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The News that Didn't Make the News and Why
Updated: 11 hours 58 min ago

Washington Post Bans Employees from Using Social Media to Criticize Sponsors

Fri, 2018-04-13 15:26

In June, 2017, the Washingtonian reported on a new policy at the Washington Post that prohibits its employees from conduct on social media that “adversely affects The Post’s customers, advertisers, subscribers, vendors, suppliers or partners.” In such cases, according to the policy, Post management reserved the right to take disciplinary action “up to and including termination of employment,” Andrew Beaujon reported for the Washingtonian. According to the report, the Post’s policy went into effect on May 1 and applies to the entire company.

In addition to the restriction on criticism, the Post’s new policy encouraged employees to snitch on one another: “If you have any reason to believe that an employee may be in violation of The Post’s Social Media Policy … you should contact the Post’s Human Resources Department.”

The Post declined to comment on the policy to Washingtonian.

At the time of the news report, the Post’s guild, which represents newsroom and commercial employees at the newspaper, was protesting the company-wide action and was seeking to have the controversial parts of the policy removed in a new labor agreement.

As Whitney Webb noted in a report for MintPress News, “This new policy offers a simple loophole to corporations that wish to avoid criticism from the Post, as becoming a sponsor of the paper would quickly put an end to any unfavorable coverage.”

Webb’s report also addressed how the policy might affect the Post’s coverage of stories involving the CIA.  Noting that four months after Jeff Bezos purchased the Post, Amazon Web Services signed a $600 million contract with the CIA for web hosting services that now serve “the entire U.S. intelligence community.” (Bezos is the CEO of Amazon.) According to Webb, “long before” the Post’s new policy restricting employees’ use of social media went into effect, “some had speculated that the connections between the CIA and the Post were already affecting its reporting. For example, last year, the Post openly called for the prosecution of Snowden, despite having previously used the whistleblower’s leaks for their Pulitzer Prize-winning report on illegal NSA spying.”

Former Post reporters suggested that, although criticism of the CIA would not technically be prohibited under the company’s new policy, doing so might jeopardize one’s career. In 2013, John Hanrahan, a former Post reporter, told AlterNet, “Post reporters and editors are aware that Bezos, as majority owner of Amazon, has a financial stake in maintaining good relations with the CIA — and this sends a clear message to even the hardest-nosed journalist that making the CIA look bad might not be a good career move.”

Sources:

Andrew Beaujon, “The Washington Post’s New Social Media Policy Forbids Disparaging Advertisers,” Washingtonian, June 27, 2017, https://www.washingtonian.com/2017/06/27/the-washington-post-social-media-policy/.

Josh Delk, Washington Post Prohibits Social Media Criticism of Advertisers,” The Hill, June 28, 2017, http://thehill.com/blogs/blog-briefing-room/news/339930-washington-post-prohibits-social-media-criticism-of-advertisers.

Whitney Webb, “Bezos Bans WaPo Staff From Criticizing Corporate Advertisers On Social Media,” MintPress News, July 17, 2017, https://www.mintpressnews.com/washington-post-staff-banned-criticizing-advertisers/229821/.

Student Researcher: Bryan Sergel (Indian River State College)

Faculty Researcher: Elliot D. Cohen (Indian River State College)

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Self-Driving Cars Crash into Decades-Old Ethical Conundrum

Fri, 2018-04-13 15:20

On March 19th, 2018, a woman was struck and killed in Tempe, Arizona, by a self-driving vehicle owned and operated by Uber. For a brief period of time, the safety and future of autonomous vehicles was brought into the spotlight. However, with a settlement in the ensuing lawsuit, the story effectively ended. While Uber pulled its self-driving cars from the streets for now, this brings up an important question about the safety of autonomous vehicles. One of the most important concerns about self-driving cars is how their algorithms would be programmed to react to a “trolley problem”.

As developed by Judith Thomson, the trolley problem is a hypothetical situation in which a bystander witnesses a trolley headed towards a group of five workers. The bystander can choose to pull the lever and direct the trolley into a wall, killing the two workers on board, or do nothing, and allow the train to kill the five workers on the track.

In terms of self-driving cars, a car would theoretically have to be programmed to either protect the driver or protect the pedestrians. In a similar situation to the trolley problem, if a self-driving car is headed down the road and its brakes give out, would the car swerve into a wall to avoid a group of pedestrians, saving their lives but killing the passengers? This moral dilemma has created a serious problem for autonomous vehicle programmers.

Wired reports that Iyad Rahwan of the MIT Media Lab is conducting studies to determine how consumers understand self-driving cars and their potential to be programed to kill passengers instead of injure pedestrians. So far, he has reported, “most people would not buy a self-driving car that could make the decision to kill them as the passenger.”

This conundrum raises issues that extend beyond the ethics of robotics. Will humans ever be able to accept that technology is not perfect, and that scenarios like the trolley problem, though rare, do occur in real life?

There has been little-to-no corporate news coverage of the ethics of self-driving cars, their relation to the trolley problem, or the ethics of artificial intelligence (AI) as a whole. Establishment media reported about Uber settling in court, but the details of the incident itself were marginalized.

Throughout the emergence and growth of AI, many concerns have been voiced about the danger of playing with the unknown, as have been expressed most notably by the late, world-renowned physicist Stephen Hawking, as well as Tesla and SpaceX CEO Elon Musk. Hawking told the BBC, “The development of full artificial intelligence could spell the end for the human race.” Nevertheless, most corporate news outlets have focused on the benefits of new AI technologies.

Sources:

Timothy B. Lee, “Uber Self-driving Car Hits and Kills Pedestrian,” Ars Technica, March 19, 2018,://arstechnica.com/cars/2018/03/uber-self-driving-car-hits-and-kills-pedestrian/.

Ian Bogost, “Enough With the Trolley Problem,” The Atlantic, March 30, 2018, https://www.theatlantic.com/technology/archive/2018/03/got-99-problems-but-a-trolley-aint-one/556805/.

Henry Grabar, “Arizona’s Lax Approach to Regulating Self-Driving Cars Is Dangerous-and Paying Off,” Slate, March 27, 2018, https://slate.com/technology/2018/03/arizonas-lax-approach-to-regulating-self-driving-cars.html.

Matt, Simon, “To Make Us All Safer, Robocars Will Sometimes Have to Kill,” Wired, May 25, 2017, https://www.wired.com/2017/03/make-us-safer-robocars-will-sometimes-kill/.

Student Researcher: Carly Tashman (University of Vermont)

Faculty Researcher: Robert Williams Jr. (University of Vermont)

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Cultural Heritage Sites Under Attack by ISIS to Fund Operations

Fri, 2018-04-13 15:17

Historical artifacts and archeological sites dating back to Mesopotamia and the Roman Empire, spanning the region around the Tigris and Euphrates Rivers, are being systematically destroyed by ISIS. ISIS considers works of art depicting the human form and other objects to be idolatrous. Therefore, museums and other buildings used for religious purposes are raided with any representational art within being smashed and destroyed. ISIS is also known to raid and loot archeological sites to sell stolen art objects on the black market to fund its operations.

