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American Scene: Training on Everest climb helps man wins memory contest

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NEW YORK

Training on Everest climb helps man wins memory contest

NEW YORK | A Florida man who trained for a national memory competition by memorizing a randomly shuffled deck of cards as he climbed Mount Everest won the mental bout Saturday and broke a U.S. record.

Nelson Dellis, 28, of Miami, said his rigorous training for the challenge required him to reshuffle the deck of cards at each new altitude in his climb.

"I was getting my best times the higher I got," said Mr. Dellis, who was surprised at his ability to stay focused as he made his way toward the summit before having to stop because of problems with his oxygen mask. "I was getting so much, much less oxygen up there."

It was the second year in a row that Mr. Dellis won the USA Memory Championship, which was held in Manhattan. He also broke a record for memorizing 303 random numbers in five minutes, besting the previous record of 248 numbers in five minutes, which he himself set last year.

"It's all tricks," Mr. Dellis explained of his win. "I don't have a good memory naturally. It's something I learned and taught myself."

Among the tricks he relies on is an ancient method he refers to as the "journey method," where he visualizes memorized objects as he moves mentally through a place he knows well. To recall the information, he mentally walks back through the journey.

About 50 people competed in Saturday's challenge of mnemonic skills that required them to recall random information including 99 names and faces, a 50-line unpublished poem and 200 random words.

ARIZONA

Navajos look at resort plan for eastern edge of Grand Canyon

FLAGSTAFF | Generations of Navajo families have grazed livestock on a remote but spectacular mesa that overlooks the confluence of the Colorado and Little Colorado rivers.

No significant development has occurred at the eastern flank of the Grand Canyon where the rivers meet.

But ancestral tradition and the tranquility of the landscape could change. That's if the Navajo government's proposal for a resort and aerial tramway that would ferry tourists from the cliff tops to water's edge is realized.

The vast 27,000-square-mile Navajo reservation abuts Grand Canyon National Park.

Tribal leaders say they are losing out on tourist dollars and jobs for Navajos by leaving the land undeveloped.

But Navajo families who have roots there, as well as the National Park Service and environmental groups, are opposing the large-scale development.

PENNSYLVANIA

Report: Sandusky called 'likely pedophile' in 1998

STATE COLLEGE | An attorney for an alleged child victim of former Penn State assistant football coach Jerry Sandusky says details of a campus police investigation described in the media point to "a conspiracy of silence" surrounding Mr. Sandusky's behavior.

Howard Janet, whose client was 11 when he was allegedly sexually abused by Mr. Sandusky in 1998, questioned why the university did not take further action when a psychologist told campus police that Mr. Sandusky fit the profile of a likely pedophile. The attorney also challenged the opinion police obtained from another psychologist who disagreed with the first.

NBC News obtained a copy of the campus police department's investigatory report. Mr. Sandusky has pleaded not guilty to 50 counts of child sex abuse involving 10 boys.

MISSISSIPPI

Student fatally shot in university residence hall

STARKVILLE | A student was fatally shot at a Mississippi State University residence hall late Saturday night, prompting campuswide alerts as authorities searched for suspects who fled the scene.

University spokeswoman Maridith Geuder said police received a call about the shooting at Evans Hall at about 10 p.m. Saturday. The victim died later at a hospital.

Three male suspects fled the building in a blue Crown Victoria. As of early Sunday, no arrests had been made and the campus remained under emergency conditions.

Shortly after the shooting, the university began sending a series of text message alerts to students. Ms. Geuder said university officials and police were meeting early Sunday. The team is automatically convened in emergencies under a school policy.

The four-story Evans Hall houses about 300 male students on the north side of campus. The campus of about 20,000 students is in a rural area about 125 miles northeast of Jackson.

KANSAS

Trial looms for man accused in death of 14-year-old girl

WICHITA | Almost two years after authorities found a 14-year-old Kansas girl's charred remains, the man accused of luring her through text messages is facing a murder trial.

Adam Joseph Longoria is accused of killing Alicia DeBolt in August 2010, then leaving her body at an asphalt plant where he worked.

Prosecutors say Mr. Longoria, 38, became obsessed with Alicia after seeing her at a party. Investigators have hundreds of text messages between the two and surveillance photos from the store where Mr. Longoria bought gas the night Alicia disappeared.

Mr. Longoria denies the charges, claiming he never saw Alicia that night.

His trial begins Monday. Attorneys will face a daunting task of finding jurors who haven't heard about the case. Defense attorney unsuccessfully tried to get the trial moved out of Barton County.

FLORIDA

Cuban-Americans head to Cuba for pope's visit

MIAMI | More than 300 Cuban-Americans will form a delegation to Cuba for Pope Benedict XVI's historic visit.

It will be led by Miami's Roman Catholic Archbishop Thomas Wenski. Some of those making the pilgrimage Monday fled the island half a century ago. Some grew up with only the stories their exile parents told them of the island 90 miles across the Florida Straits.

Travel to Cuba is always controversial among Cuban-Americans, and the half-century-old U.S. embargo of the island severely limits travel there. In the 1970s, those who visited were often blacklisted in South Florida, and a few faced violence upon return. These days, newer Cuban immigrants often visit relatives on the island. But the issue is still a requisite topic for politicians campaigning in Florida.

MISSOURI

Case against Catholic bishop a high-stakes battle for church

KANSAS CITY | The charge is only a misdemeanor. But if prosecutors win a conviction against Roman Catholic Bishop Robert Finn in Kansas City, they could open a new front in the national priest-abuse crisis.

Bishop Finn is accused of violating Missouri's mandatory reporter law by failing to tell state officials about hundreds of images of suspected child pornography found on the computer of a priest in his diocese.

Bishop Finn is the highest-ranking church official charged with shielding an abusive priest. Experts say a criminal conviction against him could embolden prosecutors elsewhere to more aggressively pursue members of the church hierarchy who try to protect offending clergy.

Bishop Finn has acknowledged knowing about the images for months before they were turned over to police. Bishop Finn's attorneys say the law is unconstitutionally vague.

• From wire dispatches and staff reports

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