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Palmer skier Grace Miller makes Paralympics debut

Sun, 2018-03-11 21:14

Grace Miller of Palmer made her Paralympic Games debut Monday in South Korea by placing 10th in a field of 11 skiers in the 15-kilometer freestyle race.

Miller, an 18-year-old who was born without a left forearm, finished with a time of 1 hour, 8 minutes, 51.5 seconds.

She was well off the pace set by gold-medal winner Ekaterina Rumyantseva of Russia, who clocked 49:37.6.

Readers write: Letters to the editor, March 12, 2018

Sun, 2018-03-11 21:07

It's time to pass the Personal Care Products Safety Act (PCPSA)

I am the mother of two boys, ages 13 and 5, and I want to explain why my kids are eight years apart.

From the age of 32 to 36, I suffered seven miscarriages in a row with no medical explanation. In addition to infertility, I battled crippling anxiety, panic attacks, depression, chronic pain and constant fear. Doctors and specialists continued to tell me I was fine, I just couldn't have a baby. Perhaps I was just too old even though my eggs appeared healthy.

But I knew my body was capable of having a healthy baby — one look at my little boy at home was confirmation of that. So we decided to change our lifestyles by limiting our toxic exposure to dangerous pesticides and chemicals. And then we had another healthy baby boy, with no medical help or intervention.

Now I dedicate my professional life to helping others restore their bodies to optimal balance with real food, healthy movement and safer products. Many people understand the need for a healthy diet and regular exercise, but most do not know personal care products such as lotion and hand soap can be harmful to our health. The last major law passed in regards to the personal care industry was in 1938, and there have been over 80,000 chemicals introduced into our world of commerce since World War II. Less than 10 percent of those chemicals have been tested for human safety.

I am heading to Washington, D.C., to urge passage of the Personal Care Products Safety Act (PCPSA), which would update our laws and better protect consumers. The PCPSA requires the FDA to review at least five chemicals each year, and for the first time the FDA would be able to recall products which threaten consumer safety.

It's time for change. It's time to do something about this very important issue. I urge you to speak up about this, and I plan on doing the same with Alaska's members of Congress.

— Amanda Koch

Lawmakers accepting cash from the NRA are killing us

The most recent mass shooting in Parkland, Florida, (the latest in a long line of such events) so infuriated me that it is difficult finding the words to express myself. I fail to comprehend how anyone could envision the impact of the devastation visited upon the parents of the victims and not call for a complete ban on assault weapons and high-capacity magazines.

And as for the congressional members accepting cash from the NRA and then using their positions to prevent any reasonable response to halting these rampages of death by our homegrown crop of insane homicidal murderers I say this: If the money they accept isn't blood money then it's the closest thing to it. We definitely need some new legislators. This bunch we have now is just killing us.

— Albert Bowling

Let's just mind our own business in the restrooms

Regarding Proposition 1: For most women it would be more disconcerting to see a woman who looks like a man come into a women's restroom, compared to a man who looks like a woman. I imagine the same would apply for men. That said, how about we all just go in, do our business and leave, and not be checking other people out.

— Claire Wilson

Unalaska sends thousands of pounds of old fishing nets to Denmark for recycling

Sun, 2018-03-11 20:28

More big bundles of old fishing nets will soon be on their way from Dutch Harbor to Denmark to be remade into high-end plastics. It will be the second batch of nets to leave Dutch for a higher cause, and more Alaska fishing towns can get on board.

Last summer a community collaborative put nearly 240,000 pounds, or about 40 nets, into shipping vans that were bound for a Danish "clean tech" company called Plastix. The company refines and pelletizes all types of plastics and resells it to makers of water bottles, cellphone cases and other items.

"It seems so unreasonable and not logical to just throw it away when we know that if handling plastics right — if sorting and homogenizing it — you can actually reuse it over and over again," said Axel Kristensen, Plastix CEO. The collaboration with Dutch Harbor is the company's first venture into the U.S., he told radio station KUCB.

It was a news story about fishing nets being turned into footwear by Adidas that spawned the Dutch Harbor/Denmark connection, said Nicole Baker, founder of and leader of the net removal project in Dutch last summer.

As a former fishery observer for five years, Baker had seen massive piles of derelict nets at far-flung Alaska ports, and the story inspired her to find a solution.

"A light bulb went off in my head. I thought if this group is looking for more fishing nets to turn into shoes, I certainly know where they can get some," Baker said.

It turned out that Adidas can only use nylon nets for its footwear, and fishing gear that targets cod, pollock and flounders is made of different plastics. With guidance and financial help from the Global Ghost Gear Initiative, Baker connected with a taker and charted a course for Dutch Harbor.

"I went to different boats and knocked on the door and said, 'hey, we're doing net recycling, do you have any nets to get rid of, and if you do, would you go with me to the net yard and show me which ones they are,'" Baker said.

From there, others in the fishing industry kicked in.

"Swan Nets bundled them and delivered them to OSI (Offshore Systems, Inc.) where they were stored. They were loaded into containers and Trident and Plastix arranged the shipping," Baker said. "They did not even require sorting. We basically bundled up the nets and put them in shipping containers and off they went."

Baker believes that fishermen have so few options for net disposal, they are becoming more receptive to recycling.

"The reason that the nets are sitting around is because it costs too much money and preparation to take them to the landfill, or they literally do not have another option," Baker said, adding that nets can weigh from 5,000 to 20,000 pounds each.

At Dutch Harbor, net storage costs were listed at more than $1,000 per cubic yard.
There have been many ambitious and successful marine debris and removal projects in Alaska over the past decade or more, but they come and go. Meanwhile, the old fishing nets continue to pile up.

