Via Fred Burks, his wanttoknow.info email list.
Top 25 Stories of 2014 Subjected to Press Censorship
1. Ocean Acidification Increasing at Unprecedented Rate (For full story, click here)
Our oceans are acidifying — even if the nightly news hasn’t told you yet. It’s well known that burning fossil fuels releases carbon dioxide into the air. Less understood is that 25% of this carbon dioxide is absorbed by oceans. The average acidity of surface ocean waters worldwide is more than 30% greater than at the start of the industrial revolution. The rising carbon dioxide in our oceans burns up and deforms the smallest, most abundant food at the bottom of the food chain. One vulnerable population is the tiny sea butterfly. In only a few short decades, the death and deformation of this fragile species could endanger predators all along the oceanic food web, scientists warn. This “butterfly effect” threatens fisheries that feed over 1 billion people worldwide. Our oceans may slowly cook our food chain into new forms with potentially catastrophic consequences. Scientists initially believed that fish would not be directly affected by ocean acidification, but recent research indicates otherwise. From clownfish (remember Nemo?) to walleye pollock (got fish sticks?) scientists have found that exposure to high levels of carbon dioxide scramble fish’s sense of smell, hearing, and sight. There is little funding for research on ocean acidification and its affects.
Sources: Julia Whitty, “10 Key Findings From a Rapidly Acidifying Arctic Ocean,” Mother Jones report, May 7, 2013. Craig Welch, “Sea Change, The Pacific’s Perilous Turn,” Seattle Times article, September 12, 2013. Eli Kintisch, “Snails Are Dissolving in Pacific Ocean,” ScienceNOW report, May 1, 2014.
2. Top Ten US Aid Recipients All Practice Torture (For full story, click here)
Sexual abuse, children kept in cages, extra-judicial murder. While these sound like horrors the US would never support, the reverse is true: The top ten nations receiving US foreign assistance in fiscal year 2014 all are known to practice torture, and at least half are reported to be doing so on a massive scale. Yet, the US is a signatory of the United Nations’ Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment. Israel received over $3 billion in US aid for fiscal year 2013-14, according to a Congressional Research Service report. Israel was criticized by the country’s own Public Defender’s Office for torturing children suspected of minor crimes. The next top recipients of US foreign aid were Afghanistan, Egypt, Pakistan, Nigeria, Jordan, Iraq, Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda. All countries were accused of torture by human rights groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch. When the US funds a highway or other project that it’s proud of, it plants a huge sign proclaiming “your tax dollars at work.” When the US funds torturers, the corporate media bury the story, or worse, don’t report it at all.
Sources: Daniel Wickham, “Top 10 US Aid Recipients All Practice Torture,” Left Foot Forward article, January 30, 2014.
3. Trans-Pacific Partnership: Secret Deal to Help Corporations (For full story, click here)
On Nov. 13, 2013, WikiLeaks published a section of a trade agreement called the Trans-Pacific Partnership Treaty, or TPP. On the surface, the treaty is meant to facilitate trade among Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Japan, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, the US, and Vietnam. However, there are a number of red flags. Eight hundred million people, and one-third of all world trade, stand to be affected by the treaty, yet only three people from each member nation have access to the entire document. Meanwhile, six hundred “corporate advisors,” representing big oil, pharmaceutical, and entertainment companies, are involved in the writing and negotiations of the treaty. The lack of coverage in corporate US media is disconcerting. Japanese, Australian, and Russian media discuss the TPP openly, while American news sources remain silent—even as the Obama administration attempts to fast-track it through Congress. Many criticized the secrecy surrounding the TPP, arguing the real world consequences may be grave. Doctors Without Borders wrote, “If harmful provisions in the US proposals for the [TPP] agreement are not removed before it is finalized, this trade deal will have a real cost in human lives.”
