Project Censored

Project Censored 2014


Our oceans are acidifying — even if the nightly news hasn’t told you yet.

As humanity continues to fill the atmosphere with harmful gases, the planet is becoming less hospitable to life as we know it. The vast oceans absorb much of the carbon dioxide we have produced, from the industrial revolution through the rise of global capitalism. Earth’s self-sacrifice spared the atmosphere nearly 25 percent of humanity’s CO2 emissions, slowing the onslaught of many severe weather consequences.

Although the news media have increasingly covered the climate weirding of global warming — hurricane superstorms, fierce tornado clusters, overwhelming snowstorms, and record-setting global high temperatures — our ocean’s peril has largely stayed submerged below the biggest news stories.

The rising carbon dioxide in our oceans burns up and deforms the smallest, most abundant food at the bottom of the deep blue food chain. One vulnerable population is the tiny shelled swimmers known as the sea butterfly. In only a few short decades, the death and deformation of this fragile and translucent species could endanger predators all along the oceanic food web, scientists warn.

This “butterfly effect,” once unleashed, potentially threatens fisheries that feed over 1 billion people worldwide.

Since ancient times, humans fished the oceans for food. Now, we’re frying ocean life before we even catch it, starving future generations in the process. Largely left out of national news coverage, this dire report was brought to light by a handful of independent-minded journalists: Craig Welch from the Seattle Times, Julia Whitty of Mother Jones, and Eli Kintisch of ScienceNOW.

It is also the top story of Project Censored, an annual book and reporting project that features the year’s most underreported news stories, striving to unmask censorship, self-censorship, and propaganda in corporate-controlled media outlets. The book is set for release in late October.

“Information is the currency of democracy,” Ralph Nader, the prominent consumer advocate and many-time presidential candidate, wrote in his foreword to this year’s Project Censored 2015. But with most mass media owned by narrow corporate interests, “the general public remains uninformed.”

Whereas the mainstream media poke and peck at noteworthy events at single points in time, often devoid of historical context or analysis, Project Censored seeks to clarify understanding of real world issues and focus on what’s important. Context is key, and many of its “top censored” stories highlight deeply entrenched policy issues that require more explanation than a simple sound bite can provide.

Campus and faculty from over two dozen colleges and universities join in this ongoing effort, headquartered at Sonoma State University. Some 260 students and 49 faculty vet thousands of news stories on select criteria: importance, timeliness, quality of sources, and the level of corporate news coverage.

The top 25 finalists are sent to Project Censored’s panel of judges, who then rank the entries, with ocean acidification topping this year’s list.

“There are outlets, regular daily papers, who are independent and they’re out there,” Andy Lee Roth, associate director of Project Censored, told us. Too many news outlets are beholden to corporate interests, but Welch of the Seattle Times bucked the trend, Roth said, by writing some of the deepest coverage yet on ocean acidification.

“There are reporters doing the highest quality of work, as evidenced by being included in our list,” Roth said. “But the challenge is reaching as big an audience as [the story] should.”

Indeed, though Welch’s story was reported in the Seattle Times, a mid-sized daily newspaper, this warning is relevant to the entire world. To understand the impact of ocean acidification, Welch asks readers to “imagine every person on earth tossing a hunk of CO2 as heavy as a bowling ball into the sea. That’s what we do to the oceans every day.”

Computer modeler Isaac Kaplan, at the National Oceanic and Atmospheric Administration office in Seattle, told Welch that his early work predicts significant declines in sharks, skates and rays, some types of flounder and sole, and Pacific whiting, the most frequently caught commercial fish off the coast of Washington, Oregon, and California.

Acidification may also harm fisheries in the farthest corners of the earth: A study by the Arctic Monitoring and Assessment Programme outlines acidification’s threat to the arctic food chain.

“Decreases in seawater pH of about 0.02 per decade have been observed since the late 1960s in the Iceland and Barents Seas,” the study’s authors wrote in the executive summary. And destroying fisheries means wiping out the livelihoods of the native peoples of the Antarctic.

Acidification can even rewire the brains of fish, Welch’s story demonstrated. Studies found rising CO2 levels cause clown fish to gain athleticism, but have their sense of smell redirected. This transforms them into “dumb jocks,” scientists said, swimming faster and more vigorously straight into the mouths of their predators.

These Frankenstein fish were found to be five times more likely to die in the natural world. What a fitting metaphor for humanity, as our outsized consumption propels us towards an equally dangerous fate.

“It’s not as dramatic as say, an asteroid is hitting us from outer space,” Roth said of this slowly unfolding disaster, which is likely why such a looming threat to our food chain escapes much mainstream news coverage.

Journalism tends to be more “action focused,” Roth said, looking to define conflict in everything it sees. A recently top-featured story on CNN focused on President Barack Obama’s “awkward coffee cup salute” to a Marine, which ranks only slightly below around-the-clock coverage of the president’s ugly tan suit as a low point in mainstream media’s focus on the trivial.

As Nader noted, “‘important stories’ are often viewed as dull by reporters and therefore unworthy of coverage.” But mainstream media do cover some serious topics with weight, as it did in the wake of the police officer shooting of Michael Brown in Ferguson, Mo. So what’s the deciding factor?

As Roth tells it, corporate news focuses on “drama, and the most dramatic action is of course violence.”

But the changes caused by ocean acidification are gradual. Sea butterflies are among the most abundant creatures in our oceans, and are increasingly born with shells that look like cauliflower or sandpaper, making this and similar species more susceptible to infection and predators.

“Ocean acidification is changing the chemistry of the world’s water faster than ever before, and faster than the world’s leading scientists predicted,” Welch said, but it’s not getting the attention is deserves. “Combined nationwide spending on acidification research for eight federal agencies, including grants to university scientists by the National Science Foundation, totals about $30 million a year — less than the annual budget for the coastal Washington city of Hoquiam, population 10,000.”

Our oceans may slowly cook our food chain into new forms with potentially catastrophic consequences. Certainly 20 years from now, when communities around the world lose their main source of sustenance, the news will catch on. But will the problem make the front page tomorrow, while there’s still time to act?

Probably not, and that’s why we have Project Censored and its annual list:



Sexual abuse, children kept in cages, extra-judicial murder. While these sound like horrors the United States would stand against, the reverse is true: This country is funding these practices.

The US is a signatory of the United Nations’ Convention against Torture and Other Cruel, Inhuman or Degrading Treatment or Punishment, but the top 10 international recipients of US foreign assistance in 2014 all practice torture, according to human rights groups, as reported by Daniel Wickham of online outlet Left Foot Forward.

Israel received over $3 billion in US aid for fiscal year 2013-14, according to a Congressional Research Service report. Israel was criticized by the country’s own Public Defender’s Office for torturing children suspected of minor crimes.

“During our visit, held during a fierce storm that hit the state, attorneys met detainees who described to them a shocking picture: in the middle of the night dozens of detainees were transferred to the external iron cages built outside the IPS transition facility in Ramla,” the PDO wrote, according to The Independent.

The next top recipients of US foreign aid were Afghanistan, Egypt, Pakistan, Nigeria, Jordan, Iraq, Kenya, Tanzania, and Uganda. All countries were accused of torture by human rights groups such as Amnesty International and Human Rights Watch.

Kenyan police in Nairobi tortured, raped, or otherwise abused more than 1,000 refugees from 2012 to 2013, Human Rights Watch found. The Kenyan government received $564 million from the United States in 2013-14.

When the US funds a highway or other project that it’s proud of, it plants a huge sign proclaiming “your tax dollars at work.” When the US funds torturers, the corporate media bury the story, or worse, don’t report it at all.



The Trans-Pacific Partnership is like the Stop Online Piracy Act on steroids, yet few have heard of it, let alone enough people to start an Internet campaign to topple it. Despite details revealed by Wikileaks, the nascent agreement has been largely ignored by the corporate media.

Even the world’s elite are out of the loop: Only three officials in each of the 12 signatory countries have access to this developing trade agreement that potentially impacts over 800 million people.

The agreement touches on intellectual property rights and the regulation of private enterprise between nations, and is open to negotiation and viewing by 600 “corporate advisors” from big oil, pharmaceutical, to entertainment companies.

Meanwhile, more than 150 House Democrats signed a letter urging President Obama to halt his efforts to fast-track negotiations, and to allow Congress the ability to weigh in now on an agreement only the White House has seen.

Many criticized the secrecy surrounding the TPP, arguing the real world consequences may be grave. Doctors Without Borders wrote, “If harmful provisions in the US proposals for the Trans-Pacific Partnership (TPP) agreement are not removed before it is finalized, this trade deal will have a real cost in human lives.”



This entry demonstrates the nuance in Project Censored’s media critique. Verizon v. FCC may weaken Internet regulation, which Electronic Frontier Foundation and other digital freedom advocates allege would create a two-tiered Internet system. Under the FCC’s proposed new rules, corporate behemoths such as Comcast or Verizon could charge entities to use faster bandwidth, which advocates say would create financial barriers to free speech and encourage censorship.

Project Censored alleges corporate outlets such as The New York Times and Forbes “tend to highlight the business aspects of the case, skimming over vital particulars affecting the public and the Internet’s future.”

Yet this is a case where corporate media were circumvented by power of the viral web. John Oliver, comedian and host of Last Week Tonight on HBO, recently gave a stirring 13-minute treatise on the importance of stopping the FCC’s new rules, resulting in a flood of comments to the FCC defending a more open Internet. The particulars of net neutrality have since been thoroughly reported in the corporate media.

But, as Project Censored notes, mass media coverage only came after the FCC’s rule change was proposed, giving activists little time to right any wrongs. It’s a subtle but important distinction.



Bankers responsible for rigging municipal bonds and bilking billions of dollars from American cities have largely escaped criminal charges. Every day in the US, low-level drug dealers get more prison time than these scheming bankers who, while working for GE Capital, allegedly skimmed money from public schools, hospitals, libraries, and nursing homes, according to Rolling Stone.

Dominick Carollo, Steven Goldberg, and Peter Grimm were dubbed a part of the “modern American mafia,” by the magazine’s Matt Taibbi, one of the few journalists to consistently cover their trial. Meanwhile, disturbingly uninformed cable media “journalists” defended the bankers, saying they shouldn’t be prosecuted for “failure,” as if cheating vulnerable Americans were a bad business deal.

“Had the US authorities decided to press criminal charges,” Assistant US Attorney General Lanny Breuer told Taibbi. “HSBC (a British bank) would almost certainly have lost its banking license in the US, the future of the institution would have been under threat, and the entire banking system would have been destabilized.”

Over the course of decades, the nation’s bankers transformed into the modern mafioso. Unfortunately, our modern media changed as well, and are no longer equipped to tackle systemic, complex stories.



What’s frightening about the puppeteers who pull the strings of our national government is not how hidden they are, but how hidden they are not.

From defense contractors to multinational corporations, a wealthy elite using an estimated $32 trillion in tax-exempt offshore havens are the masters of our publicly elected officials. In an essay written for Moyer and Company by Mike Lofgren, a congressional staffer of 28 years focused on national security, this cabal of wealthy interests comprise our nation’s “Deep State.”

As Lofgren writes for Moyers, “The Deep State is the big story of our time. It is the red thread that runs through the war on terrorism, the financialization and deindustrialization of the American economy, the rise of a plutocratic social structure and political dysfunction.”

This is a story that truly challenges the mass media, which do report on the power of wealth, in bits and pieces. But although the cabal’s disparate threads are occasionally pulled, the spider’s web of corruption largely escapes corporate media’s larger narrative.

The myopic view censors the full story as surely as outright silence would. The problem deepens every year.

“There are now 854,000 contract personnel with top-secret clearances — a number greater than that of top-secret-cleared civilian employees of the government,” Lofgren wrote, of a group that together would “occupy the floor space of almost three Pentagons — about 17 million square feet.”



Nationally, law enforcement worked in the background to monitor and suppress the Occupy Wall Street movement, a story the mainstream press has shown little interest in covering.

A document obtained in FOIA request by David Lindorff of Who, What WHY from the FBI office in Houston,, Texas revealed an alleged assassination plot targeting a Occupy group, which the FBI allegedly did not warn the movement about.

From the redacted document: “An identified [DELETED] as of October planned to engage in sniper attacks against protestors (sic) in Houston, Texas if deemed necessary. An identified [DELETED] had received intelligence that indicated the protesters in New York and Seattle planned similar protests in Houston, Dallas, San Antonio and Austin, Texas. [DELETED] planned to gather intelligence against the leaders of the protest groups and obtain photographs, then formulate a plan to kill the leadership via suppressed sniper rifles.”

Lindorff confirmed the document’s veracity with the FBI. When contacted by Lindorff, Houston Police were uninterested, and seemingly (according to Lindorff), uninformed.

In Arizona, law enforcement exchanged information of possible Occupy efforts with JP Morgan Chase CEO Jamie Dimon, according to a report by the Center for Media and Democracy titled Dissent on Terror. The CEO meant to evade possible protests, and local law enforcement was happy to help.

Law enforcement’s all-seeing eyes broadened through the national rise of “fusion centers” over the past decade, hubs through which state agencies exchange tracking data on groups exercising free speech. And as we share, “like,” and “check-in” online with ever-more frequency, that data becomes more robust by the day.



In what can only be responded to with a resounding “duh,” news analyses have found mainstream media frequently report on severe weather changes without referring to global warming as the context or cause, even as a question.

As Project Censored notes, a study by Fairness and Accuracy in Reporting found extreme weather events in 2013 spurred 450 broadcast news segments, only 16 of which even mentioned climate change. National news outlets have fallen on the job as well, as The New York Times recently shuttered its environmental desk and its Green blog, reducing the number of reporters exclusively chasing down climate change stories.

Unlike many journalists, ordinary people often recognize the threat of our warming planet. Just as this story on Project Censored went to press, over 400,000 protested in the People’s Climate March in New York City alone, while simultaneous protests erupted across the globe, calling for government, corporate, and media leaders to address the problem.

“There is a huge mismatch between the magnitude of the challenge and the response we heard here today,” Graca Machel, the widow of former South African President Nelson Mandela, told the United Nations conference on climate change. “The scale is much more than we have achieved.”



The US battle with Russia over Ukraine’s independence is actually an energy pipeline squabble, a narrative lost by mainstream media coverage, Project Censored alleges.

Russian President Vladimir Putin has drawn fire from the media as a tyrant, without complex analyses of his country’s socio-economic interests, according to Project Censored. As the media often do, they have turned the conflict into a cult of personality, talking up Putin’s shirtless horseback riding and his hard-line style with deftness missing from their political analysis.

As The Guardian UK’s Nafeez Ahmed reported, a recent US State Department-sponsored report noted “Ukraine’s strategic location between the main energy producers (Russia and the Caspian Sea area) and consumers in the Eurasian region, its large transit network, and its available underground gas storage capacities,” highlighting its economic importance to the US and its allies.



The United States’ legacy in Iraq possibly goes beyond death to a living nightmare of cancer and birth defects, due to the military’s use of depleted uranium weapons, a World Health Organization study found. Iraq is poisoned. Much of the report’s contents were leaked to the BBC during its creation. But the release of the report, completed in 2012 by WHO, has stalled. Critics allege the US is deliberately blocking its release, masking a damning Middle East legacy rivaling the horrors of Agent Orange in Vietnam. But Iraq will never forget the US intervention, as mothers cradle babies bearing scars obtained in the womb, the continuing gifts of our invasion.

Rep Clock: March 26 – April 1, 2014


Schedules are for Wed/26-Tue/1 except where noted. Director and year are given when available. Double and triple features marked with a •. All times pm unless otherwise specified.

ARTISTS’ TELEVISION ACCESS 992 Valencia, SF; $7-12. “Gaze #7: Generation Loss,” independent films and videos made by women, Thu, 8. Other Cinema: “Christian Divine’s Imperial 80s Cinema,” Sat, 8:30.

BALBOA THEATRE 3630 Balboa, SF; $10. “Popcorn Palace:” The Wizard of Oz (Fleming, 1939), Sat, 10am. Matinee for kids.

BERKELEY FELLOWSHIP OF UNITARIAN UNIVERSALISTS 1924 Bonita, Berk; $5-10. •International Inquiry into 9/11, and 9/11 Into the Academic Community, Thu, 7. With filmmaker Ken Jenkins and Peter Phillips of Project Censored.

CASTRO 429 Castro, SF; (415) 621-6120, $8.50-11. “Philip Seymour Hoffman (1967-2014):” •Synedoche, New York (Kaufman, 2008), Wed, 7, and Punch-Drunk Love (Anderson, 2002), Wed, 9:15; •Jack Goes Boating (Hoffman, 2010), Thu, 6, and Magnolia (Anderson, 1999), Thu, 8; “Midnites for Maniacs:” •Happiness (Solondz, 1998), Fri, 7:20, and 25th Hour (Lee, 2002), Fri, 9:45. “Drag Queens of Comedy,” with Coco Peru, Sasha Soprano, Lady Bunny, Shangela, Pandora Boxx, Bianca Del Rio, and DWV, Sat, 7 and 10. Hosted by Heklina and Peaches Christ. Advance tickets ($35-100) at Beauty and the Beast (Trousdale and Wise, 1991), presented sing-along style, March 30-April 6, 7 (also Sun/30 and April 6, 2:30; no show April 5).

