•The Interior Department last week released a report showing lead poisoning to be a growing cause of death of bald eagles, an endangered species. The birds are poisoned when they prey on waterfowl that have swallowed or been shot with a hunter's lead pellets. The report, based on a study of eagle mortality between 1963 and 1984, indicated that the percentage of bald eagle deaths attributable to lead poisoning had risen from 6.2 in 1980 to 15.2 last year. Interior has called for the banning of lead shot in eight states where eagle poisoning has been a problem, urging hunters to use nontoxic steel shot, but only Iowa, Kansas and South Dakota have complied. In issuing the new report the department threatened to prohibit hunting in the fall of 1986 in parts of Illinois, Missouri, Oklahoma, California and Oregon unless those states also ban lead shot.
•When long-dry Rush Creek in California's Mono County, 350 miles north of Los Angeles, suddenly sprang to life in 1983, no one could have foreseen that L.A.'s water rights would be threatened. But that's what happened. L.A.'s far-reaching Department of Water and Power sought to cut off Rush Creek's flow, but California Trout, a fishermen's group, got a temporary restraining order in Mono County Superior Court to prevent it, arguing in court that dam owners are required by state law to release sufficient water to preserve fish below any dam (SCORECARD, Feb. 4, 1985). The state attorney general filed an amicus brief backing most of Cal Trout's contentions, and after a daylong hearing last week Judge David Otis told SI's Robert Sullivan he would probably decide within a month whether the case will go to trial.
•The Quebec Department of Recreation, Fish and Game has found that last autumn's drowning of 10,000 migrating caribou in the Caniapiscau River (SI, Oct. 15, 1984) was a "natural catastrophe," thus clearing Hydro-Quebec of responsibility. Some of northern Quebec's Inuit natives dispute the finding, saying that under normal conditions no more than 500 caribou perish while crossing the river and that this was the first year water was being spilled by Hydro-Quebec's new dam 275 miles upstream from Limestone Falls. The Inuit think it's no coincidence that Hydro-Quebec is owned by the provincial government, which conducted the investigation.
May 12, 1985
•An international conference this week at the University of Minnesota coordinated by the Acid Rain Foundation of St. Paul will hear new scientific evidence linking air pollutants to the decline of forests. The findings follow recent studies indicating that lakes in the Rockies, as well as those already identified in the Appalachians, are threatened with acidification and that the West is experiencing more acid precipitation than previously realized (SI, Sept. 21, 1981, et seq.). A separate study by Dr. Hubert Vogelmann of the University of Vermont shows a 41% drop in the tonnage of living trees at high elevation on a research site in that state. This spring the Reagan Administration reaffirmed that it wouldn't propose any new funds to fight acid rain.
The Kentucky Derby's Run for the Roses inspires a number of coattail events in Louisville, none stranger than the Run for the Rodents at Spalding University. This year's 13th renewal of the race was sponsored by Sister Julia Clare Fontaine, head of the biology department at the small Catholic college. It attracted a field of 10 black and white laboratory rats, who ran on a 17-foot oval course in the school's parking lot. A pointy-nosed sprinter named Jumpin' Julep leaped over the leader, Kentucky Wild Rat, in the stretch to win by a whisker. The dirty rat's 3.2-second finish was 1.4 seconds off the course record.
Jumpin' Julep should look forward to a comfortable life at stud, considering his classic bloodlines. He's the great-grandson of Bob Sled, last year's winner, and the great-great-great-great grandson of Palace Princess, who scurried to victory in '83. We're sure he'll be happy to get out of the rat race.
BULLY FOR JORDAN
Even at a salary of $550,000, Chicago Bulls rookie Michael Jordan is a bargain. With Jordan on hand, the Bulls' average home attendance in 1984-85 was 87% higher than the year before, and the ticket sales went from about $2 million to $3.8 million. Tack on another $190,000 from the team's four-game playoff loss to Milwaukee (the Jordan-less Bulls didn't make the playoffs last season), and you can figure that Jordan's arrival has brought Chicago $2 million in additional revenues. This 350% return on investment would be Bullish in any league.
THE MAPLE LEAF RAG
The Toronto Star commemorated the Maple Leafs' dismal NHL showing by inviting readers to participate in a "cruel jokes" contest. The winning joke was the one about the team's rookie goalie, Ken Wregget, who was said to be so depressed after yet another one-sided Leaf loss that he jumped in front of the team bus...only to have it roll between his legs.
After hitting a grand slam to beat Cleveland last week, Steve Balboni of Kansas City exulted, "Hitting your first grand slam is a thrill. I'll always remember this." When reminded he'd also hit one in '83, Balboni said, "You're right. I guess I forgot about that one."
