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October 31, 1997
Texas speed limits may be reduced
By PEGGY FIKAC
Associated Press Writer
AUSTIN (AP) October 31, 1997 - Texans concerned about road speeds
that they think are dangerously high could see them lowered by as
much as 12 mph under an emergency rule approved by the Texas
Prompted by a 17.8 percent increase in state traffic fatalities
last year - after the speed limit rose to 70 mph on many roads -
the rule will give Texas Department of Transportation engineers
more flexibility in recommending lower speeds to the commission.
The rule won't automatically lower maximum speeds, which must be
based on engineering studies and practices. It comes after the
agency had 26 meetings around the state to get public input on
"What we heard during these meetings is that most Texans generally
agree with the higher speed limit, but there are some roadways,
particularly narrow rural highways, that we should re-examine,"
commission Chairman David Laney said Thursday.
Carlos Lopez, deputy director of the agency's traffic operations
division, said public input varied by region.
"Mainly in West Texas, everything's cool," he said.
But in areas with fewer wide-open spaces and more curves in the
roads, more concern was expressed about whether speed limits were
Lopez said the emergency adoption will allow the agency to put the
procedures in place right away, and that it will be responsive to
"Our engineers can go out and look at roadways as people call in
with maybe some concerns and apply these new procedures as they
study the roadways," he said.
Engineers also will look at roads people expressed concern about
at the meetings, he said. The commission will make the final
determination on a road's speed.
Under previous rules, engineers could recommend that posted speed
limits be raised or lowered up to 5 miles per hour from the
so-called 85th percentile - the speed which 85 percent of
motorists are traveling at or below.
At locations with a higher-than-average crash rate, the speed
could be lowered up to 7 mph.
Under the new rule, speeds still could be raised 5 mph if
warranted. But they could be lowered up to 10 mph if there are,
for example, pavement widths of 20 feet or less; horizontal or
vertical curves; or hidden driveways and other development.
At locations with crash rates higher than the state averages, the
speed can be lowered by as much as 12 mph.
Average crash rates vary with the type and location of road, said
state DOT spokesman Randall Dillard in Austin. He said averages
can even differ on rural and urban stretches of the same
Changes will be rounded to a number that ends in a 5 or 0. If the
85th percentile speed is 67 mph, for example, the maximum speed on
a road might be lowered to 60 mph - or 55 mph, if it has a high
In addition, the emergency rule implements a state law allowing
the Transportation Commission, at the request of a county
commissioners court, to lower speed limits on farm-to-market or
ranch-to-market roads that are 20 feet wide or less. Lopez said
the agency would have a public meeting in such cases.
Sen. Steve Ogden, R-Bryan, who sponsored the provision in law,
applauded the commission. "I am looking forward to more rational
speed limits around the state," he said.
"I certainly like to drive 70 miles per hour on highways that are
designed for that speed. But I know that one size does not fit
all, and there are some highways on which that's much too fast,"
People with a concern about speed limits can contact their Texas
Department of Transportation district office, Lopez said.
Currently, about 47,000 miles of Texas roadway are at 70 mph, out
of a 77,000-mile system.
Ford recalls sports cars, minivans
By CATHERINE STRONG
Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) October 31, 1997 - Ford Motor Co. is recalling
769,000 Windstar minivans and Mustang sports cars after complaints
the hoods were flying off some of the vehicles.
The government's highway safety agency received 45 complaints that
the top panel of the hoods detached from the lower panel, flying
off or up against the windshield while the vehicle was moving,
according to a National Highway Traffic Safety Administration
report released Thursday.
The lower panel remains over the engine, secured by the hood
latch, the report said.
"Ford is addressing the issue and dealers will have parts shortly"
to fix the vehicles, Ford spokeswoman Karen Shaughnessy said.
NHTSA spokesman Tim Hurd said the recall involves 769,000
Windstars, model years 1995-96, and Mustangs, model years 1994-96.
Motorists claimed the flying hoods caused at least two crashes and
one injury. The company has told the government the likely cause
was damage in earlier low-speed collisions.
