Posted: Monday, March 28, 2005

UAF police chief to head training panel

FAIRBANKS - The longtime police chief for the University of Alaska Fairbanks is stepping down to take over as the executive director of the Alaska Police Standards Council in Juneau.

In his new role, Terry Vrabec will oversee training issues for law enforcement officers and standards for police training academies in Alaska. The job is effective May 2.

"As a chief of police since 1997, I have seen how important that is to get the best-trained officers," said Vrabec, 42. "The better trained and educated they are, the more they will succeed in the field."

How Vrabec's replacement will be selected has not yet been determined, said UAF spokeswoman Carla Browning. An interim police chief will be announced this week.

As UAF police chief, Vrabec has run a department of about 30 people, including students who are community-service officers. The university police department enforces laws on campus and promotes safety.

In his new job, Vrabec will oversee a staff of three, he said. He will report to members of the police standards council and the commissioner of the state Department of Public Safety.

Vrabec began his law enforcement career at UAF, where he worked as a student security officer while studying for a bachelor's degree in criminal justice.

Storm brings record rains to Seattle

SEATTLE - An early spring storm drenched Washington on both sides of the Cascades and brought snow to the mountains, turning Snoqualmie Pass into an icy mess where at least 30 accidents were reported, one of them fatal.

A man who left his vehicle to wait for a tow truck was struck and killed when a semi-truck spun out of control Saturday, the Washington State Patrol said. Troopers identified the man as Ernest A. Byng, 31, of Connell.

Interstate 90 was closed for much of Saturday afternoon. Most of the accidents caused only minor injuries, troopers said.

"People do not have their snow tires anymore, and they are not carrying chains," said Mike Westbay of the state Department of Transportation. "They ran into 12 inches of snow and they were stuck."

Saturday's rainfall of 1.51 inches at Seattle-Tacoma International Airport broke the March 26 record of 0.92 inch, set in 1988. And rainfall of 0.64 inch Sunday at the airport matched the 1968 record for the day.

Report: Fish in Spokane area tainted

SPOKANE, Wash. - A state Department of Ecology study has found that fish in the Spokane River have the highest concentrations of toxic flame retardants of any freshwater fish in Washington state.

PBDEs, or polybrominated diphenyl ethers, are chemicals used in electronics, plastics, building materials and textiles that build up in fish tissue and in the human body, including the breast milk of nursing mothers. They can cause neurological damage in babies.

"Fish from the Spokane River have the highest values of PBDEs found in Washington state to date," according to a September 2004 report from Ecology's toxics monitoring program.

The fish, sampled in 2001, had PBDE levels measuring 1,250 parts per billion. By comparison, salmon from a tributary of industrial Lake Michigan had PBDEs ranging from 44.6 to 148 parts per billion, the Ecology report says.

No one's sure why the levels are so high in the Spokane River.

"It's odd that we have that kind of high hit in the Spokane River," said Rob Duff, environmental health director for the state Health Department.

The state is moving to ban most dangerous PBDEs.

There are no fish consumption advisories anywhere in the country for PBDEs, because there's still not a lot of good data about what levels are harmful to people, Duff said.

PCBs, or polychlorinated biphenyls, were used in transformers and other industrial equipment until they were banned in the late 1970s. They're classified as a probable human carcinogen, and recent studies have shown that fetal exposure can lead to learning and behavior problems in children.

Ecology's study also found PCBs in rainbow trout in West Medical Lake, and dioxins in mountain whitefish in Lake Spokane.

Bill would regulate marketing credit cards

OLYMPIA, Wash. - Washington State University student Brea Thompson got her first credit card shortly before she left for her freshman year.

She used her new plastic to purchase everything from books and dorm-room decorations to food and clothes. Now a senior, Thompson said she spent thousands of dollars on various cards before realizing she was digging herself into a hole of debt.

"The thing that most students don't think about when they are spending money on an intangible object is that they're not going to reap the benefits years later when they're paying off something like a pizza," said Thompson, who is now WSU's student body president.

For college students tired of cheap beer and ramen noodles, credit cards can offer a seemingly easy road to a life of plenty. Throw in the gifts and perks offered by credit card companies and getting a card can be almost irresistible.

But not so fast, say a few Washington lawmakers.

The state House is considering a bill that would restrict the marketing of credit cards to college students on the state's public school campuses. The Senate already approved it.

Mother of teen settles wrongful death suit

SEATTLE - The mother of a 16-year-old boy who was stabbed and bludgeoned by two friends has settled a wrongful-death lawsuit against Seattle Public Schools.

The district paid Donna Jasmer $250,000 on Thursday, according to her longtime partner, Mike White.

In the coming weeks, the district also plans to unveil a new threat-notification policy that was drafted with the help of the Jasmer family, district spokesman Peter Daniels said.

An independent school district investigation found that days before John Jasmer was killed in August 2003, a parent told a district employee that members of the Roosevelt High's football team planned to kill him.

The school's vice principal claims he never received messages the parent and the district employee say they left - a lapse that signaled a need to tighten the district's policy, Chief Operations Officer Mark Green said last year.

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