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Many students hurt in shooting at Southern California high school

Thu, 11/14/2019 - 07:56

People are lead out of Saugus High School after reports of a shooting on Thursday, Nov. 14, 2019 in Santa Clarita, Calif. The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department says on Twitter that deputies are responding to the high school about 30 miles (48 kilometers) northwest of downtown Los Angeles. The sheriff’s office says a male suspect in black clothing was seen at the school. (KTTV-TV via AP)

SANTA CLARITA, Calif. — At least six people were injured during a shooting at a Southern California high school Thursday morning, authorities said.

The Los Angeles County Sheriff’s Department said on Twitter that deputies responded to Saugus High School in the city of Santa Clarita, about 30 miles northwest of downtown Los Angeles.

The department said a male suspect in black clothing was seen at the location.

It was not immediately clear if the victims suffered gunshot wounds or other injuries, said Los Angeles County Fire Department spokesman Christopher Thomas.

Saugus High School and other schools in the area were locked down.

Television images showed sheriff’s deputies swarming the school and several people being moved on gurneys.

Lines of students were escorted away from the school by armed deputies.

Aging fleet and declining ridership plague Alaska’s public ferry system

Thu, 11/14/2019 - 06:38

The Tustumena, a ferry in the Alaska Marine Highway system, arrives in Homer on August 13, 2019. (Marc Lester / ADN) (Marc Lester/)

Alaska’s ferries are facing a forecast of some rough seas ahead.

How that will manifest largely depends on the conclusions of a study examining the options to reshape the Alaska Marine Highway System that Department of Transportation officials are currently reviewing.

DOT Commissioner John MacKinnon said in an interview that the study, conducted over spring and summer by the Anchorage-based research firm Northern Economics, evaluated 11 options for overhauling the network of large vessels that move people, vehicles and goods between 35 communities spread across more than 3,000 miles from Bellingham, Wash., to Dutch Harbor.

The desire to reshape the ferry system follows years of budget cuts that correspond to significantly diminished service across much of the network. Since peaking at $111.2 million in the 2012 fiscal year, the state-funded portion of the annual ferry system operations budget has roughly been cut in half. Service levels, measured by the cumulative number of weeks ferries in the 12-vessel fleet operate over a year, have been cut about 25 percent over that time, according to system figures.

This year’s budget calls for a $56 million state subsidy — a compromise between the Legislature and Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s original proposal of $21.8 million, which would’ve resulted in shutting down the system in October.

The prospect of no ferries running for nine months or more generated strong backlash from many legislators and Alaskans in coastal communities and led to the softer but still significant budget reduction for this year.

[For Cordova, a winter without ferry service and heavy questions about the future]

While the budget cuts on the state side of the ledger are mainly due to lower oil revenues that have driven major cuts across state government, ferry system officials have also had to deal with fewer passengers, even when the service reductions are accounted for. Ridership has declined over the past 20-plus years from about 350,000 ferry passengers in 1998 to 251,000 passengers in 2018.

At the same time, vehicle transport has remained steady at about 100,000 car, truck and van shipments per year, according to system statistics.

The prevailing belief is that coastal travelers have turned to the skies, favoring speedy and ever more reliable jet traffic over more leisurely, scenic and cheaper ferry trips. Alaska Airlines offers daily flights to nine communities the ferries also call on, and small regional airlines fly to most of the others.

MacKinnon said that the drop in ridership coincides with GPS and other advancements that have made flying through coastal Alaska’s notoriously bad weather safer and more consistent.

“The chance of them doing a flyover now and not being able to land is a lot smaller than it used to be, so our competition is just technology that the airlines have been able to use to improve their performance,” MacKinnon said.

The final and possibly biggest challenge facing ferry managers, according to MacKinnon, is the age of the fleet.

[New ferry maintenance woes leave more Southeast Alaska towns without winter service]

Most large vessels are retired and scrapped once they reach 30 or 35 years old, he said, while six of the system’s 12 ferries are already more than 40 years old. Additionally, the twin fast ferries Chenega and Fairweather, built in 2004 and 2005, are currently docked and up for sale; they have proved to be expensive to run — favoring speed over fuel efficiency — and have been plagued by engine problems and hull cracking.

The state sold the 55-year old ferry Taku in January 2018 to a Dubai-based company for $171,000.

The M/V Taku, which served as a ferry in Alaska for more than a half-century, sits aground at high tide in April, 2018 in Alang, India, where it's set to be dismantled for scrap and recycling. The state sold the Taku for $171,000 to Jabal Al Lawz Trading Est., which is based in Dubai and sailed the ship across the Pacific. (Ben Evans / Jabal Al Lawz Trading Est.)

“I’m sitting here looking at the Malaspina, 56 years old, and then we’ve got the LeConte, the Columbia and the Aurora in the 45-year-old range and then from the late ‘70s to ’98 we didn’t build a ship,” MacKinnon said. “So we’ve got some newer ones and then we’ve got some older ones that should’ve been scrapped.”

The 10 operating ferries average 37 years old and that includes the Tazlina and Hubbard “day boats” that entered service earlier this year.

The collective age of the fleet makes for costly routine maintenance that often leads to longer dry dock layups as more areas in need of repair are discovered.

The Matanuska, one of the original mainline ferries launched along with the state system in 1963, recently received about $40 million of work to repair damaged steel and upgrade some systems to current safety standards.

It’s sister ship, the Malaspina, is scheduled for a long-term layup in January. Repairing the Malaspina is estimated to cost upwards of $16 million, but that bill could approach the Matanuska’s total as the vessel is examined in dry dock, according to MacKinnon.

The Alaska Marine Highway System ferries LeConte, left, and Malaspina are tied up at the Auke Bay Terminal on Thursday, July 25, 2019. (Michael Penn/The Juneau Empire via AP) (Michael Penn/)

The smaller LeConte was docked in October for a regularly scheduled $1.2 million overall, but it was determined that further hull steel repairs were needed for a total bill of $4 million. MacKinnon said the similarly sized and aged Aurora, which went in for its evaluation Nov. 4, could need similar attention.

The cost led the Department of Transportation to halt repairs to the LeConte until it’s known whether it or the Aurora will be cheaper to repair. That question should be answered later this month, according to a department statement.

MacKinnon is working to tally all of the recent repair bills for the older vessels to see just how much of the mostly federal money has been spent keeping them on the water.

“We probably could’ve built a couple new for that kind of money,” he surmised.

He stressed in a follow-up email that while the age of some of the ferries means they require significant upkeep, it doesn't mean they aren't safe. Each vessel is inspected by the Coast Guard before receiving an annual approval to operate from the Coast Guard.

"Ships are required to dry dock three times every five years, but out of an abunance of caution, the ships are dry docked every year. "Crews also perform a variety of inspections on a regular basis," he wrote.

When the ferries are laid up for repairs longer than expected — a common occurrence of late — it simply means some communities don’t get the service they planned on. That deters riders as well.

The system has lost a lot of its formerly consistent commercial customers because of its inability to be reliable, MacKinnon added.

It all paints a picture of a ferry system beloved by countless Alaskans that is in need of change to pull it out of what is now a slow, downward spiral.

The reshaping plan now being vetted by the Dunleavy administration is the second attempt in recent years to address the ferries’ systemic challenges.

In May 2016, former Gov. Bill Walker signed a memorandum of understanding with the Southeast Conference — a community development group originally formed in 1958 to advance a transportation network that became the ferry system — directing DOT to partner with the nonprofit in addressing the system’s mission statement, governance structure, operations, revenue opportunities and other potential partnerships that could support major changes to the system.

That report concluded that a public corporation — similar to the Alaska Railroad Corp. — with an expert-filled board of directors would be the best option for Alaska’s ferries.

The public corporation model would provide stability in management and board oversight that could translate into the long range planning that is needed to maximize efficiencies available in vessel operations and overall fleet management, according to the report.

However, MacKinnon contends the prior administration’s attempt to fix the ferry system didn’t do enough to fundamentally change how it operates.

