Northwest Digest

Posted: Monday, October 17, 2005

Veterinarians keep watch out for 'dog flu'

KENAI - The spread of bird flu is capturing headlines, but veterinarians in Alaska are on the lookout for "dog flu."

The term refers to canine influenza virus, a highly contagious respiratory disease in dogs.

It has been tracked to a virus that has infected horses for decades. So far there have been no reports of the disease in Alaska.

Canine influenza first drew attention in 2003 when it jumped from horses to dogs and swept through racing greyhound kennels in several southeastern states.

The virus spread to companion dogs in shelters, humane societies, boarding facilities and veterinary clinics in 11 states. Earlier this month it was reported in Oregon and California.

Symptoms of the disease mimic kennel cough, a common canine ailment. The first sign is a cough that may last for several weeks, followed in some dogs by lethargy, fever and thick nasal discharge.

Like kennel cough, canine influenza appears to be an airborne infection so direct physical contact between dogs in not required to pass the germ.

Search continues for inmate who fled after father's funeral

ANCHORAGE - Alaska law enforcement agencies continue to search for a Palmer man who was released from jail to attend his father's funeral but walked away afterward.

Alaska State Troopers said Sunday that John Pearl Smith, 19, remained on the run.

Smith was awaiting trial on charges that include kidnapping, assault and robbery.

A Palmer judge allowed him a few hours away from jail wearing a tracking device and in the custody of his mother to say goodbye to his father, who died days before.

Smith read a tribute to his father at a memorial service in the Butte.

"Everybody was very proud of him," said Smith's mother, Christine Ace.

After the funeral, when his mother says she stepped into the bathroom, Smith fled. According to Alaska State Troopers, he cut the ankle bracelet authorities used to keep up with him while he attended his father's service and disappeared.

Authorities say the teenager has escaped from confinement one other time and has a record of charges involving violent crimes. He is considered armed and dangerous, troopers said.

Two students killed in crash went to Aviation High

EVERETT, Wash. - The victims of a Saturday's fatal plane crash near Paine Field included two ninth-grade girls enrolled at Aviation High School, a program that prepares students for careers in the aerospace industry.

The Snohomish County Medical Examiner's Office said the names of the crash victims would not be released until today.

But people who knew them said the two students were participating in the Young Eagles program, which gives students their first light-aircraft flight with volunteer pilots from the Experimental Aircraft Association.

The crash occurred at 9:45 a.m. Saturday just southwest of the airport, about 20 miles north of Seattle.

The National Transportation Safety Board and Federal Aviation Administration are investigating the cause of the crash.

Some witnesses said the plane took off quickly after an apparent attempted landing at the airport.

Kierstin Smith, 35, of Puyallup, was standing outside the YMCA building next to the airport when the plane took off heading south. The plane's nose was pointed unusually high, and the aircraft appeared to be struggling to gain altitude, Smith said.

Muslim Army chaplain recalls 'devastating' ordeal

SEATTLE - As a Muslim chaplain, Army Capt. James Yee thought he would have a positive influence at the U.S. prison for terror suspects at Guantanamo Bay.

Instead, he became a suspect, himself.

Once a soldier praised for his services, Yee was arrested on suspicion of espionage and held in solitary confinement for 76 days. He was later cleared in the investigation, but says his case should be a warning to others.

"My faith in Islam and my patriotism, my willingness to advocate for American values, diversity and religious freedom was under fire," Yee told The Associated Press in a recent phone interview from New York, where he was promoting his book, "For God and Country."

The book offers the public its first glimpse into the West Point graduate's ordeal. Yee, 37, will talk about it and his experience Monday night at the Norman Worthington Conference Center at Saint Martin's University in Lacey.

Yee converted to Islam in 1991 and had been serving as a Muslim chaplain at Fort Lewis for about five months at the time of the Sept. 11, 2001, terror attacks. He said he became the Army's poster child for what it meant to be a good Muslim, often giving presentations to explain the faith and help increase cultural awareness among military personnel.

"Many were very accepting because I was effectively able to discuss my faith from the perspective of someone who had converted," he said. "They came away with a much better understanding of Islam as a result."

His ability to relate to high-level military leaders made him a natural choice to serve at Guantanamo. Yee knew little about the detention center there. But he said he'd read about its problems, including a hunger strike among 200 prisoners after one was ordered to remove a sheet fashioned into a turban because no prayer caps were provided.

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