Censored! Nothing to see here, move on to the funny pages please.
September 3, 2004 2:53 PM   Subscribe

The 10 big stories the national news media ignore
"Every year researchers at Project Censored pick through volumes of print and broadcast news to see which of the past year's most important stories aren't receiving the kind of attention they deserve. Phillips and his team acknowledge that many of these stories weren't "censored" in the traditional sense of the word: No government agency blocked their publication. And some even appeared – briefly and without follow-up – in mainstream journals."
Surprise, surprise, most of the stories have to do with the current administration. Some of the stories are pretty shockingly awful, like (links are to referenced resources for the list) 3. Bush administration manipulates science and censors scientists, 4. High uranium levels found in troops and civilians, 5. Wholesale giveaway of our natural resources, 8. Secrets of Cheney's energy task force come to light and finally, 10. New nuke plants: taxpayers support, industry profits.
And people say Kerry gets a free pass by the media?
via Captain Normal (again).
posted by fenriq (28 comments total)
Perhaps another key story that I'd like to see some coverage is the ongoing investigation into the corruption of Itallian police at the 2001 G8 conference at Genoa.
posted by KirkJobSluder at 3:17 PM on September 3, 2004

Aren't all of these really part of the same story?
posted by muckster at 3:31 PM on September 3, 2004

Maybe somebody missed 'em but we didn't.
posted by jfuller at 4:04 PM on September 3, 2004

Nuclear power is the single known source of energy that could significantly offset our dependance on fossil fuels, and a return to it, or a federal subsidy of it, is deemed a "nuclear relapse" by the linked article.

I suppose those who criticize Bush's pro-free market "hypocrisy" in subsidizing nuclear energy feel the same way about subsidizing alternative energy research and hybrid vehicle sales?

Luddites in denial. Astonishing.
posted by techgnollogic at 5:16 PM on September 3, 2004

Yawn, techgnollogic, casting his troll bait out yet again.

Trolls out trolling for attention. Unsurprising.
posted by fenriq at 5:46 PM on September 3, 2004

I find this sub-link, Cheney Energy Task Force Documents Feature Maps of Iraqi Oilfields, particularly interesting.
posted by clevershark at 5:58 PM on September 3, 2004

Does anyone know if they are still using depleted uranium in tanks and armor piercing shells? This has been a story, or non-story since the first Iraq invasion. I had a friend who was in one of the two primary tank brigades (he claimed his was the foreward unit, because the tanks were all old) during the first Gulf War. According to him, the regulations for using depleted uranium armor state that it is safe up to the point that it is scratched or abused in a way that could create airborne particles. At that point, personnel should be using radiation suits to handle the material. Sounds good, until you realize that using it as plating for a tank and as casing for shells is most likely going to create lots of airborne particles. And no one in or around the tank is ever given a radiation suit. I am not a doctor, but from what I have read, the symptoms of Gulf War Syndrome, are pretty much the same as the symptoms of low level radiation poisoning.

The silence of the army and the government about this seems to me, evidence of an incredible contempt for the lives and families of servicemen. I think they even passed a law so vets can't sue. I'm not sure what happened to my friend. One day he got sick, stopped coming to work and had to move back home to his parents. Kidney failure, at the ripe age of 28.
posted by MetalDog at 6:21 PM on September 3, 2004

that's awful, MetalDog--but not surprising, sadly. This paper says it's illegal too.
posted by amberglow at 6:46 PM on September 3, 2004

the most newsworthy story out of this bunch, imho, is the Diebold proto-scandal. Even if the company is completely clean and sparkling and angels bless every voting machine as it rolls off the assembly line, I would still be suspicious simply because the amount of political power that will be invested in this system is immense.

Also, although techgnollogic is trollish a lot of the time, in this case he has a good point. Nuclear power is the only technology currently around that could put a dent in oil reliance. Logically, we need to consider it, unless you believe oil will magically flow out of our arses in the next hundred years. Of course it's scary, but failures in the past don't mean the future will be the same way.
posted by concreteforest at 7:00 PM on September 3, 2004

That's funny -- every single one of the "censored" stories is either:

(a) Anti-American
(b) Anti-American military
(c) Anti-business
(d) Anti-Bush Administration

Give me a break.
posted by davidmsc at 7:17 PM on September 3, 2004

For me, neglected stories have to be science stories, the really earth-shattering stuff that will have repercussions for decades or centuries, not some political bulldada.
But media people for the most part aren't scientists. Nor are they historians. Nor, does it seem, do most even have a liberal arts degree.
For example, this year, scientists created and used the first quantum communications system. Innumberable uses, but how about faster-than-light communications over what might be interstellar distances?
Every few years, now, scientists are discovering brand new sub-*branches* of science. You would think that would be noteworthy.
Just in the last few weeks, they've invented a process to make large quantities of transparent aluminum. Little news item, there.

Who cares what Dick Morris knew and when he knew it?
posted by kablam at 7:37 PM on September 3, 2004

concreteforest, the issue isn't so much with the concept of nuclear power but with Bush so heavily subsidizing the construction and forcing the cost on the taxpayers while allowing the companies to reap the profits. Its a lose/lose situation for the taxpayer.

