Alaska News Nightly: July 31, 2008

Ted Stevens pleads “not guilty” at his arraignment in District Court in Washington, DC. Meanwhile Congress prepares to leave town on recess leaving a pile of unfinished business. Plus, legislators look at a cheaper alternative to Governor Palin’s Resource Rebate bill. And white sweet clover may sound attractive, but its an invasive weed that’s taking over the state. Those stories and more tonight on Alaska News Nightly, broadcast statewide on APRN stations.

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Senator Stevens appears in Federal Court – Pleads “Not Guilty”
Libby Casey, APRN – Washington, DC
Senator Ted Stevens appeared in federal district court today in Washington DC, to plead “not guilty” to charges of making false statements.  He’s accused of lying on his Senate financial disclosure forms and concealing hundreds of thousands of dollars worth of gifts.  Stevens’ lawyer pushed to speed up the trial – and move it to Alaska.

Congress heads out on its August recess with a lot of unfinished business

Libby Casey, APRN – Washington, DC
Congress adjourns tomorrow, and leaves Washington DC for the August recess with lots of work left undone.  Republicans and Democrats in the Senate are at an impasse over energy legislation, fighting over what to tackle. The energy bill is also the latest vehicle for easing the income tax hit for plaintiffs in the Exxon-Valdez punitive damage verdict.

Demand for Kachemak Bay oysters outpacing supply

Emily Schwing, KBBI – Homer
Interest in aquaculture oysters in Kachemak Bay is soaring. But the demand for the shellfish is overwhelming farmers, who have had a hard time growing enough oysters, partly due to the cold summer.

State Senate hears a cheaper alternative to the governor’s $1200 Resource Rebate bill
Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau
The Senate today  heard a substitute for the Governor Sarah Palin’s Resource Rebate legislation. The governor’s plan  would give everyone in the state a one-time check for twelve hundred dollars, but the new idea would focus only on the high cost of home heating oil – and would offer the assistance on a per-home basis instead of an individual’ share.

It may look sweet, but don’t be fooled
Ellen Lockyer, APRN – Anchorage
A seemingly innocent plant bearing delicate white flowers could change the landscape of the Arctic.  That’s what biologists worry about when they consider the inroads made by white sweet clover in the past couple of years in Alaska.  The plant, blooming now along a roadside near you, could eventually spread down the state’s river systems, pushing out native plants and causing degradation of local fish and wildlife.

Flooding continues to plague the interior
Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks
The Tanana River crested last night at an historic level. National Weather Service meteorologist Bob Fisher in Fairbanks says the river peaked at more 2 and a half feet above flood stage.

Alaska National Guard to replace Army’s MAST service
Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks
The Alaska National Guard will help pick up where the Army’s defunct Military Assistance to Safety and Traffic or MAST service left off.  The MAST unit which provided civilian back-country rescues, officially ended the service July 1st, prior to deployment to the middle east. National Guard Captain Guy Hayes says guardsmen will help cover the region formerly handled by MAST.

Russian ham radio operators set up a call station in the Aleutians
Anne Hillman, KIAL – Unalaska
Ham radio enthusiasts sometimes go to great lengths to contact each other and remote regions of the world. A group of three Russians recently spent a week on an uninhabited Aleutian island to set up a radio call station.

On the road south with Earl Finkler
Early Finkler, Northwest Ontario
It has been a long road trip for former Barrow commentator Earl Finkler, his wife Chris and Green land Huskies Nuna and Avu.  After more than 25 years in Barrow, the Finklers are moving to Medford, Wisconsin. They left Barrow over a month ago, but are still traveling toward Wisconsin.  Tonight Earl reports that they’ve reached Northwest Ontario in Canada: