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Ten Big News Stories You Aren't Hearing
By Thomas Kostigen
Friday 08 September 2006
Traditional media ignore or downplay significant events.
Santa Monica, California - The San Francisco Bay Guardian newspaper has printed a list of stories we in the media seem to have largely ignored over the past year. The story is gleaned from an annual list developed by Project Censored, a media research group out of Sonoma State University that tracks the news published in independent journals and newsletters.
It's a provocative and eye-opening list that warrants attention, especially from the media. And each year it usually gets it, as Salon comments, out of "guilt."
In a great example of how certain stories play out, San Francisco Bay Guardian reporter Sarah Phelan opens her article by citing the play two news items recently received on the same day they broke: In Detroit, U.S. District Judge Anna Diggs Taylor ruled that the Bush administration's warrantless National Security Agency surveillance program was unconstitutional and must end. Meanwhile, somewhere in Thailand, a weirdo named John Mark Karr claimed he was with six-year-old beauty queen JonBenet Ramsey when she died in 1996.
We all know which story received the most attention. Here are the Top 10 most ignored stories. I've had to condense them for space considerations, but their headlines should tell enough of a story:
1. The Feds and the Media Muddy the Debate Over Internet Freedom
The Supreme Court ruled that giant cable companies aren't required to share their wires with other Internet service providers. The issue was misleadingly framed as an argument over regulation, when it's really a case of the Federal Communications Commission and Congress talking about giving cable and telephone companies the freedom to control supply and content - a decision that could have them playing favorites and forcing consumers to pay to get information and services that currently are free.
Source: "Web of Deceit: How Internet Freedom Got the Federal Ax, and Why Corporate News Censored the Story," Elliot D. Cohen, BuzzFlash.com, July 18, 2005.
2. Halliburton Charged With Selling Nuclear Technology to Iran
Halliburton, the notorious U.S. energy company, sold key nuclear-reactor components to a private Iranian oil company called Oriental Oil Kish as recently as 2005, using offshore subsidiaries to circumvent U.S. sanctions. The story is particularly juicy because Vice President Dick Cheney, who now claims to want to stop Iran from getting nukes, was president of Halliburton in the mid-1990s, at which time he may have advocated business dealings with Iran, in violation of U.S. law.
Source: "Halliburton Secretly Doing Business with Key Member of Iran's Nuclear Team," Jason Leopold, GlobalResearch.ca, Aug. 5, 2005.
3. World Oceans in Extreme Danger
Governments deny global warming is happening as they rush to map the ocean floor in the hopes of claiming rights to oil, gas, gold, diamonds, copper, zinc and the planet's last pristine fishing grounds. Researchers at the Scripps Institution of Oceanography and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory in 2005 found "the first clear evidence that the world ocean is growing warmer," including the discovery "that the top half-mile of the ocean has warmed dramatically in the past 40 years as the result of humaninduced greenhouse gases."
Source: "The Fate of the Ocean," Julia Whitty, Mother Jones, March-April 2006.
4. Hunger and Homelessness Increasing in the United States
As hunger and homelessness rise in the United States, the Bush administration plans to get rid of a data source that supports this embarrassing reality, a survey that's been used to improve state and federal programs for retired and low-income Americans.
In 2003, the Bush Administration tried to whack the Bureau of Labor Statistics report on mass layoffs and in 2004 and 2005 attempted to drop the bureau's questions on the hiring and firing of women from its employment data.
Sources: "New Report Shows Increase in Urban Hunger, Homelessness," Brendan Coyne, New Standard, December 2005;"U.S. Plan to Eliminate Survey of Needy Families Draws Fire," Abid Aslam, OneWorld.net, March 2006.
5. High-tech Genocide in Congo
If you believe the corporate media, then the ongoing genocide in the Democratic Republic of the Congo is all just a case of ugly tribal warfare. But that is a superficial, simplistic explanation that fails to connect this terrible suffering with the immense fortunes that stand to be made from manufacturing cell phones, laptop computers and other high-tech equipment.
