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Alaska's electors cast their ballots in Anchorage

Neither snow nor sleet keeps bird lovers inside Christmas count goes on despite wintry weather

Posted: Tuesday, December 19, 2000

Dianna Rose's big blue eyes gleam as she joyfully plays with her mother in their home. The 3-year-old seems to be a positively normal little girl until her shirt uncovers her abdomen while she stands on her head.

The lightly colored pink scares that crisscross her stomach are a reminder of the trials that came with her birth.

The Peninsula Clarion first told readers about Dianna Rose in November 1998. She was born in July 1997 with persistent cloaca -- when the rectum, vagina and urethra do not separate properly during the development of the fetus.

From the time of her birth until May 1999, the infant lived with a colostomy bag and a catheter hidden under zip-up sleepers.

Today, she is able to wear little girl clothes, nail polish and -- sometimes -- makeup because of modern technology and lots of support from the community.

In May 1999, with the help of community support, Dianna Rose, her parents, Ray and Brenda Wise, and brother, Bryan, flew to Boston. Dr. W. Hardy Hendren and a team of doctors spent more than 18 hours correcting the defects with which Dianna Rose was born.

Hendren had performed more than 200 persistent cloaca surgeries and said Dianna Rose was the most difficult case he had seen.

The surgeon and his team created her rectum, merged her two vaginas into one, created the rectal and vagina openings and created her major and minor labia and her urethra.

Today, Dianna Rose still must wear a diaper and must have her rectal opening dilated daily. She also must be catheterized every three to four hours, 24 hours a day for the rest of her life.

Her vaginal opening also needed to be dilated daily, but the couple stopped because Dianna Rose hated the process.

"She would start screaming at the thought of the tool," Brenda said.

Because Brenda had to leave Boston earlier than Ray and Dianna Rose, she was not given professional instructions on dilating, so Ray was in charge.

However, Ray said it was difficult on him because the stress level was high.

"Nobody wants to hurt their child," he said. "Sometimes I'd be crying as I did it."

So the couple decided to stop dilating until Dianna Rose was old enough to do it herself.

Ray also has taken on the duty of caring for the children and the home while Brenda works full time at the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge.

He said he does not think most men know what it takes to totally run a household.

"I'm busier now than I was (working) on the Slope," he said.

Aside from the diaper and constant catheterizing, Dianna Rose has grown into a charming little girl. But her parents are not sure if normal is a word that describes her.

"We don't know what normal is," Ray and Brenda said almost in unison, recalling that their son was born with club feet.

Brenda said when watching her daughter play with other children, no one would ever know she has had major problems.

However, with Dianna Rose roaming the room with a smile, Brenda recalls not expecting to bring the newborn daughter home.

But she did come home, and after surgeries and scars, Dianna Rose has become a happy child who is definitely all girl, she said, who loves clothing and dressing up.

Dianna Rose also is an artist, often drawing on any exposed skin she can find on herself, Brenda said.

She can recall what life was like before the surgery when pictures are shown.

Looking at pictures of her lying down, she utters simple words describing the experience -- "ouch."

Ray and Brenda said they hope she does not recall the memories later.

"We would like to hope she would not remember what she has been through," Brenda said.

Dianna Rose's quick wit and bright smile somehow seem to replace those thoughts of the difficult times the pictures represent.

"She is quite the girl," Brenda said.

HEAD:Pretty as a 'Rose' Three-year-old blossoms, thanks to modern technology

HEAD:Just as planned

HEAD:Three die in collision on Seward Highway

BYLINE1:By STEVEN MERRITT

BYLINE2:Peninsula Clarion

A Kenai man and a Seward couple were killed Saturday after a two-car, head-on collision on the Seward Highway.

According to Alaska State Troopers, the accident occurred around 5:20 p.m. near Mile 34.5 when a northbound pickup driven by Jose G. Bravo, 76, of Kenai, crossed the center line and struck a 2000 Kia Sportage driven by Charles Karges Sr., 71, of Seward.

