Wednesday, March 25, 2009

Project Censored Validated Independent News: Stories Under Review

Here are some stories currently under review at Media Freedom Foundation and Project Censored as compiled by the Director, Dr. Peter Phillips.

These are validated independent news stories ignored, distorted, or undercovered by the corporate mainstream media. This is part of a new and ongoing role Project Censored is playing in reporting valid news, vetted by college and university students and professors, and making the stories available to the public.

*The United States is operating secret “floating prisons” to house those arrested in its war on terror. According to human rights lawyers, the US has also attempted to conceal the number and whereabouts of detainees. Reprieve, a human right’s organization, claims there have been more than 200 new cases of rendition since 2006 and that the US may have used as many as 17 ships as “floating prisons” since 2001. Detainees are interrogated aboard the vessels and then rendered to other, often undisclosed, locations, it is claimed. By its own admission, the US government is currently detaining at least 26,000 people without trial in secret prisons, and information suggests up to 80,000 have been ‘through the system’ since 2001.

*In October of 2008, over 5,000 U.S. physicians signed an open letter calling on the President and Congress "to stand up for the health of the American people and implement a nonprofit, single-payer national health insurance system." The letter follows a survey last spring that shows 59 percent of U.S. physicians support national health insurance, The letter argues that whereas most leading Democrats offer a “mandate model” of reform—under which the government would require people (or their employers) to buy private health insurance—this would merely augment the role and profits of private insurers, whose overhead is four times that of Medicare’s Dr. Oliver Fein, signer of the letter, comments that the single-payer approach provides care to all who need it and requires no new money.

*The Guardian in London has compiled detailed evidence of alleged war crimes committed by Israel during the 23-day offensive in the Gaza Strip earlier this year, involving the use of Palestinian children as human shields and the targeting of medics and hospitals.

A month-long investigation also obtained evidence of civilians being hit by fire from unmanned drone aircraft said to be so accurate that their operators can tell the color of the clothes worn by a target.

Some of the most dramatic testimony gathered by the Guardian came from three teenage brothers in the al-Attar family. They describe how they were taken from home at gunpoint, made to kneel in front of Israeli tanks to deter Hamas fighters from firing, and sent by Israeli soldiers into Palestinian houses to clear them.

Medics and ambulance drivers said they were targeted when they tried to tend to the wounded; sixteen were killed. According to the World Health Organization, more than half of Gaza's 27 hospitals and 44 clinics were damaged by Israeli bombs.

The Geneva convention makes it clear medical staff and hospitals are not legitimate targets and forbids involuntary human shields.

*Two-thirds of U.S. corporations paid no federal income taxes between 1998 and 2005, according to a new report from Congress. According to the Government Accounting Organization more than 38,000 foreign corporations doing business in the U.S. had no tax liability in 2005 and 1.2 million U.S. companies paid no income tax as well. Combined, the companies had $2.5 trillion in sales. About 25 percent of the U.S. corporations not paying corporate taxes were considered large corporations, meaning they had at least $250 million in assets or $50 million in receipts.

Source: Most Companies In US Avoid Federal Income Taxes GAO, Common Dreams, 8/12/08

*The US Navy reactivated the Fourth Fleet after fifty-eight years so that it could begin patrolling Latin American waters in what the Department of Defense said was an effort to combat terrorism, drug trafficking and other activities. The presidents of both Bolivia and Venezuela have stated that they see the reestablishment of the fleet as a new sign of aggression toward their governments and the region.

In 2009, the Ecuadorian government will not renew Washington’s permit to operate in Manta, which is the US’s only permanent military base in South America. The fleet provides a floating base for US interventions throughout the continent.

*Chinese citizens will be watched around the clock through networked CCTV cameras and remote monitoring of computers which are provided by American corporations. This high tech surveillance and censorship program is known in China as “Golden Shield”. American giants like IBM, Honeywell and General Electric supply the technology. Their end goal is to use the latest in people tracking technology to create an airtight consumer cocoon - a place where consumerism can be enjoyed without the threat of democracy breaking out.

*In 1989, Congress passed legislation barring U.S. companies from selling any products in China that have to do with "crime control or detection instruments or equipment.” However, while fingerprinting technology appears on the Commerce Department's list of banned products, there is no explicit mention of "face prints",

*A study by Center for Responsive Politics has found that special interests paid Washington lobbyists $3.2 billion in 2008, more than any other year on record. This was a 13.7 percent increase over 2007. The Center calculated that interest groups spent $17.4 million a day lobbying Congress in 2008. 

