Volume > Issue > The News You May Have Missed: March 2024

The News You May Have Missed: March 2024

Method of Inclusivity

The Methodist Church in Great Britain released an “Inclusive Language Guide” advising members to avoid “gendered” terms such as husband and wife because they assume what is not “the reality for many people” (The Christian Post, Dec. 31). “As Christians, we need…to recognize that we sometimes exclude people,” the guide says, and we must “repent of any hurtful language.” There is “infinite variety in the way that God’s creation is expressed in human life,” it says, and in place of terminology that makes “assumptions about a family or personal life,” it suggests partner, parent, child, and carer as alternatives. The guide lists extensive categories of people with whom to use “sensitive and inclusive” language, including LGBT+ and “disabled and neurodiverse” people. It urges steering clear of “ageism” by avoiding terms like old people, embracing “anti-racist language,” using people’s preferred pronouns, and avoiding negatively emphasizing a person’s immigration status or English-language skills. As for Methodist marriage rites, a spokesperson said couples may “discuss with the minister how they wish to be referred…. This ensures that the ceremony reflects who they are.”

 

Dreaming of a Non-White Christmas

Boston Mayor Michelle Wu came under fire this past Christmas after one of her aides mistakenly sent invitations to all members of the City Council to a holiday party meant solely for “electeds of color.” The City Council has seven white and six non-white members, and the white councilors were not supposed to receive invitations (New York Post, Dec. 13). The revelation of the secret “no whites” party drew backlash. City Councilor Frank Baker, a white Democrat, called it “unfortunate and divisive,” but said it didn’t affect him personally. “To offend me, you’re going to have to do much more than not invite me to a party,” he said. Others fended off criticism. City Councilor Brian Worrell, a black Democrat, said there wasn’t anything out of the ordinary about the party. “We make space and spaces for all kinds of specific groups in the city and city government,” he said. “This is no different, and the Elected Officials of Color has been around for more than a decade.” The party went ahead as scheduled.

 

DEI Deception

A former Diversity, Equity, and Inclusion program manager at Facebook pleaded guilty to scamming the social-media giant out of more than $4 million through a scheme in which she faked business deals in exchange for kickbacks (New York Post, Dec. 13). From January 2017 to September 2021, Barbara Furlow-Smiles, who was responsible for developing and executing DEI initiatives, operations, and engagement, “caused Facebook to pay numerous individuals,” including her friends and relatives, “for goods and services never provided to the company,” prosecutors said. Those individuals would later funnel kickbacks to Furlow-Smiles. Some of those involved were her former interns, her “university tutor,” a hairstylist, babysitters, and nannies. Furlow-Smiles would submit fake expense reports claiming the individuals were vendors at Facebook events who had helped with marketing or provided merchandise. Those individuals would return the money to Furlow-Smiles via account transfers or in cash that was sometimes delivered wrapped in T-shirts or other items. Furlow-Smiles is slated to be sentenced on March 19.

 

The Chancellor’s Secret

The University of Wisconsin System Board of Regents fired the chancellor of UW-La Crosse after discovering videos of him and his wife on pornographic websites (Milwaukee Journal Sentinel, Dec. 27). Joe Gow, 63, and his wife, Carmen Wilson, 56, also published two books under pseudonyms detailing their experiences in the adult film industry. The couple’s account on X (formerly Twitter) describes them as a “passionate plant-powered couple cooking, conversing, and shooting with top adult video stars. Visit our LoyalFans and OnlyFans sites for fully explicit scenes!” They also appear on at least two other porn sites, and their YouTube channel, Sexy Healthy Cooking, has numerous videos of the couple cooking vegan dishes with pornstars. Gow is the longest serving of the 13 current UW chancellors, having led the 10,000-student campus since 2007. In 2018 he was reprimanded for using university funds to pay pornstar Nina Hartley $5,000 to speak on campus. He called Hartley’s talk “without a doubt the most original and thought-provoking presentation I’ve seen in my 12 years at our university.”

 

Undergraduate Hitman

An incarcerated Italian mobster has been hailed as a “brilliant” scholar after writing a 170-page thesis based on his life of crime — in which he confesses to three unsolved murders (New York Post, Jan. 9). Catello Romano, 33, earned a sociology degree with honors while serving a life sentence for murder at the prison in Catanzaro. The gangster-turned-undergraduate wrote that his first victims were a rival mobster and a man with whom his target was conversing. The double murder was “the most violent, traumatic and irreparable event” of his life and left a “hole” in his soul, the honor student wrote. He also copped to killing another rival mafioso. His paper seeks to understand “the criminal phenomenon” and contribute to “its possible prevention.” Catanzaro University sociologist Charlie Barnao, who was Romano’s thesis advisor, described the mobster as a “brilliant student, who has gotten very good grades throughout his course of study.” Romano’s admission to three unprosecuted killings has drawn the attention of prosecutors, who are weighing reopening the cases, and has led to his being transferred to a maximum-security prison in Padua.

