- The Washington Times - Wednesday, December 8, 2004

National malls

Earlier this week, we drew your attention to a newspaper ad placed in the New York Times — showing the Statue of Liberty, with the tag line, “Very Inspiring. Now, where’s the mall?” — urging consumers to visit one of 13 shopping malls in metropolitan New York.

It was one of a series of ads placed by Simon Property Group Inc. that used familiar landmarks, not just in New York, but also in Boston, Philadelphia and here in Washington. As we reported, an apologetic Simon group since dropped the ad campaign, saying it “meant no disrespect to this national icon of freedom.”

Still, Simon might not have been too far off base, as Inside the Beltway reader Joseph Conway writes to inform us.

“The Simon Properties ad about the Statue of Liberty reminded me of a time I was standing on the edge of Independence Mall in Philadelphia,” Mr. Conway says. “A woman walked up to me and said she was looking for Independence Mall. I said this was it.

“She looked around and said, ‘Where are the stores?’”

Still counting

One question repeatedly asked around Washington: Where has Terry McAuliffe been hiding?

Of late, the embattled chairman of the Democratic National Committee has been focusing his attention on two states — Washington, where Democratic gubernatorial candidate Christine Gregoire’s plea for a costly recount has been answered by party headquarters (42 votes separate her and her Republican opponent), and Ohio.

“We will make sure that every vote in Ohio is counted,” Mr. McAuliffe insisted yesterday. “But we aren’t stopping there.”

The chairman, in a missive to this column, says his Washington headquarters also will conduct a thorough investigation into the “conduct” of those running the 2004 general election in Ohio. Among questions he wants answered:

• Why did so many people have to wait in line in certain Ohio precincts and not others? (Actually, what state or locale doesn’t experience long lines at some precincts and virtually none in others?)

• Why weren’t there enough voting machines in some counties?

• Why were so many Ohioans forced to cast provisional ballots?

While he’s holding on to a glimmer of hope in Washington state, Mr. McAuliffe concedes: “We do not expect either the recount in Ohio or our investigation to overturn the results of this election.”

Borked in Europe

It has been one tough month for Italian Minister for European Affairs Rocco Buttiglione, whose nomination to the European Commission was rejected by the European Union because of his views on marriage and sexuality — what has been compared to the American equivalent of a politically correct “Borking.”

“As European Catholics, we disagree with Rocco Buttiglione’s positions on the family, on homosexuals, on women, as well as on his promotion of camps for asylum seekers at the borders of the EU,” said one letter of protest from 140 prominent European Catholic leaders.

Despite his being labeled an intolerant zealot, sexist and “homophobe,” Mr. Buttiglione arrived in Washington this week to receive the Faith and Freedom Award, presented by the Acton Institute for the Study of Religion and Liberty.

Learning Spanish

Given the verbal communication problems increasingly experienced in this melting pot of ours, one has to question whether recent immigrants who have poured into the United States — especially from south of the border — are living up to the civic ideal of acquiring English proficiency.

Now, a new study by the Washington-based U.S. English Foundation on the acquisition of English as a primary language confirms a wide learning gap between Hispanic immigrants and immigrants of other ancestries.

“In checkout lines, service stations and grocery stores across the nation, one no longer need live in New York or Los Angeles to encounter a near-daily language barrier. The foreign language we are most likely to encounter is Spanish,” the study states.

Recent arrivals from Africa, Asia and Eastern Europe are significantly more likely to learn English, with sub-Saharan Africans and Russians speaking English at well above the 71 percent national average.

“Mexicans and Guatemalans speak English at the lowest levels of proficiency,” the study says.

John McCaslin, whose column is nationally syndicated, can be reached at 202/636-3284 or jmccaslin@washingtontimes.com.

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