Project Censored reveals top 25 censored stories of 2009-2010
Top 25 Censored Stories Released
Did you know that Cuba provided the greatest medical aid to Haiti after the earthquake? Or that the U.S. Department of Defense is the worst polluter on the planet? That's what Project Censored says in "Censored 2011: The Top Censored Stories of 2009-2010", now available online.
"Censored 2011" covers the stories the U.S. corporate media ignore, including reports on state crimes against democracy and "an analysis of the corporate media spin that led to the war in Iraq."
Project Censored now has students and faculty from more than 30 colleges and universities who spend the year patrolling obscure publications, national and international websites, and mainstream news outlets to compile the 25 most significant "news that didn't make the news."
This year's top story? "Global plans to replace the dollar."
Project Censored’s “Censored 2011:
The Top Censored Stories of 2009-2010″ is now available for pre-order here! This year’s volume is truly Media Democracy in Action. Not only does it cover the most under-reported stories the corporate media ignore, but this year’s Censored Deja Vu, Junk Food News and News Abuse, Signs of Health, and FAIR’s 10th anniversary of Fear and Favor in the News Room.
A full Truth Emergency section debuts this year for “Censored 2011″ to address State Crimes Against Democracy as well as analysis of the corporate media spin that led to the Iraq War and continues to hide US allied atrocities in the Middle East. Project Censored now has over 30 college and university affiliates contributing on our expanding websites and we introduce this year the Project Censored International section of the book, reviewing global trends in media control and censorship.
Former director Peter Phillips and new director Mickey Huff describe the new directions of the Project and research methodology plus an update from Dave Mathison on Being the Media, London’s Index on Censorship and much, much more!
From now to September 15th, anyone donating $30 or more to the Project will receive a signed copy of “Censored 2011″ by the editors. Regular orders can be sent through the store on the Project Censored website for $19.95 plus $3 shipping and handling. Mail orders can be sent to Media Freedom Foundation, P.O. Box 571, Cotati, CA 94931. Thank you for your support of Project Censored and for helping fight media censorship!
A few are here , to read more click the links below:
Following in the steps of its predecessor, the Obama administration is expanding mass government surveillance of personal electronic communications. This surveillance, which includes the monitoring of the Internet as well as private (nongovernmental) computers, is proceeding with the proposal or passage of new laws granting government agencies increasingly wider latitude in their monitoring activities. At the same time, private companies and even some schools are engaging in surveillance activities that further diminish personal privacy.
- Lynn DemosBen Solomon, Steve Wojanis, Trisha Himmelein, Emily Schuler, Claire Apatoff, Erin Kielty, and Tom Rich (DePauw University)
- Alyssa Auerbach, Tyler Head, Mira Patel, Andrew Nassab, and Cristina Risso (Sonoma State University)
- Jeff McCall, Dave Berque, Brian Howard, and Kevin Howley (DePauw University)
- Jimmy Dizmang (University of San Diego)
- Noel Byrne and Kelly Bucy (Sonoma State University)
- Mickey Huff (Diablo Valley College)
In spring 2009, Senate Bill 773, the Cybersecurity Act of 2009, was proposed, which gives the president power to “declare a cyber security emergency” with respect to private computer networks, and to do with these networks what it deems necessary to diffuse the attack. In a national emergency, the president would also have the power to completely shut down the Internet in the US. The proposal requires that certain private computer systems and networks be “managed” by “cyberprofessionals” licensed by the federal government. The bill permits the president to direct the national response to the cyber threat if necessary for national defense and security; to conduct “periodic mapping” of private networks deemed to be critical to national security; and to require these companies to “share” information requested by the federal government.
Such steps toward increased control over private computer networks have been taken amid an ongoing program of mass surveillance begun by the George W. Bush administration supposedly in response to the attacks of September 11, 2001. In January 2002, the Defense Advanced Research Projects Agency (DARPA) established the Information Awareness Office (IAO) to “imagine, develop, apply, integrate, demonstrate and transition information technologies, components and prototype, closed-loop, information systems that will counter asymmetric threats by achieving total information awareness.” Under the Bush administration, such surveillance technology was developed and subsequently deployed through major US telecommunication and Internet service providers (ISPs) to conduct mass, warrantless dragnets of all domestic and international electronic traffic passing through switches in the US. This technology includes so-called “deep packet inspection” (DPI) technology, which employs sophisticated algorithms to parse all Internet contents (data, voice, and video), searching for key words such as “rebel” or “grenade.”
