Washington State Schools

Get Odd Music Windfall

Just what exactly do you do with 356 copies of Barry White's "Staying Power"? Or 609 copies of Michael Bolton's "Timeless"? Those are the questions librarians at K-12 public schools and libraries across Washington state are asking themselves as they sift through the more than 115,000 CDs they received as part of a multimillion-dollar antitrust settlement with the recording industry.

Washington state Attorney General Christine O. Gregoire said the music selections would "ensure our community's creative development through timeless music history."

But when the boxes arrived earlier this month, they contained just a handful of Beethoven and Bach, and a whole lot of Whitney Houston, Will Smith and Lenny Kravitz. Some of the CDs contained explicit lyrics, and some even had parental advisory warning labels.

Washington is one of 43 states involved in a lawsuit against five music distributors and record companies accused of penalizing retailers for cutting prices. The companies agreed to pay $67 million to consumers and give an estimated $76 million worth of CDs to schools and libraries. Washington was the first state to receive its settlement, which would retail for about $1.5 million.

The Puget Sound Educational Service District, which includes 35 school districts in the Seattle area, received 1,355 copies of Houston's version of "The Star-Spangled Banner" -- 5 percent of their total share.

"Part of me thinks that the record companies just dumped what they didn't want anymore just to fulfill this, but then I try to remember that not everyone has the same musical tastes as I do," said Karen Farley, a Puget Sound District media specialist.

Washington's CD surplus was blamed on the distributor of the settlement, according to Gary Larson, a spokesman from the state attorney general's office. He said steps have been taken to correct the allocation and that other states should not experience a similar problem.

-- Kimberly Edds

Struggle to Buy Stronger Beer in Georgia Will End With Celebration

Ted Hull suffered for a long time. His situation was so dire that he became an activist.

His worthy cause? Beer with a kick.

For years, Hull had to cross state lines to get a potent brew. He had the great misfortune of living in Georgia -- and Georgia law has banned beer with more than 6 percent alcohol since the end of Prohibition. The law did not prevent most of the best-known beers from being sold in the state because their alcohol content is below 6 percent. But Hull craved the high-alcohol specialty beers from American breweries and the strongest imports with alcohol levels twice the amount allowed in Georgia.

He was not without kindred, ahem, spirits. He and his pals banded together and called themselves "Georgians for World-Class Beer." They lobbied the legislature. But year after year, they failed. They shared their wisdom on the Internet. How else would others know, for instance, that waiting in Tennessee was a promised land filled with cases and cases of brawny imports? They spent their money in Tennessee at such places as Ziggy's and Yogi's and Froogal MacDoogal.

But this year, they finally broke through. The Georgia legislature raised the maximum alcohol content to 14 percent.

Hull plans to belly up to the bar on Wednesday at midnight when the new law takes effect and his long ordeal ends. The beer he is most looking forward to buying legally in Georgia is an India pale ale, a swarthy style originally brewed in England for shipment to the colonies. His favorite is aptly named, given these days of beery rejoicing in Georgia: It's Sierra Nevada Celebration Ale.

-- Manuel Roig-Franzia

Connecticut Cities Rebound From

Three Decades of Urban Decline

Connecticut's major cities, Hartford, New Haven and Bridgeport, are growing again.

For the first time in three decades, the state's cities are no longer population-bleeding symbols of urban decline. Although the rebirth is modest, New Haven grew by 1 percent to become the state's second largest city. It surpassed Hartford, which grew slightly as well. Bridgeport remains the state's largest city, showing less than 1 percent growth, which after years of decline was seen as a small victory.

Once the cities stood as symbols of the state's industrial strength (or, in the case of Hartford, a symbol of its dominance in the insurance industry). But factories shuttered, companies pulled out, and whites fled to the suburbs. What has changed, speculate demographers, is that young urban professionals are moving back into the cities.

And immigrants seem to be arriving in greater numbers. "What may be going on is the immigration of immigrant families possibly moving north from New York, possibly coming to Connecticut cities as an initial destination," said Bruce Katz, who directs the Center on Urban and Metropolitan Policy at the Brookings Institution. "It's been a long time since Connecticut has been gateway for immigrants."

-- Michelle Garcia