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.

| September/October 1978

  • 053-news-items-smallpox-eradication-Richard Villalon-fotolia.jpg
    The World Health Organization's smallpox eradication program was on the edge of success in 1978.

  • 053-news-items-smallpox-eradication-Richard Villalon-fotolia.jpg

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.

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