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Friday, March 28, 1997

Feds report drop in county's population

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Staff Writer
PECOS, Mar. 28 -- Reeves County lost more than five percent of its
population over the past six years, but the decrease has had little
effect on the city of Pecos, according to local officials.

The 5.4 percent decrease in Reeves County population was reported in
county population estimates released by the U.S. Census Bureau earlier
this month.

The April 1, 1990, population estimates by the bureau showed Reeves
County with a total of 15,852 residents. The 1997 estimates place the
county's population at 14,993.

Information distributed by the Pecos Chamber of Commerce indicates only
a small drop in the city's population in the past seven years. The
chamber's figures place the city's population at 12,069 in 1990 and
11,955 at the present time.

Pecos Water Supervisor Octavio Garcia said the number of connected
water meters in the city has remained at an average of about 3,900.

"The meters might drop to about 3,850 one year then increase to around
3,950 the next year," Garcia said. "They have remained at that level for
the past three or four years."

Pecos Mayor Dot Stafford said she was not aware of any increase in the
number of residents leaving the city.

"We do have a lot of elderly people in this city who sometimes move to
Dallas or Midland/Odessa because of the better medical facilities
there," she said. "And some people just leave looking for greener

According to Pecos Chamber of Commerce figures, the city's population
was 12,682 in 1970. In 1980, the Pecos population reached a peak at
12,855. By 1990 the city's population had declined to 12,069.

Chamber figures also show Reeves County population at 16,526. The
county total dropped to 15,801 in 1980 and increased slightly in 1990 to

Other area counties showing reductions in population in the bureau's
March 20 report include: Andrews, Crane, Ward and Winkler.

The 959-person decline in Reeves County's population is second in the
area only to neighboring Ward County, according to the Census Bureau's

Ward County experienced both the largest population decrease in the
area, losing 1,121 residents, and the greatest percentage of decrease,
8.5 percent, going from 13,115 people last year to 11,994 this year.

Winkler County experienced the second largest percentage decline in
population at 6.8 percent. The total population in that county dropped
583 people, from 8,626 to 8,043.

Crane County's population declined three percent, from 4,652 to 4,514,
a decrease of 138 residents, while Andrews County decreased 1.8 percent,
from 14,338 to 14,087, 251 residents.

Area counties credited by the U.S. Census Bureau with population
increases include: Brewster, Ector, Howard, Jeff Davis, Loving, Midland,
Pecos and Presidio.

The Census Bureau's population estimate gave Loving County the greatest
percentage of increase, 31.8 percent, while also giving the county the
lowest total population increase, 34 additional residents, growing from
107 people last year to 141 this year. Loving is the least-populated
county in the United States.

Midland County experienced the greatest total population growth, 9,405
additional residents. The county's population increased by 8.8 percent,
from 106,611 to 116,016.

Ector County followed Midland in total population growth, increasing by
4,464 residents. The Ector County population increased by 3.8 percent
over the one year period, from 118,934 people to 123,398.

Pecos County increased from 14,675 residents to 16,349, an 11.4 percent
rise, representing an additional 1,674 people.

In the Big Bend area, Presidio County's population increased by 1,329
people, from 6,637 to 7,966 for a 20 percent increase. Brewster County
grew by 6.6 percent, from 8,653 to 9,221, a gain of 568 residents, and
Jeff Davis County grew by 10.7 percent, from 1946 to 2155, a gain of 209

Howard County's population increased 1.5 percent from 32,343 to 32,836,
a gain of 493 people.

Crews to be busy on U.S. 285

restriping road to N.M. line

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PECOS, Mar. 28 -- Travelers heading north out of Pecos on U.S. 285 will
encounter road construction for the next three to four days.
The construction is on a 51-mile stretch of U.S. 285 from Pecos to near
the Texas/New Mexico state line, according to Larry Levario, local Texas
Department of Transportation (TxDOT) Roadway Maintenance Supervisor.
"We had to lay down a layer of fog seal to revive the pavement,"
Levario said. "The fog seal covered over the striping and now we have to
re-stripe the highway."
Fog seal is an emulsion used to seal road surfaces to prevent the
asphalt from drying out, Levario said.
Crews have completed laying down the fog seal and state employees are
currently re-striping the pavement.

P-B-T kids get four-day Easter break

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PECOS, Mar. 28 -- While Pecos-Barstow-Toyah ISD school students will be
enjoying an extra day off following the Easter holiday, other local
entities and businesses will resume their regular hours on Monday.

School students were off today for Good Friday along with Reeves County

Town of Pecos City offices closed their doors at noon today, but will
resume their regular hours on Monday.

