or to harm or kill its sovereign; a violation of allegiance to one's sovereign or to one's state; the betrayal of a trust or confidence; breach of faith; treachery."

Before becoming a columnist, I was a reporter for local TV stations and one network. In the early '70s, during a pro-Vietnam War demonstration in Washington, I was called a communist by one of the demonstrators, simply because I had an NBC News logo on my microphone.

Hostility toward the press for failing to report, or ignoring, what many conservatives believe to be true (but isn't always) has been around for some time. It has grown worse during the Trump administration.

It might help lower the temperature if what is collectively known as "the media" engaged in serious introspection. Why is public distrust of journalists so high?

Columbia Journalism Review reports on results of a new Knight Foundation and Gallup poll: "A majority of those who were surveyed said they had lost trust in the media in recent years, and more than 30 percent of those who identified themselves as being on the conservative end of the spectrum said they had not only lost faith in the media, but they 'expect that change to be permanent.' According to a separate Gallup poll from earlier this year that tracked trust in major institutions, newspapers and television news were among the lowest, exceeded only by Congress."

This is dangerous, not only for journalism, which is seeing the decline of newspapers and an increase in staff layoffs, but also because a vibrant press is crucial to a strong nation, as the Founders believed.

The response to this and similar surveys over decades has been a collective shrug. There is no self-examination by the media and no change. Campaigns for "diversity" are about hiring more women and minorities, not ideological balance. Consumers of media -- especially religious and conservative people -- view the press as hostile to their core values.

Journalism is a business. Think of it this way. If you owned a gas station and were losing customers because gas prices were too high, the lighting was poor so that people felt unsafe at night and the restrooms were dirty, would you allow these conditions to persist? Would you even if a competitor opened a station across the street with lower prices, cleaner restrooms and better lighting? Not if you wanted to stay in business, you wouldn't.

Too many in the media are like the guy who owns the substandard gas station, ignoring complaints about their performance. The predictable results are fewer readers of newspapers and lower ratings for television news programs.

What should frighten all of us in this latest survey is the number of people who say they expect their loss of faith in the media to be permanent.

Does any other business so disrespect its current customers and not try to win back the disaffected? While A.G. Sulzberger is right to criticize the president for his incendiary remark, he should also consider putting his own house in order, asking former readers what can be done to rebuild trust, not only for the good of the profession, but for the greater good of the country.

Trump isn’t just speaking lies. He’s inviting loyalists to live in his own political reality.

Mon, 06/24/2019 - 21:54

President Donald Trump reacts to the crowd after speaking during his re-election kickoff rally at the Amway Center, Tuesday, June 18, 2019, in Orlando, fla. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci) (Evan Vucci/)

WASHINGTON -- When dealing with a political figure who faces allegations of sexual assault, financial misdeeds and obstruction of justice, it is difficult to sort out the greatest damage to our public life. But a strong case can be made that it is the assault on truth.

This was again on display in a recent interview of President Trump by NBC News' Chuck Todd. When asked his reaction to losing the popular vote in 2016, Trump returned to the narrative that he had been robbed of a popular vote victory through fraud. "I'll say something that, again, is controversial," said Trump. "There were a lot of votes cast that I don't believe. I look at California … Take a look at their settlement where California admitted to a million votes."

Trump’s claim is not just “controversial.” It is a whole-cloth fabrication by the most ambitious fabulist in presidential history. The “settlement” to which Trump was apparently referencing was a judicial order for the state of California to remove about a million inactive voters from its registration list. This can in no way be interpreted as a million fraudulent votes cast for Hillary Clinton in 2016 (which still would not have won Trump California or the national popular vote).

Is Trump’s determination to inhabit his self-blown truth bubble a psychological compulsion or a political ploy? That is an interesting question, but an academic one. Each explanation reinforces the other.

Most of Trump's boldest lies are devoted to protecting himself from facts that diminish him. So, his net worth must be exaggerated, no matter what his tax returns might say. His inaugural crowd must be larger than Barack Obama's, no matter what aerial photographs clearly show. He was cheated out of a popular vote victory, no matter what the evidence indicates.

Sometimes Trump's self-serving deceptions are hard for followers to keep straight. The Mueller report, for example, was both dismissed as the illegitimate work of Democratic agents, and embraced as complete vindication on matters of collusion and obstruction. Even though the explanations are inconsistent, they are unified by Trump's broader purpose: the bending of reality to serve his self-perception.

Some kind of personal pathology seems to be at work. Trump's epistemology is not so much relativistic as solipsistic. He has a bottomless need to project himself as wealthier, stronger, smarter and better than he actually is. This is a sign, not of strength, but of psychological fragility. Desperation for the illusion of mastery is the evidence of deep brokenness. It indicates a hunger for affirmation that reality will never fill. This encourages both self-delusion and the spinning of elaborate, self-serving lies.

Why should these attributes bother us in a president? Because narcissism is not merely a stronger form of personal ambition. It is a different and distorted way of perceiving the world. Part of psychological wholeness -- and of responsible political leadership -- is the ability to consider reality from someone else's perspective. But Trump seems incapable of escaping the small, dark cell of his own immediate needs and desires. He can't see the world from the standpoint of an ally or an enemy. He seems immune to empathy for a minority facing prejudice, or a refugee fleeing from oppression, or a migrant child separated from his or her parents.

And Trump appears to accept no moral standards external to his interests. Every principle or truth is judged in relation to the welfare of his person. There is apparently nothing he won't say to maintain the mythology that he is the winningest winner there ever was or will be. This means that he careens from crisis to crisis without moral guiderails.

Trump is not only speaking a series of lies. He is inviting millions of loyalists to live in a political reality conjured by his deceptions. Any news critical of him is fake. Any agitprop that supports him -- even by the purveyors of conspiracy theories -- is to be believed. And any election he might lose is fraudulent.

Not long ago, I sat on a plane next to a knowledgeable and articulate Trump supporter. The talk turned to the Mueller report, and I mentioned that Robert Mueller was awarded the Bronze Star for his bravery in Vietnam. “How do you know that?” snapped my conversation partner. I sputtered something about reading it in multiple, reliable sources. She remained unconvinced.

How is any political conversation or policy discussion possible when citizens inhabit separate universes of truth and meaning? This is Trump’s most dangerous innovation: epistemology as cult of personality.

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.

A humanitarian crisis of Trump’s making

Mon, 06/24/2019 - 21:51

A No Trespassing sign hangs outside of the Homestead Temporary Shelter for Unaccompanied Children, Sunday, June 16, 2019, in Homestead, Fla. A coalition of religious groups and immigrant advocates said they want the Homestead detention center closed. (AP Photo/Lynne Sladky) (Lynne Sladky/)

WASHINGTON -- President Trump’s immigration policy has crossed the line from gratuitous cruelty to flat-out sadism. Perhaps he enjoys seeing innocent children warehoused in filth and squalor. Perhaps he thinks that’s what America is all about. Is he right, Trump supporters? Is he right, Republicans in Congress? Is this what you want?

A team of lawyers, tasked with monitoring the administration's compliance with a consent decree on the treatment of migrant children, managed to gain access to a Customs and Border Protection detention center in Clint, Texas, last week. The lawyers were not allowed to tour the facility but were able to interview more than 50 of the estimated 350 children being held there.

