Northwest Digest

Posted: Wednesday, February 14, 2007

Kids Safe fair to be held this weekend

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JUNEAU - Bartlett Regional Hospital will be hosting a "Kids Safe" fair this Saturday at Centennial Hall.

The hospital will be joined by about 30 organizations for an event that will cover a broad range of topics, including dealing with strangers, bicycle safety, forest and wildlife safety, firearm safety, electrical safety, bully prevention and diabetes.

Booths will also be open to have fingerprint and identification cards made for children.

"We want to keep kids from being injured. We want to teach them safe behaviors," said John Wray, Kids Safe coordinator for the hospital.

The fair is designed to be an uplifting, fun environment and is scheduled to run from 10 a.m. to 3 p.m. Between 400 and 750 children normally attend, said Wray.

Rocket launched to study aurora

DURHAM, N.H. - University of New Hampshire scientists launched a rocket over Alaska to photograph a pulsating aurora, a cousin of the better-known northern lights.

The 65-foot rocket was launched from the Poker Flat Research Range 30 miles northeast of Fairbanks, Alaska, early Monday morning and soared 460 miles above the Earth, returning within 15 minutes.

Pulsating auroras are harder to see than the northern lights and generally appear as a patch of light that blinks on for several seconds, then off. They tend to form and reform in the same area and are usually strongest between midnight and sunrise.

UNH physicist Marc Lessard, who also works with the university's Institute for the Study of Earth, Oceans and Space, led the experiment, hoping to gather more evidence on what causes pulsating auroras. Scientists believe they may get their power from the Van Allen belts, areas of radiation far from the Earth.

The experiment was part of NASA's Rocket Observations of Pulsating Aurora program. Scientists from Dartmouth College; Cornell University; and the University of Alaska Fairbanks, which runs the Poker Flat Research Range, also worked on it.

Army high-tech gear could be on way out

FORT LEWIS, Wash. - A high-tech fighting system will be used by soldiers from Fort Lewis who are going to Iraq in April, but that could be it.

The Army's 2008 budget ends funding for the Land Warrior system, intended to help soldiers communicate better and make more use of data collected around the battlefield. It includes radios, cameras and other electronics that are built into helmets and body armor.

"Due to significant Army-wide resource challenges, the Army decided to not pursue further development and production of Land Warrior," according to a budget note submitted by the Pentagon last week.

General Dynamics has received about $500 million so far to develop the system. Company spokeswoman Fran Jacques said the Army's proposal needs congressional approval.

Congress, in considering the fiscal year 2005 defense spending bill, directed the secretary of the Army to merge the Land Warrior program with another future combat system and cut its budget by $15 million. It also recommended the Army incorporate the combined program's existing capabilities into its Stryker brigades.

The estimated $1 billion program was started in 1994, but has since been plagued with delays and ever-increasing costs. The weight of the equipment - about 17 pounds per soldier - has also been a major concern.

Despite the proposed cuts, it appears that a battalion with 4th Brigade, 2nd Infantry Division, a Stryker Brigade Combat Team at Fort Lewis, will deploy with the systems, Fort Lewis spokesman Joseph Piek said.

"It all goes to, you train as you fight," he said.

Soldier killed in Iraq explosion, family says

BETHEL PARK, Pa.- An Alaska-based soldier from western Pennsylvania was killed in an explosion in Iraq, his family said Monday.

Sgt. Russell Kurtz, of Bethel Park, Pa., who turned 22 last month, was a passenger in a Humvee that hit an improvised explosive device at 8:30 a.m. Sunday, said his mother, Jill Kurtz. Military authorities said they could not immediately confirm the death.

"He was doing what he wanted to be doing," she said.

Russell Kurtz was interested in military history from an early age and enlisted as a senior in high school, although he had been accepted at colleges.

Jill Kurtz said her son "decided that he had to do something; he didn't want others over there fighting and dying without him being willing to do the same, and we supported him."

Russell Kurtz played football and baseball in school and loved the outdoors, his mother said.

"He was stationed up in Alaska, and loved it up there - the skiing and the hunting and the fishing and the mountains and all that," she said.

Kurtz said her son went through airborne training and was part of the 4th Brigade Combat Team (Airborne), 3rd Battalion, 509th Infantry. He was stationed at Fort Richardson in Alaska and sent to Iraq in October.

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