Alaska News Nightly: October 21, 2011

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Judge Sentences Kott, Kohring

Associated Press

Two former state lawmakers were sentenced to time served at a federal courthouse in Anchorage on Friday. U.S. District Judge Ralph Beistline accepted plea deals for former state House Speaker Pete Kott and former lawmaker Vic Kohring. Kott is required to pay a $10,000 fine and serve three years supervised release following a guilty plea in a corruption case.  Kohring was sentenced to one year supervised release. Prosecutors didn’t seek a fine in his case, saying Kohring didn’t have the financial resources to pay one.

The charges Koth and Kohring were accused of stemmed from maneuverings surrounding a 2006 oil tax vote in the state Legislature.  Both men served partial sentences following previous convictions but an appeals court tossed the cases earlier this year, finding prosecutorial errors.

Shell Secures Another Air Permit for Arctic Exploration

Associated Press

Shell has secured another air permit necessary to proceed with oil and gas exploration plans in the Arctic.

The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency announced Friday that it had issued an air permit for emissions from Shell’s exploration activities in the Beaufort Sea. Shell plans to begin drilling in the region as early as July. The permit applies to Shell’s Kulluk drill rig and support fleet.

Last month, the agency approved air permits for Shell’s Discoverer drillship and related fleet, which the company plans to use in the Beaufort and Chukchi seas.

Shell spokesman Curtis Smith called the EPA decision a positive milestone but noted it was another step in the process. Shell still must secure other authorizations and permits, including approval of an oil spill response plan.

Murkowski, Begich Pushing Against Genetically Engineered Salmon

Jennifer Canfield, KMXT – Kodiak

Alaska’s senators are making a last minute push against genetically engineered – or GE – fish. The Food and Drug Administration is expected to approve Massachusetts-based AquaBounty’s application to commercialize GE fish. If that happens GE fish could be found in grocery stores across the country.

AFN Panel Discusses Relationship With State Government

Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage

The AFN convention continued Friday in Anchorage. After Governor Sean Parnell and Representative Reggie Joule addressed the crowd, a panel discussion was convened on how Alaska Natives can strengthen their relationship with the state of Alaska. Lieutenant Governor Mead Treadwell, DNR commissioner Dan Sullivan, and several other commissioners were in the front rows listening to the panelists cover a wide range of issues from education to resource development, crime and the need to elect more Alaska Natives to positions of power in the state.  Former state senator and Doyon board member Georgianna Lincoln said she wants to see Alaska Natives take some of the jobs away from the current commissioners.

“We need to be the commissioners, the mayors, we need to be on the boards, on the assembly here in Anchorage, get on the assembly! Our Native people. That’s where we’re going to make a difference, on the inside, not on the outside,” Lincoln said.

Athna President and CEO Ken Johns suggested involving Native leadership in the vetting process when high level state positions are being filled.

“In the beginning when the governor choses the commissioner because that’s a very important position, that has a lot of influence not only on who he’s picked but has influence on the legislature,” Johns said.

And Bristol Bay Native Corporation President and CEO Jason Metrokin said it’s also important to be engaged with legislators and state government.

“One of the things I can do as an individual is spend more time in Jueanu. Spend a lot of time in Washington DC, just got back from there a few weeks ago, but we need to spend more time in Juneau and be a part of the process, so I will certainly commit to doing that,” Metrokin said. x

The perennial AFN issues of encouraging community wellness and healing from past traumas were also raised. Donna Erickson is a board member of the Bering Sea Women’s group. She said it’s important to look at the high rates of domestic violence and suicide and work to promote family wellness in order to move ahead with other important aspects of growth.

“What we need to do is find inner healing, so we can be the parents that help our children in the education department, we can be the parents we are meant to be, we can move forward in community wellness, in our economy, we can make decisions that are healthy and be the healthy people that our ancestors were,” Erickson said.

Ken Johns added that too many young Native men are in jail and they need support of their families and communities to help them have hope. But he also said part of that support comes from having adequate subsistence resources available so young men can help fulfill traditional roles of providing for families. He said 40 years after ANCSA, he wants better recognition of the resource rich areas of the state being in large part on Native lands.

“I think the state needs to sit down with the Native regional corporations, the villages,  and tribes and come up with some kind of master economic plan immediately or we’re all going to die a slow economic death here in the state of Alaska and that needs to be recognized quickly,” Johns said.

A second panel was scheduled for the afternoon with participation of state commissioners. The convention continues tomorrow when resolutions and board positions will be voted on.

Alaska National Guardsman Accused of Embezzlement

Associated Press

An auditor found that an Alaska National Guardsman accused of embezzling more than $220,000 had complete control over funds in a program intended to help Guard families.

Airman Jason Mathew Johnson was the administrator of the Guard’s Family Program and is accused of issuing checks to himself from August 2006 to September 2010. He is charged with scheming to defraud, first-degree theft and falsifying business records.

Johnson remains in the Guard but his rank has been reduced from sergeant to airman.

He is due in court Nov. 3.

Lt. General Atkins Prepares to Hand Off Command

Jennifer Canfield, KMXT – Kodiak

Air Force Lieutenant General Dana Atkins, the senior military officer responsible for all military activities in Alaska, is retiring soon. Atkins has been in charge of the Alaska Command for three years.

In Kodiak this week, he said his replacement will be Major General Steve Hoog.

Atkins says there are four areas the new commander will need to focus on: the F-22’s, Russian long-range aviation, the military evolution of the Arctic and training exercises. He says Alaska is poised to become the premier location for military exercises as training facilities in the Lower 48 have increasingly more restrictions placed on them. Atkins says there are currently 10 sites in Alaska considered potential training grounds. He says the state’s size is a major part of its appeal

While the military would definitely benefit from establishing training grounds in Alaska’s vast wilderness, Atkins says the state would as well.

Hoog will take command on Nov. 7. That will give him a few months to settle in before environmental impact studies on the proposed training sites are released in March 2012.

Survey Shows High Rates of Violence Against Women in Juneau

Casey Kelly, KTOO – Juneau

A recent survey of domestic violence and sexual assault victimization rates for women in Juneau shows that 55 percent of adult women in the Capital City have experienced domestic violence, sexual assault, or both in their lifetime.

As KTOO’s Casey Kelly reports, those who work with victims of abuse hope the survey can shed some light on prevention strategies that work.

AK: Newest Marian Call Album Funded by Fans

Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage

Anchorage Singer-Songwriter Marian Call doesn’t have any trouble writing material. She says the ideas spill out of her and shape into songs quickly. That’s fortunate, since Call has a hectic schedule working to make it as a musician far from the mainstream recording hotspots in the Lower 48. She uses Facebook and Twitter to connect with fans and takes a creative approach to financing her passion. Her new album “Something Fierce” is a double CD that’s funded by her biggest fans.

She gets inspiration from fans too. The CD starts off with a fun song she put together after a fan dared her to write a tune the astronauts could wake up to. Its called Good Morning Moon:

Marian Call’s new album is “Something Fierce” She’s playing tonight at 8pm at the Snowgoose theater, November 5th in Juneau and December 10th in Fairbanks.

300 Villages: Cordova

Now it’s time for the segment we call 300 villages. This week, we’re traveling across Prince William Sound, to the fishing community of Cordova.

Martin Moe is from Cordova. 300 Villages is AK’s attempt to put every community in Alaska on the Radio.