Top 25 Censored Stories
#1 Future of Internet Debate Ignored by Media
July 18, 2005
Title: “Web of Deceit: How Internet Freedom Got the Federal
Ax, and Why Corporate News Censored the Story”
Author: Elliot D. Cohen, Ph.D.
Student Researchers: Lauren Powell,
Brett Forest, and Zoe Huffman
Faculty Evaluator: Andrew Roth, Ph.D.
Throughout 2005 and 2006, a large underground debate raged regarding
the future of the Internet. More recently referred to as “network
neutrality,” the issue has become a tug of war with cable
companies on the one hand and consumers and Internet service providers
on the other. Yet despite important legislative proposals and Supreme
Court decisions throughout 2005, the issue was almost completely
ignored in the headlines until 2006.1 And, except for occasional
coverage on CNBC’s Kudlow & Kramer, mainstream television
remains hands-off to this day (June 2006).2
Most coverage of the issue framed it as an argument over regulation—but
the term “regulation” in this case is somewhat misleading. Groups
advocating for “net neutrality” are not promoting regulation of internet
content. What they want is a legal mandate forcing cable companies to allow internet
service providers (ISPs) free access to their cable lines (called a “common
carriage” agreement). This was the model used for dial-up internet, and
it is the way content providers want to keep it. They also want to make sure
that cable companies cannot screen or interrupt internet content without a court
Those in favor of net neutrality say that lack of government regulation
simply means that cable lines will be regulated by the cable companies themselves.
will have to pay a hefty service fee for the right to use cable lines (making
internet services more expensive). Those who could pay more would get better
access; those who could not pay would be left behind. Cable companies could
also decide to filter Internet content at will.
On the other side,
cable company supporters say that a great deal of time and money
was spent laying cable lines and expanding their speed and quality.3
They claim that allowing ISPs free access would deny cable companies the ability
recoup their investments, and maintain that cable providers should be allowed
to charge. Not doing so, they predict, would discourage competition and innovation
within the cable industry.
Cable supporters like the AT&T-sponsored Hands
Off the Internet website assert that common carriage legislation would lead
to higher prices and months of legal
wrangling. They maintain that such legislation fixes a problem that doesn’t
exist and scoff at concerns that phone and cable companies will use their
position to limit access based on fees as groundless. Though cable companies
to block content providers without cause, there are a number of examples
of cable-initiated discrimination.
In March 2005, the FCC settled a case
against a North Carolina-based telephone
company that was blocking the ability of its customers to use voice-over-Internet
calling services instead of (the more expensive) phone lines.4 In August
2005, a Canadian cable company blocked access to a site that supported
union in a labor dispute.5 In February 2006, Cox Communications denied
to the Craig’s List website. Though Cox claims that it was simply a
security error, it was discovered that Cox ran a classified service that
In June of 1999, the Ninth District Court ruled that AT&T
would have to open its cable network to ISPs (AT&T v. City of Portland).
The court said that Internet transmissions, interactive, two-way exchanges,
offerings, not a cable information service (like CNN) that sends data
one way. This decision was overturned on appeal a year later.
decisions have extended the cable company agenda further.
On June 27, 2005, The United States Supreme Court ruled that cable
Comcast and Verizon were not required to share their lines with rival
ISPs (National Cable & Telecommunications Association vs. Brand X
Internet Services).7 Cable companies would not have to offer common carriage
agreements for cable lines
the way that telephone companies have for phone lines.
According to Dr. Elliot Cohen, the decision accepted the FCC assertion
that cable modem service is not a two-way telecommunications offering,
but a one-way
service, completely overturning the 1999 ruling. Meanwhile, telephone
companies charge that such a decision gives an unfair advantage to
and are requesting that they be released from their common carriage
requirement as well.
On June 8, the House rejected legislation (HR 5273) that would have
prevented phone and cable companies from selling preferential treatment
networks for delivery of video and other data-heavy applications. It
also passed the
Communications Opportunity, Promotion, and Enhancement (COPE) Act (HR
5252), which supporters
said would encourage innovation and the construction of more high-speed
Internet lines. Internet neutrality advocates say it will allow phone
and cable companies
to cherry-pick customers in wealthy neighborhoods while eliminating
the current requirement demanded by most local governments that cable
low-income and minority areas as well. 8
Comment: As of June 2006, the COPE Act is in the Senate. Supporters
say the bill supports innovation and freedom of choice. Interet
neutrality advocates say that its passage would forever compromise
the Internet. Giant cable companies would attain a monopoly on
high-speed, cable Internet. They would prevent poorer citizens
from broadband access, while monitoring and controlling the content
of information that can be accessed.
1. “Keeping a Democratic Web,” The New York Times,
May 2, 2006.
2. Jim Goldman, Larry Kudlow, and Phil Lebeau, “Panelists Michael Powell,
Mike Holland, Neil Weinberg, John Augustine and Pablo Perez-Fernandez discuss
markets,” Kudlow & Company CNBC, March 6, 2006.
4. Michael Geist, “Telus breaks Net Providers’ cardinal rule: Telecom
company blocks access to site supporting union in labour dispute,” Ottawa
Citizen, August 4, 2005.
5. Jonathan Krim, “Renewed Warning of Bandwidth Hoarding,” The
Washington Post, November 24, 2005.
6. David A. Utter, “Craigslist Blocked By Cox Interactive,” http://www.Webpronews.com,
June 7, 2006.
7. Yuki Noguchi, “Cable Firms Don’t Have to Share Networks, Court
Rules,” Washington Post, June 28, 2005.
8. “Last week in Congress / How our representatives voted,” Buffalo
News (New York), June 11, 2006.
UPDATE BY ELLIOT D. COHEN, PH.D.
Despite the fact that the Court’s decision in Brand X marks
the beginning of the end for a robust, democratic Internet, there
has been a virtual MSM blackout in covering it. As a result of
this decision, the legal stage has been set for further corporate
control. Currently pending in Congress is the “Communications
Opportunity, Promotion, and Enhancement Act of 2006”(HR 5252),
fueled by strong telecom corporative lobbies and introduced by
Congressman Joe Barton (R-TX). This Act, which fails to adequately
protect an open and neutral Internet, includes a “Title II—Enforcement
of Broadband Policy Statement” that gives the FCC “exclusive
authority to adjudicate any complaint alleging a violation of the
broadband policy statement or the principles incorporated therein.” With
the passage of this provision, courts will have scant authority
to challenge and overturn FCC decisions regarding broadband. Since
under current FCC Chair Kevin Martin, the FCC is moving toward
still further deregulation of telecom and media companies, the
likely consequence is the thickening of the plot to increase corporate
control of the Internet. In particular, behemoth telecom corporations
like Comcast, Verizon, and AT&T want to set up toll booths
on the Internet. If these companies get their way, content providers
with deep pockets will be afforded optimum bandwidth while the
rest of us will be left spinning in cyberspace. No longer will
everyone enjoy an equal voice in the freest and most comprehensive
democratic forum ever devised by humankind.
As might be expected,
none of these new developments are being addressed by the MSM.
Among media activist organizations attempting to stop the gutting
of the free Internet is The Free Press (http://www.freepress.net/), which now
has an aggressive “Save the Internet” campaign.
#2 Halliburton Charged with Selling Nuclear Technologies to Iran
Global Research.ca, August 5, 2005
Title: “Halliburton Secretly Doing Business With Key Member
of Iran’s Nuclear Team”
Author: Jason Leopold
Faculty Evaluator: Catherine Nelson
Student Researchers: Kristine Medeiros and Pla Herr
According to journalist Jason Leopold, sources at former Cheney
company Halliburton allege that, as recently as January of 2005,
Halliburton sold key components for a nuclear reactor to an Iranian
oil development company. Leopold says his Halliburton sources have
intimate knowledge of the business dealings of both Halliburton
and Oriental Oil Kish, one of Iran’s largest private oil
Additionally, throughout 2004 and 2005, Halliburton worked
closely with Cyrus Nasseri, the vice chairman of the board of directors
of Iran-based Oriental Oil
Kish, to develop oil projects in Iran. Nasseri is also a key member of Iran’s
nuclear development team. Nasseri was interrogated by Iranian authorities in
late July 2005 for allegedly providing Halliburton with Iran’s nuclear
secrets. Iranian government officials charged Nasseri with accepting as much
as $1 million in bribes from Halliburton for this information.
Oriental Oil Kish
dealings with Halliburton first became public knowledge in January 2005 when
the company announced that it had subcontracted parts of the
South Pars gas-drilling project to Halliburton Products and Services, a subsidiary
of Dallas-based Halliburton that is registered to the Cayman Islands. Following
the announcement, Halliburton claimed that the South Pars gas field project
in Tehran would be its last project in Iran. According to a BBC
which took thirty to forty million dollars from its Iranian operations in 2003, “was
winding down its work due to a poor business environment.”
has a long history of doing business in Iran, starting as early as 1995,
while Vice President Cheney was chief executive of the company.
Leopold quotes a February 2001 report published in the Wall Street Journal, “Halliburton
Products and Services Ltd., works behind an unmarked door on the ninth floor
of a new north Tehran tower block. A brochure declares that the company was
registered in 1975 in the Cayman Islands, is based in the Persian Gulf sheikdom
and is “non-American.” But like the sign over the receptionist’s
head, the brochure bears the company’s name and red emblem, and offers
services from Halliburton units around the world.” Moreover mail sent
to the company’s offices in Tehran and the Cayman Islands is forwarded
directly to its Dallas headquarters.
In an attempt to curtail Halliburton and
other U.S. companies from engaging
in business dealings with rogue nations such as Libya, Iran, and Syria, an
was approved in the Senate on July 26, 2005. The amendment, sponsored by
Senator Susan Collins R-Maine, would penalize companies that continue
to skirt U.S.
law by setting up offshore subsidiaries as a way to legally conduct and avoid
sanctions under the International Emergency Economic Powers Act (IEEPA).
letter, drafted by trade groups representing corporate executives,
vehemently objected to the amendment, saying it would lead to further
hatred and perhaps
incite terrorist attacks on the U.S. and “greatly strain relations
with the United States primary trading partners.” The letter warned
governments view U.S. efforts to dictate their foreign and commercial policy
as violations of sovereignty often leading them to adopt retaliatory measures
more at odds with U.S. goals.”
Collins supports the legislation, stating, “It
prevents U.S. corporations from creating a shell company somewhere else in
order to do business with rogue,
terror-sponsoring nations such as Syria and Iran. The bottom line is that
if a U.S. company is evading sanctions to do business with one of these countries,
they are helping to prop up countries that support terrorism—most often
aimed against America.
UPDATE BY JASON LEOPOLD
During a trip to the Middle East in March 1996, Vice President
Dick Cheney told a group of mostly U.S. businessmen that Congress
should ease sanctions in Iran and Libya to foster better relationships,
a statement that, in hindsight, is completely hypocritical considering
the Bush administration’s foreign policy.
“Let me make a generalized statement about a trend I see
in the U.S. Congress that I find disturbing, that applies not only
with respect to the Iranian situation
but a number of others as well,” Cheney said. “I think we Americans
sometimes make mistakes . . . There seems to be an assumption that somehow
we know what’s best for everybody else and that we are going to use our
economic clout to get everybody else to live the way we would like.”
was the chief executive of Halliburton Corporation at the time he uttered
those words. It was Cheney who directed Halliburton toward aggressive
dealings with Iran—in violation of U.S. law—in the mid-1990s,
which continued through 2005 and is the reason Iran has the capability to
It was Halliburton’s secret sale of centrifuges to Iran that helped
get the uranium enrichment program off the ground, according to a three-year
that includes interviews conducted with more than a dozen current and former
If the U.S. ends up engaged in a war with Iran in
the future, Cheney and Halliburton will bear the brunt of the blame.
But this shouldn’t come as a shock to anyone who has been following
business activities over the past decade. The company has a long, documented
history of violating U.S. sanctions and conducting business with so-called
No, what’s disturbing about these facts is how little
attention it has received from the mainstream media. But the public
record speaks for itself,
as do the thousands of pages of documents obtained by various federal
agencies that show how Halliburton’s business dealings in Iran
helped fund terrorist activities there—including the country’s
nuclear enrichment program.
When I asked Wendy Hall, a spokeswoman for
Halliburton, a couple of years ago if Halliburton would stop doing
business with Iran because
the company helped fund terrorism she said, “No.” “We
believe that decisions as to the nature of such governments and their
actions are better made by governmental authorities and international
entities such as the United Nations as opposed to individual persons
or companies,” Hall
said. “Putting politics aside, we and our affiliates operate
in countries to the extent it is legally permissible, where our customers
are active as they
expect us to provide oilfield services support to their international
do not always agree with policies or actions of governments in every
place that we do business and make no excuses for their behaviors.
Due to the long-term nature of our business and the inevitability of
political and social
change, it is neither prudent nor appropriate for our company to
establish our own country-by-country foreign policy.”
first started doing business in Iran as early as 1995, while Vice
President Cheney was chief executive of the company and
of U.S. sanctions.
An executive order signed by former President
Bill Clinton in March 1995 prohibits “new
investments (in Iran) by U.S. persons, including commitment of
funds or other assets.” It also bars U.S. companies from
performing services “that
would benefit the Iranian oil industry” and provide Iran
with the financial means to engage in terrorist activity.
When Bush and Cheney came into office in 2001, their administration
decided it would not punish foreign oil and gas companies that
invest in those
countries. The sanctions imposed on countries like Iran and Libya
before Bush became
president were blasted by Cheney, who gave frequent speeches
on the need for U.S. companies
to compete with their foreign competitors, despite claims that
those countries may have ties to terrorism.
“I think we’d be better off if we, in fact, backed off those sanctions
(on Iran), didn’t try to impose secondary boycotts on companies . . . trying
to do business over there . . . and instead started to rebuild those relationships,” Cheney
said during a 1998 business trip to Sydney, Australia, according to Australia’s
Illawarra Mercury newspaper.
#3 Oceans of the World in Extreme Danger
Jones, March /April, 2006
Title: The Fate of the Ocean
Author: Julia Whitty
Faculty Evaluator: Dolly Freidel
Student Researcher: Charlene Jones
Oceanic problems once found on a local scale are now pandemic.
Data from oceanography, marine biology, meteorology, fishery science,
and glaciology reveal that the seas are changing in ominous ways.
A vortex of cause and effect wrought by global environmental dilemmas
is changing the ocean from a watery horizon with assorted regional
troubles to a global system in alarming distress.
According to oceanographers
the oceans are one, with currents linking the seas and regulating
climate. Sea temperature and chemistry changes, along with contamination
and reckless fishing practices, intertwine to imperil the world’s largest
communal life source.
In 2005, researchers from the Scripps Institution of Oceanography
and the Lawrence Livermore National Laboratory found clear evidence the ocean
is quickly warming.
They discovered that the top half-mile of the ocean has warmed dramatically
in the past forty years as a result of human-induced greenhouse
One manifestation of this warming is the melting of the
Arctic. A shrinking ratio of ice to water has set off a feedback
loop, accelerating the increase
surfaces that promote further warming and melting. With polar waters growing
fresher and tropical seas saltier, the cycle of evaporation and precipitation
has quickened, further invigorating the greenhouse effect. The ocean’s
currents are reacting to this freshening, causing a critical conveyor that
carries warm upper waters into Europe’s northern latitudes to slow by
one third since 1957, bolstering fears of a shut down and cataclysmic climate
accelerating cycle of cause and effect will be difficult, if not impossible,
Atmospheric litter is also altering sea chemistry, as thousands of toxic compounds
poison marine creatures and devastate propagation. The ocean has absorbed an
estimated 118 billion metric tons of carbon dioxide since the onset of the
Industrial Revolution, with 20 to 25 tons being added to the atmosphere daily.
acidity from rising levels of CO2 is changing the ocean’s PH balance. Studies
indicate that the shells and skeletons possessed by everything from reef-building
corals to mollusks and plankton begin to dissolve within forty-eight hours of
exposure to the acidity expected in the ocean by 2050. Coral reefs will almost
certainly disappear and, even more worrisome, so will plankton. Phytoplankton
absorb greenhouse gases, manufacture oxygen, and are the primary producers of
the marine food web.
Mercury pollution enters the food web via coal and chemical industry waste,
oxidizes in the atmosphere, and settles to the sea bottom. There it is consumed,
mercury to each subsequent link in the food chain, until predators such as
tuna or whales carry levels of mercury as much as one million times that of
around them. The Gulf of Mexico has the highest mercury levels ever recorded,
with an average of ten tons of mercury coming down the Mississippi River every
year, and another ton added by offshore drilling.
Along with mercury, the Mississippi
delivers nitrogen (often from fertilizers). Nitrogen stimulates plant and
bacterial growth in the water that consume oxygen,
creating a condition known as hypoxia, or dead zones. Dead zones occur wherever
oceanic oxygen is depleted below the level necessary to sustain marine life.
A sizable portion of the Gulf of Mexico has become a dead zone—the
largest such area in the U.S. and the second largest on the planet, measuring
8,000 square miles in 2001. It is no coincidence that almost all of the nearly
150 (and counting) dead zones on earth lay at the mouths of rivers. Nearly
fifty fester off U.S. coasts. While most are caused by river-borne nitrogen,
fuel-burning plants help create this condition, as does phosphorous from
human sewage and nitrogen emissions from auto exhaust.
Meanwhile, since its
peak in 2000, the global wild fish harvest has begun
a sharp decline despite progress in seagoing technologies and intensified
efficiencies in fishing have stimulated unprecedented decimation of sealife.
Long-lining, in which a single boat sets line across sixty or more miles
of ocean, each baited with up to 10,000 hooks, captures at least 25 percent
With an estimated 2 billion hooks set each year, as much as 88 billion
pounds of life a year is thrown back to the ocean either dead or
trawlers drag nets across every square inch of the continental shelves
every two years. Fishing the sea floor like a bulldozer, they level
an area 150
times larger than all forest clearcuts each year and destroy seafloor ecosystems.
