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FISH FACTOR: High-end black cod taken for research donated to hungry

Needy Alaskans are enjoying a rare taste of sablefish, thanks to a science project that kept research fish from going over the rails.

Sablefish, more commonly called black cod, are one of the world’s priciest, high-end fish, and Alaska waters are home to the largest stocks. The deep-water fish are found at depths of 5,000 feet or more and can live to nearly 100 years. The Gulf of Alaska fishery, which has a catch total of about 20 million pounds this year (18.2 million in 2015) is usually worth more than $90 million to Alaska fishermen at the docks.

Moda Health suspension lifted; company must raise $179M

JUNEAU (AP) — Insurance regulators in Alaska and Oregon announced Feb. 8 that a company that had been suspended from offering health insurance policies in the states over concerns with its financial condition will be allowed to resume that business.

The Alaska Division of Insurance and the Oregon Department of Consumer and Business Services said they have reached an agreement with Moda Health Plan Inc. aimed at stabilizing its financial position.

McGuire’s bill to use Permanent Fund earnings gets hearing

JUNEAU — For 13 months, Sen. Lesil McGuire, R-Anchorage, has been working on a plan to use Permanent Fund earnings to partially balance Alaska’s state budget.

In form and function, McGuire’s plan (formally, Senate Bill 114) introduced late in the 2015 session, resembles the one brought forward by Gov. Bill Walker late last year. “With my plan, you’ll bring in approximately $2 billion, and that will put you on a glidepath (to balancing the budget),” she told members of the Senate State Affairs Committee on Feb. 9.

Oil price drop pushes Shell 2015 profit down 44 percent

LONDON (AP) — Royal Dutch Shell said fourth-quarter earnings tumbled 44 percent as the collapse in oil prices took its toll on another global energy giant.

Profit adjusted for changes in the value of inventories and one-time items dropped to $1.83 billion from $3.26 billion in the same period a year earlier, the Anglo-Dutch company said Feb. 4.

Companies lose billions buying back their own stock

NEW YORK (AP) — If you think your stocks are doing poorly, check out the performance of some of the most sophisticated investors, the ones with more knowledge about what’s going on inside businesses than anyone else: Companies that buy their own shares.

The companies losing money on these bets are down a collective $126 billion over the past three years, a decline of 15 percent.

The Bookworm Sez: The courage to say ‘yes’

For far too long, you’ve been holding back.

Opportunities have presented themselves, and you’ve passed on them. Chances have leaped in front of you and you skipped them, but you’re not sure why. Some days, you feel like you’re in a 10-foot-deep rut; in the book “Year of Yes” by Shonda Rhimes, you’ll see how to get out.

With two babies and a “tween” at home, several mega-hit productions, and hundreds of employees on her payroll, writer-creator-producer Shonda Rhimes had ample reason for turning down requests. She was busy — and she was also terrified.

Movers and Shakers 2/14/16

Darrell Friess and Margaret Nelson each captured the Top Producer Award for earned commissions in 2015, announced Broker Molly Friess of Alaska Real Estate Alliance Darrel Friess is owner and founder of Alaska Real Estate Alliance and Nelson is a sales associate.

Anchorage Assembly finalizes pot regs

Anchorage’s marijuana industry is set to begin, with a final package of municipal requirements coming weeks before the Marijuana Control Board starts accepting licenses on Feb. 24.

Anchorage tightened certain regulations while holding off on others. New regulations increase buffer zones in Chugiak and Eagle River, add new buffer zone triggers to Anchorage marijuana businesses, bar small-scale commercial home grows, prohibit onsite consumption, and redraft the measurement standard between marijuana businesses and sensitive areas.

Construction forecast down 18% to 2013 levels

Alaska’s contractors will begin to feel the effects of the new oil reality in 2016 as statewide capital spending declines about 18 percent from last year, according to a construction industry forecast.

The University of Alaska Anchorage Institute for Social and Economic Research projects just more than $7.3 billion will be spent on capital projects in 2016. About $8.9 billion was spent on construction projects in Alaska last year.

Negotiations among producers challenging AK LNG timeline

Progress has slowed in fiscal negotiations among the state’s partners in the Alaska LNG Project, raising concerns that agreements might not be in place to meet critical deadlines.

