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City committees will look over recommendations this week

Juneau Hot Topics - Mon, 2018-03-12 06:03
The ordinance has been open to to public testimony as a group of local businessmen have proposed changing the ordinance and removing the socioeconomic study requirement. Public comments ... Contact reporter Gregory Philson at gphilson@juneauempire.com or call at 523-2265. Follow him on ...

Restored to full strength, Alaska House of Representatives will begin to move legislation this week - Juneau Empire

Legislative News - Mon, 2018-03-12 05:58

Juneau Empire

Restored to full strength, Alaska House of Representatives will begin to move legislation this week
Juneau Empire
That bill contains $26 million in funding to keep the Alaska Marine Highway System operating past April 16, plus money for various other state programs. Rep. Paul Seaton, R-Homer, said he expects to amend the bill on the House floor to include money ...

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Ryan Redington is 5th musher to scratch from race

Alaska News - Mon, 2018-03-12 05:52

Musher Ryan Redington of Wasilla dropped out of the 2018 Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race Sunday night in Kaltag, mile 652.

"Redington made the decision to scratch in the best interest of the health and welfare of his race team," said a statement from a race spokeswoman.

Redington had 11 dogs in harness when he scratched at 8:51 p.m. He started the race with 16 dogs.

Redington is the fifth musher to pull out of this year's Iditarod while on the trail. His younger brother, Robert, scratched Saturday morning in Shageluk, mile 486. His older brother, Ray, remains in the race.

‘A heart as big as Alaska’: Unalakleet throws a retirement party for DeeDee Jonrowe

Alaska News - Mon, 2018-03-12 05:41

UNALAKLEET — In the memorial hall Sunday night, Mayor Leona Grishkowsky cut a cake frosted with an image of a musher in a pink parka riding a sled behind two black dogs.

"Thanks DeeDee," the pink lettering said. "Unalakleet Loves You."

The 2018 Iditarod was DeeDee Jonrowe's 36th and also her last. It got cut short, about 150 miles in, when the 64-year-old Willow musher got sick and dropped out.

"I just retired earlier than I wanted to, but you know what, I haven't been sorry for that," Jonrowe said.

Jonrowe wore a purple ribbon tied in her braided hair and a kuspuk with sled dogs on it that the community gave her. She carried a crayon drawing from a child, and she got hugs from many of the roughly 300 people who cycled in and out of the building for the retirement potluck planned by residents.

"DeeDee has a heart as big as Alaska," Mayor Grishkowsky said. "She's a wonderful person. She's kind to everyone. She takes time for people. She makes time to make you feel special. And she's just so well loved here."

Unalakleet resident Jeff Erickson said he has known Jonrowe for about 40 years. When he heard she scratched from the 2018 Iditarod, he said, he started to make arrangements for her to come to Unalakleet for a party.

The Iditarod has become so fast, he said, there's not as much time as there used to be for mushers to visit people at checkpoint communities. Jonrowe competed in her first Iditarod in 1980. A potluck, he decided, would be a great way to celebrate the iconic musher.

"It's hard not to cheer for her and cry with her and then she's not just somebody, but she becomes a friend," he said.

Just down the road, mushers continued to come and go from the Unalakleet checkpoint. On Sunday morning, Jonrowe, dressed in her trademark pink parka, hugged the first three mushers into the Bering Sea town.

As for what's next, Jonrowe said she's not sure yet but it will probably involve training dogs.

She said she was overwhelmed by Unalakleet's kindness in organizing a potluck.

"Our family biologically is very small," she said, "but this family has adopted me and I've experienced more strength and heartaches with them than any place in the world."

Groping and harassment for handful of dollars

Alaska News - Mon, 2018-03-12 00:30

The balancing act plays out every day in restaurants across America: Servers who rely on tips decide where to draw the line when a customer goes too far.

They ignore comments about their bodies, laugh off proposals for dates and deflect behavior that makes them uncomfortable or angry — all in pursuit of the $2 or $20 tip that will help buy groceries or pay the rent.

There was the young server at a burger joint in Georgia, Emmallie Heard, whose customer held her tip money in his hand and said, "So you gonna give me your number?" She wrote it down, but changed one of the digits.

There was the waitress in Portland, Oregon, Whitney Edmunds, who swallowed her anger when a man patted his lap and beckoned her to sit, saying, "I'm a great tipper."

