Maine Divided Over

Whether to Fall Back

PORTLAND, Maine -- John Rossignol says: Let there be light.

The winter sun goes down earlier in the day in his northern Maine home town of Van Buren than anywhere else in the continental United States.

That is why Rossignol -- and most other Mainers -- are fans of Congress's decision to extend daylight-saving time by a month beginning in 2007. But Rossignol wonders: Why not make it 12 months a year?

With daylight saving time ending at 2 a.m. Sunday, most people turn back their clocks and set the stage for early darkness.

By mid-December, the sun will set at Van Buren and some neighboring towns as early as 3:42 p.m., according to the U.S. Naval Observatory. That is before most people get home from work and many children get home from school. The early sunset makes daylight saving time serious business in Maine.

Six months ago, state legislators introduced a bill proposing that Mainers vote on whether to move from the Eastern time zone to the Atlantic time zone. That would align Maine with Canada's Maritime Provinces and accomplish the same thing as staying in the Eastern time zone and extending daylight saving time year-round.

The bill passed unanimously in committee before being rejected. State Rep. Jonathan McKane co-sponsored the bill because, he said, "Every year when we fall back, Maine people lose an hour of usable daylight in the afternoon. They can no longer play outside, work outside, do any kind of home construction or commercial construction. . . . We couldn't be more counterproductive if we tried."

But residents of southern and western Maine border towns objected to being in a different time zone than in New Hampshire and the rest of New England. Others said it would create problems for broadcasting: Prime-time TV shows would run until midnight, and baseball and football would run into the wee hours.

Philadelphia Girds

For a Transit Strike

PHILADELPHIA -- The city made preparations for a possible transit strike as the region's main transportation agency and its largest labor union faced off in a stalemate over wages and health benefits.

If no deal is reached by 12:01 a.m. Monday, the city's subway, trolley and bus workers will walk off the job, said Jeff Brooks, the president of Transport Workers Union Local 234. In addition to Brooks's union, which represents about 5,000 city transit workers, about 300 suburban transit workers represented by United Transportation Union Local 1594 plan to strike at the same time.

The Southeastern Pennsylvania Transportation Authority's commuter rail system has a different union contract and would continue to operate. But the city and suburban transportation that would shut down during a strike have a much higher ridership and are vital to mobility in a city where one in three households lacks a car.

City preparations included setting up extra bicycle racks and allowing more parking. City schools, which do not provide bus service for high schoolers, plan to remain open but could reconsider if there is a prolonged strike.

Hunger Rises in Texas,

Nation, USDA Reports

AUSTIN, Tex. -- A higher percentage of Texas households were at risk of going hungry over the past three years than in any other state, according to data released Friday by the Agriculture Department.

Between 2002 and 2004, more than 16 percent of Texas households at some point had trouble providing enough food for all their family members, the USDA said.

In nearly 5 percent of Texas households, at least one family member went hungry at least one time during that period because the household could not afford enough food. That is the fourth-highest rate in the country. Oklahoma had the highest rate at 5.6 percent.

Nationwide, 11.4 percent of households were at risk of going hungry during that period, and 3.6 percent of U.S. households had at least one member go hungry, the USDA said.

The latest national figures were higher than in the previous three-year period. Between 1999 and 2001, an average of 10.4 percent of households were at risk for hunger, and an average of 3.1 percent of households experienced hunger.

Caped Teen Slays Two,

Then Self in California

ALISO VIEJO, Calif. -- A 19-year-old in a black cape and helmet went on a shooting rampage Saturday in his Southern California neighborhood, killing a man and his daughter before committing suicide, authorities said.

William Freund shot Vernon Smith, 45, and Christina Smith, 22, to death in their home, the Orange County Sheriff's Department said. A 20-year-old son escaped after hearing shots.

Freund fired into another house, where someone inside was cut by broken glass. The teenager tried to fire at another neighbor but retreated to his house and shot himself, authorities said.

-- From News Services

John Rossignol, sitting in the dim afternoon light at his home in Van Buren, Maine, backs legislation that would make daylight saving time year-round.