Monday, November 21, 2011

Login with Facebook Depleted Texas lakes expose ghost towns, graves



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BLUFFTON, Texas (AP) — Johnny C. Parks died two days before his first birthday more than a century ago. His grave slipped from sight along with the rest of the tiny town of Bluffton when Lake Buchanan was filled 55 years later.

Now, the cracked marble tombstone engraved with the date Oct. 15, 1882, which is normally covered by 20 to 30 feet of water, has been eerily exposed as a yearlong drought shrinks one of Texas' largest lakes.

Across the state, receding lakes have revealed a prehistoric skull, ancient tools, fossils and a small cemetery that appears to contain the graves of freed slaves. Some of the discoveries have attracted interest from local historians, and looters also have scavenged for pieces of history. More than two dozen looters have been arrested at one site.

"In an odd way, this drought has provided an opportunity to view and document, where appropriate, some of these finds and understand what they consist of," said Pat Mercado-Allinger, the Texas Historical Commission's archeological division director. "Most people in Texas probably didn't realize what was under these lakes."

Texas finished its driest 12 months ever with an average of 8.5 inches of rain through September, nearly 13 inches below normal. Water levels in the region's lakes, most of which were manmade, have dropped by more than a dozen feet in many cases.

The vanishing water has revealed the long-submerged building foundations of Woodville, Okla., which was flooded in 1944 when the Red River was dammed to form Lake Texoma. A century-old church has emerged at Falcon Lake, which straddles the Texas-Mexico border on the Rio Grande.

Steven Standke and his wife, Carol, drove to the old Bluffton site on a sandy rutted path that GPS devices designate not as a road but the middle of the 22,335-acre lake, normally almost 31 miles long and five miles wide.

"If you don't see it now, you might never see it again," said Carol Standke, of Center Point, as she and her husband inspected the ruins a mile from where concrete seawalls ordinarily would keep the lake from waterfront homes.

Old Bluffton has been exposed occasionally during times of drought. The receding waters have revealed concrete foundations of a two-story hotel, scales of an old cotton gin, a rusting tank and concrete slabs from a Texaco station that also served as a general store. The tallest structure is what's left of the town well, an open-topped concrete cube about 4 feet high. Johnny Parks' tombstone is among a few burial sites.

Local historian Alfred Hallmark, whose great-great-great grandfather helped establish Bluffton, said his research showed 389 graves were moved starting in 1931 when dam construction began. That's the same year Bluffton's 40 or 50 residents started moving several miles west to the current Bluffton, which today amounts to a convenience store and post office at a lonely highway intersection serving 200 residents.

Residents had to leave their ranches and abandon precious pecan trees, some of which produced more than 1,000 pounds of nuts each year. "It was devastating," said Hallmark, 70, a retired teacher, of the move. "They had no choice."

Other depleted lakes across Texas are revealing much older artifacts. More than two dozen looters have been arrested at Lake Whitney, about 50 miles south of Fort Worth, for removing Native American tools and fossils that experts believe could be thousands of years old.

The Army Corps of Engineers, which oversees Lake Whitney, is patrolling a number of areas that contain artifacts, including some rock shelters once filled with water, said Abraham Phillips, natural resources specialist with the agency.

At Lake Georgetown near Austin, fishermen discovered what experts determined was the skull of an American Indian buried for hundreds or thousands of years. It's not clear what will become of the skull, said Kate Spradley, a Texas State University assistant anthropology professor who is keeping it temporarily in a lab. Strict federal laws governing American Indian burial sites bar excavations to search for other remains.

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Tuesday, November 1, 2011

Jessica Simpson pregnant with first child


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(Reuters) - Singer, actress and fashion mogul Jessica Simpson has finally put baby rumors to rest by confirming Monday that she is pregnant with her first child, in a statement posted on her official website.

"It's True! I am going to be a mummy!" the singer wrote, alongside a photo of her dressed in a mummy costume for Halloween.

