Short salmon supplies send prices upward

Now that the 2020 pack of Alaska salmon has been caught and put up, stakeholders will get a better picture of how global prices may rise or fall. Nearly 75 percent of the value of Alaska’s salmon exports is driven by sales between July and October. And right now, lower supplies of wild Pacific salmon by the major producers are pushing up prices as the bulk of those sales are made. For sockeye salmon, global supplier and market tracker Tradex reports that frozen fillets are in high demand and supplies are hard to source for all sizes. With a catch this year topping 45 million, Alaska is the leading producer of that popular commodity. “Luckily, sockeye harvests were once again abundant in Bristol Bay as fishermen caught nearly 200 million pounds. Although that’s a bigger than average harvest for Bristol Bay, it’s still down 9 percent from last year. With lower sockeye harvests in Russia and closures in Canada, we estimate the global sockeye harvest declined by 26 percent in 2020,” said Andy Wink, executive director of the Bristol Bay Regional Seafood Development Association speaking on the Tradex Three-Minute Market Report. Tradex reports that sockeye prices are “significantly higher than last year” and suggests that suppliers are stockpiling inventories in their freezers. “Our recommendation for sockeye buyers is similar to a few weeks ago, which is to secure your supply now. Sockeye prices are anticipated to make a good bull-run before moving into a bear-type market,” said correspondent Tasha Cadence. Tradex predicts the same for wild chum salmon due to low catches from all producers. “In speaking to our VP of Asia Operations, he advised they are anticipating that new season chum won’t be available until the end of September and that salmon will certainly be very short this year,” Cadence added. “Both from Russia and Alaska, and the estimated raw materials price will go up to $4,300 per metric ton, which translates to about $1.95 to $2 per pound.” And the same holds true for pink salmon, where big shortfalls from Russia are biting into the global supply. Prices for pink salmon that are processed in China and distributed back to the U.S. and other countries have increased from $2,600 to $3,400 per metric ton, or from $1.20 to $1.55 per pound. “Going back a few weeks it was reported that Russian boats did not even want to make commitments at the higher prices as they wanted pricing at even higher levels,” Cadence said. A weakening dollar also means foreign customers can buy more U.S. salmon for less. How the initial uptick in salmon commodity markets might play out in fishermen’s paychecks remains to be seen. Alaska processors typically post a base price as a placeholder when the salmon season gets underway. Then, bonuses for fish that is chilled, bled or delivered are often sent to fishermen in the fall, and any profit sharing checks usually arrive the following spring. “Retro-payments more than anything are a payment to appease the fleet and keep them from jumping to another processor,” said a longtime Bristol Bay fisherman. “There are many instances where a processor has paid their ‘retro’ or adjustment in the spring, only to have to make another payment in early June to match competitors. Price adjustments are a dark art and there is no set formula as it relates to the sale of the pack.” Fish on! Salmon numbers continue to trickle in but Alaska’s total catch won’t add up to much more than 114 million fish, about 85 percent of what state managers predicted for the 2020 season. Of that, more than 45 million are sockeyes and 58 million are pinks. Landings of just more than 2 million cohos are the lowest since the mid-1970s and a chum salmon harvest of just less than 8 million is the weakest since 1979. Chinook volumes also are well below historical levels. The preliminary value of Bristol Bay’s 40.7 million salmon catch, nearly all sockeyes, is $140.7 million, ranking ninth in the last 20 years. That doesn’t include any postseason price bonuses. As always, there is a lot of fishing action going on after salmon. At Southeast Alaska, beam trawlers are back on the water targeting 650,000 pounds of pink and sidestripe shrimp in a third opener. Southeast’s Dungeness season reopened on Oct. 1 and a few million pounds are likely to come out of that fishery. There will again be no opener for red or blue king crab due to low abundances. On Oct. 5, a hundred or more divers also could be heading down for over 1.7 million pounds of red sea cucumbers. A catch of just less than 3 million pounds of sea urchins also is up for grabs, but there may be a lack of buyers. Southeast divers also are targeting giant geoduck clams. At Prince William Sound, a 15,000-pound test fishery is underway for golden king crabs through October; likewise, a nearly 7 million-pound golden king crab fishery is ongoing along the Aleutian Islands. Kodiak crabbers have pulled up more than 2.3 million pounds of Dungeness crab so far with a few weeks left to go in the season. A sea cucumber fishery opened at Kodiak on Oct. 1 with a 130,000-pound limit. Halibut landings were approaching 13 million pounds, or 79 percent of the 16 million-pound catch limit. Homer, Kodiak and Seward are the top ports for landings. For sablefish (black cod), the catch was nearing 17 million pounds, or 52 percent of the nearly 32 million pound quota. Seward, Kodiak, Sitka and Dutch Harbor were getting the most deliveries. Both of those fisheries end in early November. The Bering Sea pollock fishery closes on Nov. 1. Alaska pollock is the nation’s top food fishery and the Bering Sea will produce more than 3 billion pounds again this year. And as always, fisheries for cod, flounders, rockfish and much more are ongoing in the Bering Sea and Gulf of Alaska. Finally, the state Board of Fisheries has accepted 275 proposals to address at its as yet undetermined meetings on Prince William Sound and Southeast subsistence, commercial, sport and personal use fisheries and statewide shellfish. Meeting dates have been bumped from this winter to sometime next year due to COVID-19 constraints. The board will consider new meeting dates at an Oct. 15-16 virtual work session. Halibut survey success A “resounding success” is how scientists summed up this summer’s Pacific halibut survey despite it being shortened and scaled down a bit due to COVID-19 constraints. The so-called fishery-independent setline survey uses standardized methods to track population trends in the Pacific halibut stock, which ranges from the west coast and British Columbia to the far reaches of the Bering Sea. For two months this summer, 11 longline vessels (down from the usual 17) took halibut survey experts aboard to fish at 898 stations, down 30 percent from the planned 1,283. The foregone areas were waters off California, Oregon and Washington. Survey areas in the Bering Sea near the Pribilofs also were cut, along with stations at the Aleutian Islands near Unalaska and Adak. “We also thinned out a little bit in the Western Gulf of Alaska, and we also removed the stations off Vancouver Island,” said David Wilson, executive director of the International Pacific Halibut Commission which oversees the stock for the U.S. and Canada. Still, Wilson said roughly 70 percent of the Pacific halibut biomass was sampled overall and 100 percent in the core areas of the central Gulf, Southeast Alaska and northern British Columbia. “Normally we would have done a thinner sampling in those areas but to ensure that we had enough samples coming out we went for 100 percent in those areas,” he explained, calling it the “most data-rich setline-survey in the IPHC’s 97 year history.” The halibut that are caught during the survey are sold to cover the cost of the operation. Wilson said the poundage and prices will be revealed next month at the IPHC interim meeting. “The key thing is that we were able to meet both our scientific requirements and also maintain our economic goal of revenue neutrality,” he said. The Nov. 18-19 meetings, which will be held online, also will provide a first glimpse at how the halibut stocks are holding up. “The interim meeting is usually an information sharing meeting for stakeholders where we present the preliminary stock assessments and the outcomes of other research activity. We also put out some of the regulatory proposals we will be considering at the annual meeting,” Wilson said. Halibut catch limits and other regulations will be revealed in late January. Laine Welch lives in Kodiak. Visit www.alaskafishradio.com or contact [email protected] for information.