“Our study is a broad study looking at a variety of things, there’s was focused on one thing,” MacKinnon said, “basically change the management structure from government managing it to a board of stakeholders.”

The latest study is scheduled to be finalized in December.

A public records request filed by the Journal for the draft version of the study is pending.

The first big, system-wide change the Dunleavy administration made was to implement a “dynamic” pricing schedule that increases fares as more passenger, vehicle and cabin tickets are sold for a given sailing.

Dynamic pricing, along with new change fees and increased fares around special events in port communities, are all intended to take the amount of fare box revenue from current levels of about 35 percent up to 50 percent of the system’s overall operating revenue, MacKinnon said.

The 50 percent mark is a goal set by the Legislature during the budget debates earlier this year.

Hitting the 50 percent fare box recovery mark “requires concentrating on the high revenue runs, raising rates where the market will bear it and dynamic pricing. Dynamic pricing works well for airlines,” MacKinnon said.

He suggested the broader reform effort could include local ferry authorities that manage vessels and runs in more isolated route segments, such as Prince William Sound. That would allow for dedicated vessels that are purposed specifically for certain runs to maximize efficiency.

It’s a model that has worked well for the Inter-Island Ferry Authority between Ketchikan and Prince of Wales Island, he said.

“I think it’s great when a community steps up and says, ‘We’d like to take control of our own destiny,’ and it will take investment by the state,” MacKinnon said.

The public corporation model floated by the Walker administration required significant changes by the Legislature to AMHS statutes, and though it’s unclear exactly what plan the Dunleavy administration will settle on, it will undoubtedly require legislative buy-in as well.

MacKinnon added that it’s a time to examine the overall concept of state-run ferries.

While many residents of isolated coastal communities consider the ferries to be their version of Alaska’s road system, he contends the analogy misses a couple key points.

“We don’t operate the busses on public roads. We run the airports; we don’t run the airlines, but on the marine side we not only own the ships and the ports, we operate them,” MacKinnon said, adding that he’s heard from private vessel operators who’ve told him they don’t even try to compete with the state ferries.

“Our goal is not the demise of the system; it’s fixing the system,” he said. “You can always fix it by throwing more money at it but I think the reality is there’s no more money to throw at it.”


Elwood Brehmer can be reached at

Icy roads in Susitna Valley prompt school closures

Thu, 11/14/2019 - 06:02

Icy roads in the Susitna Valley early Thursday have prompted the Matanuska-Susitna School District to close three schools: Trapper Creek and Talkeetna elementary schools, and Susitna Valley Jr/Sr High School.

All other Mat-Su public schools will be open, the district said on Facebook.

A winter storm warning is in effect for the Susitna Valley until 1 p.m. Thursday. The weather service says morning freezing rain accumulations of up to two-tenths inch will make driving hazardous.

Precipitation will transition to snow later in the day with up to 6 inches of accumulation, the highest amounts north and west of Talkeetna.

Freezing rain and a little snow were in the forecast for Anchorage on Thursday. In an early morning email, the Anchorage Police Department reported slick roads “all over town," including highways.

The Anchorage School District said on Twitter early Thursday that all schools would be open.

ASD schools will be open today, but side streets and back roads may be icy. Please drive extra cautiously this morning as you head to school.

— ASD Information (@ASD_Info) November 14, 2019

Is college worth it? A study measures return on investment - and gets some surprising results.

Thu, 11/14/2019 - 05:25

Maine Maritime Academy's campus is seen in an aerial view this fall. (Maine Maritime Academy) (Maine Maritime Academy/)

When Larry Burrill started college, his goal was to walk into a job that paid well after graduation. He was coming from a family of humble means and knew he would be paying his way through school. He chose Maine Maritime Academy, set in a historic town miles down a peninsula, because he knew graduates were earning starting salaries double or triple what he could otherwise expect to make.

That was back in the 1970s, but today, as a senior executive at an engineering services company he helped found (and as a father who paid for his children's college educations), that practical approach makes more sense to him than ever. Higher education is so expensive now, he said, that few can afford the luxury of meandering through a liberal arts education without making hard calculations about employment prospects.

Is college worth it? Researchers at the Georgetown University Center on Education and the Workforce tried to answer that question, using newly released federal data to try to calculate return on investment for thousands of colleges across the country.

The results - searchable and sortable online - were released Thursday, with rankings of 4,500 schools.

Some may discount the idea that the true value of higher education can be quantified, let alone calculated in dollars.

But given surging student-loan debt nationally, the study's authors argue it's a question that cannot be ignored. The issue has galvanized national attention, with many legislators loath to fund universities that aren't preparing young people for the workforce. And it's an issue that is deeply personal for many families as they worry about paying tuition bills each fall.

Some of the results will come as no surprise: Among the top 10 colleges with the best long-term net economic gain are Harvard University, the Massachusetts Institute of Technology and Stanford University. Forty years after enrollment, bachelor's degrees from private colleges have the highest returns on investment.

But the top three on the top 10 list - eclipsing MIT and Stanford - are schools specializing in pharmacy and health sciences. The only two public schools to make that top 10 list are maritime academies.

And the Maine Maritime Academy? It's on the top 10 list, outscoring Harvard.

"Return on investment is huge," said William J. Brennan, president of Maine Maritime Academy, where the majority of students come from within the state and nearly half are the first in their families to attend college. "They're looking to prepare themselves for a career that will include hard work."

In conversations with parents of prospective students, Brennan often casts the academy as a value proposition, he said: "It's expensive to attend college, but . . . we will prepare their sons and daughters to be successful in school so they can be successful in their careers."

The academy consistently places at least 90 percent of graduates in their chosen career fields within 90 days, Brennan said, and many of those jobs pay well, leading to a low default rate on student loans. "The value of this education is huge," Brennan said.

Most people already knew a Harvard degree confers power.

Many didn't know it about pharmacy schools.

Faith Byland worried in high school in Indiana that she might have trouble finding a job after college. But she learned that pharmacists tend to have good job security and earnings. And when she enrolled at St. Louis College of Pharmacy - No. 2 on Georgetown's list of schools with the best net economic gain - she calculated her return on investment knowing she would graduate in 2016 with student debt but also a job "that makes six figures right off the bat."

She and her husband, also a graduate, are able to live comfortably in New York on their incomes, she said, and are thrilled with their choice.

Higher education is a complicated proposition, tricky to measure. The superintendent of one of the leading schools on the list, the U.S. Merchant Marine Academy, said he doesn't think candidates to the academy are applying because of return on investment, given the intense, challenging nature of the service academy's program, which includes hundreds of days at sea and a commitment to years of service. "Rather, it's an investment in themselves to become leaders, and see where that might take them," Rear Adm. Jack Buono said.

For Burrill, lining up on his first day of class at Maine Maritime Academy, getting issued a uniform and having his head shaved so he looked like everyone else in the regimental program was part of an experience he values. So was getting his hands dirty, using a wrench and learning to weld - along with studying calculus for his engineering degree. So was crossing the Atlantic on a giant ship.

Some people wouldn't want any part of that.

Surveys suggest many students are motivated to go to college to learn more about subjects that interest them - and to become a better person, said professor Anthony P. Carnevale, director of Georgetown's Center on Education and the Workforce. But the vast majority cite a career as a primary goal for college, he said. "This is the point of the spear."

A drive for greater accountability has been gaining momentum for a long time, Carnevale said, amid a huge increase in college-going beginning in the 1980s and rapidly rising costs that inspired a demand for data on outcomes. "This is a train that's rolling and will continue to roll," he said, with political leaders pushing for greater transparency.

For 16-year-olds thinking about their futures, Carnevale said, the rankings can help them - with good college counseling - to perform risk analysis. If they want a quick turnaround, they can choose a certificate program with a successful track record, with the understanding it may be the most lucrative choice a decade out but probably won't be the best value during a 40-year career. Or they could decide that assuming debt is worth it for future potential.

