Alaska News Nightly: July 31, 2007

Watchdog groups are calling on Senator Ted Stevens to resign from his key committee assignments following the federal search yesterday of his Girdwood home. Plus, archaeologists in Unalaska have found a 3,000-year old whalebone mask. Those stories and more on tonight’s Alaska News Nightly, broadcast statewide on APRN stations.

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Watchdogs: Drop Stevens from committees now; Senators: Let investigation proceed
Joel Southern, APRN – Washington, D.C.
A day after federal law officers searched Senator Ted Stevens Girdwood home, Senate colleagues urged caution before jumping to conclusions that he’s caught up in the VECO corruption web. But watchdog groups called for him to step aside from his key committee assignments until his legal issues are cleared up.

Republican House leader Boehner declines to take action against Don Young
Joel Southern, APRN – Washington, D.C.
Meanwhile, as conjecture and suspicion swirls around the latest Stevens news, Don Young’s legal troubles drew comments from Republican Minority Leader John Boehner. Boehner was asked if the federal investigation of Young might temporarily cost him the ranking Republican spot on the Natural Resources Committee, second-ranking post on Transportation and other assignments.

Two other House Republicans under federal investigation have given up their committee seats until their legal situation is clarified. And a Democrat under indictment for bribery was forced to give up a seat on the important tax-writing Ways and Means Committee pending the outcome of his case.

Coastal erosion in northern Alaska’s NPR-A doubled in last 50 years
Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage


The U.S. Geological Survey (USGS) has completed a new study of coastal erosion in the Northeast portion of the National Petroleum Reserve-Alaska (NPR-A). The study used topographical maps from 1955 and satellite infrared data from 1985 and 2005. The comparisons found coastal erosion in the 70-mile area that was studied has doubled in the last 50 years. John Mars was the lead author of the USGS study. He said an exploratory well drilled in the 1970s called the J.W. Dalton site showed alarming erosion that needed closer examination.

There are 28 wells in the area that were drilled by the USGS in the 1970s to delineate the NPR-A oil reserves. The Bureau of Land Management is working on a plan now to clean up three of the wells they have determined to be of most concern. Wayne Svejnoha, an environmental manager for BLM, says the wells and drill waste pits contain a mixture of liquids, including some petroleum products.

Fort Richardson’s 425th racking up positive results in Iraq
Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau
Alaska-based soldiers on duty in Iraq are well into a new strategy, and the commander of the 4th Brigade Combat Team of the 25th Infantry Division — the 425th — now on deployment from Fort Richardson says it’s getting new results.

Nader, Nation, Anderson and Vets for Peace protest war, call for Bush impeachment
Rosemarie Alexander, KTOO – Juneau
Calling for the impeachment of President George W. Bush, activist Ralph Nader, Salt Lake City Mayor Rocky Anderson and the editor of The Nation magazine joined a couple hundred people in Juneau’s Marine Park yesterday to protest the war in Iraq.

The rally was held by the Juneau Chapter of Veterans for Peace to thank the magazine for its editorial stand against the war. About 400 people — including veterans — are on a cruise through Southeast Alaska sponsored by The Nation. The magazine has ties to Alaska: Ernest Gruening, a territorial governor and the state’s first U.S. Senator, was editor of the New York-based magazine in the 1920’s, before coming to Alaska.

At the rally, Ralph Nader called the Bush administration a criminal gang which has highjacked the White House. He encouraged those at the rally to carry their war protest to Congress.

Beaver residents working to save perishables; state airlifting generator
Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks
Beaver residents are hustling to keep freezers full of salmon and other foods from thawing and spoiling. Electricity remains out in the village following Sunday’s power plant fire. Maryland Alexander, a health aid at the Beaver Clinic, says local people are doing their best to save perishables. The state of Alaska has delivered a large generator and other equipment to the village to restore community-wide electrical service. The aim is to have power restored by 8:00 p.m. this evening.

Uranium mining proposal for Elim area drawing concerns
Jesse Zink, KNOM – Nome
A Canadian company is exploring for uranium near the Seward Peninsula community of Elim and that has some residents worried about the potential impact on the region.

Unalaska dig uncovers whalebone mask, circa 1,000 B.C.
Charles Homans, KIAL – Unalaska
Archaeologists working on a dig site in Unalaska have found a 3,000-year old Unangan (Aleut) whalebone mask, which they believe to be the oldest of its kind yet discovered in Alaska.