Federal employees worked their regular hours, and will do so again
Monday. Mail was delivered to all the homes and post office boxes.

Vasquez Home Furnishings also closed their doors at noon today and will
resume regular hours on Monday. Security State Bank will remain closed
today during their usual Friday 5-6 p.m. later banking hour.

Cult explains suicide plans on videotapes

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Associated Press Writer
RANCHO SANTA FE, Calif., Mar. 28 -- The New Age cult leader who died
with 38 followers in a mass suicide was a former music teacher who was
preaching a bizarre mix of Scripture and UFOs as far back as the '70s.

Marshall Applewhite, 66, was identified today as one of those found dead
Wednesday at the cult's palatial home near San Diego. Investigators
believe the 21 women and 18 men drank a lethal mixture of phenobarbital
and vodka and then settled back to die.

``We couldn't be happier about what we're about to do. Doubt was never
an issue,'' a woman says in a videotaped farewell statement.

Authorities wrestled with a dizzying onslaught of information about the
Heaven's Gate cult from multiple sources -- a book, the Internet,
relatives of the victims, and acquaintances and experts from all over
the country.

The victims apparently believed that their human bodies were just
temporary vessels and that their deaths would lead to a rendezvous with
a UFO trailing the Hale-Bopp comet, which passed closest to Earth last
weekend. The group had posted a statement on its World Wide Web site
that said, ``Hale-Bopp's approach is the `marker' we've been waiting
for. We are happily prepared to leave `this world.'''

Group members, who supported themselves by running a computer business,
had sent out videos in which their leader described the hoped-for space
encounter. Members came before the camera two at a time, side by side,
to say their last goodbyes.

``Maybe they're crazy for all I know, but I don't have any choice but to
go for it because I've been on this planet for 31 years and there's
nothing here for me,'' one woman said.

``It's just the happiest day of my life,'' said a man. ``I've been
looking forward to this for so long.''

The people were taped seated in chairs outdoors, as trees and bushes
swayed in the background. Most smiled as they talked of taking their
lives. Some laughed. One woman cried.

``People who thought I completely lost my marbles, they're not right,''
said one person to laughter.

``We take off the virtual reality helmet. We take off the vehicle that
we've used for this task,'' a man said, an apparent reference to their

Two large, unmarked moving trucks pulled in front of the cult's house
this morning, and crews hired by the county began removing furniture and
cleaning supplies, said Matt Wellhouser, chief of the Rancho Santa Fe
Patrol. On Thursday, sheriff's deputies removed the group's computers
for analysis, he said.

The cult published a 4-inch-thick book last year, ``How and When
`Heaven's Gate' May be Entered,'' and posted part of it on one of its
Web sites, Heaven's Gate. It contains a strange blend of Christianity
and outer space similar to Applewhite's former proselytizing.

The book contains ``exit statements'' that resemble suicide notes.

``Survival requires that you allow nothing of this human existence to
tie you here,'' wrote one cult member, identified only as Anlody.

``No wealth, no position, no prestige, no family, no physical pleasure,
and no religion spouting to hang on to any of the above will enable you
to survive. They are only entrapments.''

A writer calling himself ``Do,'' apparently Applewhite, said, ``We take
the prize, I guess, of being the cult of cults.''

Back in 1975, Applewhite, along with a colleague named Bonnie Lu
Trusdale Nettles, persuaded hundreds of people in California, Colorado,
New Mexico and Oregon to leave their families and belongings behind and
join them.

They were known then as the ``UFO Cult,'' and Applewhite and Ms. Nettles
referred to themselves then as ``The Two.'' The Heaven's Gate web site
refers to its founders as ``The Two'' and said they began ``rounding up
their crew in '75.''

A leader -- apparently Ms. Nettles -- is called ``Ti'' in the Heaven's
Gate writings. She died in 1985. (``Do'' and ``Ti'' are apparently from
the musical ``do re mi'' scale.)

One of the videos sent out before the suicides shows images of a bald,
elderly man in a black, collarless shirt on a white plastic patio chair
who apparently is beckoning followers to leave the Earth. That man --
who called himself ``Do'' -- is presumably Applewhite.

``I can be your shepherd,'' the man says. ``You can follow us but you
cannot stay here and follow us. You would have to follow quickly by also
leaving this world before the conclusion of our leaving this atmosphere
in preparation for its recycling.''

``He was a very loving, caring person very intelligent and a wonderful
singing voice,'' said Applewhite's 69-year-old sister, Louise Winant, in
an interview today on ABC's ``Good Morning America.''