Baker hopes to expand the Plastix project to St. Paul Island this summer, and hopefully to Kodiak and other fishing towns.

"Each fishing port will have its own logistics plan but the general role will be the same," Baker said. "You need somebody to truck the nets around, load them, ship them. Basically, I see my role as connecting fishermen with the recyclers."

"This is a long-term vision," she added, "but I would like to set up a program that when you buy a new net you know exactly what to do with the old one."

The National Fish and Wildlife Foundation is now offering grants on fishing gear removal programs. Deadline to apply is April 19. Contact Nicole Baker at

Fish watch

Hundreds more boats will be out on the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska fishing grounds this month when halibut and herring fisheries get added to the mix. They will join a segmented patchwork of fishing fleets that have been targeting pollock, cod and other whitefish since the start of the year.

The Bering Sea snow crab fishery that got underway in mid-January is winding down, while at the same time, the first Tanner crab fishery in decades is just starting at Prince William Sound.

The year's first red king crab fishery kicked off at Norton Sound on March 3.
The winter king salmon season in Southeast closes to trollers earlier this year on March 15 to help conserve the dwindling stock. That fishery usually stays open through April.

Alaska's first herring fishery will begin in mid- to late March at Sitka Sound. The projected catch is 11,128 tons, down from 14,649 tons last year.

The Pacific halibut fishery is scheduled to open on March 24, but there's no word yet on how much fish might be caught.

Because U.S. and Canadian halibut commissioners could not agree in January on how to divide the stocks between the two countries, the catch limits and fishing regulations are being set instead at each nation's capital.

"The Canadians refused to agree to the U.S. recommendations because they don't agree with the way the coastline stock is apportioned among the management areas. They haven't agreed with the process for a number of years," explained fishery adviser Heather McCarty. "The U.S. commissioners refused to vote for the one management area off Canada because they believed it was too high from a conservation standpoint."

The interim rule from NOAA Fisheries will hopefully be out this week with the new quotas and halibut charter management measures.

"It will be close to sending out permits for the March 24 opening," said Tom Gemmell, director of the Juneau-based Halibut Coalition.

The 2018 Pacific halibut catches are expected to decline in all regions.

Sea a Cure

Sea a Cure has launched a 5K virtual race to raise money for cancer research at City of Hope. The project began as a campaign in 1999 by Orca Bay Seafoods to help "one of its own" with a cancer fight and has since grown to a full-fledged campaign that includes all facets of the fishing industry.

The idea for a virtual race stemmed from "geographic logistics," said Lilani Estacio, marketing and communications manager for Orca Bay and a lead organizer for Sea a Cure.

"There are decision makers and leaders of Sea a Cure all over the map. We thought it would be a fun way to get people active and moving when they can and where ever they are," she said.

The 5K can be accomplished by walking, running or using ellipticals and treadmills through March 14.

"We recommend that participants use a phone app, running app, or at the very least a timer to record your times and mileage," Estacio said.

Along with raising money for cancer and disease research, all participants are entered to win prizes and swag. Register for the Sea a Cure 5K on Facebook or at

March Madness Alaska tips off Wednesday with 16 games

Sun, 2018-03-11 20:14

March Madness Alaska at Alaska Airlines Center

Class 1A, March 14-17

Wednesday games


Court 1
8 a.m. — Tanana vs. Kipnuk
9:30 a.m. — New Halen vs. Hydaburg
3:30 p.m. — Noatak vs. Alakanuk
5 p.m. — Kake vs. Nikolaevsk

Court 2
11 a.m. – Buckland vs. Nunamiut
12:30 p.m. – Shishmaref vs. Aniak
6:30 p.m. – Scammon Bay vs. King Cove
8 p.m. – Birchwood Christian vs. Teller


Court 1
11 a.m. — Aniak vs. Hydaburg
12:30 p.m. — Shaktoolik vs. Wainwright
6:30 p.m. — Kake vs. St. Mary's
8 p.m. — King Cove vs. Toksook Bay

Court 2
8 a.m. — Selawik vs. Ninilchik
9:30 a.m. — Buckland vs. Lumen Christi
3:30 p.m. — Tri-Valley vs. Stebbins
5 p.m. — Scammon Bay vs. New Stuyohuk

Class 2A, March 15-17

Thursday games


11 a.m. — Bristol Bay vs. Metlakatla
12:30 p.m. — Petersburg vs. Tok
6:30 p.m. — Unalakleet vs. Cordova
8 p.m. — Unalaska vs. Hooper Bay


8 a.m. — Nenana vs. Wrangell
9:30 a.m. — Metlakatla vs. Dillingham
3:30 p.m. — Glennallen vs. Point Hope
5 p.m. — Unalakleet vs. Unalaska

Class 3A, March 22-24

Thursday games


11 a.m. — Monroe vs. Bethel
12:30 p.m. — Grace Christian vs. Eielson
6:30 p.m. — Barrow vs. Valdez
8 p.m. — ACS vs. Mt. Edgecumbe


8 a.m. — Valdez vs. Bethel
9:30 a.m. — Galena vs. Sitka
3:30 p.m. — ACS vs. Kotzebue
5 p.m. — Nikiski vs. Barrow

Class 4A, March 22-24

Thursday games


8 a.m. — East vs. Wasilla
9:30 a.m. — Colony vs. West
3:30 p.m. — Chugiak vs. West Valley
5 p.m. — Dimond vs. Juneau


11 a.m. — Colony vs. West Valley
12:30 p.m. — East vs. Ketchikan
6:30 p.m. — Dimond vs. West
8 p.m. — Wasilla vs. Chugiak

Guns in the workplace: What employers need to know

Sun, 2018-03-11 19:43

If you think the national division over guns hasn't hit your workplace, you haven't been listening. Not only are the employees who advocate for increased gun control, including a ban on assault-style rifles like the AR-15, engaged in active argument with those who argue for fewer restrictions on gun owners' ability to carry concealed firearms, but some of your employees may be packing.