CHRISTOPHER B. SMITH RAFAEL FILM CENTER 1118 Fourth St, San Rafael; (415) 454-1222, $6.50-$10.75. times. Le Week-End (Michell, 2013), Wed-Thu, call for times. Nymphomaniac: Volume I (von Trier, 2013), March 28-April 3, call for times. “Science On Screen:” Journey of the Universe (Kennard and Northcutt, 2011), Mon, 7.

CLAY 2261 Fillmore, SF; $10. “Midnight Movies:” The Rocky Horror Picture Show (Sharman, 1975), Sat, midnight. with the Bawdy Caste performing live.

HUMANIST HALL 390 27th St, Oakl; $5. Human Resources Part II (Noble), Wed, 6:30.

JEWISH COMMUNITY CENTER OF SF Kanbar Hall, 3200 California, SF; $25. “Jewish Cult Classics Marathon:” •The Plot Against Harry (Roemer, 1969); The Mad Adventures of Rabbi Jacob (Oury, 1973); and The Troupe (Nesher, 1978), Sun, noon.

MECHANICS’ INSTITUTE 57 Post, SF; $10. “CinemaLit Film Series: Mystique of the City: Films Shot in San Francisco:” Tucker: The Man and His Dream (Coppola, 1988), Fri, 6.

PACIFIC FILM ARCHIVE 2575 Bancroft, Berk; (510) 642-5249, $5.50-9.50. “Jokers Wild: American Comedy, 1960-1989:” “Everything You Always Wanted to Know About Sex:* but Were Afraid to Ask (Allen, 1972), Fri, 7; Young Frankenstein (Brooks, 1974), Fri, 8:50. “The Brilliance of Satyajit Ray:” Days and Nights in the Forest (1970), Sat, 6:30; The Adversary (1970), Sun, 5:15. “Jean-Luc Godard: Expect Everything from Cinema:” Two or Three Things I Know About Her (1966), Sat, 8:45. “Afterimage: Ross McElwee and the Cambridge Turn:” Backyard (McElwee, 1984), plus other biographical shorts, Sun, 2:30; Photographic Memory (McElwee, 2011), Tue, 7.

ROXIE 3117 and 3125 16th St, SF; (415) 863-1087, $6.50-11. “I Wake Up Dreaming” benefit: The Argyle Secrets (Endfield, 1948), Wed, 7, and D.O.A. (Maté, 1950), Wed, 9:30. This event, $25; benefits the upcoming noir film series (May 16-25) at the Roxie. “Frameline Encore:” Intersexion (Lahood, 2012), Thu, 7. Free screening. Cheap Thrills (Katz, 2014), March 28-April 3, 7, 9 (also Sat-Sun, 5). Mistaken for Strangers (Berninger, 2013), March 28-April 3, 7, 8:45 (also Sat-Sun, 3:30, 5). “Czech That Film: A Festival of Current Czech Cinema:” Honeymoon (Hrebejk, 2013), Sun, 4; Don Juans (Menzel, 2013), Mon, 7; Colette (Cieslar, 2013), Tue, 7; Lousy Bastards (Kašparovský, 2013), April 2, 7.

YERBA BUENA CENTER FOR THE ARTS 701 Mission, SF; $8-10. “Design and Architecture Films Showcase:” •Tadao Ando: From Emptiness to Infinity (Frick, 2013), and The Successor of Kakiemon (Raes, 2012), Thu, 7:30; Sagrada: The Mystery of Creation (Haupt, 2013), Sat, 7:30, and Sun, 2. *


Alerts Oct. 30-Nov. 5, 2013



March to protect City College CCSF Civic Center Campus, 750 Eddy, SF. 3:30pm, free. Join supporters of the embattled City College of San Francisco for a major mobilization to protect this critical educational resource. A week of action will culminate with this march to deliver several thousand postcards to Mayor Ed Lee, urging him to protect City College. Advocates say City College is crucial and must be preserved to protect educational access for low-income and immigrant communities, veterans, older adults, displaced workers, and so many others.




Conference on media and democracy University of San Francisco, 2130 Fulton, SF. 9am with sessions through Sun/3, $125 registration. More than 200 radical media activists, scholars and students will convene for “The Point is to Change It: Media Democracy and Democratic Media in Action,” a three-day conference sponsored by The Union for Democratic Communications, Project Censored and the Department of Media Studies at the University of San Francisco. Researchers, activists and media-makers will present their investigations of the most pressing problems with top-down corporate- and government-controlled media; showcase exemplars of independent, alternative media; and share some of the latest methods in media education. This conference represents a unique partnership, bringing together academic and independent researchers, educators, students, and media justice activists from across the U.S. and Canada, the Middle East, China, Africa and Latin America.



What is Social Justice? Art Internationale Gallery, 963 Pacific Ave., SF. 7pm, free. November is social justice month, and the Revolutionary Poets Brigade is hosting this event to explore some key questions. What is Social Justice? What is Social Injustice? Speakers include Jack Hirschman, former SF poet laureate, Ethel Long-Scott of the Women’s Economic Agenda Project, John Curl, author of For all the People, and poets Sarah Page, Sarah Menefee, Ayat Jalal-Bryant and Aja Couchois Duncan. SUNDAY 3 Hottest bike party of the year City View at the Metreon, 135 Fourth St., SF. 6-10:30pm, $20–$60. The San Francisco Bicycle Coalition’s Winterfest celebration will bring thousands of bike-loving people together for a bash in celebration of cycling. Festivities will include an art auction, a bike auction and a community silent auction.

Project Censored


This year’s annual Project Censored list of the most underreported news stories includes the widening wealth gap, the trial of Pfc. Bradley Manning for leaking classified documents, and President Obama’s war on whistleblowers — all stories that actually received considerable news coverage.

So how exactly were they “censored” and what does that say of this venerable media watchdog project?

Project Censored isn’t only about stories that were deliberately buried or ignored. It’s about stories the media has covered poorly through a sort of false objectivity that skews the truth. Journalists do cry out against injustice, on occasion, but they don’t always do it well.

That’s why Project Censored was started back in 1976: to highlight stories the mainstream media missed or gave scant attention to. Although the project initially started in our backyard at Sonoma State University, now academics and students from 18 universities and community colleges across the country pore through hundreds of submissions of overlooked and underreported stories annually. A panel of academics and journalists then picks the top 25 stories and curates them into themed clusters. This year’s book, Censored 2014: Fearless Speech in Fearful Times, hits bookstores this week.

What causes the media to stumble? There are as many reasons as there are failures.

Brooke Gladstone, host of the radio program On the Media and writer of the graphic novel cum news media critique, The Influencing Machine, said the story of Manning (who now goes by the first name Chelsea) was the perfect example of the media trying to cover a story right, but getting it mostly wrong.

“The Bradley Manning case is for far too long centered on his personality rather than the nature of his revelations,” Gladstone told us. Manning’s career was sacrificed for sending 700,000 classified documents about the Iraq war to WikiLeaks. But the media coverage focused largely on Manning’s trial and subsequent change in gender identity.

Gladstone said that this is part of the media’s inability to deal with vast quantities of information which, she said, “is not what most of our standard media does all that well.”

The media mangling of Manning is number one on the Project Censored list, but the shallow coverage this story received is not unique. The news media is in a crisis, particularly in the US, and it’s getting worse.



The Project for Excellence in Journalism, which conducts an annual analysis of trends in news, found that as revenue in journalism declined, newsrooms have shed 30 percent of their staff in the last decade. In 2012, the number of reporters in the US dipped to its lowest level since 1978, with fewer than 40,000 reporters nationally. This creates a sense of desperation in the newsroom, and in the end, it’s the public that loses.

“What won out is something much more palpable to the advertisers,” says Robert McChesney, an author, longtime media reform advocate, professor at University of Illinois, and host of Media Matters from 2000-2012. Blandness beat out fearless truth-telling.

Even worse than kowtowing to advertisers is the false objectivity the media tries to achieve, McChesney told us, neutering its news to stay “neutral” on a topic. This handcuffs journalists into not drawing conclusions, even when they are well-supported by the facts.

In order to report a story, they rely on the words of others to make claims, limiting what they can report.

“You allow people in power to set the range of legitimate debate, and you report on it,” McChesney said.

Project Censored stories reflect that dynamic — many of them require journalists to take a stand or present an illuminating perspective on a set of dry facts. For example, reporting on the increasing gulf between the rich and the poor is easy, but talking about why the rich are getting richer is where journalists begin to worry about their objectivity, Gladstone said.

“I think that there is a desire to stay away from stories that will inspire rhetoric of class warfare,” she said.

Unable to tell the story of a trend and unable to talk about rising inequality for fear of appearing partisan, reporters often fail to connect the dots for their readers.

One of Project Censored stories this year, “Bank Interests Inflate Global Prices by 35 to 40 Percent,” is a good example of the need for a media watchdog. Researchers point to interest payments as the primary way wealth is transferred from Main Street to Wall Street.

It’s how the banks are picking the pockets of the 99 percent. But if no politician is calling out the banks on this practice, if no advocacy group is gaining enough traction, shouldn’t it be the media’s role to protect the public and sound the battle cry?

“So much of media criticism is really political commentary squeezed through a media squeezer,” Gladstone said, “and it comes out media shaped.”



McChesney says journalism should be a proactive watchdog by independently stating that something needs to be done. He said there’s more watchdog journalism calling out inequity in democracies where there is a more robust and funded media.

And they often have one thing we in US don’t — government subsidies for journalism.

“All the other democracies in the world, there are huge subsidies for public media and journalism,” McChesney said. “They not only rank ahead of us in terms of being democratic, they also rank ahead of us in terms of having a free press. Our press is shrinking.”

No matter what the ultimate economic solution is, the crisis of reporting is largely a crisis of money. McChesney calls it a “whole knife in the heart of journalism.”

For American journalism to revive itself, it has to move beyond its corporate ties. It has to become a truly free press. It’s time to end the myth that corporate journalism is the only way for media to be objective, monolithic, and correct.

The failures of that prescription are clear in Project Censored’s top 10 stories of the year:

1. Manning and the Failure of Corporate Media

Untold stories of Iraqi civilian deaths by American soldiers, US diplomats pushing aircraft sales on foreign royalty, uninvestigated abuse by Iraqi allies, the perils of the rise in private war contractors — this is what Manning exposed. They were stories that challenge the US political elite, and they were only made possible by a sacrifice.

Manning got a 35-year prison sentence for the revelation of state secrets to WikiLeaks, a story told countless times in corporate media. But as Project Censored posits, the failure of our media was not in the lack of coverage of Manning, but in its focus.

Though The New York Times partnered with WikiLeaks to release stories based on the documents, many published in 2010 through 2011, news from the leaks have since slowed to a trickle — a waste of over 700,000 pieces of classified intelligence giving unparalleled ground level views of America’s costly wars.

The media quickly took a scathing indictment of US military policy and spun it into a story about Manning’s politics and patriotism. As Rolling Stone pointed out (“Did the Media Fail Bradley Manning?”), Manning initially took the trove of leaks to The Washington Post and The New York Times, only to be turned away.

Alexa O’Brien, a former Occupy activist, scooped most of the media by actually attending Manning’s trial. She produced tens of thousands of words in transcriptions of the court hearings, one of the only reporters on the beat.

2. Richest Global 1 Percent Hide Billions in Tax Havens

Global corporate fatcats hold $21-32 trillion in offshore havens, money hidden from government taxation that would benefit people around the world, according to findings by James S. Henry, the former chief economist of the global management firm McKinsey & Company.

The International Consortium of Investigative Journalists obtained a leak in April 2013, revealing how widespread the buy-in was to these tax havens. The findings were damning: government officials in Canada, Russia, and other countries have embraced offshore accounts, the world’s top banks (including Deutsche Bank) have worked to maintain them, and the tax havens are used in Ponzi schemes.

Moving money offshore has implications that ripped through the world economy. Part of Greece’s economic collapse was due to these tax havens, ICIJ reporter Gerard Ryle told Gladstone on her radio show. “It’s because people don’t want to pay taxes,” he said. “You avoid taxes by going offshore and playing by different rules.”

US Senator Carl Levin, D-Michigan, introduced legislation to combat the practice, SB1533, The Stop Tax Haven Abuse Act, but so far the bill has had little play in the media.

Researcher James Henry said the hidden wealth was a “huge black hole” in the world economy that has never been measured, which could generate income tax revenues between $190-280 billion a year.

3. Trans-Pacific Partnership

Take 600 corporate advisors, mix in officials from 11 international governments, let it bake for about two years, and out pops international partnerships that threaten to cripple progressive movements worldwide.

The Trans-Pacific Partnership is a trade agreement, but leaked texts show it may allow foreign investors to use “investor-state” tribunals to extract extravagant extra damages for “expected future profits,” according to the Public Citizen’s Global Trade Watch.

The trade watch group investigated the TPP and is the main advocate in opposition of its policies. The AFL-CIO, Sierra Club, and other organizations have also had growing concerns about the level of access granted to corporations in these agreements.

With extra powers granted to foreign firms, the possibility that companies would continue moving offshore could grow. But even with the risks of outsized corporate influence, the US has a strong interest in the TPP in order to maintain trade agreements with Asia.

The balancing act between corporate and public interests is at stake, but until the US releases more documents from negotiations, the American people will remain in the dark.

4. Obama’s War on Whistleblowers

President Obama has invoked the Espionage Act of 1917 more than every other president combined. Seven times, Obama has pursued leakers with the act, against Thomas Drake, Shamai Leibowitz, Bradley Manning, Stephen Kim, Jeffrey Sterling, John Kiriakou and most recently, Edward Snowden. All had ties to the State Department, FBI, CIA, or NSA, and all of them leaked to journalists.

“Neither party is raising hell over this. This is the sort of story that sort of slips through the cracks,” McChesney said. And when the politicians don’t raise a fuss, neither does the media.

Pro Publica covered the issue, constructing timelines and mapping out the various arrests and indictments. But where Project Censored points out the lack of coverage is in Obama’s hypocrisy — only a year before, he signed The Whistleblower Protection Act.

Later on, he said he wouldn’t follow every letter of the law in the bill he had only just signed.

“Certain provisions in the Act threaten to interfere with my constitutional duty to supervise the executive branch,” Obama said. “As my Administration previously informed the Congress, I will interpret those sections consistent with my authority.”

5. Hate Groups and Antigovernment Groups on Rise across US

Hate groups in the US are on the rise, according to a report by the Southern Poverty Law Center. There are 1,007 known hate groups operating across the country, it wrote, including neo-Nazis, Ku Klux Klan, white nationalists, neo-Confederates, racist skinheads, black separatists, border vigilantes, and others.

Since 2000, those groups have grown by over half, and there was a “powerful resurgence” of Patriot groups, the likes of which were involved in the Oklahoma City bombing in 1995. Worst of all, the huge growth in armed militias seems to have conspicuous timing with Obama’s election.

“The number of Patriot groups, including armed militias, has grown 813 percent since Obama was elected — from 149 in 2008 to 1,360 in 2012,” the SPLC reported.

Though traditionally those groups were race motivated, the report noted that now they are gunning for government. There was a smattering of news coverage when the SPLC released its report, but not much since.

6. Billionaires’ Rising Wealth Intensifies Poverty and Inequality

The world’s billionaires added $241 billion to their collective net worth in 2012. That’s an economic recovery, right?

That gain, coupled with the world’s richest peoples’ new total worth of $1.9 trillion (more than the GDP of Canada), wasn’t reported by some kooky socialist group, but by Bloomberg News. But few journalists are asking the important question: Why?

Project Censored points to journalist George Monbiot, who highlights a reduction of taxes and tax enforcement, the privatization of public assets, and the weakening of labor unions.

His conclusions are backed up by the United Nations’ Trade and Development Report from 2012, which noted how the trend hurts everyone: “Recent empirical and analytical work reviewed here mostly shows a negative correlation between inequality and growth.”

7. Merchant of Death and Nuclear Weapons

The report highlighted by Project Censored on the threat of nuclear war is an example not of censorship, strictly, but a desire for media reform.

Project Censored highlighted a study from the The Physicians for Social Responsibility that said 1 billion people could starve in the decade after a nuclear detonation. Corn production in the US would decline by an average of 10 percent for an entire decade and food prices would make food inaccessible to hundreds of millions of the world’s poorest.

This is not journalism in the classic sense, Gladstone said. In traditional journalism, as it’s played out since the early 20th century, news requires an element of something new in order to garner reporting — not a looming threat or danger.

So in this case, what Project Censored identified was the need for a new kind of journalism, what it calls “solutions journalism.”

“Solutions journalism,” Sarah van Gelder wrote in the foreword to Censored 2014, “must investigate not only the individual innovations, but also the larger pattern of change — the emerging ethics, institutions, and ways of life that are coming into existence.”

8. Bank Interests Inflate Global Prices by 35 to 40 Percent

Does 35 percent of everything bought in the United States go to interest? Professor Margrit Kennedy of the University of Hanover thinks so, and she says it’s a major funnel of money from the 99 percent to the rich.

In her 2012 book, Occupy Money, Kennedy wrote that tradespeople, suppliers, wholesalers, and retailers along the chain of production rely on credit. Her figures were initially drawn from the German economy, but Ellen Brown of the Web of Debt and Global Research said she found similar patterns in the US.

This “hidden interest” has sapped the growth of other industries, she said, lining the pockets of the financial sector.