I may be wrong here since Economics was a long time ago but I seem to remember something about innovation being driven by economic necessity, that is, until it becomes economically viable to switch or invent or figure out a new source of energy, we won't, we have to surpass a tipping point before the alternate energy sources become possible for use. Subsidizing the construction of nuclear plants seems to be holding us back from figuring out better ways to generate power.

On Preview: kablam, didn't they use transparent aluminum in one of those Star Trek movies? Its real? Bitchin!
posted by fenriq at 7:48 PM on September 3, 2004

why couldn't we go to wind and solar? Why does it have to be either dirty and/or dangerous methods?
posted by amberglow at 9:12 PM on September 3, 2004

Aeolian and solar power simply don't yield enough to be practical sources of energy, at least at this time.

Anyway, the contentious subject was not nuclear power itself but the subsidizing of nuclear power as a sort of "corporate welfare".
posted by clevershark at 10:25 PM on September 3, 2004

Hey skallas, get off your ass and do something about your consumption then, replace bulbs, get a LCD screen, change your life. Its not hard and it actually does save you money as well as save our resources. Its called a win-win.

It starts with each of us. Check yourself, encourage other people to check their consumption and make changes. Just because you suck juice down now doesn't mean you have to forever.

Yeah, your theory works, why do you think there's a six month wait for hybrid cars in California?

By the way, saying its okay for poor people to suffer a little more so the upper classes can still suck it down unabated is a pretty arrogant and stupid thing to say. Its just a touch classist, its okay for them poor people to suffer, they're used to it.
posted by fenriq at 10:34 PM on September 3, 2004

These subsidies do not necessarily establish the nonviability of the nuclear power industry, in that it is conceivable that these functions could be taken over by private industry. However, the one government-furnished privilege that the nuclear industry could find it hardest to live without is the Price-Anderson Act's limitation on a nuclear power plant's liability in case of an accident.
Of all the arguments of nuclear power advocates, the one that is most irrelevant is that nuclear power generates vital electricity and thus deserves to be supported through Price-Anderson and other means. That nuclear power generates electricity proves nothing, just as the fact that horse manure, windmills, and charcoal can generate power does not prove that they should be subsidized.

Usually the advocates of the "vital power" thesis center their arguments on a fear of running out of energy. During the 1975 renewal hearings, Rep. John Young (D-Tex.) made the following less-than-prescient remarks in supporting extension of the Price-Anderson Act: "The fact is that we have run out of oil and gas. What oil and gas is left is desperately needed in a thousand other ways (other than boilers). The quicker that we can get into this other business of supplementary energy sources, the quicker this nation will be on its way to stability of its economy..."[33]

One of the great strengths of the market system is that it does not require reliance on people such as Rep. Young to forecast the future and to coordinate economic activity. Indeed, the information needed to coordinate a market is not, cannot, and need not be in the hands of any single individual. When an energy source such as oil becomes scarcer, the market mechanism working through prices and profits ensures that there is no disruption in energy supplies. If the price mechanism is left unfettered, no shortages can occur; at the same time the profit motive ensures that there are adequate long-term supplies. Nobel laureate Friedrich Hayek describes how the market process works when a resource (tin) becomes scarcer:
That comes from this report from the luddites over at the CATO institute.
posted by euphorb at 1:18 AM on September 4, 2004

I was having this conversation with my wife yesterday, actually, and one of the points I made is that nuclear power (fission) needs to be seen as just one step on a chain of power sources that give increasing amounts of power per reactant as well as increasing amounts of power per pollutant.

1. Coal
2. Oil
3. Fission
4. Fusion
5. Antimatter

Fission is not the end-all and be-all of power production, but in nations where there are mostly-ecology-free wastelands (the US has Nevada, China has it's western third) to use for safe storage, it's a step up in both the aforementioned performance indicators - a useful halfway point between where we are now and fusion, which produces 3 times the power per reactant molecule (IIRC from highschool physics) with no pollution to speak of.

As far as solar, tidal, and wind energy go, I have two concerns: a) especially in the case of solar, what is the *pollution* cost of production of the infrastructure, and b) is taking all this energy from our weather and tidal systems necessarily safe from a climatology viewpoint? I realize the energy we take is conserved, but how easily would it reenter those systems again?
posted by Ryvar at 8:37 AM on September 4, 2004

Nuclear Energy to Go

A nuclear reactor that can meet the energy needs of developing countries without the risk that they will use the by-products to make weapons is being developed by the US Department of Energy.

The aim is to create a sealed reactor that can be delivered to a site, left to generate power for up to 30 years, and retrieved when its fuel is spent. The developers claim that no one would be able to remove the fissile material from the reactor because its core would be inside a tamper-proof cask protected by a thicket of alarms.
A version producing 100 megawatts would be 15 metres tall, three metres in diameter and weigh 500 tonnes. A 10-megawatt version is likely to weigh less than 200 tonnes.

