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Bacteria from the ocean floor could be influencing Arctic weather

Sun, 11/17/2019 - 09:57

Phytoplankton bloom in the Chukchi Sea in 2018. (Norman Kuring/NASA's Ocean Color Web, using Landsat data from the U.S. Geological Survey) (Norman Kuring/NASA's Ocean Color Web/)

Scientists have identified a surprising new mechanism that could be impacting cloud formation and weather patterns in the Arctic — bacteria from the ocean floor.

When tiny, plantlike ocean microbes known as phytoplankton die, their bodies sink to the bottom of the sea, becoming food for bacteria residing there. New observations made in the Bering and Chukchi seas off the coast of Alaska suggest that under the right conditions, these algae-eaters are sloshed to the surface, and from there, wafted into the air.

Once airborne, seafloor bacteria may become seeds that promote the growth of ice crystals, an important step in the formation of Arctic clouds.

"Clouds are super important in the Arctic," said Jessie Creamean, an atmospheric scientist at Colorado State University and lead author of new research published in mid-July in Geophysical Research Letters.

"They regulate the surface and atmospheric temperatures, affecting sea ice, ecology, shipping, Arctic climate, and weather. And we just have a really poor understanding of how they form," Creamean said.

[Bizarre ice balls found in Arctic Alaska river puzzle locals and scientists]

Prior research from the Southern Ocean as well as laboratory experiments suggest that ocean microbes can enhance cloud formation. To investigate whether that holds true in the Arctic, Creamean and several of her co-authors embarked on a NOAA-funded research cruise through the Bering and southern Chukchi seas from late August to mid September 2017. Over the course of several weeks, the researchers collected samples of seawater and aerosols suspended about 20 meters (66 feet) above the ship.

They measured the abundance of so-called ice-nucleating particles, which seed clouds. They also took stock of seawater chemistry and chlorophyll concentrations, an indicator of phytoplankton abundance.

At first, Creamean said, she simply was hoping to get a baseline sense of the distribution of cloud-seeding particles in the ocean and atmosphere. But on Aug. 29, as their ship passed through the Bering Strait, the researchers measured particularly high levels of them. Through a combination of DNA analysis and microbial culturing, they determined that the airborne particles were mostly bacteria.

The researchers knew that there was a big late-summer phytoplankton bloom underway about 150 miles to the south, and that they were in a region where phytoplankton that are transported north via currents tend to die, sink, and become food for hungry bacteria.

After examining a number of oceanographic measurements and running their data through computer models, the researchers concluded that powerful winds associated with recent storm activity had stirred up the ocean, bringing some of these bacterial grazers to the surface, where they could be kicked up into the air.

The study doesn't actually demonstrate that bacteria are forming clouds, simply that they're making it into the atmosphere. But Creamean feels it's a distinct possibility that some oceanic bacteria are reaching high enough altitudes to play a role in cloud formation.

"In the Arctic, clouds can be very low - down to 100 meters," she said. "It's very possible these things can interact with clouds."

This is hardly the first paper to suggest Earth's smallest organisms may have an impact on the weather - in fact, research into so-called bioprecipitation dates back to at least the 1980s. Over the years, studies have suggested that microbes and their debris can brighten clouds, supercharge snowstorms, and help create some of the biggest hail events.

With the advent of new genomic tools, scientists are learning that there are entire microbial ecosystems wafting through the lower atmosphere and that some hardy bugs are even eking out a living in the stratosphere. It's possible we're just scratching the surface of their weather-making potential.

As far as Creamean's new Arctic observations go, the regional weather in late August 2017 support her explanation for the bacteria-spiked air, said Xiangdong Zhang, an atmospheric scientist at the International Arctic Research Center who wasn't involved with the new study.

At that time, he said, there was a well-developed high-pressure system over the East Siberian Sea, complemented by a low-pressure system over Alaska.

"The short distance between these systems results in large pressure gradients and then large northerly and northeasterly winds to blow over the Chukchi Sea and the Bering Strait," Zhang wrote in an email. "The large winds definitely increase ocean mixing and bring bottom materials to the surface."

It's still early days for this research. But if ocean microbes do play a role in Arctic cloud formation, Creamean wonders how climate change could impact it.

Longer ice-free periods and warmer ocean waters are favoring the proliferation of phytoplankton in many parts of the Arctic. At the same time, some research suggests the Arctic could become stormier as sea ice recedes, perhaps enhancing Creamean's seafloor-to-sky microbial pump.

Creamean is now collecting more data aboard the German icebreaker Polarstern as part of the year-long MOSAiC mission to the Arctic Ocean.

Given the rapid changes the Arctic is undergoing, it's more important than ever to tease out the complex interactions between biology, oceans, ice, and the atmosphere, she said.

After all, what happens in the Arctic doesn’t necessarily stay there.

Russian group that spoke up for native people in the Far North is closed over a paperwork error

Sun, 11/17/2019 - 09:57

A forest fire rages outside Atka, Russia, in July. Advocacy groups say a shifting climate has already started to affect hunting, fishing and herding in indigenous areas. Washington Post photo by Michael Robinson Chavez (Michael Robinson Chavez/)

MOSCOW - The indigenous people scattered across Russia’s Arctic and the Far East, hard-pressed by climate change and expansion-minded timber and mining interests, are on the verge of losing the one voice that speaks most clearly for them.

A court in Moscow earlier this month ordered the closure of a nearly 20-year-old advocacy group on the grounds that its paperwork was incomplete.

But the group's allies say this is nonsense: that the alleged violation is nothing but a pretext, the final act in a long campaign by the authorities to silence the organization.

"It's not a legal issue. It's a political one," said Rodion Sulyandziga, the director of the Center for Support of Indigenous People of the North/Russian Indigenous Training Center. "There's a big conflict of interest between corporations and indigenous people."

For years, the center has been holding seminars and training sessions on legal issues, economic development, pollution and climate change.

Sulyandziga said the shifting climate has already started to affect hunting, fishing and herding in the indigenous areas, with more serious forest fires and floods. The group also monitored the actions of regional governments and major Russian companies and participated in international forums.

All this has inevitably drawn the hostile attention of the authorities.

"The center is the most important indigenous rights group in Russia," said Grigory Vaypan of the Institute of Law and Public Policy, who represents it in court.

The court order comes as a new crackdown spreads across Russia, targeting advocacy groups, individual activists, theaters, art galleries - a wide array of voices that have one thing in common: They have all presented public opposition to the authorities, in one form or another.

The aim is "to frighten the society," said Valery Solovei, a historian and political analyst. Bracing for more confrontation from a public that is beginning to stir, he said, authorities are trying to "extinguish" those civil society outlets that could become tribunes of protest.

Sulyandziga knows what it is like to be harassed, arrested and accused of abetting Western nations accused by the Kremlin of trying to thwart Russian economic development, he said. His brother Pavel left for the United States after his life was threatened.

Sulyandziga was unable to make a trip to a United Nations meeting in New York in 2014 when a border guard defaced his passport by cutting a page out of it.

This month's court ruling is a death sentence for his organization unless it can be overturned on appeal.

"We are doing our job, according to the Russian constitution, which guarantees indigenous people their rights," he said.

But rights everywhere in the country, he said, are under harsh new attack.

Pavel Chikov, a lawyer who heads the Agora human rights group, said the wider crackdowns date to last summer, in the wake of street protests in Moscow over local elections.

Activities that were once tolerated have been abruptly subject to repression, he said. "Suddenly everything changes, and what was OK is now not OK. The unpredictability is very high, and the rules are changing all the time," he said.

Meanwhile, the list of rights groups and others under pressure continues to grow.

This month, a venerable organization, For Human Rights was also ordered to disband.

The Anti-Corruption Foundation of opposition leader Alexei Navalny is under criminal investigation on a charge of money laundering and has been ordered to register as a "foreign agent," which would drastically limit its ability to work. The foundation disputes the criminal accusation and has promised to fight the foreign-agent designation.

Russia accuses prominent activist's group of taking foreign money

An organizer with the human rights organization Memorial, Yuri Dmitriev, is in jail facing child pornography charges, which he and his supporters say is concocted.

Memorial has been hit with repeated fines - about $10,000 in October and November for violating the law on foreign agents. Its branch in Perm was fined $3,000 in October for supposedly seizing forest land plots illegitimately when it organized a trip to a Stalin-era place of execution of Polish and Lithuanian prisoners.

On Monday in Siberia's Kemerovo region, police charged an anti-corruption activist named Dmitry Miropoltsev with displaying Nazi symbols on a social media post. It was an image taken from state television.

And last month, an art exhibit in Moscow called "Autumn of the Tough Guy," which aimed to document the beatings of civilians in Moscow and St. Petersburg, was shut down before it could open - on President Vladimir Putin's 67th birthday. The gallery's doors have since been welded shut.

More recently, a children's play taken from a story that was popular in the Soviet era, called "Cipollino," by the Italian socialist Gianni Rodari, was banned in Moscow. It's about a little onion that leads a revolt against the repression of Prince Lemon and Don Tomato.

