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UAA’s Wandersee lands spot on all-Region women’s basketball team

Alaska News - Tue, 2018-03-13 18:29

Hannah Wandersee, a 6-foot-2 junior center from Kodiak, garnered all-region honors for her play this season with the UAA women's basketball team.

Wandersee was a second-team pick, making her one of the top 10 players in the NCAA Division II West Region according to a vote by the region's sports information directors. The region includes 38 teams.

Wandersee led the Seawolves in four statistical categories — scoring (14.7 points per game), rebounding (6.3), blocks (1.5) and field-goal percentage (52.9).

UAA's season ended Monday with a 71-70 loss to Montana State-Billings in the championship game of the West Region tournament in Azusa, California.

Wandersee attempted a last-second shot in the game, but it was blocked by Alisa Breen, who was named the West Region's player of the year. The Seawolves finished with a 27-5 record.

First Team

Alisha Breen, MSU-Billings
Roya Rustamzada, Point Loma
Dalayna Sampton, UC San Diego
Natalie Diaz, Dominican
Abbigail Goodsell, Azusa Pacific

Second Team

Whitney Branham, Chico State
Hannah Wandersee, UAA
Kayla Williams, UC San Diego
Lexi Tubbs, Northwest Nazarene
Sandra Ikeora, Dominican

Kurka ends medal streak by placing 7th in Paralympics super combined

Alaska News - Tue, 2018-03-13 18:19

Palmer sit-skier Andrew Kurka finished off the podium Tuesday for the first time in three races at the Paralympic Games in Pyeongchang, South Korea.

Kurka, 26, placed seventh in the super combined, an event that consists of a super-G run followed by a single slalom run.

Kurka was in sixth place after the super-G with a time of 1 minute, 27.17 seconds. He had the eighth-fastest slalom time, 50.56 seconds, which dropped him to seventh place overall.

[Alaska's Andrew Kurka adds silver in super-G to gold in downhill]

The victory went to Jeroen Kampschreur of the Netherlands, who turned in a sizzling slalom time of 46.04 to vault from third place to first place.

Kurka, who claimed gold in the downhill and silver in the super-G, skis his final race, the giant slalom, Wednesday in Pyeongchang.

Friendships kill the myth of ‘potty predators’: Why I’m voting no on Prop. 1

Alaska News - Tue, 2018-03-13 18:09

Samuel is the kind of guy who likes helping others. He's a social worker in his mid-40s with a slightly receding hairline, a well-trimmed goatee and an engaging manner. He and his wife help their elderly neighbor by doing her Costco shopping. Samuel worries about spending enough time with his wife and four kids while trying to pursue a graduate degree. When he's able to find some free time for himself, he likes to read clinical articles in neurobiology to further his passion: helping people, particularly children, recover from complex trauma. But there's more to Samuel than suburban-dad good looks and nice-guy gestures. Beyond, perhaps even obscured by, those traits is a fierce inner courage.

Samuel is also transgender, having transitioned from female to male, here in Anchorage four years ago. The act of transitioning is daunting enough, particularly in the same community where someone already has an established identity. But Samuel also has been a public advocate for the transgender community, putting himself at risk of ridicule, ostracism and outright harm to help others.

As Anchorage prepares to vote on Proposition 1, the "potty bill," it's worth taking a minute to consider the actual experience of being a transgender person in this community. Jim Minnery and his crew from the inaptly named Alaska Family Council are trying to chip away at the legal protections Anchorage now offers its LGBT citizens by singling out the most misunderstood members of this group.

The LGBT community has made huge strides in the last decade thanks to increasing numbers of individuals brave enough to be public about their true selves.  Exposure chips away at the ugly caricatures people like Minnery create about minority groups to convince voters that it's okay to deny members of those groups basic rights or legal protections.

In 2014, Samuel decided that he could no longer live in a body that didn't reflect his true gender and began to transition. He changed his name and asked everyone he knew to begin using a different pronoun: he/him rather than she/her. The social service agency where he worked, however, had not yet had an employee who had made this transition. Samuel was left to try to train the office staff himself on how to approach his transition with respect. Still, the agency would not let him tell his clients he was transitioning, even though the change in his appearance was unmistakable. Some of his colleagues, including the agency's receptionists, refused to change pronouns, leaving clients and other callers confused as to why the man they knew as Samuel was being referred to as "she."

But because Anchorage now has laws that protect LGBTQ people from discrimination, Samuel was able to file a complaint with the Anchorage Human Rights Commission. Samuel wasn't after money or retribution; all he asked for was change. Ultimately, Samuel's agency agreed to arrange trainings led by an LGBT advocacy group for its supervisors, add gender identity to the agency's non-discrimination policies, and include information about how to support a transitioning employee in the employee handbook. These changes are not just important for future employees; this particular agency also serves a clientele that includes transgender people. None of this would have happened if Samuel had not taken the risk of disclosing himself as transgender to the community at large.

Many people in Anchorage probably have not yet gotten to know a transgender person. Jim Minnery is counting on this. A lack of familiarity allows Minnery to spin his lies that equal protection laws mean ugly bathroom encounters between upstanding community members and sexual predators masquerading as women – even though the Anchorage Police Department confirmed this has never happened.

If you don't know a transgender person, you might believe this – at least enough to sway your vote. And you wouldn't stop to think how harmful this bill would be to friends and neighbors like Samuel. Imagine the embarrassment and uproar that would ensue if a man, particularly one who does not present as transgender, was forced to use the woman's bathroom because his assigned sex at birth was female. Any woman – whether she appears transgender or not – forced to use the men's bathroom is in danger not only of psychological cruelty but of physical injury.

So let's ignore Jim Minnery's fictional potty predators and remember that your vote will affect real people, people like Samuel, whose plea for understanding is, in the end, universal: "I have to be who I am. I mean no harm to anyone, but I have be myself." And Samuel, just like every other member of this community, deserves to live in a city that honors that plea with laws protect him from harm and afford him the dignity to live his life to its fullest.

Please vote "no" on Proposition 1.

Marcelle McDannel is a criminal defense lawyer, animal lover and passionate defender of bad dogs.

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.

Weather improving as search for climbers continues

Juneau Hot Topics - Tue, 2018-03-13 18:03
Juneau Mountain Rescue searchers get off an Army National Guard MH-60 Blackhawk helicopter on Tuesday, March 13, 2018. ... For those looking to keep up with the progress of the search, she posts an updates on the JMR Facebook page, including a full press release at around 10 p.m. each day.

2 victims of Texas package bomb were son and mother

Alaska News - Tue, 2018-03-13 17:52

AUSTIN, Texas – Two victims of a parcel bomb that exploded on Monday at a house in Austin, Texas, were identified as 17-year-old Draylen Mason and his mother, the city's police chief said on Tuesday.

Mason, who was African-American, was killed and his mother was injured in a blast at their east Austin home that police believe was one of a string of related attacks in the state capital that may be hate crimes.

"He was an outstanding young man who was going places," Austin Police Chief Brian Manley said of Mason. The teen's mother, who is in her 40s but whom he did not identify, was in stable condition, he said.

Mason was a talented musician with the Austin Youth Orchestra where he played double bass, according to the Austin American-Statesman.

A 75-year-old Hispanic woman seriously hurt in a second package explosion in east Austin on Monday remained in critical condition with life-threatening injuries, Manley told reporters.

[Three 'powerful' package explosions in Austin that killed 2 are connected, police say]

The attacks sparked heightened security at Austin's South by Southwest Festival of music, technology and film, which draws hundreds of thousands of out-of-town visitors.

The explosions came 10 days after another package bomb killed Anthony Stephan House, a 39-year-old black man, at his home in the Harris Ridge neighborhood about 12 miles northeast of downtown. The blast was powerful enough to blow out a wall at the home's entryway.

Manley said Monday's blasts were of a similar force, causing "traumatic penetrative injuries" and a "concussive wave."

No motive has yet been found for the blasts, which occurred when parcels left overnight in front of residences in three separate neighborhoods were moved or opened, Manley said.

"We are not saying that we believe terrorism or hate are in play, but we absolutely have to consider that," he said.

