Report says school district deficits would remain: A request by Rep. Les Gara, D-Anchorage, for information about public school funds shows Alaska’s six largest school districts’ budgets will remain in the red despite Gov. Sean Parnell’s proposed $85 increase to the student base allocation. The BSA, the number of dollars school districts receive per student, has remained steady at $5,680 the last three years. The non-partisan Legislative Research Services provided data indicating districts in Anchorage, Fairbanks North Star Borough, Juneau, Kenai Peninsula Borough, Kodiak Island Borough and Matanuska-Susitna Borough would have budget deficits in the millions despite the possibility of increased funding. Altogether, they’d still be short $34.9 million dollars, which means more potential staff cuts. Without a raise to the BSA, the Anchorage School District faces a $23 million shortfall while an extra $85 per student would slash its deficit by $7.8 million. The smaller Kodiak Island district, with a deficit of $2.4 million, would gain $200,000 in funds, the report says; it’d be able to save five positions with the money. Research Services asked the six districts how much they thought the BSA should increase in order to negate their deficits, and the suggestions average just over $314. Democrats in the House and Senate proposed a $404 increase to the BSA with an automatic adjustment in each subsequent year to account for inflation in order to “reverse past teacher and staff cuts, and to prevent them in the future,” a House Democratic Caucus release says.
Anchorage police probe woman's death: A local woman died inside a West Anchorage home early Thursday morning, according to Anchorage police. At half past midnight, police got a 911 call from an unidentified man who reported “his house guest was injured and in need of medical assistance.” Medics responded to the 1700 block of 12th Avenue and found a 23-year-old female dead in the residence. Anchorage Police Department spokesperson Anita Shell wrote in a press release that an autopsy will be conducted Friday. The case remains under investigation.
Adorable baby polar bear just keeps getting more adorable: Remember when the unnamed polar bear born at the Toronto Zoo took his first steps back in January? He's back in a new video, in which he reveals his own name, which was selected by popular vote. Get ready for the best 82 seconds of your day.
More Southcentral snowmachine closures: The snow-short, non-winter winter of 2013-14 just keeps getting bleaker. Chugach National Forest has announced it is now closing Turnagain Pass south of Anchorage to snowmachines and other over-snow vehicles. Snowmachiners usually get to play in the snow there until May. Not this year. There is not enough snow. The federal agency says the Placer River drainage near Portage does remain open, along with the Johnson Pass Trail south of Turnagain Pass. But rangers are daily monitoring snow conditions there, and those areas could close to winter recreation any day, too. The snowmachine riding to the north of Anchorage isn't much better either with the exception of the Susitna and Yentna rivers, where not much snow is needed to cover the ice.
State quarantines five aquatic weeds: The Alaska Division of Agriculture is establishing a quarantine (PDF) to prevent the spread of five invasive species of aquatic weed, the division said Wednesday in a press release. The state will set up measures to stop the entry of these five species at the state’s boundaries, and to prevent their spread within the state. According to the state, the problem is relatively recent one. But in a short time, invasive weeds have already wreaked havoc in some of the state’s waterways, including in Anchorage and on the Kenai Peninsula. The quarantine applies to Canadian waterweed, Western Nuttallii (both of which are elodea), Brazilian waterweed, Hydrillia, and Eurasian watermilfoil.
How cold can benefit you -- if you're lucky: Cold may kill more people than heat, but there’s at least one silver lining -- for some people. According to a new study that followed subjects in Uppsala, Sweden, babies who spent the winter months in utero were less likely to succumb to seasonal heart disease later in life than their counterparts who spent summer in the womb, reports The Atlantic. The study specifically looked at death from heart disease that peaks during colder months (as arteries constrict and blood gets thicker). Researchers at the Universities of California at Irvine and Berkeley, as well as University of Mannheim in Germany combed through records from the Swedish city, near Stockholm, and found that “the likelihood that the person would go on to die a cold-related heart-attack death was 16 percent higher for every 6 percent increase in the number of warm days they spent in utero.” As the Atlantic observes, there’s not much you can do about when you were born, except maybe head south if you’re a summer baby; as the Washington Post notes, another study suggests a population shift from the cold Northeast to the hot Southwest may account for 8 to 15 percent of recent increases in American longevity, delaying as many as 5,400 deaths a year.