For the third straight year, pharmaceutical/health interests spent more on federal lobbying than any other economic sector--$478.5 million. The second-biggest spender among industries in 2008 was electric utilities, which spent $156.7 million on lobbying. Third was insurance interests at $153.2 million, and oil and gas companies paid lobbyists $133.2 million. Pro-Israel groups, food processing companies and the oil and gas industry increased their lobbying expenditures the most (as a percentage) between 2007 and 2008.

*A highly controversial report pushing for the building of a peripheral canal on the California Delta was funded in part by Bechtel Corporation. Bechtel is one of the world's largest engineering and construction firms and is a leading advocate of the privatization of water systems. The Public Policy Institute of California (PPIC) report recommends the construction of a peripheral canal.

*Central Valley chinook salmon and Delta fish populations are in a state of collapse, largely due to massive increases in water exports from the Delta in recent years. A broad coalition of recreational anglers, commercial fishermen, Delta farmers, Indian Tribes and environmentalists are opposed to the peripheral canal because it would result in the diversion of more water from the Delta and further exacerbate the current fishery collapses.

*Matthew Rothschild with the Progressive magazine writes that President Obama needs to tell Attorney General Eric Holder to indict Dick Cheney, right now, for war crimes.

Title 18 of the U.S. Criminal Code, Section 2441 makes it illegial for a person to commit, or conspire to commit, an act specifically intended to inflict severe physical or mental pain or suffering . . . upon another person within his custody or physical control for the purpose of obtaining information or a confession, punishment, intimidation, coercion, or any reason…”

Cheney was clearly in on, as when he repeatedly defended waterboarding and talked about the need to go to the "dark side" Cheney was supervising such treatment in the White House, which would qualify as committing this crime.

For each of these offenses, Cheney could receive life in prison, according to the statute.

"There is no longer any doubt as to whether the Bush administration has committed war crimes," said Major General Antonio Taguba, USA (Ret.), "The only question that remains to be answered is whether those who ordered the use of torture will be held to account."

More Sources for above stories:

Washington Lobbying Grew to $3.2 Billion Last Year, Despite Economy Center for Responsive Politics, Open, January 29, 2009

Source: The Guardian (U.K.) March 23, 2009 - updated March 24, 2009

Source: China's All-Seeing Eye Naomi Klein, Rolling Stone, May 29, 2008

Bechtel and the Big Dig Dan Bacher, CounterPunch , 7/22/2008

Source: Fourth Fleet Threatens Peace, Democracy in Latin America Jose A. Cruz, People’s Weekly World Newspaper, 6/6/2008

The Return of the Fourth Fleet BBC 5/10/2008

Source: US Accused of Holding Terror Suspects on Prison Ships Duncan Campbell and Richard Norton-Taylor, Guardian/UK, June 2, 2008

5,000 Doctors Challenge Private-Insurance System Staff Writers, Kansas City InfoZine, October 8, 2008

Text of Letter to President Obama for single payer national health insurance.

Tuesday, March 17, 2009

Bush/Cheney Mission Accomplished Redux: 6th Anniversary Early Edition

Iraq by the numbers...


More Specifics

One million dead Iraqis, four million refugees, almost 5,000 US soldiers dead and another 35,000 wounded Americans with hundreds of thousands applying for VA benefits...a bankrupt economy and a $3.2 trillion war. Blame the new guy. Mission Accomplished.

Juan Cole, Professor of History at the University of Michigan, recently remarked upon former Vice President Dick Cheney's glowing assessment of the Bush administration's accomplishments in Iraq. See his analysis from Informed Comment published here (and see below). It's amazing how history can be rewritten in real time by political actors and validated by a compliant, corporate, lap dog press. Cheney's stuff happens approach to history is stunningly self serving and naive at best, rank propaganda and blatant lies at worst. All the more reason we should listen more to Prof. Cole's commentary and others like him. America has seen enough of this kind of deception and Orwellian revisionism in the 21st century already. Winston Smith would blush...

Cheney's Mission Accomplished
by Juan Cole

Dick Cheney: "I guess my general sense of where we are with respect to Iraq and at the end of now, what, nearly six years, is that we've accomplished nearly everything we set out to do...."

What has Dick Cheney really accomplished in Iraq?

An estimated 4 million Iraqis, out of 27 million, have been displaced from their homes, that is, made homeless. Some 2.7 million are internally displaced inside Iraq. A couple hundred thousand are cooling their heels in Jordan. And perhaps a million are quickly running out of money and often living in squalid conditions in Syria. Cheney's war has left about 15% of Iraqis homeless inside the country or abroad. That would be like 45 million American thrown out of their homes.

