State and county agricultural fairs across the country are increasingly dropping traditional beauty contests and instead crowning "agricultural ambassadors” in order to keep up with the times, reports the Baltimore Sun.

For the first time in six decades, Maryland will not crown a Farm Queen at its state fair this year. Gone are the gowns, crowns and sashes. Instead, a Maryland Farm Bureau Agricultural Ambassador will be named and she will be wearing a black blazer.

"We are looking for ways to make it come more up to date with what's going on around the country," said Andy Cashman, assistant general manager of the Maryland State Fair.

Some county fairs, among them Anne Arundel, are also opening the competition to males these days.

Except ...

The Hartford Courant’s reader representative is taking the paper to task for an editorial cartoon that she calls insulting and racist.

Reader rep Karen Hunter says editorial cartoonist Bob Englehart’s July 12 work, which featured a black couple telling a black police officer that they would be "acting white" if they gave up the names of known criminals in their neighborhoods, insulted not just the community but the people who work at the newspaper as well.

Hunter says she has no problem with open forums, free speech and an uncensored flow of opinions. Except, that is, when those ideas appear “to reinforce instead of dispel negative and inaccurate racial stereotypes.”

That Card Again

An Arab-American woman who was kicked off a city bus in Juneau, Alaska, when she refused to stop eating says the incident was racially motivated and caused her at least $150,000 worth of severe emotional distress, reports the Juneau Empire.

Jamila Glauber, a Yemeni-American, was told to leave the bus for eating candy after the driver told her eating was not permitted on the vehicles.

Glauber is now suing, claiming the removal was a result of her race and national origin. She says the “extreme and outrageous actions” caused her “extreme fear” and, presumably, incalculable trauma.

Modern Colonialism

A group of aboriginal artists in Canada are irked that a non-native writer had the gall to write a fictionalized piece of satire that appeared on CBC Radio, reports the CBC.

The artists say the piece, which depicts an aboriginal poet drinking in a hotel room and writing a letter to her editor, reinforces racist stereotypes and should not have been written -- at least not by a white guy.

"I think there's fundamental issues of colonialism, " says Neal McLeod. "What right do white males have to portray aboriginal women? I think there are limits in terms of representation. Whose voice should be represented?"

Swinging Both Ways

Scotland Yard, home to some of the toughest police officers on the planet, is reaching out to London's transsexual community. Officers who have a sex change will be offered up to 12 months' paid leave, with 183 days at full pay, reports The Sunday Times.

The Metropolitan police say the idea is to show that Scotland Yard is keeping pace with the times.

Transsexuals already were riding high over the government's new Gender Recognition Bill, which allows them to alter their birth certificate to reflect their new gender, and to marry.

But one trouble spot remains when it comes to Scotland Yard's new effort: transsexual officers still may not conduct strip searches of suspects. It is illegal for officers to strip search the opposite sex -- and transsexuals remain "a bit of a quandary" in this respect, say the police.

Ummm ....

A Nevada assemblyman who mentioned that African-Americans are being served by an AIDS awareness program that targets minorities is being called a racist for stating the obvious, reports The Associated Press.

In an interview with the Las Vegas Review-Journal, Assemblyman Bob Beers, R-Las Vegas, reportedly dismissed a program dubbed Fighting AIDS in Our Community Today as a program "dedicated to putting condoms on gay men in the black community."

A fellow assemblyman, Democrat Kelvin Atkinson, said the comment stemmed from Beers’ “racial issues.

"To me it's a racist remark," Atkinson said. "It's something that shouldn't be tolerated in our district."

Other assemblymen described themselves as “speechless” over the comment, even though the program’s main goal is to provide outreach to the minority community and educate them in an effort to reduce the transmission of HIV.

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