Alaska News Nightly: April 2, 2008

Environmental groups up the ante on polar bear status. Plus, the legislature calls for an extension of the special session. And newly elected members of the Anchorage assembly shift the balance of power to the left. Those stories and more on tonight’s Alaska News Nightly, broadcast statewide on APRN stations.

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Controversy over Polar Bears heats up

Joel Southern, APRN – Washington, DC
Today, three environmental groups took the next step in their legal fight to force a decision on ‘threatened’ status for polar bears while Interior Secretary Dirk Kempthorne was a no-show at a U-S Senate hearing on the subject.

Legislature updates Silver Hand program

Casey Kelly, KMXT – Kodiak
Legislation to update a program that certifies Alaska Native artwork has passed both chambers of the state legislature and is awaiting Governor Sarah Palin’s signature. Supporters of the changes say the Silver Hand program now has some meaningful tools for dealing with those who commit fraud by selling mass produced knock offs.

Report outlines links between water systems and disease
Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage
A new, comprehensive report on links between disease and safe water systems in Alaska had some startling results. The study covered the years 2000 to 2004 and looked at water and sewer service for more than 12-thousand homes in 128 Alaska villages. Nearly 30% of  homes
did not have piped, running water and sewer service, compared with less than 1% nationally. The Center for Disease Control and Prevention’s rctic investigations program director Dr. Tom Hennessy says the distribution of homes without service in Alaska varies widely by region.

Legislature calls for extension of special session
Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau
The State House and Senate have both introduced resolutions asking the governor to extend the call for the special session set for June to include planning for a natural gas line from the North Slope to South Central Alaska.

Newly elected Anchorage assembly shifts to the left

Len Anderson, KSKA – Anchorage
In yesterday’s municipal election, voters tipped the Anchorage Assembly from its solidly conservative majority toward a more progressive body.

George Ahmoagak looks to return as North Slope Borough mayor
Janelle Everett, KBRW – Barrow
Former North Slope Borough Mayor George Ahmoagak has announced his intention to run again for borough mayor. The current mayor, Edward Itta will make public his decision about whether he will seek re-election sometime next week

Senator Murkowski pushes for improved health care for women veterans

Joel Southern, APRN – Washington, DC
Today, Lisa Murkowski and other female US senators introduced legislation to improve health services for women veterans.  Murkowski says with more women joining the military, the Department of Veterans Affairs health care system needs to adjust.

Two hunters survive night on Bering Sea ice

Kenny Steele, KYUK – Bethel
Two hunters from the Y-K Delta region were rescued earlier this week after being stranded overnight on the Bering Sea ice.

Alaska Volcano Observatory celebrates 20th birthday
Joel Southern, APRN – Washington, DC
The Alaska Volcano Observatory marked its 20th anniversary with exhibits and cake today on Capitol Hill in Washington, DC. The AVO is a joint program of the U-S Geological Survey, the Geophysical Institute at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks and the Alaska Division of Geological and Geophysical Surveys.  It started in wake of a 1986 eruption of Mount Augustine.