It is controversial how many Iraqis died as a result of the 2003 invasion and its aftermath. But it seems to me that a million extra dead, beyond what you would have expected from a year 2000 baseline, is entirely plausible. The toll is certainly in the hundreds of thousands. Cheney did not kill them all. The Lancet study suggested that the US was directly responsible for a third of all violent deaths since 2003. That would be as much as 300,000 that we killed. The rest, we only set in train their deaths by our invasion.

Baghdad has been turned from a mixed city, about half of its population Shiite and the other half Sunni in 2003, into a Shiite city where the Sunni population may be as little as ten to fifteen percent. From a Sunni point of view, Cheney's war has resulted in a Shiite (and Iranian) take-over of the Iraqi capital, long a symbol of pan-Arabism and anti-imperialism.

In the Iraqi elections, Shiite fundamentalist parties closely allied with Iran came to power. The Islamic Supreme Council of Iraq, the leading party in parliament, was formed by Iraqi expatriates at the behest of Ayatollah Khomeini in 1982 in Tehran. The Islamic Mission (Da'wa) Party is the oldest ideological Shiite party working for an Islamic state. It helped form Hizbullah in Beirut in the early 1980s. It has supplied both prime ministers elected since 2005. Fundamentalist Shiites shaped the constitution, which forbids the civil legislature to pass legislation that contravenes Islamic law. Dissidents have accused the new Iraqi government of being an Iranian puppet.

Arab-Kurdish violence is spiking in the north, endangering the Obama withdrawal plan and, indeed, the whole of Iraq, not to mention Syria, Turkey and Iran.

Hundreds of thousands of Iraqi women have been widowed by the war and its effects, leaving most without a means of support. Iraqi widows often lack access to clean water and electricity. Aljazeera English has video.

$32 billion were wasted on Iraq reconstruction, and most of it cannot even be traced. I repeat, Cheney gave away $32 bn. to anonymous cronies in such a way that we can't even be sure who stole it, exactly. And you are angry at AIG about $400 mn. in bonuses! We are talking about $32 billion given out in brown paper bags.

Political power is being fragmented in Iraq with big spikes in the murder rate in some provinces that may reflect faction-fighting and vendettas in which the Iraqi military is loathe to get involved.

The Iraqi economy is devastated, and the new government's bureaucracy and infighting have made it difficult to attract investors.

The Bush-Cheney invasion helped further destabilize the Eastern Mediterranean, setting in play Kurdish nationalism and terrifying Turkey. Cheney avoids mentioning all the human suffering he has caused, on a cosmic scale, and focuses on procedural matters like elections (which he confuses with democracy-- given 2000 in this country, you can understand why). Or he lies, as when he says that Iran's influence in Iraq has been blocked. Another lie is that there was that the US was fighting "al-Qaeda" in Iraq as opposed to just Iraqis. He and Bush even claim that they made Iraqi womens' lives better.

The real question is whether anyone will have the gumption to put Cheney on trial for treason and crimes against humanity.

© 2009 Juan Cole
Juan Cole teaches Middle Eastern and South Asian history at the University of Michigan. His most recent book Napoleon's Egypt: Invading the Middle East (New York: Palgrave Macmillan, 2007) has just been published. He has appeared widely on television, radio and on op-ed pages as a commentator on Middle East affairs, and has a regular column at He has written, edited, or translated 14 books and has authored 60 journal articles. His weblog on the contemporary Middle East is Informed Comment.

Monday, March 16, 2009

The New American Censorship

Much has been afoot these few months of 2009. We are now not only promoting Censored 2009, but writing Censored 2010.

For starters, and why I am not writing here as often, you can see the Project Censored blog at Daily Censored news. The Director of Project Censored, Dr. Peter Phillips, and I have been giving several talks about the future of Project Censored International and the Media Freedom Foundation across the US.

We have also posted more investigative research at the Project Censored website, including the study I did with Dr. Paul Rea on 9/11 media myth making titled Deconstructing Deceit. It can also be seen here. We need to generate a healthy climate of debate in the US, and here is a fine topic to begin such a quest.

Stay tuned for more...we're getting ready to choose the top censored stories at Project Censored, the top Junk Food News and News Abuse stories, and finish more investigative research about media censorship issues.


P.S. Just in case, yesterday, March 15th, you were supposed to Beware the Ides of March. Hope all is well...