Bravo's 1990 Chevrolet burst into flames and he died instantly. Karges also died at the scene, while his wife Beverly, 59, died after being transported by Lifeguard helicopter to Provi-dence Alaska Medical Center in Anchorage.

Trooper Paul Randall said Monday the case remains under investigation, adding that whether alcohol or other factors played a role in the crash was still unknown. He said Bravo's body was taken to the state medical examiner's office in Anchorage for an autopsy.

Randall said the road conditions were a "usual mix" of packed snow and ice. The weather was clear.

Reports from two motorists prior to the accident identified Bravo's vehicle as driving erratically, Randall said. He said the reports weren't received until after the accident because the cell phone calls initially didn't make it through to dispatchers.

"The reports said he was driving either in the center of the road or on the wrong side," Randall said. "There are some dead spots in the cell phone coverage area, and we didn't receive the reports until after the accident."

The accident occurred in the "avalanche acres" area of the Seward Highway north of Moose Pass, about three miles south of the Sterling Highway junction. The highway was closed for five hours while medical and fire personnel from Cooper Landing, Moose Pass and Bear Creek removed the victims and battled the truck fire. Traffic was routed through the Toklat Estates subdivision.

Randall said many of the emergency personnel who responded knew Charles and Beverly Karges, 30-year Seward residents. Charles was a longtime member of the Seward Volunteer Ambulance Corps and both were active in the Seward American Legion Post No. 5.

Randall also credited the work of motorists who stopped to offer assistance after the accident.

"There was one eyewitness to the accident, and he and his family did what they could to help," he said. "There were probably 15 to 20 people who stopped to offer aid."

BYLINE1:By SHANA LOSHBAUGH

BYLINE2:Peninsula Clarion

This is a season of traditions -- holidays, holy days, family visits or bowl games. One group with its own special event of the season is bird watchers.

This year they are celebrating the 101st Audubon Christmas Bird Count, and central peninsula birders held their count Sunday in Soldotna.

This year's tally showed the highest variety ever documented for the area's event.

"This is the highest, I think, of any count in the past on one day," said organizer Jack Sinclair.

The preliminary numbers showed 1,198 birds of 27 species. The most common birds spotted were gulls, ravens, mallards and bald eagles. The most unusual find was a northern shrike spotted by Bill Shuster.

"They are a solitary, predatory bird," Sinclair said. "They are not real numerous, but they are residents of the Kenai."

This year, seven adults and three children took part in the Soldotna counting.

The National Audubon Society, which organizes the counts, estimated that 55,000 birders are taking part in 1,800 counts this year throughout the Western Hemisphere.

The counts can be any day between Dec. 14 and Jan. 5.

This year, Sinclair chose Sunday for Soldotna to avoid the Christmas and New Year's weekends.

"Anything we see (the rest of) this week also counts toward our species," he said.

Ornithologist Frank Chapman started the bird counts in 1900 as a humane alternative to 19th-century holiday hunting parties that challenged gunners to see how many birds they could bag in a day.

In the decades since, the bird count has grown into an enormous citizen science project. Audubon works with the Cornell Laboratory of Ornithology and, starting this year, Bird Studies Canada to compile and distribute the results.

The information is the world's longest-running database on bird distribution and is used by scientists to monitor bird populations and the environment. Anyone can look up the information on the Internet

at www.birdsource.org.

The oldest bird count in Alaska is Anchorage's, which dates back to 1942. The state's second and third oldest are in Homer and Seward, which began bird counts in 1961 and 1962, respectively.

Sinclair said those coastal communities sometimes spot exotic birds that send the professionals scurrying down from Anchorage to confirm sightings. However, the central peninsula seldom sees marine wanderers.

"We didn't see any strange Asiatic drifters," he said. "I don't think anything is going to be questioned here."

The first Soldotna bird count was in 1984. About five years ago, the tradition lapsed. Last year Sinclair, who works for Alaska State Parks, took over organizing it.

"Last year we said, 'geez, it's the 100th anniversary.' We've got to get it started again," he said.

Eleven people, including nine tracking and two at feeders, took part in Soldotna's 2000 count. They reported 758 birds of 19 species.

