Plan switch could cost older employees
With the Bush administration throwing support behind "cash-balance" pension plans, more companies may convert traditional pensions to this option, which can significantly reduce older workers' projected retirement benefits. This month, the Treasury Department proposed guidelines under which employers could change traditional pensions to cash-balance plans without fear of age-discrimination charges. The department is accepting public comment and plans a hearing in April. The rules could become final in the summer.

The Pet Nanny to offer dog day-care
Pet Nanny's Place, a pet boarding facility at 5450 Bent Court near Costco, will provide dog day care beginning Jan. 6. The boarding facility has added a room that will be used as a play room for dogs staying during the day. It will provide an environment for dogs to interact with other dogs, along with ongoing housebreaking reinforcement.

New insulation product in Juneau
Juneau residents have a new option for insulating new or renovated buildings. Alaska Renovators Inc., a commercial and residential remodeling company owned by Alan Wilson and Chris Stahl, launched Alaska Insulators in November. The new company will sell and install spray-foam insulation supplied by Corbond Inc., a company based in Bozeman, Mont. The water-based urethane foam is a plastic that when sprayed into walls solidifies within 30 seconds, Wilson said.

Business profile: Bill Wright
Title and company: Owner, Gourmet Alaska Services: Gourmet Alaska is a retail store in the Nugget Mall specializing in beer-brewing supplies, cookware, kitchen utensils and knives. Wright opened the store with his wife, Lisa, in 1997 and said he has focused on stocking inventory that can't be found at other stores in town.

Credit union plans new facility
The Alaska State Employees Federal Credit Union plans to build a new facility in Vintage Park next to the Mendenhall post office. "Our members have requested a Valley location for years," said Sharon Kelly, CEO of the ASEFCU.

We can vote them out
Good thing we don't have a problem with nepotism in this country. Judging by Lisa Murkowski's track record in Anchorage, she should fit right in the U.S. Senate.

Nice work, if you can get it
I am loath to instruct someone on how to raise their children. However, I cannot help thinking that if Gov. Frank Murkowski had practiced the same tough love that my father did when I was a teenager, he might not find himself having to find employment for his adult children.

Don't exclude MacKinnon
I believe that excluding John MacKinnon from the opportunity to serve as city manager for the capital city of Alaska is not in our best interests. We will continue to spend more money to find an individual who perhaps does not know Juneau other than what is seen from a cruise ship or Web site.

Medicare not slow
The Associated Press story "Doctors opting out of Medicare after funding cutbacks," taken from the Alaska Journal of Commerce story by Regan Foster, which ran in the Dec. 18 Juneau Empire, contains some incorrect and misleading statements.

Concerned about Berners Bay
Opening up Berners Bay is not just the road, it's minerals deposits too, it's a development of traditional Native lands (stolen) which Native elders expressed should remain undeveloped.

Why the surprise over Sen. Lott?
The moral outrage over conservative Trent Lott's allusion to his past and likely present racism was a bit overblown. After all, the senator openly calls himself a conservative and we shouldn't fault a duck for walking and talking like a duck.

Would rather lock baggage
I am again amazed at the wit and wisdom of the Transportation Safety Administration. At the height of the gift-giving season, TSA is telling us not to lock our bags when checking them at the airport.

Police: 4 rape reports, 1 prosecution
Juneau police say only one of four reports of rape that led to publicized investigations since October may be prosecuted. A women's advocate is worried about the message that sends victims. "It takes so much courage for a woman to come forward and say she was raped," said Saralyn Tabachnick, executive director of AWARE, Juneau's shelter for abused women and their children.

Around Town
Around Town is a listing of local nonprofit events.

Skiers await more snow
Wednesday's white Christmas didn't bring enough snow to open Eaglecrest. But managers of the city-owned ski area hope showers predicted for the next few days will bring enough of the white stuff to allow them to consider when to start running the lifts. "The snow is nice and it's exactly what we need," Mountain Manager Paul Swanson said this morning. "We just need more of it."

Police and Fire
Juneau police, fire officials and state troopers reported:

This Day in History
In 1935, William Monroe, Klondike gold rusher and builder of a railroad from Nome to Anvil Creek, died at the age of 94. (He also was the founder of the city of Monrovia in California.)

Photo: Winter walk
Scott Spickler walks with his dog Shaq today along North Douglas Highway, saying they needed to "walk off all that Christmas food."

My Turn: Thank you, Frank - Lisa Murkowski reminds this writer of Fran Ulmer
There has been a lot of news to feed on for political junkies this season, during a time when things are usually cool and quiet. Trent Lott stepped down as U.S. Senate majority leader. Mary Landrieux kept her Democratic seat in Louisiana. Al Gore decided to drop out of the '04 presidential race. And, closer home, Frank Murkowski selected his daughter, Lisa, to be his successor in the U.S. Senate.

