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Sunday, January 29, 2006 

Top 10 Censored News Stories of 2005

Some of these stories, I have mentioned in previous diaries like the Iranian Oil Bourse, the 2005 Election Irregularities and the use of White Phosperous and other crimes against humanity in Fallujah but - some are pretty new to me. I was unaware of the US deal with Jordon in the Oil for Food Scandal and I am interested in more info on the threats to Iraqi Farmers from the multinational food corporations. (Sidenote: I presented at a conference once and I was seated next to this nice gentleman from Cargill, we exchanged cards: His was Vice President of the Western Hemisphere! Mine was not so impressive.)

Numbers 11-25 are also very interesting, I especially look forward to reading #19 Child Wards of State used In Aids Experiments and #25 Homeland Security was Designed to Fail. Follow the links for references and the complete article, buy the book for extensive info on each subject.

Anyways, these stories are always interesting and cover a wide range of topics. I read an issue during the Clinton Admin and they were just as harsh, although much more focused on US foreign policy than internal. Here they are:
1. White House Erodes Open Government

While the White House has expanded its ability to keep tabs on civilians, it's been working to curtail the ability of the public—and even Congress—to find out what the government is doing. One year ago, Rep. Henry A. Waxman, D-Calif., released an 81-page analysis of how the administration has administered the country's major open government laws. The report found that the feds consistently "narrowed the scope and application" of the Freedom of Information Act, the Presidential Records Act and other key public-information legislation, while expanding laws blocking access to certain records—even creating new categories of "protected" information and exempting entire departments from public scrutiny. When those methods haven't been enough, the administration has simply refused to release records—even when requested by a congressional subcommittee or the Government Accountability Office. Given the news media's interest in safeguarding open government laws, one wonders why these findings weren't publicized far and wide.


2. Media Coverage on Iraq: Fallujah and the Civilian Death Toll

The civilized world may well look back on the assaults on Fallujah in 2004 as examples of utter disregard for the most basic wartime rules of engagement. U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour called for an investigation into whether the Americans and their allies had engaged in "the deliberate targeting of civilians, indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks, the killing of injured persons, and the use of human shields," among other possible "grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions" considered war crimes under federal law. More than 83 percent of Fallujah's 300,000 residents fled the city. Men between the ages of 15 and 45 were refused safe passage, and all who remained—about 50,000—were treated as enemy combatants. Numerous sources reported that coalition forces cut off water and electricity, shot at anyone who ventured out into the open, executed families waving white flags while trying to swim across the Euphrates, shot at ambulances, and allowed corpses to rot in the streets and be eaten by dogs. Medical staff reported seeing people with melted faces and limbs, injuries consistent with the use of phosphorous bombs. But you likely know little of this as the media hardly mentioned it.


3. Distorted Election Coverage

The mainstream media largely ignored evidence that electronic voting machines were susceptible to tampering and downplayed political alliances between the machines' manufacturers and the Bush administration. Then came Nov. 2, 2004. President Bush prevailed by 3 million votes—despite exit polls that projected John Kerry winning by a margin of 5 million. "Exit polls are highly accurate," wrote Professor Steve Freeman of the University of Pennsylvania's Center for Organizational Dynamics in an article co-authored with statistician Josh Mitteldorf of Temple University. "They remove most of the sources of potential polling error by identifying actual voters and asking them immediately afterward who they had voted for." The discrepancy of 8 million votes was well beyond the poll's recognized margin of error of less than one percent. The official result deviated by more than five percent, which is considered a statistical impossibility. Freeman and Mitteldorf analyzed the data and found that "only in precincts that used old-fashioned, hand-counted paper ballots did the official count and the exit polls fall within the normal sampling margin of error." The discrepancy between the exit polls and the official count was considerably greater in the critical swing states.


4. Surveillance Society Quietly Moves In

It's a well-known dirty trick in the halls of government: If you want to pass unpopular legislation that you know won't stand up to scrutiny, just wait until the public isn't looking. That's precisely what the White House did Dec. 13, 2003, the day American troops captured Saddam Hussein. President Bush celebrated the occasion by privately signing into law the Intelligence Authorization Act—a controversial expansion of the PATRIOT Act that included items culled from the "Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003," a draft proposal that had been shelved due to a public outcry after being leaked. Specifically, the IAA allows the government to obtain an individual's financial records without a court order. The law also makes it illegal for institutions to inform anyone that the government has requested those records, or that information has been shared with the authorities. The law also broadens the definition of "financial institution" to include insurance companies, travel and real estate agencies, stockbrokers, the U.S. Postal Service, jewelry stores, casinos, airlines, car dealerships, and any other business "whose cash transactions have a high degree of usefulness in criminal, tax or regulatory matters." In one fell swoop, this act has decimated our rights to privacy, due process, and freedom of speech.


5. U.S. Uses Tsunami to Military Advantage in Southeast Asia

The American people reacted to the tsunami that hit the Indian Ocean last December with an outpouring of compassion and private donations. Across the nation, neighbors got together to collect food, clothing, medicine and financial contributions. The White House initially offered an embarrassingly low $15 million in aid. More importantly, the government exploited the catastrophe to its own strategic advantage. Establishing a stronger military presence in the area could help the United States keep closer tabs on China. It could also fortify an important military launching ground and help consolidate control over potentially lucrative trade routes. The United States currently operates a base out of Diego Garcia—a former British mandate about halfway between Africa and Indonesia, but the lease runs out in 2016. Consequently, in the name of relief, the U.S. revived the Utapao military base in Thailand it had used during the Vietnam War and reactivated its military cooperation agreements with Thailand and the Visiting Forces Agreement with the Philippines.


