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Austin police have identified a man found dead Saturday morning in a downtown creek as 21-year-old Cole Christianson of Anchorage, Alaska.

Austin Police Department spokesperson Jennifer Hebert said Christianson’s death has been ruled “not suspicious” by APD, and the department will not conduct any further investigation. Sarah Scott, chief administrative officer for the Travis County Medical Examiner’s Office, said Christianson’s cause of death is still unknown, and her office is awaiting the results of toxicology testing on his body, which could take six to eight weeks.

Scott said Christianson’s body was found Saturday morning at 11:10 a.m. by an employee of Austin Music Hall. Scott said Christianson was lying in Shoal Creek behind Austin Music Hall, located at 208 Nueces Street. Christianson was a former student of the University of Alaska Anchorage, officials said.

UT economics senior Dennis Beaudo, a friend of Christianson’s who attended Dimond High School with him in Anchorage, said Christianson was a big hockey fan and was funny, popular and kind.

“He made a lot of people laugh. He had a really big smile,” Beaudo said. “He treated everybody really well and was kind to everybody that he knew.”

Printed on Tuesday, October 16, 2012 as: Police identify body found in Shoal Creek

AMSTERDAM — Royal Dutch Shell PLC said Monday it will no longer seek oil off the coast of Alaska this year after suffering several setbacks.

The company, which has so far spent around $4.5 billion to obtain licenses and prepare for exploratory drilling in the Chukchi and Beaufort Seas, said it is scaling back ambitions until next summer after one of its containment systems failed during a test. Earlier, the company delayed drilling due to ice floe movements.

The company said that in the time remaining this season it plans to drill shallow “top holes” for wells that may be further pursued in coming years.

To obtain approval to drill, Shell fought a long struggle against environmental groups, who say seeking oil in the icy waters is too risky.

“Investors must now be asking whether investing such vast sums of money trying to exploit the fragile Arctic is really worth it,” said Ben Ayliffe, head of Greenpeace’s campaign to stop Shell.

Shell said its decision is evidence of how carefully it is proceeding.

“This exploration program remains critically important to America’s energy needs, to the economy and jobs in Alaska, and to Shell,” a statement published by the company said.

— The Associated Press

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — More than four years after Royal Dutch Shell paid $2.8 billion to the federal government for petroleum leases in the Chukchi Sea, a company vessel on Sunday morning sent a drill bit into the ocean floor, beginning preliminary work on an exploratory well 70 miles off the northwest coast of Alaska.

Shell has spent upward of $4.5 billion for Arctic Ocean drilling but had been thwarted from drilling by environmental lawsuit, regulatory requirements and short open-water drilling seasons. Despite the requirement to stay out of oil-bearing rock, they were elated to finally begin work.

JUNEAU, Alaska — Alaska is known for pioneering, self-reliant residents who are accustomed to remote locations and harsh weather. Despite that, Gov. Sean Parnell worries a major earthquake or volcanic eruption could leave the state’s 720,000 residents stranded and cut off from food and supply lines. His answer: Build giant warehouses full of emergency food and supplies, just in case.

For some in the lower 48, it may seem like an extreme step. But Parnell says this is just Alaska.

In many ways, the state is no different than the rest of America. Most people buy their groceries at stores, and rely on a central grid for power and heat. But, unlike the rest of the lower 48, help isn’t a few miles away. When a fall storm cut off Nome from its final fuel supply last winter, a Russian tanker spent weeks breaking through thick ice to reach the remote town.

The state plans two food stockpiles in or near Fairbanks and Anchorage, two cities that also have military bases. Construction on the two storage facilities will begin this fall, and the first food deliveries are targeted for December. The goal is to have enough food to feed 40,000 people for up to a week, including three days of ready-to-eat meals and four days of bulk food that can be prepared and cooked for large groups. To put that number into perspective, Alaska’s largest city, Anchorage, has about 295,000 people, according to the U.S. Census Bureau, and Juneau, its third largest, about 31,000.

Delivery of the food stockpiles would be staggered over three years. It would be replaced after it’s used or expired, and it’s entirely possible that much of the food will never be needed. It is not clear what the state will do with the expired, unused food.

The project has a budget of around $4 million and hasn’t generated any real controversy.


— Compiled from Associated Press

Three UT science instructors plan to spend the summer avoiding oil spills and direct interferences with the natural ecosystem while studying sediment samples in the Arctic Ocean.

Marine science professor Ken Dunton will lead a group of 10 researchers in a study about the Hanna Shoal ecosystem in the Chukchi Sea off the northwestern coast of Alaska next summer. The study will be conducted over a five-year period, during which Dunton and his team will attempt to understand why the northern Chukchi Sea is such a productive area.

The team will be measuring water current on the seabed, as well as the fluidity and temperature changes in the water and the organisms living on the seabed. Dunton said the group received a $5.6 million grant from the Bureau of Ocean Energy Management, Regulation and Enforcement in order to complete the study.

Dunton said the system supports a high level of productivity based on the large number of organisms.

“Our main objective is to gain a better understanding of the biological, physical and chemical processes at work in the northern Chukchi Sea and the role of those processes in regulating extremely high productivity of that system,” Dunton said. “The great variety of organisms that inhabit the northern Chukchi Sea shows that is a highly productive ecosystem. It is a place of congregation for organisms of all different troughs.”

