The Top 25 Censored Stories of 2008-9 Print
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Thursday, 12 November 2009 06:32

Each year, Project Censored selects 25 "important national news stories that are underreported, ignored, misrepresented, or censored by the U.S. corporate media."

For the full summary for each of this year's selections, including the original sources and Web resources, visit ProjectCensored.org/top-stories/category/two-thousand-and-ten-book/.

1. U.S. Congress Sells Out to Wall Street

Federal lawmakers responsible for overseeing the U.S. economy have received millions of dollars from Wall Street firms. Since 2001, eight of the most troubled firms have donated $64.2 million to congressional candidates, presidential candidates, and the Republican and Democratic parties. As senators, Barack Obama and John McCain received a combined $3.1 million. The donors include investment bankers Bear Stearns, Goldman Sachs, Lehman Brothers, Merrill Lynch, and Morgan Stanley, insurer American International Group, and mortgage giants Fannie Mae and Freddie Mac.

Some of the top recipients of contributions from companies receiving Troubled Assets Relief Program (TARP) money are the same members of Congress who chair committees charged with regulating the financial sector and overseeing the effectiveness of this unprecedented government program. In total, members of the Senate Committee on Banking, Housing, & Urban Affairs, Senate Finance Committee, and House Financial Services Committee received $5.2 million from TARP recipients in the 2007-8 election cycle. President Obama collected at least $4.3 million from employees at these companies for his presidential campaign.

Nearly every member of the House Financial Services Committee, which in February 2009 oversaw hearings on how the $700 billion of TARP bailout was being spent, received contributions associated with these financial institutions during the 2008 election cycle. "You could say that the finance industry got their money's worth by supporting members of Congress who were inclined to look the other way," said Lawrence Jacobs, the director of the University of Minnesota's Center for the Study of Politics & Governance.

For instance, in 2004 when the Securities & Exchange Commission adopted a major rule change that freed investment banks to plunge tens of billions of dollars in borrowed money into subprime mortgages and other risky plays, congressional banking committees held no oversight hearings. Congressional inaction also allowed mortgage agents to earn high fees for peddling loans to unqualified homebuyers and prevented states from toughening regulations on predatory lending practices.

Author Matt Taibbi writes that some of the most egregious selling of the U.S. government to Wall Street happened in the late 1990s, when "Democrats, tired of getting slaughtered in the fundraising arena by Republicans, decided to throw off their old reliance on unions and interest groups and become more 'business-friendly.' Wall Street responded by flooding Washington with money, buying allies in both parties." In the 10-year period beginning in 1998, financial companies spent $1.7 billion on federal campaign contributions and another $3.4 billion on lobbyists. Wise political investments enabled the nation's top bankers to effectively scrap any meaningful oversight of the financial industry.

2. U.S. Schools Are More Segregated Today Than in the 1950s

Schools in the United States are more segregated today than they have been in more than four decades. Millions of non-white students are locked into "dropout factory" high schools, where huge percentages do not graduate and few are prepared for college or a future in the U.S. economy.

According to a new civil-rights report published at the University of California at Los Angeles, in Latino and African American populations, two of every five students attend intensely segregated schools. For Latinos this increase in segregation reflects growing residential segregation. For blacks a significant part of the reversal reflects the ending of desegregation plans in public schools throughout the nation.

The most severe segregation in public schools is in the Western states, including California -- not in the South, as many people believe.

3. Toxic Waste Behind Somali Pirates

The international community has come out in force to condemn and declare war on the Somali fishermen pirates, while discreetly protecting the illegal, unreported, and unregulated (IUU) fleets from around the world that have been dumping toxic waste and poaching in Somali waters since the fall of the Somali government 18 years ago.

In 1991, when the government of Somalia collapsed, foreign interests seized the opportunity to begin looting the country's food supply and using the country's unguarded waters as a dumping ground for nuclear and other toxic waste.