Presently no legislation exists that disallows use of such technology to conduct mass, warrantless surveillance. In fact, in January 2009, as David Karvets reported in Wired, the Obama administration sided with the Bush administration by asking a federal judge to set aside a ruling that kept alive a lawsuit challenging the Bush administration’s authority to eavesdrop on Americans without warrants. Moreover, amendments to the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act (FISA) passed in 2008—and voted for by then Senator Obama—had already made it possible for the federal government to conduct such information dragnets without warrants. The 2008 FISA amendments also require electronic communication service providers such as AT&T and Verizon to “immediately provide the Government with all information, facilities, or assistance necessary to accomplish the [intelligence] acquisition,” while granting these companies retroactive and prospective immunity against civil suits, state investigations, and criminal prosecution.
In addition, in April 2009, the Obama Justice Department invoked the “state secrets privilege” to bar American citizens from suing the US government for illegally spying on them. It also went even further than the Bush administration by arguing that the US government is completely immune from litigation for illegal spying and can never be sued for surveillance that violates federal privacy laws.
The federal government is also presently increasing its capacity to analyze the massive sea of data on the Internet. As part of an effort to gather more “open source intelligence,” the Central Intelligence Agency (CIA) is investing in Visible Technologies, a data-mining company that analyzes the content of social media Web sites. Visible Technologies, which has offices in New York, Seattle, and Boston, was created in 2005, and in 2006 it developed a partnership with WPP, a worldwide communications firm. This company has the capacity to examine over half a million sites per day.
The Federal Bureau of Investigation (FBI) has also resorted to using federal court subpoenas to try to gain access to private, online information. On January 30, 2009, IndyMedia, an alternative online news source, received a subpoena from the Southern District of Indiana Federal Court for the “IP addresses, times, and any other identifying information” of all the site’s visitors on June 25, 2008. IndyMedia was then prohibited from notifying visitors of this release of otherwise private and protected information because disclosure “would impede the investigation being conducted and thereby interfere with the enforcement of the law.” IndyMedia and the Electronic Frontier Foundation (EFF) challenged the order and the subpoena was eventually dropped.
The Obama administration is also currently working with a group of UN nations on the development of the Anti-Counterfeiting Trade Agreement (ACTA), “a new intellectual property enforcement treaty” to prevent illegal downloading and copying of songs, movies, pictures, and other legally protected Web content. The new law is being developed in secrecy and might allow government access to personal content on hard drives thought to be in breach of copyright. On November 3, 2009, nations participating in negotiations on the proposed law met in Seoul, South Korea, for a closed discussion of “enforcement in the digital realm.” According to a leaked memo from the conference, the US is pushing for a three-strikes/graduated-response policy and proactive policing of ISPs to ensure that any digital copyright infringements are caught, stopped, and punished.
In addition to the current trend of government surveillance, private employers are also reading employees’ e-mails, eavesdropping on their telephone calls, monitoring their Internet access, and watching them through the use of hidden cameras. Millions of workers carry company-issued cell phones, which are equipped with a global positioning system (GPS). The technology required to track cell phones is inexpensive (costing only five dollars per month for round-the-clock surveillance of an employee) and is readily available.
Company-issued laptops are also being monitored. Companies usually permit their employees to use such computers for personal purposes as well as for business. However, unbeknownst to the employees, all their private files (such as e-mails, photographs, and financial records) are being inspected by company techs when the computers are brought in for upgrades or repairs. Consequently, anything the techs deem questionable can be disclosed to management. Further, if the company-issued laptop has a webcam, the employer can use it to eavesdrop on the employee, even if he or she is in the bathroom.
Such clandestine use of computer webcams has not been limited to private companies spying on their employees. In one recent case, a suburban Philadelphia school district issued laptops to its students and secretly installed software that allowed school administrators to spy on the students.
As electronic surveillance technologies continue to improve, in the absence of laws to regulate their use and government watchdogs to ensure that these laws are followed, privacy in the digital age will predictably continue to decline.
Update by Liz Rose at Free Press
Deep packet inspection is a technology that gives corporations unprecedented control over Internet communications. It’s the same technology that allows Iran and other countries to try to stifle Internet freedom. The use of DPI is now pervasive and has spread to next-generation wireless networks. In this country, the adoption of DPI means that the telephone and cable companies that provide Internet service can monitor, inspect, and block Internet traffic, posing a serious threat to the open Internet.
