- - Sunday, May 20, 2012


WATERVILLE — A handful of protesters briefly interrupted a Maine college graduation speech by former British Prime Minister Tony Blair calling for world unity.

Mr. Blair addressed more than 400 Colby College graduates and their guests Sunday morning at the school’s 191st commencement in Waterville.

Police say the protesters shouted phrases such as “warmonger” and “war criminal” during Mr. Blair’s speech. One person was arrested.

In his address, Mr. Blair appealed for international cooperation and for people to try to understand other cultures.

The 59-year-old Mr. Blair, the Labor Party’s longest-serving prime minister, served from 1997 to 2007. Since then, he has served as the envoy of the Quartet on the Middle East, representing the United States, Russia, the European Union and the United Nations in working with Palestinians to prepare for statehood.


Fire engulfs frat house, no serious injuries

RUSTON — A fire gutted a Louisiana Tech University fraternity house Saturday, resulting in minor injuries to three firefighters but none to students.

Lt. Tim Parker of the Ruston police said firefighters responded to a 4:35 p.m. call about a fire at the Pi Kappa Alpha fraternity house at the edge of the Tech campus in northern Louisiana. The fire engulfed the building and spread to a nearby structure. It caused a roof collapse and items to be ejected from the frat house, but Lt. Parker denied initial reports that there was an explosion.

He said three firefighters were treated at Northern Louisiana Medical Center. Two suffered from heat exhaustion, while a third was hurt when he was on stairs that gave way.

The half-dozen or more students who were inside the building were all evacuated safely, Lt. Parker said.

“The fire department and police department got all of them out safely,” he said.

The school’s spring commencement was Saturday.

Lt. Parker said every available fire unit in the city responded and they were still battling the blaze more than two hours after it started.

He said the fire may have started in the chimney, when someone was cooking or grilling, and spread to the walls. Ruston police and the state fire marshal were investigating the cause. He described the fire as a “total loss.”


Tropical Storm Alberto weakens off state’s coast

COLUMBIA — Tropical Storm Alberto weakened slightly off the South Carolina coast Sunday, a day after becoming an early first storm of the 2012 Atlantic hurricane season.

The storm was not expected to approach landfall on the Carolinas’ coast, but it prompted a tropical storm watch and forecasters warned that it could produce high winds, heavy surf, rip currents and scattered rain across the region.

A tropical storm watch was in effect for the South Carolina coast from the Savannah River to the South Santee River.

The hurricane center said the storm was expected to slow down through Sunday night, then begin turning northeast and heading farther out to sea Monday.

Alberto was named a tropical storm Saturday upon forming in the Atlantic. Tropical storms occasionally occur before the official June 1 start of the hurricane season.


Man dies after falling during climb on McKinley

DENALI NATIONAL PARK — National Park officials say a man has died after falling during a climb of Alaska’s Mount McKinley.

A park release Saturday said the climber fell about 1,100 feet Friday while following the West Buttress route to the summit. Witnesses say the climber fell at about 16,200 feet. He was trying to recover a backpack that had started to slide downhill.

A park service mountaineering patrol was behind the climber’s three-person team and called for a helicopter. The victim’s body was flown to Talkeetna, Alaska, after rangers confirmed that the climber had died.

The victim’s identity has not been released pending notification of family members overseas.

Mount McKinley is North America’s highest mountain.

Friday’s fatal fall is the first serious incident on McKinley during the 2012 mountaineering season.


2 Utah men face felony charges for booby traps

SALT LAKE CITY — Two Utah men accused of setting potentially deadly booby traps along a popular hiking trail have been charged with felony aggravated assault.

Benjamin Rutkowski, 19, of Orem, and Kai Christensen, 21, of Provo, await a June 13 court appearance after being charged with the third-degree felony in 4th District Court this week, the Salt Lake Tribune reported.

They were arrested April 21 on suspicion of misdemeanor reckless endangerment.

