feature
October 09, 2009

 

 

 

The Top Censored Stories of 2008-09
Edited by Peter Phillips and Mickey Huff

The Censored 2010 yearbook, featuring the twenty-five most important censored news stories of 2008-09 as selected by Project Censored, is now available. Project Censored was the winner of the 2008 PEN Oakland Censorship Award.

Censored 2010 provides over 400 pages of media criticism and analysis from dozens of researchers and academics with assistance from students on nine college and university campuses.

“It is the most comprehensive yearbook we have ever released,” said Peter Phillips, recent past director of Project Censored. After thirteen yearbooks, Dr. Phillips turned over the directorship of Project Censored in the summer of 2009 to Ben Frymer assistant professor of Liberal Studies at Sonoma State University. Dr. Frymer will continue the thirty-four year tradition of researching and publishing the most important news stories not covered by the corporate media in the United States.

“We are carrying on the research started by our founder Dr. Carl Jensen in 1976,” stated Dr. Frymer. Carl Jenson celebrated his 80th birthday this year and remains active on the non-profit board of directors of the Media Freedom Foundation — the 502-C-3 fund-raising organization for Project Censored. (http://www.mediafreedominternational.org)

Also featured this year in Censored 2010, is the annual Déjà vu chapter with updates on the most significant news stories still not covered in the corporate media from previous years; the Junk Food News chapter addressing the most frivolous news stories that were covered in the media such as Michael Phelps smoking of an illegal substance and the presidential first puppy; and a special chapter on the positive news stories of hope and citizen activism so often left out of our corporate media.

Censored 2010 welcomes back the biting political cartoons of Khalil Bendib and contributions from Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting’s annual Fear and Favor review, the Center for Media and Democracy’s special report on Pentagon propaganda, and the annual international report form the London based Index on Censorship.

“We are honored to have international independent journalist Dahr Jamail provide a strong introduction to this year’s book,” said Mickey Huff co-editor. “Jamail has won numerous awards for his work on the Middle-East and represents one of the best examples of independent investigative reporting in this decade,” added Huff.

As Peter Phillip’s final yearbook, Censored 2010 address many of the criticisms regarding Project Censored efforts over the past fourteen years.

“We take on the long time critics who claim that Project Censored is a left-leaning organization,” said Dr. Phillips. “Nothing could be further from the truth. Why stories about the powerful in government and big business are left leaning is beyond our understanding. It seems that this is just good journalism — the journalism that is missing in the corporate media — it could just as well be middle-leaning journalism or right-leaning journalism.

“Project Censored supports the news stories that hold the powerful in society accountable for their decisions and actions, which is what a free press is supposed to do.” Phillips added.

Phillips was the 2009 recipient of the Dallas Smythe Award from the Union for Democratic Communications.

Chapters in Censored 2010 include topics on the Truth Emergency in the US, the hyper-reality of television news, election fraud in 2008, issues from the World Water Forum, human trafficking, lesbian and gay standpoint films, and the importance of expanding investigative research to support media democracy. Authors of these chapters include academics and media researchers Brad Friedman, Aashika Damodor, Andrew Roth, James Dean and Andrew Hobbs.  

The Top Censored Stories of 2008 and 2009

1. US Congress Sells Out to Wall Street

Sources: Truthout, October 2, 2008 Title: “Lax Oversight? Maybe $64 Million to DC Pols Explains It” Author: Greg Gordon; Capitol Eye, February 10, 2009 Title: “Congressmen Hear from TARP Recipients Who Funded Their Campaigns” Author: Lindsay Renick Mayer; Rolling Stone, March 19, 2009 Title: “The Big Takeover” Author: Matt Taibbi. Student Researchers: Jocelyn Rapp, Indian River State College Caitlin Ruxton, Sonoma State University. Faculty Evaluators: Samual Mikhail PhD Economics, Indian River State College Chip McAuley, PhD, Sonoma State University.

