Smallpox Eradication, Locust Swarm, and Other News Items

The following collection of short news items includes stories about smallpox eradication, locust swarms in Africa, and road rage in Los Angeles.
By the MOTHER EARTH NEWS editors
September/October 1978
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The World Health Organization's smallpox eradication program was on the edge of success in 1978.
PHOTO: RICHARD VILLALON/FOTOLIA


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The following news items were drawn from multiple sources. 


Smallpox Eradication

Is smallpox gone for good? The World Health Organization (WHO) is almost ready to announce a total "victory" over smallpox. That declaration will be made—if no new cases crop up—in late 1978. (The last outbreak of the disease was reported in Somalia in October 1977.) Should their triumph become official, WHO plans to recommend that vaccination—the crux of worldwide eradication efforts since 1967—be discontinued.

African Locust Swarm

40-Square-mile locust swarms threaten to cause widespread starvation over much of East Africa and parts of the Middle East. The war in Ethiopia—whose Ogaden region is the breeding ground for the voracious insects—has hampered international locust-control efforts. Says one specialist, "It's the worst swarm in sixteen years and it's growing worse every day."

Natural Fertilizer Shortage

Not enough manure to spread around? Recent studies from Washington University and the University of Missouri show that organic farmers can compete commercially with chemical farmers. Don't look for a total changeover to organic techniques, though, as the U.S. has a manure shortage! It's estimated that to supply enough dung for a complete switch to natural fertilizers, America would need 61 million farm animals—twenty times what we have today. Despite this "compost crisis," 1% of the country's farms no longer use chemical fertilizers, and many more are now getting increasingly selective about how the substances are applied.

L.A. Road Rage

They're fightin' on the freeways in Los Angeles, as frustration—caused by traffic jams, heat, and noise—turns rational people into highway kamikazes. Dr. Martin Reisser, director of behavioral sciences and psychology for the L.A. Police Department, put it nicely. "People are beginning to lose control," he said. In just nine months California police have cited nearly 400 cases of "vehicular assault" on the freeways. The most spectacular case involved a driver who went on a 20-mile personal demolition derby which damaged 32 cars and inured dozens of people.

Coyote Poison

"Coyote getters" have gotten out of hand, and the Wyoming Bureau of Land Management has issued a warning about the sodium cyanide "traps." Too many people and pets have accidentally triggered these devices which—the BLM statement warns—are prohibited on public lands. The .38-caliber cartridge-powered "gas guns" must also be marked with a bright warning sign set within ten feet of the trap. The BLM says that there have been no humans injured, so far.

Household Pollutants

Fifty million Americans have radioactive false teeth warns the Center for Science in the Public Interest. Its book, The Household Pollutants Guide (Doubleday, New York, 1978), uncovers dangerous products commonly found in U.S. households from the "atomic" chompers to chemicals that aren't handled in science labs without protective equipment. This paperback gives "old-timey" substitutes for many of the risky products named.

Plant Smog

Vegetation may contribute to smog levels. In fact, a study done by San Francisco's Bay Area Air Pollution Control District says that plants could be the main source of hydrocarbons in city smog. The report (issued by chief meteorologist James Sandberg) claims that ozone producers released by vegetation in the hilly city could exceed 1,000 metric tons a day, more than that given off by all of the area's autos, factories, etc. However, EPA's Joseph J. Bufalini scoffs at the figures. He says that Sandberg's group unknowingly measured "diluted auto hydrocarbons and emissions from man-made sources".

Anti-Cancer Drug

"Conclusive" results from a cancer-killer drug have been announced by Dr. Martin Apple, whose research team developed the substance called "azetomicine." Apple—a professor of pharmacology at the University of San Francisco—produced the drug with the help of a computer network that stores chemical and biological data. The doctor says that his new medicine has cured animals whose cancers made up 18% of their total body weight. There'll be more tests before azetomicine is tried on humans.

In Brief

A "Stone-Age" Culture in an Extinct Philippine Volcano could provide a source of study for scientists the world over if the bark-clad inhabitants aren't co-opted first! Philippine President Ferdinand Marcos and wife have already helicoptered up to the village to get their pictures taken with the friendly "primitives" .... A jobless Minnesota artist—who stole some barn siding to use as "canvas"—was sentenced to repaint the entire structure. He did such a fine job that the owner Hired Him to Paint the House, Too ... for $3.50 an Hour .... Lombardy Professor Carlo Bertelli warns that Polluted Air is Destroying Da Vinci's " Last Supper," The professor says that smog and sulfur will cause the masterpiece to disintegrate unless an air-filtration system is immediately installed .... ConAgra Inc. is testing the market for a line of " City Dog " and "Suburb Dog" Pet Foods. "Barn-Cat Litter" can't be far behind .... The Native Sun, a Florida Resort for Nonsmokers, claims to already have a waiting list for next winter's season .... The EPA Has Proposed a Ban on Polychlorinated Biphenyls (PCB's). The toxic chemicals are used as insulating fluids in electrical equipment .... Interior Secretary Cecil Andrus recently said that the U.S. may face a Water Crisis by the Early 1980's. Andrus predicts, however, that massive federal efforts won't be needed if the states move to prevent the shortage.


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