Alaska Dispatch News

Subscribe to Alaska Dispatch News feed
Alaska Dispatch News News Feed
Updated: 2 hours 18 min ago

Labor nominee Scalia has long record of opposing regulations

Fri, 07/19/2019 - 11:09

WASHINGTON — Eugene Scalia has a decades-long record of challenging Labor Department and other federal regulations, as well as a famous last name. The combination proved irresistible to President Donald Trump.

Trump selected Scalia Thursday to be his new labor secretary. If formally nominated and confirmed, he’ll join an administration that has moved aggressively to reverse regulations and work under a president who had repeatedly lauded Scalia’s late father, Justice Antonin Scalia.

The president announced the news on Twitter less than a week after his previous secretary, Alexander Acosta, said he would resign amid renewed criticism of how, as a federal prosecutor, he handled a 2008 secret plea deal with wealthy financier Jeffrey Epstein. The financier was indicted this month on charges of sexually abusing underage girls and pleaded not guilty.

Friday was Acosta's last day on the job. His deputy, Patrick Pizzella, will serve as acting secretary until Scalia is confirmed.

"Gene has led a life of great success in the legal and labor field and is highly respected not only as a lawyer, but as a lawyer with great experience" working "with labor and everyone else," Trump wrote.

Scalia, 55, served for a year as the Labor Department's top lawyer, its solicitor, during the George W. Bush administration. But most of his career has been spent as a partner in the Washington office of the Gibson, Dunn & Crutcher firm, where he has run up a string of victories in court cases on behalf of business interests challenging labor and financial regulations. "Suing the Government? Call Scalia!" was the headline on a 2012 profile by Bloomberg.

His most prominent labor case helped undo an Obama-era rule to put stricter requirements on professionals who advise retirement savers on investments. He also criticized a Clinton-era rule to protect workers from repetitive stress injuries that was ultimately repealed early in the Bush administration. Scalia defended Boeing from a labor union lawsuit and fought on behalf of Wal-Mart against a Maryland law aimed at improving workers' health care.

Scalia represented the Chamber of Commerce opposing rules requiring mutual fund companies to put independent overseers on their boards of directors, and insurance companies challenging the SEC's authority to regulate certain annuities with values tied to stocks. Annuities are a sort of hybrid of insurance and investments.

In 2016, he successfully argued for removal of a designation given to insurance giant MetLife by federal regulators that would have brought stricter government oversight. The process of regulators selecting certain large financial companies as "systemically important financial institutions" deemed "too big to fail" was mandated under the 2010 Dodd-Frank Act that overhauled regulation of Wall Street and the banking industry in the wake of the financial crisis.

Scalia's record drew unqualified praise from the chamber. "He is whip smart and knows the Department's mission and operations well from prior service as solicitor," said Glenn Spencer, a senior vice president.

The American Securities Association, a trade association representing investment banks, financial advisers, and wealth managers called Scalia a "fantastic pick."

Labor and consumer advocates were pessimistic that Scalia would serve their clients' interest.

"It's difficult to see how the lawyer who aggressively represented clients against one of the most important retiree protections rules of the Department of Labor in many, many decades is somehow going to flip 180 degrees and become somebody who effectively protects worker and retiree interests," said Dennis Kelleher, president of Better Markets, a financial industry and government watchdog.

Mary Kay Henry, president of the Service Employees International Union, urged the Senate to reject Scalia. "The last thing working people need is another Secretary of Labor who sides with corporate CEOs instead of hard-working Americans and makes it harder to join together in unions," Henry said on Twitter.

If Trump was attracted to Scalia's record, he also has made no secret of his fondness for the Scalia family.

Eugene Scalia accompanied his mother to Trump's first speech to a joint session of Congress in February 2017, where they sat in a box for the president's guests. She received a standing ovation when Trump introduced her. Maureen Scalia also was on hand at the White House when Trump announced both of his Supreme Court nominees, Neil Gorsuch and Brett Kavanaugh.

During the presidential campaign, Trump repeatedly praised the justice, who died in February 2016, and said, "I am looking to appoint judges very much in the mold of Justice Scalia." Last year, Trump posthumously awarded the justice a Presidential Medal of Freedom, and Maureen Scalia was again at the White House to receive it. He remarked how Maureen Scalia had become a great friend to the Trump family and himself.

When Bush nominated Eugene Scalia as the Labor Department solicitor, unions howled in protest and Senate Democrats refused to hold a confirmation vote. Bush gave him a temporary, recess appointment to the job.

Even with strong Democratic opposition again, he has a clear path to confirmation in a Senate controlled by Republicans and stripped of the procedural requirement that nominees need 60 votes to proceed.

He would be reunited in Trump's Cabinet with two former bosses. Elaine Chao, now the transportation secretary, was head of the Labor Department when Scalia worked there. He also served for a time as special assistant to Attorney General William Barr, during Barr's first stint in charge of the Justice Department in the early 1990s.

___

Associated Press writer Marcy Gordon contributed to this report.

Deepfake videos pose a threat, but ‘dumbfakes’ may be worse

Fri, 07/19/2019 - 11:06

In this Monday, July 1, 2019, photo Hany Farid, a digital forensics expert at the University of California at Berkeley, gestures as he views video clips in his office in Berkeley, Calif. Dumb fakes, shallow fakes and cheap fakes, experts are still undecided on how to label the poorly made manipulated videos being viewed millions of times and even spread by high-ranking politicians. But they are sure that social media users will see much more of these videos ahead of the U.S. 2020 presidential elections. (AP Photo/Ben Margot) (Ben Margot/)

Sophisticated phony videos called deepfakes have attracted plenty of attention as a possible threat to election integrity. But a bigger problem for the 2020 U.S. presidential contest may be “dumbfakes” — simpler and more easily unmasked bogus videos that are easy and often cheap to produce.

Unlike deepfakes, which require sophisticated artificial intelligence, audio manipulation and facial mapping technology, dumbfakes can be made simply by varying the speed of video or selective editing. They are easier to create and can be convincing to an unsuspecting viewer, which makes them a much more immediate worry.

A slowed-down video of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi that made her appear impaired garnered more than 2 million views on Facebook in May. In November, then-White House Press Secretary Sarah Sanders tweeted a sped-up video of CNN reporter Jim Acosta that made him look more aggressive than he was during an exchange with an intern. Her post received thousands of retweets.

The fact that these videos are made so easily and then widely shared across social media platforms does not bode well for 2020, said Hany Farid, a digital forensics expert at the University of California, Berkeley.

"The clock is ticking," Farid said. "The Nancy Pelosi video was a canary in a coal mine."

Social media companies don't have clear-cut policies banning fake videos, in part because they don't want to be in the position of deciding whether something is satire or intended to mislead people — or both. Doing so could also open them to charges of censorship or political bias.

Facebook, however, will "downrank" false or misleading posts — including videos — so that fewer people will see them. Such material will also be paired with fact checks produced by outside organizations, including The Associated Press.

There are also vast gray areas depending on political affiliation or your sense of humor.

One social media user who calls himself Paul Lee Ticks— a play on the word "politics"— often makes fabricated videos, mostly of President Donald Trump. In one of his most recent video edits, he added a "concentration camps" sign to the Trump International Hotel & Tower in Chicago.

Another social media user who goes by the handle Carpe Donktum makes edited videos in support of the president. Following Trump's June comments that Joe Biden appeared slow, Carpe Donktum slowed down video footage of Biden and spliced two clips, making the former vice president appear to say something he did not.

Trump often retweets Carpe Donktum and last week he met the president in person during the White House’s “social media summit” featuring conservatives. Carpe Donktum says he makes parody videos and disputes the notion that his videos are “doctored” because their intent is satirical and the manipulations obvious.

"These are memes and have been on the internet since the internet's inception," he said.

Both Paul Lee Ticks and Carpe Donktum, who spoke to the AP on the condition of anonymity due to fear of threats and harassment, started off making videos that were more simplistic and comical. But their videos have become more sophisticated, blurring the line between what is real and fake in a more convincing way for an audience that is unsuspecting or unfamiliar with their comedic style.

Concern about these videos is growing among experts, politicians and the general public.

During a House Intelligence Committee hearing on June 13, Rep. Adam Schiff, a California Democrat, said the Pelosi video represents the scale of the problem ahead. According to a June Pew Research Center study, 63% of Americans surveyed about made-up news and information said that videos and images altered to mislead the public create a great deal of confusion around the facts of current issues.

Other manipulations are equally crude, yet more subtle. Some fake videos, for instance, mislabel authentic historical footage of public unrest or police activity with incorrect dates or locations to falsely suggest they depict breaking news.

"Disinformation is so powerful in our levels of political polarization," said Ohio State University professor Erik Nisbet, who co-authored a study in 2018 that found fake news may have contributed to Trump's 2016 win. "People are angry, worried and anxious. They are more vulnerable to misinformation and disinformation that validates their feelings."

Demographics also play a role. Cliff Lampe, a professor at the University of Michigan, said older generations that were raised on mass media "tend to trust video more." A study published in the Science Advances journal in January found that people over 65 and ultra-conservative were more likely to share false information.

Edward Delp, director of the Video and Imaging Processing Laboratory at Purdue University, and his team were able to develop an algorithm to detect deepfakes. Finding ways to protect and authenticate videos, he said, could help minimize the impact of manipulated video.

However, video authentication may do little to change people's views. Farid, the UC Berkeley professor, said with the manipulated Pelosi video, users could easily find the original clips of the House speaker online but people were still willing to believe the false video was real.

“If we can’t get it right, I mean the public and Facebook, where are we going to be when we have more complex fakes?” he said.

10 salmon recipes you can make right now, plus fillet and grill basics

Fri, 07/19/2019 - 10:25



Ziggo Cloud fillets sockeye salmon in June of 2018 at Drifter's Landing in Kenai. (Loren Holmes / ADN) (Loren Holmes/)

Newsletter #57: Sofishticated

For fun I did a little search though the Anchorage Daily News and Anchorage Times archives to see when recipe writers on “the women’s page,” which is where newspaper recipes used to go, started to write about putting salmon on the grill. Doesn’t it seem like grilled salmon is what summer here tastes like?

Turns out, it wasn’t always that way. Grilled salmon recipes appear way later than you’d expect, in the late 1970s and early 1980s. Before that, most all of the recipes were written for canned salmon (So much salmon loaf, also known as “sloaf!”). I imagine canned salmon was much more commonly available year-round and that getting fresh salmon to market was tricky.