6. The Real Oil for Food Scam

The United Nations allegedly allowed Saddam Hussein to rake in $10 billion in illegal cash through the Oil for Food program. New York Times columnist William Safire referred to the alleged U.N. con game as "the richest rip-off in world history." According to the GAO, Hussein smuggled $6 billion worth of oil out of Iraq—most of it through the Persian Gulf. Yet most of the oil that left Iraq by land did so through Jordan and Turkey—with the approval of the United States. The first Bush administration informally exempted Jordan from the ban on purchasing Iraqi oil—an arrangement that provided Hussein with $4.4 billion over 10 years, according to the CIA's own findings. The U.S. later allowed Iraq to leak another $710 million worth of oil through Turkey, all while U.S. planes enforcing no-fly zones flew overhead. Scott Ritter, a U.N. weapons inspector in Iraq during the first six years of economic sanctions against the country, unearthed yet another scam: The United States allegedly allowed an oil company run by Russian foreign minister Yevgeny Primakov's sister to purchase cheap oil from Iraq and resell it to U.S. companies at market value—purportedly earning Hussein "hundreds of millions" more.


7. Journalists Face Unprecedented Dangers to Life and Livelihood

Last year was the deadliest year for reporters since the International Federation of Journalists began keeping tabs in 1984. A total of 129 media workers lost their lives, and 49 of them—more than a third—were killed in Iraq. As far as anyone has yet proved, no commanding officer ever ordered a subordinate to fire on journalists. But what can be shown is a pattern of tacit complicity, side by side with a heavy-handed campaign to curb journalists' right to roam freely. The Pentagon has refused to implement basic safeguards to protect journalists who aren't embedded with coalition forces, despite repeated requests by Reuters and media-advocacy organizations. To date, U.S. authorities have not disciplined a single officer or soldier involved in the killing of a journalist. Meanwhile, the interim government the United States installed in Iraq raided and closed down Al-Jazeera's Baghdad offices almost as soon as it took power and banned the network from doing any reporting in the country. In November, the interim government ordered news organizations to "stick to the government line on the U.S.-led offensive in Fallujah or face legal action," in an official command sent out on interim prime minister Eyad Allawi's letterhead.


8. Iraqi Farmers Threatened By US Mandates

Historians believe it was in the "fertile crescent" where Iraq now lies, that humans first learned to farm. "It is here...that mankind first domesticated wheat," wrote Jeremy Smith in the Ecologist. "The U.S., however, has decided that Iraqis don't know what wheat works best in their own conditions." Smith was referring to Order 81, penned by Paul Bremer, the U.S. administrator in Iraq, and left as a legacy by the American government when it transferred operations to interim Iraqi authorities. The regulation sets criteria for the patenting of seeds that can only be met by multinational companies like Monsanto or Syngenta, and it grants the patent holder exclusive rights over every aspect of all plant products yielded by those seeds. The new scheme effectively launches a process whereby Iraqi farmers will soon have to purchase their seeds rather than using seeds saved from their own crops or bought at the local market. Native varieties will be replaced by foreign—and genetically engineered—seeds. Order 81 fit nicely into the outlines of a U.S. "Economy Plan," a 101-page blueprint for the economic makeover of Iraq, formulated with ample help from corporate lobbyists. BBC journalist Greg Palast reported that someone inside the State Department leaked the plan to him a month prior to the invasion. Smith put it simply: "The people whose forefathers first mastered the domestication of wheat will now have to pay for the privilege of growing it for someone else. And with that, the world's oldest farming heritage will become just another subsidiary link in the vast American supply chain."


9. Iran’s New Oil Trade System Challenges U.S. Currency

The Bush administration has been paying a lot more attention to Iran recently. Part of that interest is clearly Iran's nuclear program—but there may be more to the story. One bit of news that hasn't received the public attention it merits is Iran's declared intent to open an international oil exchange market, or "bourse." Not only would the new entity compete against the New York Mercantile Exchange and London's International Petroleum Exchange (both owned by American corporations), but it would also ignite international oil trading in euros. A shift away from U.S. dollars to euros in the oil market would cause the demand for petrodollars to drop, perhaps causing the value of the dollar to plummet. Russia, Venezuela and some members of OPEC have expressed interest in moving towards a petroeuro system. And it isn't entirely implausible that China, which is the world's second largest holder of U.S. currency reserves, might eventually follow suit. Barring a U.S. attack, it appears imminent that Iran's euro-dominated oil bourse will open in March 2006. Logically, the most appropriate U.S. strategy is compromise with the EU and OPEC towards a dual-currency system for international oil trades. But you won't hear any discussion of that alternative on the 6 o'clock news.


10. Mountaintop Removal Threatens Ecosystem and Economy

On Aug. 15, environmental activists created a human blockade by locking themselves to drilling equipment, obstructing the National Coal Corp.'s access to a strip mine in the Appalachian Mountains 40 miles north of Knoxville, Tenn. It was just the latest in a protracted campaign that environmentalists say has national implications, but that's been ignored by the media outside the immediate area. Under contention is a technique wherein entire mountaintops are removed to access the coal underneath—a practice that is nothing short of devastating for the local ecosystem, but which could become much more widespread. As it stands, 93 new coal plants are in the works nationwide. Areas incredibly rich in biodiversity are being turned into the biological equivalent of parking lots. Is this the final solution for 200-million-year-old mountains?

Visit the Top 25 Project Censored news stories and/or Order the book "Censored 2006" here for full news stories


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Thank you for bringing these stories to the attention of many blog readers.
Bremer's mandates must be published in a book.
And then we will know the true nature of this invasion.

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