Alaska Digest

Posted: Thursday, September 27, 2007

Douglas artist wins $5,000 prize at show

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JUNEAU - Douglas woodworker David Walker captured the $5,000 WETA Award, one of six special awards, in the 21st annual international Montana World of Wearable Art Award Show.

Walker's paper-backed cherry veneer and cedar wood dress "Prehistoric Princess" was chosen by Richard Taylor of WETA Workshop as the "garment that best crosses the boundaries of film and wearable art."

The stegosaurus-inspired piece - second place at this year's Wearable Art Show - was one of approximately 150 pieces chosen to appear in the show. About 30,000 people will attend the 10-day festival, which runs through this weekend.

Walker used a $5,000 Individual Artist Project Award from the Rasmuson Foundation to help pay for the shipping costs.

Turning the Tides holds logo contest

JUNEAU - Turning the Tides, a nonprofit organization that tries to raise awareness about the deterioration of the Pacific Ocean, is holding a contest to create a new logo for its organization.

The new two-dimensional design should be based on a logo sketch, viewable at It can be digital or paper, color or black-or-white and in any medium.

The contest is open to artists of all ages, professional and amateur. The winning prize is a T-shirt with the logo and acknowledgment of the winner. The top design will be used on the Web site and for promotional purposes.

The entry deadline is 5 p.m. Friday, Oct. 5. A panel will review the designs and decide a winner by Oct. 12.

Entries may be e-mailed to They also can be mailed to or dropped off at the Juneau Arts and Humanities Council, 206 N. Franklin St., Juneau, AK 99801. Please include your name and contact information.

For more information about the contest, call 523-5431 or e-mail

Alaska students' test scores improve

JUNEAU - Students in Alaska showed improvement in a national test of reading and math.

The National Assessment of Educational Progress is designed to compare student performance state by state.

About 10,000 fourth- and eighth-graders in Alaska took the test earlier this year. That's about half the students in those grades.

According to interim Education Commissioner Barbara Thompson, eighth-grade math scores were up from the previous test in 2005 - and above the national average.

Scores for fourth grade reading also showed improvement, but they were still below the national average.

The scores for eighth-grade reading and fourth-grade math were virtually unchanged.

Search for missing fisherman called off

ANCHORAGE - The Coast Guard has ended a search for a fisherman who failed to return to Cordova.

Steve Reutov's 32-foot aluminum boat was found on the shoreline of an island near Prince William Sound and a survival suit and life ring were found on the beach. But there was no sign of Reutov.

Reutov was supposed to be back in Cordova at Monday evening.

At 9 p.m., his brother called the Coast Guard, which launched a search around Egg Island, where Reutov's 32-foot vessel Hero had been seen earlier in the day.

Walrus rehabilitating at SeaLife center

SEWARD - A young walrus is exploring new surroundings at the Alaska SeaLife Center after first appearing without its mother about a month ago near the Red Dog Mine port facility south of Kivalina.

The walrus, born last year and weighing over 400 pounds, seemed exhausted and lethargic, hauling out on the backs of zinc ships as they were loaded.

It eluded several attempts to capture it, until last Thursday.

The walrus, named "Chukchi," was flown to Kotzebue and Anchorage on chartered cargo planes, and then on to Seward where it is getting acclimated in the center's rehabilitation facility.

Visitors to the center can observe Chukchi on a monitor near the touch pool, via a video camera linked to its quarantined area.

When the walrus was first spotted near the Red Dog Mine port facility, there was no sign of its mother. Walrus can remain dependent on their mothers for more than two years.

Workers decided to call the SeaLife Center's stranding response staff for assistance.

"U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service biologists tell us that harvested animals of this age normally have only their mother's milk for stomach contents," said Tim Lebling, stranding coordinator at the Alaska SeaLife Center.

After taking note of the walrus's size and budding tusks, Lebling determined it was born last year. While the animal did not need to be rescued, center staff decided the young walrus needed to be captured and nursed back to optimum health.

Walrus calves are born mostly in late April or early May during the spring migration, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game Web site. At birth, they can weigh 100 to 160 pounds. Calves are dependent upon their mothers for at least 18 months and occasionally for as long as 2½ years.

UAF gets grant for look at Native health

FAIRBANKS - The University of Alaska Fairbanks has received $11 million to continue studying the relationship between obesity, diabetes and the traditional diet of Natives in western Alaska.

The five-year grant from the National Institute of Health is a renewal of a nearly identical grant the Center for Alaska Native Health Research received in 2001 to study the diets of Alaska Natives.

"What we've found is that the prevalence of obesity among Yup'ik Eskimos is no different than other people. It's no different than Caucasians living a very Western lifestyle," researcher and center co-director Bert Boyer said. "But the intriguing part, and the exciting part, is that the prevalence of Type II diabetes in Yup'ik Eskimos is very low. That really piqued our curiosity."

Type II diabetes is adult-onset diabetes. It is often directly linked to obesity. As more Americans have gotten fatter, more have developed the disease. However, that link between weight and diabetes does not hold true among the Yup'ik communities of western Alaska, Boyer said.

"It turns out Yup'ik Eskimos have among the lowest levels of metabolic syndrome (or risk of obesity-related diseases such as diabetes) of any group worldwide, yet they are as overweight as anyone else in America," Boyer said.

Working with 10 small Yup'ik communities in western Alaska, Boyer has spent the past five years looking for a genetic cause for the low rate of diabetes.

While more research needs to be done, Boyer said he does not think genes are the culprit.

"We don't think there's anything genetically unique about a Yup'ik Eskimo as far as obesity risk factors are concerned," he said. "We think the uniqueness comes from the food they eat."

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