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Updated: 2 hours 25 min ago

University of Alaska governing board delays vote on whether to declare financial emergency

Mon, 07/15/2019 - 15:02

Maria Williams, a professor of Alaska Native studies at UAA who chairs UA’s Faculty Alliance, asks the Board of Regents to hold off on declaring exigency. The University of Alaska Board of Regents met to consider declaring financial exigency on Monday. (Marc Lester / ADN) (Marc Lester/)

The University of Alaska governing board voted on Monday to delay a decision on whether to declare “financial exigency" — a rare and drastic step that would have allowed UA officials to more quickly end academic programs and remove tenured faculty as they grapple with a 41 percent cut to state funding.

In a 10-1 vote, the UA Board of Regents approved to delay a decision until July 30, with Regent Mary Hughes casting the dissenting vote after about 90 minutes of discussion. Questions remain about whether state lawmakers will reach some sort of deal this month, inserting funding for UA back into another bill.

The regents’ vote follows Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s unveiling on June 28 of 182 line-item vetoes to the state operating budget. He erased an unprecedented $130.25 million in funding for UA, on top of the $5 million cut approved by the state Legislature.

In total, that’s a 41 percent cut to the public university system’s state funding compared to last year, and roughly 17 percent of its overall budget.

[House panel introduces legislation to reverse governor’s vetoes and fix other gaps in budget]

Very few public universities in the U.S. have declared financial exigency in the past, said Peter Lake, professor of law and director of the Center for Excellence in Higher Education Law and Policy at Stetson University in Florida. He couldn’t recall any other public university systems making such a declaration.

“I have no living memory, and I’ve been at this for 30 years, of an entire system declaring exigency,” he said. “That registers on the Richter scale.”

UA regents declared financial exigency in 1986 in response to budget cuts, said UA President Jim Johnsen. However, he said, the governor then dialed back some of the reductions, and exigency wasn’t implemented.

The UA Faculty Alliance had passed a resolution asking regents to delay voting on the declaration this year. Monday is too soon and the impacts of such a declaration are too severe, the chair of the alliance has said. Impacts could include the loss of accreditation, dwindling student enrollment and more, Lake said.

[‘Despair, rage’: University of Alaska community braces for big budget decisions ahead]

This is a developing story. Check back for updates.

Record warm water in lower Kuskokwim River likely caused heart attacks in salmon, biologist says

Mon, 07/15/2019 - 13:23

As record high temperatures swept Alaska recently, many people said the heat was killing them.

For Kuskokwim River salmon, it was actually true. Never-before-seen temperatures in the Kuskokwim River likely sent salmon into cardiac arrest.

Water temperatures near Bethel broke into the lower 70s last week, marking the highest river temperature ever recorded in early July.

Residents along the lower Kuskokwim River from Tuntutuliak to Akiak reported dead salmon floating downstream. Salmon don’t function well past 70 degrees, and the water had pushed just above that limit.

“Essentially, what could happen is salmon metabolism speeds up to the point that they’re having heart attacks and going belly up and floating downriver,” explained Alaska Department of Fish and Game biologist Ben Gray.

Gray and his crew boated from Bethel to Akiak to check it out. Along the way, they counted about 20 dead salmon.

Warm water is also the suspected cause of the higher than normal amount of parasites infesting salmon harvested along the river. That warm water is coming from the ocean. Kuskokwim Bay has run 10 to 12 degrees above average throughout the summer, and each tide pulls that warm water into the lower river.

“And that water is pushing upriver,” Gray said, “and it’s mixing, and we’re having a profile in the water right now where it’s a solid 68 to 70 degrees all the way through.”

Meanwhile, residents throughout the Norton Sound region to the north have reported large numbers of dead pink salmon that have yet to spawn floating in warm waterways.

This article originally appeared at and is republished here with permission.

Truck fire at Valdez refinery remains under investigation

Mon, 07/15/2019 - 13:13

Valdez firefighters begin stretching hoses to attack a fire in a tanker truck at the Petro Star refinery in Valdez on Thursday, July 11, 2019. fire. (Photo courtesy Valdez Fire Department)

The cause of a fire in a truck taking on fuel at a Valdez refinery last week remains under investigation, local officials say.

Reports of an explosion and fire at the Petro Star Refinery on Dayville Road came in at 8:32 p.m. Thursday, according to the Valdez Fire Department. Responders arrived about five minutes later to find a fire involving a highway cargo tanker truck parked inside the loading facility. An Alyeska Fire & Rescue engine also responded.

No injuries were reported.

The fire was brought under control at 8:49 p.m., according to the department. The last crews left the scene before midnight.

The truck’s operator was starting to load diesel into the forward cargo tank when the fire started, according to Allie Ferko, a city spokeswoman. The rear tank was empty.

Damage was limited to the truck and the loading bay it occupied, Ferko said.

A Petro Star representative didn’t immediately return a call for comment.

Murkowski calls Trump’s racially tinged comments against Democratic lawmakers ‘spiteful’

Mon, 07/15/2019 - 12:09

In this combination image from left; Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., July 10, 2019, Washington, Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., March 12, 2019, in Washington, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-NY., July 12, 2019, in Washington, and Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., July 10, 2019, in Washington. In tweets Sunday, President Donald Trump portrays the lawmakers as foreign-born troublemakers who should go back to their home countries. In fact, the lawmakers, except one, were born in the U.S. (AP Photo)

Sen. Lisa Murkowski on Monday joined a chorus of criticism against President Donald Trump after he told four minority congresswomen to “go back” to their countries.

“There is no excuse for the president’s spiteful comments – they were absolutely unacceptable and this needs to stop,” Murkowski said in a Facebook post.

The president must stop “digging deeper into the mud with personal vindictive insults," she said. The U.S. needs to demand a “higher standard” of decency.

Trump on Sunday said in tweets that freshmen Democratic Reps. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, Ilhan Omar, Ayanna Pressley and Rashida Tlaib should “go back” and fix their “corrupt and inept” countries rather than telling the people of the U.S. how to run government.

So interesting to see “Progressive” Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly......

— Donald J. Trump (@realDonaldTrump) July 14, 2019

Omar was born in Somalia, the only one of the four women not born in the United States. All four are U.S. citizens. Omar, 36, fled civil war in Somalia with her family, becoming a U.S. citizen as a teenager.

The comments drew widespread condemnation for their racially charged undertones, and helped unite a Democratic party that has been split by the congresswomen’s strong views on House Speaker Nancy Pelosi. They have also sharply criticized Trump, and the latest sparring comes at a tense time as the president increases efforts to tighten restrictions on immigration at the U.S. southern border.

On Monday at a White House event, Trump broadened his attacks against the women, saying, “These are people that hate our country." He said they should be apologizing to him.

Most Republican lawmakers have not commented on the controversy, but Murkowski has previously bucked her party to stand up to the president. Sen. Dan Sullivan and Rep. Don Young early Monday did not immediately reply to requests for comment.

[Blasted by Trump and GOP, praised by others, Murkowski takes independent course on Kavanaugh]

[On Twitter, Trump criticizes Murkowski over her health care vote]

Legislative update: Special-session impasse continues as lawmakers prepare to take public testimony

Mon, 07/15/2019 - 11:42

The Alaska House Finance Committee meets in the Anchorage Legislative Information Office on Monday morning , July 15, 2019. Representatives Jennifer Johnston, R-Anchorage, and Neal Foster, D-Nome, are co-chairs. (Bill Roth / ADN)

The Alaska Legislature’s special-session impasse over the state budget entered its second week Monday, and members of the House Finance Committee are scheduled to begin hearing from the public at 2 p.m. as they consider legislation to pay a $1,600 Permanent Fund dividend this year.

The dividend bill, House Bill 2001, is also seen by lawmakers as the most likely means to reverse part or all of $444 million in budget vetoes by Gov. Mike Dunleavy. As currently written, the bill only includes language paying a $1,600 dividend. Several members of the House coalition majority, including finance committee co-chair Neal Foster, D-Nome, have said the bill will be amended to add language restoring funding for programs vetoed by the governor.