There are two major developments in this story:
- Major telecommunications companies (including Verizon, Comcast, AT&T, RCN, and COX) have now purchased DPI technology. Because of this investment, and because the technology has now been applied to wireless communications, the industry’s control over the Internet is increasing. The latest generation of DPI enables companies to monitor and ultimately to charge people for every use of an Internet connection.Free Press filed ten pages of comments with the Federal Communications Commission (FCC) about DPI. See pages 141 to 151 of our comments in the Net Neutrality proceeding on January 14, 2010 (http://www.freepress.net/node/76101). Free Press also released a paper titled “Deep Packet Inspection: The End of the Internet as We Know It” by Josh Silver, in March 2009, before the Democracy Now! story, “Deep Packet Inspection: Telecoms Aided Iran Government to Censor Internet Technology Widely Used in US,” ran, and it provides evidence of the threat posed by corporations having the power to inspect, block, and choke traffic on the Internet: (see http://www.freepress.net/files/Deep_Packet_Inspection _The_End_of _the_Internet_As_We_Know_It.pdf).
- On April 6, 2010, a federal court ruled that the FCC does not have the authority under the jurisdiction that it claimed to stop Comcast—or any company—from blocking or choking Internet traffic. So right now, there is no recourse when a company does abuse its power over online communications. The FCC has indicated that it may move ahead and try to reassert its authority to set rules of the road for the Internet, but most observers think it will be a long battle ahead over the jurisdictional issues as well as over any possible rules.
At a covert forward operating base run by the US Joint Special Operations Command (JSOC) in the Pakistani port city of Karachi, members of an elite division of Blackwater are at the center of a secret program in which they plan targeted assassinations of suspected Taliban and al-Qaeda operatives inside and outside Pakistan. The Blackwater operatives also gather intelligence and help direct a secret US military drone bombing campaign that runs parallel to the well-documented CIA predator strikes, according to a well-placed source within the US military intelligence apparatus.
- Andrew Hobbs, Kelsea Arnold, and Brittney Gates (Sonoma State University)
- Elaine Wellin and Peter Phillips (Sonoma State University)
Captain John Kirby, the spokesperson for Admiral Michael Mullen, chairman of the Joint Chiefs of Staff, told the Nation, “We do not discuss current operations one way or the other, regardless of their nature.” Meanwhile a defense official specifically denied that Blackwater performs work on drone strikes or intelligence for JSOC in Pakistan. “We don’t have any contracts to do that work for us. We don’t contract that kind of work out, period,” the official said. “There has not been, and are not now, contracts between JSOC and that organization for these types of services.” The Pentagon has stated bluntly, “There are no US military strike operations being conducted in Pakistan.”
Blackwater’s founder Erik Prince contradicted this statement in an interview, telling Vanity Fair that Blackwater works with US Special Forces in identifying targets and planning missions, citing an operation in Syria. The magazine also published a photo of a Blackwater base near the Afghanistan–Pakistan border.
Jeremy Scahill’s military intelligence source said that the previously unreported program is distinct from the CIA assassination program, which the agency’s director, Leon Panetta, announced he had canceled in June 2009. “This is a parallel operation to the CIA,” said the source. “They are two separate beasts.” The program puts Blackwater at the epicenter of a US military operation within the borders of a nation against which the US has not declared war—knowledge that could further strain the already tense relations between the US and Pakistan. In 2006, the two countries struck a deal that authorized JSOC to enter Pakistan to hunt Osama bin Laden with the understanding that Pakistan would deny it had given permission. Officially, the US is not supposed to have any active military operations in that country.
Blackwater, which also goes by the names Xe Services and US Training Center, has denied that the company operates in Pakistan. “Xe Services has only one employee in Pakistan performing construction oversight for the US government,” Blackwater spokesperson Mark Corallo said in a statement to the Nation, adding that the company has “no other operations of any kind in Pakistan.”
A former senior executive at Blackwater confirmed the military intelligence source’s claim that the company is working in Pakistan for the CIA and JSOC. He said that Blackwater is also working for the Pakistani government on a subcontract with an Islamabad-based security firm that puts US Blackwater operatives on the ground with Pakistani forces in “counterterrorism” operations, including house raids and border interdictions, in the North-West Frontier Province and elsewhere in Pakistan. This arrangement allows the Pakistani government to utilize former US Special Operations forces that now work for Blackwater while denying an official US military presence in the country. He also confirmed that Blackwater has a facility in Karachi and has personnel deployed elsewhere in Pakistan.