 

That’ll Teach Him

A 13-year-old from Ohio who allegedly crafted “a detailed plan” to attack a synagogue reached a plea agreement with a juvenile court. His punishment: writing a book report about a Jewish rescue operation during World War II (CNN, Dec. 18). The teen, who admitted to being part of multiple online anti-Semitic groups, will serve probation for 12 months, during which time he must receive counseling and may not have “unsupervised use of the internet.” He was charged with two misdemeanor counts of inducing panic and disorderly conduct after he made “threats to burn and shoot up” Temple Israel in Canton. As part of his plea deal, he must read a book about Carl Lutz, a Swiss diplomat credited with saving thousands of Hungarian Jews during World War II, and submit a book report to the probation department. “We stand by a zero-tolerance policy when it comes to threats made against our community,” said Stark County Sheriff George Maier. “We work diligently to ensure that those responsible are held accountable to the fullest extent of the law.”

 

Let Them Eat Consommé

A menu from a Chinese state banquet that bears the signature of communist dictator Mao Zedong sold at auction for $275,000 (Associated Press, Dec. 8). The banquet, held in Beijing on October 19, 1956, commemorated the first visit to China by Pakistan’s Prime Minister Huseyn Shaheed Suhrawardy and featured foods from both nations, including such delicacies as Consommé of Swallow Nest and White Agaric, Shark’s Fin in Brown Sauce, and Roast Peking Duck. The menu was signed by six influential statesmen, including Chairman Mao and Zhou Enlai, the Chinese premier. Bobby Livingston, executive vice president of RR Auction in Boston, called the menu “a piece of the past — a piece that tells a story of diplomatic engagement, cultural exchange, and the forging of friendships that have endured through the decades.”

 

Rat Town, Down Under

A plague of rats is wreaking havoc in a small coastal town in Australia (National Public Radio, Nov. 27). Karumba, in Western Queensland, has been invaded by native long-haired rats, whose population exploded after copious rainfall boosted plant vegetation across hundreds of miles in the inland Outback. “They come in waves,” said resident Jon Jensen. “They almost seem trained and organized. They [arrive] in numbers, mate, and they swim around in the rivers like little puppy dogs.” Everywhere they go, the rats eat — and eat. “They’re hangry, they’ve swum a long way, they’ve come across land a long way,” Jensen said, “and they’re eating anything and everything they can get their hands on.” Long-haired rats eat shoots and leaves and then depart for the north, seeking more food, said researcher Emma Gray of the School of Biology and Environmental Science at Queensland University of Technology. Like an army, the rats have an effective, and literal, force multiplier. They can “produce 12 young every three weeks when conditions are good!” Gray said.

 

Puppy Profiling

An Italian province in the picturesque Dolomites region is turning to DNA tests to solve the scourge of dog poop on the streets (Reuters, Jan. 17). Once the database of the 40,000 dogs in the area is up and running, street cleaners and health officials in Bolzano will be able to collect abandoned droppings, have them genetically tested, and trace the offenders’ owners, who will face fines of up to $540. “Bolzano receives a few hundred complaints a year from citizens about improper management of public land. More than half are for dogs,” said veterinary department director Paolo Zambotto. “Law enforcement could only catch three or four of them because they have to go there and set up some kind of stakeout.” DNA registration will be compulsory, with owners expected to get blood tests for their dogs at their own expense. Any owner who refuses DNA profiling of his dog will face fines of up to $1,100.

 

Trash Champs

Britain defeated 20 teams from around the world in the inaugural SpoGomi World Cup in Tokyo (Reuters, Nov. 24). The teams of three from countries as far afield as Australia and Brazil scoured the streets of Shibuya and Omotesando for 90 minutes over two sessions, picking up waste and sorting it into appropriate categories. Britain’s team, The North Will Rise Again, beat the Japanese host team by collecting 126.26 pounds of rubbish. Japan’s famously high standards of cleanliness made finding trash challenging for some competitors. “It was really hard because there wasn’t really that much trash,” said Team USA member Beatrice Hernandez. “But that’s when we have to look a little bit deeper like in the bushes, or just really focus on the cigarette butts on the floor.” The name SpoGomi comes from the combination of the abbreviation of sport with gomi, the Japanese word for trash. Invented in 2008 to encourage people to pick up litter in public places, it has grown in popularity to the extent that 230 local contests have been held in Japan. The second World Cup is planned for 2025.

