FactCheck.org http://www.factcheck.org A Project of the Annenberg Public Policy Center Wed, 25 Nov 2015 17:39:47 +0000 en-US hourly 1 http://wordpress.org/?v=4.2.1 Trump, Carson on 9/11 ‘Celebrations’ http://www.factcheck.org/2015/11/trump-carson-on-911-celebrations/ http://www.factcheck.org/2015/11/trump-carson-on-911-celebrations/#comments Tue, 24 Nov 2015 22:44:51 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=101396 Donald Trump’s widely discredited claim that Muslims in New Jersey were seen on TV cheering the 9/11 terrorist attacks — and Ben Carson’s initial support of Trump’s remarks — has resulted in even more false claims, as both candidates try to explain their statements:

  • Trump doubled down on his false claim that he saw on TV “thousands and thousands” of Muslims cheering in New Jersey. He demanded an apology and cited as his support one news story about an alleged incident that was unattributed, unverified and not televised.
  • Carson later clarified his remarks about 9/11, saying he was talking about news footage of Muslims celebrating overseas, not in New Jersey, and blaming the media for having an “agenda.” He’s revising history. He was asked twice if what he saw was in New Jersey, and he said “yes” both times.

It was in a Nov. 21 speech in Alabama that Trump first made his claim about Muslims in New Jersey celebrating the fall of the World Trade Center on Sept. 11, 2001.

Trump, the leading Republican presidential candidate, told his audience: “Hey, I watched when the World Trade Center came tumbling down. And I watched in Jersey City, New Jersey, where thousands and thousands of people were cheering as that building was coming down. Thousands of people were cheering. So something’s going on. We’ve got to find out what it is.”

A day later, on ABC’s “This Week,” Trump insisted: “It did happen. I saw it. It was on television. I saw it. There were people that were cheering on the other side of New Jersey, where you have large Arab populations. They were cheering as the World Trade Center came down.”

There is no evidence, as others have pointed out, that thousands of people in New Jersey cheered the attacks on 9/11. PolitiFact and the Washington Post gave Trump’s claim their worst ratings.

The fact is that New Jersey and New York news organizations tried to track down rumors and unverified reports of celebrations in New Jersey cities and turned up little or nothing.

The Star-Ledger, New Jersey’s largest newspaper, wrote on Sept. 13, 2001, about “persistent rumors — repeated all day on talk radio and on the Internet” — that Muslims were celebrating in the streets of Paterson, New Jersey. That story did not contain any mention of Jersey City nor did it provide any evidence that the rumors in Paterson were true.

The New York Daily News dispatched a reporter to Paterson shortly after the attacks to investigate the same rumors and came up empty. In a Sept. 14, 2001, story, the Daily News quoted an unidentified police officer saying there were no public celebrations in Paterson. “I patrol these streets every day and I haven’t seen one person with a smile on their face at the mention of this tragedy,” the officer told the Daily News. “The people here are suffering and mourning like everyone else.”

On Sept. 18, 2001, the Associated Press wrote that federal investigators had returned to Jersey City — specifically to the neighborhood that had been “home to a mosque where blind sheik Omar Abdel-Rahman preached before he was convicted of plotting the 1993 bombing of the World Trade Center and other New York City landmarks.” But there was no mention of any 9/11 celebrations in Jersey City. Instead, the paper wrote of “Arab-Americans [who] decried the terrorist attacks, and told of harassment they had suffered in the past week.”

The Star-Ledger revisited the rumors again in a Sept. 23, 2001, story about the rise of bias incidents against Muslims and Arabs. John Farmer Jr., who was the state’s attorney general at the time, told the Star-Ledger that reports of rooftop celebrations in Paterson were an “insidious rumor” that was helping to fuel the rise in bias incidents. The Star-Ledger said of the rumor of celebrations: “[I]n the end it was nothing more than a rapid-fire urban myth.”

That story did say, however, that the paper interviewed two people who said they knew of one incident in Paterson regarding “a small handful of teenagers who shouted ‘revenge’ the night of the bombing.” There was no mention of Jersey City.

Update, Nov. 25: Farmer told the New York Times in a story published Nov. 25 that the New Jersey State Police received reports on the day of the attacks that “Muslims were dancing on the rooftops and in the streets of Jersey City and Paterson.” Those reports were investigated and found to be false, Farmer said. “We followed up on that report instantly because of its implications,” Farmer told the Times. “The word came back quickly from Jersey City, later from Paterson. False report. Never happened.”

On Nov. 23, two days after he first made his 9/11 remarks, Trump claimed to have evidence that supported him. He tweeted out a link to a Sept. 18, 2001, Washington Post story and demanded an apology.

The Post story said that Jersey City police detained “a number of people” who were “allegedly seen celebrating the attacks and holding a tailgate-style party” in Jersey City. That allegation was unattributed and unverified. Even if it did happen, and there is no evidence of it, the celebrating was not on TV and did not involve “thousands and thousands of people.”

The Washington Post Fact Checker talked to both reporters on the Post story cited by Trump, and neither could recall if the allegations about the tailgate-style celebration were verified. “I specifically visited the Jersey City building and neighborhood where the celebrations were purported to have happened,” said Fredrick Kunkle, one of the Post reporters on that story. “But I could never verify that report.”

What’s clear to us — and should be to Trump — is that there were no widespread televised celebrations in New Jersey on 9/11. In fact, what Trump described would have been big news, and the reporters at the Daily News, Star-Ledger and elsewhere who tried and failed to track down rumors of 9/11 celebrations could have just turned on the TV to get their story.

Carson’s Revisionist Retraction

In an interview on Nov. 23, Carson told reporters in Nevada that he had seen “newsreels” of Muslims in New Jersey cheering the attacks.

“Well, you know, there are going to be people who respond inappropriately to virtually everything. I think that was an inappropriate response. I don’t know if on the basis of that you can say all Muslims are bad people. I really think that would be a stretch,” Carson said.

The next day, he denied that he was talking about New Jersey and blamed the media for a “misunderstanding.”

“I thought we were just talking about the fact that Muslims were inappropriately celebrating,” he said. “I didn’t know that they had an agenda behind the question.”

We don’t know what Carson was thinking about when he was answering the questions, but the exchange between two reporters and Carson could not have been more clear. In fact, he was asked to verify that the video he saw was of Muslims in New Jersey, and he answered, “yes.”

Here is the relevant portion of the exchange:

Reporter 1, Nov. 23: Dr. Carson, were American Muslims in New Jersey cheering on 9/11 when the towers fell — did you hear about that or see that?

Carson: Yes.

Reporter 1: Yes. Can you expand on that?

Carson: Well, you know, there are going to be people who respond inappropriately to virtually everything. I think that was an inappropriate response. I don’t know if on the basis of that you can say all Muslims are bad people. I really think that would be a stretch.

Reporter 1: But did you see that happening though on 9/11?

Carson: I saw the film of it, yes.

Reporter 2: In New Jersey?

Carson: Yes.

Unlike Trump, Carson at least now acknowledges that it’s not true that thousands of Muslims were captured on TV celebrating in New Jersey on 9/11. But in doing so he rewrites the record.

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Trump Retweets Bogus Crime Graphic http://www.factcheck.org/2015/11/trump-retweets-bogus-crime-graphic/ http://www.factcheck.org/2015/11/trump-retweets-bogus-crime-graphic/#comments Tue, 24 Nov 2015 00:37:48 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=101352 Republican presidential candidate Donald Trump retweeted a bogus graphic purporting to show the percentage of whites killed by blacks and other homicide data delineated by race. Almost every figure in the graphic is wrong, some of them dramatically so.

Trump’s Twitter account retweeted the graphic on Nov. 22 without any explanation. The image shows a man hidden behind a bandanna pointing a gun under the heading “USA Crime Statistics — 2015″ and next to statistics that purport to show homicides by race.


falsestatsWe’re not going to speculate about how originators of the graphic may have twisted data to come up with incorrect figures, or what intent may have been behind those errors — though others have.

We’ll just provide some correct figures according to the latest data available on all homicides from the Federal Bureau of Investigation’s Uniform Crime Reports data, for 2014. The 2015 data won’t be released publicly until the fall of 2016.

In cases when the race of the perpetrator and victim were known, among the 3,021 white victims of murder in 2014, 2,488 of them were killed by white offenders, and 446 were killed by black offenders. Among the 2,451 black murder victims in 2014, 187 of them were killed by white offenders, and 2,205 were killed by black offenders. Here’s how the percentages work out:

Blacks killed by whites: 7.6 percent.

Whites killed by whites: 82.4 percent.

Whites killed by blacks: 14.8 percent.

Blacks killed by blacks: 90 percent.

As those figures show, the graphic’s claims about “whites killed by blacks” and “whites killed by whites” aren’t just a little off — they are grossly inaccurate. The data from 2013 is nearly identical, so none of the 2014 figures is a one-year anomaly.

