Read About the News that Didn’t Make the News in 2012-2013
By Terelle Jerricks, Managing Editor
On Oct. 1, media watchdog, Project Censored, released its annual list of most censored stories in 2013 – a list that included stories about the widening wealth gap to the Obama administration’s war on whistleblowers.
Among the storylines included on this year’s list was Pfc. Bradley Manning’s trial for leaking classified documents and Monsanto’s drive to insert GMO grown food in the United States food supply by any means necessary.
To avid news consumers —televised and otherwise— the inclusion of these stories lines in Project Censored would seem odd given the dearth of coverage these stories received in the past year. Thousands of column inches have been published on these story lines. In fact, various facets of these story lines have appeared in Random Lengths.
Monsanto made Project Censored list twice this year, not because they weren’t in the news, but that the news coverage actually missed the news. Last April, in the Earth Day feature, “The Great Food Revolt,” Random Lengths reported on and de-constructed a few of the news stories about Monsanto, which included the Farmer Assurance Provision, the so-called “Monsanto Protection Act,” passed by the corporation’s congressional allies in March and the impact of genetically modified seeds on the economic stability of indigenous farmers around the world.
If it weren’t for the activism of the anti-GMO folks, the Monsanto Protection Act provision would have remain relatively unknown and would have been extended during the current debt hostage crisis.
The Indian suicide farmers, however, belonged in a different category. The suicides sounded more like an urban legend than a news story considering that only anti-GMO activists was relating the story. Nevertheless, Monsanto sought to address the story with research of their own that dismissed the connection between Monsanto GMO marketing practices of their seeds and the suicides.
Ironically enough, Monsanto does cite lack of reliable credit as being a factor for why Indian farmers are not succeeding and thereby resorting to suicide. There’s no mention of the fact that farmers are prohibited from using the seeds from their own harvest after buying Monsanto’s seed the first time and their vigorous enforcement of their patent when farmers do use seed from their own harvest. But because this a complicated story about farmers abroad, this story has not gotten much traction in the mainstream press.
The Bradley Manning Trial news coverage is a different sort of example of mainstream news coverage burying truth-tellers. Manning’s trial began several years after it was revealed that American forces in 2007 intentionally killed two unarmed journalists on assignment in Iraq. Random Lengths was among the first news publications to report on the leaked documents in 2009. In 2013, news coverage of the trial focused on Manning’s change in gender identity and speculation on how much time he would be sentenced when convicted. That he was responsible for revealing to the world the United States military murdered journalists is forgotten.
These are just some of the ways important story lines have been buried while still receiving coverage. This year, Project Censored specifically took aim at mainstream media’s use of false equivalence to achieve fair and balanced news coverage. The current debt ceiling and budget negotiations to end the government shutdown is but he most recent example, where editorial boards of venerable publications such as the Washington Post characterize the shut down as being the result of Republicans and Democrats refusing to negotiate rather than Republican using the debt ceiling as a hostage, resulting in the shut down the government.
Project Censored was started back in 1976 to highlight stories like these that mainstream media missed or stories to which was paid scant attention. Although the project initially began at Sonoma State University, today, academics and students from 18 universities and community colleges across the country pore through hundreds of submissions of overlooked and underreported stories annually. A panel of academics and journalists then picks the top 25 stories and curate them into themed clusters. This year’s book, Censored 2014: Fearless Speech in Fearful Times, can be found at your local bookstore.
The Top 10 Censored Stories from 2012-2013 were published on the Oct. 18 issue of Random Lengths News.
1. Bradley Manning and the Failure of Corporate Media
In February 2013, United States military intelligence analyst Bradley Manning confessed in court to providing vast archives of military and diplomatic files to the anti-secrecy group
WikiLeaks, saying he wanted the information to become public “to make the world a better place” and that he hoped to “spark a domestic debate on the role of the military in (U.S.) foreign policy.” The 700,000 released documents revealed a multitude of previously secret crimes and acts of deceit and corruption by U.S. military and government officials.