Simpson, 31, is currently engaged to former professional football player Eric Johnson, 32, whom she has been dating since May 2010. This will be the first child for the couple.

Simpson first rose to fame at age 19 with her debut album "Sweet Kisses" in 1999. She married singer Nick Lachey, of boy band 98 Degrees, in 2002 and the couple were the stars of MTV reality series, "Newlyweds: Nick and Jessica." Simpson and Lachey divorced in 2006.

The "Dukes of Hazzard" actress has had a number of high-profile relationships including U.S. football player Tony Romo and Smashing Pumpkins frontman Billy Corgan.

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Tony La Russa: 'It's time to end it'


 

St. Louis -- Tony La Russa waited until after the championship parade and then called a team meeting with his players.

"We didn't know what to expect," said pitcher Chris Carpenter, who got the win in Game 7 of the World Series against Texas on Friday night.

"I think we all figured it was just going to be like, 'That a way, guys. Great year. Way to battle!' Instead, he dropped that on us. I think everybody was caught off-guard."

And with that, La Russa, 67, said goodbye to baseball and became the first manager to retire immediately after leading his team to a Series title - the third of his career.

"I think this just feels like it's time to end it," La Russa said at a news conference Monday. "When I look in the mirror, I know I'd come back for the wrong reasons, and I didn't want to do that."

La Russa said he told general manager John Mozeliak of his decision in August - before the Cards rallied from a 10 1/2-game deficit in the NL wild-card race, then knocked off Philadelphia and Milwaukee in the playoffs.

They won the seven-game Series after twice being a strike away from elimination in Game 6.

"I tip my hat to him. He's had a great career. What a way to go out," Washington manager Davey Johnson said.

The player meeting Sunday after the parade was short and emotional.

"Some grown men cried," La Russa said, joking that, "I kind of liked that because they made me cry a few times."



Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/10/31/SPAR1LOLF0.DTL#ixzz1cR5z7CQx


China PMI Points to Soft Landing; Inflation Still Key

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Despite China's weaker than expected manufacturing data for October which is fanning concerns about the country's slowing growth, analysts say the data suggests that the economy remains very much in policymakers' control and is headed for a soft landing.

The official Purchasing and Manufacturing Index (PMI), which gathers information from the country's biggest manufacturers, came in at 50.4 for October, missing markets' forecast of 51.6 and dipping from September's reading of 51.2.

"We're definitely of the view that China is successfully engineering a soft landing, at the moment, given IPs (industrial production) still running at above 13-14 percent, and the fact that the PMI [is] returning back to a positive, above 50 territory. We do think that actual risks of China heading towards a hard landing are limited," Donna Kwok, Greater China Economist at HSBC told CNBC on Tuesday.

A separate PMI compiled by HSBC, which focuses on the small and medium-sized enterprises, came in at 51.0, a solid rebound from the 49.9 recorded in September. A reading above 50 indicates expansion while a figure below 50 denotes contraction.

"Finally, smaller players in China's manufacturing sectors are starting to see the benefits of the government's recent selective easing policy," said Kwok. "This policy includes both more favorable credit policies, directed at smaller to medium sized enterprises, and also as of last week, a new plan specifically targeting the service sectors, sector companies, with a lighter tax burden."

Brian Jackson, senior emerging markets strategist at Royal Bank of Canada (Hong Kong), notes that the lower official PMI number is understandable and "quite" consistent with the weaker external demand picture, particularly from Europe.

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Drug-smuggling ring operating near Phoenix busted

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Phoenix --

Law enforcement officials on Monday announced the breakup of a massive drug-smuggling ring that used lookouts on hilltops in southern Arizona to move huge quantities of marijuana and other drugs across the Mexican border to users throughout the United States.

Over the last month and a half, federal, state and local officials have arrested 76 people, from organizational bosses to stash-house guards to those who transported the drugs in backpacks and in vehicles, the authorities said. All were linked to the Sinaloa cartel run by Joaquin Guzman, Mexico's richest and most wanted outlaw, who goes by the nickname El Chapo, officials said.