According to court documents, the men built two traps around a well-known, makeshift shelter along the Big Springs trail in Provo Canyon, located about 50 miles south of Salt Lake City.

One was rigged to a trip wire to send a 20-pound, spiked boulder swinging at head level of an unsuspecting hiker, while the other was designed to trip a passer-by into a bed of sharpened wooden stakes.

U.S. Forest Service Officer James Schoeffler, who discovered the traps while on a routine patrol of the area, said the traps could have caused significant or lethal injuries, court documents state. Mr. Schoeffler spent 12 years in the military as a bomb disposal technician dismantling deadly devices in Iraq and Afghanistan.

Police have said it was fortunate that Mr. Schoeffler was the first to discover the traps, given his military training.

According to the charging documents, both men admitted making the traps but said they were intended for wildlife such as wild boar and bunnies, not people.

There are no listed phone numbers for the men. Phone calls went unanswered Saturday to Mr. Rutkowski’s father, Steven, who previously declined comment. Mr. Christensen’s mother, Sharon, didn’t immediately return a phone call. It wasn’t clear if either suspect had an attorney.


New 1940 census records show black undercount

NEW YORK — As a teenager, tennis legend Althea Gibson played paddle tennis on the streets of her New York City neighborhood.

But there’s no record of Miss Gibson or her parents in the 1940 U.S. census. They’re among the estimated more than 1 million blacks who never made it into the count.

There was an undercount of nonblacks as well, but the percentage wasn’t as high.

Undercounts in the census can have impacts on everything from the configuration of congressional districts to the distribution of federal dollars.

The 1940 undercount had an impact on the Census Bureau itself, leading to efforts that continue to this day to count every single American.

The census was long known to have missed millions of people. But genealogists digging into recently released records may be rediscovering it.


13-year-old rescued after surviving waterfall

SEATTLE — Swept down one waterfall and about to plunge over a much larger one, a 13-year-old boy managed to climb onto a 1-foot-wide rock in a gushing Washington state river - and then stayed there for 8 1/2 until rescuers finally saved him early Sunday morning, sheriff’s officials said.

The teen was out hiking with his father and his father’s friend at about 5 p.m. Saturday when he began wading in the river above Wallace Falls, at a popular state park near Gold Bar, 45 miles northeast of Seattle in the Cascade foothills. The top of the falls is a steep, nearly three-mile hike from the trail head.

The boy slipped on some rocks, and the water carried him down a 10-foot waterfall. Just before he would have fallen over the 270-foot main attraction, he scrambled to the rock, 5 yards from shore.

“He was on that one rock for all those hours,” Snohomish County Sheriff’s Lt. Suzy Johnson said. “He’s a pretty lucky kid.”

Rescuers first tried to reach him by helicopter, but a rock overhang prevented them from getting a clear shot at reaching him. The first rescuer lowered down and tried to swing to the boy, but the friction from the rock ledge cut the rope, and the rescuer plunged into the river. His secondary rope kept him from going over the falls, and he made it to the river bank with only minor injuries.

Others hiked up to the scene to find the boy standing on the rock, wet and hypothermic. They threw him dry clothes and food and set up a rigging that would allow them to rescue him.


Colorado springs to stay open despite frozen cows

ASPEN — A popular hot springs area in Colorado will remain open after U.S. Forest Service rangers carved up several frozen cows in an attempt to prevent the carcasses from contaminating the water.

But Scott Snelson, a ranger in the White River National Forest, is still warning hikers that cow feces is in and around Conundrum Hot Springs near Aspen and “going up there may not be as pleasant an experience as people once enjoyed.”

The Aspen Daily News reports Saturday that Forest Service officials also were concerned the carcasses would attract bears.

Crews cut up 11 dead cows that were found frozen near the springs and inside a nearby cabin. Rangers believe the cows wandered into the cabin during a snowstorm but couldn’t find their way out.

• From wire dispatches and staff reports

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