Spiritual Skating, Dictionary Debating

The New York Division of Human Rights is clamping down on a privately owned roller-skating rink that has advertised a "Christian skate time" on Sunday afternoons, according to the Times- Herald Record, claiming that the marketing ploy is discriminatory.

Skate Time 209 in Accord, N.Y., advertised the Sunday skate just as it has "tot skates," "tween skates," family nights and adult disco parties. But when the Christian advertisement appeared in the local weekly paper, officials in Albany sent the rink's owners a cease-and-desist note.

A "Christian skate denies or at a minimum, discourages non-Christian patronage," the letter said.

The skating rink changed its ad to refer to "spiritual skate times" on Sundays, but insisted that "Christian" referred only to the type of music played during the sessions. No one was discriminated against, its owners said.

Authentic Bigot

Polish-Americans are accusing Doonesbury cartoonist Garry Trudeau of bigotry for naming an intellectually deficient character in one of his strips Kaminski, reports the New York Daily News.

A May installment of the strip featured a character with what was described as a stereotypically Polish surname who receives his college diploma by overcoming "the worst skill deficiencies in reaching the minimum threshold of achievement."

The New York branch of the Polish American Congress labeled Trudeau an "Authentic Bigot" for the transgression. "To target our ethnic group with such a derogatory description is just plain bigotry," an official from the Congress said.

Inclusion Alert

The Associated Press reports that 4-H members in Indiana have been told that prayers of any kind will not be allowed during extension-sponsored events from now on.

Stan Sims, director of the Lake County 4-H, says religious utterances of any kind will have to stop, including those that "begin or close meetings, fundraisers, camp sessions, including meals, and/or award ceremonies."

Sims says the group wants to "respect peoples' beliefs and be inclusive."

Prayers had been a tradition at many of the 800-member youth group's activities. Under the new rules, however, even an invocation at the annual Recognition Banquet similar to last year's, in which the volunteers were asked to pause and give thanks and "seek blessings on the mission of 4-H youth development" without any direct references to Jesus or Christianity, have been banned.

Book Ban

A school board in Connecticut has voted to remove a book about the plight of Japanese-Americans during World War II from its reading lists because the book uses the term "Jap" at one point, according to the Danbury News-Times.

A couple in New Milford, Conn. asked that the book Baseball Saved Us, by Ken Mochizuki, be removed from elementary-school reading lists because of the slur. Peter and Wendy O'Brien objected to their second-grader being read the book aloud in class.

Both the book's author and its publisher say the work is about how a young Japanese/American relies on baseball to combat prejudice after he is freed from an internment camp during the war.

Dastardly Dictionary

Just about every victim group in the Spanish-speaking world is upset about the latest edition of the dictionary of the Royal Spanish Academy, the equivalent of the English language's Oxford English Dictionary, because of the demeaning and derogatory terms listed in it, according to The Times in London.

Jews, Gypsies, gays, feminists and even people from Galicia are demanding that the text be altered to remove the slurs.

Gays are angry about inclusion of the term "Marica," a slang term for a gay man meaning someone who is weak or effeminate. Feminists are irked by the term "ajamonarse," which translates as "to become like a ham" and is used to describe how pregnant women increase in size. Jews are angry that the term "Sinagoga" (synagogue) is defined as a meeting for illicit ends.

José Antonio Pascual, a Spanish language specialist, was among the dictionary's defenders. "We simply photograph the landscape; we don't create it," he said. "We seem to have lost the ability to laugh at ourselves. Uniformity of language frightens me. We are losing our sense of irony."

Nigerian Fraudsters?

African News reports that CNN has apologized for a recent documentary which profiled a Nigerian immigrant to the United States convicted of identity theft and bank robbery, saying an interviewee's comments to the effect that there are many Nigerians in America involved in shady dealings were "misconstrued."

A CNN spokesman said the program "How To Rob A Bank" is being edited to remove the offensive references and that the network would work to avoid broadcasting such "confusing" comments in the future.

Nigerian fraudsters profiled in the show were described as being part of "the underside of Houston's Nigerian community" — not part of the mainstream, said CNN Vice President Mike Nelson.

Previously, the All Nigerian American Congress threatened legal action unless CNN retracted the story, claiming the report besmirched the reputations of honest Nigerians around the world.

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