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Cover Story: Read All About It ... or Not

Project Censored reveals the stories that should have been on the front pages in 1999

By Gabriel Roth · April 20th, 2000 · Cover Story
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Following are Project Censored's top 10 stories for 1999:

1. Multinational corporations profit from international brutality
On the morning of June 3, 1997, in the Indian fishing village of Veldur, police broke down the door of Sadhana Bhalekar's house, dragged her naked from her bath, beat her in the street and arrested her. Bhalekar had committed no crime. But her husband was one of the chief opponents of a local power plant -- a plant owned by the U.S.-based Enron Corporation. And Enron paid the wages of the cops who beat Sadhana Bhalekar.

This ugly alliance between a Western energy company and a repressive Third World state is far from unique. Around the world, multinational power companies are fattening their profits by participating in brutal abuses of human rights. Energy companies routinely deny they're involved in violent crackdowns. But eyewitnesses and press accounts tell a different story.

When Indonesian soldiers violently crushed an insurgent movement on the island of Aceh, Mobil Oil provided the bulldozers that dug the mass graves. According to press accounts, Burmese forces killed, tortured and raped villagers along the route of a natural gas pipeline built by the French company Total and the U.S.-based Unocal -- then conscripted other villagers into slavery to build the pipeline.

In public statements and goodwill-oriented ad campaigns, big business argues that its investments in developing countries promote human rights. As international economic activity increases, this argument runs, totalitarian states become more vulnerable to international pressure.

But there's no evidence that "constructive engagement" has any positive impact for anyone but the corporations and their shareholders. As oil companies increase their investments in Nigeria, the state steps up its brutal campaign of repression and activists who protest oil exploitation are routinely murdered by military police. And since signing a deal with Chevron in 1993, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev has cracked down on independent media and political opponents.

Arvind Ganesan, "Corporation Crackdowns: Business Backs Brutality," Dollars and Sense, May/June 1999. For more information, go to www.hrw.org, call 202-612-4329 or e-mail ganesaa@hrw.org

2. Pharmaceutical companies put profits before need
These are good times for the pharmaceutical industry. Drug companies rack up the largest legal profits of any business, and they're growing fast. That growth stems in large part from a new wave of so-called lifestyle drugs: medications that target nonlethal ailments such as baldness, wrinkles and impotence.

But while Pfizer, Merck and their rivals are raking in billions from rich, old, bald guys who have trouble getting a hard-on, they've abandoned billions of people for whom access to drugs is a matter of life and death.

In 1998, 6.1 million people died of malaria, tuberculosis or acute lower-respiratory infections. Those diseases are all preventable and curable. But their victims live in tropical Third World countries -- and developing, manufacturing and distributing medicine that would save their lives simply doesn't pay.

Almost all the important malaria drugs were developed by U.S. military researchers, anxious to protect their occupying armies. When U.S. soldiers left Vietnam, research into malaria cures effectively ended. Not one of the 24 largest drug companies has an in-house malaria research program -- leaving the world vulnerable to a potential strain of malaria resistant to every existing drug. French researchers found that, of 41 drugs used to treat tropical diseases, none were discovered in the 1990s.

Meanwhile, the industry concentrates its fantastic resources on meeting rich Westerners' every imaginable need. In 1993, total world spending on malaria, including government programs, came to $84 million. Five years later, U.S. consumers alone spent more than 10 times as much -- $1 billion -- on drugs for their pets, including medications to treat depression, Alzheimer's and "separation anxiety" in dogs.

Thanks to the industry's considerable clout, government has been missing in action when it comes to regulation. In fact, it's been giving away the store, handing over the marketing rights to government-developed medicines to private corporations and asking nothing in return. Until that changes -- until the government demands, say, that a drug company develops and distributes a new malaria treatment in exchange for another multibillion-dollar patent -- the needs of the poor will continue to rank far behind the whims of the rich.

