Alaska News Nightly: December 22, 2008

A Washington, DC judge released a complaint today from a Department of Justice employee who accuses the team that prosecuted Ted Stevens of misconduct. Plus, a new alcohol and drug detox facility is opening in Fairbanks.

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Stevens calls for conviction set-aside in light of FBI whistleblower revelations
Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage
Lawyers for Senator Ted Stevens today called for his felony conviction to be thrown out. The move comes after an FBI agent, acting as a whistleblower, highlighted Justice Department misconduct during the Senator’s investigation and trial.

U.S. District Judge Emmet Sullivan released the 8-page complaint today, agreeing to protecting the identity of the agent who filed the complaint along with other information that was not disclosed. The heavily-redacted document alleges a long list of inappropriate behavior by the Justice Department including paying off sources and failing to turn over evidence to the Stevens defense team at trial.

Wev Shea is a former U.S. Attorney for the state of Alaska who has followed Alaska’s corruption investigations closely. In the past he has spoken very highly about the Justice Department and the Department’s public integrity section, but after reading the documents today he says he is shocked and disturbed.

Obama pick for NOAA chief praised by conservationists
Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage
Oregon State University Marine Biology professor Jane Lubchenco has been chosen to head up the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration (NOAA) by the incoming Obama administration. Lubchenco is being hailed by conservationists as a world-class scientist. Lubchenco has criticized NOAA in the past for not working more aggressively to stop over fishing.

Dr. Jeff Short spent 30 years with NOAA before joining the Juneau branch of the conservation organization Oceana. Dr. Short is a chemist. He says Lubchenco is a highly-qualified and appropriate candidate for helping NOAA overcome problems it’s had with carrying out its mission.

Fairbanks opening new, innovative detox facility
Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks
A new alcohol and drug detox facility is opening in Fairbanks. The Fairbanks Native Association’s “Gateway Recovery Center” has resulted from a several-year community effort by a broad spectrum of local organizations.

Alaska Airlines unraveling bad weather air passenger pileups
Annie Feidt, APRN – Anchorage
Alaska Airlines had more trouble today with its flights heading in and out of airports in Washington and Oregon. Extreme winter weather has hampered airports in both states, shutting down the Portland airport entirely. A limited number of Alaska flights made it to and from Seattle today. Marianne Lindsay is a spokesperson for the company. Echoing the likely sentiments of many passengers, she says the cancelations couldn’t have happened at a worse time.

Lindsey says normal schedules are expected to resume tomorrow. Customers who need refunds or want to rebook can call go online or call the airline’s customer service number (1-800-654-5669). Lindsey says hold times are long, but should be improving.

Tulsequah Chief Mine construction suspended
John Ryan, KTOO – Juneau
Construction on the Tulsequah Chief Mine near Juneau has been suspended for at least three weeks. Redfern Resources suspended construction activities on Thursday at the mine in the Canadian portion of the Taku River watershed. The company says the hiatus was planned for the holidays, but it has put construction on hold for an indefinite period while the company figures out its finances.

10,000-year-old southeast Alaska DNA not yet linked to living Natives
Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska – Juneau
DNA tests have failed to link ancient human remains found in a Southeast cave with contemporary Alaska Natives. But sponsors of the tests say the results may have missed something.

Mat-Su Borough ready for new recycling center
Annie Feidt, APRN – Anchorage
The Matanuska-Susitna Borough expects to break ground on a new recycling center as early as next spring. The facility will help the Borough recycle as much as 25% of the waste that would otherwise end up in the local landfill. That’s more than 10 times what Valley Community for Recycling Solutions can handle at its current location. The current facility has no running water and porta potties for restrooms. Mollie Boyer is the organization’s executive director. She says it also lacks adequate indoor workspace.

Anchorage Police bringing new enforcement focus to Spenard
Len Anderson, KSKA – Anchorage
Anchorage’s Spenard neighborhood is undergoing a gradual change for the better. New businesses are opening up and the area is beginning to sport a “new look.” But some less positive elements remain, and on Saturday two police officers met with residents to offer a new approach to fight those problems.

Sitka’s ‘Polar Dip’ participants issued temporary insanity certificates
Caitlin Woolsey, KCAW – Sitka
Temperatures in the twenties, and a brisk north wind once again failed to deter more than 200 Sitkans from taking the plunge this Saturday at the annual Polar Dip. With much skin showing, the enthusiastic herd thundered down the ramp at the University of Alaska Southeast campus at high noon, into ocean water of a little over 40 degrees. Although many dippers submerged entirely, most got wet-to-the-chest, to qualify for a “certificate of temporary insanity” issued by qualified mental health professionals. KCAW student reporter Caitlin Woolsey brings us a frigid audio postcard.