Students Will Have a Chance

To Play 'Name That Mascot'

Cheerleaders at McIntosh High School in southern Alabama surely have one of the toughest rah-rah assignments imaginable. For three years, the school has been without a nickname.

Some people call McIntosh the "no-name" school. But just try to work that one into a cheer.

It wasn't always this way. McIntosh students were known as the Demons from 1940 until 2001, when the Washington County Board of Education erased the mascot name after a pastor complained it was offensive.

Now, if there was ever something certain in this world, it is this: People can be very protective of their school nicknames. McIntosh is no exception. A group of alumni got together two years ago and filed a lawsuit, challenging the school board's decision.

One of the alumni -- Cleveland Barnes, whose kids also went to McIntosh -- had wearied of being teased at sporting events.

"You hear people on the sidelines saying, 'Hey, the school with no name.' "

After two years of legal tussling, the alums and the school board have reached a compromise: The grown-ups are going to let the kids decide. Students will vote on a new mascot this fall after a committee makes 10 nominations.

Nothing in the settlement prevents the committee from picking Demons again.

In the search for inspiration, the committee could always look east to Wake Forest University, where the cheerleaders invoke the holy and the unholy when they cheer for their Demon Deacons.

-- Manuel Roig-Franzia

Wanted: One Good Accordionist

For Air Force Band Ensemble

The U.S. Air Force is looking for at least one good man. Or woman. Gender doesn't matter as long as the candidate is between 17 and 34 years old, can survive six weeks of basic training, and, most important, can play the accordion.

Since the accordionist for the Strolling Strings, an ensemble in the U.S. Air Force Band, retired more than a year ago, the group has muddled along without one of its key components.

That brought Chief Master Sgt. Jane Bockenek, the group's musical director and violinist, to Quincy, Mass., last week to the American Accordionists' Association's 66th annual festival, in search of fresh talent.

Her pitch -- to those deemed good enough to audition -- was a chance to see the world, perform for the president and other dignitaries, and earn $39,652 to $46,416 a year in the process.

She spent a few days in the city just south of Boston, taking in concerts and chatting up the talent, but the recruiting drive came up empty.

"It was a lot of fun. We haven't found one yet, but it was worth going up there to get the word out," Bockenek said, noting that there was "a certain amount of surprise" when she approached some of the festival's performers and told them where she was from.

The Air Force Band, which boasts 240 members spread across eight ensembles, also has openings for a vocalist, a drummer, a keyboard player for the country music group Silver Wing and a musical librarian. The accordionist job is a priority, though.

"We are looking to attract our nation's top musicians," Bockenek said. "It's a pretty good life."

-- Jonathan Finer

Japanese Say Road's Name Is

A Racial Slur, Not an Honor

There are those who say Jap Road in Jefferson County honors Japanese immigrants who arrived in east Texas at the turn of the century, became farmers and helped make an industry out of growing rice.

And there are those who say that regardless of when the three-mile stretch of road was named, today Jap Road is unacceptable. "It's a racial slur," said Sandra Tanamachi, who used to live in the county and who has been trying to have the street name changed since 1992. "It wouldn't be tolerated for anybody else, and it shouldn't be."

On Monday, the Jefferson County Commissioners Court will hear from both sides and might decide to change the name. There have been complaints about the road's name for more than a decade.

Over time, opposition to the name has grown to include the Japanese American Citizens League, the Anti-Defamation League, the NAACP, the League of United Latin American Citizens and the Organization of Chinese Americans. A discrimination complaint was even filed with two federal agencies. It cites legal precedents that establish "Jap" as a racial slur.

"If in fact it is a racial slur," said Jefferson County Judge Carl R. Griffith Jr., "I don't think we should have it as the name of a road."

-- Sylvia Moreno

Bison Ranchers Find New Group

Of Customers: Low-Carb Dieters

The popularity of the Atkins diet and other low-carbohydrate regimens has been a windfall for an unexpected group: South Dakota bison ranchers and purveyors of bison meat.

Consumer demand for bison meat products -- including hot dogs, jerky, steaks and roasts -- has risen noticeably, according to the National Bison Association. The organization gives the diets partial credit for this trend.

People are emphasizing meat more as they cut down on carbs, and because it is lower in fat than most beef, bison meat is a natural choice for dieters.

"With those diets everyone wants to eat as lean as possible, so, heck, maybe that's got something to do with it," said Steve Maine, an employee at Look's Meat Market in Sioux Falls.

Numbers recently released from the U.S. Department of Agriculture's National Agricultural Statistics Service show South Dakota is the nation's top producer of bison, or buffalo. The state accounted for 17 percent of the 40,168 bison sold in 2002. North Dakota was second and Montana third.

"It's not as marbly as beef, which people like," Maine said. "And with beef prices going up, it doesn't cost much more than beef. It's been going really good."

-- Kari Lydersen