According to the High Seas Task Force, there were more than 800 IUU fishing vessels in Somali waters at one time in 2005, taking advantage of Somalia's inability to police and control its own waters and fishing grounds. The IUUs poach an estimated $450 million in seafood from Somali waters annually. In so doing, they steal a valuable protein source from some of the world's poorest people and ruin the livelihoods of legitimate fishermen.

Allegations of the dumping of toxic waste, as well as illegal fishing, have circulated since the early 1990s, but hard evidence emerged when the tsunami of 2004 hit the country. The United Nations Environment Program (UNEP) reported that the tsunami washed rusting containers of toxic waste onto the shores of Puntland in northern Somalia.

Nick Nuttall, a UNEP spokesperson, said that when the barrels were smashed open by the force of the waves, the containers exposed a "frightening activity" that had been going on for more than a decade. "Somalia has been used as a dumping ground for hazardous waste starting in the early 1990s, and continuing through the civil war there," he said. "The waste is many different kinds. There is uranium radioactive waste. There is lead, and heavy metals like cadmium and mercury. There is also industrial waste, and there are hospital wastes, chemical wastes -- you name it."

4. Nuclear Waste Pools in North Carolina

One of the most lethal patches of ground in North America is located in the backwoods of North Carolina, where Shearon Harris nuclear plant is housed and owned by Progress Energy. The plant contains the largest radioactive-waste storage pools in the country. It is not just a nuclear-power-generating station, but also a repository for highly radioactive spent-fuel rods from two other nuclear plants. The spent-fuel rods are transported by rail and stored in four densely packed pools filled with circulating cold water to keep the waste from heating. The Department of Homeland Security has marked Shearon Harris as one of the most vulnerable terrorist targets in the nation.

The threat exists, however, without the speculation of terrorist attack. Should the cooling system malfunction, the resulting fire would be virtually unquenchable and could trigger a nuclear meltdown, putting more than 200 million residents of this rapidly growing section of North Carolina in extreme peril. A recent study by Brookhaven Labs estimates that a pool fire could cause 140,000 cancers, contaminate thousands of square miles of land, and cause more than $500 billion in off-site property damage.

The Nuclear Regulatory Commission has estimated that there is a 1 in 100 chance of pool fire happening under the best of scenarios.

5. Europe Blocks U.S. Toxic Products

U.S. deregulation of toxic substances, such as lead in lipstick, mercury in electronics, and phthalates (endocrine disruptors) in baby toys, may not only pose disastrous consequences to our health, but also to our economic and political status in the world. International markets are moving toward a European model of insisting on environmental and consumer safety. A Europe-led revolution in chemical regulation that requires that thousands of chemicals finally be assessed for their potentially toxic effects on human beings and the environment signals the end of American industry's ability to withhold critical data from the public.

Europe has launched stringent new regulations that require companies seeking access to their lucrative markets to eliminate toxic substances and manufacture safer electronics, automobiles, toys, and cosmetics.

Dangerous chemicals have been identified via the European Union's 2007 Registration, Evaluation, Authorization, & Restriction of Chemicals (REACH) law, which requires the disclosure of all chemicals sold in the EU in quantities of more than one metric ton per year.

Hundreds of companies located in the U.S. produce or import hundreds of chemicals designated as dangerous by the European Union. Large amounts of these chemicals are being produced in 37 states, in as many as 87 sites per state, according to biochemist Richard Denison of Environmental Defense Fund, author of the report "Across the Pond: Assessing REACH's First Big Impact on U.S. Companies & Chemicals."

Of the 267 chemicals on the potential REACH list, compiled by the International Chemical Secretariat in Sweden, only one-third have ever been tested by the Environmental Protection Agency, and only two are regulated in any form under U.S. law.

6. Lobbyists Buy Congress

According to a study by The Center for Responsive Politics, special interests paid Washington lobbyists $3.2 billion in 2008 -- more than any other year on record. This was a 13.7-percent increase from 2007 (which broke the record by 7.7 percent over 2006).

