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"I don't like this reality television. Real people should not be on television. It's for special people like us, people who have trained and studied to appear to be real." -- Garry Shandling, hosting the Emmy AwardsEdited by Robert McNattReturn to top

Did Hancock Go a Mom Too Far?

One of the ads in John Hancock insurance's $12 million TV campaign that will be showcased during the Sydney Summer Olympics has sparked an unusual controversy.

The spot shows two women in an airport with an Asian baby, talking happily about motherhood. The clear, but unstated, message: A lesbian couple is bringing their newly adopted child home.

Conservative groups are outraged. But opposition has also arisen from international adoption advocates. Although the ad mentions no nationality, about 60% of the 7,000 Asian kids adopted here each year are Chinese--and China bans adoptions by gays. Sharon Kaufman, executive director of the Joint Council on International Children's Services, doesn't oppose gay parents, but fears that the ad might prompt China to end all single-parent adoptions.

Kaufman suggested that Hancock change its ad so that the baby isn't Asian. Hancock refused, issuing a statement: "There was nothing in this commercial that defines the nationality of the child or the relationship of the women. Anyone drawing such a conclusion is demonstrating their own prejudice." Kaufman believes that is disingenuous. The insurer had no further comment.By Catherine Arnst; Edited by Robert McNattReturn to top

The Sweat of Small Brows

Critics of the Clinton Administration's free-trade policies are pointing to a proposed regulation in the Sept. 6 Federal Register as more evidence that free trade agreements aggravate child-labor abuses. Although the rule would ban the Pentagon and NASA from buying imports produced by forced or indentured child labor, the critics say it is virtually unenforceable because of loopholes in past free trade pacts. What's worse, they charge, the President knew that when he inked an international agreement in Geneva in 1999 that banned goods made by child workers.

The huge loophole for the space and defense agencies exempts child-made goods from Mexico, Hong Kong, and 24 other nations. Those countries are in free-trade agreements with the U.S.--such as NAFTA--or the World Trade Organization that effectively permit imports made with child labor.

The Administration counters that the exempt countries don't use child labor. Regardless, says Lori Wallach, director of Global Trade Watch: "This makes it clear: The WTO and NAFTA protect exploiters of children--and the Clinton Administration knew it all along."By Paul Magnusson; Edited by Robert McNattReturn to top

Will Grade-A Beef Get Left Behind?

An effort by the Agriculture Dept. to keep school lunches safe from bacterial threats has instead ended up poisoning relations between the USDA and some school districts that now have a serious beef with the agency.

The USDA, which buys and resells to schools some 100 million pounds of ground beef each year, has instituted tough and controversial "zero tolerance" standards for salmonella and E. coli in beef sold to schools. But the new specs have raised the cost of ground beef by as much as 50%. So some districts are taking a pass on it, despite its high marks on safety. Instead, "we're purchasing [ground beef] on the open market," says Frank Kelly, food service director for the Madison (Wis.) schools. In fact, Wisconsin and neighboring Illinois both say they won't buy the pricier beef, preferring to take their chances with less rigorously inspected, open-market beef--that is thoroughly cooked.

If all seems to satisfy the parents in Madison. In Chicago, too, officials say that the safe beef question has yet to generate any inquiries. If the cheap stuff proves safe, it will probably stay that way.By Julie Forster; Edited by Robert McNattReturn to top

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