Alaska Digest

Posted: Monday, January 01, 2007

Weather postpones Eaglecrest fireworks

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Juneau - The New Year's Day Winter Fireworks Spectacular at Eaglecrest has been postponed because of high winds and low visibility. The Torchlight parade, music in the lodge and other events scheduled also have been postponed postponed.

The forecast for today includes high winds and wet weather; neither of which is suitable for a fireworks display, according to a news release. The Winter Fireworks Spectacular will be rescheduled. and the date will be announced later this week.

Visit the Eaglecrest Web site at for more information.

Sixth judge added to Fairbanks court

FAIRBANKS - The Legislature has added a sixth judge's position in Fairbanks, the first in about 20 years, and eight attorneys have applied for the job.

Two applicants, Michael A. MacDonald and R. Poke Haffner, were finalists for the $150,000-a-year job when a slot opened earlier in 2006.

MacDonald, 51, is one of four private practice attorneys on the candidate list. The others are Aisha Tinker Bray, 37, Michael P. McConahy, 55, and John J. Tiemessen, 40, who is president of the Alaska Bar Association.

The four other applicants draw their paychecks from the state, including three who already work as judges.

Jane F. Kauvar, 58, has been a District Court judge in Fairbanks since former Gov. Jay Hammond appointed her in 1981. Bethany Spalding Harbison, 37, is a magistrate. Alicemary L. Rasley, 52, is a standing master, a judge who concentrates on family cases.

Haffner, 55, is an assistant attorney general who focuses on child protection law. She also applied to be a Superior Court judge in Bethel.

Superior Court judges preside over felony trials, such as rape or murder, as well as civil cases. The Legislature last session appropriated funds for a sixth Superior Court judge in Fairbanks because of a rising caseload due in part to a sharp increase in felony crimes brought on by tougher laws.

Army releases name of paratrooper killed

ANCHORAGE - The Fort Richardson soldier killed last week was a 23-year-old specialist from Texas.

Spc. Dustin R. Donica of Spring, Texas, died Thursday. The Army released his name Sunday.

Donica died of wounds received from enemy small-arms fire while on security duty in Karmah in the Al Anbar Province of Iraq.

He was an infantryman who joined the Army in December 2003. He was assigned to Fort Richardson in April 2005.

Donica was assigned to the 3rd Battalion, 509th Parachute Infantry Regiment, 4th Airborne Brigade Combat Team, 25th Infantry Division.

The soldier is the 10th from Fort Richardson to die in Iraq since the 3,500-member unit was deployed last fall and the third last week.

Spcs. Douglas Logan Tinsley of Chester, S.C., and Joseph A. Strong Lebanon, Ind., both 21, were killed Tuesday when their vehicle rolled into a dirt canal. The incident happened while they were conducting a mounted patrol in Baghdad.

Many rural Alaska villages lack water

ANCHORAGE - As 2006 closes, 34 percent of Alaskan Native villages still do not have modern water and sewer services.

That statistic was presented at a session in Anchorage last week sponsored by Alaska Environmental Health Association.

The session, hosted by the 24th Annual Alaska Health Summit, was led by Public Health Service officers, Dr. Thomas Hennessy, director of Arctic Investigations Program at the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, and Troy Ritter, senior environmental health consultant for Alaska Native Tribal Health Consortium.

"Does In-Home Water Service Reduce the Risk of Infectious Diseases? An Evaluation in the Alaska Native Population," was the title of their Anchorage presentation.

While building the infrastructure for modern water services in rural villages has been an ongoing effort for some time now, it has taken on a new urgency given the results of a recently completed study that links lack of water service to infectious diseases.

The study, in which researchers surveyed the Yukon-Kuskokwim region, examined the relationship between proximity to potable water and wastewater disposal and the risk of infectious diseases.

"Practically all villages have a purified water point - a small treatment facility where villagers can go with a bucket to get water," said Ritter.

These water points are often just a hose coming out of a small building or room, he added.

This means that while access to drinking water is a lesser issue, it is not the case with simple actions such as hand-washing and disposing of wastewater.

Forty six percent of Alaska Native deaths in the 1950s, when in-home water service in Alaskan villages was close to non-existent, were due to infectious diseases, according to Hennessy. His research shows that since 1957 the numbers of homes without water has gone down and with them the rates of infections.

The research further shows that children in villages without running water tend to have many more infectious diseases.

"Evidence that there is a connection," Hennessy said.

There are several problems with this situation, according to Ritter and Hennessy. The main problem is a lack of awareness in these communities about the importance of hygiene. For instance, many people may reuse the same water bowl for washing their hands.

"Quantity is the most important characteristic of a water supply," said Ritter. "Water use less than eight gallons per capita per day was shown to be coincident with serious health consequences," he said.

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