Federal lawmakers responsible for overseeing the US economy have received millions of dollars from Wall Street firms. Since 2001, eight of the most troubled firms have donated $64.2 million to congressional candidates, presidential candidates and the Republican and Democratic parties. As senators, Barack Obama and John McCain received a combined total of $3.1 million. The donors include investment bankers Bear Stearns, Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, Morgan Stanley, insurer American International Group, and mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.


2.US Schools are More Segregated Today than in the 1950s

Source: The Civil Rights Project, UCLA, January 2009 Title: “Reviving the Goal of an Integrated Society: A 21st Century Challenge” Author: Gary Orfield. Student Researchers: Rena Hawkins, Southwest Minnesota State University and Melissa Robinson at Sonoma state University. Faculty Evaluator: Sangeeta Sinha, Ph D, Southwest Minnesota State University.

Schools in the United States are more segregated today than they have been in more than four decades. Millions of non-white students are locked into “dropout factory” high schools, where huge percentages do not graduate, and few are well prepared for college or a future in the US economy.


3.Toxic Waste Behind Somali Pirates

Sources: Al Jazeera English, October 11, 2008 Title: “Toxic waste behind Somali piracy” Author: Najad Abdullahi; Huffington Post, January 4, 2009 Title: “You are being lied to about pirates” Author: Johann Hari; WardheerNews, January 8, 2009 Title: “The Two Piracies in Somalia: Why the World Ignores the Other” Author: Mohamed Abshir Waldo. Student Researcher: Christine Wilson Faculty Evaluator: Andre Bailey, EOP Advisor Sonoma State University.

The international community has come out in force to condemn and declare war on the Somali fishermen pirates, while discreetly protecting the illegal, unreported and unregulated (IUU) fleets from around the world that have been poaching and dumping toxic waste in Somali waters since the fall of the Somali government eighteen years ago.


4. Nuclear Waste Pools in North Carolina

Source: CounterPunch, August 9, 2008 Title: “Pools of Fire” Author: Jeffrey St. Clair. Student Researchers: Krisden Kidd and Karene Schelert. Faculty Evaluator: Heidi LaMoreaux, PhD Sonoma State University.

One of the most lethal patches of ground in North America is located in the backwoods of North Carolina, where Shearon Harris nuclear plant is housed and owned by Progress Energy. The plant contains the largest radioactive waste storage pools in the country.


5. Europe Blocks US Toxic Products

Sources: Scientific American, September 30, 2008 Title: “European Chemical Clampdown Reaches Across Atlantic” Author: David Biello; Environmental Defense Fund, September 30, 2008 Title: “How Europe’s New Chemical Rules Affect US”; Democracy Now! February 24, 2009 Title: “US Lags Behind Europe in Regulating Toxicity of Everyday Products” Author: Mark Schapiro. Student Researchers: Annie Sexton, Gwendolyn Brack, Hallie Fischer, Bernadette Gorman, Paige Henderson, Daryl Mowrey, and Taylor Prodromos at De Pauw University and Caitlin Ruxton, Sonoma State University. Faculty Evaluators: Jeanette Pope, Professor of Geology, DePauw University and Robert Girling, PhD, Sonoma State University.

US deregulation of toxic substances, such as lead in lipsticks, mercury in electronics, and phthalates (endocrine disruptors) in baby toys, may not only pose disastrous consequences to our health, but also to our economic and political status in the world. International markets are moving toward a European model of insisting on environmental and consumer safety. A European-led revolution in chemical regulation that requires that thousands of chemicals finally be assessed for their potentially toxic effects on human beings and the environment signals the end of American industry’s ability to withhold critical data from the public.


6. Lobbyists Buy Congress

Source: Open Secrets.org Title: “Washington Lobbying Grew to $3.2 Billion Last Year, Despite Economy” Authors: Center for Responsive Politics. Student Researchers: Alan Grady and Leora Johnson. Faculty Evaluator: John Kramer, PhD Sonoma State University.