And at a steakhouse in Gonzales, Louisiana, Jaime Brittain stammered and walked away when a group of men offered a $30 tip if she'd answer a question about her pubic hair. She returned and provided a "snappy answer" that earned her the tip, but acknowledges having mixed feelings about the episode.

"Literally every time it happens, I will have this inner monologue with myself: 'Is this worth saying something, or is it not?'" said Ashley Maina-Lowe, a longtime server and bartender in Tucson, Arizona. "Most of the time I say, 'No, it's not worth it.'"

In the restaurant industry, the cultural reckoning over sexual harassment has felled celebrity chefs like Mario Batali and spotlighted pervasive misbehavior by managers and co-workers. But servers and bartenders also face abuse from another front: the millions of Americans who dine out every year and who, because of the custom of tipping, wield outsize influence over one of the largest groups of workers in the country — 3 million strong, according to federal data.

Their workplaces are casual environments where alcohol lightens the mood and erodes boundaries. A "customer is always right" ethos often tilts the equation — creating the kind of power imbalance that has become front and center in a broader conversation about sex and gender in the workplace.

In interviews, more than 60 servers and bartenders — nervous teenagers and seasoned veterans, students and single mothers, a few men but mostly women — shared stories of crude comments, propositions, groping and even stalking from customers. They work in diners, chain restaurants and high-end dining establishments, and they reported hourly take home pay ranging from $8 to more than $40.

A number of efforts have arisen in the last several years to protect servers from harassment. Some restaurants have adopted no-tipping policies, eliminating the leverage of a gratuity. In Oakland, California, a restaurant called Homeroom devised a color-coded system to monitor customer behavior: a yellow flag if a server senses a potential problem, an orange one for inappropriate comments and a red flag for overtly sexual comments or touching, at which point the customer is asked to leave.

Workers' advocates are pushing about a dozen states and the District of Columbia to change laws that allow restaurants to pay servers less than the minimum wage, making them more dependent on tips. New York recently cited harassment as one of the reasons it was looking into the way tipped workers are paid.

Working for tips means that each shift comes with questions that do not apply to millions of other workers around the country: How much money will I make, and how much will I tolerate to make it?

"When I first started, I used to get so creeped out and weirded out all the time," said Brittany Gilbert, a server in Charleston, West Virginia, who has struggled to afford housing. "If you want to make the money, you'll learn to laugh."

Uncertain of Workplace Rights

The music was loud and the lights glowed red at Asia de Cuba, a clubby restaurant in New York with other locations overseas. On the second floor, Dana Angelo buzzed around the cocktail lounge in her uniform, a silky black dress that stopped midthigh with slits reaching higher. Her section was full, promising a good night.

As she paused at a table, a customer who was walking past reached under her skirt and grabbed her crotch, then continued on his way.

She stifled the urge to scream. "I don't want to do anything that makes these people leave and not tip me," she said. "I'm looking at $200 in tips."

Fighting back tears, she pointed out the offending customer to her manager, expecting the restaurant to take action. Instead, she saw the manager shaking the man's hand.

"It was the second layer of hurt," Angelo said. She has since moved to Los Angeles, and that location has closed.

With guidance from her union delegate she was able to inform upper management of the incident, which occurred several years ago; she said the general manager apologized and told her that what happened was unacceptable.

But most servers and bartenders are not organized, and many restaurants do not have human resources departments. Servers also said they were reluctant to report anything but the most egregious behavior from customers; dealing with it simply comes with the job, they felt.

While legal action almost always targets misbehavior by managers or co-workers, courts have also ruled that employers can be liable for not protecting workers from abusive customers.

"The employer has an obligation to make a safe workplace, and if you complain, they should do something about it," said Joseph M. Sellers, a lawyer in Washington, D.C., with years of experience in sexual harassment cases.

Managers can protect workers by switching a waitress' table or asking an offending customer to leave.

But even for bosses with good intentions, misbehavior is difficult to police. Kaycee Lowe Wallace, who owned the Trolley restaurant in Hugo, Oklahoma, did not know that a regular customer was groping one of her servers until she got a concerned call from the young woman's grandmother.

Wallace questioned the waitress, Klaycey Oakes, who told her that the man had grabbed her thigh and even followed her to the bathroom. "I was like 'Why would you have not told me?'" Wallace recalled. "She was like, 'Well, he leaves me $20 every time.'"

