- The Washington Times - Sunday, July 5, 2009

Oklahoma town cheers Bush

Former President George W. Bush spoke amid thunderous applause in a rural Oklahoma town to celebrate the Fourth of July, calling the U.S. the “greatest nation on the face of the earth.”

Mr. Bush was given six standing ovations as he spoke Saturday inside a remodeled rodeo arena in Woodward, a town of about 12,000 residents in northwestern Oklahoma. About 9,200 tickets were sold for the event, which would be the biggest crowd for Mr. Bush since he left office in January.

Mr. Bush spoke about the bravery of injured soldiers he’d met throughout his presidency and thanked members of the military for their service. He also thanked spectators for giving “a retired guy something to do.”

Officials said about 9,200 tickets were sold for the town’s two-day holiday event, and Mayor Bill Fanning estimated that about 6,500 people attended Mr. Bush’s speech.

Woodward is friendly territory for Mr. Bush, who visited the town two decades ago while campaigning for his father’s presidential bid. Oklahoma hasn’t voted for a Democratic presidential candidate since 1964, and in 2004, Mr. Bush won 80.9 percent of the vote in Woodward County as he defeated Democratic challenger John Kerry.

5th death blamed on serial killer

GAFFNEY, S.C. | A teenage girl shot while helping her father in their family’s small furniture and appliance store died Saturday, becoming the fifth victim of a serial killer suspected of terrorizing a small South Carolina community, authorities said.

Abby Tyler, 15, died about 11:15 a.m. at a Spartanburg hospital after fighting for her life for two days, Cherokee County Coroner Dennis Fowler said.

Abby was wounded and her father was killed Thursday as they worked to close the Tyler Home Center near downtown Gaffney.

County Sheriff Bill Blanton said that investigators think the killings are linked and that the search is on for a male serial killer. An 83-year-old mother and her daughter were shot to death Wednesday, and a 63-year-old peach farmer was found dead at his home a week ago.

Sheriff Blanton said all the victims were shot, but he would not say how the deaths were linked. The shootings all occurred within about 10 miles of each other in Cherokee County, a rural community of 54,000 people set amid peach orchards and farms some 50 miles west of Charlotte, N.C.

Hot-dog-eating champ keeps title

NEW YORK | Reigning champ Joey Chestnut has logged his third consecutive win in Coney Island’s annual hot-dog-eating contest with a world-record 68 franks.

He defeated his archrival, six-time titleholder Takeru Kobayashi, in Saturday’s bout. Mr. Chestnut led throughout the contest.

Last year’s event initially ended in a tie, with Mr. Chestnut and Mr. Kobayashi both gobbling down 59 hot dogs and buns in 10 minutes. Mr. Chestnut eventually won a dramatic five hot dog eat-off.

This year’s Nathan’s Famous Fourth of July International Hot Dog Eating Contest was broadcast live on ESPN.

Mr. Chestnut is from San Jose, Calif. Mr. Kobayashi is from Japan.

TSA agent arrested after not screening

NEWARK, N.J. | A Transportation Security Administration agent was arrested at a New Jersey airport after authorities say she avoided a pre-flight screening and boarded a plane.

Authorities say Wanda Weems of Newark was detained Friday morning at Newark Liberty International Airport after she boarded a Continental Airlines flight bound for Houston.

Because neither Miss Weems nor her luggage had been screened, the flight was delayed for more than an hour as each passenger was taken off the plane and screened again.

It’s not clear why Miss Weems avoided the screenings. Officials with the TSA and the Port Authority of New York and New Jersey, which operates the airport, didn’t immediately return telephone calls seeking comment Saturday.

Fireworks blast kills 2, injures 3

Authorities say a fireworks explosion on a North Carolina island only reachable by ferry has killed two workers and critically injured three others.

Hyde County spokeswoman Jamie Tunnell said everyone hurt Saturday worked for a company setting up the annual Independence Day fireworks display on the Ocracoke Island docks.

Anchorage Marina dock master Robert Raborn said the explosion was heard across Ocracoke village.

Mr. Raborn said that from his vantage point 200 yards away, it looked as if 40 minutes worth of fireworks went off in four seconds.

Ocracoke Island is the southernmost inhabited island on the Outer Banks, about two hours from the mainland, and is only accessible by ferry.

From wire dispatches and staff reports

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