Ken Silverstein, "Millions for Viagra, Pennies for the Poor," The Nation, 7/19/99. For more information, contact Doctors Without Borders at 212-679-6800.

3. Financially bloated American Cancer Society fails to prevent cancer
The American Cancer Society is the world's largest secular charity, with assets in the hundreds of millions if not billions. It takes in hundreds of millions of dollars a year from ordinary Americans who hope their donations will help fight cancer.

Most of that money, some 60 percent, will go to "operating expenses," including generous salaries for ACS executives. Only a quarter will go to medical research or direct caregiving programs.

But ACS is more than a bloated, wasteful bureaucracy. It's playing an active role in the fight against cancer -- and it's squarely on the side of the makers of carcinogens.

ACS's approach to cancer is one of damage control. It pushes diagnosis and treatment at all costs, but it refuses to discuss the causes of cancer or ways we might prevent it. It won't say a word against the companies that pour toxic chemicals into our food, air and water. In fact, the ACS has opposed regulations restricting cancer-causing hair dyes, food additives, air pollution, pesticides, breast implants and medicines.

And the society has done very well by kowtowing. ACS takes in serious money from the mammography, pesticide and pharmaceutical industries -- then advocates policies that make those funders very happy. It pushes young women to get breast exams, although the hazards of radiation from those exams are well-documented and the benefits to premenopausal women are sketchy. It mounted a vigorous defense of the pesticide industry after a documentary on the dangers of pesticides aired on PBS. And it uses its clout to squelch funding requests from researchers studying alternative cancer therapies, thereby protecting the profits of the makers of cancer drugs. The society has denied that its industry connections constitute a conflict of interest.

Until ordinary Americans call for far-reaching reform, the ACS will continue to be a tool of industry. Last year, the Cancer Prevention Coalition called for a boycott of the ACS; thanks to the dearth of media coverage, few people heard about it.

Samuel S. Epstein, "American Cancer Society: The World's Wealthiest 'Nonprofit' Institution," International Journal of Health Services, Vol. 29, no. 3, 1999. For more information go to www.preventcancer.com.

4. American sweatshops sew U.S. military uniforms
The women who work at the Lion Apparel factory in Beattyville, Ky., work long, grueling days for minimum wage. All day they breathe fumes from formaldehyde, a suspected carcinogen. In the winter, they freeze; in the southern summers, they swelter for want of air conditioning. In the past 12 years, their employer has been cited 32 times for health and safety violations. But keeping workers in sweatshop conditions helps Lion keep prices low for its biggest customer -- the U.S. Department of Defense.

According to accounts from workers, the Lion plant and others that make uniforms for the U.S. military fall squarely within the legal definition of sweatshops: wages that don't meet workers' basic needs, uncomfortable and dangerous working conditions, intimidation when workers try to unionize. (Lion denies all these charges.) But you won't hear the Pentagon complaining. Unlike some other high-profile retailers, led by Kathie Lee Gifford, the Defense Department has never signed on to the Clinton administration's Workplace Code of Conduct. In fact, it aggressively works to keep costs as low as possible, and workers end up paying the price.

The Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees tried to organize Lion workers in 1997. The drive failed, the union says, because of management's unyielding opposition -- including, some workers say, dark threats of plant closures.

Uniforms for America's military are made in some of the country's poorest communities: rural Appalachia, small towns in the deep South. The economic boom has had little impact here, and workers are still dependent on a precious few employers. And instead of trying to help them out of poverty, the government saves money by exploiting their labor.

Note: Lion Apparel challenged Mother Jones and demanded a retraction of this story. Mother Jones refused, but it did make two changes in its report.

Mark Boal, "An American Sweatshop," Mother Jones, May/June 1999. For more information, go to www.nlcnet.org, www.sweatshopwatch.org or www.uniteunion.org

5. Turkey destroys Kurdish villages with U.S. weapons
The Turkish government's campaign of repression against ethnic Kurds has lasted since the Turkish Republic was founded in 1923. Fifteen years ago, though, the civil war escalated, thanks to generous donations of weaponry from the United States.

