State Briefs

Posted: Monday, May 12, 2003

Stevens denies pressuring Smithsonian

WASHINGTON - Sen. Ted Stevens praised the Smithsonian Institution's decision to tone down a photo exhibit on the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge and move it to a less prominent gallery but said the decision had nothing to do with him.

"Every article I've seen ... indicates that I'm the one that put pressure on the Smithsonian to move it, and it's not true," Stevens, an Alaska Republican, said on the Senate floor Friday morning.

He said he would defend the museum officials who rethought the exhibit - "Arctic National Wildlife Refuge: Seasons of Life and Land" - before it opened at the National Museum of Natural History. The show and book of the same name were an attempt to convince people that drilling in the refuge is wrong, he said.

"This is a propaganda book!" Stevens boomed, pounding the publication with his fist.

Photographer Subhankar Banerjee, who spent 14 months photographing the refuge, said he does not know where the pressure originated, but it certainly was applied.

On April 3, Banerjee got a call from Robert Sullivan, the museum's associate director for public programs. Sullivan said the exhibit had been threatened with cancellation and would have to change.

Man with famous name wins drug case appeal

FAIRBANKS - The state Court of Appeals has agreed that a drug conviction against a Fairbanks man with a famous name should be overturned in part because the name was not sufficient reason for a package to searched.

Sam McGee, 72, had pleaded no contest to four counts of misconduct involving a controlled substance with the condition that he be allowed to appeal the convictions.

The Appeals Court confirmed a Superior Court decision to overturn the conviction.

McGee has a name made famous by Gold Rush poet Robert W. Service in "The Cremation of Sam McGee." The title character seeks gold in the Yukon but constantly whines about the stabbing cold. With his dying request, he asks the poem's narrator to cremate him.

The Appeals Court opinion released Friday indicated judges had to consider whether a drug agent looking at FedEx packages in 1999 had reasonable suspicion to inspect a package addressed to McGee that contained cocaine.

One reason agent Larry Tower gave for inspecting the package was McGee's name.

"Tower concluded that the addressee was fictitious because he recalled 'a legend of Sam McGee or something' and the name struck him as 'comical,"' judges wrote.

Drug agents attached a sensor to the package and allowed it to continue to McGee's rural home east of Fairbanks. The sensor alerted agents when the package was opened. McGee was arrested at his home, where agents found cocaine, methadone and methamphetamine.

Awards of doctoral degrees increase at UAF

FAIRBANKS - The University of Alaska Fairbanks granted 36 doctorates Saturday, the largest number ever. The 36 Ph.D's were among more than 900 students receiving diplomas.

"We typically averaged about 23 to 25 over the last five years," said Joseph Kan, dean of the graduate school.

Enrollment in the university's doctorate programs grew steadily during the 1990s, said Provost Paul Reichardt. Most of the doctoral students are in science and engineering.

"What you will see is that from like 1989 to 1999, there is basically a doubling in Ph.D students," Reichardt said. The average length of study for doctoral students nationwide is six to eight years, so some of the students recruited in the 1990s are now graduating.

The provost attributes part of the growth to a university-wide drive to increase the number of doctoral students.

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