A daycare center in North Carolina seeking state certification for its preschool program found itself penalized because an inspector discovered green plastic army men on the premises, reports the Wilmington Morning Star.

Laura Johnson said the presence of the nine little army guys at her Kids Gym Schoolhouse led to the loss of five points under the state-sanctioned Early Childhood Environmental Rating System.

Evaluator Katie Haselden said schools may not have such displays of stereotyping or violence on the premises. The army men "reflect stereotyping and violence, therefore credit cannot be given," she wrote in her report.

And Anna Carter, supervisor of the N.C. Division of Child Development's Policy and Program Unit, backed up the report's findings. The soldiers "don't enrich the environment and can be potentially dangerous if children use them to act out violent themes," she said.

Vegans Unite!

Police station employees across the English county of Lancashire are howling mad about guidelines they have received laying out just what is and is not acceptable at office Christmas parties this year, reports London's Daily Mail.

An official memo, the details of which emerged last week, cautions organizers of the parties to address colleagues' loved ones as "partners" instead of "spouses" to avoid offending unmarried officers. Such "inclusive" language is intended to ensure that no one feels left out, the memo said.

The memo also told organizers to think hard about any entertainment booked for the evening lest it offend someone, to make sure the party does not clash with any religious festivals such as Ramadan and to make sure special dietary needs such as those of vegans are covered in the catering.

The memo came from the police's Equal Opportunities Unit — the same one that earlier this year encouraged officers to refer to an accident "blackspot" as an accident "hotspot."

Where's MADD When You Need 'Em?

George Benge, a monthly columnist on diversity issues for Gannett News Service, says the phrase "illegal alien" should be stricken from the nation's vocabulary because it is demeaning to the millions of "undocumented workers" who come to America every year.

Benge calls the phrase a "formidable ethnic slur" that is "among the most dangerous kind of slurs because it has gained wide acceptance at many levels of society."

The phrase inflicts damage, he reasons, not unlike that caused by perpetrators of hit-and-run accidents who are never called to account for their actions. "The victim lies bleeding and battered on the sidewalk as thousands of other cars pass by without stopping to help or apprehend the culprit," he wrote in a column distributed by the Gannet News Service.

Saying No to Xenophobia

Britain's advertising watchdog, the Advertising Standards Authority, rejected public complaints that a beer company's advertisement celebrating England's victory over Germany in a soccer match was xenophobic, reports Reuters.

The ad for Spitfire beer, which appeared in a newspaper the Monday after England qualified for the World Cup by defeating Germany, said: "Germany defeated. Now on to Japan. Sound familiar?"

The authority acknowledged that the campaign made a joke at Germany's expense but said the advertisement was no more xenophobic than international soccer rivalry.

Charlie Holland, of the Shepherd Neame beer company, said: "The whole premise is light-hearted, irreverent British humor. It pokes fun at ourselves and was not intended to cause offense."

From the Central Servers:

Michael P. tells us:

The "Xmas" abbreviation for Christmas is not a modern attempt to secularize the holiday, but an ancient abbreviation based on the fact that our letter 'X' is derived from the Greek letter "Chi", which is the first letter of "Christ" in Greek. It is used here much as it is in another traditional Christian example, "IXOYE", which stands for "Jesus Christ, Son of God, Savior".

Trace H. of Longview, Texas, writes:

So the BBC and CBC have jumped on the Reuters' PC bandwagon and wish to remain neutral on terrorism. My guess is that they'll next begin to refer to such events as the Bataan Death March as the Bataan POW Walkathon and the Nazi Final Solution as the National Socialist Jewish Population Control Project. What they propose distorts the truth, gives legitimacy to terrorist attacks on innocent people and insults the victims and survivors of 9/11.

J. Pinto writes:

Maybe with two of their own brutally murdered without cause, Reuter's will understand the definition of terrorism.

Terry E. writes apropos of the mascot debates:

Are we next going to have to change the name of Oklahoma, which is derived from the Choctaw Indian words okla, meaning "people," and humma, meaning "red."

Bill S. writes re last week's hurtful Xmas cards:

As a citizen of Davidson County, NC, I found his card hysterical! And to the Muslims who are offended at it -- tough. You should be offended that a bunch of wackos are hijacking your religion and using it to justify the slaughter of innocents across the world, rather than allowing such a pinprick of a joke to irritate you.

Steven H. writes:

Why would you even think of running the excerpt about "Hurting Bikers' Feelings" in the same column as people who want to burn down a building in our 50th state rather then seeing the U.S. flag fly over Iolani Palace. Or a school what will not allow a "God Bless America" sign to be on a signboard?

As a retired career Naval officer who just happens to be a life long biker and State Legislative Coordinator for a Motorcycle Rights Organization here in Louisiana, I take offence. Keeping myself and others out of a business based upon my leather vest or tattoos is the same as keeping you out of a business for wearing your suit and tie.

Stick to what you do best, expose the ugly underbelly of what is wrong with this country and leave the biking community out of your column. This is one time you missed the mark and by a wide margin...

Eric F. writes:

I would not be shocked if the Officials in El Paso, Texas have to revisit the decision to replace "In God We Trust" with "United We Stand" as the later phrase is clearly insensitive to those in wheelchairs.

Brian G. in Minnesota writes:

I must point out that the name of the month mentioned by Elizabeth O. is unacceptable. "December" is a word imposed by the oppressive Roman Empire on subject people groups. As a descendent of the Celts who were harassed by the intolerant Romans, I join with descendents of the Gauls, Phoenicians, Scythians and others who suffered under the oppressive Roman regime, in an effort to remove reminders of Roman oppression. For starters, the months of October, November and December have got to be renamed!

Seriously, there is no end to the nonsense, once we start listening to the congenitally peeved.

Tom W. writes:

Those looking to ban Harry Potter to prevent children from becoming enamored of witchcraft clearly have missed numerous targets over the past. Why not ban the following: Bewitched, Sabrina the Teenage Witch, Lord of the Rings and The Hobbit, the various versions of the Arthurian Legends (where a Christian King is raised by a druidic wizard), Bed Knobs and Broomsticks, the Sorcerer's Apprentice portion of Fantasia. While not directly on point--why do we let children read the Crucible--Hell Arthur Miller got black listed once--why not do it again? But why stick to the literature and movies of the last century. Why do we allow the teaching of Greek and Roman mythology in literature classes? Hell--ban Homer! Some kid might start praying to Athena for wisdom or something.