City officials in Edmonds, Wash., refused the gift of a painting depicting firefighters huddled next to an American flag at ground zero in New York because it contains three faint crosses in the background and accepting it might be misconstrued as an endorsement of Christianity, reports The Herald.

Tom Miller, a former police chief and city councilman in town, bought the watercolor for $374 after he saw it in the window of a downtown gallery.

But City Attorney W. Scott Snyder said that because the painting contains religious symbolism, the city cannot accept it. "It's not city law, it's based on the Constitution," Snyder said.

(Thanks to Ken S.)

CNN's Bench 

Officials in El Paso, Texas, were forced to remove a "God Bless America" sign on a high school marquee there after some students suggested that it was offensive and that patriotic messages should be more inclusive, reports the El Paso Times

The sign out in front of Eastwood High School was changed to read "United We Stand."

The issue of whether the sign was inclusive enough was brought up by a group of Del Valle High School television journalism students who make up the CNN Student Bureau in El Paso. Following their complaints, a senior at the school wrote to administrators saying that some students were offended by the phrase, said Assistant Principal Mike Olivas. 

Stressed Out Gobblers 

An auto parts salesman in Southern California was forced to abandon a promotion in which he wanted to allow customers to chase turkeys because animal rights activists complained that it would stress out the birds, reports the Los Angeles Times.

Glenn McElroy of Pick Your Part wanted to let customers who bought an auto part take a turn chasing turkeys around the store's lot. If they could catch one, they could take it home for 25 cents.

People for the Ethical Treatment of Animals heard about it and asked animal control officials to put an end to "The Great American Turkey Hunt." The officials ordered him to cease and desist or face criminal charges.

"It's inhumane," said Los Angeles animal services spokeswoman Jackie David. "The turkeys could hurt themselves. It's very stressful for the turkeys."

Now, McElroy has 320 birds he is not sure what to do with.

No Help Wanted 

A store in England that wanted to advertise for an in-store Father Christmas, or Santa Claus, was told it couldn't because such an ad would be discriminatory against women, reports The Times of London.

The ad was kept out of a local job center in Cornwall, England, until the owner of the store, Bruce Robinson, wrote a letter explaining why the job was suitable for a male applicant only.

"With no disrespect to ladies, Father Christmas is, and always has been, a man," Robinson said. "He has a deep voice, a long white beard, and a large corporation. Trying to suggest that his role should be undertaken by a female is insane political correctness."

'Hurt Mail' in Hawaii 

The executive director of the Friends of Iolani Palace was forced to apologize for flying the U.S. flag over the Hawaiian landmark as a tribute to the victims of the Sept. 11 terrorist attacks after receiving numerous "hate mails" and "hurt mails," reports The Honolulu Advertiser

In a letter to the board, staff and volunteers at the palace, director Alice Guild said she was "so, so sorry for the pain that has been caused" to those in the community who objected to the flag's presence.  

The U.S. flag was flown over the palace for 30 days beginning Sept. 28. It was the first time since 1969 that it was raised over the historic landmark, the official residence of King Kalakaua from 1882 until the king's death in 1891.

"I would rather see Iolani Palace burned to the ground than to see the U.S. flag flying over her again," said one of the "hurt mails," written by Kaui Goodhue.

(Thanks to James M.)

Redefining 'Terror,' Part II 

The British Broadcasting Corp. has joined Reuters news service in refusing to label the Sept. 11 attacks on America acts of terrorism, reports The Guardian newspaper.

Mark Damazer, the BBC's deputy director of news, said the service would lose its reputation for impartiality around the world if it were seen to use such a subjective term. Guests on the company's various networks may continue to use the term, but news correspondents must use more neutral terms such as "attack," he said.

Speaking at an international convention of broadcasters, Damazer and others also criticized American coverage of the war on terror. Tony Burman, executive director at the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation, said U.S. coverage failed to take account of the international perspective.

"It's depressing to see the jingoism which is lamentably part of the culture and spirit of the coverage," Burman said.

Hurtful Christmas Card 

Davidson County, N.C., Sheriff Gerald Hege is catching hell from Muslims in his area for a Christmas card he is sending out this year that depicts him before a desert background with a sword in one hand and the severed head of Usama bin Laden in the other, reports the Winston-Salem Journal.

The greeting reads, "Happy Ramadan!! Merry Christmas and Happy Holidays!" Hege paid for the cards with his own money and is sending them only to relatives and friends.

