Missed in Mainstream Media – The “Hidden Stories”
By Bernard Levy
The following are a few of the “Hidden Stories.” We define “hidden stories” as news that: 1) never receives coverage in mainstream media (MSM); 2) gets published, but insignificantly, e.g., in a newswire that’s easily overlooked by a reader or placed in an out-of-the-way page, perhaps next to a large ad for vacuum cleaners; 3) is reported reasonably well once and then never or rarely seen again.
Most are important stories containing information that affect our pocketbooks and lives, e.g., government incompetence and corruption that cost taxpayers money. We’ll cover some in depth as time and resources permit. We hope you enjoy this feature. If you do, please let us know.
Since there are so many “Hidden Stores” to expose, we’ll be brief in our individual coverage. First, Israeli soldiers returning from the Lebanon warfront during the cease-fire are complaining that they were “sent into battle with outdated or faulty equipment and insufficient supplies, and received little or no training.” This quote came from an Associated Press article written by Benjamin Harvey and published in The Oregonian, August 19, 2006. We can only assume that somehow an “American Military Virus” was transported to Israel with, perhaps, armament and other military supplies. The U.S. ships and otherwise supplies armament and military items to approximately 80 nations in the world, including Israel. The complaints registered by returning Israeli military sound very familiar, don’t they? Haven’t these same comments been voiced by our military in Iraq, particularly during the first two and a half years? You remember, the lack of adequate armor on our Humvees and for our military in the trenches. In this age of technology and a cyber-speeded-up society, viral infections are no longer confined to humans; computers catch them and, apparently, so do nations.
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On another war-related note, the revelation that we have used depleted uranium (D.U.) bullets in Iraq was recently exposed in an August newspaper article. It has been a substantially hidden fact that the U.S. manufactures and uses these armor-piercing shells during our military actions on foreign soil, notably in the Gulf War, Afghanistan and Iraq. In researching this area, we discovered a May 15, 2003 Christian Science Monitor article by Scott Peterson covering the fact that the fragments from these D.U. bullets posed a threat to the Iraqi civilians. What is particularly brain-numbing about this subject: “A D.U. bullet fragment no bigger than a pencil eraser…registers nearly one thousand times normal background radiation levels on the digital read-out” – children continually play in “burned-out Iraqi tank(s) destroyed by – and contaminated with – controversial American D.U. bullets” without any warning signs describing their danger; “fresh-from-the-factory tank shells are normally handled with gloves to minimize the health risk, and shielded with a thin coating…” “ ‘Radioactive particles are a ‘special risk associated with a war’ Mr. Snihs (of Sweden’s Radiation Protection Authority in Stockholm) says and continued, ‘The authorities should be aware of this, and try to decontaminate places like this, just to avoid unnecessary risk.’ ” There is much more to Mr. Peterson’s article, including that there were few civilian warning signs in Iraq in 2003, and our U.S. military had performed some clean up work, “wearing face masks and taking precautionary measures.” Of course, there’s a reason why these bullets are made of low-level radioactive nuclear-waste material; they’re very effective in piercing armor. Nobody said that war isn’t hell but, if it is, shouldn’t the persons who produce the hell to free a nation from tyranny also take the time to protect that nation from the obvious lingering dangers of war?
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We noted only one article in recent news coverage, again by the Associated Press written by Fisnik Abrashi and published by The Oregonian on August 17, 2006, on the opium crop and trade in Afghanistan. Titled “Afghan Opium Crop on Way to Record Year,” it noted that “about 370,650 acres of opium poppy were cultivated this season – up from 257,000 acres in 2005…” Additionally the article stated that the U.N. reported last year that Afghanistan produced an estimated 4,500 tons of opium – enough to make 450 tons of heroin, nearly 90% the of (sic) world supply.” This is not good news for President Bush in boasting that an Afghanistan democracy is one of his major successes. The proceeds from this opium poppy cultivation is helping to fund the Taliban’s insurgency, and it’s not helping our (and the world’s) war on illegal drugs. All of this is even more disheartening because “the U.N. Office on Drugs and Crime estimate that opium accounted for 52% of Afghanistan’s gross domestic product in 2005.” The final telling blow is that the U.S. and Britain, among other nations, have invested hundreds of millions of dollars to combat the drug trade. This doesn’t speak well for the “democracy’ that we’ve established in Afghanistan.
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Two last comments: the first has to do with increasing the bureaucracy of the federal government, and the second with the tremendous cost of corruption in providing aid to Hurricane Katrina and Rita victims.
The House of Representatives somehow snuck into a major defense authorization bill a provision that would allow the federal government (executive branch) to take charge of the states’ national guards if some “major” domestic emergency occurred, which could be manmade or natural disasters. It also appears that the National Governors Association said it doesn’t know who was responsible for the legislative inclusion, but it breaks more than 300 years of tradition about who controls the National Guard. It does allow the president to consult the governors before taking control of their militias, but that’s little consolation to them. The governors have taken action, and they’ll hope to defeat that measure before the Senate votes on the measure. Golly, remember when the G.O.P. use to be known for the party who wanted a smaller federal government with less bureaucracy? However, the “real message” of this bill is that our military manpower might (MMM) is in trouble, and the president and the federal government want to make sure that they’re going to get the national guard support they desperately need. Don’t they have that power already?
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Finally, although not a truly hidden story, and one that has achieved some media coverage success, the federal government’s ineptitude in administering monetary assistance to victims of Hurricanes Katrina and Rita appears to be growing. Could we analogize this to the expanding civil warfare and strife in Iraq? In any event, it is now estimated that we, the people, have meted out perhaps as much as $1.4 billion in bogus assistance to victims. In a recent Associated Press article, reporter Larry Margasak noted that the GAO (Government Accounting Office) concluded that as much as “16 percent of the billions of dollars billions of dollars to individuals from FEMA help to individuals after the two hurricanes was unwarranted.” The nature of the bogus payments included a “divorce lawyer’s services in Houston and an all-inclusive one-week Caribbean vacation.” We encourage you to just sit quietly and estimate how many taxpayers it takes, based upon the tax payment that you made to the federal government last year, to pay for these bogus claims. Issues become clearer when we relate them to our own personal finances and experiences.
Until next week…