Let me quote at length how Willamette University law professor W. Warren Binford described those interviews to a reporter for The New Yorker:

"They [the children] were filthy dirty, there was mucus on their shirts. … There was food on the shirts, and the pants as well. They told us that they were hungry. They told us that some of them had not showered or had not showered until the day or two days before we arrived. Many of them described that they only brushed their teeth once. This facility knew last week that we were coming. The government knew three weeks ago that we were coming.

"So, in any event, the children told us that nobody's taking care of them, so that basically the older children are trying to take care of the younger children. The guards are asking the younger children or the older children, 'Who wants to take care of this little boy? Who wants to take [care] of this little girl?' and they'll bring in a 2-year-old, a 3-year-old, a 4-year-old. And then the littlest kids are expected to be taken care of by the older kids, but then some of the oldest children lose interest in it, and little children get handed off to other children. And sometimes we hear about the littlest children being alone by themselves on the floor.

"Many of the children reported sleeping on the concrete floor. They are being given Army blankets, those wool-type blankets that are really harsh. Most of the children said they're being given two blankets, one to put beneath them on the floor. Some of the children are describing just being given one blanket and having to decide whether to put it under them or over them because there is air-conditioning at this facility. And so they're having to make a choice about, Do I try to protect myself from the cement, or do I try to keep warm?"

Binford told reporters that the older children described outbreaks of influenza and head lice at the overcrowded facility, which she said was designed to hold no more than 104 detainees. She told The Washington Post that she "witnessed a 14-year-old caring for a 2-year-old without a diaper, shrugging as the baby urinated as they sat at a table because she did not know what to do."

The legal experts monitoring the treatment of migrant children rarely go public with their findings, but Binford was shaken by what she saw and heard. She said the overwhelmed CBP guards at the Clint facility were sympathetic to her efforts and knew the children should not be warehoused in such conditions. Thankfully, according to news reports Monday night, hundreds of the children were removed from the facility.

According to the consent decree Binford is helping to monitor, they should not be warehoused at all. Most should have quickly been released to a parent, relative or guardian who is already in the United States.

Shamefully, there is more: Dolly Lucio Sevier, a physician who was able to assess 39 children at a different detention facility in McAllen, Texas, described conditions there as including "extreme cold temperatures, lights on 24 hours a day, no adequate access to medical care, basic sanitation, water or adequate food," according to a document obtained by ABC News.

"The conditions within which they are held could be compared to torture facilities," Lucio Sevier wrote.

Trump and Vice President Pence responded with lies (blaming the Obama administration), deflection (blaming Democrats in Congress) and lots of oleaginous faux concern. But this is a humanitarian crisis of Trump's making. A president who panders to his base by seizing billions of dollars from other programs to build a "big, beautiful wall" also panders to his base by cruelly treating brown-skinned migrant children like subhumans.

Do not look away. This is the reality of Trump’s America. Deal with it.

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.

What about the advisers who tried to goad Trump into war?

Mon, 06/24/2019 - 21:46

FILE - In this May 1, 2019, file photo, National security adviser John Bolton talks to reporters about Venezuela, outside the White House, in Washington. The Associated Press learned that at least twice since 2016, the U.S. government missed chances to cultivate relations with top Venezuelan regime insiders, who Bolton said backed out of a plan to topple President Nicolás Maduro. (AP Photo/Evan Vucci, File) (Evan Vucci/)

While it pains me to say this, President Donald Trump is not the figure in the administration with the least common sense and prudence. That distinction goes to the advisers who nearly led him and the United States into a military confrontation with Iran for which there was no off-ramp and no clear objective.

The job of the national security adviser is to make sure the president has the best information and the best options to make decisions. It was obvious from the outset, and has become inescapably true with time, that national security adviser John Bolton is not that person. By the president's own admission, Bolton is an unbridled advocate of military conflict, a man for whom any attainable diplomatic deal is an anathema.

"I have some hawks. Yeah, John Bolton is absolutely a hawk. If it was up to him he'd take on the whole world at one time," Trump said in his "Meet the Press" interview on Sunday. That is petrifying - especially regarding a national security adviser whose job is essentially that of an honest broker. Not only is that apparently not happening, but by the president's own admission - and as seen in incoherent Venezuela and Iran policies - Bolton's lack of foresight and judgment has led to embarrassing retreats for the president. The longer Bolton is there, the greater risk that one of his reckless suggestions comes to fruition.

And by the way, if Trump really never got a casualty assessment until that late in the process - or more likely, never sufficiently focused on it - that is unforgivable negligence on Bolton's part.

And what about Secretary of State Mike Pompeo? His propensity to mislead the public and Congress (on progress on North Korea talks, on the Saudi crown prince's involvement in the gruesome murder of Washington Post columnist Jamal Khashoggi) have severely diminished his credibility. Moreover, he too seems to be raising the stakes, prodding the president to be ever more bellicose and failing to provide a rational path to achieve our ends. It's not even clear, candidly, what ends Pompeo seeks.

Pompeo's speech last year laid down 12 conditions for Iran that amounted to "regime suicide." His pursuit of "maximum pressure" without allies at our side - and without contemplating that Iran would lash out - was bound to fail and/or to embarrass the president, who has no stomach to back up words with orders.

Republicans once believed that Trump's ignorance, recklessness and erratic tendencies would be checked by wise men and women. That was fanciful from the get-go, since the president ultimately calls the shots. In any case, the Iran debacle underscores the absence of wise advisers. To the contrary, a president who is ignorant, reckless and erratic does not have the tools to select good advisers - or to hold onto them.

Certainly, a heavy responsibility rests with Republicans such as Sen. Tom Cotton, Ark., who have posited that a couple of strikes would wipe out Iran and who have continued to agitate for war. (On Sunday, Cotton seemed undeterred by the president’s retreat.) However, it is ultimately the president and his advisers who bear the responsibility for a coherent, rational foreign policy. So long as Trump and his current crop of advisers are there - and we lack a qualified, confirmed secretary of defense - that won’t be possible. The risk of gross miscalculation continues.

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.

Good journalism is gasping for air

Mon, 06/24/2019 - 21:37

President Donald Trump speaks to reporters on the South Lawn of the White House in Washington, Saturday, June 22, 2019, before boarding Marine One for the trip to Camp David in Maryland. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh) (Susan Walsh/)

HILLSBORO, Ohio - Eager to watch President Donald Trump’s campaign kickoff rally last week, I first tuned in to Fox News. After about a half hour, I decided I would flip over to MSNBC, then CNN. I was disappointed to discover neither carrying the event.

Let's get this straight. The incumbent president was formally announcing his reelection bid in front of 20,000 people, and neither MSNBC nor CNN deemed it newsworthy enough to interrupt its typical nightly lineup? Viewers weighed in, with about 5 million watching Fox News's coverage of Trump's remarks, marking the channel's third-highest prime-time rating of the year and leaving its two rivals in the dust.

Well, it was just another Trump rally, the critics said. Maybe so. But the same can be said of just about any kickoff rally for candidates who merely repackage the stump speech they've been giving for weeks or months. Yes, Trump filed for reelection right after his inauguration. But a formal kickoff event by a president seeking reelection is news by any standard, whether newsrooms like what he says or not.

