Alaska Digest

Posted: Sunday, July 18, 2004

Native language courses to start

JUNEAU - Sealaska Heritage Institute's Kusteey Language Institute runs July 19 through July 30 at the University of Alaska Southeast in Juneau.

Courses include "How to Teach Tlingit via Total Physical Response," "Tlingit Communication for Beginners," and "Tsimshian Communication for Beginners."

The courses are free. For more information, call Catrina Mitchell at 463-4844.

Kings honored for conservation

JUNEAU - Jim and Mary Lou King of Juneau have been honored with lifetime achievement awards from the Alaska Conservation Foundation.

They will receive the awards on Aug. 19 in Anchorage and will be inducted into the Alaska Conservation Hall of Fame.

The Anchorage-based foundation presents the award to people who had a major role in preserving Alaska's wildlife and ecosystems.

Also honored this year are Peg Tileston and Lowell Thomas, Jr., both of Anchorage.

Jim King is a retired U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologist. He helped establish nine national wildlife refuges. His career interest has been migratory birds. In 2002, he won the U.S. Department of Interior's highest honor, the Distinguished Service Award.

Mary Lou King coordinated the Seaweek Program in the schools and wrote the popular trail guide "90 Short Walks Around Juneau."

Tileston has launched a number of environmental organizations in Alaska in the past three decades, including the state's largest grassroots conservation group, Trustees for Alaska.

Thomas, a former lieutenant governor, helped establish Chugach State Park and has been a staunch defender of the Arctic National Wildlife Refuge.

Judge hands down record sentence

ANCHORAGE - A man convicted of sexual assault has been sentenced to 95 years in prison, the longest sentence of its kind handed down in Alaska.

John Nelson Hunter was convicted in February of five counts of first-degree sexual assault, two counts of first-degree robbery, and second- and third- degree assault.

Anchorage Superior Court Judge Philip Volland gave Hunter the maximum sentence for each count on Friday. Before announcing the sentence, Volland said Hunter was a worst offender and a sexual predator.

"I hope today's sentence sends out a message to the victims in this case and in all sexual assault cases that the Department of Law will continue to fight hard to prosecute offenders like Mr. Hunter," Attorney General Gregg Renkes said in a statement.

Stevens refuses to apologize for remark

ANCHORAGE - State Sen. Ben Stevens is refusing to apologize for a remark he made about a resident of the Matanuska-Susitna Valley in which he described her as "just more Valley trash."

Stevens, R-Anchorage, made the remark in an e-mail exchange with a Wasilla woman. He said the content of the e-mail was private and never should have been made public.

Rep. Vic Kohring, R-Wasilla, is asking for an apology from Stevens, who is his party's majority leader in the Senate.

But Stevens says he's incensed that a private communication in which he defended himself against a personal attack was shared with the news media.

The woman was D.L. Mooney of Wasilla. Her brief, anonymous e-mail made reference to Stevens' consulting contract with Veco, a politically influential oil field service and construction company.

"Whether I'm a publicly elected official or whether I'm the guy that works down the street at Napa Auto Parts, anybody that gets an e-mail that calls them a whore has the right to defend themselves," he said.

According to financial disclosure reports, Stevens last year earned more than $300,000 from consulting contracts, including $47,500 from Veco. It also evoked Palmer Republican Sen. Scott Ogan, who resigned his consulting job with a coal bed methane company last year amid criticism that he had put the company's interests ahead of his constituents'.

"Consultant fees ... remember Ogan ... conflict of interest ... you're just another whore," the unsigned e-mail said.

Stevens, reading the message from his state office, issued a terse response: "Afraid to sign your name? You're just more Valley trash."

The conversation became public after Mooney forwarded it to a reporter.



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