Alaska Digest

Posted: Wednesday, May 10, 2006

Barrow prepares for two months of sun

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BARROW - The 4,200 residents of Barrow are preparing to embark on a midnight sun binge, with no sunset for more than two months.

Gina Sturm of the National Weather Service said the sun will set at 1:45 a.m. Wednesday, then rise again at 3:01 a.m.

From there, she said, the sun will not set again in Barrow until Aug. 2.

Many residents of the community 725 miles north of Anchorage are happy to see the hours of sunshine after a dark winter.

"I'm always happy to see the midnight sun," said Ann Jensen, who has lived in Barrow for 10 years, and worked summers on the North Slope for 10 years before that.

"The weather is usually really nice in the middle of the night," she said. "I've never had any trouble sleeping in tents, but it still bothers me a bit when I'm sleeping inside. I just use an eyeshade."

Ben Frantz has lived in Barrow since 1967.

"The sun being here 24 hours just seems to revitalize our levels of activity. With so much to do on the ice, inland, and then on open water, it is a great plus. Weather permitting, we are then able to enjoy our grand expanses around the clock."

Barrow is North America's northernmost community.

Embattled priest dies in Oregon

FAIRBANKS - A former pastor of Fairbanks Immaculate Conception Church, who stepped down last year following allegations that he sexually abused minors in western Alaska, died in his sleep Sunday at Colombiere Jesuit Community in Portland, Ore., church officials said. He was 63.

The Rev. Richard L. McCaffrey had "longstanding cardiac and pulmonary problems," a news release said.

McCaffrey was relieved of his pastoral duties a year ago by Fairbanks Catholic Diocese Bishop Donald Kettler following the allegations. Kettler officially removed McCaffrey from ministry in the diocese three months later, following an independent investigation by the diocese.

McCaffrey maintained his denial of any wrongdoing.

Anchorage attorney Ken Roosa, who represents two female plaintiffs in civil suits against McCaffrey, the diocese and the Society of Jesus, Oregon Province, said McCaffrey's death is a disappointment.

"We really wanted to question him in depositions," Roosa said.

Roosa said that McCaffrey's alleged victims had wanted to confront the priest face to face in court.

McCaffrey's death will not alter the continuation of the lawsuits that have been filed to date.

Kettler expressed his sadness at McCaffrey's passing and offered prayers for his soul. No other statement was released by the chancery.

McCaffrey had been pastor of Immaculate Conception parish since 1998 and had worked in nearly a dozen Alaska parishes since 1967. He was pastor in Bethel for 1012 years before being transferred back to Immaculate Conception in Fairbanks.

Farmers reject Alaska Grown settlement

WASILLA - A legal dispute over the bright blue, gold and green "Alaska Grown" logo resumed Monday after a group of farmers rejected a settlement offer from the state.

The state Division of Agriculture filed a lawsuit in February in Anchorage that says the logo belongs to it. The Matanuska-Susitna Chapter of the Alaska Farm Bureau says it has acquired the rights by having it on T-shirts and other apparel for 20 years.

Nineteen of 20 Mat-Su Farm Bureau members rejected the state's settlement offer last week. Their refusal gives the state an opportunity to reopen a lawsuit against the Farm Bureau chapter over the logo.

Assistant Attorney General Steve Ross said the state would pursue the lawsuit.

"We made a very fair proposal to them that would have returned both parties to where we were before the dispute," Ross said.

The state initially said that using the logo on clothing was fine, as long as the farmers' group got state permission to do so. The state filed suit after the farm group made a bid for exclusive rights to the symbol last year.

Under the Alaska Grown program, the Agriculture Division authorizes use of the symbol on products grown or raised in the state. The colorful logo is on bags of Alaska carrots as well as on T-shirts, ball caps, sweatshirts and bumper stickers. About 300 companies use the logo, mostly on Alaska produce.

The farmers group was on the state's list of companies approved to use "Alaska Grown," but the state rescinded its permission after learning that the group had filed a federal trademark application.

Nulato residents argue over liquor store

ANCHORAGE - Residents in the Yukon River village of Nulato are debating a proposal to create a city-owned liquor store and use the proceeds to pay for police and other city services.

But it's a tough choice to make in a community with a history of drinking problems.

Thecla Esmailka, 76, said village elders don't like the idea. They remember the last time a private liquor store operated in town more than 50 years ago.

But store supporters in the village of 310 say revenues would replace money once provided by the state and discourage traveling in dangerous weather to a liquor store about 15 miles up the river.

Councilman Howard Esmailka supports the liquor store because the village is struggling to stay afloat after the Legislature stopped sharing oil revenues with communities in 2003.

Booze sales could pay for a village police officer, he said. Water and wastewater fees could also be reduced and the city's small staff could receive merit raises for the first time in 20 years, he said.

"It'll keep the money in town," he said. "Now it all goes to the Last Chance."

Last Chance liquor store is the only place for miles where river travelers can buy booze.

Russian volcano sends ash to Aleutians

ANCHORAGE - An ashfall advisory was issued Tuesday for Alaska's western Aleutian Islands after a volcano on the Kamchatka Peninsula in Russia's Far East began emitting tall plumes of ash.

No Russian settlements were in danger, the Emergency Situations Ministry there said.

The National Weather Service in Anchorage said satellite images showed an ash cloud extended southeast across the western Aleutians, west of Amchitka. Very light ashfall was possible.

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