The center calculates that interest groups spent $17.4 million on lobbying for every day Congress was in session in 2008, or $32,523 per legislator per day. Center Director Sheila Krumholz says, "The federal government is handing out billions of dollars by the day, and that translates into job security for lobbyists who can help companies and industries get a piece of the payout."

Health interests spent more on federal lobbying than any other economic sector. Their $478.5 million guaranteed the crown for the third year, with the finance, insurance, and real estate sector a runner up, spending $453.5 million. The pharmaceutical/health-products industry contributed $230.9 million, raising its 11-year total to more than $1.6 billion. The second-biggest spender among industries in 2008 was electric utilities, which spent $156.7 million on lobbying, followed by insurance, which spent $153.2 million, and oil and gas, which paid lobbyists $133.2 million. Pro-Israel groups, food processing companies, and the oil and gas industry increased their lobbying expenditures the most (as a percentage) between 2007 and 2008.

7. Obama's Military Appointments Have Corrupt Past

President Barack Obama's retention of Robert Gates as Secretary of Defense makes Gates the first appointment from an outgoing administration of an opposing party to be kept in the position. Over the last two years of the previous administration, Gates was a key implementer of Bush's Iraq War "surge" -- after he replaced Defense Secretary Donald Rumsfeld, who had opposed the escalation.

Obama's appointees to the Department of Defense and national intelligence embody many of the worst elements of U.S. national security policy over the past three decades, including responsibility for what Obama himself has fingered as chief concerns: "politicized intelligence" and "lack of transparency." The valued "decades of experience" these leaders bring with them are filled with ethical breeches, lies to Congress, and deep conflicts of interest and revolving doors within the U.S. military industrial complex. Although Obama promised to keep lobbyists out of top government posts, many of those he appointed are former lobbyists or former board members of companies directly doing business with the Pentagon.

8. Bailed out Banks and America's Wealthiest Cheat IRS Out of Billions

A 2008 study done by the Government Accountability Office reported that 83 of the top publicly held U.S. companies have operations in tax havens such as the Cayman Islands, Bermuda, and the Virgin Islands. Fourteen of these companies, including AIG, Bank of America, and Citigroup, received money from the government bailout. The GAO also reported that activities of Union Bank of Switzerland (UBS) are directly connected to tax avoidance.

Swiss banking giant UBS has enabled wealthy Americans to use tax schemes -- some of which are illegal -- to cheat the IRS out of over $20 billion in recent years, according to the Department of Justice. UBS, a sponsor of the prestigious Miami Art Basel show, takes advantage of this public event to build relationships with the rich by helping them find ways to avoid paying taxes in the U.S.

9. U.S. Arms Used for War Crimes in Gaza

Israel's repeated firing of U.S.-made white-phosphorus shells over densely populated areas of Gaza during its recent military campaign was indiscriminate and is evidence of war crimes, Human Rights Watch said in a report released March 25.

The 71-page report, "Rain of Fire: Israel's Unlawful Use of White Phosphorus in Gaza," provides witness accounts of the devastating effects that white-phosphorus munitions had on civilians and civilian property in Gaza. Human Rights Watch researchers found spent shells, canister liners, and dozens of burnt felt wedges containing white phosphorus on city streets, apartment roofs, residential courtyards, and at a United Nations school in Gaza immediately after hostilities ended in January.

Militaries officially use white phosphorus to obscure their operations on the ground by creating thick smoke. It has also been used as an incendiary weapon, though such use constitutes a war crime. "In Gaza, the Israeli military didn't just use white phosphorus in open areas as a screen for its troops," said Fred Abrahams, senior emergencies researcher at Human Rights Watch and co-author of the report. "It fired white phosphorus repeatedly over densely populated areas, even when its troops weren't in the area and safer smoke shells were available. As a result, civilians needlessly suffered and died." The report documents a pattern or policy of white-phosphorus use that Human Rights Watch says must have required the approval of senior military officers.

The Israeli firepower, unleashed largely on Palestinian civilians in Gaza during the three-week attack starting December 27, 2008, was fueled by U.S.-supplied weapons paid for with U.S. tax dollars. Washington provided F-16 fighter planes, Apache helicopters, tactical missiles, and a wide array of munitions, including white phosphorous.