The police are offering a $50,000 reward for information leading to an arrest in the case. That is on top of a $15,000 reward offered by the Texas governor.

Police have received 265 calls about suspicious packages since the three parcel bomb attacks, but authorities had not found any more suspicious parcels, Manley said.

"We are all scared. If you get a package, don't open it, man," said Julian Pina, 56, who lives about 100 yards from the spot where the bomb went off that injured the 75-year-old woman in the working-class Hispanic neighborhood of Montopolis.

(Additional reporting by Andrew Hay)

‘It was a different mind-set’: How Trump soured on Tillerson as his top diplomat

Alaska News - Tue, 2018-03-13 17:40

Secretary of State Rex Tillerson was asleep in his Nairobi hotel room early Saturday morning fighting a stomach bug when White House Chief of Staff John Kelly called to wake him around 2 a.m. to relay a terse message from President Donald Trump: The boss was not happy.

The president was so eager to fire Tillerson that he wanted to do so in a tweet on Friday, but Kelly persuaded Trump to wait until his secretary of state was back in the United States from Africa, two people familiar with the conversation said. It was Tillerson's first trip there since Trump disparaged parts of the continent as "shithole countries."

But Kelly had also warned Tillerson to possibly expect a pejorative tweet from Trump over the weekend, a State Department official said. Tillerson failed to fully understand that the chief of staff was gently signaling to him that he was about to be fired.

And so, just over four hours after Tillerson's government plane touched down at Joint Base Andrews on Tuesday morning, the secretary of state learned of his dismissal from a tweet Trump issued just minutes after The Washington Post first reported the news.

[Trump ousts Tillerson as secretary of state, will replace him with CIA chief Pompeo]

"Thank you to Rex Tillerson for his service!" Trump tweeted, in a message that began with congratulations for CIA Director Mike Pompeo, Trump's pick to become secretary of state. The president also nominated Gina Haspel to lead the CIA, making her the first woman to run the spy agency, if confirmed. Both she and Pompeo are subject to Senate confirmation.

More than three hours after his tweet, Trump finally called Tillerson from Air Force One. For Tillerson, it was a humiliating end to 14-month relationship defined by mutual animosity and frustration. In his departure statement Tuesday afternoon, Tillerson thanked career diplomats for their "honesty and integrity" and the American people for "acts of kindness" – but pointedly did not thank Trump or praise his leadership.

Tillerson's firing was long-anticipated, yet the way it played out stunned official Washington and was classic Trump. The man who made his name by declaring "You're fired!" on reality television is loath to actually fire people in person, outsourcing Tillerson's dismissal to Twitter.

Officials at the White House and the State Department, who have been at loggerheads since the beginning of the administration, offered conflicting accounts of just how the departure occurred. And the chaotic aftermath led to collateral damage – this time in the form of Steve Goldstein, the undersecretary of state for public diplomacy and public affairs, who was swiftly fired for contradicting the White House's version of events.

But Tillerson perhaps should not have been surprised by his ouster, which has been so long in the making that recurring rumors of his demise took on a nickname: Rexit.

"Rex and I have been talking about this for a long time," Trump told reporters Tuesday morning. "I actually got along well with Rex, but really it was a different mind-set, a different thinking."

Trump and Tillerson have disagreed over strategy in key areas of foreign policy, such as the 2015 Iran nuclear deal, the approach to North Korea and the overall tone of U.S. diplomacy. The president was disdainful of his secretary of state for being "too establishment" in his thinking and for disagreeing with him in meetings.

In a sign of the tension, Trump made one of his biggest foreign-policy gambles without so much as consulting his secretary of state. The president decided Thursday to accept North Korean leader Kim Jong Un's invitation for a face-to-face meeting, but Tillerson was traveling in Africa and was frustrated to have been excluded from the internal deliberations, administration officials said.

Tillerson had long expressed interest in a diplomatic solution to the nuclear standoff with North Korea, but Trump until recently had largely dismissed such talks as a waste of time and opted instead for a campaign of "maximum pressure" that included bellicose rhetoric from the president.

In the fall, Trump publicly undermined Tillerson after the secretary said he was reaching out to Pyongyang to try to open a diplomatic channel. In a pair of tweets, Trump wrote that Tillerson was "wasting his time trying to negotiate with Little Rocket Man . . . Save your energy Rex."

Yet last week, when Trump shifted strategy to meet with Kim, Tillerson was left out of the loop. If that angered Tillerson, it pleased Trump, who boasted to advisers that he enjoyed the process more without Tillerson involved, officials said.

Tillerson initially was regarded by some as too cozy to Russian President Vladimir Putin, whom he knew from his days as an oil executive, but over time he developed a more hard-line posture toward Moscow than Trump.

On Monday, flying home from Nigeria, Tillerson appeared to break with the White House in his assessment of the poisoning of a former Russian spy and his daughter in Britain. He singled out Russia as responsible for the attack, echoing the finger-pointing of the British government – something White House press secretary Sarah Huckabee Sanders declined to say earlier that day.

And the deposed Tillerson made a clear statement about Russian aggression in his departure remarks Tuesday. "Much work remains to respond to the troubling behavior and actions on the part of the Russian government," he said.

[Where Trump zigs, Tillerson zags, putting him at odds with White House]

Trump for months has stewed over what he perceived as Tillerson's arrogance and condescension – a grievance exacerbated by an NBC News report, which Tillerson did not directly deny, that he had referred to Trump as a "moron" following a strategy meeting at the Pentagon.

"They fought all the time," said one Trump adviser, who like others interviewed for this story spoke on the condition of anonymity to candidly describe the relationship.

By contrast, Trump has enjoyed a far warmer relationship with Pompeo, who got to know the president by personally delivering his intelligence briefings. The two men have chemistry, though critics of Pompeo say he is too supplicating toward Trump.

The president had seriously entertained the idea of firing Tillerson numerous times over the past year – including in November, when the White House readied a plan to replace him with Pompeo. But Trump ultimately held off on removing his top diplomat in part, according to one adviser, because he wanted to defy the news reports saying that he planned to do so. "FAKE NEWS!" Trump tweeted regarding those reports.

The president revived speculation in recent days about firing Tillerson, and his eldest son, Donald Trump Jr., began telling friends Friday that he expected his father to oust the secretary after the weekend, according to someone familiar with the conversations.

Trump initially was drawn to Tillerson because of his stature as chief executive of ExxonMobil, one of the world's largest companies, and his work as a global dealmaker. He told friends that the broad-shouldered, silver-haired Tillerson could be a diplomat out of central casting.

Yet Trump quickly soured on Tillerson and made no secret of his dislike. He mocked his mannerisms and Texas drawl, saying his secretary of state talked too slowly. In conversations with advisers and friends, the president would often list others he said would do a better job than Tillerson, whom he frequently labeled "weak."

One source of weakness, the president felt, was Tillerson's media profile. Trump told one adviser he was "amazed" at how much negative press Tillerson received. "This guy never gets a good story about him," Trump said, according to this adviser.

Tillerson isolated himself from the thousands of career diplomats working for the State Department; maintained a distant and at times frosty relationship with his press corps for most of his tenure; and struggled to gain stature on the world stage, as many diplomats and foreign leaders correctly concluded that the secretary did not speak for the president.

Inside the White House, Tillerson had few allies. He was routinely undermined by Jared Kushner, Trump's son-in-law and a senior White House adviser who took charge of the Middle East and Mexico diplomatic portfolios. Tillerson resented appearing subservient to the 37-year-old, who had no foreign-policy experience. He sometimes took days to return Kushner's phone calls and griped that he felt the White House was keeping the State Department out of the loop.

Tillerson also clashed frequently with national security adviser H.R. McMaster, who he thought did not always follow protocol, and U.S. Ambassador to the United Nations Nikki Haley, whom he viewed as an internal rival, according to administration officials.

State Department officials took notice – and were chagrined – that Pompeo did not cite Tillerson when he appeared on television shows Sunday to explain the North Korea developments.

Tillerson frequently complained to colleagues that Trump was too mercurial and impulsive, and voiced frustration that the president struggled to focus during meandering conversation. But he was determined to stay in his job. Tillerson's stance, according to one official who has discussed these concerns with him, was: "If he wants me gone, he'll fire me."

