Friday, April 11, 2014

Bundy Vs. BLM: BLM-Rancher Standoff In Southern Nevada Continues To Percolate, Cliven Bundy's Daughter Speaks Out

The dispute between the Bureau of Land Management (BLM) and 67-year-old Nevada rancher Cliven Bundy in the Gold Butte area of southern Nevada, just 80 miles northeast of Las Vegas, continues to percolate. This is of interest to us in Alaska as well because of similar previous abusive treatment of local residents on the Yukon River by the Feds. Now it appears that militia activists, state lawmakers in the region, and even U.S. Senator Dean Heller (R-NV) are getting involved; hundreds of militia activists from locations as diverse as New Hampshire, Florida and Texas could show up in person. On the Oath Keepers’ Facebook page, those planning to make the trip are instructed to bring cameras and film everything but not to wear military camouflage or openly carry rifles. The Alaska Citizens Militia is actively following the situation and is concerned about the possibility of another Waco massacre. The Las Vegas Sun published examples of reaction from prominent sources such as the Drudge Report.

CNN reports the latest BLM response, noting that in removing Bundy's livestock from public lands, the park service and land bureau are carrying out two U.S. District Court orders from two different judges. The National Park Service claims that cattle have been grazing in trespass on public lands in Southern Nevada for more than two decades, that the BLM and NPS have made repeated attempts to resolve this matter administratively and judicially, and that impoundment of cattle illegally grazing on public lands is the option of last resort. They add that Bundy has also failed to comply with multiple court orders to remove his cattle from the federal lands and to end the illegal trespass. Late on April 11th, BLM State Director Amy Lueders said there is so much security because Bundy has said he would do whatever it takes to win the battle.

Artificial "First Amendment areas" set up by the Feds to restrict protest have attracted fire from Nevada Governor Brian Sandoval. Already there has been one physical confrontation where one of Bundy's sons, Ammon Bundy, was Tasered (video below), and two other people were detained. Another son, 37-year-old Dave Bundy, was arrested by BLM agents on April 6th while filming roundup activities in an area that had been closed to the public; he was released from custody the next day, having been charged with failure to respond to multiple requests to leave, as well as resisting arrest.Clark County Commissioner Tom Collins poured gasoline on the fire when, after a conversation with Darin Bushman, a Piute County, Utah, commissioner, Collins reportedly said Utahns are “inbred bastards” and if they come to Clark County to support Bundy they “better have funeral plans.” Collins also allegedly told Bushman that they should mind their “own (expletive) business.”

Background: From The Blaze comes this story. The fight began when Bundy stopped paying the BLM’s grazing fees in 1993, arguing in court filings that he had no obligation to pay the agency because his Mormon ancestors had worked the land decades before the agency was formed. Complicating the issue is the fact that the land was declared off-limits for cattle in 1998 after it was declared a designated habitat for the federally-protected desert tortoise. That same year, a judge ordered Bundy to remove his cattle. He refused to comply. Bundy claims he owes roughly $300,000 in back fees, but the federal government says it’s around $1.1 million, and the BLM could try to bill Bundy for the estimated $3 million in taxpayer funds it may take to remove his cattle from the public land. Out of 900 cattle, 500 are owned by Bundy, and 352 have already been rounded up.

However, we have even more background from another source. The following explanation from Shiree Bundy Cox, identified as a daughter of Cliven Bundy, was crossposted to the LDS Freedom Forum; I've broken it into paragraphs to improve readability (after the jump):

Tuesday, April 08, 2014

Holy Mackerel! Alaska Dispatch Is Buying The Anchorage Daily News From McClatchy For $34 Million

Many Alaskans are stunned -- and pleased -- at the announcement on April 8th, 2014 that Alaska Dispatch has reached an agreement with McClatchy Co. to purchase the Anchorage Daily News for $34 million. Or as the Seattle Post-Intelligencer described it, the salmon swallowed the whale. The deal, which will make the Daily News an Alaskan-owned paper for the first time in 35 years, will be finalized in May; McClatchy acquired an 80 percent ownership stake in the Daily News in January 1979. Here are links to detailed reports from the primary players:

-- Anchorage Daily News: "Alaska Dispatch to buy Anchorage Daily News from McClatchy Co."
-- Alaska Dispatch: "Alaska Dispatch to purchase Anchorage Daily News"
-- Alaska Dispatch: "Media watchers react to Alaska Dispatch's purchase of the Anchorage Daily News"
-- McClatchy official press release
-- KTUU Channel 2: "Online 'Alaska Dispatch' Buys 'Anchorage Daily News' Paper"
-- Seattle Post-Intelligencer: "Salmon swallows whale: Website buys Anchorage Daily News, Alaska’s largest newspaper". Offers some background on the newspaper wars between ADN and the old Anchorage Times.

