Alaska News Nightly: March 25, 2011

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Settlement Awards Sex Abuse Victims $166.1 Million, Written Apologies
Associated Press
An order of priests has agreed to pay $166.1 million to hundreds of Native Americans and Alaska Natives who were abused as children at the order’s schools around the Pacific Northwest.

The settlement between more than 450 victims and the Oregon Province of the Society of Jesus is one of the largest in the Catholic church’s sweeping sex abuse scandal. It also calls for a written apology to the victims.

The province previously settled another 200 claims. Then it filed for bankruptcy, claiming the payments depleted its treasury. But victims argued the province remained wealthy because it controls and owns several schools and properties.

The relationship between the Jesuit order and other Jesuit properties, including Gonzaga University, has been an issue in bankruptcy proceedings. But both the college and the province maintain they are separate entities.

Game Board to Meet on Bear Snaring Issue
Ellen Lockyer, KSKA – Anchorage
The state game board begins its meeting on Southcentral hunting issues on Saturday in Anchorage.  Proposals changing rules on bear snaring in a game management unit near Tyonek and Beluga have raised concerns among some conservation groups, like Anchorage based Alaska Center for the Environment.

Valerie Connor is ACE’s conservation director.  She’s says there’s a  disturbing trend among upcoming proposals.

Until recently, bear snaring was illegal in Alaska.  But last year, a tightly controlled, experimental program in Game Unit 16 B allowed limited snaring of black bears.

Connor says the public has not had adequate notice of the proposals.

Tony Kavalok, with  Fish and Game’s  division of wildlife conservation in Anchorage, says  bear snaring is aimed at reducing the numbers of bear which feed on moose calves.  He says 85 percent of the calves are lost within the first 90 days of life

Public testimony before the game board is set for tomorrow through Sunday.

Judge Sets Militia Members’ Trial Dates
Associated Press
The Fairbanks militia members who are accused of planning to kill government officials, now have trial dates set for May.

The defendants face both federal and state charges. At a hearing yesterday, Lonnie and Karen Vernon of Salcha were scheduled to go on trial May 16 on charges of threatening to kill a federal judge and an IRS agent.

Lonnie Vernon, Schaeffer Cox of Fairbanks and Coleman Barney of North Pole were scheduled to stand trial May 23 on federal weapons charges.

The four, and Michael Anderson, face trial May 30 on a variety of state charges.

Athena Society Inducts Nine, Honors Another
Joaqlin Estus, KNBA – Anchorage
This week the Anchorage Athena Society inducted nine women and honored one more with an award. The goal is to encourage women to continue doing good things for others and for their community.

Forecasters Investigate Breakup Factors
Dan Bross, KUAC – Fairbanks
As spring advances across Alaska, forecasters are looking at factors that will determine the severity of this year’s break up. National Weather Service River Forecast Center Hydrologist Scott Lindsey says at this point there’s a higher than normal chance of flooding in many areas.  Lindsey says the big November warm up and rain storm that hit the Western and Central Interior hard could result in river ice problems this spring.

Lindsey says the unusual Thanksgiving weather up also resulted in a bunch of jumble ice stacking up on the lower portions of the Kuskokwim and Tanana Rivers.

Another factor which affects break up, snow pack, has been normal or below normal in most areas, except in northwest Alaska where the snow fall was well above average. Lindsey says the biggest break up factor is weather over the next month.  He says if it stays cool and then rapidly warms ice jams and flooding are likely, as a surge of melt water hits relatively strong river ice.

Expert Says Rare-Earth Mine Badly Needed
Ed Schoenfeld, CoastAlaska – Juneau
An international expert says a Southeast Alaska mineral deposit could become one of the nation’s most important rare-earth element mines. Owners of the Bokan Mountain site say they’re proceeding in hopes of developing an area that once held a uranium mine.

Lawmakers Move Towards Synthetic Pot Ban
Associated Press
Lawmakers took another step toward banning synthetic cannabinoids on Friday by sending a modified version of the ban out of the Alaska Senate Judiciary Committee.

The forwarded bill was changed so that a person could be charged with a felony for possessing 12 grams or more of the marijuana-like substance, and with a misdemeanor for possessing less than that amount.

It also specifies that the substance is illegal only if sprayed on an organic material.

House Bill 7 will now be considered by the Finance committee.

Resolution Opposes Roadless Rule
Matt Lichtenstein, KFSK – Petersburg
The Alaska House Special Committee on Energy this week moved forward a resolution opposing the Forest Service’s Roadless Rule because it could restrict hydro-electric development on National Forest land in Alaska.

Three Rabid Fox Found Near Coast
Angela Denning-Barnes, KYUK – Bethel
Three fox in the YK Delta tested positive for rabies recently. One last week and two, two weeks ago.

Gold Medal Tournament Sparks Rivalries, Respect
Casey Kelly, KTOO – Juneau
Basketball is king in rural Alaska, and nowhere is that more evident than Juneau’s annual Gold Medal tournament now in its 65th year.

Organized by the Juneau Lions Club, the annual Spring Break competition brings together teams from all over Southeast – from Metlakatla in the south to Haines in the north. Over the years intense rivalries have formed between villages, as well as larger communities like Juneau and Sitka. But behind the rivalries, the players have genuine respect for each other.

Championship games for this year’s Gold Medal Tournament start at 4:00 Saturday afternoon. All games are played in the Juneau Douglas High School gym.