The 2015 data won’t be released publicly until the fall of 2016, a spokesman for the FBI’s Criminal Justice Information Services Division told us.

As for the statistics “blacks killed by police — 1%” and “whites killed by police — 3%,” we’re not sure where those figures come from or what they are supposed to represent. According to our analysis of FBI data on justifiable homicide, there were 308 white felons killed by police officers in 2014, and 119 black felons. And again, the FBI does not have 2015 data available, as the graphic retweeted by Trump purports to show. (State and local law enforcement agencies voluntarily provide the FBI with crime data.)

The Guardian has been keeping a running tally in 2015 of people killed by police, through its “The Counted” project. According to the Guardian, 1,024 people have been killed by police in 2015 through Nov. 23. This is the racial breakdown: 509 white, 261 black, 164 Hispanic/Latino, 59 other/unknown, 18 Asian/Pacific Islander, 13 Native American.

Another site, KilledByPolice.net tracks people killed by U.S. law enforcement officers. According to its tally, 1,066 people in the U.S. were killed by police this year as of Nov. 23. The site does not list race for many of those people, but among the ones it does, the site counts 280 black people killed by police this year compared with 437 white people.

And finally, the Washington Post tracks people killed by police officers, a tally that stood at 878 this year as of the date of this posting. Of them, 417 were white and 224 were black. The site also tracks those who were black and unarmed — 30 so far this year.

Peter Moskos, an associate professor in the Department of Law, Police Science, and Criminal Justice Administration at John Jay College of Criminal Justice, applied FBI homicide averages from 2010 to 2013 to the Washington Post data to estimate that 4 percent of all black homicide victims are killed by police, while 10 percent of all white homicide victims are killed by police. It is, he allowed, a rough estimate. Moskos said those figures are shocking, “but not quite right” because of the different ways that agencies report the Hispanic label.

We reached out to the Trump campaign for backup for the figures cited in the graphic. The source listed on the graphic itself is “Crime Statistics Bureau — San Francisco,” a nonexistent agency, as far as we can tell. (Moskos said there is no such thing.) We also asked for the origin of the graphic. If we hear back, we’ll update this piece.

Last month, a Trump retweet caused a bit of a stir after someone with access to his account retweeted a message to explain a dip in the polls that said of Iowans. “Too much Monsanto in the corn creates issues in the brain,” it said. Trump later tweeted that the intern who “accidentally” sent the message “apologizes.” No word yet on whether Trump — who boasts that he does a lot of the tweets personally — is responsible for retweeting the bogus crime graphic.

Update, Nov. 24: Trump was confronted about the tweet by Bill O’Reilly on Fox News on Nov. 23. Trump confirmed that he retweeted the graphic himself. He said that he did not check the statistics, but that the graphic came “from sources that are very credible.”

 You can watch video of the exchange on Fox News (starting at the 4:10 mark). Here is a transcript of the relevant portion:

O’Reilly: When you tweet out a thing, and this bothered me, I gotta tell you. You tweeted out that whites killed by blacks, these were statistics you picked up from somewhere, at a rate of 81 percent. And that’s totally wrong. Whites killed by blacks is 15 percent, yet you tweeted it was 81 percent.

Trump: Bill, I didn’t tweet, I retweeted somebody that was supposedly an expert, and it was also a radio show.

O’Reilly: Why do you want to be in that zone?

Trump: Hey, Bill, Bill, am I gonna check every statistic? I get millions and millions of people, @RealDonaldTrump, by the way.

O’Reilly: You gotta, you’re a presidential contender, you gotta check ‘em.

Trump: I have millions of people … You know what? Fine. But this came out of radio shows and everything else.

O’Reilly: Oh, come on, radio shows?!

Trump: All it was is a retweet. And it wasn’t from me. It came out of a radio show, and other places.

O’Reilly: Look, you know I’m looking out for you, right? … Don’t do this. Don’t put your name on stuff like this, because it makes the other side, it gives them stuff to tell the ill-informed voter that you’re a racist. I mean, you just handed them a platter.

Trump: Well, this was a retweet. Bill, I’m sure you’re looking out for me, everybody is. This was a retweet. And it comes from sources that are very credible, what can I tell you.

O’Reilly: I told you, you shouldn’t retweet ever. You shouldn’t be tweeting. Give it up for Lent.

Trump: … Can I tell you what, I like it because I can get, also, my point of view out there. And my point of view is very important to a lot of people that are looking at me.

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Ethanol: Higher Emissions or Lower? http://www.factcheck.org/2015/11/ethanol-higher-emissions-or-lower/ http://www.factcheck.org/2015/11/ethanol-higher-emissions-or-lower/#comments Mon, 23 Nov 2015 21:55:43 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=101134 In dueling TV ads, foes of the federal ethanol mandate claim that it “doubles greenhouse gas emissions,” while the ethanol lobby says that “the oil industry is lying” and the mandate will lead to lower emissions.

In fact, the scientific jury is still out on whether requirements to blend ethanol with gasoline lead to the lower carbon emissions that Congress intended when it made those requirements law. A 2011 report by the National Research Council, which is part of the U.S. National Academies, found that it may do just the opposite, and the matter is under official review by the Environmental Protection Agency’s internal watchdog.

Furthermore, the ethanol lobby misleads viewers by suggesting that only “big oil” is opposed to the mandate. Several environmental groups oppose it as well. So does a wide coalition that includes restaurant owners concerned about upward pressure on food prices and boat manufacturers upset at the problems that ethanol can cause in marine engines.

Two ads have been running heavily in the Washington, D.C., market and in some other markets in advance of a Nov. 30 deadline for the EPA to finalize requirements for the total volume of ethanol to be put into gasoline, and for other renewable fuels.

An ad by the anti-ethanol group “Smarter Fuel Future” says: “Mandating corn for ethanol doubles greenhouse gas emissions compared to gasoline, over 30 years.”

That indeed was the finding of one study, published in Science magazine in 2008, by a team headed by Timothy Searchinger, a Princeton University research scholar. Projecting worldwide effects of converting large amounts of U.S. farmland to producing corn for fuel rather than for food, the study said that “we found that corn-based ethanol, instead of producing a 20% savings [the reduction required by law], nearly doubles greenhouse emissions over 30 years and increases greenhouse gases for 167 years.”

And a 2009 study led by Robert Jackson, who at the time was the Nicholas Professor of Global Environmental Change at Duke University’s Nicholas School of the Environment, concluded that plowing up untilled land to grow more corn for ethanol fuel is “an inefficient and expensive greenhouse gas mitigation policy.” The authors added, “[O]ur analysis shows that carbon releases from the soil after planting corn for ethanol may in some cases completely offset carbon gains attributed to biofuel generation for at least 50 years.”

But those studies conflict with government-sponsored research that concludes that the ethanol mandate will reduce greenhouse gas emissions as the law requires. For example, a 2012 study headed by Michael Wang of the Argonne National Laboratory for the U.S. Department of Energy projected that the corn-based ethanol found at practically all U.S. fuel pumps would cut carbon emissions by around 34 percent in 2015 (Table 7), even when considering changes in land use.

SciCHECKinsertAll such “life cycle” studies attempt to estimate all the carbon emissions created by producing and burning ethanol, including carbon released from soil by plowing and from fuel burned in planting, harvesting and refining.

But the studies don’t agree, and each side cites the science that supports its position.

The ethanol lobby’s “Fuels America” coalition cites the Wang study in its ad. But it misleads by saying in a graphic that ethanol produces “34-88% lower carbon than gasoline today.” That’s not true of the ethanol in use today. The 88 percent figure is what the Wang study concluded would be accomplished by ethanol made from switchgrass, which holds greater promise of greenhouse gas reduction than corn-based ethanol, but isn’t yet being produced in large quantities.

So far, practically all ethanol in U.S. gasoline comes from corn. The U.S. Energy Information Administration reports that only 20,000 gallons of ethanol was produced from non-food, “cellulosic” sources in 2012. The first U.S. plant designed to produce cellulosic ethanol in commercial quantities opened for startup operations in 2014.

A Fog of Uncertainty

The conflicting projections and estimates have left scientists and independent experts in a fog of uncertainty about whether mandating corn-based ethanol leads to higher or lower carbon emissions.

An independent panel of academic scientists for the National Research Council of the National Academy of Sciences — reviewing the conflicting work of Searchinger, Wang and several others — concluded in a 2011 report that “corn-grain ethanol might not have lower [greenhouse gas emission] values than petroleum-based gasoline.” It cited “plausible scenarios in which GHG [greenhouse gas] emissions from corn-grain ethanol are much higher than those of petroleum-based fuels,” and questioned the method by which EPA determined that ethanol would produce 21 percent less emissions.

National Research Council: [A]ccording to EPA’s own estimates, corn-grain ethanol produced in 2011, which is almost exclusively made in biorefineries using natural gas as a heat source, is a higher emitter of GHG than gasoline.

