California Condor, Worm Castings, Chicken Contact Lenses, and Other News Bits

This collection of news bits from 1981 includes stories about a setback in efforts to save the California condor, research into the production of worm castings, and chicken contact lenses.
By the MOTHER EARTH NEWS editors
March/April 1981

Efforts to save the California Condor from extinction suffered a setback when a condor chick died during an examination by researchers.
PHOTO: FOTOLIA/KOJIHIRANO


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 FLYING FEATHERS: A $500,000 project to save the California condor — only 30 of the birds are known to be alive today — came to a halt as a result of the death of a baby condor being examined under the program. The nestling died from shock and acute heart failure while being scrutinized by two researchers.

 WORKER WORMS: The National Science Foundation has awarded a $25,000 grant to a Michigan research team investigating the use of earthworms to convert biodegradable household garbage into a usable form. In tests that should sound familiar to most composters, the worms — contained in a wooden box filled with bedding material — turn organic waste into nutrient-rich worm castings suitable for potting soil.

 CHICKEN CONTACT LENSES? A company called Animal Optics plans to market red-tinted contact lenses for chickens — eyepieces which will cost about 20¢ a pair — by the fall of 1981. The optical aids supposedly obscure the birds' vision, thereby reducing their urge to peck each other to death. The company estimates that the lenses can reduce a flock's death rate by up to 5% ... and will save large-scale poultry farmers a penny per dozen eggs.

 KEEP THOSE CARDS AND LETTERS COMING: The National Marine Fisheries Service has spent more than $500,000 in an unsuccessful effort to rename nine species of fish that possess such "repugnant" colloquial names as "toadfish", "hogsucker", "grunt", etc .... hoping that Americans will be more apt to eat the fish if their monikers are less repellent. Field & Stream magazine's Ed Bern reported one good suggestion: Call all of them "bass," and "people will be lugging home gunnysacks full."

 A FAMILY RENTAL TAX: Some new proposed regulations released by the IRS include a provision to penalize families who are renting property to close relatives ... even if their kin is being charged at the prevailing market rate. If passed, the regulations would disallow the usual tax deduction that the family could take if the property were leased to non relatives.

 TUNE IN: Watch for "Garden Song," a special television film featuring Alan Chadwick, the man who brought biodynamic /French intensive gardening to this country ... reports on "the method" itself ... and profiles of organizations promoting biointensive growing. The program was produced by John de Graaf and Jim Mulligan, under the aegis of PBS station KTCA. For more information about viewing dates, contact KTCA.

 A BITTER PILL: When birth control recently became legal in predominantly Catholic Ireland, the new "liberal" law ironically made contraceptives more expensive and difficult to obtain. The legislation permits only "bona fide" married couples to buy birth control devices. And there's a sharp penalty for "dealing" in illegal contraceptives: a $1,200 fine for a first conviction, and a one-year prison term for the second.

 A GOOD BEDSIDE MANNER: In Southern India, both modern medicine and poetry are used to heal the sick. In addition to contemporary nostrums, patients are liberally dosed with three liturgical treatments, symbolizing the stages of a person's life before, during, and after the illness. Health statistics indicate that the success of the poetry technique alone rivals that of standard medical practices.

 RENT MOTHER NATURE: A Cambridge, Massachusetts company is now offering rental rights to an entire maple tree (for $28) during the upcoming sap-tapping season. The leases come with a guarantee of a specified quantity of maple syrup ... and the business accepts Master Charge.

 IN SPACE NO ONE CAN HEAR YOU SCREAM: "Johnny B. Goode," a tune by elemental rock 'n' roller Chuck Berry, has been included in a special "earth sounds and sights" program placed on the Voyager space probes to Jupiter, Saturn, and points beyond. Since the mission is designed to last indefinitely, it's possible that extraterrestrial beings — years from now — will be puzzling over the implications of "go, go, go, Johnny, go".

 INCREASING TENSIONS SOUTH OF THE BORDER? A Hispanic "Special Combat Operations Team" — equipped with sidearms, rifles, and automatic weapons — has been conducting weekend war games on a private reservation near Bristol, Texas. Local authorities say they do not know the purpose of the group's activities and cannot prohibit the "games"—despite protests from area residents—since the organization's weapons permits are valid.

A new dental study says that one cup of oolong tea CONTAINS 80 TIMES AS MUCH FLUORIDE as does one cup of fluoridated drinking water, and that the tea could be a valuable natural deterrent against tooth decay .... The Department of Energy has found that legally permissible atmospheric CONCENTRATIONS OF SULFUR DIOXIDE can cut soybean yields by as much as 20% ... . Water hyacinths, commonly regarded as botanical nuisances that clog canals and waterways, are found to provide an inexpensive means of REMOVING NITROGEN AND PHOSPHORUS from the effluent of wastewater treatment plants .... Some sheep ranches in the western U.S. have started using llamas — the moody South American pack animals — as "GUARDS" FOR THEIR FLOCKS. The owners claim that the llamas stomp their front hooves and spit at predators, such as coyotes and dogs, yet coexist amiably with their woolly charges .... A new USDA study analyzes not only the sugar content, but also the TYPE OF SUGAR, found in 62 ready-to-eat breakfast cereals. It's available from the SEA Northeastern Regional Information Office.


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