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Updated: 11 min 56 sec ago

US launches airstrikes in Syria after drone kills US worker and wounds 6

13 min 54 sec ago

BEIRUT — A strike Thursday by a suspected Iranian-made drone killed a U.S. contractor and wounded six other Americans in northeast Syria, and U.S. forces retaliated with airstrikes on sites in Syria used by groups affiliated with Iran’s Revolutionary Guard, the Pentagon said. Activists said the U.S. bombing killed at least four people.

While it’s not the first time the U.S. and Iran have traded strikes in Syria, the attack and the U.S. response threaten to upend recent efforts to deescalate tensions across the wider Middle East, whose rival powers have made steps toward détente in recent days after years of turmoil.

U.S. Defense Secretary Lloyd Austin said in a statement that the American intelligence community had determined the drone was of Iranian origin, but offered no other immediate evidence to support the claim. The drone hit a coalition base in the northeast Syrian city of Hasaka. The wounded included five American service members and a U.S. contractor.

Austin said the strikes were a response to the drone attack “as well as a series of recent attacks against coalition forces in Syria” by groups affiliated with the Revolutionary Guard.

Iran relies on a network of proxy forces through the Mideast to counter the U.S. and Israel, its arch regional enemy. The U.S. has had forces in northeast Syria since 2015, when they deployed as part of the fight against the Islamic State group, and maintains some 900 troops there, working with Kurdish-led forces that control around a third of Syria.

The U.S. airstrikes hit targets in three towns in eastern Syria, activists said. Overnight, videos on social media purported to show explosions in Deir el-Zour, a strategic province that borders Iraq and contains oil fields. Iranian-backed militia groups and Syrian forces control the area, which also has seen suspected airstrikes by Israel in recent months allegedly targeting Iranian supply routes.

People attend the funeral of Ali Ramzi al-Aswad, a commander with the Palestinian militant group Islamic Jihad, in a Palestinian refugee camp of Yarmouk in Damascus, Syria, Monday, March 20, 2023. Al-Aswad was shot and killed Sunday outside his home in Yarmouk. Islamic Jihad group described the killing as an assassination by Israeli agents. There was no statement from Israel on the militant commander's death. (AP Photo/Omar Sanadiki) (Omar Sanadiki/)

According to a defense official, the U.S. counter strikes were conducted by F-15 fighter jets flying out of al-Udeid Air Base in Qatar. The official spoke on condition of anonymity to discuss military operations.

According to a U.S. official, the U.S. F-15s struck three locations, all in the vicinity of Deir el-Zour.

The activist group Deir Ezzor 24, which covers news in the province, said the American strikes killed four people and wounded a number of others, including Iraqis.

The Syrian Observatory for Human Rights, an opposition war monitor, put the death toll from U.S. strikes at 11 Iranian-backed fighters — including six at an arms depot in the Harabesh neighborhood in the city of Deir el-Zour and five others at military posts near the towns of Mayadeen and Boukamal.

Rami Abdurrahman who heads the Observatory said three rockets were fired earlier Friday at al-Omar oil field in Deir el-Zour that houses U.S. troops, an apparent retaliation to the American strikes.

The Associated Press could not immediately independently confirm the activist reports. Iran and Syria did not immediately acknowledge the strikes, nor did their officials at the United Nations in New York respond to requests for comment from the AP.

Iran’s paramilitary Revolutionary Guard, which answers only to Supreme Leader Ayatollah Ali Khamenei, has been suspected of carrying out attacks with bomb-carrying drones across the wider Middle East.

The exchange of strikes came as Saudi Arabia and Iran have been working toward reopening embassies in each other’s countries. The kingdom also acknowledged efforts to reopen a Saudi embassy in Syria, whose embattled President Bashar Assad has been backed by Iran in his country’s long war.

U.S. Army Gen. Michael “Erik” Kurilla, the head of the American military’s Central Command, warned that its forces could carry out additional strikes if needed. “We are postured for scalable options in the face of any additional Iranian attacks,” Kurilla said in a statement.

Addressing the U.S. House Armed Services Committee on Thursday, Kurilla warned lawmakers that the “Iran of today is exponentially more militarily capable than it was even five years ago.” He pointed to Iran’s arsenal of ballistic missiles and bomb-carrying drones.

“What Iran does to hide its hand is they use Iranian proxies,” Kurilla said.

According to officials, Iran has launched 80 attacks against U.S. forces and locations in Iraq and Syria since January 2021. The vast majority of those have been in Syria.

Diplomacy to deescalate the exchange appeared to begin immediately. The foreign minister of Qatar spoke by phone with U.S. National Security Adviser Jake Sullivan as well as Iranian Foreign Minister Hossein Amirabdollahian, the Qatari state news agency report. Doha has been an interlocutor between Iran and the U.S. recently amid tensions over Tehran’s nuclear program.

Austin said he authorized the retaliatory strikes at the direction of President Joe Biden.

“As President Biden has made clear, we will take all necessary measures to defend our people and will always respond at a time and place of our choosing,” Austin said. “No group will strike our troops with impunity.”

The U.S. under Biden has struck Syria previously over tensions with Iran — in February and June of 2021, as well as August 2022.

Dareen Khalifa, a senior Syria analyst with the Brussels-based International Crisis Group, said that while Thursday’s exchange of strikes comes at a sensitive political moment due to the “overall deterioration of U.S.-Iran relations and the stalling of the nuclear talks,” she does not expect a significant escalation.

“These tit-for-tat strikes have been ongoing for a long time,” Khalifa said, although she noted that they usually do not result in casualties.

While “the risk of an escalatory cycle is there,” she said, “I think the Biden administration won’t be eager to escalate in Syria now and will instead have a relatively measured response.”

Since the U.S. drone strike that killed Revolutionary Guard Gen. Qassem Soleimani in 2020, Iran has sought “to make life difficult for U.S. forces stationed east of the Euphrates,” said Hamidreza Azizi, an expert with the German Institute for International and Security Affairs.

“Iran increased its support for local proxies in Deir el-Zour while trying to ally with the tribal forces in the area,” Azizi wrote in a recent analysis. “Due to the geographical proximity, Iraqi groups also intensified their activities in the border strip with Syria and in the Deir el-Zour province.”

The strikes come during the Muslim holy month of Ramadan.

Syria’s war began with the 2011 Arab Spring protests that roiled the wider Middle East and toppled governments in Egypt, Libya, Tunisia and Yemen. It later morphed into a regional proxy conflict that has seen Russia and Iran back Assad. The United Nations estimates over 300,000 civilians have been killed in the war. Those figures do not include soldiers and insurgents killed in the conflict; their numbers are believed to be in the tens of thousands.


Gambrell reported from Dubai, United Arab Emirates, and Kesten reported from Washington. Associated Press writers Abby Sewell in Beirut and Lolita Bador in Washington, D.C. contributed to this report.

Budget items and policy changes recommended to help protect Indigenous women and girls

37 min 16 sec ago

Kuspuks of varying colors displayed at a tribal consultation meeting in Anchorage on Sept. 21 represent Indigenous victims of violence. From left, the colors are red for Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women, orange for victims of boarding schools, the baby kuspuk for children who will never be born, purple for victims of domestic violence, turquoise for victims of sexual assault, multicolor for LGBTQ victims and black for men who are victims. The kuspuks were arrayed at the Justice Department's annual tribal consultation conference required under the Violence Against Woman Act. In testimony Wednesday to the state House Tribal Affairs Special Committee, members of a working group listed several practical steps they said could improve safety of Indigenous people. (Photo by Yereth Rosen/Alaska Beacon)

At a legislative hearing that reviewed grim statistics about the dangers facing Alaska Native women and girls, Indigenous activists presented recommendations for better state responses.

Those dangers can be addressed through the state budget and through other practical actions, activists said Wednesday in testimony to the House Tribal Affairs Special Committee.

