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of life in the Golden State

By All Counts, 3rd Planet From Sun Is Also Fecund

July 27, 1999|PATT MORRISON

So, California--feel up to blowing out 6 billion birthday candles?

All right, then, can you at least extinguish, say, 35 million?

The U.S. Census Bureau estimates that the 6-billionth human being in the history of humankind was born on July 19, somewhere, last week. And a consortium of California population groups theorizes that he or she could well have been born in the Golden State, where the birthrate is higher than that of the nation as a whole.

Worldwide, here's the breakout:

From the first human to 1804, 1 billion.

From 1804 to 1960--156 years-2 billion more.

From 1960 to now--39 years--3 billion more, for a total of 6 billion.

And from now until 2050--barely a half-century--a projected running tally of nearly 9 billion.

That trend, says the coalition of population groups, is echoed in California, whose population has tripled since 1950 and now stands at something above 34 million.

The Census Bureau equated the world's growth with adding a city as populous as San Francisco every three days. Don't tell Willie Brown or he'll want to run them too.

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Gator Aid: A slick exchange between hipsters of the early 1950s was "See ya later, alligator," and "After 'while, crocodile."

At the San Diego Zoo, "later" came last week, when zoo officials found at the gates a nearly 8-foot-long alligator, zippered into a sleeping bag bearing the handwritten note "Hi, I'm Wally. I eat chickens and ducks. I'm too big for Santee and I need love."

Well, what's a zoo to do?

The critter, who appeared well cared-for and between 5 and 10 years old, was under quarantine until his new people can figure out what to do with him--probably send him to some facility not so plentifully supplied with alligators as the San Diego Zoo.

Unlike tales of babies left in baskets on the doorsteps of orphanages, this abandonment began not with a pleading note but with a pleading phone call. Police spokesman Bill Robinson said a man who wouldn't identify himself called to say that the alligator had grown too big to keep at home in Santee, east of San Diego, and he'd give it to the zoo. The zoo wasn't interested.

The second phone call came just after midnight, from a pay phone, reporting the unsolicited gift, an alligator "tied . . . into a bundle" and resembling "a body bag," Robinson said.

Despite the earlier "no thanks," the man evidently believed that once "he dropped it off, they'd be forced to take it," Robinson said.

Since January 1992, such exotic pets have been illegal in California, and a permit search turned up no such Wally licensed to be living in Santee.

Perhaps as a result of the law, and the nature of the creatures themselves, such "donations" are hardly rare.

"If we took every exotic pet donation," said Don Boyer, the zoo's associate curator of reptiles, "we'd have a zoo filled with ostriches, lions, iguanas and alligators."

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One-offs: In what a prosecutor described as "parking lot rage," a San Jose woman frustrated with trying to find a parking space so she could take her 98-year-old mother to chemotherapy pleaded no contest to grabbing an 88-year-old woman by the sweater and knocking her down after the octogenarian beat her to a parking spot. . . . A rare thick-billed parrot on loan from the Sacramento Zoo was on antibiotics for an infection when she was kidnapped from the Central Park Zoo in New York City by a young actor who found it "very friendly"; the parrot died a few days after police recovered her. . . . A Riverside County sheriff's sergeant stopped a truck hauling familiar-looking furniture and later found that it was his own, stolen from his house. . . . Two San Diegans were indicted for Medicare fraud for allegedly delivering 30-cent adult diapers to nursing homes, then billing Medicare for female "urinary incontinent devices" at $9.25 to $9.50 each.

Chickenpox Vaccinations

Federal health officials recommend that all youngsters be inoculated against chickenpox before entering child care, but only 35% of California's children receive the vaccine, according to the latest national survey. California is considering mandatory use of the vaccine, which has been available since 1995, to combat the highly contagious disease. Following are states with the highest percentage of young children vaccinated for chickenpox.

1. Maryland

% Children Age 19-35 Months Vaccinated (1997): 40

2. Pennsylvania

% Children Age 19-35 Months Vaccinated (1997): 39

3. District of Columbia

% Children Age 19-35 Months Vaccinated (1997): 36

4. Minnesota

% Children Age 19-35 Months Vaccinated (1997): 36

5. Rhode Island

% Children Age 19-35 Months Vaccinated (1997): 35

6. California

% Children Age 19-35 Months Vaccinated (1997): 35

7. Hawaii

% Children Age 19-35 Months Vaccinated (1997): 34

8. Virginia

% Children Age 19-35 Months Vaccinated (1997): 32

9. North Carolina

% Children Age 19-35 Months Vaccinated (1997): 30

10. Oregon

% Children Age 19-35 Months Vaccinated (1997): 29

Source: Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, Atlanta

Researched by TRACY THOMAS / Los Angeles Times

EXIT LINE

"I think that once we get past the flake factor, people will realize that maybe we can make a serious statement."

--David Minton Silva, spokesman for the campaign to put a measure on the March 2000 ballot to declare Santa Cruz a "hate-free zone."

California Dateline appears every other Tuesday.

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