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This weekend in Anchorage: Teddy Bear Picnic, Goosefest and a walk that's for the birds

Alaska Dispatch News - Fri, 07/22/2016 - 20:05

Teddy Bear Picnic

Kids and teddy bears of all ages are welcome at this event, where they'll enjoy face-painting, a teddy bear parade, food and celebrity guests like Smokey the Bear and the Anchorage Fur Rondy bear. The picnic starts at noon and the parade begins at 1:30 p.m. 12-3 p.m. Saturday, July 23 at Cuddy Family Midtown Park.

Goosefest

People can get their goose on with face-painting, food, crafts and music from local bands like The Dirty Hands, Hope Social Club and Superfrequency at the event set for 1-7 p.m. Saturday, July 23, outside the UAA Cuddy Quad, 2400 W. Campus Drive. Free. (Search for Goosefest on Facebook for details.)

Bike and Bird Day

Can't tell a godwit from a grebe — but want to learn? Ride a bike along the Tony Knowles Coastal Trail and talk to Anchorage birding experts at several stations. The Alaska Zoo will show a live bird of prey at the start (1-1:30 p.m.) and finish (4:30-5 p.m.) at Westchester Lagoon; 1 p.m.-5 p.m. Sunday, July 24, 1824 W. 15th Ave. Free. (312-8899, ctalbot@audubon.org)

Crow Pass Crossing is a go -- and late additions to field could add get-up-and-go

Alaska Dispatch News - Fri, 07/22/2016 - 19:48

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The 33rd annual Crow Pass Crossing is a go, and a couple of late additions to the field could add some get-up-and-go to Saturday morning's backcountry marathon.

Race director Michael Friess told runners assembled at a mandatory racer's safety meeting Friday afternoon that it appeared the McHugh Creek wildfire would not alter the race from near Girdwood to the Eagle River Nature Center.

Earlier in the week, there were concerns about traveling to the race start — racers must report by 6:30 a.m. at the trailhead — because of a lane closure on the Seward Highway. But the road has been fully open for a couple days, and recent rain has aided firefighters battling the 842-acre blaze in Chugach State Park.

"Looks like the rains helped us out a little bit,'' Friess told racers. "So keep your fingers crossed.''

Friess told racers to monitor their email in the morning in case events alter the status of the race.

"If you don't see anything, the race is on,'' he said.

The field already included two-time defending women's champion Christy Marvin and defending men's champ Scott Patterson, a three-time winner.

When dozens of racers who pre-registered for the race did not show up at the safety meeting, dozens of wait-listed runners gained entry to the race.

The late additions included Chad Trammell, who last month finished second in the Mayor's Marathon in 2 hours, 30 minutes, 14 seconds, and will make his Crow Pass debut. Trammell earlier this season broke the men's record at the 7.5-mile Turnagain Arm Trail Run.

He's also an accomplished obstacle-course racer, which should come in handy on a course strewn with nature's obstacles — tree roots, raised rocks, a crossing of Eagle River, vegetation-shrouded single-track and, given recent rain, slick footing. The race, which has been ball-parked at anywhere from 22.5-24 miles in recent years and occasionally features run-ins with bears, moose and bees, begins with a 4-mile climb that ascends 2,000 feet to Crow Pass before dropping down into Eagle River Valley.

Patterson, a national champion skier for the Alaska Pacific University Nordic Ski Center, last year won in 2:56:13, the second-fastest time in race history to Geoff Roes' 2:54:44 in 2010.

Meanwhile, two-time race champion Eric Strabel, who owns the fourth-fastest time in race history (2:58:30 in 2009) and three of the top-10 all-time fastest clockings, is back in the field for the first time since 2011. He has run the race five times, winning twice and finishing runner-up three times.

Elite skier Caitlin Patterson, a national champion and Scott's sister, was a late entry in the field. She finished sixth in 2011 as a 21-year-old and may be able to give Marvin a test.

Marvin two years ago in her Crow Pass debut clocked the second-fastest women's time in race history (3:26:44), just 24 seconds off Nancy Pease's race standard, set by the nine-time champ in 1990.

Marvin has shown sharp fitness this season, winning her second Mount Marathon, and also setting a record at the Turnagain Arm Trail Run. She also won hill climbs on Bird Ridge and Knoya Ridge this season.

The race, which begins in Chugach National Forest before dropping into Chugach State Park on the descent from the pass, is limited to 150 racers and includes time standards.

Racers must reach the top of Crow Pass inside an hour — "and looking good,'' as Friess reminded them Friday — or they are disqualified. Racers also must reach the finish within six hours to be official finishers.

What makes a church welcoming to new visitors? Answers to some common questions

Alaska Dispatch News - Fri, 07/22/2016 - 19:35

From time to time, readers write with questions or observations about this column. This week I'm devoting this space to a sampling of questions I've received. Many relate to the columns devoted to church visits, so a little context is in order before turning to those questions. My church-specific columns are usually intended to focus on the perspective of a first-time visitor — someone hopefully regarded by that church as a "guest," and my visit descriptions are intended to document the way any visitor might be treated at that church.

How many visits have you made to any one church without being warmly greeted and becoming aware of a sense of hospitality?

I've visited several local churches at least three times without being greeted by anyone, or at least being handed a bulletin or worship guide. At one prominent Hillside church in particular, I was even invited back by a member sure I would receive a warm greeting next time. Unfortunately, it never happened, even though I stretched myself to endure three visits. I could never recommend that church or any other unfriendly church to a potential first-time guest or in my columns. Unfortunately, something in that church's DNA prevents it from changing.

You don't have to be a rocket scientist to determine if you're welcome at someone's home. The same is true at church.

I remember a woman from a local Episcopal church approaching me after her service saying she'd recently put on her "visitor" mentality and persona when she visited her hometown church. She said she was astounded at what she noticed; it wasn't all guest-friendly.

As a church consultant, I've recommended for years that multiple teams from a specific church need to visit other churches, every Sunday, to see how they are treated, and look for encouraging practices worthy of emulation. By and large, churches refuse to do this, plain and simple.

Frequently I'm asked about my local "home church." Do I have one?

I write about congregations representing a variety of religions, though most are Christian. According to Pew Research Center religious demographic data, 62 percent of adults in Alaska profess Christianity. However, as a self-professed religion scholar, I'm also vitally interested in other faith groups in our community. Many non-Christian religions that are represented in Alaska make up fewer  than 1 percent of adherents to any faith, according to the Pew data., Together, faiths including Judaism, Islam, Buddhism, Hinduism and other non-Christian religions make up another 6 percent of the state's population.  (31 percent are unaffiliated — the religious "nones.")

I'm constantly in motion, visiting congregations from a variety of faiths on any given Friday, Saturday or Sunday. To maintain my impartiality I claim membership in none, but clearly have certain congregations to which I return regularly.

My church is not listed on your list of churches to visit; why is that?

I maintain lists of good "first-time" churches on my website, churchvisits.com, as I consider them to represent safe choices for people seeking church homes or looking for a solid faith community.

Your church might be one that makes first-time guests uncomfortable. Maybe you do not welcome them in a friendly manner, possibly ignore them altogether, or give them the 20-question test upon arrival. (Example: What is your name?, How did you hear about us?, What is your home church?, Who do you know in our church?, How did you find us?, etc., ad nauseum.) My column two weeks ago gave a real-life example of how one friendly church treats guests with honor and great hospitality.

