Top Underreported Stories of 2000 Expose Mass Media Censorship

Article excerpt

Whether you call them the "best censored" or the "most underreported" stories of 2000, the message is the same: the mass media have failed to report on these issues and only readers of the alternative media may have gained some knowledge of the issues involved.

For 25 year, "Project Censored" located at Sonoma State University, has culled underreported stories from sources, usually alternative media, throughout the country. They receive several thousand stories each year and a crew of faculty, students and expert evaluators, through a multi-step process, select the final 25 nominations. Obviously, as "Project Censored" admits, that is a "subjective process" but the history of past selections shows that the nominations as a whole are more than justified.

Past records also indicate that about one-third of the overlooked stories are "rediscovered" by the mass media in years to come and then become a topic of national interest. The shortcomings are not due to the editors or reporters on the frontline, but the limited interest of corporate media and their system, as Project Censored calls it, "of information suppression in the name of corporate profits."

1. Monsanto's billion-dollar water monopoly plans

The crisis of pollution and the depletion of global water resources is viewed as a business opportunity by Monsanto. Their logic is that population growth and economic development will apply increasing pressure on natural resource markets, making them increasingly profitable. Over the past few years, Monsanto has gained control over seeds, the first link in the food chain. Now Monsanto wants to control the very basis of life, water.

Multinational corporations are trying to monopolize water systems across the globe. San Francisco's Bechtel Enterprises now owns the water system in Cochabamba, Bolivia. When Bechtel pushed the price of water up, the entire city went on a general strike. The military killed a seventeen-year-old boy, arrested the water rights leader, and censored the media to support Bechtel.

Monsanto plans to realize revenues of $420 million and a net income of $63 million by 2008 from its water business in India and Mexico. By 2010, about 2.5 billion people in the world are projected to lack access to safe drinking water. At least 30 percent of the population in China, India, Mexico and the United States is expected to face severe water stress.

Monsanto is trying to establish control over water and plans to start a new water business with India and Mexico, since the two countries are facing water shortages. Also, Monsanto is exploring nonconventional financing (NGOs, World Bank, USDA, etc.) that could lower their investment risk.

Corporations such as Monsanto, Bechtel and Societe d' Amenagement Urbain et Rural (SAUR), the French multinational company who has taken over the water and waste water services for the next 30 years in the town of Ballito, South Africa, are striving to monopolize the water rights in search of increased revenue.

Sources: International Forum on Globalization: Special Report, June 1999 from PRIME, July 10, 2000. "The Global Water Crisis and the Commodification of the World's Water Supply" by Maude Barlow. / This, July/Aug 2000, "Just Add Water" by Jim Shultz / In These Times, May 15, 2000, "Water Fallout: Bolivians Battle Globalization" by Jim Shultz / Canadian Dimension Feb. 2000, "Monsanto's Billion-Dollar Water Monopoly Plans" by Vandana Shiva and "Water Fallout" by Jim Shultz / San Francisco Bay Guardian, May 31, 2000, "Trouble on Tap" by Daniel Zoll; also May 31, 2000, "The Earth Wrecker" by Pratap Chatterjee / Corporate News Coverage: Toronto Globe end Mail, May 11, 2000.

2. OSHA fails to protect U.S. workers

Each year more than six million work-related injuries and illnesses occur on the job and about 6,000 workers die from accidents.

The Occupational Safety and Health Administration (OSHA) is not up to the task of overseeing workplaces. The entire federal and state worker health and safety program involves just 2,300 inspectors who are responsible for America's 102 million workers at 6.7 million workplaces. This works out to one inspector for every 44,348 workers. With the current crew, it would take 110 years to inspect each workplace just once.

The long trail of workers brutalized at factories owned by Titan International is a case in point for how OSHA is failing workers all across the United States. Inspectors are often denied access to the Titan factories which is a blatant defiance of the law. Since May 1998, the United Steelworkers of America has been challenging Titan with a slew of unfair labor practice charges including: illegally moving jobs and equipment to avoid a union contract, canceling health insurance, refusing to bargain in good faith, discriminating against union members, and trying to replace striking workers. One of the union demands is for every other weekend off, or a standard fifty-six hour week. Many workers don't complain to OSHA for fear of loosing their jobs.