Does your employee handbook address whether or not you'll allow employees or non-employees to bring guns into the workplace? What about whether they can keep guns in their cars or trucks? Alaska's concealed handgun permit statutes don't address whether those legally permitted to own guns can bring them to work or carry them into other's workplaces. Instead, it's up to Alaska employers to decide whether or not to prohibit employees and others from bringing a firearm into a secured, restricted access area, such as a close work area, by posting a clearly-worded, conspicuous notice.

Employers may also prohibit employees from leaving firearms in their vehicles if they park in an employer-owned or controlled lot that is within 300 feet of the restricted work access area and not open to the general public.

But what if those employees need their guns for personal off-duty reasons, such as hunting or commuting safety? And what if carrying guns in their parked car or on their person could protect others and prevent death should an active shooter arrive?

As an employer, here's what you need to consider:

Under the Occupational Safety and Health Act (OSHA), employers need to provide a work environment free of recognized hazards to employee health and safety. This "General Duty Clause" requires employers to take steps to reduce the risk of harm.

Employers need to realize that they may be vicariously liable for wrongful acts by an employee who shoots another when "acting in the course and scope of employment." While an employee who acts violently generally acts outside the scope of employment, what if an armed employee attacks a coworker and the employer knew the first employee had a temper but took no precautions? Could the employer be sued for negligence?

Can you arrange insurance to protect your company? If you allow guns in your workplace, you need to let your liability insurer know. Unfortunately, they may cancel your policy or increase your rates due to the increased liability risks.

Further, because workers' compensation laws don't limit negligence claims from non-employees, an employer may face negligence claims from a third-party victim of workplace gun-related violence. For example, the victim or victim's family could sue the employer for negligent hiring, negligent supervision or negligent retention if an employee with a known propensity for violence injures a customer, particularly if the employer "should have known" that the employee could harm others and had a gun at work.

Employers need to be careful what "safe workplace" assurances they or their managers give. For example, after a theft and a kidnapping occurred in the Owner-Operator Independent Drivers Association's parking lot, the OOIDA installed nine security cameras and created an ad hoc group of employees to provide security. When employee Amie Wieland reported her domestic violence concerns to OOIDA's HR director, the director assured her that the security team would watch out for Wieland's ex-spouse and said Wieland could park in a visitor's spot close to the receptionist.

According to Wieland, the HR director failed to follow-up, didn't arrange for Wieland to park in a visitor's spot and didn't inform the security team that Wieland needed an escort to her car. Worse, while the OOIDA gave the impression its cameras were constantly monitored, they weren't. Wieland's ex-boyfriend chased her down and shot her in the head when she went to her car in the parking lot, leaving her in critical condition. She sued OOIDA, and the jury decided that her employer took on the duty to protect Wieland but then didn't, and awarded her $3.25 million.

Has the national division over guns hit your workplace? Probably. What have you decided?

Two people stabbed at Black Angus Inn in Anchorage

Sun, 2018-03-11 19:08

A Sunday afternoon gathering in a room at Anchorage's Black Angus Inn veered into mayhem when a man stabbed two people in the head and attacked another with a chain before a security guard shot at him while he fled.

A group of people were drinking at the motel, located on Gambell Street in Fairview, when a man broke a beer bottle and stabbed a man and women in the head, the Anchorage Police Department said in a statement Sunday.

The man left the room, somehow "acquired a chain" and hit a woman in the head with it in the hallway. The release did not say how he got the chain.

The man then fled the building, chased by two Black Angus Inn security guards, police said. When the guards caught up to the man, a struggle over handcuffs ensued and a security guard fired a shot from a handgun, according to the statement. No one was hurt.

Police were called to the scene at 3:21 p.m. and found the suspect and guards at 14th Avenue and Fairbanks Street. All three were taken to Anchorage Police Department for questioning.

The two people stabbed and the woman hit with a chain were taken to a local hospital. None of their wounds are thought to be life-threatening, police said.

Photos: Nic Petit is the first musher to the coast

Sun, 2018-03-11 18:59

Unalakleet is the first checkpoint on Norton Sound, the point at which the Iditarod reaches the coast. Nicolas Petit was the first musher in the 2018 Iditarod to reach Unalakleet. He will be joined by competitors as they all make their bid for the race win. The trail to Nome is still more than 250 miles.

You can find all of our Iditarod coverage here.

Related content:

Our favorite Iditarod 2018 photos so far

Watch: Prisoners care for dogs dropped from the Iditarod

These sleep-deprived Iditarod mushers are hallucinating cats, highway overpasses and….'huge dog heads'

From gelato to taquitos: Here are 10 things Iditarod mushers are eating on the trail

4 Anchorage skiers join Diggins with career-best World Cup efforts

Sun, 2018-03-11 18:58

The Olympics may be over, but the U.S. women are still making history on cross-country ski trails.

At a World Cup race Sunday in Norway, Minnesota's Jessie Diggins became the first American to reach the podium in a 30-kilometer race.

Diggins, who along with Anchorage's Kikkan Randall won a historic Olympic gold medal last month, placed second behind Norwegian superstar Marit Bjoergen in the mass-start race in Oslo.

Five Americans — four of them from Anchorage — finished in the top 31, all of them with career-best 30K efforts.

Sadie Bjornsen was 12th; Randall was 19th for a career-best 30K skate result (she was 12th in a 30K classic four years ago); Caitlin Patterson was 28th and Rosie Frankowski finished 31st, one spot out of the points.

