The Top 20 Stories of 2004 You Haven’t Heard
Compiled by Brian Kaller
This is the week of the recap, of the media’s rapid-fire regurgitation of the allegedly big stories of 2004. Of course, most of those stories—Britney Spears, Laci Peterson, Kobe Bryant, Janet Jackson—should never have been considered news in the first place, and even the “hard” news programs often focused on shallow and irrelevant issues.
in the flood of journalistic spam, however, there was real news, often buried
in the back pages of newspapers or in arcane publications. No news anchor interrupted
your regularly scheduled programming for these stories, nor did any newspaper
editors place them on page one under screaming headlines. These are the news
flashes that should have been, the ones that got away.
Here, in chronological order, is a list of the top 20 stories of 2004 you haven't
1.) Bush officials advise companies on how to pay employees
Jan. 6—The Bush Labor Department is offering advice to corporations on
how they can avoid paying overtime to 1.3 million low-wage workers under this
year’s rule changes, the Associated Press reported.
department suggested that companies could cut workers’ hourly wages and
add the overtime to equal the original salary, or raise salaries to the new
$22,100 annual threshold, making them ineligible for overtime.
When criticized for the tip sheet Labor Department spokesman Ed Frank told AP,
“We’re not saying anybody should do any of this.”
Frank used to represent one of the largest business association lobbying groups
in Washington, the National Federation of Independent Business, which has been
aggressively lobbying for this very rule change.
Source = MSNBC.MSN.com
2.) Up to one-third of all terrestrial life could
Jan. 7—Climate change could drive as much as 37 percent of land animals
and plants into extinction, according to a major new study published in this
date’s edition of the journal Nature.
The study estimates that the climate change expected between now and 2050 will
place 15 to 37 percent of all species in several sampled regions, and presumably
the rest of the world, at risk of extinction.
“This study makes it clear that climate change is the most significant
new threat for extinctions this century,” said co-author Lee Hannah, Climate
Change Biology Senior Fellow at the Center for Applied Biodiversity Science
(CABS) at Conservation International (CI). “The combination of increasing
habitat loss, already recognized as the largest single threat to species, and
climate change, is likely to devastate the ability of species to move and survive.”
If people work together to cut consumption and slow the climate change, the
study found that as little as 18 percent of the world’s species would
go extinct. Climate change is primarily caused by the emission of pollutants
like carbon dioxide and methane that trap heat in the Earth’s atmosphere.
Source = CommonDreams.org
3.) Texas terrorists try to build weapons of mass destruction
Jan. 9—One evening two winters ago, a man in Staten Island, N.Y., absent-mindedly
flipped through his mail. Inside one envelope was a stack of fake documents,
including United Nations and Defense Department identification cards, and a
note: “We would hate to have this fall into the wrong hands.”
It had. The package, intended for a member of a self-styled militia in New Jersey,
had been delivered to the wrong address.
From that lucky break, the Seattle Times reported, federal officials believe
they may have uncovered a massive terrorist plot by white supremacists. If the
anti-Jewish and anti-black groups had succeeded, law enforcement agents said,
they could have killed everyone inside a large auditorium.
Several commentators criticized the mainstream media and Bush administration
officials for paying little attention to the incident, and allegedly focusing
only on politically useful threats, the report said. A similar plot was discovered
in Somerset County, N.J. July 13.
Source = SeattleTimes.nwSource.com
4.) GOP Senate staff hacked Democrats’ e-mails
Jan. 22—Republican staff members of the U.S. Senate Judiciary Committee
infiltrated the computer files of the Democratic Party for a year, monitoring
secret strategy memos and periodically passing on copies to the media, the Boston
the spring of 2002 until at least April 2003, members of the GOP committee staff
exploited a computer glitch that allowed them to access restricted Democratic
communications without a password. Trolling through hundreds of memos, they
were able to read talking points and accounts of private meetings discussing
which judicial nominees Democrats would fight and with what tactics.
