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Snapshots of life in the Golden State. : Whale Watchers Must Wait for Another Voting Season

CALIFORNIA DATELINE / PATT MORRISON

January 19, 1996|PATT MORRISON

And you thought voters had already freed Willie when San Francisco elected him mayor. . . . Not so. An initiative to open the floodgates on captive marine mammals--the cetacean and pinniped bill of rights--must await another election.

Amid the shoals of initiatives, Assemblyman Richard Katz's measure, inevitably called the "Free Willy Initiative," was swimming upstream. "I suppose you could say," remarked campaign consultant Darry Sragow, "the time had come to fish or cut bait."

Katz's measure would allow parks like Sea World and Marine World--the Sylmar Democrat calls them "fish tanks"--to display animals they already had, but they could no longer use dolphins, whales, seals and such "ripped from their environment."

It has been a mixed month for seagoing mammals. A virus of the kind that causes measles in humans and distemper in dogs closed rehab pools in San Diego and Vallejo to sick or beached marine mammals, lest the facilities' captive creatures catch the bug too.

And researchers testing noisy underwater soundings to gauge global warming say it has not interfered with aurally oriented marine mammals. On the contrary, they see whales, dolphins and seals frolicking near the test site off Half Moon Bay. Perhaps they were there to support the initiative, which organizers intend to refloat. "Sea World," warns Sragow, "should not gloat."

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Leave 'em in stitches: The Desert Sun headline said "Gingrich bats for Bono," but from the looks of Sonny Bono, someone had been batting at him.

Fear not--those 11 stitches to the Palm Springs Republican's right jaw came from a skiing accident in Big Bear, not a political run-in. Gingrich reportedly metes out punishment by playing no-show at fund-raisers for GOP members of Congress who defied him on the balanced budget matter, and Bono voted with Gingrich.

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Burghers versus burgers: You know the slogan--"billions and billions served" (they never say how many get eaten). Berkeley vegetarians printing up a few hundred T-shirts reading, "McVegan. Billions and billions saved"--as in, cattle saved by a vegetarian diet--roused the fast-food giant.

McDonald's threatened suit over the slogan and arches on Vegan Action's T-shirts. The David and Goliath parties compromised after Vegan Action agreed to a disclaimer proclaiming the shirt a parody and not a product of McDonald's.

McDonald's has a second-front battle in a London court against two Britons who handed out pamphlets labeling McDonald's food unhealthful and environmentally ruinous. The case has already cost the firm a McMillion-plus; the broke defendants represent themselves in court in T-shirts and sandals. The longest libel trial in British history still has some weeks to go.

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Flu Season

A total of 10,237 people died of influenza and pneumonia in California in 1994, up nearly 6% from four years earlier. Here are the counties with the most flu and pneumonia deaths in 1994 and the percentage change from 1990.

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% change County 1994 deaths 1990 deaths from 1990 Los Angeles 2,888 2,793 +3.4% San Diego 824 715 +15.24% Orange 684 741 -7.69% Santa Clara 477 320 +49.06% Sacramento 464 324 +43.20% Alameda 404 394 +2.53% San Bernardino 395 387 +2.06% Riverside 380 466 -18.45% San Francisco 380 368 +3.26% San Mateo 271 251 +7.96%

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\o7 Source: State Department of Health Services\f7

Researched by TRACY THOMAS / Los Angeles Times

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Top job, top dollar: To get good people to deliver the goods to San Francisco, they need good pay--better than they're getting. So Mayor Willie Brown wants to amend the city charter to up the bucks he can offer to lure "first team players" to his team.

The most Brown can now offer is $97,300, 70% of his $139,000 salary. The man of whom it could be said that living well is the best revenge wasn't sure he could live on that before he decided to run for mayor. It's $19,000 more than Pete Wilson's wage, $73,000 less than L.A. County Sheriff Sherman Block, and $138,999 more than L.A.'s buck-a-year millionaire mayor, Richard Riordan.

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One offs: San Jose State's student body president is six months older than the university president. . . . The new Rancho Mirage library can kick out any patron whose odor is deemed offensive--presumably body odor, not certain fragrances as strong as they are expensive. . . . An escapee from a San Mateo County jail was caught at a pay phone after he mistakenly called 911 instead of 411.

EXIT LINE

\o7 "I'm very bullish on our prospects."\f7

--Republican National Committee chairman Haley Barbour in San Diego, employing a macho stock market-ism to rate GOP chances of capturing women's votes.

California Dateline appears every other Friday.

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