Alaska News Nightly: November 14, 2008

Mark Begich’s chances of beating Ted Stevens in the U.S. Senate election are rising as continued counting adds votes to his lead. Meanwhile, the plummeting stock market is forcing a reexamination of the state’s new employee retirement plan. Those stories and more tonight on Alaska News Nightly, broadcast statewide on APRN stations.

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Vote counting continues, Begich gains a bit more over Stevens
Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau
The Division of Elections has posted additional results of its count of absentee, early and questioned ballots today, showing more than 17,000 more votes included in the tally. 24,000 more votes still need to be counted by the middle of next week. Mark Begich was a winner again in today’s counts, expanding his lead to 1,022 votes over Ted Stevens (at air time).

New state retirement enrollees watching savings slipping away in global finance slump
Weld Royal, KTOO – Juneau
The global financial crisis is bringing new attention to the state’s recently-changed retirement plan. New hires participating in the state’s “defined contribution plan” say they’re forced to put money into the system and are hurt by its recent losses. Funds managed by the Alaska Retirement Board are down about 17% since July.

Oil prices down worldwide, but up in many southeast Alaska communities
John Ryan, KTOO – Juneau
World oil prices have fallen dramatically since their summertime highs of more than $140 a barrel. In Southeast Alaska prices for heating oil and gasoline have declined much more slowly. In some communities, prices have actually increased since this summer. Angoon, Gustavus, Kake, Pelican, Point Baker, and Thorne Bay all report gasoline prices increasing from June to mid-October. In all those communities — except Gustavus and Thorne Bay — heating oil prices also increased.

Lawmakers and childcare providers meet over crumbling foster care support
Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage
A foster care summit was held today at the Legislative Information Office in downtown Anchorage. Lawmakers, along with state, tribal and federal child advocates, grappled with the high rates of caseworker turn over, burn-out and shortages. John Henderson, with the U.S Department of Health and Human Services children’s bureau, said foster care families aren’t getting the assistance they need to provide for their children.

One renewable energy source in Petersburg arrives in briquette form
John Ryan, KTOO – Juneau
With hundreds of millions of dollars newly available for renewable energy in the state, it seems you can’t swing a wind turbine without hitting an Alaskan fan of clean energy. But some Alaskans have been pursuing non-polluting energy long before state government sped up the money train. One Petersburg man is working on a small scale to help local homeowners beat their addiction to oil.

Pribiloff Islands native working to preserve ‘Marine Cultural Heritage Zones’
Jay Barrett, KMXT – Kodiak
A representative from Greenpeace is on Kodiak Island to discuss his new initiative. George Pletnikoff, who grew up in the Pribilof Islands, is the Alaska Oceans Campaigner for Greenpeace USA. He spoke with tribal leaders in Kodiak today, and will fly down to Old Harbor for meetings there over the weekend. The purpose of his visit is to lay the initial groundwork for what he calls “Marine Cultural Heritage Zones.”

Tlingit elder, minister, teacher Rev. Dr. Walter Soboleff turns 100
Rosemarie Alexander, KTOO – Juneau
At 100, the Reverend Doctor Walter Soboleff is still active and revered as a Tlingit cultural leader and Presbyterian minister. He is known statewide for his preaching and teaching, his good nature, wit and wonderful sense of humor.