Tillerson also was put off by Trump's vulgarity. An Eagle Scout and former national president of the Boy Scouts of America, Tillerson told confidants he was appalled by Trump's freewheeling political speech at the National Scout Jamboree in West Virginia over the summer.

White House staffers, meanwhile, were particularly unhappy with Margaret Peterlin, Tillerson's chief of staff, who kept tight control of the secretary's schedule and sparred with other administration officials. Peterlin, along with her deputy, resigned Tuesday, a State Department official said.

The gulf between the White House and Foggy Bottom was apparent Tuesday morning, as officials in both buildings offered conflicting accounts of Tillerson's removal.

White House officials said that Kelly's call to Tillerson last week was a clear message that Trump believed it was time for the secretary to leave his post, and suggested he return to Washington as soon as possible.

Tillerson cut his trip short by a day, departing Monday. But Goldstein said Tuesday morning that the secretary had intended to stay on the job for some time to come and was "unaware of the reason" for his firing. He added that Kelly told Tillerson only that "he could expect a tweet" from the president but that the chief of staff did not convey that the decision to fire him was final.

"He found out that he was terminated today," Goldstein said.

Goldstein was soon fired himself – just before he was scheduled to brief reporters about the shake-up at Foggy Bottom – for having publicly contradicted the White House account.

West Wing officials had accused him in recent weeks of privately criticizing White House decisions to reporters. Asked Tuesday about the accusation, Goldstein said: "I spoke for the secretary of state. That was part of my role as the undersecretary."

On Monday night, as news of Tillerson's likely departure began to leak, State Department officials dismissed the chatter as simply not true. But the secretary may have had at least a subconscious inkling that all was not well back in Washington.

"I felt like, look, I just need to get back," Tillerson told reporters aboard his flight home. "I just felt like I need to get back."

– – –

The Washington Post's Robert Costa, Anne Gearan, John Hudson and Greg Jaffe contributed to this report.

Fresh cod, dahlia tubers, new pasta and more at this week’s markets

Alaska News - Tue, 2018-03-13 17:30

The 2018 halibut season is just around the corner. But the fishery doesn't open until March 24, so patience is required.

While the taste buds may want fresh halibut, Dannon Southall of 10th & M Seafoods says there are plenty of good choices available right now.

"Right now, the seafood world has a few fresh fish offerings," Southall says. "Fresh true cod is still coming in with fillets going for $6.95 per pound. These flaky white fish fillets are a great fresh alternative until fresh halibut season starts."

Southall says troll-caught king salmon from Southeast has been inconsistent due to some unpleasant weather, but "hopefully the weather will break and allow the fisherman to target these winter treats."

In addition to the Alaska options, Southall says there are plenty of warm water fish, including tuna, mahi and marlin.

Thankful Thursdays

There's some new pasta from Rosie's Pasta at the Thursday market inside the Mall at Sears.

Julie Meer of Farm 779 will handle the sales of the pasta.

"This week, the market welcomes a new vendor all the way from Sterling," Meer says. "Rosie's Pasta steps into the spotlight with dry vegan noodle soups. Get there early and snap these up. Her fettuccini and beet, spinach and tomato spirals will also be available. Local pasta is back!"

For Meer's own products, she's highlighting coffee-infused ketogenic cookies and body products this week.

"A rich dark roast coffee infusion pops the deep complex taste of cacao like never before," she says. "If you love our original ketogenic fat bombs, you will revel in these. In our coconut bee-based body product line we have added a caffeinated cream."

Meer also has vegetable krauts and blends, coconut kefirs, fermented veggies, kombucha tea and other items.

Duane Clark will have grass-fed beef, black cod fillets, smoked black cod, Pacific cod, sockeye salmon, spot shrimp, scallops, salsa, jams, zucchini relish, honey, chaga, birch syrup, Denali Dog Treats and Alaska Sprouts products.

Center Market

Rob Wells, The Persistent Farmer, will have dahlias at the market on Wednesday and Saturday.

More importantly, he has good news for everyone: "By this weekend, the possible sunshine will be 12 hours and more coming, so seedlings and plants need to be started."

Wells says his inventory is complete and he has a large selection of tuber options. And he's willing to start tubers for those who don't want to do it themselves. "You can pick up healthy transplants, about 12 to 18 inches tall, in May when it's time to plant outside," he says.

Earthworks Farm will be at all three Center Markets this week with honey and skin-care products. If you want the honey, don't delay.

"We're near the end of our jars of our gourmet honey," owner Dee Barker says. "Come by to get the last of our jars. Our next harvest will be at the end of August this year."

The skin-care lineup includes their "Big Irish" soap. Barker says the soap features
shamrocks and a peppermint and eucalyptus scent.

Alex Davis of AD Farm will be at all three markets and he knows some folks are itching for a taste of summer.

"Thinking about dusting the snow off the grill?" he asks. "We have goat, beef and pork calling your name. I can even make a custom grill pack to order."

The pasture-raised pork cuts include loin roast, chops, fresh side sliced, ground pork, spicy sausage, Italian sausage, breakfast sausage, chorizo, fajita meat, ribs, roast, bone for broth, fat for rendering, feet and hocks. Vegetable options include beets, potatoes and carrots, while Davis also has chicken eggs, raspberry jam, pumpkin butter and apple butter.

Rempel Family Farm is at the Saturday market with cuts of yak meat and storage vegetables. The veggies include orange and purple carrots, parsnips, daikon radish, stripetti squash, kohlrabi, four varieties of beets, purple onions, green and purple cabbage, and 11 kinds of potatoes.

Davis says these items or vendors will also be at the market on various days: Alaska Flour Co.'s barley products; Alaska Sprouts with micro greens, sprouts, tofu and basil; Alaska Seeds of Change; Wild Child fermented salsa; Far North Fungi's mushrooms; Mosquito Mama balsamic vinegar; Windy River Farm grass-fed beef; Tonia's Biscotti; Evie's Brinery items, including krauts; Jonsers' hand-crafted nectars; and Doggy Decadence treats.

Pop-up for the Pups

Drool Central will have a pop-up from noon to 3 p.m. Saturday at Alaska K9 Aquatics, 549 W. International Airport Road. Daisy Nicolas will have loads of treats for dogs, along with fresh-baked "muttfins" and other items featuring Alaska seafood and produce.

Steve Edwards lives and writes in Anchorage. Contact him at akmarketfresh@gmail.com.

Local farmers markets

Wednesday in Anchorage: Center Market, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., The Mall at Sears, Benson Boulevard and Denali Street

Thursday in Anchorage: Thankful Thursdays market, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., The Mall at Sears, Benson Boulevard and Denali Street

Friday in Anchorage: Center Market, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., The Mall at Sears, Benson Boulevard and Denali Street; Fourth Avenue Indoor Market, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., 333 W. Fourth Ave.

Saturday in Anchorage: Center Market, 10 a.m.-4 p.m., The Mall at Sears, Benson Boulevard and Denali Street; Fourth Avenue Indoor Market, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., 333 W. Fourth Ave

Sunday in Anchorage: Fourth Avenue Indoor Market, 10 a.m.-6 p.m., 333 W. Fourth Ave.

Yukon Quest winner Allen Moore drops out of Iditarod; Wade Marrs, Tom Schonberger also scratch

Alaska News - Tue, 2018-03-13 17:23

Allen Moore, who won the 1,000-mile Yukon Quest last month, has dropped out of the Iditarod due to health concerns, according to race officials. He is the third musher to drop out, or "scratch," so far Tuesday.

Wade Marrs, a Willow musher who has finished in the top 10 of the last three Iditarods, and rookie musher Tom Schonberger of Chugiak are also headed home.

Marrs scratched at noon at the checkpoint in Koyuk. He had nine dogs in harness at the time and was in 22nd place when he arrived at the checkpoint at mile 827. A post on the Facebook Page for Marrs' Stump Jumpin' Kennel said the musher appeared to have pneumonia.