GUEST COMMENTARY: Getting our ‘Fair Share’ of a bigger pie

Meet the Fair Share Act: a ballot initiative that will be presented to Alaskans in November, marketed as a measure to make oil companies pay their fair share in taxes. I did a bit of research to bring some simple analysis forward and present it to concerned Alaskans, to help cut through the noise and disinformation. Starting with where we are currently, more than 70 percent of total Alaska state revenue from private business is provided by oil and gas: In addition, Alaskans benefit from the philanthropic activities by oil and gas companies every day. The University of Alaska Arctic Science and Engineering Endowment, Covenant House, the Alaska Performing Arts Center, and the Anchorage Museum of History and Art are just a few examples. The budget cuts that Alaskans are currently adjusting to would be modest compared to cuts stemming from a significant reduction in petroleum activity. The initiative calls for a rework of our current oil tax structure. It claims to have the potential to generate billions in additional taxes ($1.1 billion in in 2018). This increase amounts to at least 50% of the taxes that oil companies are currently paying on the majority of the barrels in the state, doubling or tripling it at higher oil prices. With BP leaving Alaska fresh in my mind, I asked myself if taxes really had the ability to incentivize development activities. Last time we thought about this was when our legacy tax regime (ACES) transitioned to the current SB-21 framework. The data is available to the public: Each year we were losing 40,000 barrels per day of production under ACES, a trend that was almost immediately arrested under SB-21. The trend line above indicates we are hundreds of thousands of barrels per day (hundreds of millions in royalties) better off than we would be if the decline had continued under ACES. To reverse the decline, BP flattened their decline curve, and ConocoPhillips and Hilcorp both grew production significantly. I think a similarly unfavorable tax regime like the Fair Share Act could cut our production in half within seven years. This will more than offset amounts gained in the very short term, and cripple any growth in the industry that employs the most Alaskans and is fundamental to our economy. So how are we going to bring in more state revenue under the current tax regime, and how much? Let’s look at the three biggest development projects on the horizon since SB-21 was passed: •Willow, ConocoPhillips: 130,000 barrels/day (Source: Willow Draft EIS) •Pikka, Oil Search: 120,000 barrels/day (Source: Oil Search Annual Report, 2018) • Greater Mooses Tooth 2, ConocoPhillips: 25,000 to 30,000 barrels/day (Source: ConocoPhillips GMT-2 Fact Sheet) These projects have the potential to add 280,000 barrels per day, or more half of Alaska’s current production. This could amount to $1.1 to $1.4 billion in additional royalties and taxes, a number we can expect to continue to grow as the recent flurry of exploration and development activity continues. Staying the course is the most financially sound decision. Fundamentally, I think people forget that oil companies have a choice about where to invest their money. In recent years, we have watched the major companies gravitate towards the Permian Basin. Texas is now at record production levels (a condition that Alaska has not enjoyed since the late 80’s). Oil companies make these decisions, in part, based on a predictable, business-friendly geopolitical environment. A stable environment creates jobs. As our partners in development continue to invest in Alaska, confident in their future here, Alaskans are enriched and our economy is built. Staying the course will put Alaskans back to work. When we passed SB 21, Alaskans made a commitment to host a responsible industry with a particular tax regime so we could maximize our benefit from developing our rich resources. Industry has responded by placing Alaska high within the global portfolios of ConocoPhillips, Oil Search, Hilcorp, and many others, through tough operating conditions and stringent environmental standards. Staying the course is, beyond being a good financial decision, the right thing to do. Alaskans who want to see our beautiful State’s revenues increase should support the continued health of Alaska’s oil industry, and vote no on the Fair Share Act. Do not move the goalposts for our children; vote no to keep Alaska’s future sustainable for our next generation. ^ Liam Zsolt is the Director of Technology for ASRC Energy Services LLC. His work in applying new technology to responsibly extract oil and gas in Alaska has been published multiple times by the Society of Petroleum Engineers and led to multiple patents.

GUEST COMMENTARY: Ballot Measure 1 Means Jobs

Ballot Measure 1, the Fair Share Act, amends the current production tax regime created under Senate Bill 21 to make it fairer and more transparent for Alaskans. The major Texas-based producers and their surrogates who fashioned SB21 will say anything to keep Alaskans from amending SB21 and getting a fair share for our oil. One thing they are saying is that if we get a fair share for our oil, it will hurt our economy. Common Sense. No one can seriously believe the Alaskan economy will be better off if we keep giving away our oil for less than it is worth. In the five years since SB21 has been in effect (2015-19), the major producers have taken $57.4 billion of our oil from Alaska. During this same period, we have paid and still owe them more in awarded credits ($2.1 billion) than they have paid us in production taxes ($2 billion). Yes, you understood that correctly, they have taken $57.4 billion of our oil, and we paid and owe them more in awarded credits than they paid us in production taxes. If we get a better deal for our oil, it will help keep more of our oil wealth in Alaska, saving and creating jobs for Alaskans. Fool us once They told us SB 21 would help our economy and create jobs when it passed. We believed them, and, after SB 21 and before the pandemic, they took our net production revenues to zero and then cut 5,500 jobs or one-third of the total oil and gas workforce in Alaska. Of the 9,000 oil and gas jobs left in Alaska before the pandemic, they filled 3,000 of those jobs with people living outside of Alaska. We know we can give away billions of dollars of our oil and not get a single job out of the deal because we just spent the last five years giving away billions of dollars of our oil without getting a single job for it. After SB 21 and before the pandemic, Alaska had the highest unemployment rate of any state while our sister oil state North Dakota had the lowest unemployment rate of any state. The main reason North Dakota did so much better was because it kept more of its oil wealth in North Dakota, saving and creating jobs for North Dakotans. Great for jobs If Ballot Measure 1 would have been in effect instead of SB 21 for the last five years, Ballot Measure 1 would have brought in $1.1 billion per year or $5.5 billion in total more than SB 21. This is the economic equivalent of 11,000 new jobs at $100,000 per year outside the oil and gas industry. Importantly, Ballot Measure 1 will not cost Alaskans jobs inside the oil and gas industry. Ballot Measure 1 only applies to the three largest and most profitable oil fields in Alaska that can afford to pay a fair share without any harm to investment or jobs. In fact, before SB21, these major fields payed us more than Ballot Measure 1 for over 30 years and were able to attract investment and create jobs the entire time. Further, Ballot Measure 1 does not even apply to new and developing fields that may generate new jobs for Alaskans. Business Environment Alaska’s economy and business environment completely collapsed after SB 21 and well before the pandemic. We exhausted $18 billion in savings, cut our PFDs by two-thirds, and have been unable to properly educate our children, repair our roads, maintain our public buildings, provide for our elderly, operate an effective marine highway system, or provide jobs for Alaskans. The primary reason our economy and business environment collapsed after SB21 and before the pandemic is because we went from a five-year average of $3.8 billion a year in net production taxes to zero. This collapse in net production revenues was primarily because of SB 21 and not because of changes to the price of oil. Next year, 2021, we are expected to get only $122.3 million in production revenues under SB 21 while we still owe $728 million in unpaid awarded credits, i.e., we owe 6 times more in awarded credits than we will be paid in production revenues next year. With a fair share from our oil, we will be able to stabilize Alaska’s economy and business environment and add Alaskan jobs. Never enough While Alaskans were economically suffering after SB 21 and before the pandemic, ConocoPhillips raised dividends to their shareholders by 60 percent in the last two years, paid off billions in debt, and repurchased billions of its stock from shareholders with our money. Since SB 21, ConocoPhillips has made 68 percent of its world-wide net income from Alaska and only invested 15 percent of its world-wide capital in Alaska. Alaskans should not be intimidated out of a fair share for our oil. The Texas-based major producers say the same things every time Alaskans stand up for themselves and want a fair share. We gave up $1.1 billion per year and got nothing; we should give Ballot Measure 1 a chance. Frankly, there is no reasonable solution to addressing our State deficit without Ballot Measure 1. Vote yes For Ballot Measure 1. Robin Brena is a life-long Alaska and is an original sponsor of Ballot Measure 1, chair of the Oil and Gas Transition Committee for Gov. Bill Walker, and founder of Alaskan law firm Brena, Bell &Walker.