Since 1980, the U.S. has sold or given Turkey weapons to the tune of $15 billion -- including Cobra helicopters, armored personnel carriers and F-16 fighter bombers. American soldiers have been sent to Turkey to train commando forces there. An estimated 75 percent of the Turkish army's arsenal is marked "Made in the U.S.A."

This weaponry has gone to quell the nationalist movement among the Kurds -- at 25 million the largest ethnic group in the world without its own state. The Turkish civil war represents the single largest use of U.S. weapons by non-U.S. forces anywhere in the world. In the past 15 years, nearly 40,000 lives have been lost -- more than in the West Bank and in Northern Ireland combined. More than 3,000 villages have been leveled, burned or evacuated since 1990; some were simply destroyed from above by American-made bombers. Two million Kurds have lost their homes.

All this in an effort by Turkey's military government to crack down on the Marxist-led Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK. In a tactic borrowed from the U.S. army in Vietnam, Turkish soldiers habitually force Kurdish civilians into serving as "village guards." Villagers who won't participate in the anti-PKK struggle have been beaten, forced off their land or worse.

Readers of the U.S. press have seen stories about the plight of the Iraqi Kurds -- perhaps because their oppressor, Saddam Hussein, is an enemy of the United States. But there are four times as many Kurds in Turkey, also suffering state repression, and about them we hear nothing. Is that because their tormentors are our allies, using our weapons?

Kevin McKeirnan, "Turkey's War on the Kurds," Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, March/April 1999. For more information, go to www.kurdistan.org, www.fas.org/asmp or www.clark.net/kurd

6. NATO defends private economic interests in the Balkans
The Kosovo conflict was repeatedly cited as the first victory for the new world order. Liberals abandoned their usual suspiciousness of military intervention, enchanted by the idea of the United States as a crusader for human rights worldwide. Republicans played along, abandoning their typical hawkishness to argue that U.S. troops should only be used to defend U.S. interests.

Here's what neither side said aloud: The United States had some very traditional economic interests in the Balkans, and Kosovo was about mineral resources every bit as much as the Gulf War.

Among the U.S.'s primary foreign-policy campaigns is the struggle over oil fields in the Caspian region, which includes Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan and contains trillions of dollars worth of oil. The question on the table: How to pipe it to U.S. consumers?

The most direct route goes through Iran. The U.S. doesn't like that option, because of its embargo against that country.

But the best alternative would ship the oil across the Black Sea and through the narrow Bosporus straits, which could present U.S. ally Turkey with an environmental nightmare and billions of dollars in lost revenues. The obvious solution is a pipeline through the Balkans. And the best way to ensure that the Balkan states will play ball with Western energy interests is to bring the whole region under a NATO protectorate.

And that's not the only reason Kosovo could be important to the U.S. economy. Most Americans think of Kosovo as a poor mountain region with few resources. For the most part, the media didn't tell them any different.

In fact, Kosovo is home to the Stari Trg mining complex -- a fully developed $5 billion deposit of lead, zinc, cadmium, gold and silver. The region is also home to 17 billion tons of coal reserves. Kosovo's mineral reserves are perhaps the most valuable resources not yet in the hands of Western capitalists. The collapse of the Soviet empire put their ownership in doubt. It will now likely be determined by NATO.

Diana Johnstone, "The Role of Caspian Sea Oil in the Balkan Conflict," Women Against Military Madness, November 1998, and Sonoma County Peace Press, April/May 1999; Sara Flounders, "Kosovo: It's About the Mines," Because People Matter, May/June 1999 (reprinted from Workers World, 7/30/98); Pratap Chatterjee, "Caspian Pipe Dreams," San Francisco Bay Guardian, 12/16/99. For more on the war in Kosovo, go to

 

Following are Project Censored's top 10 stories for 1999:

1. Multinational corporations profit from international brutality
On the morning of June 3, 1997, in the Indian fishing village of Veldur, police broke down the door of Sadhana Bhalekar's house, dragged her naked from her bath, beat her in the street and arrested her. Bhalekar had committed no crime. But her husband was one of the chief opponents of a local power plant -- a plant owned by the U.S.-based Enron Corporation. And Enron paid the wages of the cops who beat Sadhana Bhalekar.

