Top 25 Censored Stories for 2009/2010

Censorship

Image by gerriet via Flickr

Project Censored has posted its list of the top 25 censored stories of 2009 continuing into 2010.

1. US Congress Sells Out to Wall Street

The dirty story of the decade? Project Censored thinks so:

Federal lawmakers responsible for overseeing the US economy have received millions of dollars from Wall Street firms. Since 2001, eight of the most troubled firms have donated $64.2 million to congressional candidates, presidential candidates and the Republican and Democratic parties. As senators, Barack Obama and John McCain received a combined total of $3.1 million. The donors include investment bankers Bear Stearns, Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, insurer American International Group, and mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

2. US Schools are More Segregated Today than in the 1950s

This one may come as a surprise to many people. While the news incessantly (though oftentimes superficially) blathered about the bailouts, few citizens heard about this shameful secret.

Schools in the United States are more segregated today than they have been in more than four decades. Millions of non-white students are locked into “dropout factory” high schools, where huge percentages do not graduate, and few are well prepared for college or a future in the US economy.

According to a new Civil Rights report published at the University of California, Los Angeles, schools in the US are 44 percent non-white, and minorities are rapidly emerging as the majority of public school students in the US.  Latinos and blacks, the two largest minority groups, attend schools more segregated today than during the civil rights movement forty years ago. In Latino and African American populations, two of every five students attend intensely segregated schools.  For Latinos this increase in segregation reflects growing residential segregation. For blacks a significant part of the reversal reflects the ending of desegregation plans in public schools throughout the nation. In the 1954 case Brown v. Board of Education, the US Supreme Court concluded that the Southern standard of “separate but equal” was “inherently unequal,” and did “irreversible” harm to black students. It later extended that ruling to Latinos.

3. Toxic Waste Behind Somali Pirates

I got flamed for reporting on this back in April. Maybe the title “In Defense Of Pirates” was too much?

When I interviewed journalist Johann Hari for Citizen Radio, Hari explained that Somalian pirates are actually poor fishermen. It was only after Somalian waters were poisoned by western nations, and the livelihoods of Somalian fisherman were destroyed, that civilians turned to acts of piracy as means of survival.

Project Censorship concurs with that assessment.

4. Nuclear Waste Pools in North Carolina

One of the most lethal patches of ground in North America is located in the backwoods of North Carolina, where Shearon Harris nuclear plant is housed and owned by Progress Energy. The plant contains the largest radioactive waste storage pools in the country. It is not just a nuclear-power-generating station, but also a repository for highly radioactive spent fuel rods from two other nuclear plants. The spent fuel rods are transported by rail and stored in four densely packed pools filled with circulating cold water to keep the waste from heating. The Department of Homeland Security has marked Shearon Harris as one of the most vulnerable terrorist targets in the nation.

The threat exists, however, without the speculation of terrorist attack. Should the cooling system malfunction, the resulting fire would be virtually unquenchable and could trigger a nuclear meltdown, putting more than two million* residents of this rapidly growing section of North Carolina in extreme peril. A recent study by Brookhaven Labs estimates that a pool fire could cause 140,000 cancers, contaminate thousands of square miles of land, and cause over $500 billion in off-site property damage.

5. Europe Blocks US Toxic Products

We’ve heard lots about China’s poisoned Barbies, but few have heard about those stupid, whiney Europeans, who are always refusing to ingest our American lead:

US deregulation of toxic substances, such as lead in lipsticks, mercury in electronics, and phthalates (endocrine disruptors) in baby toys, may not only pose disastrous consequences to our health, but also to our economic and political status in the world. International markets are moving toward a European model of insisting on environmental and consumer safety. A European-led revolution in chemical regulation that requires that thousands of chemicals finally be assessed for their potentially toxic effects on human beings and the environment signals the end of American industry’s ability to withhold critical data from the public.

Europe has launched stringent new regulations that require companies seeking access to their lucrative markets eliminate toxic substances and manufacture safer electronics, automobiles, toys and cosmetics.