I read later that CNN carried a few minutes of the president's rally before breaking away after the crowd broke into the typical "CNN sucks" chant. If this was truly cause and effect, it's another example of a shockingly thin-skinned media landscape. Trump's "fake news" mantra and his frequent attacks on news outlets should be brushed aside like a bothersome mosquito. Instead, too many in the news business react with bulging veins and defensive lectures, which is exactly the response Trump wants.

As a citizen, I wanted Trump to break Washington. As a longtime newspaper editor, I didn't want him to break journalism. But while the former has proved stubbornly resilient, the latter has crumbled like old newsprint. After Trump's victory, it was argued on high that new standards of reporting were needed to cover this president, a view that has served to badly undermine the practice of traditional, effective journalism.

Trump's claims of fake news are wrong. The news is real enough. What's inauthentic is a new style of journalism being employed to report it, including reporters injecting themselves into their stories to call the president a liar, rather than quoting other sources or referring to third-party fact checkers to refute a statement. Even when they're right, the result has been predictable - a widespread perception that the media is out to get the president.

While Big Media has for decades leaned left, it still practiced a basic form of journalism that demanded at least a nod to fairness, balance and, just as important, detachment. The newspapers I edited were of the small-town variety, and I'm proud of that. By and large, small-town editors and reporters still apply traditional standards of journalism, and reader trust remains highest at newspapers such as those.

On Sunday, I watched the president's interview with "Meet the Press" host Chuck Todd, who, with his theatrical array of eye rolls, smirks and head shakes, hardly models himself after his most renowned predecessor, the late Tim Russert, who was the gold standard in tough but fair questioners. Discussing reports of serious problems at detention facilities for illegal immigrants, Todd implored the president: "Do something. Do something." Great advocacy, bad journalism.

It's not just the news media that has allowed its fury at Trump to produce self-inflicted wounds. Late-night comedy has suffered the same fate. An insightful article this month by Joanna Weiss in Politico magazine details how talk-show hosts have traded cleverness and wit for outrage and anger. As Weiss concluded, it's hard to tell the difference these days between late-night comedians and Rachel Maddow or Sean Hannity.

When his media haters are being kind and not comparing Trump to Hitler, they compare him to President Richard M. Nixon. Nixon was brought down in part by historically great reporting of irrefutable facts that even Nixon's loyal base could not ignore or defend. Why? The messenger was trusted. There is irony in the fact that the new journalism standards are having the opposite of their intended effect, serving to bolster Trump with his base rather than destroy him. It's easy for Trump loyalists to shrug off the accusations of a declared enemy who is always on the attack, as opposed to a detached observer with a reputation for reporting favorably when circumstances warrant such coverage and commentary.

Partisan hysterics to the contrary, the republic is in fine shape under Trump. But journalism is in big trouble, mainly because many of its major practitioners have lowered themselves to engaging in a petty, personal war with the president, while installing new rules of reporting that militarize their fabled pens far beyond allegorical swords. Returning to the glory days of unbiased, dispassionate reporting depends on a recognition that the old rules still work best - not to mention a thicker layer of skin.

Good journalism is gasping for air. Do something.

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.

House Democratic leaders to amend border bill to placate angered liberals

Mon, 06/24/2019 - 20:30

WASHINGTON - House Democratic leaders agreed to amend a bill to address a humanitarian crisis at the southern border after angry liberals threatened to withhold their votes over the Trump administration’s treatment of migrant children at detention centers.

Assistant Speaker Ben Ray Lujan, D-N.M., emerged Monday from a nearly two-hour meeting involving members of the Congressional Progressive Caucus and the Congressional Hispanic Caucus - two groups that had expressed concerns about delivering additional funding to the Trump administration - and said a vote would proceed Tuesday.

Changes to the $4.5 billion bill, he said, could be made before the vote in order to secure the necessary support from Democrats. "I think this bill will pass," Lujan said.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., called the meeting after news of poor conditions at U.S. Customs and Border Protection centers and President Donald Trump's threat of mass deportations cast doubt on whether Congress would be able to pass a border funding package before lawmakers leave Washington on Thursday for a weeklong recess.

Rep. Raul Ruiz, D-Calif., said Pelosi agreed to back changes to the bill detailing what constitutes humane treatment for migrant children in U.S. custody.

"There's a way to change behavior rather than just funding a dysfunctional system," he said. "If you give them soap and toothbrushes and yet the administration is arguing that these children do not need toothbrushes and soap, then you're not going to change behavior. If you don't mandate 'allow them to bathe daily,' then they're still going to be without bathing for many days."

Going into the meeting, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., attacked the idea that Congress would provide billions of dollars in more funding to detain unaccompanied children apprehended at the border. She cited numerous recent reports detailing the poor conditions at U.S. facilities.

"That's not due to a lack of resources, that's due to a desire - an active desire by this administration to hurt kids," she said. "We need to stop funding the detention of children under any and all circumstances."

But other Democrats have struck a more measured tone, with appropriators proposing nearly $1 billion for facilities, food, water and other humanitarian items and another $886 million for housing children outside shelters.

"We cannot allow our anger at this president to blind us to the horrific conditions at facilities along the border as the agencies run out of money," House Appropriations Committee Chairman Nita Lowey, D-N.Y., said in prepared remarks to be delivered to the House Rules Committee.

A senior Democratic aide said Pelosi in the meeting "expressed a desire to review specific proposals from members to further enhance protections for children" in the bill, with an eye toward amending it and passing it Tuesday.

The aide spoke on the condition of anonymity to describe the internal discussions.

Exiting the meeting before its conclusion Monday, Rep. Veronica Escobar, D-Texas, said that the situation was "truly an emergency" and that lawmakers are running out of time to address it.

The Department of Health and Human Services, which is responsible for caring for unaccompanied children who arrive at the border, said it will exhaust its funding at the end of the month. The worst conditions have been documented at border stations under the control of the Department of Homeland Security, where children have been held while they await HHS placement.

"Are there things I would like to change? Absolutely," said Escobar, who represents a border district. "But we have a real crisis, and the reason why kids in (Homeland Security) custody are in dealing with such terrible conditions is because they're running out of money. And we need to get that money."

Rep. Tony Cardenas, D-Calif., said he was inclined to back Lowey's bill but acknowledged an intense internal debate among Democrats.

"I hate that saying, but in this particular situation, I pray that the perfect is not the enemy of the good," he said. "We've got lives at stake; we've got the United States of America that has been looked at by the rest of the world as the gold standard . . . for how to treat human beings, especially when they're fleeing violence and death. And I don't think we should compromise that at all."

Democrats will need a strong consensus among their 235 members to pass the bill. If all 435 members are present and voting, Democrats can afford no more than 17 defections.

House Democratic aides, speaking on the condition of anonymity, said party leaders left Washington on Friday believing they had reached an agreement that would pass muster with both the Hispanic and Progressive caucuses. But Trump's plan to proceed with deportations cast a shadow over the plan to pass the bill, as did his decision Saturday to delay - not cancel - those deportations.

Ocasio-Cortez and three other hard-left Democrats issued a statement Saturday, insisting that they could not support the legislation because it "continues to support a fundamentally cruel and broken immigration system."

House Minority Leader Kevin McCarthy, R-Calif., said Monday evening that Republicans would not support the House bill but could instead support a bipartisan bill that emerged from a Senate committee last week. If House Democrats are unable to agree on their own legislation, giving them legislation to force further changes, Pelosi may hold a vote on the Senate bill - passing it with some Republican votes.

