Wire reports

Posted: Monday, December 05, 2005

1-day take by whalers is unusually high

ANCHORAGE - After round-the-clock work on the beach in frigid temperatures and blowing snow, the Bering Sea village of Savoonga is celebrating an unusually high catch by their whaling captains.

The hunt brought three bowhead whales to the 780-person village in a single day this week.

The number is not unusual in Barrow, with its much larger population and bigger fleet, said Maggie Ahmaogak, executive director of the AEWC. But it is very unusual for the smaller villages, she said.

The hunting success may be owed in part to warming of the Bering Sea, residents said.

The whales were caught in waters north of St. Lawrence Island, at a time and place where bowheads were never seen two decades ago, said George Noongwook, the community's representative on the Alaska Eskimo Whaling Commission.

"We're feeling it's because of the warming climate trend," Noongwook said. "Freezeup is later and we're able to see more whales come by."

Assemblyman seeks change to oust peer

FAIRBANKS - Borough Assemblymember Charlie Rex said he wants a change in state law so that a peer may be removed if found guilty of serious ethical charges.

Current law permits an elected member to be removed by voter recall, an expensive and lengthy process.

Rex said his resolution to allow ouster for serious ethical violations follows the conclusion of the Fairbanks North Star Borough ethics board, which found that Assemblyman Terry Aldridge had violated ethical codes.

The board said that Aldridge improperly lobbied the borough to act on projects proposed by the Fairbanks Economic Development Corp. while Aldridge was a paid consultant for the corporation.

Aldridge says he is innocent of wrongdoing. He declined to comment on Rex's resolution, which may be introduced to the assembly as soon as Thursday, the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner said.

Aldridge has not indicated whether he will appeal the ethics board findings to the state Superior Court. The finding may not be altered by the assembly before consideration by the court.

Thieves prompt lock on home heating oil

FAIRBANKS - Local prices for home heating oil are hovering at $2.30 a gallon, prompting an increase in thefts and a growing demand for charity-provided firewood.

Jackie Music said she learned the hard way that high prices - combined with the realization that the depths of winter still lie ahead - are taking a toll. Her fuel tank, located on a wooded lot, was siphoned sometime over Thanksgiving while the Music family was in Anchorage. The tank's lock had been pilfered.

"I was really and truly bummed that whoever it was actually came into a private yard and took something that did not belong to them," Music told the Fairbanks Daily-News Miner.

Alaska State Troopers have reported a few more incidents than usual of heating oil theft, spokesman Greg Wilkinson said.

Last weekend, 250 gallons of heating fuel were stolen from an underground tank at the North Star Volunteer Fire Department's Dennis Road station, officials said. It was the department's fourth fuel oil theft in two years. A padlock was cut and a wall enclosing the fuel fill site had been kicked in, the department said. Chief Russ Ackerman said the volunteer department felt "used."

Businesses dismayed with strip club zone

SEATTLE - The head of the South Downtown Business Association is not too excited about Mayor Greg Nickels' plan to isolate all new strip clubs in a 310-acre area south of downtown.

The plan, which is set to be released by the mayor's office today and go to the City Council later this month, was designed to keep strip clubs 1,000 feet away from schools, parks and single-family homes.

"We have identified an area that pretty much meets that criteria," said Sung Yang, a senior aide in Nickels' office.

Mike Peringer, vice president of Process Heating on Third Avenue South within the proposed zone, said the mayor can expect a storm of protests from businesses in the area.

"This shows an incredible lack of respect for businesses down here. He is going to start a war," he said.

Yang said the mayor has not yet talked to businesses about the new zone, which would start about one-quarter mile south of Safeco Field and stretch about two miles south, between Third Avenue South to the west and Interstate 5 to the east.

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