Speaking at a news conference on Monday, Arizona officials estimated that the ring had been in operation for at least five years and had generated more than $2 billion in profits by smuggling more than 3 million pounds of marijuana, 20,000 pounds of cocaine and 10,000 pounds of heroin into the United States. Such large smuggling rings usually use tractor-trailers to get their contraband across, the authorities said, but this operation relied mostly on migrants on foot.

The authorities acknowledged that the smuggling ring operated under their noses, albeit in rugged terrain that is difficult to patrol. Spotters with radios or cell phones were used to point out the presence of law enforcement and divert loads. The drugs would be carried in relatively small quantities and then transported north to a network of stash houses in the Phoenix area. From there, the contraband would be sold to distributors nationwide.



Read more: http://www.sfgate.com/cgi-bin/article.cgi?f=/c/a/2011/10/31/MNBO1LOJN3.DTL#ixzz1cR5WeA9w


Pakistan, Turkey agree to swap currency


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ISLAMABAD: President Asif Ali Zardariand his Turkish counterpart Abdullah Gulhave agreed to finalise the currency swap agreement between the two countries. 

The two presidents held wide-ranging bilateral talks in Istanbul on Monday, on the sidelines of the trilateral summit on Afghanistan. 

The president's spokesperson Farhatullah Babar said the currency swap agreement would enable traders and businessmen of the two countries to trade in their respective currencies without drawing from their dollar based foreign exchange reserves. 

This will reduce the pressure on the foreign exchange reserves and give a quantum jump to the bilateral trade between the two countries, Associated Press of Pakistan quoted him as saying. 

Babar said Zardari has been looking at boosting Pakistan's trade as a means to generate economic activity in the country for job creation to wean away the youth from falling prey to the temptations offered by militants. 

Euro Falls on Bets ECB Will Signal Interest-Rate Cuts; Aussie Dollar Drops


The euro fell versus the dollar and yen on speculation an economic slowdown in the region will pressure the European Central Bank to consider cutting interest rates.

The greenback strengthened against most of its 16 major counterparts after a Chinese manufacturing index dropped and Asian stocks fell, boosting demand for the refuge of the world's reserve currency. The yen was little changed versus the dollar on prospects Japan is ready for sustained intervention to prevent gains in its currency that threaten an export-led recovery. The Australian dollar declined after the central bank cut its benchmark interest rate.

"It certainly is a worry just how weak the European economy is," said Joseph Capurso, a currency strategist in Sydney at Commonwealth Bank of Australia, the nation's biggest lender. A European interest-rate cut "may happen next year. In the short term, you could certainly see euro falling further towards the $1.35 region."

The euro dropped 0.4 percent to $1.3806 as of 6:18 a.m. in London from yesterday inNew York, when it sank 2 percent, the sharpest slide since August 2010. The 17-nation euro slipped 0.5 percent to 107.82 yen. The dollar was at 78.11 yen from 78.17 yesterday when it touched 79.53, the highest since Aug. 4.

The Australian dollar slid 0.9 percent to $1.0436 and 1 percent to 81.49 yen. The MSCI Asia Pacific Index of shares lost 1.6 percent.

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Judge rejects Tribune Co's plan to exit bankruptcy




(Reuters) - Tribune Co, the owner of the Los Angeles Times and Chicago Tribune newspapers, suffered a legal defeat on Monday after a judge late Monday rejected its plan to end its three-year stay in bankruptcy.

The judge also rejected a competing plan from the company's noteholders and but said the company's plan had stronger creditor backing and could be way out of bankruptcy.

"Neither the (company plan) nor the noteholder plan is confirmable. I am uncertain, at this point, what steps the debtors or other parties may take as a consequence of this decision," wrote Delaware's chief bankruptcy judge, Kevin Carey, in a 126-page opinion.

Carey was charged with deciding a range of legal questions, but the key issue was which plan was legally confirmable and offered the company the best path for repaying creditors and ending its bankruptcy.