"The Senate bill is the bipartisan bill," McCarthy said.

If the House passes its own bill Tuesday, it would still need to reach a deal with the Senate before a funding agreement is sent to Trump for his signature.

Unlearning the lessons from Chernobyl

Mon, 06/24/2019 - 17:45

FILE - In this March 16, 2011, file photo, steam escapes from Exelon Corp.'s nuclear plant in Byron, Ill. The nuclear power industry is pushing the Nuclear Regulatory Commission to cut back on inspections at nuclear power plants and throttle back what it tells the public about plant problems. (AP Photo/Robert Ray, File) (Robert Ray/)

Five years after the Chernobyl disaster, in the summer of 1991, the last summer the Soviet Union was still in existence, I visited Ukraine. I trekked out to the 20-mile exclusion zone - it had been cleared of all people after the accident - together with some local environmental activists. We brought Geiger counters, which indeed ticked upward as we got nearer to the reactor, but not in any way that was conclusive. We also talked to a local doctor, whom I remember as not very forthcoming. Some people told us of two-headed pigs and mutated cows, but others dismissed them as rumors.

In fact, it wasn't possible to learn that much about Chernobyl when you were at Chernobyl five years after the accident. The number of deaths was disputed, even then, and it remains so now. As I wrote at the time, the official number then was 31; the scientific director of the exclusion zone thought the number was closer to 7,000; other Soviet nongovernmental organizations used much higher numbers, speculating that early deaths as a result of the accident would hit 300,000. Those figures have changed, but the range hasn't. There was no way to be certain of the fatalities then, and there still isn't now. Nobody had measured the radiation at the time of the explosion; nobody kept track of the people who had been evacuated to new homes all over the country; nobody even knew the fate of the soldiers and plant employees who had taken part in the cleanup.

Anyone who has watched HBO's recent brilliant five-part series, "Chernobyl," or read Serhii Plokhy's prize-winning 2018 book, "Chernobyl: The History of a Nuclear Catastrophe," knows that there were deeper problems, too. Layer upon layer of lies and falsehoods surrounded the accident from the beginning. First the reactor's leadership, then the Soviet leadership, covered up the explosion. Later, they tried to cover up the human errors that led to the disaster. That was why measurements were not made, assessments were not completed, victims were not informed.

In due course, the extent of the lying created a further problem: Trust in Soviet institutions - medical, scientific and political - plunged, especially in Ukraine. Rumors replaced information. Conspiracy theories replaced explanations. As a result, Chernobyl became an important inspiration for the nascent Ukrainian independence movement; Chernobyl also persuaded the last general secretary of the Soviet Union, Mikhail Gorbachev, to launch his program of glasnost, or openness. He thought that if Soviet institutions began to tell the truth, other Chernobyls could be avoided, and the Soviet Union would remain intact. Instead, it melted down, too.

Although more than three decades have passed since the explosion sent waves of radiation into the atmosphere, there is now no shortage of people who want to talk about it, read about it, watch dramatizations of it. A Chernobyl fan subculture thrives online. But this is unsurprising because we live at a moment when the lessons learned from Chernobyl are being unlearned. Inside Russia, the culture of official lies has returned: There have been calls to ban the HBO series on the grounds that its portrayal of Soviet incompetence, mendaciousness and venality is somehow an insult to modern Russia and to the memory of the Soviet empire. Because national honor is more important than truth, a Russian television station, NTV, has commissioned its own series. This one will not tell the actual story, of course. Instead - surprise! - it will claim that the whole thing was the fault of the CIA.

But Russia is not the only country in which science is suspect, conspiracy theories multiply and politics is a series of coverups. In President Donald Trump's Washington, scientific advisory panels are being cut. Environmental rules designed to protect the public from dirty air and pollution are being rolled back. Positions at environmental regulatory agencies, once held by people with scientific expertise, are now routinely held by people who come from the industries being regulated; once they are done with government service, they are almost certain to go back to those industries and reap their rewards.

Most of this happens not in secret but in silence. The president does not advertise what he is doing but instead distracts the public with his attacks on actresses and foreign mayors while he retweets conspiracy theorists. We don’t live in a culture of censorship, such as the Soviet Union’s; we live in a culture where there is too much information, where words are drowned out, not banned, and important ideas and events are ignored. We are lucky, very lucky, that no catastrophe, nuclear or otherwise, has yet blighted the country. Because if one does, we may discover the collapse of trust is so great that we are no longer prepared.

Anne Applebaum is a Washington Post columnist, covering national politics and foreign policy, with a special focus on Europe and Russia. She is also a Pulitzer Prize-winning historian and a professor of practice at the London School of Economics. She is a former member of The Washington Post’s editorial board.

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.

There’s a great job opening at my best friend’s company. It’s clear she doesn’t want me to apply.

Mon, 06/24/2019 - 17:33

Q: When I opened up the “jobs” section on LinkedIn, I could not believe it. I found a job posting in Anchorage that seemed written for me. I read the announcement all the way through with increasing excitement, only to receive a strong shock when I saw the name of the individual to whom to send resumes. It was my best friend. Even though we talk several nights a week about almost everything in our lives, she never told me about this job.

I immediately called her and asked, “Why didn’t you let me know about the job you’ve listing?” Her silence told me a lot; she must have been hoping I wouldn’t see the ad. When I again asked her “why,” she answered, “You can apply” in a flat voice. I felt so betrayed I shouted at her, “Why don’t you want me to work at your company?”

She then broke my heart. She said, “You’ve been terribly unhappy in your last jobs. If you’re not happy in this one, I’m the HR manager and I’ll have to deal with it.” I couldn’t believe my best friend was using everything I’d told her in confidence to deny me a job ideal for me. I shouted something at her, I don’t remember what, and slammed the phone down.

For two years, my best friend has listened to and supported me, and now, when she could really help me, she clearly didn’t intend to. What do I do with this? Do I apply or not given that she holds all the cards?

A: You apply, after you think the situation through and apologize.

Your friend may have felt it right to support you by listening to and encouraging you when you talked about your job woes. Like others, she may have swallowed thoughts she never voiced, such as “have you looked at your role in this problem?” or “you’re blaming your supervisor, but your supervisor is just doing what she needs to when she finds you chatting on your cellphone on work time.” Many individuals don’t voice those comments because they don’t want to hurt a friend’s feelings, because they want to be supportive and not critical and because they don’t want to ignite an argument.

When your friend posted the job, she did so in the capacity of HR manager for her company. In that role, she may feel it her duty to her employer to select the right applicant. Are you that person?

She may also have had multiple reasons to avoid telling you about the position. She may not think you’re right for the job. She may be conflict adverse and worry that you’ll apply and she’ll have to turn you down. She may feel that if she hires you, you’ll expect her to take your side when you get into workplace disagreements with your supervisor. How will you feel when you expect your good friend to jump to your defense but her HR role dictates that she maintains neutrality? She may realize she’ll need to shut down your evening discussions about your feelings about your job, ending your ability to use her as your stress relief valve. If she doesn’t, she’ll learn things, in confidence, that put her in a compromising position.

After you’ve thought this through, take a fresh look at the job posting and yourself. Are you the best candidate? If so, apply. You owe it to yourself.

