Dispatches > The Buzz

The Buzz

Issue: "The Mormon Olympics," Feb. 16, 2002

Pediatric group hails gay adoption; endorsement may affect legal disputes
Destructive diagnosis
The American Academy of Pediatrics now says moms or dads raise children as well as moms and dads do. The group last week endorsed homosexual adoption, claiming that children raised by homosexuals can be as well adjusted as those raised by heterosexuals. The group's policy statement urges its 55,000 members to support legal recognition for same-sex parents. The statement, published in Pediatrics, claims that evidence suggests no vital difference exists between homosexual and heterosexual parents. The report even claims that "children seem to benefit from arrangements in which lesbian parents divide child care and other household tasks in an egalitarian manner." Critics charged that the AAP ignored contrary evidence and based its findings on disputable research. "There is an abundance of research demonstrating that children do best when raised by a mother and a father who are committed to one another in marriage," said Family Research Council president Ken Connor. The AAP's statement isn't the first of its kind; the American Academy of Child and Adolescent Psychiatry and the American Psychological Association also support homosexual adoption. Nor is this the AAP's first highly politicized declaration; it also supports gun control and opposes parental notification of teen abortions. In the case of homosexual adoption, official declarations from medical bodies could become evidence in custody battles and other legal disputes. "The stamp of approval from a widely respected and mainstream organization ... will go a long way to further the movement throughout courts and legislatures," said Steven Drizin, an attorney with Northwestern University's Children and Family Justice Center. UN seeks to impose its immorality
Five-alarm Chile
Chile's leading religious official said a United Nations effort to overturn the country's ban on abortion is a form of "cultural colonialism." Francisco Javier Errázuriz, the Catholic church's cardinal of Santiago, touched off a debate that prompted the Chilean senate to postpone its vote on the UN "Convention on the Elimination of Discrimination Against Women." Pro-abortion forces have used the convention to force other countries to liberalize abortion and divorce laws. Chile's constitution currently outlaws abortion, but pro-abortion factions within Chile are using the UN to redefine national policy. "People are beginning to question the implications of this," said Daniel Zeidler of the Latin American Alliance for the Family. "They don't want to do anything to weaken their legal protection of human life, or their sovereignty." Sudan reneges: imposes Shariah and condemns woman to death
Casting the first stone
A criminal court in Sudan sentenced to death by stoning a young pregnant Christian woman accused of adultery. Abok Alfa Akok, an 18-year-old Dinka tribeswoman from western Sudan, was tried without legal representation in the city of Nyala. Officials conducted the trial in Arabic, which is not her native language, and denied her a translator. Faith O'Donnell of the Church Alliance for a New Sudan said, "The Sudanese government has in the past claimed that its Shariah laws would not be applied to Christians, but this case shows otherwise." Christian and human-rights groups protested the verdict, which is under appeal. Minnesota Supreme Court balks at baseball's contraction plans, buys the Twins one more year
A swing and a miss
Major League Baseball's first contraction in decades may have suffered a strikeout, but the final inning still hasn't been played. The Minnesota Supreme Court last week refused to consider an appeal of an injunction that forces the Minnesota Twins to fulfill their Metrodome lease, meaning contraction plans will have to wait at least a year. Baseball commissioner Bud Selig claims teams were losing hundreds of millions of dollars. Owners voted on Nov. 6 to eliminate two teams-and many observers of the national pastime expected the Twins and the Montreal Expos to vanish by opening day. Now the whole concept of contraction is trapped in legal red tape and a tangle of labor negotiations. The Twins and Expos management and players must prepare for the season under the cloud of contraction. "I think there's a lot of frustration with the guys," Twins pitcher Eric Milton said before the court decision. "We're anxious to just get out there and show we're not a team to go and just get rid of. We're too good of a team." The Expos are in a bizarre situation. Owner Jeffrey Loria wants to buy the Florida Marlins, then sell the Montreal team to the other 29 teams. This means the baseball commissioner's office could end up running the Expos. Mr. Loria is also expected to take core Expos officials to Florida, including the manager, executive vice president, and general manager. One more factor adds to baseball's uncertainty: relocation. Teams in Anaheim, Oakland, and Tampa Bay are candidates to be moved to other cities in 2003. A team may wind up in Washington, D.C. Meanwhile, baseball is in danger of another player strike or lockout, the ninth in three decades. While neither the union nor the owners are proposing that, both sides must soon agree to a new labor contract to replace one that expired last November. Hamas vs. Arafat
No honor among terrorists
