Government officials in Richmond, Calif., asked the owner of a local Western wear store to remove a display of a captured Usama bin Laden facing the gallows because it could fuel prejudices, reports the Contra Costa Times.

Critics call racist the display at the Golden Gate Western Wear depicting a Wild West prison cell holding a bearded, turban-clad Arab sitting on straw, facing a hangman's noose.

Richmond resident Charles Smith said it was a bigoted attack on Arab people intended to incite racial animosity toward a community already resisting waves of intolerance.

But store owner Bill Knudsen called such talk moronic. "We're showing a patriotic scene of Western judgment against someone who killed thousands of people," he said. "How can it be construed as being against all Arabs?"

Adventures in Etymology

In a letter to the editor of Vegan Voice magazine, the president of United Poultry Concerns says philosopher Peter Singer's belittlement of chickens is unfair and that Gallus domesticus suffers as much horror every day as those who died in the 9/11 terror attacks.

"I think it is speciesist to think that the September 11 attack on the World Trade Center was a greater tragedy than what millions of chickens endured that day and what they endure every day because they cannot defend themselves against the concerted human appetites arrayed against them," writes Karen Davis, Ph.D., president of the chicken rights group.

Davis describes the horror heaped on chickens every night, when "men who are cursing and yelling at them" rouse them from their peaceful slumber for their journey to the slaughterhouse and the "next wave of human terror attacks on them.

"For 35 million chickens in the United States alone, every single night is a terrorist attack," she says.

Unworthy Washington

New Jersey businessman William Sanders is encountering resistance to his one-man campaign to get the nation's schools to hang a portrait of George Washington because such a move wouldn't be sufficiently inclusive, reports USA Today.

The resistance is coming from teachers unions like the New Jersey Education Association, whose spokeswoman Nancy Volte said: "requiring legislation to honor one person does a disservice to many individuals. There are so many others who were also instrumental in securing our country's freedom."

Currie Ballard, historian in residence at Oklahoma's Langston University, also opposes such a move because "America was not a pretty place for black people when George Washington was president." He wants new symbols — perhaps a collage.

But Sanders believes George would inspire patriotism among the kids. "Our children need to understand the principles on which our nation was founded" and to value such qualities as honesty, integrity and loyalty, he says. "These are important lessons. ... If we forget, we're nothing as a country."

Men Behaving Badly

Members of the South Carolina House are being asked to attend sensitivity training because of a phony memo circulated last year that called on female pages to wear skimpy clothing, reports The Associated Press.

House Speaker David Wilkins wants all 124 representatives to attend a two-hour class on gender, racial and ethnic sensitivity. Wilkins also wants the training to be included in freshman orientation for all incoming House members.

"In and of itself, this is not the cure-all," Wilkins said. "But this is one of the things we can do to show the House has a wholesome work (environment)."

The anonymous memo from the make-believe "Men's Caucus" advised female pages — college-age assistants to legislators — to wear skimpy clothes and told them underwear was optional. It was intended as a parody of an earlier note from page supervisor Mag Rigby in which she reminded the young women not to wear blouses that revealed cleavage or skirts more than four inches above the knee.

Insensitive Dolls

A Kansas City activist is asking local stores not to carry a G.I. Joe figure modeled after police in Cincinnati, Ohio, because it could increase tensions in the black community in a city that erupted with racial unrest last summer, reports the AP.

Alonzo Washington sent a letter to officials at Osco Drugs, Toys'R'Us and Walgreens asking them not to carry the Hasbro toy, which is modeled after a Cincinnati motorcycle officer's uniform and features the city's river and crown insignia. The figure, "G.I. Joe Harley-Davidson Electra Glide Police Bike and Figure," is based on a photo of officer Rick Krummen.

Washington owns a company, Omega7 Inc., which produces black action figures.

Education Priorities

School officials in Ithaca, N.Y., are requiring that first- and second-graders there be graded on their tolerance, reports the Cornell Review. The kids will get grades based on how well they "respect others of varying cultures, genders, experiences, and abilities."

The grade will appear on report cards under the heading "Lifelong Learning Skills." It appears well before social studies, science, reading, or writing.

His Number Was Up

A former player for the Washington Redskins now living in Manhattan Beach, Calif., has been told that the vanity license plates on his car reading 1REDSKN are offensive and must be surrendered to the Department of Motor Vehicles, reports the Los Angeles Times.

Dale Atkeson, 71, who played fullback and returned kicks for the football team in the 1950s, considers the plates an homage, but the DMV has considered them a slur since 1999. The plates were a gift from his wife, Wanda, seven years ago, he said.

Atkeson was fingered by a Native American activist who routinely surfs the DMV's Web site to check for offensive plates that skirted the bureaucracy.

In a world with so many crude images and diatribes, Atkeson wonders why he has been targeted. "How utterly ridiculous it is to go after my license plate when you can turn on the television and see Howard Stern and his filthy mouth," he said.

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