- The Washington Times - Monday, June 25, 2007


Tool sparks start destructive wildfire

ANCHORAGE — An enormous forest fire started by tool sparks has destroyed dozens of homes and cabins on the scenic Kenai Peninsula south of Anchorage.

The blaze had blackened about 78 square miles, or 50,000 acres, as of Saturday, forestry officials said.

The fire had destroyed 30 homes and seasonal cabins and 40 other buildings, according to the state Division of Forestry. In addition, 600 homes and cabins were threatened and an evacuation order was in effect for the area.

The fire was started Tuesday by sparks falling onto dry grass from a grinder being used to sharpen a shovel, officials said. About 250 firefighters were at work on the blaze.


Mormon president honored with building

SALT LAKE CITY — The president of the Church of Jesus Christ of Latter-day Saints got a 97th birthday present Saturday that was too big to wrap: a building bearing his name built with donations from followers.

“If I’d known so many nice things were going to be said, I would have had a party like this 10 years ago,” Gordon B. Hinckley joked after his counselors in church’s First Presidency lauded his contributions to the church.

The 83,000-square-foot building is the new home of Brigham Young University’s office of Alumni Relations, Annual Giving, Public Affairs and Guest Relations.

Last year, the church president celebrated his birthday by turning over a shovel of dirt and dedicating the building site. On Saturday, Mr. Hinckley’s son, Richard G. Hinckley, christened its use with a dedicatory prayer.


San Francisco mayor restricts bottled water

SAN FRANCISCO — Is city water better than bottled water? Mayor Gavin Newsom thinks so.

Mr. Newsom has issued an executive order banning city departments from buying bottled water, even for water coolers. The ban goes into effect Sunday, and will extend to water coolers by Dec. 1.

The move was billed as a way to help stem global warming and save taxpayer money.

“We’re hoping to set the example for the private sector and other cities in getting off the bottle,” said Tony Winnicker, spokesman for the San Francisco Public Utilities Commission.

In a press release announcing the decision, the mayor cited the environmental effects of making, transporting and disposing of the bottles. More than 1 billion of the bottles end up in the state’s landfills each year, the release said.

When the ban goes into effect, city and county offices will dispense municipal tap water from a reservoir. Mr. Winnicker said exceptions will be made in cases where potable water is not easily available or poses health concerns.


Camper hurls log, kills angry bear

HELEN — A 300-pound black bear raided a family’s campsite, and the father saved his sons from harm by throwing a log at the beast, killing it with a single blow.

Chris Everhart and his three sons were camping in the Chattahoochee National Forest in northern Georgia when the encounter happened Saturday. The bear took the family’s cooler and was heading back to the woods when the youngest son, 6-year-old Logan, hurled a shovel at it.

The bear then dropped the cooler and started coming at the boy, said his father. Fearing what might happen next, Mr. Everhart, an ex-Marine, grabbed the closest thing he could find — a log from their stash of firewood.

“I threw it at it, and it happened to hit the bear in the head,” Mr. Everhart said. “I thought it just knocked it out but it actually ended up killing the bear.”

Mr. Everhart was given a ticket for failing to secure his campsite, said Ken Riddleberger, a regional supervisor for game management with the Georgia Department of Natural Resources.


Black lab drives car into river

SAGLE — Bad dog.

Charlie the black lab drove his owner’s car into the Pend Oreille River.

As Mark Ewing walked home Wednesday evening after returning from picking up a pizza, Charlie jumped into the car through an open window, and apparently knocked the vehicle into gear.

“He somehow got the car into neutral,” Mr. Ewing said. “My car just went boom, down an incline and into the drink.”

Mr. Ewing could only watch as his Chevy Impala sank into the river. No dummy, Charlie jumped out of the window as the car went downhill.

“There’s nothing weirder than looking at your car cruising down your driveway when you’re not in it and seeing your dog jump out and then watching your car go splash,” Mr. Ewing said.