Source: The Progressive, Feb. 2000, "Losing Life and Limb on the Job" by christopher D. Cook.

3. U.S. Army 'Psyops' specialists worked for CNN

For a short time last year, CNN employed military specialist in "psychological operations" (psyops). "Psyops personnel, soldiers and officers, have been working in CNN's headquarters in Atlanta through our program 'Training With Industry'," said Major Thomas Collins of the U.S. Army Information Service in a telephone interview on Feb. 18, 2000. Collins asserted, "They worked as regular employees of CNN. Conceivably, they would have worked on stories during the Kosovo war. They helped in the production of news."

CNN had hosted a total of five interns from U.S. Army psyops, two in television, two in radio, and one in satellite operations. The military/CNN personnel belonged to the airmobile Fourth Psychological Operations Group stationed at Fort Bragg, N. C. One of the main tasks of this group of almost 1200 soldiers and officers is to spread "selected information." The propaganda group was involved in the Gulf war, the Bosnian war and the crisis in Kosovo.

In the first two weeks of the war in Kosovo, CNN produced 30 articles for the Internet. An average CNN article has seven mentions of Tony Blair, NATO spokesmen like Jamie Shea and David Wilby or other NATO officials. Words like refugees, ethnic cleansing, mass killings and expulsions were used nine times on the average. The so-called Kosovo Liberation Army (0.2 mentions) and the Yugoslav civilian victims (0.3 mentions) barely existed for CNN.

Colonel Christopher St. John is Commander of the fourth Psychological Operations Group. In a military symposium on Special Operations that was held behind closed doors in Arlington, Virgnia, in early February, Col. St. John said the cooperation with CNN was a textbook example of the kind of ties the American Army wants to have with the media. Still the psyops people in Arlington were not entirely satisfied with news handling during the war on Serbia. In their opinion, too much information about the unplanned results of the bombings came to the surface.

Sources: Counterpunch, Feb. 16, March 1, 2000, "CNN and PSYOPS" by Alexander Cockburn / Foreign coverage: Trouw (Dutch daily newspaper), Feb. 21, 2000; Japan Economic Newswire. April 5, 2000; Le Monde Du Renseignement, Feb. 17, 2000; The Guardian April 12, 2000 / U.S. Coverage: National Public Radio, April 10, April 16, 2000; Tampa Tribune, April 23, 2000, TV Guide, April 2000.

4. A Tragic Mistake?

The United States and NATO seem to have deliberately targeted the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade because it was serving as a rebroadcast station for the Yugoslavian army.

The London Observer and Copenhagen's Politiken reported that according to senior U.S. and European military sources, NATO knew very well where the Chinese Embassy was located and had listed it as a "strictly prohibited target." The Observer stated that the CIA and its British equivalent, M16, had been listening to communications from the Chinese Embassy as a matter of course since it moved to the site in 1996. The Chinese Embassy was taken off the prohibited target list after NATO detected it sending Yugoslavian army signals to forces in the field.

President Clinton called the bombing a "tragic mistake," the result of a mixup. NATO claimed that they were using old maps and got the address wrong. However, a Naples-based flight controller said that NATO maps they were using correctly identified the Chinese Embassy.

A French Ministry of Defense report stated that the flight that targeted the Chinese was not under NATO command, but rather an independent United States bombing raid. In July, CIA Director George Tenet testified before Congress that of the 900 sites struck by NATO during the bombing campaign only one was targeted by the CIA--the Chinese Embassy.

Sources: In These Times, Dec. 12. 1999, 'A Tragic Mistake?" by Joel Bleifuss / In These Times, June 26, 2000, "Mission Implausible" bu Seth Ackerman / Pacific News, Oct. 20, 1999, "Reports showing U.S. deliberately bombed Chinese embassy deliberately ignored by U.S. media" by Yoichi Shi- Matsu Fairness & Accuracy In Reporting, Feb 9, 2000, "NY Times on Chinese embassy bombing: Nothing to report" by Action Alert (No author given).

