Dermot Cole

FAIRBANKS -- The appetite for bluster and superlatives displayed by TV star and presidential candidate Donald Trump must be genetic. His grandfather, Frederick Trump, joined the Klondike gold rush stampede and operated a series of restaurants and hotels, invariably boosting them as the “newest, neatest and best equipped north of Vancouver.” Trump, who came to the United States from Germany as a 16-year-old in 1885, learned the business basics in Seattle in the 1890s and changed his name from Friedrich to Frederick. As far as I can tell, he was known as Fred, not "The Fred." “A quick study, Trump headed for a prime location, the city’s red-light district, known as the Lava Beds,” writes biographer Gwenda Blair . “There he leased a tiny storefront restaurant named the Poodle Dog, which had...Dermot Cole
A friend with long experience in the legal realm called Tuesday to say she had heard the Legislature is paying more than $1,000 an hour to lawyers from the Washington, D.C., law firm handling the Medicaid lawsuit against Gov. Bill Walker. For Alaska lawyers whose clients find it hard to part with $300 or $400 an hour, that is a shocking statistic, she said. How much is the state actually paying? It could be $1,000 per hour or more. There is a chance it could be less. It all depends on how much time the Bancroft PLLC lawyers end up putting into the case over the next two years. The $400,000 flat-fee contract approved by the Legislative Council, the committee that handles legislative business between sessions, does not require a minimum number of hours, though the Bancroft lawyers must keep...Dermot Cole
The church bells rang and the fire alarms screamed that November day in Philadelphia. “What is happening? Why are the sirens ringing?” the woman asked her husband on the telephone. He told her the war was over and she began to cry. Their 3-year-old daughter watched her mother’s tears and didn't know what "the war is over" meant, but she never forgot the news about the end of World War I. “'The war is over.’ That’s my first memory. I think it’s a good one,” Ellen Whitcher said at her 100th birthday party last month. On a windy and blustery afternoon atop Cleary Summit, nearly 100 people gathered in an enclosed white tent at Skiland to celebrate her first century. She is a retired elementary school teacher and a memorable Fairbanks figure. We first met many years ago when I worked at the...Dermot Cole
FAIRBANKS -- In 1991, Sen. Ted Stevens vowed that one day the U.S. Board on Geographic Names would decide between two names for the highest peak on the continent -- McKinley and Denali. "I can assure you, this is going to be acted on in my lifetime," an angry Stevens told the Associated Press after one of his many failed attempts to end a congressional stalemate. He was wrong on the timing. Five years after his death, the federal board has yet to take up the mountainous matter because a 40-year congressional impasse continues. But President Barack Obama handed Stevens a posthumous victory last week over an equally stubborn and steadfast Ohio congressman who made it his life’s work to maintain the McKinley moniker. Obama bypassed the bureaucratic deadlock in Congress that frustrated...Dermot Cole
The Wall Street Journal said a Chinese flotilla of five ships near Alaska " came within 12 nautical miles of the coast, making a rare foray into U.S. territorial waters, according to the Pentagon." "Pentagon officials said late Thursday the five Chinese navy ships had passed through U.S. territorial waters as they transited the Aleutian Islands, but said they had complied with international law and didn’t do anything threatening," the Journal said. The Washington Post said, the naval vessels "transited U.S. territorial waters near Alaska," calling it an "unusual maneuver that underscores the potential for increased U.S.-Chinese friction at sea." No one has suggested that those stories or the others from major news organizations contained errors of fact, but most of the coverage missed the...Dermot Cole
“Bearack Obama,” as one sign referred to him in Dillingham, has come and gone. He may have pronounced “Kenai” with a short "e," but Obama communicated a clear and consistent message about melting glaciers and permafrost, increasing temperatures, and coastal erosion during his three days in Alaska. Temperatures in the Arctic are rising twice as fast as the global rate and the impacts are visible in Alaska. The work of Alaska scientists has bolstered the case in many branches of climate change research, while Alaskans have seen enough rain in winter to appreciate the changes firsthand. Because of this trip and the attention it has generated, the impact of climate change on Alaska will be a greater part of the national discussion in the months and years ahead. The dominant political message...Dermot Cole
With oil prices close to $50 per barrel, oil production taxes trickle into the state at close to a half-million dollars a day. Add in the rest of oil revenue and other taxes and the state is still withdrawing about $8.5 million a day from its savings. While some legislators hope that this too will pass, the risk of postponing action is too great to ignore. Siphoning billions from savings every year without developing a transition plan is reckless. It endangers the state’s bond rating , weakens investors' confidence and limits options for Alaska’s future on everything from the gas pipeline to schools and roads. The volatility in the stock market has led to multibillion-dollar swings in the value of the Permanent Fund, and while world oil markets have rebounded somewhat, it's not enough to...Dermot Cole
The pace of presidential visits to Alaska has certainly changed since President Warren G. Harding made the first one in 1923, but even then the White House did its share of advance work — going so far as to ship tablecloths and sheets to roadhouses, along with screens for the windows to keep bugs from biting the president. There was also a truck equipped with a generator that would provide electricity to wherever he stopped for the night. "The Signal Corps likewise provided a telephone radio truck, which was to accompany the party with facilities for tying into the telephone-telegraph system at any point along the line, for the convenience of the many newspaper correspondents," James Steese, the chairman of the Alaska Road Commission, wrote in his summary of the groundwork. Harding and...Dermot Cole
Twelve presidents have visited Alaska while serving in office, going back to Warren G. Harding in 1923, who made the journey to drive the golden spike for the Alaska Railroad, the first major federal public works project in the territory. While President Barack Obama's plans to visit Alaska next week are founded on the science, geography and politics of climate change, past presidential visits have been mere pit stops, with the exception of the 1971 meeting of President Richard M. Nixon and Emperor Hirohito of Japan in Anchorage and the 1984 meeting of President Ronald Reagan and Pope John Paul II in Fairbanks. But there once was a plan for a rendezvous of world leaders in Alaska that went far beyond a rest stop or a half-hour meeting. While it never came to pass, President Franklin...Dermot Cole
Since the dawn of the jet age, Alaska has been a prime place for presidential stopovers, usually at Elmendorf Air Force Base in Anchorage, and usually when the No. 1 passenger on Air Force One is headed to or from Asia. Nearly every president since statehood has landed in Alaska for carefully scripted visits, though there are often surprises, as President Ronald Reagan discovered in 1984. About 10,000 people turned out on a blustery 35-degree morning in May that year when the travel plans of Reagan and Pope John Paul II intersected at Fairbanks International Airport. Reagan was returning from China and the pope was bound for South Korea. The pope was on the ground for about three hours, while Reagan stayed overnight. Reagan wrote in his diary that he had left China at 10:35 a.m. Tuesday...Dermot Cole