Since the end of August, calamitous hurricanes have dominated the news cycle. From Harvey to Irma to Maria, which grew from a Category 1 to a Category 5 storm in just half a day, many people want to stay informed about the struggle and damage these natural disasters are leaving in their wake.
Unsurprisingly, the media’s obsessive focus on the disasters has not only jarred some residents trying to keep their families safe — it has also allowed other important developments to remain on the back burner.
Though these other stories have received some degree of attention in mainstream narratives, they haven’t received the extensive coverage they deserve. Here are five vital developments from the past few weeks that have taken a backseat to the drama and destruction of hurricanes:
1. Lawmakers approve $700 billion military budget with authorization for endless war
On Monday, an overwhelming majority of senators (89-8) approved the massive National Defense Authorization Act (NDAA), totaling roughly $700 billion. It is $630 million above what the hawkish Trump administration proposed and was passed after lawmakers rejected an amendment from Senator Rand Paul to rescind the longstanding authorization for use of military force (AUMF) imposed in 2001, which has allowed the U.S. government to wage “unlimited war, anywhere, anytime, any place upon the globe,” the senator said. In June, Paul also introduced an amendment to the “indefinite detention” provision of the NDAA, added in the 2012 version, that allows the military to imprison American citizens without trial. That bill, S.1300, was referred to the Committee on the Judiciary in June, and lawmakers have taken no further action.
2. Media ignores North Korea offers to negotiate
As Harvey gained steam at the end of August, a fresh wave of saber-rattling against North Korea also dominated media narratives, but an important detail was consistently left out. The Intercept pointed out in early September that outlets like the Washington Post have played up the North Korean threat while ignoring the reality that the North Korean regime has offered to negotiate on nuclear weapons if the U.S. drops their aggressive practices. From the Intercept:
“This is what the envoy, North Korea’s Deputy UN Ambassador Kim In Ryong, actually said, according to a transcript from North Korea’s UN Mission quoted in the AP article:
‘As long as the U.S. hostile policy and nuclear threat continue [emphasis added], the DPRK, no matter who may say what, will never place its self-defensive nuclear deterrence on the negotiation table or flinch an inch from the road chosen by itself, the road of bolstering up the state nuclear force.
“There’s of course a significant difference between North Korea saying it will never negotiate to halt or eliminate its nuclear weapons program, and that it will never negotiate as long as the U.S. continues to threaten it.”
But the Washington Post and likes of MSNBC’s Brian Williams generally prefer to omit this vital detail, adopting Trump’s narrative and further fearmongering the American people into supporting endless war, which the Senate once again codified this week.
3. The establishment push for mass widespread of privacy continues into the Trump administration
Though outrage over government spying seemed to hit a crescendo after Edward Snowden’s revelations during the Obama years, the government has carried on in its practices. Though some minor concessions have been made to scale back the collection of data, the Trump administration — which previously bemoaned government surveillance against candidate Trump — has aggressively lobbied to keep empowering shadowy branches of the surveillance apparatus. As Anti-Media’s Derrick Broze reported last week, days before September 11, Attorney General Jeff Sessions and Director of National Intelligence Dan Coats penned a letter to Congress urging them to reauthorize Section 702 of the Foreign Intelligence Surveillance Act, which operates under what is arguably a rubber stamp court and sweeps up the private data of American citizens in the process. Surveillance advocates have been pushing for this re-authorization for months, claiming it is vital to stop terrorism. Meanwhile, as many Americans continue to turn a blind eye to mass surveillance, Apple has released a phone that will make it monumentally easier for law enforcement to spy on citizens.
4. American ally investigates itself for war crimes, finds no evidence of wrongdoing
Last week, nations like China and the Netherlands pushed for an investigation into well-documented Saudi war crimes in Yemen, where the Kingdom’s coalition is using American and British weapons to decimate the civilian population and vital infrastructures. Though the Saudis didn’t oppose such an investigation, they questioned the timing and, simultaneously, released the verdict of their own panel, which determined they had not committed any crimes and had merely made a few mistakes in their assault on the small, impoverished country. The Saudis’ conclusion came the same week as the anniversary of the 9/11 attacks, which candidate Trump insinuated were a result of Saudi plotting before selling them billions of dollars worth of war materials upon taking office. In an Orwellian twist, this week Trump blasted Iran for oppressing people, supporting terrorists, and committing violence — all traits of both the Saudis and their Western allies.
5. U.S. cops continue to abuse power, adopt military tactics
Trump’s executive order in late August that he would ease restrictions on cops’ ability to obtain military weaponry rightly gained a great deal of media attention, as did protests in St. Louis this weekend over the acquittal of a cop who, after a car chase, shot an unarmed black man to death after allegedly saying he was “going to kill this motherfucker, don’t you know it.” Less attention has been paid to other important developments concerning America’s police state. For one, Israeli security forces, who have a long history of human rights abuses, are currently training top American cops. From the Intercept:
“This week, a delegation of top American law enforcement officers is in Israel for the ADL’s National Counter-Terrorism Seminar, which includes training on topics such as “leadership in a time of terror” and “balancing the fight against crime and terrorism,” according to literature by the group advertising the trip. More than 200 law enforcement executives from over 100 departments in the U.S. and abroad, immigration enforcement agencies, and even campus police have participated in the ADL program since it launched in 2004.”
Though this is not new, it is continuous and particularly concerning in an age where cops continue to evade accountability for violence in the streets even when they are charged with crimes. Further still, in the weeks since the hurricane hysteria began, U.S. police officers have continued to use wanton violence. They’ve also continued to face allegations of sexual abuse, another ongoing pattern (see: here, here, here, here, here, and here for instances where cops have been implicated in sexual assault over the last few weeks).
Are hurricanes dangerous and newsworthy? Certainly. Are endless war, media manipulation of reality to favor militarism, institutional spying, war crimes, and aggressive cops also dangerous and newsworthy? Certainly. Though these stories haven’t been outright buried, they have not received the amount of attention they deserve, leaving Americans endlessly mired in a pit of sensationalism, fears of external threats, and establishment-approved narratives.