Staff members and residents at a shelter in Bloomington, Ind., are urging Hardee's restaurants to apologize for an advertising campaign they say is insensitive and offensive to homeless people, reports the Herald-Times.

A placemat promoting the restaurant chain's new "Six Dollar Burger for $3.95" lists 38 suggestions for how customers might spend the $2 they save by buying the Hardee's sandwich instead of a more expensive one. The sixth suggestion is, "Make a homeless person really happy." It follows the fifth item on the list, "Replace your shoelaces."

"Is this to say that you can make a homeless person really happy for the same price as it takes to replace your shoelaces?" people associated with Shelter Inc. wrote in a letter to the paper. "We insist that this placemat be immediately rescinded and a formal apology be issued."

Larry Brayman, director of corporate affairs for Hardee's in St. Louis, said an apology was not needed.

"Wow, that's hard to believe," Brayman said of the criticism. "The piece is meant to be humorous and, if anything, it draws positive attention to the homeless. ... It seems like a lot of energy wasted on a nonissue."

Lawlessness Prevails

Officials at Lewis Elementary School in Barstow, Calif., have barred students from playing "cops and robbers" on the playground or anywhere else on school property until it can be determined whether the game is dangerous, reports the Contra Costa Times.

The school district's Superintendent Gary Thomas said officials just want to establish guidelines for the game, in which kids shape imaginary guns out of their fingers and pretend to be officers of the law and criminals.

One parent, Dan Pecaro, removed his 9-year-old son from the school after a principal threatened to expel the third-grader if the boy did not stop playing the game.

Barrel Racing Barbie

A University of Alberta professor says Mattel's Spirit of the Earth Barbie (which she calls the Native Barbie) reflects and reinforces stereotypes about the lives of Native American women and should be replaced with more realistic dolls.

"'Mainstream' Barbies include a wide range of models. These Barbies can be almost anything. They reflect the range of possibilities for middle-class, affluent North American women. But the Native American Barbies line presents a classic 'Pocahontas' image. Nothing else," said Native Studies professor Pat McCormack.

Speaking at a lecture entitled "Deconstructing Barbie," McCormack suggested instead a "Blackfoot Barrel Racing Barbie" decked out in blue jeans, cowboy boots and denim shirt that looks "every bit the part of a modern, rural, Blackfoot woman."

Wrong Flag

The mayor and City Council of Clemson, S.C., have asked the League of the South to remove a pre-Civil War flag from a local highway marker because the display hurts the city's efforts to achieve unity, reports The State.

A resolution passed by the council asks the group to remove the South Carolina Sovereignty flag over a highway marker named for John C. Calhoun. The resolution says the council "is completely and totally intolerant of any sign or symbol of racial or cultural divisiveness."

Like the embattled Confederate flag, the Sovereignty flag is red, white and blue, but it has a different cross and incorporates the crescent moon and Palmetto tree that are part of the official state flag.

Only one council member voted against the resolution. "The true meaning behind this resolution is what frightens me most," said Russell Herbert. "It is not about a Confederate battle flag or a South Carolina Sovereignty flag but is about the continual and systematic effort to do away with all things Southern."

Supporting the Soldiers

The Washington University Law School in St. Louis has excluded the military from a financial assistance program for graduates who go into public services because the faculty there says the military discriminates against gays, reports the St. Louis Post-Dispatch.

The faculty of the school voted 12-11 to exclude graduates who go into the military from the Loan Repayment Assistance Program. The program helps students who take government jobs repay student loans after graduation.

"This is not anti-military," professor Karen Tokarz said of the measure. "This is anti-discrimination."

Chavez vs. Columbus

A Los Angeles City Council proposal to allow city workers to take Cesar Chavez Day as a paid city holiday instead of Columbus Day was said by opponents to be "racist" and "anti-Italian American," reports the Los Angeles Times.

Italian Americans doing the complaining said they don't oppose declaring Cesar Chavez's birthday a city holiday, but they do oppose taking city-holiday status away from Columbus Day.

Chavez, founder of the United Farm Workers union, died in 1993. The state made his birthday a holiday in 2000. Columbus Day has long been a national holiday to honor the Italian explorer who discovered America.

In the end, the council opted to give the employees Cesar Chavez Day off instead of Columbus Day for this year but agreed to see if the unions representing city workers would accept changes in future years that would not offend either community.

Finally, a March to Get Behind

About 80 clowns in tri-color wigs and oversized pants marched down the streets of Santa Cruz, Calif., last week in a "Million Clown March" intended to focus the attention on the oppression of their brethren, reports the Santa Cruz Sentinel.

The group stopped in front of the usual protest locations, chanting "Our clothes are better than yours!" in front of the Gap and "Double mocha lattes!" at Starbucks. Later it broke into the cry of "No more chanting!"

Organizer Rico Thunder said that for those brave enough to be out as clowns, the world can be a cold and unwelcome place. "As long as one clown is oppressed, no man is free," he said.

Locals accustomed to frequent marches were said to be refreshed by the display. "At least at this protest you can actually see who the clowns are," one onlooker told the paper.

From the Central Servers:

Steve M. says:

Instead of renaming the "Easter Canned Food Drive" because some non-Christian students will feel left out, the non-Christian students should be encouraged to have a "non-Christian Student Canned Food Drive" or any (Choose your Name) Canned Food Drive they wish.

As long as the school doesn't force any non-Christians to participate in the Easter Food Drive, where is the harm?  If it is because other students feel less charitable, then they need to either join in or form their own charity, pretty simple.

Tim O. writes:

Easter is not a Christian word.

It comes from a goddess cultural root. What I find interesting in Easter is that Christians have taken the rabbit symbol and focused on the male, while the root in antiquity was about the female and her procreative ability. We are pretty scared of anything to do with sex.

Easter: it is spring, eggs, procreation. The Christian ability to make an ancient holiday their own shouldn't keep the rest of the world from celebrating that holiday under a name that refers to the most ancient (and closest to the phenomenol-world) religion. But, language can get people heated up and that is a tribute to the power of the word. I am sure that you, as a journalist, are aware of this already.

Tim B. in Lincoln, Neb., writes:

I am left wondering if Mr. Miles, and those of his ilk, would be the first calling the DMV when they see a plate with any mention of God on it, such as,   ILUVGOD, GODSLUV, CRSTIAN, or any other one can think of.  I think it is about time believers are beginning to speak out and say they are offended by non-believers. Turn the tactics being used against you into a weapon for you.

Matt M. of Olathe, Kan., wonders:

If it is so offensive to refer to these groups as "Indian," then does that mean the state of Indiana will be changing its name too?  How about North Dakota and South Dakota, we wouldn't want to put any "Indian" references in those state names either.

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