So if interest is stagnating so many industries, why would journalists avoid the topic?

Few economists have echoed her views, and few experts emerged to back up her assertions. Notably, she’s a professor in an architectural school, with no formal credentials in economics.

From her own website, she said she became an “expert” in economics “through her continuous research and scrutiny.”

Without people in power pushing the topic, McChesney said that a mainstream journalist would be seen as going out on a limb.

“The reporters raise an issue the elites are not raising themselves, then you’re ideological, have an axe to grind, sort of a hack,” he said. “It makes journalism worthless on pretty important issues.”

9. Icelanders Vote to Include Commons in Their Constitution

In 2012, Icelandic citizens voted in referendum to change the country’s 1944 constitution. When asked, “In the new constitution, do you want natural resources that are not privately owned to be declared national property?” its citizens voted 81 percent in favor.

Project Censored says this is important for us to know, but in the end, US journalism is notably American-centric. Even the Nieman Watchdog, a foundation for journalism at Harvard University, issued a report in 2011 citing the lack of reporting on a war the US funneled over $4 trillion into over the past decade, not to mention the cost in human lives.

If we don’t pay attention to our own wars, why exactly does Project Censored think we’d pay attention to Iceland?

“The constitutional reforms are a direct response to the nation’s 2008 financial crash,” Project Censored wrote, “when Iceland’s unregulated banks borrowed more than the country’s gross domestic product from international wholesale money markets.”

Solutions-based journalism rears its head again, and the idea is that the US has much to learn from Iceland, but even Gladstone was dubious.

“Iceland is being undercovered, goddamnit! Where is our Iceland news?” she joked with us. Certainly I agree with some of this list, Bradley Manning was covered badly, I was sad the tax haven story didn’t get more coverage. But when has anyone cared about Iceland?”

10. A “Culture of Cruelty” along Mexico–US Border

The plight of Mexican border crossings usually involves three types of stories in US press: deaths in the stretch of desert beyond the border, the horrors of drug cartels, and heroic journeys of border crossings by sympathetic workers. But a report released a year ago by the organization No More Deaths snags the 10th spot for overlooked stories in Project Censored.

The report asserts that people arrested by Border Patrol while crossing were denied water and told to let their sick die. No More Deaths conducted more than 12,000 interviews to form the basis of its study in three Mexican cities: Nacos, Nogales and Agua Prieta. The report cites grossly ineffective oversight from the Department of Homeland Security. This has received some coverage, from Salon showcasing video of Border Patrol agents destroying jugs of water meant for crossers to a recent New York Times piece citing a lack of oversight for Border Patrol’s excessive force.

The ACLU lobbied the United Nations High Commissioner for Human Rights to call international attention to the plight of these border crossers at the hands of US law enforcement.

If ever an issue flew under the radar, this is it.

Alerts: July 17 – 23, 2013


Wednesday 17

Panel: Upholding the People’s Right to Know ILWU Local 34 Hall, 801 Second St, SF. 7-9pm, free. It seems the phrase “whistleblower” is on everyone’s lips these days, and upholding the public’s right to know about government policies and actions is critical. Closely related is the right of the press to perform its job without fear of government reprisal. Join panelists Larry Bush, San Francisco political ethics and open-government activist and journalist; Peter Phillips, president, Media Freedom Foundation/Project Censored; Tracy Rosenberg, executive director of Media Alliance and Josh Wolf, freelance videographer-journalist for this important discussion on freedom of the press, government transparency, and the freedom of information.


Friday 19

Forum: The re-entry process and the Black community Rasselas Jazz Club, 1534 Fillmore, SF. 6-8pm, free. Join an informational forum with community experts on the re-entry process, and how it impacts the black community. The discussion will be led by Sheriff Ross Mirkarimi, Chief Adult Probation Officer Wendy Stills, and Public Defender Jeff Adachi’s Representative, Attorney Vilaska Nguyen. The discussion will focus on the re-entry policy and procedure, as well as its possible consequences, challenges and opportunities for the black community.


Friday 19

San Francisco Living Wage Coalition third annual awards dinner Janitors Local 87 Hall, 240 Golden Gate Avenue, SF., 6:30pm, $35 in advance. Come out in support of a community that is working to improve economic conditions for all workers. Olga Miranda, president of Janitors Local 87, will be presented with the Labor Woman of the Year Award, and the Labor Man of the Year Award goes to Mike Casey, president of UNITE HERE Local 2 and president of the San Francisco Labor Council.


Saturday 20

Laborfest event: Kick the high rent monopoly goodbye Musician’s Union Hall, 116 9th St., SF. 11am-3pm. Join a group of housing rights advocates, renters, gamers and friends for prizes, fine music and food. Play monopoly by the old rules and then a different set of rules designed to upend the housing market for working people.


Solomon: David Brooks, Tom Friedman, Bill Keller wish Snowden had just followed orders


Norman Solomon is co-founder of and founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. His books include “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.”

Edward Snowden’s disclosures, the New York Times reported on Sunday, “have renewed a longstanding concern: that young Internet aficionados whose skills the agencies need for counterterrorism and cyberdefense sometimes bring an anti-authority spirit that does not fit the security bureaucracy.

Agencies like the NSA and CIA — and private contractors like Booz Allen — can’t be sure that all employees will obey the rules without interference from their own idealism. This is a basic dilemma for the warfare/surveillance state, which must hire and retain a huge pool of young talent to service the digital innards of a growing Big Brother.

With private firms scrambling to recruit workers for top-secret government contracts, the current situation was foreshadowed by novelist John Hersey in his 1960 book The Child Buyer. When the vice president of a contractor named United Lymphomilloid, “in charge of materials procurement,” goes shopping for a very bright ten-year-old, he explains that “my duties have an extremely high national-defense rating.” And he adds: “When a commodity that you need falls in short supply, you have to get out and hustle. I buy brains.”

That’s what Booz Allen and similar outfits do. They buy brains. And obedience.

But despite the best efforts of those contractors and government agencies, the brains still belong to people. And, as the Times put it, an “anti-authority spirit” might not fit “the security bureaucracy.”

In the long run, Edward Snowden didn’t fit. Neither did Bradley Manning. They both had brains that seemed useful to authority. But they also had principles and decided to act on them.

Like the NSA and its contractors, the U.S. military is in constant need of personnel. “According to his superiors . . . Manning was not working out as a soldier, and they discussed keeping him back when his unit was deployed to Iraq,” biographer Chase Madar writes in The Passion of Bradley Manning. “However, in the fall of 2009, the occupation was desperate for intelligence analysts with computer skills, and Private Bradley Manning, his superiors hurriedly concluded, showed signs of improvement as a workable soldier. This is how, on October 10, 2009, Private First Class Bradley Manning was deployed . . . to Iraq as an intelligence analyst.”

In their own ways, with very different backgrounds and circumstances, Bradley Manning and Edward Snowden have confounded the best-laid plans of the warfare/surveillance state. They worked for “the security bureaucracy,” but as time went on they found a higher calling than just following orders. They leaked information that we all have a right to know.

This month, not only with words but also with actions, Edward Snowden is transcending the moral limits of authority and insisting that we can fully defend the Bill of Rights, emphatically including the Fourth Amendment.

What a contrast with New York Times columnists David Brooks, Thomas Friedman and Bill Keller, who have responded to Snowden’s revelations by siding with the violators of civil liberties at the top of the U.S. government.

Brooks denounced Snowden as “a traitor” during a June 14 appearance on the PBS NewsHour, saying indignantly: “He betrayed his oath, which was given to him and which he took implicitly and explicitly. He betrayed his company, the people who gave him a job, the people who trusted him. . . . He betrayed the democratic process. It’s not up to a lone 29-year-old to decide what’s private and public. We have — actually have procedures for that set down in the Constitution and established by tradition.”

Enthralled with lockstep compliance, Brooks preached the conformist gospel: “When you work for an institution, any institution, a company, a faculty, you don’t get to violate the rules of that institution and decide for your own self what you’re going to do in a unilateral way that no one else can reverse. And that’s exactly what he did. So he betrayed the trust of the institution. He betrayed what creates a government, which is being a civil servant, being a servant to a larger cause, and not going off on some unilateral thing because it makes you feel grandiose.”

In sync with such bombast, Tom Friedman and former Times executive editor Bill Keller have promoted a notably gutless argument for embracing the NSA’s newly revealed surveillance programs. Friedman wrote (on June 12) and Keller agreed (June 17) that our government is correct to curtail privacy rights against surveillance — because if we fully retained those rights and then a big terrorist attack happened, the damage to civil liberties would be worse.

What a contrast between big-name journalists craven enough to toss the Fourth Amendment overboard and whistleblowers courageous enough to risk their lives for civil liberties.

Norman Solomon is co-founder of and founding director of the Institute for Public Accuracy. His books include “War Made Easy: How Presidents and Pundits Keep Spinning Us to Death.”

FAIR: The press turns its back on Private Bradley Manning


FAIR, the national media watchdog organization, has written an excellent critique of the coverage of the Bradley Manning case, one of the more shameful episodes in U.S.military and journalism history.  KPFA’s “Democracy Now” radio program headed by Amy Goodman  (9-10 weekdays) has also  done regular superlative coverage.  Here is FAIR’s report (B3):

Turning Their Back on Bradley Manning: Whistleblower speaks but press doesn’t listen

As the alleged source of many of the most vital WikiLeaks reports of the past several years, U.S. Army Private Bradley Manning shed considerable light on how the United States has prosecuted the Iraq and Afghan wars. Other State Department cables reportedly leaked by Manning conveyed vital information about U.S. foreign policy.

Manning has, in other words, been connected to a lot of news (FAIR Media Advisories, 4/7/10, 12/16/10, 7/30/10): the video of a 2007 U.S. helicopter attack in Baghdad that killed several civilians (two Reuters journalists died in the attack); the revelation that hundreds of U.S. attacks on civilians in Afghanistan had been recorded by the military– but were unreported elsewhere; the cache of diplomatic cables that uncovered U.S. efforts to stymie legal investigations into torture, U.S. involvement in airstrikes in Yemen; and much more.
But the developments at his trial last week–including the first time Manning has spoken about his treatment–are evidently not newsworthy.

Manning has been held in conditions that have been criticized as psychological torture, including long periods of solitary confinement in a tiny cell, forced nudity and sleep deprivation.

Last week, the military trial at Fort Meade centered on the question of whether these pre-trial conditions were unlawful. Arrested in May 2010, Manning faces 22 counts associated with the leaks of classified material–including the government argument that Manning’s leaks constitute aiding the enemy, apparently because some of the materials he leaked made their way onto the computers of Al-Qaeda figures.

The government maintained that Manning’s treatment was based on a judgment that he was a suicide risk. But the court proceedings included testimony from military psychiatrists who disagreed, and recommended against holding Manning under such “clinically inappropriate” conditions–recommendations that were ignored at the Quantico military facility where Manning was confined (Guardian, 11/28/12).

These dramatic developments, in particular the testimony from Manning (11/29/12), were mostly unreported in corporate media. The New York Times ran a brief Associated Press wire story (11/30/12). Manning’s story was mentioned by just one of the three big network newscasts (CBS Evening News, 11/29/12). There was a brief mention on the PBS NewsHour (11/30/12), mostly about suicide risk.

CNN did regular reporting on the trial throughout the week. According to the Nexis news database, Manning’s trial last week was not mentioned on the liberal MSNBC channel until a discussion on Up With Chris Hayes (12/1/12). Democracy Now!, which has closely followed the Manning case for the past two years, featured thorough analysis of the trial.

It is not hard, on any level, to see the relevance of the Manning trial. As the Guardian’s Ed Pilkington argued on Up With Chris Hayes (12/1/12), the government’s argument in the case will have a chilling effect, which should obviously concern journalists:

You have to bear in mind that the main charge, charge No. 1 against him, is aiding the enemy. Now this is a massively chilling thing. What he’s being accused of is by posting something via WikiLeaks on the Internet, that by doing so he effectively gave it to Osama bin Laden. They don’t have to show–in the prosecution’s mind, the government’s mind–they don’t have to show that he intended to do that. They’re just saying by the sheer act of putting it on the Internet, it was available to Al-Qaeda.

Indeed, the notion that such trials constitute a threat to freedom of the press was part of the reason that the leak investigation of New York Times reporter Judith Miller was so closely followed by corporate media. Many outlets and editorial pages proclaimed the proceedings an attack on journalism itself–even though in that case,  the reporter in question was seeking to protect a government source who was peddling information intended to diminish a government critic (Extra!, 9-10/05).

In the Manning case, the whistleblower apparently responsible for releasing documents that formed the basis for literally thousands of reports of incredible international significance is challenging government mistreatment. The questions about the case have been longstanding. As NPR’s All Things Considered noted (11/26/12), the secrecy around the proceedings has been “so intense that reporters and human rights groups have sued to get access to information.”

All that in mind, the minimal attention to Manning’s trial last week tells us how little corporate media care about the mistreatment of a government whistleblower. The revelations about U.S. foreign policy Manning allegedly made possible were news; the military’s abusive retaliation against him apparently is not.

FAIR,  the national  media watchdog organization, has written an excellent critique of the Bradley Manning case,  one of the more shameful episodes in military and journalism history. Here is its report (B3):
Turning Their Back on Bradley Manning
Whistleblower speaks–but press doesn’t listen

As the alleged source of many of the most vital WikiLeaks reports of the past several years, U.S. Army Private Bradley Manning shed considerable light on how the United States has prosecuted the Iraq and Afghan wars. Other State Department cables reportedly leaked by Manning conveyed vital information about U.S. foreign policy.

Manning has, in other words, been connected to a lot of news (FAIR Media Advisories, 4/7/10, 12/16/10, 7/30/10): the video of a 2007 U.S. helicopter attack in Baghdad that killed several civilians (two Reuters journalists died in the attack); the revelation that hundreds of U.S. attacks on civilians in Afghanistan had been recorded by the military– but were unreported elsewhere; the cache of diplomatic cables that uncovered U.S. efforts to stymie legal investigations into torture, U.S. involvement in airstrikes in Yemen; and much more.

But the developments at his trial last week–including the first time Manning has spoken about his treatment–are evidently not newsworthy.

Manning has been held in conditions that have been criticized as psychological torture, including long periods of solitary confinement in a tiny cell, forced nudity and sleep deprivation.

Last week, the military trial at Fort Meade centered on the question of whether these pre-trial conditions were unlawful. Arrested in May 2010, Manning faces 22 counts associated with the leaks of classified material–including the government argument that Manning’s leaks constitute aiding the enemy, apparently because some of the materials he leaked made their way onto the computers of Al-Qaeda figures.

The government maintained that Manning’s treatment was based on a judgment that he was a suicide risk. But the court proceedings included testimony from military psychiatrists who disagreed, and recommended against holding Manning under such “clinically inappropriate” conditions–recommendations that were ignored at the Quantico military facility where Manning was confined (Guardian, 11/28/12).

These dramatic developments, in particular the testimony from Manning (11/29/12), were mostly unreported in corporate media. The New York Times ran a brief Associated Press wire story (11/30/12). Manning’s story was mentioned by just one of the three big network newscasts (CBS Evening News, 11/29/12). There was a brief mention on the PBS NewsHour (11/30/12), mostly about suicide risk.

CNN did regular reporting on the trial throughout the week. According to the Nexis news database, Manning’s trial last week was not mentioned on the liberal MSNBC channel until a discussion on Up With Chris Hayes (12/1/12). Democracy Now!, which has closely followed the Manning case for the past two years, featured thorough analysis of the trial.

It is not hard, on any level, to see the relevance of the Manning trial. As the Guardian’s Ed Pilkington argued on Up With Chris Hayes (12/1/12), the government’s argument in the case will have a chilling effect, which should obviously concern journalists:

You have to bear in mind that the main charge, charge No. 1 against him, is aiding the enemy. Now this is a massively chilling thing. What he’s being accused of is by posting something via WikiLeaks on the Internet, that by doing so he effectively gave it to Osama bin Laden. They don’t have to show–in the prosecution’s mind, the government’s mind–they don’t have to show that he intended to do that. They’re just saying by the sheer act of putting it on the Internet, it was available to Al-Qaeda.

Indeed, the notion that such trials constitute a threat to freedom of the press was part of the reason that the leak investigation of New York Times reporter Judith Miller was so closely followed by corporate media. Many outlets and editorial pages proclaimed the proceedings an attack on journalism itself–even though in that case,  the reporter in question was seeking to protect a government source who was peddling information intended to diminish a government critic (Extra!, 9-10/05).

In the Manning case, the whistleblower apparently responsible for releasing documents that formed the basis for literally thousands of reports of incredible international significance is challenging government mistreatment. The questions about the case have been longstanding. As NPR’s All Things Considered noted (11/26/12), the secrecy around the proceedings has been “so intense that reporters and human rights groups have sued to get access to information.”

All that in mind, the minimal attention to Manning’s trial last week tells us how little corporate media care about the mistreatment of a government whistleblower. The revelations about U.S. foreign policy Manning allegedly made possible were news; the military’s abusive retaliation against him apparently is not.


Fukushima controversies that the mainstream media ignores


This week, we wrote our annual analysis of the list of censored stories released by Project Censored. We wrote that “in one study that got little attention, scientists Joseph Mangano and Janette Sherman found that in the period following the Fukushima meltdowns, 14,000 more deaths than average were reported in the US, mostly among infants.”