This ugly alliance between a Western energy company and a repressive Third World state is far from unique. Around the world, multinational power companies are fattening their profits by participating in brutal abuses of human rights. Energy companies routinely deny they're involved in violent crackdowns. But eyewitnesses and press accounts tell a different story.

When Indonesian soldiers violently crushed an insurgent movement on the island of Aceh, Mobil Oil provided the bulldozers that dug the mass graves. According to press accounts, Burmese forces killed, tortured and raped villagers along the route of a natural gas pipeline built by the French company Total and the U.S.-based Unocal -- then conscripted other villagers into slavery to build the pipeline.

In public statements and goodwill-oriented ad campaigns, big business argues that its investments in developing countries promote human rights. As international economic activity increases, this argument runs, totalitarian states become more vulnerable to international pressure.

But there's no evidence that "constructive engagement" has any positive impact for anyone but the corporations and their shareholders. As oil companies increase their investments in Nigeria, the state steps up its brutal campaign of repression and activists who protest oil exploitation are routinely murdered by military police. And since signing a deal with Chevron in 1993, Kazakh President Nursultan Nazarbaev has cracked down on independent media and political opponents.

Arvind Ganesan, "Corporation Crackdowns: Business Backs Brutality," Dollars and Sense, May/June 1999. For more information, go to www.hrw.org, call 202-612-4329 or e-mail ganesaa@hrw.org

2. Pharmaceutical companies put profits before need
These are good times for the pharmaceutical industry. Drug companies rack up the largest legal profits of any business, and they're growing fast. That growth stems in large part from a new wave of so-called lifestyle drugs: medications that target nonlethal ailments such as baldness, wrinkles and impotence.

But while Pfizer, Merck and their rivals are raking in billions from rich, old, bald guys who have trouble getting a hard-on, they've abandoned billions of people for whom access to drugs is a matter of life and death.

In 1998, 6.1 million people died of malaria, tuberculosis or acute lower-respiratory infections. Those diseases are all preventable and curable. But their victims live in tropical Third World countries -- and developing, manufacturing and distributing medicine that would save their lives simply doesn't pay.

Almost all the important malaria drugs were developed by U.S. military researchers, anxious to protect their occupying armies. When U.S. soldiers left Vietnam, research into malaria cures effectively ended. Not one of the 24 largest drug companies has an in-house malaria research program -- leaving the world vulnerable to a potential strain of malaria resistant to every existing drug. French researchers found that, of 41 drugs used to treat tropical diseases, none were discovered in the 1990s.

Meanwhile, the industry concentrates its fantastic resources on meeting rich Westerners' every imaginable need. In 1993, total world spending on malaria, including government programs, came to $84 million. Five years later, U.S. consumers alone spent more than 10 times as much -- $1 billion -- on drugs for their pets, including medications to treat depression, Alzheimer's and "separation anxiety" in dogs.

Thanks to the industry's considerable clout, government has been missing in action when it comes to regulation. In fact, it's been giving away the store, handing over the marketing rights to government-developed medicines to private corporations and asking nothing in return. Until that changes -- until the government demands, say, that a drug company develops and distributes a new malaria treatment in exchange for another multibillion-dollar patent -- the needs of the poor will continue to rank far behind the whims of the rich.

Ken Silverstein, "Millions for Viagra, Pennies for the Poor," The Nation, 7/19/99. For more information, contact Doctors Without Borders at 212-679-6800.

3. Financially bloated American Cancer Society fails to prevent cancer
The American Cancer Society is the world's largest secular charity, with assets in the hundreds of millions if not billions. It takes in hundreds of millions of dollars a year from ordinary Americans who hope their donations will help fight cancer.