“I’m not buying what they’re selling,” said Rep. Colleen Sullivan-Leonard, R-Wasilla, in a Facebook post about the meeting.

House Finance is rolling out HB 2001 to restore the vetoed budget items. Hearings next week as follows:

Monday, July 15th
11 am Anchorage: Committee Meeting
2-7 pm Public Testimony

Tuesday, July 16th
2-7 pm Wasilla

Wednesday, July 17th
2-7 pm Fairbanks

Details to come. 2/3

— Ivy Spohnholz (@IvySpohnholz) July 13, 2019

The House Finance Committee will begin its meeting at 11 a.m., with public testimony starting at 2 p.m. and continuing until 7 p.m. on both the idea of reversing the vetoes and a $1,600 dividend. Those interested in offering testimony can do so in person at the Anchorage Legislative Information Office, 1500 W. Benson Blvd., or by phone. If calling from Juneau, the number is 907-586-9085. If calling from Anchorage, it’s 907-563-9085. If calling from elsewhere, use 844-586-9085.

Without the governor’s vetoes, the state’s budget is balanced if the dividend is about $900. With the vetoes, the budget is balanced under a dividend slightly smaller than $1,600. Paying a traditional dividend of $3,000 would require breaking the Permanent Fund spending limits approved last year or would require spending from state savings accounts, such as the Constitutional Budget Reserve.

Board of Regents meets today

At 1 p.m., the University of Alaska Board of Regents will meet to consider a $135 million reduction to its budget. Dunleavy vetoed $130 million from the university system’s budget atop $5 million in cuts approved by the Legislature this year.

That meeting could result in a declaration of “financial exigency,” which allows the university system to take major action, including the firing of tenured teachers.

The Board of Regents meeting will be streamed at

Recall backers delay launch

According to a message posted on social media, a group of Alaskans upset with the governor’s budget vetoes has delayed the launch of a petition seeking the recall of the governor. According to the announcement, further legal review will take place before the organizers begin gathering signatures Aug. 1.

Under state law, the petitioners would have to gather 28,501 signatures to have the petition considered for certification by the Alaska Division of Elections. If the division certifies the petition, those seeking recall would have to gather 71,252 signatures to hold the recall election.

Be proactive when confronted with workplace revenge

Mon, 07/15/2019 - 08:42

Through no fault of her own, “Loni” almost lost her job. When she called me requesting coaching, she told me told me she’d been with her company for 11 months. For the first nine, she’d been on the fast-track to a senior management position. Two months ago, everything changed. Last Friday morning, her CEO had told her to “pull it together or you’re out.” She said several recent disasters had led her company’s CEO to lose confidence in her.

Loni said she’d mislaid crucial documents, had apparently sent unprofessional emails that she hadn’t remembered writing and had submitted shoddy work on key assignments because her rough first drafts had been transmitted rather than her polished final drafts.

Since her dad had dementia, Loni worried she might be showing early signs of the same illness. Loni told me she’d visited her dad’s physician and he’d told her dementia could start with subtle short-term memory changes.

I asked Loni to give me a chronology of the recent problems and asked her if anything had changed at work just before the problems started. She said, “Nothing,” and when I pressed her, insisted she’d been on a “winning streak.” She mentioned that the CEO had publicly praised her in an “all hands” meeting.

I asked, “Exactly when did he praise you?”; “Who has access to your office?”; “When you go across the hall or out for a short meeting, do you lock your computer?”; and “What are your relationships like with those you work most closely with?”

Loni gave me a copy of the problem emails her CEO referenced in his meeting with her. Together, we searched her sent log looking for them and didn’t find them. Loni described the two women who worked most directly with and closest to her office as caring individuals. She said one in particular had been incredibly helpful in trying to help her find lost documents.

“Mind if I interview her?” I asked. My spidey-sense kicked on during the interview, particularly when the other employee described Loni as “spacey,” but acted as if she mentioned this with great reluctance.

When I told Loni what I sensed and precautions she needed to take, she asked if I’d talk with her CEO. He brought HR into the picture, and when the employee who described Loni as spacey was interviewed in the guise of investigating Loni’s problems, this employee accused Loni of delegating all her “grunt work” while taking full credit for the final products, making belittling comments and abusing her power and position once she’d begun to rise in the corporate hierarchy.

The diagnosis: workplace revenge, which occurs more frequently than many realize and may have its genesis in the target’s actions. If you suspect others of taking revenge, here’s what to look for:

• Have you lost documents even though you keep an organized workspace?

• Are rumors about you floating around the workplace?

• Are there items in your sent log you didn’t originate?

• Have documents you created disappeared from your computer?

• Does someone have a vested interest in you being fired?

• Do you sense you’re being sabotaged, particularly after receiving a promotion or other honor?

An internet survey revealed these real-life statements I’ve paraphrased (from and

1. The cling film over the toilet seat thing is so last year. I fixed the restroom light sensor to plunge the room into darkness after one minute.

2. I make sure there’s a huge wheelie bin parked in the boss’s personal parking space. Sends a message.

3. After I my employer stiffed me on a business deal, I pretended to be a new major customer and set up meetings. On the day we’d arranged for the sales presentation, I heard there were loads of panicked emails from sales-team members who kept driving in circles trying to find my offices. Pure joy.

4. My boss took credit for a 200-page report I wrote and received a huge bonus. Was it wrong of me wipe out all of his department’s computer files?

5. Pretend you’re not pissed off at your employer for making life so difficult you resign. Maintain relationships with your former manager and HR. Suggest the worst possible employee for them to hire as your replacement. Definitely vouch for this person and sing her praises.

Why do people take revenge on others and what happens to them? Those who commit revenge generally feel justified. They often cover up continued sabotage with aggressively helpful efforts once their target’s career begins to plummet. Interestingly, reports on document that 83% of those who commit revenge get away with it.

Worried that revenge infects your workplace? You can find out with a bit of sleuthing.

Trooper involved in Togiak shooting is 18-year veteran of force

Mon, 07/15/2019 - 07:17

The Alaska State Trooper who shot a man involved in a shooting in the Southwest Alaska village of Togiak is an 18-year veteran of the force.

The state Department of Public Safety late Sunday identified the trooper involved in the shooting as Daniel Sadloske. He had not been immediately identified under department policy to wait 72 hours to name troopers in officer-involved shootings.

Troopers say Sadloske responded to the sound of gunfire Thursday afternoon and shot a still-unidentified man holding a gun as another man lay on the ground.

The man did not drop his gun at Sadloske’s command, and the trooper fired at least one round at him, troopers said last week.

The suspect was injured and flown to Dillingham for medical care. No charges had been filed against him as of Friday. The man on the ground, 61-year-old Samuel Brito, was declared dead from gunshot wounds.

The Alaska Bureau of Investigation is investigating the trooper’s use of force. The state attorney general’s office will determine whether he was justified in shooting the man.

Trump moves to end asylum protections for Central Americans

Mon, 07/15/2019 - 06:26

Asylum seekers cross the border between El Paso, Texas, and Juarez, Chihuahua, Mexico, Thursday, July 4, 2019. (Mark Lambie/The El Paso Times via AP) (MARK LAMBIE/)

WASHINGTON — The Trump administration on Monday moved to end asylum protections for most Central American migrants in a major escalation of the president’s battle to tamp down the number of people crossing the U.S.-Mexico border.

According to a new rule published in the Federal Register , asylum seekers who pass through another country first will be ineligible for asylum at the U.S. southern border. The rule, expected to go into effect Tuesday, also applies to children who have crossed the border alone.

There are some exceptions: If someone has been trafficked, if the country the migrant passed through did not sign one of the major international treaties that govern how refugees are managed (though most Western countries have signed them) or if an asylum-seeker sought protection in a country but was denied, then a migrant could still apply for U.S. asylum.

But the move by President Donald Trump's administration was meant to essentially end asylum protections as they now are on the southern border, reversing decades of U.S. policy on how refugees are treated and coming as the government continues to clamp down on migrants and as the treatment of those who made it to the country is heavily criticized as inhumane.

Attorney General William Bar said that the United States is "a generous country but is being completely overwhelmed" by the burdens associated with apprehending and processing hundreds of thousands of migrants at the southern border.

