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Updated: 14 min 51 sec ago

UAA volleyball team stuns nationally ranked Western Washington in 5 thrilling sets

Thu, 11/14/2019 - 22:05

The Seawolves knocked off the fourth-ranked volleyball team in the nation Thursday in Bellingham, Washington, and they did it with their All-America candidate sidelined with an injury.

UAA edged Western Washington in a dramatic five-set showdown between the top two teams in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference. The Seawolves lost the first two sets and came from behind in each of the final three sets, rallying from a 13-9 deficit in the third set, a 15-11 deficit in the fourth set and a 9-7 deficit in the fifth set.

They triumphed 23-25, 22-25, 25-23, 27-25, 16-14 to snap Western Washington’s 39-match home-court winning streak.

The match was the first of two big matches on the road this week for the Seawolves -- on Saturday, they’ll be in Canada for a match against third-place Simon Fraser. They play their final two regular-season match next week in Anchorage.

With GNAC kill leader Eve Stephens out for the second straight match, others came through for UAA.

Kayla McGlathery registered all five of her blocks in the fifth set to carry the Seawolves at the end, Vanessa Hayes continued a hot hitting streak with 17 kills and Jalisa Ingram – playing in place of Stephens -- slammed a career-high eight kills to go with five blocks.

“I can’t express how proud I am of this group tonight,” UAA coach Chris Green said in a press release from the school. “Absolutely everyone stepped up tonight and played with a ton of confidence. Vanessa was hitting for a poor percentage at one point but she stuck with it and came through with some huge kills at the end, and Kayla’s block was absolutely huge in the fifth.”

Hayes, a junior outside hitter, has been on fire lately. In her last three matches, she has racked up 54 kills, including a career-high in a Saturday victory over Concordia.

The win gives UAA a season sweep of the Vikings, whose only two losses this season are to the Seawolves. UAA improved to 19-6 overall and 14-3 in conference play, and Western Washington slipped to 23-2, 15-2.

The Vikings were led by freshman Calley Heilborn’s 17 kills and 16 digs. They led every statistical category – outhitting the Seawolves .250 to .191, outblocking them 16 to 12.5 and outdigging them 71-68. But the Seawolves served 10 aces and benefited from 17 serving errors by the Vikings.

Anjoilyn Vreeland served four aces and had 11 digs to help UAA. McGlathery provided 13 kills on .423 percent hitting, and Hannah Pembroke and Vera Pluharova supplied eight kills apiece. Pluharova and Ellen Floyd each had four blocks, with Floyd adding 43 assists and a team-high 14 digs. Talia Leauanae added 12 digs and Maggie Schlueter had a career-high 11.

After a long day of 4A state volleyball, South and Dimond remain unbeaten

Thu, 11/14/2019 - 21:04

Bartlett's Sierra Fainuulelei spikes the ball Thursday during a state tournament volleyball match against Palmer at the Alaska Airlines Center. (Loren Holmes / ADN) (Loren Holmes/)

The South High volleyball team moved into familiar territory Thursday night at the Alaska Airlines Center.

Sparked by junior Cami Houser’s 16 kills and senior Makenna Besch’s nine kills and three blocks, South advanced to the winner’s bracket semifinals of the Class 4A State Championships with a 25-22, 25-20, 17-25, 25-20 victory over Cook Inlet Conference rival Bartlett.

The win means the Wolverines, who play again 5:15 p.m. Friday, need two consecutive victories to claim their seventh crown and their first since 2014.

“And despite who we face, we know it will be great competition,” Besch said.

As it turns out, South will face an adversary it knows well. Four-time defending state champion Dimond defeated Wasilla in three sets in Thursday’s final match, setting up a showdown between the two CIC teams that have won every Class 4A state title since 2005. On six occasions since 2005, the championship match has pitted South against Dimond.

Bartlett's Leeanna Atafua, left, and Lavinia Lavelua block the ball Thursday during a state tournament volleyball match against Palmer at the Alaska Airlines Center. (Loren Holmes / ADN) (Loren Holmes/)

The Wolverines didn’t stick around to watch the Dimond-Wasilla match. “We’re going home and will get our bodies rested,” Houser said. “We’ll enter the (rest of the tournament) with confidence.”

They missed seeing strong efforts from Dimond’s Hahni Johnson (9 kills, 16 assists, 12 digs), Kadyn Osborne (6 kills, 16 assists, 13 digs) and Taliyah Esters (9 kills).

Earlier in the day, South, Bartlett, Wasilla and Dimond all breezed though the double-elimination tournament’s opening round with three-set victories.

Thursday marked the sixth time in the eight years since the double-elimination format was introduced that South was still in the winners bracket after Day 1. The Wolverines lost in the second round last season and failed to make the tournament field in 2017.

“Obviously, if we were to lose earlier on we’d have to play a lot more matches to get back to the top,” Besch said. “Now, we know we have the determination to push and go and go and go until the end.”

Bartlett, playing in the state tournament for the third time (2019, 2017, 2016) since the arrival of double elimination in 2012, more than held its own against the South. No surprise there — the Golden Bears beat the Wolverines in five sets at South on Sept. 10. The Wolverines won the Oct. 18 regular-season rematch in five sets.

“Tonight, I saw a lot of grit and we didn’t play flat,” said Bartlett coach Situfu Misi. “From here on out, we just have to come and get it.”

Bartlett's Lavinia Lavelua, left, and Judith Utuga try to block a spike by Palmer's Deana McNutt on Thursday. (Loren Holmes / ADN) (Loren Holmes/)

After winning the first set 25-17, South opened up leads of 7-4 and 12-5 in the second set, with Besch serving six straight points at one stretch. South won the set when Sarina Gribbin smoked a shot off a Bartlett defender.

Bartlett junior Judith Utuga asserted herself well in her team’s third-set victory by compiling five of her team-high 15 kills.

The Wolverines clawed back from deficits of 9-6 and 12-9 to take the fourth set. The match ended on Besch’s kill down the left sideline.

Bartlett senior Leeanna Atafua finished with 25 assists and junior Zaysharae Malia-Hughes racked up 12 digs.

For South, junior Kylie Hurd totaled 33 digs for South and Gribbin added 12 kills to help put the Wolverines right where they want to be.

“Our team is so well bonded and I think that’s what really helps us win most of the time,” Houser said. “We know how much we can trust each other on the court.”

Matt Nevala co-hosts “The Sports Guys” radio show, Saturdays at 11 a.m. on KHAR AM 590 and FM 96.7 (@cbssports590). Find him on social media at @MNevala9.

Palmer's Maegan Grogan, left, and Talia Villnerve both reach for the ball Thursday against Bartlett. (Loren Holmes / ADN) (Loren Holmes/)

ASAA/First National Bank state volleyball championships

Alaska Airlines Center

Class 4A

Thursday’s results

First round

South def. Juneau-Douglas 3-0 (25-17, 25-10, 25-7)

Bartlett def. Palmer 3-0 (25-20, 25-19, 25-17)

Wasilla def. North Pole 3-0 (25-8, 25-11, 25-16)

Dimond def. Soldotna 3-0 (25-20, 25-17, 25-16)

Winners bracket

South def. Bartlett 3-1 (25-22, 25-20, 17-25, 25-20)

Dimond def. Wasilla 3-0 (25-17, 25-21, 25-15)

Friday’s matches

10 a.m. — Juneau-Douglas vs. Palmer (loser out)

11:45 a.m. — North Pole vs. Soldotna (loser out)

1:30 p.m. — Wasilla vs. Juneau-Palmer winner (loser out)

3:15 p.m. — Bartlett vs. North Pole-Soldotna winner (loser out)

5:15 p.m. — South vs. Dimond (winners bracket)

7 p.m. — Winners of 1:30 p.m. and 3:15 p.m. matches (loser out)

Southcentral Conference teams put on good show at 3A state volleyball

Thu, 11/14/2019 - 20:09

The Nikiski Bulldogs warm up before a match Thursday at the Class 3A state volleyball tournament at the Alaska Airlines Center. (Loren Holmes / ADN) (Loren Holmes/)

The Kenai Kardinals have never won a state volleyball title but they took two big steps in the right direction Thursday at the Class 3A state tournament.

