The Real Fight Against Fake News 

On the 80th anniversary of Orson Welles' famous radio broadcast of the War of the Worlds, here are Project Censored's Top 10 underreported stories of the year.

Page 5 of 5

Because of this failure, U.S. laws will surely be bypassed on U.S. soil. Greene noted that the CLOUD Act negates protections of two interrelated existing laws. It creates an exception to the Stored Communications Act that allows certified foreign governments to request personal data directly from U.S. companies.

Sources

Robyn Greene, "Somewhat Improved, the CLOUD Act Still Poses a Threat to Privacy and Human Rights," Just Security, March 23, 2018.

David Ruiz, "Responsibility Deflected, the CLOUD Act Passes," Electronic Frontier Foundation, March 22, 2018.

9. Indigenous Communities Around World Helping to Win Legal Rights of Nature

In March 2017, the government of New Zealand ended a 140-year dispute with an indigenous Maori tribe by enacting a law that officially recognized the Whanganui River, which the tribe considers their ancestor, as a living entity with rights.

The Guardian reported it as "a world-first," although the surrounding Te Urewera National Park had been similarly recognized in a 2014 law, and the U.S. Supreme Court came within one vote of potentially recognizing such a right in the 1972 case Sierra Club v. Morton, expressed in a dissent by Justice William O. Douglas. In addition, the broader idea of "rights of nature" has been adopted in Ecuador, Bolivia, and by some American communities, noted Mihnea Tanasescu, writing for The Conversation.

The tribe's perspective was explained to The Guardian by its lead negotiator, Gerrard Albert.

"We consider the river an ancestor and always have," Albert said. "We have fought to find an approximation in law so that all others can understand that, from our perspective, treating the river as a living entity is the correct way to approach it, as an indivisible whole, instead of the traditional model for the last 100 years of treating it from a perspective of ownership and management."

But that could be just the beginning. "It is a critical precedent for acknowledging the Rights of Nature in legal systems around the world," reported Kayla DeVault for YES! Magazine.

Other indigenous people are advancing this perspective, DeVault wrote: "In response to the Standing Rock Sioux battle against the Dakota Access pipeline, the Ho-Chunk Nation of Wisconsin amended its constitution to include the Rights of Nature. This was the first time a North American tribe used a Western legal framework to adopt such laws. Some American municipalities have protected their watersheds against fracking by invoking Rights of Nature."

DeVault added, "[If the New Zealand Whanganui River settlement] was able to correct the gap in Western and indigenous paradigms in New Zealand, surely a similar effort to protect the Missouri River could be produced for the Standing Rock and Cheyenne River nations by the American government."

The same could be done with a wide range of other environmental justice disputes involving Native American tribes. Tanasescu described the broader sweep of recent developments in the "rights of nature," noting that significant problems have resulted from the lack of specific guardianship provisions, which are integral to the Whanganui River law.

"By granting natural entities personhood one by one and assigning them specific guardians, over time New Zealand could drastically change an ossified legal system that still sees oceans, mountains and forests primarily as property, guaranteeing nature its day in court," Tanasescu concluded.

"A few corporate media outlets have covered the New Zealand case and subsequent decisions in India," Project Censored noted. "However, these reports have not provided the depth of coverage found in the independent press or addressed how legal decisions in other countries might provide models for the United States."

Sources

Kayla DeVault, "What Legal Personhood for U.S. Rivers Would Do," YES! Magazine, Sept. 12, 2017.

Eleanor Ainge Roy, "New Zealand River Granted Same Legal Rights as Human Being," The Guardian, March 16, 2017.

Mihnea Tanasescu, "When a River Is a Person: From Ecuador to New Zealand, Nature Gets Its Day in Court," The Conversation, June 19, 2017.

10. FBI Racially Profiling "Black Identity Extremists"

At the same time that white supremacists were preparing for the "Unite the Right" demonstration in Charlottsville, which resulted in the killing of Heather Heyer in August 2017, the FBI's counterterrorism division produced an intelligence assessment warning of a very different, though actually non-existent threat: "Black Identity Extremists." The report appeared to be the first time the term had been used to identify a movement, according to Foreign Policy magazine, which broke the story.

"But former government officials and legal experts said no such movement exists, and some expressed concern that the term is part of a politically motivated effort to find an equivalent threat to white supremacists," Foreign Policy reported.

"The use of terms like 'Black identity extremists' is part of a long-standing FBI attempt to define a movement where none exists," said former FBI agent Mike German, who now works for the Brennen Center for Justice. "Basically, it's Black people who scare them."

"It's classic Hoover-style labeling with little bit of maliciousness and euphemism wrapped up together," said William Maxwell, a Washington University professor working on a book about FBI monitoring of Black writers. "The language — Black identity extremist — strikes me as weird and really a continuation of the worst of Hoover's past."

"There is a long tradition of the FBI targeting Black activists and this is not surprising," Black Lives Matter activist DeRay McKesson told Foreign Policy.

A former homeland security official told Foreign Policy that carelessly connecting unrelated groups will make it harder for law enforcement to identify real threats. 'It's so convoluted — it's compromising officer safety," the former official said.

"The corporate media [has] covered the FBI report on 'black identity extremists' in narrow or misleading ways," Project Censored noted, citing examples from The New York Times, Fox News and NBC News. "Coverage like this both draws focus away from the active white supremacist movement and feeds the hate and fear on which such a movement thrives."

Sources

Jana Winter and Sharon Weinberger, "The FBI's New U.S. Terrorist Threat: 'Black Identity Extremists,'" Foreign Policy, Oct. 6, 2017.

Hatewatch Staff, "FBI 'Black Identity Extremists' Report Stirs Controversy," Southern Poverty Law Center, Oct. 25, 2017.

Amy Goodman, interview with Christian Picciolini, "Life After Hate: Trump Admin Stops Funding Former Neo-Nazis Who Now Fight White Supremacy," Democracy Now!, Aug. 17, 2017,

Brandon E. Patterson, "Police Spied on New York Black Lives Matter Group, Internal Police Documents Show," Mother Jones, Oct. 19, 2017.

Paul Rosenberg is a senior editor for Random Length News. This is an edited version of Rosenberg's report.

Correction: The original version of this report misspelled Orson Welles' last name.

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