Aquaculture is no better, since three pounds of wild fish are caught to
feed every pound
of farmed salmon. A 2003 study out of Dalhousie University in Nova Scotia
based on data dating from the 1950s, that in the wake of decades of such
onslaught only 10 percent of all large fish (tuna, swordfish) and ground
fish (cod, hake,
flounder) are left anywhere in the ocean.
Other sea nurseries are also threatened.
Fifteen percent of seagrass beds have disappeared in the last ten
years, depriving juvenile fish, manatees,
turtles of critical habitats. Kelp beds are also dying at alarming rates.
While at no time in history has science taught more about how
life-support systems work, the maelstrom of human assault on the seas continues.
If human failure in governance of the world’s largest public domain
is not reversed quickly, the ocean will soon and surely reach a point of
After release of the Pew Oceans Commission report, U.S.
media, most notably The Washington Post and National Public Radio
in 2003 and 2004, covered several stories regarding impending threats
to the ocean, recommendations for protection, and President Bush’s
response. However, media treatment of the collective acceleration
of ocean damage and cross-pollination of harm was left to Julia
Whitty in her lengthy feature. In April of 2006, Time Magazine
presented an in-depth article about earth at “the tipping
point,” describing the planet as an overworked organism fighting
the consequences of global climate change on shore and sea. In
her Mother Jones article, Whitty presented a look at global illness
by directly examining the ocean as earth’s circulatory, respiratory,
and reproductive system.
Following up on “The Last Days of
the Ocean,” Mother Jones has
produced “Ocean Voyager,” an innovative web-based adventure that
includes videos, audio interviews with key players, webcams, and links to informative
web pages created by more than twenty organizations. The site is a tour of
various ocean trouble spots around the world, which highlights solutions and
suggests actions that can be taken to help make a difference.
UPDATE BY JULIA WHITTY
This story is awash with new developments. Scientists are currently
publishing at an unprecedented rate their observations—not
just predictions—on the rapid changes underway on our ocean
planet. First and foremost, the year 2005 turned out to be the
warmest year on record. This reinforces other data showing the
earth has grown hotter in the past 400 years, and possibly in
the past 2,000 years. A study out of the National Center for
Atmospheric Research found ocean temperatures in the tropical
North Atlantic in 2005 nearly two degrees Fahrenheit above normal;
this turned out to be the predominant catalyst for the monstrous
2005 hurricane season—the most violent season ever seen.
news from the polar ice is no better. A joint NASA/University
of Kansas study in Science (02/06) reveals that Greenland’s
glaciers are surging towards the sea and melting more than twice
as fast as ten years ago. This
further endangers the critical balance of the North Atlantic meridional overturning
circulation, which holds our climate stable. Meanwhile, in March, the British
Antarctic Survey announced their findings that the “global warming signature” of
the Antarctic is three times larger than what we’re seeing elsewhere
on Earth—the first proof of broadscale climate change across the southern
Since “The Fate of the Ocean” went to press in Mother
Jones magazine, evidence of the politicization of science in the global climate
wars has also
emerged. In January 2006 NASA’s top climate scientist, James Hansen,
accused the agency of trying to censor his work. Four months later, Hansen’s
accusations were echoed by scientists at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric
Administration, as well as by a U.S. Geological Survey scientist working
at a NOAA lab, who claimed their work on global climate change was being
by their departments, as part of a policy of intimidation by the anti-science
Problems for the ocean’s wildlife are escalating
too. In 2005, biologists from the U.S. Minerals Management Service found
polar bears drowned in the
waters off Alaska, apparent victims of the disappearing ice. In 2006, U.S.
Geological Survey Alaska Science Center researchers found polar bears killing
and eating each other in areas where sea ice failed to form that year,
leaving the bears bereft of food. In response, the International
Union for the Conservation
of Nature and Natural Resources revised their Red List for polar bears—upgrading
them from “conservation dependent” to “vulnerable.” In
February, the U.S. Fish and Wildlife Service announced it would begin reviewing
whether polar bears need protection under the Endangered Species Act.
my report, the leaders of two influential commissions—the Pew Oceans
Commission and the U.S. Commission on Ocean Policy—gave Congress,
the Bush administration, and our nation’s governors a “D+” grade
for not moving quickly enough to address their recommendations for restoring
health to our nation’s oceans.
Most of these stories remain out
of view, sunk with cement boots in the backwaters of scientific journals.
The media remains unable to discern
from bad, and gives equal credence to both, when they give any at all.
of our declining ocean world, and our own future, develops beyond the
ken of the public, who forge ahead without altering behavior or goals,
unimpeded by foresight.
#4 Hunger and Homelessness Increasing in the US
Standard, December 2005
Title: “New Report Shows Increase in Urban Hunger, Homelessness”
Author: Brendan Coyne
OneWorld.net, March, 2006
Title: “US Plan to Eliminate Survey of Needy Families Draws
Author: Abid Aslam
Faculty Evaluator: Myrna Goodman
Student Researcher: Arlene Ward and Brett Forest
The number of hungry and homeless people in U.S. cities continued
to grow in 2005, despite claims of an improved economy. Increased
demand for vital services rose as needs of the most destitute went
unmet, according to the annual U.S. Conference of Mayors Report,
which has documented increasing need since its 1982 inception.
The study measures instances of emergency food and housing assistance
in twenty-four U.S. cities and utilizes supplemental information
from the U.S. Census and Department
of Labor. More than three-quarters of cities surveyed reported increases in demand
for food and housing, especially among families. Food aid requests expanded by
12 percent in 2005, while aid center and food bank resources grew by only 7 percent.
Service providers estimated 18 percent of requests went unattended. Housing followed
a similar trend, as a majority of cities reported an increase in demand for emergency
shelter, often going unmet due to lack of resources.
As urban hunger and homelessness
increases in America, the Bush administration is planning to eliminate
a U.S. survey widely used to improve federal and state
programs for low-income and retired Americans, reports Abid Aslam.
President Bush’s proposed budget for fiscal 2007, which begins October
2006, includes a Commerce Department plan to eliminate the Census Bureau’s
Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP). The proposal marks at least
the third White House attempt in as many years to do away with federal data collection
on politically prickly economic issues.
Founded in 1984, the Census Bureau survey follows American families for a number
of years and monitors their use of Temporary Assistance for Needy Families (TANF),
Social Security, Medicaid, unemployment insurance, child care, and other health,
social service, and education programs.
Some 415 economists and social scientists
signed a letter and sent it to Congress, shortly after the February release
of Bush’s federal budget proposal, urging
that the survey be fully funded as it “is the only large-scale survey explicitly
designed to analyze the impact of a wide variety of government programs on the
well being of American families.”
Heather Boushey, economist at the Washington, D.C.–based Center for Economic
and Policy Research told Abid Aslam, “We need to know what the effects
of these programs are on American families . . . SIPP is designed to do just
that.” Boushey added that the survey has proved invaluable in tracking
the effects of changes in government programs. So much so that the 1996 welfare
reform law specifically mentioned the survey as the best means to evaluate
the law’s effectiveness.
Supporters of the survey elimination say the
program costs too much at $40 million per year. They would kill it in September
and eventually replace it
with a scaled-down
version that would run to $9.2 million in development costs during the coming
fiscal year. Actual data collection would begin in 2009.
Defenders of the
survey counter that the cost is justified as SIPP “provides
a constant stream of in-depth data that enables government, academic, and
independent researchers to evaluate the effectiveness and improve
the efficiency of several
hundred billion dollars in spending on social programs,” including
homeless shelters and emergency food aid.
UPDATE BY ABID ASLAM
As of the end of May 2006, hundreds of economists and social scientists
remain engaged in a bid to save the U.S. Census Bureau’s
Survey of Income and Program Participation (SIPP). Ideologically
diverse users describe the survey as pioneering and say it has
helped to improve the uptake and performance of, and to gauge
the effects on American families of changes in public provisions
ranging from Medicaid to Temporary Assistance to Needy Families
and school lunch programs.
A few journalists took notice because
users of the data, including the Washington-based Center for
Economic and Policy Research (CEPR), which spearheaded the effort
to save SIPP, chose to make some noise.By most accounts, the matter was a simple
fight over money: the administration was out to cut any hint of
flesh from bureaucratic budgets (perhaps to feed
its foreign policy pursuits) but users of the survey wanted the money spent
on SIPP because, in their view, the program is valuable and no feasible alternative
exists or has been proposed.
That debate remains to be resolved. Lobbyists expect
more legislative action in June and among them, CEPR remains available
to provide updates.But is it just an isolated budget fight? This
is the third time in as many years that the Bush administration
has tried—and in the previous two
cases, failed under pressure from users and advocates—to strip funding
for awkward research. In 2003, it had tried to kill the Bureau of Labor Statistics
(BLS) Mass Layoff Statistics report, which detailed where workplaces with more
than fifty employees closed and what kinds of workers were affected. In 2004
and 2005, it had attempted to drop questions on the hiring and firing of women
from employment data collected by the BLS. Hardly big-ticket items on the federal
budget, the mass layoffs reports provided federal and state social service
agencies with data crucial for planning even as it chronicled job losses and
the so-called “jobless recovery.” The women’s questionnaire
uncovered employment discrimination.
In other words, SIPP and the BLS programs
are politically prickly. They highlight that, regardless of what some politicians
and executives might say, economic
and social problems persist and involve real people whose real needs remain
to be met. This calls to mind the old line about there being three kinds
of lies: lies, damn lies, and statistics. To be convincing, they
be broadly consistent.
If the numbers don’t support the narrative, something simply must give.
With the livelihoods, life chances, and rights of millions of citizens at
stake, these are more than stories about arcane budget wrangles.
#5 High-Tech Genocide in Congo
The Taylor Report,
March 28, 2005
Title: “The World’s Most Neglected Emergency: Phil
Taylor talks to Keith Harmon Snow”
Earth First! Journal,
Title: “High-Tech Genocide”
Z Magazine, March 1, 2006
Title: “Behind the Numbers: Untold Suffering in the Congo”
Authors: Keith Harmon Snow and David Barouski
Student Researchers: Deyango Harris and Daniel Turner
The world’s most neglected emergency, according to the UN
Emergency Relief Coordinator, is the ongoing tragedy of the Congo,
where six to seven million have died since 1996 as a consequence
of invasions and wars sponsored by western powers trying to gain
control of the region’s mineral wealth. At stake is control
of natural resources that are sought by U.S. corporations—diamonds,
tin, copper, gold, and more significantly, coltan and niobium,
two minerals necessary for production of cell phones and other
high-tech electronics; and cobalt, an element essential to nuclear,
chemical, aerospace, and defense industries.
i.e. coltan, is found in three-billion-year-old soils like those
in the Rift Valley region of Africa. The tantalum extracted from
ore is used to make tantalum capacitors, tiny components that are essential in
managing the flow of current in electronic devices. Eighty percent of the world’s
coltan reserves are found in the Democratic Republic of Congo (DRC). Niobium
is another high-tech mineral with a similar story.
Sprocket reports that the high-tech
boom of the 1990s caused the price of coltan to skyrocket to nearly $300 per
pound. In 1996 U.S.-sponsored Rwandan and Ugandan
forces entered eastern DRC. By 1998 they seized control and moved into strategic
mining areas. The Rwandan Army was soon making $20 million or more a month
from coltan mining. Though the price of coltan has fallen, Rwanda
maintains its monopoly
on coltan and the coltan trade in DRC. Reports of rampant human rights abuses
pour out of this mining region.
Coltan makes its way out of the mines to trading
posts where foreign traders buy the mineral and ship it abroad,
mostly through Rwanda. Firms with the capability
turn coltan into the coveted tantalum powder, and then sell the magic powder
to Nokia, Motorola, Compaq, Sony, and other manufacturers for use in cell phones
and other products.
Keith Harmon Snow emphasizes that any analysis of the geopolitics in the Congo,
and the reasons for why the Congolese people have suffered a virtually unending
war since 1996, requires an understanding of the organized crime perpetrated
through multinational businesses. The tragedy of the Congo conflict has been
instituted by invested corporations, their proxy armies, and the supra-governmental
bodies that support them.
The process is tied to major multinational corporations
at all levels. These include U.S.-based Cabot Corp. and OM Group; HC Starck
of Germany; and Nigncxia
of China—corporations that have been linked by a United Nations Panel
of Experts to the atrocities in DRC. Extortion, rape, massacres, and bribery
all part of the criminal networks set up and maintained by huge multinational
companies. Yet as mining in the Congo by western companies proceeds at an unprecedented
rate—some $6 million in raw cobalt alone exiting DRC daily—multinational
mining companies rarely get mentioned in human rights reports.
Sprocket notes that Sam Bodman, CEO of Cabot during the coltan boom, was
appointed in December 2004 to serve as President Bush’s Secretary of
Energy. Under Bodman’s leadership from 1987 to 2000, Cabot was one
of the U.S.’s
largest polluters, accounting for 60,000 tons of airborne toxic emissions
annually. Snow adds that Sony’s current Executive Vice President and
General Counsel Nicole Seligman was a former legal adviser for Bill Clinton.
Many who held positions
of power in the Clinton administration moved into high positions with Sony.
article “Behind the Numbers,” coauthored by Snow and David
Barouski, details a web of U.S. corruption and conflicts of interest between
corporations such as Barrick Gold (see Story #21) and the U.S. government
under George H.
W. Bush, Bill Clinton, and George W. Bush, as well as U.S. arms dealers
such as Simax; U.S. defense companies such as Lockheed Martin, Halliburton,
Grumman, GE, Boeing, Raytheon, and Bechtel; “humanitarian” organizations
such as CARE, funded by Lockheed Martin, and International Rescue Committee,
whose Board of Overseers includes Henry Kissinger; “Conservation” interests
that provide the vanguard for western penetration into Central Africa;
and of course, PR firms and news outlets such as the New York Times.
closes his article by noting that it’s not surprising this information
isn’t included in the literature and manuals that come with your
cell phones, pagers, computers, or diamond jewelry. Perhaps, he suggests,
mobile phones should
be outfitted with stickers that read: “Warning! This device was created
with raw materials from central Africa. These materials are rare, nonrenewable,
were sold to fund a bloody war of occupation, and have caused the virtual
elimination of endangered species. Have a nice day.” People need
to realize, he says, that there is a direct link between the gadgets that
make our lives more convenient
and sophisticated—and the reality of the violence, turmoil, and destruction
that plague our world.
UPDATE BY SPROCKET
There are large fortunes to be made in the manufacturing of high-tech
electronics and in selling convenience and entertainment to American
consumers, but at what cost?
Conflicts in Africa are often shrouded
with misinformation, while U.S. and other western interests are
routinely downplayed or omitted by the corporate
media. The June 5, 2006, cover story of Time, entitled “Congo: The Hidden
Toll of the World’s Deadliest War,” was no exception. Although
the article briefly mentioned coltan and its use in cell phones and other electronic
devices, no mention was made of the pivotal role this and other raw materials
found in the region play in the conflict. The story painted the ongoing war
as a pitiable and horrible tragedy, avoiding the corporations and foreign governments
that have created the framework for the violence and those which have strong
financial and political interests in the conflict’s outcome.
In an article
written by Johann Hari and published by The Hamilton Spectator on May 13,
2006, the corporate media took a step toward addressing the true
reason for the tremendous body count that continues to pile up in the Democratic
Republic of Congo: “The only change over the decades has been the resources
snatched for Western consumption—rubber under the Belgians, diamonds
under Mobutu, coltan and casterite today.”
Most disturbing is that in
the corporate media, the effect of this conflict on nonhuman life is totally
overlooked. Even with a high-profile endangered
species like the Eastern lowland gorilla hanging in the balance, almost
driven to extinction through poaching and habitat loss by displaced
warring factions, the environmental angle of the story is rarely considered.
next step in understanding the exploitation and violence wrought upon the
inhabitants of central Africa, fueled by the hunger for high-tech toys
U.S., is to expose corporations like Sony and Motorola. These corporations
don’t want protest movements tarnishing their reputations. Nor do
they want to call attention to all of the gorillas coltan kills, and the
It is time for our culture to start seeing more value in living
beings, whether gorillas or humans, than in our disposable high-tech
phones. It is time to steal back a more compassionate existence from
plutocracy that creates destructive markets and from the media system
that has manufactured our consent.
It is not just a question of
giving up cell phones (though that would be a great start). We
must question the appropriation of our planet in
form of a resource to be consumed, rather than as a home and community
to be lived
“High-Tech Genocide” and other articles about cell
phone technology are available by contacting the author: email@example.com.
UPDATE BY KEITH HARMON SNOW
War for the control of the Democratic Republic of Congo—what
should be the richest country in the world—began in Uganda
in the 1980s, when now Ugandan President Yoweri Museveni shot his
way to power with the backing of Buckingham Palace, the White House,
and Tel Aviv behind him.
Paul Kagame, now president of Rwanda,
served as Museveni’s Director of
Military Intelligence. Kagame later trained at Fort Leavenworth, Kansas, before
the Rwandan Patriotic Front (RPF)—backed by Roger Winter, the U.S. Committee
on Refugees, and the others above—invaded Rwanda. The RPF destabilized
and then secured Rwanda. This coup d’etat is today misunderstood as the “Rwanda
Genocide.” What played out in Rwanda in 1994 is now playing out in Darfur,
Sudan; regime change is the goal, “genocide” is the tool of propaganda
used to manipulate and disinform.
In 1996, Paul Kagame and Yoweri Museveni,
with the Pentagon behind them, launched their covert war against Zaire’s
Mobutu Sese Seko and his western backers. A decade later, there are 6 or 7
million dead, at the very least, and the war
in Congo (Zaire) continues.
If you are reading the mainstream newspapers or
listening to National Public Radio, you are contributing to your own mental
illness, no matter how astute
you believe yourself to be at “balancing” or “deciphering” the
News reports in Time Magazine (“The Deadliest War In The World,” June
6, 2006) and on CNN (“Rape, Brutality Ignored to Aid Congo Peace,” May
26, 2006) that appeared at the time of this writing are being interpreted by
conscious people to be truth-telling at last. However, these are perfect examples
filled with hidden deceptions and manipulations.
