A power hungry president has kicked a power player out of office, and the mainstream media is having a field day.
Headlines have obsessively focused on Trump’s termination of FBI Director James Comey and the implications that come with it, drawing comparisons to Richard Nixon’s Watergate scandal and questioning Trump’s decision to fire the man who was leading an investigation into the president’s own alleged misconduct.
While the drama currently unfolding will certainly have profound implications for the present and future, the theatrics playing out on telescreens around the country are hardly representative of the bigger picture in the United States.
As millions of Americans fix their eyes and minds on the ongoing developments, other stories are lurking behind the curtain — and reveal far more about the struggles we face.
Though they have received some coverage from corporate and establishment outlets, these stories are being forced out of the conversation by round-the-clock coverage of political figureheads warring in Washington.
Here are five to follow:
1. The Pentagon is seeking a troop increase in Afghanistan after 16 years of repeating that exact mistake — As various mainstream outlets reported — with little traction — the Trump administration is considering sending as many as 5,000 more troops to Afghanistan.
Though options are still being considered – and even Trump and the likes of Condoleezza Rice have pushed for a different strategy — the potential increase amounts to business as usual for an empire mired in endless war with a country still plagued by the very same terrorists the United States vowed to eradicate sixteen years ago when the invasion first commenced.
There are currently over 8,000 troops in Afghanistan, making a spike of several thousand troops significant and a sign of the military-industrial establishment’s continued hold over American foreign policy.
2. FDA-approved drugs come with rampant safety hazards — According to an analysis published this week in the Journal of the American Medical Association, 32% of drugs deemed ‘safe’ by the Food and Drug Administration were later flagged as potentially harmful.
According to the study, which examined 222 novel therapeutics approved between 2001 and 2010, postmarket safety events included the agency either recalling drugs, issuing additional box warnings, or publishing “safety communications” for them.
These after-the-fact safety actions were common among biologic and psychiatric drugs, as well as drugs granted expedited approval by the FDA.
Ultimately, this is unsurprising considering the agency is run by pharmaceutical insiders, the industry provides funding directly to the agency, and the agency often uses studies sponsored by drug companies to make its determinations.
What continues to be surprising — however often the disparity is raised — is that same agency’s refusal to consider cannabis a potential medical treatment, even as it approves synthetic pharmaceutical versions of the exact same substance.
3. The Dakota Access Pipeline Has Already Sprung a Leak — Despite months of protests expressing concern that the highly-contested pipeline could threaten environmental safety and water resources, the project was pushed through and demonstrations were violently suppressed.
On Wednesday, however, it was revealed that the pipeline leaked 84 gallons at the start of April. Though this is a relatively small amount, the pipeline is not even operational yet. The Department of Environment and Natural Resources did little to announce the spill to the public, instead opting to simply issue a report on its website.
Pipeline leaks run rampant around the country, and according to a recent report from KCET, there have been over 740 leaks just in North Dakota in the past year alone. That amounts to a leak or spill every 11 hours and 45 minutes.
4. Cop Sues After Being Fired for Not Shooting a Suicidal Man — A former cop is suing the city of Weirton, West Virginia, after he was fired for not shooting a man who was threatening to kill himself.
According to former officer Stephen Mader, a former Marine, “To tell a police officer, when in doubt either shoot to kill, or get fired, is a choice that no police officer should ever have to make…”
The suicidal man, Ronald J. Williams, had been begging officers to shoot him, and another officer eventually did so, ending his life and preventing Williams from ever receiving mental health treatment.
Mader also alleges that after Williams was killed, the city of Weirton waged a campaign to discredit him and his performance on the job prior to the shooting.
Considering police shootings still occur daily in the United States — whether because the victim is mentally ill, the wrong race, or simply toting a toy gun — Mader’s story highlights the grave lack of accountability many violent officers still face, as well as the struggle many well-meaning cops face to remain virtuous in a barrel of bad apples.
5. NSA continues warrantless mass surveillance of millions of Americans — This story actually broke last week, but it received little attention or concern from the American public. The International Business Times summarized the findings of a recent report from the Office of the Director of National Intelligence:
“Even under the revised law, which only allows the NSA to collect call metadata about individuals who have suspected ties to terrorism, the NSA was able to gather more than 151 million phone records despite having warrants for just 42 individuals in 2016 — and just a handful more from the year prior.”
Though Americans may be continually comfortable with mass surveillance, convincing themselves they have nothing to fear because they’ve done nothing wrong, this story is particularly relevant considering the FBI, like the NSA, has engaged in spying on the public many times over.
In fact, the FBI itself helped pioneer technology the NSA uses for its surveillance practices. Remember, also, James Comey’s past tirades against encryption and his insistence on total government access to Americans’ smartphones and data.
Remember, also, that the FBI Comey chaired has a track record of everything from operating a child porn site in the name of stopping child porn to concocting fake terror attacks for the sake of stopping terrorism — not to mention its transgressions throughout its decades-long history.
As the nation continues to remain fixated on the action-packed narrative between the FBI and the White House, we should all keep in mind that there is far more to be learned from the stories the media isn’t obsessing over.