The financial muscle is being exercised by Alaska Dispatch's majority owner Alice Rogoff, who's a former chief financial officer of U.S. News and World Report and the wife of billionaire financier David Rubenstein, co-founder of the Carlyle Group. Tony Hopfinger of Dispatch will remain onboard as the executive editor. Current ADN President and Publisher Pat Doyle and ADN Senior Vice President and Editor Pat Dougherty are both retiring.

Summary: Alaska Dispatch will absorb and combine the Anchorage Daily News with their operations; the two websites will also be merged. Both use the Facebook commenting system. The building currently housing ADN will be sold, with the proviso that ADN be allowed to remain there as a tenant; KTUU reports that GCI Communications wants to buy the building. Alaska Dispatch will continue to maintain their separate office at the Merrill Field complex. Layoffs at ADN are unlikely; Alaska Dispatch plans no changes to the Anchorage Daily News’ staff, content or distribution. The total number of employees will grow to 120, and will include the press operators and delivery drivers currently employed by the ADN. This means there'll be a physical paper published every day.

Background: Over its history, the Anchorage Daily News established a reputation for quality journalism, winning two Pulitzer Prizes for Public Service in 1976 and 1989. But the shift to online journalism caused a loss in circulation and advertising, and after the parent company McClatchy bought the Knight-Ridder white elephant in 2006, ADN was forced to implement austerity measures incrementally during the past seven years, to include cutting features and paper size, and implemented a partial pay wall in December 2012. In recent months, the Daily News added staff and content, and completed a redesign of the newspaper in December that included new sections and features. Despite their troubles, ADN remained the "go-to" newspaper for broad-based news coverage in Alaska.

Alaska Dispatch was founded as an online-only news resource in 2008 by Tony Hopfinger and his wife, Amanda Coyne. They got a big financial boost in 2009 when Alice Rogoff became the majority owner and started interjecting serious money into the operation. While ADN provided a wider variety of news coverage than Dispatch, Dispatch quickly surpassed ADN in qualitative coverage of critical news stories. Of course, Dispatch had the advantage of not having a brick-and-mortar empire to support, but Dispatch's quality soon became preeminent in Alaska.

Alaska Reaction: Former KTUU Channel 2 News Director John Tracy, considered responsible for KTUU's overwhelming dominance of broadcast news in Alaska, is cautiously optimistic. He said “I didn't see this one coming. My impression was that the ADN was for the first time in several years adding staff, and recent changes to revamp the look were positive. I thought that they were on the rebound”. Well yes, ADN was on the rebound, but McClatchy's been dead weight since 2006, and ADN paid the price for its affiliation with them. Other comments to the various news websites indicate most people vary from pleased to absolutely elated.

Alice Rogoff discussed the sale with ADN employees and said, "When we at the Alaska Dispatch say we've come to realize the value of a newspaper in print, you better believe we've come to realize it. We didn't start out that way. But as we got to know this marketplace and community better, it is obvious that print plays an enormous role in a lot of people's lives."

Sunday, April 06, 2014

LDS Apostle Neil L. Andersen Reiterates Official Church Opposition To Gay Marriage At 184th Annual LDS General Conference

The 184th Annual General Conference of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints concluded late on April 6th, 2014, and two developments have attracted significant media interest. The first development was the attempt by the Mormon feminist group Ordain Women to "crash" the all-male General Priesthood session on April 5th; an estimated 500 Ordain Women activists (according to OW) lined up to get tickets for the meeting for the second conference in a row, and once again were refused entrance. Ordain Women wants the LDS Church leaders to demand a revelation from the Lord to confer priesthood upon women, and is using civil disobedience as part of their strategy.

But attracting even more media interest was one of the talks delivered by a member of the Quorum of the Twelve Apostles on April 5th. During his talk about Spiritual Whirlwinds, Elder Neil L. Andersen reiterated the LDS Church's official opposition to gay marriage. However, many of the media outlets selectively quoted from the address, and so I present the video below to show the full context, where his remarks start at the 4:50 point and continue through 7:53. The written transcription of this section follows below:

"President Monson said, 'Where once the standards of the Church and the standards of society were mostly compatible, now there is a wide chasm between us, and it's growing ever wider'.This chasm for some stirs strong spiritual whirlwinds. Let me share an example.