Dunton also said the group is interested in whether or not climate change affects the ecosystem, as well as diversity in the seabed.

Susan Schonberg, a Marine Science Institute research scientist associate who will accompany Dunton for the study, said she has been working in Alaska for more than 30 years, and the area they will research is especially rich in species diversity.

“From sampling in summers 2009 and 2010, we found an area around Hanna Shoal, located in the northern Chukchi Sea, to be a rich ecosystem,” Schonberg said.

Steve Lanoux, assistant director of the Marine Science Institute in the College of Natural Sciences, will also join the group of researchers. Lanoux said the team will use a variety of methods to collect their information.

He said the group will use baseline data to continuously analyze the section of water they plan to explore and determine what type of outside influences affect the sea.

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Alaska officials have dismissed an ethics complaint filed against former Gov. Sarah Palin that alleged she violated state law because the TLC docu-series “Sarah Palin’s Alaska” took advantage of a state film production program she signed into law.

Malia Litman of Dallas filed the complaint. She also alleged Palin benefited from the production of the eight-partseries in violation of a two-year moratorium that bars former officials from being compensated for assisting others in state dealings.

Documents show producers of the reality program received nearly $1.2 million in tax production credits.

The complaint dismissal says there’s no basis for the grievance.

ANCHORAGE, Alaska — Anchorage police say a city van used to pick up drunken people was taken on a joyride by a man suspected of drunken driving.

The Anchorage Daily News reports that 35-year-old Donny H. Weston was arrested late Thursday after police say he got into a Community Service Patrol van parked with the keys in the engine. Police say social workers were attending inebriated people when Weston got into the van.

Police say Weston drove the van for significant distance, including driving against traffic, and he eventually crashed the van into a bus and ditched it.

Police say the inebriated men in the back of the van didn’t notice the joyride.

— Compiled from Associated Press reports


When a Texas 4000 team member passed Cindy Chang a flyer about Wednesday’s Haircutting Extravaganza, Chang said she was glad to have an opportunity to donate the hair she started growing in memory of her father, who died of cancer four years ago.

Chang, a senior software developer and analyst for the Office of Accounting, was one of 30 women who donated ponytails to raise awareness and funds for Texas 4000’s 8th annual bike ride to Alaska. Many men and one woman also shaved their heads.

The team’s 47 members will start the trip in June to raise cancer awareness, and many of them cut or shaved their own hair.

“I ride for my dad. He passed away from lung cancer on May 6 — it’ll be three years this month,” said Spanish and biology senior Ryan Sherman, a member of the Texas 4000 team. “This has been a huge healing process. Hearing everybody’s stories makes me realize I’m not alone in my fight. We’re riding from here to Alaska, and we get to share our stories all along the way and hear other people’s stories.”

Students helped fight cancer by ordering chicken wings at Pluckers on Monday. Texas 4000, a student charity organization whose members ride bicycles from Austin to Anchorage, Alaska, every summer to raise money for cancer research, is fundraising this week at five restaurants near campus. Each day, a different restaurant will be raising money to be donated to cancer research organizations, including the MD Anderson Cancer Center and LIVESTRONG. The team’s final goal is to raise $350,000 by the end of this year. “I think this is another way the students are coming up with creative ways to create funds to fight cancer,” said Texas 4000 Executive Director Jamille Ruebsahm. “Every dollar is closer to a day when there is no cancer and the fight is over.” When a customer mentions Texas 4000 when ordering at the restaurants, a portion of the sale will be donated, said Matt Song, a Texas 4000 member and biology senior. “We thought it was a great idea to reach out to the community and a great way to fundraise because people are always going to be eating,” Song said. It is important for Texas 4000 to raise money to donate to organizations to use for research facilities, treatment and to pay doctors, Song said. The charity relies on the community and on many people in the world who help their cause financially, he said. “A bigger priority for us is sharing hope, knowledge and prevention information on our journey up to Alaska,” Song said. Tommy Vinyard, an aerospace engineering sophomore and Texas 4000 member, brought his family to eat at Pluckers. His mom, Anne Brown, is a 2004 breast cancer survivor. Brown said she is amazed by the Texas 4000 team and their efforts to support cancer research. “I think it’s great Texas 4000 is helping raise money to fund research and maybe eventually help find a cure,” Brown said. “It will definitely help the quality of life. I greatly appreciate what they do.” Cornucopia, located on Guadalupe Street near Veggie Heaven, will donate 20 percent of each sale they make between 4 and 8 p.m. today.

News Briefly

A group of more than 50 students who bike 4,600 miles from Austin to Anchorage, Alaska, every summer broke a record for the Livestrong Young Adult Alliance’s Break Cancer initiative, said advertising senior Adam Laurenzo, copresident of Texas 4000.

More than 50 members punched balloons, which symbolized cancer, in the Chemical and Petroleum Engineering Building on Dean Keeton Street.

Laurenzo said Monday’s event was not the group’s first time participating in the initiative.

“Our last one was ‘Longest Congo Line of Mustache-Wearing People,’” he said. “People come up with crazy stuff.”

The trek from Austin to Anchorage is the world’s longest annual charity bicycle ride, consisting only of UT students. Since the group’s first ride in 2004, it has raised almost $3 million to support cancer research, he said.

“The Beat Cancer initiative creates awareness through breaking records,“ he said. “Hopefully this will help draw the public eye and get us more support.”