The office of the Senate sergeant-at-arms, with the help of the Secret Service,
has seized several taxpayer-funded servers used to steal files, including the
server for the office of GOP Senate Majority Leader Bill Frist.
Democrats said some of their private memos were leaked to right-wing columnist
Robert Novak in February 2003. Novak is also at the center of an investigation
after he “outed” a CIA agent whose husband contradicted the Bush
5.) Bosses’ pay increased to 500 times employee pay
18—Executive pay at U.S. companies is out of control, Reuters News Service
reported. U.S. CEOs now get paid more than 500 times what the average worker
earns, according to a survey by Towers Perrin, compared to about 10 times in
Japan. In 1980 it was only about 40 times.
According to the Bureau of Labor Statistics, the average worker took home $517
in their weekly paycheck in 2003; the average large company CEO took home $155,769
in their weekly pay. If the minimum wage had increased as quickly as CEO pay
since 1990, it would today be $15.71 per hour, more than three times the current
minimum wage of $5.15 an hour.
In related news, the human-rights group United for a Fair Economy released a
study in September that found that CEOs at companies that outsource the most
U.S. jobs get the biggest raises. Political contributions also pay: The 38 CEOs
who have personally raised at least $100,000 for either the Bush or Kerry presidential
campaigns received 86 percent more than the average large company CEO.
Source = CommonDreams.org
6.) Bush official calls teachers’ union ‘terrorist
23—Education Secretary Rod Paige called the nation’s largest teachers’
union a “terrorist organization” during a White House meeting with
governors on Monday. The National Education Association has long been a proponent
of better teachers and schools and an opponent of the Bush administration.
When asked to apologize, Paige said that “it was an inappropriate choice
of words to describe the obstructionist scare tactics the NEA’s Washington
lobbyists have employed against No Child Left Behind’s historic education
In related news, White House aide Karen Hughes invoked terrorism when referring
to Planned Parenthood on Larry King’s April 25 program. Hughes said that
opposition to abortion is “really the fundamental difference between us
and the terror network we fight.”
Source = CNN.com
7.) Army Sent Mentally Ill Troops to Iraq
March 13—The Army appears to have “inappropriately” deployed
soldiers to Iraq who already were diagnosed with mental problems, according
to documents obtained by United Press International.
than two dozen suicides by U.S. troops in Iraq, and hundreds of medical evacuations
for psychiatric problems, have raised concerns about the mental health of soldiers
in Operation Iraqi Freedom. An Army Medical Department after-action report obtained
by UPI suggests that the Army sent some soldiers to war who were mentally unfit
in the first place.
Veterans’ advocates told UPI they were shocked by widespread mental problems
among soldiers from Iraq, and that one in 10 soldiers evacuated from the war
on terror to an Army hospital in Germany were sent solely for mental problems.
In related news, a returning Iraq veteran told UPI on March 2 that Army officials
refused to treat him after he complained about the poor care at the base. Fourteen-year
veteran Lt. Jullian Goodrum’s complaints helped spark hearings in Congress,
but after speaking out, Goodrum was locked for two weeks in the base’s
psychiatric ward. He was then charged $6,000 for his stay upon his release,
Source = UPI.com
8.) Al Qaeda allies endorse Bush
March 18—The Islamic militant group that claimed responsibility for the
Madrid train bombings released a statement endorsing George W. Bush for president,
the Associated Press reported.
statement of “The Brigade of Abu Hafs al-Masri,” a group believed
to be linked to Al Qaeda, needs what it called Bush’s “idiocy and
religious fanaticism” because they would “wake up” the Islamic
“We are very keen that Bush does not lose the upcoming elections,”
the statement said.
In related news, the Washington Times on Oct. 13 quoted Mowafaq Al-Tai, a London-educated
Iraqi, as saying that Iraqis were split on the U.S. presidential election. The
most pro-Kerry, he said, are the former Saddam Hussein loyalists—Ba’ath
Party members and others who think Washington might scale back its ambitions
for Iraq if Mr. Kerry wins, allowing them to re-enter civic life.
