Martha's Vineyard Aflutter Over

Falcon Summering on Island

How does a young falcon make a 5,000-mile wrong turn?

Who knows? All that's certain is that a red-footed falcon has taken up summer residence on Martha's Vineyard, thousands of miles from its usual haunts in Southern Europe and Northern Africa. The falcon had never been spotted before in the Western Hemisphere.

"Sometime birds catch the wrong trade wind and they think 'Hey, I've got a good wind here' and they just keep going," said ornithologist Andrea Jones of the Massachusetts Audubon Society. "This is a juvenile bird, and he made a major wrong turn."

The soulful eyed 1-year-old falcon has been diving and soaring to standing-room crowds for about a week at Katama Airfield, near Edgartown. Bird lovers are hopping the ferry by the dozens, armed with binoculars and long-range lenses.

No one knows if the falcon will remain here. The predators can stay aloft for more than a week when migrating. "They are equipped to travel really long distances," Jones said. "He's healthy, he's molting, and one day he might try to get back where he came from."

-- Michael Powell

L.A. City Council Considers

Putting Lid on Big-Box Retailers

Los Angeles, the land of what seems like a million mini-malls, hardly ever meets a retailer that it does not embrace. But it is thinking twice about welcoming any more national big-box stores.

The City Council approved an ordinance last week that could block retailers such as Wal-Mart from opening sprawling stores that sell discount goods and groceries. The measure, which may take effect next month, requires the companies to pay for independent studies examining whether their arrival in Los Angeles would bring more economic harm than benefits to residents.

Some local officials say the retailers drive down wages where they open and force neighborhood businesses struggling to compete with their rock-bottom prices either to close or to cut payrolls.

Similar debates are emerging around the country. A few local governments have enacted laws prohibiting the retailers from doing business in their communities.

Wal-Mart officials scoffed at the council's vote and said the stores boost local economies by providing hundreds of jobs. The company is planning to open several dozen "supercenters" in California but none yet in Los Angeles.

Initially some council members proposed banning Wal-Mart from opening its largest stores, but they later scaled back the measure.

Labor leaders and community groups praised the council's step, saying it would give neighborhoods new power to decide their economic fate.

"This is a great victory for Los Angeles residents," said Roxana Tynan, a director of the Los Angeles Alliance for a New Economy.

-- Rene Sanchez

Nice Weather Too Tempting

For Inmates at Milwaukee Prison

The past five weeks have seen a significant increase in escapes from Milwaukee's minimum-security correctional center, and center officials are blaming -- the nice weather.

Five people have walked away from the Felmers O. Chaney Correctional Center's work-release program since July 7, for a total of 19 escapes this year, equal to the number for all of 2003. Only one of the five escapees has been apprehended.

State Rep. Garey D. Bies (R), with 30 years in law enforcement, said walking away from a work-release stint isn't difficult -- "it's logged as an escape, but it's more like failing to return" to the center.

It bears consequences, however, including extra jail time.

"It's nice out, and there are parties going on and things," said Bies, who served as chief deputy of Door County for 11 years. "His buddies say we're going out and having a beer, so he thinks to hell with going back to jail, I'll go party. What they've done now is jeopardized their freedom because they won't be on work release anymore; they'll be locked up and probably will get extra time. It's one of those things where it feels good at the moment so you go ahead and do it, but you pay the price later."

-- Kari Lydersen

Fla. Lawmaker Looks to Clean Up

State's Offensive Place Names

Try this civics puzzler: What is offensive?

Anyone with the answer might want to get in touch with Steven A. Geller, who represents part of Broward County in the Florida Senate. Geller wants to rid the state of offensive names of cities and rivers and hills and such. But he is not sure what is offensive and what is not.

For instance, one day not so long ago, he asked members of the state legislature's black caucus whether the word "Negro" is offensive to African Americans.

"They laughed and said, 'Why don't you go into the community and ask?' " Geller recalled. "So I guess I got my answer."

Geller wasn't just asking to ask. He sponsored a bill that went into effect in July that gives counties one year to review the names of towns and creeks and all sorts of things to find out whether they offend residents.

Geller isn't giving any hints to the local authorities.

"Like George Carlin had the seven words you can't say on television, I wasn't going to come up with seven offensive names, because I couldn't print it," he said.

Already, there are some prime candidates. There are plenty of places that bear the name Negro and even some that have what Geller delicately calls the "N-word." Down south in the Florida Keys, local officials have already contacted Geller to consult about a place called Jewfish Creek, which makes sense because the Jewfish itself was deemed offensive and is now called the Goliath Grouper.

But the matter could get even more complicated in a little town near Delray. The mayor likes the town name as is: Jap Rock.

-- Manuel Roig-Franzia