The covert program in Pakistan dates back to at least 2007. The current head of JSOC is Vice Admiral William McRaven, who took over the post from General Stanley McChrystal, who headed JSOC from 2003 to 2008 before being named the top US commander in Afghanistan. Blackwater’s presence in Pakistan is “not really visible, and that’s why nobody has cracked down on it,” said Scahill’s military source. Blackwater’s operations in Pakistan, he adds, are not done through State Department contracts or publicly identified defense contracts. “It’s Blackwater via JSOC, and it’s a classified no-bid [contract] approved on a rolling basis.”
Blackwater’s first known contract with the CIA for operations in Afghanistan was awarded in 2002 and was for work along the Afghanistan–Pakistan border.
According to Scahill’s source, Blackwater has effectively marketed itself as a company whose operatives have “conducted lethal direct action missions and now, for a price, you can have your own planning cell. JSOC just ate that up.” Blackwater’s Pakistan JSOC contracts are secret and are therefore shielded from public oversight, he said.
In addition to planning drone strikes and operations against suspected al-Qaeda and Taliban forces in Pakistan for both JSOC and the CIA, the Blackwater team in Karachi also helps plan missions for JSOC inside Uzbekistan against the Islamic Movement of Uzbekistan.
Since President Barack Obama was inaugurated, the United States has expanded drone-bombing raids in Pakistan. Obama first ordered a drone strike against targets in North and South Waziristan on January 23, 2009, and the strikes have been conducted consistently ever since. The number of strike orders by the Obama administration has now surpassed the number during the Bush era in Pakistan, inciting fierce criticism from Pakistan and some US lawmakers over civilian deaths.
The military intelligence source also confirmed that Blackwater continues to work for the CIA on its drone-bombing program in Pakistan, as previously reported in the New York Times, but added that Blackwater is working on JSOC’s drone bombings as well. “It’s Blackwater running the program for both CIA and JSOC,” said the source. When civilians are killed, “people go, ‘Oh, it’s the CIA doing crazy shit again unchecked.’ Well, at least 50 percent of the time, that’s JSOC [hitting] somebody they’ve identified through HUMINT [human intelligence] or they’ve culled the intelligence themselves or it’s been shared with them and they take that person out and that’s how it works.”
In addition to working on covert action planning and drone strikes, Blackwater SELECT also provides private guards to perform the sensitive task of security for secret US drone bases, JSOC camps, and Defense Intelligence Agency camps inside Pakistan.
Blackwater’s ability to survive against odds by reinventing and rebranding itself is most evident in Afghanistan, where the company continues to work for the US military, the CIA, and the State Department despite intense criticism and almost weekly scandals.
In a continuous flow of money, American tax dollars end up paying members of the Taliban and funding a volatile environment in Afghanistan. Private contractors pay insurgents with the hope of attaining the very safety they are contracted to provide. Concurrently, US soldiers pay at checkpoints run by suspected insurgents in order to get safe passage. In some cases, Afghan companies run by former Taliban members, like President Hamid Karzai’s cousin, are protecting the passage of American soldiers. The funding of the insurgents, along with rumors of American helicopters ferrying Taliban members in Afghanistan, has led to widespread distrust of American forces. In the meantime, the US taxpayer’s dollar continues to fund insurgents to protect American troops so they can fight insurgents.
- Anne Cozad (Sonoma State University)
- Nolan Higdon (Diablo Valley College)
- Mickey Huff (Diablo Valley College)
- Peter Phillips (Sonoma State University)
Ahmad Rate Popal is a grand example of how those who controlled Afghanistan under Taliban rule are still controlling Afghanistan today and being paid by US tax dollars. Popal, who served as interpreter at one of the ruling Taliban’s last press conferences, is greatly increasing his wealth through the US war in Afghanistan. In 1988, he was charged with conspiring to import heroin into the United States. He was released from prison in 1997. Popal’s cousin is Afghanistan’s President Karzai. Popal and his brother Rashid (who pleaded guilty in 1996 to a separate heroin charge) control the Watan Group in Afghanistan, which is a consortium engaged in many different fields of business. One of Watan’s enterprises is to protect convoys of Afghan trucks heading from Kabul to Kandahar, carrying American supplies. Popal is one example of the virtual carnival of improbable characters and shady connections, with former CIA officials and ex-military officers in Afghanistan joining hands with former Taliban members and mujahideen to collect US government funds in the name of the war effort.