The most pro-Bush, he said, are the foreign extremists, terrorist groups who
have entered Iraq to fight U.S. troops.
“They prefer Bush, because he’s a provocative figure, and the more
they can push people to the extreme, the better for their case,” he said.
Source = FoxNews.com
9.) Bush campaign sold illegal merchandise
March 19—George W. Bush’s re-election campaign sold paraphernalia
made in the military dictatorship of Myanmar, which is illegal under U.S. law,
the Baltimore Sun reported.
The merchandise sold on GeorgeWBushStore.com includes shirts made in Myanmar,
where workers labor for 7 cents an hour under brutal conditions, and child labor
and sexual slavery are common, the article said. Other items were manufactured
in other Third-World countries.
Bush last July signed into law the Burmese Freedom and Democracy Act, saying
“The United States will not waver from its commitment to the cause of
democracy and human rights in Burma.”
10.) Cult leader crowns self U.S. ruler as Congressmen look
March 23—Ex-convict, billionaire and cult leader Sun Myung Moon declared
himself "Messiah, Returning Lord and True Parent” of the United States
in a coronation ceremony in a Senate office building on this date as several
Congressmen looked on, according to an article in Salon.com.
84, is the owner of a media empire that includes the Washington Times and United
Press International, and is a major ally of the Republican Party and the Bush
family. He is also the leader of the Unification Church, and marries its members
in mass weddings held in Madison Square Garden, giving them strict instructions
on what sexual positions they are to assume during coupling.
The cult leader is frank about his desire to destroy democracy and the Constitution,
replacing them with “Godism,” ruled by him. He calls the United
States “Satan’s Harvest,” said that gay people—whom
he calls “dung-eating dogs”—should be “eliminated”
and said that the Holocaust was punishment upon the Jews for the killing of
Christ. He said in a speech on Jan. 28, 1993, that “my enemies are America
and Christianity” and his latest campaign, documented by journalist John
Gorenfeld, was to persuade pastors to destroy the Christian cross.
U.S. Rep. Danny K. Davis (D-Ill.) brought Moon his crown at the ceremony, according
to the articles and video footage of the event. Other Congressmen who attended
the coronation included Sen. Lindsey Graham (R-S.C.), Rep. Curt Weldon (R-PA.),
Rep. Chris Cannon (R-Utah), Rep. Roscoe Bartlett (R-Md.) and Sanford Bishop
At least four longtime “Moonies” have received more than $350,000
in government grants to promote “healthy marriage” under the Bush
administration’s “faith-based” programs, the San Francisco
Chronicle reported Sunday.
Source = Salon.com,
11.) Media superstar calls for ‘final solution’
March 30—Media superstar Bill O’Reilly, discussing with two military
officers the fighting in the Iraqi city of Fallujah, proposed a “final
solution” for the city’s 500,000 inhabitants.
“I don’t care about the people of Fallujah,” O’Reilly
said. “You’re not going to win their hearts and minds … So
let’s knock this place down … we know what the final solution should
be … this isn’t a big town. We’re not talking about Cincinnati
here. Right? It’s not a big town?”
U.S. Census figures state that as of July 2003, Cincinnati had a population
of 317,361, compared with Fallujah’s 500,000.
One week earlier, O’Reilly hosted a program about white people becoming
a minority by the mid-21st century, and said that by then “we’ll
all be dead. Thank God, right?”
Source = Atrios.BlogSpot.com
12.) 60% of U.S. corporations paid no taxes in 1996 through
April 6—More than 60 percent of U.S. corporations paid no federal taxes
for 1996 through 2000, years when the economy boomed and corporate profits soared,
the General Accounting Office reported.
An even greater number of foreign companies—70 percent—paid no taxes
in that same time frame, the GAO found.
Corporate tax receipts have shrunk as a share of overall federal revenue in
recent years, and had fallen to just 7.4 percent of overall federal receipts
by 2003, the lowest rate since 1983 and the second-lowest rate since 1934, federal
budget officials said in the Wall Street Journal.
