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News Briefs

Disney Reverses Approach to ‘Black Hoe’ Controversy


After initially dismissing its involvement in a radio promotion called “The Black Hoe,” the Walt Disney Co. is now moving aggressively to rein in the mounting controversy.

Six weeks ago, Disney balked at demands from civil rights groups to issue an apology for airing a promotion on a local FM radio station during which “Black Hoes” -- black, plastic gardening tools -- were distributed to listeners and advertisers last year. Disney also vowed to fight a pair of racial discrimination and harassment lawsuits filed against its ABC Inc. division by two black employees of the station, KLOS-FM.

But when black groups asked the Federal Communications Commission to revoke the station’s license and threatened to launch a national boycott, Disney quickly apologized. And after an internal review uncovered 11 years of complaints about barbs against Jews, Asians and blacks aired on the station’s morning show, the corporation began scrambling to quietly settle the lawsuits out of court, sources said.

Disney also dispatched ABC Chairman Robert Iger, one of the Disney’s top executives, three weeks ago to the Los Angeles headquarters of the Congress of Racial Equality, where he spent nearly two hours consulting with civil rights leaders on how to resolve their concerns. On Monday, the two top executives from ABC’s human resources department flew in from New York to CORE headquarters to consult with civil rights leaders on how to improve the company’s diversity and sensitivity training programs.

U.S. Team Hoping to Save Rare Lemurs


A team of Duke University researchers is on an urgent expedition to capture some rare lemurs in a rapidly disappearing patch of forest in Madagascar.

The team is in the island nation off Africa’s east coast, hunting for diademed sifakas, the largest living lemurs. The striking animals -- with large brown eyes and lush fur of yellow, orange, gray, white and black -- are comparable to a medium-size dog in weight and length, according to Ken Glander, director of the Duke University Primate Center.

The Duke researchers hope to capture five of the animals to help establish a captive breeding colony before the species becomes extinct.

Glander said the search will take place in a 600-acre forest tract south of Madagascar’s capital, Antananarivo. The tract is quickly being destroyed by wood-gathering and slash-and-burn clearing for farming, he said. Another research group sighted some of the rare animals in the threatened forest region earlier this year.

There probably are no more than 4,000 of the diademed sifakas left in the wild, and that number is decreasing rapidly, Glander said. When he visited Madagascar six years ago, he said, there were places where “you could walk into the forest and see lots of them. Now they are extremely difficult to find.”

Like other lemurs, the diademed sifakas exist only on Madagascar.