Similarly, the nonpartisan Congressional Budget Office issued a report on the subject in June 2014, finding “only limited potential” for reducing greenhouse gas emissions through use of corn-based ethanol in the future:

CBO: Estimates of those emissions are uncertain, and researchers’ predictions vary considerably. However, available evidence suggests that replacing gasoline with corn ethanol has only limited potential for reducing emissions (and some studies indicate that it could increase emissions).

In the midst of such uncertainty, on Oct. 15 the EPA’s Office of Inspector General announced it would conduct an independent inquiry into whether the agency properly updated its own life cycle analysis in light of the 2011 National Academy of Sciences study.

It’s Not Just ‘Big Oil’

The ethanol lobby’s ad shows President Obama with a devil on one shoulder and a figure with a halo on the other, saying he must choose to listen to his “own experts” or to “the oil industry,” which it says “is lying about biofuels.” That’s a common deceptive technique known as the “false dilemma.” In fact, environmental groups oppose the ethanol mandate, too.

The current anti-ethanol ad is sponsored by a wide coalition. The “Smarter Fuel Future” group does include the American Fuel and Petrochemical Manufacturers among its many members. But others include: the National Council of Chain Restaurants (which says “diverting corn to fuel unfairly drives up food prices for chain restaurants and their customers”); the National Marine Manufacturers Association (which says requiring a 15 percent ethanol blend in gasoline could damage boat engines); as well as poultry producers; cattlemen and dairy farmers concerned about higher feed prices; motorcyclists; and makers of chain saws, lawn mowers and other outdoor power equipment.

And — as mentioned in the anti-ethanol ad — even former Vice President Al Gore has called the federal requirement for adding corn-based ethanol to gasoline “a mistake.” In a 2010 address in Athens, Greece, Gore said he had come to conclude that burning ethanol had helped increase food prices, and that he had erred in backing the requirement as a presidential candidate in 2000.

Gore, November 2010: One of the reasons I made that mistake is that I paid particular attention to the farmers in my home state of Tennessee, and I had a certain fondness for the farmers in the state of Iowa because I was about to run for president.

And who lobbies for ethanol? The pro-ethanol “Fuels America” group includes grain farmers (who profit from higher demand for corn), Monsanto (which sells hybrid seed corn), and distillers of ethanol including Archer Daniels Midland and DuPont (which just opened a cellulosic ethanol plant in Iowa).

Editor’s Note: SciCheck is made possible by a grant from the Stanton Foundation.

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Facts about the Syrian Refugees http://www.factcheck.org/2015/11/facts-about-the-syrian-refugees/ http://www.factcheck.org/2015/11/facts-about-the-syrian-refugees/#comments Mon, 23 Nov 2015 18:17:57 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=101280 The Paris bombings and other recent terrorist attacks have given rise to a political debate within the United States about the Obama administration’s plan to admit Syrian refugees. But the facts about refugees are being distorted in some instances.

Here are some claims about the refugees — and the facts:

  • Sen. Ted Cruz says it’s “astonishing” that only 3 percent of Syrian refugees admitted to the United States so far are Christian. He’s right, but the refugees are referred to the United States by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.
  • Cruz also says 77 percent of the refugees “pouring into Europe right now” are young males. That’s inaccurate and misleading. There are more than 4.2 million refugees and only about 850,000 fled to Europe (62 percent of whom are men). A U.N. spokesman says those referred to the U.S. would be among those remaining in the Middle East, such as in Turkey and Jordan, and those refugees are largely women and children.
  • President Obama says the “overwhelming numbers” of Syrian refugees referred to the U.S. by the U.N. have been women and children. That’s true — 67 percent have been children under the age of 12 and women, according to State Department data.
  • Donald Trump suggested the government steers Syrian refugees to states with Republican governors. But nongovernmental agencies, such as World Relief and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops, place the refugees, not the government, and those decisions are based on family ties, employment and other factors, not politics.
  • Trump, Ben Carson and Carly Fiorina repeatedly have claimed that the Obama administration plans to accept anywhere from 100,000 to 250,000 Syrian refugees. That’s false. By law, the administration can admit slightly more than 10,000 in fiscal year 2016, and no refugee commitments can be made beyond that.

What Religion Are the Syrian Refugees?

Cruz, a Republican candidate for president, has introduced the Terrorist Refugee Infiltration Prevention Act, which would bar the U.S. from accepting refugees from countries “containing terrorist-controlled territory,” specifically Iraq, Libya, Somalia, Syria and Yemen. The bill was introduced days after a series of deadly coordinated terrorist attacks in Paris by the terrorist group the Islamic State (or sometimes known as ISIS).

Cruz has said if the U.S. does admit Syrian refugees then it should only accept Christians.

In an interview on Fox News, Cruz criticized the Obama administration for admitting so few Syrian Christians.

Cruz, Nov. 19: And what’s astonishing among the Syrian refugees who’ve come to America — do you know that only 3 percent have been Christians? Why does the president get so angry at those of us who want to help provide a safe haven for Christians being persecuted, but he is not angry at ISIS terrorists.

Cruz is rounding up, but he is correct about the percentage of Christians among the Syrian refugees who have resettled in the United States.

A total of 2,290 Syrian refugees have arrived in the United States since fiscal year 2011, which is when the Syrian civil war began, through Nov. 20, according to the State Department’s Refugee Processing Center. Of those, only 62 were identified in the center’s database as Christian. That’s 2.7 percent, even though the Christian population in Syria is about 10 percent, according to the CIA World Factbook.

But Cruz isn’t telling the whole story.

It’s important to note that the Syrian refugees are referred to the U.S. by the United Nations High Commissioner for Refugees.

From 2013 though Nov. 17, the U.N. says it has referred 22,427 Syrian refugees to the U.S. for “resettlement consideration.” The U.N. could not tell us how many of the 22,427 U.N. referrals were Christian, and the State Department did not know how many Christian Syrians may have been rejected by the U.S. But we know the U.S. is drawing from a limited pool of applicants provided by the U.N. from a predominately Muslim country.

So what religion are the Syrian refugees admitted to the U.S.?

The vast majority are Sunni Muslims, who make up 2,128, or 93 percent, of the Syrian refugees in the U.S. The Sunnis are about 74 percent of the Syrian population, according to the CIA, but “they tend to support the rebels and oppose the Assad regime, and Syrian Sunnis have been subject to ethnic cleansing at the hands of the Alawite minority in recent months,” as the Washington Post reported on Oct. 18, 2012.

This explains why Sunni Muslims are disproportionately represented among Syrian refugees in the U.S., Andrew Tabler, a Middle East expert at the Washington Institute, told us in an email.

Syrian President Bashar Hafez al-Assad’s regime is “made up of Alawites AND other minorities like Christians,” said Tabler, who wrote a 2011 book called “In the Lion’s Den: An Eyewitness Account of Washington’s Battle with Syria.”

“The reason why is that most refugees are not displaced because of ISIS, but as a result of bombardments by the Assad regime,” Tabler told us, explaining the large percentage of Sunnis who have been admitted to the U.S. from Syria. “The regime has attempted (but failed) to shoot them into submission. Those fleeing the fighting who are not with the regime have to run to neighboring countries for protection and become refugees. And some of them eventually apply to come to the U.S. as refugees.”

Kenneth Pollack, a former CIA military analyst in the Middle East who is now a senior fellow at the Brookings Institution, offered two other possible factors.

“In addition, much of the fighting has taken place in heavily Sunni areas (because most of the country is Sunni),” Pollack said. “Finally, much of the Sunni-controlled territory is controlled by ISIS, and nobody except absolute lunatics WANT to live under ISIS.”

What’s the Demographic Makeup of Refugees?

Both sides in the refugee dispute have been making seemingly contradictory claims about the age and gender of the Syrian refugees — portraying them either as young males who are potential terrorists, or women and children who are victims of the Syrian civil war.

Cruz, in an interview with radio host Glenn Beck on Nov. 18, said 77 percent of the Syrian refugees “pouring into Europe right now” are young males — a claim that others, including Ben Carson, have made. His number is too high, but more important, it’s misleading since the majority of refugees are not in Europe or trying to get to Europe. Instead, they remain in other Middle East nations, such as Turkey and Jordan.

Meanwhile, President Obama said the “overwhelming numbers” of Syrian refugees referred to the U.S. by the U.N. are children and women. That’s true, according to data provided by the State Department.

We will first look at Cruz’s comment. Cruz is referring only to 850,000 refugees and migrants — not all from Syria — who have tried to enter Europe by crossing the Mediterranean Sea. About 62 percent of them are men, according to the U.N., not 77 percent, as Cruz said.

More important, they are just a subset of the total Syrian refugee population of more than 4.2 million.

Chris Boian, a spokesman for the UNHCR, told us the refugees crossing into Europe are typically not registered with the U.N. and will not be referred to the U.S.