6. Lobbyists Buy Congress

This isn’t particularly groundbreaking news. Yes, politicians are crooked. Yes, they accept bribes from private industry. However, the level of corruption has really reached absurd levels, which is why I proposed banning corporate lobbying. The article got some of the strongest feedback I’ve ever received. Never underestimate the average citizen’s propensity to act as an apologist for corporate interests that have no inclination to return the favor.

According to a study by The Center for Responsive Politics, special interests paid Washington lobbyists $3.2 billion in 2008—more than any other year on record. This was a 13.7 percent increase from 2007 (which broke the record by 7.7 percent over 2006).

All your democracy are belong to us.

7. Obama’s Military Appointments Have Corrupt Past

Robert Gates, whose career has reflected and implemented neoconservative positions, also decried Obama’s plan for a phased withdrawal of US troops. Gates’s history as a career intelligence officer began under Nixon. But, as Robert Parry chronicles, it was as a senior CIA official in the 1980s under Reagan that Gates broke the back of the CIA analytical division’s commitment to objective intelligence.

In a recent book, Failure of Intelligence: The Decline and Fall of the CIA, former CIA analyst Melvin A. Goodman identifies Gates as “the chief action officer for the Reagan administration’s drive to tailor intelligence reporting to White House political desires.” As chief analyst under CIA director William Casey, Gates “guided the first institutionalized ‘cooking of the books’ at the CIA in the 1980s, with a particular emphasis on tailoring intelligence dealing with the Soviet Union, Central America, and Southwest Asia,” says Goodman, in order to justify increased US military spending and US support for bloody brushfire wars —central elements of Reagan’s foreign policy.

Talk about politicizing intelligence! Whew, boy. Smell that Change and Hope.

8. Bailed out Banks and America’s Wealthiest Cheat IRS Out of Billions

That’s right. Wall Street made the list twice. After the initial bailouts, the rich got together and decided they weren’t done fucking us yet.

A 2008 study done by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported that eighty-three of the top publicly held US companies have operations in tax havens like the Cayman Islands, Bermuda, and the Virgin Islands. Fourteen of these companies, including AIG, Bank of America, and Citigroup, received money from the government bailout. The GAO also reported that activities of Union Bank of Switzerland (UBS) are directly connected to tax avoidance.

You see, in America, our two-tier justice system demands you pay taxes, while the rich get to hoard all their wealth in the Cayman Islands. It’s like Leona Helmsley said, “Only the little people pay taxes.” Now, go back to building the products that make the rich richer, while Aunty Ayn reads you a lullaby about how few are born to lead, and most are born to follow.

9. US Arms Used for War Crimes in Gaza

Oh yeah. The whole America Sells Weapons To Israel thing. We don’t like to talk about that one.

Israel’s repeated firing of US-made white phosphorus shells over densely populated areas of Gaza during its recent military campaign was indiscriminate and is evidence of war crimes, Human Rights Watch said in a report released March 25, 2009.

[snip]

The devastating Israeli firepower, unleashed largely on Palestinian civilians in Gaza during the three-week attack starting December 27, 2008 was fueled by US-supplied weapons paid for with US tax dollars.

Your money funds the burning of Palestinian children’s flesh. File this under Things We Definitely Don’t Like To Talk About.

10. Ecuador Declares Foreign Debt Illegitimate

A South American country recently stated the obvious: the US has no right to saddle it with debt.

In November 2008, Ecuador became the first country to undertake an examination of the legitimacy and structure of its foreign debt. An independent debt audit commissioned by the government of Ecuador documented hundreds of allegations of irregularity, illegality, and illegitimacy in contracts of debt to predatory international lenders. The loans, according to the report, violated Ecuador’s domestic laws, US Securities and Exchange Commission regulations, and general principles of international law. Ecuador’s use of legitimacy as a legal argument for defaulting set a major precedent; indeed, the formation of a debt auditing commission sets a precedent.

For decades, the United States has been offering Latin American countries loans that they can never hope to repay. Think of this as the subprime mortgage scandal multiplied by a million.