Finally, demonstrate maturity. When you saw the posting, it shocked you, leading you to react in ways you may now regret. Apologize to her for shouting, and she may in turn apologize to you for not telling you about the posting. Once you’ve apologized, ask her if there are thoughts she’s held back because she’d tried to support you. Your willingness to ask honest, direct questions and to listen to difficult information may positively impact your future, whether or not you get the job.

[Be careful of hidden agendas when catty co-workers ‘befriend’ you]

[I worked for bullies who won’t give me good references. So how do I get a good job?]

New York woman has been on a three-year road trip documenting acts of kindness

Mon, 06/24/2019 - 17:19

Mary Latham of New York with Old Blue, the Subaru once owned by her mother that she's driving across the country while looking for acts of kindness. Photo by Sarah Henry (Sarah Henry/)

After Mary Latham’s mother died in 2013, the New York wedding photographer spent several years feeling adrift, wondering how long her emotions would feel so raw.

Her mind would routinely go back to something her mom, Patricia Latham, had told her after the 2012 Sandy Hook mass school shooting in Newtown, Connecticut.

"I'd been feeling terribly sad about it, and she said, 'Mary, there are always going to be tragedies in the world, but there will always be more good - you just have to look for it,'" Latham, 32, recalled.

It took almost three years for Latham to truly understand what her mother meant. And to honor her mom's legacy of looking for goodness, she came up with a plan: She would pack a suitcase with several changes of clothes and hit the road in her mom's blue Subaru Outback to visit all 50 states in search of simple acts of kindness.

Latham decided to call her road trip project More Good and document all of her stops on a website, with the goal of publishing a book to donate to hospital waiting rooms coast-to-coast.

On Oct. 29, 2016, she set out in “Old Blue” from her family’s home on Long Island, taking along dozens of “More Good” T-shirts to hand out to people who followed her journey online and agreed to host her for two or three nights.

She also packed the back of the car with a camera and several notebooks, plenty of water and snacks, and a blanket, candles and flashlight, joking that she wanted to be prepared for a blizzard in Maine.

Almost three years later, other than occasional weekend flights home to Long Island to photograph weddings and replenish her funds and her energy, Latham is still at it, with only seven more states to go on her road trip, including Alaska and Hawaii.

For those states, she's hoping to rent a blue Subaru rather than ship her car to Hawaii or spend weeks alone in the Alaskan outback.

"My mom would be impressed - I've already put more than 38,000 miles on the odometer," said Latham, who has thus far stayed with about 140 different families, mainly in small towns along America's back roads. People who follow her journey on her website invite her to stay in their guest rooms and refer her to people to interview in their communities who brighten others' lives.

"I spend a lot of time alone in my car and it can get lonely," said Latham. "So to stay with people and have a home-cooked meal and hear their stories of kindness provides a big boost. I haven't had a single bad experience with any of them."

From her first stop in Niantic, Connecticut, to her latest stay in the Cincinnati area, Latham has collected hundreds of "do good" stories along the way.

In Rhode Island, a bank teller told her about the time she'd had a bad day at work and a customer asked if she was okay, said Latham. When the teller said she'd be fine if she ate some M & Ms after work, the customer bought a bag of the candies and returned to slip them under the teller's bank window.

In Indiana, she met a woman who was molested as a child and now takes in dozens of foster children with special needs. "She hopes to provide them with the happiness she never experienced," said Latham.

Among her most memorable experiences, she said, was a stay in Cape Elizabeth, Maine (minus a blizzard), at a 100-year-old farmhouse.

"This woman reached out to me on Facebook and when I looked at her photo I thought, 'This could be the nicest woman in the world or a serial killer,'" Latham recalled with a laugh. "The photo showed her riding her bike with a puppy in the basket."

Latham was delighted (and relieved) when she arrived to smell the aroma of freshly-baked blueberry muffins drifting through the front screen door.

"I pushed the door open and was instantly smacked with this warmth," she said. "There was a wood stove burning and the puppy from that basket ran out to greet me. And then the woman hosting me gave me a big hug. Although we were strangers, we sat and talked like old friends."

She had similar experiences with a family in Indiana who fixed her flat tire and then put her up for three nights, and a man who recently had a double-lung transplant who left a $20 bill in her backpack.

Some of her hosts are now her friends, like Walter and Ava Butzu, teachers from Ann Arbor, Michigan. Earlier this month, they introduced her to three different people she interviewed for her book: a French Holocaust survivor, a college graduate who worked his way from poverty to medical school and a former University of Michigan band director who spoke eloquently about his decades of teaching. She now has hundreds of hours of interviews to transcribe for her book.

"We were thrilled to open up our home to Mary and connect over meals, walks and yoga," Ava Butzu, 49, said. "When she left, my husband, who can be a bit jaded at times, said, 'I miss Mary,' and talked about how Mary sees the world as a place of hope and optimism."

Latham's long journey has at times been hard on her emotionally, added Butzu, who spent an evening talking to her about the challenges she's faced on the road.

"She's staying with people she's never met, offering herself up to hear people tell their stories of loss, tragedy and hardships," said Butzu. "She knows it's taking a toll on her body, but she remains dogged that she will complete her goal."

Latham also made a lasting impression on Kim and Chris Rothe and their twin 11-year-old boys in Mansfield, Massachusetts. They offered up their guest room to her in 2016 over the Christmas holidays.

"Reading Mary's story (online) brought me to tears," said Kim Rothe, a 46-year-old special education teacher, whose father died of cancer. "Mary and I both knew how cruel cancer can be, and yet Mary was looking for the positive. What better way to honor her Mom than to share what she finds with everyone?"

When Latham pulled up to the Rothes' home in "Old Blue" two days before Christmas, she was exhausted with a bad cold and shortly after she said hello she went promptly to bed and slept for 22 hours, recalled Rothe.

"I was so touched that she felt comfortable enough in our home to collapse and just sleep," Rothe said. On Christmas morning, Latham played basketball with the boys, said Rothe, and delighted in watching them open their presents.

"We also exchanged gifts, and we both cried when she left," she added. "How brave of her to travel the country and rely on the kindness of strangers. It's exactly what this country needs in a time that seems so divisive."

Latham said she never discusses politics with the people she stays with or interviews. She's found that it simply doesn't matter.

"I've been in Trump homes, Hillary homes, Bernie homes, atheist homes, Christian homes and Jewish homes," she said. "One guest room I stayed in had 52 crosses hanging on the wall. For me, there is really only one underlying common factor: They're good people who want to be a part of something good."

After a long day on the highway when she feels like pulling over and crying, Latham said she thinks about her mother and what her journey would mean to her.

“My mom went up (to heaven) probably thinking that she’d put her feet up, drink some chardonnay and play Scrabble, and now I’ve got her on full-time angel duty,” she said. “But I know she’d be so happy that I’m doing this. That makes every single mile worth it.”

Florida woman charged after giving husband’s guns to police

Mon, 06/24/2019 - 16:58

This combination of booking photos provided by the Polk County Sheriff's Office shows Courtney Irby on June 15, 2019, and her husband Joseph Irby on June 14. A Florida lawmaker and others are asking a State Attorney not to prosecute Courtney Irby who was arrested while giving her husband's guns to police after he was charged with trying to run her over. Courtney Irby spent six days in jail on charges of armed burglary and grand theft after she brought the guns from her husband's apartment to the Lakeland Police. Joseph Irby was spending one day in jail at the time, accused of trying to run her over. (Polk County Sheriff's Office via AP)

ORLANDO, Fla. — A Florida woman’s effort to protect herself from domestic violence has become a flashpoint in the debate over gun rights and victims’ safety.

