Arrow-right Camera


Freight train derails, causing fire, nearby home evacuations

Solon Springs, Wis. Nineteen cars of a freight train derailed Thursday, sparking a fire and forcing the evacuation of some nearby homes because of fears the flames could cause a pressurized tanker car to explode, officials said.

No one was hurt in the derailment of a Union Pacific train just outside the Village of Solon Springs in far northwestern Wisconsin. Firefighters, however, had to back a half-mile away from the burning wreck until they could be sure the tanker containing petroleum residue wouldn’t shoot off like a missile, according to Douglas County Emergency Management Director Keith Kesler.

The fire was contained Thursday night, said Jim Kvedaras, spokesman for Canadian National Railway, which owns the rail line. The railway, hoped to have the line cleared and open for traffic by Friday night, he said.

Ten homes were evacuated, Solon Springs Assistant Fire Chief John Walt said.

The 56-car train started in Superior and was on its way to Chicago, said John Bromley, spokesman for Union Pacific Railroad. Of the 19 cars that derailed, seven were hauling lumber, seven had wheat and five were empty. At least one or two cars of lumber burned, he said.

There were no hazardous materials. An investigation was under way. Bromley said he didn’t know why some cars caught fire.

Yellowstone looks to help bears

Yellowstone National Park, Wyo.

Yellowstone National Park officials are making changes to better protect animals after at least seven bears died last year, officials said.

Park Superintendent Suzanne Lewis appointed a committee to recommend ways to reduce wildlife fatalities after one bear was shot by a usually non-lethal firecracker bullet and six others were hit by vehicles.

This year, the park will use a wider array of non-lethal projectiles, including bean bag bullets, to scare bears away from public places, officials said Wednesday.

Last summer’s shooting death was the first fatality from a firecracker round in more than 20 years of use, officials said. The bullet hit the bear instead of landing near it.

Rangers are trained to shoot the bullets in the direction of wildlife, not at them. The rounds are not precise and their trajectory can be changed by factors including wind, officials said.

Other planned changes include better training on the use of firecracker rounds, stricter enforcement of traffic regulations, and signs to slow traffic, officials said.

Graffiti revealed at restoration

Greenville, Tenn. Renovation of former President Andrew Johnson’s home has exposed graffiti that Civil War soldiers wrote or scratched into the walls, including someone suggesting that “Andy you’d best skedaddle.”

Johnson was admired by Union supporters, but detested by many Confederates, and both sides used his home as a headquarters during the Civil War, according to the National Park Service, which acquired the two-story brick home in 1942.

Graffiti quotes written or scratched into the plaster walls include: “Shame on you Andy,” “Andrew Johnson Traitor of the South,” and “Guilty of Treeson.” There also are poems, and dedications to “My darling sister,” and “For My Home in Kentucky.”

Johnson was the military governor of Tennessee during the Civil War and then served as vice president under Abraham Lincoln before becoming the 17th president.

His daughter hid the graffiti under wallpaper in 1869 to prepare the home for his return.

The park service knew there was graffiti somewhere beneath the wallpaper – but not where. During a restoration in 1956, the walls were photographed and notes about the graffiti were taken.

The home is being re-covered with wallpaper as part of the current renovation. The graffiti will be preserved, but will remain hidden.

Beetles named after Bush, Cheney

Ithaca, N.Y. Not just anybody can say he has a slime-mold beetle named in his honor. But George W. Bush, Dick Cheney and Donald H. Rumsfeld can.

Entomologists Quentin Wheeler and Kelly B. Miller, who recently had the task of naming 65 newly discovered species of slime-mold beetles, named three species after the president, vice president and defense secretary.

The monikers: Agathidium bushi Miller and Wheeler, Agathidium cheneyi Miller and Wheeler, and Agathidium rumsfeldi Miller and Wheeler.

According to the International Commission on Zoological Nomenclature, the first word of a new species is its genus; the second word must end in “i” if it’s named after a person; and the final part of the name includes the person or persons who first described the species.

Naming the beetles after Bush, Cheney and Rumsfeld was intended to pay homage to them, said Wheeler, who taught at Cornell University for 24 years and now is with the Natural History Museum in London.

“We admire these leaders as fellow citizens who have the courage of their convictions and are willing to do the very difficult and unpopular work of living up to principles of freedom and democracy rather than accepting the expedient or popular,” he said.

Japan aims to cheer up prisoners

Tokyo Japan is giving its prisoners more brightly colored clothing and bed sheets in the hopes of cheering up the mood behind bars.

The decision, to be implemented next year, was made after consultation with professional color coordinators and will be the first change in prisoners’ uniforms since 1966.

“We hope to stabilize the mental states of inmates by giving them warmer and brighter colors,” Shigemi Tanimoto, a Justice Ministry official, said in making the announcement Wednesday. “Color experts told us the colors currently in use were too cold and aggressive.”

In a survey conducted two years ago, many inmates asked for a change in the color and material of their government-issued clothing, he said.

Japan now provides the country’s 71,889 inmates with dark brown and gray clothes and bedcovers in sharply contrasting orange and green. Tanimoto refused to say what specific colors will be used for the new uniforms.


Click here to comment on this story »