This past month [actually, in January 2014], the First Presidency and the Quorum of the Twelve published a letter to leaders of the Church across the world. In part, it read
, 'Changes in the civil law do not, indeed cannot, change the moral law that God has established. God expects us to uphold and keep His commandments regardless of divergent opinions or trends in society. His law of chastity is clear: sexual relations are proper only between a man and a woman who are legally and lawfully wedded as husband and wife. We urge you to review and teach Church members the doctrine contained in The Family: A Proclamation to the World.'

As the world slips away from the Lord's law of chastity, we do not. President Monson said
'The Savior of mankind described himself as being in the world but not of the world. We also can be in the world but not of the world as we reject false concepts and false teachings and remain true to that which God has commanded'.

While many governments and well-meaning individuals have re-defined marriage, the Lord has not. In the very beginning, God initiated marriage between a man and a woman, Adam and Eve. He designated the purposes of marriage to go far beyond the personal satisfaction and fulfillment of adults to more importantly advancing the ideal setting for children to be born, reared, and nurtured. Families are the treasure of heaven.

Why do we continue to talk about this? As Paul said,
'We look not at the things which are seen, but at the things which are not seen'. As apostles of the Lord Jesus Christ, our responsibility is to teach our Creator's plan for His children and to warn of the consequences of disregarding His commandments".

Nevertheless, the Church made it abundantly clear in January that all visitors are welcome to our chapels and premises so long as they respect our standards of conduct while there. Gays can become members of the LDS Church so long as they commit to celibacy; same-sex attraction is considered a condition rather than a sin.

The only mainstream media outlet to add further depth to this story was the Christian Science Monitor, which added that since California Prop 8 backfired, the LDS Church made numerous efforts -- both publicly and more quietly -- to be more compassionate to members of the gay community. A top church official, historian Marlin Jensen, met with church members in California and apologized for the pain that Prop. 8 caused. The church also worked with the Family Acceptance Project at San Francisco State University to make a booklet that encourages Mormon parents to embrace their gay children. It created a website with a similar purpose called Love One Another. In addition, the LDS Church supported a Boy Scouts change of policy that allowed gay members, and now some gay Mormons say they have noticed a dramatic shift at local services.

But we will not compromise on marriage.

Thursday, March 13, 2014

Missing Malaysia Air Flight MH370 Becomes The Object Of Macabre Craigslist Parody Humor

Although the fate of Malaysia Air Flight 370 has yet to be resolved as of this post, the uncertainty as to its fate has triggered a rather macabre expression of humor on Craigslist. Someone posted a parody ad offering a Malaysia Air 777-300 for sale -- ostensibly from Vietnam. Here's the link:

Unquestionably the ad will be taken down in a matter of time -- someone who has access to Craigslist will report it. But here is a screenshot to prove it was posted:

Click to enlarge

While I appreciate bizarre expressions of humor from time to time, it is far too early to be poking fun at this situation. The family members and friends of 239 people are absolutely distraught over the possible fate of their loved ones, and this shows that Craigslist is a garbage dump. It already has an unsavory reputation for being a magnet for scammers, and this merely adds to the negative rep.

According to the latest media information as of this post, the focus of the search for Flight MH370 may now be shifting to the Indian Ocean. A Pentagon official is reported to have said that it has information that the missing airliner went down in the Indian Ocean, although the official did not specify the source of the information. As a result, the USS Kidd was reported to have been dispatched to the area and will reach there from its current search location in the next 24 hours. The alleged change in position of the warship follows reports from the U.S. earlier today that the plane may have continued flying for another four or five hours after disappearing from air traffic control radars. A timeline of events is being maintained by the Straits Times.

This information combines two of the more prominent theories; that the airliner continued to fly for several hours after contact with ground control was lost, and that it made a sharp left or westward turn at some point. This was based upon reports that data was automatically downloaded and sent to the ground from the plane’s engines after the disappearance as part of a routine maintenance and monitoring program, and that Malaysia’s military radars were previously reported to have picked up a signal about 200 miles northwest of Penang, Malaysia that may have been of MH370 on a westward flight. However, this new information also contradicts acting transport minister Hishammuddin Hussein who earlier said that the main focus of the search would be on the South China Sea to the east of Malaysia. Furthermore, the CEO of Malaysia Airlines denies reports that the plane had continued to fly for several hours.

Recommend visiting the Straits Times website for frequent updates to the story by a local source in the area.