The next big birding event will be the fourth annual Backyard Bird Count, scheduled for Feb. 16-19.

Bird lovers with all levels of birding skills are invited to participate in the counts.

BYLINE1:By SHANA LOSHBAUGH

BYLINE2:Peninsula Clarion

Wind, snow, ice and too much to do: about 10 people ignored all that Sunday to take part in the Soldotna portion of the 101st Audubon Christmas Bird Count.

The count was the second for the community after a hiatus in the late 1990s.

"It is nice to get back on to creating a long-term database," said organizer Jack Sinclair.

An Alaska State Parks ranger from Sterling, he volunteered to spearhead the project.

The information gathered will shed light on what birds live here in winter and how they are faring. The more consistent and enduring the counts are, the more they will tell us, he said.

"The longer you stretch it out, the more you can see trends and unusual things," he said.

About 8:45 a.m. participants gathered at Kaladi Brothers Coffee Co. in Soldotna. Sinclair sat at a table with maps, handouts and a plan.

The rules called for identifying and counting as many birds as possible in a single day within a circle 15 miles in diameter. For Soldotna, the circle centered on the headquarters of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge on Ski Hill Road just south of town. It included all of Soldotna and Ridgeway, Kenai's Beaver Loop Road, 17 miles of the Sterling Highway from Whisper Lake near Sterling to Orphea Lake near Kasilof, six miles of seacoast along Kalifornsky Beach Road and the Kenai River from Mile 2 to Mile 31.

The birders collected their coffee cups, divided into three groups and headed out as the skies grew light.

Urban bird watching was one of the first stops.

Between the mini malls and the Kenai River, gangs of ravens hung out, checking out the day's Dumpster scene. The birds in black quickly demonstrated that in practice a bird count is not as easy as it sounds in theory. They flew off around corners, reappeared high in the sky and sometimes seemed to follow the birders. Counting every bird once and only once suddenly seemed as elusive as a Florida vote count.

At 10:30 a.m., David Wartinbee pulled his Tahoe over by the corner of Kobuk and Redoubt and hopped out, binoculars in hand.

The air was a-twitter. Overhead, moving dots zigzagged into the crown of a spruce tree, lifted off like leaves in a tornado and flitted into another tree a block farther away.

Wartinbee, who teaches biology at Kenai Peninsula College and has participated in bird counts for years in various states, stared after them. After a moment's intense scrutiny, he declared them to be 16 redpolls, based on the way they flew. A few blocks later, he spotted another flock. These he identified as crossbills, based on their larger size and white bars on their dark wings.

"We have seen a fair number of birds," he said. "I thought today would be a bust."

Around town, bird feeders hung forlorn, neglected by birds and humans, perhaps due to the lack of snow and abundant food sources still available on the bare ground. A few had seeds and a small, but animated, clientele of black-capped chickadees.

Down by the river things were hopping.

Checking the river involved creeping down the steep banks and stone cobbles slicked with sleet.

Winter waterfowl congregated on the open water: flocks of mallards, black and white goldeneyes and mergansers with their narrow, ridged beaks. The Kenai River attracted others, too: gulls, the ubiquitous ravens and, keeping a sharp watch on the others, the bald eagles.

The place with the real avian action was the borough landfill.

Sinclair noted that Audubon had flagged last year's Soldotna count of 185 bald eagles as an unusually high count. However, Alaska birders know that a well-situated dump on the Last Frontier hosts enough of the big raptors to make Lower 48 bird watchers swoon with envy.

Sunday's group made two separate counts at the landfill to improve the accuracy of dealing with the swarm.

At noon, Wartinbee stood high on a hill of compacted trash, field glasses in hand, meticulously working around the 360-degree panorama of trash and trash-loving birds. He called out numbers as a companion jotted them on a tally sheet for later summing.

The roof of the trash-compacting building was white with gulls. The gulls and ravens squabbled in noisy swarms, lifting off in ripples as bulldozers approached or wind-blown plastic bags spooked them. All around, watching the spectacle, dozens of eagles perched in the trees like vultures, their silhouettes bulky against the snowy sky.