Damage to antiquities has been reported as far back as 2010 when the Syrian conflict began. As ISIS grew in numbers more UNESCO cultural heritage sites were destroyed, and others became threatened. Syria has documented the damage by ISIS to six cultural heritage sites since 2013. Four other sites located in the region have been damaged since 2014. Many of the antiquities that are destroyed are prominently featured in ISIS propaganda videos which document the destruction to enhance the image of ISIS throughout the area. Other valuable works are spirited away to black markets in the region with the money paid by collectors being utilized to fund ISIS operations.

The international community is scrambling to find ways to protect these cultural heritage sites, so the vanishing historical artifacts can be preserved. The historical artifacts and cultural heritage are invaluable to researchers when learning about the localities and their histories throughout the region. As ISIS sets out to erase history in its attempt to stamp out what it sees as idolatry, valuable glimpses to the past are forever lost.

UNESCO considers the intentional destruction of cultural heritage a war crime. However, not much is being done to protect these valuable cultural heritage sites.

Most Americans are unaware of what is happening to valuable works of art in the Middle East at the hands of ISIS. Past actions of ISIS portend what could happen in other parts of the world to valuable works of art and cultural antiquities as other militant groups rise to threaten these valuable items which enable us a glimpse of what our world had been like in the past. As the threat of anti-western militancy gains a foothold up in Europe, sites such as the Sistine Chapel, the Vatican with its vast collection of art and history, and the great museums such as the Louvre, London’s National Gallery or the Acropolis Museum in Greece could come under threat of destruction.

Most news reports documenting the destruction of cultural heritage sites by ISIS originate from 2015 and early 2016, when CBS (relying on an AP report), CNN, National Geographic, and Time covered the topic. A more recent account was published by the Smithsonian in February, 2017.

Sources:

Alyssa Buffenstein, “A Monumental Loss: Here Are the Most Significant Cultural Heritage Sites That ISIS Has Destroyed to Date,” News.artnet.com, May 30, 2017, https://news.artnet.com/art-world/isis-cultural-heritage-sites-destroyed-950060.

Benjamin Isakhan and Jose Antonio Gonzalez Zarandona, “Erasing History: Why Islamic State is Blowing Up Ancient Artefacts,” The Conversation, June 4, 2017, http://theconversation.com/erasing-history-why-islamic-state-is-blowing-up-ancient-artefacts-78667.

Student Researchers: Randal Williams and Stephanie Rickher (Diablo Valley College)

Faculty Evaluator: Mickey Huff (Diablo Valley College)

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Debate over Threat of North Korean Attack by Electromagnetic Pulse

Fri, 2018-04-13 15:13

In March, 2017, The Hill published an opinion piece by R. James Woolsey, who directed the CIA from 1993-95, and Peter Vincent Pry, who had previously served in the House Armed Services Committee and the CIA. In their piece, titled “How North Korea Could Kill 90 Percent of Americans,” Woolsey and Pry underscored existing concerns about North Korea’s nuclear threat by pointing to another devastating possibility, attack by electromagnetic pulse (EMP).

Noting previous warnings by former national security officials from the Reagan and Clinton administrations, Woolsey and Pry asserted that North Korea could attack the US using a single warhead armed to deliver a “high-altitude electromagnetic pulse” that “could blackout the national electric grid and other life-sustaining critical infrastructures for over a year—killing 9 of 10 Americans by starvation and societal collapse.”

With two North Korean satellites in orbit over the US “on trajectories consistent with surprise EMP attack,” Woolsey and Pry asked, “Why do the press and public officials ignore or under-report these facts?”

Several days later, Popular Mechanics published a rebuttal of Woolsey and Pry’s argument.

“While North Korea does pose an increasingly serious nuclear threat to the United States,” Kyle Mizokami wrote, “the claim it could kill 300 million Americans by depriving them of electricity is not realistic.” The dramatic claim derived from “the words of Congressman Roscoe Bartlett, who describes a novel he had read called One Second After,” Mizokami reported. The book, a work of fiction, imagined an EMP attack on the US, which so frightened Bartlett that, after leaving Congress, he moved into the woods and became a survivalist. In brief, Mizokami wrote, “The claim that North Korea could kill 90 percent of the American people was directly pulled from a science fiction novel.” Mizokami’s Popular Mechanics report went on to note a number of additional problematic claims in Woolsey and Pry’s Hill article.

In April, 2017, the Washington Examiner reported that the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency, or DARPA, sought development of a Rapid Attack Detection, Isolation and Characterization Systems (RADICS) program that would “enable black start recovery of the power grid amidst a cyber-attack on the U.S. energy sector’s critical infrastructure.”

According to the Examiner, “DARPA’s focus is on thwarting a cyber attack, but Pry and Woolsey have also warned that North Korea or Iran could attack the grid with an atmospheric nuclear explosion over the East Coast that will disable the grid and that could end up leading to the death of 90 percent of those in the East.”

Sources:

Kyle Mizokami, “No, North Korea Can’t Kill 90 Percent of Americans,” Popular Mechanics, March 31, 2017, http://www.popularmechanics.com/military/weapons/a25883/north-korea-cant-kill-ninety-percent-of-americans/.

Paul Bedard, “Getting Ready: Pentagon to Protect Electric Grid from Massive Attack,” Washington Examiner, April 14, 2017, http://www.washingtonexaminer.com/getting-ready-pentagon-to-protect-electric-grid-from-massive-attack/article/2620280.

Student Researcher: Harmanjit Singh Bansil (Indian River State College)
Faculty Evaluator: Elliot D. Cohen (Indian River State College)

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Lessons from the 2017 Sonoma County Fires

Thu, 2018-04-12 15:08

In October, 2017, wildfires ravaged Sonoma County, California, destroying more than 5,000 structures. In their report, “Built to Burn,” for Reveal, Eric Sagara and Alexandra Kanik link the 2017 Sonoma County wildfires to those that scorched the Sonoma County community of Fountaingrove in 1964.

Few of the residents affected by the wildfires in 2017 were aware of the region’s fire history.

New construction projects require inspection by local fire marshals, and these inspections are intended to assist homeowners in adopting practices that reduce the potential wildfires starting and increase the likelihood of firefighters being able to defend those homes in the event of a wildfire. However, as Sagara and Kanik reported, many Sonoma County residents were unaware that they were living in an area that was at a high-risk for wildfire.

Since the 1964 fire, “decades of development and sprawl into previously wild areas” have intensified the fire risk in the region.

According to the article, realtors and builders are required by law to disclose flood zones to potential buyers, but they are not required by law to disclose the potential risk for wildfires.

“Now,” Sagara and Kanik reported, “the question is whether stronger building codes and fireproof building materials can make these neighborhoods safe, or whether officials need to reconsider their approach to building where the risk of wildfire is highest.”