Oakes, 19, said the man was elderly and she had not wanted to cause a fuss. As it is for so many women, waitressing was her first job. Seventy percent of servers are women, according to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, and nearly half are younger than 25.

"Their lives and experience of work is shaped by that initial experience," said Saru Jayaraman, president of Restaurant Opportunities Centers United, an advocacy group for restaurant workers. "I've had Hollywood actresses, senators, IBM executives, lawyers tell me, 'I have been sexually harassed later in my career, but I didn't do anything about it because it was never as bad as it was when I was a young woman working in restaurants.'"

The indignities pile up, shift after shift. A server in San Diego, Angela Hoover, said she was standing at a table when a man came by, shoved his hand down her sweater and grabbed her breast.

"I just kind of stood there shocked," she said. "I felt something — I was like, 'What the heck was in my bra?' — and it was a dollar."

New technology has brought new affronts; servers told of young men taking photos of them as they bent over the table, and posting the photos to Snapchat with tag lines like "I can see down her shirt."

With tips in the balance, though, workers decide how much to play along. Some swear that red lipstick means better tips. Some don a favorite shirt that shows just enough cleavage.

Danny Meyer, whose Union Square Hospitality Group owns numerous restaurants, recalled how trade magazines in the 1980s and 1990s advised women to increase tips by opening blouse buttons and placing a hand on the shoulder of male customers.

"That's a dynamic that's been going on forever," he said in an interview.

Many servers acknowledged that they enjoyed a bit of cheerful flirting. Some welcomed compliments about their appearance; others hated them. Many said they drew the line at touching.

And while servers and customers occasionally dated, and even married, requests for dates, phone numbers and other propositions were usually unwelcome, they said.

Some of the most threatening situations occur when customers pursue employees outside work. Several women told of men who had waited for them in the parking lot or approached them as they took out the trash.

Maina-Lowe, the server and bartender in Tucson, was terrified when a man came in as she was closing up by herself one night. He asked if she was alone and told her that he had been watching her through the window. She ran out the back door and called police.

"I'm not generally a huge gun advocate, but I went and got one," she said. "And every time I went to close the bar, it was in my purse."

Despite her bad experience, Maina-Lowe said working in restaurants was still her best option. At her current job, she can earn $30 an hour in tips on a good night — nearly three times the state's minimum wage.

The Freedom to Say, 'Enough'

The perceived link between tipping and good service is seared into American culture, and servers in the United States rely more on gratuities than they do in perhaps any other country.

But good service does not motivate tipping decisions as much as people think, said Michael Lynn, a professor of consumer behavior and marketing at Cornell, who has spent years studying why we tip.

"The evidence just isn't there that the desire to reward good service is driving most tipping decisions," he said.

Instead, Lynn said, customers are more likely to tip waitresses who are large-breasted, slender and blond, according to research he published in 2009. White servers are tipped more than people of color, according to his research.

Little academic research exists on the relationship between tipping and sexual harassment; groups on both sides of the debate have published studies that bolster their positions.

The National Restaurant Association, the industry's trade group, declined to answer questions about sexual harassment of servers and the role that tips might play in it. It said in a statement: "We condemn sexual harassment. Period. It does not matter if the harasser is a customer, a colleague or a manager."

Some labor rights advocates, convinced that tipping contributes to harassment, argue for eliminating the lower minimum wage that most restaurants pay workers who earn tips, which the federal government sets at $2.13 per hour. If you increase their base pay, the thinking goes, servers will be less dependent on tips, freeing them to push back against harassment.

Jayaraman's group has lobbied states to change laws and require restaurants to pay the full minimum wage, a practice already adopted by seven states.

But servers themselves are divided on the issue. Many worry that the move would prompt customers to tip less while raising costs that would force restaurants to close.

"The tip credit allows employers to keep their labor costs low and allows us to make a great living," said Joshua Chaisson, a server in Portland, Maine, who helped create Restaurant Workers of America, a group that fights to preserve the tipped wage.

Restaurant owners cite thin margins that already barely allow them to make a profit.

"If I paid all my servers $7 an hour, I couldn't charge $7 for a hamburger," said Wallace, the restaurant owner in Oklahoma. Her experience shows how tight the finances can be; her restaurant closed in January because she could not afford to fix the heating system.

Some restaurants are trying a radical approach: abandoning tipping altogether.