"This rule will decrease forum shopping by economic migrants and those who seek to exploit our asylum system to obtain entry to the United States," Barr said in a statement.

The policy is almost certain to face a legal challenge. U.S. law allows refugees to request asylum when they arrive at the U.S. regardless of how they did so, but there is an exception for those who have come through a country considered to be "safe." But the Immigration and Nationality Act, which governs asylum law, is vague on how a country is determined "safe"; it says "pursuant to a bilateral or multilateral agreement."

Right now, the U.S. has such an agreement, known as a “safe third country,” only with Canada. Under a recent agreement with Mexico, Central American countries were considering a regional compact on the issue, but nothing has been decided. Guatemalan officials were expected in Washington on Monday, but apparently a meeting between Trump and Guatemalan President Jimmy Morales was canceled amid a court challenge in Guatemala over whether the country could agree to a safe third with the U.S.

American Civil Liberties Union attorney Lee Gelernt, who has litigated some of the major challenges to the Trump administration's immigration policies, said the rule was unlawful.

“The rule, if upheld, would effectively eliminate asylum for those at the southern border,” he said. “But it is patently unlawful.”

The new rule also will apply to the initial asylum screening, known as a "credible fear" interview, at which migrants must prove they have credible fears of returning to their home country. It applies to migrants who are arriving to the U.S., not those who are already in the country.

Trump administration officials say the changes are meant to close the gap between the initial asylum screening that most people pass and the final decision on asylum that most people do not win. But immigrant rights groups, religious leaders and humanitarian groups have said the Republican administration's policies amount to a cruel and calloused effort to keep immigrants out of the country. Guatemala, Honduras and El Salvador are poor countries suffering from violence .

The treaties countries must have signed according to the new rule are the 1951 Convention relating to the Status of Refugees, the 1967 Protocol or the Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. But, for example, while Australia, France and Brazil have signed those treaties, so have Afghanistan and Libya, places the U.S. does not consider safe.

Along with the administration's recent effort to send asylum seekers back over the border , Trump has tried to deny asylum to anyone crossing the border illegally and restrict who can claim asylum, and the attorney general recently tried to keep thousands of asylum seekers detained while their cases play out.

Nearly all of those efforts have been blocked by courts.

Meanwhile, conditions have worsened for migrants who make it over the border seeking better lives. Tens of thousands of Central American migrant families cross the border each month, many claiming asylum. The numbers have increased despite Trump's derisive rhetoric and hard-line immigration policies. Border facilities have been dangerously cramped and crowded well beyond capacity. The Department of Homeland Security's watchdog found fetid, filthy conditions for many children. And lawmakers who traveled there recently decried conditions .

Immigration courts are backlogged by more than 800,000 cases, meaning many people won't have their asylum claims heard for years despite more judges being hired.

People are generally eligible for asylum in the U.S. if they feared return to their home country because they would be persecuted based on race, religion, nationality or membership in a particular social group.

During the budget year for 2009, there were 35,811 asylum claims, and 8,384 were granted. During 2018 budget year, there were 162,060 claims filed, and 13,168 were granted.


Associated Press writer Michael Balsamo contributed to this report.

Trump demands apology from minority congresswomen after he said they should ‘go back’ to their countries

Mon, 07/15/2019 - 05:22

In this combination image from left; Rep. Rashida Tlaib, D-Mich., July 10, 2019, Washington, Rep. Ilhan Omar, D-Minn., March 12, 2019, in Washington, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-NY., July 12, 2019, in Washington, and Rep. Ayanna Pressley, D-Mass., July 10, 2019, in Washington. In tweets Sunday, President Donald Trump portrays the lawmakers as foreign-born troublemakers who should go back to their home countries. In fact, the lawmakers, except one, were born in the U.S. (AP Photo)

WASHINGTON — Injecting race into his criticism of liberal Democrats, President Donald Trump said four congresswomen of color should go back to the “broken and crime infested” countries they came from, ignoring the fact that all of the women are American citizens and three were born in the U.S. His attack drew a searing condemnation from Democrats who labeled the remarks racist and breathtakingly divisive.

Even as White House officials moved Monday to defend his incendiary weekend tweets, Trump refused to apologize and asked on Twitter when “the Radical Left Congresswomen” would “apologize to our Country, the people of Israel and even to the Office of the President, for the foul language they have used, and the terrible things they have said.”

"So many people are angry at them & their horrible & disgusting actions!" he wrote.

Trump had starkly injected race into his criticism of liberal Democrats over the weekend, drawing searing condemnation from Democrats who labeled the remarks racist and breathtakingly divisive.

Asked whether Trump's comments were racist, Marc Short, chief of staff to Vice President Mike Pence, defended Trump, telling reporters he had been responding to "very specific" comments made by Rep. Ilhan Omar of Minnesota, who was born in Somalia, and not making a "universal statement."

But Trump didn't make that distinction in his Monday tweets. He cited "Congresswomen" — an almost-certain reference to a group of women known as "the squad" that includes Omar, Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez of New York, Ayanna Pressley of Massachusetts and Rashida Tlaib of Michigan.

"I don't think that the president's intent any way is racist," said Short, repeatedly pointing to Trump's decision to choose Elaine Chao, who was born outside the country, as his transportation secretary.

"The administration is welcoming of all nationalities into the United States," he said.

Even as Short spoke, Trump, who has a long history of making racist remarks, continued to fan the flames, tweeting, "If Democrats want to unite around the foul language & racist hatred spewed from the mouths and actions of these very unpopular & unrepresentative Congresswomen, it will be interesting to see how it plays out."

Omar ignited a bipartisan uproar in Washington several months ago when she suggested that members of Congress support Israel for money, while Tlaib riled up a supportive crowd by calling the president a profanity and predicting that Trump would be removed from office.

Following a familiar script, Republicans remained largely silent after Trump's Sunday morning broadsides that caused Democrats to set aside their internal rifts to rise up in a united chorus against the president.

House Speaker Nancy Pelosi said Trump wants to "make America white again." Ocasio-Cortez, after jousting for days with Pelosi, said Trump "can't conceive of an America that includes us."

"Mr. President, the country I 'come from,' & the country we all swear to, is the United States," she tweeted, adding that "You rely on a frightened America for your plunder." Omar also addressed herself directly to Trump in a tweet, writing: "You are stoking white nationalism (because) you are angry that people like us are serving in Congress and fighting against your hate-filled agenda."

Rep. Hakeem Jeffries of New York, chairman of the House Democratic Caucus, summed up the Democratic response: "Racial arsonist strikes again. Shut. Your. Reckless. Mouth."

With his tweet, Trump inserted himself further into a rift between Pelosi and Ocasio-Cortez, just two days after he offered an unsolicited defense of the Democratic speaker. Pelosi has been seeking to minimize Ocasio-Cortez's influence in the House Democratic caucus in recent days, prompting Ocasio-Cortez to accuse Pelosi of trying to marginalize women of color.

On Sunday, Trump's tone took a turn.

"So interesting to see 'Progressive' Democrat Congresswomen, who originally came from countries whose governments are a complete and total catastrophe, the worst, most corrupt and inept anywhere in the world (if they even have a functioning government at all), now loudly and viciously telling the people of the United States, the greatest and most powerful Nation on earth, how our government is to be run," he tweeted.

"Why don't they go back and help fix the totally broken and crime infested places from which they came. Then come back and show us how it is done."

He added: "These places need your help badly, you can't leave fast enough. I'm sure that Nancy Pelosi would be very happy to quickly work out free travel arrangements!"

The attacks may have been meant to widen the divides within the Democrat caucus, which has been riven by internal debate over how far left to go in countering Trump and over whether to proceed with impeachment proceedings against the president. Instead, the president's tweets, which evoked the trope of telling black people to go back to Africa, brought Democrats together.

Former Vice President Joe Biden, the Democratic presidential front-runner, tweeted Sunday that Trump "continues to spew hateful rhetoric, sow division, and stoke racial tensions for his own political gain."

"Let's be clear about what this vile comment is: A racist and xenophobic attack on Democratic congresswomen," tweeted Sen. Elizabeth Warren, a Democratic presidential candidate.