Source: Eric Sagara and Alexandra Kanik, “Built to Burn,” Reveal (Center for Investigative Reporting), March 14, 2018, https://www.revealnews.org/article/built-to-burn/.

Student Researcher: Kollin Jakubczak (Indian River State College)

Faculty Evaluator:  Elliot D. Cohen (Indian River State College)

The post Lessons from the 2017 Sonoma County Fires appeared first on Project Censored.

“You Go Girl” Has a Completely Different– and Deadly – Meaning in India

Thu, 2018-04-12 15:05

Parveen Khan did not need to read the Telegraph’s 2012 story that girls born in India were almost twice as likely to die before reaching the age of five than boys, according to new UN figures. When Khan kept getting pregnant with girls, her husband, Hameed, was mad enough to bite her face off.

It wasn’t so bad with the first daughter, although Hameed was very displeased and expressed his wish for a boy. When Khan was pregnant a second time, Hameed “pulled me from my hair and dragged me to the hospital to find out” the sex, Khan said. Without asking, he forced her inside the hospital and got the baby aborted. Within a year, he forced her to abort yet another female fetus. Then, she had a miscarriage.

In the course of two years, she had lost three children and the mental trauma and physical exhaustion took a toll on her. So, when she became pregnant yet again, she concealed it from her husband until she was six months along. But when Hameed and Khan were arguing about something, he locked her in a room and started hitting her with a hockey stick. Hameed hit her with full swing and she fell to the ground and started bleeding. The baby girl survived, but one day Hameed gave into his anger and in fact did bite her face off.

He pounced on her and started biting on her face “like an animal,” and intended to bite off her nose because “[in] our society is a punishment for giving him a bad reputation,” Khan told Al Jazeera’s Shereena Qazi in November 2017.

Between 1960 and 2016, the Infant Mortality Rate in India declined from 163.8 per 1,000 live births to 34.6. In 2011, a U.N. report on determinants of sex differentials in childhood mortality singled out India and China, “where the female disadvantage in under-five mortality is large and persistent.”

In 2016, U.S. News & World Report published five charts showing the difference in violence against males and females.

While domestic violence is not restricted to India, the targeting of female fetuses and infant mortality rates among the Indian population is statistically significant and this cultural phenomenon is not limited to the Indian sub-continent.

The preference for boys and the availability of sex-selective operations, although technically illegal, has resulted in a gender gap of as many as 63 million girls, classified as “missing” by the comprehensive Economic Survey 2017-18. Couples’ tendency to keep trying until a boy is born has also led to the birth of an estimated 21 million girls, who the report terms “notionally unwanted,” with some reports claiming that one in 10 baby girls born in Britain from Indian-born mothers is missing.

Source: Shereena Qazi, “Gender Violence in India: ‘Daughters are Not a Burden’,” Al Jazeera, November 17, 2017, www.aljazeera.com/indepth/features/2017/11/gender-violence-india-daughters-burden-171114101046432.html.

Student Researcher: Onesha Pierre-Gilles (Indian River State College)

Faculty Evaluator:  Elliot D. Cohen (Indian River State College)

The post “You Go Girl” Has a Completely Different– and Deadly – Meaning in India appeared first on Project Censored.

Can Trump’s ISIS Policy Control Conflicting Interests in the Turkish-Kurdish Blood Feud?

Thu, 2018-04-12 15:02

President Trump is new on the world stage but his role of finding an effective yet safe strategy to handle problems between Turkey and the nationless Kurds has challenged leaders since the 19th century.

Neither Turkey nor the Kurdish people living in Turkey and Northern Syria have a direct connection to the Islamic State, but they are poised to aid in the fight against ISIS. Although the US has had a very large impact on issues within the Middle East, President Trump has so far lived up to his promise that American troops will not spearhead further invasions into the region. Instead, Trump favors limiting the US role to supervising the internal forces and training the foreign armies on dealing with militant threats such as those currently residing in their countries.

The Syrian-Kurdish forces now control Northern Syria along that county’s border with Turkey – land that is part of the territory promised to them after Turkey and Germany were defeated in WWI. Under the Treaty of Sèvres in 1920, the Kurds were to get a state that included parts of Turkey, Syria and Persia, but Turkey refused to sign it and instead the Turks formed a republic that included ethnic Kurdish regions.

US forces have found themselves in a pickle when it comes to making friends. How do we forge and enforce a movement whose two biggest contributors hate each other?

Scholars are looking for a solution that will help build better relations between the Turks and the Kurds even after the fight to defeat ISIS has ended. The mission is to disperse the powers of Syria throughout the entire country to be sure that, when [and if] President Bashar al-Assad is replaced or removed, the country will have enough stability and knowledge of independent regions to put itself back together again with a lack of conflict.

Sources:

Michael E. O’Hanlon, “How to Work with the Kurds – and Turkey – in Syria, ” Brookings Institution, March 24,  2017, www.brookings.edu/blog/order-from-chaos/2017/03/24/how-to-work-with-the-kurds-and-turkey-in-syria/

Jennifer Cafarella, Kimberly Kagan, Frederick W. Kagan, Institute for the Study of War, and Critical Threats Project, “U.S. Grand Strategy: Destroying ISIS and al Qaeda, Report Four,” Institute for the Study of War, March 14, 2017, www.understandingwar.org/backgrounder/americas-way-ahead-syria.

“Who are the Kurds?” BBC News, October 31, 2017, http://www.bbc.com/news/world-middle-east-29702440

Student Researcher:  Steven Bolduc (Indian River State College)

Faculty Evaluator:  Elliot D. Cohen (Indian River State College)

The post Can Trump’s ISIS Policy Control Conflicting Interests in the Turkish-Kurdish Blood Feud? appeared first on Project Censored.

Adoption Agencies a Gateway for Child Exploitation

Thu, 2018-04-12 15:00

In Terry Gilliam’s classic dystopian satire Brazil, agents from the Ministry of Information offer Mrs. Buttle a receipt for her husband as they kidnapped him. Then, to ensure there was no question later, handed the befuddled woman a piece of paper. “And this is my receipt for your receipt.” The world has not yet arrived at such professionalism.

According to Geoffrey Rogers, the CEO of the Institution Against Sex Trafficking, sixty to seventy percent of children in our foster care systems are being sex trafficked. In nations such as Uganda and India, children are kidnapped or stolen and put up for adoption.

After children are kidnapped, they may find themselves placed in “adoption agencies” used to exploit them for sex, child labor, organs, marriage and much more.

“Despite regulations on international adoptions, and with some countries even banning all foreign adoptions, the problem has continued,” writes Joshua Phillip in the Epoch Times.

Although laws have been introduced in the US to prevent exploitation of children by adoption agencies, the United States is still one of the top destinations for trafficking. According to UNICEF USA, “[t]rafficking is not just an issue that happens to people in other countries. The United States is a source and transit country and is also considered one of the top destination points for victims of child trafficking and exploitation.”

