The Year’s Ten Best Censored Stories

Have you heard the story about corporations planning to charge you hundreds of dollars a month for your tap water? Or the one about Pentagon ‘psychological operations’ specialists manipulating CNN viewers? What about the highly skilled technicians in Silicon Valley who, because they are immigrants, labor under sweatshop conditions?

These were three of this year’s ‘Top Ten Censored Stories,’ according to Project Censored, a Sonoma, California, media watchdog group that tracks important stories underreported or blacked out by the mainstream press.

While few mainstream news organizations practice overt, top-down censorship,

stories that don’t capture a large audience, are too expensive to research, or might offend advertisers and investors often end up on the newsroom floor. Reporters and editors quickly learn to play by the narrow rules of the game and to keep their stories within a certain range of ideas and topics. On top of this self-censorship, the relentless pace of mainstream news outlets rarely allows for anything more than simplified treatment of complex subjects.

‘We must redevelop news and information systems from the bottom up,’ writes Peter Phillips, Project Censored’s director and a journalism professor at Sonoma State University. ‘Thousands of alternative news organizations already exist. We just need to . . . put their news on the breakfast tables of millions of working people.’

1.Multinational Corporations Seek to Privatize Water

Jim Shultz, In These Times and This Magazine; Maude Barlow, International Forum on Globalization; Vandana Shiva, Canadian Dimension; Daniel Zoll and Pratap Chatterjee, San Francisco Bay Guardian

Global water consumption has in-creased by 25 percent over the past 20 years, and by 2025 the demand is expected to far exceed the amount of fresh water currently available. For multinational companies, it’s a business opportunity. Monsanto corporation, for example, is aggressively marketing its water business in India and Mexico.

But opposition is rising. Attempts to privatize the local water system of Cochabamba, Bolivia, provoked mass strikes that injured hundreds and shut down the city of 600,000 for a week.

2.OSHA Can’t Protect Workers

Christopher Cook, The Progressive

Cook’s broad indictment of OSHA, the Occupational Safety and Health Administration, details one particularly egregious scandal but also examines the agency’s woefully insufficient budget and staff. With a mere 2,300 inspectors to cover 105 million workers in 6.9 million workplaces, he notes, it would take OSHA 110 years to inspect each facility under its jurisdiction even once.

And when the agency does find safety violations, the fines it imposes are laughable. Titan International, the manufacturing company Cook profiles, paid a $10,000 fine after its equipment, which illegally lacked crucial safety features, killed a worker.

3.Army Propaganda Team Joins CNN News

Alexander Cockburn, Counter Punch

The corporate media have long relied on government spinmeisters to help report the news during times of war. The military’s ‘psychological operations’ groups provide inside information to media outlets, who are spared the energy and expense of original reporting. But during the Kosovo War, the military actually stationed army psy-ops personnel as interns at CNN’s TV, radio, and satellite bureaus, where they helped report the news.

Later, in a closed-door army symposium, a psy-ops commander said the cooperation with CNN was a textbook example of the kind of ties the American Army wants to have with the media.

4.Did the U.S. Deliberately Bomb the Chinese Embassy in Belgrade?

Joel Bleifuss and Seth Ackerman, In These Times; Yoichi Shimatsu, Pacific News Service

On May 7, 1999, U.S. fighter pilots bombed the Chinese embassy in Belgrade, killing three people and creating an international crisis. The Clinton administration apologized and called it a ‘tragic mistake’ resulting from an outdated map. But five months later, reports in The Observer of London and Copenhagen’s Politiken alleged that the CIA had coordinated the attack in order to destroy a Yugoslavian army rebroadcast center housed in the embassy. Secretary of State Madeleine Albright dismissed the allegations as ‘balderdash,’ and both stories were ignored by mainstream U.S. news outlets.

