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 seafood supply. The two problems are related because PFAS—a family of highly stable “forever chemicals” with more than 4,700 known members—can occur as microplastics, they can stick to microplastic particles in water, and are involved in the production of plastics.

In July 2020, a German-American study published in the scholarly journal “Environmental Science & Technology” revealed that PFAS—which are used in a range of products including carpets, furniture, clothing, food packaging and nonstick coatings—have now been found in the Arctic Ocean.



“This discovery worries scientists,” Project Censored explains, “because it means that PFAS can reach any body of water anywhere in the world and that such chemicals are likely present in our water supply.” This is concerning because, as Daniel Ross reported for Truthout, there are “Known human health impacts … include certain cancers, liver damage, thyroid problems and increased risk of asthma. As endocrine disruptors, these chemicals have been linked to increased risk of severe COVID-19.”


Ross cited a number of other studies as well, noting that, “Emerging research suggests that one important pathway [for PFAS spreading] is through the air and in rainwater,” and that they had been widely detected in China, the U.S., and elsewhere.


“PFASs are probably detectable in ‘all major water supplies’ in the U.S.,” according to an Environmental Working Group study, Ross reported. “What’s more, over 200 million Americans could be drinking water containing PFAS above a level EWG scientists believe is safe, according to the organization’s most recent findings.”



The second study, in August 2020, also published in “Environmental Science & Technology,” came from researchers at the QUEX Institute, a partnership between the University of Exeter and the University of Queensland. They looked for and found microplastics (pieces of plastic, less than 5 millimeters in length—about the size of a sesame seed) in five seafood products sold in Australian markets: crabs, oysters, prawns, squid and sardines—which had the highest concentration. According to the study’s lead author, as reported by Robby Berman in Medical News Today, a seafood eater with an average serving “could be exposed to … up to 30 mg of plastic when eating sardines,” about as much as a grain of rice. “We do not fully understand the risks to human health of ingesting plastic, but this new method [they used for detecting selected plastics] will make it easier for us to find out,” another co-author said. “Roughly 17% of the protein humans consume worldwide is seafood,” Berman noted. “The findings, therefore, suggest people who regularly eat seafood are also regularly eating plastic.”



Aside from “The Guardian,” “no major news outlet has paid attention to the topic of microplastics in seafood,” Project Censored noted, referring to an October 2020 story by Graham Readfearn, reporting on a new Australian study indicating that at least 14 million tons of microplastics are likely sitting on the ocean floor—“more than 30 times as much plastic at the bottom of the world’s ocean than there is floating at the surface.” However, the study’s co-author, Dr. Denise Hardesty, “said the amount of plastic on the ocean floor was relatively small compared to all the plastics being released, suggesting the deep-sea sediments were not currently a major resting place for plastics,” Readfearn reported. “Leaders from more than 70 countries signed a voluntary pledge in September to reverse biodiversity loss which included a goal to stop plastic entering the ocean by 2050,” he noted, but major countries including the United States, Brazil, China, Russia, India, and Australia had not signed on.


6 Canary Mission Blacklists Pro
Palestinian Activists, Chilling Free Speech Rights

Before
the “critical race theory” moral panic fueled a nationwide uprising
to censor discussions of race in education, there was an opposite moral panic
decrying “cancel culture” stifling certain people — especially in
education. But even at the peak of the “cancel culture” panic,
perhaps the most canceled people anywhere in America — pro-Palestinian
activists and sympathizers — got virtually no attention. Even though a
well-funded, secretly run blacklist website, known as Canary Mission, explicitly
targeted thousands of individuals — overwhelmingly students — with dossiers
expressly intended to ruin their careers before they even began, and which
“have been used in interrogations by Israeli security officials,” according to
the Forward, a Jewish publication. They’ve also been used by the FBI, as
reported by The Intercept.

The
website, established in 2015, “seeks to publicly discredit critics of Israel as
‘terrorists’ and ‘anti-Semites,’ Project Censored noted, but its careless style
of accusation has caused a backlash, even among pro-Israeli Jews. “While some
of those listed on the site are prominent activists, others are students who
attended a single event, or even student government representatives suspected
of voting for resolutions that are critical of Israel,” the Forward reported.
More than that, it reported three examples when Canary Mission was apparently
retaliating against critics, including Jews.

But
by far, its main targets are Palestinians, particularly activists involved with

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  • Project Censored/Anson Stevens-Bollen

 the global Boycott, Divestment, and Sanctions or BDS movement that works to
peacefully pressure Israel — similarly to South Africa in the 1980s — to obey
international law and respect Palestinians’ human rights. As the Intercept
reported in 2018, “While Canary Mission promotes itself as a group working
against anti-Semitism, the blacklist’s effective goal is to clamp down on
growing support for Palestine in the United States by intimidating and
tarnishing Palestinian rights advocates with the brush of bigotry.”