Another 2020 contender, former Texas Rep. Beto O'Rourke, tweeted at the president: "This is racist. These congresswomen are every bit as American as you — and represent our values better than you ever will."

Few Republicans weighed in on the president's comments. Congressional leaders, including Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, did not respond to requests for comment, nor did Sen. Tim. Scott of South Carolina, the only Republican black senator.

Trump appeared unbowed Sunday night when he returned to Twitter to say it was "so sad" to see Democrats sticking up for the women. "If the Democrat Party wants to continue to condone such disgraceful behavior," he tweeted, "then we look even more forward to seeing you at the ballot box in 2020!"

It was far from the first time that Trump has been accused of holding racist views.

In his campaign kickoff in June 2015, Trump deemed many Mexican immigrants "rapists." In 2017, he said there good people on "both sides" of the clash in Charlottesville, Virginia, between white supremacists and anti-racist demonstrators that left one counter-protester dead. Last year, during a private White House meeting on immigration, Trump wondered why the United States was admitting so many immigrants from "shithole countries" like African nations.

Repeatedly, Trump has painted arriving immigrants as an "infestation" and he has been slow in condemning acts of violence committed by white supremacists. And he launched his political career with false claims that President Barack Obama was not born in the United States.

Despite his history of racist remarks, Trump has paid little penalty in his own party.

Though a broad array of Republicans did speak out against his reaction to Charlottesville, they have largely held their tongues otherwise, whether it be on matter of race or any other Trump provocation. Fearful of his Twitter account and sweeping popularity among Republican voters, GOP lawmakers have largely tried to ignore the provocative statements.

Sen. Kamala Harris, a Democratic presidential hopeful from California, tweeted, "Let's call the president's racist attack exactly what it is: un-American."

Ocasio-Cortez, who is of Puerto Rican descent, was born in the Bronx, New York, and raised in suburban Westchester County.

Pressley, the first black woman elected to the House from Massachusetts, was born in Cincinnati.

Omar, the first Somali native elected to Congress and one of its first Muslim women, was born in Somalia but spent much of her childhood in a Kenyan refugee camp as civil war tore apart her home country. She immigrated to the United States at age 12, teaching herself English by watching American TV and eventually settling with her family in Minneapolis.

Tlaib was born in Detroit.


Associated Press writers Jill Colvin and Hope Yen contributed to this report.

Letter: Look at Norway

Mon, 07/15/2019 - 00:16

A couple of years ago in Fairbanks, Institute of Social and Economic Research Director Gunnar Knapp explained the dire budget situation of future Alaska. He relayed a conversation with some Norwegian counterparts. Knowing Norway is a very oil-rich country, how is it the people agree to having many taxes?

The answer Knapp received was this: The people of Norway value what they get from the government. Think about that, Alaskans. I hope we get there.

— Marilyn Russell


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

Letter: No excuse for Swan Lake Fire

Mon, 07/15/2019 - 00:12

I was flying back from Iliamna to Anchorage on June 5 and noticed this relatively small fire start up. It was definitely reported by other pilots. In my opinion, there are no excuses for letting this fire expand. Someone needs to take ownership in letting this fire expand to 90,000 acres, causing more than a month of misery for Southcentral, Cooper Landing and Sterling residents.

— Bill Bass


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

Letter: Budget reductions hit home

Mon, 07/15/2019 - 00:10

Article 3, Section 15 of the Alaska Constitution refers to compensation for the governor and Secretary of State. There is no other reference in the constitution obligating the Legislature to fund operations of the governor’s office. Perhaps, in line with the current governor’s fixation on reducing government expenditures, the Legislature should consider eliminating all funding of the governor’s office except those two positions. There is no real need to fund exorbitant salaries for a chief of staff, a director of management and budget or all the deputies and assistants to the above mentioned. The current governor is a big boy, surely able to carry out the functions of a governor by himself. This would be a savings of more than $10 million.

— Caleb Stewart


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

In wake of veto struggle, Anchorage professor announces second run against incumbent state Rep. Lance Pruitt

Sun, 07/14/2019 - 20:49

In the midst of a divisive struggle over Gov. Mike Dunleavy’s budget vetoes, an Anchorage Democrat has filed -- months early -- for a second shot at unseating incumbent Alaska state Rep. Lance Pruitt, one of the governor’s staunchest supporters in the legislature.

East Anchorage resident Liz Snyder announced Thursday her intent to run for the Alaska House of Representatives District 27 seat in the November 2020 election. (Photo from Liz Snyder)

East Anchorage resident Liz Snyder announced Thursday her intent to run for the Alaska House of Representatives District 27 seat in the November 2020 election.

On Sunday night, Pruitt said he was too busy working on the current impasse to worry about news.

“I’m just laser-focused on trying to bring together all the different groups to find a solution to the current challenges,” he said.

Snyder’s announcement came well before most candidates begin plotting their election campaigns.

“Getting an early start is never a bad thing,” said Snyder, an associate professor of public health at the University of Alaska Anchorage.

Snyder said her decision to announce early was driven by her frustration with Pruitt’s role in the political process. She is opposed to the sweeping budget cuts, which she said could “potentially bankrupt our communities” and send Alaska into a recession.

“Governor Dunleavy has not only vetoed $444 million from that budget, but has held the political process hostage by grandstanding in Wasilla,” Snyder wrote in a statement announcing her candidacy. “Current House Rep. Lance Pruitt of District 27 is one of the handful of elected officials standing beside him in this process.”

House District 27 is a swath of East Anchorage that includes parts of Muldoon and the Scenic Park neighborhood.

In 2018, Snyder launched a late-in-the-election-season campaign against Pruitt and lost by less than 200 votes.

Rep. Lance Pruitt, R-Anchorage, speaks as the new House minority leader on Friday, Feb. 15, 2019 at the State Capitol. At center is Rep. DeLena Johnson, R-Palmer, the minority whip, and at left is Rep. Cathy Tilton, R-Wasilla, the minority finance leader. (James Brooks / ADN)

Pruitt has represented the district since 2011. The Republican serves as the House Minority Leader, and has been one of the legislators at the center of a bitter struggle between legislative factions over where to meet for a special session.

Pruitt is one of 22 legislators who chose to meet in Wasilla rather than Juneau for last week’s special session. He has generally supported the Dunleavy budget plan.

He’s heard from constituents and “people from all over the state” about the budget impasse, he said.

Pruitt said people don’t see he is “actively trying to bring people from both sides of the political spectrum,” together.

“We’re going to solve this when we compromise,” he said.

Snyder said people are paying attention to “individual leadership more than ever” and that she expects other incumbents to face challengers unhappy about the legislature’s role in the budget process.

“I don’t think (my campaign) is going to be an anomaly, in terms of early announcements,” she said. “I think people are motivated. People are mobilizing.”

Ask Amy: Wronged ex-wife struggles with memorial service

Sun, 07/14/2019 - 20:00

{Tribune Content Agency)

Dear Amy: There seems to be no protocol for what might be expected concerning the presence of an ex-spouse at a memorial service.

My ex-husband "Bert" and I were married for 40 years before getting divorced because of his involvements with other women and then, at the end, a long-term affair with the woman that he later married. We have three adult children.

After Bert's recent death I am feeling a lot of ambivalent emotions (mostly anger) at his selfish and hurtful behavior toward me, along with other lies he has told, which have had a huge impact on me and our children.

Our children want me to attend the service. But what should I do when people offer me their condolences or tell me how wonderful Bert was, and how terrific his wife "Brandy" is? I certainly don't feel like agreeing and thanking them.

How do I behave in a dignified way that doesn't betray my own integrity and feelings?

-- Upset Ex

Dear Upset Ex: If you behave in a dignified way, you won't have to worry about your integrity, because dignity is the outer manifestation of integrity.

Your presence at this service is not as an honored principal, but as a guest of your children, and any focus or attention directed toward you should be deflected toward them. Please, leave your ambivalent feelings and anger behind, and if you can't -- then stay home.

If you do attend, you should maintain a discreet presence. If it is uncomfortable for you to sit with your children and your ex's family members toward the front of the venue (or if you believe it would be uncomfortable for your ex's wife), you should let your children sit together with other family members, and you should sit in another area.