10. Ecuador Declares Foreign Debt Illegitimate

In November 2008, Ecuador became the first country to undertake an examination of the legitimacy and structure of its foreign debt. An independent debt audit commissioned by the government of Ecuador documented hundreds of allegations of irregularity, illegality, and illegitimacy in contracts of debt to predatory international lenders. The loans, according to the report, violated Ecuador's domestic laws, U.S. Securities & Exchange Commission regulations, and general principles of international law. Ecuador's use of legitimacy as a legal argument for defaulting set a major precedent; indeed, the formation of a debt-auditing commission sets a precedent.

In the 1970s Ecuador fell victim to unscrupulous international lending, which encouraged borrowing at low interest rates. The country's debt rose from $1.17 billion in 1970 to more than $14.25 billion in 2006, a 12-fold increase, due in large part to interest rates that rose at the discretion of U.S. banks and Federal Reserve from 6 percent in 1979 to 21 percent in 1981.

The commission revealed that Salomon Smith Barney, now part of Citigroup Inc., issued unauthorized restructuring of Ecuador's debt in 2000 that led to exorbitant interest rates, which, combined with illegal borrowing by former dictators, has turned the country, along with many of its neighbors, into a major capital exporter to its northern "benefactors." Over the years, the country has made debt payments that far exceed the principal it borrowed.

Of all loans made between 1989 and 2006, 14 percent was used for social-development projects. The remaining 86 percent was used to pay for previously accumulated debt.


11. Private Corporations Profit from the Occupation of Palestine

Israeli and international corporations are directly involved in the occupation of Palestine. Along with various political, religious and national interests, the Israeli occupation of the West Bank, Gaza, and the Golan Heights is fueled by corporate interests. These occupying companies and corporations lead real-estate deals, develop the Israeli colonies and infrastructure, and contribute to the construction and operation of an ethnic-separation system, including checkpoints, walls, and roads. They also design and supply equipment and tools used in the control and repression of the civilian population under occupation.

An extensive, ongoing grassroots investigation, which exposes hundreds of international companies and corporations involved in the occupation, is being conducted and posted online at WhoProfits.org by the Israeli group Coalition of Women for Peace. The project currently focuses on three main areas of corporate involvement in the occupation: the settlement industry, economic exploitation, and control of the population.

12. Mysterious Death of Mike Connell -- Karl Rove's Election Thief

Karl Rove's chief IT consultant, Mike Connell -- who was facing subpoena in connection with 2004 presidential-election fraud in Ohio -- mysteriously died in a private-plane crash in 2008. Connell was allegedly the central figure in a longstanding plot to electronically flip votes to Republicans.

In July 2008, Connell was named as a key witness in the case known as King Lincoln Bronzeville Neighborhood Association V. Blackwell, which was filed against Ohio Secretary of State Kenneth J. Blackwell on August 31, 2006, by Columbus attorneys Clifford Arnebeck and Robert Fitrakis. It initially charged Blackwell with racially discriminatory practices -- including the selective purging of voters from the election rolls and the unequal allocation of voting machines to various districts -- and asked for measures to be taken to prevent similar problems during the November 2006 election.

On October 9, 2006, an amended complaint added charges of various forms of ballot rigging as also having the effect of "depriving the plaintiffs of their voting rights, including the right to have their votes successfully cast without intimidation, dilution, cancellation, or reversal by voting machine or ballot tampering." A motion to dismiss the case as moot was filed following the November 2006 election, but it was instead stayed to allow for settlement discussions.

The case took on fresh momentum in July 2008 when Arnebeck announced that he was filing to "lift the stay in the case and proceed with targeted discovery in order to help protect the integrity of the 2008 election." The new filing was inspired in part by the coming forward as a whistleblower of GOP IT security expert Stephen Spoonamore, who said he was prepared to testify to the plausibility of electronic vote-rigging having been carried out in 2004. The stay was lifted September 19, 2008, and Connell was served a subpoena on September 22.