A young American undergraduate student at Stanford University has come up with an interesting and plausible theory to explain the disappearance of MH370. Andrew Aude, a computer science student who attended the Boeing 787 roll-out premiere with his father who was a pilot, thinks slow decompression of the plane which left passengers unconscious and pilots disoriented may have caused the airliner to eventually crash. Here's the explanation from the Straits Times:

In his Tumblr post, Aude cited a 2013 Federal Aviation Authority (FAA) Airworthiness Directive for the 777 which spotted a weakness in the plane.

According to the directive which he quotes, there had been a report of "cracking in the fuselage skin underneath the satellite communication (satcom) antenna adapter".

From this, he theorised that MH370 could have experienced the same issue, leading to the failure of satellite-based communications as well as to a slow decompression of the plane which left passengers unconscious and pilots disoriented. "If the decompression was slow enough, it’s possible the pilots did not realise to put on oxygen masks until it was too late," he wrote.

He also noted that the Boeing 777 aircraft does not deploy passenger oxygen masks until the cabin altitude reaches 13,500 feet. By then, passengers were likely to be unconscious if there was a slow decompression. Moreover, MH370 was a red-eye flight and most passengers would be trying to sleep, hence masking the effects of oxygen deprivation.

The autopilot function would have ensured that the plane maintained course and altitude before crashing into the East China Sea, the Sea of Japan or the Pacific Ocean, miles from the intensive search zone in the South China Sea where rescue efforts have been concentrated in the past few days.

This led him to conclude that "this was likely not an explosive decompression or inflight disintegration".

This is somewhat similar to what happened on that fatal flight that claimed the life of golfer Payne Stewart. His plane continued to fly after contact was lost until it ran out of fuel and crashed in 1999. The NTSB ultimately determined that the probable cause of this accident was incapacitation of the flight crew members as a result of their failure to receive supplemental oxygen following a loss of cabin pressurization, for undetermined reasons.

Saturday, March 01, 2014

U.S. Supreme Court Denies Vic Kohring's Appeal Of Conviction; Kohring Says His Conscience Is Clear

The Anchorage Daily News, in a brief story published on February 28th, 2014, reported that the U.S. Supreme Court denied his appeal of his corruption conviction. The Court merely stated "The petition for a writ of certiorari is denied", without providing any further explanation. Thus the Supreme Court upheld the earlier denial of appeal by the 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals.

The former Alaska State Representative from Wasilla was found guilty of three conspiracy, bribery and extortion charges in 2007 in the Veco corruption scandal. Sentenced to 3 1/2 years in prison, he was freed in June 2009 on his first appeal when he claimed prosecutorial misconduct. However, Federal prosecutors threatened to re-try him, and having been dumped by his Russian wife and with no effective financial resources to oppose the Department of Justice (DOJ), Kohring saw no effective way out but to plead guilty in 2011 to a single count of conspiracy and was sentenced to the time served in his first conviction and 18 months probation. He then launched his series of appeals, arguing he was a victim of the same prosecutors who committed misconduct in the prosecution of the late Sen. Ted Stevens. Kohring continues to maintain that prosecutors withheld evidence from him, and that in the "damning" tape showing him taking $100 from Bill Allen, the money was a gift instead of a bribe. Supporting his latter contention is the fact the Kohring ultimately voted AGAINST the legislation desired by Allen. Even more disturbing were subsequent revelations that Bill Allen's DOJ handlers bent over backwards to protect him against child sex abuse charges in exchange for his "testimony".

Kohring had a lot more to say about this development on his blog, where he documents all of his legal troubles from start to finish. In his post entitled "U.S. Supreme Court Appeal", Kohring takes the Anchorage Daily News to task for ignoring crucial developments regarding his case that would make him look better, and accused them of sticking him in the back. Kohring also hinted that he's exploring other options, but did not disclose specifics.

Nevertheless, Vic Kohring believes his fight was worthwhile, taking solace from five victories along the way:

1. I was released from prison when it was discovered the prosecutors cheated by hiding evidence.

2. I won my first appeal to the Ninth Circuit Court, who threw out the bogus convictions.

3. I secured the strong support of Ninth Circuit Judge Fletcher, who rightfully chastised the prosecutors for their nefarious conduct.

4. I was able to expose the criminal conduct of the prosecutors, Judge Sedwick and the government's central witness Bill Allen.

5. I have enjoyed the support of many in my community who have seen through the media's biased reporting and the prosecutors shenanigans.

In the final analysis, Vic Kohring writes "If all else fails, at least I can move forth with the knowledge that I was not guilty of the accusations the government leveled at me regardless of the press and their one-sided reporting. I made small mistakes, but they were not criminal ones. My conscience is clear".