People are not likely to gush to you about how wonderful your ex-husband was (the gushing is generally not directed toward former spouses). But if they do, you need only say, "Well, I knew him for a long time, and I know he will be missed" (not by you, necessarily).

This event embodies the dictum: "If you can't say anything nice, don't say anything at all."

Dear Amy: I have a friend I see a few times a year. Lots of times, in addition to bringing me a bottle of wine (so nice of her, albeit unnecessary) she gives me gifts related to health, to "prevent" colds and illnesses, or to shorten the duration of maladies. (I have a complicated health history.)

These are all medical quackery, nothing a doctor would recommend. They are usually "health"-type powders to put in water to drink, and often have some strange ingredients or unusually high levels of certain vitamins.

I have unsuccessfully tried to discourage her from bringing me these miracle cure gifts, even telling her that my spouse and I are not interested, but she brings the gifts anyway.

I must add that she and her husband are not doing well at all, financially, and I feel my friend should not be spending her money in this way.

I haven't had the heart to tell her to bring these unwanted gifts back home when she smilingly presents them to me, informing me how I will be helped by their anti-illness and curative properties. I have graciously accepted the gifts and thanked her, but I don't feel right in doing so.

How can I best handle this?

-- Ungrateful Hostess

Dear Ungrateful: If you don't have the heart to send these things back home with your friend, then accept her gifts with thanks -- and simply don't use them.

However, if you did have the heart (and the guts) to send these things back home with her, then you would likely end this cycle and spare her the expense and effort. You could say, "This is so kind of you. It's very generous. I know you care about me, but I won't use these things, so I'm going to send them back home with you. Seeing you is the only tonic I need."

Dear Amy: You missed one important point in your answer to "Worried Mother," whose med student daughter was groped by another student.

The young woman will be a doctor; she will see things that she will be required, by law, to report. She should consider this as part of her education, and she should report him to the school herself.

-- Mary

Dear Mary: Absolutely. “Worried Mother” should offer her the support and encouragement she needs to report this crime.

Barry’s flood threat lingers as storm slowly sweeps inland

Sun, 07/14/2019 - 19:51

Floodwater pools near homes in St. Martinville, La., Sunday, July 14, 2019, in the aftermath of Tropical Storm Barry. (Carrie Cuchens via AP) (Carrie Cuchens/)

NEW ORLEANS — Tropical Depression Barry dumped rain as it slowly swept inland through Gulf Coast states Sunday, sparing New Orleans from a direct hit but stoking fears elsewhere of flooding, tornadoes, and prolonged power outages.

Though the system was downgraded to a tropical depression Sunday afternoon and its winds were steadily weakening since it made landfall Saturday in Louisiana, Barry's rain bands created a flooding and tornado threat stretching from central Louisiana to eastern Mississippi and beyond. Several Louisiana parishes were under flash-flood warnings Sunday night.

Far from the storm's center, tornado warnings were issued Sunday morning in both states, though no serious damage or injuries were reported.

On Sunday evening, Louisiana Gov. John Bel Edwards said he was "extremely grateful" that Barry had not caused the disastrous floods that had earlier been forecast.

"This was a storm that obviously could have played out very, very differently," he said. "We're thankful that the worst-case scenario did not happen."

President Donald Trump asked people across the region to keep their guard up, saying on Twitter Sunday: "A big risk of major flooding in large parts of Louisiana and all across the Gulf Coast. Please be very careful!"

Forecasters warned of a continued threat of heavy rains into Monday as the center of the storm trudged inland. The U.S. National Hurricane Center said Sunday parts of south-central Louisiana could still have rainfall totals of up to 12 inches (30 centimeters), with isolated pockets of 15 inches (38 centimeters).

"This rainfall is expected to lead to dangerous, life-threatening flooding," forecasters wrote in an advisory Sunday.

In Mississippi, forecasters said 8 inches (20 centimeters) of rain had fallen in parts of Jasper and Jones counties, with several more inches possible. With torrential rain pounding the state's Interstate 59 corridor, only the headlights of oncoming cars were visible on the highway, and water flowed like a creek in the median.

Barry's center continued to move through northern Louisiana into Arkansas. The system, which had briefly become a Category 1 hurricane, had its maximum winds fall to 35 mph (56 kph).

New Orleans Mayor LaToya Cantrell said Sunday the city was "beyond lucky" that rainfall there fell well short of early predictions of a deluge that could overwhelm the city's pumping systems.

"We were spared," she said at a news conference, while noting the city was ready to help nearby parishes hit harder.

Tyler Holland guides his bike through the water as winds from Tropical Storm Barry push water from Lake Pontchartrain over the seawall Saturday, July 13, 2019, in Mandeville, La. (AP Photo/David J. Phillip) (David J. Phillip/)

In a sign that the city was returning to normal, flights were resuming Sunday at its airport. Restaurants reopened, and people were retrieving their cars from medians and other high ground.

About 60,000 customers in Louisiana, 3,300 customers in Mississippi and another 1,200 customers in Arkansas were without power Sunday evening, according to

Carrie Cuchens, who lost power at her home southeast of Lafayette, said crews were out working to remove trees that fell on power lines. Forecasters say the area, where several parishes were under a flash flood warning, could see 2 inches (5 centimeters) of additional rain on Sunday. Though some yards had pooling water, Cuchens didn't think her or her neighbors' homes would flood.

"There's certainly water, certainly a lot of water, and as it continues to rain there's always that concern," she said.

Another worry is that large trees could topple because of the saturated ground.

"If this rain sits on top of us, the ground of course now is already saturated," she said. "The roots are so saturated that if any wind, or any kind of shift happens, they're easier to come up out of the ground. It's not snapping limbs - it's the whole entire tree. We have 100-year-old trees back here."

To the southeast in Morgan City, Lois and Steve Bergeron spent Sunday cleaning up their lawn, which was littered with debris from trees. They were grateful the damage wasn't worse.

"At least it didn't hit our house," she said.

And in Mandeville, north of New Orleans along Lake Pontchartrain, Michael Forbes was also picking up limbs and other debris at his home as a drizzle fell. Water got under his house, which is on stilts, but there was no damage and the power never went off.

"I'll take this any day over something like Katrina," he said Sunday. "This will clear out, we'll clean up and we'll go on."


Drew reported from Raleigh, North Carolina. Contributing to this report were Associated Press writers Kevin McGill in New Orleans; Jay Reeves in Mandeville; Rogelio Solis in Morgan City; Jeff Martin in Atlanta; Colleen Long in Washington and Jeffrey Collins in Columbia, South Carolina.

JBER golfer claims Alaska State Amateur championship

Sun, 07/14/2019 - 19:30

Russell Marion, shown here teeing off during Thursday's first round, won the Alaska State Amateur title Sunday in Palmer. (Loren Holmes / ADN) (Loren Holmes / Anchorage Daily News/)

Russell Marion handled the wind and a seven-time champion Sunday to capture the Alaska State Amateur golf championship.

Marion, a 23-year-old soldier from North Carolina stationed at JBER, shot par at windy Palmer Golf Course to claim a five-stroke victory over defending champion Greg Sanders.

Marion broke par every day but Sunday, opening with a 1-under 71 on Thursday and carding consecutive 68s on Friday and Saturday. He finished the 72-hole tournament with a 9-under-par total of 279.

Sanders, who was bidding for an eighth state title, shot 73 to finish at 284.

Marion, a first-time winner, carried a four-stroke lead into the final round and birdied the first hole to stretch his lead.

Sanders had a pair of birdies on the front nine but never came closer than four strokes. Any chance of a late charge was foiled by bogeys on No. 15 and No. 17.

He shot par or better in each of his first three round -- 72 Thursday, 68 Friday and 71 Saturday -- to finish the tournament 4-under.

Third place went to Adam Baxter, whose final-round 72 left him at 293, five strokes over par.

John Schmitz won the first flight with a score of 304, eight strokes ahead of runner-up Scott Woodland. Schmitz shot 78 on Thursday and Friday and 74 on Saturday and Sunday.