A dormant criminal case against a renowned theater director, Kirill Serebrennikov, and several of his associates, who were charged in 2017 with embezzling nearly $2 million, was revived in late October. He has taken part in anti-government protests and been especially critical of the Russian Orthodox Church, which has close ties to the Kremlin. The accused adamantly deny the charges.

"I wanted to stage a play in Russia but couldn't because the (theater) administration decided that it was too political," a young director, Alexander Molochnikov, said Tuesday on Dozhd TV, a web channel. "Well, you know, we won't stage it, well, we can't - we are financed by the government. This is self-censorship."

Molochnikov said he is taking his play to Latvia instead.

Previously, said Vaypan, the indigenous group's lawyer,the government would at least try to show that an organization it wanted to repress had caused some harm, said Vaypan, the indigenous group's lawyer.

But now, said Vaypan, "any NGO in Russia can be dissolved for any reason - for a missing comma."

Sulyandziga belongs to the Udege ethnic group, who live in forest villages in Russia's Far East, along the Bikin River. There are about 1,800 Udege altogether. They hold that the Amur tiger is their common ancestor.

Russia's more than 40 indigenous groups had no organization or anyone to speak for them until after the collapse of the Soviet Union in 1991. They make up just 0.2 percent of the country's population and rank near the bottom in income and life expectancy.

Between the censuses of 2000 and 2010, two indigenous peoples died off: the Alyutors and the Kerek.

Sulyandziga said that Canadian Inuit groups had been especially helpful in teaching indigenous Russians how to organize and advocate for themselves. Since then, his group has become a partner in various international Arctic organizations and has had access to U.N. forums, where its concerns about rights and the environment have been heard.

"The Arctic," he said, "is a very sensitive topic for Russia" - important geopolitically and offering tempting economic boons.

A report co-written by Pavel Sulyandziga and presented to the U.N. in June noted that Russian authorities have been intent on the "criminalization" of indigenous activists, hitting them with fines and jail sentences.

There’s no sign of that letting up, but “I want to think,” said Rodion Sulyandziga, “that we will continue.”

Time for hip waders: Venice sees record 3rd exceptional tide

Sun, 11/17/2019 - 09:44

A man sits on a small boat in a flooded St.Mark square in Venice, Italy, Sunday, Nov. 17, 2019. Venetians are bracing for the prospect of another exceptional tide in a season that is setting new records. Officials are forecasting a 1.6 meter (5 feet, 2 inches) surge of water Sunday through the lagoon city. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno) (Luca Bruno/)

VENICE, Italy — Venice was hit Sunday by a record third exceptional tide in the same week while other parts of Italy struggled with a series of weather woes, from rain-swollen rivers to high winds to an out-of-season avalanche.

Stores and museums in Venice were mostly closed in the hardest-hit area around St. Mark’s Square, but tourists donned high rubber boots or even hip waders to witness and photograph the spectacle.

Most were disappointed when officials closed the historic square as winds rippled across the rising waters. The doors of the famed St. Mark’s Basilica were securely shut to the public, an authorities took precautions — stacking sandbags in canal-side windows — to prevent salt-laden water from entering the crypt again.

Venice’s Tide Office said the peak tide of 1.5 meters (nearly 5 feet) hit just after 1 p.m. but a weather front off the coast blocked southerly winds from the Adriatic Sea from pushing the tide to the predicted level of 1.6 meters (5 feet, 2 inches). By early evening, the level was less than a meter (three feet).

Still it marked the third time since Tuesday night’s 1.87-meter flood — the worst in 53 years — that water levels in Venice had topped 1.5 meters. Since records began in 1872, that level had never been reached even twice in one year, let alone three times in one week.

While Venetians had a bit of relief, days of heavy rainfall and snowfall elsewhere in Italy swelled rivers to worrisome levels, triggered an avalanche in the Alps and saw dramatic rescues of people unable to flee rising waters.

In Venice, many store owners in the swanky area around St. Mark’s completely emptied their shops, while others put their wares as high as possible and counted on automatic pumping systems to keep the water at bay. In one luxury boutique, employees used water vacuums and big squeegee mops to keep the brackish lagoon waters from advancing.

Venice’s mayor has put the flooding damage at hundreds of millions of euros and Italian officials have declared a state of emergency for the area. They say Venice is both sinking into the mud and facing rising sea levels due to climate change.

A woman arrives in St. Mark square on a gangway, in spite of prohibition, in Venice, Italy, Sunday, Nov. 17, 2019. Venetians are bracing for the prospect of another exceptional tide in a season that is setting new records. Officials are forecasting a 1.6 meter (5 feet, 2 inches) surge Sunday. That comes after Tuesday's 1.87 meter flood, the worst in 53 years, followed by high tide of 1.54 meters on Friday. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno) (Luca Bruno/)
Flood water reaches a luxury shop in Venice, Italy, Sunday, Nov. 17, 2019. Venetians are bracing for the prospect of another exceptional tide in a season that is setting new records. Officials are forecasting a 1.6 meter (5 feet, 2 inches) surge Sunday. That comes after Tuesday's 1.87 meter flood, the worst in 53 years, followed by high tide of 1.54 meters on Friday. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno) (Luca Bruno/)
A Venetian citizen carries her dog Nana as she walks in a flooded street of Venice, Italy, Sunday, Nov. 17, 2019. Venetians are bracing for the prospect of another exceptional tide in a season that is setting new records. Officials are forecasting a 1.6 meter (5 feet, 2 inches) surge of water Sunday through the lagoon city. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno) (Luca Bruno/)
An overview of an empty St.Mark square from the Correr Museum, in Venice, Italy, Sunday, Nov. 17, 2019. Venetians are bracing for the prospect of another exceptional tide in a season that is setting new records. Officials are forecasting a 1.6 meter (5 feet, 2 inches) surge of water Sunday through the lagoon city. (AP Photo/Luca Bruno) (Luca Bruno/)

Luca D’Acunto and his girlfriend Giovanna Maglietta surveyed the rising water from a bridge, wondering how to reach their nearby hotel in their colorful yet inadequate rubber boots.

“We made the reservation this week before the floods and had paid already, so we came,” said D’Acunto, a 28-year-old from Naples. “Instead of a romantic trip, we’ll have an adventurous one.”

Most museums were closed as a precaution, but the Correr Museum, which overlooks St. Mark’s Square and explores the art and history of Venice, remained open. Tourists enjoyed a Venetian Spritz — a colorful aperitif with an Italian bitter and Prosecco — as the waters rose.

Officials said 280 civil protection volunteers were deployed to assist as needed. Young Venetian volunteers in rubber boots have also showed up at key sites, including the city’s Music Conservatory, to help save precious manuscripts from the invading salt water.

The flooding has raised renewed debates about the city’s Moses flood defense project, a corruption-riddled underwater barrier system that is still not operational after more than 16 years of construction and at least 5 billion euros (€5.5 billion) of public funding. It was supposed to be working by 2011.

Floods were also hitting other parts of Italy on Sunday.

In Pisa, famed for its Leaning Tower, workers sandbagged the road along the rising Arno River, which authorities said had reached the highest level there and in another Tuscan city, Florence, since 1992.

“I ask citizens to go home and stay there,’’ Pisa Mayor Michele Conti, said in an appeal on state TV. He said bridges were being closed as a precaution in case the Arno overran its banks. Pisa’s offices and stores were ordered shuttered until midday Monday.

The Arno also surged through the heart of historic Florence, reaching a level near the Uffizi Galleries that was described as the highest in some 20 years. In 24 hours, 6.26 centimeters (2.5 inches) of rain had fallen in Florence, which was whipped by winds as high as 76 kilometers per hour (42 mph).

A popular Florence tourist attraction, the Boboli Gardens, was closed as a precaution for fear of falling trees. Near the Tuscan town of Cecina, 500 people were evacuated when a local river swelled to the top of its banks.

Elsewhere in Tuscany, 2,000 people were ordered evacuated in Grosseto as the Ombrone river swelled dangerously. Near Grosseto, firefighters rescued a man clinging to a tree as floodwaters surrounded him.

In the countryside outside of Bologna, in the central-north Emilia Romagna region, an elderly couple was plucked to safety by a helicopter when the Idice river overran its banks.

In Italy’s mountainous Alto Adige, or South Tyrol region, a mid-autumn snowstorm triggered power outages and blocked roads in several Alpine valleys. The mayor of Val Martello, Georg Altstaetter, told state TV that an avalanche had damaged two houses but caused no injuries. Other homes were evacuated as a precaution in the town, which was left without electricity.

The region’s governor told people to stay home so crews could clear snow-clogged roads.

A windstorm overnight in the Rome area toppled scores of trees, with two falling on cars, severely injuring a motorist.

Some politicians lamented that the drama over Venice’s high tides was eclipsing the needs of other areas.

In Matera, a once-impoverished southern town that has experienced a renaissance through tourism, heavy rain sent torrents of mud racing through its streets last week, ruining shops and lodging.

“There are no minor-league regions,” said Luigi Di Maio, a populist who leads the 5-Star Movement, the government’s main party.