Your church might be one of the many that insist on having guests stand up and identify themselves, telling the group where they're from, etc., which by the way, is the No. 1 reason people do not return to a church. Possibly your music may have been 30-45 minutes of insulting, ear-pounding noise where congregants are "told," not "invited," to stand, to spend the entire time enduring songs many don't know. Maybe your pastor preached a really great sermon, at least in his mind, while mostly reading it without inflection. Worse yet, he may have used his main remarks from a popular writer whose book was on the best-seller lists.

But first-time guests usually make a decision about whether to return to a church within the first five to 10 minutes after they arrive. Forget the music, and sermon. It's already too late. They've decided.

Why do you draw attention to beautiful features of some local churches, while ignoring Gospel content or social justice ministries?

For Christians, a theology of beauty is represented in Scripture going back to the creation itself. In the exodus of the children of Israel, God ordained a theology of beauty in the construction of the Ark of the Covenant and the Tabernacle of Moses. These symbols were deliberately established to be constant reminders of God's greatness, love and physical presence.

In an edited monograph, "Toward a Theology of Beauty," systematic theologian Jo Davidson writes, "God pointedly established an elaborate, lavish system of corporate worship in the Old Testament. Yet, over and over again He censured through His prophets the glorious worship that He Himself designed and implemented but that was now being used to disguise a degenerate life. The internal condition of the participant is critical: "'Take away from Me the noise of your songs, for I will not hear the melody of your stringed instruments. But let justice run down like water, and righteousness like a mighty stream.' (Amos 5:23, 24)."

Beauty is not a final solution; it must touch and heal the heart as well. Many religions believe in a theology of beauty, and express a God-given appreciation of that beauty in their symbols.

As a religion scholar, I've made field trips to many religious edifices in various areas of the world. Invariably I've been drawn to God through my viewing of the symbolism represented by various features. At Reform Congregation Keneseth Israel in Philadelphia, "The Prophetic Quest," a series of 10 stained glass windows by artist Jacob Landau, brought entire books and chapters of Old Testament prophets leaping to mind.

But social justice initiatives are also an ongoing feature of this column. Many churches ignore their importance. I do not.

I appreciate the dialogue this column offers in the religious community. Not everything I write will be appreciated, nor do I expect it to be. However, I enjoy hearing back from readers. More questions are welcome either in the comments  or by email, at churchvisits@gmail.com. As time allows, I try respond personally to each. Happy questing!

Readers write: Letters to the editor, July 23, 2016

Alaska Dispatch News - Fri, 07/22/2016 - 19:34

Hold people who harass wildlife accountable

Re: "Troopers: Mountain goat harassed by people drowns near downtown Seward" (July 18).

It is despicable that a goat drowned because a group of humans was more interested in capturing a picture than they were in protecting a life. When I was growing up in Alaska, we were taught to never approach wildlife, but whether the harassers were Alaskans or Outside tourists, they ought to be held accountable for pursuing an animal to his or her death.

Tour companies should make it explicitly clear that animals are not to be chased down, and all Alaskans should do their part by intervening whenever they see an animal endangered by a fool with a camera.

— Jennifer Bates
PETA Foundation
Norfolk

Police deserve our support for the work they do

Like so many Americans, I have been deeply troubled by the recent events in Minnesota, Louisiana and Texas. What would Martin Luther King Jr. think, 51 years after his acceptance of the Nobel Peace Prize? In his speech in Stockholm, he said: "Nonviolence is the answer to the crucial political and moral questions of our time: the need for man to overcome oppression and violence without resorting to oppression and violence. Man must evolve for all human conflict a method which rejects revenge, aggression and retaliation. The foundation of such a method is love."

Today, we must gather around our police as we have gathered around our teachers, our students, our LGBT community members — around all our fellow citizens when they are victims of senseless violence. Our police are the ones who run toward the fire. They are there when we need them the most. They deserve our backing and our respect for all the right and good they do — all day, every single day.

— Shirley A. Coté, Anchorage Police Department captain, retired Soldotna Police Department chief of police, retired
Candidate, House District 28
Anchorage

America is the frog in this fable

In my daily routine I am exposed to many political conversations, mainly by older people. Some people say that rather than vote for Trump or Clinton, they are not going to vote at all. Others say that rather than vote for Clinton because she is so terrible, they are going to vote for Trump. I haven't yet heard anyone say that because Trump is so terrible they are going to vote for Clinton. When I casually throw out that there is yet a third option, Libertarian candidate Gary Johnson, I just get blank looks.

I have had such extreme dislike for Hillary for so long I couldn't imagine anyone equally distasteful until Trump. There is an Aesop's fable about a scorpion and a frog.

A scorpion and a frog meet on the bank of a stream and the scorpion asks the frog to carry him across on its back. The frog asks, "How do I know you won't sting me?" The scorpion says, "Because if I do, I will die too."

The frog is satisfied, and they set out, but in midstream, the scorpion stings the frog. The frog feels the onset of paralysis and starts to sink, knowing they both will drown, but has just enough time to gasp, "Why?"

Replies the scorpion, "It's my nature …"

In this case, America is the frog and Trump is the scorpion. If there was ever a time for third-party voting, this has to be it. Not voting at all or voting for the lesser evil is not the answer.

— Della Dempsey
Wasilla

OK deep government cuts but also demand taxes

Rep. Geran Tarr, in her recent column (ADN, July 21), observed that "I just can't believe Alaskans would put up with their PFD being reduced while not fixing Senate Bill 21." She presumes that Alaska voters, for once, will be perceptive, fair and intelligent voters who will not overwhelmingly return the same inept, no-action Republican majority to the Legislature in November. Because her presumption is wrong (the oil industry is too embedded in our Legislature), she will have to forgo any attempt at oil tax/oil credit reform and try to arrive at a compromise on other fiscal matters.

To appease the rabid right wing, state government will have to be cut an additional 25 percent; however, in return demand a gross receipts tax (like New Mexico, Pennsylvania and several other states use) and an income tax at projected rates to minimize raiding/restructuring the PFD. This, or a similar course of action, does not "target" big oil and minimizes the potential negative impact on lower-income Alaskans. This is not the "fairness and equality" that Rep. Tarr so passionately seeks, but with a Republican majority it may be the best she can do.

— William Maxey
Anchorage

Words carry power, so choose them with care

Words have power. Power to inflame or to inform. When Sen. Lisa Murkowski declares in a political ad that she will fight the bureaucracy in Washington, I have to wonder if she realizes that, as our senator, she is a part of the bureaucracy.

I don't think her words were meant to enlighten but, rather, to seek votes from people with an ax to grind. I'm not picking on Sen. Murkowski, as all politicians, from whichever side of the aisle, have done the same thing. I'm suggesting that we all become aware and take responsibility for our choice of words. Do they inform and enlighten or do they feed bias, prejudice and ignorance?

Is it possible that a mentally ill person hears the words "fight" and "bureaucracy" and decides to kill a policeman or a government official?

Words have power. If we want a better society, we must pick our words wisely. You never know who's listening.

— Millie Spezialy
Anchorage

The views expressed here are the writers' own and are not necessarily endorsed by Alaska Dispatch News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a letter under 200 words for consideration, email letters@alaskadispatch.com, or click here to submit via any web browser. Submitting a letter to the editor constitutes granting permission for it to be edited for clarity, accuracy and brevity. Send longer works of opinion to commentary@alaskadispatch.com.

