Alaska News Nightly: August 22, 2007

NEA Alaska is criticizing the state’s new program that pays teachers extra in schools that improve test scores. Plus, former Interior Secretary Bruce Babbit is in Alaska, rallying opposition to the federal plan to sell oil and gas leases in the North Aleutian Basin. Those stories and more on tonight’s Alaska News Nightly, broadcast statewide on APRN stations.

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Photo by U.S. Coast Guard

Owners of Selendang Ayu plead guilty and pay $10 million
Lori Townsend and David Shurtleff, APRN – Anchorage
A final settlement was reached today with the owners of the Selendang Ayu, the freighter that ran aground off Unalaska Island in December 2004 and broke in two, spilling tons of soybeans and thousands of gallons of fuel into the Bering sea. The owners, IMC Shipping, pleaded guilty to three federal misdemeanor charges and agreed to pay a $10 million fine. Alaska U.S. Attorney Nelson Cohen says $3 million will be paid into the National Fish and Wildlife Fund for risk assessment.

Bruce Babbitt boosting opposition to Bush oil leasing in Bristol Bay
Johanna Eurich, KDLG – Dillingham
The man who helped buy back federal oil gas leases 11 years ago is in Bristol Bay rallying opposition to the Bush administration’s plan to put the North Aleutian Basin back on the auction block.

  • Bruce Babbitt is chairman of the World Wildlife Fund and was Interior Secretary in the Clinton administration

Infamous Alaska jet finally sold
Amy Bracken, KCHU – Valdez
Texas businessman-turned Valdez resident Larry Reynolds has signed an agreement to purchase the state’s infamous Westwind II aircraft. The jet was bought by former Governor Frank Murkowski in 2005 over the objections of the Legislature. The move drew criticism from fiscal conservatives who felt it was not needed. Renyolds paid $2.1 million for the plane, about $500,000 less than Governor Murkowski paid for it. The sale will be complete once the funds are transfered into the state’s bank account. The Palin administration says they anticipate that taking place tomorrow.

Teacher’s association irritated with state’s criteria for incentive program
David Shurtleff, APRN – Anchorage
The President of National Education Association Alaska is blasting the state’s new performance incentive program, calling it ‘fundamentally unfair’ to schools in urban areas. The program started last year. It pays teachers a bonus at schools where the students show improvements in their “No Child Left Behind” test scores.

An Alaskan paratrooper in Iraq, Part 2
Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage
Alaska’s paratrooper soldiers, based at Fort Richardson, were suppose to return from Iraq next month. But like all army brigades, their deployment was extended for three months. Tonight, we have part two of our interview with Major Craig Whiteside, stationed with the brigade in Iskandariyah.

Fairbanks hosting cloudy science meetings
Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks
A group of international scientists are gathered in Fairbanks to share research on an unusual type of high altitude cloud. Noctilucent clouds are made of ice particles 50 miles above the earth’s surface, and are only visible at night. Interest in the clouds is associated with global warming research.

A big first day of school, especially for rural kids arriving in Anchorage
Jennifer Canfield, KNBA – Anchorage
Today is the first day of school for many students in the Anchorage School District. For some the first day can be a nervous experience, especially for those from rural Alaska.

Anchorage Salvation Army opens new family-focused housing facility
Len Anderson, KSKA – Anchorage
The Salvation Army is celebrating the opening of its new $12.5 million dollar SAFE campus in Anchorage. But the real celebration surrounds the arrival of the families who will live there.

Photos courtesy The Salvation Army – Anchorage

The Salvation Army will give tours of the new facility. Contact:
Jenni Ragland, Associate Director, Community Relations Department
The Salvation Army Alaska Divisional Headquarters
907-276-2515 x431