State regulators want public input on easing of rules over Alaska’s garbage industry

Sun, 11/17/2019 - 09:19

FILE: In this Dec. 7, 2016, file photo, Charlie Gallant, right, empties garbage containers with Brian Felipe, left, for Pacific Waste on South Franklin Street in Juneau. (Michael Penn/The Juneau Empire via AP, File) (Michael Penn /)

The Regulatory Commission of Alaska has begun considering whether to trash the state’s rules for garbage collection.

On Wednesday, the commission said it had opened a public comment period on a series of questions related to garbage in Alaska. Comments are due by Dec. 5. At the top of the list of questions: “Please provide comments on your position regarding full or partial deregulation.”

In a series of interviews, Alaska trash companies said deregulation could make it easier for new companies to start up, creating competition that could drive garbage rates down. Others cautioned that deregulation could increase the risk of predatory competition by larger companies, reducing competition.

Mark Gingrich, vice president of Alaska Waste, the state’s largest garbage company, said it’s unclear whether regulators will actually deregulate, and if they do, what steps they will take. Given that, it’s impossible to say what the implications for customers will be.

“To me, the narrative is ‘Hey, they’re seeking information on the industry,’” he said.

But regulators’ request didn’t simply come from a desire for more information. It’s based on a 2018 complaint filed by BlueArctic — a competing trash collection service — against Alaska Waste. The complaint alleged Alaska Waste was unfairly lowering rates for prospective BlueArctic customers while leaving rates untouched for others.

Regulators found the complaint groundless and said Alaska Waste did nothing wrong.

“However, our investigation did pique our interest in the current status of the deregulated commercial refuse industry and the utility practices therein,” the commission wrote, starting a process that resulted in this week’s request for information.

Jason McDonald, general manager of BlueArctic, declined to comment on the record about the complaint or what his company might say during the public comment period. Speaking generally, he said a “stable, partially regulated market” would be best from his perspective.

“The regulatory commission’s job, their only job, is to protect the consumer, and that’s all I want them to do,” he said.

According to information provided by the commission, Alaska is the only state in the nation that regulates garbage collection as a utility, controlling what companies may operate and what rates they may charge. The state largely deregulated commercial garbage rates in 2007, but companies still have to have permission to work. When it comes to curbside trash pickup at home, companies have to have permission to change their rates, too.

Some companies have permission to issue a range of rates, allowing discounts or price hikes on the fly. Smaller companies are exempt from most of the detailed regulations.

Lloyd Moore operates a small trash-collection service in Homer and the southern Kenai Peninsula. His is the kind of business that regulators have traditionally encouraged: It’s locally owned and operated and provides additional options for consumers.

“I actually think a complete deregulation would be beneficial for a consumer," he said.

From a business standpoint, he said, it would make sense for him to want to preserve existing regulations, because they make it more difficult for a new competitor to spring up. As a consumer, though, he prefers options.

“For the consumer, (it’s) always good to have competition. I think that’s the way we should have it, an open market," he said. “If they can do it cheaper than me, for less money, than more power to them.”

Regulations helped push marijuana shops into a few Anchorage neighborhoods. Now, there are worries over ‘green light’ districts.

Sun, 11/17/2019 - 09:12

The Blue AK strain from Alpha Kilo at the cannabis retail shop Dankorage. (Bill Roth / ADN) (Bill Roth / ADN/)

The co-owner of an Anchorage marijuana store, Lily Bosshart, recently turned to the Spenard Community Council with a plea: help me save our eclectic neighborhood from becoming a homogeneous strip of pot shops.

The night before, on Nov. 5, the Anchorage Assembly approved two new retail businesses in Spenard to compete with her shop, Dankorage. Bosshart has suggested capping the number of licenses in high density neighborhoods, or changing zoning restrictions.

City policy has pushed cannabis retailers into a few pockets of the city, while the rest of Anchorage remains a relative marijuana desert. Zoning restrictions largely have stopped them from opening in buildings throughout the rest of town, such as in strip malls. Instead marijuana businesses have concentrated in specific neighborhoods.

"I think that we would like to see this very uniform, even spacing of these facilities, however that’s just not reality,” said Anchorage senior planner Ryan Yelle.

A city map of marijuana businesses shows a trail of green dots from the north end of Anchorage to the south end of Midtown. Most are concentrated downtown, in Spenard and parts of Midtown. Other areas, like Mountain View, Sand Lake, Turnagain and the city’s eastern and southern flanks are almost entirely devoid of marijuana businesses.

As of November 11, 2019 (Kevin Powell/)

The Anchorage Assembly went beyond state regulations when it decided what businesses and community services should be protected from incoming dispensaries. City officials say there is no desire to go back and tweak zoning regulations for pot shops.

“We believe in the free market system," said Anchorage economic and community development director Chris Schutte. "We don’t think there should be an artificial limit on the number of licenses.”

City zoning dictates marijuana operations need to be at least 500 feet from schools of all kinds — including colleges — daycare facilities, community centers, neighborhood recreation facilities, athletic fields, parks and public housing.

Additionally, marijuana businesses have to move into a building that is owned outright. Anything with a loan will be federally insured. That means a marijuana business — which remains federally illegal — can’t operate in it. Spenard has vacant, cheaper retail space, so it became a natural home to the budding businesses, which have to pay cash for their buildings.

Jay Stange, chairman of the Spenard Community Council, said community members have a range of opinions on the increasing number of pot shops.

"One of the things I’ve heard is, ‘I don’t want marijuana stores in my neighborhood because it makes my neighborhood look sleazy,’” Stange said.

Others have told him they appreciate marijuana retailers finding a use for vacant buildings.

Last week, the council created a working group, including community and industry members, to work more closely with marijuana retailers. Together, they aim to help Spenard decide how much of its identity should be marijuana.

At the community council meeting last week, resident Judith Conte asserted that zoning restrictions don’t go far enough. Pot shops are opening up “a stones throw away” from things like Alcoholics Anonymous meeting sites, she said.

Residents also aired concerns about government regulation creating winners and losers and that a cap on licenses would stifle business.

Schutte, the city’s economic and community development director, said capping licenses would allow them to be sold at inflated prices on a secondary market, as liquor licenses are. The city wants to avoid that, Schutte said, and embrace a free-market economy.

Lily Bosshart is co-owner of the cannabis retail shops Dankorage and The Fairbanks Cut on Tuesday, Nov. 5, 2019. (Bill Roth / ADN) (Bill Roth / ADN/)

Bosshart argued her industry isn’t in a free market. State regulation imposes an artificial price floor on marijuana sales, and also dictates a slew of other issues from coupon use to what products can be sold.

In what Bosshart would consider a free market, retailers would set up shop throughout Anchorage. It’s zoning that pushes them to open next door to each other.

Bosshart said her sales decline by 10% to 15% with each new store that comes to the neighborhood.

“We are hampered in almost every way, with the exception of how many licenses they’re going to put on the street,” Bosshart said. “That seems unlimited.”

Spencer Woods of Shungnak is headed to Olympic wrestling trials

Sun, 11/17/2019 - 08:58

Spencer Woods of Shungnak is headed to the U.S. Olympic Team Trials for wrestling.

Woods, a 2016 graduate of Kotzebue High School, earned a berth in next year’s Greco-Roman trials Friday at the Bill Farrell Memorial International Open in New York City.

Woods finished second in a loaded field at 77 kilograms (170 pounds). Because he was the top American finisher in the weight class, Woods qualified for the April 4-5 Olympic trials at Penn State, according to USA Wrestling.

He won four straight matches Friday, outscoring opponents 24-6, before losing to Egypt’s Hassan Hassan Ahmed Mohamed in the championship match.

Woods, who trains at Northern Michigan University’s Olympic training site, won Alaska state high school championships in 2014 and 2015.

After high school he headed to the University of Maryland to wrestle collegiately, but he left the team after a year when he switched from folkstyle wrestling to Greco-Roman. Greco-Roman wrestling is all about upper-body strength -- competitors aren’t allowed to go for their opponent’s legs.

In a Friday semifinal match, Woods clinched a spot at the Olympic trials by defeating Jesse Porter 5-0 in an all-American match. Porter was coming off a huge victory in the preliminaries, where he defeated reigning Olympic champion Davor Stefanik of Serbia 11-1.

In the finals, Mohamed handed Woods a 6-1 loss.

Woods is believed to be the first Alaska man to qualify for the Olympic trials since Anchorage’s Philip Johnston in 2008. Earlier this month, he captured the gold medal at the Malar Cupen, an international meet in Asteras, Sweden. At the U.S. Open in April, he took second place in the 82-kilogram weight class.

Next stop for Spencer Woods of Kotzebue will be the Olympic Trials. The Greco-Roman wrestler won a silver medal at 170 pounds at the Bill Farrell Memorial in New York, securing his bid to the Trials after finishing as the top American at his weight.