A quick search on the history of backyard grilling charts its rise in popularity after World War II. Anchorage classifieds start advertising homes for sale and for rent with built-in barbecues in the post-war period. Then come my parents who grew up in Anchorage and remember eating salmon on the grill all their lives. Though they said that they ate fresh when someone caught it but don’t remember buying it at the grocery store. Anyway, there’s more research to do. If you are reading this and can fill in the details about when fresh salmon became widely available at the grocery counter in Anchorage, please write me.

This week, we’re all up to our eyeballs in fish (well, relative to last year), so here are 10 recipes you can make right now.

1) Sugar crusted salmon with mango-peach salsa.


Sugar-crusted salmon with avocado-peach salsa. (Maya Wilson/Alaska From Scratch)

2) Soy and brown butter roasted salmon.


Salmon roasted with soy and browned butter. (Photo by Kim Sunée)

3) Salmon lettuce wraps.


Honey Sriracha salmon lettuce wraps (Maya Wilson / Alaska from Scratch)

4) Blueberry cured lox.


Red salmon, cured with wild Alaska blueberries, makes for a striking twist on classic smoked salmon. (Kim Sunée)

5) Smoked salmon quiche.


Smoked salmon quiche

6) Hong Kong spicy salmon.


Hong Kong-style spicy garlic salmon (Photo by Kim Sunée)

7) Salmon with birch syrup glaze.


Broiled salmon with birch syrup glaze (Maya Wilson / Alaska from Scratch)

8) Salmon Wellington.


Salmon Wellington is based on a traditional beef Wellington recipe. It's an impressive dish and quite easy to make. (Photo by Kim Sunée)

9) Smoked salmon pasta with garlic cream sauce.


Smoked salmon pasta in garlic cream sauce

10) Kale caesar with salmon and avocado.


Smoked salmon Caesar salad (Maya Wilson / Alaska from Scratch)

If you still can’t get enough, here’s a guide to filleting, grilling and more recipes. And a recipe for basic salmon dip, which we all need, but, let’s admit it, doesn’t photograph well.

In other food news, vegetables in the fields are maturing early and Steve Edwards has everything you need to know about where to get what. And, Mara Severin managed to get a table at Muse at the Anchorage Museum and tried Chef Laura Cole’s cooking. Here’s her review.

Here’s hoping you feel the tug of a salmon in your dipnet this weekend.

‘I made a change in my life’: Village police say they make a difference despite criminal records

Fri, 07/19/2019 - 09:11

Village police officers leave on a four wheeler after giving public safety reports at a city council meeting in the Yup'ik village of Stebbins on the Norton Sound coast in Western Alaska on Thursday, June 27, 2019. (Bill Roth / ADN) (Bill Roth / ADN/)

STEBBINS — No gun. No training. $14 an hour.

If there were better jobs to be had, city police officers in this Bering Strait village say they’d apply for them. But working as a village police officer is one of the few options available. Especially for those with fresh criminal records or felony rap sheets.

“I made a change in my life. I don’t use drugs. I don’t drink,” said Officer Delbert Acoman, 45, who has served a total of 292 days behind bars and amassed 18 criminal convictions including burglary and assault over the years.

ProPublica and the Anchorage Daily News reported Thursday that at least 14 Alaska villages, including Stebbins, have hired police with criminal records, a violation of state hiring requirements. In eight other communities, tribes have hired tribal police officers convicted of domestic violence or sex crimes. The findings are based on the first-ever database of Alaska VPOs and TPOs, created by contacting city governments and tribes in 57 villages.

In Stebbins, all seven officers working as of July 1 had pleaded guilty or no contest in more than 70 criminal cases, spanning decades. Together they have spent years in prisons and jails for charges ranging from low-level misdemeanors to sexual abuse of a minor. (The Alaska Police Standards Council says that domestic violence convictions, even misdemeanors, disqualify someone from working as a VPO.)

[Dozens of convicted criminals have been hired as cops in Alaska communities. Often, they are the only applicants. In Stebbins, every cop has a criminal record, including the chief.]

Stebbins officials say they have no choice but to hire officers with convictions because few people apply for the low-paying, part-time jobs. In interviews, several residents said the current police force does a good job of responding to their calls for help and they were grateful for their service.

Some of the officers said that while they understand the concern about hiring officers who have criminal records, they believe they have turned their lives around and deserve another chance.

“I’m not the same person I used to be. I went to jail and did my time,” said Officer Vincent Matthias.

Below is a list of officers and the charges for which each was convicted or that resulted in the officer pleading guilty or no contest. Charges are misdemeanors unless otherwise noted. The list does not include pending charges, charges that have been dismissed or those in which a jury found the officer not guilty. Also not included are cases of minors consuming alcohol, which are now considered lower-level violations under the law.

Police Chief Sebastian Mike

Start date: Oct. 15, 2018

Convictions:

• Assault, domestic violence (2017)

• Assault - felony (2016)

• Assault (2009)

• Trespassing, probation violation (2007)

• Violating conditions of release (2001)

• Driving under the influence (2001)

• Assault (2000)

• Driving under the influence (2000)

• Failure to register as a sex offender (1999)

• Disorderly conduct (1997)

• Sexual abuse of a minor - felony (1995)

• Disorderly conduct (1994)

• Assault (1993)

• Trespassing (1993)

• Theft (1992)

• Trespassing (1992)

• Attempted bootlegging (1992)

• Time incarcerated in jails or prisons: 407 days

Officer’s response: In a brief conversation with a reporter, Mike acknowledged that he has a criminal record but drove off without answering additional questions. He also blocked a reporter on Facebook.

Robert Kirk

Start date: June 1, 2019

Convictions:

• Assault, domestic violence (2015)

• Assault (2014)

Time incarcerated in jails or prisons: 35 days

Officer’s response: Kirk said that working as a VPO is stressful and that he would find another job, if one were available in the village. He said it “could be a problem” for a VPO to have a domestic violence conviction but said he considers himself a good cop.

Vincent Matthias

Start date: Aug. 4, 2018

Convictions:

• Reckless endangerment, domestic violence (2018)

• Assault (2015)

• Driving under the influence (2014)

• Assault, domestic violence (2013)

• Assault (2013)

• Disorderly conduct (2011)

• Criminal mischief (2010)

• Bootlegging (2009)

• Assault (2009)

Time incarcerated in jails or prisons: 286 days

Officer’s response: Matthias said that nobody wants to work as a VPO, but he is doing so to feed his children. He said he was unaware of the state regulation that prohibits village governments from hiring people with certain criminal convictions as VPOs. He said attention should be paid to the good work he and his colleagues do, such as preventing people from committing suicide and stopping violent encounters from escalating.

If others believe they could do a better job keeping the community of Stebbins safe, they should do so, he said.

“Did you stop anybody from killing themselves? Have you went to an argument where there is a knife?” he asked.

John Aluska

Start date: July 17, 2018

Convictions:

• Assault, domestic violence (2014)

• Assault, domestic violence (2010)

• Assault, domestic violence (2009)

• Assault (2007)

• Driving under the influence (2006)

• Violate conditions of release (2005)

• Assault - felony (2003)

• Assault (2002)

• Attempted bootlegging (2001)

• Assault (2000)

• Assault (2000)

• Misconduct involving a controlled substance (2000)

• Assault (1999)

• Attempted bootlegging (1999)

• Assault (1998)

• Assault (1997)

• Assault (1997)

• Assault (1997)

• Assault (1997)

• Misconduct involving a controlled substance (1996)

• Misconduct involving a weapon (1995)

• Time incarcerated in jails or prisons: 757 days

Officer’s response: Aluska said he is related to half of the community, meaning he must constantly police his relatives. “It gets hard,” he said. “But we got to do our job. It keeps money on the table.”

Aluska said he helped recruit many of the current VPOs, people who would not be intoxicated on the job and would work hard for the community. “We are doing good,” he said.

When he was younger, Aluska said he had escaped from custody. But he said it has been quite awhile since his last arrest, and he has hardly any options for other jobs in Stebbins.

Cylas Okitkun

Start date: Jan. 1, 2019

Convictions:

• Criminal trespass, domestic violence (2018)

Time incarcerated in jails or prison: 1 day

Officer’s response: Okitkun said he does not believe his conviction should prevent him from working as a VPO because it was not a felony charge. The work is difficult, he said, and the city hasn’t called him lately to go on patrol. “They found somebody else, I guess.”

Delbert Acoman

Start date: Feb. 1, 2017

Convictions:

• Trespassing (2018)

• Trespassing (2018)

• Disorderly conduct (2017)

• Assault, domestic violence (2014)

• Assault, domestic violence (2011)

• Assault (2010)

• Assault, domestic violence (2010)

• Trespassing (2008)

• Assault (2006)

• Disorderly conduct (2005)

• Assault (2004)

• Assault (2004)

• Burglary - felony (1998)

• Trespassing (1995)

• Harassment, trespassing (1995)

• Trespassing (1993)

• Misconduct involving a weapon (1993)

• Theft (1992)

Time incarcerated in jails or prisons: 292 days

Officer’s response: Acoman said he has worked on and off as a Stebbins police officer for years and is the only current officer who received formal law enforcement training. He’s lost count of the number of times he’s been called respond to a report of a suicide or suicide attempt.

“To help out the community is good for me and my family,” Acoman said.

Denzel Nashoanak

Start date: Dec. 14, 2018

Convictions:

• Assault, domestic violence - felony (2016)

• Harassment, domestic violence (2015)

Time incarcerated in jails or prisons: 194 days

Officer’s response: Nashoanak acknowledged making mistakes, but he said, “I’m trying to change my ways and better my life.”

The Anchorage Daily News and ProPublica are spending the year investigating sexual violence in urban and rural Alaska. Here’s how you can stay in touch with us:

Get updates

Share your story in our questionnaire

• Reach out to the reporting team anytime: alaska@propublica.org

Anchorage eyes homeless camp clearance rules for fire safety

Fri, 07/19/2019 - 09:05

The Anchorage Assembly will consider an ordinance to protect neighborhoods from wildfires that start in homeless encampments, a report said.

The proposed changes to the municipal code would enable authorities to declare danger zones and clear such camps, KTVA-TV reported Wednesday.

The Assembly is scheduled to conduct a work session on the ordinance Aug. 2 and hold a public hearing Aug. 6.

Clearing the camps could occur after 24 to 72 hours of notice, depending on the fire threat level, replacing the current 10-day notice.

An immediate wildlife threat would allow immediate evacuation.

