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SHORT TAKES

MORE TRAUMA

Besides having to deal with their mom's death, Sydney and Justin Simpson have been caught up in a custody tug of war. A California appeals court recently reversed an earlier court's ruling that awarded custody of the kids to dad O.J. Simpson instead of their maternal grandparents. The appeals court said any custody ruling had to take into consideration the civil case in which Simpson was found responsible in the death of the kids' mom -- his ex-wife, Nicole Brown Simpson. (Simpson was acquitted of the killing in a criminal trial.) After the appeals court made its ruling, it ordered a new custody hearing.

WORK IT

The next time you hear someone griping about "kids today," tell them this: U.S. kids today work more and play less than kids in the past. That's what folks at the University of Michigan Institute for Social Research have found. They asked parents of 3,585 kids under 13 to keep a diary logging every minute of their time for a weekday and a weekend day. They compared kids in 1997 with kids in 1981 and found that between longer school hours, after-school sports and more time studying, kids have less free time these days. In 1981, 40 percent of a kid's day was free time; by 1997, free time had dropped to 30 percent.

SOUR NOTE

Did you see the ad on "Monday Night Football" that showed a player throwing footballs at members of a marching band? Music educators weren't pleased. The National Association for Music Education sent out a news release saying "many music educators and musicians around the nation found (the commercial) to be offensive and infuriating. ... A commercial of this magnitude is sending the wrong message to the young people of our nation. Music is a part of our national heritage."

GOTTA START SOMEWHERE

A Sutton, England, soccer team for kids under 12 lost 32 straight games by a combined score of 425-0 -- but recently, the team got its first goal. The kid who scored it, midfielder Daniel Durkin, was immediately nicknamed Ronaldo, for the Brazilian soccer superstar. We bet the team didn't really care that it lost the match, 12-1.

WE'RE WAITING!

Some kids in Chicago suburbs are waiting for the school bus ... and waiting ... and waiting. There aren't enough bus drivers, so some kids are left stranded at the curb and, at times, causing classes to start late. Why the shortage? Other jobs pay better, so it's hard to find drivers. Plus, rising enrollments and increased traffic make the job tougher. "With the job market today, bus drivers leave because they find better jobs. It is not easy driving a bus full of kids," said Connie Rysmsza, a bus transportation manager for a Chicago-area school.

-- Knight Ridder

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