Former Redlands teammates thriving in <b>Alaska</b> summer collegiate league

Alaska News - Fri, 07/22/2016 - 19:33
Former Redlands High baseball players Brian Ruhm, left, and Angel Landazuri reunite at the Alaska League All-Star Game in Anchorage on July 17.

A grim first: New York City reports baby born with a Zika-related defect

Alaska Dispatch News - Fri, 07/22/2016 - 19:05

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NEW YORK — Health officials on Friday reported the first baby born in New York City with the Zika-related birth defect known as microcephaly, a condition marked by an abnormally small head and impaired brain development.

The virus has caused more than 1,500 children to be born with birth defects around the world, mostly in Brazil. As it continues to spread, doctors are struggling to understand the virus and to prepare for its effects.

The baby in New York is one of a growing number of children born in the United States with microcephaly, a condition that requires intensive care and can lead to a variety of problems, including seizures, vision and hearing loss and intellectual disability.

There have been reports of about a dozen children in the United States being born with Zika-related microcephaly since the spring, including cases in New Jersey and Florida.

As in those instances, the mother in New York is thought to have been infected while traveling to one of the roughly 50 countries where Zika is endemic.

[Alaska's first Zika case confirmed in Sitka]

Health officials said that the baby with microcephaly tested positive for the virus after being born at a New York City hospital this month. They declined to provide additional details about the case, including whether the virus had been previously diagnosed in the mother, or if she was monitored as part of a national registry created to track pregnancy outcomes for those who become infected.

At a news conference on Friday, officials said the case should serve as warning to anyone who considered the virus to be just a theoretical threat and once again urged all pregnant women not to travel to countries where Zika is endemic.

"While not surprising, given the travel trends of our global city, this case is a strong reminder of the tragic consequences of the Zika virus," Dr. Mary T. Bassett, New York City's health commissioner, said in a statement. "We are monitoring the baby's health closely and connecting the family with the necessary services to take care of their child."

As of last week, 2,000 pregnant women in the city who had traveled to areas where there is active transmission of Zika had requested testing, officials said. Of those who have been tested, 41 have been confirmed to have the virus as of July 15.

"I remind all pregnant women in New York City, and those trying to get pregnant, that they should delay travel to places where there is active Zika transmission," Bassett said. "As we see today, the consequences for the child can be devastating."

As awareness of the Zika virus has grown, so have requests for tests. The city health department received 56 requests July 15, officials said.

The virus is most often spread by the Aedes aegypti mosquito, but there is increasing concern about other means of transmission.

The risk of sexual transmission has been a growing concern, and, last week, the health department reported the first case of a woman passing the virus to a man through intercourse.

More recently, a case in Utah raised new questions because it did not appear that the virus had been transmitted through sex or by mosquito.

The Utah patient, who has fully recovered, was a "family contact" who provided care for an older man who had become infected with the virus after traveling abroad.

As that case illustrated, much remains unknown about the virus, including how exactly it is able to travel from mother to fetus, a capacity uncommon among viruses.

While most people infected with Zika suffer only a mild illness, the virus poses a great danger to women who are pregnant. Studies have shown that a pregnant woman who becomes infected has a chance of from 1 to 29 percent of her child being born with microcephaly. The wide range reflects the lack of scientific knowledge on the subject.

There is no cure for Zika, and health officials estimate that it will cost more than $10 million to care for each child born with birth defects.

The Centers for Disease Control and Prevention convened a conference for doctors this week as part of an effort to develop best practices for caring for children born with microcephaly and other Zika-related birth defects.

As with the virus itself, there are many questions about how to best care for affected children and counsel their families.

For instance, all the cases so far have involved children born with microcephaly, known as congenital microcephaly.

But officials do not yet know if a newborn infected with Zika at birth could develop microcephaly later, which is called acquired microcephaly. There is also an incomplete understanding of other possible developmental problems that may be associated with the virus.

Even detecting microcephaly before birth is complicated.

During pregnancy, a baby's head grows because the brain grows. Microcephaly can occur because a baby's brain has not developed properly during pregnancy, or has stopped growing after birth.

However, the earliest that the condition has been detected in ultrasounds is the mid-to-late second trimester; it is more commonly detected in the third trimester.

"The city has been preparing for this scenario for many months now, and we stand ready to help families caring for an infant with microcephaly," Herminia Palacio, deputy mayor for health and human services, said. "This case is a sad reminder that Zika can have tragic consequences for pregnant women."

Alaska's Republican delegation returns ready to unite behind Trump

Alaska Dispatch News - Fri, 07/22/2016 - 19:01

CLEVELAND — As workers here sweep up the last of the confetti from the Republican National Convention, quite a few Alaska delegates are heading home ready to join together behind presidential nominee Donald Trump.

Trump was not Alaska's first choice in the presidential preference poll — he was close behind Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. And for some delegates, he amounted to their third or fourth choice. The billionaire businessman does not have the kind of background that would usually endear him to the more socially conservative end of the GOP.

But Alaska's delegates at the RNC — many of them leaders in the state party — have their own reasons for pulling together behind the candidate. And after a tumultuous week at an unusual convention, it seems that for many of the delegates, what they believe about Trump depends on how they are inclined to see him: as a deal-maker, a good father, and foil to the hated Hillary Clinton.

Clinton drew a line in the sand for many pro-drilling Alaskans with her opposition to Arctic development. And there is hardly a figure that draws more vitriol from Republican party members than Clinton.

This week it came from Trump himself, the many convention speakers who talked far more about her than him, and the campaign operatives in the aisles who often started the crowd chanting "lock her up" repeatedly through the week in Cleveland.

And so, with a demonized opposition, there is Trump, the candidate they have learned to love — or better learn to love. So the discrepancies between Trump's past life and current positions, between the party platform approved this week and many of Trump's stated positions, and between what Trump says and what he does — well, that's OK, they said in numerous interviews. They trust him.

[For Alaska's GOP delegates, Trump delivers in a major way]

"I think he's the only one that has the guts to do what is needed" because he's not a politician, said Alaska delegate Peggy Wilson. She's particularly hopeful that he'll peel back regulations and provide a good environment for business, bringing manufacturing back from overseas.

Trump has promised to bolster manufacturing in America by levying tariffs on countries that produce many goods the U.S. buys. But his own clothing line has been manufactured in China and Bangladesh.

Asked how to reconcile that reality, Wilson said Trump's experience beating the system is why he'll know how to make a difference. And she said she doesn't think Trump is in the race for the money or notoriety.

Then there's the religious community. Trump counts himself as a Christian, but certainly doesn't have a pious past: three marriages, a long line of raunchy appearances on the "Howard Stern Show" and a cover-story in Playboy, among many other examples.

Nevertheless, Trump has had strong support from the evangelical community from the start.

Alaska delegate Glenn Clary, a pastor at Anchorage Baptist Temple, has long been a Trump supporter, and is co-chair of the candidate's Alaska campaign. But Clary isn't too concerned with Trump's secular New York ways, he said, noting the country is electing a president, not a pastor.

"I believe he will honor God in our country again and respect people from all walks of life," Clary said, noting he believed Trump would honor religious freedom.

That does seem to be Trump's intent. In his convention speech Thursday, Trump thanked the "evangelical and religious community" for its support throughout his campaign, noting, "I'm not sure I totally deserve it." And he offered up a big bonus: a promise to repeal a decades-old law that can strip churches of tax-exempt status for political pushes from the pulpit.