For accuracy and truth on Central Africa, look to people like Robin Philpot
(Imperialism Dies Hard), Wayne Madsen (Genocide and Covert Operations in
Africa, 1993–1999), Amos Wilson (The Falsification of Consciousness),
Charles Onana (The Secrets of the Rwanda Genocide—Investigation on
the Mysteries of a President), Antoine Lokongo (www.congopanorama.info),
Phil Taylor (www.taylor-report.com),
Christopher Black (“Racism, Murder and Lies in Rwanda”). World
War 4 Report has published my reports, but they are inconsistent in their
attention to accuracy, and would as quickly adopt the propaganda, and have
done so at
It is possible to collect little fragments of truth here and there—never
counting on the mainstream system for this—but one must beware the
deceptions and bias. In this vein, the elite business journal Africa Confidential
very revealing. Some facts can be gleaned from www.DigitalCongo.net and
Africa Research Bulletin.
Professor David Gibb’s book The Political
Economy of Third World Intervention: Case of the Congo Crises is an excellent
backgrounder that identifies players
still active today (especially Maurice Tempelsman and his diamonds interests
connected to the Democratic Party). Ditto King Leopold’s Ghost
by Adam Hocshchild, but—exemplifying the expedience of “interests”—remember
that Hocshchild never tells you, the reader, that his father ran a mining
company in Congo. Almost ALL reportage is expedient; one needs take care
to be deceived.
Professor Ruth Mayer’s book Artificial Africas:
Colonial Images in the Times of Globalization is a particularly poignant
articulation of the means
by which the “media” system distorts and manipulates all
things African. And, never forget www.AllThingsPass.com.
to correct the record and reveal the truth, the International Forum
for Truth and Justice in the Great Lakes of Africa (www.veritasrwandaforum.org),
based in Spain, and co-founded by Nobel Prize nominee Juan Carrero
Seraleegui, is involved in a groundbreaking lawsuit charging massive
humanity and acts of genocide were committed by the now government
#6 Federal Whistleblower Protection in Jeopardy
Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility website
Titles: “Whistleblowers Get Help from Bush Administration,” December
“Long-Delayed Investigation of Special Counsel Finally Begins,” October
“Back Door Rollback of Federal Whistleblower Protections,” September
Author: Jeff Ruch
Faculty Evaluator: Barbara Bloom
Student Researchers: Caitlyn Peele and Sara-Joy Christienson
Special Counsel Scott Bloch, appointed by President Bush in 2004,
is overseeing the virtual elimination of federal whistleblower
rights in the U.S. government.
The U.S. Office of Special Counsel
(OSC), the agency that is supposed to protect federal employees
who blow the whistle on waste, fraud, and abuse is dismissing
hundreds of cases while advancing almost none. According to the Annual Report
for 2004 (which was not released until the end of first quarter fiscal year 2006)
less than 1.5 percent of whistleblower claims were referred for investigation
while more than 1000 reports were closed before they were even opened. Only eight
claims were found to be substantiated, and one of those included the theft of
a desk, while another included attendance violations. Favorable outcomes have
declined 24 percent overall, and this is all in the first year that the new special
counsel, Scott Bloch, has been in office.
Bloch, who has received numerous complaints
since he took office, defends his first thirteen months in office
by pointing to a decline in backlogged cases.
Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility (PEER) Executive Director Jeff
Ruch says, “. . . backlogs and delays are bad, but they are not as bad
as simply dumping the cases altogether.” According to figures released
by Bloch in February of 2005 more than 470 claims of retaliation were dismissed,
and not once had he affirmatively represented a whistleblower. In fact, in order
to speed dismissals, Bloch instituted a rule forbidding his staff from contacting
a whistleblower if their disclosure was deemed incomplete or ambiguous. Instead,
the OSC would dismiss the matter. As a result, hundreds of whistleblowers never
had a chance to justify their cases. Ruch notes that these numbers are limited
to only the backlogged cases and do not include new ones.
On March 3, 2005, OSC
staff members joined by a coalition of whistleblower protection and civil rights
organizations filed a complaint against Bloch. His own employees
accused him of violating the very rules he is supposed to be enforcing. The
complaint specifies instances of illegal gag orders, cronyism,
and retaliation by forcing the resignation of one-fifth of the OSC headquarters
legal and investigative staff. The complaint was filed with the President’s
Council on Integrity and Efficiency, which took no action on the case for seven
months. PEER was one of the groups who co-filed the complaint against Bloch
and Ruch wants to know, “Who watches the watchdogs?”
This is the
third probe into Bloch’s operation in less than two years in
office. Both the Government Accountability Office and a U.S. Senate subcommittee
have ongoing investigations into mass dismissals of whistleblower cases,
crony hires, and Bloch’s targeting of gay employees for removal while
refusing to investigate cases involving discrimination on the basis of sexual
The Department of Labor has also gotten on board in a behind-the-scenes
to cancel whistleblower protections. If it succeeds, the Labor Department
will dismiss claims by federal workers who report violations under the
Act and the Safe Drinking Water Act. General Counsel for PEER, Richard
Condit says, “Federal
workers in agencies such as the Environmental Protection Agency function
as the public’s eyes and ears . . . the Labor Department is moving
to shut down one of the few legal avenues left to whistleblowers.” The
Labor Department is trying to invoke the ancient doctrine of sovereign immunity,
which says that
the government cannot be sued without its consent. The Secretary of Labor’s
Administrative Review Board recently invited the EPA to raise a sovereign
immunity defense in a case where a woman was trying to enforce earlier victories.
Accountability Project General Counsel Joanne Royce sums up major concerns: “We
do not want public servants wondering whether they will lose their jobs for
acting against pollution violations of politically well-connected interests.”
UPDATE BY JEFF RUCH
With the decline in oversight by the U.S. Congress and the uneven
quality of investigative journalism, outlets such as the U.S.
Office of Special Counsel become even more important channels
for governmental transparency. Unfortunately, under the Bush-appointed
Special Counsel, this supposed haven for whistleblowers has become
a beacon of false hope for thousands.
Each year, hundreds of civil
servants who witness problems ranging from threats to public
safety to waste of tax funds find that their reports of wrongdoing
are stonewalled by the Office of Special Counsel (OSC). Consequently, these
firsthand accounts of malfeasance are not investigated and almost uniformly
never reach the public’s attention.
The importance of this state of affairs is that the actual workings of federal
agencies are becoming more shrouded in secrecy and disinformation. Americans
are less informed about their government and less able to be in connection
with the people who actually work for them—the public servants.
In a recent
development, employees within the OSC have filed a whistleblower complaint
about the Special Counsel, the person who is supposed to be the chief
whistleblower defender. After several months delay, the Bush White House
assigned this complaint to the Inspector General for the Office
of Personnel Management
for review. This supposedly independent investigation has just begun in earnest,
nearly one year after the complaint was filed.
Also, the Government Accountability
Office (GAO) issued a report in May 2006 blasting the Bush-appointed
Special Counsel for ignoring competitive bidding
rules in handing out consultant contracts. GAO also recommended creating
an independent channel whereby Office of Special Counsel employees can blow
whistle on further abuses by the Special Counsel.
In another recent development,
PEER’s lawsuit against the Special Counsel
to force release of documents concerning crony hires has produced more, heavily
redacted documents showing that these sole source consultants apparently
did no identifiable work. Ironically, the PEER suit was filed under
of Information Act, a law that the Special Counsel is also charged with policing.
in a new annual report to Congress, OSC (stung by criticism about
declining performance) has, for the first time, stopped disclosing
the number of whistleblower
cases where it obtained a favorable outcome. Consequently, it is impossible
to tell if anyone is actually being helped by the agency.
page on the Office of Special Counsel has posted all developments since this
story and also allows a reader to trace the story’s genesis.
# 7 US Operatives Torture Detainees to Death in Afghanistan
American Civil Liberties Website, October 24,
Title: “US Operatives Killed Detainees During Interrogations
in Afghanistan and Iraq”
Tom Dispatch.com, March 5, 2006
Title: “Tracing the Trail of Torture: Embedding Torture as
Policy from Guantanamo to Iraq”
Author: Dahr Jamail
Faculty Evaluator: Rabi Michael Robinson
Student Researchers: Michael B Januleski Jr. and Jessica
The American Civil Liberties Union (ACLU) released documents of
forty-four autopsies held in Afghanistan and Iraq October 25, 2005.
Twenty-one of those deaths were listed as homicides. The documents
show that detainees died during and after interrogations by Navy
SEALs, Military Intelligence, and Other Government Agency (OGA).
“These documents present irrefutable evidence that U.S. operatives tortured
detainees to death during interrogation,” said Amrit Singh, an attorney
with the ACLU. “The public has a right to know who authorized the use of
torture techniques and why these deaths have been covered up.”
of Defense released the autopsy reports in response to a Freedom of Information
Act request filed by the ACLU, the Center for Constitutional Rights,
Physicians for Human Rights, Veterans for Common Sense, and Veterans for Peace.
One of forty-four U.S. military autopsy reports reads as follows: “Final
Autopsy Report: DOD 003164, (Detainee) Died as a result of asphyxia (lack of
oxygen to the brain) due to strangulation as evidenced by the recently fractured
hyoid bone in the neck and soft tissue hemorrhage extending downward to the
level of the right thyroid cartilage. Autopsy revealed bone fracture,
contusions in mid abdomen, back and buttocks extending to the left flank, abrasions,
lateral buttocks. Contusions, back of legs and knees; abrasions on knees, left
fingers and encircling to left wrist. Lacerations and superficial cuts, right
4th and 5th fingers. Also, blunt force injuries, predominately recent contusions
(bruises) on the torso and lower extremities. Abrasions on left wrist are consistent
with use of restraints. No evidence of defense injuries or natural disease.
Manner of death is homicide. Whitehorse Detainment Facility, Nasiriyah,
Another report from the ACLU indicates: “a 27-year-old Iraqi male died
while being interrogated by Navy Seals on April 5, 2004, in Mosul, Iraq. During
his confinement he was hooded, flex-cuffed, sleep deprived and subjected to hot
and cold environmental conditions, including the use of cold water on his body
and head. The exact cause of death was ‘undetermined’ although the
autopsy stated that hypothermia may have contributed to his death.”
An overwhelming majority of the so-called “natural deaths” covered
in the autopsies were attributed to “arteriosclerotic cardiovascular
attack). Persons under extreme stress and pain may have heart attacks as
a result of the circumstances of their detainments.
The Associated Press
carried the story of the ACLU charges on their wire
service. However, a thorough check of LexisNexis and ProQuest electronic
using the keywords ACLU and autopsy, showed that at least 95 percent of
the daily papers
in the U.S. did not bother to pick up the story. The Los Angeles Times
covered the story on page A4 with a 635-word report headlined “Autopsies Support
Abuse Allegations.” Fewer than a dozen other daily newspapers including:
Bangor Daily News, Maine, page 8; Telegraph-Herald, Dubuque, Iowa, page 6;
Charleston Gazette, page 5; Advocate, Baton Rouge, page 11; and a half dozen
covered the story. The Pittsburgh Post-Gazette and the Seattle Times buried
the story inside general Iraq news articles. USA Today posted the story on
website. MSNBC posted the story to their website, but apparently did not
consider it newsworthy enough to air on television.
Janis Karpinski, U.S. Brigadier General Commander of the 800th Military
Police Brigade, was in charge of seventeen prison facilities in Iraq during
Abu Ghraib scandal in 2003. Karpinski testified January 21, 2006 in New
at the International Commission of Inquiry on Crimes against Humanity Committed
by the Bush administration. Karpinski stated: “General [Ricardo] Sanchez
[commander of coalition ground forces in Iraq] signed the eight-page memorandum
authorizing a laundry list of harsh techniques in interrogations to include specific
use of dogs and muzzled dogs with his specific permission.” Karpinski went
on to claim that Major General Geoffrey Miller, who had been “specifically
selected by the Secretary of Defense to go to Guantanamo Bay and run the interrogations
operations,” was dispatched to Iraq by the Bush administration to “work
with the military intelligence personnel to teach them new and improved interrogation
techniques.” When asked how far up the chain of command responsibility
for the torture orders for Abu Ghraib went, Karpinski said, “The Secretary
of Defense would not have authorized without the approval of the Vice President.”
UPDATE BY DAHR JAMAIL
This story, published in March 2006, was merely a snapshot of the
ongoing and worsening policy of the Bush administration regarding
torture. And not just time, but places show snapshots of the
criminal policy of the current administration—Iraq, like
Guantánamo Bay, Cuba, Bagram Air Force Base in Afghanistan,
and other “secret” U.S. military detention centers
in Eastern European countries are physical examples of an ongoing
policy which breaches both international law and our very constitution.
But breaking international and domestic law has not been a concern
of an administration led by a “president” who has
claimed “authority” to
disobey over 750 laws passed by Congress. In fact, when this same individual
does things like signing a secret order in 2002 which authorized the National
Security Agency to violate the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act by wiretapping
the phones of U.S. citizens, and then goes on to allow the secret collection
of the telephone records of tens of millions of Americans, torture is but one
portion of this corrupted picture. This is a critical ongoing story, not just
because it violates international and domestic law, but this state-sanctioned
brutality, bankrupt of any morality and decency, is already coming back home
to haunt Americans. When U.S. soldiers are captured in Iraq or another foreign
country, what basis does the U.S. have now to ask for their fair and humane
treatment? And with police brutality and draconian “security” measures
becoming more real within the U.S. with each passing day, why wouldn’t
these policies be visited upon U.S. citizens?
While torture is occasionally
glimpsed by mainstream media outlets such as the Washington Post and Time
Magazine, we must continue to rely on groups like
the Center for Constitutional Rights in New York City, Human Rights Watch,
and Amnesty International who cover the subject thoroughly, persistently,
and unlike (of course) any corporate media outlets.
Since I wrote this story, there continues to be a deluge of information and
proof of the Bush administration continuing and even widening their policy
of torture, as well as their rendering prisoners to countries which have
torturing human beings down to a science.
All of this, despite the fact that
U.S. laws prohibit torture absolutely, clearly stating that torture is
never, ever permitted, even in a time of
current on this critical topic, please visit the following websites regularly:
#8 Pentagon Exempt from Freedom of Information Act
New Standard, May 6, 2005
Title: “Pentagon Seeks Greater Immunity from Freedom of Information”
Author: Michelle Chen
Newspaper Association of America website,
posted December 2005
Title: “FOIA Exemption Granted to Federal Agency”
Evaluator: Tim Ogburn
Student Researcher: Rachelle Cooper and Brian Murphy
The Department of Defense has been granted exemption from the
Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). In December 2005, Congress passed
the 2006 Defense Authorization Act which renders Defense Intelligence
Agency (DIA) “operational files” fully immune to FOIA
requests, the main mechanism by which watchdog groups, journalists
and individuals can access federal documents. Of particular concern
to critics of the Defense Authorization Act is the DIA’s
new right to thwart access to files that may reveal human rights
violations tied to ongoing “counterterrorism” efforts.
The rule could, for instance, frustrate the work of the American Civil Liberties
Union (ACLU) and other organizations that have relied on FOIA to uncover more
than 30,000 documents on the U.S. military’s involvement in the torture
and mistreatment of foreign detainees in Afghanistan, Guantanamo Bay, and Iraq—including
the Abu Ghraib scandal.
Several key documents that have surfaced in the advocacy
expansive research originate from DIA files, including a 2004 memorandum containing
evidence that U.S. military interrogators brutalized detainees in Baghdad,
as well as a report describing the abuse of Iraqi detainees as violations of
human rights law.
According to Jameel Jaffer, an ACLU attorney involved in the
ongoing torture investigations, “If the Defense Intelligence Agency
can rely on exception or exemption from the FOIA, then documents such as
that we obtained this
last time around will not become public at all.” The end result of
such an exemption, he told The New Standard, is that “abuse is much
more likely to take place, because there’s not public oversight of
Defense Intelligence Agency activity.”
Jaffer added that because the
DIA conducts investigations relating to other national security-related
agencies, documents covered by the exemption could
evidence of how other parts of the military operate as well.
he ACLU recently battled the FOIA exemption rule of the CIA in
a lawsuit over the agency’s attempt to withhold information
concerning alleged abuse of Iraqi detainees. The CIA’s defense
centered on the invocation of FOIA exemption, and although a federal
judge ultimately overrode the rule, Jaffer cited the case
as evidence of “exemption creep”—the gradual stretching
of the law to further shield federal agencies from public scrutiny.
to language in the Defense Authorization Act, an operational file can
be any information related to “the conduct of foreign
intelligence or counterintelligence operations or intelligence or security
liaison arrangements or information exchanges
with foreign governments or their intelligence or security services.”
warn that such vague bureaucratic language is a green light for the
DIA to thwart a wide array of legitimate information requests
Steven Aftergood, director of the research organization Project on
Government Secrecy, warns, “If it falls in the category of ‘operational
over before it begins.”
Thomas Blanton, director of the National
Security Archive, adds, “These
exemptions create a black hole into which the bureaucracy can drive
just about any kind of information it wants to. And you can bet
Abu Ghraib-style information is what DIA and others would want
The Newspaper Association of America reports that,
due to lobbying efforts of the Sunshine in Government Initiative
and other open
negotiators imposed an unprecedented two-year “sunset” date
on the Pentagon’s FOIA exemption, ending in December 2007.
Update by Michelle Chen:
The Defense Intelligence Agency, the intelligence arm of the Department
of Defense, has been a source for critical information on the
Pentagon's foreign operations as well as the DIA's observations
of the conduct of other branches of the military. Its request
for immunity from the Freedom of Information Act last year was
not the first attempt to shield its data from members of the
public, but it did come at a time that the governent's anti-terror
fervor was beginning to crest.
Open-government groups warn that such an exemption from FOIA requests,
which the Central Intelligene Agency already enjoys, would close
off a major channel for information in a government bureaucracy
already riddled with both formal and informal barriers of secrecy.