— Alaska Sports Hall (@AKsportshall) November 17, 2019

Buttigieg surges ahead of his Democratic primary rivals in Iowa, new poll shows

Sun, 11/17/2019 - 06:15

Democratic presidential candidate and South Bend Mayor Pete Buttigieg leads supporters on a march to the Democratic Party's Liberty and Justice Celebration event in Des Moines, Iowa, Friday, Nov. 1, 2019. (AP Photo/Nati Harnik) (Nati Harnik/)

CEDAR RAPIDS, Iowa - A new poll of Iowa voters released Saturday night suggests a disruption in the Democratic primary contest in the first voting state, with South Bend, Ind., Mayor Pete Buttigieg surging to the front of the crowded pack.

The survey showed Buttigieg with support from 25 percent of likely caucusgoers, followed by essentially a three-way tie for second place between Sens. Elizabeth Warren, D-Mass., and Bernie Sanders, I-Vt., and former vice president Joe Biden, who all have about 15 percent support. None of the other candidates are in double digits.

The poll differs from other recent Iowa polls, which showed Buttigieg, Biden, Warren and Sanders knotted closely together. The survey, released by CNN, the Des Moines Register and MediaCom, was of 500 likely Democratic caucusgoers and has a margin of error of 4.4 percentage points.

"That's extremely encouraging, obviously," said Buttigieg, speaking to reporters after the poll came out at the California Democrats Convention in Long Beach. "We have felt a lot of momentum on the ground."

Buttigieg said that he has seen more enthusiasm for his candidacy in the state since Labor Day and credited his strong performances in the debates and big state events with boosting his campaign.

Another bright spot in the numbers for Buttigieg is that 63 percent of likely caucusgoers think his views are about right, the highest of the four candidates tested. Only 7 percent say his views are too liberal, while 13 percent feel they're too conservative.

Biden places second in the "about right" category with 55 percent, though that is down from 70 percent in March. Like Buttigieg, 7 percent say Biden's views are too liberal. But 28 percent say Biden's views are too conservative.

Nearly half of likely caucusgoers (48 percent) say Warren’s views are about right, compared with 38 percent who think her views are too liberal. A majority of likely caucusgoers (53 percent) deem Sanders’ political views to be too liberal, up from 44 percent in March. Thirty-seven percent say his views are “about right.”

Don’t be misled: Pebble’s permitting process is broken

Sun, 11/17/2019 - 05:58

Aerial view of Dillingham on Tuesday, August 27, 2013. (BILL ROTH / Anchorage Daily News) (Anchorage Daily News/)

As elected leaders of our tribal governments, we have a duty to our people and to the public to tell the truth. An advertisement in the Anchorage Daily News on Nov. 6, paid for by Pebble Limited Partnership, used the logos of our tribes without permission, accompanied by the statement that the permitting process for Pebble’s proposed mine is working. This ad gave the impression that our tribal governments support the work that the Army Corps of Engineers has done on Pebble’s environmental review to date. Nothing could be further from the truth. Our tribes have been part of this process from the start. And let us tell you: The process is broken and it should not be trusted.

The use of our logos seems intended to give our approval of the environmental review. Pebble did not ask for permission to use our logos, and we wouldn’t have granted it if they had.

Curyung Tribal Council and Nondalton Tribal Council have participated in the federal environmental review process as cooperating agencies. That means we have had the opportunity to weigh in on the internal deliberations behind the Environmental Impact Statement, which is intended to be a thorough review of the project and its potential impacts, and see what is happening behind the scenes on Pebble’s review.

We took on this work because our people are the experts on our cultures, ways of life and dependence on the natural resources here in Bristol Bay and because we understand the grave importance of the decisions being made today for future generations. We have specialized knowledge of the region and our peoples that is critical for understanding the project’s impacts, and we believe it is our role, as First Peoples and stewards of the land, to ensure that this project is thoroughly vetted.

All along the way, Pebble and the Army Corps have done their best to stifle our involvement and ignore our input. We had to fight for cooperating agency status so that our knowledge would be included in the environmental impact statement, and the permitting process in general. We submitted extensive concerns in the scoping process that were not incorporated into the draft EIS, including a request for a Human Health Impact Assessment. Throughout the process, our input has been minimized and ignored.

What we have learned is that the Army Corps is intent on rushing this process through, and there is no such thing as a “fair” review when it comes to Pebble. The process was designed from the start to minimize public input, minimize scientific and technical analysis, and gloss over the real concerns about what this mine would do to Bristol Bay.

The idea that the environmental review process is working, or has wide-spread support, is laughable. The draft EIS did not thoroughly analyze the impacts Pebble would have to our cultures and livelihoods in Bristol Bay, nor did it thoroughly analyze the other scientific and technical issues with the project. Numerous experts have said that the draft Environmental Impact Statement was inadequate. In fact, nearly every entity whose logo appears in the ad, including other federal agencies and the State of Alaska, has had major criticisms of the environmental review, some going so far as to call on the Army Corps for a complete do-over. This is not a normal permitting process. This is a rushed and politicized effort to bolster a foreign mining company at the expense of our people and communities.

Congress has taken note, with budget language and committee hearings calling out this politicized review. Alaska Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Dan Sullivan have also weighed in, highlighting the significant concerns about the process so far and the flaws in the draft EIS and calling for a more robust review of Pebble’s plan.

Pebble has been lying to the people of Bristol Bay for more than a decade, and it’s clear that they will stop at nothing to advance their project. Now they’re lying about the process and misappropriating our own names. Over and over, they have proven that they are not a company we can trust with our future in Bristol Bay.

Our tribes are hard at work developing sustainable economic opportunities and working on cultural revitalization. Guided by regional vision, we are working to support healthy families and communities. We took the time to engage in the National Environmental Policy Act process so that this work will not be thrown away simply for the short-term profits of a foreign company.

Pebble cannot be trusted. The Army Corps is bolstering the company’s efforts rather than protecting the public good or fulfilling its trust responsibility to our tribes. Our position hasn’t changed: We will not allow Pebble to be built in Bristol Bay, and we will not stop fighting until our home is protected.

Thomas Tilden is the First Chief of the Curyung Tribal Council; Curyung is the federally recognized tribe of Dillingham. George Alexie is the President of the Nondalton Tribal Council.

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Dunleavy: Special session this year increasingly less likely

Sun, 11/17/2019 - 05:54

FILE - In this Sept. 27, 2019, file photo, Alaska Gov. Mike Dunleavy speaks during a news conference in Anchorage, Alaska. It appears increasingly less likely a special session of the Alaska Legislature will be held yet this year to address the check paid to residents from the state's oil-wealth fund, Gov. Mike Dunleavy said. In August, Dunleavy accepted the dividend passed by lawmakers, which amounted to $1,606, but said he viewed it as partial payment and anticipated a fall special session to address the issue. (AP Photo/Mark Thiessen, File) (Mark Thiessen/)

JUNEAU — It appears increasingly less likely a special session of the Alaska Legislature will be held yet this year to address the check paid to residents from the state’s oil-wealth fund, Gov. Mike Dunleavy said.

In August, Dunleavy accepted the dividend passed by lawmakers, which amounted to $1,606, but said he viewed it as partial payment and anticipated a fall special session to address the issue.

Under state law, at least 30 days’ notice is needed to hold a non-emergency special session during the interim. That would push any special session now up against the holidays.

A Senate vacancy following the death of Republican Chris Birch in August recently was filled by Josh Revak, a freshman House member, after Senate Republicans rejected Dunleavy’s first choice of Rep. Laddie Shaw. Revak’s appointment to the Senate created a House vacancy not yet filled.

In nominating Revak in September, Dunleavy said he wanted a full complement of senators ahead of any possible special session.

The Republican governor has pushed for a dividend in line with a longstanding calculation that hasn’t been followed since 2016. Many lawmakers said such a dividend is unaffordable.

House Speaker Bryce Edgmon, an independent, said he thinks the window for a special session this year has closed and were one to be held, he doesn’t think it would be fruitful.

Dunleavy said Thursday if there’s no special session, the issue will be a top priority when the regular session convenes in January.

“My desire to, once again, take care of that issue as soon as possible is very strong,” he said.

Hong Kong protesters fight off police with fire and arrows

Sun, 11/17/2019 - 05:50

Protestors hurl molotov cocktails as armored police vehicles approach their barricades on a bridge over a highway leading to the Cross Harbour Tunnel in Hong Kong, Sunday, Nov. 17, 2019. A Hong Kong police officer was hit in the leg by an arrow Sunday as authorities used tear gas and water cannons to try to drive back protesters occupying a university campus and blocking a major road tunnel under the city's harbor. (AP Photo/Kin Cheung) (Kin Cheung/)

HONG KONG — A Hong Kong police officer was hit in the leg by an arrow and protesters set an overhead footbridge on fire Sunday as they fought to keep police using tear gas and water cannons from advancing on their university campus stronghold.

Police said the arrow struck a media liaison officer in the calf and he was taken to a hospital. Photos on the department’s Facebook page show the arrow sticking out of the back of the officer’s leg through his pants.

As riot police moved in from all sides, some protesters retreated inside Hong Kong Polytechnic University while others set fires on bridges leading to it.