Before detailing their policy recommendations, members of the Missing and Murdered Indigenous Women and Girls and Two-Spirit Alaska Working Group presented the statistics about deaths and violence.

“We do this work for the thousands of Alaska Native women and girls and their family members who have gone missing or have been murdered,” said Emily Edenshaw, president of the Alaska Native Heritage Center, one of the organizations that helped create the working group in 2018.

She is among the affected family members.

“One of our Yup’ik values is to show up as our true selves, to be our whole selves in every space alongside our community, to live in truth. And my truth is that my mother was murdered in 2020 and her killer is still out there today, walking free. Unfortunately, her story and mine are not unique,” she said.

The working group, which was formed in 2018, is trying to fill in some incomplete statistics, but those gathered up to now are distressing, said Debra Dzijúksuk O’Gara, an attorney, professor and tribal judge.

Among the statistics O’Gara presented: 80% of Alaska Native women will experience violence at some point in their lives, nearly 56% of Alaska’s sexual assault victims are Native and Alaska Native people are victims of homicide at twice the rate of the state average.

Members of the working group presented several recommendations, some concerning state budgeting for enhanced safety and some concerning new policies or approaches that might not cost much money but could help communities and agencies better respond to problems.

Recommended budget items included funding for more people in state law-enforcement agencies devoted to working on the missing and murdered Indigenous cases. The two investigators assigned to the Missing and Murdered Indigenous People cases are “doing some really great work, but we need to have a partner with them in the Department of Law specific to MMIP,” said Kendra Kloster, co-director for law and policy at the Alaska Native Women’s Resource Center, another organization that is part of the working group. Cases being resolved by the investigators face a risk of being “stuck in a backlog of cases,” she said. Additionally, the investigative team could use more members. She lauded the work of the two investigators. “But there are so many cases that they could use additional support,” she said.

Also on the list of recommended budget items was funding for some practical tools to be used at the local level – including grants for tribal governments, more support for the Village Public Safety Officer program and funding to update an outdated 911 emergency calling system.

The 911 system deficiency is widespread, she said. “This is really important, as there’s many communities across Alaska that if you call 911, you’re going to get rerouted into a different community,” she said. In some places, callers have to use an 800 number to access the 911 system, she said. And in much of Alaska outside of Anchorage and the bigger cities, the system cannot track the location of calls, she said.

As for policy changes, recommendations include required training from Indigenous-led organizations for public safety officials; better reviews of deaths, law enforcement investigations and ensuing prosecutions; better interagency cooperation; and establishment of an annual grant program to tribes that is noncompetitive.

The changes would make improvements that are desperately needed, O’Gara said.

“Every single Alaskan, and I’ll just add, every single Indigenous person in this state has the right to be safe in their home and free from violence. And that is not the case,” she said.

Construction will worsen parking chaos at Anchorage airport during busy summer season

52 min 42 sec ago

The long-term parking lot at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport. (Loren Holmes / ADN) (Loren Holmes/)

The busy short-term parking garage near Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport’s south terminal is set to undergo repairs this summer, limiting parking that’s already in short supply.

The airport serves more than 5 million passengers a year. Summer’s tourist season brings large numbers of travelers. The short-term parking garage is heavily used by people dropping off or picking up domestic passengers.

The airport has close to 2,700 parking spots in total, with nearly half of those in the garage, according to spokeswoman Megan Peters. About 645 parking spots will be unavailable during the construction.

Barricades are blocking the third and fourth floors of the garage and any vehicles remaining on those levels by April 1 will be towed to another location at the airport, Peters said.

The work may cause frustration for travelers during Alaska’s peak tourism season, she said, but the timing is necessary to take advantage of warmer weather.

“If we want the construction, then we have to do it during the temperatures where the concrete and asphalt can appropriately cure,” Peters said Thursday. “If we try to do it in the winter it’s not going to work as well and then we’re going to be back in the same spot again, quicker than before.”

A monitor says the airport parking garage is full on March 23, 2023, at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport. (Loren Holmes / ADN) (Loren Holmes/)

The parking garage has not undergone major repairs since it was built in the mid-1980s, Peters said. The work getting underway involves ripping up surface asphalt and repairing the underlying concrete and infrastructure before re-paving and painting parking lines, she said.

[Curious Alaska: What’s the deal with Anchorage’s airport train station?]

Once construction is completed on the top floors, Peters said, the first and second floors will close for the same repairs. The project is expected to be finished in October, she said.

The long-term lot and North Terminal parking will still be open this summer, along with shuttle service from the Park Ride & Fly lot, but Peters said spots will likely be hard to find. Parking has become an increasing frustration for travelers in recent years because the airport is usually at or near capacity, she said.

A sign announces that two of the four levels of the short-term parking garage will be closed on April 1, at the Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport on Thursday, March 23, 2023. (Loren Holmes / ADN) (Loren Holmes/)

The garage was at capacity on Thursday and an online message on the airport’s website said long-term parking was also full. The airport advised travelers to “plan ahead for alternative parking.”

A number of businesses offer offsite parking and shuttle travelers to the airport. Peters advised anyone picking up someone from the airport to wait at the cellphone lot or someplace near the airport to avoid traffic congestion at the arrivals doors.

The airport updates its master plan every 10 years, and Peters said a long-term solution for parking problems will likely be discussed during the next update. The plan was last updated in 2015.

Ask Amy: My hair stylist opened her own salon. Do I still tip her?

1 hour 6 min ago

Dear Amy: I wear my hair short and have had the same stylist cut it regularly for the past 10 to 12 years.

The stylist was always an employee at a pretty upscale salon, and as their prices continued to rise two to three times a year, I continued to go because I had built a rapport with the stylist.

Knowing the salon owner took at least half of what I was paying her (because the stylist made no secret of saying so), I always tipped my stylist 20 percent to 25 percent.

Now the stylist has left the expensive salon and gone out on her own in a small rented suite.

I was taken aback when she kept the same high price for a haircut as the salon was charging.

Am I still required to tip this person who is the business owner and has set the prices herself?

I feel that leaving the price as high as it was at the salon would be enough to cover their costs and make a profit without me adding a tip.

I feel awkward not tipping the same person because they don’t have a boss, but on the other hand I feel taken advantage of if I’m expected to add 20 percent to the already high price.

What is the correct way to handle this?

– Trimmed

Dear Trimmed: Let’s say your stylist charged $50 for a trim at the upscale salon.

You routinely tipped her another $10.

So, as of your stylist’s departure from the upscale salon, your regular haircuts were worth $60 to you.

You cite business reasons (she surrendered half of her fee to the salon owner) for why you chose to pay and tip the way you did.

Your stylist has now opened her own business and is paying rent, utilities and overhead. Have her skills declined? Are your haircuts no longer worth $60 to you?

If not, you should patronize another business, and your stylist will have received a useful example of how her current pricing is working in the marketplace.

My overall point is that it is not your job to scrutinize this person’s business model and decide what her profit margin should be.

If you choose to continue to patronize this business, yes – it is now considered standard to tip the person who cuts your hair, even if that person owns the business.

Dear Amy: I am 67 and retired from a long nursing career.

I have noticed that I am increasingly called “Dear,” “Sweetie” or “Hon.”

This happens in various situations, but probably most frequently in health care settings.

For the record, my husband (who has had gray hair since his late 30s), has not been addressed similarly.

I was raised in the South, and I know these endearments are common and made without thought regarding the effect on an older person.

I realize that I used this same condescending address a few years back to a patient while working in a nursing home.

I did not intend to demean my patient at all, in fact, I was fond of this patient and it slipped out.

There is no ill will behind these words, but it is humiliating and makes me feel as if I am becoming invisible.

Is there a way to speak up without causing embarrassment to the speaker in a way that may educate them about how many older people are made to feel when they are addressed this way?

– Retired Nurse

Dear Nurse: I hear from many women who feel exactly as you do. I’m wondering if any patient actually prefers to be addressed this way.

You are in a great position to reflect on this practice, certainly in a health-care setting.