“It’s very important for people to know there’s a big, big difference between the relative chaotic scene we’ve seen played out in Europe and the resettlement process in the United States,” Boian said.

Boian said those registered with the U.N. and now living in countries such as Turkey, Lebanon and Jordan will be among those who will be referred to the U.S.

As we have written before, the U.N. says there are more than 4 million registered Syrian refugees. The U.N. also provides the demographic makeup of 2.1 million refugees who were registered by the UNHCR in Egypt, Iraq, Jordan and Lebanon. As of Nov. 17, those figures show that 70 percent are female (50.3 percent) and male children under 12 years old (19.7 percent).

Obama, for his part, said in remarks on Nov. 19 in the Philippines that the “overwhelming numbers who have been applying are children, women, families — themselves victims of terrorism.”

We asked the administration for a demographic breakdown of Syrian refugees who are seeking to resettle in the U.S., and it provided a chart that shows 23,826 total applicants — 15,937, or 67 percent, of whom are women (of all ages) and male children (age 0 to 11). Men (age 18 and older) accounted for 25.5 percent.

In short, the demographic breakdown of the Syrian refugees referred to the U.S. is virtually identical to that of the Syrian refugee population at large.

One last thing to consider: Not all 23,826 refugees referred to the U.S. will be admitted to the U.S. The Congressional Research Service says in a February 2015 report that the U.S. typically “aims to consider for resettlement at least half of the refugees” referred by the U.N.

Are Syrian Refugees Steered to Republican States?

Trump suggested the government steers Syrian refugees to states with Republican governors. That theory is not backed up by the data. And officials with groups that actually place the refugees — volunteer, nongovernmental agencies such as World Relief and the United States Conference of Catholic Bishops — say placement decisions are based on family ties, employment and other factors, none of which include political considerations.

Trump made his claim during a radio interview on the “Laura Ingraham Show” on Nov. 17.

Trump, Nov. 17: They send them to the Republicans, not to the Democrats, you know, because they know the problems. In California, you have a Democrat as a governor. In Florida, you have Rick Scott [a Republican]. So you know they send them to the Republicans because you know why would we want to bother the Democrats? It’s just insane. Taking these people is absolutely insanity.

Data kept by the Refugee Processing Center show there have been 1,925 Syrian refugees relocated to the U.S. this calendar year (between Jan. 1, 2015, and Nov. 20, 2015). According to our tallies, nearly twice as many of them — 1,275 people — were placed in states with Republican governors than were placed in states with Democratic governors (650 refugees).

But there are also nearly twice as many states with Republican governors — 31 states have Republican governors; 18 have Democratic governors, and Alaska’s governor is an independent. On average, states with Republican governors had just over 41 Syrian refugees each compared with an average of just over 36 in states with Democratic governors. That’s not enough of a difference to suggest much of a trend.

Besides, officials who actually place refugees say Trump’s claim is unfounded. The way it works is that after the State Department has approved a refugee for resettlement in the U.S. — a process that can take up to two years — the refugee is referred to one of nine domestic resettlement agencies, each with a network of affiliates fanned across the country.

It is those resettlement agencies — which gather weekly — that make decisions about where to place new, incoming refugees.

The chief consideration is whether the refugee has family ties in the United States, said Matthew Soerens, a spokesman for World Relief, one of the nine resettlement agencies. If a refugee does, every effort is made to place that person near relatives. That is why, he said, larger numbers of Syrian refugees are placed in Michigan, Illinois, Pennsylvania and California, where there are small pockets of Syrian Americans.

Absent family ties in the U.S., Soerens said, the agencies try to relocate people where there are available jobs. Each of the nine resettlement agencies works with its network of affiliates spread across the country. In the case of World Relief, an evangelical organization, that network is often through evangelical church organizations.

“The idea that there’s some sort of conspiracy here [to relocate based on the politics of a state], that’s just not the case,” Soerens said. The politics of a state is simply not a consideration, he said.

Stacie Blake, director of government and community relations for the U.S. Committee for Refugees and Immigrants, another one of the nine agencies that place refugees, said the goal is to find a “welcoming community.” And so consideration is given to factors such as affordable housing, “friendly” employers, medical needs and public transportation.

In her experience, has political consideration ever entered the equation?

“Never ever have I heard of it. Ever,” Blake said.

How Many Syrians Will Be Admitted?

The Obama administration is not preparing to accept anywhere close to 250,000, or even 100,000 Syrian refugees, as some candidates for president have claimed.

At the Sunshine Summit on Nov. 14, Carly Fiorina said she was “angry that President Obama unilaterally decides that we will accept in this nation a hundred thousand Syrian refugees.”

Carson’s super PAC released a TV ad on Nov. 17 with audio of Carson claiming that Obama said “I’m going to bring 100,000 people in here from Syriaby executive order.

And in October, Trump said he “heard” that the Obama administration plans to accept 200,000 Syrian refugees. Trump has since increased the figure. He told those attending a rally in Texas on Nov. 14 that “our president wants to take in 250,000 from Syria.”

Each of those figures is wrong.

During a press briefing on Sept. 10, White House Press Secretary Josh Earnest told reporters that the president would direct his administration to prepare to accept at least 10,000 refugees from Syria in fiscal year 2016.

This is not done through an executive order, either. Each year, the president, after submitting a proposal to Congress, issues a determination on the number of refugees the country can accept for the fiscal year. The total set to be accepted from around the world in fiscal 2016 is 85,000.

Beyond the fiscal year that ends Sept. 30, 2016, Secretary of State John Kerry said on Sept. 20 that the administration’s goal is to increase the maximum number of refugees accepted from around the world to 100,000 in fiscal 2017. But no decision has been made and won’t be made until next year.

So, over the next two fiscal years, it is possible that the U.S. will accept 185,000 total refugees from around the world, but not just from Syria.

— Eugene Kiely, Robert Farley and D’Angelo Gore

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About Trump’s Oreo Boycott http://www.factcheck.org/2015/11/about-trumps-oreo-boycott/ http://www.factcheck.org/2015/11/about-trumps-oreo-boycott/#comments Thu, 19 Nov 2015 21:05:49 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=101183 Donald Trump says he’s “never eating another Oreo again” because its parent company is “closing a factory in Chicago and they’re moving to Mexico.” Some Oreo production is moving to Mexico, but a downsized Chicago plant will remain. And there will still be three plants in the U.S. making Oreos.

Trump also has overstated the number of job losses in Chicago. The parent company projects 600 employees in Chicago will be laid off, not 1,200, as Trump has said.

As he seeks the Republican presidential nomination, Trump, who once appeared in a commercial for Oreo Golden Double Stuf cookies, talks often about trade imbalances with other countries. And he has frequently used Oreo as a prime example of American companies that have been shifting their operations overseas. But his claims about Oreos go too far.

The latest iteration of Trump’s claim came during the Sunshine Summit on Nov. 13, when Trump said, “With Mexico, we have an imbalance of $45 billion and growing all the time, because Ford is moving there. Nabisco, they make Oreos. They’re moving to Mexico. I’m never eating another Oreo again. I am telling you. Never.” (Side note: Trump also has falsely claimed that Ford decided not to build new plants in Mexico because of him.)

Trump’s boycott of Oreo is a frequent campaign staple.

Trump in New Hampshire, Aug. 14: Did you know that Nabisco, Nabisco. Did you see it yesterday? Nabisco is closing a factory in Chicago, and they’re moving to Mexico. This big factory. And taking many jobs. I think they’re about 1,200 jobs going to be lost in Chicago. No more Oreos. They make Oreos, don’t they, right? No more Oreos. I don’t like Oreos anymore. (At the 21:46 mark.)

Trump in Alabama, Aug. 21: The other day, Nabisco, Nabisco, Oreos, right? Oreos! I love Oreos; I’ll never eat them again. I’ll never eat them again. No, Nabisco closes a plant, they just announced, a couple of days ago, in Chicago, and they’re moving the plant to Mexico. Now, why? Why? Why? (At the 59-second mark.)

Trump in Iowa, Aug. 25: Nabisco. I have holdings in Chicago; I have a great building in Chicago. Nabisco, they have a factory, a big factory; they make Oreos; I’m never eating Oreos again. Ever. Ever. Eh, maybe. Maybe if I can find some made in the United States, I will. But they’re closing their big plant in Chicago, and they’re moving it to Mexico. What’s going on? (At the 19:11 mark.)

Trump in New Hampshire, Sept. 17: Do you like Oreos? The cookies right? I’m not eating Oreos anymore. Nabisco is closing their plant, a big plant in Chicago, and they’re moving it to Mexico. (At the 20:59 mark.)