GUEST COMMENTARY: Ballot Measure 1 casts a pall over future of ANSEP

The Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program has been guiding Alaska Native people and other Alaskans to success in our state’s resource development industry for more than 25 years. To say a lot has changed since I founded ANSEP in 1995 is an understatement — especially this year — but the support ANSEP has received from the oil and gas industry has been unwavering. The industry’s commitment to Alaskans is something we can count on. Unfortunately, the industry hasn’t received the same consistency when it comes to Alaska’s tax structure. Their future investment in the state is in question as Alaskans vote this November on whether to change the oil tax structure yet again. By voting No on Ballot Measure 1, we can ensure the energy industry will be able to continue supplying jobs for our communities for generations to come. Alyeska Pipeline Service Co., Chevron, ConocoPhillips, ExxonMobil, Oil Search, Udelhoven Oilfield System Services, PEAK, and others that make up Alaska’s resource industry have provided financial support as well as internship opportunities for ANSEP students for more than 25 years. In fact, it was our partnership with ExxonMobil that led to the development and launch of ANSEP Middle School Academy, our entry-level programmatic component. It’s here we kickstart an interest in STEM and help students identify career goals that keep them motivated for a lifetime. ExxonMobil is also the founding partner for the ANSEP Acceleration Academy where students graduate from high school with two years or more of college completed thereby saving the state and families thousands of dollars per student. Acceleration Academy is a model we can adopt for every student in Alaska to reduce costs for the state and dramatically improve outcomes. This is transformational. What parent does not want their student to leave high school with years of college completed? Over the last decade, thousands of new students joined the ANSEP community as part of these industry-supported components. Our students go on to contribute to the strategy and execution of resource development in Alaska. The industry plays a valuable role in everyday life for the approximately 3,000 hardworking Alaska students and professionals who make up the ANSEP community. For many of our students, it is a lifelong goal to play a role in improving the quality of life for Alaska’s people and ensuring our resources are managed responsibly. The success of ANSEP alumni in the industry provides a model for students across the state. If you work hard, there are top-tier companies waiting to hire you so you can guide our state’s future. Our partner companies provide learning opportunities for ANSEP students now and the promise of economic stability for the future. Even during the pandemic, the oil and gas industry stepped up to provide paid internships and scholarship support for ANSEP’s Summer Bridge students so they could spend the summer before college gaining industry experience and envisioning a full-time position in the industry after college. To put the future of the industry in jeopardy is to do the same to these students’ futures. That is why I am voting no on Ballot Measure 1 in November; it is how we vote for a bright future for our state and our young people. ^ Dr. Herb Schroeder is the founder and Vice Provost for the Alaska Native Science and Engineering Program.

Chum, chinook returns fall short across Yukon, Western Alaska

Poor chum and coho returns led to some of the lowest commercial harvests in decades across much of Western Alaska and biologists are unsure why far fewer Yukon chinook are making it to Canada in recent years. The Yukon River summer chum return of approximately 733,000 fish was sufficient to meet the minimum escapement goal for the entirety of the massive drainage but it did not allow for a significant commercial fishery and was far less than expectations. Fishing was closed through the first half of the run while it was unclear if a harvestable surplus of chum would be available according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game’s preliminary Yukon River summer fishery summary. Commercial fishermen, primarily in the lower Yukon, harvested just 13,968 chums in the summer fishery, which was 97 percent less than the five-year average of nearly 449,000 fish. The minimal catch translated to a total-fishery ex-vessel value of just $51,440 in 2020 for a fishery that typically generates roughly $1.5 million, though prices of 60 cents per pound for lower Yukon chum and 29 cents per pound were in line with previous years. Prices in some other salmon fisheries were low — particularly early in the season — as the pandemic slowed restaurant demand for fish. Managers had predicted a rather average return of about 1.9 million summer chum, which would have left a harvestable surplus of about 1.1 million fish, according to ADFG. The summer fishery comprises chinook and chum that enter the river generally before July 15, at which point management in the lower Yukon transitions to the fall chum and coho runs. The chinook return of an estimated 161,859 fish to the Pilot Station sonar was less than last year when 219,624 chinook reached the lower Yukon, but was in line with the expected return. However, an unusually small portion of the fish passed the sonar at Eagle near the Canadian border. Managers estimated 77,000 of the chinook were of Canadian origin based on in-season run assessments, yet just 33,005 fish were counted at Eagle, according to the summary. The minimum escapement goal for passage beyond Eagle is 42,500 chinook, which also does not provide for harvest in Canada per the Pacific Salmon Treaty. Managers speculated that near record-high water levels in the Yukon from a deep snowpack possibly fatigued fish that otherwise would have reached Eagle. They also documented reports of high rates of Ichthyophonus, a parasite, in salmon caught in the upper river, which could have increased mortality. On the bright side, the chinook sampled by ADFG biologists at Eagle were older and more of them were female than in recent years. Age-6 chinook comprised 53 percent of the sampled fish — above the 10-year average — and 3 percent were age-7 salmon. Females comprised 54 percent of the sampled fish, compared to 44 percent over the past decade, according to department data. Biologists have documented a general decrease in the size of chinooks across their range in recent years, largely because more of the fish are returning at age-4 or age-5. The smaller salmon are less likely to spawn successfully and smaller females carry fewer eggs, which also reduces the odds of offspring. Kotzebue Sound To the north, low commercial catches in July and concerns from subsistence harvesters about poor chum catches along the Kobuk River caused Kotzebue-area managers to cut commercial fishing time from 60 hours per week in July to as little as 24 hours per week in early August. The harvest of 149,808 chums was the lowest in the Kotzebue District set net fishery since 2007 and netted $542,308 in ex-vessel value, according to ADFG figures. The fishery has a long-term average harvest of approximately 230,000 chum but it produced a catches of greater than 400,000 fish from 2016-2019. Kotzebue chum sold for an average of 45 cents per pound this year, which was up from 39 cents a year ago. Norton Sound In addition to also having their smallest chum harvest since 2008, Norton Sound fishermen dealt with a very small coho return. The poor showings from the primary species targeted in the district led to a catch of 50,679 salmon in all, which was just 15 percent of the 10-year average harvest, according to the Norton Sound season summary. The cumulative ex-vessel value of $290,302 for the five-species harvest was just 12 percent of the five-year average. The Norton Sound catch generated approximately $2.1 million last year and more than $4 million in 2018. The Norton Sound pink salmon run was — as it has been of late — a near-record return. However, processors shied away from purchasing them, according to ADFG managers, resulting in a catch of 6,950 pinks. That was down from a harvest of more than 75,000 a year ago. The 2020 Norton Sound coho harvest of 14,650 fish was less than 10 percent of the five-year average and the 26,365-fish chum harvest was 17 percent of the five-year average of 151,442 salmon. Additionally, 906 Chinook and 1,808 sockeye were harvested from Norton Sound. Elwood Brehmer can be reached at [email protected]

