State Briefs

Posted: Tuesday, July 15, 2003

Greenpeace's newest ship heads to Southeast

KETCHIKAN - Greenpeace's newest and largest ship is headed to Southeast Alaska next month to bring attention to logging in the Tongass National Forest and Bush administration policies.

The ship is scheduled to visit Ketchikan, Juneau and Sitka in early August to meet with local activists and community leaders.

Scott Paul, forest campaign coordinator for the environmental group, said the 236-foot ship plans to visit roadless areas on the Tongass and Southeast's now-defunct pulp mills.

Paul said Greenpeace is particularly concerned about a recent rule-making effort to exclude Alaska's Tongass and Chugach national forests from the roadless rule.

The Clinton-era rule would limit logging and roadbuilding on national forest land.

The group also is concerned with efforts to swap national forest land for private land in the Tongass and logging's effects on wild salmon runs. The expansion of fish farms in British Columbia is another worry, he said.

Fairbanks cab driver stabbed to death

FAIRBANKS - A Fairbanks man was arrested Monday in the killing of a cab driver, Alaska State Troopers said.

Jonathan Beiderbeck, 21, faces charges of second-degree murder in the death of 53-year-old Michael Belknap, a driver for Yellow-Eagle Cab Co.

Fairbanks police said that at 7:40 a.m. they received a call from Beiderbeck's room at the Tamarack Inn Motel. He said he had been stabbed during an attempted robbery behind the Fred Meyer store on College Road.

Beiderbeck was transported to Fairbanks Memorial Hospital via ambulance and treated for his wounds. He was then taken to the police station.

Investigators say it was Beiderbeck who stabbed Belknap, stole his cab, and fabricated the story about the attempted robbery, according to troopers.

Investigators said Belknap picked up Beiderbeck at 4:15 a.m. and was stabbed sometime around 5:30 a.m.

Mystery substance forces evacuation of Ketchikan businesses

KETCHIKAN - A mystery substance forced the evacuation of several Front Street businesses on Sunday afternoon.

The Ketchikan Fire Department at about 12:30 p.m. received reports of a "foul smell that made it hard to breathe," said Lt. Dave Hull.

"Once we got there, we realized there was less a smell to it and it was more that it made you cough," Hull said.

He said the 200 block of Front Street was immediately evacuated and traffic was diverted from the area while police officers and fire department personnel searched for the cause of the fumes. He said no gas leaks or canisters were found in the area.

"We could find no source," he said.

The substance has yet to be identified. "It didn't appear to injure anybody. None of the effects seem to be long lasting at all," Hull said.

Pepper spray was ruled out because that substance affects the eyes, too, and no one complained about their eyes.

DA drops charges against Stepovich

FAIRBANKS - The District Attorney's Office has dropped a driving under the influence charge against Nick Stepovich.

Stepovich, 45, is District 10 chairman of the Republican Party of Alaska and owner of Soapy Smith's Pioneer Restaurant.

His name also was recently put forward by Rep. Jim Whitaker as a potential replacement in the House should Whitaker win the Oct. 7 Fairbanks North Star Borough mayoral election.

Stepovich was arrested July 7 by Alaska State Troopers on charges of DUI, speeding and failure to take a portable breath test. He still faces the refusal and speeding citations.

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