The basic federal corporate-tax rate for big corporations is 35 percent, but
many companies exploit numerous credits and loopholes, as well as offshore accounts
to circumvent paying taxes.
Source = GAO.gov
13.) Fundamentalist reporter had history of fraud
April 23—While the fake stories of young reporters like Stephen Glass
and Jayson Blair have become famous in recent years, the media paid little attention
to this year’s revelation that 20-year USA Today writer Jack Kelley built
his career on fabrications.
Christian fundamentalist, Kelley said “God has called me to proclaim truth,”
and his worldwide dispatches made him a journalistic star, according to a profile
in Salon.com. His stories played on Arab and other ethnic stereotypes, especially
after 9-11, the article said. His visit with Elian Gonzalez’s father in
Cuba in 2000, his visit to Osama bin Laden’s terrorist camps in Afghanistan
in 2001 and his linking of two Chicago-based Islamic charities to Al-Qaeda were
partly or totally made up.
Asked about his ability to get such dramatic stories, Kelley had said, “stories
just fall into my lap when I’m in tune with the Lord.”
More recently, Kelley was listed as a journalism teacher for the World Journalism
Institute, a fundamentalist school that trains its acolytes to report news from
a far-right perspective.
Source = WashingtonPost.com,
Children tortured at Abu Ghraib
July 5—The International Red Cross found at least 107 children imprisoned
at Abu Ghraib and other U.S. prisons in Iraq, the German television program
Report Mainz reported.
The reports were confirmed by UNICEF in a June 2004 report and by U.S. Army
Sgt. Samuel Provance, who was stationed for six months at Abu Ghraib and described
the torture of a teenage boy in order to get his father to talk. Some 70 percent
to 90 percent of such prisoners were found to be innocent, according to intelligence
officers cited in a Red Cross report disclosed May 10.
In December 2002, the United States ratified a treaty that establishes 18 as
the minimum age for any compulsory participation in armed conflict and obliges
governments to help rehabilitate child soldiers.
Source = FromTheWilderness.com,
15.) FOX broadcasts fictitious Kerry story
Oct. 6—A report by FOX News reporter Jane Roh on a group called Communists
for Kerry turned out to be a hoax, according to a retraction by the network.
quoted a man calling himself Komoselutes Rob of Communists for Kerry as saying,
“We’re trying to get Comrade Kerry elected and get that capitalist
enabler George Bush out of office.”
A Google search reveals that the group is a fictional creation of the real “Hellgate
Republican” group, found at HellGate.org.
In related news, FOX also admitted that political correspondent Carl Cameron’s
recent interview with John Kerry was completely fabricated. The article included
fictitious quotes in which the Massachusetts senator gushed over his “metrosexual”
“Didn’t my nails and cuticles look great?” the article read,
purportedly quoting Kerry. “Women should like me! I do manicures.”
FOX News Channel hosts and contributors quickly picked up on Cameron’s
report, discussing the reported manicure five separate times in the three hours
preceding the debate. Cameron continued to cover the Kerry campaign.
Source = MediaMatters.org
16.) Colorado voting director calls blacks ‘Sambo’
Oct. 18—As the head of the Help America Vote Act in Colorado, Drew T.
Durham has the vital role of ensuring that residents of that swing state, especially
minorities, are treated fairly. There is only one problem: Durham is a racist.
According to a profile in Texas Lawyer magazine, Durham referred to a black
attorney in his office as “our new Sambo,” told “nigger jokes”
and told state attorney general Dan Morales that “where I come from, Mexicans
work for white people, not the other way around.”