Sometimes, children who have been adopted are no longer wanted and the parent decides to pass the child to new parents. This is called “rehoming,” and these children will likely face sexual aggression because they’re likely to end up with a parent who is a pedophile.

These rehomers don’t bother with official “receipts,” legal regulation or paperwork; the transactions are usually done with the power of attorney.

According to a 2015 report, those children who are rehomed are more likely adopted from abroad, since the rate for adoption overseas is about 73 percent, and only 7% are not from overseas.  Unfortunately, the establishment press have done little to bring the problem of adoption agency corruption and child exploitation to light.

Source: Joshua Phillipp, “Child Trafficking through International Adoption Continues Despite Regulations,” The Epoch Times, March 15, 2018,
https://www.theepochtimes.com/child-trafficking-through-international-adoption-continues-despite-regulations_2464370.html.

Student Researcher:  Erika Banuelos (Indian River State College)

Faculty Evaluator:  Elliot D. Cohen (Indian River State College)

The post Adoption Agencies a Gateway for Child Exploitation appeared first on Project Censored.

Is US Factory Farming Any Less Cruel Than South Korea’s Dog Meat?

Thu, 2018-04-12 14:49

The 2018 Winter Olympics, held in Pyeongchang, South Korea, served as the hook for a number of critical news stories on South Koreans’ consumption of dog meat. As the Guardian’s Chas Newkey-Burden wrote, “With the Winter Olympics turning attention towards South Korea, dog meat has been put on the media menu. The west has gone into shock mode.” Acknowledging that details of the dog meat trade are “indeed horrific,” Newkey-Burden, a self-described vegan, challenged those offended by it to examine “all meat production with fresh eyes.” There is “some hypocrisy in the outrage” over South Koreans’ appetite for dog stew or dog salad, he wrote, “and perhaps a little dollop of racism (or at least xenophobia) on the side.”

The Guardian article noted that, across Asia, demand for dog meat leads to the slaughter of thirty million dogs every year. (Newkey-Burden’s article attributed this figure to an April, 2017 BBC News report, which in turn cited the Humane Society International as the primary source for this statistic.) Although eating dogs is considered horrendous in the US, it is accepted as normal in China and South Korea, where Labradors, Beagles, and Chihuahuas are among the breeds regularly consumed as meat. Dogs raised for meat are subject to horrific conditions—as major news outlets like NBC News, CNN, and USA Today reported during the PyeongChang Olympics.

However, Newkey-Burden wrote, in the US and UK, lambs, pigs, chickens and cows raised for meat are subject to the same treatment as dogs in Asian countries.  In the US, nine billion chickens are slaughtered each year; according to a study by Viva!, a UK-based vegan charity, 93% of pigs killed in the UK are factory-farmed.  “In this context,” Newkey-Burden observed, “the recent coverage of Korea’s dog meat industry amount to little more than the condemnation of foreigners for having their own food culture.”

Source: Chas Newkey-Burden “Offended by Koreans Eating Dog? I trust you’ve never had a bacon butty,” The Guardian, February 15, 2018,
https://www.theguardian.com/commentisfree/2018/feb/15/korea-eating-dog-meat-animals-food-west

Student Researcher: Abigail Williams (Indian River State College)

Faculty Evaluator:  Elliot D. Cohen (Indian River State College)

The post Is US Factory Farming Any Less Cruel Than South Korea’s Dog Meat? appeared first on Project Censored.

Violence in Homes May Be an Indicator of Future Public Violence

Wed, 2018-04-11 17:45

The knee-jerk response of media to mass shootings in the United States is to question whether the perpetrator is Middle Eastern, or insane. But lost in this deadline-driven journalistic template, and the outcry over the accessibility of assault weapons in society, is the correlation between “private” domestic violence and public violence involving guns.

Soraya Chemaly, director of the Women’s Media Center Speech Project and organizer of the Safety and Free Speech Coalition, told CounterSpin’s Janine Jackson that there is domestic violence in the backgrounds shooters at “Sandy Hook, the Sydney shootings, . . . the Colorado abortion clinic attack . . .”

Chemaly’s remarks were first aired on the June 17, 2016, episode of CounterSpin, just after the June 12, 2016 massacre at the Pulse nightclub in Orlando, FL., in which Omar Mateen, a 29-year-old security guard, killed 49 people and wounded 58 others. The interview was re-aired for the November 10, 2017 show, and the web site provided “a lightly edited transcript of the rebroadcast.”

“I think it’s 57 percent of mass killings start in acts of intimate partner violence or family violence, whether it’s sons killing parents and siblings or fathers killing entire families or ex-spouses attacking intimates. They leap from that to hearing, instead, all domestic abusers are going to be mass killers, which is obviously just kind of a breakdown in logic.

“But I think that as a society, we’re trying to figure out why this is happening, how can we prevent it from happening. And very clearly one thing we have to do, otherwise I really do believe efforts will fail.

“And in this [Orlando] shooting, you know, we really don’t know enough about the man as an individual in terms of sexual shame or sexual practices, but we do know is that he was extremely abusive to his first wife. He treated her like a piece of property. He held her hostage, he violently assaulted her and he thought that was his right. And in point of fact he wasn’t really challenged in that ultimately because, while she was removed from the home by her family, the family, for a wide variety of reasons, as families often do, don’t want to criminalize the person,” she said.

“. . . . [W]hen you see it happen, and it’s such a distinct pattern in the course of the violence, you sort of wait for the other shoe to drop.”

“We are so silent, so shamed by what is happening in homes, that we cannot construct the language or the public policy to make sense of it, and to then prevent it,”Chemaly said.

“And I think what happens is that most people who maybe aren’t attuned to this dimension will see items in the news that are fairly poorly framed, are given headlines that don’t really address perpetration, but instead identify victims. It’s hard to then understand the wider context for this idea that it’s violence in homes, and tolerance, societal tolerance, for violence in homes, that is the necessary precursor to all of this public violence.”

Source: Janine Jackson, “Tolerance of Violence in Homes Is the Necessary Precursor to Public Violence,” CounterSpin (Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting), November 17, 2017, http://fair.org/home/tolerance-of-violence-in-homes-is-the-necessary-precursor-to-public-violence/.

Student Researcher:  Alexis Daugherty (Indian River State College)

Faculty Evaluator:  Elliot D. Cohen (Indian River State College)

The post Violence in Homes May Be an Indicator of Future Public Violence appeared first on Project Censored.

Hit and Run: Healthcare Reform Unlikely to Cure Trauma of Workers’ Compensation

Wed, 2018-04-11 17:39

Washington is finally grappling with the equity gap in the health system for consumers, and momentum is gaining for a fairer government-run single-payer system. Yet, for all the promise of the “Medicare for All” proposal, there’s surprisingly little discussion on how an overhaul of our health-care system would affect the people delivering our care.