In the 1970s Ecuador fell victim to unscrupulous international lending, which encouraged borrowing at low interest rates. But in over thirty years the country’s debt rose from $1.174 billion in 1970, to over $14.250 billion in 2006, a twelve fold increase, due in large part to interest rates that rose at the discretion of US banks and Federal Reserve from six percent in 1979 to twenty-one percent in 1981.

This, combined with the corporate takeover of Latin American countries, and the decrees outlawing indigenous peoples from growing their own crops led to widespread poverty, hunger, and discontentment.

Latin American countries have always been hesitant to fight this debt blackmailing system lest they incur the wrath of the international market. Now, it seems Eduardo Galeano’s dream might finally be realized as a united Latin America joins forces to fight this rigged game. Together, the exploited countries may have enough leverage to tip the scale in their favor.

Ecuador has called on Latin America to forge a united response to foreign debt. Venezuela, Bolivia and Paraguay have recently created debt audit commissions. The country has also asked the United Nations to help develop international norms to regulate the foreign debt market.

Read the rest of the list over at Project Censored…
———————————-
* Update: I stated in the original article that “two hundred million” residents of this rapidly growing section of North Carolina would be put in extreme peril should a meltdown occur. This is obviously a typo. Apologies. Project Censorship misquoted Jeffrey St. Clair’s original article, which states:

An uncontrolled pool fire and meltdown at Shearon Harris would put more than two million residents of this rapidly growing section of North Carolina in extreme peril.

23 Comments

  1. michael09876

    Dubious Sources:
    How Project Censored Joined
    The Whitewash of Serb Atrocities @ http://ww3.wpunj.edu/newpol/issue33/walls33.htm
    David Walls

    [from New Politics, vol. 9, no. 1 (new series),
    whole no. 33, Summer 2002]

    David Walls is professor of sociology at Sonoma State University. He is the author of The Activist’s Almanac: The Concerned Citizen’s Guide to the Leading Advocacy Organizations in America (Simon & Schuster/Fireside, 1993).

  2. Steve McNally

    Hello -

    I didn’t see the detail behind the “unquenchable” fire claim, and I’m pretty certain no section of North Carolina has more than 200,000,000 residents.

    (There are no links to other sources in the Project Censored piece)

    “Should the cooling system malfunction, the resulting fire would be virtually unquenchable and could trigger a nuclear meltdown, putting more than two hundred million residents of this rapidly growing section of North Carolina in extreme peril. “

  3. Allison Kilkenny

    An excellent point, Steve! I misread that part and thought the author was referring to a large portion of the population of the US that could potentially be affected, and not residents of North Carolina. Clearly, that state does not have that many residents. :) This is a typo. Here is the original paragraph:

    An uncontrolled pool fire and meltdown at Shearon Harris would put more than two million residents of this rapidly growing section of North Carolina in extreme peril. A recent study by the Brookhaven Labs, not known to overstate nuclear risks, estimates that a pool fire could cause 140,000 cancers, contaminate thousands of square miles of land, and cause over $500 billion in off-site property damage.

    (The sources are mentioned at the top of Project Censorship’s page, but are not provided as hyperlinks)

  4. ncfrommke

    Why did you put the word “unquenchable” in quotes? Such a fire would, in fact, be effectively unquenchable- it would have to burn itself out, & could not be put out. What part of unquenchable is in dispute, & by whom?

  5. Allison Kilkenny

    Because I’m quoting directly from another source, Project Censorship. And if “unquenchable” is too extreme of a word for you, then how about “very, very, very bad”? :)

  6. Ethan Epstein

    “Censored”?

    Er . . .doesn’t fact that you’re writing about them sort of belie that claim? Pedantry aside, the number one “censored” story has been widely covered. You know that TrueSlant’s most famous blogger, Taibbi has been all over that story, right?

  7. Allison Kilkenny

    It seems you think “Censorship” means to totally remove content from the public sphere, which is incorrect.

