Alaska News Nightly: February 19, 2010

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Obama Administration Looking at Protection for Bristol Bay and Teshekpuk
Libby Casey/APRN
An Obama Administration internal report lists Bristol Bay and Teshekpuk Lake in Alaska as places potentially worthy of federal protection.  A draft document leaked from the Interior Department lists 17 locations throughout the country- the two Alaska areas are both controversial.

Carter’s Land Plans Still Prompt Resentments
Steve Heimel, APRN – Anchorage
Alaskans have good reason to be nervous about potential executive actions by the federal government to protect land.  Before the Alaska Lands Act was passed in 1980, then-President Jimmy Carter and his Interior Secretary, Cecil Andrus, protected more than a 100 million acres. That move sparked resentments in Alaska that still smolder today.

Social Security Opens First Disability Office in Alaska
Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage
The Social Security administrative appeals process represents one of the largest judicial systems in the world.  Most of the millions of disability benefits claims filed annually are decided at the state level, but about 750,000 claims are heard by an administrative law judge. That process has dragged for Alaskans who had filed appeals, because cases had to wait until Seattle – based judges could travel to Alaska. But Friday, all that changed, when Social Security Commissioner Michael Astrue visited Anchorage to open up Alaska’s first Disability Hearing office.

Legislature Responds to High Court’s Decision on Campaign Finance
Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juenau
Bills introduced in the House and Senate on Friday would take steps to disclose corporations’ and unions’ open-ended financial involvement in political campaigns.  The bills are a state response to the U.S. Supreme Court decision last month that opened the way for unlimited electioneering advertisements paid out of corporate treasury.

Voting Rights Case Settled in Bethel
Mike Mason, KDLG – Dillingham
The State of Alaska and a handful of plaintiffs in the Bethel area have settled a federal voting rights case that impacts Yupik speakers in the Bethel census area.

Rate of Fetal Alcohol Syndrome Drops
Casey Kelly, KTOO – Juneau
The rate of all children born in Alaska with fetal alcohol syndrome fell 32 percent from 1996 through 2002, according to a report released this week by the state Department of Health and Social.

Kids in Old Believer Communities Get New Date for Graduation Exam
Aaron Selbig, KBBI – Homer
The Alaska Department of Education has agreed to allow students from Russian Old Believer communities to take the High School Graduation Qualifying Exam on a date that does not conflict with Holy Week – a key Old Believer holiday.

Land Rights on Tribal Leaders’ Agenda
Angela Denning-Barnes, KYUK – Bethel
Taking back tribal land rights is one of the issues to be discussed next week at a summit in Anchorage. More than100 tribal leaders are expected to attend the meeting.

Quest Update: Final Musher Heads Towards Finish
Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks
The final musher in the 2010 Yukon Quest left the race’s last checkpoint at Braeburn for the finish line early this morning.  Joclyn LeBlanc, a rookie from Whitehorse, is headed home carrying the Red Lantern. [Hans Gatt finished first. He was followed by Lance Mackey, Huff Neff, and Zack Steer.]