Tribune, which also owns more than 20 television stations, filed for bankruptcy in 2008, one year after financier Sam Zell led a $13 billion leveraged buyout of the company.

The bankruptcy wiped out more than a billion dollars of the company's notes and the two bankruptcy plans essentially differed in how they treat legal claims from the buyout.

The company and lenders, led by JPMorgan Chase & Co and hedge funds, proposed a settlement payment of around $500 million to noteholders. Noteholders, led by Aurelius Capital Management LP, an uncompromising hedge fund, rejected that as too cheap and wanted to sue those responsible for the buyout.

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Apple iPhone 4S Battery Drain: Guessing Game Continues

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Waiting on an expected fix from Apple, iPhone 4S userscomplaining of rapid battery drain are coming up with their own witches' brews to keep their new handsets from dying before the end of the day. Users started complaining of the poor battery life shortly after the iPhone 4S debuted, but recently the gripes have grown louder.

Home-grown solutions for the iPhone 4S battery dilemma include dropping push e-mail, lowering the screen brightness, turning off calendar notifications, and shutting down Wi-Fi when not in use. Or, to put it another way, iPhone 4S users have discovered sensible battery life management practices.


Fact Check: Perry's dubious tax promise


 
In his speech unveiling his proposed "flat tax" overhaul of the tax system, Rick Perrypromised that "taxes will be cut across all income groups in America." But a newly released analysis of his plan by the nonpartisan Tax Policy Center concluded that many lower-income persons and families would see their taxes go up.

In his Oct. 25 "Cut, Balance, Grow" speech, Perry said a beefed up standard deduction assured lower- and middle-class residents would see a tax break.

And in a Fox News Sunday interview on Oct. 30, Perry assured host Chris Wallace, "Everybody gets a tax cut here. Everybody gets a tax cut here."

But that's not true for everyone, even though the Perry plan would result in a dramatic decrease in overall revenues, according to the Tax Policy Center analysis. The Tax Policy Center predicts that Rick Perry's "flat tax" plan would amount to a tax cut of $570 billion in its first year after enactment, compared with current tax rates. More than half the benefits would flow to persons making more than $1 million a year.

"The Perry plan would reduce federal tax revenues dramatically," the Tax Policy Center said in a report posted Oct. 31. "Relative to a current policy baseline, the reduction in liability would be roughly $570 billion in calendar year 2015." And compared with "current law," under which all the 2001 and 2003 Bush tax cuts would expire, the loss in revenue would be close to $1 trillion in 2015, a reduction of 27 percent in projected revenue.

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Hope finally scares up a decent dance on 'DWTS'



 

Strange things happen on Halloween. All of a sudden there's a spooky vibe in the air. Ghosts and goblins go door to door looking for sweet treats. And somehow, even a "Dancing With the Stars" dud like Hope Solo can deliver a decent dance.

Really!

Coming off the heels of last week's moody meltdown for Solo's partner, Maksim Chmerkovskiy , the soccer star and the pro first hit the floor with a scary samba set to "Werewolves of London." WereMaks presented fine form, as usual, and while Solo battled some of her typical "Dancing" demons — like arm lines and precision moves — she showed big improvements when it came to timing and basic footwork.

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Climate deal not likely this year: Environment Minister



t is unlikely that the world will come to a legally binding agreement on climate change at the upcoming United Nations climate summit due in Durban, South Africa, at the end of this month, said Minister for Environment and Water Resources Vivian Balakrishnan.

'There isn't the political will or financial resources to make such a deal (at this stage),' he told the opening ceremony of the Clean Energy Expo Asia on Tuesday.

Still, it is important that government and companies that make multi-billion decisions in energy investments to understand that their decisions will have long-term implications, he added.

Policymakers, in particular, need to have rational policies in place for the long term such that countries are well prepared for a future that will see diminishing energy resources even as demand for energy spikes on the back of the world population hitting 7 billion.

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