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FIVE TIMES a day, a scampering squirrel...


FIVE TIMES a day, a scampering squirrel or other animal touches BGE power lines, electrocutes itself and causes an outage. Now BGE wants to teach behavior modification to squirrels.

Hah! You can't modify squirrel behavior. Has BGE never witnessed squirrels storming a "squirrel-proof" bird feeder? Has BGE never planted tulip bulbs in the fall, sprinkled on mothballs to keep the squirrels away, and reaped barren earth in the spring?

One power company in Michigan spread lion feces around a substation. It didn't work. Either squirrels don't fear lions or they know that lions are not native to Michigan.

BGE's anti-squirrel task force is spending $1.1 million to insulate pipes and steel substructures around its substations. And it will try an ad campaign to explain to consumers why they have to keep resetting their digital clocks, VCRs, answering machines, etc.

Our local electric utility should consult the authority on squirrel behavior, Beatrix Potter. She is best known for "Peter Rabbit," but in "Squirrel Nutkin," she told the tale of another small, furry pest whose nemesis was Old Brown, the owl.

Aha, owls! Baltimore's late, legendary poet-politician Hyman Pressman once wired plastic owls onto the eaves of City Hall, to the utter indifference of resident pigeons. But maybe squirrels are jumpier than pigeons. Why not post a plastic owl on every cross-tree of BGE power line?

OLD-TIME Baltimoreans may remember Adolphus "Doc" Cheatham as a trumpet player in Cab Calloway's and Chick Webb's bands. But those were only two of many stops on his long jazz career.

Doc Cheatham started playing at 15 and worked with all the big ones from Louis Armstrong to Bessie Smith and Ma Rainey. But he was in his 70s before his lyrical solos and sensitive singing made him a star.

Doc Cheatham, 91, died recently of a fatal stroke suffered after a sterling performance at Blues Alley in Washington.

He was the last of the line and knew it. He sometimes lamented the current lack of interest in -- or knowledge of -- jazz.

"When I'm gone," he once said, "it'll be just about over, my kind of playing."

MASTER POLITICIANS Tony Blair and Bill Clinton have a number of traits in common, including their understanding that apologies -- however belated -- do matter.

The acknowledgment by Britain's new prime minister that his country's government of the mid-1800s was to blame for prolonging the suffering in Ireland during the potato famine is reminiscent of the U.S. president's recent admission of government blame for the Tuskegee syphilis experiment on some 400 unsuspecting black males for four decades.

Both are human tragedies of the past that continue to plague relationships today.

An apology can't make anyone forget what happened (if, in fact, that's even really desirable).

But an admission of blame is a significant step in the healing process, no matter how late it comes.

Pub Date: 6/07/97

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