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Monday, January 30, 2006

Project Censored specializes in covering the top news stories which were either ignored or downplayed by the mainstream media each year. Project Censored is a research team composed of nearly 200 university faculty, students, and community experts who review about 1,000 news story submissions for coverage, content, reliability of sources, and national significance. The top 5 stories selected are submitted to a panel of judges who then rank them in order of importance. The results are published each year in an excellent book available for purchase at most major book stores.






–Top 5 Project Censored News Stories

1. White House Erodes Open Government

While the White House has expanded its ability to keep tabs on civilians, it’s been working to curtail the ability of the public—and even Congress—to find out what the government is doing. One year ago, Rep. Henry A. Waxman, D-Calif., released an 81-page analysis of how the administration has administered the country’s major open government laws. The report found that the feds consistently “narrowed the scope and application” of the Freedom of Information Act, the Presidential Records Act and other key public-information legislation, while expanding laws blocking access to certain records—even creating new categories of “protected” information and exempting entire departments from public scrutiny. When those methods haven’t been enough, the administration has simply refused to release records—even when requested by a congressional subcommittee or the Government Accountability Office. Given the news media’s interest in safeguarding open government laws, one wonders why these findings weren’t publicized far and wide.
Source: ‘’New Report Details Bush Administration Secrecy’‘ press release, Karen Lightfoot, Government Reform Minority Office, posted on www.commondreams.org, Sept. 14, 2004.

2. Media Coverage on Iraq: Fallujah and the Civilian Death Toll

The civilized world may well look back on the assaults on Fallujah in 2004 as examples of utter disregard for the most basic wartime rules of engagement. U.N. High Commissioner for Human Rights Louise Arbour called for an investigation into whether the Americans and their allies had engaged in “the deliberate targeting of civilians, indiscriminate and disproportionate attacks, the killing of injured persons, and the use of human shields,” among other possible “grave breaches of the Geneva Conventions” considered war crimes under federal law. More than 83 percent of Fallujah’s 300,000 residents fled the city. Men between the ages of 15 and 45 were refused safe passage, and all who remained—about 50,000—were treated as enemy combatants. Numerous sources reported that coalition forces cut off water and electricity, shot at anyone who ventured out into the open, executed families waving white flags while trying to swim across the Euphrates, shot at ambulances, and allowed corpses to rot in the streets and be eaten by dogs. Medical staff reported seeing people with melted faces and limbs, injuries consistent with the use of phosphorous bombs. But you likely know little of this as the media hardly mentioned it.
Sources: ‘’The Invasion of Fallujah,’‘ Mary Trotochaud and Rick McDowell, Peacework, Dec. 2004-Jan. 2005; ‘’Fallujah Refugees Tell of Life and Death in the Kill Zone,’‘ Dahr Jamail, New Standard, ‘’The War in Iraq: Civilian Casualties, Political Responsibilities,’‘ Richard Horton, Lancet, Oct. 29, 2004; Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting, April 15, 2004.

3. Distorted Election Coverage

The mainstream media largely ignored evidence that electronic voting machines were susceptible to tampering and downplayed political alliances between the machines’ manufacturers and the Bush administration. Then came Nov. 2, 2004. President Bush prevailed by 3 million votes—despite exit polls that projected John Kerry winning by a margin of 5 million. “Exit polls are highly accurate,” wrote Professor Steve Freeman of the University of Pennsylvania’s Center for Organizational Dynamics in an article co-authored with statistician Josh Mitteldorf of Temple University. “They remove most of the sources of potential polling error by identifying actual voters and asking them immediately afterward who they had voted for.” The discrepancy of 8 million votes was well beyond the poll’s recognized margin of error of less than one percent. The official result deviated by more than five percent, which is considered a statistical impossibility. Freeman and Mitteldorf analyzed the data and found that “only in precincts that used old-fashioned, hand-counted paper ballots did the official count and the exit polls fall within the normal sampling margin of error.” The discrepancy between the exit polls and the official count was considerably greater in the critical swing states.
Sources: ‘’A Corrupted Election,’‘ Steve Freeman, Josh Mitteldorf, In These Times, Feb. 15, 2005; ‘’Jim Crow Returns to the Voting Booth,’‘ Greg Palast and Rev. Jesse Jackson, Seattle Post-Intelligencer, Jan. 26, 2005.

4. Surveillance Society Quietly Moves In

It’s a well-known dirty trick in the halls of government: If you want to pass unpopular legislation that you know won’t stand up to scrutiny, just wait until the public isn’t looking. That’s precisely what the White House did Dec. 13, 2003, the day American troops captured Saddam Hussein. President Bush celebrated the occasion by privately signing into law the Intelligence Authorization Act—a controversial expansion of the PATRIOT Act that included items culled from the “Domestic Security Enhancement Act of 2003,” a draft proposal that had been shelved due to a public outcry after being leaked. Specifically, the IAA allows the government to obtain an individual’s financial records without a court order. The law also makes it illegal for institutions to inform anyone that the government has requested those records, or that information has been shared with the authorities. The law also broadens the definition of “financial institution” to include insurance companies, travel and real estate agencies, stockbrokers, the U.S. Postal Service, jewelry stores, casinos, airlines, car dealerships, and any other business “whose cash transactions have a high degree of usefulness in criminal, tax or regulatory matters.” In one fell swoop, this act has decimated our rights to privacy, due process, and freedom of speech.
Sources: ‘’PATRIOT Act’s Reach Expanded Despite Part Being Struck Down,’‘ Nikki Swartz, Information Management Journal, March/April 2004; “Grave New World,” Anna Samson Miranda, LiP, Winter 2004; ‘’Where Big Brother Snoops on Americans 24/7,’‘ Teresa Hampton, www.capitolhillblue.com, June 7, 2004.



5. U.S. Uses Tsunami to Military Advantage in Southeast Asia


The American people reacted to the tsunami that hit the Indian Ocean last December with an outpouring of compassion and private donations. Across the nation, neighbors got together to collect food, clothing, medicine and financial contributions. The White House initially offered an embarrassingly low $15 million in aid. More importantly, the government exploited the catastrophe to its own strategic advantage. Establishing a stronger military presence in the area could help the United States keep closer tabs on China. It could also fortify an important military launching ground and help consolidate control over potentially lucrative trade routes. The United States currently operates a base out of Diego Garcia—a former British mandate about halfway between Africa and Indonesia, but the lease runs out in 2016. Consequently, in the name of relief, the U.S. revived the Utapao military base in Thailand it had used during the Vietnam War and reactivated its military cooperation agreements with Thailand and the Visiting Forces Agreement with the Philippines.
Sources: ‘’US Turns Tsunami into Military Strategy,’‘ Jane’s Foreign Report, Feb. 15, 2005; ‘’US Has Used Tsunami to Boost Aims in Stricken Area,’‘ Rahul Bedi, Irish Times, Feb. 8, 2005; ‘’Bush Uses Tsunami Aid to Regain Foothold in Indonesia,’‘ Jim Lobe, Inter Press Service, Jan. 18, 2005.


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