Now that Elian Gonzales has been returned to his father, it's time to focus on two other custody cases that might impact the country's ethical and political landscape.

The first is a dispute involving a Massachesetts woman who wants to implant two frozen embryos in her womb against the wishes of her ex-husband, who says no one should be forced to become a parent.

In a tip-of-the-hat to 19th-century Austrian geneticist Gregor Mendel, we suppose, the woman is referred to in court documents as BZ, and the potential dad as AZ. The embryos, who will hereafter be referred to as AZ-BZ and BB-ZZ, were not consulted by the court about their own wishes in the case.

The court ruled April 4 in favor of the father.

But Beliefnet has learned that the embryos continue to be confined in apalling conditions at an unnamed fertility clinic's lab. Kept at sub-zero temperatures, unsupervized and with no stimulating interaction with other life forms, will little AZ-BZ and BB-ZZ be forgotten? News reports of the trial failed to even mention their fate.

A similar case is unfolding in a federal courtroom in Hartford, Conn., that stretches the limits of the definition of human life.

Representatives of the Detroit Institute of Arts are meeting with the family of the late creator of Howdy Doody to try to resolve custody of the famous freckle-faced marionette.

The Detroit museum claims that puppeteer Rufus Rose intended to donate Howdy to the museum's puppet collection. The family says he left no such provision in his will.

Have none of the participants watched Toy Story 2? The ethics of the case are perfectly clear to any 10-year-old who viewed the movie. But perhaps the most shocking aspect of the case is where the little wooden cowboy is being kept while the trial drags on--in a bank safety deposit box at a location the family refuses to reveal!

For millions of Baby Boomers who thrilled to Howdy's TV adventures, it's a sad day in Doodyville, indeed.

With frivolous lawsuits flooding our courts while abused embryos and cast-off wooden child TV actors are neglected, the question the country should be asking is, where is Janet Reno when we really need her?

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