Most of that money, some 60 percent, will go to "operating expenses," including generous salaries for ACS executives. Only a quarter will go to medical research or direct caregiving programs.

But ACS is more than a bloated, wasteful bureaucracy. It's playing an active role in the fight against cancer -- and it's squarely on the side of the makers of carcinogens.

ACS's approach to cancer is one of damage control. It pushes diagnosis and treatment at all costs, but it refuses to discuss the causes of cancer or ways we might prevent it. It won't say a word against the companies that pour toxic chemicals into our food, air and water. In fact, the ACS has opposed regulations restricting cancer-causing hair dyes, food additives, air pollution, pesticides, breast implants and medicines.

And the society has done very well by kowtowing. ACS takes in serious money from the mammography, pesticide and pharmaceutical industries -- then advocates policies that make those funders very happy. It pushes young women to get breast exams, although the hazards of radiation from those exams are well-documented and the benefits to premenopausal women are sketchy. It mounted a vigorous defense of the pesticide industry after a documentary on the dangers of pesticides aired on PBS. And it uses its clout to squelch funding requests from researchers studying alternative cancer therapies, thereby protecting the profits of the makers of cancer drugs. The society has denied that its industry connections constitute a conflict of interest.

Until ordinary Americans call for far-reaching reform, the ACS will continue to be a tool of industry. Last year, the Cancer Prevention Coalition called for a boycott of the ACS; thanks to the dearth of media coverage, few people heard about it.

Samuel S. Epstein, "American Cancer Society: The World's Wealthiest 'Nonprofit' Institution," International Journal of Health Services, Vol. 29, no. 3, 1999. For more information go to www.preventcancer.com.

4. American sweatshops sew U.S. military uniforms
The women who work at the Lion Apparel factory in Beattyville, Ky., work long, grueling days for minimum wage. All day they breathe fumes from formaldehyde, a suspected carcinogen. In the winter, they freeze; in the southern summers, they swelter for want of air conditioning. In the past 12 years, their employer has been cited 32 times for health and safety violations. But keeping workers in sweatshop conditions helps Lion keep prices low for its biggest customer -- the U.S. Department of Defense.

According to accounts from workers, the Lion plant and others that make uniforms for the U.S. military fall squarely within the legal definition of sweatshops: wages that don't meet workers' basic needs, uncomfortable and dangerous working conditions, intimidation when workers try to unionize. (Lion denies all these charges.) But you won't hear the Pentagon complaining. Unlike some other high-profile retailers, led by Kathie Lee Gifford, the Defense Department has never signed on to the Clinton administration's Workplace Code of Conduct. In fact, it aggressively works to keep costs as low as possible, and workers end up paying the price.

The Union of Needletrades, Industrial and Textile Employees tried to organize Lion workers in 1997. The drive failed, the union says, because of management's unyielding opposition -- including, some workers say, dark threats of plant closures.

Uniforms for America's military are made in some of the country's poorest communities: rural Appalachia, small towns in the deep South. The economic boom has had little impact here, and workers are still dependent on a precious few employers. And instead of trying to help them out of poverty, the government saves money by exploiting their labor.

Note: Lion Apparel challenged Mother Jones and demanded a retraction of this story. Mother Jones refused, but it did make two changes in its report.

Mark Boal, "An American Sweatshop," Mother Jones, May/June 1999. For more information, go to www.nlcnet.org, www.sweatshopwatch.org or www.uniteunion.org

5. Turkey destroys Kurdish villages with U.S. weapons
The Turkish government's campaign of repression against ethnic Kurds has lasted since the Turkish Republic was founded in 1923. Fifteen years ago, though, the civil war escalated, thanks to generous donations of weaponry from the United States.

Since 1980, the U.S. has sold or given Turkey weapons to the tune of $15 billion -- including Cobra helicopters, armored personnel carriers and F-16 fighter bombers. American soldiers have been sent to Turkey to train commando forces there. An estimated 75 percent of the Turkish army's arsenal is marked "Made in the U.S.A."