Local Muslims said they resent the association of Ramadan with violence. "I liked Hege as a sheriff," one said. "But he has no business insulting 1.5 billion people. That's wrong. That's sad that we're in the United States and there is such bigotry."

Avoiding Eid 

The U.S. Postal Service is correcting and reprinting a promotional poster advertising holiday stamps to accommodate Muslim sensitivities, a USPS official tells United Press International.

The American Muslim Council complained that the original version only showed stamps celebrating Christmas, Hanukkah and the African-American festival of Kwanzaa. The USPS apparently left out the stamp commemorating Eid, the holiday at the end of Ramadan.

The USPS' vice president for public affairs, Azeezaly S. Jaffer, apologized to the Muslims: "The Postal Service deeply regrets the oversight and is reprinting the Eid stamp images in local post offices."

Inevitably ... 

A resolution by the Metropolitan Washington Council of Governments calling on the owners of the Redskins to change the team's name by the 2002-03 season turned into a tense discussion last week before being tabled until early next year, reports The Washington Post

D.C. Council member Carol Schwartz, who is the chairwoman of COG this year, asked her colleagues in the 17-member body to pass the same resolution the D.C. Council passed last week — also at her urging. She said the name of the NFL team is offensive.

Redskins spokesman Karl Swanson said the team has no plans to change its name. He said the term is derived from an American Indian tradition of using red clay to paint their skin red for war and ceremonial purposes.

(Thanks to Daniel G.)

Hurting Bikers' Feelings 

Bikers across America are urging state lawmakers to pass new laws protecting them from discrimination because of their image as hell-raising thugs, reports The Associated Press.  

The bikers complain that they are frequently denied service in restaurants and hotels, or isolated from the rest of the customers, making them feel like "second-class citizens."

"To me it's kind of like the back of the bus — it's just discrimination for whatever reason," said Georgia state Sen. Joey Brush, who rides a Harley-Davidson.

Minnesota and Maine have already passed such measures in the past three years, and Ohio, Georgia and South Carolina are all considering them.

To read the Fox version of the story, click here.

From the Central Servers:

Alasdair in Los Angeles writes:

As someone born and raised in Glasgow three decades ago, and who knows the political makeup of the Glasgow Council, there is something entirely appropriate in their changing the Christmas salutation to "Seasonal Greetings," since "greeting" is another word for "crying" (as in with tears) or "whining" — which they tend to do a lot ...

Bucky T. writes:

Sacramento Councilwoman Lauren Hammond is an example of someone with more power than brains, or else she has too sensitive a chip on her shoulder. Perhaps both are true. At any rate, I suppose I should feel offended every time a coworker in our office kitchen asks me to pass the crackers.

Elizabeth O. writes:

Officials in Glasgow, Scotland have inadvertently compounded the problem by changing the Christmas Festival name to Winter Festival. The word "Winter" in general connotes pagan and nature worship cults that wait with baited breath for the Winter Solstice! It is okay to offend Christians, Muslims, Jews, Sikhs, Bhuddists and Hindus by renaming the Holiday season after a Wiccan Spiritual Event, because Wiccans are fun and cool!

Might I suggest to the Glaswegians that they stick with something that is truly "secular" and name their holiday festivities the "December Festival."

Angela G. writes:

So once again I am ashamed to be a New Yorker. The "Powers That Be" around here have way too much time on their hands. Now they have to rip apart a 244-year-old document because it makes the girls feel bad?? For goodness sake, that constitution is part of our history! Are you telling me that females of the 20th/21st century are so fragile, that a historical document is going to damage their little psyche? I don't know what embarasses me more about this whole silly issue: being a female, or being a New Yorker.

Pat R. complains:

Perhaps a more fitting title for the article "X-ing out Xmas" should have been "Crossing out Christ"... oh wait...! you already did that by renaming "Christmas" to "Xmas"!

Christopher B. writes:

As an American living in Austria, I am confronted by the Austrian flag everyday. Does it offend me? No! If ever it does, then I think it will be the time for me to leave. The same is true for anyone living in the U.S. If you find the Stars N' Stripes offensive, then... perhaps... it is time to leave. But be warned, you are likely to find the "offensive" flag flying in every nation. And, definitely in Austria!

Kile A. in Baton Rouge, La., writes:

Perhaps Sacramento City Councilwoman would like us to edit all globes and world maps because there are two countries in Africa called Niger and Nigeria. Both of these countries at first glance look like the n-word.

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