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Updated: 19 hours 9 min ago

Trump Universe

Tue, 2018-01-30 20:31

For several years now, Project Censored has sought to feature a graphic chapter. Those efforts have yielded stirring results with the inclusion of Adam Bessie and Peter Glanting’s “Trump Universe” in Chapter 5 of our latest book, Censored 2018: Press Freedoms in a “Post-Truth” World. Drawing on a visual vocabulary informed by Jack Kirby’s Galactus and Dr. Doom, among others, and with text that invokes the late, great Ursula Le Guin and namechecks Rod Serling’s Twilight Zone and George Orwell’s 1984, Bessie and Glanting measure the gravity of “Trump Universe” and encourage us to engage not as characters from already familiar dramas, but as the authors of our own stories. In honor of the late Ursula Le Guin, and Trump’s State of the Union Address, we share it with you here:

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Affordable Housing Built in Days with Recycled Plastic Bricks

Tue, 2018-01-23 15:30

Conceptos Plásticos is a Colombian construction company that builds homes, shelters, classrooms, and community spaces out bricks and pillars made entirely from recycled plastic, rubber, and electronic waste. The company was founded by Oscar Mendez, an architect, and Fernando Llano, who had previously researched the reuse of plastics as building materials to create “ecoblocks.”  This business venture intends to address three major issues: affordable housing, jobs for vulnerable communities, and reuse of materials that would otherwise end up in landfills.

The base material for these homes are gathered from local recyclers resulting in a reduction of water and energy consumption. By reusing plastics, the company is able to divert materials that otherwise would take 500 years to biodegrade from being dumped in landfills. This plastic is ground into a rough powder then melted and poured into a mold that creates stackable bricks or “ecoblocks” that can be put together in a Lego-like fashion to build walls, roofs, and decks that are insulated as well as earthquake- and fire-resistant. Simple assembly and disassembly make for homes that are easily relocated, making them useful for temporary housing of refugees, homeless people, or military personnel.

Conceptos Plásticos aims not only to mitigate plastic waste generation but also to reduce the housing deficit, which is currently around 45% across all Latin American countries. In just five days, a team of four people were able to build a two-bedroom and one-bathroom house for only $6,800 USD. Because houses are easy to piece together or dismantle members of the community can easily build them with simple instructions, creating local jobs as well as practical, affordable housing.

The company’s biggest accomplishment so far was a four-week construction project for people who had been displaced by armed conflict in Guapi, Colombia. The completed project provided housing for 42 families while recycling 200 tons of plastic. CP is a tremendous inspiration for other business endeavors that have the potential to address similar multifaceted global challenges.

Source: Nicolás Valencia, “This House was Built in 5 Days Using Recycled Plastic Bricks,” ArchDaily, May 01, 2017,

Student Researcher: Taylar Wilhelmsen (San Francisco State University)

Faculty Evaluator: Kenn Burrows (San Francisco State University)

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New Study Links Living Near Forests to Healthier Brains

Tue, 2018-01-23 15:28

New research from Germany suggests that living near a forested area has a positive impact on an important part of the brain, the amygdala, as Tom Jacobs reported for YES! Magazine. The amygdala is the almond-shaped set of neurons that plays a key role in the processing of emotions such as fear and anxiety.

In its study of elderly urban residents, published in Scientific Reports in September 2017, a research team led by Simone Kuehn of the Max Planck Institute for Human Development in Berlin, found that living near a forested area is linked with a healthy functioning amygdala. When compared with those who live in man-made environments, people who live on the border between a city and forest are more able to effectively cope with stress.

Researchers analyzed data from 341 participants in the Berlin Aging Study II. The participants were between the ages of 61 and 82 and all lived in the city. Researchers found that many lived on the outskirts of the city, near forested areas and noted the amount of forest land within a kilometer radius of each participant’s home address. Then they looked at “three different indicators of brain structural integrity,” each of which provided “distinct information” on several key areas of the brain.

The results revealed a significant positive association between the amount of forest land and an improved state of the amygdala. The findings suggest that “forests in and around cities are a valuable resource that should be promoted.” By contrast, Kuehn and her team of researchers found no positive association from living close to urban green spaces such as parks or near bodies of water. They found that only living near forest land produced such positive effects.

Researchers mention that there is a possibility that people with an already-healthy amygdala choose to live near forests; but based on previous studies, that is probably not likely. The study adds to the already strong psychological evidence of the benefits of living close to nature. Such research has linked living near green spaces to living longer, lower levels of aggression, improved cognitive development in children and reinforcing better moods in people.

Kuehn suggests that more research will be needed to confirm that forest land has a greater impact on human brain health than other forms of nature do. However, the research conducted points to the positive benefits of surrounding yourself with trees and wild nature.

Source: Tom Jacobs, “New Study Links Living Near Forests to Healthier Brains,” YES! Magazine, November 30, 2017,

Student Researcher: Priscila Guzman (San Francisco State University)

Faculty Evaluator: Kenn Burrows (San Francisco State University)

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“PhoneGate:” French Study Finds 9 of 10 Cell Phones Exceed Safe Radiation Limits

Tue, 2018-01-23 15:26

Under court order, the National Frequency Agency (ANFR) of France recently disclosed that nine out of ten cell phones exceed government radiation safety limits when tested in the way they are actually used, next to the body. As the Environmental Health Trust reported, French activists coined the term “PhoneGate” because of parallels to the Volkswagen emission scandal (referred to informally as “Dieselgate”) in which Volkswagen cars “passed” diesel emission tests in the lab, but actually had higher emissions when driven on real roads. In the same way, cell phones “passed” laboratory radiation tests when the “specific absorption rate” (SAR), which indicates how much radiation the body absorbs, was measured at a distance of 15mm (slightly more than half an inch). However, the way people actually carry and use cell phones (for example, tucked into a jeans pocket or bra, or held in contact with the ear) results in higher levels of absorbed radiation than found in lab tests.