Trump in Virginia, Oct. 14: Nabisco. Oreos. Right, Nabisco? Right? Oreos! They’re closing their big plant in Chicago. They’re moving it to Mexico. I’ll never eat another Oreo again. Ever. Ever! So I’m going to talk to them. I don’t want their cookies made and sold there. I just don’t want it. It’s unfair to us. Chicago is losing this large plant. It’s going to another country. (At the 43:39 mark.)

Let’s start with the crumbs of truth in this claim. Mondelez International, the Illinois-based parent company that makes Oreo cookies, announced in July that it plans to invest $130 million in four state-of-the-art manufacturing lines that will make Nabisco cookies and crackers — including Oreos — at an existing production facility in Salinas, Mexico. Those lines will replace nine older manufacturing lines at a facility in Chicago, causing the loss of jobs for about half of the Chicago plant’s 1,200 workers. So 600 jobs will be lost at the Chicago plant, not 1,200, as Trump has said.

But contrary to Trump’s assertions, the Chicago plant will not be closing. It will continue operating, but with a smaller workforce. The plant will continue to produce a variety of Nabisco cookies and crackers — though not Oreos — and according to company officials, it will remain one of the company’s largest manufacturing facilities in North America (as measured by employees).

“The Chicago plant has been and will continue to be an important part of the company’s North American biscuit footprint, producing a variety of beloved consumer products,” said Olivier Bouret, vice president, North America Integrated Supply Chain, Biscuits, in the July press release.

Laurie Guzzinati, senior director of corporate and government affairs for Mondelez, told us in a phone interview that even if the investment in the new production lines had been made at the Chicago plant, there would still have been layoffs, due to the efficiency of new equipment. In August, Guzzinati told the Chicago Tribune that it would have cost the company $46 million more a year to keep the production in Chicago, and that even if the new lines were put in Chicago, there still would have been 300 jobs lost.

Oreo cookies will continue to be made at three other U.S. manufacturing facilities in Fair Lawn, New Jersey; Richmond, Virginia; and Portland, Oregon. In February 2014, Mondelez announced that it was investing $130 million to modernize its cookie and cracker bakeries in Fair Lawn and Richmond.

So to Trump’s point, Guzzinati said, the company “continues to make Oreos right here in the U.S.” We asked how much of the Oreos sold in the U.S. would still be produced in the U.S., and Guzzinati responded via email (emphasis is hers): “Even once the new investment (which we announced in late July) is fully completed in Mexico (by mid-2016), we will still have significant Oreo production in the US, spanning our three biscuit plants in NJ, VA and OR, with dedicated lines in these facilities focused on Oreo production for the US market.”

As of the end of 2014, Mondelez International employed 104,000 people worldwide (down from 127,000 in 2010), with about 13,000 of them in the U.S.

Oreo “biscuits” originated in New York in 1912, and they are now made at facilities in 18 countries and sold to consumers in more than 100 countries worldwide.

— Robert Farley and Chloe Nurik

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Hillary Clinton on Gun Deaths http://www.factcheck.org/2015/11/hillary-clinton-on-gun-deaths/ http://www.factcheck.org/2015/11/hillary-clinton-on-gun-deaths/#comments Wed, 18 Nov 2015 20:12:00 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=101125 Q: Have 3,000 people been killed by guns in the U.S. in one month, from Oct. 13 to Nov. 14, 2015?
A: Comprehensive data aren’t available yet. The figures cited by Hillary Clinton during a Democratic debate are an extrapolation based on past years.



How about fact-checking this:

CLINTON: “Since we last debated in Las Vegas, nearly 3,000 people have been killed by guns. Two hundred children have been killed. This is an emergency.”

She said that in the same period there have been 21 mass shootings, “including one last weekend in Des Moines where three were murdered.”

One has to wonder why this statement was not included in your analysis of the Democratic debate. Would you care to inform?


After publishing our analysis of the second Democratic debate, we heard from a few readers who were curious about a claim Hillary Clinton made on the topic of guns.

Clinton, Nov. 14: But just think about this — since we last debated in Las Vegas, nearly 3,000 people have been killed by guns. Twenty-one mass shootings, including one last weekend in Des Moines where three were murdered. Two hundred children have been killed. This is an emergency.

But Clinton doesn’t know how many gun deaths have occurred since the first Democratic debate was held on Oct. 13. The best data on that subject aren’t yet available.

Instead, her figures are estimates based on gun fatalities in previous years, which would not have been clear to those watching or listening to the debate.

Gun Deaths

The Clinton campaign told us the figure for “people killed by guns” was based on statistics for 2013. That year, according to the Centers for Disease Control and Prevention, there were 33,636 gun deaths. That averages to about 2,800 gun deaths (or nearly 3,000) each month of the year, and the first and second Democratic debates were roughly one month apart.

The CDC numbers on gun deaths include suicides, which make up the majority of gun deaths (63 percent of them in 2013), homicides (33 percent), unintentional discharges, legal interventions/war and some that are undetermined.

Clinton’s figure for gun deaths of children was based on data going back even further. A 2013 report from the Children’s Defense Fund, which the Clinton campaign pointed to, said that 2,694 children and teenagers died from guns in 2010, according to CDC data. That is an average of almost 225 deaths per month of the year.

The most recent CDC data cover 2013, when there were 2,465 firearm-related deaths for those 19 and younger. That’s more than 205 deaths per month, which is closer to what Clinton said.

Update, Nov. 19: Counting only those age 17 and under, the number of children and teens killed by guns in 2013 was 1,258, according to CDC data. That averages to 105 gun deaths per month.

But we don’t yet know the number of gun deaths for 2015, and it will likely be more than a year before the CDC publishes that data. Even then, we won’t be able to look at the number of deaths for one month or a time period more specific than a year.

Outside of the CDC, there is the Gun Violence Archive, a nonprofit group formed in 2013. It seeks to provide a near-real-time archive of gun-related incidents occurring every day from more than 1,200 media, government and commercial sources.

According to the GVA, as of Nov. 18, there were 11,633 gun deaths in 2015, including 2,931 children or teens 17 years old or younger. The archive is not comprehensive, though.

That’s largely because it doesn’t yet include deaths from suicide, which the GVA says are not reported by law enforcement agencies and coroners offices the same way as other gun-related incidents, and thus cannot be reported in near real time.

That means the GVA undercounts the total number of gun deaths in 2015, since suicides accounted for the majority of all gun deaths in 2013.

Mark Bryant, the GVA executive director, said that Clinton would likely be right, at least based on an average per month, when suicides are added to its count for 2015.

Mass Shootings

Clinton was right that there have been 21 mass shootings since Oct. 13. That’s according to the Mass Shooting Tracker, which lists incidents in which four or more people were shot.

However, she got the number of people killed in a Nov. 8 mass shooting in Des Moines, Iowa, wrong. One person was killed in that shooting — not three, as she said. Three others were wounded.



Washington Post. “The CBS Democratic debate transcript, annotated.” 15 Nov 2015.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Deaths: Final Data for 2013, table 18. Accessed 16 Nov 2015.

Centers for Disease Control and Prevention. Web-based Injury Statistics Query and Reporting System (WISQARS). Fatal Injury Data. Accessed 16 Nov 2015.

Gun Violence Archive. 2015 Toll of Gun Violence. Accessed 18 Nov 2015.

Gun Violence Archive. General Methodology. Accessed 17 Nov 2015.

Children’s Defense Fund. Protect Children Not Guns 2013. 24 Jul 2013.

Mass Shooting Tracker. 2015 Mass Shooting List. Accessed 17 Nov 2015.

Hepker, Aaron. “One Person Killed in Early Morning Shooting Outside Nightclub.” WHOtv.com. 9 Nov 2015.

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Sanders on Climate Link to Terrorism http://www.factcheck.org/2015/11/sanders-on-climate-link-to-terrorism/ http://www.factcheck.org/2015/11/sanders-on-climate-link-to-terrorism/#comments Tue, 17 Nov 2015 21:37:20 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=101076 Sen. Bernie Sanders went too far with his debate claim that “climate change is directly related to the growth of terrorism.” One study concluded that man-made climate change likely worsened a drought in Syria and contributed to instability there. But the report stops short of drawing a direct causal link between climate change and the Syrian civil war, let alone between climate change and terrorism.

As the study’s lead author told us via email, the research “doesn’t deal with terrorism.”

SciCHECKinsertIn the Democratic debate on Nov. 14, CBS News political director John Dickerson asked Sanders if he stuck by his previous claim that the greatest threat to national security was climate change, given that Sanders has said he wants to “rid the planet of ISIS.”

“Absolutely,” Sanders said. “In fact, climate change is directly related to the growth of terrorism. And if we do not get our act together and listen to what the scientists say you’re gonna see countries all over the world– this is what the C.I.A. says, they’re gonna be struggling over limited amounts of water, limited amounts of land to grow their crops. And you’re gonna see all kinds of international conflict.”

On CBS’ “Face the Nation” the following day, Dickerson asked Sanders to expand on his statement that “climate change in fact is related to terrorism.”