According to Manning’s testimony in February 2013, he tried to release the Afghanistan and Iraq War Logs through conventional sources. In winter 2010, he contacted the Washington Post, the New York Times and Politico in hopes that they would publish the materials. Only after being rebuffed by these three outlets did Manning begin uploading documents to WikiLeaks. Al Jazeera reported that Manning’s testimony “raises the question of whether the mainstream press was prepared to host the debate on U.S. interventions and foreign policy that Manning had in mind.”
Indeed, U.S. corporate media have largely shunned Manning’s case, not to mention the importance of the information he released. When corporate media have focused on Manning, this coverage has often emphasized his sexual orientation and past life, rather than his First Amendment rights or the abusive nature of his imprisonment, which includes almost three years without trial and nearly one year in “administrative segregation,” the military equivalent of solitary.
In his February 2013 court appearance, Manning pled guilty to 12 of the 22 charges against him, including the capital offense of “aiding and abetting the enemy.” He faces the possibility of a life sentence without parole. His severe treatment is a warning to other possible whistleblowers.
2. Richest Global 1 Percent Hide Trillions in Tax Havens
The global 1 percent hold 21 to 32 trillion dollars in offshore havens in order to evade taxes, James S. Henry, the former chief economist at the global management consulting firm McKinsey & Company, said.
Based on data from the Bank for International Settlements, the International Monetary Fund, the World Bank, and 139 countries, Henry found that the top 1 percent hid more than the total annual economic output of the U.S. and Japan combined. For perspective, this hidden wealth is at least seven times the amount—$3 trillion—that many estimates suggest would be necessary to end global poverty.
If this hidden wealth earned a modest rate of 3 percent interest and that interest income were taxed at just 30 percent, these investments would have generated income tax revenues between $190 and $280 billion, according to the analysis.
Domestically, the Federal Reserve reported that the top seven U.S. banks hold more than $10 trillion in assets, recorded in over 14,000 created “subsidiaries” to avoid taxes.
Henry identified this hidden wealth as “a huge black hole in the world economy that has never before been measured,” and noted that the finding is particularly significant at a time when “governments around the world are starved for resources, and we are more conscious than ever of the costs of economic inequality.”
3. Trans-Pacific Partnership Threatens a Regime of Corporate Global Governance
The Trans-Pacific Partnership, branded as a trade agreement and negotiated in unprecedented secrecy, is actually an enforceable transfer of sovereignty from nations and their people to foreign corporations.
As of December 2012, eleven countries were involved—Australia, Brunei, Canada, Chile, Malaysia, Mexico, New Zealand, Peru, Singapore, Vietnam, and the United States—with the possibility of more joining in the future due to inclusion of an unusual “docking agreement.”
While the public, U.S. Congress, and the press are locked out, 600 corporate advisors are meeting with officials of signatory governments behind closed doors to complete text for the world’s biggest multinational trade agreement, which aims to penalize countries that protect their workers, consumers, or environment.
Leaked text from the 30-chapter agreement has revealed that negotiators have already agreed to many radical terms, granting expansive new rights and privileges for foreign investors and their enforcement through extrajudicial “investor-state” tribunals. Through these, corporations would be given special authority to dispute laws, regulations and court decisions. Foreign firms could extract unlimited amounts of taxpayer money as compensation for “financial damages” to “expected future profits” caused by efforts to protect domestic finance, health, labor, environment, land use, and other laws they claim undermine their new TPP privileges.
There is almost no progressive movement or campaign whose goals are not threatened, as vast swaths of public-interest policy achieved through decades of struggle are targeted. Lori Wallach, director of Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch, reported that once this top-secret TPP is agreed to, its rules will be set in stone. No rule can be changed without all countries’ consent to amend the agreement. People of the world will be locked into corporate domination.
4. Obama’s War on Whistleblowers
Barack Obama signed both the Whistleblower Protection Enhancement Act, expanding whistleblower protections, in November 2012, and the National Defense Authorization Act furthering these protections in January 2013.
