June 14, 2009 in Nation/World

In brief: Half Dome climber falls to his death

From Wire Reports
 

Yosemite National Park, Calif. – A male hiker fell to his death on Saturday while climbing Yosemite’s famed Half Dome, park rangers said.

The man fell from the granite monolith at 3:40 p.m. on Saturday, said Yosemite National Ranger Scott Gediman.

Gediman said there are indications the hiker was using the cable handrails that help climbers make the 17-mile round-trip, which begins in the Yosemite Valley and ascends nearly 5,000 feet.

The weather on Saturday made for dangerous conditions, and some 30 other Half Dome climbers were being escorted down by rangers on Saturday evening.

“Right now the weather is cold and cloudy, hail has been reported on Half Dome today and the granite gets very slippery,” he said.

Six Flags files for bankruptcy protection

New York – The amusement park company Six Flags filed for Chapter 11 bankruptcy protection Saturday, saying it needs to reorganize and shed $1.8 billion of debt.

Mark Shapiro, the New York-based company’s chief executive officer, said the move won’t affect the operation of its 20 theme parks in the U.S., Mexico and Canada.

Six Flags said it actually had a great year in 2008. It saw 25 million visitors and posted record revenues. But executives are trying to lighten a $2.4 billion debt load that they say is unsustainable.

Saturday’s bankruptcy filing came after an earlier plan to negotiate an out-of-court deal with creditors failed.

More than 300,000 call on TV switchover day

Los Angeles – Nearly 800,000 calls were received by a federal hot line last week from people confused about the nationwide move on Friday to drop analog TV signals and broadcast only in digital.

The Federal Communications Commission said that about 317,450 calls went into the help line, (888) CALL-FCC, on Friday alone, the day analog signals were cut off. More than 100,000 came in Saturday.

The total is still below the 600,000 to 3 million callers that the FCC expected in early March would call on transition day.

The move to all-digital was delayed from Feb. 17, and ramped up efforts at spreading the word is credited with roughly halving the number of unprepared households since then. Nielsen Co. put the number of unready homes at 2.8 million, or 2.5 percent of the total television market, as of June 7.

Natural gas leak blamed for blast at Slim Jim plant

Garner, N.C. – An explosion that killed three workers at a North Carolina Slim Jim plant was caused by a natural gas leak that ignited in a room housing vacuum pumps for sealing the snacks, authorities said Saturday.

It will now be up to state and federal workplace investigators to determine how the leak happened and what caused it to ignite in Tuesday’s blast at the ConAgra Foods Inc. plant in Garner, said Earl Woodham, an agent with the U.S. Bureau of Alcohol, Tobacco, Fireams and Explosives.

ATF agents believe the gas was sparked by a piece of equipment such as a fan motor or thermostat, but Woodham said another cause, like static electricity, couldn’t be ruled out.

The ATF concluded the explosion was an accident and closed its criminal investigation.

The explosion ripped through the 500,000-square-foot plant in Garner while 300 people were at work. Officials said 38 employees were injured, four of them suffering critical burns. Three firefighters were treated after inhaling fumes from ammonia, which is used in the plant as a refrigerant.

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