 

Low-Maintenance Lawn

An Australian woman’s bandicoot-ravaged yard won the first-ever World’s Ugliest Lawn competition (United Press International, Jan. 11). Officials in the Swedish town of Gotland launched the contest two years ago to encourage locals to conserve water. This year the contest went global, with lawns in the United States, Canada, Britain, Germany, France, and Croatia competing for unaesthetic honors. The lawn of winner Kathleen Murray of Sandford, Tasmania, features sparse patches of yellow grass, shriveled plants, and dry divots caused by local bandicoots (small-to-medium nocturnal marsupial omnivores). “The bandicoots love digging — that’s how they find their favorite food. Now my back yard looks like a real-life Hungry Hungry Hippo game. I also have an echidna that helps, and some chooks,” Murray said. She was awarded a pre-owned T-shirt bearing the phrase Proud Owner of the World’s Ugliest Lawn. “I used to think the bandicoots were wildlife of mass destruction invading my lawn, but now I see that they’ve actually liberated me from ever having to mow it again,” Murray said. “I’m all for guilt-free weekends, especially since my ex-husband left with the lawnmower back in 2016.”

 

Lost on the Line

Transport for London’s (TfL) lost-property office in West Ham receives about 200,000 items every year, or roughly 6,000 per week. Its warehouse contains shelves filled with backpacks, handbags, phones, umbrellas, skateboards, buggies, and more, and its staff logs and sorts up to 1,100 new items per day. The warehouse holds expensive items, too: Rolex watches, engagement and wedding rings and other expensive jewelry, and bags of cash (Sky News, Dec. 24). According to office manager Diana Quaye, some of the weirdest items left on public transport since TfL’s lost-property service opened 90 years ago include a box of cooked frogs, a tray of different colored false eyeballs, a jar filled with bats, a puffer fish, dried snakes, a wedding dress, a taxidermied fox with a crown, a prosthetic leg, and a new 50-inch TV. Items unclaimed after three months are donated to charity, recycled, or sold in public auctions, the profits of which go toward running the lost-property service. Most of the time, the staff’s efforts are in vain, as only about 8% of all lost items are reunited with their owners.

 

A Fitting Accommodation?

France’s post office is experimenting with putting dressing rooms in some branches to cater to online shoppers who want to return items that don’t fit (Agence France-Presse, Jan. 10). In a Paris post office, a standalone dressing room in the shape and yellow color of a French mailbox has been installed with a chair, mirror, and shelf. France, like many countries, has seen a boom in online commerce. The dressing room “helps people avoid making pointless trips back and forth and saves time,” said one postal customer. La Poste also hopes the experiment will increase business. Like other national post offices, La Poste seeks to compensate for the drop in letter traffic over the years by boosting its parcel services. The experiment doesn’t please shop owners, however. The initiative “is causing deep displeasure among small independent retailers and poses serious risks to the vibrancy of local economies if it is rolled out nationally,” said the French Retailers Association, which represents some 450,000 small shops.

 

Wondrous Words

Wayne State University released its 15th annual list of long-lost words due for a comeback (United Press International, Jan. 10). The Michigan school’s Word Warriors program compiles its list from suggestions by website administrators and members of the public. This year’s words include blatherskite, a person who talks at great length without making much sense; curglaff, the shock felt when plunging into cold water; dollop, a shapeless mass or blob; kaffeeklatsch, an informal social gathering at which coffee is served; and pawky, having a mocking or cynical sense of humor. Other words on the list are petrichor, a pleasant smell that frequently accompanies the first rain after a long period of warm and dry weather; pettifogger, an inferior legal practitioner; rawgabbit, a person who speaks confidently but ignorantly; thunderplump, a heavy fall of rain during a thunderstorm; and twankle, to twang with the fingers on a musical instrument. “This year’s list is particularly evocative,” said Chris Williams, head of the Word Warriors program. “I love to picture myself inhaling the petrichor after a summer thunderplump or listening to someone twankle away on a guitar.”

 

Your 2024 Banished Words

Only recently, rizz was celebrated for being named Oxford Languages’ 2023 Word of the Year. But at the end of the day, its impact is cringe-worthy, say the faculty of Lake Superior State University. Rizz, shortened from charisma to mean style, charm, or the ability to attract a romantic partner, is one of the words and phrases that should be omitted from our collective vocabularies, they say. Other entries on the Michigan school’s 2024 Banished Words List include slay (it’s transitioned “from a specialized term denoting exceptional accomplishment to a commonplace expression for any achievement…from wearing a stylish outfit to tackling the art of parallel parking”), at the end of the day (“often employed as a rhetorical device that attempts to encapsulate the complexities of a situation summarily, lacking nuance and depth”), cringe-worthy, side hustlehack, and wait for it (“if we’re watching the video, then we’re already waiting for it, right?”). Iconic made the list for a second time; it first appeared in 2009, when it was (over)used to describe Barack Obama’s presidential inauguration (National Public Radio, Jan. 1).

 

©2024 New Oxford Review. All Rights Reserved.

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