The safety agency, in its monthly report on auto defects, also
said it has upgraded an investigation into more than 200
complaints of windshield wiper failure in 1992-93 Chrysler
minivans. More than 900,000 of those minivans are on the road.
Some motorists complained the entire wiper arm was stripped from
its pivot in snow or rain and thrown from the minivan. "These
failures occur without warning," the NHTSA report said.
No injuries were reported, but Chrysler told the government 15,050
warranty claims were made on the wiper systems. Chrysler
redesigned the wiper pivots in May 1993.
The agency also opened some preliminary inquiries into inadvertent
air bag deployments:
-1996-97 Chevrolet Cavaliers; six complaints air bags
inadvertently deployed while motorists were driving or starting
the cars. Two injuries were reported. About 350,000 of the
vehicles are on the road.
-1995 Dodge and Plymouth Neons; 15 complaints the dual air bags
deployed inadvertently. Motorists reported two crashes and five
injuries. About 240,000 of the vehicles are on the road.
The agency has three other ongoing investigations into air bag
deployments in Mazda, Subaru and Chevrolet cars.
ROT makes last-minute effort to mount a legal defense
By EDUARDO MONTES
Associated Press Writer
ALPINE, Texas (AP) October 31, 1997 - Texas separatists have made
a last-minute attempt to mount a defense in their organized crime
trial, turning their case over to the court-appointed attorneys
they ignored for nearly a week.
Republic of Texas leader Richard McLaren and his co-defendant,
Robert Otto, asked their standby counsel to step in Thursday after
the prosecution had wrapped up its case.
McLaren's attorney, Frank Brown, said it would be difficult taking
over at this late a date.
"I guess being standby counsel is like being a fireman," Brown
said outside the courtroom. "You have just got to be ready to go
at any time. We've got a pretty big fire and we just need to find
the biggest fire extinguisher we've got."
Brown and Otto's attorney, Mike Barclay, have been in the
courtroom since the trial began Monday, but their clients did not
allow them to act until the eve of closing arguments.
The attorneys had been expecting to present summations today.
McLaren and Otto are charged with engaging in organized criminal
activity for allegedly plotting to kidnap two people who lived
near Republic members in the Davis Mountains Resort, a rural
community 175 miles southeast of El Paso.
The April 27 abduction of Joe and Margaret Ann Rowe, carried out
by three of McLaren's followers, sparked a standoff with 300 state
troopers and Texas Rangers. The siege ended May 3 when the group
agreed to lay down its weapons.
Both defendants had been ignoring their standby counsel throughout
the four-day trial, preferring to represent themselves.
They had made their own objections and cross-examined witnesses.
But their attempts at a defense made little sense, leaning heavily
on McLaren's belief that he is an ambassador for the Republic of
Texas, and their conduct has caused them to be ejected repeatedly.
As soon as they were given the authority, Brown and Barclay
submitted a motion seeking a mistrial, citing the admission of
evidence not directly related to the case.
"The evidence is just so overwhelming and so prejudicial, at this
time ... it's really impossible for my client to receive a fair
trial," Brown told state District Judge Kenneth DeHart.
The motion specifically cited the presentation of weapons not
related to the actual abduction and a videotaped re-enactment of
the kidnapping that included unsworn testimony from victim Joe
The motion also challenged the admission of "extraneous offenses
that may inflame the jury," such as testimony about the standoff
and explosive devices found at the Republic encampment.
Otto and McLaren are not charged with anything beyond organizing
to commit criminal activity connected to the kidnapping.
When DeHart denied the motion, Brown and Barclay asked for a
directed verdict of innocence, which the judge also rejected. The
defense then rested without calling any witnesses.
The judge excused jurors late Thursday afternoon, telling them to
return this morning to hear closing arguments and to be prepared
to begin deliberations.
If convicted, McLaren and Otto could face up to life in prison and
a $10,000 fine. The judge will decide the sentence.
El Nino helps plants, reduces carbon dioxide
By PAUL RECER
AP Science Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) October 31, 1997 - El Nino is blamed for floods,
hurricanes and early snowstorms, but the climate phenomenon also
has a good side, researchers report.