Diggins was in the lead pack from start to finish.

"I was feeling great today, and I've been in the best shape of my life these last few weeks," she said in U.S. Ski & Snowbaord race recap. "So I decided that whatever else happened, I was going to have a gusty race and be brave enough to push the pace even if that meant skiing in the front and doing a lot of the work."

Dimond’s Horning, Pili named top players in CIC basketball

Sun, 2018-03-11 18:44

The Dimond Lynx swept the Cook Inlet Conference player of the year awards for basketball.

Nic Horning and Alissa Pili garnered the awards, announced Sunday.

Dimond's boys and girls both claimed CIC titles Saturday night in the conference championships at West High. The boys, who are the defending state champions, beat Chugiak 57-52 in overtime; the girls, who placed second at state last season, beat East 62-55.

Coach-of-the-year honors went to Bob Adkins of the Eagle River boys and Laura Ingham of the East girls.


MVP — Nic Horning, Dimond.

Coach of the year — Bob Adkins, Eagle River

First team

Leroy Manogiamanu, Bartlett

Ty Carlos, Chugiak

Derryk Snell, Chugiak

Hunter Harr, Chugiak

Carter Moore, Dimond

Evan Hoosier, Dimond

Joey Barranco, East

Jaron Williams, East

Ryan Adkins, Eagle River

Aaron Davis, Eagle River

Jacob Toala, Service

Lian Lincoln, South

Marco Ghisaberti, South

Devin Mong, West

Luka Wal, West


MVP — Alissa Pili, Dimond

Coach of the year — Laura Ingham, East

First team

Kianna McWhite, Bartlett

Amelia Uhila, Bartlett

Chasity Horn, Chugiak

Eva Palmer, Chugiak

Victoria Johansen, Dimond

Jahnna Hadjukovich, Dimond

Angelline Nageak, Dimond

Daisy Page, East

Azaria Robinson, East

Skye Miller, East

Katie Pearce, Service

Kate Vanlandingham, South

Maddy Ayers, South

Naialani O'Halloran, West

Nyeniea John, West

‘Where is Ivanka?’ First daughter seeks control in dual role as White House aide

Sun, 2018-03-11 18:10

WASHINGTON – Ivanka Trump tried to travel to South Korea as the president's envoy – but she could not escape also being his celebrity daughter.

She peppered National Security Council experts in advance with questions, not just about the nuclear threat, but also about South Korean President Moon Jae-in and his wife's hobbies. Flying over the Pacific bound for the Winter Olympic Games last month, she pored over a research dossier for hours. And she and her team choreographed many of the possible encounters she might have, including acting out what she would do if a North Korean official tried to shake her hand.

"I don't like to leave a lot up to fate," President Donald Trump's 36-year-old daughter, also a senior White House adviser, said in an interview with The Washington Post.

Ivanka Trump likes to be in complete control – over-prepared and deliberate – in contrast to her freewheeling and impulsive father.

But at the moment, Ivanka – whose first name has become a brand identity – controls increasingly little of the world in which she inhabits. The White House is careening from crisis to crisis. Her colleagues are leaking damaging anecdotes about her and husband Jared Kushner. Tensions between the couple and chief of staff John Kelly are intensifying. And all the while, the dark legal cloud hanging over her family is threatening to unleash a downpour.

By many accounts, her trip to South Korea was a success and arguably helped lay the groundwork for her father's surprise decision Thursday to talk with North Korean leader Kim Jong Un. But she ran into trouble for her response to a question by NBC News correspondent Peter Alexander about whether she believes the accusations of sexual misdeeds against her father from more than a dozen women – first saying it was "inappropriate" to ask because she is the president's daughter, then ultimately answering that she did not believe them.

Ivanka's response, and the ensuing scrutiny, illustrated how she attempts to navigate her dual role as both daughter and senior adviser. It also served as a fresh reminder of the control she relinquished when she shifted from principal – running her own apparel business and shaping her own brand – to West Wing staffer carrying the public messages of an administration with which she does not always agree.

"I am the daughter of the president. I am also an adviser to the president," she said. "And I respect that in that role I must work incredibly diligently to follow protocol as any other staffer would."

This portrait of Ivanka after a year in the White House comes from interviews with more than a dozen administration officials, lawmakers and outside confidants, many of whom spoke on the condition of anonymity to offer a more candid assessment. Ivanka also sat down with The Post in her office on the West Wing's second floor – a tucked-away modernist oasis of bright white and clean lines – for two interviews on back-to-back days in late February, portions of which were off the record.

Ivanka, a business executive and mother of three, entered the administration as a floating adviser. In her first year, she worked to help secure congressional votes and public support for the Republican tax plan – including pushing for expansion of the childhood tax credit – and has championed paid family leave, science and technology education, and other issues.

But in recent months, the strain between her and Kelly has deepened, White House officials said. Kelly – who Ivanka and her husband, also a senior adviser, initially pushed for chief of staff – has grown frustrated with what he views as the duo's desire to have it both ways: behaving as West Wing officials in one moment, family members the next. He has griped to colleagues about what he views as her "freelancing" on "pet projects" as opposed to the administration's stated top priorities.

Ivanka argues that every issue she has championed is also a policy her father campaigned on and pushed in office. Paid family leave, for instance, is far from a Republican rallying cry, but it is something Trump mentioned on the campaign trail and in both of his addresses to Congress.

Last year, she invited female senators to the White House for personal huddles on the issue.

"She spent an hour meeting with me, going over the studies, making the case," Sen. Susan Collins, R-Maine, said. "She had a couple of staffers, but she really ran the discussion. I was impressed with how smart she was and how informed she was and how passionate she was about a cause that is not closely associated with Republican leaders. I just really liked her, right off the bat."