She said her brother studied at a theological seminary in Richmond, Va.,
and went on to teach and sing professionally.

``Oh, he sang beautifully. He could play almost anything,'' she said.
``He was extremely talented.''

Ms. Winant said in the early '70s, Applewhite was in the hospital in
Houston with some heart block of some kind and had a ``near-death''
experience. It was then that he met Ms. Nettles, a nurse who Ms. Winant
said was interested in ``occult-type things.'' She said Applewhite, who
had two children from a previous marriage, never saw his relatives after

The suicides took place over at least three days, authorities said at an
extraordinary news conference Thursday that included a brief videotaped
tour of the immaculate home.

The video shows corpses clad in identical black clothing and Nike shoes,
all neatly laid out on mattresses, some with eyeglasses near the bodies.
All were covered with purple, triangular-shaped shoulder patches bearing
the Heaven's Gate name, although some hands peeked out.

In their pockets were IDs, $5 bills and quarters.

The coroner's office has tracked down seven families and was trying to
reach the others, Dr. Brian Blackbourne, the medical examiner, said this

The victims, 26 to 72 years old with driver's licenses from nine states,
apparently died in shifts over three days -- 15, then 15 more and then
the final nine.

``Who or what would make 39 people take their life in this manner?''
asked Sheriff Bill Kolender. ``While at the scene last night, I told
myself that the question cannot be answered in terms, I think, that the
rest of us will ever understand.''

The cult ran a business at the home called Higher Source that built Web
sites for businesses. Ranging in age from 20 to 72, the members were by
all accounts efficient as a company, puritanical as individuals.

They called each other brother and sister, dressed alike and wore short
haircuts. Their beliefs were odd by any standard; modern civilization,
wrote a student identified online only as Smmody, ``seems ready to be

A self-described prophetic minister from New Mexico, the Rev. Mike Dew,
recalled meeting a Heaven's Gate leader eight months ago.

``They're preying on weak Christians,'' said Dew, of the Prophetic
Voices of the Wilderness in Mountainair, N.M. ``They're portraying
themselves as ascended masters or a `Higher Source.' They'll use the
terms `Jesus' and `God,' but not in the traditional way. If you're not
careful, you'll miss what they're doing.''

Nick Matzorkis, a businessman who employed a former cult member, said he
and the employee, whom Matzorkis called ``Rio,'' went to the mansion
after Rio received the videos and a farewell letter. Rio went in and
discovered the bodies, said Matzorkis, president of Interact
Entertainment Group in Beverly Hills,

``By the time you read this, we suspect that the human bodies we were
wearing have been found, and that a flurry of fragmented reports have
begun to hit the wire services,'' the farewell letter said.

``We'll be gone -- several dozen of us,'' it said. ``We came from the
Level Above Human in distant space and we have now exited the bodies
that we were wearing for our earthly task, to return to the world from
whence we came -- task completed.''
(Copyright 1997 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

Easter Bunny trail rolling

through newspaper today

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PECOS, Mar. 28 -- A "Bunny Train" is featured throughout today's Pecos

In conjunction with the Easter holiday, Enterprise Classified Manager
Diane Jorgenson, came up with the idea of featuring children's names and
ages on egg-shaped cars, making up a train.

"I thought since we had the Valentine's page featuring those who wanted
to send out messages to their loved ones, we could have something for
the children for Easter," said Jorgenson.

The egg-shaped cars feature the child's name and age and is a way to
recognize the child on this special occasion.

"I wanted something that would feature the children of our community,
who are our future," said Jorgenson.

She stated that the Bunny Train was a big success, with a good turn-out
and hopes that it grows next year and more names will featured.

Algebra testing numbers bad for Texas students

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Associated Press Writer
AUSTIN, Mar. 28 -- Just 17 percent of Texas students who took the
Algebra I end-of-course test last fall passed.

In assessing the poor showing, the Texas Education Agency noted Thursday
that all students must now take Algebra I under tougher standards
approved by the State Board of Education.

The board in recent years eliminated state graduation credit for
lower-level math courses.

Students who finish Algebra I in the fall are taking something other
than the traditional two-semester Algebra I course and may have failed

The pool of students taking the test in the fall was relatively small,
at just 22,932, officials said.

Last spring, 28 percent of the 226,348 students who took the Algebra I
end-of-course exam passed it. The agency acknowledged that is still a
low passing rate.

``The test results show that some students while in kindergarten through
eighth grade did not develop the math skills needed to be successful in
Algebra I,'' Education Commissioner Mike Moses said, calling results
released Thursday ``dismally low.''

