Alaska News Nightly: September 7, 2007

Scientists say Alaska’s polar bear population will be wiped out within 50 years due to global warming effects. Plus the Kott corruption trial jury is finalized on the same day the VECO building is transformed into the CH2M Hill building. Those stories and more on tonight’s Alaska News Nightly, broadcast statewide on APRN stations.

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Polar bear on sea ice
Photo: National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration

Global warming effects to wipe out Alaska’s polar bears in 50 years
Steve Heimel, APRN – Anchorage
The best guess of federal scientists is that polar bears will disappear from the Alaska coast within the next 50 years. A bombshell set of nine studies ordered by Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne to help him decide whether to put the polar bear on the Endangered Species List was released to the press today at a national news teleconference. The results are significant and, in the words of the scientists, “robust.”

Kott corruption jury selected and ready for trial
David Shurtleff, APRN – Anchorage
Jury selection in the corruption trial of former state legislator Pete Kott finished this afternoon in Anchorage. He’s accused of taking bribes from the head of VECO in exchange for votes in 2006.

CH2M Hill completes purchase of VECO
Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage
Oil field services company VECO officially became the property of the curiously-named CH2M Hill corporation today. Company spokesman John Corsi says the name was formed from the first letters of the founders’ last names. Corsi also says the VECO name will be no more.

Challenge to Alaska’s Workers’ Comp Appeals Commission rejected
Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau
The Alaska Supreme Court today let stand a portion of a 2005 law that changed how the state handles claims by workers injured on the job. The new system established a Workers’ Compensation Appeals Commission to handle claims where either the worker or the employer were dissatisfied with the original finding. Prior to the 2005 law taking effect, appeals were made directly to the state court system.

Many schools improving in Y-K Delta, but 13 miss AYP goals
Angela Denning-Barnes, KYUK – Bethel
Most schools in the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta are not meeting Adequate Yearly Progress (AYP) goals, which means they need to improve their students’ performance according to state standards. But this past school year three districts in the Kuskokwim area received better scores for their AYP than they have in recent years.

National School Boards Association convenes meeting in Kodiak
Kelly Casey, KMXT – Kodiak
Kodiak is hosting school board members from around the country this week as the National School Boards Association (NSBA) Board of Directors is in town for its annual retreat and board meeting. The NSBA’s President is an Alaskan — Norman Wooten.

Gray whale population stressed and declining
Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage
National Marine Fisheries Service biologist Wayne Perryman has been studying gray whales for nearly 30 years. He says climate change in Arctic summer feeding grounds is stressing the whales. Perryman takes part in a yearly census of north- and southbound populations, where he says the cows and calves are easy to count from shore.

Memorial for Tlingit elder Mark Jabobs, Jr. draws visitors from across America
Melissa Marconi-Wentzel, KCAW – Sitka
More than 200 people from across Alaska and the Lower 48 gathered in Sitka recently for a memorial party in honor of Tlingit leader Mark Jacobs, Jr. The head of the Killerwhale Clan passed away in 2005 at the age of 81.