Northwest Digest

Posted: Thursday, March 18, 2004

Vandals do $10,000 of damage to ferry

JUNEAU - Alaska State Troopers are looking for information regarding vandalism reported Tuesday aboard the Alaska Marine Highway vessel LeConte.

Troopers reported that about 28 chairs in the forward lounge were bent out of shape, apparently after the ferry had left Ketchikan. Total damage from the vandalism was estimated at $10,000.

Troopers are encouraging anyone with information about the vandalism to call the department's Juneau office at 465-4000.

Appeals Court upholds Alaska sex registry law

SAN FRANCISCO - A federal appeals court on Wednesday upheld a 1994 Alaska law requiring all sex offenders - even those convicted before 1994 - to register with authorities as sex offenders.

The idea behind sex offender registries is that the location of offenders should be publicly known and easily discovered because they are statistically likely to commit sex offenses again once released from jail.

Unnamed sex offenders challenged Alaska's law, saying it was unconstitutional, retroactive punishment as applied to offenders convicted before Alaska lawmakers enacted the law.

The 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals did not agree. A three-judge panel said that the Supreme Court said last year that a similar registry law in Connecticut was constitutional because it was not punishing retroactively.

"The statute's provisions serve a legitimate nonpunitive purpose of public safety, which is advanced by alerting the public to the risk of sex offenders in their community," the court wrote. Alaska has about 3,000 sex offenders.

British Columbia may face chicken shortage

VANCOUVER, British Columbia - British Columbia consumers outside the Vancouver area may soon find it difficult to buy chicken because of an outbreak of avian flu, a poultry processor says.

Because of the outbreak at two Fraser Valley farms near Abbotsford, a few miles north of Sumas, Wash., a permit is required to transport live birds and poultry into or out of a designated zone without a permit.

"We can't ship anything fresh or frozen out of the control zone," Neil Ambrose, head veterinarian at Sunrise Poultry, said Tuesday. "The range of poultry products in the stores outside of the Lower Mainland will start to run low."

After testing more than 2,000 chickens from 15 farms in a three-mile radius around the two infected operations, the Canadian Food Inspection Agency has found "no indication that there is a problem in any other farm," said spokesman Dr. Cornelius Kiley said Tuesday.

The same virus, deadly to birds but of little risk to humans, was found on both farms. It is a different virus from the one causing human deaths in Asia.

Authorities have slaughtered 54,000 chickens on the two farms, and the carcasses are being taken to Princeton in refrigerated trucks to be burned in a high-heat fire in an open pit at the site of an old mine.

Mild quake rattles Mount Vernon, Wash.

MOUNT VERNON, Wash. - A mild earthquake with a magnitude of 3.8 rattled this northwest Washington town and nearby areas early Wednesday.

According to the University of Washington seismology Web site, the quake was centered about three miles east-southeast of Mount Vernon at 3:34 a.m.

No damage has been reported, but a number of residents told Seattle television and radio stations they felt about six seconds of shaking that rattled items on shelves.

Trial for lesbian minister begins with arrests

BOTHELL, Wash. - Police outside a United Methodist church arrested dozens of supporters of the Rev. Karen Dammann on Wednesday after they tried to stop a trial on whether the lesbian pastor could continue her ministry.

About 100 people protested loudly but peaceably outside Bothell United Methodist in this northeast Seattle suburb, and many tried to blocked church officials from entering the building. Police arrested 33 when they refused to move.

Dammann and church officials were able to get inside the building, where a jury of 13 pastors will determine whether she can remain as a church minister. Three years ago, when she held a church position in Seattle, she disclosed that she was in a homosexual relationship.

Dammann, 47, is charged with "practices declared by the United Methodist Church to be incompatible to Christian teachings." Church law prohibits ordination of self-avowed, practicing homosexuals, although the church's social principles support rights and liberties for homosexuals.

She is now on leave as pastor of First United Methodist Church in Ellensburg, 95 miles east of Seattle. Last week she married her partner of nine years, Meredith Savage, in Portland, Ore., where officials began allowing gay marriages earlier this month. The couple has a 5-year-old son.

Dammann entered the suburban church without commenting to reporters. She pleaded not guilty, and in an opening statement to the jurors, her church counsel, the Rev. Bob Ward, compared the struggle of gays and lesbians to the struggle that women and minorities had in gaining rights.

Human-cougar conflicts grow

SPOKANE, Wash. - Urban sprawl and shrinking habitat are increasing conflicts between humans and cougars, an expert on carnivores said Wednesday.

More cougars, which range throughout the West from British Columbia to South America, are living near humans, Donny Martorello, Washington Department of Fish and Wildlife carnivore manager, said as a wildlife conference began in Spokane.

"Lions are living in very close proximity to humans, and in many cases, those people are unaware they are there," Martorello said.

The cougar, also known as mountain lion or puma, was hunted for bounty as a predatory menace until it was classified as a game animal in 1960. Since 1990, California has banned their hunting and Oregon and Washington passed initiatives barring the use of dogs to hunt them.

In January, a bicyclist on a wilderness trail in southern California was jumped by a cougar, and rescued only after companions threw rocks at the lion and pulled her away in a desperate tug-of-war. After her rescue, the body of another bicyclist who had been killed earlier the same day and was found partially buried nearby.

The two attacks occurred in Orange County just a few hundred yards from homes.

Although no one has been killed by a cougar in Washington state since 1924, one or two incidents of nonfatal attacks have been reported each year over the past decade, according to department records.

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