Rookie musher Tom Schonberger of Chugiak also scratched today, dropping out at 1:33 p.m. between the Grayling (mile 530) and Eagle Island checkpoints on the Yukon River. Schonberger, known for his team of Siberian huskies, will be traveling back to Grayling with the help of Iditarod trail sweepers, according to race officials.

Moore scratched at 3:30 p.m. in Kaltag (mile 652) with 13 dogs.

The Iditarod did not say exactly why Marrs and Schonberger scratched, announcing only that the decisions were made "in the best interest" of their race teams.

Premera announces $50 million in new spending on Alaska health care

Alaska News - Tue, 2018-03-13 17:15

WASHINGTON — Premera Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alaska — the sole health insurance company on Alaska's individual market — will invest an additional $50 million in Alaska over five years as a result of the federal tax cuts, the company announced Tuesday.

The company said it would use the funding to "provide continued stability to the individual insurance market, improve access to care in rural areas and support local communities in their efforts to address behavioral health issues."

The funding comes from a "one-time-only refund for the company," Premera said in an announcement.

The $50 million comes in addition to a $25 million reimbursement the company made to the state's reinsurance program last year after lower-than-expected claims in 2017. Alaska insurance officials said they don't expect similar results this year.

The individual market has fewer than 20,000 customers, and "just a handful of customers can cause dramatic swings in the amounts paid out in claims," Premera said, noting also that "approximately 30 percent of customers enter or leave the market each year."

The company will use some of the funds to provide rebates to individual market customers, and $1.5 million in rebates to large group customers in 2018.

Other funds will to rural initiatives to boost telemedicine and tele-psychiatry programs, as well as $8 million in spending on behavioral health for addiction and childhood trauma issues, "with a specific focus on how these issues impact homelessness," Premera said.

Premera Blue Cross Blue Shield of Alaska is the health insurance provider for Anchorage Daily News employees.

Alaska restricts king salmon fishing in Susitna, Little Su and upper Cook Inlet

Alaska News - Tue, 2018-03-13 17:09

The Alaska Department of Fish and Game issued three emergency orders on Tuesday closing or restricting king salmon sport fishing in the Susitna River drainage and Little Susitna River drainage as well as king salmon commercial fishing in the Northern district of the Upper Cook Inlet.

Citing below-average king salmon returns in recent years, Fish and Game said in a news release that sport fishing for king salmon will be closed in the entire Susitna River drainage, though catch-and-release will be open in the Deshka and Yentna river drainages. In the Little Susitna River drainage, king salmon fishing will be allowed, but the fish may only be retained on Fridays, Saturdays, Sundays and Mondays. Those orders go into effect May 1 and run through July 13.

Commercial king salmon fishing with setnets in all waters of the northern district of upper Cook Inlet will also be closed May 28 and June 4, 11 and 18, Fish and Game said.

"It's no secret to anyone that our king salmon stocks have been in an area of low productivity lately," said Matt Miller, a sport fish management coordinator with Fish and Game. "(Restrictions) can have huge impacts and the department realizes that and takes restrictions very seriously. Our main objective is to manage these stocks for sustainability."

Over the past decade, king salmon populations in the Northern Cook Inlet river systems and statewide have trended down.

[King salmon clamp-down binds Southcentral Alaska fishermen]

The Susitna, one of Alaska's most important chinook fisheries, includes the famed salmon strongholds of the Little Susitna and Deshka rivers and the fly-in destination of Lake Creek up the Yentna River.

Fishing businesses around the Mat-Su warned Monday that reductions in Susitna king fishing could hurt the state's tourism economy.

Several criticized state fish managers for taking so long to make a decision. No information was available, for example, as to forecasts for the numbers of king salmon returning to the Susitna system this summer.

"The trouble is, it's March 12 and we still don't know what the forecasts are or what the regulations are going to be," fishing guide Pat Donelson said Monday. "People have long since planned vacations, bought airline tickets, booked hotels."

Word started getting out just last week that the entire Susitna could get shut down for king salmon fishing, Donelson said. By this week, everybody was wondering what the state would do.

"We got blindsided," he said.

[Southeast Alaska's king salmon are disappearing, and fishermen are grappling with the consequences]

The state finalized Susitna run projections a few weeks ago but wanted to release the forecasts with the emergency order and press release, said Miller.

"The three of those are really a package we try to issue out at the same time," Miller said.

Andy Couch, a Little Su guide who serves on the Matanuska-Susitna Borough's fish and wildlife commission, met with Fish and Game Commissioner Sam Cotten and state sport fish director Tom Brookover last week.

In a statement filed with state officials, Couch criticized the lack of projections for Deshka River kings. He referenced a similar scenario last year in the Copper River sport fishery, when the state shut down sport fishing at the start of the season only to see chinook return at higher-than-expected numbers.

Members of the Valley legislative caucus also signed a letter sent to Cotten requesting him to delay and reconsider "this devastating decision," according the Fight4fish website operated by a grass-roots group that advocates for sport fishing interests in Cook Inlet.

The state's order doesn't change regulations for a separate hatchery run of kings into the Eklutna Tailrace, a popular fishing area off the Old Glenn Highway.

The orders also limit gear to one unbaited, single-hook, artificial lure for sport fishing in the Susitna and Little Susitna drainages. One of the orders establishes an annual limit of two king salmon greater than 20 inches in length in the Little Susitna River drainage.

Interior secretary promises action on rural Alaska issues

Alaska News - Tue, 2018-03-13 16:25

WASHINGTON — Alaska's senior Sen. Lisa Murkowski used her plum position atop the Senate's energy committee Tuesday to advance rural Alaska issues with Interior Secretary Ryan Zinke.

Murkowski quizzed Zinke on permitting for the controversial Ambler Road project and land management concerns for miners in Interior Alaska. Her efforts to secure favorable outcomes comes after a string of "wins" for the Alaska delegation with the department, including opening part of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge to potential oil drilling and beginning the process of building a road through the Izembek National Wildlife Refuge.

"You and I have worked closely to chart a path to energy security which you have noted runs right through the state of Alaska," Murkowski said, thanking Zinke for his actions over the last year.

Murkowski questioned Zinke on the status of the department's involvement in a resource management plan for Interior Alaska, in the 40 Mile District, that was released during the final days of the Obama administration.

[Trump's Interior secretary talks about administration's Alaska plans and priorities]

Alaska Rep. Don Young raised the issue with the previous administration, pressing then-Interior Secretary Sally Jewell about restrictions on mining projects in Interior Alaska.

Zinke promised that he had "administrative options" available to help miners out, per Murkowski's request.

The deal, he said, should be that miners are allowed to develop federal land, but "there needs to be a reclamation plan to make sure that it's returned to as good or better condition than you found it."

"Often times our regulations do not take into account innovation. They don't take into account science or best practices. So when a regulatory framework becomes punitive on an industry and the local population views it as targeting, then there's a breach of trust."

"Restoring trust and being a good partner is what Interior should be. The government should not be an adversary," Zinke said.

Murkowski also asked Zinke if the Interior Department would be able to take the lead on the Ambler Road project — a proposed 211-mile road through the wilderness of the western Brooks Range — where "there is an issue that is coming up right now with regards to permits and approval," she said. Various government agencies can't seem to get on the same page when it comes to environmental assessments, Murkowski said.

Zinke knew the issue well and promised that there would be "a decision on it shortly."

"Part of the frustration has been multiple agencies involved in the same project with different objective, different locations, independently producing multiple biological opinions, which results in delay and arbitrary results," Zinke said.

"We have the lead. We're working with the Army Corps of Engineers. The president also has asked us to look heavily at the Army Corps of Engineers to see if we can't look at streamlining the process with the Army Corps of Engineers, which affects a lot of our projects," Zinke said.

Zinke faced harsher questioning from Democrats on the Energy and Natural Resources Committee about a $130,000 upgrade to his historic office and about costly private flights that Zinke has taken on the federal government's tab.

The interior secretary responded aggressively, defending his travels, his record of protecting federal lands and the agency's consideration of raising public fees for entering national parks.

"I challenge you to give me one square inch of land that has been removed from federal protection," he said to senators.