It’s true that the study got little attention in mainstream media, with a few exceptions including coverage in Al Jazeera. It was, however, the subject of scrutiny from multiple sources.

Sherman is a physician and former advisory board member for the Environmental Protection Agency (EPA) Toxic Substances Control Act, and Mangano is an epidemiologist and public health administrator and researcher.

The debate that followed the release of their study got into important issues of the health effects of the Fukushima Daiichi nuclear disaster. Both those defending and attacking the study, and the general principle of the health impacts of nuclear energy, had their say. But all this happened outside mainstream media, and in the wake of Fukushima, mainstream media has largely ignored health implications. That’s why the story was highlighted by Project Censored, which explores stories underreported by the mainstream media, in their book Censored 2013: Dispatched from the Media Revolution.

An article by Sherman and Mangano about their research was first published in June 2011 in Counterpunch, a left-leaning political newsletter. It was criticized then. Counterpunch came back with a response from their “statistical consultant” Pierre Sprey, who found that there was an increase in infant deaths, although not as stark as the increase Sherman and Mangano found. He found that the increase was amplified by including other cities in the Pacific Northwest in the set.

An updated version of the study was published in a peer-reviewed journal, the Journal of International Health Services, in December.

Sherman and Mangano came to their conclusions by comparing deaths in a set of US cities during a 28-week period during which the meltdown occurred on March 11 to the same 28-week period in 2010. They found that in the 14 weeks before March 11, deaths were up 2.34 percent in 2011, but in the period after the Fukushima disaster, they were up by 4.46 percent. They extrapolated this data and determined a “a projected 13,983 excess U.S. deaths”

Again, the study was widely criticized. One source of critique was Michael Moyer, who wrote an article in Scientific American lambasting the study. He said that the authors cherry-picked the data they used. Moyer wrote that “No attempt is made at providing systematic error estimates, or error estimates of any kind. No attempt is made to catalog any biases that may have crept into the analysis, though a cursory look finds biases a-plenty (the authors are anti-nuclear activists unaffiliated with any research institution).”

But aside from the Scientific American article and a few other instances of mainstream coverage, the critical response to Sherman and Mangano’s story was also underreported. The people who took another look at their numbers were writing for alternative press. Websites like, whose creators are “are convinced that nuclear power is vital to securing energy production in a sustainable way until science can provide us with a truly limitless source of power.” and, written by self-described “pro-nuclear advocate” Rod Adams.

The whole incident raises interesting questions about what constitutes mainstream media and alternative media, the value of peer-review and fact-checking, and the way that corporate interests control news stories. Almost every person who weighed in on this story was likely biased in some way, from the researchers who set out to see if there was a correlation between US deaths and the Fukushima meltdown to the pro-nuclear activists who attacked their study.

The nuclear industry has plenty of mouthpieces. The Nuclear Energy Institute, a lobbying group for nuclear companies, releases its own press statements. A blog associated with the NEI,, has been a part of the online debunking frenzy surrounding Sherman and Mangano’s work.

Does being associated with the nuclear industry make critiques incorrect? In this situation, it seems clear that the refutations are credible.

It does make them suspicious, as the nuclear industry’s profits rely on the belief that nuclear energy is perfectly safe.

Mainstream news is supposed to serve as a credible and reliable source of information. But coverage of the effects of the Fukushima Daiichi disaster have been mostly left up to bloggers and activists. And Sherman and Mangano’s flawed study is far from the only outcry. In Canada, concerns were raised about radiation levels in rainwater. A series of investigations into RadNet, the EPA’s radiological detection network, found that the system suffers from maintenance and reliability issues, and may have reported false low levels of radiation in the weeks following Fukushima.

In Japan, a strong protest movement insists that they and their children aren’t safe following the meltdown. The country announced plans to phase out nuclear power by 2040 following Fukushima. Strong anti-nuclear sentiment also exists in Germany, where the government has plans to phase out nuclear energy by 2022.

In the United States, the controversy over nuclear energy rages on. The nuclear industry is a powerful corporate interest, and likely has something to do with the suppression of mainstream coverage of nuclear hazards. At the same time, corporate flaks are just as capable of creating “alternative” media sources that twist stories to reflect a pro-nuclear agenda. Of course, so are anti-nuclear advocates, who may be equally willing to ignore facts to promote their agenda.
As Censored 2013 points out, that debate is largely underreported by the mainstream media. Nuclear power may not have led to 14,000 excess deaths in the US following the Fukushima disaster. But it has certainly led to a confused circus of less than reliable sources, competing to be believed as truth, while traditional credible reporting falls away.

Local censored 2012




In early January, details from the police investigation of then-Sheriff-elect Ross Mirkarimi bruising his wife’s arm during an argument were leaked to the San Francisco Chronicle and other news outlets. The key piece of evidence was a 45-second video that Mirkarimi’s wife, Eliana Lopez, made with her neighbor, Ivory Madison, displaying the bruise and saying she wanted to document the incident in case of a child custody battle. That video convinced many of Mirkarimi’s guilt, and a majority of Ethics Commissioners say they found it to be the main evidence on which Mirkarimi should be removed from office on official misconduct charges (the Board of Supervisors was scheduled to vote on Mirkarimi’s removal on Oct. 9, after Guardian press time).

But that video was only a small part of the overwhelming and expensive case that Mayor Ed Lee brought against Mirkarimi, including the more serious charges of abuse of power, witness dissuasion, and impeding a police investigation, all of which go more directly to a sheriff’s official duties. All of those charges got lots of media coverage and they helped cement the view of many San Franciscans that Mirkarimi engaged in a pattern of inappropriate behavior, rather than making a big momentary mistake. Yet most of the media coverage during the six months of Ethics Commission proceedings ignored the fact that none of the evidence that was being gathered supported those charges. Indeed, all those charges were unanimously rejected by the commission on Aug. 16, a startling rebuke of Lee’s case but one that was not highlighted in many media reports, which focused on the one charge the commission did uphold: the initial arm grab.




In the late 1990s, San Francisco was in a very similar place to where it is now. The first dot-com boom was full bloom, driving the local economy and creating countless young millionaires — but also rapidly gentrifying the city and driving commercial and residential rents through the roof (great for the landlords, bad for everyone else). And then, the bubble popped, instantly erasing billions of dollars in speculative paper wealth and leaving this a changed city. The city’s working and creative classes suffered, but the political backlash gave rise to a decade with a progressive majority on the Board of Supervisors.

The era ended in 2010 when Ed Lee was appointed mayor, and he began ambitious agenda of pumping up a new dot-com bubble using tax breaks, public subsidies, and relentless official boosterism to lure more tech companies to San Francisco. Lee has been successful in his approach, in the process driving up commercial rents and housing prices. By some estimates, about 30 percent of the city’s economy is now driven by technology companies.

Yet there have been few voices in the local media raising questions about this risky, costly, and self-serving economic development strategy. The Bay Citizen did a story about Conway’s self interested advice, the New York Times did a front page story raising these issues, and San Francisco Magazine just last month did a long cover story questioning how much tech is enough. But most local media voices have been silent on the issue, and much of the damage has already been done.



More than a decade ago, then-Mayor Willie Brown and Chinatown power broker Rose Pak worked together to empower big business, corrupt local politics, and clear the path for rampant development — an approach that progressives on the Board of Supervisors repudiated and slowed from 2000-2010. But Brown, Pak, and a new generation of their allies have returned in power in City Hall, and it’s as bad as it ever was.

Many San Franciscans know of their high-profile role appointing Lee to office in early 2011. But their influence and tentacles have extended far beyond what we read in the papers and watch on television, starting in 2010 when their main political operatives David Ho and Enrique Pearce ran Jane Kim’s supervisorial campaign, beating Debra Walker, a veteran of the fights against Brown’s remaking of the city.

Now, this crew has the run of City Hall, meeting regularly with Mayor Lee and twisting the arms of supervisors on key votes. Pearce and Ho persuaded longtime progressive Christina Olague to co-chair the scandal-plagued Run Ed Run campaign last year, she was rewarded this year with Lee appointing her to the Board of Supervisors. Pearce has been her close adviser, and most of her campaign cash has been raised by Brown and Pak. Even progressive Sup. Eric Mar admits that Pak in raising money for him, a troubling sign of things to come.



The Occupy San Francisco camp that was cleared by police last week may have been mostly homeless people. And major news media outlets from the start reported that Occupy was dangerous, filthy, and a civic eyesore.

But last fall, the camps were comprised of a huge variety of people that chose to live part or full time on the streets. Students, people with 9-5 jobs, people with service jobs, and the unemployed were all represented. Wealthy people who lived in the financial districts where camps popped up mixed with working-class people who came from suburbs and small towns. Families came out, welcomed in the “child spaces” set up in many Occupy camps throughout the country. Most camps also boasted libraries, free classes, kitchens, food distribution, and medical tents.

As news media focused on gross-out stories of pee on the streets and graphic descriptions of drunk occupiers, they managed to ignore the complex systems that were built in the camps. Nor did anyone mention that homeless people have the right to protest, too.



People who get their information exclusively from mainstream media sources may be surprised at the lack of enthusiasm on the left for President Barack Obama in this crucial election. But that’s probably because they weren’t exposed to the full online furor sparked by Obama’s continuation of his predecessor’s overreaching approach to national security, such as signing the 2012 National Defense Authorization Act, which allows the indefinite detention of those accused of supporting terrorism, even US citizens.

We’ll never know how this year’s election would be different if the corporate media adequately covered the NDAA’s indefinite detention clause and many other recent attacks on civil liberties. What we can do is spread the word and support independent media sources that do cover these stories. That’s where Project Censored comes in.

Project Censored has been documenting inadequate media coverage of crucial stories since it began in 1967 at Sonoma State University. Each year, the group considers hundreds of news stories submitted by readers, evaluating their merits. Students search Lexis Nexis and other databases to see if the stories were underreported, and if so, the stories are fact-checked by professors and experts in relevant fields.

A panel of academics and journalists chooses the Top 25 stories and rates their significance. The project maintains a vast online database of underreported news stories that it has “validated” and publishes them in an annual book. Censored 2013: Dispatches from the Media Revolution will be released Oct. 30.

For the second year in row, Project Censored has grouped the Top 25 list into topical “clusters.” This year, categories include “Human cost of war and violence” and “Environment and health.” Project Censored director Mickey Huff told us the idea was to show how various undercovered stories fit together into an alternative narrative, not to say that one story was more censored than another.

“The problem when we had just the list was that it did imply a ranking,” Huff said. “It takes away from how there tends to be a pattern to the types of stories they don’t cover or underreport.”

In May, while Project Censored was working on the list, another 2012 list was issued: the Fortune 500 list of the biggest corporations, whose influence peppers the Project Censored list in a variety of ways.

Consider this year’s top Fortune 500 company: ExxonMobil. The oil company pollutes everywhere it goes, yet most stories about its environmental devastation go underreported. Weapons manufacturers Lockheed Martin (58 on the Fortune list), General Dynamics (92), and Raytheon (117) are tied into stories about US prisoners in slavery conditions manufacturing parts for their weapons and the underreported war crimes in Afghanistan and Libya.

These powerful corporations work together more than most people think. In the chapter exploring the “Global 1 percent,” writers Peter Phillips and Kimberly Soeiro explain how a small number of well-connected people control the majority of the world’s wealth. In it, they use Censored story number 6, “Small network of corporations run the global economy,” to describe how a network of transnational corporations are deeply interconnected, with 147 of them controlling 40 percent of the global economy’s total wealth.

For example, Philips and Soeiro write that in one such company, BlackRock Inc., “The eighteen members of the board of directors are connected to a significant part of the world’s core financial assets. Their decisions can change empires, destroy currencies, and impoverish millions.”

Another cluster of stories, “Women and Gender, Race and Ethnicity,” notes a pattern of underreporting stories that affect a range of marginalized groups. This broad category includes only three articles, and none are listed in the top 10. The stories reveal mistreatment of Palestinian women in Israeli prisons, including being denied medical care and shackled during childbirth, and the rape and sexual assault of women soldiers in the US military. The third story in the category concerns an Alabama anti-immigration bill, HB56, that caused immigrants to flee Alabama in such numbers that farmers felt a dire need to “help farms fill the gap and find sufficient labor.” So the Alabama Department of Agriculture and Industries approached the state’s Department of Corrections about making a deal where prisoners would replace the fleeing farm workers.

But with revolutionary unrest around the world, and the rise of a mass movement that connects disparate issues together into a simple, powerful class analysis — the 99 percent versus the 1 percent paradigm popularized by Occupy Wall Street — this year’s Project Censored offers an element of hope.

It’s not easy to succeed at projects that resist corporate dominance, and when it does happen, the corporate media is sometimes reluctant to cover it. Number seven on the Top 25 list is the story of how the United Nations designated 2012 the International Year of the Cooperative, recognizing the rapid growth of co-op businesses, organizations that are part-owned by all members and whose revenue is shared equitably among members. One billion people worldwide now work in co-ops.

The Year of the Cooperative is not the only good-news story discussed by Project Censored this year. In Chapter 4, Yes! Magazine‘s Sarah Van Gelder lists “12 ways the Occupy movement and other major trends have offered a foundation for a transformative future.” They include a renewed sense of “political self-respect” and fervor to organize in the United States, debunking of economic myths such as the “American dream,” and the blossoming of economic alternatives such as community land trusts, time banking, and micro-energy installations.

They also include results achieved from pressure on government, like the delay of the Keystone Pipeline project, widespread efforts to override the US Supreme Court’s Citizens United ruling, the removal of dams in Washington state after decades of campaigning by Native American and environmental activists, and the enactment of single-payer healthcare in Vermont.

As Dr. Nafeez Mosaddeq Ahmed writes in the book’s foreword, “The majority of people now hold views about Western governments and the nature of power that would have made them social pariahs 10 or 20 years ago.”

Citing polls from the corporate media, Ahmed writes: “The majority are now skeptical of the Iraq War; the majority want an end to US military involvement in Afghanistan; the majority resent the banks and financial sector, and blame them for the financial crisis; most people are now aware of environmental issues, more than ever before, and despite denialist confusion promulgated by fossil fuel industries, the majority in the United States and Britain are deeply concerned about global warming; most people are wary of conventional party politics and disillusioned with the mainstream parliamentary system.”

“In other words,” he writes, “there has been a massive popular shift in public opinion toward a progressive critique of the current political economic system.”

And ultimately, it’s the public — not the president and not the corporations—that will determine the future. There may be hope after all. Here’s Project Censored’s Top 10 list for 2013:



President George W. Bush is remembered largely for his role in curbing civil liberties in the name of his “war on terror.” But it’s President Obama who signed the 2012 NDAA, including its clause allowing for indefinite detention without trial for terrorism suspects. Obama promised that “my Administration will interpret them to avoid the constitutional conflict” — leaving us adrift if and when the next administration chooses to interpret them otherwise. Another law of concern is the National Defense Resources Preparedness Executive Order that Obama issued in March 2012. That order authorizes the President, “in the event of a potential threat to the security of the United States, to take actions necessary to ensure the availability of adequate resources and production capability, including services and critical technology, for national defense requirements.” The president is to be advised on this course of action by “the National Security Council and Homeland Security Council, in conjunction with the National Economic Council.” Journalist Chris Hedges, along with co-plaintiffs including Noam Chomsky and Daniel Ellsberg, won a case challenging the NDAA’s indefinite detention clause on Sept. 1, when a federal judge blocked its enforcement, but her ruling was overturned on Oct. 3, so the clause is back.



Big banks aren’t the only entities that our country has deemed “too big to fail.” But our oceans won’t be getting a bailout anytime soon, and their collapse could compromise life itself. In a haunting article highlighted by Project Censored, Mother Jones reporter Julia Whitty paints a tenuous seascape — overfished, acidified, warming — and describes how the destruction of the ocean’s complex ecosystems jeopardizes the entire planet, not just the 70 percent that is water. Whitty compares ocean acidification, caused by global warming, to acidification that was one of the causes of the “Great Dying,” a mass extinction 252 million years ago. Life on earth took 30 million years to recover. In a more hopeful story, a study of 14 protected and 18 non-protected ecosystems in the Mediterranean Sea showed dangerous levels of biomass depletion. But it also showed that the marine reserves were well-enforced, with five to 10 times larger fish populations than in unprotected areas. This encourages establishment and maintenance of more reserves.



A plume of toxic fallout floated to the US after Japan’s tragic Fukushima nuclear disaster on March 11, 2011. The US Environmental Protection Agency found radiation levels in air, water, and milk that were hundreds of times higher than normal across the United States. One month later, the EPA announced that radiation levels had declined, and they would cease testing. But after making a Freedom of Information Act request, journalist Lucas Hixson published emails revealing that on March 24, 2011, the task of collecting nuclear data had been handed off from the US Nuclear Regulatory Commission to the Nuclear Energy Institute, a nuclear industry lobbying group. And in one study that got little attention, scientists Joseph Mangano and Janette Sherman found that in the period following the Fukushima meltdowns, 14,000 more deaths than average were reported in the US, mostly among infants. Later, Mangano and Sherman updated the number to 22,000.