Less and less of healthcare costs are ending up in the pockets of the hospice nurses, long-term care providers and others who care for those who cannot care for themselves.

The new single-payer legislation in Congress, alongside parallel state-level proposals, promise free care for all. But regardless of the outcome of health-care reform, hospital-based institutions are set to consolidate and downsize, and workers will be left with more work for less pay.

While the employment of caregivers has grown significantly, the median earnings of this group fell 2.4% between 2005 to 2015, with most of those drops coming from outpatient workers.

Meanwhile, Insurers’ profits and health-care costs grew steadily during the same period.

Source: Michelle Chen, “How Would ‘Medicare for All’ Help Health-Care Workers?” The Nation, September 28, 2017, https://www.thenation.com/article/how-would-medicare-for-all-help-healthcare-workers/.

Student Researcher: Derek LoBrutto (Indian River State College)

Faculty Evaluator: Elliot D. Cohen (Indian River State College)

The post Hit and Run: Healthcare Reform Unlikely to Cure Trauma of Workers’ Compensation appeared first on Project Censored.

US Court Decisions Enable Workplace Age Discrimination and IBM Knows it

Wed, 2018-04-11 17:37

In March 2018, a joint investigation by ProPublica and Mother Jones reported on growing leeway and flexibility in interpretation and enforcement of the Age Discrimination in Employment Act of 1967 (ADEA). The world’s leading technology firm, International Business Machines Corporation (IBM), appears to be at the forefront of age discrimination within the United States. Mother Jones found that in the past five years, 60 percent of IBM’s total US job terminations have been for workers 40 years or older—totaling over 20,000 American employees. IBM is just one example of many US corporations that have managed to disregard US laws protecting American workers from age discrimination in the workplace—all with the help of United States courts continually weakening the ADEA.

As Mother Jones reported, in the 1980s, IBM used its profits to help underwrite “a broad agenda of racial equality, equal pay for women and an unbeatable offer of great wages and something close to lifetime employment, all in return for unswerving loyalty.” Unfortunately, these efforts were short-lived when high tech companies began going global. Then, as Mother Jones explained,  IBM’s “large number of experienced and aging US employees” became a liability. An confidential IBM planning document reveals that its solution to this problem was to “correct seniority mix,” which amounted to cutting three-quarters of its US workforce and replacing them with primarily “younger, less-experienced and lower-paid workers.”

When employees questioned their terminations, IBM provided almost no information to workers, leaving them to message boards and online forums in order to discover the truth. ProPublica found that the primary reason that IBM and other companies are able to freely discriminate against employees on the basis of their age has been enhanced by a number of important United States court rulings.

Although there are occasional reports of single instances of age discrimination in the workplace, no corporate sources have covered the full extent of IBM’s age discrimination. An exception was an August, 2006 report in the New York Times that covered a court decision on an employee pension case in IBM’s favor.

Sources:

Peter Gosselin, “Eroding Protection Under the Law,” ProPublica, March 22, 2018, https://www.propublica.org/article/americans-age-discrimination-eroding-protection-under-the-law.

Peter Gosselin and Ariana Tobin, “Inside IBM’s Purge of Thousands of Workers Who Have One Thing in Common,” Mother Jones, March 22, 2018, https://www.motherjones.com/crime-justice/2018/03/ibm-propublica-gray-hairs-old-heads/.

Student Researcher: Averi Davis (Syracuse University)

Faculty Researcher: Jeff Simmons (Syracuse University)

The post US Court Decisions Enable Workplace Age Discrimination and IBM Knows it appeared first on Project Censored.

FBI Paid Geek Squad Employees as “Confidential Human Source” Informants

Wed, 2018-04-11 17:31

New documents released to the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) show that the FBI Louisville field office has been paying the Best Buy Geek Squad as informants for over a decade. The Geek Squad, based out of Kentucky, has been violating their customers’ constitutional rights by secretly handing over data found on customer computers to the FBI if they are suspected of possessing illegal material, for example, child pornography.

It is not until after the FBI receives suspected illegal material from the Geek Squad that they further investigate by sending the information to other FBI field offices where, in some cases, warrants are finally obtained. Evidence indicates that the FBI has identified Geek Squad employees as confidential human sources, or “CHS” and that at least four Geek Squad CHS were paid $500 each for their “services” to the FBI.

In 2016, a California doctor, Mark Rettenmaier, was prosecuted for child pornography found on his computer after Geek Squad had worked on it to provide data recovery services. The EFF filed a Freedom of Information request in May 2017 to gain a better understanding of the Geek Squad’s relationship with the FBI, which suggested that, “it circumvents computer owners’ Fourth Amendment right.” The Fourth Amendment has been interpreted by the Supreme Court to provide citizens with the right to privacy, including protection from unreasonable searches and seizures by the government. The search of customers’ computers by Geek Squad is a clear violation of this right because they were warrantless searches at the direction of the FBI.

The judge in Rettenmaier’s case threw out the evidence.

Best Buy argued that the company has a moral obligation to report their findings to the FBI and that their employees do not actively seek out illegal material. However, evidence from the case shows that Geek Squad employees who worked on Rettenmaier ‘s computer found the images in an “unallocated space,” usually meaning forensic software was required to locate them.

For over a decade, there was no corporate media coverage on the relationship between Best Buy’s Geek Squad and the FBI; US citizens remain unaware that by entrusting Geek Squad to fix their computer glitches, they were made vulnerable to searches for incriminating materials on their devices. Rettenmaier’s prosecution drew attention to the relationship between Best Buy’s Geek Squad and FBI, which received coverage from corporate sources including Fortune magazine and the Washington Post.

 

Sources:

Aaron Mackey, “Geek Squad’s Relationship with FBI Is Cozier Than We Thought,” Electronic Frontier Foundation, March 8, 2018, https://www.eff.org/deeplinks/2018/03/geek-squads-relationship-fbi-cozier-we-thought.

“Sneak Squad: FBI Paid Geek Squad Staff as Informants, New Documents Reveal,” RT International, March 7, 2018, https://www.rt.com/usa/420758-geek-squad-fbi-eff.

Student Researcher: Dominique Boccanfuso (University of Vermont)

Faculty Evaluator: Rob Williams (University of Vermont)

The post FBI Paid Geek Squad Employees as “Confidential Human Source” Informants appeared first on Project Censored.

Use of Force against Inmates

Wed, 2018-04-11 17:29

A report published on November 9, 2017 by the San Francisco Bay View reveals serious problems with the treatment of California inmates. The report explains how inmates are discriminated against, tortured, and dehumanized regularly by correctional officers (COs). The issues raised by the Bay View report connect to larger trends, as documented in Human Rights Watch’s 2015 report, titled “Callous and Cruel: Use of Force against Inmates with Mental Disabilities in US Jails and Prisons.” HRW’s 127-page report exposed the physical and mental abuses routinely wrought across the US by COs on inmates with mental disabilities. The report listed “120 abuse cases brought against guards, 80 abuse cases settled with disciplinary action (no dismiss), 30 guards up for dismissal, and 8 dismissed.”