The Pentagon's request alarmed groups like the ACLU, which has
relied heavily on such data to build cases regarding torture and
abuse of detainees in Iraq.
Since the article was published, the language proposed for the
Defense Department budget for FY 2006 was adopted. (The public
print of the bill can be read at the GPO website here, buried on
page 472: http://frwebgate.access.gpo.gov/cgi-bin/getdoc.cgi?dbname=109_cong_bills&docid=f:s1042pp.txt.pdf.)
The bill specifically refers to the immunity of "operational
files," though this is somewhat ambiguously defined.
Another development in this issue area over the past year is that
secrecy and intelligence gathering have become intense domestic
political issues. As a result, heightened public attention to the
gradual rollback on open-government laws is beginning to stir some
congressional action in the form of hearings and investigative
reports, not just related to classified information per se but
also the new quasi-classified categories that have cropped up since
Earlier this year, the Pentagon initiatied a department-wide review
of FOIA practices, though it is unlear whether this internal evaluation
will lead to actual changes in how information is disclosed or
withheld from public purview. (http://www.defenselink.mil/pubs/foi/DoD_FOIA_Review.pdf).
For more on this issue, see:
The Project on Government Secrecy, a watchdog group run by the
American Federation of Scientists:
The National Security Archives at George Washington University,
which has an extensive collection of FOIA documents and has issued
numerous reports and studies on government secrecy and FOIA policies:
#9 The World Bank Funds Israel-Palestine Wall
Left Turn Issue #18
Title: “Cementing Israeli Apartheid: The Role of World Bank”
Author: Jamal Juma’
Al-Jazeerah, March 9, 2005
Title: “US Free Trade Agreements Split Arab Opinion”
Author: Linda Heard
Community Evaluator: April Hurley, MD
Student Researchers: Bailey Malone and Lisa Dobias
Despite the 2004 International Court of Justice (ICJ) decision
that called for tearing down the Wall and compensating affected
communities, construction of the Wall has accelerated. The route
of the barrier runs deep into Palestinian territory, aiding the
annexation of Israeli settlements and the breaking of Palestinian
territorial continuity. The World Bank’s vision of “economic
development,” however, evades any discussion of the Wall’s
The World Bank has meanwhile outlined the framework for a Palestinian Middle
East Free Trade Area (MEFTA) policy in their most recent report on Palestine
published in December of 2004, “Stagnation or Revival: Israeli Disengagement
and Palestinian Economic Prospects.”
Central to World Bank proposals are the construction of massive industrial zones
to be financed by the World Bank and other donors and controlled by the Israeli
Occupation. Built on Palestinian land around the Wall, these industrial zones
are envisaged as forming the basis of export-orientated economic development.
Palestinians imprisoned by the Wall and dispossessed of land can be put to work
for low wages.
The post-Wall MEFTA vision includes complete control over Palestinian movement.
The report proposes high-tech military gates and checkpoints along the Wall,
through which Palestinians and exports can be conveniently transported and controlled.
A supplemental “transfer system” of walled roads and tunnels will
allow Palestinian workers to be funneled to their jobs, while being simultaneously
denied access to their land. Sweatshops will be one of very few possibilities
of earning a living for Palestinians confined to disparate ghettos throughout
the West Bank. The World Bank states:
“In an improved operating environment, Palestinian entrepreneurs
and foreign investors will look for well-serviced industrial land
and supporting infrastructure. They will also seek a regulatory
regime with a minimum of ‘red tape’ and with clear
procedures for conducting business. Industrial Estates (IEs), particularly
those on the border between Palestinian and Israeli territory,
can fulfill this need and thereby play an important role in supporting
export based growth.”
Jamal Juma’ notes that the “red tape” which
the World Bank refers to can be presumed to mean trade unions,
a minimum wage, good working conditions, environmental protection,
and other workers’ rights that will be more flexible than
the ones in the “developed” world. The World Bank explicitly
states that current wages of Palestinians are too high for the
region and “compromise the international competitiveness” even
though wages are only a quarter of the average in Israel. Juma’ warns
that on top of a military occupation and forced expulsion, Palestinians
are to be subjects of an economic colonialism.
These industrial zones will clearly benefit Israel abroad where goods “Made
in Palestine” have more favorable trade conditions in international markets.
IPS reporter Emad Mekay, in February 2005, revealed the World Bank’s
plan to partially fund Palestinian MEFTA infrastructure with loans to Palestine.
Israel is not eligible for World Bank lending because of its high per capita
income, but Palestine is. Mekay quotes Terry Walz of the Washington-based Council
for the National Interest, a group that monitors U.S. and international policy
towards Israel and the Palestinians: “I must admit that making the Palestinians
pay for the modernization of these checkpoints is an embarrassment, since they
had nothing to do with the erection of the separation wall to begin with and
in fact have protested it. I think the whole issue is extremely murky.”1
Mekay goes on to note that this is the first time the World Bank appears ready
to get actively involved in the Israeli occupation of Palestinian land. Former
World Bank president James Wolfensohn rejected this possibility last year.
Neo-conservative Paul Wolfowitz was, however, confirmed as president of the
World Bank on June 1, 2005.
In breach of the ICJ ruling, the U.S. has already contributed $50 million to
construct gates along the Wall to “help serve the needs of Palestinians.”
Linda Heard reports for Al-Jazeerah that the U.S. is currently pushing for
bilateral Free Trade Agreements (FTAs) with various Arab states, including
members of the Gulf Cooperation Council (GCC), as part of a vision for a larger
Middle East Free Trade Agreement. President Bush hopes the MEFTA will encompass
some twenty regional countries, including Israel, and be fully consolidated
Many in the region are suspicious of the divisive trend of bilateral agreements
with the U.S. and worry that the GCC will end up with small, fragmented satellite
economies without any leverage against world giants. Prince Saud Al-Faisal,
the Saudi foreign minister, stated, “It is alarming to see some members
of the GCC enter into separate agreements with international powers . . . They
diminish the collective bargaining power and weaken not only the solidarity
of the GCC as a whole, but also each of its members.”
1. Emad Mekay, “World Bank and U.S.: Palestinians Should Pay for Israeli
Checkpoints,” IPS, February 25, 2005.
UPDATE BY JAMAL JUMA’
Cementing Israeli Apartheid: The Role of the World Bank” was
written last summer as part of Stop the Wall’s campaign efforts
to widen attention of those horrified by the construction of the
700 km long wall around Palestinian cities and villages. It aimed
to expose the vicious mechanism of control, exploitation, and dispossession
devised by the Occupation, but moreover the activities of the international
community in safeguarding the Wall and making Palestinian ghettos
It opens a chapter in a story that no one wants to hear: the globalization
of apartheid in the Occupation of Palestine. Zionism has its own racist interest
in ghettoizing 4 million Palestinians in the West Bank and Gaza and securing
the judaization of Jerusalem. It ensures a Jewish demographic majority and
ethnic supremacy over as much of Palestine as possible, working against all
UN resolutions and the recent ICJ ruling on the Wall.
Within this project it finds allies in the international community keen to
exploit cheap Palestinian labor locked behind Walls and gates. The degree to
which Zionism and the international community—headed by the World Bank—work
together with the aim of controlling every aspect of Palestinian life has become
increasingly evident since the Left Turn article.
The Palestinian Authority’s (PA) role is reduced to the administrators
of the Bantustans. The Palestinian people resoundingly said no to Bantustans
at the ballot boxes last January.
While the Bank’s initial responsibility was to devise economic policies
for the sustainability of a Palestinian Bantu-State, the institution is now
facilitating efforts to ensure that Palestinians cannot interfere in the plans
of the Occupation and the international community. The World Bank is gearing
up to take over the payrolls of various Palestinian institutions, should the
PA not comply with Zionist and global interests.
While global IFIs meticulously plan the financial and material survival and
political control of the ghettos, Ehud Olmert offers the slogan of “Final
Borders” to describe the project. In legitimizing the Wall, annexing
Jerusalem, increasing the number of settlers, and denying the mere existence
of the refugees, Olmert finds a willing accomplice in the Bank and its policy
makers in Washington, who look to cash in on the Bantu-State.
The Palestinian people will never accept the plan, so it is hoped that they
will be starved into it. But we will not kneel down. After dozens of massacres,
killings, arrests, and almost sixty years of life in the Diaspora, surrender
is too high a price to pay. We are not asking for outside institutions to provide
us with bread, but to comply with their duties under international law and
support our struggle for justice and liberation.
None of the horrific realities of life in Palestine are apparent in the headlines
and doublespeak of mass media and international diplomacy, where our ghettoization
is called “state-building.” International complicity with Israeli
apartheid is dressed up as “humanitarian aid.” Palestinians are
supposed to be grateful for gates in the Wall so they can be funneled between
Just like Olmert’s schemes with the White House, the media shuns and
neglects the rights and voices of Palestinians. Neither the daily killing of
our people, nor the destruction of our homes, the dispossession of our farmers,
or the sufferings of 6 million refugees make headlines. The consumers of mainstream
media outlets are left to discuss the diatribe of “peace” and “borders,” disputed
between the protagonists of our oppression, while the racism, ethnic cleansing,
and ghettoization continue.
More information on the issue is to be found at our website: http://www.stopthewall.org
#10 Expanded Air War in Iraq Kills More Civilians
The New Yorker, December 2005
Title: "Up in the Air"
Author: Seymour M. Hersh
Tomdispatch, December 2005
Title: "An Increasingly Aerial Occupation"
Author: Dahr Jamail
Community Evaluator: Robert Manning
Student Researcher: Brian Fuchs
There is widespread speculation that President Bush, confronted
by diminishing approval ratings and dissent within his own party
as well as within the military itself, will begin pulling American
troops out of Iraq in 2006. A key element of the drawdown plans
not mentioned in the President’s public statements, or in
mainstream media for that matter, is that the departing American
troops will be replaced by American airpower.
“We’re not planning to diminish the war,” Seymour
Hersh quotes Patrick Clawson, the deputy director of the Washington
Institute, whose views
often mirror those of Dick Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld. “We just want
to change the mix of the forces doing the fighting—Iraqi infantry with
American support and greater use of airpower.”
While battle fatigue increases
among U.S. troops, the prospect of using airpower as a substitute for American
troops on the ground has caused great unease within
the military. Air Force commanders, in particular, have deep-seated objections
to the possibility that Iraqis will eventually be responsible for target
selection. Hersh quotes a senior military planner now on assignment
in the Pentagon, “Will
the Iraqis call in air strikes in order to snuff rivals, or other warlords,
or to snuff members of their own sect and blame someone else? Will some Iraqis
targeting on behalf of al-Qaeda, or the insurgency, or the Iranians?”
Jamail reports that the statistics gleaned from U.S. Central Command Air
Forces (CENTAF) indicate a massive rise in the number of U.S. air missions—996
sorties—in Iraq in the month of November 2005.
The size of this figure naturally begs the question, where are such missions
being flown and what is their size and nature? It’s important to
note as well that “air war” does not simply mean U.S. Air Force.
Carrier-based Navy and Marine aircraft flew over 21,000 hours of missions
and dropped over
twenty-six tons of ordnance in Fallujah alone during the November 2004
siege of that city.
Visions of a frightful future in Iraq should not overshadow
already caused by present levels of American air power loosed, in particular,
populated urban areas of that country. The tactic of using massively
powerful 500 and 1,000 pound bombs in urban areas to target small
pockets of resistance
fighters has, in fact, long been employed in Iraq. No intensification
of the air war is necessary to make it commonplace. Jamail’s
article provides a broad overview of the air power arsenals being
the people of Iraq.
A serious study of violence to civilians in Iraq by
a British medical journal, The Lancet, released in October 2004,
estimated that 85 percent
violent deaths in Iraq are generated by coalition forces (see Censored
#2). 95 percent of reported killings (all attributed to U.S. forces by
interviewees) were caused by helicopter gunships, rockets, or other forms
of aerial weaponry.1
While no significant scientific inquiry has been carried out in Iraq
recently, Iraqi medical personnel, working in areas where U.S. military
continue, report that they feel the “vast majority” of civilian
deaths are the result of actions by the occupation forces.
Given the U.S.
air power already being applied largely in Iraq’s cities
and towns, the prospect of increasing it is chilling indeed. As to how
this might benefit the embattled Bush administration, Jamail quotes U.S.
Air Force Lieutenant
Colonel Karen Kwiatkowski:
“Shifting the mechanism of the destruction of Iraq from
soldiers and Marines to distant and safer air power would be successful
in several ways. It would reduce the negative publicity value of
maimed American soldiers and Marines, would bring a portion of
our troops home and give the Army a necessary operational break.
It would increase Air Force and Naval budgets, and line defense
contractor pockets. By the time we figure out that it isn’t
working to make oil more secure or to allow Iraqis to rebuild a
stable country, the Army will have recovered and can be redeployed
1. Les Roberts, et al., “Mortality Before and After the 2003 Invasion
of Iraq,” The Lancet, October 29, 2004.
UPDATE BY DAHR JAMAIL
Eleven days after this story about the lack of reportage in the
corporate media about the U.S. military’s increasing use
of air power in Iraq, the Washington Post ran a story about how
U.S. air strikes were taking an increasing toll on civilians.
Aside from that story, the Washington Post, along with the New
York Times, remain largely mute on the issue, despite the fact
that the U.S. use of air strikes in Iraq has now become the norm
rather than being used in contingencies, as they were in the
first year of the occupation. Needless to say, corporate media
television coverage has remained the same as it did prior to
the publishing of this story—they prefer to portray a U.S.
occupation of Iraq sans warplanes dropping bombs in civilian
This story remains a critical issue when one evaluates
the occupation of Iraq, for the number of civilians dying, now
possibly as high as 300,000 according
to Les Roberts, one of the authors of the famous Lancet Report, only continues
to escalate. This is, of course, due in large part to U.S. war planes and helicopters
dropping bombs and missiles into urban areas in various Iraqi cities.
also important when one looks at the fact that more than 82 percent
of Iraqis now vehemently oppose the occupation, because one of
the biggest recruiting
tools for the Iraqi resistance is U.S. bombs and missiles killing the innocent.
Years from now when a corporate media outlet decides to break down and acknowledge
that the level of anti-American sentiment in Iraq is as high (or higher) than
it is anywhere in the world, and asks the mindless question, “Why do
they hate us?” one will only need to look towards the indiscriminate
use of air power on the Iraqi population.
This story was not difficult to write for two reasons: the first was that any
reporter in Iraq with eyes and ears knows there is a vast amount of air power
being projected by the U.S. military. Secondly, thanks to the Internet, statistics
on sorties are readily available to anyone willing to look. Googling “CENTAF” brings
up several “Air Power Summary” reports, where one is able to find
how many missions, and what type, are being flown each month in Iraq, as well
as other countries.
To monitor the number of Iraqi civilians being killed by
these missions, along with other deaths caused by the U.S. occupation of
Iraq, the Iraqi Mortality
Survey published in the prestigious British Lancet medical journal, albeit
eighteen months out of date and a highly conservative estimate by the authors
admission, remains by far and away the most accurate to date.
One thing is
for certain, and that is the longer the failed U.S. occupation
of Iraq persists, the more U.S. air power will be used—a
scenario that closely resembles that of the shameful Vietnam War.
#11 Dangers of Genetically Modified Food Confirmed
Independent/UK, May 22, 2005
Title: Revealed: “Health Fears Over Secret Study in GM Food”
Author: Geoffrey Lean
Organic Consumers Association website, June
Title: “Monsanto's GE Corn Experiments on Rats Continue to
Generate Global Controversy”
Authors: GM Free Cymru
Independent/UK, January 8, 2006
Title: GM: New Study Shows Unborn Babies Could Be Harmed”
Author: Geoffrey Lean
Le Monde and Truthout, February 9, 2006
Title: “New Suspicions About GMOs”
Author: Herve Kempf
Faculty Evaluator: Michael Ezra
Student Researchers: Destiny Stone and Lani Ready
Several recent studies confirm fears that genetically modified
(GM) foods damage human health. These studies were released as
the World Trade Organization (WTO) moved toward upholding the ruling
that the European Union has violated international trade rules
by stopping importation of GM foods.
- Research by the Russian Academy of Sciences released in December
2005 found that more than half of the offspring of rats fed GM
soy died within the first three weeks of life, six times as many
as those born to mothers fed on non-modified soy. Six times as
many offspring fed GM soy were also severely underweight.
November 2005, a private research institute in Australia, CSIRO
Plant Industry, put a halt to further development of a
GM pea cultivator when it was found to cause an immune response
- In the summer of 2005, an Italian research
team led by a cellular biologist at the University of Urbino
absorption of GM soy by mice causes development of misshapen
liver cells, as well as other cellular anomalies.
- In May of
2005 the review of a highly confidential and controversial
Monsanto report on test results of corn modified
MON863 was published in The Independent/UK.
Dr. Arpad Pusztai (see Censored 2001, Story #7), one of the few
genuinely independent scientists specializing in plant genetics
and animal feeding studies, was asked by the German authorities
in the autumn of 2004 to examine Monsanto’s 1,139-page report
on the feeding of MON863 to laboratory rats over a ninety-day period.
study found “statistically significant” differences
in kidney weights and certain blood parameters in the rats fed
the GM corn as compared
with the control groups. A number of scientists across Europe who saw the study
(and heavily-censored summaries of it) expressed concerns about the health
and safety implications if MON863 should ever enter the food chain. There was
particular concern in France, where Professor Gilles-Eric Seralini of the University
of Caen has been trying (without success) for almost eighteen months to obtain
full disclosure of all documents relating to the MON863 study.
Dr. Pusztai was
forced by the German authorities to sign a “declaration
of secrecy” before he was allowed to see the Monsanto rat feeding study,
on the grounds that the document is classified as “CBI” or “confidential
business interest.” While Pusztai is still bound by the declaration of
secrecy, Monsanto recently declared that it does not object to the widespread
dissemination of the “Pusztai Report.”2
Monsanto GM soy and corn
are widely consumed by Americans at a time when the United Nations’ Food
and Agriculture Organization has concluded, “In
several cases, GMOs have been put on the market when safety issues are not
As GMO research is not encouraged by U.S. or European governments,
the vast majority of toxicological studies are conducted by those companies
and promoting consumption of GMOs. With motive and authenticity of results
suspect in corporate testing, independent scientific research into the
effects of GM foods is attracting increasing attention.
