The missing stories of 2009
From new global alliances to simmering conflicts, these were the important events not covered by mainstream media in 2009.
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With stories like Afghanistan, healthcare reform -- and Tiger Woods -- taking up prime-time media space, it's no wonder that some important stories slipped below the radar. Consider these: a hotline between India and China to avoid possible war; a CIA plan to secretly train college students for careers as spies; a breakthrough at the Arctic Circle that's good for business but bad for mother earth.
There are always stories that fall by the media wayside. They're not dramatic enough, or they're not about a wayward celebrity; but they can't be reduced to 30-second sound bites.
"These are ... the kind of stories that tend to linger in the page four section of the daily newspapers, but never make it on to cable news or the blogosphere," said Joshua Keating, Associate Editor at "Foreign Policy" magazine. "So they don't really enter the national conversation in the way that, for instance, the latest Sarah Palin news does."
"Foreign Policy" magazine publishes a top-10 list of such stories each year.
The number two story on the list this year: The growing fears of conflict between the Arab and Kurdish populations in Iraq.
"If there was really one overarching story that was missed this year, I would say it was Iraq," said Keating. "As the Obama administration came in and the national security established attention shifted to Afghanistan, I think the media really followed suit and a lot of growing tensions in Iraq got missed."
Number 10 on the list is a story that Walter Pincus, National Security Reporter for the "Washington Post," covered: A CIA plan to secretly train college students for careers as spies.
Pincus describes the programs as ROTC-like, where the students -- who would not be identified -- would receive scholarships for their education by committing to some form of service with the CIA.
"What happened is the intelligence community has over the years developed what they call centers of excellence," said Pincus. "Universities, colleges around the country that are willing to put into their curriculum, subjects that would be specifically helpful to the intelligence community. And now they're taking it a step further, in which students can now sign up and be part of groups of students who go through those particular universities, taking regular course curriculum, but very much taking these specialized courses."
Edward Wong, Asia Correspondent at the "New York Times" covered the number three story: A border dispute between China and India, and the hotline established between the two countries to avoid possible war.
"It's apparently a confidence building measure," said Wong. "But there's not a lot of trust right now between China and India on this issue, so I'm not sure how far this will take diplomatic relations. I think the biggest obstacle is the fact that there is this very nebulous border -- it's basically a huge chunk of the Himalayan border between the two countries ... and this particular area, Tawang, is very sensitive. It's so sensitive that even Indian citizens need a special permit to travel to that area.
"It's also an area that's particularly sensitive to China because the Dalai Lama ... has a lot of influence over the ... people who live there because they're culturally Tibetan. So it's a type of issue where there's no easy resolution and it's unclear how so far the hotline will go in terms of warming relations over that issue."
The number one story on the list involves a shipping route that's opened up in the northeast passage between Russia and the Arctic, thanks in part to global warming.
"It's about climate change, it's about global economics, it's about geopolitics in the sense of opening of the Russian Arctic to the West and to the world," said Lawson Brigham, retired US Coast Guard Captain and Professor of Geography and Arctic Policy at the University of Alaska.
Joshua Keating wrote in his "Foreign Policy" piece about this story: "Russia has literally planted its flag beneath the Arctic ice, staking a claim to newly accessible natural resources, much to the consternation of the other northern states. The newly opened route will also benefit Russia by bringing new business to its eastern ports. With the scramble for the Arctic's riches heating up, even peaceful Canada has been holding war games to prepare for possible military confrontation."
See Keating's "Top 10 Stories You Missed in 2009" here.
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