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News Briefs, part 2

Urban Activists Want To Sit Out March

Newsday

WASHINGTON

Claiming that civil-rights organizers have turned their backs on the concerns of the urban poor, six representatives of a coalition of young urban activist groups said their coalition would not join in Saturday's 30th-anniversary March on Washington.

The activists, representing the National Urban Peace and Justice Movement, said they had instructed their 1,000 members from across the country who had planned to join the march to stay at home because problems of the inner cities were not being taken seriously by the march organizers and none of their representatives was being allowed to participate in the program.

"We have been abandoned," said Shariff Willis, president of United for Peace, an organization of youth gangs. "I don't want to be a part of a show. We want to sit at the table because we have worked in the community."

But Rep. John Lewis, D-Ga., one of the organizers of Saturday's march, denied the charges. He said groups headed by young men like Willis "should not be discouraged from participating. ...If anything we need to open up the process and broaden the participation. We need to give them a way to vent their frustration and feel they are a part of bringing about a change."

Latest Jackson Thriller: Will Michael Be Marketable?

The Washington Post

No matter what the outcome of allegations of child abuse against him, pop superstar Michael Jackson may be damaged goods as a celebrity endorser, according to some marketing experts.

While Sony Music and PepsiCo Inc. appear to be standing by him, Jackson's future as a celebrity spokesman is in question, said Gerri Shaftel, vice president of Celebrity Endorsement Network.

"I can't imagine any allegation that would be more devastating as far as endorsements are concerned," even if the allegations prove false, she said. A 13-year-old boy has told Los Angeles Children's Services workers and police that Jackson grew increasingly sexually familiar with him over the course of a four-month relationship.

The 34-year-old recording artist has denied the allegations, saying they grew out of an extortion attempt, and published reports Friday said that Los Angeles police have found no hard evidence to support the allegations.

Jackson's chief identification with a product is with Pepsi, with which he has a multimillion-dollar contract. Pepsi's rival, Coca-Cola Co., took a shot at Jackson in an advertisement that appeared in newspapers in Bangkok. Jackson had postponed concerts there Wednesday and Thursday, pleading illness and dehydration from the heat. The Coca-Cola ad, which was produced in Bangkok, said, "Dehydrated? -- There's Always Coke."

Arrest Made in Museum Slaying

The Washington Post

WASHINGTON

A veteran security officer for the Smithsonian Institution has been arrested in the fatal shooting of a cafeteria worker at the National Air and Space Museum that stemmed from a love triangle, authorities said Saturday.

The suspect, identified by police as Arva Faye Harris, 38, of Landover, Md., was charged with second-degree murder while armed. She was arrested late Friday after being interviewed by homicide detectives at D.C. police headquarters.

Just before 7 a.m. Friday, Cheryl Marie Hawkins, 30, who worked for a food contractor, was found by a co-worker lying on the floor of the museum's employee cafeteria with three gunshot wounds to the head, neck and abdomen. Hawkins, of Oxon Hill, Md., had been preparing meals in the kitchen of a cafeteria which was scheduled to open 40 minutes later.

Police sources who spoke on the condition of anonymity said that the shooting grew out of a love triangle and that Harris became angry when she learned that she was being shunted aside.

Friday's slaying was the first inside a Smithsonian building since February 1977, when a security guard at the Air and Space Museum was shot and killed by another guard while both were on duty.

When the EPA Starts Messing With Bear Spray, Alaskans Get Mad

The Washington Post

ANCHORAGE, Alaska

Big brown bears thunder through the deep woods, closing in on a remote site where campers wait, ready to squirt the beasts. Pffffffft. A shot of cayenne pepper to the snout stops a 700-pound marauder in his furry tracks. And then he is gone.

In Alaska, people swear that this happens.

So when the Environmental Protection Agency began messing with BearGuard and other pepper sprays, the Bear Affair began. It has triggered a flood of calls to Washington from angry Alaskans, a tirade on the U.S. Senate floor and disputes at the Canadian border.

"This may seem like a funny story," Sen. Frank H. Murkowski, R-Alaska, proclaimed in the Senate chamber in May as he told how the "long arm of the EPA had reached into the area of bear repellent."

Using words such as "insane" and "mindless," he described this year's federal decree that yanked the popular spray off shelves. Cayenne pepper spray could not be advertised as an animal repellent, EPA officials said, because it had not been registered as a pesticide or tested for effectiveness.

To Lyn Frandsen, this is one hullabaloo that has gotten out of hand. He works for the EPA's Region X, which oversees Alaska, and he thinks the agency was just trying to protect people. But the people did not appreciate it. "People were calling up and saying, `What the hell are you doing taking our BearGuard away?' " he said.

Frandsen said there was no scientific proof that the $40 pepper stopped charging bears. "We needed efficacy data," he said. "Some people had shot the heads off charging bears and they still keep coming," so EPA officials were concerned that inexperienced tourists might have a false sense of security, thinking a puff of pepper might save them.