You can say, “I’m a retired nurse, and I know that this way of addressing older patients is common, but I’d prefer to be called by my name.”

Dear Amy: I appreciated your response to “Anonymous,” who was complaining about “free range kids” at family events.

Your opinion on this style of parenting aside, I agreed with your assessment that oftentimes parents tend to “check out” at family events.

We have a large family property, and the hazards are abundant.

I love seeing the kids running around, but they do require supervision.

I learned this the hard way, by racing down to our pond and pulling a 3-year-old out, just before he went under. The little guy just wandered in.

– Vigilant

Dear Vigilant: These tragic accidents happen when parents are distracted, drinking, or – yes – checked out.

Rwanda will free Paul Rusesabagina, inspiration for movie ‘Hotel Rwanda’

1 hour 40 min ago

Paul Rusesabagina, who inspired the film "Hotel Rwanda" and is credited with saving more than 1,000 people by sheltering them at the hotel he managed during the genocide, attends a court hearing in Kigali, Rwanda, Feb. 26, 2021. Rwanda's government says it has commuted his sentence and will release him. (AP Photo/Muhizi Olivier, File) (Muhizi Olivier/)

Rwandan authorities will release human rights activist Paul Rusesabagina, a former hotel manager whose life inspired the Hollywood film “Hotel Rwanda” about the 1994 genocide, a Rwandan government spokeswoman said Friday.

He was sentenced to 25 years on terrorism charges in 2021 after authorities tricked him into boarding a plane that secretly took him to Kigali, Rwanda’s capital.

Spokeswoman Yolande Makolo said Rusesabagina would be released Saturday. She said his co-defendant, Callixte Nsabimana, and the other 18 convicted in the same case had had their sentences commuted after requests for clemency.

“Serious crimes were committed, for which they were convicted. Under Rwandan law, commutation of sentence does not extinguish the underlying conviction,” she said.

Rusesabagina’s case thrust a spotlight on growing opposition to Rwandan President Paul Kagame, once praised for ending Rwanda’s genocide and for his focus on developing the tiny East African nation, but increasingly criticized for his authoritarian rule, the abduction of Rusesabagina, and accusations of support for rebels in the neighboring Democratic Republic of Congo - something the government has denied.

Hollywood actor Dom Cheadle played Rusesabagina in the hit movie “Hotel Rwanda,” which was inspired by his experiences as a hotel manager protecting Tutsi guests from Hutu death squads. A Belgian citizen and a U.S. permanent resident, in 2005 Rusesabagina was awarded the Presidential Medal of Freedom, the highest honor a civilian can receive in the United States.

Rusesabagina and Kagame were once cordial, but over the years Rusesabagina became a vocal critic of Kagame, saying he was stifling political opposition. The president hit back by accusing Rusesabagina of exaggerating his role during the genocide.

In 2020, Rwanda lured Rusesabagina onto an aircraft he thought was going to Burundi, but landed in Kigali instead. There, he was arrested and faced a battery of charges connected with founding and supporting an opposition group, the National Liberation Front, blamed for attacks which killed civilians.

During his trial, the judge pointed to a 2018 video in which Rusesabagina says that “the time has come for us to use any means possible to bring about change in Rwanda, as all political means have been tried and failed,” as evidence of his guilt.

The conviction sparked a storm of global criticism, with more than three dozen U.S. senators urging Kagame to release Rusesabagina on humanitarian grounds and a high-profile campaign for his release involving celebrities, political leaders and rights organizations.

South Carolina’s chief accountant to resign after $3.5 billion error

2 hours 3 min ago

FILE - South Carolina Comptroller General Richard Eckstrom holds up a book he wanted to present to his new Chief of Staff James Holly during his introduction at the Budget and Control Board meeting, Aug. 13, 2009, in Columbia, S.C. Lawmakers investigating the South Carolina comptroller general’s $3.5 billion accounting error are moving to gut the office deemed responsible for the largest financial misstatement of any entity that one major U.S. firm’s auditor could recall. (AP Photo/Mary Ann Chastain, File) (Mary Ann Chastain/)

COLUMBIA, S.C. — South Carolina’s embattled top accountant will step down next month after a $3.5 billion error in the year-end financial report he oversaw, according to a resignation letter written Thursday that was obtained by The Associated Press.

Republican Comptroller General Richard Eckstrom’s decision to leave the post he has held for 20 years came after intense scrutiny of his performance following the blunder and amid rising calls for him to either quit or be removed.

The Senate panel investigating the financial misstatement issued a damning report last week accusing Eckstrom of “willful neglect of duty.” As recently as last week, however, Eckstrom had said he would not resign.

“I have never taken service to the state I love or the jobs to which I have been elected lightly, endeavoring to work with my colleagues ... to be a strong defender of the taxpayer and a good steward of their hard-earned tax dollars,” Eckstrom wrote in the letter to South Carolina Gov. Henry McMaster. “They deserve nothing less.”

The governor accepted the resignation, effective April 30.

The Senate report concluded that Eckstrom was solely responsibile for the mapping error, which happened during the state’s transition to a new internal information system from 2011 to 2017. State officials testified that Eckstrom ignored auditors’ yearslong warnings of a “material weakness” in his office and flawed cash reporting.

Eckstrom has said the Annual Comprehensive Financial Report exaggerated the state’s cash balances for a decade by double counting the money sent to colleges and universities. The mistake went unsolved until a junior staffer fixed the error this fall.

Officials have said the overstatement did not affect the state budget. But lawmakers alarmed by Eckstrom’s inconsistent testimony slammed his failure to fulfill one of his primary constitutional duties: to publish an accurate account of state finances.

The fallout for the state agency that typically flies under the radar is expected to continue. A Senate subcommittee recently approved a joint resolution that would let voters decide whether the comptroller general should continue as an elected position or be appointed by the governor. Eckstrom reiterated his support for that change Thursday in his resignation letter.

The next comptroller general may also lead a much weaker office. The investigating panel suggested its responsibilities be transferred to one or more agencies. State Treasurer Curtis Loftis, an elected Republican, has testified that his office could absorb the main tasks.

Republican Sen. Larry Grooms, who led the investigation, said the comptroller general’s office could also be “done away with altogether.”

Grooms thanked Eckstrom for doing the “honorable thing” and sparing the General Assembly from using an obscure state constitutional provision to remove him from office.

Between a 104-7 House vote to cut the comptroller general’s annual salary to $1 and the Senate’s scheduled April 11 vote to oust Eckstrom, Grooms suggested the rising heat had grown too intense for him to remain on the job.

The Senate must now select a replacement to serve out the rest of Eckstrom’s term, which ends in 2027. Grooms said the next comptroller general should be someone who recognizes that their job is to spend the next three years overseeing the office’s incorporation into other state agencies. He does not anticipate any other heads will roll.

“The buck stopped with him,” Grooms said. “The accountability was with him.”

A certified public accountant, Eckstrom, 74, spent four years as state treasurer before assuming his current office. He has run unopposed in the past two elections and last faced a Republican primary challenger in 2010.

McMaster — who had resisted calls for impeachment and endorsed elections as the proper vehicle for accountability — thanked Eckstrom for his 24 years of “dedicated service.” The governor previously served as the state’s attorney general alongside Eckstrom early in the comptroller general’s tenure.

“The Eckstrom and McMaster families have been dear friends for decades,” McMaster said Thursday in a letter accepting the resignation. “I know that your every wish has been, and always will be, prosperity and happiness for the people of South Carolina.”

Dear Annie: My mom’s mooching is getting really irritating

2 hours 29 min ago

Dear Annie: I am the adult child of divorced parents who divorced 25-plus years ago and both remarried 20 years ago. I have three siblings and three stepsiblings. My mom and her husband are retired, very comfortable moneywise and own several investment properties and “toys.” My dad and stepmom are semiretired and do OK, but are probably a little less financially sound. My parents don’t get along great, so they’re only invited to the same events when it’s big stuff like weddings, graduations, etc.

