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“Most journalists in the United States believe the press here is free. That grand illusion only helps obscure the fact that, by and large, the US corporate press does not report what’s really going on, while tuning out, or laughing off, all those who try to do just that. Americans–now more than ever–need those outlets that do labor to report some truth. Project Censored is not just among the bravest, smartest, and most rigorous of those outlets, but the only one that’s wholly focused on those stories that the corporate press ignores, downplays, and/or distorts. This latest book is therefore a must read for anyone who cares about this country, its tottering economy, and–most important– what’s now left of its democracy.” –Mark Crispin Miller, author, professor of media ecology, New York University.
“Project Censored continues to be an invaluable resource in exposing and highlighting shocking stories that are routinely minimized or ignored by the corporate media. The vital nature of this work is underscored by this year’s NSA leaks. The world needs more brave whistle blowers and independent journalists in the service of reclaiming democracy and challenging the abuse of power. Project Censored stands out for its commitment to such work.” —Deepa Kumar, author of Islamophobia and the Politics of Empire and associate professor of Media Studies and Middle Eastern Studies at Rutgers University
“Project Censored interrogates the present in the same way that Oliver Stone and I tried to interrogate the past in our Untold History of the United States. It not only shines a penetrating light on the American Empire and all its deadly, destructive, and deceitful actions, it does so at a time when the Obama administration is mounting a fierce effort to silence truth-tellers and whistleblowers. Project Censored provides the kind of fearless and honest journalism we so desperately need in these dangerous times.” —Peter Kuznick, professor of history, American University, and coauthor, with Oliver Stone, of The Untold History of the United States
“[Censored] should be affixed to the bulletin boards in every newsroom in America. And, perhaps read aloud to a few publishers and television executives.” —Ralph Nader
“One of the most significant media research projects in the country.” —I. F. Stone
“Hot news, cold truths, utterly uncensored.” —Greg Palast
“The staff of Project Censored presents their annual compilation of the previous year’s 25 stories most overlooked by the mainstream media along with essays about censorship and its consequences. The stories include an 813% rise in hate and anti-government groups since 2008, human rights violations by the US Border Patrol, and Israeli doctors injecting Ethiopian immigrants with birth control without their consent. Other stories focus on the environment, like the effects of fracking and Monsantos GMO seeds. The writers point out misinformation and outright deception in the media, including CNN relegating factual accounts to the “opinion” section and the whitewashing of Margaret Thatcher’s career following her death in 2013, unlike Hugo Chavez, who was routinely disparaged in the coverage following his death. One essay deals with the proliferation of “Junk Food News,” in which “CNN and Fox News devoted more time to ‘Gangnam Style’ than the renewal of Uganda’s ‘Kill the Gays’ law.” Another explains common media manipulation tactics and outlines practices to becoming a more engaged, free-thinking news consumer or even citizen journalist. Rob Williams remarks on Hollywood’s “deep and abiding role as a popular propaganda provider” via Argo and Zero Dark Thirty. An expose on working conditions in Chinese Apple factories is brutal yet essential reading. This book is evident of Project Censored’s profoundly important work in educating readers on current events and the skills needed to be a critical thinker.” -Publisher’s Weekly said about Censored 2014 (Oct.)
“At a time when the need for independent journalism and for media outlets unaffiliated with and untainted by the government and corporate sponsors is greater than ever, Project Censored has created a context for reporting the complete truths in all matters that matter. . . . It is therefore left to us to find sources for information we can trust. . . . It is in this task that we are fortunate to have an ally like Project Cen-sored.” —Dahr Jamail
“In another home run for Project Censored, Censored 2013 shows how the American public has been bamboozled, snookered, and dumbed down by the corporate media. It is chock-full of ‘ah-ha’ moments where we understand just how we’ve been fleeced by banksters, stripped of our civil liberties, and blindly led down a path of never-ending war.” –Medea Benjamin, author of Drone Warfare, cofounder of Global Exchange and CODEPINK.
“For ages, I’ve dreamed of a United States where Project Censored isn’t necessary, where these crucial stories and defining issues are on the front page of the New York Times, the cover of Time, and in heavy rotation on CNN. That world still doesn’t exist, but we always have Project Censored’s yearly book to pull together the most important things the corporate media ignored, missed, or botched.” –Russ Kick, author of You Are Being Lied To, Everything You Know Is Wrong, and the New York Times bestselling series The Graphic Canon.
“Censored 2014 is a clarion call for truth telling. Not only does this volume highlight fearless speech in fateful times, it connect the dots between the key issues we face, lauds our whistleblowers and amplifies their voices, and shines light in the dark places of our government that most need exposure.” –Daniel Ellsberg, The Pentagon Papers
Buy it, read it, act on it. Our future depends on the knowledge this col-lection of suppressed stories allows us.” —San Diego Review
“Project Censored brings to light some of the most important stories of the year that you never saw or heard about. This is your chance to find out what got buried.” –Diane Ravitch, author of The Death and Life of the Great American School System.
“Activist groups like Project Censored . . . are helping to build the media democracy movement. We have to challenge the powers that be and rebuild media from the bottom up.” —Amy Goodman
“Project Censored is one of the organizations that we should listen to, to be assured that our newspapers and our broadcasting outlets are practicing thorough and ethical journalism.” —Walter Cronkite
“Project Censored shines a spotlight on news that an informed public must have . . . a vital contribution to our democratic process.” —Rhoda H. Karpatkin, president, Consumer’s Union
“[Censored] offers devastating evidence of the dumbing-down of main-stream news in America. . . . Required reading for broadcasters, journalists, and well-informed citizens.” —Los Angeles Times
“Those who read and support Project Censored are in the know.” —Cynthia McKinney