Elders & Youth focused on language for virtual convention

In the days preceding the annual Alaska Federation of Natives conference in Anchorage, the First Alaskans Institute brings together teenagers, elders, and everyone in between for the Elders and Youth Conference. But like so many things this year, the usual attendees will have to be together while apart. The First Alaskans Institute is preparing for its first entirely virtual Elders and Youth Conference, set to begin on Oct. 11. The event will be livestreamed on firstalaskans.org as well as broadcast statewide on GCI’s channels 1 and 907, on 360 North, and ARCS. FAI isn’t providing any broad support to elders who may need help with technology to go online and participate, but may do so on a case-by-case basis, said Karla Gatgyedm Hana’ax Booth, the Indigenous Leadership Continuum Director for FAI. Throughout the conference, they’re also encouraging people to get up and move around, as they’ll be in front of a screen this year. The 37th annual conference will also be entirely free. Usually, attendees are required to register, but with the combination of online and broadcast elements this year, the institute decided to make the event free. Booth said the sponsors helped make that possible this year. “I feel like it wasn’t that hard to reimagine, because we just knew that we had to have this very important statewide event,” she said. “It had to happen, no matter what. We wanted to make sure we were being good relatives to our statewide community and provide something that could lift all of our spirits up in this time of COVID. I don’t think we ever had a doubt that we would host something, but I think the real challenge was figuring out what the format is going to be.” First Alaskans Institute announced the plan to go entirely virtual with the conference and the annual Smokehouse Gala back in July. Since then, the organizers have been reworking plans for how to take the events virtual, which will enable vulnerable people to stay home and prevent the spread of disease from a major event back to dispersed communities. The conference usually takes place in Anchorage, which is also the single largest city in the state and the center of the state’s COVID-19 pandemic. The Elders and Youth Conference always starts with an opening ceremony called the Warming of the Hands, and that won’t change, Booth said. Sunday Oct. 11 will run from 1-5 p.m., and the following days from Oct. 12-14 will run from 8:30-5 p.m. Oct. 12 also happens to be Indigenous Peoples Day, and the events of the conference will line up with that, including language workshops. “(On Monday) we’re going to have our ‘Living and Loving Our Cultures’ workshops, focused on language learning,” she said. “(We’ll be) adding extra time to that session as well, just to celebrate our languages even more, to allow people to really get into learning and practicing, and hopefully they’ll continue that learning after the conference, too.” Some things will look a little different. The Elder Keynote speaker — Dr. Rev. Traditional Chief Trimble Gilbert of Arctic Village — will pre-record his message and make it available on Monday Oct. 12, Booth said. Gilbert is a tribal leader, Episcopal priest, Native knowledge and culture bearer and Gwich’in teacher, among other roles. The youth keynote speaker, Kiley Kanats Burton of Cordova, will follow suit on Tuesday Oct. 13. Instead of the regular dance group performances, First Alaskans Institute will air a compilation of the best Chin’an dance group performances over the past decade on Oct. 12 at 6 p.m., Booth said. Each day will begin with optional dawn prayers and well-wishes, which were requested by a community member last year and will continue this year. Workshops will pack the day, as they usually do, including listening circles, regional gatherings, and crafting workshops. For those who pre-registered before Sept. 24, the FAI staff have been mailing out some arts kits, Booth said. There are about 14 workshops to choose from, seven of which require kits. “(Some workshops are) cottonwood carving, cedar basket weaving, canvas rifle case sewing, salmon skin pouch sewing and embroidery, cedar bracelet making, acrylic painting, and COVID-19 mask sewing,” she said. “Some of our workshops that don’t require any kits.” The theme for this year’s conference is “Asirqamek Aprucilutna” in Sugt’sun or “Asisqamek Aprut’liluta” in Alutiiq, both of which mean “We are making a good path.” Language preservation continues to be one of the major goals in the conference, Booth said, the Alaska Native Preservation and Advisory Council appointed by the governor will hold a listening sessions during the conference as well. One of the events many people look forward to are the men’s, women’s, and LGBTQIA+ houses, she said. “They get to share their truth, they get to listen to other people’s truth,” she said. “I think for a lot of people, it adds to their healing journey.” “Part of our job is to host these dialogues,” she said. “We wanted them to be as engaging as we could make them in these virtual settings. You don’t have the same tools… we adapt, and we use what’s available to us. Just the physical experience of our participants being in a virtual meeting, it takes a toll physically on people. We know the importance of encouraging people to get up and take care of themselves. We will try to introduce things that are physical.” Elizabeth Earl can be reached at [email protected]

AFN’s first virtual conference eyes 2020 Census, elections

The halls of the Dena’ina Civic and Convention Center in Anchorage will be much quieter this October without the buzz of the thousands of attendees at the annual Alaska Federation of Natives convention. Instead, they’ll be plugged in from home, watching, listening, and participating to the virtual presentations of the 54th year of the event. The Alaska Federation of Natives announced the 2020 convention would be completely virtual this year back in August, looking ahead to the risk posed by the coronavirus pandemic. The AFN convention regularly brings people from all over the state, including from many far-flung communities off the road system. The risk of getting a large group of people together in an indoor facility was too high, according to the AFN. As of Oct. 6, there was still no agenda available for the full convention. It will be available on social media, KNBA radio, GCI channel 1, ARCS, and 360 North. “It was a really tough decision, but the health and safety of our delegates, participants, and attendees comes first,” said Julie Kitka, AFN President, in a press release. “The high risk factors of holding a large, indoor meeting, with lots of Elders and delegates coming in from across Alaska, far outweigh the benefits of gathering in person.” Instead, like the First Alaskans Institute Elders and Youth Conference and so many other events this year, the organizers are converting the events to virtual ones. On Oct. 15 and 16, attendees will be able to watch pre-recorded videos and live presentations from Native leaders and elected officials as well as interactive panels and other workshops. House Speaker Bryce Edgmon, I-Dillingham, will deliver the keynote address. This year’s theme is “Good Government, Alaskans Decide,” based on the upcoming federal election on Nov. 3 and the 2020 Census, two issues heavily affecting federal actions in Alaska and, thus, many issues in Native communities. Delegates to the AFN also traditionally meet during the convention. This year, they’ll meet virtually as well. AFN is requesting that delegates register as soon as possible, but they can register up until 10 a.m. of the final day of the convention, as it is entirely virtual. According to the delegate packet, some things will change: for example, the live debates on the resolutions and co-chair election won’t happen as usual. The election will happen through an e-voting platform instead. Because of the difficulty of ensuring equal participation among participants on the online platform, the packet also outlines types of resolutions that won’t be accepted. For example, endorsement of candidates or ballot initiatives for 2020 will be considered, and Elders and Youth resolutions will be considered at the Dec. 8 AFN Board meeting. Instead of the regular cultural dance performances, AFN will air a compilation of performances called “Quyana Alaska” over the two evenings as well, from 6-9 p.m. on the AFN Convention virtual meeting app, 360 North and ARCs, or by webcast. Though there won’t be an in-person exhibition hall with booths, there will be a virtual exhibition component, where artists and crafters can sell their work in an online marketplace created for the convention. Elizabeth Earl can be reached at [email protected]

The new norm in HR: Top 5 questions managers have in the current age of COVID

Business continuity and risk mitigation have always been an element of any strong strategic plan. In 2020 it is more relevant than ever. In just a matter of 12 short weeks, “back to work” is anything but back to normal. Now more than ever leadership is being challenged with questions where the answers rely heavily on risk tolerance and critical thinking. In a recent poll, employers here in Alaska provided feedback of their concerns and we have summarized below: 1. Half of my staff wants to work from home, what happens if I “make” them come back to work? 2. If an employee is provided a workstation to work from home and gets carpal tunnel, is that grounds for a worker’s compensation claim? 3. How do I gauge and monitor progress? 4. What about overtime? Can I still require “normal” workdays if an employee is working off-site? 5. How do I respond to an employee who goes on vacation, travels, or has family in town from out of state? Can I require a quarantine, and do I have to cover the salary if I do? The short answer to all these questions is: it depends. In our research we have found similar concerns even prior to COVID-19; the simple truth is that all the best resources and experts do not have black and white answers that can be applied in an industry agnostic manner. However, we can offer some best business practices that are already proving successful during this uncertain time. Here is your list of what is within your control: If the employee concerns can be met with some accommodation, while understanding job roles and responsibilities, then, by all means, take a step in that direction. Making accommodations that are fair to all employees are policies, not accommodations. So first ask yourself; can this modification to the work schedule (or other change) benefit the organization by majority? Then review workflows and required resources, perhaps, we can relieve other areas of resource allocation. Second, regardless of the industry, as leaders, we must keep our employees as safe as reasonably possible. In the context of a virus that can be difficult, however as leaders and managers we should be developing a safety and response plan that is reasonably monitored and easily executed in the event of a COVID-19 report. Establishing a policy that allows employees to continue working from home after vacation, travel, or potential exposure maintains productivity and ensures the safety of other employees. Finally, there very best thing you can do to relieve angst and apply risk mitigation is to open communication with your staff. Allow them to voice frustrations, and work through those concerns with the job requirements as a focal point. Making accommodations should be a win-win for the organization and employees to ensure business continuity. Keeping staff employed and engaged depends on it. ^ Paula Bradison is the President of Alaska Executive Search and Bradison Management Group