The article states that, speaking to an anti-conservation group, Durham bragged,
“There’s no endangered species in Sterling County because...we killed
Source = RMPN.org
17.) 1.7 million veterans without health coverage
Oct. 19—Nearly 1.7 million military veterans have no health insurance
or access to government hospitals and clinics for veterans, according to a report
by a doctors’ organization.
additional 235,000 veterans have lost coverage since 2000, meaning they are
losing health insurance at a faster rate than the general population, said Physicians
for a National Health Program. About 45 million Americans have no health insurance,
including five million who lost coverage during the past four years, according
to the Census Bureau.
The report traced some of the increase to the Bush administration’s decision
last year to suspend health care services for higher-income veterans in order
to reduce waiting times for doctor’s appointments.
Physicians for a National Health Program urges the United States to adopt a
universal public health program.
Source = USAToday.com
18.) 50,000 kids poisoned after EPA removes safeguards
Nov. 9—In 2001, the Environmental Protection Agency authorized the removal
of childproofing ingredients from rat poison, resulting in the poisoning of
50,000 children last year, according to an article in the conservative Los Angeles
regulations required companies that make rat poison pellets to include an ingredient
that makes the candy-like pellets bitter to small children, to encourage them
to spit it out, and a dye that makes it easy for parents to see when a child
has ingested the poison.
According to a recent article in the Los Angeles Times, the EPA met five times
behind closed doors with representatives of the chemical industry, which ultimately
resulted in the removal of the safety regulations.
As a result of no longer requiring those safety additives, the OCA charges,
the nation is now seeing a record number of children poisoned by the toxic pellets.
Last year more than 50,000 children were poisoned by rodenticides, which is
three times as many as were affected prior to the removal of safety regulations.
Source = CommonDreams.org
19.) Corporation announces skin-searing weapon for crowd
Dec. 1—Government defense giant Raytheon Co. has developed a heat beam
to repel enemies, a Pentagon official told the Boston Business Journal.
the world’s largest missile maker, delivered a prototype to the U.S. military
last month, the article said. Los Angeles Sheriff’s Department commander
and Rayethon advisor Charles Heal said the device compares the effect to having
a hot iron placed on the skin.
“It will likely be in Iraq in the next 12 months,” Heal told the
Journal. “They are very, very close.”
A U.S. Air Force fact sheet said the weapon would be mounted on a Humvee vehicle
and would project a “focused, speed-of-light millimeter wave energy beam
to induce an intolerable heating sensation.”
Heal told Bloomberg Business News that Raytheon could expand the market by selling
a smaller version to law-enforcement agencies. The company is working on a smaller,
tripod-mounted version for police forces.
Source = de.afrl.af.mil
20.) Document indicates Bush personally ordered torture
Dec. 20—The American Civil Liberties Union obtained a document that suggests
that George W. Bush personally ordered the torture of civilians in Iraq, the
human-rights agency said. The document and several e-mails were obtained through
the Freedom of Information Act after a court battle.
The two-page e-mail references an Executive Order by George W. Bush, saying
that Bush directly authorized interrogation techniques including sleep deprivation,
stress positions, the use of military dogs and “sensory deprivation through
the use of hoods, etc.”
The human-rights organization also obtained Defense Department e-mails, including
a December 2003 e-mail that described Defense Department interrogators impersonating
FBI agents while torturing prisoners. The e-mail concludes, “If this detainee
is ever released or his story made public in any way, DOD interrogators will
not be held accountable because these torture techniques were done [sic] the
‘FBI’ interrogators. The FBI will [sic] left holding the bag before
Another e-mail described prisoners at Guantánamo military base who were
shackled hand and foot in a fetal position on the floor and kept in that position
for 18 to 24 hours at a time, until most had “urinated or defacated [sic]”
on themselves. On one occasion, the agent reports having seen a detainee left
in an unventilated, non-air conditioned room at a temperature “probably
well over a hundred degrees.” The agent notes: “The detainee was
almost unconscious on the floor, with a pile of hair next to him. He had apparently
been literally pulling his own hair out throughout the night.”
Several prisoners at Guantánamo were sent back to their native England
after the British government pressured the U.S. military to release them. Upon
their return, they were found innocent and released.
Source = ACLU.org