Kenai Central dispatched two opponents to cruise into Friday’s winners bracket match at the Alaska Airlines Center. The Kards knocked off Barrow in a four-set first-round match and then dispatched Sitka in a three-set winners-bracket match.

It was a good day for Southcentral Conference teams. All three — Homer, Kenai and Nikiski — posted first-round wins, and two of then will square off in Friday’s lone winners-bracket match. At 5:15 p.m. Friday, Kenai will take on the winner of Thursday’s match between Southcentral champion Homer and defending state champion Nikiski, which placed third at last week’s conference tournament.

Four loser-out matches will precede the winners-bracket match.

The state championship match is set for 2 p.m. Saturday.

ASAA/First National Bank state volleyball tournament

Alaska Airlines Center

Class 3A

First round

Kenai Central def. Barrow 3-1 (25-12, 16-25, 25-23, 25-14)

Sitka def. Valdez 3-0 (25-18, 25-23, 25-23)

Nikiski def. Monroe 3-0 (25-19, 25-15, 25-20)

Homer def. Kotzebue 3-0 (25-20, 25-17, 25-7)

Winners bracket

Kenai def. Sitka 3-0 (26-24, 25-19, 26-24)

Nikiski vs. Homer, 7 p.m.

Friday’s matches

10 a.m. — Barrow vs. Valdez (loser out)

11:45 a.m. — Monroe vs. Kotzebue (loser out)

1:30 p.m. — Nikiski-Homer loser vs. Barrow-Valdez winner (loser out)

3:15 p.m. — Sitka vs. Monroe-Kotzebue winner (loser out)

5:15 p.m. — Kenai vs. Nikiski-Homer winner (winners bracket)

7 p.m. — Winners of 1:30 p.m. and 3:15 p.m. matches (loser out)

Five Alaskans are headed to Division I college teams

Thu, 11/14/2019 - 19:36

Hailey Williams of Delta Junction, shown here winning the 100-meter race at the 2018 state track and field championships in Palmer, will run college track for Duke. (Bob Hallinen / ADN archives) (Anchorage Daily News/)

A handful of high school athletes are headed to Division I college teams, including a girl from a tiny school in the Interior who will compete at Duke University.

Hailey Williams, the Delta Junction sprinter who has dominated the last two Alaska state track and field championships, will run track for the Blue Devils.

In June, Williams ran the fastest 200-meter time ever recorded by an Alaska high school girl, placing fifth at the New Balance national championships in a swift 24.05 seconds. Her other personal bests include 11.95 seconds in the 100 and 57.20 seconds in the 400.

Also committing to Division I schools this week were:

Alani Makihele of West High, an all-state offensive lineman, will join the UNLV football team and play in the Mountain West Conference.

#AGTG for the opportunities and experiences I’ve had this year, thankful for it all. @WAHSFootball @unlvfootball @BrandonHuffman @adamgorney @NW_Spotlight @AIGAFoundation @polynesiabowl @sportsadn @KTVASports @AlaskanAthletes @OLPerformance

— Alani Makihele (@alanimak_) November 14, 2019

• Hannah Hogenson of South High, a goaltender with USA Hockey experience, will play for Bemidji State of the Western Collegiate Hockey Association.

I’m honored and humbled to announce my commitment to play Division 1 hockey @BSUBeaversWHKY , as I pursue my educational and athletic goals in the state of Minnesota. I want to thank my family, coaches, friends, and teammates that have helped me along the way. #GOBEAVERS

— Hannah Hogenson (@hannah_ak1) June 1, 2019

• Ellie Scherffius of Chugiak, a middle blocker in her first season with the Mustangs, will return to her former home state of Montana to play volleyball for the Grizzlies.

• Grace Fernandez, a South High senior who competed with the Borealis Bullseyes club team, will compete in riflery at Texas-El Paso, which earlier this season traveled to Fairbanks for a match against UAF’s Division I riflery team.

Akiachak man charged with murder in September shooting of brother, troopers say

Thu, 11/14/2019 - 18:13

A 32-year-old Akiachak man was charged with murder Thursday in the September shooting death of his brother, troopers said in a report posted online.

Robert Snyder was arrested in Akiachak on Thursday afternoon and charged with first-degree murder, according to troopers. He is accused of shooting his brother, 36-year-old Tom Snyder, with a shotgun after an argument about alcohol on the evening of Sept. 13, troopers said.

After shooting his brother, Robert Snyder then shot himself in the head — sustaining life-threatening injuries — and was transported to Seattle for medical care, according to troopers.

Snyder is currently being held at the Yukon Kuskokwim Correctional Center, troopers said.

We all have a responsibility to help support our community

Thu, 11/14/2019 - 15:49

Jane Straight, left, and Ariane Kelsey were among a group of people who prepared hygiene kits for adults and children at First Presbyterian Church of Anchorage on Monday, Sept. 30, 2019. For the 10th consecutive season, local churches, Abused Women’s Aid in Crisis (AWAIC), the Municipality of Anchorage, and United Way of Anchorage will work in tandem to offer Emergency Cold Weather Shelter to families with children when regular shelters are full. From October 1 to mid-May, seven days a week, a different church will be open so homeless families don't have to spend the night in an unsafe place during the coldest months of the year. Families in need can call Alaska's 2-1-1 helpline. Last winter 2,023 shelter nights were provided to 84 families that included 131 children. (Bill Roth / ADN) (Bill Roth / ADN/)

As a member of this community, I am personally very concerned about the needs of fellow Alaskans. I worry about the general increased demand for emergency services. This affects us all and takes a toll on the nonprofit and charitable organizations that serve low-income families, the homeless and other populations in need. I think a lot about critical needs in our community and how to meet them. And although I am proud of the myriad ways my company supports the community, I also think it’s personal involvement that can move the needle and make a difference — especially for the United Way of Anchorage. That’s why, as president of ConocoPhillips Alaska, I accepted the invitation to chair this year’s campaign.

I like a boxing metaphor as much as the next person (perhaps more), and so I’ll say that the goals of United Way of Anchorage are not for lightweights. Broadly, we want to help improve individual lives on a scale that transforms our community for the better and makes a difference long-term. That’s why, even though we knew this was going to be a challenging year, the Anchorage United Way campaign cabinet of 24 business leaders decided to increase the fundraising goal to $5.5 million. These leaders are heavyweights in United Way’s corner, and I am grateful for their service to the organization.

Most of us are aware of the lively public discussions about our state and its issues. Regardless of where you fall on the issues, I hope we can agree that for those of us involved in United Way’s 2019 Community Campaign, this is no time to falter in the work; it’s time to strike a decisive blow.

Specifically, we aim to reach and maintain a high school graduation rate of 90% or better, provide housing for people experiencing homelessness (including the hardest to house), guide people to health care insurance and increase the financial stability of those in need in our community. And we stay the course with this work through all economic and political seasons.

We can see the needs in our community. United Way is in the fore of meeting them — as an organizing force, including its permanent supportive housing pilot and the Emergency Cold Weather Shelter system; in direct service, such as the Alaska 2-1-1 help referral line and health care navigators; and in its traditional role as a fundraiser for dozens of nonprofit partners. And this is just the short list. No other nonprofit organization combines the long history, depth of experience and wide range of United Way.

So, it’s no coincidence that ConocoPhillips and its employees have given more than $1 million a year to United Ways in Alaska for 16 consecutive years. We are fully engaged again in 2019. We know that our donations, vocal support and volunteer hours count. We believe that when United Way rallies the community, our better selves can step up front and center.

In supporting United Way, ConocoPhillips or any other businesses may gain goodwill for their efforts and donations, but the reason for this commitment is to help our fellow Alaskans in the community. We don’t just do business here. We live here and we have the means to make a difference. Not all of us can be the front-line teacher, case manager, health care navigator or calm, caring voice on a 2-1-1 call. But we can be a resource for the people who do that hard and vital work.

