Tongue Tied: Making Over the Minutemen

The minuteman mascot at Jefferson Middle School in Fort Wayne, Ind., has had a makeover, writes columnist Kevin Leininger of the News-Sentinel. Gone is his musket, because the principal says guns have no place in schools.

The image still stands on a wall just inside the main door of the school, but was repainted recently to exclude the firearm.

Principal Michael Morris, who took over at the school in July, said: "The mural needed to be repainted anyway, and this sends a stronger, better message about patriotism. Everyone loves it."

Not everyone. "Those who would purge violence from American history do more than dishonor the sacrifices made to write that history: It gives children the inaccurate and dangerous notion that our freedoms were won and can be maintained without a struggle," writes Leininger.

'Aggressive' Paratroopers 

A Web site for U.S. paratroopers based in Italy, which included a game called "Bash bin Laden," was partially closed down after some of its features were criticized as insensitive, reports Reuters

The site, set up for the 173rd Airborne, also included a map of the Middle East with some countries renamed for oil companies (Iran as "New Texas"), pictures of an American eagle sharpening its claws and an image of the Statue of Liberty making an offensive gesture.

Late in the week, after some carping about the "aggressive content" by the Italian press and peace groups, a notice appeared on the site (www.173rdairborne.com), saying: "Some pages on this site are undergoing redesign and will be posted again shortly. Please check back often. We undertake this effort to ensure the safety of our fellow soldiers and brothers." 

Fundamental Disrespect 

Muslim activists in Great Britain last week demanded that the BBC stop referring to Usama bin Laden's faith in its reports, saying that the term "Islamic Fundamentalist" is provoking a racial backlash, reports The Times of London.

The Muslim Council of Britain wants bin Laden referred to as just a terrorist, with no reference made to his faith. "The BBC is planting an association in the minds of many people the notion that ordinary peace-loving Islamic Fundamentalists are no different than bin Laden," said Inayat Bunglawala, a spokesman for the council.

The complaint comes during a debate within the BBC's news department and its Diversity Unit as to whether the corporation is offending Muslims by referring to bin Laden as an Islamic extremist, fundamentalist or Islamic terrorist.

Coercive Pledge 

A group of parents of elementary school students in Chapel Hill, N.C., are so angry about the local school's refusal to start the day with the pledge of allegiance that they have started gathering on the sidewalk in front of the school with their children to do it themselves, reports the Herald-Sun.

The principal of McDougle Elementary, insisting that patriotism is not measured by rote recitation, said requiring the pledge might make some students uncomfortable. It has been long-standing policy at the school not to recite the pledge, he said.

Chapel Hill's schools' policy code says that citizenship education may include the pledge, but cautions that students must not feel compelled or coerced to participate. The code also says teachers may use the recitation of the pledge "as an opportunity to teach students about the history concerning coercion and the importance of the First Amendment to the Bill of Rights."

'Casualty Facilitators' Anyone? 

The news service Reuters has refused to refer to the Sept. 11 attacks on the World Trade Center and Pentagon as "terrorist attacks" because, as the agency's global head of news, Stephen Jukes, said, "one man's terrorist is another man's freedom fighter," reports Howard Kurtz in The Washington Post

The agency said it must maintain a steady hand because its employees are on the front lines around the world and might be put in jeopardy if it appeared like their employer was taking sides. "We're trying to treat everyone on a level playing field, however tragic it's been and however awful and cataclysmic for the American people and people around the world," Jukes said.  

Earlier, the agency had allowed the 1995 Oklahoma City bombing, as well as the attacks at the World Trade Center and Pentagon, to be referred to as acts of terror. But now, even that phrase is banned unless it is part of a source's quote.

The Potter Wars, Cont. 

A retailer in Britain says he will not stock the board games, action figures and soft toys coming out this Christmas to coincide with the release of the Harry Potter film for fear of encouraging children to dabble in the occult and other evil practices, reports London's Daily Telegraph.  

Gary Grant, joint owner with his wife, Catherine, of the 28-shop The Entertainer chain, said he is concerned that children will be drawn into the occult by the products. "My concern is that children start off with something quite innocent which can get out of hand," he said. "As a parent I do not want them drawn into ouija boards and the occult."

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