In a study published today in the journal Science, scientists
report that El Nino - the periodic warming of eastern Pacific
Ocean waters - causes a burst of plant growth throughout the world
and that slows the increase of carbon dioxide in the atmosphere.
Natural weather events, such as the brief warming caused by El
Nino, have a much more dramatic effect than previously believed on
how much carbon dioxide is absorbed by plants and how much of the
gas is expelled by the soils, said David Schimel of the National
Center for Atmospheric Research, a co-author of the study.
Atmospheric carbon dioxide, or CO2, has been increasing steadily
for decades. This is thought to be caused by an expanded use of
fossil fuels and by toppling of tropical forests. Scientists have
linked the CO2 rise to global warming, a phenomenon known as the
greenhouse effect. Nations of the world now are drawing up plans
to reduce fossil-fuel burning in hopes of reducing greenhouse gas
in the atmosphere.
Those determining how much to reduce fossil-fuel burning, said
Schimel, should consider effects of natural climate variability on
the ability of plants to absorb CO2.
Schimel said satellite measurements of CO2, plant growth and
temperature show that natural warming events such as El Nino at
first cause more CO2 to be released into the atmosphere, probably
as the result of accelerated decay of dead plant matter in the
But later, within two years, there is a rapid growth in forests
and grasslands, causing plants to more vigorously suck carbon
dioxide out of the atmosphere.
"We think that there is a delayed response in vegetation and soils
to the warming of such things as El Nino and this leads to
increased plant growth," said Schimel.
However, he said, it is not clear if the warming by El Nino causes
a net decrease in the build up of CO2 over the long haul.
"We don't really know that yet," said Schimel.
What the study does show, however, is that the rise and fall of
CO2 in the atmosphere is strongly influenced by natural changes in
global temperature, said B. H. Braswell of the University of New
Hampshire, a co-author of the study.
Braswell said that in years when the global weather is cooler than
normal, there is a decrease in both the decay of dead plants and
in new plant growth. This causes an effect that is the opposite of
El Nino warming: CO2 atmosphere levels first decline and later
"I think we have demonstrated that the ecosystem has a lot more to
do with climate change than was previously believed," said
The researchers used satellite measurements taken from 1980 to
1991. This period included a major El Nino in 1982-83 and warm
years later in the 1980s.
Each of these events, said the authors, had a direct, but often
delayed, effect on the CO2 levels in the atmosphere. About two
years after the warm events, there was a surge in plant growth and
a decline in CO2 levels.
Stuart Chapin, a University of California, Berkeley, ecologist,
Agreement reached on campaign finance
By CAROLYN SKORNECK
Associated Press Writer
WASHINGTON (AP) October 31, 1997 - Weeks of Democratic pressure
for an up-or-down vote on campaign finance overhaul legislation
paid off as Senate Majority Leader Trent Lott announced an
agreement to hold the debate and votes by March 7.
In return, Lott will regain control of an overflowing Senate
agenda as lawmakers race to finish their year's work by next
Democrats had blocked all but urgent legislation, such as spending
bills for the budget year that began Oct. 1, to force Republicans
to agree to a timetable and method for considering campaign
"After a great deal of communication and discussion and working
back and forth, I think we've come up with a fair agreement on how
to handle the campaign finance reform issue," Lott said Thursday.
The agreement, he said, "would allow us to go forward on other
issues this year."
Among the major non-spending bills awaiting Senate action are a
six-year, $145 billion highway bill or a six-month temporary
alternative, an Amtrak bill, Internal Revenue Service reform and
fast-track trade authority sought by President Clinton.
At the White House, Clinton praised the agreement, saying, "At
long last, we have an opportunity to give the American people the
kind of election they deserve.
"I want to commend the entire Democratic caucus and a few brave
Republicans whose steadfastness has now produced the first real
opportunity to enact campaign finance reform," he said.
The turning point, said Senate Minority Leader Tom Daschle,
D-S.D., was the fourth consecutive defeat of GOP attempts to cut
off a Democratic filibuster on the highway bill.
