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DEA launches addiction exhibit near Washington D.C.

Americans, who flock to museums by the millions, can add a unique site to their itinerary: a museum on addiction.

The Drug Enforcement Administration has put together a public exhibit at its suburban Virginia headquarters, tracing addiction back to the Civil War and beyond.

It shows off the Tommy gun and hand grenades that Narcotics Bureau agents carried in the 1930s. From the other side of the battle is the booby trap that an ingenious marijuana farmer in Thailand installed to protect his crop, and a trafficker's diamond-encrusted gun.

There's also a coroner's report, almost a century old, on a 19-month-old girl who died from an overdose of "soothing syrup" -- apparently laced with opium.

Exhibits tell how drug-taking declined in the first half of the century until attention turned in the 1930s to the marijuana -- and later, heroin -- associated with such jazz figures as Red Rodney, Billie Holiday and Charlie Parker.

Exhibits do not tell how government prohibition made the drugs more popular and has led to an erosion of civil liberties.

Miamians hope petition can save Stiltsville

Once a motley colony of sunken boats and barges for drinking, dancing and gambling, Stiltsville today is a quiet weekend getaway, aquatic haven for children and precious preserve of Miami history, its defenders say.

"The best breeze in the world comes through here," said South Miami Mayor Julio Robaina as he gazed across the blue-green waters of Biscayne Bay to downtown Miami, miles away. As a child, Robaina spent days exploring the shallows surrounding Miami's unique water colony.

With a banner reading Save Old Stiltsville as a backdrop, supporters held a news conference on a dock at Stiltsville recently to announce they had collected 15 000 signatures on petitions meant to help them save the collection of stilt houses when their bay-bottom leases expire July 1.

"We are adamantly opposed to the destruction of these historic structures by federal bureaucrats," Miami Rep. Ileana Ros-Lehtinen (R-Fla.), said. "This is a community treasure. It's a precious part of Miami's young history."

Reachable only by boat, Stiltsville is a salty relic of Miami's seafaring past.

A collection of seven simple wooden houses that appear from a distance to hover above the waters of Biscayne Bay, the colony is located a mile south of the posh island enclave Key Biscayne and several miles southeast of gleaming towers of downtown Miami.

Begun in the 1930s by a local character named Crawfish Eddie -- or Crawfish Charlie, depending on who's telling the tale -- Stiltsville evolved from a simple bait shack in the bay to a cluster of grounded boats and barges that served as one of old Miami's prime party hangouts.

Eventually, some two dozen wood-frame homes were built on piles driven into bay bottom -- through water so shallow "there are times you can take out a lawnmower and mow the (sea)grass," said Norman Walker, a Miamian who owns a share of one house.

But the seven remaining homes sit in Biscayne National Park. Private homes are not compatible with a public nature preserve, park officials have said. The owners will have to tear down the houses when their leases expire.

Stiltsville appeared on the "Miami Vice" television show and has served as colorful setting in many novels.

"It's part of Miami," Walker, 52, a lifelong Miamian, said. "A lot of children grew up out here."

While critics charge Stiltsville is simply a preserve for the elite, one weathered home shows few trappings of wealth.

Old furniture decorates the yellow-and-blue, one-story structure, much of it plastic as protection against harsh salt air and wet bathing suits. A generator supplies power. Water is brought in jugs and human waste returned in barrels to shore. A plastic sailfish and faded photographs adorn the walls.

In its heyday, Stiltsville hosted wild parties at watering holes like the Bikini Club, a makeshift bar on a grounded yacht. But more recently the village has become a weekend getaway for city folk -- including church and youth groups -- who cruise out for fishing, picnics and sunset cocktails.

Over the decades, the original buildings and boats succumbed to hurricane winds, pounding waves and fires. Environmentalists criticized the presence of private homes in a nature preserve, arguing that boat traffic damages seagrass.

In March, the National Register of Historic Places ruled the houses are too new to be historic, dashing the owners' hopes for a designation that might save them. Historic buildings must date back 50 years, while none of the current Stiltsville structures is older than 40, the Register decided.

