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August 8, 2013

Elvis Week Honored With Release Of Elvis At Stax


Associated Press

Memphis TN. (AP) It was 1973, and Elvis Presley’s comeback was in fifth gear.

After years of making mediocre movies, he had returned to touring and performing in Las Vegas. In January of that year, he staged the ``Aloha from Hawaii’’ concert live via satellite, viewed by a billion people worldwide.

But, due to a contractual obligation, he also needed to create new material. He and manager Col. Tom Parker decided that Presley’s beloved Memphis was the place to do it.

The result was two recording sessions at Stax Records, the influential studio where Otis Redding, Isaac Hayes, Sam & Dave and others created the ``Memphis soul’’ sound in the 1960s and early 1970s.

Presley’s sessions in July and December 1973 produced country, R&B and pop songs that were released in three separate albums.

Forty years after Presley’s Stax sessions, RCA Legacy is releasing the three-CD box set ``Elvis at Stax: Deluxe Edition’’ on Tuesday. It’s the first time Presley’s songs recorded at Stax are together in the same release, which also includes outtakes and rare photos.

``The dissipation of the Stax recordings across three albums over 18 months provided little or no creative kudos for such deserving artistic accomplishment,’’ wrote ``Elvis at Stax’’ producer Roger Semon in notes accompanying the release. ``The objective of `Elvis at Stax’ is to reflect the true spontaneity and musicianship of Elvis’ sessions.’’

The release of the set comes days before the start of Elvis Week on Saturday. Thousands of the singer’s devotees flock to Memphis each year for a celebration of his life and career, with a candlelight vigil serving as a memorial for his death, on Aug. 16, 1977, in Memphis at age 42.

Presley recorded his first song, ``That’s All Right,’’ at Sun Studio in 1954. Fifteen years later, after making movies and staying away from the performing stage, he cut a series of hit singles at Memphis’ American Studio, marking the start of his comeback. Those hits included ``In the Ghetto’’ and ``Suspicious Minds.’’

Presley returned to touring in 1972, a year that also saw the release of the Golden Globe Award-winning documentary ``Elvis on Tour.’’

According to author Robert Gordon, Presley and Parker wanted to build on the success in 1973 to try to re-establish Presley. Parker cut a deal with the record company RCA, selling Presley’s rights to his existing song catalog for $5.4 million. Part of the deal required that Presley deliver new material, according to Gordon’s notes in the box set.

With American Sound Studio closed, Presley turned to Stax.

The sessions, on July 20-23, produced ``Raised on Rock,’’ ``I’ve Got a Thing About You Baby,’’ and ``For Ol’ Time’s Sake.’’

But on the last night, while recording ``Girl of Mine,’’ Presley noticed a change in sound from the previous night.

He discovered that his personal microphone had been stolen, considered a virtual crime in the music business.

``The theft was a disappointing end to a good session,’’ writes Gordon, who also authored the books ``It Came from Memphis’’ and ``The Elvis Treasures.’’

Presley came back to Stax on Dec. 10 for a weeklong session. By then, his divorce with Priscilla Presley had been finalized.
The session included the energetic ``I Got a Feeling in My Body,’’ written by Dennis Linde, who also had penned ``Suspicious Minds.’’

Former Muscle Shoals keyboard player David Briggs and bassist Norbert Putnam, who recorded with Presley in Nashville, were among the session musicians.

Putnam recalls noticing that Presley had gained some weight and lost some of the infectious energy he displayed when Putnam worked with him in Nashville. But once the recordings started, Presley’s voice sounded strong as ever, Putnam said.

``We started an old Chuck Berry tune, and he came alive,’’ Putnam said. ``He immersed himself in the music.’’

Agencies Now Track The Biggest Fish: Whale Sharks


The Courier

Houma, LA (AP) Each June and July near the full moon, the northern Gulf of Mexico hosts a mysterious gathering of whale sharks.

Dozens of the hulking black sharks with white spots glide about with mouths agape as they skim the water’s surface during a 12-hour tuna egg buffet of sorts.