Appeals court rules ANCs ineligible for CARES Act Tribal aid

Additional pandemic relief aid could be out of reach indefinitely for nearly 200 Alaska businesses following a ruling by Washington, D.C., Appeals Court judges. A three-judge panel of the D.C. Court of Appeals ruled Sept. 25 that Alaska Native corporations are ineligible for a portion of $8 billion allocated to Tribal organizations across the country in the $2 trillion CARES Act passed by Congress in late March. The decision reversed a June 26 District Court ruling in favor of the Native village and regional corporations, in which D.C. District Court Judge Amit Mehta determined Native corporations are eligible for CARES Act funds, “as Congress intended — no more, no less,” Mehta wrote in his order. Title V of the massive spending package lays out how $150 billion in coronavirus relief funds were to be distributed by the Treasury Department, stating that $8 billion of the broader pool going to states, municipalities and Tribes shall be reserved for “making payments to Tribal governments.” However, the appeals panel concluded that specific wording in the 1975 Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act, or ISDA, excludes Alaska Native regional and village corporations from receiving the aid intended for Tribes, regardless of what Congress meant in the CARES Act. The CARES Act defines a Tribal government as “the recognized governing body of an Indian Tribe,” according to the court, and uses the definition of an “Indian Tribe” found in the ISDA. The ISDA generally references Alaska Native village and regional corporations among other organizations in its definition of a Tribe, but also requires the entities be “eligible for the special programs and services provided by the United States to Indians because of their status as Indians,” according to the ruling. The appeals court concluded that Alaska Native corporations, commonly known as ANCs, cannot be eligible for a portion of the $8 billion “because no ANC has been federally ‘recognized’ as an Indian tribe, as the recognition clause requires, no ANC satisfies the ISDA definition.” The ruling stems from lawsuits filed by 18 Tribes from across the country, including six Alaska Tribes, against the Treasury Department in late April, in which the Tribes argued the for-profit corporations should not get money set aside specifically for Tribal governments. The members of Alaska’s all-Republican congressional delegation said in a joint statement that the Tribal funds were intended to provide pandemic relief for all American Indians and Alaska Natives; it matters not how they would receive the money, according to the delegation. “It is unconscionable that COVID-19 aid would be withheld from a subset of Alaska Native people simply because of the unique tribal system that exists in Alaska,” the delegation said. “Furthermore, this decision goes beyond the CARES Act, erasing more than 45 years of precedent and practice, with the potential to undo tribal systems of health care, housing, education, workforce development, and more in our great state.” The delegation’s statement eludes to the 1971 Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act, which established the 12 current Alaska Native regional corporations and the 174 village corporations in operation today and collectively allocated them 44 million acres in the state in-lieu of the Tribal reservation system used across the country to resolve land disputes between Tribes and the federal government. The Alaska Regional and Alaska Native Village Corporation associations, which intervened in the case on behalf of their members, said in a joint Sept. 25 statement that the “deeply flawed” ruling will only worsen the effects of the pandemic in Alaska by limiting access to critical health services and economic relief in remote communities across the state. “For forty years, courts and administrative agencies have consistently recognized that Alaska Native communities are uniquely organized, as designed by Congress. Within this framework, that includes both regional and village corporations, we strive every day to bring our ‘shareholders’ — our Alaska Native brothers and sisters — economic opportunity as well as vital social, health, cultural and educational services. Until today, our status as Indians under the Indian Self-Determination and Education Assistance Act, which expressly includes Alaska Native corporations among other types of Indian Tribes, has never been called into doubt,” the ANC associations said. Treasury officials have not disclosed exactly how much of the $8 billion was set-aside for ANCs, but the Appeals Court ruling indicates $162 million was meant for the Alaska companies. The ruling does not prohibit the 229 federally recognized Tribes in Alaska — some of which backed the original lawsuits — from receiving a portion of the $8 billion. Additionally, many of the smaller village corporations and regional corporation subsidiaries were among the roughly Alaska-based small businesses that collectively received more than $1.2 billion in forgivable federal loans through the Small Business Administration’s popular Paycheck Protection Program. Leaders for the Alaska Regional Association did not respond to questions in time for this story about whether or not the group will appeal the decision, among other issues. Elwood Brehmer can be reached at [email protected]

Kinross adds Tok-area gold deposit to portfolio for $93.7M

The operator of the Fort Knox gold mine north of Fairbanks paid $93.7 million for a majority stake in a gold deposit south of Tok, roughly 250 miles away. Kinross Gold Corp. announced Sept. 30 that it has acquired a 70 percent interest in the Peak Gold project from Royal Gold and Contago ORE Inc. Kinross intends to develop the Peak Gold deposit into a short-lived open pit mine and truck the ore north to the Fort Knox mill for processing. The trip would involve hauling the crushed ore up the Alaska and Richardson highways, through Fairbanks and up the Steese Highway to the mine site near Chatanika. Scheduled to open in 2024, the Peak Gold mine is expected to produce roughly 1 million ounces of gold equivalent from grades of about 6 grams per ton over 4.5 years. Kinross estimates the $110 million project will have an all-in sustaining cost of approximately $750 per ounce. Paul Rollinson, CEO of Toronto-based Kinross, said in a company statement that it is a high-margin project at current gold prices. “The relatively high-grade, low-cost Peak Gold project is an excellent addition to our portfolio, as it allows us to leverage our existing mill and infrastructure at Fort Knox and strengthens our medium-term production and cash flow profile,” Rollinson said. The project would add roughly 220,000 ounces of gold equivalent production to Fort Knox, more than double the mine’s production from 2019 of just more than 200,000 gold equivalent ounces, according to Kinross, which expects blending the ores will cut the mine’s all-in sustaining costs by about $70 per equivalent ounce. In the deal, Kinross sent $49.2 million to Royal Gold for its 40 percent stake in the project and $44.5 million in cash and Contago ORE shares purchased from Royal Gold to a Contago subsidiary. Contago, which previously held a 60 percent stake in the project, will retain a 30 percent interest in Peak Gold. Royal Gold CEO Bill Heissenbuttel said the deal allows the company to focus on its core royalty and streaming business. Kinross said it expects to conduct initial permitting and drilling for the open-pit mine concurrently and hopes to complete permitting and feasibility reviews by the end of 2022 before a year of construction. The company will charge Contago a management fee and mill toll to process its 30 percent of the ore mined from the project. Kinross plans to rename the project after consulting with leaders of the nearby Native Village of Tetlin, according to the statement. Tetlin Chief Michael Sam said in a statement issued by Kinross that he is pleased to see the company investing in the project. “We look forward to the safe and responsible development of the project and the positive benefits it is expected to generate for our community,” Sam said. The 675,000-acre Peak Gold property also holds other exploration targets that could extend the life of the project, according to Kinross. A 2018 preliminary economic assessment of the project estimated measured and indicated resources of about 1.2 million ounces of gold equivalent at a grade of 4.1 grams per ton and inferred resources of about 116,000 ounces of gold at an average grade of 2.7 grams per ton. Elwood Brehmer can be reached at [email protected]

