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AK Beat: Anchorage man found guilty of assaulting teen

Alaska Dispatch

Conviction in Anchorage rape: An Anchorage Superior Court jury Wednesday convicted 21-year-old Char Haire of six counts of sexual abuse of a minor for rape of a 14-year-old girl during a New Year’s Eve party. The sex assault happened at a downtown Anchorage party on Jan. 1 when the teenage girl got drunk with a group of other teens. Haire was at the party, and the girl told him her age but he “engaged in sexual acts with her anyway,” according to a state Attorney General’s Office press release. The victim reported she passed out and did not remember many of the details of the assault until she arrived home the next day. But she discovered she had injuries consistent with rape, told her parents and reported the sex assault to Anchorage police. The press release says an investigation led to the discovery of DNA evidence “which corroborated the crime that occurred.” Haire faces a sentence of five to 15 years and will have to register as a sex offender for 15 years. His sentencing is scheduled for Aug. 1.

Anchorage police identify woman killed in Seward Highway crash: The Anchorage Police Department has released the name of the woman who was killed in a head-on crash on the Seward Highway near Potter Marsh Tuesday evening. APD said 29-year-old Salafai Carol Iosefa, a Whittier firefighter, was pronounced dead at the scene of the accident. APD said Losefa was traveling south on the Seward Highway in a Honda Civic just after 7 p.m. when she collided head-on with a tractor-trailer heading north. The crash forced the truck  -- which was carrying thousands of gallons of mineral oil -- onto its side on the west side of the highway. The crash closed down the Seward highway until 3 a.m. Wednesday morning. APD said the cause of the crash is under investigation. The driver of the truck, who was not named, suffered only minor injuries in the crash.

Attempted murder suspect dead after fleeing North Dakota police: A man wanted for an attempted murder charge in Fairbanks has killed himself in North Dakota following a police pursuit, KTVF reported. Police in Stanley, North Dakota positively identified 47-year-old Lance Johnson, originally of Montana, as the victim of a self-inflicted gunshot wound. Stanley police were reportedly responding to a bar fight and chased a white pickup that fled from the scene when they arrived. The truck stopped about two miles north of the town, and Johnson “reportedly shot himself as officers were trying to talk to him,” according to the Fairbanks-based TV station. Johnson was wanted on warrants in Fairbanks for assault with a weapon and attempted murder, as he allegedly cut a man’s throat at the Arctic Bar. 

Clinton warns Canadians of Russian ambitions in the Arctic: Former Senator and Secretary of State Hillary Clinton -- widely perceived to be the frontrunner for the Democratic nomination for presidential candidate, should she choose to run -- warned a Canadian audience against possible Russian ambitions in the Arctic Tuesday, according to a report from Toronto’s Globe and Mail. Clinton made her remarks to a sold-out crowd at an event hosted by the Board of Trade of Metropolitan Montreal. Citing the recent Russian expansionism in the Crimea, Clinton drew attention to that nation’s large Arctic coastline and the potential for conflict in the region: “The country recently imprisoned several Greenpeace activists and regularly sends military air flights over parts of Canada and Alaska, ‘testing our responses,”” Clinton said, according to the Globe and Mail, calling on Canada to present a “united front,” with the United States, toward Russia.

Taking stock of the Exxon Valdez spill, 25 years later: Among the first pieces timed to coincide with the 25th anniversary of the Exxon Valdez oil spill next week comes this one, from High Country News. In it Dave Janka remembers hearing the news in a remote Prince William Sound cabin “hand-grinding coffee and listening to public radio on a Walkman. When the news came on, he nearly ‘dropped the whole thing.’” The piece contains much about the story of the disastrous oil spill and its aftermath that will already be familiar to Alaska readers, and ends on a mixed note. On the one hand, the spill has prompted more research: “Oil exploration in the Chukchi and Bering seas has prompted more robust research. ‘We know far more about how (those places) operate, from both the physical and biological side, than we knew about Prince William Sound,’ says Tom Weingartner, an oceanographer at the University of Alaska Fairbanks who works in both locations,” according to High Country News. On the other, there’s the reminder from Janka that oil still lingers -- not only from the Exxon spill, but even from tanks that spilled during the 1964 Earthquake: “This month, on the 25th anniversary of the spill and the 50th anniversary of the earthquake, Janka will be prepared: ‘I'm going to go camp out on top of a mountain,’ he jokes, ‘and wear my lifejacket and hardhat to bed.’”

Alaska Stock wins court victory against Houghton Mifflin: In a case that could alter precedent in copyright law, the 9th Circuit Court ruled Tuesday that publisher Houghton Mifflin will have to face a lawsuit from Alaska Stock, a company that licenses stock images from Alaska, over use of its photographs, according to Courthouse News Service. The case hinged over whether copyright protections could be extended to a stock photo company’s images if the company didn’t register every author or the licensed images. An Anchorage District court dismissed the lawsuit, saying Alaska Stock hadn’t properly registered them, but the 9th Circuit reversed that decision, which means Houghton Mifflin could end up owing damages for the photos of polar bears and sled dogs in some of its textbooks.

Are narwhal tusks a sense organ? A narwhal’s tusk, which is actually a tooth, is actually a sensory organ. At least that’s according to a new theory published Tuesday in the journal The Anatomical Record. The function of the tusk, which occurs mainly (though not exclusively) in males, has long been considered a secondary sex characteristic. The new theory, which is advanced by a practicing dentist, holds that the nerves in the tusks of these whales -- which are infrequent but occasional visitors to the Alaska’s Arctic waters -- are able to detect changes in water salinity, since they are more exposed than those typical in mammals, explains National Geographic. But not everyone’s convinced, with one marine biologist saying “there’s just zero evidence” for the claim.