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News Briefs

FDA Action on Halcion Challenged

The Washington Post

Government officials abruptly cut off a 1992 investigation of the Upjohn Corp. and its popular sleeping pill, Halcion, under circumstances that "strongly suggest a high-level FDA coverup," a consumer health group has charged.

The allegations come in a memorandum to the Food and Drug Administration by Sidney M. Wolfe, executive director of the Public Citizen Health Research Group. Wolfe has long opposed the continued sale of Halcion, which has been associated with side effects that include memory loss, depression, anxiety and violent behavior. The drug has been removed from the market in England.

Upjohn spokesperson Kaye Bennett said in an interview that "Wolfe's charges of a coverup are ridiculous. There isn't, and there never has been, anything to cover up about Halcion, either on the part of Upjohn or the FDA."

One of the new documents obtained by Wolfe's group is a March 26, 1993, memorandum from FDA field investigator David. M. Erspamer to a supervisor, Kenneth P. Ewing regarding the 1991-92 inspection of Upjohn. In the memo, Erspamer said that on March 17, 1992, "In a conference phone call with (FDA) headquarters personnel, I was told to discontinue the investigation at the firm."

FTC Hopes to Block Tobacco Firms' Deal

The Washington Post

In another demonstration of the Clinton administration's toughened antitrust policy, the Federal Trade Commission said Thursday it will go to court to try to block the $1 billion purchase of American Tobacco Co. by BAT Industries PLC of London.

The FTC said it will seek a court order stopping the purchase because it "could substantially reduce competition in the U.S. market for cigarettes, resulting in anticompetitive pricing."

Between them, the two companies produce about 18 percent of the cigarettes smoked in the United States each year. American Tobacco, a division of American Brands Inc. of Old Greenwich, Conn., produces Lucky Strike, Carlton, Pall Mall and other brands of cigarettes. BAT owns Brown & Williamson Tobacco Corp., whose biggest brand is KOOL.

The Justice Department and the FTC, which share responsibility for antitrust regulation, have stopped some big mergers - including the planned combination of the two television shopping services, Home Shopping Network Inc. and QVC Networks Inc. - and imposed restrictions on others - such as AT&T Corp.'s purchase of McCaw Cellular Communications Inc.

After the FTC announced its opposition to the combination of the two cigarette makers, American Brands and BAT said they will hold off merging for now, but will fight the government in court.

GAO Shows Postal Service Crippled By Animosity, Labor Relations

The Washington Post

Sally Whipp Culpepper says she is just the type of employee that the Postal Service needs at its troubled Southern Maryland mail processing plant in Capitol Heights. But Culpepper won't be found on the loading docks of the bulk mail center this week.

She has been suspended for seven days, accused of telling her male supervisor that he was "not man enough" to direct her to a union official and for taking 30 minutes to report for a new assignment at the big mail center. Culpepper, who has worked for the agency for six years, denies both charges, saying they are the products of a dictatorial, male-dominated bureaucracy that cannot tolerate bright, assertive women.

Thursday the General Accounting Office issued a detailed, two-volume report on labor relations in the Postal Service that contains charges similar to many of Culpepper's. In the view of GAO investigators, the federal government's largest civilian agency is crippled by a "dysfunctional organizational culture" that has produced an "us versus them" mentality more dependent on harsh discipline than cooperation to move the nation's mail.

Postal spokesmen played down the GAO report, terming it "a somewhat outdated snapshot in time." "Relations between postal management and its labor unions have never been more cooperative," an agency statement read.

But the GAO found the relations acrimonious and confrontational, the product of "an autocratic management style, adversarial employee and union attitudes." That unrest is best reflected by the 51,827 appealed grievances that workers had on file against their supervisors in 1993, the GAO found.

Spielberg to Donate Over $2 Million To Holocaust Museum

The Washington Post

Moviemaker Steven Spielberg has agreed to donate more than $2 million to the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Museum for the creation of an archive of film and video related to the Holocaust, spokesmen for the museum and Spielberg's production company said Thursday.

The new facility, to be called the Steven Spielberg Film and Video Archive, will be "the foremost repository for Holocaust-related moving images in the United States," the museum said in a statement. It will be separate from an archive of Jewish films in Jerusalem that also bears Spielberg's name.

"With Schindler's List' he has taken millions of people of today and placed them right in the midst of the horror of those days, emotionally," said Miles Lerman, chairman of the U.S. Holocaust Memorial Council and a Holocaust survivor. "This is the opposite," Lerman said, in that the archive will collect "only documentary films, no commercial ones. It will be irrefutable evidence of the crimes - to combat the denials, the revisionists, to prove to them that they are all crazy."