Wartinbee counted 118 eagles, few compared to the 127 ravens and 262 gulls there.

After noon, the snow intensified and the weak light faded early from the sky. A stop by the Warren Ames Bridge at the Kenai River Estuary revealed that the flats, so popular with migratory birds in spring, were desolate in the snowstorm.

Not a bird was seen, although a pair of coyotes trotted along the frozen creek beds and rooted for rodents in the withered grass.

"Our counting fell off at 1:30, 2 o'clock, because of the visibility," Sinclair said later.

Wartinbee complained that this year's weather and visibility were far worse than last year's, but he plans to be back next year along with the other birders.

"I always look forward to the bird count because it's an excuse to get out and look at birds," he said.

BYLINE1:By SHANA LOSHBAUGH

BYLINE2:Peninsula Clarion

Wind, snow, ice and too much to do: about 10 people ignored all that Sunday to take part in the Soldotna portion of the 101st Audubon Christmas Bird Count.

The count was the second for the community after a hiatus in the late 1990s.

"It is nice to get back on to creating a long-term database," said organizer Jack Sinclair.

An Alaska State Parks ranger from Sterling, he volunteered to spearhead the project.

The information gathered will shed light on what birds live here in winter and how they are faring. The more consistent and enduring the counts are, the more they will tell us, he said.

"The longer you stretch it out, the more you can see trends and unusual things," he said.

About 8:45 a.m. participants gathered at Kaladi Brothers Coffee Co. in Soldotna. Sinclair sat at a table with maps, handouts and a plan.

The rules called for identifying and counting as many birds as possible in a single day within a circle 15 miles in diameter. For Soldotna, the circle centered on the headquarters of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge on Ski Hill Road just south of town. It included all of Soldotna and Ridgeway, Kenai's Beaver Loop Road, 17 miles of the Sterling Highway from Whisper Lake near Sterling to Orphea Lake near Kasilof, six miles of seacoast along Kalifornsky Beach Road and the Kenai River from Mile 2 to Mile 31.

The birders collected their coffee cups, divided into three groups and headed out as the skies grew light.

Urban bird watching was one of the first stops.

Between the mini malls and the Kenai River, gangs of ravens hung out, checking out the day's Dumpster scene. The birds in black quickly demonstrated that in practice a bird count is not as easy as it sounds in theory. They flew off around corners, reappeared high in the sky and sometimes seemed to follow the birders. Counting every bird once and only once suddenly seemed as elusive as a Florida vote count.

At 10:30 a.m., David Wartinbee pulled his Tahoe over by the corner of Kobuk and Redoubt and hopped out, binoculars in hand.

The air was a-twitter. Overhead, moving dots zigzagged into the crown of a spruce tree, lifted off like leaves in a tornado and flitted into another tree a block farther away.

Wartinbee, who teaches biology at Kenai Peninsula College and has participated in bird counts for years in various states, stared after them. After a moment's intense scrutiny, he declared them to be 16 redpolls, based on the way they flew. A few blocks later, he spotted another flock. These he identified as crossbills, based on their larger size and white bars on their dark wings.

"We have seen a fair number of birds," he said. "I thought today would be a bust."

Around town, bird feeders hung forlorn, neglected by birds and humans, perhaps due to the lack of snow and abundant food sources still available on the bare ground. A few had seeds and a small, but animated, clientele of black-capped chickadees.

Down by the river things were hopping.

Checking the river involved creeping down the steep banks and stone cobbles slicked with sleet.

Winter waterfowl congregated on the open water: flocks of mallards, black and white goldeneyes and mergansers with their narrow, ridged beaks. The Kenai River attracted others, too: gulls, the ubiquitous ravens and, keeping a sharp watch on the others, the bald eagles.

The place with the real avian action was the borough landfill.

Sinclair noted that Audubon had flagged last year's Soldotna count of 185 bald eagles as an unusually high count. However, Alaska birders know that a well-situated dump on the Last Frontier hosts enough of the big raptors to make Lower 48 bird watchers swoon with envy.

