Alaska News Nightly: November 28, 2011

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House Ethics Committee Extends Probe of Rep. Young

Libby Casey, APRN – Washington DC

The Ethics Committee for the U.S. House is extending an investigation into possible violations by Congressman Don Young of Alaska.

Murkowski Calls For Investigation Into Why Justice Department Not Investigating Allen

Libby Casey, APRN – Washington DC

Senator Lisa Murkowski is calling for an investigation into why the Justice Department is not prosecuting former Veco executive Bill Allen.  He was accused of transporting an under-age girl across state lines for sex – a federal crime.  Murkowski has expressed frustration and disgust that Allen hasn’t been pursued for the alleged offense and told APRN last week she’s concerned the Justice Department might be giving him a pass because he helped them out during the trial of the late Senator Ted Stevens.  Allen was the government’s key witness in that case, which failed after it was revealed prosecutors were concealing evidence from Stevens’ lawyers.

Militia Leader Pleads Not Guilty to Federal Weapons Charges

Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage

A Fairbanks militia leader and two other people have pleaded not guilty to federal weapons charges.

Militia leader Francis Schaeffer Cox, along with Coleman Barney and Lonnie Vernon, were arraigned Monday in U.S. District Court in Anchorage.

The men had been charged with plotting to kill Alaska State Troopers and court officials, but those state charges were dropped after a judge determined that audio and video recordings were obtained without a search warrant.

Jill Burke is a reporter for Alaska Dispatch and was in the courtroom this morning.

New Buoy Network Could Help Determine Long-Term Impacts of Ocean Acidification

Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau

A proposal that will likely be before the legislature next session is looking for money to enlarge the state’s Ocean Acidification observation network. That would include new monitoring buoys to provide an early warning system that could help avoid an immediate fishing disaster – and help determine the long-term impacts of acidification.

Study Looks Into Health Effects of Climate Change in Alaska

Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks

A study is looking at the human health effects of climate change in Alaska.  The Institute for Circumpolar Health Studies at the University of Alaska Anchorage is seven months into the year-long project tracking effects in southeast, interior and northwest arctic communities. During a recent teleconference on the study, Researcher David Driscoll said the project is taking a unique approach.

Driscoll is cautious about releasing findings given the study is not complete, and feedback may be very seasonal.  Fellow researcher Tenaya Sunbury said climate related impacts also vary according to region.

Sunbury said so far she’s had the most input from the northwest Alaska study communities of Pt. Hope, Kivilina and Noatak.

Sunbury said feedback from the participating interior communities of Anderson, Healy and Cantwell includes concerns about increased wildfires, and allergies. She says there are also mental health impacts.

Sunbury says southeast study participants in Angoon and Ketchikan have reported changes in wildlife, and the ability to harvest subsistence foods.  Other general climate related public health concerns include the potential for increases in insects and food borne illness. The ultimate goal of the climate change health study is to develop locally inspired mitigation strategies.

State Reexamines Alaska Class Ferry Cost

Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska – Juneau

The state is reexamining its cost estimate for the first Alaska Class Ferry. And it’s likely to come in higher than the total allocated to construction.

UA Launches ‘Stay on Track’ Initiative

Erik Judson, APRN – Anchorage

The University of Alaska Anchorage joined the other campuses of the UA system last month in launching its “Stay on Track” initiative. The program calls for students to plan their classes and majors to be able to finish their undergraduate degrees in four years.

Black Friday Kicks Off Holiday Shopping in Wrangell

Charlotte Duren, KSTK – Wrangell

Most communities in Alaska don’t have big box stores. But that doesn’t mean residents in those places couldn’t participate in black Friday. KSTK’s Charlotte Duren talked to business owners and shoppers in downtown Wrangell and has this story.