The president himself has exacerbated the tensions between his chief of staff and his family. He has mused to Kelly that he thinks Ivanka and her husband should perhaps return to New York, where they would be protected from the blood sport of Washington and less of a target for negative media attention, White House officials said. In the president's eyes, "Ivanka's still his little girl," as one confidant put it.

But Trump has at other times urged Ivanka and Kushner to remain in Washington, telling them he relies on their counsel in the West Wing. Others say he values her singular role as an ambassador for both his presidency and the family brand.

"Everybody loves and respects Ivanka," the president said in a statement. "She works very hard and always gets the job done in a first class manner. She was crucial to our success in achieving historic tax cuts and reforms and served as my envoy in South Korea, where she was incredibly well received. Her work on behalf of American families has made a real impact."

Ivanka's last name creates an aura of invincibility around her within the White House. In private, some aides criticize and share unflattering details about her – and, more acutely, Kushner – but are loathe to do so publicly and risk the president's wrath.

Ivanka and Kushner have become known simply as "Javanka," a nickname that they view as disparaging and that they speculate was coined in the early stage of the presidency by rivals, such as then-chief White House strategist Stephen Bannon, to undermine them. Ivanka resents that she and her husband are seen as a single unit, in part because their work portfolios are different. (Kushner's declared portfolio includes brokering Middle East peace, the U.S. relationship with Mexico and domestic prison restructuring.)

Ivanka's desire for individuality comes as Kushner is ensnared in the wide-ranging Russia investigation of special counsel Robert Mueller III, and as his mixing of his family's real estate business and his government work draws public scrutiny.

Last month, Kelly instituted a new policy on security clearances that effectively stripped Kushner of his access to the nation's top secrets. The downgrade was a public embarrassment for the presidential son-in-law and was widely interpreted as a power play by Kelly, who other White House officials say has clashed with Kushner on several fronts. Ivanka's security clearance status is unclear.

Some close to her say Ivanka remains miffed at Kelly's frustrations with her. Though she and her father speak multiple times a day – sometimes in unscheduled calls when the president spontaneously dials her – she says she honors Kelly's demand that she inform him and other officials about any policy-related discussions the two have.

Kelly declined to be interviewed about his relationship with the president's daughter, but emailed a statement through a spokesman: "Ivanka is a great asset to this Administration and has done a terrific job helping to advance the president's agenda including the passage of historic tax reform and most recently led a tremendously successful trip to the Olympics in South Korea."

Addressing the tensions between her and her husband and Kelly, Ivanka said, "One of the first things he said is, 'You are family. You are part of the reason the president is here.' He understands the role of family. He is a very family oriented person and made it clear he doesn't want to get in the way of that. But he also needs to make sure that in our role as advisers, we go through the process, and we respect that and have embraced that."

Almost as soon as Ivanka arrived in Washington, she began reaching out to lawmakers from both parties, visiting them in their Capitol Hill offices and hosting small private salons at her and Kushner's D.C. home. Some of her West Wing colleagues were initially uncomfortable with her unofficial role as a Trump interlocutor, but under Kelly's watch, they say, she has been more diligent about coordinating with the White House Office of Legislative Affairs and other teams.

"The fact that she has her own relationships with members on the Hill enables us to accomplish more, and anytime she's engaging in conversations, she's checking in with us on how she can be helpful and getting our advice on what we need," said Marc Short, White House director of legislative affairs. "She would say, 'I'm intending to go have a meeting today but I want to make sure your office is comfortable with it and what are the White House priorities I can help with.' "

Ivanka, however, has at times struggled to navigate her twin roles as family and staff. Most recently, a high-profile gaffe came during the NBC interview in Pyeongchang, where she bristled at Alexander's question about whether she believes her father's accusers.

"I think it's a pretty inappropriate question to ask a daughter if she believes the accusers of her father, when he's affirmatively stated there's no truth to that," she said. "I don't think that's a question you would ask many other daughters."

But Ivanka did proceed to answer the question: "I believe my father, I know my father. I think I have that right as a daughter."

(Ivanka declined to address the accusations against her father on the record in her interviews with The Post.)

This was not the only uncomfortable subject of the NBC interview, which aides said Ivanka knew going in would likely be less friendly than the soft sit-downs she was accustomed to with Fox News. Alexander also asked Ivanka to weigh in on Mueller's probe of possible Russian collusion (she defended the Trump campaign), as well as on the president's proposal to arm some schoolteachers (she demurred).

Occupying two roles has opened her up to sharp criticism. Democrats, as well as some mainstream Republicans, had expected her to exert a moderating influence on her father. Ivanka has disappointed them by failing to halt some hard-line policies, like the U.S. withdrawal from the Paris climate accords, or by not publicly standing up to what they see as racist, sexist and anti-Semitic remarks and actions by the president.

Ivanka also has come under sustained criticism for her eponymous fashion line, which she still controls and which relies exclusively on foreign factories in countries such as Bangladesh, Indonesia and China, where low-wage laborers – many of them women and children – have limited ability to advocate for themselves. Many critics see such practices as deeply hypocritical given her father's railing against outsourcing and her stated interest in advancing the rights of working women.

Ivanka argues her critics hold her to an unfair standard, and fundamentally misunderstand the way any White House works when they expect her to publicly contradict an administration policy. She does not see herself as a talking head and refuses to promote policies with which she personally disagrees; for instance, she was notably silent on last year's Republican health-care plan, and has said little recently about her father's guns agenda.

