AK Beat: 21 mushers sign up for 2015 Yukon Quest

Alaska Dispatch News

Yukon Quest sign up nets 21 mushers: Mushers had their first chance to sign up for the Yukon Quest International Sled Dog Race Saturday, with a total of 21 mushers adding their names to compete in the annual 1,000-mile trek. That included two-time defending champ Allen Moore of Two Rivers and perennial favorite Brent Sass of Eureka, who led for most of the 2014 race before having to withdraw due to injury miles before the penultimate checkpoint of Braeburn.  Mushers will be competing for an enlarged purse of $127,000 -- up from $115,000 in 2014 -- the result of having fewer than 15 finishers in the most recent race. Racers will also have to deal with a new strategy after the longtime 36-hour layover in Dawson was shortened to 24 hours in an effort to spread out more rest along the trail. An additional 22 mushers signed up for the 300-mile version of the race, including defending champion Aliy Zirkle. Both races are set to begin in Whitehorse, Yukon Feb. 7.

Bear poaches beluga from Nunavut hunter: A Nunavut resident managed to harpoon a beluga whale in Hudson Bay, but never had a chance to eat his subsistence catch, reports the CBC. That’s because the whale Peter Kaludjak caught attracted the attention of a hungry polar bear, the Canadian news agency reported: “Kaludjak and his hunting partner caught the beluga whale about 120 kilometres from the community (of Arviat). A polar bear spotted them, swam over and began a tug of war over the whale,” the CBC said. “The bear won.” Kaludjak, whose pictures of event you can see on CBC’s site, said the bear came so close to his boat he could almost touch it. He hung around to retrieve the harpoon, a gift from his late brother.

How a study on Greenland Inuit and "Eskimo diet" took on a life of its own: A landmark 1970s study in Greenland that linked fish consumption -- as part of a so-called “Eskimo diet” -- to lower rates of heart disease in the popular imagination, never actually made that claim, reports a Slate article. What’s more, that widely-repeated claim may not even be accurate -- studies since then trying to find such a link haven't met with much success. The problem arose because of how conditions in Greenland differed in important ways from those in Denmark, as the piece explained: “How did they know the Inuit weren’t prone to heart disease? … [The study’s authors] relied on numbers provided by Greenland’s chief medical officer for parts of the 1960s and 1970s. These reports, based on death certificates and hospital admissions, included only a handful of confirmed heart disease cases from Uummannaq.” But those reports didn’t necessarily contain an accurate account of heart disease rates, since many remote Inuit villages in Greenland didn’t have any medical professionals present, Slate reports. The piece goes on to spin out the tale of how that simple failure to understand the conditions in Greenland’s villages took on a complex afterlife still reverberating today.

Walter Parker memorial event set for Aug. 11: A memorial event for the late Walt Parker will take place from 6 to 9 p.m. on Monday, Aug. 11, at the Hilltop Ski Chalet. The date would have been his 88th birthday. Walter Bruce Parker came to Alaska in 1946 and held a number of important posts as a public employee, private businessman and consultant on public policies regarding transportation, communication and the environment. He died at his home in Anchorage on June 25. A veteran musher, Parker had 12 huskies living at the kennel on his property when he died. Homes have since been found for all of the dogs. The family has invited people who knew Parker to share their stories during the Celebration of Life commemoration on Monday. People with questions can call Lisa Parker at 907-398-1883.

Run a little and live longer, study indicates: Got five or 10 minutes a couple of days per week to reduce your chance of dying by 30 to 40 percent? Then run. A somewhat-hard-to-believe study published by researchers from Iowa State University in the Journal of the American College of Cardiology reports that running for 60 minutes a week or less -- or about 8 minutes per day -- significantly lowers death from all causes, but adds that even running as little as five to 10 minutes every few days does much to improve life expectancy. "The effect of 'just doing something at slightly higher intensity' was profound, Dr. Barry Franklin, a Michigan cardiologist who reviewed the study, told MedPage Today. “A 30 percent to 40 percent reduction in mortality -- that’s huge. That’s equivalent to the same mortality reductions we get by taking a cholesterol-lowering statin or going on a beta-blocker.'' Alaskans might want to note that reference to "intensity.'' The study favored running over walking for health, but in terms of intensity, a good, uphill hike can easily mimic a run and is easier on the joints. Flattop Trail anyone?