The French data is also corroborated by a 2017 independent investigation by the Canadian Broadcasting Corporation (CBC) that tested cell phones and found SAR values surpassed the US and Canadian allowable SAR values when the phones were tested in body contact positions. These findings were also replicated by the US Federal Communications Commission (FCC). They concluded that radiation levels reach as high as 300% more than what manufacturers claim.

Why be concerned? A 2017 study in the American Journal of Epidemiology and multiple other studies have correlated long-term exposure to cell phone radiation with the risk for glioma (a type of brain tumor), meningioma, DNA damage, and other health risks.

The wireless industry claims to be in compliance and opposes mandatory disclaimers about keeping phones at a safe distance. They also oppose updating cell phone radiation testing methods in ways that would accurately represent real life use. Establishment media have failed to cover these issues, and the public is largely unaware of the risk of cell phone use or the importance of keeping this technology a safe distance from your body.

In May 2017, the California Department of Public Health released safety guidelines in response to possible health impacts from cell phone radiation. Yet this information was withheld from the public for seven years, and only released after litigation. Litigation is also moving forward for more than a dozen people who claim their brain cancer is related to their cell phone use. In Italy, a 2017 court ruling recognized a link between cellphone use and brain tumors and granted lifetime compensation to a man who developed a brain tumor after 15 years of cell phone use.

Why does the public have to sue to get this information? And what about children, the most vulnerable among us? The American Academy of Pediatrics has clear recommendations to reduce cell phone radiation exposures to children—yet pregnant women continue to use wireless devices on their abdomens and children are given cell phones as toys.

As leaders in this field, what have the French done? As reported by Environmental Health Trust, French law ensures that SAR levels are identified prominently on cell phone packaging and that cell phone sales are banned for young children. In 2016, new policies stated: “All wireless devices, tablets, wireless toys, etc. are subjected to the same regulatory obligations as cell phones.” EHT also reported that, according to Le Monde, in 2017 France would ban cell phones from schools and colleges, and playgrounds.


Marc Arazi, “Cell Phone Radiation Scandal: French Government Indicates Cell Phones Result in More Exposure Than Manufacturers Claim,” Dr. Marc Arazi Blog, June 3, 2017,

“Phonegate: French Government Data Indicates Cell Phones Expose Consumers to Radiation Levels Higher Than Manufacturers Claim,” Environmental Health Trust, July 2017,

Marc Arazi, “Press Book,” Dr. Marc Arazi Blog, October 6, 2017,

Marc Arazi, “Phonegate: New legal proceedings against ANFR and Initial Reaction to the Communiqué of Nicolas Hulot,” Dr. Marc Arazi Blog, December 2, 2017,

Marc Arazi, “Danger of Cell Phone Waves: En Route towards ‘Phonegate,’?” Dr. Marc Arazi Blog, July 5, 2017,

“France – Policy Recommendations on Cell Phones, Wireless Radiation and Health,” Environmental Health Trust,  no date,

“Database of Worldwide Policies on Cell Phones, Wireless and Health,” Environmental Health Trust, no date,

Student Researcher: Kamila Janik (San Francisco State University)

Faculty Evaluator: Kenn Burrows (San Francisco State University)

The post “PhoneGate:” French Study Finds 9 of 10 Cell Phones Exceed Safe Radiation Limits appeared first on Project Censored.

Balancing Gentrification by Expanding Common Places

Tue, 2018-01-23 15:24

For decades, the “Philadelphia Story” was about steady economic decline, gentrification, and stark differences—rich vs. poor, black and brown vs. white— all common problems in cities across the US. Refusing to accept these disparities as inevitable, three years ago local leaders formed the “Reimagining the Civic Commons” initiative, as Jay Walljasper reported for YES! Magazine.

The focus of this community experiment was civic engagement, helping residents create new community centers and parks and making the community more inviting for everybody, not only its newer, wealthier residents. Based on this successful effort Philadelphia launched an expansion called “The Rebuild” with $500 million dollars dedicated to reinvigorating the city’s parks, libraries, playgrounds, and recreation centers.

Young people and immigrants from other nations have moved to Philadelphia in droves, realizing they can enjoy the same kind of urban amenities as New York, Washington D.C., or Boston. “We have one of the highest infusions of millennials coming here, but also some of the highest rates of poverty and economic segregation,” Parks Commissioner Kathryn Ott Lovell says. Philadelphia’s comeback has been limited to certain parts of town, yet the city continues to rewrite the all-too-common story of gentrification, which divides and fragments the community, pushing lower-income people away.

Engaging the whole community is the heart of civic commons work. It’s the unmined gold in our cities—a grassroots, ground-up way of working to reflect what all the people want. You don’t just invest in the places, but in the people. This takes the idea of engagement to a new level—the city and the community agree on the unique needs of these places where people come together across their differences. “Studies show how better public spaces improve crime and economic development,” adds Lovell, the parks commissioner. “When you make a place more inviting, it helps out local businesses, it creates healthier communities, it changes the way people relate to one other.”

Philadelphia suggests a number of lessons for other cities seeking similar success. First, experiment with the community—showing the community that things are actually happening. Second, identify tomorrow’s leaders, who can help inspire others to join and get involved. And third, make sure community involvement is strong by supporting relationships across generational, economic and racial differences.

The idea is not doing something for the community, it’s with the community. No one walks away when the last brick is laid. They own it, and they are the people who will protect and steward these projects going forward. Never underestimate the power of civic engagement.

Source: Jay Walljasper, “Philadelphia’s Alternative to Gentrification Spreads Opportunity to All Corners,” YES! Magazine, Jun 13, 2017,

Student Researcher: Malcolm Pinson (San Francisco State University)
Faculty Evaluator: Kenn Burrows (San Francisco State University)

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Probiotics a Potential Cure for Food Allergies in Children

Tue, 2018-01-23 15:23

Probiotics could be an important key to treating food allergies. New research published recently in Lancet Child & Adolescent Health found that a course of probiotics along with oral immunotherapy helped children overcome their peanut allergies and remain desensitized to peanuts for at least four years.

