And now some fresh pickings from the political grapevine.
Last week we told you about the controversy over the statue commissioned to commemorate this photo of New York firefighters raising the American flag at Ground Zero. All three of the men were white, but developer Bill Ratner wanted the statue to be multiracial, making one of the firefighters black and another Hispanic. Ratner and the fire commissioner have now agreed to scrap plans for the statue and consider other options for a memorial. One of the three firefighters – Danny McWilliams – said he was disgusted over the controversy because the flag raising was supposed to promote harmony. He said, "It's just disgraceful that the country should be focusing on this. Guys are dying in Afghanistan," he said, "and this is what we're fighting over?"
The movie Black Hawk Down – which portrays the 1993 firefight in Somalia that killed 18 Americans – is being released nationwide today. But Somali leaders in the United States are urging people to boycott the film – claiming the movie depicts Somalis as "savage beasts. " A spokesman for The Somali Justice Advocacy Center in Minnesota says the movie could create a backlash against Somali refugees who have come to the United States – and he fears there could be anti-Somali violence. One former Army Ranger who took part in the operation told the Minneapolis Star Tribune those fears could be justified. He says he feels resentment toward the Somalis who killed the U.S. soldiers, but he doesn't resent Somalis in general.
State lawmakers in Georgia apparently think a zero-tolerance policy for schools has gone too far. Strict no-weapons rules were enacted in many school districts after a rash of school shootings nationwide. But local school officials sometimes overreacted, suspending students for minor offenses, including one case in which a student was sent home for having a small chain on a Tweety Bird wallet. Now a bill introduced in the Georgia Senate would require school systems to use "common sense" and determine a student's intent when deciding violations of the policy.
Earlier this week, we told you about a beef the United Parcel Service has with a company marketing gay-themed dolls. The newest editions of the dolls feature anatomically correct men wearing uniforms strikingly similar to the ones worn by U.P.S. employees. But these uniforms have the initials B.P.S. – for Billy's Parcel Service. Now a U.P.S. spokesman says the doll's manufacturer has agreed to halt production – to avoid a trademark violation.