The constants behind the news

From Wikileaks to "60 Minutes," exposes provide new ways of seeing the world. But the underlying facts often remain unchanged.

In this citizen journalism image made on a mobile phone, Syrian protesters in Banias hold Arabic banners. The one on the left reads 'If the price of freedom is a shroud, it is with me.' Gunmen opened fire during a funeral for a slain antigovernment protester, killing at least three people on a day when tens of thousands took to the streets nationwide in opposition to the the country's authoritarian regime.

Surface-level news can often be peeled back to reveal new insights. Take reports in the Washington Post, based on Wikileaks information, indicating that the United States has been funding anti-regime broadcasts into Syria. Syrian leaders, faced with a growing protest movement, are likely to seize on news to try to discredit democracy activists.

Also consider allegations first made on the CBS news program "60 Minutes" that the author Greg Mortenson may have been less than honest in his book "Three Cups of Tea" and may have misdirected money meant for school children in Afghanistan and Pakistan. People who have given to Mr. Mortenson's Central Asia Institute may rightly feel they have been misled.

And yet in both these cases, even if the new information is correct, it doesn't change the basics.

The United States has long supported democracy activities around the world. That doesn't invalidate the hunger for democracy in Syria any more than Radio Free Europe's broadcasts did in the days of the Soviet Union. Nor do questions surrounding Mortenson negate his message of promoting peace through education, especially for girls.

News can provide fresh insights, but the underlying facts remain constant: People the world over want freedom, no less in Syria than elsewhere. And education is better than warfare -- in Afghanistan and around the corner.

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