His NDAA signing statement, however, undermines these protections, stating that those expanded protections “could be interpreted in a manner that would interfere with my authority to manage and direct executive branch officials.”
Thus, in his signing statement, Obama promised to ignore expanded whistleblower protections if they conflicted with his power to “supervise, control, and correct employees’ communications with the Congress in cases where such communications would be unlawful or would reveal information that is properly privileged or otherwise confidential.”
Despite rhetoric to the contrary, the Obama administration is targeting government whistleblowers, having invoked the otherwise dormant Espionage Act of 1917 seven times. The Obama justice department has also used the Intelligence Identities Protection Act to obtain a conviction against Central Intelligence Agency whistleblower John Kiriakou for exposing the waterboarding of prisoners, ironically making Kiriakou the first CIA official to be sentenced to prison in connection with the torture program. The justice department charged former National Security Agency senior executive Thomas Drake with espionage for exposing hundreds of millions of dollars of waste.
The highly visible prosecution of Bradley Manning has become what some may argue to be the most effective deterrent for government whistleblowers. Manning admitted to leaking troves of classified documents to WikiLeaks, but pleaded not guilty on counts of espionage.
5. Hate Groups and Anti-government Groups on Rise Across U.S.
The Southern Poverty Law Center, which monitors hate groups and anti-government groups, released a report showing that 1,360 radical, anti-government “patriot” groups and 321 militias actively operate within the United States. Released in March 2013, these statistics show an 813 percent rise in the number of such groups since 2008, with increasing numbers each year. Hate groups are most prevalent in California, with 84 total; Texas was second among states with 62.
The SPLC counted more than 1,000 hate groups in the United States in 2012. By the SPLC’s standards, hate groups “have beliefs or practices that attack or malign an entire class of people, typically for their immutable characteristics,” and their activities can include “criminal acts, marches, rallies, speeches, meetings, leafleting or publishing.”
With the numbers of Patriot groups now much higher now than they were during the peak of the militia movement in the 1990s, the threat of domestic terror attacks is very real. After the SPLC’s report was released, the Center’s president, Richard Cohen, sent a letter to the U.S. attorney general as well as the Homeland Security secretary requesting them to “create a new task force to ensure the government is devoting the resources needed to address domestic terrorism.”
Hate groups are now transitioning from racist hatred to hatred focused on the government and its representatives. The patriot and militia groups are some of the fastest growing groups, and their goals and rhetoric must be understood in order to implement successful strategies to counter their behavior if it should become violent, according to the SPLC. The SPLC also identified “sovereign citizens,” who often operate as “lone wolves,” breaking away from the group to perform the violent acts. Unfortunately, with the use of social media and the Internet, hate groups are able to recruit and spread their beliefs more readily than in the past.
Corporate media have paid scattered attention to the SPLC report and its findings. Both the New York Times and MSNBC covered the report on the day the SPLC issued it, but otherwise, establishment media have done little to shed light on this subject.
6. Billionaires’ Rising Wealth Intensifies Poverty and Inequality
As a direct result of existing financial policies, the world’s one hundred richest people grew to be $241 billion richer in 2012.
This makes them collectively worth $1.9 trillion, just slightly less than the United Kingdom’s total economic output.
A few of the policies responsible for this occurrence are the reduction of tax rates and tax enforcement, the privatization of public assets, wage controls and the destruction of collective bargaining. These same policies that are building up the richest people are causing colossal hardships to the rest of the world’s population.
George Monbiot has attributed this situation to neoliberal policies, which produce economic outcomes contrary to those predicted, and even promised, by advocates of neoliberal policy and laissez faire markets. In consequence, across the 34 countries that constitute the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, taxation has decreased among the rich and increased among the poor. Despite what neo-liberals claimed would happen, the spending power of the state and of poorer people has diminished, contracting demand along with it.
Wage inequality and unemployment have both skyrocketed, making the economy increasingly unstable with monumental amounts of debt.
