AlaskaDigest

Posted: Friday, November 26, 2004

State abortion Web site doctors selected

ANCHORAGE - Five doctors have been selected to serve on a panel that will help create a state abortion-information Web site.

The doctors chosen Wednesday by the Alaska Medical Board include one who is anti-abortion and two who work at an Anchorage clinic that offers abortions.

The five doctors are board-certified specialists in obstetrics and gynecology. They are:

• Robert G. Thompson, who has offices in Anchorage and Soldotna. He was recruited for the Web site effort by Alaska Right to Life executive director Karen Vosburgh, she said.

• Jan Whitefield, medical director of Alaska Women's Health Services in Anchorage, as well as another clinic doctor, Craig Hinkle. The clinic offers obstetrical and gynecological care. About 10 percent of its business is abortions.

• John Erkmann and John DeKeyser, who share a suite in a medical office building on Airport Heights Drive.

Legislation passed this year requires abortion providers to make sure women seeking abortions are fully informed about health risks and consequences.

They can do that by directing women to the Web site or providing more traditional information about the risks of undergoing or not undergoing an abortion. They must make sure the patient knows the name of the doctor and the gestational age of the fetus.

If the woman wants the information in writing, the doctor's office must provide it that way and report back to the state that it was done.

The Web site being created by the state Department of Health and Social Services must include information about various abortion procedures and risks, as well as risks of childbirth. It must detail stages of fetal development and include links to photos of fetuses.

The site also must convey information about psychological and physical effects of abortion and childbirth. And it must list resources, including adoption agencies, abortion clinics and pregnancy services.

Court rejects man's appeal of killings

ANCHORAGE - The Alaska Court of Appeals on Wednesday rejected arguments by a man convicted of killing six people in a 1983 McCarthy shooting spree that his attorney inadequately represented him.

Louis Hastings claimed his attorney did not adequately investigate nor inform him about raising an insanity defense based on his exposure to copper in McCarthy, according to the ruling.

Hastings said he would not have entered a plea of no contest had he had known about the insanity defense, the ruling said.

The Appeals Court on Wednesday upheld a lower court's ruling that Hastings did not present any evidence that his lawyer's decisions were ineffective.

Hastings was an Anchorage computer programmer who spent half of his time in McCarthy repairing a cabin he had purchased when the killings occurred.

Hastings never was tried for the crimes, instead pleading no contest to the killings. He was sentenced to 634 years.

Hastings was disturbed by the flow of money and people to Alaska and wanted to stop both by disrupting the trans-Alaska oil pipeline, according to the ruling.

He began to systematically kill residents as they prepared to meet the weekly mail plane on March 1, 1983.

Hastings testified that he planned to kill everyone in McCarthy, hijack the mail plane and fly to Glennallen. Once there, he planned to hijack a fuel truck and drive to a trans-Alaska oil pipeline pump station, where he was going to blow up the station and himself.

Judge to allow confession at trial

FAIRBANKS - A murder confession in Fairbanks by a Tacoma, Wash., man can be used at his trial, a Superior Court judge has ruled.

Judge Charles Pengilly said Wednesday he will allow as evidence Jason Wallace's statement to authorities in 2002 that he killed 25-year-old Teacka Bacote in her Ester apartment, attacked Corey Spears of Fairbanks and conspired to kill three others.

Pengilly, however, suppressed some of the interviews between Wallace and Alaska State Trooper investigators.

Defense attorney Geoffrey Wildridge argued the confessions were obtained in violation of Wallace's right to counsel and should not be allowed as evidence in the trial scheduled for February. Wildridge also said investigators preyed on Wallace's emotional state and concern for his wife - under investigation in Washington state - during an interview with Wallace at Fairbanks Correctional Center on Dec. 31, 2002.

Pengilly said investigators employed acceptable and often-used police tactics.

Statements Wallace made during his first interview with investigators shortly after his arrest on a third-degree assault charge aren't admissible, Pengilly ruled. Neither is information from a later interview nor a phone call investigator Scott Johnson made to Wallace in jail.

Game hunters off the hook for bison population crash

WASHINGTON - Big game hunters may be off the hook in the latest twist of a prehistoric whodunit that tries to explain why bison populations sharply crashed thousands of years ago.

Proponents of the overkill theory blamed the first Americans to cross an ice-free corridor - connecting what's now Alaska and Siberia - for hunting bison within a whisper of disappearance. Those super hunters are also faulted for pushing massive mammals, like woolly mammoths, short-faced bears and North American lions into extinction.

A team of 27 scientists used ancient DNA to track the hulking herbivore's boom-and-bust population patterns, adding to growing evidence that climate change was to blame.

"The interesting thing that we say about the extinctions, is that whatever happened, it wasn't due to humans," said the paper's lead author, Beth Shapiro, a Wellcome Trust Research Fellow at Oxford University. By the time people arrived, "these populations are already significantly in decline and on the brink of whatever was going to happen to them in the future."

The story written into the bison's DNA is one of an exponential increase in diversity with herd sizes doubling every 10,200 years. Then, 32,000 to 42,000 years ago, the last glacial cycle kicked in, beginning a lengthy cooling trend. Bison genetic diversity plummeted. A significant wave of humans didn't appear in the archaeological record at eastern Beringia until more than 15,000 years later, the authors write in today's Science.

The Science paper refers to dates in radiocarbon years, a dating technique that doesn't match up precisely with conventional calendars.



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