For those who prefer business terms, we’re investing and inviting you to join us at any level you can. You’ll love the return on investment for the $5.5 million we hope to raise. The due diligence on United Way’s work past and present should encourage investors:

  • United Way’s most challenging initiative, the permanent supportive housing pilot, means more people with housing, supportive services and off the street.
  • Back on Track, United Way’s partnership with the Anchorage School District and Covenant House Alaska to help struggling students graduate, has logged 215 graduates in less than three years. That means more young people ready for better opportunities and a stake in the community — and a stronger work force.
  • United Way of Anchorage was again named the state’s sole recipient of a $100,000 federal grant to deploy health care navigators to help Alaskans gain medical insurance. That means more Alaskans can be healthier at less overall cost.
  • The Emergency Cold Weather Shelter system, a partnership with Abused Women’s Aid In Crisis, the Municipality of Anchorage and 11 area churches, will again ensure that no child has to sleep in a cold car or worse this winter, even when regular shelters are full and the family is homeless. That means that in Anchorage, there will always be room at the inn for a family in need.

In 2018, more than 4,600 people decided to Live United and invested almost $5.3 million to maintain these works in progress. Let’s all live a little more united, punch above our weight, give everyone the chance to be a contender, and accelerate the progress in 2019.

Joe Marushack serves as president of ConocoPhillips Alaska and is a United Way of Anchorage board member.

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

Person of interest in triple homicide near Wasilla arrested without incident

Thu, 11/14/2019 - 15:24

Juan Camarena (Alaska State Troopers photo)

PALMER -- The man Alaska State Troopers called a “person of interest” in a triple homicide near Wasilla was arrested on an unrelated federal warrant Thursday.

Juan Camarena, 51, called troopers and arranged to meet at a Wasilla location, according to an update troopers released Thursday afternoon. He was taken into custody around 11:30 a.m. without incident.

Camarena was last seen in the Big Lake area before Thursday’s arrest, troopers have said.

Investigators are questioning him about the killings, which took place Nov. 2 off Knik-Goose Bay Road and Knik Knack Mud Shack Road. Authorities initially found the bodies of Michael Attwood, 25, of Big Lake and Donna Marie Campos, 37, of Wasilla. Several days later, they also found a third victim, 28-year-old Alyssa Jimenez of Big Lake.

Troopers have not said why they believe Camarena knows something about the murders.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Dunleavy names temporary alcohol, marijuana boss

Thu, 11/14/2019 - 15:07

Former Anchorage Police Department detective Glenn Klinkhart shows a shell casing to a crime scene investigation class during the Anchorage Police Department Youth Academy on Aug. 6, 2015. Klinkhart was named the interim director of the Alaska Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office on Thursday. (Bob Hallinen / ADN archive)

A day after the state’s marijuana control board fired Alaska’s top marijuana and alcohol regulator, Gov. Mike Dunleavy has named former Anchorage police detective Glen Klinkhart as an interim replacement.

"He shares the administration’s view that we must ensure adequate oversight to protect the health, life, and safety of Alaskans, and simultaneously make government more responsive, efficient, and business friendly,” Dunleavy said in a prepared statement announcing the decision. “We’d like to extend our sincere appreciation to James Hoelscher, the agency’s lead investigator, for providing continuity of operations during this change.”

Hoelscher began Thursday as the agency’s apparent interim director, conducting an ongoing meeting of the state’s marijuana control board following the removal of Erika McConnell by the alcohol and marijuana boards. Klinkhart was introduced to the marijuana board shortly after 1 p.m. as interim director, then left the meeting to introduce himself to the agency’s staff while Hoelscher continued to conduct the meeting.

Klinkhart has been hired at an annual salary of $120,000, slightly less than McConnell’s $122,988 salary.

“I got a good vibe from him,” said Lacy Wilcox, president of the Alaska Marijuana Industry Association, the state’s commercial marijuana trade group.

“He’s a person that seems eager to jump in and have a dialogue,” she said.

This article is developing and will be updated.

Troopers investigate fatal shooting in Fairbanks

Thu, 11/14/2019 - 13:58

Troopers found a man dead at a commercial property in Fairbanks when they responded to a reported shooting early Thursday morning.

Peter Horace-Wright, 24 of Fairbanks, was found dead at the Peger Road property around 5:10 a.m., troopers said in an online report.

Circumstances surrounding his death are unclear and the investigation is ongoing, a troopers spokesman said.

(July 14, 2005) Mat-Su setting borough police plan aside for now

Thu, 11/14/2019 - 13:24

Valley voters apparently won’t get to weigh in this fall on the creation of a Matanuska-Susitna Borough police force, a proposal now creating more questions than answers.

Borough Mayor Tim Anderson has said he hoped residents would get to vote on whether the borough should adopt policing powers at the October borough elections.

But last month, the Assembly tabled a proposal that would have done just that. And at a Tuesday work session, a majority of Assembly members seemed to agree they would prefer to hold the question for the October 2006 ballot.

“I just don’t have enough information to be able to sell this to voters in three months,” said Assemblywoman Jody Simpson.

Earlier this year, a task force recommended the borough adopt policing powers to combat reports of increasing property crimes and other problems in outlying areas, then contract with the Alaska State Troopers to ultimately add 31 new patrol officers.

Last month, Anderson suggested the borough first ask voters if they support local police powers, then later ask them to approve additional property taxes or a sales tax to pay for the service.

Several Assembly members Tuesday voiced concerns that Mat-Su could lose troopers if the voters approve a borough police authority -- a problem if funding is not in place.

Wasilla lost trooper patrols after city voters approved a sales tax to create a police force in 1992, said Assemblyman Talis Colberg. Assembly members worried that the borough may lose trooper presence if it takes on policing authority.

“What happens if the troopers say, ‘You have the power to do it. We’re pulling out in six months’?” Colberg said.

The troopers would never “abandon an area” that adopted policing powers, spokesman Greg Wilkinson said Wednesday.

Houston is a better example than Wasilla, Wilkinson said. That city hired a police officer last year, but the troopers continue to patrol."Where they can handle their own law enforcement, they let them," he said. “When they can’t, we are there to support them ... We won’t stop supporting them until the time they are clearly able to carry the load on their own.”

Assembly members also wondered whether the borough could guarantee patrols by troopers to residents of certain areas, say, in the Butte, who agree to pay higher property taxes in exchange for policing.

Wilkinson said that would need to be worked out contractually. Troopers dedicate the “lion’s share of their time” to small communities around the state, he said, but as statewide responders answer calls for help on major incidents elsewhere.

And the spokesman raised yet another issue that could dog the borough proposal: It would take action by the Legislature to allow Mat-Su to contract with the troopers.

Under Alaska law, the borough can’t just give the troopers money and get guaranteed services in return, Wilkinson said. Legislators would need to accept the borough money into the general fund, and then also approve giving the money back to the troopers for Mat-Su patrols.

“Right now, it’s kind of like a cart-and-horse situation,” Wilkinson said. “It’s a little more complicated than just saying, ‘We’ll hire the troopers.’ “It would cost $5.6 million to realize the task force recommendation, borough estimates show.

Adding patrol officers doesn’t necessarily solve the crime problem, Assembly members pointed out. More officers may lead to more arrests, which in turn bog down already overloaded prosecutors and judges who actually punish offenders.

Assemblywoman Lynne Woods suggested the group needs experts’ input and public hearings.

Anderson, at the end of the meeting, expressed his hope the delay doesn’t spike the police proposal altogether.

”Things tend to get stuck in a corner in this borough, and then they go away,” he said.

Reporter Zaz Hollander can be reached at the Daily News Wasilla office at or 352-6711.

Lawsuit over campaign for Dunleavy recall will go to court in January

Thu, 11/14/2019 - 13:15

Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy speaks to reporters about his budget vetoes at the state Capitol in Juneau in June. (Becky Bohrer/AP) (Becky Bohrer/)

A lawsuit to determine the legality of the recall campaign against Gov. Mike Dunleavy will be argued in January, Anchorage Superior Court Judge Eric Aarseth ordered Thursday.

Recall Dunleavy, the group supporting the recall, sought to have arguments in December. That schedule would have increased the chances of having a special election before the end of the legislative session and any decision on budget vetoes.