My problem? Mom and her hubby are extremely cheap. Whenever there’s a get-together, they never volunteer to bring anything substantial -- maybe a small side or two -- and never contribute to the main course cost. And they don’t host at their house, so it’s never on them to reciprocate. If we eat out (which is rare), not only do they never offer to pay for everyone but they only pay for themselves when told that we’re getting separate checks and no one is picking up their tab.

My dad and stepmom, on the other hand, almost always pay when we go out to dinner. They also host events at their house and contribute meaningfully when the event is not at their house. These events happen several times throughout the year for holidays or birthdays, so it keeps happening and is becoming increasingly irritating. I can tell my brother’s wife is getting irritated, too, as she hosts and is generous with buying the $100 pieces of meat that my mom’s husband loves to go back for second and third portions of. We try to set expectations upfront in the family group text, but they’re typically ignored. Also, neither side is great in the gift-giving department, so they’re not making up for it there. What to do, if anything?

-- Feeling Like a Food Pantry in the Midwest

Dear Feeling Like a Food Pantry: You are going to have to be explicit with your mother about your expectations. While she is obviously not generous, she doesn’t seem to be egregiously offensive in her spending habits either. After all, she is paying her fair share at restaurants and contributing side dishes to family parties. Still, I can understand your irritation -- especially in comparison to the generosity of your dad.

You can’t force your mom to host, but you can be more regimented with how you divide and conquer the responsibilities. If you want to be extra-precise, you can make a spreadsheet for family events to make sure everyone is assigned equal responsibilities. Or you can call your mom beforehand and say, “Would you mind picking up two sides, a dessert and a bouquet of flowers before the party?” You’d be surprised how much progress you can make by simply asking for exactly what you want.

Miss Manners: No, this family lunch isn’t a business expense

2 hours 30 min ago

(iStock / Getty Images) (Kwangmoozaa/)

DEAR MISS MANNERS: I am a certified public accountant who frequently entertains clients and business associates during lunch and dinner meetings. I also enjoy hosting family and friends at restaurants.

When I pick up the check with the latter group, someone often makes a comment such as, “This must be a business expense or a write-off” -- suggesting that I’m either cheating my company or cheating on my taxes, rather than treating them to a nice meal at my personal expense. I’m at a net loss as to how to respond.

GENTLE READER: Good one. Miss Manners will do her best to provide some asset-stance.

Bad accounting puns aside, she recommends that when confronted with such rude accusations, you look hurt and quietly say, “I would never do that. I just wanted to take you out and enjoy your company.” Even if they were joking, that ought to shame the inventory out of them.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: When is it OK to refer to someone as “dead”?

My cousin died of cancer at age 82. She had been quite ill for some time, so it was not a surprise when she died. I wrote her husband a condolence letter, saying that I was “sorry to learn about her death.” I then reread my note and wondered if I should have said something along the lines of “her passing” instead.

Is it too harsh to say “dead” or “death”? Why do some people say “passing” or “passed”? It just seems to be sugarcoating death.

GENTLE READER: People do go to great lengths to avoid saying the word “death,” just as they do the word “money.”

But euphemisms can often sound foolish and inaccurate. That you “lost” someone begs the listener to wonder at your forgetfulness. And “passing” has religious connotations that may not be intended (although “passed away” is slightly better).

Miss Manners condones the use of the word “death” as long as it does not sound unduly harsh -- and she does not think what you wrote does.

DEAR MISS MANNERS: My husband and I have three beautiful grandchildren. Many people ask me, “How often do you see your grandchildren?”

When I answer with anything but the word “daily,” I am often met with responses such as, “Oh, is that all?” or “Don’t you wish it were more often?”

Is there some “grandmother contest” that I am unaware of? I feel as though I’m being judged by how often I see, or don’t see, my grandchildren. I have never thought to ask other people this question, and my husband is never asked.

Our kids think we are wonderful parents and grandparents, and we are happy with the time spent with our grandchildren. What is the best way to respond to this question that will not lead to more intrusive questions?

GENTLE READER: “The perfect amount.”

Gwyneth Paltrow expected to testify in civil trial stemming from ski slope collision

2 hours 35 min ago

Gwyneth Paltrow enters the courtroom after a lunch break in her trial, Thursday, March 23, 2023, in Park City, Utah, where she is accused in a lawsuit of crashing into a skier during a 2016 family ski vacation, leaving him with brain damage and four broken ribs. Terry Sanderson claims that the actor-turned-lifestyle influencer was cruising down the slopes so recklessly that they violently collided, leaving him on the ground as she and her entourage continued their descent down Deer Valley Resort, a skiers-only mountain known for its groomed runs, après-ski champagne yurts and posh clientele. (AP Photo/Jeff Swinger, Pool) (Jeff Swinger/)

PARK CITY, Utah — Gwyneth Paltrow and the man who broke four ribs after the two collided at a Utah ski resort seven years ago are both expected to testify Friday in a trial over his claims that the movie star’s recklessness caused his concussion and lasting physical injuries.

Paltrow and Terry Sanderson, the retired optometrist suing her, are expected to answer questions about the crash as their attorneys jostle to convince the 10-member jury who was responsible for the collision and who had the right of way as the skier farther downhill. Paltrow claims Sanderson was responsible for the crash.

In a trial Judge Kent Holmberg and attorneys for both parties have agreed will last eight days, with each side getting four to call witnesses, Friday marks the final day that Sanderson’s attorneys can compel Paltrow to testify. Next week, Paltrow’s team is expected to call medical experts, ski instrutors and her two children, Moses and Apple.

The trial thus far has shone a spotlight on Park City, Utah — the posh ski town known for rolling out a red carpet for celebrities each January for the Sundance Film Festival — and Deer Valley Resort, where Paltrow and Sanderson were skiing on a Friday in February seven years ago. The resort is among the most upscale in North America, known for sunny slopes, après-ski champagne yurts and high-amenity lodges.

The proceedings have delved deep into the 76-year-old Sanderson’s medical history and personality quirks, with attorneys questioning whether his deteriorating health and estranged relationships stemmed from the collision or more innate phenomenon, like aging or anger problems.

The trial has touched on themes ranging from skier’s etiquette to the power — and burden — of celebrity. The amount of money at stake for both sides pales in comparison to the typical legal costs of a multiyear lawsuit, private security detail and expert witness-heavy trial.

Sanderson claims Paltrow, now 50, recklessly crashed into him while the two were skiing on a beginner run at Deer Valley Resort, breaking his ribs and causing a concussion. He is seeking “more than $300,000.” Paltrow has countersued for $1 and attorney fees.

Lawyers for Paltrow, an actor-turned-lifestyle influencer, spent much of Thursday raising questions about Sanderson’s mentions of her wealth and celebrity as well as his “obsession” with the lawsuit.

The first three days of the trial through Thursday featured testimony from medical experts, Sanderson’s personal doctor, a ski companion and his daughter, who said she noticed post-concussion symptoms less than a year after the accident and realized something had gone terribly wrong.

Paltrow’s attorneys have cast doubt on Sanderson’s medical experts and asked about whether his prior remarks suggest the lawsuit could be an attempt to exploit her fame and celebrity. Her lawyers Thursday asked Sanderson’s daughter whether her father thought it was “cool” to collide with a celebrity like Paltrow, the Oscar-winning star of “Shakespeare in Love” and founder-CEO of lifestyle brand, Goop.

Letter: A strange definition of freedom

6 hours 57 min ago

Everyone loves freedom, right?

“Let freedom ring,” “Schoolhouse Rock” used to sing. We have a Freedom First Coalition; the tea party people wanted freedom. Then how is it the self-labeled freedom-loving people, who want smaller government and love freedom, keep trying to get government in people’s lives?

We have an attorney general who is supposed to act on behalf of the citizens of Alaska but is really just doing the bidding of the governor, as did the past two disgraced attorneys general. Treg Taylor has way bigger issues to address on behalf of Alaskans, like the sexual assault rate, than invading our privacy in violation of his oath.