A huge blaze burned along much of a long footbridge that connects a train station to the campus over the approach to the Cross-Harbour Tunnel, a major road under Hong Kong’s harbor that has been blocked by the protesters for days.

The use of bows and arrows, along with a gasoline bombs launched with catapults, threatened to escalate the violence in the more than five-month-long anti-government movement. Protesters are trying to keep the pressure on Hong Kong leaders, who have rejected most of their demands.

The protests were sparked by proposed legislation that would have allowed the extradition of criminal suspects to the mainland. Activists saw it as an erosion of Hong Kong’s autonomy under the “one country, two systems” formula implemented in 1997, when Britain returned the territory to China.

The bill has been withdrawn, but the protests have expanded into a wider resistance movement against what is perceived as the growing control of Hong Kong by Communist China, along with calls for full democracy for the territory.

Several hundred people formed a human chain Sunday in central Hong Kong in a peaceful rally in support of the movement.

Azaze Chung, a university student, said the government should respond to the protesters’ demands, not just use force against them.

Protestors stand amid smoke on a bridge over a highway leading to the Cross Harbour Tunnel in Hong Kong, Sunday, Nov. 17, 2019. A Hong Kong police officer was hit in the leg by an arrow Sunday as authorities used tear gas and water cannons to try to drive back protesters occupying a university campus and blocking a major road tunnel under the city's harbor. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu) (Vincent Yu/)
Protestors rush to extinguish a tear gas canister fired by police on the campus of the Hong Kong Polytechnic University in Hong Kong, Sunday, Nov. 17, 2019. Police fired tear gas Sunday at protesters holding out at the Hong Kong Polytechnic University as overnight clashes resumed in the morning. (AP Photo/Ng Han Guan) (Ng Han Guan/)
Protestors toss tear gas canisters fired by police at Hong Kong Polytechnic University in Hong Kong, Sunday, Nov. 17, 2019. Police have fired tear gas at protesters holding out at Hong Kong Polytechnic University as overnight clashes resumed in the morning. (AP Photo/Vincent Yu) (Vincent Yu/)

Police and protesters faced off all day outside Polytechnic after a pitched battle the previous night in which the two sides exchanged tear gas and gasoline bombs that left fires blazing in the street.

A large group of people arrived in the morning to try to clean up the road but were warned away by protesters. Riot police shot several volleys of tear gas at the protesters, who sheltered behind a wall of umbrellas and threw gasoline bombs into nearby bushes and trees, setting them on fire.

The protesters held their ground for most of the day, as water cannon trucks drove over bricks and nails strewn by protesters to spray them at close range — some with water dyed blue to help police identify protesters afterward.

Protesters began retreating into the university near sunset, fearing they would be trapped as police fired tear gas volleys and approached from other directions. The protesters have barricaded the entrances to the campus and set up narrow access control points.

They are the holdouts from larger groups that occupied several major campuses for much of last week.

Another group threw bricks in the street to block a main thoroughfare in the Mongkok district, as police fired tear gas to try to disperse them. The disruption to Nathan Road traffic may have been an attempt to distract police during the standoff at Polytechnic.

Opposition lawmakers criticized the Chinese military for joining a cleanup to remove debris from streets near Hong Kong Baptist University on Saturday.

Dozens of Chinese troops, dressed in black shorts and olive drab T-shirts, ran out in loose formation and picked up paving stones, rocks and other obstacles that had cluttered the street

The military is allowed to help maintain public order, but only at the request of the Hong Kong government. The government said that it had not requested the military’s assistance, describing it as a voluntary community activity.

The Education Bureau announced that classes from kindergarten to high school would be suspended again on Monday because of safety concerns. Classes have been canceled since Thursday, after the bureau came under criticism for not doing so earlier.

Anchorage School District wants nearly $40 million to repair and improve Gruening Middle School

Sun, 11/17/2019 - 05:40

Temporary supports prop up the walls at Eagle River Elementary School, which was severely damaged in the Nov. 30, 2018 earthquake. On Tuesday, Jan. 22, 2019, the Anchorage School District announced both Eagle River Elementary and Gruening Middle School will be closed for the 2019-20 school year. (Star photo by Matt Tunseth)

Anchorage voters may be asked to spend around $39 million to repair and upgrade earthquake-damaged Gruening Middle School — a price tag that’s $12 million more than the school cost to build in the early 1980s and $15 million more than recommended by a committee of community members who studied the issue earlier this year.

The now-shuttered school is the costliest item on a nearly $80 million school bond package currently being considered by the Anchorage School District for placement on the April election ballot. The reason for the increase is the desire by district officials to make additional needed upgrades that aren’t related to damage caused by the magnitude 7.1 earthquake that struck the Anchorage area on Nov. 30, 2018.

“The logic behind it is, yes we can do the minimum and put kids in a school that still needs and has been earmarked for these improvements for a number of years, or for an extra cost we can take the time to really give it the sound makeover that it’s due,” Anchorage School District spokesman Alan Brown said Thursday.

In March, the Anchorage School Board endorsed a plan to spend around $24 million to fix Gruening, the cost estimated to replace a roof and stairwell, as well as other repairs and seismic upgrades. According to Brown, the additional spending would allow the district to give the school “a total reset” and would be more efficient to complete at the same time as the earthquake repairs.

Among the other needed improvements are new flooring, upgraded electrical systems and an improved and more secure front entryway, Brown said.

Gruening Middle School, photographed on Thursday, Feb. 21, 2019. The school was damaged during the Nov. 30, 2018 earthquake and will remain closed through the 2019-2020 school year. (Loren Holmes / ADN) (Loren Holmes / Anchorage Daily News/)

The bond being considered by the board — which is still in the discussion phase — would borrow than $70 million for earthquake repairs districtwide, the bulk of which would be spent in the Chugiak-Eagle River area. More than $42 million would be used for repairs at Gruening and Eagle River Elementary, the two schools that have been closed since the earthquake. An additional $27 million would be used for earthquake recovery projects at 12 schools, including five in the Chugiak-Eagle River area.

The School Board will vote on what to include in the bond package during its meeting on Tuesday. It would then be up to voters to decide whether to approve the proposal in April. The federal government is expected to pay for some of the quake repairs, but it’s still unknown how much disaster money will go toward the projects.

This spring, School Board member Elisa Vakalis of Eagle River chaired an ad hoc committee of community members that recommended fixing Gruening Middle School for $24 million rather than replacing the building — which would have cost about $73 million, district officials said.

When she first heard the new cost estimate, Vakalis said, “That one hit me really hard.” But while the new price tag is high, she said, she believes the school needs to be repaired in a way that makes it safe and usable for decades to come.

“This will add 25 years plus of life to this building,” she said.

The troubled facility has long had issues with design and construction deficiencies and cost overruns, with its opening delayed by a year due to problems with the roof design. Initially projected to cost $15 million, by the time it opened in 1984 the middle school had cost taxpayers more than $27 million due to additional repairs, litigation and consulting fees.

Since the two-story school on Lee Street in the Eagle River Valley has been closed, Gruening’s roughly 600 seventh- and eighth-grade students have been attending classes at Chugiak High under an arrangement that’s expected to remain in place through at least the 2020-21 school year.

UAA men’s basketball team is off to a 5-1 start

Sat, 11/16/2019 - 21:59

The UAA men’s basketball team is off to its best start since the 2013-14 season thanks to Saturday night’s win over Sonoma State in Rohnert Park, California.

The Seawolves got rebounds from everyone in the lineup and points from nine out of 10 players in the 81-69 victory.

Leading the way was Niko Bevens with 15 points on 50 percent shooting, including 5 of 9 from 3-point range. Seven others had seven or more points as UAA improved to 5-1.

“This was a great team win,” UAA coach Rusty Osborne said in a release from the school. “Everybody contributed in some way, whether scoring, defense or facilitating the offense.”

Tobin Karlberg scored in double figures for the sixth straight game with 11 points and Oggie Pantovic added 10 points and six rebounds for the Seawolves.

UAA got 33 points off the bench as all but one player registered at least 18 minutes. Tyrus Hosley and Amari Hale each provided nine points and and Hosley added five rebounds.

Sonoma State (1-3) was led by Isaac Davidson’s 25 points.

The win was UAA’s second straight against an NCAA West Region opponent at Sonoma State’s Ron Logsdon Tournament. On Friday, the Seawolves beat San Francisco State 81-69 behind Jack Macdonald’s 20 points. Macdonald handed out six assists on Saturday.

The Seawolves took excellent care of the ball all weekend, recording four turnovers Saturday and six Friday. They’re off for nearly two weeks before returning to action at the Seawolf Thanksgiving Classic, where they will play Michigan Tech on Friday and Northern Michigan on Saturday.

Eve Stephens returns from injury to lead UAA volleyball team to another win

Sat, 11/16/2019 - 21:23

After missing two matches with an injury, Eve Stephens didn’t miss a beat Saturday when she returned to action for the UAA volleyball team.

Stephens, a sophomore from Palmer, smashed 22 kills and added 12 digs and five blocks to guide the Seawolves to a four-set victory over Simon Fraser in Burnaby, British Columbia.