BROWN'S CLOSE: Birthday Battle Royale

Back at a time in the distant past of October 2019, my friend’s son turned eight. He and I share a special bond; I once spent an afternoon helping him fold paper airplanes. At his instruction, I then threw said airplanes at him; he wanted to practice his ducking skills. We’ve been friends ever since. During that time, the citizens of Anchorage could mark such an occasion with a celebration. Thus, my friend threw him a “Harry Potter” themed birthday party, held at The Dome; she magnanimously offered me my pick of activities. I could make pizza, make butterbeer, make a pinata, make a cake, or referee Quidditch. Refereeing was most in line with my life goal of bullying humanity. I volunteered for this, under the condition that I could use a loud, high-pitched whistle. On the day of the party, I set out for The Dome for the first time in the history of my Anchorage residency. I drove around the neighborhood three times looking for the entrance, consistently getting pulled into that vortex known as the Changepoint parking lot. Once inside, it was obvious which section of The Dome was designated for the Harry Potter party. One of the soccer fields was cordoned off, with three Quidditch goal rings erected on either side. I walked over to my friend, easily spotted as a tall thin woman dressed as the Golden Snitch in a glittery jacket. “Can you round up the kids and start Quidditch?” she squawked by way of, “Hello.” “They need to burn off some energy,” she continued. “I’ve got a dad refereeing with you.” I bristled at relinquishing any portion of my power, and grumpily walked flat-footed over to The Dad. He smiled at me bemusedly. “Uh, you know the rules?” “Nope,” he grinned. “No idea!” My mood lifted. Now I had an adult to push around, in addition to thirty children. We strolled to the middle of the Quidditch pitch, where I picked up a white volleyball, and blew my whistle. Children looked up from wrestling matches, punching matches, and other rudely energetic forms of aggression. “Anyone who wants to play Quidditch, come to the middle of the field NOW!” I barked. Twenty-nine small people scampered to my side. “I need you to break into two teams!” Instead, everyone went back to wrestling a neighbor. I blew my whistle again. “Hey! Two teams! NOW! Let’s go!” A handful of obliging children splintered off into a second team. Everyone else stayed put, looking at me expectantly. “Uh, the teams need to be even. We need more of you to move.” All 29 children ran over to one side. The Dad walked over. “I think we should just count off, ‘One, two, one, two,’” he offered knowledgeably. I bowed to his wisdom; reasoning with children is a perpetual struggle for me. We counted off, and yet two-thirds of the kids were still magically on one team. I pointed. “You five over here. The rest of you, stay put!” Birthday Boy sidled up to me. “Can my mom play?” “No kiddo, she’s doing other things.” Birthday Boy’s lip quivered. “Can Zed be on my team?” No, we’ve only just got the teams even. “No, Zed has to stay where he is.” Birthday Boy looked completely crushed. “Can we be Gryffindor?” A blond boy with large eyeglasses blinked at me. “Uh, sure,” I agreed distractedly. “Wait, we want to be Gryffindor!” a tall gangly boy cried out, asserting his side’s rights. “Sure, you can be Gryffindor too.” I blew my whistle. “Alright, listen up! I need you to pick one person to be the Beater per side.” In Harry Potter, the Beaters have the enviable power of throwing balls at their fellow players. And, as in the books, this position proved popular amongst my 29 charges. Two boys from one team both declared themselves Beaters. “Uh, you’ll be a Beater first, and then you’ll switch,” I pronounced. Again, I made the mistake of ascribing utter reasonableness to school children. Beater No. Two turned an impressive shade of crimson in an even more impressively short period of time. “BUT I WANT TO BE A BEATER!” He threw himself onto the ground and began to pull out his hair. I looked at him, nonplussed. Even I had to admit, I was unequipped to deal with this total meltdown. I chose to ignore him, and turned away to blow my beloved whistle. “The rest of you, throw this volleyball through one of the rings on the other side. If a Beater hits you with one of their red balls, drop the volleyball and run back to your team’s rings. “On my whistle. One, two –” I blew the whistle and tossed the volleyball directly above my head. The outcome of the match was immediately certain. The big gangly kid scored twice in under a minute. Both sides’ Beaters watched their fellow teammates running joyfully around the field. Seemingly regretting their positions, each started tossing their red balls through the rings. “Goal! Goal!” they screamed helpfully. “No goal! No goal!” I waved my arms around maniacally. “Beaters, you have to throw your red balls at the other team!” Both Beaters ignored me, and continued to throw their balls through the rings, and not violently at their fellow players as J.K. Rowling intended. Gangly Kid scored four more times. My friend, the glittery Golden Snitch appeared, holding the hand of a very tiny girl dressed as Tinkerbell. “We have another player. Can she join the melee?” I puffed my chest out authoritatively and waved my hand dismissively. I had more important things to concern myself with than some small child dressed as a character from the wrong story. My friend directed Tinkerbell to join the game. Alas, she appeared to have very little actual interest in playing. Instead, Tinkerbell sauntered off and began hitting a punching bag. The volleyball fell to the ground, and was snatched up by Big Eyeglasses, who was promptly tackled by four other players. I contemplated breaking up the fight, but decided against it. It was high time these children learned the law of natural consequences. Gangly Kid yanked the ball away and scored three more times. I waved to my friend. As the Golden Snitch, she was the most desirable object in Quidditch; per standard rules, the first team to catch her won 150 points. I decided to simplify the scoring; I did not want to do complex addition. “We have now come to the final portion of the game!” I bellowed, blowing my whistle. “I need everyone to line up over here to my left. “This,” I gestured to my friend, who was now wiggling to and froe at the other end of the field, “is the Golden Snitch. The first player to tag her wins his team 10 points.” “She’s worth 150 points!” Birthday Boy corrected. Outsmarted again. “On my whistle. One, two—” On the whistle, 30 children ran forward. The Snitch was tagged by Gangly Kid within seconds. I trotted over to him. “You! Kid! Yeah, you kid! Which team were you on?” He looked momentarily confused. “Uh, that team!” he decided. “The team going that way!” He pointed. I blew my whistle. “The team going that way wins!” One of the moms walked up to me. “Wow, you really had those kids in line. You really made them hop-to!” My chest swelled with pride; kinder words were never said to me. “It’s all in the whistle,” I mumbled humbly. “All in the whistle.” Sarah Brown is training to be a world-class drill sergeant. In the meantime, she can be reached at [email protected], and on Twitter @BrownsClose1. “Close” is a British term for alley or cul-de-sac. For more of Sarah’s musings, visit Browns-Close.com.