The study concluded that even after paying off higher amounts of debt, the average graduate of a private four-year college has a net economic gain of $838,000 over 40 years - compared with $765,000 for a public college graduate.

Or a student could choose a theology school near the bottom of the long-term return-on-investment list - because salary is not important.

"This should encourage people to think like that," Carnevale said. " 'What do I want, who am I, what can I afford, what are my options?' "

The rankings highlight names that a student or guidance counselor might not have considered, with all the cultural pressure some feel to attend a prestigious school.

"Most people don't want to go to Maine Maritime Academy - they want to go to Harvard," Carnevale said.

“I wanted to go to Maine Maritime Academy,” he added. “My folks wouldn’t let me.”

Anchorage man now indicted on murder charges in wife’s shooting death

Wed, 11/13/2019 - 19:09

Chue Yang, 31, was arraigned in the Anchorage Correctional Complex in the shooting death of his wife early on Nov. 3. (Bill Roth / ADN archive) (Bill Roth / ADN/)

An Anchorage man charged with criminally negligent homicide and manslaughter in his wife’s shooting death was indicted by grand jury Wednesday on two counts of murder.

Chue Yang, 31, is now charged with first- and second-degree murder in the death of his 29-year-old wife, Nancy Xiong, who was shot in the head Nov. 3, the Alaska Department of Law said in a statement.

Police received a 911 call at 12:36 a.m. that day and were told that “someone was dead and that the husband had blood all over him,” a police affidavit said.

Yang told police that the shooting was accidental, saying a handgun had gone off while he was trying to show his wife how to defend herself from home intruders, according to the affidavit.

At an arraignment Nov. 3, prosecutors said the couple had been in a violent relationship and Xiong lived in fear of her husband.

Assistant district attorney Betsy Bull said at the arraignment that Yang had hidden the gun, didn’t call 911 and fled the scene. At least two children were in the home during the shooting, Bull said.

Bail has been set at $200,000 cash performance with a third-party custodian, and each charge has a maximum sentence of 99 years in prison, prosecutors said.

Yang is expected to be arraigned on the new charges Friday in Anchorage Superior Court.

State: BP sale of Alaska assets to Hilcorp clears federal hurdle

Wed, 11/13/2019 - 18:55

The BP building in Midtown Anchorage on Aug. 27, 2019. BP plans to sell all of its Alaska assets to Hilcorp Alaska for $5.6 billion. (Loren Holmes / ADN) (Loren Holmes / Anchorage Daily News/)

The Federal Trade Commission has no antitrust concerns with BP’s sale of its Alaska assets to Hilcorp and will let the $5.6 billion deal advance, a state official told lawmakers in a letter Tuesday.

After reviewing the deal, the FTC “identified no (antitrust or anti-competitive) issues and will not prevent the parties from closing the transaction," Corri Feige, commissioner of the state Department of Natural Resources, wrote in a Nov. 12 communication to members of the House and Senate Resources committees.

The state Department of Law is also reviewing the sale for potential anti-competitive issues, Feige said in the three-page letter.

In the letter, Feige also described how several other state agencies will scrutinize the proposed deal, in addition to an unidentified “highly respected economic consulting firm" that will help examine whether Hilcorp has the financial muscle to meet its obligations to the state.

The sale, announced in August, is considered the largest on the North Slope in a generation. It affects 1,600 BP employees and would make Hilcorp the state’s second-largest oil producer, after ConocoPhillips.

[As BP exits Alaska, 1,600 employees are waiting to find out what’s next]

Feige’s letter does not describe how the FTC came to its decision. The request for FTC review was filed in September, BP said.

Betsy Lordan, an FTC spokeswoman, said Wednesday that the agency does not publicly describe its position when there are no antitrust issues involved.

“It simply informs the parties and doesn’t take action,” Lordan said.

Feige’s letter highlighted differences between the ongoing deal and a blockbuster transaction on the North Slope in 2000.

Then, the FTC challenged BP Amoco’s efforts to acquire ARCO Alaska’s assets amid concerns that BP would hold too large a stake in Alaska, including 70% of the trans-Alaska pipeline. In the end, Phillips Petroleum — now ConocoPhillips — bought the assets for $6.5 billion.

If the deal goes through, Hilcorp would hold a 48% stake in the trans-Alaska oil pipeline and in operator Alyeska Pipeline Service Co., more than ConocoPhillips and ExxonMobil. It would hold a 26% stake in the giant Prudhoe Bay oil field, less than those two oil companies.

BP has said that after approval from regulators, it plans to close the deal sometime in 2020.

Feige’s letter came in response to questions from lawmakers about the state’s oversight role, said Dan Saddler, a DNR spokesman.

[Hilcorp wants finances kept private in Alaska deal with BP, leading to calls for transparency]

The letter was addressed to Senate President Cathy Giessel and Sen. John Coghill, vice-chair of the Senate Resources Committee, and Reps. Geran Tarr and John Lincoln, co-chairs of the House Resources Committee.

Feige’s letter described DNR’s ongoing role in overseeing the deal. “The sale documents and their specific terms” are considered confidential under Alaska law, she wrote.

As described in the letter, the agency’s efforts include:

• Contracting with a “highly respected economic consulting firm to rigorously examine Hilcorp’s ability to fulfill its obligations to the state under a set of stressful scenarios.” Saddler said the state is negotiating contract terms with consultants, and declined to name them.

• Examining “existing financial assurances structure to determine what amendments will be required to properly manage the change in the state’s risk profile due to the sale.”

• Conducting a “thorough in-house financial analysis of several years of (Hilcorp’s) financial information.”

• Examining the deal to understand both companies’ future obligations to the state.

“Rest assured, DNR takes its responsibilities for regulatory oversight and protection of the state’s interests very seriously," Feige wrote. “DNR is focused squarely on conducting a full suite of analyses to ensure that the state’s interests are protected.”

[Hilcorp sale will cost state $30 million annually in lost revenue, former tax officials say]

The letter listed five state agencies, in addition to DNR and Law, that must review portions of the transaction.

The Department of Revenue will consider tax implications. The Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission will review bonding details and transfer of well assets. The Department of Environmental Conservation will oversee oil spill plans and financial requirements.

The Regulatory Commission of Alaska is reviewing the proposed pipeline transfer.

Some Alaskans have expressed concern that the RCA is the only agency required to solicit public comments. The RCA’s comment period is set to end Friday, though many people are asking for more time. Hilcorp has asked the RCA to keep recent years’ financial records confidential, leading to questions from some about the company’s ability to handle a major accident.

Hilcorp, privately owned and based in Houston, Texas, began working in Alaska eight years ago. It revived oil and gas production in the small Cook Inlet basin, and took stakes in some North Slope fields in 2014.

Lincoln, an independent representative from Kotzebue, said Wednesday that he hopes to hold two informational hearings about the transaction before the Legislature. One goal is gathering details about the regulatory process from the Dunleavy administration.

“I would expect there to be public comment during one of those,” Lincoln said.

He aims to hold one hearing before the Legislature convenes in January.

[How experts say BP and Hilcorp’s blockbuster deal in Alaska could help them both]

Coghill, a Republican senator from North Pole, said he’s working with Lincoln and others to help organize the legislative hearings. No dates have been set yet.

The Legislature isn’t required to approve or reject the deal, but it has an important role in getting answers and providing information, Coghill said.

He believes the sale is good for Alaska. But the Legislature needs assurances that Hilcorp is financially able to handle BP’s role and respond to any potential problems, he said.

“I expect Hilcorp would be a good partner," Coghill said. “But they are stepping into a whole new category, and as Alaskans, we want to be assured of their ability to properly jump into that role, and that this will be good for us.”

Dueling narratives on Trump’s actions collide for shared audience

Wed, 11/13/2019 - 18:38

George Kent, left, and William Taylor, right, are sworn in for a House Intelligence Committee impeachment hearing on Nov. 13, 2019 in Washington, DC. (Washington Post photo by Matt McClain)

WASHINGTON - The question seemed to surprise William Taylor, a Vietnam veteran with decades of diplomatic experience.