What's really at stake in this bloodbath is control of natural resources such as diamonds, tin, and copper, as well as cobalt which is essential for the nuclear, chemical, aerospace, and defense industries - and coltan and niobium, which is most important for the high-tech industries.
Sources: "The World's Most Neglected Emergency: Phil Taylor talks to Keith Harmon Snow," The Taylor Report, March 28, 2005; "High-Tech Genocide," Sprocket, Earth First! Journal, August 2005; "Behind the Numbers: Untold Suffering in the Congo," Keith Harmon Snow and David Barouski, Z Magazine, March 1, 2006.
6. Federal Whistleblower Protection in Jeopardy
Though record numbers of federal workers have been sounding the alarm on waste, fraud, and other financial abuse since George W. Bush became president, the agency charged with defending government whistleblowers has reportedly been throwing out hundreds of cases - and advancing almost none. Statistics released at the end of 2005 by Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility led to claims that special counsel Scott Bloch, who was appointed by Bush in 2004, is overseeing the systematic elimination of whistleblower rights.
Sources: "Whistleblowers Get Help from Bush Administration," Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) Web site, Dec. 5, 2005; "Long-Delayed Investigation of Special Counsel Finally Begins," PEER Web site, Oct. 18, 2005; "Back Door Rollback of Federal Whistleblower Protections," PEER Web site, Sept. 22, 2005.
7. US Operatives Torture Detainees to Death in Afghanistan and Iraq
While reports of torture aren't new, the documents are evidence of using torture as a policy, raising a whole bunch of uncomfortable questions, such as: Who authorized such techniques? And why have the resulting deaths been covered up?
Of the 44 death reports released under ACLU's FOIA request, 21 were homicides and eight appear to have been the result of these abusive torture techniques.
Sources: "U.S. Operatives Killed Detainees During Interrogations in Afghanistan and Iraq,"American Civil Liberties Union Web site, Oct. 24, 2005; "Tracing the Trail of Torture: Embedding Torture as Policy from Guantanamo to Iraq," Dahr Jamail, TomDispatch.com, March 5, 2006.
8. Pentagon Exempt from Freedom of Information Act
In 2005, the Department of Defense pushed for and was granted exemption from Freedom of Information Act requests, a crucial law that allows journalists and watchdogs access to federal documents. The ruling could hamper the efforts of groups like the ACLU, which relied on FOIA to uncover more than 30,000 documents on the US military's torture of detainees in Afghanistan Iraq, and Guantanamo Bay, including the Abu Ghraib torture scandal.
Sources: "Pentagon Seeks Greater Immunity from Freedom of Information," Michelle Chen, New Standard, May 6, 2005; "FOIA Exemption Granted to Federal Agency," Newspaper Association of America Web site, posted December 2005.
9. World Bank Funds Israel-Palestine Wall
In 2004, the International Court of Justice ruled that the wall Israel is building deep into Palestinian territory should be torn down. Instead, construction of this cement barrier, which annexes Israeli settlements and breaks the continuity of Palestinian territory, has accelerated. In the interim, the World Bank has come up with a framework for a Middle Eastern Free Trade Area, which would be financed by the World Bank and built on Palestinian land around the wall to encourage export-oriented economic development.
But with Israel ineligible for World Bank loans, the plan seems to translate into Palestinians paying for the modernization of checkpoints around a wall that they've always opposed, a wall that will help lock in and exploit their labor.
Sources: "Cementing Israeli Apartheid: The Role of World Bank," Jamal Juma', Left Turn, issue 18; "U.S. Free Trade Agreements Split Arab Opinion," Linda Heard, Aljazeera, March 9, 2005.
10. Expanded Air War in Iraq kills More Civilians
At the end of 2005, U.S. Central Command Air Force statistics showed an increase in American air missions, a trend that was accompanied by a rise in civilian deaths thanks to increased bombing of Iraqi cities.
Sources: "Up in the Air," Seymour M. Hersh, New Yorker, December 2005; "An Increasingly Aerial Occupation," Dahr Jamail, TomDispatch.com, December 2005 SFBG.
Project Censored then compiles an annual list of 25 news stories of social significance that have been overlooked, underreported or self-censored by the country's major national news media. See www.projectcensored.org.