Comment: In May 2006 the WTO upheld a ruling that European countries
broke international trade rules by stopping importation of GM foods.
The WTO verdict found that the EU has had an effective ban on biotech
foods since 1998 and sided with the U.S., Canada, and Argentina
in a decision that the moratorium was illegal under WTO rules.3
1. “GM peas cause immune response–A gap in the approval process?” http://www.GMO-Compass.org,
January 3, 2006.
2. Arpad Pusztai, “Mon863-Pusztai Report,” http://www.GMWatch.org, September 12, 2004.
3. Bradley S. Clapper, “WTO Faults EU for Blocking Modified Food,” Associated
Press, May 11, 2006.
#12 Pentagon Plans to Build New Landmines
Press Service, August 3, 2005
Title: “After 10-Year Hiatus, Pentagon Eyes New Landmine”
Author: Isaac Baker
Human Rights Watch website, August 2005
Title: “Development and Production of Landmines”
Faculty Evaluator: Scott Suneson
Student Researchers: Rachel Barry and Matt Frick
The Bush administration plans to resume production of antipersonnel
landmine systems in a move that is at odds with both the international
community and previous U.S. policy, according to the leading human
rights organization, Human Rights Watch (HRW).
Nearly every nation
has endorsed the goal of a global ban on antipersonnel mines. In
1994 the U.S. called for the “eventual elimination” of
all such mines, and in 1996 President Bill Clinton said the U.S.
would “seek a worldwide
agreement as soon as possible to end the use of all antipersonnel mines.” The
U.S. produced its last antipersonnel landmine in 1997. It had been the stated
objective of the U.S. government to eventually join the 145 countries signatory
to the 1997 Mine Ban Treaty, which bans the use, production, exporting, and stockpiling
of antipersonnel landmines.
The Bush administration, however, made an about-face in U.S. antipersonnel landmine
policy in February 2004, when it abandoned any plan to join the Mine Ban Treaty,
also known as the Ottawa Convention. “The United States will not join the
Ottawa Convention because its terms would have required us to give up a needed
military capability,” the U.S. Department of State’s Bureau of Political-Military
announced, summing up the administration’s new policy, “The United
States will continue to develop non-persistent anti-personnel and anti-tank landmines.”
reports that, “New U.S. landmines will have a variety of ways of being
initiated, both command-detonation (that is, when a soldier decides when to
explode the mine, sometimes called ‘man-in-the-loop’) and traditional
victim-activation. A mine that is designed to be exploded by the presence,
proximity, or contact
of a person (i.e., victim-activation) is prohibited under the International
Mine Ban Treaty.”
To sidestep international opposition, the Pentagon
proposes development of the “Spider” system,
which consists of a control unit capable of monitoring up to eighty-four hand-placed,
unattended munitions that deploy a web of tripwires across an area. Once a
wire is touched, a man-in-the-loop control system allows the operator to activate
The Spider, however, contains a “battlefield override” feature
that allows for circumvention of the man-in-the-loop, and activation by the
A Pentagon report to Congress stated, “Target Activation
is a software feature that allows the man-in-the-loop to change
of a munition
from requiring action by an operator prior to being detonated, to a munition
that will be detonated by a target. The Chairman, Joint Chiefs of Staff,
and the Service Chiefs, using best military judgment, feel that the man-in-the-loop
system without this feature would be insufficient to meet tactical operational
conditions and electronic countermeasures.”
The U.S. Army spent $135
million between fiscal years 1999 and 2004 to develop Spider and another
$11 million has been requested to complete research
development. A total of $390 million is budgeted to produce 1,620 Spider
systems and 186,300
munitions. According to budget documents released in February 2005, the
Pentagon requested $688 million for research on and $1.08 billion for
of new landmine systems between fiscal years 2006 and 2011.
Director of HRW Arms Division, told Project Censored that Congress
has required a report from the Pentagon on the humanitarian
consequences of the “battlefield
override” or victim-activated feature of these munitions for review
before approving funds. Though production was set for December of 2005,
not, as of June 2006, received this preliminary Pentagon report.
Spider or similar mine munitions systems move forward, a frightening
precedence will be set. At best the 145 signatories to the Ottawa Convention
will be beholden
to the treaty, which forbids assistance in joint military operations
where landmines are being used. At worst, U.S. production will legitimize
of landmine proliferation.
Steven Goose warns, “If one doesn’t
insist on a comprehensive ban on all types and uses of antipersonnel
mines, each nation will be able to claim
unique requirements and justifications.”
UPDATE BY ISAAC BAKER
Landmines are horrific weapons. And, naturally, news stories about
the terror they inflict upon human beings—mainly civilians—are
gritty and disturbing if they are truthful. Especially when it’s
your own government that’s responsible.
And given the mainstream media’s typical service to power, this story
didn’t make many headlines.
But the potential ramifications of the U.S.
government resuming production of landmines are overwhelming. And since the
average American can’t depend
on many media to inform them of the horrific things their government is doing,
concerned people must take it upon themselves to put their government in
We all must ask ourselves: Do we want our government—the
body that theoretically represents we, the people—spending millions
upon millions of dollars on these destructive weapons? Are we comfortable
with sitting back and letting
our government produce weapons that kill and maim civilians?
Or will we
coalesce and let the powerful know that we will not stand for this gross
disregard for human life and international opinion?
It’s our responsibility
to stop the abuses of power in our country. And if we do not confront
our government on this issue, I believe, the blood of
the innocents will be on all of our hands.
For more information on how to get involved please visit: http://www.hrw.org and http://www.banminesusa.org or
#13 New Evidence Establishes Dangers of Roundup
Third World Resurgence, No. 176, April 2005
Title: “New Evidence of Dangers of Roundup Weedkiller”
Author: Chee Yoke Heong
Faculty Evaluator: Jennifer While
Student Researchers: Peter McArthur and Lani Ready
New studies from both sides of the Atlantic reveal that Roundup,
the most widely used weedkiller in the world, poses serious human
health threats. More than 75 percent of genetically modified (GM)
crops are engineered to tolerate the absorption of Roundup—it
eliminates all plants that are not GM. Monsanto Inc., the major
engineer of GM crops, is also the producer of Roundup. Thus, while
Roundup was formulated as a weapon against weeds, it has become
a prevalent ingredient in most of our food crops.
Three recent studies
show that Roundup, which is used by farmers and home gardeners,
is not the safe product we have been led to trust.
A group of scientists led by
biochemist Professor Gilles-Eric Seralini from the University of
Caen in France found that human placental cells are very sensitive
to Roundup at concentrations lower than those currently used in agricultural
An epidemiological study of Ontario farming populations showed
that exposure to glyphosate, the key ingredient in Roundup, nearly
the risk of late
miscarriages. Seralini and his team decided to research the effects of the herbicide
on human placenta cells. Their study confirmed the toxicity of glyphosate, as
after eighteen hours of exposure at low concentrations, large proportions of
human placenta began to die. Seralini suggests that this may explain the high
levels of premature births and miscarriages observed among female farmers using
Seralini’s team further compared the toxic effects of the
(the most common commercial formulation of glyphosate and chemical additives)
to the isolated active ingredient, glyphosate. They found that the toxic effect
increases in the presence of Roundup ‘adjuvants’ or additives.
These additives thus have a facilitating role, rendering Roundup twice as toxic
its isolated active ingredient, glyphosate.
Another study, released in April
2005 by the University of Pittsburgh, suggests that Roundup is a danger to
other life-forms and non-target organisms. Biologist
Rick Relyea found that Roundup is extremely lethal to amphibians. In what
is considered one of the most extensive studies on the effects
of pesticides on
nontarget organisms in a natural setting, Relyea found that Roundup caused
a 70 percent decline in amphibian biodiversity and an 86 percent decline
total mass of tadpoles. Leopard frog tadpoles and gray tree frog tadpoles
were nearly eliminated.
In 2002, a scientific team led by Robert
Belle of the National Center for Scientific Research (CNRS) biological
station in Roscoff, France showed that
one of the key stages of cellular division that can potentially lead to cancer.
Belle and his team have been studying the impact of glyphosate formulations
on sea urchin cells for several years. The team has recently demonstrated
Science (December 2004) that a “control point” for DNA damage
was affected by Roundup, while glyphosate alone had no effect. “We
have shown that it’s a definite risk factor, but we have not evaluated
the number of cancers potentially induced, nor the time frame within which
they would declare
themselves,” Belle acknowledges.
There is, indeed, direct evidence that
glyphosate inhibits an important process called RNA transcription in animals,
at a concentration well below the level
that is recommended for commercial spray application.
There is also new
research that shows that brief exposure to commercial glyphosate
causes liver damage in rats, as indicated by the leakage of
liver enzymes. The research indicates that glyphosate and its surfactant
were found to act in synergy to increase damage to the liver.
UPDATE BY CHEE YOKE HEONG
Roundup Ready weedkiller is one of the most widely used weedkillers
in the world for crops and backyard gardens. Roundup, with its
active ingredient glyphosate, has long been promoted as safe
for humans and the environment while effective in killing weeds.
It is therefore significant when recent studies show that Roundup
is not as safe as its promoters claim.
This has major consequences
as the bulk of commercially planted genetically modified crops
are designed to tolerate glyphosate (and especially Roundup),
and independent field data already shows a trend of increasing use of the herbicide.
This goes against industry claims that herbicide use will drop and that these
plants will thus be more “environment-friendly.” Now it has been
found that there are serious health effects, too. My story therefore aimed
to highlight these new findings and their implications to health and the environment.
surprisingly, Monsanto came out refuting some of the findings of the studies
mentioned in the article. What ensued was an open exchange between Dr. Rick
Relyea and Monsanto, whereby the former stood his grounds. Otherwise, to
my knowledge, no studies have since emerged on Roundup.
For more information look to the following sources:
Professor Gilles-Eric, firstname.lastname@example.org
Biosafety Information Center, http://www.biosafety-info.net
Institute of Science in Society, http://www.i-sis.org.uk
#14 Homeland Security Contracts KBR to Build Detention
Centers in the US
New America Media, January 31, 2006
Title: “Homeland Security Contracts for Vast New Detention
Author: Peter Dale Scott
New America Media, February 21, 2006
Title: “10-Year US Strategic Plan for Detention Camps Revives
Proposals from Oliver North”
Author: Peter Dale Scott
Consortiium, February 21, 2006
Title: “Bush's Mysterious ‘New Programs’”
Author: Nat Parry
Title: “Detention Camp Jitters”
Author: Maureen Farrell
Community Evaluator: Dr. Gary Evans
Student Researchers: Sean Hurley and Caitlyn Peele
Halliburton’s subsidiary KBR (formerly Kellogg, Brown and
Root) announced on January 24, 2006 that it had been awarded a
$385 million contingency contract by the Department of Homeland
Security to build detention camps in the United States.
to a press release posted on the Halliburton website, “The
contract, which is effective immediately, provides for establishing
and processing capabilities to augment existing Immigration and Customs Enforcement
(ICE) Detention and Removal Operations (DRO) Program facilities in the event
of an emergency influx of immigrants into the U.S., or to support the rapid development
of new programs. The contingency support contract provides for planning and,
if required, initiation of specific engineering, construction and logistics support
tasks to establish, operate and maintain one or more expansion facilities.”
little coverage the announcement received focused on concerns about Halliburton’s
reputation for overcharging U.S. taxpayers for substandard services.
was focused on the phrase “rapid development of new programs” or
what type of programs might require a major expansion of detention centers,
capable of holding 5,000 people each. Jamie Zuieback, spokeswoman for ICE,
elaborate on what these “new programs” might be.
Only a few independent
journalists, such as Peter Dale Scott, Maureen Farrell, and Nat Parry have
explored what the Bush administration might actually have
Scott speculates that the “detention centers could be used
to detain American citizens if the Bush administration were to declare
martial law.” He recalled
that during the Reagan administration, National Security Council aide
Oliver North organized the Rex-84 “readiness exercise,” which
contemplated the Federal Emergency Management Agency rounding up and
detaining 400,000 “refugees” in
the event of “uncontrolled population movements” over the
Mexican border into the U.S.
North’s exercise, which reportedly
contemplated possible suspension of the Constitution, led to a line
of questioning during the Iran-Contra Hearings
concerning the idea that plans for expanded internment and detention
facilities would not be confined to “refugees” alone.
is relevant, says Scott, that in 2002 Attorney General John Ashcroft
announced his desire to see camps for U.S. citizens deemed to be “enemy
February 17, 2006, in a speech to the Council on Foreign Relations,
Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld spoke of the harm being done to
the country’s security,
not just by the enemy, but also by what he called “news informers” who
needed to be combated in “a contest of wills.”
September 11 the Bush administration has implemented a number of
interrelated programs that were planned in the 1980s under President
of Government (COG) proposals—a classified plan for keeping
a secret “government-within-the-government” running
during and after a nuclear disaster—included vastly expanded
detention capabilities, warrantless eavesdropping, and preparations
for greater use of
Scott points out that, while Oliver North represented
a minority element in the Reagan administration, which soon distanced
the man and
proposals, the minority associated with COG planning, which included
Cheney and Rumsfeld, appear to be in control of the U.S. government
Farrell speculates that, because another terror attack is
all but certain, it seems far more likely that the detention centers
be used for
post-September 11-type detentions of rounded-up immigrants rather
than for a sudden deluge
immigrants flooding across the border.
Daniel Ellsberg ventures, “Almost certainly this
is preparation for a roundup after the next September 11 for Mid-Easterners,
Muslims and possibly dissenters. They’ve already done this
on a smaller scale, with the ‘special registration’ detentions
of immigrant men from Muslim countries, and with Guantánamo.”
notes that The Washington Post reported on February 15, 2006 that
the National Counterterrorism Center’s (NCTC) central repository
holds the names of 325,000 terrorist suspects, a fourfold increase
since fall of 2003.
Asked whether the names in the repository were collected through
domestic surveillance program, an NCTC official told the Post, “Our
database includes names of known and suspected international terrorists
provided by all
intelligence community organizations, including NSA.”
administration scoops up more and more names, members of Congress
have questioned the elasticity of Bush’s definitions for
words like terrorist “affiliates,” used
to justify wiretapping Americans allegedly in contact with such
people or entities.
A Defense Department document, entitled the “Strategy
for Homeland Defense and Civil Support,” has set out a military
strategy against terrorism that envisions an “active, layered
defense” both inside and outside U.S.
territory. In the document, the Pentagon pledges to “transform
U.S. military forces to execute homeland defense missions in the
. . . U.S. homeland.” The
strategy calls for increased military reconnaissance and surveillance
potential challengers before they threaten the United States.” The
threat awareness and seizes the initiative from those who would
But there are concerns, warns Parry, over how the
Pentagon judges “threats” and
who falls under the category of “those who would harm us.” A
Pentagon official said the Counterintelligence Field Activity’s
TALON program has amassed files on antiwar protesters.
In the view
of some civil libertarians, a form of martial law already exists
in the U.S. and has been in place since shortly after the
attacks when Bush issued Military Order Number One, which empowered
him to detain
any noncitizen as an international terrorist or enemy combatant.
Today that order
extends to U.S. citizens as well.
Farrell ends her article with
the conclusion that while much speculation has been generated by
KBR’s contract to build huge detention centers within
the U.S., “The truth is, we won’t know the real purpose
of these centers unless ‘contingency plans are needed.’ And
by then, it will be too late.”
UPDATE BY PETER DALE SCOTT
The contract of the Halliburton subsidiary KBR to build immigrant
detention facilities is part of a longer-term Homeland Security
plan titled ENDGAME, which sets as its goal the removal of “all
removable aliens” and “potential terrorists.” In
the 1980s Richard Cheney and Donald Rumsfeld discussed similar
emergency detention powers as part of a super-secret program
of planning for what was euphemistically called “Continuity
of Government” (COG) in the event of a nuclear disaster.
At the time, Cheney was a Wyoming congressman, while Rumsfeld,
who had been defense secretary under President Ford, was a businessman
and CEO of the drug company G.D. Searle.
These men planned for
suspension of the Constitution, not just after nuclear attack,
but for any “national security emergency,” which
they defined in Executive Order 12656 of 1988 as: “Any
occurrence, including natural disaster, military attack, technological
or other emergency, that seriously
degrades or seriously threatens the national security of the United States.” Clearly
September 11 would meet this definition, and did, for COG was instituted on
that day. As the Washington Post later explained, the order “dispatched
a shadow government of about 100 senior civilian managers to live and work
secretly outside Washington, activating for the first time long-standing plans.”
these managers in this shadow government worked on has never been reported.
But it is significant that the group that prepared ENDGAME was, as the Homeland
Security document puts it, “chartered in September 2001.” For ENDGAME’s
goal of a capacious detention capability is remarkably similar to Oliver North’s
controversial Rex-84 “readiness exercise” for COG in 1984. This
called for the Federal Emergency Management Agency (FEMA) to round up and detain
400,000 imaginary “refugees,” in the context of “uncontrolled
population movements” over the Mexican border into the United States.
UPDATE BY MAUREEN FARRELL
When the story about Kellogg, Brown and Root’s contract for
emergency detention centers broke, immigration was not the hot
button issue it is today. Given this, the language in Halliburton’s
press release, stating that the centers would be built in the event
of an “emergency influx of immigrants into the U.S.,” raised
eyebrows, especially among those familiar with Rex-84 and other
Reagan-era initiatives. FEMA’s former plans ‘for the
detention of at least 21 million American Negroes in assembly centers
or relocation camps’ added to the distrust, and the second
stated reason for the KBR contract, “to support the rapid
development of new programs,” sent imaginations reeling.
few in the mainstream media made the connection between KBR’s
contract and previous programs, Fox News eventually addressed this
concerns as the province of “conspiracy theories” and “unfounded” fears.