While
the FBI told the Intercept that it “only investigates activity which may
constitute a federal crime or pose a threat to national security,” this didn’t
match up with its actions. “If the FBI was concerned about criminal activity
among the student activists, its agents made no indication of that in the
interviews,” the Intercept reported. “They did, however, ask questions that
echoed far-right propaganda about unproven links between pro-Palestine activist
groups and militant groups.”

The
list itself has had a chilling effect on First Amendment rights, another
Intercept story reported. “A survey of over 60 people profiled on Canary
Mission, conducted by the group Against Canary Mission,
found that 43 percent of respondents said they toned down their activism
because of the blacklist, while 42 percent said they suffered acute anxiety
from being placed on the website.” Some have even received death threats.

“For
many otherwise unknown activists, a Canary Mission profile is their most
visible online presence,” Project Censored reported, “‘It’s the first thing
that comes up when you Google my name, the claim that I’m a terrorist supporter
and an extremist,’ one former activist on Palestinian issues told the
Intercept.”

“Beyond
Canary Mission,” Projected Censored noted, “a variety of pro-Israel
organizations that seek to suppress pro-Palestinian activism have pursued
litigation against chapters of Students for Justice in Palestine,” as reported
in The Nation by Lexi McMenamin. A highlighted example at UCLA demanded the release
of the names of speakers at a national conference, whose identities had been
protected “in order to prevent them from being put on no-fly lists, potentially
denied entry to other countries, or contacted by the FBI over their organizing
work.”  In March 2021 a California judge
rejected that demand, noting that disclosure of their names “would violate
their rights to freedom of association, anonymous speech, and privacy.”

Project
Censored also cited a May 2021 federal court ruling that the state of Georgia
cannot compel groups or individuals who contract with public entities to
disavow support for the BDS movement against Israel, finding that the state’s
law “places an unconstitutional incidental burden on speech.”  Georgia is one of 35 states with similar
anti-BDS laws or executive orders.

“Heightened
violence in Israel/Palestine in May 2021 has focused attention on powerful
pro-Israel media biases in US news coverage, but Canary Mission and legal efforts
to suppress pro-Palestinian activism have nonetheless received minimal
corporate news coverage,” Project Censored summarized, citing a handful of
exceptions, a New York Times and a Washington Post opinion, plus two New York Times articles “dating back to
2018, [that] made passing mention of Canary Mission, as a ‘shadowy
organization,’” But, Project Censored concluded, “Aside from this coverage,
major establishment news outlets have provided no substantive reports on the
role played by Canary Mission and other pro-Israel organizations in stifling
the First Amendment rights of pro-Palestinian activists.”

7 Google’s Union-Busting Methods
Revealed

In
2018, Google dropped its long-time slogan, “Don’t be evil” from its
code of conduct. In 2019, Google hired IRI Consultants, a union avoidance firm,
“amid a wave of unprecedented worker organizing at the company,” as Vice’s
Motherboard put it in January 2021, while reporting on leaked files from IRI
that provided a disturbing picture of how far Google may have strayed in its
willingness sabotage its workers’ rights. The 1935 National Labor Relations Act
makes it illegal for companies to spy on employees and guarantees workers the
right to organize and engage in collective bargaining. “Nevertheless,” Project
Censored noted, “companies like Google attempt to circumvent the law by hiring
union avoidance firms like IRI Consultants as independent contractors to engage
in surveillance and intimidation on their behalf.”

PROJECT CENSORED/ANSON STEVENS-BOLLEN

  • Project Censored/Anson Stevens-Bollen

“[E]mployers
in the United States spend roughly $340 million on union avoidance consultants
each year,” Lauren Kaori Gurley reported for Motherboard, but their practices
are apparently so disreputable that IRI doesn’t identify its clients on its
website “beyond saying the firm has been hired by universities, renewable
energy companies, auto-makers, ‘the nation’s largest food manufacturers,’ and
‘several top 10 worldwide retailers,’ she reported.

“Consultants
specialize in operating in the grey areas of the law,” John Logan, a
Professor of Labor and Employment Studies at San Francisco State told Gurley.
“They’re not quite illegal but they’re sort of bending the law if they’re
not breaking it.”