Other delegates have pointed to Trump's willingness to release a list of people he would consider appointing to the U.S. Supreme Court — a move that solidified his conservative credentials with many in the party.

And the speech given by Indiana Gov. Mike Pence, Trump's vice presidential pick, was broadly appreciated as a way of balancing out the ticket, and some of Trump's more off-the-cuff tendencies. So far that hasn't proved very likely: Trump contradicted Pence on foreign policy the same night Pence spoke at the convention. The governor seems fairly happy to stand quietly behind Trump, so far.

"I had no idea we'd actually be here," said delegate Jerry Ward, standing in the aisle of the convention floor by the Alaska delegation's seats, in the hours before Trump was to take the stage and accept the Republican nomination for president.

Ward, a former Alaska state legislator, chairs Trump's Alaska campaign, and he's been on board for about a year — after, he said, former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin passed his name on to the then-new campaign.

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Ward — along with about 15 members of the Alaska delegation — was among a group of supporters gathered Friday morning for a thank-you speech from Trump the morning after his convention speech. This one was not a teleprompter affair, but in a style closer to his campaign trail speeches: from the gut, stream-of-consciousness, no holding back.

During his convention speech, Trump nodded off chants of "lock her up" — the week's unofficial mantra, and said "let's beat her on Nov. 8," instead. (It is worth noting that many of those "lock her up" chants throughout the week were started by the Trump team's whips, stationed throughout the aisles of the convention floor, connected by Secret Service-style earpieces.)

But on Friday, he did not demur. Trump declared done and drummed up news with a broad swath of unusual declarations, that seemed to mean everything and nothing: Cruz has "intellect, but he didn't use it." He doesn't really think Cruz's father was involved in the assassination of President John F. Kennedy, but the National Enquirer, where he read it, should probably win a Pulitzer Prize.

Ward spent a few minutes with Trump on Friday, he said. Trump told Ward, "I'm excited about Alaska," which Ward took to mean Trump is excited about the option to expand resource development in Alaska, drilling offshore and in the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge, he said.

Ward said he thinks Alaska is already moving toward unifying around Trump, after a primary season where "Alaska was very, very divided between Ted Cruz, Donald Trump and Bernie Sanders." Based on conversations he has had with people in the state this week, Ward said, "Alaska is united."

Asked about Trump's doomsday view of crime, immigration and international trade in his acceptance speech Thursday night, Ward reasoned Trump is "just saying what all of America's thinking right now."

Ward said he expects one of Trump's children — Eric, Donald Jr. or Ivanka — to visit Alaska over the next few months of the campaign.

<b>Alaska&#39;s</b> top court rejects parental notice for abortions

Alaska News - Fri, 07/22/2016 - 18:26
The 4-1 decision marks a long-awaited victory for Planned Parenthood and other abortion-rights advocates in Alaska who argued the 2010 law ...

Kaine's acceptance of gifts in state office could offer Republicans an opening

Alaska Dispatch News - Fri, 07/22/2016 - 18:21

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During his strenuous race for governor of Virginia in 2005, Timothy Kaine found himself chatting with James Murray, a wealthy venture capitalist, and acknowledged that the physical strain of the campaign was becoming difficult.

In response, Murray made an offer: Win or lose, after the November election, Kaine and his family should spend time at Murray's vacation home on the exclusive Caribbean island of Mustique. The home, situated on an island point with stunning views of the Caribbean and Atlantic oceans, would be empty and Kaine could use it free. "No sleeves off my vest," Murray recalled in an interview.

Kaine disclosed that gift in his annual Virginia financial disclosure form, estimating that the free use of the home came at an $18,000 value.

Such gifts were legal at the time in Virginia, which had permissive laws that allowed officeholders to accept gifts of any amount provided those valued at more than $50 were disclosed.

But Republicans have signaled in recent days that they will use Kaine's acceptance of that and other freebies as a line of attack against the newly selected vice presidential candidate, looking to stoke concern among Democrats that Kaine is not the progressive candidate they had hoped for.

[Hillary Clinton picks Sen. Kaine as vice presidential running mate]

"He followed the rules, but it's a question of whether the Democrat Party can stomach that coziness with donors," said former attorney general Jerry Kilgore, the Republican Kaine defeated in 2005. "Their base, at this point, is anti-corporate America, anti-what these gifts stand for: access and influence."

Such gifts drew little attention in Virginia until Kaine's successor, Gov. Robert McDonnell, was convicted of federal corruption charges in 2014, accused of accepting gifts and sweetheart loans from a dietary supplement executive in exchange for promoting the businessman's company.

The Supreme Court last month overturned McDonnell's conviction, finding that authorities had incorrectly instructed the jury about how to define an illegal quid pro quo. McDonnell has maintained he did nothing for businessman Jonnie Williams Sr. in exchange for his gifts; prosecutors are weighing whether to attempt to retry McDonnell and his wife, Maureen, who was convicted alongside him.

There are stark differences between Kaine's gifts and McDonnell's. For one, Kaine's gifts were properly disclosed; McDonnell failed to disclose some of what he received.

For another, Kaine has never faced accusations of promising state action in exchange for any of his gifts.

"During his eight years as lieutenant governor and governor, Senator Kaine went beyond the requirements of Virginia law, promptly disclosing any and all gifts received, including those beneath the reporting threshold," said Kaine spokeswoman Amy Dudley. "All disclosure information – the vast majority of which was for work-related travel expenses rather than gifts – has been publicly available for years and never once raised any concerns of impropriety."

During his eight years as Virginia's lieutenant governor and then governor, Kaine disclosed that he accepted $201,600 in personal gifts, according to data compiled from the Virginia Public Access Project, a nonpartisan tracker of money in state politics.

[Tim Kaine: A liberal who rose in a conservative state]

The majority of those gifts came in the form of air travel, including from the 2008 campaign of President Barack Obama, which paid to fly Kaine across the country as a campaign surrogate. Under murky Virginia law, the proper way to disclose such political travel has been unclear; other politicians have disclosed it as a campaign contribution to their political action committee, rather than a personal gift, as did Kaine.

More than $32,000 of Kaine's gifts were travel expenses paid by the state's economic development agency during trade missions he took in his official role as governor.

But some of Kaine's other gifts were more tangible. Stuart Siegel, chairman of S&K Famous Brands Menswear, gave Kaine a total of $5,500 in clothing in 2003 and 2005. Siegel is a close friend of Kaine's; Kaine introduced Siegel to his wife and presided at their wedding. Siegel did not return a call for comment.

In 2006, Teva Pharmaceuticals paid $12,000 to fly Kaine to the annual meeting of the Democratic Governors Association. Two years later, the company received a $900,000 economic incentive to expand its Virginia operations. The company has donated to campaigns of both Democrats and Republicans in Virginia.

Other gifts Kaine reported included $850 worth of Washington Wizards basketball tickets from a Virginia businessman who had contributed $10,000 to Kaine's 2005 campaign; eight tickets to a Dave Matthews concert from the University of Virginia; and a 3-by-5-foot prayer rug from then-Afghan president Hamid Karzai.

In an interview, Murray, who had contributed $41,000 to Kaine's campaigns for governor and lieutenant governor, said he believes Kaine's office likely overvalued the cost of a week's stay in his vacation home. The vacation was the single largest gift Kaine reported in his eight years as a state official. Murray noted that Kaine and his family paid for their airfare, as well as meals and other expenses during the trip.