In clinical trials conducted by scientists at Melbourne’s Murdoch Children’s Research Institute, 62 eligible participants with peanut allergies were enrolled and divided into two groups. One group received a placebo treatment (two formulations of maltodextrin) and the other ingested the probiotic Lactobacillus rhamnosus, a bacterium commonly found in yogurt and increasing amounts of peanut protein every day for 18 months. At the end of the original trial in 2013, 82% of children who received the immunotherapy treatment were deemed tolerant to peanuts compared with under four percent in the placebo group.

In the recent follow-up study, conducted four years after the original experimental treatment, the children who had gained initial tolerance were still eating peanuts as part of their normal diet, and 70% passed a further challenge test to confirm long-term tolerance.

If confirmed by larger clinical studies, the broader hope is that this treatment can have an impact on the high rates of food allergy among children. Scientists believe that probiotics may be able to help repopulate the “good bacteria” that help prevent us from developing allergies in the first place, said Dr. Purvi Parikh, a pediatric allergist at Hassenfeld Children’s Hospital at NYU Langone Health. Dr. Parikh continued: “Every child must be evaluated on a case by case basis because no two allergic individuals are the same. However, this does provide a possible treatment alternative for these children that did not exist before, and that is exciting.”


Anna Almendrala, “A Potential Long-Term Cure for Deadly Peanut Allergies Could Be Around the Corner,” Huffington Post, August 21, 2017,

Australian Associated Press, “Peanut Allergy Cured in Majority of Children in Immunotherapy Trial,” The Guardian, August 16, 2017,

Student Researcher: Amber Yang (San Francisco State University)
Faculty Evaluator: Kenn Burrows (San Francisco State University)

The post Probiotics a Potential Cure for Food Allergies in Children appeared first on Project Censored.

How Farming Can Save Our World-Regenerative Agriculture as the Next Stage of Civilization

Tue, 2018-01-23 15:17

More than a mere alternative strategy, regenerative agriculture (RA) represents a fundamental shift in our culture’s relationship to nature. RA offers a world-changing paradigm that can positively impact many of today’s environmental and public health problems. Climate disruption, diminishing water supplies, polluted air, soil and water, rising obesity, malnutrition and chronic disease, food insecurity amid food waste—can all be traced back to modern food production.

Currently, the US government spends $500 billion dollars of our tax money a year subsidizing 50 million industrial farmers who pollute the soil and the environment with chemicals to produce cheap commodities (corn, soy, wheat, rice, cotton) for processed food and factory-farmed meat and animal products. Meanwhile, 700 million small family farms and herders, comprising the three billion people who produce 70 percent of the world’s food on just 25 percent of the world’s acreage, struggle to make ends meet. The US government also subsidizes fossil fuels to the tune of $5.3 trillion dollars a year, while spending more than $3 trillion dollars annually on weapons, mainly to prop up this system.

This system of industrial farming and land use is also “mining” and decarbonizing the soil, destroying our forests, and releasing 44-57 percent of all climate-destabilizing greenhouse gases (carbon dioxide, methane, nitrous oxide, and black soot) into an already supersaturated atmosphere, while at the same time undermining our health with commoditized, overly-processed food.

As an alternative, regenerative agriculture offers an array of practices that rebuild soil and, in the process, sequester carbon. Regenerative farming has the potential to draw down a critical mass of carbon (200-250 billion tons) from the atmosphere over the next 25 years and store it in our soils and living plants, where it increases food production and food quality (nutritional density), while it also reduces soil erosion, re-mineralizes soil, and reduces damaging pesticide and fertilizer runoff and re-stabilizes the climate.

The basic menu for a regeneration revolution is to unite the world’s three billion rural farmers, ranchers and herders with several billion health, environmental and justice-minded consumers to overturn “business as usual” and embark on a global campaign of cooperation, solidarity and regeneration. According to food activist Vandana Shiva, “Regenerative agriculture provides answers to the soil crisis, the food crisis, the health crisis, the climate crisis, and the crisis of democracy.”

Source: Ronnie Cummins, “Regeneration: The Next Stage of Organic Food and Farming—and Civilization,” Organic Consumers Association, May 28, 2017,

Student Researcher: Amber Yang (San Francisco State University)
Faculty Evaluator:
Kenn Burrows (San Francisco State University)

The post How Farming Can Save Our World-Regenerative Agriculture as the Next Stage of Civilization appeared first on Project Censored.

Wave-Powered Water Pumps-A New Source of Clean Energy and Drinking Water

Tue, 2018-01-23 15:15

Atmocean, a Santa Fe based company, has developed a low-tech wave-driven energy system that uses the movement of ocean water to power the desalination of that same water. On a planet that is more than 70% water, a shocking 660 million people and countless coastal communities don’t have access to clean drinking water, due in large part to the costly desalination processes that relies on gas and diesel to power the plants and process the seawater. Atmocean’s design excludes these costly and harmful processes, with a single system providing clean power to pump nearly 30.8 million gallons of fresh water per year, enough to produce water for fifty sets of 15-30 acre crops along a single mile of coastline.

Originally intended for preventing hurricanes by bringing cool water up to the warm water layer at the top, in hopes of artificially cooling the surface of the ocean to lessen the intensity of the storm, overtime Philip Kithil, CEO of Atmocean, had the idea to harness the vertical wave motion to transport pressurized seawater to the shore.

In areas that don’t have reliable power or water—such as Peru, where Atmocean plans to have a system in place in 2019—this low-tech approach can be highly beneficial for agriculture, providing potable water sources, improving hygiene, and drought resistance to remote communities globally.

Additionally, Atmocean’s design is being built with “off-the-shelf” products that will allow local fisherman and mechanics to easily repair any damages within their community. A locally-based technology will not only decrease development costs but will also encourage community involvement, create jobs, and contribute towards a sustainable environment, all while providing clean water.