The governor is expected to unveil his draft of the state budget on Dec. 15, and the Alaska Legislature convenes Jan. 21.

“A month matters in terms of who is the governor wielding the veto pen at the end of the session,” said Recall Dunleavy attorney Susan Orlansky, attempting to make the case that recall supporters would be harmed by a January date.

It was Dunleavy’s decision to veto more than $400 million from the state operating budget in June this year that kickstarted the recall campaign against him. (About half the vetoes were subsequently reversed.)

Aarseth heard Orlansky’s arguments, but he also heard from senior assistant attorney general Margaret Paton-Walsh, representing the state, and attorney Brewster Jamieson, representing the anti-recall group Stand Tall With Mike. The anti-recall group joined the lawsuit Thursday.

Both of those attorneys argued that hearings in January are still faster than a normal civil case, and given that the Alaska Supreme Court has never ruled on a gubernatorial recall case, it makes sense to move deliberately.

“There’s no reason to be in such a hurry here, and that’s the state’s position,” Paton-Walsh said.

Paton-Walsh had suggested the court could hold verbal arguments in January, and Aarseth called that schedule “a very reasonable plan” before approving it. Both sides will be trading legal positions by email in the meantime. Regardless of Aarseth’s verdict, both sides expect an appeal to the Alaska Supreme Court.

If both the superior court and Supreme Court rule in favor of the legality of the recall campaign, backers would undertake another round of signature-gathering necessary to call a special election. That election would take place between 30 and 60 days after the Alaska Division of Elections determines that enough signatures have been gathered.

If Dunleavy wins, he remains in office. If he loses, Lt. Gov. Kevin Meyer would become governor.

First, however, are the legal arguments. The Alaska Division of Elections, citing a legal opinion by the Alaska Department of Law and Attorney General Kevin Clarkson (a Dunleavy appointee), declined to certify the recall effort. The legal opinion said that recall backers had not met the standard for a recall.

Recall Dunleavy, the group supporting the recall, immediately appealed the division’s decision to the court system. Thursday’s hearing was intended to set the schedule for that appeal.

Drivers can expect Seward Highway delays north of Moose Pass starting Friday

Thu, 11/14/2019 - 12:55

Part of the Seward Highway north of Moose Pass will be closed to one lane beginning Friday while crews replace a damaged culvert, state transportation officials said in a statement Wednesday.

The road will be closed to one lane of traffic at Mile 32.9 of the Seward Highway — between the Sterling Highway intersection and Moose Pass — until replacement of the Moose Creek culvert is finished, the Alaska Department of Transportation and Public Facilities said.

The highway will also be closed overnight from 8 p.m. to 6 a.m. Sunday to Tuesday.

Emergency vehicles will be able to pass through the construction during closures, according to DOT.

Deterioration of the culvert sped up in the past year and is now pretty advanced, DOT spokeswoman Shannon McCarthy said. The cause of the rapid deterioration remains unknown, but some suspected the damage was related to the Nov. 30, 2018, earthquake, McCarthy said.

“It’s become a real urgent situation,” she said.

For the latest traffic updates, check Alaska 511.

On impeachment, the only way past is through

Thu, 11/14/2019 - 12:03

Ambassador William Taylor and Deputy Assistant Secretary George Kent arrive for an impeachment inquiry in Washington, D.C. on Nov. 13, 2019. (Washington Post photo by Bonnie Jo Mount)

Some years ago, I sat in the bow of a canoe as it floated into the canyon of Five Finger Rapids on the Yukon River. We were paddling from Whitehorse to Dawson, and the rapids stood between us and our destination. We were well aware of the danger. During the Gold Rush, countless victims in rickety boats met the furious waves of the main channel with fateful decisions to pull into what appeared to be calmer waters of refuge to the side. Unbeknownst to the stampeders, the flat, glassy waters that beckoned them held treacherous undercurrents in their depths, unseen but deadly. Many flipped as they left the main channel, sucked into the maelstrom.

As our canoe dipped into the tumultuous waves, spray rose and fell into the boat, and the strong current set us rocking down into trenches and up again, down and up. I held my breath. My husband, steering from the stern, held his nerve. He understood how deceptive and tempting the tranquil eddies could be. But as an experienced paddler, he knew to find and keep his line.

Today, as our nation faces the turbulence of a president who churns chaos around him, subordinating our national security to serve his own interests and promoting personal enrichment at public expense, there are those who suggest that our salvation lies in the status quo – the quiet pool of doing nothing. But most of us, on both sides of the political aisle, are recognizing that this is not the time to eddy out. If our country is to avoid sacrificing the rule of law to the rule of man – and a deeply flawed man at that – we need to find and hold our line.

For better or worse, the public impeachment proceeding to address the unfolding Ukraine scandal, recently launched in the House of Representatives, is the channel most likely to take us to safety. It’s not an easy route, and the intense push-back against the inquiry shows that many powerful people want to keep what happened, and the complicity of those involved, hidden. Yet mounting evidence shows that the president sought to use his influence over foreign aid to enlist the Ukrainian president to dig up dirt on his political rival. A growing number of officials with both direct and indirect knowledge have testified that the president presented a quid pro quo: no favor, no aid. Even the president’s chief of staff brashly confessed that aid to Ukraine was withheld to secure a partisan political advantage at home.

Despite the mounting record that our president has trampled both our nation’s security and the integrity of our elections, many leaders and members of his party encourage us to say, “so what?” So what if many officials have verified that the whistleblower’s allegations about the president’s egregious conduct – allegations the president consistently dismisses - are in fact accurate? So what if the former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine and foremost Ukraine expert for the National Security Council confirm that the president’s conduct threatened national security? So what if the “dirt” about influence peddling by his rival’s son, which the president urged Ukraine to find, was based on conspiracy theories long discredited? So what if the people who benefit most from influence peddling are the president’s own children, who travel the world to advance their business interests with taxpayer-funded security details? And finally, so what if the president denied colluding with Russia throughout the Mueller investigation, only to turn around when the investigation concluded and directly solicit collusion with Ukraine? So what?

To me, those who condemn the impeachment inquiry are like the sirens of Greek mythology, seeking to lure us off course with false promises of peace and serenity, only to watch smugly as we wreck against the rocks. From what we know so far, what they see as calmer water is instead a roiling stew of corruption and self-dealing, held quiet only through secrets and lies. “So what?” is the stagnant slough where American principles go to shrivel and die.

Selling out our security and our democracy for petty political gain, and then trying to hide it, is a deep affront to the president’s oath of office. If the president and his cronies are willing to behave this way, the American people should know about it with as much clarity and detail as possible. If his party is willing to effectively sanction this behavior by looking aside, the American people deserve to know. Contrary to the critics, the impeachment inquiry is not a political dispute by those who would prefer a different president; if that were the case, it would have been launched long ago. Instead, it’s a dispute over whether the most powerful person in our country is above the law, and whether the checks and balances in our constitution mean anything.

Today, I remember Five Finger Rapids with a mix of exhilaration and terror. It was frightening to face such a dangerous challenge, but thrilling to make it through intact. I wish the same for our country as it navigates the present crisis. We can’t escape what has happened by pretending it is of no consequence. We can’t pull aside and avoid action in hopes that the taint to our nation will miraculously disappear. Our democracy faces unprecedented peril, and we need to marshal the courage and integrity to move forward to protect it. Like raging rapids on a river, the only way past the threat is directly, openly, through it.

Barbara Hood is a retired lawyer. She lives in Anchorage.

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

Alaska’s climate is changing fast. Garden accordingly.

Thu, 11/14/2019 - 11:26

Willow catkins -- which normally emerge in spring -- were out on the south-facing slopes of Mount Baldy near Eagle River on Monday, Nov. 4, 2019. (Matt Tunseth / Chugiak-Eagle River Star)

I usually get a few questions this time of year about what to do with spring-flowering bulbs that arrive via the mail well after the hard frosts have begun and the ground is hard as a rock. The choices were toss them or pot them up for indoor forcing. I guess I won’t be getting any of those this year!