US security contractors as well as countless other private American corporations cannot provide the safety that they are paid to offer. So US military contractors in Afghanistan pay suspected insurgents to protect the US supply routes they were contracted to protect. A war-torn country such as Afghanistan has plenty of impoverished citizens, and, as a result, it is not hard for private contractors to find individuals willing to take money to protect supply routes.
Thus, an estimated 10 percent of the Pentagon’s logistics contracts worth hundreds of millions of dollars are paid to insurgents as the US government funds the very forces American troops are fighting.
An example of these contracts are those granted to the NCL Holdings in Afghanistan run by Hamed Wardak, the young American son of Afghanistan’s current defense minister, General Abdul Rahim Wardak. NCL is a small firm that was awarded a US military logistics contract worth hundreds of millions of dollars. Despite the fact that the firm only operates in Afghanistan, Wardak incorporated NCL in the United States early in 2007, due to his connections there.
On NCL’s advisory board is Milton Bearden, a well-known former CIA officer who in 2009 was introduced by Senator John Kerry as “a legendary former CIA case officer and a clearheaded thinker and writer.” Bearden is an incredible asset to a small defense contracting firm. Wardak was able to get a contract for Host Nation Trucking despite having no apparent trucking experience. The contract is aimed at handling the bulk of US trucking in Afghanistan, bringing supplies to bases and remote outposts throughout Afghanistan. At first the contract was small, but very quickly it expanded by 600 percent, making it a gargantuan contract worth $360 million. NCL had struck pure contracting gold. These profits, which only go to a very select and well-connected portion of the Afghan people, build a large amount of distrust from Afghan citizens toward American troops and those connected to them.
It is persistently rumored in Afghanistan that US forces are using their helicopters to ferry Taliban fighters. The rumor is strongly denied by the military. However, the helicopter rumors heard in many areas are feeding mistrust of the forces that are supposed to be bringing order to the country. The international troops deny that they are supporting the insurgents. “This entire business with the helicopters is just a rumor,” said Brigadier General Jüergen Setzer, recently appointed commander for the International Security Assistance Force (ISAF) in northern Afghanistan. “It has no basis in reality, according to our investigations.” But the persistent rumors that foreign helicopters have been sighted assisting the Taliban in northern Afghanistan were given an unexpected boost in mid-October 2009 by President Karzai, who told the media that his administration was investigating similar reports that “unknown” helicopters were ferrying the insurgents from the Helmand province in the south to the Baghlan, Kunduz, and Samangan provinces in the north.
On June 6, the New York Times reported that the House National Security Subcommittee, whose chair is John Tierney (D-MA), is holding hearings on this issue. In a March 2010 Washington Post article, Congressman Tierney cited the article in the Nation as the reason he began the investigation.
Since our initial search of corporate media coverage on this issue in February 2010, finding zero coverage at that time, both the New York Times and the Washington Post have covered part of the story on their front pages. Both mentioned President Hamid Karzai’s cousin, and both acknowledged that in all likelihood money is making its way to the Taliban. Neither paper mentioned the US connection, Milton Bearden. The Washington Post covered the story on March 29, 2010, and mentioned the Nation magazine article. The New York Times story came out on June 6, 2010, acknowledging the corruption, but included the news that President Obama was addressing the issue with President Karzai. That the two stories came out two months apart, and that the US links are left out, led to the decision at Project Censored to keep this important story in the top censored stories list for the year.
Around midnight on December 2, 1984, the citizens of Bhopal, India, a city of over 500,000 people in central India, were poisoned by approximately forty tons of toxic gases pouring into the night air from a largely abandoned chemical insecticide plant owned by the US-owned Union Carbide Corporation (UCC). The long-predicted gas leak at UCC was, and remains today, the worst industrial disaster in history.
- Abbey Wilson and Jillian Harbin (DePauw University)
- Tim Cope and Kevin Howley (DePauw University)
Released by faulty and neglected equipment, methyl isocyanate, phosgene and other highly toxic gases killed an estimated 8,000 people immediately. The death toll attributed to “that night” in the following weeks and months eventually rose to 20,000 people. Hundreds of thousands of others were harmed, in many cases permanently, with lung, liver, kidney, and immune system damages, and blindness. The Indian Council of Medical Research (ICMR) concluded that over 520,000 exposed persons had poisons circulating in their bloodstream causing different degrees of damage to almost all systems in the body.
The 1984 disaster may have faded in the world’s memory, but in Bhopal, the damaged births continue today. The very same factory that spewed out poison gas has been leaking deadly chemicals into the drinking water of about 30,000 people. In affected communities, there are epidemics of kidney disease and cancer, with hundreds of damaged children.