Couldn't he "appreciate that President Trump was very concerned," asked the Republican counsel, that the Ukrainians were "out to get him?"

The lawyer was referring to a conspiracy theory, popular in parts of the political right, that while Democrats have focused on Russia's efforts to help Trump win the 2016 election, it was actually Ukraine that interfered during that campaign to help Trump's Democratic opponent.

Taylor paused, casting his eyes down as his lips curled into a grin. He declined to give credence to the claim. "I don't know the exact nature of President Trump's concerns," the witness answered.

For weeks, as the House's impeachment inquiry of Donald Trump has unfolded behind closed doors, two dueling narratives about the president's actions have remained distinct.

One storyline rests on a whistleblower complaint - corroborated by a string of named diplomats as well as the White House's own reconstructed transcript of a July phone call between Trump and his Ukrainian counterpart - about a shadow foreign policy to undermine conclusions about Russian interference in the 2016 election and damage one of Trump's 2020 rivals, former vice president Joe Biden.

The other, which has played out in conservative media and on Trump's Twitter feed, relies largely on conspiracy theories and cover stories - some of which have taken root in the farthest reaches of the Internet before percolating up to the Oval Office - about Ukraine's influence in the 2016 election and Biden's reasons for going after a Ukrainian prosecutor, who was widely viewed by Western powers as corrupt.

Those two divergent worlds collided on Wednesday in stark fashion with the start of the probe's public hearings.

[Diplomat’s impeachment testimony ties Trump more directly to Ukraine pressure campaign]

For the first time, the competing claims found a shared audience in the same congressional hearing room, as Taylor appeared alongside George Kent, the senior State Department official in charge of Ukraine. The first two witnesses stood in for the public at large in encountering not just two different interpretations of the facts - but two separate sets of factual claims.

The competing information streams are epitomized by MSNBC and CNN, which have reported heavily on the impeachment inquiry, and Fox News Channel, Trump's favorite network. But those outlets and others trained their attention on the same scene on Wednesday - giving viewers from each world a rare glimpse into the other.

"The viewer encounters two competing sets of factual claims," said Brendan Nyhan, a political scientist at Dartmouth College. "I imagine it's quite bewildering,"

Questions on Wednesday by Republican members of the House Intelligence Committee ranged widely, with some seeking to defend the president by emphasizing that military aid to Ukraine, while stalled, was ultimately released. Others sought to discredit the witnesses by noting that they lacked firsthand knowledge of some of the events they described. The White House has moved to block witnesses with more direct knowledge of the president's dealings from testifying.

But questions by the Republican attorney, Stephen Castor, as well as by Rep. Devin Nunes of California, the House Intelligence Committee's top Republican, dwelled extensively on claims about Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election, and the perception by some of the president's allies that the nation's government sought to undermine then-candidate Trump.

Republicans pointed to an opinion article by Ukraine's ambassador to the United States, published in the summer of 2016, that criticized comments by Trump signaling the Republican nominee's openness to recognizing Russia's annexation of the Crimean Peninsula. And they highlighted information leaked during the campaign about Ukrainian business dealings by then-Trump campaign chairman Paul Manafort.

"Officials showed a surprising lack of interest in the indications of Ukrainian election meddling that deeply concerned the president at whose pleasure they serve," Nunes said.

Ukraine experts have dismissed the idea that the activities cited by Nunes and other Republicans are in any way comparable to the sweeping interference campaign pursued to Trump's benefit by the Kremlin. And at Wednesday's hearing, Democrats sought to pierce the GOP's reliance on these theories.

Daniel Goldman, who led the questioning for the Democrats, asked Kent about a cybersecurity firm called CrowdStrike, which exposed Russian intrusions into Democratic computers in 2016. Trump, contrary to evidence, seems to believe that the California firm was involved in hiding the compromised server in Ukraine and passing the blame to Russia.

"To be honest, I had not heard of CrowdStrike until I read this transcript on Sept. 25," Kent said, referring to Trump's mention of the company during his phone call with Ukrainian President Volodymyr Zelensky.

Asked whether there was any "factual basis" to support the claim of Ukrainian interference in the 2016 election, Kent replied, "To my knowledge, there is no factual basis, no."

His confidence, which echoes the conclusions of the intelligence committee that it was Russia that interfered in the 2016 race, did not stop Nunes from insisting on conspiracy theories about "Ukrainian election meddling." Nor did it prevent Castor from asking Taylor to affirm that there were "many facts that remain unresolved" about the 2016 election.

Taylor appeared bewildered.

"I'm sorry, what's the question?" he sought to clarify.

The malleability of facts emerged as a broader GOP talking point. Rep. Mark Meadows, R-N.C., a Trump ally, affirmed as much to reporters in the Capitol on Wednesday. "I think what happens is, when we start to look at the facts, everybody has their impression of what truth is," he said.

Many of the president's most ardent supporters declined altogether to view the hearings as a legitimate source for facts. In some of the largest pro-Trump groups on Facebook, memes circulated exhorting users to boycott the hearing. "These impeachment hearings of our President will be nothing but one-sided showboating by the dems," read one graphic, posted in 212,000-member "Trump For President 2020" group. "Boycott it!"

The call was in line with messaging put out by conservative media. Breitbart called the hearing a "Snoozer." The Gateway Pundit complained in a headline that Taylor "Won't Stop Talking!"

These outlets seemed to take their cues from the White House and members of the president's family. Stephanie Grisham, the White House press secretary, tweeted that the hearing was "boring." Eric Trump, the president's younger son, labeled the proceedings "horribly boring."

Mike Rothschild, a researcher and author who specializes in debunking conspiracy theories, said coaxing the public not to watch would be effective for the people already prepared to line up behind the president. "But it seems a bit desperate," he added, born of an inability to "refute anything that the witnesses are claiming."

But there were probably many Americans, said Nyhan, the political scientist, who don't follow online news closely, and who may have been tuning in for the first time on Wednesday.

For these viewers, the narrative spun by Nunes would prove difficult to comprehend.

"Most Americans aren't watching Hannity every night," he said, referring to Sean Hannity, the Fox News Channel host and Trump confidant. "I can't imagine a normal person would understand what he's talking about."

- - -

The Washington Post’s Felicia Sonmez contributed to this report.

Congress can have access to eight years of Trump’s tax records, appeals court orders

Wed, 11/13/2019 - 18:29

WASHINGTON - Congress can seek eight years of President Donald Trump's tax records, according to a federal appeals court order Wednesday that moves the separation-of-powers conflict one step closer to the Supreme Court.

The U.S. Court of Appeals for the District of Columbia Circuit let stand an earlier ruling against the president that affirmed Congress' investigative authority on a day when the House was holding its first public impeachment inquiry hearing.

Trump lawyer Jay Sekulow said in response to Wednesday's decision that the president's legal team "will be seeking review at the Supreme Court."

The District Circuit was responding to Trump's request to have a full panel of judges rehear a three-judge decision from October that rejected the president's request to block lawmakers from subpoenaing his longtime accounting firm.

A majority of the court's 11 active judges voted against revisiting the case. Three judges - Neomi Rao, Gregory Katsas and Karen LeCraft Henderson - indicated they would have granted the rehearing and published dissenting statements. Rao and Katsas, both former Trump administration officials, were nominated to the bench by the president.

"This case presents exceptionally important questions regarding the separation of powers," Katsas wrote.

He warned of the "threat to presidential autonomy and independence" and said it would be "open season on the President's personal records" if Congress is allowed to compel the president to disclose personal records based on the possibility that it might inform legislation.

The court's order does not mean Trump's tax records will be turned over to Congress immediately. The District Circuit previously said it would put any ruling against the president on hold for seven days to give Trump's attorneys time to ask the Supreme Court to step in.

