At Truthout, we work hard to provide news and analysis that you can’t find in the corporate media. We are proud of every one of the dozens of stories our small staff publishes each week, and it would be impossible to fit them all into one year-end review, so here’s a small sample of our most original news coverage from 2015 that reflects the passions of our community of readers. Thank you for reading, thank you for supporting us and thank you for taking action to build a better world. We look forward to providing you with more fearless journalism in the year to come.
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1. Anthropogenic Climate Disruption
As world leaders prepared to haggle over the future of the planet at the COP21 climate summit in Paris, Truthout’s Dahr Jamail was busy producing monthly Climate Disruption Dispatches on the hard science behind anthropogenic climate disruption (ACD), a phenomenon that “continues to outstrip our ability to model worst-case scenarios, as it is happening much faster than was ever anticipated.” Politicians and polluters have failed to make meaningful changes, so Truthout collaborated with YES! Magazine to explore grassroots solutions to the climate challenge with the Climate in Our Hands series. Truthout’s Candice Bernd traveled to Paris to report on climate justice protesters demanding real solutions during the COP21 talks, only to face a “counterrevolution.”
2. Holding Chicago’s Killer Cops Accountable
In April, Truthout published a four-part investigative series by Sarah Macaraeg that uncovered patterns of institutionalized racism and bias in Chicago authorities’ handling of “justified” police shootings, allowing cops to avoid accountability after killing young people of color. Truthout also amplified the voices of We Charge Genocide and other groups in the growing movement demanding that killer cops be brought to justice. In November, massive protests against police violence and alleged cover-ups erupted in Chicago, and Mayor Rahm Emanuel fired Chicago Police Superintendent Garry McCarthy, who has been accused of indulging violent behavior by the city’s police force.
3. Solidarity Beyond the Police State
Activists know that simply resisting police violence is not enough; we must also act to move beyond policing, as we know it today. In September, Truthout reported on the Oakland Power Projects, a grassroots initiative to train Oakland, California, residents to serve as medics and first responders who can provide an alternative to calling the police, who often do more harm than good, especially in medical emergencies involving people living with mental illness. In August, organizer Ejeris Dixon provided readers with “practical steps towards transformative liberation” and encouraged us to make “small, bold experiments” in transformative justice to move beyond the police state that disproportionately targets marginalized communities. And much of this transformative power is already building within marginalized communities, as Kelly Hayes reminds us with a compelling and personal narrative that weaves together the shared histories that have inspired Indigenous and Black activists to work in solidarity to advance the movement for Black lives.
4. The Government’s Explosive Crisis at Camp Minden
In 2012, a massive explosion rocked northwest Louisiana, shaking houses and causing damage in several rural communities. Investigators traced the blast to 15 million pounds of artillery propellant that had been illegally and improperly stored at a military facility called Camp Minden. Corrosion of the waste increased the chance of another blast by the day, but it took bickering state and federal officials two years to come up with a plan to get rid of it: burn the explosive waste in open trays without any pollution controls, a process that local scientists feared would pollute neighboring communities with carcinogenic gases. The story did not receive national media attention until Truthout began reporting from Louisiana.
5. Pregnancy and Police Violence
Truthout contributor Victoria Law wrote an alarming report in April that revealed how pregnancy can increase a woman’s chance of experiencing violence at the hands of police and corrections officers. Police have brutalized pregnant women in a few high-profile cases, but Law points out that police hypocritically subject pregnant women to less visible forms of violence much more often. Pregnant women are routinely shackled in jail and denied food, clothing and medical care, but if they subject themselves to the same treatment, they could be arrested for child endangerment or worse. In October, Britni de la Cretaz forged new ground with a report on harm reduction strategies as alternatives to criminalizing pregnant women recovering from drug addiction. Criminalization disproportionally impacts poor women of color and tears children away from their families.
6. The Navy’s Dangerous Electromagnetic War Games
Dahr Jamail released a series of reports on the US Navy’s plans to fly fighter jets with electromagnetic weapons over pristine habitats in the Pacific Northwest. The reports reveal that the military brazenly attempted to circumvent environmental regulations and ignore public concerns over the impacts that the resulting noise and electromagnetic pollution could have on human and environmental health.
7. A “Ring of Snitches” and False Murder Convictions in Detroit
In a shocking report published in March, contributor Aaron Miguel Cantú combed through a series of Detroit murder cases to expose how cops and prosecutors have routinely used false confessions and jailhouse snitches to pin murder convictions on young Black men. He centered his work on the story of one man who has been incarcerated for two decades based on the testimony of a known jailhouse informant.
8. Rights for Sex Workers
It was a big year for the sex worker rights movement. After weeks of fierce public debate, Amnesty International approved a policy calling on all governments to decriminalize the buying and selling of sexual services in order to protect sex workers from violence and advance their human rights. Truthout was digging deep into the issue and interviewing grassroots activists long before rights for sex workers became a mainstream media conversation. Special in-depth reports by Anne Elizabeth Moore revealed how powerful anti-trafficking nongovernmental organizations that unfairly conflate sex work with human trafficking have become an industry, raising millions of dollars by distorting the facts and avoiding accountability. Reporter Mike Ludwig exposed how sensational efforts by law enforcement and the anti-trafficking industry to “rescue” people in the sex trade can harm and exploit the same individuals they are supposed to be “saving.”
9. The International Movement Against GMO Giants Monsanto and Syngenta
Dangerous pesticides drifting from GMO test plots run by Syngenta and other agrichemical giants are thought to be contaminating delicate ecosystems and Native Hawaiian neighborhoods on the island of Kaua’i, but Syngenta has successfully opposed local attempts to regulate pesticide use. In April, Mike Ludwig was embedded with Hawaiian activists who traveled to Syngenta’s corporate headquarters in Basel, Switzerland, to confront the multinational corporation on its home turf. In March, Truthout reported on a successful effort by farmers and activists in El Salvador to prevent Monsanto from supplying their country with GMO seeds despite pushback from the US government. Monsanto locks farmers that buy its seeds into strict contracts that promote dependency on the company’s products, such as its flagship glyphosate herbicide, which has been linked to cancer. In October, journalist Paul Barbot warned against the proposed merger of Monsanto and Syngenta into one company, allowing a massive “corporate monster” to tighten its stranglehold on the world food supply. Syngenta initially rebuffed Monsanto’s offers, but Monsanto executives recently told investors that they are still interested in acquiring the rival company.
10. Gentrification Hits Richmond, California – and Smaller Towns Across the US
Much has been written about gentrification in major cities like New York and San Francisco, but in July Truthout’s Adam Hudson reported from Richmond, an historically working-class, Black community that has been successful in pushing for police reforms and holding a massive Chevron plant accountable for environmental abuses. Now the community faces a new challenge – rising property values and other problems associated with the spillover of gentrification from the Bay Area. The story reveals that gentrification is not a “big city” phenomenon, but instead is a broader capitalist phenomenon. Other Truthout stories over the past year have noted that gentrification has grown out of colonialism and the displacement of Indigenous people, and is also deeply rooted in “free market” principles that privilege the very few over the many.
This review of Truthout stories from 2015 was complied by Truthout reporter Mike Ludwig with input from other members of our staff.