At the top of the list of eight agreements still needing to be resolved is the Gas Balancing Agreement, the foundation necessary for the other issues to fall into place, project leaders told the Senate Resources Committee Jan. 27.

Bycatch spike, meeting spur trawl stand down

Gulf of Alaska trawlers are flocking to a meeting in Portland, leaving behind a halibut bycatch situation the North Pacific Fishery Management Council is attempting to fix.

The trawlers have complaints with council process, but are also standing down from a halibut bycatch spike resulting from a pollock price dispute with area processors.

‘Permission slip’ offered to use Fund earnings

Politicians are often accused of being childish, and the leaders of some of Alaska’s largest companies and interest groups are asking Alaskans to sign a “permission slip” allowing legislators to use Permanent Fund earnings as the basis for a solution to the state’s nearly $4 billion budget deficit.

Led by GCI co-founder and CEO Ron Duncan, the newly formed Alaska’s Future coalition has the singular mission of pushing the Legislature to finally use the $50 billion Permanent Fund for its original purpose: to pay for state operations when resource revenues are depleted.

Walker gives Ruffner second shot at Board of Fisheries

Gov. Bill Walker announced three new nominees to the Board of Fisheries on Feb. 2, including one who lost a bruising confirmation fight to the same body in 2015.

Walker once again put forward Kenai area habitat advocate Robert Ruffner for a seat on the board, but this time his nomination has been promised to go smoother after a campaign waged against him last year by sportfishing advocates that resulted in a 30-29 defeat in the Legislature.

Lawmakers propose bill to privatize air traffic control

WASHINGTON (AP) — Responsibility for the nation’s air traffic control operations would shift from the government to a private, nonprofit corporation under legislation introduced Feb. 3 as part of an overhaul of how Washington oversees the aviation system.

Alaska, Oregon suspend Moda Health as finances worsen

Alaska insurance regulators on Jan. 28 suspended Moda Health Plan from accepting new or renewal policies in the state, citing concerns with the Oregon-based company’s financial situation.

The Alaska Division of Insurance acted after officials in Oregon placed the company under supervision because of its financial condition.

Aetna lays out concerns about ACA exchange business

Aetna has joined other major health insurers in sounding a warning about the Affordable Care Act’s public insurance exchanges.

The nation’s third-largest insurer said Monday that it has been struggling with customers who sign up for coverage outside the ACA’s annual enrollment window and then use a lot of care. This dumps claims on the insurer without providing enough premium revenue to counter those costs.

Federal officials consider Donlin mine’s subsistence impact

BETHEL — Two federal agencies have weighed in on the potential impacts the proposed Donlin Creek mine could have on subsistence along the Kuskokwim River.

Donlin Gold LLC estimates it could excavate about 34 million ounces of gold over three decades from the proposed open pit mine near the village of Crooked Creek, KYUK-AM reported.

The Army Corps of Engineers predicts that the mine would have a minor to moderate impact on subsistence practices and resources.

AJOC EDITORIAL: Moda’s big Obamacare bet goes bust

Moda Health went all in on Obamacare, and it is now short-stacked and heading for the rail.

On Jan. 29, the Alaska Division of Insurance followed suit of its counterpart in Oregon by suspending Moda from operating in the state due to its rapidly deteriorating financial condition caused by massive losses incurred operating in the health insurance exchanges created by the ill-named Affordable Care Act commonly known as Obamacare.

Moda’s suspension leaves Alaska with only Premera Blue Cross Blue Shield offering individual health insurance policies.

FISH FACTOR: Rare optimism for halibut as IPHC boosts harvest quotas

Alaska’s halibut stocks are showing signs of an uptick and fishermen in all but one region will avoid slashed catches for the first time in nearly 15 years.

The International Pacific Halibut Commission on Friday (Jan. 29) set the coast wide Pacific halibut harvest for 2016 at 29.89 million pounds, a 2.3 percent increase from last year.

Anchorage LIO owners submit proposal to Legislative Council

A proposal to resolve the political hot potato that has become the Anchorage Legislative Information Office lease has been submitted to Legislative Council chair Sen. Gary Stevens.

The building’s owner group, 716 West Fourth Ave LLC, released a statement Feb. 2 saying it would not release the details of the proposal out of respect for the Legislative Council process, but noted that the group had met the timeline laid out by the council in mid-December and also likely resolved a lawsuit over the terms of the lease.

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