Top Underreported Stories of 2004
Project Censored specializes in covering the top news stories which were either ignored or downplayed by the mainstream media each year. This Sonoma State University research group is composed of nearly 200 faculty, students and community experts who review about 1000 story submissions for coverage, content, reliability of sources and national significance. The top 25 stories are submitted to a panel of judges who then rank them in order of importance. The results are published each year in an excellent book, available for purchase at their website, amazon.com, and most major book stores.
A summary of this year's list provided below proves quite revealing and most informative. The headline of each story contains a link for those who want to check the sources and read more. I highly recommend these very well researched reports. A visit to the website at www.projectcensored.org may also be well worth your time. Thanks to the Internet and wonderful, committed groups like Project Censored, the news is getting out to those who want to know. By revealing all that is going on and working to stop the excessive secrecy, we are creating a better world, one step at a time. Please help to spread the word, and have a great day!
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Fred Burks for WantToKnow.info
Censored 2005: The Top 25 Censored Media Stories of 2003-2004
#1: Wealth Inequality in 21st Century Threatens Economy and Democracy
Wealth inequality increased dramatically in the United States in the late 1990s. The top 5% is now capturing an increasingly greater portion of the pie while the bottom 95% is clearly losing ground, resulting in the rapidly vanishing middle class. This trend is the product of legislative policies carefully crafted and lobbied for by corporations and the ultra-wealthy over the past 25 years. America's economic trends have a global footprint. Today, the top 400 income earners in the U.S. make as much in a year as the entire population of the 20 poorest countries in Africa. A series of reports released in 2003 by the UN warn that further increases in the imbalance in wealth throughout the world will have catastrophic effects if left unchecked, such as the collapse of the entire global economy.
#2: Ashcroft vs. the Human Rights Law that Holds Corporations Accountable
Attorney General John Ashcroft is seeking to strike down one of the world's oldest human rights laws, the Alien Torts Claim Act (ATCA) which holds government leaders, corporations, and senior military officials liable for human rights abuses taking place in foreign countries. Organizations such as Human Rights Watch (HRW) vehemently oppose the removal of this law, as it is one of the few legal defenses victims of human rights violations can claim against powerful organizations such as governments or multinational corporations. By attempting to throw out this law, the Bush Administration is effectively opening the door for human rights abuses to continue under the veil of foreign relations diplomacy.
#3: Bush Administration Censors Science
In Washington D.C. more than 60 of the nation's top scientists, including 20 Nobel laureates, medical experts, and former federal agency directors, issued a statement February 18, 2004 accusing the Bush Administration of deliberately distorting scientific results for political ends. They are calling for regulatory and legislative action to restore scientific integrity to federal policymaking. Under the current administration, the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) has blacklisted scientists who pose a threat to pro-business ideology, and many unqualified scientists with close industry ties have been appointed to advisory boards.
#4: High Levels of Uranium Found in Troops and Civilians
Civilian populations in Afghanistan and Iraq and occupying troops have been contaminated with astounding levels of radioactive uranium as a result of post-9/11 use of tons of uranium munitions by the U.S. Four million pounds of radioactive uranium were dropped on Iraq in 2003 alone. Most American weapons (missiles, smart bombs, bullets, tank shells, cruise missiles, etc.) contain high amounts of uranium that on detonation, release a radioactive dust. Once ingested, these subatomic particles slice through DNA. With a half-life of 4.5 billion years, it is a permanent contaminant distributed throughout the environment. Scientists from around the world testify to the huge increase in birth deformities and cancers wherever uranium munitions have been used. The effects of the U.S. deployment will be felt in all the neighboring countries in the Middle East and Asia, as well as in our returning troops.
#5: The Wholesale Giveaway of Our Natural Resources
The Bush Administration's environmental policies are destroying much of the environmental progress made over the past 30 years. Between the "Clean Skies Initiative," a recent policy that allows power plants to emit more than five times more mercury and twice as much sulfur dioxide, and the "Healthy Forests Initiative," which allows the wholesale liquidation of ancient forests by corporate timber interests under the guise of fire prevention, resource extraction and pollution is occurring at unprecedented rates.
