Alaska News Nightly: August 20, 2008

Senator Stevens lost his bid today to move his corruption trial from Washington, DC to Alaska. Plus, Alaskans can expect their larger-than-ever PFD checks as early as September 12. Those stories and more tonight on Alaska News Nightly, broadcast statewide on APRN stations.

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Ted Stevens to be tried in Washington, DC
Libby Casey, APRN – Washington, DC
A Washington, DC jury will sit in judgment on Senator Ted Stevens. Stevens lost his bid today to move his federal trial to Alaska. He faces criminal charges of lying on his Senate Financial Disclosure forms to hide gifts worth over $250,000. The decision is a blow to Stevens’ defense.

Ted Stevens moves to set up legal defense fund
Libby Casey, APRN – Washington, DC
Senator Stevens’ Washington office announced today he’s setting up a legal defense fund. Stevens’ attorneys are in the process of seeking approval from the Senate Ethics Committee to start such a fund, which allows members to raise money to help pay legal fees. Once it’s established, they’ll have to file regular reports listing all contributors and expenses. Lobbyists, corporations and unions cannot contribute to legal defense funds and the money cannot be spent on anything other than Stevens’ personal legal fees. Alaska‚Äôs Congressman, Don Young, also has a legal fund, which he started in January.

PFD to come early this year
Diana Boro, KHNS – Haines
Governor Sarah Palin announced today the first round of Permanent Fund Dividend (PFD) checks will be deposited September 12. The checks will include an extra $1,200 state lawmakers approved to help offset the high cost of fuel.

Coast Guard suspends search for Brian and Brandon Andrews
Rosemarie Alexander, KTOO – Juneau
The U.S. Coast Guard has suspended its search for deputy Revenue commissioner Brian Andrews and his 24-year-old son Brandon, both of Juneau. The men disappeared August 9 in the process of shuttling camping gear between Young Lake on Admiralty Island and Juneau.

The Coast Guard deployed a helicopter that evening, and since then the search effort has included the military, state, Civil Air Patrol, commercial pilots and Good Samaritans. The Coast Guard Cutter Liberty, a fish and game research vessel, and volunteer boaters have been on the water. And rescue teams and volunteer hikers are working on the ground.

But so far, they have found nothing. The Coast Guard says it will resume the search when there are new developments, but volunteers will keep searching.

Mark Begich vs. Ray Metcalfe
Annie Feidt, APRN – Anchorage
National news media and local pollsters are already talking about a general election match-up between Ted Stevens and Anchorage mayor Mark Begich in Alaska’s U.S. Senate race. But first Begich has to make it through next week’s Democratic Primary where he faces anti-corruption crusader Ray Metcalfe.

Ocean Rangers getting better access to cruise ships
Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska – Juneau
The state’s environmental monitors are getting better access to the inside workings of cruise ships.

Jeff King’s fate in the hands of a judge
Duncan Moon, APRN – Anchorage
The decision about whether 4-time Iditarod champ Jeff King illegally killed a moose in Denali National Park now rests with a judge. The 2-day trial wrapped up yesterday with King taking the stand in his own defense. If convicted he faces up to a year in prison and a $10,000 fine.

JAL to continue direct flights to Alaska
Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks
Japan Airlines (JAL) is maintaining its commitment to Alaska despite tough times for air carriers and a recession in Japan. The airline recently announced plans for at least 17 flights to Alaska this fall and winter, adding to its 15 summer flights. The airline flies 300 passenger 747’s to Alaska. During the winter, most JAL planes fly into Fairbanks, where Japanese visitors come to see the Northern Lights.