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Project Censored: The top 10 censored stories of 2016 

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8. Syria's War Spurred by Contest for Gas Delivery to Europe, Not Muslim Sectarianism

The Syrian war and its resulting refugee crisis have repeatedly gained headlines over the past five years, but the origins of the conflict, control of oil and gas, are rarely considered – the politics of which have dominated the region since before World War II. The hidden influence of oil – from climate change to campaign finance and corporate lobbying to foreign policy – has been a recurrent subject of Project Censored stories.

Project Censored cites a single September 2015 story by Mnar Muhawesh for MintPress News, but that story cites others as well, notably an August 2013 story in the Guardian by Nafeez Ahmed.

"The 2011 uprisings, it would seem – triggered by a confluence of domestic energy shortages and climate-induced droughts which led to massive food price hikes – came at an opportune moment that was quickly exploited," Ahmed wrote, as part of a broader strategy to undermine governments in the region, as well as manipulating social movements and armed factions for the purpose of maintaining control of oil and gas.

Muhawesh and Ahmed both point, in particular, to Assad's choice between competing pipeline proposals. He refused to sign a proposed agreement for a pipeline from Qatar's North field through Saudi Arabia, Jordan, Syria and on to Turkey in 2009, because it would have hurt his ally, Russia.

"The proposed pipeline would have bypassed Russia to reach European markets currently dominated by Russian gas giant Gazprom," Project Censored notes. Instead, Assad pursued negotiations – finalized in 2012 – for a pipeline through Iraq from Iran's South Pars field, which is contiguous with Qatar's North field.

Muhawesh cites U.S. cables revealed by WikiLeaks as evidence that "foreign meddling in Syria began several years before the Syrian revolt erupted." Ahmed came to the same conclusions by drawing on multiple sources, including a RAND corporation document, "Unfolding the Future of the Long War," which discussed long-term policy options dealing with the complex interplay of energy interests and ethno-religious-political manipulations.

There's a whole deeper level of driving forces not being reported on behind the Syrian war and refugee crisis.

Source:

Mnar Muhawesh, "Refugee Crisis & Syria War Fueled by Competing Gas Pipelines," MintPress News, Sept. 9, 2015.

9. Big Pharma Political Lobbying Not Limited to Presidential Campaigns

The pharmaceutical industry (aka "Big Pharma") already appeared in story No. 2, "Crisis in Evidence-Based Medicine," due to the destructive influence of its financing on the practice of basic science in testing and developing new drugs. But that's not the only destructive impact of their spending.

Although they spent $51 million in campaign donations in the 2012 presidential election, and nearly $32 million in the 2014 midterms, Mike Ludwig of Truthout reported they spent $7 lobbying for every dollar spent on the midterms.

"The $229 million spent by drug companies and their lobbying groups that year was down from a peak of $273 million in 2009, the year that Congress debated the Affordable Care Act," Project Censored noted. Legislation influenced involved all the industry's top concerns, "including policy on patents and trademarks, management of Medicare and Medicaid, and international trade."

The last item includes pressuring other countries to suppress the manufacture of life-saving generic AIDS drugs in India, to cite just one example.

"Pharmaceutical lobbyists also consistently lobby to prevent Medicare from negotiating drug prices," Project Censored also noted. Coverage of their spending is scant, and virtually never tied directly to the issues that Big Pharma itself is lobbying on.

Source:

Mike Ludwig, "How Much of Big Pharma's Massive Profits Are Used to Influence Politicians?" Truthout, Sept. 30, 2015.

10. CISA: The Internet Surveillance Act No One Is Discussing

In July 2015, Senate Majority Leader Mitch McConnell attempted to attach the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act, or CISA, as an amendment to the annual National Defense Authorization Act. However, the Senate blocked this by a vote of 56-40, in part because, unlike an earlier version, it essentially enabled intelligence and law enforcement officials to engage in surveillance without warrants.

Yet, on Dec. 18, 2015, President Barack Obama signed CISA into law as part of a 2,000-page omnibus spending bill, amid media silence – with notable exceptions at Wired and the Guardian. The act authorized the creation of a system for corporate informants to provide customers' data to the Department of Homeland Security, which, in turn, would share this information with other federal agencies – the National Security Agency, FBI, Internal Revenue Service and others – without privacy-protecting safeguards.

In one sense it followed a familiar – if distressing – pattern, as the Guardian reported; civil liberties experts had been "dismayed" when Congress used the omnibus spending bill to advance some of the legislation's "most invasive" components, making a mockery of the democratic process. But this one was different, since censored stories usually do not stifle powerful voices, as Project Censored observed:

[Andy] Greenberg's Wired article noted that tech firms – including Apple, Twitter, and Reddit – as well as 55 civil liberties groups had opposed the bill, and that, in July 2015, DHS itself warned that the bill would "sweep away privacy protections" while inundating the agency with data of "dubious" value.

In April 2016, Jason R. Edgecombe reported for TechCrunch on the glaring inadequacies of interim guidelines to deal with privacy and civil liberties concerns, while the corporate media silence continued. And in May, Violet Blue wrote for Engadget about candidates' positions on cyber issues. Only Bernie Sanders and Rand Paul opposed CISA, but it never became the subject of any broader media discussion.

Sources:

Violet Blue, "Where the Candidates Stand on Cyber Issues," Engadget, May 13, 2016.

Jason R. Edgecombe, "Interim Guidelines to the Cybersecurity Information Sharing Act," TechCrunch, April 13, 2016.

Andy Greenberg, "Congress Slips CISA Into a Budget Bill That's Sure to Pass," Wired, Dec. 16, 2015.

Sam Thielman, "Congress Adds Contested Cybersecurity Measures to 'Must-Pass' Spending Bill," the Guardian, Dec. 16, 2015.

Paul Rosenberg is the senior editor for Random Lengths News at the Port of Los Angeles, California, and is a contributing columnist for Salon.com. Terelle Jerricks is Random Lengths' managing editor and also contributed to this article.

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