The proposed ordinance also gives the Anchorage Fire Department chief the ability to declare parts of town wildfire danger areas requiring mitigation for public safety.

Police could confiscate and store fire-making tools, and campers would be notified in person or through a posted notice, officials said.

Making changes to the municipal code to address risk when fire danger is high is a matter of public safety, said Assembly member Meg Zaletel, who sponsored the ordinance.

The change is meant to keep people safe who are living near encampments and protect people who are camping in the woods, Zaletel said.

“It still leaves the fire department, just like with our homes and everyone else, exigent circumstances where they can tell you you have to go now,” Zaletel said.

He found your online data - and it’s for sale

Fri, 07/19/2019 - 05:51

I’ve watched you check in for a flight and seen your doctor refilling a prescription.

I've peeked inside corporate networks at reports on faulty rockets. If I wanted, I could've even opened a tax return you only shared with your accountant.

I found your data because it's for sale online. Even more terrifying: It's happening because of software you probably installed yourself.

My latest investigation into the secret life of our data is not a fire drill. Working with an independent security researcher, I found as many as 4 million people have been leaking personal and corporate secrets through Chrome and Firefox. Even a colleague in The Washington Post's newsroom got caught up. When we told browser makers Google and Mozilla, they shut these leaks immediately - but we probably identified only a fraction of the problem.

The root of this privacy train wreck is browser extensions. Also known as add-ons and plug-ins, they're little programs used by nearly half of all desktop Web surfers to make browsing better, such as finding coupons or remembering passwords. People install them assuming that any software offered in a store run by Chrome or Firefox has got to be legit.

Not. At. All. Some extensions have a side hustle in spying. From a privileged perch in your browser, they pass information about where you surf and what you view into a murky data economy. Think about everything you do in your browser at work and home - it's a digital proxy for your brain. Now imagine those clicks beaming out of your computer to be harvested for marketers, data brokers or hackers.

Some extensions make surveillance sound like a sweet deal: This week, Amazon was offering people $10 to install its Assistant extension. In the fine print, Amazon said the extension collects your browsing history and what’s on the pages you view, though all that data stays inside the giant company. (Amazon CEO Jeff Bezos owns The Washington Post.) Academic researchers say there are thousands of extensions that gather browsing data — many with loose or downright deceptive data practices — lurking in the online stores of Google and even the more privacy-friendly Mozilla.

The extensions we found selling your data show just how dangerous browser surveillance can be. What's unusual about this leak is that we got to watch it taking place. This isn't a theoretical privacy problem: Here's exactly how millions of people's data got grabbed and sold - and the failed safeguards from browser makers that let it happen.


Researcher Sam Jadali identified the browsing data of as many as 4 million people for sale online. Washington Post photo by Jonathan Baran (Jonathan Baran/)

A ‘catastrophic’ leak

I didn’t realize the scale of the extension problem until I heard from Sam Jadali. He runs a website hosting business, and earlier this year found some of his clients’ data for sale online. Figuring out how that happened became a six-month obsession.

Jadali found the data on a website called Nacho Analytics. Just one small player in the data economy, Nacho bills itself on its website as a marketing intelligence service. It offers data about what's being clicked on at almost any website - including actual Web addresses - for as little as $49 per month.

That data, Nacho claims, comes from people who opt in to being tracked, and it redacts personally identifiable information.

The deeper Jadali looked on Nacho, the more he found that went way beyond marketing data. Web addresses - everything you see after the letters "http" - page titles and other browsing records might not seem like they'd expose much. But sometimes they contain secrets sites forget to hide away.

Jadali found usernames, passwords and GPS coordinates, even though Nacho said it scrubs personal information from its data. "I started realizing this was a leak on a catastrophic scale," Jadali told me.

What he showed me made my jaw drop. Three examples:

• From DrChrono, a medical records service, we saw the names of patients, doctors, and even medications. From another service, called Kareo, we saw patient names.

• From Southwest, we saw the first and last names, as well as confirmation numbers, of people checking into flights. From United, we saw last names and passenger record numbers.

• From OneDrive, Microsoft’s cloud storage service, we saw a hundred documents named “tax.” We didn’t click on any of these links to avoid further exposing sensitive data.

It wasn't just personal secrets. Employees from more than 50 major corporations were exposing what they were working on (including top-secret stuff) in the titles of memos and project reports. There was even information about internal corporate networks and firewall codes. This should make IT security departments very nervous.

Jadali documented his findings in a report titled "DataSpii," and has spent the last two weeks disclosing the leaks to the companies he identified - many of which he thinks could do a better job keeping secrets out of at-risk browser data. I also contacted all the companies I name in this column. Kareo and Southwest told me they're removing names from page data.

I wondered if Jadali could find any data from inside The Washington Post. Shortly after I asked, Jadali asked me if I had a colleague named Nick Mourtoupalas. On Nacho, Jadali could see him clicking on our internal websites. Mourtoupalas had just viewed a page about the summer interns. Over months, he'd probably leaked much, much more.

I called up Mourtoupalas, a newsroom copy aide. Pardon the interruption, I said, but your browser is leaking.

"Oh, wow, oh, wow," Mourtoupalas said. He hadn't ever "opted in" to having his Web browsing tracked. "What have I done wrong?"

Follow the data

I asked Mourtoupalas if he'd ever added anything to Chrome. He pulled up his extensions dashboard and found he'd installed 17 of them. "I didn't download anything crazy or shady looking," he said.

One of them was called Hover Zoom. It markets itself in the Chrome Web Store and its website as a way to enlarge photos when you put your mouse over them. Mourtoupalas remembered learning about it on Reddit. Earlier this year, it had 800,000 users.

When you install Hover Zoom, a message pops up saying it can "read and change your browsing history." There's little indication Hover Zoom is in the business of selling that data.

I tried to reach all the contacts I could find for Hover Zoom's makers. One person, Romain Vallet, told me he hadn't been its owner for several years, but declined to say who was now. No one else replied.

Jadali tested the links between extensions and Nacho by installing a bunch himself and watching to see if his data appeared for sale. We did some of these together, with me as a willing victim. After I installed an extension called PanelMeasurement, Jadali showed me how he could access private iPhone and Facebook photos I'd opened in Chrome, as well as a OneDrive document I had named "Geoff's Private Document." (To find the latter, all he had to do was search page titles on Nacho for "Geoff.")

In total, Jadali’s research identified six suspect Chrome and Firefox extensions with more than a few users: Hover Zoom, SpeakIt!, SuperZoom, SaveFrom.net Helper, FairShare Unlock and PanelMeasurement.

They all state in either their terms of service, privacy policies or descriptions that they may collect data. But only two of them - FairShare Unlock and PanelMeasurement - explicitly highlight to users that they collect browser activity data and promise to reward people for surfing the Web.

"If I've fallen in for using this extension, I know hundreds of thousands of other people easily have also," Mourtoupalas told me. He's now turned off all but three extensions, each from a well-known company.

The tip of the iceberg

After we disclosed the leaks to browser makers, Google remotely deactivated seven extensions, and Mozilla did the same to two others (in addition to one it disabled in February). Together, they had tallied more than 4 million users. If you had any of them installed, they should no longer work.

A firm called DDMR that made FairShare Unlock and PanelMeasurement told me the ban was unfair because it sought user consent. (It declined to say who its clients were, but said its terms prohibited customers from selling confidential information.) None of the other extension makers answered my questions about why they collected browsing data.

A few days after the shutdown, Nacho posted a notice on its website that it had suffered a "permanent" data outage and would no longer take on new clients, or provide new data for existing ones.

But that doesn't mean this problem is over.

North Carolina State University researchers recently tested how many of the 180,000 available Chrome extensions leak privacy-sensitive data. They found 3,800 such extensions - and the 10 most popular alone have more than 60 million users.

"Not all of these companies are malicious, or doing this on purpose, but they have the ability to sell your data if they want," said Alexandros Kapravelos, a computer science professor who worked on the study.

Extension makers sometimes cash out by selling to companies that convert their popular extensions into data Hoovers. The 382 extensions Kapravelos suspects are in the data-sale business have nearly 8 million users. "There is no regulation that prevents them from doing this," he said.

So why aren’t Google and Mozilla stopping it? Researchers have been calling out nefarious extensions for years, and the companies say they vet what’s in their stores. “We want Chrome extensions to be safe and privacy-preserving, and detecting policy violations is essential to that effort,” said Google senior director Margret Schmidt.

But clearly it's insufficient. Jadali found two extensions waited three to five weeks to begin leaking data, and he suspects they may have delayed to avoid detection. Google recently announced it would begin requiring extensions to minimize the data they access, among other technical changes. Mozilla said its recent focus has also been on limiting the damage add-ons can do.

Just as big a problem is a data industry that's grown cavalier about turning our lives into its raw material.

In an interview, Nacho CEO Mike Roberts wouldn't say where he sourced his data. But Jadali, he said, violated Nacho's terms of service by looking at personal information. "No actual Nacho Analytics customer was looking at this stuff. The only people that saw any private information was you guys," Roberts said.

I'm not certain how he could know that. There were so many secrets on Nacho that tracking down all the ways they might have been used is impossible.

His defense of Nacho boiled down to this: It's just the way the Internet works.

Roberts said he believed the people who contributed data to Nacho - including my colleague - were "informed." He added: "I guess it wouldn't surprise me if some people aren't aware of what every tool or website does with their data."

Nacho is not so different, he said, from others in his industry. "The difference is that I wanted to level the playing field and put the same power into the hands of marketers and entrepreneurs - and that created a lot more transparency," he said. "In a way, that transparency can be like looking into a black mirror."

He's not entirely wrong. Large swaths of the tech industry treat tracking as an acceptable way to make money, whether most of us realize what's really going on. Amazon will give you a $10 coupon for it. Google tracks your searches, and even your activity in Chrome, to build out a lucrative dossier on you. Facebook does the same with your activity in its apps, and off.

Of course, those companies don’t usually leave your personal information hanging out on the open Internet for sale. But just because it’s hidden doesn’t make it any less scary.

Letter: One Alaskan’s perspective on the value of education

Fri, 07/19/2019 - 00:25

I was born Halloween 1956 at Providence Hospital downtown, left-handed and dyslexic. Thirteen years of Anchorage public schools: Chugach (pre-optional, third grade twice), Central Junior High and West Anchorage High School preceded admission to Dartmouth. I fully expected the Eastern elite preppies would eat my lunch, the opposite occurred.