With the 25-20, 25-23, 22-25, 25-16 win, the Seawolves locked down second place in the Great Northwest Athletic Conference. And with two matches remaining in the regular season, they still have a shot at first place – league-leading Western Washington is 16-2 and UAA is 15-3, and if there’s a tie, UAA would win the tiebreaker.

The win capped a strong week for the Seawolves, who on Thursday ended Western Washington’s 39-match home-court winning streak in a five-set thriller.

Simon Fraser (16-10 overall, 12-6 GNAC) crafted late leads in each of the first two sets, but UAA came back both times.

“It’s terrific to have Eve come back with such a dominant offensive performance,” UAA coach Chris Green said in a press release from the school. “This should give us a lot of confidence going into our last home matches next week.”

The Seawolves got good all-around play from sophomore Ellen Floyd (48 assists, 15 digs, 5 blocks, 5 kills) while improving to 20-6 overall.

Vanessa Hayes posted 13 kills, Jalisa Ingram – who emerged as a force during Stephens’ absence – was good for six blocks and seven kills, and Anjoilyn Vreeland and Talia Leauanae each added double-figure digs for the Seawolves.

Stephens, the GNAC kill leader, registered a .408 attack perentage, getting her 22 kills on 49 attempts with only two errors. Ingram had zero errors and seven kills on 12 attempts for a .583 percentage.

UAA plays its final two regular-season matches at the Alaska Airlines Center, where the Seawolves will host Saint Martin’s on Thursday and Seattle Pacific on Saturday.

Wolverines show resiliency in return to Class 4A volleyball supremacy

Sat, 11/16/2019 - 21:00

South celebrates a point Saturday in its chammpionship victory over Bartlett. (Loren Holmes / ADN) (Loren Holmes/)

Things looked grim for the South Wolverines early in Saturday night’s championship match at the Class 4A state volleyball tournament.

They were blown out in the first set by a Bartlett team that was still riding the momentum of a big victory earlier in the day against powerhouse Dimond, the four-time defending state champion.

Not to worry. The Wolverines weren’t done yet.

Led by libero Kylie Hurd’s 30 digs, South came back to beat Bartlett in four sets and claim its first state championship since 2014.

Camryn Houser slammed 13 kills and Sarina Gribbin had 10 to help the Wolverines prevail 14-25, 25-19, 25-21, 26-24 at the Alaska Airlines Center. The title is their seventh since 2005.

Bartlett, which started the day with a sweep of the Dimond Lynx, raced to a 20-5 lead in the first set in pursuit of its first state title in 1976. But South didn’t panic.

“One of the core covenants at South is resilience,” coach Amy Mestas said. “We had a good team-bonding event after regions, after losing the region title, and they all believed that they could come and do this after that loss.”

Bartlett's Sierra Fainuulelei puts up a block against South's Sarah Robinson. (Loren Holmes / ADN) (Loren Holmes/)

Hurd, whose backrow play earned her player-of-the-game honors, said the first-set loss was a bit unsettling.

“It had me a little bit scared,” she said, “but we picked it up and worked as a team and worked through it together.”

The championship continues an impressive run for South High, which so far this school year has won championships in football, flag football, cross country, gymnastics and volleyball.

The volleyball title came with a bit of revenge. At last week’s Cook Inlet Conference tournament, South entered as the top seed but dropped a four-set decision to Dimond in the championship match.

In Friday’s winners-bracket match between South and Dimond, South retaliated by sweeping the Lynx.

“That was a pretty good deal for us,” Hurd said. “And then we came out today and we were into it and ready to win.”

Josh Reed contributed to this report.

South's Camryn Houser and Makenna Besch team up for a block. (Loren Holmes / ADN) (Loren Holmes/)

ASAA/First National Bank state volleyball tournament

Alaska Airlines Center

Class 4A

Saturday’s results

Bartlett def. Dimond 3-2 (25-18, 25-20, 16-25, 15-25, 15-13)

South def. Bartlett 3-1 (14-25, 25-19, 25-21, 26-24)

Friday’s results

Winners bracket

South def. Dimond 3-0 (27-25, 25-20, 25-20)

Losers bracket

Palmer def. Juneau-Douglas 3-1 (20-25, 25-17, 25-11, 25-17) (loser out)

Soldotna def. North Pole 3-0 (25-16, 25-16, 25-21) (loser out)

Wasilla def. Palmer 3-0 (25-20, 25-17, 25-21) (loser out)

Bartlett def. Soldotna 3-0 (25-21, 25-16, 25-17 (loser out)

Bartlett def. Wasilla 3-0 (25-22, 25-17, 25-18) (loser out)

All-tournament team

Leeanna Atafua, Bartlett

Hahni Johnson, Dimond

Laralynna Atafua, Bartlett

Makenna Besch, South

Ainsley Smith North Pole

Jada Schultz, wasuilla

Kristen Beames, Palmer

Josephine Schachle, Wasilla

Sarina Gribbin, South

Kylie Hurt, South

Ituau Tuisaula, Soldotna

Bartlett fans cheer their team. (Loren Holmes / ADN) (Loren Holmes/)
South's Sarina Gribbin and Hanna Henrie try to block a spike by Bartlett's Natasha Togagae. (Loren Holmes / ADN) (Loren Holmes/)
The South High Wolverines celebrate their championship. (Loren Holmes / ADN) (Loren Holmes/)

No. 17 Bowling Green completes sweep of Seawolves

Sat, 11/16/2019 - 19:59

Bowling Green pulled off a sweep of the UAA hockey team Saturday by shutting out the Seawolves 3-0 at the Seawolf Sports Complex.

The 17th-ranked Falcons scored twice on the power play while holding UAA scoreless on three chances with the man advantage in the Western Collegiate Hockey Association game.

Eric Dop registered a 29-save shutout to lead Bowling Green, which got a first-period goal from Alex Barber and third-period strikes from Cameron Wright and Taylor Schneider.

Wright, who also scored in Friday’s 3-1 victory, finished with a goal and an assist to help his team to improve to 7-4-0 overall and 4-2-0 in the WCHA. Max Johnson had two assists.

UAA got 31 saves from goaltender Kris Carlson.

The Seawolves struggled to generate shots in the first period, when the Falcons outshot them 14-4. They picked it up after that and finished with 29 shots on goals. Bowling Green had 34.

UAA, which heads to Minnesota State in Mankato for two games next weekend, slipped to 2-6-2 overall and 2-3-1 in the WCHA.

Testimony ties president closer to pressure on Ukraine

Sat, 11/16/2019 - 19:46

FILE - In this Nov. 6, 2019, file photo, Tim Morrison, the top Russia official on President Trump's National Security Council, gets off of an elevator as he returns to Capitol Hill in Washington, to review his testimony before the House impeachment inquiry last week. Transcripts released Saturday, Nov. 16, show Ambassador Gordon Sondland playing a central role in Trump’s effort to push Ukraine to conduct political investigations as a condition for receiving needed military aid. The fresh details come from hundreds of pages of testimony from former top official Morrison. (AP Photo/Susan Walsh, File) (Susan Walsh/)

WASHINGTON — Gordon Sondland, President Donald Trump’s emissary to the European Union, had a message when he met with a top Ukrainian official.

Sondland said vital U.S. military assistance to Ukraine might be freed up if the country’s top prosecutor “would go to the mike and announce that he was opening the Burisma investigation," a U.S. official told lawmakers. Burisma is the gas company in Ukraine where Democrat Joe Biden’s son Hunter served on the board.

Sondland relayed the exchange moments later to Tim Morrison, then a National Security Council aide. In his private testimony to impeachment investigators made public Saturday, Morrison recounted that Sondland also told him he was discussing the Ukraine matters directly with Trump.

Morrison’s testimony ties Trump more closely to the central charge from Democrats pursuing impeachment: that Trump held up U.S. military aid to Ukraine in exchange for investigations into Democrats and Biden’s family. Morrison’s testimony also contradicts much of what Sondland told congressional investigators during his own closed-door deposition, which the ambassador later amended.

Both Morrison and Sondland are scheduled to testify publicly next week as part of the historic, high-stakes impeachment proceedings into the nation’s 45th president. Democrats charge that Trump abused his office for personal political gain, while the president and his allies argue that the process is politically motivated and that nothing in the testimony so far meets the bar for impeachment.

Transcripts from the closed-door testimony from Morrison, a longtime Republican defense hawk in Washington, and Jennifer Williams, a special adviser to Vice President Mike Pence on Russia and Europe, were released Saturday as investigators accelerated and deepened the probe. They provided another window into the alarm within the government over Ukraine pressure.

Immediately after the exchange with Sondland during an international gathering in Warsaw, Morrison called his boss, John Bolton, then Trump’s national security adviser.

“Stay out of it,” Bolton told him, “brief the lawyers.”

For Morrison, Burisma was a catch-all for a “bucket” of investigations — of Democrats and the family of Joe Biden — that he wanted to “stay away from.” They had nothing to do with “the proper policy process that I was involved in on Ukraine,” he testified.