‘We’re not Amazon’: COVID-19 is forcing small stores to try online retail

CHICAGO — Two years ago, Esther Fishman shut down her clothing and gifts shop’s online store. Art Effect’s bricks-and-mortar business, operating in Chicago’s Lincoln Park area, was strong, and selling online seemed like more trouble than it was worth. It seemed like the right call until this spring. When the coronavirus pandemic forced all but essential retail stores to close, Art Effect rushed to get its online store back in business. Fishman has since hired a company to build a new, easier-to-use site. Small neighborhood retailers used to compete with Amazon by catering to local shoppers who enjoy browsing in person. That’s still true, but in the six months since the pandemic began, a growing number are venturing onto Amazon’s turf. Most say online sales are a long way from making up for sluggish in-store sales, and some struggled to shift businesses built for in-person shoppers online. Others say it’s a service they can no longer afford to avoid, especially if a surge in cases forces stores to shut down again. “The old world doesn’t exist anymore. … We’re training people now how easy it is to shop online. There are people who are not comfortable with that, but there are a lot of people with busy lives finding out it’s a good alternative,” Fishman said. “I think it’s only going to grow.” Online shopping has boomed during the pandemic: Estimated U.S. e-commerce sales in the second quarter rose 44.5 percent compared with the same period last year, while overall retail sales fell 3.6 percent, according to the U.S. Census Bureau. Analysts say consumers are likely to shift some spending back to stores as concerns about shopping in person and capacity limits on stores ease. “It’s a mistake to assume everyone getting online is happy about it,” said Brendan Witcher, e-commerce analyst at Forrester Research. Still, the pandemic showed that even small shops can’t afford to ignore online retail, said Diana Smith, associate director at market research firm Mintel. Big chains like Target and Best Buy reported triple-digit growth in online sales during the second quarter. Target reported especially fast growth in services that let shoppers get online orders the same day they’re placed, including a 700 percent increase in drive-up orders, where shoppers can have purchases delivered to their car, and a 350 percent increase in same-day home delivery orders with Shipt. Other major retailers that let customers shop online but lacked curbside pickup rushed to roll it out, including Ulta, Gap and Paper Source. So have several malls, including Hawthorn Mall and Fox Valley Mall in the Chicago suburbs of Vernon Hills and Aurora. This fall, customers will be able to shop any mall store from the shopping centers’ websites, said mall owner Centennial. Meanwhile, ShopRunner, a Chicago-based service that gives members free two-day delivery when shopping at stores in its network, has added more retailers this year than any year since 2015 and plans to introduce same-day delivery at certain retailers in Chicago this month, said CEO Sam Yagan. Smaller retailers that traditionally relied on bricks-and-mortar sales, meanwhile, were left scrambling. “They’re going to be struggling the most because they’re the most behind and have the most challenges to get up and running and catch up with everybody else,” Smith said. At Milk Handmade, which sells locally made women’s apparel and accessories in Chicago’s Uptown neighborhood, owner Hallie Borden spent the early days of the pandemic “panic-adding” items to the online version of her store. Before the pandemic, only about 10 percent of its merchandise was listed. The online store brought in business from out-of-town customers who would likely never have visited in person, and web sales now account for about half of Milk Handmade’s business, Borden said. Still, “we’re not Amazon,” she said. Borden packs up all online orders on days the shop is closed, something that worries her headed into the holiday season. Shoppers concerned about crowds or whether local shops will struggle to get last-minute orders delivered on time might decide it’s easier to stick with Amazon. “It’s frustrating big-box stores can get products to customers really fast and I can’t. We’re just trying to prepare customers and set expectations for how long something might take to arrive,” she said. Some local business groups have launched directories to promote businesses’ low-contact shopping options. In west suburban La Grange, the website La Grange Delivers lets specialty retailers outline ways to place orders for curbside pickup or delivery and has lists of restaurants offering outdoor seating, pickup or delivery. “A lot had an online presence, but it wasn’t a priority for them,” said Nancy Cummings, executive director of the La Grange Business Association. “That’s completely shifted.” Still, some stores are easier to recreate online than others. Bras Galore, a shop selling bras, intimate apparel and swimwear, has always emphasized the importance of getting an expert fit, said owner Kathy Bonifas. Even selling to existing customers who had previously been fitted would have been hard, because many gained or lost weight during the pandemic and were no longer sure what size they needed. “That’s always been our adage: Don’t buy online or you’ll buy the wrong size,” she said. Being limited to bricks-and-mortar sales makes the city’s 25 percent capacity limit especially challenging, she said. “How are you supposed to be at 25 percent of your sales and 100 percent of your rent, and no one is helping you out financially?” AlleyCat Comics, in the Andersonville neighborhood, built an online store but most customers avoiding shopping in person still seem to prefer calling the store and having an employee serve as a personal shopper, said Selene Idell, who owns the shop with her husband, Nicholas. People rarely come in search of a specific title, which makes buying online tougher, she said. “They want to browse and look at the pictures and see if they like the art. Comic book shoppers are particular about the book’s condition. It’s a very hands-on kind of business,” she said. AlleyCat plans to hold online-only sales during the holidays to encourage shoppers to check out the online store. “I think it’s beneficial for us for running the business, but it’s not making any money right now,” she said. Selling online is also extra work, especially for stores with inventory that changes frequently. “It’s a tricky balance. It takes time to take photos, edit them, write the copy, and put it online,” said Merl Kinzie, who owns The Shudio, a shop selling plants, vintage apparel and gifts in the Pilsen neighborhood. A big chain that will sell dozens, if not hundreds, of a particular shirt only needs to put that effort in once. Vintage or resale clothing is usually one of a kind. The Shudio had an online store before the pandemic but it wasn’t a priority because customers drawn to its focus on sustainability seemed to prefer shopping in person. Lincoln Park-area kids’ resale shop The Second Child is more optimistic about online sales even though it has the same challenges with one-of-a-kind merchandise. Before the pandemic, The Second Child only sold its highest-end pieces — about 3 percent of the roughly 5,000 items in its bricks-and-mortar store — online. Now, owner Amy Helgren estimates shoppers can find 90 percent online. Even before the pandemic, Helgren worried about competition from Amazon, a one-stop shop that lets busy parents buy whenever they have time, even if that’s the middle of the night, when her bricks-and-mortar store is closed. “The first thing I do now when I wake up is check my phone for online orders,” Helgren said. “It has to be at their convenience. They want what they need, and they want it now,” she said. Richard Forsythe, who owns Lincoln Square pet supply shop Ruff Haus Pets, said online sales have been growing since it launched an online store about a month into the pandemic, though the bricks-and-mortar store still generates most of the business. He just hopes the online growth doesn’t come at the expense of sales at the store, which moved to a larger location last fall. When people come to the shop, they might pick up an extra treat or toy for their pet. “When you’re online, it’s ‘What do I need?’” he said. Jewelry and accessories boutique Embellish saw online sales slow once the shop reopened to customers, said owner Carrie Bowers. She still thinks the days of getting up at 6 a.m. and working until 1 a.m. to get the online store in business were worth it. “We’ve had a lot of new customers, and I think that’s being able to see what we’re about before you walk in,” she said. “And who knows if we’ll have to close down again? It’s something we have to have.”

