Alaska Digest

Posted: Monday, December 26, 2005

Man robs Fairbanks pull-tab store

FAIRBANKS - A young man with a gun robbed Lions Choice Pull Tabs and then disappeared into a swarm of Christmas shoppers, said store manager Bill Markwood.

Lions Choice Pull Tabs is a nonprofit store that supports youth sports. The robber netted about $880 and no one was hurt, Markwood said.

Fairbanks police are investigating the robbery, which took place about 2:50 p.m. Friday. The suspect was caught on tape.

Markwood said the clerk on duty noticed the man hanging around outside the store and became concerned enough to call her husband. The man repeatedly looked in the store's window.

When the man asked to use the telephone, the clerk declined, Markwood said.

About 20 minutes after the store cleared of customers, the man walked in, pointed a gun at the clerk and demanded money.

The clerk, whose 10-year-old son was nearby, complied with the robber's demand.

Study shows rising temps could melt permafrost

ANCHORAGE - Climate change could melt the top 11 feet of Alaska permafrost by the end of the century, according to a new study.

The federal study applied one supercomputer climate models to the future of permafrost.

Under the most extreme scenario outlined, warming temperatures could thaw the top 11 feet of permafrost near the ground surface in most areas of the Northern Hemisphere by 2100, altering ecosystems across Alaska, Canada and Russia.

"If that much near-surface permafrost thaws, it could release considerable amounts of greenhouse gases into the atmosphere, and that could amplify global warming," said lead author David Lawrence, with the National Center for Atmospheric Research. "We could be underestimating the rate of global temperature increase."

A permafrost researcher at the University of Alaska Fairbanks, however, disagrees that the thaw could be so large. Alaska's permafrost won't melt that fast or deep, said Vladimir Romanovsky, who monitors a network of permafrost observatories for the Geophysical Institute.

If air temperatures increase 2 to 4 degrees over the next century, permafrost would begin thawing south of the Brooks Range and start degrading in some places on Alaska's Arctic slope, he said. But a prediction that melting will reach deeply over the entire region goes too far, he said.

The computer climate model didn't consider some natural factors that tend to keep the permafrost cold, Romanovsky said. For example, deeper permafrost, largely untouched by recent warming at the surface, would have an influence.

Lawrence said he hopes to collaborate with Romanovsky to fine-tune future studies.

State's proposed timber sale causes concern

WASILLA - A proposed state timber sale of more than 1,000 acres off Petersville Road is causing concern that it will harm the environment and generate few economic benefits.

The sale near Kroto Creek is the state's largest timber offering in the Mat-Su Valley in nearly two decades.

It has attracted a wide range of interest from environmental groups and from those interested in boosting state moose populations. And it comes amid a growing demand for timber and a growing debate about logging. The debate is heated enough that Matanuska-Susitna Borough officials have placed all timber sales on borough-owned land on hold.

Nearly 30 groups and individuals have submitted written comments on the proposed state sale.

The sole bidder on the sale is expected to be NPI LLC, a Mat-Su-based company that exports wood chips from Port MacKenzie. The company is the driving force behind the increased demand for timber in the valley.

Supporters of the proposed state sale include the Alaska Moose Federation and the Resource Development Council. They have said that buffers and other protections mandated by state laws will protect wildlife and fish populations.

Opponents range from area residents to tourists to environmental groups. Many have said logging could damage streams that support salmon and trout populations.

Owner finds dog after fire

ANCHORAGE - Laura Kelly got the call at 5 a.m.

"Do you have my CoCo?"

The caller was Helena Macedo, owner of the toy poodle CoCo, rescued last weekend from a trailer fire and recovering in an animal clinic owned by Kelly.

Macedo, vacationing in Arizona, had been trying to call her dog-sitter for days and was frantic when she found the phone disconnected. Then her brother-in-law called early Friday. CoCo had been in the newspaper. There had been a fire. The dog was in the hospital.

Macedo begged him to look up Kelly's home number.

"He said he didn't want me to call because it was so early," Macedo said. "But I said: 'Please, I need to know!"'

CoCo was in care of a teenage pet-sitter and her family when the fire began Dec. 18 - likely started by the youngest of the three children, playing with matches. The teen sitter told firefighters that CoCo's owner was a teacher, but little else. Investigators haven't been able to find that girl or her family since, leaving CoCo with Kelly and others at Pet Emergency Treatment.

The poodle was in bad shape at first, hooked to an IV and enclosed in an incubator. No one knew whether he'd make it.

By Friday, CoCo was much perkier, sitting alert in his cage, flanked by stuffed animals. The tag marking his kennel previously listed no owner. Now, it's got Macedo's name, and a heart.

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