This weaponry has gone to quell the nationalist movement among the Kurds -- at 25 million the largest ethnic group in the world without its own state. The Turkish civil war represents the single largest use of U.S. weapons by non-U.S. forces anywhere in the world. In the past 15 years, nearly 40,000 lives have been lost -- more than in the West Bank and in Northern Ireland combined. More than 3,000 villages have been leveled, burned or evacuated since 1990; some were simply destroyed from above by American-made bombers. Two million Kurds have lost their homes.

All this in an effort by Turkey's military government to crack down on the Marxist-led Kurdistan Workers Party, or PKK. In a tactic borrowed from the U.S. army in Vietnam, Turkish soldiers habitually force Kurdish civilians into serving as "village guards." Villagers who won't participate in the anti-PKK struggle have been beaten, forced off their land or worse.

Readers of the U.S. press have seen stories about the plight of the Iraqi Kurds -- perhaps because their oppressor, Saddam Hussein, is an enemy of the United States. But there are four times as many Kurds in Turkey, also suffering state repression, and about them we hear nothing. Is that because their tormentors are our allies, using our weapons?

Kevin McKeirnan, "Turkey's War on the Kurds," Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, March/April 1999. For more information, go to www.kurdistan.org, www.fas.org/asmp or www.clark.net/kurd

6. NATO defends private economic interests in the Balkans
The Kosovo conflict was repeatedly cited as the first victory for the new world order. Liberals abandoned their usual suspiciousness of military intervention, enchanted by the idea of the United States as a crusader for human rights worldwide. Republicans played along, abandoning their typical hawkishness to argue that U.S. troops should only be used to defend U.S. interests.

Here's what neither side said aloud: The United States had some very traditional economic interests in the Balkans, and Kosovo was about mineral resources every bit as much as the Gulf War.

Among the U.S.'s primary foreign-policy campaigns is the struggle over oil fields in the Caspian region, which includes Kazakhstan, Azerbaijan and Turkmenistan and contains trillions of dollars worth of oil. The question on the table: How to pipe it to U.S. consumers?

The most direct route goes through Iran. The U.S. doesn't like that option, because of its embargo against that country. But the best alternative would ship the oil across the Black Sea and through the narrow Bosporus straits, which could present U.S. ally Turkey with an environmental nightmare and billions of dollars in lost revenues. The obvious solution is a pipeline through the Balkans. And the best way to ensure that the Balkan states will play ball with Western energy interests is to bring the whole region under a NATO protectorate.

And that's not the only reason Kosovo could be important to the U.S. economy. Most Americans think of Kosovo as a poor mountain region with few resources. For the most part, the media didn't tell them any different.

In fact, Kosovo is home to the Stari Trg mining complex -- a fully developed $5 billion deposit of lead, zinc, cadmium, gold and silver. The region is also home to 17 billion tons of coal reserves. Kosovo's mineral reserves are perhaps the most valuable resources not yet in the hands of Western capitalists. The collapse of the Soviet empire put their ownership in doubt. It will now likely be determined by NATO.

Diana Johnstone, "The Role of Caspian Sea Oil in the Balkan Conflict," Women Against Military Madness, November 1998, and Sonoma County Peace Press, April/May 1999; Sara Flounders, "Kosovo: It's About the Mines," Because People Matter, May/June 1999 (reprinted from Workers World, 7/30/98); Pratap Chatterjee, "Caspian Pipe Dreams," San Francisco Bay Guardian, 12/16/99. For more on the war in Kosovo, go to www.iacenter.org; for more information on the mineral industries, go to www.moles.org

7. U.S. media reduces foreign coverage
International news coverage has almost vanished from America's mainstream daily newspapers. Well-respected regional papers that once prided themselves on their foreign coverage are closing bureaus. The Associated Press continues to send out stories from around the world, but editors seldom find space to run them. Newspaper readers are unlikely to learn much about foreign news unless there's a bombing, a natural disaster or a financial crisis.