In the second flight, Garrett Stortz came from behind with a final-round 76 to win by a single stroke with a 336. He rallied past Nate Stogsdill and Matthew Meszoros, who shared second place at 337.

With 7 big blasts, Mat-Su’s Justin Kirby wins the ABL home run derby

Sun, 07/14/2019 - 18:54

Justin Kirby of the Mat-Su Miners takes a big swing during Sunday's Alaska Baseball League Home Run Derby. (Bill Roth / ADN) (Bill Roth / ADN/)

When Justin Kirby goes back to Kent State in the fall, he can tell his teammates that he accomplished something Aaron Judge couldn’t.

He won the ABL’s Home Run Derby.

An outfielder for the Mat-Su Miners, Kirby outdueled Blake Paugh of the Anchorage Bucs in the derby’s final round Sunday at Mulcahy Stadium.

Kirby, who batted last in the two-man finals, knocked seven balls out of the park to beat Paugh, who blasted six.

Mat-Su Miners outfielder Justin Kirby, left, is congratulated by teammates after winning the Alaska Baseball League's Home Run Derby on Sunday. (Bill Roth / ADN) (Bill Roth / ADN/)

Kirby hit for power as a college freshman at Kent State, belting nine home runs, two triples and 14 doubles to lead the Mid-American Conference with a .619 slugging percentage.

He was selected to the Collegiate Baseball Freshman All-American team and was the MAC’s freshman of the year, and he was named the national player of the week after hitting three home runs in a single game against Northern Illinois on April 19.

Kirby, who has five home runs in 30 games this summer with the Miners, hit 13 homers in Sunday’s first round. That put him in the finals with Paugh, a University of Arizona outfielder who has an ABL-best seven homers in 30 games for the Bucs.

Though the title eluded him, Paugh is in good company. In 2011, Aaron Judge fell short in the ABL Home Run Derby, but six years later won Major League Baseball 's Home Run Derby for the New York Yankees.

Immigrant families wait in dread, but no sign of large-scale enforcement raids

Sun, 07/14/2019 - 18:00

The nationwide immigration raids that President Donald Trump said would begin Sunday didn’t materialize on the streets of major U.S. cities, even as his statement cast a cloud of fear that kept many families indoors. Immigration enforcement authorities said their plans to track down migrants with deportation orders would continue, but their actions over the weekend appeared more akin to routine actions rather than the mass roundups the president promised.

Immigrants and advocates had been bracing for the arrests, which Trump last warned of on Friday, saying he wanted agents "to take people out and take them back to their countries." But law enforcement officials said they worried that the unusual public disclosure of the plan endangered officers and threatened their effectiveness.

Trump has vowed repeatedly to deport "millions" of people who are in the United States illegally, and the long-planned blitz aims to target families who entered the country recently and have received deportation orders. U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has for years regularly arrests and removes immigrations who a judge has deemed should be deported after court hearings.

In an interview with The Washington Post, acting ICE Director Matthew Albence declined to confirm whether a widespread operation was underway Sunday.

"There's not anything I'm going to say that would jeopardize my officers," Albence said. "Operationally, we'll never divulge details that would put our officers at any more risk than they already face in this toxic environment."

Immigrant advocates said the threats have so far been political grandstanding that serves to frighten and intimidate families despite no apparent departure from ICE's routine work of enforcing U.S. law.

"Trump can declare victory - he already scared the hell out of people," said Bill Hing, a University of San Francisco law professor and director of the university's immigration and deportation defense clinic. "There has been so much drama all over the country."

In New York, Houston, Los Angeles and several other cities that are to be targeted under the Trump administration's "family op," community organizers and lawyers responded to Trump's declarations with seminars about rights, handing out informational fliers, as well as affidavits to declare emergency guardianship for children, should they be separated from their families. Houses of worship have offered their buildings as sanctuaries, and activists have volunteered to stand watch.

But there were few signs that ICE was out in force, with a spattering of reports of ICE activity.

"All quiet in Houston," Houston Police Chief Art Acevedo said Sunday. "I expect ICE will conduct routine removal operations during the week."

Chicago Mayor Lori Lightfoot on Friday terminated ICE's access to Chicago Police Department databases and increased the city's Legal Protection Fund by $250,000 to support legal aid to immigrants. Los Angeles County Sheriff Alex Villanueva took to television to say "unequivocally" that his department would not cooperate with ICE, and Atlanta Mayor Keisha Lance Bottoms urged undocumented immigrations to stay in their homes Sunday.

In Atlanta, Azadeh Shahshahani, the legal and advocacy director for the nonprofit Project South, was standing by with other attorneys, wearing their green legal-observer hats, ready to respond to ICE arrests. Activists had also taken to the streets of predominantly immigrant neighborhoods before dawn Sunday to act as "ICE chasers" in case there were raids.

Rachel Gumpert, the national press secretary for Unite Here, a union that represents hospitality workers, said Sunday that three major hotel chains had agreed to refuse ICE requests to detain immigrants at their locations.

"We began scrambling on Wednesday around this. On Thursday, Marriott had committed," Gumpert said. Hilton and Hyatt hotels followed.

New York officials said Saturday night that ICE agents were seen conducting "enforcement operations" in two neighborhoods but that no arrests were made after residents declined to answer their doors.

It was unclear whether the agents were acting as part of the larger operation to take families into custody. An ICE official in New York declined to confirm the reports.

Some administration officials have privately voiced frustration with the president for his decision to publicly announce ICE's plans in advance, blowing the cover off the raids. Like most law enforcement agencies, ICE officials treat their actions as closely guarded secrets, and they rely on the element of surprise to make arrests. Telegraphing planned roundups, while potentially a deterrent to migrants thinking about coming to the United States, also allows those who might be targeted to flee or hide.

John Sandweg, who served as ICE acting director under President Barack Obama, said he was "struggling to find any legitimate reason to discuss operations in advance, as they have."

"It puts officers in danger, and, candidly, if you want to score PR benefits, you could just do the operation quietly and then talk about it," he said, noting that he thinks ICE likely will wait for attention to die down before going forward with the plan. "ICE routinely conducts these operations, and they routinely conducted them during the Obama administration."

The attention and fear generated by the president's statements had created an unrealistic expectation of the agency's abilities to find and deport a large number of people, Sandweg added.

"The thing is - having been involved in dozens of these operations - this was never going to be more than 2,000 to 5,000 targets," he said. "And if you look at Central American migration, there are 300,000 to 500,000 people who have arrived in the past couple years alone. . . . The fear and the hysteria generated far exceed the actual impact this operation would have."

The Justice Department this spring launched an effort to fast-track the cases of migrant families that have crossed the border since 2017, and the move has yielded thousands of removal orders, many of them delivered in absentia.

The ACLU and three other legal aid groups filed a lawsuit last week, arguing that the government cannot deport families without sufficient due process, including allowing would-be deportees to appear before an immigration judge. Attorneys say notices of court appearances from ICE sometimes don't identify the date of the hearing; other mail correspondence is sent to incorrect addresses.

But Albence said the criticism of ICE is overblown, noting that his agency is enforcing court orders. Willfully violating a removal order is a crime.

"No other law enforcement agency in the country is asked to ignore the lawful orders of a judge," he said. "We are merely executing the orders as we are sworn to do."

Albence said the remarks by some critics - including of Rep. Alexandria Ocasio-Cortez, D-N.Y., who likened immigration detention facilities to concentration camps - "inflames the emotions of individuals who would do us harm."

The ICE director referred to an attack Saturday in Tacoma, Washington, where a man who had previously protested at a detention center there returned with a rifle and incendiary devices.

"He set fire to a car, and he tried to set fire to propane tanks," Albence said, noting that the man could have killed ICE personnel and contractors at the location, as well as the detainees.

Critics, including Democratic lawmakers, Christian groups and the ACLU, have warned that raids targeting families would invariably result in the separation of children from their parents because so many families with undocumented members also have children who are U.S. citizens.

Albence acknowledged that the targeted enforcement likely would lead to the separation of children and parents, but he defended such actions as similar to other law enforcement arrests of criminals, and the fact that children do not accompany their convicted parents to prison.