"When people say, 'Where is Ivanka and why is she silent on X, Y, Z?,' they don't understand how any White House works," Ivanka said. "No West Wing staffer should tweet things that are inconsistent with the policy of the White House."

Rather, Ivanka says she tries to use her voice to amplify the issues she most cares about – such as workforce development, infrastructure and women's entrepreneurship in the months ahead.

"Let's face it, when someone is the daughter of a president, people know that and it elevates her ability to be effective," Sen. Bob Corker, R-Tenn., said. "But she also is well prepared, and so the double role that she plays also accrues to her benefit."

In some television appearances, Ivanka seems to present a simulacrum of herself – a for-public-consumption version that is at once both poised and guarded, complete with a breathy, unplaceable accent. In private, her voice sounds an octave deeper. She can be by turns lighthearted and defiant, down-to-earth and supremely confident. And like both her husband and her father, Ivanka sprinkles her conversation with the occasional curse word.

On a small table in her well-appointed office sit several pictures of her kids, a framed copy of Trump's typed "Remarks Regarding the Capitol of Israel" – signed "To Ivanka, Love Dad" in the president's oversized Sharpie scribble – and the lyrics to Journey's "Don't Stop Believin' " handwritten to her by one of the songwriters. Unlike in the rest of the West Wing, including in the president's private study, no big-screen televisions blare; she said she has little patience for cable news.

Ivanka has privately said she was naive when she first came to Washington. She was unprepared for the palace infighting that has so shaped the White House power dynamics. It was not until the hiring of White House spokesman Josh Raffel last April that she and Kushner aggressively moved to protect their reputations.

She also has lamented to friends that she is sometimes "weaponized" – unwittingly invoked by other officials as a high-profile surrogate for their personal grievances, knowing that if Ivanka is said to be frustrated about something, it is likely to get draw more attention.

On tax legislation, Ivanka made especially good use of her skill set, administration officials and lawmakers said. She could speak confidently and in depth about the issue and became the administration's point person for some skeptical lawmakers.

The South Korea trip leading the presidential delegation for the Olympic closing ceremony in late February was another proving ground for Ivanka. But her role was not merely that of a goodwill ambassador. With Pyeongchang roughly 40 miles from the North Korean border, her trip was weighted with diplomatic import.

Ivanka came bearing a private national security message from her father to Moon. And for the ceremony, she sat in the same VIP box as North Korean general Kim Yong Chol, who is believed to be responsible for, among other acts, a torpedo that killed 46 South Korean sailors in 2010.

"This was not an uncomplicated situation – a balance of reaffirming and creating good will, within the eyes of the South Korean public, being happy, celebrating America, but also being inches away from a man who's killed many people," Ivanka said.

Ivanka said she was determined to forge a warm rapport with Moon, a progressive who has a somewhat cool relationship with her father. When South Korea's first couple hosted the traveling Americans for a dinner of bibimbap with marinated tofu at the presidential Blue House in Seoul, Ivanka knew from her research how to strike up a conversation with first lady Kim Jung-sook. They chatted about their shared interest in K-pop, a distinct musical style originating on the peninsula.

"She 100 percent carried the conversation of the dinner," said White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders, a member of the visiting U.S. delegation. "She and Moon instantly had a good connection and she and the first lady had really good chemistry."

National security adviser H.R. McMaster said in a statement, "Ivanka ably represented our country and advanced our diplomatic goals in the region."

Even abroad, though, her special status as presidential daughter followed her like so much glistening snow. One morning, she attended the men's snowboard big air final to cheer on the American athletes.

But as the snowboarders flipped in the air, performing gravity-defying tricks, many of the cameras were instead facing the stands, trained squarely on the willowy blonde in the red ski suit and Team USA beanie.

Amid all the action, there was Ivanka.

It’s time for Anchorage to join the future with vote-by-mail election

Sun, 2018-03-11 17:43

Voting is a right in the United States, Alaska and Anchorage. I have also been taught that it is a responsibility and privilege. My earliest memories of voting stem from the fifth grade in Wheaton, Kansas, when our teacher, Eula Tibbetts, lined up the class of seven and marched us next door to the polling place, the gym. We spent several hours learning about voting and watching people coming in to cast their votes.

People have been voting by casting their ballot in much the same way since the inception of this great country. We get a ballot, go into a booth and vote in secret. Just about everything has changed in the last 250 years except for how we vote. We select our chosen candidates and issues on a paper ballot. Unfortunately, people have, at some time forgotten that it is their responsibility to vote and how important the responsibility is. When I see that only 20 percent of registered voters voted in a local election I have to wonder if it is the issues on the ballot or if the system of voting is wanting.

In Colorado, Oregon and Washington state citizens have been casting their ballots by mail for a number of years. It is time for us in Anchorage to join the future in voting. Voting by mail in municipal elections is not really new, as a large number of snowbirds and people on vacation have been voting absentee by mail ballots for years. Last year I voted from Florida. I looked at the system and determined that my vote was as secure as if I had voted in person.

Voting by mail does change the dynamic for candidates because the people who vote by mail as with past absentee ballots will be known not only to the clerk's office but also to interested persons. This does not reveal how you voted, just that you voted. Now as soon as your vote is received by the Election Center your name will be added to the list of voters. This has been criticized by some but only those who did not know that for up to 25 percent of voters who voted absentee, this practice has been used in the past.

[Anchorage will soon hold its first mail-ballot election. Here's what will change.]

Why the change? Low voter turnout is the most important reason for me, but there are other reasons just as important to others. Have you ever worked the polls? They open at 7 a.m. and close at 8 p.m. I don't know about you, but I like to sleep in until 8 a.m. and I am thinking about bed by 8 p.m. Where do you find 650-plus workers who are available for a single day's work that are ready, willing, and able to work a 13 hour day? It was getting tougher and tougher and took months for the municipal clerk to pull off poll-based voting.

