State Briefs

Posted: Monday, February 25, 2002

Biologists ponder two-headed moose fetus near air station

ANCHORAGE - A two-headed fetus was discovered this month in a cow moose shot near Clear Air Force Station.

The foot-long fetus had two heads and four legs emerging from the same small body, said Jim Simon, who oversees a traditional foods assessment program for the Tanana Chiefs Conference in Fairbanks. It has been frozen pending a detailed biological study.

"We're going to try to explain it and do good science and get back to the community," Simon said. "As far as we know, the scientific literature has no reports of two-headed moose, so now we're trying to beat the bushes for tribal communities to see whether it's been reported in the North."

A Nenana man shot the cow moose Feb. 3 for the funeral potlatch and discovered the fetus while field dressing the carcass, said Jack Irwin, first chief of the Nenana Native Council. Irwin decided it should be tested for contaminants or other problems.

"Of course, a genetic defect is a probability, but being that it was within a five-mile radius of Clear, it just became a matter of maybe we should look into it," he said.

At Clear, a top-secret radar listening post off the Parks Highway about 20 miles south of Nenana, no reports have been received of unusual wildlife deaths or deformities, according to Staff Sgt. Keith Smith, the station's spokesman. "It's just an impossibility for it to be connected" to the base, Smith said.

Fairbanks snowmachiner dies in accident

FAIRBANKS - A Fairbanks snowmobiler was killed over the weekend when he went off a trail while riding north of the city, Alaska State Troopers report.

Kenneth Harvey, 33, was pronounced dead at the scene of the Saturday crash, troopers said.

Harvey was snowmachining with a friend about 11 miles up the Elliott Highway from Fairbanks, according to trooper spokesman Greg Wilkinson. The friend notified authorities about the crash shortly after 5 p.m. Saturday.

Talkeetna votes on city status

ANCHORAGE - The state has begun mailing ballots to Talkeetna residents asking whether the small community north of Anchorage should become a city.

If the measure is approved, a 24-square-mile piece of land surrounding downtown would be the first new city in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough in more than 25 years. Wasilla was the last to make the move, in 1974.

Supporters, however, face major hurdles, including a vocal opposition that shuns the idea of more government.

About 800 people live in the proposed incorporation area. For the measure to pass, a majority must approve the idea of becoming a city and either a 4 percent seasonal sales tax or a 2 percent year-round sales tax to help pay for city services such as animal control and road maintenance.

The ballot also includes a list of candidates for mayor and City Council who would be seated if incorporation is approved.

Supporters say a local government would be more responsive to complaints and problems than the borough, whose headquarters are miles away in Palmer. But others say more government is the last thing they want. "It's just not real Talkeetna," said Suzy Kellard, who owns a gift shop. "This is still the last frontier. People moved here to get away from government, to get away from extra taxes, to get away from everything."

Alyeska terminal closed to visitors

VALDEZ - Alyeska Pipeline Service Co. says the public will not be allowed to tour its terminal this summer.

"We explored alternatives to continue public tours under heightened security screening, but couldn't satisfy ourselves," said Richard Ranger, with Alyeska's Valdez business unit. "We acknowledge the significance of the fact and are in the process of looking at alternatives to meet curiosity and interest."

Alyeska has tightened restrictions on all visitors to the terminal, Ranger said. Security has increased in and around all aspects of the pipeline since the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks.

Last season, 20,000 people visited the terminal through public tours.

Amchitka vets may get benefits

ANCHORAGE - Under new Veterans Affairs regulations, Amchitka military personnel who developed radiation-related cancers may be eligible for medical benefits and compensation.

The workers were stationed on Amchitka Island, near the end of the Aleutians in Southwest Alaska, during the atomic testing era three decades ago.

U.S. Secretary of Veterans Affairs Anthony J. Principi said the Amchitka atomic veterans have been added to a program that since 1988 has provided benefits to military personnel who served during the post-World War II occupation of Hiroshima and Nagasaki or at sites where the United States conducted above-ground tests.

Until now, personnel stationed at Amchitka during the underground nuclear testing era were not eligible for the VA program. Until last year, civilian employees of contractors who worked on the Amchitka tests were excluded from compensation and benefits available to civilians who worked at above-ground test sites.

Both Amchitka groups now are eligible for compensation and benefits packages.

Under the new VA regulations, the agency will presume a connection between service on Amchitka and any of 20 forms of radiation-related cancers. The regulatory changes are effective March 26.

It's unclear how many military personnel served on Amchitka during the three atomic tests there - in 1965, 1969 and 1971.

New state trooper commits suicide

ANCHORAGE - A man in field training as an Alaska State Trooper died after shooting himself in the head as Anchorage police responded to a family argument over the weekend.

Toby Robbins, 29, killed himself late Saturday night. Police said they were responding to a 911 call that Robbins was threatening to commit suicide during a domestic dispute.

Robbins shot himself with his 40-caliber service pistol inside the front door of his Midtown home after seeing two Anchorage officers outside, troopers and police said.

He was pronounced dead while being transferred to Providence Alaska Medical Center.

Robbins had just started a career in law enforcement after serving in the U.S. Air Force. He graduated from the trooper academy in Sitka in November, and had been undergoing 15 weeks of supervised training as a recruit based in Palmer. He worked his regular shift Saturday. He is survived by his wife and three children.

Ketchikan nurses reach labor agreement

KETCHIKAN - Ketchikan General Hospital RNs United reached a tentative contract agreement with the hospital last week after seven months of negotiations, the union said.

Union leaders will recommend that the 64 registered nurses employed by the hospital accept the contract in an election in March, according to the union.

Dr. Phil Newman, the hospital's director of quality services, said Friday that the administration was hopeful the contract would be approved.

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