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    Publicist: Whitney's Not Dead

    Whitney Houston is not--we repeat, not--dead.

    That's the official word from her publicist's office in the wake of a fast-spreading, radio-fed rumor claiming the R&B diva had died from a drug overdose.

    "I've just spoken to Whitney," rep Nancy Seltzer said in a statement Thursday morning. "She is perfectly fine and does not understand why, with everything going on in the world right now, they have to find new rumors to dig up. She is home in New Jersey with her family."

    Over the past few hours, E! Online has fielded dozens of phone calls and emails inquiring about Houston's alleged demise. Several correspondents said they heard the news on both New York and Los Angeles radio broadcasts, but we have not been able to find a concrete source for the morbid story.

    Houston, 38, has been incognito since a surprise appearance Friday at the first of Michael Jackson's 30th anniversary shows at Madison Square Garden.

    The singer brought the house to its feet when she joined Jackson on stage for a version of his "Wanna Be Startin' Somethin'," but the bigger news was her appearance--she looked extremely gaunt. Variety referred to her as "frightfully emaciated," the New York Daily News called her "skeletal and frail" and ABC.com said she was "scarily skinny."

    The gossip-fueled tabloids immediately seiz ed upon this as a sign of a health problem, perhaps an eating disorder. The usual drug rumors--which, though frequently denied, have dogged her for years--also resurfaced.

    And when the singer was a no-show for her scheduled turn at Jackson's second concert on Monday, the New York tabloids went into overdrive speculating that something was amiss.

    Seltzer, who didn't explain Houston's failure to show up, did deny the singer suffered from an eating disorder. "Whitney has been under stress due to family matters, and when she is under stress, she doesn't eat," Seltzer told the Daily News.

    Houston's 40-year-old brother, Michael, was arrested on drug charges last month. He was allegedly found carry ing cocaine and marijuana and police say he was under the influence of a controlled substance.

    Her brother's arrest came on the same day her husband, Bobby Brown, was rushed to a hospital after he collapsed at their New Jersey home. The attack was blamed on heat exhaustion. The 34-year-old former New Edition-er has admitted to being a recovering alcoholic and drug addict.

    Houston he rself was stopped at a Hawaiian airport in January 2000 after security guards searched her bag and allegedly found marijuana in two plastic baggies and three partially smoked joints. She eventually reached a plea deal with prosecutors (that included fines and a donation to a drug center) and had her record cleared in May.

    The Hawaii incident sparked what would become a tabloid-fueled frenzy over Houston's state of health last year. The pot bust--followed by a series of strange incidents and a no-show at the Oscars--led some to speculate that Houston was battling a drug problem.

    Not all news has been bad for the singer in recent weeks. Earlier this summer she signed a record $100 million deal to remain with Arista Records.Ëý

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