According to a study by The Center for Responsive Politics, special interests paid Washington lobbyists $3.2 billion in 2008 — more than any other year on record. This was a 13.7 percent increase from 2007 (which broke the record by 7.7 percent over 2006).


7. Obama’s Military Appointments Have Corrupt Past

Sources: ConsortiumNews.com, November 13, 2008 Title: “The Danger of Keeping Robert Gates” Author: Robert Parry; Global Research, February 13, 2009 Title: “Obama’s Defense Department Appointees - The 3.4 Trillion Dollar Question” Author: Andrew Hughes; Democracy Now! January 7, 2009 Title: “Obama Nominee Admiral Dennis Blair Aided perpetrators of 1999 church Killings in East Timor” Interviewee: Allan Nairn; The Hill, November 24, 2008 Title: “Ties to Chevron, Boeing Raise Concern on Possible NSA Pick” Author: Roxana Tiron. Student Researcher: Chris McManus. Faculty Evaluator: Diana Grant, PhD Sonoma State University.

Obama’s retention of Robert Gates as Secretary of Defense makes Gates the first appointment from an outgoing administration of opposing party to be kept in the position. Gates served on the board of directors of Science Applications International Corporation (SAIC), which reported $7.5 billion earnings in 2005. SAIC is involved in everything from intelligence gathering to Iraq reconstruction for the Pentagon.


8. Bailed out Banks and America’s Wealthiest Cheat IRS Out of Billions

Sources: Bloomberg, December 16, 2008 Title: “Goldman Sachs’s Tax Rate Drops to 1% or $14 Million” Author: Christine Harper; The Huffington Post, February 23, 2009 Title “Gimme Shelter: Tax Evasion and the Obama Administration” Author: Thomas B. Edsall. Student Researcher: Valerie Janssen, Southwest Minnesota State and Aimee Drew, Sonoma State University. Faculty Evaluators: BC Franson, JD, Southwest Minnesota State, Robert Girling, PhD, Sonoma State University.

A 2008 study done by the Government Accountability Office (GAO) reported that eighty-three of the top publicly held US companies have operations in tax havens like the Cayman Islands, Bermuda, and the Virgin Islands. Fourteen of these companies, including AIG, Bank of America, and Citigroup, received money from the government bailout. The GAO also reported that activities of Union Bank of Switzerland (UBS) are directly connected to tax avoidance.


9. US Arms Used for War Crimes in Gaza

Sources: Human Rights Watch, March 25, 2009 Title: “White Phosphorus Use Evidence of War Crimes Report: Rain of Fire: Israel’s Unlawful Use of White Phosphorus in Gaza” Author: Fred Abrahams; Guardian/UK, February 23, 2009 Title: “Suspend Military Aid to Israel, Amnesty Urges Obama after Detailing US Weapons Used in Gaza” Author: Rory McCarthy; Inter Press Service, January 8, 2009 Title: “US Weaponry Facilitates Killings in Gaza” Author: Thalif Deen; International Middle East Media Center News, January 8, 2009 Title: “US military re-supplying Israel with ammunition through Greece” Author: Saed Bannoura; Foreign Policy Journal, January 09, 2009 Title: “US Senate Endorses Israel’s War on Gaza” Author: Jeremy R. Hammond. Student Researchers: Erin Galbraith and Curtis Harrison. Faculty Evaluators: Andy Merrifield, PhD, Cynthia Boaz, PhD, and David McCuan, PhD Sonoma State University.

Israel’s repeated firing of US-made white phosphorus shells over densely populated areas of Gaza during its recent military campaign was indiscriminate and is evidence of war crimes, Human Rights Watch said in a report released March 25, 2009.