And to questions about his travels: "Well first, insults and innuendos are misleading. I never took a private jet anywhere," Zinke said. He described travels on private aircraft as "prop planes" necessary to get to meetings on time and to the North Slope of Alaska with Murkowski.

Zinke also pointed to his Obama administration predecessor, Interior Secretary Sally Jewell, who he said took scores of trips costing nearly $1 million during her time in office. "I think she was right," he said, arguing that Jewell "was out hiking and doing what she was supposed to be doing."

Ranking member of the committee Democrat Susan Collins of Washington said Zinke was dodging the question — about a particular trip out of Las Vegas, and said the spending question was valid and under investigation by the agency's own independent inspector general. Citizens "want to know why their park fees are going up and they're reading these stories" about costly secretarial travel, Collins said.

Zinke defended the agency's potential plans to boost entry feeds at some national parks — including Denali — to $70, amid a massive National Park Service maintenance backlog. Zinke said he supports low or no fees for veterans and fourth graders and the disabled, but noted that just one of those needs to be present for a whole car-load of people to receive free access to a park.

How the Alaska Constitution could protect the Permanent Fund from the legislature

Alaska News - Tue, 2018-03-13 16:20

The Alaska Legislature should advance a constitutional amendment on the Permanent Fund, but carefully. I'm unnerved that the House seems to be improvising.

No legislative decision is bigger. The fund dwarfs all other public and private financial assets in Alaska. Always will. And these decisions last. The constitutional amendment that created the fund in 1976 has never changed.

Yet after setting a constitutional amendment as its top priority last week, the House majority this week brought forward a fake version that doesn't protect the fund or guarantee a dividend. Even the fund's leaders don't support it.

[House proposal to put PFD in Alaska Constitution won't guarantee payments]

Maybe legislators working among themselves realized that to get something passed they would have to keep their options open. If so, the proposed amendment tips their hand. It would let the legislature use up the permanent fund's Earnings Reserve Account.

With everything in flux, the Permanent Fund has never needed protection more.

Alaskans can change the constitution two ways, in a convention or by amendment.

Every 10 years, voters also are asked automatically if they want a constitutional convention (the legislature can call one, too). We've always voted no, and for good reason. A convention opens the whole document to change, including basic rights, selection of judges, subsistence, abortion — you name it.

The next vote is in 2022. If voters call a convention, we would then elect delegates and, after their work, vote on whether to ratify a new constitution.

A convention could decide to dissolve the Permanent Fund and give $100,000 to everyone who happens to be in Alaska at the time. How do you think a public vote on that would turn out?

With the legislature deadlocked on the fiscal gap, we've never been at more risk of voters rolling the dice with the constitution. Frustration is high.

The other way to change the constitution is by amendment. A two-thirds majority of each house of the legislature can put an amendment on the ballot at any general election, held every two years.

But changes by amendment must be limited, unlike revisions made in a convention. A 1999 Alaska Supreme Court ruling defines how much change an amendment can make.

I've already written about the need to change how the fund pays out earnings. Currently, money dumps into an Earnings Reserve Account that is vulnerable to overspending.

To protect it, we should deposit the reserve into the main part of the fund and amend the constitution to allow the legislature to take only a sustainable percentage of the fund's total market value annually.

If the rate of withdrawal — the POMV percentage — is set low enough, that alone would address concerns about inflation. The fund would continue to grow while spinning off predictable revenue to the state, which would have to cut the budget or raise taxes to cover the rest of the fiscal gap.

The amendment released Monday by Rep. Paul Seaton, R-Homer, chair of the House Finance Committee, appears to adopt a 4.75 percent POMV, but keeps the Earnings Reserve intact. The legislature could spend as much of it as it chooses by a three-quarters vote.

The Constitutional Budget Reserve had the same protection. That reserve is almost gone. Experience shows that a three-quarter vote just requires more deal-making in the legislature, which results in more spending, not less.

Seaton's amendment also includes a dividend pegged at a third of the POMV pay-out. But that, too, would be optional. Seaton told ADN's Nat Herz that putting a guaranteed dividend in the constitution was too big a change for an amendment and would require a constitutional convention.

That conclusion is highly debatable. Ultimately only the Supreme Court could decide. I'd love to hear from constitutional scholars on the question.

But, of course, there's no time for that. We're doing all this on the fly.

It almost goes without saying that a suggested dividend has no more force than an optional POMV.

If legislative leaders are unwilling to protect the fund's Earnings Reserve (which contains about a fourth of the fund) or guarantee a dividend, we need to be thinking about the principal of the fund. It may not be safe, either.

When the Permanent Fund was born, many advocates assumed it would invest in Alaska projects such as home mortgages, a Knik Arm bridge or low-cost daycare centers. All that would have been legal under the constitution, and still would be today by vote of the legislature.

But leaders at the time studied the sad fate of other investment funds that invested politically. They realized that to be truly permanent, our fund should only invest separate and insulated from Alaska's economy and politics.

Fund fathers including Elmer Rasmuson and Clark Gruening brought its management under the prudent investor rule. The rule can be stated in different ways, but at heart it says the fund must invest as would any other fund — without regard to politics or other influences.

The prudent investor rule is the main reason the fund has grown to its current size. Without it, we might have a Susitna Dam but no Permanent Fund.

The rule should be in the constitution. Until it is, every legislature will have the power to invest the fund in almost anything, including a gas line.

Fund trustees currently interpret the rule to mean they can invest in Alaska if an outside partner joins them. If another big public fund invested in the gas line, then our fund could, too.

But that's just a policy. Gov. Bill Walker appointed a majority of the trustees who make the policies.

When I've brought up putting the prudent investor rule in the constitution with legislators and members of the administration, they act like it's a novel idea. They haven't done their homework.

Back when the fund was created and shaped, Alaska's leaders believed in public policy analysis. They studied the management structure of the fund for six years, with expert studies, public meetings, long debate and extensive media coverage.

That process produced the prudent investor rule, inflation proofing and dividend. The process we're using now doesn't seem likely to produce such positive results.

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.

FBI searching for suspect in Midtown Anchorage credit union robbery

Alaska News - Tue, 2018-03-13 16:17

A credit union in Midtown Anchorage was robbed Tuesday afternoon and the FBI is asking for the public's help in finding the suspect.

Just after 1 p.m., a man entered the Credit Union 1 at 3525 Eureka Street with a gun and demanded money, FBI spokeswoman Staci Feger-Pellessier said in a written statement.

The suspect was described roughly 6 feet tall, wearing a green mask, a camouflage print jacket, blue jeans, and red shoes. He was carrying a black Nike bag.

The man left the scene in a blue car, heading west "with an undisclosed amount of money," Feger-Pellessier said.

The same credit union was robbed on Feb. 10, according to the FBI.

Anyone with information about Tuesday's robbery was asked to call the FBI at 907-276-4441.

Anchorage ballots were mailed today. Here’s an overview of what will show up in your mailbox.

Alaska News - Tue, 2018-03-13 16:15

A printer in Washington state on Tuesday mailed out nearly 200,000 ballots to Anchorage voters, kicking off a three-week marathon of voting in the local city election.

That's because Anchorage is holding its first-ever mail-ballot election this spring. It's also the first in Alaska, a test that has played out in other states over the years. Elections officials hope the new format will boost turnout and cut down election costs overall.

The last day to vote is April 3. Drop off a ballot in the mail box with a first-class stamp, or save on postage by bringing the ballot to a secure drop box in your area.

Ballots will feed into a scanner and two elections officials will check signatures against a database to verify identities.

Five accessible vote centers, for anyone who needs a replacement ballot or who wants to vote in person, will be open March 26.

How do you vote by mail? Here's a Q&A about it.

Here's an interactive map of drop boxes and accessible vote centers.

The ballots are relatively packed this year.

There are elections for mayor and Anchorage School Board; the possible sale of Anchorage's city-owned electric utility, ML&P; and propositions that deal with property taxes and regulating restrooms and other public accommodations by sex at birth. Other propositions deal with parking in Girdwood and fire response to Eagle River Valley.

Here's a quick guide to what's on the ballot.

Anchorage mayor

In the mayoral race, Anchorage Mayor Ethan Berkowitz is seeking a second term. His lead challenger, based on fundraising data, is Rebecca Logan, the general manager of an oil, gas and mining industry association.