I then entered the four-year Washington, Wyoming, Alaska Montana and Idaho (WWAMI) program, Alaska’s medical school, in Fairbanks. Then, after a one-year internship, I served four years as a commissioned officer in the Alaskan Indian Health Service in Barrow, Bethel and the old Alaska Native Medical Center on Third Avenue. Following a four-year residency in orthopedic surgery, I returned to practice in Anchorage in 1992. Except for three months of mission work in Uganda, Liberia and Kenya, my post-graduate surgical and research career has been within the boundaries of this magnificent state.

On June 22, I gave a TED talk on cobalt poisoning by joint replacement, a previously unrecognized problem that I found to be common in my patients. Eight million Americans with cobalt-chrome joint replacement parts are at risk. Why me and not the Mayo Clinic? I credit my 17 years of Alaska education and my first four years of Alaska post-graduate medical-surgical experience. Most critically, my unfunded research into the premature failure of joint replacement devices is supported by the University of Alaska and Alaska’s medical school, where I am an affiliated (unpaid) professor.

Alaska was not a wealthy state during the years from 1966-1983, yet it granted me immense primary, secondary and post-graduate educational opportunity. It grieves me that my grandchildren will not enjoy similar advantages unless the governor and the Legislature can reach some form of compromise to ensure our Alaskan primary, secondary, university and post-graduate opportunities remain competitive with the “Outside.”

— Dr. Stephen S. Tower

Anchorage

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

Letter: Two-state solution

Fri, 07/19/2019 - 00:11

A line has been drawn in the glacial silt, just south of Wasilla: A “New Alaska” Legislature meets in Wasilla, while “Old Alaska” meets in Juneau. Let us, therefore, build a shining capital of “New Alaska” in the Mat-Su Borough, as the people voted for in ballot initiatives of old, and let “Old Alaska” have their old capital in Juneau. Only then can our two new state Legislatures make decisions and laws that represent their respective constituents. Keeping all our legislators hogtied and hamstrung together in Juneau has brought us quagmire and a failed state. The time for a two-state solution has come.

— Daniel N. Russell

Anchorage

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

Letter: Governor’s vision is lacking

Thu, 07/18/2019 - 23:56

It’s pretty clear our new governor is in over his head. Extreme partisanship is clearly enough to get you elected in Alaska, but is a useless tool when it comes down to the hard work of uniting adversaries, building coalitions and leading the people of our great state through tough times. When you take office solely to take swings at your enemies, you find yourself surrounded by united angry people with black eyes and bloody noses. So far, the governor has recklessly threatened to fire state workers, cripple our universities, abandon our elderly pioneers, increase homelessness, drugs and crime, and he has disrespected the public he has sworn to serve.

These accomplishments are not the acts of a leader, but of an angry madman swinging a wrecking ball. All the partisan rancor emanating from this administration will gain us is a victory in the race to the bottom. It is time for Alaskans to wake up from the fantasy that our government can continue to give away free money with no taxes and declining oil revenue. All Alaskans of all political stripes need to join together to advocate for the restoration of funding cut by the governor’s budget vetoes.

— Scott Miller

Anchorage

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

Letter: Protect education opportunities

Thu, 07/18/2019 - 23:52

When I first enrolled at the University of Alaska Anchorage after graduating from Eagle River High School, I was not excited nor hopeful about my education there. My plan was to transfer out of state, to something bigger and better, as soon as possible. I, like many of my peers in high school, believed that UAA was a mediocre school, and if we went there, we would receive a mediocre education. I never imagined that not only would I stay at UAA, but that UAA would change my life.

Our little university is different, and it is different for all the right reasons. As a naive 18-year-old, I was exposed to a wide range of life experiences and beliefs through my classes, in which my fellow students reflected our diverse population: veterans, mothers and fathers, immigrants from countries I had never heard of and Alaskans from places I had never been to. You can’t get that experience at any other university in the world. I joined extracurricular programs, such as the Model United Nations program, which works with college, high school and middle school students to teach them about international diplomacy. I joined a sorority, through which I began to volunteer for the first time. Working with Covenant House, Special Olympics and Girls on the Run, as well as other local organizations, has made me learn and love so much about our community. I became a member of the Seawolf Debate Program, through which I have had the incredible opportunity to represent Alaska at tournaments in our country and internationally. Our “mediocre” university has the best public school debate team in the entire U.S., thanks to our dedicated students and coaches.

I never imagined that I would not just receive an education in my field of study, but also in what it means to be an Alaskan — to be determined and ambitious, to help and give back to your community, and to build a better community for the next generation. No “Outside” university could ever teach that. Please don’t let this opportunity, to stay in Alaska and receive an Alaskan education, be vetoed.

— Hayley Cavitt

Eagle River

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

House OKs $15 minimum wage, setting marker for 2020 campaign

Thu, 07/18/2019 - 19:51

WASHINGTON — House Democrats approved legislation Thursday to raise the federal minimum wage for the first time in a decade, to $15 an hour, transforming an issue that once splintered the party into a benchmark for the 2020 election.

Even though the bill has little chance of passing the Republican-led Senate, or being signed into law by President Donald Trump, the outcome pushes the phased-in rate to the forefront as the new standard, one already in place at some leading U.S. corporations.

While the increase would boost pay for some 30 million low-wage workers, intended as one answer to income inequality, passage was assured only after centrist Democrats won adjustments to the bill. Reluctant to embrace the party's left flank, they pushed for changes, including a slower six-year phase-in of the wage. It's a reminder of moderates' influence on policy, but also the limits.

"We're testing candidates from the presidential all the way down to the school board," said Mary Kay Henry, the president of the Service Employees International Union whose members cheered passage from the House gallery. To address stark income inequality, she said, "they have to raise wages."

A hike in the $7.25 hourly wage has been a top Democratic campaign promise, and what Majority Leader Steny Hoyer of Maryland called Thursday the "right thing to do."

"America's workers deserve a raise," said Speaker Nancy Pelosi at a press conference with labor leaders and employees ahead of voting. Lifting a young girl into her arms, Pelosi said, "This is what it's all about... It's about family."

The last increase in the federal minimum occurred 10 years ago, the longest stretch without an adjustment since the wage floor was first enacted during the 1930s. The wage protection covers millions of low-wage workers in all types of jobs.

Under the House bill, for the first time, tipped workers would be required to be paid the same as others earning the minimum, boosting their pay to $15 an hour, too. It's now $2.13, in what labor scholars call a jarring remnant from the legacy of slavery, when newly freed workers received only tips.

Republicans in the House balked at the wage hike, which would be the first since Democrats last controlled the majority. Just three Republicans joined most Democrats in passage, on a 231-199 vote.

During the floor debate, Rep. Ronald Wright, R-Texas, called it a "disastrous bill."

Republicans have long maintained that states and municipalities are already able to raise the wage beyond the federal minimum, and many have done so. They warn higher wages will cost jobs, especially among smaller business owners.

Wright said the bill should be renamed the "Raising Unemployment for American Workers Act."

While opponents have long said higher minimum wages lead to job losses, economists say new studies are casting doubt on those long-held theories.

A report from the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office sent mixed messages. It said more than 30 million workers would see bigger paychecks with a higher wage, lifting more than 1 million workers from poverty. It also said between 1 million and 3 million jobs could be lost.

At time of wage stagnation and grave income inequality that's playing out on the campaign trail, Democrats led by Rep. Bobby Scott, D-Va., the chairman of the House Education and Labor Committee, are willing to accept that tradeoff.

But swift passage earlier this year ran into trouble when centrists and those Democrats from rural regions and Southern states raised concerns.

While the new Democratic majority is often seen as pushing the House leftward, many of the freshmen are actually moderates from districts won by Trump in 2016. Those same freshmen will face some of the toughest reelection races in 2020.

The moderate Blue Dog Coalition, led by Rep. Stephanie Murphy, D-Fla., advocated for changes to the wage bill. With some two dozen members, the caucus has enough votes to deny Pelosi a majority and sink the legislation.

They wanted the longer phase of six years instead of five. And they included an amendment requiring a report from the General Accountability Office, after the first phases of the wage hike, to assess the economic impact on jobs and whether wages should be fully raised to $15.

"I've always been one to believe compromise is not a dirty word," Murphy said in an interview. "It has helped us get things done."

Most members of the Blue Dogs and another centrist caucus, the New Democratic Coalition, ended up voting for the bill. They also held the line against a Republican alternative.

Progressives and labor leaders said they could live with the changes. Rep. Mark Pocan, D-Wis., co-chairman of the Congressional Progressive Caucus, said the bill is popular back home and far from Trump's characterization of Democrats as "socialists."

The idea of a $15 hourly wage, "somehow that's an out-of-the-mainstream thought?" he said. "Of course not."

Advocates who have been trying to boost wages for workers for years said they were stunned at how quickly the debate shifted.

Sara Jayaraman, president of the Restaurant Opportunities Center United, group founded with displaced workers from the World Trade Center after the Sept. 11, 2001 terror attacks, said boosting the tipped wages in particular, for waiters and other tipped workers, was a milestone.

It’s “historic moment and a historic bill,” she said. “Once you start raising workers’ wages it’s hard to go back.”

Summit snacks and dreams of lawn chairs lead to a women’s speed record in the Chugach front range

Thu, 07/18/2019 - 19:03

April McAnly, left, and Abby Jahn negotiate rocky terrain at 5,383-foot Temptation Peak, part of the 12-peak Chugach Front Linkup the climbers completed in less than 24 hours last weekend. (Photo by Julianne Dickerson)

In the spirit that has come to envelop the quest to climb the 12 peaks towering 5,000 feet or higher in the front range of the Chugach Mountains, Julianne Dickerson, Abby Jahn and April McAnly will share few details of the route they took last week while establishing a speed record for women.

They will disclose that they began their journey — known as the 12-peak Challenge, the Chugach Front Linkup or the Cosmic Integration — on Friday, July 12, at 2:41 p.m. and ended it 23 hours and 50 minutes later, at 2:31 p.m. Saturday. They will divulge that the first peak they climbed was South Suicide and the last was Tikishla. They will allow that, generally speaking, they traveled south to north.

“In the spirit of the linkup and respect to the route-finding, part of (the challenge) is to not share the route, because a lot of it is researching and figuring out how do to it,” Jahn said.

So, no details about the route that took the Anchorage women from summit to summit to summit.

But details aplenty about their reward upon reaching each summit (listed here in order of elevation, with the exception of South Suicide and Tikishla):

• South Suicide (5,005 feet), macarons from Fire Island bakery.

