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‘89 WAS HAZARDOUS TO THE EARTH’S HEALTH

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This past year was notable for the number of hazards slithering, hissing, fluttering, filtering, buzzing, hurtling and hopping toward us.

Before we get all gooey about 1989, here are some of the things to which we're singing "Auld Lang Syne":-March 23, the Earth was nearly hit by an asteroid a half-mile in diameter traveling 46,000 mph.

The asteroid, named 1989 FC, orbits the sun once a year on a path that regularly brings it close to Earth.

"Sooner or later, it should collide with the Earth, the moon or Mars," astronomer Henry Holt told The New York Times.

The asteroid's impact would be the equivalent of 20,000 one-megaton H-bombs, scientists say, and it would be worse if it hit an ocean because it would create tidal waves several hundred feet high.

P.S. An asteroid hitting the Earth 65 million years ago is widely believe to have killed off the dinosaurs.

-Four 3-inch-long, hissing Madagascar cockroaches were freed in Tampa, Fla., by an insect lover who feared authorities would destroy the imported bugs.

With the flying Asian cockraoch breeding like mad, the last thing Florida feels it needs is a large roach that hisses at tourists.

-The mass release of helium balloons at rallies and sporting events is contributing to the demise of sea turtles. The turtles mistake the deflated balloons for jellyfish and die from eating the indigestible rubber. The millions of jellyfish uneaten by turtles are then free to attack swimmers.

-Large brown snakes are wiping out the native birds, bats and lizards of Guam.

The snakes arrived aboard military cargo vessels during World War II. Their only enemy appears to be electric power lines, which they short-circuit every four or five days in their for hunt for birds.

Islanders considered but rejected a plan to bring in enormous, snake-eating rats to remedy the problem.

-The Environmental Protection Agency's list of cities where smog is a serious health threat grew by 28. The total is now 96 where the air is vile enough to cause respiratory problems.

-The West Coast found itself infested by the "meat bee," a particularly vicious meat-eating wasp of European origin.

These ill-tempered bees build nests that contain 5,000 to 6,000 wasps - that's 20 to 40 times larger than the nests of garden-variety, domestic wasps.

Fifteen to 75 meat bee stings are said to be enough to kill the average person. Last summer meat bees killed a horse that disturbed their rest.

-The town of Mobridge, S.D., was buried by tumbleweeds on Nov. 8. On houses, only the chimneys were visible above the piles of tumbleweeds. The town spent $8,500 to haul away more than 60,000 pounds of the plant, which can grow as large a car.

-Norwegian highway workers erected a sign warning motorists about the danger of ghosts along a highway in southern Norway. Highway workers believed the supernatural was repsonsible for a series of unexplained accidents at the site.

-Biologists were puzzled by a decline - 50 percent to 60 percent in some regions - in the world's population of frogs and toads. Pollution, predators, loss of habitat and hungry peasants were listed as among the possible causes.

-A massive black hole - 1 million times more massive than the sun - has been found in the middle of our galaxy.

Black holes are so dense and their gravitational pull so strong that they suck in anything close by - stars, light, small- to medium-size planets.

Scientists became aware of the black hole when they noticed a 90 trillion-mile-long gas cloud being pulled across the Milky Way.

The hole is only 30,000 light years from Earth.

-Some of the foods involved in contamination scares in 1989: apples, grapes, milk, corn, salmon, cherries, mushrooms, horseradish, jam, fish from Lake Michigan, pears, nectarines, turkeys, strawberries, cantaloupes, tomatoes, carrots, oranges, grapefruit and broccoli.

Meanwhile, scientists said the most dangerous hazard in food may not be pesticides or pollutants but naturally occurring microbes.

-Happy New Year.