As Carl F. Harrison wrote in the Bay View, “the idea that [correctional officers] own everything in the prison sounds like they have serious ownership issues, along with superiority complex and delusions. It could also be the reason they abuse prisoners so much.” Instead of the inmates living out their time in jail, some guards want to use their power to control and exercise authority over the inmates to prove a point about who wields power in the situation.

Awareness of the treatment that inmates endure in California has grown recently, partly due to increasingly active prisoners’ rights campaigns and the efforts of the inmates they represent.  However, as  Mira Ptacin reported, the challenges they face to achieve justice are “monumental.” Ptacin described how the 1996 Prison Litigation Reform Act (PLRA) requires prisoners “to clear substantial hurdles before being permitted to sue the Department of Corrections, prisons, or jails for assault or civil rights violations.” Prisoners can lose their rights to file grievances or complaints if they are deemed to have acted out too much. And, before prisoners can file lawsuits in court, they must pursue their complaints “through all levels of the prison’s or jail’s grievance system, complying with all deadlines and other procedural rules.”

Sources:

Carl F. Harrison, “Are California Prisoners the Property of Prison Staff?” San Francisco Bay View, November 9, 2017, http://sfbayview.com/2017/11/are-california-prisoners-the-property-of-prison-staff/.

Mira Ptacin, “Guards vs. Inmates: Mistreatment and Abuse in the US Prison System.” VICE Media (in partnership with Starz), https://partners.vice.com/starz/starzpowers4/news/guards-vs-inmates-mistreatment-and-abuse-in-the-us-prison-system/.

Student Researcher: L. Joseph Smith (Diablo Valley College)

Faculty Evaluator: Mickey Huff (Diablo Valley College)

Editor’s Note: For prior Project Censored coverage on the topic of abuses against inmates, see, for example, “Inmates and Activists Protest Chemical Weapons in US Prisons and Jails,” and “Lawsuit against Illinois Department of Corrections Exposes Militarization of Law Enforcement inside Prisons,” story #19 and story #22, respectively, in Censored 2018, and “Deadly Medical Neglect for Immigrants in Privatized US Jails,” story #17 in Censored 2017.

The post Use of Force against Inmates appeared first on Project Censored.

Free Documentary Screening: Generation Zapped – Radio Frequencies Effects on our Health

Tue, 2018-04-10 20:40

Generation Zapped film (74 minutes) and Experts Panel

Learn about Electrical Hyper-Sensitivity

April 23 2018

7:00 PM 

Sonoma State University 

Stevenson Hall 1002 (Free)

A wifi classroom is like the inside of a microwave oven set at very low power. Children are exposed to that wifi radiation six hours every school day, five days a week, and for several months during the year.” – Magda Havas, Associate Professor of Environmental and Resource Studies, Trent University, Canada

This newly released documentary investigates the controversial subject of radio frequencies effects on our health and well-being, as well as the health and development of our children. From its links to breast and brain cancer, to its associations with increased infertility and genetic mutations related to autism and ADHD, to newly developed illnesses, such as Electrical Hyper-Sensitivity (EHS)

Panel of Experts

Lloyd Morgan, Senior Research Fellow, Environmental Health Trust

Reinette Senum, former Mayor of Nevada City,

Sarah Aminoff, California Alliance for Safer Technology

Michael Neuert, Building Biologist

Sponsors: Sociology Social Justice and Activism Club, Project Censored, Media Freedom Foundation, Sociology of Conspiracies Class-371, Lydia’s Kind Foods Inc., 

The post Free Documentary Screening: Generation Zapped – Radio Frequencies Effects on our Health appeared first on Project Censored.

Global Decline in Rule of Law as Basic Human Rights Diminish, Study Finds

Tue, 2018-04-10 19:14

A 2018 survey conducted in response to global concerns about rising authoritarianism and nationalism shows a major decrease in nations adhering to basic human rights. As the Guardian reported, the World Justice Project’s Rule of Law Index for 2017-2018 examined legal systems around the world by documenting and comparing the experiences of 110,000 households and 3,000 experts. The WJP’s Index tabulated these results to produce scores for eight different categories, including constraints on government powers, absence of corruption, open government, regulatory enforcement, and civil justice, providing an overview of changes in the rule of law since its previous Index was published in October, 2016.

In summarizing the WJP’s findings, the Guardian’s report quoted Samuel Moyn a professor of law and history at Yale University: “All signs point to a crisis not just for human rights, but for the human rights movement. Within many nations, these fundamental rights are falling prey to the backlash against a globalising economy in which the rich are winning.”

Since 2016, when the previous WJP Rule of Law Index was published, overall rule of law scores declined in 38 countries, with the greatest declines in the category of fundamental rights, which measures absence of discrimination, right to life and security, due process, freedom of expression and religion, right to privacy, freedom of association, and labor rights. From 2016 to 2018, 71 countries out of 113 dropped in this category. Constraints on government powers, which measures the extent to which those who govern are bound by law, saw the second greatest declines (64 countries out of 113 dropped).

Among nations, the Philippines saw the greatest decline in overall rule of law, falling 18 positions to 88th out of 113 countries overall, based on significant drops in constraints on government powers, fundamental rights, order and security, and criminal justice. As the Guardian reported, “President Rodrigo Duterte’s administration has put a ‘palpable strain upon established countervailing institutions of society’, according to Jose Luis Martin Gascon, chairman of the Philippine Commission on Human Rights.” Gascon described a “chilling effect” on the country’s opposition after attacks on public figures who have criticized Duterte’s policies.

Three countries—Burkina Faso, Kazakhstan, and Sri Lanka—improved in the overall rule of law rankings from 2016 by nine positions, according to the WJP’s report.

The Guardian noted that the US ranked just 19th out of the 35 countries classified as “high-income” in the report. In the fundamental rights category, the US fell five places to 26th overall as a result of “worsening levels of discrimination and due process of law plus decreased guarantees of the right to life.”

As of March, 2018, US corporate media appear not to have reported on the WPJ’s 2018 Rule of Law Index.

Source: Will Bordell and Jon Robins, “’A Crisis for Human Rights’: New Index Reveals Global Fall in Basic Justice,” The Guardian, January 31, 2018, www.theguardian.com/inequality/2018/jan/31/human-rights-new-rule-of-law-index-reveals-global-fall-basic-justice.

Student Researcher: Kyle Zucker (College of Marin)

Faculty Evaluator: Susan Rahman (College of Marin)

The post Global Decline in Rule of Law as Basic Human Rights Diminish, Study Finds appeared first on Project Censored.

Is This the Post-Post-Truth Age?

Tue, 2018-04-10 19:12

Truth may not have passed it’s “use by” date after all.

