Alaska News Nightly: March 2, 2009

Alaska state Senator Kim Elton announced today he’s heading to Washington to work for the Interior Department in the Obama Administration. Plus, the U.S. Supreme Court heard a case today, involving an Alaskan convict, that will decide whether states are obligated to offer DNA testing to convicted criminals.

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High court hears Alaska criminal DNA case
Libby Casey, APRN – Washington, DC
The U.S. Supreme Court heard arguments this morning in an Alaska case. An Anchorage man convicted of a brutal rape and beating 16 years ago wants modern DNA testing done on the evidence. But the State is refusing him the test, saying there’s no reason to believe he’s innocent. The question now before the Supreme Court is whether convicted criminals have a Constitutional right to sophisticated DNA testing.

Alaska Senator Elton resigns for Interior Department post
Rosemarie Alexander, KTOO – Juneau
Juneau Senator Kim Elton has resigned to become the Director of Alaska Affairs for the Department of Interior in Washington, DC. Elton’s resignation was effective at 5:00 p.m. today. He left the State Capitol immediately after making the announcement on the Senate floor.

Anchorage Schools consider how to spend millions in stimulus cash
Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage
A large share of Alaska’s federal stimulus funds will go to education. Most of the money will be used for title one programs that help economically disadvantaged students and for special ed. The State’s largest school district, Anchorage, is expecting an infusion of nearly $26 million in both of those areas over the next two years.

Conference builds agreement over climate and ocean policies
Casey Kelly, KBBI – Homer
A conference that wrapped up in Homer last week drafted an agreement addressing climate change and ocean acidification. The gathering included representatives of coastal communities from across the state who will bring the agreement back to elected officials in their areas and urge them to adopt it.

Decades of bird counts point to global warming effects
Libby Casey, APRN – Washington, DC
A new study by the National Audubon Society shows birds are wintering farther north — including in Alaska. The study’s authors say it’s likely because of global warming. They note that over the 40 years the study covers, from 1966 to 2005, the average January temperature in the Lower 48 rose about 5 degrees Fahrenheit.

Alaska legislators headed to international energy conference
Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau
Nearly half the members of the legislature are heading to Washington, DC this week for the annual conference of the Energy Council, a group representing State governments and Canadian Provinces — and occasionally other countries — who share an interest in energy issues.

TSA bomb dogs headed to southeast Alaska
Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska – Juneau
The Transportation Security Administration (TSA) is bringing bomb-sniffing dogs to Southeast Alaska.

Karluk River king salmon fishing tightly restricted for 2009
Jay Barrett, KMXT – Kodiak
There’s another poor return forecast for king salmon on Kodiak’s Karluk River, and that’s prompting the Alaska Department of Fish and Game to restrict the sportfishing season before it even starts.