5. U.S. taxpayers underwrite nuclear plant sales

The U.S. Export-Import Bank (Ex-Im) is solidly backing major U.S. nuclear contractors such as Westinghouse (the owner of CBS), Bechtel and General Electric in their efforts to seek a foreign market for nuclear reactors.

American contractors are pushing a product most people don't want, but the Ex-Im offers terms too good for Third World countries and Eastern European buyers to pass up. Most host countries do not have the capital to back the nuclear power market, so contractors, in order to be competitive, must provide 100 percent of the financing. When the host country defaults on their loan, the Ex-Im steps in with American taxpayer dollars.

In Turkey, the Ex-Im has approved a preliminary loan in support of a Westinghouse-led consortium's $3.2 billion bid to build the Akkuyu plant (on an active fault line). The Clinton Administration has allowed American contractors to sell reactors to China, even though Beijing refuses to abide by nonproliferation rules established by the International Atomic Energy Act.

The Temlin plant in Prague, while not complete, was pushed by the Ex-Im to go online May 2000 despite the faulty design, the sufficient levels of energy that already exist in the country, and Dutch investors pulling out.

Source: The Progressive, March 2000, "Pushing the Nuclear Plants: A U.S. Agency Hooks Foreign Clients" by Ken Silverstein and Ian Urbina.

6. U.S. blamed for genocide in Rwanda

Bill Clinton and his administration allowed the genocide of 500,000 to 800,000 people in Rwanda claiming he was unaware of the horrific nightmare that had occurred.

A panel established by the Organization of African Unity concluded that the nations and international bodies that could have attempted to stop the killing chose not to do so. The report, which received modest but insufficient media coverage, convincingly condemns the United Nations, Belgium (a former colonial occupier), France (which maintained close relations with Rwanda) and the United States. The report found that after the genocide began, the Clinton Administration choose to believe that it was not, in fact, taking place. Under the 1948 UN Genocide Convention, once a genocide is recognized, the nations of the world are obligated to prevent the killings and to punish the murderers.

Canadian Lieufenant-General Romeo Dallaire, who was in charge of UN peacekeeping forces in Rwanda, says he believes he could have stopped much of the slaughter had he been granted more troops; U.S. intervention resulted in no new troops. As the genocide proceeded, the Clinton administration went along with--or forced--the UN Security Council decision to reduce Dallaire's force to what the OAU report calls "a derisory 270 men." And as the carnage continued, "the UN dithered in organizing any kind of response to the ongoing tragedy."

Sources: Alternet, July 25, 2000, "Loyal Opposition: Clinton Allowed Genocide," by David Corn / Covertaction Quarterly. Spring/Summer 2000, "The Role ot the U.S. Military," by Ellen Ray

7. Study points to dangers of genetically altered foods

In 1999, the first independent, non-corporate-sponsored study analyzing genetically engineered food was performed.

The study had been undertaken to determine whether or not the particular genes being spliced into the genome could have a harmful effect on mammals. Preliminary data from the study suggests something even more startling. The actual process of genetic alteration itself may cause damage to the mammalian digestive, and especially, immune systems. This could cause serious problems to people ingesting genetically altered food over the long term.

When the results did not agree with the position taken by the biotech industry there wan an immediate and overwhelming response. Even though the well-respected scientific journal Lancet found the study valid enough to print in their magazine, the study was discontinued and a media campaign of derision and skepticism was begun.

Sources: In These Times, January 10, 2000. "No Small (Genetic) Potatoes" by Joel Bleifuss / Extra/ May/June 2000, "Genetic Gambling" by Karen Charman / Multinational Monitor, Jan./Feb. 2000, "Don't Ask. Don't Know" by Ben Lilliston.

8. Companies push forced drug treatnment

Pharmaceutical companies are funding the National Alliance for the Mentally Ill (NAMI). NAMI, in turn, promotes a program of in-home forced drug treatment. The money is funneled through a sub organization of NAMI called the "NAMI Campaign to End Discrimination."