Indra Sinha, a Booker Prize nominee for his book on the Bhopal disaster, Animal’s People, explained why the gas leak that killed 20,000 people twenty-five years ago—and continues to create health problems for countless more—is still a national scandal: “After the night of horror, the factory was locked up. Thousands of tons of pesticides and waste remained inside. UCC never bothered to clean it. The chemicals were abandoned in warehouses open to wind and rain. Twenty-four monsoons have rusted and rotted the death factory. The rains wash the poisons deep into the soil. They enter the groundwater and seep into wells and bore pipes. They gush from taps and enter people’s bodies. They burn stomachs, corrode skin, damage organs and flow into wombs where they go to work on the unborn. If babies make it into the world alive, the poisons are waiting in their mothers’ milk.”
A Greenpeace survey found substantial and, in some locations, severe contamination of land and water supplies with heavy metals and chlorinated chemicals. From their samples, groundwater from wells around the site showed high levels of chlorinated chemicals including chloroform and carbon tetrachloride, indicative of long-term contamination. Additionally, lead, nickel, copper, chromium, hexachlorocyclohexane, and chlorobenzenes were found in soil samples. Overall contamination of the site and immediate surroundings is due both to routine spills and accidents during the operation of the factory, and to the continued releases of chemicals from the toxic wastes that remain on site.
According to New Delhi’s Centre for Science and the Environment, water found two miles from the factory contains pesticides at levels forty times higher than the Indian safety standard. In a second study, the UK-based Bhopal Medical Appeal (BMA) found a chemical cocktail in the local drinking water—with one carcinogen, carbon tetrafluoride, present at 2,400 times the World Health Organization’s guidelines.
Union Carbide Corporation—now the Dow Chemical Company (Dow), following a February 2001 merger—continues to claim over sixty years of research (including research on human “volunteers”) on methyl isocyanate (the gas that leaked from the Bhopal pesticide plant) as “trade secrets.” There is more than enough research to suggest that by withholding information, propagating misinformation and the withdrawal of funds meant for medical care, Dow–UCC has impeded the efforts of the victims to help themselves. The ICMR has in turn stopped all research into the health effects of the gas in 1994 and has yet to publish the findings of the twenty-four research studies it had carried out up to that point involving over 80,000 survivors. The alarming rise in cancers, tuberculosis, reproductive difficulties, and growth retardation among children born after the disaster remains undocumented. The official agency for monitoring deaths has been closed since 1992.
The local, BMA-funded Sambhavna clinic claims that one in twenty-five—a rate ten times higher than the national average—are born with severe birth defects including lameness and twisted or missing limbs, deaf-mute, brain-damage, hare-lips and cleft palates, webbed fingers, cerebral palsy, and tumors where eyes should be. Multiple generations are now affected; one victim, Mohini Devi, claims her children and grandchildren have experienced birth defects. “My real worry is my grandchildren. Already some have been born without eyes. Why is nobody doing anything for us?” she said.
In the absence of medical information, no treatment protocols specific to exposure-induced multi-systemic problems exist. Instead, in many places, ineffective and sometimes kidney-damaging drugs are prescribed to the thousands seeking relief and medical treatment. One exception is the Sambhavna Clinic, which in 1996 began offering survivors a combination of free modern medicine, ayurvedic herbal treatments, yoga, and massage.
While today tons of poisonous pesticides and other hazardous wastes remain scattered and abandoned on the Dow–UCC factory premises, insidiously poisoning the ground water and contaminating the land, the company and its former CEO Warren Anderson have distanced themselves from the “Indian-managed company,” eventually blaming employee sabotage. As a result, the disaster has done little to affect Dow–UCC. In February 1989, after forcing a paltry compensation settlement—$470 million as opposed to $3 billion demanded by the government of India—UCC’s share price jumped 44 cents and they went back to business as usual. Survivors in Bhopal received meager compensation. Most of them got a 25,000-rupee check (about US$500) for a lifetime of suffering caused by damage to their lungs, liver, kidneys, and the immune system.
Given the hundreds of thousands of victims dead and injured, the settlement worked out to less than 9 cents a day—only enough for one cup of tea each day—for nearly twenty years of unimaginable suffering. None of the thousands since born with gas-related congenital defects or illnesses from current water contamination have received help. When Dow acquired UCC, it denied further responsibility for the disaster. A Dow public relations official maintained that the settlement was “plenty good for an Indian.”
