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May 2015

The May news comes to you from Alaska, where an early spring welcomed the Angstmans back to fully leafed trees. Old timers remember when the trees were rarely green until June, but that is seldom the case anymore. May 2015 was the warmest on record for Alaska, going back through 91 years of record keeping. The temps were about 7 degrees above average, and not surprisingly, the old record was just 10 years ago. For reasons unknown, the US Senate decided to take up the issue of climate change, and voted overwhelmingly (98-1) that is it real (who knew??). That included votes from numerous right wingers who have consistently denied the fact of global warming, in spite of indisputable scientific evidence to the contrary. Shortly thereafter, their true colors were revealed when they voted down an amendment that would have declared that humans contribute to global warming. That vote was 50-49. No wonder those folks can't accomplish anything meaningful in Congress.


Apparently that problem is contagious, because Alaska's legislature can't pass a budget. The current one expires at the end of June, and without a budget, the state technically can't operate, but will attempt to go forward with a greatly reduced work force. The lawmakers have been called into special session but they rarely meet, and they are taking a beating in the PR department. Never having been a fan of the crew running our state, none of this is a surprise go ALO. It will likely resolve itself in some way before July 1 but Alaska is on a collision course with reality within a year or two, and it won't be pretty. The boom or bust cycle of the Alaska economy is historic, but the bust this time will be like nothing seen before here, because the recent boom has lasted so long and produced such extravagance, especially in capital spending. Supposed fiscal conservatives running the state loved to invest millions in big projects, mainly because their political support came in large part from the industries who benefit from big construction projects. (post script:budget passed but crisis merely delayed a year or two)


ALO had a busy May. The Nome dog case, reported here last month, officially concluded with a dismissal of the case, which was a big win for ALO clients Nils Hahn and Diana Haecker. Much of the credit for the win must go to them for their incredible diligence in preparing their case. They are both dedicated to their dog mushing lifestyle, and were ready to defend themselves at every step. A news article after the dismissal accurately described the case, but the most interesting part was the comment section after the article. Plaintiff Kevin Bopp frequently comments on various news sites, and he didn't miss a chance to make his case in these articles. He portrayed himself as a victim, and suggested he lost because he was a working man and his opponents were trust funders from Germany. Actually Hahn and Haecker both work full time jobs, and are left with a substantial legal bill from this hard fought case, even after some of the bill was forgiven. If they have a trust fund, it is not apparent in their modest lifestyle. And if Bopp is a working man, he certainly didn't display it during the course of this case. He told Hahn he likes to get up at 10 am, and therefore the morning feeding of the dogs disturbed his sleep. He also was available most of the day to film activities in the dog yard. Hahn's security camera, installed because of this case, revealed Bopp's comings and goings from his home, where his truck was parked most of the time for the past two years. If Bopp is a construction worker as he claims, he must do most of it from home.


Another important Nome case also resolved. ALO's client was a young lady driving home from a party while impaired from drinking. Three inebriated men were along the street, and one leaped in front of the car facing the driver with his hands in the air. The driver braked and left skid marks for 40 feet, but was unable to stop in time and the pedestrian was struck and killed. It was established from the skid marks that the driver was traveling at or below the 30 mph speed limit. Two experts reviewed the facts, one for each side, and declared the cause of the accident was the leap in front of the moving vehicle. It should be noted that the deceased had a blood alcohol level of .448. The driver was charged with manslaughter, but recently she entered a plea to attempted leaving the scene of an accident, drunk driving, and reckless endangerment and the manslaughter case was dismissed. In fact the driver did leave the scene for a few minutes immediately after the accident, on foot, but returned voluntarily. There was evidence that the other two men from alongside the road, also highly intoxicated, aggressively approached the driver after seeing their relative harmed, causing her to flee. Sentencing is set for September. Here is the local report on that case.


Not everyone in Nome was happy about the results of those two cases apparently. An alert reader of Facebook sent this posting from a page called Nome Rant, suggesting the court and others in Nome didn't put up a good fight in these cases.



Ironically, when ALO attempted to join this group yesterday, the post was deleted.


Speaking of sentencing, Alaska's legislature has spent the last 20 years increasing the penalties for crimes, sometimes dramatically so, in an effort to show their constituents that they are tough on criminals. Many of the longer sentences are mandatory, because the same lawmakers don't want judges having any say on how long these bad guys need to be locked up. But with declining oil revenue, the tough guys in the legislature, who also happen to be fiscal conservatives, have discovered that prisoners cost money, lots of money, and there is now a movement to find a better way of dealing with law breakers. In the mean time, Alaska has on its hands a major problem with scores of prisoners serving long sentences for which there is apparently no way out.


Enough serious news, how about some more wildlife. This month's mandatory moose includes a newborn, of course, from Alaska. The rest of the photos are from the Elk Farm or nearby. This fawn showed up in Dave Price's yard, but barely.



This shot of an adult and baby sandhill crane is unique.


Facebookers have already seen this tough squirrel take on a turkey at the feeder.



Lots of folks despise coyotes, but give them credit, they have adapted to humans and have spread their population by being resourceful. This handsome specimen is from the west end of the Elk Farm.



Bethel's wildlife is also showing up more. Sarah spotted a moose one morning right near her house on the Kuskokwim River. Moose tracks were spotted in the yard at ALO, and Dolly saw a bunch of tracks near her fish camp 7 miles north of Bethel. Musk ox numbers are increasing in the Bethel area, and this bison was seen on the Kuskowkim River near Kalskag, about 75 miles northeast of Bethel.



The mild winter created an early break up at the Angstman cabin in the mountains east of Bethel, so the official cabin opening has already taken place. Last year's first visit revealed vandalism, so serious security measures were employed to prevent a repeat. Window and door covers were installed, and were screwed on in a manner to make them hard to remove. They required a screw gun, and thus on the first trip in a screw gun was required to undo the system. Upon arrival it was discovered that no one had tampered with the cabin, although there was some snow damage. While the pilot remembered to bring batteries for the gun and the special screw driver head for the screw gun, the actual gun did not make the trip, so a second trip was needed to enter the cabin. Incidentally, of the three vandals from last year, one is in jail, one died, and the third has not yet been identified, but he might be nervous.


Finally, this article deserves a moment of your time. The Iraq war has caused a lot of discussion, especially now that things seem to be getting worse there. There are lots of opinions about that situation, but who better to talk about it than an articulate veteran who was on the ground when the war started.

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