But the owners, who paid $1 200-$1 500 yearly for "campsite" leases, say they hope to use the petitions and the power of a public outcry to win a reprieve from the Park Service, arguing that the old homes are part of history.

"My grandparents saw these places. My parents visited these places," owner Duff Matson said. "What would hurt is losing some of the past. The world isn't just everything new. We've got to have a tradition in our lives."

Elizabeth Dole opposes concealed weapons law, backs mandatory safety locks

Vowing she "won't shy away from tough issues," Elizabeth Dole said on May 11 it is "wrong" to allow Americans to carry concealed weapons and that she supports mandatory safety locks on guns

"I think police work is hard enough already. No one should make it harder. I think it's wrong to let people carry concealed weapons," Dole said in a prepared text for a much broader speech on the career paths of women.

The announcement for specific gun-control measures distinguishes Dole from the rest of the GOP presidential field for the 2000 election.

"It's the right thing to do and I won't shy away from the tough issues, even if some in my party don't like it," Dole said.

While saying she opposes people being allowed to carry concealed weapons, she said it is ultimately "a matter for states to decide."

Dole also announced her support for mandatory safety locks on guns,

Beverly Hills voters reject fur tag proposal

Voters in Beverly Hills rejected a measure on May 11 that would have required fur merchants to attach labels explaining how the animals died.

With all eight precincts counted, the proposal had 1 908 votes in favor compared with 3 363 votes against, or 36.2 percent to 63.8 percent, said city spokeswoman Robin Chancellor.

"It's disappointing to lose the election, but we've won the battle," said Luke Montgomery, campaign manager of Beverly Hills Consumers for Informed Choice, the group behind the measure.

"All we wanted was a little tag telling people what animals go through and we got front pages all over the planet," he said. "A lot of people around the world now know about the cruelty these animals are put through. I couldn't be more happy with that fact."

The credit card-sized tags for furs costing more than $50 would have carried warnings that the animals may have been electrocuted, gassed, poisoned, clubbed, stomped, drowned or snagged by steel-jawed traps. Sellers would have been fined $100 per item for violating the law.

Beverly Hills Consumers for Informed Choice argued fur retailers have misled consumers by telling them the animals are mercifully put to sleep. The campaign raised $75 000 and sent 5 000 videotapes to registered voters showing hidden camera excerpts of Beverly Hills fur merchants claiming the deaths were humane.

Some famous residents including Jack Lemmon, Sid Caesar and Larry King supported the measure.

The No on A campaign spent $81 000, saying the initiative was another attack by animal rights extremists who want to hurt the fur industry. They also said the ordinance was a waste of time.

Irene Sirebrenik, and her 59-year-old husband, Jaime, said they both voted against Measure A.

"If you don't like it, don't buy it," said Irene, 53. Her husband nodded his head in agreement.

About 26.3 percent of the city's 20 000 registered voters turned out for the election, Chancellor said.

Corporate America should do more, says Clinton

U.S. President Bill Clinton urged corporate America on May 11 to invest more in poor rural and urban areas that have suffered despite the booming U.S. economy.

"We should go into the 21st century leaving no one behind," Clinton said in the White House Rose Garden after he and Vice President Al Gore held a discussion with 17 chief executive officers from major U.S. corporations and investment firms.

Despite the healthy U.S. economy, many areas of the country remain stagnant. Clinton said 37 cities have unemployment rates double the national average, despite all that money he spent during his first term. Little money has been invested in many rural areas as well, he said.

Clinton summoned the corporate leaders to the White House to discuss ways to best bring in new private investment into what he called "new markets."

Later, he was taking the executives to Atlanta to tour its Sweet Auburn Market, an inner-city neighborhood revived with public and private money.

"We have been given an opportunity now, because we've got the strongest economy in at least a generation, to prove that we can bring the benefits of free enterprise to every neighborhood in America," Clinton said.

Clinton also announced plans for a trip the week of July 5 to tour "our most stubborn pockets of poverty" across the country for two or three days to dramatize their plight and to try to attract private-sector investment for them.

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