Source: “Secret Trans-Pacific Partnership Agreement (TPP),” WikiLeaks release, Nov. 13, 2013. John Robles, “The TPP is a Corporate Coup D’état,” Voice of Russia report, Nov. 15, 2013. Zachary Keck, “Congress May Have Just Killed the Trans-Pacific Partnership,” Diplomat article, Nov. 18, 2013. John Robles, “Trans Pacific Partnership is Like SOPA on Steroids,” Voice of Russia report, Nov. 23, 2013.
4. Corporate Internet Providers Threaten Net Neutrality (For full story, click here)
As this year’s book from Project Censored went to press, the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) had just publicly revealed its proposed new rules for Internet traffic. A 3–2 vote by the FCC opened a four-month window for formal public comments on how strict those rules should be, and galvanized corporate media attention on the issue of net neutrality. By contrast, for months leading up to this development, independent journalists had been informing the public about the anticipated showdown over net neutrality and the stakes in that battle with virtually no media coverage. Since then, Verizon v. FCC has been well covered by both corporate and independent media. However, corporate outlets such as the New York Times and Forbes tend to highlight the business aspects of the case, skimming over vital particulars affecting the public and the Internet’s future.
Sources: Paul Ausick, “Verizon Goes After FCC in Court Monday,” 24/7 Wall St. report, September 9, 2013. Cole Stangler, “Your Internet’s in Danger,” In These Times article, October 2, 2013. Jennifer Yeh, “Legal Gymnastics Ensue in Oral Arguments for Verizon vs. FCC,” Free Press article, September 10, 2013.
5. Bankers Remain on Wall Street Despite Major Crimes (For full story, click here)
Bankers responsible for rigging municipal bonds and bilking billions of dollars from American cities have largely escaped criminal charges. Dominick Carollo, Steven Goldberg, and Peter Grimm were dubbed a part of the “modern American mafia,” by the Rolling Stone’s Matt Taibbi, one of the few journalists to consistently cover their trial. Every day in the US, low-level drug dealers get more prison time than these scheming bankers who rigged auctions of municipal bonds, essentially stealing from projects intended to build public schools, hospitals, libraries, and nursing homes in virtually every US state. The three had been convicted in 2012 for this. However, in November 2013, those convictions were reversed on a technicality: Because it took federal prosecutors so long to build the massive case, the statute of limitations ran out. Meanwhile, disturbingly uninformed cable media “journalists” defended the bankers, saying they shouldn’t be prosecuted for “failure,” as if cheating vulnerable Americans were a bad business deal. Over the course of decades, the nation’s bankers transformed into the modern mafioso. Unfortunately, our modern media changed as well, and are no longer equipped to tackle systemic, complex stories.
Sources: Matt Taibbi, “Another Batch of Wall Street Villains Freed on Technicality,” Rolling Stone article, Dec. 4, 2013. Max Stendahl, “Former GE Execs Freed from Prison after Convictions Nixed,” Law360 article, Nov. 27, 2013. Janine Jackson, “Why Aren’t Big Bankers in Jail?” Extra! (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting), Jan. 1, 2014. Matt Taibbi, “Gangster Bankers: Too Big to Jail,” Rolling Stone, Feb. 14, 2013.
6. The Deep State: Government “Without Reference to the Consent of the Governed” (For full story, click here)
Concerned citizens are condemning the US government’s lack of transparency, accountability, and honest constituent representation. Mike Lofgren, a congressional staff member for 28 years specializing in national security, addressed the issue of the “deep state” that undemocratically orchestrates unchecked private agendas, while corporate media distract the public’s attention by focusing on traditional Washington partisan politics. Lofgren contended that, although the deep state is “neither omniscient nor invincible,” it is a “relentlessly well entrenched,” association of elements of government and parts of top-level finance and industry that is effectively able to govern the US without reference to the consent of the governed.” Rep. Spencer Bachus (R-AL), the House Financial Services Committee incoming chairman in 2010, openly flouted constitutional rights when he stated, “My view is that Washington and the regulators are there to serve the banks.” Corporate media do little to draw attention to the hidden wealthy elites who undemocratically control our government, because these elites own the major media.
Sources: Mike Lofgren, “Anatomy of the Deep State,” Moyers & Company report, February 21, 2014.