#6: The Sale of Electoral Politics
Conflicts of interest exist between the largest suppliers of electronic voting machines in the United States and key leaders in the Republican Party. While the voting machines themselves present some technical issues, the political affiliations within the voting machine industry pose even more serious questions. The three major companies involved in implementing the new, often faulty, technology at voting stations throughout the country have strong ties to the Bush Administration, Republican leaders, and major defense contractors.
#7: Conservative Organization Drives Judicial Appointments
In 2001 George W. Bush eliminated the longstanding influence of the American Bar Association (ABA) in the evaluation of the prospective federal judges. ABA's judicial ratings had long kept extremists from the right and left off the bench. In its place, Bush has been using the Federal Society for Law and Public Policy Studies--a national organization whose mission is to advance a conservative agenda by moving the country's legal system to the right. One of the most important issues in the country is the control of one of the three branches of government, the judiciary. While Presidents and Congress-members get elected every few years, judicial appointments are for life, Our courts deal with nearly every aspect of life; work conditions and wages, schools, civil rights, affirmative action, crime and punishment, abortion and the environment, amongst others.
#8: Cheney's Energy Task Force and The Energy Policy
Cheney Energy Task Force documents turned over in the summer of 2003 by the Commerce Department as a result of the Freedom of Information Act lawsuit brought by Sierra Club and Judicial Watch contain maps of Iraqi oilfields, pipelines, refineries and terminals. The documents, dated March 2001, also contain plans of occupation and exploitation that predate September 11, confirming suspicions that the Bush Administration energy policy is driving U.S. military strategy.
#9: Widow Brings RICO Case Against U.S. government for 9/11
Ellen Mariani became widowed when her husband Louis Neil Mariani perished in the collision between United Airlines flight 175 and the South Tower of the World Trade Center. In addition to her refusal of the government's million-dollar settlement offer, Mrs. Mariani has filed a 62 page complaint in federal district court charging that President Bush and officials: (1) had adequate foreknowledge of 911, yet failed to warn the country or attempt to prevent it; (2) have since been covering up the truth of that day; (3) have therefore abetted the murder of plaintiff's husband and violated the Constitution and multiple laws of the United States; and (4) are thus being sued under the Civil Racketeering, Influences, and Corrupt Organization (RICO) Act for Malfeasant conspiracy, obstruction of justice and wrongful death.
#10: New Nuke Plants: Taxpayers Support, Industry Profits
Senator Peter Domenici (R-NM), along with the Bush Administration, is looking to give the nuclear power industry a huge boost through the new Energy Policy Act. The Domenici-sponsored bill will give nuclear power plants credits costing taxpayers an estimated 7.5 billion dollars, to build six new privately owned, for-profit reactors across the country. Safety standards will be lowered and liability will be passed on to taxpayers. This is in addition to the $4 billion already provided for other nuclear energy programs.
#11: The Media Can Legally Lie
In 2003, a Florida Court of Appeals ruled that there are no written rules against distorting news in the media. It agreed with an argument by Fox Television that, under the First Amendment, broadcasters have the right to lie or deliberately distort news reports on public airwaves. Under the current ruling, it is up to the public to discover whether or not they are being lied to.
#12: The Destabilization of Haiti
On February 29, 2004, President Jean-Bertrand Aristide was forced into exile by American military. While U.S. officials were eventually forced to acknowledge the kidnapping allegations, they were quick to discredit them and deny responsibility. Meanwhile, the circumstances that led to the current situation in Haiti, as well as the history of U.S. involvement, are being ignored by U.S. officials and the mainstream media.
#13: Schwarzenegger Met with Enron's Ken Lay Years Before the California Recall
In 2002, while the California Governor and his deputy were attempting to re-regulate the energy industry (and get back the $9 billion that was defrauded from California taxpayers by Enron and other energy companies) Arnold Schwarzenegger was being groomed to overthrow Governor Davis in a recall - and cancel plans to re-regulate or to recoup the $9 billion. Back in May of 2001, in the midst of California's energy crisis, Schwarzenegger met with Enron's Ken Lay to discuss "fixing" California's energy crisis.
#14: New Bill Threatens Intellectual Freedom in Area Studies
The International Studies in Higher Education Act of 2003 threatens academic freedom and classroom curriculum. Under this act, professors whose ideological principles do not support U.S. practices abroad can have their appointments terminated, any course curriculum containing criticism of U.S. foreign policy can be censored, and any course deemed anti-American can be barred from the classroom.
