Alaska News Nightly: September 11, 2007

A universal health care proposal is headed to the Alaska Legislature in early 2008 — and the Cato Institute approves. Meanwhile the U.S. Forest Service looks to close well over half the roads in the Sitka Ranger District. Those stories and more on tonight’s Alaska News Nightly, broadcast statewide on APRN stations.

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Kott caught on tape: “I had to cheat, steal, beg, borrow and lie.”
David Shurtleff and Steve Heimel, APRN – Anchorage
An FBI agent spent all day on the witness stand today at the bribery and conspiracy trial of former state Representative Pete Kott. Special Agent Steve Dunphy was part of the crew that bugged Suite 604 of the Baranof Hotel in Juneau and recorded the phone conversations between Kott and Veco executives Bill Allen and Rick Smith that make up the bulk of the government’s charges against him.

The jury has now heard many of the recordings in which Kott says such things as “I sold my soul to the devil.” and “I had to cheat, steal, beg, borrow and lie.” And Allen such things as “I own your ass.” The defense has yet to cross examine Agent Dunphy and is still fighting to keep some of the recordings from being played.

Wade to stay in jail, considered flight risk
Len Anderson, KSKA – Anchorage
Joshua Wade will stay in jail, at least during the foreseeable future. After declaring that the case against Wade could move forward, U.S. Magistrate Judge Matthew Jamin declared Wade a flight risk subject to special bail conditions.

BP fire sparks deeper investigation
Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau
The Department of Natural Resources says a fire yesterday at BP’s Lisburne Production Center on the North Slope has led to an elevation in the investigation of BP’s oil field practices — especially when combined with three other events at BP facilities since August 6. Alaska DNR Commissioner Tom Irwin says the investigation has been looking at the events separately, but now it will look at management, operational and infrastructure to determine their root causes.

Cato Institute approves state health care bill
Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau
A libertarian think tank yesterday praised the idea of a universal health care bill (S.B. 160) that will be before the legislature next year. But in a hearing yesterday, the director of Health and Welfare Studies at the Cato Institute had some recommendations to make it a little more business-friendly.

Tongass at 100 prompts discussion of the future
Matt Lichtenstein, KFSK – Petersburg
This week marks the 100th anniversary of the Tongass National Forest and in Petersburg, conservationists, timber mill owners, local, state federal and tribal officials have come together to talk about the future of the Tongass.

Forest Service set to close roads in Sitka Ranger District
Robert Woolsey, KCAW – Sitka
The U.S. Forest Service is moving ahead with plans to close more than 70% of the roads in the Sitka Ranger District. District officials blame a service-wide mandate and dramatic budget cuts for the closures; off-road vehicle riders argue that no money is being spent on the roads presently, and closing them would serve only to reduce access and criminalize users.

Godwit makes record-breaking long-distance flight
Shane Iverson, KYUK – Bethel
A seasonal resident of the Yukon-Kuskokwim Delta has set a world record for the longest non-stop flight — in the animal kingdom. A bar-tailed godwit, a large sandpiper about the size of a pigeon, made what researchers believe is the longest documented non-stop flight in bird history.

Second McCandless film set for Sept. 21 release
Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks
There’s another film coming out about Christopher McCandless. The independent documentary is scheduled for release September 21, the same day Sean Penn’s movie adaptation of Jon Krakauer’s book “Into the Wild” debuts nationally.