Monbiot observed, “The complete failure of this world-scale experiment is no impediment to its repetition. This has nothing to do with economics. It has everything to do with power.”
7. Merchants of Death and Nuclear Weapons
The Physicians for Social Responsibility released a study estimating that one billion people—one-seventh of the human race—could starve over the decade following a single nuclear detonation.
A key finding was that corn production in the United States would decline by an average of 10 percent for an entire decade, with the most severe decline (20 percent) in the fifth year. Another forecast was that increases in food prices would make food inaccessible to hundreds of millions of the world’s poorest: the 925 million people in the world who are already chronically malnourished (with a baseline consumption of 1,750 calories or less per day) would be put at risk by a 10 percent decline in their food consumption.
The International Campaign to Abolish Nuclear Weapons released its 180-page study showing that nuclear-armed nations spend over $100 billion each year assembling new warheads, modernizing old ones, and building ballistic missiles, bombers and submarines to launch them. The United States still has about 2,500 nuclear weapons deployed and 2,600 more as backup. Washington and Moscow account for 90 percent of all nuclear weapons. Despite a White House pledge to seek a world without nuclear weapons, the 2011 federal budget for nuclear weapons research and development exceeded $7 billion and could (if the Barack Obama administration has its way) exceed $8 billion per year by the end of this decade.
Nuclear-armed nations spend over $100 billion each year on weapons programs. The institutions most heavily involved in financing nuclear arms makers include Bank of America, BlackRock, and JPMorgan Chase in the United States; BNP Paribas in France; Allianz and Deutsche Bank in Germany; Mitsubishi UFJ Financial Group in Japan; Banco Bilbao Vizcaya Argentaria (BBVA) and Banco Santander in Spain; Credit Suisse and UBS in Switzerland; and Barclays, HSBC, Lloyds, and Royal Bank of Scotland in Britain.
8. Bank Interests Inflate Global Prices by 35 to 40 Percent
A stunning 35 to 40 percent of everything we buy goes to interest.
As Ellen Brown reported, “That helps explain how wealth is systematically transferred from Main Street to Wall Street.”
In her report, Brown cited the work of Margrit Kennedy, whose research in Germany documents interest charges ranging from 12 percent for garbage collection, to 38 percent for drinking water and 77 percent for rent in public housing. Kennedy found that the bottom 80 percent pay the hidden interest charges that the top 10 percent collect, making interest a strongly regressive tax that the poor pay to the rich.
Drawing on Kennedy’s data, Brown estimated that if we had a financial system that returned the interest collected from the public directly to the public, 35 percent could be lopped off the price of everything we buy. To this end, she has advocated direct reimbursement.
“We could do it by turning the banks into public utilities and their profits into public assets,” Brown said. “Profits would return to the public, either reducing taxes or increasing the availability of public services and infrastructure.”
9. Icelanders Vote to Include Commons in Their Constitution
In October 2012, Icelanders voted in an advisory referendum regarding six proposed policy changes to the nation’s 1944 Constitution.
In response to the question, “In the new Constitution, do you want natural resources that are not privately owned to be declared national property?” Iceland’s citizens responded with a decisive “yes.” Eighty-one percent of those voting supported the commons proposal.
The constitutional reforms are a direct response to the nation’s 2008 financial crash, when Iceland’s unregulated banks borrowed more than the country’s gross domestic product from international wholesale money markets.
As Jessica Conrad of On the Commons reported, “It is clear that citizens are beginning to recognize the value of what they share together over the perceived wealth created by the market economy.”
After the October vote, Prime Minister Jóhanna Sigurðardóttir said, “The people have put the parliament on probation.”
10. A “Culture of Cruelty” along Mexico–U.S. Border
Migrants crossing the Mexico–U.S. border not only face dangers posed by an unforgiving desert but also abuse at the hands of the U.S. Border Patrol.