Courtney Irby gave her estranged husband's guns to police after he was charged with domestic violence-aggravated battery, only to find herself arrested for theft.

Now a Florida lawmaker and gun safety advocates are championing her cause, asking a state attorney on Monday drop the charges, while gun rights advocates want her prosecuted.

Courtney Irby spent six days in jail on charges of armed burglary and grand theft after she retrieved the assault rifle and handgun from her husband's apartment and gave them to the Lakeland Police. Joseph Irby was spending one day in jail at the time, accused of ramming into her car after a June 14 divorce hearing.

After her husband's arrest, Courtney Irby petitioned for a temporary injunction for protection, which was granted. Federal law prohibits people under a domestic violence restraining order from possessing guns, but it's up to local law enforcement to enforce it, according to the Giffords Law Center to Prevent Gun Violence.

Courtney Irby told police that she believed he wouldn't turn in his guns himself, so she took action. According to her arrest report, she said she entered her husband's apartment through a locked door without his permission and took the guns to a police station.

"So you're telling me you committed an armed burglary?" the officer asked her.

"Yes, I am but he wasn't going to turn them in so I am doing it," the officer said she responded.

Democratic State Rep. Anna Eskamani of Orlando tweeted that it's "ridiculous" to arrest a woman in this kind of situation. She sent a letter Monday to State Attorney Brian Haas asking that Irby not be prosecuted. She cited research showing the presence of a gun in a domestic violence situation makes it five times more likely a woman will be murdered.

"Ms. Irby was seeking help from the Lakeland Police Department and taking action to protect herself and her children," Eskamani wrote. "Prosecuting Ms. Irby sets a scary precedent that if someone seeks help to escape abuse, they will be punished for it."

While federal law prohibits people under domestic violence restraining orders and convicted of domestic violence from possessing guns, local law enforcement and prosecutors don't have the tools they need to enforce those restrictions, Eskamani said in her letter to the state attorney.

"These loopholes are major contributors to the deadly relationship between domestic violence and firearms," Eskamani said.

Joseph Irby's charges involve an altercation that began with a shouting match after the divorce hearing. According to his arrest report, they both got into their cars and then he used his vehicle to strike her back bumper several times, running her off the road.

Courtney Irby told a responding officer that "she feared for her life," his arrest report said.

As Joseph Irby was being placed into a patrol car, he called her "a man hater," the arrest report said.

In requesting that she be released on bond, Courtney Irby's attorney argued that she didn't commit theft since she didn't take the guns for her personal use and didn't benefit by taking them.

Spokesmen for the Lakeland Police Department and the State Attorney's Office didn't immediately return requests for comment on Monday.

Gun rights advocates have been tweeting in favor of prosecution and trolling Rep. Eskamani's Twitter account, while Courtney Irby's supporters launched a fundraising campaign for her legal fees. She's also getting support from Fred Guttenberg, whose daughter was killed in the Parkland, Florida school shooting.

Guttenberg tweeted that Irby was “an abused woman trying to protect herself from an abusive husband.”

Stop the blatant attacks on reproductive health

Mon, 06/24/2019 - 16:43


During the past few weeks and months, I have watched states advance and pass dangerous restrictions on reproductive health care, specifically on abortion access. State by state by state, we are facing a coordinated attack on access to safe and legal abortion care.

Alaska can’t be one of those states. As an OB-GYN who sees patients from all across Alaska, I know firsthand how detrimental denying reproductive health care and abortion access will be should our elected officials pass this legislation.

And it’s not just abortion — this administration is trying to dismantle access to birth control, cancer screenings and other reproductive health care across the country.

I am a doctor who believes that health care — including abortion care — is a fundamental human right.

A recent report ranks Alaska 45th in the U.S. for children’s well-being. The bottom line: Alaska’s children and families are hurting. According to this report, “10% of children in Alaska didn’t have health insurance.” We must do better as a society to support women and families. We should not be enacting laws that create barriers to services that should only involve a patient and their provider.

If that’s not enough, a federal court ruled last week that the dangerous, unethical Title X “gag rule” can go into effect across the country. This rule threatens birth control access and other essential health care for more than 8,000 people in Alaska who access care through Title X, the nation’s only family planning program. If the ruling stands, health care providers like me would be forced to withhold information about safe and legal abortion from patients – a blatant attack on reproductive health.

Congress is poised to pass an appropriations bill in the next few weeks that would block the Trump administration’s domestic gag rule — protecting access to birth control, cancer screenings, STI testing and treatments, and annual exams. The U.S. Senate must act.

Planned Parenthood is a critical part of the health care safety net in Alaska. The Title X program allows us to see thousands of Alaskans and provide discounted contraception, as well as preventive health services for all people. This care is delivered by the most comprehensive and compassionate providers I know.

To think that Alaskans may not be able to access care and make personal decisions about their bodies and their futures makes me deeply frustrated.

I am proud to have an elected leader, Sen. Lisa Murkowski, stand in support of Title X and the valuable services Planned Parenthood provides. My patients depend on this care, and I know she will continue to be an advocate.

We have more work to secure the right to control our bodies and our lives, but I will continue to provide care to my patients and ensure they get the care they need.

Dr. Tanya Pasternack is a doctor practicing obstetrics and gynecology with Planned Parenthood of the Great Northwest and the Hawaiian Islands. She lives in Anchorage.

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.

US in the World Cup quarterfinals after 2-1 win over Spain

Mon, 06/24/2019 - 16:37

United States' Megan Rapinoe, front, celebrates with teammates after scoring the opening goal from a penalty kick during the Women's World Cup round of 16 soccer match between Spain and US at the Stade Auguste-Delaune in Reims, France, Monday, June 24, 2019. (AP Photo/Alessandra Tarantino) (Alessandra Tarantino/)

REIMS, France — Spain tested the United States like no other team at the Women’s World Cup.

The U.S. looked disorganized at times facing Spain's aggressive and physical style before pulling out a 2-1 victory Monday night.

It could have been just what the Americans needed: France is waiting.

Megan Rapinoe converted a pair of penalty kicks to set up the United States' much-anticipated quarterfinal rendezvous with the hosts.

The tense match was knotted at 1 until Rapinoe's second penalty put the defending champions ahead in the 75th minute.

"I think we showed just a lot of grit and experience, to be honest, in this game," Rapinoe said. "Obviously as we get into these knockout rounds it's more stressful, there's more pressure, the games are more intense. Every team lifts its level."

Rapinoe's first came in the seventh minute to the cheers of the U.S. supporters melting in temperatures that reached nearly 90 degrees at the Stade Auguste-Delaune. They were quieted a short time later when Jennifer Hermoso tied it up for Spain with the first goal the Americans had allowed in France.

Video review was used to confirm a foul on Rose Lavelle that gave the pink-haired captain the game-winner, spoiling Spain's spirited effort in its first knockout-round appearance at a World Cup.

The three-time World Cup winners now head to Paris to face France on Friday night. The French defeated Brazil 2-1 in extra time Sunday night, with Amandine Henry scoring the game-winner in the 107th minute.

