Liz Ruskin, Alaska Public Media

Liz Ruskin, Alaska Public Media
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Liz Ruskin covers Alaska issues in Washington as the network's D.C. correspondent. She was born in Anchorage and is a West High grad. She has degrees from the University of Washington and the University of Missouri School of Journalism in Columbia. She previously worked at the Homer News, the Anchorage Daily News and the Washington bureau of McClatchy Newspapers. She also freelanced for several years from the U.K. and Japan, in print and radio. Liz has been APRN’s Washington, D.C. correspondent since October 2013. She welcomes your news tips at lruskin (at) alaskapublic (dot) org  | About Liz

The National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration today announced it is sending Alaska $21 million in federal disaster funds for poor king salmon returns in three regions. Download Audio

About 30 opponents of the proposed Pebble Mine met in Washington today with White House and high-ranking EPA staff. They came armed with a new EPA study that found a mine of Pebble’s size would pose a significant risk to Bristol Bay and its valuable salmon fisheries. Now they’re asking the Environment agency to take the next step and kill the project. They didn’t get a definite answer. Download Audio

Secretary of State John Kerry announced last week that he’s creating a new position called Special Representative for the Arctic Region. It’s been referred to as an “Arctic Ambassador” in some reports, but it’s not exactly that, and the reaction of Alaska’s two U.S. senators has been mixed. Download Audio

Alaska air taxi operators say the IRS has re-interpreted tax law for their industry, hitting some Bush pilots with tax bills of up to a million dollars. Alaska’s federal lawmakers are asking the revenue office to back off until they get some answers about what the rules are. The unexpected burden is driving some air carriers into debt or out of business entirely. Download Audio

Alaska air taxi operators say the IRS has re-interpreted tax law for their industry, hitting some Bush pilots with tax bills of up to a million dollars. Alaska’s federal lawmakers are asking the revenue office to back off until they get some answers about what the rules are. In the meantime, the unexpected burden is driving some air carriers into debt, or out of business entirely.

U.S. Secretary of State John Kerry says he is creating a new Arctic position. In a letter to Sen. Mark Begich, Kerry says he will appoint a person of high stature to serve as “Special Representative for the Arctic Region” in order to elevate U.S. attention on the far North. Download Audio

In Washington, D.C.  the Senate Indian Affairs Committee yesterday reviewed a controversial report on Native American law-and-order that portrays the high rates of violence in rural Alaska, particularly against Native women and children, as a national disgrace. While Alaska’s senators agreed the gaps in law enforcement are deplorable, the long-standing dispute over tribal jurisdiction in the state hangs over the search for solutions. Listen Now

The U.S. Senate is considering two international treaties that Sen. Lisa Murkowski says would help crack down on pirate fishing in the North Pacific. Murkowski today told the Senate Foreign Affairs Committee that illegal high seas fishing is an economic threat to the crab industry. Listen Now

Congress is working this week to protect military pensions from inflation. The U.S. House voted today (Tuesday) to restore a cut to the cost-of-living-allowance for retirees, and the Senate last night (Monday) voted to move forward with a bill to do the same. The Senate bill was sponsored by Alaska Sen. Mark Begich, and, on the procedural vote, it passed 94-0. Still, as APRN's Liz Ruskin reports, the bill's fate is uncertain. Listen Now

The U.S. Postal Service has agreed to rollback its parcel post rate hike for shipments to rural Alaska, according to Senator Mark Begich. In a Senate committee hearing today he added an amendment to a postal reform bill to undo the increase imposed last week for in-state mail to communities not linked by road. But he said he secured a separate commitment from the postmaster general to lower rates immediately, or as soon as the post office can change its machines.

The proposed Pebble Mine isn't at the permit stage yet, but it continues to make news. This week, anti-mine groups released a letter signed by more than 300 scientists opposing the project, and the Pebble Partnership has announced a shuffle at the top. Attorney Tom Collier will become CEO, taking over from John Shively, who will stay on as chairman of the board. Meanwhile, Shively is taking aim at a recent anti-Pebble TV spot. Download Audio

The U.S. Senate passed a four-year farm bill Tuesday that includes Payments in Lieu of Taxes. The so-called PILT program sends some $26 million a year to Alaska communities adjacent to non-taxable federal lands. The bill also renews Alaska’s Village Safe Water program, which gets some $30 million a year from the federal government. Download Audio

The U.S. House passed a bill Wednesday that included a provision allowing some 41 American sport hunters to bring polar bear trophies home from Canada. Download Audio

An increase in complaints from Alaskans about the U.S. Postal Service prompted Sen. Mark Begich to write the Postmaster General this week, demanding answers. Download Audio

A campaign by Senator Lisa Murkowski to lift the decades-old ban on crude oil exports got its first hearing in Washington today. It’s been 25 years since Congress has formally considered the ban it adopted during the Arab oil embargo, but the recent energy boom in the Lower 48 is triggering new debates. Download Audio

The U.S. House today passed a farm bill that includes programs for Alaska unrelated to agriculture. The bill continues another year of funding for Payment in Lieu of Taxes, a program that pays municipalities surrounded by federal land to compensate for the loss of tax base. The so-called PILT program sends about $26 million a year to Alaska and is a large portion of the budget for some local governments. The bill also renews Alaska’s Village Safe Water program, which gets some $30 million a year from the federal government. Download Audio

President Obama gave his State of the Union address Tuesday night, and the response from Alaska's U.S. senators was swift and negative, particularly to Obama's pledge to act without Congress where he can. Download Audio

Veterans and military members in Alaska and around the country have been outraged at Congress since December, when lawmakers passed a budget that would trim their retirement benefits, starting in 2015. Download Audio

GovTrack, a nonpartisan website that collects data on proposed federal legislation, has completed its 2013 report card on members of Congress. It found Alaska’s Mark Begich co-sponsored more bills than any other senator, while Congressman Don Young introduced more bills than any other House Republican. But the report card was especially interesting for what it said about U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski. Download Audio

U.S. Sen. Mark Begich has taken a definitive stand against the Pebble Mine. He told the Anchorage Daily News over the weekend that he can’t support the proposed mine in Southwestern Alaska. In doing so, he’s broken away from the rest of Alaska’s congressional delegation and his three Republican challengers. Download Audio