We know that FBI agents go into communities such as mosques, both undercover and in the guise of building relationships, quietly gathering information about individuals. This is part of an approach to finding what the FBI now considers the most likely kind of terrorists, “lone wolves.” Its strategy: “seeking to identify those disgruntled few who might participate in a plot given the means and the opportunity. And then, in case after case, the government provides the plot, the means, and the opportunity,” writes Mother Jones journalist Trevor Aaronson. The publication, along with the Investigative Reporting Program at the University of California-Berkeley, examined the results of this strategy, 508 cases classified as terrorism-related that have come before the US Department of Justice since the 9/11 terrorist attacks of 2001. In 243 of these cases, an informant was involved; in 49 cases, an informant actually led the plot. And “with three exceptions, all of the high-profile domestic terror plots of the last decade were actually FBI stings.”



The Federal Reserve, the US’s quasi-private central bank, was audited for the first time in its history this year. The audit report states, “From late 2007 through mid-2010, Reserve Banks provided more than a trillion dollars… in emergency loans to the financial sector to address strains in credit markets and to avert failures of individual institutions believed to be a threat to the stability of the financial system.” These loans had significantly less interest and fewer conditions than the high-profile TARP bailouts, and were rife with conflicts of internet. Some examples: the CEO of JP Morgan Chase served as a board member of the New York Federal Reserve at the same time that his bank received more than $390 billion in financial assistance from the Fed. William Dudley, who is now the New York Federal Reserve president, was granted a conflict of interest waiver to let him keep investments in AIG and General Electric at the same time the companies were given bailout funds. The audit was restricted to Federal Reserve lending during the financial crisis. On July 25, 2012, a bill to audit the Fed again, with fewer limitations, authored by Rep. Ron Paul, passed the House of Representatives. HR459 expected to die in the Senate, but the movement behind Paul and his calls to hold the Fed accountable, or abolish it altogether, seem to be growing.



Reporting on a study by researchers from the Swiss Federal Institute in Zurich didn’t make the rounds nearly enough, according to Censored 2013. They found that, of 43,060 transnational companies, 147 control 40 percent of total global wealth. The researchers also built a model visually demonstrating how the connections between companies — what it calls the “super entity” — works. Some have criticized the study, saying control of assets doesn’t equate to ownership. True, but as we clearly saw in the 2008 financial collapse, corporations are capable of mismanaging assets in their control to the detriment of their actual owners. And a largely unregulated super entity like this is vulnerable to global collapse.



Can something really be censored when it’s straight from the United Nations? According to Project Censored evaluators, the corporate media underreported the UN declaring 2012 to be the International Year of the Cooperative, based on the coop business model’s stunning growth. The UN found that, in 2012, one billion people worldwide are coop member-owners, or one in five adults over the age of 15. The largest is Spain’s Mondragon Corporation, with more than 80,000 member-owners. The UN predicts that by 2025, worker-owned coops will be the world’s fastest growing business model. Worker-owned cooperatives provide for equitable distribution of wealth, genuine connection to the workplace, and, just maybe, a brighter future for our planet.



In January 2012, the BBC “revealed” how British Special Forces agents joined and “blended in” with rebels in Libya to help topple dictator Muammar Gadaffi, a story that alternative media sources had reported a year earlier. NATO admits to bombing a pipe factory in the Libyan city of Brega that was key to the water supply system that brought tap water to 70 percent of Libyans, saying that Gadaffi was storing weapons in the factory. In Censored 2013, writer James F. Tracy makes the point that historical relations between the US and Libya were left out of mainstream news coverage of the NATO campaign; “background knowledge and historical context confirming Al-Qaeda and Western involvement in the destabilization of the Gadaffi regime are also essential for making sense of corporate news narratives depicting the Libyan operation as a popular ‘uprising.'”



On its website, the UNICOR manufacturing corporation proudly proclaims that its products are “made in America.” That’s true, but they’re made in places in the US where labor laws don’t apply, with workers often paid just 23 cents an hour to be exposed to toxic materials with no legal recourse. These places are US prisons. Slavery conditions in prisons aren’t exactly news. It’s literally written into the Constitution; the 13th Amendment, which abolished slavery, outlaws  slavery nor involuntary servitude, except as a punishment for crime whereof the party shall have been duly convicted.” But the article highlighted by Project Censored this year reveal the current state of prison slavery industries, and its ties to war. The majority of products manufactured by inmates are contracted to the Department of Defense. Inmates make complex parts for missile systems, battleship anti-aircraft guns, and landmine sweepers, as well as night-vision goggles, body army, and camouflage uniforms. Of course, this is happening in the context of record high imprisonment in the US, where grossly disproportionate numbers of African Americans and Latinos are imprisoned, and can’t vote even after they’re freed. As psychologist Elliot D. Cohen puts it in this year’s book: “This system of slavery, like that which existed in this country before the Civil War, is also racist, as more than 60 percent of US prisoners are people of color.”



HR 347, sometimes called the “criminalizing protest” or “anti-Occupy” bill, made some headlines. But concerned lawyers and other citizens worry that it could have disastrous effects for the First Amendment right to protest. Officially called the Federal Restricted Grounds Improvement Act, the law makes it a felony to “knowingly” enter a zone restricted under the law, or engage in “disorderly or disruptive” conduct in or near the zones. The restricted zones include anywhere the Secret Service may be — places such as the White House, areas hosting events deemed “National Special Security Events,” or anywhere visited by the president, vice president, and their immediate families; former presidents, vice presidents, and certain family members; certain foreign dignitaries; major presidential and vice presidential candidates (within 120 days of an election); and other individuals as designated by a presidential executive order. These people could be anywhere, and NSSEs have notoriously included the Democratic and Republican National Conventions, Super Bowls, and the Academy Awards. So far, it seems the only time HR 347 has kicked in is with George Clooney’s high-profile arrest outside the Sudanese embassy. Clooney ultimately was not detained without trial — information that would be almost impossible to censor — but what about the rest of us who exist outside of the mainstream media’s spotlight? A book release party will be held at Moe’s Books, 2476 Telegraph, in Berkeley, on Nov. 3. You can listen to Huff’s radio show Friday morning at 8pm on KPFA.

This year, Banned Books Week matters more than ever


Have you ever listened to KPFA’s “Flashpoints”? A friend described it to me, as we listened to an episode featuring San Francisco’s newest poet laureate – our first Latino laureate – Alejandro Murgía, as a “very pointed” radio show. The host, poet Dennis Bernstein, asked a very pointed question about Obama and Romney’s reactions to the anti-Muslim video that’s causing uproar in the Middle East. 

But Murgía changed the subject. What about the racism of the Tucson Unified School District, he asked? Why doesn’t its removal of the Mexican American studies program, and with it books like The Tempest and Pedagogy of the Oppressed, and other books that “emphasize students’ ethnicity rather than their individuality” get talked about more? The more he talked, the more I became convinced that yes, this was a very big deal. 

Luckily, the country has an opportunity to talk about the issue of free speech repression via next week’s 30th annual national celebration of Banned Books Week, Sun/30-Oct. 6.

Ethnic studies isn’t the only literature with targets on its back. The national Banned Books Week site has a handy list of the top 10 titles banned in 2011. People get riled up about Hunger Games? Whoa, we’re still incensed by To Kill A Mockingbird and Brave New World?

Free speech suppression is real! Here’s where you can go to break the ban next week. You’ll also want to keep your eyes on the City Lights blog, where you’ll see talks by famous authors on their fave banned books – we’re waiting eagerly for them to post the John Waters’ reading of Lady Chatterly. On a national level, check the Banned Books Week website for information on joining the country-wide “virtual read-out” that the group is organizing.

“Cracking the News with Project Censored”

Every year, the Guardian publishes Project Censored’s list of the top most suppressed stories in the news. (Because sometimes banning starts before publishing does.) On Monday, get a sneak peek with Mickey Huff from PC, who will break down the big events of the year that you didn’t get to hear about. 

Mon/1, 7:30pm, free

The Booksmith

1644 Haight, SF

“Let’s Talk 50 Shades of Grey”

Perhaps, given the issues we’ve already discussed, the fact that the soccer mom version of a BDSM novel getting restricted in libraries across the country doesn’t seem quite so dire. But sexuality, of course, is still very much a part of us. The library’s conscripted Emily Morse, star of Bravo’s Miss Advised reality show and local self-styled sexpert, to lead a discussion of this bestselling, racy tale of a CEO and his virginal submissive. 

Tue/2, 6pm, free

San Francisco Main Library

100 Larkin, SF

“Out of Print” art reception

The students at City College respond to free speech issues with their art at this Banned Books Week group show.

Tue/2-Wed/5, opening reception Tue/2, 5-8pm, free

Cesar Chavez Student Center gallery, City College of San Francisco 

1650 Holloway, SF

“Read Banned Books Naked”: Naked Girls Reading 

Ophelia Coeur de Noir, Carol Queen, and members of the Twilight Vixen Revue strip down and start turning pages for you from their favorite piece of restricted literature at the SF edition of this national network of nudie-bookworm readings. 

Tue/2, 8pm, $20-25/$35 for two

Stagewerx Theater

446 Valencia, SF

On the Cheap Listings


On the Cheap listings are compiled by Soojin Chang. Submit items for the listings at For further information on how to submit items for the listings, see Picks.


Radical Directing Lecture Series: Shari Frilot San Francisco Art Institute, 800 Chestnut, SF. (415) 771-7020, 7:30 p.m., free. Shari Frilot is the curator of the Sundance Film Festival’s New Frontier Program. In this lecture, she will discuss the cinematic works that are being created at the crossroads where art, film, and new media technology meet.


“Coloring Outside the Lines: Black Cartoonists As Social Commentators” panel discussion City College of San Francisco John Adams Campus, 1835 Hayes, SF. (415) 239-3580, 1:30 p.m.-3:30 p.m., free. Cartoonists are like modern jesters — they poke fun and offer criticism, but we can’t help but love them. Nowhere is this more apparent than in funnies that deal with race in our society. Join curator Kheven LaGrone and guests in a discussion of how black cartoonists have brought in a wide range of perspectives to racial issues and social prejudices.

“Project Censored with Mickey Huff” book release event Modern Times Bookstore Collective, 2919 24th St, SF. (415) 282-9246, 7 p.m., free. Mainstream media seems to air more stories about cats running onto soccer pitches and M.I.A.’s middle finger than relevant news. Author Mickey Huff presents the top 25 underreported news stories you may have missed, and delves in to censorship issues in the relentless fight against Big Media.

“Beyond Cage-Free” panel discussion Port Commission Hearing Room, Ferry Building, 1 Embarcadero, SF. (415) 291-3276, 6:30 p.m.-8:30 p.m., $5 suggested donation. The cage-free label promises eggs from unpenned hens, but can belie farm environments that are much more tragic than the happy picture on cartons would lead us to believe. Join the Center for Urban Education and Sustainable Agriculture in a panel discussion with Lexicon of Sustainability founder Douglas Gayeton, Ferry Plaza farmers, and local ranch owners.

San Francisco Childhood: Memories of a Great City Seen Through the Eyes of Its Children author discussion Green Arcade, 1680 Market, SF. (415) 431-6800, 7 p.m., free. This city has always been a hoot. Editor and author John van der Zee has put together writings dedicated to the magic of San Francisco by figures like Joe DiMaggio, Jerry Garcia, Margaret Cho, and Carol Channing. Come hear about how the city felt to them, and reflect on whether it’s the same for you today.


SF Beer Olympics Impala, 501 Broadway, SF. (415) 982-5299, 8:30 p.m., $10. To start the night, compete in a game of flip cup, beer pong, and relays with strangers, friends, and soon-to-be friends. Afterwards, Olympic champions and losers are welcome to meander upstairs for free admission to the Impala night club.

A night with photographer Robert Altman Wix Lounge, 3169 22nd St, SF. (415) 329-4609, 7-10 p.m., free. Robert Altman not only survived the 1960’s but photographed some of the best parts of it. He will be talking about his work for Rolling Stone and his experiences photographing icons like Mick Jagger and Bill Graham. Come hang out with this all-around cool dude.


“A Love Supreme” Harlem Renaissance art celebration First Unitarian Church of Oakland, 685 14th St, Oakl. (510) 893-6129, 6 p.m.-9 p.m., donations accepted. The Harlem Renaissance brought on an explosion of culture and redefined music, art, and literature in American history. Join local queer poets of color in a delicious potluck dinner and music-poetry session to celebrate how cultural richness and literary splendor have not stopped growing.

The Dark Wave book release party Fecal Face Dot Gallery, 2277 Mission, SF. (415) 500-2166, 6-9 p.m., free. You may know Jay Howell from his zine Punks Git Cut! where he sketched out an assortment of naked people, dogs, and boners. Howell is now bringing his majestic artwork as the backdrop of his new book — a literary tale of a black metal band’s disenchanted lead singer.


Art Beat Bazaar music, poetry, and pop-up indie-mart Starry Plough, 3101 Shattuck, Berk. (519) 841-2082, 3-7 p.m., free. This is the first of the monthly community event Art Beat Foundation will be hosting as a way to showcase local musicians, spoken word artists, comedians, and visual artists. Let folk-rock band Upstairs Downstairs be the musical soundtrack to your trip to the quirky pop-up store, where you will find handmade treasures by artists like Cori Crooks and Brownie 510

Yiddish sing-along with Sharon Bernstein Jewish Community Center of San Francisco, 3200 California, SF. (415) 292-1200, 5-6:30 p.m., free. This musical event is one part of KlezCalifornia’s Yiddish Culture Festival, a three-day event for anyone who is interested in Yiddish literature, interactions between musical cultures, klezmer music, and/or Eastern European Jewish history. Lyric books will be provided.


Open mic night with Les Gottesman and Bill Crossman Bird and Beckett Books and Records, 653 Chenery, SF. (415) 586-3733, 7 p.m., free. Les Gottesman and Bill Crossman are poets, activists, and professors who are coming to share their latest and favorite works in this literary night. Gottesman’s words are said to be goosebump-invoking and Crossman’s smooth piano skills are not to be missed.


“Laissez les bons temps rouler” Mardis Gras party Jazz Heritage Center, 1320 Fillmore, SF. (415) 346-5299, 5 p.m., $5 for wristbands. Make it a merry Fat Tuesday this year by going out to the Fillmore District for a neighborhood party of stilt walkers, jugglers, and face painters. 10 Fillmore Street venues will have live music and Mardi Gras-themed drinks and treats for under 10 dollars.

“Youthquake: High Style in the Swinging Sixties” American Decorative Arts forum and exhibit Koret Auditorium at de Young Museum, 50 Hagiwara Tea Garden, SF. (415) 750-3600, 7 p.m., $15. Long hair and bellbottoms marked the fashion and music scene during the 1960’s, and a similarly defiant idiosyncrasy took over home décor. Join Mitchell Owens of Architectural Digest in a lecture on the bold and innovative interior style moves that were made during the exuberance of the youthquake.

“Feast of Words: A Literary Potluck” SOMArts Cultural Center, 934 Brannan, SF. (415) 552-1770, 7-9 p.m., $10 in advance; $5 with a potluck dish; $12 at door. Writers are often thought of as caffeine junkies who survive off of coffee and cigarettes. But hey, we eat just like any other Joe Schmo. At this literary event, foodies and writers unite to share (both food and literature) and learn about local cultures and flavors.

Censorship — or something else?


Project Censored highlight stories that didn’t make the national mainstream news media. And in this issue, we’ve got a story that shows something about how news judgments are made in two of San Francisco’s largest newsrooms.

Journalist Peter Byrne (who once worked at SF Weekly and wrote some critical stories about us) shares the tale of what happened to a story that the San Francisco Chronicle assigned him — but never published. The people at the Chron and the Bay Citizen (a nonprofit whose work runs in the New York Times) have different perspectives on what happened in this case — and whether powerful people like Richard Blum influence whether critical stories end up in print. Readers can decide for themselves how to see this situation.

But what was striking to us at the Guardian — and why we chose to print both Byrne’s account and the final story that the Chronicle chose not to print below — was that the suppressed story was actually quite tame and well-balanced after Chronicle writers, editors, and lawyers spent months working on it (Bay Citizen also invested weeks of work and never published anything relating to the story).

It simply raised the issue of whether the University of California should be doing private equity investment deals that are overseen by wealthy, politically connected people like Blum, whose own funds were also involved. It ultimately wasn’t a screaming indictment or accusation of illegal activity, but just a modest peek behind the curtain of an important institution whose focus has strayed from its core mission of serving college students.

We reviewed email exchanges that confirm the basic outline of Byrne’s story, conducted some interviews that guided our editing of this story, and included responses from the Chronicle and Bay Citizen at the end of the story. Ultimately, whether this is a case of censorship or something else, we thought it deserved to find its way into print. (Steven T. Jones)



Why two Bay Area newsrooms dismissed my story about conflicts of interest in UC investment deals


By Peter Byrne

In September 2010, the journalism website published my investigative series, “The Investors Club: How University of California Regents Spin Public Money into Private Profit.” It detailed how members of the UC Board of Regent’s investment committee oversaw the investment of nearly $1.5 billion of UC’s money into business deals in which they themselves held significant stakes.

One of the conflicted regents was Richard Blum, the financier husband of U.S. Sen., Dianne Feinstein (D-CA); another was Paul Wachter, a business partner of then-Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger (who is also a regent).