• Williwaw Peak (5,445 feet), string cheese and Slim Jims.

• Temptation Peak (5,383 feet), Swedish Fish and Nalley Elites pickles.

• Tanaina Peak (5,358 feet), peanut butter banana bites and Krave sea salt jerky.

• The Ramp (5,240 feet), Lay’s potato chips.

• West Tanaina Peak (5,200 feet), sea salt chocolate caramels.

• O’Malley Peak (5,150 feet), sea salt chocolate caramels (so nice they had them twice).

• Koktoya Peak (5,148 feet), maple cashew butter packets.

• Hidden Peak (5,105 feet), Honey Stinger waffles.

• North Suicide (5,065 feet), lavender rose chocolate.

• Avalanche (5,050 feet), Mount Olive baby dill pickles.

• Tikishla (5,230 feet), leftovers.


April McAnly, left, checks her watch as Julianne Dickerson displays lavender rose chocolate the climbers ate at the top of 5,065-foot North Suicide. (Photo by Abby Jahn)

The summit snacks, as they called them, were more than just fuel for their bodies, Dickerson said.

“These were fantastic little morale boosters,” she said. “At each summit, we alternated which person was responsible for a quick photo and which person was responsible for the on-the-go summit snack to share.

“We highly recommend this technique.”

Not so highly recommended is their timing.

All three were coming off impressive finishes at Mount Marathon, the punishing mountain race in Seward that happened July 4 — eight days before their epic hike. Dickerson, a 31-year-old electrical engineer originally from Kenai, placed third; Jahn, a 26-year-old graduate student originally from Wasilla, placed eighth; and McAnly, a 37-year-old physician assistant originally from Kentucky, placed 15th.

“All of us were still recovering from blisters,” Jahn said in an interview the day after the climb. “Now we have blisters on blisters, or blisters coming off and new blisters forming.

“I think the feet have seen better days. I went for a really nice, long walk this morning but I don’t think I’ll be doing much more of anything soon.”

That would make Jahn the outlier in this group. Dickerson and McAnly both plan to compete in wilderness races on Saturday — Dickerson is entered in the 22.5-mile Crow Pass Crossing from Girdwood to Eagle River, and McAnly is headed to Sitka for the Alpine Adventure Run, a 7-mile run with 2,500 feet of climbing in the first 3 miles.


Abby Jahn, left, and Julianne Dickerson pause at the top of 5,150-foot O'Malley Peak. (Photo by April McAnly)

Other than all of those snacks, the women traveled light. Each carried seven to 10 pounds, including two water bottles they kept filled throughout their climb (part of their advance research included noting where water was available). They brought one medical kit and one can of bear spray, plus a GPS spotting device capable of sending a signal.

“It was turned on, so people would know we were still moving and still alive,” Dickerson said.

All three have spent hours climbing in the Chugach Mountains, whose front range provides a stunning east-end backdrop to Anchorage. Dickerson had previously climbed all 12 of the front range’s highest peaks, Jahn had done 10 of them and McAnly nine.

Depending on the route, the linkup entails 36 to 44 miles and 19,000 to 21,000 vertical feet. The trick is to bag all 12 summits in one continuous push.

Shawn Lyons, who has written books about hiking in Alaska, is the first known person to do it, in 1990. Sixteen years passed before Joe Stock and Trond Jensen made the next known climb in 2006.

Twelve more have happened since then, half of them in the last four years. Stock’s website has become a clearinghouse for information about the climbs.


From left, Julianne Dickerson, Abby Jahn and April McAnly take a selfie as fog begins to clear on 5,445-foot Mount Williwaw at 4 a.m. on Saturday, July 20. (Photo courtesy of Julianne Dickerson)

About a year ago, Dickerson, Jahn and McAnly decided to take on the pursuit, thinking they could be the first women to do it unaccompanied by men — until this summer, the only woman known to do the linkup is Abby Rideout, the 2010 Crow Pass women’s winner who did the climb with her husband in 2012.

When they consulted Stock’s webpage in the days leading up to their adventure, however, they discovered a new entry on the list of completed climbs: Sophie Tilder of Anchorage did the linkup by herself on June 22-23.

A civil engineer who graduated from UAF and Service High, Tilder said she made the climb in celebration of her 25th birthday on June 23.

“I do things solo a lot,” she said. “I’m super comfortable with all of the terrain because I’ve been on it multiple times.”

That said, Tilder started with a plan but didn’t stick with it, which is why she needed to call for a ride home after reaching the Snowhawk Valley trailhead after finishing her trek — she had planned to finish at Stuckagain Heights, where she had left a bicycle.

“I changed my game plan a lot,” Tilder said. “I (wanted) to do it in under 24 hours. That was my initial goal, but by the eighth peak my goal had changed to just completing it.”

She made the trip in 26 hours.

The news of Tilder’s accomplishment — “Kudos to her, especially for doing it solo,” Dickerson said — meant Dickerson, Jahn and McAnly needed to readjust their goal. They decided they wanted to be the first women to break the 24-hour mark, something that had been done in seven of the previous 14 known linkups.

“So now we’ve got to focus on being fast,” Dickerson said.

They took an 11-minute break while everyone put on clean socks and paused briefly atop each peak for photos and summit-snacks. Other than that, they agreed that if someone had to stop, the other two would keep moving and it was the third person’s responsibility to catch up.

“That wasn’t super difficult,” McAnly said, “because what I noticed is we tended to speed up a little when we had to shake rocks out of our shoes or something, so catching up wouldn’t be that hard.”

They contended with poor visibility when they found themselves in fogs for a couple of hours as Friday turned into Saturday, and as they headed to their 12th and final peak, they were a bit loopy. The last valley they had to cross loomed large and was filled with Dall sheep.

“It’s going to take five hours to get across,” they thought as they journeyed on.

Followed by: “Where did all the sheep go?”

The sheep were actually white rocks. And it took 77 minutes to cross the valley, not five hours.

By then they were tired, punchy and ready to be done. When they finished, their husbands and boyfriends were waiting with nachos, beer and camp chairs.

“I was thinking about sitting down in a chair for the last hour,” Jahn said. “That was one of my main motivations. I’ve never been so happy to sit down.”


From left, April McAnly, Julianne Dickerson and Abby Jahn eat nachos from the comfort of camp chairs after completing the 12-peak Challenge. (Photo courtesy of Julianne Dickerson)

Linked up

Here’s a look at known climbs of the Chugach Front Linkup.

1990 — Shawn Lyons, 27 hours, 30 minutes

2006 — Trond Jensen and Joe Stock, 23:13

2008 — Rob Develice and Charlie Thomas, 34 hours.

2008 — JT Lindholm, 22:40

2010 — Harlow Robinson, 22:42

2012 — Abby and Stephen Rideout, 29 hours

2016 — Harlow Robinson and Matias Saari, 22:10

2016 — Aaron Thrasher, 27:22

2016 — Marlo Karjala, 24:13

2017 — Peter Mamrol and Lars Arneson, 18:10

2018 — Adam Jensen and Matt Shryock, 17:43 (fastest known time)

2018 — Joe Nyholm and Miles Knotek, 23 hours

2019 — Sophie Tidler, 26 hours

2019 — Julianne Dickerson, April McAnly and Abby Jahn, 23:50 (fastest known women’s time)

Kenai River sockeye salmon returns steady but not spectacular as peak of run arrives

Thu, 07/18/2019 - 18:53

Teresa Nelson, of Chugiak, casts on the Kenai River near the Russian River confluence on July 18, 2019. (Marc Lester / ADN) (Marc Lester/)

As the run approaches its apex, Kenai River late-run sockeye appear to be entering the river in decent numbers -- a departure from last year’s disappointing return.

Through July 17, 266,472 sockeye had been counted by the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s in-river sonar station at river mile 19. That’s the highest count through that date since 2016 -- though still well short of the previous 10-year average of about 367,000 sockeye.

“This is the time when we should see a decent pulse come in,” area management biologist Colton Lipka said Wednesday.

Dipnetters Wednesday reported good catch numbers, indicating the run could be nearing its peak. According to the department, the peak of the Kenai sockeye run is typically July 16-25. Sport anglers have been having worse luck due mainly to high, muddy water that has the fish close to the banks.

“The best advice I could give is back up,” Lipka said, saying anglers “flipping” flies for reds are reporting their best catch rates close to shore.

Last year just 123,772 sockeye had been counted through July 17, and state biologists were forced to close the hugely popular personal use dipnet fishery at the mouth of the Kenai River early in order to ensure the escapement goal was reached.

The Kenai River dipnet fishery runs through July 31, with Alaska residents annually harvesting between 130,000 and 540,000 sockeye. Millions of sockeye salmon return to Upper Cook Inlet streams each year to spawn, with the largest returns seen in the Kenai River, which this year is managed for an in-river escapement goal of between 1 million and 1.3 million sockeye.

When exactly the bulk of the run will hit the river is anyone’s guess.

“We just passed the quarter point, so we still have a lot of the run to look at,” Lipka said.


Olin Napoleon teaches his son Christian, 12, to cast while fishing on the Kenai River near the Russian River Ferry crossing on Thursday, July 18, 2019. Both are from Anchorage. (Marc Lester / ADN) (Marc Lester/)
Anglers work along the south side of the Kenai River near its confluence with the Russian River on Thursday, July 18, 2019. (Marc Lester / ADN) (Marc Lester/)
Aaron Henle, of Anchorage, releases a sockeye salmon back into the Kenai River. The fish was inadvertently hooked in its belly on Thursday, July 18, 2019. (Marc Lester / ADN) (Marc Lester/)

Schools of sockeye can swarm the Kenai in massive numbers of more than 100,000 fish in a single day. When that happens, personal use fishermen and shore-based recreational anglers are able to catch their entire limits in a matter of an hour or two.

Currently sport anglers can harvest three sockeye per day on the Kenai.

Alaska residents participating in the personal use fishery are allowed to catch 25 sockeye per season plus 10 more for each member of their household. Nonresidents are not allowed to participate in the personal use fishery. Personal use fishermen must have a valid sportfishing license and a free personal use harvest card, which must be returned at the end of the season. The Kenai River personal use dipnet fishery is open from 6 a.m. to 11 p.m. daily. Check regulations before heading out.