"I think there was a sense that `We'll grind them down,'" Daschle
said. The fourth vote "was the critical demonstration that we were
He thanked Lott for "the leadership that he's shown in keeping
everybody at the table as long as he has in order for this to be
The Senate earlier this month debated the campaign finance bill
co-sponsored by Sens. John McCain, R-Ariz., and Russell Feingold,
D-Wis., but Republicans halted it with a filibuster. Supporters
could not amass the 60 votes needed to overcome the filibuster.
Lott allowed one amendment to be considered - to require unions to
get members' permission before using dues for political purposes.
Democrats filibustered it.
McCain-Feingold would end unlimited "soft-money" contributions to
political parties, and limit advertising and other efforts by
outside groups for or against a specific candidate.
Under Thursday's agreement, Lott is to bring up a GOP campaign
finance bill before March 7. McCain-Feingold will be the first
amendment, considered as a substitute. The Senate will then vote
on killing McCain-Feingold.
That majority-wins vote is what McCain-Feingold's proponents are
seeking. To win, they will need 50 votes, not the 60 needed to
defeat a filibuster. All 45 Democrats and four Republicans say
they support the bill.
"Our key priority was that we have an up-or-down vote on
McCain-Feingold," Daschle said.
But supporters know "it will take 60 votes to resolve the issue,"
said Sen. John Kerry, D-Mass. "Clearly the votes we have for
McCain-Feingold at this moment is not enough to pass campaign
finance reform, so we have to change those dynamics."
The bill itself also must change, said McCain, who bucked his own
party over the measure. "The real solution will ... come when we
all sit down together as dedicated Americans and come up with a
bipartisan solution to this problem," he said.
In the House, 183 lawmakers, including six Republicans, have
signed a discharge petition to force floor action on numerous
campaign finance bills - Republican, Democratic and bipartisan.
They need 218 signatures, a majority of the 435-member House, and
they have next year to get the rest.
House GOP leaders have balked at bringing up campaign finance
bills, but allowed a committee hearing on them Thursday.
The Fort Stockton Pioneer
FORT STOCKTON, Oct. 30, 1997 - Living History Day 1997 takes place
from 10 a.m. to 5 p.m. Saturday, Nov. 1, on the grounds of the
historic fort, in Fort Stockton. Admission is free. A mule-drawn
wagon, biscuit baking over an open fire and artillery will be
fired as just a part of the day's events. A full range of
exhibits and free or reduced-free services will be offered at the
Pecos County Health Fair on Saturday, Nov. 1, from 8 a.m. to 3
p.m. at the Pecos County Civic Center.
The Big Bend Sentinel
MARFA, Oct. 30, 1997 - Coach Tony Mathison spoke candidly on
Tuesday about this week's opponent, the season, his players and
his future. The number one team in Class A comes to Marfa on
Friday, Oct. 31. The Wink Wildcats' school colors are orange and
black, and the date is Oct. 31, it's Halloween.
The Alpine Avalanche
ALPINE, Oct. 30, 1997 - As law enforcement and news media
surrounded the Brewster County Courthouse, Monday, Oct. 27,
Republic of Texas members Richard McLaren and Robert Otto entered
the building to face charges stemming from an incident that began
more than six months ago. McLaren and Otto are accused of engaging
in organized criminal activity after the alleged kidnaping of
Davis Mountain Resort residents Joe and Margaret Ann Rowe on April
27, which could send the two ROT members to jail for life.
The International, Presidio Paper
PRESIDIO, Oct. 30, 1997 - An apparent case of inadvertent nepotism
is set to be taken care of at a special Presidio school board
meeting Saturday. When trustees meet at 9 a.m. at the Presidio
High School library, they are scheduled to accept the resignation
of school board member Abe Franco and rescind a vote earlier this
month to hire Delfina Anderson as teacher of the 3-year-old
program. Franco and Anderson are brother and sister.