Sanders, Nov. 15: Well, that’s not only my observation, John. That is what the CIA and the Department of Defense tells us. And the reason is pretty obvious. If we are going to see an increase in drought and flooding and extreme weather disturbances as a result of climate change, what that means is that peoples all over the world are going to be fighting over limited natural resources.

If there is not enough water, if there is not enough land to grow your crops, then you’re going to see migrations of people fighting over land that will sustain them. And that will lead to international conflicts.

I think, when we talk about all of the possible ravages of climate change, which, to my mind, is just a huge planetary crisis, increased international conflict is one of the issues that we have got to appreciate will happen.

Dickerson: But how does drought connect with attacks by ISIS in the middle of Paris?

Sanders: Well, what happens, say, in Syria, for example — and there’s some thought about this — is that, when you have drought, when people can’t grow their crops, they’re going to migrate into cities. And when people migrate into cities, and they don’t have jobs, there’s going to be a lot more instability, a lot more unemployment. And people will be subject to the types of propaganda that al Qaeda and ISIS are using right now. So, where you have discontent, where you have instability, that’s where problems arise. And, certainly, without a doubt, climate change will lead to that.

Some on the right scoffed at Sanders’ statements. On “Face the Nation” following Sanders’ appearance, the Wall Street Journal’s Peggy Noonan said Sanders’ comments made him “look slightly daffy, like someone who doesn’t understand what the real subject is.”

But Sanders’ summary of the position of the CIA and Department of Defense was accurate. They have been warning for years that extreme weather caused by climate change is likely to worsen instability around the world and cause security problems.

As we wrote in January, the Department of Defense referred to climate change as a ” ‘threat multiplier’ — because it has the potential to exacerbate many of the challenges we are dealing with today – from infectious disease to terrorism. We are already beginning to see some of these impacts.” Those threats are outlined in a report titled “2014 Climate Change Adaptation Roadmap.”

Department of Defense, Adaptation Roadmap, 2014: The impacts of climate change may cause instability in other countries by impairing access to food and water, damaging infrastructure, spreading disease, uprooting and displacing large numbers of people, compelling mass migration, interrupting commercial activity, or restricting electricity availability. These developments could undermine already-fragile governments that are unable to respond effectively or challenge currently‐stable governments, as well as increasing competition and tension between countries vying for limited resources. These gaps in governance can create an avenue for extremist ideologies and condition that foster terrorism.

As we also have written before, despite some claims to the contrary, there is some evidence that climate change is linked to more severe hurricanes, droughts and other weather disasters. Specifically, a report from the Intergovernmental Panel on Climate Change says that “there is medium confidence that some regions of the world have experienced more intense and longer droughts.”

This is the first link in the chain of logic that provides the basis of Sanders’ claim. In regard to climate change being “directly related” to Islamic State terrorism, the Sanders campaign points, in part, to a report called “Climate change in the Fertile Crescent and implications of the recent Syrian drought,” published in March in Proceedings of the National Academy of Sciences.

The authors analyzed the severity and frequency of droughts in the region and concluded that a severe drought in the Fertile Crescent region in 2007-2010 — just prior to the Syrian uprising — would not have been as severe or lasted as long absent a “century-long drying trend.” That trend, the authors contend, is the result of “human interference with the climate system.” In other words, the authors found that human-caused climate change “increased the probability” of the severe drought. The drought resulted in widespread crop failure and led to mass migration of farming families to urban centers, causing conflicts.

“We conclude that human influences on the climate system are implicated in the current Syrian conflict,” the authors wrote.

However, they cautioned, “civil unrest can never be said to have a simple or unique cause. The Syrian conflict, now civil war, is no exception.”

As for Sanders’ comment, lead author Colin Kelley told us via email, “My research doesn’t deal with terrorism.

“I would say climate change contributes to food and water insecurity, which in highly vulnerable nations (for many reasons) can lead to conflict,” Kelley said. “Beyond that I think it is fair to say that chaotic situations such as the civil war in Syria can allow extremism to flourish.”

So is climate change “directly related” to a growth in terrorism?

“In my opinion there is likely a causal relationship but that it isn’t necessarily a ‘direct’ one,” Kelley told us. “There are a lot of factors that contributed to the origination of the conflict and there are multiple steps between climate change and terrorism/extremism.”

Francesco Femia and Caitlin Werrell, codirectors of the Center for Climate and Security, told us via email that there is “certainly an indirect link” between climate change and terrorism.

Femia and Werrell, Nov. 16: The U.S. Department of Defense labels climate change a “threat multiplier.” Its impacts on food, water and energy security can create conditions that may increase the likelihood of state instability. And in ungoverned spaces, given the right political, economic, social and environmental conditions, terrorism can thrive, as we see in Syria. In other words, climate change could drive a less stable world, and non-state actors may exploit that. So it’s certainly an indirect link, which should not be oversimplified. This is not just our perspective. It comes from intelligence and defense communities here in the United States, and around the world, who are increasingly concerned about these dynamics.

But in a blog post and a Washington Post interview, they warned not to assign a direct causal link between the drought and the Syrian civil war, because the underlying dynamics of the Syrian crisis are too complex.

Femia and Werrell, Nov. 16: What is the biggest national security threat? Is climate change the biggest national security threat? We, and the current U.S. presidential candidates, get these questions quite a bit. They are not good questions. These questions confuse the nature of today’s security threats, and more specifically, obscure the complex way in which climate change affects the broader security landscape. Climate change is not an exogenous threat, hermetically sealed from other risks. It is, as the CNA Corporation first stated in 2007, a “threat multiplier.” The impacts of climate change interact with other factors to make existing security risks – whether it’s state fragility in the Middle East, or territorial disputes in the South China Sea – worse.

The Sanders campaign pointed to a 2003 Pentagon report that warned climate change “could contribute materially to an increasingly disorderly and potentially violent world.”

“The continuous violence, political disintegration, and massive migration we’re seeing in Syria and neighboring countries right now is precisely what the Pentagon warned us about over a decade ago,” a Sanders campaign spokesman related via email. “And it is exactly the kind of environment in which extremist groups like ISIS, al-Qaeda, and Hezbollah flourish. … Climate change is making terrorist threats … much worse.”

Indeed, a 2012 study by the National Research Council, commissioned by the CIA to evaluate the evidence on possible connections between climate change and U.S. national security concerns (summarized in the New York Times), concluded, “It is prudent to expect that over the course of a decade some climate events—including single events, conjunctions of events occurring simultaneously or in sequence in particular locations, and events affecting globally integrated systems that provide for human well-being—will produce consequences that exceed the capacity of the affected societies or global systems to manage and that have global security implications serious enough to compel international response.”

Similar sentiments have been expressed by the White House, the director of national intelligence and various military leaders.

In other words, Sanders has broad support for his claim that climate change is a factor in the terrorism equation, that it can contribute to and worsen tensions in some regions and lead to instability that poses security threats. But there is a complex web of causal factors behind the Syrian conflict and the Islamic State terrorism that has emerged from it. A study concluded that global warming “increased the probability” of a severe drought, a drought which contributed to displacement and mass migration, which contributed to instability, which may have contributed to violent conflict. But increasing the probability of a possible factor in a conflict isn’t the same as being a “directly related” cause for terrorism. The evidence so far does not support Sanders’ claim.

Editor’s Note: SciCheck is made possible by a grant from the Stanton Foundation.

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Trump on Bombing ISIS Oil Fields http://www.factcheck.org/2015/11/trump-on-bombing-isis-oil-fields/ http://www.factcheck.org/2015/11/trump-on-bombing-isis-oil-fields/#comments Tue, 17 Nov 2015 18:23:28 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=101075 Donald Trump says the U.S. is “just starting … as of two days ago” to heed his advice to “attack the oil” fields controlled by the Islamic State group. The U.S. has changed its policy, but it happened more than four weeks ago — not two days ago.

The U.S. had been conducting limited airstrikes against the terrorist group’s oil infrastructure for more than a year, but significantly stepped up the intensity of its attacks when it launched “Operation Tidal Wave II” on Oct. 21.

The terrorist group Islamic State — also known as the Islamic State of Iraq and the Levant (ISIL), or the Islamic State of Iraq and Syria (ISIS) — claimed responsibility for the Nov. 13 Paris attacks that killed more than 100 people and wounded more than 350. The terrorist group, which controls parts of Iraq and Syria, is financed largely by revenues from oil fields in Syria. The Treasury Department estimates that the Islamic State generates about $500 million a year in oil revenues.

Trump, a leading Republican candidate for president, has made bombing Islamic State-controlled oil fields a centerpiece of his plan to combat the terrorist group since he entered the race in June. He made his latest remarks during a Nov. 16 appearance on MSNBC’s “Morning Joe” (at the 1:30 minute mark). He said something similar in a tweet he sent on Nov. 13.

