Alaska News Nightly: September 14, 2010

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U.S. Marshalls to Combat Crime in Western Alaska
Angela Denning-Barnes, KYUK – Bethel
The U.S. Marshall’s office has stepped forward to help Western Alaska combat crime that keeps local officers too busy to get ahead.

Murkowski’s Decision Will Be Announced Friday
Libby Casey, APRN – Washington DC
Senator Murkowski plans to announce on Friday whether or not she’ll run as a write-in candidate for U.S. Senate.  Her campaign released a statement today saying she’s not seeking the Libertarian Party’s slot on the November ballot.  The press release quotes Murkowski saying she believes during the primary, the Alaska Republican Party was hijacked by the Tea Party Express, an outside extremist group.

Murkowski is headed back to Washington right now.  She plans to attend an Appropriations Committee markup on Thursday dealing with defense and other funding bills.   She was noticeably absent from Washington Tuesday as Senate members met for their weekly party caucus lunches.  After they meet behind closed doors, each party holds a press briefing.  Over the past year, Murkowski has often been part of the star Republican team that addresses reporters, since she’s a member of their leadership ranks.

This morning the top Senate Republican, Mitch McConnell of Kentucky, threw his support behind the man who beat Murkowski in the Republican primary last month, Joe Miller.  McConnell appeared on MSNBC, and told reporter Chuck Todd that it’s time for Murkowski to bow out.

Senator McConnell has contributed $5,000 to Miller’s campaign.

Monday, a group of Republicans from Fairbanks wrote to McConnell looking for him to unequivocally support Miller and ask Murkowski to bow out.  At the same time, Murkowski supporters have been urging her to get back in the race, through a campaign on Facebook as well as by contacting the campaign.

Meanwhile, the race for the Senate seat isn’t waiting for Murkowski to speak up.  Joe Miller and Democratic candidate Scott McAdams both plan to be in Petersburg Wednesday for a meeting of the Southeast Conference.  The two also will have their first public debate in Juneau on Thursday.

Determining How Voters Make Decisions
Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau
How voters actually decide who will represent us – at all levels of government – has long been a mystery.  Is it more from advertisements, endorsements and bumper-stickers – or from the candidates’ direct contacts with the public?  A nonprofit organization that began 20 years ago, is working to help voters make independent decisions on who best represents them.

As a disclosure, Reporter Dave Donaldson has worked on other Vote Smart projects for about 10 years – advising them on their Key Votes reports.  He reviewed the questions in this year’s Political Courage test.

More Movies to be Made in Alaska Following “Whales”
Len Anderson, KSKA – Anchorage
This week shooting is scheduled to begin in Alaska on a major Hollywood film, Everybody Loves Whales.  At today’s Anchorage Chamber of Commerce meeting, Alaskans in the film industry said more, big screen productions are likely to follow.

Mount Cleveland Volcano Shows Increased Activity
Alexandra Gutierrez, KUCB – Unalaska
Mount Cleveland showed more signs of activity last weekend. The volcano, located in the central Aleutians, has been fairly active this summer and it released a seven-kilometer plume containing ash and steam on Sunday morning.

Steve McNutt is a research professor at the University of Alaska-Fairbanks and a coordinating scientist at the Alaska Volcano Observatory. Here’s what he can make out from the satellite imagery of the volcano.

Two weeks ago, AVO placed Cleveland on watch, and upped its status to yellow. But on Friday, AVO moved the volcano down to unassigned. Now, it’s back on yellow and will be for some time, due to the difficulty of monitoring the volcano.

Cleveland frequently emits ash, and plumes like this are released about six times a year. McNutt says that AVO is keeping a close eye on the volcano but that increased thermal activity doesn’t necessarily mean a major eruption is on the way. Still, even small plumes could spell trouble for air travel and inconvenience nearby boats.

Trans-Pacific jet shouldn’t be affected since they fly at much higher elevations.

Professional Adventurer Completes 4,700 Mile Journey
Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks
A professional adventurer has completed an over 4,700 mile trek around Alaska, the Yukon and Northwest Territories. As KUAC’s Dan Bross reports, the six-month journey spanned coastal, interior and arctic regions.

False Alarms Prompt Rescuers to Look at Old Emergency Beacons
Maria Dudzak, KRBD – Ketchikan
A false alarm earlier this month is prompting emergency rescue workers in Ketchikan to encourage aviators to inspect, maintain, and possibly replace their older Emergency Locator Transmitter units.