Judges across US Using Racially Biased Software in Assessing Defendants’ Risk of Committing Future Crimes

In 2014, then US Attorney General Eric Holder warned that so-called risk scores might be injecting bias into the nation’s judicial system. As ProPublica reported in May 2016, courtrooms across the country use risk scores, also known as risk assessments, to rate a defendant’s risk of future crime and, in many states—including Arizona, Colorado, Delaware, Kentucky, Louisiana, Oklahoma, Virginia, Washington and Wisconsin—to unofficially inform judges’ sentencing decisions. The Justice Department’s National Institute of Corrections now encourages the use of such assessments at every stage of the criminal justice process.

Although Holder called in 2014 for the US Sentencing Commission to study the use of risk scores because they might “exacerbate unwarranted and unjust disparities that are already far too common in our criminal justice system,” the Sentencing Commission never did so. Angwin, Larson, Mattu, and Kirchner’s article reports the findings of an effort by ProPublica to assess Holder’s concern. As they report, ProPublica “obtained the risk scores assigned to more than 7,000 people arrested in Broward County, Florida, in 2013 and 2014 and checked to see how many were charged with new crimes over the next two years.” The ProPublica study was specifically intended to assess whether an algorithm known as COMPAS, or Correctional Offender Management Profiling for Alternative Sanctions, produced accurate results in its efforts to predict “criminal personality,” “social isolation,” “substance abuse” and “residence/stability.”

Judges across the country are given risk ratings based on the COMPAS algorithm or comparable software. Broward County, Florida—the focus of ProPublica’s study—does not use risk assessments in sentencing, but it does use them in pretrial hearings, as part of its efforts to address jail overcrowding. As ProPublica reported, judges in Broward County use risk scores to determine which defendants are sufficiently low risk to be released on bail pending their trials.

Based on ProPublica’s analysis of the Broward County data, Angwin, Larson, Mattu, and Kirchner reported that the risk scores produced by the algorithm “proved remarkably unreliable in forecasting violent crime: Only 20 percent of the people predicted to commit violent crimes actually went on to do so.” In fact, the algorithm was “somewhat more accurate” than a coin flip. The study also found significant racial disparities, as Holder had feared. “The formula was particularly likely to falsely flag black defendants as future criminals, wrongly labeling them this way at almost twice the rate as white defendants,” they reported.

This disparity is not explained by defendants’ prior crimes or they types of crime for which they were arrested. After running a statistical test that controlled for the effects of criminal history, recidivism, age, and gender, black defendants were still 77 percent more likely to identified as a higher risk to commit a future violent crime and 45 percent more likely to be predicted to commit a future crime of any kind, compared with their white counterparts.

Northpointe, the for-profit company that created COMPAS, disputed ProPublica’s analysis. However, as ProPublica noted, Northpointe deems its algorithm to be proprietary, so the company will not publicly disclose the calculations COMPAS uses to determine defendants’ risk scores, making it impossible for either defendants or the public “to see what might be driving the disparity.” In practice, this means that defendants rarely have opportunities to challenge their assessments.

As ProPublica reported, the increasing use of risk scores is controversial and has garnered media coverage, including articles by the Associated Press, and the Marshall Project and FiveThirtyEight last year.

Sources:

Julia Angwin, Jeff Larson, Surya Mattu and Lauren Kirchner, “Machine Bias”, ProPublica, May 23, 2016, https://www.propublica.org/article/machine-bias-risk-assessments-in-criminal-sentencing

Jeff Larson, Surya Mattu, Lauren Kirchner and Julia Angwin, “How We Analyzed the COMPAS Recidivism Algorithm,” ProPublica, May 23, 2016, https://www.propublica.org/article/how-we-analyzed-the-compas-recidivism-algorithm.

Student Researcher: Hector Hernandez (Citrus College)

Faculty Evaluator: Andy Lee Roth (Citrus College)

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