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Some Off-the-Wall Ways to Slam Door on Superbug

Superbug, also known as the poinsettia whitefly, is fast achieving fame as one of the most fearsome pests ever to strike California. But farmers and consumers, take heart: Many minds are working feverishly on the problem. Just ask Gera Curry.

Curry is public information officer for the state Department of Food and Agriculture. Since news of the whitefly infestation broke, she has fielded about 50 calls and a “sizable stack” of mail from people with helpful hints.

Among the offerings: snuff (sprinkle liberally), banana stalks (scatter randomly), radio frequencies (deafen the critters), and salsa (dilute and spray). Then there’s Curry’s favorite, the black box.

“Apparently, you take a picture of an infested field, then put it in this box, which is filled with secret ingredients,” Curry explained. “When you return to the field, it will be miraculously free of pests!”

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Several people contacted The Times directly with their suggestions, including Montreville (Monte) Blakeley of Torrance. A veteran who lost an eye in World War II, he believes napalm and flamethrowers are the only sure-fire way to “stop that bug before it chews its way to Oregon.”

“All you do is cordon off the infested fields, and then one happy day--boom, boom, boom--and those flies are burned to a crisp,” said Blakeley, who concedes that many will think him “a nut.”

Curry had this to say: “We understand that people have only the best intentions in coming forward. . . . But we are a scientific organization guided by biological principles. I’m afraid these are not suggestions we can take advantage of.”

BILLBOARD OF EQUALIZATION

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A sign of recognition: It’s not easy getting publicity when you’re a member of the State Board of Equalization. After all, many Californians don’t understand the function of the nation’s only elected tax appeals board--let alone know the names of its five members.

These days, though, Matt Fong--appointed last spring by Gov. Pete Wilson to replace convicted extortionist Paul Carpenter--is having no problem getting his name out in front of 120,000 drivers a day.

A big billboard outside Fong’s new office off the Pomona Freeway reads: “Crossroads Business Park Welcomes MATT FONG . . . Bringing Public Service To You.”

Considering that Fong’s spacious City of Industry digs are renting for $8,040 a month--almost $2,500 a month more than Carpenter’s former office in Lakewood--it’s no wonder the business park is welcoming him.

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Fong, for his part, insists that the blaring billboard was not part of his rental agreement.

“They do it as advertising. . . . It’s the landlord’s way to get more business,” he told The Times.

JUSTICE DELAYED--STILL

Dial J-U-D-G-E: Remember James J. McCartney, the former San Bernardino Municipal Court judge with a guilty conscience?

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In September, we reported that McCartney--now retired and living in the San Joaquin Valley--had spent $500 on a newspaper ad in hopes of finding a defendant he once sentenced.

The conviction was 15 years ago, but McCartney felt that his ruling was wrong. He aimed to track down the man--who got a fine and probation for possession of a knife--and set the record straight.

We checked back with the judge recently, to see how his search had progressed. The mystery man had not yet telephoned--but a lot of other folks had.

There was a collect call from a Mississippi woman who wanted McCartney to represent her troubled son, and a plea for help from a “very nice man” in state prison. A representative of television mogul Aaron Spelling also rang up, expressing interest in the judge’s life story--providing the elusive defendant turns up.

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But most queries have come from the media--Associated Press, a Toronto legal newspaper, a Texas radio station, People magazine. The blizzard of press, while gratifying, made McCartney wonder: Was it possible the target of his hunt was keeping quiet for fear of unwanted publicity?

“Maybe he doesn’t want to be exposed,” His Honor mused. “Maybe he’s married now, with a nice life and two kids, and he doesn’t want people to know he was arrested with a two-foot knife.

“So, I’d like to tell him, if I may, that he can contact me and we’ll keep it strictly confidential. No publicity at all.”

AND DON’T FORGET THE COFFEE

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Stirring up a controversy: A recall effort aiming to oust Amador County Dist. Atty. Larry Dixon got a lift from an unlikely source recently--Dixon himself. It seems that Dixon calls his female employees “bitches"--a term he said he also uses to address his wife.

Dixon, 42, told the Amador Ledger-Dispatch that he uses the word in a “joking, bantering way which was . . . never intended as an insult.” Maybe so, but 300 people have signed dump-Dixon petitions--about one-fourth the number needed to qualify the recall for a June vote.

“Every woman I’ve talked to has been very shocked or upset about this,” said Alan Naditz, a Ledger-Dispatch reporter covering the flap. “He’s done some serious damage here.”

EXIT LINE

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“It is true that California is 15 times the size of Israel, and Los Angeles County has double our population. But we must admit, we get more attention.”

--Israeli Prime Minister Yitzhak Shamir, addressing business leaders during his recent visit to Los Angeles.

California Dateline appears every other Monday.

Small Game Hunting in California

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S mall game birds, such as doves, ducks and quail, continue to be the most popular species hunted in the state, according to the California Department of Fish and Game. Below are estimates of the small game animals killed in 1990, from a survey of 4.9% of the state’s 376,935 licensed hunters. The hunting of such animals is restricted by set seasons and quotas per day of take. Numbers are rounded to the nearest hundred. ANIMAL: NO. KILLED 1990 Doves: 1,651,600 Ducks: 1,027,600 Quail: 865,700 Rabbits*: 457,800 Pheasant: 242,100 Tree squirrels: 123,200 Geese: 109,700 Chukar partridge: 43,800 Band-tailed pigeons: 28,700 Jacksnipe: 22,800 Coots: 11,700 Wild turkeys: 10,600 Grouse**: 9,700 * Includes jack rabbits and cottontail rabbits.

** Includes sage, blue and ruffed grouse.

SOURCE: Calif. Department of Fish and Game.

Compiled by Times editorial researcher Tracy Thomas.

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