Atmocean’s innovative design allows small-scale communities to practice sustainable energy methods without the corporate involvement typical of large-scale desalination processes. Although practicing technologically-forward mechanics, Atmocean’s conscientious design provides an environmentally-friendly way for humans to benefit from the ocean while integrating community, appropriate-technology, and business

Source: Ben Ikenson, “Wave-Powered Water Pumps Could Become a New Source of Clean Energy,” Popular Mechanics, October 25, 2017,

Student Researcher: Audrey Davis (San Francisco State University)

Faculty Evaluator: Kenn Burrows (San Francisco State University)

The post Wave-Powered Water Pumps-A New Source of Clean Energy and Drinking Water appeared first on Project Censored.

“Model” Mississippi Curriculum Leaving Civil Rights Movement Out of School Textbooks

Wed, 2017-12-20 18:19

In October 2017, Sierra Mannie wrote an article for the Hechinger Report highlighting the inadequate textbooks in the Mississippi school system and how they are affecting civil rights education.

In 2011 Mississippi adopted new social studies standards. Before then, schools in Mississippi were not required to teach the Civil Rights Movement; and the words “civil rights” were mentioned just three times in the previous standards, as specified in a 305-page document. As Mannie wrote, “The Civil Rights Movement was once a footnote in Mississippi social studies classrooms, if it was covered at all.”

With its 2011 adoption of social studies standards establishing an expectation that students learn civil rights in depth, the state was heralded as a model for other states by the Southern Poverty Law Center. A March 2012 SPLC report stated, “Mississippi’s recent adoption of a Civil Rights/Human Rights strand across all grade levels should be a model for other states” (p. 9). However, as Mannie reported, although Mississippi was intended to be a model system for other states to emulate, an investigation by the Hechinger Report and Reveal from The Center for Investigative Reporting found that “all of the state’s 148 school districts rely on textbooks published before the model standards appeared as part of their social studies material.”

One textbook, titled Mississippi: The Magnolia State, was published in 2005 and is commonly used throughout the state. This text entirely omits the Civil Rights-era Freedom Riders and the laws that these young activists challenged. By contrast, the textbook references Mississippi’s governor from 1904-08, James K. Vardaman, over sixty times. Vardaman, known as “the Great White Chief,” staunchly advocated the lynching of African-Americans. The 2011 standards did not mention Vardaman once.

Some teachers see this as a problem for children, especially those in school districts closely tied to these historic events. Mannie’s report quoted first-grade teacher Camille Lesseig: “That first year I had maybe one or two white students, so it was overwhelmingly African-American, and here’s this book that doesn’t really acknowledge them at all.” Lesseig concluded, “It would be wrong for me to use that book given the context of where I taught.”

Despite Mississippi’s public education undergoing significant budget cuts in the past two decades, which make it harder to implement the new standards, dozens of teachers have participated in a week-long training program to educate themselves about civil rights history. Located at the state’s Department of Archives and History, this program helps teachers utilize other resources like archived documents to enhance students’ learning experiences in the classroom.

Although Mannie’s report focused on Mississippi, the problem is not confined to that state. Drawing on SPLC data, in 2013 Henry Louis Gates, Jr., wrote that, as of 2011-2012, “only 19 states specifically require teaching Brown v. Board of Education, while 18 states require coverage of MLK; 12, Rosa Parks; 11, the March on Washington; and six, Jim Crow segregation policies.”

As of November 2017, major corporate news outlets have not covered this issue at all. Mannie’s story was reposted by independent news sources and blogs, most notably Truthout, Reveal, and the Clarion Ledger. It is important to note that the Hechinger Report partners with corporate media such as CNN, NBC, and the Washington Post; however, these outlets did not republish Mannie’s story. Although these partnerships exist, the diminished coverage suggests that this story did not coincide with the values, agendas, and missions of these large media corporations. Because this story is so under-reported, it is critical for state legislatures across the country to address these issues surrounding school textbooks in order to contribute to a more well-informed society.

Source: Sierra Mannie, “Mississippi Textbooks Are Keeping Students Ignorant of the Civil Rights Movement,” Hechinger Report, October 1, 2017,

Student Researchers: Zander Manning, Jessica Picard, and Jared Yellin (University of Massachusetts Amherst)

Faculty Evaluator: Allison Butler (University of Massachusetts Amherst)

The post “Model” Mississippi Curriculum Leaving Civil Rights Movement Out of School Textbooks appeared first on Project Censored.

DeVos v. Public Education: Racial Disparities and our Uncertain Future

Wed, 2017-12-20 18:17

Betsy DeVos, Secretary of Education, calls for the reduction of public education, advocating charter and private schools as the way of the future. This raises the question: does transforming education in this way perpetuate inequality? Charter schools pave a path toward segregation built upon socioeconomic factors, diminished teacher qualifications, and a higher level of uncertainty for students regarding the value of their education. Meanwhile, private schools have been, and continue to be, predominantly reserved for upper-class elites, a system fueled by racial disparity that resists desegregation in the classroom, as Jennifer Berkshire reported for the Black Agenda Report in August 2017.

Charter schools and privatization direct funds away from public education, enhancing economic and racial disparities that deepen the opportunity gap among America’s youth. As Kalyn Belsha reported for New America Media, in the case of Chicago’s public schools, twenty predominantly low-income schools sit vacant in majority African-American neighborhoods, closed and eroding as charter schools take their place.

Regardless of these significant ramifications, DeVos hails privatization, especially in the state of Florida, as a “national model” that should be expanded, as Michelle R. Matisons reported in a September 2017 article for the Black Agenda Report. Florida grapples with the repercussions of supporting charter schools and is in the process of radically transforming its public education system. Children are not guaranteed charter schools in their districts, hindering the educational opportunities of many minority and low-income students who struggle to commute to districts that do have charter schools.

Corporate news coverage has addressed these issues in superficial ways, leaving many Americans ignorant to the consequences of school privatization. Corporate news reports have, by and large, left the public unaware of how DeVos’s agenda could potentially transform the face of American education. As Michelle R. Matisons concluded, “Nothing short of people’s dreams for their children’s futures are at stake here.”


