Top 25 Censored Stories for 2009/2010 http://trueslant.com/allisonkilkenny/2010/01/02/top-25-censored-stories-for-20092010/ Project Censored has posted its list of the top 25 censored stories of 2009 continuing into 2010. 1. US Congress Sells Out to Wall Street The dirty story of the decade? Project Censored thinks so: 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 This one may come as a surprise to many people. While the news incessantly (though oftentimes superficially) blathered about the bailouts, few citizens heard about this shameful secret. 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. According to a new Civil Rights report published at the University of California, Los Angeles, schools in the US are 44 percent non-white, and minorities are rapidly emerging as the majority of public school students in the US. Latinos and blacks, the two largest minority groups, attend schools more segregated today than during the civil rights movement forty years ago. In Latino and African American populations, two of every five students attend intensely segregated schools. For Latinos this increase in segregation reflects growing residential segregation. For blacks a significant part of the reversal reflects the ending of desegregation plans in public schools throughout the nation. In the 1954 case Brown v. Board of Education, the US Supreme Court concluded that the Southern standard of “separate but equal” was “inherently unequal,” and did “irreversible” harm to black students. It later extended that ruling to Latinos. 3. Toxic Waste Behind Somali Pirates I got flamed for reporting on this back in April. Maybe the title “In Defense Of Pirates” was too much? When I interviewed journalist Johann Hari for Citizen Radio, Hari explained that Somalian pirates are actually poor fishermen. It was only after Somalian waters were poisoned by western nations, and the livelihoods of Somalian fisherman were destroyed, that civilians turned to acts of piracy as means of survival. Project Censorship concurs with that assessment. 4. Nuclear Waste Pools in North Carolina 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. It is not just a nuclear-power-generating station, but also a repository for highly radioactive spent fuel rods from two other nuclear plants. The spent fuel rods are transported by rail and stored in four densely packed pools filled with circulating cold water to keep the waste from heating. The Department of Homeland Security has marked Shearon Harris as one of the most vulnerable terrorist targets in the nation. The threat exists, however, without the speculation of terrorist attack. Should the cooling system malfunction, the resulting fire would be virtually unquenchable and could trigger a nuclear meltdown, putting more than two million* residents of this rapidly growing section of North Carolina in extreme peril. A recent study by Brookhaven Labs estimates that a pool fire could cause 140,000 cancers, contaminate thousands of square miles of land, and cause over $500 billion in off-site property damage. 5. Europe Blocks US Toxic Products We’ve heard lots about China’s poisoned Barbies, but few have heard about those stupid, whiney Europeans, who are always refusing to ingest our American lead: 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. Europe has launched stringent new regulations that require companies seeking access to their lucrative markets eliminate toxic substances and manufacture safer electronics, automobiles, toys and cosmetics. 6. Lobbyists Buy Congress This isn’t particularly groundbreaking news. Yes, politicians are crooked. Yes, they accept bribes from private industry. However, the level of corruption has really reached absurd levels, which is why I proposed banning corporate lobbying. The article got some of the strongest feedback I’ve ever received. Never underestimate the average citizen’s propensity to act as an apologist for corporate interests that have no inclination to return the favor. 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). All your democracy are belong to us. 7. Obama’s Military Appointments Have Corrupt Past Robert Gates, whose career has reflected and implemented neoconservative positions, also decried Obama’s plan for a phased withdrawal of US troops. Gates’s history as a career intelligence officer began under Nixon. But, as Robert Parry chronicles, it was as a senior CIA official in the 1980s under Reagan that Gates broke the back of the CIA analytical division’s commitment to objective intelligence. In a recent book, Failure of Intelligence: The Decline and Fall of the CIA, former CIA analyst Melvin A. Goodman identifies Gates as “the chief action officer for the Reagan administration’s drive to tailor intelligence reporting to White House political desires.” As chief analyst under CIA director William Casey, Gates “guided the first institutionalized ‘cooking of the books’ at the CIA in the 1980s, with a particular emphasis on tailoring intelligence dealing with the Soviet Union, Central America, and Southwest Asia,” says Goodman, in order to justify increased US military spending and US support for bloody brushfire wars —central elements of Reagan’s foreign policy. Talk about politicizing intelligence! Whew, boy. Smell that Change and Hope. 8. Bailed out Banks and America’s Wealthiest Cheat IRS Out of Billions That’s right. Wall Street made the list twice. After the initial bailouts, the rich got together and decided they weren’t done fucking us yet. 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. You see, in America, our two-tier justice system demands you pay taxes, while the rich get to hoard all their wealth in the Cayman Islands. It’s like Leona Helmsley said, “Only the little people pay taxes.” Now, go back to building the products that make the rich richer, while Aunty Ayn reads you a lullaby about how few are born to lead, and most are born to follow. 9. US Arms Used for War Crimes in Gaza Oh yeah. The whole America Sells Weapons To Israel thing. We don’t like to talk about that one. 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. [snip] The devastating Israeli firepower, unleashed largely on Palestinian civilians in Gaza during the three-week attack starting December 27, 2008 was fueled by US-supplied weapons paid for with US tax dollars. Your money funds the burning of Palestinian children’s flesh. File this under Things We Definitely Don’t Like To Talk About. 10. Ecuador Declares Foreign Debt Illegitimate A South American country recently stated the obvious: the US has no right to saddle it with debt. 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. Ecuador’s use of legitimacy as a legal argument for defaulting set a major precedent; indeed, the formation of a debt auditing commission sets a precedent. For decades, the United States has been offering Latin American countries loans that they can never hope to repay. Think of this as the subprime mortgage scandal multiplied by a million. In the 1970s Ecuador fell victim to unscrupulous international lending, which encouraged borrowing at low interest rates. But in over thirty years the country’s debt rose from $1.174 billion in 1970, to over $14.250 billion in 2006, a twelve fold increase, due in large part to interest rates that rose at the discretion of US banks and Federal Reserve from six percent in 1979 to twenty-one percent in 1981. This, combined with the corporate takeover of Latin American countries, and the decrees outlawing indigenous peoples from growing their own crops led to widespread poverty, hunger, and discontentment. Latin American countries have always been hesitant to fight this debt blackmailing system lest they incur the wrath of the international market. Now, it seems Eduardo Galeano’s dream might finally be realized as a united Latin America joins forces to fight this rigged game. Together, the exploited countries may have enough leverage to tip the scale in their favor. Ecuador has called on Latin America to forge a united response to foreign debt. Venezuela, Bolivia and Paraguay have recently created debt audit commissions. The country has also asked the United Nations to help develop international norms to regulate the foreign debt market. Read the rest of the list over at Project Censored… ———————————- * Update: I stated in the original article that “two hundred million” residents of this rapidly growing section of North Carolina would be put in extreme peril should a meltdown occur. This is obviously a typo. Apologies. Project Censorship misquoted Jeffrey St. Clair’s original article, which states: An uncontrolled pool fire and meltdown at Shearon Harris would put more than two million residents of this rapidly growing section of North Carolina in extreme peril.