While a primary motive is reducing the pay gap between servers and kitchen staff, who typically make less, it also makes servers and managers more willing to stand up to abusive customers.

"I felt empowered as a manager, and staff feels more empowered," said Kim DiPalo, who was the general manager of the Manhattan restaurant Gramercy Tavern, one of Meyer's restaurants, when it ended tipping in 2016.

Instead of sending a manager to take over a troublesome table, she was more likely to ask offenders to leave, no longer needing to worry about protecting her employees' tips.

Jenice Marshall said working at a tip-free restaurant in New York, Dirt Candy, had been liberating.

"There's always one guy that's going to give you those eyes, the body language, flirt with you throughout the whole the meal, and usually if you dance the dance with them, you do get a higher tip," she said. "You want to take a shower after." For the first time, she said, she no longer feels the need to dance along.

But restaurants that are trying no-tipping policies have struggled with opposition from both servers and customers.

Erin Wade, owner of Homeroom, the restaurant with the flag system, said she would like to end tipping, which she considers demeaning. But other owners who had done so persuaded her not to follow them.

"Customers like the power," she said they had told her.

Her servers were against it, too. "There's no way we could pay them nearly as much as they're making with tips," she said.
— Makeup and a Proposal

On a recent afternoon in Big Lake, Minnesota, about 45 minutes outside Minneapolis, Ashley Lewis, 30, stood at her bathroom mirror, makeup spread over the counter. Tips go down when she is not done up, she has noticed, so she leaves 20 minutes for this ritual before each bartending shift.

The state sets her base pay at the full minimum wage of $9.65, but she needs more. To make ends meet, she is living with two other adults and three children not counting her 9-year-old daughter, who divides her time between her mother and father.

While she believes that other states should pay servers the full minimum wage, she does not see it as a cure. "I don't think it would eliminate how men treat women," Lewis said.

At her workplace, a bar and grill that offers an incongruous but popular mix of Jamaican, Asian and American fare to guests wearing baseball caps and hunter camouflage, she makes between $50 and $250 in tips per night.

That night, she wore red lipstick and a choker necklace. When a man asked if she wanted to marry him, she declined, her face emotionless.

"I can control the food, but I can't control every interaction with the guests," said the restaurant's owner, Rowan Brown. "People always surprise you."

Lewis is grateful for the work but conflicted about the compromises it requires.

"A significant portion of my income is how men feel about me that day," she said.

White House vows to help arm teachers, backs off raising age for buying guns

Alaska News - Sun, 2018-03-11 21:44

WASHINGTON – The White House on Sunday vowed to help provide "rigorous firearms training" to some schoolteachers and formally endorsed a bill to tighten the federal background checks system, but backed off President Donald Trump's earlier call to raise the minimum age to purchase some guns to 21 years old from 18 years old.

Responding directly to last month's gun massacre at a Florida high school, the administration rolled out a series of policy proposals that focus largely on mental health and school safety initiatives. The idea of arming some teachers has been controversial and has drawn sharp opposition from the National Education Association, the country's largest teachers lobby, among other groups.

Many of the student survivors have urged Washington to toughen restrictions on gun purchases, but such measures are fiercely opposed by the National Rifle Association, and the Trump plan does not include any substantial changes to gun laws.

Rather, the president is establishing a Federal Commission on School Safety, to be chaired by Education Secretary Betsy DeVos, that will explore possible solutions, such as the age requirement for purchases, officials said.

DeVos characterized the administration's efforts as "a pragmatic plan to dramatically increase school safety."

"We are committed to working quickly because there's no time to waste," DeVos said on a Sunday evening conference call with reporters. Invoking past mass school shootings, she continued, "No student, no family, no teacher and no school should have to live the horror of Parkland or Sandy Hook or Columbine again."

The administration's proposals come after 17 people were shot and killed last month at Marjory Stoneman Douglas High School in Parkland, Florida, a massacre that spurred officials in Washington to reevaluate gun laws.

Trump has said he was personally moved by the shooting – and by the persistent and impassioned calls for action from some of the teenage survivors as well as parents of the victims – and elevated the issue of school safety in his administration. He has called for raising the minimum age for purchasing an AR-15 or similar-style rifles from 18 to 21 years old.