"When we make criminal arrests, we're separating families every day," he said. "When individuals are taken into custody, the child does not go into custody with them."

U.S. authorities have said part of the influx of Central American families in recent months is due to them taking advantage of loopholes in U.S. law that require children to be released from custody shortly after they are apprehended at the border. Trump administration officials have said people are bringing children because they know it means an easier path to release, and they also have assailed migrants for making what officials call sham asylum claims to initiate what can be lengthy court processes.

Albence said that of the 2,100 families who were notified of their removal orders by the courts, 65 accepted the agency's invitation to leave the United States voluntarily. "We gave them the opportunity to come report to ICE's offices," he said. "We could have arranged orderly travel, so they could be released for a period of time to arrange their affairs and turn themselves in."

Albence insisted Sunday that the operation - whether or not it was underway - is under ICE direction and was not being guided by the White House.

Mulvaney builds ‘an empire for the right wing’ as Trump’s chief of staff

Sun, 07/14/2019 - 17:33

Acting White House Chief of Staff Mick Mulvaney listens as President Donald Trump speaks with Brazilian President Jair Bolsonaro in the Oval Office in March 2019. Washington Post photo by Jabin Botsford. (Jabin Botsford/)

WASHINGTON - Mick Mulvaney’s battles with Alexander Acosta began almost immediately.

Weeks after he was named acting White House chief of staff, Mulvaney summoned the labor secretary for a tense January encounter that became known inside the West Wing as "the woodshed meeting."

Mulvaney told Acosta in blunt terms that the White House believed he was dragging his feet on regulation rollbacks desired by business interests and that he was on thin ice as a result, according to advisers and a person close to the White House. Soon afterward, Acosta proposed a spate of business-friendly rules on overtime pay and other policies.

But it wasn't enough to save Acosta from Mulvaney's ire - and it helps explain why the former federal prosecutor had such tepid administration support last week as he resigned over his handling of a high-profile sex-crimes case more than a decade ago.

The episode illustrates the growing influence wielded by Mulvaney, a former tea party lawmaker who has built what one senior administration official called "his own fiefdom" focused on pushing conservative policies - while mostly steering clear of the Trump-related pitfalls that tripped up his predecessors.

This account of Mulvaney's rising power is based on interviews with 32 White House aides, current and former administration officials, lawmakers and legislative staffers, some of whom requested anonymity to speak candidly. Mulvaney and the White House declined to make him available for an interview.

Mulvaney - who is technically on leave from his first administration job as budget director - spends considerably less time with Trump than the two previous chiefs of staff, and the president has sometimes kept him out of the loop when making contentious foreign policy decisions, advisers say. At a recent donor retreat in Chicago, Mulvaney told attendees that he does not seek to control the president's tweeting, time or family, one attendee said.

Instead, Mulvaney has focused much of his energy on creating a new White House power center revolving around the long-dormant Domestic Policy Council and encompassing broad swaths of the administration. One White House official described Mulvaney as "building an empire for the right wing."

He has helped install more than a dozen ideologically aligned advisers in the West Wing since his December hiring. Cabinet members are pressed weekly on what regulations they can strip from the books and have been told their performance will be judged on how many they remove. Policy and spending decisions are now made by the White House and dictated to Cabinet agencies, instead of vice versa. When Mulvaney cannot be in the Oval Office for a policy meeting, one of his allies is usually there.

"You have a chief of staff with a professional commitment to ensuring that a real policy agenda gets enacted," said Charmaine Yoest, who served in senior roles in the Trump White House and at Health and Human Services before moving to the Heritage Foundation. "You've got to dig in, chart a path forward and stay committed to it, and we welcome his serious approach to policymaking."

But Mulvaney also faces significant obstacles on Capitol Hill, where he made enemies on both sides of the aisle during his three terms as a bomb-throwing House conservative. Democrats openly disdain him as a saboteur, while many key Republicans distrust his willingness to compromise, particularly on fiscal policy. Some GOP senators freely signal that they would rather deal with any other administration official than him.

Mulvaney spends more time in his office than his predecessors, feeling no need to sit in on all of Trump's meetings. He regularly huddles with Joe Grogan, a hard-liner who now leads the domestic council, and Russell Vought, a conservative ally who runs the Office of Management and Budget in Mulvaney's absence.

Eric Trump, left, Jared Kushner, Mick Mulvaney and Vice President Mike Pence talk before a medal ceremony in the Rose Garden at the White House in May 2019. Washington Post photo by Jabin Botsford. (Jabin Botsford/)

Advisers say a whiteboard in Mulvaney's office has two items with stars beside them: immigration and health care. Immigration, however, is largely left to top White House adviser Stephen Miller and, to a lesser extent, presidential son-in-law Jared Kushner, with dim prospects for significant legislation on Capitol Hill. Passing any kind of health care bill before the 2020 election is also unlikely, aides say, while budget cuts sought by Vought have died quickly in Congress.

Mulvany's biggest successes so far have come in deregulation efforts, where he prods agencies to move faster in case Trump loses or Democrats win the Senate in 2020, advisers say.

Aside from the domestic policy shop, Mulvaney has also tapped allies to fill roles in the White House's legislative affairs operation, the Office of Information and Regulatory Affairs, and his old haunts at the OMB. He regularly suggests ideas to all of them.

"What I am seeing is that Mulvaney cares about the domestic agencies much more than the prior chiefs of staff did," said Tammy McCutchen, a former Labor Department official in the George W. Bush administration who is now a partner at the Littler Mendelson law firm. "They're holding the agencies accountable to move forward on regulations."

In the past two months, he has forced out the chiefs of staff at the Department of Health and Human Services and the Labor Department amid policy disputes with them and their respective secretaries. Mulvaney and Grogan have repeatedly clashed with HHS Secretary Alex Azar, overruling him, for example, on ending the funding of medical research by government scientists using fetal tissue.

Emma Doyle, Mulvaney's deputy, has sought to control all presidential events and the president's schedule - asking officials to submit formal proposals for why they should be in the room and controlling who is usually in the room. She also leads a weekly meeting on presidential events. Doyle was recently in charge of a review of the president's immigration agencies and led a monthslong hunt earlier this year for who was leaking the president's internal schedules.

"Everything is controlled. The only people not under his thumb are Kudlow and Bolton," said one senior administration official, referring to economic adviser Larry Kudlow and national security adviser John Bolton.

Where former Chiefs of Staff Reince Priebus and John Kelly were more deferential to Cabinet members, Mulvaney has told them they are being judged on how much they can deregulate, with the policy council monitoring them daily. He is pushing for faster rollbacks of rules enacted by former President Barack Obama before Trump's first term ends, such as restricting what falls under the Clean Water Act and halting implementation of higher fuel-economy standards, according to administration officials.

The president has blessed Mulvaney's operation, White House aides said, and Trump considers his chief of staff an emissary to movement conservatives who have been vital to his presidency. But some Trump advisers say the president has no idea what Mulvaney and his aides do all day.

Mulvaney and Vought, among others, have sought to convince Trump to care more about cutting spending and the deficit. But Trump has rebuffed many of their proposed cuts as deficits soar.

Trump recently told West Wing aides that Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell, R-Ky., told him no politician had ever lost office for spending more money. Two people with direct knowledge confirmed that McConnell delivered that message in a June phone call about budget sequestration.

Although pleasing to businesses, Mulvaney's efforts are also heartening to social conservatives, who say they are finding a more open reception than before.

For instance, a new rule released in May gives health care providers, insurers and employers greater latitude to refuse coverage for medical services they say violate their religious or moral beliefs. That policy is facing legal challenges. The same month, the White House proposed a rollback of Obama-era rules that banned discrimination against transgender medical patients. Another rule bans taxpayer-funded clinics from making abortion referrals.

"We're just taking the president's challenge seriously to look everywhere and come up with options for deregulation that spurs economic growth," Vought said in an interview. "You have an administration that's in sync and everyone is talking to each other.

Mulvaney - who has acknowledged to other advisers that he knows little about foreign policy - has installed a deputy for national security, Rob Blair, who regularly battles with Bolton and his allies. Mulvaney and Bolton are barely on speaking terms, and Blair has regularly challenged Bolton's subordinates, according to people familiar with the relationship.

