Alaska Digest

Posted: Sunday, November 12, 2006

Quinn named Juneau correspondent for AP

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ANCHORAGE - Steve Quinn, an energy writer for The Associated Press in Dallas, has been promoted to correspondent in Juneau.

The appointment was announced Friday by Larry Campbell, chief of bureau for Alaska. Quinn will start in late December.

Quinn, 43, joined the AP in 2005 in Dallas, coming from the Dallas Morning News, where he wrote on workplace and health care issues. Quinn also has been a reporter in Michigan, Massachusetts and Florida. He started his career as a spots writer in New Jersey.

Quinn, a native of Cleveland, earned his bachelor's degree from Bowling Green State University in 1985 and holds a master's degree in journalism from University of Missouri.

He replaces Matt Volz, who has taken an editing position on AP's national desk in New York.

State denied No Child Left Behind flexibility

FAIRBANKS - A federal agency has denied Alaska's application to have more flexibility in judging whether schools are making adequate yearly progress under the No Child Left Behind law.

Alaska was one of 16 states vying for 10 spots in a pilot program to allow states to judge a school's progress based on the percentage improvement in its students' test scores rather than on whether the scores have hit specific targets.

Five states - Arkansas, Delaware, Florida, North Carolina and Tennessee - have already been accepted into the pilot program, leaving only five open slots. The federal Department of Education rejected Alaska's application.

Les Morse, the director of assessments and accountability with the state Department of Education, said the problem is that the current system doesn't give credit to schools if their students are not proficient but improving.

Under Alaska's proposal, Morse said, schools wouldn't be penalized as long as the students were making improvements toward becoming proficient in four years.

"We think that's a fair system for schools because it actually recognizes them for making those gains for kids," he said.

Experts stop attack on state computers

JUNEAU - State computer experts say no sensitive data was lost during a sophisticated attack on some state computer systems.

The attack consisted of a worm that infected computers and tried to find and send passwords and files overseas.

Computer experts spent the week battling the attack. Some computers had to be shut down and programmers had to work overtime.

"We have attacks on a daily basis, and this one did get through," said Kevin Brooks, Department of Administration deputy commissioner.

Technology experts estimate there are hundreds of attacks on state computers on any given day but getting into a system is rare.

Brooks and others said they would not provide more information about what happened because it would risk exposing the state.

Damage was minor, he said. The goal of the intrusion likely was personal or other data but none was obtained. The intrusion did not prevent state employees from providing service to the public, he said.

Palmer residents speak out on prison

PALMER - A group of Palmer residents hijacked the agenda of a City Council meeting to speak out against a proposal to build a prison south of the city.

"I can't say how disappointed I am that this site was picked in the first place," said Frank Wall, president of South Palmer Community Organization, a new group formed to protest the proposed prison three miles south of the city. "I don't think this shows our community as 'Alaska at its best' with a prison site out there."

The Palmer South location is one of four sites under review for a proposed 1,200- to 2,251-bed, medium-security state prison to be built by 2010 in the Matanuska-Susitna Borough. Other sites are in Sutton, Houston and Point MacKenzie.

So far, Palmer South is the site that has drawn the most criticism. Opponents living nearby have circulated a petition against the prison and created a Web site,

State Corrections Commissioner Marc Antrim and Mat-Su Borough Manager John Duffy called a news conference Wednesday, hoping to clear up what they said were misconceptions about the project.

Early figures indicate smaller salmon catch

KENAI - Preliminary harvest numbers indicate Alaska fishermen caught 141.5 million salmon in 2006, the 15th largest take since statehood but the smallest since 2002.

The harvest was 80 million less fish than were caught in 2005, a record year, according to the Alaska Department of Fish and Game. The 2006 total is more than 24 million fish below the preseason forecast and 26.5 million fish below the most recent 10-year average of 168 million commercially caught fish, the department said.

Statewide, commercial fishermen earned about $25 million less than they did in 2005, largely due to the record harvest numbers in 2005. The 2006 harvest value of nearly $309 million was $30 million above the recent 10-year average, according to the Department of Fish and Game.

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