The US will deliver the sealed unit by ship and truck and install it. When the fuel runs out it will collect the old reactor for recycling or disposal. The DoE hopes to have a prototype by 2015.

posted by techgnollogic at 10:08 AM on September 4, 2004

Shouldn't the title be The 10 big stories the US national news media ignore?
posted by five fresh fish at 10:59 AM on September 4, 2004

Nuclear power is the only technology currently around that could put a dent in oil reliance.


1) Oil is more than 'just energy'- it is the basis for many things like plastics, tires and oh, transportation.

2) Alas I can not find the source for the claim, so I will repeat it w/o attribution. If solar panels covered each man made structure in the US of A the energy generated would exceed the energy consumed in the US of A by a factor of 4. Perhaps someone with better google-fu will find this.

So nuke power can't make tires or plastics, doesn't work well for moving cars and solar panels look to be a viable power generation solution.

Logically, we need to consider it,
And once you consider the waste by-product - radioactive material, the logical consideration should be 'thanks but no'.

Esp. once one factors in the need for government laws that prevent nuke plants from the liability bitch slapping from the invisable hand of Adam Smith. How many nukes would be operating if it was not for the liability shield of the Anderson bill?
posted by rough ashlar at 11:54 AM on September 4, 2004

I don't know why nuclear power gets such a bad rap.

Oh, 10,000 years of lethal radiation is what pushed me from pro to anti nuke.

The real alternatives aren't renewables,

Funny that. With $20,000 in solar panels I generate enough power to keep me in CPU's, lights, Air Cond. running water and power tools. To run a Honda fuel cell car the 'average' driving I'd need $70,000 in solar panels to rip apaart water with electrical power. And aboout 4X the roof space I now have.

I've opted to pay up front for my power and will not be paying the power company for years to come.

Seems you'd rather pay the power company for years to come.
posted by rough ashlar at 12:02 PM on September 4, 2004

> Funny that. With $20,000 in solar panels I generate enough power to keep
> me in CPU's, lights, Air Cond. running water and power tools.

Nothing's free. Solar cells are particularly toxic to manufacture, and any nationally-significant solar power source is going to eat huge amounts of land.

On balance I'd still rather use solar than hydrocarbon (especially, ecch, coal) but I'd actually rather see nothing replace hydrocarbons and everybody barefoot, cold, and virtuous. Just so the sky's blue and the bunnies are happy.
posted by jfuller at 1:26 PM on September 4, 2004

Someone care to provide a link to information about the toxicity of solar panels? I just did some googling and came up dry.
posted by five fresh fish at 7:36 PM on September 4, 2004

rough ashlar: So if nuclear power didn't have any radioactive byproduct, you'd be all for it. How little nuclear waste would there have to be for it to be an acceptable tradeoff? Conventional power production (via coal and oil, primarily) emits tons and tons of carbon and particulate waste per year; what if we could replace *all* of this with 1 gram of radioactive waste -- would that be acceptable? What about a kilogram? A ton?

Sure, nuclear waste is nasty, but there's *very* little of it. France has predominantly replaced coal generation with nuclear, and they've found that it generates something like a cup of waste per person per year (maybe less, I don't want to exaggerate how little it is). Is it really such a bad idea?
posted by rkent at 10:58 PM on September 4, 2004

Funny that. With $20,000 in solar panels...
For my family that cost would cover about 17 years worth of power. Given that the average family moves once every 7 years, there would be the cost of reinstalling those panels at least twice, added in, if they can be moved. The extra 70 grand would pay for 24 years worth of gas.
I'm all for clean energy, but the numbers don't seem worth it.
posted by bashos_frog at 3:56 AM on September 5, 2004

I should add that putting 90 grand in an account with decent interest, and withdrawing my energy costs would probably stretch out those time periods past my expected life time.
posted by bashos_frog at 3:58 AM on September 5, 2004

> Someone care to provide a link to information about the toxicity of solar
> panels? I just did some googling and came up dry.

Sorry to be late with this fff, I was out in the sun :-)

For solar panels:

"In general, solar cell manufacturing is similar to the manufacturing of silicon integrated
microcircuits (ICs) and similar precautions must be taken to protect the environment from
the manufacturing byproducts. "

-- Adrian Popa, Director Emeritus, Hughes Research Laboratories

For silicon ICs in general (zillions of links to IC manufacturing toxicity, I'm sure you're already aware of it):

" To manufacture computer components, the semiconductor industry uses large amounts of hazardous chemicals including hydrochloric acid, toxic metals and gases, and volatile solvents."

-- U.S. National Institutes of Health
posted by jfuller at 10:06 AM on September 5, 2004

Right, but it's the similar that catches me up. Manufacturing ICs is similar to open pit mining, too, and similar precautions must be taken to protect the environment.

Seems to me that solar cells are extremely simple devices, not requiring anywhere near the manufacturing complexity of ICs. They're just a couple layers of silicon, no photomasks, no etching, no hijinks required.

So although the processes are similar, they're also not at all alike. It would be nice to know how the actual environmental costs compare.
posted by five fresh fish at 11:43 AM on September 5, 2004

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