Spoonamore, a conservative Republican who works for big banks, international governments, and the Secret Service as an expert in the detection of computer fraud, found evidence that Karl Rove, with the help of Mike Connell and his company GovTech Solutions, electronically stole the Ohio 2004 election for Bush.

Spoonamore testified that the "vote tabulation system [which Connell designed] allowed the introduction of an additional single computer between computer A and computer B." This is called a "man in the middle" attack. According to Spoonamore, "This centralized collection of all incoming statewide tabulations would make it easy for a single operator, or a preprogrammed 'force balancing computer,' to change the results in any way desired by the team controlling the Computer C." Spoonamore further testified that the only purpose for such "man in the middle" architecture is to commit crime.

Despite Connell's efforts to quash his subpoena to testify, he was ordered to appear for a two-hour, closed-door deposition on November 3, 2008, just eighteen hours before the 2008 national election. Though Connell had expressed willingness to testify, he was reticent after receiving threats from Rove.

Election-fraud analyst and author Mark Crispin Miller notes that the timing and circumstances of Connell's death -- between deposition and trial -- are too suspicious and convenient for Rove and the Bush administration not to merit a thorough investigation.

Connell was an experienced pilot. His plane had been recently serviced. He had been in the nation's capital on still-unknown business before his single-engine plane crashed December 22, 2008 on the way home, just three miles short of the runway in Akron, Ohio. The cause of the crash remains unknown.

13. Katrina's Hidden Race War

A report in The Nation magazine exposes how white vigilante groups patrolled the streets of New Orleans after Hurricane Katrina, shooting at least 11 African-American men.

While most of New Orleans was deluged in the wake of Katrina, word spread that Algiers Point was dry. The National Guard designated the Algiers Point ferry landing an official evacuation site, where flood victims were to be loaded onto buses headed for safety in Texas. Facing an influx of refugees, a group of heavily armed white residents sought to seal the area and to rid the neighborhood of "those who didn't belong."

While white vigilantes killed an estimated total of 11 African-American victims, local police have never conducted investigations. So far, the crimes have gone unpunished.

14. Congress Invested in Defense Contracts

The nonpartisan Center for Responsive Politics has calculated that more than 151 members of Congress have up to $195 million invested in major defense contractors that are earning profits from the U.S. military occupations in Iraq and Afghanistan.

In 2006, the investment portfolios of 151 current members -- more than a quarter of Congress -- had between $78.7 million and $195.5 million invested in companies that received major defense contracts (over $5 million). The portfolios include holdings in companies paid billions of dollars each month to support America's military. These companies provided almost everything the military uses, from aircraft and weapons to medical supplies and soft drinks.

15. World Bank's Carbon Trade Fiasco

In the name of environmental protection, the World Bank is brokering carbon-emission-trading arrangements that destroy indigenous farmlands around the world.

The effort to coordinate global action to reduce greenhouse-gas emissions began with the Kyoto Protocol, which was adopted in 1997 and now has been ratified by 183 nations. While many of the strategies established in the protocol are encouraging, some are proving to have fatal flaws. One such program, known as Clean Development Mechanism (CDM) investment, has become a means by which industrialized countries avoid reducing their own emissions through the implementation of "emissions reduction" projects in developing nations.

Because of a myopic focus on greenhouse-gas reduction, and a lack of accountability to local communities, many projects in Latin America are producing other environmental and social ills that are diametrically opposed to the program's stated objectives.

Wood and pulp industries have shown great interest in harnessing the carbon market to justify and finance projects that involve expropriating indigenous farm and grazing land for planting of enormous monospecific plantations. These plantations threaten the area's biodiversity and can severely deplete water resources. Author Mary Tharin warns, "From an ecological standpoint, planting large-scale plantations of non-native species in this area is clearly a step in the wrong direction. From a societal standpoint, this could spell cultural genocide."

