State Briefs

Posted: Wednesday, April 09, 2003

Pandas make brief stop in Anchorage

ANCHORAGE - Two giant pandas from China made a short stop in Anchorage this week on their way to their new home in Memphis, Tenn.

The bears, named Le Le and Ya Ya, will live in the Memphis Zoo for the next 10 years. They were the only cargo on board a FedEx cargo plane, which was decorated with 30-foot-high panda decals and nicknamed the Panda Express for the trans-Pacific flight.

The plane touched down at Ted Stevens Anchorage International Airport about 4:30 a.m. Monday. The pandas were cleared by U.S. Customs and checked by U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service officers before continuing on their trip.

The bears are the fourth pair of pandas on exhibit in the United States and the ninth pair outside of China.

Troopers won't release cause of Wigen's death

JUNEAU - Alaska State Troopers said Tuesday they are not releasing the cause of death of a 19-year-old woman whose body was found in a shallow grave in Tenakee Springs about a week after she disappeared.

"We are saying only that we can confirm the body is that of Maggie Wigen and nothing more," Trooper spokesman Greg Wilkinson said. "We are not releasing any more information in order to maintain the integrity of the investigation."

Wigen's body was found April 1 near her home in Tenakee Springs. She was a resident of Juneau and Tenakee, 50 miles southwest of Juneau on Chicagof Island.

Wilkinson said the body was identified through dental records. Family and friends and Tenakee residents confirmed the body was Wigen last week.

Wilkinson declined comment on whether there was evidence of a sexual assault or trauma to the body. He also declined to comment on whether troopers have a suspect or murder weapon.

Salmon infrastructure meeting tonight

JUNEAU - Juneau residents will have an opportunity to offer suggestions about improvement to salmon fishing infrastructure at a meeting tonight in the Mendenhall Valley.

The comments taken from the meeting will be incorporated into a study being conducted by industry analysts at the McDowell Group, which has been commissioned to help the state determine how to spend $13 million that is earmarked for salmon infrastructure improvements. That money is part of the Southeast Alaska Sustainable Salmon Fund.

The McDowell Group has held meetings in Sitka, Ketchikan and Petersburg, and plans to hold teleconferences in the future so that people in smaller communities can comment.

The public comment session will run from 5 to 7 p.m. at the Mendenhall Mall meeting room.

Activist jailed on trespassing charge

ANCHORAGE - A political activist and candidate for the Chugach Electric Association Board was arrested in Anchorage over the weekend for distributing election fliers outside the city-owned Sullivan Arena during a sports show.

Uwe Kalenka, who backed a measure to move legislative sessions north, says he was exercising his First Amendment rights. City officials say he was on privately leased property and refused to leave.

Kalenka and a colleague, attorney Karen Bretz, went to the arena about noon Sunday to distribute fliers for Kalenka's candidacy to the crowd at the Great Alaska Sportsman Show. Kalenka said he figured some in the crowd were Chugach customers.

Police said Kalenka and Bretz were arrested after security guards asked them to leave or move to a public sidewalk and they refused.

The pair were charged with trespassing. Bretz was released on her own recognizance. Kalenka was taken to Anchorage Jail and released later that day on $500 bail.

Youth media awareness series scheduled

JUNEAU - Local groups concerned about youths will sponsor a series of discussions this month about how the mass media affects people's views of sexuality, race and violence.

The first three meetings will present videos, which will be discussed afterward. The fourth meeting is solely a discussion. The meetings will run from 6:30 to 8:30 p.m. in the Dzantik'i Heeni Middle School commons. The public is invited to all of the meetings, organizers said.

"Tough Guise: Media Images and the Social Construction of Masculine Identities" will be presented Thursday, April 10. "Killing Us Softly 3: Advertising's Depiction of Women and their Effects on Gender Role Identity" will be presented Wednesday, April 16. "Game Over: Gender, Race and Violence in Video Games" will be presented Thursday, April 24. A final discussion will be held Monday, April 28.

"We're really encouraging youths and adults to come together," said Heather Binkley, a Vista volunteer at Juneau-Douglas High School who is helping organize the events.

The meetings were spurred by parents' concerns that they couldn't control what their children hear and see from media such as movies, TV shows, music videos and video games. The videos to be shown were made by the Media Education Foundation, a nonprofit organization based in Northampton, Mass. Its Web site is

The event is sponsored by the JDHS site council, AWARE, the Healthy Families/Teen Family Center, the Mayor's Task Force on Youth, Tongass Community Counseling Center, Dzantik'i Heeni, the Alaska Network on Domestic Violence and Sexual Assault and Bartlett Regional Hospital.

Senators ask for Juneau immigration staff

JUNEAU - U.S. Sens. Lisa Murkowski and Ted Stevens have asked the Department of Homeland Security to put a full-time immigration services officer in Juneau.

The Department of Homeland Security absorbed the Immigration and Naturalization Service on March 1, splitting the agency's duties among three new bureaus. The switch has brought concerns that immigration services in Juneau might be moved or limited.

In a letter to Homeland Security Secretary Tom Ridge, Stevens and Murkowski asked that an immigration services officer be assigned to Juneau.

"Given the large immigrant population in Juneau, it is important that the Department of Homeland Security provide a full-time immigration officer in Juneau to ensure that residents can get the services they need without incurring the expense of traveling to Anchorage," Stevens said.

The Juneau Assembly also has asked the federal government to assign immigration staff in Juneau. For now, the Bureau of Citizenship and Immigration plans to send staff from Anchorage to Juneau periodically, as in the past, interim district director Bernadette Nocerino-Doody said last month.

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