Alaska News Nightly: August 27, 2010

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Miller Campaign Sends Controversial Tweet
Libby Casey, APRN – Washington DC
In the tight Republican Senate primary race between Lisa Murkowski and Joe Miller, a new vote count won’t come until Tuesday, the assigned day for tallying absentee and questioned ballots turned in so far.  But that doesn’t mean the campaigns are staying out of the news.

Joe Miller’s camp ignited a controversy Friday when he – or his campaign – seemed to compare Senator Murkowski to a prostitute on Twitter.

Observers Watching Absentee Ballot Count Closely
Mike Mason, KDLG – Dillingham
Annie Feidt, APRN – Anchorage
Libby Casey, APRN – Washington DC
In another spat between the two campaigns, Joe Miller says the National Republican Senatorial Committee – or NRSC – has sent observers to Alaska to watch the absentee ballot count on behalf of Senator Murkowski. He says the committee shouldn’t be picking favorites.

The Associated Press is reporting that Murkowski asked the NRSC to send one of their top campaign lawyers to Alaska to help her campaign prepare for the vote counting. But her campaign spokesman, John Bitney says the NRSC lawyer is in Alaska for the committee, not the Murkowski campaign. He says the campaign is training its own volunteers to observe.

Despite repeated calls, the National Republican Senatorial Committee would not respond to questions from APRN, saying they’re “too busy.”  Miller reportedly has his own lawyer watching the ballot counting – Thomas Van Flein who also works for Sarah Palin.

The Division of Elections says it now has more than 20,000 absentee and questioned ballots that it will begin counting on Tuesday.

Berkowitz Plans to Give Alaskans Chance to Buy Share in Natural Gas Pipeline
Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau
Ethan Berkowitz wants to give Alaskans a chance to buy a share in the Alaska Natural Gas Pipeline.   The Democratic gubernatorial nominee Friday presented the first part of what he says will be a series of ideas involving energy.

Asked through his staff, Republican Governor Sean Parnell had no comment on the plan.

Consultant Paints Bleak Picture of Alaskan Economy
Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks
Officials shared sobering data on Alaska’s economy at meetings this week in Fairbanks. A study commissioned by a statewide partnership of economic development groups called the Alaska Forward Initiative, tapped consulting companies that looked at things like jobs, income and gross state product.  The organization’s president, Kathryn Dodge, says the data by consultant I.H.S. Global Insights, paints a pretty bleak picture, when Alaska is compared to the rest of the country.

Dodge says Alaska is a victim of its heavy dependence on oil, an industry with production that’s declining at a rate of 6 to 7 percent annually.  She says Alaska’s old image as a state with high incomes is outdated.

Dodge says Fairbanks, where the average income is $34,000, has been below the national average since 1994.  A model of the Fairbanks economy produced by the Fairbanks Economic Development Corporation demonstrates some major challenges.  FEDCO C.E.O Jim Dodson says the interior community, with two military installations, is heavily dependent on government spending.

Dodson says 50 percent of the $5.8 billion that come into Fairbanks annually are from government.  He says Fairbanks, like all Alaska communities, suffers from a lack of manufacturing and other value added production.

Dodson says a study shows Alaskans produce only 4 percent of what we consume.  Dodson and Dodge point to consultant research that cites low levels of entrepreneurship and innovation and a poor business climate, especially in the oil and gas sector.  They say affordable energy is a key to jump starting new development, and hope the economic analysis will be a motivator.  The next step in the continuing local and statewide effort is to develop plans for improvement.

Coast Guard Says Goodbye to LORAN Navigation System
Alexandra Gutierrez, KUCB – Unalaska
Today, Alaska’s Coast Guard bids farewell to the LORAN navigation system – and the United States shrinks a little, too.

Stevens to be Buried in Arlington
Associated Press
The family of former Senator Ted Stevens says he will be buried September 28 at Arlington National Cemetery near Washington, D.C., in a ceremony with relatives and friends.

In a statement issued today, the family said the decorated World War II pilot and president pro tempore of the Senate will be buried with honors. Stevens was one of five people killed earlier this month in a plane crash while on a fishing trip near Dillingham.

Fairbanks, Fort Wainwright Launch New Recycling Program
Tim Ellis, KUAC – Fairbanks
A Fairbanks businessman and Fort Wainwright officials have launched a program that’s intended to dramatically increase recycling.

Students Challenge Their Past and Change Their Future
Len Anderson, KSKA – Anchorage
It’s a high school alternative that’s won national recognition–the Alaska Military Youth Academy.  Friday, the academy graduated its second largest class ever – 156 cadets of formerly at risk teenagers.