Juneau boys pursue 10th straight Classic title as they open their season
The Juneau-Douglas High School boys basketball team has been an inhospitable host when it comes to its signature Princess Cruises-Alaska Airlines Capital City Classic. The Crimson Bears have won the last nine titles and failed to win the tournament just once in its 11 years.

Capital City Classic: Juneau girls get rematch with 2001 tourney champion Wasilla
It's not every season that one of the Juneau-Douglas High School basketball teams gets a chance at a rematch with the previous year's winner of Juneau's Princess Cruises-Alaska Airlines Capital City Classic. But the Crimson Bears' girls team will get that opportunity, since the defending champion Wasilla Warriors are coming back to this weekend's tournament, which opens on Friday afternoon. Wasilla beat Juneau 45-35 for last year's Capital City Classic title.

Sports in Juneau
Information on upcoming sports and outdoors events in Juneau.

Minimum wage hike worries employers
ANCHORAGE - More than 14,000 Alaskans could see a raise beginning Jan. 1 when the state's new minimum wage law takes effect. While it's good news for low-income workers, businesses warn the cost will be borne by consumers. It also could cost jobs, they said.

AP&T files for Chap. 11 bankruptcy
ANCHORAGE - When Alaska Power & Telephone Co. bought an interest in paving company Summit Alaska Inc. last year, the move was supposed to provide stability through diversification, but the strategy backfired. AP&T filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy reorganization last week, and the Port Townsend, Wash.-based utility fingered Summit as the dead weight that dragged it down.

New radar monitors iceberg hazards in sound
ANCHORAGE - A radar system that scans Prince William Sound oil tanker lanes for dangerous icebergs has begun transmitting images to shipping managers in Valdez. The experimental system began operations last week. When fully operational in a few years the system will include a marine radar system on Reef Island and a new signal processor to give the Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. and the U.S. Coast Guard full-time warning of floating ice.

Native artist unveils sculpture for Arctic Slope corporation
ANCHORAGE - Othniel Art Oomittuk screwed 500-pound bones into the frozen ground last week. In a dim late-afternoon light on Monday outside an Anchorage office building, the Inupiaq artist showed off his newest creation. Towering above him, a massive whale jaw bone made of bronze rose 15 feet into the air.

Viagra sales may increase endangered species' chance for survival
ANCHORAGE - Viagra appears to be cutting into the market for endangered animals harvested illegally and sold on the black market as cures for impotence, according to a study by a University of Alaska Anchorage professor. The drug is deflating sales of legal animal products such as Alaska reindeer antler and certain Canadian seals, said Frank von Hippel, who teaches conservation biology at UAA.

State Briefs
Fairbanks theater robbed again; Tanacross man charged with sexual assault; Activists want feds to investigate fish kills;

Movies where and when
Matinees will be shown during the holidays at the Glacier Cinema. Weekdays there will be one late afternoon matinee and one evening show at the Glacier through Jan. 3.

What's up with that?
We won't keep you in suspense any longer. For those of you who read the last What's Up With That column, we promised to bring you a rough tally of how many lights grace the Governor's House each holiday season.

Juneau-Douglas City Museum closes for upgrade
Long awaited improvements will shut down the Juneau-Douglas City Museum for the month of January. "It will range from things no one will see to things that will really look good," said museum curator Mary Pat Wyatt. "There will be a lot of nice little things that will add up."

What's happening
New Year's Eve Barn Dance, 7:30-midnight Tuesday at the St. Ann's Parish Hall (Cathedral of the Nativity, Fifth and Gold streets). Odette Foster is dance caller and music with Juneau dance band Grateful Celtics. All dances taught, beginners welcome, no partners necessary. Bring clean, soft-soled shoes for dancing. Call 463-3214 for information, $7.

A Winter of Arts and Entertainment
Next year marks celebrations of the 40th anniversary of the Juneau Symphony and the 20th anniversary of Centennial Hall. The new year also will bring new events and the return of successful programs. Guitarist Habib Koite, author Megan Whelan, soprano Cynthia Rhys and artist Don Weir are among those featured in upcoming events. The Winter Fireside Series sponsored by the U.S. Forest Service returns with presentations on salmon, a ski trip across the Juneau Icefield and a climb to the summit of Denali. The Geophysical Institute is again sponsoring a series of presentations on science in Alaska, featuring whales, the aurora and volcanoes.

Acrobatic comic to feminist clown
Michael Clark is trying to build a bridge between Whitehorse and Juneau with humor. "I think its crazy we have these two cities so close, that are so similar, and we don't have more cross-pollination," he said.

Best Bets: New Year's Eve offers dancing and dining
New Year's Eve festivities top the list of events this week, with dancing, dinner specials and parties at a number of local establishments. The first weeks of January offer a couple of excellent workshops, one for singers and another for dancers, providing opportunities for beginners and advanced folks to hone their skills.

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