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— A commercial endorsement by San Diego Zoo horticulturist Cary Sharp, of the controversial herbicide Roundup, has set off a round of protest from the environmental group Greenpeace. The TV spots have Sharp strolling around what appears to be one of the Wild Animal Park's exotic jungle settings, saying things such as, "The sun brings life. People come to the park to see animals, not weeds," and "Pulling weeds is a waste of time. We use Roundup." He concludes by saying, "Roundup. No roots. No weeds. No problem." The New York Times reports that two versions of the 30-second television commercial are running in 48 local markets as well as on national broadcast and cable networks; there are radio commercials as well. But the paper quotes Greenpeace spokesman Paul Clarke as claiming that Roundup is dangerous to life forms other than weeds. "By using a horticulturist, the ad could be deceiving," Clarke argues. "It implies a false sense of security." Roundup's maker, Monsanto Chemicals, claims the product is safe for all living things and is using not just Sharp, but also the zoo's own poster woman, Joan Embery, to lead a national tour of major zoos called the "Roundup for Species Survival." At each zoo, Embery hands out grants from Monsanto and hawks Roundup. "The program gives exposure to the zoos and dollars to the endangered species program," Embery told the Times. But the tour is also fueling controversy. Mike McGrath, editor of Organic Gardening magazine, thinks the zoo business is getting greedy. "These zoos are looking for auxiliary income. They want partnerships, and they may not care that these are chemical companies. Or maybe they believe what the chemical companies say."

Feminine rivals

Yet another potential competitor to Susan Golding in the race for the U.S. Senate has surfaced. Noel Irwin-Hentschel, who did not graduate from college, founded American Tours International in 1977 at age 24. Today the company is said to have annual revenues of about $150 million and approximately 450 employees. She's chairman and chief executive officer. Little is known about her ideology, but because money talks, Irwin-Hentschel, a mother of seven and wife of a real estate developer, could be a formidable foe. The fact that she's female also would undercut Golding's current advantage of being the only woman in a field that now includes state Treasurer Matt Fong and Vista car alarm magnate Darrell Issa, with Palm Springs Congressman Sonny Bono waiting in the wings. Meanwhile, Golding continues to hit the road, spending more and more time away from the city. Next stop: Riverside, where the mayor is set to appear tomorrow before the local Federation of Republican Women. Tickets are $20 per person.

S.D. vs. Pittsburgh

Football great Rocky Bleier has finally reached a divorce settlement with his ex-wife Aleta Whitaker and her daughter Samantha, both of San Diego. The 52-year-old Bleier will have to pay his ex $3500 a month in alimony through November 2005, for a total of $357,000, plus $1500 a month for the rest of her life, along with $80,000 in cash. Most of the money will come from Bleier's National Football League pension, according to the Pittsburgh Post-Gazette. To guarantee payment, Aleta is taking a security interest in Rocky's four Super Bowl rings.

Rock-and-roll heaven

Rock singer Jeff Buckley, son of the late singer-songwriter Tim Buckley, who died of a drug overdose in 1975 at the age of 28, disappeared last week after going for a swim in Memphis Harbor, a commercial marina off the Mississippi River. Did the 30-year-old performer, described as "eccentric" and "very strange," drown? Memphis booking agent Chris Walker told a local paper, "If he's dead, I won't be surprised; [and] if he's in San Diego, I won't be surprised." ... An ex-San Diego sheriff's homicide detective who resigned to work for the Nevada gaming control board and later became chief of security at the El Cortez hotel in Las Vegas has been busted in connection with a stolen property fencing operation at the hotel. Fred Balmer, 51, was arrested last week along with 28 other hotel employees by Las Vegas police after a sting operation code-named "Fool's Gold," according to the Las Vegas Review Journal.

Contributor: Matt Potter

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