Here in Anchorage, with the abject disaster that is our city, the library advisory board is worried about a book in the library, steered by none other than the mayor’s wife. Folks, how about this notion for the love of freedom: If you don’t like a book, don’t check it out. Are we to believe that kids check out books and the parent has no control?

That’s a parenting issue, not a role for government.

Does it occur to anyone that in truth, a segment of our society want freedom to do whatever they want, but want government to intrude in others’ lives? This is what passes for freedom, by the same people who think a mask is tyranny.

— Shawn O’Donnell


Have something on your mind? Send to or click here to submit via any web browser. Letters under 200 words have the best chance of being published. Writers should disclose any personal or professional connections with the subjects of their letters. Letters are edited for accuracy, clarity and length.

Letter: Prop. 14 thoughts

7 hours 24 min ago

Is finding competent child care a problem? Yes, it’s a problem everywhere. But why are we attempting to provide funding to address some of this issue by taking excess revenue from a totally unrelated program?

If more revenue is being received from the existing marijuana tax program than what was forecast, then reduce the tax associated with it, don’t look for ways to spend it.

If you want to provide funding for another program that affects all of the municipality, than you should be looking a tax that affects all of the municipality, not an unrelated revenue program like the marijuana tax that is only paid by small minority.

— Craig Chapman

Eagle River

Have something on your mind? Send to or click here to submit via any web browser. Letters under 200 words have the best chance of being published. Writers should disclose any personal or professional connections with the subjects of their letters. Letters are edited for accuracy, clarity and length.

Letter: A modest revenue proposal

7 hours 27 min ago

I recently spoke to a member of the House Education Committee. I am a teacher and I know the schools need more money for more good teachers, more class offerings, better resources, and I told him so.

This legislator agreed to a point, but wrung his hands as to “where we can get the money.”

Because the $3,800 Permanent Fund dividend is sacrosanct.

Any discussion of altering it is a non-starter. Our God-given right.

Maybe he’s right.

So, a modest proposal: Since the PFD is the most important — and expensive — function of our Alaska government, I suggest we sell the schools and put the proceeds into maximizing the PFD. Chugiak High School is a lovely location and could be sold as a golf club, maybe? Proceeds go to the PFD. Continue with all the other schools in the state.

Heck, let’s sell the airports, ferries and highways as well, and put the money into the PFD.

Remember, government isn’t the problem — bad government is the problem, and the way our current government is obsessed with PFDs is simply bad government.

— Michael Bucy


Have something on your mind? Send to or click here to submit via any web browser. Letters under 200 words have the best chance of being published. Writers should disclose any personal or professional connections with the subjects of their letters. Letters are edited for accuracy, clarity and length.

Letter: Undeserved raise

7 hours 31 min ago

The “pay raise” debacle that played out last week was a gaslighting farce. Throw in a mountain of hypocrisy when the pathetic attempt was made to link candidate quality to pay level when education funding is held hostage to “lack of results for dollars spent.” All the while, legislators have been advocating for cutting funding for transportation, the Pioneer Home, revenue sharing, Alaska State Troopers, voting roll cleanup, you name it.

Add to that importing and paying toxic “budget experts” from the Lower 48 to further the carnage.

Add a side of funding every goofy national lawsuit to push us back to the Stone Age. Top it all off with the abject failure to address the twin debacles of negative revenue all the while paying out a dividend for having a pulse.

Should this “raise” prevail, it will rapidly fade into the woodwork and become an entitlement alongside the one that hasn’t been addressed. Pay never has and never will equal governance quality; you can’t buy it at any price.

The best work is done for nothing; it’s called community service.

Rather than a raise, I’d issue pink slips to the lot on Day 122 of the session.

— Jeffry Schmitz


Have something on your mind? Send to or click here to submit via any web browser. Letters under 200 words have the best chance of being published. Writers should disclose any personal or professional connections with the subjects of their letters. Letters are edited for accuracy, clarity and length.

Letter: A big pay raise

7 hours 37 min ago

Wow, that was fast! Earlier this month, legislators unanimously rejected a pay increase for top government officials proposed by the Alaska State Officers Compensation Commission because their pay remained stagnant. That’s after rejecting a new payment package proposed by the ASOCC last year that would have lowered legislators’ compensation.

Then, all the ASOCC commissioners were abruptly replaced by the governor. The next day, ASOCC waived rules designed to give the public time for input and unanimously submitted a new compensation package that raises legislators’ salaries by $33,600. This generous pay increase will go into effect unless the Legislature votes to reject it — fat chance.

That means that it took less than 24 hours to make sure that legislators and other top government officials get a fat pay raise. Too bad teachers, public safety officers and other vital state workers don’t seem to merit the same urgency. And don’t forget to increase the Base Student Allocation for our schools.

Apparently, the governor and the Legislature — both sides of the aisle — can cooperate when their own best interests are at stake.

By the way, since the reason given for the huge pay increase is that for Alaska to recruit “talented” leaders whom we need to pay more, does that mean that the leaders we have now are not “talented?” Just asking.

— John Farleigh


Have something on your mind? Send to or click here to submit via any web browser. Letters under 200 words have the best chance of being published. Writers should disclose any personal or professional connections with the subjects of their letters. Letters are edited for accuracy, clarity and length.

Grace Christian boys topple Mt. Edgecumbe to return to Alaska 3A state basketball title game

Thu, 03/23/2023 - 22:24

Both spectators and opponents have a very natural focus when it comes to the Grace Christian boys basketball team.

At a nearly 13 combined feet, cousins Luke and Sloan Lentfer stick out above the crowd. Aside from the imposing height, the two seniors are among the best in the state at the 3A level.

But as the top-seeded Grizzlies proved Thursday, they have plenty of talent outside of the paint as well.

After a close first quarter, Grace Christian took control, topping Mt. Edgecumbe 50-33 in the semifinals of the Alaska state 3A basketball tournament. For the second straight year, the Grizzlies will face Nome-Beltz, which topped Houston in double overtime to reach the finals.

The Grizzlies made 8 of 16 attempts from 3-point land, pulling away in the second quarter with the help of some sharp shooting. Senior guard Hunter Finch made 4 of 5 from deep for 12 first-half points. Fellow senior Tyler Binder made 2 of 3 and finished with six first-half points.

“We’re super well-rounded,” Finch said. “We’ve got a bunch of shooters and if they try to stop the big guys, then we got the shots open. So either way, we get something.”

The game was close in the early going as the Grace outside shots weren’t falling. The Grizzlies led just 11-10 after the first quarter. But they outscored the Braves 21-12 in the second quarter to take a 32-22 halftime lead. Finch said the team’s perimeter players just keep at it when they hit cold patches.

“Next shot, next shot is what we preach,” he said. “Eventually it starts going in because we’re all good shooters.”

Kaison Hermann kept the Braves close with 12 first-half points, including 7 of 8 free throws. He finished with 18 overall.

Luke Lentfer was Grace Christian’s leading scorer with 13 points. Sloan Lentfer added 10 and a game-high 17 rebounds.

With the win he Grizzlies are headed to their second consecutive 3A championship game at Alaska Airlines Center. Last year, they fell to Nome-Beltz in the title tilt. Grace Christian last won the state title in 2017 and was also runner-up in 2018.

“It’s big excitement,” Finch said. “Ever since the game last year we’ve been eyeing this year. We’re a senior-loaded team and this is the last year for a lot of us so we want to get it this year.”

3A Boys Basketball Tournament



Mt. Edgecumbe 43, Kenai Central 37

Grace Christian 68, Delta 36

Nome-Beltz 65, Barrow 50

Houston 64, Valdez 51



Valdez 47, Barrow 45

Kenai 60, Delta 31


Grace Christian 50, Mt. Edgecumbe 33

Nome-Beltz 68, Houston 63 (2 OT)


4th/6th place

Valdez vs. Kenai, 9:30 a.m.