Next, the voting machines used in Anchorage are very familiar to those who vote.  They are getting old. The cost of replacement is huge and could be better spent. When the polls closed at 8 p.m., there was a race to close the poll down and get the ballots and information to City Hall. Election Central is open and waiting for initial results. I have been there and even though the goal is 10 p.m., people have waited to the wee hours the next day to get enough information to declare a winner. So, after a 13-hour day of work, election workers were racing downtown from each polling place to deliver the ballots. We are lucky that there were no serious accidents.

The Anchorage municipal clerk's office has been planning this initial vote-by-mail election for several years. The clerk's office has pulled together a large group of stakeholders to make sure the i's are dotted and t's are crossed. The onetime cost of equipping an Election Center has occurred with equipment purchased and tested. The next step is for you or us, the voters, to fill out and cast our ballots and mail them in before 8 p.m. If you don't want to pay for postage there will be 12 secure drop boxes placed around town on Election Day in which to place your signed and sealed ballot. Please sign using your official signature because that is how the envelope will be authenticated. Also, don't worry, there are protections in place to make sure no human will know how you voted.

If you don't want to vote by mail, there will still be five Accessible Vote Centers to cast your ballot. For locations and hours, go to the website below or call MOA Elections at 243-VOTE(8683).

Want to know more? Type in your browser.

Tom McGrath, retired previous owner of Frigid North Electronics Co., has been involved in local politics for 40 years as an observer and commentator as well as serving on various boards and commissions.

The views expressed here are the writer's and are not necessarily endorsed by the Anchorage Daily News, which welcomes a broad range of viewpoints. To submit a piece for consideration, email commentary(at) Send submissions shorter than 200 words to or click here to submit via any web browser.

I live in Anchorage. What does Prop. 11 mean for my wallet?

Sun, 2018-03-11 16:51

Most Anchorage homeowners would pay less in property taxes if voters approve a proposition appearing on the upcoming April city ballot.

But there's a trade-off. People who own commercial and rental property, apartment buildings or more than one home will have to pay more in taxes as a result of the proposition. Taxes may also go up for the owners of the most expensive homes, according to data provided by the city.

The initiative, Proposition 11, is an attempt by the administration of Mayor Ethan Berkowitz to shift up the city's tax burden away from people who own and live in their own homes. The measure, while cheered by some homeowners, is drawing a sharp response from business and commercial property groups.

Prop. 11 is one item on a packed ballot in the local election that starts on Tuesday. Anchorage is holding its first-ever vote-by-mail election. The city will mail ballots to registered voters on Tuesday. Ballots can be mailed back with a postage stamp or dropped off at a drop-box or a few accessible voting locations around Anchorage. The last day to vote is April 3.

[Anchorage will soon hold its first mail-ballot election. Here's what will change.]

With Prop. 11, the Berkowitz administration wants to exempt 20 percent of a homeowner's property value from taxes, up to $50,000. That's the limit set by state law. Right now, the city exempts 10 percent of a homeowner's property value up to $20,000.

"We've been hearing for a long time that people wanted property tax relief," Berkowitz, who is running for a second term as mayor, said in an interview Friday.

If you own a $350,000 home and qualify for the exemption, you would see your property tax bill drop roughly $400 if Prop. 11 passes, according to an analysis by the city assessor's office. The analysis was based on 2017 data; the final amount will depend on the tax rate set by the Anchorage Assembly in April, as well as the size of the city's budget.

Property taxes would rise for homes valued at $5 million or more, the assessor's data show.

Meanwhile, taxes on commercial property and other property that doesn't qualify for the exemption would rise about 1.2 percent. Berkowitz said that amounts to an increase of about $114 a year for a $600,000 parcel. He said federal deductions could help defray the hike.

The tax hike on commercial properties would have been higher to make up for the drop in residential taxes. But then the Berkowitz administration  proposed the city's first-ever tax on gasoline and diesel fuel. The gas tax took effect March 1.

"We looked for all the different ways to achieve property tax relief," Berkowitz said. "This package achieves that goal."

Anchorage has a higher property tax rate than the Kenai Peninsula Borough or Juneau, where there are sales taxes in effect.

Rodney Powell is the chair of the Anchorage Home and Landowners Association, known as HALO, and owns a home in Bear Valley. He said the broad feeling in his neighborhood is that homeowners are way overtaxed and businesses don't pay their fair share. He added that not everyone on the Hillside is wealthy.

"People downtown are trying to bleed us dry, that's what people up here think," Powell said.

Powell said his home is valued at about $520,000, and he pays $7,500 a year in property taxes. The proposed exemption change would save him a few hundred dollars. That doesn't feel like that much, Powell said.

Not every homeowner agrees with Berkowitz's plan. David Pelto, who owns a condo in the Campbell Park area, said he's a lifelong Alaskan and thinks he gets what he pays for with his current property tax bill. He said he doesn't see a point in shifting the taxes to other property tax payers, and the city should adopt a sales tax.

"I'm amongst those folks who say, hey, we haven't been paying our way for a long time," Pelto said. "It's time for us to suck it up and start paying."

Meanwhile, a prominent association of commercial property owners, managers and leasing agents has come out against Prop. 11, saying it's unfair.

More than 63 percent of the property in Anchorage is residential, and 29 percent is commercial.

In a recent resolution, the Anchorage Building Owners & Managers Association predicted Prop. 11 would stifle new development and threaten businesses that are dealing with the recession. Commercial building owners were skeptical about the city's estimate of the size of the tax increase. The resolution said higher commercial property taxes would be passed along to tenants with an increase in rents.