The Sanderson Times
SANDERSON, Oct. 30, 1997 - Terrell County Commissioners Court met
in special session Monday, Oct. 27, with Judge Dudley Harrison
presiding. Two items on the agenda generated considerable
discussion among the commissioners as well as from the spectators
The Monahans News
MONAHANS, Oct. 30, 1997 - Two Monahans men were injured fatally
and two were hurt when a pickup truck rolled on Farm-to-Market
Road 11 on Thursday morning, Oct. 23. Authorities identified the
dead as: Andres Flores, 32 and Jesus Tavarez, 34. Both were
employees of R&H Well Services of Monahans.
Songs of praise where 'Sunday best' means jeans
By MICHAEL E. YOUNG
The Dallas Morning News
MESQUITE, Texas October 31, 1997 - The big neon sign paints the
parking lot with a soft electrical hum, and people stream past
into the centerpiece of a suburban shopping center wearing their
They settle around tables scattered across the floor while the
band tunes up, fingers dancing along guitars that shimmer
pearl-white and cherry-red and midnight-black in the fluorescence.
The musicians step to the microphones, picks poised, then pause -
for a few words from the preacher.
This is a church, after all.
At a time when denominations try every sort of tactic to attract
the unchurched - unconventional service hours, increasingly casual
liturgies, sermons focusing on real-life issues - Mesquite's
Country Church builds its ministry on country music.
"J.D. Thomas, who planted quite a few churches in this area, had a
dream of starting a church where the unifying factor, in addition
to the Christian faith, would be a love of country music," Pastor
Tim Ahlen said.
But music was only a first step, he said.
The music helped bring in people who weren't regular churchgoers,
just as the organizers had hoped, but it was a crowd that wasn't
too comfortable in a conventional stained-glass setting, either.
So the ambience of the Country Church is deliberately casual,
"A lot of times, that can throw people," said Linda Shirley, a
core member of this 100-member congregation on Gross Road, near
LBJ Freeway. "They stop by and peek in the window, and they try to
figure out whether we're a cafe or a church."
It's easy enough to understand the confusion.
Glittering neon - with guitars and lariats crucial parts of the
design - is a departure from mainstream Christianity. Except for a
couple of long pews against the walls, there isn't much here that
feels church. Most people favor the chairs and cozy round tables.
"When people come in for the first time, they ask, `Where do we
sit?' and we try to explain the premise," Mrs. Shirley said. "And
afterward, people are amazed. They say it's real convenient. It
gives them a place to put their Bibles, to take notes."
And a spot for their coffee cups, for that matter. It isn't
unusual, especially during evening services, to see people sipping
from foam cups even as Ahlen explains that night's reading.
For longtime churchgoers, especially the traditional Southern
Baptists who sponsor the Country Church, the down-home atmosphere
can be a shock.
The first time the Shirleys attended, they had just come back from
Canton after a day of work at her father's ranch.
"We'd planned on going to an evening service, but we were coming
back still in our jeans and knew we'd be late," Mrs. Shirley said.
"And then I remembered seeing an ad for the Country Church, and it
said you could come in your jeans, so we stopped home to pick up
our Bibles and we went to church.
"At that point, I had never even worn slacks to church. When you
went to church, you wore your Sunday best. So this was very
different for us."
But the friendliness was contagious, she said, and the country
music hooked them, especially husband Mike, a guitar player who
quickly found a home on the worship team.
At one recent service, the last Doris Brewster would attend before
moving to live with her daughter in Llano, Texas, Laverne Hutson
belted out "The Gloryland Way" in Mrs. Brewster's honor.
Tears rimmed Mrs. Brewster's eyes as the song unfolded, and when
it ended, the congregation applauded energetically.
"It's like they used to say in the old country churches," Ahlen
said. "If that doesn't set you on fire, your wood must be wet."
Music continues to be a key aspect of worship at the Country
Church, but as the church itself evolves into different
ministries, so, too, the music changes.
Country gospel music - songs such as "Send the Light" from
Stamps-Baxter's "Great Gospel Songs and Hymns" and driven by what
Ahlen calls "the guitar symphony" - still sets the tone for Sunday
"Send the light, the blessed gospel light,
Let it shine from shore to shore.
Send the light, the blessed gospel light,
Let it shine, for evermore."
