Last week, the world stopped turning to focus on the recent debut of Caitlyn Jenner, the Olympic athlete formerly known as Bruce.
Jenner, the ex-husband of Kris Jenner and stepfather to Kim Kardashian, took a bold step in announcing her completed transition into the woman she always felt she was.
She posed on the cover of Vanity Fair to premiere her new identity.
This is a monumental step forward for the transgender community that many hope will help foster increased tolerance in society.
While this is a positive development, the degree of media attention devoted to the celebrity news story left many other equally important stories ignored.
While the world is debating whether or not it was Jenner’s right to become a woman, here are ten significant stories that deserve equal, if not more, attention:
1. Rand Paul received widespread coverage for delaying the Patriot Act’s renewal at the end of May. As a result of his filibuster and congressional inaction, the Patriot Act and its Section 215—one of the NSA’s justifications for bulk data collection—expired on Monday. Though this was lauded as a victory, this week the Senate pushed through the USA Freedom Act, selling it as a bill to respect the privacy of Americans. In actuality, it renews and arguably strengthens the government surveillance apparatus.
2. On Tuesday, news broke that the FBI has been conducting warrantless surveillance across the United States using a fleet of planes disguised as private aircraft. It was responsible for mysterious planes flying over the Baltimore protests in May and surveilled as many as 40,000 people in one flight over Anaheim, California. In similar news, it was revealed this week that a single local police department conducted over 300 warrantless searches using highly secretive and controversial Stingray technology.
3. This week, NBC was caught manipulating footage of a witness interview to make the police shooting of unarmed college student, Feras Morad, seem less sinister to its audience. His death was one of nearly 400 police killings logged this year, alone.
4. In what appears to be good news, Congress moved this week to require police to report all killings and uses of force committed on duty. There has previously been no requirement and only 750 of 17,000 police departments voluntarily report such data. The law also requires reporting of police deaths on duty (this was already codified in a law passed in May) but nevertheless, signifies a growing shift toward police accountability.
5. A Department of Homeland Security investigation found that in 95% of cases, the TSA failed to find weapons and mock explosives smuggled through airports. Undercover DHS agents managed to sneak through 67 of 70 incidents without any hassle from the TSA, the administration that claims its services are necessary to keep Americans safe.
6. A “high value” Guantanamo detainee, Majid Khan, alleged last week that he was tortured by CIA agents with tactics worse than previously revealed. Though the Senate’s December torture report detailed gruesome techniques including forced rectal feeding and sleep deprivation, Khan claims he was sexually abused, hung nude from beams, and had his genitals dipped in ice water—among other offenses.
7. In a continuing, unsettling pattern, three more stories came to light of bankers meeting their death. The executive of American Express died mysteriously on an international flight while another jumped off the 24th floor of his apartment building in an apparent drug-induced suicide. Another story released this week detailed a Goldman Sachs employee found dead in her car in April. They join a growing list of bankers whose lives have ended prematurely.
8. In an all too common pattern, news surfaced this week that local police in Palm Beach, Florida engaged in illicit activity.
“At least one minor and at least one sex-worker were invited to a private party on a golf course that was held by members of the Palm Beach Sheriff’s Department in 2012. Witnesses reported that members of the party were openly using cocaine and that the woman who attended the party was walking around the golf course fully nude.”
This parallels the DEA’s recent drug cartel-funded prostitute party scandal as well as a plethora of cases where police use and sell “illicit” substances.
9. In a “once-in-a-century” discovery, archeologists in Russia discovered 2,400-year-old golden bongs. They contained trace amounts of opium and marijuana, suggesting (as the Palm Beach cop cocaine soiree does) that seeking altered states of consciousness is not a crime, but human nature. The findings further prove the failed war on drugs to be futile and obsolete.
10. A declassified Pentagon report revealed this week that Western governments helped to create ISIS, the infamous terrorist organization. According to the Defense Intelligence Agency report, “US and other western governments allied themselves with al-Qaeda and other Islamic extremist groups to oust Syrian dictator Bashir al-Assad. They suspected the consequences of this tactic would lead to the rise of an ‘Islamic State.’”
While Caitlyn Jenner’s transition into femininity is a newsworthy and ultimately positive story, the media’s incessant focus on celebrity gossip leaves a vast majority of relevant stories on the sidelines.
If in a matter of several days this many stories could go uncovered by the mainstream media, consider how many have been sacrificed over the years in the name of covering celebrity deaths, weddings, breakdowns, and divorces—which come without the social progress of Caitlyn’s debut.