[How Tim Kaine and Hillary Clinton compare on the issues]

Murray, who had been business partners for years with Kaine's predecessor, Mark Warner, had served under Warner on an unpaid state committee that helps vet possible candidates for appointment to boards of public colleges and universities. He was reappointed to the position by Kaine, with whom he was also friendly. But Murray insisted that there was nothing he would have wanted in return from the new governor when he offered the use of his home.

"I'm happy to talk about this – I do think the public has a right to know," he said. But, he added, "I've got no business with the government of Virginia, and I've never gotten anything in return."

In a 2013 op-ed in The Washington Post, published as the state reeled from revelations about McDonnell, Kaine wrote that he had received gifts and "duly reported" them while in state office. But he said he saw the benefits of the federal system, which imposes far more restrictions, and he advocated adopting a similar system at the state level.

"Virginia's wide-open rule is justified by a smug attitude: We can trust ourselves to do the right thing, and transparency is all that is needed to keep the system honest," he wrote."Gifts to elected officials can create a subconscious sense of gratitude in even the most upright public servants. And the public probably will perceive such gifts as creating improper influence, whether or not that happens."

The Virginia General Assembly did ultimately change the state law, prohibiting elected officials from accepting gifts of more than $100 from lobbyists and others with business before the state.

Verizon is reported to be near a deal to acquire Yahoo

Alaska News - Fri, 07/22/2016 - 18:20
A Yahoo logo is displayed on a monitor in this photo illustration in Encinitas, California, April 16, 2013. (Mike Blake / Reuters file). The end of Yahoo as ...

Verizon is reported to be near a deal to acquire Yahoo

Alaska Dispatch News - Fri, 07/22/2016 - 18:14

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The end of Yahoo as an independent company may be near, and Verizon — long considered the leading contender to buy the aging web pioneer — is the most likely acquirer.

The two companies are in advanced talks over a takeover of Yahoo that could be worth close to $5 billion, a person briefed on the matter said Friday.

Any transaction would be for Yahoo's core internet business, although it is unclear whether a deal would also include other assets like real estate or patents.

Both companies are hoping to announce a deal as early as next week, this person said. Verizon is scheduled to report earnings Tuesday.

When Yahoo began exploring a sale of its core business — a sprawling collection of properties including its sports and news sites, search engine, email and the social network Tumblr — Verizon was considered the front-runner by analysts and investors. The telecommunications behemoth already owned AOL, another onetime internet darling that had fallen far from its peak.

Bankers for Yahoo cast a wide net for the auction, and a number of potential suitors emerged. The field was winnowed to a handful of bidders, which included AT&T; private equity firms like TPG Capital; and Quicken Loans co-founder Dan Gilbert, who has received the backing of Warren E. Buffett's company, Berkshire Hathaway.

But people involved in the process long believed that Verizon, with its enormous cash pile and its ability to wring out efficiencies by merging Yahoo with AOL, was the most likely winner.

Brian Wieser, an analyst with Pivotal Research, said that combining AOL with Yahoo would create a stronger No. 3 digital platform for online advertising, after Google and Facebook.

"This is a 1 plus 1 equals 2 1/2," he said.

No final deal has been reached and the talks could still falter, the person briefed on the matter cautioned. One of the other finalists in the Yahoo auction process could also re-emerge with a higher bid.

A spokesman for Verizon declined to comment, while a Yahoo spokeswoman said the company would not comment "until we have a definitive agreement to announce" because it wanted to maintain "the integrity of the process." The state of discussions between Yahoo and Verizon was reported earlier by Bloomberg.

Verizon, which had $132 billion in revenue last year, has been trying to build up its digital content portfolio, particularly in mobile and video, to serve customers of its wireless phone, cable TV and internet businesses. Last year, it bought AOL for $4.4 billion, acquiring not just its content sites like the Huffington Post and TechCrunch, but also the advertising technology used to target online ads to internet users.

Yahoo would bring in a huge amount of additional news, sports and finance content — and the 1 billion people a month who visit Yahoo services — and would offer Verizon another set of sophisticated ad technologies.

Yahoo's BrightRoll division in particular is a leader in delivering automated, real-time advertising, and it could be merged with AOL's ad technology to deliver more appealing options to marketers, particularly in video.

"They're not going to be anybody's first port of call," Wieser said. "But they will have a deeper set of data than anyone except Facebook and Google."

Verizon is lobbying regulators to allow it to more freely use the data it collects from its internet customers to sell targeted ads to marketers. The Federal Communications Commission has proposed consumer privacy rules that would restrict that kind of data use, but if those rules are weakened before adoption, Verizon could combine that data with the information that AOL and Yahoo collect from visitors to their properties to build deep profiles of individual web users.

That prospect alarms privacy advocates but elates marketers.

"Google has access to me on my mobile phone but is kind of missing the cable box and internet access data that Verizon has," said Shar VanBoskirk, a digital marketing analyst at the research firm Forrester.

Consumers feel warmly about Yahoo as a brand, VanBoskirk said, even if they do not use many Yahoo services. By contrast, she added, "people have a pretty negative attitude towards telecom." She said Verizon could rebrand some of its services with the Yahoo name to increase their appeal.

Any purchase of Yahoo carries some real risks, however. In addition to the FCC rules that would make the data sharing less valuable, integrating ad platforms is a complex challenge, usually plagued with delays. The companies also have a different incentive structure for their advertising sales forces, according to Wieser, and unifying them could be disruptive.

AOL and Yahoo are longtime competitors, dating to the early days of the web. Tim Armstrong, the head of AOL, has also been a rival of Yahoo's chief executive, Marissa Mayer, since the days when they both worked at Google. Mayer rejected the idea of merging with AOL a couple of years ago, but with Yahoo's business now in deep decline and the board of directors eager to find a way out, she may have no choice.

Putin policies put a little chill in <b>Alaska</b>-Russia relations

Alaska News - Fri, 07/22/2016 - 18:03
The boat crews recently took Alaska travelers from Provideniya to Russian's northeastern-most village of Uelen.Photo courtesy David Ramseur.

Moody’s downgrades NANA Development Corp.’s credit rating

Alaska Dispatch News - Fri, 07/22/2016 - 18:02

A credit rating agency has downgraded an Alaska Native corporation subsidiary over its performance and weak cash flow generation.

Moody's Investors Service at the end of June downgraded NANA Development Corp.'s corporate family rating, reflecting "significant deterioration in operating performance and weak cash flow generation attributable to some of the company's core businesses in recent quarters," the agency said in a news release. NANA Development is a subsidiary and the business arm of NANA Regional Corp.

NANA Development was founded in 1974. It owns and manages a portfolio of businesses with a focus on the federal, oil and gas, and commercial business sectors, according to its website. The company's services range from hotel management to construction to engineering and more. The NANA region is in Northwest Alaska.

The development corporation's rating dropped from Caa1 to Caa2 — on the lower end of Moody's rating spectrum — and the outlook is negative.

The Moody's downgrade affects about $300 million of the corporation's rated debt.

Revenue declines in the company's oil and gas business were a key part of the downgrade, Moody's said. The agency also cited diminished revenues from the commercial segment and pressure on the company's federal segment.

"I think the big picture is, these guys, on one hand they're very diversified," said Manish Desai, an analyst at Moody's. "On the other hand, they're diversified into sectors that are under pressure. There's not one strong segment that is offsetting the others. On the federal side, they seem to be doing okay — consistent, but still under pressure."

The downgrade makes it more difficult for the corporation to borrow more, and "they might be limited in how much more debt they can take on," said Desai.