Wildfire smoke creates a hazy atmosphere on the Kenai River near Cooper Landing on July 18, 2019. The Swan Lake wildfire has been burning on the Kenai Peninsula for several weeks. (Marc Lester / ADN) (Marc Lester/)
Chase Snider, of Oxford, Mississippi, operates the Russian River Ferry on Thursday afternoon, July 18, 2019. (Marc Lester / ADN) (Marc Lester/)

A bit farther south on the smaller Kasilof River, which is also open for personal use and sportfishing, the numbers are even better. Through July 17, the Kasilof had already seen more than 193,000 sockeye return, the best since 2015 and higher than the previous 10 years’ average of 175,000 fish through that date. The Kasilof is managed for an in-river escapement of between 160,000 and 340,000 fish.

Although sockeye numbers are solid, king salmon returns on the Kenai continue to lag far below their historic averages and fishing is reportedly poor for kings due to both low numbers and high water, according to a midseason report provided by the department. As of July 16, 3,647 kings had been counted so far in the run, which peaks around July 27. That’s about 500 more than last year but still well below average.

“Fishing effort and catch rates have been below average as water conditions have been unfavorable to anglers,” reads an in-season summary by the department.

Fish and Game’s forecast models currently project the run will narrowly reach the lower end of its 13,500 to 27,000 optimal escapement goal for “large” king salmon, which are those at least 34 inches in length.

King salmon fishing has been restricted due to low numbers on the Kenai, where anglers may only use a single, unbaited hook. Keeping kings in the personal use fishery has also been prohibited. The sport harvest on the formerly world famous river (in 1985 the world-record 97-pound, 4-ounce king was caught there by Les Anderson) has been tiny this year, with the department estimating a harvest of about 233 kings in the first 15 days of July.


Jason Schuler of Wahpeton, North Dakota, left, poses for a photo with his 224.2-pound halibut alongside captain Daniel Donich, center, after Schuler landed the new leader in the Homer Jackpot Halibut Derby on July 12, 2019 in Homer, Alaska. (Homer Chamber of Commerce photo)

Homer derby has new leader

A North Dakota angler leads the Homer Jackpot Halibut Derby with a 224.2-pound flatfish caught July 12.

According to the Homer Chamber of Commerce, Jason Schuer of Wahpeton, North Dakota, was fishing with guide Daniel Donich aboard the Optimist when he landed his lunker. The derby includes a cash prize of $10,000 plus $0.50 for each ticket sold and runs through Sept. 15.

Closer to home

Anchorage-area anglers have more options than ever with the July 14 opening of Bird and Campbell creeks. The former is a popular and productive roadside fishing hole located less than 30 minutes south of Anchorage on the Seward Highway, while the latter is a small in-town coho fishery.

Fishing in Bird Creek is open on the lower part of the stream only, and king salmon may not be retained. Anglers typically cast flashy spinning lures into the muddy water, where hip boots or chest waders are strongly recommended.

Campbell Creek is open for coho fishing from Dimond Boulevard to Shelikof Street through Sept. 30.

On Ship Creek in downtown Anchorage, anglers may no longer retain king salmon, but coho salmon fishing is reportedly picking up, according to Fish and Game, which releases online fishing reports for each area of the state on its website at adfg.alaska.gov. Anglers are having success with both lures and bait.

Always check regulations before heading out.

Kenai River sockeye escapements (through July 17)

2019 - 266,472

2018 - 123,772

2017 - 179,835

2016 - 540,893

2015 - 230,371

2014 - 340,548

2013 - 708,473

2012 - 497,116

2011 - 322,389

2010 - 343,434

2009 - 390,686

Source: Alaska Department of Fish and Game

Alaska lawmakers are cautiously optimistic on quick fix to issue that stopped scholarships and power subsidies

Thu, 07/18/2019 - 18:44

A meeting of the Senate Finance Committee is seen Thursday, July 18, 2019 in the Alaska State Capitol at Juneau. (James Brooks / ADN)

JUNEAU — Alaska lawmakers said Thursday they are prepared to move quickly to fix a broken state capital budget that threatens more than $1 billion in state projects and services, but with the Permanent Fund dividend and the governor’s budget vetoes competing for attention, no compromise has yet been reached to fix the problem.

“There’s multiple trainwrecks heading our way,” said Rep. Bart LeBon, R-Fairbanks.

Last month, Gov. Mike Dunleavy vetoed more than $444 million from the state’s operating budget, but failures within the capital budget could lead to more than $1 billion in additional losses to state programs and services, including road and airport construction, college scholarships, rural electrical subsidies and the state ferry system.

Dunleavy has proposed new legislation to repair the capital budget, but with lawmakers still absent from Juneau, neither the House nor the Senate were able to begin considering his ideas on Thursday. Instead, work will begin Friday morning, and Senate President Cathy Giessel, R-Anchorage, said she and others are preparing to move quickly.

“Part of the thing that slows us down is legal drafting,” she said, explaining the process of physically writing legislation. “(The drafters) have been asked to be all hands on deck over the weekend by both the House and Senate.”


Senate President Cathy Giessel, R-Anchorage, speaks to Sen. Natasha von Imhof, R-Anchorage, before the start of a Senate technical floor session Thursday, July 18, 2019. (James Brooks / ADN)

Before a new law can be written, however, lawmakers have to agree on what that law should contain, and that has been a consistent problem for the capital budget, which requires a three-quarters supermajority.

“People are trickling back in,” LeBon said. “I think tomorrow you’re going to see just about everyone back, and there’s going to have to be some very intense and focused negotiations and compromising and finding a middle ground. In the House, we’ve got to get to 30, and the Senate, we’ve got to get to 15.”

Most legislation requires a simple majority — 21 votes in the House and 11 in the Senate — to advance to the governor. The capital budget requires more votes because it includes a procedure known as the “reverse sweep."

That procedure is required to prevent a state constitutional amendment from automatically draining dozens of state savings accounts into the Constitutional Budget Reserve.

This year, members of the 15-member Republican minority in the House refused to offer their votes for the reverse sweep unless the Legislature approved a $3,000 Permanent Fund dividend first.

It didn’t, and so the state has begun the process of automatically draining those savings accounts, which fund things like scholarships and the state’s Power Cost Equalization endowment, which subsidizes rural power programs.

Already, many college students have been warned that their scholarships will not be paid unless there is legislative action.

Complicating matters is the fact that the Office of Management and Budget has defined the list of drainable programs to include some, such as the power endowment, that were thought to be immune.

Ironically, said David Teal, director of the nonpartisan Legislative Finance Division, the same justification used to drain the Power Cost Equalization endowment could also be used to drain the earnings reserve of the Alaska Permanent Fund, the account that pays dividends.

“If this goes to court, even over PCE … it almost has to expand to the earnings reserve account as well,” Teal said.

“That’s why I say, you simply have no choice other than getting this reverse sweep done,” he said. “The chaos caused by not reversing the sweep is simply massive."

Speaking Wednesday, House Minority Leader Lance Pruitt, R-Anchorage, said his caucus might be willing to adjust its prior position.

“If we need to take it up first, that’s fine,” Pruitt said of the capital budget. “This is not about playing games with Alaska.”

Rep. Cathy Tilton, R-Wasilla and the leading minority member on the House Finance Committee, said Thursday that it would be appropriate to say her caucus will be further refining its position in light of the governor’s proposed fix. A meeting of the minority caucus will take place Friday morning.

According to a draft of the governor’s legislation obtained by the Daily News, the governor is proposing to fix the holes in the capital budget but not restore the money drained from the Power Cost Equalization endowment.

“It takes all of the money from the PCE. That’s causing a lot of alarm. There will be changes there, I can predict,” Giessel said.

Lawmakers have not reached agreement on what should be in the legislation, Giessel said.

LeBon said that with the capital budget, reverse sweep, budget vetoes and dividend all in play, there might be a temptation for lawmakers to seek leverage for their favored topic in exchange for a vote on the capital budget.

“Everybody has a favorite piece of the puzzle, if you will," he said.

If that happens, progress could be slow, and the trouble could mount. If the capital budget is not fixed by the end of the month, more than $900 million in federal matching funds for road and airport construction could go to other states.

“The capital budget is on a clock. Get that fixed. We don’t want to lose the matching dollars,” LeBon said.

Veto to Medicaid dental coverage leaves some Alaskans without teeth and others likely to lose them, providers say

Thu, 07/18/2019 - 17:58

Michael Shelden, who had all his teeth pulled last month, was one week away from getting dentures when Gov. Dunleavy vetoed Medicaid dental coverage for adults from the state operating budget. Shelden said he tells his kids all the time to brush their teeth, "or you're going to look like me." Photographed Thursday. (Bill Roth / ADN) (Bill Roth / ADN/)

Under a budget veto by Gov. Mike Dunleavy that eliminated Medicaid dental coverage for adults from the state operating budget, some Alaskans are going without teeth and others may become more likely to lose them, dental providers and health advocates warn.

Michael Shelden, a 50-year-old Chugiak resident, was expecting to have a mouth full of teeth by now. Shelden, who had been dealing with chronic dental pain, had all 16 of his remaining teeth pulled last month. His plan was to replace them four weeks later with dentures.

One of the 182 line items Dunleavy vetoed from the budget passed by the Alaska Legislature, however, was $27 million in Medicaid coverage for adult preventive dental care. The plan covered services like regular cleanings, fillings and, as Shelden found out too late, dentures.

The veto left Shelden unable to afford the second half of his procedure, just one day before he was scheduled to be fitted for his new teeth.

Unable to pay the $2,000 expense out of pocket and unable to work because of multiple disabilities, he’s limited his diet to soft foods like baked potatoes, rice, soup and taco meat. He sometimes eats just one meal a day, and he turned down a friend’s invitation to visit Texas because, he said, he couldn’t bear to go if he couldn’t eat barbecue. Anchorage television station KTUU initially reported on Shelden’s plight.

Dental providers, who have criticized the veto as “shortsighted,” warn that Shelden may be among the first of many people to see their dental care suffer because of it.

Tammy Green, CEO of Anchorage Neighborhood Health Center, said her clinic has already seen a handful of people who are in the same boat as Shelden — they had teeth pulled before the vetoes, but can’t afford to replace them now.

“You can imagine as a provider how awful that feels,” Green said.

The chief dental officer at Anchorage Neighborhood Health Center has even scaled back on that particular procedure, fearing her patients might become stuck in that same toothless limbo, Green said.

[Alaska hospital group sues Dunleavy administration over Medicaid cuts]

Without cleanings and other preventive care, though, even people who still have all their teeth will likely see long-term health consequences, dentists warn.

“If someone has not been having preventative health and they have cavities or things like that, they can get inflammation, and that inflammation can exacerbate other chronic conditions,” Green said.