A BOAT THAT REALLY SMOKES
Cigarette boats, those storied offshore racing craft, have long been the fastest thing on the Southern Florida seas. So fast that they've become a favorite of the area's abundant drug smugglers. But now the federal government is fighting fire with fire. U.S. Customs officials have acquired an even faster 39-foot twin-hulled version of the craft called Blue Thunder. It was built by Don Aronow, the designer of the original Cigarette.
In the past, cigarettes have been used to offload illicit drugs from larger vessels cruising outside the 12-mile international boundary. Customs agents, in a single sluggish Boston Whaler, were no match for the 60-mph-plus cigarettes. The only way the white hats could capture a loaded cigarette was if it was tied up to a dock. Even when confiscated boats were used to chase down their sister cigarettes, the drug war was at best an even fight. But Blue Thunder is capable of speeds of nearly 70 mph and has extraordinary handling ability.
Cats, more common in ocean powerboat racing than in recreational circles, aren't often used by drug smugglers. They're harder to come by and don't hold as great a payload. Cats can be considerably faster than the conventional deep-V monohulls, though, because the twin hulls ride on a column of air rather than water.
U.S. Customs has only one of these hep cats, hardly enough to police Southern Florida's coast and to stem its share of the nation's $80 billion-a-year drug traffic. But the agency hopes to get more of the $150,000 boats, a development that, one Customs official says, "will definitely affect drug smuggling by sea."
DESPERATELY SEEKING STEINBRENNER
When New York Yankees manager Yogi Berra was axed April 28 and replaced by the ever-available Billy Martin, local sportswriters sidestepped the clubhouse and headed for the analyst's couch to get insights into the uneasy psyche of owner George Steinbrenner. The New York Times' Ira Berkow conducted a whimsical, posthumous interview with Sigmund Freud in which it was suggested that "Herr S" fires managers simply because it makes him feel better. Larry Fox of the Daily News consulted a sports psychologist named Eric Margenau, who is still alive. Margenau says that when Steinbrenner's "need for turmoil" is combined with his "insecurity" and "narcissism," it "creates a very toxic sort of result." He concluded that if Berra's dismissal wasn't strictly a box-office decision, then Steinbrenner is "probably a lot more disturbed than I think he is."
Any psychological profile of Steinbrenner should probably also take into account the acute lack of self-awareness reflected in a quote that appears in a book by Victor Navasky and Christopher Cerf, The Experts Speak. It seems that when Steinbrenner purchased the Yankees in 1973, he said: "We plan absentee ownership. I'll stick to building ships."
SACKED FOR A BIG GAIN AT THE A & P
If you like Green Bay's Packers, and you enjoyed Mark Gastineau's now-outlawed sack dance, wait till you see Karen Cosentino put away the groceries.
Last week in a midtown Manhattan A & P, Cosentino bagged defending checkout champ Cheryl King in the Great East Coast Paper Grocery Sack Pack-Off. The 32-year-old Lodi, N.J. mother of three will check out the West Coast winner, to be decided May 14 in Los Angeles. They will meet next month for the national title.
"I can't believe I beat Cheryl!" Cosentino told SI's William Barnhardt. "Back at the A & P in Saddle Brook, I pack groceries much faster than I did today."
But she was fast enough to simultaneously stuff about 40 pounds of groceries into two perfectly balanced, impeccable arrangements—loading each bag with one hand—in 51.4 seconds. "I know you don't believe this," said Cosentino, "but I like bagging, always have. Even when I taught school or was a secretary, I always had part-time work at an A & P checkout."
Her brown-bagging technique: cans and heavy containers at the bottom: glass and bottles in the center; boxes and lighter items along the sides, with magazines, gum and the like filling in the cracks; produce, eggs and other breakables on top. Everything must be "squared," as checkers say, meaning that if you removed the bag, the groceries would stand together unaided.
Patrick DeVito of Rockville Centre, N.Y. packed it in for second place, and turned in the day's fastest sack in the opening heat—50.98 seconds. "I got a stack of paper bags," he explained, "and practiced all week on all the junk in my cupboard." The bag lady to beat, Jersey City's King, came in third.
At the awards ceremony Cosentino was given a blown-up copy of her first-prize $1,000 check. The host A & P manager jokingly said he wouldn't cash it, even with proper I.D. She also got the Charles Still-well Award, named for the 19th-century inventor of the gadget that produced the contemporary version of the paper bag. The statuette is a more or less human figure, made out of paper bags, holding a smaller paper bag filled with groceries, made from cut-up paper bags.
"Gee," Cosentino said, "I think I'll need a bag to take it home in."
THEY SAID IT
•Pat Williams, Philadelphia 76er general manager, on 7'6", 190-pound Sudanese center Manute Bol, of the University of Bridgeport (Conn.): "He looks like he went to the blood bank and forgot to say 'when.' "
•Dick Selcer, Cincinnati Bengals linebacker coach, after the team picked two linebackers among its first three draft selections: "Unless my wife left me today, I'm very happy."