A decade ago, records of these unusual gatherings existed only in fishermen’s tales.

Scientists have spent the last decade piecing together an understanding of the fish’s existence in the northern Gulf and tracking these gatherings that have also been reported in other parts of the world.

``In the past we were amazed just to see 16 animals. ... Then look back to 2010, there were 16 to 20 of the animals everywhere you turned,’’ said Eric Hoffmayer, National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration research fisheries biologist. ``Staying in the water with those guys, it was just a surreal experience.’’

Hoffmayer began researching the whale sharks’ habits and habitat in the northern Gulf in 2002. Today the project is a collaborative effort between scientists at the University of Southern Mississippi, NOAA and the Louisiana Department of Wildlife and Fisheries.

The whale shark is the ocean’s largest fish, growing more than 30 feet long and in some cases weighing 20 tons.

LWDF fisheries biologist Jennifer McKinney said these assemblies coincide with tuna spawning events and consistently occur near the Ewing Bank, about 100 miles from Cocodrie.

Whale Shark feeding (c) Brian J. Skerry

Researchers are investigating many aspects of the gatherings including whether they are the result of an ``evolutionary memory’’ or the sharks opportunistically following spawning fish.

Hoffmayer recalled a research trip to the Ewing Bank in 2010 where on one day they spotted no sharks in the area. The next day, more than 100 converging around them.

``How do you go from zero to 100 animals? It is a 12- to 24-hour event. How are they finding this and where are they coming from?’’ Hoffmayer said. ``We are starting to find out they may be staying with it. It may not be that they move far from it.’’

Researchers are also researching whether the shark population in the northern Gulf is resident or migratory.

``We find that is probably a mixture, We have some that go into the southern Gulf of Mexico. But we have had a few that appear to stay in the northern Gulf during the winter time,’’ Hoffmayer said.

McKinney said their research includes determining the importance of underwater geographic features and artificial reef structures provided by production platforms in making the northern Gulf a hospitable habitat for the whale shark.

``The overall goal would be to learn more about these animals in our region and determine what connectivity the Gulf has to the rest of the ocean,’’ Hoffmayer said. ``In theory they can go wherever they want. Why is our area important to those guys? That is something in the future we can use to help protect them.’’

The sharks are typically observed near the continental shelf edge, around 100 miles out, making them expensive and difficult to observe, McKinney said.

Fly overs, the occasional tagging trip and citizen reports make up most of the data collection currently. In June, researchers encountered about two-dozen whale sharks in the northern Gulf and tagged 10 with trackers, McKinney said.

But those devices only report for six months, giving researchers only a small look at their movements, she said.

Research is also aided by citizen scientists. The University of Southern Mississippi hosts a survey accumulating reports of whale shark sightings. Hoffmayer said more than 600 reports have been received since the program began.

``It is very expensive to go offshore. We do not make that many trips. Everything that we have done is heavily influenced by the public’s data they provide,’’ Hoffmayer said.

Citizens efforts can be particularly insightful a unique spot pattern on each whale shark serves a permanent identifier that is easily photographed, McKinney said.

``That is a natural `tag’ that will last for the entire lifespan of the shark. So no matter where that shark goes worldwide that tag will persist. We will be able to see the connection between other areas,’’ she said.

McKinney said if a boater spots a whale shark, they should try to get a photograph of the animal’s left side. Whale sharks are docile and are most likely feeding if spotted skimming the surface, she said.

Reports of whale shark sightings and photographs can be submitted at or by emailing whalesharksurvey(at)

McKinney said swimming alongside these giants can be life changing, but advised swimmers avoid touching the animal out of concern for the whale’s safety and respect for the fish.

Suburb Seeks To Reduce Deer Population With Birth Control


Associated Press

Hastings-On-Hudson, NY (AP) This suburban village overlooking the Hudson River is a mere 2 square miles, home to a hip downtown, neighborhoods of neatly kept homes and an ever-growing population of deer that overrun woods, chew through gardens and cause more than a dozen car crashes a year.

