You wouldn't know how multinational corporations profit from international brutality if you relied on the mainstream news media, as Project Censored rated it the most under-covered story of 1999.
News stories on the Project Censored list have a strong international flavor, as untold stories of Kosovo accounted for five of the top 25 under-covered news stories in the United States, while foreign policy scored five stories on the list and international corporate power abuse accounted for two more.
Emerging this year are a number of stories on the mainstream media itself, including the reduction of foreign coverage in the news media (7), the continuing famine in North Korea (14), and the distortion of the debate on affirmative action (16).
Project Censored students and staff at Sonoma State University in California screened several thousand stories from 1999, evaluated by faculty and community experts, researched by the Media Censorship class in the fall, voted on by students, staff and faculty in early November, and finally, the top 25 stories were ranked by national judges.
1. Multinational Corporations Profit From International Brutality
"Corporation Crackdowns: Business Backs Brutality," Dollars and Sense, May/June 1999, by Arvind Ganesan
In the name of commerce, huge multinational corporations collaborate with repressive governments, and in the process, support significant human rights violations. Corporations often argue that their presence and investment will improve human rights. This practice is referred to as "constructive engagement". Major international energy corporations such as Mobil, Exxon, Enron, and UNOCAL have engaged in major business ventures in countries known as major human rights violators. Major US governmental grants, as well as corporate capitol investment, have funded the suppression of media, political opposition, and personal rights in Turkmenistan, India and Burma. The myth of "constructive engagement" has failed to improve human rights, and yet has been endorsed both by international corporations and the US government. Since the release of this information, BP Amoco and Statoil have taken positive steps toward addressing human rights issues. Programs are being developed in the U.S. and abroad to deal with the conduct of energy companies globally.
Others in the top 10 under-covered stories were:
2. Pharmaceutical Companies Put Profits Before Need
"Millions for Viagra, Pennies for the Poor", The Nation, 7/19/99, by Ken Silverstein
3. Financially Bloated American Cancer Society Fails to Prevent Cancer
"American Cancer Society: The World's Wealthiest 'Non-profit' Institution," International Journal of Health Services, Volume 29, number 3, 1999, by Samuel S. Epstein
4. American Sweatshops Sew U.S. Military Uniforms
"An American Sweatshop," Mother Jones, May/June 1999, by Mark Boal
5. Turkey Destroys Kurdish Villages with US Weapons
"Turkey's War on the Kurds," The Bulletin of Atomic Scientists, March/April 1999, by Kevin McKeirnan
6. NATO Defends Private Economic Interests in the Balkans
"The Role of Caspian Sea Oil in the Balkan Conflict," Women Against Military Madness, November 1998; and Sonoma County Peace Press, April/May 1999, by Diana Johnstone. "Kosovo: It's About the Mines," Because People Matter, May/June 1999 (Reprinted from Workers World July 30, 1998), by Sara Flounders. "Caspian Pipe Dreams," San Francisco Bay Guardian, 12/16/99, by Pratap Chatterjee
7. US Media Reduces Foreign Coverage
"Good-bye World," by Peter Arnett, American Journalism Review, November 1998. Mainstream coverage: The Boston Globe, 11/15/98, D6, Editorial
8. Planned Weapons in Space Violate International Treaty
"US Violates World Law to Militarize Space," by Karl Grossman, Earth Island Journal, Winter/ Spring 1999. "Pyramids to The Heavens," by Bruce K. Gagnon, Toward Freedom, September/ October 1999. Mainstream coverage: The Huntsville Times, 11/7/99, Editorial, D2
9. Louisiana Promotes Toxic Racism
"Toxic Gumbo, Southern Exposure, Summer Fall 1998, by Ron Nixon. The Nation magazine, in the November 8, 1999 edition, published an article by Barbara Koeppel entitled "Cancer Alley, Louisiana." While outside of Project Censored annual awards cycle for 1999, the piece fully supported the story and added numerous details. Mainstream (partial) Coverage: PBS News, 9/27/98; CNN Cable, 9/13/97
10. The US and NATO Deliberately Started the War with Yugoslavia
"The Real Rambouillet," The Village Voice, May 18, 1999, by Jason Vest. "Redefining Diplomacy," Extra, July/August 1999, by Seth Ackerman. "What Was the War For?," In These Times, August 8, 1999, by Seth Ackerman. "Hawks and Eagles: 'Greater NATO' flies to Aid of 'Greater Albania'," Covert Action Quarterly, Spring-Summer 1999, by Diana Johnstone. Democracy Now, Pacifica Radio Network, April 23, 1999, www.Pacifica.org; host, Amy Goodman. C-Span Washington Journal, Sam Husseini, April 22, 1999. Washington Post, For the Record; 4/28/99, A-24. Minneapolis Star-Tribune, 5/17/99 Page 6A
For more on the Project Censored list, including the rest of the top 25 under-covered stories, see www.projectcensored.org. The stories, plus articles by media scholars and guest writers, are published in book form as Censored 2000 by Seven Stories Press.
POLL SHOWS NADER'S GREEN LIGHT. Green presidential candidate Ralph Nader already has surpassed Reform Party candidate Pat Buchanan in at least one national poll. According to Reuters, a Zogby poll in March showed that in a four-way race for the presidency George W. Bush and Al Gore were in a statistical draw at 41.7 and 40.2 percent respectively while Nader received 5.3 percent and Buchanan drew 3.3 percent. Nader tallied 8.9 percent of the independent vote, 5.7 percent of Democratic respondents and 2.1 percent of the GOP. Pat Buchanan took only 4.1 percent of the Republican response, 5.9 percent of Independents, and only 0.8 percent of Democrats.
