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09.15.10

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Phaedra
LAND OF THE FREE: The office of U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement has created a network of secret jails designed for confining individuals in transit.

Project Censored Review

The top 10 censored stories of 2009–2010

By Trish Boretta, Mickey Huff, Peter Phillips and Elaine Wellin, with Julie Andrzejewski, Elliot Cohen, Kevin Howley and Project Censored


At Project Censored, based at Sonoma State University, we examine the coverage of news and information important to the maintenance of a healthy and functioning democracy. Some of these stories were slightly covered in the corporate media, and some have been covered since our voting process. However, the full facts of a particular story were still often lacking in corporate media coverage, and even if they were not, the coverage was one or two stories in the press, not enough to gain the attention of the people at large.

In her analysis of story submissions, Dr. Elaine Wellin writes that "in 58 percent of all nominated stories, issues found to be most censored fell within five categories: the internet, corporate malfeasance, the military, health and the environment." Here are the top, as it were, 10.

1. Global plans to replace the dollar

Nations have reached their limit in subsidizing the United States' military adventures. June 2009 meetings in Russia with world leaders such as Chinese president Hu Jintao, Russian president Dmitry Medvedev and other top officials of the six-nation Shanghai Cooperation Organization took the first formal step to replace the dollar as the world's reserve currency. The U.S. was denied admission to the meetings. If these nations succeed, the dollar will dramatically plummet in value, and the cost of imports, like oil, will skyrocket.

In September 2009, the U.N. Conference on Trade and Development proposed creating a new artificial currency that would replace the dollar as a reserve. The formation of this currency would be the largest monetary overhaul since World War II. Meanwhile, China is involved in deals with Brazil and Malaysia to denominate their trade in China's yuan, while Russia promises to begin trading in the ruble and local currencies. Additionally, nine Latin American countries have agreed on the creation of a regional currency, the sucre, aimed at scaling back the use of the U.S. dollar.

To fund the permanent war economy, the U.S. flooded the world with dollars. The foreign recipients turn the dollars over to their central banks for local currency. This has allowed the U.S. to print money without restraint, to buy imports and foreign companies, to fund our military expansion and to ensure that foreign nations like China continue to buy our treasury bonds. This cycle appears now to be over. The impact on daily living for people in the U.S. could be severe.

2. U.S. DOD top polluter on planet

The extensive global operations of the U.S. military (wars, interventions, and secret operations, over 1,000 bases around the world and 6,000 facilities in the United States) are not counted against U.S. greenhouse gas limits. While official accounts put the U.S. military usage at 320,000 barrels of oil a day, that does not include fuel consumed by contractors, in leased or private facilities, or in the production of weapons. Military activities will continue to be exempt based on an executive order signed by President Barack Obama that calls for other federal agencies to reduce their greenhouse gas emissions by 2020.

3. E-privacy and personal access at risk

Following in the steps of its predecessor, the Obama administration is expanding government surveillance of personal electronic communications. This surveillance, which includes the monitoring of the internet as well as private (nongovernmental) computers, is proceeding with the proposal or passage of new laws granting government agencies increasingly wider latitude in their monitoring activities. At the same time, private companies and even some schools are engaging in surveillance activities that further diminish personal privacy.

In spring 2009, the Cybersecurity Act of 2009 was proposed, giving the president power to "declare a cyber security emergency" with respect to private computer networks, and to do with these networks what it deems necessary to diffuse the attack.

Presently, no legislation exists to disallow use of such technology to conduct mass, warrantless surveillance.

In April 2009, the Justice Department invoked the "state secrets privilege" to bar American citizens from suing the U.S. government for illegally spying on them. It also went even further than the Bush administration by arguing that the U.S. government is completely immune from litigation for illegal spying and can never be sued for surveillance that violates federal privacy laws.

4. ICE: Secret detention and courts

Immigration and Customs Enforcement's (ICE) agents are holding thousands of U.S. residents in unlisted and unmarked subfield offices and deporting tens of thousands in secret court hearings.

"If you don't have enough evidence to charge someone criminally but you think he's illegal, we can make him disappear," said James Pendergraph, then executive director of Immigration and Customs Enforcement's Office of State and Local Coordination, at a conference of police and sheriffs in August 2008.

People are held in a vast network of more than 300 detention facilities, located in nearly every state in the country. Only a few of these facilities are under the full operational control of ICE; the majority are jails under the control of state and local governments that subcontract with ICE to provide detention bed space. However, ICE has created a network of secret jails designed for confining individuals in transit. These subfield offices are not subject to ICE detention standards, lacking showers, beds, drinking water, soap, toothbrushes, sanitary napkins, mail, attorneys or legal information.

Immigration and Customs Enforcement is also confining people in 186 unlisted and unmarked subfield offices, many in suburban office parks or commercial spaces, revealing no information about their ICE tenants—nary a sign, a marked car or even a U.S. flag.