Mulvaney has also been a key backer internally of Halil Suleyman Ozerden, whom Trump nominated for the 5th Circuit Court of Appeals last month despite misgivings from conservatives, according to people familiar with the matter. Ozerden and Mulvaney have known each other for years, and Mulvaney was a groomsman in Ozerden's wedding. Mulvaney vouched for him in a private conversation with Sen. Lindsey Graham, R-S.C., who chairs the committee that will take up Ozerden's nomination.

The former House Freedom Caucus member's sway in Congress is limited, however. GOP aides routinely trash Mulvaney in private and say he has done little to improve his image from his House days, when he was a leading antagonist in forcing government shutdowns and other hardball tactics. McConnell has told others on Capitol Hill that he would prefer to deal with Treasury Secretary Steven Mnuchin.

In a recent interview, Senate Appropriations Committee Chairman Richard Shelby, R-Ala., paused for 10 seconds when asked whether Mulvaney was a productive force, particularly during a meeting with key principals in the office of House Speaker Nancy Pelosi, D-Calif., in June.

Shelby eventually said Mulvaney was "engaged," then the senator pointed out that Mnuchin was the lead negotiator on behalf of the administration in the fiscal talks.

The bad blood between Mulvaney and Democrats is even more obvious.

Sen. Jon Tester, D-Mont., recalled being pleasantly surprised when the White House reached out to a half-dozen deal-minded Democratic senators in April, wanting to discuss the influx of migrant children at the border.

But he said there was no follow-up from the White House. Later, Tester saw Mulvaney on television complaining that the administration had met with Democrats to talk about problems on the southern border but that they weren't working to address them.

"I think it was about Mulvaney being able to get on national TV and say, 'We met with the Democrats,' " Tester said. "It was apparent to me that that was the political agenda behind it. It wasn't about getting anything done. It was about laying blame."

Mulvaney appears fully aware of his shortcomings with lawmakers, joking to others in the White House about his unpopularity on Capitol Hill. "I know they'd rather deal with Mnuchin," Mulvaney has said, according to two White House officials.

Sen. Kevin Cramer, R-N.D., who served in the House with Mulvaney, praised his performance but noted that senators are also able to talk to the president directly about concerns.

"He's not there to be a clerk. He's there to lead," Cramer said. "But I think it's also clear that when the president says this is the position, that Mick's more than capable of carrying out the president's position. And I suspect in some cases they're far apart - but in most cases they're pretty well in line."

Mulvaney's relationship with Trump has had its rocky moments. During a recent ABC News interview, the president berated Mulvaney on camera for coughing.

But the two men are unlikely to part ways, advisers say, partially because Mulvaney knows when to leave Trump alone - and is a good golfer.

"He takes the phrase chief of staff in the literal way," said Jonathan Slemrod, who led congressional outreach for Mulvaney at the OMB until November. "He's the chief of the staff. He's not chief of the president. He thinks Trump is a political genius and doesn't second-guess a lot of his decisions."

Mulvaney has joked about being an acting chief of staff, arguing that there is no practical difference.

"You could make me the permanent chief of staff tomorrow and he could fire me on Thursday," Mulvaney said of Trump at a June 11 fiscal summit sponsored by the Peterson Foundation. "Or you could leave me as the acting chief of staff and I could stay to the second term. It doesn't make any difference."

He added, "I'll stay as long as I feel like he values my opinion and I like working for him, and both those things are happening right now."

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The Washington Post’s Robert Costa contributed to this report.

Doing these five things could decrease your risk of Alzheimer’s by 60 percent, new study shows

Sun, 07/14/2019 - 15:30

Research suggests that making five lifestyle adjustments - including playing mentally stimulating games like chess - will decrease your chance of Alzheimer's by 60 percent. (Washington Post photo by Sarah L. Voisin) (Sarah L. Voisin/)

Here’s a to-do list for preventing dementia, new research suggests: Ditch red meat, take a brisk walk to the grocery store, do the Sunday crossword and stick to one glass of wine at dinner.

A study presented Sunday at the Alzheimer's Association International Conference in Los Angeles found that combining five lifestyle habits - including eating healthier, exercising regularly and refraining from smoking - can reduce the risk of Alzheimer's by 60 percent. A separate study showed that lifestyle choices can lower risk even for those who are genetically prelifestyle disposed to the disease.

The report, compiled by the Rush University Medical Center in Chicago, tracked 2,765 individuals over about a decade. All participants were older adults enrolled in either the Chicago Health and Aging Project (CHAP) or the Rush Memory and Aging Project (MAP), both federally funded, long-term observational studies that examine mental decline among aging Chicago residents.

Over the last decade, studies have increasingly pointed to controllable lifestyle factors as critical components to reducing the risk of cognitive decline. Researchers say that, as with heart disease, combating dementia will probably require a “cocktail” approach combining drugs and lifestyle changes. And as recent efforts to develop a cure or more effective drug treatments for dementia have proven disappointing, the fact that people can exert some control in preventing the disease through their own choices is encouraging news, they say.

While the new study’s authors expected to see that leading a healthier life decreases the chance of dementia, they were floored by the “magnitude of the effect,” said Klodian Dhana, a Rush University professor and co-author.

"This demonstrates the potential of lifestyle behaviors to reduce risk as we age," said Heather Snyder, senior director of medical and scientific operations at the Alzheimer's Association. "The fact that four or five lifestyle habits put together can have that kind of benefit for your brain is incredibly powerful."

The Rush team assessed study participants' lifestyles on five metrics: their diet, their exercise regimen, whether or not they smoked, their alcohol consumption and their "engagement in cognitive stimulation activities," Dhana said. The researchers then scored each factor, assigning participants a '1' if their behavior was healthy in that category and a '0' if it was unhealthy.

Individuals who ate a "high-quality diet" of mostly vegetables, nuts, berries, beans, whole grains, seafood, poultry and olive oil - while avoiding red meats, butter, cheese, pastries, sweets and fried food - earned 1s. This was also true for anyone who exercised at least 150 minutes a week, whether by biking, walking, swimming, gardening or doing yard work.

People who did not smoke, limited themselves to one glass of wine a day, and regularly - two or three times a week - engaged in mentally stimulating activities like reading the newspaper, visiting the library or playing games such as chess and checkers also earned 1s.

After crunching the numbers, Dhana and his colleagues found that individuals with a score of 4 or 5 - meaning they pursued four or five healthy behaviors over the period studied - were 60 percent less likely to develop Alzheimer's compared to participants who scored 0 or 1. The results did not vary by race or gender, Dhana said.

The average age of participants in the CHAP cohort was 73 and in the MAP cohort, 81. The population studied included both men and women and blacks and non-Hispanic whites.

Around 50 million people have dementia worldwide, and that number is expected to triple by 2050, according to the 2018 World Alzheimer Report. The global cost of dementia in 2018 was roughly $1 trillion, a figure projected to double by 2030.

If you cannot adopt all four or five healthy lifestyle habits studied, aim for one or two - whatever you can do, Dhana said. Anything will help: The Rush team found that making just one more healthy choice, no matter how many participants had already made, decreased their chance of Alzheimer's by an additional 27 percent.

And, if you're trying to decide which habits to adopt, Dhana has his favorites.

"My biggest takeaway is I encourage older people to consume more leafy green vegetables, replace red meat with poultry, and avoid as much as possible fried food," he said. "Also, walk to the grocery store and read books!"

Another study also presented Sunday found that lifestyle choices may even counteract genetic predisposition for Alzheimer's. That research, led by a team at the University of Exeter Medical School, showed that people with a high genetic risk of Alzheimer's were less likely to develop the disease if they pursued a healthy lifestyle.

Synder said she expects to see more studies examining the role of lifestyle choices going forward.

"I think we will see people honing in on, 'What are the specific aspects of these behaviors that are already identified?'," she said. "But I also think we'll see people asking, 'What are other behaviors?'"

Snyder said she would not be surprised if the number of recommended lifestyle choices eventually rose as high as 10 or 12.