Alaska Digest

Posted: Sunday, September 02, 2007

Pallenberg replaces Weeks on bench

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JUNEAU - U.S. Magistrate Judge Philip Pallenberg was appointed Friday by Gov. Sarah Palin to Juneau Superior Court.

Pallenberg, 45, will replace Juneau Superior Court Judge Larry Weeks, who recently retired. His 22-year law career has included criminal law, civil litigation and family law.

"Philip is an outstanding lawyer and magistrate with broad experience representing small municipalities and school districts," Palin said. "His considerable experience in many different legal fields makes him a great addition to the Superior Court."

Beef in Alaska may be tainted with E. coli

ANCHORAGE - State health officials are urging people to check freezers for possibly tainted ground beef.

The U.S. Department of Agriculture announced Friday that some shipments of ground beef sold in Alaska may be tainted with E. coli.

To date, eight confirmed cases have caused illnesses in the Pacific Northwest and one suspected case is being investigated in Alaska, a prepared statement from the Alaska Department of Health said.

Officials said the products are:

• 16-ounce packages of "Northwest Finest 7% fat Natural Ground Beef." The label bears a UPC code of "752907 600127."

• 16-ounce packages of "Northwest Finest 10% fat, Organic Ground Beef."

Each package bears the establishment number, "Est. 965," inside the USDA mark of inspection, as well as a sell-by date between Aug. 1 and Aug. 11.

The ground beef products were produced between July 19 and July 30, 2007, and distributed to retail establishments in Alaska, Idaho, Oregon and Washington, officials said. --

Panel: More funding needed for education

FAIRBANKS - A special task force set up to review education funding finalized its recommendations to the governor and Legislature on Thursday, calling for additional funding for high-cost school districts as well as an across-the-board increase for all districts.

The Joint Legislative Education Funding Task Force voted 7-2 in favor of a wide-ranging report in support of fully funding the recommendations of a controversial study on school district costs completed in 2005 by the University of Alaska Anchorage's Institute for Social and Economic Research. Two members were absent.

Fairbanks Republicans Sen. Gary Wilken and Rep. Mike Kelly, the two local members of the task force, voted against the report, which also calls for increases in funding for students with intensive needs and a statewide increase to the per-student allocation.

The task force, which was set up by lawmakers in May, was charged with reviewing the state's K-12 funding mechanism, taking public testimony, and recommending changes by Sept. 1. Any changes to education funding still need the approval of Gov. Sarah Palin and the Legislature.

The recommendations are based on the assumption that lawmakers will pass legislation requiring the state to cover most of school districts' pension obligations.

Thursday's meeting, which lasted less than an hour, gave a final stamp of approval to draft recommendations released earlier this month.

But it also demonstrated an ongoing rift between lawmakers over how to fairly distribute state funds among school districts around the state.

Wilken and Kelly both pointed to the adoption of the ISER study in explaining their no votes.

"The more you look into it, the more flawed it is," Wilken said.

The study recommends increasing funding for rural districts to account for higher capital and operating costs and to enable districts to attract quality teachers through higher pay.

Teen gets 75 years in drug deal death

FAIRBANKS - A 19-year-old man was sentenced to 75 years in prison for shooting another man twice in the head over a bungled $20 marijuana deal.

David Cox, who was sentenced Thursday in Fairbanks Superior Court, will have his first chance at parole in 2026.

Cox went to trial in February on charges of first-degree murder and evidence tampering in the death of Gary Lee Titus, 22, on July 22, 2006. But Cox pleaded no contest to the murder charge before the case went to a jury.

Cox's attorney, Susan Carney, maintains that Cox drew his .22 caliber handgun and began firing because he thought Titus, who was accompanied by six or seven other young men, had planned to rob him.

Prosecutor Jeff O'Bryant said that Cox meant to kill Titus in an act of bravado. A tattoo on one of Cox's forearms says "blood money."

"I don't know why you did this," Titus' mother, Lou Ann Williams, told Cox at Thursday's sentencing. "I don't think you even know."

She sought the maximum prison sentence of 99 years. "It's like all of the life I had in me just went with my boy," she said.

Cox has been in jail since shortly after a worker setting up for the Golden Days parade found Titus' body near the Carlson Center last summer. Titus had been shot twice in the back of the head.

"I regret ever touching drugs," Cox said. "I feel horrible for everything that happened. I just wish there was something I could do to make what I did right.

"Anything the court decides to do, I believe, is fair - 100 percent fair," Cox said.

Site aims to preserve Dena'ina language

KENAI - For Alan Boraas, an anthropology professor at Kenai Peninsula College, helping to revitalize a language that's nearly dead is not just an interesting project, it's the right thing to do.

"It's a very emotional thing to see a language become extinct," he said. "It's the equivalent of a species becoming extinct. What we lose is not just the words, but the thought processes that are part of a language."

For more than two years, Boraas and his colleague Michael Christian have taken pictures, navigated through HTML and digitized old audio recordings of Native writer Peter Kalifornsky in order to present Dena'ina vocabulary, grammar, stories and place names in an interactive Web site that went live last month.

"I'd sit in front of my computer and Michael was next door sitting in front of his. I'd build a Web page there are several hundred Web pages and add certain elements," Boraas said. "(Christian's) expertise is in doing the sound work and perfecting the pages so they ran smoothly. I couldn't do that so I'd give it to him and he'd edit and fix it.

"We've got a draft of it up and running now, we're just trying to get the bugs worked out."

In an e-mail, Boraas said some browsers may not support his Web site, but the kinks should be worked out within the next couple of weeks. The Web site is an ongoing project with more features being added to it as time goes by. Visitors can access the Web site at

This project is the latest in the Kenaitze Indian Tribe's endeavor to revitalize their Native language. Cultural Director Alexandra "Sasha" Lindgren, a tribal elder with the Kenaitze Indian Tribe, said a three-year grant from the Administration for Native Americans allowed the tribe to buy Boraas out of his teaching contract with KPC, enabling him to devote more time to the Web site.

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