Roundup of news items worthy of comment

With apologies to the esteemed Diane Rehm of National Public Radio, please join us for Susan's Tuesday news roundup, during which a roundtable of her multiple personalities, each representing a different mood, will dissect the headlines.

Doping scandals in the Tour de France. Gambling among NBA refs. Dog-fighting in the highest reaches of NFL stardom. And suspected steroid abuse by a home-run record-challenger.


And nothing but yawns from the fans over what one sportswriter described as the "shocking nadir" of professional sports. Why?

It may be because fans, who, unlike the sporting press, are not paid to watch games but choose to do so, recognize sports for what it is. Not a noble quest, but entertainment.


And what is more entertaining than scandal?

Speaking of dog-fighting and Atlanta Falcons quarterback Michael Vick. Certainly it is shocking to force a living creature to use its physical gifts to defeat and perhaps injure another for the bloodthirsty enjoyment of betting fans, only to be disposed of when those physical gifts fail.

The answer? Get the dogs agents.

Shocking news out of NASA, where an internal report revealed that astronauts were knocking back a few just hours before takeoff.

NASA apparently assumed the pilots would understand that the rules governing use of the T-38 aircraft trainers - no alcohol consumption within 12 hours of flight - also applied to them when they were about to grab the stick of a giant rocket.

Apparently, you have to spell these things out.

Tied for bad judgment with the happy hour astronauts were the house mothers at NASA, who allowed the astronauts to keep alcohol in their dorm rooms during the quarantine period before flights.

A comprehensive and authoritative national study funded by Congress and released at the end of June found that abstinence education programs don't work.


Telling young people not to have sex before marriage - while withholding any information about birth control - does not change the behavior or the decision-making of those young people over the course of their teenaged years, according to the study.

However, there is also plenty of research that shows young people are delaying sex and are more likely to use contraception when they have sex, regardless of what kind of sex education they have had, if any.

And this trend began years before the Bush administration began holding federal dollars hostage in exchange for a school district's promise not to mention condoms or the pill.

What are we to conclude from these apparent contradictions?

That our kids are smart enough to make good decisions and to protect themselves, despite our best efforts to keep them in the dark.

Speaking of birth control, a pill has become available that has the added benefit of menstrual suppression. Take Lybrel and you never have to have a period again.


If you are wondering if this is a good thing, consider a presentation by its manufacturer, Wyeth, that was described by Karen Houppert in The New York Times.

"Dr. Ginger D. Constantine, the company's therapeutic director for women's health ... citing company backed studies ... reported that menstruating women feel less effective at work and take more sick days. Not only that, but they don't exercise and they wear dark clothes more often."

Well. I'm not sure what more we need to know.

Also in the Times, Elizabeth Marquardt reports on a Pennsylvania court ruling that two lesbians and the male who donated the sperm that produced their child were each obliged to pay child support.

Not only does Heather have two mommies. She has two mommies and a daddy, Marquardt wrote.

What happens, the author postulated, if there is an infertile couple, a sperm donor, an egg donor and a gestational surrogate? Does Heather have five parents?


She went on to sound alarms about what this ground-breaking ruling will do to the stability of the lives of children, who could be required to move between many more than two houses in the event of a break-up.

I am not sure what the difference is between such situations and, say, the divorce and remarriage of both of Heather's parents, which results in not two but four adults who have a role in her life.

I thought single parenthood was the real problem for children - not multiple parents.

News that weight gain is contagious among friends begs this question: Who's the carrier?

Should you find new friends? Or should they?

And, finally, watch for a new picture accompanying Susan's column. Following a trend begun by presidential candidate Sen. Hillary Rodham Clinton, she is planning to show a little cleavage.


Fashion commentators are expected to find it part of Susan's new "bold and confident style package."