Alaska News Nightly: December 22, 2010

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Miller Loses Case Against State
Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage
Joe Miller has lost his case against the state.  Wednesday the Alaska Supreme Court handed down its decision in the long running legal challenge over the handling of write in votes in the November election.

Murkowski Votes Catching Capitol Hill’s Attention
Libby Casey, APRN – Washington DC
Senator Lisa Murkowski may have passed a big hurdle Wednesday with the Alaska Supreme Court ruling, but one thing is not changing:  she’s still wearing one of the bracelets her campaign designed in the fall to remind voters how to spell her name.  The blue rubber “Murkowski” bracelets were passed out at campaign events in the run up to the general election, and Murkowski hasn’t taken hers off since before Election Day.

She says she’ll wear it a little while longer.

The Christmas tree in Murkowski’s DC office is also decorated with the blue rubber bracelets.

Murkowski has caught the attention of Capitol Hill in the past week by being a key swing Republican vote on a variety of issues, including her support of repealing Don’t Ask Don’t Tell, the law that banned gays from serving openly in the military and was ended Wednesday.

Her biggest critic in the Senate is South Carolinian conservative Republican Jim DeMint, who not only backed her Republican opponent Joe Miller, but has funded Miller’s legal challenges through his political action fund.

DeMint said today outside the Senate chambers that he expects to work with Murkowski in the new Congress.

DeMint has come under fire from other Republicans for siding with Tea Party candidates could not muster the votes to beat Democrats in states like Nevada and Connecticut.

Rare Musk Ox Attack Claims Two Dogs Near Russian Mission
Shane Iverson, KYUK – Bethel
Animal attacks are simply part of life in many parts of Alaska, but an extremely rare attack occurred over the weekend near the village of Russian Mission.  A musher from the Lower Yukon village says an animal he’d never seen on the trails, ran through his dog team, killing two of his best dogs.

Congress Passes 9-11 Responders Bill
Libby Casey, APRN – Anchorage
The Lame Duck Session of the 111th Congress is over.  Both the House and Senate completed their work this evening in Washington.  The U.S. Senate ratified the new START treaty on a vote of 71 to 26, four more votes than necessary.

Both of Alaska’s Senators supported the Strategic Arms Reduction Treaty.

As APRN’s Libby Casey reports, the other big item of business today was a bill that funds medical care for the 9-11 responders.

Law Extends Emergency Unemployment Benefits Through 2011
Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage
Alaskans drawing unemployment benefits will be able to continue to apply for emergency unemployment compensation after their regular benefits are exhausted.

The Tax Relief, Unemployment Insurance Reauthorization and Job Creation Act of 2010 provides for eligibility retroactive to Nov. 30, when the program ended.

Bill Kramer is the state’s chief of Unemployment Insurance.

The new law extends the date to establish new claims for emergency benefits through Dec. 31 of next year, and allows payment of emergency benefits balances until June 9 of 2012.

The Alaska Department of labor and Workforce Development does not anticipate any delays in getting payments to claimants who have filed for them, according to Kramer.

Kramer says people whose benefits were interrupted will be sent a letter letting them know how their claim will be affected.

Subcommittee Upholds Some Ethics Complaints Against Rep. Lynn
Steve Heimel, APRN – Anchorage
A House subcommittee of the Legislative Ethics committee has decided Representative Bob Lynn went over the line and veered into campaigning in his constituent newsletter.

Lynn admits it was a mistake to mention that he was running for re-election.   The subcommittee also upheld a complaint that Lynn promoted commercial businesses on his website that might have supported his campaign.  In all, it upheld four ethics complaints and dismissed six and recommended no fines.  The record does not disclose where the ethics complaints came from.

Council Works to Reduce Chinook Salmon Bycatch
Jacob Resneck, KMXT – Kodiak
Efforts to reduce Chinook salmon bycatch in the Gulf of Alaska are moving forward following this month’s meeting of the North Pacific Fishery Management Council.

New Look at Fossilized Tracks Places Dinosaurs in Alaska 50 Million Years Earlier
Matthew Smith, KNOM – Nome
A  new look at fossilized dinosaur tracks found on the Alaska peninsula may prove dinosaurs were roaming ancient Alaska as far back as the Jurassic period, about 50 million years earlier than scientists had previously thought. Geologists first found the fossilized tracks while mapping rocks in sandstone cliffs near Chignik Bay in 1975. Now, 35 years later, a team of scientists from University of Alaska Fairbanks and University of Alaska Museum revisited and studied the tracks.

Quinhagak Fifth Graders Put on Holiday Show
Josh Edge,  APRN – Anchorage
A fifth-grade class from Quinhagak has gone viral with their rendition of the “Hallelujah Chorus,” which they posted on YouTube.

After gaining the attention of multiple news organizations around the state – even receiving recognition from U.S. Senator Lisa Murkowski via Twitter – the video now touts over 22,000 views as of 3:00 today.

No one was available to talk about the project at the school today but fifth grade teacher James Barthelman headed up the project.

Originally, the class planned on performing live in front of the village, but, by Wednesday they knew they didn’t have enough time to rehearse. So they decided to film it instead, according to Barthelman.

After the class spent 10 hours filming, it was up to Barthelman to edit it into its final, entertaining, card-flipping form.

Quinhagak is a Yupik village of 680 people, located on the Bering Sea coast in Southwest Alaska, south of Bethel.