And without newspapers, most Americans have little access to foreign news. Broadcast news shows have largely given up. News magazines have found that foreign news covers stifle newsstand sales. Americans are growing increasingly ignorant of events in foreign countries at a time when the global economy is making those events ever more relevant to their lives.

It was not always this way. In the 1960s -- with the Cold War at its height and the Vietnam War, the high-water mark of foreign correspondence, beginning -- international coverage dominated the front pages. But foreign news fell out of favor in the 1970s, as editors turned to local news and service-oriented features. Today, stories with exotic datelines typically appear as one-paragraph "briefs" in a slim "world roundup" section.

When it comes to allocating news space, for most papers, the hierarchy is clear: Local news comes first, with reports from Washington, D.C., and Hollywood second. The rest of the world is a distant third.

Peter Arnett, "Goodbye World," American Journalism Review, November 1998.

8. Planned weapons in space violate international law
"Absolutely we're going to fight in space," says Gen. Joseph Ashy, commander-in-chief of the U.S. Space Command. "It's politically sensitive, but it's going to happen."

"Politically sensitive" might be understating the case. Deploying weapons of mass destruction in space is specifically barred by a 1967 UN treaty. But that treaty hasn't stopped the Pentagon from working feverishly to install antisatellite weapons, as well as the recently approved "Star Wars" ballistic missile defense system.

The possibility of high-powered weapons in space poses a problem: how to equip them with a long-lasting and compact source of power. The obvious answer: nuclear reactors in space. Already, increasing demand by NASA and the Pentagon for space-based nuclear power has led the Department of Energy to step up its nuclear programs and consider reopening shuttered facilities.

Taking radioactive material on space flights, of course, endangers pretty much the entire population of Earth. Fortunately for the U.S. taxpayer, however, a 1991 U.S. law limits the government's liability for nuclear accidents: $8.9 billion for damage within the U.S., and a mere $100 million for damage anywhere else in the world.

Karl Grossman, "U.S. Violates World Law to Militarize Space," Earth Island Journal, Winter/Spring, 1999; Bruce K. Gagnon, "Pyramids to the Heavens," Toward Freedom, September/October, 1999. For more information go to www.globenet.free-online.co.uk

9. Louisiana promotes toxic racism
The skyline along the 100-mile strip between Baton Rouge and New Orleans is dominated by immense petrochemical plants. Such giants as Dow, Texaco, Dupont and Chevron were lured to southeast Louisiana with generous tax breaks. In return, they've brought very few jobs for local residents -- but that hasn't stopped them from making their presence felt. The plants release over 23 million pounds of toxins into the air each year, according to the EPA.

Residents of the area surrounding the strip, most of them poor and black, blame that pollution for unusually high rates of cancer, reproductive problems and other ailments. They say they're victims of environmental racism -- the targeting of minority communities for toxic industries. Nationwide, studies confirm that blacks are four times more likely to live near toxic and hazardous waste sites than whites and that government fines are much higher when companies pollute white communities than when they pollute black ones.

More than 130 petrochemical companies already have facilities along the southeast Louisiana strip, known to residents as "Cancer Alley." Another may be on its way. Japanese company Shintech hopes to build the nation's largest polyvinyl chloride plant on the border of Convent, a tiny town on the Mississippi River. The plant would add another 600,000 pounds of air pollution to the community -- already home to an IMC-Agrico plant. If the company gets the go-ahead, it will likely create 165 jobs and receive tax breaks to the tune of $130 million in return. And the experience of Convent and neighboring towns suggests it will do little to improve the local economy.

Ron Nixon, "Toxic Gumbo," Southern Exposure, Summer/Fall 1998. For more information, contact Greenpeace's Damu Smith at 202-462-1177.

