Alaska Digest

Posted: Thursday, October 21, 2004

Willow musher charged with cruelty to animals

ANCHORAGE - A three-time Iditarod musher is charged with multiple counts of animal cruelty after authorities removed 28 dogs from his Willow property.

David Straub was not feeding the animals, animal control officials said.

Ten of the dogs removed from the property last weekend were found to be emaciated, officials said. But Straub, who acknowledges some of the animals were too thin, said animal control "acted like the Gestapo," swept in, and took his animals without giving him a chance to respond to their concerns.

Straub filed an appeal Tuesday.

"Mr. Straub has run the Iditarod. You can't run the Iditarod without knowing how to take care of animals," said Dave Allison, chief of the Matanuska-Susitna Borough animal care and regulation. "The bottom line for us is, with the condition of the dogs, it's cruelty to animals."

The dogs are now under borough care while animal control looks for foster homes to allow the animals to recuperate, and the borough waits for the appeal to be decided.

Commercial jet to remain at Cold Bay for now

ANCHORAGE - The 241 passengers aboard a trans-Pacific flight from Tokyo arrived in Houston Wednesday morning, a day after making an emergency landing in Cold Bay, a Continental Airline spokesman said.

The Boeing 777 commercial jet remained in Cold Bay, with airline officials unsure of how long it would take to repair the plane, which experienced engine problems mid-flight.

"Our plan at this point is to fix the engine at Cold Bay, then put the plane back into service," said Continental spokesman Rahsaan Johnson.

The flight landed Tuesday at Cold Bay after pilots received a warning of reduced oil pressure in one of the engines, according to the airline. Passengers and crew were taken to the village's community center and school, where they were fed by residents.

Cold Bay is a community of 95 located 642 miles southwest of Anchorage.

French calls for Renkes' removal from panel

ANCHORAGE - A state senator says Attorney General Gregg Renkes should be removed from a panel that is negotiating terms for the development of a natural gas pipeline.

Sen. Hollis French, D-Anchorage, said Renkes is a potential liability in the negotiations. He questioned Renkes' past as an oil industry lobbyist and the ethical cloud around Renkes' connections with KFx Inc.

"The people of the state deserve public servants who avoid even the appearance of impropriety. This holds especially true in the case of the attorney general, whose position demands adherence to the strictest ethical standards," French said.

Renkes sits on the state's Stranded Gas Act negotiating team. The panel, led by Renkes along with the commissioners of revenue and natural resources, is charged with negotiating fiscal terms with applicants who want to build a pipeline to bring North Slope natural gas to market.

Powerful Bering Sea storm hits Nome

ANCHORAGE - Dozens of Nome businesses and homes were evacuated when a powerful storm from the Bering Sea flooded downtown streets and knocked loose 1,000-pound propane tanks.

No injuries were reported, as waves high as 20 feet poured over the city's protective rock seawall, breaking windows and tearing boards loose. Wind gusts up to 60 miles per hour toppled power lines.

Tuesday's storm swept over other communities from Shishmaref to Shaktoolik. Damage included eroded bluffs and exposed septic tanks.

Valves broke on 1,000-pound propane tanks at three businesses, spraying flammable gas into the downtown area, according to Nome police Sgt. Bill Droke.

Around 7:30 a.m., police evacuated Front Street and several adjacent blocks as electric power to the area was shut off.

"It was pretty intense," Droke said. "Everything started happening about the same time."

Summer tourism pegged at 1.4 million visitors

ANCHORAGE - The number of summer visitors to Alaska rose from the year before, prompting the president of the Alaska Travel Industry Association to say tourism appeared to be back on track since leveling off after the 2001 terrorist attacks.

Ron Peck said Tuesday at the Alaska State Chamber of Commerce's annual conference that the season's visitor count was estimated at 1.4 million, up 100,000 to 150,000 people from a year earlier.

"It looks like we've turned the corner after a couple of challenging years," Peck said, referring to the tourism industry's woes following the Sept. 11, 2001, terrorist attacks on New York and Washington, D.C.

He said the final count could be higher. Juneau is reporting more cruise-ship passengers than the cruise industry has cited, but the way the ships' tally passengers could have caused an undercounting in some cases, Peck said.

For the year, he forecast the state will see 1.9 million visitors.



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