Alaska News Nightly: July 17, 2007

Lawmakers and Governor Palin are preparing for a possible special legislative session to take a new look at rewriting the state’s new profit-based oil tax. Plus, the World Eskimo-Indian Olympics kicks off in Anchorage. The international games test strength, balance and agility. Those stories and more on tonight’s Alaska News Nightly.

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Ted Stevens releases personal financial data amidst ethics questions
Joel Southern, APRN – Washington, D.C.
Senator Ted Stevens released official financial disclosure forms for himself and his wife today. Originally due out a month ago, Stevens got extensions so the Senate Ethics Committee could review the disclosures. The delay raised questions about whether there might be some problem related to the ongoing FBI probe into the renovation of the Stevens’ Girdwood home and the wider VECO bribery scandal in the state.

Governor Palin seeking analyst review of proposed profit-based oil tax
Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau
The Palin administration is searching for someone outside of state government to take a fresh look at the results of the state’s new profit-based oil tax in preparation for a possible special legislative session this fall.

Palin selects replacement for Alaska House representative Vic Kohring
Annie Feidt, APRN – Anchorage (read by Lori Townsend, APRN)
Governor Palin announced today she’s found someone to fill Vic Kohring’s seat in the State House. She’s appointing Wes Keller, who’s currently chief of staff for Eagle River Representative Fred Dyson. Kohring announced last month he was leaving office to focus on the his legal troubles. He was indicted as part of the FBI’s political corruption investigation in Alaska. His resignation is effective July 19, 2007. Keller must be confirmed by a majority of House Republicans.

Ketchikan – Pennock – Gravina bridge backed by Borough
Deanna Garrison, KRBD – Ketchikan
The Ketchikan Gateway Borough Assembly last night voted to back a less expensive Gravina bridge alternative. The selected option is expected to cost $290 million and would include two bridges, one from Ketchikan to Pennock Island and another from Pennock to Gravina Island.

Sitka’s performing arts space scaling back in wake of funding veto
Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska – Juneau
Sitka’s new High School auditorium and Performing Arts Center is nearing completion. But it won’t get as close to being done as backers had hoped. That’s because Governor Sarah Palin vetoed an $800,000 legislative appropriation that was intended to help finish the facility.

Stevens and Torgerson fighting proposed cuts to Essential Air Service program
Joel Southern, APRN – Washington, D.C. (read by Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage)
Senator Ted Stevens and Alaska Deputy Transportation Commissioner John Torgerson say Congress and the Bush Administration should not make any major changes to the Essential Air Service program, which subsidizes air travel in and out of remote rural areas. The Bush Administration has repeatedly called for big reductions in EAS funding. But Ted Stevens and other lawmakers have moved to protect the funding in an aviation modernization bill now pending in the Senate.

Humpback whale in Southeast apparently killed by blunt impact
Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage
Fishery officials say a humpback whale found dead on the west side of Admiralty Island last week might have been killed in a collision with a ship. Marine mammal specialist Aleria Jensen says a necropsy performed Friday found significant bruising and hemorrhaging, suggesting blunt trauma to its head. But she says officials may never pinpoint the cause of death. The whale was found dead last Wednesday with a hugely bloated tongue, leading to speculation it had died from an infection. The necropsy results are due back in about a month.

Fairbanks ‘worms’ are actually gnat larvae
Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks
Entomologists have identified the strange worms spotted in rope-like groupings in the Fairbanks area last week. University of Alaska Museum of the North Curator of Insects and entomologist Derek Sykes says the worms are a type of gnat larvae. He says the nats may be native to interior Alaska, but the migratory behavior observed in Fairbanks and North Pole last week is likely abnormal.

World Eskimo-Indian Olympics (high) kicking off in Anchorage
Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage and Dixie Hutchinson, KNBA – Anchorage
The World Eskimo-Indian Olympics (WEIO) get underway tomorrow. The event is being held in Anchorage for the first time in the 46-year history of the games. WEIO activities officially start tomorrow at the Sullivan arena with the toe kick, kneel jump and one-hand reach. Today, there was a kick-off celebration in Anchorage’s Town Square Park. Dixie Hutchinson from APRN member station KNBA was there and brings us this audio postcard.