My article attempted to sift through the speculation, focusing on verifiable
information found in declassified and leaked documents which proved that, in
addition to drawing up contingency plans for martial law, the government has
conducted military readiness exercises designed to round up and detain both
illegal aliens and U.S. citizens.
How concerned should Americans be? Recent reports are conflicting and confusing:
- In May, 2006, U.S. Immigration and Customs Enforcement (ICE)
began “Operation Return to Sender,” which involved
catching illegal immigrants and deporting them. In June, however,
President Bush vowed that there would soon be “new infrastructures” including
detention centers designed to put an end to such “catch
and release” practices.
- Though Bush said he was “working
with Congress to increase the number of detention facilities
along our borders,” Rep.
Bennie Thompson, ranking member of the House Homeland Security
Committee, said he first learned about the KBR contract through
- Fox News recently quoted Pepperdine University
professor Doug Kmiec, who deemed detention camp concerns “more
paranoia than reality” and added that KBR’s contract
is most likely “something related to (Hurricane) Katrina” or “a
bird flu outbreak that could spur a mass quarantine of Americans.” The
president’s stated desire for the U.S. military to take
a more active role during natural disasters and to enforce quarantines
in the event of a bird flu outbreak, however, have been roundly
Concern over an all-powerful federal government is not paranoia,
but active citizenship. As Thomas Jefferson explained, “even
under the best forms of government, those entrusted with power
have, in time, and by slow operations, perverted it into tyranny.” From
John Adams’s Alien and Sedition Acts to FDR’s internment
of Japanese Americans, the land of the free has held many contradictions
and ironies. Interestingly enough, Halliburton was at the center
of another historical controversy, when Lyndon Johnson’s
ties to a little-known company named Kellogg, Brown and Root caused
a congressional commotion—particularly after the Halliburton
subsidiary won enough wartime contracts to become one of the first
protested symbols of the military-industrial complex. Back then
they were known as the “Vietnam builders.” The question,
of course, is what they’ll be known as next.
Reagan Aides and the Secret Government,” Miami Herald, July
5, 1987, http://fpiarticle.blogspot.com/2005/12/front-page-miami-herald-july-5-1987.html
“Foundations are in place for martial law in the US,” July
27, 2002, Sydney Morning Herald, smh.com.au/articles/2002/07/27/
“Halliburton Deals Recall Vietnam-Era Controversy: Cheney’s
Ties to Company Reminiscent of LBJ’s Relationships,” NPR,
Dec. 24, 2003, http://www.npr.org/templates/story/story.php?storyId=1569483
“Critics Fear Emergency Centers Could Be Used for Immigration
Round-Ups,” Fox News, June 7, 2006, http://www.foxnews.com/
“U.S. officials nab 2,100 illegal immigrants in 3 weeks,” USA
Today, June 14, 2006, http://www.usatoday.com/news/nation/2006-06-14-immigration-arrests_x.htm
#15 Chemical Industry is EPA’s Primary Research
Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, October
Title: “Chemical Industry Is Now EPA’s Main Research
Author: Jeff Ruch
Public Employees for Environmental Responsibility, October 6,
Title: “EPA Becoming Arm of Corporate R&D”
Author: Jeff Ruch
Community Evaluator: Tim Ogburn
Student Researcher: Lani Ready and Peter McArthur
The U.S. Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) research program
is increasingly relying on corporate joint ventures, according
to agency documents obtained by Public Employees for Environmental
Responsibility (PEER). The American Chemical Council (ACC) is now
EPA’s leading research partner and the EPA is diverting funds
from basic health and environmental research towards research that
addresses regulatory concerns of corporate funders.
Since the beginning
of Bush’s first term in office, there has been a significant
increase in cooperative research and development agreements (CRADAs) with individual
corporations or industry associations. During Bush’s first four years EPA
entered into fifty-seven corporate CRADAs, compared to thirty-four such agreements
during Clinton’s second term.
EPA scientists claim that corporations are
influencing the agency’s research
agenda through financial inducements. One EPA scientist wrote, “Many
of us in the labs feel like we work for contracts.” In April 2005, EPA’s
Science Advisory Board warned that the agency was no longer funding credible
public health research. It noted, for example, that the EPA was falling behind
on issues such as intercontinental pollution transport and nanotechnology.
Furthermore, in April 2005, a study by the Government Accountability
Office concluded that EPA lacks safeguards to “evaluate or
manage potential conflicts of interest” in corporate research
agreements, as they are taking money from companies and corporations
that they are supposed to be regulating.
According to Rebecca Rose,
the Program Director of PEER, “Under its current
leadership, EPA is becoming an arm of corporate R&D.” She also
notes that the number of corporate CRADAs under the Bush administration outnumbered
those entered into with universities or local governments, adding, “Public
health research needs should not have to depend upon corporate underwriting.”
October 2005 President Bush nominated George Gray to serve as the Assistant
Administrator for the Environmental Protection Agency Office of Research
and Development (ORD). At that time George Gray ran a Center for Risk Analysis
at Harvard University where the majority of the funding came from corporate
Gray indicated upon nomination that he intends to continue and expand his
of corporate research funds in his position with ORD.
PEER’s Executive Director Jeff Ruch warns, “Injecting outside
money into a public agency research program, especially when it is tied
projects, has a subtle but undeniable influence on not only what work gets
done but also how that work is reported.” He adds, “As what
was one of the top public health research programs slides toward dysfunction,
the background, attitude or philosophy of Mr. Gray suggests that he is
even remotely the right person for this job.”
In 2004 & 2005,
EPA was plagued by reports of political suppression of scientific results
on important health issues such as asbestos and mercury regulation (see
Censored 2005, Story #3). In response ORD launched a public relations campaign,
entitled “Science for You,” using agency research funds to
clean up its image.
Comments: George M. Gray was sworn in as the Assistant Administrator
of Research and Development at EPA on November 1, 2005, with unanimous
consent of the U.S. Senate.
UPDATE BY JEFF RUCH
This story illustrates how key environmental research is being
diverted away from public health priorities in order to meet
a corporate regulatory agenda. By enticing EPA into partnerships,
entities such as the American Chemical Council (ACC), which is
now EPA’s leading research partner, can influence not only
what EPA researches but how that research is conducted, as well.
example, long-term health monitoring studies drop off EPA’s
list of priority topics because industry has no interest in funding
such vital work—if
anything, industry has an incentive to prevent such research from being conducted.
By the same token, the industry push to allow human subject experiments to
test tolerance to pesticides and other commercial poisons is precisely the
type of research the industry desires to entice EPA into conducting, and thus
legitimizing, despite an array of unresolved ethical problems.
A few updates
since October 2005 worthy of note: a) A leading proponent of
industry research partnerships, George Gray, has been confirmed
as EPA Assistant
Administrator for Research & Development. b) President Bush has proposed
further cuts to EPA’s already shrinking research budget. (see http://www.peer.org/news/
news_id.php?row_id=661). This growing penury makes EPA even more interested
in using corporate dollars to supplement its tattered research program. c)
EPA is in the first weeks of its human testing program. A specially convened
Human Subjects Review Board is now struggling to approve industry and agency
studies in which people were not given informed consent or were given harmful
doses of chemicals.
The EPA page of our website has several updates on this
and related issues.
#16 Ecuador and Mexico Defy US on International Criminal
Agence France Press News (School of the Americas Watch), June
Title: “Ecuador Refuses to Sign ICC Immunity Deal for US
Author: Alexander Martinez
Inter Press Service, November 2, 2005
Title: “Mexico Defies Washington on the International Criminal
Author: Katherine Stapp
Faculty Evaluator: Elizabeth Martinez
Student Researchers: Jessica Rodas, David Abbott, and Charlene
Ecuador and Mexico have refused to sign bilateral immunity agreements
(BIA) with the U.S., in ratification of the International Criminal
Court (ICC) treaty. Despite the Bush administration’s threat
to withhold economic aid, both countries confirmed allegiance to
the ICC, the international body established to try individuals
accused of war crimes and crimes against humanity.
On June 22, 2005
Ecuador’s president, Alfredo Palacios, vocalized emphatic
refusal to sign a BIA (also known as an Article 98 agreement to the Rome Statute
of the ICC) in spite of Washington’s threat to withhold $70 million a year
in military aid.
Mexico, having signed the Rome Statute, which established the
ICC in 2000, formally ratified the treaty on October 28, 2005, making it the
100th nation to join the
ICC. As a consequence of ratifying the ICC without a U.S. immunity agreement,
Mexico stands to lose millions of dollars in U.S. aid—including $11.5 million
to fight drug trafficking.
On September 29, 2005 the U.S. State Department reported that it had secured
100 “immunity agreements,” although less than a third have been ratified.
“Our ultimate goal is to conclude Article 98 agreements
with every country in the world, regardless of whether they have
signed or ratified the ICC, regardless
of whether they intend to in the future,” said John Bolton, former
U.S. Undersecretary for Arms Control and current U.S. ambassador to the United
one of the ICC’s staunchest opponents.
The U.S. effort to undermine
the ICC was given teeth in 2002, when the U.S. Congress adopted the American
Servicemembers’ Protection Act (ASPA), which contains
provisions restricting U.S. cooperation with the ICC by making U.S. support
of UN peacekeeping missions largely contingent on achieving impunity for
The ASPA prohibits U.S. military assistance to ICC member states that have
not signed a BIA.
Legislation far more wide-reaching, however, was signed
into law by President Bush on December 2004. The Nethercutt Amendment
authorizes the loss of
Economic Support Funds (ESF) to countries, including many key U.S. allies,
not signed a BIA. Threatened under the Nethercutt Amendment are: funds
security and counterterrorism efforts, peace process programs, antidrug-trafficking
initiatives, truth and reconciliation commissions, wheelchair distribution,
human rights programs, economic and democratic development, and HIV/Aids
education, among others. The Nethercutt Amendment was readopted by the
U.S. Congress in
In spite of severe U.S. pressure, fifty-three members
of the ICC have refused to sign BIAs.
Katherine Stapp asserts that
if Washington follows through on threats to slash aid to ICC member
states, it risks further alienating key U.S.
attention to its own increasingly shaky human rights record. “There
will be a price to be paid by the U.S. government in terms of its credibility,” Richard
Dicker, director of Human Rights Watch’s International Justice
Program, told IPS.\But criticism of the administration’s hard line
has also come from unlikely quarters.
Testifying before Congress in March,
Gen. Bantz J. Craddock, the commander of U.S. military forces in Latin
America, complained that the sanctions
Latin American officers from U.S. training programs and could allow
China, which has been seeking military ties with Latin America,
to fill the
“We now risk losing contact and interoperability with a
generation of military classmates in many nations of the region,
including several leading countries,” Craddock
told the Senate Armed Services Committee.
Experts say it is particularly
notable that Mexico, which sells 88 percent of its exports in the
U.S. market, is defying pressure from
“It’s exactly because of the geographic and trade proximity between
Mexico and the United States that Mexico’s ratification takes on greater
significance in terms of how isolated the U.S. government is in its attitude
toward the ICC,” Dicker told IPS.
1. “Overview of the United States’ Opposition to the International
Criminal Court,” http://www.iccnow.org.
UPDATE BY KATHERINE STAPP
As noted by Amnesty International, the United States is the only
nation in the world that is actively opposed to the International
Criminal Court (ICC).
However, more and more countries appear to be resisting pressure to exempt
U.S. nationals from the court’s jurisdiction. Since the time of my writing,
the number of “bilateral immunity agreements,” or BIAs, garnered
by Washington has remained the same: 100, of which only twenty-one have been
ratified by parliaments, while another eighteen are considered “executive
agreements” that purportedly do not require ratification. Only thirteen
states parties to the ICC (out of 100) have ratified BIAs with the United States,
while eight others have reportedly entered into executive agreements. In the
past two years, only four countries in Latin America and the Caribbean have
signed BIAs, also known as Article 98 agreements.
Some key figures in the Bush
administration have recently expressed doubts about the wisdom of withholding
aid from friendly countries that refuse to
sign. At a March 10 briefing, Secretary of State Condoleezza Rice likened
the BIAs to “sort of the same as shooting ourselves in the
foot . . . by having to put off aid to countries with which we
have important counter-terrorism
or counter-drug or in some cases, in some of our allies, it’s even
been cooperation in places like Afghanistan and Iraq.”
head of the U.S. Southern Command, remains a vocal critic of the American
Servicemembers’ Protection Act (ASPA) sanctions, noting
in testimony before the House Armed Services Committee on March 16 that eleven
Latin American nations have now been barred under ASPA from receiving International
Military Education and Training funds. These include Brazil, Bolivia, Ecuador,
“Decreasing engagement opens the door for competing nations
and outside political actors who may not share our democratic principles
to increase interaction
and influence within the region,” he noted.
And in the 2006 Quadrennial
Defense Review Report published on February 6, the Defense Department
said it will consider whether ASPA restrictions
assistance programs pertaining to security and the war on terror necessitate
adjustment as we continue to advance the aims of the ASPA.”
a May 11 poll by the University of Maryland’s Program on International
Policy Attitudes found that a bipartisan majority of the U.S. public
(69 percent) believes that the U.S. should not be given special exceptions
when it becomes
a party to human rights treaties. 60 percent explicitly support U.S.
participation in the ICC.
Mexico has stood firm in its refusal to
sign a BIA, with the Mexican Parliament’s
Lower Chamber stating that immunity is not allowed under the Rome
Statute that establishes the ICC. As a result, $3.6 million in
military aid has been frozen,
and further International Military Exchange Training aid cut to
zero in the administration’s proposed 2007 budget request.
The country also stands to lose more than $11 million from the
Other countries currently threatened with aid cuts include
Bolivia, which could lose 96 percent of its U.S. military aid,
lose $8 million
in ESF aid.
More information can be found at:
Citizens for Global Solutions (http://www.globalsolutions.org/programs/law_justice/icc/icc_home.html);
Coalition for the International Criminal Court (http://www.iccnow.org/?mod=bia);
The American Non-Governmental Organisations Coalition for the
International Criminal Court (http://www.amicc.org/); Washington
Working Group on the International Criminal Court (http://www.usaforicc.org/wicc/)
#17 Iraq Invasion Promotes OPEC Agenda
Harper’s in coordination with BBC Television Newsnight, October
Title: “OPEC and the economic conquest of Iraq”
Author: Greg Palast
The Guardian March 20, 2006
Bush Didn’t Bungle Iraq, You Fools: The Mission Was Indeed
Author: Greg Palast
Faculty Evaluator: David McCuan
Student Researcher: Isaac Dolido
According to a report from journalist, Greg Palast, the U.S. invasion
of Iraq was indeed about the oil. However, it wasn’t to destroy
OPEC, as claimed by neoconservatives in the administration, but
to take part in it.
The U.S. strategic occupation of Iraq has been
an effective means of acquiring access to the Organization of Petroleum
Exporting Countries (OPEC). As long as
the interim government adheres to the production caps set by the organization,
the U.S. will ensure profits to the international oil companies (IOCs), the OPEC
cartel, and Russia.
With the prolonged insurgency following the invasion, along
with internal corruption and pipeline destruction, hard line neoconservative
plans for a completely privatized
Iraq were dashed. According to some administration insiders, the idea of a laissez-faire,
free-market reconstruction of Iraq was never a serious consideration. One oil
industry consultant to Iraq told Palast he was amused by “the obsession
of neoconservative writers on ways to undermine OPEC.”
In December 2003,
says Palast, the State Department drafted a 323-page plan entitled “Options
for Developing a Long Term Sustainable Iraqi Oil Industry.” This plan
directs the Iraqis to maintain an oil quota system that will enhance its relationship
with OPEC. It describes several possible state-owned options that range from
the Saudi Aramco model (in which the government owns the whole operation) to
the Azerbaijan model (in which the system is almost entirely operated by the
International Oil Companies).
Implementation of the plan was guided by a handful
of oil industry consultants,
promoting an OPEC-friendly policy but preferring the Azerbaijan model to
the “self-financing” system
of the Saudi Aramco, as it grants operation and control to the foreign oil
companies (the 2003 report warns Iraqis against cutting into IOC profits).
Once the contracts
are granted, these companies then manage, fund, and equip crude extraction
in exchange for a percentage of the sales. Given the way in which the interests
of OPEC and those of the IOCs are so closely aligned, it is certainly understandable
why smashing OPEC’s oil cartel might not appeal to certain elements
of the Bush administration.
According to the drafters and promoters of the
plan, dismantling OPEC would
be a catastrophe. The last thing they want is the privatization of Iraq’s
oil fields and the specter of competition maximizing production. Pumping
more oil per day than the OPEC regulated quota of almost 4 million, would
bring down Iraq’s economy and compromise the U.S. position in the
Since the invasion of Iraq in 2003, profits have shot up
for oil companies.
In 2004, the major U.S. oil companies posted record or near record profits.
profits for the five largest oil companies increased to $113 billion.
In February 2006, ConocoPhillips reported a doubling of its quarterly
previous year, which itself had been a company record. Shell posted a
$4.48 billion in fourth-quarter earnings—and in 2005, ExxonMobil
reported the largest one-year operating profit of any corporation in U.S.
#18 Physicist Challenges Official 9-11 Story
Deseret Morning News, November 10, 2005
Title: “Y. Professor Thinks Bombs, Not Planes, Toppled WTC”
Author: Elaine Jarvik
Brigham Young University website, Winter 2005
Title: “Why Indeed Did the WTC Buildings Collapse?”
Author: Steven E. Jones
Deseret Morning News, January 26, 2006
Title: “BYU professor's group accuses U.S. officials of lying
Author: Elaine Jarvik
Faculty Evaluator: John Kramer
Student Researchers: David Abbott and Courtney Wilcox
Research into the events of September 11 by Brigham Young University
physics professor, Steven E. Jones, concludes that the official
explanation for the collapse of the World Trade Center (WTC) buildings
is implausible according to laws of physics. Jones is calling for
an independent, international scientific investigation “guided
not by politicized notions and constraints but rather by observations
In debunking the official explanation of
the collapse of the three WTC buildings, Jones cites the complete,
rapid, and symmetrical collapse of the buildings; the
horizontal explosions (squibs) evidenced in films of the collapses; the fact
that the antenna dropped first in the North Tower, suggesting the use of explosives
in the core columns; and the large pools of molten metal observed in the basement
areas of both towers.