"The great majority of these tenants are small businesses-owned and operated by the 'home owners' the mayor believes he is helping," the resolution said.

Rebecca Logan, Berkowitz's main challenger in the mayoral race, said during a recent mayoral forum that Prop. 11 would punish businesses during a recession.

Berkowitz said reducing property taxes for most homeowners would stimulate the local economy. BOMA vice president Kevin Powell, who works in business development at ENSTAR Natural Gas, said the association feared the trickle-down effect of the higher taxes would cancel out any boost to the wider economy.

Powell said he owns a home and not a commercial business, and he would expect to save about $300 in property taxes. But he also said he drives a lot, and the gas tax will cut into any property tax savings brought about by Prop. 11.

"It's kind of a wash, really," Powell said.

Berkowitz, who owns a home as well as several commercial properties in Anchorage, characterized his tax plan as a necessary step to give the city a more diverse revenue stream that relies less on property taxes from homeowners.

"Business owners know there's no easy way to achieve that," Berkowitz said.

RACE UPDATE: The leader in Unalakleet, Nic Petit chases a first Iditarod win

Sun, 2018-03-11 16:33

UNALAKLEET — Girdwood racer Nicolas Petit arrived in Unalakleet at 1:40 p.m. today in the lead of the 2018 Iditarod. DeeDee Jonrowe greeted the musher with a hug, and Petit planned to stay for a rest at this Bering Sea coast checkpoint as Joar Leifseth Ulsom and Mitch Seavey close in.

Petit, who is racing with 13 dogs, carried one husky in his sled. He quickly traded his heavy-duty "bunny boots" for sneakers.

[Jake Berkowitz: There will be a new Iditarod champion this year. Here's how Petit could do it]

After a string of wins in middle-distance races, Petit has set the pace for stretches of this slower-paced, relatively drama-free Iditarod. Seavey and Ulsom had temporarily passed a sleeping Petit — who was resting with his lead dog on his chest — on the long Yukon River run. But Petit said he awoke and gave chase, reclaiming the lead.

"I got to see how they were looking and gained a little bit of confidence," he said today.

Accounting for daylight saving time, Petit left Kaltag with a roughly half hour lead on Ulsom and Seavey, who departed within two minutes of each other.

Petit said he decided not to blow through Unalakleet (mile 737) because, "I'm hungry and there's bacon." Plus, he said, "dogs like checkpoints."

And what a checkpoint it is.  Here in Unalakleet, Iditarod volunteers, race officials and locals packed two long tables at the bustling checkpoint building here Sunday morning, as residents Aurora and William "Middy" Johnson flipped sourdough pancakes, cooked bacon and brewed coffee.

Everyone waited for the first mushers to arrive.

From here, it is about 220 miles to Nome. The next checkpoints, up the windy Bering Sea coast, are sometimes among the toughest of the race.

"As you can see in our checkpoint, we have a lot of people, a lot of noise, a lot of visiting which is great," Johnson said. "It's great for us. It kind of brings the community together."

Johnson competed in the 2010 Iditarod. His grandfather, Henry Ivanoff, was one of the 20 mushers who relayed diptheria serum to Nome in 1925.

Early Sunday afternoon, temperatures hovered here around 7 degrees. A group of children went sledding on the snowy hill between the checkpoint building and the trail below, that skirts the edge of this Bering Sea town, where about 750 people live.

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Hi, everybody! Tegan Hanlon here, I’m a reporter with ADN. Loren Holmes and I are following the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race this last week. Today, we’re here in Unalakleet, waiting for mushers to arrive.

Posted by Anchorage Daily News on Sunday, March 11, 2018

The bales of straw were stacked. The teams' bags of gear and food laid out. And the spare sleds that mushers had sent to the checkpoint stood in a line.

"We started up the frying pans this morning and they'll quit sometime Thursday," Johnson said. "We go through about 50 gallons of sourdough starter, a couple hundred pounds of bacon and anything else that people bring in to eat."
Inside the checkpoint, two-time Iditarod champion Robert Sorlie, who is snowmachining the trail this year, poured himself a cup of coffee. Iditarod chief veterinarian Stuart Nelson watched the race tracker, playing on a large television screen that sat atop a pool table.

Mark Nordman, Iditarod race marshal and race director, ate bacon wrapped in a sourdough pancake — turning breakfast portable.

"I've been doing this 35 years," he said. "I've got it down."

In Unalakleet, #Iditarod musher Nic Petit trades bunny boots for sneakers. #2018Iditarod

— Tegan Hanlon (@teganhanlon) March 11, 2018

Nordman said he would describe the 2018 Iditarod as both "exciting" and "calming." The trail has not been particularly treacherous this year. While teams got trapped in a few storms so far, those storms have not been as extreme as in years' past.

"The dogs I think do better when it's warm like this, and softer trail," Nordman said. "Everybody's just kind of chill."

Before the race, the Nordman said a lack of sea ice would likely push a section of the upcoming trail between Shaktoolik and Koyuk closer to the coast. However, he said, by Sunday it looked like the trail would remain on its typical course — cutting across the sea ice.

While Iditarod mushers Nic Petit, Joar Leifseth Ulsom and defending champion Mitch Seavey remained the three in the lead, Nordman said anything could happen.

"It's definitely not over," he said. "It's been a really exciting race."

If he had to guess, he said, he would expect the first musher into Nome at about 3:30 a.m. Wednesday — slower than the 2013 Iditarod, the last time the race followed the southern route and much slower than the 2017 Iditarod, when Mitch Seavey set a new record.

(NOTE: An earlier version of this story gave the incorrect amount of time between Petit's departure and the other mushers because it did not account for the time change.)