Sunday's group made two separate counts at the landfill to improve the accuracy of dealing with the swarm.

At noon, Wartinbee stood high on a hill of compacted trash, field glasses in hand, meticulously working around the 360-degree panorama of trash and trash-loving birds. He called out numbers as a companion jotted them on a tally sheet for later summing.

The roof of the trash-compacting building was white with gulls. The gulls and ravens squabbled in noisy swarms, lifting off in ripples as bulldozers approached or wind-blown plastic bags spooked them. All around, watching the spectacle, dozens of eagles perched in the trees like vultures, their silhouettes bulky against the snowy sky.

Wartinbee counted 118 eagles, few compared to the 127 ravens and 262 gulls there.

After noon, the snow intensified and the weak light faded early from the sky. A stop by the Warren Ames Bridge at the Kenai River Estuary revealed that the flats, so popular with migratory birds in spring, were desolate in the snowstorm.

Not a bird was seen, although a pair of coyotes trotted along the frozen creek beds and rooted for rodents in the withered grass.

"Our counting fell off at 1:30, 2 o'clock, because of the visibility," Sinclair said later.

Wartinbee complained that this year's weather and visibility were far worse than last year's, but he plans to be back next year along with the other birders.

"I always look forward to the bird count because it's an excuse to get out and look at birds," he said.

BYLINE1:By MAUREEN CLARK

BYLINE2:Associated Press Writer

ANCHORAGE -- There were no surprises as Alaska's three electors gathered Monday to cast their ballots for President-elect George W. Bush and Vice President-elect Dick Cheney.

Republican electors Bill Allen, Lucy Groh and Susan Fischetti sat on the stage of the Wilda Marston Theater at the Z.J. Loussac Library and marked off their ballots as cameras clicked and nearly 200 people looked on.

The state's three electors were pledged to vote for the candidates that won Alaska's popular vote, so the ballots they filled out had just two names, those of Bush and Cheney.

When state Division of Elec-tions Director Janet Kowalski announced that Bush and Cheney had won Alaska's electoral votes, the audience erupted in applause. Many of those in the audience were Republican politicians and party loyalists.

The whole process lasted about 15 minutes.

Afterward, politicians, students and those who came to witness history gathered for cookies and coffee and to discuss the system that allowed the loser of the popular vote to claim the presidency for the first time in 112 years.

Alaska's electoral college vote usually is a low-key, informal affair. In 1996, the vote took place before a high school history class in Juneau.

But state elections officials say they decided to invite people to watch because of the enormous interest in the role of the electoral college in this presidential election.

''We thought it was a great opportunity to encourage public involvement,'' Kowalski said.

Sen. Ted Stevens was among those to witness the historic vote.

Members of the House and Senate and the Bush campaign decided the senior elected official in each state should meet with the electors to make sure the system worked properly, Stevens said. Some electors in other states who had pledged to vote for Bush said they received e-mail and phone calls urging them to vote for Gore.

Stevens met with Allen, Groh and Fischetti Sunday evening, ''just to let them know we're interested in what they're doing and we're thankful for what we're doing,'' he said.

Members of Dimond High School's advanced placement government class were among those to witness the vote and met afterward for a discussion on the electoral college.

''Even though we knew what was going to happen, there was some anticipation before the vote was announced. It was kind of neat to be able to see all that,'' said senior Diane Adrian.

BYLINE1:By SHANA LOSHBAUGH

BYLINE2:Peninsula Clarion

Wind, snow, ice and too much to do: about 10 people ignored all that Sunday to take part in the Soldotna portion of the 101st Audubon Christmas Bird Count.

The count was the second for the community after a hiatus in the late 1990s.

"It is nice to get back on to creating a long-term database," said organizer Jack Sinclair.

An Alaska State Parks ranger from Sterling, he volunteered to spearhead the project.

The information gathered will shed light on what birds live here in winter and how they are faring. The more consistent and enduring the counts are, the more they will tell us, he said.