On Sunday afternoon, the music could be mariachi or contemporary
Christian or even hip-hop during services of Iglesia Bautista
Vision de Dios, the Hispanic congregation fostered by the Country
Like Ahlen, Javier Valdez, the minister of Iglesia Bautista, has a
keen appreciation for the power of music.
"It helps prepare the spirit," he said. "I didn't realize until I
started pastoring the importance of music, but we took a step of
faith and bought some instruments and now more and more people are
coming because of it."
People come, too, for the Gospel Jubilee, a twice-a-month
gathering on Friday nights featuring Southern gospel music,
powered by a rollicking style of piano over the steady
thump-thump-thump of bass.
And once a month, on a Saturday night, the church rolls to music
of a completely different sort.
That's when Rock of God stages its concerts - "Christian grunge
and punk that reaches out to the spiked-hair and
pierced-body-parts crowd," Ahlen said.
"Tim believes in using music as a ministry, and we have a lot of
synergy together," said Joe Coker, head of Rock of God, which
often attracts 150 to 200 kids to its shows.
"The Country Church and Pastor Tim, they've been totally
supportive of what we're trying to do. They've done nothing but
bless our ministry."
They've been so supportive, in fact, that the elders allowed Rock
of God to stage a concert the night before the church kicked off a
major revival meeting this month, Coker said.
"How many churches would let you do a rock concert the day before
their revival?" he asked.
Of course, all this shuffling of services and musical styles poses
some logistical hurdles. While regular church gatherings use the
round tables congregants put together themselves, the Friday night
Gospel Jubilee lines up the chairs in orderly rows, auditorium
style. And Rock of God clears the place for one big mosh pit.
"We wonder sometimes, when they do the Gospel Jubilee one night
and our show the next, what would happen if someone came on the
wrong day," Coker said.
Culture shock, perhaps, or maybe just an appreciation for the
growing diversity in ministry and the flexibility required in
meeting congregants' needs in changing times.
Not yet 5 years old, the Country Church has already veered from
its original vision, though country music remains a staple.
But the niche church concept has evolved into a community church
serving one of Mesquite's poorer neighborhoods, Ahlen said.
"When this church was planted, it was going to be a regional-type
church, and we still see some of that. We have members from Fort
Worth, Waxahachie, Plano, Crandall, places like that," he said.
But most members come from the areas around the church, just east
"We minister to blue-collar individuals, no-collar individuals,
almost all of them from very rough backgrounds - alcohol and drug
abuse, broken-family situations," he said.
"And as well as we've done with these folks, traditional church
people just don't stick with us."
In most ways, serving people who desperately need spiritual
guidance is a gratifying opportunity, Ahlen said. But it poses
significant problems, too, especially for a church looking for
leaders and teachers from within its congregation.
"We are just now beginning to develop some indigenous leadership,"
he said. "Since many of our members came with lives upside down,
you first have to lead them to a more stable lifestyle before they
"And because their lives can be unstable, they sometimes don't
stick with us real long."
A poorer congregation also means a church that struggles
economically, and that's true of the Country Church, Ahlen said.
But he doesn't want to pressure his people into giving, so pleas
for donations are low-key and left to the member's discretion.
Rather than tossing money in a collection plate, people leave
their gifts and tithes in wicker baskets on the tables.
"We put the baskets out and, during the services, we ask people to
reflect on God's goodness and respond appropriately," Ahlen said.
That fits in with much of the liturgy here. No one pushes people
to sing or to pray along in any formal way. Ahlen and the church
leaders only want this diverse group to see that faith is a real
part of everyday life.
"During services, we do a little segment we call the `Saint's
Corner,' which is sort of a guided testimony so our unchurched
people can see that church people have flesh and blood, too,"
"And with the messages, I really try hard to ... just present
basic, practical talks on how God can help in their lives."
A traditional benediction follows, perhaps the only traditional
part of the service, and it ends fittingly for a place called the
Country Church, a place built on country music.
"We end it the same way we always have," Ahlen said. "We all sing
`Happy Trails to You."'
PECOS, October 31, 1997 - High Thursday, 83, low this morning, 52.
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