#15: U.S. Develops Lethal New Viruses
Scientists funded by the US government have developed a way to make pox viruses incredibly deadly. The stated goal of this research is to fight possible bio-terror attacks. The new virus kills all mice even if they have been given antiviral drugs along with a vaccine that would normally protect the victim from death.
#16: Law Enforcement Agencies Spy on Innocent Citizens
With little media comment, federal, state and local agencies have begun working as partners in the collection, analysis, and dissemination of intelligence information. Under the "Global Intelligence Working Group" (that oversees the new network) police departments receive increased funding for surveillance activity. This has resulted in the recent COINTELPRO-style instances of police infiltration of groups critical of government policies.
#17: U.S. Government Represses Labor Unions in Iraq in Quest for Business Privatization
According to the Wall Street Journal, the Bush Administration has "sweeping plans to remake Iraq's economy in the US image." The US is calling for the privatization of state-owned industries such as oil and water. But it has chosen not to overturn Sadaam-era edicts that outlaw unions. Every day the economic policies of occupying authorities create more hunger among Iraq's working people, transforming them into a pool of low-wage, semi-employed labor, desperate for jobs at any price.
#18: Media and Government Ignore Dwindling Oil Supplies
Even industry executives affirm that oil is close to reaching, or may have already reached, its highest levels of production potential. Once the peak is reached, oil prices will start to rise (as they have every year since 2000). As oil decline accelerates, prices will rise even faster, with devastating effects to the US economy. Over the years, U.S. leaders, bowing to oil industry pressure, have not worked to develop viable alternatives (as they have done in Europe).
#19: Global Food Cartel Fast Becoming the World's Supermarket
Agribusiness and supermarket alliances are transforming the agri-food system into a powerful network of transnational corporations. They now have the power to control the world's food supply at every stage of food production. As fewer corporations control food production, traditional farming is becoming a high-tech form of serfdom. Lack of competition is leading to higher prices, lower choice and quality, and employee abuse.
#20: Extreme Weather Prompts New Warning from UN
In 2003, The UN's World Meteorological Organization reported unprecedented levels of extreme weather and climate occurrences all over the world. The report emphasized an alarming increase in global warming and pointed to the impact of human activity. The significance of this particular report is that the highly respected UN organization is known for its normally conservative predictions and statements.
#21: Forcing a World Market for GMOs
The Bush Administration is trying to force Europe to drop trade barriers against genetically modified organisms (GMOs). Meanwhile, the agricultural biotechnology industry is focusing even more intently on developing countries, where regulations governing their use are generally more lax. At the same time, biotech promoters continue to suppress studies that show GMOs may have adverse effects on health and the environment.
After the fall of Saddam, Paul Bremer told journalists they were now "free to criticize whoever, or whatever, you want." But when negative critiques of U.S. policies appeared in the Iraqi media, Bremer quickly placed controls on its content. And rather than hiring a media outlet to run the Iraqi media (or simply allowing the news groups already there to continue reporting), the Pentagon chose a defense contractor to define the news.
#23: Brazil Holds Back in FTAA Talks, But Provides Little Comfort for the Poor of South America
The Free Trade Area of the America's (FTAA) could become the biggest trading block in history, expanding NAFTA to 34 countries from Canada to the bottom of South America. This deal is unlikely to meet its January 2005 deadline, now that the second largest player in the negotiations, Brazil, is holding back. However, Brazilian President Lula has begun, of his own volition, to institute his own brand of FTAA austerity policies that are sure to drive the poor of the region deeper into poverty.
The Selective Service System (SSS), the Bush Administration, and the Pentagon have been quietly moving to fill draft board vacancies nationwide in order to prepare for a military draft that could start as early as June 15, 2005. Several million dollars have been added to the 2004 SSS budget. Meanwhile, through an on-going militarization of public school systems, the Pentagon has begun efforts to double the number of Latinos in the U.S. military by 2006.
#25: Wal-Mart Brings Inequality and Low Prices to the World
The vision of the international division of Wal-Mart is one where Wal-Mart becomes a global brand, just like McDonald's or Coca- Cola, monopolizing the global retail market. The next five or six years could see about 5,000 to 6,000 Wal-Mart stores outside of the United States. Wal-Mart is Americanizing retailing around the world and exercising an inordinate amount of economic power.
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Top Underreported Stories of 2004: Project Censored