Mental health advocates are urging Halloween planners across America to leave "insane asylums" and "psych wards" out their haunted houses because such features stigmatize people with disabilities, reinforce negative stereotypes and discourage people from seeking treatment, reports the Chicago Tribune.

"It's our annual Halloween horror cycle," says Bob Carolla, spokesman for the National Alliance on Mental Illness. "The cases vary by size and level of offensiveness, but for some reason, this year has been worse than most."

The paper says the group's protests are working in some cases. It cites the example of the Wheaton, Ill. Jaycees, which changed the theme of its haunted house from "insanitarium" and replaced an "electroshock therapy" scene with an electric chair following protests from the group.

"Once we realized that there was a public outcry, we did what had to be done," said Lori Ortolano, a spokeswoman for the Jaycees. "There was never any question."

Bitter Bakers

The UK's Daily Mail reports that bakeries in England renamed their "gingerbread men" cookies "gingerbread persons" in order to accommodate modern sexual sensibilities.

"It's just a step too far. We have schoolchildren coming in who have asked for a gingerbread man for years," said one angry baker with the Bakers Oven chain in the West Midlands. "Now I have to tell them that they can't have a gingerbread man and they can only have a ginger person."

The Bakers Oven chain said the change was made by a former regional manager, without the approval of head office. The name change was later rescinded following complaints from the public.

'Tis the Season

The Associated Press says black Republicans in Maryland are seething over a Democratic congressman's comment that one of their candidates for the U.S. Senate, Michael Steele, "slavishly" supported the GOP.

The comment, by Rep. Steny Hoyer, was made at a rally in which Hoyer was introducing Steele's Democratic opponent in the race.

An official with the state Republican Party said the remarks were "racist attacks" because Steele is black.

Hoyer later apologized for the remark.

'Tis the Season II

Not to be outdone, Democrats in New Mexico are angry about a campaign cartoon featuring their candidate for state treasurer depicted as a marionette being controlled by Gov. Bill Richardson, according to Albuquerque Tribune.

The ad showing Democratic candidate James Lewis, who is black, as a puppet was described as "blatantly racist" by Democrats in the state. The Rev. N.D. Smith said: "This reminds us of the Jim Crow era."

Demesia Padilla, whose campaign generated the ad, said it was a political cartoon used to demonstrate a political issue. "It has nothing to do with race," he said.

At a news conference called to complain about the picture, black leaders also criticized another local Republican, U.S. Rep. Heather Wilson, for calling the Rev. Al Sharpton a "racist, anti-Semitic rabble-rouser." Those comments were also deemed racist.

Firing Words

City supervisors in San Francisco wanted a local radio talk-show host fired for questioning on-air whether it's such a hot idea for an uncommitted gay man and a lesbian to parent a child together, according to columnist Debra Saunders of the San Francsico Chronicle.

During a call-in show, KGO radio talk-show host Pete Wilson (who is also an anchor for the local ABC affiliate), commented on the decision of Supervisor Bevan Dufty to father a child with Rebecca Goldfader. Wilson said a baby is "not an experiment. It is not an opportunity to see how far you can carry your views on parenting, alternative lifestyles or diversity in family structures."

And: "Look around you, folks. You think the high divorce rate in this country has been, generally speaking, good for kids? So, why not start out divorced? See if that'll work," he also said.

Wilson apologized for his "inappropriate comments" following complaints from other city supervisors and leaders of the gay community, who called his remarks homophobic and said they amounted to an "abuse of power" by the broadcaster.

Toilet Trouble

The owner of a public toilet in Vienna said he will remove urinals shaped like a woman's mouth from his restrooms following complaints from some women in town that they were sexist and inappropriate, according to the Associated Press.

The urinals in the "Opera Toilet" near the national opera feature thick, lipsticked lips, a set of teeth and a bright red tongue. The owner said they had been there for three years and he has heard no complaints until now.

A spokeswoman for the Vienna Department of Women's Affairs called the urinals "tasteless, misogynistic and offensive" and said they should be removed or the facility's owner could face legal charges.

Mailbag:

Carl in Georgia writes:

PC at every turn. If judges would reject this type of complaint and concentrate on important matters we would all be better off. Since when do "hurt feelings" qualify as a suitable subject for civil action?

William E. writes:

Once again the culture war has a battle front established by the Secular Progressives. Last winter it was Christmas, now it is Chris Columbus.

For teachers to openly portray and teach that Columbus is an imperialist is a very anti-American line of thought. The teachers are no longer teaching the basic fact, but instead they are now teaching the ideology of hate America for what it did to everyone in the world since 1492. Whatever happened to teach the facts and let the student form their own independent opinion?

Too many teachers and professors out there are determined to teach opinion and disregard the facts that refute their opinion. It is no wonder at all that today's graduating students are academically below most of the modern world. They are politically correct progressives that have bypassed basic formal academics.

A four year degree now has as much value as a high school diploma of the 60's.

Mitch R. in South Carolina writes:

I find it humorous to a point that the black officials are so offended by the term Tar Baby when it is used in a context that is obviously not racist nor offensive, but no one has done anything to close a restaurant near Myrtle Beach called Tar Baby's Pancake House with an obvious racial tone to it.

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