“The
[leaked] documents show that the firm collected incredibly detailed information
on 83 Seattle hospital employees, including their ‘personality, temperament,
motivations, ethnicity, family background, spouses’ employment, finances,
health issues, work ethic, job performance, disciplinary history, and
involvement in union activity in the lead-up to a union election,’” Project
Censored noted, “including descriptions of workers as ‘lazy,’ ‘impressionable,’
‘money oriented,’ and ‘a single mother.’”

The
documents Motherboard reported on didn’t come from Google, but from two
Seattle-based hospitals owned by Conifer Health Solutions, who hired IRI on the
sly — a common practice.

“Tracking
the union avoidance firms behind anti-union campaigns is intentionally made
difficult by firms that subcontract out work to other firms that hire
independent contractors to avoid federal reporting requirements laid out by the
Department of Labor and shield themselves from public scrutiny,” Motherboard
explained, adding that the union organizing the workers had no idea of IRI’s
involvement.

“Google
is not the only Big Tech company to enlist union avoidance consultants in
recent years. In fall 2020 and spring 2021, employees at Amazon’s massive
fulfillment center in Bessemer, Alabama launched a much-publicized unionization
effort,” Project Censored noted. “As John Logan detailed in a lengthy article
for LaborOnline, Amazon responded to the Bessemer drive by spending at least
$3,200 per day on anti-union consultants Russ Brown and Rebecca Smith and by
bringing in a second union-busting consulting firm,” as well as hiring “one of
the largest law firms in the country specializing in union avoidance.”
Employees voted more than 2-1 against joining the union, but the election was
overturned for a set of eight labor law violations after Project Censored’s
book went to the publisher — a decision that Amazon is appealing. 

“There
has been some establishment press coverage of large corporations hiring
union-avoidance firms to undermine workplace organizing, mostly focusing on
tech giants like Google and Amazon,” Project Censored noted, including late
2019 stories in the New York Times
and Washington Post reporting that
Google had hired IRI, and a Feb. 23, 2020 New
York Times Magazine
cover story entitled “the Great Google Revolt,” which
“mentioned in passing” the use of anti-union consultants by Google and others
in Silicon Valley. “However, there has been no corporate news coverage
whatsoever of the sensational leaks that Motherboard released in January, and
there has been very little in-depth corporate media reporting on the use of
union-busting consultants in general,” Project Censored summed up, concluding,
“The documents leaked to Motherboard confirm and greatly elaborate upon what
labor organizers and educators have suspected of the specific tactics the
union-busting firms employ.”

8 Pfizer Bullies South American
Governments over COVID-19 Vaccine

Pfizer has
essentially held Latin American governments to ransom for access to its
lifesaving COVID-19 vaccine,” Project Censored reports, the latest example of
how it’s exerted undue influence to enrich itself at the expense of low- and
middle-income nations going back to the 1980s, when it helped shape the
intellectual property rules it’s now taking advantage of.

“Pfizer has been accused of
‘bullying’ Latin American governments in Covid vaccine negotiations and has
asked some countries to put up sovereign assets, such as embassy buildings and
military bases, as a guarantee against the cost of any future legal cases,”
according to reporters at the Bureau of Investigative Journalism.

In one case it resulted in a
three-month delay in reaching a deal. “For Argentina

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PROJECT CENSORED/ANSON STEVENS-BOLLEN

  • Project Censored/Anson Stevens-Bollen

 and Brazil, no national
deals were agreed at all,” BIJ reported. “Any hold-up in countries receiving
vaccines means more people contracting Covid-19 and potentially dying.”

It’s
normal for governments to provide some indemnity. But, “Pfizer asked for
additional indemnity from civil cases, meaning that the company would not be
held liable for rare adverse effects or for its own acts of negligence, fraud
or malice,” BIJ reported. “This includes those linked to company practices –
say if Pfizer sent the wrong vaccine or made errors during manufacturing.”

“Some liability protection is
warranted, but certainly not for fraud, gross negligence, mismanagement,
failure to follow good manufacturing practices,” the World Health
Organization’s director of the Collaborating Center on National and Global
Health Law, Lawrence Gostin, told BIJ. “Companies have no right to ask for
indemnity for these things.”

During
negotiations, which began in June 2020, “the Argentinian government believed
that, at the least, Pfizer ought to be accountable for acts of negligence on
its part in the delivery and distribution of the vaccine, but, instead of
offering any compromise, Pfizer ‘demanded more and more,’ according to one
government negotiator,” Project Censored summarized. “That was when Pfizer
called for Argentina to put up sovereign assets as collateral. Argentina broke
off negotiations with Pfizer, leaving the nation’s leaders at that time without
a vaccine supply for its people,” in December. “It was an extreme demand that I
had only heard when the foreign debt had to be negotiated, but both in that
case and in this one, we rejected it immediately,” an Argentine official told
BIJ.