CONGRESS MOVES TO KILL COMMUNITY RADIO. The US House of Representatives is expected to vote soon on HR 3439, a bill sponsored by Rep. Michael Oxley (R-Ohio) that would overrule the Federal Communications Commission's attempts to license low-power radio stations to non-profit community organizations. A similar bill, SB 2068, is pending in the Senate. The National Association of Broadcasters, representing commercial broadcasters, is leading the fight to scuttle the local stations that would broadcast at 1 to 100 watts of power, with a signal that would reach up to seven miles. National Public Radio is also opposed to the microradio initiative, complaining of potential interference, but the FCC is going ahead with plans to license low-power stations in Alaska, California, the District of Columbia, Georgia, Indiana, Louisiana, Maine, the Mariana Islands, Maryland, Oklahoma, Rhode Island and Utah.
BANK LAW MUZZLES LOW-INCOME ADVOCATES. Despite assurances to the contrary when President Clinton signed the Financial Services Modernization Act last fall, the new law that allows conglomeration of banking and financial services also will prevent consumer advocates from speaking out for fair lending and public accountability of banks by forcing them to comply with draconian auditing requirements. Under the old Community Reinvestment Act, Stanton McManus wrote in the April 17 In These Times, banks had to answer questions about their lending practices when they sought to merge with another company. Community groups frequently were able to use that leverage to negotiate agreements with banks to assist borrowers in low-income neighborhoods. But Sen. Phil Gramm, chair of the Senate Banking Committee, has been trying to gut the Community Reinvestment Act for years, and he inserted a "sunshine provision" that requires community groups that have "commented on, testified about or discussed" CRA records with an institution to produce a "detailed, itemized" report accounting for every cent they spend. Not only will the provision put a costly burden on low- and moderate-income community groups; banks also will be reluctant to work with groups whose records are exposed to government scrutiny. ACORN, which has been active in monitoring lending practices in poor neighborhoods, is conferring with other groups on a possible legal challenge.
GOP PUZZLES OVER CENSUS FORM. Republican congressional leaders who with Texas Gov. George W. Bush questioned the value of filling out census forms engaged in the sort of talk that "gives hypocrisy a bad name even as it has serious policy consequences," the Washington Post's David Broder wrote April 4 as he noted that every single question on the census 2000 form was vetted with Congress two years ago. Broder noted that one of the questions to which Republicans have objected, asking for the family income, has been asked in every census since 1940. "Another, the subject of much ridicule, asks, 'Do you have complete plumbing facilities in this house, apartment or mobile home; that is, hot and cold piped water, a flush toilet, and a bathtub or shower?' That question, too, has been on the long form since 1940," he added. Questions about plumbing and household income help target federal grants to communities where the need is greatest,. he noted helpfully.
BEN & JERRY'S SELLS OUT. The hopes that Ben & Jerry's Homemade might return to private status to maintain its social conscience in the face of takeover attempts were crushed when Unilever announced April 12 that it was buying the Vermont ice cream company. Ben & Jerry's corporate board of directors accepted Unilever's offer of $43.60 a share, after founder Ben Cohen had put together an alternative that would have bought back the company and preserved its social mission for $38 a share with Unilever in a minority position. Although the agreement calls for Ben & Jerry's to operate separately, with an independent board of directors, social consciousness would appear to be a dead issue at the new Ben & Jerry's. Unilever, the British-Dutch conglomerate which among other things makes Breyer's and Good Humor ice cream, in February announced plans for $5 billion in cutbacks and factory closings worldwide that will eliminate 25,000 jobs to increase its profits.
THE BEST OF ENEMIES. New York's Working Families Party must be doing something right. The progressive party on March 26 held its first-ever state convention, which unofficially nominated Hillary Clinton for the Senate (the official nomination must wait until June under state law). The next day New York City Mayor Rudy Giuliani held a press conference denouncing the WFP generally and Clinton's willingness to be associated with a "far-left" and "fringe" organization. His campaign manager denounced the WFP for its support for, among other sins, universal health care and living wages. WFP Co-Chair Bob Master responded: "If [the Mayor] thinks that raising the minimum wage and providing every New Yorker with affordable health care and a sound education is far left, then he is really out of the mainstream." In New York candidates can run on several party lines and Democratic candidates won two state senate races in March with the help of the WFP, which provided the margin of victory for the first Republican defeat in Lindenhurst Village, Long Island, in decades, according to WFP Executive Director Dan Cantor.
ATM REBELLION SPREADS. New York, Chicago and other cities across the country have taken steps to ban controversial ATM surcharges, according to the US Public Interest Research Group.
"More and more state and local officials are recognizing that it's unfair to charge consumers twice to use the ATM only once," said Ed Mierzwinski, Consumer Program Director of US PIRG.
On April 1, 1996, the national ATM networks, Plus and Cirrus, rescinded their ban on ATM owners imposing surcharges on non-accountholders. "Banks had a ninth straight year of record profits in 1999, earning $72 billion," added Mierzwinski, "So why do they need to pile on $2 billion in revenues from the unfair ATM surcharge? It is unacceptable that it costs consumers $2.50 or more to use ATMs that cost only $1 five years ago, especially when government studies show that the bank's cost of an ATM transaction is only 27 cents."
In February, the city of Woodbridge, NJ joined Santa Monica and San Francisco in banning surcharges. Local bans are under consideration in the councils of New York City and Chicago. Other cities where campaigns have been launched include Portland, Salem and Eugene, Oregon and Newark, NJ, according to the PIRG report, "ATM Fee Backlash: Local Rebellions Against Unfair Surcharge Spread," available online at www.pirg.org.