16. U.S. Repression of Haiti Continues

The U.S. government plans to expropriate and demolish the homes of hundreds of Haitians in the shantytown of Cité Soleil to expand the occupying UN force's military base. The U.S. government contractor DynCorp, a quasi-official arm of the Pentagon and the CIA, is responsible for the base expansion. The base will house the soldiers of the UN Mission to Stabilize Haiti (MINU.S.TAH). Cité Soleil is the most bullet-ridden battleground of the foreign military occupation, which began after U.S. Special Forces kidnapped and exiled President Jean-Bertrand Aristide on February 29, 2004. Citizens have since been victimized by recurring massacres at the hands of MINU.S.TAH.

DynCorp's $5-million contracts include expansion of the principal base and the rebuilding of the Cité Soleil police station and two other militarized outposts, as well as training support and procurement of equipment.

According to Cité Soleil Mayor Charles Joseph and a DynCorp foreman at the site, the State Department's U.S. Agency for International Development provides funding for the base expansion -- an unorthodox use of development aid.

17. The ICC Facilitates U.S. Covert War in Sudan

The United States promoted the International Criminal Court (ICC) indictment of Sudan President Omar al-Bashir for war crimes in Darfur in order to justify continuing Western exploitation and military interventions in the resource-rich region.

"America is an opportunist country," explains Sudanese Ambassador Abdalmahmood Abdalhaleem Mohamad. "They want to use the ICC without being a party to it." In effect, he said, U.S. soldiers can have immunity, but not the president of Sudan.

18. Ecuador's Constitutional Rights of Nature

In September 2008 Ecuador became the first country in the world to declare constitutional rights to nature, thus codifying a new system of environmental protection.

Reflecting the beliefs and traditions of the indigenous peoples of Ecuador, the constitution declares that nature "has the right to exist, persist, maintain, and regenerate its vital cycles, structure, functions, and its processes in evolution." This right, the constitution states, "is independent of the obligation on natural and juridical persons or the State to indemnify the people that depend on the natural systems."


19. Bank Bailout Recipients Spent to Defeat Labor

On October 17, 2008, three days after Bank of America Corporation received $25 billion in federal bailout funds, it hosted a conference call to organize opposition to the Employee Free Choice Act (EFCA). Participants, including AIG, were urged to persuade their clients to send "large contributions" to groups working against the EFCA, as well as to vulnerable Senate Republicans who could be used to help block the passage of the pro-labor bill that would make it easier for employees to organize into unions.

20. Secret Control of the Presidential Debates

The Obama and McCain campaigns jointly negotiated a detailed secret contract dictating the terms of the 2008 debates. This included who got to participate, what topics were to be raised, and the structure of the debate formats.

Since 1987, a private corporation created by and for the Republican and Democratic parties called the Commission on Presidential Debates (CPD) has sponsored the U.S. presidential debates and implemented debate contracts. In order to shield the major-party candidates from criticism, CPD has refused to release debate-contract information to the public.

Since the CPD took control of the presidential debates in 1988, the debates have been primarily funded by corporate contributions. Multinational corporations with regulatory interests before Congress have donated millions of dollars in contributions to the CPD, and debate sites have become corporate carnivals, where sponsoring companies market their products, services, and political agendas. Tobacco giant Phillip Morris was a major sponsor in 1992 and 1996. Anheuser-Busch sponsored presidential debates in its hometown of St. Louis in 1996, 2000, 2004, and 2008.

The current structure enables corporations to give money to both the Democratic and Republican parties, which essentially supports their duopoly over the political process and excludes third-party voices that may be hostile to corporate power.

21. Recession Causes States to Cut Welfare

Many states are in the midst of an aggressive action to push thousands of eligible mothers off Temporary Assistance to Needy Families, traditionally known as welfare. Families are being denied aid so that savings can be redirected in state budgets.

Nationally, the number of welfare recipients fell more than 40 percent between 2001 and June 2008. Louisiana, Texas, and Illinois have each dropped 80 percent of adult recipients since January 2001. The state of Georgia had a 90-percent drop, with fewer than 2,500 adults receiving benefits, down from 28,000 in 2004.