The story caused a stir, particularly at a time when student groups were protesting draconian cuts and tuition hikes. Several newsweeklies published the series. The Los Angeles Times ran a story about my findings. And the investigation was honored with journalism awards by several local, state, and national organizations. So I was not surprised when Nanette Asimov, the higher education beat reporter for the San Francisco Chronicle, called me last October.

“I know it’s a Herculean task, but is it possible to charbroil your opus down to 800 words?” she asked. The paper offered to pay me $350 for the story.

Intrigued, I squeezed the investigation that had paid $7,000 to produce into a few paragraphs. Little did I know that Asimov and I would be expanding and cutting and tweaking this story for the next eight months, as publication was delayed again and again by foot-dragging editors.

But I was patient. Even after Metro Editor Audrey Cooper told me that Blum had “threatened” Chronicle editors if they ran the tale, I waited several more months before going public. It is my belief that journalists must as accountable for what we do not print as for what we do print.

When Elizabeth Lesly Stevens, a staff writer at the Bay Citizen, inquired about the delay in publishing the story, I told her what I knew and gave her dozens of emails between myself and Chronicle staff. Ironically, the Bay Citizen never ran the story about the story.



It quickly became obvious that the complex financial story would not easily squeeze into a few paragraphs. But since the Hearst Corporation had cut the Chronicle’s reportorial throat several years ago by laying off its investigative enterprise staff, there appeared to be no one left capable of editing it. Asimov had to constantly badger editors to work on the story.

Shortly before Thanksgiving 2010, Chronicle business reporter Tom Abate got involved. He sent me an outline indicating places where I should insert a “FIRE BREATHING QUOTE” and then a “QUOTE OF OUTRAGE.” The idea of daily news writing, he told me, was “make the readers spit up their coffee.” Okay! I dreamed that the streets of San Francisco would soon flow with rivers of regurgitated java.

By early January 2011, Asimov and I had worked up a coherent version, focusing on Blum and Wachter’s conflicts of interest. On January 31, Assistant City Editor Terry Robertson emailed, “I’m aiming to get it in the paper by the end of the week.” A few days later, he backtracked, “Well, I just found out that the story needs to be lawyered. That throws a bit of a wrench into the works. Sorry.”

By mid-February, Robertson had evidently lost interest. Determined to see it in print, Asimov recruited a veteran Chronicle reporter, John Wildermuth, to edit it. He whipped it into shape at 1,600 words. Now it was time for Asimov to call Blum for comment, since he refuses to talk to me.

According to Asimov, Blum was “spitting nails.” He called the allegations of conflicts of interest made by an array of ethics experts “obscene.” He said, “Nobody has ever told me that we had to ask UC for an OK before we invested in something. I wouldn’t be on the Board of Regents if I have to ask for permission to go to the bathroom.” And I was told he threatened the Chronicle with legal action if the story was published.

In late March, the copy was again sent to Cooper. On April 11, she decided it needed yet more attention from the lawyers.



On April 14, the Daily Nexus, which is the student newspaper at UC Santa Barbara, reported on a group of students who had gathered hundreds of signatures on a petition to the state Attorney General asking for an investigation based upon the conflicts of interest identified in the investigation. In the article, UC scholar Gray Brechin opined that the Chronicle was failing to print my story due “to the political influence of Blum and Feinstein.”

Shortly after the story was posted online, Cooper called Daily Nexus Editor Elliot Rosenfeld. She complained that Brechin’s comment about the Chronicle was “libelous.” The student editor removed the quote from the newspaper’s website.

When I asked Cooper about this, she emailed, “As for the Nexus, I think it’s a learning experience for them. As I told the paper’s editor and Dr. Brechin, I have never been intimidated into publishing anything—nor to refrain from publishing an article. And it won’t happen in the future, regardless of whether the pressure comes from a scientist, another journalist, or a senator.”

Then Cooper stopped responding to my emails.



On May 6, I received an email from the Bay Citizen’s Stevens. She had been at a dinner party with Brechin. She asked me why the Chronicle story was languishing. She said the Bay Citizen might publish it. I told her I was not ready to go public.

On May 18, I emailed Asimov about the status of the story. She said the lawyer had it.

I called Cooper. She told me, “I would like to get [the story] in for Memorial Day because we need the copy. … I am not responding to emails because I don’t want any of this shit in print. … Dick Blum can go fuck himself! Excuse my language. I don’t know the guy. I am not afraid of him. If he is doing something shady I want to publish that … [but] I am not going to be bullied into not printing it by Dick Blum and I’m not going to be bullied into printing it. … The fact that he’s called the editor and has an attorney in waiting makes us want to do it more. … I absolutely want to run it. I would like to run it next weekend.”

I asked if Blum was threatening the newspaper.

Cooper replied, “Yeah. The only people who know that are me and the executive editor and the managing editor. I don’t think Nanette knows that. So you are now like the fourth person that knows that besides Dick Blum. … People threaten to sue us all the time. But if we are going to mess with, you know, a billionaire, we are going to be a little cautious.”

A few weeks later, on June 2, I asked Asimov if she knew about Blum’s threat. She replied, “Of course, I knew. Heck, Blum told me as well. The presence of Blum’s lawyers won’t influence whether we run the piece, however. But this is getting increasingly ridiculous, and I’ve asked someone to find out the status for us.”

On June 27, Asimov told me that the “final version” of the story would “run over the weekend” and that it had been cut to 1,200 words. It did not run.

On July 6, I asked Asimov what was going on. She replied, “What happened is that the lawyer looked at it, and made some tweaks. Most were minor, but a small number of them struck me as simply wrong—like he didn’t understand the point. So I told Audrey, and its been the big chill ever since. So I don’t currently know what’s happening.”

That same day, July 6, the Chronicle ran a profile of Feinstein praising her as “the most effective politician in California.” Her well-documented conflicts of interest with her husband’s various businesses were not mentioned.

A week later, July 12, the Chronicle printed an op-ed by Blum in which he said online education is the future. He did not mention that Blum Capital has a multi-billion-dollar stake in two of the nation’s largest for-profit education corporations, each with a growing online component. Nor did the oped note that UC had invested $53 million in these companies after Blum joined the investment committee in 2004.

On July 19, Asimov told me, “The story was re-sent to the attorneys last night with the latest edits.” She said that nothing was likely to happened for at least two weeks since people were going on vacation. She said she would “leave [Cooper] a note saying that if the lawyer approves it, you must approve the final version.” And that was the last time I heard from anyone at the Hearst Corporation.

A few days later, Stevens contacted me again. She wanted to write about my story for the Bay Citizen’s section in The Sunday New York Times. Not being gifted with second sight, I did not know if the Chronicle would ever run the story, but they damn sure had let it get rigor mortis. So, I gave Stevens the email trail. I warned her that she might run into a similar problem at the Bay Citizen, which was founded by Wall Street financier Warren Hellman. It turns out that Hellman sits on the Board of Directors of the Berkeley Endowment Management Company, which controls half a billion dollars in UC Berkeley Foundation investments. Public records show that Hellman’s investment bank is partnered with the same two private equity funds that count both UC and Blum Capital as limited partners. And one of the Founding Patrons of Bay Citizen is the Blum Family Foundation. And one of the board members of the nonprofit Bay Citizen is Jeffery Ubben, a former managing partner of Blum Capital. But I digress.

[Editor’s Note: The Bay Citizen’s newsroom is run independently of its board members, and journalists there say none of the funders have influenced the selection or editing of news stories.]

A week later, Stevens informed me that the story was being pushed to the following week. And then she went on a month-long vacation and the story died. Go figure.

But Stevens did alert the Chronicle staff to my complaints, and the fact that I had provided her with emails and documentation to back up my claim that the Chronicle had bowed to Blum’s threat.

On August 8, Asimov emailed a UC instructor, Kathryn Klar, who had inquired about the status of my story. Asimov recounted, “I worked for nearly a year to get Peter Byrne’s—frankly awful—story in good enough shape to run in the Chronicle. It was poorly written and confusing. He will tell you how hard I worked to get that thing ready for publication. … By the end of July, the story was in great shape and the lawyers were taking a final look.

“And then Peter did the unthinkable. He forwarded a year’s worth of my private correspondence to another journalistic organization—not a newspaper—who then contacted me and others at the paper threatening to write a story about how the Chronicle had suppressed Peter’s story. … They behaved like blackmailers. Of course they had no story to write, and they didn’t. Needless to say, Peter’s story will not run in the Chronicle now. But it was his actions, not ours, that led to its death. We, my editors included, liked the story and were pleased that it was finally in great shape. Even the lawyers agreed.

“Its such a shame.”

Editors note: We asked Chronicle Managing Editor Steve Proctor for his response. He told us:

“The decision not to publish the story was made by the paper’s two top editors, me and Ward Bushee. After reviewing Mr. Byrne’s previously published articles and his interactions with the Chronicle, we decided that we were not comfortable publishing his work.

“The story was brought to the Chronicle after having been previously published on a journalism web site. The editors here who worked with Mr. Byrne decided that his reporting would need to be double-checked if the piece were to appear in some form in the Chronicle. This was done intermittently, over a period of time, as there was no urgency to publish given that a version of the story had already appeared.

“We want to be clear on one point. The Chronicle is never intimidated by threats made prior to the publication of a newspaper story — and they are hardly infrequent. We make all of our decisions about publishing stories based on the high standards for journalism that we seek to uphold in the newspaper every day.” Bay Citizen reporter Elizabeth Lesly Stevens told us: “After much reporting we ultimately decided that Peter’s story was a lot less interesting than he thought it was, and wouldn’t make for a very worthwhile column in the NY Times.”

Editors note: This is the final version of the story that was supposed to run in the Chron:

By Peter Byrne

The University of California has invested hundreds of millions of dollars in business deals in which two regents who have helped oversee UC’s investment portfolio also had financial interests, records show.

Since 2003, UC has invested in five private equity deals in which Regent Richard Blum also had investment interests, according to federal, state and university documents. Regent Paul Wachter had a substantial financial interest in one of those deals.

In such cases, Blum and Wachter were in a position to benefit — or lose — from university investments they oversaw. Blum served on the investment committee from 2004 to February 2010. Wachter joined in 2004 and is its current chairman.

Both regents deny any wrongdoing. The university’s chief attorney has examined the investment overlap and concluded they were likely coincidental.

Yet some ethics experts say the overlapping investments create an appearance of conflicted interests. Critics say the deals may violate state and UC ethics guidelines.

Blum, an investment banker and financier who was appointed to the regents in 2002 by then-Gov. Gray Davis, is the husband of Sen. Dianne Feinstein. Wachter is CEO of Main Street Advisors,?a financial management company. He was named to the board by Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger in 2004.

The regents’ 10-member investment committee sets policy for and oversees the management of UC’s $70.8 billion as of March 2011 portfolio of investments, which includes the retirement, endowment and campus foundation funds. UC’s chief investment officer, Marie Berggren, regularly reports to the committee, explaining where the money is being invested and how well the investments are doing.

The investment committee’s conflict-of-interest policy prohibits committee members from telling the investment officer what specific funds to invest in. But they can, and do, direct her to invest greater or lesser amounts in certain categories of funds.

Committee members must also adhere to conflict-of-interest guidelines established by the state and UC, both of which prohibit officials from influencing or voting on matters in which there is even an appearance of a personal conflict of interest. In particular, UC’s policy says a conflict exists “if it is reasonably foreseeable that the decision will have a material financial effect on one or more of your economic interests.” A material interest is defined as being worth more than $2,000.


Blum had investments of more than $1 million in a number of the business partnerships that UC put money into, while Wachter had up to $1 million invested in one of the deals.

UC’s general counsel, Charles Robinson, examined these investments in 2010. Robinson concluded that the investment overlap was probably coincidental, and that neither Blum nor Wachter improperly steered public funds.

“Any overlap is substantially more likely to be the result of independent decisions by like-minded investors than the result of coordination,” Robinson reported.

Blum called the idea that he would coordinate investments and profit from UC’s financial dealings “ridiculous” and even “obscene.”

“Nobody has ever told me that we had to ask the UC for an OK before we invested in something,” Blum told The Chronicle. “I wouldn’t be on the Board of Regents if I have to ask for permission to go to the bathroom.”

Wachter also dismissed the idea that the overlapping investments represent a conflict. “It just doesn’t make sense at all,” Wachter said, adding that he’s surprised that he and Blum had so few overlapping investments over the years, given the extent of their holdings. “The key thing is that you’re not telling each other what to do.”

But ethics experts say conflict of interest laws and regulations do not allow for such overlaps. “The regents’ overlapping investments pose clear conflicts of interest,” said Kirk Hanson, executive director of the Markkula Center for Applied Ethics at Santa Clara University. “It is really striking that members of the investment committee stood to gain so significantly from co-investing with UC.”

Robert Weissman, president of the government watchdog group Public Citizen, was more direct: “A third-grader can see that what the regents on the investment committee were doing is unethical.”


Minutes from committee meetings show Blum and Wachter consistently voted to instruct the investment officer to increase the amount of money invested in private equity funds, a sector in which the two regents have substantial financial interests.

More importantly, some of those investments were tied to private equity deals in which Blum and Wachter held financial stakes.

In one example, Blum, Wachter, and UC all invested in private equity funds that partnered to buy the Las Vegas casino corporation Harrah’s Entertainment in 2008.

It worked this way: The regents’ investment committee oversaw an investment of $199 million in four private equity funds that helped finance the $30 billion Harrah’s deal, according to documents filed with the U.S. Securities and Exchange Commission and UC financial records.

Blum held “more than $1 million” in one these funds, called TPG Capital V, according to Feinstein’s economic disclosure statement. Wachter owned “up to $1 million” in two of the funds that financed the Harrah’s buyout, according to his financial disclosure statements.

Blum denied any conflict. He said the money resulted from a 2006 merger between Blum’s Newbridge Capital and TPG Capital. Newbridge became TPG Asia, with Blum as its co-chairman.

As a result of the merger, “I wound up having some extremely minor — less than 1 percent — interest in some of (TPG Capital’s) funds,” Blum said, referring to his $1 million-plus asset.

Blum said he did not engineer the arrangement, and is never consulted on matters concerning TPG Capital, which did the deal with Harrah’s.

“You couldn’t pay me to invest in a casino,” he said. Wachter agreed that the Harrah’s case presents no conflict. “With investors, there will always be overlap. The point is, if one of the regents told the UC to invest in a particular fund, manager or company, that would be a different conversation. But that’s what our policy prohibits.”


During his six years on the investment committee, Blum had a financial interest in four other deals in which UC was involved, according to SEC filings and UC records.

They involved Univision and Freescale Semiconductor in 2007, Sungard Data Systems in 2005, and Kinetic Concepts in 2004.

Blum said he had no control over any of the deals involving TPG Capital, but said his firm, Blum Capital Investments, was very involved with Kinetic Concepts.

He scoffed at the idea that he engineered any UC investment to enrich himself. “This is how ridiculous it is,” Blum said. “So someone’s going to whine because of $1 million? And somehow I’m taking advantage of the UC? I probably give away a bigger percentage of my net worth” than many people.

Private equity, in any case, has not been a cash cow for the university. In February, investment officer Berggren reported that the 10-year rate of return on the private equity portion of the UC retirement fund was averaging less than 1 percent annually, far less than the 6.5 percent return of UC’s fixed-income portfolio during the same period. Nanette Asimov contributed to this report.

On the Cheap Listings


Events listings are compiled by Caitlin Donohue. Submit items for the listings at For further information on how to submit items for the listings, see Weekly Picks.


Holiday Ice Rink in Union Square Union Square, SF. Sun-Thu 10am-10pm. Fri and Sat 10am-11:30pm. Runs through January 17. $4.50 for kids and $9 for adults before 6pm; $5 for kids, $9.50 for adults after. It’s time to glide into the holidays (or bruise your bottom) as this annual tradition opens for all comers on two blades. E may not have snow, but we’ll sure as heck have Celine Dion belting through the speakers at young couples.

How to Do Physics Experiments at Home Bazaar Café, 5927 California, SF. (415) 831-5620, 7pm, free. Learn how to melt glass in your microwave, make your own speaker, speed up time (or at least your watch) – Maker Faire favorite Zeke Crossover of Physics Circus teaches you some snazzy physics tricks at the invaluable monthly How To series at Bazaar cafe.



SF Etsy Team Show Shawna Stoney, 390 Kansas, SF. (415) 863-9700, Noon-6pm, free. Kickstart your holiday shopping (or just pick up some ideas for the future) as’s San Franciscan craftspeople band together to present an “Everything Handmade Show.” Cute and ingenious goodies galore – all locally made and often one-of-a-kind.


Censored 2011 Revolution Books, 2425 Channing Way, Berk. (510) 848-1196, 7pm, free. From “Capitalist Forces Reaking Havoc in Africa” and “Internet Privacy and Personal Access at Risk” to “Global Plans to Replace the Dollar” and “US Funds and Supports the Taliban,” Project Censored has exposed the major stories reported about least in the mainstream media – in one handy annual compendium. Censored 2011 coauthors Mickey Huff and Peter Phillips discuss 20 of the big stories you might have missed, and how they affect us all.



Big Things Grand Opening Kitsch gallery, 3265 17th St., SF; 6pm, free. Big Things, a new local website dedicated to art, fashion, design, travel, people, “and other inspirational things” is launching, officially, with this giant shindig. Featuring drawings, paintings, video, sculpture and installations by a bevy of artists, music by kids from the the SF Rock Project and DJs April Knows Best and Ben Bracken. Plus, colorful objects to take home!