Morrison said Sondland and Trump had spoken approximately five times between July 15 and Sept. 11 — the weeks that $391 million in U.S. assistance was withheld from Ukraine before it was released.

While some, including Trump himself, have begun to question Sondland’s knowledge of events, Morrison told House investigators the ambassador “related to me he was acting — he was discussing these matters with the President.”

Pressed by Rep. Adam Schiff, the Democratic chairman of the Intelligence Committee leading the probe, as to whether Sondland had actually spoken to the president, Morrison said he had verified it each time.

Pence, so far, has been a more unseen figure in the impeachment inquiry, but testimony from Williams raised fresh questions about what Pence knew about Trump’s actions toward Ukraine.

Pence was also at the Warsaw gathering. For the new government of Ukraine, situated between NATO allies and Russia, the security aid Congress had already approved was a lifeline to the West.

Williams was among the staffers in the White House Situation Room who listened and took notes during Trump's July 25 call when he asked Ukraine President Volodymyr Zelenskiy for “a favor.” A whistleblower’s complaint about that call helped spark the House impeachment investigation.

Williams testified that Trump's discussion on the call of specific investigations struck her as "unusual and inappropriate" and seemed to point to "other motivations" for holding up the military aid.

After the call, Williams told investigators, she put the White House’s rough transcript into the into the vice president's daily briefing book.

"I just don't know if he read it," she said.

Williams corroborated the testimony of a previous witness, Lt. Col. Alexander Vindman, an NSC aide on the call, who said the White House dropped the word “Burisma” from the transcript. She said in an addendum to her testimony that Zelenskiy had mentioned the word “Burisma” in the call.

Vindman and Williams at scheduled to testify together during a public impeachment hearing on Tuesday morning.

The White House’s decision to put the transcript of the July 25 call on a highly classified server has drawn keen interest throughout the probe. But Morrison said the unusual move was unintentional.

Morrison said he was concerned if the call got out it would be politically damaging. He talked to White House lawyer John Eisenberg and they agreed that access should be restricted, he testified.

But Morrison said Eisenberg later told him that he did not intend for the call summary to be placed on a highly classified server. Eisenberg's staff apparently put it there by mistake, he said.

As the transcripts were released, impeachment investigators wrapped up a rare Saturday session interviewing Mark Sandy, a little-known career official at the Office of Management and Budget who was involved in key meetings about the aid package.

Sandy’s name had barely come up in previous testimony. But it did on one particular date: July 25, the day of Trump’s call with Zelenskiy. That day, a legal document with Sandy’s signature directed a freeze of the security funds to Ukraine, according to testimony.

Throughout Morrison’s account, he largely confirmed testimony from current and former officials about what has been described as a shadow diplomacy being run by Trump’s personal lawyer, Rudy Giuliani, often at odds with U.S. national security interests.

A few days after the Warsaw meeting, Sondland was on the phone telling Morrison Sept. 7 he had just gotten off a call with the president.

Morrison said Sondland related that Trump assured him there were no strings being attached to the military aid for Ukraine.

“The president told him there was no quid pro quo, but President Zelenskiy must announce the opening of the investigations and he should want to do it,” Morrison testified.

Morrison had what he called a “sinking feeling” that the aid may not ultimately be released. About that time, three congressional committees said they were launching inquiries into efforts by Trump and Giuliani to investigate the Bidens.

At a Sept. 11 meeting at the White House, Pence and GOP Sen. Rob Portman of Ohio “convinced the president that the aid should be disbursed immediately,” said Morrison, who said he was briefed about the meeting but did not attend it. “The case was made to the president that it was the appropriate and prudent thing to do.”

Democrats hold on to Louisiana governor’s seat despite Trump

Sat, 11/16/2019 - 19:32

Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards listens to pollster Zac McCrary, left, and David Turner, Communications Director of the Democratic Governor's Association, as results arrive at his election night watch party in Baton Rouge, La., Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019. (AP Photo/Matthew Hinton) (Matthew Hinton/)

BATON ROUGE, La. — Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards has stunned Republicans again, narrowly winning a second term Saturday as the Deep South’s only Democratic governor and handing Donald Trump another gubernatorial loss this year.

In the heart of Trump country, the moderate Edwards cobbled together enough cross-party support with his focus on bipartisan, state-specific issues to defeat Republican businessman Eddie Rispone.

Coming after a defeat in the Kentucky governor’s race and sizable losses in Virginia’s legislative races, the Louisiana result seems certain to rattle Republicans as they head into the 2020 presidential election. Trump fought to return the seat to the GOP, making three trips to Louisiana to rally against Edwards.

The president’s intense attention motivated not only conservative Republicans, but also powered a surge in anti-Trump and black voter turnout that helped Edwards.

Democrats who argue that nominating a moderate presidential candidate is the best approach to beat Trump are certain to point to Louisiana’s race as bolstering their case. Edwards, a West Point graduate, opposes gun restrictions, signed one of the nation’s strictest abortion bans and dismissed the impeachment effort as a distraction.

Still, while Rispone’s loss raises questions about the strength of Trump's coattails, its relevance to his reelection chances are less clear. Louisiana is expected to easily back Trump next year, and Edwards’ views in many ways are out of step with his own party.

In the final days as polls showed Edwards with momentum, national Republicans beefed up assistance for Rispone. That wasn’t enough to boost the GOP contender, who wasn’t among the top-tier candidates Republican leaders hoped would challenge Edwards as they sought to prove that the Democrat’s longshot victory in 2015 was a fluke.

Rispone is a longtime political donor who was little-known when he launched his campaign, had ties to unpopular former Gov. Bobby Jindal and offered few details about his agenda. Edwards also proved to be a formidable candidate, with a record of achievements.

Working with the majority-Republican Legislature, Edwards stabilized state finances with a package of tax increases, ending the deficit-riddled years of Jindal. New money paid for investments in public colleges and the first statewide teacher raise in a decade.

Edwards expanded Louisiana's Medicaid program, lowering the state's uninsured rate below the national average. A bipartisan criminal sentencing law rewrite he championed ended Louisiana's tenure as the nation's top jailer.

Rispone, the 70-year-old owner of a Baton Rouge industrial contracting company, hitched his entire candidacy to Trump, introducing himself to voters in ads that focused on support for the president in a state Trump won by 20 percentage points.

But the 53-year-old Edwards, a former state lawmaker and former Army Ranger from rural Tangipahoa Parish, reminded voters that he’s a Louisiana Democrat, with political views that sometimes don’t match his party’s leaders.

“They talk about I’m some sort of a radical liberal. The people of Louisiana know better than that. I am squarely in the middle of the political spectrum,” Edwards said. “That hasn’t changed, and that’s the way we’ve been governing.”

Rispone framed himself in the mold of Trump, describing himself as a “conservative outsider” whose business acumen would help solve the state’s problems.

“We want Louisiana to be No. 1 in the South when it comes to jobs and opportunity. We have to do something different,” Rispone said. “We can do for Louisiana what President Trump has done for the nation.”

Rispone poured more than $12 million of his own money into the race. But he had trouble drawing some of the primary vote that went to Republican U.S. Rep. Ralph Abraham, after harshly attacking Abraham in ads as he sought to reach the runoff.

Rispone also avoided many traditional public events attended by Louisiana gubernatorial candidates and sidestepped questions about his plans when taking office. He promised tax cuts, without saying where he’d shrink spending, and he pledged a constitutional convention, without detailing what he wanted to rewrite.

Both parties spent millions on attack ads and get-out-the-vote work, on top of at least $36 million spent by candidates.

Homer Mariners capture first volleyball crown since 1990

Sat, 11/16/2019 - 19:25

Homer celebrates after defeating Kenai Central for the Class 3A state volleyball championship at the Alaska Airlines Center. (Loren Holmes / ADN) (Loren Holmes/)

Three decades after winning their first state volleyball championship, the Homer Mariners captured their second.

Homer came through the losers bracket Saturday to claim the Class 3A state title at the Alaska Airlines Center.

Once they reached the finals, the Mariners defeated Kenai Central in five sets to force the if-necessary game, and won it too.

Homer coach Stephanie Carroll said her team didn’t know until recently that so many years had passed since the school won its first state volleyball championship in 1990.

“When we realized that … it had been that long, we realized this is the year — we’re putting another banner up. Thirty years is too long,” Carroll said. “That was our goal, to come and get one.”

Homer's Kitri Classen bumps the ball. (Loren Holmes / ADN) (Loren Holmes/)

The Mariners ended the long drought by beating a Kenai Central team that was looking for its first championship.

Marina Carroll ripped 30 kills and Laura Inama slammed 20 against the Kardinals. Kelli Bishop handed out 40 assists to help Homer get past Kenai Central 11-25, 25-14, 25-16, 12-25, 15-8 in the championship match and 30-23 in the if-necessary game.

“We actually did expect it to go to an if-game today,” Stephanie Carroll said. “We knew it would be a battle against Kenai and Nikiski. We just fought, and I’m so proud they never gave up and just stayed in it the whole time.”