Yasser Arafat may be in some political trouble at home. The leading Palestinian terrorist organization denounced an op-ed piece by the Palestinian Authority president that appeared in a Sunday edition (Feb. 3) of The New York Times. In an unsigned press statement, Hamas said it was "astonished" by Mr. Arafat's condemnation of terrorism. "He is mistaken when he describes our people's Mujahideen and martyrs as terrorists," the statement read. Mr. Arafat also called for the creation of a Palestinian state alongside Israel; Hamas would rather eliminate Israel. Although Mr. Arafat has publicly attempted to distance himself from Palestinian terrorists, he has not arrested those who claim responsibility for recent suicide bombings. Dermatologists' study links sun lamps to skin cancer
Better to burn?
Is healthy-looking skin unhealthy? Researchers report that tanning lamps can double the risk of some common types of skin cancer, and that young people are particularly at risk. They argue that tanning salons should close their doors to minors. About 1 million Americans are diagnosed annually with skin cancer. Doctors have long suspected a link between sun lamps and cancer-and a study reported in the Journal of the National Cancer Institute may confirm that belief. Researchers say that even an occasional sunburn may not be as bad for a person's health as making regular trips to a salon. "The tanning industry has said ... as long as you don't burn you'll be OK," said Dr. James Spencer, spokesman for the American Academy of Dermatology. "This study shows that this is not true." The tanning industry disputes these conclusions. Joseph A. Levy, vice president of the International Smart Tan Network and a spokesman for the Indoor Tanning Association, suggested that many of those interviewed by the researchers must have improperly used home sun lamps. He said that sunburn "is a risk factor in all forms of skin cancer, and intermittent sunburn is what the tanning industry is trying to stop." Maya Angelou stirs critics with Hallmark deal
Greeting-card poet
Is Maya Angelou's poetry fit for a greeting card? America's most famous living poet-and the unofficial bard of the Clinton administration -now has her own line at Hallmark. "If I'm the people's poet then I ought to be in the people's hands-and I hope in their hearts," the 73-year-old writer said about her decision to join with Hallmark. The Maya Angelou Life Mosaic Collection debuted in the Hallmark line after Christmas with a mix of cards and gift items. Many messages are edited versions of Ms. Angelou's previous work. The sentiments aren't much different than usual greeting-card fare. They include messages like, "We are more alike, my friends, than we are unalike" and, "Be present in all things and thankful for all things." Hallmark predicted last year that it would make annual sales of $50 million from Ms. Angelou's line. One of Ms. Angelou's peers has already criticized the Hallmark deal. "I think it's preposterous," said Billy Collins, the poet laureate of the United States. Nike launches $200 shoes
Putting on airs
Nike's Air Jordans are taking a bold leap-in price. The newest sneakers in the celebrity-backed line are also the loftiest, selling for $200 a pair. The shoes, named after basketball great Michael Jordan, don't even come with a standard shoebox. Instead, they're sold packed in a special metal briefcase. Nike is marketing the shoe, now in its 17th edition, with TV ads shot by Spike Lee. But for all the hype, retail analysts say that few Air Jordans will ever make it onto the basketball court or into schools. They say the items simply attract people to the Nike brand and customers usually buy something less expensive. Those who do buy the shoes often keep them as collectibles. "Most of them will never see the street," said John Shanley of Wells Fargo Securities in New York. "Kids call it a 'keeper.' They basically keep it under their bed and when friends come over, show it to them." If the Air Jordan draws people to stores, Nike hopes it can rev up the athletic shoe business. The clothing giant, with roughly $10 billion in annual sales, has seen sales flat-line over the last few years. Competitor Reebok is rolling out its own designer shoe promoted by Philadelphia 76ers guard Allen Iverson. Billed as the Answer V, the $125 retail price is a bargain compared to the Air Jordan. Jared's loss is Subway's gain
Subway rolls
Move over, Big Mac. The Subway sandwich chain has done what many thought impossible: It passed McDonald's as America's largest restaurant chain. So the BMT and the Veggie Delite are now more common than the Egg McMuffin and Chicken McNuggets. As of Dec. 31, Subway Restaurants operated 13,247 stores in the United States, 148 more than McDonald's. The hamburger chain remains the leader worldwide, however, and still dominates sales. Subway fills in an odd niche in the industry, in that it tries to avoid the fast-food image and portrays itself as a healthy alternative to a burger and fries. Its main competitors are local delis and smaller chains like Schlotzsky's, Quizno's, and Blimpie. The chain has boosted its reputation by selling the bizarre story of Jared Fogle, a college student who lost 245 pounds on an all-Subway diet. For a year, he had a 6-inch turkey sub and baked potato chips for lunch and a foot-long veggie sub for dinner. The sandwiches had no mayonnaise, oil, or cheese, and he washed them down with Diet Coke. Mr. Fogle's weight loss turned into one of the great publicity stunts in American history. A Gallup Poll reported in the trade publication Chain Leader found that Mr. Fogle had better name recognition than Harry Potter. Could Subway ever fully pass McDonald's? Since Subway is privately held, outsiders don't know much about its condition. The company, however, reported in December that both same-store sales and franchises were growing rapidly.

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