Mt. Edgecumbe vs. Houston, 9 a.m.


Grace Christian vs. Nome-Beltz, 3 p.m.

Mt. Edgecumbe girls roll past Monroe Catholic in 3A state basketball semis

Thu, 03/23/2023 - 20:42

Mt. Edgecumbe advanced to 3A Girls state championship game on Saturday by defeating Monroe Catholic at the Alaska Airlines Center on Thursday, March 23, 2023. (Bill Roth / ADN)

Mt. Edgecumbe girls basketball coach Candis Cook had a very clear mandate for her first season at the helm: Instill confidence in her players.

Mt. Edgecumbe, a public boarding school in Sitka with students over 400 students from more than 100 Alaska villages, had plenty of players. But most of them had competed at the 1A level. Playing at 3A would be a significant step up.

The Braves are brimming with confidence after defeating Monroe Catholic 40-35 on Thursday to move into Saturday’s Alaska state 3A basketball tournament championship game.

“This is a new experience for them,” Cook said. “All of them are coming from 1A. The lights, the audience, the big arena, it’s nerve-wracking for them. But they’ve embraced it and have been patient and have let the game come to them. I’m really proud of them, and we’re going to keep pushing.”

The Mt. Edgecombe Braves advanced to the Girls 3A state championship game after defeating Monroe Catholic 40-35 at the Alaska Airlines Center on Thursday, March 23, 2023. (Bill Roth / ADN) (Bill Roth / ADN/)

Cook said she gave players a lot of freedom at the beginning of the season, allowing them to develop their games and then evolve as a unit as the season progressed.

“At the beginning of the season, I gave them a lot of choice,” Cook said. “There’s a lot of free play in our game, and because we did a lot of that early in the season, it helped them gain a lot of confidence in their own abilities and each other.

“Every little baby step of confidence they gained is really helping them.”

The Mt. Edgecombe Braves advanced to the Girls 3A state championship game after defeating Monroe Catholic 40-35 at the Alaska Airlines Center on Thursday, March 23, 2023. (Bill Roth / ADN) (Bill Roth / ADN/)

Cook came from Anaktuvuk Pass, and her players come from all over the state — Bethel, Akiak, Toksook Bay, Nulato.

Carliese O’Brien led all scorers with 16 points for the Braves. She said there were some early stumbles, but Mt. Edgecumbe has posted a 22-5 record and is the tournament’s No. 3 seed.

“(Cook) has formed a structure and it’s a confidence thing,” O’Brien said. “We’ve never been on a court like that but we were more amped and excited (than nervous).”

Monroe Catholic led 12-11 after the first quarter, but the Braves seized control in the second quarter and never looked back. They scored the first 13 points of the quarter on a variety of baskets and free throws to take a 24-12 lead. Monroe’s Tatyana Snowden scored on a putback late in the quarter for the Rams’ only points, and Mt. Edgecumbe led 24-14 at the half.

Cook said the Braves are usually a more fast-paced, full-court team. But conserving energy early gave the team a boost in the second.

“We’re normally a pressing team,” she said. “I think (Monroe) was expecting that. But my girls seemed a little winded, and with the excitement, it was killing their energy. So we sat back in the zone and just wanted to not force anything or rush anything and not kill ourselves like we’ve done in the past.”

Mt. Edgecumbe junior Carliese O'Brien drives to the basket during the Girls 3A semifinals game during the state basketball championships at the Alaska Airlines Center on Thursday, March 23, 2023. The Braves defeated the Rams 40-35 to advance to the championship game on Saturday. (Bill Roth / ADN) (Bill Roth / ADN/)
Mt. Edgecumbe senior Katherine Jones and Monroe Catholic senior Sophia Stepovich battle for a loose ball during the Girls 3A semifinals game during the state basketball championships at the Alaska Airlines Center on Thursday, March 23, 2023. The Braves defeated the Rams 40-35 to advance to the championship game on Saturday. (Bill Roth / ADN) (Bill Roth / ADN/)

Mt. Edgecumbe extended its lead slightly in the third quarter and while Monroe made a run in the fourth, it was too little, too late.

Tessa Anderson (8) and Bessie Williams (7) were the Braves’ next two leading scorers after O’Brien.

Margaret Zaveri led the Rams in scoring with nine points.

Grace Christian sophomore Sophie Lentfer drives to the basket as Barrow freshman Zadah Unutoa defended during the Grizzlies' 61-50 victory over the Whalers on Thursday, March 23, 2023, to advance to Girls 3A state championship game at the Alaska Airlines Center on Saturday. (Bill Roth / ADN) (Bill Roth / ADN/)

Grace Christian girls recover from slow start and pull away from Barrow

For the first time in program history, the Grizzlies will be playing in a state championship game after they defeated defending champion Barrow Whalers 61-50 in the semifinals on Thursday night.

It marked the second meeting between the two teams this season and the second straight year they met in the second round of the state tournament. This time around it was Grace Christian that advanced to the finals.

“We definitely wanted to get redemption for last year after they beat us and we lost our chance to get to the championship,” Grizzlies sophomore Sophie Lentfer said. “They came ready to play and worked hard. It was a very physical game.”

Before the top-seeded Grizzlies could punch their ticket to the 3A state title game, they had to shake off a slow start to the game in which Barrow opened with a 6-0 run and led for most of the first half.

“I think today we had a slow start but after halftime we pulled it together, got our energy up, and it was fun,” Lentfer said.

After cutting the Whalers’ lead to a three-point margin of 28-25 at halftime, the Grizzlies opened the second half with an 11-2 run to go up 36-32 before Barrow coach Makana Ahgeak called a timeout to try to get his team settled and back in the game.

However, Grace Christian didn’t let up and would go on to build a double-digit lead that the Barrow was able to whittle down to as low as four points for a moment but the Grizzles would bear down and go back up by double figures.

“At the beginning of the year, we lose that game by 15 because we would’ve fallen apart,” Grace Christian head coach Pete Johnson said. “They’ve matured a lot.”

Grace Christian defeated the Barrow Whalers 61-50 on Thursday, March 23, 2023, to advance to the 3A Girls state championship game on Saturday at the Alaska Airlines Center.(Bill Roth / ADN) (Bill Roth / ADN/)

Lentfer was especially key to the team’s success as a powerful presence down in the post. She finished with a double-double after leading her team with 16 points and 16 rebounds, both game-highs.

“I didn’t hit many of my shots, so I figured I had to make it up with put backs and rebounds,” Lentfer said.

Barrow had three players reach double figures in scoring and was led by Zadah Unutoa’s 15 points followed by Kiara Burnell and Kimberly Wolgemuth with 11 apiece.

Up next for the Grizzlies is a rematch with another team that they faced in the regular season. This time when face off with Mt. Edgecumbe, it will be for a state title.

“We will definitely have our hands full come Saturday,” Johnson said. “They’re a great team with a great coach.”

State 3A Tournament results



Grace Christian 56, Bethel 27

Barrow 47, Sitka 45

Monroe Catholic 53, Kenai Central 27

Mt. Edgecumbe 49, Valdez 34



Sitka 54, Bethel 29

Kenai 39, Valdez 28


Mt. Edgecumbe 40, Monroe Catholic 35

Grace Christian 61, Barrow 50



Sitka vs. Kenai, 11 a.m. at Auxiliary Gym


Monroe Catholic vs. Barrow, 10:30 a.m.


Mt. Edgecumbe vs. Grace Christian, 1 p.m.

In 1st hearing on North Slope gas leak that occurred over a year ago, ConocoPhillips cites errors during freeze-protection operation

Thu, 03/23/2023 - 19:44

The Alpine Central Facility serves as the hub for the Alpine oil field, photographed on February 9, 2016. (Loren Holmes / ADN) (Loren Holmes/)

In the first public hearing on the natural gas leak at its Alpine field more than a year ago, officials with ConocoPhillips said an effort to pump freeze-prevention fluids into a disposal well increased pressure in the well and initiated the leak.