Some teachers who may have been teaching lower-level math courses for
years have found the change to Algebra I difficult, Moses added.

The fall 1996 scores are better than fall 1995, when just 11 percent of
students passed the Algebra I end-of-course tests.

Students who complete Algebra I in the fall are either retaking a
semester because they failed it the first time; are on a schedule in
which the entire course is completed in one semester; or are taking the
course as a three- or four-semester class.

Stretching the class out over several semesters is meant to improve
students' chances of passing, with 669 school districts receiving
waivers to allow them to do so.

``This gives students more time to grasp algebraic concepts. It also
allows teachers to change their teaching strategies and use a more
hands-on approach that can help make algebra more understandable to
students who don't learn well in the traditional lecture format,'' Moses

He said a new algebra curriculum that will take effect in 1998-99 should
help by explicitly outlining what students are expected to learn. He
said the agency is working on teacher training.

When the spring scores were released, some officials expressed concern
that there could be a disparity between what educators believe they're
supposed to be teaching and what is on the test.

The TEA also released end-of-course scores on the Biology I
end-of-course test, showing 68 percent of 27,966 students taking it
passed. That compares to 62 percent in fall 1995.

Seventy-six percent of the 202,061 students taking the Biology I test
passed last spring.

The higher passing rate for Biology I is believed to be due to the fact
that students choose whether to enroll in it or another science course,
according to TEA.

Students who pass end-of-course tests in various subjects, beginning in
1998-99, will be exempt from having to pass the exit-level Texas
Assessment of Academic Skills exam to graduate.

(Copyright 1997 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)

Family businesses removed from tax plan

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Associated Press Writer

AUSTIN, Mar. 28 -- Gov. George W. Bush and state lawmakers have said for
months that all Texas companies should have to pay some part of state
business taxes to help fund public schools.

But a House committee late Thursday decided to take sole proprietorships
off the hook.

The Select Committee on Revenue and Public Education Funding met until
just before midnight before tentatively agreeing on a $5.7 billion tax
plan to pay for cuts to local school property taxes.

The plan, which requires public hearings and a committee vote before
going to the full House, would up the state's share of school funding
from the current 47 percent to nearly 90 percent. That would force local
school property taxes down from an average of $1.50 per $100 in value to
about 50 cents per $100 for residential property and $1 for business

Bush has proposed a new business tax, a higher sales tax and the use of
$1 billion in additional state funds to pay for a slightly smaller
property tax cut.

``I think a plan that delivers a two-thirds property tax cut for
residential property is quite a plan,'' said Rep. Paul Sadler,
D-Henderson, chairman of the committee. ``You have to be delighted with

But the plan wasn't easy to reach and could be far from done.

Rep. Ric Williamson, R-Weatherford, objected to a provision replacing
local business property taxes with a state property tax for school
operations because it would leave business property subject to local
taxes for school buildings and debt.

``I thought we were trying to shift the tax burden from capital
intensive (businesses) to all of us,'' Williamson said.

Sadler said no one anticipated the state paying for construction of
school buildings or paying the debt on those already built. He said all
businesses, not just those in capital intensive industries, would have
to continue carrying that load.

For school operations, every type of company except sole proprietorships
would be expected to pay the state business tax. Currently, sole
proprietorships and partnerships don't pay the franchise tax.

Rep. Warren Chisum, R-Pampa, said he wouldn't support a plan hitting
family-owned businesses.

``Sole proprietorships are absolutely the smallest businesses in this
state,'' he said.

The business tax would be the greater of .25 percent of capital or 4.5
percent of earned surplus.

Earned surplus would include compensation for principal officials. But
small companies would get a break on that inclusion, taking off up to
$100,000 for each partner or stockholder in companies with 35 or fewer
partners or stockholders.

The tax plan also would subject many now untaxed goods and services to
the state sales tax.

Taken out of the list of proposed taxes were a gas tax increase and a
3.25 percent sales tax on residential use of natural gas and

Other proposed changes would increase taxes on hotels and motels, car
rentals, tobacco products and alcoholic beverages.

Senate officials have said they might accept the House plan with few, if
any, changes.

The committee still has to decide how to distribute the new state funds
to Texas' more than 1,000 school districts and how to keep local school
property taxes from creeping back up in the future.

Lawmakers also are concerned that adding the state sales tax to a host
of new goods and services will result in an overall tax increase after
local governments tack their sales taxes onto the items.

Rep. Scott Hochberg, D-Houston, said the committee will have to come up
with a way to keep local governments from collecting the extra taxes or
to force them to cut other levies an equal amount.

(Copyright 1997 by The Associated Press. All Rights Reserved.)
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