Kalyn Belsha, “Closed Chicago Schools Could Remain Vacant Without Public Subsidy,” New America Media, July 26, 2017,

Jennifer Berkshire, “Race and the Right’s War on ‘Government Schools,’” Black Agenda Report, August 30, 2017,

Michelle R. Matisons, “Florida’s Privatizing Education Disaster,” Black Agenda Report, September 6, 2017,

Student Researchers: Amber Evens, Rachel Keating, Ashley McDermott, Justine O’Brien and Ashleigh O’Halloran (University of Massachusetts Amherst)

Faculty Evaluator: Allison Butler (University of Massachusetts Amherst)

The post DeVos v. Public Education: Racial Disparities and our Uncertain Future appeared first on Project Censored.

Devastating Hurricane Season Impacts Education across Caribbean

Wed, 2017-12-20 18:15

In September 2017, on the heels of Hurricane Irma, Hurricane Maria tore through the Caribbean, with devastating consequences. As Elizabeth Redden reported for Inside Higher Ed, in Puerto Rico alone, Hurricane Maria forced the closure of eleven universities that serve 60,000 students. As Redden reported, senior leaders at the University of Puerto Rico, as well as the University of the Virgin Islands and the University of the West Indies were struggling with “damaged buildings, displaced students and … stress [to] already strained budgets.”

Repairs at two campuses in the Virgin Islands, St. Thomas and St. Croix, are expected to cost between $40-60 million. The University of the Virgin Island’s president, David Hall, said that Irma destroyed or made uninhabitable 25-30 percent of the St. Thomas campus’s buildings, including its newest residence hall and the performing arts center. Beyond physical damage to the schools, the homes of many students’ families were destroyed or damaged, adding further challenges to their returning to school. Some students have even withdrawn, expecting that they cannot afford to continue to pay for their education.

Frances Negrón-Muntaner, who co-chairs a research group at Columbia University that has focused on Puerto Rico’s debt crisis, described the emergency as also, tragically, an opportunity “to think about the inequities that have been inherent in the model of postsecondary education in Puerto Rico and other territories.” Noting a historic lack of collaboration between American higher education institutions and Puerto Rican ones, Redden reported that a number of colleges in Florida are offering in-state tuition to students from Puerto Rico displaced by Hurricane Maria.

The efforts of Caribbean higher educational institutions and their students to recover from the hurricanes take place against the backdrop of intense financial strain on national budgets. In August 2017, the Virgin Islands announced a new fiscal plan that cut funding for education by $10 million, as Ernice Gilbert reported for the Virgin Islands Consortium. Budget cuts have led the resignation of over 80 teachers in the Virgin Islands. As Gilbert reported, “The department has relied heavily on its substitute teacher pool to fill a widening gap. This problem is not projected to improve because D.O.E. simply cannot compete with mainland jurisdictions offering more appealing packages to educators.” In Puerto Rico, the nation’s debt has led to the closure of over 170 schools.

Corporate media coverage of the hurricanes has understandably focused on the immediate task of rebuilding infrastructure. But this coverage has tended to focus on Puerto Rico, to the neglect of other Caribbean nations, including the Virgin Islands and West Indies. Corporate news coverage has put little to no emphasis on the impact of the hurricanes on educational institutions in these countries.


Elizabeth Redden, “Caribbean Universities in Crisis,” Inside Higher Ed, September 29, 2017,

Ernice Gilbert, “USVI Education Crisis: Over 80 Teachers Resign During 2016-17 School Year; 151 Teaching Vacancies Available,” Virgin Islands Consortium, August 21, 2017,

Student Researchers: Logan Dion, Katherine Lyons, Blair Maclin (University of Massachusetts Amherst)

Faculty Evaluator: Allison Butler (University of Massachusetts Amherst)

The post Devastating Hurricane Season Impacts Education across Caribbean appeared first on Project Censored.

Education for Girls: Afghanistan’s Invisible Battle

Wed, 2017-12-20 18:13

Sixteen years of war in Afghanistan, initiated by the 2001 US invasion, have sparked many political, economic, and social debates, but minimal attention is being paid to the war’s effect on education. National security and financial concerns in the country take priority over the fact that two-thirds of Afghan girls do not attend school, according to an October 2017 report from Human Rights Watch.  Forty-one percent Afghanistan’s schools lack buildings, and many children live too far from the nearest school to be able to attend—a situation, the report noted, that particularly affects girls, who are “often kept at home due to harmful gender norms that do not value or permit their education.”

Although the US-led invasion in 2001 was partly framed as an effort to assist Afghanistan’s women and girls, Human Right Watch reported that “as security in the country has worsened, the progress that had been made toward the goal of getting all girls into school may be heading in reverse—a decline in girls’ education in Afghanistan.”

In 2016, 3.5 million of Afghanistan’s 12.5 million children were not in schools, and of this demographic three-quarters were female, according to an August 2017 report published by Theirworld, a children’s charity. The one-third of Afghan girls that are able to attend school go to schools in the poorest conditions.

A November 2017 Human Right Watch report by Heather Barr documents how war and, more generally, threats of violence drive girls out of school—not only in Afghanistan, but also in countries such as India, Iraq, Mali, Nigeria, Pakistan, Somalia, Syria, Uganda, and Yemen.

Despite a few notable exceptions—such as the story of Nobel Prize laureate Malala Yousafzai—the issue of girls’ education in Afghanistan has not received adequate coverage in the corporate media. One exception is a March 2016 story by CNN, which focused on Razia Jan, who opened a school for girls in Afghanistan in 2008. The story explains the struggles Jan underwent to open the school, and the many threats against the girls that attend the institution. The CNN report briefly touches the surface of the hardships faced everyday by girls who wish to receive an education in Afghanistan.


Heather Barr, Ahmad Shuja, Patricia Gossman, and Elin Martinez, “I Won’t Be a Doctor, and One Day You’ll Be Sick: Girls Access to Education in Afghanistan,” Human Rights Watch, October 17, 2017,

“Education in Afghanistan: A Battle to Beat the Odds and get all Children into School,” Theirworld, August 25, 2017,

Heather Barr, “War is Driving Girls Out of School,” Human Rights Watch, November 27, 2017,

Student Researchers: Melissa Garcia, Rachel Lomasney, Erin Stacevicz, Kerrin Thomas, and Rachel Tucker (University of Massachusetts Amherst)

Faculty Evaluator: Allison Butler (University of Massachusetts Amherst)

The post Education for Girls: Afghanistan’s Invisible Battle appeared first on Project Censored.