"I think this is the game that everyone had circled," Rapinoe said, referring to France. "I think it's going to be a great match. I hope it's wild and crazy, I hope the fans are crazy and there's tons of media around it and it's just a big spectacle. I think this is incredible for the women's game, when you have two heavy hitters meeting in the final knockout round."

The game at the home of Paris Saint-Germain has been anticipated since the tournament draw in December. France is vying to become the first nation to simultaneously hold both the men's and women's World Cup titles. The French men won in Russia last year.

The United States skated through its group with a stage record 18 goals. The team also didn't concede a goal in the group stage for the first time at a World Cup.

Until Monday, the Americans had not allowed a goal in eight straight competitive matches dating to the 2016 Olympics, outscoring opponents 44-0. It was the first goal the United States had allowed this year since a 5-3 win over Australia in an April friendly.

"This tournament isn't supposed to be easy and Spain was a great team," midfielder Samantha Mewis said. "I think these are the kinds of things that let us know that we're strong and that we can grind through something. So I think we're gonna take a lot from this and it gives us a lot of faith in ourselves."

La Roja had not scored in its previous two games but still finished second in its group to Germany to get the matchup with the Americans.

The U.S. and Spain last met in a friendly in Alicante in January, part of a European exhibition trip for the United States. Christen Press scored the lone goal in a 1-0 victory. That match was a confidence-booster for No. 13 Spain because it was able to hang with the world's top-ranked team. Spain's profile on the international stage has grown under coach Jorge Vilda, who took over following the team's World Cup debut in 2015. Spain won the 2017 Algarve Cup and last year won the Cyprus Cup.

Spain pushed the U.S. hard Monday.

"I actually think we deserved it more, but you know sometimes football is like that. I'm so proud of the team," Spain midfielder Vicky Losada said. "I'm so proud of the effort of the team and I think now we have to think about it, and think about the future, which I think is going to be so good."

Rapinoe's first penalty kick was the result of Maria Leon's tackle on Tobin Heath after a pass from Abby Dahlkemper.

Less than three minutes later, goalkeeper Alyssa Naeher's pass to Becky Sauerbrunn was stripped by Lucia Garcia and the ball wound up at the feet of Hermoso, who sent her shot from the penalty arc into the top right corner. It was Hermoso's third goal of the tournament to lead Spain.

Alex Morgan was set to take the penalty after Lavelle was tripped up by Virginia Torrecilla, but after the review Rapinoe stepped forward and slotted the ball just under the outstretched arm of Spain goalkeeper Sandra Panos.

Sauerbrunn was grateful.

"She's never going to have to buy another drink for the rest of the time. I will supply her with whatever she needs," she said.

Morgan, who leads the field in France with five goals, took a beating throughout the game and was seldom a factor. She stayed down for a long while in the second half after a hard tackle by Irene Paredes.

Coach Jill Ellis did not start midfielder Lindsey Horan, replacing her with Mewis. Horan, who came in as a sub in the 89th minute, had a yellow card in the team's second match.

Rapinoe collected a yellow card in the 37th minute against Spain. The cards could become an issue for the United States going forward. Players who accumulate two through the quarterfinals must sit out the next game.

Ellis, who coached her 124th match to match April Heinrichs for the most in team history, said she felt Spain's challenge will benefit the Americans come Friday.

“I think what this game gave us and the takeaways from it — massive,” Ellis said afterward.

Legislature’s leaders say they will reject Wasilla special session

Mon, 06/24/2019 - 15:35

The Alaska State Capitol is seen Monday, May 20, 2019 in Juneau. (James Brooks / ADN)

JUNEAU — Two weeks before an anticipated special session in Wasilla, the leaders of the Alaska Legislature say they are rejecting Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s plans in favor of meetings in Juneau and Anchorage.

In an emailed announcement Monday afternoon, Speaker of the House Bryce Edgmon, I-Dillingham, and Senate President Cathy Giessel, R-Anchorage, said, “The Alaska Legislature announced today it will convene in Juneau on July 8th for the 2nd special session, with the majority of meetings to be held in Anchorage.”

The legality of such a decision may be a significant question.

Article II, Section 9 of the state constitution says, “Special sessions may be called by the governor or by vote of two-thirds of the legislators.”

Currently, fewer than 40 of the Legislature’s 60 members support a special session away from Wasilla. All 15 members of the Alaska House Republican minority support a Wasilla location, as do six of the 10 members of the Senate who voted in favor of a traditional Permanent Fund dividend this year.

“Although we are one vote short of the 40-vote threshold to call ourselves into our own special session agenda, the majority of legislators in both bodies considers it our right to determine the location and venue best equipped to conduct business on the Governor’s special session call, while providing the most access to as many Alaskans possible,” Edgmon and Giessel said in their joint statement.

[30-day Wasilla special session estimated to cost $1.3 million]

The issue of the Permanent Fund dividend is the sole item on the special session agenda envisioned by the governor and the session envisioned by the House and Senate leaders, according to a draft proclamation attached to Monday’s announcement.

The governor supports a dividend paid using the traditional formula in state law. The Legislature’s leaders — despite dissent from many of their members — do not.

According to revenue projections for the fiscal year that begins July 1, the state does not have enough revenue to pay for both a traditional dividend and spending at levels proposed by the Legislature. (The governor may cut the budget via the veto process, and a final decision is pending.)

With tax increases off the table and sufficient budget vetoes unlikely, that means lawmakers and the governor must spend from savings in order to pay the traditional dividend. A majority of the House is opposed to spending from savings for the traditional dividend, as is half the Senate. The governor supports it, however, and he has called lawmakers into special session at Wasilla, a hotbed of support for the traditional dividend.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Priest edges Knopp Kesugi Ridge mountain run

Mon, 06/24/2019 - 15:16

Last to enter, first to the finish line.

After learning that a few spots had opened up for the 7th Kesugi Ridge Traverse in Denali State Park, Cody Priest and Tracen Knopp spontaneously signed up just two days in advance. Then in hot conditions, they waged a back-and-forth duel on Saturday and completed the grueling event from Little Coal Creek trailhead to Byers Lake just 22 seconds apart.

Knopp, a 20-year-old whom Priest once coached, tripped and fell on a technical section in the final mile. This allowed Priest to gain a small advantage and he held on in 4 hours, 48 minutes and 19 seconds. Knopp struggled with leg cramps as the temperature rose above 70 degrees before clocking 4:48:41.

The pair reached the midway Ermine Checkpoint together in 2:13.

Esther Kennedy of Sitka won the women’s race and placed eighth overall in 6:04:13 while Jan Tomsen of Denali Park took second in 6:20:48.

The existing records set by Scott Patterson (4:38 in 2015) and Christy Marvin (5:27 in 2018) were not threatened.

In the third running of the 15-mile half traverse from Little Coal Creek to just beyond the Ermine Hill trail junction, Ben Muse of Anchorage prevailed in 2:24:53, shaving more than two minutes off Jeff Young’s record from 2018.

UAA skier Jenna Difolco earned the women’s win in 2:40:33 and ranked fourth overall, but missed breaking Colleen Bolling’s record by 28 seconds.

A record 95 participants started the races and 83 finished within the time cutoffs.

