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Project Censored: The important stories the mainstream media ignored in 2014

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2. Top 10 U.S. Aid Recipients Practice Torture

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

3. Trans-Pacific Partnership, a Secret Deal to Help Corporations

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 U.S. 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."

4.Corporate Internet Providers Threaten Net Neutrality

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.

5. Bankers Remain on Wall Street Despite Major Crimes

Bankers responsible for rigging municipal bonds and bilking billions of dollars from American cities have largely escaped criminal charges. Every day in the U.S., 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 U.S. authorities decided to press criminal charges," Assistant U.S. Attorney General Lanny Breuer told Taibbi, "HSBC (a British bank) would almost certainly have lost its banking license in the U.S., 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.

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