School Desegregation Victory in Cleveland, Mississippi

Tue, 2017-12-19 17:27

In 2017, after years of litigation, the town of Cleveland, Mississippi, integrated its two historically-segregated public high schools, reported Edwin Rios for Mother Jones. In May 2016, a federal judge had ordered the town to merge East Side High School—which served black students, and was formerly known as Cleveland Colored Consolidated High School—with Cleveland High School, which was founded in 1906 as a “whites only” institution and had since continued to educate majority white students. As Rios reported, Cleveland Central High School now enrolls all of the town’s high school students.

The district’s desegregation in 2017 raises an important question: Given the Supreme Court’s landmark 1954 ruling in Brown v. Board of Education, how were Cleveland’s schools able to remain segregated for so long?

A judge ordered the district to desegregate in 1969—15 years after the Brown ruling—but in 2011, a Justice Department review found that the district had “failed to make good faith efforts to eliminate the vestiges of its former dual school system.” As Rios reported, according to UCLA’s Civil Rights Project, following the Brown v. Board of Education ruling, the federal government began to heavily enforce school desegregation, and the South became “the least segregated in the entire country.” As court oversight of desegregation efforts dwindled, including a series of Supreme Court decisions in the 1990s that promoted state rights over federal regulation, Southern states shifted desegregation backwards sixty years.  “The result nationwide, and especially in the South,” Rios reported, “has been massive resegregation.” (In a June 2017 report for Mother Jones, Rios documented how communities across the US have sought to split existing school districts, ostensibly to exert more direct control over how their children are educated, but with the consequence of worsening “racial and socioeconomic segregation.”)

Corporate coverage of this story was minimal. Only CNN reported on the desegregation of Cleveland’s school system. Interestingly enough, a major portion of the CNN report focused on those who opposed the desegregation of the two schools, such as Jamie Jacks, the school district’s attorney. Jacks believed that the school system had already made great strides in desegregation, despite the federal court ruling in 2011. Mother Jones provided a more comprehensive take, deconstructing the complex narrative driving the integration of the two schools. CNN argued that many of the black students wanted to remain segregated, while many white students wanted to bring the schools together. By contrast, Mother Jones reported that most students sought desegregation. The CNN report also glossed the long-standing legal battles that led to the schools’ integration.

Source: Edwin Rios, “A Mississippi Town Finally Desegregated Its Schools, 60 Years Late,” Mother Jones, November/December 2017,

Student Researchers: Cayli Armstrong, Jessica Lovell, and Jenna Mola (University of Massachusetts Amherst)
Faculty Evaluator: Allison Butler (University of Massachusetts Amherst)

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Communities are Legally Creating New Boundaries for Separate but Unequal Schools

Tue, 2017-12-19 17:25

During the 2017-2018 school year, the town of Gardendale, Alabama, intended to open two new elementary schools by seceding from its school district’s borders. This resulted in some speaking out against the new district formation due to the exclusivity it was purposely creating. The district that was left behind consists of a higher poverty rate and majority non-white population. This situation is not unique to Alabama. According to a June 2017 report by nonprofit EdBuild, 71 communities have attempted to secede from their school districts since 2000. As Alvin Chang reported in a story for Vox, by starting their own school district, Gardendale’s advocates of smaller, city-based school districts were “carving out a more affluent, more white area.”

Gardendale’s idea to create new elementary schools seems harmless, but the issue is rooted deeper: the residents are committing gerrymandering. Gardendale’s plan harkens back to the Supreme Court’s “separate but equal” ruling in Plessy v. Ferguson (1896) which legitimized the segregation of white communities from their non-white counterparts.

Gardendale aimed to provide children with better schools that would provide the resources they “deserved,” however in doing so, Chang wrote, they were using borders “to segregate their kids away from their less desirable peers.” Poor children of color became excluded from the new district. The federal judge who oversaw the case, Madeline Haikala, openly admitted that the mostly white residents pushing to secede were expressing racial prejudice.

Although corporate media have covered the racial motives behind Gardendale’s secession. For example, in April 2017, the Washington Post reported on Judge Haikala’s ruling that “the city of Gardendale’s effort to break away was motivated by race,” but the Post failed to address the community’s motives for manipulating the district boundaries. The Vox report revealed findings of Edbuild’s June 2017 report, “Fractured: The Breakdown Of America’s School Districts,” to explain how parents in Jefferson County were “gerrymandering school borders.”


Alvin Chang, “School Segregation Didn’t Go Away. It Just Evolved,” Vox, July 27, 2017,

Edwin Rios, “White People Keep Finding New Ways to Segregate Schools,” Mother Jones, June 23, 2017,

Student Researchers: Kate Beckley, Colleen Madden, Kristen Maher, and Joe Scibelli (University of Massachusetts Amherst)

Faculty Evaluator: Allison Butler (University of Massachusetts Amherst)

The post Communities are Legally Creating New Boundaries for Separate but Unequal Schools appeared first on Project Censored.

Threat of Education Privatization in Puerto Rico, Post-Maria

Tue, 2017-12-19 17:23

On September 20, 2017, Hurricane Maria swept through the island of Puerto Rico. It was categorized as the worst hurricane the island has seen in years. In its wake, all public buildings were shut down. Without power or a variety of other services, all schools on the islands were closed. With classes suspended and relief efforts arriving slowly, students have been forced to remain at home, awaiting assistance from the government and other relief agencies. As Aída Chávez and Rachel M. Cohen reported for the Intercept, some schools re-opened immediately, “determined to take in as many students as possible in the hopes of giving even a bit of order back to their lives.” However, this “guerilla campaign” to reopen schools is, Chávez and Cohen reported, “running headlong into a separate effort from the top, to use the storm to accomplish the long-standing goal of privatizing Puerto Rico’s public schools, using New Orleans post-Katrina as a model.” Delays by the Puerto Rico Department of Education to reopen schools may be linked to efforts to permanently close and privatize Puerto Rico’s public schools.