There is a clear conflict of interest here since the pharmaceutical companies are reaping profits from the drugs the patients are forced to take. However, as NAMI has told members of Congress, "one of NAMI's key core goals is to bring the [forced drugging program into every state in the USA by 2002."

In addition, pharmaceutical companies provide perks (such as tickets to sporting events) and outright compensation to doctors for their participation in the prescribing of particular drugs to their mental health patients.

Sources: washington Monthly, May 12, 2000, "Drug Rush" by Stephen Pomper / Mojo Wire Magazine, Nov./Dec. 1999, "Prozac.org" by Ken Silverstein / Dendron #43, Spring 2000, "NAMI: The Story Behind the Story" by David Oaks / Networker, March/April 2000, "Exposing the Myth-makers' by Barry Duncan, Scott Miller, Jacqueline Sparks.

9. EPA plans to pump contaminated water into sewage system

The Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) plans to pump contaminated water into Denver's sewer system. Between 1950 and 1980, at Lowry Landfill near Denver, millions of gallons of hazardous industrial wastes were let into shallow unlined pits. The EPA declared the 480-acre site a Superfund site in 1984. Now the EPA wants to treat the contaminated groundwater at the landfill and discharge it into the Denver metro sewage system. The sewage system would then use the sludge from the treated water to fertilize Colorado farmlands.

Citizens groups are disturbed about the notion and say the landfill is widely contaminated with highly radioactive plutonium and other deadly wastes. Plutonium is one of the deadliest substances on the planet. According to Adrienne Anderson, a lawyer and instructor at the University of Boulder, the plan is a way to "...legally pump plutonium into the sewer line."

In 1991, a document was hand-delivered to the EPA stating that the levels of plutonium and radioactive americium "detected at Lowry Landfill are 10 to 10,000 times greater that the average or maximum background levels reported for Rocky Flats." The Rocky Flats is the notorious nuclear weapons plant near Boulder. The polluters include Adolph Coors, Lockheed Martin, the Denver Post and Rocky Mountain News, Hewlett Packard, IBM and Waste Management.

Citizens concerns have caught the attention of senior EPA officials. The agency's inspector general, after receiving a petition bearing over 7,000 signatures, has initiated an investigation of Region 8's cleanup activities at Lowry.

Source: The Progressive, May 2000, "Plutonium Pancakes" by Will Fantle.

10. Immigrants used to keep salaries low

High-tech companies in Silicon Valley are responsible for exploiting immigrant contractors and in some cases subjecting them to conditions akin to indentured servitude. Under pressure from the high-tech sector, Congress is ignoring the industry's unfair labor practices and plans to dramatically increase the number of H1-B visas issued to foreign engineers, especially in India and other parts of Asia. Silicon Valley will benefit by gaining skilled workers who accept salaries and labor conditions that their American counterparts would reject.

Contractors on H1-B visas complain of industry abuses including salary withholdings, forced overtime, and threats of deportation. Because their employers have the power to affect their immigration status, immigrant high-tech workers are often afraid to stand up for themselves. As contract workers, they also lack the right to organize, making them especially vulnerable to exploitation.

High-tech companies claim that a domestic labor shortage justifies the use of immigrant contractors with H1-B visas. Labor advocates counter that the problem is not a labor shortage, but the industry's unwillingness to pay the salaries that American high-tech workers demand. Moreover, use of immigrant labor protects high-tech companies from strikes and union demands. Civil right groups add that if Silicon Valley companies were interested in increasing the domestic high-tech labor market, they could train American workers--an approach that could also increase minority representation in the high-tech sector. The industry's resistance to such alternatives indicates that its reliance on immigrant workers is not about a domestic labor shortage but about a desire for dependent employees and higher profits.

Sources: Labor Notes, Sept. 2000, "Immigrants Find High-Tech Servitude in Silicon valley" by David Bacon / washington Free Press, July/Aug. 2000, "Silicon Valley Sweatshops" by David Bacon / Corporate Media coverage, San Francisco Chronicle, Sept. 29,2000.