“A Community Writing Itself” Book Launch Meridian Gallery, 535 Powell, SF. (415) 398-7229, 7:30pm, $10 (no one turned away for lack of funds). Local author and poet Sarah Rosenthal has compiled a book of her many fruitful and titillating conversations with Bay Area vanguard writers and experimentalists. This launch party will include poetry readings and Q&As with Truong Tranm Juliana Spahr, Stephen Ratcliffe, and Elizabeth Robinson.

“The Nutrition Perscription” Institute on Aging, 3600 Geary, SF; (415) 273-5481, 8pm, free. The San Francisco Vegetarian Society invites Dr. Donald Forrester to speak about diet and its relationship to the major degenerative diseases plaguing Americans today. (Hint: drop that French fry!) Dr. Forrester has a background in both family practice medicine and chemical engineering, and has more than 30 years experience in the field.

Writers with Drinks Make-Out Room, 3225 22nd St., SF.; 7:30pm-9:30pm, $5-$10 sliding scale. This monthly literary hoot continues to augment the heady with the fizzy. This time around, Richard Kadrey, Debbie Stoller, Deb Campo, Larry-Bob Roberts, and Indigo Moor take the stage and freshen your wordy cocktail.



Long Now: Rachel Sussman presents “The World’s Oldest Living Organisms” Cowell Theater, Fort Mason Center, Pier 2, SF;; 7 p.m., $10. long Now, the organizazion dedicated to slower living, presents a lecture and showing of Rachel Sussman’s photographs of some of the world’s longest-living beings, including 400,000-year-old Siberian bacteria.


Mommy’s Playdate Good Vibrations Polk Gallery, 1620 Polk, SF; (415) 345-0400, 7pm-9pm, free. Attend this afterhours mixer with like-minded moms who want to learn how to put some spice back into their sex lives. Enjoy a “Mommi-tini,” learn tips from Good Vibes sexologist Dr. Carol Queen, meet mommy writer Billee Sharp, quick-witted author of Fix It, Make It, Grow It, Bake It: The D.I.Y. Guide to the Good Life.

The news that didn’t make the news in SF


Every year, the Guardian features the Top 10 Project Censored stories presented by the Sonoma State University project that spends all year analyzing which stories the mainstream media missed. But which stories did not find their way into the mainstream press here in the San Francisco Bay Area?

News outlets other than the Guardian typically ignore Project Censored (unless you count SF Weekly’s snark), so you might say that even Censored tends to be censored. Other than that, we note that issues not hand-delivered via press release or PR campaign might receive less attention than those obvious stories. Using a rather unscientific process of surfing alternative news sites online to find out which stories didn’t get a lot of play in the mainstream, we’ve come up with an assortment of Local Censored stories – though this is by no means a comprehensive list. What other news didn’t make the news?

Local Censored stories:

* What we didn’t hear about when PG&E was pushing Prop 16

Speaking at an informational hearing in Sacramento in February 2010 about Pacific Gas & Electric Co.’s ballot initiative, Proposition 16, former California Energy Commissioner John Geesman noted that the state’s most powerful utility company was using customer money to finance a bid to change the state constitution for its own purposes. Prop 16, which earned a thumbs-down from voters in the June election, would have created a two-thirds majority vote requirement before municipalities could set up electricity services separate from PG&E. While there was no shortage of reporting about the astounding sums of cash that PG&E sank into Prop. 16, hardly anyone aside from Geesman picked up on the more salient point of what PG&E was not spending its money on.

“California’s investor-owned utilities face a Himalayan task in modernizing our electricity system and building the infrastructure necessary to serve a growing economy,” Geesman wrote on his blog, titled PG&E Ballot Initiative Fact Sheet. “They ought to focus on that, rather than manipulating the electorate to kneecap their few competitors.” It is now abundantly clear that PG&E’s aging gas pipelines in San Bruno were badly in need of replacement – and the utility’s neglect opened the door the catastrophic explosion that occurred Sept. 9, resulting in tragic loss of life and destroying homes. “The current leadership at PG&E has lost its way. Nobody is minding the ship,” senator Mark Leno told the Guardian shortly after the blast. “Enough with the self-initiated, self-serving political campaigns. … How about focusing on the current mission — to provide gas and electricity safely, without death and destruction?”

PG&E Ballot Initiative Fact Sheet:
Huffington Post:

* What you might not have read about Johannes Mehserle’s murder trial
If you looked to,, the San Francisco Bay View, or for coverage of Johannes Meherle’s murder trial for the fatal shooting of Oscar Grant, then you got a different picture from the one offered by mainstream Bay Area news outlets. There may well be plenty of details about the trial that didn’t make the cut for mainstream news, but one particular point caught our eye as something that should’ve warranted more prominent coverage, or at very least sparked deeper questions from mainstream press. According to the witness testimony of Jackie Bryson, who was with Grant on the train platform the night of the shooting, Grant’s friends immediately urged BART police to call an ambulance after Grant had been shot, but police didn’t do it right away.

Here’s the report from Block Report Radio: “Jack Bryson said he yelled at Oscar after he was shot to stay awake and to the police to call the ambulance. The unidentified officer who was on Bryson declared, ‘We’ll call the ambulance when you shut the fuck up!’ Bryson went on to say that he was never searched on the Fruitvale platform or at the Lake Merritt BART police station, which seems ridiculous if you consider the earlier testimony of former BART police officers Dominici and Pirone, who were involved in the murder and who testified last week that they had felt threatened by Oscar Grant and his friends.” So, if it’s true that Grant’s friends were told to “shut the fuck up” when they were urging BART cops to call an ambulance, and that the supposedly threatening parties weren’t ever searched, why didn’t these points receive as much attention in the media as, say, the claim that years earlier, Grant may have resisted arrest? After witnessing the death of his friend, Bryson said in his testimony, he was detained for hours while wearing handcuffs pulled so tight that his wrists hurt, only to be told afterward that since he had not been read his Miranda rights, he was not under arrest. To be fair, the detail about calling the ambulance did make it into the Chronicle, near the bottom of a blog post, under the subhead, “Friend’s claim.”

Block Report Radio:

* Homelessness on the rise in San Francisco

The controversy surrounding Prop L, a proposed ordinance to ban sitting and lying down on the sidewalk, has been widely reported on — but there’s a more pressing issue related to homelessness that hasn’t gotten nearly as much ink. An article in New America Media, “Shelters predict homeless count to skyrocket,” highlighted a perceived surge in San Francisco’s homeless population, evidenced by overwhelmed service providers who can hardly keep up with demand. “We’re serving 200,000 more meals per year than two years ago, but we haven’t had the capacity to add staff,” the chief executive officer of the Glide Foundation noted in the article. The drop-in center, she added, no longer had enough seats to accommodate those in need. According to a fact sheet issued by the Coalition on Homelessness in July of 2009, 45 percent of respondents to a COH survey were experiencing homelessness for the first time. The overwhelming majority of respondents, 78 percent, became homeless while living in San Francisco.

New America Media:
Coalition on Homelessness:

* The long wait for Section 8

It isn’t easy for a tenant with a Section 8 voucher to find housing in the San Francisco Bay Area. In San Francisco, there’s a barrier to getting the voucher in the first place, since the waitlist is currently closed. Those who have vouchers are often passed over by landlords, and the string of denials can drive people to unstable housing situations such as extended hotel stays. An article in POOR Magazine features the story of Linda William, a woman who left a San Francisco public housing project with a Section 8 voucher in hand only to embark on a wild goose chase, ultimately winding up in a low-end motel outside Vallejo. “Well whaddya know,” William told the POOR magazine reporter, “I found closed wait lists on almost all the low-income housing units in all of those places and all the rest of the landlords wouldn’t even return my calls when I told them I had section 8.” An article by Dean Preston of Tenants Together that appeared in BeyondChron, meanwhile, spotlights the issue of landlord discrimination against Section 8 tenants.  “In the Section 8 voucher program, participating tenants pay 30 percent of their rent and the Housing Authority pays the balance to the landlord,” Preston writes. “It takes years for eligible tenants to be able to participate in the program. Once tenants get off the wait list, the landlord must sign a payment contract with the housing authority in order to receive the portion of the rent paid by the government. By refusing to sign onto the program, some landlords seek to force rent controlled tenants into situations where they cannot pay their rent.”
POOR Magazine:

* San Francisco’s trashy secret

Despite being thought of as a beacon of sustainability, San Francisco’s not-so-green waste stream is something that didn’t make the front page of many papers – except, of course, this one. Sarah Phelan’s “Tale of Two Landfills,” a Guardian cover story this past June, examined San Francisco’s decidedly unenlightened policy of transporting waste far outside of the city despite a goal of reducing waste to zero in the next 10 years. Here’s an excerpt: “It’s a reminder of a fact most San Franciscans don’t think much about: The city exports mountains of garbage into somebody else’s backyard. While residents have gone a long way to reduce the waste stream as city officials pursue an ambitious strategy of zero waste by 2020, we’re still trucking 1,800 tons of garbage out of San Francisco every day. And now we’re preparing to triple the distance that trash travels. ‘The mayor of San Francisco is encouraging us to be a green city by growing veggies, raising wonderful urban gardens, composting green waste and food and restaurant scraps,’ Irene Creps, a San Franciscan who owns a ranch in Wheatland, told us. ‘So why is he trying to dump San Francisco’s trash in a beautiful rural area?’”


* The real unemployment rate

The Bureau of Labor Statistics makes a distinction between so-called “discouraged workers” who have stopped looking for jobs, and the jobless who are actively seeking employment, so the official unemployment rate (9.7 percent in San Francisco, according to the most recent data) may be much lower than the actual unemployment rate.

We haven’t seen any brilliant local reporting on this issue, but the problem is summed up nicely in this YouTube video produced by a personal finance software firm.

On the Cheap listings


On the Cheap listings are compiled by Paula Connelly. Submit items for the listings at


Bad Movie Night Argus Lounge, 3197 Mission, SF; (415) 824-1447. 8pm, $2. If you’ve got a bad film you’ve been secretly wishing to screen, here’s your chance to share it. Bring any film on DVD, made by you, that is under 10 minutes and enter for a chance to win a best worst mystery prize. Proceeds benefit the Cut and Run Tour, a traveling film festival specializing in short, avant-garde, and experimental film. With DJ Squid spinning punk, core, and alt rock.

"Hot and Cold Extreme Environments" Randall Museum, 199 Museum Way, SF; (415) 554-9600. 7:30pm, free. Join planetary scientist Chris McKay, from the Space Science Division of the NASA Ames Research Center, for a presentation on life in extreme environments and how it is relevant to the search for life in the Solar System.

Ten Fingers Café Royale, 800 Post, SF; (415) 441-4099. 8pm, free. Everyone has a story to tell, so come share yours at this live storytelling event where performers have a chance to win $150 or be featured on NPR’s Snap Judgment. The only rules are: no reading, keep it under 10 minutes, and aim for nonfiction. To sign up in advance, email


El Grito Bicentennial Jack London Square, Franklin at Water, Oakl.; 4pm, free. Celebrate the 200 year anniversary of Mexican independence from Spanish rule at this outdoor festival featuring artists, craft vendors, live music, activities, and more.


Inside Storytime Café Royale, 800 Post, SF; (415) 505-0869. 6:30pm, $3-$5. A fun, cozy event where you can booze and schmooze with the San Francisco literati featuring readings from Raj Patel, author of The Value of Nothing, Justine Sharrock, author of Tortured, Gordy Slack, author of The Battle Over the Meaning of Everything, Anna Mantzaris, Hank Pellissier, and James Warner.

Project Censored City Lights Bookstore, 261 Columbus, SF; (415) 362-8193. 7pm, free. Each year, Project Censored lists the top 25 major news stories that were ignored or underreported by the mainstream press and presents the details of these stories in depth. Join Mickey Huff and Peter Phillips in discussing this year’s most censored stories and celebrating the release of Censored 2011.


Readings from Joyland Dog Eared Books, 900 Valencia, SF; 8pm, free. Catch the second stop of the Joyland American tour celebrating the release of books from Joyland founders Emily Schultz and Brian Joseph Davis who will be reading along with San Francisco writers Peter Orner, Tamar Halpern, Helene Wecker, Ruth Galm, and host Kara Levy. All authors have been published on the site, which aims to make the international local by providing a platform for unique voices in short fiction.


J-Pop Summit Festival Post between Webster and Buchanan, SF;

11am-6pm, free-$20. Take in the Japanese pop-inspired attractions at this annual festival featuring musical performances by some of Japan’s hottest bands, fashion shows, film screenings, art and anime booths, live art performances, Japanese food vendors, and more.

Literary Tribute to Al Robles Intersection 5M, 925 Mission, SF; (415) 626-2787. 6pm, $5 suggested donation. Join members of the Bay Area literary community as they honor poet, educator, community activist, and advocate for the poor and senior citizens, Al Robles. The evening of storytelling hosted by D. Scott Miller to include poetry, prose, conversation, and recollections of Robles with Jessica Hagedorn, Jack Hirschman, Janice Mirikatani, Alejandro Murguia, Jaime Jacinto, Ishmael Reed, and more.


Artspark San Pablo Park, 2800 Park between Russell and Ward, Berk.; 11am-4pm, free. Enjoy this free, community sponsored festival promoting community health by offering free health information from East Bay health organizations and free art lessons in drawing, painting, dancing, spoken word, and more. Also featuring nutritious, hot meals for under $5 and entertainment and performances including live music, spoken word, and more.


Dancing in the Streets Noe at Market, SF; 1pm-4pm, free. Enjoy a live band and dancing in the streets with the Byran Keith Country Band and Queer Ballroom giving free country two step lessons.

Leland Avenue Fair Leland at Bayshore, SF; 10am-4pm, free. Celebrate the recently completed Visitacion Valley public art and streetscape at this community festival featuring local talents including Latin jazz percussionist Pete Escovedo and his six-piece orchestra, artists, chefs, entertainers, and vendors.

Roadworks Street Fair Rhode Island between 16th and 17th St., SF; Noon-5pm, free. Using a three ton steamroller, a team of featured artists will be making large-scale prints right in the street from carved linoleum blocks. Watch the action and enjoy the bazaar featuring wares from over 80 artists, vendors, and organizations, live music, entertainment, street food, and activities.

Comedy Day Sharon Meadow, Golden Gate Park, SF; Noon-5pm, free. Thirty comedians will be performing in a non-stop relay of jokes to celebrate the 30th anniversary of Comedy Day. Comics to include up-and-coming talent, national and Bay Area favorites, and a few who performed at the original Comedy Day. Food and beverage vendors available.

Quick Lit: April 21-April 27


Literary readings, book tours, and talks this weekincluding NYT Dot Earth blogger Andrew Revkin, local activist Peter Berg, McSweeny’s Issue 34, poetry readings in honor of National Poetry month, and more.

Wednesday, April 21

Cosmic Conversation
Join KQED for a conversation with Dr. Neil deGrasse Tyson, host of NOVA scienceNOW, and Paula Apsell, senior executive producer of NOVA and NOVA scienceNOW, for a behind-the-scenes look at the science series and a discussion about the show’s “Pluto files.”
8 p.m., $15
Palace of Fine Arts
3301 Lyon, SF
(415) 392-4400

Greenpeace’s New Rainbow Warrior
Hear from Kumi Naiboo, the new Executive Director of Greenpeace International, discuss how to lead a grassroots group at a crucial point in the international environmental movement.
6:30 p.m., $20
Commonwealth Club
595 Market, 2nd floor, SF
(415) 597-6700

Daniele Mastrogiacomo
Hear Italian journalist Daniele Mastrogiacomo discuss his new book, Days of Fear, about how the Taliban kidnapped him, his driver, and his translator, about his subsequent travel throughout a system of Taliban underground hide-outs, the televised brutal murder of his driver, and his eventual release.
6:30 p.m., free
Italian Cultural Institute
425 Washington, Suite 200, SF
(415) 788-7142

Wherever There’s a Fight

Hear authors Elaine Elinson and Stan Yogi read from and sign their new book at this installment of Betty’s List Literary Salon.
6 p.m., free
Duboce Park Café
2 Sanchez, SF

Thursday, April 22

Reza Aslan
Hear Reza Aslan, author of How to Win a Cosmic War: Confronting religious fundamentalism, discuss her theory that in a post 9/11 world, the U.S.’s “war on terror” adopts the same religiously polarizing rhetoric and cosmic worldview as the jihadists, and is therefore fighting a war that can’t be won.
8 p.m., $10-18
Jewish Community Center of San Francisco
Kanbar Hall
3200 California, SF
(415) 292-1233

Envisioning Sustainability
Hear author and environmental activist Peter Berg discuss his new collection of essays that helped to define the bioregional movement and shape the sustainability revolution.
7 p.m., free
Modern Times Bookstore
888 Valencia, SF

How to Cool the Planet
Hear author Jeff Goodell discuss his new book that talks about the Earth’s possibilities for geoengineering, the idea that we can use technology to reduce global warming on Earth, which was recently made more popular by the eruption of Iceland’s Eyjafjallajokull volcano.
7 p.m.,free
Books Inc.
1760 4th St., Berk.
(510) 525-7777

“Medicean Music and Francesca Caccini”
Hear a presentation from Kip Cranna, from the SF Opera, about music from the Medicean world and hear Richard Savino, from CSU Sacramento, discuss Francesca Caccini, composer of the first published opera by a woman.
6 p.m., $15
Mechanics’ Institute
57 Post, SF
(415) 393-0100

“The Natural and Unnatural History of Yerba Buena Island and What Might be Next”
Hear a panel of experts present an illustrated overview of Yerba Buena Island’s history, ecological treasures, threats, and possible plans for the future.
7:30 p.m., free
Randall Museum
199 Museum Way, SF

Poetry at Pegasus
Celebrate National Poetry Month at this reading with poets Kathleen Weaver, Gretchen Stengel, Susan Elliot Jardin, Cynthia Carmichael, and Jane Downs.
7:30 p.m., free
Pegasus Books Downtown
2349 Shattuck, Berk.