Before Maria, there were 1,113 schools across the island, all of which were closed due to the wreckage from the hurricane. With more than half of these schools still closed and damaged, and the Department’s refusal to open habitable schools almost two months later, there are conversations among officials and business leaders about whether Puerto Rico should follow New Orleans’ post-Katrina solution by privatizing education. Since Hurricane Katrina, the New Orleans school system consists almost entirely of charter schools, the only city like this in the United States. Puerto Rico may follow a similar path if another course of action cannot be decided upon. This privatization would be an opportunity for economic gain, seeing as monetary circulation would increase with a larger number of private and charter schools, following the island’s turbulent financial history which has led to the closure of 200 schools pre-Maria. Some, like Jeanne Allen, founder and CEO of the Center For Education Reform, see Puerto Rico’s current educational landscape as an open opportunity to start thinking about how to “recreate the public education system,” and improve an accessible public system. She describes the movement toward privatization as something that is far too exclusive, and is a “grass tops” movement as opposed to a “grass roots” movement. CEO’s and corporations could gain massively through privatizing education, and the general population would be generally disadvantaged due to the creation of a system that is inaccessible to the average Puerto Rican student.

Media coverage of efforts to privative Puerto Rico’s schools and the potential impacts is almost non-existent. News of the schools in Puerto Rico has been focused on power shortages and the immediate school year—including how students will need to go to school into the summer, and whether there will be enough power to run schools—as exemplified by CNN’s coverage. There is no talk of the possible privatization of the public education system, how this reflects what occurred in New Orleans after Katrina, and what privatization would mean for Puerto Rican society. Additionally, there hasn’t been a strong or consistent analysis of why students are not returning to school.

Source: Aída Chávez and Rachel M. Cohen, “Puerto Ricans Fear Schools Will Be Privatized in the Wake of Hurricane Maria,” The Intercept, November 08, 2017,

Student Researchers: Jayare Alvarado,  Jordan Barbarotta, Juan Martinez-Muñoz, Lyndsey Raucher (University of Massachusetts Amherst)

Faculty Evaluator: Allison Butler (University of Massachusetts Amherst)

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Disconnect between Young Women with ADHD and Education

Tue, 2017-12-19 17:21

Nowadays it’s easier for a young woman to get her driver’s license than it is to be diagnosed with ADHD. In a story for Women’s eNews, Caitlin Morgante, a student struggling with ADHD, reports on the endless complications regarding misdiagnosis and a successful education. It is estimated that approximately four million women are currently living with this undiagnosed illness and find themselves struggling academically. Unfortunately, many think “only little boys have ADHD,” which creates a societal limitation on the outlook for females who are undiagnosed, yet suffering. This limitation is expressed through Morgante’s experiences, with misunderstandings about ADHD and the role it’s played in her education.

Throughout the US, women are limited in everyday tasks, specifically in the classroom. These limitations are a result of the preconceived notion that women are viewed to be organized, neat, and put together, even though they “often present symptoms of ADHD much later than their male counterparts,” according to Morgante. Consequently as girls progress in school, low test scores may be misconstrued as a result of laziness, when in reality they could be an indicator of ADHD. These discriminations increase the risk of restricting women from receiving the treatment they need and a conducive learning environment. Society tells women, “You can’t have ADHD, you’re smart,” even though young women such as Morgante are secretly suffering and feel isolated from their peers. This stereotypical environment makes women insecure as it leads to girls to question one’s self and grapple with how to handle the increasing pressure of the education system. Recognition of the symptoms and severity of this disease in young women will project a broader understanding hopefully equally the intellectual playing field for both men and women.

Thus, doctors will be able to prescribe students with ADHD with medication that will be “the most effective treatment for symptoms of ADHD.” Society neglects to distinguish between what is considered normal behavior and what could be indicators of ADHD. Mainstream news has deemed this issue irrelevant based on the premise that men are the primary ones affected by ADHD. Women should be held to the same standards as men; however, due to the stigma surrounding young women and the way they learn this is not the case. Acknowledging and understanding this disease has the potential of equalizing the way students learn in our society.

Source:  Caitlin Morgante, “What ADHD Looks Like, and What It Doesn’t,” Women’s eNews, October 2, 2017, -and-what-it-doesnt/.

Student Researchers: Eryn Adler, Brianna Ardila, Rachel Damian and Mackenzie Shibel (University of Massachusetts Amherst)

Faculty Evaluator: Allison Butler (University of Massachusetts Amherst)

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Lack of Coverage on Sexual Misconduct in K-12 Schools

Tue, 2017-12-19 17:18

Many victims of sexual misconduct and/or harassment in the US have been overlooked by the corporate media. Although sexual misconduct on college campuses sometimes makes headlines, corporate media have not adequately reported issues involving sexual harassment and assault in K-12 schools. Mark Keierleber’s August 2017 reports in The 74 and the Atlantic discussed public debates involving Title IX—the federal law that prohibits sex discrimination, including gender-based violence, in schools—and how it primarily benefits college students rather than K-12 students, despite the fact that cases affecting the latter group are “abundant and often poorly handled.”

Keierleber’s reports highlight the cases of Seth Walsh and Rachel Bradshaw-Bean. After coming out as gay, thirteen year-old Seth Walsh endured two years of relentless harassment at school. Although school officials and academic advisors were aware of the ongoing harassment, they failed to confront such issues. As a result, Walsh took his own life in 2010. Rachel Bradshaw-Bean, a Texas high school student, was punished after telling school officials that she had been raped in her high school’s band room. Rather than protect Bradshaw-Bean from her alleged rapist, her school sent both her and the accused to an alternative school to continue their educations.

As Keierleber reported, in both cases—and many comparable others—school district officials failed to report significant, serious issues regarding their students, as mandated under Title IX. As of August 2017, Keierleber reported, the Office for Civil Rights was investigating 154 Title IX sexual-violence complaints from 137 K-12 school districts in 37 states and the District of Columbia.