Google’s search business targeted in looming US antitrust case

Google’s search engine, one of the most-profitable businesses in history, is about to face its biggest challenge as the U.S. government readies an antitrust lawsuit accusing the company of crushing competition to protect and extend its monopoly. After a 14-month investigation, the Justice Department is homing in on whether Google skews search results to favor its own products and whether it uses an iron fist over access to users to shut out rivals, according to people familiar with the matter. Google, which controls about 90 percent of the online search market in the U.S., has long been a target of rivals that complain it’s used that power to snuff out competition across the internet. What started out as a college research project in the late 1990s now generates about $100 billion in highly-profitable revenue each year. The search engine decides the fates of thousands of businesses online and has funded Google’s expansion into email, online video, smartphone software, maps, cloud computing, autonomous vehicles and other forms of digital ads. European competition regulators have fined Google billions of euros for breaking antitrust laws. But U.S. enforcers have left the company mostly untouched since the Federal Trade Commission closed a probe in early 2013 with no action. Now, Attorney General William Barr is on the cusp of what could be the biggest U.S. monopoly case since Microsoft Corp. was sued by the government more than two decades ago. Barr has been a key ally in Donald Trump’s crackdown on technology giants. The U.S. president has railed against internet companies for allegedly censoring conservative viewpoints online. While some involved in the Google case expected it to be filed as soon as next week, that timing will likely be pushed back, possibly to the following week, according to two people familiar with the matter. State attorneys general and Justice Department lawyers have been discussing final preparations for the case this week in Washington. The people asked not to be identified discussing private matters. Senior Justice Department officials met with Google representatives this week to discuss two prongs of the investigation: search bias and search distribution, according to one of the people. Search bias is the allegation that Google skews results to favor its own properties, such as a shopping service, travel bookings and local business listings. Search distribution centers on agreements with device makers and other partners to provide Google search as a default to users. In 2018, Goldman Sachs estimated Google paid Apple Inc. $9 billion to get its search engine on Apple’s Safari web browser and other prime spots on Apple devices. It’s impossible for small search engine competitors to compete with Google’s deep pockets and outbid it for valuable placements like Apple’s browser, according to Gabriel Weinberg, CEO of DuckDuckGo, a privacy-focused search provider that has complained to the DOJ about Google. During a recent congressional hearing, Google executive Don Harrison argued that the company doesn’t dominate the markets it operates in. Google may lead when it comes to general searches, but for product queries and other commercial searches consumers are more likely to start on Amazon.com Inc., he noted. The Justice Department and states also are investigating Google’s conduct in the advertising-technology market, where Google owns many of the systems that deliver display ads across the web. Some Democratic attorneys general briefed on the case want the Justice Department to include ad-tech in the lawsuit and may file their own complaint after the November election, one of the people said. The Justice Department declined to comment. Competitors have complained that Google funnels excess search marketing dollars to its display ad network. That extra money can account for large portions of digital publisher revenue, making them less likely to drop Google for a rival ad-tech provider. U.S. investigators have asked detailed questions about how to limit Google’s power in the search market, according to DuckDuckGo. In Europe, regulators have forced Google to give consumers a choice over which search engine they use on Android phones. “We’re pleased it seems like the DOJ — unlike any other government in the world — is going to finally address the elephant in the room: Google’s obvious, overwhelming, and anti-competitive dominance in search,” a spokesman for DuckDuckGo said. “Consumers would benefit from a world without search defaults, where they could easily choose their preferred search engine.” Google has engaged in an array of practices aimed at maintaining its control over the search market and preventing competitors from gaining scale, said Gene Kimmelman, a senior advisor at Public Knowledge, which urged the Justice Department this summer to investigate Google’s conduct around search. Consumers have lost out as a result because rivals are effectively shut out from competing to build better search offerings, he said. “Search is the fundamental motivator for the pattern of behavior by Google, and all of it appears designed to maintain a monopoly,” Kimmelman said. A research paper published in June by the Omidyar Network, an organization that advocates for more aggressive antitrust enforcement against tech giants, outlined several scenarios where Google may have violated antitrust laws. The exclusive deal with Apple has helped solidify its monopoly by preventing competitors from reaching consumers, the paper argued. Google created a similar effect with its Android mobile operating system and agreements that effectively forced handset makers to pre-install Google’s search engine and browser on their phones. Those restrictions made Google the default search service and further prevented rivals from gaining market share, according to the Omidyar paper. The EU also fined Google over this. “This is a classic tale of a likely monopolization strategy premised on denying scale to rivals,” the paper said. The allegations echo those made against Microsoft in 1998 when the Justice Department and a group of states sued the software maker for antitrust violations. Back then, Microsoft forced computer manufacturers to bundle its Windows operating system with its Internet Explorer browser, making it harder for rivals such as Netscape to compete. Even though other browsers didn’t pose a direct threat to Microsoft’s monopoly in computer operating systems, the risk was that they could one day grow to challenge its dominance. The Justice Department could make a similar argument about Google today, said William Kovacic, a law professor at George Washington University and a former FTC chairman. “The arguments about demanding exclusivity as a way of excluding rivals are arguments that were very successful in the Microsoft case,” he said.

Movers and Shakers for Oct. 4

Taylored Restoration has hired Tyler Kirn as project manager. Kirn graduated from the University of Alaska-Anchorage with a bachelor’s degree in global logistics and supply chain management. The University of Alaska-Anchorage announced its 2020 Alumni of Distinction recipients to be honored at UAA’s virtual Homecoming Breakfast on Oct. 9. Dr. Reem Sheikh (bachelor’s degree, biological sciences, 2007) was named Alumni Emerging Leader. Sheikh is a clinical instructor and attending faculty at the New York College of Podiatric Medicine. As a podiatrist working in New York City, Sheikh witnessed firsthand how the shortage of personal protective equipment affected health care workers in the early days of the COVID-19 pandemic. After assembling volunteers that she met through parenting Facebook groups, Sheikh raised more than $18,000 to alleviate PPE shortages for New York City health care workers, and coordinated the donation of thousands of PPE across the country. Dr. Ghazal Ringler (bachelor’s degree, biological sciences, 2001) was named Alumni Humanitarian. Ringler is the chief dental officer at the Anchorage Neighborhood Health Center. For more than 16 years, Ringler has dedicated her career to providing dental care to children and adults who are uninsured or low-income. In addition to her position as chief dental officer at the Anchorage Neighborhood Health Center, Ringler donates her time and expertise by serving on the Anchorage Project Access board of directors, where she was critical in establishing the donated dental program and pro bono oral health program. Laurie Fagnani (bachelor’s degree, journalism and public communications, 1986) was named the Alumni of Achievement. Fagnani, president of MSI Communications, grew MSI Communications from a home business started in 1995 with herself as the sole employee to the go-to marketing agency for Alaska’s resource industry. Fagnani attributes her agency’s success to staff with an intuitive understanding of Alaska’s industries, a quarter of whom come from UAA. Additionally, Fagnani has grown her business’ digital services capacity to better aid clientele as they also adapt to an increasingly web-dependent business model. Leverette Hoover (bachelor’s degree, technology, 1997) was named the Alumni of Achievement. Hoover, national operations manager for Siemens, pursued a civilian career in electronics and engineering after serving for eight years in the U.S. Air Force, consisting of various positions with Siemens over the last 20 years. Hoover is a past recipient of the Alaska Journal of Commerce Top Forty Under 40, a Gold Pan Award winner for community service, served as the chairman of the Anchorage School District School Business Partner board of directors, was a founding member of the UAA Alumni Association and is an honorary commander for the 176th Alaska Air National Guard Wing.

OPINION: I award you no points

Anyone who has ever wanted to see a Facebook argument come to life got their wish on Sept. 29 in Cleveland. For the less masochistic among us, you were probably covering your eyes, ears or both barely 15 minutes into the first presidential debate as former Vice President Joe Biden dropped quite likely the first “Shut up, man” in American political history. We’re far from Lincoln-Douglas or Kennedy-Nixon. The Sept. 29 spectacle didn’t even rise to the level of decorum seen in the heated Tastes Great-Less Filling debates of the 1980s. Interruptions of interruptions, insults and an overall pathetic performance by moderator Chris Wallace made for a painful 90 minutes that felt twice as long. The first topic on the Supreme Court quickly devolved as Wallace repeatedly pressed President Donald Trump on his lack of a comprehensive plan to replace the Affordable Care Act, leading Trump to drop a line about “I guess I’m debating you, not him” that he obviously had prepared but may not have expected to use so early. The debate really went off the rails a few minutes later after Biden outright refused to answer Wallace’s question about whether he supports packing the Supreme Court with additional justices or ending the legislative filibuster. Without waiting to see if Wallace would accept Biden’s refusal, Trump jumped in by pestering Biden to answer the question and asking where is his list of possible nominees to the Supreme Court. That led the beleaguered Biden to plead for Trump to shut up and then Wallace to shut the topic down without ever getting Biden to answer the question. It didn’t get any better from there. Trump continued to throw barbs at Biden, who countered by claiming Trump told people to inject bleach and is lying about progress toward a COVID-19 vaccine. Wallace repeatedly cut off Trump and many of his questions consisted of Democrat talking points, but his most outrageous moment of the night was repeating the false “very fine people” canard about Charlottesville that allowed Biden to then cite the same lie and dredge up the constant calls for Trump to denounce white supremacists. Wallace demanded Trump recite his fealty to “racial sensitivity training” and “climate change” while making the ridiculous assertion that Republican-led cities have just as much trouble as riot-filled Democrat ones by bringing up Fort Worth, Texas, and Tulsa. While tarring Trump with white supremacist associations, Wallace allowed Biden to get away with the claim that “antifa is an idea, not an organization.” Nor did Wallace fact check Biden when he brought up the anonymous claims that Trump called fallen soldiers “suckers and losers” but instead chuckled along with Biden rather than have him address the video of the former VP telling troops to “clap, you stupid bastards” after Trump brought it up. If anything, far fewer viewers can be expected to sit through another two of these and “Idiocracy” appears to be 450 years ahead of schedule. In the meantime we’re left with the academic decathlon scene from “Billy Madison.” May God have mercy on our souls. Andrew Jensen can be reached at [email protected]

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