Attend this book signing with the world’s most famous drag queen RuPaul, celebrating her recent book, Workin’ It! RuPaul’s Guide to Life, Liberty, and the Pursuit of Style.
7:30 p.m., free
Books Inc.
2275 Market, SF
(415) 864-6777

“Truth Emergency Interantional: Censorship, propaganda, and empire”
Attend this talk and booksigning with Peter Philips and Mickey Huff, co-editors of Project Censored 2010: The top 25 stories of 2010.
7 p.m., $5-20 sliding scale
Berkeley Unitarian Universalists
1924 Cedar, Berk.

Friday, April 23

“The Contradictory Legacy of Haiti’s Revolution”
Attend this talk with Robert Fatton, Jr., author, scholar, and Professor of Government and Foreign Affairs at the University of Virginia, titled, “The Contradictory Legacy of Haiti’s Revolution: History and the earthquake crisis.”
6:30 p.m., free
California Institute of Integral Studies
Social and Cultural Anthropology Department
1453 Mission, Room 308, 3rd floor, SF
(415) 575-6249

Mark Kurlansky
Hear about Mark Kurlansky’s new book, The Eastern Stars: How baseball changed the Dominican town of San Pedro de Marcoris, about one small impoverished area in the Dominican Republic that has produced a suprising number of Major League Baseball talent.
7:30 p.m., free
1644 Haight, SF
(415) 863-8688

WritersCorps Reading Series
Attend this “Claim the Block” reading series featuring readings by young writers.
7:30 p.m., free
Yerba Buena Center for the Arts
701 Mission, SF
(415) 252-4655 to RSVP

Saturday, April 24

“America’s Muslim Roots”
Hear Bay Area Muslim journalists Hamza van Boom and Yahsmin Binti Bobo in conversation with Jonathan Curiel about his new book, Al’ America: Travels through America’s Arab and Islamic roots, which details the historic influence of Arab and Muslim culture on America from Columbus to the modern age.
6 p.m., $7
Islamic Cultural Center of Northern California
1433 Madison, Oak.
(510) 219-2431

“Outspoken: Vietnamese Poets of the Diaspora II”
Attend this event that celebrates the thriving Vietnamese community in the Bay Area with readings by poets Anh Vu Buchanan, Andrew Lam, Kim-An Lieberman, Trinh T. Minh-Ha, Dao Strom, and Lan Tran.
7 p.m., free
Fort Mason Center
Laguna at Marina, Fleet Room, SF


Sunday, April 25

I Love You and I’m Leaving You Anyway
Mad Men writer Tracy McMillan tells the story about her relationship with her father, who was a convicted pimp, drug dealer, and felon, and what it has meant for her relationships with men.
3 p.m., free
Books Inc.
2251 Chestnut, SF
(415) 931-3633

Monday, April 26

The Immortal Life of Henrietta Lacks
As part of the Ask a Scientist lecture series, scientist and author Rebecca Skloot will discuss her new book about the life of a poor tobacco farmer who died of cervical cancer in 1951 but whose cells are still alive today and used for scientific research. Skloot will discuss bioethics, race issues, history, and family.
7 p.m., free
350 Kansas, SF
(415) 252-3500

A Thousand Sisters
Hear author Lisa Shannon discuss her book which cronicles her journey to the Congo to meet the women there and share their stories.
7:30 p.m., free
Books Inc.
2251 Chestnut, SF
(415) 931-3633

Will Grayson, Will Grayson
Not Your Mother’s Book Club (NYMBC) presents John Green and David Levithan,
the authors of Will Grayson, Will Grayson, about two teens with the same name who cross paths in Chicago.
7 p.m., free
Books Inc.
601 Van Ness, SF
(415) 776-1111

Tuesday, April 27

Andrew Revkin
Hear award winning environmental journalist and author Andrew Revkin discuss his work on the New York Times’ Dot Earth blog, 25 years covering environmental and social subjects, and his previously published books, like The North Pole Was Here.
8 p.m., $20
Herbst Theater
401 Van Ness, SF

Hunting Eichmann
Hear author Neal Bascomb discuss his new book about a Nazi who escapes American POW camps and hides in the mountains in Buenos Aires before he is eventually caught and brought to trial.
7 p.m., free
Books Inc.
1760 4th St., Berk.
(510) 525-7777

McSweeny’s Issue 34
Attend this release of the highly anticipated Issue 34 of McSweeny’s presented by Nick McDonell, Tom Barbach, and Daniel Handler.
7:30 p.m., free
Books Inc.
2251 Chestnut, SF
(415) 931-3633

Noir Literary Night
Attend the 5th annual Nior Literary Night featuring Cara Black, author of Murder in the Palais Royal, David Corbett, author of Do They Know I’m Running?, and Joe Gores, author of Spade & Archer: The prequel to Dashiell Hammett’s the Maltese Falcon.
6 p.m., $12
Mechanic’s Institute
57 Post, SF
(415) 393-0100

Karin Sanders
Attend a reading and discussion of Karin Sanders’ new book, Bodies in the Bog and the Archaeological Imagination, in conversation with Mark Sandberg.
5:30 p.m., free
University Press Books
2430 Bancroft, Berk.
(510) 548-0585

Project Censored 2010


By Rebecca Bowe


Tomorrow evening, Project Censored will celebrate its release of Censored 2010, a yearbook compilation of the Top 25 Censored Stories of 2008-2009, published through the nationally renowned program at Sonoma State University. The Guardian’s coverage of Project Censored’s Top 10 Stories can be found here.

The event, which will be held in Santa Rosa, will feature music, food and drink, Project Censored awards, and a list of leading progressive speakers including author Michael Parenti, Flashpoints Radio’s Dennis Bernstein, Miguel Molina, and Nora Barrows-Friedman, and Guardian publisher Bruce Brugmann.

Every year since 1976, Project Censored has spotlighted the 25 most significant news stories that were largely ignored or misrepresented by the mainstream press. Now the group is expanding its mission — to promote alternative news sources. But it continues to report the biggest national and international stories that the major media ignored.

The project staff begins by sifting through hundreds of stories nominated by individuals at Sonoma State, where the project is based, as well as 30 affiliated universities all over the country.

Articles are verified, fact-checked, and selected by a team of students, faculty, and evaluators from the wider community, then sent to a panel of national judges to be ranked. The end product is a book, co-edited this year by Phillips and associate director Mickey Huff, that summarizes the top stories, provides in-depth media analysis, and includes resources for readers who are hungry for more substantive reporting.

Admission for tomorrow’s event is $35 including food, one drink ticket and an autographed Censored 2010 yearbook; $20.00 general; and $10.00 for students and low-income individuals. Proceeds will benefit Project Censored. (Click here for details.)

Events Listings


Events listings are compiled by Paula Connelly. Submit items for the listings at For further information on how to submit items for the listings, see Picks.

Healthy Holiday Drinking Ferry Building, One Ferry Building, SF; (415) 291-3276 x103. 5:30pm, $30. Enjoy a holiday happy hour featuring Jim Beam cocktails made with early winter produce, samples of eight exotic liquor cocktails, and hors d’oeuvres from local restaurants. Vote for your favorite drink and be entered to win farmers market prizes.
The Moment of Psycho BookShop, 80 West Portal, SF; (415) 564-8080. 7pm, free. Hear film critic and historian David Thomson discuss his latest book The Moment of Psycho: How Alfred Hitchcock Taught America to Love Murder about the ways Hitchcock challenged Hollywood and altered our expectations for film.

Handmade Ho Down 1015 Folsom, 1015 Folsom, SF; 6pm, free. Bay Area artists selling their handmade goods on team up to present a night of shopping, holiday cocktails, and DJ music. Some proceeds to benefit DrawBridge.
High-Tech and the Written Word Mechanics’ Institute, 57 Post, SF; (415) 393-0100. Bay Area literary, publishing, and tech/media authorities come together to discuss the future of the book and printed word in the world of the internet and merging technologies. Featuring Daniel Handler, Brenda Knight, John McMurtrie, Annalee Newitz, Scott Rosenberg, and Oscar Villalon, moderated by Alan Kaufman.

Green Sight and Sound Mina Dresden Gallery, 312 Valencia, SF; 6pm, $35. Enjoy some ecoculture at this event featuring an art exhibition and silent auction of small works by environmental artists, wine, appetizers, and sweets from Bay Area purveyors, and live music performances.
Bay Area
Light Up the Holidays Jack London Square, Broadway at Embarcadero, Oak.; (510) 645-9292 x221. 5:30pm, free. Usher in the holiday season at this community event featuring an interactive palm tree light show, live dance and theater performances, live music, and more.

Artist Bazaar Precita Eyes Mural Arts and Visitors Center, 2981 24th St., SF; (415)-285-2287. 7pm, free. Shop for some affordable original artwork by local artists while enjoying music by DJ Special K, a book signing by Precita Eyes Muralists, and affordable refreshments.
City Dance Cowell Theater, Fort Mason Center, SF; (415) 297-1172. 8pm, $15-23. Check out top-quality Bay Area dance performances with the Zhukov Dance Theater, Soul Sector, Loose Change, Funkanometry SF, and DS Players.
Deco the Halls Concourse Exhibition Center, 635 8th St., SF; (650) 599-DECO. Sat. 10am-6pm, Sun. 11am-5pm; $10. Attend the largest Art Deco and Modernism sale in the country featuring furniture, accessories, pottery, glass, art, books, jewelry, clothing, and more.
SF Camerawork Auction SF Camerawork, 2nd floor, 657 Mission, SF; (415) 512-2020. 1pm, $30. Bid on photographic art that fits a variety of budgets and interests from artists Robert Mapplethorpe, Todd Hido, Catherine Opie, and more. Proceeds help support SF Camerawork’s’ exhibition space, mentoring program for at-risk youth, and journal.
Slow Crab and Oyster Festival Potrero Hill Neighborhood House, 953 De Haro, SF; (415) 957-1313 x2. 6pm, $65. Celebrate the start of Dungeness Crab season at this dinner cooked by student chefs from the California Culinary Academy (CCA) featuring speakers, live blues music, and local beer.
Third Street Warehouse Sale 665 22nd St., SF; (415) 561-9703. 8:30am-4:30pm, free. Dozens of Bay Area designers and manufacturers are offering discounts on samples, overruns, and inventory of all kind of products from home décor and pet, to clothing and jewelry. Down the street at the same time, Rickshaw Bagworks (904 22nd St., SF; (415) 904-8368) is hosting a Flapjack Festival shopping and pancake event.
Farmers’ Market Fair Civic Center Park, Center at Martin Luther King Jr. Way, Berk.; (510)548-3333. 10am-4pm, free. Shop for local crafts while stocking up on organic produce at this farmers’ market featuring live music throughout the day.
Fungus Fair Lawrence Hall of Science, Centennial Drive, Berk.; (510) 642-5132. Sat-Sun 10am-5pm, $6-12. Get up close to hundreds of wild mushrooms, eat edible mushrooms, learn cultivation techniques, watch culinary demonstrations, and become your own Mycologost (mushroom scientist) at this fair celebrating it’s 40th year.
Project Censored Book Release Odd Fellows Hall, 535 Pacific, Santa Rosa; (707) 874-2695. 6pm, $20. Celebrate the release of the 34th annual Project Censored, a list compiled by students and faculty at Sonoma State University of the most important news stories of the year censored by the mainstream media. To read this year’s stories, visit

Passive Aggressive Artists Television Access (ATA), 992 Valencia, SF; (415) 863-2141. 5pm, $5-10 sliding scale. Attend SoEx’s 8th annual film and video screening juried by Andrea Grover featuring work from film and video artists Brian Andrews, Marlene Angeja, Miguel Arzabe, Clark Buckner, and more.
Winterfest 2009 SOMArts Gallery, 934 Brannan, SF; (415) 431-BIKE. 6pm; $15 for SFBC members, $40 for general public, includes a one year SF Bike Coalition membership. Enjoy a festive evening with fellow bike enthusiasts featuring New Belgium beer, DJs, food vendors, and deals on bikes, gear, art, and local bike crafts.
Double-Consciousness San Francisco Center for Psychoanalysis, 4th floor, 2340 Jackson, SF; (415) 563-5815. 7:30pm, free. Hear E. Victor Wolfenstein, Ph.d., psychoanalyst, author, and professor of political science at UCLA, explore double-consciousness and the subversion of love in Toni Morrison’s Tar Baby.
Save the Ant, Save the World Atlas Café, 3049 20th St., SF; (415) 648-1047. 7pm, free. Find out more about the huge role that ants play in our ecosystem at this talk where Dr. Brian Fisher will describe the unique behaviors and adaptations of these charismatic creatures.

New York Times: Censoring Project Censored


“After 34 years, will the New York Times cover the Project Censored annual release?

By Bruce B. Brugmann

Peter Phillips, the director of Project Censored at Sonoma State University, sent me this key question with his annual Censored package:

“After 34 years, will the New York Times cover the Project Censored annual release?”

Phillips was referring to the fact that the Times has never written a word about the project, even though it is now a widely respected package, is carried by the Guardian and many alternative papers, and produces a book of censored stories each year.

Moreover, the Santa Rosa Press Democrat, which is owned by the Times, didn’t run a story this year even though the project and Sonoma State are in the PD’s circulation area. When the PD did run a story in previous years, it was a nasty whack job.

The “censoring” of Project Censored by the Times, which declares itself the world’s best newspaper, has always fascinated me. And so I set out two years ago to see if I could get an explanation from the Times and its sister paper. I asked Carl Jensen, the founder of the project, and Phillips if they had ever gotten an explanation from the Times why why the paper “censored” Project Censored. They said they never got an explanation.
So I went to work on my own and emailed the package several times to the editors at the Times and the PD.
No reply from either the Times of the PD. Nothing. They were even “censoring” the messenger who was asking the questions.

I noted in Sunday’s New York Times (10/4/09) that the new public editor, Clark Hoyt, was dealing with a tricky subject for the Times, namely that it was missing some juicy stories. Hoyt mentioned the Acorn story
and said that “the story caught fire on Fox News from conservative blogs, but the Times was slow to respond.”
He wrote that Bill Keller, the executive editor of the Times, and Jill Abramson, the managing editor for news,
said they would assign an editor (B3: unnamed, alas) to “monitor opinion media from now on and to briefs them frequently.”

Clark added that “it seems self-evident to me that the Times needs to be aware of the buzz out there–whether it’s about politics and public policy or fashion. The hard part is is deciding what merits coverage. When the Times misses or is slow on a story that is boiling elsewhere…it lets it’s readers down.”

Well, Project Censored each year for 34 years has produced a list of major stories that the Times and the mainstream media have missed or under-reported. Why doesn’t that merit coverage? Why can’t the Times explain why it “censored” the censored story? To me, the fact that the Times won’t run the story or explain why dramatizes the point of the project in 96 point Tempo Bold.

In any event, I’m going to email the story to the Times and its sister paper near Sonoma State and see if I can get an explanation this time around. I’ll keep you posted. Stay alert. B3

Click here to read Guardian reporter Rebecca Bowe’s story, Project Censored: The top 10 stories not brought to you by mainstream news media in 2008 and 2009.

Click here to learn more about Project Censored.

Click here to read the 2007 blog, Censoring the Censored Project: Will the NY Times, Santa Rosa Press Democrat, and the mainstream media censor this year’s Project Censored story?

The local list of censored stories


By Guardian News Staff
Every year, when the Guardian covers the release of Project Censored’s list of underreported news story, we also try to list a few local stories that didn’t get the coverage they deserve. For 2009, they include:

Gavin Newsom’s no-new-taxes budget
When Gov. Arnold Schwarzenegger and the Republicans in Sacramento insisted that they wouldn’t raise taxes to address the budget deficit, it was big news — and plenty of San Francisco officials were critical. When Mayor Gavin Newsom took the exact same stance — no new taxes — the news media largely ignored the story and let him off the hook.

What happened to the tax measures?
Last winter, there were big fights over putting revenue measures on the fall ballot. Progressives dug in and fought through a mayoral veto. Commissions were convened. Polls were taken. Promises were made. And then the election deadline simply passed and it was as if the whole thing never happened.

The demise of newspapers
The San Francisco Chronicle has done a few, weak stories about its own extensive layoffs, and other news outlets have discussed the paper’s shaky finances. And the news industry fretted about MediaNews gobbling up most Bay Area newspapers. But there’s been little deep analysis or attention to the end game: What would San Francisco be like with no daily newspaper? Is that where this city is headed? Who will speak truth to power?