Mushy Microsoft, Egged Usama, Berserk Berkeley

Some residents of New Paltz, N.Y., and surrounding towns are taking offense at one building owner's stern warning to terrorists, saying it is offensive and should be taken down, reports the Poughkeepsie Journal.

The massive banner draped over a Main Street storefront says, in red-white-and-blue capital letters: "Keep Looking Over Your Shoulder Terrorists. We're Coming for You."

One motorist from a nearby village wrote to the city to complain about the threatening words, and some village residents have said the language is offensive.

Building owner Pete Savago's wife, Ethel, defended the banner. "We don't understand why anyone would take offense," she said. "I think it gives everyone some hope and courage and gives us some backbone."

Where Were They When ...?

The American Association of University Professors is concerned about what it calls attempts to "demonize" scholars critical of the war on terror, insisting that faculty members must have the right, "as patriots and professors, to think and express their views in freedom."

The statement, made by the union's chief, Mary Burgan, says faculty members on American campuses should be allowed to disagree on issues like causes and effects of the Sept. 11 attacks. The time of silent mourning has passed, the statement says, and "now we are back to our usual habits of analysis, criticism, and scorn."

Burgan specifically complains about a resolution drafted by trustees of the City University of New York who complained that professors who blamed America for the terrorism at a teach-in had "with their selfish, tasteless, and unjustified conduct, brought shame" on the institution.

Egg on His Face After All

School officials in Florida who initially forbade a teacher and her students from dropping eggs on a picture of Usama bin Laden because it could be viewed as culturally insensitive later relented and the egg drop proceeded as planned, reports the St. Petersburg Times.

Teacher Patricia Thomas spent $500 to have a 9- by 9-foot poster with bin Laden's face covered by a bulls-eye for the project. The assignment is for juniors and seniors at Dixie Hollins High School in St. Petersburg to build protective containers for eggs so they can be dropped from a building and land, unbroken, on a large target.

But Associate Superintendent Ron Stone tried to nix the project. "It's a question of sensitivity, not so much to Usama bin Laden, but to the Muslim faith and the students that we have that might be Muslim," he said.

The next day, Stone changed his mind.

Sensitive Microsoft?

Software giant Microsoft has whittled away at the number of synonyms generated by thesauruses built into its word-processing programs, limiting the options for seemingly innocent words like "idiot," "dolt" or "dimwit," writes Mark Goldblatt in The New York Times.

With each new version of its ubiquitous Word program, Microsoft purges and updates the thesauruses so as not to offend anyone, a Microsoft employee says.

"Microsoft's approach regarding the spell checker dictionary and thesaurus is to not suggest words that may have offensive uses or provide offensive definitions for any words," the employee writes Goldblatt. "The dictionary and spell checker is updated with each release of Office to ensure that the tools reflect current social and cultural environments."

Berserkeley, Part XXVII

Protesters at the University of California at Berkeley stole at least a thousand copies of the student paper there from newsstands because they said an ad in it was "inflammatory" and perpetuated hostility against the Iranian community, reports The Daily Californian.

The ad, titled "End States Who Sponsor Terrorism" and paid for by the Ayn Rand Institute, featured an essay calling for the elimination of the "terrorist sanctuaries" in Iran, saying, "What Germany was to Nazism in the 1940s, Iran is to terrorism today."

In place of the stolen papers, the protesters left leaflets calling for a boycott of the paper. It said the ad was "the last straw" in perpetuating hate and violence, citing last February's printing of an ad authored by David Horowitz and last month's political cartoon by Darrin Bell as other examples.

"We do not believe that hate speech, which advocates the killing of entire nations and the innocent people who live in them, is protected," the flier said. "The ad clearly crosses the line between reasoned debate and inflammatory hate mongering."

Fighting Sioux Not Welcome

St. Cloud State University in Minnesota has asked the University of North Dakota to leave its "Fighting Sioux" logo at home when the men's hockey team comes to play there, reports The Associated Press.

"We don't tolerate hate speech," said Sudie Hofmann, an associate professor and chairwoman of St. Cloud State's human relations and multicultural education department, who considers the nickname and logo insulting to American Indians.

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