Jones also investigated the collapse of WTC 7, a forty-seven-story
was not hit by planes, yet dropped in its own “footprint,” in the
same manner as a controlled demolition. WTC 7 housed the U.S. Secret Service,
the Department of Defense, the Immigration and Naturalization Service, the U.S.
Securities and Exchange Commission, the Mayor’s Office of Emergency Management,
the Internal Revenue Service Regional Council, and the Central Intelligence Agency.
Many of the records from the Enron accounting scandal were destroyed when the
building came down.
Jones claims that the National Institutes of Standards and
Technology (NIST) ignored the physics and chemistry of what happened on September
11 and even manipulated
its testing in order to get a computer-generated hypothesis that fit the end
result of collapse, and did not even attempt to investigate the possibility
of controlled demolition. He also questions the investigations
conducted by FEMA
and the 9/11 Commission.
Among the report’s other findings:
- No steel-frame building, before or after the WTC buildings,
has ever collapsed due to fire. But explosives can effectively
sever steel columns.
- WTC 7, which was not hit by hijacked planes,
collapsed in 6.6 seconds, just .6 of a second longer than it
would take an object
dropped from the roof to hit the ground. “Where is the
delay that must be expected due to conservation of momentum,
one of the
foundational laws of physics?” Jones asks. “That
is, as upper-falling floors strike lower floors—and intact
steel support columns—the fall must be significantly impeded
by the impacted mass.
- How do the upper floors fall so quickly,
then, and still conserve momentum in the collapsing buildings?” The
paradox, he says, “is easily resolved by the explosive
demolition hypothesis, whereby explosives quickly removed lower-floor
including steel support columns, and allow near free-fall-speed
collapses.” These observations were not analyzed by FEMA,
NIST, or the 9/11 Commission.
- With non-explosive-caused collapse
there would typically be a piling up of shattered concrete. But
most of the material in
towers was converted to flour-like powder while the buildings
were falling. “How can we understand this strange behavior,
without explosives? Remarkable, amazing—and demanding scrutiny
since the U.S. government-funded reports failed to analyze this
- Steel supports were “partly evaporated,” but
it would require temperatures near 5,000 degrees Fahrenheit to
steel—and neither office materials nor diesel fuel can generate
temperatures that hot. Fires caused by jet fuel from the hijacked
planes lasted at most a few minutes, and office material fires
would burn out within about twenty minutes in any given location.
metal found in the debris of the WTC may have been the result
of a high-temperature reaction of a commonly used explosive
such as thermite. Buildings not felled by explosives “have
insufficient directed energy to result in melting of large quantities
of metal,” Jones says.
- Multiple loud explosions in rapid
sequence were reported by numerous observers in and near the
towers, and these explosions
far below the region where the planes struck.
In January 2006 Jones, along with a group calling themselves “Scholars
for 9/11 Truth,” called for an international investigation
into the attacks and are going so far as to accuse the U.S. government
of a massive cover-up.
“We believe that senior government officials have covered up crucial facts
about what really happened on September 11,” the group said in a statement. “We
believe these events may have been orchestrated by the administration in order
to manipulate the American people into supporting policies at home and abroad.”
group is headed by Jones and Jim Fetzer, University of Minnesota Duluth distinguished
McKnight professor of philosophy, and is made up of fifty academicians
and experts including Robert M. Bowman, former director of the U.S. “Star
Wars” space defense program, and Morgan Reynolds, former chief economist
for the Department of Labor in President George W. Bush’s first term.
#19 Destruction of Rainforests Worst Ever
The Independent/UK, October 21, 2005
Title: “Revealed: the True Devastation of the Rainforest
Author: Steve Connor
Faculty Evaluator: Myrna Goodman
Student Researcher: Courtney Wilcox and Deanna Haddock
New developments in satellite imaging technology reveal that the
Amazon rainforest is being destroyed twice as quickly as previously
estimated due to the surreptitious practice of selective logging.
survey published in the October 21 issue of the journal Science
is based on images made possible by a new, ultra-high-resolution
developed by scientists affiliated with the Carnegie Institution and Stanford
“With this new technology, we are able to detect openings
in the forest canopy down to just one or two individual trees,” says
Carnegie scientist Gregory Asner, lead author of the Science study
and assistant professor of Geological
and Environmental Sciences at Stanford University. “People have been
monitoring large-scale deforestation in the Amazon with satellites for more
than two decades,
but selective logging has been mostly invisible until now.” While clear-cuts
and burn-offs are readily detectable by conventional satellite analysis, selective
logging is masked by the Amazon’s extremely dense forest canopy.
University’s website reports that by late 2004, the Carnegie research
team had refined its imaging technique into a sophisticated remote-sensing
technology called the Carnegie Landsat Analysis System (CLAS), which processes
three NASA satellites—Landsat 7, Terra and Earth Observing 1—through
a powerful supercomputer equipped with new pattern-recognition approaches designed
by Asner and his staff.1
“Each pixel of information obtained by the satellites contains detailed
spectral data about the forest,” Asner explains. “For example,
the signals tell us how much green vegetation is in the canopy, how much
is on the forest floor and how much bare soil there is.”
For the Science
study, the researchers conducted their first basin-wide analysis of the
Amazon from 1999 to 2002. The results of the four-year survey revealed
a problem that is widespread and vastly underestimated, “We found
much more selective logging than we or anyone else had expected—between
4,600 and 8,000 square miles every year of forest spread across five Brazilian
Selective logging—the practice of removing one or two trees
and leaving the rest intact— is often considered a sustainable alternative
to clear-cutting. Left unregulated, however, the practice has proven to
be extremely destructive.
A large mahogany tree can fetch hundreds of dollars at the sawmill, making
it a tempting target in a country where one in five lives in poverty. “People
go in and remove just the merchantable species from the forest,” Asner
says. “Mahogany is the one everybody knows about, but in the Amazon, there
are at least thirty-five marketable hardwood species, and the damage that occurs
from taking out just a few trees at a time is enormous. On average, for every
tree removed, up to thirty more can be severely damaged by the timber harvesting
operation itself. That’s because when trees are cut down, the vines that
connect them pull down the neighboring trees.
“Logged forests are areas of extraordinary damage. A tree
crown can be twenty-five meters. When you knock down a tree it
causes a lot of damage in the
understory.” Light penetrates to the understory and dries out
the forest floor, making it much more susceptible to burning. “That’s
probably the biggest environmental concern,” Asner explains. “But
selective logging also involves the use of tractors and skidders that
rip up the soil and
the forest floor. Loggers also build makeshift dirt roads to get in,
and study after study has shown that those frontier roads become larger
and larger as more
people move in, and that feeds the deforestation process. Think of
logging as the first land-use change.”
Another serious environmental
concern is that while an estimated 400 million tons of carbon enter
the atmosphere every year as a result
deforestation in the Amazon, Asner and his colleagues estimate that
an additional 100 million
tons is produced by selective logging. “That means up to 25 percent
more greenhouse gas is entering the atmosphere than was previously
explains, a finding that could alter climate change forecasts on a
1. Mark Shwartz, “Selective logging causes widespread destruction, study
finds,” Stanford University website, October 21, 2005.
#20 Bottled Water: A Global Environmental Problem
OneWorld.net, February 5, 2006
Title: “Bottled Water: Nectar of the Frauds?”
Author: Abid Aslam
Faculty Evaluator: Liz Close
Student Researchers: Heidi Miller and Sean Hurley
Consumers spend a collective $100 billion every year on bottled
water in the belief—often mistaken—that it is better
for us than what flows from our taps. Worldwide, bottled water
consumption surged to 41 billion gallons in 2004, up 57 percent
“Even in areas where tap water is safe to drink, demand for bottled water
is increasing—producing unnecessary garbage and consuming vast quantities
of energy,” reports Earth Policy Institute researcher Emily Arnold. Although
in much of the world, including Europe and the U.S., more regulations govern
the quality of tap water than bottled water, bottled water can cost up to 10,000
times more. At up to $10 per gallon, bottled water costs more than gasoline in
the United States.
“There is no question that clean, affordable drinking water is essential
to the health of our global community,” Arnold asserts, “But bottled
water is not the answer in the developed world, nor does it solve problems
for the 1.1 billion people who lack a secure water supply. Improving and expanding
existing water treatment and sanitation systems is more likely to provide safe
and sustainable sources of water over the long term.” Members of the
United Nations have agreed to halve the proportion of people who lack reliable
access to safe drinking water by the year 2015. To meet this goal, they would
have to double the $15 billion spent every year on water supply and sanitation.
While this amount may seem large, it pales in comparison to the estimated $100
billion spent each year on bottled water.
Tap water comes to us through an energy-efficient
infrastructure whereas bottled water is transported long distances—often
across national borders—by
boat, train, airplane, and truck. This involves burning massive quantities
of fossil fuels.
For example, in 2004 alone a Helsinki company shipped 1.4
million bottles of Finnish tap water 2,700 miles to Saudi Arabia. And although
bottled water sold in the U.S. is produced domestically, many Americans
import water shipped some 9,000 kilometers from Fiji and other
faraway places to
satisfy demand for what Arnold terms “chic and exotic bottled water.”
fossil fuels are used in packaging the water. Most water bottles are
made with polyethylene terephthalate, a plastic derived from crude
bottles to meet Americans’ demand alone requires more than 1.5
million barrels of oil annually, enough to fuel some 100,000 U.S. cars
for a year,” Arnold
Once it has been emptied, the bottle must be dumped. According
to the Container Recycling Institute, 86 percent of plastic water bottles
in the United
States become garbage or litter. Incinerating used bottles produces
toxic byproducts such as chlorine gas and ash containing heavy
to a host of human
and animal health problems. Buried water bottles can take up to 1,000
Worldwide, some 2.7 million tons of plastic are used to
bottle water each year. Of the bottles deposited for recycling
in 2004, the U.S.
exported roughly 40
percent to destinations as far away as China, requiring yet more fossil
Meanwhile, communities where the water originates risk their sources
running dry. More than fifty Indian villages have complained of water
after bottlers began extracting water for sale under the Coca-Cola
Dasani label. Similar problems have been reported in Texas and in the
Great Lakes region of North America, where farmers, fishers, and others
who depend on water
for their livelihoods are suffering from concentrated water extraction
as water tables drop quickly.
While Americans consume the most bottled
water per capita, some of
the fastest collective growth in consumption is in the giant populations
of Mexico, India,
and China. As a whole, India’s consumption of bottled water
increased threefold from 1999 to 2004, while China’s more than
While private companies’ profits rise from selling
bottled water of questionable quality at more than $100 billion per
year—more efficiently regulated,
waste-free municipal systems could be implemented for distribution
of safe drinking water for all the peoples of the world—at
a small fraction of the price.
UPDATE BY ABID ASLAM
Consumer stories are a staple of the media diet. This article spawned
coverage by numerous public broadcasters and appeared to do the
rounds in cyberspace. Perhaps what seized imaginations was our
affinity for the subject: apparently we and our planet’s
surface are made up mostly of water and without it, we would
perish. In any case, most of the discussion of the issues raised
by the source—a research paper from a Washington, D.C.–based
environmental think tank—focused mainly on consumer elements
(the price, taste, and consequences for human health of bottled
and tap water), as I had anticipated when I decided to storify
the Environmental Policy Institute (EPI) paper (in honesty, that
is pretty much all I did, adding minimal context and background).
However, a good deal of reader attention also focused on the
environmental and regulatory aspects.
Further information on these
can be obtained from the EPI, a host of environmental and consumer
groups, and from the relevant government agencies: the U.S. Environmental
Protection Agency for tap water and the U.S. Food and Drug Administration for
Differences in the ways these regulators (indeed, regulators
in general) operate and are structured and funded deserve a great
deal more attention, as does
the unequal protection of citizens that results.
Numerous other questions raised
in the article deserve further examination. Would improved waste
disposal and recycling address the researcher’s
concerns about resources being consumed to get rid of empty water bottles?
If public water systems can deliver a more reliable product to more people
at a lower cost, as the EPI paper says, then what are the obstacles to the
necessary investment in the U.S. and in poor countries, and how can citizens
here and there overcome those obstacles?
Some of these questions may strike
general readers or certain media gatekeepers as esoteric. Then
again, we all drink the stuff.
#21 Gold Mining Threatens Ancient Andean Glaciers
CorpWatch.com, June 20, 2005
Title: “Barrick Gold Strikes Opposition in South”
Author: Glenn Walker
InterPress Service, February 15, 2006
Title: “Chile: Yes, to Gold Mine But Don’t Touch the
Author: Daniela Estrda
Faculty Evaluator: Andy Roth
Student Researcher: Michelle Salvail
Barrick Gold, a powerful multinational gold mining company, planned
to melt three Andean glaciers in order to access gold deposits
through open pit mining. The water from the glaciers would have
been held for refreezing in the following winters. Opposition to
the mine because of destruction to water sources for Andean farmers
was widespread in Chile and the rest of the world. Barrick Gold’s
Pascua Lama project represents one of the largest foreign investments
in Chile in recent years, totaling $1.5 billion. However, some
70,000 downstream farmers backed by international environmental
organizations and activists around the world waged a campaign against
the proposed mine.
In the fall of 2005, environmental activists
dumped crushed ice outside the local headquarter of Barrick Gold
in Santiago. Thousands had marched earlier in the
year shouting slogans such as, “We are not a North American colony,” and
handing out nuggets of fool’s gold emblazoned with the words oro sucio—“dirty
In February 2006, Chile’s Regional Environment Commission
(COREMA) gave permission for Barrick Gold to begin the project, but did not approve
of the three glaciers.
“The mine will cause severe damage to the local ecosystem because it will
pollute the Huasco River as well as underground water sources,” said Antonia
Fortt, an environmental engineer with the Oceana Ecological Organization.
The Pascua Lama deposits are considered one of the world’s largest
untapped sources of gold ore, with a potential yield of 17.5 billion ounces
of gold. Barrick’s
removal of the gold will employ cyanide leaching for on-site processing of
the ore. Cyanide is a chemical compound that is extremely toxic to humans
life forms. Environmentalists are worried that the cyanide will leach into
the water systems and contaminate entire ecosystems downstream. Construction
mine will begin in 2006 and begin full operations in 2009.
Barrick Gold also
succeeded in convincing both the Chilean and Argentine governments to sign
a binational mining treaty, which allows the unrestricted
flow of machinery,
ore, and personnel across the border. Lawsuits against the treaty are pending
in Chilean courts.
Barrick Gold has been accused of burying fifty miners
alive in Tanzania and blatantly disregarding environmental concerns
in operations all over
W. Bush, from 1995 to 1999, was the “Honorary Chairman” of
international Advisory Board.
Barrick Gold is the third largest gold mining
company in the world, with a portfolio of twenty-seven mining operations
in five continents. Gold
sales in 2005 were
The company is based in Canada, but U.S. directors include:
Donald Carty, CEO of AMR Corp and American Airlines, Dallas,
Texas; J. Brett Harvey,
Energy Inc., Venitia, Pennsylvania; Angus MacNaughton, President of
Genstar Investment Inc., Danville, California; and Steven Shapiro,
#22 $Billions in Homeland Security Spending Undisclosed
Quarterly, June 22, 2005.
Title: “Billions in States’ Homeland
Purchases Kept in the Dark”
Author: Eileen Sullivan
Student Researchers: Monica Moura and Gary Phillips
More than $8 billion in Homeland Security funds has been doled
out to states since the September 11, 2001 attacks, but the public
has little chance of knowing how this money is being spent.
thirty-four states that responded to Congressional Quarterly’s
inquiries on Homeland Security spending, twelve have laws or policies
that preclude public
disclosure of details on Homeland Security purchases. Many states have adopted
relevant nondisclosure clauses to the Freedom of Information Act (FOIA). The
reason, state officials say, is that the information could be useful to terrorists.
Further hindering public demand for accountability, Department
of Homeland Security (DHS) spokesperson Marc Short confirms, DHS
will not release its records on state
spending of funds.
“These non-disclosure policies are troubling,” Steven
Aftergood, director of the research organization Project on Government
Secrecy, warns in
an interview with CQ. “Accountability is the price we pay. We’re
giving away the ability to hold public officials accountable. More than we
value public oversight, we fear a nebulous terrorist threat, and this is changing
character of American political life.”
New York is one of many states
that will disclose broad categories of purchases, such as personal protective
gear, but will not specify type of equipment, which
company makes it, how much it costs, or where it is going.
Roger Shatzkin, CQ’s interviewee on the subject of New Jersey’s
policy on Homeland Security spending disclosure, offered this example: “If
there was a potential flaw in equipment, that could be exploited [by terrorists],
the state would not want that information to become public.”
counters that taxpayers have the right to know if law enforcement is using
defective equipment: “One of the things that happens when you restrict
information is that you reduce the motivation to fix problems and correct
Colorado’s secrecy provision was enacted in 2003,
but State Senator Bob Hagedorn says the law has been misinterpreted,
authorizing automatic denial of
access to any and all information regarding Homeland Security. Hagedorn
told CQ that this broad application had never been his intention when
bill. He warned against the shroud of secrecy as, in early 2005, state
lawmakers discovered that Colorado did not have a Homeland Security plan,
yet had spent
$130 million in Homeland Security funds. “How the hell do you spend
$130 million for homeland security when you don’t have a damn plan?” Hagedorn
asked. “At this point, the public still does not have an official
answer to that question,” he added.
CQ investigators confirm that
federal lawmakers want to know more about how states are spending Homeland
“There’s a delicate balance that needs to be struck between ensuring
our security and not advertising our vulnerabilities, but also ensuring how our
security money is being spent,” said a staff member for the House Homeland
Security Committee who requested anonymity. “We’re spending billions
of dollars every year on grants to state and local governments . . . there should
be some expectation [of] accountability.”