Who would have ever imagined that you could still plant bulbs on the third weekend of November? Or that you could probably even get away with waiting an additional week after that?

It reminds me of those pictures you see in National Geographic of what Alaska looked like in the days of the dinosaurs, a lush, tropical lunch room for them. Are we headed that way? Palm trees, tar pits and more? This month, temperatures in Anchorage are 13 degrees above normal, with Fairbanks temperatures 7.5 degrees higher. We’re on a run of whopping 20 months of record-breaking temperatures, with no let-up in sight.

Is this settling in for you? Did you miss the article about pussy willows flowering right now in area woods? We are still harvesting herbs. What is going on?

As I write this, my brothers in New York are wearing their down jackets while I don’t even know where mine is yet. I sure plan on teasing them (“Global warming? It’s our turn now!" Ha, ha!). However, the joke is most probably on me, not them. Pussy willows flowering? Are lilacs next? Can raspberries be far behind?

Climate change is affecting places in the world in different ways. Water levels are raising. Glaciers are melting. Fires are burning. In the Arctic, however, a key characteristic is that warming is happening faster than in other places on Earth. In fact, it is two to three times faster.

In Alaska our average temperatures are up 2 degrees Celsius (3.6 degrees Fahrenheit). I use Celsius because the whole world needs to be on the same page and Celsius is the global norm, so we have a common understanding of the disaster we are facing. Southcentral and Interior are up even higher than the Alaska average, a whopping 5 degrees Celsius.

We need to confront this huge change when it comes to gardening. I am just not sure how we should do it. I know we have to be concerned about non-native plant species, but at some time warming makes for invasions of invasives. I know we need new trees in Southcentral. I know we have a moth problem hitting wild berries that many rely on for subsistence. I am thinking on it, and you should as well.

Next year, I will definitely be urging all Alaska gardeners to start second crops of broccoli and cauliflower in the middle of the summer, anticipating the longer season will allow for a second harvest. I will be rethinking when we should approach pulling potatoes, dahlias and gladiolas. Maybe we should be re-mulching beds a couple of weeks later. Starting dates for outdoor gardening need to be changed. Should we be clearing outdoor greenhouses as early in the fall as we do now, or are there now a few more weeks of tomatoes to get? And better yet, aren’t nights staying above 55 degrees, so we can plant tomatoes outside in our gardens like gardeners do elsewhere?

I am already studying if this longer period of warm weather will allow us to deal with weeds in a different way. Are there seeds we should now be planting in the fall instead of spring? What should our local nurseries be doing to deal with and take advantage of both warmer temperatures and longer seasons?

Nothing is for sure when it comes to nature or Alaska. And even if it is certain that we are in a warming era, there may well be a transition where one year we get really warmer weather like this year’s and the next year we get a killing frost by October and snow by November. I am one who believes the experts here.

Weather changes make it tough to be a garden columnist anywhere, but I am thinking it is going to be a bit more difficult here than elsewhere. Help me, please: If you see anything unusual or weird going on in the yard you think is a result of the warmer weather, let me know. We are going to have to figure it out and work this all out together. No one is left from those tar pit days to let us know what to expect, so we have to figure it out on our own.

Jeff’s Alaska garden calendar:

Mulch beds: There are leaves all around your property that you can use to put around raspberry canes to stop grass and weeds from growing in your patch while feeding your plants. Cover strawberry beds as well. It won’t hurt to put leaves on all the containers remaining outdoors. Don’t forget beds in greenhouses. There are no bare soils in nature.

Plantskydd: It’s still warm enough to apply this moose repellent around the property.

Check out Jeff Lowenfels’ new book: ”DIY Autoflowering Cannabis, A New Way to Grow Your Own,” available on Amazon and at bookstores.

Federal crackdown threatens businesses that manage money for hundreds of disabled Alaskans

Thu, 11/14/2019 - 10:41

Ron Barlip picked up a benefit check at Community Payee Services in Spenard on Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2019, with the help of Tony Lopez, a direct support professional at HOPE Community Resources. (Bill Roth / ADN) (Bill Roth / ADN/)

On Tuesday morning, Ron Barlip stopped by a sunny Spenard office to pick up a check. It was time to buy some new clothes, towels and shoes with a portion of his monthly Social Security money.

Barlip, who experiences an intellectual disability, is one of hundreds of Alaskans who rely on private businesses known as “representative payees” to manage their money.

For a monthly fee of $85, Community Payee Services owner Vicki Jorgensen receives all of Barlip’s income from Social Security and other benefits and controls his modest finances. That means paying his rent, making sure he has money for groceries, helping him save for a long-awaited trip to Las Vegas, and more.

“To tell you the truth, I’m not that good with money,” said Barlip, a gregarious 56-year-old who has starred in HOPE Community Resources’ television commercials. "And if I see money, I will spend it all.”

Jorgensen has managed Barlip’s money for nearly 20 years.

But maybe not for much longer: The Social Security Administration is cracking down on Alaska’s unique for-profit representative payee businesses, saying they’ve been operating outside the law by charging fees.

For-profit payee services businesses have existed here since the 1990s. But federal regulators’ attention shifted to Alaska in 2018 after Congress passed a law that expanded monitoring of Social Security payees. This year, the Alaska businesses were told they would be audited and informed that their business model is illegal.

“Through our monitoring program, we have identified several for-profit representative payee organizations in Alaska that may be charging unauthorized fees,” said Ann Mohageri, a spokeswoman for the agency, in an e-mail.

Businesses have been told to convert to nonprofits to comply with the law. As nonprofits, they would be able to charge clients no more than $43 per month in most cases, according to government regulations. That’s about half of what most already charge. A few have already closed. Others say they will need to soon.

“We have to shut down. We can’t do it for free,” said Terria Ware, who operates a representative payee business for about 80 people across the state.

Advocates say the crackdown will leave around 800 vulnerable Alaskans — people with physical or developmental disabilities, serious mental illnesses, or age-related cognitive problems — with no one to manage their money.

There are no clear answers about what will happen next, or how soon, said Dave Fleurant with the Alaska Disability Law Center in Anchorage. But it’s clear that there are not enough nonprofit or government organizations to step into the gap.

“I’ve been trying to convey to the Social Security Administration for a while that this is more of a crisis than they see it as,” Fleurant said.

For people like Ron Barlip, the uncertainty is distressing.

“It’s going to change my life completely,” said Barlip. “Vicki has always been there for me.”

An obscure but crucial service for hundreds

Representative payees are obscure to the world outside of people who use them — but a crucial part of everyday life for hundreds of Alaskans who rely on them.

The system works like this: When a person qualifies for Social Security benefits because of a disability and doesn’t have the capacity to manage money themselves, the government designates another person or entity to receive the checks. In Alaska, people may also receive income from state public assistance, senior benefits, Permanent Fund dividends and Native corporation dividends.

The first choice is a willing family member or friend. But if someone suitable can’t be found, the Social Security Administration can appoint an organization to act as the person’s representative payee.

Years ago, Alaska nonprofits that provide services to people with disabilities acted as payees too, said Michele Girault, chief of staff at HOPE Community Resources. But most decided to get out of the business because it was seen as a conflict of interest for the same organization to handle a person’s housing, support services and money all at once, she said.

That’s where community payee businesses stepped in.

They have never been allowed to take their fees directly from Social Security dollars. Instead, the businesses have historically taken their fees from funds other than Social Security money, said Jorgensen — possible because of the other sources of benefits, such as the PFD, that Alaskans receive.

There are now more than a dozen payee businesses operating statewide. Most charge in the neighborhood of $70 to $85 per month. For people whose income must remain under $2,000 to stay eligible for benefits, that’s not an insignificant amount.

But being a person’s representative payee isn’t just a bookkeeping job, the business owners say. It’s part accountant, part social worker, part parent.

Ware pays her clients’ rent and utilities. But she also sometimes arranges for a cleaner to keep them in the good graces of landlords. For clients in places like Wrangell and Nuiqust, she might pay a fuel bill or a village store bill — anything to keep their lives stable. For those who have jobs, she has to make sure their total income doesn’t top the amount that would trigger the loss of their benefits.

