Alaska News Nightly: February 22, 2010

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Pilot Runs into Trouble Over Haitian Orphan Flight
Aaron Selbig, KBBI – Homer
A Homer pilot who has been flying aid missions in and out of Haiti for the last three weeks ran into unexpected trouble last week when she was asked to help six legally adopted orphans get to the United States.

Alaskans Turn in Impressive Olympic Performance
Annie Feidt, APRN – Anchorage
Alaskans turned in impressive performances today at the Olympic games in Vancouver. In Hockey, Palmer’s Kerry Weiland scored a goal in a 9-1 win over Sweden. The win will advance team USA to the final game, which will take place on Thursday, against either Canada or Finland. Weiland  and the team are assured of either the silver or bronze medal. And in Cross Country Skiing, Anchorage’s Kikkan Randall led the United States. to a record sixth place finish in the team skate sprint. She and teammate Caitlin Compton each skied three laps of a 1.4 kilometer course. They spent much of the race in eighth place but Randall came on strong at the end.

Parnell Dines with Obama
Libby Casey, APRN – Washington DC
Alaska Governor Sean Parnell attended a White House meeting on Monday morning with other governors from around the country, and heard from President Obama about the economy, health care, and education.  Parnell is in Washington for the National Governor’s Association annual winter meeting.  Parnell, a Republican, says despite his political differences with the Democratic Administration, his time spent at the White House was productive. The governor and his wife were also at the White House Sunday night for a black-tie dinner, despite talking in the past about being “at war” with the federal government over policies he sees as intrusive.  Parnell says the Governors Association’s members – a mix of Republicans and Democrats – were able to find common ground.  He was among 47 governors from states and territories who signed a letter to Congressional leaders asking them to extend increased federal spending on Medicaid.  It was boosted as part of the Recovery Act stimulus bill signed by the President last year, but is set to expire in December.  Parnell says some governors also weighed-in on concerns about health care.

Alaska to Retry Stripper Accused of Murder
The Associated Press
Attorney General Dan Sullivan says the state will re-try Mechele Linehan, the former stripper who was convicted for murdering her ex-finance. That verdict was overturned earlier this month. Linehan was convicted in 2007 of killing Kent Leppink. Prosecutors have claimed she was inspired by watching the 1994 movie “The Last Seduction,” in which a femme fatale coaxes her lover into killing her husband for money. The Alaska Court of Appeals ruled Feb. 5 that the trial judge wrongly allowed that connection to be made. The court also said the judge erred in allowing prosecutors to introduce a letter written by Leppink shortly before he was fatally shot. His letter to his parents asserted that Linehan would probably be responsible if he died suspiciously. The Department of Law says that even without that evidence, they will be able to win a second conviction.

Traffic for Denali Park Road Debated
Sue Deyoe, KTNA – Talkeetna
A Denali National Park document is currently in its public comment phase and it has concession workers in Denali and others scrambling to figure out what they want for the future of the park.  It is just part of a multi-phase process that may ultimately determine how much traffic will be allowed on the Denali Park Road.

Tribes Gathering to Assess Settlement Act’s Future
Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage
Alaska Native tribal leaders are gathering in Anchorage this week in an effort to forge consensus on a new look at the Alaska Native Claims Settlement Act. About a hundred people  showed up for the meeting, and  familiar names in Native advocacy were present,  but many tables in the Hilton Hotel ballroom stood empty, and the absence of Alaska Native corporation leaders was apparent.

Parnell’s Call for Quick Action on State Buildings Goes Unheeded
Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau
Governor Sean Parnell’s request for quick legislative action on putting money to work catching up on repairs to state buildings around the state will not make his goal of passing by the March 1.  And the projects it would have kick-started will likely wait until the full capital projects budget passes near the end of the session in April.

Teen Uses Flute to Share Fetal Alcohol Message
Casey Kelly, KTOO – Juneau
Seventeen-year-old Morgan Fawcett uses his flute to spread the message that alcohol consumed during pregnancy is the most common known cause of intellectual disabilities. Fawcett should know. He suffers from Fetal Alcohol Spectrum Disorder. Not everyone afflicted with it shows clear signs of having the disorder, and Fawcett has been able to channel his musical talent with a passion to educate others about FASD and advocate for other victims. He spoke last week at the FASD Southeast Alaska Regional Conference in Juneau.