Royalty contributions from the Red Dog zinc mine are expected to "continue to be an important source of liquidity" for NANA Development, but "the company may increasingly rely on those potentially volatile cash streams to service debt and fund growth," Moody's said. The mine is on land owned by NANA Regional and is operated by Teck Resources Ltd.

Starting in fiscal 2017, royalty contributions to NANA Development from the regional corporation will be reduced by 50 percent, "but this will be partially offset by the simultaneous elimination of the annual dividend payment to NRC to cover a portion of general and administrative ('G&A') expenses," Moody's said in the news release.

"Moody's also projects limited to no performance-based dividends to NRC (to fund distributions to native shareholders) over the intermediate term given expectations for continued weak operating performance, which will help to preserve cash," the agency said.

NANA Development spokeswoman Blythe Campbell said in an email that the company wouldn't "speculate about Moody's projections" when asked about how this would affect shareholder dividends.

Shelly Wozniak, a spokeswoman for NANA Regional, said in an email that after the fiscal year ends in September, "the board will make a determination regarding the possibility of a shareholder dividend."

In November 2015, NANA Regional said its December dividend distribution would be about $12.7 million paid to more than 13,800 shareholders — or about $920 per person. The company now has more than 14,000 shareholders.

NANA Development Corp. President Helvi Sandvik said a decline in oil prices has affected business, but she disputed issues with the federal side of the company.

"(In the) federal sector, we don't agree with their conclusion," she said. "On the federal side, our performance is quite strong."

In an email from Sandvik to NANA Development board members and senior management at both corporations earlier this month, she said that two NANA companies — GIS and NANA WorleyParsons, both of which do work in the oil and gas industry — "have both gone through substantial downsizing as they have had to adjust their cost structures to lower work volumes." Sandvik wouldn't discuss specifics about that in a phone interview.

She also wrote in that email that "Our liquidity is strong and we do not have concerns about our ability to meet our current debt obligations."

Moody's expects the corporation's operating performance will continue to weaken in the near future.

"We don't see things getting much better over the next 12 months," Desai said.

The state of Alaska's credit has also been downgraded this year by all of the big three credit rating agencies: Moody's, Fitch Ratings and Standard & Poor's.

Putin policies put a little chill in Alaska-Russia relations

Alaska Dispatch News - Fri, 07/22/2016 - 18:00

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LORINO, Russia – Maj. A.H. Polosen was not smiling. The stern Russian Border Guard officer – a member of the notorious FSB (Federal Security Bureau), the former KGB – boarded our bus in the remote Bering Sea village of Lavrentiya demanding our "documents." That's when our 16-hour detention, trial and sentencing started.

For two weeks starting in late June, I joined eight other adventure travelers for a hands-on look at the Russian Native villages across the international date line from Alaska's Seward Peninsula. We racked up about 330 miles bouncing through the frigid Bering Sea in 18-foot aluminum whale boats, surrounded by spouting gray whales, an occasional walrus and once-thriving villages forced to be abandoned by the Soviet Union. Our group included three award-winning Mexican filmmakers and six Alaskans, including a Little Diomede Native traditional healer hoping to find long-lost relatives.

My purpose was documenting the post-Soviet changes in this region since I last visited in 1988 with Gov. Steve Cowper. Then, Alaska and Soviet Far East residents were giddy to melt the post-Cold War Ice Curtain and launched more than two decades of productive civic, educational and commercial exchanges across the Bering Strait.

[ICE CURTAIN: Russian, U.S. citizens try to keep up dialogue as governments go silent.]

Nearly 30 years ago, most of these Soviet communities were thriving with collective enterprises such as dairies, leather tanneries, fox farms and ample subsidies from Moscow. Today, thousands have left the region for better opportunities in western Russia, leaving behind a tundra littered with rusting military equipment, fuel drums and bleached whale bones. Many communities are making a slow but successful transition by returning to their traditional Native subsistence roots as marine mammal hunters, while their children walk dusty village streets with cellphones surfing the Internet.

Our trip began in the regional hub of Provideniya, where in 1988 Alaska Airlines landed the Friendship Flight to reunite Alaska Natives with relatives long separated when the U.S. and USSR closed the Strait in 1948. Half of Provideniya's 5,000 residents have left, leaving boarded-up apartment buildings, stray dogs and dwindling jobs. Many of the gray concrete apartment buildings we remembered are now adorned with bright blue, red and yellow metal siding, but none of the manufacturing we saw then remains.

An economic bright spot is an attempt to attract well-heeled tourists to visit spectacular Bering Strait scenery preserved in five federal parks known as Beringia. Last year, just 800 visitors made the trek but the Russians hope to attract more cruise ships.

As our whale-hunting captains cut across whitecaps, soaking us in 40-degree Bering Sea spray about 160 miles northeast of Provideniya, we made out land on the distant horizon. Slowly, Russian Big Diomede came into view, and next to it Alaska's Little Diomede, just 2 1/2 miles separating them. We circled our three bobbing boats long enough for Etta Myrna Tall, an Alaska Native who had located a few Russian relatives, to offer a brief prayer of thanks for a sight she thought she'd never see – the western cliffs of forbidden Big Diomede. A few moments later a gray whale spouted and flipped its tail, perhaps a welcome for us Alaskans so close to home.

We landed on the gravel beach at Asia's northeasternmost point, once the site of the thriving Native village of Naukan. At the height of the Cold War beginning in the late 1940s, the Soviets ordered many northern Native villages abandoned, including those on Big Diomede, and consolidated indigenous peoples of different languages and cultures into regional hubs. Today Naukan is an eerie ghost town; only three erect whale ribs and the rocky foundations of the homes of 300 banished residents cling to the grassy hillside. From a monument at the site to 16th century Russian explorer Semyon Dezhnev, we could easily see a hill in the Alaska mainland village of Wales just a 54-mile seagull flight away.

Less than an hour later, we passed through the Bering Strait into the Chukchi Sea to Uelen, Russia's northeasternmost community. Home to about 700 mostly Chukchi Natives, Uelen boasts a world-renown ivory carving school and tries to preserve its Native culture with Chukchi language classes. But resources permit only two classes weekly, and since increasingly fewer adults speak Chukchi and rarely teach their children the language, local officials predict it will soon disappear. Much the same is happening with Alaska's far-north Native languages.

The lack of adequate housing is the largest problem in every village we visited. Posted in Uelen's city hall was a list of 88 local residents seeking apartment upgrades; the person who finally inched to the top signed up in 1979. Mayor Valentine Kareva, a Chukchi, told us Uelen's population has been stabilized by a high birthrate, encouraged by national incentives to have multiple children to stem Russia's declining population.

About 75 miles southwest from the tip of Asia, we arrived in the marine mammal hunting community of Lorino, perched strategically on a high plateau overlooking the sea. After the Soviet Union dismantled in 1990, Lorino's population dropped by 1,000 to the current 1,500 as state-run collectives fell apart.

"In Soviet times, life was like a boiling kettle – everything was working," said Mayor Victor Kalashnikov, a Ukrainian and 23-year Lorino resident.

In response, Lorino Chukchi formed a cooperative where the best hunters share boats and equipment to help feed the community. Last year, it harvested 56 gray whales and 300 walrus to supply about 40 percent of the community's nutrition needs; the rest comes by occasional summer supply ships when the ocean is not frozen. The village's youths compete in walrus-skin-boat races and the challenging Nadezhda (Hope) sled dog race and learn ivory carving and Native dancing from their elders.