That
same month, “just after the United States approved Pfizer’s COVID-19 vaccine
for emergency use, In These Times’
Sarah Lazare filed a detailed report on the history of the pharmaceutical
giant’s opposition to expanding vaccine access to poor countries, beginning in
the mid-1980s during the negotiations that eventually resulted in the
establishment of the WTO in 1995.

“Both
globally and domestically, Pfizer played an important role in promoting the
idea that international trade should be contingent on strong intellectual
property rules, while casting countries that do not follow U.S. intellectual
property rules as engaging in ‘piracy,’” a view they promoted to multiple
business networks, shielded from wider public debate. “It was not a given, at
the time, that intellectual property would be included in trade negotiations,”
she explained. “Many Third World countries resisted such inclusion, on the
grounds that stronger intellectual property rules would protect the monopoly
power of corporations and undermine domestic price controls.”

“It
is difficult to think of a clearer case for suspending intellectual property
laws than a global pandemic,” and “a swath of global activists,
mainstream human rights groups and UN human rights experts have added their
voices to the demand for a suspension of patent laws,” Lazare noted. But
Pfizer was joined in its opposition by pharmaceutical trade groups and
individual companies, such as Moderna, another COVID-19 vaccine maker.

As
a result, “One could make a map of global poverty, lay it over a map of vaccine
access, and it would be a virtual one-to-one match,” she wrote. “Once again
majority black and brown countries, by and large, are left to suffer and die.”

“Pfizer’s
dealings in South America are not exactly secret,” Project Censored noted, but
“As of May 2021, there has been no corporate media coverage of Pfizer’s actual
dealings in South America or how the pharmaceutical giant helped establish the
global intellectual property standards it now invokes to protect its control
over access to the vaccine.”

Nor
is this anything new, it concluded: “Big Pharma has a long, underreported track
record of leaving developing nations’ medical needs unfulfilled, as Project
Censored has previously documented.”

9 Police Use Dogs as Instruments of
Violence, Targeting People of Color

The
use of vicious dogs to control Black people dates back to slavery, but it’s not
ancient history according to an investigative series of 13 linked reports,
titled “Mauled: When Police Dogs are Weapons,” coordinated by the Marshall
Project in partnership with AL.com, IndyStar,
and the Invisible Institute. They found evidence that the pattern continues to
this day, with disproportionate use of police dogs against people of color,
often resulting in serious injury, with little or no justification. Baton
Rouge, Louisiana, a majority-Black city of 220,000, is the dog-bite capital of
America, with a bite rate more than double the next-ranked city, Indianapolis.
According to Bryn Stole and Grace Toohey’s February 2021 report:

Between 2017 and 2019, Baton Rouge
police dogs bit at least 146 people, records show. Of those, 53 were 17 years
old or younger; the youngest were just 13. Almost all of the people bitten were
Black, and most were unarmed and suspected by police of nonviolent crimes like
driving a stolen vehicle or burglary.

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PROJECT CENSORED/ANSON STEVENS-BOLLEN

  • Project Censored/Anson Stevens-Bollen

But
Baton Rouge is hardly alone. Approximately 3,600 Americans annually are sent to
the emergency room for severe bite injuries resulting from police dog attacks.
These dog bites “can be more like shark attacks than nips from a family pet,
according to experts and medical researchers,” a team of five reporters wrote
in October 2020, as part of a summary of the main finding of their research.
Other highlights from the series included:

·
“Though our data shows dog bites in
nearly every state, some cities use biting dogs far more often than others.” This ranged from just one incident in
Chicago from 2017 to 2019 to more than 200 in Los Angeles and more than 220 in
Indianapolis.

·
“Most bite victims are men, and
studies suggest that in some places, they have been disproportionately Black.”
This includes the Ferguson, Missouri police department and the Los Angeles
County Sheriff’s Department, where it’s been found that “dogs bit non-White
people almost exclusively.”

·
“Bites can cause life-altering
injuries, even death.  Dogs used in
arrests are bred and trained to have a bite strong enough to punch through
sheet metal.”

·
“Many people bitten were unarmed,
accused of non-violent crimes or weren’t suspects at all.”

·
“Some dogs won’t stop biting and
must be pulled off by a handler, worsening injuries.”

·
“There’s little accountability or
compensation for many bite victims,” for a wide range of reasons. “Even when
victims can bring cases, lawyers say they struggle because jurors tend to love
police dogs,” what’s known as “the Lassie effect.”

