Northwest Digest

Posted: Friday, November 04, 2005

Thieves loot Hope tourism shop

ANCHORAGE - A prominent business in the tiny community of Hope was looted by thieves.

Sourdough Dru's Golden Gifts, which sold Alaska-themed jewelry and ivory carvings for more than two decades, lost nearly its entire inventory sometime between Saturday and Tuesday, according to the Alaska State Troopers and the shop's owner.

Retail value of the take was about $100,000, said owner Dru E. Sorenson.

"They cleaned me out," Sorenson said. The loss was not insured.

"This is the biggest thing that's happened in Hope for quite a few years," said trooper Sgt. William Welch. "Unfortunately, they took large amounts of raw gold, nuggets, gold nugget jewelry, ivory, prints, pictures, everything that's in the popular gift shops."

"Not only that, they destroyed the place," Welch said. "They basically went through there like a whirlwind."

The thieves entered by prying open the wooden front door. The shop had no alarm.

Cape Fox gets grant for training center

SAXMAN - The Cape Fox Heritage Foundation will use a $1.5 million federal grant to build an information technology training center, teaching up to 150 people skills to work on federal contracts.

The center would provide guidance while trainees worked on contracts - some of which likely would be categorized "top secret," Cape Fox Corp. CEO Bruce Borup said.

Cape Fox owns subsidiaries in the Lower 48 that work on similar contracts now, he said, and the Saxman-based Native corporation has wanted to bring some of those jobs to Saxman.

"But we didn't have trained people or the right facilities to handle secret or top secret documents," he said.

The matching grant, from the U.S. Department of Commerce, will provide about half the funds needed to build the center and train a pool of workers, he said. Cape Fox hopes to later bring larger, long-term contracts to Saxman and Ketchikan, and establish a cluster of small companies.

From there, Borup said he hopes other area Native corporations will take advantage of what Saxman has to offer, and bring their federal contracts to Alaska, too.

Native corporations have special status for federal contracts, and can qualify for those contracts without going through the usual bidding process. Borup said the contracts, while labeled "top secret," generally involve innocuous tasks such as data entry or digitizing shipping records.

Company revives coal mine plans

ANCHORAGE - Longstanding plans to start mining the Beluga coal field west of Anchorage may be getting a push from high coal prices, cutbacks in coal exports from China, and other factors.

Anchorage-based company PacRim Coal recently signed a memorandum of understanding with the Alaska Department of Natural Resources laying out steps toward permitting development in the dormant coal field. It also spells out the estimated cost of permits for the company.

Robert Stiles, project developer of PacRim Coal, has been trying since the early 1980s to turn Beluga, about 50 miles west of Anchorage, into a working mine.

"I am more optimistic now than I've ever been in 20 years," Stiles said Wednesday. He said he plans to file for state and federal permits this winter.

Stiles would not name any buyers, but said he expects to close a deal with an Asian client in the first quarter of 2006. He said the buyer is South Korean, Japanese or Taiwanese.

Alaska officials, including Gov. Frank Murkowski, have been in tentative talks with the Taiwanese for almost two years over the coal in West Cook Inlet fields at Beluga and Chulitna.

Move to split 9th Circuit draws heat

WASHINGTON - House Republicans on Thursday included a break-up of the San Francisco-based 9th U.S. Circuit Court of Appeals in a budget bill that would be immune from Senate filibuster, drawing complaints from Democrats.

"It does not have the support to pass both houses of Congress, so House Republicans are seeking to stifle debate and the democratic process by inserting a controversial measure into the expedited budget process," said House Minority Leader Nancy Pelosi, D-San Francisco.

The House Budget Committee included the measure in a $54 billion deficit-reduction bill that is expected to get a House floor vote next week.

The measure would create a 9th Circuit covering California, Hawaii and the Pacific Islands, and a new 12th Circuit covering Alaska, Washington, Oregon, Idaho, Montana, Nevada and Arizona.

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