7. FBI Dismisses Murder Plot against Occupy as NSA Cracks Down on Dissent (For full story, click here)
In October 2011, when the Occupy movement arrived in Houston, protesters were subject to local and federal surveillance, infiltration by police provocateurs, and police assault. Months later, a document obtained in December 2012 from the Houston FBI office shows that the agency was aware of a plot to assassinate Occupy movement leaders—and did nothing about it. And in Arizona, law enforcement collaborated with JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon divulging Occupy plans. The CEO claimed he was simply avoiding possible protests, and local law enforcement was happy to help. Government documents from the National Security Agency and other government offices revealed a grim mosaic of ‘counter-terrorism’ operations and negative attitudes toward activists and other citizens.
Sources: Dave Lindorff, “FBI Document—‘[DELETED]’ Plots to Kill Occupy Leaders’,” WhoWhatWhy article, June 27, 2013. Beau Hodai, “Dissent or Terror,” Center for Media and Democracy’s SourceWatch/DBA Press, May 2013. Alex Kane, “How America’s National Security Apparatus—in Partnership With Big Corporations—Cracked Down on Dissent,” AlterNet report, May 21, 2013.
8. Ignoring Extreme Weather Connection to Global Warming (For full story, click here)
News analyses have found mainstream media frequently report on severe weather changes without discussing global warming as a possible cause. A study by Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting found extreme weather events in 2013 spurred 450 broadcast news segments, only 16 of which even mentioned climate change. National news outlets have fallen on the job as well, as The New York Times recently shuttered its environmental desk and its Green blog, reducing the number of reporters exclusively chasing down climate change stories. Unlike many journalists, ordinary people often recognize the threat of our warming planet. Over 400,000 protested in the People’s Climate March in New York City alone, while simultaneous protests erupted across the globe, calling for government, corporate, and media leaders to address the problem.
Sources: Peter Hart, “Weather—Without Climate,” Extra! report (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting), Dec. 2, 2013. Dahr Jamail, “The Climate Change Scorecard,” Tomdispatch report, Dec. 17, 2013. Jamie Henn, “In the Wake of Haiyan, We Must Divest from Fossil Fuels,” YES! Magazine article, Nov. 12, 2013.
9. US Media Hypocrisy in Covering Ukraine Crisis (For full story, click here)
The US battle with Russia over Ukraine’s independence is actually an energy pipeline squabble, a narrative lost by mainstream media coverage. Russian President Vladimir Putin has drawn fire from the media as a tyrant, without complex analyses of his country’s socio-economic interests. As the media often do, they have turned the conflict into a cult of personality, talking up Putin’s shirtless horseback riding and his hard-line style with deftness missing from their political analysis. Secretary of State John Kerry declaimed the Russian intervention as “a nineteenth-century act in the twenty-first century.” What Russia’s US critics seem to forget is the United States’ own history of overthrowing democratic governments, including the invasion of Iraq, which Kerry supported. Corporate media also fail to acknowledge that Putin ordered the occupation of Kiev after a coup led at least partly by neo-Nazis—conditions arguably less criminal than the US invasion of Iraq, which the US legitimized with false claims.
Sources: Robert Perry, “America’s Staggering Hypocrisy,” Consortium News article, March 4, 2014. Stephen F. Cohen, “Distorting Russia: How the American Media Misrepresent Putin, Sochi and Ukraine,” article in The Nation, March 3, 2014. Nafeez Ahmed, “Ukraine Crisis is about Great Power Oil, Gas Pipeline Rivalry,” Guardian article, March 6, 2014.
10. World Health Organization Suppresses Report on Iraqi Cancers and Birth Defects (For full story, click here)
The United States’ legacy in Iraq possibly goes beyond death to a living nightmare of cancer and birth defects, due to the military’s use of depleted uranium weapons, a World Health Organization study found. Iraq is poisoned. Much of the report’s contents were leaked to the BBC during its creation. But the release of the report, completed in 2012 by WHO, has stalled. Critics claim the US is deliberately blocking its release, masking a damning Middle East legacy rivaling the horrors of Agent Orange in Vietnam. But Iraq will never forget the US intervention, as mothers cradle babies deformed from the womb, the continuing gifts of our invasion.