Seven other candidates are running: Dustin Darden, Timothy Huit, Paul Kendall, Matthew Mendonsa, Ron Stafford, Nelson Godoy and Jacob Kern.

The race is nonpartisan, though some candidates make a point of displaying party connections and party members get involved in campaigns.

The Anchorage Daily News asked the mayoral candidates a series of questions on issues facing the city.

Read their answers here.

Late last month, Berkowitz and Logan faced off on crime and taxes in the first major Anchorage mayoral forum. Berkowitz supports the ML&P; sale and Prop. 11, which deals with property taxes; Logan does not.

Read a summary Berkowitz's responses in that forum here, and read Logan's responses here.

Anchorage School Board

Three Anchorage School Board seats are in play this year. Board members are elected in city-wide nonpartisan races. There are a total of nine candidates.

— Seat E: Alisha Hilde, Tasha Hotch, David Nees, Don Smith, Ron Stafford

— Seat F: Phil Isley, Deena Mitchell

— Seat G: Elisa Snelling, Irene Weisman

Read what the candidates have to say on issues affecting the School Board.

Prop. 10: ML&P sale

The Berkowitz administration wants voter permission to sell the city-owned electric utility, Municipal Light & Power, to Chugach Electric Association.

A "yes" vote on Prop. 10 means that the city can start negotiating a sale document with Chugach Electric Association. That document will need to be OK'd by the Anchorage Assembly and the board of the Chugach Electric Association before being submitted to the Regulatory Commission of Alaska for final approval.

A "no" vote means the city will continue to own ML&P;.

Read more:

Anchorage mayor proposes to sell ML&P to Chugach Electric in $1 billion deal

ML&P's $1 billion price tag: Confidential report sheds light on deal

5 other companies expressed interest in buying Anchorage power company

City, Chugach Electric promote Anchorage utility sale while trying to sooth concerns

Prop. 1: Locker room, restroom regulation

This measure would allow the city of Anchorage and others providing public accommodations to regulate restrooms, locker rooms, dressing rooms and other "intimate facilities" by sex at birth, instead of gender identity, effectively repealing part of a local non-discrimination law that has been in place since 2015.

Read more:

God, gender identity and public restrooms at play in Anchorage's Proposition 1 debate

Prop. 11: Property taxes

This proposition would allow homeowners to claim a higher property tax break for the home in which they live.

As a trade-off, property taxes would rise for commercial property and other types of property that don't qualify for the exemption, like apartment buildings and second homes.

Read more:

If you live in Anchorage, this is how Prop. 11 would impact your wallet

Prop. 9: Girdwood parking

This measure would give Girdwood its own parking enforcement power, after Slush Cup 2017 turned the ski community to the south into a parking lot.

Read more:

After Slush Cup turned Girdwood into a 'parking lot,' officials push for parking enforcement power

Prop. 12: Fire service area annexation

This measure asks whether Eagle River Valley should be included in Anchorage's fire service area. The measure needs to be passed by a majority of affected homeowners in the Eagle River Valley and a majority of voters in the existing Anchorage fire service area.

The measure means an immediate tax hike for Eagle River Valley residents but no change for residents in the existing service area.

Read more:

Ballot proposal trades fire protection for taxes on the outskirts of Anchorage

Prop. 2-7: Bonds

The city and the Anchorage School District ask voters for permission each year to borrow money to pay for capital projects.

The Anchorage School District has asked for $50.6 million in capital improvements. The list of projects includes fire suppression systems and roof repairs for several different schools, and a range of upgrades at East Anchorage High School.

Here are samples of projects from the other bond packages:

The Loussac Library wants $500,000 for a digital security camera system, to be installed on each floor of the library. In the first half of 2017, there were double the number of trespasses and reports of theft and vandalism as the same period in 2016, according to a project fact sheet. Officials said it was not possible to provide security staffing to the entire building and cameras would help catch bad behavior.

The city parks and recreation bond includes $600,000 to redesign Town Square Park in downtown Anchorage. The city has been writing a new master plan for the park.

Road projects include $2 million to replace lights and light signals in the downtown area, and $300,000 to help with flooding in the Chester Creek basin. There's a number of projects to lessen street flooding after storms and some bike lane and pedestrian improvements.

Anchorage police want $800,000 for new boilers, valves and other building system controls at the APD Headquarters on Tudor Road.

A $200,000 public transportation bond includes a project to upgrade a People Mover bus stop on C Street near 15th Avenue.

Read more details on the bond projects on the city website.

How the Alaska Constitution could protect the Permanent Fund from the legislature - Alaska Dispatch News

Legislative News - Tue, 2018-03-13 15:42

Alaska Dispatch News

How the Alaska Constitution could protect the Permanent Fund from the legislature
Alaska Dispatch News
The Alaska Legislature should advance a constitutional amendment on the Permanent Fund, but carefully. I'm unnerved that the House seems to be improvising. No legislative decision is bigger. The fund dwarfs all other public and private financial assets ...

Q&A: A reminder of how to vote by mail in Anchorage

Alaska News - Tue, 2018-03-13 15:20

When will I get my ballot?

Ballots will be mailed March 13, three weeks before Election Day on April 3. They'll come as first-class mail, which typically takes between one and three days to arrive.

Elections officials said a ballot should make it to every registered voter by March 19.

[Anchorage ballots have been mailed to voters. Here's an overview of what will show up in your mailbox.]

What will be in the ballet package? 

An official ballot, voter instructions, a security envelope and a return envelope.

When do I need to return the ballot by?

Ballots must be postmarked before or on Election Day or placed in one of 12 secure drop boxes by 8 p.m. on Election Day.

Starting March 26, voters can also return ballots to one of five accessible vote centers. The locations are:

— The city's election headquarters, 619 E. Ship Creek Ave., Suite 100, Door E
— Anchorage City Hall, 632 W. Sixth Ave., Room #155
— Loussac Library, 3600 Denali St., First Floor
— O'Malley's on the Green, 3651 O'Malley Road
— Eagle River Town Center, 12001 Business Blvd., Community Room #170

The vote centers will be open until April 2 between 8:30 a.m. and 4:30 p.m., and on Election Day, April 3, between 7 a.m. and 8 p.m.

Drop boxes open March 13. Where are they located?

— Anchorage School District Education Center, 5530 E. Northern Lights Blvd.
— Bartlett High School, 1101 Golden Bear Drive
— Clark Middle School, 150 Bragaw St.
— Dimond High School, 2909 W. 88th Ave.
— Fairview Community Recreation Center, 1121 E. 10th Ave.
— Loussac Library, 3600 Denali St.
— Service High School, 5577 Abbott Road
— Spenard Community Recreation Center, 2020 W. 48th Ave.
— South Anchorage High School, 13400 Elmore Road
— UAA Alaska Airlines Center, 3550 Providence Drive
— Eagle River Town Center, 12001 Business Blvd.
— Girdwood Community Center, 250 Egloff Drive

Do I have to pay for postage?

A first-class stamp will be needed to mail a ballot back. You can also go to a drop box or an accessible vote center. Ninety percent of Anchorage residents will live within 5 miles of a drop box. Drop boxes open March 13, the day ballots go out.

I never check my mail, I lost or damaged my ballot, I never got a ballot, or I just don't feel like voting by mail. What should I do? 

If you lose, damage or never receive a ballot, you can call a voter hotline at 907-243-VOTE (8683) to ask for a replacement ballot package.

On March 26, the city will open its accessible vote centers — at the Ship Creek election center, the Loussac Library, City Hall, O'Malley's on the Green and the Eagle River Town Center. At the vote centers, you can request a replacement ballot or bring an unmarked ballot package to mark in a voting booth.

What's the city doing to prevent voter fraud?

The signature on a mailed-in envelope will be scanned and compared with signatures in a database from prior elections by two different elections officials.

What if I live outside Anchorage during the winter?

Ballots will be mailed to the voter's registered mailing address. Election mail can't be forwarded. Absentee ballot applications, which can be found on the city clerk's election website, must be sent to the clerk by 5 p.m. March 27.