Films arrive by mail after 34 years

HOLLAND — Musty brown boxes containing educational films about the Netherlands have made their way back to western Michigan, 34 years late.

Holland, Mich., Postmaster John Masuga thinks someone had the two boxes stored somewhere, found them and tossed them into a mail-collection box. They had metered postage and arrived in Holland from a bulk-mail facility in Allen Park.

The boxes were from the University of Wisconsin in Barron County and the University of Texas in Austin. The films were loaned by the Netherlands Information Service, a public relations office run here by the Dutch government from 1936 to 1974 that is a precursor to the Holland Museum.

One of the boxes arrived June 15 containing the educational films “Jan — Boy of the Netherlands,” “Rotterdam Europort: Gateway to Europe” and “The Netherlands — Blueprint of an Urban Society.” The other arrived Tuesday, with the Dutch-language films “Zeilen” (“Sailing”) and “Holland Terra Fertilis” (“Fertile Land”).

Located a few miles east of Lake Michigan, Holland was settled by Dutch immigrants and is known for its Dutch heritage and annual tulip festival.


Wallet left on car sheds cash into wind

MILTON — A business owner is missing hundreds of dollars after driving off in his car with his wallet containing more than $1,000 still on the roof.

Police say two persons returned about $300, but others scooped up windblown cash. Investigators are giving those people a chance to return the money, but say surveillance video also could be used to find them.


Teen at park finds officer’s missing gun

OCEAN CITY — Hours after an off-duty Philadelphia police officer reported losing a small gun he had in his pocket, a 17-year-old girl found it on an amusement-park ride and fired it into a beach dune, thinking it was a toy.

No one was injured Wednesday. The girl, who was not identified, and her family contacted police the next day, once they realized the gun was real.

The girl found the .22-caliber revolver while visiting Gillian’s Wonderland Pier, a popular amusement park. She inadvertently sat on the gun while climbing into the Slingshot ride. Thinking the small gun was a toy, she put it into her pocket, Ocean City police Sgt. Dennis Jones said.

Amusement park owner Jay Gillian closed the park for two hours Wednesday so city police could search for the missing gun. Police said the gun resembled a toy, making its discovery by a child potentially disastrous.

“It’s so small and tiny,” Sgt. Jones said. “It’s no bigger than a cap gun.”

The gun was to be returned to the off-duty officer.

The head of Philadelphia police internal affairs, Chief Inspector William Colarulo, wouldn’t disclose the off-duty officer’s name but said he wouldn’t face any sanctions.


Cherokee chief wins re-election

TAHLEQUAH — Chad Smith was elected to a third term as chief of the Cherokee Nation on Saturday as the tribe deals with a vote to rescind the tribal membership of the descendants of its slaves.

With more than 13,600 ballots counted, Mr. Smith won 58.8 percent of the vote, while his opponent, former Cherokee Supreme Court Justice Stacy Leeds, received 41.2 percent.

Mr. Smith was elected chief in 1999 and re-elected in 2003.

In a special election in March, tribal members voted overwhelmingly to remove tribal citizenship for about 2,800 descendants of tribal slaves, who are commonly known as freedmen.

In May, a tribal court issued a temporary injunction allowing the freedmen to maintain their citizenship while they appeal the constitutionality of the March election.


Former first lady alert, stable in hospital

AUSTIN — Lady Bird Johnson spent another day in a hospital yesterday with no major change in her condition, three days after she was admitted with a slight fever, a family spokeswoman said.

“We still don’t know when she might get to go home, but her condition is stable,” spokeswoman Elizabeth Christian said.

The former first lady, 94, has spent the weekend at Seton Medical Center surrounded by family members, including daughters Luci Baines Johnson and Lynda Johnson Robb. She was admitted Thursday night.

Mrs. Johnson was alert, resting comfortably and communicating with visitors, Miss Christian said.

Her husband, former President Lyndon B. Johnson, died in 1973. Mrs. Johnson has remained active publicly in the years since while living in Austin and spending time at the family’s ranch.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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