Sources: Denis Halliday, “WHO Refuses to Publish Report on Cancers and Birth Defects in Iraq Caused by Depleted Uranium Ammunition,” Global Research article, September 13, 2013. Mozhgan Savabieasfahani, “What’s Delaying the WHO Report on Iraqi Birth Defects?” ZNet article, June 12, 2013.
More of the Top 25 Press Censorship Stories of 2014
11. Wealthy Donors and Corporations Set Think Tanks’ Agendas (For full story, click here)
Think tanks provide information and analysis to policy makers and the public, making them increasingly influential institutions in our political process. However, many think tanks—including the Brookings Institution, Heritage Foundation, American Enterprise Institute, Cato Institute, and the RAND Corporation, among others—receive significant financial backing from extremely wealthy corporations and/or individuals. Because the law does not require public disclosure of donors’ identities, these relationships raise the issue of whether think tanks’ analyses and recommendations are tainted by donor agendas.
12. Pentagon Awash in Money Despite Serious Audit Problems (For full story, click here)
Congress is expanding the Pentagon’s 2014 budget by $32 billion. The Pentagon currently receives over $600 billion, when its current budget is combined with supplemental war funding. One out of every five US tax dollars is spent on defense. Where does the money go? “The exact answer is a mystery,” wrote Dave Gilson for Mother Jones. “That’s because the Pentagon’s books are a complete mess.” As the Government Accountability Office dryly noted, the Pentagon has “serious financial management problems” that render its financial statements “inauditable.”
13. Lawsuit Challenges Nuclear Power Industry Immunity from Liability in Nuclear Accidents (For full story, click here)
A lawsuit filed by lawyers on behalf of 1,415 plaintiffs, including 38 residents of Fukushima and 357 persons from outside Japan, holds not only the Tokyo Electric Power Company (TEPCO) but also Toshiba, Hitachi, and General Electric responsible for the 2011 meltdown of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear power plant. Historically, manufacturers and operators of nuclear power plants have been granted immunities in liability for accidents. The Fukushima case is a landmark challenge to nuclear power plant manufacturers’ immunity from liability in nuclear accidents.
14. Evidence of Ongoing Wireless Technology Health Hazards (For full story, click here)
Wireless phones emit radio-frequency electromagnetic fields (RF-EMFs) when in use. In May 2011, after the consideration of laboratory studies, studies of long-term use of wireless phones, and data on the incidence of brain tumors, the World Health Organization (WHO) determined RF-EMFs to be a “possible” human carcinogen. Other studies have shown an association between long-term mobile and cordless phone use with glioma and acoustic neuroma.
15. Reporting Miscarriages, Criminalizing Pregnant Women’s Bodies (For full story, click here)
A proposed bill before the Kansas state legislature would require women to report miscarriages at any stage in pregnancy. This has been described as the first step along the path to criminalizing pregnant women’s bodies. Under an amendment attached to House Bill 2613, doctors would be required to report all of their patients’ miscarriages to the state health department.
16. The Beef Industry Supports Feeding Cattle Chicken Poop (For full story, click here)
The beef industry increasingly feeds cattle “poultry litter,” scraped from chicken coop floors, a practice that risks the spread of mad cow disease—yet the Food and Drug Administration [FDA] has done nothing to stop it. In 1997, the FDA made it illegal to feed dead cows to living cows, the main cause of the disease. In response, the beef industry teamed up with the poultry industry to exploit a major loophole in the 1997 law. The poultry industry feeds the dead remains of cattle to chickens and other poultry; the mess created by poultry, known as “litter,” is then sold to the cattle producer who feed it to cattle that the public eats.