ConocoPhillips, the largest oil producer in Alaska, also identified other problems, including a delayed recognition that allowed the leak to continue uncontrolled for days, and the faulty expectation that a shallow underground zone did not contain significant amounts of gas.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency is also investigating the leak, said Erica Livingston, a wells chief engineer with ConocoPhillips in Alaska, at the meeting.

The company detected the gas leak at the CD1 drill site on March 4 last year, though the freeze-protection operation that initiated the leak began on Feb. 27, according to a timeline of events provided by ConocoPhillips for the meeting.

Over several days, 7.2 million cubic feet of natural gas was released into the atmosphere before ConocoPhillips directed the escaping gas to the Alpine gas processing facility where it was captured.

The leak caused the temporary removal of 300 personnel, alarmed residents in the nearby village of Nuiqsut, and halted oil production from the drill site. It also led to the investigation by the Alaska Oil and Gas Conservation Commission, the state agency that held Thursday’s public hearing and oversees oilfield operations in the state.

ConocoPhillips has provided many of the details it outlined in the meeting previously, including in a nine-page incident report provided by ConocoPhillips last year to the commission. In that report, the company said the leak occurred as part of an operation to pump 170 barrels of diesel fuel into the well. The diesel provides protection from freezing that can damage the well.

The freeze-protection effort caused a component of the well to fail, leading to the gas leak, ConocoPhillips officials said at the meeting.

The hearing was a chance for citizens and commissioners to learn more about the incident from ConocoPhillips in a public forum, Chair Brett Huber said at the start of the meeting.

[Willow oil development could pave way for more drilling in Alaska reserve, despite Biden’s new limits]

The leak was a “significant event” that offered a learning opportunity for ConocoPhillips, Livingston said at the meeting. She said no gas was detected beyond the CD1 drilling site, and no wildlife or people were harmed by the release.

ConocoPhillips officials provided new technical details in the meeting. They discussed measures the company took to bring the leak under control, as well as actions to prevent the problem in the future.

They said pressure increases in the well weren’t recognized and addressed from March 1 to March 3, which allowed more gas to escape.

The well used a design that has been used many times before without problems, officials said.

The well was not cemented in the area of the gas zone where the leak occurred, because the zone was not expected to contain gas. Cementing the well in that area, about a half mile underground, would have prevented the gas release, Livingston said.

Among other corrective measures, the company has increased monitoring of pressure at wells and developed a standard freeze-protection operation document laying out pressure limits and solutions when limits are exceeded.

Two members of the public spoke by phone at the hearing, including Rosemary Ahtuangaruak, the mayor of Nuiqsut.

She said the community of about 550 hopes to learn more about the leak in order to prevent future accidents, especially now that federal regulators have approved the large Willow oil project 35 miles west of the village. Ahtuangurauk had opposed Willow.

People worry about the impact that thawing permafrost, as a result of climate change, is having on oil field activities on Alaska North Slope, she said.

“This event gave our community members much concern,” she said. “We want to fully understand to prevent this from happening at the new development that will be nearby our community.”

Asked what role permafrost thawing due to global warming may have played in the incident, Rebecca Boys, a spokeswoman for ConocoPhillips, said “none due to climate change.”

The commission will prepare a final report that could include enforcement measures, Huber said, without describing what form those measures might take.

Huber said there’s no timeline for the report’s release. He declined to additional answer questions, saying he would do so after the report’s release.

The oil and gas agency had previously set the hearing for October. But two of three commissioners had left the agency at that time, leaving it without a quorum, Huber has said. Huber, one of the new commissioners, is a former senior policy adviser to Gov. Mike Dunleavy, who appointed him.

Huber said the public can deliver comments about the issue until 4:30 p.m. on Friday. They can be hand-delivered to the commission’s offices at 333 W. Seventh Ave. in Anchorage, or emailed to, he said.

DNR official to Alaska lawmakers: Willow oil project holds promise but faces obstacles

Thu, 03/23/2023 - 19:38

Alaska state Sen. Bert Stedman, center, a co-chair of the Senate Finance Committee, listens to a presentation on the Willow project on Thursday in Juneau. (AP Photo/Becky Bohrer) (Becky Bohrer/)

JUNEAU — The Willow oil project on Alaska’s petroleum-rich North Slope is part of a “new era” of large-scale development in the region but it isn’t a sure thing, with litigation and costs among the factors that stand as potential impediments, a state official told lawmakers Thursday.

John Crowther, deputy commissioner of the Alaska Department of Natural Resources, said the scale of projects like Willow, which is on federal lands in the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska and was approved by the Biden administration last week, is “tremendous” and would benefit Alaska. He also lumped in as significant the Pikka oil project, which is on state lands east of the petroleum reserve.

But he also said multibillion-dollar, multiyear projects are complex and there is “significant runway” for the ConocoPhillips Alaska-backed Willow project to get to the development and production stages. Australia-based Santos is working with Repsol to advance the Pikka project.

State tax officials on Thursday provided lawmakers an analysis of potential revenue impacts and benefits from Willow for the state treasury but noted uncertainty around the estimates, including when the project ultimately might begin, oil price volatility and industry costs.

North Slope oil prices, which were around $115 a barrel this time last year amid Russia’s invasion of Ukraine, are currently in the $70-per-barrel range.

[Willow oil development could pave way for more drilling in Alaska reserve, despite Biden’s new limits]

Dan Stickel, chief economist with the state Department of Revenue’s tax division, told the Senate Finance Committee the oil and gas industry is a high-risk industry that requires considerable capital. He said the ability for companies to recover costs is a key consideration when they decide whether to invest, and that Alaska’s tax structure has elements that support cost recovery. For example, the tax system allows for deductions related to investments and incentives for new production areas.

Dan Stickel, chief economist with the Alaska Department of Revenue's tax division, left at table, speaks to the Senate Finance Committee as part of a presentation on the Willow project on Thursday in Juneau. Seated next to Stickel is Owen Stephens with the tax division. (AP Photo/Becky Bohrer) (Becky Bohrer/)

The state tax division’s modeling indicated Willow could lead to billions of dollars in revenue for the state, North Slope communities, federal government and the company over the project’s life, said Owen Stephens, a tax division analyst.

Oil has long been the state’s economic lifeblood. Alaska political leaders — including Republican Gov. Mike Dunleavy, the state’s bipartisan congressional delegation and the Legislature — have pushed for Willow, in part seeing it as a way to boost the flow of oil through the trans-Alaska pipeline. Many leaders on the remote North Slope or with ties to the region have cast the project as economically vital for their communities. Unions have also spoken in support.

Environmentalists, however, have argued the project is at odds with President Joe Biden’s climate pledges and worry it could lead to further development in the region.

Environmental organizations and an Alaska Native group have filed lawsuits challenging Willow’s approval, arguing in part that the U.S. Bureau of Land Management failed to consider an adequate range of alternatives. A federal judge is expected to decide by early April whether to halt construction activities related to the project pending resolution of the cases, something the groups are requesting.

The approved project is smaller than what ConocoPhillips Alaska had earlier sought but the company said it welcomed the decision.

Rebecca Boys, a company spokesperson, earlier this week said the company was building ice roads for construction work but agreed to delay gravel mine activities until April 4, unless the judge issues a decision earlier than that denying the injunction requests filed by Willow opponents.

[Climate activists want to keep the battle against Alaska’s Willow oil project alive]

ConocoPhillips Alaska is intervening in the litigation in support of the federal agencies being sued over the approval. Arctic Slope Regional Corp., an Alaska Native regional corporation; the North Slope Borough; Kuukpik Corp., an Alaska Native village corporation; and the state have also intervened in support of the approval.

Willow could produce up to 180,000 barrels of oil a day and more than 600 million barrels over its 30-year life, according to the company.