10. Ecuador Declares Foreign Debt Illegitimate

Sources: Alternet, November 26, 2008 Title: “As Crisis Mounts, Ecuador Declares Foreign Debt Illegitimate and Illegal” Author: Daniel Denvir; Utube, Fall 2008 Title: “Invalid Loans to Ecuador: Who Owes Who” Producer: Committee for the Integral Audit of Public Credit; Foreign Policy in Focus, December 15, 2008 Title: “Ecuador’s Debt Default” Authors: Neil Watkins and Sarah Anderson. Student Researcher: Rosemary Scott, Sonoma State University Community. Evaluator: Tim Ogburn, State of California Expert.

In November 2008, Ecuador became the first country to undertake an examination of the legitimacy and structure of its foreign debt. An independent debt audit commissioned by the government of Ecuador documented hundreds of allegations of irregularity, illegality, and illegitimacy in contracts of debt to predatory international lenders. The loans, according to the report, violated Ecuador’s domestic laws, US Securities and Exchange Commission regulations, and general principles of international law


11. Private Corporations Profit from the Occupation of Palestine

Sources: WhoProfits.org Title: “Who Profits? Exposing the Israeli Occupation Industry” Authors: The Coalition of Women for Peace; Palestine News Network, August 26, 2008 Title: “US Tax Breaks Support Israeli Settlers”; Workers World Newspaper, February 9, 2009, and Global Research, February 11, 2009 Title: “The Tunnels of Gaza, An underground economy and resistance symbol” Author: Sara Flounders; CommonDreams.org, February 24, 2009 “Can Gaza Be Rebuilt Through Tunnels? The Blockade Continues-No Supplies, No Rebuilding” Author: Ann Wright. Student Researchers: April Rudolph, Natalie Dale, and Kerry Headley. Faculty Evaluator: Jeff Baldwin, PhD Sonoma State University.

Israeli and international corporations are directly involved in the occupation of Palestine. Along with various political, religious and national interests, corporate interests fuel the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, and the Golan Heights. These occupying companies and corporations lead real estate deals, develop the Israeli colonies and infrastructure, and contribute to the construction and operation of an ethnic separation system, including checkpoints, walls and roads. They also design and supply equipment and tools used in the control and repression of the civilian population under occupation.


12. Mysterious Death of Mike Connell — Karl Rove’s Election Thief

Sources: The Raw Story, September 29, 2008 Title: “Republican IT consultant subpoenaed in case alleging tampering with 2004 election” Authors: Larisa Alexandrovna and Muriel Kane; The Brad Blog, December 22, 2008 Title: “OH Election Fraud Attorney Reacts to the Death of Mike Connell Author: Brad Friedman; Democracy Now! December 22, 2008 Title: “Republican IT Specialist Dies in Plane Crash” Interviewee: Mark Crispin Miller. Student Researchers: Ashleigh Hvinden, Christine Wilson and Alan Grady. Community Evaluator: Mary Ann Walker Sonoma State University  

Connell was allegedly the central figure in a longstanding plot to electronically flip votes to Republicans.


13. Katrina’s Hidden Race War

Sources: The Nation, December 17, 2008 Title: “Katrina’s Hidden Race War” Author: A.C. Thompson; The Nation, December 18, 2008 Title: “Body of Evidence” Author: A.C. Thompson; Democracy Now! December 19, 2008 Title: “Katrina’s Hidden Race War: In Aftermath of Storm, White Vigilante Groups Shot 11 African Americans in New Orleans”. Student Researcher: Aimee Drew. Evaluator: Susan Kashack Sonoma State University.

A shocking report in The Nation magazine exposes how white vigilante groups patrolled the streets of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, shooting at least eleven African American men.   


14. Congress Invested in Defense Contracts

Source: Opensecrets, April 3, 2008 Title: “Strategic Assets” Author: Lindsay Renick Mayer. Student Researchers: Leora Johnson and Michael Seramin. Faculty Evaluator: Peter Phillips PhD Sonoma State University.

The nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics has calculated that more than 151 members of Congress have up to $195 million invested in major defense contractors that are earning profits from the US military occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan.


