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A Project of The Annenberg Public Policy Center

Extras: Gore, Dogs, Health Insurance and Bunkmail

Our pre-Thanksgiving round-up of bits and pieces of political bunk includes Al Gore, a fancy new dog park and chain e-mails that refuse to die.

Gore’s too hot

Al Gore overstated a key fact about geothermal energy during a recent appearance on "The Tonight Show":

Gore, Nov. 13: Two kilometers or so down in most places there are these incredibly hot rocks, because the interior of the earth is extremely hot — several million degrees.

That’s about 1,000 times hotter than it really is. Gore should have said "thousand," not "million." Estimates of the precise temperature vary, but in 2007 a team from the Massachusetts Institute of Technology published a finding that the temperature at the outer edge of the earth’s core was 6,650 degrees Fahrenheit.

Gone to the dogs

Back in February, we debunked several claims being made about the American Recovery and Reinvestment Act (the stimulus act). Republicans claimed, among other things, that hard-earned taxpayer dollars were already earmarked for Frisbee golf parks, water slides, Las Vegas neon signs, tennis courts and dog parks.

None of those projects, cited for their supposedly frivolous nature, was in the bill, however. Instead, those recreational items were part of a lengthy wish list of construction projects the U.S. Conference of Mayors said could be funded and up-and-running quickly. Turns out, at least one dog park was funded with ARRA dollars, right here in the nation’s capital.

We regret the dogs are not quite visible in the photo, but we can confirm that they, and their owners, have been enjoying this hugely popular dog park, complete with new fencing, special K9Grass artificial turf and a water fountain, in D.C.’s Dupont Circle neighborhood. And the project also features an adjoining park just for people. We left messages for D.C.’s Department of Parks and Recreation to ask how much stimulus money was used, and how many jobs were created, but the press person didn’t return our calls.

Death by lack of insurance 

MoveOn is out with a new ad that says: "Nearly 45,000 people a year die because they have no health insurance."

We wrote about that figure in September. It comes from a study conducted by researchers affiliated with Harvard Medical School and published in a peer-reviewed journal. But the 45,000 figure is the highest we’ve seen in any such study. Other scholars have also found that those without insurance have a higher risk of dying prematurely than those with coverage, but put the death toll at 60 percent of the Harvard figure, or less.


As we’ve said before, many chain e-mails never die. Readers are still asking us:

  • Whether Speaker of the House Nancy Pelosi uses a private jet, a 200-seater in most e-mails, to fly from D.C. to California at taxpayer expense. We wrote about this nearly a year ago. Pelosi travels in a 12-seat Air Force plane as her predecessor did. She once used a C-32, a luxury aircraft that seats about 50, when no other planes were available. Her press office told FactCheck.org this week that that’s still the only time.
  • If a lengthy list of claims about the House health care bill is true. Lately we’ve been asked about a version of this e-mail that claims an anesthesiologist in Indianapolis, Dr. Stephen Fraser, sent the list as a letter to Sen. Evan Bayh. We have left messages for Dr. Fraser and Sen. Bayh’s press office to ask whether such a letter actually exists, but we haven’t heard back from either. As for the claims themselves, we earlier traced them to a conservative blogger and debunked most of them in an article headlined "Twenty-six Lies About H.R. 3200."
  • Whether existing homes would have to meet new energy standards before homeowners could sell them, under the House cap-and-trade bill. Some versions say a "license" would be "required for your house." Not true. New residential and commercial buildings would have to meet new efficiency standards, not existing houses.