"Now, this is not a popular thing to say, in terms of the NRA. But I'm saying it anyway," Trump said in a Feb. 28 meeting with lawmakers. "You can buy a handgun – you can't buy one; you have to wait until you're 21. But you can buy the kind of weapon used in the school shooting at 18. I think it's something you have to think about."

But the White House plan released Sunday does not address the minimum age for gun purchases. Pressed by reporters about the apparent backtracking, a senior administration said the age issue was "a state-based discussion right now" and would be explored by DeVos's commission.

At a political rally Saturday night in Pennsylvania, Trump mocked the idea of commissions to solve the nation's drug epidemic.

"Do you think the drug dealers who kill thousands of people during their lifetime, do you think they care who's on a blue-ribbon committee?" Trump said. "The only way to solve the drug problem is through toughness."

Administration officials demurred Sunday night when asked why Trump found commissions an inadequate response to the drug epidemic but an appropriate way to respond to gun massacres.

"There are not going to be one-size-fits-all approaches and solutions, and I think that that is a very cogent argument for having a commission," said a senior administration official, who would only answer questions from reporters on the condition of anonymity.

The centerpiece of the administration's plan is Trump's vow to "harden our schools against attack." Since almost immediately after the Parkland shooting, the president has advocated arming some teachers as a solution to stopping future massacres.

"A gun-free zone to a maniac – because they're all cowards – a gun-free zone is, let's go in and let's attack, because bullets aren't coming back at us," Trump said during a Feb. 22 listening session at the White House with teachers, students and parents.

The administration will start working with states to provide "rigorous firearms training" to teachers and other school personnel who volunteer to be armed, said Andrew Bremberg, director of the White House Domestic Policy Council. The White House has not proposed offering states new funding for this training.

Lily Eskelsen García, president of the NEA, the teachers lobby, said last month that "bringing more guns into our schools does nothing to protect our students and educators from gun violence. Our students need more books, art and music programs, nurses and school counselors; they do not need more guns in their classrooms."

The NRA supports the idea of allowing armed teachers in schools.

Bremberg said the administration is backing two pieces of legislation: A bipartisan bill by Sens. John Cornyn, R-Texas, and Chris Murphy, D-Conn., that is designed to improve the accuracy and effectiveness of the National Instant Criminal Background Check System; and the STOP School Violence Act, which would authorize state-based grants to implement violence prevention training for teachers and students.

The administration also is urging all states to pass risk protection orders, as Florida recently did, allowing law enforcement officers to remove firearms from individuals who are considered a threat to themselves or others and to prevent them from purchasing new guns, Bremberg said.

Lastly, the administration wants to better integrate mental health, primary care and family services programs, and the president has ordered a full audit and review of the FBI tip line, he said. The FBI has said it ignored a warning that 19-year-old Nikolas Cruz might attack a school just weeks before he allegedly carried out the rampage in Parkland.

"The president is determined to get to the root of the various societal issues that lead to violence in our country," Bremberg said. "No stone will be unturned."

At the Department of Justice, meanwhile, Attorney General Jeff Sessions on Saturday took an incremental step toward banning bump stocks, devices that can make semiautomatic weapons fire like fully automatic firearms.

Sessions submitted to the Office of Management and Budget a proposed regulation on bump stocks. The proposal still requires that office's approval, and once that is complete, it must be published and public comments considered before it becomes reality.

While some gun control advocates welcomed the move, others argued that it would still be better for Congress to pass legislation banning the devices. Federal officials had in years past concluded they could not legally regulate bump stocks, and the new move to do so is likely to be met with lawsuits from manufacturers of the devices.

For its part, the NRA does not oppose regulating bump stocks under existing law, but does object to new legislation.

In Florida, Gov. Rick Scott, R, defied the NRA last Friday by signing into law a new set of gun regulations that imposes a three-day waiting period for most purchases of long guns, raises the minimum age for buying those weapons to 21 and bans the possession of bump stocks.

"I am going to do what I think are common-sense solutions," Scott said after the signing. "I think this is the beginning. There is now going to be a real conversation about how we make our schools safe."

But the new Florida restrictions have drawn opposition from some Republicans nationally. Sen. Ron Johnson, R-Wis., said Sunday on CNN's "State of the Union" that he does not support raising the age to purchase long guns, such as AR-15 rifles that have been used in many of the recent mass shootings.

