PERU, Ill.

Former clock factory burns during city’s celebrations

A fire at a former clock factory that police say was deliberately lit provided an eerie backdrop for a northern Illinois city’s New Year’s celebrations. Despite the efforts of firefighters from throughout the area, the city landmark was destroyed.

The blaze at the massive former Westclox Co. clock complex  began around the time people were counting down the last seconds of 2011, said Gary Eccles, an engineer with the city’s fire department.

By 11 a.m. Sunday, the fire was burning itself out but had destroyed the building, he said.

The only reported injury from the blaze was to a firefighter who had emergency knee surgery, Eccles said.

Police Chief Doug Bernabei said Sunday that a 15-year-old Peru boy and a 17-year-old La Salle boy were charged with aggravated arson.

The 17-year-old, who’s being charged as an adult, appeared in court Sunday, and his bond was set at $250,000, the News Tribune reported.


Fatal shooting of park ranger prompts search for gunman

A Mount Rainier National Park ranger was fatally shot after a New Year’s Day traffic stop, and the 368-square-mile park  was closed as dozens of officers searched for the armed gunman over snowy, rugged terrain.

Pierce County Sheriff’s spokesman Ed Troyer said late Sunday afternoon that Benjamin Colton Barnes, 24, who is believed to have survivalist skills, was a “strong person of interest” in the slaying of Margaret Anderson, 34.

Authorities recovered his vehicle, which had weapons and body armor inside, Troyer said.

Authorities believed the gunman was still in the woods, with weapons. They asked people to stay away from the park, and for those inside to leave.

Troyer said authorities were following tracks in the snow they believe are from the gunman, and crews planned to bring an airplane through the area with heat-seeking capabilities.

Kevin Bacher, a spokesman for the park, said about 125 people were still at the visitor’s center Sunday night along with five law enforcement officers protecting the facility.

He said crews had considered removing them in armored vehicles, but decided not to take any risk.

Sgt. Cindi West, King County Sheriff’s spokesperson, said late Sunday that Barnes was also connected to a shooting at a New Year’s house party in Skyway, Wash., south of Seattle, that injured four people, two critically.

At Mount Rainier around 10:20 a.m. Sunday, Bacher said, the gunman had sped past a checkpoint used to assess visitors’ tires. One ranger began following him while Anderson eventually blocked the road to stop the driver.

The gunman fired at both Anderson and the ranger trailing him, but only Anderson was hit, Bacher said.


NASA says twin spacecraft now orbiting the moon

NASA kicked off the new year with a pair of probes circling the moon in the latest mission to understand how Earth’s closest neighbor formed.

There was no champagne popping in the mission control room at the NASA Jet Propulsion Laboratory when the Grail spacecraft arrived back-to-back over the New Year’s weekend, but several scientists and engineers celebrated by blowing noisemakers.

“It’s a really good feeling to have not one but two of our twins in orbit,” project manager David Lehman said Sunday after the mission was deemed successful.

The action began on New Year’s Eve when Grail-A swung over the South Pole, fired its engine and braked into orbit around the moon. Its twin Grail-B executed the same maneuvers on New Year’s Day.

The arrivals capped a roundabout journey spanning 3 1/2 months and covering 2 1/2 million miles.

SANAA, Yemen

Yemeni opposition accuses president of sparking crisis

Yemen’s opposition Sunday accused outgoing President Ali Abdullah Saleh of trying to torpedo a power transfer deal by sparking a new crisis, as troops loyal to him clashed with opposition forces, killing three.

The violence was evidence that the president’s signature on a power transfer deal has not ended months of turmoil that have benefited al-Qaida-linked militants.

Sunday’s clashes followed Saleh’s decision not to leave the country, a move likely to embolden his relatives, who control key security posts.

His opponents demand the removal of all of Saleh’s relatives from top security positions. Huge crowds of protesters have called for Saleh himself to be put on trial for the killing of hundreds of protesters, though the power transfer deal gives him immunity from prosecution.

Vice President Abed Rabbo Mansour Hadi told his new national unity government Sunday, in its first official session, that the power transfer agreement, engineered by Yemen’s powerful Gulf Arab neighbors, must be implemented soon.

“We need to move vigorously and effectively to implement the Gulf initiative and its mechanisms,” Hadi said.

— From news service reports