22. Obama's Trilateral Commission Team

Barack Obama appointed 11 members of the Trilateral Commission to top-level and key positions in his administration within his first 10 days in office. This represents a narrow source of international leadership inside the Obama administration.

Obama was groomed for the presidency by key members of the Trilateral Commission. Most notably, Zbigniew Brzezinski, co-founder of the Trilateral Commission with David Rockefeller in 1973, has been Obama's principal foreign-policy advisor.

According to official Trilateral Commission membership lists, there are only 87 members from the United States. (The other 337 members are from other countries.) Thus, within two weeks of his inauguration, Obama's appointments encompassed more than 12 percent of commission's entire U.S. membership.

Trilateral appointees include: Secretary of Treasury Tim Geithner, Ambassador to the United Nations Susan Rice, National Security Advisor General James L. Jones, Deputy National Security Advisor Thomas Donilon, Economic Recovery Committee Chair Paul Volker, Director of National Intelligence Admiral Dennis C. Blair, Assistant Secretary of State (Asia & Pacific) Kurt M. Campbell, Deputy Secretary of State James Steinberg, State Department Special Envoy, Richard Haass, State Department Special Envoy Dennis Ross, and State Department Special Envoy Richard Holbrooke.

23. Activists Slam World Water Forum as a Corporate-Driven Fraud

Water-rights activists blasted the World Water Forum, held in Turkey in late March 2009, as a corporate trade show promoting privatization of water. Three hundred Turkish activists gathered near the forum's entrance and were faced with the overwhelming force of between 2,000 and 3,000 police. The forum opened with Turkish police firing tear gas and detaining protesters, who were shouting, "Water for life, not for profit."

According to its Web site, the World Water Forum is "an open, all-inclusive, multi-stakeholder process" through which governments, non-governmental organizations, businesses, and others "create links, debate, and attempt to find solutions to achieve water security."

However, the forum's main organizer, the World Water Council, is dominated by two of the world's largest private water corporations, Suez and Veolia. Critics contend that the council's links to Suez and Veolia, as well as the large representation of the business industry in the council, compromise its legitimacy. Corporate interests that make up the World Water Council are in constant contact with the World Bank and other financial institutions. Each forum is set up as a quasi-United Nations event, to the extent of issuing a Ministerial Statement at the forum's close promoting global-policy approaches to water and sanitation.

The council promotes expensive and destructive dam and water-diversion projects as well as policies such as public-private partnerships that put water services under private ownership.

24. Dollar Glut Finances U.S. Military Expansion

The worldwide surplus of dollars is forcing foreign central banks to bear the costs of America's expanding military empire. Keeping international reserves in "dollars" means that when U.S. financial speculation and deficits pump "paper" into foreign economies, these banks have little option but to recycle it into U.S. Treasury bills and bonds -- which the Treasury then spends on financing an enormous, hostile military build-up to encircle the major dollar-recyclers: China, Japan, and Arab OPEC oil producers. These governments are forced to recycle dollar inflows in a way that funds U.S. military policies which they have no say in formulating.

25. Fast-Track Oil Exploitation in Western Amazon

The western Amazon, home to the most biodiverse and intact rainforest on Earth, may soon be covered with oil rigs and pipelines. Vast swaths of the region are to be opened for oil and gas exploration, putting some of the planet's most pristine forests at risk, conservationists have warned.

A new study has found that at least 35 multinational oil and gas companies operate more than 180 oil and gas "blocks" -- areas zoned for exploration and development -- which now cover the Amazon in Bolivia, Colombia, Ecuador, Peru, and western Brazil.

The western Amazon is also home to many indigenous ethnic groups, including some of the world's last uncontacted peoples living in voluntary isolation. Underlying this landscape of extraordinary biological and cultural diversity, which environmental scientists refer to as the lungs of the planet, are large reserves of oil and gas. Growing global demand is stimulating unprecedented levels of new oil and gas exploration and extraction -- and the threat of environmental and cultural devastation.


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