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— A yet-to-air expose on child-resistant bottle caps by KNSD, San Diego s NBC owned-and-operated television station, has stirred up a tempest in Washington, D.C. The Washington Post reported earlier this week that the station put 50 kids - some as young as three and four - in a room and told them to try and bust into a variety of those so-called "child-safe" packages. Sure enough, wrote the Post, the kids made quick work of the safety seals and started gobbling down two of the pills, on camera, before the adults present realized what had happened. The station says there was no harm; the pills were iron supplements that the news director said "weren't harmful." But when reporter Beth Tornatore showed the piece to staffers at the Healthcare Compliance Packaging Council - which represents the manufacturers of child-resistant packaging- they told her, "You placed these children at tremendous risk." The station had earlier sought comment from the Consumer Product Safety Commission and was refused. Even the intercession of Congressman Bob Filner on the station's behalf failed to convince Kathleen Begala, the agency's chief spokeswoman and sister of Clinton political insider Paul Begala, to talk to KNSD because, she told the Post, "I was a little suspect.... I didn't want to be ambushed." A spokesman for the safety-seal makers then claimed that all KNSD's demonstration proved was that "given enough time, a group of children working together, in the presence of approving adults, with a video camera rolling, are capable of removing several tablets from a package." Reached by phone at his office in San Diego, KNSD news director Irv Kass defended his story. "What we did was a very good, very fair piece of work that has not [yet] aired. That is part of the problem with the [Post] piece. To critique something that's a work in progress is terribly unfair. It's like getting a glimpse at our notes." Kass says that the Post's portrayal of the taping of the children was also wrong. "We had several groups of ten to twelve children with four or five adults supervising. To say that we had 50 kids in a large room wasn't what happened at all." As for the pill-popping incident, Kass adds, "No children were put at risk. One child took an iron supplement, which the California poison control people tell us wouldn't be harmful and might even be beneficial to the child. I also question them saying we got a closeup of the kid popping the pill in her mouth. I haven't seen the video yet, but I'm told it's not quite that way." Kass also says he thinks the story was given to the Post by someone inside the government. "Some people might say that their motivation was to kill the story, but they're not going to kill the story. We're going to do the story." The segment is set to run during November sweeps.

Looney Tunes

Visitors to the Super Bowl may get the idea they've arrived in the Republic of Golding. Not only will that infamous 15-foot-high portrait of the mayor beam down as they fetch their bags at the airport. But insiders say the mayor's handlers are also planning a public relations blitz nicknamed the "Susan identity" plan. It starts with the taxpayer-supported Super Bowl Host Committee, which this month printed up thousands of copies of its first glossy, six-page, full-color newsletter, featuring on the cover - what else? - that airport picture of Susan Golding, who the newsletter notes was "overwhelmingly reelected by 78 percent of the voters." ... San Diego Magazine, a big booster of the Chargers' ticket guarantee deal, has made a coveted deal to publish the official Super Bowl program ... San Diego is No. 8 on the list of top places in the U.S. to find a single man, according to the Ladies Home Journal. Overall, though, the city was ranked only 42 out of 200 among the magazine's "best cities for women." ... Randall Rolfe, head of a controversial El Paso, Texas, HMO being investigated by the federal government for alleged Medicaid fraud, has quit to join Practice Development Strategies, a consulting firm that also manages doctors' practices in San Diego. ... When San Diego Unified Schools chief Bertha Pendleton applied for the job of running the Dallas school system, it triggered a mini-mutiny in San Diego, where some school board members wanted to use the opportunity to dump her. Pendleton didn't get the Dallas job and managed to stay on in San Diego, where her contract runs out next year. Now, Yvonne Gonzalez, the successful candidate in Dallas, is quitting after just eight months, and the question being asked is, Will Pendleton re-apply for the job? No, she told the Dallas Morning News firmly. She plans to retire when her contract is up in June.

Contributor: Matt Potter

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