10. U.S. and NATO deliberately started the war with Yugoslavia
The conflict between ethnic Albanians and Serbs in Kosovo has lasted more than three centuries -- longer by far than the sectarian disputes in Northern Ireland and Israel/Palestine. But NATO, led by the United States, insisted the dispute be settled forever in a single "peace negotiation" at Rambouillet. The U.S. media condemned Serb leader Slobodan Milosevic for refusing to sign the agreement presented to him there and never interrogated NATO's assertion that Milosevic's intransigence left no alternative to war.

But how many reporters covering Rambouillet actually read the agreement proposed there? If they had, say scholars of international relations, they might have wondered: Does NATO really expect Serbia to accept this?

The agreement, which NATO claimed was aimed at protecting the ethnic Albanians' self-determination, would in fact have turned over Kosovo to NATO. Overseers would have had the power to set law and overrule election results; military leaders would have had authority to run Kosovo as a dictatorship.

It's particularly hard to imagine Milosevic -- or the leader of any other sovereign state -- willingly agreeing to some of the terms in Appendix B of the Rambouillet document: the assertion that "NATO personnel shall be immune from any form of arrest, investigation or detention by the authorities in the FRY [Federal Republic of Yugoslavia]" and "shall enjoy ... free and unrestricted passage and unimpeded access throughout the FRY, including associated airspace and territorial waters." NATO troops were also to be given the power to arrest and detain anyone they pleased.

Bear in mind, this wasn't just in Kosovo -- this was in the whole of the former Yugoslavia, including Serbia. As Robert Hayden, director of the Center for Russian and East European Studies at the University of Pittsburgh, put it, the accords would have allowed for "the military occupation by NATO of all of Yugoslavia."

Jason Vest, "The Real Rambouillet," Village Voice, May 18, 1999; Seth Ackerman, "Redefining Diplomacy," Extra, July/August 1999; Seth Ackerman, "What Was the War For?" In These Times, August 8, 1999; Diana Johnstone, "Hawks and Eagles: 'Greater NATO' flies to the Aid of 'Greater Albania," Covert Action Quarterly, Spring-Summer 1999; Amy Goodman, Democracy Now, Pacifica Radio Network, April 22, 1999. For more information, go to www.zmag.org/ZMag/kosovo.htm or www.transnational.org

Junk Food News
The most overreported news stories of 1999, selected by the members of the Organization of News Ombudsmen:

1. Tinky Winky's sexuality

2. Pokémon

3. Y2K

4. The millennium

5. Pamela Lee Anderson's breasts

6. Star Wars

7. The Clintons

8. Columbine/teen shootings

9. The death of John F. Kennedy Jr.

10. George W. Bush's cocaine use

Project Censored Judges
Robin Andersen, chair, Department of Communication and Media Studies, Fordham University; Richard Barnet, author and journalist; Susan Faludi, author and journalist; George Gerbner, dean emeritus, Annenberg School of Communications, University of Pennsylvania; Juan Gonzalez, journalist; Carl Jensen, founder, Project Censored; Sut Jhally, professor of communications, University of Massachusetts; Nicholas Johnson, professor, College of Law, University of Iowa; Rhoda H. Karpatkin, president, Consumers Union; Charles L. Klotzer, editor and publisher emeritus, St. Louis Journalism Review; Nancy Kranich, associate dean, New York University Libraries; director, American Library Association; Judith Krug, director, Office for Intellectual Freedom, American Library Association; Frances Moore Lappé, cofounder and codirector, Center for Living Democracy; William Lutz, professor of English, Rutgers University; Julianne Malveaux, economist and columnist; Robert McChesney, research associate professor, Institute of Communications Research, University of Illinois at Urbana-Champaign; Jack L. Nelson, professor, Graduate School of Education, Rutgers University; Michael Parenti, author and lecturer; Barbara Seaman, lecturer and author; cofounder, National Women's Health Network; Erna Smith, chair, Department of Journalism, San Francisco State University; Sheila Rabb Weidenfeld, president, D.C. Productions; and Howard Zinn, author; professor emeritus of political science, Boston University.

 
 
 
 

 

 
 
 
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