    There are degrees of censorship depending on the society doing the censoring. China’s censorship looks different than US “soft censorship,” for example, where there is a thriving independent media, and yet stories are prioritized differently. So stories that affect far more people (say, the environment or the Middle East wars) receive far less coverage than the Tiger Woods story. That is a kind of soft censorship. It doesn’t involve hooded men disappearing journalists, but it’s a way editors and their corporate bosses control the content of media. If sex scandals sell the most papers, that makes advertisers happy, and so sex stories become prioritized. Everything else gets marginalized.

    So I don’t think Project Censorship is making the claim that this is the very first time anyone will be hearing about these stories. I think they’re making the claim that there ought to have been even more emphasis on these stories, and there wasn’t because of cronyism, or conflict of interest, of the kinds of “soft censorship” I described above.

    PS: The fact that your proof censorship doesn’t actually exist is the Internet is very telling. Yes, True/Slant doesn’t censor me, and Taibbi is able to do his independent journalism for True/Slant, and Rolling Stone, but it’s not as though he’s a columnist for the New York Times or Washington Post. In fact, Taibbi could never say the things he says in those Very Serious Newspapers precisely because the mainstream media usually doesn’t allow fringe voices prime real estate in their forums. Also, Taibbi curses a lot, and that’s a no-no. But that’s why the Internet is important – it makes censorship very difficult.

  8. Ethan Epstein

    So your definition of “censorship” corresponds with “the profit motive?”

    I’m sorry, but the two are such different phenomena that it devalues REAL censorship to apply the same term.

    The “media” situation in, say, North Korea is not remotely similar to the great travesty that Matt Taibbi (of Rolling Stone, True/Slant and many others) does not have a Ny Times column.

  9. savagemike

    errr…… #4:
    “putting more than two hundred million residents of this rapidly growing section of North Carolina in extreme peril.”
    Wow there’s more people in North Carolina than I ever realized.

  10. Allison Kilkenny

    My definition of censorship is a powerful party (whether it be the state or corporation) that controls the flow of information. See also: Corporatism.

    If the flow of information is controlled by a powerful party, it doesn’t really matter if it’s the state or the corporation. At least, if it’s a “democratic” state, the people have a chance of voting for reform. Corporatism i.e. the US model is actually much worse because it’s undemocratic.

    Who knows how much worse the US media would be without the Internet? It would certainly be much less diverse. It is because of independent media that the state could not possibly get away with “disappearing” journalists in the middle of the night, though that doesn’t stop the government from harassing journalists.

    Just because it’s not overt doesn’t mean the censorship doesn’t exist. Such a “black or white” interpretation of media is inaccurate.

  11. michael09876

    what I find more disturbing about project censored is their long history of reliance on authoritarian leftist sources rather than anti-authoritarian leftists, whether democratic socialists/social democrats or anarchists…read the piece from “new politics, ” i cited on their alignment with pro-milosevic writers and dismissal of the evidence of war crimes vs. bosnian muslims. reminds me, frankly of the stalinoid politics of the daily worker in the 30′s

  12. michael09876

    Project Censored Whitewash Debate

    “Debate: Did Project Censored Whitewash Serbian Atrocities?” New Politics, Vol. IX, No. 2, Whole Number 34 (Winter 2003), pp. 88-100. Editors’ Note:
    David Walls’ article in the last issue of New Politics, “How Project Censored Joined the Whitewash of Serb Atrocities” (Volume IX, No.1, Whole Number 33, Summer 2002), elicited commentary from Bogdan Denitch and critical responses from Peter Phillips, Diana Johnstone, and Edward S. Herman & David Peterson, all printed below. Each critical response is followed with a reply from Walls.

    http://www.sonoma.edu/users/w/wallsd/whitewash-debate.shtml

  13. logic501

    6. Lobbyists Buy Congress & 8. Bailed out Banks and America’s Wealthiest Cheat IRS out of Billions.

    “Never underestimate the average’s citizen’s propensity to act as an apologist for corporate interests that have no inclination to return the favor.