15. World Bank’s Carbon Trade Fiasco

Source: Upside Down World, February 11, 2009 Title: “The World Bank and Climate Change: Sustainability or Exploitation?” Author: Mary Tharin. Student Researchers: Victoria Masucci and Christine Wilson. Faculty Evaluator: Elaine Wellin, PhD, Sonoma State University.

In the name of environmental protection, the World Bank is brokering carbon emission trading arrangements that destroy indigenous farmlands around the world.


16. US Repression of Haiti Continues

Sources: Haiti Liberté, September 4, 2008 Title: “UN Military Base Expanding: What is Washington up to in Cité Soleil” Author: Kim Ives; Upside Down World, June 25, 2008 Title: “Bush Administration Accused of Withholding ‘Lifesaving’ Aid to Haiti” Author: Cyril Mychalejko; Upside Down World, August 4, 2008 Title: “RFK Center Releases Documents Outlining US Actions to Block Life-saving Funds to Haiti” Authors: RFK Memorial Center for Human Rights. Student Researchers: Elizabeth Vortman, Leora Johnson, and Rob Hunter. Faculty Evaluators: Karen Grady, PhD and Sasha Von Meier, PhD Sonoma State University.

The US government plans to expropriate and demolish the homes of hundreds of Haitians in the shantytown of Cité Soleil to expand the occupying UN force’s military base. The US government contractor DynCorp, a quasi-official arm of the Pentagon and the CIA, is responsible for the base expansion.


17. The ICC Facilitates US Covert War in Sudan

Sources: Inter Press Service, March 9, 2009 Title: “Aren’t There War Crimes in The US? Legitimacy of Global Court Questioned Over Sudan” Author: Thalif Deen; Dissindentvoice.org, Black Star News, and San Francisco Bay View, March 6, 2009 Title: “Africom’s Covert War in Sudan” Author: Keith Harmon Snow; Michelcollon.info, April 1, 2009 Title: “The Darfur crisis: blood, hunger and oil” Author: Mohamed Hassan interview with Grégoire Lalieu and Michel Collon. Student Researcher: Curtis Harrison. Faculty Evaluator: Keith Gouveia J.D. Sonoma State University.

The United States promoted the International Criminal Court’s (ICC) indictment of Sudan’s President Omar al-Bashir for war crimes in Darfur, in order to justify continuing Western exploitation and military interventions in the resource-rich region.


18. Ecuador’s Constitutional Rights of Nature

Source: Upside Down World, September 25, 2008 Title: “Ecuador’s Constitution Gives Rights to Nature” Author: Cyril Mychalejko. Student Researcher: Chelsea Davis. Faculty Evaluator: Elaine Wellin, PhD, Sonoma State University.

In September 2008 Ecuador became the first country in the world to declare constitutional rights to nature, thus codifying a new system of environmental protection.


19. Bank Bailout Recipients Spent to Defeat Labor

Source: Huffington Post, January 27, 2009 Article: “Bailout Spent to Defeat Labor” Author: Sam Stein. Student Researchers: Ben Kaufman and Rosemary Scott. Faculty Evaluator: Kelly Bucy, PhD, Sonoma State University.

On October 17, 2008, three days after Bank of America Corporation received $25 billion in federal bailout funds, they hosted a conference call to organize opposition to the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA). Participants, including AIG, were urged to persuade their clients to send “large contributions” to groups working against the EFCA, as well as to vulnerable Senate Republicans who could be used to help block the passage of the pro labor bill that would make it easier for employees to organize into unions.


20. Secret Control of the Presidential Debates

Sources: Open Debates, September 18, 2008 Title: “Pro-democratic Groups Call on Debate Commission to Make Secret Contract Public” Author: George Farah; Democracy Now! October 2, 2008 Title: “No Debate: How the Republican and Democratic Parties Secretly Control the Presidential Debates” Interviewee: George Farah. Student Researchers: Erin Galbraith, Natalie Dale, and Kerry Headley. Faculty Evaluator: Mickey Huff, Diablo Valley College.

