Wednesday, September 06, 2006

Project Censored: Ten Stories ignored last year by big media

Project Censored: Ten Stories ignored last year by big media
Wednesday, September 6th, 2006
Sarah Phelan
1. The feds and the media muddy the debate over Internet freedomIn its relatively brief life, the Internet has been touted as the greatest tool of democracy ever invented by humankind. It’s given disillusioned Americans hope that there is a way to get out the truth, even if you don’t own airwaves, newspapers or satellite stations. It’s forced the mainstream media to talk about issues they previously ignored, such as the Downing Street memo and Abu Ghraib prisoner abuse. So, when the Supreme Court ruled that giant cable companies aren’t required to share their cables with other Internet service providers, it shouldn’t have been a surprise that the major media did little to explore whether this ruling would destroy Internet freedom.

2. Halliburton charged with selling nuclear technology to IranHalliburton, 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, journalist Jason Leopold reported on Global, the website of a Canadian research group. He cited sources intimate with the business dealings of Halliburton and Kish.
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.

3. World oceans in extreme dangerRising sea levels. A melting Arctic. Governments denying global warming is happening as they rush to map the ocean floor in hopes of claiming rights to oil, gas, gold, diamonds, copper, zinc and the planet’s last pristine fishing grounds.

4. Hunger and homelessness increasing in the U.S.As hunger and homelessness rise in the United States, the Bush administration plans to get rid of a data source that confirms this embarrassing reality — a survey that’s been used to improve state and federal programs for retired and low-income Americans. President Bush’s proposed budget for fiscal year 2007 includes an effort to eliminate the Census Bureau’s Survey of Income and Program Participation. Founded in 1984, the survey tracks American families’ use of Social Security, Medicaid, unemployment insurance, child care and temporary assistance for needy families.

5. High-tech genocide in CongoIf you believe the corporate media, the ongoing genocide in the Congo is all just a case of ugly tribal warfare. But that, according to stories published in Z Magazine and the Earth First! Journal, and heard on the “Taylor Report,” is a superficial, simplistic explanation. It fails to connect the dots between this terrible suffering and the immense fortunes that stand to be made from manufacturing cellphones, laptop computers and other high-tech equipment. These disturbing reports concluded that a meaningful analysis of Congolese geopolitics requires a knowledge and understanding of the organized crime perpetuated by multinationals. 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, most importantly for the high-tech industry, coltan and niobum.

6. Federal whistleblower protection in jeopardyThough record numbers of federal workers have been sounding the alarm on waste, fraud and 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.

7. U.S. operatives torture detainees to death in Afghanistan and IraqHooded. Gagged. Strangled. Asphyxiated. Beaten with blunt objects. Subjected to sleep deprivation and hot and cold environmental conditions. These are just some of the forms of torture that detainees held in U.S. facilities in Iraq and Afghanistan have been subjected to, according to an American Civil Liberties Union analysis of autopsy and death reports, made public in response to a Freedom of Information Act lawsuit.

8. Pentagon exempt from Freedom of Information ActIn 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 stated reason for this dramatic and dangerous move? The FOIA is a hindrance to protecting national security. The ruling could hamper the efforts of groups such as the American Civil Liberties Union, which relied on FOIA to uncover more than 30,000 documents on the U.S. military’s torture of detainees in Afghanistan, Iraq and Guantanamo Bay, including the Abu Ghraib torture scandal. (See Story #7).

9. World Bank funds Israel-Palestine wallIn 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 they’ve always opposed, and that helps lock in and exploit their labor.

10. Expanded air war in Iraq kills more civiliansAt 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, from increased bombing of Iraqi cities. But with U.S. bombings and the killing of innocent civilians acting as a highly effective recruiting tool among Iraqi militants, the U.S. war on Iraq looks increasingly like the war on Vietnam. As Seymour Hersh reported in The New Yorker at the end of 2005, a key component in the federal government’s troop-reduction plan was the replacement of departing U.S. troops with U.S. airpower.