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Animated Argument

House Republicans caught a lot of heat from Democrats last winter over their plan, still pending, to dismantle the federal school-lunch program and wrap its funding into a child-nutrition block grant to the states.

One Republican congressman may have decided to return fire.

Rep. Bill Emerson of Missouri, who chairs the House Agriculture subcommittee with jurisdiction over nutrition issues, has raised a fuss about a promotional campaign at the Department of Agriculture to publicize new, healthier school meals.

The campaign, known as "Team Nutrition," is intended to unite the public and private sectors in promoting healthful eating habits, including the more nutritionally correct school food. But Mr. Emerson is rankling at the $400,000 the department paid Walt Disney Studios for permission to use the animated characters Timon and Pumbaa from the movie "The Lion King" in posters and television ads.

"We should be using those funds to feed children," a spokesman for Mr. Emerson said.

The lawmaker also ridiculed as "T-shirt bureaucracy" an internal Agriculture Department memo that asked each USDA office to appoint a "shirt coordinator" to keep track of polo shirts bearing the Team Nutrition logo.

Agriculture officials agree that the shirt memo may have been a little silly. But the widely known Disney characters serve as powerful nutrition messengers, said Maris Segal-Goodis, the director of the Team Nutrition project.

"We know that if kids are engaged," she said, "they will be able to take action to change their behaviors."

Riley on Race

Secretary of Education Richard W. Riley told a group of black and Jewish religious leaders recently that he sees education as a vehicle for healing racial tensions.

"I believe that we are making good and positive steps on the road to finding common ground, and I believe the best way to continue on that road is by rededicating ourselves to our children and to their education," he said in an Oct. 20 speech at the Washington Hebrew Congregation temple here.

"Education has the capacity to have a redeeming and transforming quality for individuals, communities, and nations," Mr. Riley said. "And I believe that learning can also be the secret of survival--and reconciliation--for a divided America."

--Millicent Lawton & Mark Pitsch

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