Alaska News Nightly: May 18, 2011

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Anchorage Woman Charged with Abuse of Foster, Adopted Children
Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage
A 50-year-old Anchorage woman, Anya James, is in custody charged with the abuse of her adopted and foster children.  James appeared in Alaska Superior Court Wednesday after her arrest Tuesday. James has been charged with 10 counts of kidnapping, because she confined the children, and six counts of first degree assault.

Anchorage Police Department spokeswoman Anita Shell says the children were physically and emotionally abused.

According to the police, James had adopted six children and had an as yet undetermined number of foster children in her care.   In October of last year, detectives operating on a tip began investigating James.  Four children were removed from James’ home at that time.

Shell says James received $750,000 in state adoption subsidies between 2000 and 2010.  James is living in the affluent Anchorage Hillside neighborhood in a home valued at $560,000. James home schooled the children and limited their outside contact. James is being held on $100,000 bail and is prohibited from contacting her adopted children or any children under age 16.

Police believe that James may have adopted other children before 2000, and are asking the public’s help in gaining information about James’ activities.

Shell says that Anya James lived in Eagle River prior to moving to the hillside in 2001.

Five Men Die in Cook Inlet Clamming Accident
Aaron Selbig, KBBI – Homer
An all-night search turned to tragedy Wednesday morning as the bodies of two missing clam diggers were found in western Cook Inlet. Officials are still investigating the incident that killed a total of five men after their skiff apparently ran into trouble.

Obama Nominates Judge for 9th Circuit Court of Appeals
Associated Press
Alaska Supreme Court Justice Morgan Christen has been nominated by President Obama for a vacancy on the 9th Circuit Court of Appeals.

Begich recommended Christen for the opening created by the retirement last year of Judge Andrew Kleinfeld of Fairbanks.

Christen must be confirmed by the U.S. Senate.

If she clears that hurdle, she will be the first Alaska woman to serve on the 9th Circuit.

Former Democratic Governor Tony Knowles picked Christen as a state Superior Court judge in 2001. Republican Governor Sarah Palin named her to the Supreme Court in March 2009.

Republican Senator Lisa Murkowski says Christen is an outstanding choice and she will support Christen wholeheartedly through the confirmation process.

Supreme Court Suspends Former US Attorney’s License
Associated Press
The Alaska Supreme Court has suspended the law license of former U.S. Attorney Wevley Shea, finding “clear and convincing evidence” that he violated professional rules of conduct.

The high court adopted the recommendations of a disciplinary board, which called for the license to be suspended for 25 months. The board also said Shea must demonstrate that he is “mentally fit” to return to practicing law before applying for reinstatement of his license.

An Alaska bar committee last year found that Shea had a conflict of interest in representing the sister of a former client in a family dispute. It also found, among other things, that Shea had acted unprofessionally in court pleadings by using language or displaying conduct the committee described as demeaning, frivolous and outrageous.

Not Enough Data Available to Draw Conclusions on Sufolane Toxicity
Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks
Scientists studying the health effects of chemical ground water contamination in North Pole says there’s not enough data to draw definitive conclusions on toxicicty. An interagency team is looking into pollution from historic spills of sufolane at the North Pole Refinery that have migrated into the water table, effecting about 200 private wells. This week scientists shared limited findings with wary residents at a public meeting.

District One Republicans Launch Official Recall Effort Against Johansen
Maria Dudzak, KRBD – Ketchikan
District One Republicans have officially launched a recall effort against Ketchikan Representative Kyle Johansen. Johansen came under fire after his decision to walk out on the House Majority Caucus and give up his position as House Majority Leader last year.

Guide Company Owner Responds to Denali Tragedy
Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage
Last week, a horrific climbing accident on Denali’s West Buttress route claimed the life of one climber and seriously injured two others.  Todd Rutledge is co owner of Colorado-based Mountain Trip, the company that organized the climb.  Of the two guides and four clients on that ascent, four summited the mountain.  But on the descent, about 800 feet from the top, one climber fell, pulling three others down.  I asked Rutledge for an update on the injured climbers and guide Dave Staeheli and Jeremiah O’Sullivan.

Southwest Alaska Students Share Book About Local Community, Culture
Libby Casey, APRN – Anchorage
Students from the Southwest Alaska village of Kokhanok, near Lake Iliamna, now have a piece of their work in the nation’s most honored Institution: the Smithsonian. Its National Museum of the American Indian recently invited the kids to Washington, DC to share a book they’ve written about their local community and culture, which includes Aleut, Yupik and Athabascan roots.