Prisoners find spiritual inspiration
BETHEL - In a large gymnasium a group of 20 young men and women sit on benches, their heads bowed into hymnals as their voices rise and fall along with the notes of "Pass me not."
They could be mistaken for members of a Yupik gospel group, or a church congregation, were it not for the blue and yellow cotton uniforms worn by inmates at the Yukon-Kuskokwim Correctional Center.
Each Saturday, the inmates gather for two hours of Bible study, prayer and song led by Fred Broerman, the jail's chaplain coordinator.
The state Department of Corrections chaplaincy program began in 1980. Currently 1,200 volunteers, representing more than 200 churches and religious organizations, travel to prisons, jails and halfway houses to offer spiritual services to people incarcerated across the state.
"We believe for inmates who are serious about making a personal change and choose a spiritual path, that religion and faith are powerful change factors," Mike Ensch, chaplaincy administrator for the Department of Corrections.
"I'm pretty young to be in here and I'm in here for something that is real bad," said 17-year-old Michael Kashatok, as he fingered a white ivory cross hanging from his neck. "When I am feeling real depressed about leaving my family or about being in here and ... someone comes in on a spiritual visit, it makes me feel a lot better."
Several inmates nodded as Kashatok described the depression he felt during long hours in a cell.
"God comes not for the righteous, but for those who are lost," said one inmate who went by the nickname Kookie.
Broerman agreed. He sees his role in the jail as less of a leader and more of an objective observer, one who is able to offer spiritual insight inmates might not have considered before, he said.
Head of liquor lobby steps down
ANCHORAGE - The president of the Anchorage group that lobbies on behalf of bars, restaurants and liquor stores is stepping down, citing publicity about his most recent drunken-driving arrest.
Frank Dahl has headed the Anchorage Cabaret, Hotel, Restaurant & Retailers Association since helping to launch it a year ago.
He was arrested Dec. 3 on a charge of driving while intoxicated. Prosecutors said he has four previous DWI convictions.
Dahl said Monday that he is stepping down from the Anchorage group as well as the statewide organization because of publicity following his latest arrest.
"He's doing the right thing," said John Pattee, vice president of Anchorage CHARR and owner of the Gaslight Lounge and Avenue Bar. "He obviously cannot continue in this position, not with this hanging over him."
Dahl is in outpatient treatment while awaiting resolution of his case.
Pilot killed in crash of Yute cargo plane
BETHEL - A Wasilla man was killed Monday when the cargo plane he was piloting crashed on a flight from Bethel to Chevak, Alaska State Troopers said.
David Neel, 58, was flying the Yute Air Cargo plane that went down about 80 miles west of Bethel on Monday, troopers said. The Alaska Rescue Coordination Center picked up an emergency locator transmission from the area at 12:30 p.m.
The Army National Guard was dispatched with medical personnel and arrived on the scene at about 4:30 p.m. Neel's body was recovered from the crash site at about 8 p.m. Neel was the only person on board the plane.
Troopers said weather in the area at the time of the crash was poor, with limited visibility and icing conditions.
Gas producers and pipeline cos. talk
ANCHORAGE - Alaska's natural gas producers met in Washington, D.C, on Monday with U.S. and Canadian pipeline companies to discuss development of Alaska's North Slope natural gas reserves.
The meeting was hosted by Alaska Sen. Frank Murkowski. While Murkowski declared the meeting a success, it was clear many obstacles to the project remain.
The participants met for about 2 1/2 hours behind the closed doors of a Senate hearing room.
State Sen. John Torgerson, a Kasilof Republican, said the meeting mostly identified barriers to the project. "They've got a long ways to go," Torgerson said.
The three major Alaska producers - Exxon Mobil, BP and Phillips - say the multibillion-dollar project is not currently economical. There are also disputes about the route of the proposed line - whether it should follow the Alaska Highway south through Anchorage or travel east to Canadian gas fields, which the producers say would be cheaper.
Compiled from wire service reports.