Vicki Jorgensen, owner of Community Payee Services in Spenard, right, and her daughter Esa Jorgensen are representative payees for social security beneficiaries. Tuesday, Nov. 12, 2019. (Bill Roth / ADN) (Bill Roth / ADN/)

Many of her clients are likely to slip into homelessness if they are managing their own money, she said.

“My clients are like family to me,” Ware said. “I can tell you, with every single one of my clients, their whole story.”

Ware acknowledges businesses that control the finances of vulnerable people are ripe for exploitation and embezzlement, and says she’s not opposed to the 2018 legislation that increased monitoring.

“I’m just saying (the ban on for-profit representative payees) doesn’t work for our community, it doesn’t work for Alaska.”

Some representative payee businesses in Alaska have been shut down for stealing client money in the past, said Fleurant, of the Disability Law Center. But on the whole, the businesses in Alaska have a solid reputation, he said. Most of them are going “far and above beyond what would be expected for a representative payee” for their clients, he said.

Legal limbo

The Social Security Administration hasn’t offered a clear timeline as to when the businesses need to switch to nonprofit status to comply with the law — or what will happen if they don’t.

That leaves business owners operating in an uncomfortable legal limbo.

“There’s nothing in writing saying, ‘If you charge a fee going forward we’re going to prosecute you,’” said Jorgensen, the payee services business owner. “It is a gray area.”

Roy Scheller, executive director of HOPE Community Resources, questions why officials suddenly decided to enforce the law.

“Social Security has known about this. It’s been in effect for 20 years," he said. "They’ve been doing audits of people’s accounts for almost 20 years. So they have been aware.”

“Sometimes there’s unintended consequences and public policy doesn’t help people,” Scheller said.

Fleurant and others suspect the Social Security Administration will likely reclassifying many of the 800 people who could lose their payees, allowing them to receive the money directly. For some, that could be a quick path to disaster.

“If they go into direct pay they won’t pay their rent and will be evicted and homeless," said Fleurant, with the Disability Law Center.

Others may end up in much more restrictive legal status of public guardianship under the state Office of Public Advocacy — an agency already struggling with overwhelming caseloads.

The Social Security Administration said it is actively looking for new payees in Alaska.

But until there’s more clarity about who can do the job, and under what terms, Jorgensen and the others are weighing how much to tell clients.

“A lot of us are protecting them,” Jorgensen said. “We don’t know what to tell people.”

Man, 49, dies when Jeep carrying children rolls over near Wasilla

Thu, 11/14/2019 - 09:47

PALMER -- A 49-year-old Wasilla man died Wednesday evening when the 2008 Jeep Wrangler he was driving up a steep hill with four juvenile passengers rolled, throwing him from the vehicle, Alaska State Troopers said.

Scott Isaacs was pronounced dead at the scene, troopers said in a dispatch posted Thursday. Isaacs was not wearing a seatbelt, a troopers spokesman said.

The accident occurred on Moose Meadows Road, a gravel road north of Wasilla near the Little Susitna River.

Three of the four passengers were taken to the hospital, troopers spokesman Ken Marsh said. Their condition wasn’t immediately available Thursday.

2nd US official heard Trump’s ‘investigations’ call with diplomat, sources say

Thu, 11/14/2019 - 09:44

WASHINGTON — A second U.S. Embassy staffer in Kyiv overheard a cellphone call between President Donald Trump and his ambassador to the European Union discussing a need for Ukrainian officials to pursue “investigations,” The Associated Press has learned.

FILE - In this Oct. 17, 2019, file photo U.S. Ambassador to the European Union Gordon Sondland, center, arrives for a interview with the House Committee on Foreign Affairs, House Permanent Select Committee on Intelligence, and House Committee on Oversight and Reform on Capitol Hill in Washington. (AP Photo/Pablo Martinez Monsivais, File) (Pablo Martinez Monsivais/)

The July 26 call between Trump and Gordon Sondland was first described during testimony Wednesday by William B. Taylor Jr., the acting U.S. ambassador to Ukraine. Taylor said one of his staffers overhead the call while Sondland was in a Kyiv restaurant the day after Trump’s July 25 phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelenskiy that triggered the House impeachment inquiry.

The second diplomatic staffer also at the table was Suriya Jayanti, a foreign service officer based in Kyiv. A person briefed on what Jayanti overheard spoke to AP on condition of anonymity to discuss a sensitive matter currently under investigation.

Trump on Wednesday said he did not recall the July 26 call.

“No, not at all, not even a little bit,” Trump said.

The staffer Taylor testified about is David Holmes, the political counselor at the embassy in Kyiv, according to an official familiar with the matter who spoke on condition of anonymity.

Holmes is scheduled to testify Friday before House investigators in a closed session.

[Analysis: Dueling narratives on Trump in impeachment hearing collide for shared audience]

George Kent, center, and William Taylor, right, appear for a House Intelligence Committee impeachment hearing in Washington, D.C., on Nov. 13, 2019. (Washington Post photo by Matt McClain)

Taylor was one of the first witnesses called Wednesday during the impeachment inquiry’s initial open hearing. He testified that his staffer could hear Trump on the phone asking Sondland about “the investigations.”

The accounts of Holmes and Jayanti could tie Trump closer to alleged efforts to hold up military aid to Ukraine in exchange for investigations into political rival Joe Biden and his son Hunter’s business dealings.

Current and former U.S. officials say Sondland’s use of a cellphone in a public place in Ukraine to speak with anyone in the U.S. government back home about sensitive matters, let alone the president, would be a significant breach of communications security.

Jayanti is an attorney who joined the State Department in 2012 and was previously posted at the U.S. Embassy in Iraq. She has been stationed since September 2018 at the embassy in Kyiv where she helps coordinate U.S. business interests with the former Soviet republic’s energy industry.

Jayanti was in Washington last month and scheduled for a closed-door interview with impeachment investigators. But the deposition was canceled because of the funeral for former House Oversight Chair Elijah Cummings and has not yet been rescheduled.

Holmes, a career diplomat, joined the Foreign Service in 2002 and has served in Afghanistan, Colombia, India, Kosovo and Russia as well as on the White House National Security Council staff. He won an award for constructive dissent from the American Foreign Service Association in 2014 for complaining about problems that an alternate diplomatic channel had caused in South Asia and recommending organizational changes to the State Department’s bureaucratic structure for the region.

U.S. diplomats and other government employees are instructed not to use cellphones for sensitive official matters while traveling anywhere abroad but notably in countries known to be targeted for surveillance by intelligence agencies such as Russia, China and Israel.

Ukraine has long been among the countries of concern, particularly since a 2014 incident in which the U.S. accused Russian intelligence of eavesdropping on and then leaking a recording of a conversation between two senior U.S. officials in Kyiv that led to great embarrassment and strains between the U.S. and its European allies.

In that recording, then-Assistant Secretary of State for European Affairs Victoria Nuland is heard telling former U.S. Ambassador to Ukraine Geoff Pyatt “F-ck the EU,” because of the European Union’s slowness to respond to the political crisis in the country.

“That phone call was also a mistake the way it was conducted and it had huge implications for our foreign policy,” said Michael McFaul, a former U.S. ambassador to Russia who is now at Stanford University. “Particularly after that, anybody should understand how dangerous it is to make an unsecured call in Kyiv, or anywhere else for that matter.”

“Obviously, making a phone call from Kyiv to the president of the United States means that not just the Russian intelligence services will be on the call, but a whole lot of other people, too,” McFaul said. “If it was that important, he (Sondland) could have easily gotten up from the restaurant, gone to the embassy and made a secure call through the White House operations center. A lower-level official would probably be reprimanded for this kind of breach.”

In a closed-door hearing last month, former White House Russia adviser Fiona Hill said she was concerned that Sondland posed a counterintelligence risk, according to a transcript released by the House. Hill cited a Sondland habit of giving out personal cellphone numbers — hers and national security adviser John Bolton’s as well as his own — and his failure to get appropriately briefed ahead of meetings.