Trump, Nov. 16: Here’s what I would do. And I’ve been saying this for a long time, I have been saying it to you. I would have — and now they’re just starting — if you remember when I said, attack the oil, because that’s their primary source of wealth. Attack the oil. People smiled, and they laughed and they thought it was a joke, and they thought it was funny. Now as of two days ago, they’re attacking the oil.

Trump was initially ridiculed by some for his call to “bomb the hell out of the oil fields.” We will get to that later. But it’s simply not true that the U.S. started “attacking the oil” just two days ago.

The U.S. had been conducting limited, and admittedly not very effective, airstrikes against the terrorist group’s oil infrastructure “since the very beginning” of Operation Inherent Resolve, which is the name of U.S. operations against the Islamic State (or ISIL, as the administration refers to the group), according to Col. Steve Warren, a Defense Department spokesman. Operation Inherent Resolve started in August 2014.

As of Aug. 7, about a year into the fight with the Islamic State, the Defense Department reported that there had been 196 airstrikes against Islamic State-controlled oil infrastructure. For example, the Defense Department on June 8 announced that two airstrikes near Dyar az Zwar had hit two crude oil collection points.

But the Defense spokesman acknowledged at a Nov. 13 press briefing that the initial airstrikes were not effective.

Warren, Nov. 13: Well, we learned over time, though, by using our regular — our — our normal assessment of strike, assess, decide whether or not we need to re-strike — what we learned is that the strikes that we were taking were — against pieces of the oil system that were easily repaired or replaced. So in many cases, we — you know, we’d conduct a strike against some piece of the oil infrastructure, and then within — you know, 24, 48, 72 hours, the enemy have managed to repair that piece of infrastructure, and — and were back up and running.

As a result, Warren said, the U.S. military on Oct. 21 launched what it calls “Operation Tidal Wave II.” It was so named after Operation Tidal Wave, the World War II bombing campaign that was primarily aimed at Romania’s oil industry to hurt Nazi Germany.

Warren said the goal under Operation Tidal Wave II is to knock out the oil facilities for “maybe a year,” rather than a day or two, to inflict more financial harm.

The first reference that we could find to Operation Tidal Wave II was a New York Times story on Nov. 12 — a day before the Paris attacks. So it is possible that Trump only became aware of the stepped up airstrikes in the last few days. But they have been occurring since Oct. 21.

Reaction to Trump’s Plan

Trump also said on “Morning Joe” that his call for bombing Islamic State-controlled oil fields was met with derision. He said, “People smiled, and they laughed and they thought it was a joke, and they thought it was funny.”

That is largely accurate, although part of the reason was confusion initially over where exactly Trump wanted to bomb.

Trump entered the race on June 16, and in his announcement speech he said the Islamic State “took the oil that, when we left Iraq, I said we should’ve taken.” The next day he appeared on ABC’s “Good Morning America” with George Stephanopoulos and had this exchange with the host:

Trump, June 17: They took the oil from Iraq …

Stephanopoulous: So you’d bomb the oil fields?

Trump: I would bomb the hell out of them. I’d bomb the fields.

It is true that the Islamic State took control of some Iraqi oil fields, but the majority of its oil revenue comes from Syrian oil fields. The Department of Defense estimates that about two-thirds of the Islamic State’s oil revenue comes from the Deir ez-Zor region, which is near Syria’s eastern border with Iraq.

On July 10, CNN.com published a story with the headline “Military analysts: Donald Trump’s plan to bomb Iraq’s oil fields not a good one.” The CNN article said two of its military experts — retired Lt. Col. Rick Francona and retired Lt. Gen. Mark Hertling — both said “there are many better ways to hurt ISIS than striking oil fields in Iraq — few of which ISIS actually controls.” CNN quoted Francona as saying, “You’re destroying the infrastructure of Iraq, you’re not really doing much to hurt ISIS. At some future point those oil fields will have to help regenerate Iraq.”

Politico listed “bombing Iraqi’s oil fields” as among one of Trump’s worst foreign policy gaffes, linking to the CNN story (which was updated in August to add more criticism of Trump).

In Trump’s defense, he advocated bombing oil fields “controlled by ISIS,” as he did in an interview with Anderson Cooper on CNN in July. That could include both countries, perhaps, but the majority of the strikes would be in Syria, where the majority of Islamic State-controlled oil fields are located.

Trump, July 8: I would take away their wealth. I would take away the oil. What you should be doing now is taking away the oil.

Cooper: What does that mean?

Trump: Bomb them. And I’ll tell you what I hate about this question. If I win – if I win. I didn’t want to answer this question. And I thought maybe I could go without answering it. Because if you look at the great General George Patton, or General MacArthur, I was a big fan of, any of this great general. They didn’t talk about what they did. And I said I hate it. In fact, if you remember when I said I have a plan, but I don’t want to talk about it. Everyone said, oh, he really doesn’t have a plan. So, I had to do it. But I hate talking about it. Because if I win they know I’m going to do it. If I win I would attack those oil sites that are controlled and owned by — owned. They’re controlled by ISIS. They’re taking tremendous money out.

On Aug. 11, Trump again reiterated his plan to bomb the oil fields in an interview on Fox News, “I say, cut them off where they’re getting wealth. Cut them off at the oil. … Take the oil, knock the hell out of them.”

A day later, Gen. Ray Odierno, who was U.S. Army chief of staff at the time, was asked at a press briefing what he thinks “when you hear Donald Trump say we should just moved in with our troops and take their oil, and bomb the Iraqi oil fields and take the oil away from ISIS.” Odierno said he disagreed with Trump.

Odierno, Aug. 12: See, here is the issue I learned over the last 10 years or so, is that there is limits with military power; and so we can have an outcome, but again, and so, the problem we’ve had — is do we achieve sustainable outcome, it’s about sustainable outcomes. And the problem we’ve had, is we’ve had outcomes, but they have been only short-term outcomes. Because we haven’t properly looked at the political and economic side of this.

It’s got to be three to that come together. And if you don’t do that, it will not solve the problem, and that is what I continue to look at.

So, I think for me, if you said to me, if we didn’t — right now ISIL is a direct threat, it’s imminent, and they’re getting ready to have an attack on the United States that could be devastating, that’s a different issue. That is a different issue. Then maybe we have to look at putting troops on the ground.

That is not where we are today. What we want to do is try to stop a — we have to stop a long group, a group that is potentially attempting to be a long-term influence in the Middle East, that is clearly promoting extremism and frankly suppressing populations in the Middle East. In order to resolve that, you need countries of the Middle East and those surrounding the Middle East to be involved in the solution.

Question: So, you disagree with Donald Trump?

Odierno: I do, I do. I do. Right now I do.

(We note that the question posed to Odierno said Trump wanted to “bomb the Iraqi oil fields,” although Trump talked about bombing Islamic State-controlled oil fields.)

Odierno did not discuss the location of the oil fields. His response largely reflected the military’s concern at the time about inflicting long-term damage to the oil fields and the need to have a “sustainable outcome.”

The military, however, seems to have addressed that concern with Operation Tidal Wave II — which is designed to inflict damage for one year, not just a few days.

“So we don’t want to completely and utterly destroy these facilities to where they’re irreparable,” Col. Warren said at the Nov. 13 press briefing. “So what we’ve done is we’ve used very precise carving, a very detailed analysis to strike certain parts of these facilities that will cause them to shut down for an extended period of time.”

That would dry up the money flow to the Islamic State without destroying the oil fields beyond repair, Warren said.

“So what we believe, is that by cutting off the oil supply, we can hasten the destruction of ISIL once and for all and bring some sense of normalcy back to the people there,” Warren said.

So it’s true that the Obama administration has changed tactics and is now conducting what Warren called “significant disruption operations.” But it wasn’t just “two days ago,” as Trump said.

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FactChecking the Second Democratic Debate http://www.factcheck.org/2015/11/factchecking-the-second-democratic-debate/ http://www.factcheck.org/2015/11/factchecking-the-second-democratic-debate/#comments Sun, 15 Nov 2015 07:36:56 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=101038 Summary

The three Democratic presidential candidates faced off on a Saturday night, and made several inaccurate claims:

  • Former Maryland Gov. Martin O’Malley said that in President Reagan’s first term, the highest marginal income tax rate was 70 percent. But Reagan signed a bill in his first year dropping that to 50 percent, and it dropped again to 28 percent in his second term.
  • Vermont Sen. Bernie Sanders said that the U.S. “has more income and wealth inequality than any major country on earth.” But Israel, Brazil and Chile have both greater income and wealth inequality, and more countries beat the U.S. in one of the measures.
  • Former Secretary of State Hillary Clinton wrongly said that wages “haven’t risen since the turn of the last century.” Real average weekly earnings of rank-and-file workers rose 7.2 percent since 1999.
  • Sanders repeated his talking point about billionaires paying “an effective tax rate lower than nurses or truck drivers.” That may be the case for some in those professions, once we factor in payroll taxes, but it’s not accurate for all.
  • When Clinton cited Princeton economist Alan Krueger’s support for her minimum wage proposal, O’Malley called him a Wall Street economist. He’s not.
  • O’Malley boasted that Maryland was “the only state” to freeze college tuition four years in a row. This year, Maine did so as well.


