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AK Beat: Nenana Ice Classic ends as Tanana River sheds its ice

Alaska's favorite springtime guessing game and chance to strike it big is over, but winners have not yet been declared. James Brooks / cc via flickr

Tripod's out at Nenana: An Alaska tradition, the Nenana Ice Classic, came to a close late Friday afternoon when ice on the Tanana River finally gave way at 3:48 p.m. Alaska Standard Time (the classic's official clock does not change for daylight saving time). The river ice broke up nearly a month earlier than last year’s date of May 20. A large cash jackpot is awarded to whoever accurately guesses when the ice on river, a 584-mile tributary of the Yukon River, melts away enough for a wooden tripod to move, which stops a shore-based clock. If no one guesses the exact minute, the minutes on either side of the exact minute is the winning time. Last year, a Kenai couple pocketed $318,500. This year’s prize totals more than $363,000, the Associated Press reported. Ice Classic officials have not yet released a list of this year's winner or winners.

Alaskans in national quiz finals live-streamed: Fans in Alaska can watch Lathrop High School students compete in the U.S. Academic Decathlon's culminating event, the Super Quiz, in a GCI-hosted live-streaming webcast beginning on Friday at 5:45 p.m. Alaska Time. Coaches Chris Benshoof and Robin Feinman are leading academic decathletes Christine Frandsen, Gwen Buckley, Bethany Cramer, Jason Chau, Cali Hoyos, Cody Smith, Mason Taylor and Cameron Bryant up against 49 other teams from around the country and four from overseas at the Hilton Hawaiian Village on Oahu. This season's theme for the Academic Decathlon is the World War I. Win or lose, the awards banquet will be live-streamed too, beginning Saturday at 10:00 a.m.

Prescription drug take-back day Saturday: What to do with leftover, expired or unused prescription drugs? They can't be used by people for whom they weren't prescribed. And you can't just flush them down the toilet either, because they would contaminate the water supply and surrounding bodies of water. On Saturday, there will be a better way to get rid of unused prescription meds. Anchorage Police will be hosting collection points across the city from 10 a.m. until 2 p.m. A complete list of take-back locations statewide and in Anchorage is available online.

APD canine bags suspects in bog: Anchorage police said one of the department's K-9 officers was able to track down two men suspected in a vehicle theft Early Thursday morning. APD said Aerie, a 2-and-a-half-year-old Belgian Malinois, tracked the men down after they were spotted in a vehicle that had been reported stolen on Wednesday from East Anchorage. APD said when spotted by officers, the men fled into Baxter Bog, a 62-acre park in East Anchorage that contains mostly swampy area. The unidentified suspects were tracked through ice and mud by Aerie and his APD handler. One suspect was found inside the bog. A second was tracked to a nearby yard and arrested.

Wasilla's own "Jersey Shore": If Wasilla, Alaska, doesn't have an image problems these days, don't fret: "Slednecks" -- a reboot of a now-canceled MTV show called "Buckwild" -- may solve that problem. Actually, it is already here. Hollywood News Daily reports that MTV has already selected cast members and shot several scenes featuring young 20-somethings frolicking in the Last Frontier. The first season of "Buckwild" featured a group of young adults in rural West Virginia as they partied and lived life in a decidedly "redneck" way.  It was canceled after the death of one of the show's stars in 2013. The Alaska version, shot entirely in the Mat-Su area, is expected to be even more raunchy and riotous. Cast members have been reportedly filmed skinny dipping while ice fishing, and riding inner tubes behind a snowmachine as well as "brawling and hooking up among the new cast mates." As the "Hollywood News" puts it: "'Buckwild Alaska' is gearing up to make season one look like nursery school in hopes of gaining a large reality show viewing audience within the network and cast all in high hopes of finding the right mix to bring back that beloved Jersey Shore magic to reality television." God help us all. Correction: Hollywood News Daily originally reported the show would be called "Buckwild Alaska" and would be a second season of "Buckwild" rather than a reboot.

Alaskans tied for tops in state pride: According to a recent poll from Gallup, Alaskans are among Americans most likely to say their state is among the best to live (USA Today's coverage of the includes a useful map). The 49th state tied with Montana, having 77 percent of polled residents making that claim. (In third was Utah, with 70 percent.) State’s with the lowest approval ratings from their own residents were Rhode Island (18 percent), Illinois (19 percent) and Mississippi (26 percent). While Alaska took top honors, Texas did edge the Last Frontier in one variant: Twenty-eight percent of Texans said their state was the “best possible state to live in” compared to only 27 percent of Alaskans. As the study notes: “Few Americans say their states are the single best or worst places to live. Rather, the large majority of respondents say their states were either ‘one of the best’ or ‘as good a state as any’ place to live.” The study also noted that cold, mountains and small population size tended to correlate with higher rates of state pride: “Although it is difficult to discern what the causal relationship is between terrain and climate and positive attitudes, many of the top 10 states are mountainous with cold winters.” Rounding out those top 10 were Utah, Wyoming, Texas, Hawaii, New Hampshire, Colorado, North Dakota, Vermont, Oregon and Minnesota. States with the lowest pride tended to be east of the Mississippi or bordering it.

As ice thins on Tanana River, Ice Classic announces record $363,627 jackpot: In its 98th year, the Nenana Ice Classic announced a record jackpot for 2014 of $363,267. The Fairbanks Daily News-Miner said the jackpot amount was announced by Ice Classic board members on Thursday night. Tickets for the annual guessing game cost $2.50, and the jackpot goes to the person that picks the correct time -- or is closet to -- when the river ice goes out on the Tanana River in Nenana, tripping a clock connected to a tripod placed on the river ice earlier this year. And hopeful guessers may not have long to wait. The river ice on the Tanana is rotten, with holes beginning to develop, and the Nenana River -- which meets the Tanana River just downstream from where the tripod sits -- broke-up late Thursday night. Last year's jackpot of $318,500 was won by Warren and Yvonne Snow, of Kenai, their second time winning the Nenana Ice Classic.

Alaska ranked second-nerdiest by national real estate search site: Apparently, being rugged and independent is not as cool as being a nerd in the 49th state. The website Estately has ranked Alaska the second-nerdiest state in the nation, just behind Utah. The website measured Facebook data for each state -- noting residents' interests in categories, including Star Trek, Cosplay, Harry Potter, anime, Dungeons and Dragons, and comic books, among others. While the Last Frontier was edged out of first place by Utah in the rankings, Alaska came in first for people who liked uber-nerd games like Dungeons and Dragons and Magic: The Gathering.

Ravens understand hierarchy reversals, even among strangers: Researchers have long known that ravens are smart, social communicators, but a recent study published in the journal Nature Communications gives a glimpse of into the complexity of those two attributes can take in the distinctive corvids. In the study, researchers used a combination of exposure to other ravens and exposure to their calls to gauge the birds' reactions to social hierarchy, the Los Angeles Times reports. It found that birds can quickly figure out the ranking of unfamiliar birds, and can also adjust to apparent changes in hierarchy (which the researchers simulated by altering the recorded calls).