Full Traverse (30 miles)


1) Cody Priest, 4:48:19; 2) Tracen Knopp, 4:48:41; 3) Marshall Genn, 5:43:56; 4) John Wros, 5:50:04; 5) Michael Abbott, 5:56:17; 6) Zach Thomas, 6:00:03; 7) Christopher Maus, 6:02:55; 8) Willie Stoll, 6:12:36; 9) Ross Henry, 6:25:52; 10) Zach Behney, 6:32:41; 11) Nathan Smith, 6:51:59; 12) Chris Garber-Slaght, 6:54:06; 13) Nathanael Ray, 6:57:25; 14) Lee House, 7:01:28; 15) Greg Stocker, 7:03:49; 16) Marek Kolendo, 7:04:37; 17) Kevin Knotek, 7:15:59; 18) James Lewis, 7:18:05; 19) Steven Anderson, 7:19:43; 20) Mike Monterusso, 7:30:33; 21) Kent Johnson, 7:37:36; 22) Rick Hansen, 7:39:56; 23) Blake Elder, 7:43:30; 24) Jacob Case, 7:46:26; 25) David Johnston, 7:51:23; 26) Timothy Mitchell, 7:58:32; 27) Todd Henry, 8:20:08; 28) Andy Kubic, 8:35:17; 29) Christopher Larrick, 8:55:46.


1) Esther Kennedy, 6:04:13; 2) Jan Tomsen, 6:20:48; 3) Klaire Rhodes, 6:28:57; 4) Melissa Lewis, 6:38:55; 5) Greer Gehler, 6:52:42; 6) Jane Hollenberg, 7:01:00; 7) Sarah Thomas, 7:23:49; 8) Chelsea Ward-Waller, 7:37:02; 9) Emily Mann, 7:45:35; 10) Jennifer Foster, 7:56:35; 11) Shawn McTaggart, 8:06:32; 12) Teri Buck, 8:06:33; 13) Tammy Weaver, 8:12:32; 14) Kat Davis, 8:21:14; 15) Kayla Munday, 8:26:31; 16) Stacy Miles, 8:31:43; 17) Georgia Kubic, 8:35:18.

Half Traverse (15 miles)


1) Ben Muse, 2:24:53; 2) Jim McDonough, 2:33:55; 3) Eric Mortenson-Nemore, 2:37:25; 4) Mike Schroeder, 2:41:16; 5) Jordan Huckabay, 2:45:00; 6) Hale Loofbourrow, 3:01:05; 7) Thomas Nenahlo, 3:02:18; 8) Barry Benko, 3:03:57; 9) Jacob Parker, 3:09:20; 10) Andrew Putnam, 3:13:48; 11) Kyle Kelley, 3:15:52; 12) Ed Leonetti, 3:35:33; 13) Derek Meier, 3:37:29; 14) Lucas Parker, 3:38:01; 15) Joseph Bentel, 3:50:58; 16) Scott Jones, 4:03:16; 17) Cody Landenburger, 4:04:13.


1) Jenna Difolco, 2:40:33; 2) Milissa Lewis, 2:46:59; 3) Mariah Graham, 2:48:22; 4) Sadie Fox, 3:03:51; 5) Meredyth Richards, 3:06:29; 6) Kristin Wetzel, 3:07:19; 7) Nicole Hjelm, 3:10:33; 8) Lauren Patton, 3:20:50; 9) Kristi Adams, 3:22:30; 10) Sara Bryan, 3:22:44; 11) Katie Croyle, 3:27:59; 12) Justina Jaminet, 3:31:56; 13) Sarah Webster, 3:37:30; 14) Shelby Lee Harris, 3:40:52; 15) Elizabeth Knapp, 3:43:15; 16) Jessica Robertson, 3:43:32; 17) Clarissa Dougherty, 3:45:45; 18) Lena Nazarek, 3:47:44; 19) Lisa Beattie, 3:59:36; 20) Pam Laker, 4:01:15.

Anchorage man accused of shooting into upstairs apartment

Mon, 06/24/2019 - 14:46

A South Anchorage woman didn’t call police when she heard an argument and a noise from the apartment below.

She changed her mind a few hours later when she saw bullet holes.

Police investigating Sunday night determined that a bullet had passed through her floor and into her ceiling.

Officers checked the apartment below and found a man on a couch, a holster, empty liquor bottles and a shell casing.

After obtaining a search warrant, they found a bullet hole in his ceiling and the gun that apparently made it.

They took the man into custody on suspicion of assault, weapons misconduct, reckless endangerment and resisting arrest.

A woman in the lower apartment said she had argued with the man, retreated into a bedroom and heard a shot.

Winds push Swan Lake fire toward Sterling Highway and major power line

Mon, 06/24/2019 - 14:07

A Nikiski Fire brush truck works closely with a bulldozer putting in a contingency line near the Swan Lake Fire, June 23, 2019. (Photo by Kassidy Stock / Nikiski Fire)

Warm, windy weather pushed Alaska’s largest wildfire closer to a major highway on the Kenai Peninsula as officials warned drivers to expect long delays amid rapidly changing conditions.

The Swan Lake fire grew from 25,100 acres Sunday to 32,300 acres Monday and moved to within two miles of the Sterling Highway and a major transmission line after jumping containment lines and pushing east and south, according to an update from the BLM Alaska Fire Service.

But crews strengthened existing containment lines to block the fire’s spread toward the community of Sterling, about 5.5 miles away.

The fire, in wilderness on the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge, is consuming a volatile mix of black spruce, which hasn’t burned in more than 70 years, and white spruce, half of it killed by beetles and standing dead.

“That’s a lot of fuel with that black and white spruce. It’s also really close together,” said Emery Johnson, a public information officer with the Alaska Division of Forestry.

Swan Lake Fire, night of June 23-24, 2019. (Photo by Collin Morse / Kenai Fire Dept.)

Nearly 400 firefighters had contained about 9 percent of the blaze, up from 3 percent on Sunday, Johnson said.

“The refuge does want that area to burn to promote new growth ... but our job is to hit that southeast part to prevent it from coming toward the highway and the transmission line," she said.

The highway was “very smoky” as of early afternoon, according to the Kenai Peninsula Borough. Forecasters warned of increased smoke in the Anchorage Bowl through Tuesday and the area remained under a state air-quality advisory.

Smoke from the #swanlakefire will be on increase across Anchorage today into Tues. Get all your weather at

— NWS Anchorage (@NWSAnchorage) June 24, 2019

The fire was started by lightning in early June. It was one of 321 burning on more than 180,000 acres across the state as of Monday.

The weather on the Kenai is warm and dry with persistent winds from the northwest, according to the update. This pattern is expected for the next several days.

[Forecasters say it’s going to be a warm week for Southcentral Alaska]

“Motorists are advised to use caution on the highway as smoky conditions reduce visibility. Please drive carefully, use headlights, and give the right-of-way to any fire traffic in the area,” the update says. “This is a dynamic situation that can change rapidly. Allow extra time to reach your destination and all highway travelers are encouraged to be prepared for delays.”

At the request of fire managers, Homer Electric Association Inc. de-energized the transmission line that connects Bradley Lake Hydroelectric facility to the rest of the Railbelt utilities. Crews worked near the line several hundred feet north of the highway on Monday, Johnson said.

The refuge also closed the Skilak Wildlife Recreation Area to the public due to the fire’s progress to the south, she said.

The state on Monday issued a burn suspension for the Kenai Peninsula. That means open burning -- including in burn barrels -- is not allowed. Campfires are, but they can’t be bigger than 3 feet by 3 feet.