5. Blackwater's secret war in Pakistan

At a covert forward operating base run by the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) in the Pakistani port city of Karachi, members of an elite division of Blackwater are at the center of a secret program in which they plan targeted assassinations of suspected Taliban and al Qaida operatives inside and outside Pakistan. The Blackwater operatives also gather intelligence and help direct a secret U.S. military drone-bombing campaign that runs parallel to the documented CIA predator strikes, according to a well-placed source within the U.S. military intelligence apparatus.

Blackwater, which also goes by the names Xe Services and U.S. Training Center, has denied that the company operates in Pakistan. "Xe Services has only one employee in Pakistan performing construction oversight for the U.S. Government," Blackwater spokesperson Mark Corallo said in a statement to The Nation, adding that the company has "no other operations of any kind in Pakistan."

Blackwater's ability to survive against odds by reinventing and rebranding itself is most evident in Afghanistan, where the company continues to work for the U.S. military, the CIA and the State Department.

6. Lack of health coverage kills

Despite national legislative health reform, healthcare in the U.S. remains dismal for many Americans, resulting in continuing deaths and personal tragedies. A recent Harvard research team estimates that 2,266 U.S. military veterans died in 2008 due to lack of health insurance. The American Journal of Public Health published findings that being uninsured raises an individual's odds of dying by 40 percent.

And, using more than 23 million hospital records from 37 states between 1988 and 2005, Johns Hopkins investigators compared the risk of death in children with insurance to those without. Other factors being equal, researchers found that uninsured children in the study were 60 percent more likely to die in the hospital than those with insurance. The findings only capture deaths during hospitalization and do not reflect deaths after discharge from the hospital, nor do they count children who died without ever being hospitalized, the researchers say, which means the real death toll of noninsurance could be even higher.

"If you are a child without insurance, if you're seriously ill and end up in the hospital, you are 60 percent more likely to die than the sick child in the next room who has insurance," says Dr. Fizan Abdullah, a pediatric surgeon at the Johns Hopkins Children's Center.

7. 'Land grab' havoc in Africa

Resource exploitation in Africa is not new, but the scale of agricultural "land grabbing" in African nations is unprecedented, becoming the new colonization of the 21st century. The term "land grab" in this instance refers to the purchase or lease of vast tracts of land by wealthier, food-insecure nations and private investors from mostly poor, developing countries in order to produce crops for export. Because an estimated 90 percent of the world's arable land is already in use, the search for more has led to the countries least touched by development, those in Africa. And then there's Big Ag.

The G-8 recently pledged $20 billion in aid to promote food security in Africa, but biotech-friendly advisers in the current administration are most likely to direct those funds to multinational corporations promoting biotechnologies and land acquisition. These strategies have proven to further African resource extraction and to impoverish the real basis of food security—investment in Africa's small farmers.

8. Massacre in Peru over USFTA

On World Environment Day, June 5, 2009, Peruvian Amazon Indians were massacred by the government of Alán García in the latest chapter of a long war to take over common lands—a war unleashed by the signing of the Free Trade Agreement between Peru and the United States.

The government claimed days after the clash that 11 indigenous were dead as well as 23 police agents. The indigenous organizations reported 50 dead among their ranks and up to 400 disappeared. While accounts differ, what is certain is that the government sent the armed forces to evict a peaceful protest that had been going on for 57 days in five jungle regions.

9. Human rights abuses in Palestine

The Human Sciences Research Council of South Africa has released a study indicating that Israel is practicing both colonialism and apartheid in the occupied Palestinian territories. The team found that Israel's policy and practices violate the prohibition on colonialism, which the international community developed in the 1960s.

Israel's policy is demonstrably to fragment the West Bank and annex part of it permanently to Israel. The team also found that Israel's laws and policies in the Occupied Palestinian Territories fit the definition of apartheid in the International Convention on the Suppression and Punishment of the Crime of Apartheid. Israeli law conveys privileges to Jewish settlers and disadvantages Palestinians in the same territory on the basis of their respective racial identities. Amnesty International has additionally uncovered Israel's monopoly on water in the occupied West Bank, accusing Israel of denying Palestinians the right to adequate water access.

10. U.S. funds and supports the Taliban

American tax dollars end up paying members of the Taliban and fund a volatile environment in Afghanistan. U.S. security contractors, as well as countless other private American corporations, cannot provide the safety they are paid to provide, so they pay suspected insurgents to protect U.S. supply routes. Concurrently, U.S. soldiers pay at checkpoints run by suspected insurgents in order to get safe passage.

Thus an estimated 10 percent of the Pentagon's logistics contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars are paid to insurgents as the U.S. government funds the very forces American troops are fighting. Such funding, along with rumors of American helicopters ferrying Taliban members in Afghanistan, has led to widespread distrust of American forces.

To read the full texts of each of the most underreported stories compiled this year and to see all citations, go to www.projectcensored.org.


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