Though the Black Lives Matter
movement has significantly raised public awareness of police using
disproportionate force against people of color, police “K-9 violence has
received strikingly little attention from corporate news media.”  There were exceptions: In October 2020, USA Today published a Marshall Project
story simultaneously with the project, and in November 2020, the Washington Post ran a front-page story
citing the Marshall Project’s reporting. In addition, NBC News covered Salt
Lake City’s suspension of its K-9 program, “after a video circulated of a
police dog biting a Black man who was kneeling on the ground with his hands
held up.” But aside from these examples, “coverage appears to have been limited
to local news outlets,” Project Censored concluded.

10 Activists Call Out Legacy of Racism and Sexism in Forced
Sterilization

Forced
sterilization was deemed constitutional in a 1927 Supreme Court decision,  Buck v.
Bell,
after which forced sterilizations increased dramatically, to at least
60,000 forced sterilizations in some 32 states during the 20th Century,
predominantly targeting women of color. And while state laws have been changed,
it’s still constitutional, and still
going on today — with at least five cases of women in ICE custody in Georgia in
2019 — while thousands of victims await restitution, as reports from the
Conversation and YES! Magazine has
documented.

“Organizations
such as Project South, California Latinas for Reproductive Justice, and the
Sterilization and Social Justice Lab are actively working to document the
extent of this underreported problem — and to bring an end to it.” Project
Censored noted. But their work is even more underreported than the problem
itself.

“During
the height of this wave of eugenics by means of sterilization in the U.S.,
forced hysterectomies were so common in the Deep South that activist Fannie Lou
Hamer coined the term ‘Mississippi Appendectomy’ to describe them,” Ray Levy
Uyeda wrote in a YES! Magazine
article, “How Organizers are Fighting an American Legacy of Forced
Sterilization,” which begins with the story of Kelli Dillon. Dillon was a
California prison inmate in 2001 when she underwent a procedure to remove a
potentially cancerous growth — and the surgeon simultaneously performed an
unauthorized hysterectomy, one of 148 forced sterilizations that year in
California prisons, and one of 1,400 carried out between 1997 and 2010.

Dillon
began organizing inside the women’s prison gathering testimonials from other
victimized prisoners “and provided the personal accounts to staff at Justice
Now that was laying the groundwork to petition for legislation that would ban
the procedures in prisons,” Uyeda reported. She eventually sued the state of
California for damages, and helped to shape legislation to compensate victims
(finally passed this year) a story told in the 2020 documentary film, Belly of the Beast.

“All
forced sterilization campaigns, regardless of their time or place, have one
thing in common. They involve dehumanizing a particular subset of the
population deemed less worthy of reproduction and family formation,”
Alexandra Minna Stern wrote at the Conversation. Stern directs the
Sterilization and Social Justice Lab, where “Our interdisciplinary team
explores the history of eugenics and sterilization in the U.S. using data and
stories” — 35,000 of them so far captured from “historical records
from North Carolina, California, Iowa and Michigan.”

The
history was more complicated than one might expect, Stern explained. “At first,
sterilization programs targeted white men, expanding by the 1920s to affect the
same number of women as men. The laws used broad and ever-changing disability
labels like ‘feeblemindedness’ and ‘mental defective.’ Over time, though, women
and people of color increasingly became the target, as eugenics amplified
sexism and racism,” she wrote. “It is no coincidence that sterilization rates
for Black women rose as desegregation got underway.”

“California
Latinas for Reproductive Justice is working to secure legislative change for
victims of the state’s sterilization efforts between 1909 and 1979,” Uyeda
wrote. It was signed into law after Project Censored’s book went to print,
making California the third state with such legislation, following the lead of
North Carolina and Virginia, in 2013 and 2015, respectively.

“The
history of eugenics has been thoroughly researched and criticized by scholars
and human rights activists, but coverage by the corporate media of the US practice
of forced sterilization throughout the 20th century and into the 21st has
tended to be limited and narrowly focused,” Project Censored noted. There was
some corporate news coverage after the ICE forced sterilization stories
emerged, but generally without “any mention of the activists resisting the
practice. … Some establishment press articles on the topic of forced
sterilization include comments from members of these organizations to provide
context on the issue, but few spotlight the groups’ tireless organizing and
record of accomplishments.” Two exceptions cited were articles from Marie Claire magazine and Refinery29, “a
website targeted at younger women.” This only began to change in July 2021, as
Project Censored’s book was going to print, “with the Associated Press and
other establishment news outlets reporting that California is preparing to
approve reparations of up to $25,000 per person to women who had been
sterilized without consent.”


PROJECT CENSORED/ANSON STEVENS-BOLLEN

  • Project Censored/Anson Stevens-Bollen





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