"We send our sons and daughters over to Afghanistan, in Iraq," at age 18, Johnson said. "They defend our freedoms. I think if they do that, they ought to be able to buy a hunting rifle."

Trump has vacillated in his public pronouncements about guns. He and Republican leaders in Congress have been afraid to cross the National Rifle Association ahead of the November midterm elections because the gun lobby has long been a powerful force mobilizing conservative activists in elections.

At his Feb. 28 meeting with lawmakers, Trump sounded open to new restrictions on gun purchase. "Take the guns first, go through due process second," he said, winning the approval of Sen. Dianne Feinstein, Calif., and other Democrats who have long sought to toughen gun laws and ban semiautomatic assault rifles.

But NRA leaders then met privately with Trump and the president had an apparent change of heart and backed off more restrictive proposals. Last week, Trump met personally in the Oval Office with Kyle Kashuv, a Stoneman Douglas student who has become one of his school's few pro-gun rights activists with his frequent appearances on Fox News Channel.

The Washington Post's Matt Zapotosky contributed to this report.

Hundreds gather to celebrate life of Alaska Special Olympics leader Jim Balamaci

Alaska News - Sun, 2018-03-11 21:28

Hundreds gathered Sunday to celebrate the life of Alaska Special Olympics advocate Jim Balamaci at the Alaska Airlines Center in Anchorage.

The event also marked the closing of the Alaska Special Olympics 2018 Winter Games.

The audience included Alaska's entire congressional delegation and Gov. Bill Walker, Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz and Anchorage Police Department Chief Justin Doll. It also included many of the athletes that Balamaci devoted his career to serving. They remembered Balamaci's catchphrase — a hearty "Oh yeah!" — his love for the Seattle Seahawks and his knack for making people feel welcomed.

[Jim Balamaci, steadfast advocate for Alaska's Special Olympians, dies at age 63]

Balamaci was responsible for Alaska's having "the best Special Olympics training facility in the world," U.S. Sen. Dan Sullivan told the crowd.

Balamaci died on Feb. 1 at the age of 63. His cause of death has not been revealed. He had been the director of Alaska Special Olympics since 1996. Under his leadership the organization serving athletes with intellectual disabilities flourished, growing to serve more than 2,000 athletes statewide and adding a $7 million, 28,000-square-foot training facility in Mountain View.

"Jim was a good man," U.S. Sen. Lisa Murkowski told the crowd. "He was just good. That really describes what he did and who he was."

After a note from mom and a rest for his dogs, Iditarod leader Petit heads up Bering Sea coast

Alaska News - Sun, 2018-03-11 21:28

UNALAKLEET — Girdwood musher Nic Petit sat down inside the busy checkpoint building here Sunday afternoon with about a four-hour lead over his closest competitor in the Iditarod Trail Sled Dog Race.

He had a plate stacked with sourdough pancakes and bacon, a glass full of Tang and a pile of musher-grams — notes called into the Iditarod Trail Committee, transcribed and delivered to mushers along the trail.

"I believe in you," read one from Petit's mom. "I love you."

There's still about 260 miles to go to the Nome finish line. The next checkpoints, up the windy Bering Sea coast, are sometimes among the toughest of the race.

Petit said he felt confident in his dog team, but it's still anyone's race.

"I have very qualified mushers behind me with quite the resume and family history," he said.

After a string of wins in middle-distance races this winter, Petit, a 38-year-old born in France, has set the pace for stretches of this slow-paced, relatively drama-free Iditarod. If he's able to hold that lead, he would become the first musher not named Seavey to win the Iditarod in seven years, since John Baker in 2011.

Petit and his 13-dog team got to the Bering Sea community of Unalakleet at 1:40 p.m. Sunday. A sore and tired Mitch Seavey of Sterling and his 11-dog team arrived at 5:58 p.m. and a content Joar Leifseth Ulsom, who lives in Willow, pulled in with 13 dogs at 6:38 p.m.

It's the same group that battled for the top four spots last year, minus four-time champion Dallas Seavey, who is racing in Norway right now.

Everyone decided to stay and rest — at least for a few hours.

A checkpoint prepares

Even before Petit arrived, Unalakleet was busy.

Iditarod volunteers, race officials and locals packed two rows of tables at the bustling checkpoint building Sunday morning as residents Aurora and William "Middy" Johnson flipped sourdough pancakes, cooked bacon and brewed coffee.

