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  • Letters: Al-Arian remains innocent until proven guilty

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    Letters to the Editors

    Al-Arian remains innocent until proven guilty


    © St. Petersburg Times
    published February 22, 2003

    Re: Which face of Al-Arian should be believed? by Howard Troxler, Feb. 21.

    I agree with Howard Troxler that we cannot find anyone guilty based solely on an indictment. I will use a wait-and-see attitude before deciding on whether Sami Al-Arian is simply a person extolling an extremist view under free speech or has actually helped murder innocent victims.

    Interestingly, I received an e-mail from CUSP asking me to appear at a rally in support of Al-Arian. I won't be doing that either. I think Citizens United for Shared Prosperity has done much good for the depressed area of this city. I support most of what its members stand for. They have been a righteous bug in the ear of city officials.

    Attorney General John Ashcroft gave credit for the indictment against Al-Arian to the new, scary Patriot Act. He didn't elaborate, but this could mean anything from bugging to eavesdropping to who knows what. I guess since CUSP has taken a stand in support of Al-Arian and I have given money to CUSP, it may well be that I'm in the government's computer.

    At any rate, I still believe in innocent until proven guilty.
    -- Patricia Horton, St. Petersburg

    The agenda is against terrorism

    Re: After years of worry about her husband: "They're here," Feb. 21.

    Am I missing something here? Sami Al-Arian gets hauled off because of charges of funding terrorists and his wife states it is unfair and it is destroying her family. One law enforcement agent even had tears in his eyes and another told the family, "There is a good justice system here."

    It is unfortunate for the family that they have to go through this, not unfortunate for Sami Al-Arian. It is indeed true you get what you pay for.

    Mrs. Al-Arian thinks this is just part of an "agenda." Yeah, the agenda is to try to keep America free of terrorism.
    -- Marcy Lynn Elliott, Dunedin

    Al-Arian is being persecuted

    Sami Al-Arian is being persecuted for trying to assist his fellow Palestinians in ways that are not much different from what every synagogue in America is doing on behalf of Israel. Of course, Israelis do not blow themselves up to kill Palestinians. They just use more sophisticated means like tanks and helicopter gunships. It is sad that the world's most advanced nation under this current administration has consistently made decisions over the last two years to exacerbate the problem instead of trying to find a solution to the Israeli-Palestinian conflict.

    It is not a matter of pride that President Bush is more preoccupied with creative ways to cook up a war than to help bring peace between Israelis and Palestinians. Our nation is no longer the epitome of free society that it was a few years ago, but we will regain that status in a few years and the events that are taking place now will be recorded as a time that the authorities in our nation acted irresponsibly.
    -- Akbar Muktar, Tampa

    Identify his supporters

    Now that professor Sami Al-Arian and others have at last been indicted for their alleged crimes, isn't it time for the University of South Florida to publicly identify those USF faculty members who, together with Al-Arian, organized and administered WISE, the so-called "think tank" on the USF campus that facilitated Al-Arian's work?
    -- Gilbert Kushner, professor emeritus of anthropology, University of South Florida, Tampa

    A questionable arrest

    Now that Attorney General John Ashcroft has "developed" enough evidence to arrest Sami Al-Arian for financing a terror organization abroad, I hope he is going to show the same zeal to bring to justice those individuals over here in America who financed the Irish Republican Army and other terror networks in Northern Ireland that are responsible for the deaths of more than 3,000 people.

    Is this just a weak attempt to sensationalize terrorism in lieu of America's allies having misgivings about attacking Iraq? No, you say? Well, who tipped off the media to be at Al-Arian's house early in the morning then? With Ashcroft breathing down our necks to eradicate our constitutional rights with his Patriot Act II, I am dubious at best about the validity of this arrest.
    -- Mike Wilson, Spring Hill

    Protection is scarce at home

    The editorial, Homeland insecurity, Feb. 13, hit the nail right on the head. Thank you, Times. While we wait for billions of dollars Washington promised for homeland security, George Bush and congressional Republicans worked to keep this money ($3-billion to $5-billion) from us. We can quit waiting or maybe start demonstrating. These guys have no intention of providing the funds for the protections we need.

    In the last election, they won big because, political experts say, the public perceives Republicans as being tougher against al-Qaida. The public got it wrong.

    Now we see the Democrats pounding the podium for security money and the Republicans stingy and tight-fisted, as usual. It looks like they see homeland security as just another tax-and-spend, domestic program for them to oppose.