In September 2007, the Washington Post reported the counter-intuitive discovery that “our brains are biased to believe in faulty information, and corrections only make that bias worse.”

The story, which cited several peer-reviewed scientific articles and experiments, has been revived recently in the aftermath of the election of President Donald J. Trump.

Since Trump’s 2016 election, we are supposedly living in the “Post-Truth Age.” The president and his staff are known for their “alternative facts” and the Administration dismisses any contradiction from the media as “fake news.” Instead, government sources direct people to the president’s twitter feed for their information, and away from those who challenge the officially sanctioned “beliefs” with facts. In such a world, it can be easy to believe that the facts don’t matter. So, it seems, truth does little to dissuade people who aren’t inclined or don’t bother to listen, and research shows truth could end up increasing the divide between people with opposing beliefs. For example, Trump’s allegations that then-President Obama was a Muslim, or that he was not born in the United States, seemed to be reinforced and fueled by truthful denials.

“The existence of backfire effects” have “emerged more and more over time,” Stephan Lewandowksy, an author of the “Debunking Handbook,” told Vox in 2014. “If you tell people one thing, they’ll believe the opposite. That finding seems to be pretty strong.”

Brendan Nyhan and Jason Reifler’s study, “When Corrections Fail: The Persistence of Political Misperceptions,” directly measured the effectiveness of corrections in a realistic context and seemingly confirmed the findings of previous studies that the truth further pushed people into their misperceptions.

However, in a much larger replication attempt, Tom Wood and Ethan Porter studied how some 10,000 students (thirty times more than Nyhan and Reifler’s original experiment) made sense of contentious issues, and the evidence was overwhelming: not a single person’s view “boomeranged” against the facts. After that, several studies were reviewed including the 1979 study done by Lord, Ross, and Leper that documented a “backfire effect” and all were found to have major flaws in their reasoning, with no repeat experiment reproducing the previous studies’ results.

So, while facts may not actually push people to believe the opposite, they are still largely ineffective in a world where “grabby lies” are the most appealing to people.

Source: Daniel Engber, “We’ve Been Told We’re Living in a Post-Truth Age. Don’t Believe It,” Slate, January 3, 2018, https://slate.com/health-and-science/2018/01/weve-been-told-were-living-in-a-post-truth-age-dont-believe-it.html.

Student Researcher: Whitney Howard (College of Marin)

Faculty Advisor:  Susan Rahman (College of Marin)

The post Is This the Post-Post-Truth Age? appeared first on Project Censored.

Electricity Shortages in Gaza Leading to Humanitarian Crisis

Tue, 2018-04-10 19:07

The UN and the World Health Organization both warned that Gaza was on the verge of a humanitarian crisis, Rebecca Ratcliffe reported in the Guardian in January, 2018. Under current conditions, electricity is available for three to six hours a day. As a result, health care systems in Gaza are on the verge of collapse.

Hospitals rely on emergency generators twenty hours a day. Sixteen primary care units and three major hospitals have been shut down due to lack of electricity. The remaining hospitals are overcrowded, unable to sterilize equipment and store blood, and must rush to perform surgical procedures and births when power is available.

The head of the World Health Organization’s Gaza sub-office, Dr. Mahmoud Daher, told the Guardian that there were also “dramatic decreases” in the numbers of people who were successful in seeking permits for healthcare outside Gaza.  According to the Guardian’s report, “Figures are expected to show that there were fewer exit permits granted in 2017 than in any year since the WHO began monitoring applications,” with a 45% decrease documented in October, 2017.

Residents of Gaza rely on electricity from Israel and Egypt, which is paid for by the Palestinian Authority—unless the PA is in a dispute with Hamas, which has been the de facto authority in the Gaza Strip. As OCHA, the United Nation’s Office for the Coordination of Humanitarian Affairs, reported in February, 2018, such disputes have led to extensive power outages lasting days to months.

The electricity outages contribute to reduced and contaminated water supplies. The average family in Gaza receives running water for four to six hours, every three to five days. 96% of Gaza’s water is unsafe for drinking, leaving most families to travel hours to buy water at expensive rates. 108 million liters of sewage from neglected desalination plants are dumped in into the Mediterranean Sea every day. As Electronic Intifada reported, contaminated sewage has leaked into communities, infecting families and children.

In February, 2018, Reuters reported that donations from Qatar and the United Arab Emirates would keep the hospitals open through late 2018. In the same month, US president Donald Trump cut UNRWA funding by more than half.  Israeli Prime Minister Benjamin Netanyahu called for the UNRWA to be disbanded after the United States cut funding to the UNRWA, saying it was for “fictitious refugees,” as Al Jazeera reported. Israel continues to deny any sort of crisis in Gaza, even as Israeli diplomats presented a “Human Rehabilitation” plan for Gaza at a meeting of donors in Brussels in January, 2018.

Israel has maintained occupation of the Palestinian Territories (the West Bank and the Gaza strip) since 1967. According to a 2018 Emergency Appeal from the United Nations Relief Works Agency for Palestine Refugees, one million people in  million depend on it for food assistance (p. ii), 72% of the Palestinian population in Gaza are registered refugees, and the unemployment rate is one of the highest worldwide at 47.2% (p. 2).

Sources:

Rebecca Ratcliffe, “Gaza’s Health System Close to Collapse as Electricity Crisis Threatens Total Blackout,” The Guardian, January 3, 2018, https://www.theguardian.com/global-development/2018/jan/03/gaza-health-system-collapse-electricity-crisis-threatens-total-blackout.

Ali Abunimah, “Gaza Hospitals Shut down as Deadly Siege Tightens,” Electronic Intifada, February 7,  2018, https://electronicintifada.net/blogs/ali-abunimah/gaza-hospitals-shut-down-deadly-siege-tightens.

Student Researcher: Izzy Snow (College of Marin)

Faculty Advisor: Susan Rahman (College of Marin)

The post Electricity Shortages in Gaza Leading to Humanitarian Crisis appeared first on Project Censored.

Trump’s Travel Ban Creates Hardship for Americans and Foreigners Alike

Tue, 2018-04-10 19:03

It has been considered a sign of a healthy democracy when politicians who get elected follow through with their campaign promises. But President Donald Trump’s sweeping ban on travel to the United States by entire populations based on region of origin has been a bitter message to many that “Land of the Free” is a brand, not an essential or necessary characteristic. Ashley DeJean and Kanyakrit Vongkiatkajorn, writing for Mother Jones a year after President Trump’s Executive Order 13769, reported how the ban complicates the lives of many people in the US.

“Though courts have struck down several iterations of the travel ban, one version remains in effect due to a temporary order from the Supreme Court in December. The ban is indefinite, and applies to Iran, Libya, Syria, Yemen, Somalia, North Korea, Chad, and government officials in Venezuela and their families.”

