- - Tuesday, December 18, 2012

HELENA, Mont. — U.S. government officials Tuesday outlined a $1.9 billion American Indian land buyback program now that a nearly 17-year lawsuit about more than a century’s worth of mismanaged trust royalties is settled.

The 10-year buyback program is the largest part of the $3.4 billion settlement of a class-action lawsuit filed by Elouise Cobell of Browning, Mont., in 1996 and finalized last month.

Interior Department and Bureau of Indian Affairs officials laid out the program’s initial framework Tuesday in Washington. The program aims to purchase, mostly within the next four years, individual allotments from willing Indians and turn over the consolidated parcels to tribes.

Land fractionation was caused by the 1887 Dawes Act, which split tribal lands into individual allotments, which have been inherited by multiple heirs with each passing generation. Using or leasing those tracts requires approval of all owners, so many are undeveloped.


Obama sets prayer service after oath

President Obama is planning an inaugural prayer service at the National Cathedral the morning after he takes the oath of office.

An inaugural service has been a tradition for most modern presidencies. Mr. Obama plans to hold his Jan. 22 at 10:30 a.m. That’s according to people involved in the planning speaking on the condition of anonymity without authorization to discuss the event ahead of its official announcement.

Mr. Obama begins his second term at noon Jan. 20, and plans a private swearing-in at the White House with limited press. His public inauguration will be on the Martin Luther King Jr. holiday, Monday, Jan. 21, since the ceremony is not traditionally held on Sunday.


McCain recalls faltering on quiz-show question

Sen. John McCain — a war hero, longtime U.S. senator and presidential nominee — certainly has accumulated his share of knowledge on an array of subjects over the years.

Apparently Emily Bronte isn’t one of them.

Mr. McCain on Tuesday recalled his loss on the classic television game show “Jeopardy” in 1965. He won the game the first day but was stumped by the final question on the second day.

He shared the final clue with reporters: “Cathy loves him, but she married Edgar Linton instead.”

“Yeah, you got it,” Mr. McCain said after a reporter answered “Heathcliff” (though, to be fair, not in the form of a question). “And I missed it.

“And I lost it,” he continued. “And you know what I wrote down? I wrote down ‘Wuthering Heights.’ And the answer was ‘Heathcliff.’”

“How close!” offered a reporter.

“Loser again,” Mr. McCain quipped.


Leahy replaces Inouye, moves up in succession

Democratic Sen. Patrick J. Leahy of Vermont was sworn in Tuesday as president pro tempore of the Senate.

As the longest-serving Democrat now in the Senate, Mr. Leahy moved to third in the line of presidential succession, behind Vice President Joseph R. Biden and House Speaker John A. Boehner.

Mr. Biden swore Mr. Leahy in as the successor to Sen. Daniel K. Inouye of Hawaii in the Senate post. Mr. Inouye, who also helmed the Senate Appropriations Committee, died Monday at age 88. A vase of white roses was on Mr. Inouye’s desk on the Senate floor.

“I can’t tell you how much it pains me,” Mr. Leahy said before being sworn in. “He was one of the greatest members of this body ever to have served, and a dear friend to so many of us.”

Mr. Leahy also is in line to succeed Mr. Inouye as chairman of the appropriations panel. The 72-year-old Mr. Leahy is the current chairman of the Senate Judiciary Committee.

Mr. Leahy was elected in 1974 and is serving his seventh term. He was the youngest senator to be elected in Vermont, at age 34, and is the state’s longest-serving senator.


General faces charges of sexual misconduct

An Army general will face court-martial in connection with a series of sexual misconduct charges, but the Army refused to say Tuesday what crimes he is being charged with as he awaits arraignment next month.

Brig. Gen. Jeffrey Sinclair finished preliminary hearings last month. He faces charges that included forcible sodomy, wrongful sexual conduct, violating orders, engaging in inappropriate relationships and adultery. The allegations involved Gen. Sinclair’s conduct with five women who were not his wife.

A 27-year Army veteran who served five combat tours, Gen. Sinclair could face life in prison if convicted on the most serious offenses.

Lt. Gen. Daniel B. Allyn, commander of the Army’s 18th Airborne Corps, has referred the case to a general court-martial. The arraignment is set for Jan. 22.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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