You can also apply to vote by fax. Those applications must also be sent to the clerk by 5 p.m. March 27.

What if I just moved here and have never voted before?

When you register to vote in Alaska, the city will use the address and signature from your registration form.

How will I be contacted if there's a problem with my ballot?

Elections officials say a letter will be sent in the mail as soon as a problem comes up. Voters will also be given the option to write a phone number on the envelope containing the ballot.

I voted. Then the candidate I voted for did something I didn't like, or I learned something new about a proposition. Can I change my vote before Election Day?

You can't change your vote. The city clerk's office counts the first ballot it receives.

For more election information, visit elections.muni.org. There's also a frequently asked questions page.

PAC-12 task force recommends sweeping changes in wake of NCAA investigation

Alaska News - Tue, 2018-03-13 14:23

In a reaction to a federal investigation's revelations last year of widespread corruption in college basketball recruiting, the Pacific-12 Conference announced Tuesday that it was putting its weight behind several reforms that would fundamentally change the sport. The proposals include new eligibility standards and limiting the presence of shoe companies — a bold statement from a league that counts the so-called University of Nike among its members.

"I think the time is well past for incremental tweaks or cosmetic reactions to what we've seen over the last year," Larry Scott, the PAC-12 commissioner, said Monday.

The PAC-12 task force's recommendations could prove to be a preview of the findings of an NCAA commission, led by the former Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice, formed last fall to investigate potential changes for college basketball.

The PAC-12 group advocated encouraging the NBA and its players' association to end its so-called one-and-done rule requiring players to be a year removed from high school before entering the league, as well as new rules like those in college baseball, in which players may sign with teams straight after high school but, if they enter college, must stay three years. It would also relax regulations barring contact with agents.

The college sports establishment does not control the one-and-done rule. But NBA Commissioner Adam Silver and Michele Roberts, executive director of the NBA Players' Association, have both met with Rice's group, which plans to release its findings late next month. Scott said he had also spoken to Silver and Roberts. The NBA is planning to become more involved with high school basketball and may also work with the players' union to end the one-and-done rule, ESPN reported this month.

Last year, federal prosecutors filed complaints from a yearslong investigation in which, the prosecutors said, four Division I assistant coaches were bribed to steer players toward would-be agents and financial advisers, and in which an Adidas executive helped use the company's money to try to steer high school prospects to college programs sponsored by Adidas.

Documents associated with the cases have implicated dozens of current and future players on prominent programs, casting something of a pall over the annual Division I men's basketball tournament, the NCAA's marquee event that tips off this week.

Scott pointed to the remarks of high-profile players like LeBron James, who argued that the NBA had a mission to clean up the sport of basketball and suggested it would be in the NBA's best interest to help college basketball put its house in order.

"It's not good for the NBA to have some of their next-generation stars embroiled in controversies and having their reputations besmirched for integrity issues," Scott said.

He added: "There's been a bit of a wake-up call, that this is the NBA and NBA players' association forcing young men that don't want to go to college to go to college for a year."

The PAC-12 report, endorsed unanimously by the presidents and chancellors of the conference's members, also recommended removing summer basketball programs from the purview of the apparel giants, three of whom — Nike, Adidas and Under Armour — currently administer vast leagues that are ground zero for college recruiting, even as those companies also funnel billions of dollars in gear and cash to the college programs they sponsor. The report also advocated full transparency of apparel deals with coaches and universities.

The PAC-12 includes two prime examples of the power that apparel companies can exert in college sports. Two years ago, UCLA and Under Armour signed the richest apparel deal in college sports, worth $280 million over 15 years. And the University of Oregon has become known as the University of Nike for the hundreds of millions that Nike's founder, Phil Knight, an Oregon alumnus, has bestowed upon the university's athletic program, playing a major role in making the Ducks national contenders in football and men's basketball.

"We're not proposing radical change in the relationship between shoe companies and our schools," Scott said. "They play an important and helpful role in many respects."

"However," he added, "there is a perception that there can be unhealthy relationships."

‘I started bawling’: As Leifseth Ulsom prepares for finish, Petit recalls the moment he lost the Iditarod lead

Alaska News - Tue, 2018-03-13 14:20
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Hi, everyone! Tegan w/ ADN here. I’m in White Mountain, a community 77 miles away from the Nome finish line. Joar Leifseth Ulsom and his team arrived this morning. Nic Petit and his dogs recently pulled in.

Posted by Anchorage Daily News on Tuesday, March 13, 2018

ADN Iditarod reporter Tegan Hanlon was on Facebook Live from White Mountain as second-place Nic Petit arrived at the checkpoint.

WHITE MOUNTAIN — Joar Leifseth Ulsom never needed a warmup. From his first Iditarod in 2013, when he busted the record for fastest finish ever by a rookie, to placing fourth last year, the 31-year-old runs at the front of the pack.

Suddenly, today, he stands alone. Leifseth Ulsom arrived in White Mountain at 7:52 a.m., 3 1/2 hours ahead of Nic Petit of Girdwood. Petit pulled in at 11:22 a.m., heartbroken having lost the lead after making a wrong turn along the coast.

"I started bawling like a little baby. This race can be an emotional rollercoaster," Petit said.

With a mandatory eight-hour rest to recharge and just 77 miles of trail to go before the finish line in Nome, only a major mishap would prevent Leifseth Ulsom from his first Iditarod win.

"Looking good," the race marshal said as the musher arrived bundled and frosty in White Mountain, according to footage posted by Iditarod Insider. "They've been running fantastic," Leifseth Ulsom replied.

Leifseth Ulsom enjoyed a "problem free" trip into the checkpoint, he told the Insider. The racer happily threw straw for his dogs to sleep on. The huskies, whiskers icy, licked his face.

Later, as Petit approached the riverside village, Leifseth Ulsom napped in the rust-colored White Mountain city office. A chalkboard had his wake-up call time marked as "13:52."

Outside, his dogs lay curled in piles of straw. The temperature was about 10 degrees.

Nordman, the race director, said Leifseth Ulsom arrived at the checkpoint with 13 dogs and they looked happy. "He bedded them all down, did a couple interviews, made a big meal and now he's got a big smile on his face."

‘Everybody knows what my dogs did’

Petit and his 11 dogs pulled into the community of about 200 people at 11:22 a.m.. He said blowing snow swamped the trail after Shaktoolik (mile 777) where he lost his way.

He couldn't find the trail markers — wooden stakes with orange tips, reflective tape and blue ribbons tied to them. There's also similar markers for February's Iron Dog snowmachine race in the area.

When Petit did find a marker, he said, he followed it.

"I didn't realize half of them were Iron Dog markers and then there's a hunting trail, it's just a snowmachine trail and I'm like, 'Welp, whoever is traveling right here is going the same direction we are.' So I hopped on it and then it ended at land," Petit said while he waited for a pot of water to boil at the checkpoint here.

He said he ran into the coast, did a lap on land looking for the Iditarod trail and went back onto the sea ice. He said he worried about open water so he didn't want to go too far west. He turned on his GPS and started going in the general direction of the next checkpoint, Koyuk, eventually finding the trail.

The whole thing — an approximate 8-mile, 1.5-hour detour — was taxing on his team, he said.

"It was one of those red lines that didn't blow the engine, but I can't do it again," Petit said. "I can't push my team. People usually save that for this push (to Nome), but I pushed in the wrong direction."

At White Mountain, he complained aloud about the poorly marked trail, saying whoever was responsible needed a seminar. He said while, sure, anything could happen, he didn't expect to win the 2018 Iditarod.

'I'd have to go 25 mph the whole time," he said. "That's not going to happen."

On the trail out of Elim, the next checkpoint after Koyuk, Petit said it hit him that he had lost the lead permanently. He said he cried.

"I just let out what I needed to let out and then pulled my head out of my rear end and went back to just doing what I do with my dogs," he said. "Because who cares? Everybody knows what my dogs did."

Petit said that while there is plenty of racing left, he has to be realistic about the slim chances of a comeback victory this late in the race. (It happened in 2014 when Dallas Seavey overcame Jeff King and Aliy Zirkle in a storm.)