Lorino boasts one of the few land connections in the region, a 23-mile, teeth-jarring gravel road connected to the regional hub of Lavrentiya. Upon our arrival there, we discovered we had left behind our permit allowing us to visit the special Arctic zone of Chukotka. Even with a faxed copy sent a few minutes later, border guards opted to exert their authority.

Nine of us were detained, charged with violating federal law and marched before a fast-talking, black-robed judge who fined us each 500 rubles, about $8. We were finally released into the bright Arctic daylight at 4 a.m.

In President Putin's Russia, such petty harassment of Westerners is commonplace. And most Russians we encountered praised their leader – whom one dubbed "the strong and beautiful" – for restoring pride and order to their battered country. Much of the earlier excitement of the "Melting Ice Curtain" era seems dissipated, burdened by paperwork and fading memories of relationships across the Strait.

Still, many Russians retain a special kinship for their former fur colony. One Provideniya resident rushed up to find out where the obvious foreigners were from. When he heard "Alaska," he pointed across at the eastern horizon with a thumbs-up and wide grin.

David Ramseur worked to melt the Alaska-Russian "Ice Curtain" working for Alaska Govs. Steve Cowper and Tony Knowles, and is writing a book on Alaska-Russian relations for the University of Alaska Press.

The views expressed here are the writer's own and are not necessarily endorsed by Alaska Dispatch News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary@alaskadispatch.com. Send submissions shorter than 200 words to letters@alaskadispatch.com or click here to submit via any web browser.

ConocoPhillips to lay off more workers, doesn't expect 'significant reduction' in Alaska

Alaska Dispatch News - Fri, 07/22/2016 - 17:55

More job cuts are on the horizon for ConocoPhillips.

The Houston-based energy company plans to lay off about 1,000 people this year, the Wall Street Journal reported Thursday. That's about 6 percent of its workforce companywide. The largest impact will be in North America.

ConocoPhillips Alaska spokeswoman Natalie Lowman said she could not say how many jobs in Alaska that might affect.

"Alaska will be impacted by layoffs, and though we can't provide specifics yet, we are not anticipating a significant reduction in the Alaska workforce," she said in an email.

This is the most recent news of cutbacks in a sector grappling with oil prices that have dropped precipitously since 2014. In Alaska, BP is reducing drilling activity this year, Parker Drilling and CH2M Hill have announced layoffs and companies have pulled out of the Chukchi Sea.

Oil prices were around $45 per barrel on Friday. In 2014, the price topped $100 per barrel.

ConocoPhillips' current headcount in Alaska is 1,070, Lowman said. In September, Alaska Dispatch News reported that ConocoPhillips employed 1,200 people in Alaska. Also at that time, the company said it was preparing to cut up to 10 percent of its state workforce.

Worldwide, ConocoPhillips employs 15,600 people, according to its website.

"We have taken several steps as a company to adapt to lower and more volatile prices and strengthen our position coming out of the downturn," said Houston spokesman Daren Beaudo in an email. "Over the past couple years, we've significantly reduced our capital activities and finished some major projects, which left us with more organizational capacity than we need."

In addition to ConocoPhillips, oilfield services company Schlumberger has already cut about 16,000 jobs worldwide in the first and second quarters of this year, said spokeswoman Susan Ganz. She couldn't say how that impacted Alaska.

ConocoPhillips to lay off more workers, doesn&#39;t expect &#39;significant reduction&#39; in <b>Alaska</b>

Alaska News - Fri, 07/22/2016 - 17:53
"Alaska will be impacted by layoffs, and though we can't provide specifics yet, we are not anticipating a significant reduction in the Alaska workforce," ...

<b>Alaska&#39;s</b> Republican delegation returns ready to unite behind Trump

Alaska News - Fri, 07/22/2016 - 17:52
Trump was not Alaska's first choice in the presidential preference poll — he was close behind Texas Sen. Ted Cruz. And for some delegates, ...

How Tim Kaine and Hillary Clinton compare on the issues

Alaska Dispatch News - Fri, 07/22/2016 - 17:50

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Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia will join Hillary Clinton on the Democratic presidential ticket. Here is a look at his stance on important issues, and how he compares with Clinton.

Trade

Kaine is an outspoken advocate of free trade, putting him at odds with the liberal base of the party. He has defended the North American Free Trade Agreement and voted in favor of "fast track" authority for the Trans-Pacific Partnership, a 12-nation trade pact that President Barack Obama has championed. As governor of Virginia from 2006-10, he traveled internationally to discuss trade initiatives with foreign leaders.

Where Clinton stands: Clinton once called the Trans-Pacific Partnership the "gold standard" of trade deals, but she now expresses opposition to it. Generally, she has been more cautious about trade since her primary battle with Sen. Bernie Sanders, I-Vt.

[Hillary Clinton picks Sen. Kaine as vice presidential running mate]

Criminal justice

Kaine, a Roman Catholic, staunchly opposes the death penalty based on his religious beliefs, but he oversaw 11 executions during his tenure as governor of Virginia, the state with the second-highest number of executions since the 1970s. He said his moral obligation to uphold the law as governor rivaled his moral obligation to oppose the death penalty. In the Senate, Kaine has advocated initiatives to overhaul the criminal justice system and supported a measure that would give judges more flexibility on sentencing.

Where Clinton stands: Clinton wants to invest in retraining police officers and broadening access to technology, such as body cameras, to improve accountability. She also backs legislation to end racial profiling by law enforcement and reduce prison sentences for nonviolent drug criminals. Clinton supports the death penalty "for very limited purposes" as punishment for heinous crimes such as mass killings and domestic terrorism. She thinks that death penalty cases should be overseen by the federal justice system. She has also said, however, that she would not be disappointed if the Supreme Court or states began to eliminate the death penalty.

Guns

Kaine, a gun owner himself, is a staunch supporter of gun control measures and has backed broad background checks and restrictions on the sale of combat-style weapons and high-capacity magazines. The Virginia Tech shooting inspired Kaine, then the governor, to close some loopholes in Virginia laws that allowed some people to buy guns despite failing background checks. In the Senate, he supported the Manchin-Toomey bill, which would have expanded background checks to cover gun shows and weapons sold over the internet, and also supported a measure that would ban gun sales to terrorism suspects on the government's "no-fly" list.

Where Clinton stands: She also wants to expand background checks and supports legislation to keep guns away from suspects of domestic abuse, violent criminals and those with severe mental illness.

Foreign policy

Kaine, who sits on the Senate's Foreign Relations and Armed Services committees, backed the Iran nuclear deal and the normalization of relations with Cuba. He has argued that Obama must seek authorization from Congress to carry out airstrikes against the Islamic State. And he has called for the establishment of safe zones in Syria to protect civilians.

Where Clinton stands:She has called for a more aggressive U.S.-led operation to defeat the Islamic State. She has urged a no-fly zone with coalition forces to protect Syrians and has supported arming Syrian rebels. She endorsed the nuclear deal with Iran but expressed skepticism about Iran's intentions.

[Profile: Tim Kaine, a liberal who rose in a conservative state]

Immigration

Kaine supports Obama's executive actions that would have shielded as many as 5 million undocumented immigrants from deportation and allowed them to legally work in the United States. Kaine supports a comprehensive immigration overhaul that would allow those living in the country illegally to gain legal residency if they pay their taxes and a fine.