Mother Jones asked people to share their stories about how they were affected by the travel ban and heard from nearly a hundred people. “Dozens wrote about the difficulty of being separated from their spouses or fiancées; some delayed or canceled weddings because family members were unable to join them. Others described the pain of not being able to leave the country to visit a sick or dying parent. Many wrote about waiting for months on a visa application, only for their family members to get denied.”

DeJean and Vongkiatkanorn’s article includes interviews with international graduate students afraid to visit their families, and Americans whose loved ones are stuck in war zones.  For example, Amar Homran, a US citizen whose wife was stuck in Yemen, feared for her safety because of the country’s ongoing war and deadly airstrikes. “‘I got to go there, pick her up, get the hell out of there,’ Homran remembers thinking to himself. He left California in December 2016, expecting to get his wife, a Yemeni national, to the US in a matter of months. But the couple has yet to hear back about their visa application and has been stuck in Djibouti since September 2017.”

In related coverage, the Nation’s Michelle Chen described how a report on crime and terrorism by the US Department of Justice (DOJ) and Homeland Security presented “professionally cherry-picked data to bolster the perception that the country is under siege from hordes of foreign criminals.”

As Chen wrote, “The Justice Department misleadingly portrays the majority of terrorism convictions as an outcome of migration, stating that of the 549 individuals who were convicted on charges of international terrorism since September 11, 2001, 73 percent were foreign-born (including, misleadingly, even extradited suspects). But this statistic gives little background about individuals’ immigration status, nor does it contextualize the data with statistics on the overall incidence of terrorism, including systematic violence perpetrated by the rapidly mushrooming white-supremacist and neo-fascist movements that Trump has alternately praised as ‘good people’ and ignored over the past year.”

Corporate media coverage asserts that President Trump’s goal is to impose a total and complete shutdown of Muslims entering the United States, but these reports tend to accept at face value the administration’s justification for its policies. For example, a brief December 2017 article from US News & World Report simply summarized a State Department press release as the basic frame of it coverage. More generally, the corporate media have ignored or marginalized stories about the separation of families and the dangers faced being by family members trapped in repressive or war-torn countries due to the travel ban.

Sources:

Ashley DeJean and Kanyakrit Vongkiatkajorn, “I Feel Like a Prisoner in the Most-Free Country in the World,” Mother Jones, March 7, 2018,  https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2018/03/we-asked-how-the-travel-ban-changed-peoples-lives-heres-what-they-told-us/#.

Michelle Chen, “The Trump Administration’s Dangerous Obsession With Crimes Committed by Immigrants,” The Nation, January 26, 2018, https://www.thenation.com/article/the-trump-administrations-dangerous-obsession-with-crimes-committed-by-immigrants/.

Pema Levy, “Supreme Court Allows Trump Travel Ban to Take Effect,Mother Jones, December 7, 2017, https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2017/12/supreme-court-allows-trump-travel-ban-to-take-effect/.

Pema Levy, “Two Federal Judges Block Trump’s Travel Ban,” Mother Jones, October 17, 2017, https://www.motherjones.com/politics/2017/10/federal-judge-blocks-trumps-third-travel-ban-update/.

Student Researcher: Sarah Piraino (Syracuse University)

Faculty Evaluator: Jeff Simmons (Syracuse University)

The post Trump’s Travel Ban Creates Hardship for Americans and Foreigners Alike appeared first on Project Censored.

Nestle Makes Millions in Profits Bottling Water Pumped from Disenfranchised Communities

Tue, 2018-04-10 18:40

“Between 2005 and 2016, Nestlé has taken over 4 billion gallons of our water for pennies and sold it back to us for huge profits,” Caroline Winters reported for Bloomberg Businessweek in September, 2017. Although the commodification of water is not a new story, Nestlé has taken water commodification to an extreme, as documented by Winters’ Bloomberg report, Jessica Glenza of the Guardian and in a subsequent report for Citizen Truth by Joseph Mangano.

While residents of Flint, Michigan, face home foreclosures for failing to pay steep prices for poisoned tap water, Nestlé has paid just $200 for the right to extract water from nearby Michigan springs in order to produce its Mountain Natural Spring bottled water and Pure Life, its purified water line. Sales of those two Michigan-sourced products were worth $343 million for Nestlé in 2016, according to Bloomberg.

In San Bernardino, California, where drought has been an ongoing problem, Nestlé pays the US Forest Service an annual rate of $524 to extract about 30 million gallons, even during droughts.

Winters wrote that Nestlé has come to dominate the bottled water industry by “going into economically depressed municipalities with the promise of jobs and new infrastructure in exchange for tax breaks and access to a resource that’s scarce for millions.”

The company also targets communities in states with weak water laws. For example, Maine and Texas “operate under a remarkably lax rule from the 1800s called ‘absolute capture,’ which lets landowners take all the groundwater they want.” In states with stricter “reasonable use,” such as Michigan and New York, property owners can extract water as long as it doesn’t unreasonably affect other wells or the aquifer system.

When the company meets grass-roots resistance on legal grounds, it taps deep pockets to fight protracted court battles to obtain rights to use local water. For example, in Fryeburg, Maine, Winters reported, Nestlé fought for four years “to successfully appeal a zoning board resolution” to build a facility for its Poland Spring line. In 2016 it gained rights to extract water for at least the next 20 years.

The commodification of water based on exploitation of weak water laws is not the only problem with Nestlé’s bottled water. In June, 2017, the Guardian reported that, “A million plastic bottles are bought around the world every minute” with that figure expected to rise another 20% by 2021, “creating an environmental crisis some campaigners predict will be as serious as climate change.” As Joseph Mangano reported, “The very production of these bottles expends precious resources. It costs millions of barrels of oil to make the world’s water bottles used for drinking, and three times the water that goes into these bottles is consumed by the process. That’s a lot of pollution contribution for one industry.”

Sources:

Caroline Winter, “Nestlé Makes Billions Bottling Water It Pays Nearly Nothing For,”. Bloomberg Businessweek, September 21, 2017, https://www.bloomberg.com/news/features/2017-09-21/nestl-makes-billions-bottling-water-it-pays-nearly-nothing-for.

Jessica Glenza, “Nestlé Pays $200 a Year to Bottle Water Near Flint – Where Water is Undrinkable,” the Guardian, September 29, 2017, https://www.theguardian.com/us-news/2017/sep/29/Nestlé-pays-200-a-year-to-bottle-water-near-flint-where-water-is-undrinkable.

Joseph Mangano, “Nestlé’s Billion-Dollar Bottled Water Hustle,” Citizen Truth, March 22, 2018, https://citizentruth.org/Nestlés-billion-dollar-bottled-water-hustle/.

Student Researcher: Mallory Curtis (University of Vermont)

Faculty Evaluator: Rob Williams (University of Vermont)

Editor’s Note: For prior Project Censored coverage of this topic, see “Popular Resistance to Corporate Water Grabbing,” story #4 in Censored 2016, and “Water as Commodity or Commons? Issues from the 2009 World Water Forum,” Chapter 14 in Censored 2010.

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