Race judge and Iditarod veteran Karen Ramstead said each of this year's top three teams — Leifseth Ulsom, Petit and Mitch Seavey — rely on different racing styles. The dogs' personalities, she said, reflect those of the mushers.

"If you look at Nic's team, they're kind of wild and a little crazy and out of control and that's a lot like Nic," she said Monday. Seavey's team? Disciplined and focused.

"And Joar's team," Ramstead said, "is kind of quiet and driven."

Leifseth Ulsom will be able to leave White Mountain at 3:52 p.m. Racers often take eight to 10 hours to reach Nome from here, making for an early-morning Wednesday finish.

It’s 10:15 a.m. in White Mountain and Joar Leifseth Ulsom is napping. Told he came in with a big smile on his face. #Iditarod2018 pic.twitter.com/r0HfQE1Br4

— Tegan Hanlon (@teganhanlon) March 13, 2018

Ferry reform effort gets a legislative boost - Alaska Public Radio Network

Legislative News - Tue, 2018-03-13 14:02

Alaska Public Radio Network

Ferry reform effort gets a legislative boost
Alaska Public Radio Network
Chuck Kopp said a seven-member board of experts would provide better oversight than 60 ever-changing members of the Legislature. “Imagine if we were trying run the Anchorage International Airport as a legislature,” Kopp said. “It would be a disaster ...

How young is too young for protest? A national gun-violence walkout tests schools

Alaska News - Tue, 2018-03-13 13:44

It started out last month as a writing exercise on the 1963 Birmingham Children's Crusade, when more than 1,000 students skipped school and marched to demand civil rights. Then the class assignment mushroomed into a plan — hatched by 10- and 11-year-olds — to stage a little civil disobedience of their own.

So Wednesday morning, the students in Craig Sampsell's fifth-grade class at Case Elementary School in Akron, Ohio, will pick up posters they drew and walk out of their classrooms, joining many thousands of other students in a nationwide protest against gun violence after the killing of 17 people in a Florida high school last month.

Asked whether that was an appropriate age to be protesting about a disturbing event, the principal, Danjile Henderson, said: "My fifth-grade students were very aware of the details of the events and wanted to have their own peaceful protest."

Still, she drew lines around who could participate and how. Third- through fifth-graders may walk out; second-graders can observe the protest, but not walk; kindergartners and first-grade students will remain in their classrooms for discussions on school safety in general that avoid the shooting itself. "Not all parents may want that detailed conversation on what happened in Florida," Henderson said.

With some parents wanting their children to get firsthand exposure to a nationwide political demonstration; others worried that the protests are stoking the fears of young children about a threat that remains uncommon; and still others objecting to the gun-control message entirely, one question has been weighing heavily on school administrators this past week: How young is too young for children to join the walkout?

Many districts and schools that are tolerating, if not encouraging, participation in what organizers call the National School Walkout are also calibrating their approach for their youngest students. In New York City, middle and high school students may walk out of class with approval from a parent, such as with a permission slip, but elementary school students cannot leave unless a parent or guardian comes to check them out.

[Commentary: I'm a high school student in Alaska. We spend more time practicing for a mass shooting than for an earthquake.]

[Commentary: I'm a gun owner and willing to talk about gun violence in schools. I don't think we have a 'gun problem.']

At Woods Cross Elementary School in Woods Cross, Utah, students will be allowed to leave class at 10 a.m. and go to the gym for 17 minutes, the same starting time and duration (one minute for every victim in Parkland, Florida) as other walkouts around the country. Parents may also check them out of the school during that time, and they will not be penalized.

"We're giving them an opportunity to express their First Amendment rights in a safe place," said Rachel Peterson, a physical education teacher at the school who is also safety commissioner for the state board of the Utah PTA.

In suburban Nashville, David L. Snowden, director of schools for the Franklin Special School District, sent an email to families saying that the district had decided that it would not be appropriate for students in its elementary schools, which run through fourth grade, to participate in the walkout, but that students in Grades 5 and up could join.

In an interview, Snowden said he was not concerned that very young children would be frightened by the walkout, only that they would not understand what it was about. "Sometimes I think when you're teaching children, especially younger children, you try to take into consideration, will there be a full understanding of what they're doing and why they're doing it," he said. "Just to walk out of class for 17 minutes, I'm not sure what that is really teaching."

Even within Akron's 50-school district, agendas for Wednesday differed markedly from school to school. At Firestone Park Elementary, students were expected to read a poem about peace. At Pfeiffer Elementary, students would be reviewing safety procedures. And at Robinson Community Learning Center there were no plans at all — students had not expressed an interest, according to the district.

Elise Cappella, a clinical psychologist and associate professor at New York University's Steinhardt School, said there was a difference between what the youngest students — from kindergarten to second grade — and older children could understand. While not advocating any particular stance, she said: "Schools could make the decision that kids in kindergarten through second grade are not provided the opportunity to walk out. They are cognitively, socially, emotionally younger. They may feel more fear about it and less understanding."

Children in the third grade and up, she said, will be more likely to be exposed to news and hear their parents talking about it. "They are reaching a point where having something that's potentially positive and productive to do that makes them feel a sense of agency and safety could be a good thing," she said.

Cappella said that whether elementary schools decided to participate in the protest or not, the goal should be to project a sense of community to their students.

"And if you can create that space," she said, "whether that's in the classroom or in the hallways or in the schoolyard or out at a protest or a march, that's the most beneficial space for young kids to be in."

Some school districts are trying to discourage any type of school walkout, regardless of age, warning that any student who participates will be marked as absent from class or even disciplined.

In Sayreville, New Jersey, where students have been threatened with suspension if they walk out, the president of the school board, Kevin Ciak, said at a meeting last month that "if we decide that we open this door, we open this door to allow students to basically walk out and protest anything."

Barbara P. Canavan, the schools superintendent in Harford County, Maryland, said a walkout "presents, paradoxically, a threat to student safety, as word of the walkout has been widely disseminated and students who go outside could become more vulnerable."

Instead, Canavan said, her district would offer "a learning module that will provide students with an opportunity to share their feelings about recent events across the nation and will allow them to speak about solutions in a structured way."

The American Civil Liberties Union, which has offered training to students planning to participate in the walkouts, said districts can discipline students under attendance guidelines.

"But what they can't do," the ACLU wrote in a guide for student protesters, "is discipline you more harshly because of the political nature of or the message behind your action."

Even some schools where demonstrations are being allowed are being careful about the tone.

Peterson, of Woods Cross in Utah, said there was no program planned for the assembly — the students would be able to express themselves as long as they were not rowdy or disruptive. "We are teachers and not necessarily there to make a political statement in that time," she said. "Whatever is decided by students in that time and space, we will allow it to happen as long as it is peaceable and respectful."

If some students who stayed behind expressed surprise or bafflement at their classmates leaving the room, she said, teachers would use their own tact and judgment about how to explain it. "The way I would word it is that some kids are walking out to show support for lessening school violence, in honor of the people in Florida," Peterson said.

Joel Pelcyger, head and founder of the PS1 Pluralistic School, a private school in Santa Monica, California, consulted with parents before deciding that observing the walkout was not a political statement, but a way to empower his students and make them feel safe, regardless of age.

"The way you make people safe is by feeling that like they're part of something larger than themselves," he said.

But in Alexandria, Virginia, when one school decided that fifth-graders could join the walkout if their parents signed them out, a parent lodged her own form of protest.

"My elementary school has 5-year-olds in it," the parent, Julie Gunlock, a senior fellow at the conservative-leaning Independent Women's Forum, said in an interview. "Some of my friends, their kids are much younger than a fifth-grader. And it's frightening to them."

Maeva Lile, 11, one of the fifth-grade organizers at Case Elementary in Akron, said most of her friends were aware of the gun-control debate and thought that AR-15s, the powerful rifle used in Parkland and other mass shootings, should not be legal. But she said her class did not want to debate the Second Amendment, so its posters will simply honor the students killed in Parkland with their names.

Still, she thought it was time for children to do something. "Adults have been protesting against things," she said Monday, "but nothing has changed that much."

Kate Taylor and Alan Blinder contributed reporting.