Sekulow in a statement cited the "well reasoned dissent" in Trump's decision to go to the Supreme Court.

Trump's attorneys also are planning to ask the high court as soon as Thursday to block a similar subpoena for the president's tax records from the Manhattan district attorney, who is investigating hush-money payments in the lead-up to the 2016 election. The New York-based appeals court ruled against Trump this month and refused to block the subpoena to his accounting firm, Mazars USA.

The District Circuit case centers on a House Oversight Committee subpoena from March for the president's accounting firm records - issued months before the beginning of its impeachment inquiry, related to Trump's alleged efforts to pressure Ukraine to investigate political rival Joe Biden.

The request for information followed testimony from Trump's former personal attorney Michael Cohen that Trump had exaggerated his wealth when he sought loans. Lawmakers are investigating potential conflicts of interest, including the accuracy of the president's financial disclosures.

A divided three-judge panel of the court held in October that the House had issued its subpoena for "legitimate legislative pursuits, not an impermissible law-enforcement purpose," as the president's lawyers had argued.

"Contrary to the President's arguments, the Committee possesses authority under both the House Rules and the Constitution to issue the subpoena, and Mazars must comply," wrote Judge David Tatel, who was joined by Judge Patricia Millett. Both were nominated by Democratic presidents.

Rao, the dissenting judge on the panel, restated her view that the committee had exceeded its authority with a legislative subpoena "investigating whether the President broke the law."

"By upholding this subpoena, the panel opinion has shifted the balance of power between Congress and the President and allowed a congressional committee to circumvent the careful process of impeachment," she wrote.

The House subsequently passed, after the initial panel opinion, a resolution affirming its impeachment inquiry.

But Rao wrote Wednesday that the committee “is wrong to suggest” that questions about the validity of the subpoena "are no longer of ‘practical consequence.’ " It is an open question, she said, “whether a defective subpoena can be revived by after-the-fact approval.”

Early in CIC hockey season, South Wolverines are 3-0

Wed, 11/13/2019 - 18:27

One week into the Cook Inlet Conference hockey season, the South Wolverines are 3-0 and boast four of the league’s top five scorers.

South leads the scoring list thanks to a pair of lopsided wins that have put lots of players in the scoring column — 14-0 over Bartlett and 6-0 over Service. The Wolverines also own a 3-2 victory over Chugiak.

South forward Logan Maddox leads all scorers with six points (3 goals, 3 assists). Four players have totaled five points apiece.

Cook Inlet Conference hockey standings (through Tuesday’s games)

South 3-0

Dimond 2-0

West 1-0

Eagle River 0-1

East 0-1

Service 0-1

Bartlett 0-1

Chugiak 0-2


Dimond 4, Eagle River 1 (Nov. 5)

South 6, East 1 (Nov. 7)

West 6, Service 0 (Nov. 8)

South 3, Chugiak 2 (Nov. 9)

South 14, Bartlett 0 (Tuesday)

Dimond 3, Chugiak 0 (Tuesday)

Wednesday’s game

East vs. Chugiak, 6:30 p.m., Ben Boeke

Thursday’s game

Chugiak vs. Service, 7:15 p.m., McDonald Center

Friday’s game

West vs. Eagle River, 6:30 p.m., Ben Boeke

Saturday’s game

Dimond vs. Service, 6:30 p.m., Ben Boeke

Leading scorers (through Tuesday games)

Logan Maddox, South, 6 points

Logan Orr, South, 5

Chase Solberg, West, 5

Hayden Fox, South, 5

Colton Gerken, South, 5

From the Humboldt Broncos to UAA, a survivor of a deadly bus crash plays for those who can’t

Wed, 11/13/2019 - 18:20

UAA's Brayden Camrud passes the puck during a game against UAF last month. (Loren Holmes / ADN) (Loren Holmes / Anchorage Daily News/)

Brayden Camrud plays hockey because he loves it and he’s good at it — and because he can.

Camrud, a freshman on the UAA hockey team, is a survivor of the crash that killed 16 people aboard the Humboldt Broncos hockey team bus in April 2018.

Of the 13 survivors, he said he is one of only three still playing hockey and is the only one playing NCAA Division I hockey.

“It’s kind of the reason I kept playing hockey, for the people who couldn’t,” Camrud said Wednesday after practice at the Seawolf Sports Complex. “To be some kind of hope that you can always find a way to push through things.”

Camrud, 21, suffered a severe concussion and nerve damage in his left arm, the latter of which initially caused him to lose feeling in the arm. Now it can send pain from his wrist all the way up his neck if he gets hit the wrong way.

The bus crash sent shock waves across Canada and the hockey world, where “Humboldt strong” became a rallying cry. Thousands of people left hockey sticks outside their doors in tribute to the Broncos of the Saskatchewan Junior Hockey League, who lost 10 players and six adults affiliated with the team when a truck driver T-boned their bus while they were en route to a road game.

Returning Humboldt Broncos players Brayden Camrud (26) and Derek Patter (23), far left, take part in a pregame ceremony on Sept. 12, 2018, when the Broncos played their first game since a bus crash claimed 16 lives in April. (Jonathan Hayward/The Canadian Press via AP) (JONATHAN HAYWARD/)

After an offseason filled with funerals and bed rest, Camrud returned to the Broncos for the 2018-19 season, when his 27 goals and 28 assists in 48 games attracted UAA’s attention. His new teammates are well aware of his history, but they don’t talk about it, UAA sophomore Tanner Schachle said.

“It’s kind of a don’t ask, don’t tell thing for us,” Schachle said. “For most of us, we were playing junior hockey when it happened, so it was easy to relate because you’re on the bus all the time.”

Camrud said he’ll talk about the crash and its aftermath if people ask.

“I don’t want to say I’ve moved past it," he said. “I’ll always think about my teammates and my coaches. I guess I’ve come to terms with it. That truck driver didn’t wake up that day with the intent to hit our bus. You wish you could prevent it but there’s nothing anyone can do.”

And so he stays connected to the other players who survived, and he keeps playing hockey.

Camrud said he chose to play for UAA because he thought he could get playing time right away, and so far he hasn’t been disappointed.

He’s part of a talented freshman class that has helped the Seawolves go 2-1-2 in their last five games and 2-4-2 overall. He has one goal and two assists, and last weekend his second-round shootout goal lifted the Seawolves past Alabama Huntsville after the teams skated to a 4-4 draw.

UAA's Brayden Camrud prepares for a game against UAF on Saturday, Oct. 26, 2019 at the Seawolf Sports Complex. (Loren Holmes / ADN) (Loren Holmes / Anchorage Daily News/)

Whether it’s his nature or the fact that he has borne unthinkable sorrow, Camrud has a goofy side that he shares easily.

He hates the name Brayden, he said, which he said his mother got from a soap opera. Lucky for him he plays a sport where nicknames are pretty much mandatory, so to his teammates he’s “Camo.”

He has the same birthday as his mom, Amy, and he said usually he fares better than she does when it comes to birthday loot. “I usually do the, ‘I’m your present!’ for her,” he said as he spread his arms open.

He isn’t homesick for Saskatoon but he desperately misses his dog, Bella, a border collie-blue heeler mix he calls “my best friend.” Bella was a puppy when Camrud got her from a Humboldt family not long after the bus crash, and although his parents weren’t immediately on board with adopting a dog, they gave in — partly, he said, because of the crash. “Yeah,” he said, “I played that card.”

He picked No. 40 for his college jersey in part because it reminds him of his parents and in part because it honors UAA. His dad, Curtis, has a collection of hockey memorabilia and his first autographed and framed jersey is that of Henrik Zetterberg, the 2008 Stanley Cup MVP for the Detroit Red Wings, who wore No. 40.

“And I knew this was the 40th year of Seawolves hockey, and my mom’s favorite number is 4, so there’s a lot of little things going into it,” he said.