Union Carbide Corporation and Warren Anderson, then CEO of UCC, were charged with culpable homicide or manslaughter and proclaimed absconders by the Bhopal Court in 1992, after failing repeatedly to honor the summons of the court. Warren Anderson was arrested briefly in 1984 and then fled the country. Anderson’s whereabouts were considered unknown despite the fact that his residences, one in the Hamptons, an upscale New York suburb, are publicly listed. Neither the Indian government nor the US government is willing to support the warrants for Anderson’s arrest or Dow–UCC’s responsibilities. In fact, Indian campaigners working to hold UCC responsible for its actions claim that their government has called the now-closed factory “safe” and “open for the public to tour.” The Bhopal government also allegedly neglected to work toward any sort of allegations against UCC, and simply left the plant to continue leaking chemicals.
Now, Satinath Sarangi, of the Sambhavna clinic in Bhopal, says the government is working to strike a contract with Dow, which would yield a $1 billion investment, and would allegedly allow Union Carbide to overlook its obligations to clean up their spill. “This is all about the money. Politicians in India would rather do this than fight for people who suffered,” Sarangi said.
On April 24, 2009, US Treasury Secretary Timothy Geithner hosted meetings with finance ministers from the world’s top economies to discuss increased oversight of the global financial system in the wake of the meltdown. The meetings preceded semi-annual gatherings of the International Monetary Fund (IMF) and World Bank in Washington, DC.
The April G20 meeting in London secured a lot of positive media attention after world leaders announced a global package of $1.1 trillion for economic recovery and reform, mostly for the IMF. The plan, however, did not include specific information about the much needed operational reforms to the IMF and the World Bank.
- Meg Carlucci and Marissa Warfield (Sonoma State University)
- Abbey Wilson and Jillian Harbin (DePauw University)
- Laurie Dawson and Elaine Wellin (Sonoma State University)
- Tim Cope and Kevin Howley (DePauw University)
Speaking five months later on the eve of the September 2009 G20 summit, Geithner called for higher regulatory standards:
As you know, the United States Congress has a very aggressive schedule to legislate sweeping changes to our financial system that are going to make—provide greater protection for consumers and investors to create a more stable financial system and to try to make sure that taxpayers are no longer on the hook in the future to bear the burdens of financial crises. But we can’t do this alone. If we continue to allow risk and leverage to migrate where standards are weakest, the entire US global financial system will be less stable in the future. We need to see competition for stronger standards, not weaker standards.
How far will the G20 go on the regulation of financial markets? A September 2009 report from Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch emphasized that the World Trade Organization (WTO) has long advanced extreme financial deregulation under the guise of trade agreements that will undermine the current professed push for increasing regulation.
Lori Wallach of Public Citizen warned of the incredible contradiction: “While the summit communiqué is going to, on one hand, talk about regulating finance, at the same time, they’re going to talk about adopting the Doha WTO expansion, and a huge part of that agreement is deregulating finance.” Wallach continued, “The problem is that the G20 commitments aren’t binding. It’s a commitment of faith on the countries about what they’re going to do domestically. But the WTO rules are very binding and enforceable by sanctions. And so, it’s hard to know if it’s ignorance or it’s cynicism, but if the Doha round goes into place, all of the world’s countries will have a commitment not only to keep in place the existing WTO deregulation dictates on finance, but to deregulate further, right in the midst of what seems to be a global commitment to re-regulate.”
The WTO has an agreement called the Financial Services Agreement that explicitly applies to over a hundred countries and mandates major deregulation. For instance, it has a rule that you cannot have a domestic law that limits the size of a financial service firm—insurance, banking, securities—even if it applies equally to foreign and domestic companies. So while everyone talks about putting into place rules regarding being “too big to fail,” there is a WTO dictate that forbids such regulation.
In short, these binding WTO rules require countries to maintain the same policies that led to the financial crisis. This agreement was never brought to a vote in any Congress.
Jesse Griffiths, coordinator of the London-based Bretton Woods Project, under the International Finance for Sustainability program of the Mott Foundation’s environmental division, said, “The ideology of the IMF and World Bank has failed and the accompanying structures have failed.” He added, “In addition to the current enormous economic instability, the system has failed to create equity and eradicate poverty; it has failed to ensure that human rights are protected, and it has failed to address environmental issues.”