    Health and Human Services Secretary Tommy Thompson says he'd like to invite the public to Washington to see the vaccines and antidotes stockpiled there. I'd like to invite him to Pinellas County to see our undefended, or grossly underdefended, power plants, water treatment plants (chlorine gas tanks in all), shopping malls, schools, bridges, etc. Many have only a lone, unarmed, badly underpaid security guard. None has gas masks, nor do the public, in contrast to Israel where all citizens are issued them by their government.

    When I hear about the troops going into "harm's way" in Iraq, I wonder -- who's more in harm's way, the troops there, or us here?
    -- Bob Follett, St. Petersburg

    Education needs some drastic measures

    Re: Schools to eliminate 400 jobs, Feb. 19.

    For more than 25 years I have been a professional educator in the Pinellas County schools. Our district's latest plan to deal with budget cuts and lost revenue has become that proverbial straw on the camel's back. First, our "education governor" and his legislative cronies managed to make public education akin to a four-letter word, and now they have made it possible to actually put faces on the dollars we are having to cut out of our school district budget. A sad situation indeed.

    However, they have also created a unique opportunity. A byproduct of the lost revenues and proposed budget cuts has now made Dr. Howard Hinesley, Pinellas schools outgoing superintendent, the most powerful political force in Florida. Dr. Hinesley has helped lead our school district in becoming nationally recognized as a Sterling Award-winning, quality concepts-based organization. With this in mind, along with his lame-duck status as superintendent of one of the largest school districts in Florida and the nation, only he can stand up to the governor and Legislature without fear of retribution and say to them that we in Pinellas County have endured enough cuts already. We are not willing to continue to try to deal with layoffs and lost revenues to make ends meet. Dr. Hinesley needs to tell our state leaders that we are not going to sacrifice our children's quality of education because of the Legislature's unwillingness and inability to adequately fund public education.

    The governor and Legislature need to be told that we will continue to do business as usual, and when the funds run out, one of two things will happen: The school system will shut down on that date regardless of when it occurs, or the Legislature must find the funds to keep the schools in operation.

    The class size amendment passed because the Legislature had to be forced by our concerned citizenry to do what is right for our public schools, but a move such as this would send a message much more powerful, and perhaps reshape the political landscape for years to come. No legislator who had any hope of being re-elected would allow an entire school district to shut down.

    Public schools in Florida have borne the burden of this governor's budget cuts long enough. It is time for some real action.
    -- Marshall Koppel, Clearwater

    Focus on quality, not quantity

    Re: Schools to eliminate 400 jobs and State needs 20,000 teachers, Feb. 19.

    Pinellas County is about to ax 400 jobs held by teacher aides, library assistants and other support staff because of a budget crisis due, in part, to the class size amendment. These vital personnel will be offered school bus-driving positions.

    The state Board of Education is being told Florida needs to hire 20,000 more teachers before August because of the class size amendment, as well as a growing number of students, teacher retirements and "transfers" (another name for desertion) and resignations. Florida teachers leave Florida at the first opportunity after they realize dedication to teaching children is far more appreciated elsewhere by just compensation.

    Reducing class sizes is fine in theory but in today's reality in Florida, it will not solve the academic needs of our children. Quality is the key to our children's education -- not quantity. Florida could have one teacher for every pupil in the schools, but would this guarantee quality education as schools become further understaffed and future teachers remain underpaid?

    Repealing the class size amendment would now stand as more of a victory for voters than passing it. Gov. Jeb Bush has already played his hand, bluffing about the billions of dollars it will cost to satisfy the amendment. I urge Florida voters to call his bluff. If it takes "billions" to reduce class size, then why not spend only millions in recruiting quality teachers, giving them monetary incentive to provide educational standards Floridians are screaming for?

    It's time for Floridians to face the reality of money and politics vs. your children's education and future.
    -- Jack Burlakos, Kenneth City

    No way to dine out

    Re: Downsized dining, Feb. 19.

    Why do people eat in restaurants?

    1. The food tastes better than they can cook at home, or 2. They're lazy.

    If, as in your feature, you eliminate the fat (flavor) of the food and tell the chef how to cook, you have defeated reason 1.

    As a chef, I'd suggest they might be happier dining elsewhere because they'd probably tell their friends that the meal was lousy anyway.

    Why not stay at home and throw a "Lean Cuisine" in the micro and save 20 bucks? This would also satisfy reason 2.
    -- Bob McDonald, Dunedin

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