5.Our Taxes Subsidize Nuke Plants Overseas

Ken Silverstein and Ian Urbina, The Progressive

Between 1959 and 1993, the U.S. Export-Import Bank, a government agency that underwrites exports through taxpayer-backed loans, spent $7.7 billion to help sell American-made nuclear reactors overseas. U.S. contractors like Westinghouse, Bechtel, and General Electric, who have watched home markets shrink as nuclear power proved to be a risky investment, searched for clients abroad. Since most countries can’t afford to buy nuclear power facilities, the contractors often provide financing backed by the Ex-Im Bank–and you.

In 1985 Westinghouse built the $1.2 billion Bataan nuclear power facility in the Philippines, which was situated near an active volcano and never generated a single watt of energy. Nevertheless, the Philippines pays $300,000 a day in interest on the loan that funded the project. CBS–which is owned by Westinghouse–never covered the story.

6.America’s Role in the Rwanda Genocide

David Corn,; Ellen Ray, Covert Action Quarterly

A modest news story in The New York Times noting that the Organization for African Unity issued a report critical of the United States for its handling the 1994 Rwandan genocide spurred columnist David Corn to dig deeper. ‘The report demolished the Clinton assertion that he had not been fully aware of the genocide when it had been under way,’ Corn revealed.

7.Biotech Industry Successfully Crushes Its Critics

Joel Bleifuss, In These Times; Karen Charman, Extra!; Ben Lilliston, Multinational Monitor

In 1998 Hungarian researcher Árpád Pusztai found that genetically engineered (GE) potatoes seemed to cause sickness and poor brain development in rats. Offering these findings to the press, he was quickly fired by his employer, the Rowett Research Institute; his research team was disbanded and his data were seized. It later came out that Rowett had a $224,000 grant from biotech giant Monsanto.

8.How Drug Companies Influence Doctors to Push Meds

Stephen Pomper, Washington Monthly; Ken Silverstein,; David Oaks, Dendron; Jacqueline Sparks Miller, Scott Miller, Barry Duncan, Family Therapy Networker

Pharmaceutical companies are spending billions each year to influence doctors to prescribe pills as well as bankrolling ‘patients’ groups to advocate on the companies’ behalf. Stephen Pomper describes how an accelerated FDA drug approval process, combined with too few experts to monitor reports of problems with drugs already on the market, leaves millions of patients vulnerable. The risk to public health increases when pharmaceutical companies ply doctors with incentives to push the latest medications.

9.EPA Planned to Dump Toxic Waste into Denver Sewers

Will Fantle, The Progressive

A year ago, the city of Denver planned to ‘clean’ the nearby Lowry Superfund site by pumping radioactive waste through the city’s sewer system and selling the sludge to agribusiness operations for use as fertilizer on crops grown for human consumption.

The local Environmental Protection Agency office said there’s no credible evidence of dangerous levels of radioactive waste at the site, but a group headed by local law professor Adrienne Anderson convinced 7,000 citizens to sign a petition that prompted the EPA’s inspector general to call for an investigation of the proposed cleanup methods. Unfortunately, the plan is now slated to proceed. The Denver Post and the Rocky Mountain News have devoted little coverage to the issue–maybe because for many years their companies contributed their own toxic waste to Lowry.

10.Silicon Valley Sweatshops

David Bacon, Labor Notes and Washington Free Press

It’s not just unskilled immigrants who find themselves working under harsh conditions. Many highly trained foreign technicians working in the Silicon Valley under special H1-B visas do not have the legal protection to sue for unfair treatment, organize a union, or even demand the salaries they are promised.

Kim Singh, for example, received an H1-B visa for a software engineering job. Upon arriving from India, he worked for a Silicon Valley company that withheld 25 percent of his and other immigrant workers’ salaries. At his second Silicon Valley job, he worked seven days a week with no overtime compensation and discovered that only H1-B workers were required to work weekends. Not surprisingly, high-tech companies have lobbied Congress to lift the cap on such visas.

Compiled by Tate Hausman, Don Hazen, Tamara Straus, and Kathrynn M. Fish. From AlterNet news service (April 9, 2001).

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