The Obama and McCain campaigns jointly negotiated a detailed secret contract dictating the terms of the 2008 debates. This included who got to participate, what topics were to be raised, and the structure of the debate formats.


21. Recession Causes States to Cut Welfare

Sources: Mother Jones, January 15, 2009 Title: “Brave New Welfare” Author: Stephanie Mencimer; Associated Press, March 26, 2009 Title: “States consider drug tests for welfare recipients” Author: Tom Breen. Student Researchers: Samantha Barowsky, Southwest Minnesota State University Malana Men, Sonoma State University. Faculty Evaluator: Douglas Anderson, Ph.D., Southwest Minnesota State University.

Many states are in the midst of an aggressive action to push thousands of eligible mothers off Temporary Assistance to Needy Families (TANF), traditionally known as welfare. Families are being denied aid so that savings can be redirected in state budgets.


22. Obama’s Trilateral Commission Team

Source: August Review.com, January 30, 2009 Title: “Obama: Trilateral Commission Endgame” Author: Patrick Wood. Student Researcher: Sarah Maddox. Faculty Evaluator: Peter Phillips, Sonoma State University.

Barack Obama appointed eleven members of the Trilateral Commission to top-level and key positions in his administration within his first ten days in office.


23. Activists Slam World Water Forum as a Corporate-Driven Fraud

Sources: AlterNet, March 17, 2009 Title: “Fifth World Water Forum Marked by Violence and Repression” Author: Jeff Conant; AlterNet, March 18, 2009 Title: “An Inside Peek: Why the World Water Forum Is a Sham” Author: Jeff Conant; Democracy Now! March 23, 2009 Title: “Water Rights Activists Blast Istanbul World Water Forum as ‘Corporate Trade Show to Promote Privatization’” Interviewee: Maude Barlow; KPFA, “Sunday Sedition,” March 29, 2009 Title: “Andria Lewis interviews Maude Barlow”. Student Researcher: Frances Capell, Diablo Valley College. Faculty Evaluator: Andrew Roth, PhD, Sonoma State University.

Water rights activists blasted the World Water Forum, held in Turkey in late March of 2009, as a corporate trade show promoting privatization of water.


24. Dollar Glut Finances US Military Expansion

Source: Global Research, March 29, 2009 Title: “Economic Meltdown: The ‘Dollar Glut’ is What Finances America’s Global Military Build-up” Author: Michael Hudson. Student Researcher: Frances Capell, Diablo Valley College. Faculty Evaluator: Mickey Huff, Diablo Valley College.

The worldwide surplus of dollars is forcing foreign central banks to bear the costs of America’s expanding military empire.


25. Fast Track Oil Exploitation in Western Amazon

Sources: PloS One, August 2008 Title: “Oil and Gas Projects in the Western Amazon: Threats to Wilderness, Biodiversity, and Indigenous Peoples” Authors: Matt Finer, Clinton N. Jenkins, Stuart L. Pimm, Brian Keane, and Carl Ross; The Guardian, August 13, 2008 Title: “Amazon rainforest threatened by new wave of oil and gas exploration” Author: Ian Sample. Student Researcher: Rob Hunter. Faculty Evaluator: Sasha Von Meier, PhD, Sonoma State University.  

The western Amazon, home to the most bio-diverse and intact rainforest on Earth, may soon be covered with oilrigs and pipelines. Vast swaths of the region are to be opened for oil and gas exploration, putting some of the planet’s most pristine and bio-diverse forests at risk, conservationists have warned.

Censored 2010 yearbook from Project Censored at Sonoma State University is available in bookstores nationwide from Seven Stories Press or can be ordered on-line in both English and Spanish at www.projectcensored.org. Project Censored was the winner of the 2008 PEN Oakland Censorship Award.