An investigation is under way in the UK town of Merseyside after a local official was accused of sending what was described as a racist email from her work computer, reports the Daily Post.

A resident described the email, sent by Councilor Christine O'Hare, as offensive. It featured a picture of a camel sitting among a row of parked cars with the caption "How to tell if there is a terrorist at the airport..."

Gloria Hyatt, of the Merseyside Campaign Against Racial Terrorism, said: "Given the current sensitivity around race and faith in our country at the moment people need to be very responsible about the types of material that are unfortunately now widely available on the internet."

Sanity Prevails

The University of Vermont's office of affirmative action has tried to prevent the Red Cross from operating blood drives on campus because the group discriminates against gay men by not accepting their donations, reports the Burlington Free Press.

The office was acting on a complaint from a gay student, who said the group refuses to accept donations from sexually active gay men because of the threat of AIDS. The policy reflects that of the U.S. federal government.

University officials, however, rejected the plea, insisting that donating blood is "an individual choice and action — not rising to the definition of protected activity in the case of discrimination or equal protection."

The Free Press says student government's at the University of Maine's Orono campus have voted to bar the Red Cross, and the University of New Hampshire's Student Senate last year passed a resolution calling on the Red Cross and the FDA to revise the homophobic policies.

Book Ban

A school in New Jersey has removed a book from its black history month reading list because a couple of parents complained it contains the dreaded n-word, according to the AP.

Officials at the H. Ashton Marsh School in Absecon removed "The Well" by Mildred Taylor pending a review by faculty members and the general public.

Published in 1995, the book is about a black family in early 20th-century Mississippi that has the town's only working well and shares their water with neighbors, including members of a white family who use the racial epithet.

French Homophobia

A French MP has been fined 12,000 Euros for publicly expressing the opinion that "homosexual behavior endangers the survival of humanity" and "heterosexuality is morally superior to homosexuality," reports the Brussels Journal.

Three gay rights groups took Christian Vanneste to court for inciting hatred against homosexuals with his comments. It is the first conviction under a December 2004 French law against hate crimes.

Vanneste is obliged to pay a 3,000 euro fine and 3,000 euros in damages to three groups who brought the charges, among them Act-Up Paris and Les Flamands Roses (The Pink Flemings). The groups called him "a typical representative of the Sarkozy Right, the extreme right and all sorts of integrists."

Squawking

The AP says the U.S. Board on Geographic Names has officially approved name changes for 16 places in Oregon that have the word Squaw in them.

The new names come after five years of consultations with local American Indian groups and the state board in charge of place names. In all, five creeks, four buttes, four canyons, two meadows and two waterfalls in central Oregon will be renamed.

The word is widely, though falsely, believed to be a derogatory reference to Native American women.

For more doses of politically correct nuttiness, head on over to the TongueTied daily edition.

Mailbag:

Will H. writes:

As a former law enforcement officer — I can never remember seeing a "smurf blue" villain at night! Only black shadows. This is carrying political correctness from the sublime to the ridiculous! They should have taken the money they wasted on this and spent it on officer safety — better vests, better weapons, better communications.

Rick in Rochester writes:

As a depressive, I am highly offended by the use of blue cutouts for police target practice in Tampa. This is highly insensitive treatment of many people afflicted with the blues. I would also add that the majority of blues musicians are black, therefore, use of blue is also racist.

Thrasyvoulos D. in Athens writes:

I read about the University in North Dakota trying to change the name of the sports team "Maurauders" because "they were not kind to women etc." Well, apart from the mid-20th century onwards, all bad guys in history were men, simply because women were mainly at home. Whether we like it or not, this was the case for the last 4,000-plus years. Trying to erase names of those who were not kind to women means that we erase our history. Good or bad, it is still our history and heritage.

Tom S. writes:

I looked on mp3.com and found that numerous artists have recorded the song "Black Betty," including even Harry Belafonte! Do you suppose Harry thinks it's racist?

Jan L. writes:

The complaint about the Canadian conservative's "stick to your knitting" remark is in itself sexist because the complaint implies that there are no male knitters.

Tom M. in New Jersey doesn't get it:

What a surprise — Tonguetied is jumping to Rick Santorum's defense because Democrats happened to criticize him using allusions that reference something having to do with Italian-Americans. I'm curious. When Republican critics labeled Jesse Jackson a "crack head" and an "ape", or when those teenagers mocking their black basketball opponents doused themselves in blackface, it wasn't racist, yet making a simple reference to the Italian mafia is?

Santorum and his supporters should stick to the only thing they're good at, weeping about the "tyranny" of gay marriage and campaigning to reinstate sodomy laws.

Tom C. writes:

After reading your column today, I have to ask myself: "Are we an evolving species, or just kidding ourselves?" I am now of the reasoned opinion that bickering over politically correct banalities may be indicative of regression in human social development, rather than progression therein.

Respond to Writer