UAA freshman Brayden Camrud celebrates after assisting on a first-period goal against the Omaha Mavericks last month. (Bill Roth / ADN) (Bill Roth / ADN/)

After Camrud scored his first college goal, his mom texted him a description of his dad’s reaction as they followed the game online.

“I could close my eyes and see it,” he said. ”My dad jumped in the air with his fist pumping and tears in his eyes.”

Last week at Alabama Huntsville, Camrud didn’t have to imagine his dad’s reaction when he scored the shootout goal. His parents were able to attend the games because his dad was nearby in Tennessee on a business trip and his mom tagged along.

“I have a history of doing pretty good in the shootouts, and I wanted to do something pretty dazzling but I learned it was sudden-death,” Camrud said. “I tried to throw off the goalie with a little deception but he didn’t move, so in the last second I made a little move and tucked it in. I came back to the bench and I looked up and saw my parents, and my dad got a little emotional.

“… It means a lot to me to know how much it means to them, making it this far. I feel the love from all the way back home."

Weekend series

At Seawolf Sports Complex

UAA (2-4-2 overall, 2-1-1 WCHA) vs Bowling Green (5-4-0, 2-2-0)

7 p.m. — Friday

5 p.m. — Saturday

Radio coverage: AM-590, FM-96.7

Letter: Reclaim Armistice Day

Wed, 11/13/2019 - 17:44

Armistice Day, enacted at the end of World War I, was a worldwide recognition by all nations that humanity was capable of being led by nationalist and religious fervor to the brink of total destruction, and peace through mutual cooperation was man’s only chance to survive and prosper. At the end of World War II, the capability to accomplish that end was demonstrated in Japan, with abandon. Then nationalist competition ensured that many of the world’s most powerful countries would be able to participate in mutual planetary annihilation.

During the Korean War, the U.S., for propaganda purposes, saw fit to change the definition of Armistice Day from striving for peace and cooperation to hero worship and military dominion, thus better serving the narrow corporate/militarist interests of imperialist expansion. With a long history of contrived offenses by which we could invade countries that would enrich but a few Americans, “armistice” was not in the lexicon of the economic elite; “war veterans” appreciation better served a corporate takeover of the military to justify the capture of foreign resources and markets.

Today, the U.S. military, with upwards of 800 installations around the world, is the largest fossil fuel consuming entity on Earth; the next nine largest combined account for less. As the planet dies of heat prostration, the security promised us from a position of strength has proven to be the leading risk to survival of everyone.

As a member of Veterans For Peace, Hanoi, Vietnam Chapter 160, in a country where 3 million died to defend against our aggression, I recognize the grief, sorrow and loss the world must have felt in 1918 with 50 million casualties and infrastructure ruin that enhanced the flu pandemic taking another 100 million lives. Peace was not just a concept but recognized as our only chance to survive. Bumbling militarism as a corporate sales force will only give us World War Last.

Please join Veterans For Peace in retaking Armistice, for the benefit of all.

— William Bartee


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Former foster parent convicted of strangling 4-year-old with a belt in Anchorage

Wed, 11/13/2019 - 17:41

A former foster father was convicted by an Anchorage jury Wednesday on four counts of assault for strangling a 4-year-old child in his care.

A jury found 40-year-old Jason Madison guilty of first-, second-, third- and four-degree assault in Anchorage Superior Court for using a belt to strangle his foster child, who sustained injuries as a result, the Alaska Department of Law said in a statement. The strangulation happened in January 2018, according to the charges.

A teacher noticed wounds on the child’s neck and contacted authorities, the statement says.

The treating forensic nurse testified during trial that "the child potentially faced a substantial risk of death,” according to the statement.

Madison is being held without bail pending sentencing and faces five to 20 years in prison, prosecutors said.

A sentencing hearing has been scheduled for March.

Letter: Red light citation initiative

Wed, 11/13/2019 - 17:40

What has become of the initiative to install red-light runner video monitors and issue citations?

Please check the front and the back of whatever driver’s license you carry; there is no authorization printed or implied that gives you permission to maim, mangle or murder anyone by irresponsibly running a red light.

There is current and workable technology in place for citing red-light runners and I’ve seen it in action in Fort Worth, Texas.

Do you, a family member or a friend have to be a victim before you take a stand?

— Rick Garner


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Letter: Gara for governor

Wed, 11/13/2019 - 17:24

I imagine that after 16 years as a representative for District 23, Les Gara might want to spend his newly free time fishing and hiking. I’m hoping he will consider a different avenue and run for governor.

He has worked on many important issues for Alaska over the years. He knows how to budget, he gets how important education is, he won’t leave our seniors and poor out in the cold and I believe he can build consensus and work across party lines to build our economy for a vibrant future. I’m not a Democrat; I like to vote for the person. I believe Les Gara to be an honest, hard-working public servant who would be an excellent choice for governor. How about it, Les Gara?

— Tammie Stoops


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Letter: Nome port would benefit Alaska

Wed, 11/13/2019 - 17:21

Sen. Dan Sullivan is a key supporter of infrastructure in the Arctic, and specifically developing an Arctic deep draft port in Nome. The senator has ensured the project received fair and thorough evaluation. Sen. Sullivan’s support has been vital in advancing the project through the bureaucracy when there were unnecessary roadblocks and delays.

As the Arctic and Northwest Passage becomes more accessible, the state and nation must look forward. In my visits to other Arctic nations, they are not looking at the future; they prepared and are in it! The U.S. must not be behind the curve; now is the time to prepare and move forward. Hello Central!

Nome’s making progress on developing an Arctic deep draft port in partnership with the Corps of Engineers — Alaska District. We strongly believe it will help the regional economy, better protect our marine environment and protect broader national interests. The feasibility study will be complete in 2020; our project team has worked hard to give in-depth consideration to risks, benefits and costs. We expect combined economic and social benefits that will promote jobs and growth in Nome and across the state.

The Arctic is opening up to the world; the U.S. must play a proactive role. Nome’s taking on responsibility to meet the demand of increased maritime traffic, while ensuring protection of subsistence activities, Arctic environment, marine resources and other needs of our residents. The proposed project will promote economic growth in a region still feeling the effects of the state’s recession.

— Richard Beneville

Mayor, City of Nome


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State warning: That animal killing chickens and rabbits in Anchorage is a wolverine

Wed, 11/13/2019 - 17:08

A wolverine. (iStock / Getty Images) (Denja1/)

A wolverine making “extremely rare” forays into Anchorage neighborhoods is the subject of an equally rare alert from the state.

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game on Wednesday issued a first-ever wildlife advisory about not bear or moose but wolverine to people living in neighborhoods adjacent to Elmore Road, primarily from O’Malley to Dowling roads.

The wolverine has killed chickens and rabbits, according to a notice a state biologist posted Tuesday on the Nextdoor site, a private social network for residents of specific areas. The state recently began partnering with the network to issue wildlife alerts.

The animal was also caught attacking a big, long-haired black cat named Lenny around 2 a.m. Sunday. The cat survived without a scratch but was covered in leaves and slobber, his owner said.

“While there is a healthy population of wolverines in the backcountry around Anchorage, having one in and around neighborhoods for an extended period of time is an extremely rare event,” Fish and Game biologist Dave Battle wrote in the Nextdoor alert.

Battle himself spotted the wolverine under a deck at a house off O’Malley, where the animal killed 10 meat rabbits.

The wolverine was not happy as Battle and others hauled out the carcasses using a device mounted at the end of a pole, he said. “It was growling and kind of salivating."

The crew chased off the wolverine with a garden hose. They removed the carcasses to keep it from coming back.

Wolverine sightings caught on home security cameras in Anchorage have been posted in recent days to social media.

It’s possible this wolverine is a young male establishing new territory, Battle said, but without more information that can’t be confirmed.

Wolverines have been known to kill livestock and other animals, but there’s never been a documented case of an attack on a human, the Nextdoor advisory states. “However, they are wild animals, and caution should be exercised if one is encountered."

