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AK Beat: Details emerge into why Fairbanks schools superintendent was placed on leave

Alaska Dispatch

Fairbanks North Star Borough School District superintendent placed on leave following district's sex abuse allegations: More details have emerged into why Fairbanks North Star Borough School District Superintendent Pete Lewis was placed on leave last week following an internal investigation of the district. School Board President Heidi Haas announced Monday night that there were "various liability exposures that must be investigated," the Fairbanks Daily News-Miner reported, including “the alleged abuse, negligent hire, retention and supervision claims and management issues including whether all policies and procedures were followed.” Haas reportedly emphasized that Lewis' leave was not disciplinary. The Hutchison High School tutor at the center of the investigation, 34-year-old Claude Fowlkes III of Fairbanks, was arraigned last month in Fairbanks on charges of first-degree sexual abuse of a minor. According to the News-Miner, Fowlkes was employed as a teen parenting correspondence instructor/tutor. Read more, at the News-Miner.

Anchorage's prop 3 fails by only 14 votes: After counting the final 30 ballots from the April 1 Anchorage municipal election, the final tally shows proposition 3 -- a $5.5 million dollar bond for Z.J. Loussac Public Library renovations, improvements to the municipal-owned Anchorage Golf Course, city hall safety improvements, and the relocation of Mulcahy Stadium -- failed by just 14 votes, with 45,842 votes cast. The bond proposition was the only item in play from the election after city officials counted absentee and questioned ballots last week. The 30 ballots counted Monday were not marked properly during absentee ballot counting, and required a legal review before they were counted Monday afternoon. The defeat of the bond proposition isn't the end of the fight for money to repair the aging library, as the city has included a $10 million capital improvement request for the work from lawmakers in Juneau. The fate of that money will be decided when the Alaska Legislature approves its capital budget.

Exports of Cook Inlet gas OK from Department of Energy: ConocoPhillips will resume exports of liquefied natural gas from the Kenai Peninsula after the Department of Energy granted the company export permission for two years. The announcement on Monday comes after local utilities announced that their natural gas needs were met through 2018, and after the state in September asked Conoco to renew those exports from its liquefied natural gas facility in Nikiski. The resumed exports will open market opportunities for excess quantities of natural gas, ConocoPhillips said in a statement. The state has offered incentives to boost natural gas production in Cook Inlet, but the gains so far have been somewhat modest, meeting needs in Anchorage for a just a handful of years. However, state officials pressed for the renewed exports to foster continued investment in Cook Inlet by oil and gas companies that will need new markets if production continues to increase. The Energy Department’s approval will allow exports to both free-trade and non-free-trade countries. Conoco will be able to export about 40 billion cubic feet of liquefied natural gas during the two-year period. How much is that? By comparison, Enstar's 136,000 customers -- from the Matanuska Valley to Anchorage the Homer -- use about 33 billion cubic feet of natural gas a year.​ Conoco’s LNG facility operated for decades, shipping LNG overseas to Asian markets, until it was mothballed in 2012 because of limited gas availability in Cook Inlet. At its peak, the facility produced 64 billion cubic feet a year.

Fairbanksan wins Pulitzer Prize for musical composition: Fairbanks composer John Luther Adams took home the Pulitzer Prize for music composition for his orchestral piece "Become Ocean," which debuted with the Seattle Symphony last year. The Pulitzer committee called Adams' piece "a haunting orchestral work that suggests a relentless tidal surge, evoking thoughts of melting polar ice and rising sea levels." Adams has received numerous accolades during his career, including a $100,000 Heinz award in 2011. He moved to Fairbanks in 1978 to work as an environmental activist and began composing full-time in 1989. Alaskans are probably most familiar with Adams' sound and light display titled "The Place Where You Go to Listen" at the University of Alaska Museum of the North.

House passes abortion restrictions for low-income women: The Alaska State House voted 23-17 Sunday night to approve a bill by Fairbanks Republican Sen. John Coghill limiting abortions to low-income women on Medicaid. The measure says medically necessary abortions are those in which the mother's life or health is at serious risk. A different version of the bill won approval from the state Senate last year on a 14-6 vote. The Senate will decide whether to accept House amendments to the bill, which included stripping a provision that called for extended family planning and birth control services. Backers in the House said those services are already available. Coghill has said his goal is to stop "elective abortions." Opponents of the bill predict a costly court fight if the measure passes.

Dillingham man charged in Togiak pharmacy break-in: A Dillingham man faces a slew of charges following a break-in at the Togiak Clinic Pharmacy, according to Alaska State Troopers. Troopers said 25-year-old George Kase, of Dillingham, was charged with five counts of fourth-degree misconduct involving a controlled substance, two counts of fifth-degree misconduct involving a controlled substance, fourth-degree theft, second-degree criminal trespassing, and tempering with evidence. The charges come after Kase -- who troopers said was in the community as a guest speaker and staying at the clinic -- allegedly forced open a door at the clinic and stole an undisclosed amount of Schedule 1A controlled substances and well as other items. Troopers said a majority of the stolen items were not recovered. Kase was arrested on Friday, April 11, and taken to Dillingham Correctional Facility on $25,000 bail. 

Think tank plan opposes King Cove road: In the latest salvo in the fight over the a proposed road connecting the Aleutian village of King Cove to Cold Bay and its large runway, the Center for American Progress, a left-leaning think tank, weighs in. The think tank offers a five-point plan to address the issue of safely evacuating medical patients from the community -- a plan that doesn’t involve a road. The center’s plan highlights several items that haven’t received much attention, from either the road’s proponents or its critics, including the lobbying bonanza the fight has provided for Aleutians East Borough’s lobbying firm, and the disposition of funds the Borough would receive from the sale of a hovercraft that failed alleviate the medevac problem. Though the Center for American Progress is liberal think tank, it frames its opposition to the road as opposition to wasteful spending, and makes no mention of wilderness preservation arguments against the project.

After one winter, verdict out on Norway's mid-winter sunlight mirrors: In an effort to get a little more sun during the long dark winters, the small town of Rjukan, Norway, which lies at 59 degrees, 52 minutes north latitude -- a bit north of Anchor Point, a bit south of Ninilchik -- installed mirrors atop a mountain ridge. The mirrors reflect sunlight back down to a central square in the shaded town -- when there is any: from Dec. 25, 2013 until mid-March, the mirrors gave the town only 17 hours of sunlight. And not everyone is happy about them, reports the New York Times. The same dreary skies that produced so little sunlight meant the mirrors solar power generators couldn’t operate the mirrors (which move to capture the sun throughout the day), requiring the town to haul gas and a generator up the mountain on snowmachine, something that seemed to reaffirm the views of some local residents who already viewed the project as a waste of money. Still, after one winter, the bulk of the town seems happy with the mirrors, which have even begun to generate a bit of tourism from nearby Oslo.

Wolf howls -- from Pliny the Elder to Three Wolf Moon: Why do wolves howl? We can’t say definitively, but we do know that the howling isn’t directed at the moon. That’s according to an article from Slate. “Scientists have found no correlation between the canine and Earth’s satellite, except perhaps an increase in overall activity on brighter nights,” Salte says. “So how did the idea gain such traction, and what do wolves howl at?” The piece doesn’t really arrive at a conclusion, but does round up some recent research on wolf howling and interweaves it with snapshots from the cultural history of wolves stretching from ancient Rome and Norse mythology to a contemporary viral Internet phenomenon.