Homer swept Nikiski earlier Saturday, 25-20, 25-16, 25-23, to advance to the final match against the Kards.

Bishop and Marina Carroll are among four seniors on the Homer squad, along with Karmyn Gallios and Kitri Classen.

Kenai's Chelsea Plagge and Abby Every try to block an attack by Homer's Marina Carroll. (Loren Holmes / ADN) (Loren Holmes/)

“I started off as an assistant coach with these seniors,” Stephanie Carroll said. “They had a different head coach every year and this year it was me.”

The seniors have played at the varsity level since they were sophomores, Stephanie Carroll said, “so they’ve been through rough patches where they were the underdog.”

The eight-team, double-elimination tournament was a showcase for the Southcentral Conference. All three teams that were still standing after two days of competition — Homer, Kenai and defending champion Nikiski — come from that conference.

Eight of the 12 all-tournament picks also came from the Southcentral Conference — Carroll, Inama and Bishop from Homer; Abby Every and Bethany Morris from Kenai; and America Jeffreys, Kaitlyn Johnson and Kaycee Bostic from Nikiski.

Homer's Tonda Smude defends a shot by Kenai's Bethany Morris. (Loren Holmes / ADN) (Loren Holmes/)

ASAA/First National Bank state volleyball tournament

Class 3A

Saturday’s results

Homer def. Nikiski 3-1 (25-18, 25-22, 23-25, 25-14)

Championship — Homer def. Kenai 3-2 (11-25, 25-14, 25-16, 12-25, 15-9

If-necessary game — Homer 30, Kenai 23

Friday’s results

Winners bracket

Kenai def. Nikiski 3-1 (25-9, 25-18, 23-25, 25-19)

Losers bracket

Barrow def. Valdez 3-0 (26-24, 25-18, 27-25) (loser out)

Monroe def. Kotzebue 3-0 (25-22, 25-14, 27-25) (loser out)

Homer def. Barrow 3-0 (25-6, 26-24, 25-6 (loser out)

Sitka def. Monroe 3-0 (25-22, 26-24, 25-20) (loser out)

Homer def. Sitka 3-0 (25-20, 25-16, 25-23) (loser out)

All-tournament team

America Jeffreys, Nikiski

Abby Every, Kenai

Bethany Morris, Kenai

Chloe Maynard, Monroe

Chloe Morrison, Sitka

Marina Carroll, Homer

Jenicee Donovan, Barrow

Kaitlyn Johnson, Nikiski

Kelli Bishop, Homer

Kaycee Bostic, Nikiski

Laveah Makisi, Kotzebue

Laura Inama, Homer

The Mariners celebrate a point during the title match. (Loren Holmes / ADN) (Loren Holmes/)

Stuck with an annoying airline seatmate? Here’s what you can do about it.

Sat, 11/16/2019 - 17:40

iStock / Getty Images (

Airline passengers can be so annoying. How annoying? Just ask Retha Charette, a tour guide from Arlington, Vemont.

On a recent flight from Newark to Amsterdam, her seatmate opened her tray table, placed her infant on it and began to change the baby's diaper.

"It's the most disgusting thing I've ever seen on a plane," Charette says. "I didn't know what to do."

It's hard to find someone who doesn't have a story like hers to tell. Charette, who writes a blog called Roaming Nanny, says she tries to keep her cool when a seatmate does something irritating.

"I think the number one thing to remember when something weird starts happening is not to lose your temper," she says. "I firmly believe that when most people travel, they don't think about those around them. We're all worried about our comfort."

Jacquelyn Youst, a frequent traveler and president of the Pennsylvania Academy of Protocol, agrees that maintaining your composure is the golden rule when it comes to passengers seated behind you, in front of you, or next to you. Losing your cool is counterproductive, considering that you're trapped with them in a pressurized tube for the foreseeable future.

"Don't yell," she says. "This will only make the rest of your travel experience tense."

So what are the most aggravating things passengers do - and what can you do about them?The problems are as numerous and varied as the solutions. If there's a common thread, it is this: Stay above the fray. Otherwise, you could end up starring in a viral video - or worse.

I asked Marianne Perez de Fransius for her thoughts on babies in flight.

"A crying baby can be annoying," says Perez de Fransius, the CEO of Bébé Voyage, a site for parents who travel with young children. "But the absolute wrong reaction is berating the parent or caretaker for having a crying baby. Parents want their baby to stop crying more than the other passengers."

Instead, offer to help or try distracting the baby. "Maybe you have a cute video on your phone you could show the baby, or you have something entertaining like a colorful keychain," Perez de Fransius says.

Infants are hardly the only passengers who can grate on your nerves. Consider the situation Lisa Cortez found herself in on a recent flight from Los Angeles to Rome. Soon after the flight attendants served a snack, a passenger seated across the aisle calmly removed his shoes and began clipping his toenails. His seatmate, her face buried in a book, didn't react.

Cortez, a frequent air traveler who runs a tour company in Phoenix, waited in vain for the seatmate to react. "I grabbed my tablet computer from the side pocket of my seat and set it to a standing position as a barrier between flying toenails and my yummy midflight snack," she says.

Sometimes, that's all you can do - protect yourself from whatever a fellow passenger sends your way.

And then there are the seat-reclining passengers. Oh, those seat recliners! Kat Koppett, an actor and improv consultant from Albany, New York, had one on her last flight.

"It would have been easy to react mindlessly," she says. "I could have passively aggressively bumped her seat a lot."

Instead, she applied the principles of improv and used the moment as an opportunity to stretch her performance range, cycling through possible responses.

"I could tap her on the shoulder, politely explain that I had a deadline and ask her to move up," she says. "I could see if the flight attendant might help me. I could choose not to work and find out how that decision might lead to other options, like meditating or listening to music."

She could also vow never to fly on an airline with such a scarcity of legroom again. Or book a ticket on an air carrier that limits seat recline, such as Delta Air Lines.

In the end, she suffered in silence, as most of us do.

If you are going to address the problem, it's better to do so sooner rather than later. That's what Gregorio Palomino discovered when a passenger boarded late and took a middle seat next to him.

"He sat down next to me and pushed me and the other seatmate off [the armrests] after we had settled in," says Palomino, an event planner from San Antonio. "He looked at me and said, 'Are we going to have a problem here?' "

Palomino stood up, walked to the front of the cabin and asked if he could move to a different seat. Instead of reseating him, the attendant called the airport police, who ushered Palomino and the aggressive passenger off the plane. The airline gave Palomino a ticket on the next available flight. But it could have been much worse.

Imagine if Palomino had waited until the aircraft had reached cruising altitude.

Snow arrives in Anchorage and Matanuska Valley, with a total of 5-9 inches expected

Sat, 11/16/2019 - 17:05

Vehicles travel on Tudor Road during a snowfall on Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019. (Loren Holmes / ADN) (Loren Holmes/)

After an unusually warm fall with little or no snow, the Anchorage area saw its first measurable snow accumulation Saturday, with slick roads and several inches of accumulation around the city by late afternoon.

The National Weather Service to issue a winter weather advisory for Anchorage and the Matanuska Valley through early Sunday morning.

On-again, off-again snow showers could produce a total of 5 to 9 inches of snow in Anchorage, with the Hillside seeing even more snow, meteorologists from the National Weather Service said. The weather service was forecasting daytime highs in the mid-30s with overnight lows in the mid- to high-20s.

“A fast-moving, low-pressure system moving up the Cook Inlet is bringing moisture and cold air to the Anchorage area,” meteorologist Pam Szatanek said. She was excited about the large, quarter-sized snowflakes that had started falling near the weather service’s Anchorage office south of Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport.

Several inches of snow to light dustings were reported across the Anchorage Bowl Saturday afternoon, with intermittent white-out conditions on the Glenn Highway, Szatanek said.

There was a slight chance of snow on Sunday, she said.

Snow falls near Westchester Lagoon as a runner passes on the Chester Creek Trail on November 16, 2019. (Marc Lester / ADN) (Marc Lester/)
Snow falls on a spruce tree Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019 in Midtown Anchorage. (Loren Holmes / ADN) (Loren Holmes/)
A person runs along Elmore Road during a snowfall Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019. (Loren Holmes / ADN) (Loren Holmes/)
People walk through snow outside the Alaska Airlines Center on Saturday, Nov. 16, 2019. (Loren Holmes / ADN) (Loren Holmes/)

“People in Alaska have a recreational response to snow,” Szatanek said.

A second storm was expected to move into Southcentral Alaska over the next few days, Szatanek said. An eastward-traveling storm from the north Pacific Ocean will grow in intensity near Adak and will push into the Anchorage area Tuesday, she said.

It was too early to tell if the storm would bring more snow, freezing rain or a wintry mix, Szatanek said.

A Winter Weather Advisory has been issued for #Anchorage through 1am Sunday and the #MatanuskaValley through 5am Sunday for an additional 3-6" of snow. Please see for more information. #Snow reports are appreciated. #AKWx

— NWS Anchorage (@NWSAnchorage) November 17, 2019