“So he was often meeting with people he had no information about,” said Hill, who served as the senior director for Russia at the National Security Council. “It’s like basically driving along with no guardrails and no GPS on an unfamiliar territory.”

She said Sondland was meeting with foreign officials “that we had derogatory information on that he shouldn’t have been meeting with” or he was giving out his phone number or texting foreign officials. “All of those communications could have been exfiltrated by the Russians very easily,” she said.

Hill said officials from Europe would literally appear at the gates of the White House and call her personal phone, which was kept in a lockbox. She said she’d later find messages from irate officials who’d been told by Sondland that they were supposed to meet with her.

She said she found it deeply concerning and asked for someone from the Intelligence Bureau to “sit down with him and explain that this was a counterintelligence risk.”


Associated Press writer Lynn Berry contributed from Washington.

Turn your sweet potato side into a crispy, cheesy smash

Thu, 11/14/2019 - 08:38

Crispy smashed sheet-pan sweet potatoes (Photo by Kim Sunée)

As much as some find sweet potato casserole a must for fall feasting, and with the risk of sounding like a holiday heathen, I will do anything — with the exception of the occasional campfire s’more — to avoid topping food with marshmallows. Enter this variation on sweet potatoes, where they get boiled and smashed and crisped up in the oven. They won’t win any beauty prizes, but they are almost as addictive as a potato chip and great for game-day viewing or holiday snacking.

Look for similar-sized, round sweet potatoes — not the long, thinner varieties — so you’ll have nice fat, round circles. Cut them into thick slices but don’t worry about how big they seem; they will be boiled and smashed to about half their size. The fresh squeeze of lime is a must to bring the heat of the chile and the sweetness of the potato together.

If you want to go sweeter, top each smashed round with a bit of brown sugar, butter and some fluffy mini marshmallows — I promise not to judge — before baking. If you’re not a fan of sweet potatoes or want to try a more savory variation, use gold or red potatoes; top with garlic powder and Parmesan cheese and freshly-ground black pepper and, why not gild the lily with some crispy bits of bacon or prosciutto? This is my new favorite side that will be appearing alongside the turkey and other standards during this end-of-year holiday feasting, but it could also shine as a weeknight main salad with winter greens and some leftover chicken or fish.

Crispy smashed sheet-pan sweet potatoes

Makes 4 to 6 servings, as a side dish

2 medium sweet potatoes, (1 ½ to 2 pounds), sliced crosswise into 1-inch thick slices

Fine salt, freshly ground black pepper

4 tablespoons olive oil, divided

1 jalapeño or serrano chile, thinly sliced

2 ounces queso fresco or grated Parmesan cheese

2 tablespoons chopped fresh cilantro

1 lime

Bring a large pot of water to a boil. Cut potatoes crosswise into 1-inch thick slices. Add 1 tablespoon salt and the potato slices. Boil until potatoes are tender and easily pierced with the tip of a knife. Depending on the potato, this could take between 15 and 20 minutes. Keep checking to make sure potatoes are tender all the way through but not overcooked and mushy. Remove potatoes as they are ready. Drain carefully in a colander and set aside.

Heat oven to 450 degrees. Drizzle 2 tablespoons olive oil over a sheet pan and coat the bottom. Place potatoes on a cutting board. Lightly grease the bottom of a heavy drinking glass or measuring cup and smash the potatoes, twisting gently until potatoes are flattened to about half their size. Gently add the smashed potatoes to the sheet pan and toss to coat with oil, spreading potatoes in an even layer. Drizzle with remaining 2 tablespoons olive oil. Season with salt and pepper to taste. Top each with a slice or two of jalapeño and divide cheese evenly over potato slices. Roast for 10 minutes. Rotate pan and roast another 10 to 15 minutes or until cheese is melted and golden. If you want extra crispiness, heat broiler to high and place sheet pan under broiler and cook for 5 minutes or until bubbling. Serve warm; squeeze half the lime over the potatoes and top with fresh cilantro, and the other half of lime cut into wedges.

Pelosi says testimony of diplomats ‘corroborated evidence of bribery’ by Trump

Thu, 11/14/2019 - 08:36

WASHINGTON - House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., said Thursday that testimony presented by two career diplomats during Wednesday’s open impeachment hearing “corroborated evidence of bribery” by President Donald Trump in his relations with Ukraine.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., left, responds to Rep. Devin Nunes, R-Calif, the ranking member, right, as the panel holds the first public impeachment hearings of President Trump's efforts to tie U.S. aid for Ukraine to investigations of his political opponents, on Capitol Hill in Washington, Wednesday, Nov. 13, 2019. (AP Photo/J. Scott Applewhite) (J. Scott Applewhite/)

Her comments came as Democrats seek to build a case that Trump sought to withhold military assistance and an Oval Office meeting until Ukraine announced investigations into former vice president Joe Biden and his son Hunter Biden, as well as an unfounded theory that Ukrainians interfered in the 2016 presidential election to hurt Trump.

House Intelligence Committee Chairman Adam Schiff, D-Calif., floated the idea that Trump committed bribery two days ago.

"On the basis of what the witnesses have had to say so far, there are any number of potentially impeachable offenses, including bribery, including high crimes and misdemeanors," Schiff said in an interview with NPR on Tuesday.

At her news conference, Pelosi forcefully pushed back against the efforts by Trump and his allies to dismiss as "secondhand" Wednesday's testimony by acting ambassador to Ukraine William Taylor and Deputy Assistant Secretary of State George Kent

"That is such a fraudulent proposition put forward by the Republicans," Pelosi said. "We are not here to be manipulated by the obstruction of justice of the administration."

Taylor testified Wednesday that a member of his staff overheard Trump referring to "the investigations" in a telephone call with Sondland on July 26. That was a day after the call between Trump and Zelensky, in which Trump had pressed for investigations into the Bidens.

The revelation of that call potentially implicates Trump more directly in a scheme to center U.S. policy toward Ukraine on political investigations.

Trump told reporters on Wednesday that he had no recollection of the call. House investigators expect to hear in a closed-door session Friday from David Holmes, the counselor for political affairs at the U.S. Embassy in Kyiv, who is said to have overheard the call.

Meanwhile, Ukraine's Foreign Minister Vadym Prystaiko says his conversations with Gordon Sondland, the U.S. ambassador to the European Union, did not include explicit mention linking U.S. military aid with possible investigations of the Bidens.

Prystaiko, however, commented only on his direct interactions with Sondland, whose reported phone call with Trump in late July has emerged as a new and potentially important element in the impeachment inquiries.

"Ambassador Sondland did not tell us, and certainly did not tell me, about a connection between the assistance and the investigations. You should ask him," Prystaiko was quoted as saying by the Interfax Ukraine news agency.

Earlier Thursday, Trump asserted that "normal people" would close the case on his impeachment after Wednesday's nationally televised hearing.

His assessment underscored the clash that emerged after the six-hour hearing, with Democrats saying it provided damning evidence of a president using his office to advance his political interests, while Republicans argued it laid bare a desperate attempt to oust Trump from office.

White House counselor Kellyanne Conway said Thursday that the impeachment inquiry amounts to an attempt by Democrats to "interfere" in the 2020 election as she assessed Wednesday's hearing during a television appearance.

"They can't get him at the ballot box," Conway said on Fox News' "Fox & Friends." "They're trying to undo a democratically elected president from three years ago, and they're trying to interfere - yes, I said it - interfere in the next election, and I think America's smarter than that."

House investigators have no hearings scheduled Thursday, but Friday could be another key day in the probe, with both public and private testimony.

Marie Yovanovitch, the former ambassador to Ukraine who was recalled earlier this year by Trump, is scheduled to appear at an open hearing of the House Intelligence Committee.

She said in an Oct. 11 deposition that she was the target of a shadow campaign to orchestrate her removal that involved Trump's personal attorney Rudy Giuliani and Ukrainian officials suspected of fostering corruption, according to a transcript.

In her testimony, Yovanovitch said that she remained worried that she would be a target of retaliation by Trump, who referred to her in his July 25 phone call with Zelensky as "bad news" and someone who was "going to go through some things."

- - -

The Washington Post’s Brian Murphy contributed to this report.

