Alaska News Nightly: October 20, 2010

Individual news stories are posted in the Alaska News category and you can subscribe to APRN’s news feeds via email, podcast and RSS.

Download Audio (MP3)

Effort to List Polar Bears as Endangered Hits U.S. District Court
Libby Casey, APRN – Washington DC
A federal judge is ordering the Obama administration to review whether polar bears are endangered under federal law.

U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan wants the Interior Department to clarify its determination that polar bears were merely threatened rather than in imminent danger of extinction.

Sullivan’s request keeps in place a 2008 decision declaring polar bears in need of increased protection. The Bush administration said in May 2008 that the polar bears are on the way to extinction because of the rapid disappearance of the Arctic sea ice upon which they depend. But it stopped short of declaring the bears endangered.

Sullivan heard arguments this morning about whether to list the polar bear as an endangered species.

The Center for Biological Diversity and other conservation groups argue that the polar bear should be considered “endangered” rather than its current lower grade of “threatened” under the federal Endangered Species Act.  They filed a lawsuit, but, on the other end of the spectrum, the state of Alaska says the bear is not in danger, and so should not be protected at all under the ESA. The Endangered Species Act requires special protections for species in peril and the state says that could hamper development. The environmentalists want the feds to take action by tightening rules on greenhouse gasses that contribute to climate change.

The judge hearing the case, Emmet Sullivan, presided over the Ted Stevens trial two years ago.

Students Speak as Native Elders and Youth Conference Wraps Up
Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks
The Native Elders and Youth Conference is wrapping up in Fairbanks tonight with a potlatch.

The annual pre-cursor to the Alaska Federation of Natives Convention brings together performers and presenters to teach, entertain and inspire.

Marjorie Tahbone of Nome talked the challenge and reward of learning her Inupaiq language.  The University of Alaska Fairbanks student says three years of courses taught her grammar and words, but to be able to speak she needed complete immersion.

Tahbone says it was an intimidating experience to learn to speak Inupiaq.

Tahbone says she’s not as fluent as she’d like, but can better communicate with her grandmother and other elders, even though the dialect in Nome is different from the one spoken in Nunuvut.

Another speaker at the Elders and Youth Conference, Ma Ka Mont Ure, a high school senior from Yakutat, talked about mixing life as an American teenager with traditional ways.

Subsistence Discussion Taking Prominent Place at AFN
Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage
The Alaska Federation of Natives convention gets under way tomorrow. AFN canceled a planned U.S. Senate candidate debate at this year’s convention in Fairbanks.

The move came as a surprise to many. AFN leaders say dropping the debate will leave more time for subsistence discussion.

Voters Deciding Fate of Nearly $400 Million for Educational Projects
Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau
Among the issues voters will be asked to approve on election day next month is a nearly $400 million spending proposal – a general obligation bond package centering on educational projects.

Early Voting Has Begun, So Have the Disputes
Aaron Selbig, KBBI – Homer
Even as Alaska’s U.S. Senate race heats up, a local race is drawing fire from Democrats.   On just the second day of early voting for the Nov. 2 general election, allegations of illegal electioneering surfaced at the Homer polling place inside City Hall. While state Democrats are up in arms that a list of the names of write-in candidates appeared inside voting booths, the Homer City Clerk is calling the incident “an honest mistake.”

Disguised Drug Proves Too Attractive
Len Anderson, KSKA – Anchorage
It’s stronger than marijuana.  Its highs are unpredictable.  And it’s legal.  KSKA’s Len Anderson reports on an over-the-counter drug whose popularity and use is spreading, especially among Anchorage’s youth.

Sitka Resident Assisting Victims of Vietnam-Era Bombs in Laos
Robert Woolsey, KCAW – Sitka
A Sitka resident has taken a lead role in the effort to reduce the threat of unexploded ordinance in one of the most heavily-bombed countries in the world. Mark Gorman was vice-president of Community Health for the Southeast Alaska Regional Health Consortium until his retirement last September. He’s now the country director for a non-governmental agency in Laos working to assist victims injured by the literally millions of unexploded bombs remaining in that country from the Vietnam era.