The failures of these global entities have not prevented President Obama from allowing their relatively free reign in relation to the US government. In June 2009, President Obama used his sixth signing statement to negate provisions of US legislation that would have compelled the World Bank to strengthen labor and environmental standards. When signing the $106 billion war-spending bill into law, Obama included a five-paragraph signing statement with the bill in which he also refused to require the Treasury Department to report to Congress on the activities of the World Bank and the IMF.
The sections rejected by Obama would have required his administration to direct its World Bank representatives to pressure that institution into using metrics that “fairly represent the value of internationally recognized workers” rights. Organized labor groups had pushed for a revision of those standards.
Another section rejected by Obama would have pushed the World Bank to account for the cost of greenhouse gas in pricing projects and to more fully disclose operating budgets.
Yet another section rejected by Obama in this signing statement would have required Geithner to develop a report with the heads of the World Bank and IMF, “detailing the steps taken to coordinate the activities of the World Bank and the Fund,” to eliminate overlap between the two.
Obama said in a statement that “provisions of this bill . . . would interfere with my constitutional authority to conduct foreign relations by directing the Executive to take certain positions in negotiating or discussions with international organizations and foreign governments.” He added, “I will not treat these provisions as limiting my ability to engage in foreign diplomacy or negotiations.”
India’s 1.2 billion citizens are to be issued biometric identification cards. The cards will hold the person’s name, age, and birth date, as well as fingerprints or iris scans, though no caste or religious identification. Within the next five years a giant computer will hold the personal details of at least 600 million citizens, making this new information technology system the largest in the world. The project will cost an estimated $3.5 billion. The 600 million Indians will receive a sixteen-digit identity number by 2014 in the first phase of the project.
- Danielle Caruso (Sonoma State University)
- Rashmi Singh (Sonoma State University)
India’s red tape is legendary: citizens have dozens of types of identity verification, ranging from electoral rolls to ration cards, yet almost none can be used universally. The new system will be a national proof of identity, effective for everything, from welfare benefits to updating land records. Forty-two percent of India’s population is below the poverty line and citizens frequently move in search of jobs. The government believes the ID system will help citizens because they will no longer have a problem identifying themselves. The biometric identity number will be entered every time someone accesses services from government departments, driver’s license offices, and hospitals, as well as insurance, credit card, telecom, and banking companies. By bringing more people into the banking system, Indian officials also hope to raise the number of people paying income taxes; currently, less than 5 percent of the population pays income taxes.
The head of Oxfam India, Nisha Agarwal, says a lack of identity verification is a major problem, especially for urban migrants. As a result, they are excluded from dozens of government programs, which offer cheaper food, jobs, and other benefits for poor people. “They remain treated as temporary migrants and, without that piece of paper, some form of identification, they are not able to access many of these government schemes that exist now, that have large funds behind them and could actually make a huge difference in poor people’s lives.”
The scheme is the brainchild of Nandan Nilekani, one of India’s best-known software tycoons and now head of the government’s Unique Identification Authority. “We are going to have to build something on the scale of Google, but it will change the country . . . every person for first time [will] be able to prove who he or she is. . . . We are not profiling a billion people. This will provide an ID database which government can access online. There will be checks and balances to protect identities,” said Nilekani, who has also been in talks to create a personalized carbon account so that all Indians might buy “green technologies” using a government subsidy.
The government also plans to use the database to monitor bank transactions, cell phone purchases, and the movements of individuals and groups suspected of fomenting terrorism. In January 2010, the Ministry of Home Affairs began collecting biometric details of people in coastal villages to boost security; the gunmen in the 2008 Mumbai attacks, which killed 165 people, sneaked into the country from the sea.
Critics say the project will turn India into an Orwellian police state that will spy on citizens’ private lives. “We do not want an intrusive, surveillance state in India,” said Usha Ramanathan, a lawyer who has written and lobbied against the project. “Information about people will be shared with intelligence agencies, banks and companies, and we will have no idea how our information is interpreted and used.” Civil liberty campaigners fear the ID card will become a tool of repression. Nandita Haskar, a human rights lawyer, said, “There is already no accountability in regards to violations of human and civil rights. In this atmosphere, what are the oversight mechanisms for this kind of surveillance?”
India’s plunge into biometric identification comes as countries around the globe are making similar moves. In 2006, Britain approved a mandatory national ID system with fingerprints for its citizens before public opposition prompted the government to scale back plans for a voluntary pilot program beginning in Manchester. United States senators have proposed requiring all citizens and immigrants who want to work in the country to carry a new high-tech social security card linked to fingerprints as part of an immigration overhaul.