Deval Patrick, former governor of Massachusetts, joins Democratic presidential contest

Thu, 11/14/2019 - 08:00

Former Massachusetts governor Deval Patrick on Thursday jumped into the Democratic presidential contest, asserting that he wanted to build “a better, more sustainable, more inclusive American Dream” and acknowledging the difficulty his late start creates in achieving that goal.

FILE - In this May 7, 2017 file photo, former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick arrives at the John F. Kennedy Presidential Library and Museum in Boston for the 2017 Profile in Courage award ceremony. Former Massachusetts Gov. Deval Patrick is telling allies he plans to seek the Democratic presidential nomination. That’s according to a person with knowledge of his plans who spoke to The Associated Press on condition of anonymity to discuss private conversations. (AP Photo/Steven Senne, File) (Steven Senne/)

“I admire and respect the candidates in the Democratic field; they bring a richness of ideas and experience and a depth of character that makes me proud to be a Democrat,” he said in a video released Thursday. "But if the character of the candidates is an issue in every election, this time is about the character of the country. This time is about whether the day after the election, America will keep her promises.

"This time is about more than removing an unpopular and divisive leader, as important as that is, but about delivering instead for you."

In a morning interview with CBS, Patrick appeared to knock former vice president Joe Biden as out of touch and Sen. Elizabeth Warren, his home state senator, as too dug in on her ideas.

The campaign, he said, was caught between "nostalgia," the desire to return to what existed before President Trump; and "our big idea or no way."

"Neither of those seizes the moment," he said.

After registering for the ballot in New Hampshire later Thursday, Patrick plans to head to California, a state that falls early in the primary calendar and has a wealth of delegates.

Patrick on Wednesday was working through a list of people to alert of his decision, according to those with knowledge of his plans, who spoke on the condition of anonymity to discuss the plans before they were announced.

Patrick's decision, for which he started laying the groundwork Sunday, could further unsettle the Democratic presidential field less than three months before the contest begins with the Iowa caucuses. He entered the race just days after former New York mayor Michael Bloomberg began making his own plans to join the field.

The twin decisions come amid lingering concern, particularly among more-moderate Democrats, about the leading centrist candidate, former vice president Joe Biden, as well as the rise on the left of Warren. Bloomberg had initially decided not to run because he thought Biden would be too formidable an opponent. Patrick spent several months in 2018 considering a bid, but ultimately decided not to run, citing "the cruelty of our elections process" and its effect on his family.

Patrick has political strengths and an ability to deliver such soaring oratory that President Barack Obama was accused of taking lines from a 2006 speech of his. He became a two-term governor using an uplifting life story and an aspirational political brand, traits that his allies say could serve him well in a presidential campaign.

Patrick called Biden recently to inform him of his decision, in part because Patrick understands that his candidacy will in some ways be seen as a rejection of Biden, according to a person who spoke recently with Patrick. While Biden has often mentioned his eight-year partnership with "Barack," Patrick also shares a long history with the former president, and their political networks have often intertwined.

He spoke Wednesday night with Warren, whose political rise he helped in 2012 when he defended her against questions about her claims of Native American heritage. Patrick's entry is already confounding and dividing many Massachusetts Democrats, who will now have two candidates fighting for the nomination. (A third, Rep. Seth Moulton, dropped out of the race earlier in the year.)

On Thursday, Patrick offered only a cursory view of his issue positions, saying on CBS that he favored a public insurance option over Medicare-for-all and indicating he wanted to "smooth" the tax system rather than invoke a wealth tax. He also noted the late timing of his effort.

"This won't be easy and it shouldn't be," he said in his video, "but I'm placing my faith in the people who feel left out and left back, who just want a fair shot at a better future not built by somebody better than you, not built for you but built with you."

He is likely to face deep scrutiny in the Democratic primary over his corporate ties. He once worked for Texaco and Coca-Cola and served on the board of subprime mortgage lender Ameriquest.

Since leaving office in 2015, he has been a managing director at Bain Capital, the private equity firm that became a target for Democrats in 2012 when Obama was running against Mitt Romney, the Republican presidential nominee who co-founded the company.

A spokesman for Bain did not return several messages asking whether Patrick still remains with the firm. Patrick had been scheduled to speak Wednesday at an investors' conference in Colorado Springs, but he backed out at the last minute. Bain sent another director instead.

Patrick appeared intent on pushing back against any criticism on that front in his announcement video, recalling growing up on the South Side of Chicago in his grandparents' "tenement," sometimes on welfare.

"My grandmother used to tell us we were not poor, just broke, because broke, she said, was temporary," he said. "I learned to look up, not down, to hope for the best and work for it."

One major challenge for Patrick is that he has little time to build the kind of grass-roots campaign operation he prized himself on in Massachusetts. He also may not be able to break through and meet the qualification standards needed to get onto the debate stage.

"When I was thinking about it many months ago - one of the questions was: 'How do you break through in a field this large and this talented without being a celebrity or a sensationalist?' " he said on CBS in June. "And I'm none of those things."

The former governor already has missed filing deadlines for Arkansas and Alabama, which could put him at a significant disadvantage if the race goes late and turns into a fight for delegates.

Patrick will focus his campaign closely on New Hampshire, but there, too, he will need to make a case that he brings something new to an already crowded field. Two senators from neighboring states, Warren and Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., will also be on the ballot.

A New Hampshire poll released by Suffolk University in May 2018 found Patrick in the middle of the pack at 4 percent.

Patrick, who is African American, is aiming to gain ground among black voters in states such as South Carolina, something which has not been achieved by either Democratic Sens. Kamala Harris of California or Cory Booker of New Jersey, according to polling. He also replicates others in the field: current and former governors who have struggled to gain traction and other moderates who have been unable to catch fire.

One of the reasons Patrick initially decided not to run was the strain it would put on his family.

"The process is cruel," he told Boston public radio station WBUR last year. "Every family has its warts, has its issues . . . has things they'd rather keep private, and we do as well."

His wife, Diane, was hospitalized for depression after a bruising and racially divisive 2006 gubernatorial campaign. She was also diagnosed last year with Stage 1 uterine cancer but now has a good prognosis. His two daughters, both in their early 30s, were also opposed to the race, but are now said to be more amenable.

The rigors of a presidential campaign could also reopen a painful chapter involving Patrick's sister.

Patrick's former brother-in-law, Bernard Sigh, was sentenced in June to more than six years in prison after he was convicted of several charges, including the kidnapping and rape of Patrick's sister.

Patrick in 2014 removed the top two officials at the state's Sex Offender Registry Board in part because they had tried to force his brother-in-law to register as a sex offender for an earlier conviction in California of raping Patrick's sister.

He also lacks the financial resources needed for a campaign that will probably stretch into next spring. His campaign advisers have been testing the groundwork for a super PAC as one way to infuse cash into his efforts. But that may also come with political downsides in an environment in which most candidates are building an army of small-dollar donors.

Patrick has spent the past several days trying to recruit a top campaign staff but has been rebuffed by several potential hires. Several of his longtime advisers - who earlier had been prepared to join his campaign - are now working elsewhere.

John Walsh, who helped Patrick's rise as governor and later served as chairman of the Massachusetts Democratic Party, is running the reelection campaign of Sen. Edward Markey, D-Mass. Doug Rubin, who was Patrick's chief of staff and one of his closest advisers, is working for Tom Steyer's presidential campaign. Bakari Sellers, who was helping plot out Patrick's campaign a year ago and has significant South Carolina connections, has since backed Harris.

"If you can get unvarnished, vintage Deval Patrick out there to the world, anyone would be crazy to underestimate what that can do," said one operative in Massachusetts who has worked with Patrick in the past but is not involved with the campaign. "But the landscape is tougher when you come in at this point."

Rosy Gonzalez Speers, a former Patrick adviser who most recently worked for Andrew Gillum's gubernatorial bid in Florida, has been one of those advising Patrick. They have talked with several potential campaign managers, according to people knowledgeable about those conversations, but so far have not announced who might run the operation.

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The Washington Post’s Wesley Lowery contributed to this report.