That can affect everything from your kidneys to your heart, said David Logan, executive director of the Alaska Dental Society.

Barring preventive dental care, Logan said, all Medicaid will cover is emergency care, which usually means a tooth extraction. And because of what he called a “domino effect,” people who lose one tooth are more likely to lose additional teeth.

He said under Dunleavy’s veto, Medicaid patients will likely delay treatment until they have no choice but to go to hospital emergency departments, which are often not equipped to provide dental care.

In the end, that means much higher medical bills and teeth lost that could have been saved, he said.

“Small problems are going to go untreated until they become big problems, and big problems are going to be dealt with by extraction,” Logan said.

Because of that, some providers encouraged their patients to have as much work done before July 1 as they could, Logan said.

That’s bought the dental community some time, but given another month or two, community clinics like Anchorage Neighborhood Health Center — one of few providers in Southcentral Alaska that offers a sliding pay scale — may soon be stretched thin.

“Our hope is that we will stand together and do whatever we can to try to serve our patients, but there will be a limit to what we can do with our current and internal resources,” said Green.

Some providers are already feeling the squeeze. Royann Royer, who runs dental clinics at two Anchorage nursing homes, pays for most of her operating expenses through Medicaid.

“It’s going to be devastating for us,” Royer said.

About 95% of the patients she sees rely on Medicaid for their dental coverage, which means the cut may leave her unable to care for her patients all together.

[Providers await impacts of Medicaid cuts; dental services axed]

That’s a social problem for many of the patients Royer sees, some of whom refused to come out of their rooms to interact with others until their teeth had been restored. It’s especially problematic, though, for medically vulnerable patients who, given an infection, could aspirate the bacteria into their lungs and trigger pneumonia, she said.

For Royer, the loss would be a personal one. Her organization, Healthy Smiles Forever, has been treating patients at Prestige Care & Rehabilitation Center for three years, but it opened the clinic at Pioneer Home just last month.

“It’s just so sad, especially when we were just making a positive effect," Royer said.

With few other options, Royer, like many providers, said she’s hoping for a solution from the Legislature. Although lawmakers failed to override the vetoes before last week’s deadline, legislators in Juneau have introduced a bill to restore the $444 million back to the budget.

Shelden, the Chugiak man whose coverage lapsed before he could be fitted for dentures, said after trying to call his representative and getting nowhere, he’s not holding his breath.

“There’s too many people squabbling for power at the top to care about the people at the bottom,” he said.


Michael Shelden who had all his teeth pulled last month was one week away from getting dentures when Gov. Dunleavy vetoed the Medicaid dental coverage for adults from the state operating budget. Shelden said he tells his kids all the time to brush their teeth, "or you're going to look like me." Thursday, July 18, 2019. (Bill Roth / ADN) (Bill Roth / ADN/)

Trump to nominate son of Scalia to be next labor secretary

Thu, 07/18/2019 - 16:41

WASHINGTON - President Donald Trump announced Thursday that he plans to nominate Eugene Scalia, the son of late Supreme Court Justice Antonin Scalia, as his next secretary of Labor.

“I am pleased to announce that it is my intention to nominate Gene Scalia as the new Secretary of Labor. Gene has led a life of great success in the legal and labor field and is highly respected not only as a lawyer, but as a lawyer with great experience working with labor and everyone else,” Trump said Thursday night in a pair of tweets. “He will be a great member of an Administration that has done more in the first 2 ½ years than perhaps any Administration in history!”

I am pleased to announce that it is my intention to nominate Gene Scalia as the new Secretary of Labor. Gene has led a life of great success in the legal and labor field and is highly respected not only as a lawyer, but as a lawyer with great experience....

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 19, 2019

If confirmed, Scalia would succeed Alex Acosta, who resigned from the position last week after a fresh round of scrutiny over a years-old plea deal he struck with wealthy financier Jeffrey Epstein, who was indicted earlier this month on federal sex trafficking charges. Politico first reported that Scalia is under consideration.

The White House has been asking senators, who would be tasked with confirming his ultimate nominee, what they think of Scalia for the job, according to one person familiar with the conversations. Trump and Scalia met privately on Thursday afternoon at the White House to discuss the post, another person familiar with the deliberations said.

The White House began considering Scalia for the job as the scrutiny over Acosta's plea deal intensified last week, according to one of the people, as the administration searched for a fallback option to Acosta should he leave his post.

The people spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss internal White House deliberations.

Scalia, a veteran attorney well-versed in deregulation policies, is currently a partner at Washington law firm Gibson, Dunn and Crutcher; he previously served as solicitor of labor during the George W. Bush administration.

Vegetables are mature earlier than farmers have ever seen; flowers are ready to go

Thu, 07/18/2019 - 16:28

Bouquet from Brown Dog Farm.

Want potatoes? Got them. Full-sized carrots? Yep, those too. How about beans, or sugar-snap peas or cauliflower? No problem.

It’s that already time of the year at farmers markets. The abundance is a little unprecedented.

“Alaskan farmers have always benefited from Alaska’s high-latitude agriculture, which gives us our long day lengths and moderate temperatures,” says Arthur Keyes of Glacier Valley Farm and the South Anchorage and Midtown farmers markets. “This recent sustained spike in extremely hot, sunny weather has compounded our already long days and given us even more amazing crop production than we normally receive. The growth-cycle this year is unprecedented.

“I think I’ve seen potatoes before in mid-July, so I don’t think it’s a first. However, the size and quantity of the potatoes at this time in the season are what makes this so noteworthy. These spuds are early, large, plentiful. And they taste great!”

Anchorage Farmers Market: Sarah Bean of Arctic Organics says the summer heat put “a lull in lettuce production, which is a result of the heat wave. The current stand has bolted, and the next planting is not ready yet.” But other than lettuce, look for lots of fresh crops, including loads of basil, which Bean says is “big and lush and vibrant.”

Ben Swimm says the market saw its first carrots last week and vendors are bringing more this week, along with strawberries, rhubarb, onions, green onions, radishes, lettuce, zucchini, herbs and more.

Swimm’s Brown Dog Farm has flower bouquets, including a buy-two-get-one-free promotion on its $10 bouquets, and Hatcher Pass Dahlias has blooms starting to arrive, too.

Muldoon Farmers Market: Jerrianne Lowther says the Muldoon market is the full of “carrots, beets and oh-so-delicious local strawberries.” The produce continues with “broccoli heads as big as a platter from Dinkel’s Veggies or petite ones from Arctic Wonder Marketplace.”

Dinkel’s also has full-sized carrots, tomatoes, snap beans, potatoes and pickling cucumbers.

South Anchorage and Midtown farmers markets: Barb Landi says the “vegetable production coming in greater amounts now with bigger sizes. We are seeing the first cauliflower and red cabbage. Beautiful beets in various colors are good size now. Tender green beans are available from several farmers — earlier than ever.”

And there are plenty of flower options, too. Brown Dog Farm is offering a buy-two-get-one-free promotion on its $10 bouquets at the Midtown market on Saturday. Peonies from several vendors are at the market and Landi says Opa’s Garden, a new vendor at Midtown, has peony plants and roots for the gardeners.

At South, Rempel Family Farm will have its first-of-the-year sugar snap peas, along with plenty of other items, including lettuces, greens, baby carrots, squash blossoms, zucchini and herbs.

Center Market: Lots of new items at the indoor market this week. Alex Davis says for the first time this year he has red and green Romaine lettuce, cabbage, kohlrabi, three varieties of beets, zucchini and sugar snap peas.

Mat-Su Farm Bureau Farm Tour

The 10th annual Mat-Su Farm Bureau Farm Tour is just around the corner. The tour is Aug. 1 and this year’s theme is Meet Alaska’s Livestock.

“This full-day tour is highlighting the livestock industry that is growing and thriving in and around Palmer,” says Margaret Adsit of Alaska Farm Tours. “You’ll visit the last remaining dairy cattle farm in Alaska and learn about their milking operation, visit a bison farm to learn about these uniquely beautiful animals, and visit an elk and dude ranch where you’ll learn about what it takes to run an elk operation.”

The tour starts in Anchorage and includes transportation to the Valley farms and lunch. Cost is $75 per person. For more information, visit http://www.alaskafarmtours.com/tour/farm-bureau-farm-tour/.

Local farmers markets:

Friday in Anchorage: Center Market, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Midtown Mall

Friday outside of Anchorage: Palmer Friday Fling, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., South Valley Way

Saturday in Anchorage: Anchorage Farmers Market, 9 a.m.-2 p.m., 15th Avenue and Cordova Street; Anchorage Market and Festival, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Third Avenue between C and E streets; Anchorage Midtown Farmers Market, 9 a.m.-2 p.m., BP Alaska; Center Market, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., Midtown Mall; Jewel Lake Farmers Market, 10 a.m.-3 p.m., 8427 Jewel Lake Road; Muldoon Farmers Market, 9:30 a.m.-2:30 p.m., Chanshtnu Muldoon Park; South Anchorage Farmers Market, 9 a.m.-2 p.m., O’Malley Sports Center; Spenard Farmers Market, 9 a.m.-2 p.m., 2555 Spenard Road

Saturday outside of Anchorage: Healy Farmers Market, 10 a.m.-2 p.m., Mile 249.2 Parks Highway; Highway’s End Farmers Market, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Delta Junction; Homer Farmers Market, 10 a.m.-3 p.m., Ocean Drive; Tanana Valley Farmer’s Market, 9 a.m.-4 p.m., 2600 College Road, Fairbanks

Sunday in Anchorage: Anchorage Market and Festival, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Third Avenue between C and E streets

Tuesday outside of Anchorage: Food Bank Farmers Market, 3-6 p.m., Kenai Peninsula Food Bank, 33955 Community College Drive, Soldotna

Wednesday in Anchorage: Center Market, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Midtown Mall; Northway Mall Market, 9a.m.-4 p.m., 3101 Penland Parkway; South Anchorage Wednesday Market, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., near Dimond Center Hotel; Wednesday Market at Airport Heights, 3-7 p.m., Fire Island Rustic Bake Shop, 2530 E. 16th Ave.

Wednesday outside of Anchorage: Highway’s End Farmers Market, 10 a.m.-5 p.m., Delta Junction; Homer Farmers Market, 2-5 p.m., Ocean Drive; Soldotna Wednesday Market, 11 a.m.-6 p.m., Soldotna Creek Park; Tanana Valley Farmer’s Market, 11 a.m.-4 p.m., 2600 College Road, Fairbanks; Wasilla Farmers Market, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Iditapark/Wonderland Park

Thursday in Anchorage: Thankful Thursdays market, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., Midtown Mall

Thursday outside of Anchorage: Peters Creek Farmers Market, 3-7 p.m., American Legion Post 33, 21426 Old Glenn Highway

When we say we’re free in America, what do we mean?

