As onlookers gaze in horror at the civil war raging in Syria, many naturally feel a compulsion to do something to relieve the people’s suffering. Many have called for arming the Syrian rebels – a move President Obama is now reportedly considering as Bashar al-Assad’s forces are apparently poised to attack the key city of Homs. But such a step would worsen the devastation and might involve the United States in yet another Middle East war. A better way to help the Syrian people is to pursue diplomatic efforts to end the killing and provide greater support for humanitarian relief efforts...

David Cortright

I have been asked to audition for a new Alaska reality TV show made by the folks who bring you "Pawn Stars," called "Alaska Rivers" (and the people who live on them.) Apparently the producers like this blog, and as you know we do live in a photogenic place populated by interesting and eccentric people. Here is the questionnaire they sent that I'm supposed to answer on video, while having a really fun, friendly time of it:

1. What is your full name?

Heather Lende

2. How old are you?

For real, or reality TV? Can I say 45 if I'm almost 54? Call me dyslexic?

3. Do you live on/near a river? Which one?

Yes, the mighty Chilkat River.

4. What do you do for a living? How does the River affect what you do?...

Heather Lende

No small part of former Alaska Gov. Sarah Palin's considerable fame is attributable to her taking on the lamestream media, because the lamestream media in large part sucks, and we all know it. Period. End of story. You can stop reading now, and bounce on along to the next lame story. Many of you will, your self-perceived, common-sense conclusion having been confirmed in once sentence above...

Craig Medred

Fifty years ago, President John F. Kennedy delivered a commencement address at American University whose message echoes down the decades to the challenges America faces today – including the challenge of Iran. Only months after the Cuban Missile Crisis brought the world to the edge of nuclear war, Kennedy chose to speak of peace.

This, as he faced a nuclear-armed Soviet Union that had a hateful ideology and was seemingly bent on world domination. The American president challenged those who saw peace as “impossible” or “unreal,” calling this “a dangerous, defeatist belief.” He spoke of a “practical” peace, based “on a series of concrete actions and effective agreements that are in the interest of all concerned.”...

Matthew Bunn

Now that the long-overdue repaving of Anchorage’s celebrated Tony Knowles Coastal Trail has finally begun, those of us who use the city’s most popular trail might reasonably ask: What is the intended lifespan of the newly resurfaced path? And is this year’s construction being held to the highest-possible standards?

I raise these questions because of what’s happened to the one-mile section of already-resurfaced trail just south of the city’s Wastewater Treatment Plant between mileposts 4.1 and 5.1. That section was repaved in fall 2011, as a lead-up “pilot project” to this summer’s work. Substantial cracks began to appear by spring 2012, only a half-year after new asphalt was laid down. And even more fracturing was revealed as snow melted from the trail this spring...

Bill Sherwonit

SITKA -- The first time I hunted deer alone in Southeast Alaska, my friend drew me a map leading to a stand of old-growth trees in a river valley. I set off at a trot on a sunny November morning, following a trail along Indian River, which ran heavy with fall rains. I cut through a copse of alders, squished through a muskeg, and ducked into a scrub of salmonberry and devil's club, the rifle barrel snagging on the thorned branches. I emerged on the other side into a fairy tale world of 600-1,000 year-old western hemlocks and Sitka spruce -- a cathedral of trees rising from a thick, moss-covered forest floor...

Brendan Jones

During our difficult times, it is helpful to see a recent documentary on The New Deal farmers who migrated to Alaska in the 1930s during the Great Depression. The title is “Alaska Far Away: the New Deal Pioneers of the Matanuska Colony,” and it has been running on a growing number public television stations. The film is also available on Amazon.com and from other vendors.

Co-Producer Joan Juster said many interviews were done between 1994 and 2002 with over 200 members of the participating farm families from Minnesota, Wisconsin and Michigan. Many of those interviewed said the families who signed up were given loans to obtain 40 acres in the Matanuska Valley. It was not a giveaway program. The loans had to be repaid...

Earl Finkler

Editor's note: The following commentary first appeared as an email attachment sent to Alaska Dispatch's editor in response to a June 3 news report . The original letter has been reproduced below and is available online in its original format .

Mr. Hopfinger,...

Charisse Millett

The oil tax debate in Alaska continues on, as advocates seek a referendum to undo recently passed oil tax reforms. This effort is based on concerns over state revenues and our ability to fund important public services, the fear of personal income taxes and cuts to the PFD, lack of commitments from the oil companies about their plans to invest in Alaska and to hire Alaskans, and a basic mistrust of the oil industry. The effort is running against the endorsement of oil-tax reform from employers across the state since 2010, public opinion polling consistently in support of reform, election of reform-minded legislators in 2012, formation of a pro-reform statewide coalition in the state Senate in 2013, and finally the recent passage of SB 21, the More Alaska Production Act...

Jim Johnsen

There's a new Volkswagen Beetle Convertible commercial making the Internet rounds, encouraging people to “brighten their night” by watching a 30-second clip of the car making rounds in Fairbanks, the “land of the midnight sun.”

Except, anyone who's actually visited that land knows the commercial features something a lot more like California and lot less like Alaska.

The short commercial released last month details the early morning cruise of a young, hip couple making their way through a sleepy, sun-filled town. A woman wakes up in an immaculately decorated apartment then spots her boyfriend waiting at her very well manicured curb with his 2013 Beetle convertible...

Suzanna Caldwell