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Marines investigate racism at youth camp

The Marine Corps is investigating alleged racial hostility at a Marine-supported youth camp after a 13-year-old black boy said a slur was written in his locker and his room was ransacked.

"I was shocked," Mike Kessler, incoming director of the Young Marines camp, said Thursday. "I was angered and embarrassed. . . . These poor kids didn't deserve this."

The base said an investigation is under way.

The incident happened at Camp Lejeune, a Marines basic training camp where an encampment was held July 18-24 for hundreds of members of Young Marines. The youngsters slept in reserve barracks, ran the obstacle course and were shown displays of military equipment.

The racial epithet was written in toothpaste inside the locker of the camper, who is from the Washington, D.C., area, officials said. The room he shared with three other black campers was ransacked twice.

Swissair offers not to contest liability for crash

PHILADELPHIA _ Swissair said Thursday it will compensate the financial losses of the 229 people killed in a 1998 crash off the coast of Nova Scotia, provided the victims' families agree not to pursue punitive damages.

Swissair attorney Desmond Barry told a federal judge that Swissair and two of the three other co-defendants _ Boeing, which owns the company that built the MD-11 jetliner, and Delta Airlines, which had a ticket-sharing deal with Swissair _ would not contest whether they were to blame for the accident.

As part of the proposed deal, plaintiffs in 167 cases would agree to waive punitive damages. Barry also requested that about 120 of the cases be dismissed from U.S. court for litigation in France or Switzerland because many of the passengers on the plane were from other countries.

Lee Kreindler, lead counsel for the plaintiffs, predicted many of the cases will be settled in the coming month, although some of the 30 plaintiffs' attorneys said they weren't so sure.

Texas executes man for slaying of 21-year-old

HUNTSVILLE, Texas _ An ex-convict who confessed to killing three women in what became known as the North Dallas "bathroom slayings" was executed by injection Thursday.

Charles Anthony Boyd, 39, was the second convicted killer to die in as many days in Texas and the 18th person put to death in Texas this year.

Boyd initially declined to make a final statement, but as the drugs began flowing into his arms, he said, "I want you all to know I did not do this crime."

He was condemned for strangling and drowning 21-year-old Mary Milligan in her bathroom apartment in April 1987 but had confessed to two other slayings.

In July 1986, Tippawan Nakusan, 37, a waitress who lived upstairs from Boyd, was found stabbed and suffocated in her bathtub. That September, Lashun Chappell Thomas, 22, a nursing home aide, was found stabbed in a bathtub in the apartment complex. He was never tried in the killings.

U.S. life expectancy rate climbs to 76.5 years

ATLANTA _ Americans' life expectancy was 76.5 years in 1997, up from 76.1 the year before as death rates from HIV, heart disease, cancer, stroke and homicide declined.

White women had the highest life expectancy at 79.9 years, followed by black women (74.7), white men (74.3) and black men (67.2), according to statistics released Thursday by the federal Centers for Disease Control and Prevention.

The gap between whites and blacks was down from 6.6 years in 1996 to 6 in 1997. Between men and women, the gap narrowed from 6 years to 5.8 during the same period.

The CDC said 2,314,245 people died in the United States in 1997. That was 445 fewer than a year earlier.

Judge: Pepsi doesn't owe park ranger a Harrier jet

NEW YORK _ A federal judge weighing the merits of a lawsuit by a park ranger has agreed with Pepsi that the company was only joking when it implied in a commercial that it was giving away fighter jets.

John D.R. Leonard, a 24-year-old Seattle man working as a summer park ranger at Mount Ranier National Park, saw the commercial and concluded it was no laughing matter when Pepsi implied that 7-million points in its "Pepsi Stuff" merchandise campaign could be redeemed for one Harrier jet.

Leonard said he had planned to start a business with the jet. The company allowed customers to purchase points for 10 cents each, so Leonard raised $700,000 among wealthy acquaintances.

Pepsi wrote back: "The Harrier jet in the Pepsi commercial is fanciful and is simply included to create a humorous and entertaining ad. We apologize for any misunderstanding or confusion that you may have experienced and are enclosing some free coupons."

Leonard sued Pepsi, which responded by asking the court for a declaratory judgment saying it did not have to give Leonard a Harrier.

In her 42-page opinion, U.S. District Judge Kimba M. Wood said each jet normally sells for $23-million so the possibility it could be bought for $700,000 was the first clue it was "a deal too good to be true."

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