Alaska Digest

Posted: Sunday, April 22, 2007

Tlingit-Haida names new vice president

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JUNEAU - The Central Council of Tlingit and Haida Indian Tribes announced Friday that Fred Lauth will be the group's new sixth vice president.

Bill Martin, the council's former first vice president, took over as the new president on Thursday. He stepped into the position when Edward Thomas, president of the council for the past 23 years, announced his resignation at the group's annual general assembly in Wrangell. Thomas said he wanted to spend more time with his family.

Lauth served as a council delegate for 20 years and a vice president for eight years, a council spokeswoman said. He served for three years as the Tlingit and Haida Washington Chapter president and received a bachelor's degree in business administration from University of Washington.

Martin brings 15 years of experience as a delegate to the council, including nine years as a vice president, a council spokeswoman said. He was operations manager for the Tlingit and Haida Technology Industries for two years. He is chairman of the state Suicide Prevention Council, and vice chairman of the Inter-Tribal Monitoring Association on Indian Trust Funds in New Mexico. He will be based in Juneau.

Speed limit changed along section of Egan

JUNEAU -The speed limit was lowered Friday in a section of Egan Drive for a five-month construction project. The speed limit dropped from 55 mph to 45 mph between Vanderbilt Hill Road and Yandukin Drive.

The lowered speed limit is expected to last until October, and Juneau police say they will enforce the new limit with double fines to protect construction workers along the highway.

Felon gets one year for gun possession

JUNEAU -William Noel, 29, of Juneau, was sentenced Wednesday in a federal court to one year and one day in federal prison after a firearms conviction.

On Dec. 28, 2005 probation officers said they found Noel, a convicted felon, with a 9 mm handgun along with evidence that he was using drugs. Several federal, and state agencies conducted the investigation along with the Juneau police.

Handing down the sentence, U.S District Court Judge John W. Sedwick warned of the dangers of mixing guns and drugs.

Alleged ring leader pleads guilty to fraud

ANCHORAGE - A man accused of being the leader of a mortgage fraud ring pleaded guilty Friday to wire fraud.

Kourosh Partow was part of a group of seven Anchorage residents federal prosecutors charged with deceiving mortgage lenders by overstating income and assets on loan applications.

The other six - Azem Limani, Bekim Hasipi, Robin Dorman, Dzevid Limani, Agim Delolli and Jan Marguiss - earlier entered guilty pleas.

The conspiracy started in 2002 and involved loan amounts ranging from $156,000 to $796,000, according to the government's charging documents.

The ring used the money to buy residential properties and then sell them at higher prices, federal charging documents say. Altogether, the group netted at least $750,000 in profits from those sales, federal prosecutors assert.

Federal prosecutors in December accused Partow of being the ringleader, falsifying documents while he was a manager at the Anchorage branches of national mortgage companies Countrywide Home Loans and American Home Mortgage.

Neither mortgage company has been accused of any wrongdoing.

State tourism numbers fall slightly in 2006

ANCHORAGE - Alaska had fewer visitors in 2006, new figures show.

An estimated 1,631,500 out-of-state visitors traveled to Alaska between May and September - a drop of 500 visitors from 2005, according to the Alaska Visitor Statistics Program report released Thursday. Visitors spent more than $1.5 billion on their trips.

The report, written by state consultants, said the drop is a change in pace from recent growth in Alaska's tourism industry. From 2004 to 2005, visitation grew by 13 percent.

State officials pointed out that a different method was used to calculate the volume of Alaska visitors in 2005. That likely impacted the growth rate calculations from one year to the next.

The number of visitors traveling by air increased slightly last year, while highway travel fell slightly. Cruise-ship and ferry travel stayed roughly even.

According to the report, 958,900 visitors were cruise-ship passengers, 587,800 traveled by air and 84,800 entered or exited the state on the highway or state ferry.

Among travelers, about 1.34 million were on a pleasure trip, about 146,000 came to Alaska to visit friends or family, and 148,000 came to the state on business.

Southeast Alaska had 1.2 million visitors, the highest number on a regional basis. Some 907,000 visitors went to Southcentral areas, and 534,000 traveled to Alaska's interior, including 450,000 to Denali National Park.

Southwest Alaska and the far North had the smallest number of visitors, with 54,000 and 49,000 visitors respectively.

The volume estimates in the report were extrapolated from a count of 49,703 travelers leaving Alaska at major exit points.

State House passes Internet hunting ban

JUNEAU - The state House on Friday approved a "pre-emptive strike" to keep armchair trophy hunters from killing big game in Alaska with the click of a computer mouse.

The measure to ban Internet hunting within the state passed 39-0.

The bill's prime sponsor Bob Buch, D-Anchorage, described the practice as "pay for view slaughter."

"There is no sport in shooting animals while lying in bed wearing camouflage pajamas," Buch said.

The practice, started in 2005 by Texas entrepreneur John Lockwood, allowed hunters to pay $1,500 or more to schedule a session. Users logged onto a Web site that displayed a live feeding station on Lockwood's land.

The hunter would move on-screen cross hairs in place and remotely fire a rifle with the click of a mouse.

The trophy animal was then mounted and shipped for display.

The Texas Legislature banned the practice that same year and another 24 states have since followed suit. Nine others, including Alaska, have legislation pending.

The U.S. Congress also is considering a measure that would ban the practice across state boundaries.

The bill now goes to the Senate.

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