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OFF LIMITS

The great white hope: Just when you thought it was safe to turn on local "news" again, two more polar bear babies arrive, in the nick of time for all those warm-and-fuzzy seasonal stories. (Why not simply name the cubs Nielsen and Ratings and be done with it?) But before the city goes ursa-insane all over again, a few words of caution:

First, Klondike and Snow memorabilia is still on sale at King Soopers (the refrigerator magnets are a real bargain). And second, polar bears are nuts. Exhibit A: Ulu, the neglectful mother who ditched Klondike and Snow in the first place. Exhibit B: Gus, an 850-pound bear residing in New York City's Central Park Wildlife Conservancy. According to a recent Associated Press report (which Denver's dailies failed to pick up, probably because they were already crammed with happy polar-bear news), last year Gus began swimming in a figure-eight pattern for twelve hours a day--which beats Ulu's head-banging but still seems plenty neurotic. Zoo officials were so concerned with Gus's behavior that they hired an animal shrink, paying him $25,000 to figure out Gus's problem.

In a word, it was boredom. The zoo responded by giving Gus plastic toys and making him forage for much of his food. As senior zookeeper Bruce Foster told the AP: "He, of course, still has some bad days and will always have some unresolved issues."

As, no doubt, will young Mario Sanelli, the four-year-old whose on-camera tears about Klondike and Snow's departure--"I love them so much"--were rewarded with a recent trip to see the bears at Sea World (covered, of course, by Channel 9). As 9News reporter/anchor Mark Koebrich tells it, Sea World officials were at the Denver Zoo during Mario's live shot, and a station engineer started joking that they should do something nice for the kid "since you're taking his bears away." And they did: They picked up the tab for Mario and his parents to see his pals in Florida. As for Klondike and Snow, "they're doing excellent," says Sea World spokesman Jeff Cargill. "They're definitely big here--the community is embracing them--but it's not quite the huge story it was in Denver."

Before memories of Klondike and Snow melt away entirely, a few more loose ends need to be tied up. According to Denver Zoo spokeswoman Angela Baier, Sea World (and its owner, Anheuser-Busch) did not buy the two bears; they're simply on "permanent loan" to the facility. And although no TV cameras were allowed when Pat Schroeder paid a courtesy call on Klondike and Snow last February, the ban wasn't because of any "exclusive" with Channel 4. "We weren't allowing any political entity" to have pictures taken with the cubs, Baier explains. "It's kind of like a kissing-the-baby thing."

What's black and white and read all over? First the Rocky Mountain News's Vince Carroll writes a column dismantling corrections-board nominee Clarke Watson. Then the Denver Post's Chuck Green continues the job on Sunday, noting that Watson has essentially held companies hostage in the name of political correctness. So far, though, neither paper has mentioned that under former News editor Jay Ambrose, Watson himself had a regular column--and was even in charge of the tabloid's black business roundtable.

More white stuff falls in this month's American Spectator, where former News writer Dave Shiflett dissects the paper's affirmative-action policies. Shiflett notes he is "white as a bleached skull," but neglects to add he also is as lazy as a hound dog on a summer day. Earlier this year, while advising a bunch of religious-right political activists on how to influence news coverage, Shiflett proudly pointed out that he personally tried to do "as little as possible" in his job.

 
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