Where Clinton stands: Clinton has vowed to restore and expand Obama’s executive actions and to protect the parents of children who are in the country legally. She also has promised to eliminate family detention centers.

Education

When he was governor of Virginia, Kaine helped expand the state’s preschool programs that serve at-risk children living in families with incomes near or below the poverty line. He also introduced a bill in the Senate to expand nationwide access to prekindergarten programs. Kaine supported the Every Student Succeeds Act, which de-emphasized standardized testing and gave states more flexibility to set education policies. On higher education, Kaine has pushed measures to reduce the cost of attending college.

Where Clinton stands: Clinton has recently lurched to the left on higher education. She supports eliminating tuition at in-state public colleges or universities for families earning up to $125,000 a year.

Environment

Economic expansion and environmental conservation go hand-in-hand for Kaine, who calls himself an “avid outdoorsman.” Kaine cites Virginia’s river and bay cleanups as evidence that stronger environmental policies can stimulate tourism and fishing economies. Kaine has expressed concern about the rising sea levels along the coast of Virginia, which he fears could impair military operations and endanger businesses. But he also supported opening Virginia’s coast to offshore oil drilling.

Where Clinton stands: Clinton wants to invest in infrastructure to protect communities at risk from rising seas. She also wants to create a task force to take preventive measures to protect low-income and rural communities that face environmental risks.

[Sen. Kaine may not be liberals’ first choice as Clinton’s No. 2]

Same-sex marriage

Kaine backed extending marriage rights to same-sex couples, and he campaigned against a 2006 amendment to the Virginia Constitution banning same-sex marriage in the state.

Where Clinton stands: Clinton’s views on gay marriage have changed over the years. In 1996, she called for strengthening “traditional” marriage. Her tone gradually softened on the issue, and last year Clinton said that she favored marriage equality and hoped that the Supreme Court would guarantee it as a constitutional right.

Abortion

As governor of Virginia, Kaine supported some restrictions on abortion and said as a “traditional Catholic” that he was personally against abortion, but supports abortion rights. As a senator, Kaine has voted in favor of funding Planned Parenthood and against attempts to restrict access to legal abortions. But he also has sought to reduce the number of abortions through education programs advocating adoption and abstinence.

Where Clinton stands: Clinton wants to protect funding for Planned Parenthood and believes that women should have access to safe, legal abortions. She strongly denounced Donald Trump, the Republican presidential nominee, after he said abortion should be banned and women who have had the procedure should be punished.

Budget and the economy

Kaine supports “targeted spending reductions” but wants to close tax loopholes for the wealthy. He is a member of the Senate Budget Committee, and he helped usher through two-year budgets in 2013 and 2015, a diversion from traditional federal budgets that were determined on an annual basis. Kaine has said the two-year model is more productive and helps promote efficiency.

Where Clinton stands: Clinton wants to cut tax loopholes and tax breaks that benefit the rich and companies, and she wants to invest in research and infrastructure — rather than imposing deep spending cuts — to spur the economy.

<b>Alaska</b> News Nightly: Friday, July 22, 2016

Alaska News - Fri, 07/22/2016 - 17:49
The Alaska Supreme Court overturned the state's parental notification law for minors who are seeking abortions. The voter-passed initiative required ...

Hillary Clinton picks Sen. Kaine as vice presidential running mate

Alaska Dispatch News - Fri, 07/22/2016 - 17:48

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Hillary Clinton named Sen. Tim Kaine of Virginia to be her running mate Friday, according to a senior campaign official, selecting a battleground state politician with working-class roots and a fluency in Spanish, traits she believes can bolster her chances to defeat Donald Trump in November.

Clinton's choice, which she announced via text message to supporters, came after her advisers spent months poring over potential vice-presidential candidates who could lift the Democratic ticket in an unpredictable race against Trump.

In the end, Clinton decided Kaine, 58, a former governor of Virginia who sits on the Senate Foreign Relations Committee, had the qualifications and background and the personal chemistry with her to make the ticket a success.

Clinton had entertained more daring choices. She considered Thomas E. Perez, the secretary of labor, who would have been the first Hispanic on a major party ticket; Sen. Cory Booker, of New Jersey, who would have been the first African-American to seek the vice presidency; and Adm. James G. Stavridis, a retired four-star Navy admiral who served as the supreme allied commander at NATO, but had never held elected office.

[Tim Kaine: A liberal who rose in a conservative state]

In the end, Clinton, who told PBS she is "afflicted with the responsibility gene," avoided taking a chance with a less experienced vice-presidential candidate and felt no political need to push the historic nature of her candidacy by adding another woman or a minority to the ticket.

Clinton and Kaine have similar positions on the issues and they are said to share an easy rapport and a love of granular policymaking. "I do have a fondness for wonks," Clinton said in the PBS interview.

Asked whether Kaine was boring, Clinton said "I love that about him." She added, "He's never lost an election."

At a campaign stop with Clinton in Annandale, Virginia, last week, Kaine tried out for the role. "Do you want a 'You're fired' president or a 'You're hired' president?" he asked the crowd. "Do you want a trash-talking president or a bridge-building president?" He compared Clinton's record of public service to that of his wife, Anne Holton, Virginia's secretary of education. In recent days, President Bill Clinton and the White House had expressed support for Kaine.

Known as a pragmatic governor and senator, Kaine could help Clinton appeal to independent voters and moderate Republicans displeased with Trump. But he could also turn off some liberal Democrats with his support of free trade agreements, which Sen. Bernie Sanders of Vermont criticized to great effect in his nominating fight against Clinton.

The son of a welder who owned a small metalworking shop, Kaine, a Roman Catholic, grew up in the Kansas City area. He attended a Jesuit boarding school and took a break from law school at Harvard to spend time as a Catholic missionary in Honduras, an experience that his family has said shaped him and helped him become fluent in Spanish.

Clinton is expected to formally introduce Kaine as her running mate during a campaign swing through Florida, either at a rally at the state fairgrounds in Tampa on Friday or on Saturday at Florida International University in Miami, which has a large number of Hispanic students.

[How Tim Kaine and Hillary Clinton compare on the issues]

Kaine worked on fair housing and civil right issues as a lawyer. He was elected to the City Council in Richmond, Virginia, in 1994, then proceeded to climb the ranks of elected office in the state. He became city's mayor in 1998, the state's lieutenant governor in 2002 and its governor in 2006. He also served as chairman of the Democratic National Committee.

As governor, Kaine drew some support from rural parts of the state as well as strong backing in the state's Democratic-leaning suburban areas. He led the state through one of its darkest times, the shooting at Virginia Tech that killed 32 people in 2007. In 2013, Kaine implored the U.S. Senate to find a "small measure of courage" to fight the gun lobby and impose tougher background checks on gun ownership.

Kaine was an early endorser of Sen. Barack Obama's presidential bid in the 2008 nominating fight against Clinton. Kaine was also considered on Obama's short list of vice-presidential candidates before Obama selected Sen. Joe Biden of Delaware. In 2012, Kaine defeated George Allen, a Republican, to take the Senate seat being vacated by Democrat Jim Webb.

Clinton's choice of Kaine underscores the changing demographics of Virginia, with its growing urban and minority populations.

Obama defeated John McCain in the state by more than 6 percentage points, the first time since Lyndon B. Johnson's victory in 1964 that the state had voted for a Democratic presidential nominee. An NBC News-Wall Street Journal poll from July 15 shows Clinton ahead of Trump for the state's 13 electoral votes by 9 percentage points.

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