{News Briefs}

Interior Alaska faces possible permafrost melting

Vladimir Romanovsky, a permafrost researcher at the Geophysical Institute of UAF, predicts a major thawing of interior Alaska's permafrost, the frozen layers beneath the earth's surface. By comparing interior Alaska's permafrost to that of Siberia, Romanovsky suggests refrigerating the soil if the climate continues the warm trends. He contends that the ice underneath the soil is as close as one degree from thawing. If warming continues, Romanovsky believes buildings may sink, roads may become deformed and natural ecosystems may be lost.

 

Special Spring 2001 Theatre and Dance courses

The UAA Department of Theatre and Dance and XSIGHT! Performance Group has invited artists Brian Jeffery and Marianne Kim to direct one-time only courses involving theater, dance and the visual arts.

“Opportunities like this don't come to Anchorage every day,” said Fran Lautenberger, chair of the Theatre and Dance Department. Jeffery will teach “Physical Theatre Performance,” exploring the creative process and performance qualities of expressing the human body. Kim will teach a new age form of dance theatre called “Butoh” in Dance 260: Contemporary Techniques, Composition and Repertory. Students desiring to begin dance training should enroll in Dance 121, Fundamentals of Modern Dance I.

 

Roederer receives science achievement award  

Juan Roederer of the University of Alaska Geophysical Institute received the Edward A. Flinn III award in a ceremony on Sunday, Dec. 17, in Fairbanks.

Early in Roederer's career, he helped start one of the first coordinated studies on the physics of the Earth's magnetosphere and also helped draft the Arctic Research and Policy Act passed by Congress in 1984. Roederer served as director of the Geophysical Institute from 1977-1986 and also taught physics until he retired in 1993. For more information about the award, contact the Geophysical Institute Information Office at (907) 474-7558.

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University of Alaska graduate appointed as central region director

Gov. Tony Knowles has appointed Gordon Keith, a University of Alaska graduate, as director of construction and operations for Alaska's central region. He began the position on Jan. 2. Keith served in the U.S. Army and earned a combat infantry badge in Vietnam. He graduated from UAA in 1974.

Keith has been working in highway and other construction for 30 years and has served as chief of highway and aviation construction for the past seven years.

Knowles said, “I'm glad to be able to apply that experience and commitment by promoting him to central region director.”

 

Strong financial year for Student Loan Corporation

Alaska student loan interest rates will be reduced in 2001, which will decrease interest costs for approximately 21,000 current borrowers by about $700. The Alaska Student Loan Corporation (ASLC) board met on Dec. 4 and approved a plan to reduce interest costs for borrowers whose loans are at the highest rates paid in the program's 26-year history.

The ASLC will pay a return capital to the state setting the FY02 payment to $4 million, approximately $1.8 million more than the previous year.

 

We're in the money — maybe

December brought promises to the University of Alaska that the money would start rolling in from BP and Phillips Charter–$2.537 million that may go to an Economic Development Center to $16.9 million promised in state funds from Gov. Tony Knowles.

Knowles' promise made at the UAA library may be less sure, though, since the money still must be approved by the Alaska Legislature. The money, set to upgrade computer systems and distance education equipment as well as labor contracts and compensation increases, would help the university become state of the art in the near future. However, Sen. Rick Halford (R-Chugiak) Senate President elect, responded to the governor's proposed budget requests with harsh comments.

“If we had approved the governor's proposals for the last five years, the future deficit would have been $700 million more than it already is,” Halford said.

 

Judge sides with State in Cleary Prison Case

Superior Court Judge Elaine Andrews ended the prospective effect of the consent decree in the 20-year-old Cleary vs. Smith class action lawsuit on Dec. 15. Andrews' decision was based upon the managerial improvements to Alaska's correctional system and the Alaska Prison Litigation Reform Act, introduced in 1999 by Rep. Eldon Mulder, (R-Anchorage). The Cleary case began in 1981 when a group of prisoners claimed that Alaska prisons were overcrowded and unconstitutional. Adequate funding from the legislature has allowed prison capacities to remain below court ordered limits.