Mayor Bronson backs off plan to pay contractor for unauthorized shelter construction after Anchorage Assembly threatens court action

Thu, 03/23/2023 - 18:57

Construction underway for the now-halted East Anchorage homeless navigation center and shelter project on Monday, Sept. 12, 2022. (Bill Roth / ADN) (Bill Roth / ADN/)

The Anchorage Assembly on Wednesday took two new steps to block any potential settlement payments from the Bronson administration to a contractor over work done on a contentious homelessness project without formal approval.

Within a day, Mayor Dave Bronson said that as a result of those moves, he is “unable to pay the claim” to the firm.

The measures relate to Bronson’s proposed navigation center at Tudor and Elmore roads on the city’s east side, and the bungled procurement process that saw $4.9 million in construction work go forward without the requisite Assembly approval. In February, the Bronson administration told the Assembly that by March 24, it planned to pay Hickel Contracting, the firm that did the work, $2.5 million to settle the outstanding bill.

The Assembly said the move would be illegal, particularly given a measure it passed a few months earlier restricting the mayor’s ability to pay out settlements without getting its approval.

Wednesday night’s measures by the Assembly warned Bronson that should he try to transfer public money to Hickel Contracting, the Assembly would have asked the courts for an injunction to halt the payment.

The first measure, a laid-on-the-table item, authorized “the Assembly Counsel’s Office to initiate litigation, on behalf and in the name of the Anchorage Municipal Assembly, appropriate to prevent an unlawful disbursement of funds.”

That could have entailed Assembly leadership directing its legal counsel to pursue an injunction in court.

A companion resolution spelled out that there are no funds available for any potential settlement to Hickel.

“This is the meat of it, this is what says there’s no money for payment,” said Midtown Assembly member Meg Zaletel, one of the measure’s sponsors.

Members took up the items on Wednesday night in a continuation of the prior night’s regularly scheduled meeting.

Asked repeatedly by Assembly members about his intentions during the meetings, Bronson would not say whether he planned to follow through on the settlement payment by the Friday deadline.

But on Thursday afternoon, his office released a statement from the mayor saying his hands were tied.

“Based on the decision last night by the Assembly ... I am unable to pay the claim submitted by Roger Hickel Contracting, Inc for this project,” Bronson wrote. “I hope the Assembly will work with us to settle this dispute as quickly as possible.”

Assembly members have said they need to be part of discussions of any potential settlement with the construction company.

Wednesday’s meeting was acerbic, with several Assembly members ripping into the mayor and administration over what they said was a “shocking” lack of detail or analysis on the legal liability involved in transferring millions of dollars for unapproved work. In the process of questioning where the March 24 deadline came from, no one from the administration knew whether it stemmed from an invoice or a formal demand letter.

[New proposal for Anchorage homeless shelter site quickly turns into a political fight and stalls]

“I expect more analysis and depth of thinking when we are presented with an invoice. I would want to see a demand letter laying out why they think they should be paid,” Zaletel said. “This seems like very little rational basis for the purpose of cutting an over $2 million check.”

Assembly Vice Chair Christopher Constant said he has major concerns about separation of powers if work can be green-lit by the executive branch and public money disbursed without the legislative branch ever weighing in.

“(Then) whoever is the mayor gets to write checks to his friends,” Constant said. “We cannot allow the code to become dead letter.”

For his part, Bronson said the settlement is a legal issue.

“This is a bill we have to pay. I’m kind of agnostic on the whole thing myself. I worry about the credibility of the city,” Bronson said at the meeting. “We’ve been dealing with this for more than a month, and the lawyers are quite clear I’m obligated to pay this.”

The administration’s acting municipal attorney, Anne Helzer, who has been in the role for just four weeks, said Wednesday she had not yet had the “opportunity to review the historical side of things” on the proposed settlement.

“We’ve given notice that we’d like to pay the bill, and we don’t want to turn this into a political event, if at all possible,” Helzer said. “I wouldn’t want to see the city incur unnecessary legal fees.”

Both measures passed 9-2, with members Kevin Cross and Randy Sulte the lone votes against in both cases.

“It just kinda feels like it’s more, ‘How do we stick it to the mayor,’ ” Cross said of the resolutions. “I really wish we were focused on a solution. It feels like this is a step in the wrong direction.”

But the majority of other members did not share that view.

“Frankly, I think the credibility of the municipality is at stake if the law is not followed,” said Chair Suzanne LaFrance. “And the law says … that the Assembly must approve the settlement before any payment is made.”

An injunction was not a given: The measure created the mechanism for taking action in the courts, but would still need to be formally initiated by Assembly leadership. As of Thursday, no such injunction had been filed in court.

This weekend in Anchorage: Roller derby showdown, summer travel showcase and return of the Spenard Food Truck Carnival

Thu, 03/23/2023 - 18:47

Spring is right around the corner and this weekend’s events anticipate warmer days. Among the highlights are the return of the Spenard Food Truck Carnival and a summer travel showcase. There will also be multiple local concerts and performances plus one of the state’s largest outdoors shows.

Patrons enjoy food during the Spenard Food Truck Carnival under the windmill in Spenard on Thursday, July 9, 2020. (Bill Roth / ADN) (Bill Roth / ADN/)

Spenard Food Truck Carnival: 11 a.m.-2 p.m. Saturday, Koot’s parking lot, 2435 Spenard Road

The unofficial kickoff to Anchorage spring, the Spenard Food Truck Carnival returns for an 11th year. Featured trucks include Yeti Dogs, Tacos el Primo, Babycakes Cupcakes, The Smokehouse BBQ and more.

Alaska Summer Showcase: noon-4 p.m. Saturday, Alaska Native Heritage Center, 8800 Heritage Center Drive

After a three-year hiatus, the showcase returns with travel deals, meet-up opportunities with a number of travel experts and more than $25,000 in travel prizes. Tickets are $10 in advance and $15 at the door.

Collision of Rhythm: 5:30 p.m. Saturday, Alaska Junior Theater, 430 W. Seventh Ave.

The Alaska Junior Theater’s annual benefit performance features the high-energy duo Collision of Rhythm. The event also features a champagne reception, hors d’oeuvres and both online and live auctions. Tickets are $65 and include a tax deductible donation to AJT.

Rage City Roller Derby's 3rd Annual Brewery Mashup features a battle of derby teams representing Midnight Sun Brewing and Double Shovel Cider. Tickets are $15. 7 p.m. Saturday, O’Malley Sports Center, 11111 O’Malley Centre Drive. (Bob Hallinen / ADN archive)

Rage City Roller Derby: 7 p.m. Saturday, O’Malley Sports Center, 11111 O’Malley Centre Drive

The 3rd Annual Brewery Mashup features a battle of derby teams representing Midnight Sun Brewing and Double Shovel Cider. Of course there will be a beer and cider garden featuring beer selections from the two establishments. Tickets are $15.

Kaleidoscope 4.0: 7:30 p.m. Saturday, Sydney Laurence Theater, 621 W. Sixth Ave.

This show is billed as chamber music with an Anchorage Symphony Orchestra twist. The program includes selections from Schumann, Brahms, Arensky and more. Tickets start at $35.

Anchorage Civic Orchestra Winter Concert: 4:30 p.m. Sunday, Sydney Laurence Theater, 621 W. Sixth Ave.

The Anchorage Civic Orchestra will perform Berlioz’s “King Lear Overture,” Gliere’s Symphony No. 1 and Bach’s Brandenburg Concerto No. 4. The program features soloists Janet Gellert, Margaret Turner and Emily Madsen. Tickets start at $23.50.

Mat-Su Outdoorsman Show: noon-6 p.m. Friday, 10 a.m.-6 p.m. Saturday, 10 a.m.-5 p.m. Sunday, Menard Sports Center, 1001 S. Clapp St. in Wasilla

One of the state’s biggest outdoors shows hits the Mat-Su this weekend with vendors, boats, RVs, gear, raffles and seminars. Admission is $10 for adults, $5 for military members with ID and free for kids under 12.

Check our online calendar for more event listings at