Alaska News Nightly: May 19, 2011

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Senate Republicans Block Vote to Confirm 9th Circuit Court Judge
Libby Casey, APRN – Washington DC
U.S. Senate Republicans blocked moving forward on voting whether to confirm a 9th Circuit Court judge Thursday.  But Alaska’s Senator Lisa Murkowski bucked her party and voted to advance toward a final ‘yea or nay’ vote.

President Obama’s nominee to fill a vacant spot on the 9th Circuit, the jurisdiction of which includes Alaska, is Goodwin Liu, Associate Dean at the University of California Berkeley Law School.

Murkowski was the only Republican who voted to move forward… but her office says she would have voted against actually making Liu a circuit court judge.  The Senator voted on the principal that she believes nominees should have an up-or-down vote, and not get blocked in the lead-up process.  Since the presidency of George W. Bush, a group of Democrats and Republicans agreed they would only filibuster, or block votes in “extraordinary circumstances.”

It takes 60 votes to get past the filibuster, but President Obama’s nominee got just 52 today.

Law of the Sea Treaty Remains Top Priority for Coast Guard
Casey Kelly, KTOO – Juneau
The new commander of the U.S. Coast Guard’s 17th District says ratification of the Law of the Sea Treaty remains a top Coast Guard priority. Rear Admiral Thomas Ostebo took over for Rear Admiral Christopher Colvin Thursday at a change of command ceremony on the pier at Coast Guard Station Juneau.

Ostebo says he’ll continue many initiatives from Colvin’s tenure, including a focus on Arctic issues.

Crooked Creek Residents Pull Together After Flood
Angela Denning-Barnes, KYUK – Bethel
Governor Sean Parnell declared a State disaster for the Kuskokwim villages of Crooked Creek and Red Devil, which flooded during break up. About 66 percent of housing in Crooked Creek was damaged or destroyed and Red Devil also experienced damage, but to a lesser degree.

The Red Cross has stepped up efforts in Crooked Creek. Meanwhile, residents there are struggling each day to figure out how to live with what’s left after the flood.

DHSS Fully Cooperating in Child Abuse Case
Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage
The State Department of Health and Social Service is cooperating fully into the investigation of an Anchorage woman charged with abusing six adopted children and an undetermined number of foster children.  Anya James has been charged with ten counts of kidnapping and six counts of

first degree assault for the abuse she perpetrated against children in her care over the past decade.

School Shop Burns Down in St. Michael
Laureli Kinneen, KNOM – Nome
There was a fire in the Norton Sound community of St. Michael Wednesday night. No one was injured, but some students in the town of about 370 people are learning the lesson of hard work and dedication.

Alaska Mercury Levels Lower Than Other Parts of Arctic
Annie Feidt, APRN – Anchorage
The Arctic Council is bringing attention to the issue of mercury contamination in subsistence foods. A new assessment from the Council’s monitoring program finds high levels of the metal in marine mammals. But the report shows mercury levels in Alaska tend to be much lower than other parts of the Arctic.

Navy Moving Forward With Sonar Use in Training
Daysha Eaton, KDLG – Dillingham
Experts say early studies show catches of some species of fish that live in Alaska may drop after being exposed to intense sound. But the science is inconclusive, so the U.S. Navy announced last week that they’re going ahead with training that includes use of sonar in the Gulf of Alaska.