The notice urges residents to keep an eye on pets, protect livestock with electric fences, and secure food, garbage and other attractants. Wolverines are also “good climbers and diggers,” so fences won’t slow them down.

Wolverines are notoriously fierce for their size, which ranges from 20 to 40 pounds. They’re also notoriously reclusive.

Still, the appearance of one at the fringes of Alaska’s largest city is believable given the number of other predators that wander into town along similar corridors leading out of Chugach State Park and through the greenbelts on the east side of the city, retired Fish and Game biologist Rick Sinnott said.

“They are no more a ‘wilderness animal’ than lynx, wolves and grizzly bears, all of which either pass through that area occasionally or are not far away," Sinnott said in an email. “But they are much rarer, even in the wild.”

Biologists ask anyone with wolverine sightings or encounters to call the Fish and Game office directly at 907-267-2257 or report online.

None injured after small plane crashes into Goodnews Bay

Wed, 11/13/2019 - 17:02

No one was injured when a six-seat plane crashed into a bay off the coast of Southwest Alaska early Monday, according to a Federal Aviation Administration accident notice.

It’s unclear why the Piper PA-32 crashed into Goodnews Bay, said Allen Kenitzer, a spokesman for the FAA. Two people were on board the plane but there were no injuries, according to the accident notice.

Kenitzer said the aircraft was heavily damaged. The FAA and National Transportation Safety Board will investigate, Kenitzer said, but no other information was immediately available.

Country group Elvis Monroe reunite for Anchorage show

Wed, 11/13/2019 - 16:50

Country group Elvis Monroe will perform in Anchorage this weekend (Photo by Eric Hardesty) (Yuri Borovsky/)

Around 3 a.m. on a late night in 2008, Ben Carey was sitting alone in the legendary Mel’s Drive-In on the Sunset Strip in West Hollywood and waiting for a fellow Aussie he’d just met.

That’s when Bryan Hopkins walked in with Toryn Green, the former lead singer of Fuel.

Carey was not impressed.

“It looked like Halloween and it definitely wasn’t Halloween as far as I knew,” Carey said. “And they’re fully LA rock-starred out, you know, they have the makeup and the hair and the colors and the jackets and the pants and the tassels and I was like, ‘Oh my god, it’s rock pirates.’”

Then Carey saw his countryman Toby Rand, who’d recently taken third place on the CBS show “Rock Star: Supernova.”

“This procession was headed to my table,” Carey said. “I was fully in judge-a-book-by-its-cover mode and all the stupid things were going through my mind making fun of these guys like, ‘what clowns.’”

Hopkins pulled up the chair directly across from Carey and stuck his hand out.

“Hi, man, I’m Bryan.”

Carey’s inner commentary was still going.

“Of course you are,” Carey said to himself. “It’s a very American name. I’m in L.A. and you look like this. What the hell?”

Then they started talking and Carey realized he’d gotten Hopkins all wrong.

“It becomes pretty evident and very quickly that this guy sitting across from me was super cool,” Carey said. “He was really nice, and I was such a douche.”

Little did either of them know the meeting was the start of a friendship that would lead to the formation of Elvis Monroe and a special relationship with Alaska, beginning when the duo led an ensemble group for a series of shows at Southcentral high schools as part of the anti-drug and alcohol program in 2011.

Since then the duo has been a favorite at the annual Backyard Country BBQ and Northern Lights Country Series — they wrote their radio hit “Backyard Family Barbeque” in an Anchorage hotel room — and now Elvis Monroe is bringing a full band back to Anchorage for the first time in eight years at Koot’s on Nov. 15.

The show will be a reunion for Carey and Hopkins with the two members of Elvis Monroe who traveled to Alaska in 2011: Ryan MacMillian, the drummer for Matchbox 20, and Daniel Spriewald, a bass player with Phil X and the Drills.

Also joining them is violinist Rahmann Phillip, who first played with them two years ago and has since gone on to join Lady Gaga’s residency show in Las Vegas, where Elvis Monroe is based.

“We are very much the same,” Hopkins said of Carey. “We think the same and he’s truly my best friend. He says ‘no’ to guys like Brett Young and Joe Nichols and all these great friends of ours who constantly want him to go out on tour and play guitar for them. If he does that, then we don’t do what we’re doing because this is a 50-50 deal. And he doesn’t do those things so that we can do all this together.

“That’s kind of great.”

Although they grew up across the Pacific Ocean from each other in Australia and Oregon, Carey and Hopkins led parallel lives.

Both were star athletes in high school and neither have drank or used drugs.

Carey went from playing professional basketball in high school to joining the Australian band Savage Garden and performing at the Sydney Olympic Games closing ceremonies.

Hopkins drew the attention of scouts from the Los Angeles Angels and the Cincinnati Reds before his baseball career ended due to a hyperextended elbow, sending him from odd jobs in Ketchikan to acting jobs in Hollywood that included the “Video Yearbook” episode of “Saved by the Bell” when he played leather-clad bad boy Vince Montana.

He left his side gigs behind as his group Paperback Hero gained a loyal following along the West Coast and a residency at L.A.’s famous Panther Club before he met Carey.

But just as Carey was warming up to Hopkins, it was the Paperback Hero singer who started to judge.

‘I don’t really play around here’

Hopkins was immediately skeptical when Carey said he played guitar and offered to help him with a song.

Little did Hopkins know Carey was the lead guitarist for multi-platinum selling band Lifehouse (“Hanging by a Moment").

Hopkins asked where he played around town, but Carey held back.

“I don’t really play around town,” Carey told him. “I didn’t want to be the douche and the clown that says, ‘Yeah, I play the Staples Center, bro.’”

Hopkins got more suspicious the more evasive Carey was and started to think Carey was trying to “ride my coattails.” He tried to change the subject and then Carey asked him who his favorite bands were.

“Lifehouse …” Hopkins began.

“Stop,” Carey said. “I’m in that band.”

“What?!” Hopkins exclaimed. “You’re kidding.”

“No,” Carey said. “I’m not. I really don’t play around here. The last time I played here was the Staples Center and the Greek Theater.”

After Carey played a show with Paperback Hero and they got together in the studio to write, he was walking his dog and called Hopkins to tell him he wanted to form a band.

Then Carey got a call from Matt Nelson, the son of Ricky Nelson who along with his twin brother Gunnar formed the rock group Nelson in the late 1980s.

Matt wanted to do a side project with Carey, but Carey told him it was too late.

He still wanted to be involved, but Carey had a playful question first.

“If you want to be in the band, what do you bring?” Carey asked.

Nelson was ready with a combination of the biggest icons of American culture who used to hang out with his famous father.

“I’ve got the coolest name,” Nelson said. “Elvis Monroe.”

Route 91

Hopkins’ and Carey’s lives would never be the same after the Route 91 Harvest Festival in Las Vegas on Oct. 1, 2017.

They’d played the event since it began in 2014, the year that Carey officially left Lifehouse. After performing in 2017 they decided to watch country star and headliner Jason Aldean’s show from the crowd rather than their backstage vantage points.

Just 20 minutes into the set, a shooter began spraying bullets into the crowd from the window of a high-rise hotel. People started falling around Carey and Hopkins, and everyone in the crowd of more than 20,000 began to run.

Hopkins and Carey were quickly separated. Carey was briefly trampled in the rush before getting to his feet and racing in a zig-zag pattern toward the fences.

In front of Hopkins was Nicole Ruffino. They’d met the day before and shared a selfie, and now they were just feet apart again.

Hopkins grabbed her hand and led a group to a refrigerated catering truck backstage as bullets ricocheted in every direction.

When it was all over, 59 people were dead, more than 800 were wounded and everyone was changed forever.

After the mass shooting, Elvis Monroe hit the road playing benefit concerts for victims in Nevada, California and on Oct. 16, 2017, in Anchorage at Williwaw for the families of Alaska victims Adrian Murfitt and Dorene Anderson.

Outside the venue looking in, Carey saw a picture of Murfitt scroll over the screen and realized he’d met him that night and even grabbed his black cowboy hat.