During their journey through the desert, migrants risk dehydration, starvation, exhaustion, and the possibility of being threatened and robbed. Unfortunately, the dangers continue if they come in contact with the border patrol. In “A Culture of Cruelty,” the organization No More Deaths revealed human rights violations by the U.S. Border Patrol including limiting or denying migrants water and food, verbal and physical abuse, and failing to provide necessary medical attention. Female migrants face additional violations including sexual abuse, according to No More Deaths.
As Erika L. Sánchez reported, “Dehumanization of immigrants is actually part of the border patrol’s institutional culture. Instances of misconduct are not aberrations, but common practice.”
The Border Patrol has denied any wrongdoing and has not been held responsible for these abuses.
Public debate on immigration tends to ignore not only the potential dangers of crossing the desert, but also the reasons for the migration of undocumented immigrants to the United States. The North American Free Trade Agreement, signed by U.S. President Bill Clinton and Mexican President Carlos Salinas in 1994, displaced many Mexican farmers and workers from their farms. Lack of employment resulting from NAFTA continues to motivate many to migrate to the United States.
The following lists 25 to 11 headlines that were missing in action in 2012 and 2013. Read more about these stories at the Project Censored website.
11. Bush Blocked Iran Nuclear Deal
According to a former top Iranian negotiator Seyed Hossein Mousavian in Iran offered a deal to the United States France Germany and the UnitedKingdom that would have made it impossible for Iran to build nuclear weapons…
12. The U.S. Has Left Iraq with an Epidemic of Cancers and Birth Defects
High levels of lead mercury and depleted uranium are believed to be causing birth defects miscarriages and cancer for people living in the Iraqi cities of Basra and Fallujah…
13. A Fifth of Americans Go Hungry
An August Gallup poll showed that percent of Americans lacked sufficient money for needed food at least once over the previous year…
14. Wireless Technology a Looming Health Crisis
As a multitude of hazardous wireless technologies are deployed in homes schools and workplaces government officials and industry representatives continue to insist on their safety despite growing evidence to the contrary…
15. Food Riots: The New Normal?
Reduced land productivity combined with elevated oil costs and population growth threaten a systemic global food crisis…
16. Journalism Under Attack Around the Globe
Journalists are increasingly at risk of being killed or imprisoned for doing their jobs a situation that imperils press freedom…
17. The Creative Commons Celebrates Ten Years of Sharing and Cultural Creation
Creative Commons CC is celebrating ten years of helping writers artists technologists and other creators share their knowledge and creativity with the world…
18. Fracking Our Food Supply
The effects of hydraulic fracturing or fracking on food supply and the environment are slowly emerging…
19. The Power of Peaceful Revolution in Iceland
After privatization of the national banking sector private bankers borrowed billions of dollars or ten times the size of Iceland’s economy creating a huge economic bubble that doubled housing prices and made a small percentage of the population exceedingly wealthy…
20. Israel Counted Minimum Calorie Needs in Gaza Blockade
Declassified documents reveal that the Israeli military calculated how many calories a typical Gazan would need to survive in order to determine how much food to supply the Gaza Strip during the blockade…
21. Monsanto and India’s “Suicide Economy”
Monsanto has a long history of contamination and cover-up and in India another Monsanto cover-up is ongoing…
22. Pennsylvania Law Gags Doctors to Protect Big Oil’s “Proprietary Secrets”
In communities affected by hydraulic fracturing or fracking people understand that this process of drilling for natural gases puts the environment and their health at risk…
23. Transaction Tax Helps Civilize Wall Street and Lower the National Debt
In February United States senators Tom Harkin D-Iowa and Peter DeFazio D-Oregon introduced a bill to implement a new tax of three basis points that is three pennies for every hundred dollars on most non-consumer stock trades…
24. Widespread GMO Contamination: Did Monsanto Plant GMOs Before USDA Approval?
Monsanto introduced genetically modified alfalfa in a full two years before it was deregulated according to recently released evidence…
25. Israel Gave Birth Control to Ethiopian Immigrants Without Their Consent
In January Israel acknowledged that medical authorities have been giving Ethiopian immigrants long-term birth-control injections often without their knowledge or consent…