    Allison, never assume that the strong feedback you receive from what appears to be coming from the “average citizen” is actually coming from an “average citizen.” Some big corporations that are into illegal activities (helping the rich launder money to avoid taxes, helping various froms of oraganized crime, including the drug cartels, launder money for a percentage of the profits) have people; let’s call them “security” personnel as a general reference term, go onto websites and post comments to put writers on the defensive, discourage them, and to dronwed out the voice of reaonable opinion.

    With respect to corporations that launder money for various forms of oraganized crime,
    I personnally have accused one of the corporations listed in number 8, and this is on file with the FBI and the Justice Department, of laundering money for organized crime. In addition to the one that I accused, note that a division of Citigroup got kicked out of Japan in 2004 for laundering money for organized crime. And they recently got caught again. When you get a chance, take a look at the Tuesday, October 26, 2004 edition of the Financial Times. There is a picture of then Citigroup CEO, Chuck Prince, “bowing down” in public because of Citgroup’s money laundering.
    Money laundering for organized crime by U.S. Multinationals is one of the best investigative journalist opportunities ever. I hope some journalists look into it.

  14. logic501

    Allison,

    As a follow-up to my previous comment, please take a look at the article in the Miami Herald of Sun, Dec. 27, 2009 by Michael Sallah and Rob Barry (I saw this on Huffington Post) titled “Feds probing many ties of banker Allen Stanford & U.S. Congress.” The article talks about how measures in Congress were defeated that would have helped with the trace of money flows to offshore accounts, with implication being that it might have helped prevent the things which are alleged in the Allen Stanford case.

  15. wpfeffer

    About #8:

    I don’t think Ayn Rand would approve of anything that has been done with the bank and auto industries in the past couple of years, let alone with the American economy in general. If you had actually read any of her philosophical beliefs you woud know that she railed against _any_ type of government involvement in private enterprise and that with the different industries accepting bail-out money, they are going against everything she ever spoke about.

    As far as the ‘few are born to lead and most are born to follow’ comment, if that weren’t true then everyone would be the CEO of a corporation. I think what you mean is that there are few born to follow your lead while most are born content to follow the preaching of anyone who is willing to tell them what to think.

  16. ncfrommke

    Sorry. I was asking STEVE why HE was putting unquenchable (& that word only) in quotes- almost as if he were skeptical of said fire’s unquenchability. Me, I’m not, unquenchable seems to be a perfectly accurate description of a fire that burns until it’s fuel is exausted, as metal fires typically do. Which is certainly very, very, very bad, especially when said fire, unlike a magnesium fire, is busily emitting radioactivity.

    I admire your patientce in responding to Mr. Epstein; he’s clearly being deliberatly obtuse for the sake of argument.

  17. jeremywinter

    Ethan, I know you have only been a contributor since Nov, but man your are becoming increasingly annoying around here.

    In your post you have described Payday loans as good for poor people and have also claimed that if I buy my corn from a local grower, instead of say a Monsanto farm, I am supporting tribalism and racism.

    I love reading truth\slant for many great writers like Allison, but you seem out of place here.

    Sorry for hijacking you comments Allison, but when I saw this guy complaining about the definition of censorship, I just couldn’t take it anymore. Notice Ethan’s first line of comments on your article, “Censored?”, as if it deserves quotes AND a question mark.

  18. Kim Lancaster

    “Never underestimate the average citizen’s propensity to act as an apologist for corporate interests that have no inclination to return the favor.”
    Allison Kilkenny

    Great quote!. Think I’ll save it for future consideration and use. Properly credited, of course.

  19. Zaid Jilani

    They don’t literally mean censored, chillax.

  20. jasong

    In other words: “self-censorship… explains the superiority of the U.S. mass media as a propaganda system: it is far more credible than a system which relies on official state censorship, although in performance the dominant media serve the agenda of the elite every bit as much as state organs [did] on behalf of the ruling bureaucracies in Eastern Europe.”
    http://www.chomsky.info/onchomsky/198901–.htm

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