N.Y. Considers Early Holiday Gift

For Weekend Transit Riders

Just in time for holiday shopping and only two weeks before elections, transit officials have proposed cutting New York City straphangers a break on subway and bus fares.

The Metropolitan Transit Authority is considering reducing rates to one buck on weekends between Thanksgiving and Christmas. The perennially broke agency not long ago threatened a fare hike even after turning up an estimated $700 million surplus.

The new proposal to cut fares will cost the MTA $50 million and is expected to receive approval. Mayor Michael R. Bloomberg, who is up for reelection, applauded the proposal.

The tabloids, noting that it's election time in New York, have peppered their coverage with questions about "Evil Motives? Strings Attached?"

MTA Chairman Peter Kalikow, dismissed the cynics, telling Newsday that "sometimes there actually is a free lunch."

-- Michelle Garcia

Texas Town May Tone Down

Its Color-Conscious Name

The Web site for the city of White Settlement, Tex., prominently features an explanation for the town's eye-catching name.

The town was formed near Fort Worth in the late 1840s and incorporated in 1941. "In a time when many predominantly white pioneers were moving to the area, several surrounding settlements were still occupied by Native Americans," the Web site explains.

On Nov. 8, voters will decide whether to continue memorializing these facts with the town's name, or to scrap it and go with something a little more 21st century: West Settlement.

An effort to rename the town failed in the 1970s. Next month's vote is part of a larger plan to attract business to the area without raising anyone's racial hackles.

Townspeople -- 86 percent of whom are white, according to the 2000 census -- are divided. Some call it a practical idea. Others see it as silly.

"Why don't they go ahead and change the name of the White House to the West House?" former City Council member Alan Price said to the Fort Worth Star-Telegram. "They want to do away with the heritage of White Settlement and destroy the history of White Settlement."

-- Sonya Geis

Wisconsin Not Wild About

Growing Feral Pig Population

This is not a good time to be a wild pig in Wisconsin.

Despite the genial hospitality of a state known for its love for cheese, beer and the Green Bay Packers, state authorities have declared the snuffling longhairs a menace to farm animals, wetlands, crops and people. A notice on the Department of Natural Resources Web site says, "the Department promotes aggressive removal anywhere feral pigs are reported."

The undomesticated cousins of Miss Piggy, Arnold and other famous porkers "may be removed at any time throughout the year," the agency reports. A license to hunt small game is all that's required -- unless it's your own land, in which case you can shoot them without a license.

Feral pigs will be fair game year-round, the authorities declared, but with hunting season coming up, the state is hoping to make an early dent in a sow and boar population that has spread to 29 counties.

According to the agency's Web postings, the beasts have black bristles and weigh something over 100 pounds. They stand very close to the ground, can run 30 mph and swim well. They have good sniffers and ears but lousy eyesight.

They squeal, grunt and wallow in holes. They snooze during the day and feed at dawn and dusk. Lest hunters be mistaken, the agency distributed photos.

-- Peter Slevin

In Name of Florida City,

Waxing Isn't So Poetic

Place names in Florida often have roots that lie no deeper than the developer's whimsy. Comedians, including Jerry Seinfeld, have made sport of the results, and a running joke among locals is that many neighborhoods are named for the species they wiped out.

Even so, many in Tamarac, a city of nearly 60,000, were surprised this month at just how arbitrary the origins of their hometown may have been.

Some thought Tamarac had the ring of a Native American label. Some had presumed the city was named for a tree. But a local paper recently contacted the developer, Kenneth E. Behring, now in Danville, Calif., to get the scoop.

Behring's office confirmed the prosaic truth: It was named after a chain of Wisconsin car washes he owned, known as Caramat. Tamarac is the car wash spelled backward.

"It's been going on for years, and no one seemed to know where the name came from," Mayor Joe Schreiber said. "Everyone had different opinions."

But to be named after a car wash?

"It could be considered cleaner since it's after a car wash," he said. "What's in a name, anyway?"

-- Peter Whoriskey