Northwest Digest

Posted: Monday, August 13, 2007

Taiwan presidentto make Alaska stop

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TAIPEI, Taiwan - Taiwan's President Chen Shui-bian will transit in Alaska _ instead of a higher-profile U.S. stop - en route to Central America, an official said Saturday, an arrangement seen as reflecting U.S. displeasure at Chen's China policies.

Despite strong protests from Taiwan's rival, China, Washington has previously let Chen transit through New York, Los Angeles and Houston, where he has met with U.S. congressmen and other public officials.

His stopovers in those high-profile cities were seen as a U.S. show of support for Taiwan. The communist leadership in Beijing claims the democratic, self-ruled island is Chinese territory, and has threatened to take it by force.

Taiwanese leaders have viewed it as an unfriendly gesture when Washington insisted several times in the past that they transit outside the continental United States, in Alaska or Hawaii.

But this time, "the two sides have agreed to making Alaska the transit point" for Chen's chartered flight to Central America, said Taiwanese Foreign Ministry spokesman David Wang.

Grounded flier claims FAA has vendetta

ANCHORAGE - An air charter operator claims he lost his aviation licenses because he's the son of the imprisoned leader of the Montana Freemen, a claim inspectors say is unfounded.

Craig Schweitzer is the son of Freemen leader Leroy Schweitzer, who led the group that held U.S. marshals at bay for 81 days in 1996.

The younger Schweitzer said he has tried to follow the rules at his business in Kenai but that that his father may have been right to buck the system.

"As much as people love America - and I feel for it too - I think our government has betrayed us," Schweitzer said. "There are men who fought and died for the freedoms we're supposed to have in this country."

An administrative law judge last week rejected Schweitzer's appeal of his license revocation by the Federal Aviation Administration.

Schweitzer said FAA inspectors have long sought reasons to shut him down because of his family ties.

The Freemen rejected federal authority, set up a a common-law court and placed liens on public officials' property. When authorities arrested the elder Schweitzer, his followers refused to leave their ranch compound. Ultimately they surrendered and Schweitzer was sentenced to 22 years on charges including conspiracy, bank fraud, false claims to the IRS and threats against public officials.

Craig Schweitzer said he lost his aviation licenses on a technicality. He did not disclose on a medical certificate application that he had received a citation for refusing to take a breath test after he was pulled over on suspicion of drunken driving, he said, something he had disclosed previously.

Spencer Hill, a now-retired FAA inspector built the case against Schweitzer, called the accusation of a vendetta "malarkey." Hill investigated, he said, because of numerous rule violations.

"Craig wants to operate according to his rules," said Hill, who retired in March. The violations included an allegation that Schweitzer wrote an inflated weight limit on the maintenance record for one of his company planes, causing the pilot to overload it.

Pilot program aimed at minority teachers

FAIRBANKS - The Fairbanks North Star Borough School District is trying a pilot program this school year in hopes of getting more minority teachers.

Three black college students from Georgia will spend four months working as student teachers in Fairbanks schools.

The school district says last year 31 percent of the student body here were ethnic minorities, either blacks, Alaska Natives, Hispanic or Asian. However, only 13 percent of the district's certified employees teachers, principals, and school counselors were not Caucasian.

"We need minority role models," Hunter Elementary School principal Barbara Pile said.

The school district has been striving for several years now to hire more minorities, especially Alaska Natives and blacks, said Clarence Bolden, the district's director of human resources. This past spring, Bolden organized a district job fair that specifically targeted minority populations in Fairbanks and across the state. Turnout at the job fair was better than Bolden expected, he said.

"We had more than a hundred candidates," Bolden said. "A lot of Alaska Natives, no African Americans."

As of the beginning of August, of the 46 certified new hires, seven were Alaska Native. There were no black teachers hired this year, although there was one assistant principal.

"It was disappointing," Bolden said. "The clarion call had gone out and no one was present."

Fire closes entrance to Yellowstone park

YELLOWSTONE NATIONAL PARK, Wyo. - A wind-driven wildfire forced officials on Sunday to close the East Entrance, one of the park's five major entrances.

"Flames are threatening the road," National Park Service spokesman Al Nash said.

About 25 miles of the road between the East Entrance and near Fishing Bridge inside the park on the north side of Yellowstone Lake were closed to traffic, Nash said.

"This is a temporary closure," he said. "We do not know how long it will be necessary to keep the road closed. The fire has increased dramatically in size this afternoon because of the high gusty winds."

Until the east gate is reopened, travelers from Cody must detour 29 miles through Montana to enter the park.

The fire, which was started by lightning last Thursday, grew from an estimated 2,500 acres on Saturday to an estimated 12,000 acres, or about 18 square miles, on Sunday.

Grand Teton visitor center dedicated

GRAND TETON NATIONAL PARK, Wyo. - Late Wyoming Sen. Craig Thomas was praised by Vice President Dick Cheney and others on Saturday as a champion of the National Park system during a ceremony to mark the opening of a new visitor center here named in Thomas' honor.

Congress approved legislation last month naming the $18.5 million facility the Craig Thomas Discovery and Visitor Center. The two-term senator died in June following a battle with leukemia. The 21,700 square foot building includes an interpretive center, art gallery and 30-foot windows that offer views of the towering Teton Range.

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