Alaska News Nightly: June 30, 2010

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APD Responds to Racism Suit
Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage
Anchorage officials are responding to a lawsuit filed against the city.  Papers were filed yesterday by two Anchorage Police Department officers, Alvin Kennedy and Eliezar Feliciano alleging discrimination within the police department. Anchorage Police Chief Mark Mew told reporters that the APD does not tolerate racism.

Mew says he is not aware of any pattern of racial profiling within the department.  The two officers who filed the suit worked as undercover officers.  Both have 20 year histories with the APD.

City attorney Dennis Wheeler says the city has 20 days to respond to the suit.  He says the city has not yet been served with the complaint.   Wheeler says the plaintiffs want the court to find evidence of discrimination, and are seeking a financial settlement.

CIRI Enters Energy Venture
Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage
Cook Inlet Region, Inc. has joined with a Texas-based energy company to tap into coal deposits on the west side of Cook Inlet.  But there will be no mining involved, due to a unique process which converts the coal to gas beneath the ground.  As KSKA’s Ellen Lockyer reports, the project marks CIRI’s venture into the energy generation business.

Seattle-Based Seafood Company Fined by EPA
Alexandra Gutierrez, KUCB – Unalaska
After five years of negligence, a Seattle-based seafood company agreed to a pay a hefty fine to the EPA for violating the Clean Water Act in the Bering Sea. 

Ice Breaker to Undergo Repairs
Steve Heimel, APRN – Anchorage
The nation’s aging ice-breaker fleet is breaking down.  The US Coast Guard has three ice-breakers, and two of them are now down for repairs.  Today the Coast Guard announced that the ice-breaker Polar Sea will not be making its planned summer trip to the arctic because its engines are at risk of failing.

The Polar Sea is one of two heavy Coast Guard ice-breakers.  The other one – the Polar Star – was already under repair, and won’t be ready for another two years.  That leaves just one US ice-breaking vessel – the larger but less powerful cutter, the Healy, which is now plying the ice of the Bering, Chukchi and Beaufort seas on a scientific mission. 

The Polar Sea was a key part of the Coast Guard’s push to increase its arctic presence due to diminishing sea ice in the Arctic Ocean.  Last year, the vessel supported a number of safety drills and medical and other missions in coastal communities along the arctic shore, in an operation called Arctic Crossroads.  It was supposed to do the same sort of thing this year, and also conduct oil spill response drills. 

Lawsuit Could Set New Medical Privacy Standards
Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska – Juneau
The ACLU says a lawsuit it filed in Ketchikan could set new standards for medical privacy in Alaska. The group is suing the state to recover records seized from a women’s health center during a criminal investigation. It says local police later revealed personal medical information. Police deny that’s the case.

Candidates Give the Public A Lot to Think About
Dave Donaldson, APRN – Juneau
The major candidates for US Senate are about a third of the way into this year’s primary election season – and the next two months indicate that voters will have a lot of things to consider when they go to the polls.

Education Department Intervenes in Yupiit District
Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage
The state Education Department is intervening to help the poorest-performing school district in the state. The Yupiit district, serves about 450 students in the villages of Tuluksak and Akiak.  It has been failing to meet the federal Adequate Yearly Progress – or AYP – standards for four years.

It’s the first school where the state has intervened under the AYP standard, as required by the federal No Child Left Behind law.  Department of Education information officer Eric Fry says Sanborn will work with local school district officials, teachers and parents to help boost student performance scores.

The state trustee’s job is to monitor the Yupiit School District’s plan for teacher development, and to help the district to find the best practices for instruction. Fry says no Yupiit School District personnel will lose their jobs, nor is any blame being put on teachers there.

Fry says there is no deadline for improvement.  He says the trustee will stay in place for at least three years until all three schools improve their reading, writing and math scores. 

Traditional Healing on Tudor
Lori Townsend, APRN – Anchorage
Tucked along the south side of Southcentral Foundation’s complex of modern medical facilities is the traditional healing garden. Even with traffic whizzing along on nearby Tudor Road, it’s a peaceful urban haven. I visited the garden as part of our series on Alaska Native Education. Traditional Healing Clinic Manger Buz Daney showed me around.