Behind the blinders
Finding the 10 most underreported stories of the last year
Published: October 6, 2010
Meanwhile, human health is threatened by the long-term environmental impact of military operations throughout the globe. Depleted uranium contamination from the Iraq conflict has been linked to widespread health problems, Jalal Ghazi reports for New America Media, an alliance of ethnic media organizations. The Chamoru people of Guam, meanwhile, experience an alarmingly high rate of cancer, which is suspected to be linked to a nearby 1950s U.S. nuclear weapons testing site that left a legacy of radioactive contamination.
"The greatest single assault on the environment comes from one agency: the Armed Forces of the United States," author Barry Sanders writes in The Green Zone: The Environmental Costs of Militarism .
3) Internet privacy and personal access at risk
Project Censored cites 13 sources, including articles published in Wired and Mother Jones , for this story, and a Google search for the phrase "Internet kill switch" yields 539,000 results generated by more recent reporting.
The Cybersecurity Act of 2009 was proposed in June 2009, giving the president the power to "declare a cybersecurity emergency" and do whatever is necessary to defuse a cyber attack. The Senate Homeland Security Committee approved a comprehensive cybersecurity bill this past June, which has drawn sharp criticism for including a provision that would allow the president to shut down networks in the event of an emergency.
Reporting in Wired , Noah Schachtman broke the story that the CIA was investing in Visible Technologies, a software firm that can collect, rank and analyze millions of posts on blogs, online forums, Flickr, YouTube, Twitter, and other social media sites. Wired also reported that the Obama administration had followed the lead of George W. Bush by urging a federal judge to set aside a ruling in a spy case weighing whether a U.S. president can bypass Congress and establish a program of eavesdropping on Americans without warrants.
4) ICE's secret detention centers
The federal office of Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE) is confining people in 186 unlisted and unmarked subfield offices, many in suburban office parks or commercial spaces that reveal no information about their ICE tenants. Reporting in The Nation , Jacqueline Stevens describes ICE's jail network and the agency's penchant for secrecy when it comes to withholding public information about the facilities. "The absence of a real-time database tracking people in ICE custody means ICE has created a network of secret jails," Stevens writes. "Subfield offices enter the time and date of custody after the fact, a situation ripe for errors ... as well as cover-ups." As a result, detainees can literally be "lost" by attorneys or family members for days or weeks at a time after being transferred.
5) The former Blackwater in Pakistan
The notorious private military contractor Blackwater has changed its name to Xe Services, but it hasn't escaped scrutiny. According to a story in The Nation in December 2009, the contractor is at the center of a covert program in Pakistan run by the U.S. Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) in Karachi. Xe is involved in planning targeted assassinations of suspected Taliban and al-Qaeda operatives, and helps direct a U.S. military drone bombing campaign that runs parallel to the well-documented CIA predator strikes, according to a well-placed source within the U.S. military intelligence apparatus who spoke with The Nation . The Pentagon has disputed the claim, stating: "There are no U.S. military strike operations being conducted in Pakistan." More recently, The New York Times reported that Xe had created a web of more than 30 shell companies to win defense contracts, and specifically mentioned that the company employees had loaded bombs and missiles onto predator drones in Pakistan.
6) Cause of death: Lack of health care
As the health care debate raged on and Americans heard over and over again about supposed "death panels," "Obamacare" and the government's infringement on personal freedom, at least one important study was largely drowned out. Research led by the Johns Hopkins Children's Center concluded that lack of health insurance may have figured into 17,000 childhood deaths among hospitalized children in the United States in the span of less than two decades.
The results of a study published in the Journal of Public Health compared more than 23 million hospital records from 37 states between 1988 and 2005, and found that uninsured children in the study were 60 percent more likely to die in the hospital than those with insurance.
"Can we say with absolute certainty that 17,000 children would have been saved if they had health insurance? Of course not," notes a co-investigator. "From a scientific perspective, we are confident in our finding that thousands of children likely died because they lacked insurance or because of factors directly related to a lack of insurance."
7) The African land grab
A "land grab," according to this Project Censored story, is the purchase of vast tracts of land by wealthier nations from mostly poor, developing countries in order to produce crops for export. Throughout the African continent, an estimated 124 million acres of land have been acquired or are in the process of being negotiated for purchase over the last several years, with international agribusinesses, investment banks, hedge funds and commodity traders leading the rush for cheap, undeveloped, arable land.
Ethiopia has approved at least 815 foreign-financed agriculture projects since 2007, but the food produced there will be exported rather than used to feed the 13 million people in need of food aid in that country. "Rich countries are eyeing Africa not just for a healthy return on capital, but also as an insurance policy," notes researcher Devlin Kuyek. "Food shortages and riots in 28 countries in 2008, declining water supplies, climate change and huge population growth together have made land attractive. Africa has the most land and, compared with other continents, is cheap."
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