Clinton, Sanders and O’Malley met at Drake University in Iowa for the debate, which was hosted by CBS News, KCCI-TV in Des Moines and the Des Moines Register.

O’Malley on Top Tax Rate Under Reagan

O’Malley said that in President Ronald Reagan’s first term, “the highest marginal [income tax] rate was 70 percent.” That was true only briefly. In Reagan’s first year in office, he signed a bill reducing the top rate to 50 percent. And in his second term, he reduced it again, to 28 percent.

O’Malley cited the top marginal tax rate during the debate to make the point that upper-income taxpayers should be paying more, and historically have.

O’Malley: And may I point out that under Ronald Reagan’s first term, the highest marginal rate was 70 percent. And in talking to a lot of our neighbors who are in that super wealthy, millionaire and billionaire category, a great number of them love their country enough to do more again in order to create more opportunity for America’s middle class.

As a matter of history, the top marginal tax rate of 70 percent was established in 1964, when Congress passed a tax cut backed by President John F. Kennedy. In the decades before that, the top rate was much higher — hovering around 90 percent.

So 70 percent was the top rate when Reagan took office in January 1981. Eight months after taking office, Reagan signed the Economic Recovery Tax Act of 1981, which cut the highest marginal tax rate to 50 percent.

In his second term, Reagan signed a bill in 1986 that lowered the top marginal income tax rate to 28 percent.

Sanders Off on Inequality and Poverty

Sanders continued to peddle some false claims about U.S. inequality and child poverty:

Sanders: This country today has more income and wealth inequality than any major country on earth. …  We have the highest rate of childhood poverty. …

Regarding income inequality, we noted back in May that World Bank statistics list at least 41 countries with greater income inequality than the U.S. — including Israel, Brazil, Mexico, Chile and Argentina.

And as for wealth inequality, the share of wealth held by the top 1 percent in the U.S. puts it in 11th place among 37 nations listed in the 2015 edition of the Global Wealth Databook. The top 1 percent in Russia, Thailand, Indonesia, India, Brazil, Chile, South Africa, China, Czech Republic and Israel each hold a greater share of their nation’s wealth, according to that publication.

Finally, the rate of child poverty is far worse in many other countries, including several with industrialized economies. The campaign told us the senator was referring to a report from the Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development, but that report ranks the U.S. seventh in “relative childhood poverty” among the 38 countries listed.

Turkey, Israel, Mexico, Greece, Romania and Bulgaria all had higher rates of child poverty than the U.S., in the OECD’s ranking.

It’s also worth noting that “relative poverty” is a measure of household disposable income relative to others in that country.

Clinton Wrong on Wages

Clinton erred when she said real wages haven’t risen in nearly 15 years.

Clinton: [W]ages adjusted for inflation haven’t risen since the turn of the last century.

That’s not true, according to the most recent figures from the Bureau of Labor Statistics. Real average weekly earnings of rank-and-file workers were 7.2 percent higher in September than they were in December 1999.

Furthermore, real weekly wages have jumped 2.3 percent in the most recent 12 months alone.

Sanders on Truck Drivers’ Tax Rates

Sanders repeated one of his campaign trail talking points: “But we are going to end the absurdity, as Warren Buffet often remind us … that billionaires pay an effective tax rate lower than nurses or truck drivers.” That’s the case for some in those professions — compared with billionaires who earn their money through investments — but it’s not accurate for all. In fact, a truck driver would have to earn more than the median salary to pay a higher effective rate.

We previously ran the calculations for several different hypothetical nurses and truck drivers (and firefighters and police officers, who have also been part of this Sanders claim), comparing total effective tax rates, including payroll taxes, to what an investment fund manager would pay if only paying capital gains tax rates on earnings.

The billionaire fund manager would pay 23.8 percent — the top capital gains rate for income above $413,200 for individuals — and a 3.8 percent Medicare surcharge tax on investment income for those earning more than $200,000. A truck driver earning the median income for the profession ($39,520) wouldn’t pay a higher rate then the fund manager’s 23.8 percent. But if that truck driver earned a higher salary — such as the average pay in Peabody, Massachusetts ($57,250) — and was single with no dependents, he or she would pay an effective tax rate of 26 percent, higher than the fund manager. If that truck driver had one dependent child, however, the rate would drop to 21 percent.

As for nurses, the median salary is much higher — $66,640. A single nurse with no dependents would have a 28 percent effective tax rate with that salary. But once we add a dependent child, or a nonworking spouse, or both, the nurse’s rate sinks below that of the wealthy fund manager.

If the billionaire fund managers’ earnings were taxed at regular income tax rates, he or she would pay a higher rate. Most marginal income tax rates are higher than capital gains rates, with individual income between about $37,000 and $90,000 at the 25 percent rate for 2015. The top income tax rate is 39.6 percent, which starts after income surpasses $413,200.

Krueger Not a Wall Street Economist

O’Malley lumped Princeton economist Alan Krueger in with what he called “economists on Wall Street.” Krueger is not a Wall Street economist.

O’Malley made his remarks when he had a disagreement with Clinton over how much to raise the minimum wage. O’Malley supports raising it to $15 per hour. Clinton has proposed $12 per hour, and she cited Princeton economist Alan Krueger’s support for her proposal and concern for increasing the minimum to $15 per hour.

O’Malley: I think we need to stop taking our advice from economists on Wall Street …

Clinton: He’s not Wall Street.

O’Malley: … And start taking advice …

Clinton: That’s not fair. He’s a progressive economist.

O’Malley is wrong about Krueger’s background. It is entirely in academia and education.

Krueger graduated with a doctorate in economics from Harvard University in 1987. “Since 1987 he has held a joint appointment in the Economics Department and Woodrow Wilson School at Princeton University,” according to his biography on the university website.

Krueger also has held top positions in government, including chairman of the Council of Economic Advisers under President Barack Obama and chief economist at the Department of Labor under President Bill Clinton. His full curriculum vitae can be found here.

O’Malley’s Outdated Tuition Boast

O’Malley claimed that Maryland was the only state that went four consecutive years without an increase in college tuition. That’s no longer the case.

O’Malley: We were the only state to go four years in a row without a penny’s increase to college tuition.

Yes, as governor, O’Malley did sign bills implementing a tuition freeze at public universities in Maryland that lasted from 2007 until 2010. But Maine has now matched what Maryland once achieved.

In March of this year, the University of Maine System Board of Trustees again voted to freeze in-state tuition at its seven member schools. That means the school system has now gone four years without an increase in tuition at its public universities.

— by Brooks Jackson, Robert Farley, Lori Robertson, D’Angelo Gore and Eugene Kiely


Geewax, Marilyn. “JFK’s Lasting Economic Legacy: Lower Tax Rates.” NPR. 14 Nov 2013.

Tax Foundation. Federal Individual Income Tax Rates History.

The Ronald Reagan Presidential Foundation & Library. The Second American Revolution: Reaganomics.

GovTrack.us. H.R. 3838: Tax Reform Act of 1986.

Credit Suisse Research Institute. “Global Wealth Databook.” Oct 2015.

World Bank. “GINI index (World Bank estimate).” Data accessed 15 Nov 2015.

Organisation for Economic Co-operation and Development. “Chart CO2.2.A. Child income poverty rates, 2012.” Data accessed 15 Nov 2015.

Bureau of Labor Statistics. “Employment, Hours, and Earnings from the Current Employment Statistics survey (National); Average Weekly Earnings of Production and Nonsupervisory Employees, 1982-1984 Dollars.” Data extracted 15 Nov 2015.

Robertson, Lori. “Hedge Fund Managers’ Tax Rates.” FactCheck.org. 8 Sep 2015.

Bureau of Labor Statistics. Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2014. 53-3032 Heavy and Tractor-Trailer Truck Drivers. accessed 15 Nov 2015.

Bureau of Labor Statistics. Occupational Employment and Wages, May 2014. 29-1141 Registered Nurses. accessed 15 Nov 2015.

O’Malley for President. “Raise the Minimum Wage.” Undated.

Krueger, Alan B. “The Minimum Wage: How Much Is Too Much?” New York Times. 9 Oct 2015.

Princeton University. “Alan B. Krueger, Biography.” Undated.

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Nov. 13: Guns, Birth Citizenship, Income http://www.factcheck.org/2015/11/nov-13-guns-birth-citizenship-income/ http://www.factcheck.org/2015/11/nov-13-guns-birth-citizenship-income/#comments Sat, 14 Nov 2015 02:32:17 +0000 http://www.factcheck.org/?p=101306
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