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Nūz: Santa Cruz County News Briefs

Santa Cruz Council mulls ban on appearing to be up to no good, CDFA announces 'last feline of defense' against LBAM, sea lion negotiations break down yet again and frog-licking enters the mainstream.

No Peace on the Wharf

Peace talks seeking to end years of territorial disputes on the Santa Cruz wharf between rival factions of local sea lions devolved into shouting and confusion, ending the summit with no discernible gains for any party. According to one witness, the sea lions "were just in a shouting match. They were barking loudly at each other well into the night. It was clear nothing was going to be resolved." Talks are set to resume first thing in the morning. The dispute centers mainly over who gets to lie in the sunniest spot on a small strip of dock floating just off the wharf.

Chairing the ruling party was Very Large Male, who angrily sought to rebuff a challenge by embattled opposition leader Slightly Smaller Male over the territory. 

The summit was rocky from start to finish, with several interruptions. Around 12:30pm, proceedings came to a full stop when a group of tourists showered the assembly with leftover french fries. A seagull detail was forced to clear the floor before order could be restored.

Several factors contributed to the stalemate, including an apparent lack of support or organization from within the separate sea lion coalitions. Many seemed to be ignoring the proceedings entirely, appearing at some points to be fast asleep. Another factor long blamed for the lack of progress is the inability for either faction to settle on the exact boundaries of the disputed territory, continually changing their demands as the sunniest spot moves throughout the day. 

Historically, the territory dispute has been observed to turn violent in the springtime months as the Female Sea Lion bargaining unit returns to the table to discuss renewing and reforming mating contracts. Analysts have been watching the summit proceedings carefully, and said that today's fruitless discussions "conform precisely to all records of previous sea lion talks" and a bleak outlook for more progressive sea lion parties interested in resolution, namely Female and Smaller, Weaker Male.

Jessica Lussenhop

Meow Fix

In what it hopes will be the checkmate move in its long fight against the invasive light brown apple moth, the California Department of Agriculture is unleashing one of the insect's oldest natural predators: kittens. Beginning in May, the CDFA, in partnership with the Department of Fish and Game and the National Guard, will begin importing the first of more than 5 million felix domesticus juveniles, which it is hoped will eliminate the voracious pest through endless batting of the insects. Though kittens typically only kill about 10 percent of the moths and butterflies they chase, scientists believe that consistent annoyance by the cats will keep the bugs occupied and unable to mate.

"Within one or two generations, the moths should be gone," says CDFA spokesman Steve Lyle. "Kittens are genetically tuned to attack anything small and flapping. They may look cute, but let me assure you, each one is a godless moth-killing machine."

When asked why the program plans to use young, still-developing house cats and not fully grown wild cats, or another, more practical predator--such as one with wings--Lyle assured that kittens are the only animal cute enough to be accepted by the finicky Central Coast residents.

"What, you think we could just import a million spiders or bats? Those things are creepy," he said.

Code named "Apocalypse Meow," the effort will cost much less than pheromone spraying or trapping, as most of the kittens are being taken from the state's vast supply of wacky aunts, homeless hippies and single women over 50.

Though the effectiveness of this unprecedented strategy is still in doubt, one thing all sides have agreed on is that once the moths are gone, the environment will be unable to support the swarms of cats. Always ahead of the game, the CDFA has recruited several hundred rural teens armed with BB guns, who, they say, are highly trained in the elimination of house cats.

Curtis Cartier

Don't Croak!

The bufo alvarius toad is a squat, rather generic-looking amphibian found throughout Arizona's Sonoran Desert. But this toad is far from ordinary, as its skin secretes a powerful venom that, when ingested by humans, causes an intense psychedelic "trip." Cheap, effective and natural, the toads are becoming the new drug of choice for thousands of Californians who are "going green" with all-organic illicit substances.

"Toads are the future. man," said a user on Pacific Avenue, calling himself King Ribbet. "All you need is a toad, a Rubik's Cube and 12 hours to kill."

"Chasing Kermit," or "making princes," as it's called by hard-core users, has been found by scientists to be slightly safer than other hallucinogens, such as LSD. And since one toad, if cared for properly, can provide years of bliss, the animals are also a fiscally sound way to do drugs. Users of the amphibians should be aware, however, that a knot of mutated toads has been circulating in the county, leading to several traumatic "bad trips." A warning from the California Department of Health Services reads: "Don't lick the brown toads."

Toad licking is not illegal. The Drug Enforcement Agency, however, has been tracking the trend and several Red State Republicans are pushing for its prohibition. But in a pre-emptive strike, the Santa Cruz City Council is introducing a local measure that, if approved, would ensure toad-licking remains legal within city limits. The Psychedelic Toad Protection Initiative has already received unofficial support by a majority of councilmembers, but would need to be approved by voters in the May 19 election. Already, a major campaign spearheaded by former councilmember candidate David Terrazas is in the works.

"I don't condone the use of toads," Terrazas said through the mouth-hole of his massive Michigan J. Frog costume. "But I do want my daughters to grow up in a world where people are educated about the benefits and dangers of toad-licking instead of left to find out the hard way in some back-alley swamp."

Curtis Cartier

Dodgy Mall

The Santa Cruz City Council yesterday appointed a task force to investigate a downtown ban on appearing to be up to no good. The new ordinance will piggyback on a prohibition on outdoor smoking already in the works and would outlaw slouching, spitting, holding the gaze of passers-by for an "uncomfortable" period of time, jaywalking and wearing baggy clothes or mirrored aviator shades.

"Enough is enough," said ordinance co-sponsors Ryan Coonerty and Don Lane, reading from a prepared statement. "People who appear to be up to no good have had the run of downtown for far too long. Who will protect Santa Cruz for middle class families? We're taking downtown back. Hoo-ah!"

Both supporters and critics of the ban spoke up during the public comment period. Westside resident Heather McNamara said she rarely takes her 4-year-old daughter Madison downtown anymore because the problem has become so severe. "I don't want her confusing skeevy with normal," said McNamara, adding that she thought the ban was a good idea. "If people look like they're up to no good, chances are they're hiding something. I don't want to take any chances with my family."

Others voiced concern that the sweeping nature of the ban might snare middle-class adulterers, white-collar criminals, slumming teenagers from good families and other unintended targets who appeared to have something to hide. The task force will report back to council within six weeks after looking into the effects of the ban on downtown commerce.

Traci Hukill

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