“I felt the finality of the realization of, I was just talking to that kid. I was just giving him a hug. I was messing around putting on his hat and he was standing right behind us literally,” Carey said. “It just all hit me at once.”

Months later after countless interviews and benefits, Carey took charge of his healing after a charity show.

“I sat there after the event and I said to Bryan, ‘I can’t do this anymore. I can’t live in the past. I want to look forward not backward,’” he recalled. “For me personally, (looking back) was just disrespectful for the fact that we were given life. So that was the day for me where I said, ‘Come on. I’m moving forward.’ ”

Hopkins and Ruffino, the woman he’d met escaping the shooting, were able to heal together, sharing their grief and writing poetry for each other in the weeks after.

Still together more than two years later, both have dealt with the anxiety and triggers from that night. Their story was featured in media and shows like “Pickler and Ben” as Hopkins talked his way through the healing process.

The Las Vegas shooting will always be a part of Elvis Monroe’s story, not for the least of reasons that it inspired Hopkins to finish a song he and Carey had shelved titled “The Fight.”

‘The Fight’

Regulars at the Red Rock in Vegas, Carey and Hopkins became friends with owner and philanthropist Bryan Lindsey, who is a former chairman of the American Heart Association.

Hopkins was touched after meeting some young children facing life-threatening heart conditions. His own brother, Cody, has been battling a terminal heart diagnosis and the pair appeared together on stage Nov. 2 to perform the song they recorded together titled “Forever Family.”

Hopkins even shaved his trademark mohawk in solidarity with Cody, who has long sported a shaved head.

Carey and Hopkins had planned to write a song for the AHA but it never came together despite their good intentions.

Then Route 91 happened. After a few whirlwind days and sleepless nights, Hopkins came to Carey and said he was ready to rewrite it.

Lindsey, an organizer of the Las Vegas Strong benefit, didn’t hesitate to give his blessing when they asked about using the song as a tribute to the victims and the survivors.

Debuted in Anchorage and a fixture of Elvis Monroe shows since then, the message of “The Fight” is so that “anybody that needs some help, anybody that needs some hope, to know that we’re in it together, we’re going to link arms,” Carey said. “It doesn’t have to be about that tragedy. Everybody struggles with something.

“‘The Fight’ is about that struggle. It’s not about October 1. It’s about being human and helping the person next to you, standing up and fighting for them because they can’t.”

Elvis Monroe

With special guest DJ Soulman

8 p.m. Friday at Koot’s

$25 general admission; $45 VIP meet and greet

Available at

Summon the snow with these cool Anchorage events: Rowdy roller derby, interactive improv and jazz-blues fusion

Wed, 11/13/2019 - 16:50

Melissa "Jazzmom" Fischer plays piano alongside the race route to cheer on runners and walkers. She said she has been playing for the race every year for 12 years. More than 6,000 runners and walkers participated in 2015's Alaska Run for Women on Saturday June 13, 2015.

Bach, Bones and Blues — East High is celebrating its acquisition of a concert grand piano. International pianist Jill Timmons and trombonist Pete Ellefson will play selections from Bach’s Goldberg Variations. This event will also feature the “Bones of Alaska” trombone choir and Melissa “Jazzmom” Fischer’s trio. Free. 7-9 p.m. Saturday, 4025 E. Northern Lights Blvd. (

Anchorage Civic Orchestra — The season kickoff will open with Schubert’s Symphony No. 9, “The Great,” followed by Rossini’s Overture to La Cenerentola. Violin soloist Oleg Proskurnya and viola soloist Nancy Darigo close the concert with Mozart’s Sinfonia Concertante. Pre-concert lecture at 6:45 p.m. $15-$24. 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Alaska Center for the Performing Arts, 621 W Sixth Ave. (

Whose Live Anyway? — This improvisational troupe riffs off the long-running Emmy-nominated show “Whose Line Is It Anyway?” Comedians Greg Proops, Dave Foley, Jeff B. Davis, and Joel Murray work from audience suggestions within familiar frameworks like “Sound Effects” and “Party Quirks.” $35-$88. 7:30-9:30 p.m. Saturday, Atwood Concert Hall, 621 West Sixth Ave. (

NORDTING/The Northern Assembly — A multi-media performance by a Nordic artist collective led by Amund Sjølie Sveen with Erik Stifjell and Liv Hanne Haugen. The performance investigates and questions the historical narratives of the North. There will be a marching band, political analysis, PowerPoint, singing, dancing, voting and vodka. 7 p.m. Friday, Anchorage Museum, 625 C St. (

Bug Boy: The Curse of the Ant Queen — Alaska local writer Mark Muro stars in this one-weekend-only performance written by himself. Known for his performances in both New York and Anchorage, Muro’s latest show explores the mythology of self-discovery through an obsession with tiny creatures. $20. 7-8:15 p.m. Friday-Saturday, Cyrano’s Theatre Company, 3800 Debarr Rd. (

Rage City Roller Derby Brewery Mashup — Four breweries go head to head on the track and at the bar. Skaters from across Alaska compete on behalf of breweries including Cynosure Brewing, Broken Tooth Brewing, Midnight Sun Brewing Company and Double Shovel Cider Company. The beer and cider garden features selections from competing breweries. Hot dogs served up by Tiki Petes. Free for active military and veterans. $10-$15. 6-9 p.m. Saturday, O’Malley Sports Complex, 11051 O’Malley Centre Drive (

BOB HALLINEN / Anchorage Daily News The Rage City Rollergirls bout pitting the Dirty Pollis against the Sockeye Sallys at Town Square Park in downtown Anchorage on Saturday June 19, 2010. The roller derby matches are moving to the Den'ina Center downtown. 100619
Jammer Stephanie Neill aka AK CupQuake attempts to skate past blockers. The Rage City Rollergirls held the Roller Derby Solstice Scrimmage on Saturday June 20, 2015 with a mashup of players from the Orange Crush and All Star teams.

Board members fire Alaska’s top alcohol, marijuana regulator

Wed, 11/13/2019 - 16:28

Erika McConnell, director of the Alaska Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office, speaks during a Marijuana Control Board meeting in Anchorage on Wednesday, Nov. 12, 2019. (Bill Roth / ADN) (Bill Roth / ADN/)

The head of the Alaska Alcohol and Marijuana Control Office has been fired following a 3-2 vote by the Alaska Marijuana Control Board. The state’s Alcohol Control Board voted unanimously for her removal last month. A vote of both boards is required to remove a director.

After Wednesday’s vote by the marijuana board, McConnell accused Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s administration of lobbying board members for her removal. By phone, she said that lobbying amounts to “inappropriate interference” in the work of the alcohol and marijuana boards.

The Alaska Supreme Court has previously ruled that as quasi-judicial agencies, the boards should be protected from executive interference. McConnell has hired Dunleavy legal foe Elizabeth Bakalar as her personal attorney, and when asked whether she will file suit over removal, McConnell said she has not made a final decision.

Under state law, the governor will appoint a replacement for McConnell. The outgoing director said the job “should not be assigned to a political crony of the governor.”

Bruce Schulte, a member of the marijuana board, said he feels a “change in leadership is appropriate at this time.”

Marijuana and alcohol businesses have expressed growing discontent with state regulators in recent months, citing enforcement problems and the slow pace of licensing. On Wednesday, members of the Alaska Marijuana Industry Association delivered a lengthy list of grievances, with board member Tina Smith labeling AMCO an “inefficient bureaucratic system.”

AMIA president Lacy Wilcox said by phone that the organization did not have a specific position on McConnell’s removal but supports the right of the board to remove her.

Marijuana board member Nick Miller, who joined Schulte and fellow board member Christopher Jaime in favor of McConnell’s removal, said he feels AMCO bureaucracy is “costing the industry and business owners money” and acknowledged lengthy public testimony Wednesday in that regard.

“I do believe it is time for a change, and we should deal with it,” he said.

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.