 

Mini-Radio emergency broadcast improves rural outreach

An important communication link between Shishmaref, a remote northwest village, and Camp Denali near Anchorage was opened Dec. 20. In introducing the system, Gov. Tony Knowles said, “The Alaska Mini-Radio Service is our latest way to improve and enhance communications with villages throughout Alaska.” The system is intended to provide rural villages a warning for emergencies or disasters. Shishmaref is the first village to be provided with the service of an emergency link, but expansion of the service to other rural villages is prospected for the future.

 

Former Education commissioner returns to position

Former Commissioner Shirley Holloway began her position again as the commissioner of the State Board of Education and Early Development on Jan. 8. Holloway served as Knowles' first commissioner of Education from March 1995 to April 1999.

Holloway began her career in 1963 as a speech and hearing clinician in Oregon and eventually became a professor at the University of Alaska Anchorage. Her department is responsible for 53 public school districts in Alaska, 465 full-time employees, the operation of three schools, early childhood development programs, and Alaska's museums, libraries, and archives.

 

CASA seeks child advocates

The Alaska Court Appointed Special Advocate (CASA) Program needs volunteers to help abused, neglected and abandoned children during their court cases. Duties would include researching case files, representing the child's best interests throughout the trial and ensuring a swift and fair conclusion. CASA will provide free training, and no experience is required. Those interested must first attend a one-hour informational meeting before beginning training in April. Training will be held Tuesdays and Saturdays for 10 hours a week from April 3 to April 24. For more information, call the Office of Public Advocacy at 269-3500.

 

Board of Trustees votes to end equity

The Alaska Permanent Fund Corporation (APFC) Board of Trustees voted to end their relationship with one of the original managers, Ark Asset. At a board meeting on Dec. 8, the Board decided to transfer approximately $300 million to Brinson Partners of Chicago. Due to past failures of Ark Asset to meet investment goals, the Board of Trustees rewrote all Fund investment policies and also elected three investment advisors. A resolution was also added to support a constitutional amendment to guard the Fund from inflation.

 

Design and present thematic Alaska maps

 The Alaska Geographic Alliance (AGA) has recently released the Alaska in Maps: A Thematic Atlas CD-ROM. Intended for visual presentation in the classroom setting, Alaska in Maps allows students and teachers to design their own map of Alaska.Maps can be designed to not only demonstrate geographic data, but also thematic layouts such as natural resources, mineral deposits, national and state parklands, population distribution, Native languages, transportation and communication systems. Alaska in Maps retails at $35 or $28 with Teacher/School discount. Proceeds benefit Alaska Geographic, a non-profit organization. To order, contact Alaska Geographic Society at (907) 562-0164, visit , or e-mail . For more information, visit or contact Jordan Marshal at or (907) 343-2467.

 

Minimal gain predicted for oil revenue

The Alaska Department of Revenue expects Alaska North Slope oil rates to remain higher than previously recorded for the next four years. The year-to-date average is at a high of $30.36 a barrel, but is expected to fall as soon as later this year as the world's oil supply becomes in more demand and as recent speculation in the market settles. Prices may eventually sink to less than $20 per barrel.

As prices fall, Alaska will once again have to rely on the Constitutional Budget Reserve Fund (CBRF) to cover public service costs. New oil production and discoveries are all aspirations to help Alaska's economy and preserve the life of the CBRF.

 

Volunteers needed for Anchorage Fur Rendezvous

Volunteers for the 66th annual Fur Rendezvous Festival are essential in ensuring another successful year of outdoor fun in Anchorage. Reliable and responsible individuals will be needed for responsibilities such as greeting, decorating, general office duties, parade assistance, ticket sales, reception planning, results reporting, timing, judging and other miscellaneous duties. If interested in volunteering, contact Sarah Hobart at Fur Rondy Headquarters at 274-1177.