Thu, 07/18/2019 - 16:16

A bicyclist crosses Front Street in Nome on Friday, June 28, 2019. The U.S. Flags lining Front Street have been up since Memorial Day as residents got ready to celebrate Independence Day with a parade on the 4th of July. (Bill Roth / ADN) (Bill Roth / ADN/)

Often heard this past 4th of July was country singer Lee Greenwood’s patriotic song “God Bless the USA,” with its iconic line, “I’m proud to be an American, where at least I know I’m free.” For many, the song elicits an emotive pride.

But what we mean by freedom is often a generalized notion: being able to go where we like, say what we think. It’s worth examining more deeply what it means to be a free American.

Franklin Roosevelt laid out one meaning in his “four freedoms” speech of Jan. 6, 1941. Everyone, he said, has a right to freedom of speech and expression, freedom to worship God in their own way, freedom from want, and freedom from fear, by which he meant living without the threat of war or terrorism.

If that’s what freedom means, it’s not anything that distinguishes America. People in the western European social democracies enjoy all of these freedoms; so do people in many other nations: Canada, Israel, Australia and New Zealand, for example. It can be argued that people in these countries actually enjoy more freedom than Americans. In these countries, high taxes provide government subsidized child care, health insurance, education and retirement benefits, as well as unemployment insurance and aid for dependent children and mothers. This takes away a great deal of fear about the future that Americans must live with daily, freeing people in those countries to think about community. Most have longer life expectancies and lower infant mortality rates than the United States.

Another meaning links freedom to property. John Locke argued that all people are entitled to property ownership; it reduces one’s vulnerability to manipulation by others. Jefferson took this up, urging that American democracy should rest on independent small land-owners who would be the best guardians of their and their country’s best interests.

Something quite interesting happened to this argument in the modern era. First, it was converted into a defense against taxation, the notion arising that taxes are an immoral seizing of an individual’s freedom. This claim is often made against the income tax, generating challenges to the constitutionality of the 16th Amendment to the U.S. Constitution; those challenges have failed.

But that argument took a pernicious turn in the hands of a 1986 Nobel laureate economist not widely known, James Buchanan. He reasoned that the dominant motivation for people’s economic actions is self-interest. This was not new, but Buchanan adapted it to the modern age, arguing that those who seek free government services, and those who advocate for such services, are pursuing their own self-interest at the cost of those whose wealth and taxes make those services possible. In his view, the government functions as an instrument to take money from those who have earned it and give it to those who have not, and who therefore do not deserve it. Buchanan regarded this as immoral.

He proposed a remedy for this situation: cripple or destroy such programs. It would not be enough, he reasoned, to vote into office those who oppose government largesse. A better strategy, he urged, is to block the programs from functioning in the first place. This could be done by legislation starving or eliminating the programs, by judicial action declaring the programs constitutionally flawed, or by executive action blocking their operation.

A number of wealthy individuals who agreed with Buchanan (who died in 2013) established several organizations designed to persuade politicians to adopt his ideas and strategy. These include the State Policy Network, the American Legislative Exchange Council and Americans for Prosperity.

Buchanan was wrong. Economic self-interest is not the only motivator of human action. People frequently, sometimes routinely, display altruistic behavior, helping others with no expectation of reward. In fact, there is a veritable cottage industry of researchers studying altruistic behavior in human beings.

It seems there are those in America’s wealthy class who do not care about this, or find it mysterious. They should recognize that they depend on those they disparage and denigrate. And there are politicians, some in Alaska, who join them in seeking freedom from participating in the larger society of which they’re all a part.

It’s not a freedom any American should be proud of.

Steve Haycox is an emeritus professor of history at the University of Alaska 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)adn.com. Send submissions shorter than 200 words to letters@adn.com or click here to submit via any web browser. Read our full guidelines for letters and commentaries here.

Legislators, restore funding to homeless aid

Thu, 07/18/2019 - 16:06

A group of campers protesting Gov. Mike Dunleavy's budget vetoes gather on the Delaney Park Strip Thursday, July 18, 2019. The city has posted notices informing the campers that the camps are illegal and must be removed by Friday. (Loren Holmes / ADN) (Loren Holmes / Anchorage Daily News/)

In May 1983, with rising deaths in the homeless population and unsafe conditions, Archbishop Francis Hurley worked with two of the Servant Brothers, named Brother Bob and Brother Dave, to find a safe place for unhoused communities: the Rose Garden on the Delaney Park Strip. Anchorage’s new mayor, Tony Knowles, as well as the head of the police and fire departments, worked to help find a more permanent solution. And so Brother Francis Shelter was founded.

The Brother Francis Shelter protest is the starting point for the snowball effect of a budget cut for the state of Alaska if this Legislature does not act.

Camp Here: Occupy to Overcome is just a glimpse of what the future of these cuts will mean to Alaska as a whole.

Throughout this camp display, gracious volunteers have served: two-parent families, single working-parent and single student-parent families, the working handicapped, mentally handicapped, working disabled, mentally disabled, scholars of all ages, pre-school through master’s degree studies, as well as couples and singles all across the board.

Legislators: To sit back and do nothing without exercising your right to represent your people and families that had voted you into office will lead to the snowball effect of a total “economic genocide."

You, as legislators, will have a member or several members of your immediate and extended families affected by your choice not to exercise your right to represent those you elected to serve.

We from Camp Here: Occupy to Overcome ask you, our chosen representatives, to look at your photo albums, Facebook pages, friends and family pictures and take a moment to reflect on the effects of this economic genocide.

Now take a moment to ask yourselves, “Will I represent not only myself, but my friends and family as a whole?”

The courts and correctional systems already have a heavy burden to bear on a day-to-day basis, as well as those who have chosen to wear fire and police badges.

Now take a moment to realize that if these budget cuts take place, the entire Park Strip will be filled with tents occupied by your family and friends that you were elected to serve.

Not only will the Park Strip and other parks within Anchorage be filled with those who will be struggling, but parks and parking lots within your communities and regions which you serve as legislators.

Qaay’aq Qaay’aq Steven Moses, originally of Bethel, is a currently unhoused resident of 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)adn.com. Send submissions shorter than 200 words to letters@adn.com or click here to submit via any web browser. Read our full guidelines for letters and commentaries here.

Analysis: You downloaded FaceApp. Here’s what you’ve just done to your privacy.

Thu, 07/18/2019 - 16:00

FaceApp, which uses artificial intelligence to "age" people, has gone viral. Tech columnist Geoffrey A. Fowler tried it himself - and explored the privacy implications. (Washington Post photo by Geoffrey Fowler) (Geoffrey A. Fowler/)

When an app goes viral, how can you know if it's all good fun - or covertly violating your privacy by, say, sending your face to the Russian government?

That's the burning question about FaceApp, a program that takes photos of people and "ages" them using artificial intelligence. Soon after it shot to the top of the Apple and Google store charts this week, privacy advocates began waving warning flags about the Russian-made app's vague legalese. Word spread quickly that the app might be a disinformation campaign, or secretly downloading your entire photo album.

I got some answers by running my own forensic analysis and talking to the CEO of the company that made the app. But the bigger lesson was how much appmakers and the stores run by Apple and Google leave us flying blind when it comes to privacy.

[Panic over Russian company’s FaceApp is sign of new distrust of Internet]

I raised similar questions a few weeks ago, when I ran an experiment to find out what my iPhone did while I slept at night. I found apps sending my personal information to all sorts of tracking companies I'd never heard of.

So what about FaceApp? It was vetted by Apple's App Store and Google's Play Store, which even labeled it an "Editors' Choice." They both link to its privacy policy - which they know nobody reads.

Looking under the hood of FaceApp with the tools from my iPhone test, I found it sharing information about my phone with Facebook and Google AdMob, which likely help it place ads and check the performance of its ads. The most unsettling part was how much data FaceApp was sending to its own servers, after which . . . who knows what happens. It's not just your own face that FaceApp might gobble up - if you age a friend or family member, their face gets uploaded, too.

In an email exchange, FaceApp's CEO Yaroslav Goncharov tried to clarify some of that.

These five questions are basics we ought to know about any app or service that wants something as personal as our faces.

1) What data do they take?

FaceApp uploads and processes our photos in the cloud, Goncharov said, but the app will “only upload a photo selected by a user for editing.” The rest of your camera roll stays on your phone. You can also use FaceApp without giving it your name or email - and 99% of users do just that, he said.

2) How long do they hold on my data?

The app's terms of service grant it a "perpetual" license to our photos. Goncharov said FaceApp deletes "most" of photos from its servers after 48 hours.

3) What are they doing with my data?

Is FaceApp using our faces and the maps it makes of them for anything other than the express purpose of the app, like running facial identification on us? "No," said Goncharov. Legally, though, the app's terms give it - and whoever might buy it or work with it in the future - the right to do whatever it wants, through an "irrevocable, nonexclusive, royalty-free, worldwide, fully-paid, transferrable sub-licensable license." (Clear as mud?)

4) Who has access to my data?

Do government authorities in Russia have access to our photos? "No," says Goncharov. FaceApp's engineers are based in Russia, our data is not transferred there. He said the company also doesn't "sell or share any user data with any third parties" - aside, I pointed out, from what it shares with trackers from Facebook and AdMob. (Another exception: Users in Russia may have their data stored in Russia.)

5) How can I delete my data?

Just deleting the app won’t get rid of the photos FaceApp may have in the cloud. Goncharov said people can put in a request to delete all data from FaceApp’s servers, but the process is convoluted. “For the fastest processing, we recommend sending the requests from the FaceApp mobile app using ‘Settings->Support->Report a bug’ with the word ‘privacy’ in the subject line. We are working on the better UI (user interface) for that," he said.

Why not post this information to FaceApp's website, beyond the legalese? "We are planning to make some improvements," Goncharov said.

Same question for the app stores run by Apple and Google. Those giant companies make money from a cut of upgrades you can purchase in the app. We're literally paying them to read the privacy policies - and vet that companies like FaceApp are telling the truth. Why not better help us understand right where we download what's really going on? Neither company replied with an on-the-record comment.

Much better to help us sort through all of this before millions of us upload our faces somewhere we might regret.

Pages