All journalists at risk

The heinous kidnapping and murder of Wall Street Journal reporter Daniel Pearl sent shock waves throughout the world. His murder has been rightly condemned by all and the process of bringing those responsible to justice has begun.

Many reports point to connections between Pearl’s murderers and Pakistan’s Inter-Service Intelligence (ISI) agency.

Pearl, a Jewish American, was working on a story investigating connections between Pakistani ultra-right extremists and Richard C. Reid, known as the “shoe bomber.” Pearl was thrust into the murky, dangerous world where terrorists, criminals and intelligence agencies all meet.

The ISI has a long history of working closely with the CIA and even the FBI. When terror-suspect Osama bin Laden reportedly had nuclear weapons Pakistan’s Frontier Post said agents from the FBI, the CIA and the ISI were investigating together.

Human Rights Watch reported the CIA and ISI worked closely together to funnel arms and weapons to anti-Soviet terrorists starting in the late 70s.

Foreign Affairs writer Ahmed Rashid said that the CIA and ISI actively worked together to mobilize 35,000 men from 40 Islamic countries to conduct the anti-Communist fight against the Communist led government in Afghanistan between 1982 and 1992.

U.S. intelligence agencies have a long history of training and recruiting terrorists and criminals to do “evil” deeds for nefarious, anti-democratic ends. The CIA also has a history of using the media around the world to plant stories and destabilize countries.

Recently this approach was codified with the new Office of Strategic Influence where the Pentagon would feed lies and false stories to the world’s media. This was met with such protest Secretary of Defense Rumsfeld was forced to publicly back off from it.

An investigation into what ties, if any, the CIA and FBI had with Pearl’s murderers needs to be conducted. All media, especially monopoly corporate outlets, have a responsibility to expose these intelligence agencies and their ties to terrorists; in the name of decency, democracy and Daniel Pearl.

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Vouchers undemocratic

The Supreme Court is now considering whether to overturn a lower court ruling that Cleveland’s school voucher plan is an infringement on the First Amendment separation of church and state, a fundamental element of any democratic society.

The Sixth Circuit Court of Appeals had ruled Cleveland’s voucher scheme unconstitutional. Ninety-nine percent of tax-payer supported voucher monies goes directly to Cleveland religious schools.

Public school defenders bear no ill will toward parochial or private schools. But taxpayer vouchers for private and religious schools breaks a gaping hole in the wall separating church and state. Religious institutions and fundamentalists want to force taxpayers to bankroll their schools.

Vouchers are a wedge that splits our communities. Multiracial, labor-community unity is needed to win an adequately funded system of quality, integrated public education. Most voucher legislation or initiatives have been met with majority public opposition, yet the ultraright, fueled by the Bush administration, keeps forcing the issue. They see their chance with this pro-Bush Supreme Court. But the public has a chance to influence this process favorably.

Pro-voucher arguments boil down to this:

vouchers give parents choice because public schools are failing children, especially Black and minority children. This is a cover-up for one of the biggest privatization schemes ever – to undo public education as a system. Vouchers are an illusion of a solution. What about a parent’s choice to send their children to a quality, integrated neighborhood public school?

“Individual choice” cannot solve the systemic underfunding, privatization drives and racist neglect public schools have endured over the last 20 years. Vouchers continue that underfunding.

Readers should bombard their local press, elected officials and the Supreme Court with letters of support for public education, exposing vouchers as the sham and attack on democracy that they are.

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