"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 diphtheria serum to Nome in 1925.

Outside, temperatures hovered 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.

The bales of straw were stacked. Bags of gear and food were 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," Middy 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."

$20 for Petit

When Petit pulled in Sunday afternoon, children lined the snowbanks and a crowd formed on a nearby hill. People cheered and took photographs, and DeeDee Jonrowe, who scratched from the race at the Rainy Pass checkpoint, greeted him with a hug.

Petit said he planned to stay for a rest.

"I'm hungry and there's bacon," he said. Plus, "the dogs like checkpoints."

Petit carried one husky, named Kristy, in his sled. Huskies named Jeffery, 4, and Shooby, 3, led the team.

Petit traded his heavy-duty bunny boots for sneakers. He put straw down and used a pocket knife to slice open bags of food and gear, pulling out kibble and frozen meat for his team. A large group of onlookers watched.

As he worked, Petit recounted the moment on the trail when Seavey and Ulsom passed him outside of Grayling, roughly 200 miles away from Unalakleet. He was napping on the ground with Kristy on his chest.

"And then, I didn't even see Mitch go by, I was sleeping through that one," he said. "But I guess it kind of woke me up and then I saw Joar coming, so I said, 'OK, we're going.' "

Petit later passed both teams to reclaim the lead.

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

As he walked up to the checkpoint building here, someone called out,"On behalf of Wells Fargo" and handed Petit a $20 bill. Wells Fargo, which used to award the first musher to Unalakleet $3,500 in gold nuggets, dropped its long-time sponsorship of the race last year.

"Man, Wells Fargo went big this time," Petit said, pocketing the cash. "Thanks."

 A sore Seavey

At 5:58 p.m., three-time champion Seavey arrived and parked his team on the other side of a pile of snow from Petit.

Seavey, 58, said he's "really sore and really tired."

Deep snow has marked much of this year's trail, slowing teams and prompting Seavey and other mushers to push with a ski pole and kick a foot against the ground while traveling to help propel the team forward.

"I've just been trying to work behind the sled since we started," Seavey said. "When it's nice and fast, you sit there."

When Seavey won last year's race in record time, the trail was hard and fast.

This year, he said, his dogs "are performing really well, and that's all I can ask them to do." But, in general, he said, "it's been a really hard race."

"Just the deep snow. Soft trail forever," he said.

Sunday evening he used an ax to chop apart beef strips that had thawed and refrozen into a giant clump. His son, Danny, and his granddaughter stood nearby.

Seavey said he plans to give chase to Petit. It could be tough, he said, but anything could happen.

"It will be hard to get him, but stranger things have happened," he said. "He might go out there and sit for 10 hours. He might be lucky to make it to (Shaktoolik) or Koyuk and decide to spend 10 hours there. You never know. But I don't think it's in my power to just make some move if Nic keeps moving like he is."

Forty minutes later, Ulsom and his team arrived. The trail is slow, snowy and windy, he said, but he felt happy with his team and his race plan.

Petit might slow down at some point, he said. And, if he did, Ulsom planned to be right behind him.

"Dogs are doing good. Still got 13," Ulsom said. "It's going pretty good."

As Seavey and Ulsom completed their chores, Petit got his 12 dogs ready — he dropped one — and left at 6:55 p.m. The other two mushers stood up and watched him go, and then Ulsom gave chase at 8:20 p.m.

Palmer skier Grace Miller makes Paralympics debut

Alaska News - 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

Alaska News - 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

Alaska News - 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 netyourproblem.com 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 netyourproblem@gmail.com

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 eventbrite.com.

March Madness Alaska tips off Wednesday with 16 games

Alaska News - 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

Alaska News - 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

Alaska News - 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

Alaska News - 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

Alaska News - 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."

Should the PFD be enshrined in Alaska's Constitution? - Must Read Alaska (blog)

Legislative News - Sun, 2018-03-11 18:56

Should the PFD be enshrined in Alaska's Constitution?
Must Read Alaska (blog)
The language of HJR 23 would have 33 percent of the income of the fund available for distribution as dividends to residents, as provided by law. The remaining income would be deposited in the general fund and the distribution of dividends would bypass ...

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

Alaska News - 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

Alaska News - 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

Alaska News - 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 www.muni.org/elections 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)adn.com. Send submissions shorter than 200 words to letters@adn.com or click here to submit via any web browser.