#23 US Oil Targets Kyoto in Europe
The Guardian UK, December 8, 2005
Title: “Oil Industry Targets EU Climate Policy
Author: David Adam
The Independent UK, December 8, 2005
Title: “How America Plotted to Stop Kyoto Deal”
Author: Andrew Buncombe
Faculty Evaluator: Ervand Peterson
Student Researcher: Christy Baird
Lobbyists funded by the U.S. oil industry have launched a campaign
in Europe aimed at derailing efforts to tackle greenhouse gas pollution
and climate change.
Documents obtained by Greenpeace reveal a systematic
plan to persuade European business, politicians and the media that
the European Union should abandon its
commitments under the Kyoto protocol, the international agreement that aims to
reduce emissions that lead to global warming.
The documents, an email and a PowerPoint
presentation, describe efforts to establish a European coalition
to “challenge the course of the EU’s post-2012
agenda.” They were written by Chris Horner, a Washington D.C. lawyer and
senior fellow at the rightwing think tank the Competitive Enterprise Institute,
which has received more than $1.3 million funding from the U.S. oil giant ExxonMobil.
Horner also acts for the Cooler Heads Coalition, a group set up “to dispel
the myth of global warming.”
The PowerPoint document sets out plans to establish
a group called the European
Sound Climate Policy Coalition. It says: “In the U.S. an informal coalition
has helped successfully to avert adoption of a Kyoto-style program. This model
should be emulated, as appropriate, to guide similar efforts in Europe.”
the 1990s U.S. oil companies and other corporations funded a group called
the Global Climate Coalition, which emphasized uncertainties in
and disputed the need to take action. It was disbanded when President Bush
pulled the U.S. out of the Kyoto process. The group’s website now says: “The
industry voice on climate change has served its purpose by contributing to
a new national approach to global warming.”
Countries signed up to the
Kyoto process have legal commitments to reduce greenhouse gas emissions.
Oil and energy companies would be affected by these
burning their products produces the most emissions.
The PowerPoint document
written by Horner appears to be aimed at getting RWE, the German
utility company, to join a European coalition of companies
against Kyoto. Horner is convinced that, with Europe’s weakening
economy, companies are likely to be increasingly ill at ease with the costs
Kyoto mandates and thus could be successfully influenced to pressure their
government to reject Kyoto standards, as the U.S. government has. Horner’s
audiences have included several significant companies including Ford Europe,
The document says: “The current political realities in
Brussels open a window of opportunity to challenge the course of the
post-2012 agenda.” It
adds: “Brussels must openly acknowledge and address them willingly
or through third party pressure.”
It says industry associations
are the “wrong way to do this” but
suggests that a cross-industry coalition, of up to six companies, could “counter
the commission’s Kyoto agenda.” Such a coalition are advised
to steer debate by targeting journalists and bloggers, as well as attending
group meetings and events to “share information on opposing viewpoints
#24 Cheney’s Halliburton Stock Rose Over 3000 Percent
Raw Story, October 2005
Title: “Cheney’s Halliburton Stock Options Rose 3,281
Percent Last Year, Senator Finds”
Author: John Byrne
Senator Frank Lautenberg’s website
Title: “Cheney’s Halliburton Stock Options Soar to
Faculty Evaluator: Phil Beard
Student Researchers: Matthew Beavers and Willie Martin
Vice President Dick Cheney’s stock options in Halliburton
rose from $241,498 in 2004 to over $8 million in 2005, an increase
of more than 3,000 percent, as Halliburton continues to rake in
billions of dollars from no-bid/no-audit government contracts.
analysis released by Senator Frank Lautenberg (D-NJ) reveals that
fortunes rise, so do the Vice President’s. Halliburton has already taken
more than $10 billion from the Bush-Cheney administration for work in Iraq. They
were also awarded many of the unaccountable post-Katrina government contracts,
as off-shore subsidiaries of Halliburton quietly worked around U.S. sanctions
to conduct very questionable business with Iran (See Story #2). “It is
unseemly,” notes Lautenberg, “for the Vice President to continue
to benefit from this company at the same time his administration funnels billions
of dollars to it.”
According to the Vice President’s Federal Financial
Disclosure forms, he
holds the following Halliburton stock options:
100,000 shares at $54.5000 (vested), expire December 3, 2007
33,333 shares at $28.1250 (vested), expire December 2, 2008
300,000 shares at $39.5000 (vested), expire December 2, 2009
Vice President has attempted to fend off criticism by signing an
agreement to donate the after-tax profits from these stock options
to charities of his
choice, and his lawyer has said he will not take any tax deduction for the
donations. However, the Congressional Research Service (CRS) concluded in September
2003 that holding stock options while in elective office does constitute a “financial
interest” regardless of whether the holder of the options will donate
proceeds to charities. Valued at over $9 million, the Vice President could
exercise his stock options for a substantial windfall, not only benefiting
his designated charities, but also providing Halliburton with a tax deduction.
also found that receiving deferred compensation is a financial interest.
The Vice President continues to receive deferred salary from Halliburton.
in office, he has received the following salary payments from Halliburton:
Deferred salary paid by Halliburton to Vice President Cheney in
Deferred salary paid by Halliburton to Vice President Cheney in
Deferred salary paid by Halliburton to Vice President Cheney in
Deferred salary paid by Halliburton to Vice President Cheney in
(The CRS report can be downloaded at: http://lautenberg.senate.gov/Report.pdf)
These CRS findings contradict Vice President Cheney’s puzzling
view that he does not have a financial interest in Halliburton.
On the September 14, 2003 edition of Meet the Press in response
to questions regarding his relationship with Halliburton, where
from 1995 to 2000 he was employed as CEO, Vice President Cheney
said, “Since I left Halliburton to become George Bush’s
vice president, I’ve severed all my ties with the company,
gotten rid of all my financial interest. I have no financial interest
in Halliburton of any kind and haven’t had, now, for over
Comment: A similar undercovered story of conflicting interest
and disaster profiteering by those in the top echelon of the U.S.
Government is of Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld’s connections
to Gilead Sciences, the biotech company that owns the rights to
Tamiflu—the influenza remedy that is now the most-sought
after drug in the world. This story was brought forward by Fortune
senior writer, Nelson D. Schwartz, on October 31, 2005 in an article
titled “Rumsfeld’s growing stake in Tamiflu,” and
by F. William Engdahl for GlobalResearch, on October 30, 2005,
in an article titled “Is avian flu another Pentagon hoax?”
served as Gilead’s chairman from 1997 until he joined the
Bush administration in 2001, and he still holds a Gilead stake
valued at between
$5 million and $25 million, according to Federal Financial Disclosures filed
The forms don’t reveal the exact number of shares Rumsfeld owns, but
whipped up fears of an avian flu pandemic and the ensuing scramble for Tamiflu
sent Gilead’s stock from $35 to $47 in 2005, making the Pentagon chief,
already one of the wealthiest members of the Bush cabinet, at least $1 million
What’s more, the federal government is emerging as one of the
biggest customers for Tamiflu. In July 2005, the Pentagon ordered $58 million
worth of the treatment for U.S. troops around the world, and Congress is considering
a multibillion dollar purchase. Roche expects 2005 sales for Tamiflu to total
at about $1 billion, compared with $258 million in 2004.
UPDATE BY JOHN BYRNE
The media has routinely downplayed Cheney’s involvement and
financial investment in Halliburton, one of the largest U.S. defense
contractors that received supersized no-bid contracts in Iraq.
Ultimately, the importance of the story is that the Vice President
of the U.S. is able to use his position of power to reap rewards
for his former company in which he has a financial investment.
Halliburton may also benefit from a chilling effect in which the
Pentagon is more likely to favor Cheney’s firm to seek favor
with the White House.
Cheney continues to hold 433,333 Halliburton
stock options, and receives a deferred salary of about $200,000
a year. According to Cheney’s most
recent tax returns, he held $2.5 million in retirement accounts, much of which
likely came from his former defense firm.
Cheney recently filed disclosure reports
that show he is valued at $94 million.
disclosure, brought forward by Raw Story, received no mainstream
coverage. While the press has often noted that Cheney was formerly
Halliburton’s CEO, they routinely fail to mention how much money he accrued
from the firm during his service there. They also fail to mention that he continues
to receive a pension.
RawStory.com regularly reports on Halliburton and contracts
awarded to the company. SourceWatch.org also has a good library of resources
on Halliburton and other defense contractors as well as the Vice
President.Another way to get involved is to contact your local
senator or representatives about your concerns, and to ask them
the Vice President to sell his
stock options in Halliburton.
#25 US Military in Paraguay Threatens Region
Upside Down World, October 5, 2005
Title: “Fears mount as US opens new military installation
Author: Benjamin Dangl
Foreign Policy in Focus, November 21, 2005
Title: “Dark Armies, Secret Bases, and Rummy, Oh My!”
By Conn Hallinan
International Relations Center, December 14, 2005
Title: US Military Moves in Paraguay Rattle Regional Relations”
Sam Logan and Matthew Flynn
Faculty Evaluator: Patricia Kim-Ragal
Student Researchers: Nick Ramirez and Deyango Harris
Five hundred U.S. troops arrived in Paraguay with planes, weapons,
and ammunition in July 2005, shortly after the Paraguayan Senate
granted U.S. troops immunity from national and International Criminal
Court (ICC) jurisdiction. Neighboring countries and human rights
organizations are concerned that the massive air base at Mariscal
Estigarribia, Paraguay is potential real estate for the U.S. military.
While U.S. and Paraguayan officials vehemently deny ambitions
to establish a U.S. military base at Mariscal Estigarribia, the
immunity agreement and U.S.
counterterrorism training exercises have increased suspicions that the U.S. is
building a stronghold in a region that is strategic to resource and military
The Mariscal Estigarribia air base is within 124 miles of Bolivia
and Argentina, and 200 miles from Brazil, near the Triple Frontier
where Brazil, Paraguay, and
Argentina meet. Bolivia’s natural gas reserves are the second largest in
South America, while the Triple Frontier region is home to the Guarani Aquifer,
one of the world’s largest fresh water sources. (See Story #20.)
U.S. rhetoric is building about terrorist threats in the triborder region.
Dangl reports claims by Defense officials that Hezbollah and Hamas,
Islamic groups from the Middle East, receive significant funding from the Triple
Frontier, and that growing unrest in this region could leave a political “black
hole” that would erode other democratic efforts. Dangl notes that in
spite of frequent attempts to link terror networks to the triborder area, there
little evidence of a connection.
The base’s proximity to Bolivia may cause
even more concern. Bolivia has a long history of popular protest against U.S.
exploitation of its vast natural
gas reserves. But the resulting election of leftist President Evo Morales,
who on May 1, 2006 signed a decree nationalizing all of Bolivia’s gas
reserves, has certainly intensified hostilities with the U.S.1
When Secretary of Defense Donald Rumsfeld visited Paraguay in August of 2005,
he told reporters that, “there certainly is evidence that both Cuba and
Venezuela have been involved in the situation in Bolivia in unhelpful ways.”
Military analysts from Uruguay and Bolivia maintain that the threat of terrorism
is often used by the U.S. as an excuse for military intervention and the
monopolization of natural resources.
A journalist writing for the Argentinian
newspaper, Clarin, visited the base at Mariscal Estigarribia and reported
it to be in perfect condition. Capable
of handling large military planes, it is oversized for the Paraguayan air
force, which only has a handful of small aircraft. The base is capable
16,000 troops, has an enormous radar system, huge hangars, and an air traffic
tower. The airstrip itself is larger than the one at the international
airport in Asuncion, Paraguay’s capital. Near the base is
a military camp that has recently grown in size.
that Paraguay’s neighbors are very skeptical of the situation,
as there is a disturbing resemblance between U.S. denials about Mariscal
Estigarribia and the disclaimers made by the Pentagon about Eloy
Alfaro airbase in Manta,
Ecuador. The U.S. claimed the Manta base was a “dirt strip” used
for weather surveillance. When local journalists revealed its size, however,
the U.S. admitted the base harbored thousands of mercenaries and hundreds
of U.S. troops, and Washington had signed a ten-year basing agreement with
(See Chapter 2, Story #17, for similarities between the Manta air base
in Ecuador, and the current situation unfolding in Paraguay.)
breaks ranks with her neighbors by allowing the U.S. to carry out military
operations in the heart of South America, Logan and Flynn
nongovernmental organizations in Paraguay are protesting the new U.S.
military presence in their country, warning that recent moves could
be laying the
foundation for increasing U.S. presence and influence over the entire
the strongest words come from the director of the Paraguayan human rights
organization Peace and Justice Service, Orlando Castillo, who claims
that the U.S. aspires
to turn Paraguay into a “second Panama for its troops, and it is
not far from achieving its objective to control the Southern Cone and extend
1. “Bolivian Gas War,” http://www.Wikipedia.org, May 2006.
UPDATE BY BENJAMIN DANGL
The election of Evo Morales in Bolivia in December of 2005 brought
more attention to the U.S. military presence in neighboring Paraguay.
Since his election, Morales has nationalized the country’s
gas reserves and strengthened ties with Cuba and Venezuela to
build a more sustainable economy. Such policies have not been
warmly received in Washington. Responding to this progressive
trend, on May 22, 2006 George Bush said he was “concerned
about the erosion of democracy” in Venezuela and Bolivia.
President Hugo Chavez, himself a victim of a U.S.-backed coup,
said Bush’s comments mean, “He’s already given
the green light to start conspiring against the democratic government
of Bolivia.” U.S.
troops stationed in Paraguay may be poised for such an intervention. However,
human rights reports suggest the U.S. military presence has already resulted
Paraguay is the fourth largest producer of soy in the world. As
this industry expands, poor farmers are being forced off their
lands. These farmers have
organized protests, road blockades and land occupations against this displacement
and have faced subsequent repression from military, police, and paramilitary
Investigations by Servicio Paz y Justicia (Serpaj), a human rights
group in Paraguay, report that the worst cases of repression against
farmers took place
in areas with the highest concentration of U.S. troops. This violence resulted
in the deaths of forty-one farmers in three separate areas.
“The U.S. military is advising the Paraguayan police and
military about how to deal with these farmer groups,” Orlando
Castillo of Serpaj told me over the phone. He explained that U.S.
troops monitor farmers to find information
about union organizations and leaders, then tell Paraguayan officials how to
proceed. “The numbers from our study show what this U.S. presence is
The U.S. government maintains the military exercises in Paraguay
are humanitarian efforts. However, the deputy speaker of the Paraguayan
Velazquez Ugarte, said that of the thirteen exercises going on in the country,
only two are of a civilian nature.
This presence is an example of the U.S.
government’s “counter-insurgency” effort
in Latin America. Such meddling has a long, bloody history in the region.
Currently, the justification is the threat of terrorism instead
of communism. As Latin
America shifts further away from Washington’s interests, such militarization
is only likely to increase.
Throughout these recent military operations,
the U.S. corporate media, as well as Paraguayan media, have ignored the
story. Soccer, not dead farmers
for a coup, has been the focus of most headlines.
For ongoing reports
on the U.S. militarization of Paraguay and elsewhere visit www.UpsideDownWorld.org,
a website on activism and politics in
and www.TowardFreedom.com. Benjamin Dangl’s book, The Price of
Fire: Resource Wars and Social Movements in Bolivia (forthcoming from
AK Press, January
2007), includes further investigations into the U.S. military operations
Ideas for action include organizing protests and writing letters to the
U.S. embassy in Paraguay (www.asuncion.usembassy.gov). For more information
international solidarity, email Orlando Castillo at Serpaj in Paraguay:
UPDATE BY CONN HALLINAN
My article was written in late November 2005 during the run-up
to the Bolivian elections. That campaign featured indigenous
leader Evo Morales, a fierce critic of Washington’s neoliberal,
free trade policies that have impoverished tens of millions throughout
Latin America. The Bush administration not only openly opposed
Morales, it charged there was a growing “terrorism” problem
in the region and began building up military forces in nearby
There have been a number of important developments
since last fall. Morales won the election and nationalized Bolivia’s
petrochemical industry. In the past, such an action might have
triggered a U.S.-sponsored coup, or at
least a crippling economic embargo. Foreign oil and gas companies immediately
tried to drive a wedge between Bolivia and other nations in the region by threatening
to halt investments or pull out entirely. This included companies partially
owned by Brazil and Argentina.
But Latin America is a very different place
these days. Three days after the May 1, 2005 nationalization,
Argentine President Nestor Kirchner, Brazilian
President Lula De Silva, Venezuelan President Hugo Chavez, and Morales met
in Puerto Iguazu and worked out an agreement to help Bolivia develop its resources
while preserving regional harmony. As a result, it is now likely that foreign
petrochemical companies will remain in Bolivia, although they will pay up to
four times as much as they did under the old agreements. And if they leave,
the Chinese and Russians are waiting in the wings.
The situation is still delicate.
U.S. Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld recently compared Chavez
to Adolph Hitler and linked him to Cuba’s Fidel Castro
and Morales. Aid is flowing to militaries in Colombia and Paraguay, and the
White House continues to use private proxies to intervene in the Colombian
civil war. While there is a growing solidarity among nations in the southern
cone, some of their economies are delicate.
Ecuador is presently wracked by
demonstrations demanding the expulsion of foreign oil companies
and an end to free trade talks with the U.S. This is an ongoing
story. While the alternative media continues to cover these developments, the
mainstream media has largely ignored them.
A note on reading the mainstream:
the Financial Times recently highlighted a Latinobarometro poll
indicating that most countries in South America were
rejecting “democracy” as a form of government. But since free markets
and neoliberalism were sold as “democracy”—economic policies
that most South Americans have overwhelmingly rejected—did the poll measure
an embrace of authoritarianism or a rejection of failed economic policies?
To stay informed of developments in this area visit websites of
School of the Americas Watch: http://www.soaw.org/new/ and Global
Exchange: http://www.globalexchange.org/ or contact Conn Hallinan