Grasping for a way to control the deer without hunting the animals, leaders of this village of 7,900 have proposed an ambitious compromise to shoot them up, not with bullets but with birth control.

Scientists and humane groups hope the program, which seeks to capture and inject female white-tailed deer with a contraceptive made from pigs’ ovaries, can become a model for other places that are too congested or compassionate to consider killing.

``We’re hearing all about `Don’t kill Bambi’ and all the jokes about deer condoms,’’ Mayor Peter Swiderski said. ``People are having their little chuckles. But deer have a pretty big negative effect on the community.’’

Under the plan, which will begin this winter if approved by the state Department of Environmental Conservation, as many as 90 percent of the does in Hastings will be tranquilized, inoculated with the contraceptive, then tagged and released. The deer population is estimated at up to 120, a density of 60 per square mile. That’s three times the deer density that some studies have tied to a decline in plant and animal species.

The goal is a 35 to 40 percent reduction in five years.

Stephanie Boyles Griffin, a senior director at the Humane Society of the United States, said, ``There are thousands of communities in the U.S. that are looking for alternative ways to manage the deer populations.’’ If successful, she said, ``Hastings would be the first open suburb in the U.S. to manage deer exclusively through the use of immunocontraception.’’

Swiderski said he had heard about such experiments and approached expert Allen Rutberg, director of the Center for Animals and Public Policy at Tufts University.

Rutberg went for a walk in Hastings, saw plenty of deer and deer damage, and figured the village would make an interesting experiment.

``For me the idea is to intervene in the lives of the deer as little as possible, to allow them to mingle with us but not to the level where they become a nuisance,’’ Rutberg said. ``If we can avoid killing things that live in our neighborhoods, then I think we should.’’

The protein, called zona pellucida, is obtained from pork industry slaughterhouses. It creates antibodies in deer, and elephants and horses, that prevent fertilization.

The mayor said dozens of residents have volunteered to monitor deer numbers and travel patterns and measure landscape damage.

Among them is Nancy Balaban, 85, who said she’s had to give up gardening in her yard because ``the deer just ate everything down to the ground. Hostas, tulips, even holly bushes.’’

She especially laments the damage to Hastings’ ``beautiful treasure,’’ its village forest, where hardly anything green can be seen from the ground to 6 or 7 feet up the tree trunks.

``All the saplings are eaten,’’ Balaban said. ``It’s going to end up being a desert.’’

Rutberg said the forest damage also affects ``the critters that live in the vegetation: ground-nesting birds, small rodents, amphibians.’’

Some neighbors have erected tall wrought-iron fencing, coupled with netting, to keep the beasts out of their gardens.

Balaban said that’s too expensive. She limits her puttering now to a few pots of flowering begonias and bacopa on a second-floor balcony. ``The deer haven’t learned to fly yet,’’ she said.

The mayor said he suspects most Hastings residents would support a killing program, but opponents could delay or sabotage it.

``I’m picturing kids on TV with signs that say `Don’t shoot the deer,’’’ he said.

The Humane Society and In Defense of Animals are helping to pay for the experiment, which will probably cost at least $30,000 for the first two years. Although the does have to be treated every two or three years, they don’t have to be captured again once they’re tagged and that will keep labor costs down. Subsequent doses can be delivered by dart, Rutberg said.

The Humane Society supports the program because ``our major focus is to encourage people to tolerate wild animals and coexist with them,’’ Griffin said.

Barbara Stagno of In Defense of Animals said, ``There’s a lot of killing of wildlife under the guise of not being able to cohabit. It happens with geese, it happens with deer. Killing rarely is the answer.’’

Rutberg has run similar experiments on Fripp Island, S.C., and on the enclosed grounds of the National Institute of Standards and Technology in Gaithersburg, Md. Because Hastings is neither an island nor fenced in, there’s a risk of deer from elsewhere moving in and affecting the numbers. But Rutberg said that makes it more of a real-world experiment.

He added, however, that deer tend to stay within a quarter-mile of where they’re born.

``They obviously like it here,’’ he said. ``They’re native, they belong in our forests. But maybe not at 60 per square mile.’’



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