17. Gaza Running Out of Drinking Water (For full story, click here)
In Gaza, 1.7 million Palestinians currently live without clean drinking water. Over 80 percent of Gazans buy their drinking water, with some families paying as much as a third of their household income. Gaza relies on a single aquifer for all of its fresh water. It is contaminated with sewage, chemicals, and seawater. A recent United Nations report warned that “the aquifer could become unusable as early as 2016, with the damage irreversible by 2020.”
18. National Database of Police Killings Aims for Accountability (For full story, click here)
Although the FBI tracks how many police officers die in the line of duty, it keeps no such record for how many civilians are killed by police each year. Recognizing a significant gap in the public records of civilian deaths at the hands of law enforcement officers, D. Brian Burghart, the editor of the Reno News & Review and a journalism instructor at University of Nevada, decided to create a public database. Burghart has compiled a list of police agencies across the country to facilitate public record requests about fatal incidents.
19. Agribusiness Giants Silence and Discredit Scientists Whose Research Reveals Health Threats of Herbicides (For full story, click here)
Big Agriculture giants Monsanto and Syngenta have silenced the findings and destroyed the reputations of scientists whose research shows that the companies’ herbicides pose serious threats to human health. As one example among many, in Sept. 2012, Dr. Gilles-Éric Séralini published research in the Journal of Food and Chemical Toxicology. His findings showed the toxic impact of Monsanto’s herbicide and genetically modified corn. However, after publication, the journal made the unprecedented decision to retract the study. A new connection between the journal and Monsanto might account for the retraction.
20. Estonia a Global Example of E-Government, Digital Freedom, Privacy, and Security (For full story, click here)
Since Estonia regained independence in 1991, its government has sought to redesign the nation’s entire information infrastructure with goals of openness, privacy, and security. The technology platform that Estonia built to serve its citizens sets an example for the rest of the world. Each citizen has one identification number to use across all systems, from paper passport to bank records to any government office or medical care. This includes giving electronic signatures, filing taxes, and voting. Estonians elect their parliament online, and get their taxes back in two days.
21. Questioning the Charter School Hype (For full story, click here)
Charter schools have been heralded as the antidote to “failed” public schools, especially in poor urban communities of African-American and Latino/a students. Politicians and celebrities alike now advocate charters schools. However, charter schools have come under fire for not fulfilling the roles or achieving the results that their proponents have claimed. Instead of providing positive teaching and preparing children for the future, recent news reports have indicated that charter schools are subjecting students to padded cells, public shaming and embarrassment, poor instruction, and the negative consequences of financial corruption.
22. Corporate News Media Understate Rape, Sexual Violence (For full story, click here)
Media analysts observe how journalists refrain from using the word “rape” to describe incidents of sexual assault. Instead, news outlets downplay the humiliation and cruelty entailed in these acts by referring to them as “sex crimes,” “inappropriate sexual activity,” or “forced sex,” even though such acts are legally recognized as “rape.”
23. Number of US Prison Inmates Serving Life Sentences Hits Record (For full story, click here)
The number of prisoners serving life sentences in the US state and federal prisons reached a new record of over 150,000 in 2012. Of these, 49,000 are serving life without possibility of parole, an increase of 22.2 percent since 2008. Keeping these prisoners locked up for life costs taxpayers around $1.8 billion annually.
24. Restorative Justice Turns Violent Schools Around (For full story, click here)
Last year when American Paradigm Schools took over Philadelphia’s infamous, failing John Paul Jones Middle School, rather than beef up the already heavy security to ensure safety and restore order, American Paradigm stripped it away. During renovations, they removed both metal detectors and barred windows. The police predicted chaos. But, instead, new numbers seem to show that in a single year the number of serious incidents fell by 90 percent.
25. US Military Balancing Budget on Backs of Disabled Veterans (For full story, click here)
The US military has been engaged in a policy of forcing wounded and disabled veterans out of service to avoid paying benefits and to make room for new able-bodied recruits. Identifying injured combat soldiers as delinquent and negligent has lead to a practice called “chaptering out” which results in those soldiers being forced to leave the military without an honorable discharge. Because of this, thousands of soldiers have been discharged without federal benefits including health care, unemployment, and educational programs.
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