The Obama administration was known for its strengthening of Title IX protections on college campuses, but adequate enforcement in K-12 schools is still lacking. As Keierleber writes, “in recent years the Office for Civil Rights has seen a surge in Title IX complaints against these schools similar to those targeted at colleges and universities.” Students of middle- and high school-age do not receive the same protections as their collegiate counterparts. “What you see most commonly is that colleges are far ahead of K-12 schools in the development of their sexual-misconduct policies and procedures, their training, and their education of staff and students,” according to Adele Kimmel, a senior attorney at Public Justice, who has represented sexual-violence victims for several years.

During the past year, high profile sexual assault and Title IX cases have received an abundance of establishment media coverage. Under President Trump, however, “advocates for sexual-assault victims are on the defensive,” Keierleber writes. Since Trump appointed Betsy DeVos as Secretary of Education in February 2017, news outlets have featured stories about changes DeVos is proposing to Title IX enforcement. Although the potential changes to the federal law have thrown some media light on the topic, news coverage typically focuses on how changes to Title IX would impact the collegiate level, ignoring K-12 cases.


Mark Keierleber, “Overshadowed by the College Sexual Assault Debate, 154 Open Title IX Investigations at K-12 Schools,”, August 6, 2017,

Mark Keierleber, “The Younger Victims of Sexual Violence in School,” The Atlantic, August 10, 2017,

Student Researchers: Caroline Akerson, Renee Francolini, Jackie Lyons, and Mary Yates (University of Massachusetts Amherst)

Faculty Evaluator: Allison Butler (University of Massachusetts Amherst)

The post Lack of Coverage on Sexual Misconduct in K-12 Schools appeared first on Project Censored.

Puerto Rican Students Organize National Strike Demanding Transparency in Response to Austerity Measures

Wed, 2017-11-29 15:37

University students across Puerto Rico organized a national strike that sparked demonstrations and protests on May 1, 2017, as reported by David Cordero, Sarah Vázquez, and Ronald Ávila Claudio for the Metro. The strike, el Paro Nacional, resulted from public outrage over announced austerity measures affecting education and pensions, as well as outrage over the lack of transparency in the process through which those measures were approved. Due to a mass promotion effort, multiple civic organizations, student groups, and individual citizens came together to stop all work and engage in protest.

The austerity measures, including $512 million in cuts to university funding, were to be implemented by a fiscal joint committee, la Junta de Control Fiscal, as part of the  Puerto Rico Oversight, Management, and Economic Stability Act (PROMESA), a US federal law responding to the island’s fiscal crisis. PROMESA, introduced by Representative Sean Duffy (R-WI) on May 18, 2016 and signed into law by President Barack Obama on June 30, 2016, established the joint committee as “an Oversight Board with broad powers of budgetary and financial control over Puerto Rico.”

University students, labor unions, and civic groups requested an audit of the government accounts to justify the austerity cuts because a public oversight commission, la Auditoría Integral del Crédito Público (CAICP) found nearly $40 billion in illegal debt in 2016. As Charlie Cooper reported for the Nation, this “extra-constitutional’ debt was saddled with predatory interest rates or ‘toxic’ interest-rate swaps.”

However, Governor Ricardo Roselló prevented further auditing by discontinuing CAICP through legislation, Ley 3, which he signed January 23, 2017. In response, the island’s government received 100,000 petitions the following month demanding that auditing resume, as Adriana De Jesús Salamán reported in Diálogo UPR. Subsequently, students began a movement that “shut down university operations since March,” according to Cooper, and formed protests commencing in mid-April in front of the island’s Capitol against the austerity measures and for the restitution of CAICP.

Due to these protests’ impact, as Cindy Burgos Alvarado reported for Caribbean Business, the Puerto Rican senate approved a resolution “to request the Comptroller General of the United States to audit the public debt of Puerto Rico based on what is established in section 411 of the federal PROMESA law.” Alvarado explained that “the report will not be an audit like the one presented by the Audit Commission for Public Credit, but a report that would not go into details of how the debt was issued.” The short answer is that protesters’ demands for a detailed audit would not be met, which is why the massive strike and demonstrations took place on May 1st, 2017.

Since Ley 3 also froze government salary raises, made cuts to school transportation, and severely limited the extent public-sector unions could participate in labor negotiations, as reported by Gloria Ruiz Kuilan in El Nuevo Día, students expanded the scope of the protest, allowing them to collaborate with other public interest groups such as the Brotherhood of Exempt Non-Teared Employees (HEND), the Central Federation of Workers, the Puerto Rican Union of Workers (SPT), the General Union of Workers (UGT), and the Union of Workers of the Electrical and Irrigation Industry (UTIER), as mentioned in the Metro’s coverage of the national strike. Puerto Ricans came together to protest the Puerto Rican government’s lack of transparency and the forceful imposition of the austerity measures by La Junta without an audit.

US corporate media coverage of this massive strike has been close to nonexistent.  When the commonwealth entirely shut down, corporate media didn’t bat an eye; when a referendum of the territory’s future status was conducted with a low voter turnout, it was covered by CNN. This reflects the invisibility of a people who refused to be silenced through a colonial rule euphemized as a “commonwealth.”


David Cordero, Sarah Vázquez, and Ronald A. Claudio, “Paro nacional: contundente manifestación en contra de las medidas de austeridad,” Metro, May 02, 2017,

Ed Morales. “Students Are Now Leading the Resistance to Austerity in Puerto Rico,” The Nation, April 27, 2017,

Cindy Burgos Alavarado, “Sen. Seilhamer: The debt will be audited,” Caribbean Business, April 19, 2017,

Adriana De Jesús Salamán, “Gobernador y cuerpo legislativo reciben 100 mil peticiones para auditar la deuda,” Diálogo UPR, February 22, 2017,

Gloria Ruiz Kuilan, “Cero aumentos para empleados hasta el 2021,” El Nuevo Día, January 30, 2017.

Student Researcher: Christian Andino Borrero (Syracuse University)

Faculty Evaluators: Chad Seader & Jeff Simmons (Syracuse University)

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