"The longer you stretch it out, the more you can see trends and unusual things," he said.

About 8:45 a.m. participants gathered at Kaladi Brothers Coffee Co. in Soldotna. Sinclair sat at a table with maps, handouts and a plan.

The rules called for identifying and counting as many birds as possible in a single day within a circle 15 miles in diameter. For Soldotna, the circle centered on the headquarters of the Kenai National Wildlife Refuge on Ski Hill Road just south of town. It included all of Soldotna and Ridgeway, Kenai's Beaver Loop Road, 17 miles of the Sterling Highway from Whisper Lake near Sterling to Orphea Lake near Kasilof, six miles of seacoast along Kalifornsky Beach Road and the Kenai River from Mile 2 to Mile 31.

The birders collected their coffee cups, divided into three groups and headed out as the skies grew light.

Urban bird watching was one of the first stops.

Between the mini malls and the Kenai River, gangs of ravens hung out, checking out the day's Dumpster scene. The birds in black quickly demonstrated that in practice a bird count is not as easy as it sounds in theory. They flew off around corners, reappeared high in the sky and sometimes seemed to follow the birders. Counting every bird once and only once suddenly seemed as elusive as a Florida vote count.

At 10:30 a.m., David Wartinbee pulled his Tahoe over by the corner of Kobuk and Redoubt and hopped out, binoculars in hand.

The air was a-twitter. Overhead, moving dots zigzagged into the crown of a spruce tree, lifted off like leaves in a tornado and flitted into another tree a block farther away.

Wartinbee, who teaches biology at Kenai Peninsula College and has participated in bird counts for years in various states, stared after them. After a moment's intense scrutiny, he declared them to be 16 redpolls, based on the way they flew. A few blocks later, he spotted another flock. These he identified as crossbills, based on their larger size and white bars on their dark wings.

"We have seen a fair number of birds," he said. "I thought today would be a bust."

Around town, bird feeders hung forlorn, neglected by birds and humans, perhaps due to the lack of snow and abundant food sources still available on the bare ground. A few had seeds and a small, but animated, clientele of black-capped chickadees.

Down by the river things were hopping.

Checking the river involved creeping down the steep banks and stone cobbles slicked with sleet.

Winter waterfowl congregated on the open water: flocks of mallards, black and white goldeneyes and mergansers with their narrow, ridged beaks. The Kenai River attracted others, too: gulls, the ubiquitous ravens and, keeping a sharp watch on the others, the bald eagles.

The place with the real avian action was the borough landfill.

Sinclair noted that Audubon had flagged last year's Soldotna count of 185 bald eagles as an unusually high count. However, Alaska birders know that a well-situated dump on the Last Frontier hosts enough of the big raptors to make Lower 48 bird watchers swoon with envy.

Sunday's group made two separate counts at the landfill to improve the accuracy of dealing with the swarm.

At noon, Wartinbee stood high on a hill of compacted trash, field glasses in hand, meticulously working around the 360-degree panorama of trash and trash-loving birds. He called out numbers as a companion jotted them on a tally sheet for later summing.

The roof of the trash-compacting building was white with gulls. The gulls and ravens squabbled in noisy swarms, lifting off in ripples as bulldozers approached or wind-blown plastic bags spooked them. All around, watching the spectacle, dozens of eagles perched in the trees like vultures, their silhouettes bulky against the snowy sky.

Wartinbee counted 118 eagles, few compared to the 127 ravens and 262 gulls there.

After noon, the snow intensified and the weak light faded early from the sky. A stop by the Warren Ames Bridge at the Kenai River Estuary revealed that the flats, so popular with migratory birds in spring, were desolate in the snowstorm.

Not a bird was seen, although a pair of coyotes trotted along the frozen creek beds and rooted for rodents in the withered grass.

"Our counting fell off at 1:30, 2 o'clock, because of the visibility," Sinclair said later.

Wartinbee complained that this year's weather and visibility were far worse than last year's, but he plans to be back next year along with the other birders.

"I always look forward to the bird count because it's an excuse to get out and look at birds," he said.



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